The spirit of @Moz. An open letter to the community

The spirit of @Moz. An open letter to the community

This post is dedicated to Goodnewscowboy,

a friend and fellow Moz community member, who left us too soon two years ago.

Once upon a time

Some of you consider me an expert. I am not, and surely there was a time I was an expert of nothing.

Back in 2003, when I started my career as Internet marketer, I didn’t know anything about search engines or how to code or – at least – understand code.

As I told in another post, since then I was buying TV rights of movies, series and documentaries, and directing movie channels… not really a related job. But I was very good in knowing what sites about TV Series and documentaries should present to their users and, sincerely, when you write good content about Battlestar Galactica, Sex and the City, The Office et all – all series with a big fans’ base and the TV channels you are working for do a great traditional marketing – you don’t really need to do link building. Literally, I was writing and links were coming.

seomoz hover The spirit of @Moz. An open letter to the communityBut it came a moment I was not working anymore on those sites and I needed to seriously learn the tech side of SEO, because I was an expert in writing, maybe… but SEO, just the basic.

The first time I fell into the (SEO)Moz site it was after hundreds of clicks in search of serious information about SEO. Not that I wasn’t able to find useful sources before, but I am curious by nature and clicking, discovering new sites and reading is a facet of that curiosity.

Answers to Ten SEO Questions & Some New Questions from Danny Sullivan was the first post I read on Moz  Obviously I was barely able to answer to those questions, but for that same reason I started digging into that blog so to find them.

During the first 15 months I was a silent reader, a condition that is quite common and surely the vast majority of the Moz blog readers right now is that: silent.

You have to know that – even if I seem very open (I comment a lot, tweet a lot, write long posts) – I need a long time before I can consider myself “confident” enough to start a conversation… so I preferred to stay silent and read and listen what Rand and the Moz community was discussing about… and from those discussions (and the experiments I was doing based on them and others sites) I started learning SEO.

I think I was lucky, because if you think that Moz is great now and its community wonderful (and it is, 100% sure and convinced of it), you should look at the people, who were commenting and being the community of Moz back in 2007/2008:

Will and Tom Critchlow, Richard Baxter, Wil Reynolds, Rob Kerry, Brian Brown, Ciaran Norris, Jane Copland (who was working at SEOmoz at that time), Ann Smarty, Kate Morris, Lisa Barone, Adam Audette, Rishi Lakani… I think all of you know them, and esteem as I do. They are the reference in Internet Marketing now… but they were like you once: SEOs, who have started from not that a long time and marketers who found in Moz the ideal place where to discuss and grow discussing.

A Community is made of its conversations

They can be serious, they can be futile, they can be heated and they can light. But they exist.

Conversations are the soul of a community, of every community. And what makes a blog a place to visit everyday are the discussions, not only the posts that generate them. Because, to tell the truth, even the weakest post assumes a value that makes it memorable, if it generates a discussion, which is able to make you learn something new.

You, who are calling yourself a Mozzer, don’t be afraid to enter into the discussion, to create one, to write in black and white your opinion, even if it is – maybe – against what the post is telling or other commenters are saying. You voice has a value, and what you say may be important for someone, who, like me, is feeling he has so much to learn still.

Don’t limit yourself to a simple “Great post”, “Wonderful idea”… they are nice, all bloggers like to see that kind of agreement to their ideas… but what they love the most is starting a conversation with their post. For instance, when I wrote “Giving a voice to Your Brand”, the comment I liked the most was the one by Robert “Magicrob” Ducker, because he taught me something I didn’t know.

I know I know… I look like those grumpy old men remembering the old good times. And, I know and I see it everyday, the Moz community has great members now as in those years when I was the new member, but sometimes, after the fifth “Good post, thank you” comment I start missing the real deep discussions the community was able to generate, and from which I leant so much.

Don’t.Feel.Ashamed.To.Write.Silly.Things… because we all said stupid thing, and I say a lot of stupid things still… do you know what was my first comment on Moz? An astonishing “Wonderful post. Sign www.myoldsite.com”: tons of thumbs down.

And you know what? My first YouMoz submission was refused, and my first published YouMoz had the amazing result of 11 thumbs up and 8 thumbs down. But I didn’t care: I started to create and participate in the conversations.

Don’t hide yourself behind a fast reading from Feedly, enter in the conversations, start them.

TAGFEE is not just an acronym

Transparent and Authentic, Generous, Fun, Emphatetic and Exceptional. TAGFEE is not just an acronym, but an ideal we should aim to achieve.

The spirit of Moz resides in those tenets, and the secret of its success is in trying every single day to respond and make them real: with its products, with its customer care, with its blog and with its community.

tagfee The spirit of @Moz. An open letter to the community

I am biased, I know: I am a Moz Associate, hence I cannot but feel as mine that ideal. But I wasn’t born a Moz Associate, I was a community member who simply started enjoying the conversations held in the community. It was especially because I entered in the conversations that, finally, I became an Associate.

I was a newbie, but I never felt refused by the community members back in my first years, because all of them assumed that transparency, authenticity, generosity, fun, emphaty and exceptionality weren’t so hard to express even in very simple ways:

  • a link to a new source;
  • a tip based on personal experience;
  • an ironic answer to an overly serious reply;
  • a correction respectfully presented.

I wan’t (and I am not) the best SEO in the world, but I am very good in curating things, in finding those informations other maybe are not so good to find, and I have a quite decent gut so to understand things that are going to come. That were my skills when I was working in the TV Industry, and still they are now that I am an Internet Marketer. So those are the base of all my interventions in Moz and the base from where I conceive my posts.

All of you, who you call yourself Mozzers but are silent, have you skills. Be proud to show them to us, the older Mozzers: we’ll love to learn from you.

Even if a conversation is about something I don’t know, I enter pushed by my curiosity, and if I don’t understand something, I ask because I want to know. And I am sure you want to know too… so, why don’t you ask, maybe starting from the Q&A?

The anxiety of visibility

No, I don’t deny that being visible on Moz offered me opportunities that I wouldn’t be able to have just from my own site.

And I don’t see anything wrong in trying to be visible in a community like the Moz one for growing up also professionally. But I don’t like the idea of being anxious to be highly visible just because of that… and that is something I am seeing now.

And, let me tell you, it is not even intelligent.

You come, you write comments everyday praising this and that post (but maybe in other sites you are not such a Mozzer… remember, I am curious and read a lot), then you try to submit a post or two… then disappear.

Maybe you will obtain your objective, but – if you are not really a great professional – that visibility obtained thanks to the community will be like a spike in your traffic, and then flatness will return.

Instead, if you are honest, if you are seriously TAGFEE, and if you are good, that line will steadily grow up and right.

To be part of a Community, being it Moz, SEObook or whatever else community, it’s not a one night stand. It’s community, and you are part of it. You can be missing, but than you will return: it’s your home.

The missing ones

A community online is like a little town. Everybody knows each others, but – sometimes – there are disagreements, lifestyle choices, changes, new responsibilities that makes someone leaving the community or being not so active as he was once.

I am sentimental – I am Italian FTW! – but I miss Lisa Barone jumping in the blog, or Brian Brown and his long deep witty comments, Rishi Lakani arguing a post and praising another, Martin MacDonald playing the role of the “bad guy”, SEO Imanshu offering tips like they were popcorns… I miss there also many friends with whom I talk almost daily in other more private forums. Old members, who are grown up now, have more responsibilities directing their agencies (or dealing with big clients) and less time to spend in conversations… but, remember, there are so many people who can learn still from your comments and teachings as it was in my case just few years ago.

The Moz community became what it is now also thanks to you… I know that people will love to see you again being an active part of it, at least from time to time.

And… ah… snap your face, Gianluca!

Screen shot Goodnewscowboy The spirit of @Moz. An open letter to the community

15 Comments

  1. A very moving read, Gianluca – especially the bit about Goodnewscowboy.

    I had a very similar experience with Moz. I got into SEO at the beginning of 2009 and I was very quickly introduced to SEOmoz (as it was of course known at the time!) and from then on I read their posts on a regular basis. However it wasn’t until April 2011 (two years later) that I actually joined the community, which was the first time I wanted to (and felt confident enough to) leave a comment. I kind of regret not getting involved back in 2009-10, when you look at the individuals who were participating back then (as you’ve mentioned above) who may not have contributed as heavily from 2011 onwards.

    Like with any community, the 90-9-1 principle comes into play: 90% of users lurk, 9% contribute and 1% contribute heavily. While – like you – I would encourage as many people as possible to contribute to Moz, it just may not be fully possible… People like to lurk/read without getting involved, that’s just the way it is I guess! :-)

    Reply
  2. Very interesting post Gianluca, Moz is really a helpful community for all internet marketing geeks. I am not active in the community but when ever a blog is posted in Moz I feel like sometimes comments to the each post are much insightful & interesting to read. There are many people in Moz who really contribute their time for the community.

    Moz & Inbound.org are top sites for SEO geeks to lots of valid information. I agree to Steve i.e. “People like to lurk/read without getting involved”

    Reply
  3. Thank you for this. I remember looking at blog post back in 2007 like this one – http://moz.com/blog/clickthrough-rates-in-the-serps-what-are-the-real-numbers (sorry for the link). The comments are like a list of famous SEOs. Matt Cutts himself used to leave comments on the blog.

    I miss all their input.

    In truth, Moz has more comments per post than ever before, but it’s still only around 1% of the folks who look at any particular post. The challenge that I’ve heard from people who no longer comment is to separate the signal from the noise.

    Would love to get more influential members like yourself back in the action!

    Reply
    • Not to say that we wouldn’t love everyone back on the blog and of course, the more active the community, the better, I do wonder if the commenters of today will be those industry giants of tomorrow. I’m curious to see where things evolve, and personally, I hope this is true.

      Long-term metric?

      Reply
      • Hi Erica,
        I am sure that between the people active in the community right now there are some of the great marketers of tomorrow.
        My post wasn’t denying it and it was not meant as an eulogy of old good times passed.
        On the contrary, I wrote it with the hope to shake away those fears sometimes feel when need to engage in a community like Moz, and the old commenters cited, were so to make understand that they too were just that: commenters and active community members. And maybe they are who they are now, also thanks having being active engaging members :)

        Reply
        • Oh, I didn’t see your post as negative in anyway. :)

          I definitely agree that it can be very intimidating to participate, especially if you stick yourself out there and submit a post and keep engaging. I know this Moz staffer gets nervous when making blog posts. Or answering some q&a questions.

          Reply
  4. Gianluca,

    Thanks for inspiring my day. I echo the sentiments you share above regarding the vibrance of the Moz community.

    I remember finding SEOmoz, along with the Distilled site, and wondering “How could this be free?” I’m steadily amazed at the amount of sharing and interaction there is inside the community.

    One of the greatest benefits of Moz is transparency, how they allow you to see some of what goes on behind the scenes, revealing who they are and highlighting how they are just like everyone else in so many respects.

    For several months, beginning in Spring 2013, I used the first two hours of each weekend morning to read Rand’s blog, in addition to diving into some older posts on Moz. It made me feel good to see where he’d come from, in light of where he is today.

    We all have to start somewhere.

    I’m happy, thankful Moz is providing the platform for so many of us who have much to offer in the way of meaningful interaction, information and sense of purpose.

    RS

    Reply
  5. Hi,

    I can really relate with this post, specially the Don’t.Feel.Ashamed.To.Write.Silly.Things part. I’ve been very anxious when i started to write my first blog posts. I was afraid to be writing silly stuff, that someone could say: hey, this guy is stupid or what?
    I was anxious because i care and wanted to share what i know. After pressing submit, all went away and each post or comment (like this one) got easier. We all have something to add to the conversation and it’s nice to see that along the way, we helped someone.

    Bye,

    Luis

    Reply
  6. So moving…
    Thanks for this post, Gianluca. I deal with my fears about the possibility of writing a post for Youmoz once and again. Probably, I’m not sure about my ability to produce a content worth reading there. But, for some reason, your today’s post has prompt me to start doing right now. I don’t know if it’ll be published, but I’m sure it’ll help me to be a better SEO, inbounder and writer.
    I hope you could help me too with this thrilling challenge (I’ll tell you how soon, ;-D).
    Thanks again. Your posts are inspiring.

    Reply
  7. SEOMoz have manoeuvred themselves into a position of being able to get one of the most valuable commodities – content – for free.

    I remember a post recently on their own site, detailing to people how difficult it is for them to get content accepted, and that only the best quality stuff gets through.

    They have a great community, and they don’t half use the people who are part of it for their own ends.

    Considering the amount they go on about how important content is, they’d pay the writers on their site a fair amount.

    Reply
  8. First – :)

    Second – I guess a whole bunch of us, as you rightly put it are doing a lot lot more. I am still in conversation nearly daily with a number of the old timers at Moz, but just on different platforms.

    The Moz community was my springboard into SEO, and for that I will always be grateful. And I am sure that the community there at the moment will grow business and get involved in more projects and move on, while a newer generation will grow up to join.

    Reply
    • Hi Rishi!
      I understand what you mean, as I am one of those old timers you talk to from time to time in other platforms.
      But, well, that doesn’t mean I can’t feel nostalgic sometimes :)

      Apart that last paragraph, my post was more about pushing the new generation of Mozzers in being at least as good as the Mozzers once were active in the blog.

      More than the people themselves (that I may miss there, but who I talk to almost daily), I miss the conversations themselves that people was able to create, which I see few times created by the new Mozzers, as they were a lighting breaking a grey sky.

      Reply
  9. Hi Gianluca! Thanks for your thoughtful and heartfelt post. It’s neat to hear about the history and your journey with the Moz community. I am relatively new to the Moz community. I’ve been a Moz PRO member for a little while, but I only really started becoming part of the community and engaging in the action two years ago.

    I am biased too, but Moz has something very special that I wish we could find in all industries so that our clients could experience the same benefit. What’s so great about Moz is the not only the amount of knowledge that is available (and the volume of seriously smart people), but the in-person experience with so many amazing people. The relationships are hard to beat.

    I am working on risking “sounding silly” and I’m also working on setting aside the time to comment on blogs. It really is one of the best ways to stay connected with all of these amazing people.

    Thanks for the post.

    Reply
  10. Gianluca,

    I wonder if the reason that the discussion that you’d love to see on Moz isn’t happening anymore is because the makeup of the Moz community has changed significantly in that time.

    As you regale the hay-days of Moz as it were, what you’re referring to is a time when SEO was a relatively new concept, there wasn’t the breadth of information online and there were a group of SEO’s who were genuinely trying to work out how things worked and were posting about it.

    I’d suggest that as the community as grown over that time, you have a much much broader user base in terms of knowledge surrounding topics that Moz publish about and their experience.

    Fear is what I think keeps most people from commenting on Moz and other websites. Users love the content, a lot of very smart folks from around the world are supporting the blog with great information and to the vast majority of the users on Moz – those contributors are considered to elite and to some extent, beyond reproach.

    You may find that if Moz published articles in different skill levels, akin to what the Google Webmasters Blog does when they label a blog post ‘advanced’ for instance, that sort of tactic might help bring out younger or less experienced users and see them contributing to more novice blog posts or Q&A threads.

    This would take quite an amount of weekend hacking but it’d be fascinating to take a snapshot of the Moz users database table once per year or as far back as they might have a valid backup and report on the data within. I could imagine there would be a wealth of information that’d help from a community management stand point, it might unearth some other issues as you’ve alluded to above. It might be practical to get a representative sample of users per year, drag their data out of LinkedIn to see what their employment history looks like to understand how long this representative sample have been interested in the different products/services that Moz now support.

    Al.

    Reply
  11. You are an outstanding member of the Moz community. I wish I could keep as involved as you. *high five* friend.

    Reply

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