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Rand Fishkin: trends in SEO, best SEO strategy for small local business and much more

Rand Fishkin, the co-founder of Moz interviewed by Anton Woronyuk for “White Hat SEO Day” conference



You are famous for your marketing predictions. Which of your predictions for 2015 came true?
Well, Google and Twitter are getting back together indeed. As we expected, Google is continuing to provide a lot of instant answers and search results with interactive tools.
We talked about Facebook potentially indexing some forms of web content, and they’ve definitely been crawling the web. I suspect they’re going to switch from graph search to just Facebook search with some publisher’s content.
And the prediction about EU taking regulatory actions against Google came true as well.
You have one of the greatest blogs in SEO world. What tools of content marketing give you the best results?
We have developed some in-house tools around content. One of those tools that has been really powerful is called “The One Metric”. It takes all the analytics – page views, time on site, engagement rate, unique visitors, social shares and links – and combines into a single metric that shows how this piece of content performs overall.
What are the best ways of getting links in 2015, and will they still work in the next year?
Links are still working and powerful in 2015, and they’re going to remain so for at least another few years. But the ways to get them will change– at least in the U.S., where Google web spam team is very effective.
Thus, content and content promotion are among the best ways to get links. Creating a content that the audience wants to promote and share remains a very successful path for many marketers.
One of my favourite little tactics is to find a content that was very successful in the past – 2-3-5 years ago – and update it. It doesn’t have to be your own content – it could be content from anywhere on the web from your field. You create an updated better version, and then you can reach out to the audience who enjoyed it last time, and they could help it spread. That’s a good way to get high ranking.
What is the influence of HTTPS algorithm on ranking?
HTTPS has a very minor algorithmic impact. If you want to go HTTPS, do it for security reasons, for user trust reasons, but don’t just do it for SEO reasons. It’s not a big impact to make a difference, and switching the URLs may be a real pain.
Bing vs. Google: will Google lose its share?
Bing is unlikely to overcome Google. The only thing that has a chance of disrupting Google is something entirely new. And that might be verticals. That is, instead of searching for where to go and what restaurants to use in Google, people go to Yelp or Trip Adviser, and to Kayak or to search for flights. In the verticals, there’s some competition, it’s strong, but as a major global search engine Google is “getting away with it” right now.
What tactics of Bing SEO do you recommend?
Bing’s algorithm is a bit more sensitive to links than Google and “cares” more about exactly matching the keyword terms and phrases.
When doing SEO for Bing, be a bit more “classic”. Bing is not quite as intuitive in topic modeling as Google is, so you need to be very specific with the terms and phrases that you’re targeting. And use Bing webmaster tools to look at your crawling and indexing issue with Bing.
What is Moz’s reaction to algorithmic changes?
Algorithmic changes are very important to us. Dr. Pete monitors every day about 10 thousand search results in the USA, 10 thousand mobile results and several results from different Googles around the world.
Then he looks at what’s changed and how much changed. When we see a major change, we try to figure out which sites benefited, which sites lost, and what features predicted that things went up and down.
Sometimes we reach out for Google and ask them, if they want to tell us, – which is rare, but occasionally they do – and then we write up our announces, usually within a week after a major algorithmic change, and point out winners and losers.
What is the future of Google+?
Unless we see some major investments in Google+, it’s going to be a quiet network. It’s only got about 3,5 million active users now and that’s just not enough to make a huge difference. You might think about other networks to focus your energy on right now.
What tools in Google+ are really good for SEO?
There were a few things that I really liked – like Ripples – but they mostly disappeared.
One tool that’s pretty good and does measures Google + activity along with others is BuzzSumo. It’s a great way to see which content is performing well on a given network. And you can plug the URLs into Google+ and see what’s the activity around them.
What is the best SEO practice for multi-regional websites?
If you’re a very big company and you have a presence and a marketing team in each country – I would have a separate website in each country. If Moz was to go internationally, I might have in the United Kingdom, in Germany, in India etc.
However, if you’re a smaller company – and Moz actually is a smaller company – and you’re not going to have a physical presence and a marketing team in each country, I’d prefer a subfolder approach. So, I might have, etc.
One thing I would recommend against is subdomains. I’d either use separate domains or subfolders.
Do links from DOC, PDF, PPT files, links from PDF documents on Google Drive etc. have any weight for ranking?
Some of them do, but not all of them. Google confirms that page ranking and link equity does pass through to links to PDFs, so PDF is certainly a way to share link equity.
As for PPT files, Google appears to be indexing them sort of effectively, a lot of Power Point files are uploaded to SlideShare, which does provide links in the document. But those links are “no follow”, so they don’t pass for link equity.
As for other types of files – if you’re uncertain, go back to HTML.
Unless there’s a really important reason to choose a different document format, I would use HTML or PDF.
What is the role of brand factors in Google ranking? When someone mentions your brand or your URL in text, is it as good as getting a link?
It does provide some benefit, but it’s indirect. If someone types “Moz” on the web page but does not actually link to the site – it certainly does not provide the value that a link does, but it might make more people aware of the company, might get more people searching. It may be picked up as a signal by Google from the content perspective and the topic modeling perspective – to connect the word “Moz” with the phrases around it in the sentence, in the paragraph.
What’s your advice for SEO beginners to be always in trend? What blogs and web resources do you recommend?
Check out Feedly’s list of good SEO blogs. Subscribe to Moz, SEObook, Search Engine Round Table – this will help you see who else is in the blogging space and what you can get from there.
Check out “The Beginner’s Guide to SEO” on Moz website.
And – if you haven’t already – start your website. Build a website, write about something you’re passionate about, try to get some ranking, build some links etc. This will kickstart your SEO education.
Which Moz tools do you recommend to use – compared to Majestic and Ahrefs?
Majestic and Ahrefs are both link-based tools, they are great for finding links, discovering link opportunities. I love Ahrefs and Majestic for comprehensiveness of their indices. You can often find a lot more links in Ahrefs and Majestic that you won’t necessarily find in MOZ.
As for Moz tools, check out Open Site Explorers, Link Opportunities tab – you’ll find three different ways to get links to your site: through link intersect, through linkbuilding and through unlinked mentions.
Moz Metrics are also pretty good – domain authority and page authority in particular, I would use them when doing reporting.
What is the best SEO strategy for small local businesses?
Local businesses should think whether the ranking they’re getting after are primarily through maps and local algorithm or whether they are through classic web search and organic search results.
Local algorithm is very depending on your business listings and the citation sources that Google uses. Links may be helpful, but they are not nearly as powerful as they are in organic web search. You need to work on citation consistency, sources etc. You can also do some competitive research – you can use MOZ local for that in the USA and the UK. I also like a tool called Whitespark.
For organic web search, local businesses need to decide what types of keywords they really want to rank for, what things bring them great business value, what useful content they can produce on a budget. Local small businesses don’t have the ability to invest a lot into online marketing. So, it comes down to chasing after a small set, often less than 10 key phrases that really matter to them.
What ideas and rules helped you to build one of the most influential SEO communities in the world?
First of all, being very interactive with our community, talking to people, connecting with them, being responsive, being fast.
Second, participating in other SEO and web marketing communities, so that people knew who I was.
Third, producing content that was helpful to people and being very empathetic to them. If they reached out to us and asked for help – we would always provide it.
What are the 5 greatest SEO trends for 2015?
1. Content marketing.
2. App search and app search optimization – especially with apps appearing in Google search results.
3. Increasing overlap of social media marketing and SEO. Facebook search has been growing pretty dramatically. Now a lot of businesses, especially local businesses, are thinking about how they can appear in Facebook search results.
4. The trend around instant answers and how and whether SEO can do a good job in appearing in instant answers; whether it’s possible to get traffic from those answers and ways to do that. We’ve seen some successful attempts, so I think this continues to be a trend.
5. Regulation. We see the EU taking regulatory action against Google and they’re probably not the only country to do so. Google’s obviously had some problems in China and in other places. It’s interesting to see how the regulations will play.

Anton Shulke

Anton Shulke