Yigit Konur interviews with Sarah Bird “CEO of Moz” at MozCon’17

Sarah Bird, the current CEO of powerhouse SEO firm- Moz, has taken over the reigns, leading her team with fresh eyes and a content outlook on the future of SEO.

Incredibly friendly, studious and rich in cultural experience, Sarah came in to talk to us about her role and the meaning of Moz as a whole at Mozcon’17.

Coincidently, Sarah seems to have a soft spot for the Turkish people, as her brief exchange student experience led her to Istanbul’s Koc University, where she brushed up on Turkish Art History and was able to enjoy a completely different cultural experience.

Once graduated, Sarah made her way into Law School-which was where she met Rand. Both sharing a mutual friend, they were able to form a strong friendship over time- and through her years of working in Law, they were able to maintain this bond. The heavy workload in Law gave Sarah the itch for a career change, which happened to occur at the same time that Rand and Jillian were beginning to talk to potential investors.

Through sheer luck and a hard working sensibility, Rand and Jillian gave Sarah the chance to work at Moz- titling her first position as ‘In-House Attorney’- a position neither of them completely understood. Despite this, the comfort and warmth felt within Moz allowed Sarah to truly feel a sense of teamwork and passion within the team- which pushed her to learn a totally new skillset in Marketing.

Although challenges were being faced, Sarah’s eagerness pushed her further into learning finance, product development and of course, SEO.

Our founder Yigit Konur had a chance to make an interview with Sarah at Mozcon’17. Below you may find the details of this interview:

Yigit: So, what makes you a great CEO?

Sarah: I aspire to be a great CEO, I’m constantly learning.

First, I was general counsel and then I became the Chief Operating Officer about six months in, which was a really great title for me because it can mean a lot of different things. This in turn allowed me to be able to use influence to really learn a lot and hopefully move the business forward- the goal was always to move the business forward.

That was my longest tenured title, then I became president for a brief period of time before taking on this CEO role about three and a half years ago, so it's been like I said, pretty incredible.

Yigit: It’s been a big change for you, from being President to CEO. So during this time, what kind of responsibilities are required from you?

Sarah: Well, I think one of the things I admired about Rand is that he is very inclusive in his leadership and he likes good ideas to come from anywhere, so I was fortunate in my period as Chief Operating Officer and as president to be able to influence this strategy as well.

There’s a big difference between influencing and owning the strategy, so one of the things I I took from Rand was how he really did like to listen to a lot of different people, in order to get ideas of what to do in Moz. I've tried to do the same thing, although in the end the differences are that I have to make the call.

There’s certainly more than one way to have success and there are many different paths open to Moz, so I've had some successes and I've had some failures. I'm learning and I learn as I go, we as the company are learning and the people around me are learning along with me. So that's been a very interesting shift from being the influencer to being the person who in the end is still taking influence from others, but in the end you have to be the one accountable.

Yigit: Focusing on SEO from a product perspective, I would love to understand SEO’s different fields of speciality. What is your feature approach towards SEO?

Sarah: I have learnt that it takes a lot more resources than we have at our disposal to do that right- we made an attempt to go into some content marketing/ social media marketing and ended up overextending ourselves because there are companies who have 50, 60 million dollars of investment just focusing on those one problems.

Those were hard lessons learned, so we've refactored and instead have realized that we can still contribute to helping social media marketers or content marketers succeed, but we do it by teaching them about SEO, and we're going to stick to our core which is SEO. Our core belief is that you will be a better digital marketer or marketer in general if you understand the basics of SEO.

Yigit: Being a CEO is a tough job- you have many responsibilities, whilst also needing to improve yourself in different fields. Mixing the research industry with production duties is required, but how do you maintain it?

Sarah: One of the interesting things I have learned is that that the change of having different people come into the company who contribute something amazing and then move on in their career is always emotionally challenging for me- but the very fact of them leaving brings opportunity for new people to come.

This brings us people who have new awesome ideas and such disciplines and contributions we never could have imagined. So, this constant churning of people into the company helps Moz stay creative, relevant and innovative.

All I can try to do is create a place, an environment where great people want to come and contribute their special skill.  Hopefully an environment which allows them to incorporate skills, use them and apply them, so that people can feel like they've learned and done great work here at Moz.

We would like to thank Sarah for this great interview! What do you think about Moz and Sarah? Share your thoughts with us!