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Announcing Moz’s 2012 Metrics, Acquisition of AudienceWise, & Opening of Our Portland Office

SEOmoz January 22, 2013 Comments Off

Posted by randfish

2012 was an amazing year at SEOmoz. We grew tremendously in members, revenue, and employees; finally raised a second round of funding; added some cool features to PRO; and acquired three companies (though, until today, we've only publicly talked about two of those). In this blog post, I'm going to cover our 2012 numbers in some detail and tell you about our very exciting, final acquisition of the year, AudienceWise.

The blog post is broken into several sections for those who'd like to jump around:

Moz's Acquisition of AudienceWise

I first met Matthew Brown along with his partner-in-crime at Define, Marshall Simmonds, in Xiamen, China. I was with my grandfather, Si, speaking at SES Xiamen, and the NYTimes' SEO team was hosting us for dinner. I still remember my Grandfather commenting that he'd been a subscriber to the Times for 50 years, and it was about time they took him out to dinner :-)

Since then, Matthew's gone on to start his own consultancy, AudienceWise, with Tim Resnik, former CEO of a gaming startup and a tremendously accomplished marketer & data junkie. Both have been frequently involved in the Moz community – Matt spoke at Mozcon two years ago and will again. Tim and he are both quiet lurkers on the blog, but with this transaction, I expect that to change a bit. Over the past couple years, we've talked extensively about recruiting them to the SEOmoz team. They were on our list of potential acquisitions for our failed funding round in summer 2011, and part of the "use of funds" we spoke about with Brad Feld in our April 2012 round.

Matt and Tim are really here at Moz to help us scale our in-house marketing and product expertise. Both have built software products in the past (Matt worked with Marshall on SearchCLU, Tim on an online poker subscription service) and have tremendous depth-of-knowledge in the fields of both inbound and paid marketing. We have a lot of phenomenal talent at SEOmoz, but only a few of us are deep into the fields of SEO, social media, content marketing, email, CRO, etc. Matt and Tim are here to help serve as mentors and as internal-consultant experts to our entire team, a role that I've been far too busy to fill effectively the last 18 months.

Matt and Tim Visiting the Mozplex

The AudienceWisers have been by the Mozplex several times, but in their first official visit as employees, they impressed a lot of folks on our team and have already jumped into a ton of projects. For example, Tim is working on visiting our rankings data & how we'll build reports for rankings going forward, and reviewing a big secret project that I'm not allowed to talk about on the blog. Meanwhile, Matt's working with Erica to head up our search for great Mozcon speakers, co-piloting the 2013 ranking factors work with Dr. Matt Peters (as an aside, doesn't Matt & Dr. Matt sound like a good sitcom title?), helping with the new version of the Mozbar, working with the product and engineering teams on the web classification system, and much more. 

I particularly loved the email Matt sent on the allstaff thread welcoming him and Tim:

Matt's email to team

Some notes on the acquisition:

  • The total acquisition price (including salary, stock, and deferred payments) is in the low seven figures.
  • SEOmoz is acquiring AudienceWise's process & products (including some research work and software Matt & Tim have built), the team itself, but NOT the consulting business. Matt & Tim will continue to do a small amount of consulting outside of SEOmoz, and our business will continue to remain free from services revenue.
  • The AudienceWise Portland offices only hold three people, so we're getting some new space (more on that below).
  • Technically, the deal closed in mid-December, but we wanted to wait to announce until Matt & Tim had wrapped up their other obligations and started at Moz full time (which happened last Monday, Jan. 14).
  • Matt will be reporting to me with the title "Head of Special Projects," while Tim will be on Adam Feldstein's product team as "Principal Product Strategist." We're doing more with titles in the next couple months at Moz, so these may change. Neither will have any direct reports, but both will be contributing as consultants/advisors/project leads on a number of teams.

I'm sure that Matt & Tim would love to hear from you and are happy to take questions in the comments of this post, so feel free to leave them, and please join me in welcoming them to the Moz team!

The Opening of Our Portland Office (aka Mozlandia)

We Mozzers have long loved Portland from our perch in the Emerald city. We visit on weekends to sample their insanely weird and tasty food carts and restaurants. We stay extra nights after conferences to tour their far-too-cool-for-Seattle clothing stores. We rant jealously about their much lower cost-of-living and their lack of a state sales tax (which adds to the retail goodness). And, of course, we poke fun at their hipsterdom.

Portlandia on IFC

In fact, after watching three seasons of Portlandia, and experiencing the magic that city has to offer, we could no longer resist its pull. Starting in April of this year (probably, maybe May or June depending on lease details), SEOmoz will be opening only its second office ever in Portland, Oregon, nicknamed "Mozlandia."

We've already created a poster of our own:

Mozlandia

Pictured from left to right: Peter Bray (FollowerWonk), Matthew Brown and Tim Resnik (AudienceWise), Galen Huntington (FollowerWonk), and David Mihm (GetListed).

I'm pretty sure this picture alone means our Portland office is going to be an amazing place to work (honestly, Galen looks WAY more "Portland" than his counterpart in the IFC photo). We'll start recruiting more formally soon, but in the meantime, feel free to check out any of the open positions at Moz, many of which teams may be open to staffing in Portland. We will continue to offer our $12,000 referral and signing bonus for software engineering positions in both cities.

2012 Moz Financials

It was a good year for the company financially, despite our focus being on a lot of other issues. We ended the year at $21.9mm in revenue – nearly doubling from 2011's $11.4mm.

I think 2012 and 2013 are going to go down in our history as "investments in the foundation" years. After our funding round closed in April, we spent the vast majority of the year building products that have yet to launch (stay tuned), building up recruiting and onboarding processes, bolstering our product and team with acquisitions, experimenting with how to handle a much larger big data product (Mozscape – sadly most of our efforts to dramatically grow size & increase freshness in 2012 failed, but we believe we now know enough to have success in 2013), and managing culture at a mid-size company (which went pretty well and led to some nice kudos like Seattle's Best Place to Work).

Below is a look at overall product revenue growth from 2007-2012:

SEOmoz Revenue 2007-2012

More than 90% of total revenue comes from SEOmoz PRO subscriptions, with additional contributions from the SEOmoz API (these are combined in the "product revenue" chart above). Mozcon tickets sales and DVD sales are not included in this graph, nor is consulting revenue, which ended in 2009.

I did, however, want to show our expenses for 2012, compare them to 2011, and break them down by category so you can get a better sense of what's in our costs (and see how we're spending that fancy VC money!). I didn't have a great way to show this as a visual graph (pie charts over time are funky – I guess I could have done the stacked graph, but they're also funky), yet the chart conveys the data pretty well:

SEOmoz Company Expenses 2011-2012

There are a few interesting takeaways from the above:

  • Personnel as a percentage remains the same, and I'd guess it will go up a small amount in 2013.
  • hosting is where most of our COGS (Cost of Goods Sold) and pain comes from. It should be going down as we reach larger scales, but in 2012, we chose to invest in building faster rather than going slow and finding solutions to our declining margins. That will change in 2013, and while this year as a whole will probably still be high, we're predicting that our total hosting costs will be ~50% of what they are today (~650K/month) by Q4.
  • Contractors are a resource we've leaned on heavily in the past, particularly on the development front. That number will probably remain similar in 2013, though eventually we plan to bring the vast majority of production in-house, and rely on contractors only for specialized needs.
  • Facilities is one that will, hopefully, take a huge leap up in 2013. We need a new office here in Seattle, and while we've been a bit stymied on our first six months exploring spaces (we've had two offices we wanted fall through on us), we want to be moving to a much larger headquarters as soon as possible. In the meantime, Mozlandia will help us grow a bit in Portland.
  • Not a believer in inbound marketing? If this data doesn't convince you, nothing will. The incredibly low percent of costs that go to attracting traffic and acquiring customers (on the "marketing" line – remember that SEOmoz has no sales team or costs) are a testament to SEOmoz drinking our own Kool-Aid, and investing in sources like content, organic search, social media, email, CRO, and word-of-mouth to spread our brand. It means we can invest much more in research, product, and data. Check out traffic from the last 6 quarters:

SEOmoz & OSE traffic 2011-2012

Some spikiness from viral content skews the trendline a bit, but in general, we're seeing healthy growth from every channel.

If you have questions about this stuff, feel free to ask in the comments and myself or Sarah Bird (our COO) can answer.

2012 Employee & Customer Growth Data

The financials tell part of the story, but a few other data points felt interesting to me and may be to you as well. First up is our growth in employee count from our first year as a software company to today:

SEOmoz Employee Headcount 2007-2012

The chart shows headcount of full time employees at the end of each year. We've obviously had a ton of growth here in 2012, and we're budgeting to add another 66 team members in 2013 (though a lack of new office space may slow that down). What amazes me the most is how well our culture has managed to handle this growth. I feel better about the persistence of TAGFEE and the other cultural aspects at SEOmoz today than I did when we were at 50 people, 25, or 5. To be honest, that's not what I expected. I thought things would get invariably harder and worse at this scale, but given the trend, I'm incredibly optimistic about 150, 250, even 500! Though, I know all of those will take incredible effort to succeed.

Next is our customer growth:

SEOmoz PRO Subscribers

18,731 was the final count of paid PRO subscribers on Jan. 1st, 2013 (our historical numbers for prior years were less precise, hence the rounding).

It's pretty remarkable and truly humbling to have nearly 20,000 paid customers using our product. But we know that we've got a long way to go. In 2012, we had four pretty severe incidents and several smaller ones where critical customer data like rankings, crawl info, or Mozscape index updates were missing or late. We launched a few cool features at the end of 2011 and very beginning of 2012 (social analytics, historical link analysis, universal SERPs tracking, and custom reports) but with the exception of Followerwonk (which is a huge addition to PRO, and continues to develop new features itself), it was a very quiet year for features.

2013 is going to be very different. Our first major launch since Wonk is only a few weeks away, and spring should see the start of many more. We also have an entire team of five engineers, under the leadership of Shawn Edwards, focused on uptime and reliability. The levels of unreliability we've had in the past are unacceptable, and the speed of product improvement is, too. In our reviews for each other this month, Sarah and I were chatting about a large release we've been working on since late 2011, and Sarah told me, "If we haven't launched by June, we should both fire each other." I couldn't put it better myself. This year, we need to kick ass for our customers and be more deserving of the incredible support and growth you've enabled for our team.


January 2013 marks my 11th anniversary working in this job (prior to 2004, I worked with my Mom, Gillian, at the web design/marketing company that would become SEOmoz). I've never been more amazed by what the company's accomplished than I am today, but I know every day from now forward presents the challenge to all of us at Moz – to prove we're worthy of the fantastic things we have (customers, revenue, investors, supporters) and to not be trapped by the mistakes of the past, nor fall prey to the pitfalls of the future.

Matt & Tim will be a huge help, as the teams from FollowerWonk and Getlisted have been already. Mozlandia is going to be an exciting new experiment for us. And 2012 was a great year, but honestly, I can't wait for 2013 to get going, and for us Mozzers to be able to show all of you what the remarkable team we've built can do.

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