Aaron Wall is the author of SEO Book. It is rapidly gaining recognition as the best book to learn SEO from.
As a website publisher, SEO plays a critical role in how much traffic you get and ultimately how much money you make. I decided to ask Aaron a few questions about himself and SEO which he kindly agreed to answer.
Andrew: What first got you interested in SEO?
Aaron: I was really mad at an organization and wanted to rank a really shoddy site for terms it did not deserve to rank for. Could not afford exposure as there was no business model, just a bunch of angst. So SEO it was
Andrew: When did you first think, hey, I can write a book about this?
Aaron: Around the Google Florida Update I started to appreciate the lack of scale in selling SEO services. I went from getting about 3 inqueries a month to about 30 in a day. Decided it was best to try to create passive income streams.
Andrew: Do you care to give us a “rough” estimate of how much money you have made from SEO, excluding sales from SEOBook?
Aaron: To be honest, this was another reason why the ebook was a good call. I wasn’t making tons of money selling services because I tended to underprice them. Generally I considered my SEO no good unless the customer got a #1 rank in Google, and I was charging rates that were stupid low, not originally really appreciating the value of the marketing and implied demand in search.
I worked for my first customer for $100, and the second site was adult and they paid me $300. They both quickly ranked #1 and the adult site owner loved me so much that he gave me a Christmas presant somewhere around $1,000 just because he was making so much money.
I have probably made somewhere into the low to mid 5 figure range from directly selling SEO services, and the same from affiliate marketing, but I have only been on the web for under 3 years still, and have focused most of my efforts on blogging and selling my ebook.
Andrew: On SEOBook.com you make it clear that you’ve got the top ranking for “seo book” in Google. Any other claims to fame you mind sharing?
Aaron: Actually, that term was not that competitive until I created my site. So on the SEO front that is not that impressive IMHO. I branded the hell out of that term and made it a well known term. To me doing that is even harder than just ranking for a somewhat competitive term though…actually helping create a search term market where there is both volume and value. It is hard to change the way people search.
I don’t picture myself as famous (because I am not) but some other things I think are cool that came about due to SEO:
- just getting to talk with people like Danny Sullivan, Jim Boykin, Peter Da Vanzo, David Naylor, Greg Boser, Shak, Dan Thies, Mike Grehan, Lots0, NickW, JasonD, NFFC & and a bunch of other really cool search marketers
- getting in the Wall Street Journal (although it was for getting sued) and then having the journal profile the company that was suing me http://www.startupjournal.com/ecommerce/ecommerce/20050923-kesmodel.html
- getting phone calls or email support questions from companies worth over 100 billion dollars and from marketers of brands that I knew and liked as a kid growing up
- and this one is probably my favorite, I used to collect a ton of baseball cards. A former major league baseball player who I once owned some of his baseball cards sent me a long email with a bunch of questions.
And outside of SEO, I got to talk to one of the guys who does some work with Jim Henson studios and made a few friends out in LA that are really cool.
Andrew: I’ve heard rumors of hand-edited search results in search engines. Do you think this could become a major “roadblock” for SEOs in the future?
Aaron: Not really. Those who automate stuff heavily already face this, and those who are not automating their processes and are thinking longterm should not be hit hard by manual intervention.
Andrew: Do you have any strong feelings or opinions about the “hats” which SEOs choose to wear? Black hat, white hat, grey hat, or a mixture of both?
Aaron: Hehehe. Well I own whitehatseo.com and blackhatseo.com. I think the whole hats thing was made up by a bunch of marketers to say something like “I am good and everyone else is not”. I interviewed one of the original SEOs and asked him about the ethical SEO / white hat crowd and he had this to say http://www.search-marketing.info/newsletter/articles/lots0.htm:
“I was there when the first ‘ethical’ SEO poked his cowboy hat clad head out from under a rock.
I guess my distaste for the SEO ‘ethics’ crowd began because I knew the people involved before they became ‘ethical’ and I was part of original discussions(if you can call them that) about SEO ‘ethics’.
I watched as a few SEOs who’s business was not doing so well at the time spring to the SEO forefront as they proclaimed they were ‘ethical’ and all the other SEOs (that did not go along) were evil spammers. Once these self-named ‘ethical’ SEOs figured out they could get clients and a following of ditto heads by claiming they were ‘ethical’ they were off and running.
Fortunately, I think the ‘ethical’ SEO fad has about ran it course, it is fading fast as a marketing method.
Clients don’t really care about being ‘ethical’ as defined by a big corporation like google(or some cowboy hat wearing SEO wannabe), clients care much more about conversions and issues directly related to their business.”
Andrew: How do you feel about SEO firms that deliver results by optimizing client’s sites for terms that get no searches?
Aaron: Pure rubbish. Actually I hired one of those before I knew anything about SEO. I knew the guy was selling garbage when he started recommending that I make an exact copy of my home page and save it under another filename and use invisible cross linking between the two locations with the keyword in the link.
I asked him what would prevent me from automating and repeating that cycle and he did not reply to my question.
The practice is common though. Some firms may go so far to run their own fake engines so they can show how great you rank in those engines.
A good example of part of the reason it is worth spending a bit of time or cash surveying the market before diving in and hiring someone. Also note that if a marketing firm calls you out of the blue with a system that seems somewhat automated offering to sell SEO services there should be some alarms going off in your head.
Andrew: Do you have any really great stories of people who got great results after reading SEOBook?
Aaron: Yes. Sometimes I am a bit surprised at some of the stuff people tell me. Many people who read my book end up making far more profit from SEO than I do. I have a category in gmail I call “fun emails” and I save some of the testimonial responses there. Some people do not like posting them all online though.
One swell chap, named Martin Dell, runs a website selling Spanish property
He is on my testimonials list and ranks well for some on topic terms in the major search engines, and that probably led to me selling about 100 additional copies of SEO Book to people who wanted to market Spanish real estate websites.
Andrew: 10 years from now, do you still think you will be involved in SEO?
Aaron: So hard to predict the future. Likely will still be on the web, but SEO at that time will be far different than it’s current mode today. I think for most people eventually it will become easier to manipulate human emotion and human response than it is to manipulate the algorithms.
I have done far better than I would have ever expected thusfar. It is hard to know for certain what I want to learn or where I want to go though, etc.