Rand Fishkin

The Long, Painful Journey to Better Self-Awareness

Date / / Category / Personal, Psychology

Erica and I are sitting on a small bus with 8 other fellow Mozcationers, in transit from Cape Town to a kloof on the Northeastern side of the Cedarburg Mountains. It’s 90°+ outside, and the air conditioning in the bus can’t keep up. It’s a little too uncomfortable to read, and while the scenery is amazing, so is the company. We strike up a conversation about books that moves into comics, games, and random geeky hobbies of all sorts. As the conversation winds down and we turn back to look out the windows, I think for a minute, then tell Erica how amazed and impressed I am at both her passion for these pursuits as well as her complete lack of self-consciousness about them. She doesn’t bat an eyelash about explaining the plot of a super-niche science fiction comic. I’m amazed. And I’m jealous.

I’ve always been ashamed of the enjoyment I get from geekier pursuits. I try to hide the fact that I worked as Wizards of the Coast in college, that I tried to play role playing games in middle school (but couldn’t find anyone to play with me, except my little sister, who was too young at the time to really understand), that I still love computer games (though I almost never play them). It’s so bad that I still feel anxiety, get sweaty, and feel my pulse pound if I’m playing a game on the weekend and Geraldine comes back from a shopping trip. Honestly, what the @#%! does it matter if I play a computer game in my spare time? No one cares.

I’m just afraid they will.

Figuring out why is a quest I’ve been on lately, and it’s one that’s taking much longer and proving vastly more mysterious than I ever suspected.

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What Do Correlation Metrics Really Tell Us About Search Rankings?

Date / / Category / Data, Marketing

I’m excited to see the marketing field getting more interested in correlation data and metrics around SEO. There’s a lot of folks citing data from SearchMetrics’ UK Study, from Mark Collier’s Open Algorithm project, and from SEOmoz’s own ranking factors and follow-up reports.

 (Searchmetrics’ study at left, OpenAlgorithm at right)

The trouble is how this data gets perceived and interpreted by practitioners and those around them in a marketing organization, and I need to take at least partial blame. When we first started using correlation data at SEOmoz, we mistakenly called it “ranking factors.” That’s not what these datapoints are showing. This type of data shows us the relationship between pages that have particular features and their general performance across a large number of search queries. I think this graphic can explain better than any words:

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What Company Culture IS and IS NOT

Date / / Category / Hiring, Startups, Team

Frustrated. Disturbed. Disappointed.

That’s how I feel after reading a recent article that appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek called “Job Applicants’ Cultural Fit Can Trump Qualifications.” I don’t typically like to rant against stuff on the web, but I’m worried this is a case where the popularity of the piece (note the thousand upvotes, 600+ comments, and hyper-negativity in the Reddit thread) and the lack of response is giving a wonderful thing – company culture and cultural fit – an undefended bad name.

Let’s be clear; these things ARE NOT company culture:

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Why “Optimization” is a Terrible Way to Think About SEO

Date / / Category / Marketing, Psychology

Sometimes we make assumptions that lead us in the wrong direction. I’ve made plenty, and I’ll continue to make them for as long as I’m alive. And sometimes, we’re inadvertently responsible for wrong assumptions made by others. When that’s the case (and we notice it), there’s an obligation to correct the misunderstanding.

I recently encountered an example of this in some advice related to the SEO field, and how to optimize for rankings. That advice referenced SEOmoz’s own Google Ranking Factors article, which uses a pie-shaped diagram to illustrate “percents” of particular algorithmic factors (like the illustration on the left in the image below).

This visualization, and the conceptual takeaway that the ranking algorithm is a pie chart made up of buckets that can only be filled so much, got me worried that a series of assumptions might lead a lot of folks astray.

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Startups Cannot Afford to Have Indispensable Employees (and not for the reason you think)

Date / / Category / Hiring, Startups, Team

“Become indispenable to your employer.” That’s the advice I see from job training and professional coaches all the time. And I can empathize with why it exists. Many employers are not supporters of their teams, and treat human resources as, well, resources that just happen to be human. That fleshy cognition thus imbues them with all sorts of problematic and bothersome traits that employers seek to minimize or control. Hence, employees fight back by being the only person in the company who knows how to accomplish a critical task or the only one capable of leading particular groups of people.

That model sucks. It’s broken. And in the startup world, it’s the antithesis of how to get ahead as either an individual or a company.

(via honzajirasek on Flickr)

Our world demands teams and leaders that have trust in one another. Thankfully, the incredible availability of opportunities for potential startup employees (especially engineers, designers, and marketers) combined with the relatively demanding and less-than-market-rate pay nature of a startup gig means that leaders quickly put their workforce first.

But, weirdly, there’s still a lot of focus on becoming that “indispensable” member of the group. I think it’s not in the interest of either the employee or employer, and I’ll explain why.

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The Most Followed Twitter Users with “SEO” in Their Bio

Date / / Category / Data

I was playing around on Followerwonk tonight (man that tool is awesome) and was puzzled by the bio search results for “SEO.” Have a look:

 Danny Sullivan’s Twitter profile certainly makes sense, but the ones above him are curious. I’ve never heard of any of these folks (which certainly could be my fault for being more heads-down lately), nor are they brands I recognize. The tweet streams from these accounts frequently contain purely promotional content, often with large numbers of retweets on affiliate links.

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The Uncomfortable Balance

Date / / Category / Psychology, Team

Every CEO, founder, manager, and probably most all of us at some point in our professional lives have asked these two questions:

  1. Am I pushing the people on my team too hard?
  2. Am I not pushing the people on my team hard enough?

These two nag at me all the time.

There are days when I marvel at what Mozzers have accomplished, overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of work delivered. And there are days when I wonder how we can keep customers at all given the failures, setbacks, and occasional poor decisions we make (usually garnered from the unfair perspective of hindsight). Today, I felt both of those simultaneously.

(via xx on Flickr)

I know that many managers and individual contributors feel this tension, too. My advice on the topic isn’t comprehensive, but I hope it can be helpful:

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The Mathematics of Core Values

Date / / Category / Personal, Psychology

Over the holiday weekend, Geraldine took me to see Lincoln. I’d watched a clip aired during the Daily Show last week that had me excited to see the film, and Fred Wilson’s post sealed the deal.

That clip contained the following quote:

Euclid’s first common notion is this:  ‘Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.’   That’s a rule of mathematical reasoning.  It’s true because it works.  Has done and always will do.  In his book, Euclid says this is self-evident.  You see, there it is.  Even in that 2,000 year old book of mechanical law, it is a self-evident truth that things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.

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Is There a Long Tail to Referral Traffic?

Date / / Category / Data, Marketing

I was recently chatting with my friend Matthew Brown of AudienceWise about the distribution of the web’s traffic, and we both wondered – do referrals from external domains follow a “long tail” distribution pattern?

I surmised that only ~20% of the referrals that the average website receives comes from the tail of the distribution curve, whilst Matt felt that number should be considerably larger. As a first step, I figured I’d check SEOmoz.org’s own referral traffic (via Google Analytics) to see what our distribution curve looks like. It’s visualized below:

Whoa. Less than 10% of the referring domains to SEOmoz send more than 79% of the referring visits. That’s a shocking distribution.

But, it could be that we’re an outlier, so I looked at the traffic distribution for a few other sites.

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Broadening Our Thinking on the Practice of Conversion Rate Optimization

Date / / Category / Marketing, Psychology

Many times when businesses invest in improving online conversion rates, the practice goes something like this:

  1. Brainstorm a list of things that can be changed in the conversion process or on the landing page
  2. Determine which are easy to build/test
  3. Create a set of A/B or multivariate tests to run through them
  4. Allow winning changes to remain

Unfortunately, this process diminishes what CRO can achieve. It’s my belief that conversion rate optimization needs to be a practice that’s separate from funnel optimization or landing page optimization (though it can certainly encompass those). But CRO is bigger and broader, and it deserves to have influence on every part of the business – from the product to the customer service to the marketing and beyond.

We’re trying out a new format of video at Moz (which we may do more of on the Moz Youtube Channel), and in this 19 minute one, I use a presentation I’ve given a couple times this year against a whiteboard backdrop to tackle the big picture of CRO.

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