Unconventional Ways to WIN with Rand Fishkin | Chase Jarvis LIVE

– Hey everybody what’s
going on, it’s Chase. Welcome to another episode
of The Chase Jarvis Live Show here on Creative Live. You guys know this show, right? This is where I sit down with
the world’s top creators, entrepreneurs and thought leaders and I do everything I can
to unlock their brains with the goal of helping
you live your dreams and career and hobby and in life. My guest today is a serial entrepreneur, he’s founded a couple of companies, one of which I know you
all know called Moz. It revolutionized SEO back in the day. He’s also been 30 Under
30 for Business Week’s top entrepreneurs, and
he’s got two new things to talk with us about today, one, new company called SparkToro; and second, a new book that just dropped, my guest today is Rand
Fishkin in the house. (funky instrumental music) (audience cheering) – They love you! – Great to see you man. – This has literally been
more than a year in the making and we spent, like I spent a
good bit of time in Seattle, mostly San Francisco, but you’re here and we still have taken this
long, you’re a busy guy. – I guess yeah, I’m on the road a lot. – Yeah, and building companies
and writing books, of course. – Yeah, yeah and among other things, trying to be a good husband to my wife and trying to be a good
person to the world. – It’s a full time job these days, right? The world needs great people to step up. – Woof, woof, more than ever. – Well, I’m super happy
to have you on the show, and one of the things that
I was most interested in, in your new company, I mean
that you started something is a big deal in the entrepreneurial
community in Seattle, I know you’ve got a lot
of very popular backers, kudos to your new round, but I was interested in
the mission and the vision that you have for that company because the audience that we
have tuning into the show, by and large, they’re trying
to build their own audience whether it’s for a
company or as individuals, and it’s a huge part of building
a business today online. And my understanding is that’s
what SparkToro is all about, is helping people and companies
find where their tribe hangs out online.
– Yeah, that’s exactly right. So if you’re, let’s say you’re an artist, maybe you’re creating a new video game or a new table top game
or something like this, you might say, gosh, you know
one of the challenges I have is that there’s not a lot of
people searching for, okay, what’s the new game
coming out in this field? That just doesn’t get a ton of interest and attention passively or actively. People might be interested passively, they might say oh I would
love to find out about it, but in order for them
to find out about it, you have to be in the
places where they hang out. And discovering those audiences, if you are sort of a highly knowledgeable, well-networked member of that
community already, is a pain. I mean, I’m very unfamiliar
with the world of video games, but not that, I mean I love playing but I would have no idea. If you and I launched a new game tomorrow, I would have no idea
where to go promote that. I don’t know who we should be talking to or what podcast we should try to get on or what YouTube channel
we should try to be on– – We should do collab with, what to do– – Yeah, is GameSpot still popular? I don’t know, was when I was a teenager. So all those kinds of questions
are really tough to answer. And so SparkToro is trying to
build this massive database of here are all these publications
and sources and people that influence these given audiences. And if you wanna discover
who influences your audience, you can just search, right? You can say, okay, table top games or interior designers and you can get back a list of the places that are most paid attention
to by those groups. Or you could alternatively say, I can’t really describe my audience, but I know that they all
follow this person on Twitter. So give me that Twitter username, and I’ll tell you people
who follow this person also pay attention to this podcast. – It’s amazing to me that
this tool doesn’t exist. – How does it not exist?
– Totally, it’s crazy. – I’m totally with you. So when I watched people doing this, which is something you do
as an entrepreneur, right, you try and watch your customers
or potential customers, do the work that you’re
gonna help them with. And when I watched it,
(mumbles) go to Google, you know, open up an Excel spreadsheet and then copy, paste, copy, paste. – Here’s the number of phones, here’s other people that they
follow that I know, yeah. – Yeah, here’s how much traffic, you know, whatever, SimilarWeb
estimates their blog gets. Oh my God, you’re kidding me. Do you have to do this by hand? – Let the machines do it.
– Oh, yeah, of course. The only thing that
does anything like this is some of the PR databases out there, right, for journalists. And I had this like okay,
it’s not just journalists who influence the world anymore. What about the rest of this? So yes, that’s where SparkToro comes from. – So I wanna put a pin on SparkToro because I think that’s fascinating, it’s huge for the audience that is– – But it’s also a year away from existing. – Yeah, that’s fair, you
just raised your new round so we’ll talk a little bit about that, we’ll talk about raising the round and how you went a very alternative route. And I also wanna talk about
your new book, Lost and Founder. – Absolutely. – So the short version
there, give us the one liner and then we’re gonna go
back in time for a second. – One liner. So my opinion is that the startup culture centered around Silicon Valley’s universe biases
startups and entrepreneurs, even ones who aren’t part
of that startup world to make a lot of dumb mistakes and to do a lot of dumb things
that we shouldn’t be doing. And Lost and Founder is
here to try and dismantle some of those myths. – Awesome, it’s been a recurring theme for despite having you know,
Branson’s and Reed Hoffmann’s and Joe from Airbnb– – Oh sure, yeah, yeah, yeah. – Huge, huge companies and
a lot of venture folks, there is a resounding theme,
I think Cuban said it best, if you raise money, why
would you celebrate? That’s your first loss. – I mean, certainly–
– Cuban is his own man. – He is, he is.
(chuckles) For Lost and Founder, one of
the funny things that I did is I looked at the statistics, right? So United States government
keeps statistics, small business administration
on you know, companies of different varieties
and what their five-year survival rates are. So you can look at, for
example, restaurants, which supposedly are one
of the worst businesses you can possibly get into. I think their five-year survival rates are just under 50%, right? So you flip a coin, you’re
not gonna last five years. Consulting businesses are actually one of the longest lived. So people who do services, right, whether that’s photography or web design or SEO consulting or whatever it is, those businesses have,
I think it’s above 70%. So they’re doing, doing quite well on the five-year survival rate. Startups, tech startups like
the day that you raise money, either you know, convertible note, traditional convertible
note or a venture round, your five-year survival
rates drop below 30%. – Wow. – Like, they just don’t survive. I think it might be under
25, it’s just awful. – And that’s part of the mechanism that you’re trying to
disrupt with the book, right? Is that, that’s just not,
it’s not your best option. – Well, I think one of the problems is we all kind, I don’t know about you but one of the biggest
reasons that I raised venture capital for Moz, and then you know, went
out and tried to raise another big round and
failed for years and years and then finally got this
$18 million round done and all these things is because I thought that was what made you a
real entrepreneur, right? I thought that was what
was suggested to me by popular culture, by business culture and entrepreneurial culture, right? That’s what we celebrate, that
who’s on the cover of Inc. If you want you know, your
face on these magazines and books, if you wanna be
on you know, the hot podcast, if you want the people
that the press covers to talk about you, you got
to raise a lot of money from impressive people with you know, these brand name firms hands. Then once you go down that road and experience it for yourself, you’re like huh, you’re
like wait a minute, this is not, I get that I’m
sure that, that is what makes some people happy, but
I think that it’s not– – And some business.
– Successful, yeah. And some businesses
very successful, right? But it’s definitely
not right for everyone, and I think if we can
change the narrative, like as a culture, if we
can change the narrative to support other ideas
of what success means and what it can be and stop
glorifying this one path alone, I think that we can do two things. One, I think we can build a much healthier entrepreneurial environment
where lots and lots of different people try to
do lots of different things, which would be awesome. And second, I think we change
who gets to be successful. Like, do you know how
many black women founders have received venture capital
funding in the last 10 years? – It’s got to be less
than 5% of the total– – I think I saw that it was eight. – Eight, there you go. Eight! You can count them on your hands. That’s insane, I can’t count
the number of white guys who were funded yesterday. Right? I mean, that’s a bigger number. – Totally.
– And that’s also crazy and wrong and messed up, right? And so I think there’s work
to be done all around this. Lost and Founder is just
me throwing a pebble into the ocean, but hopefully you know, hopefully that pebble will
urge a lot of other people to throw their own rocks. – Well, that’s one of
the reasons that we have several mutual friends who have tried to connect
us over the last I’d say year or two, I think specifically because our aspirations are similar
personally and professionally. You know, Creative Live exists to help you know, be a champion
for creators everywhere and the creativity being, you know, what I consider to be the new literacy, and if we over index on the creator, my, what a more amazing
place the world can be. And I’m trying to also align with that, that there are so many paths. I think my personal example of, I started pursuing professional
soccer in medical school and all these other things and still found my way to this world, like that’s just a testament to like you can be anywhere and you
can make a 90-degree left turn and do the thing that you wanna do. So now I like to, we’ve
set the table a little bit but now I wanna go back and I
wanna go back in part because I wanna explore what your background was for getting to here, but also to sort of connote and share to
anyone who is listening that it doesn’t matter if
you’re at home in your underwear in Ohio right now listening to this, or you’re on a treadmill in Uzbekistan, that there are similar elements to all of our backstory. And we’ve all got plenty of skeletons and you know, we all have our own history, but I try and unpack every person who’s on the show and pack a
little bit of their background. So give me a little bit of yours. Start me wherever you wanna start me, but take me back.
– Sure. So I actually grew up in the Seattle area in unincorporated King County, way out in the in the Boonies. My parents had a house
behind which was just woods. So you know, when I was–
– Where specifically? – The Renton-Issaquah border.
– Oh yeah, sure, sure. – Up in the Squak mountain. – Yeah, my wife went to
Woodinville high school. – Oh okay, yup, so north of there, yeah. So you know, a lot of
my childhood was spent hiking around a forest all by myself and watching out for mountain
lions and watching frogs. You know, I was obsessed
with frogs when I was a kid. We had a big frog pond,
like a quarter mile hike into the woods and I
was obsessed with that. so I didn’t have a ton
of friends growing up because I was in the middle of nowhere and nobody wanted to drive
out to our house, right? (laughs)
– Birthday party! They’re like no, it’s like you
live 45 miles from anything. – Yeah, and I’ve taken
some of that with me. I can be extroverted for a few hours, but I need a lot of
self-care time, alone time to recuperate from that. And my mom, interestingly enough, so she started business in 1981. I think was called Outlines West and it was a you know, one woman marketing consultancy shop, right? Probably really similar to a lot of people who are members of
Creative Live today, right? So she would design logos and she would take pictures, she would go around to local businesses and help them get their yellow page ad and their business card
and their letterhead and all that kind of stuff, worked with all these print shops. And so I spent my you know, my childhood, after school everyday, I would go to her office and sort of you know, live
there watching her on Photoshop. That was like, and PageMaker
and Aldus PageMaker back in the day. And when I went to college, I got three years in, had
a big fight with my dad and he stopped paying for my tuition and so I paid for my own
tuition for a couple quarters, this was back when you could still like work a minimum wage job and
pay your way through college, which I feel terrible that the current generation, that’s impossible – Not possible.
– Yeah. Not at all. And I think my last quarter
of school, I dropped out. So two class away from graduating at the University of Washington, dropped out to work with
my mom building websites. Fast forward a couple of
years, as you might imagine, a 21-year old web designer is not the most fiscally responsible individual. And so we went pretty far into debt. By 2004, we had $150,000
of like credit card debt and equipment loan debt
and all this kind of stuff. And then we stopped being able
to make the minimum payments on the debt, which means by 2005, we were half a million dollars in debt. And the logical thing
to do, right, of course, is you declare bankruptcy. You’re like okay–
– It all goes away. – Start clean, right? There’s no more debtor’s prison, we don’t have to worry about that. But we had never told my
dad that we had any debt. So we’d been you know,
keeping this like huge, nasty, the business is not going well, in fact it was so bad that even though we had these debt payments, my mom would bring home some money to like make it look to my dad like we had a real business going. And I think I was making $800 a month. My girlfriend, Geraldine,
who’s now my wife, was paying my rent and
all my bills, right? And yeah, the only
thing I had going for me was this website I had
started called SEOmoz. And SEOmoz was something I started because when we stopped being able to pay our subcontractors,
including our SEOs, right, we had to do it all ourselves. And so I was like, okay, Rand, well, we promised this
client we would do SEO for their website so you
better learn it and do it. And the world of SEO back then, I’m sure you remember– – Sure.
– Super secretive, super weird and sketchy and you know, no one wanted to touch
it with a 10-foot pole. But powerful because you
know, Google was on the rise, Microsoft and Yahoo were still competing with them pretty heavily
and search was growing, and so ranking number one
for you know, whatever it is, Seattle photographer, could
just blow up your business. And so we had a lot of clients like that and I was learning SEO. I started this SEOmoz website hoping to make you know, a
lot of SEO advice open source. That started doing well
and attracting clients and ranking well, getting me invitations to speak at conferences, which
I could barely afford to do. I had to like stay with my
grandparents in New York (chuckles) to the city,
that kind of thing. But yeah, that ended up
turning the business around. And by 2007, we paid off that debt. – Wow, didn’t do bankruptcy. – Wait, we couldn’t. I mean, we couldn’t, so if we had, A, my dad
would have found out. I think my mom was scared
that he would divorce her. I think she was also scared that her mother, who passed
away a couple of years ago but was alive at the time, my parents owned her house
and in a bankruptcy situation, the bank might have taken her house. So just a lot of nasty
impossible to work around stuff. – But you emerged.
– We did, yeah. I mean, 2007 rolls around, I remember June of 2007, my mom and I are high
fiving in the backroom of the office in the university district because we paid off the last of our debt, which is just, just incredible. And that same year, we launched, so we had a bunch of tools that, I don’t know if you know
a guy named Matt Inman. He’s now The Oatmeal, like– – Oh of course, yeah, yeah! Duh! Yeah, I was like hmmm, I know him, and I think he’s… But he’s with Brandon Stanton,
the Humans in New York guy– (overlapping dialogue) I think when Brandon was out here he was trying to get together with Matt. But really respect and admire that, he’s really fascinating. – Yeah, he’s an interesting dude. So Matt was our, like,
developer for five years, right? So Matt and I would build these websites and he built a bunch these
little SEO tools for us to use so that we can automate a
lot of the functions of SEO that were very manual at the time. And Matt and I were friends too, he’d come over to our
apartment all the time and we’d mess around,
we’d play Counter-Strike after work and that kind of thing. But so he had built these tools and I was like okay, I want
to share them with everybody. And Matt’s like no man,
our servers couldn’t handle the traffic and like, we can’t do it. So I was like okay, what if
we put up a PayPal paywall and you have to like
PayPal us 39 bucks a month to get access to the tools? He’s like all right. So over the weekend, he did that. And in February of 2007, we launched these tools. And by August, July or August, the subscription revenue from the tools was doing more revenue than
our consulting business. And we went–
– Wait a minute. (laughs)
– Hang on a second, what is this, right? We didn’t know what
software as a service was. I got an email from Michelle Goldberg from Ignition Partners, and
I googled venture capital. (chuckles)
Right? What does that mean? – Who is this woman?
– Exactly, right. And what do they do, right? And so at the end of that
year, November of that year, we ended up raising a $1.1
million round with Ignition and also Curious Office, I don’t know if you know Kelly Smith. – Sure, of course. – So they ended up coinvesting in this company Moz,
and we started growing. You know, we kept building software, I became the CEO at that time. So I had a tough conversation with my mom that was fairly intense. That was like okay, they
want to invest in us but– – This is an actual businesses and there’s fiduciary responsibilities and investors and the SEC and these– – Yeah, and so my mom had obviously been president and CEO since 1981, right? And so here was this thing. I think she felt both you know, pride, like oh my son’s taking this over, but also kind of this frustration of gosh, I’m not in charge anymore. And if this were a novel,
that would be foreshadowing. (sings ominous tune)
(chuckles) So for the next seven
years, I was CEO of Moz and we grew from a few
hundred thousand dollars in software revenue to $30,000,000 and had sort of you know,
an exciting experience, built a company that I felt
really proud of and loved. Went from, I think there were six of us when we raised the round and gosh, when I stepped down as
CEO, maybe 120, 130, little more than that. Similar to this–
– Yeah, really similar to Creative Live, yeah. – To what Creative Live is today. Yeah, so in 2013 and going into 2014, I got a really nasty
episode with depression. You know, I was not really
familiar with what that’s like and certainly unprepared, I
think no one is prepared for it, but you know, I didn’t
have the knowledge or tools or resources to know what to
do or how to react to that. But I did know that I was messed up. And so 2014, I stepped down as CEO and promoted my long time
chief operating officer, Sarah Bird, to the CEO role with my investors’ permission of course. And then over the next few years, I think I did get better
on the mental health front and developed some strategies, worked with therapists and coaches and did all sorts of, tried
everything from acupuncture and massage to physical
therapy, all sorts of things and found some things that worked for me. I think the things that worked for me won’t necessarily work for everyone– – Yes, there’s a pattern there. – It can be different for everybody. But ended up having a lot
of conflict with the CEO you know, a few years into that, and I think that professional conflict lead into personal conflict and so at the beginning of this
year, left the company and started something new. – And wrote a book in the process. – And wrote a book.
– And that’s what we’re talking about here. So I wanna put a couple of
pins in there and go back. So we’re in the time
machine now, we went back. A, I think fascinating. B, thank you for sharing sort
of some of the hard parts, I’m gonna go into that for a second because I think there’s a… Historically, there has been a culture, in popular culture we don’t
talk about that stuff. – Especially men.
– Yeah. – You are not allowed to have you know, emotional health problems, right? That’s not a real thing that men, I mean obviously we have it, but we’re not allowed to talk about it or make it a real thing. – And I think disproportionately, I don’t know the math but
creators and entrepreneurs, it is more vocal in
that world than others, and so what we’re trying
to do in the show, one of the things is talk about that stuff whenever it comes up because
it is a recurring theme, and it just so happens
that you’re not alone and that’s one of the
messages that we wanna send. So you mentioned a handful of strategies. You tried a bunch of stuff
that’s after you’ve figured out that you were not doing well chemically. Any otherwise depressed. What were some of the things
that you felt like worked to help you uncork some of the challenge? – Sure, yeah. I think that one of the biggest
things certainly was sleep. And that’s a really hard
thing for me to recommend because it is so incredibly
hard to sleep when you have severe anxiety and depression and those kinds of things. But some drugs stuff
helped me on that front, and that was worthwhile
and I certainly urge folks who are comfortable with
that path to pursue that. And I also, working
with a therapist, right, found some sort of mental patterns that I could walk through
over and over again before I went to sleep that would help. Not surprisingly at all,
getting off of screens an actual 45 minutes an
hour before I went to sleep or before I tried to go
to sleep was a big deal and could help me a lot. And then I’m actually
someone for whom Zzzquil works really well, so I was thrilled when that product came out
because then I was like oh great, I don’t have
to buy NyQuil anymore. – What is Zzzquil, is it
NyQuil without the drug part– – Without the cold medicine, yeah exactly. So it’s just the part that
makes you sleepy about it. So those things all helped. Physical therapy was
actually big for me too. – Moving the body.
– Yeah, I got a Fitbit. I know this is not true for everyone, but for me this you know, I’m a little bit of an OCD kind of person and the Fitbit hitting the
you know, 10,000 steps, hitting the you know, 30
minutes of elevated heart rate, exercise, all that kind
of stuff really did help me quit a bit. – This is a theme that there are, that sleep has been
huge theme in the show, not just for entrepreneurs
and like go get ’em types but as a tool to relieve anxiety
and depression and stress. Sleep and exercise and eating well, – Yeah!
– Surprise, right? (overlapping dialogue)
Yeah, oh I’m totally sure. I can’t believe all the things that, but I think the thing that I dislike, and this goes back to
our earlier conversation about Silicon Valley sort of you know, tropes and biases, I
mean the glorification of the I don’t sleep, I work all the time, there’s nothing in my life except work, that’s literally not just terrible for us but it’s also proven to be
ineffective for you know, people getting good work done. It is not the case for 99% of us that the hour step we
work between you know, hour 45 in a week and
hour 80 in a work week do anything but negatively you know, detract from your business’s outcome. – Or the next week or the week after. – Yeah, so you get into a nightmare thing. I remember at one point during you know, I think
it was 2013 or 2014, some things were not going great with Moz, our growth rate had sort of
slowed from 100% year over year to 50, 55%, which is still great, I know, but it’s one of those like, I felt that very strongly, right? I was like this declining
growth rate is my fault and I need to step it up. And so I took away this thing called anti-work night where I had one night a week, right, where I didn’t do any work, right? I’d get off at 5 p.m. and that
was like it for the night. And I remember one of
my employees emailed me and was like yeah, that’s
probably a good idea given where we are, you need to step back. And that is probably
the dumbest thing I did. I should have made four anti-work nights. That almost definitely
would’ve been better for me and better for the business. – Fascinating how the narratives have sort of reared their
heads at different times and now we’re seeing a huge backlash. I mean, I was one of those people that, I never glorified it but I stated it and it seemed to me to be fact. But what it was is I had a lot of passion for what I was doing. And so when you’re working
on something that you love, then you’re happy to divert sleep because there’s not enough hours in the day for you to do all the exciting stuff. That’s they way that I looked at it. And then only recently,
probably in about 2016, I shifted gears at the suggestion of a lot of my peers that hey, try and get any
more than five hours sleep, it’s gonna be awesome. And it was, it was incredible. My health, because when
you’re invigorated by work and you’re only sleeping
four, five hours a night, it’s overtime that, that
actually tackles your, of course different people are different, but over a sustained period of time, like we’re capable of a lot as a human, but that erodes that
capability pretty quickly. So I had fallen into that trap as well. – And your decision
making, I mean you know, statistically speaking, right, like you go in and take just
general logic questionnaires and you know, try and sort out this social situation and
what you should do correctly– – It’s something along the
lines of being drunk, I think. – Yeah, right? You know, you think well
I’m working really hard and so I am a good CEO. And in fact, when you’re
getting less than eight, eight and a half hours of sleep, you are harming your business, (overlapping dialogue)
yeah, statistically speaking harming your business because
the primary job of a CEO is not get this specific
piece of work done, right? It’s not crank out this code or you know, edit this video or whatever it is. It is make good decisions. Be good to your people, hire correctly. Yeah, help upgrade your team. – I think it’s one of the things I wanna caution against, is it’s not like you don’t have to work
hard in order to succeed. Like, it’s what are you
doing all the other time, which is like if you’re
spending it in front of screens that are unhealthy, or if
you’re crushing, you know, entire seasons of Lost or
whatever that thing is, and I find that it’s
not about not sleeping, it’s about how can you set
up a framework for yourself where you’re able to get
enough sleep and eat good, and that’s why I track 10 behaviors every, that I try and do every day, one of them is to not do that
other stuff and to get sleep. And I feel like I’m working
harder now than ever before. – And how much did you
really need to know about season nine of Lost? – I’m not a TV person
so I need to know zero. – I don’t actually know if
there was a season nine– – Yeah, me neither, I know nothing, I don’t even know what you said, it just sounded like blah,
blah, blah to me, Lost. (laughs) But I think the point, that’s one of the reasons
I’m sort of trying to put an exclamation point on
this, is it’s not like we’re saying don’t work hard because it’s a requirement
in order to be successful that you put forth effort. But there’s smart effort, and there are the other
things that you cut out in your life, and sleep is
not one of those things, nor is this other list of like
taking good care of yourself. – Yeah, and I think
another thing I worry about tremendously is the, so after I wrote this book and it came out 45, 50 days ago, something like that, I’ve been getting all
these emails from people who read it, which is
you know, super rewarding and feels awesome, but the stories that people have about the, not just their own sacrifices and losses but the people in their lives, right? The–
– Spouses and family members. – Yeah, you know. My mom had cancer and I
thought the right thing to do was bury my head in my company, you know. My husband was telling me that
he needed more time for me and I invested that in my business instead and my marriage collapsed and you know, now what’s going on with my kids? – Yeah, huge, huge, deep real stuff. – Yeah, what is the point? Who are you doing this for, right? I mean–
– Let’s assume that people’s intentions
are in the right place, like you wanna build a business and I’m not trying to judge, let’s just assume that
people’s hearts and minds are in the right place
and focus on the thing that they want to do. How did you, and I
think one of the reasons I’m asking this question is to try and get how you decided that SEO was interesting or helping people describe
or find their tribe or help drive traffic or build audience, and especially now with SparkToro, like what’s the gist? Because I think it’s easy to tell people that when you find the thing that you’re supposed to be doing, oh it just feels awesome, it’s like everything’s,
the skids have been greased and away you go. But what you said in your sort
of your historical lookback was like it was necessity
for survival of our business. And I do find that. But presumably you liked
it because you did more. So how did you decide
that you liked something? – Yeah, I think that accidentally
stumbling into things by having a diverse group
of people in your life and doing lots of different things, you know, especially when you’re young or when you have the freedom to be able to potentially pursue an
entrepreneurial journey is an awesome way to do that, right? So I fell into SEO by necessity and then found that I loved aspects of it. I actually hated other aspects of it, but I knew that at the core
of that hate was passion. – Yeah.
– Right? Like, oh, I despise that
this is how this is done. Can I change that? Can I make that into
something else, right? So you know, one of the
things that was true in the early SEO world was
that lots of consultants, lots of people who were
experts in the field were very secretive about their knowledge because they believed it to
be their secret sauce, right? Like, I can’t tell you how or why I know that this
thing that we’re gonna do is gonna make your rankings go up because that’s how I
sell my services, right? And of course, anyone who
tries to do that to you in a consulting world, like
you should be pretty skeptical. But in SEO, that was really common. And I hated it. So whenever I found something that worked, I would blog about it. I would put it up on SEOmoz and I would make it public. And as a result, I made a lot of friends and a lot of enemies, right? And I think it was sort of
interesting to see how over time, of course like any maturing
industry, it changed, right? As Google became this
behemoth that dominates around the world, there were a lot, a lot more people who started blogging and writing more openly
about SEO and how it works. Google themselves became
more open about it. But I think that passion for
making things transparent is what gave me a career. – Yeah, it’s very similar
to mine with photography for what it’s worth. I think that’s one of the reasons that TA, our mutual friend, was
like you guys basically sort of pulled the wool
off for a lot of people in respective industries. And so I think what
I’d like to hear about, so you talked about finding passion and the passion is really
for making things transparent in a world that hadn’t seen transparency around SEO for example. I wanna shift the discussion a little bit and I might be taking a liberty
here so forgive me if I do, but the term SEO, not a sexy term. – So true.
– So true, not sexy term. – So true.
– But let’s refresh it, and I wanna connect a
thread from what SEO, I’m just gonna put my
own, I’m gonna scribe, conceptually it’s like
helping people find you on the Internet, which in a
growingly complex Internet and culture becoming more complex, that is more important
now than ever before. And if you go back to trace your roots in non-sexy SEO, we’re subbing in, helping people find you on the Internet to this new ark that you’re working on now is not only helping people
find you on the Internet but you finding other people. Because to me this is a core thing that this show should elevate, that our conversation should
help people understand what they need to know in
order to become successful, because people are,
they wanna create things and help people see their creations for whatever purpose,
whether it’s to make money or to unlock potential in
human beings around the world– – Or to share their art, yeah. – Yeah, or just share their
art and have an impact to help you know, people
get help or whatever. There’s a million, we’re just gonna assume they’re all virtuous. Tell me what you think these
people should be doing. And be specific, don’t be afraid to, don’t overqualify your answers. Tell us like if you’re
thinking I’m a creator and I’m starting a business or whatever, like how am I supposed to think? And your tool is not out
yet, the new company, like, (overlapping dialogue)
It’s today help me. – The biggest mistake that
I see people making is that, especially creatives and folks who sort of are solo business owners
or small business owners is they try and build their
platform on someone else’s land. Meaning, you know, you
go out there and you say oh well, Facebook is how
I get a lot of my traffic so my Facebook page is
where I’m gonna invest a bunch of my energy or effort. Or you know, I make
beautiful visual things, I’m gonna make Instagram
my primary channel. Or I’m a writer and you know,
Twitter is how I connect and I’m gonna make my Twitter
account my primary place. That is fundamentally a mistake and I don’t, I cannot
recommend highly enough that you register your own website, start putting your work, whatever it is on your own website, in
your own user experience, in your own design and package and using these other channels, leveraging these other channels,
whichever ones make sense, as ways to draw people back to your site and making the two things
that you try and capture be visits to your website,
hopefully people come back again and again and
giving them a reason to, and email addresses. Those two are vast, I would take, I literally would take 10 email addresses from potential customers
and customers of mine over a thousand more Twitter followers, a thousand more Instagram followers, which might sound crazy to some people but I guarantee that,
that is a better return on your investment for
your own ability to market and to reach people. Because an email address is
such a stronger connection. There’s so many more things
you can do through marketing, and many people might not know about them. So if you have an email address, you can use a tool like FullContact to plug that email address in and to get here are
all the social profiles and now I can get a
lot of demographic data and a lot of statistical data
about who my audience is. If you have an email address, you can now reach out to those people. Email open rates, even for
pretty bad email newsletters, are still between five and 15%. Facebook reach numbers
are between 0.3 and 0.7%. So which one are you gonna take? Instagram has the
highest, I think it’s 4%. You know, an average of 4% of the people who follow you on Instagram
will see any given– – Fee–
– Yeah, picture that you share or a story that you share. Oh god, 4%. And that’s going down, right? Because of course these businesses, they’re not trying, Instagram and Facebook are not there to promote you, they’re there to promote
Instagram and Facebook. So yeah, I would strongly
urge folks to do that. I think another really good
thing to think about is having a great answer to the question anytime you build something
or launch something, whether that is you know, your own website or work that you’re doing, a
blog post that you’ve written, a new project you’re putting up, a new tool you’ve created, is to ask the question who
will help me amplify this? And why? And if you have a great answer to that, a great answer to that is
here is a specific list of 20 people who are influential to the audience that I wanna reach, and I have a you know, I
have some connection to them or they care deeply about this issue, I know that they’ve, you know, amplified stuff in the past, they’ve seen this before at launch and they told me it was awesome and that they wanna help share it. Fantastic, that is the
answer that you want to that question. You have that? A lot of the things that you
do will be very successful compared to, I think,
unfortunately there’s sort of a marketing obsession with
I’m gonna put this out and I hope it goes viral. Oh man? – Said no one who ever built a business. (chuckles)
sustainably over time. – Yeah exactly, the problem
is that there’s a few outliers every month, every year
who do have something that goes viral, and
that’s what gets press and that’s what gets amplification and that’s what sort
of earns our attention, and then we think oh that
must be the way to do it. And that is not the way. You know, the way to build a great, a great sort of marketing machine is to have a flywheel. And a flywheel fundamentally, right, so it’s this you know, machine– – Yeah, I understand it,
but for the folks at home– – Machine, right, from
the industrial age, right? And it’s this giant wheel, it’s extremely heavy and
electricity would come into it and the flywheel would start turning and it would turn faster and faster. And once it gets going, it’s
going on inertia, right? So now you can generate
electricity from it. Okay, but in a marketing sense, the problem is turning that
flywheel initially, right? Getting your marketing going, whatever kind of marketing you’re doing, content marketing or
social media marketing, influencer marketing or
email or advertising, right? Whatever you might be doing, events. Getting that turning is insanely hard. I mean, you know this well, right? Creative Live, the first few revolutions, getting the first thousand
customers was so much harder than getting the next thousand
customers today, right? And that’s because of inertia. Now the Creative Live
marketing flywheel is turning, and so I think that recognizing that and then getting comfortable
with the idea that oh my gosh, I’m gonna have to put in a
tremendous amount of energy to turn that flywheel initially, to find the mechanisms
that’ll create growth for me as opposed to I’ll throw this out there and see if it works. Throw that out there and see if it works, toss this out there. That would be my big, big picture advice. And then we can certainly
get into other things like if you would like to
rank number one on Google, I can also talk about that. – Sure, I wanna touch on that, that is, I think that, that is a valuable pursuit. I wanna talk about it
generally one more time in a slightly different axis before we go into the specifics. So generally knowing that
the tools that we use to point people are owned by other folks. I don’t think you’re saying
don’t use those channels. – No, absolutely use them. But use them to bring people
to places that you own, your website, your email list. Don’t use them as the central hub, right? So whenever I go to a
restaurant and I see them like, oh, follow us on Facebook
and get a discount. Ah, ask for my email address
to get that discount. I will open that email you know, 10, a hundred times more
likely to open that email than I am to check your Facebook page or to ever see your Facebook
messages in my feed. – Yeah, even if I did decide
to follow your Facebook feed, right, I’m not gonna see those messages. Okay, so I think it’s, I’m gonna try and make
a counterpoint here. So what we see in pop culture is people who have substantial followings and they have attributed doing great work to build that following on a, say they’re a YouTuber, for example. – Sure, yeah.
– Which is a very real thing and it’s a way to have a job now in a way it wasn’t before. Is it that you’re suggesting that people don’t aspire to be a YouTuber because that is a 1/50th of 1% outcome? Or is it that you aspire people to, like what kind of business, maybe it’s a little bit too leading but I guess this is what, I want people to like, why do
you wanna build a business? Like, what does that business wanna be? What do you want to wake
up and do every day? And then there’s all these other channels. And if by accident, like
my influence socially, purely accidental, I wanted to build a great photography business
and I started sharing stories about it and I just turned around, oh my gosh, I have a million followers across all these channels. Accidental.
– Yup. – Helpful, but what about
I’m trying to decide if telling people I’ve had the idea that telling people to
chase social status online as the end in itself is
potentially catastrophic. I wanna know your point of view, throw rocks at what I’m
saying or validate it. – Yeah, so I think that it is, if your goal is to become
someone who is well known and well regarded and well followed, leveraging multiple networks
and building your base on, in a home that you own, right, which is a website and email is the wisest possible
way you can do that. And that does not mean, I’m
not saying that you shouldn’t consider your YouTube channel
and your YouTube subscribers as a great place to start
building that brand. What I think is insanity is relying exclusively on
that and saying oh my, I am not going to capture any attention outside of this one network. And if YouTube tomorrow
decides to ban your channel or decides that–
– Change anything. – Change their algorithm
for how you become visible, change their system for you know, what is allowed to be shown, if governments come in and
say basically you know what, YouTube, you are a monopoly in Europe and we need to break you up
and oh, suddenly you lost 50% of your subscribers. Well, my friend, guess what? If you had your own website and you were building most
of that following there, YouTube is just a channel
where you’re posting content and potentially getting
that amplification. But for your hardcore fans, right, the people who follow you the most, you own that relationship
rather than YouTube owns that relationship, you
have vastly more ability to control the level of influence and to keep that audience with you as you grow and as these networks change. I think about the people
who in the early 2000s had a million followers on Friendster. Oops! Right? Didn’t go so well. Or just a few years ago, you
had 50,000 followers on Vine. Shoot, they’re gone. – Gone.
– Right? And I think that it is not impossible to imagine that those kinds
of things will happen, whether that’s the result
of YouTube changing, the governments changing YouTube, people shifting their habits. That’s my suggestion. So I agree with you that you know, if you wanna build a business, chasing the dream of being a YouTube star or an Instagram celebrity is probably a poor way to do that. But also, even if you
wanna be those things, have a home base. – Yeah, and what I find bonkers is you have to ideally have something that you are passionate about. In YouTube land, it can be making films. And then it’s a great natural fit. But just seeking the ability to be known and therefore charge for your services of sharing your audience
is a really quick, it’s on the rise as far
as a desired outcome for most of the people that I hear, which I caution against. Like, you wanna be known for a thing. Like, I make cool films or I am a designer or I
am a fill in the blank because it allows you to have something for people to rally around other than just your pretty face. – I mean, I worry a lot, if you can’t say I am a– – Fill in the blank? – Yeah, I am a designer, I am an artist, you know, whatever it is, a
graphic designer, I am a– – Novelist, philosopher, yeah. – Yeah, exactly, those kinds of things; and I’m well known for that as opposed to I’m well known on this particular network which controls my destiny exclusively. – Wooh, and you don’t own that network, you’re not a shareholder there, you don’t get to vote at
the board meetings, right? You’re not lobbying, a lobbyist there. That’s dangerous my friend. – Yeah, all right. So now tell me how to get
on the front page of– (chuckles)
– Sure. (overlapping dialogue)
So Google and YouTube actually have a lot of similarities in terms of you know, how
the ranking systems work. There’s lots of differences, but Google in particular, so the organic results, are driven largely by just a few inputs. So it is how authoritative and
well known is your website, and that relies a lot on
who links to your website. So other people linking to your website from their own websites tends to enhance your importance in Google’s eyes. The more important that people are linking to you, the better, right? If you can get a link
from the New York Times or from you know, random
Chase’s shadysneakers.info, you should go for the
New York Times, right? That’s where you want that link. Another big piece of that is certainly using the words and phrases that people search for. So you know, if for example
you are a graphic designer and lots of people are
searching for you know, graphic design Seattle but you wanna be creative
and so you’ve chosen to describe yourself with
these other words and phrases, you’re like no, I’m a–
– Holistic (chuckles)– – Yeah, I’m a technical master of visual turned 2D. Oh no, like that’s what, you know, you wanna have your unique
brand, I totally get it, but no one searches in that way. One of my favorite examples was actually, this is years ago, but the New York Times, there were tons of people, do you remember this airplane
landed in the Hudson River right, they made a movie
about it, like captain, was it like Sully, Jay Sullenberger or something like that?
(overlapping dialogue) – Yeah.
– Played by Tom Hanks. – Yeah, played by Tom Hanks, right. So lands in the Hudson River and this was one of like
The New York Times’s wake up calls on SEO
because they wrote something to the effect of you know, a creative headline like plane lands in the river and you know, captain saves the crew,
that kind of thing. And of course the Washington Post wrote Hudson River plane crash averted, right? And what is everyone searching for, right? Hundreds of thousands,
millions of people that day are searching for Hudson River plane, Hudson River plane crash, right? And Washington Post
outranks the New York Times, The New York Times goes okay,
maybe we should think about using the words and phrases people are actually searching for. So that is certainly something to do, and that requires doing
some research, right? You have to research what keywords, what words and phrases are
people entering into Google. Google has a sort of
free tool through AdWords that you can look up. But even if you just
start typing in Google, then you see the drop down, right, and they show you which things
are coming up more popularly. That can help, they have related searches that they show at the bottom
of the search results. That can help. And there’s some tools,
Moz has some tools, so does some others. Another big important one,
solve the searcher’s problem. When someone enters a query, what they’re saying is I
have this problem right now and I want you to solve it for me. And that problem is often bigger than just the question they’re asking with the words they enter. And Google has gotten extremely good at recognizing when a website and when a particular web page solves that problem for people. And if you solve that problem
better than anyone else on the first page, that
is a true path to ranking that was, if we were
having this conversation five years ago, that
would not be the case. Google wasn’t that
sophisticated and advanced. So that’s a big powerful part of that. – Is the definition of solving a problem measured by bounce time, by engagement? What are some of the ways that, how does Google know that
you’ve done a good job? – It’s pretty sophisticated actually. So Google is tracking sort of ongoing long term user behavior. So let’s say for example
you and I are looking for the best sushi restaurant in Seattle. And so you know, we both, we and a thousand other
people go to Google and we search for best sushi restaurants and you know, we visit
the TripAdvisor page and the Yelp page and you
know, the Seattle Times page. And statistically speaking what happens is what Google sees is that many of us after visiting, you know let’s say the Yelp results, go back to Google and search again or click a different result. But the people who end up on
Eater’s website, they stay. They don’t come back to Google. If they do come back to Google, they search for different things. Over the course of the
next week, month, year, they don’t perform that search
or related searches again. Oh, wait a minute. – They found their home.
– They found their home. They found an answer,
they have been satisfied, they don’t need to ask
this question anymore and therefore, Eater must be a great place for people to get the solution. So even if it doesn’t have great links, even if it’s not using keywords perfectly, maybe we should put them up at the top. So it’s not necessarily bounce rate. Some queries are solved (finger snaps) very, very quickly. You know, if you wanna
search for you know, Seattle home price growth
2016 to 2018, right, a website should be able to say okay, the average home price increase was 45% over that period. Boom, answered, done. I got it in four seconds,
I’m out of there, my bounce rate is incredibly high but I’m not going back to
Google and searching it again. Right? And so they call this pogo sticking where you jump to a website and then bounce back to the search results and choose something else. And a low pogo sticking rate will give you a great chance
to rank well on Google. – Mmm, I’m taking some
notes here for our team. – Yeah, yeah, I mean this
is definitely a big one. – Picking your brain here for my own, no, I think that just conceptually there’s a lot of folks, obviously finding success on the Internet is an important part of being a creator, whether that’s at your own
website or blog or whatever. So I think the short answer if I’m gonna put words in your mouth is that there’s a
handful of these things– – Yeah, and there’s another half dozen that we could talk about but
we don’t have to get deep into. But yeah, you can. In fact I would urge folks who want to you know,
you could search Google for learn SEO, and if you
pick up just the basics from some of those free guides, you know there’s a good one on Moz, there’s a video class
that I did on Skillshare and Whiteboard Friday, stuff like that, just a tiny bit, an hour
or tow will take you from I don’t know anything about SEO, to okay, I know enough to you know, be a little dangerous, to at
least get started on this path. And that can be transformative. – Yeah, helpful. All right, so now again
we’re talking back and forth between past and present,
specific in general. Now I wanna go to something, which is the problem
you’re trying to solve now. Again, product’s not out yet, what are the things, a
handful of behaviors, not dissimilar to handful of
SEO things you need to know about where your people are. Where my people at, Rand? – Yeah, so this is actually
an incredibly hard problem to solve today. I mean, one of the reasons
that we wanted to build SparkToro is because as I
described to you the process that you know, sophisticated
marketers go through to solve this would be
like, I don’t wanna do that. (overlapping dialogue)
That sounds so hard. But if you wanna have a really good idea of where your audience
is actually hanging out, and this is truly important
because there’s kind of, I almost view it like
there’s these two ways to reach people. If people are already searching for the thing that you offer, right, there’s a bunch of demand,
people go to Google and they search for this thing, great. SEO is awesome for you. What if no one’s searching
for the thing that you make? What if you’re making
something totally new? An example. In fact, one of the ones
that inspires SparkToro was here in Seattle, a
couple of friends of mine who you might know, Joe Heitzeberg
and Ethan from Crowd Cow. – Yup, (mumbles) from Crowd Cow. – Okay, so Crowd Cow, you know, this idea is Ethan was like I wanna provide high quality,
sustainable, you know, Japanese-style graded
beef in the United States that anyone can order online. But of course Americans are not used to ordering beef on the Internet. Like we went and did, I did the queried research for them and I was like okay, yeah,
there’s about 50 people a month who are looking for buy stake online. Like, that is not gonna move
the needle on your business because people, when they want stake, they go to a grocery store, they don’t think of it as like a, it’s a commodity, right? It’s not thought of as
like a high end product. There’s no craft beef movement
like there is with beer or whiskey or–
(laughs) – We’re gonna rank highly for
the search term craft beef– – Craft beef.
– When we put this transcript on the Internet.
(chuckles) It’s craft beef. – Not a hyper competitive
thing until Crowd Cow, yeah. So basically they’re trying
to create this movement and they’re working with all
these farms, and it’s awesome. Like, I got to try some of the beef. It’s different! like, it’s truly different in the way that a great Scotch is way better
than Johnnie Walker, right? (laughs) It’s a massive, massive upgrade. And so we talked about
this and I said you know, I think that the only way you’re gonna grow this thing is by finding the influential people in like the foodie world, and not just people but publications and broadcasts and channels
and all these, events and all this kind of stuff
and getting Crowd Cow to be the thing that they’re
all talking about, right? If, you know, you go to a foodie event and people are up there on stage, if you go to a restaurant and they say we serve, you know, Crowd Cow beef, if you go on Instagram and
your favorite food journalist is posting about visiting
farms and ranches and getting great Crowd Cow beef, okay, that’s how you create this movement. But it’s not gonna happen through search. – It’s not gonna happen overnight. – Oh no, it’s a long process, absolutely. – This is another thing
that nobody wants to hear, that you have to like eat dirt for awhile, and everyone wants this sort of quick fix. – Chase, I don’t known
about Creative Live, but I was blogging every night on SEOmoz from 2003 To 2007, eight. So four or five years, or five years. Four nights a week, Monday
through Thursday night. Sorry, Sunday through Thursday nights before I ever broke 2,000 visits in a day. Takes a long, long time to build. Now granted now that I
know what I’m doing, right, it’s faster with SparkToro. – Of course.
– But building that flywheel takes an incredible amount of time. And so yeah, if you wanna get a great idea of where is my audience, you first have to know who they are. Who is the right audience for you? And I think that means figuring out people who are likely to have a high recidivism or retention rate, right? Recidivism meaning they come back to you, your website, your business a lot. Retention meaning they just stick with it if you have a subscription or you know, a product that’s multiple
use, that kind of thing, or service like that. And then what you ideally wanna do is you sort of wanna steal
their phone and their laptop. I mean this almost literally because, so you can survey your audience and you can say like okay,
who do you pay attention to? Who do you follow, what do you read, what do you listen to, you
know, what do you watch? And they’ll give you answers
that are biased, right, by whatever, their own recent experience or a bunch of other things. But if you could actually
like take their phone and be like okay, that’s
who you follow on Instagram, that’s the YouTube
channels you subscribe to, this is the subreddits
that you visit, you know, here’s all your bookmarks, that’s what you ideally wanna do. There are a few other manual
ways of getting at that. One, if you have a lot of money, you can buy it through
click stream services like Jumpshot and SimilarWeb. This is what a lot of
enterprise businesses will do. They’ll go buy a bunch
of click stream data and then like narrow it down to okay, people who visit these
two sites, you know, whatever it is–
– Yeah, let’s assume that the listeners–
– Yeah, are not gonna have access to that. You can, with SimilarWeb
they have a public version you can do like a trial with them, then it becomes I think
five or 600 bucks a month, but you can do a trial with them and go and see like okay,
people who visit you know, savoire.com also go to eater.com, also go to you know, here’s
these other foodie websites. So that might be a way
to dig in for a low cost. The other thing that you can do definitely is, and a lot of people do this, is they will go to Google and just start searching like mad, right? Search for you know, what
are the popular podcasts in this area, what are the
popular YouTube channels in this area, what are the
popular Instagram accounts and then they’ll try and
filter that by, yeah, followers and visitors and
all these kinds of things and build up a big giant database. That’s how a lot of professionals do it. – All right, very general
question, art or science? – Both, totally both, right? And SEO is the same way. Both of these, I think
marketing in general, that’s what attracted me to it, right? Because I–
– What’s the saying? 50% of your marketing dollars are wasted, you just don’t know which 50%. – Right, right. (laughs) yeah, yeah. And I think this is why for years I never spent any money on marketing. I was an organic-only kind of guy, right? I love that, I love
content, social and search, that sort of thing. But yeah, this is a practice where you’ll do a lot of trial and error, you’re gonna do a lot of muddling through. And building an audience is definitely, it’s in high demand
because it is challenging. – Yes, let’s talk about
now what kind of content can build audience? So what we are disproportionately is an audience of creators
and entrepreneurs. And the people who listen to the show watch the show whether it’s
video, audio, whatever, and making is in their blood. We think of ourselves and one another, and I think of the show as in service of a really cool part of the Internet, because you’ve familiar
with the Internet triangle, you know, the bottom 90%
there are laying back, there’s a 9% you know,
the top 9% from 90 to 99, they are participators. And then there’s 1% of the Internet that actually makes stuff. And so I like to think of this, folks who are watching, listening, everybody’s in that 1%. There’s a lot of engaged makers. And the challenge is like well, how do I know that my stuff
is different or better? Or how do I stand out in a crowd especially in a world where content, if we just think about photography, there’s trillions of
photographs uploaded every year. And so what kind of content,
remember the audience, we’re speaking to an audience of makers, what kinds of content? Or is there are a rhyme
or a reason or a pattern, or give us a framework for how to think about the content that we make. – Yeah, so the advice I always
give folks around, you know, I wanna start doing marketing, I wanna start creating things that will grow my audience. And what I say is let’s
imagine a Venn diagram with three circles and
you are trying to find the inner section of these three circles. Circle number one is a medium that you personally are passionate about, that you are interested in. And I say that not just because, you know, you’ll be able to sort
of do better at things that you are passionate
about or because you know, following your passion
is such common advice. I say it because I have never, I have never observed a creator, a maker, who’s like I know that
I should be on Twitter but I really hate Twitter. I’ve never seen them do well. It just doesn’t, you
know, like if that medium doesn’t resonate with you, if you are not excited
and interested in it– – I hate bench press but I’m gonna become really strong at bench
press, almost no one ever– – Yeah, I mean
(overlapping dialogue) Yeah, exactly, exactly. Like it’s just you need to find
that area of passion first. So find something that you
know you could get interested, even if you’re not super
excited about it today, do you feel like oh yeah, I
think Instagram or YouTube or– – You’re talking about media right now. – Yeah, medium.
– So it’s writing, photography, video–
– Absolutely, software, right? Like, I think I could write
really cool tools and software. I think I could do really interesting visual representations of data. I think I could do really cool
mixed media installation art. Whatever it is, right? Those kinds of things. And also the channels. I am excited about podcasting, I am excited about video creation and leveraging you know,
YouTube and potentially my own website, you
know, website for that. And I am excited about these other broadcast forms. Like I love live events, whatever it is. Okay, next one is area where you believe you can create something of unique value. So there are lots of people
creating photographs. What sets yours apart? What is the unique element? Why is it not just different
but valuable in its difference? Is it something that you
know, oh it has this great resonance with this audience or it appeals in a way that
other photographs do not. Or it’s perfect for X, and no one else is. I think that, that can be really exciting. It exposes, you know, maybe you’re doing journalistic photography
that exposes some issue that no one else is talking about or that needs attention and awareness, those kind of things. And the third one is an area where your audience
actually plays, right? So you know, going after, saying hey, I am in the chemical engineering space and I’m really passionate
about creative photography, and Instagram is one of the places where I wanna do a lot of my broadcasting and maybe a few other channels. Well, if chemical engineers
don’t hang out there and that’s your audience and
that’s you need to reach, got to cross that one off the list and find something else, right? So if you can get all
three of those aligned and you can find an intersection of those, that’s where I see magic happen. – Aha. So I will use an example,
a deconstructed example. I mentioned earlier my
friend, Brandon Stanton, Humans of New York. So would his three areas, I’m gonna try and describe them. One is he was passionate
about photography, left his job as a bond trader, moved to New York to try
and take 10,000 portraits because he was just passionate– – And particularly interested in specifically portrait photography. – Specifically portrait photography and specifically in New York. He wanted to catalog
and put them on a map. And then when he realized
his differentiator was, and this is like unique value, was that he had the ability to capture people’s stories auditorily,
he was listening to them talk while he was taking their photographs. And when he put, it’s pretty funny, he’s got a presentation on Creative Live where he talks about taking a picture and his first picture has like one like and it was his mom or something like that. And then when he started
combining a photograph with a little narrative
about, a little backstory about this person, that,
that all of a sudden, was like exponentially more interesting than just the photograph. So his sort of value proposition was he became the best in the world at taking a picture,
and he describes himself as a good photographer, not
as a great photographer. But what he’s great at is the combination of these two things. So that’s his unique value add. So what would his third be? Is it because people are on Facebook and people are looking
for human interest stories and for connection? – Yeah, I mean, and I
think that also he found, so I’m not massively
familiar with his work. I’m definitely familiar with
his social accounts, right, his social accounts
which did amazingly well. And also, at a time
when there was a rise in you can easily combine a photograph and a block of text together into a bunch of mediums
that have wide reach, right? So I think that helped. And then also turning that into you know, books and mixed media
and you know, interviews and other kinds of things. – Yeah, now he’s got shows,
he’s got television shows, he’s got a really
successful speaking deal. But it’s really about the art for him and all these other things have become– – Well, it’s ways for
the art to reach people. – For sure, I think that’s what I’m trying to distinguish there. So I wanna ask you at home
if you’re listening to this or watching it, like what is your series of overlapping Venn diagrams where you find the thing
that you’re passionate about, you find the thing that you are unique, how do you exploit that
and where ar those people? And the word exploit, I use that term in the sort of conceptual term, like what you wanna do
is if you have a thing, a skill that you have, like
how do you manifest that? I’m not trying to exploit any individuals, it’s really how do you maximize the value of a particular
skill or set of interests that you have. Okay, so to me we just traced a little bit sort of the math and the
technical about how you, not, I mean, you can get crazy– – We can go real deep–
– Yeah, super deep. And for that, like, if this has been tantalizing, tantalizing?
– Tantalizing. – Yeah, (chuckles). Then you’ve got so many amazing videos– – Oh yeah, sure.
– Where it’s you in front of a whiteboard, so
speaking since we’re talking about content now, this was– – Oh, this is a perfect example of that. – This is the perfect example, share your own personal example. – Yeah, so we, this again was sort of an accidental discovery but I started explaining to one
of my colleagues at work– – He’s a good explainer, as you can tell from this particular podcast. – I sort explained to one
of my colleagues at work, you know, here is how a 301 redirect is different than a 302 redirect. You don’t have to know much
about them but regardless, Google thinks about them differently, web browsers treat them
differently, et cetera. So I’m explaining this
and my colleague at work is like hang on, hang on, we
just got a new video camera, I’m gonna grab the camera, it was a cheap crappy
camera in 2007, you know, and film it and then
we’ll put it on the blog. Well, we put it on the blog, it did not perform well. In fact, statistically speaking, we did it again the next week and kept doing it to
try and get better at it because we were sort of interested in it and because frankly, it saved
me a night of blogging, right? I can spend 15 minutes
in front of a whiteboard explaining something to one
of my colleagues at work, and now when I go home at night, I don’t have to blog, oh this is great. So I went from you
know, five nights a week of blogging to four. And I think a year in, Whiteboard Friday, which is what we called this video, we always put it up late Thursday night for folks to get early Friday
morning in the UK and Europe, the video series did, you know, mediocre. Not nearly as well as
most of our blog content. Fast forward three years, we built a studio into our new offices when we got new offices, we vastly upgraded the camera, we sound proofed the studio, you know, not quite as fancy as this
but really, really good for, we figured out how to not get glare and reflection on the
white board, you know, all these kinds of basic things. And I got better at explaining things and being on camera and
all that sort of stuff. And so Whiteboard Friday
became this phenomenon where all these people in the
SEO and web marketing world would sit down together
for lunch on Fridays in their offices around the world and they’d watch Whiteboard
Friday for you know, 10 minutes and then they talked about whatever subject matter was in it. And by I think three years into it, it was performing as well as you know, the rest of our blog content. Five years in, it was consistently our best-performing content. So it had built up this following. And because of its serial nature, I think it resonated with folks. And of course, yeah, it
was also very unique. There were not a lot of places
(overlapping dialogue) yeah, not a lot of places to go and be like okay, how
can I, in 10 minutes, understand a concept in the SEO world? And I wanna do it via video because reading something in text, it doesn’t resonate
with me in the same way. And there are lots of, you know, visual learner who learn better that way. Obviously many of the
folks watching this, right? – And me.
– Yeah, yeah! Which is awesome, right? I had this same experience recently. I started, a friend of mine asked me to play Dungeons and Dragons which I had never played. I wanted to when I was a kid, but when I asked my friends at school, I was like shamed and
embarrassed so much so that I wanted to leave that school. Like, it was just terrible, right? Because when we were kids,
D&D was this awful thing. So for 25 years, I never played. And then my friend earlier this year was like, oh you should play. And I started googling
around to learn how to play. I found this guy’s YouTube
channel and it was extraordinary. I had this like oh, why am I watching, I’m just watching a
talking head on YouTube but I’m super into it. And it finally clicked with me, like oh, I think I’m getting
why Whiteboard Friday worked for other people, right? – Years ago.
– Yeah, years ago and continuing to this day. You know, I filmed a bunch
of them before I left Moz and so they continue to
put out some with me, and then they’re trying
to sort of back fill other hosts now. But yeah, that video series hit those three spots really nicely, right? It was something that
I was passionate about, I love explaining SEO to people and helping make this mysterious
world less mysterious. I was uniquely good at being on camera and filming in a single take and being able to draw
something on the whiteboard that made sense to people and resonated, and this was a unique format that people didn’t have before. And we had a distribution channel where people actually hung out. So by putting it, so we
did something very unique which I would actually recommend to anyone who’s a video creator. We put the videos first using Wistia, which is a self hosted platform, put it on Moz, on our blog, our website. After three months, we then
upload the video to YouTube. And this is because we
want everyone to know and to get into the habit
of come to our website to get the latest and greatest first, and then yeah, we also want
if people are searching on YouTube to be able to find it there. And many people did find Whiteboard Friday initially through YouTube. We wanna be in there, right,
in the recommendation engine and all those kinds of things, we can get that visibility, but it also meant in Google’s results, if you search for you
know, whatever it is, how to do a 301 redirect, the Whiteboard Friday video
that pops up number one is on moz.com, not on youtube.com– – Interesting, so you think
that’s still the case? – Yeah, mostly still the case. Sometimes YouTube will
outrank us, but pretty rarely. – Interesting. And what about as a philosophy? Like needing to go where the people are? You’re just saying that you developed, could you only get that sticky because you already had
a place where people were hanging out that was
probably more valuable than YouTube, and part two
is, is that still the case that you can ever outrank YouTube for your own video content? – So yes to both. So I strongly recommend,
especially for B2B, right, so if your business does
something in the, you know, services world or you’re
serving businesses, that kind of thing, putting
it on your own site. And you don’t have to do what
we did and wait three months. If you want to–
– Three days– – Yeah, you could wait
a day, a week, right, and put it up on YouTube and sort of have your YouTube channel and
at the end of every video, say if you wanna see the latest video, first go to my website.com
and subscribe there. We always put them up, whatever it is, a day, a few hours. And the people who are obsessed with you, they want that content earlier, they’re gonna come,
they’re gonna come to you, they’re gonna give you
their email address, you’re gonna be able to
cookie them on your site, you get analytics about them
that YouTube won’t provide, you can see exactly how
far they watch the video. Like, there’s all sorts of
cool stuff that you know, by using Wistia or similar service and hosting on your own
platform, it’s awesome. – You talked about obsessed people. I think you’re really making
stuff for that group, right? Is that a thing for you? – I think so. I mean, and obviously I’m someone, when I find something new that I like, I get very, very obsessed, right? So I got obsessed with
SEO for 17 years, right? And I got obsessed, yeah I
got obsessed with D&D, right, in the last like, three months
with my friend pretty fast. And I got obsessed with
this world of sort of finding the publications and people that influence your audience and– – Finding your tribe?
– Yeah, obsessed with solving that problem. I’m a little bit fashion obsessed. Like, I get into things. – So I think I’m gonna now, I’m gonna shoot some darts, we’re gonna play darts.
– Excellent! – So most compelling, your
personally most compelling idea that you believe is in the book. – Oh gosh. So there’s a story, there’s a story that I tell in the book about my wife, Geraldine,
who a few years ago, while I was CEO at Moz, she’d be having bad
headaches for a long time, she went into her doctor’s office, she got an MRI and it turned
out it was a brain tumor on her hypothalamus, which is like right in the middle of everything, very hard to access and they weren’t sure whether
it was cancerous or not. They were worried it was
something called glioma and you know, the survival
rates are awful for that. So for the next, you know, month, while we were sort of waiting
to figure out you know, going through all the medical stuff and figuring out what we were
gonna do and all of that, you know, my mental, just existence, was gone. I did not have the bandwidth to think about anything else. I mentioned I’m pretty obsessive, I have an extremely close, you know, probably codependent but you know, in a very romantic
loving way with my wife, who I’ve been with for forever since ’01. And this just shattered me, right? I had this like, I think
I wrote about this, like I had this belief in my head, I was like this is the price you pay. If you have a romance as good as ours, you don’t get to have it for long. Like, I see how the world is, I was sure she was, I was like convinced that this was gonna be the end and maybe a little
fatalistic on that front. And I went into Moz, into my company, there were maybe 60 of us at the time, and I called an all hands
meeting, just impromptu, like in our lobby, and I shared this. Like I told everyone, I
could barely get it out, I was like choking on my own tears and just you know,
falling apart, total mess. And that experience was incredible. It was so powerful, Chase. Like people were just like hugging me and just showing all
this love and dedication. And I mean, the team like
stepped up and fired up and inspired and I don’t know,
it’s a weird thing, right? Like especially when you’re told, hey, when you have that personal stuff, don’t bring that to the office. And you know, if you’re
a real man, you don’t cry and you definitely don’t do it in front of other people and– – And people that work for you. – Yeah, people that work for you, like they’ll lose respect for you, they’ll think that the
company’s in trouble because you can’t focus, all this stuff. None of that happened, right? Instead what happened was
people like stepped up and it was very cool because
over the last few years, Google and a number of universities have been doing a ton of research about what predicts whether a team performs incredibly well or not, right? What makes for an outstanding
team inside a company? And so Google had all
these theories, right? They’d go and test them
and try to validate them. Like, they’re made up
of the smartest people or the best programs, or like you know, if you where the strongest
contributor on this team, you’ll be the strong, you know, and we put all our strongest
contributors together, they’ll do this. Or maybe you know, it’s teams
that are led by you know, certain types of managers, whatever it is. The strongest predictor that they found was not any of those things. It was something called
psychological safety. You could get together
relatively poor performers who hadn’t gotten great grades, who like sort of got through
the Google interview process but relatively low, that are
somewhat new to the company. But if the social cohesion of that group, if everyone in the group
basically said you know, answered yes to questions like I feel comfortable sharing
personal details with my team, I know that I won’t be
judged for my failures or my mistakes; I believe
that I could share, you know, embarrassing things about
my work or my personal life with every other person on my team; I believe that this is a
safe place for me, that. Not, how good a programmer you were, not whether your code
had done really well, not if you got straight As in
school and went to Harvard. Nope! That, psychological safety,
was the strongest predictor of a team’s success. And I not only love, I mean
I sort of love that idea but I love how unconventional it is. I don’t think any of us
think about that when we, I know I hadn’t when I was
hiring and building teams and trying to coach
people and upgrade them. And yet I had this experience
too, right, where– – This is a theme that I
feel like I’m extracting in real time from our conversations, is this unconventional winning. And whether it’s with psychological safety or what everyone else is
telling you, you shouldn’t, that’s when you’re
doubling down on the thing. Like for example email, everyone’s like, no man, it’s
all about the thousand more Twitter followers or Instagram followers. You’re like, I’d rather
have 10 email addresses. This unconventional
wisdom to me is almost, You know I think about
zigging instead of zagging, I’ve used it doing gallery shows when I was trying to build an
online following, for example. And that’s a really powerful
story from the book. I feel like what I know about the book, which is not all that
much, it’s very rare for me to sit with an interview not
having consumed a book and– – I’ll make sure I get you one– – Yeah, yeah, but is this me ascribing on you how you’ve won or
how you’ve been successful? Or do you feel like this
is actually a strategy that what is the unconventional, and I mean if I think
about it, it’s a little bit of my buddy Tim Ferriss, you know Tim, just what are the things that are creating outstanding results when
you don’t expect them to and how do you– – I think there’s a little bit of that and you know, I sort of
go a step further which is can I reverse engineer
and truly understand why do these bits of common wisdom, or whether they’re true or not, right, whether they’re myths or
whether they’re authentically part of the story, why do they exist? In whose interests are they? Why do we believe the way
we do about these things? And I think by digging into that you can find out which ones are, oh this is best practice. This is a thing that lots of people do because it’s a smart thing to do, right? – Yeah, getting an hour of sleep. – We should all do that if we wanna get ahead. And then I think there’s
also when you dig into that you often find these
interesting, you know, nuggets of that’s not actually true. That’s only applicable
to these certain types of you know, businesses or organizations or worked for these folks
but it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone or it’s an outlier, or it’s a myth that’s propped up because it’s very useful
to this particular class of person or you know, (chuckles) organization or whatever. – Rule makers are by and
large making the rules so you play by them. – Yeah, I mean I think
Facebook knew exactly what they were doing when they said hey, build your brand
and business on Facebook and we will get you in
front of a huge audience. And for years that worked pretty well and you could reach regularly
10, 20, 30% of your audience and then they were like
okay, now we are dominant, now you get no reach at all, right? That’s a smart growth
tactic that serves them, and they knew exactly what
game they were playing. And you know, we sort of had the wool pulled over our eyes as a
result, and so that, yeah– – Any other unconventional
wisdom you can share? – Oh yeah, I mean– – Just some one offs,
we’re throwing darts here. – Sure, sure. So one of the other ones, one of the other ones that
I think I made a mistake on and a lot of people do
when they build a team is that we end up hiring, trying to hire people who are extremely good at their particular sort of job role or function and not necessarily
that they’re phenomenal sort of cultural and social
fits for the organization, you know, things like
do you share the same core values as our team? Do you believe the same
things about work like I think, I personally have
the belief that great work can be done from anywhere at any time and that requiring you know, oh, you should be in the
office eight hours a day at your desk because that’s the place where you’ll get the most work done, I don’t think that’s particularly true. Beliefs about who should we, who should we promote,
who should we fire, why? Those kinds of shared beliefs. That’s not something people
optimize for when they hire. I didn’t. I mean, obviously I don’t
know what I was doing, I was a kid when it started this thing. And then frustratingly we
also make the same mistake once someone gets on to our team. So it’s like okay, you’re on
a performance improvement plan and we might have to let you go because you didn’t get as much work or as high quality work
done as we need you to, as we expect you to. You, person, who did get that stuff done but is sort of causing
lots of strife and chaos and is generally perceived as
a butt hole by team members, we’re working with you
on your social skills and your cohesion skills, and we’ll invest a lot of energy into that so long as you perform. And what we should do is reverse those because it turns out it is vastly easier, what is Creative Live all about? Improving and upgrading the skills, the actual skills that
everyone has, right, around their particular
area of making and creating. That is the thing that
is totally possible. That is the thing that is pretty easy. Social cohesion and cultural fit and getting people to share
your values and ethics, you can work for a long time with people you will not get those results. And so unfortunately, what
teams do is they don’t hire and they don’t keep and train people who lack the sort of
fundamental core skills around their job and they keep and retain and try and work on the people who don’t have core value
things and are toxic. And if you could reverse those, you can get extraordinary results. And I’ve actually seen a
bunch of organizations, especially, I know a number
of like consulting shops and creative shops that
basically take people who have very few skills, they train them up because
they’re a great culture fit and as a result, they
get them for you know, a lower cost than a lot
of their competitors and they have more cohesion
and more psychological safety and you know, and a
team that’s more aligned and they get more done and
their margins are better. – Culture eats strategy
for breakfast, right? – It definitely eats tactical
execution for breakfast. – Yeah.
– Yeah. – So what about in your personal life? What’s the thing that you do that you find most other people don’t do or that people would be surprised to know? – Oh yeah. Gosh, I mean I am… Like, we talked a little bit about, I’m someone who… I think many people who observe me and sort of you know, feel like oh, Rand has achieved a lot of success and a lot of notoriety, whatever, with the companies he’s built
and all this other stuff, I think people would be surprised to learn how relatively indulgent I am with sort of personal me time on all sorts of fronts, right? So I regularly get eight
hours or more of sleep. I spend a good amount of time on just you know, my wife and I having folks, friends over
and doing social stuff and traveling and having fun and probably more than a
lot of people who, you know, work 40, 45 hours a week, right? We watch TV, I play some video games. I am not overly obsessive like, but I will say what I found
that’s odd for me, not odd, I think it’s actually true
for a lot of people but I had a hard time recognizing it so my least productive years were when I was working the most. Like the most numbers of hours, right? And I had plenty of those 60, 70-hour. I don’t think I ever had an 80-hour week but 60, 70-hour weeks. And I could get very little accomplished. And now, with sort of
a, I think like a lower amount of stress lifestyle when I have something I need to get done, I need to you know, create a great talk for Moz com this week and you know, about marketing launches, put together you know,
this hour-long PowerPoint, oh and we’re gonna launch
this piece of software, this free tool added and
all these kinds of things, I can crank those out (snaps) like that. Things that would take
me during my you know, 60-hour weeks, I’d be like oh man, I need like three, four
weeks to develop this thing; I can get them done in three or four days. I can just crank through it in you know, four or five hours a day and
get all of that work done. I am shockingly productive
when I have more personal time. – Do you meditate or do you
have any mindfulness practices? – Not formally, but I do have– – A lot of alone time–
– Yeah, the alone time thing and I worked with my therapist on sort of identifying just a
personal practice for myself that I do regularly, which is to– – Like a talk track or
something and you’re… – Yeah, like an internal monologue thing where I just go through the, what are the things that
I did today and this week? What are the things I’m sort
of excited about for tomorrow and the next week? What are things that I
was frustrated about, and can I let those frustrations go? Can I understand why I’m
frustrated about them? And then the next one, and this is like the help me fall asleep thing, is the what’s something
that has nothing to do with my professional life
that I’m sort of like interested in or thinking about? So I’ll think about a TV show
or a game or I don’t know, some friends I’m gonna see or
a trip we’re planning or D&D, whatever it is, right? And I’ll put that in my head, and that helps get me into
kind of a peaceful place. So that practice was really healthy. Has been healthy for me. – A, thank you; B, what’s the best way for people to pay attention
to you in your new work? – Oh, sure, sure. Yes, so you should follow me on Instagram. No.
(laughs) – No, no, you’re basically
you’re @randfishkin on most things, right? – @randfish on, yeah, on
Twitter on most things. Yeah certainly if folks,
if creators out there have questions about, you know, SEO stuff or web marketing stuff
and I can be helpful, I’m [email protected],
it’s my email address. – Spark with an S-P-A-R-K-T-O-R-O. – SparkToro, exactly, yup.
– Got it. – And yeah, our website you
can find that on there as well. And yeah, I’m most active
on Twitter, @randfish. I’m about 70% web marketing stuff and then 30% social issues. So if you’re comfortable
with that balance, great. – Sweet. Thank you so much for sitting
down and talking to us. – Are you kidding me,
Chase, this was awesome! – Long time in the making. And for those folks at home, pay attention to this guy right here. Check out the new book too. Congradulations on that.
– Yeah, thank you. – I’ll see you again
probably, hopefully tomorrow. – Bye.
(uplifting music)

21 thoughts on “Unconventional Ways to WIN with Rand Fishkin | Chase Jarvis LIVE

  • Do you make content? You need to listen to this…as getting your stuff seen / heard is critical to your success and Rand is the OG master… ⚡⚡⚡

  • Wow, I really enjoyed that. Rand covered a whole lot of great stuff. I really loved the part where Rand touched on business culture. I know what it's like to work for an organization for that systematically rewarded managers that performed well while stepping on employees.

  • Ok, so first of all I love your show Chase! Thank you for all the incredible value you provide from you and your guests for free!!
    So what I was left with this show was wondering if his mom past away from cancer…. And his wife's tumor and how she's doing now… Just was waiting for the conclusion

  • Wow!! So full of great content! Over already listened to it twice and I want to so many more times. So much info!!

  • Pogo Sticking has been confrimed by Google to not be a ranking factor. Yet you argue in your video that it is.

  • Chase you keep getting better and better everytime. Thank you for helping me through business and life. Much love

  • Such a good episode!

    Really liking the discussion about the hard parts, and the depression that can come with these gigs. More of that, please.

    I’ve always been upbeat but depression snuck up on me a few years ago when I was struggling financially, trying to make it as a photographer. Figuring out how to manage that was just as important as figuring out the other aspects of business.

    I started a blog recently where I talk frankly about this aspect of my life as a home based photographer (lonelyphotographeronline.wordpress.com). I’d encourage others to write about their experience as well.

    There’s value in hearing these stories and knowing we’re not alone in our struggle, and also to see that it’s possible to push through and find success.

    Thanks for all you do, Chase!

  • one of my favorite recent interviews. Listened to it on podcast and am sure I will be coming back to it in the future because there are so many useful tactical bits!

  • This is sooo helpful. Thank you so much. I have been struggling with hownto draw people to both of my companies and this makes so much sense about having my own homebase. My own website. I have been using Facebook and instagram as homebases and never received the expected bumps even when I paid to promote my posts. I cannot thank you enough for this guys. Off to get a website 😊

  • Easy to see why these handsome fellows are both tribe leaders–I learned so much and the raw honesty and integrity really resonates. Totally worth the time to listen.

  • THIS!!! Unconventional wisdom it is! Plus it's crazy the 'unconventional' way I came across this video. From trying to apply to an accelerator, seeing someone complain about Rand, trying to find out who Rand was and why the complaints and here I am….getting schooled to the core! Thanks so much for all the wisdom Rand. Just got your book. Looking forward to the read and more wisdom! Thanks for the awesome interview Chase!

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