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SETH'S BOOKS

Seth Godin has written 18 bestsellers that have been translated into 35 languages

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Bonus stuff!

or click on a title below to see the list

all.marketers.tell.stories

All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

free.prize.inside

Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

linchpin

Linchpin

An instant bestseller, the book that brings all of Seth's ideas together.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

meatball.sundae

Meatball Sundae

Why the internet works (and doesn't) for your business. And vice versa.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

permission.marketing

Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

poke.the.box

Poke The Box

The latest book, Poke The Box is a call to action about the initiative you're taking - in your job or in your life, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

purple.cow

Purple Cow

The worldwide bestseller. Essential reading about remarkable products and services.

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IN STORES:

small.is.the.new.big

Small is the New Big

A long book filled with short pieces from Fast Company and the blog. Guaranteed to make you think.

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survival.is.not.enough

Survival is Not Enough

Seth's worst seller and personal favorite. Change. How it works (and doesn't).

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IN STORES:

the.big.moo

The Big Moo

All for charity. Includes original work from Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Peters and Promise Phelon.

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IN STORES:

the.big.red.fez

The Big Red Fez

Top 5 Amazon ebestseller for a year. All about web sites that work.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.dip

The Dip

A short book about quitting and being the best in the world. It's about life, not just marketing.

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IN STORES:

the.icarus.deception

The Icarus Deception

Seth's most personal book, a look at the end of the industrial economy and what happens next.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

tribes

Tribes

"Book of the year," a perennial bestseller about leading, connecting and creating movements.

ONLINE:

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unleashing.the.ideavirus

Unleashing the Ideavirus

More than 3,000,000 copies downloaded, perhaps the most important book to read about creating ideas that spread.

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v.is.for.vulnerable

V Is For Vulnerable

A short, illustrated, kids-like book that takes the last chapter of Icarus and turns it into something worth sharing.

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we.are.all.weird

We Are All Weird

The end of mass and how you can succeed by delighting a niche.

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whatcha.gonna.do.with.that.duck

Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

The sequel to Small is the New Big. More than 600 pages of the best of Seth's blog.

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THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




All Marketers Are Liars Blog




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Member since 08/2003

« June 2004 | Main | August 2004 »

Not sure which is more surprising...

According to MarketingVOX, online media accounts for 12% of media consumption. That's a stunning rise: one out of eight, up from zero in just ten or so years.

At the same time, though, they report that online media accounts for just 2% of ad spending.

This could be because online media doesn't work (but it does)
or that it's hard to buy advertising in it (but it isn't)
or that it's radically underpriced and a bargain (which may be true).

The real reason is pretty obvious: organizations hate to change. (so do people, but that's a different story).

Whenever you are faced with a situation where your competition is afraid to change but you can see the reality of the situation, you have a huge opportunity. This is the biggest growth and market share opportunity in at least a decade.

Short version: corporations, politicians, non-profits and even individuals who overinvest in online will see the same spectacular bounce that companies saw from TV in the fifties and sixties.

Winston tastes good...

The Cliff

I got two different business plans from friends today.

Both of these guys are big thinkers, entrepreneurs through and through and destined for greatness. And both had precisely the same problem with their plan. It's a problem that's becoming very common... for products, for services, online and off. The problem is caused by our networked world, the quest for the Cow and the goal of reaching a Tipping Point.

In the old days, there was pretty much only one way to grow a business. Start small, make some money, get a little bigger, repeat. Over time, you could fund your way to bigness. VCs can help you jumpstart, sure, but raising 100 or 400 million dollars to skip all the steps on the way to bigness is rare indeed.

YOUR BUSINESS HAS TO WORK WHEN IT'S SMALL IN ORDER TO SURVIVE TO THE POINT WHERE IT GETS BIG.

A magazine, for example, can't have a business plan that says it will accept no ads until it's bigger than Time or Newsweek. I call this a cliff business... a business that doesn't ramp up, but one that runs flat until, miraculously, the business hits critical mass and works.

In our networked world, cliff businesses are a site to behold. eBay, for example, or Microsoft. Natural monopolies that work when everyone uses them. That's one of eBay's best assets--everyone wants to use the system that everyone is using.

The problem is, it's almost impossible to bootstrap a cliff business. The Bluetooth standard, for example, is a great thing when every cell phone and laptop uses it. But it took more than five years of high-overhead standards setting and meetings and commissions and committees before it even began to take off. Had Bluetooth been a business, it would have disappeared long ago.

The best cliff businesses online started with little fanfare (Blogger, or ICQ, for example). Doing it on purpose is difficult indeed. That's one reason you don't want your kids to grow up to be songwriters trying to write Top 40 hits. It's a great gig if you can get it, but you can't count on getting it.

So... if your product or your service or your business is going to be nothing but trouble until it reaches the cliff, I think it's better to pick something else to launch. Something remarkable and cheap and likely to make customers and investors happy long before you get to the cliff.

How far...

every once in while, those of us who are busy obsessing over the changes getting made in our lives from day to day or moment to moment benefit from taking a look at the long term.

I was born in 1960... Thanks to Mark Hurst for pointing me to this original version of the google interface from that same year.


google_circa_1960

Seth Godin: Spammer

A friend was checking his email on Yahoo yesterday, and he accidentally hit the Spam Folder button.

Up popped a list of 1,232 soon to be deleted pieces of spam. The first one? An announcement from me that I had emailed to my super-permissioned email list. This is a list of people that has never been rented, sold, harvested, compiled or messed with in any way. By any definition of spam (except of the one that matters... Yahoo's) this is not spam.

But they say it is, so it is.

I'm not annoyed at their filter or even at the situation. I am disappointed, though, that spammers have had such an impact that email marketing (or even email notification of free online content with no money involved) is breathing its last.

Sigh.

RSS can't come a moment too soon. It's become more and more clear to me over the last five years that email is simultaneously too powerful (people who read it jump) and too weak (spammers have trained us not to read it) to last for much longer.

Are blogs backward?

Newspapers come out every day. You read today's issue, even if you're new to a town and you've never read that paper before. The editors assume that you're reasonably informed and up to date on "the story so far" and they just pick up where they left off.

Books, on the other hand, come out every year or five or ten. An author assumes that you're going to start reading on page one. If she's written a sequel, she assumes you've read the book that comes before, but a good editor will often push the author to spend the first chapter catching new readers up to speed.

Weblogs were designed to be like newspapers. The idea was that people would stop by and read some more every day, and that each post would build on what had come before... and that frequent readers would have no trouble keeping up.

This is great in a world with a finite number of blogs and a static community of readers.

Today, though, there are two factors to keep in mind:
1. We've now got more than 3,000,000 blogs, and every two weeks (my guess) the number of people reading blogs for the first time increases by 10 or 20%. That means that most of the people who are reading your blog are doing so for the first or second time.

2. A lot of blogs are no longer about the original intent--to link to current posts on the web with small comments. Instead, corporate and personal blogs are much more focused on telling a story, a story that has a beginning and a middle, not just a current end.

This leads me to two thoughts:
a. a lot more blogs should be posted in chronological order, like books. If you're trying to chronicle something, it makes a lot of sense to start at the beginning, as long as you provide regular readers an easy way to just read the current stuff (That's what RSS is for, right?). No, this isn't right for gizmodo. But it makes a lot of sense for someone, say, chronicling her experience in a 12 step program.

b. we need Movable Type or someone to create a simple way to create "greatest hits" pages. Not an archive, but a simple way for a new reader to read the ten posts we want them to start with, in the order we want them read, before they dive in.

I know it's weird to read a chronological blog. It's worse, imho, to leave a great blog just because the last two posts don't make sense out of context.

Purple Cows as a force for good

IMG_1706

Superhero Supply tells the story of Dave Eggers very cool new tutoring center. Kudos to Dave for doing it, and for the brilliance of making the entry to the center itself a Free Prize. As soon as my cape needs repair, I'm up for the road trip.

Thanks to Amit for finding this one!

More of a rollout than a launch

But I thought you might be interested in the project my amazing interns have been building all summer.

You can read about it here:
Worthwhile: What Seth Is Doing

And here: Read and Pass.

We lauch in the middle of August, and I promise an email alert to subscribers right at the start. In the meantime, we're quietly sharing the ideas behind ChangeThis.

I hope you decide it's worth thinking about!


Disappearing channel scarcity

Just had brunch with my new friend Bob. He's in the TV business.

Twenty years ago, everyone in the TV business believed in the three channel universe. Cable was a myth. That's why the big networks did such a bad job of starting cable networks. They couldn't believe that it was even remotely likely to succeed.

Of course, the first 20 channels did succeed. In a very, very big way. Billions of dollars worth of success.

It took about a decade, but the tv business recalibrated. They now believe that we have reached the natural number of networks and that's it.

What happens, I asked, when Tivo has Java and TCP/IP and there's a million channels?

The people in the TV business can't imagine this. They can't imagine a world where there might be 20 A&E networks, or where there might be a channel just for shows on how to build a model airplane.

XM radio and the Net just increased the number of radio stations by a factor of 100.

And today the NY Times reports that 175,000 books are published every year. And rising.

And we just hit 3,000,000 blogs, up from 100 five years ago.

The number of channels for just about anything keeps going up. The number of GOOD channels, where good means a built in high traffic audience that is non-discerning, keeps going down. The number of good newspaper PR outlets is down to a handful. The number of retailers with shelf space that really matters is tiny. Yes, you can get your thing out there. No, you can't expect that distribution (or carriage, as they say in TV) is going to make you successful.

In other words, owning a printing press is not such a big deal. Knowing the buyer at Bed Beth & Beyond isn't much better.

Did they spell my name right?

I don't usually like reading interviews I've done, because I'm always saying, "I didn't say that!"

But this one is a good one. The Seth Godin Interview - Global PR Blog Week 1.0. I talk about the brand cocktail party and PR and blogs and stuff.

So, the Alexa fan club...

appears to have no members. It was (repeatedly) pointed out to me how unreliable my stat (see below) was.

May be true.

The anecdotal evidence remains strong, though. Most of my audiences at speaking gigs have never heard of a blog.

You can stop spewing about Alexa now. Thanks.

So, when did you last visit Hotbot?

Hotbot.com is a little-known search engine. Yet, according to Alexa, it is visited far more times each day than all the blogger blogs and all the typepad blogs PUT TOGETHER.

The wake up call from a little Alexa poking around was that the media whining is true--not a lot of people are reading blogs. I do and you do and our friends do, so we've persuaded ourselves that everybody does, but they don't.

I wonder when this tips?

Everything I know about ideaviruses tells me it will. It's going to be fun to watch, though. I bet the tipping point comes from a very unexpected place.

Maybe I'm biased...

Stephen Gillberg (Happy Hours)sends over this link. It's a dinner party like no other... which was clearly worth talking about. Lodinews.com News

More blending

I just got spammed by Vogue magazine, with an ad that featured:
Lance Armstrong
David Yurman
and
Manolo Blahnik

Sheesh. The next thing you know, they'll start trying to sell pharmaceuticals by email.

Oh, I guess they have.

Is there any chance that this sort of activity makes their brands more valuable? When they talk about grey goo, I think this is what they mean.

What is a Plog?

I don't usually blog about blogging, because it's circular and boring, but Amazon's home page is dedicated to their riff on the technique and I couldn't avoid it.

Amazon.com: What is a Plog?

Aside from being an awkward verbal construction, a "plog" is just boring. All good blogs are "personal" in that they are about the writer. (good blogs become great blogs when the stuff about the writer is interesting and universal and the reader wants to read it). The whole idea of corporate blogs is difficult for me to get excited about, because they quickly become yet another firewall between me (a real person) and someone at the company (who I hope is a real person). Corporate blogs get stiff and scared.

Example? at the bottom of my plog it says, "E-mail plog-feedback@amazon.com to share your thoughts and suggestions on this feature. We'll read everything you send, although we cannot promise an individual response."

Well, Amazon's plog (the P is supposed to stand for personal) isn't personal at all. It's certainly not personal about Amazon, and it really isn't personal about me. It contains details about when my books are going to ship.

We don't need to start corrupting the blog idea in order for Amazon to present a list of when my books are going to ship, do we? Can you imagine saying, "I need to head over to Amazon and check my plog?"

if it were me, I'd just announce that Amazon now provides RSS alerts. RSS is going to happen, and it will be a boon to Amazon to be able to cut through the email clutter. But a plog isn't the answer, imho...

Conference in November

My friends Julie and Tony will be speaking as well. It's for senior brand people and those that love them.

If you're interested, contact Len and his team at: Brand ManageCamp 2004 - Nov 9 & 10, 2004

Maybe you shouldn't ask

Fast Company has a terrific cover piece this month about Jeff Bezos. My favorite part is when he talks about asking other people (experts, even) for their opinion about new projects.

Inevitably, people say no. Don't do it. I don't like it. It'll fail. Don't bother.

When I think about every successful project (whether it's a book or a business or a website) the people I trust have always given me exceedingly bad advice. And more often than not, that advice is about being conservative. Or it involves focusing on things that will require a lot of work, rather than things that will make it remarkable.

The incentive plan here is pretty clear. If someone dissuades you from trying, you can hardly blame them for the failure that doesn't happen, right? If, on the other hand, they egg you on and you crash, that really puts a crimp in the relationship...

I think the problem lies in the question. Instead of saying, "what do you think?" as in, "what do you think about Amazon offering 1,000,000 different titles even though some of them are really hard for us to get..." the question ought to be, "how can I make this project even MORE remarkable?"

More on Blended

(this continues the original post, scroll down below the irrelevant ketchup interruption. Whenever I post about ketchup or bananas, feel free to assume it's irrelevant.)

When I was in college in Mass. years ago, we did a project with a low-level mafia kingpin (can you be both low-level and a kingpin? He was.) In gratitude for something or other, he offered my friend and me five-digit license plates.

"Why would we want a five digit license plate?" we asked. After all, it's not like a plate that says GR8TGUY or something. It was just numbers. 43287, for example.

"It's a prestige thing."

He was right. Over the years, you always saw these plates on certain kinds of cars, driven by certain kinds of guys.

And the cars were another signal. Cadillacs meant one thing, little Cellicas meant another. So how do I explain the fact that just a few years later, I was hanging out with David Filo, multi-billionaire co-founder of Yahoo!, who was driving a Celica or some similarly non-descript econocar.

The people in first class are flying with frequent flyer miles, while the Senator is back in coach. The salesperson is busy pitching the president of the company in a meeting, while her purchasing agent, the little guy in the back, is the one with all the influence...

When the Internet caught on, the thing it changed the most was leverage. It gave speed and power and influence to people without a lot of other trappings. Blogs takes it even further... bloggers are entire media conglomerates in their pajamas.

So, when all the cues are gone, the way we make decisions about who to work with, what to buy and who to believe and trust comes down to this: it's in the interactions.

It's not the surface flash, the five digit license plate, the brand of car, the cut of the suit or the seat at the table. It's in how we follow through. It's in the actions we take and the way we listen. It's in keeping our promises and doing exactly what we say we're going to do.

Our prospects, though, are scared. They can't afford to spend time or money with every single person that walks in. So the challenge is to be cheap and easy. If it's cheap and easy (or quick) to interact with you once, people are more likely to do it. If the first interaction goes well, you get a second shot. You build a relationship, not a sale.

No, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Far more important today, though, is this: you don't get a third chance to make a second impression. And it's the second impression that builds your brand.

But is it a vegetable?

w_ketchup_14oz


W Ketchup™

Blended

All the cues we use to figure out who’s real and who’s not appear to be fading away.

Years ago, there were “real” books and self-published books. The real books were worth buying and reading, the self-published were from vanity presses. Today, of course, some of the best stuff is self-published, whether as a book or a blog.

The Republican Party just announced that it’s paying a 30% commission to anyone with a website who collects money on their behalf. That sort of tactic used to be reserved for fledgling startups or small grassroots organizations.

Multi Level Marketing used to feel just a little creepy. Vitamins or cosmetics got sold by MLM. Today, of course, it’s not surprising to hear about car companies or even doctors rewarding people with cash or services for referrals.

Wearing a fine suit that fits you right was a great cue to others that you were successful and powerful and about to make something happen. Today, it’s just as likely that your potential partner is going to show up in a turtleneck and jeans.

Hotmail accounts used to indicate anonymity and a little fly-by-night aura about someone. You wanted the email addresses of people you interacted with to have permanence… stuff like ford.com. Today, of course, gmail is the flavor du jour.

Having your headquarters in Manhattan used to be a sign of real success. People even made a business out of selling PO boxes at the Empire State Building. Today, you’re more likely to find aggressive, responsible companies sprouting up in Colorado, Dubai and Singapore.

The best websites (belonging to the best organizations) used to be designed by Razorfish or Organic or Scient. They were big and fancy and expensive and complex. Today, it’s not surprising to find a successful business with a one-page site that cost $300 to build. Even more surprising are the sites filled with direct marketing copy that aren’t scams… just effective tools to make sales.

Advertising used to be about expensive spreads in the New York Times magazine. Today, text-only Adwords ads on Google are the most likely to be paying for themselves.

Used to be that being public and traded on the NYSE was a sign of permanence and ethics. Today, after Enron and United and Xerox, it’s the previously unknown (and private) companies that just might be the best to do business with.


So, how do we tell the good from the bad? In a connected world where people don’t have letterhead, don’t wear suits (don’t even own suits) work out of tiny rented office suites (or their living room) have a simple website and buy only Adwords, have an answering machine not a PBX, don’t have a receptionist or a sculpture out front… in that world, how do we tell?

As we’ve stripped away a lot of the extraneous expenses and signaling mechanisms, are we in a race to the bottom (if “bottom” means raw, not bad)? I can no longer count on the best books coming from a major publisher, on the best articles being in the biggest magazines (in fact, I can assume that if it’s the cover story of a major magazine, it’s insipid). I can no longer assume that someone with a sketchy resume or a simple website isn’t serious about what they’re up to…

Ten years ago, there was a neat and orderly line for companies that wanted to go public and cash out. It started at Stanford and included lunch with the right venture capital guys. There was also a line for authors and salespeople and non-profit administrators and teachers and just about everyone else. Today, cutting the line appears to be the best way to get what you want.

[at this point in my riff, I’m supposed to insert a breathtaking insight, something that will turn your head around and make it all make sense. I’m not sure I can. I think maybe the insight is that puzzling times lie ahead].

Welcome to the blended times. The moment when the big and small, the impermanent and the permanent, the accepted and the ‘scammy’ meet. For a while, it’s going to be awfully confusing. We’ll get ripped off, waste time, become even more skeptical than ever before.

But soon, I think, we’ll walk out to the other side.

I have no certainty as to what the other side looks like, but I’m pretty sure the winners are those that treated their customers and their constituents with respect and did it with honesty. Trust and respect are the two things we haven’t figured out a shortcut for.

Thank You.

Thanks to the ecstatic enthusiasm and over-the-top interest from readers of this blog, Free Prize Inside (my new book) hit the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Business Week bestseller lists. And it only came out in May.

I just found out the publisher has gone back to press for more copies. We're not making any more cereal boxes, though, so you'll need to get one from the first printing if you want the collector's edition (some online and traditional stores still have cereal boxes left.)

Thanks again for your support and your kind reviews (Free Prize reviews). I hope you enjoy the book.

Better living through hyperbole

"Do you really think that all Search Engine Optimization is useless?"
"Surely you don't think that advertising is dead!"
"PR works for some people. How come you say we can't count on it?"
"All music labels aren't dead... just some of them."

Exactly.

I spend my days trying to make a point (or two). Trying to change minds. Sometimes, people are motivated by carefully shaded differences, delivered with reams of data by dispassionate observers. And sometimes it snows in Florida.

In my experience, many people get a concept stuck in their head and it grows to a size inappropriate to the original idea. I've met countless entrepreneurs and marketers who believe that one national TV ad, or one appearance on Oprah, or one lucky link in Google is the answer to their prayers.

Whether you're running for President, running a non-profit or trying to go public, there is no shortcut. No obvious, easy, predictable solution that will get you the success you want. Instead, I'm pretty sure, you're going to have to do a lot of work and build a measurable, predictable, improvable system that keeps getting better over time. And the miracles (that great link on Yahoo, that appearance on Air America) is just a bonus.

So, if I go a little overboard (as I did, intentionally, in my SEO post below) please cut me a little slack. All other things being equal, is an optimized website better than one that's not? Sure. All other things being equal, is a check from Fred Wilson's venture fund better than bootstrapping with no cash? Yep.

But first, you've got to make all other things equal. First, you and your colleagues have to do the hot, dusty and dreary work of building a permission asset one person at a time. You've got to create a remarkable product or service. You need to include that free prize that people want to talk about. Then, once all other things are equal, go wild!

Jeff Cerny's insight

Did you ever notice that people tend toward two ways of thinking in the area of interacting with groups? 

Whether it's driving, cleaning up a common kitchen area, or the internet, people have an idea that being in a group either gives them greater freedom or greater responsibility.  Driving down the road, one thinks, "I don't know that guy and what are the chances I'll meet him anywhere?" in the kitchen, "this mess doesn't have my name on it -- someone else will clean it up,"  and on the internet, "if I get one person to respond, it will be worth all the irritation to the rest for whom it is noise." 

The other group of course, says to one degree or another, "I am a member of this group, and I have an obligation to treat others as I would like to be treated -- I'll let the guy go before me, clean up the mess, and not waste people's time for my own minimal gains." 

Thanks, Jeff.

I wonder if human nature has changed, or if we're just in groups more often than we used to be...

The problem with search engine optimization

SEO is the purported science of optimizing your webpage so that you rise to the top of the listings in Google and Yahoo!

The theory is that a huge number of people find what they're looking for via search, that virtually all of these people only look at the first page of the results and that if you don't tweak your page, you're doomed.

I just got a note from someone asking me for a recommendation, and when I said I didn't think that most SEO was worth the money, he asked me why. So here goes:

1. Because it's a black art, it's really hard to tell who's good and who's not. Andrew Goodman is good, there are people who are less reputable... no matter what, it's hard to guarantee you'll get your money's worth.

2. my real problem, though, starts with an analogy. Imagine your retail store was on a road that no one ever drove down unless they found it on a map. And then imagine that they redid the maps every week and the mapmakers refused to tell you exactly how they went about deciding which roads to draw and in which hierarchy to place them.

Could you imagine finding investors for that sort of store? Could you imagine being confident enough in your ability to grow that business that you'd want to work there?

Lucking into (and it is luck) the top slot of a great word on Google is not a business plan. It's superstition. It's blind faith.

If you want to grow your business, you need a reliable and scalable and dependable way to spend time and money and have it turn into traffic and revenue. In the real world, companies do that with real estate and with advertising. Online, it's about adwords and site design.

If you can figure out how to BUY (not luck into) keyword searches that bring you X number of visitors, and then you can figure out how to design your site so that Y% of those visits turn into customers, you win. And nobody can stop you from growing all you care to grow.

Take a look at The South Beach Diet(TM) > Online. They spend more than a million dollars a year on online promotion (keywords, etc.). They spend a bunch more on optimizing the site. The result? One of the bestselling diet books ever written (4 million copies sold) plus more than 100,000 subscribers. Marketing that pays for itself.

No magic, no superstition. Just planning and measurement and hard work.

SEOs are not a shortcut to success, at least not for 99% of the companies out there. You won't win by fooling Google into listing you first for a common search term. You will win once you figure out the simple mechanics of turning strangers into friends and friends into customers.

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