Interview With Aaron Wall from – SEO Legend

Aaron Wall is a well known SEO personality, while he is still “relatively” new compared to the likes of DaveN or Greg Boser, he has made a huge impression in the SEO and Internet Marketing world. His skills can only be described as outstanding. He’s one of the kindest people I know in this industry and has helped many fledgling SEO’s get on their feet without asking for anything in return. His new venture is a community and a training programme where you can speak to him directly and get virtually unlimited help.


Where do you see SEO taking us? What does the future have in store for SEO?

I think SEO is just becoming a subset of marketing…an important one, but just a piece of the whole picture. As the web grows it will grow more efficient. The ability to make a lot of money from mechanical SEO will become scarce. But at the same time the web will keep evolving, with new publishing formats and more social structure data, which will create new opportunities for creative individuals who can compete with others on a marketing front while also seeing the web through the lens of a search engine.

Many large corporations or web-related businesses have in-house SEO departments. Do you see this as an increasing trend? Maybe eventually, an in-house SEO department will become the norm?

One of our SEO training modules talks about how language in an industry can evolve. I used the SEO industry as an example because it is one I know well. In the last year or two the term SEO training went from being a low volume search term to a phrase that gets almost as much search volume as my brand does – which is especially impressive growth when considering that my brand is also a strong generic category keyword.

The people looking for SEO training are by their very nature typically in house people. Most of the clients who hire us at Clientside SEM also have an in house team.

It is hard for me to guess at metrics as far as how much in house SEO may grow, but from the people who have hired us, the people in our training program, and the people who bought my ebook I can certainly say that SEO is picking up steam and many offline businesses are getting serious about leveraging their online assets through search.

You’ve previously mentioned that SEO (and SEO business models) do not scale. Do you feel that this will always be the case? Surely as the internet is always changing and throwing new challenges in our paths, SEO might have to learn to scale and adapt to this in some respect?

I think the portion of the search engine marketing world that scales is PPC, which is part of the reason my wife launched PPC Blog. People who are already spending money may look at additional spending as an opportunity at cost savings.

The core reason many prospective customers want SEO is because they want free traffic. Given that line of thinking, most prospective SEO customers are not worth the opportunity cost of engagement when compared with how much you could earn leveraging your knowledge across domains that you own (and I have seen some of your rankings, so I know you know this well!) J

And it is hard to provide something of lasting value without having the market change around you. For example

  • Directories worked well for helping sites rank well. So thousands of general directories sprung up. So Google stripped the PageRank on most of those directories. This process, from market opportunity to death of a market takes at most a few years…and as Google gets better at policing the web the new easy to scale opportunities die quicker.
  • A well known SEO was selling an article submission package for $900, and within a year people in second and third world countries starting selling similar services for about 3% the price he was charging. And as that spread Google eventually decided to kill the PageRank scores on most article directories. That process took a little over a year.

I guess the best way SEOs could scale in a sustainable fashion are

  • Build and market their own websites
  • Create tools that many in house SEOs use (and ideally charge recurring for their usage)
  • Build relationships in a marketplace and act as a vertically oriented public relations firm
  • Engage in deep relationships with businesses where the SEO gets an equity stake and/or a piece of the upside generated through their work

Obviously part of the challenge (and maybe even a hurdle) to becoming a successful SEO is keeping up to date with changes in the Google algorithm. It’s a forever-changing, almost living entity. What wild rides do you feel the algorithm might take us on in the near future?

Unless they get significant blowback Google is going to keep trying to own more and more of the search results (via knoll, YouTube, etc.) trying to own the first click after the search as well.

Many general authority sites have sprung up around the opportunity created by Google placing so much weight on domain authority. I doubt we need eHow, WeHow, and WikiHow, but unless Google goes out of their way to stop it the search results are going to end up full of low quality generalist sites.

There have recently been some big movements based on localization, and that trend will likely only increase in the coming year.

You’ve also said that ad agencies are buying up some of the bigger SEO firms, but have still to totally “get” what search and SEO is about. Eventually though, they’ll come to understand what happens in the world of SEO, because they’ll have to. How do you think they’ll go about it and what do you suppose it’ll mean for SEO when the ad agencies finally “get” it?

Don’t look for innovation from the ad agencies themselves…John Andrews recently wrote a post about a clueless creative agency that offers SEO. Writing on the topic of SEO, that agency gave their take “Many of our clients have spent countless marketing dollars with little success.” In other words, people spending money on SEO that are spending it with them are wasting their money, which leads us to the money quote

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair

That quote describes where traditional ad agencies are at right now. They enjoy agency discounts and fat margins on large spends, but their business models are not designed around making lots of small purchases and getting no discount on the media buy.

The other quote that ties in nicely here is from John Wanamaker, “I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted … I just don’t know which half.”

If ad agencies track things too closely they not only see margin compression, but they may also prove to their clients that their high margin business is a net money loser.

With SEO becoming more and more mainstream, newer conferences are popping up all over the place. What’s your opinion on some of the newer conferences and do you think more conferences will benefit SEO awareness and growth of knowledge within the community?

The SEO industry used to be a tight knit community, but as social media has become more popular and too many people have been fighting for too small of a pie the industry has devolved primarily into nothing but a bunch of self promotion and attention whoring.

Some of the conferences might be great for networking, but for people really looking to learn I imagine that seminar formatted learning is probably going to yield greater value transfer to the attendees and higher retention of information.

The marketplace is a competitive one indeed, and I believe you’ve said that most of the public rivalries are “driven by a need for attention in a competitive marketplace instead of SEO businesses trying to beat each other on a one to one basis”. But as time and the media has told us, eventually we might well be led into a situation where big SEO companies are battling it out to become the best, or to have a monopoly in a certain field of SEO, don’t you think?

To some degree Google shapes much of the market competition and helps create monopolies and market leaders. A few examples

  • Why is one link broker penalized such they don’t rank for their official business name when other brokers are not?
  • When I scraped Google rankings on my site, we were blocked from scraping but other competing sites are allowed to. So I had to create a rank checker extension to get around that arbitrary road block.
  • Why are most directories considered spam when is trusted? They consist mostly of paid listings, and as of about a year ago only had about a half dozen editors managing 65,000 categories.

The war of white hat/black hat is a constantly raging one. With more and more SEOs joining the fray, and having said that many of the better SEOs are “technique agnostic” and are willing to do whatever it takes, what do you think this spells for the future of SEO and how white hat/black hat SEO is done? Also, as an increasing number of techniques are becoming “outlawed”, what are your thoughts regarding the matter of former white hats now being branded black hats simply due to a “law” change?

I think as Google continues to promote their own properties in the search results most SEOs that can see beyond the tip of their own nose will respect Google’s arbitrary changing guidelines less and less.

Relevancy is a game of public relations as much as it is a game of finding the right results to promote. At some point Google goes too far and then people stop trusting them.

Put another way, how can Google try to claim buying and selling links is unethical because they pass PageRank then pollute the web with ads offering things like lonely cheating housewives? In my book Google’s link sales are far sleazier than anything I have ever considered promoting.

Nowadays it’s fair to say that a lot of people purposefully set out to do harm to SEO, either by publically speaking ill of it, or by blogging negatively. With the way that SEO is evolving, what do you think it will take to make them change their tune and properly understand that SEO doesn’t necessarily mean “evil”?

All throughout history established businesses have tried to diminish and vilify new business models and new competing businesses.

On numerous occasions I have read an SEO hate article in the mainstream press, denouncing the field as a bunch of money wasting opportunistic scammers, only to get an email or call from the in house SEO for that publisher asking me an SEO question. The media says SEO is crap while hiring in house SEOs…so they don’t even believe the garbage they are publishing. They are just publishing controversy to pump up their page views.

I think when SEO stops delivering such a strong ROI it will be considered a legitimate business practice.

What do you think the future holds with regards to the evolution of information dissemination? Blogs, media sites such as Digg, and viral marketing are all important parts in getting the message out there, but how do you think these will fare with time? Will sites such as Digg be as important in the future, or will there be newer and better sites, or different methods?

I think as more people get actively involved in blogging and other types of media creation we will become more aware of marketing and media manipulation. This will lead us to be less likely to trust large media organizations and automated filters while we learn to replace these outlets with trusted individuals and small groups we identify with.

Media will get chopped to bits. Google will still be a huge ad network, but most media companies are going to keep seeing marketshare erode as we subscribe to niche publishers.

6 thoughts on “Interview With Aaron Wall from – SEO Legend

  1. SEO Dental says:

    What a great interview!
    Thank you.

  2. Lucy says:

    Some really interesting stuff in there, thanks very much

  3. Thanks for the insight Aaron, always nice to hear your take on the industry from a macro level.

    I think it is safe to say that larger media conglomerates are already feeling the squeeze and grasping for straws as a hint of the yellow page spiral into obscurity is in the air for PR as the economic squeeze bears down on ROI. Digg and social media are all fine and dandy, but t the end of the day it is about conversion, and put simply SEO delivers time and time again.

  4. Dan says:

    “I think when SEO stops delivering such a strong ROI it will be considered a legitimate business practice.”

    as an industry or for each individual company?

  5. Rod says:

    Aaron, your the man! always delivering your honest expertise on the subject like only a true master can… thanks!

  6. Karl Simmering says:

    Come on dude, these facts* and proof* i mean who is posting* lol :P

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