"Best way to sell something: don't sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect, and trust of those who might buy."
That's according to Rand Fishkin, the CEO of Moz, who also co-authored "The Art of SEO" from O'Reilly Media, co-founded Inbound.org, and was named on PSBJ's 40 Under 40 List and BusinessWeek's 30 Best Tech Entrepreneurs Under 30.
I recently sat down with Fishkin to get his thoughts on SEO, content marketing, link building, and email marketing. Here are six key takeaway points.
1. Local Search for National Brands
Google's contextual search results put a major emphasis on local listings. This can be a disadvantage to national brands who are trying to compete at the local level.
So, what options are there?
Fishkin seems to think that it isn't going to get any easier for big brands.
"It's going to be harder and harder, perhaps in the future nearly impossible, for a national brand to compete with someone who has a local presence," he said.
Aside from paid search visibility, Fishkin suggested that brands could look at creating "some phenomenal piece of content that happens to be hyper-targeted" but admitted that this was very hard to pull off.
2. Content Marketing: How to Stand Out
Content marketing has rapidly grown over the past few years. This growth has already led to saturation in some niches. So, how should we go about getting noticed? How can we make it worth our while?
Here are some tips from Fishkin on getting people's attention:
"There's a great blog post from Dr. Pete on the Moz Blog all about big content. Why to invest in big content, the returns compared to sort of smaller pieces. I think it's the seminal work on the topic. He basically analyzes a bunch of big content pieces that he's done, compares them to all the blog posts he's ever written, and sort of the time and effort distributions and comes to the conclusion that huge content that takes a ton of time and effort that is – would seem massively non-scalable, tends to outperform even the hundred little pieces of content you would have made with the same time, money, and energy. So I think that's how it's going to be – for smart marketers, they're going to need to stand out from the content marketing crowd by having the 'go-to' reference resource on the topic."
Fishkin went on to say that a good example of this is Moz's Google weather report, MozCast, because it is "Interactive, it's updated every day, it's consistently useful and interesting, no one else has anything like it." His final, interesting comment was: "Over-invest, at least on occasion, and test that."
3. Where Should Content Live?
There are now so many different places that you can publish content online. You have the choice of industry blogs, guest posts, social platforms, online publications, magazines, and even newspapers. How do you decide which outlet is best?
"I almost always say put it on your own site," Fishkin said. "Not necessarily your blog, but put it on your own site. If you're investing that much energy and effort ... you want that to live on your site. You want to have control of the experience."
Fishkin later added:
"I'm all about the long term, so I'm always investing in the long term. Therefore, if you never put the great stuff on your own site, you'll never build up that audience. You'll never become that reference resource. I would start right from the beginning and say: if something is absolutely fantastic, keep it on your site, because you want to build up that brand recognition over time. You want to get that big megaphone. And the only way is to start with a tiny, tiny little megaphone."
4. Getting Picked Up
What if you have interest in your content reaching a broader audience? How can you help give your content more visibility or get content picked up through more popular publications and outlets?
"Number one is having a preexisting relationship," Fishkin said. "Social is a great way to build those. Conferences and events are also great way to build these important relationships."
Fishkin also emphasized the importance of commenting on other people's work.
"Authentic commenting on those authors' or editors' posts is a great way to build up recognition: 'oh, yeah, I start to recognize you, I know who you are, I like you and know you, you reach out to me and are like: hey, you know, I've been following you for a while'; that classic kind of stuff," he said.
5. Link Building vs. Social Signals
It's been long speculated that social signals are treated in a similar fashion to links, meaning they have an impact on rankings. There are studies abound that validate this correlation and even more controversy surrounding it. Will social signals ever become more important than links?
"Probably no, but I think that social, branding, press and PR, and things like content marketing will all replace a lot of the purely link-fueled and link-focused outreach and link acquisition," Fishkin said. "I see the world of SEO continuing to be focused and even reliant on links in a lot of ways, but not reliant on the tactics we've used to acquire them in the past. So I think that link earning is going to replace link building."
I really like this feedback and think the last sentence is worth memorizing:
"Link earning is going to replace link building."
6. Email Marketing and SEO
As a search marketing expert, have you given much thought to email? Probably not, but you should, according to Fishkin.
"The bigger that list gets and the more people tend to tweet about it, share it, link to it or link to the content that's included in it or link to us when it goes out each week – every two weeks, actually," he said. "So your email list essentially becomes an asset for amplification of your messaging,"
I couldn't agree more. Furthering Fishkin's point, SEO can also benefit from marketing automation, a form of email marketing, by leveraging MA analytics, 1-to-1 communication capabilities, and the need for content development.
Fishkin's efforts have had a huge impact on the search marketing industry. He's helped push the envelope with regards to knowledge, collaboration, and the development of toolsets that help us all succeed.
You can check out the full interview here, where Fishkin shares his thoughts on additional topics like Google+, social media, and staying up-to-speed with industry news.