This week, to launch the May thru July Link Building Tools Series of the SEO & Link Building Best Practices Blog I’ve had the extreme pleasure of speaking with a link builder that, in my opinion, really needs no introduction but just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, I’ll clue you in. Rand Fishkin the CEO & Co-Founder of SEOmoz is a leader in the field of search engine optimization tools, resources & community. Last year, he co-authored the Art of SEO from O’Reilly Media and was named among the 30 Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs Under 30 by BusinessWeek. He’s particularly passionate about the SEOmoz blog, read by tens of thousands of search professionals each day.
Elise Redlin-Cook: Well, I think I will dig right in. In the past, and it could be years ago or even just yesterday, what link are you most proud of acquiring for your site or a clients site?
Rand Fishkin: I have a bad memory, so I’ll have to pull something recent. Earlier this year I visited YCombinator and spoke about SEO for Startups. The blog post Paul Graham wrote after that event really excited me.
Elise: That IS something to be proud of. 🙂 What specific tools are in your link building arsenal to help you acquire links for a client who is just getting started?
Rand: I’m an unabashed fan of two tools at the moment – Keyword Difficulty, which can help show how hard it will be to rank for a keyword, who’s currently in the top 10 and what their strengths are – and Open Site Explorer, which gives a great interface to link analysis, both self and competitive.
Elise: Do you employ competitive analysis in your link building strategy for clients?
Rand: Absolutely! Until you’ve analyzed the competitive landscape, you can’t do a truly comprehensive job of SEO.
Elise: What are your views on no-follow vs. do-follow links?
Rand: It depends on the perspective you’re asking from. We no longer recommend using nofollow links internally to control the flow of PageRank (though it appears to work sometimes, anyway), but we certainly advise placing nofollow on external links that users can submit/edit (to help protect a site from spam).
Elise: Has your link building techniques changed over the years as the search industry has evolved?
Rand: Absolutely. When I first started link building in 2002, I would try getting a link anywhere on the web I could find. I’d buy links, submit to open directories, leave comments on UGC portals, etc. Over time, I became more sophisticated and used content as a leverage point to attract links, ran with viral content and used badges/widgets to distribute linking activities. Lately, I’ve been a big fan of incentivized link magnets such as embedded content and content/technology/API licensing deals.
Elise: Have you made any big updates to your tools or released any new products that you’d like to talk about?
Rand: I had a lot of very frustrating experiences trying to do SEO work for clients and started the site as a place to vent frustrations and get feedback from other folks in the search community. Eventually, it turned into a very exciting business.
Elise: So, I’m curious…what exciting projects are you involved in right now that you’d like to discuss?
Rand: Last summer I posted some notebook pages about a product we’d been considering at SEOmoz for a long while. That product should be arriving this summer and I can barely wait 🙂
Elise: I’ve heard that you popped the question to your wife in a very public way. Would you like to tell us about why and how you did it that way?
Elise: Lastly, I’d love to know if you are driven by any great passions outside of the business arena?
Rand: I’ve been thinking a bit about what I might do after SEOmoz. Chuck Feeney is a personal hero of mine, and I’d love to one day accomplish 1/100th of what he’s done post-entrepreneurship.
What fun it was to get my questions answered by Rand. What do you think about these tools, and techniques?