Gillian Muessig was born in 1954 in New York City. She studied in Barnard College, Columbia University (faculty of Fine Arts and Architecture).
Gillian Muessig is the founding president of SEOmoz that is one of the leading providers of Search Marketing applications. Rand Fishkin is her son and also a CEO and Co-Founder of SEOmoz. SEOmoz.org unites over 300,000 search marketers from various countries of the Globe. Its blog is read by 50,000 people monthly who are involved in SEO business.
Throughout the SEO industry Gillian is known as “SEOmom” who always keeps abreast of the developments that take place in the industry. She participated in the most popular SEO conferences that took place in Europe, South and North America, Australia, Asia, Great Britain and Scandinavia. At present days Gillian actively develops SEOmoz resource introducing it to like-minded fellows all over the Globe.
- Hello Gillian what do you think about the interview with WebPromoExpert
- I’m delighted to do the interview and welcome to everybody who is listening!
-Ok thank you. What is your impression and opinion about Ukrainian SEO market?
- This is really exciting market. A couple of reasons: one – there is a commercial playing field. I mentioned before that when the number of searchers for anything other than pornography exists in a specific culture or economic state than you have a commercial playing field. In the US it took till 2005 before that happened it takes less time for other countries to kind of adopt and then get to that stage. In Ukraine we have that stage so there is an economic playing field. This is no longer about black hats only playing the initial game. There is no surprise that black hats show first – this is normal. But once you have a single domain I would say for example www.washington.edu which is our global university. You cannot afford to be cast out of resource the search engines result pages. Therefore most if not all and we would say probably all blackhat activity is inappropriate for that target customer. They cannot afford to be thown out. If you have one way you’ve got warehouses full of domains and you’ve gonna sell you can do whatever you want.
It is not a political discussion and neither it is a legal discussion you’re not going to jail for whatever you do and the other thing is it is not a religious discussion there is nothing wrong with doing this thing. Google is a private company – play with the mess you want. Only understand your customers’ requirements: that’s the only difference. So there are reasons for all these things and at SEOMOZ we known as quintessential of white hat SEOs.The reason is we serve a commercial market that must be in the SEPRs the next thousand years. They can’t even afford a reasonable deep hit if we give that to them we have done a great service. So we find a lot of good things you can do if you deserve to be #1 as suppose to.
What I see here in Ukraine is also a rise of white hat Seo and that’s a powerful SEO. Not some kinds of whimpy begginers that are trying to beat back hats.
I find e-commerce is increasing, international activity is increasing and SEO community itself comes mostly from the black hats origin – they are powerful, knowledgeable, intelligent and you don’t mess with these guys. And I love it.
- What do you think about buying back links? Is it black SEO or white SEO?
- I would say in most cases there are better ways to spend your money. In some ways we all buy back links. I buy the right to blog on your site and I get the back link as well. I buy the services of the PR person and they get me into New York Times and London Times. That’s a power of back links that I have paid for. You pay for things in different ways. To go out and buy paid bulk back links – probably not so valuable anymore. Most of them are just discounted; most of them come from pretty low pages whatever. You can hire a link builder in India who can do the same thing for you. You’re buying back links, you get it and in addition links themselves are declining signal it doesn’t mean we are trying to go away. It’s how the web tight together.
So we know that they will continue to be important in future just don’t forget the basics. But buying them in bulk I wouldn’t recommend it… Buying high quality ones, by saying: “I will join your organization. I wish to have a listing. My name, my address, whatever what I do and the link!” Perfectly fine. There are number of different ways in which we understand you paid and as a result one of your benefits is a backlink. I suggest you to do it only from powerful website that will benefit your website, rankings and trust on the web!
- When you first realized moving away consulting services from your website and concentrate your attention on providing services for professional SEOs and was it a winning business model?
- Absolutely it was the best decision we ever made. Rand and I had agreed that we would like to have a small company with just a few employees. Our first vision is that we might have one dosen at the most. At the beginning Rand couldn’t imagine it would be more than 5 and then more than a dozen. We would probably be 100-125 and in a reasonable short period of time. So we understand that a company will grow.
But you have 2 options.
Number 1: You can grow as a consulting service with people. The more customers you bring on, the more people you require to do the work. You must train those people and in our industry from the ground up. There is no degree that is going to give you any information about this and that’s of any use to anybody. So it’s a lot of work. Also managing people is a lot of work. You have to provide salaries, larger offices, new furniture, replacing the furniture – new computers and on and on and on. Overtime increasing with humans is a far more expensive business model than increasing with product. Product is scalable.
So we took what we essentially saw as a service some of the basic consulting which can be held by 2 guys and can be updated on a regular basis and the tool set that makes things more efficient, faster. As a result the service itself was qualified into a product which we could deliver and we could enjoy things like 80% or better growth margins. Are there are a lot of businesses on the Planet that had 80% growth margins?!
Now here is something else that’s interesting. It was #1 and it was efficient. It enabled us to have a smaller company. Corporate culture is hugely important to Rand and to myself. Hugely important! That’s why TAGFEE exists and for those who are listening: please go on to the internet and search for the word TAGFEE – you’ll find out what TAGFEE is all about. We hire for TAGFEE first which is essentially corporate culture and personality. The second thing we hire for is your skill set. If you have the brains but there is no TAGFEE – this still can’t work for you. Hard to build your team that way. We keep that; we not compromise at all and therefore we have a small team.
Number 2: if I serve my customers who are other SEOs around the world – agencies individual SEOs and even in-house (but most are agencies and individual consulting) and I also do consulting – I’m hearting my own customers. Why would I compete with my own clients? It’s inappropriate and it’s not TAGFEE! Transparency, generosity, fun, empathetic and exceptional. Don’t compete with your customers – it’s inappropriate.
And finally when I talked to Venture Capitalists they explained profits of exiting from such a company – never start a company without knowing your exit. When you grow a large company you want to do this until the day you die do you have a company that will scale and sell to VCS or another company that wants to swallow you or do you wants to go public and we call it an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and now you are on a stock exchange. But if you do so the valuation of your corporation upon investment or sale is approximately 1x to 1,5x which means 1 to 1, 5 times your growth and you will income if you’re consulting firm, if you’re selling services. If you’re selling tools, software, products then you have a chance to have somewhere around 6 to 10x. Three good reasons to do this. One: small cooperation where the corporate culture is hugely important; two: you don’t want to compete with your customer; and three: your valuation is far greater if you are scaling with tools or products rather than scaling with people. If more than 15-20 % of your income is still on services of any kind – the value of your corporation will drop if more than 20% of your income comes from services. The reason is the more services you have, the more the personal brand of the leadership is involved creating much greater risk.
When Rand Fiskin was brand of SEOmoz ONLY! If Rand Fishkin wasn’t there we had a serious problems. What happens if we got hit by a bus, cannot work or die? Oh boy! The whole company goes with a single brand – a human brand. Number two: there is risk for quality dependence on how well you can train the balance of your people as soon as you drop down on any of the quality on the delivery of services yet you’ve lost the competitive edge.
- Rogerbot is badly indexing other non-latin language websites. What are your plans at SEOMOZ and on this matter?
- We began with the US corpus information and we crawled it as deeply as it is possible throughout the US market at first (it’s our market, we know that). We moved than to other markets that had the Roman character set and again because we were able to manage them. We recognized that as we move across the world we’re now addressing the multi character set and it is not impossible for us, we’re doing some of that work but we don’t have all the necessary speed yet to crawl as deeply as we wish – it is just the beginning. So all I can beg is your patience as we continue to more deeply engage in a sector. We do find that the Ukraine and Eastern Europe have emerging and very brave markets – you guys are just starting from scratch. This is a powerful market. We’re working hard.
- What new tools or services you plan to get online in the nearest future?
- The greatest secret is being social. There are a lot of presentations around the world now. You cannot do search engine optimization without social anymore. The social metrics or social signals are on the ride and the link metrics loosing it’s power but never go away (it’s the basics!), however the social signal is a better signal and we recognize that. So we have a new tab in OpenSiteExplorer. We’re really excited about it. It’s just came out of BETA. So overtime you’ll see a lot more depth on that and a lot more focus on that – we’ll put metrics around that’s how measuring can be improved.
- Have you thought about analyzing the local search?
- Absolutely. Some of what you can do on a SEOMOZ and OpenSiteExplorer is can be used for local search as many people do. But there isn’t a strong focus on it and as we move more into mobile and global – you’ll see much more of that. The next step will be mobile on local.
- Maybe you can give a small advice to young SEOs and what main milestones SEO guys should focus on right now?
- How badly you guys hit by Panda?
- Almost non-hit.
- It’s coming. Watch for it. It’s going to happen, you don’t know exactly when and I don’t know exactly when. But what we do know is that you’ve got to watch here as it starts in Southern California and it begins to hit everybody. In general, it will move from the West to the East. And that is very cool as you can get prepared. It may take few days or it may take 6 months or more – the preparation time is really valuable for you. Second thing: take a look again for more temporal and again social metrics or signals to increase in the SERPS. In see some of that here, I’ve been playing with some of the local searching but I’m not seeing it as intense list – I’m seeing it in Western Europe and in the US. And again look for that to come down here. Yesterday I showed in the last part of our presentation in the evening that I can do things like search for restaurants and yes they are already popping up in the mobile search; I would look for mobile adoption here in Ukraine. More and more people are telling me that they are about to buy their first web-enable cell phones and they are still using older models and now they are getting into it. Mobile search becomes HUGE!
- And the last question will be about 1+ button and Google Plus. What do you think of that feature?
- I’m not sure that it will be able to catch on like Facebook does it because it isn’t super simple. The common thing about the presentations or whatever: Keep it simple, stupid! It’s difficult to judge. I don’t know whether or not Google is really ready to present a strong challenge to Facebook with Google Plus. At the moment I’m enjoying it greatly and I also enjoy places like Quora. These are more intense kinds of social networks and we’re just going to have to see whether such monster as Google which has so many people are already on Gmail is able to overcome that initial thing – We are not as simple as Facebook. I think it presents a serious challenge and I don’t know whether it is a better option.
- Thank you very much for the interview Gillian, you are really our SEOmom and we all love you and Rand!