"Diminishing Returns, They Said..."
Caption: Exponential Growth Is Inevitable With Hard Work
During the deepening of your involvement in this industry, you'll continue to encounter a piece of advice that revolves around a certain topic. The advice is "don't do it," and the topic and justification for this advice is "diminishing returns."
I'm personally very thankful that so many hear, internalize, and perpetuate this advice. It makes it real easy for the few of us, the internet 1%'ers, to dominate our verticals.
It might even sound sensical at the time. "Don't do it. Don't waste a ton of time worrying about that. You're better off getting it most of the way and then moving on to the next task." These denouncers of Doing It Right have plenty of reasons why you should skip the hard part. Ideas like the 80/20 Principle, scaling instead of perfecting, spreading your eggs in many baskets, not getting caught in completionism... they all make sense when you're throwing shit at the wall and hoping something sticks.
I'm sure no one is trying to lead the newcomer astray. It's just a weakness in human psychology. Nobody wants to commit, go all in, and put their nuts on the chopping block. They want to be non-committal and be ready to pivot and weather the rollercoaster. However, at the top when you bust through the 99th percentile, you move above the clouds.
Caption: Diminishing Returns They Said
The weather is real nice up here. There's no rain, no winds to knock you down, no lightning strike catastrophes, and you can see the entire landscape including your competitors who might be coming up. But they see the cloud as the ceiling and think that's the top, not realizing it's a glass ceiling. Then they look down, get distracted by all of the shiny objects they can see spread across the kingdom, and go chasing them instead of focusing on the tower they've built that brought them this high. And that is their downfall.
The Final 1% That Makes You a 1%'er
Please, go ahead and start that next website once you've sucked all of the easy money out of your current project. Give up on your site in my vertical. The current wisdom in the industry is that the last 20% of money to squeeze out will cost you 80% of your total efforts in the project. You might as well go ahead and suck another 80% out of a new project with 20% effort, right?
Let me tell you, it's true. It gets harder to get less in return. The ROI just isn't there... only if you're a quitter. It gets worse at the final 10%, and excruciatingly worse at 5% and then 3%. And then, that last 1% threshold is guarded by two vicious beasts called Laziness and Conventional Wisdom, who come together in a Transformer/Voltron fashion to form your worst enemy: Being a B**ch.
Caption: Guardians at the Threshold
But guess what happens when you stick to the path, keep your eye on the prize, and bust through that last barrier? An explosion of wealth. 1%'ers are 1%'ers because they follow through all the way to the last 1%. And then everything is completed. The systems are automated. The human resources are all outsourced. And there's nobody else in the way.
You're printing money at 100% while your "competitors" are moving on at 80%, because that's where things start to take a little effort. And you know why they chose to work online at a computer? Because they are lazy and it's supposed to be easy.
Conquer the resistances your mind throws up and don't allow the wisdom of the many to guide you down any other path than the one ahead of you, and you will own your vertical. Radical persistence is the key to winning.
The Last Coins Aren't Pennies
Let's say you're walking through the woods following a breadcrumb trail like Hansel and Gretel, except it's not breadcrumbs and it's not Hansel or Gretel. It's you following a trail of silver dollar coins. You've walked this path every single day because you simply love going for walks in nature. The intrinsic reward has been payment enough. But suddenly you see these silver dollars laid out one after another on the trail. What do you do? You start picking them up.
Caption: The Penny Trail
As you continue on, you're counting. "Five thousand and one.... Five thousand and two..." And suddenly the silver dollars switch to quarters. Should you keep going? You normally walk further than this without any extrinsic money reward, but it seems kind of shitty to have to keep walking only for quarters instead of dollars. You figure what the hell and keep going. And then they become dimes. "Heck, it's worth the exercise." You keep going only to encounter nickels, and then pennies. "Pennies!?!? PENNIES!?!?" You throw a shit fit and turn around to go back home and find a new trail that might have big money at the start of it.
Here's the thing. You started your project because you loved doing it for itself. It wasn't a means to and end. It was a passion and hobby that just happened to produce money.
Suddenly the focus shifts from the inner reward to the outer, and you decide it's no longer worth doing what you loved doing for free, because the effort isn't producing the same external return. You got tricked by your own psyche.
Had you continued, you'd have found that after the trail of pennies came gold bullion. But you'ze a b**ch, so you rationalized a reason to quit.
Diminished Returns Synergize Into Explosive Returns
Let's create an example. You could have given up at 80%. Most of your content gets social traction. Your conversion rate is at the industry average. Your shopping carts abandonment is lower than ever. Your impressions are up, bounce rate down, time on site is through the roof, and your design looks pretty to boot. So you let it be and move on to the next.
Here's what happens if you didn't stop till mining for gold: you find diamonds.
Caption: Finding Diamonds
After a few months of toying around, studying your competitors, and waiting on the search engines to react, you find that by reducing your keyword density through switching a few instances to several phrases you find across the top 10 pages in the SERPs dropped you below some on-page threshold that created distrust in your page. Suddenly, instead of ranking #8 for your terms, you're up to #5. Your on-page optimization matches 100% of your competitors and exceeds them by just 1%. Traffic is up and so is income, but barely. And dammit, it was quite a bit of effort and waiting. But still you persevere.
You then scrape the top 50's backlinks, filter them down based on worth and ease of acquisition. You duplicate the easy ones. No, you don't stop there. You pay someone to work on getting as many of the hard ones as possible.
After a couple of months, you pop up to #3. You've matched your competitors everywhere possible and exceeded them by 1% by combining all of the links they had plus your own originals you earned. F**k, that was brutal. It took forever and costed a lot of man hours. But still you persevered.
You decide to take a break from on-page and off-page SEO to focus on pleasing your customers and users instead of some robots. You triple your blogging efforts while beginning to split test your design. After a few months, your indexation has doubled, you're generating more internal page rank juice and pushing it where you want it, and your on-site user metrics are up. People are hanging around longer and checking out more of the site. And because people aren't pogo-sticking from your site back to the SERPs like they are your competitor's sites, you move up to #2. The move from #3 to #2 was worth double the traffic that the move from #8 to #3 produced. It was tough, but you're glad you didn't quit earlier like the guys on that forum told you to.
Finally, you start split testing your entire funnel. After toying with single words in your call-to-action, changing the colors, font sizes, and even testing serif versus sans-serif fonts, you start to see some results. So you continue. You hire a master copywriter to re-write your most fruitful landing pages. You have a designer create a long-form version and a short-form version. You test, and test, and test. This produced "only" a 1% positive change in conversion rate. But because of your perseverance everywhere else, your traffic is 10x what it was before, and that 1% in conversion rate equals an extra $33,333.33 per month in profit.
That extra income snowballs and allows you to invest in more marketing, from reaching out to journalists, editors, and industry magazines, to employing pay-per-click advertising and bringing on five dedicated full-time bloggers to help convert your blog into the leading industry resource. You hire someone to perform page speed optimization for your site. Not only do you load twice as fast as you used to, but you load twice as fast as any of your competitors. All of this, of course, leads you to take the jump from #2 to #1, which triples your traffic, which triples your income.
Caption: Success Cause of Follow Through
Because you stuck it out, you're earning an extra $1,000,000 per month. Algorithm changes come and go, but you survive. You watch the 2nd through 20th spot all shift below you constantly thanks to your subscription to SERPWoo. The only constant in all of your SERPs is you. You are the unshakeable. You're the shark the hungry piranhas on the come-up see and say "Eh, he already owns the vertical and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm going to quit at 80% and find a less difficult niche to enter next."
This only worked because you followed through everywhere. And that's when diminishing returns synergize. Suddenly 10 + 2 no longer equals 12.
You're no longer even playing with addition. You're in the exponential realm. You're talking about 10 ^ 2 equals 100. You are now one of the few. But you're not alone. We are out there.
Are You Ready to Join Us?
The fact that you're here reading the SERPWoo blog tells me that you're not happy with having an above average business. You're looking to dominate. Nobody should be able to survive in the scorched earth landscape you've created. Until you get busted for monopolizing, the job isn't done.
That's the attitude that CCarter, I (Ryuzaki), and many others attempt to instill in one another over at Builder Society. Good enough means you're ready to compromise for the sake of ease. Following conventional wisdom means you're doing what everyone else is doing. And that means being average.
Allow your choices and efforts to synergize with compounding interest and your perseverance to propel you beyond the valley of "diminishing returns."