Each week I will be publishing an interview from the book Blog Blazers (in alphabetical order) which can be purchased on Amazon here. The interviews were all done in 2008 and the full list of bloggers interviewed can be found by clicking here.
So let’s start this week with Aaron Wall of SEOBook
Aaron Wall is a well known blogger who primarily focuses on search engines, internet marketing, and why ideas spread. He is also the author of the eBook entitled “SEO Book” which has sold innumerable copies and is referenced throughout the internet.
Although Aaron is successful now, it has not always been easy for him. Early in his youth he was nearly legally blind, at least until half-way through high school without knowing it. Even through this adversity he still had a strong disposition towards entrepreneurship, most notably buying and selling baseball cards.
After graduating high school, Aaron joined the military as a nuclear reactor operator on a special operation fast attack submarine. However this was not the lifestyle for him for several reasons and he soon left the military. Upon leaving the military Aaron went through some rougher times and almost went bankrupt. This is when he took a job as a middle level manager.
He continued to work as a middle-level manager for almost a year while simultaneously learning everything he could about the web. He finally quit to focus on his web initiatives when he had reduced his debt to $10,000 and was making at least some money on the internet, which at the time was about $100/month. It didn’t take him long to go from there to making $10,000 a month. Within a year (the end of 2004) he had achieved success! Since then he has only been growing his success.
Steph: What makes a blog successful according to you? Is it traffic, reach, revenue, etc.?
Aaron: It depends on the goals of the site. I have some blogs that make no money and have a low readership but help people, and to me those are successful. Other blogs are just about personal expression while my business ones are more income oriented. It is easy to get stuck on traffic stats, but you still have to pay your way.
Steph: When did you decide you finally reached success with your blog?
Aaron: I started my blog in December of 2003, started selling my eBook on it in February of 2004, and was fairly successful by April of 2004. I got started on the web in January of 2003.
Steph: How long does it take to become a successful blogger?
Aaron: I had a little known blog on my other site for about 3 months prior to creating SEO Book, so I guess it took about 7 months total. Though you don’t really become successful overnight or at any set point in time. I think of being successful as being self funding and having the confidence necessary to keep learning and keep trying new things.
Steph: Who do you think are the most successful bloggers on the internet today?
Steph: Which five blogs do you regularly read?
Aaron: I read every post Frank Schilling writes on his Seven Mile blog. I am a regular reader of SearchEngineLand.com. And while it is not updated as frequently as those two, I love TropicalSEO.com by Andy Hagans. CopyBlogger.com and Paul Kedrosky are equally refreshing.
Steph: Which websites would you recommend for any new bloggers starting to blog?
Aaron: Brian Clark’s Copyblogger is a must read if you want to understand how to write compelling conversion oriented copy. Daren Rowse’s ProBlogger.com is a must read if you want to get into understanding the mechanics of blogging. I also think you should read at least a dozen blogs about a topic you are interested in to learn how and why ideas spread amongst bloggers. Use iGoogle or Google Reader to make it easy to subscribe to a wide array of blogs.
Steph: Which book(s) would you recommend for new bloggers (these can range from marketing books, blogging books, etc.)?
Aaron: The Cluetrain Manifesto teaches you why the web is different than monolithic marketplaces of the past. Steven Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think teaches you about how to create a usable website. If you make a site that is usable and market demand oriented people are going to use it. Seth Godin’s Purple Cow teaches you how to be remarkable. Links are nothing but citations or remarks. If you know how to be remarkable then marketing is easy.
Steph: What is your most successful blog post ever?
Aaron: As far as spreading on the web, I would have to say that posting about getting sued for blog comments went far. I also launched an SEO tool called SEO for Firefox. Beyond those, I don’t think I have had any signature posts that I could easily point out as examples of successful posts. I actually had one article that did well before I became a popular blogger, but I think many of my posts are pretty good and I was lucky enough to enter a growing market early with a unique voice.
Steph: What’s your biggest tip on writing a successful blog post?
Aaron: If you are new to blogging and want an idea to spread make sure you get community feedback early on such that market leaders in your industry have a vested interest in talking about your blog post.
Steph: What’s your best advice in regards to content and writing for bloggers?
Aaron: It is easy to think that if you had one hit post that would get lots of readers, but people are fickle and competition is fierce. Doing well with blogging is not about writing one key post, it is about performing day after day and helping a few people at a time. Eventually big success comes out of all the smaller successes. Sometimes it arrives via an accident or mistake.
Steph: How important do you think are the headlines of your blog articles?
Aaron: Headlines are critical. They set the tone for the piece and a strong one can even change the mood of the reader before they even get to the content. Some social media sites will vote up a story based on the headline, without even bothering to read the story.
Steph: Do you spend any money and time on marketing?
Aaron: I have spent over $100,000 and over 3 years marketing my blog.
Steph: What are your main methods of marketing your blog?
Aaron: I have an affiliate program, I buy AdWords and AdSense ads, and I pay for a lot of custom programs that I give away. In turn, people link at my site and tools and talk about my site, which leads to more sales.
Steph: Which marketing tactic has surprised you the most in terms of its effectiveness?
Aaron: Just performing day in and day out. Making oneself available via email, blog comments, etc. allows you to make connections and build brand loyalists one person at a time.
Steph: What are your quick and short five best tips for blogging?
Link out to other interesting pages. Linking out is a form of free marketing, plus it prevents you from wasting time trying to create the web again from scratch.
Read and write everyday.
Write a second personal blog for family, political, and off topic posts.
Consume information in a variety of formats, including books, DVDs, magazines, and blogs.
Mix up your format. Use pictures, headers, and sub headers.
Steph: What is the most common pitfall new bloggers generally fall into?
Aaron: Many bloggers get burned out because they try to be too rigid following someone else’s advice, and thus take the fun out of blogging or feel everything has already been said before.
Steph: If you knew what you know now when you first started, what’s the one biggest tip you’d give yourself today?
Aaron: Re-invest more aggressively sooner.
Steph: What repels you the most from a blog (animations, in your face advertising, etc.)?
Aaron: AdSense ads plastered above the content on a blog with a default WordPress design. It basically says I don’t care for you.
Steph: Do you make any direct money from your blog through advertising, product placements, etc.?
Aaron: I sell a bunch of eBooks. As an indirect revenue stream I sell consulting services.
Steph: What is your best monetization method (Ads, affiliate marketing, etc.)?
Aaron: Selling my own product far exceeds the profit potential for selling ads in my market. In the search marketing community most people are quite ad blind in nature, and there are only a few scalable business models that are willing to spend heavily on advertising across blogs.
Steph: Do you find you get more from direct monetization of your blog or from opportunities that come because of the existence of your blog?
Aaron: Right now I would say direct monetization is ahead, but I have lots of opportunities I am still building on. I just don’t like to count checks until they are cashed.
Steph: What’s your most interesting story related to your blog and blogging experience?
Aaron: My wife met me through buying my eBook. If I did not start my blog so she could find me I will still be a hollow lonely man.
Steph: What’s the one biggest opportunity that came to you because of your blog?
Aaron: Getting married to my wonderful wife. I don’t deserve to be with someone so wonderful. I need to work hard to become the person she deserves.
Steph: Any other comments or thoughts you’d like to share?
Aaron: Thanks for the interview Steph.