Perrin and I were able to sit down recently and interview Rand Fishkin of Moz.com! If you have been in the SEO world for any period of time, you are likely well aware of Rand and the company he founded, Moz.
He is one of the most well-known and well respected entrepreneurs in the SEO space.
Perrin and I really relished our opportunity to pick Rand's brain for an hour on SEO, marketing, and his story.
Unfortunately, we were not quite as excited when we realized after the interview that most of the recording did not work properly! For some reason, my recording only got the first 10 seconds and then the last 17 minutes of the interview, and Perrin's backup recording didn't work at all.
In the words of my favorite sports announcer, Al McCoy, “Heatbreak Hotel!”
However, after Perrin and I dried our tears, we got back behind the microphone and recapped what Rand had discussed in the original interview. We know its not ideal, but we feel like there still is plenty of great content AND we do have the last 17 minutes of the original interview for you to listen to.
So what you will find below is the written summary of what was discussed, and the audio recording between Perrin and I along with the final 17 minutes of Rand's interview.
We wish we could have a mulligan on this one, and perhaps someday we will have Rand back on for a full recording; however, we still feel like there is enough value here to post.
We hope you enjoy the discussion!
Rand Fishkin Interview Questions and Re-cap
What was Rand doing before he started Moz.com?
Rand started working for his mother in her marketing firm right out of high school. At first he was helping build out websites for clients, and then eventually started getting involved in the overall marketing and SEO for companies.
He also dropped out of college and ended up staring SEOmoz (now Moz) as an SEO consulting company.
Did the Success of the software side of their business surprise them?
Absolutely. Rand expressed that they initially got into providing software and tools simply because they had already created the tools internally for their own use. Then they released those internal tools publicly and that side of their business really took off; much faster than expected.
As a result, they started to focus more on providing software solutions, and moved away from SEO consulting.
Is the Software business easier than the consulting business?
Rand surprised us, and said that the software business is more difficult. Part of the difficultly in SEO software lies in the fact that SEO and marketing are changing so quickly, that it can be difficult to keep the software relevant and updated.
Moz.com is doing very well, having received $18 million in funding in 2012. Here's some of the numbers Rand shared with us (as of July 2014):
- Premium monthly Moz Subscribers: 26,014
- Monthly site visitors: 2.5 to 3 million
Do you believe that negative SEO is happening?
Rand recently posted an article calling for a public example of negative SEO. So, he has found a couple of volunteers that are willing to donate their sites to the experiment; however, the experiments have not officially started yet.
They are currently working through some paperwork issues, and trying to find spammers that will actually spam the sites.
Rand does believe negative SEO could be happening, but he's not overly convinced at how effective negative SEO is with Google these days. That's why he wants an irrefutable example that can be studied.
Top Link Building Strategies of 2014; Rand's Thoughts
Recently posted on Moz.com was a guest post from Sky Rocket SEO detailing the top link building strategies being used in 2014. We asked Rand his thoughts specifically about paid links and blog networks (2 of the link building strategies mentioned).
Rand is not a fan of paid link or blog networks. However, some people still use them because they might work in some cases; but are often short lived and are risky.
When we asked Rand about private blog networks, he was not supportive of them at all. He felt like the people loudest about blog networks are usually also the people selling those links. And he felt like he hasn't seen a ton of evidence that these types of links are working very well.
He also said that PBNs are just a ton of work, so why not put the effort into building more white hat/outreach type links.
Rand feels like the best link building strategies involve outreach and networking. Provide great quality content on your site that is sharable, and then email and network with influencers, and that's the best way to generate links.
How to Effectively Outreach to Others for Links?
By emailing webmasters directly with your valuable content, you can lots get great links. Rand gets lots of emails and the ones that get a response from him or link are the one that have clearly followed and know him. These are personal emails that reference something that he's written or something that clearly Rand is interested in.
Rand even reaches out to others to network, these are obviously very personal emails after he has done a lot of research on the person.
How Important is On-Page SEO and Site Architecture?
Some portions of on-page SEO are still very important. But old-school on-page SEO like overusing keywords, bolding a certain number of keywords, and other tactics are no longer important.
User intent is now extremely important; Google understands what users are looking for now more than ever.
Are Silo Structures Important for Large Websites?
Rand has never seen the effectiveness of vertical silos and linking structures. He has never seen this be proven or to be effective for any of the large sites that get millions of visitors and pages that he has consulted on.
The vertical siloing that may be talked about on the “deep dark” web of SEO forums is just not true. There are not alot of secrets out there, and there is no secret of vertical siloing.
What IS effective is an architecture that gets real people where they want to go on your site with the greatest of ease. So, you can basically ignore any type of siloing and simply worry about the navigation and usability of the site. This is going to give you the real benefit.
The Future of SEO
Rand feels like SEO will be roughly the same in 5 years as it is today. In fact, SEO (keyword, crawling, links, and useability) are still roughly the same as they have been since 10 years ago.
How long will links be important?
Yes, links will continue to be important for a long time. We'd have to see some very fundamental shifts for how the web works before we see the importance of links change. Rand feels like links will definitely have a long life span ahead of it.
If Building a Large Website from Scratch; What are the Most Important Things to Keep in Mind?
Build a brand that people in your niche inherently feel are attractive, valuable, and unique. Lots of affiliates are shooting themselves in the foot by building a generic and non-differentiated websites.
Also, spend a considerable amount of time with the people that you are trying to help.
SEO Experiments with Rand
Rand is running lots of SEO experiments with a group he's involved with to learn more about how Google works.
Here's some of the experiments: bit.ly/mozmadscience. This is a slide deck that shares several experiments that Moz is conducting and the results. If you want to get involved in these experiments, they are looking for help.
Follow Along with Rand
Listen to the Podcast
If you want to skip ahead, the audio of Rand begins at just after the 25 minute mark. But I hope you'll listen to the first portion as well, as I think you'll find some value in the discussion between Perrin and I.