Aaron Wall on Growth Areas, Independent Webmastering, Hiring and More (Interview)

Aaron Wall is a teacher, SEO, marketing expert and generally a very bright guy [obviously, he agreed to do an interview with me ;) ]. Beyond the site we all know and love, he’s also the man behind Search Engine History, Blackhat SEO and a variety of others. Most of you reading this probably know these things, so let’s just move on with the interview. As always, there’ll be free dofollow links in updates to the post for intelligent comments and particularly if you find the source for some of these questions…

1) Where do you think are the most promising areas for testing and experimenting, as far as discovering new, actionable SEO insights?

  • I think studying psychology and sociology are key areas for growth.
  • New platforms for conversation and new content formats (blogs, wikis, YouTube & video syndication, Twitter, etc.) are important for leveraging that knowledge.
  • Also tracking linguistic trends and getting in early on them is big. Register the associated domains. Participate in conversations to try to track new phrases, create new phrases, and have thought ownernship over them.

2) Can you suggest some budget-friendly ways for independent webmasters to boost their brand awareness, besides guest-blogging/interviews?

Hosting a blog of their own. Creating and giving away valuable tools and information. Participating in online communities. Making friends. The truth is that the web is a social network, and you can succeed with little money so long as you are social.

If you sell products or services bolting on an affiliate program is a low cost way to buy mindshare and brand awareness as well.

3) What are some of the simpler ways for indie webmasters to generate an offline-income-stream? In other words, how can they extend their businesses offline in a simple manner?

I am mostly online oriented, but productizing and packaging information and/or selling premium services to the local market is an easy way to do well in the real world. Hit up the local press with a good story for them to share and market to your local area.

Having said that, I think that the greatness of the web is that it does not have many physical limitations, and allows you to aggregate demand from across the world. Put another way, if you can’t get anyone to buy your stuff online then offline might be pretty tough too.

When I was selling SEO Book, for example, I could have tried to do offline stuff, but I think the longterm ROI will be greater by creating more meaningful relationships with a number of customers…that is part of the reason I decided to shift from selling an ebook to our seo training program.

4) As far as selling SEO services, can you share some offline lead-generation methods that have worked for you (besides speaking at SMX/SES/Other major trade shows)?

Honestly speaking is huge. It is hard to be over-rated if you are looking for clients. The best clients I have ever had have come from speaking. Beyond that I have never really been much of a push marketer offline. What I did that worked well for me is spend a lot of time and money learning while keeping my costs low. I also had an abundance theory where I thought the best strategy was to create more than enough demand and then just say yes to the best opportunities.

I don’t even usually carry business cards to conferences. And I like to wear t-shirts and be comfortable. I think that makes the types of customers I would like to work with want to trust me more.

I went to Coachella a few years back and ran into some cool people there who later became SEO clients…but that was not me going to a concert to pitch SEO services. ;)

5) How many attempts did you make to find a reliable programmer before finding success? You mentioned getting referrals from friends – who/how did you ask?

Well, to be honest, my first programmer was awesome. He was in the military with me and got out a bit after I did. He could not find a job so I had him do some stuff for me. He interned at Google last summer and will probably work for them. I just hope he never talks to Matt Cutts. ;)

After him it has been hit and miss though. I tried getting some people to do things they could not. Some people wasted my time. Others stole my money. And then some have been really great. Most recently my best programmers have been people who read my blog. Giving away SEO tools was probably one of the highest ROI moves I ever could have made.

The guy who did most of the work on changing over the SEO Book business model was a reader of the book and blog, and my wife found the guy who did the payment integration stuff…I think from Craigslist.

6) If one of GYM [Google, Yahoo, MSN] took over the US government, who would you rather live under, and why?

Yahoo! – they seem less militant and dominating than Google and Microsoft.

7) What are your three greatest strengths?

I am more driven than most people. I do not take no as an answer.
I am more creative and passionate than most people.
I can probably comfortably do the work of 5 to 10 people.

8) What are your three greatest weaknesses?

I am not balanced enough…like I need to eat healthier, work out more, and play on the web less.
I am more emotional than most people.
If I have a few off days it is quite hard to catch up given my current work load.

9) What is your idea of earthly happiness?

When I first met my wife. But I have recently gained a bit of weight from all the stress of changing my business model and whatnot. Honestly I just like playing basketball or playing tennis or kayaking or going for a walk and not having to care about the world around me other than being with my wife. Reading a good book and playing with the dog are fun and rewarding activities as well. I also like when people tell me I helped them…it gives me the warm fuzzies. :)

10) What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery, for a webmaster?

Depends on a lot of variables, but a server being down or a hand edit from Google on something that is head and shoulders above the competition both feel sorta sour.

Update: Thanks to Matt Burgess aka Burgo, as well as Chris from Home and Holidays aka Chillami for tipping me off to a broken link! Fixed :).

If you enjoyed this post, have a look at the Independent Webmaster’s Manifesto, which is largely inspired by Aaron. You’ll probably also enjoy the ideas section of this site, and perhaps my SEO resources bonanza. Of course, if you’re gonna read all that, you may as well subscribe too :).

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Comments

  1. Gab: there's an error in the URL for searchenginehistory.com.

    Comment by Burgo - March 26, 2008 @ 5:39pm
  2. As a SEO it must really suck to loose ones programmer to Google :D

    Comment by Malte Landwehr - March 28, 2008 @ 9:40am
  3. It's always great to hear some real-life from some of the greats! Thanks for this.

    Comment by Kevin Althaus - March 29, 2008 @ 10:43am
  4. Malte, yeah, that's gotta have been a real harsh loss! Kevin, my pleasure. Glad you liked it :)!

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - March 29, 2008 @ 9:28pm
  5. Great interview... Aaron helped me get started in SEO, and reminds me to think bigger. Thanks, Brad

    Comment by Columbus Web Design and SEO - March 31, 2008 @ 4:26pm
  6. You asked great interview questions.

    Comment by Giovanna - April 1, 2008 @ 1:48am
  7. Brad, email that to Aaron. He'll get the warm fuzzies ;). Giovanna, I'm happy to hear that - it's a big compliment coming from you, since you know Aaron so well!

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - April 1, 2008 @ 6:27pm

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