Ruud Questions: Alysson Fergison aka SEOAly

by Ruud Hein April 9th, 2010 

When I asked Julie Joyce if she wanted to recommend someone to interview, she didnt hesitate to point me to Aly.

I had been following Aly a good while already on Twitter. Smart, honest, and opinionated shes there for real interaction.

If you need to place her Twitter stream somewhere, think of her as the clean(er) version of Sugarrae: telling it like it is, straight up.

WordPress is said to be one of the easiest blogging tools. It's a long time winner of the blogging platform and has become the de facto standard. And if you can't figure it out, there's WordPress.com.

You build WordPress sites for clients for a living.

How do these two jive?

Alysson Fergison While WordPress clearly originated primarily as a blogging platform, it has certainly evolved over time to become much more than that.  Some people are quick to correct me when I refer to it as a CMS, but for the small business target market WordPress really serves their needs for a Content Management System. 

One of the most difficult things for a small business to account for is how the needs and wants of their website's visitors are going to change over time.  These days spending thousands on a hard-coded website is a bad investment.  Doing so often means having to completely start over from scratch to update the functionality or add new features to an existing site.  WordPress eliminates those limitations and potential expense from having a new site built from the ground up. 

With WordPress the content exists separately from the site's design and features – such as sidebar widgets – which provides the ability to focus attention on how to present content, rather having to invest so much time preserving, recreating and/or migrating that content from one place to another.  After all, if you're talking about a site made up of hundreds or thousands of pages, redesigning it would be a monumental, not to mention expensive, undertaking if each page must be redesigned individually.

You can make WordPress do virtually anything: act like a Tumblr blog, look like a magazine site, transform it from blog into full blown web site … even add a shopping cart or member area.

Is this taking an apple and genetically modifying it until it finally has become an orange?

Alysson FergisonIn a way, I suppose it isbut isn't that what we've been doing all along? 

When I designed my first website in the mid-1990s I had to do all kinds of crazy things behind the scenes to get the page to render properly and look the way I wanted it to. 

WordPress started out as a blogging platform but it has become is so much more than that, if you know how to manipulate it properly.  It's easily manipulated, doesn't get in your way and works for novices and professionals alike – which is where it really separates itself from other publishing tools.

Plugins are at the core of WordPress's ability to morph itself into something much more than merely a blogging platform. 

I have a basic core plugin package I install on every site I build, which includes plugins like "All-In-One SEO Pack", "Robots META", "Google XML Sitemaps", "Widget Locationizer" (which, by the way, is one of the best plugins ever developed) and many, many more. 

Plugins and an ability to create an endless number page templates make it possible to develop fully functional, search engine friendly and user-friendly websites that work for small businesses now and in the future. 

Big-name publishers like TechCrunch, MTV, Comedy Central, The Wall Street Journal, CNN and the NY Times (and many, many more) rely on WordPress.  It's not going anywhere.  And that provides my clients with the confidence they need worry less about the future of their sites and focus more on the future of their businesses.

Millions upon millions of blogs with Google Adsense and Amazon affiliate links. Thousands of self-labeled "social media experts".  Is there still a place on the web for people to start to earn a living? If so, what direction would you push your friends in?

There is
no
such thing
as a "turn-key solution"

Alysson FergisonI think the opportunity is absolutely there. 

There's always opportunity, if you know where to look for it and how to capitalize on it.  Hell, there's still an opportunity to make money selling Amway, if we really want to be honest about it.  No, reallyI know people who make money selling Amway – it's possible. 

What separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to success is a willingness to accept that nothing is ever as easy as those selling you on the idea will have you believe.  There is no such thing as a "turn-key solution".  Period. 

I've talked to so many small business owners over the past several years whose websites are an unfocused mishmash of everything from home decor to pajamas.  Sites that sell dog food on one page and diesel fuel additives on another don't tend to perform very well.  You'd think that would come as no surprise, but I always seem to get that, "Huh?" reaction when I point it out.  It's as if it's never dawned on someone who has enrolled in 1753 different affiliate programs that slapping them all up on the same site might not be the best marketing strategy.

Everything requires real work image.  Everything requires real effort.  Everything requires real commitment.  Making money online is no easier than making money offline.  In many cases, it's a lot harder.  Working from home has a lot of advantages, but one of them isn't that you don't have to work.  If you're going to make money online, you really need to learn some Internet marketing and SEO basics. 

Most of all, its important to understand and accept that it takes time. 

Study your competition.  Figure out how they've become successful.  If you're going to make your mark and make your living online you have to understand what others are already doing – not because you have to do exactly what they've done, but to figure out what may work best for you and how you can create a point of difference that will give your market a reason to do business with you rather than your competitors.

You're never going to go to some "super secret" website that only you & everyone else up watching TV at 3:00 knows about and start cashing checks for thousands of dollars four days later.  I didn't mean to burst anyone's bubble or dash anyone's dreams.  My fault.  As you were.  :)

You sort of tout that some call you "snarky": sarcastically critical or mocking and malicious.

How is this a badge of honor?

Alysson FergisonHere's Merriam-Webster's definition of snarky:

Main Entry: snarky

Pronunciation: \snr-k"\

Function: adjective

Etymology: dial. snark to annoy, perhaps alteration of nark to irritate

Date: 1906

1 : crotchety, snappish
2 : sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner <snarky lyrics>

There is perhaps nothing more detrimental to business and personal relationships than putting on airs and pretending to be someone you're not.  I've never done that.  And I never will. 

I spent a lot of years choking on There are plenty of people who don't like
me -
That's okay
someone else's hollow mission statements and suffocating under the weight of corporate politics.  I could be myself, play those games and still succeedbut the further up their ladder I went, the worse it got.  I'm really a no-nonsense type.  I call 'em as I see 'em.  I am who I am.  Take it or leave it.  There are plenty of people who don't like me.  That's okay.  There are also plenty who do.  And they like and respect me for who I am, not for who I'm pretending to be. 

I prefer that my relationships – both personal and professional – are based on a genuine understanding and respect. 

That starts by knowing who you are and not being afraid to let others know who you are, as well.   Sarcastic?  Sure.  Mocking?  No.  Okay, I may mock a littlebut certainly never with malicious intent.  Critical?  Sometimes.  But even in my most critical moments, it's not with the intent to be malicious.  Rather to highlight the absurd or make people see things from another perspective.  Sometimes my intent isn't quite as constructive and I'm just trying to make people laugh.  Either way, my intent is never to be malicious or mean-spirited.

You wrote; "The longer I live the more I realize that people dont always get what they deserve within their lifetimes " good or bad."

Do people "deserve"? What, if anything, do you suggest people do to help come to pass that what they deserve?

Alysson FergisonPeople do a lot of things throughout their lives in the name of accomplishment and ambition.  Great monetary success seems to come to those willing to do whatever it takes to make a sale or generate the most advertising revenue – truth, facts and integrity be damned.  We live in a world where those from whom livelihoods are stolen are
the only ones forced
to pay a price
Deception, fear-mongering, xenophobia and vitriol speak to the worst in all of us.  That approach is what builds the wealth of those least likely to use it to make the world a better place.

While hard working families lose their homes and wave goodbye to the lives they worked so hard to build because someone in their family had audacity to get sick, criminal and unethical behavior by financial executives result billion dollar salaries.  In a fair and just world, that kind of thing wouldn't happen.  But we don't live in a fair and just world.  We live in a world where those from whom livelihoods are stolen are the only ones forced to pay a price.

I wish I had some sort of useful suggestion that would help people get what they deserve.  My best advice is to never forget that real wealth is measured in more than dollars and cents.  You can't put a price on integrity.  It may not pay the bills, but it sure makes looking at yourself in the mirror a whole lot easier.

The near-collapse of the economy pulled the curtains back for a moment and suggested that, hey, maybe we've been doing this wrong. Maybe the values and dreams we build aren't worthwhile. Almost a gloating "see, going spend crazy is bad" kind of emotion swept over traditional media.

As you live longer, do you think something's "off" somewhere?

Alysson FergisonI think I've always known something is "off" somewhere.  I've never seen things the way most other people see them. 

When I was a kid I used to dream I'd win the lotterynot because I wanted to buy shiny cars or build fancy houses, but because I wanted to be able to change the lives of people who had been forgotten and give a little hope to the hopeless.  As I got older, my dreams of what I'd do with that money began to become more concrete.

I used to manage a portrait studio.  Every year I'd go to local schools to choose models for the upcoming Senior Portrait season.  Most of our schools were in middle class and upper-middle class areas similar to the one I grew up in.  A few of them weren't.  The kids I photographed and the kids I hired from those schools really changed the way I saw the world.  I never really knew what it was like to have the deck stacked against me the way some of these kids had the deck stacked against them.

I photographed kids from one end of the spectrum to the otherfrom the most affluent to the those who lived at or below the poverty line.  Many of "the rich kids" were disrespectful and rude.  Their future success would have little to do with their intelligence or dedication or work ethic, rather their families' wealth, their ability to cheat and their desire to manipulate the system.  They didn't appreciate what they had, nor did they have sympathy for those less fortunate. 

Many of those kids probably grew up to be today's Wall Street whiz kidsthe next generation of avarice-driven wealth mongers for whom nothing takes precedence over profit.  There are massive discrepancies in the distribution of wealth in the United States.  The top 5% of people account for almost 60% of the wealth in this country.  The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.  If that isn't a clear indication that something's "off" somewhere, I don't know what is.

What does a great evening look like?

Alysson FergisonIt doesn't take much.  Just a quiet evening at home watching a movie that doesn't suck.  Maybe a clear and cool evening sitting on a balcony listening to waves on the shore.  I'm sure Twitter would come into play at some point.  I embrace my nerdom.  :) image

Right now you're pretty sure that before you die you should certainly …

Alysson FergisonI hope I will be able to leave the world a better place than I found it. 

I have no delusions of grandeur or belief that anything I do will impact thousands of lives or change the world, but I'd like to think someone or something will be better off for my having been here than if I had never existed.

One day soon I'll put my skills to work full-time for a not-for-profit organization.  I've been pretty lucky throughout my lifemuch luckier than some.  And whether it's a veterans' organization or an animal advocacy group, I'd like to think what I've learned throughout my career could be put to good use helping to improve lives rather than just increasing sales and improving bottom line revenues.

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

You May Also Like

One Response to “Ruud Questions: Alysson Fergison aka SEOAly”

  1. [...] Ruud Questions: Alysson Fergison aka SEOAly, Search Engine People [...]