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Rand Fishkin in the KIRO studios. (Erynn Rose photo)

Our guest this past week on the GeekWire radio show and podcast was Rand Fishkin, the CEO of SEOmoz, the Seattle-based search-engine optimization software company. We talked about subjects including Google+ and the search giant’s competition with Facebook; Microsoft Bing and its competition with Google; and Google’s “Panda” update and its impact on websites.

If you missed the show or just prefer text, continue reading for excerpts from his comments.

On the Google+ design: Google+ looks and feels remarkably like Facebook. When I say that, I mean it really in a complimentary way. The Google UI — the clean white background, the clean lines that you’ve always had in Google — is there, but you’ve got a wall, it shows newsfeed items. You’ve got your friends, you’ve got your profile in the upper left-hand corner. It feels very familiar. I think this is an incredibly smart move on Google’s part to take something we’re already all comfortable with, Facebook, and make it part of the Google social network experience.

On the prospects of Google+ for seriously challenging Facebook: I would say right now I’m feeling optimistic, but we should definitely check back in a few weeks, in a few months, because this is a long game, and a long play, and I will say that the obvious bias right now is people who are well-connected to the geek community. … You are getting a very Google-centric world jumping into this early. Me saying I love it or my friends love it is very different than saying, Oh, yeah, my grandparents out in New Jersey love this thing. That’s something that Facebook has solved for, and I think Google+ is going to have a big challenge on.

On Bing’s prospects for success: I think that Microsoft is playing an aggressive strategy, but they are not innovating on the level that Google innovated on when they came into this industry. What Microsoft has to do is not build a better version of Google but build the next generation in search.

On the major differences between Google and Bing today: Remember that Bing has fewer advertisers total than Google but they tend to show, on average, more ads for commercial types of queries. Google also has somewhat better results in what’s called long tail queries — meaning, those weird things that we all search for sometimes but aren’t very frequent. And Bing has what we might even call a slight, very slight, advantage on some of those common search words. You search for Britney Spears, you search for Lady GaGa, you search for Seattle Seahawks, you might get a better experience with Bing. They do a great job with weather, with movies, with a lot of this stuff. But they’re not winning over a ton of consumers.

On changes in Google’s algorithm: You essentially have an algorithm that’s written by software engineers and it’s designed to try and bubble up the best stuff, and push the crappy stuff down. Google and Bing have both been fighting for a long time against crappy stuff, and trying to get better with good stuff. And Google has actually taken a big leap recently with a new update that happened in March that they called Panda. This has taken the search world by storm.

How the Panda update has had such an impact: Panda is a little bit different than what Google would do in the past. In the past, Google would look at the keywords that you use on your site, they look at links that are coming into you. They look at their classic algorithm PageRank, they look at the trustworthiness of a website, what domain is it hosted on. Now they’re looking at some different kinds of things, and they’re getting these metrics in different ways — so, things like how well designed is your site, how beautiful is it. How much would Google’s quality raters say, I trust the content of this site. Those are things that have never been in the algorithm before, and they are today.

Here’s the MP3 file for this week’s show.

We’ll be back this weekend with another episode on GeekWire and on 97.3 KIRO-FM in Seattle, where the show airs Saturdays at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m, and Sundays at 3 p.m.

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