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An interview with… Aaron Wall (SEO Book)

27 April 2012 BY

This interview was originally published December 17th 1020.

Sometimes you get the opportunity to talk to some people within the industry and when a chance like that comes a long you should take it. I had the opportunity to ask some questions to Aaron Wall, founder of SEOBook. Find the questions and answers below.

How could we best describe what you do on a day to day basis?

We do a wide variety of things
- market our websites (content creation & promotion)
- track SEO news & watch for changes in the algorithms
- interact with members of our forums
- email and customer supports
Generally SEOBook is about 80% of my work time…likely about 70 or 80 hours a week.

What do you think was the key to success for SEO Book?

Working longer and harder than most are willing to. Directly interacting with customers. And creating a paywall filter which sorta helps keep noise out, but allows us to build a community which is far stronger than any individual working on or with the site. Some things that also helped propel the site into popularity would be

- being one of the first SEO blogs, and writing thousands of blog posts
- offering a bunch of free SEO tools
- frequently attending conferences
- getting sued by traffic power
- obsessive focus on the topic for nearly a decade :)

What would you prefer doing: write a great blogpost, write a forum post or speak at a conference?

I don’t speak at conferences as much anymore. I am sorta burned out on traveling and really am a homebody. I gave what was likely easily my best presentation ever earlier this year, but I think I get more satisfaction out of working on our site. I am better at sorta deep thinking & hashing out ideas and then iterating rather than speaking. Sometimes I find speaking hard because my mind races so much faster than my mouth can go & I always feel like I missed something I wanted to say. The beauty of working on our forums & on blog posts is that we generally have a bias toward using text … that allows us to edit & improve stuff. So even if I forget something, I can then go back and make it better. It thus keeps iteratively improving.

How do you keep informed with all the news flying around so fast?

So much of what is ‘news’ is mostly regurgitated stuff. As long as you have a good handle on algorithmic & business changes at Google then a lot of other changes end up being noise. My goal is to make our monthly newsletter the #1 spot to catch up with news, but I rely heavily on a number of other filters to make that great. Our community members spot a lot of great stuff, I subscribe to SEL’s SearchCap, track new stories on TechMeme, track the homepage flagged threads at WMW, and to a lesser degree each week or so I read a bunch of other great blogs + follow some stuff I see mentioned on Twitter.

What is the biggest trend in search you have seen in the past year?

Google eating the organic search results and/or modifying the layout of the search results to drive more of the organic results below the fold. We have seen this trend through

- the promotion of Youtube content
- shifting to a 3-column search result which makes the content area skinnier & thus drives more content downward
- the launch of Google Instant which further pushes the results downward
- the launch of their ebook marketplace (and subsequent fast ranking in the search results)
- the purchase of Like.com & the launch of Boutiques.com
- Google Place Pages driving out some vertical publishers
- Google’s pending purchase of ITA travel
- Google product links in the organic search results
- query refinements based on store, brand & type that appear above the organic search results
- AdWords ads adding features like product links, site links, merchant ratings, and other visual enhancements to pull in attention
- custom vertical Google ad offerings (called Google Comparison Ads) like their comparison ads for mortgages & credit cards I think David Naylor was one of the guys who phrased it this way, but the general trend is Google moving from b2b to b2c, and displacing much of the ‘organic’ search results with more listings that Google get paid for (directly or indirectly).

What are your thoughts on the rapidly changing search market, where are we going?

I think it is clear that opportunity is disappearing for non-brands as Google moves to monetize or displace the organic search results. Those new ebook pages of theirs rank on the first page of results in their first week since the store launched. At some point some of that ebook content will rank well for other search results. Eventually you will get organic search results that have:

- Wikipedia
- an ebook or 2
- a youtube video or 2
- another relevant vertical filter or 2 (news, products, real-time, etc.) Ultimately that leaves you with a search result where there are only 4 or 5 potential ranking spots to split up amongst all market competitors. And if the first 3 or 4 links at the top are also ads, marketers might be forced to keep increasing costs while fighting for a smaller and smaller slice of the pie. The outsized margins of years gone by are becoming more of a thing of the past for those who create products that do not have a viral component to them.

Finally, could you choose between these?

iPad or a notebook: iPad, mostly out of curiosity (though, that said, my wife has one and I haven’t used it for even a minute in the months of her owning it)
Google or Bing: a couple years ago a firm Google, though over time it has started to become more of a toss up. if Bing would crawl deeper I might even sway toward them most of the time.
Google or Facebook: Google. our community forums & my IMs with friends are my Facebook. to me Facebook is mostly just noise and spam, sorta a lighter/newer/cleaner version of MySpace
Privacy or personal results: I hate search personalization, so I guess that means privacy is the winner there
Search or Social: Twitter is ok, but I still prefer blogs to it. search is where my heart is, but Google is slowly trying to rip out that heart. :D

AUTHORED BY:
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Bas van den Beld is a speaker, trainer and online marketing strategist. Bas is the founder of Stateofdigital.com. -- You can hire Bas to speak, train or consult.
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