The Sea of Sameness Problem in Content Marketing & SEO

I "de-optimized" a Seer post to make it better for people, dropped it's ranking, and learned a lot in the process.

Some people might be using AI to search for answers, but that isn’t the only threat to the ROI of our work! What if you write a great post and it gets traffic from a Private LinkedIn Group of influential CTOs? That has a very different value than "SEO traffic" in my opinion.  Which I'll back up with later, but lets just say ranking for SEO company only grew my EGO, not my EBITDA.

Great content helps people. It also…

  • Uplifts the perception of the brand, we remember the helpers.

  • Helpful content gets shared in places that are very hard to track (Email, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Facebook Groups, etc), but where there are trusted people who act as filters.

  • Is worth boosting with paid because of the two things above.


old seo KPIs

SEO practitioners are rewarded for rankings - not for uplifting the brand perception, not for boosting content in paid channels, and not for getting content that gets shared in private slack groups. 

SEO gets rewarded for rankings, how do you get rankings?

  • You analyze who ranks above you
  • You copy what they did (esp if you have higher domain/brand authority)
  • You see where you rank
  • Now you find some gaps in their content
  • You add in semantically relevant words
  • You improve internal linking and boo-yah
  • Rankings and Traffic baby!


The best answers don't always rank, often times it's the best “average” content that ranks on the highest domain.


A look in the mirror, we do the same thing on our blog

Now that I am a 1 man marketing team (ouch that pandemic had us running lean), we’re hiring for someone to lead it FYI.

I was inspired by Ahrefs’s how to improve a ranking in 24 hours video, I really dig their stuff like this by the way.

I decided to improve one of our posts.  I looked at our SEO RFP post...

It ranked between 3-5, so we're winning right?  Wrong.

I took a good look at that ranking, and the rankings of the top 6 results, we were all shoveling incrementally better shit at the SERP, but none of us blew it up, put the customer first, and had content that reflected what an SEO RFP should include in a 2024 context.

It was just “marginally better” as I went from site to site to site, I couldn’t help but think wow, this isn’t actually helpful, none of these posts are really that helpful in my opinion. I have been in this industry for 25 years, I would never ask only the questions on our post or the others.

I had to ask myself:

Did it uplift our brand? No.

We sounded just like everyone else. If you google’d SEO RFP and got to our site or any of the others you would be fine. Clicking on 3 sites would give you enough of the same stuff, and if ours wasn’t one of the top 3, you’d be just fine. Literally if our content wasn't there, no one would have missed it.

Is it worth boosting? No.

Not with my money! Why would I pay to drive someone to something that doesn’t really help them think differently than any of the other top 3 or 10 sites?  Heck, to be honest I care enough about creating value for my social following that I wouldn’t even socially promote it. (That was telling).

Is it getting shared? No.

Why would it? You’d be better off Googling it, and finding the sea of sameness, and coming to your own conclusions, heck I even asked ChatGPT and it gave me answers that mirrored pretty much everyone in the top 10.

Tip: Ask ChatGPT to write a post in 1 prompt, whatever they come up with do better than that, or consider not even writing it.

Then I asked ChatGPT to evaluate the sites…

Ok, every site, looked the same and sounded the same, I evaluated them myself and then I evaluated them using ChatGPT.


when content works for SEO but not your brand, you gotta tough call to make

I decided that getting 10 people to our SEO RFP page that thought it was helpful would be more valuable to my business than 100 people to the page by just being marginally better.

I had to be willing to sacrifice my SEO rankings and some traffic to create something truly helpful.


Risking my rankings, the results.


Using this as my success framework over rankings, I knew what to do.

  • The new version needed to uplift the perception of the brand
  • Had to be worth boosting with paid, assuming people cared
  • Get shared in private groups
  • Break the mold

✔️ Uplifts the Brand

Seer’s brand has always been to share everything we know, freely.  We want to educate our industry. We believe that sharing what we know openly, not gated with e-books for our CRM, or whatever is the true way to grow our business.

To uplift the brand, I had to separate myself from the others and I had to do something better than whatever ChatGPT was going to kick out.  I looked at all the top 10 and said, wait…none are mentioning AI policy/usage? When companies are out here not letting agencies use AI and requiring disclosures, shouldn’t that be part of your RFP? Yet, no one was mentioning it.

I also felt that content that uplifts the brand is content that people remember with your brand.

Again, I would take 10 people searching Seer Interactive SEO RFP guide over 100 people who searched for SEO RFP.

✔️ Worth Boosting

I took a look at the metrics from Linkedin, it got enough engagement for a post about SEO RFPs that I thought people “dug it”, when using social metrics as a proxy, you have to keep in mind that something about volunteering is applicable to everyone who follows me, something about SEO RFPs is not.  So the metrics said to me, and the feedback we got on it, said yup lets throw some money behind testing a boost.

✔️ Shared in Private Groups

Ok, so I don’t have data on this yet but I felt that this was helpful enough over the sea of sameness content for SEO RFP, that people would consider sharing this in private LinkedIn groups, and private WhatsApp groups, which to me people sharing in private networks (which act as a filter in sea of sameness content), is a 10x value to me. (I am working on some ways to try to track this, but more on that later). 

When someone recommends Seer that is 100x better than someone who types in "SEO agency for Healthcare", sure I’ll take that traffic but in terms of value...

A referral from a friend or group you trust is easily 5x-10x more valuable as a lead than a visitor who Google’d "SEO company in Philadelphia". 


Break the mold, don't "SEO" every blog post for internal linking, like everyone else did.

As I looked at page after page after page, I started noticing something…it felt cheap. 

I think about internal anchor text on my posts the same way I think about how I present at a conference…I don’t need to put my twitter handle, company, or contact info up on slides…

I need to drop VALUABLE content that makes people spend 2 seconds looking me up.  I looked at all the results and decided I to try to break the mold.

See how SEO agencies optimize their own sites, sure there is a balance but man looking at how much the SEO RFP posts and other posts are, it's a bit aggressive. I think our agency brands would be better served by not doing this stuff on every post, but that's just me.



This is how we as SEO agencies think, so it is only natural that we push this on our clients, but I decided to be willing to sacrifice the rankings of my post to not do the incremental stuff we test, and I was willing to lose some of my rankings for it.

My rankings tanked, but my "thankings" cranked.


They tanked - I went from 3 to 10.  Fail right?

What kind of SEO would celebrate rankings dropping? 

This fucking one would. Because I felt the content actually helped people in a unique way that no one else on the top 10 was thinking about. I might end up in some slack channels, private groups, etc.

I talked about this at Mozcon 7 years ago! Check it out. The quote I got from Geraldine was "Be the content you wish you found." That lead to me trying to find a harmony between "thanking" and "ranking".

Nope, at this time Mike King at a conference had casually mentioned that there was a patent from Google about unique content for an answer. When I pinged him, he sent me this article on “Information Gain” from Bill Slawski (pour some out). I wonder if that thinking / research led to this from Google. 

(oh guess what those other sites don't do either, link out to competitors)


Sea of sameness content is unoriginal, and I wanna start playing with breaking out of that.

Sea of sameness content is written by content marketers with just enough information to write intelligently, when if you really want to break out, you need to talk to SMEs who have gone deep for years to make content that if it was missing from the web would actually be missed.

Today we took over the #1 spot. 

By NOT following what my competitors do, and being ok with losing rankings to get a quality piece out there, as of right now we were rewarded.

Looking at our SEO RFP post, here is what we did.

Using this as my success framework.

  • The new version needed to uplift the perception of the brand
  • Had to be worth boosting with paid, assuming people cared
  • Get shared in private groups
  • Break the mold (show internal links)

Perception of the brand

My hope was that by putting questions out there that I would ask, that they would at least make people think differently than any of the other posts they read.  Notice what I don’t have, a bunch of anchor text links at the top back to my SEO company pages. I actually believe that if we make you feel smarter you'll remember my brand, which is greater than you remembering to type SEO RFP later.

Here are some examples of my questions, when none of the top 10 mentioned AI at all.

Worth Boosting

As of this week, based on the feedback we’ve gotten on the post, we’re about to start boosting it, we’ll let you know what we learn from that experiment.

Shared in Private Groups

I can not track this yet, but we’re starting to see some traffic from places that might indicate internal shares, man I wish slack was a referral in GA 🙂

I did some movement here and trying to figure out if this is MS Teams?


How did this experiment start to change how I do things at Seer?

Distribution is everything.

I now realize that we have to get a lot better at re-promoting assets that we have proof created value, we can’t just build average content and sit in the sea of sameness.  Follow my buddy Ross Simmonds who just dropped a book on this.

Other black dude that is not Wil Reynolds.

The idea of writing this post, posting it once, and then moving on to the next post are over for me, thank you Ross.

Wait! Sea of sameness content has a role.

Encourage people to write sea of sameness content, it tells you how well you can rank organically and what kind of traffic you can pull.  Which tells you where to put your SME's.

You also don’t want a company of people who think they gotta spend 10 hours writing a “banger” every time.

Also I left about 10% of that original post at the bottom of the new post, so I needed to give Google some signals that I was still thematically relevant.


Thinking out loud: What this made me think about what could the future look like for my agency?

I want to get great at asking questions to build better content, content marketers typically are not incentivized to do.

I have clients whom I want to start testing interviewing their SMEs to take our current content on their sites, and try to level it way up, and break the mold.

This keyword isn’t overly competitive, so now I wanna ratchet it up and up and up so I have more proof for clients on where it can and can not work.

Content & SEO team

Let’s become great interviewers of SME’s!

If we get our content team good at writing the first draft “sea of sameness” style, see how high we rank, then experiment with how much SME content we can put in, we might be able to maintain brand consistency and rank as well, which gets the one two punch of its better for the brand and less “SEO’ed” for lack of a better term, it also uplifts the brand perception when people read things that make them think and associate your brand with it.

Analytics team

Let’s be the agency that figures out innovative ways to track the other places people go for answers!

Can we start to track our content “creating value” in places like slack, teams, private groups, etc. 


We’re not going to be able to get it in Google analytics, and there’s dark traffic, but ultimately we know people have more questions than ever, and they might use other trusted channels and filters to find answers. In private groups people post more meaningful stuff, than SEO’s “trying to rank” in most instances.

We have this post on how to track if your customers are coming from Generative AI sites in Google analytics with a looker dash you can copy.

It's not going to be easy, it might even be impossible as WhatsApp and slack are 100% Dark Traffic according to this post. But I got workarounds to both of those...its a long shot but log files might be a bit of an unlock. More to come on that. 


Paid Social & SEM teams

When SEO and Analytics teams have content that moves the needle, we seek to boost them and re-distribute through paid and organic social and if applicable paid search. 

I have always respected the HECK out of companies willing to pay to drive traffic to blog posts that educate vs conversion pages all the time, SEMRush used to do a great job of this, couldn’t trigger any examples for this post.

Holistic marketing for the win! Thank you Ross.



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Wil Reynolds
Wil Reynolds
CEO & Vice President