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Why Algorithm-Chasers are Guaranteed to Lose

You see this too, right?

Every week I get an email or Facebook update saying something like this:

Hey guys! I just noticed Medium’s algorithms have changed! So I’ve written this post to update you on everything I’ve found so far! Hope it helps!

And the algorithm-chasers rejoice:

“Thank you!”

“Really helpful!”

“I wondered where all my claps and money went.”

It’s amazing how many people drop everything whenever some hipster on Planet Medium farts.

Look: This is a losing game which direct marketers got wise to years ago…

Heck, I’m relatively new to marketing, and I learned it in a seminar with Howie Jacobson (author of Google Adwords for Dummies) back in 2012.

“Why is paid advertising better than SEO?” a fellow student asked.

Howie pointed to Google’s continuous (and I do mean continuous) algorithm-changes. Some of these changes are small. Some are very big.

If I remember right, there was a monstrous Google change a few years ago. It was called the ‘Panda update,’ or ‘Flying Squirrel,’ or some shit. Anyway, my point is the update wiped out a heap of businesses overnight.

Some of these businesses lost 60, 70, even 80 percent of their customers.

It seemed horrendously unfair. But honestly…

…They deserved to be wiped out

Because they were not focussing on the things they control.

They put their fate in someone else’s hands. This is what happens when you chase algorithms.

Howie said he’d much rather focus on the things he owns and has control over.

You have to play the game, of course. (I’m not suggesting you just ‘break the rules’ of these massive corporations. That’ll get you in a pickle.) But the information you collect from split-testing your advertisements, from seeing which appeals work, from talking to the people on your list – and giving them stuff they want…these are all things YOU own and control.

Your email list is something YOU own and control.

Your skills and development are things YOU own and control.

So whatever the algorithm-gremlins have plotted next, you still have your solid platform to work from.

I stopped using Medium

I logged out of my account, unsubscribed from their emails and vowed never to use it again.

I did this for a number of reasons (some of them personal, which I may go into in a future post).

But the main reason was also the simplest. It pulled my focus away from:

  1. Controlling what I can control
  2. Improving as a writer

I’ve been a copywriter for 10 years, working alongside some of the very best – and I’m still not even nearly satisfied with my performance.

I still study 1-2 hours a day.

I still copy out classic direct response ads by hand.

I still do all the things I did as a raw rookie.

But I do it all with the faith that quality work is the only real algorithm for success

I’m not an expert on Medium, or its partner program.

Still, I’m not the least bit surprised to see people complaining, making less money, working harder for poorer results. This is what happens. It always happens.

Focus on the things you control, however, and what happens?

  • Your skills improve
  • Your marketing improves
  • Your finances improve

If you want to make life easier, you have to look at the things YOU control. You have to make improvements for yourself.

If you’re like 99% of people, this simply means getting better

Improving a skill. Or mastering your vocation.

Only yesterday I saw this comment pop up:

He got trolled into oblivion, of course. Ripped apart by the bloggers and social-media whisperers. And I felt bad for him. Because I can actually relate. I also wanted to know the answer to this problem.

It’s easy to get lost down these marketing rabbit holes –  trying to please others, trying to get ahead, trying to beat the algorithms.

It’s easy to wake up one morning and think, ‘Hey, I’ve been obsessing over growing an ‘online presence,’ when what I actually wanted to do was write novels.’

It got me thinking: ‘Which artists had rapid – and lasting – success from a real debut effort?’

Off the top of my head, I could only think of two cases.

  • Orson Welles – Citizen Kane
  • Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird

When I get time I intend to study these examples – and others – to see what they had in common. But the first thing they have in common is obvious:

They are both OUTSTANDING pieces of work. Not just good. Works of genius. 

This is the biggest problem with marketing self-published novels.

90% of self-published novels are aggressively bad. Dialogue which gives you a hernia from cringing so much.

And as the late, great Bill Bernbach once said:

“Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.”

Are you absolutely certain you’ve produced something of worth? Because until you are, what’s the point of trying to ‘game’ the social media and blogging platforms?

You’d be better off getting back to your desk and writing something else. Or practicing whatever it is you’re trying to do.

It sounds painful, but it’s not. It’s something you can control. So control it.

Don’t bet your future on an algorithm.

Don’t let other people tell you how it’s gonna be.

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