Moz Acquired in Marriage of Email and SEO

A big announcement dropped on Friday. We learned that the email marketing company iContact has acquired Moz, one of the most recognized brands in local SEO. The companies didn’t share terms.

iContact bills itself as the “easiest email marketing platform for small businesses.” The company, founded in 2003, is a unit of J2 Global, a platform company that owns a host of technology brands. Other relevant J2 brands include Kickbox and Campaigner.

Seattle-based Moz was launched in 2004 as SEOmoz by Rand Fishkin (the “White Board Fridays” guy) and Gillian Muessig (Rand’s mom). Gillian left in 2012. Rand stepped back from the CEO role in 2014. He left the company in 2018. He then wrote a book called “Lost and Founder,” that billed itself as “A Painfully Honest Guide to the Startup World.” He also founded the market research software company SparkToro, which he runs today.

In the intervening years since Moz launched, local search and SEO became a very big business. And Moz subsequently faced a growing list of competitors of varying flavors. A random list of these competitors includes SEM Rush, Yext, Whitespark, SEOptimizer, Synup, among others.

SEM Rush, founded in 2008, went public in late March. The company issued 10 million shares a 14.00. At this writing, the company was trading at 19.80 per share with a $2.7 billion market cap. The company reportedly generated $125 million in 2020 revenue. So its current market cap is more than 20X its last year’s revenue. That is a healthy multiple that no doubt could draw investors in to look at competitors.

According to Moz CEO Sarah Bird, the company has generated 40.7 trillion links and has tracked 1.2 million websites. The company has made more than 500 million keyword suggestions.

As a private company, Moz does not disclose financials. In 2019, Moz reportedly generated about $61 million in revenue. The company has raised a total of $30 million since its inception over two funding rounds.

So Why This, Why Now?

Bird and iContact Marketing Corp. President Michael Pepe posted a chatty video, embedded in this Moz blog post that Bird posted Friday afternoon to announce and explain the deal. The two exchanged glowing praise before getting down to the “why” of the deal. First, they established that the two companies address the same market, small to medium-size businesses, but with complementary products.

“If we ask our customers, which we do routinely, what the number one tool that they need, beyond email, it’s undoubtedly SEO,” Pepe said. “So there’s a great pairing of SEO and email marketing.”

The two leaders agreed that the companies have similar values, hence a good chance of achieving the elusive cultural fit. And Bird added the following, addressing Michael.

“Moz is going to thrive in this new family. And I know that for certain because I know that you guys genuinely understand the value of SEO and are excited to share that with your broader customers,” Bird said. “And really, we know that email is critical and will remain critical. It’s not going anywhere. It’s just getting better.”

A ‘Wow’ Heard ‘Round the Industry

This reaction from search industry figure Barry Schwartz was a typical response to the news Friday.

And this similarly surprised reaction came from Workshop Digital Co-founder Andrew Miller.

One SEO veteran, however, didn’t seem particularly surprised by the news. Local SEO Guide Founder Andrew Shotland posted this take on Friday afternoon.

We caught up with Andrew over the weekend. He expanded on why he thinks the Moz deal was bound to happen sooner or later.

“As soon as SEMRush proved itself to be a viable public company, it was inevitable that Moz got scooped up,” Andrew said. “For the past decade+, Moz has been arguably the best-known brand in SEO. But over the past few years, competition from all angles has popped up, and while I am guessing Moz was doing fine from a business perspective, from the outside looking in, it didn’t feel like it was growing like a leading brand in a fast-growing industry should.”

He adds that SEMRush’s successful IPO may have spurred J2 Global’s interest in Moz.

“A player like iContact likely saw the potential to bolt Moz’s technology, and perhaps its community, onto its existing platform and use it as a way to expand into a new market,” Andrew said. “Its parent, J2 Global, likely sees this as a way to increase its valuation based on SEMRush multiples.”

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