Alan Watts

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Alan Watts
AlanWatts Bio11.png
Alan Wilson Watts

6 January 1915

Chislehurst, London, England
Died16 November 1973 (aged 58)

  • British
Alma materSeabury-Western Theological Seminary
Notable work
The Way of Zen (1957)
  • Eleanor Everett
    (m. 1938; div. 1949)
  • Dorothy DeWitt
    (m. 1950; div. 1963)
  • Mary Jane Yates King (m. 1964)
EraContemporary philosophy
Main interests

Alan Wilson Watts (6 January 1915 – 16 November 1973) was a British[1] philosopher who interpreted and popularised Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. Born in Chislehurst, England, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. Pursuing a career, he attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, where he received a master’s degree in theology. Watts became an Episcopal priest in 1945, then left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.

Watts gained a large following in the San Francisco Bay Area while working as a volunteer programmer at KPFA, a Pacifica Radio station in Berkeley. Watts wrote more than 25 books and articles on subjects important to Eastern and Western religion, introducing the then-burgeoning youth culture to The Way of Zen (1957), one of the first bestselling books on Buddhism. In Psychotherapy East and West (1961), Watts proposed that Buddhism could be thought of as a form of psychotherapy and not a religion. He considered Nature, Man and Woman (1958) to be, “from a literary point of view—the best book I have ever written.”[2] He also explored human consciousness in the essay “The New Alchemy” (1958) and in the book The Joyous Cosmology (1962).

Towards the end of his life, he divided his time between a houseboat in Sausalito and a cabin on Mount Tamalpais. According to the critic Erik Davis, his “writings and recorded talks still shimmer with a profound and galvanizing lucidity.”[3]

Early years[edit]


Watts aged 7

Watts was born to middle-class parents in the village of ChislehurstKent (now south-east London), on 6 January 1915, living at 3 (now 5) Holbrook Lane, which was previously lived in by author John Hemming-Clark in the early 1900s.[4] Watts’ father, Laurence Wilson Watts, was a representative for the London office of the Michelin Tyre Company. His mother, Emily Mary Watts (née Buchan), was a housewife whose father had been a missionary. With modest financial means, they chose to live in pastoral surroundings and Watts, an only child, grew up playing at brookside, learning the names of wildflowers and butterflies.[5] Probably because of the influence of his mother’s religious family[6] the Buchans, an interest in “ultimate things” seeped in. It mixed with Watts’s own interests in storybook fables and romantic tales of the mysterious Far East.[7]

Watts also later wrote of a mystical dream he experienced while ill with a fever as a child.[8] During this time he was influenced by Far Eastern landscape paintings and embroideries that had been given to his mother by missionaries returning from China. The few Chinese paintings Watts was able to see in England riveted him, and he wrote “I was aesthetically fascinated with a certain clarity, transparency, and spaciousness in Chinese and Japanese art. It seemed to float…”[9] These works of art emphasised the participatory relationship of people in nature, a theme that stood fast throughout his life and one that he often wrote about. (See, for instance, the last chapter in The Way of Zen.[10])


By his own assessment, Watts was imaginative, headstrong, and talkative. He was sent to boarding schools (which included both academic and religious training of the “Muscular Christian” sort) from early years. Of this religious training, he remarked “Throughout my schooling my religious indoctrination was grim and maudlin.”[11]

Watts spent several holidays in France in his teen years, accompanied by Francis Croshaw, a wealthy Epicurean with strong interests in both Buddhism and exotic little-known aspects of European culture. It was not long afterward that Watts felt forced to decide between the Anglican Christianity he had been exposed to and the Buddhism he had read about in various libraries, including Croshaw’s. He chose Buddhism, and sought membership in the London Buddhist Lodge, which had been established by Theosophists, and was then run by the barrister Christmas Humphreys. Watts became the organization’s secretary at 16 (1931). The young Watts explored several styles of meditation during these years.



Watts attended The King’s School, Canterbury, next door to Canterbury Cathedral. Though he was frequently at the top of his classes scholastically and was given responsibilities at school, he botched an opportunity for a scholarship to Oxford by styling a crucial examination essay in a way that was read as “presumptuous and capricious.”[12]

When he left secondary school, Watts worked in a printing house and later a bank. He spent his spare time involved with the Buddhist Lodge and also under the tutelage of a “rascal guru” named Dimitrije Mitrinović. (Mitrinović was himself influenced by Peter Demianovich OuspenskyG. I. Gurdjieff, and the varied psychoanalytical schools of FreudJung and Adler.) Watts also read widely in philosophy, history, psychology, psychiatry and Eastern wisdom.

By his own reckoning, and also by that of his biographer Monica Furlong, Watts was primarily an autodidact. His involvement with the Buddhist Lodge in London afforded Watts a considerable number of opportunities for personal growth. Through Humphreys, he contacted eminent spiritual authors, e.g. the artist, scholar, and mystic Nicholas RoerichSarvapalli Radhakrishnan, and prominent theosophists like Alice Bailey.

In 1936, aged 21, he attended the World Congress of Faiths at the University of London, heard D. T. Suzuki read a paper, and afterwards was able to meet this esteemed scholar of Zen Buddhism.[13] Beyond these discussions and personal encounters, Watts absorbed, by studying the available scholarly literature, the fundamental concepts and terminology of the main philosophies of India and East Asia.

Influences and first publication[edit]

Watts’s fascination with the Zen (or Ch’an) tradition—beginning during the 1930s—developed because that tradition embodied the spiritual, interwoven with the practical, as exemplified in the subtitle of his Spirit of Zen: A Way of Life, Work, and Art in the Far East. “Work”, “life”, and “art” were not demoted due to a spiritual focus. In his writing, he referred to it as “the great Ch’an (or Zen) synthesis of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism after 700 CE in China.”[14] Watts published his first book, The Spirit of Zen, in 1936. Two decades later, in The Way of Zen[15] he disparaged The Spirit of Zen as a “popularisation of Suzuki’s earlier works, and besides being very unscholarly it is in many respects out of date and misleading.”

Watts married Eleanor Everett, whose mother Ruth Fuller Everett was involved with a traditional Zen Buddhist circle in New York. Ruth Fuller later married the Zen master (or “roshi”), Sokei-an Sasaki, who served as a sort of model and mentor to Watts, though he chose not to enter into a formal Zen training relationship with Sasaki. During these years, according to his later writings, Watts had another mystical experience while on a walk with his wife. In 1938 they left England to live in the United States. Watts became a United States citizen in 1943.[16]

Christian priest and after[edit]

Watts left formal Zen training in New York because the method of the teacher did not suit him. He was not ordained as a Zen monk, but he felt a need to find a vocational outlet for his philosophical inclinations. He entered Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, an Episcopal (Anglican) school in Evanston, Illinois, where he studied Christian scriptures, theology, and church history. He attempted to work out a blend of contemporary Christian worship, mystical Christianity, and Asian philosophy. Watts was awarded a master’s degree in theology in response to his thesis, which he published as a popular edition under the title Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion.

He later published Myth & Ritual in Christianity (1953), an eisegesis of traditional Roman Catholic doctrine and ritual in Buddhist terms. However, the pattern was set, in that Watts did not hide his dislike for religious outlooks that he decided were dour, guilt-ridden, or militantly proselytizing—no matter if they were found within JudaismChristianityIslamHinduism, or Buddhism.

As recounted in his autobiography, Alan was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1945 (aged 30) and resigned the ministry by 1950, partly as a result of an extramarital affair which resulted in his wife having their marriage annulled, but also because he could no longer reconcile his Buddhist beliefs with the formal doctrine of the church. He spent the New Year getting to know Joseph Campbell and Campbell’s wife, Jean Erdman, as well as the composer John Cage.

In early 1951, Watts moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies in San Francisco. Here he taught from 1951 to 1957 alongside Saburō Hasegawa (1906–1957), Frederic SpiegelbergHaridas Chaudhurilama Tada Tōkan (1890–1967), and various visiting experts and professors. Hasegawa, in particular, served as a teacher to Watts in the areas of Japanese customs, arts, primitivism, and perceptions of nature. It was during this time he met the poet, Jean Burden with whom he had a four-year love affair.[17]

Alan credited her as an “important influence” in his life and gave her dedicatory cryptograph in his book “Nature, Man and Woman”, to which he alludes in his autobiography (p. 297). Besides teaching, Watts served for several years as the Academy’s administrator. One notable student of his was Eugene Rose, who later went on to become a noted Orthodox Christian hieromonk and controversial theologian within the Orthodox Church in America under the jurisdiction of ROCOR. Rose’s own disciple, a fellow monastic priest published under the name Hieromonk Damascene, produced a book entitled Christ the Eternal Tao, in which the author draws parallels between the concept of the Tao in Chinese philosophy and the concept of the Logos in classical Greek philosophy and Eastern Christian theology.

Watts also studied written Chinese and practiced Chinese brush calligraphy with Hasegawa as well as with some of the Chinese students who enrolled at the academy. While Watts was noted for an interest in Zen Buddhism, his reading and discussions delved into Vedanta, “the new physics“, cyberneticssemanticsprocess philosophynatural history, and the anthropology of sexuality.

Middle years[edit]

Watts left the faculty for a career in the mid-1950s. In 1953, he began what became a long-running weekly radio program at Pacifica Radio station KPFA in Berkeley. Like other volunteer programmers at the listener-sponsored station, Watts was not paid for his broadcasts. These weekly broadcasts continued until 1962, by which time he had attracted a “legion of regular listeners”.[18][19]

Watts continued to give numerous talks and seminars, recordings of which were broadcast on KPFA and other radio stations during his life. These recordings are broadcast to this day. For example, in 1970 Watts lectures were broadcast on Sunday mornings on San Francisco radio station KSAN;[20] and even today a number of radio stations continue to have an Alan Watts program in their weekly program schedules.[21][22][23] Original tapes of his broadcasts and talks are currently held by the Pacifica Radio Archives, based at KPFK in Los Angeles, and at the Electronic University archive founded by his son, Mark Watts.

In 1957 Watts, then 42, published one of his best known books, The Way of Zen, which focused on philosophical explication and history. Besides drawing on the lifestyle and philosophical background of Zen, in India and China, Watts introduced ideas drawn from general semantics (directly from the writings of Alfred Korzybski) and also from Norbert Wiener‘s early work on cybernetics, which had recently been published. Watts offered analogies from cybernetic principles possibly applicable to the Zen life. The book sold well, eventually becoming a modern classic, and helped widen his lecture circuit.

In 1958, Watts toured parts of Europe with his father, meeting the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and the German psychotherapist Karlfried Graf Dürckheim.[24]

Upon returning to the United States, Watts recorded two seasons of a television series (1959–1960) for KQED public television in San Francisco, “Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life”.[25]

In the 1960s, Watts became increasingly interested in how identifiable patterns in nature tend to repeat themselves from the smallest of scales to the most immense. This became one of his passions in his research and thought.[26]

Though never affiliated for long with any one academic institution, he was Professor of Comparative Philosophy at the California Institute of Integral Studies (as mentioned above), had a fellowship at Harvard University (1962–1964), and was a Scholar at San Jose State University (1968).[27] He also lectured to many college and university students as well as the general public.[28] His lectures and books gave him far-reaching influence on the American intelligentsia of the 1950s–1970s, but he was often seen as an outsider in academia.[29] When questioned sharply by students during his talk at University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1970, Watts responded, as he had from the early sixties, that he was not an academic philosopher but rather “a philosophical entertainer”.


Some of Watts’ writings published in 1958 (e.g., his book Nature, Man and Woman and his essay “The New Alchemy”) mentioned some of his early views on the use of psychedelic drugs for mystical insight. Watts had begun to experiment with psychedelics, initially with mescaline given to him by Oscar Janiger. He tried LSD several times in 1958, with various research teams led by Keith S. Ditman, Sterling Bunnell Jr., and Michael Agron. He also tried marijuana and concluded that it was a useful and interesting psychoactive drug that gave the impression of time slowing down. Watts’ books of the ’60s reveal the influence of these chemical adventures on his outlook.[30]

He later said about psychedelic drug use, “If you get the message, hang up the phone. For psychedelic drugs are simply instruments, like microscopes, telescopes, and telephones. The biologist does not sit with eye permanently glued to the microscope, he goes away and works on what he has seen.”[31]

For a time, Watts came to prefer writing in the language of modern science and psychology (such as Psychotherapy East and West), finding a parallel between mystical experiences and the theories of the material universe proposed by 20th-century physicists. He later equated mystical experience with ecological awareness, and typically emphasized whichever approach seemed best suited to the audience he was addressing.[citation needed]

Applied aesthetics[edit]

Watts sometimes ate with his group of neighbors in Druid Heights (near Mill Valley, California) who had endeavored to combine architecture, gardening, and carpentry skills to make a beautiful and comfortable life for themselves. These neighbors accomplished this by relying on their own talents and using their own hands, as they lived in what has been called “shared bohemian poverty”.[32] Druid Heights was founded by the writer Elsa Gidlow,[33] and Watts dedicated his book The Joyous Cosmology to the people of this neighborhood.[34] He later dedicated his autobiography to Elsa Gidlow, for whom he held a great affection.

Regarding his intentions, Watts attempted to lessen the alienation that accompanies the experience of being human that he felt plagued the modern Westerner, and (like his fellow British expatriate and friend, Aldous Huxley) to lessen the ill will that was an unintentional by-product of alienation from the natural world. He felt such teaching could improve the world, at least to a degree. He also articulated the possibilities for greater incorporation of aesthetics (for example: better architecture, more art, more fine cuisine) in American life. In his autobiography he wrote, “… cultural renewal comes about when highly differentiated cultures mix”.[35]

In his last novel, Island (1962), Aldous Huxley mentions the religious practice of maithuna as being something like what Roman Catholics call “coitus reservatus“. A few years before, Watts had discussed the theme in his own book, Nature, Man and Woman, in which he discusses the possibility of the practice being known to early Christians and of it being kept secretly by the Church.

Later years[edit]

In his writings of the 1950s, he conveyed his admiration for the practicality in the historical achievements of Chán (Zen) in the Far East, for it had fostered farmers, architects, builders, folk physicians, artists, and administrators among the monks who had lived in the monasteries of its lineages. In his mature work, he presents himself as “Zennist” in spirit as he wrote in his last book, Tao: The Watercourse Way. Child rearing, the arts, cuisine, education, law and freedom, architecture, sexuality, and the uses and abuses of technology were all of great interest to him.

Though known for his discourses on Zen, he was also influenced by ancient Hindu scriptures, especially Vedanta. He spoke extensively about the nature of the divine reality which Man misses: how the contradiction of opposites is the method of life and the means of cosmic and human evolution, how our fundamental Ignorance is rooted in the exclusive nature of mind and ego, how to come in touch with the Field of Consciousness and Light, and other cosmic principles. These are discussed in great detail in dozens of hours of audio that are in part captured in the ‘Out of Your Mind’ series.

Watts sought to resolve his feelings of alienation from the institutions of marriage and the values of American society, as revealed in his classic comments on love relationships in “Divine Madness” and on perception of the organism-environment in “The Philosophy of Nature”. In looking at social issues he was quite concerned with the necessity for international peace, for tolerance and understanding among disparate cultures.

Watts also came to feel acutely conscious of a growing ecological predicament. Writing, for example, in the early 1960s: “Can any melting or burning imaginable get rid of these ever-rising mountains of ruin—especially when the things we make and build are beginning to look more and more like rubbish even before they are thrown away?”[36] These concerns were later expressed in a television pilot made for NET (National Educational Television) filmed at his mountain retreat in 1971 in which he noted that the single track of conscious attention was wholly inadequate for interactions with a multi-tracked world.


In October 1973, Watts returned from a European lecture tour to his cabin in Druid Heights, California. Friends of Watts had been concerned about him for some time over what they considered his alcoholism.[37][38][39] On 16 November 1973, at age 58, he died in his sleep. He was reported to have been under treatment for a heart condition.[40] His body was cremated very shortly thereafter. His ashes were split, with half buried near his library at Druid Heights and half at the Green Gulch Monastery.

A personal account of Watts’ last years and approach to death is given by Al Chung-liang Huang in Tao: The Watercourse Way.[41] His son Mark Watts has prepared a biographical documentary that details questions surrounding his father’s death and performed ritual cremation on a nearby beach.[42] His father’s ashes were returned to the cabin where he had died.[43]


On spiritual and social identity[edit]

In regards to his ethical outlook, Watts felt that absolute morality had nothing to do with the fundamental realization of one’s deep spiritual identity. He advocated social rather than personal ethics. In his writings, Watts was increasingly concerned with ethics applied to relations between humanity and the natural environment and between governments and citizens. He wrote out of an appreciation of a racially and culturally diverse social landscape.

He often said that he wished to act as a bridge between the ancient and the modern, between East and West, and between culture and nature.

Watts led some tours for Westerners to the Buddhist temples of Japan. He also studied some movements from the traditional Chinese martial art taijiquan, with an Asian colleague, Al Chung-liang Huang.


In several of his later publications, especially Beyond Theology and The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, Watts put forward a worldview, drawing on HinduismChinese philosophypantheism or panentheism, and modern science, in which he maintains that the whole universe consists of a cosmic Self playing hide-and-seek (Lila); hiding from itself (Maya) by becoming all the living and non-living things in the universe and forgetting what it really is – the upshot being that we are all IT in disguise. In this worldview, Watts asserts that our conception of ourselves as an “ego in a bag of skin,” or “skin-encapsulated ego” is a myth; the entities we call the separate “things” are merely aspects or features of the whole.

Watts’ books frequently include discussions reflecting his keen interest in patterns that occur in nature and which are repeated in various ways and at a wide range of scales – including the patterns to be discerned in the history of civilizations.[44][45]

Supporters and critics[edit]

Watts’s explorations and teaching brought him into contact with many noted intellectuals, artists, and American teachers in the human potential movement. His friendship with poet Gary Snyder nurtured his sympathies with the budding environmental movement, to which Watts gave philosophical support. He also encountered Robert Anton Wilson, who credited Watts with being one of his “Light[s] along the Way” in the opening appreciation of Cosmic TriggerWerner Erhard attended workshops given by Alan Watts and said of him, “He pointed me toward what I now call the distinction between Self and Mind. After my encounter with Alan, the context in which I was working shifted.”[46]

Watts has been criticized by Buddhists such as Philip Kapleau and D. T. Suzuki for allegedly misinterpreting several key Zen Buddhist concepts. In particular, he drew criticism from those who believe that zazen must entail a strict and specific means of sitting, as opposed to a cultivated state of mind available at any moment in any situation. Typical of these is Kapleau’s claim that Watts dismissed zazen on the basis of only half a koan.[47]

In regard to the aforementioned koan, Robert Baker Aitken reports that Suzuki told him, “I regret to say that Mr. Watts did not understand that story.”[48] In his talks, Watts addressed the issue of defining zazen practice by saying, “A cat sits until it is tired of sitting, then gets up, stretches, and walks away”, and referring[49] to Zen master Bankei: “Even when you’re sitting in meditation, if there’s something you’ve got to do, it’s quite all right to get up and leave”.[50]

Watts’s biographers saw him, after his stint as an Anglican priest, as representative of no religion but as a lone-wolf thinker and social rascal. In David Stuart’s warts-and-all biography of the man, Watts is seen as an unusually gifted speaker and writer driven by his own interests, enthusiasms, and demons.[51] Elsa Gidlow, whom Alan called “sister”, refused to be interviewed for this work but later painted a kinder picture of Alan’s life in her own autobiography, Elsa, I Come With My Songs.

However, Watts did have his supporters in the Zen community, including Shunryu Suzuki, the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center. As David Chadwick recounted in his biography of Suzuki, Crooked Cucumber: the Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki, when a student of Suzuki’s disparaged Watts by saying “we used to think he was profound until we found the real thing”, Suzuki fumed with a sudden intensity, saying, “You completely miss the point about Alan Watts! You should notice what he has done. He is a great bodhisattva.”[52]

Personal life[edit]

Watts married three times and had seven children (five daughters and two sons). Watts met Eleanor Everett in 1936, when her mother, Ruth Fuller Everett, brought her to London to study piano. They met at the Buddhist Lodge, were engaged the following year and married in April 1938. A daughter, Joan, was born in November 1938 and another, Anne, was born in 1942. Their marriage ended in 1949, but Watts continued to correspond with his former mother-in-law.[53] In 1950, Watts married Dorothy DeWitt. He moved to San Francisco in early 1951 to teach. They began a family that grew to include five children: Tia, Mark, Richard, Lila, and Diane. The couple separated in the early 1960s after Watts met Mary Jane Yates King (called “Jano” in his circle) while lecturing in New York. After a difficult divorce he married King in 1964. The couple divided their time between Sausalito, California,[54] where they lived on a houseboat called the Vallejo,[55] and a secluded cabin in Druid Heights, on the southwest flank of Mount Tamalpais north of San Francisco. Some regard Watts as having been an unfaithful husband and a poor father.[56][57]

Watts’ eldest daughters, Joan and Anne, own and manage most of the copyrights to his books. His son, Mark, serves as curator of his father’s audio, video and film and has published content of some of his spoken lectures in print format.

Jean Burden, his lover and the inspiration/editor of Nature, Man and Woman, remained in his thoughts to the end of his life.

Watts was a heavy smoker throughout his life[58] and in his later years drank heavily.[59]


Note: ISBN’s for titles originally published prior to 1974 are for reprint editions.

Posthumous publications[edit]

  • 1974 The Essence of Alan Watts, ed. Mary Jane Watts, Celestial Arts
  • 1975 Tao: The Watercourse Way, with Chungliang Al Huang, Pantheon
  • 1976 Essential Alan Watts, ed. Mark Watts,
  • 1978 Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk: The Mystery of Life
  • 1979 Om: Creative Meditations, ed. Mark Watts
  • 1982 Play to Live, ed. Mark Watts
  • 1983 Way of Liberation: Essays and Lectures on the Transformation of the Self, ed. Mark Watts
  • 1985 Out of the Trap, ed. Mark Watts
  • 1986 Diamond Web, ed. Mark Watts
  • 1987 The Early Writings of Alan Watts, ed. John Snelling, Dennis T. Sibley, and Mark Watts
  • 1990 The Modern Mystic: A New Collection of the Early Writings of Alan Watts, ed. John Snelling and Mark Watts
  • 1994 Talking Zen, ed. Mark Watts
  • 1995 Become What You Are, Shambhala, expanded ed. 2003. ISBN 1-57062-940-4
  • 1995 Buddhism: The Religion of No-Religion, ed. Mark Watts A preview from Google Books
  • 1995 The Philosophies of Asia, ed. Mark Watts
  • 1995 The Tao of Philosophy, ed. Mark Watts, edited transcripts, Tuttle Publishing, 1999. ISBN 0-8048-3204-8
  • 1996 Myth and Religion, ed. Mark Watts
  • 1997 Taoism: Way Beyond Seeking, ed. Mark Watts
  • 1997 Zen and the Beat Way, ed. Mark Watts
  • 1998 Culture of Counterculture, ed. Mark Watts
  • 1999 Buddhism: The Religion of No-Religion, ed. Mark Watts, edited transcripts, Tuttle PublishingISBN 0-8048-3203-X
  • 2000 What Is Zen?, ed. Mark Watts, New World Library. ISBN 0-394-71951-4 A preview from Google Books
  • 2000 What Is Tao?, ed. Mark Watts, New World Library. ISBN 1-57731-168-X
  • 2000 Still the Mind: An Introduction to Meditation, ed. Mark Watts, New World Library. ISBN 1-57731-214-7
  • 2000 Eastern Wisdom, ed. Mark Watts, MJF Books. ISBN 1-56731-491-0, three books in one volume: What is Zen?What is Tao?, and An Introduction to Meditation (Still the Mind). Assembled from transcriptions of audio tape recordings made by his son Mark, of lectures and seminars given by Alan Watts during the last decade of his life.
  • 2002 Zen, the Supreme Experience: The Newly Discovered Scripts, ed. Mark Watts, Vega
  • 2006 Eastern Wisdom, Modern Life: Collected Talks, 1960–1969, New World Library
  • 2017 Collected Letters of Alan Watts, Ed. Joan Watts & Anne Watts, New World Library. ISBN 978-1608684151

Audio and video works, essays[edit]

Including recordings of lectures at major universities and multi-session seminars.

  • 1960 Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, television series, Season 1 (1959) and Season 2 (1960)
  • 1960 Essential Lectures
  • 1960 Nature of Consciousness (here)
  • 1960 The Value of Psychotic Experience
  • 1960 The World As Emptiness
  • 1960 From Time to Eternity
  • 1960 Lecture On Zen
  • 1960 The Cross of Cards
  • 1960 Taoism
  • 1962 This Is It – Alan Watts and friends in a spontaneous musical happening (Long playing album – MEA LP 1007)
  • 1968 Psychedelics & Religious Experience, in California Law Review (here)
  • 1969 Why Not Now: The Art of Meditation
  • 1971 A Conversation With Myself: Part 1 on YouTubePart 2 on YouTubePart 3 on YouTubePart 4 on YouTube
  • 1972 The Art of Contemplation, Village Press
  • 1972 The Way of Liberation in Zen Buddhism, Alan Watts Journal, vol. 2, nr 1
  • 1994 Zen: The Best of Alan Watts (VHS)
  • 2004 Out of Your Mind: Essential Listening from the Alan Watts Audio Archives, Sounds True, Inc. Unabridged edition,
  • 2005 Do You Do It, or Does It Do You?: How to let the universe meditate you (CD)
  • 2007 Zen Meditations with Alan Watts, DVD (here)
  • 2013 What If Money Was No Object? (3 minutes) on YouTube
  • 2016 “You Are The Universe” Youtube
  • 2019 PY1 Multimedia Show

Biographical publications[edit]

  • Furlong, Monica (1986). Genuine Fake: A Biography of Alan Watts. Heinemann (or titled Zen Effects: The Life of Alan Watts as published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, ISBN 0-395-45392-5).
  • Lhermite, Pierre (1983) Alan Watts, Taoïste d’Occident, éd. La Table Ronde.
  • Stuart, David (pseudonym for Edwin Palmer Hoyt Jr.)(1976). Alan Watts: The Rise and Decline of the Ordained Shaman of the CountercultureChilton Book Co., Pa. ISBN 9780801959653

See also


Wealthy people live differently. Here are eight daily rituals many millionaires share. The surprising thing? These habits have nothing to do with money.

Last week, as I prepared for my daily three-mile run, a friend shook his head and sighed, “I wish I had your discipline.”

I told him: “It’s not discipline. It’s just a habit.”

Thomas Corley, president of Cerefice & Company Accounting in Rahway, studied both millionaires and the poor for over five years. The result is his book: Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals,

Not surprisingly, Mr. Corley found that millionaires are different than average people. What might surprise you, however, is the traits that set millionaires apart have little to do with money. In fact, the most common things many millionaires share are simple daily rituals which, over time, lead to improved productivity, health, relationships, knowledge and—consequently—wealth.

Here are eight daily rituals many millionaires share, and how you can easily adopt them in your own life.

Millionaires have a daily must-do list

When Corley asked about to-do lists, 81 percent of rich people said they kept to-do lists, compared to 19 percent of those in poverty. Two-thirds of wealthy listers complete 70 percent or more of their daily tasks.

Need help making the most of your to-do list? Before you go to bed, try writing down between three and six (no more) of the most important things you need to do tomorrow. Prioritize them, then start with number one and don’t stop until it’s complete.

Related: Money Under 30s Daily Productivity Planner

Millionaires don’t watch TV

This action item (or non-action item) has more to it than “Judge Judy” reruns being hazardous to your mental health. It’s about productive use of time, Corley says.

Only 23 percent of millionaires watch more than an hour of TV a day, compared with 77 percent of everybody else. That leaves time for wealthy folks to do other things that broaden their financial horizons.

Related: Cut the Cord without Getting Bored: Find the Best Streaming Service for You

We’re not saying you have to cancel your Netflix subscription, but if you watch on the regular and you’ve ever claimed you don’t have enough time to do something, well, you have your answer.

Millionaires read The Financial Times

Go ahead, make fun of those sissy, salmon-colored newsprint pages; the FT crowd is laughing all the way to the bank. Last year, Harvard’s Neiman Foundation ran an article on the Financial Times’ supposed struggles.

But it appears some folks are counting the wrong numbers. The piece also cites FT’s own stats, which estimate average subscriber income at $250,000—while 13 percent of readers are millionaires.

Now, The Financial Times may not be for everybody, but reading a global business publication—especially one that might challenge you to learn new things about business and finance—is a good habit. The Wall Street Journal and The Economist are others to consider.

Millionaires are healthy eaters

It’s hard to get your moneymaking brain in high gear if you feed it Twinkies and Cheetos all day long. And the sad news is that diets of low-income people are getting worse, while those of high-income people are improving, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine.

This problem is undoubtedly complex: less-affluent consumers may have a harder time accessing healthier foods due to income and geography, but successful people are also more focused on their diet and overall health and more willing to seek out (and spend more on) healthy foods.

Related: Meal Delivery Comparison – Which Subscription Food Service is Worth the Cost?

If you want to change your eating habits, skip fad diets. Instead, start treating your food like the fuel it is. Eat just enough of the right foods to power through your workday or your workout. Save junky meals and snacks for special occasions when you can enjoy them guilt-free.

Millionaires never stop learning

Audio books. Podcasts. Real books. TED Talks on YouTube.

Whatever the forum, wealthy folks are absorbing more knowledge, Corley says. His research shows 63 percent of the wealthy listen to audio books during a commute to work.

Try downloading a business or self-improvement podcast for your next 30-minute drive or treadmill session. Alternately, check out one of these essential personal finance books.

Millionaires rise early

The early bird gets more than the worm, it seems. Murray Newlands, a startup advisor, investor and entrepreneur, writes the following:

“Take 100 millionaires from across the world and I’ll bet you not one of them sleeps in. The majority of these individuals are up at six or seven a.m., slaving away while the rest of us are still eating pancakes.”

If you love the snooze button, this one’s tricky, I know. Start small by waking up five minutes earlier than usual. If you’re really serious about becoming an early riser, check out Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning. It’s a program that helps you gradually incorporate things you love to do into the first minutes or hour of your day so, eventually, you can’t wait to leap out of bed instead of hiding from the world under the covers.

Millionaires prioritize self-improvement

It’s one thing to say you want to get better at something, it’s another thing to make it a priority and actually do it.

New York Times bestselling author Brendon Burchard—who hangs out with the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Branson—consistently blocks out time to create. He calls it a habit of the super successful.

Want to make it work for you? Choose one thing that you want to do more of, be it exercising, learning a new skill, or creating, and block out time each day or each week to work on it. Treat the appointment like any other and commit to showing up.

Millionaires exercise

Okay, not every wealthy person does—we all know the fat cat stereotype.

But Psychology Today study showed that being physically active positively influenced 15-year income. The physically active men in the study earned between 14 and 17 percent more than their less active twins.

You know you need it. Just do it!

Related: 3 Apps That Pay You to Work Out and Eat Healthy


What’s interesting about these daily rituals of millionaires? I think the main takeaway is that building wealth doesn’t necessarily equate with just sound investment strategy or working extra to make extra money.

Note how many items on this list revolve around general self-improvement—“sharpening the saw,” as the late Stephen Covey once put it. Better brain power, better nutrition, and better screen habits create needed room to embrace financial success—or any other kind, for that matter.


A Complete Self-Mastery Guide to Breaking Through Resistance So You Can Actualize Your Potential

by Scott Jeffrey

OVERVIEW: This guide provides a psychological foundation, tips, and resources for walking the path toward self mastery.


Self mastery is often defined as self-control, the ability to exert a strong will against our impulses to steer our future to one of our choosing. But this is only one aspect of the term.

Self mastery requires having a vision for your future self. And harnessing the will to realize that vision.

We learn to master ourselves by getting out of our own way. We strip away what we are not to realize who and what we really are, actualizing our potential in the process.

This guide is designed to assist you on your path. It will point out the pitfalls and offer suggestions to support your efforts in personal development.

What is Self Mastery?

Self mastery is a path, an orientation one chooses to hold toward oneself and the world.

It’s a commitment to never-ending improvement; it’s a process of becoming.

It’s based on the realization that there are parts of us that will always try to hold us back.

Our biggest naysayers aren’t “out there.” They are within us.

Someone committed to this path of self-mastery is willing to find ways to transcend their fear and break through their resistance.

Personal mastery implies that one possesses the self-awareness necessary to identify the source of one’s resistance and the creativity to find ways beyond it.

A common belief about self mastery is that it’s about controlling your basic impulses. This, I believe, leads many people astray.

Self mastery isn’t about controlling yourself or dominating those fearful, aggressive, and nasty parts within us.

It’s about getting to know these parts, but then transcending them.

Resolving these inner tensions, you can find wholeness and allow the natural process of development to take hold.

In Tales of Power, Carlos Castenanda’s teacher Don Juan explains self mastery through the path of the warrior:

A warrior must cultivate the feeling that he has everything needed for the extravagant journey that is his life. What counts for a warrior is being alive. Life in itself is sufficient, self-explanatory and complete. Therefore, one may say without being presumptuous that the
experience of experiences is being alive.

Self Mastery is Our Destiny

As Maslow told his group of doctoral students:

You must want to be a first-class psychologist, meaning the best, the very best you are capable of becoming. If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you’ll be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life. You will be evading your own capacities, your own possibilities.

Although many of us refuse the call to adventure, developing our innate capacities is our destiny.

Fighting this destiny brings depression and anxiety. Embracing this destiny leads to freedom and fulfillment.

We all have an intrinsic motivation toward growth.

This drive toward growth is easily observable in an infant’s will to master walking, basic motor skills, and language.

But what do we observe in most adults?

In some adults, we find curious individuals who remain committed to developing their brains and bodies, forging new skills for both work and play.

We find self-actualizing people in virtually every field of interest, including business professionals, artists, musicians, philosophers, painters, doctors, psychologists, athletes, and martial artists.

Many adults aren’t committed to continuous growth and development, but many of us are. We simply become consumed by life’s countless demands.

Sometimes, we give ourselves excuses to forego our developmental path. We say things like:

  • I don’t have time.
  • I’m too tired.
  • I’m just not sure what I want.

But is there something else driving us away from growth, blocking our personal evolution?

Two Powerful Forces: Growth and Safety

In Toward a Psychology of Being, Abraham Maslow explains there are two powerful sets of forces within the human condition: a drive for growth and its opposing force, a drive for safety.

Growth propels us forward toward wholeness of Self to discover our uniqueness (what Carl Jung called the individuation process).

An opposing force leads us to defend our current self, clinging to safety out of fear of the unknown.

The force of safety keeps us where we are now, clinging to the past and afraid to take chances in order to improve our current conditions (internally and externally).

This safety seeking side is afraid of independence, freedom, and separateness—the very things our growth side is demanding.

The Delight of Growth and the Anxiety of Safety

What we focus on tends to guide the direction of our lives.

If we focus on the dangers of growth, our need for safety wins the day.

But if we minimize the dangers of our emerging uniqueness and fuller expression of the Self while enhancing our attractions toward growth, a world of new possibilities presents itself.

Maslow points out that we are confronted with an ongoing series of choices throughout life between safety and growth, dependence and independence, regression and progression, immaturity and maturity.

In Toward a Psychology of Being, he writes:

We grow forward when the delights of growth and anxieties of safety are greater than the anxieties of growth and the delights of safety.

The Dangers of Growth

There is a valid reason to fear growth. In addition to the rewards and gratifications, growth also brings pain.

Each step forward brings us into the unfamiliar, into possible danger.

Each step forward requires us to give up something familiar and satisfying.

Growth can mean a separation, a death and rebirth as well as the grief and mourning that comes with loss of the old.

We grow toward greater complexity. This means when we grow, we might have to give up something easier and simpler.

The path of growth often means taking on more demands and responsibility; it can mean a more difficult life.

Is there any wonder anyone would avoid such a path?

When Safety Trumps Growth

Does this mean we must throw aside our concern for safety in the service of our development? Absolutely not.

Safety is a more basic human need than growth. In the absence of a feeling of safety, the will to grow is not generally present.

Consider, for example, a young child clinging to her mother’s leg while she attempts to walk for the first time.

If the mother abruptly exits the room to answer the phone, the child would likely terminate her herculean effort.

Sometimes, choosing safety is wise and appropriate when it helps us to avoid more pain than we can bear in that moment.

But ultimately, we know that if we consistently choose safety over growth, in the long run, we find ourselves in a state of disappointment.

If we cling to safety for too long, we wake up one day and look back on a life that never was—an unconscious life filled with regrets and missed opportunities.

Moving in the direction of safety, we deny our unique destinies.

Indications Along the Road to Growth (and Safety)

How do you know when you’re on the road to growth?

There are numerous subjective indicators:

  • You’re more likely to experience feelings of happiness or euphoria, of a zest in living, serenity, joy, and calmness.
  • You feel confidence in your ability to handle the inevitable problems along the way and the stresses and anxieties that accompany them.

When the force of safety dominates us, we show signs of self-betrayal and regression and we become fixed and rigid out of fear.

Here, we are consumed by a different set of emotions: anxiety, boredom, despair, inability to enjoy, aimlessness, emptiness, a lack of identity, intrinsic guilt, and intrinsic shame.

Fear and the need for safety won’t go away, nor should they. The drive for safety helps support our survival.

But courage and the need for growth are also part of what it means to be human.

In courageously walking the path of self-mastery, we can realize our true potential and live a uniquely meaningful life.

How Homeostasis Influences Our Growth and Development

We know that most people have a fear of failure. Those who do have a fixed mindset.

In a fixed mindset, failure can evoke emotions of shame, embarrassment, humiliation, frustration, worthlessness, and defeat. It damages an already fragile self-esteem.

But did you know that many of us fear success, too?

The reasons for this one isn’t as obvious. Success can bring a sense of achievement, internal and external rewards, and greater confidence.

It can also bring us a better quality of life and new opportunities.

So why fear success? And why do we often subconsciously self-sabotage our development?

In Mastery, aikido master George Leonard offers a powerful reason: homeostasis.

What is Homeostasis?

We fear success for the same fundamental reason we fear failure.

Movement in either direction—up or down—means moving out of the known and into the unknown.

Our internal systems are designed to maintain homeostasis. We are biologically wired to stay in balance, to stay within what is known and comfortable.

Our bodies, brains, and behavior have built-in mechanisms to stay within a narrow range and return to equilibrium when they move outside these narrow limits.

Homeostasis refers to the body’s automatic efforts to maintain a constant, “normal” state.

In our blood stream alone, homeostasis regulates the content of water, salt, sugar, fat, protein, calcium, and oxygen.

What would happen if your blood-sugar level dropped by 10 percent? Big trouble!

All self-regulating systems have ways of maintaining homeostasis and keeping us in familiar and safe territory.

Keeping human beings in a state of homeostasis takes billions of interconnecting electrochemical signals coursing through our brains, nerve fibers, and bloodstream.

Homeostasis: An Illustration

To better understand homeostasis, consider your home’s heating system. You set the temperature at, for example, 65 degrees.

When the temperature drops below 65, a signal is sent through the system to kick the heat on until the environment returns to the set temperature.

Homeostasis is a vital function in all self-regulating systems.

Keeping human beings in a state of homeostasis takes billions of interconnecting electrochemical signals coursing through our brains, nerve fibers, and bloodstream.

The Biology of Homeostasis

The challenge is that homeostasis doesn’t distinguish between “change for the better” and “change for the worse.”

Homeostasis resists all change. In a way, we each have a pre-installed biological mechanism designed to hinder our growth.

For example, let’s say a 40-year-old man named Peter has lived a sedentary lifestyle without any exercise, stretching, or movement for many years.

He knows this isn’t good for his long-term health, and he’s beginning to feel its effects.

Peter decides to go for a light jog in his neighborhood.

He’s proud of himself for taking action, but around the third block, something happens: Peter starts feeling sick and a little dizzy, with a slight sense of panic.

He feels like he’s going to die. Peter stops running and slowly walks home.

“I tried,” he tells himself. “Perhaps I’ll join the gym one day.”

The sensations Peter experienced were homeostatic alarm signals detecting measurable changes in respiration, heart rate, and metabolism. His internal systems were telling him to stop what he is doing immediately.

Remember, homeostasis is designed to maintain your current state. After years of sedentary living, a light jog throws Peter’s internal systems into high alert.

Because Peter didn’t know about homeostasis, he interpreted those signals as a threat.

And unfortunately, he opted out of installing good routines and making beneficial life changes.

If Peter understood the principles of homeostasis, he could have persisted through the discomfort, slowly shifting his “normal state” to a stronger, healthier set point.

Homeostasis in Social Environments

Homeostasis isn’t just biological; it operates in social and cultural spheres as well.

Let’s say Peter’s peer group tends to be sedentary. They all avoid physical exercise at all cost.

When he decides to engage in physical activity, his friends will likely exert a social pressure to stop his efforts.

Not only does Peter have to contend with his biological resistance, but he must also overcome the gravity of his social group.

Whenever you adopt a new, empowering behavior, you can experience this downward pressure.

Although you might expect your family or friends to support your new changes, group homeostasis often exerts pressure to maintain old patterns.

This process operates unconsciously, that is, they may not even be aware of their unsupportive behavior.

Despite the best intentions of your loved ones’, those closest to you may try to keep you where you are.

When you grow, you’re different. The homeostasis of your environment, including friends, family, and co-workers, is affected.

Growth can cause pressure and discomfort for others (since they have an unconscious desire for growth, too).

People in your environment may look at you differently. They may admire your changes; your efforts may inspire them.

But a part of them also may envy you and secretly despise you. Your friends and family may prefer the “old” you.

By being aware of these tendencies, you can allow yourself to feel these social pressures without enabling them to influence your behavior.

It can also help you become more compassionate toward yourself and others.

The Psychological Fear of Growth

The path of self-mastery, of evolution, creation, and growth, can be a lonely one.

Discovering a great talent within yourself that demands nurturance can be exhilarating, but it can also bring feelings of danger and responsibility.

It may require you to stand alone, cultivating inner strength instead of seeking support from your environment. (Although you can find those that will support your efforts, too, especially if they are on their path to self-mastery.)

Standing strong can feel like a heavy burden, a thankless endeavor we might consider avoiding at all costs.

The path to growth and self-mastery is invariably difficult at times. It’s uncomfortable moving out of the known into the unknown.

Even if the known is not ideal or even desirable, it’s familiar to us. And since all humans have a need for safety, there will always be an attraction to staying within the familiar.

Make peace with homeostasis, but continually challenge yourself to establish higher homeostatic set points.

Honoring your need for safety, courageously guide yourself into the great unknown. Come to enjoy practice for practice’s sake. Transform yourself slowly, steadily, and daily.

Self Mastery 101

Abraham Maslow highlights thirteen characteristics of self-actualization he observed in individuals with positive mental health. They are the markers of those walking the path to self-mastery.

Familiarize yourself with these characteristics so you can self-assess of you’re on the right track today.

See13 Characteristics of Self-Actualizing Individuals

No matter what you’re going to learn, you will go through four stages in your development.

When you don’t know what these stages are, at least two of them hijack your development.

If you know what to expect, however, you will reach the final stage of personal mastery.

SeeThe Four Stages of Learning Anything

Ten Self Mastery Secrets for Achieving Peak Performance

Once you understand the psychological drivers that block our growth, we can turn our attention to ways of overcoming them.

Here are ten self-mastery secrets for breaking through resistance and building momentum on your path to higher self-actualization.

1) Accept Your Resistance

Accept the fact that you have a resistance to positive change. It’s easy to beat ourselves up when we see that we’re standing in our way.

Feelings of shame and guilt, however, only delay our progress because when we feel bad, we tend to reinforce bad habits.

In contrast, self-acceptance and self-compassion allow us to take note of our resistance without judging or criticizing ourselves.

You’re going to need to find ways to negotiate with your resistance to change if you want to stay on the path to self-mastery.

Kelly McGonical’s The Willpower Instinct (audiobook) provides an excellent course guide for navigating through your resistance.

2) Create a Compelling Vision

clear vision will serve you in whatever areas you’re seeking growth and improvement.

Without vision, your efforts will be aimless and tend to meander.

Compelling is the operative word; make the vision something you want to move toward, something that inspires you (and not something you just think you should move toward).

3) Commit to Long-Term Practice

Understand that lasting transformation doesn’t happen in a moment; it requires consistent practice.

No matter whether you’re learning a new instrument, practicing communication skills, or meditating, every new skill requires your brain to make new connections and enforce those connections through repeated practice.

Our brains are like a muscle, but as we age, it takes longer and longer to make lasting changes. Repetition through daily practice yields results.

4) Expect Backsliding

Even when you know about the process of homeostasis, it will still influence you.

Backsliding is inevitable on the path to growth and self-mastery. If you know this, you’ll be less discouraged when you observe it in yourself.

Here again, self-kindness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion will serve your efforts; getting down on yourself will halt your progress.

5) Live by the Principle of Moderation

We often demonstrate lots of enthusiasm and excitement when we begin on our growth path. We see a world of possibilities and positive change at our doorstep.

In these moments of excitement, we often push things too hard, triggering a homeostatic response on a high alert.

Self-mastery is not a sprint; it’s a long-distance run. In Qigong, they teach you to practice with 70% of your capacity. When you push or strain yourself, you induce involuntary tension in your nervous system.

Operating at 70% helps you stay relaxed and engaged while avoiding injury. This same principle will serve you in most areas of your development.

6) Lighten Up

If you take yourself (or the process of growth) too seriously, you’ll invariably derail your efforts.

Your inner animal, or the primitive parts of your brain, will eventually revolt against you, sabotaging your efforts.

So take a light-hearted approach. Be willing to laugh at yourself. Be playful and find ways to make your practice something you enjoy doing (while still accepting the fact that it will bring discomfort at times).

7) Set Mini Goals

In any path to mastery, you learn to practice for practice’s sake, not to achieve any particular objective.

But while a compelling vision keeps you focused and inspired, mini goals can help you measure your progress.

Your attention shouldn’t be on just achieving these aims; setting mini goals can help you stay engaged in your practice.

8) Cultivate Physical Energy

No matter what road to mastery you walk, you need a healthy reserve of physical energy to help manage stress, overcome resistance, and follow through.

Our willpower has a kind of fuel tank. It gets depleted when our energy supply runs low.

If you commit to daily practice in the morning, you’ll be more likely to follow through because you have more energy after a good night’s rest.

After a long day of work, our egos get depleted of their mental energy. Practice becomes more difficult.

Conscious effort in cultivating physical energy through proper diet, sleep, exercise, posture, breathing, and stretching will greatly serve you on your path to self-mastery.

9) Be Honest

Self-assessment is essential for anyone pursuing self-mastery. We invest a tremendous amount of energy lying to others and ourselves.

It’s easy to fall prey to ego inflation (seeing ourselves as bigger than we are) and ego deflations (seeing ourselves as less than we are).

Self-honesty and integrity free up all the energy our egos expend keeping up our house of lies. Start by honing in on your true feelings.

Try keeping a private journal where you can express your hopes, dreams, fears, and other emotions you may not feel comfortable sharing.

10) Establish Empowering Rituals

All great athletes have rituals for getting into a peak state to perform at their best.

Establishing rituals that you perform at the beginning of your practice sessions can be helpful.

Developing a daily practice is perhaps the most powerful ritual in itself.

Resistance to Self Mastery

The path toward self mastery would be straight and narrow if it wasn’t for resistance. Resistance takes various forms.

When you understand the source of your resistance, you can navigate around and through it.

Seeking Passion and Excitement

Those who achieve personal mastery learn how to avoid extremes.

They don’t seek passion and excitement regarding their development, living in moderation and making steady progress each day.

SeeWhy You Should Let Your Passion Die

The Rigidity of a Fixed Mindset

Only with a love of learning and a resilience through innumerable plateaus can we actualize our potential.

We truly must believe—with a deep conviction—that we can achieve greatness.

We must know in our heart that we have potential to actualize and the will and grace to make it so.

To have this resolve, we must first change your fixed mindset.

SeeHow to Change Your Fixed Mindset

“I Know How To Do That”

Another thing that blocks the process of learning and development is the mind’s belief, “I know.”

This single belief stops learning, destroys creativity, and inhibits personal mastery.

SeeHow to Adopt a Beginner’s Mind to Improve Learning and Creativity

“I’m Just A Lazy Person”

Laziness is something every person wrestles with to varying degrees. When you understand the “voices” behind laziness, you’re more able to navigate through it.

However, if you repress your laziness by trying to deny it and push through it, in the end, your laziness will hijack your personal development and peak performance.

SeeAn Achiever’s Guide to Overcoming Laziness

The Power of Sleep

Peak performers in virtually any field sleep more, not less, than the rest of us.

It’s virtually impossible to walk the path of self mastery when you’re worn down, drained, and disinterested. Fatigue creates its own form of resistance.

Getting quality sleep is a MUST for those interested in accessing their potential.

SeePowerful Secrets to Transform Your Sleep So You Can Actualize Your Potential

Obstacles to Self Mastery

Our natural state is one of mastery. However, many things pull us out of this state.

After a while, we lose access to the state of mastery. Some people even start to believe it’s impossible to access. Of course, this isn’t true.

Use The Mastery Method to activate your higher potential at will …

personal mastery

Craft Your Plan for Personal Mastery

What then can we do to promote our continued growth and development?

One reason many of us fail to actualize more of our potential is that we lack a personal development plan.

This plan can be simple. It can fit on a single page. But it must be created with an understanding of human potential so you aware of what’s available to you.

SeeHow to Create a Personal Development Plan

A Final Word for Self Actualizers

Discovering a great talent, capacity, or strength within yourself that demands nurturance can be exhilarating, but it can also bring feelings of danger and responsibility.

It may demand that you stand alone, cultivating inner strength instead of seeking support from your environment. (Although you can find those that will support your efforts, too, especially if they are on their own path to self mastery.)

The path to growth and self-mastery is invariably difficult at times. It’s uncomfortable moving out of the known into the unknown.

Even if the known is not ideal or even desirable, it’s familiar to us.

And since all humans have a need for safety, there will always be an attraction to staying within the familiar.

Make peace with homeostasis, but continually challenge yourself to establish higher homeostatic set points.

Honoring your need for safety, courageously guide yourself into the great unknown. Enjoy practice for practice’s sake.

Transform yourself slowly, steadily, and daily.


Ten Timeless Persuasive Writing Techniques

11 Essential Things To Do After Creating A WordPress Blog

Essential WordPress Settings

This is part of our “Learn WordPress” series. In this post, you will learn how to properly set up WordPress after a fresh installation.

So far you have learned:

Now you just need to set up your WordPress blog correctly.

You can download the WordPress Guide eBook for an A-Z manual of setting up WordPress.

Things To do After Installing WordPress (Essentials)

When you install WordPress, you get a stock installation with a few things like a dummy post, a dummy page, and a dummy comment.

So the first thing to do…

1. Delete Default Post, Page, and Comment

delete default WordPress post

Log in to your WordPress dashboard and go to Posts > All Posts and delete the default “Hello world” post.

Similarly, go to Pages > All Pages and delete the default “Sample Page”.

And finally, click on “Comments” and delete the default comment.

2. Set Your Timezone

General WordPress settings

The next two settings are found in Settings > General.

Make sure to set your timezone to your local time so that when you schedule posts, they will go live according to your time.

Also note:

When you installed WordPress, you added a “Site Title” & “Tagline”. You can change those anytime from this settings page. These two things are very important because this is what shows up in Google Search.

You can also set your admin email address (where you’ll receive all admin correspondence) from this settings page.

3. Enable/Disable User Registration


You need to decide if you are going to have a multi-author blog (like ShoutMeLoud), or if you are going to be the sole author.

If you are going to allow guest posting (like SML does), then be prepared to get a lot of spam registrations. However, you can fix that with the help of a plugin.

To allow this, tick off the “Anyone can register” box, and set the “New User Default Role”as “Contributor”.

If you don’t want people to register, don’t tick the “Anyone can register” box.

4. Set WordPress Discussion/Comments Settings

WordPress comment settings

Now, go to Settings > Discussion.

This can get confusing if you don’t know what to do here. But just follow the above screenshot and you’ll be good.

Must read: 6 Tools for Stopping Comment Spam in WordPress (+ Discussion Settings)

5. Populate WordPress Ping List

Updating WordPress ping list

By default, WordPress only pings one service. But you can notify many more services by extending the ping list.

Go to Settings > Writing and add in more services to the ping list.

You can get a big ping list over here: WordPress ping list.

6. WordPress Media Settings

This setting will greatly improve the way WordPress handles images.

By default, WordPress create multiple sizes for every uploaded image. This is not a good practice. This will load up your blog with unnecessary files and your blog will quickly become bloated.

Go to Settings > Media, and use the below screenshot to configure the proper settings:

WordPress Media settings

I would also highly recommend that you add a plugin called ShortPixel which compresses images as they’re uploaded.

You can read all about WordPress image compression plugins here.

7. Configure Google tag manager

Configure Google tag manager

In the days to come, you will be installing many scripts like Google analytics, Facebook pixels, and many others. Now, Google tag manager makes it easy to manage all these scripts (a.k.a tags) from a single dashboard.

This makes the process of site management easier and you don’t even have to edit the theme to add any script in the future. Everything will be done from the GTM dashboard. Read everything about Google tag manager here.

8. Add Google Analytics

Google analytics is a free program from Google that will let you know everything about your WordPress site traffic. This will take 10-15 minutes to set up, but it’s one of the most important things everyone should do after installing WordPress.

In this guide, I have shared how to put Google analytics code in WordPress.

9. Add Caching Plugin

A Caching plugin helps in improving the load time of your WordPress site. Without a caching plugin, every time a visitor visits your page, your server has to query the database to fulfill the request.

While a caching plugin helps in lowering down the load from the server and stores the repeated files in the cache.

Here are the best caching plugins for WordPress:

10. Disable Directory Browsing

For this setting, you will need to edit your WordPress .htaccess file. Don’t panic; it’s actually pretty easy.

Add this line of code to your .htaccess file (at the bottom):

Options All -Indexes

This will disable directory browsing which is a very important step for maintaining the security of your WordPress blog.

11. Set Up WordPress Permalinks

WordPress permalink setup

The default WordPress permalink is –

This permalink is short, but not friendly for search engines.

Go to Settings > Permalink and select “Post name”.

Click “Save”.

Now, when your URLs appear in search engines, some of the keywords will be visible. This will help you rank higher and get more traffic.

Here is an example from SML:

SEO friendly permalink

11 essential settings after installing WordPress

  1. Delete defaults.
  2. Set the time zone.
  3. Set user registration.
  4. Thread comments.
  5. Populate WordPress ping list.
  6. Set WordPress media settings.
  7. Setup Google tag manager
  8. Add Google analytics
  9. Add Caching to WordPress
  10. Disable directory browsing.
  11. Set up WordPress permalink structure.

If you just installed WordPress, make sure that these 8 essential settings are properly configured. Anytime you install WordPress, you should make sure to do these 10 things before doing anything else. I’d recommend you bookmark this post so you can refer back every time you make a WordPress installation.

Important Things To Do After Initial WordPress Setup

Once you are done setting up WordPress, it’s time to install plugins.

Here are a couple of essential plugins (click here for a list of best WordPress plugins):

How many of these essential WordPress settings did you know about? What other settings would you recommend to all WordPress users? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

You can subscribe to our email newsletter to stay up to date on all the latest SML happenings.

And don’t forget to share this post!


Authored By 
A blog scientist by the mind and a passionate blogger by heart ❤️. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud (Award winning blog), speaker at various international forums.Life motto: Live while you can! Teach & inspire while you could & Smile while you have the teeth.

Top rated



Dear Harsh,

It’s great that there are bloggers like you in India. I’m on the verge of my own. But I’m happy that I’m following you by avoiding the ‘toppers’& the intuition worked

Pradeep Aravind




Thank you sir, Support of basic WordPress important information.
This is very important post for new user.




I converted my Blogger Blog into WordPress yesterday. This post has come to me at the right time and is very useful. Thanks a lot. Please Visit my blogs and give you suggestions for improvement!




Hi Harsh, thanks for the great info on your blog, can you tell me how to make my posts show only a short version instead of the whole post. thanks Melanie




Thanks Harsh,

On top of all that settings, I guess few other advanced things can also be added to list. Install the following plugins..

WP-SpamFree plugin
All in One SEO plugin
Digg Digg plugin
Google XML Sitemaps




Very Useful post Harsh, Thanks for the info. Please also write the essentiel SEO tips to be done after instaling a WP blog too…




Where exactly does the “Options All -Indexes” text go? After the “# END WordPress” line in the .htaccess file?





hey harsh..

thnx for the information.. can you tell me more about ping list.. can i add the shown ping list into my blog.. or how can i find the ping urls.. thanx in advance..




This is some great basic information. I have Stumbled it and will definitely come back to refer to your suggestions when I work on my blogs. Thank you.




Harsh Sir,i am a little confused on ping.there was only one and i added all of yours.but you said in your post that WordPress updates automatically as we publish a post.i think i am making error please correct me
Thank you




Hi Harsh,
I am using Magazine Point theme in which am unable to install google tag manager. Also i am unable to paste the code in “head” & “body”. I tried but it is not showing in source page. Can you please suggest to install this in a better way.





I Don’t Know Why, But My WordPress Blog Is Showing The Entire Post Of The Homepage Rather Than The Option Of “Read More”




This is great information for people who are not just starting a blog but already have one up and running, I was able to go an check my site against the suggestions and as a result I now have Shortpixel optimizing all my images. Thanks




I Don’t Know Why, But My WordPress Blog Is Showing The Entire Post Of The Homepage Rather Than The Option Of “Read More”




Rahul, this problem might be belongs to your theme. So changed it and it will solved for sure.




For Fixing it firstly go to Settings→Reading→For Each Article, show
Select Summary instead of Full Text




I can’t figure out how to change the permalink structure on WordPress! Maybe I’m blind but I’ve been searching for the “permalink” button in settings for over an hour and I’m stuck.




Hii, I have a query that I want that search engines show time of posts in search results and not for pages and homepage, I did this by Yoast SEO but it shows date for few pages and homepage also, how to remove date from homepage.? ?




Harsh! It’s great to see you sharing even the minute info useful to blogging community.I started following each and every point you suggest and showing me desired results.




What a great and useful post, Harsh, to use as check list after installing WordPress.

If I can add something, among the several other tasks to do, bloggers should also create an XML Sitemap, to help search engines crawling the website (and let them know about any updates).

Thanks for sharing!




I have asked this question to so many that whether to increase or add additional ping list or not but I got the answer here finally thanks for the article.




I have 2 blogs runing on wordpress. But never took advantage of ping services. I think this is the time to include the list to update the results as soon as it get published.

Thanks a lot




Thankx as i newly create my wp blog. You Suggestion is much valuable for me, I did’t disable user registration and did’t Change Admin user . After reading this article i am going to implement these steps.




Really useful step. Even an experienced programmer doesn’t look at those. Maintain these steps will improve security. Nice post. Thank you.




I recently installed wordpress and was wondering what i have to do now? I came across this article and it helped me a lot.




Harsh bro is there any problem if we use a lot of sites in our ping list ? Won’t it be called Ping spam if I am creating 2-3 Posts daily .




No, it won’t be a problem, you can ping as much as you want!




These are really 8 essential setting after installing wordpress. I was looking for such a guideline after installing wordpress on my very blog. Thanks a lot for this post.




thank you so much for this post. I went through every detail and made sure to change the settings on my newly installed wordpress blog. Now over to the list of wordpress plugins




Is there any one Who can help me to Change My Permalink without 404 Error.
Please Come on Team Viewer. And Thanks Harsh. Am really got too much help from this site. Thanks a lot. But bit confused about Permalink.




Really nice info…But another thing i want to mention is that you must install some plugins which will make your site spam free and seo friendly and xml site map and some more…Thanks again..




Hey harsh also mention that 302 redirect loose all ur social likes and share, and most important don’t make chain of 301 redirects i.e 301—to–301–to—301 etc . It will kill ur post from google bot/spider




Must read for any newbie bloggers,
i never took care about ping list, i think i have to work on, as said,
thanks for the post harsh ?




Add your comment…


A pyramid hierarchy of SEO needs based on Maslow's theory of psychology.


Chapter 1

SEO 101

What is it, and why is it important?

Welcome! We’re excited that you’re here!

If you already have a solid understanding of SEO and why it’s important, you can skip to Chapter 2(though we’d still recommend skimming the best practices from Google and Bing at the end of this chapter; they’re useful refreshers).

For everyone else, this chapter will help build your foundational SEO knowledge and confidence as you move forward.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It’s the practice of increasing both the quality and quantity of website traffic, as well as exposure to your brand, through non-paid (also known as “organic”) search engine results.

Despite the acronym, SEO is as much about people as it is about search engines themselves. It’s about understanding what people are searching for online, the answers they are seeking, the words they’re using, and the type of content they wish to consume. Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to connect to the people who are searching online for the solutions you offer.

If knowing your audience’s intent is one side of the SEO coin, delivering it in a way search engine crawlers can find and understand is the other. In this guide, expect to learn how to do both.


What’s that word mean?

If you’re having trouble with any of the definitions in this chapter, be sure to open up our SEO glossary for reference!

Search engine basics

Search engines are answer machines. They scour billions of pieces of content and evaluate thousands of factors to determine which content is most likely to answer your query.

Search engines do all of this by discovering and cataloguing all available content on the Internet (web pages, PDFs, images, videos, etc.) via a process known as “crawling and indexing,” and then ordering it by how well it matches the query in a process we refer to as “ranking.” We’ll cover crawling, indexing, and ranking in more detail in Chapter 2.

Which search results are “organic”?

As we said earlier, organic search results are the ones that are earned through effective SEO, not paid for (i.e. not advertising). These used to be easy to spot – the ads were clearly labeled as such and the remaining results typically took the form of “10 blue links” listed below them. But with the way search has changed, how can we spot organic results today?

Today, search engine results pages — often referred to as “SERPs” — are filled with both more advertising and more dynamic organic results formats (called “SERP features”) than we’ve ever seen before. Some examples of SERP features are featured snippets (or answer boxes), People Also Ask boxes, image carousels, etc. New SERP features continue to emerge, driven largely by what people are seeking.

For example, if you search for “Denver weather,” you’ll see a weather forecast for the city of Denver directly in the SERP instead of a link to a site that might have that forecast. And, if you search for “pizza Denver,” you’ll see a “local pack” result made up of Denver pizza places. Convenient, right?

It’s important to remember that search engines make money from advertising. Their goal is to better solve searcher’s queries (within SERPs), to keep searchers coming back, and to keep them on the SERPs longer.

Some SERP features on Google are organic and can be influenced by SEO. These include featured snippets (a promoted organic result that displays an answer inside a box) and related questions (a.k.a. “People Also Ask” boxes).

It’s worth noting that there are many other search features that, even though they aren’t paid advertising, can’t typically be influenced by SEO. These features often have data acquired from proprietary data sources, such as Wikipedia, WebMD, and IMDb.

Why SEO is important

While paid advertising, social media, and other online platforms can generate traffic to websites, the majority of online traffic is driven by search engines.

Organic search results cover more digital real estate, appear more credible to savvy searchers, and receive way more clicks than paid advertisements. For example, of all US searches, only ~2.8% of people click on paid advertisements.

In a nutshell: SEO has ~20X more traffic opportunity than PPC on both mobile and desktop.

SEO is also one of the only online marketing channels that, when set up correctly, can continue to pay dividends over time. If you provide a solid piece of content that deserves to rank for the right keywords, your traffic can snowball over time, whereas advertising needs continuous funding to send traffic to your site.

Search engines are getting smarter, but they still need our help.

Optimizing your site will help deliver better information to search engines so that your content can be properly indexed and displayed within search results.

Should I hire an SEO professional, consultant, or agency?

Depending on your bandwidth, willingness to learn, and the complexity of your website(s), you could perform some basic SEO yourself. Or, you might discover that you would prefer the help of an expert. Either way is okay!

If you end up looking for expert help, it’s important to know that many agencies and consultants “provide SEO services,” but can vary widely in quality. Knowing how to choose a good SEO companycan save you a lot of time and money, as the wrong SEO techniques can actually harm your site more than they will help.

White hat vs black hat SEO

“White hat SEO” refers to SEO techniques, best practices, and strategies that abide by search engine rule, its primary focus to provide more value to people.

“Black hat SEO” refers to techniques and strategies that attempt to spam/fool search engines. While black hat SEO can work, it puts websites at tremendous risk of being penalized and/or de-indexed (removed from search results) and has ethical implications.

Penalized websites have bankrupted businesses. It’s just another reason to be very careful when choosing an SEO expert or agency.

Search engines share similar goals with the SEO industry

Search engines want to help you succeed. In fact, Google even has a Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, much like the Beginner’s Guide! They’re also quite supportive of efforts by the SEO community. Digital marketing conferences — such as Unbounce, MNsearch, SearchLove, and Moz’s own MozCon — regularly attract engineers and representatives from major search engines.

Google assists webmasters and SEOs through their Webmaster Central Help Forum and by hosting live office hour hangouts. (Bing, unfortunately, shut down their Webmaster Forums in 2014.)

While webmaster guidelines vary from search engine to search engine, the underlying principles stay the same: Don’t try to trick search engines. Instead, provide your visitors with a great online experience. To do that, follow search engine guidelines and fulfill user intent.

Google Webmaster Guidelines

Basic principles:

  • Make pages primarily for users, not search engines.
  • Don’t deceive your users.
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
  • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging.

Things to avoid:

  • Automatically generated content
  • Participating in link schemes
  • Creating pages with little or no original content (i.e. copied from somewhere else)
  • Cloaking — the practice of showing search engine crawlers different content than visitors.
  • Hidden text and links
  • Doorway pages — pages created to rank well for specific searches to funnel traffic to your website.

It’s good to be very familiar with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Make time to get to know them.

Bing Webmaster Guidelines

Basic principles:

  • Provide clear, deep, engaging, and easy-to-find content on your site.
  • Keep page titles clear and relevant.
  • Links are regarded as a signal of popularity and Bing rewards links that have grown organically.
  • Social influence and social shares are positive signals and can have an impact on how you rank organically in the long run.
  • Page speed is important, along with a positive, useful user experience.
  • Use alt attributes to describe images, so that Bing can better understand the content.

Things to avoid:

  • Thin content, pages showing mostly ads or affiliate links, or that otherwise redirect visitors away to other sites will not rank well.
  • Abusive link tactics that aim to inflate the number and nature of inbound links such as buying links, participating in link schemes, can lead to de-indexing.
  • Ensure clean, concise, keyword-inclusive URL structures are in place. Dynamic parameters can dirty up your URLs and cause duplicate content issues.
  • Make your URLs descriptive, short, keyword rich when possible, and avoid non-letter characters.
  • Burying links in Javascript/Flash/Silverlight; keep content out of these as well.
  • Duplicate content
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Cloaking — the practice of showing search engine crawlers different content than visitors.

Guidelines for representing your local business on Google

If the business for which you perform SEO work operates locally, either out of a storefront or drives to customers’ locations to perform service, it qualifies for a Google My Business listing. For local businesses like these, Google has guidelines that govern what you should and shouldn’t do in creating and managing these listings.

Basic principles:

  • Be sure you’re eligible for inclusion in the Google My Business index; you must have a physical address, even if it’s your home address, and you must serve customers face-to-face, either at your location (like a retail store) or at theirs (like a plumber)
  • Honestly and accurately represent all aspects of your local business data, including its name, address, phone number, website address, business categories, hours of operation, and other features.

Things to avoid

  • Creation of Google My Business listings for entities that aren’t eligible
  • Misrepresentation of any of your core business information, including “stuffing” your business name with geographic or service keywords, or creating listings for fake addresses
  • Use of PO boxes or virtual offices instead of authentic street addresses
  • Abuse of the review portion of the Google My Business listing, via fake positive reviews of your business or fake negative ones of your competitors
  • Costly, novice mistakes stemming from failure to read the fine details of Google’s guidelines

of local, national, and international SEO in Chapter 4!

Fulfilling user intent

Instead of violating these guidelines in an attempt to trick search engines into ranking you higher, focus on understanding and fulfilling user intent. When a person searches for something, they have a desired outcome. Whether it’s an answer, concert tickets, or a cat photo, that desired content is their “user intent.”

If a person performs a search for “bands,” is their intent to find musical bands, wedding bands, band saws, or something else?

Your job as an SEO is to quickly provide users with the content they desire in the format in which they desire it.

Common user intent types:

Informational: Searching for information. Example: “What is the best type of laptop for photography?”

Navigational: Searching for a specific website. Example: “Apple”

Transactional: Searching to buy something. Example: “good deals on MacBook Pros”

You can get a glimpse of user intent by Googling your desired keyword(s) and evaluating the current SERP. For example, if there’s a photo carousel, it’s very likely that people searching for that keyword search for photos.

Also evaluate what content your top-ranking competitors are providing that you currently aren’t. How can you provide 10X the value on your website?

Providing relevant, high-quality content on your website will help you rank higher in search results, and more importantly, it will establish credibility and trust with your online audience.

Before you do any of that, you have to first understand your website’s goals to execute a strategic SEO plan.

Know your website/client’s goals

Every website is different, so take the time to really understand a specific site’s business goals. This will not only help you determine which areas of SEO you should focus on, where to track conversions, and how to set benchmarks, but it will also help you create talking points for negotiating SEO projects with clients, bosses, etc.

What will your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) be to measure the return on SEO investment? More simply, what is your barometer to measure the success of your organic search efforts? You’ll want to have it documented, even if it’s this simple:

For the website ____________, my primary SEO KPI is ____________.

Here are a few common KPIs to get you started:

  • Sales
  • Downloads
  • Email signups
  • Contact form submissions
  • Phone calls

And if your business has a local component, you’ll want to define KPIs for your Google My Business listings, as well. These might include:

  • Clicks-to-call
  • Clicks-to-website
  • Clicks-for-driving-directions

You may have noticed that things like “ranking” and “traffic” weren’t on the KPIs list, and that’s intentional.

“But wait a minute!” You say. “I came here to learn about SEO because I heard it could help me rank and get traffic, and you’re telling me those aren’t important goals?”

Not at all! You’ve heard correctly. SEO can help your website rank higher in search results and consequently drive more traffic to your website, it’s just that ranking and traffic are a means to an end. There’s little use in ranking if no one is clicking through to your site, and there’s little use in increasing your traffic if that traffic isn’t accomplishing a larger business objective.

For example, if you run a lead generation site, would you rather have:

  • 1,000 monthly visitors and 3 people fill out a contact form? Or…
  • 300 monthly visitors and 40 people fill out a contact form?

If you’re using SEO to drive traffic to your site for the purpose of conversions, we hope you’d pick the latter! Before embarking on SEO, make sure you’ve laid out your business goals, then use SEO to help you accomplish them — not the other way around.

SEO accomplishes so much more than vanity metrics. When done well, it helps real businesses achieve real goals for their success.


Learn more about determining strategy and setting business, marketing, and SEO goals in the first installment of the One-Hour Guide to SEO, hosted by the one and only Rand Fishkin!


Setting (and eventually achieving) the right goals is one of the most important things you can do as an SEO. We even have a handy Whiteboard Friday all about how to set smart, measurable goals for your clients!


This guide will help you become more data-driven in your SEO efforts. Rather than haphazardly throwing arrows all over the place (and getting lucky every once in a while), you’ll put more wood behind fewer arrows.

Grab a bow (and some coffee); let’s dive into Chapter 2 (How Search Engines Work – Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking).


Written by Britney Muller and the Moz staff.

Chapter 2


First, show up.

As we mentioned in Chapter 1, search engines are answer machines. They exist to discover, understand, and organize the internet’s content in order to offer the most relevant results to the questions searchers are asking.

In order to show up in search results, your content needs to first be visible to search engines. It’s arguably the most important piece of the SEO puzzle: If your site can’t be found, there’s no way you’ll ever show up in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page).

How do search engines work?

Search engines have three primary functions:

  1. Crawl: Scour the Internet for content, looking over the code/content for each URL they find.
  2. Index: Store and organize the content found during the crawling process. Once a page is in the index, it’s in the running to be displayed as a result to relevant queries.
  3. Rank: Provide the pieces of content that will best answer a searcher’s query, which means that results are ordered by most relevant to least relevant.

What is search engine crawling?

Crawling is the discovery process in which search engines send out a team of robots (known as crawlers or spiders) to find new and updated content. Content can vary — it could be a webpage, an image, a video, a PDF, etc. — but regardless of the format, content is discovered by links.


What’s that word mean?

Having trouble with any of the definitions in this section? Our SEO glossary has chapter-specific definitions to help you stay up-to-speed.

Search engine robots, also called spiders, crawl from page to page to find new and updated content.

Googlebot starts out by fetching a few web pages, and then follows the links on those webpages to find new URLs. By hopping along this path of links, the crawler is able to find new content and add it to their index called Caffeine — a massive database of discovered URLs — to later be retrieved when a searcher is seeking information that the content on that URL is a good match for.

What is a search engine index?

Search engines process and store information they find in an index, a huge database of all the content they’ve discovered and deem good enough to serve up to searchers.

Search engine ranking

When someone performs a search, search engines scour their index for highly relevant content and then orders that content in the hopes of solving the searcher’s query. This ordering of search results by relevance is known as ranking. In general, you can assume that the higher a website is ranked, the more relevant the search engine believes that site is to the query.

It’s possible to block search engine crawlers from part or all of your site, or instruct search engines to avoid storing certain pages in their index. While there can be reasons for doing this, if you want your content found by searchers, you have to first make sure it’s accessible to crawlers and is indexable. Otherwise, it’s as good as invisible.

By the end of this chapter, you’ll have the context you need to work with the search engine, rather than against it!


In SEO, not all search engines are equal

Many beginners wonder about the relative importance of particular search engines. Most people know that Google has the largest market share, but how important it is to optimize for Bing, Yahoo, and others? The truth is that despite the existence of more than 30 major web search engines, the SEO community really only pays attention to Google. Why? The short answer is that Google is where the vast majority of people search the web. If we include Google Images, Google Maps, and YouTube (a Google property), more than 90% of web searches happen on Google — that’s nearly 20 times Bing and Yahoo combined.

Crawling: Can search engines find your pages?

As you’ve just learned, making sure your site gets crawled and indexed is a prerequisite to showing up in the SERPs. If you already have a website, it might be a good idea to start off by seeing how many of your pages are in the index. This will yield some great insights into whether Google is crawling and finding all the pages you want it to, and none that you don’t.

One way to check your indexed pages is “”, an advanced search operator. Head to Google and type “” into the search bar. This will return results Google has in its index for the site specified:

A screenshot of a search in Google, showing the number of results below the search box.

The number of results Google displays (see “About XX results” above) isn’t exact, but it does give you a solid idea of which pages are indexed on your site and how they are currently showing up in search results.

For more accurate results, monitor and use the Index Coverage report in Google Search Console. You can sign up for a free Google Search Console account if you don’t currently have one. With this tool, you can submit sitemaps for your site and monitor how many submitted pages have actually been added to Google’s index, among other things.

If you’re not showing up anywhere in the search results, there are a few possible reasons why:

  • Your site is brand new and hasn’t been crawled yet.
  • Your site isn’t linked to from any external websites.
  • Your site’s navigation makes it hard for a robot to crawl it effectively.
  • Your site contains some basic code called crawler directives that is blocking search engines.
  • Your site has been penalized by Google for spammy tactics.

Tell search engines how to crawl your site

If you used Google Search Console or the “” advanced search operator and found that some of your important pages are missing from the index and/or some of your unimportant pages have been mistakenly indexed, there are some optimizations you can implement to better direct Googlebot how you want your web content crawled. Telling search engines how to crawl your site can give you better control of what ends up in the index.

Most people think about making sure Google can find their important pages, but it’s easy to forget that there are likely pages you don’t want Googlebot to find. These might include things like old URLs that have thin content, duplicate URLs (such as sort-and-filter parameters for e-commerce), special promo code pages, staging or test pages, and so on.

To direct Googlebot away from certain pages and sections of your site, use robots.txt.


Robots.txt files are located in the root directory of websites (ex. and suggest which parts of your site search engines should and shouldn’t crawl, as well as the speed at which they crawl your site, via specific robots.txt directives.

How Googlebot treats robots.txt files

  • If Googlebot can’t find a robots.txt file for a site, it proceeds to crawl the site.
  • If Googlebot finds a robots.txt file for a site, it will usually abide by the suggestions and proceed to crawl the site.
  • If Googlebot encounters an error while trying to access a site’s robots.txt file and can’t determine if one exists or not, it won’t crawl the site.

Optimize for crawl budget!

Crawl budget is the average number of URLs Googlebot will crawl on your site before leaving, so crawl budget optimization ensures that Googlebot isn’t wasting time crawling through your unimportant pages at risk of ignoring your important pages. Crawl budget is most important on very large sites with tens of thousands of URLs, but it’s never a bad idea to block crawlers from accessing the content you definitely don’t care about. Just make sure not to block a crawler’s access to pages you’ve added other directives on, such as canonical or noindex tags. If Googlebot is blocked from a page, it won’t be able to see the instructions on that page.

Not all web robots follow robots.txt. People with bad intentions (e.g., e-mail address scrapers) build bots that don’t follow this protocol. In fact, some bad actors use robots.txt files to find where you’ve located your private content. Although it might seem logical to block crawlers from private pages such as login and administration pages so that they don’t show up in the index, placing the location of those URLs in a publicly accessible robots.txt file also means that people with malicious intent can more easily find them. It’s better to NoIndex these pages and gate them behind a login form rather than place them in your robots.txt file.

You can read more details about this in the robots.txt portion of our Learning Center.

Defining URL parameters in GSC

Some sites (most common with e-commerce) make the same content available on multiple different URLs by appending certain parameters to URLs. If you’ve ever shopped online, you’ve likely narrowed down your search via filters. For example, you may search for “shoes” on Amazon, and then refine your search by size, color, and style. Each time you refine, the URL changes slightly:

How does Google know which version of the URL to serve to searchers? Google does a pretty good job at figuring out the representative URL on its own, but you can use the URL Parameters feature in Google Search Console to tell Google exactly how you want them to treat your pages. If you use this feature to tell Googlebot “crawl no URLs with ____ parameter,” then you’re essentially asking to hide this content from Googlebot, which could result in the removal of those pages from search results. That’s what you want if those parameters create duplicate pages, but not ideal if you want those pages to be indexed.

Can crawlers find all your important content?

Now that you know some tactics for ensuring search engine crawlers stay away from your unimportant content, let’s learn about the optimizations that can help Googlebot find your important pages.

Sometimes a search engine will be able to find parts of your site by crawling, but other pages or sections might be obscured for one reason or another. It’s important to make sure that search engines are able to discover all the content you want indexed, and not just your homepage.

Ask yourself this: Can the bot crawl through your website, and not just to it?

A boarded-up door, representing a site that can be crawled to but not crawled through.

Is your content hidden behind login forms?

If you require users to log in, fill out forms, or answer surveys before accessing certain content, search engines won’t see those protected pages. A crawler is definitely not going to log in.

Are you relying on search forms?

Robots cannot use search forms. Some individuals believe that if they place a search box on their site, search engines will be able to find everything that their visitors search for.

Is text hidden within non-text content?

Non-text media forms (images, video, GIFs, etc.) should not be used to display text that you wish to be indexed. While search engines are getting better at recognizing images, there’s no guarantee they will be able to read and understand it just yet. It’s always best to add text within the <HTML> markup of your webpage.

Can search engines follow your site navigation?

Just as a crawler needs to discover your site via links from other sites, it needs a path of links on your own site to guide it from page to page. If you’ve got a page you want search engines to find but it isn’t linked to from any other pages, it’s as good as invisible. Many sites make the critical mistake of structuring their navigation in ways that are inaccessible to search engines, hindering their ability to get listed in search results.

A depiction of how pages that are linked to can be found by crawlers, whereas a page not linked to in your site navigation exists as an island, undiscoverable.

Common navigation mistakes that can keep crawlers from seeing all of your site:

  • Having a mobile navigation that shows different results than your desktop navigation
  • Any type of navigation where the menu items are not in the HTML, such as JavaScript-enabled navigations. Google has gotten much better at crawling and understanding Javascript, but it’s still not a perfect process. The more surefire way to ensure something gets found, understood, and indexed by Google is by putting it in the HTML.
  • Personalization, or showing unique navigation to a specific type of visitor versus others, could appear to be cloaking to a search engine crawler
  • Forgetting to link to a primary page on your website through your navigation — remember, links are the paths crawlers follow to new pages!

This is why it’s essential that your website has a clear navigation and helpful URL folder structures.

Do you have clean information architecture?

Information architecture is the practice of organizing and labeling content on a website to improve efficiency and findability for users. The best information architecture is intuitive, meaning that users shouldn’t have to think very hard to flow through your website or to find something.

Are you utilizing sitemaps?

A sitemap is just what it sounds like: a list of URLs on your site that crawlers can use to discover and index your content. One of the easiest ways to ensure Google is finding your highest priority pages is to create a file that meets Google’s standards and submit it through Google Search Console. While submitting a sitemap doesn’t replace the need for good site navigation, it can certainly help crawlers follow a path to all of your important pages.


Ensure that you’ve only included URLs that you want indexed by search engines, and be sure to give crawlers consistent directions. For example, don’t include a URL in your sitemap if you’ve blocked that URL via robots.txt or include URLs in your sitemap that are duplicates rather than the preferred, canonical version (we’ll provide more information on canonicalization in Chapter 5!).

If your site doesn’t have any other sites linking to it, you still might be able to get it indexed by submitting your XML sitemap in Google Search Console. There’s no guarantee they’ll include a submitted URL in their index, but it’s worth a try!

Are crawlers getting errors when they try to access your URLs?

In the process of crawling the URLs on your site, a crawler may encounter errors. You can go to Google Search Console’s “Crawl Errors” report to detect URLs on which this might be happening – this report will show you server errors and not found errors. Server log files can also show you this, as well as a treasure trove of other information such as crawl frequency, but because accessing and dissecting server log files is a more advanced tactic, we won’t discuss it at length in the Beginner’s Guide, although you can learn more about it here.

Before you can do anything meaningful with the crawl error report, it’s important to understand server errors and “not found” errors.

4xx Codes: When search engine crawlers can’t access your content due to a client error

4xx errors are client errors, meaning the requested URL contains bad syntax or cannot be fulfilled. One of the most common 4xx errors is the “404 – not found” error. These might occur because of a URL typo, deleted page, or broken redirect, just to name a few examples. When search engines hit a 404, they can’t access the URL. When users hit a 404, they can get frustrated and leave.

5xx Codes: When search engine crawlers can’t access your content due to a server error

5xx errors are server errors, meaning the server the web page is located on failed to fulfill the searcher or search engine’s request to access the page. In Google Search Console’s “Crawl Error” report, there is a tab dedicated to these errors. These typically happen because the request for the URL timed out, so Googlebot abandoned the request. View Google’s documentation to learn more about fixing server connectivity issues. 

Thankfully, there is a way to tell both searchers and search engines that your page has moved — the 301 (permanent) redirect.


Create custom 404 pages!

Customize your 404 page by adding in links to important pages on your site, a site search feature, and even contact information. This should make it less likely that visitors will bounce off your site when they hit a 404.

A depiction of redirecting one page to another.

Say you move a page from to Search engines and users need a bridge to cross from the old URL to the new. That bridge is a 301 redirect.

 When you do implement a 301:When you don’t implement a 301: 
Link EquityTransfers link equity from the page’s old location to the new URL.Without a 301, the authority from the previous URL is not passed on to the new version of the URL.
IndexingHelps Google find and index the new version of the page.The presence of 404 errors on your site alone don’t harm search performance, but letting ranking / trafficked pages 404 can result in them falling out of the index, with rankings and traffic going with them — yikes!
User ExperienceEnsures users find the page they’re looking for.Allowing your visitors to click on dead links will take them to error pages instead of the intended page, which can be frustrating.

The 301 status code itself means that the page has permanently moved to a new location, so avoid redirecting URLs to irrelevant pages — URLs where the old URL’s content doesn’t actually live. If a page is ranking for a query and you 301 it to a URL with different content, it might drop in rank position because the content that made it relevant to that particular query isn’t there anymore. 301s are powerful — move URLs responsibly!

You also have the option of 302 redirecting a page, but this should be reserved for temporary moves and in cases where passing link equity isn’t as big of a concern. 302s are kind of like a road detour. You’re temporarily siphoning traffic through a certain route, but it won’t be like that forever.


Watch out for redirect chains!

It can be difficult for Googlebot to reach your page if it has to go through multiple redirects. Google calls these “redirect chains” and they recommend limiting them as much as possible. If you redirect to, then later decide to redirect it to, it’s best to eliminate the middleman and simply redirect to

Once you’ve ensured your site is optimized for crawlability, the next order of business is to make sure it can be indexed.

Indexing: How do search engines interpret and store your pages?

Once you’ve ensured your site has been crawled, the next order of business is to make sure it can be indexed. That’s right — just because your site can be discovered and crawled by a search engine doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be stored in their index. In the previous section on crawling, we discussed how search engines discover your web pages. The index is where your discovered pages are stored. After a crawler finds a page, the search engine renders it just like a browser would. In the process of doing so, the search engine analyzes that page’s contents. All of that information is stored in its index.

A robot storing a book in a library.

Read on to learn about how indexing works and how you can make sure your site makes it into this all-important database.

Can I see how a Googlebot crawler sees my pages?

Yes, the cached version of your page will reflect a snapshot of the last time Googlebot crawled it.

Google crawls and caches web pages at different frequencies. More established, well-known sites that post frequently like will be crawled more frequently than the much-less-famous website for Roger the Mozbot’s side hustle, (if only it were real…)

You can view what your cached version of a page looks like by clicking the drop-down arrow next to the URL in the SERP and choosing “Cached”:

A screenshot of where to see cached results in the SERPs.

You can also view the text-only version of your site to determine if your important content is being crawled and cached effectively.

Are pages ever removed from the index?

Yes, pages can be removed from the index! Some of the main reasons why a URL might be removed include:

  • The URL is returning a “not found” error (4XX) or server error (5XX) – This could be accidental (the page was moved and a 301 redirect was not set up) or intentional (the page was deleted and 404ed in order to get it removed from the index)
  • The URL had a noindex meta tag added – This tag can be added by site owners to instruct the search engine to omit the page from its index.
  • The URL has been manually penalized for violating the search engine’s Webmaster Guidelines and, as a result, was removed from the index.
  • The URL has been blocked from crawling with the addition of a password required before visitors can access the page.

If you believe that a page on your website that was previously in Google’s index is no longer showing up, you can use the URL Inspection tool to learn the status of the page, or use Fetch as Google which has a “Request Indexing” feature to submit individual URLs to the index. (Bonus: GSC’s “fetch” tool also has a “render” option that allows you to see if there are any issues with how Google is interpreting your page).

Tell search engines how to index your site

Robots meta directives

Meta directives (or “meta tags”) are instructions you can give to search engines regarding how you want your web page to be treated.

You can tell search engine crawlers things like “do not index this page in search results” or “don’t pass any link equity to any on-page links”. These instructions are executed via Robots Meta Tags in the <head> of your HTML pages (most commonly used) or via the X-Robots-Tag in the HTTP header.

Robots meta tag

The robots meta tag can be used within the <head> of the HTML of your webpage. It can exclude all or specific search engines. The following are the most common meta directives, along with what situations you might apply them in.

index/noindex tells the engines whether the page should be crawled and kept in a search engines’ index for retrieval. If you opt to use “noindex,” you’re communicating to crawlers that you want the page excluded from search results. By default, search engines assume they can index all pages, so using the “index” value is unnecessary.

  • When you might use: You might opt to mark a page as “noindex” if you’re trying to trim thin pages from Google’s index of your site (ex: user generated profile pages) but you still want them accessible to visitors.

follow/nofollow tells search engines whether links on the page should be followed or nofollowed. “Follow” results in bots following the links on your page and passing link equity through to those URLs. Or, if you elect to employ “nofollow,” the search engines will not follow or pass any link equity through to the links on the page. By default, all pages are assumed to have the “follow” attribute.

  • When you might use: nofollow is often used together with noindex when you’re trying to prevent a page from being indexed as well as prevent the crawler from following links on the page.

noarchive is used to restrict search engines from saving a cached copy of the page. By default, the engines will maintain visible copies of all pages they have indexed, accessible to searchers through the cached link in the search results.

  • When you might use: If you run an e-commerce site and your prices change regularly, you might consider the noarchive tag to prevent searchers from seeing outdated pricing.

Here’s an example of a meta robots noindex, nofollow tag:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow" />

This example excludes all search engines from indexing the page and from following any on-page links. If you want to exclude multiple crawlers, like googlebot and bing for example, it’s okay to use multiple robot exclusion tags.


Meta directives affect indexing, not crawling

Googlebot needs to crawl your page in order to see its meta directives, so if you’re trying to prevent crawlers from accessing certain pages, meta directives are not the way to do it. Robots tags must be crawled to be respected.


The x-robots tag is used within the HTTP header of your URL, providing more flexibility and functionality than meta tags if you want to block search engines at scale because you can use regular expressions, block non-HTML files, and apply sitewide noindex tags.

For example, you could easily exclude entire folders or file types (like

<Files ~ “\/?no\-bake\/.*”>
 Header set X-Robots-Tag “noindex, nofollow”

The derivatives used in a robots meta tag can also be used in an X-Robots-Tag.

Or specific file types (like PDFs):

<Files ~ “\.pdf$”>
 Header set X-Robots-Tag “noindex, nofollow”

For more information on Meta Robot Tags, explore Google’s Robots Meta Tag Specifications.


WordPress tip:

In Dashboard > Settings > Reading, make sure the “Search Engine Visibility” box is not checked. This blocks search engines from coming to your site via your robots.txt file!

Understanding the different ways you can influence crawling and indexing will help you avoid the common pitfalls that can prevent your important pages from getting found.

Ranking: How do search engines rank URLs?

How do search engines ensure that when someone types a query into the search bar, they get relevant results in return? That process is known as ranking, or the ordering of search results by most relevant to least relevant to a particular query.

An artistic interpretation of ranking, with three dogs sitting pretty on first, second, and third-place pedestals.

To determine relevance, search engines use algorithms, a process or formula by which stored information is retrieved and ordered in meaningful ways. These algorithms have gone through many changes over the years in order to improve the quality of search results. Google, for example, makes algorithm adjustments every day — some of these updates are minor quality tweaks, whereas others are core/broad algorithm updates deployed to tackle a specific issue, like Penguin to tackle link spam. Check out our Google Algorithm Change History for a list of both confirmed and unconfirmed Google updates going back to the year 2000.

Why does the algorithm change so often? Is Google just trying to keep us on our toes? While Google doesn’t always reveal specifics as to why they do what they do, we do know that Google’s aim when making algorithm adjustments is to improve overall search quality. That’s why, in response to algorithm update questions, Google will answer with something along the lines of: “We’re making quality updates all the time.” This indicates that, if your site suffered after an algorithm adjustment, compare it against Google’s Quality Guidelines or Search Quality Rater Guidelines, both are very telling in terms of what search engines want.

What do search engines want?

Search engines have always wanted the same thing: to provide useful answers to searcher’s questions in the most helpful formats. If that’s true, then why does it appear that SEO is different now than in years past?

Think about it in terms of someone learning a new language.

At first, their understanding of the language is very rudimentary — “See Spot Run.” Over time, their understanding starts to deepen, and they learn semantics — the meaning behind language and the relationship between words and phrases. Eventually, with enough practice, the student knows the language well enough to even understand nuance, and is able to provide answers to even vague or incomplete questions.

When search engines were just beginning to learn our language, it was much easier to game the system by using tricks and tactics that actually go against quality guidelines. Take keyword stuffing, for example. If you wanted to rank for a particular keyword like “funny jokes,” you might add the words “funny jokes” a bunch of times onto your page, and make it bold, in hopes of boosting your ranking for that term:

Welcome to funny jokes! We tell the funniest jokes in the world. Funny jokes are fun and crazy. Your funny joke awaits. Sit back and read funny jokes because funny jokes can make you happy and funnier. Some funny favorite funny jokes.

This tactic made for terrible user experiences, and instead of laughing at funny jokes, people were bombarded by annoying, hard-to-read text. It may have worked in the past, but this is never what search engines wanted.

The role links play in SEO

When we talk about links, we could mean two things. Backlinks or “inbound links” are links from other websites that point to your website, while internal links are links on your own site that point to your other pages (on the same site).

A depiction of how inbound links and internal links work.

Links have historically played a big role in SEO. Very early on, search engines needed help figuring out which URLs were more trustworthy than others to help them determine how to rank search results. Calculating the number of links pointing to any given site helped them do this.

Backlinks work very similarly to real-life WoM (Word-of-Mouth) referrals. Let’s take a hypothetical coffee shop, Jenny’s Coffee, as an example:

  • Referrals from others = good sign of authority
    • Example: Many different people have all told you that Jenny’s Coffee is the best in town
  • Referrals from yourself = biased, so not a good sign of authority
    • Example: Jenny claims that Jenny’s Coffee is the best in town
  • Referrals from irrelevant or low-quality sources = not a good sign of authority and could even get you flagged for spam
    • Example: Jenny paid to have people who have never visited her coffee shop tell others how good it is.
  • No referrals = unclear authority
    • Example: Jenny’s Coffee might be good, but you’ve been unable to find anyone who has an opinion so you can’t be sure.

This is why PageRank was created. PageRank (part of Google’s core algorithm) is a link analysis algorithm named after one of Google’s founders, Larry Page. PageRank estimates the importance of a web page by measuring the quality and quantity of links pointing to it. The assumption is that the more relevant, important, and trustworthy a web page is, the more links it will have earned.

The more natural backlinks you have from high-authority (trusted) websites, the better your odds are to rank higher within search results.

The role content plays in SEO

There would be no point to links if they didn’t direct searchers to something. That something is content! Content is more than just words; it’s anything meant to be consumed by searchers — there’s video content, image content, and of course, text. If search engines are answer machines, content is the means by which the engines deliver those answers.

Any time someone performs a search, there are thousands of possible results, so how do search engines decide which pages the searcher is going to find valuable? A big part of determining where your page will rank for a given query is how well the content on your page matches the query’s intent. In other words, does this page match the words that were searched and help fulfill the task the searcher was trying to accomplish?

Because of this focus on user satisfaction and task accomplishment, there’s no strict benchmarks on how long your content should be, how many times it should contain a keyword, or what you put in your header tags. All those can play a role in how well a page performs in search, but the focus should be on the users who will be reading the content.

Today, with hundreds or even thousands of ranking signals, the top three have stayed fairly consistent: links to your website (which serve as a third-party credibility signals), on-page content (quality content that fulfills a searcher’s intent), and RankBrain.

What is RankBrain?

RankBrain is the machine learning component of Google’s core algorithm. Machine learning is a computer program that continues to improve its predictions over time through new observations and training data. In other words, it’s always learning, and because it’s always learning, search results should be constantly improving.

For example, if RankBrain notices a lower ranking URL providing a better result to users than the higher ranking URLs, you can bet that RankBrain will adjust those results, moving the more relevant result higher and demoting the lesser relevant pages as a byproduct.

An image showing how results can change and are volatile enough to show different rankings even hours later.

Like most things with the search engine, we don’t know exactly what comprises RankBrain, but apparently, neither do the folks at Google.

What does this mean for SEOs?

Because Google will continue leveraging RankBrain to promote the most relevant, helpful content, we need to focus on fulfilling searcher intent more than ever before. Provide the best possible information and experience for searchers who might land on your page, and you’ve taken a big first step to performing well in a RankBrain world.

Engagement metrics: correlation, causation, or both?

With Google rankings, engagement metrics are most likely part correlation and part causation.

When we say engagement metrics, we mean data that represents how searchers interact with your site from search results. This includes things like:

  • Clicks (visits from search)
  • Time on page (amount of time the visitor spent on a page before leaving it)
  • Bounce rate (the percentage of all website sessions where users viewed only one page)
  • Pogo-sticking (clicking on an organic result and then quickly returning to the SERP to choose another result)

Many tests, including Moz’s own ranking factor survey, have indicated that engagement metrics correlate with higher ranking, but causation has been hotly debated. Are good engagement metrics just indicative of highly ranked sites? Or are sites ranked highly because they possess good engagement metrics?

What Google has said

While they’ve never used the term “direct ranking signal,” Google has been clear that they absolutely use click data to modify the SERP for particular queries.

According to Google’s former Chief of Search Quality, Udi Manber:

“The ranking itself is affected by the click data. If we discover that, for a particular query, 80% of people click on #2 and only 10% click on #1, after a while we figure out probably #2 is the one people want, so we’ll switch it.”

Another comment from former Google engineer Edmond Lau corroborates this:

“It’s pretty clear that any reasonable search engine would use click data on their own results to feed back into ranking to improve the quality of search results. The actual mechanics of how click data is used is often proprietary, but Google makes it obvious that it uses click data with its patents on systems like rank-adjusted content items.”

Because Google needs to maintain and improve search quality, it seems inevitable that engagement metrics are more than correlation, but it would appear that Google falls short of calling engagement metrics a “ranking signal” because those metrics are used to improve search quality, and the rank of individual URLs is just a byproduct of that.

What tests have confirmed

Various tests have confirmed that Google will adjust SERP order in response to searcher engagement:

  • Rand Fishkin’s 2014 test resulted in a #7 result moving up to the #1 spot after getting around 200 people to click on the URL from the SERP. Interestingly, ranking improvement seemed to be isolated to the location of the people who visited the link. The rank position spiked in the US, where many participants were located, whereas it remained lower on the page in Google Canada, Google Australia, etc.
  • Larry Kim’s comparison of top pages and their average dwell time pre- and post-RankBrain seemed to indicate that the machine-learning component of Google’s algorithm demotes the rank position of pages that people don’t spend as much time on.
  • Darren Shaw’s testing has shown user behavior’s impact on local search and map pack results as well.

Since user engagement metrics are clearly used to adjust the SERPs for quality, and rank position changes as a byproduct, it’s safe to say that SEOs should optimize for engagement. Engagement doesn’t change the objective quality of your web page, but rather your value to searchers relative to other results for that query. That’s why, after no changes to your page or its backlinks, it could decline in rankings if searchers’ behaviors indicates they like other pages better.

In terms of ranking web pages, engagement metrics act like a fact-checker. Objective factors such as links and content first rank the page, then engagement metrics help Google adjust if they didn’t get it right.

The evolution of search results

Back when search engines lacked a lot of the sophistication they have today, the term “10 blue links” was coined to describe the flat structure of the SERP. Any time a search was performed, Google would return a page with 10 organic results, each in the same format.

A screenshot of what a 10-blue-links SERP looks like.

In this search landscape, holding the #1 spot was the holy grail of SEO. But then something happened. Google began adding results in new formats on their search result pages, called SERP features. Some of these SERP features include:

  • Paid advertisements
  • Featured snippets
  • People Also Ask boxes
  • Local (map) pack
  • Knowledge panel
  • Sitelinks

And Google is adding new ones all the time. They even experimented with “zero-result SERPs,” a phenomenon where only one result from the Knowledge Graph was displayed on the SERP with no results below it except for an option to “view more results.”

The addition of these features caused some initial panic for two main reasons. For one, many of these features caused organic results to be pushed down further on the SERP. Another byproduct is that fewer searchers are clicking on the organic results since more queries are being answered on the SERP itself.

So why would Google do this? It all goes back to the search experience. User behavior indicates that some queries are better satisfied by different content formats. Notice how the different types of SERP features match the different types of query intents.

Query IntentPossible SERP Feature Triggered
InformationalFeatured snippet
Informational with one answerKnowledge Graph / instant answer
LocalMap pack

We’ll talk more about intent in Chapter 3, but for now, it’s important to know that answers can be delivered to searchers in a wide array of formats, and how you structure your content can impact the format in which it appears in search.

Localized search

A search engine like Google has its own proprietary index of local business listings, from which it creates local search results.

If you are performing local SEO work for a business that has a physical location customers can visit (ex: dentist) or for a business that travels to visit their customers (ex: plumber), make sure that you claim, verify, and optimize a free Google My Business Listing.

When it comes to localized search results, Google uses three main factors to determine ranking:

  1. Relevance
  2. Distance
  3. Prominence


Relevance is how well a local business matches what the searcher is looking for. To ensure that the business is doing everything it can to be relevant to searchers, make sure the business’ information is thoroughly and accurately filled out.


Google use your geo-location to better serve you local results. Local search results are extremely sensitive to proximity, which refers to the location of the searcher and/or the location specified in the query (if the searcher included one).

Organic search results are sensitive to a searcher’s location, though seldom as pronounced as in local pack results.


With prominence as a factor, Google is looking to reward businesses that are well-known in the real world. In addition to a business’ offline prominence, Google also looks to some online factors to determine local ranking, such as:


The number of Google reviews a local business receives, and the sentiment of those reviews, have a notable impact on their ability to rank in local results.


A “business citation” or “business listing” is a web-based reference to a local business’ “NAP” (name, address, phone number) on a localized platform (Yelp, Acxiom, YP, Infogroup, Localeze, etc.).

Local rankings are influenced by the number and consistency of local business citations. Google pulls data from a wide variety of sources in continuously making up its local business index. When Google finds multiple consistent references to a business’s name, location, and phone number it strengthens Google’s “trust” in the validity of that data. This then leads to Google being able to show the business with a higher degree of confidence. Google also uses information from other sources on the web, such as links and articles.

Organic ranking

SEO best practices also apply to local SEO, since Google also considers a website’s position in organic search results when determining local ranking.

In the next chapter, you’ll learn on-page best practices that will help Google and users better understand your content.

[Bonus!] Local engagement

Although not listed by Google as a local ranking factor, the role of engagement is only going to increase as time goes on. Google continues to enrich local results by incorporating real-world data like popular times to visit and average length of visits…


Curious about a certain local business’ citation accuracy? Moz has a free tool that can help out, aptly named Check Listing.

A screenshot of the "popular times to visit" result in local search.

…and even provides searchers with the ability to ask the business questions!

A screenshot of the Questions & Answers result in local search.

Undoubtedly now more than ever before, local results are being influenced by real-world data. This interactivity is how searchers interact with and respond to local businesses, rather than purely static (and game-able) information like links and citations.

Since Google wants to deliver the best, most relevant local businesses to searchers, it makes perfect sense for them to use real time engagement metrics to determine quality and relevance.


You don’t have to know the ins and outs of Google’s algorithm (that remains a mystery!), but by now you should have a great baseline knowledge of how the search engine finds, interprets, stores, and ranks content. Armed with that knowledge, let’s learn about choosing the keywords your content will target in Chapter 3 (Keyword Research)!

Chapter 3


Understand what your audience wants to find.

Now that you’ve learned how to show up in search results, let’s determine which strategic keywords to target in your website’s content, and how to craft that content to satisfy both users and search engines.

The power of keyword research lies in better understanding your target market and how they are searching for your content, services, or products.

Keyword research provides you with specific search data that can help you answer questions like:

  • What are people searching for?
  • How many people are searching for it?
  • In what format do they want that information?

In this chapter, you’ll get tools and strategies for uncovering that information, as well as learn tactics that’ll help you avoid keyword research foibles and build strong content. Once you uncover how your target audience is searching for your content, you begin to uncover a whole new world of strategic SEO!

Before keyword research, ask questions

Before you can help a business grow through search engine optimization, you first have to understand who they are, who their customers are, and their goals.

This is where corners are often cut. Too many people bypass this crucial planning step because keyword research takes time, and why spend the time when you already know what you want to rank for?

The answer is that what you want to rank for and what your audience actually wants are often two wildly different things. Focusing on your audience and then using keyword data to hone those insights will make for much more successful campaigns than focusing on arbitrary keywords.

Here’s an example. Frankie & Jo’s (a Seattle-based vegan, gluten-free ice cream shop) has heard about SEO and wants help improving how and how often they show up in organic search results. In order to help them, you need to first understand a little more about their customers. To do so, you might ask questions such as:

  • What types of ice cream, desserts, snacks, etc. are people searching for?
  • Who is searching for these terms?
  • When are people searching for ice cream, snacks, desserts, etc.?
    • Are there seasonality trends throughout the year?
  • How are people searching for ice cream?
    • What words do they use?
    • What questions do they ask?
    • Are more searches performed on mobile devices?
  • Why are people seeking ice cream?
    • Are individuals looking for health-conscious ice cream specifically or just looking to satisfy a sweet tooth?
  • Where are potential customers located — locally, nationally, or internationally?

And finally — here’s the kicker — how can you help provide the best content about ice cream to cultivate a community and fulfill what all those people are searching for? Asking these questions is a crucial planning step that will guide your keyword research and help you craft better content.


What’s that word mean?

Remember, if you’re stumped by any of the terms used in this chapter, our SEO glossary is here to help!

What terms are people searching for?

You may have a way of describing what you do, but how does your audience search for the product, service, or information you provide? Answering this question is a crucial first step in the keyword research process.

Discovering keywords

You likely have a few keywords in mind that you would like to rank for. These will be things like your products, services, or other topics your website addresses, and they are great seed keywords for your research, so start there! You can enter those keywords into a keyword research tool to discover average monthly search volume and similar keywords. We’ll get into search volume in greater depth in the next section, but during the discovery phase, it can help you determine which variations of your keywords are most popular amongst searchers.

Once you enter in your seed keywords into a keyword research tool, you will begin to discover other keywords, common questions, and topics for your content that you might have otherwise missed.

Let’s use the example of a florist that specializes in weddings.

Typing “wedding” and “florist” into a keyword research tool, you may discover highly relevant, highly searched for related terms such as:

  • Wedding bouquets
  • Bridal flowers
  • Wedding flower shop

In the process of discovering relevant keywords for your content, you will likely notice that the search volume of those keywords varies greatly. While you definitely want to target terms that your audience is searching for, in some cases, it may be more advantageous to target terms with lower search volume because they’re far less competitive.

Since both high- and low-competition keywords can be advantageous for your website, learning more about search volume can help you prioritize keywords and pick the ones that will give your website the biggest strategic advantage.


We’ve got a tool for that

Moz has a free tool that can help you discover and analyze keywords. When you’re ready to get your hands dirty with keyword research, give it a try!



It’s important to note that entire websites don’t rank for keywords — pagesdo. With big brands, we often see the homepage ranking for many keywords, but for most websites this isn’t usually the case. Many websites receive more organic traffic to pages other than the homepage, which is why it’s so important to diversify your website’s pages by optimizing each for uniquely valuable keywords.

How often are those terms searched?

Uncovering search volume

The higher the search volume for a given keyword or keyword phrase, the more work is typically required to achieve higher rankings. This is often referred to as keyword difficulty and occasionally incorporates SERP features; for example, if many SERP features (like featured snippets, knowledge graph, carousels, etc) are clogging up a keyword’s result page, difficulty will increase. Big brands often take up the top 10 results for high-volume keywords, so if you’re just starting out on the web and going after the same keywords, the uphill battle for ranking can take years of effort.

Typically, the higher the search volume, the greater the competition and effort required to achieve organic ranking success. Go too low, though, and you risk not drawing any searchers to your site. In many cases, it may be most advantageous to target highly specific, lower competition search terms. In SEO, we call those long-tail keywords.

Understanding the long tail

It would be great to rank #1 for the keyword “shoes”… or would it?

It’s wonderful to deal with keywords that have 50,000 searches a month, or even 5,000 searches a month, but in reality, these popular search terms only make up a fraction of all searches performed on the web. In fact, keywords with very high search volumes may even indicate ambiguous intent, which, if you target these terms, it could put you at risk for drawing visitors to your site whose goals don’t match the content your page provides.

Does the searcher want to know the nutritional value of pizza? Order a pizza? Find a restaurant to take their family? Google doesn’t know, so they offer these features to help you refine. Targeting “pizza” means that you’re likely casting too wide a net.

If you’re searching for “pizza,” Google thinks you may also be interested in “cheese.” They’re not wrong…

Was your intent to find a pizza place for lunch? The “Discover more places” SERP feature has that covered.

The remaining 75% lie in the “chunky middle” and “long tail” of search.

A depiction of the search demand curve, showing the 'fat head' (top keywords with high traffic and competition), the 'chunky middle' (medium keywords with medium traffic and competition), and the 'long tail' (less popular and longer keyword phrases with less traffic and lower competition)

Don’t underestimate these less popular keywords. Long tail keywords with lower search volume often convert better, because searchers are more specific and intentional in their searches. For example, a person searching for “shoes” is probably just browsing. On the other hand, someone searching for “best price red womens size 7 running shoe” practically has their wallet out!


Questions are SEO gold!

Discovering what questions people are asking in your space — and adding those questions and their answers to an FAQ page — can yield incredible organic traffic for your website.

Getting strategic with search volume

Now that you’ve discovered relevant search terms for your site and their corresponding search volumes, you can get even more strategic by looking at your competitors and figuring out how searches might differ by season or location.

Keywords by competitor

You’ll likely compile a lot of keywords. How do you know which to tackle first? It could be a good idea to prioritize high-volume keywords that your competitors are not currently ranking for. On the flip side, you could also see which keywords from your list your competitors are already ranking for and prioritize those. The former is great when you want to take advantage of your competitors’ missed opportunities, while the latter is an aggressive strategy that sets you up to compete for keywords your competitors are already performing well for.

Keywords by season

Knowing about seasonal trends can be advantageous in setting a content strategy. For example, if you know that “christmas box” starts to spike in October through December in the United Kingdom, you can prepare content months in advance and give it a big push around those months.

Keywords by region

You can more strategically target a specific location by narrowing down your keyword research to specific towns, counties, or states in the Google Keyword Planner, or evaluate “interest by subregion” in Google Trends. Geo-specific research can help make your content more relevant to your target audience. For example, you might find out that in Texas, the preferred term for a large truck is “big rig,” while in New York, “tractor trailer” is the preferred terminology.

Which format best suits the searcher’s intent?

In Chapter 2, we learned about SERP features. That background is going to help us understand how searchers want to consume information for a particular keyword. The format in which Google chooses to display search results depends on intent, and every query has a unique one. Google describes these intents in their Quality Rater Guidelines as either “know” (find information), “do” (accomplish a goal), “website” (find a specific website), or “visit-in-person” (visit a local business).

While there are thousands of possible search types, let’s take a closer look at five major categories of intent:

1.Informational queries: The searcher needs information, such as the name of a band or the height of the Empire State Building.


If you’re enjoying this chapter so far, be sure to check out the Keyword Research episode of our One-Hour Guide to SEO video series!

A screenshot of the SERP feature result for the query 'who sings sweet caroline' (the answer is Neil Diamond.)

2. Navigational queries: The searcher wants to go to a particular place on the Internet, such as Facebook or the homepage of the NFL.

A screenshot of the query 'moz blog' and resulting SERP.

3. Transactional queries: The searcher wants to do something, such as buy a plane ticket or listen to a song.

A screenshot of the query 'plane tickets to seattle' and resulting SERP.

4. Commercial investigation: The searcher wants to compare products and find the best one for their specific needs.

A screenshot of the query 'ps4 vs ps4 pro' and resulting SERP.

5. Local queries: The searcher wants to find something locally, such as a nearby coffee shop, doctor, or music venue.

A screenshot of the query 'coffee shop near me' and resulting SERP with local results.

An important step in the keyword research process is surveying the SERP landscape for the keyword you want to target in order to get a better gauge of searcher intent. If you want to know what type of content your target audience wants, look to the SERPs!

Google has closely evaluated the behavior of trillions of searches in an attempt to provide the most desired content for each specific keyword search.

Take the search “dresses,” for example:

A screenshot of the query 'dresses' and resulting carousel.

By the shopping carousel, you can infer that Google has determined many people who search for “dresses” want to shop for dresses online.

A screenshot of the local results for the query 'dresses.'

There is also a Local Pack feature for this keyword, indicating Google’s desire to help searchers who may be looking for local dress retailers.

A screenshot of the Refine By results for the query 'dresses.'

If the query is ambiguous, Google will also sometimes include the “refine by” feature to help searchers specify what they’re looking for further. By doing so, the search engine can provide results that better help the searcher accomplish their task.

Google has a wide array of result types it can serve up depending on the query, so if you’re going to target a keyword, look to the SERP to understand what type of content you need to create.

Tools for determining the value of a keyword

How much value would a keyword add to your website? These tools can help you answer that question, so they’d make great additions to your keyword research arsenal:

  • Moz Keyword Explorer – Input a keyword in Keyword Explorer and get information like monthly search volume and SERP features (like local packs or featured snippets) that are ranking for that term. The tool extracts accurate search volume data by using live clickstream data. To learn more about how we’re producing our keyword data, check out Announcing Keyword Explorer.
    • Bonus! Keyword Explorer’s “Difficulty” score can also help you narrow down your keyword options to the phrases you have the best shot at ranking for. The higher a keyword’s score, the more difficult it would be to rank for that term. More about Keyword Difficulty.
  • Google Keyword Planner – Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner has historically been the most common starting point for SEO keyword research. However, Keyword Planner does restrict search volume data by lumping keywords together into large search volume range buckets. To learn more, check out Google Keyword Planner’s Dirty Secrets.
  • Google Trends – Google’s keyword trend tool is great for finding seasonal keyword fluctuations. For example, “funny halloween costume ideas” will peak in the weeks before Halloween.
  • AnswerThePublic – This free tool populates commonly searched for questions around a specific keyword. Bonus! You can use this tool in tandem with another free tool, Keywords Everywhere, to prioritize ATP’s suggestions by search volume.
  • SpyFu Keyword Research Tool – Provides some really neat competitive keyword data.
  • Google Correlate – In Google’s own words, Google Correlate “is like Google Trends in reverse.” This free tool allows you to see queries whose frequency follows a similar pattern to your keyword.

Download our free keyword research template!

Keyword research can yield a ton of data. Stay organized by downloading our free keyword research template. Customize the template to fit your unique needs. Happy keyword researching!


Now that you know how to uncover what your target audience is searching for and how often, it’s time to move onto the next step: crafting pages in a way that users will love and search engines can understand. Head to Chapter 4 (On-Site Optimization)!


Nootropics – sometimes called smart drugs – are compounds that enhance brain function. They’re becoming a popular way to give your mind an extra boost. According to one Telegraph report, up to 25% of students at leading UK universities have taken the prescription smart drug modafinil [1], and California tech startup employees are trying everything from Adderall to LSD to push their brains into a higher gear [2].

I’ve been actively benefitting from nootropics since 1997, when I was struggling with cognitive performance and ordered almost $1000 worth of smart drugs from Europe (the only place where you could get them at the time). I remember opening the unmarked brown package and wondering whether the pharmaceuticals and natural substances would really enhance my brain.

They did, and I’ve been a big fan of certain cognitive enhancers ever since.

I’m wary of others, though. The trouble with using a blanket term like “nootropics” is that you lump all kinds of substances in together. Technically, you could argue that caffeine and cocaine are both nootropics, but they’re hardly equal. With so many ways to enhance your brain function, many of which have significant risks, it’s most valuable to look at nootropics on a case-by-case basis. Here’s a list of 13 nootropics, along with my thoughts on each.

1) Modafinil (Provigil), armodafinil (Nuvigil), and adrafinil – focus, motivation, clarity, memory


I started taking modafinil while getting my MBA at Wharton. At the same time, I was also working at a start-up that later sold for $600 million in value, so you can imagine how busy I was. I wanted a way to keep my brain running.

When I first started taking modafinil, I felt more like myself than I had in years. I took it just about every day in varying doses for 8 years (with a physician’s prescription). It gave me energy and changed my life. I would not be the biohacker I am today without modafinil.

When I worked on the Bulletproof Diet book, I wanted to verify that the effects I was getting from Bulletproof Coffee were not coming from modafinil, so I stopped using it and measured my cognitive performance while I was off of it. What I found was that on Bulletproof Coffee and the Bulletproof Diet, my mental performance was almost identical to my performance on modafinil. I still travel with modafinil, and I’ll take it on occasion, but while living a Bulletproof lifestyle I rarely feel the need.

There’s a slight risk (about 5 in a million people) of having a life-threatening immune reaction to modafinil. It’s the same reaction that happens with ibuprofen and other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), so if you know you don’t react well to NSAIDs, talk to your doctor before taking modafinil.

One reason I like modafinil is that it enhances dopamine release, but it binds to your dopamine receptors differently than addictive substances like cocaine and amphetamines do, which may be part of the reason modafinil shares many of the benefits of other stimulants but doesn’t cause addiction or withdrawal symptoms. [3] [4] It does increase focus, problem-solving abilities, and wakefulness, but it is not in the same class of drugs as Adderall, and it is not a classical stimulant. Modafinil is off of patent, so you can get it generically, or order it from India. It’s a prescription drug, so you need to talk to a physician.

You can also try armodafinil, which is a more purified form of modafinil with only biologically identical molecules in it. It has nearly identical and sometimes stronger effects. It’s very expensive without insurance.

If you don’t want to get a prescription, there’s adrafinil, which has similarities, but I wouldn’t recommend taking it regularly because it stresses your liver a lot.

Normally prescribed modafinil dose: 50-200 mg, taken in the morning (unless you want to be awake all night)

Normally prescribed armodafinil dose: 100-200 mg, taken in the morning

Adrafinil dose: 300 mg, taken in the morning

2) Nicotine – focus, mood, motivation


Nicotine can be a powerful nootropic if you take it carefully and sparingly. Here’s a full guide to using nicotine as a nootropic, complete with pros and cons, risks, dose recommendations, and advice about what form of nicotine to use.

I do NOT recommend smoking cigarettes or using tobacco to get your nicotine. I’m talking about very small doses that are far lower than you’d get from smoking. Nicotine has a direct effect on your mitochondrial energy, and just about anything that increases mitochondrial function is going to make your brain work better.

3) Amphetamine (Adderall) – focus…but with high risk and several drawbacks


Big Pharma has recommended amphetamine (Adderall) for ADHD sufferers for years now. It’s also popular on college campuses around exam time. Too bad, because there are much better choices.

Amphetamine has substantial risks. In healthy adults, it improves attention, focus, motivation to work, and short-term memory, all by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine release in your prefrontal cortex. [5] [6] Amphetamine also decreases fatigue, but it makes you jittery and can increase anxiety.

What worries me about amphetamine is its addictive potential, and the fact that it can cause stress and anxiety. Research says it’s only slightly likely to cause addiction in people with ADHD, [7] but we don’t know much about its addictive potential in healthy adults. We all know the addictive potential of methamphetamine, and amphetamine is closely related enough to make me nervous about so many people giving it to their children. Amphetamines cause withdrawal symptoms, so the potential for addiction is there.

If you want a stimulant, drink coffee.

151: How to Build a “Cult-ure” Like Following Resulting in 10’s of Millions of Annual Recurring Revenue with Russell Brunson


Subscribe to The Podcast on iTunesSoundcloudStitcher and Spotify

Russell Brunson, Owner of ClickFunnels

Click here to Skip to the podcast Transcription

Making it Click: How ClickFunnels’ Founder Russell Brunson Built a Multi-Million Dollar Movement

Learn how this passionate godfather of the modern sales funnel created a more than just a company – he created a movement.

Russell Brunson was just a guy in Boise, Idaho. A town known more for its potatoes than it’s startup culture. Yet as a college student and wrestler at Boise State University, he built a foundation that led to selling more than a million dollars of products in his first year after graduation and became the genesis of ClickFunnels.

Eager to make his own way and cut his parent’s purse strings, Brunson looked for ways to make money online while still a university student. He sold potato gun DVDs and created websites for everything from couponing to dating. He confesses that while he did not know it at the time, what he was really building was a sales funnel.

And Then One Day it Clicked…

russell brunson

It was not the sale of products that had become his obsession but the study of consumer behavior. He gathered up his co-founders and the group spent a solid week in front of a white board mapping out the concepts for ClickFunnels. At its core, the company had to address two things:

  1. Making sales funnels work better
  2. Training others to get as much out of their funnels as possible

In the early days, Brunson funded the venture through the sale of his online products. This kept him seriously interested in every dollar they spent to acquire a customer. At one point, ClickFunnels was paying $120.00 for every free trial download through Facebook, money that came directly out of Brunson’s wallet. For a company that is experiencing serious growth, this is music to a VC’s ears but not to Brunson, he turned off the ads. “I’m not going to pay $120.00 out of my own pocket for a customer!” he recalls.

Practicing What We Preach

Instead of taking on investors (and there were some offers) the ClickFunnels team doubled down on their own brand of funding – funnels. “We have had a couple VCs that want to give us money. funny because they just don’t understand our model. They don’t understand how the whole thing works” Brunson says, “our software makes it so we don’t have to do things like that.”

The ClickFunnels team created front-end funnels to fuel their growth. The company now has over one hundred employees and 36,000 members and is still “insanely profitable.” Every paid customer acquisition results in direct profit. “We did it smarter. We practice what we preach” Brunson says proudly.

This “eat what you kill” mentality is alive and well within ClickFunnels and it helps the company retain the best talent. Brunson recognizes that those with an entrepreneur mindset are very best type of employee to have but also the hardest to keep. “Entrepreneurs works the hardest and they have the talent, skills, ability, and work ethic but as soon as they figure it out they are gone.” To keep this from happening, he cultivates an entrepreneurship culture at ClickFunnels that ensures his top employees see growth as a direct result of their work.

russell brunson

The ClickFunnels Cult

ClickFunnels is more than just a tool or a company. Thanks to Brunson’s efforts, its community has become its greatest asset. “A software company is cool but there is no soul around a software company…I want to build a movement, a culture” Brunson says. This led to an in-depth look at mass movements and cults during which Brunson studied Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement, Jesus Christ and Christianity, and Steve Jobs and Apple.

He discovered that each had three core things in common:

  1. A charismatic leader
  2. A focus on the future
  3. An offer of a new opportunity

Every movement has to have someone in charge – a physical person that can grip their audience and deliver the message. Obviously, for ClickFunnels, this is Brunson. Focusing on the future gives everyone in the group the feeling of being on a journey together. To determine what this future should look like, Brunson looked to his own experience as an entrepreneur.

While still in college, Brunson had the goal of making $1000.00 a month from his online ventures. Then he met Traffic Secrets author John Reese and learned that Reese generated over a million dollars in the 18 hours following his book launch. “He broke the four minute mile for me…how do we create something that breaks the four minute mile for our customers” Brunson says. The Two Comma Club was born. At large events, Brunson hands out trophies to every ClickFunnels member with a sales funnels that breaks a million. The Club made it real and now everyone wants in.

Next, Brunson threw out every word that ends in –er. A new opportunity is not a way to do something “better” it is something that is completely new. “For me to admit that you are going to make me better, I also have to admit that I suck at that thing,” Brunson says. Who wants to start the sales process there? To offer something new, get rid of everything that came before and start over. That is what the company’s product does – it offers a completely new way to look at the sales process.

To round out the movement, the ClickFunnels team is continually giving away t-shirts that generate excitement and keep their members connected. Every member of the ClickFunnels community feels like they are a part of something amazing – the sales process doesn’t get much better than that.

What’s next for Brunson and ClickFunnels? Expect to see more amazing stuff because Brunson is a founder that is truly passionate about building his empire, “it’s been the most rewarding thing ever…I love it,” he says.

russell brunson

Becoming an Expert

What does it take to find your message, build a tribe, and change the world? Brunson shares his tricks!

  1. Live the life your audience wishes to live. “People will follow you because you have completed the journey they are on right now, and they want the result you’ve already achieved. They want to become like you.”
  2. Give them a vision. People want to plug into something bigger than themselves. Your job is to create that vision. Give them something they can place their faith and hope in. Change their perception of what’s possible. Help them identify with who they are in your group.
  3. Give them a new opportunity. Most people have tried to improve in the past and it didn’t work. They don’t want to be reminded of that pain. Instead, give them something brand new. People always believe “the grass is greener on the other side.” Offer to help people move away from their painful situation into a brand new situation.

Persuasion 101

Are you having a hard time persuading people to buy into what you’re doing? If so, it’s probably because they don’t believe you. Here are Brunson’s 4 keys to creating belief:

  1. Focus on only ONE thing. The more things you ask people to believe, the less likely they’ll take action.
  2. Use stories. You have to get people to have the same experience you did when you experienced your epiphany. Avoid using “techno babble” that they won’t understand. Go back to the beginning and tell them how you first discovered what you’re so excited about today.
  3. Help them overcome their doubts. Once people understand the new opportunity, their next reaction is usually to doubt that it will work for them. Tell another story about how you were nothing special when you started but it still worked for you.
  4. Show them how to get started. Even if people believe in your new opportunity they will tend to believe that they can’t get started due to a lack of money or other resource. Tell them another story to show them how they can still succeed even if they’re starting from scratch.

Key Takeaways

  • The key to building an effective sales funnel
  • How to inspire and build a community around your brand
  • What qualities you need to be a leader who inspires
  • Why the best way to understand your market is to be your own customer
  • How to find and keep A-players on your team

Full Transcript of the Podcast with Russell Brunson

Nathan: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Foundr Podcast. My name is Nathan Chan, and I’m the CEO and publisher of Foundr Magazine. And I’m coming to you from Melbourne, Australia. Hometown, homegrown. Boy, do I love this place. Jeez, I just love Melbourne so much. It’s why I say it. I say it with pride.

All right. So, let’s talk about today’s guest. His name is Russell Brunson, a very, very smart SaaS online entrepreneur. One thing I can tell you is I spent a lot of time, as you guys know, just speaking to very, very smart people. And also, like, you know, with the stuff that we do at Foundr, I study a lot of pieces of software, I study a lot of businesses. And, you know, this is businesses in all sorts of different industries as well, not just online, offline, brick and mortar, e-Commerce, apps, you name it.

And I’m always thinking and looking and watching businesses grow, and Russell Brunson is the founder of a company called ClickFunnels. Now, we are a paid customer of ClickFunnels. I love that software. It’s absolutely killer. Cannot recommend it enough. And another thing I will tell you, also, is he’s grown that company at an extremely rapid rate. It’s only been going for a couple of years and they’re doing tens of millions of dollars in annual recurring revenue, which is absolutely insane for a SaaS company to grow that fast. They’re self-funded.  And Russell is just a master of growth, a master of sales, a master of, you know, positioning offers and also building a very, very loyal tribe. When I’ve seen what he’s done with ClickFunnels, and just building a cult following, it’s absolutely insane. And I just think you guys are in for an absolute treat.

He has launched a book about this as well, about how he’s built a cult following around his brand and a movement. He started an absolute revolution around funnel hacking, building funnels. And it’s something that you definitely wanna consider. And one thing I will tell you is at Foundr, one thing that we’re thinking about always now, is when somebody goes through the purchasing process, let’s say you subscribe to the magazine, for example, that breathes another opportunity to raise your average order value. Now, this is not, you know, internet markety, scammy, salesy stuff. Very, very big businesses do these kinds of things all day every day, where they try and raise average order value. And just while you’ve captured a customer’s attention, there’s more likely a chance to let them know about other products or services that you have. There’s a much higher chance that they’re gonna be interested.

You look at, like, Vistaprint, the business card service that hits you with so many different upsells, downsells, cross-sells, it’s insane. You look at Amazon. Many of these companies do this, and it’s very, very smart. And ClickFunnels, and also Russell, is a big proponent of, you know, adding a lot of different items to the sales process, upsells, downsells, cross-sales to increase your average order value, especially if you’re paying to acquire a customer. So, you’re doing Facebook ads, you know, Google AdWords, paying for traffic. It’s something to think about because on the front end, Russell, you know, for every $1 he spends, he makes, I think, $8 or $16 or something along those lines. So, you can see how he starts to build a profitable business very, very fast and how he scales that. He just spends, spends, spends. So, you know, that’s another thing I’m learning about scaling a company, you have to have, you know, some form of paid acquisition as part of one of your channels once you take it to multiple seven figures or seven figures plus. It’s just how you get to the next level, it’s how you get to 5 million, it’s how you get to 10 million. You have to be able to scale, also, via paid acquisition.

All right. So that’s enough rambling from me. If you are enjoying these episodes, please do take the time to leave us a review on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify. Wherever you’re listening, it would help more than you could imagine. Also, make sure if you are enjoying this, please do let one of your friends, I know that you must have friends that are founders, friends that are new to entrepreneurship and business. Please, let them know, it helps us grow. I am on a mission to build a household name, entrepreneurial brand which impacts the lives of tens of millions of founders all around the world, and I can’t do it without your help. All right, guys, that’s it from me. Now, let’s jump into the show.

The first question I ask everyone that comes on is, how did you get your job?

Russell: My job, my current job, I guess, so…I’ve never been asked in that way before. You know, when I got started in this business, I was wrestling in college and I started trying to learn how to figure out how to make money online. And I was…interesting. I was building, I didn’t know it at the time we were building funnels. I build a potato gun website, we were selling potato gun DVDs. We built ones in the couponing market, and the dating market, and the weight loss and a bunch of different…these funnels. And it became kind of an obsession for us, for me and my team for, probably like, eight or nine years or so. And then I found some amazing partners who…one day, we sat down, we had this idea for this thing that’s become…today, it’s called ClickFunnels. We kinda had an idea for this project, and we sat in front of a whiteboard for a week, we mapped out the concepts, and we launched this thing. And, you know, it was about two and a half years ago that it went live. Now, that’s my job, I guess, is being the CEO, whatever, the head of ClickFunnels.

It’s been a fun ride because it’s something that I am insanely passionate about, something we did for 10 years. It’s something we always thought about and dreamt about was that, like, how to make these funnels, how to make them work better. And now we’ve got a tool that makes it so easy. And then now it’s just like, how to make this better for our community and how do we train other people to do it. And how do we, kind of, spread what we’ve learned over the last 10 years and help other entrepreneurs to be able to have success like we did. And it’s been the most rewarding thing ever, I love it.

Nathan: Yeah, no. Amazing. So, I said off air that at Foundr, we’re big customers of yours. I think we pay for the biggest plan at ClickFunnels. It’s an amazing product. We’ve actually switched, 100%, from Leadpages to ClickFunnels. Awesome tool, absolutely love it. And we build a lot of funnels at Foundr. And I think, one thing that’s really, really impressed me with your story out of all the founders that I speak to, is that you guys are bootstrapped, and you’re growing very, very fast and you make money every time you pay to acquire a customer.

Russell: Yes. It’s funny. We have had a couple VCs that have come in that have wanted to give us money. And it’s just been funny because they don’t understand our model and they don’t understand how the whole thing works, they don’t understand. And so, yeah, we basically, you know, we definitely bootstrapped it. You know, I had my business on the side selling things through funnels, and that funded the initial building of it. And, you know, my partners, they put in their sweat equity and they put in their time and their energy to build out ClickFunnels. And then, you know, pretty much from day one it was profitable and we never saw a purpose for taking on money. So, we started kinda growing it ourselves. And it’s remained…even with, now, we’ve got over 100 employees, it’s still insanely profitable. And so we just have never looked at that.

And like you said, it’s interesting, like, most businesses, they look at it like…you create the company and then you need investing…you need investors to come and fund, like, the growth and the acquisition, those kinds of things. And so we had to do it different because, you know, all the initial growth and acquisition was coming out of my own pocket. So, I had to pull my wallet out and pay for all that. So, I was like, “I can’t do what these other guys are doing, you know?” Like, it’s interesting, our first meeting with a potential VC and they came in and they asked, like, “Well how much is it costing you to acquire a customer?” And we said, “Well, we’re spending about $120 on Facebook to get a free trial.” And they’re like, “Oh, great, you know. That’s amazing. We can put money behind that.” And we’re like, “Well, we actually turned those ads off.” And they’re like, “Well, why did you turn them off?” I was like, “I’m not gonna pay 120 bucks out of my own pocket for a customer.” I’m like, “The coolest thing is, like, this software. What we do makes it so you don’t have to do things like that.”

So, instead, we created these front-end funnels, like, my book funnel and like…we’ve got just different front end funnels, webinar funnel, things like that, that we can go and we can spend money to acquire customers through. But we actually make money upfront before they are introduced into ClickFunnels. So, like, one good example is my book funnel, and right now, we spend about $12 on Facebook to give away one of my books. It’s free, plus shipping so they do put a credit card in. But then after they come in that, into that funnel, then we sell them the audiobook, we sell them a training course and two or three other things, immediately during the point of sale. And right now, we average about $32 for every person who buys the book. So, we spend 12 on Facebook, we make 32 immediately, and then we introduce those people into ClickFunnels. And so, like, we got paid $20 net in our pocket before that person was ever introduced to ClickFunnels. And that’s how we’re able to grow our company. And, you know, we’re two and a half years in, we’re at 36,000 active members. And we’re growing faster than any VC backed company that I know. And we’re doing it because we just had to do it smarter, and we had to do it through the funnels that…we practice what we preach and it works.

Nathan: Yeah, I see. And I’m curious when it comes to…because I think, man, you’re one of the best, and I was saying this to a friend. Like, you are really on fire right now with just growth. And I see you everywhere. You’re really on fire right now. And I’m curious. One thing that you guys have done that’s really, really smart, is you’ve built this massive Facebook community, and you’re really, really good at wrapping community around this product. Like, you have absolute serious evangelists. Besides building a great, great product, how have you done that? How have you got people to be so passionate about a technology product like…even, like, someone in my team, he always wears your funnel hacker T-shirt. Like, man, I really wanted to know…like, can you give our audience, like founders that are listening to this a bit of an insight around how you’re doing that and a bit of a framework to work with or something?

Russell: Oh, 100%. So, actually, this is, like, a topic that’s top of mind for me right now. I just finished my second book that’s rolling out in a couple of weeks but…it’s called “Expert Secrets.” And the first, like, third of the book is all about that, like, what you just asked, that’s all I’m talking about, is how do you build a mass movement, like a culture of people. We call them cultures, but like, it’s a cult of people that are obsessed with your product. And for me, the first time I kinda started thinking about this, I was at a…one of my friends had signed me up for network marketing program. And I joined and he’s like, “You gotta come to the meeting.”

So, I went to this event. And I’m down at this event, and there’s, like, 5000 or 6000 people in this room. And everyone’s there and they’re talking about the product, and they’re crying, and they’re telling stories and all these things. And I’m sitting there and I’m looking around and I was talking to people, and I realized that most of the people in that room hadn’t made enough money from that network marketing company to even have covered their flight or their hotel to the event. But they were so passionate about the product and they just, like…they wanted to share and talk and they were just so excited. And I remember looking at that. Actually, it was a card sending software, and the software wasn’t…honestly, it wasn’t even that good of software. But they had built this movement and people, like, were bought into this bigger vision.

I remember talking to one of my friends there and he looked at me and he said, “It’s a software company, but they’ve wrapped this huge thing around this mission and people have bought into that. And that’s why it’s so powerful.” And so when we started launching ClickFunnels, I was like, “Huh.” Like, a software company’s cool, right? But like, there’s no soul to a software company. It’s just kinda like, “Oh.” And people will switch from tool…I’ve watched that my whole, you know, last 12 years in this business, watch people switch from tool…like, wherever the hot thing is, they just move to the thing, right? Because that’s what’s cool. As we started building ClickFunnels, I’m like, “I wanna build it the way that those guys built that, where it’s a movement and it’s a culture, and it’s a whole bigger thing than that.

And so about that time, it was kinda fun. I went in this period where I started, like, geeking out and studying mass movements and cults and things like that. Like, how do they work and what are the commonalities? And what makes these things…not cults but movements like Christ and Christianity. And you look at companies like Apple. And I started studying all these different movements. And what was interesting is that all of them had three core things that they all had. And that’s exactly the first section of the “Expert Secrets” books is this. It’s just three things.

And the first thing all of them had is some type of, like, charismatic leader, right, someone who’s out there and who’s sharing, and who’s talking, and who’s inspiring. Like, there’s always a figurehead. Like, Apple had Steve Jobs. Like, they all had a person. It wasn’t just a company or a brand. There was, like, a physical person who was leading the charge. Number two is that all of them were…these movements were all focused on, like, a future-based thing. Like, “Where are we going?” It wasn’t like, “We’re gonna make this thing better,” or whatever. It was like, “We’re going somewhere together.” And how do you create that? And so we wanted to build this community, like, we’re all going somewhere together. And that’s where these shirts, you know, we got, probably a dozen shirts we made, like the funnel hacker ones, I build funnels. And shirts that people can wear that they identify with, like, “I am a funnel hacker. I build funnels.” Like, we give away tons of shirts in our community. We try to, like…the whole future-based cause like, “Where are people trying to go?”

And I remember…I have a website that kinda tells this story in a little more detail. But when I got started in this business, I remember my initial goal was to make $1000 a month, that was my…I was really…my mind was big. I thought I was gonna be really successful if I made 1000 bucks a month, and that was what I was kinda going towards. And as I was doing that and I was starting my business, there was this guy that I met. His name was John Reece. And, about that time, he had launched a product. And he, during that launch, he made $1 million in a day. It was actually 18 hours it took him to make $1 million. I remember, like, looking at that, and for me, it was like he broke the four-minute mile.

I’m sure you’ve heard the story about Roger Bannister and, like, no one could break the four-minute mile. Then when he broke it, then, like, a whole bunch of people afterwards did it. And for me, like, John Reece broke that. He made $1 million in a day. And I was like, “I’m just gonna make $1000 a month. He’s made $1 million in a day, and he’s a human being just like me.” And so I was like, “That’s my goal. I gotta make $1 million, like, period.” So, I was like, “I’m gonna be a millionaire.” That was my goal. And then I started going towards that, and within the year, I’d made $1 million. And I was like, “Can I make $1 million in a year, like, in a 12-month period of time?” Then it took me three years to do that. And then I was like, “Okay. I’m gonna make $1 million in a month,” and then we did that. And then I was like, “I’m gonna make $1 million in a day.” And then we did that.

But because he had broken that barrier, like, I was able to, right? Because saw that it was possible. And so inside of our community, we’d start thinking of like, “How do we create something that breaks the four-minute mile for our members?” And so this was probably seven or eight months ago, I had some of the tech guys on our team go into our database and, “Who has a funnel that’s made at least $1 million?” And at the time, there were, like, 60 something people that had a funnel that made at least $1 million. And so we created this award called the 2 Comma Club. It’s this big, huge, gold record with big commas on it and big frame thing. And then, at our event, we handed out these trophies on stage. And it ended up, by the time the event happened, we had just shy of 100 people had won it. And each person came up on stage. We hand this big trophy, you know. And what was interesting is that since then, everybody I know is like, “That’s my goal. Make the 2 Comma Club. Maybe my 2 Comma Club.” And it made it real for everyone, where they could all see themselves doing that within our company, right?

And so there’s a huge movement, like everyone’s trying to move towards something. And so that was number two. So, the first one that every mass movement had was the charismatic leader. Number two is like a future-based movement they’re all moving towards. They’re all going towards a common goal they could see, that they could visualize. They felt belonging. You know, the teachers, they felt like they could identify with, “This is my movement. This is who I am.” And then the third thing that all these mass movements have is that they offered their audience a new opportunity. So they weren’t offering like, “We’re gonna help you make a better website. We’re gonna help you to…” Like, the opposite of a new opportunity is what I call, “An improvement offer.” Like, an improvement offer is you’re trying to help somebody to improve. “I’m gonna make you better or smarter or faster,” you know. But as soon as you say, like, faster, or basically any word that ends with E-R, like, if I’m gonna say, “Look, I wanna pay you to make me better,” that means I have to admit in my head that that means I’m not very good. And there’s this huge negative… Like for me to admit that you’re gonna make me better, I have to also admit that I suck at that thing.

And so there’s this…like, it’s really hard to sell somebody an improvement offer. And so every mass movement, they came out and, like, “I’m not trying to make you better. I’m gonna offer you a new opportunity.” Christ with Christianity was the same thing. He came back like, “Look, we’re not gonna… You have the law of Moses. I’m not gonna, like, take that and try to make it a little easier, make it a little better.” He’s like, “No, like, it’s gone. We’re getting rid of it. Here’s the new opportunity.” And he presented a whole new opportunity to them. Apple’s the same thing. Steve Jobs didn’t come out and say, “I’m gonna give you guys a CD that holds 50 songs.” He’s like, “No. Throw the CDs in the garbage.” You know, “Get rid of all this stuff.” Like, “You’re gonna have your entire CD collection in your pocket in this new little thing. This is a new opportunity.” So, every mass movement also had a new opportunity. And so as I started looking, I was like, “Those are the three things. There’s a charismatic leader, there’s a future-based movement they’re moving towards, and then they’re always given a new opportunity.”

And so as I started looking at it. I’m like, “Okay. How does that fit in our business?” And so I started looking. “Okay. Who’s gonna be the attractive character? How is that person gonna communicate with their audience? Where’s our goals? Where are we trying to get people to go? How do we get them to self-identify with our movement? What’s the new opportunity we’re offering them?” And as we started looking at those things, as soon as you become aware of them, then it’s like, “Okay. I need to structure the way I speak to my audience differently. I need to, you know, have somebody there. I need to do these kind of cool things.” And as we did those three things, like, honestly, that’s what’s built this huge mass movement of people. And it’s amazing to watch and it’s so cool to be part of it.

Nathan: Yeah, man. Like I said, that was serious gold, and thank you for sharing that. And, yeah, like I said, I’m really, really impressed just from watching and being a customer. We’ve been a customer for a while now. And just seeing the growth of the product and the growth of this movement that you’re creating, it’s really, really impressive. So, I’m gonna be a bit selfish and I’m gonna ask a few questions around our business. All right? And I’m hoping that our audience can be a fly on the wall and learn as well. So, we’ve got a couple of problems in our business. We’ve got quite a significantly sized audience, not enough products to help service that audience because entrepreneurship is quite broad and, you know, we really, really tackle many different elements of entrepreneurship and business building, all these kinds of things. And so we’re working on building a lot more products. We’re scaling up our courses. We plan to have at least 40 courses by the end of next year taught by instructors. Really, really high-production value courses. And that’s one piece of the puzzle we’re trying to fix. But at the same time, I’m struggling, dude, with, you know, working with agencies or consultants doing, you know, CRO, Facebook ads, all these kinds of things. And I’m curious. Like, for you to build funnels at the speed and scale that you do, you must have people internally, right? You don’t use contractors or people externally, right?

Russell: There’s been times in my business where I’ve had things external, but right now, we definitely have everything internal. And there’s a couple reasons for that. One is because that’s what we do, like, I’m obsessed with it. People always ask, like, “Russell, what’s your job in the business?” I’m like, “I build funnels.” Like, there’s me and Steven, me and him. There’s two guys sitting in this office, and like, that’s my role. I’m building funnels. Because it’s like, in my mind, that’s the most important part of the entire…like, everything else is just details. Like, the funnel’s the most important part. And so, like, my hands are in it every single day. And so that’s, like, a big part. Like, I wanna be able to see it because, like, I know my audience more than anybody else. I understand what they want, what they need. And If I’m not in there, I lose that. Like, I’ve watched these companies that take on VC money and the CEOs and the founders step out and they plug in these other people. And then I come in to compete with them and I’m thrashing them because they don’t understand the market. Like, they’re not the market anymore. Like, I am my market. I’m so obsessively passionate about this that, like, what we create is what I desire, what I want. And then I get so excited to tell everybody else about it and then they’re excited, and then like, that’s how we get buy-in and everybody comes in.

And then with traffic, it’s the same thing. Like, we tried in the past to outsource traffic agencies. And even the ones that were good, we’re like…we’d say, “We need to get a customer at whatever acquisition cost,” right? And so they’d do that. But then you factor in, like, their agency costs on top of it, and it never worked, right? Like, let’s say we needed a customer at $80 and it’s like, “Hey, we got customers at $80.” And we’re like, “Yeah, but when you add in your management fees, now we’re at, like, $160.” And, like, “Yeah, but if you take management fees out, we did exactly what you asked for.” We’re like, “Yeah, but it’s so expensive.” And then for us, like, this is changing so rapid, like, everything, right?

Especially right now, like, we’re at such a fun time in business where things are coming up. Like, Facebook Live’s come out and then this and this, and like all these tweaks and changes. Me as, like, the person who’s trying to drive this thing, I wanna try things all day long in my head agency. I’m like, “Okay, look. We did a Facebook Live today. We did this, we did this. Like, you need to promote all those.” And they’re like, “Well, you’re one of, like, 30 accounts. You’re asking me to do a lot of stuff.” And I’m like, “Well, yeah. Like, we’re trying to do a lot of stuff.” And they’re like, “Well, you know, you’re budgeted 10 hours a week.” And like, no. “I want 10 guys who have full-time just focusing on mine so that I can go and we can test 20, 30, 40 things and find the best ones, then double down on that, and triple down on that, and keep doing deeper and deeper.” And you can’t do that with an agency. And if they’re not in here…like, our traffic team’s in the office with me because they see all the stuff we’re creating and they’re looking at what we’re doing, like, “How can take that? And what can we do with that?” And where it’s hard for, like, you create a funnel and then you send an email to some team and like, they look at it and you hope that they get the gist. And then they spend their 10 hours on your project and it’s hard.

Nathan: Yeah, exactly. So that’s the problem that we’re finding because we’re trying to scale up, too, and you know, we need to connect our audience with all these new products that we’re launching because we’re building product out really, really fast now. And my question to you, Russell, is you guys are based out Boise, Idaho, right?

Russell: Mm-hmm.

Nathan: How do you find talent and really, really talented people that, you know, do CRO, build funnels, do Facebook ads, these kind of, you know, roles where somebody could do it…you know, starting their own company but they would choose to work at ClickFunnels? How do you find that kind of talent, especially being in Boise, Idaho, like how I’m in Melbourne, Australia?

Russell: Yeah. So of the 100-plus employees we have at ClickFunnels, only about, maybe 20 are here in Boise. Because you’re right, it’s hard to find talent sometimes in a local area that’s a smaller city. So that’s the big part. Second off is most of my talent is not found, like, in my city. It’s found in my community, like, my people. We hire from our member base. Like, I want people joining our team who are as passionate about this movement as I am. And so if you look at our support agents, like, when you talk to someone in our customer support, people are like, “Man, your support’s awesome.” I’m like, “Yes. Because they’re our members, like, they are you. They’re excited as you are. They’re building funnels at night when they’re offline with us because they love this, too.” And it’s like we’re bringing people from there.

And the other thing is to find really good people. Most of them don’t…how do you say it? Like, obviously, I’m an entrepreneur, you’re an entrepreneur. Like, entrepreneurs are the best people on one hand and they’re the worst on the other hand. Like, they’re the best people to work because they will get more done than, like, hundreds of non-entrepreneurs, right? In fact, I read an article. Todd, my partner in ClickFunnels, sent it to me. It was like, “An A-player is, like, 3200 times more productive than a B-player.” Thirty-two hundred times. Like, one A-player is worth 3200 B-players. Most try to get a B-player then try to, like, buy a training course, and give it to them, and hope that they can learn it. And that doesn’t work. And so then…or the other side is you hire an entrepreneur and you bring them in and you try to pay them like an employee. And that person produces for you. And then really quickly, the entrepreneur’s like, “Man, I’m producing for them but I could do the same thing on my own,” and then they’re gone. Because the entrepreneurs are like, the people you want because they have the talent, the skills, the ability, the work ethic, and all those things are there. But then they’re also the worst because as soon as they figure it out, then they’re gone, right? And so it’s like, “How do you harness that?”

So, like, what I’ve tried to do is, inside of this company, is to cultivate entrepreneurship within the company, especially, like, the higher level things. So the people we bring in for the bigger roles like that, yes, they are getting paid a good salary but they also are part of, like, our eat what you kill mentality. Like, a percentage of what they make, they get to keep. And so because of that, like, that’s what entrepreneurs need, is that growth from what they’re doing or else they’re gonna leave and they’re gonna find it somewhere else. So you look at the key people, the guy that runs all of our Facebook ads, my ad side as a whole, like, he gets paid really well, but he also gets a cut off everything we do. And so because of that, like, he’s not gonna leave to somewhere else because his efforts with his own project versus his efforts with our team’s projects, he’ll make way more here than he could somewhere else. And so you have to create opportunities that are so good for people that they’re not gonna go off on their own, otherwise, they will.

And it’s hard sometimes, like, Steven’s sitting over here. He’s one of my favorite people in the world. He’s been my assistant funnel builder. And he’s so talented that he keeps trying to go out and launch his own businesses and I’m like, “Okay, how do I incentivize him not to leave? How do I do…” Because like, he’s so amazing and if I lost him, I’d be screwed. And so it’s like, “Okay, how do we create this…an environment where he gets what he needs out of it, and he can be incentivized and make money out of it. And then, like, we all win together. And so that’s kind of the way I’ve tried to structure things with the producers on team. Because, I mean, like I said, 3200 times more valuable, a producer versus someone who’s, you know, a B-level person. So, yeah.

Nathan: Yeah, no. That’s really smart. So you think that we should look to find someone in our community?

Russell: Hundred percent. All of our ads go out to our community like, “Hey, we’re hiring people for this, this, and this. Who’s interested?” And what we do is we make them…I don’t even know if this is even legal, it might not be. But we’re like, “Make a video selling us on why you think you should work for us.” And so we’ll get 50 to 100 video responses from our team, people begging us. And we’ll find people who will take less than they’re already making because they love the movement and, like, they can work with us on our team on this thing that they love. They’ll take less money. They’ll do other things because they’re already bought into you and what you’re doing. And, like, to be part of that is so exciting. And so, yeah. All of our hires come from our members.

Nathan: Yeah, got you. That’s gold. Okay. Look, man, I could talk to you all day but we have to work towards wrapping up. Couple last things. We could talk about funnels, but I think the best way to talk about them is to watch one of your videos visually. So, we won’t really talk about that too much. But I’d just love to know, would you be able to walk somebody through one of your favorite funnels, just how it works and why it’s important to have funnels in your business, even if you have a local business? Don’t have to have an online business. Like, yeah. I’d love to hear that for our audience because some people might not know how powerful funnels are and why you need them in your business to connect your audience to your products or services.

Russell: Sure. Yeah. Like in my…the lens that I view the world through, like, the funnel is the most important thing, right? Like, it’s all that really matters. And so because, like, I’m always looking at that. And most people actually have funnels. Like, everyone’s got a funnel. But a lot of times, it’s just a really, really bad funnel, right? And sometimes, they’re online, sometimes, they’re offline, and things like that. And so, initially for people to start looking, start looking offline, like, where do you see really good sales processes happening? That’s all a funnel is. Like, you walk into…like, one of my favorite stores is GNC. It’s a vitamin store, right? And I walk into a GNC and despite the fact the I love buying supplements more than almost anything on earth, as soon as I walk in there, they immediately have someone from the back come up to you and are like, “Hey, can I help you today?” And I’m always like, “No, I’m just looking.” And then they awkwardly stare at you and you walk around, then you always try to leave really quick, right? So they have a funnel but it’s really bad.

It’s like having a website. You go to the site and there’s 1000 offers and you get there and you’re like, “I don’t know what to do,” and then they leave. Right, like, if I owned GNC, the funnel I would do, I’d have someone come in, I’d say, “Hey, welcome to GNC. You know, here’s a little sample of one of our new protein drinks. Here’s your protein drink.” And then they take that and they’re like, “Wow, like, I got a free protein drink.” They drink it and they come on in. Like, “Hey, over here, by the way, we got samples of this and this, and here’s one of our new things that came in. If you have any questions, let me know.” And I’d step back and I’d let these people come now and enjoy this experience, look around and see what they wanna see. And I would take them on a process.

And then as I saw them and I saw, hey, they’re holding up a bottle and, like, they’re looking at two different bottles, maybe like, “Okay, they have a question.” I’d come over and I’m like, “Hey, so I see you’re looking at two different proteins. Do you have any questions? Can I help you?” And then they’d be like, “Oh, yeah. Which one of these is better?” I’m like, “Well, this one’s the best but if you also took it with this thing over here, when you take these two products together, like, that’s what shreds you up the most and, you know, makes you feel the best, and gives you the best health.” They’d be like, “Oh, thank you so much. I will buy both of those now.” And then I’d walk them over to the cashier register, I’d check ’em out. And then I’d be like, “Hey, by the way, do you want a GNC gold card? If you get that gold card, you can come back every single month at a discount.” They’d say, “Yeah, sure.” And I’d give the GNC gold card. And then what I’d do is every month in the future, I call them on the phone and I invite them back to the store to come get their discount. And that’s how I would do a funnel if I was GNC, right?

And the same thing with my website. If I owned GNC’s website, I would turn that into a funnel, where you come to the first page it’s like, “Hey, welcome to GNC. By the way, we just got this new product. Do you want a free sample of it? Just give us your address, we’ll ship you out a free sample.” And they ship out a free sample. And then next page, like, “Hey, you got the free sample. We’ll give you a 50% discount if we just put a whole bottle of this stuff in right now because we’re already shipping you something anyway.” And they’re like, “Oh, cool. Yeah. I’ll do that for sure.” And then it’s like, “Oh, by the way, did you know that this works really good with this over here?” And I would just take them through a process just like that.

And so for me, funnels are everywhere and most people’s are just really, really bad. And if you have a website right now, you have a funnel but it’s more like a brick wall, right? And that’s what people need to understand is you’ve got one. You’re doing them offline, you’re bringing customers in somehow offline. Online, same thing. And if you’re not getting the customers you want, it’s because you’re funnel’s bad. And usually, it’s because you’re using old, outdated technology like a website that’s just like, “Here’s a brick wall you run someone into.” And so the funnels are all about, like… you know, for me it’s been 12 years of just geeking out and studying sales process and consumer behavior, and why do people do this, and where do they go from that. And I can take ’em through a process. And then, how do we replicate that online to give them an amazing experience as well? And when you do the funnel right, it does a couple things. First off, it gives your customer a way better experience. They come getting exactly what they wanted, they don’t have any questions. They leave happy. And second off, you make way more money from every single person that comes into your world, and it becomes a huge win-win for everyone.

Nathan: Yeah. Amazing. Awesome. Well, look, we have to work towards wrapping up. I’m curious, do you have any resources, great resources that you’d recommend for consumer behavior psychology sales processes that have really helped you?

Russell: Man, there’s so many good ones. Honestly, and I don’t want to pitch my own stuff, but, like, if you read the “DotCom Secrets” book, that’s basically 10 years of me kind of distilling all the stuff that I learned and breaking it down into really simple processes and sketching out all the sales processes and sales flows. That’s probably the best one. And in that book, I always give attribution to who I learned things from. And so it’s like, “Hey, this process right here, I learned over here. And this is where I learned this from.” And you can kinda go deeper on the concepts from the people you wanna learn from on specific areas of it.

Nathan: Yeah, no. Look, it’s an amazing book. I’d highly recommend it. I gave it to my whole team.

Russell: Oh, cool.

Nathan: Awesome. All right, dude. Well, last question is…it’s been an awesome chat. Where’s the best place people can find you and your work, and find out more about your new book?

Russell: Yeah. The best place, let’s see. Probably, the best place is to just go to In fact, we’re just updating that funnel right now as we speak, but it has links out to most of the core things. It has links to ClickFunnels and software products. It has links to books and things like that. And you can find everything there.

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Afraid and overwhelmed by the problems they were facing, Robbins would hit the snooze button and go back to sleep.

Over, and over again.

She knew that she needed to get out of bed sooner, but just couldn’t make herself do it. The snooze button was her temporary respite from reality.

”So what?”, you think.

After all, so many of us go through the same motions every single day: Sleeping in instead of getting out of bed to go for your 6A.M run. Picking pizza over a salad even though you know that one warm, cheese-smothered slice always leads to a binge. Putting off bringing that idea you’ve been dreaming about to life even though not doing anything is killing your soul.

The excuses that precede these not-so-great decisions are usually linked to certain emotions: Overwhelm, fear, self-doubt and that all-too-familiar “I don’t feel like it”. 

But the cold, hard truth is, you never will.

There are, however, steps you can take to propel yourself and your dreams forward despite this internal resistance. Here’s how:


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Photo credit: SpaceX on Unsplash

Everything changed after Robbins found herself watching a NASA rocket launch on TV one evening, she says in her book, The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work And Confidence With Everyday Courage.

“Pay attention”, her instincts whispered. So she did, and in an instant, decided that she’d launch herself out of bed the next morning—she’d do it so quickly that she wouldn’t have time to think her way out of it.

The next time her alarm went off at 6AM, Robbins opened her eyes, counted “5,4,3,2,1”, and on 1, stood up. From then on, she would use this very same ‘rocket launch’ formula that she calls The 5 Second Rule to turn her life around, all without relying on the one thing so many of us rely on to get ourselves going: Motivation.

But why is it so darn difficult to stay motivated to do all the little things that you know will make your life better?

Here’s one scientifically-proven reason: Your lizard brain is designed to make you, at all costs, want to pull away from triggers of fear, discomfort and uncertainty to keep you safe from harm, even though you’re technically not in any physical danger. This means that that warm, fuzzy intense desire to jump into something new is rarely there when you need it the most.



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Photo credit: William Randles on Unsplash

It seems like there’s a hack for everything: How to lose weight, how to be more productive, how to be happy, how to get rich.

But ask anyone who’s acquired a skill that’s made a positive difference in their life, and they’ll probably tell you that it’s not shortcuts that got them to where they are; habits did. The slow grind. Being persistent at something until the way they wanted to be, or live, stuck. Deliberately practicing until the skill they wanted to have became automatic and effortless.

She may not have known it at the time, but by using the 5 Second Rule over and over again, Robbins was disrupting her old habit of snoozing and simultaneously building a new one. It’s this habit disruption followed by the repetition of a new, small step (in Robbin’s case, getting out of bed) that led to the successful development of a new habit.

Just ask Leo Babauta, who went from being sedentary, 70 pounds overweight and way over his head in debt to running marathons, being healthier than ever and debt-free just 2 years later.

How did he do it? By starting with running 10 minutes a day. By eating more vegetables and drinking more water, one meal at a time. By cutting back on his expenses, saving a little more and paying off his debt until he could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Habits, not hacks, will take you where you want to go. They will allow you to rewrite your story and keep refining it until your goals and reality are a match.


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Photo credit: delfi de la Rua on Unsplash

When your car breaks down, you might need to have a tow-truck take it in the opposite direction while you get a new ride to your destination. You’re in a loving, committed marriage one moment, and struggling with a painful divorce the next. You think you’re crushing it at work, but 3 months later, are packing your things into a box and looking for a new job.

You think you’ve got it all figured out with your thoughtfully-researched and airtight plan A, but life happens and you wish you had a plan B ready to break your fall. But you don’t and now, getting to your goal feels impossible, so you give up.

But I don’t want you to give up. And I don’t want to either.

Be prepared to live your life from different perspectives, with a plan A, B and C in place to help you weather storms and find fulfilment, no matter what.

Do this, and reaching your goals will be so much easier.


Waking up in the wrong state of mind can leave you feeling frazzled, stressed and less likely to do what you need to do to get what you want. The good news is, there are things you can do to avoid this A.M suckiness and wake up feeling rested, healthier and focused. This is why I made The Good Morning Guide: 6 Steps To Reclaiming Your Sanity & Winning The Day for you. You can download your copy HERE.





David DomzalskiFormer Contributor 

Personal Finance

I discuss the impact of personal finance on our family and health.


Alex Nerney and Lauren McManus made $75,000 in one month with their blogs.


Have you ever wanted something so bad you can taste it? You know what I’m talking about. It’s like the “burning desire” Napoleon Hill told us about in his business classic, Think & Grow Rich.

Maybe it’s something you wanted for so long, but life got in the way. The desire faded away and never materialized. Instead, it was destined for the recesses of our minds and only accessed during daydreams while we plodded along unfulfilled.

However, I’m not here to talk to you about “what if’s.” Rather, I want you to understand that your burning desire is still possible. And it all comes down to one word: time.

If you’re willing to use your time wisely, you open up an entire world to yourself. For instance, consider compounding interest for a second. What’s the main factor we hear about regarding this financial concept? That the earlier you invest, the better. So, starting as soon as you can allows you to have time on your side.


inRead invented by Teads

What am I talking about? Well, it comes down to using your time to “grind.” You see, there’s a small subset of people — entrepreneurs not doing the big, sexy things like social networking, blockchain, and artificial intelligence — who are dominating the niches they’ve carved for themselves. And they’re doing so by using their free time — nights and weekends — to grind and build their businesses.

Who are they? They’re called bloggers — and some are doing it for a full-time income.

I know what you’re thinking. Nobody makes money from blogging! Well, you would be wrong on that. Allow me to introduce you to two bloggers, Alex Nerney and Lauren McManus, who are making $75,000 per month with their blogs, Avocadu and Create and Go.

Nerney was kind enough to walk me through their journey. Before you judge, make sure you read everything he has to say.

The desire for more — and for freedom.

Have you ever said to yourself — is this all there is? You go to school for all those years to get up, get ready for work, get stuck in traffic, work a job you may or may not like, and go home. Then, you repeat the process on a daily basis until you (hopefully) get to retire.

I know I’ve had days like that. Fortunately, those of us who feel this way are in good company. Nerney and McManus felt the same way about their jobs.

“I was working full-time as a personal trainer at the time and Lauren was working full-time as an accountant,” explained Nerney. “We felt frustrated and indentured to our jobs. We felt like we were trading our hours for dollars and that our time was not our own.”

While he always had an interest in online marketing, he never truly committed to it. That is until one day when a personal training client made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The client offered to give Nerney “his ticket to The Millionaire FastlaneConference, a small meetup of about 50 entrepreneurs.”

“The conference was a game changer for me,” says Nerney. “Seeing successful people, both young and old, share their stories and connect was amazing. It lit a fire under me that I have to build something better for myself than being just a personal trainer.”

Things did not come easy despite the outcome we see now.

Building a business isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires an incredible effort that many just aren’t willing to put themselves through. For Nerney, it meant waking up at 4:30 in the morning and heading to a local Starbucks in Uptown Dallas. It’s there that he would work on the blog and then go meet up with clients at 7:00 a.m. He says he would “work on and off throughout the day on the blog between clients and into the evening. When we started, we worked crazy hours and a lot of nights and weekends.”

Even though they put in all the time in the beginning, they were hardly an overnight success. “Our first attempt at blogging completely failed,” Nerney acknowledged. However, out of that failure was born Avocadu, a healthy living blog that now makes $20,000 per month for the duo.

Getting to that point required a lot of sacrifice and difficult decisions. “[We] became really serious about making something out of this and making sure we didn’t head down the road to failure again,” says Nerney. “We even began eating eggs and rice twice a day for weeks on end to save money that could be devoted to our blog.”

But, that wasn’t all they did to commit to achieving their burning desire. They abandoned all ships behind them and decided to go for it at all costs. “As Lauren became more involved and we started to work harder, I realized that giving up our most productive hours to our full-time jobs rather than our new business was really hurting us,” Nerney explained. “We needed to quit our jobs.”

While it may be unthinkable for many of us to even consider leaving our jobs, it was the catalyst for Nerney and McManus to begin their journey. And although Nerney would lose income as a trainer, McManus took an even bigger risk in her career as she had just passed her CPA exams. Getting back into the workforce would be easier for Nerney, but not so much for McManus.

Despite these concerns, “the desire for freedom outweighed those fears,” said Nerney. “We had some money saved up and we told ourselves that we would make this thing work no matter what.”

Little wins lead to larger wins.

Within the first few months of leaving their day jobs, the decision paid off for Nerney and McManus. Income from Avocadu doubled for five months in the beginning. “Within our first year of blogging, we had a month where we earned over $40,000,” explained Nerney. “We began earning $10,000 per month consistently and then brought that one blog up to an average of over $20,000 per month in profits.”

Their incredible success with Avocadu led the pair to create another blog, Create and Go, which caters to aspiring bloggers who also want to take their blogs full-time. “Our mission at Create and Go is to be the No. 1 most honest and transparent source of information for people who want to make money blogging from home,” Nerney stated. “We teach from the standpoint of the successes and failures that we have experienced and continue to experience … so that our information is as relatable as possible for people looking to start a blog in another niche.”

According to Nerney, Create and Go made $55,000 by itself in December 2017. Taken together with Avocadu’s $20,000 for that month gets you their $75,000, and they’re on their way to $100,000 per month. “Weirdly, as our blogs have grown, less work is required to make the money that we do,” explains Nerney. “The beginning is hard because you aren’t making any money and you are working very hard. But at some point, there is a massive shift. Once you develop the skills for it, your income can grow exponentially.”

Sure, that’s very telling of the ability level that Nerney and McManus are at today. However, another thing also struck me: The process is repeatable. Consider this from Nerney: “Today, if Lauren and I wanted to start another online business or blog, we could probably do so and reach success quite quickly because of the skills we have learned over the last two years.”

Their lessons for the rest of us.

One thing that I hope you learn from what Nerney and McManus accomplished here is that it’s not easy. They didn’t just wake up one day with the secret to online wealth and money-making schemes. The takeaway here is very simple, but profound: It’s about the process.

A name that came up in our conversation and one that echoes on sites about entrepreneurial endeavors is that of MJ DeMarco. If you’re not familiar with him, he’s an entrepreneur who cut his teeth by selling twice. He authored the book The Millionaire Fastlaneand runs an online forum for entrepreneurs“Wealth eludes most people because they are preoccupied with events while disregarding process,”explains DeMarco in his book. “Without process, there is no event. Process makes millionaires, and the events you see and hear are the results of that process.”

For Nerney, this idea is “the dose of medicine everyone needs to hear who wants to be a business owner or make money for themselves.” Their process — early mornings, late nights, weekends, constant learning and reiterating with their blogs — is the what resulted in their “event.” Of course, that event being making an incredible full-time income from a blog that would make many professionals with advanced degrees blush.

At the end of the day, though, they stress that anyone can do what they did, “Lauren and I did not achieve this level of success because we’re special or different,” says Nerney. “We’re just a couple of average people that wanted freedom really badly. We wanted a different kind of life than the one that we were indoctrinated into since birth.”

What’s that mean for the rest of us? Well, we need to find a reason we want to build a business, a blog, or achieve that burning desire. Then, we need to learn, take action, and figure out our own process to get there. It won’t be easy and will require us to grind it out on a daily basis.

It is all worth it in the end. When you refine your process, you eventually get your desired event. Or, as Nerney said, “The best part is, you aren’t working for someone else’s dream. You’re building your own.”

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David Domzalski

I hate being in debt with a passion. Its effect on our confidence and relationships with others can be downright debilitating. In some small way, I want to put an end to debt’s hold on us. That’s why I discuss how money affects our families and health at I want to help us all run our financial lives to the fullest.