Online Marketing Blog

RedFly Interview With Aaron Wall Of SEO Book

In the world of search engine optimisation, few names are more recognizable than that of the man who literally wrote the book on the subject. Today I had the pleasure of asking some burning SEO related questions I had for Mr. Aaron Wall.

Aaron is considered an industry veteran and the “go to guy” for all things SEO related.

Aaron WallCan you tell us a little about yourself and your site SEO book ?

I have been doing SEO for about 5 years now, and work about 6.5 days a week. My wonderful wife and I just had our first anniversary. :)

SEO Book was born as a blog covering SEO, and has morphed into a site which is more about search and online marketing in general, which offers a popular suite of tools and a training program.

Can you tell us how much of a difference switching from the ebook model to the online training model has worked out well for you and what was the one thing that tipped you into moving?

I think we easily have the best SEO community on the web. The pricepoint has simply filtered out the noise common at most SEO forums while lively conversation occurs daily. The one big flaw with the current model is that the members and I spend so much time inside the forums that little time is spent externally on marketing to bring new people in, so growth has not been fast but I would rather go for quality than size any day of the week.

I was an unhappy person with the old business model. It required me to answer questions for people who valued my time at $0, which lead to me having too many customers when we reached around the 13,000 mark. Plus as some of the sleazy email list spammer hype driven internet marketers started hyping SEO it lowered lead quality at the lower end, which was where my business model was situated. A business model that is scalable with 10,000 customers with less than 1% of the customer interactions not going well becomes simply unsustainable when it grows to 13,000 with 5% of the customers being not customers well aligned with your brand and strategy. I was doing so much email that I started to easily become rude and frustrated.

Many customers have told me that I made their business careers and made them millionaires, but as search grew more complex the market for people wanting honest advice moved beyond the $79 pricepoint the old business operated at. Ultimately I was serving the wrong market and lowering the percieved value of my product by being available so cheaply, even while competitors selling information products at 50x or 100x the price of mine were asking for the latest copy of my ebook before making their next info product, and lifting lines from my work and integrating it into their work.

The other thing that happened was that my sites that were 5% of my time started to become the majority of my income. It does not make sense to spend most your time on a job that does not make much money, especially if it is no longer enjoyable. And so changing the business model of SEO Book allows me to enjoy it again, while increasing the value to customers and not drastically lowering its revenues or drastically increasing the amount of time needed to maintain it.

Google is all over the place right now and it is looking like a lot of factors that once held weight no longer do and vice versa. What do you make of the current state of flux? Where do you see Google applying more weight?

I see a lot of people talking about localization becoming a more important topic. Google is placing a lot of weight on exact match domain names, and their current reliance on domain authority is springing up a bunch of general websites like eHow, Mahalo, Squidoo, etc.

The big thing to really look out for is arbitrary hand edits. If your site does not look good it might get edited out of the search results even if you offer the highest quality information in your space.

How effective do you think buying established websites is to SEO leaving the branding, customer base and community factors out?

Buying old sites based on their link equity is amazingly profitable. The key is to not be too drastic or spammy with the changes you make such that you can get many years of cashflow out of such a site.

Do you think that there are any on or off page white hat techniques that if over used (Think over use of the nofollow attribute, borderline excessive internal linking etc.) may trigger a flag at Google? Do you believe there is such a thing as an over optimization flag?

Sure. I think many people repeate keyword phrases more than is optimal, and some of my pages have got automatically filtered out for being too well aligned with a keyword. The key when that happens is to lower the keyword prominence and repetition – make sure there is some variance between your page title, inbound anchor text, and how you are using the keywords in page content.

Why do you think so many webmasters spend so much time and money *cough* on buying links when the cost of developing content that attracts higher quality editorial links is far less?

Man is inherantly lazy. Editorial links in many markets require building a brand and social interaction. That can be a slow and low ROI path that looks like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, especially if you are new to the social aspects of the web and do not have any experience with blogs and the like.

You offer a great Google Global Firefox extension and we have a suite of well linked to SEO tools. For you and I it is cheaper to create content that builds free links, but for most people on the web the ROI of such an experiment is not as obvious until after they experience it.

Also worth noting that at the corporate end there is also less risk to buying links, and many more people and hurdles in between the creation of a good idea and the finished product.

For those who say that SEO is “Bullshit” and that correctly designed, semantically sound design is all that is needed to rank higher than your competition, what do you say to them?

I made a site to prove them wrong. A semantically sound site that gets no search traffic, and gave it the name dollarseo.com. Please give it a look and laugh, but please do not link at it though or it will mess up the test. ;)

What do you say to the same group who think that SEO should not be a dedicated profession?

A non-trivial portion of the business world is driven by arbitrage. Some industries have licenses that require people to jump through hoops before they can profit in them, but many of the best things to arbitrage are new fields where guidelines are not fully established and the market is not well informed.

It does not matter that some people do not like the field of SEO. If done well it is both highly profitable and highly effective. If you pick the right products and clients it is one of the rare opportunities where you can help ensure that everyone wins.

Having said all of the above, SEO is becoming much more complex, and is becoming a subset of marketing. In some industries it requires the use of public relations, in others it requires the act of smart publishing, and yet in others it comes down to ad buying. Any single strategy can get you to the top for some keywords, but the more tools you have the greater the likelihood you can compete across many different keywords and categories.

From a client perspective I think if you sell SEO services it might be helpful to bundle them with PPC services. People looking for a consultant on PPC are looking for cost savings where they are already spending money. Whereas many people looking for SEO are looking for free traffic. This was one of the reasons why I thought my wife had a good idea in launching PPC Blog. Rather than catering to a market saturated with free misinformation with prospective clients wanting everything for free it caters to an audience looking to spend money.

Do you have any tips on ranking country specific domains/sites in multiple locations. For example, if I have www.mysite.ie and want to target the US, UK and Ireland? What approach would you take if starting from scratch and what approach would you take with an established site?

I have nowhere near the international experience that some great SEOs like you from across the pond, but if I was on a limited budget I would set my main market on the main domain name and use subdomains for other markets. If I were using one main domain I would try to build from the .com. I would also try to secure the other names in case I later wanted to change my strategy.

If I had more budget and knew I would market all the sites then I would get 3 domain names (1 for each region) and host each of them in their matching location.

In the coming years, what SEO techniques do you predict are going to become more/most popular with dedicated hard working SEOs?

I think SEO is really going to become more and more about public relations and social interaction. Today I read a post by a web designer talking about how you should aim for a 2% keyword density. He was no SEO expert, but because he was a popular web designer his post got hundreds of comments and many inbound links.

It is not what you know but who you know. What communities do you want links from? How can you integrate yourself and your business in them?

In your experience, what has been the TYPE of link that has been most worth your time acquiring?

Links that come as endorsements from trusted members of your community help with rankings, pay directly through sales and referals, and are hard for competitors to replicate. They pay 3 different ways and lead to additional links, plus they are beyond the reach of most competitors. Those are the links I really love.

Finally, how do you think the search industry, SEO in particular can move away from the “cowboy”, “get rich quick” and “snake oil” labels that so many low quality providers have caused all SEOs to be tarred with the same brush by default?

I think the only way this would be possible is if we made a group effort to highlight the sleasy stuff that Google markets in their paid ads and help rebrand their service such that we introduced opportunity cost to them for them trying to trash us. But it would need to be well organized to succeed, but from what I have seen most well known people in the SEO space are looking out for themselves, so I don’t think we would have any chance unless we decide to use a different label.

Many of the smartest and most successful SEOs have moved out of the SEO industry and are now web publishers building online brands for themselves. If you do great SEOs for others then eventually building your own sites and brands is a must from a profitability, income diversity, and a credibility standpoint. I still love the SEO field, but realize that it is not the path toward highest earnings for most as a service based model.

So there you have it. I hope some of those answers were as helpful and enlightening to you as they were to me. If anyone is on the fence about learning the ropes of SEO, I encourage you to check out the SEO training offered by Aaron. It’s worth every penny. Also, consider reading and subscribing to his SEO Blog and his new pay per click marketing blog.

I’d like to thank Aaron Wall for taking the time to do this interview and I look forward to meeting him at PubCon this year in Las Vegas.


  1. avatar
    mrpurple Says:
    July 10th, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Great interview RedFly!

    You asked some good questions and Aaron gave some good/interesting answers!

    Who’s next in the pipeline?

    Reply

  2. avatar
    Tom Doyle Says:
    July 10th, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Great read – some really interesting responses from Aaron.

    Reply

  3. avatar
    Hendry Lee Says:
    July 10th, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Interesting read. I agree, it becomes public relation and social interactions nowadays.

    It gets pretty hard to filter great information.

    Reply

  4. avatar
    Professional SEO Consultant Says:
    July 10th, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    THE best interview post I have read in a VERY long time. It may even be my favorite! I love the fact that you ask some really great and deep questions about actual SEO and not just industry news/trends stuff. And the fact that Aaron was so willing to share was wonderful. Kudos to Aaron and RedFly!

    Reply

  5. avatar
    edwinsdesignlab Says:
    July 10th, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    No how-to-get-a-number-one-ranking-in-2-weeks bullshit, but an inside in seo and its evolution, I like this guy !

    Reply

  6. avatar
    Brian Turner Says:
    July 10th, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Always nice to read Aaron’s thoughts, and kudos, too, Dave, on a wonderfully looking website.

    Reply

  7. avatar
    Ken Says:
    July 10th, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    Agreed, one of the best interviews I’ve read. Also, if you read the comments Aron, wanted to thank you for providing great SEO tools on your site. Curious what primary keywords DollarSEO.com wants to rank for. Great post.

    Reply

  8. avatar
    James Says:
    July 10th, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    oh man … I saw a post earlier on today by gavin over on Irelandseomarketing.com mentioning your interview and since then I’ve basically freaked out … installing plugins for firefox … checking keywords left right and center. I’m realising I’ve a LOT of reading to do. I’m loving the seo is “bullshit” question as well :D

    The country specific domain question is one that hurts my head so much as well and has left me stalling on whether I promote the .com or the .ie … or both …

    Ah well .. I’ve a LOT of reading to do over the next 5 – 10 years :P

    Reply

  9. avatar
    iPhone tips Says:
    July 10th, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Great interview. I especially like the part about creating good content versus buying links. In my day job, I cannot seem to convince the execs to divert SEO budget to creating content instead of buying short-term value links on blogs. I even went as far as creating my own site in a competitive space and was able to gain high rank for “iphone tips” in only three months simply with good content and semantic mark-up. ;) The execs were impressed, but still don’t care about good content.

    Reply

  10. avatar
    paul Says:
    July 11th, 2008 at 6:36 am

    Great interview Dave & Aaron ! I like the point that Aaron mentions about SEOs using their skills to create niche sites for themselves, and to get an earning off that.

    I read a lot about the aspect of having your server in the country that you are targeting, but I’ve also read that this extra boost is becoming less and less. Dave/Aaron any comment on this?

    Thanks,
    Paul

    Reply

  11. avatar
    Internet marketing coach Says:
    July 11th, 2008 at 7:41 am

    It would have been even better if the interview can also post some tips of getting good quality links from useful websites, which is one of the most important criteria of getting top rankings in search engines.

    Reply

  12. avatar
    Donovan Roddy Says:
    July 11th, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Cool Interview Dave, as expected with interviews with Aaron. I noticed Aaron go into the 2% keyword density but was using it as a point.. I’ve always been against using density scale for keywords, of course you can have to many and you can also not have any at all but I think people go overboard on this whole issue. What’s your views on this?

    Reply

  13. avatar
    Michael Beck Says:
    July 11th, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Great interview. I refer many people to Aaron Walls website for learning and his great SEO Keyword Tool.

    Reply

  14. avatar
    Nick Stamoulis Says:
    July 14th, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    This is a great interview with Aaron Wall. It was very iteresting to learn what he went through while switching models (I can understand much of what he talks about :o)

    Reply

  15. avatar
    Jennifer Says:
    July 24th, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Dave, excellent interview. I did the same online teaching sells course that he did before he switched models and it was really interesting to read his thoughts on this and the rest!

    Reply

  16. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    July 24th, 2008 at 9:23 am

    @Nick: Yes, it was interesting to see how he went about it. I personally think Aaron took the right approach. Good man!

    @Jennifer: Thanks Jennifer. Is that the course by Brian Clark? I am indeed one of his hundreds of thousands of fans. As you can tell by many of our blog post titles, copyblogger is an inspiration!

    Did you get anything actionable from the course?

    Reply

  17. avatar
    John Says:
    August 1st, 2008 at 5:28 am

    Very good interview. I started my SEO journey several months back and ran into Aaron’s SEO Book…he delivers excellent value in everything he does.

    Reply

  18. avatar
    sleeptreatment blog Says:
    August 1st, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Interesting to hear from Aron “It is not what you know but who you know” :-)

    Reply

  19. avatar
    meethere Says:
    August 5th, 2008 at 6:02 am

    great interview..
    Have you asked why he stopped the sale of SEO book ??:(

    Reply

  20. avatar
    James Farrell Says:
    August 10th, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    I think he answered that question. The business model isn’t scalable. He wants people to join his community. :)

    Reply

  21. avatar
    SOHO Prospecting Says:
    August 12th, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Very good interview!
    I like the part about SEO going to become more about public relations and social interaction.
    Interesting point of view.

    Reply

  22. avatar
    Rob Shine Says:
    August 21st, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Great interview Dave – very interesting.

    Reply

  23. avatar
    Gavin Doolan Says:
    August 21st, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Hi Dave, really great article, very well written. Its good to get the opinion of a well respected industry professional such as Aaron. I was pleased to see I share alot of the same viewpoints as Aaron, although I have less experience than Aaron myself.

    I myself don’t want to compete in the SEO field for me the future is Analytics and understanding your website visitors. Its about trying to create a good impression on your visitors and about educating potential clients.

    Measuring success with tools such as Analytics is great because you can see what it is people want and don’t want to read about, plus you can get more control over your conversion rates.

    You also realise that search isn’t the only form of traffic worth targeting. But that’s something for another place.

    I think in future SEO will be more about reputation and how long you have been in the game, inbound links are important but there’s too much room for abuse at the moment.

    I also think that getting involved with communities is a very positive way to grow your business, especially so with the Open Source Business model.

    Reply

  24. avatar
    Stephanie Courtney Says:
    August 25th, 2008 at 8:12 am

    I think Mr. Wall needs to explain his comment about “random hand edits”. I have never heard of such a thing and it sounds quite absurd since design has almost zero affect on organic search rankings. That’s the point. Can he prove that hand edits actually happen and at what point in the search? If at the point of indexing, for which keywords are these sites being dropped? Certainly Google would never edit ‘the highest quality information in your space.’ Google doesn’t care about design, they want comprehensive, relevant CONTENT for their searchers. Google is an information retrieval system – not a subjective design critic.

    I’m also concerned that he doesn’t talk about the most important part of SEO which is keyword research and strategy.

    Also, let’s be clear that what gives SEO a bad name is when people tout success as top rankings. I can get you top rankings tomorrow for keyword phrases no one is looking for or for which there is only moderate competition. SEO is a means and not the end. The end is converting a searcher into a customer and unless an SEO talks about that, the rest is just smoke and mirrors. SEO is about working with the technology to reach the searcher – it is not about beating the system.

    Reply

  25. avatar
    Jennifer Says:
    August 26th, 2008 at 7:31 am

    Hi Dave, sorry I’m only replying now.

    Yes, it was the Teaching Sells by Brian Clark. There was a ton of good info in the course and I was all fired up and ready to launch great things but somewhere along the way I lost my momentum. I do intend to get back on track though!

    The course covered everything from how to set up Moodle with Amember, using multimedia in online teaching and different tools to use. I think the course is closed now, but is re-opening again soon.

    Reply

  26. avatar
    Søren Holm Says:
    August 27th, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Thanks for a great post on this topic. I liked the part about public relations.

    Reply

  27. avatar
    Jack Smith Says:
    September 6th, 2008 at 4:40 am

    I appreciate that your web site creating a higher value in providing updated information through your web site.

    Reply

  28. avatar
    Awais Says:
    September 10th, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Aaron has always got some thing great to say, this post was worth reading, 10 points :)

    Reply

  29. avatar
    Derek Says:
    September 15th, 2008 at 1:57 am

    Just came across this article, completely on the money, as Gavin indicated above i think its more about building your reputation online than just trying to garner a mass of links, future seo to my mind all about se trust, Great article Dave especially for some one just getting started in seo.
    Derek

    Reply

  30. avatar
    Aaron H Says:
    October 14th, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    That was a great Interview Dave, Iv been into SEO for years now and iv never seen Google change so dramatically as it has been lately.

    Reply

  31. avatar
    articleblip.com Says:
    October 16th, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Great post, and great interview with Aaron. Look forward to reading more.

    Reply

  32. avatar
    SEO South Africa Says:
    October 25th, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Brilliant interview. Really enjoyed the read, and I will be heading over to learn more about his training model.

    Reply

  33. avatar
    poer Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    great interview, thanks for sharing this :)
    i use aaron seo tools a lot, and its nice to know what the tools owner have in mind.

    Reply

  34. avatar
    Yellow SEO Website Optimiziation Says:
    December 4th, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    thanks dave,

    Great Interview with Aaron, Some great points brought out thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  35. avatar
    Joe Says:
    December 12th, 2008 at 12:50 am

    Thanks for the words from Aaron. I especially took note of his comments about moving from a website model with free and low cost content to a pricer online community. I answer legal questions for free on my web site and it’s becoming a headache. Perhaps I can monetize the responses enabling me to put more time into each response giving the user a better response at a reasonable cost.

    Reply

  36. avatar
    answeraddict.com Says:
    December 23rd, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Thanks for the great article and interview with Aaron from SEO Book. I have enjoyed reading this blog.

    Reply

  37. avatar
    Lee Says:
    December 26th, 2008 at 6:10 am

    Top-notch interview and information! Just when you think you got it down, it’s time to move again. I guess it’s just the nature of the beast. It might be time for some serious website reevaluation. I’m sure there will be plenty to do in 2009.

    All the best,
    Lee

    Reply

  38. avatar
    Subodh Gupta Says:
    January 12th, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Thank you very much Dave for your time and interviewing Aaron on SEO. It is always good to introspect the comments on SEO, especially when it is coming from eminent experts. I would also like to share information, In my experience if your website is focussed in particular geographical region like the UK, domain like .co.uk would be more effective.

    Thank you very much once again.
    With Regards
    Subodh

    Reply

  39. avatar
    Reishi Says:
    January 26th, 2009 at 8:44 am

    Thanks for the great article and interview with Aaron from SEO Book. I have enjoyed reading this blog.

    Reply

  40. avatar
    Zak Show Says:
    January 28th, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Good interview but it can be better if it includes some tips on how to get good quality links from large websites, to help on getting top rankings in search engines.

    Reply

  41. avatar
    Jeff Gregory Says:
    February 23rd, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks for the excellent interview. I’ve usede Aaron’s tools for years now, and can’t imagine how I could repay him.

    Reply

  42. avatar
    UXDimensions Usability Testing and Evalution Says:
    March 2nd, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    This is an awesome interview. Aron, thanks for your great work and the fantastic tools on your website.

    Reply

  43. avatar
    Bob Says:
    March 4th, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Great interview.
    We have been following Aaron Wall’s training and it has greatly helped us in our SEO efforts for our website.
    Thanks to RedFly for taking the efforts too.

    Reply

  44. avatar
    seo company Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 5:58 am

    That is great interview. this great tool for your website and i have started to use this from last year

    Reply

  45. avatar
    Guru Guy Says:
    May 28th, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    This guy is a true pioneer. I read the SEO Book years ago. It is still the best source out there on SEO – especially for people starting out. No doubt, he is tops. He always puts out great information… better information than you pay for, many times.

    Reply

  46. avatar
    Local SEO Company Says:
    October 10th, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Very interesting interview, especially the test using dollarseo.com.

    This type of experiment give us small SEO companies a real level of reassurance. Thanks Red Fly and thanks Aaron.

    Reply

  47. avatar
    SEO Thomas Says:
    September 30th, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Really great interview…the part about using the exact keyword phrase too many time is spot on. A good SEO content writer will write for the consumer!

    Reply

  48. avatar
    Sherin Says:
    October 12th, 2010 at 8:32 am

    I don’t agree with Aaron…SEO is simply not the keyword ranking,counting links(as his example for dollarseo.com)..Even i admit the reality why google gives importance to PPC,As they need to generate money!!..A good Search Optimizer should be able to understand where the organic traffic really reach the website.There will be always different way to play the SEO game…

    Reply