Interview: SEO with Rand Fishkin
Here’s the second installment in my series of interviews with interesting industry luminaries. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to put some SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) questions to Rand Fishkin. What’s SEO got to do with Agile & Lean software development? Quite a lot in my opinion. Agile & Lean teach us to focus on the customer and I use a lot of principles from user-centred design to support this principle in the way I work. SEO strategies support this model of thinking and encourage us to not only to think about our customers but their behaviours and how to use this information to access them better. User-centred design helps us to build web apps that our target users want and can use; SEO helps us get it to them…
For an intro to SEO check on my previous post on Search Engine Optimisation.
About Rand :: Rand Fishkin is the CEO and co-founder of SEOmoz, one of the most visible companies in the search marketing world. Rand is the author of ‘Beginners Guide to Search Engine Optimisation‘. Rand is a key SEO thinker and has presented to Google, Microsoft and Stanford University on SEO and Internet Marketing.
Q. What do the terms ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ and ‘Internet Marketing’ mean to you?
It’s funny, but over time, I’ve come to think of them almost interchangeably because of how much broader Internet Marketing (and every related discipline) crosses over into SEO.
In the most basic sense, Search Engine Optimization is simply the practice of improving a website or webpage to receive more traffic through search engines. That alone is somewhere that I think some folks get confused – it’s not about rankings, it’s about traffic. If you concentrate on trying to achieve rankings for a few specific keyphrases without considering the larger view of traffic, you’re missing out on a huge slice of the pie.
Internet Marketing to me refers to literally any activity involving marketing and the web, and in many ways, that means virtually every form of marketing because of how incredibly reliant the US has become on integration with the Internet. Ten years ago, Internet Marketing was a tiny subset of the greater practice of drawing attention and customers to a brand, today, it’s virtually impossible to separate from even the most old school forms of marketing – even your local pub is likely as not to carry a sign in the window saying “people love us on Yelp” or “voted top bars at Citysearch.” The field of web marketing has come a long, long way.
Q. What innovations do you see taking place in the SEO area in 2008?
I know some of the tool and measurement innovations we’re up to at SEOmoz are pretty revolutionary (although I’m not sure they’ll be ready in 2008 and I’m not really at liberty to discuss our secret stuff). Beyond that, I think 2008 will see more and more developers enter the world of SEO as money gets tighter in the lending world (VCs, angels, etc.) and the need for internally-driven marketing becomes greater. The revolution will probably be slow and steady – I don’t see a single event opening the field wide open. The engines are likely to continue on the path of testing, refinement and experimentation with vertical integration and I think if any innovation is likely, it’s that SEOs will get smarter about how to influence and leverage these non-standard results.
Q. If you could give the web development community one piece of advice, what would it be and why?
Learn SEO BEFORE you start wireframing your website. Oftentimes, we’ll start helping a website launch after the initial code has already been created, and the information architecture issues mean that a ton of the development needs to be completely overhauled. If you don’t understand the principles of how search engines crawl, index and calculate link popularity, make it a priority. Search engines are like another user group, as since they can drive so much brand awareness and quality traffic, it’s a terrible mistake to assume you know enough about the subject without researching first.
Q. What makes a good SEO or Internet Marketing strategy?
I think a great strategy leverages a great product to a web savvy, passionate consumer market. If you don’t have both those elements – something worthy of being marketed and a base of individuals who can help to spread the message – you’ll always be playing catch up to the campaigns that do
Q. What kind of improvements have you seen achieved by implementing an SEO strategy for a site?
I’ve seen entire businesses take off. We’ve worked with small companies, even in mature stages, that have seen 10,000% sales growth online. When I say that SEO can make or break a company, I’m not kidding. I think those are the most inspiring stories to me, but certainly, even from a big business perspective, there are incredible strides to be made. I’ve heard rumors (from very credible sources), that Amazon, after implementing a fix in the URL and keyword targeting strategy (just some on-page, architectural fixes) experienced a jump of more than 400% in year-over-year traffic.
Q. Do you think that there will be a market for optimising physical shop-fronts with Google developing a shop-front database?
Anything’s possible, and it’s certainly not a new practice. Designers and branding specialists have been focused on retail store optimization since the first farmer started selling his fruit out of a nicer looking wagon. I just wonder what factors Google will use – maybe the “neighborhood,” “votes” and “content quality” – not much different than what they do on the web, right?