This is my review of SparkToro, the new software developed by Rand Fishkin and Casey Henry, formerly at Moz.
I was provided with a free press version, 7-days access to try the tool.
In this review, I’ll talk about:
What is SparkToro
What SparkToro does
What you can accomplish using the software
What I have really liked
What I have not liked
What is Sparktoro?
SparkToro is an audience intelligence tool to conduct market research and provide audience intelligence insights in a way that is affordable, quickly accessible and hugely actionable.
With just a few searches, you can quickly find out where is your audience hanging out across many sources on the web, like websites, YouTube channels, Twitter accounts, podcasts and more.
Not only that, but it also solves for a specific and time-consuming task which is finding out which publication can influence your audience the most.
So, what the tool does very well, in my opinion, is to uncover new opportunities for a variety of digital marketing tasks, such as:
How to find guest posts on websites that your audience reads
Start new affiliate relationships with influencing people/ websites
Find journalists that you can outreach for content marketing
Find websites for partnerships for all sort of various campaigns
The list is longer than that, these are just four use cases of what you can accomplish with SparkToro, so I recommend really trying the software to find out more yourself.
In this review, we will use some examples of features and functionalities, and we will go into details about the metrics.
What tasks can you accomplish?
As you can see from these few words I have written, the problem Sparktoro solves now used to take days, if not weeks in some cases, plus a lot of manual work and oftentimes a considerable budget.
Normally market research can cost from approximately $15,000 up to $35,000 and this type of budget is not available to every company.
Sparktoro searches thousands of social accounts, websites, podcasts and other channels to find out where your audience is and classify the accounts in terms of which one is the most influential.
What you do with this data is up to you.
The tool compares these audience sources with custom-made metrics and attributes to determine the most influential ones for SEO, press, social, content and outreach campaigns.
Research and comparison are not enough, in this world of data made of millions of data points you need to know which one is:
More influential than others for a set of attributes
Bigger than others, because influential doesn’t always mean big
You can find out how influential, large or extended if your brand compared to your competitors.
Discover new opportunities
Surprise yourself and discover more accounts, websites, podcasts and other places you didn't know where influential.
A detailed look of the features
As we have seen above, with SparkToro you can accomplish several tasks. Let’s have a closer look at each of them, starting with what is called Audience Intelligence to research your data.
To get this result, just create an account for free if you want to use it and you’ll see the search bar. The bar consists of two parts:
What your audience does/ how it behaves/ what it speaks about
The second part is about your topic of interest
Regardless of what you search, the tool returns an overview of your audience:
Then you can filter it by channel:
Essentially, based on the results, your audience that frequently visits the website: www.bbc.co.uk, in the United Kingdom, also visits channel4.com (3.9% of it), scotsman.com (3.8% of it) and other sources.
Do you want to know which social accounts this audience also follow and engage with?
SparkToro got your covered:
Which podcasts is the audience visiting BBC also visits?
Here we go:
Ultimately, does your PPC specialist need to know which accounts he can target on YouTube with a display campaign?
Here is a list of all YouTube channels the BBC audience also visits…surprisingly SparkToro didn’t find any result.
This is another section that didn’t work so well. I am not sure this is a bug and what’s the reason. It would be interesting to find out more.
What information do you get? A closer look at the metrics
As you have noticed, SparkToro uses a set of metrics in the search results, depending on which filter you use. Let’s have a closer look at the metrics and what they mean.
Imagine you search for people frequently talking about “Google Tag Manager”.
The website’s section
If you filter it by “websites” you got this information:
Percent of audience: % of sources that match your search amplifies, visits or engages with the websites in this row:
I often blog about Google Tag Manager and I know this audience quite well. So, these results are spot on, especially regarding the Google blog being first on the list.
What I didn’t know is how influential are the Moz Blog and seroundtable.com, mostly known for everything related to SEO.
The second metric is Linking Root Domains (RDs) which is an indication of what authority is passed from one page to another via link building.
It helps you determine how strong is a given domain in terms of SEO power.
The third metric is called Domain Authority (DA), which probably doesn’t need any explanation.
How to use this information is up to you. But I would use it for pitching my guest posts.
If you are a company looking to build your affiliate program, you can do similar research to find bloggers that want to become your affiliates.
The Social Accounts section
Now, let’s review the metrics for Social Accounts.
Percent of audience: this is SparkToro’s estimate on how much of your audience talking about “Google Tag Manager” also follow or engages with a list of social accounts.
For example, SparkToro considers Moz and Matt Cutts to hold 13% of the audience related to “Google Tag Manager”. In reality, Matt Cutts hasn’t been working for Google since January 2017. He was replaced by John Mueller the same year. So, saying that they share the same amount of audience seems a bit off to me.
It might be because of one reason: Matt Cutts has 535K followers while John Mueller only 76K.
SparkScore: it measures a social account’s reach relative to its following. It’s a very complex metric, but essentially it measures the influence of the social accounts.
If you want to know more, just visit the SparkScore’s page.
Social Followers: this is the easiest metric, which basically tells you how many followers each profile has across all platforms.
All these metrics show information that can help you planning your influencer’s outreach strategy, or which influencers you want to be noticed from, except for Matt Cutts :-)
The Podcast Section
This section shows these metrics and information:
Percent of audience, as seen before this is the estimated amount of people talking about “google tag manager” also following this podcast;
The number of episodes, which displays the number of Podcasts via iTunes. At the moment SparkToro doesn’t show other sources like Spotify, but I am sure soon it will be added.
Last podcast, the date when the last podcast aired via iTunes.
With this information, I know now which podcasts I can try to pitch to speak if I wanted to become an authority on Google Tag Manager.
If I was new to the Google Tag Manager space, this report would have saved me hours of time.
Instead of googling websites, I get the list in seconds. Instead of surveying customers to see which social accounts they follow, or which podcasts they follow, I get this list in one page, without asking anyone.
This is the default view of SparkToro when starting a new search.
Audience Insights is advanced demographic information on your audience.
You got information about:
Words and phrases used in their profile bios
City-level geographic distribution
Frequently used words when sharing contents
Frequently used hashtags when sharing content
Most active network
If I was new to this audience, I would take me weeks and many surveys to find out this information.
How to use it? For example, let’s go back to the “Google tag Manager” audience.
According to SparkToro, people sharing GTM-related content often use “building”, “question” and “sharing”.
And they mostly live in San Francisco, San Jose and New York areas.
They also use these hashtags when sharing content “digital marketing”, “measure” and “analytics”, minus the COVID.
Again, if I was new this industry, this research would take me a huge amount of time and considerable budget, provided I knew how to do it in the first place.
When loading the audience insights, I ran into a bug, the page on Audience Insights in my example keeps loading and doesn’t provide any data for some categories. I left it loading for more than 60 minutes.
This second section of the tool is designed to compare and contrast audiences.
For example, I run a search on people frequently talking about “Google Tag Manager”. And also, people following the BBC.
I wanted to check if SparkToro could find any overlaps between audiences that have nothing to do with each other.
And SparkToro found me some common audiences on two different types of searches. There is no apparent relationship between Google Tag Manager and the BBC and yet, SparkToro found commonalities.
You can also see other diagrams to check how big is the overlap:
And I have compared audiences for “Google Tag Manager” and “Simo Ahava” who is, in my opinion, one of the most influential GTM experts in the world. And SparkToro found an even bigger overlap:
This is by far my favourite section, comparing audiences allows to me to find new data and analyse it at once. I can find websites, social accounts and Podcasts that two audiences share and then build a campaign around it. Then I can share it on my social accounts using the hashtags frequently used by my target audience to make I target them in the most efficient way.
The social profile does exactly what it suggests: you get audience insights about a brand or a person (=profile).
To test this feature, I have decided to search for the company I used to work at www.futurefit.co.uk, out of curiosity.
The results are pretty much accurate in describing what Future Fit’s audience looks like. It also described what the audience is interested in:
However, I have run again into a couple of bugs.
First of all, there is a spelling mistake on the word “Acccounts”, which is just a typo.
And the second one is a little bit more surprising. According to SparkToro, Future Fit doesn’t have any social accounts at all.
This struck me as very inaccurate. Future Fit has over 2,300 followers on Twitter, over 10,000 followers on Facebook and almost 5,000 followers on Instagram.
This not a huge deal, but if you were looking at fitness brands on social channels, you would probably skip Future Fit Training.
Regardless of the bug, the report for Future Fit is very good.
If all this info is too much for you to remember, you can create a list, which is a way to save it for later.
Suppose you have searched for “Google Tag Manager”, you have found some websites and social accounts you need, then you can use the “Lists” to save them for later:
Once you create a new List, you can name it and save it in your Lists section.
While creating a list is a simple task, when retrieving it, the information is not exactly the same as when I have searched for “Google tag Manager”.
During my review of Sparktoro, I have retrieved my List and found that the retrieved list was missing the "Percent of Audience".
I have got the SparkScore, the Social Followers, but I am missing the Percent of Audience stats.
It’s not a huge problem, but if I wanted to check the most influential account, I would have to run again a search for the term “google tag manager”, which is not ideal.
At least, lists are very useful for remembering what I have searched before and retrieving the information easily within 1 click.
This is how Sparktoro’s pricing breaks down:
As most software pricings, if you buy the 12-months option, you get 3 months for free.
The Free $0/month option is very limited. You can only run 10 searches a month and you don’t even get the full results, only a sample of them.
The next option is the 7-days access with 1,000 searches included, for those planning to use the tool extensively.
This is a very unusual pricing model, that I have rarely seen in software with a recurring payment system. But I find it very useful, if I was a market researcher in need of lots of data for a number of clients.
So, as you can see, SparkToro is not cheap, I have to admit.
Is Sparktoro worth it?
Let’s start with the things I don’t like.
Price is one of them, I find it expensive and the weekly option, while it offers 1,000 searches, is also very expensive.
There is a free plan with very limited searches (10/month) and a sample of results. Otherwise, you're looking at $150 for their “Basic” plan, $300/month for a “Premium“ plan or $600/month for the “Unlimited” plan.
If you choose the annual billing, there is a discount of 25% (or 3 months free).
If it was for me, I would offer a bit more with the Free option, like 5 searches a month and all the results included. This would encourage people to think strategically before searching for something to make sure you don’t run out of searches.
Also, I have found some bugs with regards to Future Fit Training’s social accounts. Sparktoro didn’t find any when I searched for Future Fit’s Profile.
Finally, and this is not a criticism, more of a wish-list.
1- I would be useful to have metrics to help you prioritize your campaigns in terms of the impact they might have and how easy are they implement.
For example, when I have searched for industries I am familiar with, how can I improve my odds of getting more referral traffic from, say, Simo Ahava when I search for Google Tag Manager? Is Simo sharing other people’s content often? And not just his own stuff? Is it even worth making the effort in getting his attention on Twitter?
A bit like Rand Fishkin does, when he finds useful content on the web, he is happy to share it. So, it makes sense trying to get his attention.
But SparkToro doesn’t give you this information.
2- The other thing I don’t like is that there isn’t any integration with other tools. It would be cool to have, for example, Google Analytics integrated to help answer some questions like this one: how do I know which website would perform better? You can turn to your Analytics and find similar websites/ referrals that would give you a clue on which SparkToro’s websites to outreach for your campaign.
Sharing historical data that you already have with Sparktoro’s data can be a powerful combination.
What I really like about SparkToro
As I said, it’s a unique tool with a precise and immediate set of data at your disposal, which is almost impossible to get anywhere else. In this regard, it’s super useful.
Also, the tool is very easy to use, the User Experience is phenomenal and overall navigation amazing. I have always felt like I knew what I was doing at all times.
The data is accurate. I have searches industries I am very familiar with and the company I work for. That way, I could compare what I know against Sparktoro’s dataset. I found it to be very accurate and organised.
Overall, while SparkToro’s data is super useful, I don’t think it can appeal every single marketer. Don’t get me wrong, this data is useful for every marketer, however, justifying the monthly expenses is probably more difficult for some kind of marketers:
Solo bloggers who need this data once in a while, to find out where they can guest post
A podcaster looking to interview his next guest and in need to find which type of audiences he/she has been followed by
A small company trying to launch a new product and wants to find out where their industry’s audience is hanging out, to have access to them on YouTube, social channels and websites.
However, the monthly expense is probably justified if you are an agency and work with many different clients across several industries. Let’s see some examples:
Did you land a new client from an industry you know nothing about? Sparktoro is the first tool I would use to learn more about their audience
If an agency does lots of Digital PR and wants to get their content shared across many websites, influencers and podcast, SparkToro on a monthly fee are definitely worth it.
Do you specialise in link building and want to get attention, referral traffic and backlinks from websites matching your client’s audience? Another great use of SparkToro and the monthly fee.