This post originally appeared at 14+ Unconventional Ways To Find New Keywords To Outsmart Your Competition via ShivarWeb
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As a bonus, if you sign up for Quora Ads, you can see the exact search interest that a question has.
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.
There are also plenty of automated Reddit research tools like Keyworddit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This post originally appeared at SEMRush Review: Pros, Cons & Use Cases via ShivarWeb
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left the small business world reeling, with businesses forced to shut their doors, lay off staff, or change the way they operate. These sudden and unexpected changes have hit many business owners hard as they struggle to follow social distancing guidelinesÂ and comply with government orders. Unfortunately, many small businesses are already struggling financially or may be in the near future.
Small business aid made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Support Act has been making headlines, but many small business owners missed out on funding, do not qualify, or did not receive enough money to sustain their business for an extended period of time. The good news, though, is that many companies and organizations are offering millions of dollars in grant money to small business owners.
Instead of spending hours scouring the web for legitimate grant programs available to businesses affected by the coronavirus, keep reading. We’ve done the hard work for you by finding the best grants available to help your business clear the hurdles that this year has thrown at us … and the inevitable challenges that lie ahead.
Sam’s Club Small Business Relief Grants
Eligibility Criteria: Small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19, particularly underserved communities
Open & Close Date: Round 3 of funding will open on May 14, 2020
Sam’s Club has provided a $1 million grant through the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) that will be distributed to small business owners affected by COVID-19. Through this program, small business owners can receive up to $10,000 to cover immediate expenses. Qualified uses for grant funds include payroll costs, rent and utilities, outstanding debts to vendors, upgraded tech infrastructure, and other operational expenses.
Any business that has been affected by COVID-19 can apply for the grant. Priority will be given to underserved communities including businesses owned by women, minorities, and veterans, as well as businesses that are particularly challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two rounds of funding have already been closed, and the third round opens on May 14. A close date for submitting applications has not yet been announced. Interested business owners can visit the LISC website to learn more about this grant, sign up for email updates, or submit an application.
Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund
Eligibility Criteria: Small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19, particularly underserved communities
Open & Close Date: Round 3 of funding will open on May 14, 2020
Verizon Wireless has donated $7.5 million in grant funding that will be distributed through LISC. Businesses may qualify to receive up to $10,000 to use for immediate operational expenses, including outstanding debts to vendors, rent and utilities, payroll costs, and other purposes.
Businesses that have been affected by COVID-19 can apply. However, priority will be given to business owners in underserved communities that are unable to secure funds elsewhere. Businesses that have been particularly challenged during the pandemic will also receive priority.
The grant funds will be distributed through three rounds of funding. The first two rounds are closed, and the third opens on May 14. A close date for the submission of applications has not yet been announced. If you’re interested in this grant, you can apply, sign up for email updates, and learn more through LISC.
GoFundMe Small Business Relief Fund
Eligibility Criteria: Available to independently owned and operated businesses affected by COVID-19. All recipients must raise at least $500 through the GoFundMe platform.
Open & Close Date:Â Currently open; submissions will close when funds have been depleted
GoFundMe has launched its own fundraiser to help small business owners. The GoFundMe Small Business Relief Fund has raised over $2 million that will be used to provide matching grants of $500 to qualified business owners.
Any business is eligible to apply provided they meet a few requirements. Businesses must be independently owned and operated. Businesses that are nationally dominant in their fields are not eligible to receive a grant. Furthermore, all recipients must have been affected by COVID-19 and must use funds to pay employees or ongoing operational expenses.
To be eligible for a $500 grant, all recipients must register to confirm their small business status. Recipients must also launch a GoFundMe fundraiser and raise at least $500 in funds. All fundraisers must include the hashtag #SmallBusinessRelief to qualify. Grants will continue to be distributed until all funds are depleted. The GoFundMe Small Business Relief Fund campaign page and the program FAQs provide all of the information you need to secure your grant.
FedEx #SupportSmall Grants
Eligibility Criteria: For-profit businesses in the US that have been in operations for at least 12 months, have fewer than 50 employees, made less than $5 million in sales revenue in 2019, and have shipped or plan to ship
Open & Close Date: Submissions will be accepted from May 25, 2020, through June 12, 2020.
FedEx is showing its support of small businesses by providing a total of $1 million in grant funding to eligible applicants. The 200 recipients of this grant will each receive $5,000 plus a $500 FedEx Office credit that can be used for posters, banners, and other marketing and promotional materials.
To be eligible, all applicants must be at least 18 years old and operate a US-based business. Only for-profit businesses can apply. Qualifying businesses must have been in operations for at least 12 months, have less than $5 million in sales revenue from 2019, and have fewer than 50 employees. All applicants must also have shipped within the last 12 months or are planning to ship within the next 12 months. Franchises, resellers, independent consultants, nonprofits, and previous winners of FedEx Small Business Grants are not eligible.
The application period opens on May 25, 2020. Applications will no longer be accepted after June 12, 2020. Interested business owners can apply directly through FedEx.
Nav’s Small Business Grant
Eligibility Criteria: Any Nav customer with a social media account
Open & Close Date: The current round runs from February 24, 2020, through May 30, 2020. A new submission period opens quarterly.
Nav’s Small Business Grant isn’t specifically for businesses affected by the coronavirus — any Nav customer can qualify. Every quarter, three recipients are selected to receive grants. The winner of first prize receives a check for $10,000. The first runner-up receives a grant for $2,000, while the second runner-up receives $1,000.
To qualify for this grant, you must be a Nav customer. Then, you must create a post and share it on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. Your post should discuss a challenge that your business has faced and how you plan to use your grant. Nav encourages participants to get creative with their posts by including photos, creating videos, or recording audio. Nav must be tagged in the post for the submission to be considered.
This grant program is ongoing and accepts new submissions each quarter, so if you miss out on this round, don’t worry — you can take part in the next round. Check out past submissions, tips for creating your post, and learn more about this grant by visiting Nav.
COVID-19 Business for All Grants
Eligibility Criteria: Any US-based business affected by the coronavirus
Open & Close Date: This contest is open from March 26, 2020, through July 16, 2020.
Hello Alice has partnered with companies like eBay and Verizon to distribute funds through the COVID-19 Business For All Grant program. Through this program, qualifying small businesses can receive a $10,000 grant.
Qualifying for this grant is easy. The program is open to any US-based business that does not engage in illegal or illegitimate activities. All entrants must sign up for a Hello Alice account and complete the online application. Winners will be selected based on their need for funds and how grant funds will be used. You can learn more about this grant and submit your application through Hello Alice.
Supermaker’s Entrepreneurial Dream Project
Eligibility Criteria: New businesses or businesses that haven’t yet launched, less than $2.5 million in gross annual revenue, and an active business website and social media account
Open & Close Date: Applications are due by June 15, 2020
Supermaker’s Entrepreneurial Dream Project is aimed at new businesses or businesses that haven’t even gotten off the ground yet that have been impacted by the coronavirus. Two winners will be selected to split a grant of $100,000. Ten additional winners will be selected to receive mentoring through the Supermaker Mentor Network.
Businesses that made their products available in 2019 or later are eligible. Businesses that have not yet launched may also apply. Existing businesses must have less than $2.5 million in gross annualized revenue. Products must currently be sold or ready to sell within six months of applying to qualify. Eligible entrants must also have a US-based business, an active website, and social media accounts showing entrepreneurial activity.
Winners will be picked based on criteria including the business’ mission statement, sustainability, and proposed use of funds. Interested applicants can go directly to Supermaker to check out FAQs, read tips for submitting a good application, and apply for this grant.
The Conductor Foundation
Eligibility Criteria: Nonprofit organizations
Open & Close Date: Ongoing
The Conductor Foundation grant program is different than other grants on this list. First, it’s open to nonprofit organizations. This also isn’t a monetary grant but does offer more opportunities for growth and online visibility.
Winners of this grant will receive Conductor Searchlight SEO technology, Keyword Discovery Services, and ongoing support from the team at Conductor.
Applicants do not have to be affected by COVID-19 to qualify, and this contest is ongoing. Interested nonprofits can learn more and submit a one-page application directly through The Conductor Foundation.
Amazon’s Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund
Eligibility Criteria: Small businesses with less than $7 million in annual revenue or fewer than 50 employees that are located in select neighborhoods in Seattle and Bellevue
Open & Close Date:Â Undetermined
Amazon has created the $5 million Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to small businesses located in select Washington State neighborhoods. The amount of each award varies and will be determined based on information received during the application process. Funds should be used to cover day-to-day operational expenses and to improve cashflow.
To qualify, businesses must be located within close proximity of Amazon’s offices in Regrade, South Lake Union, and Bellevue. All eligible entrants must have less than $7 million in annual revenue or fewer than 50 employees. The grant program is open to any business that is open to the public and relies heavily on foot traffic.
Amazon has a page that allows you to determine eligibility and register to apply. The company also has a list of FAQs and additional information to help interested business owners find out more about this funding opportunity.
PBA COVID-19 Relief Fund
Eligibility Criteria: Licensed beauty professionals unable to work as a result of COVID-19
Open & Close Date: Ongoing until funds are depleted
Licensed beauty professionals that have been unable to work due to the coronavirus can apply for a grant through the Professional Beauty Association COVID-19 Relief Fund. Eligible entrants will receive a $500 Visa gift card that can be used to purchase supplies or cover immediate expenses.
A lottery process is used to determine winners of this grant. To date, over $1 million has been distributed to help beauty professionals, and the contest will be ongoing until funds are depleted.
Interested applicants must submit an application. The PBA also offers FAQs giving more details on this funding opportunity.
CND x BCL Nail Professional Relief Grant
Eligibility Criteria: Licensed nail professionals employed for at least 12 months that are currently not receiving an income
Open & Close Date: Submissions will be accepted through May 30, 2020
Beauty Changes Lives, through a donation by CND Creative Nail Design, will be awarding grants to nail professionals that have lost their income as a result of COVID-19. Each winner will receive temporary financial relief through a one-time $1,000 grant.
This program is open to licensed beauty professionals that have been employed for at least 12 months as of March 16, 2020. Eligible applicants must also reside in the US and must not be currently be receiving an income.
In addition to submitting an application, entrants must also write an essay of more than 200 words and provide documentation proving identity, number of dependents, licensure, and other information. Submissions will be accepted through the end of May 2020, and winners will be selected through July. Check out Beauty Changes Lives to learn more about this program and to sign up for a chance to win.
The Red Backpack Fund
Eligibility Criteria: Woman-owned businesses and nonprofits affected by COVID-19
Open & Close Date: Application rounds will open on June 1, July 6, and August 3
The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation has donated $5 million and partnered with GlobalGiving to help female entrepreneurs through The Red Backpack Fund. This fund will provide a minimum of 1,000 grants of $5,000 each to female entrepreneurs impacted by the coronavirus. Recipients will also receive an All-Access Pass to MasterClass for mentorship opportunities.
This grant program is open to US-based businesses that are at least 51% women-owned. Eligible entrants must have an EIN, at least one employee but no more than 50, and annual revenues not exceeding $5 million.
There will be multiple rounds of funding for these grants. Application periods are June 1 – June 8, July 6 – July 13, and August 3 – August 10. If your business is interested, check out the FAQs or submit your application. If the fund currently isn’t accepting applications, you can sign up for email updates to be notified when the next round of submissions is open.
The Doonie Fund
Eligibility Criteria: Black female entrepreneurs affected by COVID-19
Open & Close Date: Undetermined
The Doonie Fund was launched by digitalundivided CEO Kathryn Finney to support and empower black female entrepreneurs. The fund was launched on April 5, 2020, and has helped over 500 women to date.
To qualify, all entrants must be an entrepreneur that identifies as both black and female. Eligible recipients must also have been impacted by COVID-19. Recipients will receive $100 to help their business. This is an ongoing fund with no announced submission deadlines.
To get started and to learn if you qualify for the program, submit your application. You can also check out The Doonie Fund page to learn more about the program.
Grants Worth Watching
While some grant programs aren’t currently accepting submissions, there are a few that may offer more funding opportunities in the future.
Visa Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief
The Visa Foundation has committed $10 million to provide immediate relief to organizations on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, the foundation has distributed $8.8 million in grant funds to organizations including UNICEF, Feeding America, and Red Cross.
Visa Foundation Small & Micro Business Program
The Visa Foundation has also committed $200 million over the next five years to support small businesses, micro businesses, and the economic advancement of women. Of these funds, $60 million will be allocated to non-government organizations worldwide that support small businesses and micro businesses. The remaining funds will be allocated to investment partners that generate returns for these businesses.
Facebook Small Business Grants Program
Facebook is providing small business grants to up to 30,000 recipients through its Small Business Grants Program. The two-week window to submit an application for a portion of the $100 million fund is closed to US businesses, but businesses in other nations may still be eligible to apply. Additional resources may be made available in the future.
Horst Rechelbacher Relief Fund
The Horst Rechlebacher Relief Fund provides $1,000 grants to unemployed licensed beauty professionals or students enrolled in a licensing program. Although the submission deadline has already passed, interested professionals can keep an eye on the Beauty Changes Lives website for updates.
Other Resources For Coronavirus-Affected Businesses
If you need immediate funding or don’t qualify for any of these grants, you still have options to keep your business afloat during this pandemic. An abundance of resources are available through our COVID-19 hub, including industry-specific survival guides, emergency funding options, credit card payment assistance, and more. We’re continually updating and adding new content to make sure that business owners like you have the financial support and resources needed to weather this storm. Good luck!
The post Take Advantage Of These Small Business Grants For Coronavirus Relief appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at Clickstream Data & SEO Explained via ShivarWeb
For years, SEOs (unlike our paid media counterparts) have dealt with less and less data.
First, Google stopped providing keyword data from organic search.
Then, Google made Keyword Planner a lot less useful with averaged and rounded volume and merged queries.
Then, Google made Keyword Planner a tool specifically for active advertisers.
In fact, there was a period in 2015 when keyword research moved from an art + science to a total art.
And then came clickstream data. It was like magic.
In fact, the past 4 years have arguably been as rich in keyword data (especially when you add in the improved Search Console) as pre-2013 when you had automated rank checkers and keyword data directly in Google Analytics.
But like a lot of SEOs, I didn’t dig too far into the details. The data was accurate enough. It led to “paint by the numbers” keyword research* via tools like Ahrefs and SEM Rush.
*Example – search keyword in Ahrefs, sort by phrase match, filter by Keyword Difficulty less than 15, then pick the highest volume.
But details matter, especially when it comes to such critical marketing data. Here’s what Clickstream data is and is not based on my research.
What is Clickstream Data?
Clickstream Data is the sequence of hyperlinks one or more website visitors follow on a given site, presented in the order viewed – according to Wikipedia.
In other words, Clickstream data is not one thing really, it’s more of a category of data. Clickstream data is any data that captures a single user’s journey around a website or the Internet.
If you have ever seen a website heatmap or Google Analytics flowchart or a website usability test, then you have seen Clickstream data in action.
Clickstream data is literally just the stream of clicks that a user makes as they journey around the Internet.
How Is Clickstream Data Used for SEO?
Clickstream data has a lot of indirect uses for SEO. For example, the Clickstream data from Google Analytics or Crazy Egg can help you improve your content and landing pages.
But the real goldmine is Clickstream data from Google Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).
If you can see what a user searches for, what results show up, and what the user clicks on – you can gain a lot of insight.
In fact, that data is so insightful that the US Department of Justice used it within its anti-trust probe of Google.
Without Clickstream data, most SEOs can only extrapolate ballpark traffic numbers from Google SERPs.
Without Clickstream data, most SEOs judged the value of a #1 ranking or rich snippet of all possible queries based on a few narrow, biased usability studies.
With a large enough Clickstream data set, you could actually say what queries drove traffic, what queries drove revenue, and what queries had nuance. You could see everything. Like I outlined in my Ahrefs Guide, the only real limit to keyword research is your imagination & creativity.
The data is cleaner, better, and more sustainable than data pulled from web scrapers breaking Google’s terms of service. And it’s much more accurate and specific than data pulled from Google Ads API.
Where Does Clickstream Data for SEO Come From?
“But hold up…,” you might be thinking, “…how does one obtain real-user Clickstream data on Google’s SERPs?
Actually, it’s a question that is best left unasked. You probably know the answer, but since it’s a bit uncomfortable, most SEOs don’t bother to ask.
Google SERP Clickstream data comes from browser software spying on everyday users while they go about their daily life on the Internet.
Now, before we move to the next section, note that nothing illegal is going on. Everything is above board in the SEO world…it’s just another part of our strange new world of surveillance capitalism.
It’s like location data or Facebook’s social graph on your plate. It’s amazing and legal…just don’t think too hard about it.
Who Provides Clickstream Data for SEO?
There are a few players out there. Most are super-secretive, because, well, the biggest one ceased operations in January 2020 due to a major publicity scandal.
JumpShot was the biggest, best, and most comprehensive Clickstream provider on the Internet. They were wholly owned by Avast. Avast is one of the largest anti-virus and security software companies in the world.
Back in 2015, they started scanning URLs and webpages for security threats. Since they were scanning these URLs anyway, they had the idea to get people to consent to a data sharing agreement.
The data sharing agreement said that Avast would take their browser information, anonymize it, aggregate it, and sell it on to whoever wanted to buy it. The customer got cheap or free security software.
Avast eventually had a global Clickstream data source of 100 million+ users.
It’s a 21st Century Surveillance Capitalism Win/Win/Win arrangement.
In many ways, it’s pretty brilliant. Businesses & customers are at the mercy of the ultimate surveillance company (Google) who has all the data.
By combining and anonymizing data from willing users, businesses could get Clickstream data to build better websites while supporting a whole ecosystem of independent marketing businesses. It’s the argument that Rand Fishkin forcefully made after the event.
What Happens if Clickstream Data Disappears?
Clickstream data has basically disappeared as of January 2020.
Jumpshot, the largest provider of Clickstream data, ceased operations immediately on January 30 2020 after an expose from Vice & PC Magazine went viral and started seriously affecting their stock & security subscriptions.
Now, there are still other small providers out there. There are also ad hoc agreements among large agencies and software providers to share the data that they each have. And there are companies that aggregate some smaller, less statistically significant panels of data (e.g., Alexa and SimilarWeb).
But there’s nothing like Jumpshot available. Most keyword research tools are now completely reliant on Google Ads API and manual web scraping.
What Are Some Alternatives to Clickstream for SEO?
To begin, note that your SEO tools are not worthless. Ahrefs still has more link data than anybody else. You can still do amazing things with the tool. KeywordTool.io still has a good web scraper. AnswerThePublic has excellent keyword analysis. Moz still has powerful local tools. SEM Rush still has all their Google Ads data.
The part that has changed is search volume numbers, search snippet performance, SERP click data, etc.
In other words, keyword research is once again a pure art rather than rigorous data science.
Building an alternative to Jumpshot is above my pay grade. I’m sure some data company could do it. I’m thinking Facebook, Equifax, Axciom, AdBlock Plus, or some other software company with enough political and/or public relations expertise could pull it off.
But until then, here are a few ideas to replace Clickstream data & build resilience around your keyword research.
Diversify Your Premium Toolset
First, if you have budget, diversify your SEO tools. If you can afford both Ahrefs and SEM Rush, then having both data sets will put you ahead of the competition.
Learn Different Methods
Second, learn to use non-traditional keyword research methods. I’ve written about mining Google Books, Display Planner, Pinterest, Reddit, YouTube, even Slideshare, and Wikipedia. Use them.
Find Specialized Tools for Specific Needs
Third, learn to use lots of different keyword tools in the right sequence. Keyword tools are a dime a dozen. Check them all out and use them.
Go Old School & Look at the SERPs
Fourth, instead of looking at click through rate and keyword difficulty, go back to looking at the actual SERPs.
Ask yourself if you could (or should) deserve to rank. Install the Ahrefs browser extension and look at the link profile of the ranking URLs.
Learn to Love Search Console
Fifth, start using your Search Console data. It’s really good. And it comes directly from Google. Download 16 months worth and mine it for ideas.
Learn to Make Use of Keyword Planner
Sixth, go back to using Keyword Planner. Get an active Google Ads account. Sure, it’s imprecise. But Google wants everyone to address topics anyway. Use it to find topics, then manually drill down to your keyword theme.
Build a Brand w/ Actual Content
Seventh, do what you were supposed to be doing anyway – building a brand and building links. I know that I have gotten stuck in a keyword-driven rut.
Maybe the absence of paint by the number keyword research tools will drive the DemandMedia 2.0 websites out of business and allow thoughtful, thorough content to rise to the top.
Clickstream data is an incredible tool. It has made SEOs, in particular, more productive and better informed for years.
But like any good tool, it can become a crutch that prevents learning new & better ideas. The interruption of Clickstream data might change the keyword research process of SEOs, but it still won’t stop the need.
This post originally appeared at Kinsta Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb
Kinsta Hosting is a rapidly growing, independent hosting company founded in 2013. Kinsta is focused exclusively on managed WordPress hosting with reliable customer support and Google Cloud-driven performance.
See Kinsta’s Current Plans & Pricing
What is Kinsta Hosting?
Kinsta is a non-traditional hosting company only offers one service – managed hosting for WordPress on cloud servers. They don’t offer email, reseller, or any other type of hosting. They do integrate some 3rd-party tools like DNS (from Amazon) and SSL (from LetsEncrypt) and CDN (configured on their Google Cloud network). Here’s their pricing chart.
Kinsta was founded in 2013 to meet the increased demand for managed WordPress hosting services (which I’ll touch on in the next section). They are a remote-first company with an emphasis on global service with support provided in 7 languages.
Their service is provided via Google’s Cloud Platform, and they have an exclusive focus on WordPress.
I’ve had a long-standing client who uses WP Engine (Kinsta’s direct competitor), and have had experience using the various managed WordPress hosting products across the hosting industry.
Background on Kinsta Hosting
To understand Kinsta’s product, you need to understand four concepts.
First, WordPress is the most popular content management system software on the Internet. People use it to run websites. It can run on any hosting setup with PHP, MySQL, and Linux. In other words, it can run on almost any web host.
Second, Web Hosting is space on a computer server that can run web applications and serve data to browsers (aka, it’s where a website lives). Web hosting can come in various setups, depending on the configuration. Shared hosting is the most common where a single server that can run PHP, MySQL, and Linux is “shared” among various hosting accounts. I explain more here.
Third, WordPress Hosting is space on a web hosting account that is specifically configured in some way to help WordPress software run better. I explain more here. The definition of “run better” can vary wildly depending on the hosting company since technically WordPress can run on almost any web hosting account. I wrote about the differences between Web and WordPress hosting here.
Fourth, Cloud Hosting is a large network of data centers configured so that customers can lease computing power & storage for web applications on demand, anywhere in the network instead of using space on a single web server. The largest cloud networks are run by Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Digital Ocean, IBM, and Oracle. I explain more here.
With those four background concepts in place, I can explain Kinsta’s unique position in the hosting world.
Kinsta runs managed WordPress hosting on the Google Cloud Platform. They actively lease computing power & storage on Google’s Cloud, configure it to run WordPress quickly & efficiently, and manage & support each installation.
In other words, they offer a niche but also potentially powerful platform. Because of how they mix & match all these services, they don’t compete head to head with many providers. But they compete indirectly with *a lot*.
How Kinsta Hosting Works
In some ways, Kinsta works just like any other hosting company. You sign up and pay every month. In exchange, your WordPress website runs quickly and efficiently.
But behind the scenes, their setup is a bit more complicated.
First, you’ll technically lease your hosting from Google, so unless Google goes down…your site isn’t going to go down. There’s no “crashing” like there could be on a typical web server.
Second, Kinsta has its cloud access explicitly configured for WordPress with things like server-side caching, security rules, staging environments, and more so that your site is faster than it could be on a vanilla Linux web server.
Third, Kinsta blends several 3rd party services for DNS (connects your domain to the host), SSL (secures your connection), and CDN (content distribution network) to make everything your website needs to work together.
Since they only have one product with no upsells, the signup is straightforward.
The entire setup operates from a single account dashboard where you control your WordPress installs.
I’ve been considering Kinsta for a client’s site, and decided to give them a try with a small site that I’m looking to consolidate.
Here’s my Kinsta Hosting review structured with pros, cons, ideal use cases, and alternatives based on my experience as a customer.
Pros of Using Kinsta Hosting
There are a lot of Kinsta Hosting reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine, but I take a different approach.
Like I mention in all my hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. It’s all about the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering Kinsta Hosting.
Cloud Hosting Benefits
Since Kinsta uses the Google Cloud Platform, you get many of the benefits of cloud hosting without many of the downsides.
A hosting account can be a lot of things to your business, but the core function of a hosting server is to serve your website files whenever someone requests them. But – the implied adverb there is to serve those files quickly.
In an age of global audiences and multi-device connections, speed matters more than ever. While there are a lot of variables in play with website speed, it’s primarily your hosting server’s job to send the requested files to the visitor’s browser as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
So here’s the thing – Kinsta uses the same servers that you use to access Google.com and YouTube.com. With Kinsta, as long as they are configured well, they are going to be fast.
Additionally, with server-side caching, your WordPress website will be ready to go. Now, there are still plenty of issues that can slow your site down, but they likely won’t be Kinsta’s fault.
Here’s my first test with my Kinsta website –
Again, if your site is loading slowly – it’s not Kinsta’s fault. It’s something with your site.
With the Google Cloud Platform, Kinsta can also offer data centers around the world. They have more than 23 at the time of writing ranging from Iowa to Southeast Asia and everywhere in between.
Their CDN runs on a global CDN network (KeyCDN) as well, so website assets can be staged close to any website visitor in the world.
It’s rare and expensive to build & maintain data centers around the world, so using Google’s infrastructure provides an advantage that a traditional hosting company can’t match.
Remember the last time Google went down? Yes, it happens. But it’s rare. And when it happens, it’s a newsworthy event. With Kinsta, that means that, outside of a bad configuration on their part, your site is not going to go down unless Google goes down.
Consistent performance and reliability are the main advantages of Kinsta since they can take Google Cloud and make it accessible and WordPress-friendly to regular customers.*
*Yes, you can go to Google and sign up for cloud hosting yourself. In fact, I have a non-WordPress site running there now. But to setup & run a database-driven CMS with integrated file storage takes some…patience and wherewithal. It’s not a simple one-click WordPress install. Also, Google does not provide support or configuration help. So, still a considerable advantage for Kinsta.
Configuration, Focus, & Usability
Kinsta built their Dashboard from scratch. Their signup is simple and straightforward. There are some hiccups that I’ll get to in the downsides, but overall, their configuration and usability is amazing.
Their focus on WordPress and simple plan structure also makes onboarding (i.e., going from a new signup to active customer) straightforward. The design is uncluttered, minimalist, and well-designed.
Their setup had jargon and technical information present, but it isn’t overwhelming and daunting like other managed WordPress hosting companies.
User-friendly Add-on Tools
While Kinsta does not have all the tools that traditional hosts make available, they do bundle several tools that are critical to running a fast, effective website. And again, unlike other managed WordPress hosting providers, they bundle them seamlessly in their dashboard.
DNS is the roadmap of instructions that connects your registered domain to your hosting, where your website lives.
Kinsta includes Premium DNS with all their plan levels, which makes setting up your website much simpler. Plenty of managed hosting companies (and even some website builders) leave the DNS up to their customers to figure out – leaving plenty of customers fiddling with TXT records, CNAMEs and MX records in vain.
Amazon provides Kinsta’s DNS. It’s reliable and integrated directly in their Dashboard.
A content distribution network (CDN) allows you to take the load off your main server by distributing media files and scripts around the world so that your website can load faster and with fewer resources on your server.
Again, not every hosting company includes this option, but Kinsta integrates it directly within their Dashboard.
An SSL allows your website to provide an encrypted connection between itself and your visitor’s browser. It’s an essential part of every website. Again, it’s something that Kinsta provides directly in their dashboard via LetsEncrypt. It’s not the best or name-brand SSL, but it does the job.
Kinsta provides website migration services to its platform. It can be confusing enough, moving an existing WordPress website from one shared hosting account to another. But moving it to a managed cloud platform can create all kinds of hiccups.
It’s a free service that would typically cost hundreds of dollars with a WordPress consultant.
Developer & Agency Tools
Kinsta provides a range of developer and agency tools that all sound either too dull or technical until you need them & use them.
They have well-implemented basics like built-in staging and user management so that developers can build client sites and hand them over with no hiccups or maverick approval processes.
Additionally, they have SSH access, WP-CLI, and allow different versions of PHP.
But the most interesting piece for me is the fact that they don’t lock customers into a single WordPress configuration AND they’ll support non-traditional setups like reverse-proxy configurations.
As an SEO consultant, having the flexibility of configurations is critical for working with large clients who want WordPress for their blog…but, not their main site. It makes a big content marketing sell much simpler since developer time can be outsourced to Kinsta.
Most customer support stories are either *really* bad or *really* good. It’s the one-star vs. five-star problem. Like I’ve said in most of my hosting reviews, I try to look and see if the company treats customer support as a cost center, a profit center, or an investment center.
Based on how they’ve integrated their knowledge base throughout their Dashboard (rather than stashing it somewhere), and the fact that they’ve grown their team mainly with support team around the world – it seems like they’ve deemed customer support as an investment center.
And that’s a good thing if you are a customer. You know they aren’t looking to make a buck off you, or push you off. Instead, they are trying to develop goodwill and increase word of mouth. Kinsta’s main “thing” is customer support, since it makes their whole product run.
Cons / Disadvantages of Using Kinsta Hosting
Like any web host, Kinsta has disadvantages. There are plenty of Kinsta complaints online. But remember, that like the pros, these are all in the context of your goals & priorities. With that said, here are the cons that I found while using Kinsta Hosting.
Kinsta is expensive.
No matter how you measure it – by WordPress installs, visits allowed, storage allocated, indirect competitor pricing, indirect competitor pricing – Kinsta is going to be competitive…but still the expensive option.
WP Engine is its most direct competitor. Kinsta does have more intermediate plans…but WP Engine has a pricing setup that can be a bit cheaper than Kinsta.
Competitors like InMotion Hosting and SiteGround offer comparable products for much cheaper (though they aren’t on Google’s Cloud). LiquidWeb does the same for managed WooCommerce websites.
And other indirect competitors like WPMU Dev do bundled cloud hosting with their plugin subscription that is competitive for agencies / developers.
There are two things pushing back on this disadvantage.
First, Kinsta is super-transparent about their pricing. There are no add-ons or excluded features like on WP Engine. There are no slight apples to oranges comparisons like you’d find with InMotion or SiteGround or LiquidWeb.
Two, expensive is a relative concept to value. Depending on the value that your website is generating, a few hundred dollars may or may not matter. If a few hours of downtime or a support misstep can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars, then “expensive” is the wrong metric to look at.
On the flip side, hosting is a business cost. Any dollar that you save goes right to your bottom line. If you are on the fence about some of Kinsta’s features or have other website needs (see Feature bundles below), then Kinsta’s price is going to be a disadvantage.
Kinsta has some pretty low caps, especially compared to non-cloud competitors. Since they are working with leased infrastructure, they have to pass along any and all of their hosting costs.
If you’ve run a rapidly growing website, you’ll know just how quickly visits, storage, and bandwidth needs can escalate. If you are on Kinsta, you’ll never have to worry about needs taking your website offline. But you may have to worry about those needs hitting your bottom-line.
I have one client who built a silly side-project on his website (hosted on WP Engine with similar caps to Kinsta). The silly side-project took off – in a big way.
In some ways, the project brought in indirect revenue with backlinks, brand awareness, etc. But in concrete terms, it single-handedly tripled his monthly hosting costs because it blew past every visitor cap…and then the bots & spammers showed up. He’s on an enterprise plan with the same amount of “real” traffic that should put him on a basic plan.
Now, that’s a good problem to have. But it’s created decisions that honestly would not need to be made if he were using a Kinsta competitor with a managed VPS or managed WordPress hosting product like InMotion or SiteGround.
In fact, some of Kinsta’s features are capped at lower levels than you’d expect with their marketing. For example, think about WooCommerce and membership sites. They recommend PHP Workers that can handle excess queries. Here’s an explainer on how they work. But basically they help with the shopping cart / user roles while the server cache loads the rest of the page.
For their Starter and Pro plans, Kinsta only provides 2 PHP Workers…which is not recommended for ecommerce websites. In comparison, InMotion’s cheapest managed WordPress plan comes with a limit of 4 PHP Workers.
And again – many of these limitations come not from Kinsta (they are transparent about all this) but from their product structure…which is the next disadvantage.
Size & Company Structure
In a lot of ways, Kinsta is my kind of company. They are founder owned & operated. They are boot-strapped with zero investor funding. They are product-focused with a smart, thoughtful marketing strategy.
They are small enough to have direct contact with customers and processes. They are remote-first, global, and diverse. I’m glad to spend money with them.
But the hosting industry is structured the way it’s structured for a reason. And Kinsta is moving in the opposite direction of the rest of the industry.
Web hosting business is built based on the depreciation of fixed assets and high customer retention. It’s similar in many ways to the physical real estate industry. Almost every hosting company is away from pure-play hosting to becoming a hosting “platform” with lots of amenities.
Since Kinsta leases its infrastructure from Google, they use an entirely different business model. They have to have low overhead costs (ie, remote-first is a must), low acquisition costs (ie, their inbound marketing strategy), low labor costs and high pricing. Additionally, they are completely dependent on Google staying competitive & in the Cloud hosting business.
In other words, Kinsta is kind of like the WeWork of the hosting world (in a good way). Kinsta has avoided most of WeWork’s mistakes. But the core business model of sub-leasing servers while adding value via convenience, accessibility, and support is tricky.
WP Engine made it by using investor money to acquire market share and big amenities while building a hybrid data center. But others have failed or have been bought out – like FlyWheel and Nexcess.
Right now, Kinsta is committed to organic, long-term growth. But if you are looking for a 5+ year host, I’d pause and look around the industry before committing.
Feature Bundles & Add-Ons
Most direct and indirect competitors are moving to a “hosting platform” model with bundled plugins, themes, and other amenities. Almost all of Kinsta’s direct and indirect competitors bundle some sort of WordPress amenity with their managed WordPress hosting product.
WP Engine bundles StudioPress themes & products.
LiquidWeb bundles iThemes plugins & themes.
InMotion bundles JetPack and the BoldGrid website builder.
WPMU Dev bundles its premium plugins.
SiteGround bundles custom amenities like developer toolkits and email.
Pressable bundles JetPack and WP101 Training.
The flipside of this disadvantage is that Kinsta is truly focused on WordPress and hosting – they aren’t trying to compete with amenities and bonuses. They are just doing what they promise to do.
That’s great – and certainly a strength. But it’s also a downside for some customers.
Kinsta Hosting Alternatives & Use Cases
Just like cars, houses, appliances, etc – there is no such thing as a “best” host. There are just better & worse hosts for different customers with different needs. Here are some ideal use cases for Kinsta, along with some direct alternatives.
Growing Ecommerce or Membership Site
A growing ecommerce or membership website built with WordPress can create resource strains and technical demands. Kinsta’s architecture and support experience are really made for both types of sites (especially at higher pricing tiers).
Kinsta is a solid, straightforward, but still affordable option for ecommerce / membership websites that can pay a premium to have things “just work” with no troubleshooting. View Kinsta’s plans here.
Developer or Agency w/ Premium Clients
Kinsta is a great option for developers or agencies that build high-quality websites for premium clients with ongoing maintenance budgets.
Kinsta has the social proof, technical specs, pricing, and management tools that will assure brand name clients while still sticking with their budget expectations. View Kinsta’s plans here.
Premium Support & All-in-One Needs
Kinsta is ideal for DIY customers who run a high-margin website that needs premium support and/or all-in-one hosting needs. Kinsta’s monthly costs are high, but nothing considering the costs of hiring a WordPress developer to solve intermediate issues for a day (i.e., installing a new SSL certificate or repointing a subdomain). View Kinsta’s plans here.
Out of all the hosting companies that I’ve used myself or via a client, here’s how Kinsta compares directly with a few select ones.
Kinsta Hosting vs. WP Engine
WP Engine was the first company to offer a managed WordPress hosting product, and they’ve been the market leader ever since. They focus on the same customers as Kinsta. I’ve reviewed WP Engine here.
They have some advantages over Kinsta, including more features & amenities. But they are also more technically oriented with a more confusing backend. Kinsta is cleaner and simpler.
If you are a solo DIYer, developer, or small agency, you’ll likely gravitate towards Kinsta. If you are a corporate-type, you’ll likely gravitate towards WP Engine.
Kinsta Hosting vs. LiquidWeb
LiquidWeb moved into the managed WordPress space with their Nexcess acquisition. LiquidWeb is one of the largest independent hosting companies and has a specific focus on agencies and developers. They run their own data centers and have been around for a long time. They really excel with ecommerce websites.
Since they operate their own data centers, they have major price & feature advantages over Kinsta. But Kinsta’s setup runs on the Google Cloud and has better focus & usability since they *only* do WordPress.
If you are looking at cost but still want a lot of the developer features of Kinsta, you’ll likely go for LiquidWeb. If you like Kinsta’s focus & cloud setup, you’ll likely go for them instead.
Kinsta Hosting vs. SiteGround
SiteGround has been a rapidly growing host in the WordPress space. They have a big appeal among developers. They also have a global reach with data centers in the US, Europe, and Asia.
Since they operate their own data centers, they have a big cost advantage over Kinsta with managed WordPress hosting. They also bundle a lot of the same features as Kinsta including CDN, SSL, DNS, migration service, and user management. But again, Kinsta will likely still have some advantage with speed & performance since they run on Google’s Cloud.
If you are looking to save money but still have a developer-oriented company, SiteGround will likely be a better choice. If you prize speed & performance and have budget for Kinsta, you’ll likely go for Kinsta’s plans.
Kinsta Hosting vs. InMotion Hosting
InMotion Hosting is one of the most consistently growing hosting companies on the Internet. They are independent and have grown organically over the course of 20+ years. They offer a wide range of hosting products, including managed WordPress hosting, with a focus on small businesses.
Since they run their own data centers, they have a big advantage over Kinsta with pricing. They are able to offer much higher caps on features compared to Kinsta. For example, remember the PHP Workers mentioned earlier? Kinsta provides 2 PHP Workers compared to InMotion’s 4 Workers on their cheapest $8.99/mo plan. They also bundle a lot of business-friendly amenities with their plans (like JetPack for security).
If you are looking at the overall value of features & support for the price, InMotion Hosting would be a better fit. If you like Kinsta’s exclusive focus on cloud & WordPress, then they would be a better fit.
Kinsta Hosting Review Next Steps
Kinsta Hosting is an amazing option to have in the world of WordPress hosting. They have a fast, simple, solid product in a competitive field. If you have budget for a managed host and like the appeal of using the cloud, then Kinsta is likely an excellent fit for you.
See Kinsta’s Current Plans & Pricing
If you are looking for other options, check out the ones listed above, or explore my WordPress Hosting page.
Kinsta Hosting is a rapidly growing managed WordPress hosting service built on the Google Cloud.
This post originally appeared at How to Use LinkedIn for SEO & Content Marketing via ShivarWeb
LinkedIn has been one of the continually growing social networks on the Internet for years. But like Pinterest and Reddit, it has such a deep internal culture focused on recruiting & jobs that it gets written off by small & large content marketers alike.
But like YouTube, Pinterest, Reddit, and others, LinkedIn is not *just* a social network. Here are a few points that make it appealing for SEOs and content marketers –
Users are all B2B – so influence on LinkedIn has an influence multiplier. Get a brand CMO to like your content, instant leverage.
LinkedIn’s business model makes success much more transparent. There’s less algorithm guessing and less spam.
LinkedIn has lots of different features & uses. Beyond the feed, there are groups, search, a learning platform, networks, direct outreach, etc.
You can build a true “moat” that no other business can replicate. The cliche that your network is your net worth is especially true on LinkedIn. It pays to organically build success.
Your LinkedIn audience is much “stickier” than other audiences. Everyone is building their LinkedIn network for future use – not for an instant payoff. Any audience that you build will stick with you for longer.
LinkedIn itself is not going anywhere. Sure, Google and Facebook have tried & failed to build professional / job hunting functionality. But since LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft and is profitable on its own….any investment you make will be around for a while.
It has a lot of potential to benefit your marketing efforts – here are the lessons I’ve learned helping clients use LinkedIn for SEO and content marketing efforts.
Referral Traffic & Brand Awareness
The first and most obvious content marketing strategy for LinkedIn is to, well, post your content on LinkedIn.
Side note – like most social networks, LinkedIn’s links are all “nofollow”. Any links you get from LinkedIn will not directly help you with Google/Bing search engine optimization.
Posting content on LinkedIn requires a bit more strategy and effort to get the full benefit. To drive referral traffic, you’ll need to get your post in front of people. But there is a bit of a tradeoff between maximizing reach and maximizing traffic.
The Basics of LinkedIn
LinkedIn allows a few ways to share content on their platform. There’s the “normal sharing” of links, but there’s also LinkedIn Pulse, which is their editor for composing & sharing content native to LinkedIn.
The tradeoff is that using Pulse (native content) reduces the traffic to your site, but can travel faster & farther in the LinkedIn “ecosystem.” Posting links from your site makes traffic easier, but won’t travel very far or fast without engagement.
Before promoting your content, think through your goals and make adjustments depending on what you want to do and your resources.
Optimizing for Social Distribution
If you want maximum distribution, then post original content with Pulse. It will show up on most feeds and generate more engagement…but not necessarily with traffic to your site. It does require more work and more thought. Again, that all depends on your priorities and goals.
Adjustment – however, you *can* send traffic to your sites within the comment section on the post. Claim the top comment and use it to post a link or email sign up. You’ll get maximum distribution and still have an opportunity to grab traffic.
Alternative – you can also use comments to maximize reach with a normal link share. The tactic here is to use the title and comment section to generate additional engagement that will put the link into more feeds than it would normally appear in.
Optimizing for Referral Traffic
If you want maximum clicks to your site or email sign-ups, then post actual links to your website. The post will likely get shown to your followers, even if it doesn’t move as far as Pulse content.
Adjustment – you can try to engineer engagement with comments & controversial titles. It’s a bit hit or miss, but it’s a small tactic that can increase engagement.
Additionally, LinkedIn will reward any feed that has consistent, long-term, quality posts in high quantity. In other words, post a lot, post well, and post consistently, whichever strategy you choose.
On-Page SEO & Content Ideas
Beyond actual traffic and brand impressions, the real value of LinkedIn is in data. Since LinkedIn has its own “walled garden”, there are lots of ideas, concepts, and content tactics that are locked up. If you can find them and bring them to the Open Web – you’ll benefit from Google Search and other platforms.
Here are my favorite research angles for LinkedIn.
Find Top Performing Content
Find content with lots of LinkedIn shares (which harder than it used to be), and re-create it in a better way. Bonus points if the content is native to LinkedIn. More bonus points if it only did well on LinkedIn and failed in some way elsewhere.
You can track this content manually, but it’s much easier to use a tool like Ahrefs or BuzzSumo to pull metrics in bulk.
The key is to identify and understand exactly why a piece of content performed so well and how you can make it even better or build on its success.
Find Useful & Underestimated Content
You can also look for content that, while not top performing, did have some traction. With content, traction is everything. When most content goes unnoticed, any content with some success means that it did something right.
You can find useful content & underestimated content to rebuild it into something top performing. Look for content that is not formatted well, incomplete, or has lots of feedback / unanswered questions.
Find Old & Forgotten Content
There is very little that is genuinely new on the Internet now. Most trends and strategies have played out. So start thinking like a fashion designer.
Filter LinkedIn content by date and see if there is something that did well, but simply needs an update. There are plenty of business & career ideas that are useful…but simply need new cultural references.
For example, freelancing is not new, but UpWork and WeWork are. Building a new audience with video is not new, but TikTok and Snapchat are.
Look for the old & forgotten and bring them up to date.
Find Experts & Sources
Experts and authoritative sources can make your content compelling and unique. But experts are kind of hard to find, corral, and learn from.
But LinkedIn provides a unique approach. You find experts in your orbit who are more likely to respond. Or, you can use LinkedIn search to find less famous experts who can respond & help with your content.
In a world where current gold-medalist get all the attention, you need to find last year’s bronze medalist. LinkedIn is perfect for that approach.
Research Industry Jargon
Jargon is a problem in content. To write solid, useful content – you need to use just enough of it to assure readers & experts of legitimacy & accuracy. But also not so much that your content is gibberish and unapproachable.
Since LinkedIn is a professional social network, you can use it to find trade & industry groups discussing actual industry jargon. Not only does this tactic make for fast education, but it also makes for amazing keyword research.
For example, even if your reader refers to “outdoor faucets” – the fact that you can refer to, explain, and research “sillcocks” means that you can be more accurate, more relatable, and find a broader topic to address. And you’d never know about sillcocks without a LinkedIn plumber’s group.
Research Industry Problems & Trends
If you want to cover a trend before everyone else knows that it’s a trend…you’re going to have to find better sources.
LinkedIn industry groups & industry feeds are an incredible source of insider knowledge. Most people in an industry will talk about problems and trends before it percolates to the wider world.
Use LinkedIn to get insight into these problems & trends.
Build Unique Datasets
LinkedIn is the only place on the Internet with massive datasets around businesses, professionals, and careers.
Those are also the most inherently exciting datasets for content (since they involve money). Whether you are looking at job titles, cities for startups, or simply industry quirks, LinkedIn is where you can go to build these unique datasets.
Note – don’t go breaking any of LinkedIn’s terms…but also note that scraping plain HTML and their ads API offers some quick ways to pull data.
Mine for Cross-Performing Content
The last angle to research is similar to top performing content. But it is to look at content that seems to do well on LinkedIn plus another platform.
If you are in B2B and see that something does well on LinkedIn and Facebook, then it will likely do well on Reddit or organic search with better formatting and/or targeting.
Off-Page SEO & Content Promotion
Content ideas & research are only one side to effective SEO & content marketing. The flip side is getting links & eyeballs on that content.
LinkedIn offers something that no other social network provides – an active channel and a near comprehensive database for contacting people at work.
If there’s any single reason to use LinkedIn with your off-page / promotion efforts, that’s the reason. Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram lean too personal. Twitter is hit or miss. Reddit is interest-based and anonymous. Email is crowded and overwhelmed with spam. But LinkedIn…is different.
Here’s how you can put it to use.
Do Direct Outreach & Promotion
This tactic is a bit obvious, but I list it because direct outreach & promotion is seriously underestimated.
Just last week, I hired a freelancer off a cold pitch because it came through LinkedIn’s InMail feature with a perfect custom pitch. I checked it out because the InMail represented slightly extra effort and expense compared to the thousands of pitches I get via email.
Whether you are pitching for links, gigs, content promotions, etc – LinkedIn’s ability to help you do direct outreach & promotion is the #1 reason to use it.
Use Excerpts & Cross-Posting
You can use content excerpts and discussions to cross-post to LinkedIn as original content – and vice versa.
LinkedIn represents an audience that is likely nowhere else. Even if you can’t create original content, go a little bit extra to create a custom share excerpt for LinkedIn.
Research for Smarter Outreach
Even if you don’t use LinkedIn for your outreach, you should use it to inform your traditional outreach.*
*Note – yes, this is a polite, professional way of creepily stalking people.
In a link building world where less than ~20% of emails sent get opened and less than ~5% turn into links, emailing the right person the right message is more important than ever.
If you can use LinkedIn to do even cursory research to email the right person at a company, you can come out far ahead.
For example, one key variable in link building is talking to the person who can actually implement the link on the website. For some websites, that person is the Webmaster or content manager. They are often not listed on the contact form. You can use LinkedIn to find that person within the company.
Even if you aren’t pitching links, LinkedIn can be useful. My B2B sales rep neighbor used LinkedIn to dig down and find the specific procurement manager than he needed to talk to – instead of using the standard contact form. The extra work paired with LinkedIn led to a huge contract.
Find Underestimated Prospects
Similar to using LinkedIn for finding experts, you can also use LinkedIn to find underestimated prospects. Underestimated prospects are anyone who wields more influence or reach than you would expect.
Think about the content managers and webmasters mentioned earlier who hold the actual keys to adding a link to an article. Or think about a moderator of an influential or active LinkedIn Group.
Those are the kind of people that you can both find & reach on LinkedIn.
Find New Audiences for Promotion
So much of the consumer Internet blurs together that it’s hard to define specific audiences…which means it’s hard to define new audiences.
B2B has less of that issue. Generally, everyone working in an industry stays within their industry. That makes it easier for content marketers to find discrete industries (like architecture) and understand how it overlaps or relates to other industries (like structural engineering).
You can also see how influential people have moved up and across different industries to see how people & thought in one industry can influence another.
Create New Outreach Angles
Since LinkedIn is a different type of user with different intent than a typical social network (professional advancement vs. entertainment), you can test completely different angles for sharing & promotion. Sometimes those are easier to push (ie, not having to obscure a financial motivation) and sometimes they are truly different and worth rolling out elsewhere.
Do Paid Promotion
LinkedIn, like every other social network, will allow you to take a shortcut to the front of the line.
It’s called paying for promotion.
It’s fantastic…but also costs money. I wrote an entire post on LinkedIn Advertising here.
LinkedIn is an interesting platform for SEOs and content marketers because it has a different audience, a different intent, and different business model from other social networks.
Additionally, it has a lot of the research & promotional advantages of the typical social network. If you are planning content ideas, execution, or promotion, LinkedIn is an excellent place to look for research.
This post originally appeared at WPMU Dev Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb
WPMU Dev is a long-time member of the premium WordPress software community. While they are best known for their plugins, they recently launched a new WordPress hosting product.
See WPMU Dev’s Current Plans & Pricing
I’m currently a WPMU Dev member and had free access to the new hosting product. The WordPress & web hosting world is constantly evolving with new & interesting products.
Given that I use & love some of their plugins, I tried out the hosting product as well. Here are the pros, cons, use cases & alternatives for WPMU Dev hosting.
What is WPMU Dev & WPMU Dev Hosting?
WPMU Dev launched their first major plugin years ago. They became best-known for their multisite & network plugins.
A couple of years ago, they open-sourced most of their smaller, outdated plugins and doubled-down on a suite of premium plugins focused on agencies, web consultants, designers & developers.
The suite includes security, backup, SEO, and form plugins. They all work well and integrate together. I personally use the Video Tutorials plugin and their Forminator Pro plugin.
Their hosting product is just another part of that product suite. In the flight to platforms, hosting is WPMU Dev’s flight to be the platform of choice for premium WordPress developers and site owners.
Background on WPMU Dev Hosting
Like most WordPress plugins & theme makers, WPMU Dev has been constantly reworking their business model to keep up not only with the Internet but also with software and open-source trends.
Years ago, they sold premium plugins a la carte for a support subscription.
Then they moved to a library subscription model. Then they made all their small plugins free and switched to a subscription for plugin services model.
As hosting companies moved in on plugin & theme makers’ territory, WPMU has moved into hosting companies’ territory by bundling hosting with their plugins.
Whatever the business model, WPMU Dev has always focused on super-high quality code & support. They have always focused exclusively on the WordPress world. I use their plugins for critical parts of my website, and lean on their support for especially tricky code questions.
How WPMU Dev Hosting Works
WPMU Dev hosting, though, is a bit of a hosting hybrid. It’s hard to compare the product to anything else on the market.
When you sign up for WPMU Dev, you get 3 hosting accounts bundled with unlimited access to their plugins. A WPMU Dev subscription is $49/mo.
Their hosting product is neither true cloud hosting, nor true WordPress hosting, nor true web hosting. I’ll get into all these in the pros & cons, but here’s the short version.
They use Digital Ocean’s cloud to actually run your website. But it’s not true cloud hosting….because, well, it’s a flat rate and you don’t run the containers.
They have it pre-configured for WordPress. But it’s not true WordPress hosting…because, well, there’s no real definition for WordPress hosting. It’s one way to host some WordPress websites for sure…but the point of WordPress is that it can run fine in a variety of environments depending on your needs & resources.
And they have it marketed as web hosting. But it’s not true web hosting…because, well, it’s managed cloud hosting with all the limitations that come with it.
But it does have some upsides & use cases, especially in a world of platforms. So let’s look at the pros.
Pros of Using WPMU Dev Hosting
WPMU Dev hosting has a lot going for it. They are a bit of a hidden gem. They aren’t the biggest brand on the Internet, and not even a big brand in the WordPress world. But their size & focus creates a lot of advantages.
Platform Quality & Performance
WPMU Dev is already known for their high-quality plugins. They are also known for their high-quality WordPress support.
Their hosting product actually lives on Digital Ocean’s cloud infrastructure. Digital Ocean is one of the “name-brands” of cloud hosting along with Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
Between WPMU’s WordPress expertise and Digital Ocean’s performance, you really don’t have to worry about your website install. Here’s a speed test from the first, unoptimized install.
Here’s a screenshot of the backend. It’s clean and fast.
Overall, the quality & performance of the product itself is right on.
Total Platform Pricing & Value
WPMU Dev structures their pricing with hosting credits. To be a WPMU Dev member, you pay $49/mo. You get access to full-versions of all their plugins, plus support, plus 3 credits per month for hosting.
Now, $49/month for just a single managed hosting account is super-expensive. $49/month for 3 managed hosting accounts is super-expensive. In fact, I’ll get to this part in the disadvantages. But WPMU Dev isn’t selling hosting. They are selling hosting as part of a platform.
So, looking at the whole platform, $49/month for 3 managed hosting accounts plus full versions of all their premium plugins plus support plus all the built-in services that come with their premium plugins brings the total value well past $49/mo.
For example, a subscription to a security plugin, backup plugin, and form plugin can all run ~$20/month. Competitive managed WordPress hosting can run ~$20/month – even more for 3+ sites. Add in a CDN, backup storage, etc – and you’ll likely end up well over $49/month.
Now, you might see where I’m going with this, and I will address the pricing assumptions in the disadvantages. But, for now, the hosting product makes WPMU Dev’s platform an excellent value.
Integrations & Simplicity
WPMU Dev has all the must-have plugins for WordPress taken care of. One of the biggest obstacles for running a self-hosted WordPress website is simply making everything work well together.
If you buy into WPMU Dev’s platform, all the plugins work together, which all work well on their hosting configuration.
You won’t have to worry about your SEO plugin conflicting with your backup plugin and both of them burning through your server limits.
Data Centers & Features
WPMU Dev has a whole suite of “sweet” hosting features. By using Digital Ocean, you get a choice of data center location for each website. That’s a huge appeal for anyone & everyone ex-US or with a global readership.
They have plenty of advanced developer-friendly features like staging. migration tools, free SSLs, etc.
If you build WordPress websites for clients, they are a very appealing option. All their features are a value-add for the client but don’t add to your workload at all.
Even though they do not have phone support…and their knowledgebase is still getting built out. They do have stellar chat & forum support.
Every interaction that I’ve had over the years has resulted in above & beyond support. All the support agents specialize in WordPress and have the actual developers who build the plugins on call.
Like I’ve said in other hosting reviews, support is a bit anecdotal. Usually, I try to look for a “proxy” for good customer support. Here though, I’ve been a customer of WPMU’s plugins for so long that I feel like I can say that their support is solidly top notch.
Cons / Disadvantages of Using WPMU Dev Hosting
Every product is going to have complaints online. Every product will have tradeoffs. Sometimes complaints & tradeoffs come from a poorly designed or executed product. But often it’s because the product does not fit the customers’ needs, goals & resources.
That’s especially true with WPMU Dev’s hosting product. The product is well-designed & well-executed. But…it has quite a few disadvantages when it comes to customer fit. Let’s dive in.
Use Cases & Pricing
Like I said in the pros section, WPMU Dev’s pricing is expensive for hosting. But their pitch is that they are more than hosting. They make plugins, have add-on services, and amazing general WordPress support.
But all of that assumes that you’ll actually be using their plugins and add-on services.
I’m a long-time customer, but I don’t use many of their plugins & services…because I don’t like some of them.
Their SEO plugin is solidly fine….but anyone serious about SEO will be using RankMath or Yoast at the very least.
Their Hummingbird / CDN plugin is solidly fine…but I find it to be clunky and not comprehensive. I pair WP Fastest Cache with MaxCDN / Stackpath.
I use JetPack for security & backups instead of WPMU Dev…because I use it anyway because they have a WordPress Android app in addition to Related Posts and more.
And I still don’t use their hosting, even though it’s technically “free” for me, because I just don’t like the limits or workflows…and I don’t want to get locked into a platform anyway.
Platforms are great…but the big reason I use self-hosted WordPress instead of a website builder or even WordPress.com is because I don’t want to be locked into a platform.
Once you start to add up WPMU Dev’s pricing with other services…it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
And even for stand-alone pricing, it’s expensive. Hosts like InMotion have true, managed WordPress hosting with staging, developer features and everything else (including a JetPack subscription) for half the price of WPMU Dev’s member price.
There’s only one use case where WPMU Dev’s pricing makes sense – and that’s for a consultant, agency, designer (or solo site operator) who has several sites (ie, for clients) and wants to dramatically simplify site management.
In fact, if I was still doing pure-play WordPress web design for clients, I would likely just run the whole thing on WPMU Dev. They would allow me to white-label and bill out everything under my name, and it would reduce my workload.
That use case makes a lot of sense…but I don’t think that use case is too common.
But outside of that use case, the whole single price for a single membership to get bundled hosting is just not a good value.
Upgrades & Pricing
All that said, their hosting upgrades & pricing are still expensive regardless of use case.
You can get fully-featured managed WordPress hosting elsewhere for a much better price…or at least more flexible.
The sites that fit their hosting specs are pretty specific. For example, If you run a media-heavy blog, you’ll have to pay extra attention to your WordPress settings to keep your install in line….which leads to the next disadvantage.
Jargon & User-friendliness
To be “easy” and common website software, WordPress has a lot of jargon. Most hosts lean into removing that jargon and making it user-friendly.
WPMU Dev’s hosting product is clean and well-thought-out…but it still puts a lot of trust in their average user’s knowledge. I even had to look up terms when working with my install.
Additionally, since it’s hosted with Digital Ocean…and they don’t operate their own DNS…there’s an extra layer of setup to connect the domain to the DNS to the actual website.
Many of the features that could make operating a site for a non-developer or non-advanced WordPress use (like site staging) still come with prompts that assume knowledge or direct to a concise, but not quite comprehensive knowledgebase.
Like the value pricing, the product is user-friendly….for a certain type of user. For a broad market appeal, it has a bit too much jargon to truly be user-friendly.
Versatility & Usefulness
Since WPMU Dev’s hosting product is part of their platform and not a stand-alone product…it does not have the versatility or usefulness that a Linux web hosting account or even a stand-alone WordPress hosting account would have.
Since the entire product is built around the primary use case that I mentioned earlier, they prioritize the non-sharing of resources as the main priority. That’s fine and all, but it leads to tradeoffs that not everyone may realize. For example, here’s what they say in regards to the low storage limits.
It’s also important to understand that the speed, security and stability of WPMU DEV hosting relies heavily on a highly-structured server environment in which each member’s files exist in a dedicated virtual private server. When we refer to “your files” we’re not talking simply about your content, but also your WordPress core files, backups, staging sites, plugins, integrations and themes—all of which are protected in their own virtual world with zero shared resources.
Again, that’s fine. And it’s a pretty typical setup for cloud & VPS plans. But their plans are very low considering the price point that they are operating at ($49/mo)…that it’s hard to decide how much it’s truly worth paying.
Stand-alone hosting products have known limits that you can cross-compare. You can factor in offloading email to Google or running local scripts elsewhere…but since WPMU’s product is so focused and so specific, it’s hard to really judge versatility and usefulness with costs.
Product Novelty & Company Structure
While WPMU Dev has been around as a plugin and theme maker for years, their hosting product is very new. They launched it in 2019, and still seem to be making changes to the product based on customer feedback.
In fact, their system of hosting credits is even more recent than the product itself. Since the company is originally a plugin maker, not a hosting company, I would expect a continued learning curve as they understand the market better.
Additionally, WPMU Dev as a company has been continually moving upmarket and up the pricing ladder in the past few years. My pricing has been grandfathered in thanks to a Black Friday deal several years ago (I pay $19/mo for my plugins). Hosting seems to have been paired with a push to the $49/month pricing tier.
Again, I think the value is still there for many use cases but I am curious just how much further they will try to push the membership fee. Price increases and constant business model changes are part of any Internet business. But for a product like hosting where I just want it to work – and work for a long-time, it’s a bit disconcerting.
WPMU Dev Hosting Alternatives & Use Cases
Here’s who I think WPMU Dev is a good fit for.
WPMU Dev Fans & Multisite Owners
WPMU Dev makes some super-useful and high-quality plugins. I use & love the Forminator Pro plugin on multiple websites. If you are already planning on using (and paying) for their plugins, their hosting product makes sense – if only because it’s already bundled.
Just be aware of the limitations and tradeoffs.
WordPress Website Designers
If you run a WordPress shop and want a fast, standard, quality all-in-one package to present to clients, WPMU Dev’s hosting makes a ton of sense.
You can pay the single membership fee for your shop, but then sell a recurring all-in-one website hosting / maintenance / security package to your clients.
If you stick with WPMU Dev’s plugins, you could easily have a single client “pay” for the membership fee every month, while pocketing additional client retainers. You could manage all the sites from a single dashboard with auto-updates.
Now, for everyone else, I think there are a few other options that would give you all the benefits of WPMU Dev without the downsides.
Managed WordPress Hosting w/ Bundled Plugins
If WPMU Dev is a plugin maker that offers hosting, this alternative is to find a hosting company that offers bundled plugins. This setup is actually quite common, especially among hosting companies that offer “true” WordPress hosting, rather than just web hosting with WordPress trained support.
The upside is that you get all the managed parts of hosting, high-quality plugins, all bundled into a better price point.
The best alternatives here are –
InMotion Hosting – They offer managed WordPress hosting with built-in staging, CDN, NGINX, and more – just like WPMU Dev. They also bundle the JetPack suite of plugins (what I use for security & more). Their interface also offers a WebPro linking feature so that agencies & designers can resell white label hosting options. All this ends up at a much better price point than WPMU Dev. See InMotion Hosting’s WordPress plans here.
WP Engine – They offer highly managed WordPress hosting with built-in staging, CDN, NGINX, and more. They also specialize in highly technical support. While they don’t bundle any plugins, they do bundle the super-high quality StudioPress themes (which I use on this site). They also have unique tools for designers and white-label options. All this ends up being right around WPMU Dev’s price point but with arguably more value and less lock-in. See WP Engine’s plans here.
WordPress.com – Technically, this isn’t a hosting company. WordPress.com is a website builder platform that uses self-hosted WordPress software. This means that they have all the benefits of a full-platform with much of the versatility of WordPress software. Their Business Plan allows 3rd party plugins but also comes with a huge range of built-in functionality. They operate at a lower price point that WPMU Dev. See WordPress.com’s plans here – though do note that this option is not “apples to oranges”.
Bundled Plugin Maker w/ choice of hosting
This option is what WPMU Dev used to be (and technically still is). Here, you’d commit to a maker of a suite of plugins such as WPMU Dev, iThemes, OptinMonster, JetPack, Elegant, etc to keep you costs consistent and then pair it with a WordPress host that fits your budget.
Your costs will be your costs – they might be higher than WPMU Dev with hosting, but they will likely be lower and you’ll have the versatility to move & switch as needed.
A la Carte Everything based on Needs / Budget
If reading this has made you budget-conscious and worried about the costs of running your website, don’t worry. The beauty of WordPress is that the software is free. All you need is a good host that fits your budget, a domain name, and the wherewithal to build your site and purchase premium products as needed. There are more than enough free themes & plugins out there to run a solid website.
And if you are a budding developer or designer, note that you can give Digital Ocean a run on their own – or through a cloud hosting manager like Cloudways.
Next Steps & Conclusion
WPMU Dev hosting is an interesting & welcome addition to the web hosting world. If you fit in the right use cases, it’s an incredible product. But if you aren’t in their target market, you will likely find more affordable and more versatile options elsewhere.
Explore their product line here.
Check out other WordPress hosting options here and other premium plugin makers here.
WPMU Dev Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives
WPMU Dev is a long-time member of the premium WordPress software community. While they are best known for their plugins, they recently launched a new WordP
This post originally appeared at 20+ Considerations on The Future of Web Hosting, Website Builders & Digital Marketing Beyond 2020 via ShivarWeb
There has never been a time when running a website has been more accessible, convenient, and profitable than now.
But there has also never been a time when running a website has been so confusing, frustrating, and winner-take-all than now.
And that contradiction comes because some of the major computing & networking innovations from the 2010s are finally coming to the everyday Internet.
And as the 2010s close out and the 2020s begin, here are some of my considerations (in no specific order) that I think would be useful for DIYers, freelancers, small online business owners, and anyone planning an online presence.
Nobody Fully Knows What Is Going On
This post is deliberately a listicle because I don’t have a grand unified idea about the future of running a website on the Internet. And I’m skeptical of anyone who does.
Cloud computing, machine learning, APIs, high-quality open-source software, free toolkits, mobile devices, streaming, and the lumbering giant behavior of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft all point to continuing massive disruption of entire industries that no one can predict or prepare for.
The Website + Marketing Tool Model Is Gone
For years, people built a website on a multi-purpose host with a custom domain. And then they used 3rd party tools & distribution channels to promote content, products & services that lived on the website.
But now, the website on a domain is simply one tool in a toolkit. In fact, you can build a model where your website is a backend for your other marketing tools…or you can use a marketing tool to build & run your website.
This shift is clearest with online stores. Between Buyable Pins, Checkout on Instagram, Amazon integration, dropshipping APIs, offline pop-up shops, etc – the website is just another piece in the business puzzle.
Now, websites are still critical because they remain the only piece of that puzzle that you can control & own as an asset. But…I do think they are losing their relative importance. And their importance depends massively on what industry you are in.
Platform Choice > Tool Choice
The demise of the website + marketing tool model will mean that website owners will choose their platform of choice rather than their tools of choice based on what business they have.
Online retail is in this place already. Very few successful retailers have a collection of tools. It’s all about integrations and platform. But increasingly, every business sector will move to this model.
Local small businesses will look at platforms that do their primary function plus whatever integrates well with that platform. For example, a website builder will not compete with other website builders. Instead, the website builder will compete with the CRM platform and the email marketing platform…because all three will have a website builder, CRM, and email marketing tool bundled in a single platform
In other words, a website builder like Wix no longer competes with Squarespace. Instead, Wix competes with MailChimp and HubSpot and Google.
In online retail, Shopify and WooCommerce and BigCommerce don’t really compete with each other. They all compete, as a group, against Amazon, Instagram, Depop, MailChimp, Square, Salesforce, and eBay.
In hosting, hosting companies no longer compete with each other as much as they compete against Google Business Suite, Hubspot, hosted website builders, etc.
Now, there will still be incredible power & opportunity for website owners who have the resources & wherewithal to mix & match services to get the best of all worlds. Those website owners will be able to maintain costs and control where others will cede more power to their platform of choice.
Convenience Killed Cost & Control
The big reason why DIYers are a declining & disrupted market is that when consumers distill down what they truly care about – convenience always wins.
The same reasons driving the growth of takeout, restaurant, delivery, and meal kits at the expense of cooking are also driving the growth of online platforms at the expense of websites + tools.
If you are a DIYer, it will pay to be hyper-aware of what your true wants, needs and goals are – and what tradeoffs you are willing to make. Platforms are great in many ways, but beyond 2020, the most successful DIYers will be able to manage the tradeoffs of platforms.
If you are a freelancer, it will lead to bigger rewards to both specialize in a platform and maintain familiarity with how adjacent choices work. Even if your clients do not know about or understand platform choices, you can still use them to streamline your business and add value without adding extra work.
Spam, Security & Speed Killed What Could Have Been
I am a huge fan of the Open Web. Regardless of the short-term rewards of the platform of the day, it’s still worth investing in a website for the long-term.
But in 2020, even the most die-hard prophets preaching against Google, social media companies, cloud computing, hosted builders, and big corporations will have to admit that the vulnerabilities in the Open Web & running / managing your own website are pushing people to big platforms as much as those big platforms are pulling people.
For example, Google might be pulling people & businesses to hand over their personal email & confidential documents. But hackers, spammers, and human impatience are doing plenty of pushing as well.
For example, I would *love* to run conversations via blog comments instead of using Twitter. But my blog comments are like an absolute honeypot for the worst of the Internet.
Another example, I would love to avoid ecommerce transaction fees and SSL fees but hackers only need one shot. Security is difficult and, honestly, much more effective to do at scale across thousands of websites.
Most of my clients gain a lot from controlling their own hosting rather than using a hosted website solution. But I have to set expectations to prep clients for the amount of time & money it takes to keep the site secure & speedy beyond using a solid hosting company. Web visitors will absolutely ditch a website in a heartbeat over a millisecond. That’s why so many publishers with massive brands are blindly handing control over to Google’s AMP initiative. Even the biggest brands in the world can’t compete with human impatience.
Traffic Sources Are Consolidated & Fragmented
Facebook’s properties & Google’s properties will continue to become bigger. But they’ll also become more winner-take-all. But also, a much longer tail of random completely unpredictable traffic sources will continue to fragment.
Even more traffic will be “dark” or untrackable. Planning a marketing strategy will increasingly rely solely on your target audience rather than your target traffic source.
Organic Traffic Is A Bonus
Treat any organic traffic from Google, Facebook, Pinterest, etc like a bonus. You can’t project or plan long-term around organic traffic. Agencies, freelancers, etc will have to adjust pricing and clients will have to adjust expectations.
Digital marketers spent years making fun of John Wanamaker old-fashioned quote that “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
Online attribution was supposed to solve that problem. But now, no matter how creepy your tracking and attribution is…consumer & traffic behavior is so unpredictable that you won’t be able to truly plan long-term…unless you pay.
Marketers Growth Demands Killed What Could Have Been
More and more platforms & websites will be “walled gardens”* due to pressure to grow…and grow…and grow some more. The Web could have been a world of accessible, free-flowing information where many businesses and types of businesses made a living. But platforms have to be more closed to make more money off users. And as valuable traffic has declined, website owners have become more desperate and more annoying to drive up ad rates.
*Even previously open platforms like Reddit, Pinterest and Twitter are closing in.
For example – see basically every recipe website ever. As Google and Pinterest strive to keep more users on their sites, serving their ads…recipe content websites have become more desperate to monetize what little traffic they do have…leading to horrendous car salesman-like levels of unusability.
Users Killed What Could Have Been
Users want convenience above all. For all the pulling that Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, etc are doing…users are also pushing attention there…because it’s convenient.
For example, I have no idea what to say to website owners about voice search. And anyone who does have a “strategy” for voice search – I call B*S* on. Users want it. I want it. It’s amazing, but you can’t build a publishing business or profitable content marketing strategy around it.
1,000 True Fans Is Still True
That said, the future will always have a small, tough, but sustainable spot for Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans.
On balance, there has never been a better time to run a website or online presence than right now. If you have a good product, service, or concepts, there are likely 1000 True Fans that can & will support your work. Sure, there were “Golden Ages” of organic Facebook traffic, organic Google traffic, etc…but those eras had serious issues and limitations as well.
There Is No Magic Bullet
There is no sure-fire way to build a successful website. I’ve been working in digital marketing for years now. I know that in SEO, there used to always be a sure-fire tactic that was working. Now, there are tactics that work marginally better than others. There are things that you can focus more or less on…but the magic secrets are gone.
Same goes with Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, etc. The only real magic bullet now is hard creative work, constant research, careful planning, constant learning…and a whole lot of luck.
Opportunity Costs Are Very Real
When you choose to do Action A instead of Action B, there is the cost of doing Action A plus the cost of *not* doing Action B.
In a world of limited marketing resources, choosing to create social media posts means that you are also missing out on *not* creating blog posts.
Back in the world where everything online was growing, you could afford to miss one big opportunity for another…because most every opportunity was growing.
Now, mobile devices are ubiquitous. Desktop traffic is actually declining. And many social networks have reached maturity. Choosing one over another or bouncing around chasing “shiny objects” has real costs above whatever you are paying for your main investment.
Even with aspects of running your website, many website features are standardized and predictable. There are opportunity costs to choosing what part of your site to improve or leave alone.
Lookalikes Killed Privacy
I wrote a guide to tracking marketing data on your website. I actively use any & all data to help clients & aid my own research. But on this website & my personal website, I’ve deliberately removed all tracking tags except for Google’s. Why?
Well, sure, there’s the token virtue and hand-washing hypocrisy part of it.
But also, I found that my own retargeting & tracking did not matter in comparison to the massive opportunity presented by lookalike audiences and the data gathered by the big platforms.
Because here’s the thing about “big data” that people miss. It’s that individuals do not matter. All that matters is the sample size.
Every single person has a lookalike about some part of themselves. No matter how special or unique you think you are; no matter how carefully you avoid trackers or cookies or online ads, you can be personally marketed without any kind of tracking to due to lookalike audiences.
Here’s an analogy. Think about the world of DNA testing & genealogy. There are real fears & real consequences to having your DNA in a database. But protecting your own DNA is near-pointless. If a company (or government) knows the DNA from a couple cousins or aunts or uncles or grandparents or a sibling…then they know yours as well.
Lookalikes are the same. Even if Nate Shivar avoids all retargeting trackers, there are still enough people out there similar to me that will allow marketers to reach me if they want.
So – what does this mean? It means that whether you have a large audience data set or not, you can still think creatively about how to profile & reach your audience.*
*that is – until privacy can get solved in a meaningful way. Be sure to tell your political leaders that this needs to be solved at the national / international level. Individual choice & freedom in this issue is a moot point.
Alternative Channels Matter
In investing, modern portfolio theory says that diversification pays for itself because it maximizes expected return even if it fails to maximize actual returns.
In other words, you may know that Investment A is your best bet. But you should still make Investment B as well, because you can’t be sure that Investment A will be amazing.
Same with traffic sources and alternative channels and even website tools.
You may be pretty sure that your priority is the right one. But in a world of uncertainty, alternatives are good to have.
Now – going back to Opportunity Costs Are Real – you have to be honest with the tradeoffs. If you spend time on YouTube in addition to Google Search, you might lose some in Google. But you also won’t lose it all if you have some investment in YouTube.
Web Hosting Is a Utility
Amazon made the technology of hosting files a commodity service. Web hosting companies no longer compete on technology. In fact, they don’t want to compete on technology…because Amazon / Microsoft / Google win on that. Web hosting companies make money on what they provide in addition to basic hosting.
That can include support, onboarding, graphical server management tools, bundled 3rd party services, etc. But the main point is that if hosting is a utility – then anybody can offer it as a feature…not just web hosting companies.
There will be even more plugin makers, software makers, theme designers, tool makers, etc that will simply bundle & resell hosting as a feature.
Website Builders Are a Feature
I remember when I used my first drag & drop builder in the early 2000s with Homestead. It was a “WYSIWYG” builder. And it was terrible. Actually, every WYSIWYG builder was terrible…until just a few years ago.
Now…developer and marketer snobs will turn their nose up at drag & drop…but the software is actually pretty good….and it’s only getting better.
If drag & drop were microwavable pizzas in the 2000s, they became Domino’s in the 2010s…and now they are more like Mellow Mushroom pizza. Nothing like your local sit-down Italian haunt…but consistent and really solid.
All this means is that the core website building software can be a feature bundled with everything else rather than a stand-alone business. That’s why Google, MailChimp, Shopify, HostGator, InMotion, GoDaddy, and a dozen other non-website builder companies are bundling free website builders that otherwise compete directly with Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, etc.
SEO Is a Tactic
For years, the “contract” between publishers and Google was that Google gets to copy & analyze copyrighted content in exchange for free organic traffic.
If publishers made their content easier for Google to copy & analyze (i.e., “search engine optimization“), then Google would reward them with even more free organic traffic.
It created a virtuous cycle that worked for everyone. Sure, Google had to deal with publishers who took advantage of loopholes. And publishers had to waste some time dealing changing guidelines and features (remember Author markup?).
But on whole, the deal worked for everyone.
In fact, you could build an entire marketing strategy around the deal. That’s how entire businesses got built. Help Google and they’ll help you.
But, that deal has broken down. As Google focuses more on users and advertisers – publishers will get left out more and more. And as SEO as a strategy goes away, it will really only remain as a tactic in a broader strategy of organic traffic from all the places.
IRL Original Content Is Underestimated
The Internet makes copying & sharing more convenient than ever. In fact, it’s so convenient that we often forget that there are other sources of information in the real world.
But even more so, we forget that information in the real world is the source for information on the Internet.
In fact, this instinct is true not just among social media users but also among serious website owners and professional journalists.
Because of this instinct for convenient & copyable information – there is a growing premium on original information gathered from the real world.
Anyone can get a screengrab from Google Earth. But not many people will take a picture of a location. And which is more useful & unique?
Anyone can get a screengrab from social media…but not many people will go an compose a proper photo in context. And which is more useful & unique?
Anyone can make a drawing or an illustration…but not many people will make an IRL video or photo sequence. And which is more useful & unique?
On my websites & my clients’ websites – I am continually amazed at how often original, IRL images get copied, cited & linked-to. It’s amazing.
It’s no magic bullet, but it’s the most magical of all bullets that SEO’s & website owners have.
IRL Data Is Underestimated
On a related note, data copying and analyzing is easy. IRL data gathered from real people is harder and harder to gather and share.
That’s what makes the US Census so invaluable. But that’s also what makes companies’ internal data so valuable and why some companies use it for incredible link building & PR efforts.
Above & Beyond Pays Off Even More
Regardless of hosting platform, marketing toolset, marketing strategy or collection of tactics – going above and beyond the competition will provide winner-take-all dividends.
The Internet & globalization continually push towards sharper and sharper winner-take-all markets for money & attention. And they also increase the long-tail of choice. And technology is continually disrupting itself. Until those core forces are fully understood, you have to play the game.
Focus on using products that you understand and match your goals. Focus on marketing strategies based on audiences that you understand and match your financial goals.
WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress, which is the Internet’s most popular content management software.
Explore WooCommerce’s Feature Set
Explore my WooCommerce Setup Guide
WooCommerce was originally developed by a small theme / web design firm in 2011. It grew rapidly among the WordPress community due to its feature set, but also due to its business model.
Same as now, you could download & use the full WooCommerce plugin for free from the start. WooThemes made money by selling compatible designs, support, and from specific extensions (e.g. to connect to a credit card processor).
In 2015, Automattic bought WooCommerce from WooThemes. Automattic is the software company run by Matt Mullenweg, the original author of WordPress software.
Ever since, the development of WooCommerce has been tightly coordinated with the development of both self-hosted WordPress and Automattic’s hosted WordPress.com software.
So that’s enough introduction. The point is that WooCommerce is legit, WooCommerce is growing, and WooCommerce can be a great fit for many storeowners…but not all.
Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
What is WooCommerce?
To run an ecommerce website, you only need a few additional features. You need a product listing, a shopping cart, a payment processor, and order functionality that will merge & manage all the order information within a database. That’s it.
Because of that, ecommerce platforms are very similar to general website software…with just a bit of added functionality.
And like general website software, your choice of software depends on your personal desire for control / customization vs. convenience.
It’s a bit like real estate. A house provides maximum control. But you have to deal with maintenance, contractors, and random issues. A hotel offers zero control or customization, but they take care of *everything*.
WooCommerce lives on the more control / customization end of the spectrum. If Etsy & Amazon are hotels, then WooCommerce is a house.
WooCommerce is a software plugin that adds ecommerce functionality to WordPress, which is general website software (aka “CMS”).
And WordPress is part of a 3 part bundle that “makes a website” –
domain (your address on the Internet)
hosting (where your website files live)
software (what generates the files & pages that make up your website)
In other words, WooCommerce can help WordPress build a stand-alone store instead of a single-family home.
Now, this leads to the first overarching choice with WooCommerce.
Your choice is that WooCommerce is *part* of that 3 part bundle. It directly competes with other WordPress ecommerce plugins.
But…it also competes with other big bundled ecommerce solutions. And many big competitors deliberately bundle domain, hosting, software & ecommerce into a single, simple monthly price.
That’s great – and there are plenty of upsides & downsides to that bundling. But it’s important to be aware of since exploring the pros & cons of WooCommerce is a bit like comparing apples & oranges with other ecommerce solutions.
But – we’ll do it anyway. I love WooCommerce for what it is, but it’s not for everyone. Here’s a few pros & cons of WooCommerce both in comparison to direct & indirect competitors.
Pros of WooCommerce
Most ecommerce platforms have a series of strong advantages, and WooCommerce is no different. Here are a few reasons to use WooCommerce, not only instead of other WordPress plugins, but also instead of other ecommerce solutions.
Long-term Cost & Value
WooCommerce is free to download & free to use. If you have WordPress installed on your hosting account, you can navigate to Plugins –> Add New and add it to your website right now.
Explore my WordPress Ecommerce Setup Guide here.
WooCommerce is also fully functional with no add-ons or extensions.
That means that your annual website costs could be as low as ~$120/yr, depending on what hosting plan you have.
For contrast, the average low-tier ecommerce bundle with a hosted service like Shopify (review), BigCommerce (review) or Wix (review) will run around $360/yr for a single website.
But it gets even better for WooCommerce.
Since your main annual cost will be for a hosting plan, you can maximize the value of your hosting account with multiple websites.
If you had 4 small WooCommerce powered websites on your hosting account, then your annual per website costs would be $30/yr.
To run 4 small ecommerce websites with Shopify or Wix, your annual per website costs would be at least $1,440/yr.
For example, one of my earliest clients had a personal website, a home decor blog, a cat collar store, and an embroidery store – all on her same hosting account.
All 4 sites used WordPress, and the 2 store used WooCommerce. It helped her defray the costs and keep her 2 stores profitable – since they were side-hobbies anyway.
But it gets even better for WooCommerce.
WooCommerce comes fully-featured and fully supported with no transaction fees of any kind. There’s no “premium tier” to move to. Your long-term per-feature costs will always be lower with WooCommerce.
Also, almost all of WooCommerce extensions are flat-fee and under $100. You have access to a huge and rapidly expanding library of advanced, complex ecommerce features for flat-fee optional cost.
And, lastly, since WooCommerce works within WordPress, you get a double cost benefit for any free or premium plugins that you already want to use with your website.
For example, the most popular Redirection plugin for WordPress is free. And it’s free for WooCommerce too, since WooCommerce is integrated with your website.
If you are already paying for speed, security, and anti-spam for your existing WordPress website (with something like JetPack), then you can simply extend that subscription to cover your store as well.
And, you can piece together any 3rd party software based on cost, need, compatibility, etc.
If we stick with the housing analogy with WooCommerce, you can sub-lease rooms to help with the rent, your home office can benefit from your general security bill, and you can add-on *exactly* as your budget allows.
Now…all these massive cost benefits for WooCommerce comes with a few massive caveats, which I’ll cover in the cons. But on face value, WooCommerce is an incredible short-term and long-term value for any storeowner.
Integration with WordPress
WordPress software powers more than 1/3rd of the entire Internet. And it’s popular for a reason – it works well, it’s incredibly versatile as software, and it has a huge community (both for-profit and non-profit) supporting it.
And WooCommerce benefits from all three reasons as well, since it’s been a part of the broader WordPress community for years now.
This seamless integration with WordPress is important because WooCommerce can pull features in from an entire universe of plugins, themes, tutorials, and values that simply does not exist anywhere else.
For example, Yoast SEO has long been a hugely popular plugin with lots of international translations, advanced SEO feature support, and good usability.
There is no hosted platform with anything like it (or like any of Yoast’s excellent competitors). But since WooCommerce is integrated with WordPress…Yoast is integrated with WooCommerce as well.
The same goes with popular themes. Themes will support the same PHP structure as WooCommerce. In fact, developers will often go ahead and add bonus features to WordPress themes to make it extra appealing to WooCommerce users.
Plus, WordPress has long upheld the values of the Open Web with full RSS support, nice permalinks, W3 valid code, cross-browser compatibility, and full control over your code, content & data.
f you want to leave WooCommerce, it’s easy and well-supported. Your data is only accessible to you – and anyone you grant permission to (not the other way around).
Lastly, if you have an existing WordPress powered website and want to add ecommerce, WooCommerce makes it as seamless as any other plugin so that you don’t have to style & support a store on a completely different platform.
Support from Automattic
Automattic is a company founded by Matt Mullenweg, who is also the author of WordPress software.
WordPress software is free, open-source and community supported. But Automattic is the for-profit company that makes & sells tools for WordPress software.
They run WordPress.com, a bundled hosted service for WordPress software in addition to JetPack, a speed / security / utility kit for WordPress websites, and WooCommerce.
Now, there’s a whole universe of for-profit companies offering WordPress plugins, themes, support, etc. They all do great work, and I recommend many of them.
But for longevity, consistency, and building more 3rd party integrations, I think it’s in WooCommerce’s advantage to be owned by Automattic.
There are plenty of WordPress software companies, and plenty of good ecommerce plugins. In fact, some have features and setups that I like a bit better than WooCommerce (mainly for digital goods only).
But the bottom-line when comparing WooCommerce not only to other plugins, but also to Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, etc – is that you need a large company that will be around and have an financial interest in keeping the software cutting-edge.
Additionally, since Automattic is still private and venture-funded – they are still in “growth” mode, which only means more investment in features & customer service.
WooCommerce’s ownership is a huge advantage for choosing WooCommerce over other ecommerce plugins, and put it at parity with other ecommerce solutions offered by large, stable companies.
Versatility & Compatibility
A few fun facts about WooCommerce –
You can use it to sell memberships
You can use it to sell recurring licenses
You can use it to sell digital goods
You can use it to sell apppointments
You can use it to sell affiliate, drop-ship, or even Amazon products
You can “hack” it and combine to sell really anything you can imagine
The actual plugin is incredibly versatile and compatible with a huge range of uses. Like WordPress, your imagination is likely more limited than the tool is.
The plugin automatically creates & manages a range of page types including products, product categories, orders, confirmations, etc
It’s compatible not only with most single-use WordPress plugins but also with large site-type plugins like the BuddyPress social network plugin and bbPress forum plugin.
In other words, you can create a niche social network with forum and online store all with the same WordPress install.
3rd Party Integrations
WooCommerce has a large & growing Apps & Extensions store. It’s a library of premium extensions that allow you to harness powerful 3rd party software for things like payments, shipping, cross-product listings, inventory management, marketing, bookkeeping, and more.
If you are an offline merchant who loves a 3rd party processor (like Square), then you can use an extension to add it to WooCommerce.
If you love your 3rd party shipping or inventory software, it will probably integrate with WooCommerce.
Ease of Use & Onboarding
This pro has a caveat – I’m assuming that you have worked with WordPress before. If not, this will actually appear in the cons section.
But, if you have, WooCommerce’s onboarding is amazing. They’ve upgraded the process to the point where my WordPress Ecommerce Setup guide isn’t nearly as useful as it used to be.
When you add the WooCommerce plugin, you are instantly moved into a setup sequence that will help you list your first product, set up your page types, and get all your basic settings ready to roll.
You really can be set up to sell in minutes. And unlike some plugins that create a dedicated section for use, WooCommerce automatically folds pages, media and options within the existing WordPress install so that everything appears where you think it should be (e.g., media settings, categories, etc).
Control & Customizations
Since WooCommerce is a PHP-based plugins that integrates with your WordPress install, you have direct access to the code via browser and FTP.
You can add, remove, edit scripts and bits of code to your heart’s content. If you want to edit your checkout flow or your error codes or your analytics script or your CSS – then you just do it.
You are not limited by a platform’s plan or code access or script limitations. If you want to hire a designer or developer or marketer, you can hire from a huge pool rather than a narrow field.
There are even custom extension developers who will create whatever extension for WooCommerce that you want.
Do you run a store than needs to accept Dogecoin? Or a very specific shipping option? You’ll need to use WooCommerce – because no major ecommerce platform will be building that anytime soon.
Cons of WooCommerce
Every ecommerce platform has natural disadvantages since there is an inherent tradeoff between control & convenience. You’ll likely find a lot of WooCommerce complaints and issues around the Internet.
Here’s a few of the key disadvantages you’ll find with WooCommerce – and using WordPress as an online store in general.
Ease of Use & Onboarding
WooCommerce & WordPress both try to make ease of use & onboarding (i.e., moving a new user to an active user) simple, straightforward and intuitive.
There are plenty of guides around the Internet, along with prompts, Q&As, support, and more.
But the bottom line is that there is still a basic tradeoff between control and convenience.
For a beginner, WooCommerce has a learning curve that is even steeper than WordPress’ learning curve. When you install WooCommerce, you not only have to learn the basic jargon of an ecommerce store (listings, checkout flow, payment tokens), but you also have to learn the basic jargon of WordPress (permalinks, posts, pages, plugins, etc) and the basic jargon of any self-hosted website (difference between HTML & CSS, page load speed, etc).
For a beginner with zero experience with WordPress or running a website, WooCommerce will require a steep learning curve. Now, it might be worth it if you have the time & patience to learn everything.
But compared to drag & drop basic online store builders like Weebly or Wix or even comprehensive ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce’s onboarding & setup is a huge downside.
Sticking with the house / apartment analogy, you know how you can just call the landlord when something goes wrong?
Yeah, you can’t do that with WooCommerce. There is some semblance of support via your hosting company and Automattic (if you are a premium JetPack subscriber) and the WooCommerce community. But there’s no single place to just call and get something fixed.
In fact, like a landlord, there’s no one who will come by and just check on the HVAC filter, the roofing, and basic structure.
Running WooCommerce is really like owning a house. There are plenty of people who will help you maintain it. In fact, many are quite reasonable and even quicker than a landlord.
But…when it comes down to it, *you* and *you* alone are in charge of keeping your website maintained, available, and operating.
Plugins will notify you of security updates, but you will need to install them and manage any new conflicts. Your hosting company will give you support, but you need to know what questions to even ask. You’ll need to know how to troubleshoot.
This downside comes directly from the benefit of maximum control. With maximum control & freedom comes maximum responsibility.
Again, you can get customer support for WooCommerce. In fact, some hosting companies offer “WooCommerce Hosting” with management included.
But compared to online store builders like Wix & Weebly or ecommerce platforms like Shopify & BigCommerce, WooCommerce is lacking in simple technical maintenance.*
*The one caveat here is the WordPress.com option – they are a hosted version of WordPress run by Automattic. Since they bundle hosting, software, support & more – you can get many of the benefits of WooCommerce without this downside. They’ll take care of all the maintenance…at an extra price.
Speed & Security
With the continued growth of mobile and the profitability of hacking, website speed & security are more important than ever.
Like the situation with technical maintenance, WooCommerce leaves you basically in charge of speed & security – even though there are plenty of native & 3rd party options to help you.
WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently secure when installed with a good hosting company, maintained, and used with basic security best practices.
Additionally, WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently fast when installed with a good hosting company, maintained and used with basic speed best practices.
But your weakest link is the toughest part with both speed & security.
For hosted platforms like Weebly, Wix, Shopify or BigCommerce (and the WordPress.com option) – this is an area where they truly shine. Your website lives on their infrastructure with their team of professionals watching constantly for issues and keeping software cutting edge.
In fact, several have bounty programs where they pay hackers to deliberately seek vulnerabilities in their systems. They will also have direct partnerships with payment processors for real-time fraud alerts.
Overall, speed & security should not be an issue for WooCommerce storeowners – including beginners. But, like with owning a house, you are still the one responsible for any issues.
It remains a key downside of WooCommerce, especially if you store starts growing rapidly from hundreds of visitors to hundreds of thousands of users – which brings us to the next downside.
Growth & Scaling
Since WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, it has to work within WordPress’ basic functionality.
And WordPress’ basic functionality is not built specifically for ecommerce, it’s built for versatility.
This issue means that the way WooCommerce works starts to break down when you get above a certain threshold of “queries” – ie, requests of the database.
And unlike browsing content, or really any other type of functionality, ecommerce can generate *a lot* of queries, very quickly, and in a short space of time.
Imagine WooCommerce is a single dude standing between a group of customers and a library. Imagine they all need to request books and return books before paying you, getting change, and then leaving. Now, if they go one at a time, it’s fine. In fact, you can probably push the guy to handling several returns and new books at once.
But imagine they all show up at once, say, on Thanksgiving, and start shouting out lots of book orders. And they start giving books to put back…and they all want to pay all at once.
Well, the dude is going to get really confused, tired, and crash. Not because he’s not good but because it’s a not-ideal system.
That’s WooCommerce’s core problem – handing *lots* of add to cart and checkout events all at once.
Ecommerce platforms that are built from scratch for ecommerce like Shopify and BigCommerce do not have this issue. They use a completely different set of technologies to avoid WooCommerce’s inherent issues.
Now, before a bunch of WordPress folks’ start sending me emails, WooCommerce can absolutely scale to hundreds of thousands of orders. WooCommerce says that the issues is a myth and has examples to prove it.
All true. But it take a lot of work & expertise to make that type of scaling happen. Here’s an interview with a top WordPress expert on making WooCommerce scale…and even he discusses it like a huge project, not something built-into the product.
If you have a small, growing store, this is a non-issue. You can solve problems as they come.
But if you are starting what will be a large ecommerce site very quickly, it’s a critical disadvantage to be aware of – especially when looking at other Enterprise ecommerce options.
Potential Long-term Costs
WooCommerce’s price (free!) and potential long-term value are amazing for beginners and anyone on a budget.
However, you may have noted the potential need for 3rd party help, WooCommerce can become quite expensive.
One of my earliest clients back paid me $1200 to fix several emergency issues that she simply could not figure out before her sales deadline.
She had chosen WooCommerce specifically to control costs (rather than integrate with an existing content site). But it will take several years of no issues to recoup those costs compared to a Shopify plan.
Since WooCommerce is not bundled with hosting and other software, it’s also easy to let regular costs get out of control. Once you start paying for automated backups, security scanning, managed hosting, CDN, premium plugin extensions, and more – your monthly costs may be much higher than anticipated (again, just like homeownership vs. renting).
Now, all these costs are *potential* costs. And if you have the time and patience, many storeowners would rather than potential costs that they choose rather than an high guaranteed cost. But it’s a potential downside to be aware of.
Future of Ecommerce
Ecommerce is changing rapidly. And the speed of change is happening faster everyday.
Apps like Poshmark, Depop, Pinterest, and Instagram are moving more ecommerce to happen seamlessly within apps via “headless” ecommerce backends.
In other words, some ecommerce platforms are simply inventory & order tracking systems where the actual shopping, cart, and payments happens within a 3rd party app.
In some ways, WooCommerce’s open structure should be an advantage. And yet, cutting edge ecommerce relies increasingly on APIs and direct integrations, which are not WooCommerce’s specialty.
Shopify is able to leverage its size, infrastructure, and tech team to create cutting edge integrations. Same with MailChimp, Square, and a whole universe of similar marketing tools.
And all that does not even start to discuss Amazon.
All that to say, WooCommerce does have a current disadvantage with ecommerce as it is currently evolving.
However, it could have a huge advantage as content becomes more important. And it will forever have an advantage as somewhere that you truly own & control. It’s this bet that Automattic has their money on.
It’s a potential downside to consider. There’s no right answer, it all depends on your goals, expertise, and view of the future. There’s a reason why so many website builders like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, WordPress.com, and GoDaddy GoCentral are adding basic ecommerce functionality.
All of which leads us to a few direct comparisons.
There is a whole universe of ecommerce solutions on the Internet. Compared to 2003, this is a really good problem to have. But as an online storeowner, navigating choices is still an issue. Here’s a quick rundown of the main alternatives to WooCommerce, along with links to further posts.
WooCommerce vs. Other WordPress Ecommerce Plugins
There are lots of ecommerce plugins, but most are pretty terrible. WooCommerce’s main direct competitors are –
Easy Digital Downloads – a focus on simple digital goods.
WP Easy Cart – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.
WP Ecommerce – a non-Automattic comprehensive option. Meant for developers due to limited support options & simple extensions.
NinjaShop – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.
WooCommerce can also run on WordPress.com as part of a hosted bundle. This option removes a lot of WooCommerce’s negatives, but also increases WooCommerce’s costs & removes some of the self-hosted freedoms.
WooCommerce vs. Shopify
I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and Shopify here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with Shopify.
WooCommerce vs. BigCommerce
I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and BigCommerce here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with BigCommerce.
WooCommerce vs. Wix
Wix is much more user-friendly compared to WooCommerce. However, Wix also constrains your options more than even WordPress.com and hosted ecommerce platforms like Shopify. If you have a small store and want drag & drop convenience, then use Wix.
WooCommerce vs. Magento
Magento used to be a much tougher competitor to WooCommerce until Magento’s sale. Now, self-hosted Magento is going away. If you run an enterprise site, then scalability will likely make your choice for you. You’ll want Magento (or other Enterprise options). If you have a small ecommerce shop, then WooCommerce will be a better option.
WooCommerce vs. OpenCart
OpenCart is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then OpenCart is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use OpenCart, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.
WooCommerce vs. Ecwid
Ecwid is less an ecommerce solution and more of an “anywhere shopping cart”. You can quickly add it to an existing website (ie, a plain WordPress website) and provide an ecommerce experience of a sort. However, it does not integrate with your backend. You also will have trouble competing for inbound marketing. It’s a good option to quickly add ecommerce functionality to your website without going through the WooCommerce setup process.
WooCommerce vs. Prestashop
PrestaShop is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then PrestaShop is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use PrestaShop, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.
WooCommerce Review Conclusion
WooCommerce is the best ecommerce solution for 3 types of storeowners –
Storeowners with technical resources who want to heavily customize their store or use unique functionality.
Website owners who have a content-driven website and want to add-on a complementary, but seamless store.
Storeowners who are highly cost-conscious and feel comfortable investing time rather than money into running their own website.
If you fit those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out the main WooCommerce website and using my guide to setting up your WooCommerce-driven ecommerce store.
If you don’t fit in those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out a hosted solution. Explore my ecommerce platform quiz here. Or if you are building a small store (a dozen products), explore my online store builder quiz here.
Lastly, be sure to explore my guide to marketing your ecommerce store. So many stores fail, *not* because of platform…but because of a bad marketing plan. Spend as much time planning your marketing as you spend researching your store software.
The post WooCommerce Review: Pros & Cons of Using WooCommerce for an Online Store appeared first on ShivarWeb.
Saying you’re going to start doing “digital marketing” for your business is like saying you’re going to the “Western Hemisphere” when someone asks where you’re going for vacation. Digital marketing is made up of a bunch of marketing concepts, each with their own strategies and purposes.
And if you’re wondering what types of digital marketing you should be using in your business, a bunch of grab-bag tips and techniques won’t help you until you first understand how digital marketing breaks down and exactly how each marketing concept works.
I’ve put together a guide on the different types of digital marketing with examples, uses, and resources so you can evaluate which digital marketing strategies support your goals.
I’ve broken digital marketing into three media types (owned, earned, and paid) to categorize the different marketing concepts.
Let’s dive in!
Owned media is any media or attention that you own and control.
Your website(s), blog, and social media channels are all examples of owned media.
Marketers use it in contrast to Earned or Paid Media where other people control the attention you receive. Successful owned media means that your audience pays attention to you directly rather than via other websites or ads.
SEO stands for search engine optimization — it’s all about getting your website to appear when people search for it / you / related content topics. The world of SEO is wide and takes time. So while I won’t tell you it’s the best channel for immediate satisfaction, there are still some amazing results to be had.
For most, a successful SEO campaign would be a huge win due to the sheer volume of traffic that Google organic search can drive. Google processes over 3.5 billion queries per day and most of the clicks go to an organic result.
You’ll learn pretty quickly that in paid advertising, clicks for competitive keywords can be quite expensive. That’s a cost you don’t have to pay if you rank in the organic search results.
SEO breaks down into three categories: technical, off-page, and on-page. Technical and on-page SEO are owned media, and off-page SEO is earned media (more on that in a bit!).
Technical SEO is all about ensuring that Google/Bing bots can crawl and index your website effectively. It’s about making sure you’re not generating tons of duplicate content. This is really about making sure the technical components of your site are up to snuff (no broken links, no multiple versions of your about page, etc).
Seeing it in action: Some of the biggest gains in organic traffic can come from good technical SEO. Bad technical SEO creates problems like this –
A huge technical issue with re-launched sites is link redirects. I’ve helped several clients triple their organic traffic simply by redirecting old URLs to new URLs.
If you’ve ever had difficulty searching large retailers on Google for products…it’s because they are terrible at technical SEO (I’m looking at you Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic…also Nordstrom’s).
Why it’s useful:
I mean… you want Google to be able to evaluate your site, right?! Technical SEO is here to make sure users can find the actual information they’re looking for, and that Google can see all of the great content you’re creating (more on that in a minute).
What’s tough about it:
If you’re using WordPress, a good website builder, or a good hosted ecommerce platform you have the big barriers taken care of.
If you are already using a different platform, a technical audit might be the SEO item worth paying for, especially if you don’t have any technical SEO experience or you are working on a large enterprise scale.
Mentioning a “stand-alone technical audit with recommendations” to an SEO expert can be valuable if you’re on a custom-built site. Just don’t let them sell you on “ranking #1 tomorrow!”
What to Learn:
If you are running WordPress, install WordPress SEO by Yoast and run through my guide for using it effectively.
On-page SEO is all about “targeting” the right keywords and ensuring that your website is laid out in a coherent way that is understandable by search engines and users browsing your website. It’s about creating targeted content that helps answer your audience’s questions (either through a blog, a newscenter, or targeted landing pages!).
Seeing it in action:
REI is a master at on-page SEO. Check out what happens when I search “stand up paddle boarding”.
REI has created tons of content around various outdoor sports, and they rank in the top of the search results consistently. So while I may not be ready to buy a stand up paddle board, REI is on my radar from the very beginning because of the educational content they’re giving me.
Why it’s useful:
The goal of on-page SEO is to get specific content to appear on Google when someone is searching for it. It should bring in new people AND support sales (and it shouldn’t be keyword-stuffed content that won’t help customers on your website make a decision).
When done correctly, you can create authoritative content that addresses problems, questions, etc of your market, and when coupled with off-page SEO (more on that in a minute!), you can drive organic (AKA free) traffic to your site and capture your audience in the “research phase”.
It’s a way to build trust and authority with your ideal clients.
What’s tough about it:
It’s a long game for sure. And, if you’re just getting started, you’re already behind the curve. That’s not to say don’t do it (you should absolutely be creating content that addresses the problems your audience has). But you have to be consistent, research the right keywords that you can compete for, and build some trust with Google in order to get your content to appear in the top level of search results.
*Bonus – listen to Nate debate the merits of focusing on on-page SEO over off-page SEO.
What to learn:
How to use keywords on your website
How to do keyword research
Using title tags and meta descriptions
Using Google Search Console
Finding Content Ideas for SEO
Email marketing has been around for ages. It involves having a list of “subscribers” (people who have opted in to say they want to receive emails from you) and sending them periodic emails with content, promotions, news, etc.
Seeing it in action:
Those promotional emails you get from your favorite retailers? Reminders that your car is due for service? Heck, even promotions from your credit card companies!
Yep… they’re all a part of email marketing. Here’s an email marketing example one of our team members received from Madewell:
Why it’s useful:
You can create highly targeted content with email marketing based on buying behaviors, automation rules, and even site behaviors. Email provides a highly customized experience and helps businesses create a more intimate relationship with their audience.
Why it’s tough:
How many emails do you get a day? Probably hundreds! In fact, if you have a Gmail account, you likely have an entire section of your inbox dedicated to promotional email. It’s a noisy space that can be difficult to breakthrough in, and in order to do it correctly, it requires consistency, strategy, and basic copywriting skills.
What to learn:
How to Write an Email Newsletter
Email Copywriting basics
Avoiding spam trigger words
While social media platforms technically own the content on them, you do own your channels to a certain extent. You have complete control over what you post, which makes your profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc. part of your owned media.
Seeing it in action:
Brands use social media in several different ways. For example, some use it to drive sales, like this men’s apparel brand:
While others, like me, use certain platforms to share content (like on Pinterest).
Why it’s useful:
Social media is, well… social! Building your brand’s presence on certain channels is a great way to connect to your audience on a deeper level and get to know them better. Plus, with the advanced analytics social platforms provide, you get such a detailed picture of who your ideal clients are.
Why it’s tough:
Social media experts make social out to be rocket science. It’s really not. Unless you started a business you know nothing about, you should know where your audience hangs out.
Where people tend to go wrong is when they try to be 100% present on every single social network. Effective social media is about having direct interactions where you build relationships and learn more about your audience.
What to learn:
First, I’d definitely recommend any resources from Buffer. I’ve also written a good bit on social media analytics & content marketing.
But second, I’d recommend focusing & learning a single platform. Don’t expand until you really understand your “wheelhouse”. Every platform has a manual and best practices. Study and practice more than anything else.
Earned media is press, coverage or mentions on other websites that you do not pay for since the story/content is useful enough to the outlet to stand on its own. In other words – you “earn” the placement in the news instead of paying for an advertisement beside the news. Earned media is a big deal not only because you don’t pay for it but also because readers trust it more than overt advertisements.
Off-page SEO is basically just SEO-speak for getting links or “link building”, with the caveat that links are not all considered equal.
Sketchy $5 links are going to harm your site. Quality links placed on a related or well-known website are the primary factor for getting better visibility in Google search results, hence why on-page SEO and off-page SEO work well together.
Create high-quality, educational content, get people to link back to it because it’s actually helpful, build your site authority, show up higher in the search results.
Seeing it in action:
The only real way to see off-page SEO in action is with a backlink profile tool like Ahrefs. Check out my post on Ahrefs for how to explore and understand backlink profiles.
Why it’s useful:
Again, off-page SEO works hand-in-hand with on-page SEO. When you have quality sites linking to your quality content, it raises the overall quality of your site. Google takes that into consideration. If you’re a more trustworthy, authoritative site, you rank higher in the SERPS. If you rank higher in the SERPS, your high-quality content appears above competitors, and you get more of the right people onto your site.
What’s tough about it:
Again, it’s a long game… and it requires consistent outreach. When you’re just starting out, you can’t just write a piece of content and hope for links to come. You’ve got to get them, and you’ve got to get them for quality sites. This means pitching your content, doing outreach, etc. It also means having high-quality content for people to link to.
What to learn:
Broken Link Building
Redirecting Old URLS
How to Use Ahrefs
Unlike paid placements, public relations is where you earn publicity for your brand, either through features, news stories, press coverage, social shoutouts, and more. It’s all about working with the media to get the word about your business out there.
I’ve broken public relations down into two categories: traditional media relations and viral marketing.
Traditional Media Relations
This is probably what most people think of when they think of PR. It’s pitching your content to media outlets + trying to get coverage. Keep in mind this isn’t about pitching your business. Focus on being a reliable source & providing good stories / content (In fact, media relations works hand-in-hand with your on-page SEO strategy. Create good content, pitch it to outlets that may find it useful).
Seeing it in action:
Anytime you see a news story about a company or organization…it was probably via a press release or press outreach. PR is everywhere. Here’s an example from a campaign I did for this website.
Why it’s useful:
Having reputable outlets link back to your website or even run your content not only grows your website traffic — it builds brand authority. When you’re trying to stand out in a crowded space (i.e. the Internet), having coverage from reputable sources helps build trust with your audience quicker.
Why it’s tough:
Pitching to the media isn’t a walk in the park. Most outlets get tons of pitches every single day — which means yours needs to stand out and provide actual value. It can be a time-consuming process.
What to learn:
How to Plan a DIY PR Campaign
Viral marketing is when a piece of your content goes “viral” — AKA it gets a massive amount of shares and attention in a short period of time. Viral marketing is tough to do, but when it is done, it can create massive traction for your brand.
Seeing it in action:
There are plenty of big corporate campaigns that spark outrage, curiosity or some other big emotion. The original “small business” viral marketing effort was Blendtec’s “Will It Blend” series of videos.
Why it’s useful:
When your content goes viral, you can see a huge spike in traffic over a short period of time. You get more eyes on your site, get in front of larger audiences, and get in front of new audiences you likely haven’t seen before. If it’s high-quality content, you’ll also likely get links back to the viral piece, which can build your site’s authority with Google.
Why it’s tough:
You can try your best to guess what goes into creating viral content, but you’re also at the mercy of the Internet. There’s not an exact science to viral marketing, which makes it hard to pull off.
What to learn:
A big part of viral marketing is tapping into trending topics or trending emotions. The rest is not really a secret. It’s just combining those and hitting the right moment.
Paid media is any media or attention that you pay for. Paid media is a great way to promote your website and get the ball rolling on your business. Usually any type of media business will offer businesses attention for a price. The trick is choosing the right media and getting a positive return from it.
I’ve broken paid media into three categories: search ads, display ads, and social media ads.
Search Ads show up when someone searches for a query. For example, if you search “shoes” – you’ll get ads for shoes. Google was the first mover here and made their billions with search ads. But now many networks from Pinterest to Twitter to Amazon and more all use search ads within their networks.
Seeing it in action:
Search ads are anywhere — just try searching for something on Google! I searched “dentist in Atlanta” and got this…
Again, these ads show up whenever you’re searching for a specific query on search platforms (i.e. Google).
Why it’s useful:
The key benefit of search ads is that the searcher has intent — i.e. they’re actively looking for what you have to offer (like a dentist in Atlanta). The marketing jargon here is that you are “harvesting” demand rather than generating demand.
Why it’s tough:
You’re paying to play, and volume and bid prices can affect your performance significantly, especially if you have budget limitations. If you’re bidding on a competitive keyword, it’s going to cost you. You’ve also got to compete with others who are bidding on high search volume, competitive keywords.
What to learn:
How Google Decides What You Pay
Alternative PPC Networks
Display ads (AKA Banner ads) have been around since the dawn of the Internet. They’re everywhere both the Internet + within platforms (think about the banners that pop-up when you’re using an app on your smartphone).
Display ads differ from Search Ads in two main ways. First, they use images / banners. Second, they focus on interest rather than intent.
Seeing it in action:
Display ads are EVERYWHERE. Just log into Facebook and look on the left side of your newsfeed.
With the data Facebook provides to its advertisers, they can show me ads based on what they think my interests are.
Why it’s useful:
Displays Ads are different from Search ads because you’re targeting interest rather than intent. In our example above, I’m getting targeted with ads for software that helps small businesses, because Facebook knows I’m a small business… so they’re betting I’m interested in software that can help me manage my business.
And while Google handles most Display Ads around the Web, the big opportunity for Display Ads is on “walled gardens” like Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Zillow, etc who all know everything about users on their network.
There are also a range of targeting options, match types, and formats depending on network and goal.
Why it’s tough:
If you don’t know a ton about your audience (or don’t have access to that data), you’re taking a shot in the dark. Targeting interests can be way broader than targeting intent, which means your chances of getting highly qualified leads are less than what they are with search.
What to learn:
Like social media, it pays to learn a single network. Read their manual, learn how to read analytics, and run lots of test campaigns before “scaling up” your spending.
Social ads are exactly what they sound like… ads on social media platforms! Facebook, Reddit, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, etc… they all have advertising capabilities that allow advertisers to run paid promotions on their platforms.
Seeing it in action:
Check out this ad from UNTUCKit on Pinterest:
One of our staff members uses Pinterest primarily for fashion, so her Pinterest feed includes ads based on her interest in fashion!
Why it’s useful:
Social networks have a ton of data on their users, which gives advertisers a huge opportunity to create very targeted ads based on their users interest. There’s also massive opportunities to retarget users who visit your site and bring them back to your platform.
Why it’s tough:
You’re not just learning one ad platform… you’re learning several. Each social media advertising network operates differently, has different policies, and is constantly changing. It can be easy to spread yourself, and your budget, too thin. The trick is to focus where your users are most active and you have the most data so you can get the most bang for your buck.
What to learn:
Advertising on Reddit
Advertising on LinkedIn
Advertising on Snapchat
Advertising on Pinterest
Advertising on Quora
As you can see, digital marketing is made of up so many different avenues and methods. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like you have to master them all, but you really don’t.
If you’re just starting out and don’t want to spend a dime, I recommend checking out my guide on How to Promote Your Website Online for Free next.
If you’re ready to spend a little and want a step-by-step process to advertising online now that you know the different digital marketing methods, check out this guide here.
The post Types of Digital Marketing: Examples, Uses, and Resources appeared first on ShivarWeb.