And recently I was lucky enough to score an interview with one of my all-time SEO heroes, Mr Rand Fishkin from Moz.com.
I asked him a heap of useful small business SEO questions, and yes, even asked how he felt being an SEO heart throb!
Now if you haven’t checked out Moz.com I recommend that you do. It’s a fantastic website packed full of search engine optimisation tools, resources and blogs and a forum, and lots of other great stuff.
Rand, who’s based in Seattle, is a hugely well-known face in the digital marketing world, known for his easy to understand, fun, engaging explanations of all things online marketing, especially his Whiteboard Friday videos. I was lucky enough to briefly meet Rand at Problogger a couple of years ago when he spoke about search engine optimisation, and he was actually my inspiration for my little chat about search engine optimisation at Problogger last year.
He was a lovely fella, just as affable in person as you’d expect.
In this interview I ask Rand a series of questions relevant to SEO for small business.
You can watch the video below, or if you prefer to read, scroll a little to check out the full transcript.
Psst: There’s a nice little outtake at the end 🙂
Watch the video:
Listen to the podcast:
Questions we cover:
- [0:01:34] Is it possible for small businesses to DIY their SEO?
- [0:02:54] Other than Moz and of course the Recipe for SEO Success, what are your other favourite SEO education websites? Resources?
- [0:04:57] What are you top five tools that every search marketing or digital marketing business type must use?
- [0:08:41] If you only had a few hours a week to spare in which to focus on SEO and marketing, what would you spend it doing? Building links or creating content?
- [0:13:02] There are only so many phrases and only 10 spots on the first page. Does there come a point where SEO just won’t work in a crowded market?
- [0:15:38] What role do spelling mistakes play in SEO, would having lots of typos in your copy impact your potential to rank?
- [0:17:52] Why is it so hard to rank for a keyword with a new page when you’re already ranking for it with an existing one?
- [0:21:03] Does social media impact my ranking? And which social media channel should I invest my time in?
- [0:27:12] What tips for an AU business wanting to appear in the US rankings?
- [0:25:54] How will live streaming affect SEO?
- [0:29:53] Do weak pages on your site damage the strong pages, should I kill off all my weak pages?
- [0:33:48] What was the one business decisions (mistakes) that you wish you could go back and change?
- [0:35:57] The truth is you’re a little bit of a heartthrob for many female (and possibly male) SEO types. How do you cope with that kind of attention?
Tools, websites and articles mentioned:
- Search Engine Land
- SEO Round Table
- Viper Chill
- SEO by the Sea
- Seer Interactive
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Moz Crawling Tool
- Screaming Frog
- Google Adwords
- MOZ Open Site Explorer
- Rand’s article about 2016 trends
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Connect with Rand
- Rand on Twitter
- Rand on Facebook
- Rand on Google
- Rand’s Personal Blog – Moz.com/Rand
- Whiteboard Friday
Kate: So here we are with Mr Rand Fishkin, thank you for joining me, Rand.
Rand: Thank you Kate, I really appreciate it.
Kate: Let’s get stuck into the question, I’ve got oodles and oodles of questions, I told everybody I was interviewing you, everybody kind of freaked out and inundated me with questions. I tried to pick some of the best ones that cover the most issues and we’ll just get started.
First question is kind of a general one but a lot of the people who I talk to have very little time and they don’t have a dedicated SEO person and they can’t afford to pay an SEO company month by month to do stuff for them. So do you really think it’s possible for a small business like that to do their own SEO?
Rand: Yeah, I think it certainly is possible. I think a caveat, you will not be doing the same level of SEO as if you hired an SEO professional who was of great quality and you had thousands of dollars to spend every month, that kind of thing. But that’s okay for a lot of small businesses even medium-sized businesses, just getting the first few steps right in SEO, getting those first little pieces, elements of web marketing correct can be transformative and can make your business so much more visible than it was previously.
So I think it is not a necessity to have to spend a ton of money or hire an outside professional, you can do a lot of the basics right yourself.
Kate: Yes, and I think that often, companies, it’s the basic stuff that they sometimes miss, they kind of want to leap ahead to the sexy stuff and it’s like you need to cover off those really boring basic bits first. Obviously Moz is a great education resource for people and your Whiteboard Friday videos are hugely popular and helpful, what are other resources that you can recommend to people to learn more about SEO?
Rand: Yeah, I think that there’s a few new sites that I like a tremendous amount that I think for those folks who are interested in kind of staying on top of the news of the search world, those are pretty solid, those include Search Engine Land and seroundtable.com, I think those are both good.
And then I think that you can get a really good sense of the trending articles or what people are talking about and discussing, what’s kind of hot in the world of not just SEO but web marketing overall on inbound.org. That’s full caveat, it’s a site that I co-founded although I’m no longer professionally involved in that. I like to see it do well obviously but I don’t have any financial interest.
And then I think that there are number of good blogs that contain specific information around topics, so one of the blogs that impresses me a lot, it’s a little advanced but it is quite good is ViperChill, can be a little aggressive at times but really good information there for sure and very creative too.
Another one that I like a lot, again can be a little more advanced but is fascinating for me, is ‘SEO by the Sea’ from Bill Slawski, he does a terrific job with that. And I’m a big fan of two agency blogs that I think do a really good job of exploring SEO topics regularly, those are Seer Interactive and Distilled, both of those companies are really good.
Kate: Excellent, well I’ll search some of those out and include them in the links. I’d love to ask you some of the questions that came through on social media if that’s okay.
Rand: Oh, yeah.
Kate: There were a lot so we’ll see how many we can get through, and apologies to anybody who we don’t manage to cover because there were quite a few. So the first one is from Twitter, from @DigitalCafez they ask “what are the top five tools that every search marketing or digital marketing type must use”?
Rand: Sure, so let’s see. I think that you need to have your basic essentials covered; that’s kind of the most important thing that you can possibly do, and so I would set my five tools – if I only had five, in that realm. That includes having visitor analytics, knowing how many people are visiting your site, what pages they’re going to and how they’re getting to you, that kind of thing. That includes monitoring your website for what I’d call errors and missed opportunities, you broke something or the search engine just can’t reach something, you’re creating some kind of a problem, so the crawl.
I think it’s critical that you have keyword research, you have to know what your audience is actually searching for so that you can target them with content that’s going to help them succeed. So you’ve got to have a good keyword research tool. And then I think it is very helpful to have, one of the two but preferably both, a great tool to help you with link building and/or content strategy and outreach.
And so my tools for each of these, on the analytic side, Moz uses Omniture, but Omniture is really expensive and a pain in the arse to learn and no fun. I think Google Analytics is still a really strong contender; if you don’t love google Analytics, there’s a nice free, open source alternative called Piwik, I think they’re out in New Zealand, awesome folks, definitely recommend them and/or Google Analytics.
Then on the crawling side, right, sort of find my errors and missed opportunities and problems, that kind of thing. I think Google Webmaster Tools, now called Google Search Consult, that’s totally free, it’s not as comprehensive as you might want, and so I might recommend that you use either, granted Moz – I have self-interest there but you can use Moz’s crawling tool which is pretty darn good, will identify lots of errors, that’s part of the Moz analytics package. Or, if you’re looking for just an exclusively crawl-based tool, screaming frog is quite good, it’s a downloadable piece of software.
Let’s see, on the keyword research front, I wish, I wish I could tell you I have a great tool for you, I’m building one right now, it’s going to be launched in the next six to eight weeks, but until then I would probably use a combination of a couple of tools on the free side, one is Google Adwords where you can use Keyword Planner, it’s free. You can sign up for Google Adwords and you don’t have to pay them anything, you don’t have to buy any ads, you can still use Keyword Planner. And then another one that I like a lot is Uber Suggest. If you’re looking for a paid tool, I like keywordtool.io.
And then on the content and link building side, there’s kind of three players in the link world, all of them have strengths and weaknesses, one is Moz with Open Site Explorer, one is Majestic who I like a lot, and one is which a lot of people like, so those three.
And then if you’re looking on the content, Moz content just launched, I think it will be a good tool long term but right now my favourite by far for sure is BuzzSumo. I think those guys are just terrific, I use that regularly, I know a lot of the people in the content world do, so I’d check those out.
So that’s kind of my five sets of tools.
Kate: Awesome, what a great list, and loads of my favourites in there as well so that’s reassuring, that’s fab.
The next question is from Angela and she asks, “if you only have a few hours a week to spare to focus on SEO and marketing, what would you spend it doing”. Now let’s assume that their site has been technically optimised and they’ve got a good base and then ongoing, would you be spending your time building links, and by building I mean earning, or creating content, or a bit of both.
Rand: I think this actually depends, I just did a Whiteboard Friday on this topic, it kind of depends on the distribution curve of demand in your sector, and okay that sounds fancy, it’s not that fancy. What I really am trying to say here is it depends on whether there are a lot of keywords and a lot of people who have all sorts of different needs in your niche or whether there’s really only a few, like the people who are searching only search for five or 10 or maybe 20 or 30 different keywords and those are the only ones you care about. The content that’s being produced, well it’s turns out that in your industry or niche, people don’t pay that much attention to all the content, maybe there’s a few things they read every month or every week, but they’re not big content consumers in your niche. And so you need to recognise which of those is true for you and for your industry, for your audience, and then optimise how you spend your few hours in the right way.
So, you know, if you’re a small business and you’re targeting local search demand, let’s say for example you’re a Thai restaurant in Seattle, which is where I live. So if I’m a Thai restaurant in Seattle, you know what, there’s not a ton of searches that I’m going after. Maybe I could get a little creative and go into the recipe space, but it turns out people search for Thai restaurants, Thai restaurants Seattle, Thai take out Seattle, maybe best Thai food Seattle, but that list is not long, it’s a real short list.
And so I would not urge them to go spend a bunch of time trying to create tons of content, start a blog and all that. I would tell them “focus on those five or 10 keywords that you know bring the highest ROI, and to do that go after the links and the citations and the listings and the relationships and the referrals that are going to best work for you”. If you’re already ranking well, maybe think about some Barnacle SEO, Barnacle SEO being how can I make it so that the other pages that rank in the top 10 for the keywords that I care about also point to me, they also include me or link to me. How do I make sure that I’m on the Yelp list for best Thai restaurant in Seattle, how I make sure that the Seattle Eater Guide to Thai restaurants includes me, all that kind of stuff? So that’s how I think about that if you’re very small.
If on the other hand there’s a huge world of keyword demand and tons of people are searching for all sorts of different things and there’s lots of content being consumed, then I’d think more about a content strategy with your few hours a week, and I’d worry a little less about targeting those singular turns and trying to pound on them and get the links to earn those higher rankings for those things.
With content strategy, the idea is that you’re producing lots of pieces of content and you have a few hits every now and then and the average piece does a little better than the last average piece and you’re growing an audience and growing, and all of that is helping you kind of raise the tide of the rankings on your website. Google doesn’t just consider individual web pages, they consider a site as a whole, and so if you are earning links and ranking signals to all sorts of different pieces of content, every other piece of content is going to benefit from that a little bit, every other piece of content on your site.
So that’s kind of an overly simplistic way of thinking about it but that’s how I’d prioritise.
Kate: No, I think that’s great, that makes perfect sense, good answer for Angela there.
Okay. This kind of follows on from that I guess because the analogy I always use is a window cleaner in Sydney. There’s a window cleaner in Sydney, how many blog posts can you write about window cleaning and do you even want to be writing content about window cleaning. It’s tough, it’s maybe not the right strategy for you, but even if you’re like a copywriter in Sydney and there’s so much content you can write, a lot of it’s been written before you can always put your tone on it and your opinion. But there are only so many phrases and there are only so many spots in that first page.
Does there come a point where SEO just won’t work because the market is too crowded?
Rand: I think that there almost always comes a point in which you say “it doesn’t make sense right now to target this keyword or these sets of keyword phrases”, but there’s almost never a time when SEO itself doesn’t make sense. So I like your window cleaner example in Sydney, and what I’d urge folks to do, if you actually were a window cleaner, I’d urge you to say “what are the other things that people who need window cleaners are also interested in”, and I would argue that it’s almost always the property manager for a commercial building that’s hiring a window cleaner, that’s 90% of your business, residential is too small, it’s not a big market for window cleaners, it’s almost all commercial buildings.
Well, commercial property owners have a lot of interests that are not well served, they don’t understand what their competitive pricing market is like, they don’t know historical demand versus demand now, they don’t know what the problems that other property managers are facing, they don’t really interface with each other all that much. There may not be a great community resource for Sydney commercial property owners and building managers on the web. You could make that, you could absolutely make that, you wouldn’t have to produce lots of content, you could do one survey a year of all the clients that you have and all their network and you could produce this phenomenal report that every property manager sends to every other property manager and they’re like “this window cleaner guy, he’s awesome, he does this survey of 500 buildings in Sydney and produces it every year”.
You only need one of those to start attracting a huge audience, and the nice thing about content is yes, SEOs one way to reach people with content, but word of mouth, social media, press and PR, these are all great ways of reaching people as well. So if you get a few people signing up for that email that are like “next year, 2017, sign me up for that list”. Now you’ve got a new cohort of people to reach and all that kind of thing.
So I never thing that you’re out of the game entirely, but I do agree that there’s a point at which you kind of say “hey, I have a brand new website and I’m competing against the top 10 results who are all 70+ in domain authority and have years in the field and all have professional SEOs working for them, I need to take a different angle”.
Kate: Yeah, you have to be inventive and come up with wacky ideas. The next question is a bit more nitty gritty, it’s a question from Matt who’s one of the students in my course and he asks “what role do spelling mistakes play in SEO”. So there’s been an email going around in Australia, maybe not America, it’s one of those spammy type that says “you’ve got spelling mistakes, this means Google’s going to give you a black mark and if you don’t correct them, I can correct those spelling mistakes for $100”.
So he’s interested to know, would Google really chastise a site or lower its ranking because it had typos?
Rand: We have never observed a correlation between misspellings, let me correct that, between a small normal number of misspellings, typos, grammatical errors and lower rankings in Google, nor have we been able to correlate perfect grammar and flawlessly edited content with higher rankings in Google. That being said, if you find that your audience is picky or if they’re getting turned off by it, Google is using this system whereby they measure engagement, retention and recidivism, people coming back to a site many, many times and visiting again and again, typing in and searching for it, they are looking at amplification rates, so if people get to a site and then go share that out, and they’re looking at browse rate, people who get to a web page and then browse more and more pages on that site.
All of those metrics which they get from Chrome and they get from Android and probably some other places, all of that data goes into figuring out are you a good website that searchers seem to enjoy and are you doing a compelling job of serving your visitors, and if spelling and typo stuff is detracting from that, yes it can have a very mild but negative impact on you. So that meme sounds totally wrong to me and I would not pay that person $100, they’ll probably put malware on your site. But that being said, anything you do that improves the user experience and happiness of people who are looking at your page, does help you long term in Google.
Kate: So next is a question from Robert and he asks “why is it so hard to rank for a keyword with a new page when you’re already ranking for it with an existing one”.
Rand: Interesting. We’ve actually seen that happen but we’ve also seen the opposite happen, where essentially you have a page that’s ranking well for a keyword on your website, you produce a new page and the new page starts ranking, and sometimes you don’t want that. Sometimes you’re like “oh no, I didn’t want this one blog post that I just wrote, that’s kind of short term and just interesting to my blog audience, to replace this great landing page that I had ranking for this keyword”, and Google associates not just individual pages but whole websites with topics and content and keyword searches. And so sometimes if you produce a newer piece, Google might think “that’s the most recent one, I should put that first”. So we’ve seen the opposite problem sometimes.
That being said, if you are experiencing this challenge, what’s probably happening is that Google thinks that the old page, the pre-existing page has the kinds of ranking signals and provides a kind of searcher experience that they want. So meaning, if it’s got good links, it does a good job with keyword targeting and the content seems to serve visitor well, so it has a bunch of these signals, sometimes you’ll see Google test it out, like the first day you publish a new piece. They’ll put it on page one for a little while and then if it doesn’t seem like searchers are happy and engaged with that, they’ll pull it down again. And so a lot of times, one of the things that I think more advanced SEOs will try to do is kind of that if at first you don’t succeed philosophy, where if you target a keyword, you produce some content and Google tries it out, it doesn’t seem to be working, you try it again, you produce another piece of content on that topic.
I would urge you to think, if you are producing that new content and it’s not resonating, is there are some discordance or disconnect between what searchers actually want and what you’re providing, and that happens a lot because sometimes what a searcher wants is different from what your business interests are. So searcher wants information, you want to sell them something, you’ve got to meet in the middle, you’ve got to provide that information.
Kate: Yeah, I think that’s so true and if you’re writing a really good How To blog, be genuine about that, make that just a really good blog and maybe don’t necessarily sell hard in that, just hope that they then go off to your sales lining page, don’t whack a great ad in the middle or cheat, don’t cheat and pretend it’s a How To article and then they get there and not at all.
Rand: If you’ve got a great How To article, I think one thing you absolutely can do is say “want more great stuff like this” and ask for an email address or a connection to Facebook or whatever it is, and that’s a great way to get someone to start to be in your world.
Kate: Yeah, totally. And you mentioned Facebook which is a fantastic segue into my next question which is a huge question so we can talk about this next thing for about an hour.
Which is the classic, “how does social media impact SEO, or does it, and which social media channel is the best one to invest my time in to improve my ranking?”
Rand: The shortest answer I can give to this, and we can get into longer stuff too. The shortest answer I can give is for the most part, with a couple of notable exceptions, and we can talk about those, social media does not directly influence your search engine rankings. However, there are lots of indirect things that can happen because of social media, which can have a positive impact on your rankings.
So that’s a convoluted statement but that’s the truth right, that’s how it is. So when Google says “no Facebook shares don’t influence rankings in Google”, you’re going to be like “yeah, technically I guess that they’re being accurate” or “I guess they’re not saying something dishonest” although the real truth behind it is, let’s say a piece of content does do really well on Facebook, well Google’s almost definitely going to index it, they’re definitely going to see all those people who are visiting it using Chrome and Android, definitely going to see what the engagement rate is like and they’ll see the sharing and amplification rate, they’ll also see all people who potentially pick it up and link to it, the media, the press, the bloggers, the forums, the discussion that takes place that all links it, and those signals, not necessarily the direct Facebook shares, those signals will almost certainly have a positive ranking effect. We see this again and again that things that tend to do really well on Facebook tend to rank really well in Google.
So it’s an indirect impact but it is a positive one and so I wouldn’t say “take Facebook off the table, I don’t care about it at all”, you should try and make some [0:22:53], especially if that’s something you’re passionate about and good at, go for it, make some content that you believe can do really well on Facebook and get picked up and become the centre of your industry or niche on social media.
Kate: And now I know that there’s some thinking that Google Plus obviously is kind of a good platform because if someone circles you or then with personalisation, your content may come up with their feed, and the same can kind of be said for Twitter. Lots of people hate Google Plus and lots of people don’t understand Twitter and they just want to do Facebook. I mean, I think it’s about kind of where your audience is and what you also enjoy because you’ve got to enjoy it to a degree, especially if you’re a small business and you’ve only got a little bit of time.
Rand: Yeah, I totally agree with you. I think that it is almost never the case that someone does really well at a platform or a form of content or form of marketing that they hate. I tried Snapchat, I just can’t get into it, it’s just not for me, I don’t enjoy it, it’s not interesting or useful, I don’t really like marking up photos and having them expire after 24 hours in the network; it’s not for me. I doubt I’m ever going to be great at it because I’m just not passionate about it. I think that’s totally fine to say “these are things that I like, these are things that I do not like. You know what, I’m going to concentrate on the things I like, try and get really good at those, use those as my marketing channels” and if it happens to be the case that you hate Twitter, fine, ignore it.
I think you do bring up two excellent points, and those are the two notable exceptions that I mentioned. One is Twitter, Twitter has a partnership with Google whereby Twitter and Tweet results will show up directly in the search box, especially for names and events and hashtags and other things like that. So if you’re doing something in the world of fresh content or your topics are consistently in the zeitgeist of what’s being discussed in social media, even if you’re not passionate about Twitter maybe find someone who is, because that’s pretty important and those can outrank all the rest of the organic results.
With Google Plus, yes, look in your ideal world, the best way to do social media for SEO would be to get everyone who’s ever going to search for anything in your topic to circle you on Google Plus, because then you’ll rank number one, well not number one always, but you will constantly get a personalised boost for every piece of content you share on Google Plus, for everyone who follows you. So if your audience is even at all on Google Plus, it could pay to be there at least a little bit, it’s getting a little less powerful, that personalisation is not as strong as it was say two or three years ago, it’s still there but not as strong, and we’re also seeing generally speaking in most niches with a few exceptions, travel, photography, marketing, blogging, that Google Plus is getting less engagement.
Kate: The next one is from Jason Stephens and he asked how will live streaming affect SEO?
Rand: There are certain forms of live streaming that will have real-time search and that Google’s going to do something like what they do with Twitter where they try and recognise those, you could see that here in the United States yesterday, President Obama made a State of the Union address and during that time, if you searched for SOTU, State of the Union or anything like that, you would get this real-time broadcast from YouTube right above the fold. So Google’s doing a little bit on that front right now for streaming content and I think we might see more innovation on that front long term.
But one thing I would say for now for sure is streaming content almost always, if it’s compelling and people want to see it again, record that stuff, put it up on your website, make it accessible through YouTube so that people can search either YouTube or Google and find it and then get to you. That’s a great form of content long term.
Kate: So this is an important question for Australian business, Australia’s only so big and there’s only so much of an audience here and a lot of businesses try and break through into the US market, because there’s so many of you Americans.
Rand: That’s true.
Kate: What are your tips for an Australia business wanting to rank in the US Google?
Rand: Yeah, I think there’s a few things that can certainly help you. One is almost definitely earning links from US based websites and US based businesses and organisations and people.
Another one for sure is going after engagement from the US, there’s no particular bias in the world of social media or email or content marketing or those kinds of things that’s country specific, it’s really just language groups, and so whether you’re in the UK or New Zealand or South Africa or wherever you might be, targeting the US is equally easy through those channels and so I would urge you to try and earn traffic, if you start to get engagement in traffic and attention from American visitors, Google will almost certainly recognise that and then start to put you in the results.
There’ve been a few cases, I can’t recall them off the top of my head but we’ve seen a few Australian websites do really well in the Google.com US results in the last year or two. The strategy of intentionally making your website non-geographic specific, so not using a .com.au but using a .com or a .net, Darren Rowse from Problogger who’s based in Australia uses a .net, does very well worldwide for the English language audiences, so that’s certainly a strategy.
Kate: Yeah, okay, great. And would you say that hosting plays any part in that, like would you think that it’s better to host in the US or you really don’t think it makes any difference?
Rand: I’ve heard it’s cheaper to host in the US, it makes a small amount of difference for two reasons. One is geo-targeting where Google does look at where you’re hosted as a small signal of geo-targeting, although the problem with being hosted in the US is it’s tougher for you then to reach Australian audiences and be listed in .com.au but the advantage could be a speed one. So if you’re hosted in the US you’re going to be faster generally speaking for American visitors; that portends all sorts of good things including a slight bump in Googles rankings from the speed boost they give, and better engagement rates as people are very picky about their download speeds.
Kate: And I mean, I think from my own experience, all the good stuff you do to your Australian site will influence your accessibility to American audiences. I see my own site doing better and better, I haven’t deliberately targeted the US, I have got a .com.au but I think just generally as you do more stuff it all has a positive benefit overall.
This is a question from [0:29:54] on Twitter, and he asked “do weak pages on your site damage strong pages. Should I kill all my weak pages?” So is it better to have like 10 super awesome pages rather than 100 crappy ones?
Rand: So the way that I would think about this is not in terms of link metrics or page authority or stuff like that. The way I think about it is in terms of visitor happiness and searcher success rate. So if you have a bunch of pages that the contents mediocre to poor, maybe a lot of it is copied content from elsewhere, maybe a bunch of it is content that is very thin, that just is not high quality and you can see that in your visitor analytics, right, the people who reach those pages tend to bounce more often, they tend not to browse further in the site, those pages get very little sharing, almost no links, all that kind of stuff; I would kill them, kill them.
However, if you’re telling me “hey, I have a bunch of pages that are really good quality and the people who do reach them enjoy them, the problem is they’re just not very popular, they don’t get reached very much, they don’t have very many links pointing to them, not many people visit them”. I would tell you to keep those, those are the kind that over time, as you grow the influence and authority of your site, will benefit from being on your domain.
So I would not kill those, I would kill the ones that have poor user usage metrics.
Kate: Okay, well coming to the end of our specific questions and this one is more of a general one, and again I know that you actually recently posted an article about this, what you thought were going to be the big things of 2016. I’m going to put you on the spot and say as a small business, what’s the one thing you’d be concentrating on in 2016, what do you think’s going to be the biggest thing for SEO?
Rand: So I think there’s two ways to kind of address that. One is to say what’s the one thing that is big in 2016 that I should really be doing and the other one is what’s the new big thing in 2016?
And so I would say that there’s nothing new that in my mind overshadows the importance of what’s been important the last five, six years in SEO, right, getting good keyword research, solid content and accessible site, good link worthiness and sharing and amplification.
I think what’s new, if you have not already done it, probably you have but just in case, is mobile friendliness. Another thing to be thinking about if you have a mobile application, an app that someone can download from the app store, I would think very carefully about your strategy there, there’s now new ways to get included in Google’s mobile results with your app from the Play Store or from iTunes.
And then the other thing that I’d say is it may pay in 2016, if you have an audience that is using apps, using the app stores, heavily on mobile, consider how you can get your brand, your name, your business into apps that may be popular. So even if you don’t have an app yourself, if you say “there’s a very popular app that does things in my niche, how do I partner with them, how do I buy ads from them, how do I get mentioned by them, how do I get included in their app, how do I optimise my listing inside their app”, whatever it is. I think those are good things to be thinking about in 2016, just because that mobile world is going pretty nuts.
Kate: App barnacling, is that right? Barnacle app.
Rand: App barnacle, yeah, there you go.
Kate: Cool, we’ll call it mobile barnacling, or limpeting or something like that. Anyway, now this question is moving away from SEO and it’s from Saijo George on Twitter, and he asks, this is a question about you.
“What’s the biggest business decision or mistake that you wish you could go back and change?”
Rand: Yeah, so, the answer is pretty much universally the same. So in 2011, maybe in 2010, I started Moz, this is when I was CEO. I started Moz down this path of building kind of an all-in-one tool and building it all together, so you could do all your SEO and your social media and your content and your analytics, all in one place. I thought that was going to be really important as SEO started doing all of those things.
Well, turns out kind of dead wrong on two fronts. One on the engineering side, it’s incredibly hard to ask a team, especially a small team as we were at Moz at that time, to try and build a massive complicated application that takes multiple years of work and never gets released to anyone in that time. So that’s a really poor way to do engineering, iterative software engineering is a much, much better way to go. If we were going to do that, if that was going to be a successful strategy, I think it had to be released piece by piece by piece and then upgraded and improved.
The second strategic mistake that was really big there was assuming that I knew how the industry was going to go. In fact what ended up happening is SEO stuck to SEO, professional social media marketers stuck to social media, professional content marketers and content strategists stuck to doing content, email marketers stuck to doing email, business intelligence and analytics ended up serving that audience. And so, you know what, this all-in-one thing was not the fantasy that I’d hoped it would be. So that’s a move I really wish I could take back, and instead concentrate on “hey, let’s build a best in class product just for SEOs, and then maybe later we’ll build a good one for social media marketers and another good one for content” and that kind of thing.
Kate: I think everybody dreams of an all-in-one tool though, so I can totally understand why you went that way, I’d love that, but maybe that’s just me.
Okay the last question, and this one’s a bit silly, but I was asked to ask it so be prepared. When I told my fan base that I was interviewing you, there were a lot of swoons and hearts and “love Rand’s”, so you’re kind of a bit of a heart throb in the SEO world. I was going to say like the Justin Bieber of SEO but I thought that was a bit rude. How about the Brad Pitt of SEOs, is that a bit better? How do you feel about that, are you aware of that or do you just ignore all that kind of stuff?
Rand: I think it’s one of those things where I’m remarkably funny looking in person. I think it’s just that I photograph well or something, I don’t know where that comes from.
No, I think it’s fun, it’s totally fine, I have not encountered it ever in person really, but I’ve seen a little bit of it online. No, it doesn’t bother me, it all seems in really good faith and good fun, right? I have not had weird stalkers or anything like that.
Kate: Yeah, I think it’s directly related to the moustache, so if you ever want to stop it, I think just snip those two side bits off and it’s all over.
Rand: It’s gone, it’s gone, okay.
Kate: Thank you so much for sparing the time, you’ve made it really easy and lovely so thank you for that.
Rand: I’m thrilled to hear it Kate, thank you for having me and best of luck to you and everyone in your audience.