Improving SEO Book Customer Value

Feb 13th

Sustainable Business Models

Most Sustainable Businesses Charge Recurring Fees for a Recurring Service / Relationship

Lots of sites, even more mainstream traditional publishing businesses, are deciding that the effective model to publish is to give everything away free, and charge recurring for anything you sell. Take a look at this image. Notice how in the top left there is an ad for house content offering a free gift that signs you on to a recurring subscription.

Charging More Can Increase Quality

Sometimes by charging more and making things less accessible you can make them better. Take the comment quality on this site. Requiring registration to comment is a cost in time and effort. Now that we require a user account to comment, people who interact with the site have stated that the conversation quality has improved:

I remember all the trolls that were here before the new login system went into affect and it seems to have helped. I know what spam can be like on my blog and I know that's nowhere how much attention you get here.

Making Sense Out of Complexity

Search Keeps Increasing in Complexity

As Graywolf stated, it is getting harder to profitably run thin affiliate sites:

In the coming months smaller publishers are going to have more competition from more and more larger publishers. Instead of the default one Wikipedia listing to contend with, you’ll now have one Wikipedia, one knol, and maybe a squidoo or Mahalo listing as well. Unless you start building good linkable content that builds your link equity it’s going to become more and more difficult to rank.

Not only is the competition increasing, but with Google aggressively hand editing their search results the answers to many questions about the best strategy to use depend on the site, its vertical, its design, its age, its brand, who owns it, how long it has been around, and how clean its link profile is. In other words, search (and thus SEO) keeps getting more subjective.

But Do People Want a More Complex Book?

The only way to counter this increasing complexity with a book is to write a book that grows to 1,000 pages thick. But who wants to read that much in one sitting? I had trouble getting through books half that size covering topics that were much less subjective and much less complex.

The web allows us to jump from idea to idea and consume as we like. Shouldn't information about web marketing be structured in a way similar to how the web is structured? One of the people who took my recent customer survey said:

I really like your book, great stuff. The only negative is that it's too long, kind of overwhelming.

I really think to stay successful in online markets you have to sell an experience more than information or an item. As an individual, it is hard to create an experience for 20,000 people unless there is a community or some form of interactivity to it. You have to let people learn a bit if they want to, or dig in where they really want to learn. Different people learn different ways. What might be easy for you and me might not be so easy for others to learn.

Interaction & Perceived Value

The Product Dialog

Creating a book is like a monologue. You are able to convey a lot of knowledge in a linearized format, but I don't think everyone prefers to learn that way.

In a single day I got

  • a refund request telling me that my book had no useful information in it,
  • a refund request telling me that my book was overwhelming, and
  • an email from a head of search quality at a major search engine telling me that "he bound my ebook, and it is required reading for everyone on his team."

If the problem existed only on one end (too complex or too shallow) that would be solvable, but it being claimed an issue on both ends is something much harder to solve, which hints at the growing irrelevancy of the format (relative to how we desire to learn and the vast array of potential customers).

The Perceived Value of Ebooks is Dropping

Ebooks, by and large, are perceived to be of low quality because most are of low quality. If that wasn't bad enough, Google made a blog post essentially voting against ebooks, grouping ebook sites amongst sites that may merit a low quality score. While the strength of my blog and brand means that Google is not likely to ban my business model, their indictment of the ebook field as a whole, and their power over the web, indicate that there is great risk is staying branded as an ebook author / publisher.

Add to that a leading not for profit organization in the search marketing field writing a 3 part series on how you can't learn SEO from a book, and that further lowers the perceived value of a book on SEO.

To appreciate how price-point can change the perception of the value of a product, compare the feedback here from a person who bought my book to a person who won it.

Copyright is Growing Irrelevant

My Current Format Encourages Theft

Some people who buy my ebook tell me that they "accidentally" purchased it. Others send me berating emails calling me a thief within 2 to 3 minutes of purchase AFTER they downloaded the ebook AND subscribed to updates. Of course I take them off the update list before giving them a refund, but there is a big issue with my current price point and format. It encourages people to steal from me by allowing them to keep the value without payment.

As more of the old school Internet marketers have started hyping SEO some of the people who could not afford their programs decided to buy mine and then ask for immediate refunds when they found out I was not selling a get rich quick scheme. The Clickbank return rate was over 50% (while the Paypal return rate is much closer to 1%) so I simply stopped selling via Clickbank. But that still does not stop thieves from buying my product and immediately calling me a thief minutes later. And while I have thick skin it still makes my outlook on humanity a bit bleak to have to deal with that stuff.

Who wants to read questions like this

What do I do if I don't have $79 dollars?

or this

I don't want to be negative, but I have frequently been disappointed with offerings like these. So is your 90 day guarantee real - no service charges etc?

i.e. I pay you only $79 and if I don't find the book useful you give me back $79

every morning?

Could you lower the price? $70 is a lot of money! I'd buy it for $5, but $70

Those people are not prospective customers...they are not sold on me. My price point and format are encouraging some of the wrong types of people to enquire about my site, and making some people think the quality is lower than it actually is:

I have not purchased your book because I have had a lot of warnings it is a beginners approach. Would like to see a professional approach ebook from you.

The Tragedy of the Commons

When 12,000+ people buy and read your book it becomes common knowledge (at least amongst that group of customers). If you aim to layer higher value businesses on top of it (say consulting services) then having a broad base of customers helps you. But, some customers end up diminishing the value of your product.

How do I monitor eBay, Digital Point, the Google index, and torrent sites effectively? People in China sell outdated versions of my ebook for $10 and it is not easy to stop them as long as I am selling only information. All types of information, sold and packaged as information, are seeing much of their value transfer to aggregators that profit from encouraging the erosion of copyright. There is a tragedy of the commons effect to all information based businesses unless you have some sort of network advantage.

This blog is a Technorati top 100 blog which covers a topic that is generally hated amongst a large portion of the web. To achieve that with an SEO blog requires knowledge beyond the field of traditional SEO, branching into publishing, blogging, viral marketing, and traditional marketing. But it is hard to put all that transferable knowledge in one book. And I would rather have one great product than many watered down ones.

If I sold a service it would be much harder - impossible - to put that on a printing press or copy machine.

Fulfillment Issues

When I was new everyone who bought my book knew it was an ebook. But as my brand grew I started getting shipping questions on a no ship item. I could create a print version of SEO Book, but that would likely only lower the perceived value because most books sell for $20 to $30. Plus it is much harder to offer a money back guarantee when I am paying to create and ship product.

When I did updates some people requested individualized addendums. Updating a 350 page ebook is not only time consume, but also emotionally draining. If I got the latest news and analysis and strategies out in a more timely fashion, greater value would transfer than offering personalized addendums would. Email updates highlighted the major changes, but it is virtually impossible to offer individualized adendums without making the purpose and the structure of the book a bit arbitrary. Again, this suggests greater value in breaking the book into modular pieces.

Sales Trends

My Sales Are At All Time Highs

The above statement would indicate that I should not be worried about my business model. But there is a side effect of ever-increasing growth. I am but one person. My wife helps me with some stuff, but I get hundreds of emails a day. Some of them are 5 or 10 pages long, and if I answer all the email I get that is all I would do...email - no blog posts, no testing SEO strategies, no reading, no learning, no exercise ... just email.

And, while I try to answer most all of my email, sometimes I miss some. Consider the two following pieces of feedback

I would like to say that not only is your information helpful, your attention to customer service is one of the best I have dealt with since 1995 when I first started. Thank you

and

You never answer customers questions or request.

I got both of those emails the same day but from different people. And clearly they both believe what they wrote and I made each of them feel that way. In part by providing great service, and in part by having more customers than any one person can possibly handle.

How I Can Easily Drive Sales Higher

When I first started publishing how to videos to this site my sales doubled. And I thought it was maybe an anomaly. So I tested it again and again. Almost every time I published video content to this site my sales doubled, which is my customers and prospective customers telling me they prefer that content format more than what I was traditionally publishing.

Honestly Analyzing Opportunity Cost

I Have Too Many Customers

I am not asking anyone to cry me a river and I realize that having too many customers, as it is a problem most people would love to have.

I could hire employees to handle customer relations, but I don't think I could hire someone to talk to my customers who has as much SEO knowledge as I do, and pay them a wage above opportunity cost for both them and I while using the current business model.

The Economics of My Situation

SEO Book was not even a search term until I created this brand, and now it goes for $3 a click. What happens when people with recurring business models start to create similar products and bid on similar terms? Would my current model be simply driven out of those ad markets?

I make about 1/3 to 1/2 of my income from this site. But this site takes over 90% of my work time. One of my income streams that took less than an hour to set up produces 30% of what this site produces. There are many other similar opportunities I could explore if I did not have 1,000+ emails in my inbox. My wife, who I have helped teach, has been on the web actively about a year, and she is starting to come close to my earnings on much less work or effort than it takes to run this site.

I sold consulting on this site for $500 an hour, but stopped promoting it because I was spending hours a day everyday doing consulting. I increased the price and sell it on another site to lower demand. But I do not know how to effectively deal with hundreds of emails a day, when some people buy my book after their site is banned, and/or write me a 5 to 10 page email with their purchase. Just reading a 10 page email can take 20 minutes...which was $166 I turned down by demoting my high selling consulting by the hour model.

In spite of increasing prices and virtually hiding the offer, I still have another paid consult to do bright and early tomorrow morning.

The Need to Improve SEO Book as a Service

Does My Ebook Still Offer Value?

Based on feedback like this

A 25 year old affiliate marketer here. First read your ebook about 2 years ago, had no idea how to do SEO, read it, and in my second year netted over $2 million.

I have to say yes. And many other people have offered similar feedback

Thank you once again for being so generous with your time.

I downloaded your book a few years ago and it was a turning point in my life, I was an average salesman selling very competitive products and to be honest it was really tough work, I kept missing my sales targets and getting fired.

After reading your book, I decided to give SEO a go and it just clicked for me, I fell in love with search.

A few years later I'm making $100,000 a month, reading your book changed my life for the better. - Christopher Angus

Solutions to Improving My Service

A customer who reads every updated version of SEO Book in full told me this

In my personal opinion - you've done everything really, really well - you've built up authority with the book and media coverage, credibility (probably most important) with your peers and customers, a massive customer list and subscriber base, and popularity amongst your readers (because your a likable, genuine, intelligent guy - this really comes across in your writing).

I think your only problem was entering the market with a perceived 'cheap' product (______ ______ & ________ charge way more for much less) which may be a result of not valuing yourself highly enough... and destroying any continuity income by updating your book for free (I would have happily paid for every update).

My feeling is that your customers value you very highly - and actually want to spend more money on your information and advice. Your main job is deciding 'who' you want to be your customer.

I could drastically increase the price but use the same format. That would create fewer customers and make the average customer perceive greater value, and give me more time to spend on each customer, but that alone may not necessarily deliver greater value. Part of value is down to how it is perceived., but another big piece of value is not just perceived value but actual value transference. The easiest way to increase value transference is to

  • raise prices and charge recurring such that I have fewer customers and can give more attention to each of them
  • build an exclusive interactive community forum
  • make the content more modularized, and more interactive, published using a wide variety of formats

Ensuring that value transference not only allows one to establish more meaningful relationships and charge higher rates, but it also fosters the creation of brand evangelists. I already have over 3,000 affiliates right now, but most of my sales come from unpaid word of mouth recommendations. How much better positioned might my brand be if I offered a more interactive service?

Why Now?

The Web is Getting More Polluted

Each day when we wake information pollution is at an all time high. There are an unlimited number of fake reviews, more malware stealing commissions, lower AdSense payouts, affiliate programs are getting saturated, and more people are lying to gain 15 seconds of fame.

But all the noise, lies, and garbage only increases the value of an exclusive moderated community which fosters the free flow of information without the noise that appears on most public forums.

Why Did it Take so Long to Change My Business Model?

Many businesses that charge recurring are sleazy...drug companies that get you hooked on addictive antidepressants, or internet marketers offering low quality propriety platforms with baked in multi level marketing scams that keep up-selling you more garbage AND steal all your information if you don't keep paying them and marketing them on your website.

But high touch businesses require recurring payment. When I got sued in a bogus lawsuit that cost me $40,000, and I have offered many of my customers far greater value than that lawyer offered me. I pay many hosting bills every month, and I subscribe to many $10 to $100 a month information services that offer far less information and value than I intend to deliver.

And I believe there was some truth to my customer's suggestion that I was underselling myself. Since getting married to the most wonderful woman in the world though my sense of self is much better, and I have no problem charging more if I feel I can deliver greater value.

My past jobs did not fit me well either. I have been doing internet stuff as long as any other job I have ever had, and know I want to stick with it long term. In many ways I feel I am just warming up to the web's potential.

Thinking Through the Future

Who Do I Want My Customers to Be?

That question offered by one of my customers puts it in great perspective. I like to think I can change the world, and I set out with the goal of dominating any market I enter. After working on some large corporate sites that were doing just that, and many entrepreneurs who were doing the same, I decided I want my customers to be market leaders, people with a deep found passion expressed through their websites and businesses, and people who aspire to dominate their market but are just a couple good marketing ideas short of getting there. I want to sell a service that helps them change their lives.

If You Can’t Seem to Make Enough to Quit Your Day Job

This is where I was in December of 2006 when I attended the first Elite Retreat, and by March the things I learned there had enabled me to put all the pieces together and finally take my business to the next level. Check out this revenue graph for just one of my sites:

On that one site, we jumped from $5,461.50 in revenue to $11,3501.51 in just one month — and that was pure profit.

Not only that, but it was right there under my nose the whole time. It just took Aaron Wall to put the pieces in place for me at Elite Retreat.

If I can cause that sort of a change with an ebook or a 2 day conference, what more if I offer a more personalized higher value service?

Years ago Microsoft figured out that service based business models were disrupting their business model. I don't think selling information is a safe long-term strategy. Publishers need to become digital media artists who sell an experience that can't be copied.

What Next

As a starting base for my offering I have already created an exclusive online training program with over 100 modules and a community forum. I am still working on setting up the account permissions and determining price points, but am hoping to launch before the month is out. Perhaps as soon as next week.

I still have about 200 customer surveys to read through and respond to get the feedback needed to decide how and when to launch. I am also thinking about limiting membership to something like 2,000 people to ensure I can spend time with everyone who needs or wants it.

Published: February 13, 2008

New to the site? Join for Free and get over $300 of free SEO software.

Once you set up your free account you can comment on our blog, and you are eligible to receive our search engine success SEO newsletter.

Already have an account? Login to share your opinions.

Comments

February 13, 2008 - 8:32am

This is just the type of post that provides value for me. A well thought out discussion of your rationale that includes perspectives beyond just SEO. Your branding is SEO but you share so much more than that on your blog.

I have already created an exclusive online training program with over 100 modules

This is also of great value, you are constantly talking about what you have done, not just what you have thought about or what you plan to do.

February 13, 2008 - 9:29am

Agree 100% - anyone receiving renumeration on an ongoing basis works hard to keep that income steady and growing thereby maintaining and improving the customer experience. I for one would be happy to pay. Where do I sign up? :)

February 13, 2008 - 10:31am

It hasn't launched yet. When it does I will post about it, but I still have to write the sales copy, finish testing permissions, test out payment integration, and work out any other bugs that may be lingering about. :)

February 13, 2008 - 9:41am

I can't wait to hear more. I'd subscribe just for the ability to bounce ideas off you and get your own impressions on projects I'm working on.

February 13, 2008 - 10:38am

That is what I envisioned creating.

Every time I held an open QnA thread here it would get a ton of questions, so that was one way to estimate demand. I also used to moderate a lot of forums a few years back, so I am typically pretty good at answering questions. And having everything private adds a lot of value...so people don't have to talk in codes unless they feel they want to.

February 13, 2008 - 9:44am

Thanks Aaron. I think it is a good idea. I love the book and the blog but, even with all the great information I bet that there are many customers (like me) who feel that they are

just a couple good marketing ideas short of getting there.

As you put it. The missing factor is interaction. Moving to a more interactive learning environment model is very exciting. Go for it.

February 13, 2008 - 10:36am

Thanks for the vote of confidence Nathan.

February 13, 2008 - 10:16am

Hey Aaron I don't know if you can apply the security steps Harvard does for there information. They have a security feature put onto the books so that after you purchase it you have a serial code (if I remember correctly) that you have to enter each time the PDF is opened. Hope it helps!

February 13, 2008 - 10:35am

I think that is a good idea if I stick with the PDF, but I need to think through the consequences of a few different options.

February 13, 2008 - 10:27am

Hi Aaron,

So, I have 2 questions:

1 - Is it worth buying the book now?

2 - How many people have just bought the book in fear that the price will sky-rocket? (This question is a bit tongue in cheek)

Anyway, question 1 is that I wonder if I SHOULD just splash out for the book now, in case the price DOES go up out of reach.

Thanks...

February 13, 2008 - 10:33am

Hi Geniosity
The price of the new service will be much higher than the current book price (people are buying a service more than a product). But not that many people have just bought the book out of fear of price jumping...maybe 5 or 10 people since I wrote this post.

February 13, 2008 - 10:29am

Aaron,

Not sure if in your next post you are talking about writing the sales letter for the proposed change in SEO Book, but I tell you there is a lot in this blog post that you should add there. This is this kind of writing that keeps ME coming back to this blog, I read just about every single post. It's that type of quality that would make me buy the new service.

Relax when you write your sales letter, repeat a lot of the benefits that you've mentioned or hinted at in this post, and it will convert like crazy. By the way, where do I sign up?

~NickB

February 13, 2008 - 10:34am

Hi Nick
That is actually where this post (and the last post) came from. I was having a hard time writing sales copy, so I decided to explain my thought process and get customer feedback on it. And I figured my sales letter content and strategy might stem from that. :)

February 13, 2008 - 10:41am

Your book is worth more than $79, but the problem with only raising the cost of the book is that it looks like you are just joining the company of other outrageously priced eBook scammers. Keeping the price low helps build trust. That said , a lower cost means cheap annoying customers.

Why not sell the book to the publisher you mention in your eBook and launch the subscription service from that and your existing online reputation? You get your name out there to corporate types who are probably buying "SEO for Dummies" and don't expect much in the way of customer service, and the people online who already know about your reputation and are willing to pay.

February 13, 2008 - 6:00pm

This might be a great decision as well. I am thinking short term the book may have to disappear until I get the other stuff up and running though. And depending on that the book may return or return in another format.

February 13, 2008 - 12:02pm

Yes Aaron this is right!

All things you'll do I'll follow you!

You are my Seo godfather

Enrico from Italy

February 13, 2008 - 6:02pm

Thanks for the kind words Erico.

February 13, 2008 - 1:21pm

Aaron,

Evolving your business model is an appropriate form of growth. Just look at Google, they used to be a search engine. ;)

Keep up the good work. I own a copy of your book and it has been well worth it. I still recommend it to everyone, and your new service will be worth it too.

This post is a great read between the lines and think about your own business model too.

Rock on.

February 13, 2008 - 6:05pm

Thanks Michael. Hopefully in a few years I can have a market cap matching that of Google. :)

February 13, 2008 - 1:47pm

Aaron,

I guess the real question is, is this going to give more value to your current customer base than we are already getting from the book, blog, and updates, or is this just a way to help you monetize? I'm not sure how enthusiastic we can be if this is just a way to charge for the same information. Your plan?

--Dan

February 13, 2008 - 6:14pm

Hi Dan
Well given that you just joined and made your first comment only to question my motives, it makes me believe that you are not part of the market I hope to help with this offer.

I know what I says works based on my own earning and based on the earnings of people who bought my book. I don't need to have Wal Mart pricing to have customers...I just sold 3 consults today ($3,600), for example, (and still make far more from my other projects). When people are willing to pay me $1,200 for consults, how do I justify selling a product where many people essentially want to get a consult, and yet pay me $79 for what many others are willing (and happy) to pay $1,200 for.

If I don't change my model to better align it with my other projects then I am not sure it makes sense to keep pouring 90% of my time into this site. My wife deserves the world from me and I spend far too much time working. If I am going to spend so much time on this site I must increase the revenue numbers to justify it.

Offering a more personalized and interactive service does increase both perceived value and actual value transfer.

February 14, 2008 - 4:31pm

Aaron,

My apologies if my tone came off harsh. I have had your book for years, and have been reading your blog religiously for months, and this was just my first comment.

You have every right to rework your business model. I guess it's just that when you say outright you're changing your model to increase profits and spend less time working, while being extremely honest, it doesn't really excite the customer.

If there will be more value in it, then its' worth buying, obviously. If it will be more of the same, it's hard to justify going from a one time 79 dollar payment to paying that much and more every month.

February 14, 2008 - 8:18pm

Overture ad clicks for "credit cards" sold for a nickel at one point. And while they increased in price they did not evolve their model well enough to stay relevant.

Two major factors undermined Overture

  • they never developed as a destination
  • they did not create an ad quality score that increases the rankings of relevant ads

Two major factors were harming my ability to deliver value

  • a format that is not as relevant as it could be in an increasingly complex marketplace
  • having 12,000+ customers to communicate with as 1 person...having fewer customer relationships allows me to devote more time to each relationship

I would rather end up staying at the top of the game than ending up like Overture (and Yahoo!).

February 13, 2008 - 6:57pm

Hi Dan,

Aaron is a great teacher. But like everyone else, we only get 24 hours in a day. He spends way too much time answering the same questions via email. Instead of having more time to share the latest marketing and SEO techniques, he strives to keep his customers happy by responding to their questions. Of course, this takes a lot time. The ultimate goal here is to prioritize our time so we can give out and pour the best, most useful tips to our members. A community is an excellent solution because no question will be left unanswered and members have the key to pick Aaron's brain.

He's a true SEO geek and his passion for the topic radiates. If he answers emails all day, I feel we are squandering the man's genius.

February 13, 2008 - 2:08pm

Aaron,

I think the idea of your new, more expensive program with more personalized instruction sounds great. I know I'd rather learn about SEO here from your writing and analysis than anywhere else on the web. Really look forward to the details.

February 13, 2008 - 6:23pm

Thanks for the kind words. Hoping to launch soon. :)

February 13, 2008 - 2:39pm

Very thoughtful and thought-provoking. One of the best things I've read here.

February 13, 2008 - 6:23pm

Glad you liked it. Hope to make it work well :)

February 13, 2008 - 2:46pm

Aaron,
If you are looking for any beta testers, I will gladly offer my time, and once the program goes live as a release candidate, you can revoke my beta status.
:)

February 13, 2008 - 6:23pm

I might beta launch at the end of this week or early next week.

February 13, 2008 - 3:39pm

I found in another project setting up a forum helped this dramatically. Instead of filtering a lot of the message through email, do it through a forum. Other people who were also knowledgeable could help answer the questions. It would reduce the number of repeated questions. If you move your comments to be mirrored in one of the categories in the forum then you would have a lot of content that would also be easily searchable. Just have something like only people who have bought SEO Book are allowed to start a new thread. Or maybe another product to join, and you get it free with SEO book as a bonus.

February 13, 2008 - 6:24pm

Hi Nicholas
Your idea of the value of doing things in a forum vs via email are along the lines of what I was thinking as well.

February 13, 2008 - 3:52pm

Hi Aaron,

It’s funny because each time this post pops up about SEOBook’s business model or increasing customers the post only becomes longer and longer and longer! I admire and respect each of your posts and ideas. The only one I never seem to understand is this one about business model/growth. The reason for this is that building a business requires people! As much as we tech lovers would like to just buy a better computer we sometimes need a helping hand. Hire someone to help you execute your ideas. Yes, yes they can’t do it as well as you can but they can help and maybe the law of (better) returns will apply with a SEOBook employee.

February 13, 2008 - 6:29pm

Hi Jordan
I did hire programmers and designers. And I may hire help with the forum. My wife helps me run this site as well.

The conventional wisdom about needing lots of employees to create lots of value is not 100% accurate with network effects on the WWW though. YouTube sold for $1.65 billion with ~60 employees. And PlentyOfFish created $10,000 of profit per day as a one person business.

February 13, 2008 - 3:52pm

I agree forums would be a great tool to allow historical access to data, and just more interactivity from the community.

As for offering services, have you given any thought to running training sessions, like the StomperNet guys have done, or Frank Kern.. where they hype it up for a few months, then launch a 3-4 month training session where they only take a certain number of people, provide a conference and hands-on mentoring (virtual and physical) and charge a very high price to drive up perceived value, and limit the amount of people who attend.

I believe Frank Kern's latest launch supposedly generated roughly 500 subscribers/members who pay a couple thousand a piece.

Definitely something to think about...

Christopher Rees
www.PalaestraTraining.com

February 13, 2008 - 6:53pm

Hi Christopher
I don't intend to use a bunch of fake stats and bogus hype to create a sales event, launched on a pyramid scheme of distributed email spam, and then have to reciprocate by spamming all my customers with scam JV offers like some of the more "traditional" internet marketers do.

February 13, 2008 - 4:09pm

Hey Aaron,

Have you checked out www.MarketMotive.com? It sounds very similar to what you are proposing.

Good luck!
-Alex

February 13, 2008 - 6:45pm

From the outside it looks like it is well done.

February 13, 2008 - 7:13pm

Hello Aaron,

Just a simple idea from that great but tiny little country in Europe (were we still - according to some people- walk on wooden shoes and eat cheese every day :-)

I think you just have to stop with the book (the PDF) and start an exclusive forum (paid members only) or community where we all can help each other by posting news of the day topics like you do now in your blog and help you and each other by answering all those thousands emails (will be post in this way).
By choosing this, it's not only you or your wife who has to answer everything. 'We' the daily blog visitors are pretty well SEO/SEM educated to, thanks to your book and thanks to all to your valuable posts.

I think mutual communication and participation would create something like an ongoing virtual seminar or something like and we would always be up-to-date. An Ebook like SEObook is always out-of-date (forgive me this expression) on the day you distribute it to your customers, if you understand my point. An ebook can never be so 'fast' as a blog post or forum discussion. Of course you book is still valuable for me every day, like using a dictionary as a reference.

Starting my own 'case' study or discussion on your blog was always one of my wishes. By changing your SEObook business model to a (member only) SEO community model would chance a lot and give is all more opportunities to really participate. By doing this it will be much easier for you to setup a recurrent (for example 6-monthly or annual)fee.

You also could consider to divide the main subjects in different skill-levels, like beginners, moderate- and high skilled SEO/SEM experienced people or webmasters or managers.

I know, it sounds simple, but it could resolve a lot of your current business model problems and lack of time by keeping all the customers satisfied, but why no helping uoi with that? We lean, you will learn and they others will also learn.
Like an open (for members) virtual SEO univeristy.

Anyway,
I will respect your new business model like I have respected you and your services all these years we know each other.

But next time you come to Amsterdam again, give me a call then I will show you a lot of new things here what nothing has to do with SEO and what you never will find in Google :-)

kind regards,
Bart

February 13, 2008 - 9:51pm

Wow Bart
I might be up for doing a case study with your experiences sometime soon. Thanks for the kind comments.

February 13, 2008 - 9:42pm

The largest lack I see in most SEO blogs and sites tends to be a lack of more advanced SEO techniques. Discussions about patents, new advances, tried and tested experiments etc. I'd be interested in taking your SEO courses if it offered an advanced route. The community forum would be excellent, and a maximum number of users would help it grow.

On a side note, whether or not I agree with Dan's comment (which I don't, your e-book is far under priced), many of the people who sign up then post immediately might be long time readers. I've read your blog and e-book for about 2 years now, and this is my second comment.

Cheers, I'll be looking forward to news on both the forum and education packages. Oh and online courses are perfect for me, based as I am in Shanghai. All those damn training sessions are too far away!

February 13, 2008 - 9:50pm

Hi John
I think in time I will add lots of experimentation data to it.

The hard part is that if what you do offers great ROI and you provide concrete examples Google engineers will roast your site to prove you wrong. They did that to me once, so I won't give concrete examples of anything that I am afraid to get burned. Luckily I have a few throw away domains that can offer educational value even if I have not monetized them well yet.

February 13, 2008 - 10:27pm

Luckily I have a few throw away domains that can offer educational value even if I have not monetized them well yet

Even though I have no doubts that ranking the top keywords is not always the optimum way to make money, it's still the one thing I've not managed to do and I need to get past it. I need to achieve it at least once before I can drop my obsession with it, even if it is not the best use of my time :) Some would call it OCD, For me it's just the need to feel I really understand my business. I would pay to watch it done.

Saying that, a forum where I could ask direct questions and get some realistic answers would be a great alternative in the meantime.

February 14, 2008 - 1:10am

Hi Lee
We should be able to take care of your ORD (obsesive rank desire) soon. :)

February 14, 2008 - 12:06am

Hey Aaron, I am Adam Teece, I guess I should change my username to display it. Thanks to your awesome blog I won a free book from ProBlogger.
http://www.problogger.net/archives/2008/02/11/blog-design-competition-wi...

I have not yet purchased your book because I am in a between job situation. I have been wanting to learn SEO and fully expect to buy your book in the next few months. If you increase the price, I fully support you even if I have to pay it because I know the value that you offer is amazing. I have followed your blog for months now and everything you post offers a ton of great info. I have no idea what is actually in your book, but I do know that if anyone wants to learn SEO, your book is the place to get the info. If it does go away, I hope it comes back soon.

February 14, 2008 - 1:08am

Thanks for the kind comments Adam.

renesisx
February 14, 2008 - 6:05am

Aaron,

I'm one of those people who originally "ripped you off" by getting your ebook for free from a pirate site.

The thing is - after reading it I love it so much I will absolutely lay down the money this month and pay for it. I want the updates for starters - the version I have is out-of-date.

Also realize that people who download from pirate sites are mostly hoarders who don't digest a fraction of the products they download.

People need to start realizing that copyright is knocking on death's door. It was a system that worked while things were hard to duplicate (CDs, DVDs, books especially). But since things such as music, TV, films are easier to get from pirate sites than legitimately, it is obvious that another model will be found to support artists.

Look at what part of your expertise can't be copied. Consulting can't be copied. I like your new idea of a limited access training course, especially if it has a lot of "hands-on" contact with you, as that can't be copied.

I think ultimately, that is where your future lies.

February 14, 2008 - 6:13am

I do realize that copyright is dying as a business model. It is one of the many reasons why I must change my business model to offer a higher value service.

I am not necessarily anti torrent sites, but when people email you and say "haha I just uploaded your book to 20 torrent sites" and some of your customers come across some of it and complain to you it is not an issue that can be ignored forever.

I know most people who get it from a torrent site were not going to become buyers and a few may, but the issue is more about delivering value to my clients and giving them a competitive advantage...which is tough to balance without an interactive online community aspect to it.

February 14, 2008 - 11:33am

I’m really interested in exclusive training and community participation. For in-house business customers like me, a $79, 350 page, e-book is a total steal. In fact it costs more to have 3 hard copies printed and bound to be passed about the office than it cost to buy from you! I really sympathise when your book gets torrented, and I’m sure that you make loads more money in consultation. But isn’t this all inherently linked together by a ultimate business model? As in; you write a high quality SEO title - you have your book spread through the web via legal and illegal means - your credibility grows - you’re established in the SEO market as a ‘though leader’ - your ‘though leader’ status lands you the high consultation fees. I just see this entire site and the SEO Book is the best personal advertising you can ever imagine, and if you were based in Europe I wouldn’t hesitate to use you as a consultant if needed. All the best Aaron…

February 14, 2008 - 8:08pm

The big issues though with the elevated consulting rates are

  • even if you charge $1,000 an hour for consulting you still waste off the clock time selling it
  • my side projects produce greater ROI than consulting (espeically if you count building equity)

And as a person who works hard on a project (like building seobook.com), it is easy to get worn down if it does not perform as well as other projects. Loving the topic makes that somewhat ok, but changing the business model will make it better too by attracting better customers and establishing more meaningful relationships with them.

February 15, 2008 - 5:07am

Understand and sympathise with your situation, and I would like to build a much more meaningful customer relationship with you in the future. When I think about SEO consulation in Europe, the quack SEO consultants that have a relatively well known name can charge well over the €3500 mark p/h. I can only imagine the frenzy if you held some London workshops...

February 14, 2008 - 12:09pm

Although I'm not a fan of the book I do find your posts to be the best I've seen from the 3rd Generation of SEOs. My biggest problem is your seeming to think Google shouldn't hand edit. Well... news flash they have been doing it from day one.

I also find it extremely naive that you think public discussions of techniques shouldn't get you whacked especially when some are borderline or blackhat, not saying that is bad just... it shouldn't be a surprise when you get taken out behind the barn! News Flash two that has gone on as long as I've been around.

It's also one of the reasons I quit publishing techniques. The minute you write about it publicly it is dead! Complete, stick a fork in it it's done!

So would I pay big bucks for public info? No way! It's obsolete the minute it's published! Would I enter a private costlier program... yeup what you have to say at least makes me think... which is more than I can say for 99.99999 of what I read on most blogs.

February 14, 2008 - 8:01pm

HI Terry
Thanks for the feedback. It is not that I don't think they have the right to edit their search results, what I think is telling though is that they spend more effort hand editing organic than policing their ads that they syndicate across the web.

And the big reason I roasted them when they hand edited one of my sites was that the very next day a spammer who stole all my content and wrapped it in AdSense was ranking and making money from my content.

Don't like my site? Fine. Want to vote against me? Whatever. Going to pay someone to steal my content on top of voting against me and claiming to "do no evil"? You just crossed the line into being a thief, and I am going to wear you down on the public relations front on principal.

That is where my Google relationship went astray.

February 14, 2008 - 2:20pm

Great materials, i finally got the book just in case you decide to discontinue it. It took me a while, mainly because i am not SEO guy, just want to know what i can do for my local business site. Some great tools in the book, now i just got to learn how to use them.

February 14, 2008 - 8:13pm

Thanks for buying SEO book. Hopefully it will help you better market your website.

February 14, 2008 - 2:46pm

most honest post from the most honest seo! FULL STOP

February 14, 2008 - 4:49pm

Aaron,
you just talked about the most essential thing in web publishing. I am not a professionnal SEO but i have a deep interest in SEO because I am running websites. As you said it is hard to make a place due to high competition. I subscribe to seobook.com after reading your blog for nearly a year.

February 14, 2008 - 8:11pm

Competition is a fundamental part of capitalism. Everything just happens faster on the web. Thanks for comment and subscribing.

February 14, 2008 - 4:59pm

Good piece; this would be interesting information for people in the ebook industry.

http://www.teleread.org/blog/2008/02/14/wall-on-ebooks/

February 14, 2008 - 8:11pm

That was a great post. Thanks for the mention.

February 14, 2008 - 6:34pm

Hi Aaron (and Giovanna)

I was quite a late convert to SEO book. The product is superb. Worth far more in my opinion, but I am glad you are generous with information.

The new plans sound excellent and I hope it all works out for you.

Seeing how much work you put in to your support does worry me a bit Aaron (listen to 'auntie Dave'). No man is an island. I remember many years ago in my late twenties experiencing a complete burnout and it was very unpleasant. It took me to my early forties (where I am now) to recover. Now back to my normal 15-16 hour days - some people never learn.

As much as many of us are very grateful for the huge amount of effort you put into the book and especially the blog (and support), don't ever feel that you can never take a break.

You speak about information overload, and I think most would agree that it can be highly stress inducing wondering whether or not you've missed something important.

The forum sounds like a good idea as you can let us get on with it at times. I know I've mentioned this before, but it might be worth giving Jeff Caplan of the Digital Wedding Forum a call for a few pointers. He's produced an amazing, useful ,well moderated forum that charges for pro members (weeds out a lot of time wasters) and allows newbies some access to professional knowledge. Pros use it because it isn't swamped with nonsense.

Training modules sound like a great idea.

At risk of sounding a complete sycophant, thanks for your generosity - it's rare in this day and age. I also think that anyone who knows what it is to work hard, long hours will appreciate your efforts. If you have to change just how generous you are able to be, most reasonable people will understand.

Best wishes

p.s. offer still stands if you need any 'awake in the UK' forum moderators.

February 14, 2008 - 8:13pm

Thanks for the kind comments Dave. I am hoping to launch soon and will let you know when I do. :)

February 14, 2008 - 9:55pm

We should be able to take care of your ORD (obsessive rank desire) soon. :)

I think ORD has gotta be the new SEO word of the year (if there is such a thing). Afterall plenty of awards now-a-days we ought to have a made up word in there too!

February 16, 2008 - 1:32pm

Your book is a staple in my office training. In fact in the last week I just ran a guy through on it and a couple others before even letting him sit down at a computer. However, I could see where people might want more technical info, though I don't think the claim of the book being worthless is a valid claim AT ALL. You can't please all the people all the time.

February 16, 2008 - 2:39pm

Thanks voodoo. :)

February 19, 2008 - 4:46am

aaron, but the text says "eBook sites that show frequent ads" not the ebook sites offering value... that makes much of difference!

February 19, 2008 - 7:12am

In general though I think the format has kinda been burnt more than done well, especially in the internet marketing field.

New to the site? Join for Free and get over $300 of free SEO software.

Once you set up your free account you can comment on our blog, and you are eligible to receive our search engine success SEO newsletter.

Already have an account? Login to share your opinions.

  • Over 100 training modules, covering topics like: keyword research, link building, site architecture, website monetization, pay per click ads, tracking results, and more.
  • An exclusive interactive community forum
  • Members only videos and tools
  • Additional bonuses - like data spreadsheets, and money saving tips
We love our customers, but more importantly

Our customers love us!






    Email Address
    Pick a Username
    Yes, please send me "7 Days to SEO Success" mini-course (a $57 value) for free.

    Learn More

    We value your privacy. We will not rent or sell your email address.