Lessons Learned Growing Moz

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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.

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Let’s Start With a Story

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2001: Rand Drops Out of UW, Two Classes Away from Graduating. Rand in 2001... Thank god for beards.

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2005: After 4 Years of Hard Work, Rand & His Mom Have Built… $450,000 in personal debt

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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).

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Nov. 2007: Moz Raises $1.1mm from Ignition & Curious Office to Focus on Software 7 employees and $80K in the bank! Original Post Here

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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

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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

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2012: Thankfully, We’d Stayed Profitable! From our pitch deck to VCs in 2011: http://www.slideshare.net/randfish/seomoz-pitch-deck-july-2011

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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

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We Raise $18mm w/ Foundry & Ignition http://moz.com/blog/mozs-18-million-venture-financing-our-story-metrics-and-future

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2012-2013: Moz Grows a Lot Details from our 2013 year in review blog post: http://moz.com/blog/mozs-2013-year-in-review

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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

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Cause or Effect? Rand Suffers from Depression http://moz.com/rand/long-ugly-year-depression-thats-finally-fading/

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Jan. 2014: Rand Steps Down as CEO http://moz.com/blog/final-post-as-ceo-sarah-bird-has-the-conn

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Q1 2015: Growth Rate Turns a Corner https://plus.google.com/u/1/+RandFishkin/posts/huXkGBpK9Rm

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Lessons Learned

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#1 People & Hiring Matter (but not in the ways you might expect)

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http://moz.com/rand/what-company-culture-is-and-is-not/ Most companies incorrectly reverse these two.

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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 Values Mission & Vision Hiring, Firing, & Promotion Criteria Cultural Fit =

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Via: http://moz.com/rand/what-company-culture-is-and-is-not/ Common Advice: Hire slow. Fire fast. - Every management book & guru

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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.

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#2 Humility is the Most Underrated Predictor of Success

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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.

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#4 If Management is the Only Way Up, We’re All F***’d

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#5 Core Values Are Hard (not having or living up to core values is harder)

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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.

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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.

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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

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Core Values Are the Glue that Holds Vision, Strategy, Team, & Everything Else Together. http://moz.com/rand/vision-based-framework/

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#6 Our Best Marketing Never Feels Like Marketing

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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

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Helping Marketers Across Many Mediums

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The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding It Might Start by Exposure through Media

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The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding Which Triggers an Informational Query

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The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding That Leads to a Follow on a Social Media

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The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding And Consumption of Content from the Brand

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The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding Then You Check Out Some Free Tools

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The Path to Conversion is Long & Winding And Finally Decide to Give the Product a Spin

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We Seek to Be Relevant at Every Stage

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Different Tactics to Reach Different Stages

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We Bias Against “Pushy” Marketing Sigh… This does not make me love your brand.

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When We Help People, They Help Amplify

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#7 Our Greatest Wins Have All Come from Serendipity (despite being a very analytics-focused company)

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We Know We Can’t Measure Some Things http://moz.com/rand/the-paradox-of-easy-vs-hard-to-measure-marketing-channels/

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But We’ve Seen the Positive Impact of Serendipity http://moz.com/rand/manufacturing-serendipity/

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We Have a Rule On Our Marketing Team Invest 20% into non-measurable, serendipitous forms of marketing.

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#8 Building Moz Has Never Felt Like a Steady Climb, But Rather a Cycle of Failure and Learning

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http://buttersafe.com/2008/10/23/the-detour/ A lot of days feel like this:

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We compare ourselves and our success to outliers rather than norms, and this brings great unhappiness. We Imagine Entrepreneurship Looks Like This:

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In Reality, It Looks More Like This: Geraldine’s Travel Blog: http://everywhereist.com

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Geraldine started her blog in 2009 In Reality, It Looks More Like This:

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In Reality, It Looks More Like This: For 2 years, she never broke 100 visits/day.

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In Reality, It Looks More Like This: This is where most people give up.

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In Reality, It Looks More Like This: These days, she gets 100,000+ visits each month

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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:

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The Price of Success is Failure after Failure after Failure* * Hopefully, each of those failures provides an opportunity to learn.

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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.

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Bit.ly/growingmoz Find Rand on the Web: Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+