Is Rand Fishkin a Superhero?
In order to ascertain whether or not Rand Fishkin, the CEO of SEOMoz, is a superhero, we must first define the term and then put him to the test. Let's do it and see what happens.
Variously referred to on the web as "the Wizard of Moz", "Darth Fishkin", "Werewolf Fishkin", "Mastermind", the "Romantic SEO", and many other appellations, his best known pseudonym is perhaps "randfish". With all these names given to the mysterious Randfish, we can't help but wonder if he is a superhero.
Dictionary.com defines a superhero as "a figure...endowed with superhuman powers and usually portrayed as fighting evil or crime." Urbandictionary.com takes it a step further and adds the caveat "and looks good in tights."
So let's analyze this piece by piece.
Question: Is Rand Fishkin endowed with superhuman powers?
Analysis: Only someone endowed with superhuman powers can influence Google's SERPs with the drop of a single link. For example, Rand wrote an article posted yesterday entitled "SEO Company Search Results - An Embarrassment to Google and the Other Engines" in which Rand ranted about the way that certain companies appear to be using unscrupulous techniques to rank for the term "SEO Company". He also provided the names of companies which he thought should rank for that term and provided an anchor text link to those firms with anchor text "SEO Company". As of today, a mere 24 hours later, two of the companies have suddenly appeared in the first few pages of the Google SERPs for this term. There are only two explanations for this. First, key personnel at Google read his article, agreed, and manually changed the SERPs to reflect his opinion. The alternate explanation is that the dropping of a single link in his post was sufficient to substantially alter the SERPs for this term. Regardless of which of the two scenarios played out it is self evident that only a person endowed with super human powers could have such an effect.
Question: Does Rand Fishkin fight evil?
Analysis: As head of SEOMoz, Rand has taken a leadership role along with several other SEO firms (including ours) in the fight against Jason Gambert's attempt to trademark the term "SEO". While the rest of the world stands idly by and watches, Rand and a handful of other firms have taken up this fight for the common good. SEOMoz in fact was the first firm to discover this dastardly deed and make it known to the world. This is not an inexpensive fight, nor is it one which only benefits those who are fighting it. Rand has proven himself a leader in the world of SEO by standing up and defending everyone's right to use the term "SEO".
Further, he is not afraid to name names when he sees something amiss. Rand calls a spade a spade and does not care whether or not other people whine and groan about it. One case in point is in his article mentioned above. He names companies which he believes are using tactics which are not up to the industry standard, and goes on to define those tactics and expose them to the world. He emphasizes the transient nature of such tactics and points out that in the long haul companies using such tactics will suffer. He makes it clear that the noble goal of SEO should be the long term success of the target sites, and that chasing the latest loophole in the ranking algorithms is risky and not economically viable in the long run. While a number of people comment on his post saying things like "if it works it works" and that SEO is a "game", Rand holds his ground and does not compromise his lofty premise that search engine rankings, and indeed all SEO efforts, should be based on the provision of quality, useful content and links, of such a nature that will benefit the users of the web as well as the sites in question. Anyone who disagrees with that is certainly not someone who I would admire - the pursuit of selfish, short term financial gain at the expense of the long term success of a client as well as at the expense of creating a quality web experience is about as ignoble goal as is imaginable.
Rand explains his philosophy further in a comment reply below the post:
"I completely disagree with this logic that Google has weaknesses and we know how to use them. My thinking goes entirely the other way - Google and all the othe engines have ideals to which their algorithms aspire. If we pursue the "weaknesses" we will eventually lose - fighting against teams of some of the planets smartest people with some of the planets best resources (Google Web Spam, et. al) seems like a terrible idea and a poor way to generate ROI for our customers.
Instead, we should be focusing on what, in a perfect world, the engines would want to count, and building sites, content and links that embody that ideal. With this kind of strategy in place, you won't fall out of the results just because Google updates their algorithm or gets better at their job."
Very well said.
Of course Jill Whalen of HighRankings has to weigh in on the subject, in her predictable philosophy of "if it gets you to rank well in the search engines then it must be what Google wants". First off, Jill, Google doesn't "want" spammy links or bogus content. Because it works at the moment in getting a site to rank is far from saying that is the sort of thing for which Google strives to rank sites.
Jill then can be seen ranting about Rand's "outing" of companies engaging in questionable practices. Of course Rand stands up to her too, saying:
"Jill - I disagree on this point and I think I will for the future. Outing manipulative practices (or ANY practices for that matter) that put a page at the top of the rankings is part of our job. Disclosing tactics that work (and sharing my opinion about whether they should or not) is something I'll continue to do in the future, and I don't feel particularly bad for anyone who's getting "outed." If you don't want people finding out about your tactics, don't rank #1 for competitive phrases. It's always going to make you a target. I've never liked the "thieves code of honor" - it implies that as SEOs, we're thieves and that's the last thing any of us should want."
Wow! Now if that isn't standing up for a noble cause, I do not know what is? Now, to be clear, am I calling Jill Whalen evil? Of course not. But I do believe that she is wrong to take a position in support of practices which do not benefit the long term good of either SEO clients or web users.
Question: Does Rand Fishkin look good in tights?
Answer: Yet to be determined.
Analysis: At time of writing, I cannot find a picture of Rand Fishkin in tights using a Google image search. This is the last hurdle Rand must overcome to achieve superhero status. Perhaps he would be good enough to send us a picture of him in tights, and we could have the ladies vote on the matter?
Only then will the world truly know for certain whether or not Rand Fishkin is a super hero.