in Authority Websites

On Copycats

First and foremost, Q3 2017 is over and…I haven’t written an authority site update.

Guess what? I’m not going to.

Suffice it to say that Q3 was much better than Q2 for the authority site and I could go into all of the reasons why, but I won’t — I have something more important to say. Something that, while esoteric, I believe will help you even more when it comes to starting and building a business.

Why Does Everyone Copy Everyone Else?

All businesses have barriers to entry, the costs or obstacles associated with getting into a particular business. Online businesses typically have lower barriers to entry than brick and mortar businesses, although this is not always true.

In the particular business model I operate, a content-based authority website, the barriers to entry are particularly low. All you need to start a website like mine is:

  • A domain
  • A hosting provider
  • Some time to get content up on the site

Or so it seems. While those are the only true barriers to entry, there are many more that are unseen to new entrants:

  • Knowledge of SEO
  • Time for your website to “season” in the eyes of Google
  • Systems-based marketing skills
  • Ability to create content that people actually want to consume
  • Ability to know what to do and in what order to do it (pareto-optimization of tasks)
  • …and so on

These are the hidden barriers to entry that cause many people to fail in this type of business. They think that all they need to start a website is the first set of bullet points, but they aren’t even aware of the second set (of which I only scratched the surface).

This leads them to commit the cardinal sin of business (and life): they do not know how to think for themselves, so they mimic.

The Tragedy of the Marketing Commons

If you’re unfamiliar with the tragedy of the commons concept, it means that people acting in their self-interest will deplete a resource that’s shared by the community, thus hurting them in the long run. This concept is typically applied to physical resources, but can easily be translated into the world of marketing and online business.

Take a look at LinkedIn right now. Chances are your feed is filled with updates like this:

Sidenote: Nothing against Noah. He’s a great guy who’s hilarious to talk to.

These types of posts are getting incredible reach and clickthroughs on LinkedIn and people are fleeing other platforms that give shitty organic reach (Facebook, Twitter).

However, because the strategy is so effective, it’s quickly becoming saturated (see Andrew Chen’s articles on this for a better understanding of growth saturation).

Everyone is acting in their own individual self-interest and taking as much as they can from what they perceive to be a limitless resource: digital status updates on LinkedIn.

What they don’t see is that the resource they’re depleting is attention, and it’s the most scarce resource on Earth right now.

In search of growth, marketers and business owners are depleting the effectiveness of the growth channels that do work at an ever-increasing rate.

What Does This Have To Do With Authority Websites?

The business model behind authority websites is well-understood by a small but growing segment of people who are looking to work for themselves.

However, with all things that become better-understood, there comes a codifying of the strategies and tactics behind them, thus making them less effective. What was once hard to figure out and execute becomes easy and automated, decreasing effectiveness.

For example, certain methods of email outreach to build links are currently being run into the ground by website owners with a serious lack of creativity. Spamming website owners with stock email templates in broken English is not only a bad strategy for the individual employing it, but it also slowly spoils the pool of opportunity for those who are more ethical / creative in their approach.

The same goes for website content. As content becomes easier and easier to create, it becomes less and less valuable. The barrier to entry to creating content is effectively zero, so you must do something special to stand out.

There are many ways to do this, if you sit down and think about it for half a second:

  • Stack media types – create video, podcasts, etc.
  • Continually update your posts – a “wiki” approach
  • …and so on

Why I’m No Longer Posting Income Reports and Updates

love helping people and writing about my business experiences.

However, the sheer amount of people who are unwilling to sit and think for themselves has caused 10-20 direct copycats of my site. I’m not overly worried by this, as most of them are motivated by money only and are not topic experts in the space. I expect ~75% of them to drop out within a year, and I can scoop up their sites at a low cost.

That said, I see no further value in sharing techniques and tactics that have come to me after a heavy investment of time, money, and trial and error. All I’m doing is exposing them to the tragedy of the commons phenomenon sooner than I’d like.

The takeaway here is clear: THINK FOR YOURSELF.

Copying others can only ever be a short-term strategy at best. By definition, you’re already behind those you’re copying, and if copying is your only strategy, it is logically impossible for you to come out ahead barring certain improbable circumstances.

That said, I will still be writing on this blog, but I will not be discussing direct tactics and strategies I’ve used to grow my site.