Google Has Killed the Generalist and No One Cares
Are you a generalist?
That’s too bad.
Actually, I should say, “I’m sorry.”
I’m sorry that you’re not going to be able to be a generalist anymore. I’m assuming that since you’re still creating content online as a generalist than being a generalist must have worked for you at some point.
Unfortunately that day has come and gone.
Google has killed the generalist.
Your first question should be, “Has Google really killed the generalist?”
Watch this short interview with Brian Clark, chatting with the team at Stone Temple Consulting:
“Google is looking for the authority.” Straight from the mouth of the Prince of Content Marketing, (who admittedly hates the term content marketing).
It’s incredibly difficult to become an authority on a topic. I’ve been writing about content marketing and Google Plus for more than two years now on this site and I’m just starting to see some significant traction. That’s focused effort for 24 months.
If I also talked about email marketing and Facebook and Twitter and other random feelings I had on a given day I’d be nowhere near building a significant audience on any of these topics.
Google Doesn’t Believe in the Generalist
On Google’s About Page, their mission statement reads, “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Then we drill down even farther to the Google company philosophy, which Google title’s “Ten things we know to be true.” The number two item on this list reads, “It’s best to do one thing really, really well.”
Is there any reason to believe, if Google has gone through the effort of creating a list of ten things they know to be true and placing on that list the statement, “It’s best to do one thing really, really well,” essentially preaching the gospel of specialization, that their search product would in any way appreciate your generalist content?
Google does NOT appreciate generalist websites (with the exception of mega media sites, like a Huffington Post, who can’t really be considered generalists with the amount of content they create on every topic).
Let’s take the quick example of your average independent insurance agency who writes personal and small to mid-sized commercial lines policies as well as some life insurance and health insurance when they can get their hands on it.
Common practice would be to create pages for all these products. We’re talking fifty different products spanning a hundred different industries.
This agency, if they put in the work, may be able to rank for some general insurance related terms eventually. But here’s the dirty little secret most SEO and content marketing professionals don’t tell their clients:
Great for traffic, terrible for revenue.
Google knows this and the number one item on their Ten Thing We Know to Be True list, “Focus on the user and all else will follow.”
Which leads us to the two reasons Google has killed the generalist:
1) Consumers Hate Generalists (Most of the time)
The real reason Google has killed the generalist lies in why consumers visit Google Search in the first place.
You don’t go to Google unless you have a problem, a question or a need.
In which of those categories is the generalist the most valuable resource?
My sister-in-law gets back pain often. She was sick of constantly visiting doctors and chiropractors without a resolution. So she took to Google in search of a solution.
She found, FixYourOwnBack.com and after a few months of following the course work is experiencing consistant relief.
Fix Your Own Back helps people fix their own back. It’s NOT fix your own back, legs, shoulders and elbows.
When wearing our consumer hats this makes complete sense. How could someone be a specialist in back pain, leg pain, shoulder pain and elbow pain?
They couldn’t. At least they couldn’t and have us believe their advice would actually work.
Yet, going back to our independent insurance agent example, the vast majority of agents will list thirty different types of businesses that they write insurance for.
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you’re a specialist in it and most importantly that you should market your services in that thing.
When a consumer goes to Google with their problem, question, or need they want THE BEST solution and they are pissed when a search result doesn’t provide the best solution.
So Google doesn’t show anything other than what it believes to be the best solution.
Market your best solutions and watch your results increase.
2) Google Can’t Serve Targeted Ads at Generalists
Now that we’re past Google’s philanthropic beliefs in specialization, let’s talk about how they actually make money, namely ads.
Along with every organic search results page, or SERP, come advertisements.
When people click on these ads Google makes money.
Same goes for the Google Ads on websites. Let’s say you have Google Ads on your site and Google can’t figure out which ad to display because your site isn’t clearly focused on topic, this lowers the relevancy of Google’s ad.
Google doesn’t like this.
I’m not saying that having or not having Google Ads on your site impacts search at all. What I’m saying is that Google, in everything they do, is able to provide the most relevant and valuable product by ranking websites with a specialization higher than generalists.
Oversimplified, yes, but accurate.
If you’re an independent insurance agency, pick three products or industries, not thirty.
Same goes for whatever business you’re in. Pick your highest margin product or the product you most want to sell.
The consumers who need that thing WANT to work with the specialist in that thing.
Think about how pissed you are when you click on a link you think is going to help you and realize it’s just another site with the same information as the last four you’ve visited.
No one cares that you can do everything. The reason they went to Google in the first place was to find who does the thing, the best.
If you’re that person or business, then that’s all you should be writing about.
Now get to it…
Thank you and Good luck,
I am Ryan Hanley
Drop Some Knowledge
Where do you stand on being a generalist? When does being a generalist work in a businesses favor? Has Google not killed the generalist?