Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 90: Q&A with Rand Fishkin

October 30, 2017 Matt Heinz

By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

Late in 2015 we started producing a bi-weekly radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which runs live every other Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Pacific, moving soon to 11:30 a.m. Pacific.  It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests into 2016. Our very first guest was Funnelholic author and Topo co-founder Craig Rosenberg.  Next we had Mike Weinberg, incredible writer, speaker, author, followed by Conrad Bayer, CEO & Founder of Tellwise.  Recent Guests: Jim KeenanJoanne BlackAaron RossJosiane FeigonMeagen Eisenberg, and Trish Bertuzzi.

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes.  You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.

We were thrilled this last time to be able to talk to Rand Fishkin, the Wizard of Moz.  Listen in or read our conversation below.

The Wizard of Moz, will take away the misconception of what SEO does to affect marketing. The first thing is to blow up the myths, then understand how you can use it to your advantage, and finally how to interpret the information and apply it to more growth and success. You’ll also hear about Moz Explorer. It’s the one tool to discover and prioritize the best keywords to target. Try out it: https://moz.com/explorer

Matt:  We’ve got an amazing guest today. I am super excited, and humbled to have our guest with us today. I do have to say though we always tell people hey listen, this is Sales Pipeline Radio. We are here every week live at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern.

You can catch us on our podcast. We are always available everywhere fine podcasts are available, Google Play, iTunes Store. Every past episode of Sales Pipeline Radio is available at SalesPipelineRadio.com. And we every week are featuring insights, and interviews with some of the best, and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing.

And when I give that spiel Paul at the beginning of every episode I always wonder like okay, we get our subscriber numbers have been just, just unbelievable.

Paul:  I see it every time I look on there’s new people joining in, or signing up.

Matt:  Fantastic. I had someone from Gartner tell me this week, so CEB is now owned by Gartner. Someone literally said that a member of her marketing team gets upset when she schedules meetings at 11:30 on Thursday because she’s listening to us live.

Paul:  Yeah. Well in fact, I don’t know whether you saw it, but the output numbers were down for the country as a whole. Business output was down because for a half hour everybody’s listening to show.

Matt:  Basically what I want to do is I want to say Emily thank you, since that you’re probably listening live. Emily, this show is for you.

Matt:  Thank you so much for listening live. And for everyone that joins us whether you’re live, or on demand. I want to get right into our guest today. We’ve just been so blessed to have so many amazing people come, and join us on the show, and today is no exception.

Today we have the Wizard of Moz, the founder of Moz, one of the smartest guys in the country, in the world on all issues of SEO, and content marketing, Rand Fishkin joining us on the Sales Pipeline Radio today. Rand, thank you so much for taking time to join us.

Rand Fishkin:  My pleasure. Glad to be here guys.

Matt:  So I’ve had the opportunity to see Rand speak a number of times, read a lot of his great content. Very, very knowledgeable guy, stays on the pulse of what’s working in content marketing and SEO.

Maybe let’s just start there Rand. You’ve been in this space a long time, you’ve seen SEO evolve in a number of different ways. Where are we today with SEO in terms of what it represents, and where its place sits in the B2B marketing mix?

Rand Fishkin:  Yeah well, in B2B marketing I think SEO is still the primary channel. B2B marketing it tends to be the case that you are very often serving an audience that’s seeking out your product for the first time, or they’re investigating options, and competitors, and therefore search is where they turn.

So when people go to Google especially when they’re trying to learn about a practice, or a product, or space, ranking in the organic results is absolutely one of the best things that you can do for your business.

And I think that we’ve long surmised that maybe something will be the death of search. Right? Maybe it’ll be social media. Maybe it would be mobile, the mobile web. Right? And that, that would kill it. Or maybe it would be voice search.

And so far none of these things have proven true. So we do a bunch of analysis at Moz of QuickStream data from providers like, Jumpshot, and others, and SimilarWeb. And basically search has continued to grow the share of B2B sites in particular who get traffic from Google. That percentage of the traffic, that they get from sources Google has continued to go up. Even though it’s been dominant for a decade plus, it keeps going up. So yeah, SEOs that’s kind of where it’s at.

Matt:  I completely agree, and I think we’ll talk a little bit later about the investment it takes to really not just rank, and get good content going, but what kind of impact that can have. And when we think about buy in journeys, we think about sales process. And if we break that up into discovery phases at the beginning of the sales process, evaluation phases in the middle, and then justify the decision at the end.

There’s been plenty of research by a number of different people including CEB and Gartner that indicate, that not only the supplier website is one of the top sources of information, but people continue to go to search, people continue to go to Google, and search for topics-

Rand Fishkin:  Yeah.

Matt:  At the end of the sales process. So this is not just about getting discovered as part of the consideration set. This isn’t just about educating new customers. Search has a vital role for B2B buyers at every stage.

Rand Fishkin:  It really does. Well and when you think about search right, there’s paid search, and there’s organic search. And paid search is essentially the ad results up at the top, that you see, that are labeled with a little ad from Google. They’re barely noticeable, but they still get most of the clicks. Sorry, they still get about 2% of the clicks. About the same percent that they were getting even when they were much more clearly labeled as ads.

The frustrating part I think for a lot of organizations is that if you play in search, and you’re spending on PPC on AdWords. Right? That budget is extremely high for a lot of folks because B2B keywords tend to be very expensive. There’s a lot of people bidding in most of the competitive spaces. And the click-through rates are one to two percent, which is okay.

But then the conversion rates drop from there, and so you’re just paying an incredible sum of money to Google to get this traffic when the organic results are sitting right below. They get about 10 to 20 times the amount of clicks that the paid search results do. So one to two percent click-through rate versus a 20 to 40 percent click-through rate.

And they don’t cost anything. I mean not per click anyway. Or maybe it’s effort that you put in, it’s energy you put in, it’s sometimes you need consultants, or agencies, or an in-house person doing that work. But man, if you can bring that cost down it’s transformative for your CLTV to CAC ratio.

Matt:  Yeah. What I want to talk a little bit about investment, and ROI of doing SEO work, and really the content behind it. Talking with Rand Fishkin who is the Founder of Moz, and is the Wizard of Moz. One of the preeminent SEO experts in the country here on Sales Pipeline Radio.

If someone comes to you and says listen I need to get some traffic, and some leads off of Google right now, you’re stuck with having to pay the tax of the ads

Rand Fishkin:  Yeah.

Matt:  But if you start to create good content, good meaningful, relevant content, that matches what people are selling, or what people are searching for over time you can start to earn that traffic, and then you get a little bit of an annuity there. It’s kind of like a river where if you’re ranking you are able to continue to get that without that ongoing per click fee.

Talk a little bit about the investment required though. I think there’s still a lot of people assume they’re going to put up a blog post, and it’s going to start flowing right away. What does it take?

Rand Fishkin:  Oh yeah, no. That’s right you just have to use the right meta tag, and then stuff your keyword into the title 25 times. No. Sorry. Sorry. It’s not 1997 anymore so that stuff doesn’t work. Yeah. It is a serious investment. And there’s a bunch of elements that go into it.

I’ll just talk about a few of the core pieces that Google considers. And I think that’ll help folks get a grasp of oh, that’s what it takes to do SEO.

So you mentioned the relevance of the content. That is important. So Google has very, very sophisticated algorithms, and pattern matching systems to be able, and natural language processing systems to be able to read content not quite like a human being can, but almost. So close that it’s getting scary.

And that means that content, that is written in such a way that it grabs the attention of the reader. That it takes them down a path, and tells a great story in addition to providing great information. And it serves them in the way that they’re seeking. And maybe even surprises them, and engages them.

That type of content will tend to outperform the hey, I made good relevant content that uses keywords. Why aren’t I ranking? And it’s the difference between something that is exceptional, and truly engages readers, and searchers versus something that merely provides good, relevant information.

The second piece is keywords still do matter. So whatever someone types into the search bar, that is the keyword, or what SEOs call the keyword. And that query strain using it in your title, and your headlines does still matter. I mean it’s still important, and is certainly recommended, but it’s not the only thing.

Next piece is links. So, many links that are editorially given, meaning you didn’t pay for them, you didn’t have to cajole them, or violate any FTC Guidelines. Sorry. FCC Guidelines to get them. And that they come from a diverse set of other domains. And hopefully they contain the keyword, or the query when they link to you. And even more hopefully they actually link to the page, that you want to rank not just your homepage, or some other page on your website.

And then the fourth piece is user signals. This is something that’s grown dramatically over the last couple of years. But essentially when we’re talking about user signals, we’re talking about pogo sticking a lot. And that is essentially someone performs a search.

So Paul, you do a search, you click on result number three from, I don’t know, RandFishkin.com, and you get to RandFishkin.com, and it loads kind of slow, and then it has a little pop up overlay, that says like, “Enter your email address for a chance to win.” And you close that, and you think, you know what this site is a bunch of garbage. They’re already asking me for my email. I haven’t even gotten any value. I’m clicking the back button.

And within three or four seconds you click the back button, and you choose another result in Google. Maybe the number seven result. If Google sees that pattern over time quite a bit as it relates to RandFishkin.com, they’re going to push me down in the rankings, and push someone else up. So those user signals matter a lot. So maybe there is other stuff, but I think those four are pretty core.

Matt:  Yeah, that’s really, really, helpful. And I think that, that last one is really important. I think people figure when they get that traffic let’s get them converted right away. And that may work for a temporary-

Rand Fishkin:  No.

Matt:  Period of time, but not going to last.

Rand Fishkin:  I mean that’s the way they do it in the QPC.

Matt:  I really appreciate you sharing all that level of detail. I think that one thing you are well known for Rand is just the generosity, and the openness to just sharing ideas.

And I think there’s probably a lot of people that don’t know you necessarily as the Founder of Moz, or formerly SEOmoz. But a lot of people know you as the Whiteboard Friday guy. Your videos have just taken on a life of their own. I’m always impressed at the depth. I’m impressed that you continue to do them on a regular basis. Could you talk a little bit about how those started, and what that has become as a marketing channel for Moz, and as a channel, and form for you?

Rand Fishkin:  Oh sure. Yeah so, Whiteboard Friday is this weekly video series, that basically covers usually SEO and web marketing topics. They’re about 10 minutes in length. And they started because we had got a video camera. This is gosh 2007 so a decade ago now.

And I was explaining a concept to one of my colleagues on the whiteboard, and he said, “Hang on, I’ll grab the camera. We’ll film it. We’ll put it on the blog.” It was an informal kind of thing.

You’re not going to believe this, that post, and the next few videos, that we did, they were the worst performing posts every week for six months. The worst performing posts that we had on the blog were always the videos.

Matt:  Yeah.

Rand Fishkin:  The quality was bad. The engagement was low. They did okay, but they didn’t do great. We stuck with them because we thought we could get better at it, and because we liked the format, and we were passionate about trying it, and trying to get better.

Today Whiteboard Friday is consistently, and for the last six years probably, the best, most engaging content that we get. It is the number one piece of content when we measure how content performs in our free trial funnel. Sometimes there’s a software, or service business has a free trial. And if you look at people who’ve taken the free trial, and what content they’ve visited prior to taking a free trial, Whiteboard Friday is number one or number two.

Matt:  That’s amazing.

Rand Fishkin:  It’s like a lot of things in SEO, and content. You stick with it, you improve, you get better, the results improve too.

Matt:  Yeah. I think it’s a good example of just needing to stick with it, and give some of this content time not only to rank, and marinate, but also to get better. I mean a lot of things we start, a lot of things anybody starts, the kernel of something is there, and as you’ve continued to hone the format, and how you use the whiteboard, and even props, and a lot of other really cool things you guys do it’s definitely been I think just an amazing example to a lot of other marketers of what good content can be.

We’re going to have to take a quick break. We’ve got to pay some bills. We’ve cot to run a couple commercials. We’ll be back. We’re going to talk a little bit more with Rand Fishkin, the Wizard of Moz, the Founder of Moz.

And we’re going to talk a little bit more about content marketing SEO. We’re also going to talk about Rand the leader. He’s done some really fascinating things as he’s evolved his role, and the work he’s done at Moz. We’ll be right back in a couple minutes. This is Sales Pipeline Radio.

*Break*

Paul:  All right, and rush right back because we’ve got the Wizard of Oz, and the Wizard of Moz here going through SEO. I’ve got a question for you guys here. We’re talking about SEO.

You talk about the power of keeping people on the site longer. Is that still a metric that Google looks at in ranking Search Engine Optimization? Because the theory is audio keeps you on for 20, 30 minutes. A video keeps you on for five minutes, or 10 minutes. Is that important how long people stay on the site?

Matt:  Rand, what’d you got on that?

Rand Fishkin:  Sort of. It sort of matters. So it’s basically in relation to other things. So let’s say for example that someone visited your site directly, and spent a long time there, and they were using Google Chrome, and you have Google Analytics, and they have the Google Toolbar installed so you know Google’s getting the data. Does that help your rankings at all? Well probably not. In fact almost certainly not.

But if for example someone performs a search query in Google Search engine, and then they click on your website, and they spend a considerable amount of time, and they browse around, and they don’t go back to Google until their next search, which has nothing to do with whatever you were providing, and you take them all the way through their journey, and accomplish their task, that will be very positive.

So it’s not really about time on site, it’s about searcher task accomplishment. You helped the searcher accomplish their task, Google will reward you for that. Sometimes that task can be accomplished.

I mean you think about Dictionary.com. They can accomplish the searcher’s task in 10 seconds. So they don’t need to keep people on the site any longer to prove to Google that they’ve done their job. Right? They can show that in a very short amount of time. So it’s really, it’s very relative.

Matt:  Yeah. I think like a lot of things in SEO there isn’t one silver bullet, it’s a lot of things working together. We got Rand Fishkin today on Sales Pipeline Radio. I’m going to try summarize a little bit of Rand because you have been on quite a journey. Local Seattle guy, went to the University of Washington. You were the intramural football team captain, which is very impressive.

Rand Fishkin:  What? How did you find that?

Matt:  Look LinkedIn profiles tell us a lot of things. Right? You dropped out with two classes to go, and then you started SEO Moz.

Obviously Moz has become a standard in the SEO field. You co-founded Inbound.org with the co-founders of HubSpot. You are a mustache aficionado. This journey has been fascinating. It’s been fun to watch your growth over the last several years.

One of the things that’s also impressed me is your transparency. You are known for writing very in-depth pieces on your journey including your path to get funded. Your decision to hand off the reins. Why is that transparency as a leader, as a marketer, as an entrepreneur, why has that been so important to you?

Rand Fishkin:  Yeah. So I think you guys know I just finished writing a book called, Lost and Founder, which doesn’t come out until the middle of next year, but is also very transparent. And I spent a bunch of time at the start of it describing exactly that. Like why be so transparent? Why does that matter so much? My publisher was interested in that too.

And a big part of that for me is that growing up, and very early in my career I did things the other way. Right? There’s just a lot of, it wasn’t terrible stuff. Right? But a lot of stuff between my parents, and family members of, “Hey, don’t tell your dad we did this. Hey, don’t tell your mom we went here. Hey, don’t tell the guy at the grocery store that you’re seven because if you’re six and under we get this for free.” That kind of stuff.

And I think I just reacted really, really poorly to all of that. And so since then I’ve had this, I don’t know what you want to call it, addiction. Addiction, this need to share. Right? To get things out especially the most embarrassing things, and the most, the hardest things, which is why I talk about topics like, anxiety, and depression, and failures, that Moz has had because I think that stuff shouldn’t be hidden. It shouldn’t be shameful.

Matt:  Well.

Rand Fishkin:  It should be part of the conversation.

Matt:  Well I think we get some of our best lessons from our failures.

Rand Fishkin:  Yeah.

Matt:  And I think when we look at others around us it’s easy to see other people’s five percent. We go on Facebook, we go on Instagram. I mean even as business owners you and I both, I know many times where I got the question, “Oh, how’s business going?” And our default answer often times oh, it’s going great. But what I really want to say is well, here’s all the you know what, that I’m actually dealing with.

Rand Fishkin:  Yeah.

Matt:  And chewing glass all back here. So I think having that level of transparency it’s not only I think it sounds like a little bit cathartic for you, but also I know very helpful for others, that are going through a similar journey.

Almost four years ago you gave up the reins. I mean you started the business, you ran the business, you were the CEO, and your longtime COO, Sarah Bird, you handed off the reins. Was that a difficult decision for you? Has it been difficult to see someone else day-to-day managing what is your baby?

Rand Fishkin:  Oh sure, yeah. No, I think that’s a really tough thing. And it was, let’s see I want to say it was a tough thing to do, but an easy decision in the moment four years ago-

Matt:  Mm-hmm.

Rand Fishkin:  Because I was having a lot of mental, and emotional struggles, and I don’t think that, that’s a healthy thing for the leader of a company especially a software startup, that has investors, and employees with stock options, and all those people have expectations about what the business is going to do.

And I felt, I think I still do, I feel very proud of the seven years, that I ran Moz and the SEO, and the growth that we experienced. I think we built a great place to work, and a great company, and a mediocre product. But one that in that space there were no products, and so even mediocre was better than nothing for a long time. And now I think there’s significant competition, and the products have got to improve, and that’s a good thing. But yeah, it was hard. It was hard.

Matt:  Yeah.

Rand Fishkin:  It remains hard. You guys know that I’m leaving, I’ll be leaving Moz next year. Our CEO Sarah wrote a repost announcing that this summer.

Matt:  So I want to talk about a little bit about what’s next for you. So first I want to talk about how Moz continues to grow in its utility, and its importance for marketers.

Rand Fishkin:  Yeah.

Matt:  And one of the tools that you guys have, I mean either this is a newer tool, or maybe it’s newer to me that I just discovered it is the Keyword Explorer.

Rand Fishkin:  Yeah.

Matt:  And I think this is particularly important for folks, that want to take better advantage of everything we talked about in the first half of the show around better aligning with what people are talking about, what they’re asking about.

Just in a couple minutes just quickly summarize what is the Keyword Explorer, and why should people be using this. And by the way if you’re listening and want to check this out while he’s answering. You can go to Moz dot com slash explorer, and check this great tool out.

Rand Fishkin:  Yeah. Well thanks for the mention of Moz Explorer. So actually Keyword Explorer is the last product, that I worked on. I got to design it with this ragtag team at Moz, which was really fun. It was a few engineers, and product people, that other teams, in some cases didn’t want, but in other cases just were sort of extraneous to their next projects. And I was like, give ’em to me, give ’em to me, I’ll make a new thing.

So I’m really excited that we put this 80s movie montage team together, and then built Keyword Explorer. But the idea behind it is I wanted a keyword research tool, that would allow you to search for a topic, or anything in your space, and see all the keywords from all kinds of different sources along with their truly accurate volume scores, accurate difficulty like, how hard is it going to be to rank, and then accurate click-through rate numbers meaning what percent of the searchers are likely to click on the organic results for this search?

And so Keyword Explorer tries to take those three metrics, which a lot of professional SEOs tried to build on their own in Excel spreadsheets, or Google Docs, and synthesize those into lists, that you can create of your own keywords that matter to you. And then you can prioritize those, and say okay, here we go, this one has a lot of volume, but it’s going to be really hard to rank, and few people click on the organic results so actually let’s go after this other keyword, which is not nearly as competitive. It doesn’t have as much volume, but we think we can gain a lot more traffic much easier for that one.

Matt:  That’s great. Definitely check this out. Moz.com/explorer. As we definitely have run out of time. But I just real quick in like 20 seconds, if you want to check out more about Rand, you can definitely go to Moz.com. Check out the blog, you’ll get the Whiteboard Friday.

And I know that the book is a couple months out, pre-orders aren’t available yet so we don’t have a place to send people yet for the book, but they can definitely I’m sure you’ll be talking about it on the blog, and through Moz’s social channels.

Talk just in a couple seconds just what’s the book about, and what should we be looking forward to?

Rand Fishkin:  Yeah. So the book takes the position that a lot of the traditional Silicon Valley startup advice is actually broken, and wrong, and can take you on the wrong path. And I tell that story through Moz’s journey, and then show a bunch of examples of maybe some alternatives to consider.

Matt:  Yep. Awesome. Thank you very much. All right. We are out of time. Paul is giving me all kinds of signals on the other side of the studio. So we are going to cut, we are going to have to move on.

We really appreciate everything that we’ve gotten today from Rand Fishkin, the Wizard of Moz, just a great human being, great marketer, super as you can tell, very generous, and very knowledgeable guy.

So thank you so much Rand, for joining us. If you want to share this episode with some of your other colleagues make sure you get the full replay at Sales Pipeline Radio dot com as well as every one of our past episodes. And in a couple days we’ll also have a summary of this episode up on our blog at HeinzMarketing.com.

Until then, and until next Thursday, where we’ll be back here live with another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. For my great Producer Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us. Sales Pipeline Radio.

 

The post Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 90: Q&A with Rand Fishkin appeared first on Heinz Marketing.

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