From an SEO ebook to a well known SEO training company — Aaron Wall is the founder of the world famous SEObook.

From an SEO eBook to a well-known SEO training company, Aaron Wall is the founder of the world famous SEObook. His company provides tools and training programs for every internet marketer.

“I was early in the SEO market & had a low living cost so I could afford to take time to learn & earn.” – Aaron Wall

With a community of  newbie as well as experienced SEO experts SEObook has become one of the best online resources for SEO services.

Q:  What’s the start-up story behind SEObook, and where did the idea come from?

Aaron:   Our site has evolved over the years in purpose. Originally the site sold an ebook, but as SEO got complex I felt things needed to be more interactive, so we switched over to a membership site with an online community, training modules & newsletters.

The original ebook-led idea came from hearing people say that SEO books were always out of the date & realizing that one could sell an ebook while frequently updating, such that one was selling something that aligned with a prevailing worldview (rather than fighting human nature or the market).

The site has always had a blog on it & that came from seeing that sites which had blogs on them received a disproportionate amount of inbound link when compared against sites of similar quality.

As far as a general interest in SEO, I think it was pretty clear that search was going to be a major driver of the online publishing & advertising ecosystem. In fact, back in the web 1.0 bubble I even bought shares in companies like Inktomi & DoubleClick, back when I knew much less about the web.

Q: What are some of the projects you are working on right now?

Aaron:   I still spend a lot of time on SEO book. We have a number of other projects, but SEO book is where I spend the vast majority of my time.

Anyone who publishes online has ranges of outcomes that are across the board. One project can make you look like a genius & the next project can make you look (and sometimes feel) like an idiot. The key is to keep reinvesting in whatever is working (within strategies/sites/verticals).

Generally speaking, as an SEO, there isn’t a lot of value in highlighting sites that you have done work on unless you are pushing hard into selling consulting. Even then it is better to highlight results that clients achieve rather than how some of your other websites might be performing.

Some SEOs like to pick at the work of other SEOs and try to flame them for it. A few examples from a single popular SEO site…

  • One SEO saw my tip about the ability to use 301 redirects on affiliate links to drive link equity & outed it publicly, causing our affiliate links to no longer pass juice. that same SEO later hired another SEO company to work for them & was … leveraging 301 redirects to try to outrank us.
  • That same SEO stated that the ranking of a particular SEO company was an embarrassment given the links it had (he did not condone their efficient link building that build terrific rankings on a low cost structure)
  • That same SEO called some directories spam in order to … sell his list of web directories

There are a lot of great people in the SEO niche, but also a lot of crappy people too.

The problem with publicly highlighting things is that the scummier end of the industry tends to try to hurt people for being successful via some other path than their own internal nonsensical cult-like approach to marketing.

Q:  Do you or have you owned any other businesses in the past? If so what happen to them?

Aaron:   I partnered with a friend for a few years on some stuff. One end of that went amazingly well due to his rich background in the field of marketing & how great he was at client management. Another end of that was making a couple properties of our own. One of those was made a category leading site, but didn’t perform as well as it should have given the effort & investment. That was likely due in large part to me bringing on someone else to help who was playing it a bit fast and loose, & thus mixing styles that were a bit oil and water.

I wouldn’t count it as a business (more like funding a hobby) but in high school I also sold baseball cards.That (and reading a book about the history of baseball cards) taught me a lot about things like…

  • The value of organization
  • The value of flat pricing
  • Market segmentation
  • Anticipating market demand
  • How bubbles work

I read a lot about economics and investing. However, I haven’t really used that on the business front thusfar & am still learning a lot.

Q: How do you separate yourself from your competitors?

Aaron:   For as saturated as the SEO market is, most people either focus on knowing academically or doing something that is currently working, but very few push hard at both.

Most SEOs probably haven’t read Garrett Hardin’s  the Tragedy of the Commons,  Vannevar Bush’s As We May Think, or Gerard Salton’s A Theory of Indexing. And the few who have read those are likely more academic in nature, without testing out a bunch of stuff & thinking that some things won’t work because they read them in a patent application.

One of the best resources we have is our community forums & our contacts who chat with us via instant message. They often spot key bits and the back & forth discussion and sharing leads to further knowledge about where things are, what might have just changed, and where things are likely headed. Also in terms of “where things are likely headed” reading books about past information empires like The Master Switch is totally worth doing.

But it is really that balancing act of managing the following:

  • Learning
  • Doing
  • Reinvesting
  • Staying organized

I can’t claim that I am across the board #1 in any individual area, but I consistently put in a strong effort on all of them.

Q:  Please share a few tips and advice on SEO for new entrepreneurs.

Aaron:   Install analytics on your website from day one & use that data  to help drive your SEO strategy.

Q:  What are some of the popular SEO techniques you disagree with and Why?

Aaron: Some people advise against doing what is effective & promote social media as the primary answer to all SEO problems. Social is an amplification layer for existing signal. It is very hard for social to work if the core message it is amplifying doesn’t make any sense. Any number multiplied by zero is zero.

Q:  Starting out what the worst mistake you made as an entrepreneur, and what did you learn from it?

Aaron:   There have been many.

  • Not scaling easily scalable ideas (as one absurd example from when I was new to search, I accidentally misspelled a word on a page & it was bringing in a couple thousand Dollars of revenues – for being a bad speller! If I were more clever back then I would have scaled that up 100-fold or more. By the time I appreciated my idiocy on not scaling that 1 search had already grown much better at spell correction and the opportunity was gone).
  • Being more fascinated about the implications and technologies than tying the process to business objectives (I probably let a lot of people use me because I over-estimated people in general. My wife was more realistic here & pushed me to be more business-focused..)
  • Caring too much about what people thought, even if/when they disrespect you (after years & years of doing it all myself, I had one of our customers help out with answering queries from free users and they had a health issue in their first week in part due to that horrible experience. freetards are awful & since then I have responded in kind whenever someone is rude. generally a better “idealistic” person might say to always take the high road, but if you let people take advantage of you then at some point you will internalize some of it and they will eventually wear you down.)
  • Trusting people too much only to see them stab you in the back (a general rule of thumb here is that if people play things close to the vest and don’t trust you it is likely an outward reflection of their own behavior with how they would respond if you told them a similarly valuable piece of information)
  • Under-investing (the best way to appreciate the value of SEO is to have your rankings disappear and see the carnage in the numbers.I do try pretty hard to reinvest aggressively, but I am probably still far more conservative than most people due to my fear of debt & leverage.)

Q:  What is the number one reason for your success?

Aaron:   Outside of stories about folks in Chinese sweat shops & such I don’t know anyone who works as long as have on a daily basis for about a decade straight. I also have an ability to intensely focus. I think some of it might be down to neurochemistry.

A few months ago I had one of my knees lock up to where I couldn’t straighten the leg. I visited a doctor and they jerked my leg in a bunch of different directions and cleared the blockage. It still took over a month for the knee to fully heal.
About a month ago I started walking 10k steps a day (starting only a couple days after my knee would pop if I did over 1,000 steps). Anyhow, now that I am exercising more & taking 5htp I am more content and probably don’t work quite as hard or long as I did when I was more slothlike.
In addition to the above…
  • I was early in the SEO market & had a low living cost so I could afford to take time to learn & earn
  • My wife pushed me hard on the business front
  • Our community has many of the smartest folks in the SEO space participating in it

Q:  What is one thing that you on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur?

Aaron:   Right now I am trying to exercise more & better my health. I was too financially focused & when health stuff falls apart it is a big smack in the face on the lack of value of money when you are in pain & physically broken. 😉

Q:  In your opinion what are the top 3 tools & resources every entrepreneur should use?

  • Web analytics
  • An RSS reader
  • Compliment online learning with reading longer non-fiction books that help pull you a bit out of the bubble & see things over a longer arc through a historical context

Q:  What was the best entrepreneurial advice you have ever been given and by whom?

Aaron:   A mentor nicknamed NFFC once told me: “I think the best brands, the best sites have a large portion of their founders personality in them. Never be afraid to be yourself, after all there are 1/2 billion people on the www, not all of them have to agree with you. Concentrate on the ones that share your views, concentrate on making their experience the very best it can be, the rest forget them. Or to put it another way, the best sites say – this is what we do, this is how we do it, if you don’t like it go somewhere else.”

http://www.search-marketing.info/newsletter/articles/nffc.htm

Q:  What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

  • A willingness to work long hours
  • A willingness to question authority & build your own value systems
  • Reinvesting 100% (or more) of your profits into growth for a few years

Q:  What is your favorite entrepreneurship quote?

Aaron:   I am not too into business quotes & such, but I do love http://gapingvoid.com/ Hugh MacLeod’s cartoons. a couple favorites are

  • “I can’t take this sh*t anymore!” he said, mistakenly.
  • The market for something to believe in is infinite.

Connect with Aaron Wall

Twitter@Aaronwall

LinkedIn/Aaronwall