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#27 2015 SEO Strategies with Rand Fishkin of Moz

Rand Fishkin

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FEATURED DOWNLOAD: Read and download the full transcription of Episode 27 with Rand Fishkin. He talked about how Moz has changed since start and how its making business get a better visibility online.
(Click Here to Download Transcription)


Rand Fishkin uses the ludicrous title, Wizard of Moz. He’s founder and former CEO of Moz, co-author of a pair of books on SEO, and co-founder of Rand’s an unsaveable addict of all things content, search, & social on the web, from his multiple blogs to Twitter, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, and a shared Instagram account. In his miniscule spare time, he likes to gallivant around the world with Geraldine and then read about it on her superbly enjoyable travel blog.


[00:14] Introductions
[00:37] Starting Moz
[01:34] Where Moz is Now
[03:45] Moz Adapting
[04:43] Mobile Ranking
[05:58] Fail-Safes
[06:23] SEO Advice
[08:37] Social Media Influencing Ranks
[10:29] Backlinking
[11:49] Old Sites Vs. New Sites
[14:11] Where Moz is Going
[15:06] Where the Company Is
[15:51] Any Changes or Regrets
[17:58] In Conclusion




[00:14] Stephen: Hey guys, Stephen Esketzis here from Marketing on the Move and I’ve got Rand Fishkin on the line with me.

How are you Rand?

Rand: Very well. Thanks for having me Stephen.

Stephen: Not a problem. It’s great to have you here and it’s good we haven’t had anyone in the SEO world really jump on in that sort of ranking space and all of that.

So it’s really good to be speaking out your mind a little bit today.

Rand: My pleasure.

[00:37] Stephen: Yeah, so give us an insight. How did you get into the SEO world? How did you get into Moz? Give us a quick back-story.

Rand: Sure. So I dropped out of College in 2001 and I was doing some web design and development. Our client started asking for some SEO help, we tried some contracting.

Some of it was expensive, some of it didn’t work too well, and so I started learning to practice myself and I got pretty frustrated that, you know, a lot of the information about how SEO works just wasn’t publicly available, it was really challenging to figure out and so I started this blog, SEO Moz, to try and make that information a lot more transparent.

So the last 11 years now, I’ve been trying to help marketers better understand how search engines work, how rankings work; we pivoted from a consulting company to a software company about 7 years ago and we’ve been trying to help folks ever since.

[01:34] Stephen: Fantastic. Yeah I noticed you had your 10-year anniversary not too long ago so that’s been a bit of an achievement, congratulations.

So it’s great that the way you see, is where you’re going because obviously it’s changing all the time. I think, recently, correct me if I’m wrong, I think Google’s trying to move in on mobile websites pretty shortly and there’s a whole lot going on.

Where do you see it going this year? The end of this year? Next year?

Rand: Yeah, I mean, I think that the history of SEO is one of constant change and I don’t think the pace of change has particularly quickened in the last few years.

We saw pretty big shift, I’d say 3-4 years ago away from a lot of the spam here, more manipulative kinds of ranking efforts that people were investing in towards a more editorial white hat-centric world and I’m actually really glad for that.

I think that Google is kind of making their guidelines match up with other algorithm that actually works. It’s just really, really nice.

Stephen: Yup, 100%.

Rand: But going forward. I think we’re going to continue to see that mobile grows faster than desktop; desktop continues to grow but not as quickly. And then I think we’re also going to see Google offering a lot more information in the search results beyond just links out to people’s website.

Stephen: Right.

Rand: And so if you want to be great at SEO, you’ve got to be figuring out what are the opportunities available to me beyond just my web URLs, thinking about deep linking the apps, thinking about images, and news, and video, thinking about instant answers kinds of results, rich snippet markups,, all of these opportunities that are presenting themselves as Google moves away just 10 blue links.

Stephen: Yeah, I love that. And I think it’s all becoming, like you said, all more interactive. You’re really going to give the best user experience at the end of the day.

Rand: Yeah it’s something really important to Google, right? Basically, if they can get answers to people more quickly, they see more searchers per searcher, that’s where their revenue comes from. So that’s what they’re going to buy us for.

FEATURED DOWNLOAD: Read and download the full transcription of Episode 27 with Rand Fishkin. He talked about how Moz has changed since start and how its making business get a better visibility online.
(Click Here to Download Transcription)

[03:45] Stephen: Love it. And how’s Moz going to adapt to that, to how you guys are looking to adapt to those sorts of changes?

Rand: Yeah, one of the things that we’re doing is we help customers track their rankings and their performance in search engines as well as their errors and missed opportunities, and that kind of stuff. And I think we’re taking that in 2 directions.

One, trying to offer some help on the mobile side so we’re going to start tracking mobile rankings very soon and you’d be able to compare that against your desktop rankings and also offering a lot more depth than detail about the types of results that you appear in, you know, is there an image blocked between result 3 and 4 and are you listed in there?

Who is listed in there?

How’s your competition going?

Across those keywords that you measure, what are the most common verticals or unique types of features that Google is showing in the results so that you can have a coherence strategy around how you’re going to approach those? Those are big things that we want to help people with.

[04:43] Stephen: Yeah, I love that. And you mentioned mobile rankings. Is that going to be different from the regular rankings?

Rand: We’re actually studying that right now. So we have a project called which you can check out.

It’s ran by Dr. Pete Meyers, one of our data science guys and you know, Dr. Pete has been watching search results across tens of thousands or search results for a long time. He recently built a version that looks at mobile vs. desktop so we can quantify those changes.

And in fact, today, just this morning, he tweeted that he was noticing changes to the mobile ranking results that looked fairly dramatic and fairly different from desktops. So Google said that change was coming for 21 but I think Dr. Pete is suggesting maybe the change is already happening right now.

Stephen: Wow, that’s really interesting. I mean it would make sense for that to happen. You guys have been on top of that as well because SEO as a whole is really a science and you’ve got to take in so much data and I can’t imagine the amount of data that goes through most of the day-to-day basis.

Rand: It is pretty crazy. We often talk in Terabytes, not in Gigabytes. That’s nuts.

[05:58] Stephen: Yeah. And it’s all just numbers as well. I mean, there’s a lot of things that you’ve got to do, a lot of look ups and this and that but that’s got to be a bit daunting.

I hope that you’ve got some fail-safes in there, just in case any of the servers go down? No one can just kick the plug?

Rand: Yeah thankfully we’ve built a lot of redundancy over the years. We’re certainly not perfect by any means but we’ve got this nice almost 90% engineering team here at Moz that does a lot of good work around this stuff.

[06:23] Stephen: Fantastic. So, say someone’s looking to get into SEO, looking to get into SEO, looking to start an SEO business, help other websites rank and build up businesses, reputation on SEO. How would you get started in a space like that because I know a lot of our audience is involved with SEO, whether their own business or it might be an agency or what not?

What’s the best way to go about it?

Maybe bringing on some customers, using the right tools, do you have any advice for that?

Rand: Yeah, I’ll speak at a very high level because I think if you want to get in-depth with this stuff, you can go check out the beginner’s guide to SEO which is on Moz’s website and free. But at a high level, what you want to do is understand who is your audience, where are you going to find your customers, you know demographically, psychographically, job-wise, all of those kinds of things and then who are the influencers of your audience which may be a very different group. It could be they’re paying attention to journalists or bloggers or folks on social media or whatever it is.

Who is influencing your audience?

We need to understand both of those groups and then we have to understand what do they search for?

When they’re interested in this topic, what kinds of terms and phrases are they looking for and you can look that through customer interviews.

You can use tools like Google’s AdWords, keyword tool. I really like the tool called which uses search suggests to provide you with additional data around those and then you can kind of synthesize all that information and say ‘here are the terms and phrases that really matter to us.’

Now, how can we perform for those and then you want to look at your competition in those sectors, you want to look at the kinds of search features that Google is offering, and then you want to have a strategy that says ‘which terms and phrases were you trying to rank for?’,

‘what’s the content that’s going to best serve visitors that’s 10 times better than anything in the search results today?’, and then ‘how can we get amplification and awareness and links to our content when we put it out there?’

That’s the kind of your basic SEO strategy.

Stephen: Wow if that’s the basic, well I can’t imagine how deep it gets into when it gets pretty advanced.

Rand: Oh it gets steep, my friend.

[08:37] Stephen: So with SEO, now it’s been changing and it’s broad on social as well. I mean people have started integrating that into their strategy and obviously that plays a large part in rankings and things as well.

Is that going to be influenced a lot more by social as well?

Do you think that things like Twitter, Instagrams, and Snapchat, all of those platforms are going to start influencing how you rank?

Rand: Some directly, some indirectly. But social is actually still a relatively small force from a direct search result impact standpoint. So, you know, it’s not the case that if you get a lot of people tweeting about a URL and you’re ranking on page 2 with that URL, you’re suddenly going to move up to page 1.

That’s not quite how it works. Even if you get a lot of social activities sometimes, you won’t necessarily move up.

However, that being said, there’s a strong correlation between pages that perform well on social media and pages that tend to rank well in Google search results for the relevant keywords and topics. So I would say, you should be seeking that social media amplification and power not because it’s necessarily going to directly influence how well you rank but because it can bring you traffic in and of itself and hopefully, some of that traffic is then going to help spread the word through links, through mentions, through blog posts, through articles and publications, right? On the web, they Google crawls.

And over time we may see more of that. You know Google and Twitter recently re-inked their partnership deal to share data and so you may see Google doing much more with Twitter’s stream of tweets in the near future.

[10:29] Stephen: Yeah of course. So you’re saying pretty much that obviously backlinking is still one of the, if not, the strongest form of ranking currently, still?

Rand: It’s still a powerful influencer, right? So I think the big things that we think about in the SEO world are keywords. Are you matching up against how your customers, how your searchers are actually describing things?

It doesn’t have to be as perfect and as precise as it used to be. Google’s getting better at interpreting meaning rather than just raw keyword matching, but it’s still important to have those and people still tend to click on the things that match their results. So you want to be smart about that.

Stephen: Yeah.

Rand: It’s about content and that’s content-quality.

‘How well do you serve the searcher intent?

Is the user experience served right?

Does the page load fast?

Does it provide the answer quickly?

Does it answer all of the searchers’ questions?

Is it an enjoyable website to use?

Does it look trustworthy and authoritative?

Does it have a brand that people associate positively with information around that?’ are all of those continuous experience kinds of things. And then also links.

As in getting linked by high-quality sites with editorial intent or are there manipulative links pointing at those that may harm you, are there no links pointing to it in which case you may not rank very well and that kind of stuff.

FEATURED DOWNLOAD: Read and download the full transcription of Episode 27 with Rand Fishkin. He talked about how Moz has changed since start and how its making business get a better visibility online.
(Click Here to Download Transcription)

[11:49] Stephen: So say for example, I hear when you mentioned about the design, the look and feel, does it answer the question?

So say I had an older website from 2005 and it’s very old and I haven’t touched it, but it gets a lot of backlinks from some big plays and some big websites because it’s been around for a while. Would that rank, theoretically, I mean there are a lot of factors obviously, but would that generally rank higher than a new website which I’ve redesigned, which looks good and have all the On-Page SEO but doesn’t have that backing and hasn’t been around for that long?

Rand: So not necessarily about the time online but it’s certainly about the authority that you’ve built up.  So some new websites can perform wonderfully, especially if they’re getting a lot of attention in the press, on social media, from blogs, from other websites linking to them, right?

From all these positive signals about like, ‘hey this site looks exciting and important’ even though it’s relatively new. I’d also say that Google has some biases around different types of searches.

So if the search query is about a very new topic, Google may look for fresher, newer pages that have been recently published about that topic rather than old crusty stuff that may have tons of links but is not as relevant to the searchers’ new query.

Stephen: Yeah. The reason I asked is because I think, like some of those old websites I’ve seen floating around and I’m sure you have too, that they just haven’t been touched in maybe a decade or so or almost ages and they’re still ranked up really high for some quite competitive keywords. But you wonder that if someone’s just had it and left it there and the problems of paying the hosting and what not, but that’s coming up against other people who are re-designing a website, updating their information, doing all these work but they just don’t have that backlinks behind them.

Rand: Yeah. And so I would say that it’s a combination, right? You need to find a way to be press and attention-worthy, to be sharing-worthy, amplification-worthy in addition to providing great searcher experience, great user experience and that’s a very challenging combination but that’s how you win.

Stephen: Yeah, ultimately. I think you’re rather on point there as well because you can get a website which goes viral every night and obviously people are talking about it, there’s press, there’s blogs about it and then instantly, that can come up with the top of the search results.

Rand: Absolutely.

[14:11] Stephen: Perfect. With Moz, is that going to be just down SEO, is that where you see going in the future or are you looking to expand that entire sort of inbound marketing or where are you guys going to take Moz?

Rand: Yeah we are very focused on helping, particularly, professional SEOs, that’s our core audience. We want to make sure we deliver an extraordinary experience for them first.

And then we do have other multiple products so you can see we’ve launched Moz local, which is really designed and then we do have other multiple products so you can see we’ve launched Moz Local, which is really designed for small local businesses currently in the US, but to launch in the UK this year and hopefully in Australia and Canada in the near future. Then we have some other products, Followerwonk, which is specifically for Twitter analytics and finding influences on Twitter and that kind of stuff.

So we’re moving more towards a multi-product world, but SEO is definitely our core, our sweet spot.

[15:06] Stephen: And is this something you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life or is this a company that you’re looking to take and then maybe move on from at some stage where would you admit is the company at the moment?

Rand: Yeah I think to be totally honest, I love small companies. I love when I know absolutely everyone’s name and we hang out together and that’s my world.

So Moz is a little big for me right now. It’s a 150+ people, I would probably be here at least a couple more years for sure and maybe a long time after that but I think at some point in my career, I’d like to go back to a small company environment. I just love it when it’s a close-knit tiny team.

[15:51] Stephen: Yeah, I can definitely relate to that. There are lots of pros and cons with the different company sizes but it’s more exciting as well.

I mean you have a lot more flexibility to move, try new things, so it is good. So last question, in the time you’ve had at Moz, you’ve just passed your 10-year anniversary, would you have done anything different? Are there any massive changes that you would have made in that time?

Rand: Stephen the list is so long there’s no way we could possibly cover them within an hour.

Stephen: Give us, maybe, the top 3 things that maybe you would have done differently.

Rand: How about just the top 1 because it would take a little while to explain it.

Stephen: Let’s do that.

Rand: So one of the products that we built a few years ago was called Moz Analytics and that product, I think, especially the first 6 months after it launched was really, really messy. We had a really tough time.

Now it’s a good product. People are using it regularly, logging in every week, we’re seeing increasing usage metrics and it’s getting better and better.

But it had a really, really rough and rocky start and I think part of that is because of how we built it. So my chief technology officer at that Anthony, he was very adamant like the way to build software is to build it iteratively. Build something small, you build on that.

You release that. You get it working. And then you build the next component of it. That’s a healthy, right way to build software.

And I didn’t listen at all. I completely ignored that advice and said ‘No, we’re going to build the whole thing end to end. I don’t care if it takes 2 years and then we’re going to launch it.’

We did that, really, really big mistake. I would strongly urge folks in software development, listen to your team, listen to your engineers, listen to your CTO and build software the right way.

Build it small and iterative. Try and release it to customers piece by piece. Don’t try and do everything at once.

Stephen: Yeah. I think that’s a great lesson. And now going forward, you’ll have that hindsight to be able to say ‘let’s do it the right way.’

Rand: Yeah.

[17:58] Stephen: Fantastic. Well it’s been a pleasure having you on around and I really appreciate you taking the time out of the day.

Rand: My pleasure.

Stephen: What’s the time over there in the US? Because I know over here it’s almost 9 o’clock in the morning?

Rand: Yup, we’re almost 4pm in the afternoon but we’re here yesterday.

Stephen: Yeah. That’s true. So I’ll be able to tell you the future, buddy, into this course so it’s a good day ahead. Sounds good. Well thank you for coming on and I’m sure we’ll speak soon.

Rand: Alright. Thanks for having me Stephen, take care.

Stephen: Bye.

FEATURED DOWNLOAD: Read and download the full transcription of Episode 27 with Rand Fishkin. He talked about how Moz has changed since start and how its making business get a better visibility online.
(Click Here to Download Transcription)



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