Meet your SEO: AJ Kohn

Howdy meetyourseoreaders, hope everything is cool on your side.

Today I have the honor to interview AJ Kohn, owner at Blind Five Year Old with more of 20 years of marketing experience. I learnt a lot about SEO reading AJ thoughts on his blog and Google+.

Ok, let’s stop introducing, and let’s read something useful.

AJ Kohn

When did you enter the SEO world, and why ?

I got into SEO in a serious way back in 2006. I’d been using PPC heavily while at Alibris (http://www.alibris.com) but saw that the Google Tax was rising and that SEO was probably a better investment moving forward. SEO was also chaotic and ever changing which fit well with my personality and still does.

A great tip about onpage optimization?

Mine UGG for the proper syntax of your users. If you’re an eCommerce site, look at those reviews and begin to understand what words they use to describe your products. If you’re a content site, look at your comments for the syntax about that topic and for the other topics they might be referencing. Once you have the proper syntax make sure you use it in your own copy.

The most stupid thing people believe about onpage optimization?

That it doesn’t matter. Too often people seem to skip on-page optimization or believe it to be vastly inferior to link building. That’s changed a bit thanks to Penguin. For me, not only do I get a lot of mileage out of the on-page stuff, but it is all in your control.

A great tip on how you build links?

It’s trite but the best way is to produce great content and then promote it within your community. If I had it to do over again I’d comment a lot more on other blogs.

The most stupid thing you heard about linkbuilding?

Just one? I had someone ask me the other day (really and truly) what percentage of the links I’d secure would be paid links. There’s still a large number of non-SEO C-level folks who believe paid links are a necessary evil of ‘winning’ at search.

In these days, everyone is talking about content marketing. The thing that “content is king” is not new at all, but after #mozcon I think there is a boost of people talking about it. what is your take on this topic?

Content marketing has been around forever but is being newly marketed in light of the Panda and Penguin updates. SEOs are seeking refuge in content so content marketing is all the rage.

I’ve always been a fan of developing and promoting great content. So I suppose I’m a content marketer. To me it’s just a part of marketing in general. Because at the end of the day the goal isn’t to simply have that content be popular or be well referenced but for it to turn into something else, whether that be leads or sales.

Quality over quantity. Find a need and fill it. These are just cornerstones for any good marketer.

What do you drink when seoing?

Coffee in the morning. Diet Coke in the afternoon. IPAs, Red Wine, Margaritas, Mojitos and Martinis in the late afternoon and evening. Red Bull in the wee hours of the night an early morning.

What do you think about SEO community?

Well … it’s diverse. I really enjoy the passion and there are a number of people in the community who I respect and enjoy – even if I don’t always agree with them.

I do get a bit frustrated at the rubber stamp part of the community. I wish we’d be more committed to testing things out ourselves instead of taking ‘expert’ opinion (even my own) as gospel.

I’d also like to see a higher level of intellectual honesty in evaluating what’s really valuable within our industry regardless of who or where it was published. I want more quality, more authenticity and less ‘me too’.

Make yourself a question and give an answer: What is the most disruptive trend in SEO

Search is going mobile on both phones and tablets. The context of search is different (and far more rich) and the way we search may change. Voice search, Siri and Google Now could just be the beginning. Between mobile and personalization SEO is going to become increasingly complex and fun in the future.

Who is your biggest SEO influence?

That’s a tough one. I would, perhaps oddly, put Matt Cutts up among my highest influences. How could you not!

Danny Sullivan inspired me to be a better researcher and to make sure that my writing was always comprehensive and intelligent.

Rand Fishkin and Marty Weintraub reinforced how important it was to be real, to be confident and to share my knowledge.

I doubt any of those are at all surprising so I’ll also include all of the people who have encouraged and promoted my work. I owe people like Aaron Bradley, Cyrus Shepard, Jon Henshaw, Tadeusz Szewczyk, Anthony Pensabene, Matt McGee, Micah France and a host of others a debt of gratitude.

If you weren’t an SEO, what would you like to do?

Three things. First, I’d be building some sort of product. In fact, I have a number of ideas around this and might wind up pursing one or more of them. Second, I’ve often thought about starting a brick-and-mortar store of some sort. I have an idea for a breakfast place where you watch cartoons while eating cereal. Third, I’d be a fiction writer.

  • Spook SEO

    One thing i like about interviewing SEO people is that you get to know more. I admire the honesty reflected in this arrticle and the passion you have for your work. Very inspiring.

  • http://Chicagomixtape.com Casey Meehan

    Cool AJ,

    Not sure why but this post reinforced some (subconsous?) thoughts that panda and penguin is making the art of SEO more legit. Closer to fugazi and less like wwf.

    Best

    Casey

  • http://www.ascentinternet.com/blog Jason Nelson

    Great interview AJ. You’ve been killing it lately. Maybe it’s the vacation? :)

    • http://www.blindfiveyearold.com AJ Kohn

      Thanks Jason! The vacation certainly helped clear my head, that’s for sure.

  • http://www.seominteractive.com Mark Kennedy

    Three things. First, I’d be building some sort of product. In fact, I have a number of ideas around this and might wind up pursing one or more of them. Second, I’ve often thought about starting a brick-and-mortar store of some sort. I have an idea for a breakfast place where you watch cartoons while eating cereal. Third, I’d be a fiction writer.

    This is kind of uncanny – Your 2nd and 3rd are my 1 and 2. I would own a comic book store and I currently have a middle grade novel being subbed by my lit agent. It’s cool to see that we have lives outside of SEO :)

    Again, great interview.

    • http://www.blindfiveyearold.com AJ Kohn

      Thanks Mark and I find there are a lot of people who work online who pine for a more … hands-on role. Perhaps we’ll all do that in our retirement! And congrats on the novel!

  • Anthony Pensabene

    “…you watch cartoons while eating cereal” – genius and makes me yearn for my 80’s childhood womb..

    “I’d comment a lot more on other blogs” – also awesome and appreciated.

    Hey AJ, thanks for your inspiration and support. I respect how you’ll say what’s on your mind, whether it is immediately supported/endorsed or not. You get me to think and often realize there are more pieces of the marketing onion to peel.

    Continue the ill (marketing) communication. We’re listening.

    • http://www.blindfiveyearold.com AJ Kohn

      Yes, I have this idea that it’s sort of a self-serve yogurt type of place but with cereal. Total 80s vibe but with coffee. Lots of coffee.

      I like commenting on blogs but I’m usually in the spam folder and comments are just … second class citizens from a content perspective, even in readability. (A post I’m actually working on.) So it’s frustrating that comments are so valuable yet … so difficult.

      I appreciate YOUR support and encouragement Anthony. Keep up with your awesome writing. You’ve got a unique voice in this homogenized vertical.

  • http://www.marketingchip.com Marcos

    Really great interview. AJ, are you the same Blind 5 Year Old who’s sending questions to Matt Cutts for video answers all the time?

    • http://www.blindfiveyearold.com AJ Kohn

      Yes Marcos. I’m the Owner of Blind Five Year Old and am the same person on the videos by Matt.

  • http://www.blindfiveyearold.com AJ Kohn

    Thanks again for having me as part of this great interview series.

  • http://gamingmemoirs.co.uk/ Emma

    AJ, you are a cool guy. I’m sure most SEOs start with coffee and end with red bull!

    Nice interview :D

    • http://www.blindfiveyearold.com AJ Kohn

      Thanks Emma! It does seem like caffeine is the lifeblood of most SEOs.