Some might think Aaron Wall has a harsh approach to business. He’s picky about which emails he responds to, and he gives nothing away for free to people who are rude and demand it (or as he calls them, freetards). But this is exactly how the founder of SEOBook, a site dedicated to providing marketing tips, search analysis, and online business tips on search engine optimization, has succeeded so well.
By taking a hard tack, he’s eliminated (well, reduced) the trash-talking freeloaders and pushed more of the questions visitors have to his forums, where they benefit everyone: “If I get emails from non-customers I tell them ‘Please ask it in our member forums.’ In that way, those who value my opinion have access to my time, and those who do not, do not get any of it.”
It Takes Dedication
Before you get the wrong impression of Wall, know that he’s worked long and hard since founding SEOBook in 2003 to get his business running smoothly. His work ethic and reach got him the distinction of being nominated as a Small Business Influencer Champion. And while he’s consulted for Fortune 500 companies and knows he knows a lot about SEO, there’s always room for more knowledge.
“I still learn a lot, and a lot of that learning comes from our community. By design our community is smallish, and full of bright members who have all kinds of business advice that really takes SEO to the next level.”
It’s that knowledge he thirsts for, it seems. When asked about his plans for the next few years, Wall doesn’t talk exit or growth strategy; he simply says he wants to spend more time learning and playing, and less time working. “I am more interested in staying nimble than in trying to scale.”
Sound Advice … All of It
Wall is good at taking advice. Like when his wife told him to focus (on building his websites) and filter (what he responds to). Or when a mentor told him that the best brands have their founders’ personalities injected into them, and that he should never apologize for being himself. Or, to summarize, “This is what we do, this is how we do it, and if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.”
As for the advice he’d give, Wall says it’s key to have multiple streams of income:
“That gives you the flexibility to be more selective in what you do and who you work for. It also helps you better understand the value of your time, while lowering your risk profile for if/when any of the streams dries up.”
Aaron Wall was recognized as a Small Business Influencer Champion for 2011. Read more of our Small Business Influencer Champion interviews.
It would be interesting to hear his opinion of the Google Analytics announcement to not pass along search query data for logged in searchers (since GA is a free product).
We had a recent blog post on that & suffice it to say I wasn’t impressed by Google’s move. 😉
I am also working on a longer broader post that is somewhat related, but it might be a couple weeks before it gets published.
I think anyone who has been successful in life didn’t get there with breaking out a few sweat beads on their forehead. SEOBook has obviously been successful but I’m sure there were days early on that just made Aaron want to pull his hair out.
Mary Fletcher Jones
You know, the U.S. is getting ready to prosecute its first disability-related hate crime. The tide is changing. People won’t alway be so cavalier about associating negative behaviors with mental retardation. You didn’t say it, but you repeated a slur that is associated with intellectually disabled people (the riff on retarded: “freetards”). And the truth is — you didn’t have to go there. The story stands on its own w/o it. And it’s a really offensive term.
I’m looking forward to the day when this usage becomes as unacceptable as the N-word. Until then, this mom of an intellectually disabled kid will continue to call it. Karma’s a b*tch, so reconsider. Words like this are not cute, hip or funny. Just hurtful, and wrong.
Hi Mary, I can understand being concerned over lack of respect for the disabled. But knowing Aaron for several years, I can say that he’s never shown disrespect toward anyone disabled in all the time I’ve known him and interacted with him several times a week for over 3 years. And those of us who run this site (including myself) have family members who are disabled and have family members who have worked with developmentally disabled children for years, and I did not take offense at the word. I know that it’s a word of his own creation and I didn’t associate it the way you did. I took it to mean that he was referring to people who have unrealistic expectations for service, who always want something for nothing.
Mary Fletcher, Yes, YEs and YEs. And, my daughter is not an intellectually disabled kid.
You couldn’t have said it better.
I agree with Mary and Elvera. “Freetard” is NOT a cute, hip term, and if Aaron Wall had any real sensitivity, brains or common sense he wouldn’t use it, because for some people it immediately erects a huge wall between his audience and the messages he’s trying to convey. I’m surprised he doesn’t appear to have given that any consideration–or does he just assume that his audience is young and “hip” and not offended because they insensitively use the same kind of phrasing themselves?
I understand that Wall is young, and that today’s young people have a disturbing tendency to label every stupid thing people do as “retarded.” But they also have a tendency to label such things as “gay,” and that’s equally wrong.
The sooner “-tard” is eliminated from the popular lexicon as an acceptable suffix for whipping up new terms to use for “people I personally think are stupid,” the better off our whole society will be.
I don’t even see myself as young. I feel like an old man at this point. And anyone who has seen my attire wouldn’t consider me as hip either, as I am big on $10 t-shirts. 😉
I can tell you with 100% certainty that the people suggesting I do x or do y when filtering out non-customers have not had the joy of personally reading literally 100,000+ emails.
If they did, they would display the empathy that they claim I lack.
The only hate crimes I see are the people who have disabled family members who are choosing to ignore 1 definition of a word & forcing everything in the world in through another definition of that word & then suggesting that anyone who doesn’t have *their* view of the world belongs in front of the court.
If they can read the blog post which highlights the person who is a self-proclaimed millionaire who tried to goad me into giving him 7 figures worth of business advice for free & not see the absurdity in that, well then I can’t help them!
I also love this part:
“if Aaron Wall had any real sensitivity, brains or common sense”
It is ok to call me brainless & insensitive. And yet, my alleged “wrongdoing” to deserve that is that I did what again? I suggest some people are “held back” by their desire to get everything for free & value everyone else’s life at nothing. Upon that suggestion people who claim I am some evil wrongdoer claim that I am brainless.
Hypocrisy thy name is thee 😉
Thank goodness I am smart enough to appreciate George Orwell’s take on English & the political language.
Aaron, I have nothing but the highest respect for you and use SEOBook’s Rank Checker all the ti– I mean, NEVER, never ever ever. (Google can see this, right? [;-)] )
That said, I’ll just throw my own 2 cents in that we’re far better off avoiding a “-tard” word. The problem is, when we use a word that describes an illness or unchangeable condition as a metaphor for something, it inadvertently objectifies and stigmatizes a real person with that condition.
Here’s a little thought experiment: Say you were caught out by search engines on some SEO tactic you’d done, and the organic search revenue for a major site you were working on tanked terribly as a result and in an embarrassingly public fashion. What if people then started using your name as a synonym for spectacular bungling, e.g., “Geez, what happened to ‘Fringe’? They really ‘Aaron Wall’-ed it this time!”
I know, I know, you’re a big boy and could roll with it, but I’m guessing that if you started overhearing your name used this way in restaurants and seeing it on ‘The Colbert Report’, it would start adding up. On some level, you’d know that people were being really unfair to you; there’s a lot more to you than just that one incident. You would then be experiencing what it’s like for something very personal and unchangeable –in this example, your own name– to be used to reduce you to something less than your full humanity.
That’s what the exasperation over the “-tard” is about. I hope that makes a little more sense, and I hope all the readers of this post will join those of us who have stopped using variations of that word (and, while we’re at it, words like “psycho” or “schizo”) because we know that stigmatization hurts people who are much, much more than just a label, pejorative or otherwise.
Great post, Susan. I liked what Aaron said about having multiple streams of income. However, I also think that it’s important to focus on building your list, especially with online marketing. Multiple streams of income is great, but I’m a firm believer in building a list and focusing on cultivating strong relationships with your subscribers.
As long as you have your list, you’ll always have an asset that will continue to generate revenue for you 1000x’s over, even if one of your streams of income dries up.
Thanks for sharing this article with the community. I appreciate it!
Thanks for your insight. I think the point is to grow your list AND grow strong relationships with those people by providing useful content and emails.