How to be a better marketer in 2024 with Rand Fishkin

How to be a better marketer in 2024 with Rand Fishkin
Reading Time: 31 minutes

Knowing your audience and cutting through the noise

In 2024 with the rise of AI, it can feel like we’re moving further and further away from our humanity. If we can chatbot our customer service, analyse spreadsheets to decide our next move, and Chatgpt our content do we really need to build relationships with our customers any more?

Well obviously, yes, yes we do!
But where do we start?
How do we really know who our audience is, what they’re talking about and how to reach them?
Can we use data and insights to find out what podcasts they’re listening to, which social accounts they follow and the websites they love most?

And when we know all that information, what the hell do we do with it?

Today’s guest is an all-time favourite of the show and is going to help us understand what the eff is going on in the world of digital marketing and social media this year – and how we can be better marketers.

 

Tune in to learn:

  • How much influence AI has actually had in digital marketing
  • The biggest challenges marketers are facing n 2024
  • What ‘dark social’ means
  • What the future of paid ads looks like
  • What is working in social media
  • How SparkToro works
  • How to use the data you find using SparkToro
  • Why email marketing is the way forward
  • What you should be investing your time in marketing right now

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And big thanks to Jenn Donovan for the lovely review:

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About Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin

Rand is the co-founder and CEO of SparkToro, makers of fine audience research software, and cofounder/creative director of Snackbar Studio, makers of a soon-to-be-announced video game for PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation.

Fun fact: Rand runs two companies, but aims for French working hours or less each week (<32 hours).

 

 

Transcript

Kate Toon  

In 2024 with the rise of AI, it can feel we’re moving further and further away from our humanity. If we can chatbot our customer service, analyze spreadsheets, decide our next move. And chapter ECPR content. Do we really need to build relationships with our customers anymore? Well, obviously, yes, yes, we do. But where do we start? How do we really know who our audience is? What they’re talking about and how to reach them? Can we use data and insights to find out what podcasts they’re listening to? Hopefully, this one, which social accounts they follow? And the websites they love the most? And when we know all that information, what the hell do we do with it? Today’s guest is an all time favorite of the show. And he’s going to help us understand what the eff is going on in the world of digital marketing and social media, and how we can get better. And to do that again. Today’s guest is an all time favorite of the show, and he’s going to help us understand what the eff is going on in the world of digital marketing and social media this year, and how we can get better and be better marketers. Hello, my name is Kate Toon. And I’m the head chef at the recipe for SEO success, an online teaching hub for all things related to search engine optimization and Digital Marketing. And today, I am talking with Rand Fishkin. Hello, Rand. 

 

Rand Fishkin  

Hi, Kate. 

 

Kate Toon  

Now, those of you out there who don’t know who Rand is, what have you been doing? Let me tell you who he is and what he does. Rand is the co founder and CEO of Spark Toro makers, a fine audience research software, and the co founder and creative director of Snack bar studio. Makers of a soon to be announced video game for PC. Oh my god, this has been talked about for a long time. I can’t believe it’s happening. PC, nintendo switch, Xbox and PlayStation. Fun fact. Rand runs two companies for aims for French working hours of less or less each week. So it’s two hours ooh la la French working hours. French people you can’t push them if you if you push them too far. They riot. They spray effluence on government buildings. We’ve been watching the farmers do that recently. I love it.

 

Rand Fishkin  

They tried to raise the retirement age. 

 

Kate Toon  

Yeah, 

 

Rand Fishkin  

That was yeah, really, really upsetting. Because yeah, I think the the French citizenry have correctly identified that technology is meant to be a force to allow human beings to have more freedom, more flexibility, more time for creativity, more time for cooking and drinking wine and doing all the things that human beings love to do. Not a reason to pursue growth at all costs capitalism mentality. 

 

Kate Toon  

Exactly. We want the robots to clean our toilets not write our poetry, and I think the French get that. And I love it. I’ve got a lot of respective for their – 

 

Rand Fishkin  

I’m I mean, Japan has clean robots that clean toilets. Why not the rest of us? Exactly.

 

Kate Toon  

I know. I would love that. But we’re not here to talk about toilets, although maybe we will. I just want to start off by saying how do you feel to be back? This is your fourth time on the show. How does it feel to be so loved and admired? I look forward to competing with the Steve Martin of your podcast Cyrus Shepard. Did you know that Cyrus played young Steve Martin in several movies? What? No way.

 

Rand Fishkin  

Ask him, ask him about it. Ask him I believe he was in father of the bride. And another one. Yeah. Young Steve Martin. And now that you’ve seen it every time I see Steve Martin on the screen, I just think of Cyrus Shepard.

 

Kate Toon  

I’m literally watch that right now. That guy just gets cooler and cooler. Like the fact that he doesn’t lead with that in his intro. That would be the first thing I would say to people.

 

Rand Fishkin  

Here’s the here’s the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever heard Cyrus say. He said, Well, I was kind of bored with Hollywood. I got every part I ever auditioned for.

 

Kate Toon  

And so I became an SEO.

 

Rand Fishkin  

He was like, I just wasn’t you know, it wasn’t for me. Right other other people dream of it and they toil and work their tail off. He was in like 24 the TV show. Wow. Yeah. All sorts of things. Anyway, blah, blah, blah. I am the Tom Hanks to Cyrus Shepherd’s Steve Martin and so I will be competing for title of most asked to host

 

Kate Toon  

Yes, podcast guest

 

Rand Fishkin  

 What I’m gonna call Haterday. Night Live.

 

Kate Toon  

Yeah. Okay, well I like that. All right. We’ve got John Mueller as well. I think he’s our third one. And I’m not going to work out which movie character he is because I’m not sure.

 

Rand Fishkin  

Trying to think of a villain. 

 

Kate Toon  

Oh, Rand, stop it let’s move on. 

 

Rand Fishkin  

Oh he knows what he did.

 

Kate Toon  

Okay, moving on. Before we dive into audience research, I would love your perspective on 2023. And what you think were the biggest changes in how we market to customers? I mean, obviously AI is the thing that kind of not blinds everything else. It’s so much noise about AI but you know, what do you think were the changes in marketing and 2023?

 

Rand Fishkin  

I actually don’t believe AI was a top three force for change

 

Kate Toon  

Good.

 

Rand Fishkin  

In the marketing world in 2023, I think it was a top three discussion topic. Probably top number one, I think a lot of people spent a tremendous amount of bandwidth trying to understand it, which is great, right, like new technology comes along. It definitely has its uses, I think largely in which models are, can be quite useful and generative. Ai, broadly, lots of interesting creative uses. I would say that if you are replacing your content creation, or marketing strategy, or even marketing tactics, with things from Ai, you’re almost certainly going to get beat by a human who does a better job. And that, hopefully, that’s nice to know. But what I would say is the end of third party cookies, the changes to Google Analytics, GA for and what I’m calling sort of the congregation have rise of dark social and zero click platform, everything. And sort of the destruction of Twitter, Twitter, by its by its new owner, those are probably more impactful on the marketing universe, directly and indirectly than than AI.

 

Kate Toon  

I’m interested in that. What do you mean by dark social, I haven’t actually heard that phrase before.

 

Rand Fishkin  

Oh dark social. So meaning that if you go and look at your web analytics, and you see your referral data, right, it’ll it’ll show you that basically, you know, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, Threads, right? All these social media services, Slack, WhatsApp, Instagram, etc, are sending you very little traffic, right. And this is true for almost every website. And so lots and lots of publishers and creators, website owners assume oh, social is no longer a place to participate and engage, I’m not getting much value from it, I don’t see much traffic from it. But what is really going on is that a huge number of social referrals are being hidden. And that is intentionally by the, by the social networks themselves, for a variety of reasons, but but primarily related to, they would really like you to use their advertising platforms and pay them directly, if you want to see any ROI from those, right. So if, for example, you know, Twitter, Twitter is a good example of this. Or let’s use LinkedIn, LinkedIn hides by our estimate, somewhere between 50 and 75%, of all referrals that LinkedIn sends don’t show up in the in your referral data. Which means that even though you’re getting lots of traffic from LinkedIn, LinkedIn is only showing you between a quarter and half of it. And this is what’s called dark social. And that’s going to buy us a lot of people to go spend money with LinkedIn, because that appears to be the only place that they can actually track the clicks that they’re getting. Otherwise, it just shows up in your referral as direct. 

 

Kate Toon  

Yeah, that’s nefarious, isn’t it? It’s exhausting. And that leads me to my next question with you know, those big changes. What do you think are the big challenges facing marketers in 2024? Especially smaller businesses? Because it does just feel overwhelming at the moment?

 

Rand Fishkin  

Um, let’s see. I mean, certainly, we didn’t talk about one of the one of the big trends, I think you could say it started in 23. But sort of the end of cheap money, right, as the world has been calling it, I would say this is actually probably the largest challenge that marketers are facing, because it’s a huge one ad from the last 10 years of what was expected of digital marketing, which was essentially growth at all costs. Nearly every business public and private, certainly, in the Western world, especially in the United States of America had a growth model and incentive driven by sort of the, the flow of capital, right, so what, when you can get five 6% interest on your money by just putting it into a treasury bond with it with the US government, which is unlikely, very unlikely to be lost, except in the case of global climate catastrophe, and whatever guns and gold are everything. So if you can get 6% on your money, well, a venture capital fund that’s getting you 9%, but it’s high risk, not that compelling. But if you can only get 1% on your money. Now a 9% high risk investment looks pretty good. And so tons and tons of dollars over the last, you know, really since since 2008 to 2022 We’re being thrown into growth and growth means marketing. So, you know, over the course of of that 14 year period, and especially this sort of three years 2020 2021 2022 with COVID, and everything going online, you just saw this, this flood of capital into the marketing space. I think a lot of agencies, a lot of consultants, a lot of in house teams assumed growth was here to stay. Right, this mentality was just going to keep going, and we were going to have to keep growing. And then, in order to curb inflation, right, this, this big change happened at the macro economic level, and it trickled down to us really fast growth, marketing is the first thing that gets caught. Especially any kind of marketing that is not perfectly attributable to a sale to an incremental sale, which is dumb as hell, we can talk about that, too. But that that is the biggest thing. I think that is affecting marketers in 2024. Because these layoffs and down cycles, downturns are affecting almost everyone in marketing. I know.

 

Kate Toon  

Yeah. So well put. And I think, you know, I’ve been putting out some content around just having a period of sustaining, you know, because we’ve been taught that we need to uplevel and dream big, and it should be a diagonal line upwards at all times. But it will flatline my analogy, it’s like being Kate Winslet clinging on to that bit of wood at the end of Titanic, we just need to cling on, it will get better again. But for now, we need to cling on. And I guess, you know, a lot of people, as you said, the first thing they start to cut is their subscriptions, their marketing, their advertising. And then that impacts, you know, the likes of you and I, can we talk about advertising. I mean, one of the most I mean, I’m, I hope I’m allowed to say this, I won’t get sued. But one of the most horrendous forms of advertising out there is Facebook ads, right? It just feels terrible at the moment.

 

Rand Fishkin  

Google P max is coming for the title.

 

Kate Toon  

Okay, cool. It just feels like you’re flinging poo at a wall, put your ads up, it spends three weeks learning spending loads of money, and then you still get crap results at the end of it. Where are you? Where are you supposed to end? You know, we’ve lost the cookies. Now that’s all gonna change as well. Where are you sitting on paid ads at the moment? Uh, you know, what’s your thoughts?

 

Rand Fishkin  

I think that they, unfortunately, are going to continue to have a long, prosperous life for their owners. 

 

Kate Toon  

Yes. 

 

Rand Fishkin  

And that is because Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, in particular. But but the other big ad networks, as well, are fantastic at doing one thing that CFOs and therefore CMOs and everyone in marketing, loves: reporting.

 

Kate Toon  

Yeah, great data.

 

Rand Fishkin  

Google is a great example of this Facebook, too. But if you’ve ever been part of a campaign that hot off all spend, just to see what would happen, right? You were running, you know, let’s say $50,000 a month of Facebook ads, and you cut it down to zero for three months just to see, right? Like how much. And then you notice, gosh, we’re still getting, it’s almost always somewhere between 75 and 95% of the same sales numbers. But Facebook told me that they were responsible for 61% of all our sales. How could these things be true? Both things are true. Facebook, they claim responsibility, what they really mean is 61% of the people who have actually made a purchase from your website, saw the Facebook ad that you ran, because what Facebook is really good at is understanding where people who are going to take an action will be on the internet before they get there. Right. That’s what predictive learning and machine learning all these models are all about is doing a great job of saying we know that this guy is going to buy a pizza on Thursday night. And if not Thursday, then it’s going to be Friday. If it’s not Friday, it’ll be Saturday, but definitely this weekend. So let’s show him an ad for this pizza. That that is what a lot of CFOs are willing to spend money on. And a fantastic creative ad campaign or product marketing campaign or brand marketing campaign, or content marketing or SEO or social media or PR or email marketing. They don’t have the beautiful metrics that Facebook has, and they are not trusted by the C suite in the same way. And that is why it’s really frickin tough to get even a very relevant brand to sponsor your podcast that you know goes out to 10,000 listeners, but it’s really frickin easy for Facebook to burn 10 grand and still have a CFO trust them.

 

Kate Toon  

Oh, I love this. You know this couple of Because I want to come back on you though. I’ve recently launched a little challenge. It’s called SEO SOS. And I’ve launched another one called click, click boom, good name. And with the click, click boom, I have a little thing when they join the Facebook group, say, How did you find this group? And specifically tell me if it was a Facebook ad? And about 50% of people said, yeah, it was a Facebook ad. Now the thing is, I’m not running Facebook ads. So they just saw content and thought it was an ad. Right? So and you did the best analogy, which I must admit, Rand, I’ve stolen I have credited it to you, but I’ve used it a million times. It’s the thing that makes me not do Facebook ads is the pizza shop and the flyer guy, can you can you just do the fly guy story for us? Very good analogy.

 

Rand Fishkin  

This is not my analogy. Many a marketer long before me made this made this analogy but did not relate it specifically to Google and Facebook. So it’s called the parable of the pizzeria. And so Kate, for your listeners who haven’t heard it before, here’s the here’s the short version. pizzeria owner in Italy. She decides, hey, I want to drum up some more business. So she hires three neighborhoods scamps to run around and pass out flyers. She She has one kid with a green one, one kid with a white one, one kid with a red one. Each color has a different discount code on it. And at the end of the month, you know, she’s an analytics driven pizzeria owner. So she looks and she says, wow, you know, like 40% of our new business is coming in is because of this green flyer, kid. Nobody else is even close to him. Kid, whatever you’re doing, keep doing it. She fires the other two, six months later, she reviews the books with her accountant sits down. The accountant says well, you know things are going, okay, business is up about 10%. But a lot of your customers are using the discount code. And so net revenue you’re actually barely keeping up with last year. And the woman can’t believe it. You know, she thinks, gosh, I’ve seen so many people come in with the green flyers. I know that the green flyers driving new business. How could this possibly be the case? So what does she do? She puts on a disguise. She follows the kid outside the pizzeria. And then she watches him. You know, she’s got her dark glasses. She pulls him down. Okay, he went around the corner, ducked into an alleyway. And what does the kid do? The kid watches the street and anybody he thinks he sees going toward the pizzeria, he jumps out and hands them the green flyer. Because why work hard to make new sales, when you can just get credit for sales that were already going to happen? 

 

Kate Toon  

Oh.

 

Rand Fishkin  

That is Facebook and Google’s motto.

 

Kate Toon  

I love it. I’d so perfect and which is why I will not invest in Facebook ads, they are the green pizza guy, green pizza flyer guy. And I think sometimes they just take your flyers and throw them in the bin and take credit anyway. So we are, you know, finding that even with ads and all these opportunities, all these channels, now we’ve got threads x as you know, we’ve got all these different channels. But with the small business, especially on channels like Instagram, it just feels like there’s so much noise. You know, I don’t know if we can even tell these days, the level of engagement that you get for people who are actually genuinely following you. I think last I read, only 3% of your followers will see your content. I mean, these percentages are made up on the spot. That’s fine. How do we cut through, you know, what are you seeing that’s working as a big question round, but what do you think is working in social media that’s creating a bit of cut through and all this noise?

 

Rand Fishkin  

Yeah, so threads is actually quite interesting. Because those numbers are ludicrously high. It’s the beginning of a new network. And this is what always happens at the beginning of a new network, right, which is essentially it’s especially in the Facebook ecosystem, because much harder to create bots. And you don’t you don’t get as many fake fake followers and that kind of thing. So, yes, I think on Twitter, we calculated that it was a little under half a percent of your followers. So you know, if I had, I had like 450,000 followers on Twitter, so an average of around, you know, maybe if I’m lucky 10,000 people would see a post, right? Which if I look at my impression numbers on Twitter, well, now it’s way lower. You know, now it’s like 1000, because no one’s Elon, whatever. Yeah. And Twitter sort of dying. But if I look at threads, for example, right, I have 3000 followers, and I’m seeing more than that many impressions for every post. Why? Because threads doesn’t have that much content yet to show people. And so they need to, they’ll show content that is from people you are not following to you if it performs even a little bit better than average. And so, you know, Geraldine, for example, my wife who you know Well, who’s an author and has her as her second book coming out? She gets, you know, multiple 1000s of reposts. On on threads, every single post, right? So threads is a little bit of an anomaly in this way. New things that take off often are, you know, when, when people are like, Why does Rand Fishkin have half a million Twitter followers, it’s because I was on Twitter at a very good time, at a time when it was growing extremely quickly. And so everybody who joined Twitter was recommended to follow my account. And now everybody who joins threads is recommended to follow Geraldine’s account. Extremely funny. This does a great point, Kate, because the second thing I was gonna say is, Geraldine’s content is perfectly made for the audience that she wants to reach. And I think very few brands, businesses, marketers, think about the connection between Why is anyone going to care about this content? Who is going to amplify this and why? And if you have no good answer to that question, I don’t think you can have a good social media strategy.

 

Kate Toon  

I also think that some of our rap marketing style fits platforms better like Geraldine is great at the one liner, she’s good at the Snipes and the sarcasm. Would she be so good dancing on reels? I’m not sure. 

 

Rand Fishkin  

Probably not.

 

Kate Toon  

You know, I don’t know you, but she lends herself to the platform. And there is this pressure to be all things on all platforms that sometimes you’re better off. Like I loved I was big on Clubhouse, Rand. I was. I picked the wrong platform. But you know, for a while I was huge. And I’d be like, I come into rooms and people like toon and that platform worked great with me, because I had experience on podcasts, I can be quite quick in conversation. I never run out of things to say.

 

Rand Fishkin  

You have a lovely voice. 

 

Kate Toon  

Thank you very much. It was perfect platform for me. Threads, I’m doing amazingly on by just not showing up at all, I get about 100 new followers a day day. So that’s working.

 

Rand Fishkin  

But I think I assume you have an Instagram presence as well.

 

Kate Toon  

I do. But again, you know, I find Instagram hard, especially in my world of female entrepreneurs. It’s all blowing confetti and balloons and grinning, you know, and I’m not any of those things. So I think there’s two points you made that picking, picking a platform that lends itself to you, rather than forcing yourself onto platforms that don’t fit. And then also thinking about who will this is something you’ve said, since the Moz days, who will amplify this content. You know who the fuck because we all know there’s a bit of velocity when you first post and if you get that interest in the first couple of seconds, people are sharing and liking and following then it seems to get on a bit of a train and off it goes, you know. So if you can’t think of five people who would forward that post to a mate or share it, should you really be making that post. You’ve said that for years.

 

Rand Fishkin  

Yeah, absolutely. No, I think that I mean, this was the this is the founding ethos of Spark. Toro was essentially, how do we help people find the who that’s going to amplify their what? Yeah, and, and I think that this is true, whether we’re talking about, you know, getting a few reposts on your social network of choice. Or if we’re talking about any type of marketing content or message that might be sent through a podcast or a Slack channel or an email referral, or by being on the right YouTube channel, or by having the right ad marketing cannot fundamentally function. If there is not word of mouth behind it. I have never seen or heard of a brand, that long term can build something sustainable and successful. That doesn’t have word of mouth behind it. Yes, you can put advertising in front of that to remind people that the brand exists to talk about things that are new, to create that sort of mindshare and reminder. Totally, I think advertising is great for that. Is it fantastic for initial brand building, so expensive, with the exception of a few verticals where it can still work. I really don’t like the strategy of performance and growth marketing as a how do I capture my initial customer? And I also don’t think it is the most cost effective or high ROI way to go. I think, you know, the every single ad platform, their goal Kate is to charge you 99.9 cents for every dollar of margin that you make.

 

Kate Toon  

Exactly. And you know that word of mouth have fallen into that whole idea of someone somewhere is talking about your brand. And that’s another place that SparkToro can help so let’s come on and talk about SparkToro. And for those listening you can use SparkToro for free, there are some free options to get started with to see it. So you can, it’s amazing because you can put in keywords and say, you know, I want to find people who are talking about, you know, SEO or I want to find people who are talking about whatever it may be. And it will come back and say, well, these are the websites or and these are the podcasts are listening to these are the social channels, here are the influencers they’re following, so that you could go and spend your money on that podcast, rather than throwing giving Mark Zuckerberg more of your hard earned cash. But when you come when I was looking through your branding for SparkToro and you talk about being a zebra not a unicorn, could you just explain what that means?

 

Rand Fishkin  

Yep, yeah, this goes down to a fundamentally how we’re structured and funded. So Moz, you mentioned my previous company, which Cyrus also worked at. Yeah, so my previous company, you know, we raised? Gosh, I think $30 million while I was there, and maybe even more after we left. And essentially, the goal was, how do we return $300 million to our investors, which means becoming, realistically what’s called a unicorn, a billion dollar valuation company in the startup ecosystem, primarily United States. But that ethos drove a ton of the startup activity still does for the last 20 years. And I don’t believe it is the way I want to build companies. And it’s not something I want to see more of in the world. 

 

Kate Toon  

So you talked about in your book lust and founder as well, you know, yeah, journey wasn’t the funnest journey at times.

 

Rand Fishkin  

No. And I, you know, I think it’s, it’s not just about the difficulty or lack of fun of the journey. It’s also about what, what are you creating in the world and contributing to. 

 

Kate Toon  

Yeah, what’s your legacy. What are you giving back to the world?

 

Rand Fishkin  

So yeah, you know,  if you think about the concept of a venture capital firm and an asset class, right, the idea is, we’re going to fund 1000 startups, we know that 980 of them are going to die, right? Not turn into anything, but 15 of them are going to make some decent money, you know, maybe three to 5x returns, maybe even higher than that. 

 

Kate Toon  

And one will be a unicorn. 

 

Rand Fishkin  

Yeah, 123, right. We’ll be like, boom, make the whole fund, right, return everything, building it up. And the way that that is invested in is multibillion dollar markets with a single monopoly player. Right? So you know, the idea is to build a Facebook on Google. Tesla, right? They want something where it’s 70 80% of the entire market, right? Airbnb is what 85% Of the vacation rentals market. That’s what they’re looking for. 

 

Kate Toon  

The market killer sort of thing. 

 

Rand Fishkin  

Yeah, basically, market dominating monopoly duopoly, that kind of thing. And that is, as we all know, stifling to innovation. It is horrific for concentration of wealth. Right, which which macro economically and broadly, leads to upheaval and lots of political strife and tension, right, which you can feel in a lot of Western countries, I think, you know, even in places as remote as New Zealand, right, there’s like, folks, just often for economically driven reasons, see a few people winning, and almost everyone else losing out, you know, when you look at the US economy, which is performing extraordinarily well, the best performing economy we’ve had in 50-60 years. And yet, half of Americans say they’re worse off than they’ve ever been, how can that be? It can be because there’s a few winners, and everybody else is losing. And that is a terrible way to build a society. So what I want to see more of I love innovation, I love entrepreneurship. I love building companies. I like doing work and creating things in the world that didn’t exist before that you think people will love and will pay for. I don’t see any problem fundamentally with a free market economy, just with this sort of late stage capitalism thing. And so what I want is more small businesses that are run by people who are passionate about what they make, and they want to build teams of people who love working there, and they want to build long term sustainable, profitable businesses, not billion dollar monopolies. That’s what a zebra really is. And yeah, we we’ve been doing all right, we actually so last year since I last talked to you, Kate. Last year, we paid back our investors their initial sum. So I think you know, a lot of investors, a lot of people like yourself, right? People who run agencies or have a podcast or that kind of thing. Put in 25 to a hundred grand into SparkToro. Last year, we paid them all back.

 

Kate Toon  

Oh that’s nice.

 

Rand Fishkin  

Right? From our profits. And then in years going forward. The idea is, you get dividends when we pay them out, right? So as long as the company SparkToro, I doubt we will end ever sell this company for, you know, a bunch of money? Maybe I don’t know, who knows what the future is like, but very likely what’s going to happen is, I hope we run for 20 years, provide a valuable service writing audience research software to lots of people, help them do their jobs better. Make a tiny great team that loves working together, work our French working hours. And and have our investors be happy with that too, with a much saner lower risk type of capital investment.

 

Kate Toon  

So singing my tune, having reached not your financial summit, but we reached some kind of financial Summit, you realize it’s pretty meaningless. And then really what you kind of want, it’s just a nice people say to me, What’s your why? Why are you doing all of this, and I’m like, I just want to have a nice day. You know, I want to work with cool people. I want to make enough money to pay my team and pay myself, I want to finish at three o’clock, make my son a snack and watch Netflix. And that’s it. I don’t want to take over the world. I don’t want to make a billion dollars, I just wanna have a nice life, make some pasta, you know, and that that is not enough for a lot of entrepreneurs. But once you realize that that is actually the secret that is the zebras, then you’ve you’ve got it. I think.

 

Rand Fishkin  

I have no problem with people who are more ambitious.  Yeah. We’ve been there. So yeah. Like, I am, I am mildly more ambitious than that, like I would I would like to see some things I really, really like investing in other people’s companies. 

 

Kate Toon  

I’m not brave enough to do that round. But maybe one day.

 

Rand Fishkin  

I’m just saying , like, I don’t have the finances to do it nearly as much as I wish I could. Yeah. You know, and so, I don’t know, I feel like I have to take care of everybody too. Right? If there’s.

 

Kate Toon  

I know that feeling too. Yeah. So I’ve been using that to SparkToro that zebra, I’ve been using it a little bit and seeing the thing, if if someone was, you know, they haven’t used it before. After this, they’re gonna go to the site, and they’re gonna plug something in, and they get that data back. Sometimes when you get that data back, you’re like, brilliant, you shut the browser down, and off you go, What would be your first step to do when you see the data?

 

Rand Fishkin  

So I really tell people, the first time you play with it, it’s just to learn what it is. It’s kind of like chat GPT a lot of people play the chat GPT they didn’t really have a use case for it. But they were like, Oh, it can do these things. Then if you find a great use case, now go back and plug it in, right. So for example, I mentioned that Geraldine is launching her second book, right. So for the last couple of weeks, she’s actually been one of our big SparkToro users because she goes in there, and she plugs in all these different topics and articles that she’s written about things that appear in her book, she plugs in, you know, she gets a, a website that offers to feature her or her work, or her publisher sends her someone, she plugs those in. And then she finds all the sources that are connected to it. And she reaches out to them. And she’s like, Hey, I have my second book coming out on the James Beard award winning writer, like, if you are looking for a guest for your podcast, or if you’re looking for someone to have on your YouTube channel, or if you’re looking for somebody to do an interview with for your email newsletter, like I would love to participate. My you know, my schedule is available. And she’s gotten lots and lots of great stuff, right? Like, you know, people from old school newspapers, people from new media publications from YouTube, and stuff on Reddit, and just all these things. And it’s great, right? Like every one of those is a little nudge that’s going to help her book sell more copies be in front of more of the right audience and people be relevant to the sources that she’s reaching out to she knows that the audience is relevant because spark two are sort of showing her that data. Great, right? It’s just a very practical thing. So this is this is what I tell you. You don’t Don’t feel pressure to use SparkToro because you’re like, oh my gosh, I can’t really think of it. But if you have a thing, if you are helping one of your customers, you know build their marketing tactics and strategy or you need to get some amplification or you’re trying to do you know, content creation or link building or PR. well then you’ll probably use SparkToro.

 

Kate Toon  

I’ve been using it in fact, I’m writing my next book, and that’s what I’ve been using it for, like

 

Rand Fishkin  

Awesome. Yeah.

 

Kate Toon  

Finding guests and people I can mention in the book and get quotes from and you know. 

 

Rand Fishkin  

Exactly 

 

Kate Toon  

A bit of ego baiting.

 

Rand Fishkin  

I mean, one of the things is, you know, for example, like a lot of hosts of shows and creators will do something like for example, let’s say that Cyrus’s episode on your podcast was especially resonant. Like your audience really loved it, it got you a bunch of new followers and fans, all that kind of stuff. You could go plug Cyrus into SparkToro. And then say, people who follow and engage with Cyrus, what other people do they engage with? Let me go get them as guests on the show. Right? Because I know that that audience loves this podcast, so I’m gonna Yeah,

 

Kate Toon  

I love that you use cases, it just makes it much more easy and more impenetrable to get in there. Again, sorry, I keep going back to your back catalogue of things Rand has said on social media over the last 20 years. One thing you said, which I loved again, was you’d, I think it was you’d rather have one email address than 100 followers on social is that still your thing like you still be believed that email marketing is super powerful?

 

Rand Fishkin  

I probably take one over 1000.

 

Kate Toon  

Yeah, I think it was 1000. But I didn’t want to stress it.

 

Rand Fishkin  

 I mean, no, no, I’m sure when I wrote it, it was 100. Right. But today, it’s probably about just because the average reach per 1000 social followers has dropped so far in the last decade, you know, I turn about some of the early times, and we hung out, and we were complaining about this, Kate was like, you know, 2010 11, 12, when Facebook reach had gone from, like, 7%, to 2%. And we thought, oh, it’s the apocalypse, you can’t reach anybody on Facebook anymore. And now it’s 0.09%, or whatever it is. So, yeah, email.

 

Kate Toon  

Email is the way forward. Yeah. And just getting people on your list and nurturing them and loving them and being human and relatable. It’s the way forward and, you know, obviously, there are so many tools and people listening to this, I think, well, I’ve picked up some ideas. But I guess, if you were a small business, again, you that you’ve been, you know, you’ve been a startup, if you’re a small business person, or a service provider, or a small e commerce Store, and you had limited budget and unlimited time, what would you be investing your time in, in marketing right now?

 

Rand Fishkin  

So the, let’s see, the biggest thing I can tell you for snack bar studio, right, so this is it’s b2c, we’re making a video game. Right? The idea is to appeal to players of generally indie games, it’s a it’s a cooking centric action game. So it’s sort of, you know, crosses these two lines. And that the biggest thing that I think about all the time and that I work on so much is the design of the product itself, to fit the parameters of having compelling Hookes reasons that people who when they see it, or they hear about it, or they read about it, or they do a critical review of it, or or user review, or they have a YouTube channel, whatever it is a Twitch channel, why are they going to talk about that game? What are those hooks, right? And so for us, you know, the hooks would be things like the setting, which is 1960s, Italy, which conveys a certain amount of nostalgia and has these things. And so one of the things that immediately went to mind from a product marketing perspective of that was, who are people? Or what are people who are into 1960s, Italy, also into? Stanley Tucci.

 

Kate Toon  

Sofia Loren.

 

Rand Fishkin  

 Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So well, Stanley Tucci, he’s a little bit busy. But we know somebody who knows him. 

 

Kate Toon  

Oh.

 

Rand Fishkin  

I was like, Oh, let me see if I can get him to do a voice for the game to be just a small voice. But right. It’s the kind of thing where, yes, it’s part of the product, but it is intentionally meant to be part of the marketing. So that’s the first thing I would do. As a small business owner, I would urge you, I don’t care if you’re making pizza in Italy. Or if you’re running a podcast, or you’re writing a book, or you’re designing b2b software, or you’re making a new kind of video camera, no matter what field you’re in, find those hooks that make your product worth being talked about. Why is the press and the relevant press and the relevant influencers? Why are they going to talk about it? So that would be number one. The second thing I’d probably do if I sort of already have something established, and now I’m just going to market I really strongly suggest going through your past analytics and finding the channels and sources that sent you the very best traffic. Like gosh, we were on this email newsletter one time. And we got so many signups. Find me more newsletters like that. Figure out why why are we featured on that newsletter like Well, what was compelling about it? Okay, how do I make a new why that is similar to the old why to reach more newsletters, like the old newsletter? Yeah. That that is the biggest thing that I can recommend to anyone. And all of the things you do should be part of that. So whether you’re creating content, right, if it blog posts, like all those blog posts should be about why is someone going to amplify that blog post? And are they going to be the right people who reach the audience that you care about reaching? There’s no point in reaching an irrelevant audience, right. So when folks are like, Oh, should I do my b2b software marketing on tick tock? I’m like, yes, your audience is technically there, but That’s just because everybody’s there. That doesn’t mean they’re having relevant conversations on Tik Tok. They’re having them on LinkedIn. They’re having them in subreddits. They’re having them on YouTube. They’re having them in podcast. They’re having them on private Slack channels. Those are the places you should be.

 

Kate Toon  

Yeah. And that’s what SparkToro can help by finding those places. And then you can show up to the right people. Fantastic. Well, look, we could talk all day. I love I love hearing all your ideas. And as I said, we’ll maybe see if we can.

 

Rand Fishkin  

This is called the recipe right? I don’t even know you’re making for dinner, Kate. 

 

Kate Toon  

Today, I’m making tacos, vegetarian tacos. I do watch all your pasta stuff, but trying to do a bit of low carb Rand, trying to. 

 

Rand Fishkin  

Yeah, I think that’s great. 

 

Kate Toon  

I’m heading into midlife and I’m getting the midriff you know, so, you know, pasta.

 

Rand Fishkin  

I, I completely understand. We do an awful lot of small and attempts to be healthful eating. It’s just that the pasta making videos are the ones that get lots of engagement. They look so good. Yeah, exactly. You definitely want to watch people make faster, and then you can feel like eating it. They go engagement, I’m following your content. So  I mean,  this is what I’m hoping for the video game, right? It’s like, oh, this is a way to zero carb, zero calorie make pasta.

 

Kate Toon  

I love it. But also, it makes me think of one other point right? Like you, your business is SparkToro. That’s what you sell. You’re on LinkedIn talking about that. You’re doing thought leadership videos, and interviews and all that kind of stuff. But the way that I follow you is watching you and Geraldine have adventures and holidays.

 

Rand Fishkin  

Yeah.

 

Kate Toon  

And the kind of life that I would love to live one day when I’m a grown up. And that keeps me connected to you on a human level. But also then keeps you top of mind on a marketing level. So my big tip for small business owners is to do to share the real life of you. That’s the one advantage we have over corporates, that we can share a little bit of our real life, we can be human, you know, build that know, like and trust stuff. And it doesn’t have to be serious in businessey and LinkedIn, it can be a video of you making pasta, that’s okay.

 

Rand Fishkin  

I yeah, I almost feel guilty when I make pure business videos, you can see right even when I even when I do, whatever a business related thing, it’s almost always around something I find fun or genuinely interesting, I don’t think, I don’t have it in me, Kate to make content. That is, you know, sort of purely business professional. I have to be I have to be emotionally invested in it just doesn’t work otherwise,

 

Kate Toon  

I think you can tell that you can see when people are just showing up because they’ve been told they need to make a three minute reel, you know, I mean, you can see, you can

 

Rand Fishkin  

You can feel it when you read those posts

 

Kate Toon  

You can.

 

Rand Fishkin  

To write when people publish that on their blog and in their newsletters and on their feeds. I don’t know, I just feel bad for those creators. This is this is the thing. Large language models have never been passionate about anything. And they never will be. They are never going to get excited about anything that has ever been done or ever will be done, but a human being is different. Right? And what what makes us special is our ability to have unique and weird angles on things that are not imitations of things we were machine learning trained on. If I had any advice for people who, you know, to the point from the from the start of our conversation around this fear of AI stuff, if I had any advice for folks who are worried about that it would be lean into the things that humans are uniquely good at. Yeah, there’s a lot of them. There’s a lot of them. But tragically, I think there’s a I don’t know a perception that it’s not professional or that that’s not what your employer wants from you, or that’s not what your client wants from you. And I would just have those hard conversations, right? If you just want words that come after other words that can maybe show up in Google? Well, fine, you know what AI is good enough. And then it can just circle I’m not gonna say the word it can learn on itself. Yeah, I love the lean into the lean into things you’re excited about. I think that’s really important. I also believe in leaning into the weird.  Yes.

 

Kate Toon  

Like your weird is going to be someone else’s weird and people are gonna love you for that. I’m very weird on my social media. And I know that I could be a lot more popular if I was a lot more vanilla and a bit more, you know, but I can’t. And so I’m weird. And that may mean I’ve got way fewer followers, but the ones I’ve got, their mine. You know.

 

Rand Fishkin  

this, this is another thing I think I wrote a post about this last year right that people are far too afraid of making enemies. And I think unless you are not just willing but actively seeking to make some enemies. You are not going to make real friends. Yeah. Right.

 

Kate Toon  

Be contrarian. Be divisive. A little bit. Not for the sake of it. Not

 

Rand Fishkin  

for the secret. Yeah, yeah. But because you genuine Leave, dislike that thing, right? So, you know, I spent what? 10 minutes criticizing the venture capital asset class and hustle culture and, you know, business and tech Bros and thread, boys. I hate it. All right. And I don’t need those people to be my friend. I don’t need them to like me. I don’t need them to use SparkToro if they want to go for it, but you don’t have to. Yeah. And my hope is that that attracts lots of people, like yourself who go, you know, that’s a real person. Yeah. I want to I want to play around with this software and see if it’s any good. And I want to go follow him on this site.

 

Kate Toon  

Buy his computer game. 

 

Rand Fishkin  

Yeah.

 

Kate Toon  

I love that, very much my mantra. Rand, you’re amazing. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Where can people find out more about you? And where can they connect with you on social media talks about every single channel? Where are you hanging out the most these days?

 

Rand Fishkin  

I’m most active on threads where I actually am Rand DeRuiter, my wife’s last name. And on LinkedIn, just Rand Fishkin. You can try spark Toro for free at Spark toro.com. And if you are interested in getting updates about the snack bar, video game, it’s snack bar studio.com. Fantastic.

 

Kate Toon  

We’ll include links to all of those and to Geraldine ‘s account as well because she’s wonderful and awesome to follow. Yeah, I’ll show up in SparkToro. Fantastic. Awesome. All right. Thank you, Rand.

 

Rand Fishkin  

if we give her book a bump, actually.  Thank you, Kate.