10 Free Ways to Size Up Your Online Competition

Online competitionWhen it comes to marketing, we all like to keep a close eye on what our competitors are doing. Competitive intelligence essentially means understanding what’s happening in the world outside your business so you can be as competitive as possible.

Here are ten of my favorite tools for sizing up the online competition. All of these are either free of charge or have a free trial that you can take advantage of:

1) Ispionage – This is hands-down my favorite tool for gathering competitive intelligence. You can use it to view a nearly endless range of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC) data, including your competitor’s monthly ad budget, SEO keywords, PPC keywords, cached ad copy, affiliate data, top competitors and social media mentions. All reports can be exported as a text file or Excel spreadsheet. Memberships start at USD 53 per month, but they also offer your first 5 reports free of charge, without the need to create an account.

2) Screaming Frog – The Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a small desktop program you can install on your PC, Mac or Linux machine which spiders websites from an SEO perspective. It fetches key onsite elements for SEO, presents them in tabs by type and allows you to filter for common SEO issues, or slice and dice the data how you see fit by exporting into Excel. It allows you to quickly analyse, audit and review a competitor’s site and is particulary good for analysing medium to large sites where manually checking every page would be extremely labour intensive. The tool is free to download and run, although if the site you are spidering has over 500 pages, you’ll need to upgrade to a licensed version for GBP 99 per year.

3) Raven Tools – The Research Central component of Raven Tools incorporates data from major online marketing authorities, including Majestic SEO, Moz and Google. You can compare SEO quality, backlink and analytics data for up to five websites from a single view in Research Central. In Raven’s Site Performance and Competitor Manager Reports, you can get a better grip on competitor performance, with side-by-side comparisons of your site and your top competitors. Whether you’re researching competitor’s websites or keywords for SEO, social media engagement, PPC or content marketing performance, Raven provides a plethora of data to analyze. They offer a 30 day free trial, for up to 2 users and 2 domains.

4) Domain Tools – Discover everything about a domain name, IP address or nameserver, including Whois data, who used to own it, how many times it has changed hands, what it’s being used for and what other DNS resources it is connected to, with this Internet-based service. Monthly membership starts at USD 49.95. The site offers a 7 day, fully operational free trial, but does require a credit card to confirm the free account.

5) URL Profiler – This one is desktop software which pulls in marketing research and domain data from various 3rd party sources. With tools for measuring detailed link metrics, SEO performance, analytics, PageRank, social engagement and content quality, URL Profiler is useful for web site audits and competitor site analysis. Available for Windows and Mac only, the software starts at GBP 99 per year and has a fully functioning 30 day free trial.

6) Open Site Explorer – Open Site Explorer is a backlink research tool on steroids, allowing you to download a detailed link profile for any web site. Using a custom-built link anchor index created by the clever team at Moz.com, you can use Open Site Explorer to research both your and competitors link profiles to help with intelligent and targeted link building. Open Site Explorer is free to use and you can compare up to 5 domains at once.

7) SEMRush – is a competitive research tool covering both paid and organic search results, adding data like keyword value and keyword volume to ranking data. The team at SEMRush collect massive amounts of SERP data for more than 100 million keywords and 70 million domains, including: AdWords ad copies and positions, organic positions for domains and landing URLs, search volumes, CPC, competition and number of results. In addition to tracking Google’s global search results, they also track Bing and a range of geographic-specific Google result sets. Pricing starts at USD 69.95 per month, but if you don’t mind entering your billing details, there is a 14 day free trial http://seobook.com/sem-rush-trial, courtesy of SEO Book.

8) Compete – Compete PRO is a Competitive Intelligence tool that helps you to monitor your online competition, benchmark your performance against your industry, and discover new business opportunities. It uses industry-wide competitive analysis to reveal keywords that are sending the most traffic to your competitors. Rather than scraping search results to track rankings like many similar tools, CompetePRO looks at US clickstream data from ISPs, a panel of users & those that have their toolbar installed. A Compete PRO free trial Includes unlimited access to all features available for the paid plan you selected for a period of 24 hours, but does require you to enter your billing details.

9) Keyword Spy – is pitched as a competitive keyword discovery tool, but it is much more than that. You can use it to find out how much your competitors are spending on AdWords and discover which combinations of keywords and advertising copy are working for them. It includes ad copy and affiliate intelligence data and covers US, UK, Australia and Canada. Pricing starts at USD 89.95 per month, but Keyword Spy also offers what they call a “lifetime free trial account”.

10) Mention – is a new approach to media and social monitoring for brands and competitors. You can use it to monitor millions of sources in 42 languages, including anything published on social networks, news sites, forums, blogs and web pages. Generate reports in PDF, XLS, CSV or TSV formats and export data to compare your site with your competitors. You can also access your reports from either PC, Mac or hand-held devices. Mention provides a 14 day free trial as well as a free Basic monthly plan for a single user.

In the Internet age, it’s easier than ever before to keep tabs on your competition. Now that you have these 10 tools to help you, there are no more excuses!

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Fast Five in Search – Week 29, 2014

fast-five

 

If you’re a long term reader of this blog, you’ll know that I sometimes write articles for SiteProNews. Sometimes I’ll get a reader question here and I’m able to say “I just wrote an article about that topic” and point to the article over at SPN. But apart from the occasional Q&A reference, I’m not great at promoting my own articles.

So for today’s Fast Five, I thought I’d share with you the last 5 articles I wrote for SiteProNews.

Here’s this week’s Fast Five:

1) What to Blog About When You Have Nothing to Blog About – This article was inspired by the many, many webmasters who approach me about the difficulty they have finding topics to blog about. In this article, I bust the “blogger’s block” myth and show you just how easy it is to come up with topics for your company blog. I even suggest a range of topics to suit blogs in various industries.

2) Five Must-Have Spreadsheets for Online Marketing Professionals – A short piece that highlights five spreadsheet-based marketing tools that I use myself or recommend on a regular basis.

3) 11 Easy Ways to Build Editorial Links – Another article inspired by questions I get on this blog. This one talks about all the ways you can safely build incoming links to your site in the wake of Google Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm updates. This is a two part article, with Part Two over here.

4) A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Domaining – I wrote this article after my recent experience trying to sell a domain I’ve owned for over 10 years. It’s an introduction to the murky but profitable world of domain flipping and includes a detailed list of domaining resources.

and finally…

5) 20 Free Marketing eBooks You Need to Download Right Now – Trust me, you’ll want to bookmark this one. This article is a review of my favorite free eBooks and White Papers relating to marketing, categorized by theme. In the article, I’ve linked to the jump page from where you can access the PDF file for each freebie.

Happy reading!

*Image courtesy of Threadless.

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Q and A: Why doesn’t Google index my entire sitemap?

QuestionHello Kalena

I’ve submitted my sitemap to Google several times, and it doesn’t spider more than 57 pages even when I add more pages. I can’t figure out why and would really appreciate your help!

My website is [URL withheld]. The sitemap I submit to google is called sitemap.xml. I’m working on the site currently, and I want google to find the changes and new pages.

Thanks!
Greg

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Hi Greg

I’ve had a look at your sitemap and your site and I’ve worked out the problem. I think you’re going to laugh :-)

Yes, you have created a XML sitemap containing all your site URLs. Yes, you have uploaded it via your Webmaster Tools account. However, the robots.txt file on your site contains disallow rules that contradict your sitemap.

There are over 30 URLs in your robots.txt with a disallow instruction for Googlebot.  Essentially, you are giving Google a list of your pages and then instructing the search giant not to go near them! Have you re-designed your site lately? Maybe your site programmers made the change during a large site edit or testing phase and forgot to remove the URLs after completion?

All you need to do is edit your robots.txt file to remove the URLs being disallowed and then resubmit your XML sitemap.

All the best.

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Need to learn SEO but not sure where to start? Access your Free SEO Lessons. No catch!

 

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A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Domaining

domainsThe buying and selling of domains is big business. You only need to google *domaining* to see a tsunami of information about the subject.

So why is domaining so popular? You’ve probably heard stories about people selling domain names for big dollars. Some of those stories are true.

 

Domain Sales:

Here are a few of the more high profile recorded domain sales from the past decade:

  • Insurance.com – an insurance quotation site – sold for $35.6 million in 2010.
  • PrivateJet.com – a private jet booking service – sold for $30.1 million in 2012.
  • Hotels.com – a hotel deals site – sold for $11 million in 2001.
  • FB.com – sold (to Facebook) for $8.5 million in 2010.
  • Beer.com – (now parked and unused!) sold for $7 million in 2004.
  • iCloud.com sold (to Apple) for $6 million in 2011.
  • IG.com – a stock trading site – sold for $4.7 million in 2013.
  • Whisky.com – an information site – sold for $3.1 million in 2014.

 

Domain Statistics

Now take a look at some statistics from Flippa.com, one of the most popular domain auction web sites:

  • Over 400,000 users have registered on Flippa to buy or sell domains.
  • A bid is placed on a Flippa auction every minute.
  • There have been $711,532 in domain sales over the last 7 days.
  • Flippa has sold $122,039,671 in domains since launch in 2009. That’s right – a whopping USD 122 million has changed hands in domain sales on this one auction site in the past 5 years.

So is it possible to make a living from simply buying and selling domains? It is indeed and there are plenty of people doing just that.

 

Types of Domainers

There are generally two types of domainers in the industry:

1) Those who purchase domains with the intention of onselling them immediately for a profit.

2) Those who purchase domains with the intention of developing them and THEN onselling them for a profit (domain flipping).

As an Internet marketer, I have amassed quite a large collection of domains over the years, (currently numbering around 50 active domains), almost all of them relating to new business ideas or for branding or marketing of existing businesses. However, most of these purchased domains sit unused and unloved in registrar limbo, while I try to find the time to do something with them. Most of them are on auto-renew, but sometimes I’ll simply lose interest or forget and let the domain quietly expire.

Unfortunately, this approach is never going to be profitable. If I was ever going to make a living from domaining, I would have to shift gears and embrace one of the domainer categories above. For me, domain flipping would be the obvious choice.

 

Domain Flipping

To be successful at domain flipping, you have to be both opportunistic and tenacious. You need to be able to spot domains that have high resell potential and will give you a good return on investment.

According to Flippa, domain sales in the fields of finance, business, home, entertainment/gaming, social media and family related niches seem to out-perform the rest of the market. In terms of domain niches, forums sell well, but struggle to make traffic and conversions, while review sites, gaming, business, hobbies and tech are consistently popular. Internet Marketing sites tend to be short term earners, with low sale prices, but often high turnover.

BUT – and it’s a big but – it’s unlikely you’ll make a profit from simply purchasing domain names in bulk and re-selling them.

Sure, domainers in category 1) above will get the occasional quick turnaround, but ask a domainer which sales have been the most profitable and he/she will tell you it’s the developed domains that draw the big bucks.

Just like an unfurnished or unrenovated house, an undeveloped domain makes it difficult for buyers to imagine what it would be like to use it themselves. As with flipping houses, to achieve a good price for your domain, you need to invest the time to renovate the property. That includes developing it to the point where it has:

  • reliable hosting
  • analytics tracking
  • attractive design
  • quality content
  • good search engine placement
  • consistent traffic
  • trusted link profile
  • revenue generation if possible (e.g. via Google AdSense)

Although building them into your domain will take time, all these factors will make the domain appeal more to potential purchasers and help you achieve the best possible return on your original investment. What you’re essentially doing here is flipping a domain name with potential into a viable business model.

Apart from the domain gold rush, you may have also heard stories about big brands losing their domains to squatters and ransomists. This is also true. The domain industry is ripe with opportunity for the tenacious web-savvy amongst us. Unfortunately, it is also a murky, shark-infested sea and you can drown or be drowned if you’re not careful.

So just how do you get started in this tricky business?


Domain Resources to Get You Started

Below are some useful domain-related resources if you are interested in dipping your toe into domaining:

Flippa’s Domain Selling Guide (PDF)
Flippa’s Domain Buying Guide (PDF)


Domain Auction Sites / After-markets:

Flippa
Sedo
Afternic
GoDaddy Auctions


Sites / Blogs About Domaining:

Domaining.com
Domain Name News
Domain Sherpa
Domain Investing


Domain Forums:

Domain State
Name Pros
DN Forum


Domain Research:

Domain Tools
Hoster Stats
Ultra Tools


Domain Valuations:

Valuate
Free Valuator
Estibot

 

Still keen to become a domainer? I’ll leave the final words on the subject to a couple of anonymous domain flipper friends of mine:

“Make sure your price expectations are realistic”
“Don’t release the money until your new domain has been moved to your hosting account”
“If you haven’t developed it within 6 months, offload it”
“Always use a broker!”

 

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20 Free Marketing eBooks You Need to Download Right Now

Sssshhh!I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit of a sucker for free downloadable PDF eBooks and White Papers. Because they are usually organized into chapter form, they tend to be meatier and contain more valuable content than blog posts and articles. I’ve obtained an impressive collection of eBooks over the years and will often whip one out to share with a client or a Search Engine College student who might be struggling to understand a particular marketing or SEO concept.

So I thought I’d share with you my favorite free eBooks and White Papers, categorized by theme. Where possible, I’ve linked to the jump page from where you can access the PDF file, rather than linking to the PDF itself.

Top 5 Free Marketing Related eBooks

1) Definitive Guide to Marketing, Metrics and Analytics by Marketo – This chunky, 70 page eBook is a methodical guide for how to implement effective marketing measurement practices across your organization – big or small. It deals with that tricky subject of determining how your various marketing programs impact your revenue and profit so that you can decide which ones to focus on going forward.

2) The Email Marketing Showcase by Pollen Marketing – A recent discovery, this ROI-Driven email marketing guide by Natalie Giddings includes 50 published email examples compiled by experienced Internet marketers. It showcases stunning newsletter design elements, clever use of graphics and color and highly converting calls-to-action so you can learn from and implement them in your own email marketing programs. I read this in one sitting and then spent the weekend completely re-writing my follow up email series. I was so impressed, I contacted Natalie and offered her a tutor role at Search Engine College! (more about that soon).

3) A Guide to Marketing in 2014 by Vocus – How will you make the right choices for your 2014 digital marketing mix? This comprehensive guide will light the way for you. Written with a team of digital marketing’s foremost technologists and innovators, the guide explains 2014’s key marketing trends, what they will mean for you, and how to make them work with your brand’s strategy.

4) Take Your Business Online in 5 Hours for $26 by AWeber – You might be aware that I use AWeber for nearly all my online marketing activities. This includes email marketing campaigns, newsletter distribution and subscriber management needs. They just make it SO easy. So it makes sense for a company serving small and medium sized businesses to create a PDF guide to getting a biz online, fast. As they say in this guide, you can take your business online with just a basic website, an email series and some social network profiles. This step-by-step guide shows how to create an online presence for your business in only five hours for just $26.

5) The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Internet Marketing by HubSpot – I just love Hubspot. They are very clever marketers and always seem to come up with a relevant eBook, right when I’m researching a particular marketing topic. This was one of the first eBooks I ever downloaded from Hubspot and I refer to it all the time. Whether you’re just getting started with internet marketing or you want to brush up on the basics, this ebook can serve as your essential guide to setting up and implementing a successful internet marketing strategy, step by step. Be sure to check out their free MS Excel-based Editorial Calendar as well.

Top 5 Free SEO Related eBooks

1) SEO Starter Guide by Google – First published in 2008, Google has recently updated their SEO Starter Guide and translated it into 40 different languages. The Guide was written in response to Google staff being inundated with the same question in various formats over many years: “What are some simple ways that I can improve my website’s performance in Google?” The result is a compact guide that lists best practices that webmasters can follow to improve their sites’ crawlability and indexing. The Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide covers a range of common site design and coding aspects that webmasters need to optimize, such as improving title and description meta tags, URL structure, site navigation, content creation, anchor text, and more. If you want to improve your rank in Google, downloading this eBook is a no-brainer.

2) Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz – Following on from Google’s SEO Guide, this Beginner’s Guide from Moz will fill in any gaps you may have in your SEO knowledge. Beautifully designed and divided into clear, logical sections, this Guide is an ideal starting point for webmasters who want to educate themselves about what makes a search compatible site. It’s viewable online or via downloadable PDF and because it is written in such an approachable format and regularly updated by the Moz team, I recommend this eBook to all my SEO students.

3) 17 SEO Myths You Should Leave Behind by Hubspot – You’ll see Hubspot mentioned a few times in this article, for good reason. Their content is always timely and intuitive. Hubspot produced this eBook shortly after Google rolled out their confusing Panda algorithm update and webmasters were clambouring for some kind of guidance about how it would impact their SEO strategy. In the eBook, Hubspot debunk some of the most common SEO myths that still persist. After Google let loose their shiny new Hummingbird algorithm update, Hubspot cleverly updated this eBook to keep the advice fresh and relevant for the latest SEO methodologies.

4) The Web Developer’s SEO Cheat Sheet by Moz – When I first started optimizing web sites for clients back in 1996, I actually wrote a similar Cheat Sheet of my own to give to web development staff to ensure they wouldn’t make any major SEO blunders and undo all my hard work. But Moz have taken the SEO Cheat Sheet concept to a whole new, beautiful level. Recently updated, all the geektastic SEO tips and shortcuts you’ll ever need while coding are in here, including metadata, sitemaps, pagination, authorship, user agents, robot syntax, canonicalization and much more. This one is permanently pinned to my office wall.

5) Microsoft Excel for SEOs by Distilled – This Guide is so much more than an eBook. Produced by London-based digital creative agency Distilled, Microsoft Excel for SEOs started life as a White Paper written up to help SEO professionals retrieve meaningful information from mountains of data, using MS Excel. It is now less of a White Paper and more of an extremely comprehensive mini course in how to use Microsoft Excel to revolutionize traditionally time-consuming Search Engine Optimization tasks. If your job involves data analysis of the marketing kind, give this Guide a look. It’s viewable online or via downloadable PDF and comes with an XLS Example Workbook to help cement your knowledge with practical examples.

Top 5 Free Social Media Related eBooks

1) The Marketer’s Guide to Social Media by Vocus – This guide is written for marketers to help them come to terms with where they should invest their time and money and what social media tactics will help them achieve the greatest ROI. The guide includes insights from social media butterflies Ekaterina Walter, Jason Falls and Michael Stelzner that will take you through the most pivotal social media marketing trends and show you how to leverage them to deploy winning campaigns.

2) The Definitive Guide to Social Marketing by Marketo – If you are looking for a comprehensive understanding of Social Media for business in under 100 pages, this visually splendid eBook won’t disappoint. Written from a strong business ROI perspective, this guide is the one eBook I recommend most often to all my Social Media Marketing workshop attendees.

3) How to Get 1000+ Followers on Twitter by Hubspot – If you’re a Twitter junkie like me, this snappy eBook will make light work of the problem of not having enough Twitter followers. The advice includes how to optimize your Twitter profile, how and when to follow people, how to use hash tags and what to retweet.

4) Do It Yourself Social Media Audit by JanetFous.com – Did you know that you should conduct a social media audit quarterly? Well apparently you should. According to Social Media expert Janet Fouts, it’s a good idea to conduct a social media audit every so often to step back and take a benchmark of your performance. This allows you to see yourself as others might see you and judge if you are delivering the message you think you’re sending. It’s also a good way to evaluate what networks are working for you, which aren’t and if you are using social media efficiently. This eBook shows you what you need to do in order to audit your own Social Media activities and set a benchmark for the future.

5) Building a Killer Content Strategy by Hubspot – Everyone knows that great content is the foundation of highly trafficked sites. But how do you define *great*? How should you implement a content creation and publication strategy? This guide will teach you how to do all these things by giving you actionable advice, including how to understand your audience, map content to the buying cycle and build an editorial calendar.

Top 5 Free Advertising Related eBooks

1) AdWords Step by Step by Google – It’s amazing the number of marketers who abandon AdWords as a channel following a string of failed campaigns. The truth is that AdWords is a complex and tricky beast and you really need to educate yourself in campaign set up and planning before any of your ads go live. This free eBook by Google is a great starting point for both new advertisers and experienced marketers.

2) Google AdWords: A Brave New World by Google – Andrew Goodman wrote the first eBook on AdWords, over 10 years ago now. As Andrew states in his book, the world of AdWords changes frequently, even though many of the fundamental principles do not. Andrew’s original eBook eventually morphed into a 400 page published book that quickly became everyone’s favorite AdWords reference and has been updated several times. This pocket guide is a 40-page mini version of Andrew’s book, that offers a faster read for marketers in a hurry to understand the complexity lurking in Google’s advertising system.

3) Open the Black Box – Maximizing Success in Bid Automation by OptiMine – Bid automation software is essential for companies with complex paid-search programs. However, when using bid automation software it’s hard to determine the “why” behind their paid-search performance. This whitepaper looks at why companies need to use bid automation software that gives them transparency and control of their paid-search programs.

4) Conversion Secrets of a Million Dollar Landing Page by Conversion Rate Experts – This case study really put Conversation Rate Experts on the map. During the process of building a highly converting landing page for SEOMoz.com (now re-branded as Moz.com), CRE obtained such phenomenal results, that they set a new conversion benchmark for the industry. This online case study (downloadable as a PDF) is another resource I refer my students to frequently. It contains invaluable advice on boosting your ad and landing page response rates and highlights all the key features of high-converting content.

and finally…

5) From Abandon to Conversion: Why Shoppers Abandon Carts and What Merchants Can Do About It by Bronto – Shopping cart abandonment is a major problem for online retailers, with rates averaging between 60-70 percent. Departing shoppers represent a significant amount of lost revenue and to reverse that trend, you need to understand customer motivations and reasons for abandonment. For this white paper, Bronto staff examined the carting experience and follow-up email strategies of 100 retailers to discover the reasons for abandonment and the top strategies for bringing those shoppers back.

Happy reading!

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