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Interview of Jim Boykin, Founder of WeBuildPages

July 31, 2005

Jim Boykin is the founder of WeBuildPages, a well known and respected internet marketing and search engine optimization firm.

When I first got online and was trying to build links I kept running into his site over and over again. I quickly realized that Jim must be doing something right since he was everywhere and ranked well for a bunch of killer terms.

As time passed I got to know Jim better and I asked him if I could interview him. He said sure. And so it goes...

How & when did you get into search?

I got into search about 2 weeks after I'd been online, I'd just published WeBuildPages.com and someone in Atlanta GA (I'm NY) called and asked me to design a website. I asked how she found me and she said she searched AltaVista for "build web pages" and by luck, I was somewhere there. From that day on, I was all about search engines and trying to figure out how to rank at the top in them.

That was back in early 99.

Many of my friends have stated that they thought as SEO companies scaled out the service quality drops off sharply. What did you do to ensure that did not happen with We Build Pages? Do you fear growing beyond a certain size?

I hear ya! That's a great question. There are advantages in growing big, and advantages to keeping a small team. For the past 2 years we've had about 15 in house employees.

I like knowing my clients and knowing my employees, and knowing what my employees know. Our current team now has good experience and it took years to build that knowledge....last thing I'd ever want is some "so so knowledgeable" person handling sales or projects, so getting 100 employees I can't see happing.

I already spend a lot of my time chatting with employees and training interns, and can't see hiring 100 employees and running around trying to train and manage all of them. Having 100 employees and thousands of clients would put me in asylum.

If we can't handle more business, then we tend to refer it out. We're also changing our biggest task of "link building" to selling reports on "what you need to do" for link building instead of taking on too many clients. Being small offers the biggest advantage in that we can adapt to change fast.

What tips do you have for recruiting, hiring, and training good workers? How do you know who is right for what SEO job?

ah..another great question....I'll start by saying that I'm not an expert on hiring....some have worked, and some haven't, and there doesn't always seem to be a rhyme or reason. I've hired some with lots of experience who didn't work out, and I've hired some who knew very little about computers, but turned out to be great employees.

Some of my best employees started at very low wages when we were new, and over time have proved themselves and thier work. One of the biggest things I seek in employees is a willingness to learn, willingness to work, and dedication.

Training is another thing. I used to have people read for a week first, they'd have to read such works as: Search Engine Fast Start by Dan Thies, Google Secrets by Dan Sisson, SEO Book by Aaron Wall , and Linking Matters by Ken McGaffin.

Most people hired now are for specific roles so we don't make them experts on everything...just in their piece of the puzzle. Any one hired get's trained by the experienced person in that area, and I check in with them often too. I often explain to them how their piece fits in with what we're doing as a whole, and to see how they're doing and just to talk. Several hours of my day are spent bouncing around to everyone on our team helping and training and guiding.

Online who taught you the most about how to or how not to run an online business?

Here's some books that I can see their influences in how I try to manage and lead We Build Pages.

Lee Iacocca (his biography) taught me that you can "feel" what is wanted, and market the heck out of it. Also that you can take a lickin' and keep on ticken', and come out better than you ever were

Jack (Jack Welch's bio) taught me that you can streamline processes by making people better, and that if someone's got to go, let them go (I used to wait too long to let people go). I know a lot quicker now if someone "has what it takes". We've created a tight good team now, but it took a few years to find the team we have now. Firing is never fun, but neither is keeping someone employed who's just sucking your income.

Trump (The Art of the Deal) taught me that if you work and network with the right people you can accomplish bigger things. Also nice that after that book he almost went under, but rose to become one of the most respected business men of all time.

Ben and Jerry's the Inside Scoop, taught me that there's a market for being different and saying it's the best. Also I like that they were hippies who tried some crazy thinking outside the box and turned their Vermont restaurant into a world wide top of the line product.

I also get good advice from my father who was a manager, and coach for several years.

My main role is the "entrepreneur" here. I tend to be the one who thinks up new ideas and ways to do things. I'm pretty laid back as far as managers go....I've never yelled, and we're pretty casual...but I can fire like The Donald.

I notice you did not mention your schooling much there. Earlier you mentioned hunger being a good way to find workers. Does a college education help much, or is drive far more important?

I left school 15 years ago with 1 semester left for my BS in marketing, and am glad that my wife has stopped asking me to go back in get that piece of paper!

Since most of the work here isn't taught in any school or college, and education doesn't mean much to me. If they can do the work that's all that matters. Some high school drop out who wants to be the next Danny Sullivan would get hired faster than someone with a fancy degree.

Many of the best SEOs have decided to split away from client work to work on their own sites. Do you like client work more than affiliate work? How do they compare?

Right now a little over half the sites we work on are our own affiliate type websites, but most work goes into clients (they come first). I've thought about leaving the clients but money and commitment to them keeps me taking on clients.

I hope one day to be rich from our own affiliate projects, but that hasn't happed yet. And some clients I just can't see leaving. They've helped me and my business for years, so I'll continue to help them always.

What makes a good SEO client ?

Good SEO clients for me tend to have either lots of knowledge and experience in this business, and understand what it is that we're doing. Or they put full faith in what we're doing.

I've turned to sending out client newsletter almost weekly to keep everyone tuned into what we're working on, and this helps keep our clients up to date.

Over the years you have seen algorithms (and search engines) come and go. What advice do you have for SEO companies to minimize the effects of large algorithm swings?

Think Natural....I've been on the ups and downs before, and the things that stick are the "real sites" that are Resources.

You have to turn your site into a resource and get Real Links from within your neighborhood. It's the hardest work in the world, but it's what the engines want, it's what ranks high and it's what'll stick tomorrow.

Every day I say a few times over the phone "It's Links Over Time - not tons of links at once", and "It's not the number of backlinks, it the position in the Neighborhood that matters." You've got to get links from the right places. Look at what the top sites have going for them...they look like resources...think like Google Touchgraph.

I do miss the easy days of making a new site, buying thousands of links at once, and being on top after a google dance....ah those were the days...but they're gone and engines are getting smarter at finding what is a "resource", and so making good resource sies is what needs to be done today.

When I first started building links I noticed WeBuildPages was everywhere. How did you get your site out there so well? What link building techniques do you feel are under utilized?

Back then I think I was buying every link I could...I was a sheer PageRank addict (I'm off the PR now though). Funny, the most under utilized and best technique is to actually contact real sites with real offers for advertising space (links).

People are so stuck on ways to get links fast...press a button and whammo, 1000 backlinks...why not find that site that's in the top 10 for your phrase and isn't selling anything (a real resource).

Contact them and offer them $ for your ad. These people don't respond to link trade crap, and probably won't link to you unless you give them something. We often find great resource sites which are happy to give a tiny ad for little $. Stop sending them your crappy link request, contact real sites and pay for your ad.

I mean related sites....people aren't contacting the real resources for links, we are.

Links and communities: how do you define a good link? How do you place your site in a good community?

Find who's linking to your competitors, and get links from them. We use one of our own tools to find them...think there's other tools on the market which do something like this, but ours looks at all the top sites and find where their backlinks are coming from and any site who is linking to 2 or more of the top sites are located in the community.

We also have an authority finder, similar to your hub finder tool which we use to find possible industry authority sites. This is the community and where you want links from. This is kinda old "forgotten" knowledge (replaced with push button link programs), but still work great.

We also analyze "who you link to" and try to optimize sites for linking to certain industry authorities and resources. The mix for a neighborhood is partly, who links to you, who links to those who link to you, what are the similar backlinks of those in the top to (Google's "Similar Pages") and who you link out to.

I believe getting 100 links from outside the community are not worth as much as 10 links from within your community, so if you're seeking links, where do you want to put your efforts?

You created many SEO tools. How do you decide when to use one internally or open it up for public access?

If I think I'd get in trouble with an engine, or if I like the competitive advantage I keep them private. I totally enjoy giving away free SEO Tools, gets us some great natural backlinks from relevant places.

The best way to get links is not to have to ask for them.

One of the things that really has helped my sales is the lack of alternatives...just telling people here, buy the book. You guys have a much wider service variety than most search marketing firms. How do you target personality types and organize that much information? Do you feel your breath of offering hurts or helps your conversion rates?

After the Google Florida Update I thought we should offer a wide variety of services so we didn't have to depend on Google's mood for our future business plan.

That didn't work as most people whom contacted us just want SEO or Links, so after 6 months we went back to giving people what they seemed to want (SEO and links) so we started just focusing on just these tasks.

Now, 1 1/2 years later we're about to release a new site with a much wider variety of services. Check out our homepage in a few weeks and to see how our "targeting personality types" works with the new site and new services.

About every 6 months our site goes through major changes, which I think of as "beatle albums". This time we'll be offering more services to more types of people. I think we can give more people something to help them, even if it's reports and advice, where in the past we might have passed on those leads. Things like website design, PPC, and shopping feeds we offer on the site, but when we're contacted, we refer them out. We stick with SEO and link building (and few new services coming out in a few weeks).

I can't help but publish a page for a services and see if people want it. We wouldn't be in business today if we didn't try new things and see what people will buy for services. To be in business tomorrow you've got to always be trying new things. I know not all will stick, but am happy to see what does.

For the longest time I thought this in my head:
search = Google
links = WeBuildPages
rumor has it you may be creating content as well now?

Ok...yea, that's one of the new services. We had about 5,000 pages we needed written so we went through close to 100 writers. I was amazed at the quality of the work (all were USA citizens).

We have narrowed the writers down to about 25 of the best ones, and they're hungry to write content, so we're about to release that service. I think we can do it better and cheaper than any other company in the US I've seen selling content. Let's see if that service sticks. I hope it does!

What are your thoughts on cash flow and the SEO business model?

Have more coming in than goes out.

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Thanks for the interview Jim.

If you would like to learn more about Jim or his SEO services check out We Build Pages today.

- by Aaron Wall, owner of Search Marketing Info

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