SEO’s have always been tactical about how they use content, but they have become increasingly strategic and content-driven as digital marketing has evolved.
Rand Fishkin talks about “the SEO as content strategist” and much more, including empathy and teamwork, “10X Content,” voice search, and his thoughts on this week’s FCC decision to roll back net neutrality.
Rand Fishkin goes by the ludicrous title, Wizard of Moz. He’s founder and former CEO of SEO software startup Moz, host of Whiteboard Friday, co-author of a pair of books on SEO, co-founder of Inbound.org, and serves on the board of the presentation software firm, Haiku Deck. Rand’s currently writing a book for Penguin/Random House on the ups and downs of startup culture, due out in 2018. In his minuscule spare time, he loves to travel with his wife, author Geraldine DeRuiter, and read about their adventures in her books and blog. Geraldine and Rand are also small investors in Backstage Capital and Techstars Seattle.
Here’s the video version of our conversation:
This current version is not a word-for-word transcript, just my raw notes from my first listen-through of our conversation.
The SEO as Content Strategist
1:15 how and why SEOs should be strategic about content – SEO used to be tactical: ID keywords, get links – a rankings strategy
1:50 SEO content strategy – start from a place of “I believe that if I can get my audience in front of this content it will help my brand, my conversions, my business goals” – after I create and amplify this content, the world will change in this way – start with: how to get them in front of my content – start with the right content – then find the right audience – do keyword research, etc. – and then search is another channel (along with word of mouth, email, etc.) to attract visitors to your content
3:15 evolution of the role – different content than 10-15 years ago – then formulaic keyword targeting landing pages – now serve visitor intent, accomplish task, amplification-worthy, viral-worthy – but similar volume of content creation in SEO role
4:45 how SEOs cope with SEO-unfriendly CMS’s – work-arounds – SEOs becoming more technical – realization that marketing should drive decisions, not tech – tech should be there to serve business goals – much less of
SEO Content Team Dynamics
7:40 optimal team? – “small teams of collaborators with different skills all working together” – e.g. content team that includes 2 devs, a designer, 2 content creators, an SEO strategist, and a content strategist – problem he sees all the time
8:55 team dynamics – “tribalism” – we crave it – “me good, you bad” – the “other team” the cause of problems – harder to complain when diverse team assigned a strategic goal
10:50 – empathy – core principle: “I want to be able to emotionally and intellectually put myself in someone else’s shoes so that I can feel their pain and their problems, so that I can understand things from their perspective.” – by doing that you can get a better relationship with – developers e.g. may not write a single line of code before they know X
12:45 – benefits of literally working side by side – no more villians
13:45 – “10X” Content – Google doc with criteria and examples at
bit.ly/10Xcontent – remarkable content – that everyone has seen – that stuff is powerful – not required of every piece of content – but consult his list for inspiration for 10X content you could create for your audience
15:45 – yes, we serve customers and business goals, “But I think when content is really special and people get truly inspired – it becomes art. It’s something that we do for ourselves. It’s something that we do to be proud of. It’s something that we do where we say, ‘You know what, I made that, and whether it helps us get more free trials or close more business – that’s fine, that’s nice – but I feel special about having created that. It gets me out of bed in the morning to know I might get to work on another one.” can serve a different, bigger goal than going to work every day
17:00 – how to identify those creative gems – goals and internal vision both help – internal vision: worth consideration – often as worthy as the biz goals – “in the world of creativity and content and marketing, having true passion and having deep interest and deep empathy” – really powerful drivers of exceptional content – but also, does it meet our business goals – they can drive what gets on the table – and also feasibility – can you really execute that crazy data-visualization idea with no budget and no tools, and, oh yeah, we need it in a week
20:15 what’s helped him: ability to do many things himself – tech side is tough, but good at visual expression, good with spreadsheets, has a big audience, so surveys easy, a good network, so outreach for advice and amplification – e.g. JumpShot data dump – they gave him pretty clean data set that he can build cool things with (no click, ad click, organic click) which is mildly unnerving – search traffic growing but number of searches but fewer clicks – makes sense with snippets, etc.
23:00 don’t be scared of voice search answers – as much as it’s grown, they haven’t cannibalized screen searches – search continues to grow – search that we’re used to – just as mobile didn’t destroy desktop – voice answers growing dramatically
25:30 is declining click rate a solvable problem? optimistic viewpoint: 5 years ago we’d have said, still plenty of opportunities, and today there’s 4-5 x as much – sucks that pie isn’t growing as fast, but it’s still huge – e.g. TV viewing has plateaued but still a big opportunity
27:50 – end of net neutrality – Ajit Pai voted to dismantle Title II – at urging of fake Russian-bot comments and ignoring pleas of 3 million actual commenters – truly bipartisan support for preserving net neutrality: 75% of Republicans and 80% of Democrats – and we should support it – allows web marketers and web sites to exist in their current format and with current levels of access – in next 10-15 years a very different internet – now anyone in the U.S. can start a website and reach it as fast they reach Google or Amazon or Netflix or any other site – a level playing field, truly democratized – but in new world, very likely – but it will be a slow process – ISPs won’t throttle right away – but soon we’ll be paying big bucks to be as accessible as the big guys – and perhaps even see ISPs steering you to sites they favor (sorry no Walmart access here, but we can send you to Amazon, where we have the same stuff and everything is cheaper) – the internet will work a lot more like TV, more hoops to jump through and more fees to pay – ISPs are evil, but they’re not dumb – they’ll make it look politically viable and go slow
A Barnacle Strategy for Coping with the End of Net Neutrality
33:50 keep the pressure up – be thinking long term about your barnacle content and SEO strategy – where might you need to be in the future – LinkedIn, WordPress, Twitter, Medium – they’re big, they’ll pay – need a barnacle strategy if/when this “dark path becomes a reality” – see Portugal, e.g.
35:30 – hint at his new venture in 2018 – stay tuned . . .