As part of our ongoing P1P Elite Web People Series, we pinned down the teen founder of Point Blank SEO, Jon Cooper. Luckily, he was kind enough to take time away from his busy schedule to answer some of our questions. Here’s our piece on the young Jon Cooper. Enjoy. –K. Clark
Typically, when you try to envision someone considered an expert in their field, you might be inclined to think of a greying, dusty scholar in a secluded room of books. The expert we are featuring doesn’t match the cliché. For one, he’s still just a high school kid who lives at home with his momma.
So why do most of link building firms turn to him for lessons? Well, kid though he is, he’s got skills.
In the past, back in the pre-internet days that Jon Cooper probably doesn’t have a recollection of, companies ranked employees with based on loyalty, experience, age and achievements. The business world has changed. Unlike their “analog” counterparts, ambitious young adults create the most successful web companies. This rising generation of link builders is sharp, outspoken and, they’ve got aspirations of grandeur. Take Ben Huh, CEO and founder of the “glorious” Cheezburger Network. Huh was in his early 20s when he created a web phenomenon with his funny, now-infamous images of “Lol Cats.” Or, there’s Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Most of the culture is aware of the nerd-infused success born out of Silicon Valley. Being the young inventors of web, they changed the game in favor of the young and adaptable. Think of it as the young and nerdy brigade.
Cooper may still be a high school student but his blog about link building, Point Blank SEO is gaining momentum. Sure, he’s new, but SEO companies look to him for trends on link building and search engine algorithm updates. For a guy just heading towards graduation, it is not a bad way to start a career. He doesn’t have a company, yet. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the more promising minds for SEO, and thankfully for the rest of the industry, he’s great about sharing his tactics.
Huh’s strategy is to “make people happy for a few minutes a day” and Cooper’s is similar. His posts employ wit and humor, something he’s very adept at. In addition to cleverness, he advocates interaction with his readers and treating everyone online with kindness. It’s part personality, and also Cooper’s way of marketing personal brand. He tries to respond to nearly every comment to his blog posts and social media. It’s working, and the positive association with Point Blank SEO is working for him. There are countless marketing companies but they get lost in the sea of bland, creativity-free marketing environment.
Humor is highly valued in the online community and well, Cooper gets the joke.
For instance, to subscribe to his email newsletter, you have to hit the “Be Awesome” button on his website. His Twitter profile description reads, “I’m the link builder Google needs, not the one it deserves.” For a kid, it’s bravado that is admirable, and more importantly, memorable. You could argue that his funny style is unprofessional, but Cooper knows his stuff. His “Link Building Strategies-The Complete List” has become something of a bible to the SEO world.
Not bad for someone who doesn’t run a SEO company and writes blog posts as a hobby. The search engine optimization (SEO) world might want to brace itself have its newest version of wunderkind-turned soon-to-be business owner…but at least we’ll have to wait for a few years for him to graduate from college. Here’s what he was kind enough to share with us.
Q. You’ve made quite a name for yourself as an SEO guru, and yet you’ve said that aside from consulting, you don’t intend to run an SEO company, per se. That means you have to be very passionate about link building to spend so much time and energy on it. If that’s a fair assumption, what is it about link building that is so appealing to you…why do you enjoy it so much?
A. First of all, I’m no SEO guru. I actually hate the term “guru,” because in this industry, it’s nearly impossible to always be on top of it. The reason link building is so appealing to me is because I love results. Who doesn’t? When you can show off your results by pulling up a new tab and Googling your keyword to see your site ranking first, it feels great. You also get to be creative and in my opinion, have a lot more fun with it than doing something like CRO [conversion rate optimization], analytics, or on-page SEO.
Q. You’ve been working on link building/SEO strategy for two years and blogging about it for…what, almost a year? I think I saw that you have about 1,000 page views on your blog per day. Were you surprised at how quickly your blog took off?
A. Yeah, so my site now gets about 1,000 visitors a day (not pageviews, but close!), and that’s 10 times what it was getting in December. It took off after I completely redesigned and re-launched it because I tried to establish it as more than just a personal journal. Before it was hard to read and the content was OK, at best. Sure, I had a few posts that people really enjoyed, but that was usually one in a handful. The new Point Blank SEO is trying to make sure every post is like that. It really does come down to content, but in general, there were a combination of things that made it really take off (read more about it here).
Q. Can you share with us some of the things you’ve learned along the way?
A. One thing I learned is that if you satisfy a need, you’ll be successful no matter what. One of the reasons I started Point Blank SEO was because there weren’t many great places on the web, if any, that were solely dedicated to link building, and the link building posts I came across were usually regurgitated thoughts. After the relaunch, I noticed that because my topic on was something almost every SEO wanted to know about, the traffic built itself.
Q. What about your challenges?
A. My biggest challenge has been balancing all the opportunities it’s opened up for me. I get offers to do things like interviews, guest posts, consulting work, and even full time jobs on a weekly basis, and figuring out which ones are worth my time are which aren’t has been a huge struggle.
Q. What is it about your recipe that makes people pay attention to you? Do you think (informed) humor and creativity are your key selling points? Has using humor ever gotten you into trouble?
A. I’m different, and that’s always been my goal. I try to make sure that everything I do separates me from others. It is the only way to be noticed in a competitive industry, and that goes right along with being creative. Creativity has been, in my opinion, one of the things that’s distanced mine from other blogs on the same subject. This post I published about a week or two ago is a perfect example of that.
I haven’t shown it too much on my blog or elsewhere online, but I take a lot of pride in my humor (especially my love for puns). Luckily, it hasn’t gotten me in too much trouble online, but I can’t say the same for offline.
Q. I’ve been very entertained by some of the things that you’ve posted or said online… you have got a lot of confidence. Does that kind of confidence come naturally to you, or is it the result of being so good at link building?
A. [I] didn’t know I was rubbing off as confident all the time, but I’ve learned that with anything you do, [you should try to] be confident about it. Even when you’re not 100 percent sure, sounding like you know what you’re talking about is huge. Whether it’s on a phone consultation, blog post, or anything else, it has helped me a lot to try and establish myself as somewhat of an authority (if I am one at all).
Q. Lots of SEO companies look to you and to your blog posts for advice, expertise, trends, etc., does it ever go to your head?
A. No, it doesn’t get to my head, because I’m not charging for it. Anybody can go on my blog and read my stuff, and anyone can start a blog, so there’s no real investment into it on their part. If they don’t like my stuff, they can go elsewhere, so there’s no pressure on me to make sure they’re always happy with it.
Q. There are a precious few handfuls of people who are as adept at link building tactics… do you guys consider yourselves as part of an elite SEO club? If so, who are the people you’d say are also in the club?
A. Wow, there’s a club now?! Wish I got the memo… but no, not really. Many of the best SEOs are the ones who don’t blab about it all the time, like me.
Q. Do you have an SEO guru?
A. I never had a mentor, guru, or anything, just a copy of “SEO for Dummies,” an internet connection and a hungry mind.
Q. There are different theories about the human intellect and you may have heard of the concept of “different types of genius” i.e, Einstein was an amazing physicist, Twain a great humorist. Do you consider yourself to be someone who is an SEO/link building genius?
A. Not at all. I actually think I’m a little above average, at best. All I do to impress is to focus solely on it, and I have the free time that a lot of others don’t have to lay on my bed and brainstorm strategies for an hour every once in a while.
Q. Do you look at the web and see it differently than most people do? Do the potential algorithms and other tactics just show up for you?
A. I guess I see the web differently. Whenever I come to a website, the first thing I think is, “How can I get a link here?” I usually check for any paid links or any other obvious signs (it’s funny when you realize some of the top SEO blogs actually sell links right in their sidebar). Other than that, I have two eyes just like you.
Q. Do you have other hobbies outside of link building or do you fall into the nerdy kid in the basement stereotype?
A. Ha. I consider myself a nerd and I probably am, but I’ve played soccer all of my life (my team won our league’s championship this year!) and I’m one of the biggest advocates of disc golf, the coolest sport you don’t know about (actually started a club for it at my school). It’s like golf, but with frisbees, and the holes are baskets with chains. Google it.
Q. There are many eyes on you waiting to see what you do next… is that a lot of pressure? I saw that you are headed to college next year. Congratulations! Do you mind sharing with us what the young Mr. Cooper has up his sleeve going forward? Do you intend to stick with your niche of link building/search or are you going to take on some other aspect of the web?
A. Again, no pressure until I start charging for products or anything else along those lines. I still have no idea what my future plans are, so I can’t help you out there. I hope to always stick to link building, but don’t be surprised if I venture off to some other part of the web while I’m at it. [I’ve] always wanted to do an internet startup, so college might make that happen.