How Marketers Work: Matt Bentley from CanIRank on SEO and Data Science


On this edition of How Marketers Work, we’re talking about SEO and data science tools and tactics with Matt Bentley from CanIRank.

Matt is the Founder and Chief Scientist of CanIRank, a super-charged keyword difficulty and competitive analysis tool for the most productive SEOs, marketers, and agencies.

A serial entrepreneur for nearly 15 years, Matt combines deep expertise in online marketing with the experience of having built businesses from startup to 8-figure revenues within 5 years. Matt is captivated by the ever-changing strategic puzzles characterizing modern SEO, which he’s unlocked to garner top rankings in competitive niches ranging from finance and law to online dating and internet marketing.

Let’s get to the questions!

How would you explain specifically what you do as a marketer?

As a hybrid growth marketer/ data scientist, I play a role that didn’t really exist 10 years ago, but is likely to be quite common 10 years from now: I teach computers to identify certain patterns in marketing data that represent actionable growth opportunities, competitive threats, or other significant events that might warrant human attention.

Why on Earth would we want to do that?

Well, most marketing boils down to a basic iterative loop:

Analysis —> Action —> Analysis —> Action…

Humans are great at the Action part: coming up with creative ideas to connect to other humans, engage their emotions, and build some sort of relationship.

Humans are also pretty good at the analysis bit — up to a point. Once we get into hundreds of dimensions and millions of records, computers can do a better job of keeping it all in their working memory and more importantly they can keep collecting and processing data 24-7 with no breaks or lapses in attention, all for dollars a day.

With all the great new marketing tools that have been developed in recent years, the amount of data available to us is increasing almost exponentially. And thanks to mobile, Internet of Things, and a better understanding of unstructured and semi-structured data, you can bet that there’s a lot more coming.

And how much of that data are we currently analyzing and putting to good use? Just 0.05%. That’s right — we’re investing billions in new tools and software to let us collect and store more marketing data, and then we’re essentially throwing 99.5% of it away.

Unless we as marketers want to spend all our time poring over excel sheets and not creating, we need to do a better job harnessing computers to collect, process, and analyze all of this new data flooding in.

So that’s been the focus of my career for the past 7 years, and has led to 3 companies:

  • CanIRank – processing SEO data to identify keyword opportunities, optimization opportunities, and link building opportunities
  • Pretarget – to identify high potential customer leads
  • Lightship – to identify immediately actionable growth marketing opportunities and competitive threats

Which new skills are most important for marketers to learn in the next six months?

Obviously data science and predictive analytics are in incredibly high demand right now, but that’s really about building the tools that future marketers will use rather than the practice of marketing itself. To excel in marketing you will need to know how to leverage those tools, and be awesome at everything computers suck at: compelling and emotional storytelling, relationship building, empathy, persuasion. Demand for those skills is not going away anytime soon!

What do you find most rewarding about marketing?

In most professions, the one with the most gold wins. In marketing, brilliant creativity and solid execution can still overcome any gap in resources. Nearly every day we see examples of nimble startups or small businesses managing to outcompete megacorps thanks to the work of a particularly clever growth marketer. I’m proud to build software that helps those great marketers in the work they’re doing. Big data shouldn’t just be for big businesses!

As a marketer, what is your favorite productivity hack?

Automate, automate, automate. Spend a few weekends going through the Bastards Book of Ruby or a similar introduction to scripting for non-programmers. Then combine that with tools like IFTTT, Zapier, and Kimono. Once you know what’s possible, you’ll start to see opportunities everywhere! Automation is like cloning yourself, saving yourself hours of tedious work, and scaling up the impact of stuff you’d previously done manually.

Are there any particular marketing trends on the horizon that really excite you?

As someone active in the SEO space, I’m excited about the rise of intelligent personal assistants such as Siri, Google Now, and the dozens of other variations for everything from virtual travel agents to smart cars. When your refrigerator runs out of milk and needs to automatically order more, where does it buy it from? Most likely the software uses an algorithm to select the best option for you according to various parameters. And who knows how to help companies better understand those algorithms and position themselves to be the recipient of that new business? That’s exactly what SEOs do, and as the number of algorithms explodes the value of their expertise will increase accordingly.

What are some of the top tools and apps in your marketing stack?

At CanIRank we incorporate data from great SEO tools like Moz, SEMrush, Ahrefs and SharedCount which are terrific resources for all serious content marketers. Trello helps us efficiently manage SEO work for our clients even with a distributed team. UserBrain has rapidly become an essential tool for measuring user happiness, an essential data point for every marketer!

Which one book would you recommend every marketer should read?

Robert B. Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is a must-read introduction to the psychology of persuasion that will change the way you think about human interaction.

What advice would you share with other marketers who want to become more productive?

Spend more time out of the office, and keep exposing yourself to novel experiences like travel or new hobbies. As a creative professional, you need to train your neuroplasticity like an athlete trains her heart. All of CanIRank’s marketing consultants are remote and balance their time on client work with an outside passion like running ultra marathons, teaching yoga, or creating electronic music.

Connect with Matt

You can find Matt on Twitter and LinkedIn.

And don’t forget to check out CanIRank to learn more about their interesting approach to keyword research and competitive analysis for search engine optimization.

The How Marketers Work series asks marketers from around the world to share their greatest productivity tips, tricks, and tools. Do you know someone who should be interviewed, or do you have specific questions you’d like to see answered? Let’s chat.

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Want to steal our marketing process?

Discover exactly which steps we take with each new project, and how you can systematize your marketing efforts.