Burn Your Marketing Rulebook: A Conversation About Small Business and SEO

 In Analytics, Content, Marketing

Have you ever written a blog that got shared between two employees in a marketing firm? And did those thoughts on the “marketing rulebook” start a conversation that focused on the no-holds-barred truth?

That’s what happened to us.

Our friend—whose name has been changed—recently wrote to mouse and Man about a blog we published last July. After reading Why I Don’t Follow Content Marketing Rules, he shared the article with a co-worker and a g-chat conversation ensued.

Fair warning: what you’re about to read is like swallowing the Red Pill in The Martrix. In other words, you’ll discover the scout’s honor truth about marketing, communication, and SEO. With permission of both parties involved, we’ve included the entire conversation below.


“Otherwise every digital marketing expert will remain confined and forced to create milquetoast content that is as unhelpful and irrelevant as it is boring.”

That’s the bingo moment for me.


That hit me haaaaaard!! And then there’s this…

“I care about not only my clients, but also their audience. When I place the principal focus on audience-centric inbound marketing, I don’t have to consult any rulebook.”


Ugh, agreed!

Looking at some data and a formula can help to an extent, but sometimes you simply do not know what is going to take off or get shared a ton of times.

I know it comes down to “make great content,” but that means so many things.

He’s right on that though: giving a crap helps

I feel like us agency SEOs do [give a crap], but we are so confined to a schedule, routine, and formula that the “great” quality is completely out of our hands.


It’s the freedom to choose and to experiment. That’s the difference between a good Internet marketing agency and a great one.



As a company, we aren’t great at what we do. We are mediocre at best.


Ah, you’re so right. I believe in what he’s saying, but where’s the room and the freedom to do all that in a modern day, corporate office?


It’s tough to have the freedom to experiment and test, because companies and individuals are so afraid of failing. And yet, our industry depends on it. Trial and error helps us learn and grow.

So many great marketers talk about testing outcomes and experimenting.


That’s incredibly true. When I think of the flip side—of just following the Google rules—I start questioning. What if SEO has helped helped shape the rules that Google implements?

Now that’s changing the Internet.


You pretty much nailed it: we need to stop chasing algorithms and just start thinking like the end-user. Which is pretty easy to do, because we too are the end-user.

As long as you aren’t confined to a “cheat-sheet” of tasks that only begin to graze the surface of what can be done from a sea-perspective.

I do not believe in an SEO vending machine, and it’s been incredibly valuable to see this process, so that I know exactly what I will not implement as a manager one day.


What if we got the client thinking like this? They would never leave.

If we challenged them to be a better company because we were able to teach and/or help them discover what exactly they are providing. And we showed them who exactly wants their provisions.


It’s not failure. It’s seeing the many ways [content] doesn’t work.

But that “cheat-sheet”…that’s what boxes you in.


Totally agree. At my last job, we got told “no” all the time from the client, because they had their own agenda and other projects got priority.

But you know what? That didn’t stop us.

We wanted to be better than [company name redacted] so we just kept coming up with new and creative ways to make their website better.


That’s awesome! Creating a strategy you believed in and a process you created. It was your baby.


This line sums up the problem so perfectly: “And you can’t do anything creative when someone forces you to follow a code that you didn’t design yourself.”


Haha. I might frame that.


I’m a firm believer that anyone following a script their whole life is not going to be successful.

Turn shit upside down.

Make things better.

Test and experiment, so you have the data to say what works and what doesn’t. I’m not OK taking someone else’s word for it.

Why More Conversations Like This Need to Happen

Because small business failure—at least the way it’s viewed in corporate board rooms now—is a complete illusion. There exists a multitude of reasons why failure is actually a good thing.

Failure remains inevitable, for one. So you may as well turn it on its ear, and use failure as a stepping-stone toward carving your own unique path as business owner and an online marketer.

Gary Palin, an entrepreneurship professor at Elon University, once told a group of students the hard truth about our world of small business and digital marketing.

“Success is getting up one more time than you fall down.”

The beauty of it is that failing is about discovery, not setbacks. It’s the only true path to finding new, transformational solutions to the toughest problems.

Mouse and Man is a Merry Group of Failures.

We’re proud to say mouse and Man was forged out of failure. We wear it as a badge of honor. We may get tattoos or stamp the word on our foreheads.

And we invite you to join us.

You see, we think that success is about finding the most profitable, innovative, and transformational solution. Without failure, this initiative is a wholly impossible feat.

For this reason, we encourage you to burn the content marketing rulebook. You may fall flat on your face, but you’ll get better every time.

We did.

Read the post that made this conversation possible.

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