Content Marketing: Outreach and Digital PR tips with Spark Toro’s Rand Fishkin (episode 024)

by April Buencamino-dy

Back in 2003 Rand co-founded what has become one of the pillars of SEO knowledge sharing, and an awesome software tool set – yes I’m talking about Moz. Now he’s busy with a new software tool, SparkToro a market research and audience intelligence tool – that means it shows you what publications and people influence your target audience – aka the publications and blogs you should be including in your off-site content marketing activity.

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About Rand

In 2001, Rand dropped out of college and started working with his mom, who owned an old school marketing agency. He picked up the web work and after a hard few years following the bust, Rand ended up having to pick up their SEO work as well.

He found that process to be incredibly frustrating and began creating educational content to help other people do their SEO better. This was the foundation for Moz, a company that eventually grew to be a multi million dollar valued business.

Rand left Moz a couple of years ago to focus on Sparktoro.

Why Content Marketing on Other Platforms

Rand encourages people to consider this approach to be a little like digital PR. This strategy offers a huge breadth of potential opportunities, but isn’t necessarily meant for every business.

The amplification that digital PR can provide is a hugely powerful thing. Leveraging an audience that someone else has built is a powerful tool. 

The problem people most frequently encounter in this pursuit is that they don’t have the right information about which platforms would be the most beneficial for them to try and engage with.

Information Monopolies

Today, Google and Facebook have created such a monopoly that they’ve been able to make data much more difficult to access.

Sparktoro is in part, Rand’s effort to bring some transparency back into that process and make it easier for businesses to get good data.

The Wall Street Journal Problems

For marketers who walk into a boardroom with executive leadership to pitch campaign ideas with specific publication in mind get sidelined by the confirmation and exposure bias of their bosses who immediately want to redirect them towards big name publications, like the Wall Street journal.

Unfortunately for marketers to prove that this isn’t a great idea, they need to have the right data. Tools like Sparktoro make it possible for marketers to begin validating their pitches with data by accessing information drawn from the public profiles of their segmented audiences.

Read Rand’s ‘The Wall Street Journal Problem‘ Blog

Bringing it To Life

To get started bringing this strategy into your fold, you can use a tool like Spartoro to run a search that will find exactly where your audience regularly looks for and consumes their information. 

Sparktoro automatically generates percentages, which Rand says is one of his favorite features and is awfully helpful in developing data driven arguments. 

Getting the Introduction

When you identify where you want to be, Rand recommends building relationships rather than going straight for the cold email. Look for a shared common connection that links you to the person you want to talk to.

When you identify that person, ask for a warm intro which almost always leads to a positive interaction. If you have no way to get a warm intro, consider following that publication on their social channels and make the effort to connect before you send a cold email.

Rand is a big proponent of making natural connections that consider everyone’s needs. Think more broadly than just one type of pitch. 

Building Relationships and Investing in Digital PR

Relationship building starts with helping people first. Much of his own success comes from helping people — not through a direct pitch.

Engaging in these kinds of activities regularly provides a constant stream of opportunity. Open yourself up to all kinds of ways you can help people.

This mindset shift and engaging in digital PR generally is an exceptionally powerful way to build your brand, and it will allow you to be strategic, but Rand reminds everyone that the ROI is more difficult to track directly and can take a much longer time to show returns.

Ultimately one of the best things about digital PR, is that so many of your competitors will never do the work because the ROI isn’t easy to measure and it’s a long game.

Insider Tips

If we’ve inspired someone to take their first step with content Marketing – what do they need to know to give themselves the best chance of success?

Once you’ve started of course you’ve got to ‘keep optimising’! So what’s your favourite way to improve content marketing performance?

Diagnose where you are experiencing a challenge. Rand lays out how content marketing should work:

  • Decide to make the investment 
  • Research what your audience wants
  • Publish the content
  • Amplify the content
  • Grow subscriber base
  • Earn ranking signals that help your content reach more people through SEO etc.

The place you find the best improvements is by identifying the place where ther is the most friction and then fixing just that piece.

It’s impossible to improve our marketing unless we’re monitoring the performance – but the list of stuff we could monitor can be overwhelming. So what, for you is the number one content marketing KPI?

For Rand, the number of subscribers is his #1 KPI, but he’s quick to point out that it’s different for everyone. It’s important to understand what you need in order to establish your KPI.

Crystal ball time – what’s coming up in the next 6-12 months that we should be getting ready for in content marketing?

The pandemic will certainly continue to change consumer behavior. Rand says he thinks we will see a lot of online gift giving, remote celebration and so on.

Investing in content marketing on your own site now before the holiday season probably won’t have payoffs in 2020, but Rand says you can take this time to research where your audience is and begin to make inroads to get your content in front of them.

Interview Links

Rand on Social media:

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