Big data, content is king, growth hacking, data-driven, are just some of the buzzwords you’ll find in the digital marketing space (I’ve been drawn to some of those terms too, shame on me!). As anyone is selling something, it’s easy to mistake the “useful” for the nice to have and the superfluous for the must-have. In this post, I want to show you why gut feelings (yes, you heard me well!) is the best tool you might use for your SEO strategy. Of course, I’m not saying you need to throw away keyword research or other analytical tools. I’m just saying the things being equal your gut feeling is what you need to listen to before anything else!
I’m showing you this by drawing from my personal experience and by looking at the data (at hindsight data is the best tool) to prove why gut feelings work better than your keyword research tool!
When I discovered the Duck behind DuckDuckGo
When I started this blog, I didn’t think it would have been so difficult to get some traction regarding organic traffic. Yet I soon discovered that even when I did write something that was (according to my standards) of high quality (long form, in-depth essay, well researched and written) traffic didn’t come. That is when I learned that when produced a piece of content I had to find out the best distribution channel suited for that article for it to gain traction.
That is why before writing I started to use tools like Google Trends, Keywords Planner and anything that could show an audience existed for a topic I was about to write. Yet one night by looking at the referral traffic of my blog I found out about a search engine called DuckDuckGo that was quite interesting, as opposed to Google, it was focused on privacy. As I started to dig into the story of DuckDuckGo, I found it so compelling that soon enough I was drawn into dozens of articles, forum discussions and a couple of books. At that moment I started to write down the story.
No keyword research, no analysis, pure gut feeling. The only signal was some referral traffic that I got also from other search engines I didn’t know but none had drawn me to it as DuckDuckGo. I got so compelled in writing that story that I didn’t give it a second thought, not for a second. It took me a few weeks of research and a few days to finalize it. Yet not a single second doubting I had to write it. My stomach wrote it for me!
Had I consulted with any SEO guru or digital marketing expert I probably would have never written that story. I didn’t have enough data to back it up! However, when I did publish it and shared it on social media, I had ten times more traffic on that story than two years of blogging! As of now, that story alone brings most of the organic traffic of this blog.
Why did I write it? Pure gut feeling!
Do you set trends or do you let Google trends set your content? When antifragile wasn’t even a word!
The controversial part of this paragraph is that I’m gonna use Google trends to prove my point. Yet as I was telling you at the beginning of the article, data is a great explanatory tool. In short, data is fantastic to craft stories in hindsight. It might be less so to create trends. What do I mean?
Once again, data is a discrete discovery tool. Yet if you’re passionate about your industry and you have a good intuition. When gut feelings call, don’t put a break. Let them go wild. For instance, if you follow Google trends, you’d never come up with a new word. This is inconceivable. As that word, doesn’t exist yet, it would be a too high risk. However, the ability, distinctiveness, and creativity of an author are just about how good you feel about creating new words that can create new worlds in the minds of people.
One of my favorite authors is Nicholas Nassim Taleb. Although he is a rigorous guy, he’s also a great writer. As a former options trader, he had spent years thinking about how financial markets worked. The ideas he formulated are as applicable to financial markets as to real world in general. In fact, one of the central themes of his book series (The Incerto) deals with the uncertainty and how to deal with it.
Taleb was looking for a way to define a thing that gains from disorder. In short, imagine something that has a small shock (a stressor), yet instead of becoming more fragile, it becomes more robust. Of course, the word robust wouldn’t fit his definition, as there’s nothing more robust than something robust. Thus, he came out with a word: antifragile. That was the title of another book of his series. Today, thanks to his creativity, genius and also the fact that he couldn’t care less about keyword research (thank god Taleb is not a blogger!) today antifragile is a word the gets more and more adopted. And I wouldn’t be surprised it will be formally recognized in the next future. That word didn’t exist in the English dictionary before Taleb made it up:
Had we taught Taleb how to use Google trends (I doubt he would have cared) we wouldn’t have a word that at least for me has gained massive importance in my way of thinking!
Let’s see the last compelling reason why gut feelings are the best tool a writer has!
The story of Salvatore Aranzulla, the Italian most popular technology popularizer that didn’t know how much traffic his blog was making!
If you live in Italy, for any kind of issue with your iPhone, iPad or another kind of device, the answer will be found in 99.9% of the cases on aranzulla.it. This is among the most popular Italian website (for sure the most popular tech site). His creator is Salvatore Aranzulla, a Neil Patel look-alike guy, from a small town in Catania’s County, Sicily. He started his blog when he was 12 years old.
It all started when he got passionate about tech when he convinced his parents to buy a computer for him. As he had self-taught himself how to use that computer, he soon became the target of friends, family, and family of his friends to solve any kind of issue related to their computers. As he noticed that the questions were always the same. Rather than doing the same process of explaining the same thing over and over. He decided to put the information down in a word document. He then used those documents and passed them over to family and friends to solve their tech-related issues.
One day he decided to open up a blog where to sort or store the documents he had in an amateurish way. It was around the year 2002. For those years he blogged but didn’t have an idea of the traffic he was getting. Until, one day, in 2007 he placed a cookie on his website to see how much traffic he was getting. He realized he was making over 300k visits per month! Today aranzulla.it is among the most popular websites in Italy.
And of course, Salvatore Aranzulla was one of the first to uncover the secrets of keyword research to grow his website to over twenty million page views per month. Yet, Salvatore started from real issues people had, only to use keyword research to understand whether other people were experiencing those issues, rather than vice-versa. Thus, his initial traction stage was way more a trial and error, a tinkering process, rather than an analytical, data-driven process!
So before you start writing your next piece, how does your belly feel?