The Most Disappointing Part of My Career

I posted a question to twitter weeks ago for stories from other SEOs about what they believed to be the worst or most disappointing moments of their careers. I got no responses.

In retrospect, this isn’t surprising. Much of what we consider disappointing we also consider embarrassing. In my case though, I am willing to share.


I spent years and thousands of my own dollars along side huge investments from Virante working with an amazing statistician Andrew Cron on building out a content relevancy tool and API. We then did extensive research into its effectiveness and literally proved that following nTopic’s simply recommendations would increase organic search traffic from Google. We called it nTopic. It was my silver bullet. A proven technique, innovated, pulled into a tool and API form. I was convinced everyone in the SEO community would be writing nTopic optimized content by the end of the year.

Oh, how naive was I.

Usability, Education and Change

It quickly became clear that usability issues with nTopic and no perceived need to change were going to hold back nTopic. People just didn’t care that much about squeezing 5-10% traffic more out of their content, especially if that was long tail. Educating people about the system was even harder. It was built on solid statistics, not simple talking points. We were losing money, not a lot, but it was devastating.

The Long Haul

I began talking to the people most likely to take advantage of tool – content brokers. There are dozens of them, but the big folks like TextBroker and WriterAccess were my targets. To be fair, these providers have huge infrastructures, clients who can be just as easily pleased as displeased with changes that interrupt their work cycles, so they have been – understandably – slow to move. I was prepared for the long haul.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

It finally happened. A business card showed up that, frankly, I don’t remember how I got in the first place. It was Chad from ContentRunner, a new content creation source that was quick, nimble and looking for a competitive edge. They immediately jumped on the idea. And now, my disappointment has turned the corner. ContentRunner is the first content creation outfit to directly integrate nTopic. And, better than that, they are offering it free to their clients. They aren’t asking you to sign up for nTopic, they are using their own API to power the system. Below is the video.

It is still early on. I don’t know how many people will use it. I don’t know if other providers will follow suit or if general SEOs will start to catch on to the easy method with which they can guarantee improved organic results with nTopic optimized content. But I do know this… perseverance works.

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  1. Jeremy Copeland
    Nov 19, 2013

    I love the lesson learned here Russ. I don’t have a clue what this all does (ha!), but I can identify with the way you have struggled to get something going and dealt with disappointment. Love the entrepreneurship and the way you’ve stuck with it. Way to go.


  2. Bob Misita
    Nov 20, 2013

    Fantastic lesson – one any true entrepreneur knows all too well. All those ‘overnight successes’ are usually far from it. Especially if you’re trying to bootstrap the product launch as opposed to getting large funding.

    Our latest tool – has an almost identical story. After 18 months of incremental growth and a building pool of consistent results, we’re finally reaching the threshold necessary to put the product on the map.

    I look forward to watching your ideas achieve greatness,

  3. Spencer Padway
    Jul 9, 2014

    This looks awesome. I am definitely going to try it out. I see these comments are from back in November, could you give an update of how it’s been going?

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