The Moz 2016 Annual Report

Posted by SarahBird

I have a longstanding tradition of boring Moz readers with our exhaustive annual reports (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015).

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If you’re avoiding sorting the recycling, going to the gym, or cleaning out your closet, I have got a *really* interesting post that needs your attention *right now*.

(Yeah. I know it’s March. But check this out, I had pneumonia in Jan/Feb so my life slid sideways for a while.)

Skip to your favorite parts:

Part 1: TL;DR

Part 2: Achievements unlocked

Part 3: Oh hai, elephant. Oh hai, room.

Part 4: More wood, fewer arrows

Part 5: Performance (metrics vomit)

Part 6: Inside Moz HQ

Part 7: Looking ahead

Part 1: TL;DR

We closed out 2016 with more customers and revenue than 2015. Our core SEO products are on a roll with frequent, impactful launches.

The year was not all butterflies and sunshine, though. Some of our initiatives failed to produce the results we needed. We made some tough calls (sunsetting some products and initiatives) and big changes (laying off a bunch of folks and reallocating resources). On a personal level, it was the most emotionally fraught time in my career.

Thank the gods, our hard work is paying off. Moz ended the year cashflow, EBITDA, and net income profitable (on a monthly basis), and with more can-do spirit than in years past. In fact, in the month of December we added a million dollars cash to the business.

We’re completely focused on our mission to simplify SEO for everyone through software, education, and community.

Part 2: Achievements unlocked

It blows my mind that we ended the year with over 36,000 customers from all over the world. We’ve got brands and agencies. We’ve got solopreneurs and Fortune 500s. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of people using the MozBar. A bunch of software companies integrate with our API. It’s humbling and awesome. We endeavor to be worthy of you!

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We were very busy last year. The pace and quality of development has never been better. The achievements captured below don’t come even close to listing everything. How many of these initiatives did you know about?

Part 3: Oh hai, elephant. Oh hai, room.

When a few really awful things happen, it can overshadow the great stuff you experience. That makes this a particularly hard annual report to write. 2016 was undoubtedly the most emotionally challenging year I’ve experienced at Moz.

It became clear that some of our strategic hypotheses were wrong. Pulling the plug on those projects and asking people I care deeply about to leave the company was heartbreaking. That’s what happened in August 2016.

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As Tolstoy wrote, “Happy products are all alike; every unhappy product is unhappy in its own way.” The hard stuff happened. Rehashing what went wrong deserves a couple chapters in a book, not a couple lines in a blog post. It shook us up hard.

And *yet*, I am determined not to let the hard stuff take away from the amazing, wonderful things we accomplished and experienced in 2016. There was a lot of good there, too.

Smarter people than me have said that progress doesn’t happen in a straight line; it zigs and zags. I’m proud of Mozzers; they rise to challenges. They lean into change and find the opportunity in it. They turn their compassion and determination up to 11. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

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I’ve learned a lot about Moz and myself over the last year. I’m taking all those learnings with me into the next phase of Moz’s growth. Onwards.

Part 4: More wood, fewer arrows

At the start of 2016, our hypothesis was that our customers and community would purchase several inbound marketing tools from Moz, including SEO, local SEO, social analytics, and content marketing. The upside was market expansion. The downside was fewer resources to go around, and a much more complex brand and acquisition funnel.

By trimming our product lines, we could reallocate resources to initiatives showing more growth potential. We also simplified our mission, brand, and acquisition funnel.

It feels really good to be focusing on what we love: search. We want to be the best place to learn and do SEO.

Whenever someone wonders how to get found in search, we want them to go to Moz first. We aspire to be the best in the world at the core pillars of SEO: rankings, keywords, site audit and optimization, links, location data management.

SEO is dynamic and complex. By reducing our surface area, we can better achieve our goal of being the best. We’re putting more wood behind fewer arrows.

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Part 5: Performance (metrics vomit)

Check out the infographic view of our data barf.

We ended the year at ~$ 42.6 million in gross revenue, amounting to ~12% annual growth. We had hoped for better at the start of the year. Moz Pro is still our economic engine, and Local drives new revenue and cashflow.

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Gross profit margin increased a hair to 74%, despite Moz Local being a larger share of our overall business. Product-only gross profit margin is a smidge higher at 76%. Partner relationships generally drag the profit margin on that product line.

Our Cost of Revenue (COR) went up in raw numbers from the previous year, but it didn’t increase as much as revenue.COR 2016.png

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Total Operating Expenses came to about ~$ 41 million. Excluding the cost of the restructure we initiated in August, the shape and scale of our major expenses has remained remarkably stable.

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We landed at -$ 5.5 million in EBITDA, which was disappointingly below our plan. We were on target for our budgeted expenses. As we fell behind our revenue goals, it became clear we’d need to right-size our expenses to match the revenue reality. Hence, we made painful cuts.

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Cash Burn Annual Report 2016.png

I’m happy/relieved/overjoyed to report that we were EBITDA positive by September, cashflow positive by October, and net income positive by November. Words can’t express how completely terrible it would have been to go through what we all went through, and *not* have achieved our business goals.

My mind was blown when we actually added a million in cash in December. I couldn’t have dared to dream that… Ha ha! They won’t all be like that! It was the confluence of a bunch of stuff, but man, it felt good.

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Part 6: Inside MozHQ

Thanks to you, dear reader, we have a thriving and opinionated community of marketers. It’s a great privilege to host so many great exchanges of ideas. Education and community are integral to our mission. After all, we were a blog before we were a tech company. Traffic continues to climb and social keeps us busy. We love to hear from you!

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We added a bunch of folks to the Moz Local,, and Customer Success teams in the last half of the year. But our headcount is still lower than last year because we asked a lot of talented people to leave when we sunsetted a bunch of projects last August. We’re leaner, and gaining momentum.

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Moz is deeply committed to making tech a more inclusive industry. My vision is for Moz to be a place where people are constantly learning and doing their best work. We took a slight step back on our gender diversity gains in 2016. Ugh. We’re not doing much hiring in 2017, so it’s going to be challenging to make substantial progress. We made a slight improvement in the ratio of underrepresented minorities working at Moz, which is a positive boost.

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The tech industry has earned its reputation of being unwelcoming and myopic.

Mozzers work hard to make Moz a place where anyone could thrive. Moz isn’t perfect; we’re human and we screw up sometimes. But we pick ourselves up, dust off, and try again. We continue our partnership with Ada Academy, and we’ve deepened our relationship with Year Up. One of my particular passions is partnering with programs that expose girls and young women to STEM careers, such as Ignite Worldwide, Techbridge, and BigSisters.

I’m so proud of our charitable match program. We match Mozzer donations 150% up to $ 3k. Over the years, we’ve given over half a million dollars to charity. In 2016, we gave over $ 111,028 to charities. The ‘G’ in TAGFEE stands for ‘generous,’ and this is one of the ways we show it.

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One of our most beloved employee benefits is paid, PAID vacation. We give every employee up to $ 3,000 to spend on his or her vacation. This year, we spent over half a million dollars exploring the world and sucking the marrow out of life.

paid paid vacation annual report 2016.png

Part 7: Looking ahead

Dear reader, I don’t have to tell you that search has been critical for a long time.

This juggernaut of a channel is becoming *even more* important with the proliferation of search interfaces and devices. Mobile liberated search from the desktop by bringing it into the physical world. Now, watches, home devices, and automobiles are making search ubiquitous. In a world of ambient search, SEO becomes even more important.

SEO is more complicated and dynamic than years past because the number of human interfaces, response types, and ranking signals are increasing. We here at Moz are wild about the complexity. We sink our teeth into it. It drives our mission: Simplify SEO for everyone through software, education, and community.

We’re very excited about the feature and experience improvements coming ahead. Thank you, dear reader, for sharing your feedback, inspiring us, and cheering us on. We look forward to exploring the future of search together.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Moz Blog

Twitter claims 31 million unique viewers across 600 hours of live premium video in Q4 2016


Twitter may have missed estimates with its Q4 revenue targets and recorded a small, 4 percent year-on-year increase in its monthly active users (MAUs), but the social network’s recent push into live video streaming of big events is now a key focal point as it strives to increase its stickiness.

In its letter to shareholders, Twitter revealed that 31 million unique viewers tuned in to more than 600 hours of live video across around 400 events between September and December. You may recall that last year Twitter revealed it was effectively becoming a global TV network after it won the online rights to stream Thursday night NFL games in full. It also partnered with BuzzFeed for a U.S. presidential election livestream, while other tidbits included a partnership with Disney to broadcast live footage around the launch of the new Star Wars movie. Of its Q4 live video events, Twitter says that 52 were sports, 38 percent was news and politics, and 10 percent was entertainment.

Throw into the mix the company’s recent PGA golf tour video partnership (not part of the Q4 viewing figures), and it’s clearer than ever where Twitter sees opportunity for growth.

The company noted:

We’re providing significant value to our live premium content partners, helping them extend their reach globally with approximately 33 percent of unique viewers outside the US, and helping them reach a younger audience with approximately 50 percent of viewers under the age of 25.

Back in September, Twitter launched its own dedicated live video app for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Xbox One, as the company looked to migrate from phones, tablets, and PCs, into a living room experience for the family.

However, Twitter is also aware that mobile screens are where many users almost exclusively exist, which is why it recently rolled out docking within its iOS app that allows people to watch live videos while continuing to check out other content on Twitter. During Twitter’s earnings call today, CEO Jack Dorsey revealed that mobile was indeed the most popular medium for watching video. “The majority of the people that consumed the product were not were not in front of televisions, they only consumed it on mobile applications,” he said.

Regardless of how people consume content on Twitter, the important facet of its big video push is that it opens up new ways to monetize content on the platform.

“What we’re doing in video positions us to capture ad-dollars that are not in this very competitive digital advertising bucket,” added Dorsey. “And we’ve started to tap into those dollars through our live video product and will continue to invest in it.”

While Twitter is also opening live video up from a user perspective, recently introducing Periscope livestreaming directly into the main Twitter app and broadcasting around 6.6 million hours of live video in Q4, it’s the premium content from big-name broadcasters and brands that it hopes will spur real growth moving forward.

Social – VentureBeat

If It’s Painful, It’s Broken: Unbounce Blog Team Takeaways from 2016

Since I joined the Unbounce family three years ago, our marketing team has grown from seven to 35. The content team alone has grown from two to 12.

That kind of growth comes with a lot of potential to do exciting things.

But scaling a team quickly also uncovers inefficiencies, and results in a helluvalotta growing pains.

Which is fine, really. I’m not much of a jock, but I know that without pain there is no gain.


2016 in particular was a really productive year for the content team at Unbounce. We were able to fix a lot of inefficiencies in our processes, and experiment with things that we just didn’t have the bandwidth for before.

In short, we pulled the plug on what wasn’t working and doubled down on what was working.

If you’ll allow me to, I want to share some of our biggest takeaways with you. In part because I wanna show off our gains (#humblebrag), but also because I wanna prevent your pains.

(P.S. Much of this progress can be attributed to an improvement methodology we started using called the Improvement Kata, which could be the subject of its own 10,000-word post. …But you can learn all about it in this 60-minute webinar.)

Process improvements: If something is painful, it’s because it’s broken

When I began work at Unbounce in 2014, I was the main person dedicated to the blog. I spent my days writing, editing and making sure that we maintained our historically high editorial standards.

But I was doing this in a silo, so when we began onboarding more team members who were to contribute to the blog, things started to feel a little painful.

Suddenly, it was evident that we needed new processes. And the only way to fix inefficiencies was to first diagnose them:

  • I was spending too much of my time working with external contributors and responding to queries that I couldn’t focus on content that contributed to big picture business objectives
  • I was used to being a lone wolf, but now my team members needed visibility into which posts were in the pipeline (and at what stage)
  • With more team members, prioritization of content pieces was becoming more difficult

After listing all the pains, we started looking for solutions as a team.

What did the doctor(s) order? You can read about all our process improvements in this post, but here are some of my personal favorites:

  • We killed our “Write For Us” page.
  • We refused to take on any post that didn’t first have a fully fleshed-out pitch (you can steal the template for it below).

Produce better content by getting off on the right foot

Download Unbounce’s blog pitch framework and ensure all your content is 10x content.
hbspt.forms.create({ css: ”, portalId: ‘722360’, formId: ’64e8a438-dccd-4831-988d-1f2c5c4889ef’, target: ‘#cta-hb’, onFormReady: function() { if (navigator.appVersion.indexOf(‘Win’)!=-1) { $ (‘.hs-form select’).click(function(event) { $ (‘.hs-form select .hs-input option’).prop(‘disabled’, false);}); } } });
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But my favorite change was one that alleviated a ton of pain…

Treat blog posts like campaigns

When I started blogging in 2008, the #1 piece of advice I was given was to establish a posting frequency and then stick to it.

But last year, at marketing conferences and across the web, I began to hear whispers of something different: publish less, but publish deeper.

This suggestion was attractive to me because I’d been working hard for two years to make sure that our editorial calendar was filled with back-to-back actionable articles. I was able to maintain a frequent publishing schedule, but this resulted in me neglecting something far more important: a sound distribution strategy.

We were working hard to create awesome content, but weren’t making the time to be sure that people would take notice.

So in 2016, we started experimenting with treating blog posts like campaigns.

What do I mean by this? Taking the time to plan, write and promote epic posts — the kind of stuff that makes your CMO drop their work and share the post in a department-wide email — even if it means dialing back on publishing frequency.

More specifically, “campaign” posts go through five phases (read about them in detail in this post):

  1. Determine the goal of your post so you can determine later whether or not it was successful (and guide the content of the post).
  2. Do keyword research if appropriate so your post will continue to get organic traffic.
  3. Loop in influencers who can help you amplify your content after you hit publish. Include quotes — as Andy Crestodina said in his keynote at Content Marketing World, “An ally in content production is an ally in content distribution.” Beyond that, start thinking about distribution strategy before you write a single word.
  4. Create custom blog assets that you’d like to see in your own social media feeds. Think of how you can create a consistent design experience across all channels.
  5. Distribute according to a predetermined plan. Milk all your channels for everything they’re worth.

We get so much more out of posts when we take this well-rounded approach — we feel happier and more strategic (instead of feeling like we’re on a content farm). It feels less painful and it actually feels like less work. Here’s another great bit I heard at Content Marketing World:

More of a spirit of experimentation

Optimization is such a core part of our business — we preach it in our webinars, on our podcast, on the blog. “Always be testing” echoes through the hallways to the extent that it’s become a bit of a cliché.

Yet, when it came to actually conducting tests on our blog and other content, we were quicker to make excuses than make time for optimization. Not because we were slackers — quite the opposite — but because we were too focused on furiously pumping out content to take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture.

Until we decided to just do it ✔️️ and were inspired to launch a two week optimization experiment. For the experiment, we halted publishing and focused entirely on optimizing evergreen content. In a nutshell we:

  1. Researched top traffic posts
  2. Freshened up the content of the post to keep them evergreen
  3. Optimized those posts for lead generation (this part was key)

You can read all about our experiment (and how it resulted in 700 new leads for us) in this post. Or just grab the checklist below and get started.

Ready to optimize your high-traffic posts for lead gen?

Steal the exact process that Unbounce used during their two week optimization experiment.
hbspt.forms.create({ css: ”, portalId: ‘722360’, formId: ‘6959abbb-59e1-4de0-9ab3-36da2443c394’, target: ‘#ready’, onFormReady: function() { if (navigator.appVersion.indexOf(‘Win’)!=-1) { $ (‘.hs-form select’).click(function(event) { $ (‘.hs-form select .hs-input option’).prop(‘disabled’, false);}); } } });
By entering your email you’ll receive weekly Unbounce Blog updates and other resources to help you become a marketing genius.

Our main takeaway? Optimization isn’t just for conversion rate optimizers and performance marketers. Content marketers stand to gain a lot by taking a step back, too. Even if it means temporarily forgetting about your editorial calendar.

More accountability

Everyone is aware of certain inefficiencies and pains within their organization or on their team, but seldom do we make the time to take ownership of these and actually resolve to fix them.

I’d encourage you to take a step back and think about what hurts and what bandaids you have at your disposal. It may seem daunting or like a lot of work at first, but I think you’ll find that it pays off in the long run.


Pinterest: 46 Government Requests for User Information, 7 Content-Removal Requests in 2H 2016

Pinterest was the first of the major social network to release its Transparency Report for the second half of 2016, but its task is relatively easy compared to those of Facebook and Twitter.

Why do we say that?

Pinterest received a total of 46 government requests for user information from June through December 2016.

In contrast, Facebook reported 59,229 government requests for data in the first half of 2016, while that figure was 5.676 for Twitter during the same time period.

Pinterest said it received 24 subpoenas, two court orders and 20 warrants during the last six months of 2016, all from the U.S., involving a total of 116 accounts. It provided some information on 42 of those requests.

The social network also received seven content-removal requests during the six-month period, all from Russia.

In contrast, Facebook received 9,663 content-removal requests from January through June 2016.


6 Key Insights from Demand Gen’s ABM Benchmark Survey Report 2016

Demand Gen's ABM Report 2016

Account-based marketing.

For many of us in the B2B marketing space, this concept has been buzzing in our ears over the past couple years.

If you’re less familiar, ABM is a highly-strategic marketing approach that uses quality, relevant content to reach and nurture specific strategic accounts or individuals. Essentially, rather than casting a wide net to entangle thousands of prospects or current customers, ABM aims to spear the biggest, easiest or most relevant catches.

But ABM isn’t a new tactic. However, awareness and adoption is on the rise thanks in part to new technology options that help marketers target more accurately and scale ABM, according to Demand Gen Report’s ABM Benchmark Survey Report 2016. In fact, 47% of the marketers surveyed said they have an ABM strategy in place, with 33% reporting they plan to implement ABM in the next 18 months.

The new report, which was sponsored by EverString and DOMO, aimed to uncover insights on ABM adoption, tactics, and the challenges marketers are facing. Below we dive into some of those key insights and offer some advice for improving your ABM efforts or adding it to your marketing mix.

#1 – Sales and marketing alignment is critical to success.

It’s no secret that the relationship between sales and marketing departments can be a little tenuous. But it’s also no secret that when these two teams work together, magic can happen.

As TopRank Marketing’s Josh Nite recently wrote, “Sales and marketing should be BFFs. We might have different focuses and methodology, but the goal is the same for both departments: make sales and drive revenue.”

But where do you start? According to the report, 47% of marketers said one of their greatest challenges was sales and marketing alignment.

“Sales and marketing alignment is the cornerstone of successful, strategic ABM,” Jeffrey Sands, VP and Account-Based Marketing Practice Co-Lead at ITSMA, said in the report. “In order to best achieve this, you have to get the seniormost sales and marketing executives to both agree that ABM is important and that it is an important strategy moving forward.”

The bottom line? Start with getting buy-in from the top of both departments. If the department heads are on-board, it will trickle down to the rest of the team.

#2 – Personalization is key.

The whole point of ABM is to inform, engage and inspire action from a specific group of accounts or individuals, so it’s no wonder that a majority of marketers surveyed said they’re tailoring their content and outreach—just 8% said they use generic messaging. As you can see below, there are several different ways to approach this, but most are targeting by industry.

Account-Based Marketing Messaging & Content

As for delivering that content, marketers said they use a mix of content offers and lead gen formats including: targeted executive events (66%), interactive content tailored by industry or role (62%) and direct mail (60%). Other tactics listed included email, social media, retargeting and account-based ads, webinars and surveys.

Ultimately, the best approach for you will depend on the team and technology you have in place, as well as the goals you’ve set.

#3 – Utilizing tech and tools are a must.

The ability to collect and analyze data has a direct impact on the success of your marketing efforts—and ABM is no different. According to the report, 92% of marketers use analytics and reporting tools to support their ABM strategy, with 59% of them saying these tools are critical.

In addition, 91% said they’re utilizing campaign execution and orchestration tools, with 61% saying these are critical tools. In addition, about two-thirds (64%) said they use account-based advertising tools and 49% are using predictive tools.

There are a number of different platforms and tools you can look into. Some include: Marketo, Engagio, EverString, Demandbase, and LeanData.

#4 – It matters how you measure success.

I think it’s safe to say that proving ROI is a focus and challenge for many marketers, regardless of the tactics you’re using, and it often comes down to making sure you’re tracking and measuring the right things.

Demand Gen Report’s survey found that those adopting ABM are are shifting away from traditional metrics like MQLs to focus on those that are more revenue-focused. For example, 59% of marketers surveyed said they track pipeline velocity.

“A lot of ABM is based on marketing to existing customers, so pipeline contribution and net-new accounts are actually bad measures—but many marketers have been using them all along, so they are probably just legacy metrics,” David Raab, President of Raab Associates, said in the report. “Win rate isn’t used widely because it’s affected by so many factors that are not related to marketing. In general, the right measures for ABM relate to account performance (e.g. revenue growth), regardless of whether the account was ‘sourced’ by marketing.”

So, focusing on engagement and acceleration metrics are probably going to be the most important metrics to measure.

#5 – ABM doesn’t come without challenges.

ABM can seem like it’s the answer to all your marketer prayers. But like any marketing tactic, it has its challenges and it takes time to figure out how to be successful at it—something that is definitely backed up by survey results.

According to the survey, more than any other reason, 45% of marketers said they are simply not clear on how to execute an ABM strategy. Furthermore, 35% cited lack of expertise and resources as a significant challenge.

#6 – ABM is not a replacement for traditional demand gen marketing.

In the report, Adam Needles of Annuitas said it perfectly: “We need to improve demand generation, not abandon it. ABM has a place in the mix—a supporting role to play.”

ABM is a fantastic tool to have in your marketing arsenal for creating an effective, integrated marketing strategy. If you’re wondering how it can fit in your mix, take a look at some of the following resources for some inspiration:

  • When ABM & Content Collide: How to Build an Account-Based Content Strategy
  • Do You Speak Sales? What Sales Can Teach Us About Account Based Marketing
  • Learn How to Launch an Integrated Strategy for Account Based Marketing

Want More ABM Insights?

Read the full report here.

Disclosure: EverString is a TopRank Marketing client.

Are you using account-based marketing? What strategies have been the most effective for you? Tell us in the comments section below.

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