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26 May 2010

Link Building Tools Interview with Aaron Wall

aaron-wallMost of you are familiar with SEObook, launched in 2003, one of the oldest standing SEO sites that is still regularly updated. The site originally was designed as a blog that offered DIY SEO tips and helped sell the leading SEO ebook, which had sold well over $1,000,000 in volume. This week, I have the pleasure of interviewing the founder Aaron Wall, and speaking with him about Link Building and the tools of the trade.
 
Elise Redlin-Cook: In the past, and it could be years ago or even just yesterday, what link are you most proud of acquiring for your site or a clients site?
 
Aaron Wall: I thought it was pretty cool when the WSJ did an audio interview of me about SEO stuff and linked to our site. But as far as driving business goes I would say when Danny Sullivan first linked to me that was sorta what helped me become part of the SEO industry. 
 
Elise: What specific tools are in your link building arsenal to help you acquire links for a client who is just getting started?
Aaron: For brand25 x 25 twitter iconnew websites I am generally pretty conservative and suggest starting out with some of the general web directory links and any links you can get from business partners. The best "tool" to start with in my opinion is a great domain name. And when looking for gaps in market opportunities I typically use SEO for Firefox.
 
Where more in depth analysis (and the use of tools like Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer) can come in handy is after you already have a site with a bit of age & some ranking feedback, and are trying to catch up to established market leaders for some tougher keywords.
 
Elise: Do you employ competitive analysis in your link building strategy for clients?
 
Aaron: We don’t do much client work outside of running SEO Book, but for our own websites we absolutely do look at how competitive the search results look before we decide which markets to enter. The client work we do tend to do (beyond running our membership website and publishing many websites) is mostly down to larger strategic direction. We have also done link building for a few client projects, but generally we have not done tons of that as that type of labor is very time intensive and somewhat hard to price…this is particularly true if you run a small firm and don’t have many employees.
 
Elise: What are your views on no-follow vs. do-follow links?
 
Aaron: I think followed links are great if you can get them, but if you have a relevant mention to add to a high traffic location (and are doing it in a way that doesn’t reflect poorly on your brand) then certainly it can be worth getting that exposure as well. As a relevant example of the latter, I read an official blog post on how stack exchange was changing their business model, and the first comment on it was a person who said that there were other relevant options like an open source one he started building. Can that sort of exposure easily look tacky and/or tick people off? Sure. But it can be done in ways that are relevant and do not reflect poorly.
 
Elise: How have your link building techniques changed over the years as the search industry has evolved?
 
Aaron: On WebmasterWorld Brett Tabke made a post recently about Google’s linkless internet. Most links are paid for, or as a side effect of exposure, or shared out of ego, etc. Further, whatever natural useful stuff is being mentioned is no longer being mentioned on blogs anywhere near the rate it was a few years ago because of the likes of Twitter and other social platforms that slap a nofollow on everything. Thus 25 x 25 twitter iconin many ways you need to invest in things like relationship building and branding and exposure if you want to compete with the big boys in the biggest markets. 
 
When I got in search link analysis and a touch of creativity was enough to compete, but as more people have become aware of the value of links the model for linkbuilding has from some degree moved from push toward pull.

Elise: I’d love to hear about what inspired you to start SEObook?

Aaron: When Google did their algorithm update named Florida back in 2003 I quickly became popular and way overwhelmed by potential projects. Then the popularity quickly died down. That made me realize how feast or famine consulting would be as a business model. I thought there could be an in-between product or service for people interested in SEO that helped people learn about it without having to pay consulting fees. And that is where the idea of a book with blog updates came in. Why I made it an ebook was because it was conventional wisdom that all print books about SEO were out of date. And then as my popularity grew so did piracy of my work and the complexity of the search industry. Today PPC is far more complex than SEO was when I got into the game. And there are entire verticals of searches and categories which didn’t exist a few years ago. Given search’s increasing complexity it made me think that having 1 linear guide wouldn’t be as strong as an offering as having a modular training program with support forums, which is what we switched our business model to a couple years ago. 

Elise: Yes, that makes a lot of sense. Well, how about now…do you have any exciting projects that you are involved in right now that you’d like to discuss?

Aaron: My wife is hoping to do some pretty cool stuff with PPC Blog in the near future. We are hoping to evolve that into the #1 site for pay per click marketing information in the coming months.

Elise: Would you say that you are you driven by any great passions outside of the business arena?

Aaron: My wife and my dog. :) I also like reading books, playing video games, and learning about economics and investing.

 What are your thoughts about Aaron’s answers? Agree or disagree?