Interview: Rand Fishkin Dishes on Google

Rand Fishkin, CEO of Seattle-based, was in Salt Lake City this week speaking at the first stop on this summer’s Family MozCation tour. In between sipping Corona, signing autographs and posing in pictures with Utah fans, Fishkin spoke with about, among other things, his relationship with Google Spam Czar Matt Cutts.

Shown on the right, Rand Fishkin spoke with this week in a one-on-one interview at MozCation in Salt Lake City. Fishkin talked about his relationship with Google Spam Czar Matt Cutts, left.

Fishkin’s company is a leading provider of search engine optimization software and his efforts to get websites to rank in Google have compelled Fishkin to delve deeply into why some sites show up No. 1 as others don’t even make it into the top 100 search results.

Utah is the only spot in North America that SEOmoz will visit during MozCation. Next Fishkin is off to Brazil, Peru and Spain. Do you and Cutts have a pretty interesting relationship?

Fishkin: “Interesting” is a very good adjective to describe it. He is a good guy, but … I want to be very transparent and open.” Will you characterize your interaction with Google since starting your career in SEO?

Fishkin: Early in my career I struggled for a long time to figure out how Google ranked pages and why some things ranked and some things didn’t … It’s frustrating to those in the (SEO) industry and it’s frustrating to me too.

The reason that I am frustrated with them is that I don’t feel there is a conflict. We’re on the same team as Google. I’ll use a football analogy; Google is a quarterback refusing to use us — all its great receivers. Throw the ball and let people like us move it forward for you. How does Google view SEO companies?

Fishkin: My bias would be that I think Google views the situation more risky than it really is … So they operate from a perspective of fear. What’s your major beef with the search giant?

Fishkin: They’re not transparent. We’re very open, and if Google would go that one step to be much more transparent they would earn a lot of people’s trust and they would earn a lot of forgiveness when they screw up. When has Google “screwed up” in the past?

Fishkin: Google spam is a huge problem. How is SEOmoz more open with information than Google?

Fishkin: There is not very much that we would not make public. Clearly, transparency has been really good for us. I’ll tell you our revenue, the number of users who have a pro account. I’ll tell you the sources I am pursuing for venture capital financing.

And that’s exactly what I would do with all the results I care about.

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  1. Sha Menz says

    Hmmm…the title of this article is great for getting noticed, but seems a little more adversarial than the actual content of the conversation.

    That aside, I think Rand’s comments reinforce the fact that there seems to be a complete misunderstanding of people who provide SEO services. Danny Sullivan also pointed this out in his Keynote at SMX recently.

    It seems Google has bought into the misguided view that people who work in SEO are spammers. Not only is this insulting, but also extremely puzzling. Google tells us what they think makes a good web site – SEO’s work hard to help their clients achieve that and in return Google assumes they are all just trying to gain advantage by dishonest means. That sucks.

    If Google had any idea how much of my time is spent explaining to clients why all those dodgy “surefire ways to beat Google” are NOT the way to do business, maybe they would get it.

  2. Justin McHood says

    Special thanks to Rand for leading the way when it comes to transparency.

    We can only hope that that enough of the Google “helpers” adopt this bias and start to influence the big G when it comes to talking openly about the stuff that matters.

  3. Rand Fishkin says

    Hey Pat – great to meet you and enjoyed our chat. I think, unfortunately, there’s a lot of cutting/pasting and jumping around from the 20-minute, detailed conversation we had to this article, which paints a far more contentious picture than what I suggested on several fronts.

    Next time, let’s do it over email so the right words make it into the right place :-)

    BTW – Loved Salt Lake City and had an incredible time at Mozcation. Many thanks to everyone who attended and the great turnout from in particular.

  4. Pat Parkinson says

    Hi Rand.

    Thank you for reading the blog. I’ve appreciated the email conversations we have had in the past and especially enjoyed meeting you and chatting at MozCation. Your presentation was amazing.

    I hope you don’t feel you were misrepresented in the piece. I tried to stick to the quotes I had in my pad. I was envisioning the Q and A as our conversation progressed.

    Thanks for coming to Salt Lake City. I look forward to more communication in the future.

    Sha Menz and Justin — you each make great points. I thought Rand’s answers to several of my questions were fascinating. The SEOmoz chief seemed very honest and candid — things any ex-news reporter (like me) would appreciate. Thanks for checking out the blog, y’all.

  5. Gareth says

    I think that Google has a suspicious view of SEO Companies because it is difficult to draw the line between those who are transparent and ethically ‘upright’ and those who will do anything they can to rank high their (or their client’s) websites higher in the search engine.

  6. Jim says

    We really are one step behind you in the UK when it comes to cutting edge SEO! Thank god for so we can try and keep up!

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