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Rand Fishkin Podcasts

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98 of The Best Podcast Episodes for Rand Fishkin. A collection of podcasts episodes with or about Rand Fishkin, often where they are interviewed.

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98 of The Best Podcast Episodes for Rand Fishkin. A collection of podcasts episodes with or about Rand Fishkin, often where they are interviewed.

Updated daily with the latest episodes

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Rand Fishkin: "Start Me Up"

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In this Season 4 opening episode, we welcome back Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz and co-founder of the new SparkToro, to explore how Rand found innovative ways to not only launch a new (very cool) product during 2020 but also help people and other businesses on a variety of levels in the process. 

In this episode, you’ll hear Melinda and Rand discuss the three things that marketers should be doing during a crisis, the difficulty and necessity of changing your brand’s messaging to reflect the times, and how to keep your business and your team surviving during a time when entire industries have been turned upside down. 

You’ll also hear some of the innovative ways Rand and his team adjusted the launch plan of SparkToro to account for decreased budgets, shifting revenues, and a general malaise. Oh, and he also figured out a way to donate money during it all. Listen to our show to find out how.



“Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones


Stayin' Alive in Tech is an oral history of Silicon Valley and technology. Melinda Byerley, the host, is a 20-year veteran of Silicon Valley and the founder of Timeshare CMO, a digital marketing intelligence firm, based in San Francisco.

We really appreciate your reviews, shares on social media, and your recommendations for future guests. And check out our Spotify playlist for all the songs we refer to on our show. 

Sep 17 2020 · 49mins
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Episode 28: Where to Find Web Marketing Opportunities with Rand Fishkin

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During this conversation with Rand Fishkin, the CEO and Co-Founder of SparkToro, we are chatting about high quality web marketing opportunities and how to make the most out of those outlets.

Rand mentions a few resources: 

Communities for Marketers:
Coywolf Community
Data Driven U

Check out Rand's Blog Post, "119 Examples of 10X Content (by Rand Fishkin) | SparkToro"

MicroConf 2020 Headline Partners

Twitter ➡️ https://twitter.com/Stripe

Twitter ➡️ https://twitter.com/Basecamp

Jul 23 2020 · 42mins

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Rand Fishkin - Starting from Scratch: How Creating a New Product Category Can Supercharge Your Startup Growth

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You already know Rand Fishkin. The founder and former CEO of Moz, he's something of an icon in the SEO space. But once he moved on to build SparkToro, he had to start from the beginning. Nobody even had a word for what his startup was selling, so he invented a new category - audience intelligence. Tune in to get a full rundown of the whole Sparktoro journey - from beta to alpha - so you can follow his successful gameplan too.

Jul 23 2020 · 32mins
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Rand Fishkin – Don’t Be Afraid to Stand up Against the Growth-at-All-Cost Venture Capital Model

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Rand Fishkin is CEO & co-founder of SparkToro, author of Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World, and previously co-founded and ran Moz.

Since publishing his book in 2018, he has earned 4.7 stars out of 5 from 170 reviews, a remarkable achievement!

“Find something you’re passionate about, where you can add unique value, and where your audience wants to pay attention. Nail those three, and you’ll do great marketing.”

Rand Fishkin

Worst investment ever

Time to grow business funds

Rand’s worst investment ever happened when he was the CEO of Moz. In 2011, the company turned down an acquisition offer from HubSpot, a very well known marketing platform. At the time, Moz had been growing at 100% year-on-year for about six years in a row and producing about $11 million in revenue.

In 2012, Moz sought to increase funding and got $18 million, of which $15 million came from a new investor, Foundry group, and $3 million of it came from a previous investor Ignition Partners.

Venturing into more forms of marketing

Rand’s company used the Venture Capital (VC) funding ostensibly to grow the business from just providing search engine optimization tools and software to providing different aspects of web marketing, email marketing, content marketing, PR, and social media marketing. Essentially, all of the new forms of marketing that Moz had not served previously.

Cutting off what was working

Over the next few years, the company cut off all growth of its software platform. As a result, existing products stopped improving and staggered. While their competitors kept making investments, Rand was pouring all of his new money into hiring a huge team, trying to figure out the new management structures, growing his offices, and acquiring other companies.

Rand thought that by putting on hold what was previously working and putting all his energy into launching his new idea, the new venture would propel Moz into superstardom with this exciting and incredibly broad software suite.

The horrific failure

The new venture fell flat on Rand’s face. Moz’s growth rate fell from 100% year-on-year to 50% and then from 50% to 25%. Over the years, Moz continued to plateau in terms of growth and was surpassed by two direct competitors – SEMrush and Ahrefs.

Over the last few years, Moz has tried to recover and refocused on SEO after a big round of layoffs in 2016.

Stepping aside

While the company was still profitable, the failure put a massive strain on the company and Rand. He was not able to handle it well and had an emotional breakdown. Rand ended up stepping down from the company, replacing himself with the chief operating officer who’s still the CEO today at Moz.

The myth that leads even the best of us to failure

Rand’s biggest driver to his failure was believing in the myth that once you have invested, made a decision, and gone down a path, you have to keep pursuing that path until you see it through to determine whether it was the right decision or the wrong decision.

In reality, the right thing to do is to release one small thing that puts you in this direction and see if that works. And then another little thing in the same direction and if it also works launch another. Don’t do anything big until you’ve released a small series of things and validate that your market wants this.

Lessons learned

Have structure and incentives in place

Structure and incentives matter more than almost everything else when it comes to business success.

Know what you’re signing up for before accepting venture capital

VC financing comes with a lot of glitz and glamor, and you get a lot of media attention. Don’t fall into the trap of chasing the glamor at the expense of serving your customers, your employees, and your happiness.

Find the in-between financing model

Today, there are financing models in between being wholly bootstrapped trying to build a business with your own or your family’s funds and building a business with institutional investor capital. Don’t be afraid to explore such models.

Andrew’s takeaways

You can’t do everything

Don’t be addicted to growth, and try to do everything. Things seem easier on paper than they are. Companies just can’t do everything.

The startup world is a trap

Small businesses are trapped. So be very careful when you go in. You can have all the dreams that you want, have a billion-dollar company, but for the majority of people, it’s pain and despair.

Leave risk management to the board

As the CEO, your job is growing the business while that of the board is reducing risk. When a board gets caught up in growth, they betray their obligation to the bigger world. Let the CEO in the management team propose the growth plan while the board handles the risks. All board members should, therefore, understand the role of risk assessment and risk management.

Do not let investors push you

Listen to different opinions, but do what’s right for you. Do not be dragged into hitting quarterly profit numbers and all that. Don’t be the CEO who spends time building a competitive advantage and chasing your tail because investors are pushing you.

Actionable advice

When looking for business financing, be sure to recognize what you’re signing up for and commit wholeheartedly to one path. So if venture capital appeals to you, just understand why to make sure it’s the best choice for your business.

No. 1 goal for the next 12 months

Rand’s number one goal for the next 12 months is profitability. SparkToro just launched, and so Rand’s main focus right now is trying to get it to a profitable, sustainable business.

Parting words

“If the world around you is guiding you in a particular direction, if the sources that you read and follow, the people that you listen to and admire, are pushing you to go in one particular direction, it pays to explore the alternatives.”

Rand Fishkin

Connect with Rand Fishkin

Andrew’s books

Andrew’s online programs

Connect with Andrew Stotz:

Jul 07 2020 · 34mins

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Adapting Your Marketing To Changing Audience Behavior with Rand Fishkin

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It's probably not possible to work in the digital marketing or SEO sphere for more than 5 minutes without hearing about Rand Fishkin. He's the founder and former CEO of Moz.com, whose tools, articles, and Whiteboard Fridays continue to provide a massive amount of value to agencies and consultants alike. He's also the author of Lost and Founder, which is a must-read for anyone who wants to found their own company.
He recently launched a new company and a new product: SparkToro. SparkToro is an exciting new market research product that helps marketers discover who their audience actually is.
Learn all about it, and about market research in general, on today's podcast. As a bonus, you'll get some great thoughts about entrepreneurship as well.
Here are the highlights:
  • (1:00) SparkToro in a nutshell.
  • (1:25) The challenges SparkToro is designed to fix.
  • (3:49) Why market research is so important.
  • (5:43) Some surprising ways that users are incorporating SparkToro into their workflow.
  • (7:03) The difference between using SparkToro and going to an existing marketing research firm.
  • (8:55) Recent changes in audience behavior.
  • (11:35) Advice on audience checking and using the data to inform strategy.
  • (14:11) Pitfalls to avoid while using SparkToro.
  • (16:59) Sorting through marketing opportunities.
  • (18:40) Insights into the decision making process in building the tool.
  • (20:32) Venture capital vs. angel capital and bootstrapping.
  • (23:21) Rand's causes.
The takeaways:
What is SparkToro, what does it do, and what problems does it solve?
SparkToro helps marketers understand who their audiences are and what they do. It gives users "behavioral data about what they pay attention to, who they follow and listen to, what publications they read, what podcasts they listen to, and what YouTube channels they subscribe to."

Rand says marketers were really flying blind in the past.
"There were three ways people were solving this problem previously. #1, they were serving and interviewing their audiences. But self-reported data is terrible, suffers from all kinds of bias, and you don't get a very complete picture."
The second way people would try the problem was to try to Google around or search on social networks to see popular accounts and blogs. What ranked well, what had lots of followers? 
"Unfortunately," Rand says, "while that data is semi-useful, the problem is it doesn't tell you whether your audience listens to or pays attention to it. It just tells you whether many people do or few people do. Or in the case of Google, whether it was good SEO or not."
The third way they did it was to completely ignore the problem. 
"In a lot of cases it was: we'll just throw money at Google and Facebook and let them figure it out. That can work for you if you have a very high-margin business and a really big brand and you can play the ad game well. But for a ton of companies, this is a very difficult ROI situation. 

You're right at the margin of where you're spending money on ads to seek growth, because so many people are seeking growth, vs. what you're actually turning a profit on." 
Why is market research so important?
"The core of the problem," says Rand, "is where should I go that actually reaches my audience?"
He explains:
"Whatever kind of marketing you're doing, right?

It could be organic outreach. It could be guest posting. It could be pitching on a podcast. It could be a co-branding relationship or sponsorship. Could be, hey, this company's putting together this webinar, let's see if we can get a guest spot there, maybe we can sponsor it, maybe we can amplify it. 

Maybe I'm just reaching out to people on social to try to get them to link to my blog posts, right?"
The targeting is often very off-base. 
"If we can just tell [marketers] you know, 18% of architects in Los Angeles, CA listen to this podcast, suddenly someone in an agency who is helping an interior design firm reach the architects they need to reach is going to be so much better at their job. 
Everything they do is going to be so much clearer if you just know that number and source of influence. 

And so that's all SparkToro is. At the core of the product. There are lots of other features, but the core of the product is you just type in an audience, a way people describe themselves, something they already follow and pay attention to, and then we tell you: here are the websites they visit in order of how much they are visited, shared, linked to, engaged with. Here are the social accounts. Here are the podcasts. Here are the YouTube channels. Here are the sources of influence."
Were there any surprises in how customers began using the product?
Rand said he was surprised to see people using the tool to feed into their ad campaigns. 
"So they'll see, oh, the audience I'm going after frequently uses these hashtags, follows these social accounts, and they take it right over to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook ads, and they just run ads to target those audiences."
Rand says he was surprised by this because they didn't see it during the beta. 
"It's been a fascinating use-case and it's been central to a few of our customers. About 10% of them have told us they use it in that way."
What's the difference between using SparkToro and going to an existing marketing research firm?
Rand says you'll get a lot more data from a marketing research firm, but it comes at a price. 
"It was pretty wild to us that folks were willing to go and pay $50,000 for a market research report that would take six months to assemble a panel, and then they'd get the report back and that big report would include data like: here's how we think people describe themselves, and here's how we break them into buckets. 

But the statistical soundness of it is based entirely on the sample of people that you get, and the sampling could be all over the place."
Rand says SparkToro was built with just one bias, which was: 
"We only sample your online audience. 

If your audience doesn't have Twitter accounts, and LinkedIn accounts, and Facebook accounts, and Reddit accounts, and YouTube accounts, we have like ten networks that we look at, then we can't get data about them. But everyone is so on, almost every audience is so online today that it works pretty well, right? 

The numbers will be in the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. A market research firm will often use election-poll sizes of 1200 or 1300 people."
Recent changes in audience behavior
As of this writing, Agency Ahead is still tracking the ways that the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the marketing world. Thus, Garrett asked Rand what he's seen in terms of audience changes within the tool, and whether he's seen changes in how his own customers are using the tool.
“We've seen a more significant change in what people follow, listen to, and pay attention to among the cohorts that we follow in the last three months than in the previous six-to-nine months."
He's also seen changes in the words and phrases people use.
It suggested a new, obvious feature that is not currently built into the product. 
"You should be able to say: I really care about architects in Los Angeles, tell me about how their behavior changes through whatever's going on in the world." 
It's something they're planning on building.
They've also seen a change in podcast behavior. 
"There are more people listening to new podcasts, more new listeners, and more new podcasts. But overall listening time per listener is down because people don't have their commutes."
Advice on Checking and Using the Data
While Rand doesn't have specific insights on what interval marketers might want to use for checking trends, he does have thoughts on how to use the data and what to look for. 
"The big thing for me is identifying a source of influence as it's on the rise rather than waiting until it gets hugely popular." 
For example, he'd rather buy a year of sponsorship for a podcast that's on the rise than one that is on top, when advertising rates will be ten or a hundred times higher.
"I think for marketers being able to see that a source of influence is growing, or growing rapidly for their audience, even if it's only moving from oh, half a percentage of my audience was paying attention to this source last month, now 1 and ½ percent is. 

That's interesting. Let's watch it next month. If it jumps again, we should build it out. Let's build a relationship there."
Rand notes that once someone gets to that top echelon they're much harder to build a relationship with. 
"They're very sensitive to people reaching out and spamming them. But during that rise, they're often much more targetable, much more reachable. You can build relationships, you can form a connection, and so that is, for me at least, a huge part of how and why that data is valuable." 
Pitfalls to avoid while using SparkToro
Rand notes SparkToro works best when it's easy to describe your audience. Then there are clear patterns of behavior, clear words and phrases they use in their content when they talk about things.
"So it's awesome for finding real estate agents. Because real estate agents call themselves real estate agents. They talk about real estate. It's terrible for finding homeowners. 

If your target market is: I want to reach homeowners, well, how do homeowners uniquely describe themselves from everyone else online? 

They don't put it in their bio. They don't put it in their shares and content. Maybe there's a few things they would talk about that's different from people who rent, or people who are nomadic and travel, but ehn, not so much.

So you can't find: ‘Jewish-Americans in Seattle, Washington.’ Or data on ‘18 to 35-year-olds.’ “
Rand notes they intentionally do not show and in fact ignore personally identifiable information for privacy reasons and for legal reasons.
"But if your audience has something in their job title, if they have something they already follow, if you say, gosh, it's very hard for me to describe this kind of health care worker in the logistic supply chain, oh but they follow this account on Facebook or Twitter, so I'll plug that in is my source...that can be useful." 
Rand also points out that you have to figure out what to do with the data once you have it. 
"Your job is to find potential things that you could do once you figure out where your audience pays attention."
How decisions about product functionality got made
SparkToro isn't prescriptive: it leaves "what to do with the info" to the marketer. Rand says that this was intentional.
"Early on in our research people with different job titles and roles had this same problem. They all had the problem of: I need this data. And rather than building...for example, we could have built SparkToro to be extraordinarily focused on content marketing agencies and their outreach needs. 

We could look for places that accept guest editorials and highlight those or amplify other people's content and highlight those, but we saw that content marketers were 5% or 10% of the people who had the problem."
They wanted to solve the data problem for everyone rather than try to be very narrow.
"That is not often the advice you get in SaaS. We went a little against the grain there, and I guess we'll see how it works over time. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we can build a diverse group of potential customers. 

I'd rather solve the problem for lots of people, versus only a few."
Venture Capital vs. Angel Capital & Bootstrapping
Rand says SparkToro didn't raise venture capital. They did raise angel money, and they do a profit-sharing distribution. 
"We want to get to profitability with the business, and we'd like to grow, but not be constrained by venture mechanics."
By venture mechanics, Rand means: "Either you become a billion-dollar company, or you die trying." 
He notes he's a big fan of the concept of "Zebras vs. Unicorns." The idea is that there's a lot of focus on "unicorns," companies that will act as disruptors, and that will generate lots of money for venture capitalists. According to Entrepreneur, Unicorns must spend a lot of money while racking up their own substantial losses in the first few years of operation, while continuing to parcel out equity so they can continue raising money. 
Zebra companies, by contrast, do their business, are profitable, and work for causes as well, because they're focused on alleviating social, environmental, and medical challenges. They aren't attractive to venture capitalists, but they also maintain a great deal of control.
Rand also notes you can take a hybrid approach by raising venture capital late as Basecamp did. 
"If you get to $10 million in revenue and you're on this crazy scale and curve and you can see the demand there, maybe it does make sense to go raise venture at that point.

Those are reasonable decisions by people who are already wealthy, already have plenty of control and ownership over their business, and they're not going to be giving away a lot of that at that point."
That way, you're not setting yourself up for failure by making anything other than a billion-dollar outcome into the "win" scenario. 
What’s your right now cause?
SparkToro did a donation-matching program. They donated a dollar for everyone who tried the tool for free, and the chosen charity was "Give Directly." They traditionally operate primarily outside the US, but since the Covid-19 economic crisis, they opened a program here in the US that gives money to those most negatively affected. 

"People who are food insecure, people who are economically insecure, people right on the edge of homelessness."
Rand says he loves their philosophy.
 "Giving dollars to people instead of giving them other kinds of things is really productive and extraordinarily efficient, so I highly recommend them."
SparkToro put its money where Rand's mouth is. A few weeks ago they donated $10,000.
Connect with Rand Fishkin
Want to reach out to Rand? 
Jun 15 2020 · 26mins
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Master Your Marketing with Rand Fishkin

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How do you promote your business effectively in the midst of today's economic climate?

Entrepreneur, Speaker and Author, Rand Fishkin (of SparkToro and formerly Moz) joins Chris Smith & Jimmy Mackin to discuss how to market the right way during difficult times.

Jun 05 2020 · 1hr 11mins
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002: Rand Fishkin, the world's leader in SEO shares some must listen to advice.

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Rand Fishkin, founder and former CEO of Moz (SEOmoz) came on today to share some must listen to advice on how you exponential growth for your business! Not only does he share his advice when it comes to digital marketing but he also reveals some critical tips for your pandemic playbook. Stick around for story time because Rand gets brutally honest about the challenges running a multi, multi million dollar businesses. 

May 29 2020 · 44mins
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#551 The Journey of SparkToro: Interview with Rand Fishkin

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Rand Fishkin has contributed an unfathomable amount to the marketing industry. He is a pioneer when it comes to marketing knowledge-share, product development and leadership.

...and in today's episode, I got to spend an hour one-on-one with him! As you'll hear, I used every last second of his time (sorry, Rand!)

When I first was introduced to the practice of SEO around a decade ago, Rand was one of the first names I stumbled upon. His Whiteboard Friday sessions and 'Beginner's Guide to SEO' quickly became early staples in my SEO learning. I'm sure this is a case for so many of us that have entered the SEO industry over this last decade.

Rand spent over 14 years at Moz before exiting in February of 2018. Since then, Rand and his co-founder Casey Henry have been building the brand new audience intelligence tool, SparkToro.

I LOVE it.

It's important to know that this isn't a sponsored episode (I suspect it might sound like it!), though Rand did provide me with a press-review account to help me prepare for this podcast. I spend a lot of time experimenting with new marketing software and when I believe in something, our listeners will hear about it. I really believe that SparkToro offers something quite unique in the area of market and audience research.

In this episode, you'll hear much more about SparkToro's origin story, lessons from Rand in launching a new SaaS product, how you can use SparkToro to learn more about your current audience and target audience and Rand's plans for the future of SparkToro.

It was an absolute pleasure to speak with him. Let me know if you enjoyed the episode by connecting with us and sharing your feedback via the following:



Thanks everyone, I look forward to speaking to you all soon and please do send feedback. I want to get to know more about our listeners and what you want to hear from our podcast.


See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

May 28 2020 · 55mins
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Moz & Sparktoro's Rand Fishkin on How Early-Stage Failure Bred Future Success

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Topics covered in this episode

  • The primary reasons for Moz's failure and what Rand would've changed about the operation
  • The implications of creating an anti-active usage product
  • The lessons Rand extracted from early failure and how he picked back up again as a secondary founder
  • The cruciality of leveraging your resources—namely, people and product—to optimize for the right thing
This is a ProfitWell Recur Studios production—the first media network dedicated entirely to the SaaS and subscription space.
May 05 2020 · 40mins
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Rand Fishkin: Authors in Quarantine Getting Cocktails

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Most recently on The Marketing Book Podcast to discuss his book, Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World,  serial tech entrepreneur, search engine optimization pioneer, keynote speaker and bestselling author Rand Fishkin joins the (hopefully) limited time series, Authors in Quarantine Getting Cocktails to talk about being quarantined in Seattle, Washington, the importance of voting, what big tech could be doing to help small businesses during the pandemic and why being in marketing right now is so #$%*ing hard!

Click here for show notes!


Apr 18 2020 · 46mins