Q&A Series: Rand Fishkin - The Wizard of Moz

To continue our fun Q&A Series, Wishpond had the privilege of chatting with the Wizard of Moz himself — Rand Fishkin. Aside from owning one of the dopest nicknames in marketing, Rand is known as a figurehead in the SEO community and offers-up some of the most valuable SEO content around in his Whiteboard Fridays.

We wanted to learn more about how he started in SEO, his insights on the current landscape, and that immaculate moustache he keeps.

Q: What got you so interested in the SEO space in the first place and what has you excited about it these days?

Initially, I got interested because it was a need our web design/development clients had (way back when I did that work in the early 2000s) and we no longer could afford to outsource it. It captured my attention soon after because it was such a challenging field to learn and there were so few resources — I felt an obligation to help others learn what I did, so they wouldn’t be making the same mistakes.

As for today – the thing I love most about SEO is the people. This industry has some of the most thoughtful, caring, kind, and generous folks I’ve ever encountered and I really want to make their professional lives easier and give back to a field that’s given me so much. I also love the dual aspects of technology and creativity required for great results. It’s like a game of Tetris – every element has a certain way it can fit together in optimal format. That’s compelling for me.

Q: What are your thoughts on the new media technologies, like FB Instant Articles, LinkedIn’s Pulse, Google’s instant answers/feature snippets, or anything that is meant to lock the consumer into a single platform, as it relates to the role of an SEO?

I hate lockins generally, and I certainly hate them when they try to drive ownership and value away from the broader web and towards a single platform. I think publishers need to decide how they can take advantage of these opportunities without building too much on rented land. Every effort you put into Facebook or Google or LinkedIn should have the goal of driving traffic back to your website and brand so you can own the relationship — not someone else.

Q: What’s the story behind your Whiteboard Friday’s and how do you determine the topics each week?

It was a content experiment many years ago to share some concepts of SEO on a whiteboard video. It wasn’t initially a big hit, but we stuck with it, iteratively improved, and today, it’s one of our most popular forms of content.

As for determining the topics – most of it comes from my interactions in and around the SEO world. I watch what gets shared on Twitter, what people are discussing in the Moz Q+A forums, what’s hot in the tech and search marketing news, and I take a lot of requests (usually via tweets – so if there’s a topic you wish I’d cover, just tweet @randfish).

Q: What’s the biggest SEO mistake you see still being made these days?

I still see a tremendous number of websites and marketers not thinking at all about the words and phrases their audience is using to search – keywords. Without keyword targeting, and intent targeting within your content, it’s almost impossible to consistently rank well and earn traffic from the search engines, even if you do everything else right.

Q: What’s one tip you can give marketers today to make their efforts stand out in such a crowded environment?

Before you create content – ask the question: “Who will help amplify this and why?” If you don’t have a great answer with a list of folks whom you believe will be likely amplifiers, don’t create it; choose something else. Amplification is essential to standing out in a crowded, noisy field, and the world of web content is nothing if not those.

Q: What’s your moustache maintenance ritual like and how does it improve your skills as an SEO? (I must say it’s glorious.)

Ha! I’m not sure it has any impact on SEO (maybe Google’s autosuggest will one day associate my name with mustaches, though). I do make sure to wash it regularly (shampoo and conditioner, just like hair), and I use Beardbrand’s mustache wax to keep it from getting bushy and weird.