I was lucky enough to chat with one of my SEO heros Rand Fishkin in my I LOVE SEO Group on Facebook recently.
Not only was Rand my first ever guest on the podcast, he’s also been a huge influence on my SEO career and a veritable font of knowledge and ideas.
I was super excited to share the stage with him at Yoastcon recently where we discussed all things Digital Marketing – and he was generous enough to offer to share his thoughts with my students and DIY SEO Learners.
It’s a great episode that covers a range of topics and challenges a lot of traditional ideas about what SEO really means, and how to be successful in digital marketing in 2019. Enjoy!
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Rand Fishkin is the founder of SparkToro and was previously cofounder of Moz and Inbound.org. He’s dedicated his professional life to helping people do better marketing through the Whiteboard Friday video series, his blog, and his book, Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World. When Rand’s not working, he’s most likely to be in the company of his partner in marriage and (mostly petty) crime, author Geraldine DeRuiter. If you feed him great pasta or great whisky, he’ll give you the cheat code to rank #1 on Google.
Kate Toon: Hello everybody, thank you for dialling in on this call, I’m just gonna check in the group that this is working because you know what technology’s likes. By the way this is Rand Fishkin hello Rand.
Rand: Hi Kate, hi everybody.
Kate Toon: Hi hi. So I’m just gonna double check because you know what technology’s like, that we are streaming into the group and there we are. We have four eager eyeballs already, and I’m sure more people will be jumping on. Welcome to this much anticipated Q&A with the marvellous, the very talented Rand Fishkin, Rand would you mind introducing yourself, and telling everybody who you are, and what you do.
Rand: Sure yeah, so, I started a company along time ago called Moz which is still operating today and, wrote a book called Lost and Founder which is there behind me on the shelf, and started a new company last year which is called Sparktoro, which is in the process of building a product around audience intelligence and that probably still a few months away but I speak and travel and that’s how Kate, you and I got connected of course. And blog about all- and web marketing and digital and I do a little bit of everything else.
Rand: Investing, and mentoring and occasionally sit in on some boards of companies and all those kinds of things too.
Kate Toon: Fabulous. Gosh, you sound like you do more then me. I’m very impressed. So I’ve been following Rand, I think, I don’t know, feels like ten years I think. Watching your whiteboard Friday videos, and one of my favourite places to follow you actually is twitter, cause I think twitter is a really weird spot, there seems to be a lot of weird SEO geeky people on twitter sharing ideas and blog articles, do you find the same? It’s kind of what I go to for my SEO gossip, do you?
Rand: I mean, let’s see. I certainly find SEO to be a field where Twitter is the best place to go for information and sort of figuring out what’s happening and what’s fresh. I don’t totally love all the gossip but I do love all the people having fun there. If you follow the right folks and sort of block the wrong ones, you’ll be fine.
Kate Toon: Yeah, I think gossip was maybe the wrong word, that was a very diplomatic answer. It’s where I get my news, my updates and I think a lot of people share a lot of ideas.
Rand: Oh yeah.
Kate Toon: And kind of things they’ve experimented with, and people in SEO do like to argue a little bit, but if you just ignore that bit. Well look the reason we have Rand here today is not to talk about SEO gossip but to talk about digital marking in general, and obviously SEO. We’ve got people posting questions as we’re going up, but I guess the opener I wanted to start with and kind of what you talked about. [Yoscon 00:02:54] which I thought was fascinating. Was that kind of, as it was changed, things have shifted, and old methodologies have kind of, creating content and blasting out there aren’t working. What do you think, this is a big question, what do you think have been the biggest changes in SEO the last year? That is a big one.
Rand: Year specifically. I mean there have been a few major updates that Google has done in the last year and they’ve certainly been very aggressive on the Google webmaster central side of things with releasing new tools and search consoles so I think those are relativity big changes from Google side, but a lot of the core of SEO has not changed in a long while now. Sort of the, I think there’s a lot of classic advice which I think is not good or useful, like create good content, I think that’s useless advice.
Rand: And whenever you hear Google or any SEO person say it, you should tell them, you should shake them by the collar and tell them to be specific. And explain what exactly good content means, because I think it’s a useless platitude. I would say that the core of SEO for a long time now has been doing intelligent keyword research, you know things like looking for the words and phrases that will bring the audience that you want to your website. I think it involves doing a good job of matching those keywords to pages on your website that do a great job of serving the searcher and of earning amplification and length worthiness. And also of using the words and phrases that searchers are using, you wanna use the same language as your searchers.
Rand: And you have to do a great job, a better job of solving their problem then anyone else in the top results. Sort of link worthiness and application worthiness, your research and content creation. Those are not changed a lot.
Kate Toon: Yeah I guess the point that I really took away from your presentation at [Yost 00:05:12] about the four horseman of the apocalypse was that the way that the search engine results are being displayed to us has changed a lot, and you mentioned, you talk a lot about how Google has almost changed from a search engine and become an answer engine and there’s less real estate being given to organic results and less click through, which, could you talk us a little bit through that and what impact that’s gonna have on people trying to rank and getting people to click through to their sites?
Rand: So yeah, let’s imagine for a minute that you and I work at Google. We run the company in fact we are [crosstalk 00:05:48] Larry Page. And basically for the first twenty years of Google’s life, not quite, maybe 18 years of Google’s life. We’ve had a really good run because more people, so many more people every month have been searching and people who are already searching using Google have been performing more and more searches. But suddenly, between about 2015 and 2017 that growth-
Rand: Plateaus. Because there’s just no more human beings to reach, at least in developed countries, right, so, Western Europe, Australia, a lot of Asia, most of North America and good parts of the rest of the world. Everybody who’s gonna be searching are already at their maximum number of searches that their going to be doing so we can’t just rely on more people performing more searches to grow our revenue. So wall street is breathing down our neck, and our performance, our existence as Co-CEOs of Google depends now on us growing revenue through some means that is not just more people are searching. That gives us a few options.
Rand: We can expand the ads so that more people see more adds and the add click through rate rises, or we can start to extract value from the searches that people are doing by building our own products that compete with publishers and content creators and websites in general so that instead of them getting the revenue from people doing searches, we get the revenue. And since we’re smart Co-CEOs decide to do both. And that is exactly what Google decided to do over the last, I wouldn’t say the last year, the last year doesn’t change that much, but the last four years, five years, it’s really really come into stark relief, essentially there fewer clicks available for the first time, there’s more and more areas of web search where Google is your primary competitor instead of whoever’s competing with you on the web.
Rand: And that’s been really tough for a lot of people in a lot of industries. Travel has been especially hard hit, but local small businesses are feeling the pain of this, certainly the film and TV industry is feeling the pain. A lot of publishers around new are feeling the pain.
Kate Toon: It’s tricky. Yeah. And some examples we’ve seen recently, Google just scraping all this content from other people’s sites, other publishers sites, and not really being very clear about attributing that, like not making the link very clear, so you know. You don’t ever need to leave the search results [crosstalk 00:08:29]
Rand: Why would you leave that, Google, don’t leave Google, stay on Google, whatever you do stay on Google. I think we learned that less from Facebook. Facebook ran their business by initially saying oh Facebook is a great place for websites and publishers and small businesses to get traffic and build a community and then they were like, PSYCHE, just kidding. Facebook is a great place for Facebook to make money, thank you for helping us build our platform, now screw off.
Kate Toon: It’s awful and now we’re stuck, because we were all moving to duckduckgo but you raised a really excellent point, that Google knows us so well, it knows everything we want, we love it as consumers, and we therefore don’t want it leave it as consumers but as business people we have kind of been screwed a little. Into thinking that this was a tool that was working for us, and in a way it kind of is, but it kind isn’t it. It’s [inaudible 00:09:20]. So we’ve got some questions coming through from the group and the first one is from Paula and she asks, if you’re in a highly competitive industry, how do you find relevant keywords to help you be competitive in search.
Rand: Yeah, so Paula I’m gonna assume that you already a smart keyword researcher, and that since you’re in this competitive industry you’re probably using good intelligent tools. I think the general consensus on the two best among professional SEOs is, they’re both called keyword explorer, one is from AH reps, and the other one is from MOZ, there’s also a lot of people who like SEM rush but I think that they’re suggestions are not quite as good and the volume numbers aren’t quite as good, at least not yet. As those other two, but assuming you aren’t already using those and doing some acts like keyword research there are two ways of thinking that I would urge you to invest in.
Rand: One is, rather then just focusing on the very competitive parts of your industry, so the things that you’re customers are searching for when they wanna buy from you, I would start to think about what are influencers of your customers searching for, journalists, and trade publications, and conferences and event organisers, the bloggers, the writers, the social media accounts that are highly followed, the podcasters, all those people who could amplify what you’re doing, what are they searching for? What content and information because if you create things for them, they will help amplify that to your audience. And the second way of thinking about keyword research that could be potentially broader is, what do your customers search for before they ever decide to buy things from you.
Rand: Or your competitors. So If I’m going to sign up for a yoga class, I might first be searching for things like physical therapy or exercise regiments, or dieting tips or weight loss, or types of exercise. A hundred different things right, things that relate to my local region, not necessarily even, not necessarily my, what I’m doing exercise wise. So creating content for people who might eventually become your customers but are not yet searching for what you do. Also a way to end around those really really competitive cycles.
Kate Toon: Yeah I love that, and you talk a lot about searcher intent, and we can match that back to the kind of brand awareness journey, those people who have a problem, they know there’s a solution, they know there’s a product, they’re searching for the product, that’s super competitive, and you step back back back, people who aren’t even sure there’s a solution to their problem, people who are kind of trying to work out what their problem is, and I think, trying to work out what type of, is it transactional intent, did it want information, are they comparing, you can maybe get, more of the beginning of that sales final rather then going right in for the kill with the super competitive product name. Or whatever.
Kate Toon: Now everyone’s responding to what you said at the beginning, and they’re all like god that sounds so depressing about the search engines, we’re all doomed, Belinda asks, this is what Google wants us all to do but Belinda asks, does what you’re saying mean we should all just be putting our money towards Google ads as opposed to SEO?
Rand: So I mean, I would think broadly about this right, so basically, the reality is that I think historically the average was around four to five percent of all clicks went to paid search and the other 95 percent went to organic, and now that’s down to about, more like 10 percent, 90 percent. So, yes, paid is taking twice as much as they used to, and still only ten percent of all the search clicks. So, no you should definitely not give up on SEO especially because I suspect ten years from now it’s gonna be much much harder to build an audience with SEO then it is today. So now is the important time to be taking advantage of the fact that Google still sends a tonne of traffic for free if you can earn it.
Rand: I mean, even in highly competitive spaces where there’s four search results, four paid results before you get to the organic box, you’re still seeing click through rates on organic that are sixty percent or more, right. So you still have opportunity even if there’s a tonne of paid ads, it’s just less opportunity then it was historically and trending down, so it’s different from the sort of golden era of SEO which was maybe 97 to 2017 but I think we’re still in the silver era.
Kate Toon: Okay, cool, so were not in the bronze or iron era just yet.
Rand: The iron age is coming, you should build up your defences while you can.
Kate Toon: While you can. But you made some excellent points again at Yost about kind of pulling back on relying so much on SEO and numbers and figures. And you talked a lot about, I’d rather have one email sign up then a thousand Facebook follows, I’d rather have, could you just explain what you meant by that? Why we should be focused more on our websites?
Rand: Yeah it’s just because the value of a visitor where you own and control the user experience, you own and control the path to conversion, you own and control the retargeting and marketing and cookieing that you can do, you own and control your ability to capture that email address and once you have that email address, especially, you know, obviously double opt in permission email is what I’m talking about, you now have the ability to do all kinds of wonderful marketing to those people. A Facebook like, you can do two things. You can hope and pray that you get the zero point five percent organic reach that Facebook still provides, or you can pay Facebook. I don’t like either of those options, I think both of those are terrible. This is why I continue to put all of my, let’s see, I would always overweight my efforts towards things that bring people to my website and that put them on my email list, and that’s not to say I wouldn’t do anything on Facebook, I would, I would just do those things on Facebook in a way that benefits me by eventually bringing people to my website, to my email list.
Kate Toon: Yeah that makes sense, it’s the whole premise of not building your kingdom on someone else’s land. God knows what Facebook is gonna do next. Facebook groups I’m sure is gonna be monetized soon and so you’re always trying to bring people to the website.
Rand: I mean Instagram, it just feels wild to me that there’s these, sort of influences on Instagram who are building business that can make them anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and they are exclusively letting Instagram own and control that entirely and they are not trying to build, their own podcast, their own website, their own email list. I mean, if you think Instagram is never, they wouldn’t dare to bring reach down, they wouldn’t dare to make me pay to reach my audience. You clearly have never followed the history of any web monopoly.
Rand: Because that is what they all eventually do.
Kate Toon: Yeah, or they could just disappear, what happened to Myspace, you know, you build your kingdom on Myspace and where is it now? And I guess this brink leads into something again that you talk about a lot which I think is so important which is personal branding and you know you said before, obviously it’s always gonna be easy to be found for who you are than what you do, and you’ve been a big advocate for kind of building up your own business name, your own brand name, you have any good suggestions for people around how they can do that? So that people are searching for them, not their industry or their niche?
Rand: Interesting, yeah, I mean, so, I would clarify my personal position on this which is unless you are prepared to be personally human associated with your brand, it is probably better to build your brand as a brand, as a company and an organisation rather then a, oh Rand Fishkin brand. Personally I’d much rather have the Sparktoro brand be the big one then the Rand Fishkin one, but there’s only two of us right now so it’s a little tough. That being said, yes, I think that, there’s definitely, probably lots of tips on lots of angles that I could provide for how to build that branding. I think one of the best ones that I can sort of give quickly is, whenever you are creating something, be that content, a tool, a product, a new resource, a podcast, an interview, an onstage chat, whatever, doesn’t matter.
Rand: Ask yourself before you create it, who will help me amplify this, and why, and if you don’t have a great answer to that question, a great answer would be oh I know that these ten people care deeply about this topic and they, if they know that I created this, if I drop then an email and said, hey, I made this, hey this exists now, they would go and put it on their social networks and they would link to it from their websites and they would write articles about. That’s a great answer and if you don’t have that, I would go back to the drawing room until you do. I think unfortunately, most marketers, are trained to create things, content, and tools, and resources, all kinds of things, that they think will help their customers discover them or buy from them.
Rand: And I think that is only a small part of the equation and that’s the thing that everybody tries to do and therefor it is not a competitive advantage. But if you create things for people who’s job and business is to amplify, then you have a true competitive advantage because not many people can do that, not many people can do that well, and amplification means reach and that means influence and the power of branding and the ability to draw people to your site and have people know you, and like you and trust you and be more likely to buy from you in the future and all those wonderful things.
Kate Toon: Yeah, I think one thing that works very well with that is kind of data driven content, so you do a survey, or you try something, I did this experiment and this is what happened, because you know, then you’ve got some actual results, where people can go “Oh, like fifteen percent of people did X” and people love a stat, don’t they? But I think if you could say from your personal view point, obviously you built the Mos brand and now you’ve got your own brand in Sparktoro. Was there a point when the needle shifted and you felt like your name was becoming really well known, was there a point where you thought, ah, it was that that made me well known, that video I did, that conference I did, did you feel a point when the needle shifted?
Rand: I think probably, I don’t know about the point but I wouldn’t certainly say that, when people known who I am personally, it is most likely that they have seen whiteboard Friday videos, and I think that is because those videos did something that at the time did not really exist which was to take this boring dry topic of SEO and give it only the slightest bit of punch but make it accessible and an educational resource that was in the video rather then text format which barely existed and even when it did and does exist, most of those videos are not great quality.
Rand: And I think that really harms things. I say this as I’m like shifting in out of of, and trying to find shadow because my office, Seattle’s sunny four day a year. But yeah, I think that whiteboard Friday stood out from the field because of those things and video, if you can get people to watch it and engage with it, has a much higher degree of memorability and brand ability then text content. We were talking about oh I’d rather have one email subscriber then 1000 Facebook likes. I would rather have one person watch my video then that same person read ten of my blog posts.
Kate Toon: Okay, that’s very powerful. We’re big about video here. And I think for me, it was also the consistency as well, it was a regular thing, you could turn up, it was there, you could rely on it, and I think many people try things for a little while and then they don’t see an immediate result and they give up but it does take a long time. [crosstalk 00:22:10]
Rand: Well and I think, yeah I mean. If you are investing in something and it is not working, and you are not willing to keep experimenting and investing and making it better, giving up is a good idea, you should put your effort somewhere else right? I think what was different about whiteboard Friday is that when it started it performed poorly, much more poorly then our text content on the blog, but we were willing to, and decided to invest in making it better and better and better so every year that whiteboard Friday was around the quality of those videos went up, the quality of me as a presenter went up, my [disfluencies 00:22:46] got better, my style of speaking improved, I actually took some speech classes and training from a professional, the quality of the content topics improved, the keyword targeting improved, the length of the videos improved, the video camera got better, the whiteboard got better, it’s all these things got better and better and better and I think that combined to help us achieve what we did with whiteboard Friday.
Kate Toon: Yeah. That’s true. Okay, I’m gonna jump to a question from the group, because there’s a few people posting them. I’m gonna rephrase this slightly, this is from Anurada Sorney and she says, if you had a 1000 dollars to spend on Google ads or a 1000 dollars to spend on Facebook ads what would you spend in to. You would say neither, I’d spend it on-
Rand: I mean I’d definitely wouldn’t spend it either of those. The ROI is so low compared to so many other things you could invest in. Okay, let’s imagine that were the case. If I had to invest in one of those platforms, I would go, try and figure out exactly where my audience engages, and how, I would look at the path to conversion that people have already taken to reach my website and where that generally started and where it generally concluded, and what was in the middle, right. So full path analysis, oh they visited seven times on average before converting to a paid subscriber, and visit one, 30% of those were search and 20% of them were social, whatever it is right.
Rand: And then I would try and allocate that budget according to those patterns.
Kate Toon: Yeah, but generally, I’m not a big add person either, so If I had a thousand dollars I’d probably spend it making some really cool videos or I don’t know maybe starting a podcast, for me the podcast has been a really powerful way to build my brand, up because I think it’s such an intimate relationship that you have. In someone’s ear hole, and again, being consistent, and also being able to draw in influences because you get them on the show to share your content with. [crosstalk 00:24:49]
Rand: Sure, absolutely. Yeah, I would say ads work great when people already know you, like you, and trust you. When that’s not yet the case, when they don’t know you, like you, trust you, then you pay very ad prices and you get very low ROI and Google and Facebook don’t even like to show your ad because people don’t engage with it.
Kate Toon: Okay, cool. Yeah. So good question from Lisa [Galleya 00:25:16], imagine you are just a small business person, not some hugely successful entrepreneur, I think he’s gone to shot blinds, there he goes. Imagine you’re just a small business person, maybe your a service provider, graphic designer, whatever, and you did have a thousand dollars to spend on digital marketing in some way shape or form, where would you invest it, and I know that’s a very broad question, but just, you know, humour us a little.
Rand: Gosh yeah, this is one of those where there, any answer I give you that’s broad is going to be terrible, and you should not take my advice. But.
Kate Toon: This is a graphic designer so she says graphic design.
Rand: Graphic designer, okay. Let’s see, so, I would look for your best most profitable customers, who those have historically been, if you don’t have a good sort of track record of being able to look back and say, oh yeah, our best customers have always been, I don’t know, florists, or local businesses in this region or companies with this much turnover, whatever it is. I would instead be aspirational about it, say over the next year I wanna work with these five types of businesses, these are the five kinds of businesses I wanna reach. Then, I would use my network to get introduced to several of them, right people who, hey I’m hoping to just have a fifteen minute phone call with someone who’s in the floral business. Great who do I know who knows a florist, let me go to LinkedIn. I don’t know anyone who knows a florist, okay. Let me find someone who finds someone who knows someone who knows someone right?
Rand: The reason you wanna have those five or six phone calls is because you wanna ask them questions like what do you read and watch and listen to, who do you engage with, who do you follow, who do you pay attention to, and once you discover those things, I think you can craft either a content marketing strategy or a paid ads strategy, or an influencer marketing strategy or a press and PR strategy that’s going to go and reach those right people. Until you know what they’re doing and know what they’re engaging with you can’t have an intelligent action plan.
Rand: So I think having those conversations just like, every book about start up says, what do you do, you wanna talk to, fifty of your customers, or potential customers before you ever build your product, before you ever try to do marketing. Same thing’s true for us, if we wanna develop a good marketing plan, gotta have those conversations. What resonated with you, why did that work, what do you like from that person. Listen to, a few of those phone calls and you’ll hear some patterns start to emerge and those patterns will give you excellent, excellent resources, to go after, good experiments to run, good things to try, probably good things to stay away from too.
Kate Toon: Yeah, exactly. Another great thing that game out of your Yost presentation was kind of contrary to what a lot of digital marketers talk about, a lot of people talk about skyscrapering, and doing competitor analysis and seeing what everyone else is doing and doing the same thing. But trying to do it a little bit better, but I love that you are, look at what your competitors are doing, see what they’re not, and be there. Can you just talk us through that a little bit, because that was like, yes, I love that.
Rand: I think that, look the whole, I don’t know whatever the brand, folks wanna call, branding folks in SEO wanna call the technique of basically, well I’ll do some competitive analysis, find out how my competitors are ranking, what thing got them the most links, bla bla bla, and they’ll I’ll do exactly that and I’ll reach out to all the people who link to them and I’ll say I have a slightly better version of that, and once that’s happened four times, nobody’s gonna link to anything and you’re gonna waste all your time. And I guarantee any industry that you’re in where you’re paying attention to those resources there’s 20 other people who are already, 200 other people, never mind 20, and so yeah. I think that a very good way to go about this is that audience research right? To be going and asking your customers hey, what podcast are you listening to? Huh, fascinating, excellent, alright.
Rand: I’m gonna go to those five people that a lot of my audience are listening to, and I am gonna pitch them or sponsor them, or build relationships with them, or help them in some way. Or build resources that they’re gonna talk about on their show, or whatever it is right? And I think that those types of hey, my competitors are not here, they’re playing in all these places, they’re not playing here, this is where you can build competitive advantage. Any place where your audience is and your competitors are not, or your audience is heavily but your competitors are under investing.
Rand: That’s opportunity, often times those spaces are harder to measure, they’re often times harder to invest in, and that’s why most people don’t do it. And that’s exactly why it’s a competitive advantage. If it was not a competitive advantage to be there, then it would not be difficult, and it would already have a proven ROI model that would be very easy to show your CMO or your CEO.
Kate Toon: I so agree, and again, I’m gonna talk about myself, but that was the podcast thing. I mean there are lots of now, there are heaps of us yo podcasts, but what I’d say, if there was just a few, and they were pretty boring, just two blokes talking about robots to XD files, and so for me that was my little point of difference and the ROI is super hard to measure. Really hard, unless I get an advertiser it’s almost impossible. Now one thing that comes up a lot in the group is everyone’s a little bit anxious about voice search, voice optimization, and that’s gonna hugely change the way they need to build websites and write content. Do you think that it will, do you thin kit’s gonna have a major impact, or do you think it’s gonna be more of the same?
Rand: I think that voice search doesn’t change very much at all. Much of the time, I think when people say that, what they mean is voice answers.
Kate Toon: Yes.
Rand: Right so, it’s not, oh it’s so different when I speak something into here versus type something on my keyboard. I don’t see that as being a big difference at all, and therefore whenever I see the stats around voice search I don’t get particularity worried because the input device or methodology doesn’t matter. The output is what matters and voice answers is very small still but growing, I think it’s something to keep an eye on. It is certainly one of those, concerning trends because there’s no opportunity to draw someone back to your website. No opportunity to capture an email address, no opportunity to, no one wins except Google, or Alexa, Apple. Who ever it is.
Rand: So yeah, that’s one that I do have some nervousness about. The stats are still very small, in true web search as opposed to task automation, like, what’s the weather, Google pull of directions to hear, send an email to my bla bla bla, right. Who wrote this song, those kinds of things, which already instant answers if you type them in to, I think the numbers of actual voice answers for Google, where should I take a vacation in Hawaii. That’s not happening a lot yet.
Kate Toon: Yeah, but I think even with mobile search, we are getting really limited results back, it’s almost like Google chooses for us, chooses one or two results back when, and we’re not again, it’s Google becoming an answer engine, it make the choices for us, we’re not seeing as many options to choose from, you know, do you find that? So it’s just getting tougher to get that, and also it’s trying to get that position zero spot, to be the featured answer, it’s getting tough as well, do you have any tips on trying to get the feature snippet, the featured answer? What should be people planning to do for that?
Rand: Yeah, actually, so my best tip for that is Dr. P over as Moz has done a tonne of research around this and has written some really excellent resources, I think along with the team from stat and, those are what I’d urge people to check out, nothing I could say here would be as good as you going and reading those posts.
Kate Toon: Okay, I’ll grab them and I’ll share them in the group. That’s fantastic.
Kate Toon: So few couple of final questions, from Paula, around building up branding authority, do you think PR, do you think PR is important to building up branding authority and is it something you’ve used a lot for yourself in your businesses?
Rand: I think it highly dependent on your audience, for example, so in the SEO industry which is a very sort of self contained bubble of thought leaders and influencers and publications. Classic PR where you get in the wall street journey or the New York Times or those kinds of things, is, not very useful at all. Far better to build relationships with the few dozen folks who sort of control most of the industry publications where people are actually paying attention. But, that being said in something like real estate, yes, I think it is hugely valuable and I know the folks for example from Redfin and Zillow which are both based here in Seattle and PR was a huge a part, press was a huge part of their early strategy and early adoption and those businesses had tremendous early success from being mentioned where they were, so. It depends on who your audience is.
Kate Toon: It does, and how newsworthy your story is because I often thing people think things are PR worthy but there is actually no news there, the fact that you got a new parking spot for your new, it’s just newsy enough I’m afraid. Another question, should we still be aiming to guest blog on external sites, is that good for our SEO?
Rand: Yeah, absolutely, No I think that can be excellent, so, guest content whether it’s an editorial for some magazine or publication, or whether it’s a, guest post on a smaller blog, are those kinds of things, it does three wonderful things for you, one, if you have some keywords and phrases that you, gosh my domain is not powerful enough to rank for these. Hey, you can leverage someone else’s authority, this is generally called barnacle SEO, right where you attack yourself to the hull of a big ship and that practise I think is brilliant. The second one of course is that you build credibility and authority that you wouldn’t with this new audience that you wouldn’t have previously been able to reach and the third one is generally speaking most of them will link back to you which gets you a nice link that can boost your ranking ability of your own website in the future.
Rand: So, for all three of those reasons I certainly recommend it.
Kate Toon: Yeah, that’s how I built up a lot of my authority in the early days, I think you have to kind of put your best content out there, it’s almost like you can kind of get away with wearing your pyjamas at home when you have guests over, but if you’re going for someone else it has to be really stellar content I find, that was what I find. Nice little analogy there. Amy asks what’s your view on paying for content amplification network, so obviously it’s now being monetized, you can go out to people say, hey I wrote this thing, can I pay to have people amplify it, what’s your thought on that?
Rand: There are sketchy ones and there are some more credible ones and I think the, let’s see by far the most credible one is the one you build yourself, right where you’re not paying anyone, you just have a group of friends or a Facebook group or a Linkedin group, or a twitter crew that you are chatting with and the ten of you get together and you say hey I wrote this thing for this publication and I’m really excited about it and your nine friends help you amplify that. I think that is, that’s the best of the best, there’s some content amplification networks that I’ve heard our pretty decent and have decent results, I have not personally invested in any of the paid ones so I don’t have good examples there for you sorry.
Kate Toon: Yeah, one thing that really came through from your speech, was that, people are always looking for quick fixes and easy answers and they wanna pay for links, they wanna pay for content amplification but honestly, a lot of these thing, to really work and have long lasting results, they take a lot of effort, you build up a relationship with a peer, you don’t just hand someone fifty dollars and expect to get the same results. One thing I found with content amplification is people often will go after big influences and big names and super famous people, and often then they’re never gonna give you, they might do one tweet or one message but they’re busy, you know.
Kate Toon: And it’s often to go to people who are at the similar level to you, that get as much out of sharing your content as you do having it shared. I found that kind of reciprocal amplification as you mentioned with the groups of chums can be more powerful then getting someone on instagram to share one picture of your coffee cup or whatever it may be. Yeah, so stop going after the big guys. Well look, Rand we’ve had you for forty minutes, we’ve had some interesting questions, not really bad though, because I think, cause SEO’s kind of getting much more holistic.
Rand: As broad, yeah.
Kate Toon: And that’s kind of what I wanted to finish up on. In the olden days it was very much about, you build your back links, you get your ranking, your number one position, boom your life is sorted. And the vibe that’s really is coming out of everything you’re tweeting and you’re talking about Sparktoro is it, it’s the whole digital marketing world now and we can’t just focus on one individual bit. Can you, just to finish this up, is that your Esource at the moment, that we need to be holistic and we need to look at all different social media platforms rather then just concentrate on one tactic?
Rand: Uh, let’s see. I think that it is just fine to concentrate on a single tactic if you are, you know a small business operator, you don’t have a whole lot of time, you’re sort of good at this one thing, your audience is there, you are passionate about it, that can totally work fine. Twitter can be your main network, Linkedin can be your main network, maybe Facebook is, maybe your blog is, that is okay. However, whatever you do, it should be informed by where you audience is. I think that’s what madness is to, go out there without learning more about the people who you wanna reach and the people that influence them.
Rand: Right if you go onto twitter and your hoping to reach chemical engineers, in their fifties, you’re gonna have a bad time my friend. [crosstalk 00:40:24]
Kate Toon: I would love to meet a chemical engineer in his fifties, if you know any, could you hook me up? Where are they hanging out, I want one.
Rand: I’ll do some Sparktoro research and tell you.
Kate Toon: Would you, that should be your next project please. Well we’ve had loads of lovely feedback from everyone, very insightful, thank you, awesome interview, thanks I found that interesting. That was brilliant, thanks Rand, Rand thank you so much for sharing your time with us on the one sunny day in Seattle, where you really should be outside sun baking. I will be sharing, Rand just did a couple of new whiteboard Fridays for Moz which are amazing, slightly longer ones, I’ll share those, I’ll share the Dr. Pete’s resources that you mentioned as well. And I do highly recommend that you follow Rand on Facebook and Twitter.
Kate Toon: I’ll share links to those, it’s just, posting interesting ideas, you know, lots of SEOs focus on the minutiae and where should I link to my site back, and I think the big picture stuff is really interesting and kind of lets us step back and think about the core things about audience and channels that maybe we sometimes lose because we’re worried about adding an alt tag, on image, on page 72, so Rand, thank you very much and thanks everyone for watching, and we’ll see you soon! Bye everybody.
Rand: Thanks for having me Kate, take care.