Rand Fiskin’s Very Good News, Launching a Pandemic-Era Company and Getting Audience Savvy


We were honored to have Rand Fishkin, co-founder and CEO of the audience intelligence software, SparkToro, on the podcast! Rand is probably best known for his previous role as the co-founder and CEO of the go-to SEO software, Moz, since he only recently made SparkToro available to the public this past April. In fact, he couldn’t have picked better timing to launch his new software right as the pandemic was kicking into full-gear. That was a joke.

On the podcast, we talk about a whole host of things, besides what it was like to launch during one of the worst crises our world has ever seen. In true Rand fashion, he expertly takes any topic thrown at him. I have briefly highlighted the topics below, offering you some quick Rand nuggets, but you’ll really want to dive deeper and listen to the interview for the full picture.

Managing “Prestige Coverage” Expectations

Rand categorizes expectations of garnering coverage in top-tier publications what he calls “prestige coverage” as “the Wall Street Journal problem.” What’s interesting is that at one time Rand was among those who presented “the Wall Street Journal problem” to others.

Telling us about a sizable investment he made in a PR firm as the founder of Moz, he re-analyzes the original goals (or lack thereof) that led to such high expectations. While the firm did generate prestige coverage, it didn’t make a tangible business impact.

Rand holds himself accountable for this PR mishap, saying that because his goals weren’t measurable in relation to their business effect, possibly they weren’t even goals at all. Today he would build his PR strategy starting with more specific goals that directly align with the goals of the actual business bringing us into the natural segway of selecting PR audiences and media list building. 


How SparkToro Helps PR People

When paired with concrete goals, earned media efforts can be targeted towards audiences that can help move those goals forward. This is where SparkToro comes in. The audience intelligence software helps marketers truly understand the consumption habits of their key audiences. Bringing “the Wall Street Journal problem” back into the equation, Rand and I discuss various instances in which audience intelligence comes alive. 

For example, reviewing Moz’s past PR mishap as a case study, if they were attempting to reach search engine marketing decision makers, shouldn’t the PR team have directed their attention to the likes of a Search Engine Land rather than a Wall Street Journal?

While the PR team probably should have guided their client to naturally come to this conclusion, today this PR team could use SparkToro to analyze audience patterns. Perhaps even more important, we can lean on the platform for managing the “prestige coverage” expectations of others.

SparkToro Plastics search

New Press Tab on SparkToro

However, what is not mentioned in the interview is that SparkToro recently launched a new Press List Building feature just for us public relations professionals! The new tab, called “Press,” displays the press outlets that specific audience types are consuming. This is different from how SparkToro already displays the social media accounts followed or websites visited by targeted audiences. 

SparkToro Press Feature

Rand’s Very Good News About Links

Within this very detailed conversation about audiences, Rand provided PR people who are focused on search with some very good news! Apparently, we do not have to hustle as hard to include website links to our websites within the online news coverage we generate. Landing some really stellar coverage, only to tell the client that a link wasn’t included, has always been a disappointing struggle. Rand says that we don’t necessarily need to worry about this anymore since links are not as important as they once were for SEO. Getting brand and/or keyword mentions are just as good, if not better (depending on the outlet), than getting links. 

Too good to be true? Ever the skeptic and over-analyzer, I asked renowned search expert, Michael Cottam, what he thought about this news. We’ll air his response in a very detailed and fascinating (to us search nerds) episode on February 24th. Tune-in then to hear if Michael has a yay or a nay for Rand.


Did I Call Rand Fishkin a Failure?

Oh yes I did, but it wasn’t by putting my foot in my mouth, which would be true to character. While talking about how launching a company in the middle of a pandemic—a sad fact is that when SparkToro launched, 15% of their email list bounced back, clearly indicating lay-offs—we compared this time to when he launched Moz in the middle of yet a different recession! 

Therefore, Rand is no stranger to hard times. With that in mind, we also talked about the fact that Rand’s mom was also a founder and entrepreneur, which could quite possibly be one of the reasons he’s been able to turn unopportunistic times into opportunities for others through creating thriving businesses that provide jobs and much-needed services for companies and marketers.

Don’t Miss an Episode

You can access more great episodes by subscribing to the PR Talk podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio and Spotify.

About the guest: Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin is the co-founder and CEO of SparkToro. He’s dedicated his professional life to helping people do better marketing through his blogging, videos, speaking, and his book, Lost and Founder. When Rand’s not working, he’s most likely to be in the company of his partner in marriage and (mostly petty) crime, author Geraldine DeRuiter. If you feed him great pasta or great whisky, he’ll give you the cheat code to rank #1 on Google. 

Connect and follow Rand on social media:

Rand Fishkin on PR Talk

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

Amy Rosenberg on FacebookAmy Rosenberg on InstagramAmy Rosenberg on LinkedinAmy Rosenberg on Twitter
Amy Rosenberg
Founder and President at Veracity
Writer. Podcaster. Press Friend. Hand Holder.