What I Learned About SEO (and Life!) by Doing Planks with Rand Fishkin

Author: Linda Kyzar

Rand Fishkin Inbound17Attending HubSpot’s Inbound17 was a privilege shared by 22,000 marketers, biz dev pros, HubSpot agency partners and business owners. The event was not short on amazing speakers.

When I learned that Rand Fishkin was giving a spotlight talk, there was no stopping me from being in the room to learn up-close from this marketing rock star. I never expected my front-row goal to turn into on-stage pre-show planks right next to the one-and-only Rand Fishkin. Here's how it happened...

During his presentation, The Invisible Giant that Mucks Up our Marketing, Rand cracked the marketing box wide open, sharing how cultural conditioning stifles outcomes and leaves marketing strategies short-sighted. He left me, along with an energetic ballroom full of marketers, with actionable insights that will inform 2018 SEO strategies in a whole new way and keep our marketing community thinking out of the box.

Rand Fishkin Linda Kyzar at Inbound17Planks with Rand - how it happened:

I’m not typically the first one to the party, but I vowed to arrive very early; the front row was NOT going to evade me. There I was, alone, amongst thousands of chairs waiting to be filled. Rand and the stage manager entered the stage. It was surreal to say the least. And because Elizabeth Warren isn’t the only one who relentlessly persists, I found my way on to the stage to hang out, take some pics, and do planks with Rand (see the video below).

Planks were clearly not in Rand’s pre-performance plans, nor were they in mine. But the stage manager thought planks would be a good warm up so we dropped and did them. In that moment, the planets aligned and I became one of Rand’s people. Clearly, I am a Rand Fishkin junkie! #iamrandspeople 

So what did I learn from Rand and what does this have to do with planks??

Planks are more fun with Rand Fishkin - so is SEO
(The Story of Whiteboard Friday)

While planking with Rand isn't on my weekly Google calendar, Whiteboard Friday is. It's my weekly stop for my marketing fix. During Rand's talk, he shared that Whiteboard Friday was not an overnight success. In fact, it was their worst-performing content in 2008 and for the first couple years. Fast-forward to today and it’s no surprise that WBF is Moz’s best performing content. As Rand transitions from Moz to his next venture at SparkToro, it's great to know that we can expect occasional Whiteboard Friday guest appearances from him!

Whiteboard Friday Moz Effectiveness over time

Effectiveness improved over time. Rand drove this point home 
 focus beyond individual post results. For better insights, focus on the potential of a campaign and the trajectory over time versus one booming post.

Rand Fishkin Moz trajectory chart

If you focus on trajectory and see how you’re doing over the long term you’ll find that trajectory is an important measurement - even more so than organic visits to any single blog.

Cultural conditioning teaches us that ROI-positive needs to be an immediate goal. This is groupthink. We need to break this singlemindedness (and convince our clients), and focus on the bigger picture.

The numbers show that I’m not alone in being thankful that Moz stuck it out with Whiteboard Friday. Measure trajectory of a campaign over time... smart!!

Planks are less painful with a team- so is SEO
(How to fill skill gaps)

Marketing isn’t a solo performance, it hasn’t been for a long time. And where we have natural individual skill gaps, we now have more options than ever before. Cultural conditioning says marketers are not tactical, back-end programmers, technical is not where we excel and thus, we have a gap that cannot be filled. Not true.

Rand says,“We all have gaps and that’s okay - because we have options like we never had before. Learn online, apply, hack, copy, outsource, recruit, substitute, figure out a workaround.“

Infographics: Marketing Skills 2016 See this infographic on Venngage.

Working with a team where skillsets are covered over a group of experts is a great solution. That could mean partnering with an agency, freelancers, using online resources and top SEO tools like Moz, SEMrush or ahrefs, and tapping into international assistants for projects that are heavy in high-level tasks where budget is an issue.

Rand’s Pro-tip - noexcuselist.com – the best place on the web to learn anything for free. Check it out.

Planks alone are not enough - neither is any one part of SEO  (Content marketing reaches beyond your website.)

Rand talked about the misconception of Content Marketing. Content marketing means publishing to your website, right? It means writing blogs, sharing content via video, infographics, ebooks, whitepapers, images, charts and graphs. Right? Of course, but that’s only part of the story.

stuart smalley what if.jpg

What if:

  • your domain authority is low?
  • your site is new and nobody is visiting (yet)?
  • you have to jump through too many hoops to get your content published on your site?
  • you want to reach a larger audience? 
  • you need more credibility?
  • your pages need to rank higher in Google?
  • you need to make industry friends and join a larger community?

Answer: Guest Publishing.

I have to admit, guest blogging has always seemed a bit burdensome to me. Rand broke it down and shared tons of great guest post opportunities with excellent Domain Authority – where getting published is fairly simple. See slide 70 of Rand's deck on Slideshare.

He also pulled out a few of his favorites that help you rank like a boss including:

  • Quora
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest (for image searches)
  • Reddit
  • SlideShare

This list is so amazingly actionable! We'll test out the benefits of these channels in our Data Lab at Stream Creative and share the results over time.

Planks work more than one muscle group - so does SEO
(A close look at Google search queries and missed opportunities) 


Marketers typically invest in search in two ways:

  1. SEO for organic results
  2. PPC for paid results

That’s it. 

The misconception is that search is limited to SEO and PPC. The truth is, most search results include much more than these two basic listings.

When was the last time your search engine results page (SERPs) looked as plain as the listing image here? 

Beyond your basic PPC and organic listings, Rand shared the nine queries that get the most clicks.

Almost half of Google searches get no clicks at all - but the good news is, beyond PPC and organic SEO, Rand let us in on the nine SERP features that get the most clicks  can you name them?

Nine Google SERP features that get the most clicks:

  1. Knowledge Panels
  2. Related Questions “People Also Ask” 
  3. Local Packs
  4. Images 
  5. Sitelinks
  6. Featured Snippets
  7. Top Stories
  8. Videos
  9. Tweets
Referencing another Moz expert in the video below. Britney Muller, a Moz SEO, obsesses over SERPs including Google’s Related Questions. She covered this (and more) at Experience Inbound 2017. Watch Britney’s presentation here and join SEOs who are succeeding in this space:



One of my favorite examples is this SERP for "Green Bay" that includes many of these features. (Sidenote: you'll see that the Packers crushed the Bears in the highlights below.) 

SERP Green Bay Packers marketing results

 For even more on this topic, here's a great deep dive on SERP features from Moz.

Planks - the results can be positive even if not always
easy-to-measure - just like SEO
(Investing in hard-to-measure channels)

Marketing cultural conditioning tells us that our investments in marketing tactics must be measurable. For the most part I agree with this mindset. Measurable results help us analyze, plan and optimize.

The problem comes in when marketers focus too heavily on measurable channels thinking that more measurable = more $$. Not always the case.

Rand listed some of the easiest to measure channels:

  • Pay-per-click advertising
  • Social media advertising
  • Retargeting/remarketing
  • Email marketing
  • Direct mail advertising

And some of the hardest to measure channels:

  • Word-of-mouth
  • SEO
  • (Organic) Social Media
  • Content Marketing
  • Public Relations

Rand Fishkin Moz Pie Chart Invest in Channels

Investing in hard-to-measure channels and investing in the tools that make measuring possible for these channels creates opportunities to gather metrics – either directly or with a creative workaround. 

This is a huge topic in itself. Some of the best tools to help pull data for these hard to measure channels are:

  • Your CMS. If you have a good one (i.e. HubSpot) you’ll get in-depth insights down to the page level.
  • Your marketing automation tool. My two favorites: HubSpot and Act-On. Here is a comparison of many of the best marketing automation tools from G2CROWD 
  • SEO measurement, analysis and campaign tracking tools like Moz, SEMrush, ahrefs, Google Analytics, Google Trends, and more. These tools give you both the big picture data along with the depth and ability to pin-point specific data points that you can attribute to your channels.
  • Analytics and tools right inside of your social channels for organic results.
  • Monitoring tools like Databox to monitor up-to-the minute changes from all your platforms - all on one dashboard.

At Stream Creative we use all of these tools to track our campaigns and progress. Reach out with any questions on measurement or marketing! Our data junkies love to talk shop!

Rand explains his solution during his talk (watch Rand's talk in it’s entirety here) and in his slides (start at slide 13 here). Pressed for time? Check out this 4-minute recap from Databox.


And one personal note - Cultural Conditioning teaches us that girls wear pink and boys wear blue. Let's end this, please.


I want to thank Rand for starting his talk by bringing to light how our culture is limiting to the youngest members of our society. I find that the most interesting and amazing people are the ones who dare to be themselves, develop thick skin and change for no one. Rand shared his story about being one of these unique kids.

Our world is better because of Rand standing firm on his rock. As a mom of two young, unique thinkers - I'm thankful to Rand for sharing his story.

SEO is a big part of my job and a big part of my world. Our team loves geeking out on data, strategy, SEO planning, content marketing, all of it. Moz’s Whiteboard Fridays have helped shape our SEO strategies and reach our goals. Rand has made me a smarter marketer and I am grateful! All of us at Stream Creative are ready to jump in and help build a better marketing community so please reach out!

Need help with your SEO or Inbound Marketing? Give us a shout. 

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Topics: SEO, Strategy, Keyword Research, marketing strategy

About the Author:

Linda is Stream Creative's Marketing Director. She brings 20+ years of digital marketing, with a focus on SEO and inbound marketing strategy. Linda also co-leads Stream's marketing events including Milwaukee's Experience Inbound Marketing Conference.

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