Appearing Transparent is Profitable, Being Transparent is Not

John Andrews has a great post about structured data & SEO. My take on the idea (for most businesses anyhow)?

It is an arbitrage play. If you are the first person in a space to do it really well and can parlay that into testimonial links and case studies that is great. But give it 5 years and the search engines will have sucked even more blood out of most businesses.

About marketing a while back I wrote that it is “packaging and the stuff that don’t matter” because increasingly packaging is becoming one of the most important ways to create / build / add value.

The more you structure your data in standard formats the more value you give away value to the intermediary, which will display it all in their search results without giving you much value. Which will also make it easier for well funded competitors to steal your work – without attribution, of course. Rather than giving away tons of raw data it makes sense to put it in a format that is both branded and less easy to copy – like an image with your logo on it.

I recently saw a person try to promote a tool they made to me which was carrying an image that I made without giving attribution to me. That had a 0% chance of being successful without attribution. I saw another person push marketing one of our web scripts that he stole off of one of our site. Because of how we made the JavaScript accessible, we created more competition for ourselves. How much worse would that competition be if it was just raw verified data?

Some customers claim they want radical transparency, but being transparent rarely has any business value beyond

As Seth put it

Radical transparency often excites people because of the radical part (it’s new! it’s scary!) than the transparent part. Playing poker with your cards face up on the table might get you some attention at first, but in the long run it’s unlikely to help you win a lot of hands.

Given that, it is far more profitable to appear transparent than it is to actually be transparent.

As search engines continue to consume the web I think that trend of commoditization highlights the increasing importance of social networking & branding & building direct trust in the minds of prospective customers. If the only way a person adds value is through creating perceived value then they are still miles ahead of the person creating tons of value and giving it all away.

More: continued here

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