Tag Archive | "Profit"

Hijacking Google search results for fun, not profit: UK SEO uncovers XML sitemap exploit in Google Search Console

SEO wins bug bounty from Vulnerability Reward Program, Google search team confirms the exploit no longer works

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There’s Treasure Everywhere: Turning waste into profit

Throughout history, curious business people have launched entirely new companies off their company’s waste. Read on to learn how you can you find similar waste-to-winning opportunities.
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4 Surprising Ways You’ll Profit from Building an Online Course

surprising! what you'll learn when you build an online course

I had no idea what I was getting myself into back in the fall of 2009.

The only thing I knew for sure was that I was feeling antsy.

I had been running my design and marketing business for almost two decades. Over almost twenty years, I had helped every kind of client with every kind of project. Truth be told: I was getting a little bored.

And boredom, as far as I’m concerned, is Enemy #1.

Up to that point, my business was strictly offline. I had a web presence, but it was a brochure site. You know, a “here’s what I do and here’s how to contact me” website with no content, no audience-building component, no connection whatsoever with the people who landed on its pages. Old school.

The thrill was gone from my current career. Something had to change. So I started searching.

And exactly one Google search later, I landed here on the pages of Copyblogger.

It just so happened that I stumbled onto these pages in the weeks leading up to the launch of one of the early versions of Teaching Sells, the online course that taught online course building. It’s the product that helped establish the company I now work for.

I signed up for Teaching Sells as soon as the doors opened. And I dug right into the materials. All five months’ worth!

As I watched the videos and did the worksheets, I filled a folder full of notes. I worked overtime to consume every lesson. I asked and answered questions in the forum. I attended Q&A sessions. I was all in.

But it’s what happened after taking the course that changed my career and my life.

Here’s what happened after I took the Teaching Sells course

I built my online presence from scratch after taking the Teaching Sells course. Everything — from my brand name, to my website, to my blog content, to my opt-in offer, to my first course — was born from what I learned in the course materials.

Once I knew my ultimate goal was to offer online education, I was able to reverse engineer my online presence to attract an audience of readers who would become my students.

It worked like a charm. My only complaint? I wished there was a more compact way to learn what I learned. And now there is (more on that below).

It turns out that teaching still sells, now more than ever. The online education market is growing. New technologies like simulation-based teaching, cognitive learning, augmented reality, and bot-based tutorials are engaging people of all age groups and interests.

Back when I first learned about how to create online education, there was a stigma surrounding learning this way, as if it “wasn’t the real deal.” How could web-based learning possibly replace the back-and-forth interaction of a classroom?

Now we’ve realized that we’re just scratching the surface of how computing power can augment and improve our educational experiences. The sky’s the limit.

Are you in? Because in today’s article, I want to share four not-so-obvious advantages of creating online courses. These are benefits I’ve experienced personally.

And they offer compelling reasons you might want to explore creating an online course in the near future.

1. You’ll discover that adult learners become loyal customers

When you empower someone with information that allows them to do something they’ve never done, or work more efficiently, or enjoy life more … they’ll never forget you.

It’s the ultimate top-of-mind awareness for your business and your brand.

Believe it or not, I still meet people who thank me for courses they took from me four, five, and six years ago. That’s remarkable!

Education has that effect — it can transform people’s lives. And people whose lives you transform become loyal, devoted customers.

2. You’ll develop your position (and that will help later)

Creating a course is hard work. If you want to do it right, you spend time laying the groundwork for your course with some fundamentals first:

  • You find a market of “hungry learners”
  • You develop a unique approach for your course
  • You define a learner profile so you fully understand who you’re serving
  • You identify the benefits of knowledge — how your learner will grow from what you’ll teach them
  • You spell out learning objectives for your course

All this before creating a single lesson!

But here’s the thing — the time you spend defining your market, your position, and the knowledge you’ll convey will benefit you in so many ways. In a very sneaky way, you’ll be:

  • Pinpointing a target market for your content and confirming demand
  • Uniquely positioning your brand
  • Understanding what motivates your ideal customer
  • Creating selling points for your course
  • Writing marketing copy you can use on sales pages and in emails

Doing the work of building your course will put you well ahead in your marketing efforts.

And working through the fundamentals will help you write better content that draws new people to your website and your offerings.

3. You’ll learn All The Things

A full-blown online course is not a Minimum Viable Product. Not even close.

The biggest mistake I made was to tackle putting together a fully functional online course as my first product.

(It’s embarrassing even to type this.)

But looking back, I have no regrets. Putting together a full-fledged online course forced me to learn All The Things. Things like:

  • How to write effective content that attracts the right audience
  • How to accept payments for online products
  • How to position, launch, and generate ongoing sales for a digital product
  • How to put my paid content behind a secure paywall
  • How to allow members to communicate with each other and with me
  • How to create, present, and host online video content
  • How to build a community around my teaching

When I look at that list, it’s pretty daunting. Thinking about doing all these things may push you well beyond your comfort zone.

Learning to create a full-featured online course is like attending a digital content bootcamp.

The good news? After creating a full-blown online course, creating other types of digital content will seem easy. You’ll have an impressive skill set that will serve you well as you create, set up, and sell other online products.

4. You’ll know your topic better than ever before

Want to really master a topic? Teach it.

There’s nothing like codifying your expertise and teaching it to others to cement certain concepts in your own mind.

You research information, synthesize what you’ve learned, and then express it in your own words. This process builds your understanding and deepens your grasp of your topic.

One word of caution: sometimes teaching a topic can lead to knowing so much about it you begin to lose touch with what beginners need to know.

This is the dreaded “curse of knowledge,” and it separates you from your newbie students. Stay in touch with your audience, understand their needs — no matter where they are in relation to your topic — and focus on how you can help them.

Doing this will help you create a better course and allow you to create better offers in the future, too.

A new (updated) course about building online courses

I’m happy to share that Teaching Sells, the course I took that set my career on a brand-new path, has evolved into something even better.

It’s leaner, faster to consume, and has the most up-to-date information about what works in online education right now.

And it’s taught by the originator of Teaching Sells, our CEO Brian Clark. Brian poured what was best about Teaching Sells into this new course and added a healthy dose of what he’s learned since his early days in the online education market.

The course, Build Your Online Education Business the Smarter Way, will soon be available as a standalone product.

To learn more about the online education market, I urge you to sign up and attend Brian’s upcoming free webinar that’s happening on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Click the button below for easy (and free!) registration.

Free Webinar:

How to Develop an Irresistible Online Course People Will Line Up to Buy (and Then Actually Use)

The post 4 Surprising Ways You’ll Profit from Building an Online Course appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Google Search Censorship for Fun and Profit

Growing Up vs Breaking Things

Facebook’s early motto was “move fast and break things,” but as they wanted to become more of a platform play they changed it to “move fast with stability.” Anything which is central to the web needs significant stability, or it destroys many other businesses as a side effect of its instability.

As Google has become more dominant, they’ve moved in the opposite direction. Disruption is promoted as a virtue unto itself, so long as it doesn’t adversely impact the home team’s business model.

There are a couple different ways to view big search algorithm updates. Large, drastic updates implicitly state one of the following:

  • we were REALLY wrong yesterday
  • we are REALLY wrong today

Any change or disruption is easy to justify so long as you are not the one facing the consequences:

“Smart people have a problem, especially (although not only) when you put them in large groups. That problem is an ability to convincingly rationalize nearly anything.” … “Impostor Syndrome is that voice inside you saying that not everything is as it seems, and it could all be lost in a moment. The people with the problem are the people who can’t hear that voice.” – Googler Avery Pennarun

Monopoly Marketshare in a Flash

Make no mistake, large changes come with false positives and false negatives. If a monopoly keeps buying marketshare, then any mistakes they make have more extreme outcomes.

Here’s the Flash update screen (which hits almost every web browser EXCEPT Google Chrome).

Notice the negative option installs for the Google Chrome web browser and the Google Toolbar in Internet Explorer.

Why doesn’t that same process hit Chrome? They not only pay Adobe to use security updates to steal marketshare from other browsers, but they also pay Adobe to embed Flash inside Chrome, so Chrome users never go through the bundleware update process.

Anytime anyone using a browser other than Chrome has a Flash security update they need to opt out of the bundleware, or they end up installing Google Chrome as their default web browser, which is the primary reason Firefox marketshare is in decline.

Google engineers “research” new forms of Flash security issues to drive critical security updates.

Obviously, users love it:

Has anyone noticed that the latest Flash update automatically installs Google Toolbar and Google Chrome? What a horrible business decision Adobe. Force installing software like you are Napster. I would fire the product manager that made that decision. As a CTO I will be informing my IT staff to set Flash to ignore updates from this point forward. QA staff cannot have additional items installed that are not part of the base browser installation. Ridiculous that Adobe snuck this crap in. All I can hope now is to find something that challenges Photoshop so I can move my design team away from Adobe software as well. Smart move trying to make pennies off of your high dollar customers.

In Chrome Google is the default search engine. As it is in Firefox and Opera and Safari and Android and iOS’s web search.

In other words, in most cases across most web interfaces you have to explicitly change the default to not get Google. And then even when you do that, you have to be vigilant in protecting against the various Google bundleware bolted onto core plugins for other web browsers, or else you still end up in an ecosystem owned, controlled & tracked by Google.

Those “default” settings are not primarily driven by user preferences, but by a flow of funds. A few hundred million dollars here, a billion there, and the market is sewn up.

Google’s user tracking is so widespread & so sophisticated that their ad cookies were a primary tool for government surveillance efforts.

Locking Down The Ecosystem

And Chrome is easily the most locked down browser out there.

Whenever Google wants to promote something they have the ability to bundle it into their web browser, operating system & search results to try to force participation. In a fluid system with finite attention, over-promoting one thing means under-promoting or censoring other options. Google likes to have their cake & eat it too, but the numbers don’t lie.

The Right to Be Forgotten

This brings us back to the current snafu with the “right to be forgotten” in Europe.

Google notified publishers like the BBC & The Guardian of their links being removed due to the EU “right to be forgotten” law. Their goal was to cause a public relations uproar over “censorship” which seems to have been a bit too transparent, causing them to reverse some of the removals after they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

The breadth of removals is an ongoing topic of coverage. But if you are Goldman Sachs instead of a government Google finds filtering information for you far more reasonable.

Some have looked at the EU policy and compared it to state-run censorship in China.

Google already hires over 10,000 remote quality raters to rate search results. How exactly is receiving 70,000 requests a monumental task? As their public relations propagandists paint this as an unbelievable burden, they are also highlighting how their own internal policies destroy smaller businesses: “If a multi-billion dollar corporation is struggling to cope with 70,000 censor requests, imagine how the small business owner feels when he/she has to disavow thousands or tens of thousands of links.”

The World’s Richest Librarian

Google aims to promote themselves as a digital librarian: “It’s a bit like saying the book can stay in the library, it just cannot be included in the library’s card catalogue.”

That analogy is absurd on a number of levels. Which librarian…

Sorry About That Incidental Deletion From the Web…

David Drummond’s breathtaking propaganda makes it sound like Google has virtually no history in censoring access to information:

In the past we’ve restricted the removals we make from search to a very short list. It includes information deemed illegal by a court, such as defamation, pirated content (once we’re notified by the rights holder), malware, personal information such as bank details, child sexual abuse imagery and other things prohibited by local law (like material that glorifies Nazism in Germany).

Yet Google sends out hundreds of thousands of warning messages in webmaster tools every single month.

Google is free to force whatever (often both arbitrary and life altering) changes they desire onto the search ecosystem. But the moment anyone else wants any level of discourse or debate into the process, they feign outrage over the impacts on the purity of their results.

Despite Google’s great power they do make mistakes. And when they do, people lose their jobs.

Consider MetaFilter.

They were penalized November 17, 2012.

At a recent SMX conference Matt Cutts stated MetaFilter was a false positive.

People noticed the Google update when it happened. It is hard to miss an overnight 40% decline in your revenues. Yet when they asked about it, Google did not confirm its existence. That economic damage hit MetaFilter for nearly two years & they only got a potential reprieve from after they fired multiple employees and were able to generate publicity about what had happened.

As SugarRae mentioned, those false positives happen regularly, but most the people who are hit by them lack political and media influence, and are thus slaughtered with no chance of recovery.

MetaFilter is no different than tens of thousands of other good, worthy small businesses who are also laying off employees – some even closing their doors – as a result of Google’s Panda filter serving as judge, jury and executioner. They’ve been as blindly and unfairly cast away to an island and no one can hear their pleas for help.

The only difference between MetaFilter and tons of other small businesses on the web is that MetaFilter has friends in higher places.

If you read past the headlines & the token slaps of big brands, these false positive death sentences for small businesses are a daily occurrence.

And such stories are understated for fear of coverage creating a witch-hunt:

Conversations I’ve had with web publishers, none of whom would speak on the record for fear of retribution from Cutts’ webspam team, speak to a litany of frustration at a lack of transparency and potential bullying from Google. “The very fact I’m not able to be candid, that’s a testament to the grotesque power imbalance that’s developed,” the owner of one widely read, critically acclaimed popular website told me after their site ran afoul of Cutts’ last Panda update.

Not only does Google engage in anti-competitive censorship, but they also frequently publish misinformation. Here’s a story from a week ago of a restaurant which went under after someone changed their Google listing store hours to be closed on busy days. That misinformation was embedded directly in the search results. That business is no more.

Then there are areas like locksmiths:

I am one of the few Real Locksmiths here in Denver and I have been struggling with this for years now. I only get one or two calls a day now thanks to spammers, and that’s not calls I do, it’s calls for prices. For instance I just got a call from a lady locked out of her apt. It is 1130 pm so I told her 75 dollars, Nope she said someone told her 35 dollars….a fake locksmith no doubt. She didn’t understand that they meant 35 dollars to come out and look at it. These spammers charge hundreds to break your lock, they don’t know how to pick a lock, then they charge you 10 times the price of some cheap lock from a hardware store. I’m so lost, I need help from google to remove those listings. Locksmithing is all I have ever done and now I’m failing at it.

There are entire sectors of the offline economy being reshaped by Google policies.

When those sectors get coverage, the blame always goes to the individual business owner who was personal responsible for Google’s behaviors, or perhaps some coverage of the nefarious “spammers.”

Never does anybody ask if it is reasonable for Google to place their own inaccurate $ 0 editorial front and center. To even bring up that issue makes one an anti-capitalist nut or someone who wishes to impede on free speech rights. This even after the process behind the sausage comes to light.

And while Google arbitrarily polices others, their leaked internal documents contain juicy quotes about their ad policies like:

  • “We are the only player in our industry still accepting these ads”
  • “We do not make these decisions based on revenue, but as background, [redacted].”
  • “As with all of our policies, we do not verify what these sites actually do, only what they claim to do.”
  • “I understand that we should not let other companies, press, etc. influence our decision-making around policy”

Is This “Censorship” Problem New?

This problem of control to access of information is nothing new – it is only more extreme today. Read the (rarely read) preface to Animal Farm, or consider this:

John Milton in his fiery 1644 defense of free speech, Areopagitica, was writing not against the oppressive power of the state but of the printers guilds. Darnton said the same was true of John Locke’s writings about free speech. Locke’s boogeyman wasn’t an oppressive government, but a monopolistic commercial distribution system that was unfriendly to ways of organizing information that didn’t fit into its business model. Sound familiar?

When Google complains about censorship, they are not really complaining about what may be, but what already is. Their only problem is the idea that someone other than themselves should have any input in the process.

“Policy is largely set by economic elites and organized groups representing business interests with little concern for public attitudes or public safety, as long as the public remains passive and obedient.” ― Noam Chomsky

Many people have come to the same conclusion


Turn on, tune in, drop out

“I think as technologists we should have some safe places where we can try out some new things and figure out what is the effect on society, what’s the effect on people, without having to deploy kind of into the normal world. And people like those kind of things can go there and experience that and we don’t have mechanisms for that.” – Larry Page

I have no problem with an “opt-in” techno-utopia test in some remote corner of the world, but if that’s the sort of operation he wants to run, it would be appreciated if he stopped bundling his software into billions of electronic devices & assumed everyone else is fine with “opting out.”

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Email Marketing: Verizon, REI share ideas to profit from growing mobile e-commerce traffic

If your emails and websites aren’t optimized for smart devices, you’re likely losing a significant piece of your marketplace according to recent analysis of more than 500 million online shopping experiences. Watch this video clip from Email Summit 2013 to learn more about how Laura Velasquez, Marketing Program Manager, REI, and Jason Jennings, Associate Director, Digital CRM, Verizon Wireless, optimized their company’s websites for the mobile marketplace and lessons learned in the process.
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Knowledge, Profit & Love: Sean Dolan of Pushfire on SEO

Recently I had a chance to interview Sean Dolan, Chief Operating Officer at Pushfire, about how things are going at Pushfire as well as his history with us here at SEO Book.

We also included how we played matchmaker for him and Rae (sorta…in a really roundabout way) :)

In all seriousness though, this is a fantastic read. As Google continues to hammer away at SEO profit margins for smaller webmasters, mom and pop shops, smaller local businesses and so on (through unforgiving and somewhat chaotic, frequent, wide-ranging updates) it’s good for newer industry folks, or seasoned webmasters considering a jump to agency services, to see the documented evolution of someone like Sean.

1. Tell us about how you got started in the industry and what led you to SeoBook?
In 2008, my uncle sent me a link to the latest of his out-of-the-box ideas, The Extreme Cubicle Makeover: Red Mahogany Luxury Paneled Cubicle with Dark Cherry Hardwood Floors. I was excited to hear his tales of traffic numbers and noise generated by the common cubicle, taken to an extreme every cubicle dweller dreamed of. It was different; it started conversations around the virtual water cooler. It was remarkable.

At the time, I was over a decade into running my DJ business, built around word-of-mouth advertising the first few years, and in the last few years business flooded in from successful Adwords campaigns. In my first month of Adwords, I spent $ 800 and booked over $ 8,000 in contracted gigs. My uncle’s success shifted my paradigm, and got me excited about the potential of SEO and Viral Marketing as an additional source of business. I was filling up my DJ schedule fast with Adwords, but I wanted more!

I went to the bookstore and grabbed the first book I saw: “SEO for Dummies” by Bruce Clay. The book was printed in 2004, and I was reading it in 2008. As I read more about search engine algorithm changes, I began to wonder how useful the information would be, but I soaked up every word regardless. After I finished the book, I jumped online to find more books to read, maybe something more current. I searched “seo books” on Google, and there ranking #1 was SeoBook.com. I began to scan the SERPs, reading descriptions of each result. Then I realized that if I was going to get information about how to rank in Google, I’d better choose the person that ranked #1 for what I instinctively searched. I immediately signed up as a paid member.

2. What were your first impressions of the paid SeoBook forums, training area, and tools?

I wanted the training material bad. My decision to purchase membership was based on the training material alone. Tools were nice, and community was great, but I didn’t see the use for them until after I read all of the training, which I did. I read everything. I couldn’t believe how much actionable information I had. I literally took notes as I read, organizing them into what I would implement immediately, and what I would implement later.

It wasn’t until I finished the training that I began to sneak around the member forums, saying nothing, but reading everything. Threads went back for years with hundreds of ideas I could still implement today. I realized that while the training got me up to speed, the forums dug very deep into theories and opinions with each person offering a unique perspective due to their industry and level of competition, openly providing real data from their experiments. And every day, there was something new, something I could implement. My plan to purchase a single month of Seobook.com, read all of the training material, and cancel my membership, had failed. I was hooked.

3. Can you talk about how SeoBook’s community helped with the success of your site?

Using the member tools, implementing what I learned from the training materials, and the forums, I was soon ranking #2 for “Houston DJ” along with many other valuable terms. The organic leads came flooding in, and I paused my Adwords campaign. A few weeks later I was booked solid every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for the next 4 months, and had contracts for dates up to a year in advance. I was passing leads to fellow DJs like candy. I was making about as much money as a one-man-show could make.

4. Privately, you mentioned to me that SeoBook changed your life. Can you expand on that a bit with respect to the initial success, followed by the launch of your own agency, and, of course, how your wife fits into the timeline?

I quickly realized that in hitting my capacity as far as how many DJ gigs I could handle by myself, the next step would be to hire DJs and manage them. This didn’t excite me. One of my DJs was arrested for a bench warrant on his way to a gig. I had to run out the door and perform, showing up late, and I hated that. I saw so much more potential online, and I wanted to help other local businesses do what I did with my company.

Late in 2008, my father was laid off from his job due to downsizing. Rather than run right back out to a job in the corporate sales industry he was familiar with, he was looking for something new—and I was just discovering something new. So we decided to join forces and create an agency called Ascendgence, LLC.

We both knew that we needed more than only my DJ Business as a case study. We needed something big. We needed our own “Extreme Cubicle”; something to get our name out there; proof that we could harness the power of the Internet to produce an intended outcome.

My father and I initially discussed offering pro bono services to a local business that was failing to help turn them around. Save them. Then, something struck me. On February 7, 2009, I started a thread in the members section, and posted this:

“Driving down the street last week I saw a very nicely dressed business woman on the corner holding a sign that said “I need a job”. Having freshly logged off of SeoBook, seeing the world in terms of opportunity, I thought to myself, “Hell, change that poster to mysite.com and you’re hired!” I told the members of the Seobook forums.

“Well, that grew into a very, very different sort of idea that I will be sharing with the community a few days before we launch this.”

The feedback I received from the members’ forum, equally encouraging and critical, helped shape my project into the success it became.

www.PimpThisBum.com launched on February 17, 2009. Exhausted from days of implementing the strategies I learned from the Seobook forums in preparation for the launch, we had Tim, a homeless man dying of alcoholism on the street, at the end of his rope, and gave him a sign to hold that said “www.PimpThisBum.com All Major Credit Cards accepted”. As was carefully planned, all hell broke loose.

Tim, my Father, and I were interviewed by dozens of radio stations, local and nationally syndicated, interviewed on Fox & Friends morning show, featured on CNN, joked about by Jeff Foxworthy on the Rachael Ray Show, featured in 100s of national and international outlets—including The Sydney Morning Herald and Der Spiegel. In 4 very busy months, we raised $ 100,000 in personal donations and in-kind contributions, put Tim through rehab, and got him off the streets and reconnected with family he hadn’t seen in 35 years. Today, Tim is over 3 years sober and still off the streets.

Anyone interested in reading the entire thread from day one, can find it in here in the members forum.
As was intended, this helped our newly formed business. Fortune 500 companies didn’t come banging down our door, but we had a story to tell when we pitched prospects. For Ascendgence, PTB proved that we were loyal, and committed. Tim was our first client, and we followed through on what we promised him, and worked as hard as we could for him to help him achieve his goals. His goals happened to be sobriety and a normal life. The sobriety came, but it took a while for things to get ‘normal’. At one point, Larry King asked for an interview, and Tim decided it wasn’t a good idea because he’d already started rehab. Turning down Larry King for an interview was anything but normal.

The clients came. Some great partnerships were made. For that next year, I spent every bit of spare time reading the Seobook forums, and rereading the training materials. During this time, there was so much information; I rarely read anything outside of the forums… because the information I found in the forums worked.
After nearly 3 years as partners in Ascendgence, my father and I came to the decision that we were better as father and son than we were as business partners. As we grew, the business put a strain our personal relationship. We came to the decision that I would buy my father out of the company. Soon after, he took a VP position at Bank of America.

So, let’s back up to how my now wife, Rae Hoffman AKA Sugarrae, fits into this. I heard about Pubcon from the SeoBook forums, and I was debating on whether to go to Pubcon Dallas 2010 or not. Heather Reisig, known as grnidone in the forums, told me it was a good show, even though it was smaller, and specifically recommended that I spend time in the smoking section, in order to network. I did as I was told. At the first networking event, Rae came out and we chatted about business a bit. She mentioned she was going to the Fox and the Hound after (not to me, just in general). Uninvited, I went to the bar, pounded 3 Jack and Cokes to work up the courage to approach her and offered to buy her a beer. As it turns out, Rae rarely turns down beer. She challenged me to go drink-for-drink the next day. The rest was a blur.

Rae and I had an instant connection. By the end of PubCon we were making plans to visit each other (she was in Canada at the time; I was in Texas). It really was love at first sight. She was all I thought about—my world—and I love her more today than ever. We got married seven months to the day that we met in November of 2010 and we moved our (now) family to Texas in December of 2010.

After running Ascendgence by myself for a few months, Rae started having extra demand on the consulting side of Sugarrae. We saw that our two businesses: Ascendgence and the consulting aspect of Sugarrae, had a lot of overlap in services. Not wanting the business to cause tension in our relationship, we were slow to act. We tested it out for a few months and found that we worked very well together, not only personally, but professionally.

On May 10th, 2012, Rae and I announced PushFire.

5. There’s lots of negativity out and about this industry, but I see lots of opportunity. Granted, costs have risen and Google has trimmed the organic results in some pretty profitable areas, but SEO is still a major, major hub for getting in front of online prospects that are explicitly interested in your service or product?

I came into the game going up against a smarter Google than those who’d been in the game for decades. I had to start from the get-go with learning more about how to build web businesses with defensible SEO, than exploiting algorithmic loopholes. Long-term strategies, defensible links, caution over greed, the recipe for an agency guy.

It still amazes me how many large companies don’t know the basics. I’ve experienced billion dollar companies with no analytics, medium sized companies with broken contact forms, and manufacturing companies with nofollowed homepages. Entire websites disallowed by a developer who forgot to change it before launch, and these companies, for years, never knew any better. There’s a huge market for SEO Audits, including some of the largest companies, with not only enormous budgets, but huge gains to be had by fixing these problems. As an agency, you have flexibility. If the future of Google is favoring big brands, then that’s where you pitch your services.

At PushFire, on a regular basis, we turn down companies we don’t think are a good fit for us. We only work with those we think we can do great things for. This is why I chose the agency life. I get satisfaction out of watching my clients’ businesses grow. I love meeting with them and showing them reports of huge gains. Link Building is another service we provide. We promote the highest quality content, no short-cuts. I love motivating my staff with trips to Vegas or iPads for top performers. I enjoy doing team building events like bowling and laser tag to show them we appreciate their hard work. I enjoy running an agency.

Now, for those of you who hesitate going the agency route—there’s a lot of room for small, capable agencies. You don’t need to be a known “rockstar” in this industry to have a successful agency. Bottom line is that there are tons of industries where the competition is not ultra competitive, the clients and their competitors are simply uneducated. The client doesn’t care if you can rank for online gambling or which conference you’ve spoken at. They care if you can rank THEM for THEIR topic, in THEIR market, against THEIR competitors. Remember, there are far more companies that can’t afford a “rockstar” than those who can.

6. There’s lots of interest, from folks I talk to, about running their own agency (to some degree). One big hurdle for webmasters who are not used to time structure/resource structure is company infrastructure. How does your company handle stuff like a CRM, project management system, email, document management, etc?

We use Highrise for CRM, Basecamp for project management, Outlook for email, and Dropbox for document management. Our developer churns out amazing tools for our team to use, as well as for management to keep track of performance and client reporting. Raven Tools has been a major help in organizing our link development. In fact our most used tools are built using the Raven Tools API.

Find a good partner. Rae and I complement each other. I enjoy client calls, she does not. She enjoys blogging and developing strategy, while I enjoy implementation of these strategies. Her forte is SEO, mine is PPC Management.

Hire an accountant… it will save you money in the long run. Always have your contracts looked over by an actual lawyer. Once you get bigger, you’ll need someone to manage HR, but you can easily outsource this.

We exhibited for the first time at Affiliate Summit East. By the conference, we were already booked out months in advance. Preparing for the conference slowed the speed at which we could hire, so at that moment, with 4,600 conference attendees, we couldn’t take on any new SEO clients. We spent those two days referring tons of business to other agencies, which specialized in what the prospect was looking for. There’s a ton of business out there. Many of our clients came to us by referral from other agencies. So, if you are starting out, I would recommend you get to know the community, meet people who do what you do, show them what you’re capable of, and let them know you’re taking clients (this includes us!)

I have no doubt that we will make more money by giving those clients away than we would have by taking them. Karma is king in this industry.

7. How did you come up with PushFire? Internally? Hire a branding firm?

After the final decision was made to join forces, Rae and I sat on our back porch, beers in hands, racking our brains for names. I wanted something to do with fire because that’s how I see ideas spreading on the internet, like a grass fire. GrassFire’s .com, Twitter, and Facebook were all taken. Then we thought about BrandFire–“brand” like in what they use to mark cattle, giving it a bit of Texas flavor, and “brand” as in your company brand. Our logo would look like a cattle brand burned into the header. Checking domain registrants, twitter handles, and facebook, it wasn’t doable.

We wanted something simple to remember, say, and easy to spell. Then, going through the dictionary and combining everything with “fire” we both loved PushFire—meaning that we not only start the fire, but we have to push it or fuel it as well. We slept on it for 24 hours and then negotiated the purchase from its owner the next day. Maybe that’s not the most romantic business story, but that’s how we got it done in less than 3 days and off of our Basecamp to-do list.

PushFire’s growth has exceeded our expectations. We are on track to be eligible for the Inc 500 revenue requirements by 2013, but will need to wait until 2017 to meet the time requirements. Everyone has a unique story about how they got into the internet marketing industry, but this is mine and I couldn’t have done it without the help of the SeoBook community, Aaron Wall, and the great forum moderators.

Thanks for the time Sean!

Sean Dolan is the Chief Operating Officer at PushFire. When he’s not managing operations, he’s spending time with his wife and children or donating his time to causes such as The Periwinkle Foundation. You can connect with Sean on Twitter and Google+.

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How Web Retailers Can Profit With Semantic SEO

Semantic SEO is a fairly new Web marketing tactic that combines search engine optimization and semantic Web technology. Semantic SEO includes a focus on artificial intelligence to understand a user’s intent (i.e., the meaning of the query) in addition to the reliance on text, keywords and links in…



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Free Course: How to Profit from the Digital Revolution

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“Revolution” is a strong word, but it fits what we’re seeing as online business evolves almost faster than anyone can keep track.

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About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on Twitter and Google+.

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