Search and Social Insights Direct from Moz Founder Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin has been a leader in the marketing technology world for the past decade, having co-founded the inbound marketing software firm Moz, co-authored the book The Art of SEO, and spoken at just about every marketing conference you can imagine. Given all that Rand has done to move the industry forward, he’s the perfect innovator with whom to kick off Catalyst’s new Digital Tech Innovation Series, in which we interview the technology movers and shakers in the digital marketing industry.

To that end, you can find Catalyst’s interview of Rand below, uncovering his insights into the future of Search and Social marketing. Enjoy!

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You founded Moz in 2004 (as “SEOMoz”), so you’ve been deeply involved in the Search universe for quite a while. Please tell us what gets you most excited about SEO these days.

RAND: I love a lot of things about SEO, even after more than a decade in the field. These include:

  1. The rapid pace of change and constant opportunity to make new discoveries and uncover new tactics.
  2. The amazing people in our space – some of the kindest, most open-minded, clever, and entrepreneurial people in the world find their way to SEO.
  3. The opportunity and challenge of making SEO (and other forms of inbound marketing – content, social, etc.) more accessible and transparent to aspiring marketers and professionals.

Rand Fishkin

What’s the IMEC Lab, and how does it move the Search community forward?

RAND: IMEC Lab is a private project I started inside Moz to gather a squadron of folks from around our industry who could help run tests into how search engines, social networks, and other web platforms work. My hope is that by forming hypotheses and running relatively controlled experiments, we can learn more and eventually share the results to improve knowledge throughout the industry.

There’s a lot of low quality content flooding the web now. What’s your advice to the savvy marketer to break through the noise and connect with your target audience?

RAND: Identify a passionate community, even if it’s just a tiny niche group inside your broader customer set or community, and create something that will truly resonate with them. You’re seeking to build public work (it could be written content, visuals, video, interactive elements, or anything) that helps them validate a belief, fight off an opposing argument, advance a cause, inspire their followers/fans, etc. Creating “good content” is actually bad advice because it’s incomplete. Creating “good content that resonates with a passionate group who will help it spread” is a much better way to think about it.

Rand Fishkin

How do you feel new wearable product categories such as smart watches and Google Glass will impact Search?

RAND: I don’t think wearables will yet have much of an impact because the products in that category aren’t accessible enough or compelling enough (at least, not today). In the future, I do believe we’ll see advances in the amount of contextual data a device can have about us, which can improve search results and predictive information (just as the smartphone improved upon a laptop/desktop’s context).

What are the major changes you see for the future of SEO?

RAND: So many! I’ll try to list just my top 3:

  1. SEO is going to continue to grow and attract more investment from a broader and broader set of companies (both smaller and larger). That will mean greater opportunity for professionals in the space, but also dramatically more competition.
  2. SEO will become more and more a part of broader web marketing practices (i.e., “content marketing” and “inbound marketing”). SEO functions far better when it’s surrounded and supported by other forms of marketing – PR, content, social media, even paid media – and SEO, in turn, benefits all of these channels when leveraged properly. I think the connections and overlap will continue to increase, forcing a broader group of marketers to engage in SEO and making SEOs invest more in these channels/practices, too.
  3. Google will continue to invest resources in fighting link manipulation and webspam of all kinds, pushing all but the most talented (and relentless) black/gray-hat SEOs toward more long-term tactics. I think this will, eventually, result in a better perception of the field by outsiders, and will mean that a lot of the effort and creativity that went to those practices is redirected to content, social, and other forms of earned ranking signals.

How about the future of Social-SEO integration?

RAND: We’re already very, very integrated. 🙂

I view social as the spark that lights the SEO fire. Without social, it’s tremendously hard to amplify content’s initial reach and earn the links and other signals needed to perform well in search engines over the long run. It’s possible that as Google+ matures, we’ll see even more overlap between what we call “social” and “search,” but there’s a lot of connections that already exist today.

Rand Fishkin at MozCon

How do you see the analytics underlying Social and SEO evolving in the coming years?

RAND: It’s going to be hard, because many privacy groups are fighting to make it harder to collect comprehensive, end-to-end analytics and many big companies (like Google) are happy to support these efforts (sadly, often because it means they’re the sole entities who have access to all the data, which they can then sell/monetize/take advantage of). My hope is that innovation in these fields means greater abilities to tie together attribution and to connect, for example, multiple devices across a single user, offline->online, and logged-out vs. logged-in sessions.

What has surprised you the most about Google in recent years?

RAND: Their move away from transparency in so many areas has been frustrating and infuriating. I think they should drop it as a stated “core value” or change their practices around the information they share. On the flip side, I’ve been impressed and happily surprised to see Google investing heavily in supporting political/ethical issues such as gay rights and women’s rights, especially in countries and regions that are unfriendly to these.

Moz

What are the unique strengths of Moz compared to other SEO and Social tools.

RAND: Moz has a few nice advantages – it’s an all-in-one package, so whether you’re tracking a website’s campaign across search/social/content channels (Moz Analytics), researching a site’s link profile (Open Site Explorer), doing SEO analyses while surfing the web (Mozbar), uncovering opportunities on Twitter (Followerwonk), tracking your brand mentions and new links in the blogosphere (Fresh Web Explorer), or any of a dozen other web marketing tasks, we’ve got tools that can help. Additionally, Moz is self-service and requires no engineering or webdev resources to set up, and it’s one of the lowest priced packages of its kind at $99/month.

That said, I hate selling, and I really don’t like putting down our competitors, so I apologize for not giving the most comprehensive/comparative answer on this one. 🙂

Moz Mascot : Roger

What’s the story behind your mascot, Roger?

RAND: A few years ago, one of our designers created Roger to help with some graphics I was doing for the blog related to our web crawler, and Roger Mozbot was born. He was so popular and felt so natural that he’s gone with our brand ever since.

What’s on the Moz product roadmap in the coming year? Anything you can share with us?

RAND: Absolutely! We have a new version of the Mozbar (our SEO toolbar for Firefox and Chrome) coming soon. Later this year, we’ll have a new version of Open Site Explorer, as well. We’re making massive upgrades to our web index after moving from AWS to a private cloud (bigger, faster, fresher indices), and our Fresh Index (that powers Fresh Web Explorer). Moz Analytics is getting new features and upgrades every few weeks – many of them cosmetic, but a few like data that predicts keyword not provided terms/phrases and many new features related to tracking rankings we hope will be game changers.

MozCon Photo Credit: Thos003

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  • dancristo

    I have to agree with Rand about Google moving away from transparency.

    In the early days they were so tight lipped about their algorithm, but a few years ago they started publishing SEO starter guides, headlined major SEO conferences, and created tools for webmasters to address penalties and look at site data. It looked like we were moving towards a more transparent industry.

    Then they started restricted data. Referral data, restricted access to their adwords API, etc. They want marketers to depend on them alone for the data needed to make marketing decisions.