What’s The Best Free Logo Maker For Your Project?

This post originally appeared at What’s The Best Free Logo Maker For Your Project? via ShivarWeb

Free Logo Maker

Choosing the best free logo maker for your project is a frustrating process fraught with email signups, bad ideas, and wasted time. It’s tough to make a simple comparison because there is no such thing as an absolute “best free logo maker.” There is only the logo maker that is right for you considering all the tradeoffs with your time, needs, and goals.

Based on my experience working with many themes, graphic designers, and design software, there are a few that are a good fit for most people.

Best Free Logo Makers – Summary

  • Quality Designs
  • Useful Product Bundles
  • Pay to Download High Res

Tailor Brands

Check it Out
  • AI Powered
  • Simple w/ Combinations
  • Free to Use & Download

NameCheap

Check it Out
  • Unique Designs
  • Simple Website Bundle
  • Free Account Required

Wix

Wix
Check it Out

Focused on specific options?

Adobe Spark Logo is integrates with Adobe’s paid graphic design tools – try the tool here.

Fiverr Logo Maker combines templates with accessible designers (pay to download high res) – try the tool here.

Shopify’s Hatch Logo Maker is focused on ecommerce logos based on templates – try the tool here.

Considerations for Comparing Free Logo Makers

A logo maker is online software built to generate a logo for download & customization. They either use a set of templates that the user narrows via a questionnaire or it creates a logo from scratch that is borrows style elements from what previous users liked (usually styled as an “AI logo”).

Free to Use vs. Free to Download

There are plenty of free to use & download logo makers. But usually they have some “cost” with them.

Free to use makers can help you generate ideas, but you won’t be able to download for free. Free to download generators usually have some sort of catch, but do allow you to get the file for free.

The other hybrid is free with an account generated. Note that you always get what you pay for.

Copyright & Commercial Use

For free logo makers that promise free to use and free to download options, be sure to note the license. If it does not allow for commercial use, carefully note what you are going to use it for.

Logo Maker Generation

Some logo makers push their “AI powered” angle. This just means that instead narrowing templates, they are creating from scratch based on how your preferences match other user preferences. Ironically, you might end up with an oddly similar logo to someone else in your industry vs. using a traditional template powered. AI powered approaches are broadly better, but it’s worth testing different inputs.

Integrations & File Types

Nobody likes messing around with a fuzzy logo image. There are fine but essential differences between filetypes and resolutions. How & where you use the image matters too. Consider your time & frustration when using a single logo file everywhere your brand appears. Consider using a logo maker with an automated tool to crop & resize your logo.

User-friendliness

Often there is a tradeoff between design and features. Do you want raw features or better design? How much do you value user-friendliness? Do clear buttons and a friendly tone matter to you – or do you just want solid functionality?

Related Resources

99designs Review

Essential Guide to Hiring a Web Designer

Tailor Brands Review

Stencil App Review

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QuickBooks Online Payroll Pricing & Features

The post QuickBooks Online Payroll Pricing & Features appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Etsy Shop Ideas: 10+ Ways To Generate Hundreds of Profitable Options

This post originally appeared at Etsy Shop Ideas: 10+ Ways To Generate Hundreds of Profitable Options via ShivarWeb

Etsy Shop Ideas

Etsy is an established global marketplace. And it’s a great place for anyone to try out a small online business with zero risk and zero commitment.

But unfortunately, Etsy is also a place where many people fail, get discouraged, or never start in the first place.

Many of those problems come from not having the right, profitable Etsy shop idea. It’s not enough to have a good idea. You have to have a good idea that other people are interested in.

Sure, many people on Etsy are looking for that certain, unique something.

But you are never going to sell them that certain, unique something unless you have a general idea of what people are looking for.

Problems with a List of Etsy Ideas

There are plenty of ideas for what to sell on Etsy. Even Etsy has a guide.

But they all have problems that make them unhelpful. They are all usually –

  • Vague – vague ideas are impossible to execute on.
  • Out-dated – Etsy thrives on trends taht change day to day.
  • Anecdotal – Anecdotes don’t prove anything except the success of a single person.
  • Untrue – Rumor is a great way to get attention, even if it’s untrue.
  • Not complete – The appearance of success is never quite right.
  • Copied to death – No one ever got ahead by copying competitors.

This guide to Etsy shop ideas will show you how to research your own list of Etsy shop ideas.

You’ll pair your experience, skills, and abilities with real data that pops up around the Internet to find an Etsy shop idea that works for you.

Your goal is to find an idea that is pre-qualified by interest so that you know that success is possible if you get the execution right.

Generating Etsy Shop Ideas

Think of these data sources as gold mines. There will be a lot of dirt. There will be a lot of digging. It’s pretty boring. You’ll need to gather a lot of ore to get at the gold.

But if you comb every mine systematically, you will likely find a “seam” of gold that you can focus on. All you need is a single nugget.

Ideas from Etsy Search

This data source is simple. Actual, real-time customer searches power Etsy’s autosuggest feature.

Use the suggestions to gather interesting ideas. Use these tips to systematically harvest ideas –

Go through the entire Alphabet. Type “a” and hit space.

Take the “root” of an interesting idea. Type that in and hit space. If you see COVID masks – try taking just “masks” and seeing what else shows up.

Try the space before and after your root.

Try a space in between a modifier and a root.

Take a common modifier, hit space, and look for interesting roots.

Keep exploring until you get a basket of good ideas.

Ideas from Etsy Categories

The goal here is to find interesting, underserved, or surprisingly popular Etsy categories. Then browse the categories looking for new ideas.

This data source requires a few tools to do right, but you can also do it manually and/or free to quickly check some ideas.

The first way is to browse Etsy’s categories in Google’s index.

Do a search for site:etsy.com/c/ – you’ll get all the category pages that Google has indexed. They are generally listed in order of importance (though not really by popularity). You can also drill down to search subcategories.

The second way is to look through Etsy’s taxonomy sitemaps. Yes, it sounds daunting, but it’s really just a much more efficient way of browsing their categories.

Head over to their taxonomy index. Open up, download, and copy all the listed “node” sitemaps. You’ll find many buried categories that have interesting product ideas.

The third way is to use a tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs to view their top categories. They will show all of the relevant pages plus all the keywords that those pages rank for.

You will absolutely find an interesting idea in this dataset. Ahrefs is $7 for a 7 day free trial. SEMRush has a free 14 day trial, so they’d be best for checking a quick idea. I’ll use both for many examples.

Just drop etsy.com/c/ into the Site Explorer and look at the subfolder.

Then look at all the categories and what keywords they drive.

This data shows two things. First, it shows that people are generally interested in these product ideas. Second, it shows that Etsy itself attracts interested buyers directly to that category – so you will be well-placed to get customers if you can show up in that category.

Ideas from Etsy Shops

This source is very similar to Etsy categories…but with individual shops. You are trying to reverse engineer successful shops to see if you can get in on the action – maybe they are attracting customers, but aren’t selling the right items.

Since there are so many shops, you will be forced to use SEMRush / Ahrefs for this tactic. You can absolutely browse their shop sitemap, or check out popular shops – but there’s too many of them.

Instead, just drop etsy.com/shop/ into the subfolder search.

You’ll see the top performing shops in Google Search (not Etsy search) plus what keywords they are getting traffic with.

Click over on the Shop’s “Sold” page and see what they are doing right.

Take those ideas and add them to your collection.

Ideas from Google Autosuggest

Google Autosuggest is a go-to source for website keywords. But it can also work for your Etsy shop.

Remember, your goal is to find interest in a product or product line that you can create and work on. Google will have general interest, so you have to coach it with specific roots and modifiers.

Start the same way that you did with Etsy Search. But instead of doing the Alphabet first, start with broad modifiers so that you can find interesting roots.

The best place to start is with “etsy”.

Start typing “etsy” and hit space. Redo it again, but hit space before “etsy”.

Then process with the Alphabet to find more.

You can then repeat this process with common Etsy modifiers like –

  • handmade
  • custom
  • vintage
  • supplies
  • for crafts
  • for home
  • unique
  • artisan

You’ll likely find a whole range of ideas to store.

Ideas from Pinterest Search

Pinterest is one of the largest (if not the largest) source of traffic for Etsy shops. Many prospective customers will find you via Pinterest.

Think of Pinterest Search as a blend between Etsy Search and Google Search. It’s more focused than Google, but has less “intent” than Etsy (ie, searchers aren’t in buying mode).

You’ll have to toy around with the roots and modifiers, but the process is the same. Use a series of “Etsy-likely” modifiers to find roots, and then drill down.

If you see “salt shakers etsy”, then you know that the root is interesting. Then take the “salt shakers” root and look for different modifiers. You’ll see options like “wood salt shakers”, etc.

You can then assume that people would find “wood salt shakers” to be an interesting find on Etsy. Take those ideas and run with them.

Ideas from Pinterest Boards

Pinterest has thousands of public collaboration boards around topics. They are a great place to find unique ideas within a certain topic.

For example, suppose you know you want to make some lunch bags, but have no idea what pieces to make. Find a bunch of Pinterest boards dedicated to lunch bags. Browse for unique ideas that people have pinned, which shows direct interest.

Ideas from Social Shares

Take the general approach from Pinterest boards and apply it to social media. Explore Twitter and Facebook for ideas.

But also look at visual networks like Imgur and Reddit for interesting DIY items.

Ideas from Etsy Competitors

You can also simply go browsing Etsy shops for top selling items within a niche that you are interested in. Every shop has a link to shop top selling items.

Remember the rule of thumb that competition equals demand. If there is little competition, there is likely low demand. Lots of competition means there is a lot of demand. Browse top selling items, check reviews, and see if there is a unique angle that you can put on a top selling item.

Additionally, you can use a marketing tool like SEMRush (mentioned earlier) to see what Etsy shops get traffic from Google in addition to Etsy. Take their Etsy shop URL and drop it into this tool –

You’ll be able to see what keywords are driving sales for them. It’s safe to say that if they get traffic from Google, there is plenty of demand to support another Etsy shop with similar products.

What’s Worth It To Sell on Etsy?

So you have a ton of Etsy shop ideas, but what’s actually worth it to sell on Etsy?

Well – that’s a very personal question that all depends on your goals, resources, expertise, time, and budget.

The short version is that it depends on what will make enough money to be worth your time & effort. But here are a few rules of thumb that I’ve gathered from my clients.

  • Etsy is not a volume retail marketplace. If you are trying to make money selling lots of units, then you are in a losing game.
  • Each product needs to “pay for itself.” In other words, each unit needs to have enough margin to pay for its labor, materials, and profit. Use back-of-the-napkin math to estimate your own numbers.
  • The only way to “scale” Etsy is with product templates and bulk purchasing. Products that you can prep pre-orders and purchase materials in bulk will give you profit wiggle room.
  • Never try to beat direct competitors on price. Try to beat them on marketing and value.
  • Like most businesses, Etsy shops usually fail from a lack of attention. Be sure to build in enough profit margin to allow yourself to get more attention than your competitors. You will never lose on price if you have a customer’s attention, and your cheap competition does not.
  • Products that you are familiar with and use regularly will give you an advantage that can make it worthwhile. In other words, don’t sell dog collars if you don’t own a bunch of dogs.

What’s Easy To Sell on Etsy?

Any product that has paying, discerning customers with mediocre competition can be easy to sell on Etsy. There are plenty of predictable categories with high customer demand – masks, pillowcases, custom name tags, etc. But those also can be commodity items where there’s no real difference between you and competition.

Your goal with an Etsy shop is to find a product line with enough competition to show interest. But where the competition is so poor that you can easily beat them with a better product and better marketing.

Next Steps

Starting an Etsy store can be daunting. Even setting Etsy up correctly can be confusing.

But it’s also a growing marketplace running multi-million dollar TV ads bringing customers directly to your store. You just need to be positioned to capture those buyers. A lot of effective research before setting up can set you up for success.

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What Is BigCommerce?

The post What Is BigCommerce? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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14+ Unconventional Ways To Find New Keywords To Outsmart Your Competition

This post originally appeared at 14+ Unconventional Ways To Find New Keywords To Outsmart Your Competition via ShivarWeb

find new keywords

Traditional keyword research has a tragedy of the commons problem. The more people that use a common keyword research sources, the less valuable those sources become.

When everyone is using Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Google Autosuggest – the keywords from those sources will become either too difficult or will lose their intent. Big players, or Google itself, will show up and rank for those keywords.

As a small to mid-size publisher – you have to either become more creative, become more “long-tail,” or seek out more sources to find new keywords.

I’ve written before about “pre-qualifying content.” That process used different sources to confirm your own keyword ideas.

Finding new keywords from new sources is the reverse. It’s finding keywords that you have literally never heard of.

You would never know the root, modifier, or topic. It’s doesn’t show up in Google Suggest, and you’d never know how to search for it in traditional keyword tools.

Here’s where I’ve been looking lately.

Bing / DuckDuckGo Search

Bing and DuckDuckGo are usually seen as Google alternatives. But they have audiences in their own right.

And those audiences are different enough from Google that you can usually find new, interesting, and different keywords there that you won’t find on Google.

Head over to Bing / DuckDuckGo and try out their autosuggest with broad modifiers (how to, what is, etc).

Search within a broad topic that you are looking at and explore their related searches.

Lookalike Online Publishers

You might be familiar with the idea of a lookalike from Facebook Ads. They take a person that you want to target and tries to find other people who share that person’s characteristics. It’s a powerful idea.

And it’s an idea that you can use to find keyword ideas.

Many SEOs know to look at the big industry publisher for keyword ideas, but never think to find “lookalikes” of their big industry publisher…in an adjacent industry.

And adjacent industries can be a goldmine for both keyword roots and modifiers.

For example, imagine that you own a small fishing website. You probably know the trick for mining Field & Stream for content ideas.

But what about looking at the Field & Stream equivalent in the backpacking, boating, or wildlife magazine segments?

If you had a Venn diagram, you’d see that they all have an audience overlap, even if they don’t have a keyword overlap. And that represents an opportunity.

Remember, the best keyword research understands the question behind the keyword. Explore those publishers to find content strategies and audience questions that you could use.

Look at their top performing content and think about what you could swap in that would fit your website.

If Backpacker magazine did a profile on the top trails in the Southeast US, why wouldn’t a profile on the top rivers in the Southeast US work for your fishing website?

I would argue that it would. And best of all, any new keywords, headlines or modifiers that you find function as pre-qualified content, since you know it has already worked for someone else.

Wikipedia Analysis

I’ve written an entire post about using Wikipedia for SEO & Content Marketing. But Wikipedia is an especially good place to find keyword ideas because it is structured.

The process is to pick a category and systematically explore all the entries along with how they are related.

Read entries with an eye for keywords and concepts that need further exploration.

YouTube Search

YouTube is a popular place for How To’s, tutorials, and visual content. You can (and should) use YouTube autosuggest to mine for keywords. They’ll have a different dataset from Google search.

But I recommend that you go a step further. Look at (or scrape!) top ranking videos. Read their transcripts, tags, comments, and descriptions with an eye for new keywords and concepts.

If the video narrator uses a term that needs context or further explanation, note it. Look for how the narrator and video presents information.

Even the best YouTube videos leave gaps that need to be filled. And those gaps usually produce Google Searches.

It’s a great way to find high-volume, long-tail keywords.

I wrote an extended guide to use YouTube for SEO & content here.

Pinterest Search

I would argue that Pinterest is one of the top search engines on the Internet, even though it is thought of as a social network.

Millions of people use it to start their search and bookmark their favorite answers.

While it does work better for some segments than others, I think it’s worth checking out for nearly every industry.

Like YouTube, you should look at both their autosuggest and their suggested topics. But go a step further and look at top performing pins & boards.

Note any unique keyword angles, audience questions, etc. Usually, they have a completely different angle from Google that will provide a window into an audience’s true intent – which, again, will help you answer the “question behind the keyword.”

I wrote an entire guide to use Pinterest for SEO & Content here.

Instagram Search

Unlike Pinterest, Instagram is a pure-play social network. But it still throws off a lot of keyword data, especially for consumer industry segments.

Use the autosuggest on Instagram for modifiers, but also check out the Explore to find trending hashtags.

Take those hashtags and use them to understand trending topics, angles on existing keywords, and to find new, trending ideas.

Twitter Search

Using Twitter search for keyword research is a bit like using Instagram, except that it’s heavily biased towards right now.

Twitter doesn’t have the same breadth that any other tool has. But Twitter’s speed and recency and analytics can help you keep your content up to date and cutting edge.

Quora Search

I’ve written a full guide to use Quora for SEO & content. But the short version is that Quora has a bunch of experts answering specific questions with plain, human language.

You should mine both the topics and the keywords that contributors use in their answers.

Quora Drip Tray

As a bonus, if you sign up for Quora Ads, you can see the exact search interest that a question has.

Reddit Analysis

You can use Reddit with a similar process as Quora. I’ve written a guide to use Reddit for SEO & Content here.

But the short version is to find one or several subreddits that your target audience is interested in. Sort by Top or Hot and start mining both titles and responses.

Everything is written in plain language, so you’ll find plenty of keywords that your audience uses, but that might not show up in a keyword research tool.

Content Ideas from Reddit
Some noise, but also some great ideas

There are also plenty of automated Reddit research tools like Keyworddit.

Amazon Reviews

Next to Wikipedia, Amazon probably has the largest repository of user-generated content on the Internet.

Their reviews are a goldmine for finding keywords that your audience uses while searching for products. In other words, they have the intent to purchase, which is critical for many publishers.

Amazon Read Reviews

I’ve written a full guide to using Amazon for SEO & content here. I recommend starting with the Bestsellers in your category, and then manually looking through the user reviews and their questions.

There are a few tools that can automate parts of this research, but it does not work as well as manually read reviews & questions.

Google Scholar Autosuggest

Google Scholar is one of Google’s most powerful, but least understood products. It searches the universe of scholarly journals, magazines, patents, and more.

9 Google Scholar

In other words, it searches content that is actually rigorous and right. It’s a huge opportunity to find academic jargon, theories, data, and more.

Podcast Directories

There is a universe of podcasts that cover every niche, market segment, and industry. But episodes are not indexed or analyzed in any systematic way.

Head over to any of the big podcast directories including Apple, Google, Spotify, and Stitcher. Look for podcasts in your industry. Look through top episodes, reviews, and descriptions. Listen to episodes that catch your eye.

Harvest & use any new keywords that you find.

Physical Books & Magazines

I cannot stress how underestimated physical books and magazines are for keyword research. They are structured, comprehensive, edited, fact-checked, and exist in every industry for every market segment.

The problem is that they are inaccessible for quick research. You have to, you know, read them? But that’s your competitive advantage over big publishers working at scale.

Buy some physical books and magazines specifically for keywords and topics that are not coming up in your traditional keyword research.

There are a couple of ways to speed this process up. One way is to use ebooks. Convert them to HTML or text. Search them quickly, or use an algorithm to parse it.

Another way is to use Google Books. I wrote a guide to using it for SEO & content research here.

Customer Surveys

Google Surveys and Survey Monkey both make customer surveys much more accessible than ever in the past. They are still fairly costly, but can be a good value when planning an expensive content or ad campaign.

One idea here to ask open-ended questions and word association type questions to help trigger unique, qualitative keywords from real people.

Next Steps To Find New Keywords

There are a million variations of the cliche that “if you do what everyone else is doing, you’ll get what everyone else has.” Keyword research is no different. It takes work to find new keywords.

If all you do is go to SEMRush or Ahrefs, drop in a big keyword and sort by keyword difficulty…then you’ll never get ahead. Same with Google Autosuggest or Keyword Planner.

But searching out new sources to find keywords that your audience is using, but that you don’t see will help you get ahead.

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SEMRush Review: Pros, Cons & Use Cases

This post originally appeared at SEMRush Review: Pros, Cons & Use Cases via ShivarWeb

SEMRush Review

SEMRush is a suite of digital marketing software covering organic search (SEO), paid search (PPC), social media, and more. The company has been around for more than 11 years, and is a mainstay among many marketing agencies & consultants.

See SEMRush’s Current Plans & Pricing

I’ve been and off & on user of SEMRush for more than 7 years. While I’m a current subscriber of Ahrefs, one of their semi-direct competitors, I’ve recently reactivated my subscription due to volatility and massive changes among marketing data vendors.

What is SEMRush?

SEMRush is a suite of tools for digital marketers, so it’s hard to say precisely what it is. It’s almost like a Swiss Army Knife – a general purpose data & analysis tool for digital marketing.

Background on SEMRush

Their tools revolve around their backlink index, their keyword index, and their domain database. Their tools mix, match & cross-reference all these datasets to help marketers make better decisions about building content, building links, running ads, and running social media campaigns.

For example, their Keyword Explorer takes keywords that people are searching for in Google and cross-references their backlink index & ads index to determine how difficult any given keyword will be to rank for.

Here’s their official overview of their products.

SEMRush has been around for a long time. They have seen their share of controversy and can generate some extreme opinions among the digital marketing community.

Their one thread of consistency (and the reason they are still around) is that they have a very good sense of their target market. They have always sought to be the best all-around, single toolset. This will be the general theme and tl;dr of the pros & cons below.

They are not the “best” for any single one of their tools, but their strength is that they are really strong across a bunch of different tools…and they bundle it all into one.

How SEMRush Works

SEMRush has three subscription tiers. The higher tiers are meant to almost exclusively appeal to agencies with more reporting options and sharing limits…which they helpfully explain right on their pricing page.

Once you sign up, SEMRush revolves around Projects. Your website would be a single project. All the tools revolve around auditing your current domain, finding domain competitors, understanding your current link profile, your current keyword targeting, and all your opportunities.

SEMRush works by pulling data and attempting to help you convert that data into actions that you can take to improve your marketing.

Their Dashboard is busy & cluttered – but does show all the tools that you have available. They show all the use cases & example tasks that you can do to prevent decision overload.

Like a Swiss Army Knife, their tools work best if you know exactly what you want to do. It helps to start small to solve a single marketing problem.

For example, I needed a way to audit and share local citation opportunities with a client. SEMRush not only has that dataset, but it also provides recommendations on what to do – and it will create an automated, white-label PDF report to send my client.

I’ll get into these examples in my pros / cons, but in general, SEMRush works by taking your problem request, pulling data, converting that data into potential actions, and letting you take those actions to improve your digital marketing.

Pros of Using SEMRush

The broad upside of SEMRush is that it’s a full toolset from dataset, to recommendation engine, to automation tool, to reporting tool.

They are consistently focused on being the *one* tool that any agency, freelancer, or in-house marketer can buy and dramatically speed up their marketing operations. Here’s how that general upside plays out.

Feature Breadth

SEMRush has an incredible breadth of features – much more than I can write out and summarize.

They really lean into the “but wait, there’s more!” vibe.

Usually, a customer (like myself) joins for a specific tool, but quickly finds out that they have much more to offer.

For in-house marketers, it’s useful to have SEO, PPC, Social, PR, and Content tools all in a single software suite.

You are likely running multi-channel campaigns, so to have PPC & SEO keyword metrics are useful…but also to have link building & prospecting tools.

For solo freelancers on a budget, it’s useful to have a variety of tools to solve whatever marketing issue that you’re dealing with at the moment.

It has all the tools from a social media scheduler to toxic backlink checker to site auditor so that you can solve & diagnose any marketing issue that a new client is having.

For growing agencies, it can be shared by your PPC and SEO team to cut costs. Additionally, the reporting tools are invaluable for saving time and money while increasing client value & transparency.

They even have a lead generation tool to help agencies recruit new clients.

Here’s what the SEMRush Dashboard looks like –

Here’s what their backlink tool looks like.

It’s interesting how they not only pull basic backlink metrics, but also categorize them for you. It provides a quick snapshot of whatever domain you’re looking at.

Their link building tool takes your existing backlink index and generates ideas for new link building campaigns.

Here’s what their CPC Map tool looks like to help you generate new CPC ideas.

Here’s their local SEO tool – which is truly a “but wait there’s more” tool for any agency or freelancer.

Local clients are very hard to work with & scale due to the limited (and usually expensive) tools on the market. The fact that this tool is bundled is huge. It competes with Moz Local, but I found it to be solid.

Here’s their Market Explorer tool to help gather a better picture of any given industry so that you know who to copy, who to avoid, and who to learn from.

Again, I could go on. SEMRush’s biggest strength is their breadth of tools. No single tool can compete with a direct competitor, but on whole, they are a solid fit for the people most likely to use / need their product.

Feature Depth & Accuracy

Now – SEMRush has a wide breadth of tools. But even on their own, their tools are solid and have industry-leading depth & accuracy to them.

With their SEO tools, their backlink and keyword indices are not necessarily the best, but they are industry-leading. Comparing backlink indices is notoriously difficult. I will leave the academic research to others.

But from a day to day keyword research and link building perspective, SEMRush is good enough to do almost any job.

They are at that point where the person using the tool matters more than the tool itself.

I use Ahrefs on a day to day basis. They consistently have a more useful, and more complete keyword and link database than SEMRush.

But I also know how to effectively use Ahrefs’ data. In fact, one reason that I pay for both Ahrefs’ and SEMRush is that I like to collate their data with my Search Console data. Having 3 indices is better than 1.

But either way – SEMRush is a solid #2 or #3 in keywords & link database world…and they have depth in their PPC, Social, and Content tools.

Their PPC tools have a universe of data that other SEO-focused tools like Moz and Ahrefs (or Majestic) simply do not have. It has data that only Google’s Keyword Planner has.

But again – it’s a top tier dataset & PPC tool that also comes with SEO and everything else.

Having a range of robust tools might not be the best fit for everyone, but it’s a good fit for many others. With a growing agency that cannot afford multiple subscriptions, SEMRush has everything all in an overall value bundle. And that’s a huge pro.

Consistency Over Time

SEMRush has been around since 2008. For a marketing SaaS company, that is positively ancient. And that’s a good thing. There are lots of marketing software companies with a good product, and a good culture…but don’t really make it.

They get distracted and overextended. They try to become more than they should. They take venture capital and try to go beyond what their core market wants.

SEMRush has always been focused on the same core market with the same core suite of products. I was using them as a freelancer in 2011. The agency where I worked at in 2013 used them for their PPC and SEO teams. A friend who runs an in-house marketing team uses them today.

Their software suite has gotten bigger and better through incremental improvement and customer feedback.

They have been a bit tone deaf in their product launch communications and their own marketing tactics, but it’s never been a distraction from their main product suite.

When I commit to a tool, I want it to be around for a while. The fact that SEMRush has been around is a solid advantage.

Reporting & Recommendations

Marketing data can be just undecipherable noise unless you’ve worked at an agency or spent some time learning from someone who does digital marketing for a living.

That’s a huge problem with a lot of tools. There are two responses to this. One is to provide all the education and training yourself. That’s what Ahrefs does. They have the best SEO & content blog on the Internet.

The other response is to build in recommendations and reporting. That’s the route that SEMRush takes. I’ll get to the downsides of this approach, but overall, it’s really helpful.

If you are an in-house marketer or freelancer who juggles lots of marketing responsibilities, it’s incredibly useful to have reminders, recommendations, and reporting built into your software.

It provides actions in addition to education so that you can make fast decisions and understand the value of the data.

Cons / Disadvantages of Using SEMRush

There are a *lot* of highly charged opinions about SEMRush online. They have certainly courted plenty of controversy in the SEO community with their own “gray-ish hat” marketing tactics.

But they do have some downside and negatives as a tool set. Most of these are simple tradeoffs that they’ve made to get the pros that they have. But it’s important to be aware of the downsides & tradeoffs to understand what you’re getting and whether they align with your own goals and needs.

Feature Excellence

Plenty of SEOs and PPCers have done analysis on who has the “best” backlink or keyword index. You can get really deep in the weeds here. If you want to go read about crawler analysis and behavior, go check out this post or this post.

But, in general, and in my experience, SEMRush’s tools are solidly great – but they are not the best in any single category.

Their backlink & keyword index is good enough to do all the SEO & link building you’ll need to do to be competitive. But I still don’t think it’s as high quality or as deep as Ahrefs’ links or keywords.

Their PPC tools are great, but they are nowhere as user-friendly as AdEspresso or WordStream. And with their PPC keyword research tool, well, they are competing directly with Google’s Keyword Planner.

Their social media tools are great, but again, they are not as useful or usable as HootSuite, Buffer, or Buzzsumo.

Their link building & outreach tools are great, but again, they are not as usable or as useful as Buzzstream or other outreach tools.

And their local SEO tools are also solid, but not as good as Places Scout or Whitespark.

Now – this is all just the flipside of Feature Breadth.

SEMRush is the jack of all trades and master of none.*

*but don’t forget the rest of the rhyme which is “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”

Jargon & Feature Overwhelm

SEMRush has a lot going on. They have so many different features that they have them bucketed into different toolkits…even though the tools in those toolkits usually overlap.

The tools themselves are busy and present a ton of information.

And all that information is usually presented with industry jargon instead of plain language.

It’s confusing and overwhelming for me – and I’ve been in the industry for more than 10 years.

I’m not sure they could solve the user experience issue, but it’s a pretty big disadvantage compared to their competitors.

Automated Recommendations & Alerts

As mentioned in the pros section, one of SEMRush’s solutions to data overwhelm is to provide automated recommendations and alerts about what you should actually do.

Mostly, it’s a good thing. But any recommendation engine, no matter how smart, will only provide recommendations based on its inputs and parameters rather than actual knowledge.

And when you are working with human language and human knowledge, it gets tricky. SEMRush’s recommendations are great as an onboarding tool…but they can provide a false sense of security and accuracy.

This false sense of security could lead misinformed customers to make poor marketing choices.

For example, take their SEO content template tool.

In some ways, it’s great. In other ways, it just perpetuates some of the same old spammy tropes that have brought SEO down for years.

It is good to know semantically related words to your topic and it’s good to know about your competitors’ backlinks. And it’s good to consider text length.

But nothing about SEO is “paint by the numbers.”

It’s a bad idea to take a word salad, make a page full of those words, and throw a bunch of links at it.

That’s not what any professional SEO would recommend…but it’s the kind of thing that SEMRush’s automated recommendations would lead you to believe if you didn’t have any background or education.

It would be ideal to integrate some training directly with their recommendations. Until then, it’s a bit of disadvantage.

Workflow & Organization

SEMRush is not set up for a fast, efficient workflow…unless you really commit to the platform.

This downside can vary person to person, but it’s worth understanding. Some tools, like Ahrefs, just give you the data. The real analysis & work is done in a spreadsheet.

That’s how I like it and how most marketing professionals work.

SEMRush’s tool organization is setup to do analysis & actions within SEMRush. That’s great and can be super-handy…but only if you commit to using their workflow.

If you are the type of person who likes to work within SEMRush, it can have lots of advantages. But if you are like me and like to get the data into a spreadsheet, it can be frustrating.

SEMRush Use Cases

SEMRush has excelled by not trying to chase different markets. Here are the types of people that they are built for.

Solo Marketing Freelancer

If you have a wide range of clients & frequent projects, SEMRush’s tool variety will allow you to just have a single subscription to handle all types of clients.

In-house Marketer

If you are an in-house marketer that wants to run or knowledgeably assist your agency with multichannel campaigns, a subscription to SEMRush will give you the tool variety to effectively do that. Their pricing & reports will also be easy to sell to your boss.

Growing Agencies

SEMRush’s white label reports and team sharing options can help you provide value to clients while also controlling your overhead. It will also help you standardize agency processes with a single tool so that you don’t have a jumble of tools as your teams grow.

Next Steps & Conclusion

SEMRush is a solid all-in-one marketing tool suite. They aren’t the best in any one area, but they excel at providing a bunch of tools for a single subscription.

If you do PPC, SEO, Social, and/or Local – they are the tool to buy. You can see how they diagnose your own site with this tool –

If you are solely into SEO / Content, you should also look at Ahrefs. With a head to head comparison, they are better. And if you have the budget and clients…you should just pay for both. More data gives you a competitive advantage.

SEMRush

SEMRush is a suite of digital marketing software covering organic search (SEO), paid search (PPC), social media, and more. The company has been around for more than 11 years, and is a mainstay among many marketing agencies & consultants.

Application Category: Marketing Software

Editor's Rating:
4

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How To Start A Delivery Business In 9 Easy, Hassle-Free Steps

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GoDaddy Email Problems: Solving Issues w/ Forms & Not Receiving Email

This post originally appeared at GoDaddy Email Problems: Solving Issues w/ Forms & Not Receiving Email via ShivarWeb

GoDaddy Email Problems Solving Issues w Forms & Not Receiving Email

For years, I’ve had issues with email forms on websites hosted at GoDaddy. Whether I was trying to get a contact form in WordPress to work, or simply forward emails within cPanel, the whole troubleshooting process was just a pain.

The GoDaddy email issue especially pops up when a client switches from GoDaddy email hosting to a 3rd party email host like Google, Zoho, NameCheap, etc.

And it turns out that it’s not just me. It’s a documented issue with everything from WooCommerce to other non-WordPress software.

But GoDaddy’s documentation is straight-up horrible and poking around StackOverflow / Googling developer forums gets old after a while. So here’s a short guide to GoDaddy form email problems that I wish I had several years ago.

Background

There are a few concepts to understand before picking a solution.

1. Your website form does not actually “send” the email.

Instead, the data goes like this –

  • User types information into the form
  • Form passes data to WordPress (or your CMS)
  • WordPress (or your CMS) passes data to your web host via PHP
  • Your web host actually transmits the email with its email header information

2. Email Sending & Receiving Is Incredibly Insecure

There is a reason why you generally can’t contact your doctor via email. And there’s a reason why you get so much spam.

Email is inherently insecure. It’s fairly easy to fake the sending and receiving address (aka “spoofing”). Hosting companies and the big email providers spend a ton of money and thought on authenticating email headers. And a lot of this authentication is based on reputation. So, hosting companies don’t want their servers to get a bad reputation for sending spam.

3. GoDaddy has a uniquely bad email problem & a uniquely strict email security solution

Depending on how you count, GoDaddy is the largest single domain registrar and hosting brand in the world. With that kind of scale, they have unique problems with dealing with spam.

However, they have also split from the rest of the industry in creating a security protocol. Their solutions get technical, but they basically block an entire range of ports for sending emails from cPanel / servers in addition to filtering out form emails sent “from” the big email providers like Google, Yahoo!, AOL, etc.

That’s justifiable…except for the fact that GoDaddy is the only host that I’ve used that has these sorts of email issues. They are incredibly strict with their email security – to the point that, well, I have to write guides like this.

Solutions

So what can you do? I’ve tried hacking around with all sorts of settings – including disabling some website security settings (bad idea). But I’ve generally ended up with 2 go-to fixes for the problem.

Use SMTP Authentication for Forms

SMTP is “simple mail transfer protocol.” It’s the Internet-standard way of authenticating and sending email. The great thing about SMTP is that you can sync it directly with your forms / WordPress / CMS.

So instead of passing the email to your web host to send, you can “send” it directly via whoever handles your email.

In other words, this solution simply cuts your web host out of the equation.

If you are using WordPress, you can install a plugin like Easy WP SMTP or WP Mail SMTP.

You’ll need to install the plugin and configure your SMTP settings based on your provider. Once installed, it basically replaces the standard WP_Mail function with your email provider. So any submission to your form is like someone sending you an email directly to your inbox.

Upsides

  • You can keep using GoDaddy hosting without dealing with a migration.
  • Your forms should all send correctly.
  • The process is fairly quick and straightforward.

Downsides

  • It’s still a bit clunky to install just right.
  • Any mistake with SMTP settings will create delivery failed notifications.
  • It may create conflicts for any plugins that use WP_Mail functionality (ie, uptime alerts, etc).
  • You’ll have to maintain & update another plugin.

One of my clients used this solution for more than 4 years without issue. It worked and it made sense at the time.

Now – that last bullet downside finally got us. The SMTP plugin we used was no longer maintained. So with that, combined with other factors, it made sense to move to the longer-term solution.

Switch Hosting Providers

Like I’ve said in many hosting reviews, using GoDaddy for hosting is fine. They are cheap – and they integrate with their other products. They are usually “good enough” to use to just get started.

However, they have enough limitations – and even quirks like this – that switching hosting companies from GoDaddy is usually the best long-term option.

In the case of one client, I moved his website to InMotion Hosting and haven’t had any email issues since.

I’ve also used InMotion Hosting for this site for quite a while (read their pros/negatives here) – and have since tried out multiple contact forms. Every form from FS Contact Form to Contact Form 7 to my current JetPack contact form has worked well.

Now – it’s still ideal from an email security perspective to use SMTP rather than the default PHP mailer – however, their uniform and well-documented email setup at least allows more flexibility in my email/form setup.

Upsides

  • You get more flexibility with setting up forms & email.
  • Your forms will work with the default WordPress setup.
  • A move will likely pay off long-term with pricing & more advanced features.

Downsides

  • Migrating your website can be a heavy lift to solve a single issue – depending on how many services you have with GoDaddy.
  • You may want to install & work with an SMTP plugin regardless.

Next Steps

Forms & email are a critical part of any business website. Not receiving your emails or form submissions via GoDaddy’s servers is not really an option.

You can solve the problem in the short-term on WordPress with an SMTP plugin.

However, to solve for the long-term, you’ll want to move hosting companies to somewhere like InMotion Hosting or another good business host based on your goals & preferences or simply another good email hosting company.

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Small Business HR: What Is HR & How To Manage Your Business’s Human Resources

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What Is Square Online Checkout? Your Guide To Using This New Square Payment Option

The post What Is Square Online Checkout? Your Guide To Using This New Square Payment Option appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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