Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Monday, March 21, 2011

Entrepreneurship, Google Panda And Content Strategies: Key Recommendations From SEOmoz' Rand Fishkin

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Just a few days ago I had the pleasure of meeting face-to-face, with SEOmoz founder and SEO expert Rand Fishkin. Rand had been invited by the LUISS University of Rome in conjunction with the American Embassy to deliver, for the first time, the business story of his company, SEOmoz: from the early days of dropping out of college, just a couple of exams before graduation, to the receiving of his first VC call out of the blue, to its raising profitability and online success.

Photo credit: Robin Good

Before Rand actually delivered this one-hour long story, which I am also going to publish right here on MasterNewMedia, he was kind enough to spare a few extra minutes with me to answer some questions about online business models, SEO, content strategy and the Google Farmer / Panda update.

These, the questions I asked him and which he answered in a set of short video clips here below:

  1. What are the most effective revenue models that have worked for you?
  2. Google Farmer Update: who is affected, what the consequences, how can you detect them, what's best to do?
  3. Your updated content strategy advice.
  4. New emerging SEO variables that we must pay greater attention to.

Here is SEOmoz' Rand Fiskin advice on each one:


Entrepreneurship, Google Panda and Content Strategies: Key Recommendations from SEOmoz' Rand Fishkin

Online Business Models

Duration: 0' 51''

Full English Text Transcription

Rand Fishkin: Ciao, I am Rand Fishkin.

What are the most effective revenue models that have worked for me?

We found a subscription revenue to be extremely valuable. Letting people subscribe to content, to tools, to software on a monthly recurring basis has been really excellent for our business.

Prior to that, we did consulting, some advertising. Neither of those were nearly as scalable.

We found a lot of challenges in getting that revenue to turn over consistently, particularly with consulting engagements in the SEO field.

Working with a client continuously means that you cannot work with a new one because you do not have more bandwidth. Advertising it is sort a little bit the same story: You only have so much space and so many visitors to sell.

Software scales beautifully - that is why we like that model so much.


Google Farmer Panda Update

Duration: 2' 10"

Rand Fishkin: I wrote a little bit about this on the SEOmoz blog, but the Farmer update (which is also called Panda) has a number of interesting features.

One of them is that for the first time in a major way, Google is looking at user and usage data signals.

This means: You have the Google Toolbar installed, you are using Google Chrome - which is their browser, which has finally gotten pretty hard popular now on the technology world - you are using Google free Wi-Fi, the PageRank link on the toolbar in FireFox.

Any of those things can give Google data about:

  1. How long you stay on a page or a site,
  2. whether you browse many pages there,
  3. whether you are happy with the transactions,
  4. whether you achieve what they call search success - meaning you perform a query, you go to a site and then you do not go back to Google and perform the same search.

All those signals are now being used in this Panda / Farmer update to help determine which sites to rank and which ones to devalue - and that is sort of weird, because classically a lot of SEOs have thought: "I have to worry about my keywords, my on-page stuff, links".

They never thought: "I have to worry about whether visitors are happy with my website." Now you have to worry about that. I think that is the biggest implication.

Locally the solution is good for Google, but is also good for your visitors.

Your visitors are happier, they are completing their transactions, they are going many pages deep in your site, they are finding what they want, you are going to do better.

This was something specifically targeted at content farms, people like HubPages, Suite101, Ezine articles, etc.

I would urge you to check out those sites, see what differentiates them from sites that won: places like Facebook, Scribd, LinkedIn, even did a little better in this update than some of the other properties.

Compare those two and you will see there is sort of almost a mouth feel, you can get a sense of it, but I cannot describe it well, this page fills like a farm - and that is really what caught them.


New SEO Variables

Duration: 1' 27"

Rand Fishkin: Two of the biggest new variables that we have not seen are these user and usage data - which I mentioned previously.

That means that there are going to be some opportunities to essentially win by making visitors happy, winning SEO by making visitors happy, but there are also a lot of social signals that are making it in - Twitter and Facebook specifically - also data from LinkedIn and data from possibly places like StumbleUpon or Quora in the future as those site searches to gain traction, achieve a critical mass.

The search engines - particularly Google that has integration with all of these services through a OAuth authentication - they will be able to "see" who is in your social circle, what they are and are not sharing, what they like and do not like.

In the past getting a link from a page could be a lot easier than saying: "How do I get ten or twenty of my friends to like this page on Facebook?"

People are willing to link to spam, junk or low quality stuff from their websites if you pay them, but people feel inauthentic in doing it on Facebook and people will stop being their friends, stop retweeting them, stop following them if they share spam kinds of things.

Those more authentic signals are going to have more and more power going forward.


Content Strategy

Duration: 1' 10"

Rand Fishkin: Quality is winning over quantity.

It used to be the case - it still is a little bit today - that on the web there was a lot of missing information, that information that needed to exist, essentially did not exist.

You could produce pretty low quality stuff and still get rankings and traffic and do well.

Now that is beginning to be less and less the case, because there are so many people on the Internet producing good content, you need to be something special to stand out from the crowd.

That is hard, but it does mean that there is a big opportunity for people who are willing to invest time, energy and resources into saying: "I am going to go around Rome, I am going to provide the best restaurant reviews in the city, they are going to be detailed, I am going to have photos, I am going to interview the chef", as opposed to "I am going to get just a list of all the restaurants in Rome and then provide the number of stars or user ratings that people are going to have".

That qualitative difference it is going to be the opportunity and what I would urge people to think about as they are developing content for the Internet.


Creating Value and Inbound Links

Duration: 2' 22"

Rand Fishkin: I have seen a few good cases recently that I liked very much.

One that I cannot take off from the top of my had - I was just tweeting about it before I got here - It is Oyster Hotels, they did something really interesting.

They took on a super competitors space - there is virtually no space more competitive than hotel reviews, particularly in the United States. It is just such big money, so many people playing in it.

They took on the space by instead of providing the same user reviews that everyone else does, they actually hired journalists to go report on the hotel, and then they do a comparison: "Here are the photos that the hotel shows on its website and here is the real photo of that same thing."

You can see that the hotel is using Photoshop to manipulate what their hotel looks like, putting things in the background, taking things out, making the rooms bigger and nicer than they really are...

They call it Photo Fakeouts and it was so big that not only did Oyster get lots of good links for it, but they were also featured on news programs, they were featured on a program called Night Line in the U.S., where they interviewed the journalists and asked them: "How do you show all these different interesting things about hotels? What do you do when you go to stay at one? Does the hotel ever find out about you?"

It was awesome. Just really remarkable stuff that they were able to achieve.

Another one that we had a lot of success with recently, would be...

We launched a program just recently to hire software engineers at SEOmoz - which is a big challenge if you are on the West Coast of the United States - Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle - everybody is trying to hire software engineers.

We launched this promotion where we pay a $12000 referral fee to anyone who refers an engineer to us, which is pretty good.

The interesting part is that recruiters who you would normally hire to maybe recruit for you, they take even more money.

This is actually paying people less, but anybody can earn it and we put this promotion on our site, we set out some tweets about it, we got some coverage on local news, and then it sort of went viral as everybody started sharing with their friends, because they wanted people to click that link so that they could have earned the $12000.

People were linking to it from everywhere, essentially creating an incentive to share that link.

It worked surprisingly well for link building - I was not expecting it.

Video clips originally recorded by Robin Good for MasterNewMedia. First published on March 21st, 2011 as "Entrepreneurship, Google Panda And Content Strategies: Key Recommendations From SEOmoz' Rand Fishkin".

About the author


Rand Fishkin is the CEO and co-founder of SEOmoz, a company in the field of SEO software. He co-authored the Art of SEO from O'Reilly Media and was named on the 40 Under 40 List and 30 Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs Under 30. Rand has been written about in The Seattle Times, Newsweek and the NY Times among others and keynoted conferences on search around the world.

Robin Good -
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posted by on Monday, March 21 2011, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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