An Expert Interview with Rand Fishkin CEO & Co-founder of Sparktoro
Vishal Parmar

Posted by Vishal Parmar

March 10, 2021

Expert Interview 25 min read

An Expert Interview with Rand Fishkin CEO & Co-founder of Sparktoro

We have with us, Rand Fishkin, co-founder and CEO of Spartoro and former co-founder of Moz. He’s a dedicated marketer by profession and an avid traveller and speaker by passion. Rand Fishkin has helped various people to gain a better insight into the world of marketing through his book Lost and Founder.

Vishal Parmar from Blurbpoint managed a one on one session with him (luckily!) We would like to thank Rand, for unveiling his thoughts about his professional journey, his challenges, learnings and everything that helped him soar high in the marketing ecosystem.

Vishal: What challenges did you face while shifting your career from SEO to an audience intelligence platform?


I’m still facing them! I think the biggest challenge is getting folks who’ve come to know me over 18 years as an SEO to update their memory banks. It’s an uphill battle shifting a brand — business or personal. I suppose it shows how valuable it is to be focused on one niche for a very long period, rather than switching careers.

Vishal: Why did you leave the co-founder position from Moz?


I don’t think you can ever leave a “co-founder” position 🙂 It’s built-in for life! But, I assume you mean the CEO role, which I wrote about here and in my book Lost & Founder. To make a long story short, I stepped down during a bout with depression, because I hoped it would be the best thing for me and the company. In retrospect, I think that was a mistake, but I try not to beat myself up for making a poor decision at a vulnerable time.

Vishal: What Inspired you to start Sparktoro?


Three things:

1) I really wanted to prove to myself that I could build another successful business in the marketing field

2) To build a different kind of company that could, hopefully, serve as an example to other entrepreneurs and investors that you don’t need VC-scale or a VC-style company to build something exciting that can have great returns and provide great value.

Vishal: How has the SparkToro tool changed the overall approach towards content marketing strategy?


For content marketers, the biggest three uses of SparkToro data are:

A) Finding the social sources + websites that reach their target audiences so they can earn amplification from those folks (via direct outreach, indirect relationship building, nudges, advertising, etc)

B) Finding where their audiences pay attention so they can form partnerships, do advertising, co-marketing, or contribute content in these places that already reach the people they want to reach

C) Watching the topics, hashtags, sources of influence, YouTube channels, etc. that resonate with their audiences so they can create content that works to attract them.

Vishal: How can Sparktoro be used in SEO at a bigger scale?


SparkToro is an audience research tool, rather than an SEO-specific product (like my old company, Moz). That said, we have seen a good number of marketers using the data within to find keyword opportunities (by seeing what websites are popular with given audience targets, then looking them up in Moz or SEMRush), uncover link opportunities, and find topics that might make for great content marketing.

Vishal: How is SparkToro different from Buzzsumo?


The two products don’t overlap at all 🙂 Different data. Different use cases. Different value proposition. I don’t think we share even one feature in common! Just about as different as a vacuum cleaner and a sink.

Vishal: What are your thoughts on Google omitting search terms for Google Ads?


They’re a monopoly with far too much-unchecked power, and their executives’ incentives are warped to short-term revenue over long-term good for the market or their customers. So, no surprise they’re making their ad products more opaque and more difficult to optimize. Where are we all gonna go? Facebook is just as bad, and no one else has the scale to reach potential buyers. Google knows they’ve got us trapped and can just keep squeezing.

Vishal: What SEO trends do you predict for next year?


I’m not really in the SEO world anymore, but my guess is we’ll see mobile search pick up again (after vaccine distribution makes travel more safe), and we’ll likely see click-throughs fall as a result. Google’s also getting more and more aggressive on pulling data into snippets to prevent anyone clicking on your website in the organic listings… It’s going to be a frustrating slog trying to earn those clicks in a lot of sectors.

Vishal: Do you think any search engine can compete with Google in the next 10 years?


Maybe, but only if there’s some government regulation/intervention. Otherwise, Google’s simply too powerful.

Vishal: What tips would you share with startups and digital marketing firms?

Vishal: What are your top 3 rules for success?


The biggest one is to first define what success actually means to you, and why. For a lot of people, there’s an exclusive focus on money, to the detriment of everything else. That’s not “success.” The same is true in the startup world with scale and fundraising: entrepreneurs falsely think their goal is to raise money or to build a big company with lots of employees. But those things aren’t “success,” either, they’re just things the media and your environment have taught you to think are signs of success.

Instead, focus on what kind of life you want, and how you want to participate in the world. Do you want to be rich? Why? What are you willing to sacrifice to do that? Everything? Some things? Which ones? Why those?

Answer those questions and “success,” becomes achievable. Ignore them, and even if you manage to make a lot of money or build a big company, you’ll find you’re unhappy and out of synch with what you really want. At that point, your brain will do mental gymnastics to convince yourself that what you really want/need is more… That’s how greed overwhelms otherwise good people. Don’t let it happen to you.

If it so happens that your definition of “success,” is the same as mine, then my top 3 rules are:

1) Surround yourself with people you love, who love you in return. Don’t worry about if they’re the absolute “best” at something. Worry about whether they’re good people whom you love to support and be supported by.

2) Build for a small, focused niche — one that’s underserved and that most investors and entrepreneurs don’t care about. It’s so much easier to stand out and be appreciated by customers in an uncrowded space.

3) Do things other people aren’t willing or able to do with your product/service, especially ones that will surprise and delight them. Surprise is one of the best ways to build attention, and if you do that in your early days, you’ll build the best kind of marketing — word of mouth.

We’re beyond thankful that you took some time out of your busy schedule and accepted the interview invitation. Thank you for answering every question with amazing enthusiasm.


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