Rand Fishkin Curated
CEO & Co-Founder of SEOmoz
CURATED BY : +44 others
Can you share your journey that how did you start?
How will SEO change as we rely less on screens and more on AI robots?
What do you think of Nexcon so far?
How does it feel to be so well know in the marketing community?
Do you think social media, internet are not being able to offer level playing field?
Do you feel like internet marketing is becoming more pay to play?
Do you think Google is not helping to create a level playing field for all marketers?
Do you think that SEO is going to get more more tougher because PPC is getting more easier?
Looking back, would you like to do something differently?
What are the ideas do you think should change?
How early stage investment is important for startups?
What is your advice to start ups?
What are some of the problems marketers are facing?
What is that one marketing channel you are really excited about?
You travel a lot – do you have any tips on overcoming jet lag?
I do not, I’m terrible at it. I usually try and spend a couple of days in a country before a show. Tell, speak, sleep. You know? And I miss the show. I’m not great at it.
OK, cool. So your travels are well documented on Geraldine’s awesome travel blog and you were in Italy recently. What are some of the highlights from Italy and how good was the food?
The food was quite good, but I will say the best meal we had was definitely with her family out in the village where she’s from. And I think this is due to the fact that American restaurants have been stepping it up so much of late, I was surprised to find that restaurants were good, but they didn’t blow me away. I’ve had better pasta probably in Seattle somewhere, right, like at some point, so that was surprising.
There’s nothing like Nonna’s cooking though, is there?
The family-style stuff, that was unbelievable. And I can also see why restaurant culture in Italy is not the same, at least in the villages. It’s nothing like what it is in the U.S. because people cook at home, and cooking is such a tradition there.
So you must be used to living so transparently online by now. Was it easy to get used to? Was it a gradual thing? I mean, you’ve got a massive audience now, but you started at zero, right?
Yeah, I definitely started at zero, or worse. But the transition hasn’t been that hard for me. I actually think that living my life transparently, at least, the professional side of my life, and through Geraldine’s blog, some aspects of personal life, although her blog is obviously curated, is more comfortable for me than being opaque. So I think this is my authentic comfort zone, being opaque is not in my comfort zone.
What do you think , the startups should focus more on SEO or more on PPC?
Yeah, definitely, it just translates the sincerity and evoked emotion that comes through in all your online touch points.
In a recent interview I did with Jon Cooper he said he was honestly genuine in all his quests, and I think that’s contributed to his success.
How important is that online?
I think it depends. I think for different people, they find strength in different ways. I’ve certainly talked to folks who tell me that they curate a very different persona than their authentic personal selves for their professional life. And they liked having those two things different. And I don’t want to fault with anyone who does that, I think that’s fine. I personally resonate and find great kinship with people who are their authentic personal selves in their professional lives as well. This is why I struggle when I encounter folks who are more opaque about their personal beliefs or opinion in the professional world, there’s lots of examples of this, for example, inside of Google, people who — they clearly must have a real opinion on this, but they’re just toeing a company line. And that’s hard to hear over and over again.
I read in Brad Feld’s “Start Up Life” that you badly needed to reschedule your time, to not work as hard and that you haven’t taken a break since you got married in 2008. You were getting sick and you feared falling behind. Have you successfully transitioned or implemented some sort of pivot to help reach that balance?
Yeah, I think stepping down as CEO and taking a lot of the HR and people management tasks off of my plate has certainly helped. It provides new and different kinds of frustrations, but I’m getting to do more of the work that I’m passionate about, and that’s been fun. I still have a lot of tension, anxiety, and frustration around the quality of our tools and software. I never think anything that we do is good enough, I don’t think we’ve achieved our potential and that’s a big frustration for me. And I don’t know how to accelerate that growth. It’s very hard to hire software engineers, obviously. And the bigger we get, the harder it is to scale. Yeah, it has its own frustrations.
It must be like this indescribable kind of anxiety that pops up every now and then. You don’t know why it’s there.
It’s always there. I can’t remember going to sleep one night without that anxiety in the last two or three years, not one night.
I think a lot of successful entrepreneurs get driven by fear, or that kind of anxiety. Whatever it is, it’s something pushing them forward, but you’ve got to take a break when you can.
I tried for a while. I had a CEO coach that I worked with for a while. I’ve talked to a few therapists and I worked for a while on trying to disconnect my personal happiness from the company’s performance, or my perception of the company’s performance, and those attempts were all unsuccessful. For whatever reason, I have been unable to do that. None of the tools or skills that those folks were trying to teach me proved effective.
It must be hard trying to separate yourself from the brand.
Yeah, so I’m just not going to try anymore. I’ve actually actively given up trying to disconnect those things, and now I’m just trying to make things better.
How do you think the wonderful Sarah Bird is traveling?
I think she’s doing a terrific job. And part of that comes from, not just my own perception, but from talking to folks, talking to our customers, talking to our community, talking to a lot of Mozzers. They’re the people whose opinion really counts. And they have universally told me that they felt it was a really good move. So that’s not exactly ego boosting, but I think it’s clear that it was the right decision.
Well, it sounds like as a CEO, you were losing touch with people and you strike me as a real people-kind of person.
Yeah, I can see that. I guess so.
So I read somewhere that Geraldine came up with TAGFEE, which is awesome.
Which on-page SEO element have the most weight for SEO?
How much has Geraldine shaped what we know of Moz today?
Geraldine worked at a startup here in Seattle for a number of years prior to Moz’s shift from consulting to software. And many of the lessons she learned at that startup, which ultimately, unfortunately, collapsed after some rapid growth – many of those lessons, particularly the cultural and people related ones transferred to Moz. And then Geraldine crafted TAGFEE from a description of our values that the seven of us who worked at Moz at the time gave her. And she took those and put them into the consumable acronym that is TAGFEE today, but she didn’t actually come up with the messages behind those. She was the curator and author, and I think she did a great job. TAGFEE has spread so much further than Moz now, which is pretty amazing.
Yeah, it’s a value that everyone can relate to and I think it’s something that the whole community embraces. You can walk up to anyone at any table at lunch time here, everyone is really welcoming and it’s very cool.
I think the cultural aspects of Moz and the focus on TAGFEE and things like that, the sort of softer values around the company have actually conspired to attract a community that’s more passionate, more tight knit and in a lot of ways more unique than what you might find in the marketing or technology world broadly. So I’m pretty proud of that, I think that’s a wonderful thing to do.
It’s definitely awesome… I’m going to ask a cheeky question, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to ask it.
But a little birdy told me that the mo’ stays until Moz becomes profitable?
That’s right, I started growing it at the end of November of last year. So it’s what – six, seven months old now? And I keep hoping I’m going to get to shave it sometime soon, but we’re not yet back to profitability. I mean, we’re burning less and less cash every month, so our runway keeps increasing, but I would very much like it to be profitable.
What’s your forecast?
It really depends on what Sarah wants to do. She’s a little more aggressive about wanting to spend cash to grow and to invest, and I’m a little more conservative and would like us to reach profitability before we go invest again. But she’s the CEO so her opinion is winning out right now, so it could be a while.
Fair enough. You’ve inspired me a lot and in fact my logo mascot, Steve Kwasbot is inspired by Roger Mozbot, long distant cousins, I’m sure.
When I started, someone I looked up to and who mentored me in my early days of SEO told me that having a cartoon character would impact the seriousness or perception that people would have about the brand. I haven’t really found that. Did you find that with Roger? Did people take you seriously?
I think it helps makes us feel more accessible, less formal, less businesslike, more authentic. I think it’s a better representation of who we are as a company and as a community. And if that’s not your thing, if you want the suit and the tie and the jacket and the formal language and no one who ever says the “F” word, then we’re not the company for you. That’s not us. And I don’t ever want to be part of a company that isn’t who I am. I think it’s certainly had an impact, but it’s an intentional one and for us, it’s a positive one.
Right on. It’s kind of like as Rich Millington said earlier, it’s given you some boundaries.
So how did you manage the economies of scale at Moz? What are some of the key milestones, where you had to make some serious changes like employee counts, income etc?
Let’s see, big milestones… I would say last October/November (2013), as we were launching Moz analytics, it was already a year late. We were launching it a year delayed from when it was supposed to come out, and it still wasn’t really ready. That launch did not go well. The six months before this didn’t go well either because we had to shut down our funnel (like how you signed up for normal, pro accounts) and all the metrics around it just sucked. It was super ugly. And because of that, we had to go on a kind of a hiring freeze, not an entire freeze but we went from hiring five or six people a month to maybe one.
Who are your role models in internet marketing?
What about in the early days? What were some pivotal points? My company has gone through some rapid growth recently. In a way, I feel like I’m in this perpetual cycle, but it’s a different beast. We’re now at seven, I remember when there was three or five of us…
I hear you… The size that I like best, from a managing perspective, was between about 40 and 60. It felt right at that size, everybody knew each other. We were close-knit, tied together, and you can still know everyone pretty darn well, so there’s still that sense of community. The part that sucks about it is there’s no redundancy. Someone’s out? You can’t get that thing done. There’s only one person who can create this particular database. But there’s a lot of wonderful things about that size. We had a big shift from consulting to software, but it didn’t feel that big. It was relatively simplistic because the consulting business was always very small.
Okay, cool. How much has the injection of capital influenced the direction of Moz, both from a funding and decision making point of view?
I would say dramatically. When I think about what Moz might have been without capital and without this intentional trajectory to attempt to grow to IPO size, it probably wouldn’t have been even close to the company that it was today. Before Michelle Goldberg from Ignition Partners invested in Moz in 2007, my dream was “Hey, how do we go from making $450,000 to eventually $1 million in a year?” You know, we made $30 million last year. So it’s a very, very big shift. I think one of the things I don’t love that it made – not made us do, but that we thought we had to do, was to broaden our scope. So we really felt like we needed to be all things in landmark. We need to give them social, got to get into content, got to get into brand mentions, got to get into all this stuff. I wish we’d doubled down on the four core things in SEO a little bit more before we’d done that — keywords, crawl, rankings and links. I feel like if we had nailed those four, instead of spending two years trying to expand to these other sections, we would have had a much better product. We’re doing that now, but yeah, it’s frustrating.
Have you mentored anyone or provided business coaching before?
I have been asked a few times, but my bandwidth is all used up by Moz, unfortunately. I was part of the TechStars 2012 Class, I think it was. And I mentored one company called Maptia. I was really impressed by those guys. I just loved what they did, and they’ve continued to chug along.
Awesome. Because, I guess, with all your publishing, it seems like it would be a natural thing to be a teacher.
Yeah, maybe for my next career.
Or maybe next life… With people now being enabled more and more with mobile devices and sensors to upload loads of findable and sharable data, have you come across any interesting examples of brands where they’re mining data really well and creating interesting content?
Yeah, I think I’ve seen plenty of examples of that phenomenon, but I would say that there are challenges for small and medium businesses. Usually it’s big global brands. So Nike will curate stuff from all of the athletes that they sponsor. I think Virgin, the airline, curated a bunch of traveller content and profiles and these types of things. Obviously, folks like Getty make it their business to curate and now make available, in some cases for free, for license use, their image libraries and the work of their photographers and those kinds of things. What’s hard is saying how do I apply that back to my business? That’s been the struggle. I think curation can work, but on a mass scale with big data, with huge amounts of uploads, it’s hard.
Archive.org is pretty interesting, in terms of the amount of content available and I’m surprised people aren’t just spinning the free creative commons stuff that’s there.
Well, there’s licensing. There’s licensing works around it, but I think the challenge is finding the needle in the haystack.
Other than Dr. Pete’s great work, are you aware of any updated CTR studies about the SERPs, given all the changes from the traditional Top 10 format? The numbers sort of suggesting top three spots get 40% of the clicks, Adwords get this amount etc.
So my understanding is that the click through rate studies are much harder to do now that keyword (not provided) is there. It’s something close to impossible to get that data. But what I’ve seen is that the percentages fluctuate massively the standard deviation on all of those studies is so insanely high that what it’s suggesting is: there’s no percentage you should count on for ranking number one for any given term or phrase, not even on average. It’s just crazy to think!
We get asked by clients all the time: “We want to rank number one for keyword X” and to get them out of that mindset can be quite time consuming!
What you want to say is “How do I help you make twice as much from your search traffic next year as you made this year? That’s what I’m going to help you do.” And ranking is part of that.
More traffic, more money.
Yeah, more traffic, better conversions, better user path, all of those kinds of things. And rankings is a part of that. But if a client is going to look and go, “hey, we’re not number one for this term,” and that’s how they judge your efforts, well, there’s a certain kind of SEO for that.
What’s so good about the book Billionaire Who Wasn’t?
I think it’s wonderful because it’s a great narrative and a well-told story, but it’s also a story of someone who felt a deep need to contribute in a way bigger than themselves, and to give back from the great benefits that they received through a great combination of dance and skill to become a billionaire, and then to say “what the hell am I going to do with all of this?” What’s inspiring about Chuck Feeney, too, is that he’s kind of the spiritual leader of the billionaire philanthropist that you see now. That includes folks like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and it’s pretty fascinating, right?
What's your favorite link-building strategy?
That’s pretty awesome.
It’s pretty amazing to say: “I’ve saved 250 million children’s lives in the last 10 years”.
Actually making a difference.
I think it’s very hard. Many of us say, if I can impact one person’s life, that’d be impressive, so very cool.
Which speakers are must-sees at the moment? Apart from the ones at MozCon (and I think you should invite Kevin Spacey to MozCon next year).
Kevin Spacey, the actor?
Yeah. He’s keynoting at some content marketing conferences.
Because he’s involved with Netflix, who released House of Cards all in one go, so he’s all about the consumer; content being in the hands (and power) of the consumer.
I think that’d be cool.
Let’s see, Oli Gardner from Unbounce, he’s top notch. I saw him in Minneapolis, he was solid. Gosh, I’ve been wanting to see Rita Gunther McGrath. I would really like to see her. I’ve watched one of her TED Talks – yeah, really, really cool, business strategy and marketing stuff.
I went to TEDxSydney this year. It was good a good break from marketing full of all these really inspirational people. And the stories are fascinating… So now we go into the fun section.
The show’s been great so far. I also came along last year and because I’m a fan of grunge, I was extremely happy when I found out the party was at the Experience Music Project.
I grew up listening to bands like Nirvana. Can you remember the day Kurt Cobain died, and what it was like here in Seattle?
Do you think that buying links in SEO will help one to rank higher?
The show’s been great so far. I also came along last year and because I’m a fan of grunge, I was extremely happy when I found out the party was at the Experience Music Project. I grew up listening to bands like Nirvana. Can you remember the day Kurt Cobain died, and what it was like here in Seattle?
I was pretty young. Let’s see, how old was I when Kurt Cobain died? I must have been in college, something like 18, 19, maybe 20.
Were you into grunge?
Yeah, absolutely, my favorite was Pearl Jam, but I liked Nirvana too, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, those folks. Yeah, I don’t remember the mood being very unique. But I’m sure that if I had been a little more connected to the music community that it would have been.
So you’re quite the snappy dresser.
Ha! If you say so.
I must say, as evident in a recent Whiteboard Friday – a trailblazer in the tech fashion community if you like. Who are some of your style icons?
Oh, jeez, style icons. I don’t even know if I have one. I just see people wearing stuff on the street and I’ll occasionally ask them where they got it. But I don’t have someone that I look up to. There’s one guy in Seattle, in the tech community, named Jonathan Sposato, who sold a couple of companies to Google, one of them was Picnik, and he always dresses immaculately. He just looks phenomenal, so I guess I look up to him. But I can’t even come close to affording the clothes he buys, so I’ve got to find my own way.
Not even Kyle Rush?
Kyle, oh yeah, Kyle’s a great dresser.
He was rocking that bowtie earlier.
That was pretty good. Apparently, you’re quite the singer too. According to iPullRank, who made you the lead singer of Link Direction when I interviewed him.
That’s a dirty lie.
LOL! I think he said he heard you do karaoke or something but maybe I got it wrong.
I don’t karaoke. I’m terrible. Beastie Boys – I can do Beastie Boys.
Nice. I think I did Rage Against the Machine one time. That was fun.
Ok, now name your ultimate inbound marketing squad. We need to have one email marketer, one CRO expert, one social media expert, one SEO, and one content marketer.
Oh dear god, that’s an insanely hard question. Let’ see. I’m going to exclude Mozzers, so as not to seem biased: Email Marketing- Louis CK and here’s why, Conversion Rate Optimisation- Oli Gardner from Unbounce, Social Media- Mark Traphagen from Stone Temple, Search Engine Optimisation- Dana DiTomaso from Kick Point, Content Strategy- Kristina Halvorson from BrainTraffic and author of “Content Strategy for the Web”.
What are your biggest fears about the future of technology which can affect people?
Nice list! Would you ever consider doing a blackboard Friday with chalk?
Oh God, I hate the sound of chalk, hate it. I’d consider it, as long as I could draw it all up in advance and it was…
Or maybe you could get someone else to draw it up for you.
Yeah. But then if you had to mark up the board during the whiteboard Friday, it would just sound awful.
Finally, Squirtle, Bulbasaur or Charmander?
So I used to sell Pokemon cards way back in the day, but I never actually played. I’m trying to remember.
Squirtle’s water, Bulbasaur is plant, and Charmander is fire.
Oh, I’m definitely going with Charmander then. Plus that’s the coolest name.
Yeah, it is… Thank you so much.
Thank you, Sir.
You’re an absolute legend and a scholar.
You’re far too kind, Woj. Thanks man, I appreciate it.
How do you feel Moz reshaping is going to help in future?
Moz, which I’m very happy about, is returning to its SEO roots. I’m gonna be focused on SEO for the foreseeable future rather than trying to be broader in and around marketing and releasing products in the world’s social and content and other forms of marketing. So that excites me a lot. I really like being focused. I like having fewer products and fewer channels. But, you know, that being said, I think the move is not without its risks, right? We’re gonna have to execute well. We’re gonna have to rely on the fact that SEO keeps growing as it has the last few years.
Why do want to reshape Moz?
I think we sort of took our eye off that ball and now we need to be best in class around all the functions we provide. I like having fewer products and fewer channels. But, you know, that being said, I think the move is not without its risks, right? We’re gonna have to execute well. We’re gonna have to rely on the fact that SEO keeps growing as it has the last few years.
When do you see yourself being profitable again?
As to the moustache, I suspect sometime between December and March will be profitable again and I’ll be able to shave this darn thing off. That’ll be real nice.
How is life compared to two years ago?
I have not had a day free from, you know, less than four, five hours of work, including weekends or holidays or whatever, in many months. And it’s definitely a much more intense amount of work than I was doing, say, at the beginning of this year. I sort of thought that Moz needed me less and it ended up that Moz needs me more again now. So I’m trying to do my best to contribute there.
Where should startups and scallops on tight budgets focus their efforts regarding SEO?
What have you been focusing more on in the last 2 years?
I would say that was true, probably true, until July, August when we did the layoffs and when the company asked me to contribute a lot more on both the product side and the marketing side. And so now I have much more of a, I guess, strategic leadership if not management leadership role.
What does Woj Kwasi feel about Rand's situation?
Well, I guess it’s hard. I mean, you’ve been a founder and to a certain extent you’ve paved a pathway. And you’ve got tremendous insight into how it’s all been established. And, you know, you’re probably going to be the constant whereas people change and move around…
How important is focusing on search moving forward for Moz?
I think it’s gonna be pretty important. You know, Keyword Explorer was a pretty good example of that where we held back on launching until we had gotten some substantive feature sets out. And even then, I think if we’d waited a couple more months and launched with some of the even more powerful features, it would have been an even bigger splash.
What do you think about your Keyword Explorer launch?
Keyword Explorer was a pretty good example of that where we held back on launching until we had gotten some substantive feature sets out. And even then, I think if we’d waited a couple more months and launched with some of the even more powerful features, it would have been an even bigger splash.
How do you feel about the launch of your products?
I suspect if we regressed and we started releasing stuff that is just, you know, crappy again folks will trust us even less and that’s a real danger to the health of the company. So, yes, definitely gonna keep pushing and leaning on folks to release less minimum and more exceptional products here. But, you know, be smart about it, too, right? So we might be able to do more iteration inside of products after they’re released and do more smaller iterative releases inside products that already exist that move them closer to best in class, I think.
How would you like to release your products in the future?
So, yes, definitely gonna keep pushing and leaning on folks to release less minimum and more exceptional products here. But, you know, be smart about it, too, right? So we might be able to do more iteration inside of products after they’re released and do more smaller iterative releases inside products that already exist that move them closer to best in class, I think.
How do you plan to release your products faster and efficiently?
Games are a good example of that where it’s sort of like, “Oh, let’s release SERP features”, “Hey, let’s release, you know, more granular rank tracking data”, “Hey, let’s release better crawl and better insight”, “Let’s release better on-page optimization scoring” And, you know, those kinds of features, related topics right there, they’re very small. I even call them MVPs if they have lived on their own. But they’re part of this big product and so the big product can clearly stand on its own and serve many customers very well. And then you sort of iterate and add on to that. So I think that might be another way that we can do those faster, shorter term releases.
Is Moz going to adapt any machine or deep learning in any of its tools?
Right now we use ML in Open Site Explorer and then MozScape for Page Authority and Domain Authority scoring. And we also use it for spam score. Although, I think we’re gonna have to retrain that model. But we will probably be doing the same thing with on-page optimisation. Related Topics does that a little where it essentially does an extraction of content from the pages that already rank for a keyword to try and learn what terms and phrases Google associates with a given topic. That’s already in Moz Pro. But I think the machine learning aspect of that will then use those plus all the other on-page factors to get a really good sense of what the most optimal page looks like and see which factors correlate best to high rankings in terms of on-page features and then making recommendations for folks on those.
Is Machine Learning going to be a one-time thing for you?
So that could be a machine learning as either a one-time thing that we update regularly or an on-demand, like, let’s see if we can take an input of all the pages that you are trying to rank for in your sector with your website against your competitors and try to learn an algorithm or a system that works best just for you in your rankings.
How do you see Machine Learning with regards to SERP?
So my understanding with RankBrain is Google’s essentially saying, when we do query interpretation in that query interpretation time, we’re gonna figure out which signals to move up and which signals to move down, right? So maybe for this query, links are not as important and content‘s really important. Maybe for this other query, engagement’s really important. Freshness is important. Links are important, but the content’s less important, you know. So I think they’re going to that kind of fluctuation which could mean that an ML model that is more based against and biased toward your particular search results makes the most sense.
When you will be in India?
What practices are you going to follow for the product releases?
So we’re just gonna have to spend a lot of time not just trying stuff that… or not just releasing stuff but building it and re-learning against it. And we test with it and only after we see good results do we release it. Otherwise, we could be giving some very bad advice, right?
How do you feel about giving advices related to Machine Learning?
You gotta be stupid or careful and pay a lot of attention to not just what correlates and where machine learning can take us from a predictive standpoint, but also to recognise that you’re gonna need a large quantity of data and a lot of True in the search results tests to confirm any hypothesis or any suggestions.
How do you give good advices to people on your blog?
We could see that by taking a page that was targeting keyword and adding related topics to it, it just ranked better. Like, you know, it was pretty one-to-one. Okay, you take the topics that Google already says are on the pages that rank well. Great, fantastic. Put those on your page and, like, you tend to move up in the rankings. And at the very least, you’re definitely not moving down. So we’re not giving bad advice. We can feel confident about releasing that feature. But it’s a tough thing. The last thing we would want to do is give people bad advice.
What is up with the Inbound Marketing movement?
I think there’s a lot of folks who don’t think of themselves as inbound marketers even if they focus on one or two channels or specialisations that fit into the inbound marketing world. And then I think there’s also a lot of folks who say they’re inbound marketers but even in saying that say, “But my specialties are this channel or this channel or this tactic or this specialisation.” And I think that’s totally fine and legitimate and reasonable.
What do you feel about Inbound Marketing?
There is so much competition in each of the digital marketing channels that it seems obvious in hindsight why you would specialise and why you wouldn’t just have generalists who work on every single aspect. We get caught up in the language and in the idea of a shared digital marketer who concentrated on non-paid channels, becoming something that a lot of small and medium businesses would use when, in fact, what ends up happening is a lot of small and medium businesses hire for the one or two channels that they care most deeply about and contract out a lot of the rest or just don’t focus on them. And that is also the case for consultants and agencies. They specialise and then they outsource or they subcontract or they refer for non specialisations.
What is the importance of Inbound Marketing according to you?
Well, in marketing automation, in a lot of ways, you can do all the elements of the automation that are below the acquisition channel and that’s often owned by a specific email marketer. But this one is… You know, social media marketers, there’s social folks who are focused purely on engaging in social conversations. There’s folks who are focused on social listening. There’s folks who are focused on brand building. There’s folks who are focused on traffic driving from social, from getting value for SEO from social and, like, all these different things.
What exactly is the depression and the loop according to you?
I think a lot of people have a different description or a noun that they use to describe it. But for a lot of folks who are suffering from mental and emotional issues of all different kinds, there is this facet of the process wherein you get kind of trapped in your own mind cycle where you build things up – a problem – and it overwhelms your thoughts and often pulls you away from doing critical bodily care and emotional care types of things, right? Like maintaining your relationships and thinking positively about yourself and about the future and getting good sleep and good exercise and, you know, self-maintenance and all those kinds of things.
You’ve mentioned in posts that when you encounter conflict that you often disengage?
If only that were the case. The tough part for me is when there’s disagreement. I do a thing that I think a lot of us do, although it’s not healthy and we all know it, which is if I don’t get my way I disengage. So it’s not the conflict or the disagreement itself. It’s the “I was not listened to,” or whatever, right, that kind of mentality. And that is super childish. It is so immature. And yet, you know, I can identify it in myself and I feel myself fighting it. I don’t have a good answer for you, you know.
How did you get out of the loop?
You need to commit and work hard, even if you disagree fundamentally. And, I don’t know. That’s just something I gotta learn to do.
What do you have to say about conflicts of interest?
Yeah, it’s so frustrating because it’s something that obviously, obviously, every… Every person I ever hire, you know, when I was CEO, I was a manager and that kind of thing, every person I ever worked with, I asked them to do exactly that, to engage in conflict thoughtfully and even when they disagree to continue supporting and putting their hard work behind it. And like, come on, man. If you’re gonna ask, you better deliver.
How long did it take to build a brand like MOZ?
What's that one thing you wish you could have learned earlier ?
Why is transparency so important for you?
when you are transparent, the harsh criticisms that you expect turn into words of kindness and praise a lot of the time because you were out in front with it and you didn’t try and hide what was going on. It’s created a plenty of conflict, especially recently, man. It’s probably the most transparency challenged time I’ve had in my professional career at Moz, certainly since we got funded. Not fun, but hopefully still the right thing to do and definitely the only way I know how to live.
Where did your transparency addiction come from?
I think it came from a childhood and an early adulthood where there was a lot of non-transparency. That was like, family side and sort of growing up side of things and also early career. Especially with hiding debt and just hiding the fact that you were very, very unsuccessful but still trying to pitch clients in our early days of existing. Like we were these folks who could help them out and… That experience made me want to be extremely transparent so that there would be no skeletons in the closet. And then over time, I think it’s also grown into an addiction because I have seen and felt the benefits of it. And this might be my own selection bias or exposure bias. But I feel like in every world, in the political world and the science or STEM world, in the world of startups in technology and entrepreneurship, in the worlds of marketing, any time you see opacity or secretiveness, there’s almost always something bad behind it, right? Or it has bad results. Even if there’s nothing at all bad behind it, there’s always bad results.
Yours and Moz’s transparency is highly valued in our industry, but have you ever felt like it was too much?
My politics are pretty clear, I’m a relatively passionate and ardent supporter of progressive politics in the United States. But I’m deeply critical of the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, for her secretiveness. I think she’s been shooting herself in the foot for a long time by being very secretive. I understand the motivations behind it. Like I totally get it. Just like I understand Google’s, right? I understand why Google is very secretive. They had scares and have continued to have them with spam and manipulation. I think there’s a deep culture inside the company of fear about being gamed and manipulated. You know, I see this in all sorts of business and technology world. Uber is a very secretive company about a lot of their operations. I understand why that is, too. I just don’t agree.
How do you think problems can be solved by being transparent in your approaches?
Many of these problems would be solved through transparency and wouldn’t even exist if you had transparency. And I believe, you know, Google in particular, if Google were much more transparent about how things work they would see more people trying to game but they would also see a tremendous number of contributions by all of the rest of us trying to stop them, trying to help Google rather than going, “Oh No! There’s nothing we can do. You’ve given us no tools to assist you." But you make that more transparent and that becomes open.
How important is it to be kind to others?
In the order of operations of Moz’s values, empathy is the only thing that sits above transparency. And there’s often a lot of tough trade-offs. The blog post that I wrote recently about Moz’s return to SEO and about the layoffs that we had was significantly… the first version of it was entirely thrown out and completely rewritten because it prioritised transparency over empathy and kindness. So for me that’s a very, very important thing.
Have you ever been less kind to anyone?
It’s also something I struggle with when it comes into conflict with transparency. It really is. I would say that order of operations is one of the hardest things for me personally and professionally.
What’s one of the biggest takeaways from your CEO swap with Wil Reynolds?
I think the biggest one is I got a really great sense of what it was like to be in a sizeable agency again and to see how client relations and how distribution of labour works, the challenges of maintaining customers and doing sales.
How was the experience working with a large organisation like Seer Interactive?
That’s a complex answer but to simplify it, I would say I gained a tremendous amount more empathy about the complexities of running an agency and the challenges that an agency faces which I never had at Moz because the biggest we ever were when we were a consulting agency was six or seven people.
Is Inbox Zero a good practice?
I don’t know if it’s good practice, actually. I was reading a lot of CEOs, a lot of folks who have very stressful demands on their time because of Inbox Zero. They delete or ignore a lot of their email.
Why is Inbox Zero a part of your daily routine?
It’s just an empathy thing. I remember when I was early stages of my career in the SEO field and I would email influential folks and then I’d never hear anything back from them. I mean, on occasion I’ll occasionally email someone and just never get a reply. And I hate it, you know. I just despise it and so I wanna make sure that I’m not that person. And so if you send me, I would say, a well-formed, reasonable request that looks like a real conversation I will always try and reply to those. And so that’s my goal around the Inbox Zero. It’s kind of an empathy thing.
Tell us something about yourself.
How is work on your book progressing?
So in December 31st, I’m supposed to turn in a finished rough draft which can be a very, very rough draft. But I have 5 chapters out of 16 done. So I am sweating it. Especially with the changes to Moz, I was making reasonably good progress into July. And then the last two months Moz has eaten up all my time. So I don’t know. I don’t know what’s gonna happen for sure. I will say that the book is focused on transparency, on telling some of Moz’s stories, but not as much as it was previously. So it’s less a story of Moz and more a number of important lessons learned that are very different from what you’re going to hear in the rest of the entrepreneurship world.
What impact do you want to make in the world?
I hope it’s two things. I hope that SEO is more understandable and accessible to anyone who wants to learn it or practice it. And I hope that with TAGFEE people recognise the contributions those values can make to a system overall. To make it more equitable and to make the world a better place.
What lasting legacy do you want to leave behind?
I hope that if Moz can have success, I think TAGFEE can achieve much greater amplification as a set of values that other businesses and other entrepreneurs will consider, which is a lot of stress. It’s like, succeed or the values that I care about will not receive the recognition and amplification that they deserve. But, you know, that’s how it is. It’s a laboratory.
What do you have to say about Google's transparency?
I understand why Google is very secretive. They had scares and have continued to have them with spam and manipulation. I think there’s a deep culture inside the company of fear about being gamed and manipulated. You know, I see this in all sorts of business and technology world. Many of these problems would be solved through transparency and wouldn’t even exist if you had transparency. And I believe, you know, Google in particular, if Google were much more transparent about how things work they would see more people trying to game but they would also see a tremendous number of contributions by all of the rest of us trying to stop them, trying to help Google rather than going, “Oh, No. There’s nothing we can do. You’ve given us no tools to assist you." But you make that more transparent and that becomes open.
What values do you preach at Moz?
In the order of operations of Moz’s values, empathy is the only thing that sits above transparency. And there’s often a lot of tough trade-offs. The blog post that I wrote recently about Moz’s return to SEO and about the layoffs that we had was significantly… the first version of it was entirely thrown out and completely rewritten because it prioritised transparency over empathy and kindness. So for me that’s a very, very important thing.
What are some key attributes that made Moz successful in the marketplace?
Our focus on transparency and helping people do better marketing, even when it didn't lead directly or indirectly to business for us. That trustworthiness and reputation culminated in a lot of goodwill and many people recommending us, amplifying our work, and, eventually, trying our software.
What are your views about hacks?
I'm not a huge fan of hacks unless they can be applied to a strong, long-term marketing flywheel. In general, hacks tend to be short-term, often sketchy or manipulative, and the overwhelming majority aren't going to build up a scale-able practice that earns ongoing visitors, conversions, retention, or amplification.
What are some of the growth hacks you like?
- Monitoring your brand mentions and mentions of important keywords or phrases in your industry for potential contributions, coverage, and links. - I'm a huge fan of CRO tests to improve conversion and task-completion rates in a product. - One of the hacks that's been particularly effective for Moz with our video content is to first publish our videos on our own website (using Wistia), then a few months later, upload them to YouTube.
How do you monitor your brand mentions and other potential links and contributions?
I use Fresh Web Explorer alerts to get email alerts every night about blogs, news sites, and feeds that have talked about me, Moz, our products, or important subjects in the SEO world. Oftentimes, just a tweet or a comment is enough to help those articles add more value to Moz.
Why do you publish the video content on your website before adding it to YouTube?
This means that the version on our site can rank in Google's results and earn the traffic/visits/amplification, and later, we can benefit from search traffic on YouTube and an additional listing in Google's results for the video name and related keywords without sacrificing the Google search traffic entirely to YouTube.
Tell us about your thought behind creating a company like SparkToro?
What advice would you give to people trying to build their own business today?
Make sure building a business is exactly what you want to do, and make sure you know the reasons why you're doing it. It tends not to pay as well as a regular job. It tends to be massively more work. The failure rates for startups are incredibly high. And there's little to no glory in it. If you're aware of all of these, and still desperate to create your own business because you can't imagine working for anyone else, don't mind the tough odds, and are ready to work very hard for lower-than-normal compensation, then go for it!
Are there any qualities that make for a successful startup founder?
In my opinion, the big ones are: humility, self-awareness, and the ability to recruit and hire great people to bolster your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses.
What do you do before breakfast?
Answer email, do some physical therapy exercises for my back, and read/respond to my Twitter stream.
How did you build such a goodwill in the market?
Our focus has always been on transparency and helping people do better marketing, even when it didn't lead directly or indirectly to business for us. That trustworthiness and reputation culminated in a lot of goodwill and many people recommending us, amplifying our work, and, eventually, trying our software.
What do you have to say about working towards a start-up?
The failure rates for startups are incredibly high. And there's little to no glory in it. If you're aware of all of these, and still desperate to create your own business because you can't imagine working for anyone else, don't mind the tough odds, and are ready to work very hard for lower-than-normal compensation, then go for it!
What's the most important value for Moz?
Our focus on transparency and helping people do better marketing, even when it didn't lead directly or indirectly to business for us.
Effect of Gender on VC Networking
What is the use of SparkToro?
Profitability or Growth, which model would you choose, and why?
What was your thought behind creating MOZ?
What is the main target of SparkToro?
How much risk was involved in creating SparkToro?
Tell us about your fundraising experience for SparkToro.
What advice do you have for founders who want to make a change the way they've been running their company or leading their team?
What was the reason that you started venture capital?
How would you go about explaining the value and the meaning of SEO to new blooming businesses?
Why did you left MOZ, which is the number one SEO company in the world?
What role would you say CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) for SEO?
How can one become the next Rand Fishkin?
Why someone should sign up to MOZ?
What originally inspired you to create MOZ?
What are the three things that every startup founder should know about SEO and content marketing?
How do you suggest one to improve SEO skills?
What is your process of content creation?
What's some advice that you can give founders about amplifying their content?
What are some of the biggest lessons that you learned as a founder of Moz?
Where do you think the future of content marketing is headed?
Do you think that nofollow links still matter in SEO in 2019?
On what context did you write your book 'Lost and Founder'?
When was your last day at MOZ?
Why does culture matter to you?
Whose responsibility it is to maintain work culture?
How you run through those core values of culture while you were a boss ?
How did you come to the decision that MOZ is not serving you well anymore?
Define the difference between transparency and honesty.
How did you go about institutionalizing values like transparency and honesty within the culture of a company ?
What is your strategy behind naming the brand SparkToro?
How did your experience at Moz equip you to build the software company of SparkToro of a totally different aim?
What do you think the nofollow and dofollow links ratio should be there for a new site?
What tools you used in the beginning of setting up of MOZ?
What do you think the current key issues in digital marketing?
What do you think of the current trend of influencer marketing?
How to build brand awareness in a new company?
Suggest a good idea of branding?
Is CTR a technique to rank,what do you think about this?
Tell us about your journey.
Who inspired you in building SparkToro?
Suggest certain ways to make a business different from others
Tell us something about your blogpost on Startup Depression.
Does TLD extensions matters in SEO for ranking?
When did you begin to sense the early signs of depression in yourself during startup process?
Did self-deprecation hit you in your phase of depression?
What was your inner conflict like during your phase of depression?
How did depression affected your career?
When were you able to put a label on what you were going through as depression?
Do you want to share any incident during your days of depression?
How did you try to get over your depression?
What advice that would you give to entrepreneurs who are going through depression?
Food ,exercise ,sleep, therapy ,medication did any of them or combination of those help you through depression?
How do you manage time for your wife from your busy schedule?
What are the best ways to tackle with negative reviews for any product or any brand online?
What is the digital marketing scene in Australia?
When you're building your content, what's most important to have there?
Is SEO even worth it in times of Pay-per-click?
What kind of opportunity do India have in SEO?
How would you attribute the fact that for every one bit click you're getting shown in organic searches, is it mostly longtail?
Tell us your views on zero clicks.
What do you think is the future of SEO?
What is your new venture SparkToro's main purpose?
Tell us briefly about your book 'Lost and Founder'?
What are some interesting facts that you came across while writing 'Lost and Founder'?
What kind of algorithm updates we can expect from Google next?
What are some of the stereotypical beliefs in startup culture?
How to build a much healthier entrepreneurial environment ?
Tell us a bit about your childhood.
Did you get your traits of entepreneurship from anyone in the family?
Why did you drop out from graduation course?
What event of your life made you to start MOZ?
How was SEO business back in the days when you started MOZ?
How did Moz start succeeding?
What was your journey as CEO like?
How was your experience with mental health during your CEO years?
How do you determine the effectiveness of SEO campaign?
What were some of the things that worked to help you uncork some of the depression challenge?
What are some preconceived wrong notions of people about Silicon Valley culture?
How did you decide that SEO was the thing for you?
Tell us, if I'm a creator and I'm starting a business how am I supposed to think?
What's that one incident of your life that just shattered you?
Do you agree with the view that personal matters shouldn't brought to the office?
How is life these days compared to when MOZ didn't become popular?
Where did your transparency addiction come from ?
What's one of the biggest takeaways from your CEO swap with Wil Reynolds?