Rand Fishkin 5:34
Thank you for having me. And good pass over to you.
Jeremy Weisz 5:37
Yeah, you too. Thank you. So let’s start there with the book and we’ll get into spark tomorrow. But I was when I was listening to it. I’m wondering after you put out the book. What were you most nervous about? You were really vulnerable and sharing the journey? What were you most nervous repeal the read.
Rand Fishkin 6:01
you know, some of those later chapters go into obviously I founded sparked her Sorry, I have founded Moz with my mom, Gillian, and then, you know, grew that into a software business and and led her to CEO for seven years. And then I stepped down from the CEO role and the next few years, were very challenging. You know, Moz sort of did okay for the first maybe a year or two after I stepped down but but experienced some significant struggles. After that we had a painful round of layoffs, which I write about in the book. I think that’s the portion of the book, the layoffs. The conflict that I had with the with the board and with the existing leadership, you know, that kind of stuff is very difficult to write about without it getting personal and antagonistic and being perceived as, you know, sour grapes and And I really did worry that many folks who would read that would would come away from this with a sense that, you know, Rand is bitter and upset and frustrated at your company in the way that he felt treated after he after he left the CEO role. And therefore, I have to, you know, everything that he’s writing about, I need to look at it through that lens.
Jeremy Weisz 7:28
Was that true? Did that come true? Because I took the opposite. I took the opposite actually, when I listened to it. And there’s, there’s a part where you you’re talking to the board with the layoffs and you’re fighting for your employees, and you should check out the book, obviously, but that you want to give them more severance and they were disagreeing with you because you’re, you know, you were loyal to your staff. And I felt that you own your mistakes and took personal responsibility and you in the book and you said like, I shouldn’t have probably reacted that way. So yeah, yeah, I don’t know. Other than that,
Rand Fishkin 8:00
I mean, I think you can you can sense it right? I think you can feel it when you’re listening to me read the book or if you’re if you’re reading it yourself in the physical copy, you can feel this tension between, you know, Rand has these has these feelings of frustration and potentially bitterness and anger and he’s trying to compensate for that by seeing the story from other people’s perspectives. Yeah, I’m trying to you know, Jeremy, if you’re if you’re on mas Board of Directors, and you’re saying, Hey, man, look, I hear you fighting for you know, what you feel are your team and your employees but you’re not fighting for the people are going to stay at the company, who would really appreciate having a cash cushion and knowing that things are going to be okay for a long time. And those are two balanced perspectives. And I think look, we’re going through obviously a very painful recession in the United States and around the world right now. Probably will be for a long time to come and there are a lot of people making really Similar decisions right about whether to furlough staff or leave off and try and rehire them. Or, you know, how are they going to survive this crisis? And, and I want to be respectful to people with all those different positions, but at the time in that board meeting, I absolutely was not. Right when I hit when I get on my, you know, soapbox, and and I am sure I’m right. Oh, man, it is. It is painful. You know, just my brain can’t. Can’t help like the incredible perspective brings
Jeremy Weisz 9:33
like the Incredible Hulk. It’s just like you turn.
Rand Fishkin 9:36
Exactly. You just, you know, you’re so overwhelmed with this emotional response that logic flies out the window.
Jeremy Weisz 9:45
What did that you think helped some of the relationships in the book you say, you know, it was our It was like you felt a distance from some of those people because of that conversation after the book came out and you kind of almost I’m No, you took personal responsibility for that whole interaction. Did you feel that that improved or? No?
Rand Fishkin 10:07
I unfortunately, I think the opposite is true. Really? Well, yeah. My, my board and sort of, you know, and the leadership team at Moz. They were, I would say extremely nervous about the book. We In fact, had conversations where we had to hire attorneys to have conversations for us because the conversations were so fraught and tense and
Jeremy Weisz 10:31
they didn’t want to be talked about in the book because essentially, what
Rand Fishkin 10:34
yeah, I think there was right, unfortunately, right. The reality was that although Mas, you know, my my personal vision for miles was always that had been an incredibly transparent company. Right, so oversharing and sharing the ugly, you know, parts of building a business that was always how I built Moz and, you know, folks who might have been longtime readers of the Moz blog would have seen that over, you know, a decade plus that a lot of uncomfortable topics were discussed there. But I think the, you know, existing leadership team and the board was much less of that mindset. Right. They did not believe in that the same way. And I think, you know, I think that’s unfortunate. I, I feel that that is my responsibility, right, I should have hired and found, you know, a leadership team and board members and people to replace me and all those kinds of things who shared that vision, or I should have had a different vision, right, one of the two, but you can’t you can’t have the inconsistency of, Oh, you want this in your organization that you’ve hired people, you’ve brought people aboard? Who don’t represent that? I don’t want to, I don’t think that’s them to blame. That’s me to blame.
Jeremy Weisz 11:55
You know, we were talking right before we hit record and you were saying, you know, we built miles in a recession. No. And, you know, right now as we’re recording this, the US and world are hitting some crazy times. I’m sure more to come. But um, talk about some of the lessons you learned building miles in a recession and maybe how you’re building spark Toro now because of that.
Rand Fishkin 12:18
Yeah, absolutely. So I mean, Jeremy, I’m sure you’ve had this experience as well, where when a recession hits is sort of it has maybe what I call direct and indirect impacts that people will feel right. So the direct impact might be, oh, boy budgets are down for marketing and advertising. You know, right now, I’ve been looking at the statistics around Google ads and Facebook ads, Instagram ads, all those kinds of things. Right. And inventory has just swelled because there’s, there’s so much ad inventory because so many people are online are at home, right. They’re quarantine they can’t go out as much. They’re scared of going out right? Even if they’re not under shelter in place orders, and so, as a result, inventory is huge, but budgets are dropping. So cost is very, very low. What you’re seeing is, you know, this sort of remarkable delta between, say three months ago, when, you know, maybe a Facebook ad would have cost you $3 a conversion, and today it’s 30 cents. You know, that’s, that’s pretty crazy. The economy has not dropped 90% right, budgets are not down 90% they maybe in a worst case, they’re down 20 or 30%. And so as a result, there is a lot of opportunity, and I think mas unintentionally capitalized on the opportunity that was created during the financial crisis of 2008. By we literally released our big software project that we’ve been working on with venture capital for a year and a half on the day Lehman Brothers collapsed in New York, that that was our launch day. And so all of a sudden Perfect timing. Yeah, great timing, great time, all the press that was supposed to come by and, you know, do the interviews and cover it. They were busy doing other things that day. And we we did well in over the next, you know, six, seven years. Precisely because Moz unintentionally, but but recognize that budgets were shifting and changing. And so people were looking for new opportunities. And one of the biggest new opportunities was divesting from classic media spend, and classic online advertising to search engine optimization, content marketing, web marketing as a whole, and certainly organic web marketing because it has such a high ROI. So Moz, you know, basically was one of the first SEO software companies probably the first kind of big one to hit, you know, 10s of millions of revenue, and then managed to build an extraordinary business over there. Yours as spark Toro, fingers crossed, right is going to be able to do something similar. And we haven’t talked about what spark Toro is. I don’t want to overly promote it. But
Jeremy Weisz 15:10
yeah, well, I want it. Yeah. So I have a few other questions about Moz. And then I want to talk about spark toe Toros journey. Because obviously, you take all the learnings from Moz. And you’re going to overlay it there and let’s hope so right. Yeah. I mean,
Rand Fishkin 15:26
Jeremy Weisz 15:28
I mean, yeah, exactly. But so for, you know, one of the things is, it’s just people again, should people should check out loss and founder but one of the stories in the book, which I was sweating, when I was listening to was when I heard about you describing the acquisition offer. And, you know, we all have in companies, no matter you know, you ask people what do you what would you do differently? Would you grow? I don’t regret anything because XYZ happened, but really, ultimately, I think We, we do have things like, Oh, I would have totally done that differently or change that. And so that was one of the pieces of the book. So I think it’d be important to talk a little bit about maybe walk people through what was going on at Moz at the time, what transpired with that offer, um, because I was just that was just like a point of the book that I was I just felt like nervous as I was listening to it as you were walking people through what was happening.
Rand Fishkin 16:28
Yeah, so I mean,
I won’t, I won’t, I won’t spoil it for folks who want to read it entirely, and I think get the get the full story. But, you know, internally at Moz, the company was doing very well. It was growing rapidly at a consistent sort of hundred percent ish year over year growth rate. It was profitable. We had only raised 1.1 million in venture so what would today be considered a seed round but for us, we thought at the time of series A, we had maybe, you know, around 30 employees not even 25 something like that. And this acquisition offer it was life changing, you know, I if it would have provided, you know me personally and how about this, it would have provided every single employee with more money just from their stock options than all the money that my wife and I have combined today. For any employee, right for the person working the front desk at the time, you know, they would have had many hundreds of thousands of dollars, you know, probably close to a million maybe more than that. And, you know, Geraldine and I, my mom, the senior folks, right the our investors and shareholders would have just made out like bandits, especially because the company that made the acquisition offer went public a couple years later, three years later, and that the stock, which was the primary thing that company was offering us in the deal would have been worth 10 X ray 10, maybe 20 X, what we would have gotten it for at the time. So the, you know, the acquisition price was extraordinary was quite good was $40 million around there. And we would, you know, would have been worth a lot more than that. Yeah. So, we walked away because I thought I thought we could do even better. I thought that year over year growth rate was going to continue for many years, which in fact, it did, but I failed to understand the mathematics of how startups are valued, how venture capital works. So for example, when this you know, 40 ish million dollar offer came in Moz was doing A little under, we were doing. I think we just completed a year where we did about 6 million in revenue. And we were about to do about 12. Right? So it was like 5.7 on 11 point something. So we were on that growth curve trajectory, right. And we were being offered around five to, you know, five to six x our revenue for the acquisition, and we became only what Three years later, we became a company that was doing $40 million dollars in revenue. So doing as much revenue as we were offered in the deal, and yet at that point, because the growth rate started to slow, maybe it slowed the next year after that. Because the growth rates started to slow and the valuations of sass companies changed up. We were, you know, unable to find an acquisition You know, the last whatever five years for a company that’s doing 42? Well, now Moz is doing 60 million or whatever it is. There you go, right. So you’re, you’re just sitting on private and liquid dateable stock. And, you know, the growth rate is between five and 10% at Moz these days. So it’s just not attractive enough for an acquisition offer. And therefore, it’s very likely that at some point in the next five to 10 years mas will, you know, be sold maybe to a private equity firm or something like that. And or, or maybe this recession will kill it. Who knows, right? It’s hard to say, but very likely, we’ll never get another offer of that magnitude.
Jeremy Weisz 20:44
Yeah. And at the time, HubSpot was the company and you could, you could hear the whole story. But um, and the thing is ran the odds if you look at companies that are offered stock options, the odds that That also goes in like a upward to the right positive direction is is not always likely either. Right. And so that was another piece that who knew that that would also play a big role. Right and I know Dharmesh and Brian pretty well,
Rand Fishkin 21:17
I should have could have I could have counted on them to do a good job. And I think you know, I’ve hung out with both of them plenty of time since right and whenever I see Brian in particular, he’s you know, he always has this like, I’m really I’m really bummed you turned down that offer I think we didn’t really fun to build this company together. I kind of Shut up man. I exhausted every night.
Jeremy Weisz 21:43
It’s like that printed out email into your pillow. He’s like, yeah, I never think about this. And yeah, but um, yeah, thanks for sharing that. And the we’ll get into spark tomorrow, but I’m gonna ask you, you mentioned the beginning moz.com the purchase of
Rand Fishkin 22:00
Yeah, that’s right. So the basic story was my my cmo at the time, Jamie Stephen, who now runs speed test Fuqua here in Seattle. So, Jamie had this idea that, hey, we should, you know, we should try and acquire a different domain if we are going to be broader than just SEO. So at the time, you know, Moz, a strategy, which ended up being a very terrible idea, a failed strategy was to broaden out from SEO and try and serve all these different aspects of digital marketing. You know, the sort of fear on the board was that Google might someday do something to us to shut us down because they didn’t like us doing SEO. And that I think that those threats, ended up being mostly just one Google employee who sort of was was on his own. And then once he left Google, it was never really a big deal, but As a result, we sort of changed trajectories we tried to acquire this moz.com domain and it was a lucky break. So, a guy I had worked with in the SEO industry, Todd Mallika, I don’t know if he listens to the podcast, but it’d be amazing if he does. He now does a lot of fishing tours down in Miami. Nice. But so Todd, who is a longtime friend in the SEO industry knew the guy who owned moz.com and that person that domain owner owned a vast portfolio of domains luckily was was a friend of Todd’s and a fan of Moses and mine he read the blog for years and so we got what I think was a great deal it was somewhere around half a million dollars for moss calm, which I think is pretty darn stellar.
Jeremy Weisz 23:50
Three letter domain Yeah, yeah,
Unknown Speaker 23:51
I think he you know, that’s a
Jeremy Weisz 23:53
solid, amazing saleable asset just in the domain now,
Rand Fishkin 23:57
he probably could have gotten twice that right and So I think we got a fantastic deal. He asked for a lifetime membership to Moz. I was part of the deal, which I like, yeah, of course you got it. But, but but really wonderful. And then of course we had, we had some adventures, getting the Twitter account and the Instagram account and the Facebook account and all that kind of stuff to the MAS ended up, it ended up being a great brand name. It was just the strategy of broadening out did not work out. Well. I described that a bunch in the book and why exactly. I think that, you know, we were not reading the room about the growth of SEO, we sort of turned away from SEO just as that industry skyrocketed, right. And you can see the results with companies like a href and sem rush and many, many others who capitalized on the massive growth SEO experienced in the 20 1314 era just as mas was sort of trying to expand out side of that field,
Jeremy Weisz 25:02
we’re going to talk about the, you know, it became apparent from the book that you really, you know, you had a, a culture, that was very important. And you really deeply cared about the people who worked at the company. And what was the you mentioned? When if you had sold at that point that the employees had different stock options, what was what you set up for the the staff so that they would be it would be a big win for them when the company was sold?
Rand Fishkin 25:32
Well, I mean, in the, in the early days, right after the first funding, a lot of staff owned, you know, somewhere between half a percent and two or 3% of the company. Yeah, maybe some senior folks even four or 5%. But the you know, the reality was that after the the rounds of funding that came later, right, we raised our big $18 million round in 2012. We raised another 10 million In 2016, I think at the start of 2016. And over the course of those plus hiring a lot more people and then diluting that with by expanding the option pool for more employees. You know, it just became the case that an engineer at Moz, who might have owned 1% in, say, 2010 2011 around the time of the acquisition offer. Today, they probably own 0.1, maybe 0.05.
Jeremy Weisz 26:33
Was it common at the time, though, for people to even have that stock option program?
Rand Fishkin 26:38
Um, yeah, I would say if you were a funded startup, there was almost always an employee option pool. It was one of the things that came as a recommendation to us from our investors. We were certainly in our early days, much more generous than most with our employee option pool, but that was particularly Surprising you know, I, I am someone who never separated, personal and professional. So, which I think has positives and negatives. I can work very well on a small company. I think it doesn’t scale particularly well. But, you know, I, I hired people I liked and was close to and, you know, wanted in my life and loved and appreciated right for both for their friendship and who they were as well as for their professional contributions and so that you know, that those first 30 people at the company, I’d be thrilled you know, I I think I will always regret not being able to financially reward them in the way that that acquisition offer would have done.
Jeremy Weisz 27:48
Yeah. Um, so for spark Toro, I want I’ll have you talk a little bit about you know, you learned a lot about launching releasing products. And company, but Where’d you come up with a name?
Rand Fishkin 28:06
So Casey and I basically had a list of criteria for our name we wanted it’s the it’s the hotel, staff person at the front desk, right? When you go in and there’s a there’s a clerk behind the hotel desk. And she or he, you know, says, oh, and what’s you know, what’s your email address? Or what’s the company are with, we wanted them to be able to see the name and say it correctly, or to hear the name and immediately be able to spell it correctly. That was like one of our one of our big things and we wanted that to be true in most languages, right? So spark Toro works reasonably well in a lot of different cultures and languages. We wanted it to have no meaning, right to mean nothing else. So there would be no brand Association, prior existing brand Association. One of the challenges with SEO Moz, of course, was hard to pronounce hard to spell, even if you heard it. Not clear what it was if you weren’t familiar with SEO and if you weren’t familiar with SEO, it couldn’t be anything else to you. Right? It couldn’t be broader than an SEO and so spark Toro we wanted to do the opposite. And I really liked the Japanese cartoon character, Totoro. So that’s where that’s where the name came from. Nice.
Jeremy Weisz 29:27
So talk a little about what spark Toro is and who are ideal people who should be using spark char.
Rand Fishkin 29:37
Yeah. So Jeremy, you are big in the podcasting world. Right. And and i’d love that and I, I do too, I think podcasting, podcast advertising, podcast guest appearances, podcast sponsorships, and podcasting itself. I think those are hugely underrated, massively underrated and one of the biggest problems in that field in my opinion is That it is very difficult to discover whether an audience listens to a particular podcast and what a particular audience listens to. So if you and I say, hey, look, we are we are trying to reach yoga teachers, yoga instructors in California, right, that is our target market for this new product. We’re rolling out. I know, we created a new yoga mat or a new I don’t know, studio system or whatever, a new broadcast from home. You know, you know, yoga classes. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Right for remote remote yoga classes. Right. So we’ve got this software that we want to pitch to yoga teachers, we’re starting in California. Great. How do we figure out which podcasts they listen to? Well, probably we’re going to try and find a bunch of them and email them or reach out to them on whatever LinkedIn or their websites and say like, Hey, would you be willing to have a five minute phone conversation and then we ask them, and hopefully they remember Which ones and they’re accurate with us? Maybe we do a big survey that we run all over the web, or we pay a market research firm, you know, $50,000 to run a survey for us, or we just take guesses. Maybe we Google, like yoga podcasts and see what comes up and hope that and that’s crap, right? Like that all of those methodologies are pretty terrible. There’s one methodology we saw, that works really well. Right, which is basically you go find the social and web profiles of thousands of people who match your audience description. So in this case, you know, look for yoga teacher, yoga instructor in the profile name on whatever Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blah, blah, blah, blah, you get all of those, you crawl them all, with a web crawler, you put them in a database, and then you compare the overlap of what they all follow and share and link to and that gives you a pretty good set of Oh, okay, you know, 17% of yoga teachers. that match California. Follow up, you know, has shared this podcast in the last 120 days. So that one is probably the one we should get on. This is what spark Toro does spark Toro basically crawls 10s of millions of billions of web profiles that represent about 75 ish million individuals. And then you can query that database and say, you know, I want people who frequently talk about snowboarding. I want people who talk about you know, who are science fiction authors, I want people who use the hashtag gift recipes, whatever it is, right? If you want to find an audience and discover the podcast, they listen to the YouTube channels, they subscribe to the websites they follow and read and visit social accounts that they are following. spark Toro can tell you that so it’s essentially on demand market research software instead of taking months 10s of thousands of dollars, it’s just you perform a search. Bam, it tells you.
Jeremy Weisz 33:05
So is it kind of like a Facebook look alike audience on steroids across the whole web type of thing?
Rand Fishkin 33:11
Yeah, a little. It’s not not massively dissimilar from Facebook look like so the big thing about Facebook like is they won’t tell you what they actually follow. I don’t they’ll tell you. Here’s how many people you could reach if you
Jeremy Weisz 33:24
do it internally. And they just show you
Rand Fishkin 33:27
Yeah, exactly. They’ll do it. They do an intern behind the scenes. Facebook knows which pages to show your ads on. But they don’t tell you Oh, by the way, you know, Jeremy vices podcast that’s you know that his podcast page does really well with this particular audience of entrepreneurs.
Jeremy Weisz 33:45
So use cases so I could see a lot of maybe direct response marketers using this. For online and offline purposes. I can see people who want to basically get in front of different genres of YouTube channels, podcasts, advertising and off going in offer as an offer really targeted people to get exposure on those particular channels. What are some other use cases that you discovered that are really good at that?
Rand Fishkin 34:23
I mean, the two or three big ones, right? That we wanted to serve our entrepreneurs. And I would say early to mid stage companies who are trying to figure out where can I do marketing in order to reach my office?
Jeremy Weisz 34:36
Yeah. So they’ll discover new channels with this,
Rand Fishkin 34:39
not just yeah, new channels, and then like individual tactical sources to go after? Yeah, like, Oh, we think we want to be in TechCrunch. We don’t actually want to be in TechCrunch. We would much rather be on this particular YouTube channel that reaches our audience or, hey, this website 15% of people who describe themselves as yoga professionals in California, visitor share this website. Oh my god, what are we doing? Like, let’s put a lot more of our marketing effort into, you know, getting mentioned on this website. Let’s not just think about advertising, but how do we get organic mentions there, maybe we can do a guest contribution, maybe we can do a partnership with them, whatever it is, right? The second one PR companies, right PR professionals, we’re doing public relations. And that’s, you know, their whole job is to find where can i amplify my clients work in order to get them the right kinds of customers that they’re trying to reach? Third one is content marketers ton of content marketers, right? Whenever they produce a new piece of content. They’re trying to figure out who will help amplify this and why. Right, that content tends not to do very well unless it gets amplified. And so finding those sources for amplification is hugely important. And and we’ve done that, but We’ve had a lot of people use us a very creatively event marketers, right? If you’re putting together an in person event or a webinar, and you’re trying to figure out how do I attract my audience, so I can get people to my webinar to get people to my conference, to my, you know, which we’ll call convention, what have you are pretty darn awesome for that. It’s great for finding even just the speakers, right? Like, oh, I want
Jeremy Weisz 36:27
Yeah, because you can search all the most influential people who in so then you’re like, oh, I’ve never heard of this person. And turns out, they’re very well known in certain niches.
Rand Fishkin 36:38
Or I’ve heard of that person. I hadn’t considered that they reach this, you know, this big audience in my sector. Oh, man. I should.
Unknown Speaker 36:46
That’s the podcast guests. Yes.
Rand Fishkin 36:49
Yes, absolutely. Right. If you’re, if you’re a new or emerging podcaster and you are trying to reach an audience, you can figure out which guests you should bring on your podcast. Cast two in order to get amplified to that audience right to to reach them. So it has a bunch of different applications. It’s just it’s basically just trying to solve this frustrating problem we saw over and over, which is trying to get this, this market, this intelligence, this audience intelligence manual. And that’s a terrible way to go software should do it for you. That’s that’s what we’re trying to solve. So,
Jeremy Weisz 37:27
you know, what have you discovered in you did multiple rounds of beta testing and talk about how you started to release it and then some of the feedback you’re getting and how how it’s improved, you know, in each round?
Rand Fishkin 37:43
Yeah, I think the interesting thing for for folks who are in the entrepreneurial world, right is to realize that while very popular i i substantively disagree with applying the classic Lean Startup model especially The minimum viable product right the MVP model two products that you’re going to be releasing broadly look at, you know, I don’t I don’t want to toot my own horn, right. But I knew that after leaving Moz a lot of people in the web marketing world would pay attention to whatever I did next. Right? They were they were gonna
Jeremy Weisz 38:21
see oil, they’re gonna be under a microscope, sort of.
Rand Fishkin 38:23
Yeah, right. Like a lot of a lot of people. There were 20,000 plus people who signed up for our email list to get early access or beta access to to spark Toro. And so, Casey, and I know Casey’s my co founder, right? We know that a ton of people are going to pay attention the day we publicly launched 10s of thousands of marketers are going to have a first impression that will be formed in six or seven seconds of using the product. Right and and that impression will stick with them for a decade. Plus, I cannot tell you Jeremy, I cannot tell you how many people after 10 years after Moz shuttered its consulting business would see me present on stage and talk about Moz. And, you know, talk about our software. And they’d be like, yeah, yeah. We were hoping to do some SEO consulting work. Would you work with us? This like, Oh, my God, I haven’t done that in 10 years. How is that? Oh, well, I just remember you as an SEO consulting firm, right? So that being able to change a brand impression of what in someone’s mind is ludicrously hard. And I knew that was going to be a sticking point, I knew that a lot of people would pay attention to those first six or seven seconds. And so as a result, Casey and I, you know, we raised some money, Angel money, not not venture in a very unique style. Back in 2018, and for the last 18 months, we basically been building and then slowly releasing to a small subset of beta testers, getting their feedback. back and input, polishing the product, trying to go from an MVP, which is probably what we had when the first 20 people looked at it back in, you know, August of 2019, to where we are today, which is nearly, you know, nearly ready for public launch. And, and it is a very, very polished product for a v1. And that’s what we want to be we want to be exceptional at launch,
Jeremy Weisz 40:23
what was improved or taken out based on the feedback that you were getting from some of the beta users?
Rand Fishkin 40:29
Yeah, we did a, we did an entire visual overhaul. So basically the first, you know, visual sort of UI that we presented folks with a bunch of different things. Top tab, navigation versus side navigation, we switched from one to the other. The visual style use of colors and elements and all that kind of stuff changed up. We changed up initially in the initial version, we had done a version that had events and conferences as one of the, you know, sort of sources of input. That after testing looked a little sketchy and we we ended up testing YouTube channels that people follow and subscribe to, that ended up being much more popular. The data was better. It was higher quality. We added a section with Audience Insights, including geography, geographic details and some text based analysis. Like what are the other words that people from this audience use in their profile so that people could figure out from Oh, a lot of people who described themselves as yoga instructors use the word vinyasa, vinyasa, maybe is a is a word I should use in my marketing or try and reach people that way or, you know, think about that as a subset of my audience. So that was in addition, we ended up having a feature with CSV exports in In all of the different tabs, we changed up account settings so that you could see your previous queries, lots of big and little things over the course of it. But But I, you know, I think that stuff is less important to think about. Specific to spark Toro and what’s more important is the constant in touch with lots of people who are using the product professionally, and you have a relationship with them. And you are constantly watching both the statistical use, right on the on the quantitative side and having conversations on the qualitative side to figure out where are people you know, really benefiting? Where are they losing out and what can I do to make this product something that when it’s released, is gonna, you know, have that magic moment for a lot more of the audience who’s who’s using it?
Jeremy Weisz 42:53
What were some of the benefits people reported? After using it so we have like, you know, when you look at spark Toro pages people you know, obviously, the reason you chose domains, it’s easy to spell and say so it’s spark like, you know SP, rk and then Toro like bull to aro, calm. But there’s something as a marketing magician, there’s a CEO, there’s a senior content engineer, there’s probably a bunch of different people using it while we’re maybe what benefits stick out to you of what people reported. Or what’s
Rand Fishkin 43:29
the classic thing of
emotions is that is the biggest one. And then behind that is, benefits. And then behind that is features, right in terms of how you sell a product and how product is perceived. And the emotion that we’re really trying to create is, this is just easy. This makes a really hard frustrating task that required tons of work, and therefore a lot of people just skipped it entirely. It makes it easy. Right? spark Toro is trying to do that. So that with the first search you perform, you’re like, Oh, Oh, damn, I did not realize I could get this and so that I think that’s been the that’s been my favorite reaction, I think from people who perform their first search, even for free as we’ve done, you know, some of the early access stuff and write back and are like, Oh, this is this is gonna change my world. I’ve been trying to do this work for months or years. And now I can get it in a few seconds. Like that’s life changing for me. I would say the you know, the benefits tend to be one of one of my favorite benefits is agencies and consultants who go to their clients and say, Hey, I know you told us you want to whatever get in TechCrunch get in the New York Times are getting these or you want to pay for a billboard here. You want to do you know big brand advertising stuff that’s not going to reach your audience. You hold us you want to reach architects in Oregon? Or you know, lawyers in Florida? Look, look at the data. It says they don’t pay attention to that channel or that source that you thought they did they pay attention to this source. That’s the one we should go after. And so just that percent following number is hugely meaningful to a bunch of those folks because they can finally hit with data. Right? They don’t have to rely on Well, our CEO says that a lot of he talked to a bunch of his colleagues and they all say they read the Wall Street Journal. So that’s do an ad in the Wall Street Journal. No, look, I have the data. You know, your show is wrong.
Jeremy Weisz 45:42
Yeah. So it’s not just making help people make money. It’s saving the money of wasted spend, they would have spent on something that didn’t work.
Rand Fishkin 45:49
Yeah, something that doesn’t actually reach their audience. Right. I think this is, you know, the big promise of Google and Facebook’s model right. The duopoly of online advertising right? now is we know where to place your ad. So that the right people see it. And the frustrating part of that is we won’t tell you where visibility,
no visibility on the back end, right? So you, you get the clicks, and maybe it’s performing, but you’re bidding against everyone else. It’s very, very expensive. And spark tauros promises. No, no, you don’t. You don’t have to pay us to put your ad up. We will tell you where your audience pays attention. You go do whatever organic or paid forms of marketing you want to do that are effective for you and effective for them.
Jeremy Weisz 46:36
Cool. Thanks for sharing that. Yeah, it gives me a bunch of ideas. How do you decide on pricing? Did you always knew there’d be a free free version or right now there’s a free version. But yeah,
Rand Fishkin 46:49
we we wanted to make sure that people who could not afford a paid package could still get a lot of benefit from it, right. I don’t know. That’s always been kind of hard. To my ethos that look, I obviously do want to, you know, I am a capitalist, I do want to do well for our investors and for the team. But my goal is to help people first and so yeah, being able to run a few free searches every month and get value from that and see the data. And I think that’s a it’s a nice way also to separate folks who I can only barely afford this. And I’m also only barely going to use it from folks who are like, Oh, I have plenty of money to use this, I will get a lot of benefit from it. So I can certainly afford to pay you and after running a few free searches, I can see that this is going to be valuable for me. So great. And we have now we have about I think around 150 ish paying customers as we’re having this conversation right and spring of 2020 and and the you know, the The hope is that We would provide a relatively low cost package. So we wanted something where, you know, your average marketer who’s a consultant in an agency or who’s in house, could put it on their company card, and it would be underneath the budget amount where they have to get approval. So it starts at, I think, 150 a month.
Jeremy Weisz 48:18
Yeah. What’s interesting is you have this seven day pass. Yeah, I, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that before. How did that come about?
Rand Fishkin 48:28
So we had conversations with a bunch of agencies in particular, I remember one, I was at a conference in in Victoria. BC, this was just this last year. And I was talking to the owners of the agency and they said, you know, one of the things that we really hate about SAS pricing Software as a Service pricing, is that every for every subscription that we get, you know, they which they charge us monthly, but we can’t pass that billing on to our client. Right where we might be using a subscription for a client, but if we use it for two or more clients, it becomes our cost rather than a cost we can directly put on our bill for our clients. And that really sucks. Hmm. So what we, what we really like is some way for us to be able to basically pay you per project we need to do when we need to do market research for a client, which might be very heavy use for only a week or two. We would love to just be able to charge Hey, that money and then charge our client for that research. And so we created this seven day pass, right one one time use no recurring billing package for I think it’s, you know, the equivalent of having a very, very high level subscription for a week and that has turned out to be popular I think of our so we’ve had maybe 190 total people saw up and pay for spark Toro and I think 10 or 12 of those have used the one week package. So not quite 10% but it’s significant, you know, yeah, significant revenue and we’re not venture back. So we don’t have to be obsessed with metrics like, you know, recurring revenue amount and what’s recurring versus non recurring. We’re just, uh, you know, we’re normal business. We’re an LLC, right? We care about profits, we care about making our customers happy. And so we can afford to do things a little differently including this this seven day pass. Thank
Jeremy Weisz 50:37
you. First of all, man, I want to be the first one to thank you for sharing your knowledge for doing what you do for your book and everything else so people should check out last and founder Amazon audible wherever you get the book. And check out spark Toro calm in any any last parting words that we should tell people about spark Toro and Where else we should point people towards?
Rand Fishkin 51:02
Yeah, well, I think, look, I have a lot of empathy for what entrepreneurs and folks in early stage companies are going through right now. I have been there myself, and obviously I am there. And I just, you know, I want to say that I think, I think it’s a great time to be thoughtful about your expenses, but also be thoughtful about your, your customers and your team. And I I have seen many, many times that people who people who truly read the room and, and understand their audiences tend to outperform their competitors, especially in times like this. So I urge you to do that. And Jeremy, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. Yeah,
Jeremy Weisz 51:53
thank you. Check out spark toro.com and stay safe out there.