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SparkToro Review: Taking SparkToro for a Test Drive

April 23rd

Andy

Offsprout is the only WordPress website builder for freelancers and agencies.

We’re taking SparkToro for a test drive, giving it a thorough review so you can know exactly what it’s like, and decide if it’s worth grabbing an account.

SparkToro is the new creation of former Moz co-founder and CEO, Rand Fishkin, and CTO, Casey Henry.

So, what exactly is SparkToro?

Put simply, SparkToro is a market research tool that helps you better understand your potential audience to know what they are interested in.

Put less simply, it’s a huge data aggregation tool that helps you identify characteristics of your target audience, so you can know how to best reach and connect with that audience.

With that aggregation, you get data like:

  • What podcasts your target audience listen to
  • What Twitter profiles your target audience follows
  • What your audience talks about
  • What websites your audience visits

Oh shit.

That’s what I thought when I first checked out SparkToro’s intro video.

I was immediately trying to think of different ways I could use this for my businesses.

With SparkToro, I can find:

  • Podcasts I might want to try and be a guest on or advertise with
  • Guest post opportunities
  • Influencers I want to connect with
  • Websites where I should advertise
  • Guest speakers for webinars
  • Sales opportunities
  • Words and terminology I should use in my copywriting to resonate with my audience
  • What content I should be writing about
  • Partnerships and co-marketing opportunities
  • What my competitors are doing on social media

I didn’t even think a piece of software could do this…

(One quick disclosure: I received a press review copy of SparkToro to be able to check it out before SparkToro went live this week.)

Okay, now let’s get into SparkToro’s features.

Features

With SparkToro, it all starts with a search.

There are three different search tabs to choose from to give you starting points:

  1. Audience Intelligence
  2. Compare Audiences
  3. Profile Search

Let’s explore each.

Audience Intelligence

Audience Intelligence lets you better understand your target audience.

audience intelligence results in sparktoro

SparkToro’s Audience Intelligence feature can help you answer questions like:

  • What websites does my audience visit?
  • Who do they follow on social media?
  • What podcasts do they listen to?
  • What YouTube channels do they subscribe to?
  • Where are most of my audience members?
  • What words or phrases are commonly used in their social media bios?

So, let’s do a search and see how it works.

Before we even enter a search term though, we have different options for how we select our target audience.

We can search by the different things they engage with online, like:

  • A target keyword they frequently use
  • A keyword common in their social profiles
  • A social media profile of someone they follow
  • A website they frequently visit
  • What hashtag they frequently visit
SparkToro Audience Intelligence feature

As an example, let’s choose a keyword and area.

Let’s pick… SEO. Why not.

So, I could type in the target keyword: SEO

And then I can see popular social accounts that are followed by people who frequently use the keyword SEO online.

sparktoro social accounts in audience intelligence

So, if I want to better know my audience, I should probably follow and engage with these accounts.

But it’s not just social accounts. We can see our target audience’s most popular: 

  • Social profiles
  • Websites visited
  • Podcasts subscribed to
  • YouTube channels subscribed to
  • Geographic location
  • Keywords used in their bios

While the Overview page gives me a taste of each of these categories, I can drill down further by clicking See All under any of the categories.

I especially like clicking See All to get more insights into what my audience is interacting with. I don’t know about you but I feel like I generally have a grasp on the major websites and accounts my target audiences are interacting with. But, some things I can miss, and especially the slightly-less-popular accounts.

sparktoro expanded results diving into websites visited

Clicking See All lets me get to the “Page 2 of Google” results, if you will.

I can also filter these results, add them to a curated list, or export the results into a CSV, which is real handy.

It’s really interesting data, and I haven’t seen this kind of data aggregation anywhere else.

One other thing I like using SparkToro for is searching for a competitor’s website or accounts so I can get insights into their audience.

The beauty of it is there are tons of different uses for this data that I haven’t thought of, but then later it’ll come to me, “Oh yeah, I can know about this using SparkToro!”

And if your target audience is in a specific geographic area, you can limit by geography.

using SparkToro to search interests of people in a local geography, using interested in camping located in Buffalo as an example

So, if you are doing a marketing campaign for a camping gear store in Buffalo, New York and want to see what people from Buffalo and who talk about “camping” are like, you can.

Compare Audiences

With Compare Audiences, you can take two different search parameters and keywords that you’d search for in Audience Intelligence, and compare them to see where they overlap and where they differ.

So, for example, you could compare the hashtags #bernie2020 and #maga

comparing audiences in SparkToro, comparing bernie and maga hashtags

And we can compare and contrast the things that members of these audiences follow, like, visit, listen to, and watch online.

Or, for something a bit more divisive: Moz and SEMRush

Comparing Moz and SEMRush audiences in SparkToro using the Compare Audience feature

After testing this feature out a bunch, it seems that it worked best when looking at social media related parameters rather than websites. 

When trying to search by website visited, I sometimes encountered a “not enough data” kind of response, an infinite loop of loading, or “error with your query” response. As of this publication, of all the aspects of SparkToro, this was the only one where it seemed like it could probably use a bit more work. 

Profile Search

With profile search, you can get intel on the people who follow a social account or regularly visit a certain website.

Viewing the dogrates social profile in SparkToro

And, Profile Search does not use up any of your search credits, so you can use this as much as you want.

What SparkToro does here is look at all the followers and visitors of a certain account, and then tell you what words they use and accounts they follow.

Viewing a profile in SparkToro

A unique aspect of Profile Search is definitely the Spark Score and the engagement statistics.

SparkToro scores websites and social accounts based on their relative reach.

Sparkscore in profile view in SparkToro

Rand Fishkin, co-founder of SparkToro, has a 66.

An account that rates dogs has a score of 99.

Beyonce has 100.

Beyonce SparkToro rating

With Profile Search, some of these results overlap with Audience Intelligence. But, Profile Search thankfully does not use up any of your search credits. So, you can use Profile Search to get insights into an individual on social media or a particular website, and then use that to do some Audience Intelligence searches.

Drawbacks

SparkToro isn’t perfect for everyone and every single use case. 

SparkToro can’t help if you’re trying to find people based on a trait that is not commonly expressed online.

For example, if your business is a lawn maintenance product and you want to target “homeowners”, you probably won’t be able to do that. 

But, you could get creative, and target people who follow Home Depot.

SparkToro also can’t help you out if your audience has such a niche interest or has diverse behavior, so that there isn’t a lot of search volume around it.

SparkToro works best when the interests of your target are more homogenous, and not too niche.

If I’m trying to promote online music lessons for third-wave ska saxophone, it might be tricky…

Lastly, the database is all English-language, so if you’re trying to market for a non-English product, you won’t have much luck there for now.

Pricing

How much is SparkToro?

SparkToro pricing

SparkToro is a freemium service with different recurring tiers as well as a one-time option.

All of the recurring plans currently offer 3 months free (25% off) if your billing is annual rather than monthly.

The free tier gets you 10 searches per month with a sampling of results, the ability to create one list, and only one user.

The next tier up, Basic, gets you up to 100 searches per month, with up to 50 results shown, unlimited lists, and up to 5 users. It’s $150/month billed monthly or $112/month billed annually.

This tier is best suited for in-house marketing teams and solo consultants.

The next tier, Premium, is meant for small agencies.

It gets up to 500 searches per month, all results shown, unlimited lists, and up to 25 users. It’s $300/month billed monthly or $225/month billed annually.

And the highest tier, Unlimited, is meant for larger agencies.

It gets you unlimited searches per month, all results and unlimited lists, and up to 50 users. It’s $600/month billed monthly or $450/month billed annually.

Aside from the recurring tiers, you can also get a 7-day unlimited pass for $450. With this pass, you get access to SparkToro for one full week and get up to 1,000 searches, all results shown, one user, and unlimited lists. If you envision just needing to do some research initially for a bunch of projects, this tier might be right for you.

Is SparkToro Worth It?

If you are looking for better business intelligence, SparkToro gets you insights you won’t get elsewhere.

So, we’ve talked about the features of SparkToro, but let’s talk about what you’re going to do with the data after you’ve finished your searches.

After I’m done snooping on competitors or exploring topics, I can create lists, export results to a CSV, and then get to my serious work of:

  • Following with and engaging with certain specific social accounts that I had not yet followed
  • Reaching out to certain podcasts 
  • Reaching out to websites with pitches for guest posts or co-marketing ventures
  • Editing my website copy to better match the language my audience is using.

For my needs in particular, I thought that the insights into which websites, YouTube accounts, and podcasts I should be looking to partner with, are a huge help, and saved me probably days of searching and guessing, frankly, about who I should be looking to work with. 

And that’s a huge time and money value.

But, if you already feel like you know everything about your target audience, or your clients’ target audience, then maybe SparkToro isn’t for you.

Then again, if you run a search in SparkToro, you might find yourself surprised at the results.

If you want to check it out, you can grab an account here.

And if you have any questions or comments at all, please feel free to leave them below.

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