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Section 1: How You Earn Visibility

Effortless Visibility

There's this guy named Matt Cutts. There was a five-year period of time when if Matt Cutts published something about a certain topic, well over 50,000 people cared about what he said. They cared immediately, deeply, and sometimes angrily.

That's visibility. A rather extreme level of visibility, in fact.

To get that level of visibility, Matt Cutts was merely good at his job for 17 years. That job was a high-profile position in the areas of web spam and search quality at Google.

Matt became an unofficial spokesperson who explained and defended the often-opaque changes Google made to its search engine algorithm. If you needed to understand these periodic algorithm changes and what impact they might have, you paid attention to Matt Cutts.

Two kinds of people had skin in the game here: people (or companies) with content that ranked well in a Google search, and people who wanted to improve how their clients' content ranked in a Google search. The latter are often called search engine optimizers (SEOs).

The latter is where I get my "well over 50,000 people" number from. According to, at the time of this writing there are more than 13,300 ad agencies, and from that point, it's a reasonable extrapolation to 50K people who care about SEO, and therefore, 50K people who care what the unofficial spokesperson for the most powerful search algorithm on the planet has to say about SEO. That's not counting the large number of people or businesses who would be personally affected by changes to Google's search algorithm, and therefore, would also care about Matt Cutts’ explanation of those changes.

If Matt Cutts had become an indie consultant after he left his job at Google in 2017, he would have instantly become the single most visible and authoritative consultant in the SEO world.

He would have expended zero effort earning visibility and would have the most visibility an indie consultant could possibly ask for.

Inherited Fame

There are cases where earning visibility just happens without you trying at all.


1: Thinking of this as "niche fame" is pretty accurate because fame itself is an extreme form of visibility.

You could inherit an extreme amount of visibility the way Matt Cutts did. [1]

You could inherit niche fame from a parent, the way children of celebrities or royalty do.

Or, you could have an incredibly productive professional or personal network and be so visible within that network that the ratio of opportunity-to-visibility is so favorable that you are effectively niche famous within your network.

All of the above do happen out there in the world, and the visibility is not earned; it's inherited .

Most of us, however, are not Matt Cutts, are not children of celebrities, and have a sorta-okay network. We eventually reach a point where we've extracted most of the opportunity our sorta-okay network is going to yield. No matter how good we are at helping our clients with strategy or execution, we tend to wait until a moment of crisis to consider changing how we earn visibility for ourselves or our business. We all know the saying about the best time to plant a tree, and yet we wait until we'd like some almonds to satiate our hunger before we think about planting an almond tree.


2: When speaking aloud the phrase "do marketing," I will almost always use air quotes, because to me, you don't "do marketing" any more than a single person can "do marriage." Marketing is a relationship in service of change, or more pragmatically, marketing is the process of cultivating the relationships that help you earn visibility and trust from a market.

We reach this crisis—this unsustainable moment in our business—and decide we need to "do marketing." [2]  When we say "I need to do marketing," we are really saying "I need to work at earning new visibility for my business."

Matt Cutts did his job well and inherited an immense amount of visibility as a second-order consequence.

We need to learn to do a good job of earning visibility, and as a second-order consequence, we do our jobs as indie consultants better.