On Being an Egotistical Hypocritical Wanker Every Day

It is kinda weird when you build a decent amount of authority from scratch because eventually people start treating your errors much differently. There are ups and downs to exposure. The biggest ups are

  • You get far more credit than you deserve, so it is easy to maintain your market position. Some non-news is news because you mention it.

  • If you do something good it is probably going to spread.
  • You will get a lot of feedback.
  • You get opportunities that you would never expect, and get to learn a lot by partnering with great people to work on amazing projects.
  • You can help friends and family quit working for others and work for themselves to do things they are passionate about.

The biggest downs are

  • You get far more credit than you deserve - this causes many people to stagnate, trading off of past reputation.

  • You get used to doing well, so you have to learn something really cool or something amazing has to happen for you to get excited about work.
  • If you get addicted to reach or authority you can let yourself change to where you identity becomes more representative of what others want you to be - even if it is not who you are.
  • If you get bored and want to change what you do it is hard to change if you let your living costs scale with your income.
  • Your average client shifts from people who are passionate to include many people who are not.
  • It is impossible to write something that is interesting enough to be worth reading and accessible to everyone.
  • People look to pull you out of context any way possible, especially if doing so can improve their market position or sense of self worth.
  • You can get bogged down with menial tasks to where you stop learning unless you are aggressive at filtering out noise.

As far as my errors go, I can write a post about how important it is to write well, but at my core I am still a bad speller. About a year or so ago spelling errors started to matter much more than they did in the past. Many other errors have become more and more important as well.

More recently friends advise me to steer clear of controversy, stating things like things that got you where you are are not necessarily things you should continue to do. Largely they are probably correct, but it is a big shift in perspective to go from looking for cracks in statements and policies to being a person who just casually analyzes markets and is rewarded for their observations and ideas...especially if you like to view yourself as the underdog. :)

And now when I do anything risky I am guaranteed at least one sharp response. And everything you do is one more opportunity to look hypocritical. My sales letter claims that SEO is easy, and I think if you are passionate about your topic it is not hard to compete in just about any field. If you are passionate it is not hard to spread ideas because pure passion brings out creativity and it is easy to detect...people want to be associated with that. People want to feel important and want to associate with people who make them feel their ideas are important.

The issue with Dave Pasternack (which got me that response telling me that I need to grow up) is not that SEO is easy or hard, it is that it is hard to scale selling SEO services because most businesses need more than just SEO... they need overall business optimization. Most people are too arrogant or afraid or shortsighted or distrusting to consider that. What is worse is that many people intentionally commit fraud, and we have to be sheltered to protect our egos and livelihoods.

I just helped get a great friend's new site to the front page of Google's search results. Now their phone is ringing off the hook, but because they need to streamline their sales process and work on making more compelling offers that filter out bad prospects they are probably getting a bit more exposure than they want. Was it easy for them to rank? Absolutely. But now they need more. And they are learning quickly, but it is much easier to help them for free as a friend than to build their business as a client.

And then you know pieces of stories that you can't share. Some days multiple mainstream media outlets will contact you asking questions about how they can better optimize their sites. The same companies publish articles about how sketchy the entire field of SEO is, while cloaking links or content on their own sites, and few people see the absurdity of the claims. And if you say anything about it then people may see it as an unjust rant. And if you divulge too much you might end up costing someone their job. Everyone wants results, and accountability for risk and errors usually falls on someone who can't afford to bear the brunt of the outcome.

If you are profitable and show your results you are accused of showing off, all while closing market inefficiencies you found. If you do not show results then you are arrogant and talking out of your...

As a person who shares market inefficiencies you are going to offend some people. Right now I think many bloggers are getting paid crumbs compared to what they are worth, but if I post about that suddenly I am a chauvinistic pig that thinks mom bloggers are naive and stupid and blah blah blah.

I don't think it is bad to be naive. I still am about many things, and if you feel that saying some people may be naive is a bad thing then you need to grow up and stop viewing the world in a black and white picture that makes yourself feel important. Everyone is not equal. And if we were the world would be a terrible place to live.

My girlfriend actually likes how crass and kurt I am, but I am nowhere near as much so on this blog. Yet after reading what others say about me I often feel like I just pulled this move.

Everyone is a minority with a broken ego and wants to feel important. No matter what you do people will hate you. Some idiot recently started leaving racist comments under Jim Boykin's name.

Everyone has cracks in their identities and egos. And if a person stands up for the rights of others sometimes they end up trampling others to maintain their own authority. It is an underlying theme in Animal Farm. From my Cliff notes style poem about that book:

what you fought against
is what you became
still, you kept fighting
to protect your name

People link at definitive statements. If your content is vanilla nobody cares. People link at definitive statements. People pull your words out of context and make them more definitive such that they create a self promotional controversy. But then sometimes I do the same thing. Everyone does. There are far more words typed each day than attention to consume them. Somebody has to lose.

As you get more authority you are expected to be less and less risky. I recently got one of my sites mentioned in authoritative political blogs and noticed that SEO Book typically sends link sites nearly as much traffic as many of the top political blogs. Should I take less risk? How do you balance self confidence and perceived arrogance? Should you worry about offending a few people so much that it changes your identity and how much you enjoy doing what you do?

Published: February 2, 2007 by Aaron Wall in aaron matthew wall


February 5, 2007 - 1:38pm

A part of growing up is starting to question yourself and the things you took for granted and assessing whether all that stuff still holds true or whether it's time to move on. Some people come out the other end realising they were rebellious and controversial just for the sake of it and conform, while others realise that being true to themselves means sometimes having unpopular opinions. I think the fact that so many people decide to steer clear of controversy when they are older is the fact that they have families to support and therefore more to lose if other people see them as less employable. In a lot of cases that has nothing to do with growing up as a person, apart from realising you can no longer put yourself first. You, on the other hand, have a GF who likes you just the way you are, you work in an industry where you are an underdog by definition and you have a blog people read because it makes people see and think about things differently. You don’t have to do all that. All you need to be asking yourself is whether you stand behind every word you write as you are writing it and are you doing the best you can to put your message across. If you can answer yes to both of these then that should be enough for you or anyone else.

Susan Melin
May 17, 2007 - 6:14pm

The most dangerous place to be is the middle of the road.

February 2, 2007 - 8:05am

Every person has different morals, standards, religion, mindset, philosophy, arguments, ethics, beliefs, emotions, and prejudice.


Oh, wait... that's why.

February 2, 2007 - 8:27am

Dude do not take less risk. If anything take more. That is what got you to the top of the mountain in the first place - so why change?

In fact if I had to think of 1 reason why I read your blog on a daily basis it is because you consistantly write about stuff I do not read anywhere else. So keep it up or I will surf off ;)

Yeah I wouldn't worry too much about the 'sharp responses' Aaron. most of your readers can filter through that blather pretty easily.

February 2, 2007 - 9:08am

Great article, Aaron. I agree with Miles...never stop taking risks - that is when life becomes dull. You are already at the top of your game, but that does not mean you should stop taking risks. Of course, the best advice is to diversify your risks, but in the SEO game, risk = reward, right?

February 2, 2007 - 9:14am

diversify your risks

I have done consulting for multi billion dollar companies, am starting up some cool new sites, and have equity in some profitable businesses ran by others with passive income streams far in excess of my living costs.

I have been diversifying my income streams, and most of what I have tried recently has worked well.

February 2, 2007 - 9:44am

"things that got you where you are are not necessarily things you should continue to do."

There is maybe some truth to this statement unfortunately but at the same time, it also implies that once you are there and stop doing what you did to get there, will open up the space for those that want to fill that position.

Like @Miles I read your blog because it's different from many other seo blogs and it has its own distinctive voice.

Write like who you are and what you feel comfortable with, would be my stance. If taking a risk is part of you, don't stop. It makes for better reading anyway.

February 2, 2007 - 11:29am

Hi Aaron,

Been reading your blog for ages now (think this is the first comment).

The best feedback is negative feedback - it allows us to change and grow.

The feedback that annoyes me the most however is feedback that is aimed simply at hurting the author from a 2dimensional view point.

I recently received some pretty nasty stuff on a vlog I did. After writing a lengthy and nasty reply in return - I realised that the person was probably just an idiot and an email war would serve no purpose. So I opted to delete and forget about it.

Worked a treat.

Keep an eye out for those who are able to see in multiple dimensions - they often have the most interesting feedback.

- Brendan

PS - spelling is not my best point either.

February 2, 2007 - 3:52pm

Aaron, I see that you didn't mention my complimentary clarification request, which simpy asks that if you didn't mean to refer to Mom Bloggers as naive amateurs, then perhaps you might want to clarify your original post.

I and my readers certainly want to hear about increasing blog revenue - but it was completely inappropriate to use "Mom Bloggers" as your case in point.

And plenty of my readers are male, and also thought your comments were out of line, including some A-list bloggers who I communicated with privately.

I guess we can agree to disagree...

February 2, 2007 - 4:54pm

A very grown up post, whatever anyone else may say. I agree you are on the edge most of the time but if people don't want to read your comments/blog, then they don't have to.

February 2, 2007 - 5:21pm

I think the most important thing is to constantly be growing. It's true that its not always best to do the same things that got you popular and the reason for that is growth and maturity. People expect you to grow and mature. At the low end you can get a way with a lot of stuff and that can feed popularity but the more you grow in popularity the more you need to grow professionally. (And I'm not speaking at you Aaron, just speaking in general. I wouldn't necessarily say anyone should take less risks, just different risks.

February 2, 2007 - 6:28pm

For every person who is picking your posts apart (most likely for traffic through controversy and getting you to link to them) there are hundreds of people who read your blog in silence and learn/enjoy.

Even being pretty much under the radar for all topics I blog about, I run into a fair amount of disagreement and criticism.

It's hard to shrug them off, but even something as simple as watching a feedcount grow is helpful to show that people do enjoy/value your work even if they are not vocal about it.

Developing a thick skin is essential for internet based fame/success it seams, not unlike traditional media. Think about the criticism and distaste the average celebrity gets...

of course, easier said than done? =)

February 2, 2007 - 9:13pm

I'm a hypocritical Wanker - I lost the ego when I stopped club DJ'ing

Right now I'm a wanker only when someone stirs the pot - my way...

I understand Aaron.......

February 2, 2007 - 9:17pm

On second thoughts....

The previous post should have read " I know a really big wanker out there who........"

Anyway we all know who that is......

February 2, 2007 - 9:46pm

Aaron- stick to your guns. What I enjoy most about your posts is your ability to wear your heart on your sleeve. Honesty, no matter how controversial, is still the best policy. In a land of posts consisting of re-hashed junk and information sanitized to the point of uselessness I find your point of view refreshing- whether or not I agree with you 100% is irrelevant.

February 2, 2007 - 11:02pm

I think that Dave Pasternack, while trying to appeal to business owners and in-house marketing teams, will just end up alienating in-house internet marketers. Most of the criticism I read about the Dave Pasternack SEO contest seems to stem from people who want believe in an "online democracy" and imagine that some sort of unspoken consensus exists, wherein people will avoid stepping on each other's dicks. This flies in the face of what I see every day as an in-house SEO (endless spam and competitive sabotage) and as a netizen (fetish porn spam in mortuary guestbooks, for example). Because of stuff like this I suggest that any implicit consensus between "professionals", or any "code of ethics" is subject to individual interpretation, and rightfully so.

SEOs tend to come from all social backgrounds, and we have an incredibly diverse range of opinions. Our colleagues range from high-profile advertising executives to anonymous pill spammers working out of a basement. To say that "all SEOs agree" is as naive as saying "all businesspeople share the same opinions." To expect us to think as one when we as a group are divided along so many lines- different industries, different economic backgrounds, different skill levels, different social classes, different areas of focus (SEO vs. PPC) etc... it's just unreasonable. I think it's amazing when we do actually agree on anything.

This is not to say that there shouldn't be an SEO code of ethics, but rather, given our diverse backgrounds, we can be expected to disagree almost all the time. I think Bruce Clay's SEO Code of Ethics says it best: "The discussion of any SEO Code of Ethics is like a discussion on politics or religion: there are more than two sides, all sides are strongly opinionated, and seldom do they choose the same path to the same end."

If it's important to us to conform to someone else's notion of "professional" behavior in order to promote the illusion of a unified front standing behind an unpopular authority figure, we'll probably side with the Pro-Pasternack faction.

Personally though, my boss pays me to maintain an informed opinion, question established rules, sift through self-promotional bullshit in order to learn real SEO/marketing tactics, and continually question what I've been told, in order to keep innovating my approach to a continually changing market environment. If I chose what to believe based on what everyone else thought I should believe, my company would be sunk and I'd be out of work.

I would fight tooth and claw against those who would denigrate my efforts in order to further their own agendas... if I didn't have so much SEO to do to this week :)

If there is a lesson to be learned here, it's that we need to depend less on group consensus and more on judgments based on our own individual values.

Sorry for the long post - I guess I'm having a bit of a wank as usual :)

Thanks Aaron

February 2, 2007 - 11:18pm

Quite frankly, I'm glad you are standing up against Mr. Anti-SEO Pasternack. He isn't the first person that has discredited SEO, and won't be the last. Since he is a PPC junkie, he probably discredits SEO for the sole purpose of creating controversy, which in turn leads to all of this. He actually wins in this situation as well because otherwise I wouldn't know his name - now I do.

What I would like to see is him admit that the best services are a combination of PPC and SEO, which equals SEM - or a subset of it anyway. You shouldn't do one without considering the other - PPC is often short sighted and used while the SEO efforts are aimed at the long-term. In addition, a lot of folks are getting blinders when it comes to PPC advertising - they only look at the organic listings. I'm one of those people.

So I say, let the games begin, and may the best SEO win.

As an aside, this is another rather silly attempt at discrediting SEO - I can tell this person hasn't a clue what they are talking about, to I took them to task in my blog - no replies yet.



February 3, 2007 - 3:10am

Humility is perhaps one of your greatest virtues. It will probably allow many apparent errors to be smoothed over time.

You have certainly demonstrated this on more than one occasion with statements like you have here, highlighting the impact on how people perceive others based on success... good or bad. There is something respectable about someone who is quite ready to downplay their own successes or position based on that position to begin with.

We all have opinions... whether we choose to voice them or not. We all make errors in one way or another. We all have thoughts that prove right when everyone thought they were wrong, and thoughts that were wrong even when everyone, ourselves included, thought they were right. After all, this is the beauty of being human.

Whether you need to "change" how you operate as a person you are or the person others see you as is of course a decision that only you can make. Change is neither good nor bad, only the reason for that change.

The public will long have forgotten any errors, wrongs, statements made or positions taken... or not made or taken, long before you will have forgotten the reasons for taking or not taking them to begin with.

and I couldn't have said it better or more eloquently...

"And this above all unto thine own self be true and it shall follow as the day the night - thou can'st not then be false to any man."
- William Shakespeare

February 2, 2007 - 10:50pm

This post is a prime example of why I like Aaron, he speaks his mind and isn't afraid to take a risk. That's what makes a good entrepreneurs in other industries, like Larry Ellis or Steve Jobs, always being somewhat controversial.

Of course this Dave Pasternack flap has got someone calling me an SEO-slamming keyword stuffing C-word on my own blog, but god bless 'em, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Keep up the good work :)

February 3, 2007 - 6:17pm

One thing people forget or fail to realize in the first place is that we do change over time. Winston Churchill (and later, Ronald Reagan) said, "If you're not a liberal at 20, you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative at 40, you have no head."

The advice of steering clear of controversy is good advice. However even good advice can be self serving. You do business with many of your friends, so they are stake holders and are impacted by your actions.

For some stake holders, the bottom line is the impact, either positive or negative, your "controversy" has on shared business interests. For others, the principals you defend are more important than the monetary issues. Down the road, wife and kids become stakeholders.

This stuff is a moving target and a difficult balancing act. Things do change and not everyone will understand or agree with every course of action. What most will agree on though, is the integrity and character which guides the decisions.

"To thine own self be true" -The Bard pretty much nailed it.

February 3, 2007 - 8:56pm

More recently friends advise me to steer clear of controversy, stating things like things that got you where you are are not necessarily things you should continue to do.

While I understand where they are coming from, I don't think this kind of logic bodes too well for bloggers in general. Successful bloggers such as yourself have gotten there by blogging in a way that appeals to a certain group of people. People read you because of what you say and who you are.

Just be yourself. No need to get all corporate :-)

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