Interview with Aaron Wall

I recently interviewed Aaron Wall, of SEO Book and PPC Blog about his perspective on SEO, link building and marketing in general.

Aaron, you have helped literally thousands of people market their own sites through seo and internet marketing. What advice would you give to the novice website owner or business owner who was desiring to seo their site/ or invest and have someone/some agency do it for them?

I wouldn’t pay someone else to do it without learning at least a bit about it yourself. At a minimum you should be able to figure out what market segment you want to be in, and what domain name you want to build from. But the more knowledge you have the better.

Try to get analytics installed right away such that you are learning based on actual data rather than abstractions.

I think going to a conference or 2 is a great call. Reading a half-dozen books and subscribing to a couple of your favorite blogs is well worth doing if time permits.

You are constantly quoting new sources and articles related to marketing and the economy. Can you give us a 5-7 sites/books/authors that are really shaping the way you develop your business today?

The reason I like finance so much is economics really ties in with marketing and there is so much data that can be used to add clarity to murky markets. People like Eric Janszen have to be able to think clearly to beat the markets…and they share that sort of thinking in a way that help you improve your own clarity.

Financial sites & blogs

Books

  • Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point
  • The Cluetrain Manifesto
  • Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think
  • Seth Godin’s Purple Cow
  • Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody
  • Manuel De Landa’s A Thousand Years of Non-linear History (disclaimer: this one is a tough read)

Papers & Research & Such

I also look at a lot of the top SEO and marketing blogs. Probably the #1 in terms of reporting new breaking news would be the daily email newsletter from Search Engine Land. It has more than a lot of people need (especially more than people who are not industry insiders), but virtually no important news is skipped…if it is important they cover it (or link out to someone who is).

You once said that if you were going to train a link builder two of your starting points would be to teach them how to use RSS feeds and to understand linking biases on sites. Could you explain that comment a bit more and give us some examples?

I think there are many different forms of link building

  • building relationships in your market
  • researching a competitor’s top backlinks and trying to mechanically clone them
  • egobait (awards, interviews, contests, etc.)
  • launching linkbaits and then promoting them (either within your industry or to broader industries)
  • Understanding the biases of publishers in your field and other fields helps you know how to write to get coverage (if that is what you are seeking). For example, after reading the Google remote quality rater guidelines and then seeing a Mahalo page with no content on it (well all scraped content) I knew that if I wrote about Mahalo being spam that Valleywag would pick it up. Likewise, when writing about click fraud I knew certain people would link at it.

As a political disclaimer I would like to state that I do not like either of the 2 main political parties in the United States. Radiohead had a song called the gloaming where it mentions “shadows blue and red” talking about how both political parties are shadows of their former selves and serve the same masters. And with that in mind…

Microsoft did research on some political blogs which showed that people were most commonly reading and linking to stuff that was philosophically related to their own biases. How you approach a shotgun toting southerner vs a tree hugging hippy are different.

Shared biases can be learned through market interactions, and can even be a large reason for success. How do talentless hypocritical hacks like Rush Limbaugh & Ann Coulter become famous, other than being polarizing ideologues?

And while searching for the liberal equivalent of those nut jobs, I came across this comment on Yahoo! Answers

“You must be talking about Bill Maher, he’s about as obnoxious and despicable as they come. I cancelled HBO because of him ! “

quite polarizing, no? And then, of course, there is Michael Moore….

Beyond learning the biases…you can also use RSS to consume a lot of information efficiently and be one of the first people in a particular niche with new news. So a lot of mainstream sources break news, but write about everything under the sun. If you are the first person in niche x (with a large readership of people in niche x) then you can get a lot of links by writing about your take on market trends and what the media is saying.

You often stress the importance of relationship building in a niche and becoming a thought leader in a niche as a way to garner links. If you were starting out in a niche in which you had no connections and no money, how would you go about developing the relationships and becoming a thought leader?

I would start a blog within the first week. And I would buy at least a half dozen how to books. In addition to reading and learning and trying to write about the stuff I was learning about I would also subscribe to many leading blogs in the industry and follow them. Following important spreading stories that bubble up on forums is important too…because if you see what questions keep coming up well that tells you what topics to target with really great content. In addition Google News (and some other news sites) allow you to create custom RSS feeds based on keywords, so you can track how your industry bubbles up in various areas.

As far as building relationships goes, I think participating in smaller communities is better than bigger ones, I think relevant and useful value add comments help, and it is hard to stress the value of in person interaction where/when possible.

And another area where people are weak is in cultivating what they have back home…make sure you allow comments on your posts, and try to thoughtfully answer every non-spam comment you get.

Before I started a blog and did all that other stuff I would read these 2 pages

One last tip here…anything that you have that the rest of the market doesn’t is an advantage to you.

So if you are good at graphics use them early and often. If you are good at analogies and have experience in another field and can sorta relate them…well, try to share that where it makes sense. If you are good on camera then use videos to help spread your message and build an audience. And so on…

If you are the first person to do something then it is easy for it to be seen as remarkable. So you can’t copy someone else and beat them (or at least not very often), but if you can put stuff in new formats it is easy for it to spread.

When my wife launched this PPC flowchart all we did was mention it and the thing took off like wildfire. We knew it was a good idea based on seeing people like some of the SEO flowcharts we made.

And that is where being willing to spend a bit extra to buy the newest version of Camtasia or SmartDraw can yield a big competitive advantage over 10,000 bloggers who are all writing the same crap in the exact same format

What are your most relied upon tools in your internet marketing arsenal?

I certainly am a big user of the Google search-based keyword tool, analytics tools, and competitive research tools. Due to our (small) company structure we don’t use link research tools as much as some people likely do…though in time if we grow I suspect we will look at those a bit more.

Another thing that helps here is just being willing to put in the time to research. If you search for the most linked to pages on competing sites (from Majestic SEO or Open Site Explorer) that can give you some ideas of what has worked in the past and maybe what ideas you can try new spins on. The same is true for popular Digg and Delicious stories.

Thanks Aaron for a great interview! Readers, if you are interested in more from Aaron, please check out SEO Book and the PPC blog.

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