Rand Fishkin talks about his new book, “Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World," and how lawyers can use the tactics from his book as they build their businesses.
Lunch Hour Legal Marketing
Rand Fishkin is the founder of SparkToro and was previously cofounder of Moz and Inbound.org. He’s dedicated his professional...
Gyi Tsakalakis founded AttorneySync because lawyers deserve better from their marketing people. As a non-practicing lawyer, Gyi is familiar...
Kelly Street is the Marketing Director at AttorneySync, a trusted legal digital marketing agency. With almost 10 years in...
Success in business is usually hard-won over many years, but we often don’t hear much about the failures and missteps on the way. In this episode of Lunch Hour Legal Marketing, hosts Gyi Tsakalakis and Kelly Street talk to Rand Fishkin about his new book, “Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World.” Gyi and Kelly get tips from Rand about how lawyers can use the tactics from his book as they build their businesses. Rand gives practical advice about reputation building, client research, resource development, current SEO trends, and much more.
Rand Fishkin is one of the world’s leading experts on SEO. He is the founder of SparkToro and was previously cofounder of Moz and inbound.org.
Lunch Hour Legal Marketing
Rand Fishkin’s Guide to Business for Lawyers
Gyi Tsakalakis: Wow. Wow, this is awkward. It’s like the movie ‘Contact’.
Kelly Street: Oh yeah.
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s as close as I can do that noise. Remember that? That was a great movie I thought.
Kelly Street: Who is…
Gyi Tsakalakis: See if I can find that sound.
Kelly Street: Oh, oh, oh yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I haven’t seen that movie.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Oh, well, now you must be like, what are you talking about?
Kelly Street: Indeed. At first I thought you were talking about what’s the one that came out with Amy, Adams last year…
Gyi Tsakalakis: ‘Arrival’, also good.
Kelly Street: ‘Arrival’, yes, that’s what I thought you were talking about. No, but I have not seen ‘Contact’.
Gyi Tsakalakis: You should watch it.
Kelly Street: Oh, but I did watch — let’s see, it was on Netflix. I watched an episode of see, ‘Explained’ on Netflix and it was about extraterrestrial life, because I have been very into Fermi’s paradox lately and wondering about aliens and — and so I watched an episode of that on ‘Explained’ and they had featured the woman who Jodie Foster’s character was based on in that movie.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Oh.
Kelly Street: I thought you’d be more interested in that; apparently not.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Well, I’m trying to get this sound to play, so I’m very preoccupied right now, hold on. This is actually really important.
Kelly Street: Have you found the noise yet, Gyi?
Gyi Tsakalakis: And why don’t we have a podcast soundboard yet after episode four, like we should have bored we push a button it’s like sound…
Oh, is that the sound?
Kelly Street: Oh, that’s the ‘Contact’.
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s what I was hoping.
Kelly Street: Yeah, the aliens are coming.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yes.
Kelly Street: The aliens are coming.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yes. There it is.
Gyi Tsakalakis: So good.
Kelly Street: I just shivered. I’m really freaked out.
Gyi Tsakalakis: This should be our intro song actually I think, that should be our song. I like the money thing but that is where it’s at. It’s like playing for five minutes before we even say anything. Also subscribers would —
Kelly Street: No one would ever listen.
Gyi Tsakalakis: No, they will go through the roof for one episode and then everybody will unsubscribe.
Kelly Street: They would listen to the first 10 seconds and then they are like, hey guys, you have an audio issue with this week’s episode? No, no, we don’t. We are just playing five minutes of that horrific sound of alien/giant Ironman walking around. So, you’re welcome.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Amazing.
Kelly Street: I don’t need to see that movie.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Oh, it’s so good. Such a mistake. So, Kelly, do you use click on ads on the Internet?
Kelly Street: No, I purposely don’t actually.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Do you have an ad-blocker?
Kelly Street: No, I don’t have an ad-blocker but when I do put something in Google search unless I — oh, this is so bad, but unless I —
Gyi Tsakalakis: This is good.
Kelly Street: It’s a big — a very, very large corporation. I will purposely not click on the ads in the top part there because A, I don’t want to take money or do the pay-per-click for that company; and B, I prefer to see what comes up in organic search results as a digital marketer.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right, well, that’s what’s so funny is that our minds are so poisoned by all this stuff, so I’ve never clicked on a paid ad. But I don’t know if they’ve have a new number out, but last time I saw a report that there was some kind of report like 60% of Americans don’t even realize there was a difference between paid and organic ads, which I think is an interesting thing but 98% of Google’s revenue still comes from that, so somebody is clicking on them, must be robots.
Kelly Street: See, I thought I had seen something and I don’t have the number to go with it so this will be with much more of a grain of salt, but I thought I saw an article recently that actually said that less people are clicking on ads more-and-more because I heard that people were getting more informed and they’re like, oh, ads, I don’t want to click on those.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Well, fortunately, our guest today will be able to help straighten all of this out.
Kelly Street: Woof, I cannot wait to talk to Rand Fishkin, and see if he can help us solve the puzzle, that is, paid ads online and every other marketing question we’ve ever had.
Gyi Tsakalakis: And life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Kelly Street: Exactly.
Intro: Welcome to Lunch Hour Legal Marketing, with your hosts Gyi Tsakalakis and Kelly Street, teaching you how to promote market and make fat stacks for your legal practice, here on Legal Talk Network.
Kelly Street: This is the most exciting guest for me so far. I reached out to him to ask if he could share his wisdom with our listeners, because as an incredibly transparent, incredibly giving of his mind and content and ideas, I just thought he would be one of the best possible guests we could get for Lunch Hour Legal Marketing.
So, Gyi, anything to add to what I already said?
Gyi Tsakalakis: No, I completely agree. I think Rand many, many times when I was a young lawyer making the transition into being an entrepreneur and starting a business, the go-to place, Rand was the person who I learned SEO from, and so very, very excited and honored that he joined us today.
Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Rand Fishkin.
Rand Fishkin: Hey.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Hi.
Rand Fishkin: Howdy Gyi, howdy Kelly. Great to be with you guys.
Kelly Street: So, Rand, can you tell our listeners who should all be familiar with you, in case they aren’t, a little bit about yourself and your background?
Rand Fishkin: Yeah, absolutely. I started a company initially called SEOmoz and then later called Moz, first as a blog and then as a consulting firm, and in 2007 it transitioned to a software company of which I was CEO and over the next seven years I grew that company from a couple hundred thousand dollars in revenue to $30 million and to about 150-200 employees.
We raised several rounds of venture capital and over the next — yeah, over the next few years I stepped down as CEO. I stayed on as an individual contributor and as Chairman of the Board and I just left that company a few months ago to start a new one called SparkToro, where I’m Founder and CEO, but it’s a two-person company, and doing things a little differently this time, not going to venture capital route using a very unique structure for the financing and involved in several other projects.
I co-founded inbound.org, which was acquired by HubSpot, and have been working for the last year on an initiative to help make conferences and events safer particularly for women called Project Event Safe and I just published a book called, ‘Lost and Founder’, which is about my journey at Moz and about building a company and many of the pitfalls that traditional Silicon Valley startup wisdom and exposed founders and entrepreneurs too.
So, yeah, I haven’t been busy at all, just sitting around mostly.
Kelly Street: So, right-away on the topic of your book, it’s on the top of my mind because I just finished reading it last week and it is so much more than a book about how to or how not to do a startup. You talk so much about values and hiring the right kinds of employees and there is so much in there for anyone who has a business, let alone startup and that vein of entrepreneurs.
Rand Fishkin: Yeah, thank you. I’m thrilled to hear that, Kelly. Yeah I’ve been surprised. There’s a small community of medical professionals, doctors and nurses who I guess all read it around their hospital and they were tweeting at me and sent me nice comments. It’s been interesting to see how different parts of the book resonate with different people.
For some folks the chapters on fundraising are really big for them, on others the chapters about building core values or growing a team, some people really like the stuff on marketing and product and some folks are — we’re really resonated with the chapter on depression.
So yeah, it sort of feels like there’s a lot of different sections of the book that works for different folks, and I don’t think I saw that coming when I first wrote it, but it’s been cool to see.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yeah, and a lot of those topics are particularly important in the legal community. The legal community is notorious for suffering from substance abuse issues, and really, to me I think the other thing is, is that it’s in the vein of talking about client development and earning new business, lawyers is — it’s a service industry, it’s reputation and relationships. So, I think that — for lawyers, I think that the book be really informative for those that are trying to identify their values, I mean, how can you build a reputation, build relationships if you don’t have a guiding force in the form of some kind of values?
Rand Fishkin: Yeah, I think that’s a really tough thing and oftentimes the legal professionals that I am most familiar with here in the Seattle area where I live and where I founded both my companies have built those reputations sort of on the backs of or in the mode of their own values and the things that they want to see in the world.
So the attorney, for example, the attorney that we used for SparkToro, Joe Whalen from Carney Badley Spellman, he essentially started an initiative to get crowdfunding opportunities on the ballot in Washington State and actually ended up getting that passed and a lot of especially mostly breweries, places that make beer around here have ended up using that crowdfunding system that Joe built.
But because of that I had heard of him — a lot of people in my network were familiar with him and so when I said, hey, I want to do something in the alternative financing format for an angel raise for a new startup, folks pointed me to Joe, and I think that’s built on the back of Joe, saying, hey, this should exist and I feel like this is missing from our community.
So, I think that’s certainly — that’s something I’ve seen in my personal experience in the legal field as well.
Kelly Street: Yeah, one of the things about core values that I loved that you said is, I believe it was in response to someone else at your company. You said, well, they are not core values if you’re willing to sacrifice them and exchange for money. And I think that is so important when — especially when you’re thinking about your client development, if you’re willing to get the kinds of clients who don’t fit your values then you’re not really living your values.
Rand Fishkin: Well — or I think maybe your real values are something that’s not those things. It could be that your core value is financial growth for the firm, and I don’t personally love that, that is not — that is not the way that I’m wired, but I do think there’s a tremendous amount of value in being self-aware and then in being transparent about that.
I think the biggest problem is not when people say, oh, I think my core value is financial growth for this firm or for my personal practice and then represent that honestly, I think the problem is folks who say, yeah, let me come up with some core values that sound good and I’ll write them down, I’ll put them on the wall, I’ll put them on our website, but that’s not actually how we operate. And it’s that cognitive dissonance that you sort of go through yourself that you force your team to go through, that your clients experience, that really drags you down.
So my biggest piece of advice on that front is if you have things that you are not willing to sacrifice in exchange for great clients or an amazing deal, great, put that up there and then live that and represent that and show it show it publicly. Do positive things that show that direction and do things that where you’re saying no and then show that back to your team and to your clients that you say no to these things even though they are opportunities because of who you are and what you represent, or be honest with yourself but that’s not what you’re about and then make that your sort of guiding star, make whatever it is, financial client that successes your guiding star, that’s fine.
Kelly Street: Yeah, so true. I also want to talk about from your book your section on hacks, and I just loved it, you’re like they’re called hacks for a reason, because I think as a marketing agency that Gyi and I work at together that he owns, we hear that kind of stuff all the time. Well, what’s the one thing that I can do that will suddenly get me to number one in Google or what’s the one thing I can do that will suddenly get me this huge influx of clients, and there just isn’t necessarily one thing that will be the magic solution or the magic pill to get these things just like with anything in life.
Rand Fishkin: Yeah, and I think I’m sure you folks have observed this as well, especially working on the agency side, is that it is even more true today than it was say 5 or 10 years ago that ranking — purely ranking well in Google for some search query term, will not bring you the same caliber of customer or quantity of customer or ability to pay customer that it would in 2008 or 2005 or even 2012 — and I think that’s because a lot of consumers early in Google’s development sort of believed that the search engine was almost infallible, that not only it wasn’t that the top results just ranked highly and were visible, it was also that they were the best ones.
And that belief I think has taken 10 or 15 years to evaporate, but evaporate it mostly halves, and so at this point I think that there are still opportunities to be had by ranking well in Google and certainly it’s a great additional signal, if you’ve already formed a relationship of some kind, if people have heard of you, your core, your target customer has heard of you and heard good things about you and you have a good reputation and network and then you also rank in Google, that can be awesome, that can be huge.
But, if Google is the only thing you have going for you, it’s hard for it to stand alone.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right, absolutely, and this is an actually very nicely teed up because Rand recently published a great post at the SparkToro blog about the future of SEO and one of the things that came out of this, I encourage everybody to go read it, but to kind of jump to the meat of this conversation, I think there’s so much application for lawyers here is that — one of the things he says is that, having ten searches for a brand name is so much more valuable than a thousand Facebook likes or even a thousand searches because of those very things that there’s that built in whether it’s trust, reputation, if they’re looking for you, if you’re making a name for your firm or for you as an individual practicing lawyer, those searches are so much more valuable over the long run in terms of investing and building your firm as a business than thousands of other of those indirect proxy type of marketing metrics that people tend to focus on.
I think that’s one thing that I’d like to — I think your experience would be really valuable for our audience in terms of how do lawyers do that, how do lawyers build brand, how do they get people searching on their name, what kind of advice do you have from in that context?
Rand Fishkin: Yeah, I think one of the things that I have seen that has helped service professionals of all kinds, but especially in professional practices like the legal field, where you have essentially generally speaking high dollar value clients and it’s very — as you pointed out earlier in the podcast, very reputation-driven and very network-driven, I think my biggest pieces of advice are focus on those two, the network and the reputation. But, certainly, you should also consider things that will earn you attention in and outside your field.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right.
Rand Fishkin: So if there are talks or presentations that you can give at conferences and events, especially if they’re outside the direct legal field. So if I’m an attorney in Seattle and I am serving the technology sector, is there a talk that I could give at the Seattle Interactive Conference, which is sort of a big multi-thousands people come to this big event every fall and talk about technology and startup-related subjects and big tech subjects as well, because obviously Seattle is a big town for Amazon and Microsoft, but that sort of exposure to your client base is extraordinary, and the same thing is true for content.
So, if there are resources that you can create be incredibly valuable to your particular customer base, that you can offer potentially for free on your website and that you can get attention and awareness for by discovering the people and publications that would help you amplify those to your audience, that can be absolutely huge, and we’ve seen that many, many times where folks will have a transformative effect on their business by publishing even one piece of the right content or the right message or resource that helps their audience and that earns them a bunch of attention and awareness from that audience.
Gyi Tsakalakis: This is so important because a lot of lawyers have been sold the make more content bill of goods, and so, I think that the way you just framed that’s so important for them that, this is not a quantity game, you’re not churning out, doing the demand media game, isn’t going to do anything for you.
Rand Fishkin: Yeah. I mean, the only thing that I agree with on the make more content side of things is, I do agree that if you are making a large amount of content, you are almost certainly, if you’re paying attention to and consistently working to improve that content that you are getting better and better at it, and therefore, over time, you’re going to generate more hits.
I think in the music world, it’s often said that artists who are most successful, their most successful times are when they are producing the most music, not necessarily just because they — that’s when their hits came out. And so you could argue that quantity can lead to that big piece.
But I think you have to be relentlessly investing in it with the goal being get to that piece that does really well, get to that resource that does well. And I also, I don’t love I’m sure, Kelly and Gyi, you guys have seen this tons, I don’t love the, oh yeah, just start a blog and then we’ll blog three times a week and you don’t have to do it yourself sort of we’ll get an intern to blog for you or we’ll get just a copywriter to put that together.
And I think that historically worked for some folks and if you get very lucky and do get an extraordinary person to do that that can sometimes work well. But I don’t love that model anymore. I don’t think that’s nearly as successful as sort of the authentic high quality resource that reaches your community and resonates with them.
Kelly Street: Yeah, when I started doing marketing about ten years ago, it was all about like how many blog posts can you publish per week or per month? And now, I am definitely on the less is more, create one really good thing versus three, four, five kind of mess things.
Rand Fishkin: Yeah, yeah. I think that one of the challenges is for folks to figure out, what’s a really good thing. How do I know that it’s going to be really good, and I think one of the best ways to get at that is to do a lot of audience research? Whenever you’re creating product, you and I start a startup company, we are going to do a tremendous amount of customer interviews to try and figure out what our customers’ pain points are and what they have issues with around whatever we’re building and how they try and solve that today.
And I think that’s something that’s missing in a lot of content development, and I believe that when you add that in, my most successful content has always been because I’ve heard about a pain point again and again and again.
Gyi, you mentioned my recent blog post on sort of future of SEO stuff. It was because I heard this constant drumbeat of, I’m worried about these issues, I’m worried about these issues with Google, I don’t know how it all fits together, I’m not sure how it’s going to impact my business and sort of our field and hearing that nervousness again-and-again, I thought, hang on, and I think — I think we actually know the answer to this. And when we all get together in a room, we agree on what it is, but it hasn’t been succinctly codified and assembled and broadcast, and that’s something I can do on my blog, right, and so I’m finding real customer pain points and I’m solving those through resources. I would urge attorneys to do that as well and attorneys are having all the time with customers and potential customers. And I think can get a great sense for what their audience needs and what’s missing, and then they can produce that.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right.
Kelly Street: Yeah, I definitely, I’ve recommended before that one thing and I’ll see if you agree with this, Rand, one of the things that is really great for thinking about your content strategy is like, go back to your intakes with potential clients and what are the things they are worried about, what are the questions they are asking, what are the common issues that they are coming across with. And if you kind of — if you keep track of that information, you can easily pull from those things and find blog post ideas or video ideas that you can work with.
Rand Fishkin: Yeah, 100% agree. I think potentially using your contact form on the website can also be helpful for this, because if you have sort of an open paragraph form field that lets folks put in their concerns, their requests, you can aggregate those or provide them to your content marketing agency or your SEO agency, and say, like hey, I’m removing all the personally identifiable information, but here’s the last hundred people who filled out the contact form and here’s the paragraph of what they’ve left.
And then that that agency can go through and go, hmm, here are the top five problems that are being surfaced by your potential customers. These seem like hot topics, these are things that might be valuable.
I think the other piece too, the other piece that that is often missing is, a lot of times even when great material is produced, two big things hold it back. I think one of those is UI and UX, essentially the website and the way the content is presented doesn’t seem incredible, and so, people who visit it don’t trust it because of how it looks and feels. It doesn’t seem authoritative, it doesn’t seem high-quality, it doesn’t seem trustworthy. And so, they click the back button and go somewhere else and that’s certainly a big problem.
And then the second one is, there’s no one to amplify it, there’s no sort of influential publications or people who are talking about what you produced. And I think for that reason, there can be a lot of value in looking at A, PR style or SEO style outreach, where someone is actually reaching out and talking to the influential publications and people in your field to earn that amplification.
And second, I think that you can and maybe should be considering Barnacle SEO, where essentially you produce content that you place on other websites that rank extraordinarily well. So, hey, maybe I’m going to submit this to a journal or to a major publication or field or to just a big magazine or something that accepts contributors like Forbes or something like that, because I know A, it can rank well and B, it will be likely to get that amplification and have that credibility on that platform.
And my name and business will be associated with it so even though I don’t completely control the experience, I can still benefit a lot from that, and like I talked about in the blog post as we see fewer-and-fewer websites dominating more-and-more of Google’s results, I think that particle SEO becomes even more important.
Gyi Tsakalakis: The thing that really resonates with me having talked to so many lawyers about online marketing, that’s missed is that the amplification piece and really spending the time as you mentioned doing the research. So maybe we could talk a little bit more about that and get a little bit tactical.
You mentioned Barnacle SEO identifying some of these places that you might use to amplify content, which I think is a great tip. What are their tools or processes or methods aside from just searching in Google are available for lawyers to go out there and say, I want to really try to understand who the influencers are in my audience, who are the people in my audience I’m trying to attract, where are they, how are they connected, where are they listening to, what can you tell folks about that kind of stuff?
Rand Fishkin: Yeah, I can tell you that it’s such a pain in the butt right now that that is where I decided to build my next startup.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I kind of laid it up there for you on that one.
Rand Fishkin: It’s not to say there’s no tools. There is — so in the classic PR world there are a number of tools that are sort of the PR database that you can search through so you might say, okay, well, what are the big publications in the legal field and who are the sort of journalists and writers who author for them?
And that is, I think Cision actually owns a bunch of those, they used to be Cision, Meltwater, Gorkana a few others, but I think Cision has sort of consolidated that field pretty well.
And I’m not sure it makes sense. I guess if you have a larger legal practice and you have a PR team on staff subscription decision, I think is in the $15,000 a year range. I’ve heard you can negotiate by the way so for those of you who are considering that tool.
Gyi Tsakalakis: The most important tip.
Rand Fishkin: Yeah, yeah, you might be able to save a bit of money by telling them that tell them you’re about to sign up for SparkToro and they’ll maybe give you a better deal, I don’t know. I think the challenge right now is that those databases, Cision and the people like them, are essentially — they have two challenges, one, they are very focused on the sort of old school PR, big media and the journalists who write for big media.
So if that’s not your target audience, if you’re looking for more local press or blogs and small websites or influential accounts on social media platforms, maybe Twitter or LinkedIn, which is actually LinkedIn can be an extraordinary network for amplification to the right sorts of professionals in the legal field, in professional services fields of all kinds.
So those are not well-exposed, neither unfortunately our podcasts. I think podcasts are nearly invisible despite being incredibly popular. I think I saw the recent stat from the Pew American — Internet & American Life Project was that more than one in five, more than 20% of Americans are listening to one podcast or more every week, which is almost unbelievable to me, maybe it’s more than one per month, but still extraordinary.
I mean, we’re talking about podcasting was supposed to be dead in 2010, and now it’s had this insane resurgence and especially among certain demographics often upper middle class and wealthy demographics, which a lot of attorneys want to reach, podcasts are huge, but discovery of that is a manual process.
So, Gyi, unfortunately my best advice if PR world is not for you is you do have to do a lot of manual searching today.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yeah, that’s where we live.
Rand Fishkin: Yeah, right. So, I mean, I watched a bunch of research for SparkToro, I watched a bunch of agencies and consultants and in-house marketers and entrepreneurs do this for themselves, to basically say, okay, this is the audience I want to reach, now what are the publications they listen to, who are the people they pay attention to?
When you go to Google and you do a bunch of these searches and find these lists and then copy and paste them all into a big Excel spreadsheet and then you go to Twitter and you do a bunch of searching there and then you go to LinkedIn, you do a bunch of searching there, and you go to YouTube and you do a bunch of searching there and then you look for any subreddits that might be popular and then you go to some of the nascent podcast search engines. I think Google is about to come out with a podcast search system.
So, literally, you’re going to these 10, 12 different platforms doing a bunch of searches and then copying and pasting and trying to estimate audience size and that’s — that feels ridiculous to me, it feels like how SEO was before we had any software in like 2002.
Yeah, that’s something I want to try and solve with SparkToro but we won’t have a product for at least six to nine months, but still I think that’s a big one.
Gyi Tsakalakis: We’ll be following along in eager anticipation.
Rand Fishkin: Yeah, yeah, thank you.
Kelly Street: Yeah.
Rand Fishkin: One tool that I do note some folks love is for this is BuzzSumo, so essentially BuzzSumo — it’s not exactly what you’re looking for here but it will let you search for keywords and find the content that has performed best on some social networks. I think it’s just maybe Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook right now, and then from there you can spot sort of influential publications in that field that have done well with content there already.
So, if you’re looking to do that Barnacle SEO type of stuff or if you’re looking to reach out to folks who’ve been influential in the field previously and had successful pieces published in your area, that can be a resource as well. It’s a little indirect, but I like that tool.
Kelly Street: So speaking of tools and tools that you have created, SparkScore.
Rand Fishkin: Yeah.
Kelly Street: I am really fascinated with it. I did our SparkScore for Attorneys Inc, the digital marketing agency that cannot, I know, oh, oh, it wasn’t a oh, and I was very embarrassed of our score so I did not share it but I was like, oh, there’s a lot of stuff here. There is a lot that goes into the SparkScore. So I want to know kind of what you see for how people can use this and the different kinds of things they can learn from figuring out their SparkScore?
Rand Fishkin: Oh sure. So, I mean, it’s a very — today it’s pretty simplistic, it’s just for Twitter and the idea that we had behind this is that we saw a bunch of non-ideal behavior among a lot of the people who were doing this, this type of research, this outreach stuff, and basically you can think of it most simplistically through an example of I do a search for, oh, I want to find out who are the big influencers in fashion and so it comes back to me with a — I just, I search for fashion and I get a list of 20 Twitter accounts, I look at them and I see that, oh, this one has the most followers, this one has two million followers, and this other one down here only has a hundred thousand followers.
And what we observed much of the time is that follower count is how everyone prioritizes, they think more followers equals a bigger source of influence. When in fact that is not only not always true, it’s often not true.
So, in Twitter you can go and take a look at your analytics and you can see so how many people did each of my tweets reach, what were the number of impressions for a tweet? So if I send out a message on this broadcast platform how many people will I reach. Instagram gives this too, and oftentimes people with far fewer followers, it’s a twentieth of the followers of someone else will because they get high engagement on their content see many more impressions.
So, in fact, we observe this most, most totally or most close to home with my wife, Geraldine, who runs a popular Twitter account called @everywhereist, and —
Kelly Street: Yes, I know it well.
Rand Fishkin: And Geraldine’s account – Yeah, awesome, awesome yeah. So Geraldine’s account has, I think it’s like 65,000 or 70,000 followers, so good number, and mine — my account has 410,000 followers or something, and when I send a tweet on average I’m reaching maybe 10,000, 20,000 with that message, that’s how many people see it on Twitter’s platform and when Geraldine sends a tweet it is frequently 70,000 or 80,000 people.
Kelly Street: Wow.
Rand Fishkin: So her account is less than a quarter of the size of mine in terms of followers but has four or five times the reach, and SparkScore is us trying to estimate that. So we built SparkScore in a way to try and estimate, hey, how truly influential, how much reach does this account actually have, and overtime we hope to add other networks like LinkedIn and Instagram and potentially YouTube and possibly blogs and websites as well to try and give an estimate of reach of full content across an individual or a publication.
But that problem is kind of pernicious right now where you’re not getting the full story if you’re just looking at follower count.
Kelly Street: Yeah, and I would nerdy cite that I would love to see how this affects the influencer marketing and advertising game.
Rand Fishkin: Yeah. Well, it’s funny we’ve been trying to stay away from the influencer marketing world just because I have this weird feeling, maybe you guys can tell me if you feel this way too. I feel like five years ago influencer marketing meant reaching out to blogs, websites and podcasts and publications and media that could help influence your audience. And today influencer marketing has changed to mean half-naked people on Instagram that you pay $500 to, so that they hold your bottle of shampoo or whatever it is and take a picture of themselves.
Kelly Street: Yep.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right.
Rand Fishkin: And yeah, we don’t do that. That’s not what we’re helping with. So I feel like we’re not influencer marketing because influencer marketing has come to mean this other thing.
Kelly Street: Yes.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right. All right, well, we’re running low on time, but this is — it’s going to be a kind of change of gears here, but I’m very curious to get your thoughts. You’ve been very deep in the web for a long time, especially in terms of marketing and business development growth. Right now it seems like — so lawyers are constantly seeing more-and-more bombardment with there’s more ad spots on Google, organic reach is going down on Facebook, you got to pay for it, so it’s pay to play, a pay to play, the major platforms have shareholders, they got to make money. So you’ve got that on one side of the coin.
On the other side of the coin you’ve got ad blockers and you’ve got the question of the fundamental existence of the web being supported by ads. I don’t even know what my question is really, I kind of just wanted to get your thoughts on it. I noticed one of the comments on the post that we’ve been talking about, talked about ad-blockers and you had actually mentioned that the adoption rate of ad-blockers is a lot lower than maybe people had thought…
Rand Fishkin: Yeah.
Gyi Tsakalakis: …but where we are going, where we are going online?
Rand Fishkin: I mean, I think that there will always be 10% to 20% of web users who are willing to work pretty hard to avoid ads but it seems like as of right now the stats are saying an ad-supported web is powerful.
So we just saw Amazon’s earnings come out. They have more than doubled their revenue from ads on the Amazon platform, which I think a lot of analysts were not anticipating in which the street rewarded them for and that certainly suggests that Amazon is also having success where Google and Facebook has had success.
We saw, well, Snapshot got punished by the street, but they actually increased advertising spend and effectiveness and number of customers dramatically. So I think they’re showing that they can make money there. Twitter has done the same even with plateauing user numbers, their ad revenues have been pretty remarkable. So I think that many folks are realizing that ads are the way to go on the web and that this is becoming a more ad-driven model.
That being said we just — I say “we”; Casey and I, I’ve been working with Jumpshot which is a provider of clickstream data and they collected for me a bunch of data over the last couple of years about web behavior across millions of devices in the US, and for every paid click in Google there are still 15 clicks on an organic result.
So paid may feel like it’s dominant, but organic is still many, many more than an order of magnitude larger and I think there’s still a tremendous amount of opportunity left in organic and will be for a long time and I would certainly urge folks not to ignore that, but I agree you have to be creative, and you have to be moving from willing to move from platform to platform.
Facebook’s organic reach is nearly dead and so I think for Facebook the savvy folks would be moving to Facebook groups where they can still get relatively good engagement and interaction and they’ve been moving to other platforms, like Twitter and LinkedIn and Reddit, which is a shockingly big platform that very few folks use and use well, but has an incredible audience, they’re very anti-marketing, but I think authentic participation in those places and helpful stuff can go a long way, and certainly, there are thousands of people asking questions that attorneys could do a great job answering every day on Reddit. So, yeah, there’s opportunity but it is maybe not as obvious as it was a few years ago.
Kelly Street: Agreed. And I will just end with saying that mostly as the comment and less as a question, Whiteboard Fridays are such a great learning tool and for you a teaching tool, and I know you are not with Moz anymore, but they were just super-helpful to me and I think really shifted when I started — and of watching them really shifted the way I thought about how content could and should be done, and so I wanted to thank you as a fellow person in this space to say thank you for creating those and taking that time and thinking about doing content differently.
Rand Fishkin: Oh, thank you so much, Kelly. Yeah, I think Whiteboard Fridays was a big hit for a lot of folks and I look forward to trying to find something video-related or video-relevant that I can do with SparkToro in the longer term, so I think that’s definitely coming.
Kelly Street: Well, I will be watching and I hope everyone else will be too and go figure out your spark score. Go see what is trending and take advantage of the things that Rand is providing for now for free and then see what else he’s got coming and thank you so much, Rand, for taking the time to talk with us.
Rand Fishkin: Yeah. Thanks for having me. Really appreciate it.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I remember, I’m just going to reiterate that really, really genuinely thank you for taking the time to do this continued success and we look forward to great things from SparkToro and see you around the web.
Rand Fishkin: Yeah, look forward too. Alright, thank you guys. Take care.
Kelly Street: Alright, I didn’t geek out too much, did I?
Gyi Tsakalakis: No, I thought it was great.
Kelly Street: Oh good. Oh, that was so awesome.
Gyi Tsakalakis: That was awesome. If you like this and you know it.
Kelly Street: Apple Podcasts.
Gyi Tsakalakis: If you like this and you know it.
Kelly Street: Apple Podcasts.
Gyi Tsakalakis: If you like this and you know it and you really want to show it, if you like this and you know it.
Kelly Street: Apple Podcasts and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn and all of the other social media things.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Talk to you next time.
Kelly Street: Thanks for listening.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Oh, thanks for listening.
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The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own, and do not represent the views of nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, or subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
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