4 Growth and Mentality Hacking Lessons from Rand Fishkin

January 23, 2015

A year ago, I interviewed Rand Fishkin. He was open, candid and insightful.

A few weeks ago, we did a follow up interview. Not only does he have a new hair do, he has a new perspective on life and Moz. In the spirit of Rand-like transparency, I need to come clean — not only did I lose audio altogether in the first interview, but Rand let me do a retake, and the audio/videoRead more…

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A year ago, I interviewed Rand Fishkin. He was open, candid and insightful.

A few weeks ago, we did a follow up interview. Not only does he have a new hair do, he has a new perspective on life and Moz. In the spirit of Rand-like transparency, I need to come clean — not only did I lose audio altogether in the first interview, but Rand let me do a retake, and the audio/video is still choppy, which is very frustrating considering how much testing and QA I did before both interviews.

I may have bungled the audio/video tech, but at least I got from him the secret to marketing success — really, all success — and I’m going to give it to you in bullet points.

1. Perception is not reality

A year ago, Rand make it clear he wasn’t happy: about Moz’s performance, product launch issues, his stewardship of the company … well, just generally. Rand was willing to be open about a fear most of us, well at least I, share … that everything is messed up, and I’m at fault — or so it seems.

A year later, Rand made a critical distinction between perception and reality. In reality, little had changed in a year, but his perspective had noticeably brightened. He was clearly able to separate reality from perception (which, by the way, seems also to create a lot of happiness).

This is a critical take-away for marketers on two levels. First, this is why a marketing strategy/plan is critical; it establishes goals we’re working toward and steps to get there so that we’re not on a constant emotion roller-coaster ride through the process that can cause bad decision-making. Second, our job as marketers and product developers must be to let the data guide us, not our changing perceptions. And if we don’t have enough data to make a decision, create a plan to gather that data and execute.

2. Transparency as a personal imperative

Having known Rand for a while now, I’ve been awed by his willingness to say anything and go anywhere. The pessimist in me wondered whether he was doing it because it’s a good marketing strategy or that’s how good businesses are run.

But Rand set me straight: he’s transparent because he “needs to be” … it’s a compulsion. He admitted there are times it may not make things easy, but he just doesn’t feel right if he’s not 100% open and transparent.

Personally, I think it’s working. Despite any product or competitive challenges, Moz continues to be one of the top independent marketing analytics companies. Moreover, his compulsion for transparency is a welcomed breath of fresh air in a world where many let fear of the competition, negative press or vulnerability run their decision-making.

3. Great products can’t be crowd-sourced

Something that Rand emphasized even more strongly is that product development can’t be crowd-sourced. While customer input is important, there must be a single leader who drives the product forward. He emphasized this in all our conversations, but I wanted to share his more detailed take from our recent conversation (sorry again for the audio/video issues).

I really agree that great products can come from all sorts of teams, but I also relate to Rand’s sentiment that working in small, tight teams is the most fun. Personally, I find the triangle of techie, designer, biz lead to be incredibly powerful.

4. Success is in the Eye of the Beholder

From my perspective, Rand is an online marketing industry God. He was able to leverage his consulting work into developing products that help not only his clients but everyone trying to gain greater insights into search and web analytics.

From his perspective, Rand is doing okay but not totally crushing it. He keeps looking up at how things can be improved, bigger goals.

I can relate and so can many growth hackers, I believe. The truth is that it’s fun to hit bigger and better milestones, but then the floor resets. If we can achieve X growth in Y time, then we need to achieve 3X in Y/2 time. It’s a necessary attitude for exponential growth hacking.

Thanks, Rand, for both of these conversations.

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2 Minutes of Truth with Rand Fishkin

December 18, 2014

Rand Fishkin is an icon in the online marketing world which, if you’re reading this, you probably already know.

In January, Rand was generous enough to let me interview him to get some more context behind an email he wrote to Moz customers that said:

“I know you likely encountered some bugs and hiccups, and I wanted to express apologies for those issues and gratitude for being an early adopter. We’re already making big improvements basedRead more…

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Rand Fishkin is an icon in the online marketing world which, if you’re reading this, you probably already know.

In January, Rand was generous enough to let me interview him to get some more context behind an email he wrote to Moz customers that said:

“I know you likely encountered some bugs and hiccups, and I wanted to express apologies for those issues and gratitude for being an early adopter. We’re already making big improvements based on your feedback.”

I knew he was a thoughtful, multi-dimensional, talented guy, but I had no idea just how remarkably honest and open he is about … everything.

I’ve distilled our 20 minute interview down to 2 minutes that touches on a huge variety of topics. Rand is remarkably frank about his self-deprecation, how his marriage is what sustains him through the tough times, comparing his commitment to building a long-term business to other entrepreneurs’ quick wins and how the huge Internet players are taking data from little guys and selling it to the largest advertisers.

One point in particular, which comes at the end of the video, really stuck with me this year.

The great products have a single architect behind them. The ones that have struggled have many fingers in the pot.

My take-away: don’t hide behind others’ opinions. Be a leader.

In January, I’ll post Rand’s 1-year-later follow-up take.

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4 new Google Analytics features the pros are already using

September 18, 2014

This summer, Google Analytics released some new features. You’re as much of an analytics pro as the next guy — or, the next guy reading the Zebo blog, at least — so you should know what the new bells and whistles are all about. Some of them are API changes that’ll mostly be relevant to large agencies and power users, but there’s also the Chrome Extension, which is handy. Read on to learnRead more…

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This summer, Google Analytics released some new features. You’re as much of an analytics pro as the next guy — or, the next guy reading the Zebo blog, at least — so you should know what the new bells and whistles are all about. Some of them are API changes that’ll mostly be relevant to large agencies and power users, but there’s also the Chrome Extension, which is handy. Read on to learn more.

Chrome extension makes in-page analytics more convenient

If it was cumbersome to study in-page analytics before, Google has made it simpler with their new Chrome extension.

Load up the free extension, and now, when you visit a site whose analytics account you’re logged into, you can see your metrics dashboard and an overlay of who’s clicking where.

You can add the in-page analytics Chrome extension here.

Data import feature lets you bring together multiple business systems

When you run a complex business, the website and its analytics are often just one part of the picture. A few examples of things you can do with data import:

  • Upload inventory data and tie it into website analytics
  • Import cost data from advertising networks
  • Upload values after a transaction happens, like total customer spend, last purchase date or a loyalty score

Here’s how you get started with data import for Google Analytics.

Google Analytics Premium customers benefit from DoubleClick integration

If you’re running display ads via DoubleClick, this integration is exciting because it empowers you to go deeper than the run-of-the-mill last-click attribution that tends to obscure the role of display advertising in your conversion funnel.

The new reports available will allow you to get a more holistic picture of how display factors into your customer’s path to purchase.

3 new APIs to simplify analytics for large businesses

Embed API

This API is meant for creating custom dashboards in your own applications, as in the example below.

AdWords linking API

If you’ve been an SEM manager of any kind, you probably know you can link analytics and AdWords. You’ve also probably been in a situation where a simple link / unlink function isn’t enough, especially when multiple advertising accounts and analytics profiles enter the picture.

AdWords Links in the Management API allows you to get, list, create, update and delete links between Google AdWords accounts and Google Analytics properties and manage which views (profiles) to populate with AdWords data.

Provisioning API

This API lets you programmatically create new analytics accounts. It’s intended for service providers with many clients to be able to quickly and automatically create GA instances, and it’s available by invite only.

Now you’re clued in. So tweet this post and get back to work!

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