What Is SparkToro?
“Know your target audience” is one of the top pieces of advice for anyone who wants to get into eCommerce. But while the “why” of knowing your target audience is easy to understand, the “how” is far more complicated. Can SparkToro make it easier? We tried the tool ourselves: here’s what we found.
SparkToro was co-founded by Rand Fishkin, one of the biggest names in SEO today (he’s best-known for co-founding Moz). Like Fishkin’s previous projects, SparkToro aims to simplify things for people struggling to navigate the digital marketing world.
In essence, SparkToro collates information about people’s digital habits, but removes any personal identification. This tool aims to give you an easy search method for the online behavior and interests of your target audience.
Rather than leaving you to search with individual sites and tools for the audience information you want, SparkToro offers it all in one place. You can almost think of it as a search engine for audience behavior.
While SparkToro has tons of potential uses, the main benefit for the eCommerce world is that it shows you what your audience is paying attention to online. If you know what your target audience follows, reads, or listens to, you can figure out where to place targeted ads, which influencers to partner with, and so on.
What We Liked About SparkToro
SparkToro seems to fill an essential gap in audience research tools. So, we got a press review copy of the service to see if it lived up to the promise. Let’s start with the pros: here’s what SparkToro does well. Intuitive UX
SparkToro is a great tool for eCommerce beginners because of its simple, intuitive design. If you can use Google, you can use SparkToro - there’s no real learning curve to get past.
The tool also offers explanations for things users may not know already. For example, terms like “Domain Authority” are listed with an information button that you can hover over to get a definition, making SparkToro even more beginner-friendly. Making Lists
SparkToro is a research tool that can generate a huge amount of information. If you’re not careful, you could get lost in all the possibilities. Luckily, the list-making tool lets you track what you’ve found for later use.
Just select the names of the accounts or sites you want to save, click “Add to List,” and build your lists to refer back to. For example, you could make a list of sites you want to reach out to for a guest post, or influencer accounts you’d like to partner with.
SparkToro works best when you already have a clear picture of your target audience, so you can research what they do and say online. However, if you’re still trying to put that clear picture together, the Audience Insights tool is helpful.
In this section, you’ll find information like words and phrases an audience frequently uses, where they’re located, and their favorite hashtags. There’s a lot of information here, but the color-coded graph format makes it easy to understand. Simple Targeting Ideas
SparkToro simplifies things for marketers who are feeling overwhelmed by all the possibilities out there. Because it breaks down searches in very specific ways, such as by podcasts, YouTube channels, and websites, it gives a clear path to where you can reach your audience.
If you feel like you don’t know where to start connecting with your audience, use these specific search functions and go one step at a time. Podcast Potential
We found it surprising - in a good way - that SparkToro places so much emphasis on podcasts, giving them their own search section. While eCommerce brands often focus their marketing efforts on social media and websites, tapping podcast audiences has a ton of potential, and SparkToro won’t let you forget it. The Limitations We Found
While SparkToro is useful, easy, and even fun to use, there are a couple of potential limitations to be aware of. Hidden Gems Are Too Hidden
Naturally, SparkToro’s search function has filters to make your investigations more productive. One of the most useful filters is Hidden Gems, found under the Social search.
This feature excludes huge accounts and shows only those with fewer followers but a high reach. However, you can spend a long time on SparkToro before you discover this feature and what it does - so we wish it was a little more prominent. It’s such a useful tool that it deserves to be highlighted.
That said, another small drawback of this feature is that it’s mostly useful for very-popular subjects. If your search involves something more niche, the “gems” that show up will likely be accounts you’re already aware of. Requires Some Strategizing
While SparkToro is quite good at what it does, it still requires you to invest some strategic thinking to get the best results. If you don’t already understand a little about how your audience thinks and behaves online, you can spend a lot of time on SparkToro without getting meaningful results.
For example, let’s say you’re launching a women’s athletic footwear brand. You could do a “Frequently talks about” search for the term “women’s shoes,” but the results probably won’t be very enlightening. You need to get more specific: your true target audience likely talks about things like “CrossFit” or “fitness,” rather than “women’s shoes.”
To get the most out of SparkToro, you can’t just search based on what you’re selling. Instead, you must search based on what your target audience is already talking about or looking at online. SparkToro can partially help you figure that out, but it works much better if you already understand your target audience’s behavior or interests well. Our Verdict
Overall, the limitations of SparkToro are minor, and its potential value is huge. This is an ideal eCommerce marketing tool: it does what it claims to do, and does it well.
It especially stands out from similar tools because it doesn’t break things down by demographics like age or gender. Instead, it’s all about interests and behavior - which for many brands is the most important thing. You can know age, gender, income level, location, and so on, but if you don’t know where your audience hangs out online or what interests them, you can never reach them.
To paraphrase the late, great, business thinker and Harvard professor Clayton Christensen, no one wakes up in the morning and buys a product because he is a 45 year old man who drives a Honda accord, lives in South Wisconsin and earns $56,000 a year! People "hire a product to do a job". By understanding their interests and behavior you will be more effective at marketing to them. SparkToro helps you do this.
In just a few minutes on SparkToro, you can find new outlets for ads, partnerships, guest posts, and other ways to reach the audience you want. The quick payoff is almost addictive, and you could easily lose hours researching with this tool - but we think it would be time well spent.