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May 11, 2006

An Interview with Rand Fishkin

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Internet marketing vet Lee Odden sat down with Rand Fishkin recently as part of his Spotlight on Search series and got Rand to dish about some timely SEO and search issues.

We’ve blogged in the past about whether social search and tagging could be the future of the search, so we were very interested to hear Rand’s take on the matter. What does Rand think? Rand cites Yahoo’s acquisition of del.icio.us (not to mention today’s Google adds Digg results to its SERP headline) as a sign that engineers are taking social search and tagging seriously. However, he qualifies it in what could be the greatest line I’ve read recently, calling the tagging community ‘too geek-focused’. Oh, my affection for Rand Fishkin just grew exponentially!

He’s right, and it’s something I think we’ve mentioned before. The majority of users participating in the social search and tagging craze are… well, they’re tech nerds. They are the users who spend more than 85% of their day online and rarely experience sunlight. If tagging is going to take off, it needs to become more mainstream (among other things), and that won’t be an easy task. Tagging represents a new way to search, a new way of looking at the sites you visit and a new way to classify information. Is the normal user ready for such a change? To answer questions like these, I always give it the mother test. Could my mother figure out how to ‘tag’ something without calling my cell phone in a panic? Not a chance.

Rand also comments on the always mentioned ‘dark side’ of SEO, saying the news world has grown accustomed to pitching a good vs. evil angle when discussing the technology world. How else are they going to get people to care about technology? It’s amusing, because it’s true. There are good SEOs (white hat) vs. bad SEOs (black hat), Do No Evil search engines vs. Microsoft (heh), and legitimate sites vs. spammers. Why the great divide? Because it makes us more interesting, and Rand’s not fighting it.

‘There’s nothing wrong with a little panache and style accompanying hard work and talent.”

Rand thinks the spin makes the industry a little more newsworthy, a little more mysterious, and yes, a little more sexy. SEO is sexy? Oh brother, now I’m blushing.

Also noteworthy: Odden asks Rand what improvements he’d like to see to the major search engines. In terms of functionality, Rand says he wants to see a greater focus on ‘manual intervention’. Surely, he’s not suggesting researchers go through each page of the SERP by hand is he? Oh wait, he is!

“…having thousands of reviewers sort through the SERPs is a great way to do it. Humans can see spam and low quality much better than automated systems and right now, there is a lot of inexpensive labor in the world and a lot of money in search engines’ accounts.”

The image of people manually going through the search engines makes me giggle a bit, but I’m not sure what he’s referring to by ‘inexpensive labor’. That makes me a touch nervous.

And I know no one asked me, but do you know what I want? I search engines to be focused on search again. No more portals. I don’t want anymore Google Co-ops or Google-induced snow globes to tell me its 78 degrees again in Southern California. I want better relevancy. I want spammers out of my SERP and when I’m looking for informational resources, I want information. I don’t want people selling me something. I want a better integrated Yahoo! Mindset that I can use daily. All the bells and whistles and cross-media toys are shiny and fun, but at the end of the day, they don’t help my search a whole lot. I know, I know, nobody asked me.

So overall, a very interesting interview with a man who proves he’s more than just a pretty SEO face with yellow pumas. You can read the entire Lee Odden/ Rand Fishkin interview here.





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