Expert Chat: Rand Fishkin Teaches Us Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Hello Our Dear Readers, You are welcome to the Ultra-Unique section of this blog, the “Expert Chat” Section where we get to have a chat with various Experts in the blogosphere on a “single” particular topic. rand-fishkin-beer-munich

Today on expert chat, our guest is Rand Fishkin of Moz.com. He is an expert when it comes to Search Engine Optimization and we will be having a chat on How to Do SEO with him.

ME: Hi Rand, it’s nice to have you here, can you kindly introduce yourself to our readers.

Rand: Thanks for having me Joseph. I'm the CEO & founder of Moz, a software startup based in Seattle, WA focused on helping marketers succeed.

Me: I have known you for a while now & I know you are a great Blogger & SEO Enthusiast; how did you get into the SEO business?

Rand: I started in the field of web design and website building, and got into SEO through a desire to help our website clients get traffic to their sites. The wonderful thing about SEO is that it takes elbow grease and creativity more so than money, and I had much more of the former than the latter back when I started out 🙂

Me: To start with, what is SEO?

Rand: SEO is the process of helping sites earn traffic through search engines' organic/non-paid results. Google was quoted a few years ago as saying that ~18% of all clicks go to paid ads, while 82% of clicks go to the organic results. Given that Google alone receives more than 1 billion searches each day, there's a lot of value in doing great SEO.

Me: what are the various aspects of SEO?

Rand: SEO today is fairly complex. It used to be primarily about targeting the right keywords, creating content to fulfill searchers' intent, and earning links to those pages. Today, SEO encompasses nearly everything under the umbrella of "web marketing," because almost all of those aspects have a direct or indirect influence on SEO. I wrote about this a couple years ago, noting that the responsibilities of SEO have been upgraded.

Me: Is SEO Important and why?

Rand: It's very often the case that search is a critical way that people find information about a field, a product, a service, or a brand. If you're not doing SEO, you don't have the opportunity to be visible to those potential customers/supporters/evangelists who perform queries in engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! and given SEO's popularity these days, your competitors probably are.

Me: Which is more important between On-page SEO & Off-page SEO?

Rand: They're both essential and can't really be separated from one another. It's getting more and more impossible to rank well long term with a page that doesn't provide a great user experience and serve the searcher. Likewise, without external signals - links, social shares, user & usage data, branding signals, etc. - the engines have a very hard time determining that you've got a page worth ranking.

Me: Do you do Image SEO?

Rand: I don't do too much SEO myself (at least, not from a consulting/services perspective), although I do make a lot of graphics and try to get them ranking.

Me: if yes, can you share some of your image SEO techniques with us?

Rand: Sure!

1) Make sure to title your image files with the keywords you're targeting.

2) Embed those images on pages with text/captions that target the keywords

3) Place the image in a subfolder on the same domain/subdomain as the site's content (rather than a CDN subdomain, for example).

Note: You can also check out Image SEO Guide

Me: what is your take on premium SEO plugins for WP bloggers?

Rand: An SEO plugin may be helpful to give a slight boost or help remind you of best practices, but the content you produce, the brand you create, and the amplification your content can achieve are generally far more important than any specific features of a WordPress installation.

Me: Does a page/blog design have any impact on search engine rankings?

Rand: Absolutely! Sites that are perceived as unique, beautiful, and usable are more likely to be shared, visited, and linked-to, all of which are critical elements in successful SEO.

Me: In Brief, can you explain the most important aspects of On-page SEO?

Rand: I can do better! I've got a great post with a ton of visuals on all the aspects of on-page SEO.

Me: How do I do On-page SEO?

Rand: Just follow the recommendations in that post. If you can execute on those, you'll have great on-page SEO.

Me: Briefly, can you explain the important aspects of off-page SEO?

Rand: In essence, off-page SEO is all about the external signals your site (and/or pages) receive from around the web. Engines consider things like links (where they come from, what they're saying about you, how many you have and of what quality), social shares, user & usage data, etc. to figure

Me: How do I go about doing off-page SEO?

Rand: That's a hard question to answer in just a few sentences. The reality is that everything you do to build a great product, tell a great story, reach the right audience, and attract attention/awareness will help with off-page SEO. There's no silver bullet, and tons of folks have used a massive number of unique methodologies to achieve this - in fact, being unique in your approach is likely to be a cornerstone of success.

Me: Are XML sitemaps important and why?

Rand: They can be important, but not for everyone. If your site is reasonably simple and Bing/Google's doing a good job indexing your content, you probably won't get much value from using them. But if you're finding that the engines aren't indexing your pages, or you have a particularly large/complex site, XML Sitemaps are a good best practice.

Me: what is your favorite or secret recipe for getting better search engine rankings?

Rand: Earn the attention, awareness, respect, and interest of others by helping them, and then make it easy for them to advocate and evangelize on your behalf.

Me: What are the basic things you think everyone should know about SEO?

Rand: You should know the broad ranking factors that search engines might use, and be up to date on the basics of how SEO works. The Beginner's Guide to SEO is a good place to start.

Me: From your experience, does domain name have any impact on rankings?

Rand: Yes - in both direct and indirect ways. For example, if a searcher queries Google for "Alaska Air," having the domain name alaskaair.com is a positive signal that's associated with returning that result high in the rankings. Indirectly, a good, brandable, easy-to-pronounce and share domain name (e.g. something like "zillow.com" not "house-price-calculator-online.info") helps to earn links, attention, and social shares.

Me: On-page or Off-page SEO, which do you love doing and why?

Rand: I love building brands, which covers both arenas. The content you create and the amplification you aim to achieve are equal passions for me.

Me: how important is keyword research?

Rand: It's still very important - you need to know what your audience wants and how they phrase it. More so than just knowing which keyword terms and phrases to target, keyword research exposes you to how your audience thinks about the subjects you're trying to tackle. If you don't understand someone, it's very hard to market to them.

Me: Do you do keyword research? If yes, any tips on how to go about it?

Rand: I do on occasion. Google AdWords is still a good starting point, but I also like using Google Suggest, and Ubersuggest. We're actually working on a keyword research tool internally at Moz, as well.

Me: Can you give us a brief/summary of what the Google humming bird update is all about and how to play safe with it?

Rand: Hummingbird was, according to Google, an infrastructure update more so than an algorithmic update. That said, it likely had some impact on how Google is able to process complex queries and infer meaning. The upshot for those doing SEO is that content which isn't as perfectly keyword-targeted but does a great job of answering a question could earn higher visibility for long-tail queries. There's no new recommendations or tactics accompanying this one, but if you want to read more, I suggest Ammon Johns' post on the topic.

Me: What is your opinion about all these Random Google updates? (I find them disgusting)

Rand: Google needs to get better, and naming updates can give them some brand value and perception in the marketplace, so I think it's a logical move on their side. I do wish they were more transparent about what they're doing, though.

Me: Do permalinks matter in SEO?

Rand: Rarely. Usually, a blog's site structure is such that permalinks aren't critical to indexing.

Me: What SEO Advice do you have for Bloggers and Webmasters reading this Chat?

Rand: I put together some advice in a post called 21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic.

Me: Which SEO blogs do you love reading and recommend?

Rand: My favorites are all listed here.

Me: What Link Building Methods are working right now?

Rand: Methods that earn links rather than force them or create them in-authentically. If you're earning links, you'll know it, because people are naturally linking to you based on the merits of what you have to offer and the effectiveness of your relationship to them rather than because you've found a loophole or an exploit.

Me: To finish off, how can our readers connect with you?

Rand: I'm on Twitter a lot 🙂 @randfish

Don't forget to drop your comments, I will be expecting them! 😀  😉