CMO Insights: Rand Fishkin, Moz / SparkToro

November 14, 2017

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Rand Fishkin,  Co-Founder of Moz. He launched SparkToro in 2020, after this interview was conducted.

In this video, Rand talks about:

  • The importance of marketing, sales, social and all areas of digital collaborating together to create greater results
  • Why focusing on the few things your company does well is better for content strategy vs. trying to do everything all the time
  • Doing the necessary research on your target audience to ensure your content is getting in front of the right people at the right time.

Learn more about Rand from his LinkedIn profile.

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our CMO Insights Playlist on our YouTube channel.

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hi, welcome to Revenue Marketing Television, the CMO Insights Series. I am your host, Jeff Pedowitz, President and CEO of The Pedowitz Group. Today. It is my distinct pleasure to have with us Rand Fishkin, who is the Founder and Wizard of Moz. Rand, welcome to the show.

Rand Fishkin:

Thanks for having me, Jeff. Good to be here.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah, very excited. We’re able to get the schedule. So I can’t think of anybody better to talk about just the incredible changes that have happened in inbound marketing and search over the last few years. So, you know, maybe just at a very high level, talk about some of the major transitions things are going, where were they? Let’s say a year ago, where are they now? And where do you see them going a year or two from now?

Rand Fishkin:

Yeah. well, so there’s a bunch of big picture trends that have been happening. One is obviously consolidation, right? So you see, you know, whereas there was a massive bunch of diffused diverse sources that could send you web traffic in sort of the first 15 years of the web. That’s actually consolidated quite a bit. And now the top, you know, four or five players really it’s, it’s almost down to like the top two or three are sending the overwhelming majority of traffic right now. That’s, that’s mostly Facebook and Google. But if you add in kind of the next top 10, you’re getting, you know, 70% plus of all referring traffic on the web. So really just a few players in where you can get your internet traffic. Right. Sorry, say that again

Jeff Pedowitz:

To include LinkedIn and that next tier.

Rand Fishkin:

Yeah, they are, they are in that tier. In fact, I can, if you want, I’ll send you a graph. I have a a, a chart of all the, you know, top refers from the web and that would be great. Yeah. I’ll try and pull that up for you, but you know, red it’s in there as well. Twitter is also in there. Yeah, LinkedIn is certainly in there. Youtube is in there being is in there. Yahoo is still in there, but you know, when you talk about, I think Google is something like, you know, 58% of all refers or something and Yahoo is down at like two and a half percent, but Yahoo is still in the top 10. So, you know, it’s kind of crazy that you have this this world of very few players where you can get your traffic.

So that’s a big one. Another big one is obviously the growth of mobile. And I think the trend that surprises folks the most in the marketing world is that it turned out that apps, mobile apps, which we all thought, well, everybody’s going to have to build an app. How do I do app store SEO? How do I get visible there? You know what turns out people don’t install very many apps on their phone and they use even fewer. In fact, I think the average American installs or uses zero new apps, not my given month.

So let’s let’s do two things. One let’s exclude games, which I think is really important from that list and to let’s exclude anything that is never used after install. So after the first time you install it and use it once you never fire it up again, if you exclude that the app world is tiny, you know, you’re basically talking once again, same story consolidation, the top 10 apps own, you know, 90 plus percent of all time spent in apps on the phone where you still have diversity though is in browsers. So basically people still visit lots and lots of different websites. Like the web has maintained its ability to attract visitors to various websites, big and small alike. And that I think is a really good thing for small and medium businesses. And even for big businesses who were trying to compete in this space that, I mean that obviously could change if the FCC rules against net neutrality, but for now, you know, it’s sort of status quo on that.

Another huge, you know, huge thing that surprised me a lot. I don’t, I dunno, but probably surprised you too. I bet surprised a lot of CMOs. Do you remember three, four years ago, everyone was talking about, we’re putting a huge amount of our budget, our content, our marketing efforts into social media, like social media marketing was, was dominant. It was becoming huge. And what we saw was that trend plateaued and even declined in many enterprises over the last really 12 months. And I think you know, a number of folks in the, in the social media world have said that they believe a big part of that backing off is because of the, I’m not exactly sure how to describe this, but sort of the, the vitriol and the uncontrollability of social media platforms. Right? So basically as I think we S we saw here in the United States, you know, with regards to the election last year as the social media landscape became incredibly polarized and also much more fraught with sort of you know, dangerous pitfalls for brands in particular, but, but for individuals as well and Twitter and Facebook both got, you know, a ton of heat from political parties and sociological studies and all certain kinds of things.

There was actually a backing off where a lot of businesses said, Hey, you know what, I’m not sure that I want to play in this social space with as much of my budget and as much of my marketing efforts and expertise as I thought before. And so now we’re seeing that.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah, I, I don’t, you also think though, I think many marketers are still having trouble quantifying the return versus, I mean, I can run an ad that I could measure, but just it’s really been hard to measure a true impact of some of the strategies.

Rand Fishkin:

Yeah. Like Facebook, Facebook tried to fix this, right. Facebook was like, Oh my God, you know, people are not putting as much into this. And so they went through all their apps and all their refers systems to make sure that the was more correct, and that you could append URL parameters to track campaigns. And I don’t, I don’t think the, you know, a lot of these businesses are coming back. There’s. I mean, there’s many folks who were, who were saying, I don’t know if you fall off Avinash Kaushik from Google. Cause you know, he was saying he had this great blog post a few weeks ago where he said, Hey, if you’re going to invest in social, invest in paid, it’s trackable, it’s measurable. It reaches people, the social platforms want to show your message to people don’t invest in organic stop, organic social investment. You’re wasting your time and your money. And I disagree with him for certain companies, but for many brands, I was, you know, I looked at the stats that he looked at and I had to agree.

Jeff Pedowitz:

It is. I mean, it’s, I think it’s difficult. I mean, certainly I’m see a lot of viability and listening. Especially if you’re trying to improve customer service, if you’re trying to monitor brand perceptions and you’re trying to get a read on the pulse in the market. I think social continues to have a very viable place, but as a marketing channel it’s definitely been a mixed bag, I think particularly with B to B marketers who always a little bit slower, I think to adopt that as, as a channel and your comments on mobile are interesting too, because more people are trying to evaluate mobile, but you know, there’s kind of a resistance, a lot of people, you know, if it’s makes sense, like you don’t mind getting, let’s say a push message from, from Delta, if you’re getting rid of your Gates changing, that’s fine. But I don’t know that anybody wants to get an ad coming from their app on their phone. It feels intrusive.

Rand Fishkin:

Yeah. I mean, certainly, you know, you, you mentioned B2B, right? Like if I’m a, I’m a logistics company, what, what is the app that I’m going to make, you know, for the VPs of logistics at the companies that I serve, where they’re going to install my app, rather than just visit my website when they need to know something it’s, you know, it’s pretty hard, pretty hard to imagine any web technology is also responsible for that, to your point around push notifications, a progressive web app in a browser can send push notifications. They can send it on a laptop, a desktop, a mobile device. So you, you sort of lose some of the, well, why, why should I have an app versus why should, why can’t I just do a progressive web app that you know, is accessible through the browser?

Jeff Pedowitz:

What role do you think that augmented and virtual reality will play in marketing mixes going forward?

Rand Fishkin:

I, I really don’t know. I, I have to say, I feel like that is one of those spaces where, you know, I think like many other types of technologies, the innovator, the innovators will generally start in, you know, sort of adult content and in video games and then we’ll see kind of how the market progresses, but we have, we haven’t even seen that nascent beginning yet. And so I’m, I’m still a little bit somewhere between and curious about how and whether it will impact marketing at all. I think there’s, well, let’s see whether it will impact web marketing on a big scale in the way that things like the internet and mobile devices did. I would say there’s more opportunity and maybe some other forms of emerging technology. I think that, you know, like the blockchain and cryptocurrency, that’s an interesting one. I think there’s something, something real to be had in sort of voice search and voice answers and these, you know, whatever you want to call them, the, the Alexa home and the Google home devices that those, those are ones that

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s definitely becoming more pervasive. You know, and the AI and the VR, it reminds me of you know, like telepresence, remember from a few years ago when people were really pushing the video conferencing and they’re trying to make it real live and in person. And you know, we’ve got my son a whole separate Christmas and he definitely it’s really cool. And I wonder, you know, whether it makes sense to do it for, let’s say a plant to where her manufacturing plant or you’re trying to test you want to test different store layouts of merchandising and you want to kind of see how people would react to things before you actually spend the money to lay out the store. So I could see some uses for it, but then have you, and then actually deliver that in a, I guess, in a remote fashion and get people to engage. It seems like a lot of extra effort when you could just grab the people and bring them over to a store. So yeah, it’s kinda kinda hard.

Rand Fishkin:

So it’s a tough one. I think replacing in person is going to be, it’s going to be a real challenge. But yeah, on the voice search, I mean, to your point, they are getting massively more pervasive and I think that’s actually a huge risk, right? So Google to my point earlier, since, you know, 58, 60% of all referring traffic, but a voice answer is very tough to monetize. It’s very tough to get any traffic or any marketing value from, you know, I think it’s, I think it’s pretty tough when, you know, when I say, Hey, Google or, you know okay, Google, tell me how many podcasts are Jeff Pedowitzhas produced, right? And then they give me an answer that they found by crawling your website. Do you get any value from it? You don’t get a visit. You can’t cookie me, you can’t collect my email. You don’t own the user experience or the UI. What, what do you get out of giving Google access to your data at that point? Not a lot. Right. And that’s pretty frustrating if you have great answers to other, you know, marketing problems like, Hey okay, Google, what do CMOs think are the big trends in web marketing next year? And Google says, according to Jeff Pedowitz.com it’s blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I don’t think that according to your website.com gives me much marketing.

Jeff Pedowitz:

No, but I think what will happen though, is really, it just becomes another form of search of data, right? So take something simple. Like I order Domino’s pizza via Alexa every Friday. So I’m a pizza chain, and I want to know the percentage of people that are weathering pizza through the app on the phone. So it may be, then I can send coupons to you via email or through the mail, or I can do some very targeted advertising on TV that shows how easy it is to use the voice assistant to what a pizza from the home. So, I mean, I think there are probably other ways where you’re, you’re probably as an advertiser, you’re going to either be buying the data or you’re going to be, I mean, just kind of like you could do retargeting now, right? And lookalikes on Facebook and Google, you could probably extend that then, right. To try and figure out the other channels as they start to make that prevalent.

Rand Fishkin:

Well, but it’s all owned by Google, right? It’s their world. You’re just living in it and hoping they give you access to the data and hoping they let you pay them. And that is very different from Google sends me free referral traffic because I provide a great answer to a question and then I own the rest of the experience. So it’s just a very different dynamic.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s probably how they monetize it. Right. It’s no different than I’m in consumer packaged goods. Right. And then with a big box retailer. So the big box retailer has the point of sale system and they don’t want to give up the data, but I’m Proctor and gamble. And I want to understand what people are doing in the stores, so I could target them directly. You would think that there should be this partnership between everybody because there’s a lot of value in that data if the data is shared. But yeah, I thought it was really interesting. So, I mean, is this becoming pretty much between I guess it’s an old copy between a Marquetta and that part, and we’re kind of with love and old copy, but between Google and Facebook, I mean, is that like kind of like dominating?

Rand Fishkin:

Well, I think Google, Facebook, Amazon Microsoft and, and, you know, arguably and potentially a few others, but yeah, I, you know, maybe you’d put Apple in there and say that those are the big five tech companies and they sort of own own everything and everyone else just lives in their world. And certainly from a market cap perspective and from a, you know, ownership of data and time on site and, you know, ownership of the web day, they really do. But I, I’m not sure that’s, I’m not sure that’s a good thing for the rest of us. Right,

Jeff Pedowitz:

Right. Yeah. I mean, does it, then the prices go back up, right? I mean, if they have nobody to answer to

Rand Fishkin:

Yeah. Amazon, Amazon is this way forever. Right. We all sort of love the cheap prices that we get. We love our prime subscriptions, but once Amazon, right. Once Amazon gets enough market share, guess what they know you’re not going anywhere else now, now they can pour on the profits. Right. And I think that’s a that sucks, sucks to live in that world. Right.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s why it’s going to be really interesting to see what happens with net neutrality and some of the other government regulations down the road. Cause just as businesses, I think it’s something that we have to be wary of. Right. And I mean, and if the channels are controlled, then the costs will roll, then potentially go off. And I just think even through all this, it’s getting harder and harder to develop meaningful and real with potential customers, but just cause there’s so many channels and so many different ways to reach them.

Rand Fishkin:

Oh, absolutely. Well, and I think that, you know, to the the exponential growth in the amount of noise and noise filtering that, you know, a human being in 2017 does on planet earth compared to one and even 1997. Right. you know, that, that, that curve was, I think I saw something right. Mark Twain in the 18 hundreds was complaining about how you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing advertisements. And people were constantly bombarded. They lost their attention spans. Well, they could be very disappointed to see if we are today.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah. It’s definitely a crazy world for sure. So then what’s going to be the disruptor what’s going to come along and change this paradigm. Is there, there, I mean, there has to be another Google out there, right?

Rand Fishkin:

Absolutely. Yeah. I think that there, there is almost certainly going to be different players that emerge as we get more and more connected devices. And as we rely on connected devices for sort of our homes and our transportation and that, you know, maybe that’ll be a Google, maybe it’ll be Uber, maybe it’ll be Lyft or somebody else like that. It could, it could be a device company we’ve never heard of that could be interesting as well. I think there’s also almost definitely going to be some very powerful companies emerging in sort of this world of blockchain.

And that’s not necessarily exclusively around cryptocurrency, although that’s obviously the big one that a lot of people are very interested in right now. But I think that blockchain technology due to the, it does kind of what the web did for, you know the opportunity to have a message and to build a brand, you know, 20 years ago, 25 years ago, which is create a platform that is secure and reliable that anyone can use that has the potential to be, you know personalized and automated and high frequency and scalable. And I think they will see a lot of interesting technology built on top of that, for sure.

Jeff Pedowitz:

It’s a great time to be a marketer.

Rand Fishkin:

Well, it’s a great time. It’s a challenging time though. I think, you know, you either specialize or you are overwhelmed. I think CMOs have a really, really tough time right now because, you know, 20 years ago you could say, yeah, I’m familiar with all the marketing channels and I can have, you know, a reasonable grasp of each one. I think saying you have even a reasonable grasp of every marketing channel opportunity today is probably incorrect. There are probably some that you don’t know anything about no matter who you are and how experienced you are myself included.

Jeff Pedowitz:

And even if you did, are you truly optimizing it? And you know, do you have enough data?

Rand Fishkin:

Yeah. Do you have a great network in that space? Do you know who to hire there? Do you know how to train them? Do you know how to measure their success and their impact? Do you know the units in sales, the platform, do you have any time at all to pay attention to the changes that are almost definitely happening daily in every one of these fields? That’s, that’s a really hard thing.

Jeff Pedowitz:

A lot of change for sure. So, well, I, I can’t believe our time’s up already. It’s a great conversation and I always love talking to you, so thank you so much for taking your time today.

Rand Fishkin:

Great to see you, and yeah. Good luck with the show.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Thank you, sir.

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