Rand Fiskin is the master of SEO… the right kind of SEO. In this chat, he gives us some AMAZING tips that will boost your SEO the natural organic way, not the black-hat method. He speaks specifically about two tips that helped SEOmoz see a 30% increase in Google, and it could not have been more legit!
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- “When I was young, I admired clever people, as I grew old, I came to admire kind people.” – Abraham Joshua Heschel click to tweet!
- Rand faced the lowest of the low. A credit collector showed up at his office and demanded money. Find out how he clawed back to the top.
Entrepreneurial AHA Moment
- Why ads are boring and SEO is the wave of the future. Rand found out early, you can too!
- The tips he gives in this segment are incredible. Have you heard of Rel+Author? Ummm, you need to!
- As always, stunning insights into the mind of a stunning Entrepreneur.
Best Business Book
- Good to Great by Jim Collins
- Built to Last by Jim Collins
- The Billionaire who Wasn’t by Conor O’Clery
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John Dumas: Hire Fire Nation and thank you for joining me for another episode of EntrepreneurOnFire.com, your daily dose of inspiration. If you enjoy this free podcast, please show your support by leaving a rating and review here at iTunes. I will make sure to give you a shout out on an upcoming showing to thank you!
John Dumas: Okay. Let’s get started. I am pumped to introduce my guest today, Rand Fishkin. Rand, are you prepared to ignite?
Rand Fishkin: A massive yes, John!
John Dumas: [Laughter] Rand is the CEO of the SEO software company, SEOmoz. He co-authored “Art of SEO.” He co-founded Inbound.org. He was named one of Businessweek’s 30 best tech entrepreneurs under 30. He’s an addict of all things content and social on the web, from his multiple blogs to Twitter, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, foursquare, and even a bit of Pinterest. He does it all.
In his miniscule spare time, Rand enjoys the company of his amazing wife, whose serendipitous travel blog chronicles their journeys. That sounds fun! Rand, I’ve given a little overview. Why don’t you tell us a little more about who you are and what you do?
Rand Fishkin: Sure. So I’m the CEO and co-founder of SEOmoz, as you mentioned, and 90% of my work revolves around just that. So I’m responsible for hiring and managing a lot of the teams here, particularly the executive team. I am responsible the strategy and direction of the company. I’m obviously responsible to the Board of Directors for the results that the company produces, and a myriad of other things as well. I like to take on a lot of projects.
So I blog a lot. I’m very active in social media, as you mentioned. I do a ton of traveling and speaking around the world on all sorts of topics. Lots of fun.
John Dumas: Awesome stuff. So we always start off EntrepreneurOnFire with our guest’s favorite success quote. It’s kind of our way of getting the motivational ball rolling down the hill. Rand, what would you say your favorite success quote is?
Rand Fishkin: So I really liked one from Abraham Joshua Heschel. He said, “When I was young, I admired clever people. As I grew old, I came to admire kind people.”
John Dumas: That’s a great quote. Very interesting. Different than a lot of the different entrepreneurs that I’ve had on this show give me, which I like. So can you expound a little bit into that and kind of give us an example of how you apply this to your everyday life?
Rand Fishkin: Sure. I’ve often felt that sometimes we admire the wrong things in the entrepreneurship and startup fields. We sort of admire the big exits and the massive successes. I think that’s great. I’m very much a capitalist. I love the incentive of building something wonderful, building a great company. It brings with it a lot of financial success.
But I think I found myself as I’ve grown older, and possibly a tiny bit wiser – although probably not much – that like Abraham, I have found kindness to be one of my favorite attributes in people, in humanity in general, in the startup world, in the SEO world, which I’m very active in. I wish that we all could value that a little bit more and make the same sort of wonderful stories and recognition that we do for financial success in the fields of generosity and kindness.
John Dumas: Now I’m kind of putting you on the spot here, so don’t feel terrible if you can’t come up with a great answer, but I am still just really intrigued with this. Do you have an example of maybe in the last 6 or 12 months where you’ve encountered this kind of kindness that you’re speaking of and how you reacted differently to it because of your new outlook as opposed to how you may have in your previous years?
Rand Fishkin: Yes, sure. So we did a fundraising round this April. One of the reasons that it went so incredibly smoothly, and one of the reasons that we didn’t make it a very competitive process this time around is because of the great kindness and generosity that was shown by Brad Feld. From the moment we started interacting with him, it was very clear that he had the same core values that we did around generosity, as well as around other core values – transparency, empathy.
Those things made it really easy to say, “Hey, you know what?” Not that I don’t care what the pre-money valuation is and the terms and those kinds of things. In fact, they were extremely generous because Brad is, but we really didn’t bother going after other investors. We sort of said, “You know what? This is our guy. If we don’t get him, I’m not even sure we want to do a round. This is the kind of person, the kind of firm we want to work with.”
Yes. I think that kind of biasing is actually something that speaks very strongly to the reputation that he’s built and to the way that he is, and it can actually be a big competitive advantage. Not just for him, but for folks in all sorts of fields. Right? Imagine if your customers decided, “You know what? That’s the person and that’s the company I want to work with, and I’m not really going to look at their competition.”
John Dumas: That’s huge. That’s a great example. It’s exactly what I was looking for. It’s just so enlightening to see somebody that’s not just going after the bottom dollar as you and SEOmoz were obviously not going after at this point, but were going for the full life experience because this is your life, this is what you’re doing day to day. It’s very important that you feel comfortable with the entire transaction and not just the bottom dollar amount.
Rand Fishkin: Well, and I have this feeling. It could be wrong, but I have a feeling that if you look at the long term returns that SEOmoz might produce, they will actually be better and stronger and higher than what we would’ve gotten had we operated in a different way. These are core values that I believe beyond just the financial sense of the bottom line, but I do have a sneaking suspicion that it will help with that too.
John Dumas: Absolutely. Well, we’re going to move on to our next topic now, and I’m really excited to delve into this because of how open and honest you’ve been thus far in this interview. That topic is failure. Every entrepreneur that has had his day in the rain has also had his day in the sun, and has also had his day back in the rain. Failure is a part of what it means to be an entrepreneur. It’s how we learn, it’s how we live, it’s how we grow. We’ve all experienced it. What’s been a major moment of failure in your life, in your entrepreneurial journey? Let’s start off with the steps that led up to that failure.
Rand Fishkin: I’ve had a lot of failures as an entrepreneur, but probably the most substantive one is the first few years I was in business. I dropped out of college in 2001. I started working with my mom. She was running a small marketing firm, helping people with like print and web design and that kind of stuff. It was just the two of us. We tried to build that business, but had faced a lot of challenges. I mean we were not great at this stuff and ended up racking up nearly half a million dollars in debt.
We actually got to closer to about $150,000.00 that we had actually taken out. This was probably ’04, ’05, but we were unable to make minimum payments starting around that timeframe. So the amount you owed to the credit card companies just skyrockets.
John Dumas: It just keeps going.
Rand Fishkin: Yes, yes. Painful stuff. I think the low point of that failure was when we literally had a guy come in to the office and say, “Are you Rand Fishkin? I’m serving you these papers. You’ve been served. You need to appear in court. You owe this money.” [Laughter] That sucked, man!
John Dumas: Yes.
Rand Fishkin: I mean you feel like complete crap. You feel like you’ve just let everything down. The worst part was – well, the worst part and the best part. It’s kind of ironic. The worst part and the best part was we had never told my dad that we had any debt. So he had no idea, which meant for us, we couldn’t just declare bankruptcy because of course he’d sort of find out and his wealth and assets – he and my mom are still married to this day – would have been potentially at stake there.
So we had to find a way to pay it off. Actually, we did. I think it was by 2007, we had settled and paid off all of that debt. Now not to its full extent. Let’s say you owed $50,000.00 to some Wells Fargo line of credit for a business loan. We’d call them up and say, “Hey, we will give you $7,000.00 instead of you selling it to a collections agency,” and they’d say okay.
But then they’d put a black mark on your credit history, which to this day I still have. So I can’t rent an apartment by myself, I can’t buy a house, I can’t buy a car. I don’t have any credit cards. The only credit card I have is in my wife’s name [Laughs]. So it sticks with you, but yes. It was kind of an interesting forcing function, in retrospect.
John Dumas: Okay. Let’s stop there for one moment. So successful entrepreneurs often look back at their journey and see their failure or their multiple failures. They look back at them and they say, “I did not let that failure define me.” You obviously did not let that failure define you because of where you’ve grown today and where you’ve taken SEOmoz today. So that’s very impressive in and of itself.
At that lowest moment though when you were really feeling like crap. The guy came in, he served you papers. How did you wake up the next day and drive on to get to that point where you did get out of debt and you were able to get your life back on track?
Rand Fishkin: This is going to sound weird to say, but I focused on just the work itself. So I had kind of already discovered and gotten into the SEO field probably around 2003. I had started the blog. It was exciting and fun for me because the blog was picking up speed and I was getting invited to speak at places. I think my first speaking gig was maybe ’05. So right after that kind of collection serving. I just focused on the interesting and exciting parts, on the work itself. Almost like the rest of it didn’t really exist.
That’s probably not a very realistic way to deal with your problems, but it worked for me to keep going.
John Dumas: No. That doesn’t sound weird at all, Rand, I’ll tell you, because so many common traits with entrepreneurs these days is the word “focus.” They’re focusing on what’s important to their business, what’s making them happy, what’s making their business the most profitable or the most successful. That word focus is coming up time and time again. You, at your low point, were able to focus on the good things and keep the distractions away, just like successful entrepreneurs are able to keep distractions away from them every single day, even when they are running a successful business because those distractions can take them down.
So you were able to do that. That’s a very powerful lesson that you learned. At what point would you say from that failure, you actually looked in the mirror and said, “Okay. I have shrugged that failure off. It’s totally behind me. I’m moving forward 100% with my next venture”?
Rand Fishkin: [Laughs] Gosh! I don’t know that I’ve ever had that sort of exact, cathartic, expressive moment, but certainly there was – well, there are a couple of things. I mean in 2007, I remember it was July – maybe it was July or August of that year and I remember my mom came into the office and said we just paid off the last creditor. That we settled the last credit bill. So we didn’t owe anything. I mean, we weren’t making much but – well, we were making good income. We made about half a million dollars in consulting, and I don’t know, $400,000.00 in software revenue for that year total. But I mean, all of it till that point had gone to essentially paying off debt or paying expenses. I mean I think my paycheck was $1,600.00 a month or something like that.
John Dumas: Oh, okay.
Rand Fishkin: I was making minimum wage [Laughs].
John Dumas: Yes. [Unintelligible [00:14:03].
Rand Fishkin: Yes, yes. Well, luckily, I was actually living with my girlfriend, who is now my wife. She was paying all our bills and rent and all that stuff for years because I – I mean my paychecks were smaller than that before and nonexistent for a while.
John Dumas: Well, listen, Rand. You live and you work in a very dynamic field. Things are changing all the time. You wake up one morning. Even you being at the cutting edge of what you do with SEO and other areas of your expertise, are always learning new things.
Rand Fishkin: Yes.
John Dumas: What was this one moment that you had where you kind of had a light bulb go on, more so than other smaller light bulbs you may have had in the past, but just a real big light bulb and you said, “Aha!” Like this idea can take me, my company, my product, whatever it may be, to the next level. Lead us up to that aha moment that you had, as small or as big as it was, and really dive deep into the actual events leading up to it.
Rand Fishkin: Gosh! So I remember for a long time thinking that SEO and SEOmoz – that the field of SEO was kind of a relatively niche field, a relatively small field, despite the fact that even back then, Google was getting close to a billion searches a day. Today, that’s over three billion searches a day. I recall having this sort of small mindset around the company. Just around like what could the company be? Oh well, maybe it can be a few million dollars a year company that kind of is profitable and gives us a nice salary.
Then when we took venture capital, I kind of, for the first time in November of 2007, I remember thinking, okay, well this puts us on a path to maybe an acquisition. Someone will buy us. Maybe it will be for a few million dollars and we’ll get a nice exit out of that and our venture capitalist will get a nice return.
But I recall seeing – I’m trying to remember where I saw it. It wasn’t on the web. I want to say it was at a conference and someone had printed out a poster. They had printed out a poster of the – it was sort of this “infographicky” map. The map showed a ton of advertising tech companies, ad tech companies. Right?
So it’s all these people who help serve web advertising. I remember looking at that and seeing tons of companies that had multi-hundred million dollar to billion dollar market capitalizations or private valuations and going, “My God! There’s just got to be a hundred companies on this map.”
At that moment I thought to myself, advertising on the web is so much less powerful and so much less impactful and so much less fun than doing inbound marketing. Right? Than doing all the stuff that you earn organically. The SEO, the content marketing stuff, social media, email marketing. Anything where people are clicking and coming and visiting your website or converting your visitors that isn’t bought through advertising.
I thought to myself, who besides us is in that field that can take that market? It took a few days, but it almost like changed my mindset around what the company could be. That we could be a billion dollar or a multi-billion dollar company. That instead of aiming to be acquired, we should try to IPO. We should build something remarkable.
That was a really exciting time. I think that conference was in New York around maybe 2009, 2010. It was kind of a turning point moment for my mentality more so than anything specific in the business.
John Dumas: Yes. That would definitely be an aha moment. So that’s great. You were able to utilize that, flex it into what you were doing on a daily basis, and provide obviously a ton of value. Now moving forward from that point, I’m very curious – and I’m not trying to have you provide free consulting, obviously, for the audiences.
Rand Fishkin: Oh. I love free consulting.
John Dumas: [Laughs]
Rand Fishkin: It’s the only kind of consulting I do anymore.
John Dumas: Oh. Okay. Well then, let me dive right in because I’m just curious, as a podcaster, as somebody that makes his living online and has an online business, how does the Google updates that are occurring it seems to be now on a quarterly, and an even quicker basis, how are these updates affecting the organic and the SEO search? Is that making SEO more important or less important as we move forward?
Rand Fishkin: I don’t think it makes it more or less important. The only thing that really would make SEO more or less important is if there are more searches and more searchers clicking on results or less. So far we’ve never had even a six month period where the number of searches went down, the number of searchers went down, or the number of searches per searcher went down. So people are just searching, more and more people are searching, and more people are getting on the web. So Google’s in a really nice market position. You can sort of see that in their P/E ratio in the public markets.
In terms of the Google updates, what it really makes more important – because Google is striving for sort of these perfect, idealistic results. In their mind, what idealistic means may be different from what you think it means. That’s really brands that people like and know and trust coming up high in the search results with good pages that are highly relevant that make people very, very happy as searchers.
The more you aim towards that – I’m going to delight searchers and I’m going to delight people who can potentially share my content – the better off you’re going to do kind of long term. Then the more you play in the world of, “Hey, I know this little black hat, grey hat trick to kind of rank here for a little while. I figured out the algorithm so I can kind of abuse these particular inputs and metrics to be able to sort of rank high without having the substance behind it,” that type of stuff is what these updates are all about fighting.
So the more you’re playing in that realm, the more risk you expose yourself to. Then the more you’re building a long term, sound both marketing and SEO strategy, which involves a lot more than it used to, the better off you’re going to do as these updates come out.
We’ve kind of seen this with SEOmoz itself. It was weird. I mean, we really adopted Google+ very early. Like the month it came out last July, we got heavily into it. We built up a lot of followers. We shared a lot of content through there. Our social media manager, our community manager, John Lopez, started using Google+ as a primary channel for sharing our content.
It was crazy to see the growth in traffic. I mean literally like 20%, 30% bumps because everybody who’s exposed to Google+, which is a lot of our audience, and anybody with a Gmail address, was sort of getting this extra bump to go to SEOmoz. So that kind of early adoption of very sound, long term SEO strategic stuff is extremely helpful.
Likewise, I’ve seen – I mean God, just yesterday, I got an email from a guy and he’s like, “Oh. We suffered in the new Penguin Update.” The Penguin – whatever it was. 2.1 or 3.1 or whatever. “We lost a bunch of rankings on our keywords. This is a really important time for us, so what are we going to do here?” It’s kind of, hey, man, you went to a guy in a dark alley with a trench coat who sold you some links out of his pocket. Really, what did you think was going to happen?
John Dumas: Here are 10,000 links. Now go away!
Rand Fishkin: Yes [Laughs]. “Hey, man. I got a bunch of links here for you, dude. This will really help you rank.” Come on. I don’t understand the mentality of someone who thinks, oh yes, that must be how SEO works. That’s crazy.
John Dumas: This is great to hear coming from you because obviously, the word SEO gets a little bit of flack occasionally because of these different black hats. Some people are associating black hat with just the word SEO. So obviously, the company SEOmoz could sometimes get kind of caught up in that, which is…
Rand Fishkin: Oh my God! Have you ever seen us get on Hacker News? I mean, it’s only happened once or twice, and literally the comment threads are just SEO is spam, how is this company in business? Who would fund these guys? [Laughs] Like all that kind of stuff. There’s a lot of kind of anger and mistrust of SEO. I think a huge part of it is there’s a ton of great operators in the field, but a couple spammy ones can send five million emails to every blogger on the planet saying, “Hey, let’s trade backlinks.” Those two guys, those two spammers will be responsible for everyone thinking that’s what SEO means.
John Dumas: Well, this is even more so the reason why I’m just excited to have you on today, because it’s just so refreshing to hear the words that are coming out of your mouth and the way that a business and a website and just everything along those lines should be built. So let’s kind of take this into the next topic, which is your current business.
Rand Fishkin: Sure.
John Dumas: Just for the sake of an example, why don’t we just say EntrepreneurOnFire.com, my website. Obviously, I interview five entrepreneurs a day.
Rand Fishkin: Wow!
John Dumas: I mean sorry. Five entrepreneurs per week.
Rand Fishkin: Okay! That’s much better.
John Dumas: I sometimes interview five per day, but then I will post one a day.
Rand Fishkin: [Laughs] That’s wild, John. I mean, that’s a lot of work.
John Dumas: Hey, well like you said, you love the SEO aspect of it. I love talking to entrepreneurs such as yourself. It’s very inspiring and I love spreading your message, especially when it’s one as great as yours.
So EntrepreneurOnFire is all about interviewing entrepreneurs, putting their content out there. I have a blog which will give the show notes of the show. So everything, the links that we’ve discussed will be there. What are some things that you would do for a company like mine to take it to the next level?
Rand Fishkin: Sure. So I’ll tell you what our software does, and then I’ll give you some sort of generic kind of SEO web marketing tips that might be helpful.
John Dumas: Great!
Rand Fishkin: So our software is going to do a few things. Let’s say you go to SEOmoz and take a free trial. You’ll plug in basically EntrepreneurOnFire.com. Set up your campaign. Maybe you list a few competitors. Maybe it’s, I don’t know, [Mixer G – [00:25:34] and TechCrunch or whoever it is.
John Dumas: Yes.
Rand Fishkin: And then you’ll select some keywords. Things that you want to rank for. So those might be names of specific entrepreneurs. They might be sort of generic startup-related searches. They might be entrepreneurial-related searches. You kind of want to find the things that you know have high volume and high interest and a high correlation with people who are going to like the stuff on your site.
Then SEOmoz will probably do a few things. It’ll crawl your website and tell you, “Hey, John, we found out these links that are all broken. We found these pages that are returning bad server response codes. We found this page that redirects in a way that’s not going to pass link to you so the search engines aren’t going to count it. You said you wanted to rank well for this keyword, but you didn’t put it anywhere in the title tag of this page.” All that kind of accessibility and kind of best practices stuff.
Then along with that, it will track your rankings against your competitors. It will show sort of link data. So as you acquire new links and new metrics, we maintain a web index kind of like Google does and try and show visibly kind of the link craft. So here is kind of very important links pointing to you, important links pointing to your competitors. Here’s maybe some links that point to two or more of your competitors, but don’t point to you. Those might be good sources to try and go get some. Here’s competitive analysis of search results. Here’s how your Twitter and Facebook account are performing. Here’s kind of your traffic. If you plug in GA, we’ll show you traffic stats next to social and search stuff.
So all that kind of thing. So that’s SEOmoz PRO itself. It may give you lots of handy tips and kind of help you do reporting on metrics and data on your site. In terms of specific tips that I might give you, one of the things I would highly, highly recommend for you in particular – if you’re not already using it – is rel=author and Google+.
John, are you currently using those?
John Dumas: I’m using Google+. I’m definitely not using rel=author. So I’d love to hear more about that.
Rand Fishkin: Okay. Rel=author is bad ass. Dude, I cannot recommend it enough. So rel=author is essentially you plugging in some code on your pages. Just some metadata that says essentially this page was produced by me, John Dumas, the author. Then that code will then tell the search engines that they can show a little picture of you next to the results.
If you do a lot of searches these days, you see kind of someone’s headshot right next to a result?
John Dumas: Right.
Rand Fishkin: The clickthrough rate on those is fantastic. I’ve actually seen results where the number three or number two result was getting more clicks than the number one result because it had that image next to it.
John Dumas: Wow!
Rand Fishkin: That builds up your brand a lot too. Right? So if you have this constant picture of yourself that you use all across the web, this will build up the brand and people will start to recognize you, associate you with the brand, associate you with the content you’re producing, and be more likely to click on your stuff.
Then if you’re sharing the content you produce on Google+, anyone who’s following you on there, and anyone who’s following them – right? Google has this concept of extended circles, which is kind of your world plus everyone who follows world.
John Dumas: Right.
Rand Fishkin: Will see your results higher in searches than they ordinarily would, and with your profile picture. So this kind of combination of rel=author plus Google+ is very, very powerful, particularly for the kind of stuff you’re doing. I would highly recommend that.
John Dumas: Man! Well, you just gave a phenomenal synopsis of SEOmoz. You got me really pumped with that rel=author theme. I mean I’m just really excited about checking out that. It makes a ton of sense. We could obviously talk all day about these things because of your passion for them.
Rand Fishkin: Well, I have so many. I have so many little tactics I just love, but yes.
John Dumas: And my passion to hear them is pretty even, I think. Unfortunately, we are at almost the 30 minute mark, so we’re going to have to quickly move into the Lighting Round, where I’m going to be asking you five questions which you’re going to have no more than 30 seconds to give us your best mind-blowing answer. Are you ready?
Rand Fishkin: Ready.
John Dumas: What was the number one thing that was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Rand Fishkin: Lack of knowledge, lack of awareness that it was a possibility, and I would say probably lack of a community of resources around me. I think a lot of those things are actually being fixed wonderfully, both in the Seattle community and on the web as a whole. So I’m excited about that.
John Dumas: Like with EntrepreneurOnFire, right?
Rand Fishkin: Like with EntrepreneurOnFire.
John Dumas: [Laughs]
Rand Fishkin: Like Hacker News, like Startup Weekend. There are just so many resources. I mean, The Lean Startup of Eric Ries. It’s wonderful what’s happened in the last decade. I mean if you compare it to 2001, it’s just night and day.
John Dumas: What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Rand Fishkin: It probably would have to be from Jim Collins who wrote the books “Good to Great” and “Built to Last.” He talked about building a mission, a vision and core values. Establishing those things here at moz just had a massive impact. I mean we created these core values called TAGFEE. We kind of live by them. They guide our decisions, they guide our hiring and our team structures and all sorts of things. The vision has helped us expand what we do and think bigger and longer term about how do we become this billion dollar plus public company. That setup from Collins was invaluable. I highly recommend those books to everyone.
So my very favorite business book is not wholly about business. It’s called “The Billionaire Who Wasn’t.” It’s about Chuck Feeney, the founder of Duty Free. You know, all the Duty Free shops you see in airports of imported things.
John Dumas: Right.
Rand Fishkin: He built literally a multi-billion dollar business. I think he personally made about $7 billion from it and was only a one quarter stakeholder in the business. So we’re talking about a massive, massive amount of wealth created. In 1984, he sold all of his interest I think to Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessey LVMH and established a trust called the Atlantic Trust Foundation in the Bahamas which allowed him – he had to pay more taxes on it, but it allowed him to keep it private.
So no one knew that he had any of this money. In fact, he had no money. He gave it all away to this trust, and he was responsible for something ridiculous like 80% of anonymous donations between 1985 and 1999 when his wealth was sort of found out by Forbes.
He was responsible for 80% of the donations. So literally, he remade colleges all over the United States. He helped with the Ireland Peace Accord. He worked on ending some of the apartheid stuff and rebuilding a lot of stuff in South Africa. He built almost all of the hospitals in Vietnam. I mean just insane stuff. This book is phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal, and this guy is remarkable. Highly recommended.
John Dumas: I’m actually already on chapter two on my Kindle Fire, as you’ve been speaking.
Rand Fishkin: Oh [shit [00:33:13]. I gave away a bunch of it, didn’t I?
John Dumas: [Laughs] I’m just kidding. Okay. So this is the last question, and this question is my favorite. It’s kind of a tricky one. I know you could go on forever because you have so many great ideas, but we’re just going to keep you to one idea. If you woke up tomorrow morning and you still had all these amazing knowledge that you have, but everything that you’ve ever created – SEOmoz, etcetera – has completely disappeared. You are starting over with a clean slate tomorrow just like many of our entrepreneurs are starting with a clean slate right now. What would be the first thing you would do?
Rand Fishkin: Gosh! I have to say I really do love entrepreneurship. I think I’d probably stay in this field and I would probably take some more coding lessons [Laughs]. I started on Codecademy, but I really need to do more so that I can hack stuff together myself.
John Dumas: Never too much coding.
Rand Fishkin: Then I would probably apply to Y Combinator or TechStars. One of the two. I think those programs give you so much of a boost in the entrepreneurial field and sort of let you find cofounders. Start with a great idea and the willingness and skills to get this stuff done and a good network. Wow! Those people can just help you massively. So that’s probably what I’d do.
John Dumas: Well, Rand, you ended with a bang. I’m a huge Y Combinator fan. I read about it daily. It’s just great. I have a couple of friends actually who are looking to go through that process quite shortly, so I look forward to seeing how they move forward in that. Overall, you’ve just given us great actionable advice, and we are all better for it today. So I thank you for that.
Do you have any last piece of advice for Fire Nation?
Rand Fishkin: Yes. I would say don’t try and do this alone. I mean that on two fronts – the personal and the professional. If you can find someone in your life – a man, a woman, a partner, a spouse, or even a great personal friend – who will support you and accompany you in your personal life through this journey, that is invaluable.
It’s also true on the professional side. Finding someone who challenges you. I wrote a blog post today about our COO, Sarah Bird, and how I almost never have a big conversation with her when challenging my thinking without her making me explain why I believe what I believe, providing evidence for it. She is really a tough cookie, right? Like she just questions everything and has no power distance. No sort of, “Well, you know Rand has been good at this before, so I’ll trust him on it.” No way, man! [Laughs] Like she didn’t trust me further than she could throw me.
It’s excellent. It makes me such a better CEO. Likewise, if you can find that person with whom you have great rapport and great trust to build the business with, I think that’s a great way to go. I honestly believe that’s why a lot of these – TechStars and Y Combinator both, for example, don’t allow you in without a cofounder. They want someone – well, generally. On rare occasion, they do. But generally they want you to have a cofounder, and I think that’s a very important thing to find.
John Dumas: Great! Let’s finish up with a plug for SEOmoz.
Rand Fishkin: I would say if you are learning SEO, you should check out the beginners guide to SEO on SEOmoz. It’s free. If you’re a professional SEOer, our software might be right for you. Yes. I’d start with that beginners guide.
John Dumas: Well, listen, Rand. Thank you again. I appreciate all your time, and we will catch you on the flipside.
Rand Fishkin: Thank you, John.