This thing started with a Facebook post from with Jason Moffatt. It stuck with me, burned into my brain, I had dreams about it. Actually it started years before Jason’s post, but it was Jason’s post where I first saw it addressed by someone else.
A few months back I think it was, I was cruising Facebook and avoiding work like my 8 year old avoids brushing his teeth when I saw a post from J-Mo. He’d sent out an email to his list the day prior saying he was interested in buying a few established sites and if folks had anything up for sale, they should shoot him an email.
He got a ton of emails with people’s sites and as he went through them, it really bummed him out for the people emailing him. The sites were crap. Utter garbage.
I posted a comment to him saying I’d seen the same thing with my own subscribers – really, with the “internet marketing” industry as a whole.
Sidenote: While I use it for simplicity’s sake, the term “internet marketing” is fake. There’s no such thing. If you run a website your are a publisher. You earn money via advertising or via your own product sales (another thing you’re publishing). Before you “internet market” anything, you’ve got to publish something first (an ad, an article, a website). You are a publisher.
How sad is it, to think about hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of people toiling away at their little websites and waking up every day to an empty Clickbank account and $0.14 in Adsense money for the day prior?
It’s enough to make me want to climb back into bed and settle into an On-Demand 3-day marathon of “Teen Mom 2.” That’d leave me more more hopeful for your future.
Even with big ol’ hairy problems like this, the absolute last thing I want to do here is write a “You’re doing it wrong” blog post to set you straight, where I sit in my Lily Tomlin-esque oversized “guru” rocking chair and point out all these STPDTMUTW (Stupid Things People Do To Mess Up Their Websites [TM]).
Because you know what? A post like that is just cheap shock value that panders to people’s fear. (“You’re doing this wrong! You’ll never amount to anything!”). One just came through my Twitter feed titled, “Are you losing sales because of these stupid mistakes? Maybe not, but don’t you want to know?” Fear, fear, fear! Distraction, resistance, fear! Acting from a place of fear is reactionary and dangerous. Then, there’s the whole thing that… I’ve freakin’ said it before! Posts, videos, PDF’s, emails.
Every time I publish some vein of a STPDTMUTW article, I get enthusiastic responses like, “Great post Michelle, thanks so much – I’m definately going to have to put that into action!”
My atrophied, hungry little ego desperately needs comments like that. Because it’s so needy, my ego wants me to write those posts, the ones with 10 “Tips & Tricks” telling you how get more traffic, links, buyers – those kinda posts you probably read first thing in the morning while you’re still waking up but pretending to work. My ego wants the comments, my ego wants to watch retweets and Facebook Likes numbers grow as my ego hits “Refresh” on my stats pages, over and over and over.
To NOT write that post about STPDTMUTW and how you should fix it, based on what is a Grand Canyon scale problem in our industry and will surely generate a flood of those ego gratifying comments is like taking away my Ego’s Precious.
But YOU don’t need posts like that.
So I took her to my crib
and everything went well as planned
But when she got undressed
It was a big old mess
SHEENA WAS A MAN
Sheena secret was in her tuck.
And the secret about those “You’re Doing It Wrong – Here’s How To Fix It” posts, the secret that I would put cold, hard money on is the fact that 99% of people who (ego says thank you) leave excited, hopeful comments don’t actually DO THE WORK.
But this isn’t a post about doing the work.
And this also isn’t a post about how the internet marketing industry is messed up by “scammers” who, via their income claims and flashy graphics make you think it’s a get-rich-quick game instead of a build-a-real-business game. You’re smart enough to know that’s not real, even if your own Ego has convinced you to buy a product or two like that in the past.
It’s not the industry. It’s not that you’re not “doing the work.”
MURDERING LATE NIGHT SNACK
Merlin Mann ran an enormously popular productivity site called 43 Folders that published insightful, well thought out posts on getting better at doing the work we need to do. He stopped publishing maybe 2 years ago? Why would someone do that? He was at the top of his game! It’s pure stupidity!
Merlin wrote a long post which I’ve failed to locate this afternoon explaining why. And I’m paraphrashing now, since I can’t find the original, but he stopped writing for the site because it was bumming him out how much time people were spending tweaking the “tools” of productivity instead of actually using the tools to get the REAL work done.
Can you guess how many emails I got from folks who were disappointed that this post wasn’t actually about how to pick the best link building tool?
Enough to murder a pint of “Late Night Snack” in despair.
It’s not about the tips and tricks folks. Deciding which link building tool to use when your page resembles an owl pellet and could’ve been typed by a monkey (or is it the other way around?) is counterproductive.
But I do want to talk about 2 of the problems.
Ugly, ugly, ugly. Sites that are so paralyzingly loathsome (in appearance alone) you were embarassed to have them in your browser history. Janet Reno ugly. Cat sphincter ugly. Sites where banner ads from 1998 went to die. Putting a macro close-up animated GIF of Steve Buscemi’s teeth chewing a spoonful of crunchy peanut butter as a tiled, repeating background image would intstill greater user confidence.
So that’s one problem. And it’s a big one, because when visitors hit your hideous site and they’d rather have their eyes propped open a la A Clockwork Orange while looking at Buscemi’s choppers grind nut butter, it’s pretty safe to say they’re not spending a lot of time on your site.
Then there’s the words on the page. Your “content.” It’s not writing. To be called writing it’s got to be worth reading.
And I’m not talking about some people’s “good writing” versus your “crappy writing.” This isn’t about how you suck at writing and carry all this baggage from high school english classes.
I’m talking about how there’s this idea that’s permeated your mind that just putting words on a page – words that include your main keyphrase, of course – is good enough for SEO and so it’s god enough for your site.
A typical example:
When looking for which HD TV to buy, it’s a good idea to search though Amazon reviews to find the HD TV’s that people like the most. You’ll want to consider 1080p versus 720p when selecting an HD TV, 720p typically costs less but the standard for HD TV’s is becoming 1080p. HD TV’s can be wall mounted, but usually you’ll have to buy a separate HD TV wall mounting kit. To hide the wires from your wall mounted HD TV, you’ll probably need to cut a hole in your wall and can hire an HD TV installation professional to do so.
Yes, it’s unique. Yes, it has some general information in it. And fuck yeah, it’s got your keyword all mashed up in it in case Google didn’t get the hint the first 3 times.
But does someone really walk away from reading something like this with ACTIONABLE information?
Have you made the world a better place when you published an “article” like this?
If you showed your mom your article, would she be proud?
Worse still is when a thoughtful, intelligent, intermediate to advanced level post comes out – from me or anyone else – and feedback is chock full of those ever so ego satisfying “Thank you” messages (which are, like I said, 99% unlikely to actually follow though with the action), but then there will be a few from people who had a hard time implementing the suggestions. For example, a WordPress plugin is mentioned in the post, and it didn’t work for someone, so they STOP EVERYTHING and post about how it’s not working and wait for a response from the writer.
Do you really think this plugin (or copywriting tactic, or affiliate program, or specific call to action button, etc.) is where and how the tides are actually going to change for you? Do you really think this is one tiny detail is where your hangup is, why you haven’t gotten where you want to go yet?
Of course it’s not. So why on earth would you be spending time on it instead of getting your site appearance and content up to par?
That’s like blathering on about whether you should hold your Hipster PDA together with a paperclip or a binder clip when the index cards are still blank. These discussions make it remarkably clear to me why Merlin put 43 Folders on hiatus.
Another pint of Late Night Snack down the pill-hole.
DIGGING A HOME FOR THE LADY-GOPHER
Back to Jason’s Facebook post, I couldn’t get it out of my head. Every time I talked to a “real life” friend about this business, that topic would crop up. It kept coming back no matter how many times I shoved it back down.
And then Merlin publishes “Cranking.” Absolutely one of his best pieces of writing ever. Gives me the same chills Steinbeck’s chapter on gophers in Cannery Row did.
While Steinbeck’s gopher was cranking at digging a tunnel house for the lady-gopher he wanted to make his mate and Merlin’s mom was cranking at his dying dad’s hospital bed and Merlin himself was now cranking out a book that his editors want to decorate with pussy willows and shoehorn it into something it’s not meant to be, you’re cranking away at these sites that won’t get you where you want to go.
And I couldn’t stop thinking about that hopeful boy-gopher and your websites and Jason’s disappointment and Merlin’s cranking.
That lady-gopher was never going to mate with Steinbeck’s gopher. All the cranking of the hospital bed Merlin’s mom was doing was never going to make his dad better. Merlin’s not going to write the new “4 Hour Workweek” even if that’s what his editor (who’s awesome) wants. And you, oh my god, you. Your site(s) are never going to produce the income you want as long as you’re doing it the way I’ve been watching you do it.
Because they’re ugly. Because you’re not writing real content.
I just want you to stop cranking. Stop running in circles. Stop busting your ass at something that’s just not meant to be.
Oh sheezy, did I just tell you that you’re not meant to ‘make it’ in internet marketing? Did I let that slip?
I don’t know the answer to that – if this is meant for you. It might not be. It might be.
I know that if you’re cranking – that is, doing the same things over and over and over and seeing no progress, hating it, living in frustration – something has got to change for it to work for you. And you’ve got to to be that change.
I know that if you’re spending time on minutia (the plugin hangup, the affiliate program that won’t let you in, the months of keyword research – people actually do that, yes – etc.) what you’re really doing is just finding ways to not do the work. Finding ways to pretend the work doesn’t even exist. Hell, maybe you don’t even realize the work exists beause you think the minutia is the work. Maybe you think you’re doing the work when you’re doing all that other stuff.
But remember I write that this wouldn’t be a “Do The Work” post? I’ve already writen one of those. There’s even a whole book on it, and it’s free.
So maybe what’s missing is a “Figure Out What The Work Is” post. Maybe that’s what this post has become.
Here’s a quote I swiped from Twitter a few weeks ago:
The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.
— Jessica Hische
It’s the old “Do what you love, and the money will follow,” argument, but with a twist.
Because we’re such silly, dumb little lizard brained creatures we often can’t even identify what it is that we love. Perhaps that quote will help you identify what it is that you actually love doing.
Maybe you can wrestle your procrastinating and your resistance into a thing that makes you money.
Sheena was a man. Girl gopher would never mate with boy gopher. Merlin’s dad was going to die.
No matter how much we didn’t want those truths to be true, they… just… were.
I don’t know what the answer is for you. But I know that what you’re doing right now probably isn’t working. Maybe the work you’re doing isn’t the right work. Maybe you’re not doing the things that make a difference. Maybe you’re caught up in the details and missing the big picture. Maybe someone told you this new “thing” was the answer and you believed them because your ego wanted it to be that simple. Maybe you don’t care and you were hoping for an easy way out. Maybe you do care so damn much it gives you ulcers as day after day passes by of you going down one rabbit hole after another, with nothing to show for it except that $0.14 in Adsense.