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Gillian The SEOmom Muessig: What's Next? Zebras? ;-) The Founding Director at SEOmoz Gives an Interview to BizzTeams ahead of SEMCAMP SEOmoz/Promodo Seminar which will take place on the 19th of May in Kiev, Ukraine
Gillian The SEOmom Muessig: What's Next? Zebras? ;-)
Gillian Muessig, the Founding President at SEOmoz, the world's most renowned and respected name in Search, answers BizzTeams' questions.
The time of simple black hat techniques is quickly passing.
The history of our interaction with the web is just beginning.
Hello, Gillian! It’s a high honor for us to have a chance to talk to you! First of all, we know that you will speak at a SEMcamp.ua/SEOMOZ/Promodo Conference in Kiev, Ukraine, one of these days. Why are the East European markets so important for you? What are your goals for this Ukrainian Conference?
I am very interested in having SEOmoz present and supporting events and good SEO companies in all emerging markets. The US, Canada, UK, Scandinavia and much of the EU are already well established. Central and Eastern Europe, including the Ukraine are emerging as powerful commercial search marketers. The time of simple black hat techniques is quickly passing. Major enterprises interested in reaching these markets are looking for local providers who understand not just the language, but the culture and how to sell in the region.
I'd like SEOmoz to be there to help these emerging companies and powerful SEOs grow successfully and enjoy long lasting commercial marketing businesses and careers. Supporting, teaching, and encouraging a strong commercial search marketing industry is part of the mission of SEOmoz. It doesn't bring us immediate profit, but we strongly believe it's the right thing to do and will improve the entire industry over time.
I'm hoping delegates to the conference will feel free to ask me any questions about building consultancies, and serving regional and international clients, scaling, as well as technical search questions.
Not every one of our readers knows your professional story. Could you please share it with us? Why did you get engaged in digital market and when did it happen? What happened then?
In 1981, I began by building a small traditional (pre-web) marketing consultancy. In 1997, Rand Fishkin joined my company. In addition to the traditional marketing work, we made websites for our clients.
In 2001, when the dot-com bubble burst, nobody wanted to buy a website. I heard the same words again and again: "We have no capital expenditure budget. We'll see you when this is over."
But a few times, I heard, "I have no capital expenditure budget, but I have operating capital. If you bring me a dollar, I'll give you a piece of it." In other words, they offered a commission for sales we brought online. I established several revenue share agreements with niche market providers. The criteria were that we found many people searching for a product or service and very few or no professional responses. It was easier to find these niche markets not yet built out online in 2001-2003.
The companies we worked with had to be doing well offline, but have room for a lot of improvement online. We designed, authored, developed, deployed, marketed, and maintained those websites for nothing. In payment, we received a percentage of adjusted gross online sales.
In order to succeed, these websites needed to be found in the SERPs. Over a period of several months, we hired four companies to do the SEO work. None could do the job. Finally, Rand took on the problem.
And Rand quickly became extremely good at SEO. The websites began to do well and we "crawled" out of the debt we took on to build these sites during those lean years.
SEOmoz.org was a gift to the community of Search Marketers. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Moz was a bow to Mozilla, D-Moz and other user generated, freely shared and/or open source efforts. And it is a dot-org. We were not planning to make it a business.
Rand shared a tremendous amount of valuable information and encouraged others to do the same. Soon, the blog became the center of conversation around search marketing strategies and tactics.
In February, 2007 we provided an option to buy a PRO membership, offering a few tools and guides. Within a few months, we had more than 100 PRO members. It was evident that this was the direction the company should go.
We shut down our consulting work, handing that to the Distilled Group (London, NYC, Seattle) and focused solely on the tools and subscription service.
Rand has always been the technologist - the Wizard of Moz. I have been privileged to be the business force in the early years. On June 30, I will leave SEOmoz to pursue some business ideas I've put on hold while SEOmoz was built.
Today, SEOmoz is the world's most renowned and respected name in Search. We provide the web's most popular Inbound Marketing management software.
You are known as ‘SEOmom’ throughout the industry. Are you proud with this nickname? What is your lifelong mission in digital marketing? Is it connected with the fact that your “willingness to share knowledge and help others achieve both their business and/or personal goals is unmatched”, according to David Temple, the Global Inbound Marketing Lead at Lifesize Comminications?
Thank you to David Temple, for his kind words!
As the mother of Rand (SEOmoz) and Evan (Digitas) Fishkin, I am literally and figuratively, SEOmom. I am certainly known for my passion for sharing any knowledge, support, and connections in my efforts to help good people build strong, viable, and most importantly TAGFEE companies around the world.
As a matter of fact, my next venture will be to provide instruction, conferences and retreats, and personal consulting services to CEOs who want to build companies where the best and brightest employees in any industry want to be team members. I will provide services that help entrepreneurs build companies for the benefit of employees, customers, and founders alike. I am committed to the concept that there is a better way to live and work together. I will help set the foundation for companies where this is true.
And so yes, I am very pleased to be known as SEOmom, a name that defines me as one of the founders of the exciting industry of Search and Inbound Marketing and a supporter of the next generation of responsible CEOs who will rebuild the global economy.
What are the most worthy of note trends in Search Engine Marketing nowadays? Are there any threats to Google and their main source of revenue, AdWords?
Pandas and Penguins are occupying a lot of mindshare in SEO these days. What's next? Zebras? ;-)
The Panda updates are about reducing content spam.
The Penguin update is about reducing link spam.
As with any update, good websites will get hit along with the bad. As search marketers, look at the volume of text on your pages; thin content or pages with very scarce content can be seen as more likely to be a spammy site. Content includes well tagged info graphics, photos, and video as well as just text. So think broadly and make sure you are actively engaging readers, asking them to comment, review and share your content. These are all signals that your content is worthy, not spammy. And of course, use rel=canonical and rel=author tags and avoid duplicate content.
Penguin defines a bit more clearly what a natural link profile looks like and what a spammy link profile looks like. As with all updates, it may or may not roll out in your country, vertical market sector or region at the same time as the original announcement. But beware: if it is not already affecting your SERPs, it IS coming to your home town soon.
What are you striving for as a search marketer? In general, pursue obtaining fewer links from higher domain value (high mozRank and domain authority) websites rather than boat loads of very low value links in unnatural bursts, which are indicators of purchased links.
Create really good content by mining the data you have about your own websites, your industry, users, sales or any other data you may have. Publish simple info graphics regularly. It's sticky; people like coming back to the same place for a tidbit of info about subjects that interest them.
Ask industry leaders for their opinion on one or two issues/questions. Aggregate the answers (data) and become known as the publisher of industry expert opinion and predictions. Also very sticky.
There are tons of other good ideas for creating and promoting great content. Check out the SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday videos. They're brilliant because we deploy them every Friday. The secret is in the consistency. More than 25% of all readers at SEOmoz.org/blog view Whiteboard Friday. There's a lesson to be had there!
You say that you are “the business partner to technologists with brilliant ideas”. What are the most interesting ideas that have been implemented by you in cooperation with such technological partners so far?
The business functions of a company are often pretty similar: financial management, human resources, customer service, administration functions. Productization is where imagination and visionary capabilities are required.
I've helped many entrepreneurs see their products in a new light. I often say, "Are you selling axle grease or peanut butter?" There are often untapped uses and/or markets for products and services that can create strong revenue streams.
For example, someone wanted to build an app to let people in any specific company arrange lunch meetups.
Pain point: workers want to hang out together at lunch but there is no way to arrange it that is not awkward and time consuming.
The app allows employees to list a date, time, place for lunch and the size of table they have or will reserve. Others simply add their name to a list until the table is full.
I helped the entrepreneur to see the selling points to the corporation who would pay for this for their employees: onboarding of new employees is faster, deeper, and more effective if they meet other employees offsite and get to know them. Getting employees from different departments to talk can be encouraged and managed easily with this app. It's less cumbersome than all/staff emails or Yammer.
But maybe the app should be independent of companies altogether. If so, it can generate income from local eatery ads, promotion offers (groupon etc) sponsored by a company looking to hire in the region, etc. Many ad revenue possibilities.
With MyTownMarket, an online debit transaction company playing in the same space as Dwolla, I helped them ID a niche market to begin sales, better understand the competitive landscape and help them organize their thoughts for presentation to Investors.
I helped the developer of drinkr, a phone app along the lines of Yelp for bars, pubs, and nightclubs , to determine what features would make the app attractive and sticky to users and how to monetize it, as well as how to organize the priorities for features so the app could be quickly deployed and additional features added over time. It's a very cool app, by the way.
I help CEOs think about their products, companies and people (team members) in new ways. Many founders think of the people who work in their company as employees. Employees work FOR the entrepreneur. I help them see that the company will be much stronger if people work WITH the founder to build something exciting. A technologist without a business partner has only an idea that cannot get to market. Founders without a team have only ideas and a market plan with no team to get the work done. And workers without a brilliant idea and good entrepreneur to work with have no chance to make a difference in the world with their skills. They have only dead end jobs working FOR someone else.
I set a corporate rudder in the water to steer the company through any decision. I help entrepreneurs and team members bring their personal values to the corporate marketplace to build companies that are not only better to work in, but also likely to become amazingly profitable and formidable in their industry.
What personal qualities helped you become one of the most recognizable and respectable people in worldwide online marketing? What qualities should one have to attain success in marketing field? Do these qualities change with the lapse of time?
Share and you will get more. I taught that to my children when they were little and I still believe it today. Rand and I built a company based on that simple concept. When I started, so many people laughed and dismissed me as a silly little housewife who knew nothing of what it took to build a serious company. They are not laughing so hard now.
Find your strength
Do not shrink from things you fear; work through and past it. Do things even though they frighten you because others need you to do them. Work for others. Protect your employees as you would protect your children. Keep focused on the goal of building companies that serve your team members and customers. You cannot help but become successful and your own wealth will take care of itself.
Find opportunity where others see obstacles. Make no excuses for your own failings, but know them and focus on doing things where you have strength. Find and work with others who have complimentary strengths.
Acknowledge Your Obligation to Serve
And as I become older, I am being more aware of the value of what I know. In my youth, it was easy to think others knew more, had more experience, were better prepared because they were not also raising children but focused only on business, and so on. It's so easy to make excuses to think of yourself as LESS than who you are. In the end, it is not our failures we fear, it is our capabilities and successes. If we acknowledge our own power and light, we must act on it. We must do more, work more, build more, share more.
It is so easy to do little and get by because you think you are only average and have nothing to offer. It is a burden and a lot more work if you acknowledge your obligation to use your life-built skills, knowledge, and capabilities to help those who follow behind you.
In your opinion, will social networks ever be able to defeat Google in terms of search markets? In this case, will SEM and SMM ever combine with one another to create a new industry in online marketing?
Do not think that the end of search (or search marketing) is about putting 1 to 11 words on average into a little box and yielding 8,229,648 results. The history of our interaction with the web is just beginning.
We already see that first touch in the buying cycle - and many touches that follow - does not come from search engines. "Accidental search", in which we discover a cool item that invokes our interest and strikes our fancy by browsing through our friends' Facebook pages or Pinterest pages is already a major factor in the buying cycle.
A typical purchase process may look like this today -
I find a pretty dress on Jane's Pinterest account. Two clicks bring me to the website that sells the dress, where Jane pinned the image to her Pinterest board.
I check out the price and post the image on my Twitter account. I ask my friends what they think.
My friends respond with other pictures, links to their (or their friends') Pinterest account as well as Facebook. Some email me ideas for a dress for the party I will attend.
I check out all the options, sometimes clicking links in email, twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. Sometimes, I search on Google, Yahoo, or Bing and try to find the result I'm looking for. The social links are more successful. They get me to the target page every time. The search results may yield other options, but don't always yield the page I'm looking for.
I check out sizes, colors, prices and choose the dress I want.
I do a search for the dress in Google using the brand name, size, color and add my city location because I'd like to see it in person.
I find a local store, try it on and make my decision. The store has to compete with online prices to gain my business. Instant gratification of taking the dress home makes their job a bit easier, but I won't pay much more for instant gratification. And I can check prices on my cell using several apps that will provide both local shop prices and online prices for me.
Finally, I buy the dress on my cell phone from a vendor who offers 2 day free shipping.
As you see, social platforms are already a significant part of the purchase process today.
In the future, our interaction with the web will be far beyond keyboards and voice (think mobile web, Skype, Vonage, etc.). Surfaces around us will be connected; our own hands and body parts may be covered with touch points that connect us to information and resources as we need them. Disney is doing fascinating work in this area already, as are Microsoft and other gaming companies. The Wii, for example, has us jumping around in front of a video screen, throwing imaginary balls and golfing without clubs. Soon we will test golf clubs before purchasing using web enabled simulators.
As search marketers, beware. The landscape of the purchase process is changing rapidly. Search engines are only the beginning, not the end.
What are the secrets of today’s CRO methods? How can we increase the rate of ROI using CRO?
A/B test! Whenever you think you know something about how your customer wants to buy and what hot offer will make them buy... you DON'T know. Test everything!
That said, be reasonable about what you test. Start with the basics. Price, delivery, return policies are major decision making points.
Customer reviews can increase conversion rates significantly. In order to close a sale, you must establish trust in the customer. Without trust, no matter how enticing, the customer is not going to buy. So think about all the points on your page in which you may be losing trust or gaining trust.
Color - be culturally aware. If purple means funerals in a culture, avoid it if you are selling birthday balloons.
Return policies - this is one of the hottest touch points for gaining or losing trust. Make sure your policy is generous and clear.
Shipping - if there is any way you can include the cost of shipping in your price, do it. Customers are always concerned that the cost of shipping will increase the cost beyond their comfort zone. Vendors who offer free shipping are always favored.
A real address - customers trust companies with a physical address. Put yours on the website.
Customer Service phone numbers - there is nothing like talking to a live person to alleviate fear and increase trust. Put your phone number on the website and have superbly trained people manning the lines.
Really large images - gain an advantage over the thousands of websites that have little thumbnail images and offer a larger image if you click here... and have no larger picture available. Put in large images; add the ability to scan over details. Having a good look at the product increases conversions.
Build your brand - people trust brands they know. Build your own brand equity and leverage it to sell other brands. We're all happy to buy many brands from stores such as Harrods or Walmart. We trust the store brand to bring us a particular level of quality or price in the products they sell. We trust their customer service and return policies. We trust the company to be there in a few years, not disappear in a month. Build your brand equity for consistently increased conversion rates.
In Kiev you are going to speak on how to measure the return on investments in internet marketing. Is such return measurable at all? Is it one of the main advantages of internet marketing comparing to traditional marketing? Is there any affordable software on the market that can help small businesses measure the rate of ROI for investments in online marketing?
ROI on Internet marketing is more precise and available than on any other form of marketing or advertising budget expenditure. I'll demonstrate specifics on how to look at kpi's (key performance indicators) that really make a difference in campaigns, how to follow the money backwards and determine the lift you get from search and social media campaigns.
What would you like to achieve in the near future? What are your plans for the next three or five years?
I'd like to take another brilliant startup to market and a $100 million valuation.
I'm writing a book now on building sustainable companies through Inbound Marketing. Rather than a technical manual, it will be of more interest to entrepreneurs.
I will spend more time serving on Boards of Advisors and Boards of Directors for startups in countries around the world.
My big goal for the next 3-5 years is to build a company that provides webinars, books (see above), seminars, retreats, and bespoke training to support entrepreneurs building sustainable companies built for the benefit of team members, customers, and owners.
Now we would like to ask you our traditional personal questions.
Your desk book? – Global Search Engine Marketing by Anne Kennedy and Kristjan Mar Haukkson. People you hold up as an example? – Margaret Thatcher who is credited with saying, “It used to be about trying to do something. Now it’s about trying to be someone.” I still want to do something worthwhile. Mac or PC? – PC for flexibility and compatibility. MAC for elegance of product and interface. iPhone or Android? – iPhone for me; I'm technologically lazy and it's so simple. Favorite auto brand? – Tesla: you didn't say it had to be affordable or rational, did you? ;-) Favorite sports clothes brand? – Puma, of course. ;-) Favorite social network? – Google+ It's still full of geeks who love to converse about esoteric things I love, too. Favorite non-alcoholic beverage? – San Pellegrino. The best country to live in? – Where your loved ones are. If I did not live in the US, I would be a nomad, living in another country every 6-12 months. I love being a citizen of the world. Advice for dummies? – The promise of the Internet is to level the playing field. And so it has and continues to do so more and more. There are no excuses anymore. Learn what you want and need to know!