Not sharing info is something I could rarely be accused of doing. Over the years, I’ve emailed, tweeted, and actually printed out and postal-mailed all sorts of free training materials, checklists and other content of my creation to people, clients or not. But it turns out that the things I worried about being stolen were not, and weirdly, the things I didn’t think too much about got mercilessly ripped off, and through the magic of unintentional SEO, earned me a ton of new business.
The mysterious flood
As it happens, one month earlier this year, I had a delightful flood of new clients. Actually, a flood might be an understatement, and perhaps the word torrent might be better. It happened suddenly, and I just couldn’t figure out where it had all come from, until one of these new clients told me that she had discovered me via a website where you could share your notes and instructions, for free, and at no cost to users. I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about. Like, I mean I really had no idea. She finally got around to giving me the link, about a month after her project had wrapped.
When I clicked it, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The PDF I discovered at the link was one that was only given to my top-tier contract consulting clients, and protected by non-disclosure agreements and contracts. Yes, this did happen to be one of those cases where I was not sharing info with the public. There was stuff in there that had taken me – without exaggeration – years to put together. I felt so betrayed, and although I had suspicions as to who had shared this private document, I couldn’t ever find out for sure. I felt totally betrayed, pretty angry, and yes, totally exposed. (Think Paris Hilton sex tape where the “leak” to the press *wasn’t*on purpose.)
I managed to get the file removed, but within two weeks, the tide of all that new business I mentioned had turned. The flood of new mystery clients slowed to a trickle, then a drip, and, you guessed it, stopped entirely. I had no other conclusion to draw than that it was that illegally-distributed file which had attracted search engine attention. Interesting.
Accidently, it was very good for business
The other mainstream content that I had been literally shoving out into the information marketplace for years was still there, and the predictable traffic still came from it. After all, I had worked really hard at crafting all that public information. But that reaction to close the door and hide my private content under lock and key had cost me. I had to realize that this little accident had actually been very, very good for me.
The average blog reader is so jaded that they have little patience if you’re not going to give them what they came for. Not sharing info only makes it tougher for people to discover you, and once they do, it makes it difficult for them to decide if you’re what they’re looking for at all. Making your information available doesn’t give away the farm – it shows off what the farm can grow, especially for them.