“Google’s way past the point where they should fear manipulation” > An Interview with Rand Fishkin

John Baker 5 years ago

He might not be Moz’s CEO any more but one face - plus a distinctive moustache - springs to mind when people think of the famous inbound marketing site.

The self-proclaimed Wizard of Moz, Rand Fishkin is the founder of Moz and co-founder of Inbound.org, an evangelist and addict of all things content, search and SEO, as well as a teacher of wisdom on the Moz Academy, and author.

A start-up junkie and lover of travel (with help from wife Geraldine), Rand experienced a difficult spell towards the end of 2014 with personal and professional issues and periods of self-doubt, which he wrote about here.

Rand took time out to tell us about the future plans for Moz in 2015/16, his influences, and what he would change about Google.

1) Describe your role in one sentence

My current title is "individual contributor" and I work specifically on marketing (many conferences, events, blog posts, big content pieces, etc), on the research tools section of our product (Open Site Explorer, Fresh Web Explorer, etc), and I sit on the board of directors as a founder.

2) What’s the best thing about your job, and what are the most frustrating things? How would you describe it to someone who knows nothing about marketing?

The best thing about my job is the people I work with and the help that we're able to provide to marketers.

The most frustrating thing for me right now is all of the processes and overheads involved in building and shipping product at Moz; a lot of that is due to our size (150+ people today vs. only 50 three years ago).

For those who know nothing about marketing, I usually explain Moz like this: there's a large industry of professionals who help businesses get more traffic from Google's non-paid results. We provide tools, content, and a community to help those folks succeed.

3) If you could have dinner with any three people, alive or dead, who would they be and why?

Ernest Hemingway, (Mexican painter) Frida Kahlo, and my wife, Geraldine (because I'm not very good dinner company on my own).

I love meeting interesting, artistic, people and I think Kahlo and Hemingway led remarkable, fascinating lives.

4) What’s your proudest achievement to date?

My marriage 🙂

5) Where do you think the Knowledge Graph is heading and what impact do you think it will have on the ranking factors in the coming year(s)?

I think aspects of what power Knowledge Graph - entities, semantic connections, search volume/popularity, etc - already have an impact on the ranking algorithm. Over time, I expect this to grow as KG itself gets more and more prevalent in Google's results.

6) If you could only carry five tools in your inbound marketing toolkit what would they be?

LinkedIn Pro: for hiring, recruiting, connecting with people
Moz Pro: not necessarily because it's the best at everything, but the quantity of tools that I use/need in one package is huge, and I simply couldn't get some pieces of it anywhere else
Wistia: my go-to for video hosting
Wordpress: just a great, flexible, industry-standard CMS
AdWords: still the best source of keyword data out there, even though it has plenty of issues

7) If you could build and launch your next tool tomorrow what would it do?

I'm really passionate about keyword research right now. I think it's the big area missing from Moz's toolbox.

Specifically, I want us to be able to find a lot of the long tail search terms and phrases that Google AdWords doesn't show, and offer them with data that helps marketers make informed decisions about prioritsation – such as difficulty of SERPs, relative traffic opportunity, more realistic volume estimates, etc.

8) Are there any lessons that can still be learned from traditional media and marketing techniques?

Absolutely! In fact, I'd say there's very little that's new to the field of digital marketing when it comes to understanding how people interact with a brand, with a message, or with a product.

Those are elements traditional marketers mastered over the last century, and many of us in digital marketing (myself included) still have a lot to learn from them.

9) If you could change just one thing about Google, what would it be?

I would make the ranking algorithm inputs transparent.

I think Google's way past the point where they need to fear manipulation if they listed all the types of data they use for rankings, I think it would make Google's business and the business of search marketing much less sketchy overall.

10) How is Moz preparing for the Mobile update?

We've been investing in a new, mobile-friendly version of the site, which will launch relatively soon. A very small portion of our traffic comes via mobile, though, so it'll be interesting to see whether the update has a big impact on Moz.

11) You wrote a very honest blog piece about your battle with depression last year that attracted many complimentary commments. How much thought did you give to writing such a piece? Do you think there is enough help generally for people who battle depression, and is there still a stigma attached to the term?

Part of my reason for writing it was precisely because people who've suffered often feel stigmatised and unable to be open about their experiences.

My hope was that by being transparent and sharing my issues, I could help others to feel more comfortable in owning their own feelings and challenges, and potentially seeking help.

12) Where do you see the big developments in search being in the next year?

Knowledge Graph and instant answers will continue to grow. Machine learning and deep learning are certainly on the horizon for Google. And I suspect more and more user and usage data is being figured into the functions of search result rankings, often without much awareness from marketers.

13) Who were/are your main influencers in life?

My wife, my co-workers, my investors, and the marketing community (not necessarily in that order).

14) What is Moz's goal for 2015/2016?

We want to launch products that are the clear choice for marketers focused on organic search, content marketing, and social media.

We're also aiming to decouple many of our products and not force customers to sign up for everything, if that's not what they want and will use. You'll see us splitting out parts of our product into segments over the next two years, and those elements will be purchasable separately.

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