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Lessons Learned Growing Moz
by Rand Fishkin
Download: http://bit.ly/growingmoz
Moz has had both great success and frustrat...
Let’s Start
With a Story
2001: Rand Drops Out of UW,
Two Classes Away from Graduating.
Rand in 2001... Thank god for beards.
2005: After 4 Years of Hard Work,
Rand & His Mom Have Built…
$450,000 in personal debt
2007: The Blog Rand Started to Learn More About
SEO Helps Moz Pay Off Its Debt!
The original SEOmoz
site, coded by Rand in...
Nov. 2007: Moz Raises $1.1mm from Ignition &
Curious Office to Focus on Software
7 employees and
$80K in the bank!
Origina...
Oct. 2008: We Release Our First Link Index
The launch and ensuing
customer signups helped us
regain profitability
http://m...
2009, 2010, & 2011: We Try to Raise Money Three
More Times… All End in Failure
Email from an investor telling me not to wo...
2012: Thankfully, We’d Stayed Profitable!
From our pitch deck to VCs in 2011:
http://www.slideshare.net/randfish/seom
oz-p...
April 2012: We Meet Brad Feld; He’s Dreamy
Brad wrote about TAGFEE: http://www.feld.com/wp/archives/2012/05/seomoz-tagfee-...
We Raise $18mm w/ Foundry & Ignition
http://moz.com/blog/mozs-18-million-venture-financing-our-story-metrics-and-future
2012-2013: Moz Grows a Lot
Details from our 2013 year in review blog post:
http://moz.com/blog/mozs-2013-year-in-review
Past 18 Months: We Hit Some Rough Patches
More about this: http://moz.com/rand/cant-sleep-caught-in-the-loop/
After 7 year...
Cause or Effect? Rand Suffers from Depression
http://moz.com/rand/long-ugly-year-depression-thats-finally-fading/
Jan. 2014: Rand Steps Down as CEO
http://moz.com/blog/final-post-as-ceo-sarah-bird-has-the-conn
Q1 2015: Growth Rate Turns a Corner
https://plus.google.com/u/1/+RandFishkin/posts/huXkGBpK9Rm
Lessons
Learned
#1 People & Hiring Matter
(but not in the ways you might expect)
http://moz.com/rand/what-company-culture-is-and-is-not/
Most companies
incorrectly reverse
these two.
Via: http://moz.com/rand/what-company-culture-is-and-is-not/
What Does “Culture Fit” Mean?
What Culture Is Not
• Whether y...
Via: http://moz.com/rand/what-company-culture-is-and-is-not/
Common Advice:
Hire slow. Fire fast.
- Every management book ...
Less Catchy, Better Advice:
Hire slow. If you have to fire, do it with
a consistent, empathetic process.
- Moz
Why? Becaus...
#2 Humility is the Most Underrated
Predictor of Success
Those who think highly of
themselves are very hard to
work with, and those who
don’t think about themselves
lack
self-awar...
#4 If Management is the Only Way
Up, We’re All F***’d
#5 Core Values Are Hard
(not having or living up to core values is harder)
Moz’s Core Values: TAGFEE
Transparent
Authentic
Generous
Fun
Empathetic
The Exception
We share what we do, what we learn, ...
http://moz.com/rand/diving-deep-on-tagfee/
Moz’s Core Values: TAGFEE
Transparent
Authentic
Generous
Fun
Empathetic
The Exc...
When things go well, values are easy.
When things get rough, values are important.
“The core values embodied in our credo ...
Core Values Are the Glue that Holds Vision, Strategy,
Team, & Everything Else Together.
http://moz.com/rand/vision-based-f...
#6 Our Best Marketing Never Feels Like
Marketing
We Start Our Values & Our Mission
Empathy: feel the pain and struggles of our customers; make
things we ourselves need whe...
Helping Marketers Across Many Mediums
The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding
It Might Start by Exposure through Media
The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding
Which Triggers an Informational Query
The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding
That Leads to a Follow on a Social Media
The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding
And Consumption of Content from the Brand
The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding
Then You Check Out Some Free Tools
The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding
And Finally Decide to Give the Product a Spin
We Seek to Be Relevant at Every Stage
Different Tactics to Reach Different Stages
We Bias Against “Pushy” Marketing
Sigh… This does not make me love your brand.
When We Help People, They Help Amplify
#7 Our Greatest Wins Have All Come
from Serendipity
(despite being a very analytics-focused company)
We Know We Can’t Measure Some Things
http://moz.com/rand/the-paradox-of-easy-vs-hard-to-measure-marketing-channels/
But We’ve Seen the Positive Impact of Serendipity
http://moz.com/rand/manufacturing-serendipity/
We Have a Rule On Our Marketing Team
Invest 20% into non-measurable, serendipitous
forms of marketing.
#8 Building Moz Has Never Felt Like a
Steady Climb, But Rather a Cycle of Failure
and Learning
http://buttersafe.com/2008/10/23/the-detour/
A lot of days feel like this:
We compare ourselves and our success to outliers rather than norms, and
this brings great unhappiness.
We Imagine Entrepre...
In Reality, It Looks More Like This:
Geraldine’s Travel Blog: http://everywhereist.com
Geraldine started her blog in 2009
In Reality, It Looks More Like This:
In Reality, It Looks More Like This:
For 2 years, she never broke 100 visits/day.
In Reality, It Looks More Like This:
This is where most people give up.
In Reality, It Looks More Like This:
These days, she gets 100,000+ visits each month
Every first-time founder I’ve ever talked to shares a
story that looks a lot like this one.
You are not alone.
In Reality,...
The Price of Success is
Failure after Failure after
Failure*
* Hopefully, each of those failures provides an opportunity t...
1) Moz is by no means perfect.
Critical Caveats:
2) Getting this stuff right in no guarantee of success.
3) These lessons ...
Bit.ly/growingmoz
Find Rand on the Web: Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+
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Growing Moz: 8 Lessons Learned

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Rand's presentation for MBA students at UW, April 2015

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Growing Moz: 8 Lessons Learned

  1. Lessons Learned Growing Moz by Rand Fishkin Download: http://bit.ly/growingmoz Moz has had both great success and frustrating failure over the last 10 years. With the benefit of hindsight, we can examine those experiences and extract learnings to help avoid the mistakes and repeat what worked.
  2. Let’s Start With a Story
  3. 2001: Rand Drops Out of UW, Two Classes Away from Graduating. Rand in 2001... Thank god for beards.
  4. 2005: After 4 Years of Hard Work, Rand & His Mom Have Built… $450,000 in personal debt
  5. 2007: The Blog Rand Started to Learn More About SEO Helps Moz Pay Off Its Debt! The original SEOmoz site, coded by Rand in PHP (meaning it barely worked).
  6. Nov. 2007: Moz Raises $1.1mm from Ignition & Curious Office to Focus on Software 7 employees and $80K in the bank! Original Post Here
  7. Oct. 2008: We Release Our First Link Index The launch and ensuing customer signups helped us regain profitability http://moz.com/blog/announcing-seomozs-index-of-the-web-and-the-launch-of-our-linkscape-tool
  8. 2009, 2010, & 2011: We Try to Raise Money Three More Times… All End in Failure Email from an investor telling me not to worry, just days before they pulled out of our signed term sheet  http://moz.com/rand/misadventures-venture-capital-funding/ and http://moz.com/blog/seomozs- venture-capital-process
  9. 2012: Thankfully, We’d Stayed Profitable! From our pitch deck to VCs in 2011: http://www.slideshare.net/randfish/seom oz-pitch-deck-july-2011
  10. April 2012: We Meet Brad Feld; He’s Dreamy Brad wrote about TAGFEE: http://www.feld.com/wp/archives/2012/05/seomoz-tagfee-and-me.html
  11. We Raise $18mm w/ Foundry & Ignition http://moz.com/blog/mozs-18-million-venture-financing-our-story-metrics-and-future
  12. 2012-2013: Moz Grows a Lot Details from our 2013 year in review blog post: http://moz.com/blog/mozs-2013-year-in-review
  13. Past 18 Months: We Hit Some Rough Patches More about this: http://moz.com/rand/cant-sleep-caught-in-the-loop/ After 7 years of 100% YoY growth, Moz grew ~50% in 2013 and >15% in 2014
  14. Cause or Effect? Rand Suffers from Depression http://moz.com/rand/long-ugly-year-depression-thats-finally-fading/
  15. Jan. 2014: Rand Steps Down as CEO http://moz.com/blog/final-post-as-ceo-sarah-bird-has-the-conn
  16. Q1 2015: Growth Rate Turns a Corner https://plus.google.com/u/1/+RandFishkin/posts/huXkGBpK9Rm
  17. Lessons Learned
  18. #1 People & Hiring Matter (but not in the ways you might expect)
  19. http://moz.com/rand/what-company-culture-is-and-is-not/ Most companies incorrectly reverse these two.
  20. Via: http://moz.com/rand/what-company-culture-is-and-is-not/ What Does “Culture Fit” Mean? What Culture Is Not • Whether you rock climb/surf/ hike/watch NFL/etc • What kind of movies you like • Bean bag chairs • Nerf gun fights • Catered lunches • Mashed potato sculpting contests judged by your auditors at Deloitte (yes, we really did this at Moz, and it was totally fun) What Culture Is Shared Values Shared Priorities Stylistic Cohesion ValuesMission & Vision Hiring, Firing, & Promotion Criteria Cultural Fit =
  21. Via: http://moz.com/rand/what-company-culture-is-and-is-not/ Common Advice: Hire slow. Fire fast. - Every management book & guru
  22. Less Catchy, Better Advice: Hire slow. If you have to fire, do it with a consistent, empathetic process. - Moz Why? Because consistency in evaluating people and giving them time to improve is essential to maintaining your reputation internally & externally. When firing happens fast, you create an environment of fear, uncertainty, & mistrust.
  23. #2 Humility is the Most Underrated Predictor of Success
  24. Those who think highly of themselves are very hard to work with, and those who don’t think about themselves lack self-awareness. In my experience, both confidence & arrogance are correlated w/ poor results, while self-deprecation is often correlated w/ the right kinds of humility.
  25. #4 If Management is the Only Way Up, We’re All F***’d
  26. #5 Core Values Are Hard (not having or living up to core values is harder)
  27. Moz’s Core Values: TAGFEE Transparent Authentic Generous Fun Empathetic The Exception We share what we do, what we learn, and where we struggle openly and honestly. We will be our true selves, never masking our beliefs for commercial gain. We seek to give without thought of return. Work is only work if you make it so. Our most important value – we strive to infuse our work with respect for the emotions & experiences of others. We strive to be the exception to the rule, and to take the path less traveled.
  28. http://moz.com/rand/diving-deep-on-tagfee/ Moz’s Core Values: TAGFEE Transparent Authentic Generous Fun Empathetic The Exception Real values come from a deep, personal place in the founders’/ team’s past/beliefs. Real values are disconnected from opinions about what will make the business succeed.
  29. When things go well, values are easy. When things get rough, values are important. “The core values embodied in our credo might be a competitive advantage, but that is not why we have them. We have them because they define for us what we stand for, and we would hold them even if they became a competitive disadvantage.” - Ralph S. Larsen, CEO of Johnson & Johnson http://www.jimcollins.com/article_topics/articles/good-to-great.html
  30. Core Values Are the Glue that Holds Vision, Strategy, Team, & Everything Else Together. http://moz.com/rand/vision-based-framework/
  31. #6 Our Best Marketing Never Feels Like Marketing
  32. We Start Our Values & Our Mission Empathy: feel the pain and struggles of our customers; make things we ourselves need when doing SEO Moz’s Mission: help people do better marketing
  33. Helping Marketers Across Many Mediums
  34. The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding It Might Start by Exposure through Media
  35. The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding Which Triggers an Informational Query
  36. The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding That Leads to a Follow on a Social Media
  37. The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding And Consumption of Content from the Brand
  38. The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding Then You Check Out Some Free Tools
  39. The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding And Finally Decide to Give the Product a Spin
  40. We Seek to Be Relevant at Every Stage
  41. Different Tactics to Reach Different Stages
  42. We Bias Against “Pushy” Marketing Sigh… This does not make me love your brand.
  43. When We Help People, They Help Amplify
  44. #7 Our Greatest Wins Have All Come from Serendipity (despite being a very analytics-focused company)
  45. We Know We Can’t Measure Some Things http://moz.com/rand/the-paradox-of-easy-vs-hard-to-measure-marketing-channels/
  46. But We’ve Seen the Positive Impact of Serendipity http://moz.com/rand/manufacturing-serendipity/
  47. We Have a Rule On Our Marketing Team Invest 20% into non-measurable, serendipitous forms of marketing.
  48. #8 Building Moz Has Never Felt Like a Steady Climb, But Rather a Cycle of Failure and Learning
  49. http://buttersafe.com/2008/10/23/the-detour/ A lot of days feel like this:
  50. We compare ourselves and our success to outliers rather than norms, and this brings great unhappiness. We Imagine Entrepreneurship Looks Like This:
  51. In Reality, It Looks More Like This: Geraldine’s Travel Blog: http://everywhereist.com
  52. Geraldine started her blog in 2009 In Reality, It Looks More Like This:
  53. In Reality, It Looks More Like This: For 2 years, she never broke 100 visits/day.
  54. In Reality, It Looks More Like This: This is where most people give up.
  55. In Reality, It Looks More Like This: These days, she gets 100,000+ visits each month
  56. Every first-time founder I’ve ever talked to shares a story that looks a lot like this one. You are not alone. In Reality, It Looks More Like This:
  57. The Price of Success is Failure after Failure after Failure* * Hopefully, each of those failures provides an opportunity to learn.
  58. 1) Moz is by no means perfect. Critical Caveats: 2) Getting this stuff right in no guarantee of success. 3) These lessons may not apply to every company. I share them only in the hopes that you won’t have to learn them with the same pain we did.
  59. Bit.ly/growingmoz Find Rand on the Web: Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+

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