SEO best practices are constantly changing as search engines fine tune the way they determine how to rank content. Here’s what’s working right now.
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, iPullRank founder Mike King shares the SEO strategies that he’s using now to get results for his clients.
From content and keyword strategies, to natural language generation, internal link generation and technical content optimization, Mike goes into detail with tips about how you can spot SEO issues that might be hurting your rankings, and what you can do to fix existing problems and proactively position your site to rank well.
If you love getting into the technical weeds (like I do), this episode is for you!
Resources from this episode:
- Visit the iPullRank website
- Check out Mike’s movie Runtime
- Follow Mike on Twitter
- Read Mike’s Medium article “This, too, shall pass”
Kathleen (00:00): Welcome back to the inbound success podcast. I’m your host Kathleen Booth. And this week I am excited to welcome my guest Mike King, who is the managing director of iPullRank. Welcome Mike
Mike (00:32): Kathleen. Thanks for having me.
Kathleen (00:34): So excited for you to be here because I heard you speak back in, I think we decided it was 2016. I was attending Wistia Fest, which is not a thing anymore. It was an awesome annual conference that Wistia ran for a few years there. And I went to it and I, I saw you, you speak on the main stage about SEO. And I remember at the time thinking this guy is amazing.
His talk is really good. It’s packed with incredible substance, which you can’t always say for main stage talks. And, and like, wow, I was just so impressed. And it was funny because recently when I was asking people in my network who I should interview for this podcast, your name came up and I kind of connected the dots. And I was like, that’s that guy? So I’m so excited that like this has come full circle and now I get to meet you and, and pick your brain.
Mike (01:40): Thanks for having me. And yeah, that was a great show. I really enjoyed Wista Fest. I really appreciate them as a company too. Like just their ethos. It kind of reminds me of early Moz. So yeah, I really love those guys.
Kathleen (01:54): And they did a very Seinfeld-esque thing where they had a great conference that was growing and they were like, we’re not going to do it anymore because we’ve realized it’s not the right thing for us, but they definitely left while they were on top. So that was cool.
So before we jump into all things SEO, can you maybe give my audience a little history on yourself and how you came to be doing what you’re doing now? And also what iPullRank does. And I should note, as I say that, that this is basically the sixth anniversary of the company, so happy anniversary, that’s a huge accomplishment.
Mike (02:32): Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. I mean, it feels crazy to be here six years and, you know, just because of like the, the weight of everything that’s happening in the world. So yeah, I’m very appreciative that we are still around. So yeah, me, my background, I did music for a living for a number of years, but, you know, before that, I grew up a very nerdy kid who learned to code from 12 and all this, and actually got into a bike accident.
And and I didn’t have health insurance cause you know, I was a rapper and this before Obamacare and I had to get a job to pay my medical bills. So first place to hire me was an SEO agency because of my, my technical skills. And then I ended up working at some bigger agencies and then some search focus firms.
Mike (03:25): And then after that, I was just like, I’m pretty sure I can do this myself. And so six years ago I started the agency just put a, put like $5,000 in a bank account and never really looked back. And so what we do is, is digital marketing of course, with a primary focus on SEO and content strategy.
And, you know, we work with a lot of clients and we really build that rapport and that trust. And then they allow us to do other things as well. So we’ve got some expertise in things like analytics and machine learning and so on. And there’s just a lot of overlap between those that allows us to be very effective and the things that we do for our clients.
Kathleen (04:03): I think it’s interesting that you say, you know, your background, you were kind of nerdy and you learned to code because I feel like what marketing has evolved into these days, that is a super power, like people who know, who understand code and who, who are more data driven and, and kind of think like a programmer there’s so much you can do with that knowledge, as opposed to the way marketing was taught way back when I studied marketing, which was like a much more about like strategy and creative.
And it’s just, it’s a different discipline today.
Mike (04:39): Yeah. And I think that we kind of exist at the confluence of like marketing technology, creative and like media, right? Like, so there’s when I worked at some bigger ad agencies, everything was pretty rigid in kind of like what you just described. It’s like, okay, you do that. We have a strategy, we do the creative, we run the media and that’s it.
But because with SEO specifically, you have to like fix the website, you end up like touching a lot of other different areas. And so that’s why we ended up getting into machine learning and things like that because all of that supports what we’re trying to do. And I kind of look at it as though, you know, the web is a program. You know, the search engine is a program. Your website is a program, that’s an input for the search engines program.
Mike (05:31): And so if you think of it as just like an ecosystem of program, you can make your website do anything and then you can make it ultimately, you know, work for these other programs. So if you think about something like personalization that is literally turning your marketing mix into a program that reacts to people’s you know, their features and their behaviors.
So yeah, I agree with you. It’s definitely a superpower because if you think of, of everything in your marketing in that way, you understand that you just have so much control over what can be done.
Kathleen (06:08): Yeah. It’s amazing. And, and I know, you know, you have pretty deep SEO knowledge and experience. In fact, you were recently you were, you’re going to be speaking at Mozcon live, which of course, due to the crazy situation that we’re in as a world, you presented at Mozcon virtual you did something really different and creative that I want to maybe start with here. So can you talk a little bit about that? Cause it’s so cool.
Mike (06:38): Yeah. We made a movie. And the way I describe it as it’s like Batman, the animated series meets the TV show, mr. Robot. And so they told me like the theme of Moz Con this year was going to be something like circus or carnival related. And I was like, all right, why don’t we use a character that’s like, kind of like the joker and make it like the three ring circus of technical SEO. And so you’ve got this protagonist who she’s like this hacker type who is when you first meet her.
She’s just like doing all this SEO stuff, like super fast. So of course you got to present it in like a Hollywood way. Cause otherwise people would get bored. And then she runs into a problem. She meets me. I’m kinda like her coach. And so during the process of me coaching her to beat these different challenges, I’m also teaching the viewer different technical SEO tactics.
Mike (07:32): So going into this, you know, like you said, I was excited to speak at Moz con live cause to me it’s like the super bowl of SEO conferences. And when they said that they were going to go virtual at first, I was a bit disappointed because I really enjoy the, you know, speaking in front of 2000 people with my newest, coolest tactics and all of that.
But then I realized like, no, this is an opportunity because not only is this virtual, but they want to do a prerecorded. And I’m like, alright, let’s maximize this media, let’s do a movie. And so my, the, the creative folks on my team were super excited about it. And we came up with a few different concepts of how we could do it. And then we just made it happen. You know, we, the, the music in the film is mostly in house.
Mike (08:21): Like the person that is the voice actor for both the clown character and the woman, that’s a protagonist also sings. The first song that you hear when the wind starts. Yes.
Her name is Neferkara, she’s our office manager. And she’s so talented. And it was really cool to be able to like extract the talents of different people across the team. So like I wrote the script, I’m also a voice actor in it, our senior visual designer, she did the design concepts and then we’ve got designer who’s also an animator who contributed.
And then, because the timeline was so compressed, we also brought in a couple of freelancers to help us out. And it was just like, you know, one of those round the clock projects until we turned it in, like we literally turned it in. Like they said, we need it by 3:00 AM. At this point I had sent on the email at two 59 and 48 seconds. But yeah, we made it happen. It was a really fun project.
Kathleen (09:23): So I just want to pause for a second. And for anybody who’s listening, he made a movie. Like this wasn’t just, let’s film a video. This is like, you made a movie, you wrote a script, you brought in talent, it had a story. It was animated, which I think is, makes it even harder and more work. That just blew me away when I heard that.
And when I saw it, I was blown away too, because it’s really good. No, it’s really good. And so where I, I’m sure the thing that everybody’s thinking as I listened to this is wait, now I need to go online and see this movie. So where is this movie? Where does it live?
Mike (10:05): Yeah. You can watch it on our website. You just go to i pull rank dot com slash runtime. Runtime is the name of the film. And it’s right there and we watch it.
Kathleen (10:16): So cool. So a lot of what that movie was about is what is working right now in SEO. And that’s really what I wanted to talk to you about because, you know, SEO is one of those things that like, you can’t learn it and be done, right. It’s just constantly changing to the point where this week, you know, all I look online and, and I’m seeing like,
Oh, there’s a core algorithm update with Google. And then, and then two days later, it’s no, they just made a mistake. And you know, there’s all this craziness happening in the world of SEO, which is why it’s so appropriate. So people who are listening to this can’t see. But if you check out the show notes, you’ll s
ee it. Mike has this awesome zoom background, which is like, it looks like the house is on fire and the Simpsons is my best guess?
Mike (11:01): It’s from that meme with the dog where everything is on fire. And he’s like, this is fine.
Kathleen (11:05): Yeah. Everything’s fine. It’s fine. Literally the world is on fire. I feel like that’s SEO half the time.
Mike (11:12): Pretty much. Yeah.
Kathleen (11:15): So, so yeah, I would love it. If you could just sort of like talk about with what you’re seeing. I mean, most of the people listen to this podcast are pretty experienced and they understand content marketing and they get keyword optimization, but there’s a whole nother level out there that I think unless you’re a specialist, you, you just, you can’t keep up with
Mike (11:35): Yeah, that’s the thing. So, I mean, SEO does change every day. There’s algorithm updates regularly lately. And the thing is, people are very reactive to those algorithm updates. That’s not the way you should approach it. Like if they roll out a new algorithm update, you got to wait a couple of weeks and see how that settles. Google is a software company, just like any other software company. And so when they roll things out, they may say, okay, we’re going to roll out these five things at once. And they may say like, okay, four of those things didn’t work. Let’s pull those back. And only one of them stays there. So if you’re jerking the wheel back and forth in reaction to them, you may end up being caught up in one of those things that wasn’t actually a problem for your site.
Mike (12:18): So I always tell my clients like, Hey, if you hear about an algorithm update, wait two weeks and then see where you fall from there. And the reality is that, you know, most of the things that you would want to do in reaction to one of those updates anyway, were things that we probably already told you you should do. Right? So it’s not, it’s not, it’s very rare that it’s a dramatic change to whatever you thought about doing or whatever your, no, you should have been doing it. And so it’s all about prioritization from there, but to your point of it being another level, like most people that are doing content marketing don’t necessarily know like how search engines think about content, right? So you may think like, okay, these are my target keywords. I got to talk about these keywords when I’m writing about a thing, that’s the top level of it.
Mike (13:12): So the way you got to think about it is that your keywords have keywords. And what I mean by that is that there’s a context that’s built based on what currently ranks for any given keyword. So as an example, if you rank for the, or you want to rank for the keyword basketball, and right now, the things that ranked for basketball also feature, you know, NBA bubble and LeBron James, and, you know, championship. Like if those words are featured on pages that rank, you also have to use those, those words on your page when you’re trying to rank for basketball. And that’s a simplified version of it. Like there are, you know, you gotta think about as far as like the topics being covered, the current, the people, places and things that are being covered. And we call this whole process of understanding that and using it technical content optimization, and it uses a lot of natural language processing to understand these concepts and so on.
Mike (14:10): But the ultimate output from that is a very data-driven brief that we use to inform the content that we create. And these concepts are super powerful. You know, like again, most people are just being like, Hey, I want to rank for basketball. So I’m going to talk about basketball and use that word 49 times, but we will beat you because we’re thinking about it the same way the search engine itself is, and we’re looking at those topics and incorporating them so strategically, I would say that any content marketer that is, you know, optimizing for SEO, they should look into these concepts, more, plenty of tools out there for it. Search metrics, have a tool called content experience. SEMrush has a tool for optimization like this. There’s a tool called phrase. So there’s plenty of tools out there that do this level of analysis.
Mike (15:02): And there’s also a tool called content success by a company called Ryte. And what they do is like, as you’re writing something, they’ll say, here’s my target keywords. It’ll say, okay, well, use these words more, talk about these subjects more so you can be more optimized with respect to what search engines expect. So that’s, that’s one of the bigger ones that I would say that people that, you know, have knowledge about SEO don’t know about this, and when they discover it, they see just like these small changes of how their writing would dramatically improve their rankings and so on.
Kathleen (15:38): Yeah. It’s interesting. Have you also heard, I keep hearing a lot of buzz about a newer tool called market muse. Have you heard about that?
Mike (15:45): Yeah, they, yeah. Market Muse. They do a very similar thing. So they they’ve actually got a lot of different features and functionality to support this type of work. And they’re also going into leveraging natural language generation pretty heavily as well. They do something that I can’t remember the name of the product, but basically they’ll give you a first draft of a piece of content based on what you’re trying to target. And that type of technology has dramatically improved in the last couple of years, you know, or even the last few months. And that when people used to try to like generate content, they usually do, what’s called content spinning. And that’s where you kind of like take an existing article and just like change the words around like use synonyms and things like that. That’s always been bad content. Now you have something called GPT two and also GPT three, which was put out by Elon Musk’s company, open AI. And it’s like really good at writing content. Like as long as you configure it, right. A human cannot tell the difference between a piece of content written by a human and written by this.
Kathleen (16:59): It’s funny that you say that because I just talked to somebody who rewrote 60% of his website using GPT three, cause he got access to the early beta and he was like, it’s performing so much better. It did a better job of saying what we do than I could have done. And, and all these people in the Slack group I’m in, went to look at it and we were all like, that’s amazing. It’s crazy. It’s like a little freaky though, because I don’t know, like what does that mean for, for the future of us as marketers? Right.
Mike (17:29): I think it means good things. You know, I think it frees us up to write content that’s valuable and creative rather than like, imagine your eCommerce site. Right. And you’re like, okay, to optimize these pages, I gotta write 200 words on every category page. No one wants to do, wants to do that. No one wants to write the copy that goes on product detail pages. They just want to be able to like take that data and turn it into something.
Well, now you can’t. And so it frees up actual copywriters and creative content marketers, and so on to think about how do we make interactive content? How do we write things that are like emotional and so on? Like, you know, I don’t think we’re going to get to a point in the near term that something like GPT three is going to be able to write conversion copy right now. I think he can give us some insights, but I don’t think it’s going to be able to very much be able to say like, okay, this certain type of person I want to write for them.
Kathleen (18:30): Well, I think your key, you said the three key words, which was in the near term, I think eventually it’ll figure it out,
Mike (18:37): Right? Like we get to enough computing power and, and people are writing the right algorithms. Yes. You can retrain anything. But right now…
Kathleen (18:45): Hopefully by that point you and I will be sitting on a beach somewhere and having a pina colada retired.
Mike (18:54): But the other thing is that I think that we’re going to get to a point where you can say, I want to rank for this keyword. And those types of tools would just ingest what ranks there and then use all those features that I’m talking about that we use as humans and it’s going to write the perfectly optimized content for you. So then what is going to, what’s gonna make, what’s going to be differentiator between you and me and how we create the content.
I think it’s going to be those creative aspects that are going to be even more valuable. So GPT three does not replace your editorial team because you’re still gonna need editors to edit whatever it spits out. And then you’re going to need creative people that can create things that don’t exist because GBT three learns from what does exist.
Kathleen (19:41): Yeah. It’s pretty crazy. But it also goes back to that point I was making earlier where, you know, programming and knowledge of code is a super power because you can’t just like get access to GPT three and just like, it will know how to write your website. Like you had there’s there’s you have to understand how to leverage those tools. And there’s a certain degree of technical sophistication required for that. At least at this stage, I’m sure at some point someone will build a software interface that will make it easy for anybody to do it, but that doesn’t exist yet. Yeah. So that’s pretty cool. So, all right. So we have number one, understanding the context around your SEO and that your keywords have keywords. I love that. What else do you got for us?
Mike (20:23): Let’s see. So I’m a strong believer that for, you know, the last like five or six years, SEO has become more content marketing. And a lot of people that do SEO don’t know much about the technical side of it. And I don’t think there’s necessarily a problem with those people. I just think that the technical stuff needs to be brought back to the forefront because a lot of things have changed about the web in the last couple years.
Mike (21:20): It’s like, well, we make the change and see what happens. Now you can do that as kind of like a step approach by taking a you know, representative sample of URLs, making that change there and validating or invalidating that hypothesis that this will work. And then once you see that it works, you can roll it out at scale. So I think that that’s something that every SEO needs to know how to do, because that’s a good way to avoid losing money.
But you know, again, that goes back to the technical aspects because that is a very technical thing to do. Like you got to know more about CDNs and how sites are set up, or you got to know about Google tag manager and things like that. So my point here is that, you know, we’re, we’re still going through what I’ve, I’ve called for a number of years.
Mike (22:07): Now, this technical SEO Renaissance where people that sit at the intersection of like code and, you know, creative marketing sophistication, and, you know, I guess SEO are able to really capitalize on things that others can. And I very much encourage, you know, SEO or content marketers to learn more about these things. So at least they can be aware and discuss with more technical people. Like how can we deploy this in such a way that what I’m doing as a content marketer works even better. So, you know, it used to be that you could just like build a site and put a bunch of great content on it.
And the links that you would attract as a result of those, those that content would yield better rankings for you. But because Google has gotten more sophisticated and they have better understanding of the pages that are very rich in that type of content, you’ve got to understand things like server side rendering and dynamic rendering and, and Google’s capabilities like where they end. So you can make sure that that content always has the best chance of ranking.
Kathleen (23:22): How much do you think the average marketer needs to learn about technical SEO? Because like, I’ve always, you know, I’ve always kind of looked at the landscape of the marketing industry and there are some people who like all they do 24 seven, like their one job is they are a technical SEO expert and they do it really, really well. But I do think, I mean, it seems to me there is some baseline level of technical, technical SEO understanding that every marketer should have. I’m curious where you fall on that.
Mike (23:53): Yeah. And I don’t think that everyone needs to know how to do like 301 redirects and fix AC access files and so on and so forth. I think they just need to be exposed to those ideas. So if you’re someone who read Moz’s, you know, beginner’s guide to SEO, I think that is a good base layer foundation of understanding technical SEO, because you’re exposed to all those problems that you might have. And you can say like, Hey, I don’t think the page that we just published is in our site map, that’s important. Or I looked at, I looked at this plugin and it showed me that, you know, what is showing up for Google is not what I see in my browser. Like understanding those base level concepts is enough because you can find an awesome technical SEO, like you described, or even just an engineer themselves and be like, Hey, I’m at, I see these problems. I’m not the expert here, but can we look into this so that we can make sure that the content I’m creating is visible to Google?
Kathleen (25:01): Yeah. That’s kind of what I was going to say is it’s like, you need to know enough to be able to recognize that you have a problem so that, you know, when to make that call, right. Like whether it’s, I have a feeling, my images are too large. And so my page is loading too slowly or, you know, it might be, I need you know, more structured data on my website. I don’t know how to do that, but I know what it is and that it needs to be done. Like there’s sort of that level that I think is important for marketers to have.
Mike (25:30): Yeah, absolutely. Cause you know, I mean, I personally come from a time back in my day where, you know, doing websites was you had one title and that was webmaster everything from master of all the web. Yeah. You were like a network administrator, you are front end and back end developer, you did Photoshop. Like you did everything. Right. So for me, like I want to know everything because I’m just used to that. But the modern web doesn’t work that way. And so people have their, like their separation of concerns and that’s fine. But I do believe that having like a general understanding of what someone like that technical SEO or engineer does just makes the end product even better. So I would recommend people just learn that foundational.
Kathleen (26:23): Yeah. That’s good advice. All right. So other things that you’re seeing really kind of move the needle these days from an SEO standpoint.
Mike (26:35): Yeah. so I mean, I’m, I’m starting to get super tactical. One of the things that we run with every single website that we pick up, especially because we work with mostly enterprise brands is they always have a bunch of external links pointing to pages that no longer exist. So the worst I’ve ever seen was, you know, one of the bigger sports organizations had 12 million links pointing to pages that 302 redirected. Now a Googler will tell you, there’s no difference from how they handle 302s and 301s. I can definitively tell you that that is not true based on my experience. And this was a case where it was like one of the few things that we were able to push through in the organization was converting those 12 million, 302s and the 301s and their traffic shot up dramatically from organic search. So ever since then, I’ve, I’ve made sure that we always look for that. And every time you always find it, that’s a problem. And one of the things that we do to make sure that that’s not a problem moving forward is is with Ahrefs, which is one of the link index tools. They have a API end point for telling you what pages have broken links. So what you can do is set up a script. And again, this is something that you would work with your engineering team on.
Kathleen (28:02): It all comes back to that coding.
Mike (28:04): And I have a script that pings that API and says, all right, here’s your list of broken links now automatically set up your 301 redirects from now. So then you don’t have to worry about that as a problem. One issue though, is that Google and I believe this would be true. I don’t have any definitive evidence of this, but it’s something that I’ve like my hypothesis based on things that I’ve read in patents. They store copies of your site forever. So if you make a change to a page, they’re able to look at what the previous version of that page is just like the way back machine. Yeah. And so if you implement a 301 redirect from one page to another, and those pages don’t match up, like the content that used to be there, it doesn’t match up with the content that is there.
Mike (28:51): Now, they won’t apply all the value of the link that you’re redirecting. So the way that we’ve gotten around that, and again goes back to code. Google has something that they call the natural language processing API, which will allow you to determine the topics of pages. So what you would want to do is look for an old version of whatever page was there. Again, the way back machine is a good place for that and run it through that NLP API. And then they’ll tell you all the topics and were called entities that were on that page. And then you run your other pages through that and find whatever page has the closest match topic. And then that’s where you redirect it to. And then you’re more likely to get more value out of that.
Kathleen (29:39): That’s cool. I did not know that. See, this is why I wanted to talk to you. I knew I was going to learn some new things. And by the way you were like, now we’re getting tactical, I love this part of the conversation. So let’s go into the tactical weeds. Do you guys have anything else like that?
Mike (29:55): Absolutely. So another one that again, another commonplace thing that we see when we bring on clients, well, the first thing that we do is our SEO quick hits. So what are the things that are, you know, high value that we can do very quickly to show that, right? And another thing that we find, and this is especially important for big sites, but it’s important for all types of sites. And there are links internally to pages that redirect. So 301 redirect is, you know, they’re your last resort basically like when you have links pointing from an external site, it is difficult to reach out to a hundred or a thousand sites and say, Hey, can you update? So the 301 is the best thing you can do in that case, but within your own site, you have complete control. So you shouldn’t be linking 301s because for every 301, there’s a small loss of link equity. So again, whenever we get a site, we’ll crawl a site and see what that internal linking structure looks like. And if there’s a bunch of links to 301s, we fix those by just linking directly to the final destination URL. And then while I can see improvements from there, and the same is true of links to 404s. So those two things, and, and also with the external links, if you fix those three things, you will always see an improvement in organic search.
Kathleen (31:17): That’s awesome. And I feel like that’s just like good website housekeeping. And it’s funny you mentioned that because I was just doing that. We migrated the site at the company I work for, we migrated it from WordPress to HubSpot. And when we did that, it meant that everything basically was on one domain instead of sub domains. And, and it was like, it was a painful few days, but so necessary. I, I spent like three days going through old blogs, like fixing what were section headings and turning them into H2s changing the link so that they went to, they were like internal links and not external links that went to 301s, like the whole process was such a slog, but when it was done, I it’s the same feeling I have like when I clean out the junk drawer in my kitchen. I’m like, Oh, I feel so good. Now it’s all clean and perfect.
Mike (32:06): Yeah. It’s tedious, but it’s work done.
Kathleen (32:08): Yeah, it is. It is awesome. Well, I mean, I literally feel like I could sit here all day and talk to you about SEO and you’re this endless fountain of, of incredibly useful knowledge, but we only have so much time. So shifting gears for a minute, I always ask people at the end of my interviews, two questions, the first of which is the podcast is all about inbound marketing and people who are doing it really well. Is there a particular company or individual that you can point to that you think is really setting the standard, what it means to be a great inbound marketer these days?
Mike (32:43): Hmm. I mean, I feel like it’s a cop out to mention Rand, but Rand is really good at it.
Kathleen (32:49): You know what, you know what, I just want to say this came up once before. He’s almost never mentioned, which blows my mind because he is the person that I would probably mention. So talk, discuss Rand.
Mike (33:03): Rand is, he’s like a inbound marketing machine, you know, like if you think back to the things that he was doing with Moz, where it was like he was blogging every night and he created the Fridays, Whiteboard Fridays, which he does, or he was doing every Friday. He had the beginner’s guide to SEO, which he did the first iteration of, and then Brittany Mueller has taken over. So yeah, I think if, if you want to point to someone who is doing it and isn’t a huge brand, like he’s obviously, you know, a big influence in the space, you can watch him do it again right now with his new startup, which is Spark Toro. And so you see him blogging pretty regularly. He’s putting out videos on like how to use the product. He is identifying new social channels that work for him.
Mike (33:54): Cause you know, Twitter engagement is down pretty dramatically. Linkedin engagement is up and I’m starting to see him pop up there more. He’s doing a ton of different, you know, podcasts and webinars and things. So I think Rand is a really good example of how to do it right. And how to really laser focus in on your audience and then like continually know what they need and put it in front of them. So then show like, Hey, I’ve also got this product. That’s very valuable. And then the other thing is that, you know, he’s always had like a very empathetic approach to everything that he’s done.
And what was really striking to me was that they have an email through Spark Toro that goes out right before they’re going to charge you like a week or so. And it’s like, Hey, you know, this is of course a subscription product, but we don’t want to just like lock you into a subscription and make you forget like, Hey, your, your bill is coming up. If you want to cancel. That’s okay. You’re welcome to come back. So it’s like proactively being like, Hey, we’re going to bill you just like, no. And I really think that speaks to his approach and why it’s a better approach than a lot of other things that you see out there. It’s really good in that market.
Kathleen (35:13): I could not agree more. And I, a couple things I would add to that. One is that, so it’s Rand Fishkin, who was the founder of Moz, who now, as you’ve mentioned, founded this new company Spark Toro, which has an incredible product. That’s a whole nother conversation, but the couple of things I’ve noticed about him, one, what he did that was so brilliant in Spark Toro is he started producing content before he had a product. Like I was following him before he ever launched that product.
And he was building that audience. So that by the time the product was ready, you have this like ready-made group of people who were, who were waiting to just say yes to him, which is so smart. The other thing is that the content he creates is phenomenal. It’s very, very high quality. So, you know, some people might hear, Oh, he blogs every day or however often he blogs and think, eh, you know, sure you could do that, but it’s checking the box.
Kathleen (36:04): He does not check the box. It’s very, very good content. And he does a lot of research. Like that’s why people follow him so much. And then the other thing that I just love about him, and I think this, you reminded me of this when you talked about the email about billing, is he’s so transparent even about the negatives, like what people might perceive to be negatives.
So he has this book he wrote called Lost and Founder, which is very transparent accounting of how he wound up leaving Moz and all the lessons he learned. All the mistakes that he says he made and what he would do differently. And it’s just like, if you’ve ever owned a business, which you do, and I have, reading that book, it’s so relatable and so refreshing to hear an entrepreneur talk about the things they didn’t do right. Cause sometimes you feel like people only talk about their successes and that is so not a true picture of entrepreneurship.
Mike (36:55): Yeah. I got an advanced copy of the book you know, at a, at a very challenging point in running my business and it was, and you know, I was like walking out the door to go on vacation.
Like I can’t see it anymore. And I took a copy of the book and it was so refreshing to read it and feel like, okay, there’s someone else out there that understands this? Could you, you’ve got books. Like The Hard Thing About Hard Things by then, but that book is kind of BS. Cause it’s like, Oh, everything got hard. And then I went and raised $60 million.
Kathleen (37:27): Thank you for saying that. Cause I thought the same thing I’m like, yeah. Huh.
Mike (37:31): Like that’s not how this works in real life. So yeah, that book is definitely refreshing in that regard.
Kathleen (37:37): Yeah. I totally agree with you. Well, and to add to that, you yourself have just published what I think is an absolutely beautiful article on medium about your experience as an entrepreneur and all the lessons that you had learned. It’s like you basically wrote a letter to yourself sort of from the future about the things that you should be doing differently. And I just thought it was so spot on to, I mean, I just, I just know I related to it as somebody who has owned a business and specifically an agency and like been in those shoes.
So I will put the link to that in the show notes because it’s definitely something everybody should read. It’s really great. All right, second question that I hear all the time from marketers is how do you keep up? Because marketing and specifically SEO, as we talked about changes so quickly, how do you personally make sure that you stay educated and kind of on the cutting edge of everything that’s happening?
Mike (38:31): Yes. Two things. One, following people that are not our industry. So I follow a lot of developers and things. And I just read voraciously, you know, I read all types of stuff and it’s, it’s very important to me to like have ideas that are not about my day to day.
So then I can figure out ways to assimilate them to my day to day. And also it just like keeps me more broadly creative than if I’m just focused in on one thing. So yeah, it’s just that, that curiosity and that thirst for knowledge and the way that I action that is my following more people and just keeping stuff coming at me.
Kathleen (39:11): Awesome. I love it. Any one or two people you want to mention who you think are worth following?
Mike (39:18): I’m putting you on the spot. Yeah, I can’t really think of anybody. I would just say, you know, look at me on Twitter and look at who I follow.
Kathleen (39:26): That’s a good idea. There you go.
Mike (39:27): The people, the people that you know are that will pop up first will be the people I’ve followed most recently. So yeah. Check those out.
Kathleen (39:35): That’s a good tip. All right. Well, Mike, I’m sure there are people listening who are like, I want to ask this guy a question. I definitely want to see his movie. I want to learn more about this company. What’s the best way for them to connect with you online?
Mike (39:49): Yeah. Just go to i pull rank dot com or just reach out to me on Twitter, which is just @ipullrank.
Kathleen (39:54): Awesome. All right. Again, all of those links will be in the show notes. So head there to check those out. And in the meantime, if you enjoyed this episode, I would love it if you would head to Apple podcasts or the platform of your choice and leave the podcast, preferably a five star review. So that, that would help us get found by other listeners. And of course, if you know somebody else who’s doing kick ass inbound marketing work, tweet me at @workmommywork because I would love to make them my next guest. That is it for this week. Thank you so much, Mike. This was a ton of fun.