Aaron Wall Business Management Interview – Episode #91

by Richard Wilson on August 2, 2011

The following audio interview is borrowed from our BusinessTraining.com platform and was originally recorded for our business management training program.  In this interview I got a chance to speak with search engine marketer and industry expert Aaron Wall.

Aaron is a top 3 search marketing expert who has grown from offering a single e-book to managing a team, growing several products and service lines, and managing a complex fast moving technology business.  Aaron first became well known by growing SEOBook.com from nothing into a top 5 SEO brand, forum, and membership site that it is today and now he is doing it again in PPC with his PPC Blog.  In the following interview Aaron shares what he has learned through overcoming his own business growth, product funnel creation, and management challenges.   (Download this file in Mp3 format)

Interview Transcript:

Richard Wilson: Hello, this is Richard Wilson, and with us here today is Aaron Wall from Seobook.com.  Aaron runs the number one SEO training program with over a hundred custom training manuals and active forum video manuals and exclusive tools. For those of you who don’t know what SEO stands for, it’s Search Engine Optimization, which is a huge part of both internet marketing and marketing nowadays.  I’ve been a subscriber to Aaron’s website, and a reader of his blog for several years now and he’s joined us here on this call because, I know he’s the real deal in having built his own business himself.  He’s managed people within his business, grown it over the years to be more diverse and successful.  And that’s the reason why we’re interviewing him today.

We want to learn more about how he made the jump from starting a business himself to growing it to become larger with more employees and between his different websites, thousands of clients and sturdy revenues. So first of all, I just want to thank you for joining us, we appreciate you spending your time to conduct this interview with us today.

Aaron Wall: Thanks for having me here too.

Richard Wilson: Great. So just a real quick; what is your business background and where are you coming from when you’re providing this advice here today?  Like how did you start your blog and your business and what was your background before that?

Aaron Wall: So before I got into the SEO and internet marketing space, I had a job when I was first getting into it as an inventory manager for a company, and we will go to stores and like count their stock, like how many they have of this drug or what they have of this stock or that stock,  and I could kind of see that like that job was going to eventually get phased out by RFID and other technologies, at least at some degree, so – but I kept being attracted to the web and the idea that search allowed you to spread whatever message you wanted to. My first couple of website weren’t very good; first one was a bit of a rant website and the second one was kind of the world’s worst affiliate website.  Because – I thought that it was great, because it had everything but if you have everything you have nothing of course, because you’re not the expert of everything and you can be great in everything.

So there is that, and then before that I was in the Navy; on the submarines, nuclear reactor operator like Homer Simpson but maybe even more boring and worse.  And then before that I joined the Military only a couple of weeks after high school when I was seventeen. Before that in high school, I sold some baseball cards, and going around to like flea markets and baseball card shows.  A lot of marketing knowledge that I later gained in search was kind of tied into what I learned back in then.

So the concept of relevancy was learned then, back in high school.  I had really good baseball cards and then this guy who had worse cards than me, one time he grabbed a wade of cash and it was like; “look what I made this week and I was like really?  And I was like really?  And then I was like what is he doing?  And then I looked and it was like Okay”, so I will just be organized and do this and that, and it’s not what I think is important and valuable to what other people think isn’t you know.  So I went for my people’s baseball cards like by the player name and then someone they were like a Tony Gwynn fan or someone else like that.  And so they looked through your sack of Tony Qwynn and why that model will work is the people who are interested in this specific player are going to pay a premium for it; will to buy five, ten, twenty a time so, it’s kind of the way you are organized, it is just like categories on a websites.  So that’s kind of where my marketing started.

Richard Wilson: Sure, sure. That’s a great story; I think that sometimes people whether they are starting a small business or normally in business hesitates, I think.  Well I don’t know enough yet or what if it doesn’t work, or it’s probably a little crappy or I really only know a small part of the puzzle, but you’re story is just like mine. I started an e-commerce website; I had tried to sell electronics around 1995 and it’s just an awful looking website and tried to sell online textbooks when I was in college, it went a little bit better but it’s only if you’re doing these things that fail and look horrible that you kind of learn the basics and get a handle on what’s actually going to make money versus just spending your money on putting ideas out there.  So it’s all as good, I think to start with those types of stories because some people are just afraid to make that first step forward, that first jump so.

So before we get into some questions about being a small business owner or a business manager of a small team, I couldn’t help, I just want to ask a couple — SEO related questions.  Since you’ve probably thought this more than anyone else I’ve spoken to.  From a 50,000 feet level, when you’re looking at SEO, there is so many things you can do to build links, so many things to build content that people want to share, so many things to make your content relevant, is there one or two sentences that kind of can help guide people long term in SEO’s space,  because it seems like quarter to quarter, year to year , some things are going to change, some things are  going to drop or raise in importance but just help organize people’s kind of mission, really at SEO, do you have a couple of like guiding sentences on kind of clear the clutter and just make sure you at least remember this one or two things?

Aaron Wall: Yes, so the first thing I would say is definitely pick your spots.  I don’t know if you or your listeners  have ever watched the movie called “Blow”, but the main character of it, George, he says at the end like something about, “ there is no more pretty women or white horses for him.”  But he’s forced to crack a smile knowing that his ambitions far exceeded his talents.  You can think that way online in terms of — with search most of the traffic is going to go to the person who is number one or the people that are one, two, three.  So if you don’t have much budget, and you say; I really want to run it with credit cards, maybe you’ll do alright but if you don’t have much budget there is a good chance that you won’t have quite enough to get to the top.

Richard Wilson: Right.

Aaron Wall: Same thing if you want to write for just insurance or auto insurance.  Now you take a smaller niche like pet insurance or something more specific like a local variation and suddenly the poor competitors is much weaker because you’re not competing as everyone’s homepages, you’re competing  as deep internal pages on the big sites or only smaller weaker competitors that are also local or whatever.  So the key is to pick a niche where you feel you have some sort of competitive advantage like a great domain name, years of experience, knowledge and contacts, all those things, and then also to just not try to own the world off the start. One thing that gets people in trouble is when they want to be everything. If you say that you’re just the link builder or the link building expert, that allows you to partner with the person that says he is the key research expert and someone else who says they’re the SEO expert or the e-commerce SEO expert.

Whereas if you say; well, we’re the global multi-lingual interactive agency of record and you’re coming out of nowhere, suddenly everyone thinks like you’re a competitor.  So that’s – you can’t make as many of those partnerships, whereas if you just pick one little topic that you can own, then it’s much easier to own it.  And the other thing is make sure that you kind of define that topic in a way that’s ownable.  For example when I got into the SEO space, there was no way I could have ever said, “well I’m the recorder of search news.”  Danny Sullivan had like a decade of experience, way more knowledge, journalistic background, all this sort of connections; he is the guy who is that topic.  So you have to pick a niche within that. So I was like well we share SEO news and selling SEO e-book. So it’s about picking a winnable topic rather than following others and making sure that you don’t try to be broad beyond your resources.

Richard Wilson: Right, right. Now that’s great advice, I think as funny as I found out when I get advice from bestselling authors like somebody like Tim Ferris or even like Stephen Covey or Jack Canfield or when I look at leading trainers like Eban Pegan or Wyatt Woodsmall people that really are successful now in broader areas, whenever I get insights from them on how they did it or when I suggest how you can do it, they always talk about first becoming really successful within a very definable niche, that you can kind of dominate.  Even if there’s a couple of competitors there,  just be really successful within one place first and then you can leverage those models to pick off other low hanging fruits and then be generally  very successful and then you could have more general products. But everybody I talked to says it starts with one specific thing because you can address those needs more directly and I think it’s a great piece of advice.

Aaron Wall: Another point related to that especially particular to SEO is that; links last for a long time and whatever links you get – good links lasts for a long time, whatever links you get early, those will have a cumulative effect in helping you build more exposure later on.  So sometimes it’s even worth starting out a business where it’s not fully aggressively monetized, and it just seems like you can throw up an informational sites or you’re just sharing tips and info about what you want to later monetize and kind of just start connecting with people. In that way you start building some of the relationships in advance.

Like yesterday or the day before, someone was like; ‘click here to find some more awesome keyword tools’, and it was some link to their site and like what’s curious with their site was, after their comments found me and they end up like 30 inbound links.  Now some of the stuff on that site looked like it could have been interesting. However personalized email and more classy interaction allows that person to gain exposure, gain strength whereas the person who waits till the day they want to sell something like; ‘ buy my stuff’ , they’re not going to have very much luck.

Richard Wilson: Yeah, that’s a great tip. I mean and also, sometime you can end up having a more well refined customer avatar or a product that almost sells itself if you provide that value first because you get to know your market so well at a deeper level so.  I’m also wondering, you’ve had a successful membership program at seoboo.com, lots of people have joined your program, and you keep on raising the price and it seems it remain pretty popular in the industry and I’m just wondering, I saw a statistics once that 17% of membership websites make a million dollars or more, and I’m guessing that because those other 83%, most of them don’t make much money at all or don’t make any money and they keep on closing down.  So the only reason that it is high at 17% probably is because nobody is going to close down a membership website that’s bringing in a $100,000 a month.  So I’m wondering from your point of view, if there is one thing that is kind of counter intuitive about running a membership website?  Does it really help people if they are looking to launch one or include that in their portfolio of websites, is there one thing that is just like usually you have to make a big costly mistake to discover that you can kind of share with people during the recording?

Aaron Wall: So one things that is not talked about anywhere near as much because most of the stuff you hear about membership sites is kind of designed around selling the dream of running one and this and that, however churn is like a very big issue.  If you attract the wrong sort of customers, you’re going to increase your churn rates, decrease the quality in action with the customers you care a lot about.  So there is a lot of factors that you have to prepare for.  So when we raised the price from a hundred to a hundred and fifty dollars a month, we sent out a message that we were doing that and we got a huge increase in subscribers but the those people that were motivated by the pricing or discount generally didn’t stay very long.

Likewise when we were working with some people who were helping us improve conversion rates, one of the things we tried was to have a pop-up, however, when we had the pop-up on our sites, that didn’t resonate with our other marketing very well.  So the people we were attracting were higher churn people and then our core market wasn’t converting as well.  So the trick is if you can find – you don’t have to be good for everyone, just find something that you’re good or some set audience or group and then really horn in and try to match with that.  And you’re not always going to find that just by looking at the immediate numbers, you have to kind of be engaged in the site and understand like the phycology and the user interactions and kind of have a got feel for it.

And sometimes that means like running counter towards the short term trends like you have to be able to see that something might increase, something that might lower your membership, might increase the value and quality of your site.

Richard Wilson: Right, yeah, for sure. I guess it’s a great piece of advice. We did an eight hour long kind of training workshop last Monday in New York , and what was interesting is we got a whole bunch of feedback forms from some people, we got about 40 different feedback forms, and it’s funny because in business you always listen to your customers, adjust your business to your customers but the truth is you have to ignore some of your customers or you will never please anybody just like you said in the beginning if you try to please everybody, you’re pleasing nobody.  See, we had a feedback form that says; you should never have these types of PowerPoint slides in your training, and you might be tempted to incorporate all the feedback you get but then other people might have loved the PowerPoint slides, they just that they didn’t mention it or they thought that they were Okay, you don’t need to change it at all. So I think it kind of up I think with what you’re saying here with membership websites.  Some people may complain that your price is too high, your price is too high, but when you get behind the numbers and understand what niche group of people those are, they might be your least profitable customers anyway right?

Aaron Wall: And the interesting thing there is another kind of rule of kind of filtering is, because we have – we have a fairly small staff and we don’t have tons of customers; I won’t state the exact number, I mean it’s enough to make it certainly a real business, but as far as registered users were like coming up like half a million registered users and those aren’t paying customers  they’re just  registered users, so if we had people that say like; “your free SEO extensions are for Firefox, I only use Internet Explorer, explain me why sir?” I just have to delete that, I used to try this; I could drive myself mad trying to help everyone as much I could.  And then I had my assistant do the – some of the support tickets for a few weeks and he’s like yeah, they almost drove me insane, some of those ones. So then we got even better, so I’m like; Okay it wasn’t just me having a bad temper, I was legitimate in my perception that hey if people are having problems before they pay you, or they need a discount before they pay you, it’s typically reflective of them – I mean this is a bad generalization overall and if you’re new and you don’t have many customers, you wouldn’t want this sort of generalization.

But if people have a lot of issues before they become your customer, then after they become your customer, they’re — probably still going to have a lot of issues and probably not going to stay very long and they’re probably going to take a lot of maintenance for all the while that they’re there.

So if you want to optimize for profits and not just sales and then also quality of your community,  if you have like form like we do, if it — sometimes it does help to just, not be very interested in the people who want you to drive your price down to basically nothing.  There’s also another point on that.  There was a — my wife is into golf, and there was some book like “Stories of ex self-made info marketing multi-millionaires”, and it turns out this one guy was in there and he’s a guy who bought my e-book many years ago for $700 and then have like about $60,000 worth of questions, to where he wanted to value my time at about $2 an hour, and I was like, hey, well I could use some golf lessons, do you value your time at $2 an hour?  And asking people for reciprocity often filters out.  So any barriers you have, if people have complaints whatever…

Richard Wilson:  Right.

Aaron Wall: … are you a customer or not?  If they are not a customer, then their complaints are invalid. I mean, usually — sometimes it will be helpful but more often than not if — the advice is that you need to make everything free, so it’s good for them.  And then they want a personalized counsel on top of every, you know, all of the other stuff that is free.  And — we don’t leave on communist Russia, so that’s not how things work so.

Richard Wilson:  Yes, now that’s great advice. I think actually you sharing a story about how you fired a customer is actually one of the things that help us, about a year and a half ago. We had to fire one of our customers, and we don’t have a huge business, but we’re doing well enough We’re going to be around for a very long time, and we just had a few people in our program that — it’s like out of a thousand people it will be like two, but there will always be one every year, one every six months, it’s just – it needs to be baby fed 50 times more than everybody else.  And they won’t read the website and they won’t read the study guide and they won’t do anything basically on their own, and those are the same people that ask if we can guarantee them a job after they do our training program.

So, yes I want to thank you for always sharing that story on your blogs, as well as in this interview.  I think it’s kind of allows other people the permission to fire customers because it’s not something they really teach you on business school.  It’s all about how to get business and how to grab your business not how about to stay sane when you’re running a small business so. I just want to touch real quick on contractors, how you build your business? What do you find most successful for yourself and different industries and business models, that sort of definitely changed? Well I thought it might be helpful if you will share a little bit about your insights on using elance.com or odesk.com type sites or hiring some part time maybe to work, you know, remotely from their home, or having somebody work for you like the assistant you were speaking about a few minutes ago, like in your house or in your place of business.  What have you found to be the most effective?

Aaron Wall: So, one of the benefits of running Seobook is that, it does have a really wide reach.  That allows us to interact with a lot of people. And when I say that if someone doesn’t pay me, that’s not all people. That’s like the people that haven’t paid me anything and they are already complaining and bitching and moaning and it like whoa, you know I don’t need that.  But sometimes like, you’ll get someone that just does something nice for you, it’s like when that person calls like, “hey, you’re shared a lot with me, thanks and here it is.”

So sometimes, some of them are working relationships to (inaudible) (0:19:58) stuff like that.  And the other thing is because we have the community we have, you can kind of see as people progress and then sometimes you can tell they have a strong affinity for it and really got what you’re about.  And then hire someone like sometimes we’ve hired a couple of our own customers to become workers for us.

The big tricks there I think is if you can have a spot where you have interactions, especially in a smaller, smallest community, where you get to know people, you a lot of the awkwardness with associating, with creating a business relationships is often, I mean ‘cos you kind of rolling the dice but if you kind of work with them informally for a period of time, then it’s much easier to do something more formal. And then the other nice thing about that is you can start with them part time, kind of gauge and feel them out and then scale it up as you’re both happy with it.

Richard Wilson:  Right, right that makes sense. So basically, it’s a kind of an osmosis process of just all this huge network you have, kind of the proactive people like they maybe get a thick and race to the top naturally, and when the time is right, you can of start a conversation when needed.

Aaron Wall: Yup.

Richard Wilson:  Okay. What was one of the tipping points for your business?  I know you have a diverse business running now that’s bigger than just Seobook.com, and that’s where you get to try out and learn and that’s where a lot of the successful tips on SEO come from, but what was, overall in your business, what is really the tipping point of — what pushed you from being — you may be good at SEO or good at getting some traffic and some customers really be grow your business at a faster speed?  Or is there some lesson that came out of that you can share?

Aaron Wall: My wife.  I’ve worked more than most people, they probably — I can’t say probably, certainly, there’s  — most people who work more than I do might be  a bit insane,  but my wife is been like; you’re working quite  a bit on your website and stuff.  You should definitely make that pay more because you work so much, because you know so much and so she’s the one that always pushing me more to be — because I was just — a lot of — I was just doing when I was interested to them.  Not always as necessarily money focus as I could be and she’s the one who put more of the kind of monitory, discipline and focusing of resources towards returns.

So she would be the (single) (0:22:34) — meeting her and having her push me on that front will be the single biggest I would say tipping point of sorts.  There’s been others along the way too, but that will be the biggest one.

Richard Wilson:  Sure. So finding a good influence, significant other or maybe mastermind group or someone who’s going to kind of push you to prioritize, I guess would be another way to interpret that, right?

Aaron Wall: Yes.  And then second piece of that is if you can build a couple of different revenue streams that are maybe (finely attached) (0:23:03) or even (dis-attached). What that allows you to do is if you’re merely driven by your passion, if you see something else where, (well you’re playing on ) (0:23:15) passion but it’s just working and it’s not — is intensive for the returns that helps justify your (aims) (0:23:22) inside your mind, helps set the floor on your pricing, so maybe I could say we could have 3,000 customers at 40 hours a month, or maybe I only want 300 customers at $500 a month.

So it helps you justify and figure out your model; where you want to be; what’s a good fit for what your time is worth when you’re preparing.  So I think in any business, it is good to have some high effort, (inaudible)(0:23:56) return income just to be like the (staler base)(0:24:00) and then also some lower effort, higher return income to kind of give you the alpha, and definitely allowing you to create savings and invest in growth, and that sort of stuff.

And the nice thing about the combination of the two is you still have the stability of the old (style) stable business, but then you also get to push resources to where the returns are higher and you can always fall back on the safety net.  So it’s kind of nice having both.

Richard Wilson:  Right, yes that’s a great analogy; I like to use the word alpha too. It’s smart to look like a portfolio.  You want some blue chips, steady kind of cash kind type of businesses that or eventually cash kind businesses, some steady kind of dividends type businesses.  Maybe you have an income coming in every month and have some high growth opportunities out there at least, just to give them a chance. So I think it’s a great piece of advice.

Another thing that I’ve been trying to do more within our business and that we suggested in some of our training seminars and programs is process documentation. And what we have found is this that, when we hire somebody new, the processes are documented, it’s really easy to train them. When we meet our board of directors or advisors we can clearly explain what we’re doing and what are our advantages and how we keep the quality up as we grow. When you go into a new market, you can look at these processes you use and then kind of apply them to that other model and just quickly get the profitability.  So, I was just wondering in your experience and for business managers that are out there if you see having systems and processes and checklist is really critical or at what point do you think it becomes critical?  Do you think maybe it’s just a waste of time to do that much documentation or working processes that much as a really small business and it should only be for bigger businesses, what’s your kind of take on that?

Aaron Wall: I think it depends on the style of business you run.  If you run one website that’s pretty deep and you just keep adding more incremental different pieces to it like for example a membership site that you had quizzes on, then  you add a video content and you add text contents and you add forums and add tools and (inaudible)(0:26:07) as you add more pieces, each thing is like kind of a bit different so that sort of stuff – having lots of documentation (in itself is)(0:26:17) valuable for it because, I mean there might be some check list to make sure we integrate here, here and this and that, but that stuff isn’t – it’s not we have to train  a lot of  people on getting up to speed. However if you have people doing the same things over, and over and over again, like finding domain names and business areas you want to start more websites in . If you have a portfolio websites, that would be something you would want to use some tool for or have some strategy down where you knew what your minimum criteria were in terms of I want sites that have the potential to make this much money, have keyword value of this much, have search value of this much to build — to know a baseline and feel whether or not an opportunity fits or not for your business, but what would you value to try that?

Also as boring as they are we still (inaudible) (0:27:10) our sites somewhere directories so we have like a checklist of those, we are — we have – then we have a guides for if we hire new bloggers for our websites depending on the role.  If they’re already passionate, and well known and well interconnected on the web, one of the (inaudible) (0:27:27) we’ll just hire him over, we might not give them tons of guidance and advice, it might be more like enhancement tips here and there after the fact . Whereas if the person is kind of new and you bring him to the fold we have like a working (guide) (027:44) of what we expect in terms of hosting frequency, hosting link, types of ideas to post, how to find new ideas and that sort of stuff.

So we definitely have a lot of stuff documented and then we just use it as (inaudible) (0:28:00) and then monitor the employers to see how they are doing with it and where it seems like they’re lapsing, go give them a bump to kind of send them back on the right direction, but definitely the more we’ve grown certainly the more it’s had value to have a lot of documentation and processes in place and things like that.

Richard Wilson: Sure, that makes sense and then I was wondering actually, this is not a question I have planned on asking but when you mentioned that you work more than most or certainly more than most people, I mean like a business owner, I’m  kind of  CEO mastermind group, we meet once a week and we had  a conversation about balancing for our work, it deals with like Frank Kern had a conference about designing your ideal day.

So every day you kind of live in your ideal plan day instead of waiting till you  retire, so you might work full time still, you might work 50 hours a week still but every day is planned out to be how you want it, you’re not waiting till your retirement to live the life you want. And then somebody else in my mastermind group actually mentioned that for him not having something to do and not being productive and creating something of value is like emptiness and almost depression, so for him working 60 hours a week is like the opposite of depression, it’s like fulfillment for him.

So you obviously seem like maybe one of the latter groups, so I just wonder your perspective on working so much on your own business? Obviously you enjoy it and it’s rewarding on a few different levels but what’s kind of your take on those three ideas and how you kind of merge those and how you manage your work time?

 

Aaron Wall: So I think a lot of people are in the business of selling life style, and I think if you look back to some of the earlier things of the people that are selling life style, not what we’re doing, a lot of people who ended up in that position where they were able to sell that – sell it off as one, salesman, and then two, kind of got part of their start by deceiving people.  So — the facts are the facts and that, and the truth is if you position like – there was a quote in – there was a – (Salty Droid) (phonetic) is a website about information marketers and it usually (inflates) (0:30:26) whatever he talks about. But there was video they had recently where the person said; we positioned product X poorly. We said you have to have a real business to use it. Meaning that they would never want that to be seen publicly but they were saying that the one product didn’t do as well as it could have because they positioned it only for being real people with real businesses, which means the opposite is where most of the marketer is, that they are trying to suck money out of the desperate news.

Richard Wilson: Right.

Aaron Wall: And there’s a lot people who want to hear that you can start on the side and work three to four hours and build up an empire, and some people might have some weird set of knowledge or some lucky timing or some other factors that maybe or some social connections that make that possible.  (But off the start)(0:31:17), winning is about working smarter, harder, and longer.

Like, it is the same thing with links where if you get a bit more momentum earlier that carries on exponentially later on because whatever cash flow you get earlier when you’re younger (and you owe)(0:31:37) the business, you get to invest that more aggressively. You start buying market share, building brand, building leverage, making (connections/commitments) (0:31:44), and it puts you in a whole another realm. So the thing is I say there certainly — most of the people buying business information are buying it, trying to learn how they can work less, and I think there’s value in having efficient processes in place.

However, it’s key to note that a lot of people sell lifestyle and if you look at what they do, it is not often what they say. Like one guy who kind of ticked me off, so I had, I created a similar product to what he had and I did. He wrote me this letter about, “oh my God, I work 60 or 80 hours a week and you’re going to hurt me and take food off my family’s plate” and this long distraught e-mail.  But then if you go to his sales letter, it’s like, “ah, when I’m not sitting around drinking beer and fishing, I’m just counting the money rolling in.”  So that sells but it’s not necessarily always true.

Richard Wilson: Right, yes, for sure, it sounds like that (inaudible) (0:32:54) interpretation of (Frank Connell) (0:32:56), kind of I mean walking down the beach, a surfer guy, just happen to make a million dollars while (inaudible) (0:33:00).  But I have to say some of (Frank’s) stuff, I think he is a genius and I feel like at how he integrates marketing into how he structures what he says.  But yes, that said, I do think a lot of people are out there selling a dream.

So that actually leads me in perfectly to our next question about ,if you do work long hours, just like most of us do, is there one or two efficiency automation outsourcing or distraction eliminating tools or systems you could share with other people that maybe feel overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do every day?

Aaron Wall: So, yes, so there’s a couple of thing I would say here. One is, off the start, anyone that contacts you if you are just new online and you’re trying to build up leverage, you definitely want to be responsive to all almost anyone that contacts you because you don’t know who it’s going to be. And you’re just trying to buy or build leverage any way you can, but what’s going to happen is over time if you do that long enough and you’re doing a good job of it, you’re going to build more demand than you can satisfy.  And that one is just a matter of basic economics of putting barriers in place to (source) (0:34:12) how people interact with you like.

So if’ the site is brand new, you can allow anyone to comment on over something.  And then, after your sites get more well-known and maybe it starts getting spam comments a lot, then you can force registration to have people sign up but then give them something (away)(0:34:32). In that way when they sign up they get something free and they have to sign those comments so you get less scammed.

You can also use software in ways like you can have a help desk software in your site. And that just allows people to have like a sort of official channel to (bucket) (0:34:51) themselves.  And the interesting thing I’ve noticed is how people — if you give people (TS)(phonetic) to say how important their stuff is, they often, whatever they say is their level of importance is it often the exact opposite of their importance to you.

So the person who has not paid you a cent, who wants to know why you’re not doing this or that for some weird thing, or they want a refund from you because they bought something scammy from someone else that you’re not associated with at all.

Richard Wilson: Right.

Aaron Wall: More critical but if you have like, a formal thing for people to interact through.  I think if you do a lot of work through e-mail, you get in the mode where you try to interact quickly to get done with it. And I think a lot gets lost in that so by having something that looks more formal off to the side, it allows you to kind of (bucket) those apart from each other.

Richard Wilson: Right.

Aaron Wall: Another important thing along those lines is like the old model I have with e-book, you could ask me questions through email and try to answer them and so on and so forth. But there was no economic disincentive or there was no social body around to wear — nothing would prevent someone from acting completely unreasonable.

Like, I’ve had people tell me that, “Hey, my site, that was making $8,000 a day, just got banned. I’ll give you $79 to make it work.”  It’s like, gee, that’s equitable buddy, where were you when my piece was making eight grand a day?  Now you want me to make you $8,000 every day because you gave me $79?

However, the interesting thing about our current model of how we try to run those (stuff) (0:36:28) through the forums is, not only do other customers get to help each other, and stuff like I’m not a programming expert, so if people asked me about programming, there is someone who is way better than me with far more skills will be answering it.  But also when people ask questions in front of each other and you put that social layer on it especially behind the P.Wall, you don’t get the innate social behavior you get from rushing through email, people misinterpreting each other, and that sort of stuff. And also, largely to segregate communications between paying customers and people who haven’t paid you.

Richard Wilson: Okay.

Aaron Wall: And those allow you to focus your attention more towards the people that are keeping the lights on and in that way if you’re full up and then some — the people that can wait are the people who aren’t paying you stuff.

Richard Wilson: Right, yes for sure. Okay. How has competitive analysis, helped your business grow? I mean obviously you pay attention to keyword, trends, and how other competitors are probably ranking for certain long term keywords in your market. But I’m sure you still aware that at some levels like most of us do, I’m just wondering, do you do a lot of competitive analysis like at the deep kind of explicit level?  Like I’m going to analyze this market and see exactly how competitive it is before we enter or I’m going to analyze this competitor and know everything they‘re doing to build links to their website and kind of back model that so that we can beat them in the ranking? I guess that’s really important you think, to growing a business nowadays that has a marketing component online?

Aaron Wall: Yes and no. So there’s a variety of factors in it. It’s almost like a wave towards yes, no, yes, like it kind of depending on a lot of factors. So for like my Seo book, I actually don’t do that much competitive analysis.  (I’m not)  (0:38:18) right now, because we’re not (inaudible) (0:38:20) very quickly and I probably did a lot of it way back in the day.  And then any big (inaudible) (0:38:27) changes that happened is usually me or people in our community or some of the other blogs noticed that, and  then if it’s really interesting or important, we’ll cover it naturally despite, by it being either noticeable in our traffic logs or in our community or another large units.

So, that helps us cover whatever is new and changing without necessarily having to do a lot of research, just following the news and we have the baseline on it. Now, when we are setting up new websites, what domain we pick whether or not it’ll enter the market, all that stuff really comes down to doing a lot of competitive research up front. You want to be able to get a good domain name if you can — by a good domain name, I mean you want something that’s either going to be branded and memorable or something that’s generically descriptive where the competition isn’t that strong in that area.

Richard Wilson: Okay.

Aaron Wall: We definitely pick our spots where outside of Seobook, most of our stuff is kind of really generalist so we try to go where we feel there is opportunity.  So is like, we have a tour on our membership area that we used to find some — that we look for domain names to see which ones are available, what their prices are, and that helps us to determine some of the areas we enter.

Richard Wilson: Right, right, okay. And I also had a question about competitors in terms of like M & A activity on a really small level. For example, once businesses get to 500,000 a year, $1,000,000 a year or more, I know some look around at some content websites or blogs they might be able to  purchase and as your business grows past that maybe look at other small businesses you can buy or buy a piece of.

I’m just wondering from your perspective on running your own business if you think that organic growth is always just going to make more sense or if you think that, you know for a small businesses, this is something that everybody should be looking at because you can make (huge) leaps in how fast your business grows?

Aaron Wall: So this — I think, it mostly comes down to the individual and where their talents are. It’s like (Warren Buffett) does pretty much nothing but allocate capital and does really well at it. Some other people run one blog or one site or whatever and they’re really deep and do really do well with it. To me I mean, I view buying domain names that are strategic kind is doing like the M & A sort of stuff, and I would certainly say, I do quite better at that sort of stuff.

As far as buying existing sites, it’s something I would like to do more of than I have, we‘ve mainly been limited just by the size of our company and the amount of opportunity we have. It’s hard to keep up with (inaudible) (0:41:22) as is.  Tricky part with the M & A stuff on the web, it’s just how fractured or dislocated a lot of the stuff is, like there isn’t a great baseline.  So that means, if you take the time, sometimes you’ll find some great deals, however, most people seem to kind of (the heading the clouds) in terms of what they think their business is worth.

Richard Wilson: Right.

Aaron Wall: I’ve seen like three month old ads on sites that are, that couldn’t have any spam or ad placements where it’s like all built on common spam linking, that sort of stuff.  And they want to get like a four year multiple offer of — “Okay, here’s what we made over three months so let’s multiply that to 12 months and then let’s grab a four year multiple after that.:  And then (inaudible)(0:42:16) or something, so they will share all the data publicly so everyone can see exactly what keywords they are ranking for, what (inaudible) (0:42:23) their driving off a bit and it’s like how that worth of four year multiple is beyond me.

Richard Wilson: Yes, exactly. It gets even worse when you get to premium one or two or three where domain names and there is nothing to multiple. It’s just the value of that domain name and I’ve many times looked at buying a domain name and I’m sure you have you have and you see two that are almost identical. It’s just a barely different descriptive word. And like, one example might be cellphone versus cellphones.com and one person will say, okay, this domain name is for sale for $42,000 and maybe it’s expensive but maybe within reason.  And then the next person, almost exact same domain name and it will be $422,000 and this is how it is online if you are running an internet marketing type business. It’s such a liquid fractured market, like you said. You’ll never know what’s going to happen when you negotiate with people, so.

Aaron Wall: And one way around that issue is debatable in some areas. I mean a lot of people believe, “Oh you got to have a dot com, the dot com is a must.” Whereas, some other people would say, “Well, if you get enough exposure on the dot net or dot org, you might drip a little business into the dot com. But you know, if you saved like half a million dollars up front, you could probably afford to drip quite a bit without feeling much pain.

So, I mean most of my strategy has been around find what I could get affordable. I bought a dot com yesterday for or the day before for just under 10K, but I usually prefer the dot orgs and .dot nets just because they don’t get this high or (inaudible)(0:44:07) the  dot coms would sometimes go for. I bought like scores.org. (Seven) fully set up the a couple like info graphs on it, and I have an idea where I wanted to go, it’s just a matter of having the time to do it.  But I think that domain name cost me $1,300 and that was a month or two after scores.com sold for over a million. So, that’s like you could showing the difference between the extensions.

Richard Wilson: Right, for sure, yes, I think that’s a great tip from — One other strategy I’ve seen work is that in the market where maybe is a two or three word,  long tail, very focus keyword domain name that those three keywords if you rank number one can be  worth thousands of dollar a week for — And what I’ve found is that sometimes, I see people buy a dot org to start with, make it respectable, prove the business model, and then after that’s proved, you can always then but the  dot com if it’s still bit available or buy out the  dot com guy if you just have a little ads and page there. Then eventually if it’s really a great business idea, you can buy that out and stop that drip, you’re talking about.

So I just want to see now if there was, you know when growing your business, some people listening to us are business managers, I watch them run their own business. If there’s some costly mistake that, if somebody had shared with you over an interview like this you could have avoided but you learn it the hard way, like most mistakes are learnt, like most lessons are learnt. And if there’s some lesson you could share that will help people out listening to this recording. And it could be about managing a team or growing your business or choosing your product line or service line or choosing your pricing.  I mean anything that is something that could help other people avoid that costly mistake.

Aaron Wall: So it’s easy to believe you have a strong part of (inaudible) when you value your life as nothing. So that’s kind of overstated intentionally. But it’s really easy to count your hours just like free labor.

Richard Wilson: Sure.

Aaron Wall: And maybe you almost have to do that a little bit off the start to make up for inefficient in that (inaudible) (0:06:06) how many mistakes you’re going to make. But at some point you have to — that’s why it’s so important that you have a diverse set of revenue streams. Because it forces you to say, well over here, I’m making this much per hour. I can just be throwing away my time over here, so that’s one of the reasons it’s nice to have a couple of different projects.

So I guess the two things are, value your time, and then try to build at least two separate things such that if you get burnt out on one or you’re worried that you’re over spending time for a limited return, you at least have some other baseline (to compare it ) of. And the third thing I will add also is that I would say, is if you think you have a good idea, at least get something up right away and build a few things for it, and get it going. Don’t like let it linger in your head for like five years or something.

Richard Wilson: Right, it’s very easy to do. And that leads to my next question here is that, well we have an (experience) in our product line and services. Our service, our products and websites often times it can seem like you’re leveraging your time by outsourcing a little bit of work, hiring someone to help you, and then all of a sudden before you know it you have 12 different, maybe (inaudible) (0:47:15) for the training program you’re building at once, you have 12 different, maybe individual websites or blogs to support a website like businesstraining.com.  And I want to know from your perspective; do you limit the number of different projects you’re working on? Even if you have help, does it at some point, do you think you become less productive because you have 11 different things that you’re working on at one time?

Aaron Wall: I think this is a hard question to answer because if you asked me this question in 2007, I would have probably told you, yes, I’m (scared and shocked) (0:47:45) in a bit of a clue bag.  I really don’t know what (I will do).(0:47:49)  Now if you, ask me today I’m saying, you know our graduates from the year 2007 are holding up quite nicely,  and fresh crop of 2010 ones is going through. So with SCO it takes a certain amount of time before the dividends pay out.

Richard Wilson: Right.

Aaron Wall: I think if you’re limited on resources, you certainly need to focus on getting one or two or a few things up that are successful.  And then building off them, because if you’re brand new to web and you’re making 15 sites in parallel, whatever site mistake you’re making on one is probably being repeated 14 more times.  And then you can find out like a month or two on the web, “Oh, I’m not supposed to use frames.”  Or something else like that.  And then you start over and over again. So, but I think you have to have a number of years of experience, and you have some of the processes in place.

It’s okay to get a number of projects up into the game, but I wouldn’t worry about that level.  So, and, — until like you won’t worry about finances.  Like if each month, if at the end of the month, after all the bills you’re, and all the other investments and all the crazy things you’re doing, your cash in still increasing.  Then I will say hire more people and keep doing what you’re doing until it seems like it’s not working.

Richard Wilson: Right. I guess that’s great advice because there’s network effects of — on the bad side but I can mention If you have maybe a pay per (click) campaign, pay up for 10 different websites and (including this) campaign, you think they’re great, but then you find out later on like, “Oh, I wasn’t supposed to mix the banner ad network with my search engine exposure.  And I also have 40 keywords per advert instead of four. There can be a lot of rework. But then the other great thing about that long term is that, for example on businesstraining.com, our expertise and competitive advantage is being very good providing the kind of practical value to  people, and providing 100 percent online.  And so when we learn one thing, like how to do interviews such as this for somebody like yourself, we can apply that to all of our different programs on businesstraining.com, and  they all become very powerful and robust, and so it’s definitely a double edged sword that sometimes takes a very long time to pay off like you said.

Aaron Wall: Yeah.

Richard Wilson: …my next …

Aaron Wall: One other thing I will add in there or two is if you’re really not good at something, try to either — try to do it in chunks of waves.  That way it will give you a chance to get better at it.  And also that way you’re not having it dragged down your efficiency day after day, week after week, year after year, month, yeah.  So like when I make videos, if ever I make them.  I make like five or ten of them in like a week or so, just so I start getting into groove and get used to it.  But I always admit that that’s not my core strength so it’s not something that I want to do every day.  So sometimes there are stuff you don’t like doing you know you’re less efficient in that.

Richard Wilson: Yeah.

Aaron Wall: You either get somebody else to do it, or try to do it in chunks, so it’s not always lingering in the back of your mind.

Richard Wilson: Right, that’s a fantastic idea.  Something that I’ve never mentioned before with anyone in these interviews and trainings but one thing that we find a little productive is to have like a work (ethon) (phonetic) or a blog (ethon) (phonetic) or a video (ethon) (phonetic).  And basically the idea is that, if there’s some big project like you said like maybe you need to create, maybe for a blog, you’re trying to get popular for your corporation or your business, and you know that (inaudible)(0:51:16) there’s hundreds of questions people are always asking (inaudible) (0:51:19) or related to your various specific niche, and  you need to not only write a blog post for each question but also an answer,  and there is so much work.  It might take you a year to do it, who are you going to trust to do it?  One thing we found helpful is to do like a day of ordering pizza, energy drinks for your team, you start early, maybe at 7:00 a.m. and you work until 7:00 p.m. 8:00 p.m., and all four of you on the team or five of you are just focused on doing nothing, but answering these frequently asked questions.  And you can pen out 300 to 400 of those questions within a single day; it might take the whole year to outsource that to someone in your team, and say, “For an hour a day, write a couple of these frequently asked questions.”  And just like you said, if you can just focus, and not have all the distractions to do in your normal work day, and just pump out a whole bunch at once, and kind of get the pain over with and then it’s behind you, and if you’ve got asset to help your business in the future.  So I think that’s a great, great piece of advice to throw in there.

The next question is about (Verne Harnish’s) (phonetic), Mastering the Rockefeller habits book.  I was at (Haven Pagan) (phonetic) Conference and got some time to get some direct one-on-one advice from him on how to grow a business.  And I asked him, I mean “If you had anywhere between one million or three million or five million a year, and you’re trying to get a business up to $30,000,000.00 or $50,000,000.00 a year in the right way, (The cyber foundation for long term growth).  What book will you recommend, and will it really just kind of be like a kind of game changing book or really make a huge difference on your own business growth?  And he suggested The Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, and I’ve read it a few times, and it’s an awesome book and I really like.  And I was wondering if you know of one or two books, and it may not be the case.  Maybe you learn through getting tons of feedbacks from your market and your customers.  But I was wondering if you have one or two books really kind of help you take it to the next level and just get more done and grow your business in the right direction?

Aaron Wall: So there is probably a number of books at various stages (inaudible) (0:53:12) but the one that probably the most memorable to me is kind of an abstract book called the – “A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History.”  It’s kind of deep heavy reading but it talks about like interactions and inter locks of like a thousand years of history, and it’s pretty deep, interesting and almost like creepy because it tries to – it’s almost hard to explain how he describes it but he talks about like; linguistics, societies , economies like how they all emerged and formed and it really because if – you can at least for me, because I can look at the stuff I read in that thinking – back around, all these happening in like 16100 and then trying to make   comparisons to stuff you see online.

So I think the best thing is learn, if you get like a rich knowledge of those aspects of history and you can apply that to online, it’s really helpful because you can see parallels between the online markets developing and what’s happened in the world in the past.

Richard Wilson:  Right, you know, that’s a great insight.  I did – I took a course on creativity once and I studied (Andrew Carnegie) (phonetic) and how he became so successful, and it was around the railroad business and it was really interesting to just looking at the history of how he grew his business, because just like you said you can draw parallels, you can see how it took vested interests in many divers types of business models but were all related to his kind of competitive advantage of knowing the railroad transportation business.  And if you take that to the current day, we’re like in – not an industrial revolution stage but maybe the knowledge in the revolution right now.

So you get a ton of great insights at least from reading history that most people — I think like phycology.  I think history is under-appreciated by business marketers and sales people and business owners.  So I was wondering also if when you have so many opportunities going on in your business day, you always prioritize them now kind of based on the highest reward for your time or making it so your business is diverse.

Like you mentioned that after you met your wife, it changed how you invested in your different products or your opportunities.  I’m just wondering — everybody seems overwhelmed nowadays, with customer emergencies and operational tasks, so do you start your day with being pro-active and starting two new websites, or do you start your day with managing people because that’s your highest point of leverage.  And then you become reactive to e-mails, like how do you handle all of that?

Aaron Wall:  So when I wake up I usually do e-mail first, and express i-so (phonetic) (0:55:57) like you said.  If you leave employees waiting half a day, or a day or whatever, to hear from you, then you’re making that much less efficient.  You’re making them feel worthless.  You’re making them feel unproductive.  You’re possibly causing them some of their wages if they’re getting paid by the hour for the work.  So you’ve always got to make sure you do that first because if you handle them right away, you’re telling them that you expect them to help you right away.

Whereas if you do the opposite, you’re saying you don’t give a crap, and they’re not a priority, they’ll get the message and they’ll send it right back to you.  So you definitely want to handle that right away.  But after that, a lot of what I do is, I try to be kind of interest driven, like okay, I want to get this up and do this.  And if I’m doing something, I’ll do it till I’m bored, or I feel like efficiency is dropping.  And then I will do something else.  And then the key is to always have a few things you can switch between, for if you get sick or bored of doing something.

Richard Wilson:  Okay.  So basically is trying to be in kind of in tune with  like whether your inflow is just being super productive on something you’re having fun doing, or if it’s kind of like — definitely not in the mood to create a video right now, so I’m going to do some keyword research on this new market I thought about?

Aaron Wall: Yes and then if it’s stuff like making the videos, and you’re kind of cringed then eventually you’ve pushed off for a while, and finally you’re like “oh screw it”, and then you do it like a day or that.

Richard Wilson:  Right.  Yes, exactly.  Okay.  So my last question here is that the last thing I wanted to cover here, at the end of the interview, is that through businesstraining.com we’re trying to give people at least ten times their value for what they pay; hopefully much more.  And what I wanted to see is through managing your business, growing your business, being a small business owner, if there’s one piece of advice that if people forgot, everything else we’ve just talked about for this full hour, and just remember one thing that would either save them $10,000 worth of headaches.  $10,000 worth of time, or make them $10,000 more money in the next year or two.  Is there one piece of advice that — obviously we can’t guarantee it’s going to save someone or makes someone $10,000, but that you think is worth at least $10,000, because it’s so important to remember that piece of advice?

Aaron Wall:  So one of my mentors, long ago when I was first starting out online.  I interviewed him, and he told me that, something along the lines of ‘the best friends say this is who you are, this is what we do.  If you don’t like it you can go elsewhere’.  After all there’s only a half a billion people on the web.  So along the lines of that I think a lot of people, especially if they’re business owners, were better off kind of leaning into the weirdness and what makes them unique than they are trying to conform.

Richard Wilson:  Okay.

Aaron Wall:  So the more you lean into what makes you unique, the more you stitch your unique knowledge pieces together.  Like I can write a blog post about ‘How nuclear power is related to SEO’, in the neutron life cycle.  And almost no one else is going to even chance doing that.  But it would have the chance to be interesting, because it would tie my experiences together.  So anything that can make you unique, that you’re interested in, you’re better off leveraging it, than you are ignoring it.

Richard Wilson:  That’s a great piece of advice, and I think that comes full circle with what I said when I was introducing you at the beginning of this call because I remember you, and I read your newsletter because you’re not some corporate machine that somebody from Guatemala is writing your blog post for you.

You have personal insights; you give your opinion; you talk about how you have to fire your customer sometimes; you talk about what’s good and bad about search engines, and what’s going on, and running a business and doing search marketing.  So it’s definitely true and it’s part of why we wanted to work with you and conducting this interview.

So thanks for sharing that, and if anyone listening to this recording hasn’t been to Aaron’s website.  It’s Seobook.com.  And if you own a business, run a business, if you’re doing marketing at all, especially if you’re doing internet marketing.  But if you are doing marketing at all, then you should take a look at Seobook.com.  At least see his blog post, and subscribe to his daily e-mail updates to his blog.  I get a ton of value from that.

And that way you can kind of slowly just get to know his website, what they offer, and the value he kind of contributes to the industry which has made his website so popular and has gained him close to 500,000registered users through his website.  So I just want to thank you again for joining us here today Aaron.  And if you have nothing else to add, just wanted to thank you for your time and appreciate all the insights you’ve shared today.

Aaron Wall:  Thank you, and thanks for having me.  Have a great day.

Richard Wilson:  Great.  Thanks.

 

 

 

 


Thanks for joining us, and I will see you again soon,

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