I’ve got a feeling this is going to be one of those “pull no punches” issues.
It comes from an email I got. Which normally I would reserve for a Mailbox Monday issue.
But it has me a little inspired. Riled up.
And so I’m just going to go ahead and speak to it today.
He asked me how to “outwit” the algorithms to show up on top of YouTube…
That word is very, very important in my response…
There’s an entire mindset to this that’s just 100% wrong. 180-degrees away from where you need to be focused, if you want any kind of real success or longevity in business.
A short lesson in internet history…
And I’ll admit, this is a rather horrible history lesson. Because like in my real history lessons, I don’t remember the dates. And the dates aren’t relevant enough for me to look them up — but if the missing dates of this are what you’re worrying about, you’ll miss the point.
First, let’s talk about “black hat” and “white hat” search engine optimization, or SEO.
Let’s go with white hat first. White hat SEO is the practice of figuring out exactly what the search engines want to see from you to consider you as a legit site and to display you high in their search rankings.
White hat is about providing value and serving the search engines and their users.
Black hat SEO involves doing whatever you can, even if it’s sneaky and against the publicly-stated recommendations of the search engines, to worm your way to the top of the rankings.
Black hat is about OUTWITTING the search engines and their users to get that traffic.
Traditionally, black hat methods could be used to knock white hat SEO sites off the top of the rankings.
Traditionally, black hat SEO could be used to get a ton of traffic.
Traditionally, black hat SEO methods had some incredible profit potential.
BUT <— and that’s a big but…
Search engines HATE black hat methods…
(And for the purposes of this, YouTube can be included as a search engine. In part, because they’re owned by Google. Also, because even when you’re not actively searching on YouTube, they’re using search-like algorithms to display content they think will be most interesting to you.)
Here’s the thing…
If your entire strategy is to outwit and manipulate to take advantage of traffic from the search engines…
The experience a user gets when they come to your site or sees your content will probably not be very good.
And what’s the single-most important thing to Google? To YouTube? To Facebook? To any other search engine or platform that displays your content?
I’ll give you a hint…
You don’t f***ing matter.
You, as an independent content producer or advertiser don’t matter to them at all.
Your content doesn’t matter.
They don’t care if you get traffic.
They don’t care if you get views.
They don’t care if you build your list or get leads, customers, sales, or profits.
They don’t give a hoot about you or your business.
They have a principle that reigns supreme over all.
It’s all about the USER EXPERIENCE…
Let’s imagine for a minute that you’re a 49-year-old middle-class mother in Suburbia, USA, and you have a decent amount is disposable income, and are ready to spend it.
You search Google for a commercially-relevant topic.
And you start looking through the results page.
You see one result, and click it. Ugh. Even though the listing on the results page looked good, the site it sent you to is junk. And so you hit the ol’ trusty back button and get outta there.
Next result, same thing. And then again.
So you start to click ads. Even worse!
How many times does this have to happen before you start using a different search engine?
It will happen. If you have a bad user experience on a site like Google, or Facebook, or YouTube, because people have been “outwitting the algorithms” to show you junk content and scrape off pennies-per-visitor profit on the next click or on impressions…
Eventually you’ll stop using whatever platform it is that’s sending you to those places you don’t want to be.
Users matter more than your content and even your advertising dollars…
Google cares way more about the 49-year-old mother in Suburbia, USA with a fair chunk of disposable income than they do about you or your business…
So, back to that ol’ history lesson. Don’t think I forgot it.
The history of the internet and especially of organic traffic disciplines like SEO, social media marketing, and the like has been the history of the war between black hats and the search engines.
Ever heard of GOOGLE SLAP?
Or the similar whatever-you-call-it that has happened with businesses on Facebook?
Or on all the other platforms?
What has happened, over and over again, is that one method or another of outwitting the algorithms has worked well. So unscrupulous, opportunistic marketers have piled onto that method as a golden key to unlocking organic traffic riches.
Most often, there’s a scammy ass information marketer who only makes it worse, by producing a product about how to exploit it.
And a thousand more wannabes who pile in and produce their own info products.
The method explodes in popularity.
And it makes the internet less user friendly.
People start complaining, or simply using sites like Google or Facebook less.
And that doesn’t sit well with the overlords in Silicon Valley.
And you know what? You showed up at their party. They make the rules. So they create a new rule (aka a new algorithm) that suddenly says that method of outwitting them doesn’t fly anymore.
Not only that, they PUNISH you for having used it in the first place. Because they know that if you’re willing to try one sleazy method of outwitting them, you’ll probably try another — so they head it off by simply putting a black mark on your entire web presence.
Sometimes you even get de-listed or banned.
If they think you’re abusing their users — if there’s even a whiff of it — you will suffer.
And remember, it’s their party. They make the rules. Like it or not, that’s how it works.
If you want to join in the party, you must play by their rules.
One of the Biggest Rules:
DON’T TRY TO OUTWIT THE ALGORITHMS.
(Wow! Centered text. I don’t do that much. Must be important!)
So, what’s the alternative?
How do you show up at the top of YouTube, Google, etc.? How do you show up in the news feed on Facebook when other businesses and content producers are being hidden?
Practice Human Being Optimization…
In other words, don’t try to beat them, join them.
Create content that creates a great user experience, for their users.
Make things people legitimately care to watch, to engage with, to share.
They’ve actually gotten better at this than ever before. Google knows what they’re doing. Facebook knows what they’re doing.
They track user behavior. They know how to measure user experience by watching measurable behavior.
For example, how long does a user have to stay OFF the Google search results page for the last site they clicked on to be considered a good site for user experience (and worth sending more traffic to)? You may not know, but Google knows.
For example, if that 49-year-old mother searches for “midwestern state university music program scholarships” and lands on one site, and clicks back to Google within 10 seconds, and lands on another, and takes 4 minutes to get back to Google, Google will judge the first site as less relevant than the second.
Which means you have to optimize for that user experience.
Because really, the algorithms today don’t measure your site. They measure users. And the only way to “outwit” them is to actually create a good user experience.
Same goes for your videos on YouTube, to speak to the original question. Create interesting content that people spend a lot of time watching. Make a 10-minute video and people only watch 4 seconds? YouTube won’t send a lot of viewers your way. If 20% of viewers complete the video and another 20% make it at least halfway through? That’s actually decent stats and you’ll likely get much more love from the algorithms.
This all speaks to what I taught in the Value-First Funnel Strategy.
Legitimately provide real value to real people.
What a revolutionary concept!
Unfortunately, it’s actually harder to sell than the latest whiz-bang tactic on outwitting Google, or YouTube, or whoever.
But if you want to win in the long run, it’s the best way.
Whenever Google slap (or similar) happens, I see a little increase in traffic to my sites. Because through time, it will only grow more rewarding to have been doing the right thing in the first place.
What a breakthrough.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,