Ask an SEO Expert: Cyrus Shepard of Moz

Written by: Drew Lyon   Austin, Texas

Posted on: June 10, 2013


We’re back! Our second SEO expert interview is with Cyrus Shepard of a little place called SEO Moz—now known simply as Moz. Moz is all about tracking and monitoring the SEO health of your website. Their blog also puts out some really great content based on loads of data they collect surveying members of the SEO community.

Here’s what Cyrus had to say to our questions:

When did you become involved with SEO & why?

I was a restaurant waiter for the better part of 15 years before getting into SEO. I had built a website and wanted to market it, so I signed up with SEOmoz. What I didn’t realize is they were located in Seattle, where I lived. A year and a half later, I was working for the company.

What role does guest blogging play in SEO? How can businesses get started with guest blogging and where do you recommend beginning?

There’s good guest blocking, and there’s spammy guest blogging. We expect Google to further crack down on guest posts located on off-topic sites, with over-optimized anchor text, and low-quality posts.

On the other hand, guest posting isn’t going away and can still be a valuable tactic for SEOs. The best advice is to only post on the highest quality sites you can find – sites that will send your website traffic, regardless of any SEO benefit. Also, write the highest quality articles possible, and make sure you are adding value to your guest posting efforts. Would you recommend this article to a friend?

Finally, don’t abuse your guest posting anchor text. I like to forgo author “boxes” and link to an asset on my own site within the body of the post. Of course, in order to do this, you have to have something worth linking to in the first place. 🙂

What do you see on the horizon for Google algorithm updates and how do you recommend businesses prepare for these?

We know from Google that they will soon release Penguin 2.0, which aims to further target low quality backlinks. There’s also a hint that Google may also be incorporating author authority signals into its algorithms, so that authors who are an authority rise to the top in rankings. For more hints, watch this recent video from Google’s Matt Cutts –

Backlinks versus content: Who wins?

Both. It’s the Chicken and the egg. But in this case, you need content first, so I guess the egg wins.

How do you see the landscape of social media affecting organic search in the future?

Social media signals already play a factor in Google’s algorytm, and we expect that trend to continue. That said, social media is also an important channel all by itself, even without the ranking signals. That’s why I encourage folks to think of social media as valuable as its own set of channels, and optimize these channels for user experience, and not necessarily for ranking factor considerations.

By the way, if you haven’t adopted Google+ yet for your business, I would highly recommend doing so.

Do you have any advice for a small business needing content but may not have the resources to consistently create content?

Instead of creating more content, create better content. Make sure your site content is excellent in that it answers all customer questions and helps your sales process – that’s a start. But instead of creating a blog and writing everyday for the sake of creating content that no one wants to read, instead put that effort into creating 3-4 bigger pieces of content each year.

I talked to one webmaster recently who sold adult diapers. Not an interresting subject for small business. So he created an ebook about choosing adult diapers that was a hit with elderly centers and certain doctor’s offices.

If you were to start optimizing a site for search engines from the ground up, what would you do?

A big question to answer here. Let me refer you to 2 blog posts:

What do you think about the Bing Challenge? Are you a fan of Bing or Team Google?

Marketing aside, I love what Bing is doing. That said, I’m mostly a Google boy.

Do you have any great SEO tips?

SEO is easy – building great stuff is hard. Spend your most important time building creative assets – whether it’s your product, your website or your content. Then when it comes time for marketing, the process is much easier.

Other SEO tips: Test everything. A well designed site will perform better than one that delivers a sub-par user experience. The title tag is still one of the most important ranking factors, but don’t over-optimize it. Build relationships, not links.

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Thanks Cyrus!

Cyrus Shepard is officially the “Senior Content Space Dude” at Moz. Check out his contributions here.


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