Dan Anton is a well-known SEO software and service provider. We sat down with him to discuss his amazing background of excellence and atypical path, as well as his mindset when creating goods and services in the search industry.
Dan, you were in the military. Can you tell us a bit about your past life in the Army.
I never planned on joining the armed forces, but as we all know, life events shape us. I joined shortly after 9/11 in 2002. At the time I had recently graduated college from Montclair State University with a Bachelor’s degree in business and computer science, in New Jersey, and was earning a decent income selling video games and guides online, but not really completely passionate about any life choices as a young 20-something typically doesn’t see pass tomorrow. The attacks on the World Trade Center crystallised what I wanted to do, protect and serve America; completed boot camp, was selected for OCS (Officer Candidate School), and graduated as an Infantry 2nd Lieutenant. As a young adolescent I was the junior Olympic boxing champion of New York and New Jersey, so the drive to be the best was instilled in me by my father, James Anton. I wanted to be elite, special forces, in the U.S. Army equivalent of Airborne Ranger, a 61 day grueling physical and mental challenge, where I was bitten by a recluse spider, and had to cut out the poison because I didn’t want to fail, and thankfully completed the course.
I see you’ve been in Iraq, twice. How did you earn the nickname Achilles?
Yes, I served two tours in Iraq*, and typically don’t talk about combat experiences. When you lose soldiers under your command that you love and are like brothers, you stop caring about your own safety.
You mentioned a failed passion project. How did that shape your current business?
Forcing a passion to be a business model doesn’t always work out. As a teenager I was earning money selling video games and mmorpg guides, for games such as EverQuest, and wanted to create a social network for gamers, CharacterPlanet in 2006. I asked my brother Matt Anton to help out, and he quickly began learning about generating online traffic through search engines. It was pure sweat equity; we were manually copying email addresses from forums and messaging people. Anything that could be done to get traffic and attention was done. We were driving thousands of unique visitors a day, culminating in a press mention which spiked membership. Our website code was custom, sloppy, and in hindsight, hackable. The thousands of people couldn’t do anything as the website was in gridlock, ultimately becoming unusable and shutdown. We were focused on the details so heavily of traffic generation, that we failed to realise the product was the real start of the show, usability and underfunded compared to other social network startups caused me to take a deep look at what we had, a failed project, but a wealth of knowledge on how to drive search engine based traffic, SEO.
Why SEO software? How did you get clients?
Since I frequented online marketing forums I noticed a pattern emerging, webmasters needing their web pages indexed in Google. Pinging wasn’t really effective anymore because the search engines don’t care it exists, they want to see others ‘vote’ for it through links and social, as third party votes. There were other software or services that allowed you to input your own blog accounts, social media, links, keywords, but nothing was automated. The task was extremely labour intensive, repetitive and boring. Through trial and error and working closely with coders I personally hired, we began to systematically approach the problem through an intricate network of if then statements, and resources including accounts, blogs, profiles and servers to power the entire operation. This was the birth of BacklinksIndexer** in 2010. I remember Matt telling me if we can just get 100 clients we’ll be set. Within a few years we had over 10,000 active monthly members. We got clients through internet marketing forums, word of mouth, and a few super affiliates who tested and promoted the product to their followings.
What is CrowdSearch and how is it different than BacklinksIndexer?
CrowdSearch was inspired by a few case studies showing the power of organic search traffic. The idea is that user experience is a major factor in ranking keywords, because the search engines know if an experience was positive (high time spent on site) vs negative (low time spent on site).
Don’t Other Traffic Bots Exist?
Yes, but the key point is they are bots. The traffic can not interact with your website, so what ends up happening is Google, Yahoo and Bing see a flood of traffic, followed by extremely low interaction time spent on page because it’s a robot. With human based crowd search traffic, we are able to micro manage campaigns. Now instead of mass sending unnatural traffic, it’s closer to a Stumbleupon scenario, where traffic is engaging with your website, and can originate directly, referral or organic because it’s human based with software assists. When we launched the mobile application, we saw a huge membership increase. The problem with other networks is they are much smaller, leaving footprints, or rely on robots vs people, going against search engines TOS. Because the network is voluntary, no one is browsing websites against their will or underhandedly inflating stats with bot traffic.
Tell us how this product influenced your latest venture of personalization?
The more I began to delve into the user experience side of SEO, it was readily apparent that the search engines truly have the best interest of their users at heart. At the time our help desk and phone support was receiving requests to oversee campaigns, or help with entire marketing campaigns, design, sales funnel, PPC, SEO, social, etc. Seeing an opportunity to help direct business owners, rather than just webmasters, our SEO Atlanta agency was launched, where each new client would fill out an application request, and receive a personal, private 1:1 consultation video.
Do you prefer software mass marketing or 1:1 marketing?
They are vastly different, yet amazingly similar. With software you are solving big problems on a macro scale. With consultations you are forming intricate relationships and solving equally as troubling problems, only more thoroughly and completely. My main passion is seeing complex problems and solving them, so software or some form of scalable solutions are what I’m naturally drawn to, while the personal connections help me understand why I do what I do in the first place, make someone’s life easier and take care of them properly.
You are also an active investor? Where should I put my money?
Yes, I’ve done very well investing on platforms such as lendingclub. I’m a very strict investor and will only invest based on certain criteria. Much like software, I have a checklist, and if it doesn’t fit neatly in a box, I pass it up, because when I didn’t I lost a lot of money through trial and error. The best investment is always in your own business, but if you have free capital, why not get a positive return? Revenue is king, but a close second is potential. If a business looks promising and with a few tweaks can become more profitable, an investment makes sense.
Cats or Dogs?
Ha, I have two huskies, Ranger and Phoenix, and adopted 2 stray cats, and keeping them all alive and happy is a full-time job in itself, which I thank my beautiful fiance Allison for managing.
Thanks Dan for the great interview! If you would like to connect you can visit his official Dan Anton website.
*Dan received two bronze stars and received this praise from his commanding officer while in Iraq:
“LT Anton is the best infantry platoon leader in the battalion. His ability to accomplish all missions to the highest of standards while simultaneously taking care of his subordinates sets him apart from his peers. As a direct result of LT Anton’s outstanding leadership his platoon was the most lethal platoon in the Brigade during our JRTC MRX and the highest rated platoon during battalion gunnery. He gets results. He is smart, motivated, and caring. His potential is limitless. He is ready to be an executive officer now. He will make an outstanding infantry company commander.” dananton.com
** If you search BacklinksIndexer on Youtube you can see thousands of affiliates reviews and case studies.