At SEOMoz.org, my eyes are immediately drawn to the combination of a killer black banner, the faded imagery within the banner, the contrast between banner, body, and background, and eventually the way it all makes the blue “moz.org” stand out as the most important thing on the page. Upon closer inspection, I see the Seattle space needle, street lamps, and an artsy sense of downtown life. At first, however, I don’t identify the faded images at all. I just find their shapes appealing and my eyes move on to the next thing: the logo.

While this is THE BEST looking SEO services / tools website I’ve ever seen and the logo matches the color scheme of the site, I still find myself a bit confused by the logo. What is that, exactly? A star? A flower?

In that moment of indecision, the brand has lost a bit of my respect. This starflower looks a bit like glorified clip art. My can be regained, of course, but to my subconscious, the nondescript image says, “we don’t know who we are”.

Short-Lived Negativity

Those negative feelings are instantly squelched by the next thing I see… the beacon. Call it an antennae, call it a tower, call it what you wish. To me, the image is bold and says, “HERE is the beacon. The signal heard round the world. The tower to which all men are drawn.”

And, in a very real way, this imagery holds true. You don’t get very far into the informed SEO universe before you hear about the most popular brand on the block, SEOMoz. Rand, if you’re reading this, the beacon should’ve been the logo. Just sayin’.

Long before the days of Outspoken Media, SEOMoz was successfully pulling in tens of thousands of visitors to a blog that wasn’t the homepage. It was a products / services website that just happened to have a blog. Okay, not really. The blog and the people behind the blog (Rand Fishkin, Jane Copland, and Rebecca Kelley) are what made the brand. The services were only in demand because of the proficiency shown in the blog (and the combo of trust and relationship built with others in the industry at every single SEO conference under the sun).

My Biggest Complaint

Ever since the beginning, I’ve disagreed with ANY blog that requires membership to comment. Because, honestly, there’s no blog I NEED to comment on so badly that I’m going to waste time signing in. Either I get the instant gratification of commenting on the fly or I don’t.

Why Memberships Suck

First of all, I don’t like terms such as “fans”, “followers”, and the like. I don’t like any brand coming across as the definitive source, with all its readers as lesser-than fans or members. The time spent signing in is exactly the amount of time it takes for me to go elsewhere and participate in a different conversation (if I happen to be feeling chatty that day).

Why SEOMoz Gets a Pass

In the end, I begrudgingly give Mozzers a pass on this one. It’s a judgment I couldn’t have made from the beginning. I guess blog memberships are amoral – neither good nor evil. It all depends on what you do with it. And over the years, SEOMoz has integrated members into the site in a more thorough way than most.

Voting Comments and Posts

I love voting. With the SEOMoz, it’s largely been an opportunity to kiss ass. Everyone wanting to make friends kisses ass by voting comments up. In an industry where companies thrive based on the reputation of their blogs, it’s no wonder that so many have tried to align themselves with the popular kids. It’s like watching Survivor and Big Brother in type.

However, I’m such a fan of the right to vote, because it gives the reader the power to show his/her opinions on content that isn’t theirs. It also allows the community the capacity to self-regulate. A very rude person who is rude regardless of cause can be voted down by the community and eventually blacklisted.

YOUMoz Is the Coolest SEO Blog Idea Ever

Essentially, there are two blogs to be found at SEOMoz: the SEOMoz blog and the YOUMoz blog. Any member of the site can contribute to the YOUMoz blog. Some sports blogs have this functionality too, but it’s not as pretty. The best submissions are promoted to the SEOMoz blog. How cool is that!

And this is why, ultimately, SEOMoz does not suck for employing memberships onsite. Don’t try this at home unless you can actually make membership a benefit and a privilege. It’s a judgment call I questioned from the very beginning because it looked like an ego play. While all the other SEO blogs were free to comment, this ONE blog required membership. This is why you never know what will succeed until you test (shameless A/B Testing plug).

Whiteboard Fridays

If nothing else, stop in on Fridays for video whiteboard sessions. Rand Fishkin is nothing if not a communicator. He spells out concepts in simplistic ways so that ANYONE can understand. Tune in and see what he and his crew have to say each week.

I’m sure you’ll find most of the content on this particular blog to be worth reading. A part of me hates to admit that, but it’s true. In an age where Hamlet Batista, SEO By the Sea, and Blue Hat SEO no longer contribute on a regular basis, you can count on SEOMoz to maintain a level of ongoing quality found on only a couple SEO-focused sites.