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August 9, 2011

SEO Expert: Rand Fishkin Interview

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about interviewing top online marketers as an entertaining way of changing things up with my articles – but also to share with you different viewpoints, opinions and levels of expertise. Anyway, this is my first attempt in what I hope to be a regular series of interviews with top marketers (we’ll see how it goes). So without further ado, it is my pleasure to bring to you my interview with highly-respected SEO expert, Rand Fishkin. For those of you who don’t know who Rand Fishkin is. Here’s a brief bio:

Rand Fishkin is the CEO & Co-Founder of the web’s most popular SEO Software provider; SEOmoz. He co-authored The Art of SEO from O’Reilly Media and was named to the 40 Under 40 List and 30 Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs Under 30.

Rand has been written about in The Seattle Times, Newsweek and PC World among others and keynoted conferences on search around the world. He’s particularly passionate about the SEOmoz blog, read by tens of thousands of search professionals each day.

David Jackson: How are you today, Rand?

Rand Fishkin: Not bad. Busy as always, but at least I’m home in Seattle (a rare event indeed!)

David Jackson: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.

Rand Fishkin: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

David Jackson: Rand, how has SEO changed since you started your SEO business way back in 2002?

Rand Fishkin: Many of the core fundamentals remain the same, but the responsibilities and opportunities have grown 100-fold.

David Jackson: In your opinion, is Google headed in the right direction with Panda and all its algorithm updates, or do you think Google can and should be doing more to ensure the integrity of their search results?

Rand Fishkin: I’m generally a fan of Panda – I think the goals are good and the process makes sense to me. I do worry, as I always do with Google, that their lack of direct, clear communication and obliqueness around metrics, data and inputs hurts good, honest, less savvy sites and webmasters while rewarding black hats who can test and observe. It’s been this way forever with Google and I think it’s a strategic mistake on their part. I believe more transparency around Panda and everything else to do with Google search will yield better results for the web as a whole.

David Jackson:
I’m a huge proponent of using article marketing for acquiring inbound links. What do you think about this SEO strategy?

Rand Fishkin: It really depends on what you mean by “article marketing.” In the SEO world, there are a lot of shady tactics associated with that phrase, including article “spinning” (where a single piece is changed or rewritten to be semi-unique and then re-posted on dozens or hundreds of sites) or submission to content farms like EzineArticles, Suite101, etc. I would not endorse or recommend those techniques. If you mean contributing a great piece of useful, high value material to third-party sites, similar to guest blogging, then I’m usually in favor, but again, it depends on how it’s done and on the value you’re creating for users.

David Jackson: Monolithic, mega-popular article directories like EzineArticles, Buzzle and Associated Content took a major hit because of the “Panda” update. What are your thoughts on submitting to article directories as part of an SEO strategy?

Rand Fishkin: There are better uses for your time. If you find a popular blog or news site in your niche and contribute something phenomenal and useful – the kind of thing that will bring them hundreds of tweets and dozens of comments – that’s a far better goal than getting listed in 400 article directories of questionable rankings and value.

David Jackson:
I couldn’t agree more. What are your thoughts on Google+? Do you like it or dislike it?

Rand Fishkin: I love it, actually. I think Google’s got a potential win on their hands, but they need to be upgrading and improving quickly AND getting more and more thought leaders and businesses engaged there so it doesn’t become a fly-by-night phenomenon.

David Jackson: New kid-on-the-block Bing has been growing by leaps and bounds. What are your thoughts on Bing as a search engine, and ultimately as a credible competitor to Google?

Rand Fishkin: Hmm… I’m not sure what you mean by “growing by leaps and bounds.” Bing’s definitely improved relevancy, created some very cool features in different search verticals (travel or sports, for example). But, their market share has increased in the US only at the cost of Yahoo!, AOL, Ask and other smaller engines. They’ve yet to eat share from Google. I wish them all the best of luck, but my honest opinion is that they won’t be able to win here in the US or overseas until they seriously change the search game. I believe that requires moving them out of Microsoft’s HQ in Redmond and treating them more like a separate company/entity (like what Microsoft did with Xbox).

David Jackson: Is the hype about utilizing social media marketing for SEO purposes warranted, or is it overblown in your opinion?

Rand Fishkin: Generally warranted. Social has a ton of positive second-order effects on SEO (links, content, engagement, audience, branding, etc) and is now starting to have more direct impacts, too. Doing SEO today without leveraging social is akin to tying one hand behind your back. It’s possible, but why would you do it?

David Jackson: Google recently lifted its penalty on which it levied for cheating back in February. Do you think Overstock got off lightly, or was the penalty it received fair?

Rand Fishkin: I’d say they were treated relatively fairly. Overstock’s content quality is still something that needs a lot of work, but they do deliver good value to consumers and so long as they’re not manipulating results, deserve to be included.

David Jackson: I recently converted dozens of my articles intovideos, using conversion software. What are your thoughts on using video as part of an SEO strategy?

Rand Fishkin: I feel like video conversion rarely adds a lot of value unless folks are investing tons of time into quality editing, gorgeous images, etc. Just making a video of text with a generic photo background feels like spam to me.

David Jackson: Well, that’s one opinion. Personally, I don’t think a video needs to be slickly produced to have value. The value is in the content – not the packaging. I guess you and I will have to agree to disagree on this one.

Rand, in the last couple of years, I’ve started to see a trend toward the use of video sales letters to promote products and services. What are your thoughts on video sales letters? Is it something you would use?

Rand Fishkin: Definitely. I think video (good video) is a great way to better entice and share your message with an audience. Video lets you show a product in ways that text and images can’t. I hope we get an SEOmoz PRO video up sometime soon 🙂

David Jackson: Hundreds of online retailers, including Amazon and Overstock, cut ties with California’s estimated 25,000 affiliates after the state passed a law that requires them to collect sales tax on in-state purchases, according to the Performance Marketing Association. What are your thoughts on that, and do you think other states will follow California’s example?

Rand Fishkin: I think business is almost always about incentives and economics. Amazon/Overstock/etc. feel they have a shot at controlling this issue, and they’re financially incentivized to try these tactics.

David Jackson: Rand, thanks again for taking the time to do this interview. I really appreciate it, and I’m sure the interview has been beneficial to my readers as well.

Rand Fishkin: Thanks for having me!

David Jackson is a marketing consultant and the owner of – Powerful, free marketing tips to help grow your business!