The White T-Shirt Problem

published5 months ago
1 min read

Hello Reader,

Here's a big problem with a lot of the SEO (and, frankly marketing and business as a whole) advice:

It's not for you and me.

I call this The White T-shirt Problem.

This is because the origins of modern marketing originate with selling goods and commodities produced on a mass scale. Think old school catalogs 200 years ago and beyond!

Breaking this down, we need to understand that when we're selling knowledge and expertise, the decision-making process for our audiences is different than if we're selling white T-shirts.

When someone needs a white T-shirt, they're thinking about things like fit, style, fabric, price, shipping speed. Maybe a savvy buyer will be concerned about the supply chain and sustainability of the material.

But, it's a pretty straightforward decision. Does the white t-shirt fit? Is it in my price range? Will it get to me quickly?

We can also look at it in terms of my diagram I've shared previously:

Putting the concept I've illustrated through the lens of SEO strategy, we see over and over again that these strategies (and, real talk, I'm reluctant to even call them that—they're more a series of tactics) are designed with the simple product premise in mind, The White T-Shirt Problem.

They're not built to attract people to knowledge businesses. (I'd argue they're honestly not even great for any product that's artisan or luxury.) They're not designed for buyers who are more concerned about getting the right solution than the cheapest solution.

This is why you see weirdo optimizations like "The Cheapest Divorce Lawyer in Portland" (this is a real thing I fixed once, folks) that are wholly misaligned with both the brand and the audience they're speaking to. These types of optimizations don't account for the complex decision making process that we humans go through. It's very bad indeed.

Hence, The White T-shirt Problem. I talk about this more in the replay of my SEO Funnel Roadmap Workshop, but even if you aren't ready for that workshop, it's something to think about. Start by asking yourself,

"Have my marketing strategies been designed for my nuanced knowledge business, or are they trying to sell white t-shirts?"

Talk soon,


Hi! I'm Sarah Moon!

The status quo of modern marketing isn't designed for you and me.The hard truth is that most marketing strategies are designed for massive corporations, while small businesses, consultants, coaches, and other experts are left feeling that the advice they’re given just doesn’t fit—and they’re right. We have two choices: we can struggle to force our businesses into an ill-fitting mold, or we can reinvent a system that works for us and allows us to thrive. I don’t know about you, I prefer door number two. 💌 Reach our team at 🌟 Ready to work together?

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