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8 Stories Of Hope From The SEO Community



8 Stories Of Hope From The SEO Community

February 23, 2022, was a regular Wednesday for Ukrainian marketers and SEO specialists.

We had our morning coffees and did tech audits, built some links, and revamped a couple of landing pages.

We were striving for better visibility and conversions, trying hard to keep up with the deadlines, and hoping to reach our KPIs.

Then, on February 24, the whole of Ukraine woke up in a newly fragile and terrifying world.

Our plans, aspirations, and priorities were transformed.

From that day on, the only thing that mattered was saving the lives of our families, helping those in need to survive the turmoil of war, and defending our right to live freely on our own land.

For this column, my team reached out to eight Ukrainian SEO and marketing specialists and asked them to share their experiences in the time since our world turned upside down.

It turns out they all had one thing in common: in a shattered world full of painful uncertainty, they’ve drawn strength from helping others and contributing to Ukraine’s future victory.

Here is how they’re doing it.

Bringing Accurate News To Russian People

Artem Pylypets is the Head of SEO at SEO7, lecturer, and the founder of an educational YouTube channel “Школа SEO”  (SEO School).

Before the war started, Artem’s life was all about doing SEO himself and sharing his knowledge with others.

He led the SEO department at SEO7, ran his YouTube channel called “Школа SEO”  (“SEO School), and conducted online training on SEO matters.

Currently, Artem is doing all the same things, but to the sound of artillery shelling.

War brought many challenges to his work. SEO7 team members are now scattered across Europe since many people had to flee their homes.

They are trying to streamline their operations, but it isn’t easy.

Besides, many SEO7 customers seized their operations, which left the team struggling to stay afloat with the few clients who target the U.S. and European markets.

Artem himself stayed in the Kyiv suburbs. He confessed that he is used to hearing artillery shelling and added that it is “not that heavy.”

His neighborhood community has set up roadblocks, and people guard them in shifts to control the situation.

Image source: Author. The photo on the left was taken three months before the war started. Artem’s T-shirt says, “Content gets better if it comes with a backlink.” The photo on the right shows a roadblock with sandbags, one of Artem’s new workplaces.

“It really pleases me to see how the war united my fellow Ukrainians. The way we help each other, the way we fight for our land, is just amazing.

At the same time, I must admit that I’d rather have a peaceful sky above my head.”

Like many other SEO specialists, Artem decided to use his SEO skills to help Ukraine win the informational war.

His goal is to help Russian search engine users see the true stories of war and not the deceitful official propaganda. For this to happen, he has been working on improving the visibility of international media in the Russian SERPs.

When the war ends, Artem plans to keep building his business and hopes to launch all the projects he always wanted to but never had the time for.

He’s looking forward to reading some good news – not reporting on mounting casualties and destruction in Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Mariupol, and other cities.

All he dreams of is celebrating Ukraine’s victory with his closest friends.

Volunteering 24/7 To Help Those In Need

Andrey Kapeltsov is the founder of SEO.Capital and a keynote speaker at leading SEO, Affiliate, and iGaming conferences in Ukraine. He has spent the last 18 years mastering SEO and is always looking for new out-of-the-box ways to keep up with search algorithm updates.

Since 2015, he’s focused on the iGaming industry, working as the CMO at major gaming and betting companies.

Because of the specific nature of the iGaming niche, SEO has always been at the core of every marketing strategy Andrey developed.

Today, Andrey is trying to serve his country and people in every way possible.

Some of his company’s employees lived in the cities ravaged by the Russian army – Andrey helped them escape to a safer place.

Today, he continues to help evacuate people from the shelled cities on the frontline to a place to live in the central and western parts of Ukraine.

With employees moved to safe places, Andrey decided to restore his company’s operations to support Ukraine’s economy – his business provides donations to the Ukrainian armed forces.

Also, they’ve established a charity foundation to support displaced families and volunteers.

In addition to helping out financially, Andrey and his colleagues spend their evenings at humanitarian aid centers unloading goods.

Andrey says that this kind of physical activity works just as well as going to the gym.

Andrey KapeltsovImage source: Author. Andrey’s portrait in peaceful times and photos from current volunteer activities.

“What fascinates me is how the war forced us to quickly establish complex processes – it seemed unachievable in times of peace.

I still sometimes face difficulties finding particular military equipment, but my friends and new acquaintances always help me out.

I had the pleasure of meeting so many great people over the past weeks.”

Andrey notes that his life before the war started seems very distant and blurred. He has a feeling that war lasts forever but has found a role that works for him and is ready to carry on.

When it’s all over, Andrey plans to keep developing his business and actively participate in helping Ukraine recover.

He hopes to spend some time living by the sea, where the only sound would be that of the sea waves. But first, Ukraine has to win.

Helping Ukrainian SEOs Find New Jobs

Olesia Korobka is an SEO entrepreneur running multiple projects before the war started. She offered guidance and consulting to businesses and ran a couple of her own projects sponsored by third parties.

Unfortunately, she had to stop working with most sponsors because of their country of origin.

That left her with mostly consulting. She can now keep up with the tasks, but for a while could not work because of a slow internet connection.

Olesia, her son, and her mother were among the 4 million Ukrainians who had to flee their homes.

First, they moved to Poland and then to the Netherlands, where she could get back to work, which she admitted was challenging.

“My brain was reluctant to focus on complex technical tasks.

After operating in survival mode for a while, the first time I looked into coding, I spent several hours on a task that took me 5 to 15 minutes before, and I still wasn’t sure if I did it right.”

At the same time, working on her projects was something she needed badly. It was the only thing that helped Olesia feel she was doing okay and making a positive impact.

Olesia KorobkaImage source: Author. A selfie made from the life ‘before’ on the left, another selfie made on a bus to Amsterdam (right), and a photo taken at a refugee center.

What inspired her was the new project she organized to support the Ukrainian SEO community. Since the war started, many people have approached Olesia asking for help finding a new job. Many Ukrainian SEO specialists lost their only source of income and felt desperate.

This is how Olesia got the idea to create a listing of Ukrainian SEOs that briefly describes their skills and areas of expertise.

She contacted Aleyda Solis with a request to share the listing on her Twitter and in the #SEOFOMO newsletter, and Aleyda kindly supported the initiative.

Then, Olesia started receiving messages from different companies open to hiring Ukrainians, so she compiled a listing of job openings.

As more and more experts and businesses joined the initiative, the spreadsheet became messy. So, Olesia is currently working on creating multiple websites targeting employers in Australia, the USA, and particular European countries.

Once the sites are up and running, the job-seeking and hiring process should be much easier.

Olesia dreams of the war coming to an end so that she can return home.

She misses her normal life and the people.

Olesia adds that many Ukrainians will have to deal with PTSD once the war is over and won’t lead a normal life anytime soon.

However, she is determined to keep her chin up and carry on with her projects. Olesia is also grateful to everyone who’s supported her in the past weeks.

“Soooooo many people are helping me. It was amazing and kind of even uncomfortable. I’ve never had that in my entire life and never expected that.

I kind of feel a bit guilty, but also very grateful. Thank you all for your support and input.

I cannot always find the proper words to thank everyone, but I’m super grateful for everything.”

Saving Ukrainian Four-Legged Cuties

Anton Shulke is the Head of Influencer marketing at and livestream production manager.

Since 2015, Anton has held live events, webinars, and podcasts for leading companies in the SEO industry, such as Duda, Semrush, and Kalicube.

Duda – Anton’s latest workplace – is not a Ukrainian company and wasn’t directly affected (even though the company had about a dozen employees in Ukraine).

Anton was offered paid time off when the war started, but he prefers to keep working, so he is still doing one webinar a week.

On top of that, Anton joined the Ukrainian SEO community to help the affected people by trying to arrange accommodation, find job opportunities, or provide direct financial help.

Anton was amazed by the reaction of the Ukrainian SEO community. He always believed there were many good people but didn’t expect to see such overwhelming support for the less fortunate ones.

Anton added that he felt honored to be a part of it.

He also started a small charity project for collecting funds for cat and dog shelters, which you can learn about and support here.

“I decided to help small shelters because I thought they could be under the radar of big charities, which tend to help children, refugees, and the army.

I get messages from people who run the shelters, and they seem to be surprised and extremely grateful for the help I provide, which gives me motivation to continue.

The hard part is that while initially the reaction from people was very positive and giving, donations are drying up as time passes.

Still, I understand that people get tired, and I cannot blame them.”

Anton ShulkeImage source: Author. Anton with his cat and having his traditional morning coffee

Anton hopes to keep his job at Duda, but he also considers putting more effort into the charity initiative.

He will probably keep the cat and dog shelter project, though the format may change.

Another thing he hopes to do is have a coffee with all the lovely people who message him on Facebook.

Every day, Anton publishes a ‘Good Morning’ post with a #coffeeshot on his Facebook page. In reply, many people say they’d love to have a coffee with him.

Protecting Ukrainian Land In The Armed Forces

Eugene Lata is the CMO at and an experienced marketer who has spent the last seven years building marketing teams and developing growth strategies.

Up until January 2022, he was the CMO at SerpStat, an SEO tool company based in Odesa.

He had begun a new job at the marketplace not long before the war started.

In the first days of the war, Eugene decided to join Odesa territorial defense forces, and currently, he is a member of the 122nd brigade.

Due to Eugene’s previous experience, he became a managing paramedic officer in the material supply squadron.

This means he is in charge of training other paramedics and forming special evacuation and emergency brigades.

Such brigades consist of one paramedic and four assault soldiers. They work on the frontline evacuating wounded soldiers and civilians.

Luckily, at the moment, there is no need to evacuate civilians in the regions where Eugene is located.

In addition to training paramedics, he trains various military units on NATO’s methodology of providing first aid.

Eugene LataImage source: Author. Eugene serving in the territorial defense forces and a photo of him and his labrador dog before the war started

This is not the first time Eugene decided to join the army. Back in 2014, after coming back home from the U.K., he spent six months in the Donbas region fighting the enemies with other volunteers who joined the Dnipro-1 battalion.

This was when he started helping wounded people as a paramedic.

Eight years later, his previous experience allowed Eugene to teach other officers to save lives.

“What inspires me is the progress the guys whom I train demonstrate.

Those who joined just three weeks ago with no relevant experience and no medical background are now trained well enough to provide qualified help. These people are already evacuating people and saving many lives in the Mykolaiv and Odesa regions.

Seeing this gives me a sense of accomplishment.”

Eugene confesses that he preferred his regular job, living under peaceful skies when his biggest worry was a wasted marketing budget or the spread of the coronavirus.

But until the war is over, he can’t imagine himself doing anything other than his current occupation.

When Ukraine wins, Eugene cannot wait to hug his family, now scattered around the country.

His wife and younger sister volunteer in Odesa, getting the necessary military ammunition for Eugene’s brigades.

He wants to go on a walk with his labrador dog.

Being an avid traveler, he’ll surely take on new adventures.

First thing, he’ll go to the Carpathian mountains. Eugene hopes for Ukraine to win before the spring ends – then he’ll enjoy the spring greenery while watching the sunrise.

He’ll also be working a lot because rebuilding a country takes many resources.

Finally, he wants to become a father – he and his wife had planned to start a family before the war broke out.

Fighting A Cyberwar Via SEO Community Chat

Igor Shulezhko is the CEO & Founder at rankUP and co-owner of Shmeo.Link. He has been in the business for over ten years as Head of SEO for several major Ukrainian brands.

Before the war started, he focused his efforts on building his SEO agency, rankUp.

His business was doing pretty well and boasted a varied customer profile that included startups and SaaS companies, ecommerce projects, and news portals.

All these customers were from Ukraine, which means the agency wasn’t impacted as much as other companies with close ties to Russia.

Still, the war forced many businesses to put their marketing spending on hold. Now Igor is trying hard to save his agency.

His team is currently scattered across Ukraine and works remotely.

Igor noted that he can feel how anxious everyone on the team is right now.

“Constantly monitoring the news is extremely exhausting. Besides, air raid sirens keep people awake at night—often there are two to four sirens per night with brief interruptions.

All this makes it hard to concentrate on your tasks. It’s easier to do SEO when all you need to focus on is the work.”

Igor ShulezhkoImage source: Author. Igor on his way to the border and having a meal at a refugee center

One of Igor’s projects is an SEO community on Telegram, an extremely popular messenger in Ukraine. Currently, the community unites about 5,000 people.

Before, it had more participants, but many Russians left once the community started spreading war-related messages.

Igor regretfully notes that many Russians in the group vocally supported Putin and denied all war crimes.

“When the war started, we restricted commenting in the community and limited publication rights to admins only,” he said.

The idea was to use the community chat to deliver the most important initiatives to its subscribers. They shared links to verified charities and details on evacuation opportunities, posted lists of Russian sites whose operations they were seeking to disrupt, and links to communities that spread false news so that community members could block them.

Igor believes that he and his team are contributing to winning the cyberwar against Russia by doing all this.

Igor admits that he misses his peaceful life.

When the war ends, the first thing he’ll do is visit his mom, who lives in the Sumy region.

Luckily, the town is not on the frontline, but with Russian troops all around, it suffers from a lack of supplies. Evacuation is currently too dangerous.

Telecommunications are still operating, so Igor can still regularly call his mother.

He dreams of seeing her in person and giving her a big hug.

Helping Ukrainian Families In Need

Max Karmazin is the Digital Marketing specialist, Country Manager (Germany) at SE Ranking. He returned to Ukraine in November 2021 after living in Switzerland for seven years.

Max was working on his Master’s degree in Sociology and Media Studies, working different jobs, and traveling.

As an expat, he always felt he had limited working hours, income, job, and social standing opportunities.

Feeling detached, he couldn’t completely embrace the new mentality and social rules.

Thus, he decided to return to Kyiv, and three months later, the war started.

The first days after the invasion were tough. Max couldn’t continue working because he was constantly distracted by the news.

When he left Kyiv on the third day of the war to get farther from the danger, he felt saving one’s life and leaving countrymen to fend for themselves wasn’t in accordance with his values.

Doing his regular job also felt wrong at that time.

Max decided he would join the army and fight the enemy back or start volunteering.

This led him to join the territorial defense forces, volunteer military units that protect city residents.

He spent about a week guarding one of the few open gas stations, controlling incoming traffic, and keeping order.

Max KarmazinImage source: Author. Max (left) with his comrade, a 65-year-old veteran of the war in Donbas.

“I had this desire to prove myself that I had the guts to join the army and potentially sacrifice my life for the country I love (and wanted to get back to). I guess many men feel the same way at the time of war.”

Then the unit was rotated and Max joined one of his comrades who was evacuating his family to western Ukraine and Poland a few days later.

Max’s new acquaintance had lost his job a few months before and the family ran out of money a week into the war.

So, Max decided to support them at least financially.

Max was lucky to have good and caring friends from Switzerland and Germany who were eager to help.

They decided that the best option would be to send money directly to Max’s account so that he could provide help to people in dire need whom he knew personally.

“So far, we have helped six families in need, a total of 15 people, and the army. It might not be much, but it’s quality help that provides a sufficient amount of money for a month or two.”

Currently, Max is with his family. He believes that the most important thing he can do right now is support them. He continues working for SE Ranking from his home office.

Max will continue working for SE Ranking, and would love to see everybody back at the office after his colleagues return home when the war ends.

He hopes the war ends before summertime to start new hobbies: canoeing and rowing.

He dreams of rediscovering Ukraine and its beautiful rivers with his friends on camping and canoeing trips.

Max also plans to start voice actor training because he likes listening to audiobooks and has a suitable voice. He had planned to start training on the 6th of March.

Max confesses that he misses small things from his life before, such as going to the movies with friends, having a coriander omelet for breakfast, exercising at the gym, and having a long hot shower.

While the future remains unclear, he believes he’ll be able to fulfill his dreams, from buying a car and going on a road trip with his friends to starting a family.

And he believes that all his dreams can come true here, in Ukraine.

Building A Strong Community Of Marketing Heroes For Mutual Support

Yurii Lazaruk, is the founder of multiple well-known Ukrainian SEO communities, such as SEO Club UA, SalesHero, CPC Real Talk, and Marketing Club UA, and a community development expert.

Before the war started, he used his communities for connecting Ukrainian experts. Yurii helped them share experiences and get notable career growth.

Yurii LazarukImage source: Author. Yurii wearing a sweatshirt with his brand’s logo.

After the first day of the war, Yurii set all his earlier initiatives aside. He decided to unite all of the active members of his numerous communities into one group called Ukrainian Hero Help.

The goal of the new community was to bring together Ukrainian SEO people to support each other, share vital information, and help the army and the entire country.

Yurii himself needed assistance finding a job to support his family.

And he found one thanks to David Spinks, a co-founder of CMX, the world’s largest network for community professionals.

Yurii now works as a part-time consultant, providing guidance on community development to Cultivate, an AI-powered coaching platform.

Yurii appreciates the opportunity to use his skills to make U.S. communities thrive.

But since it is not a full-time job, he is still looking for more opportunities.

Yurii is also trying to help his fellow community members by collecting requests from SEO, PPC, marketing, and sales experts, and finding them jobs with the help of international experts communities and great people within them.

So, if by any chance you are currently looking for a digital marketing specialist and are willing to help Ukrainians, you can contact Yurii, who will happily share contacts with you.

All Yurii dreams of is for the war to be over.

He aspires to create an even more powerful digital community in Ukraine, find more international clients to work with, make a lot of money, and rebuild the country!

How You Can Help Colleagues In Ukraine

Search Engine Journal has shared a collection of causes in SEO Community Support For Ukraine & How You Can Help.

The SE Ranking team has a resource on how you can help Ukrainians here, as well, that we’ll be keeping updated.

Image source: Created by author, 2022.

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Research Shows Tree Of Thought Prompting Better Than Chain Of Thought




Research Shows Tree Of Thought Prompting Better Than Chain Of Thought

Researchers discovered a way to defeat the safety guardrails in GPT4 and GPT4-Turbo, unlocking the ability to generate harmful and toxic content, essentially beating a large language model with another large language model.

The researchers discovered that the use of tree-of-thought (ToT)reasoning to repeat and refine a line of attack was useful for jailbreaking another large language model.

What they found is that the ToT approach was successful against GPT4, GPT4-Turbo, and PaLM-2, using a remarkably low number of queries to obtain a jailbreak, on average less than thirty queries.

Tree Of Thoughts Reasoning

A Google research paper from around May 2022 discovered Chain of Thought Prompting.

Chain of Thought (CoT) is a prompting strategy used on a generative AI to make it follow a sequence of steps in order to solve a problem and complete a task. The CoT method is often accompanied with examples to show the LLM how the steps work in a reasoning task.

So, rather than just ask a generative AI like Midjourney or ChatGPT to do a task, the chain of thought method instructs the AI how to follow a path of reasoning that’s composed of a series of steps.

Tree of Thoughts (ToT) reasoning, sometimes referred to as Tree of Thought (singular) is essentially a variation and improvement of CoT, but they’re two different things.

Tree of Thoughts reasoning is similar to CoT. The difference is that rather than training a generative AI to follow a single path of reasoning, ToT is built on a process that allows for multiple paths so that the AI can stop and self-assess then come up with alternate steps.

Tree of Thoughts reasoning was developed in May 2023 in a research paper titled Tree of Thoughts: Deliberate Problem Solving with Large Language Models (PDF)

The research paper describes Tree of Thought:

“…we introduce a new framework for language model inference, Tree of Thoughts (ToT), which generalizes over the popular Chain of Thought approach to prompting language models, and enables exploration over coherent units of text (thoughts) that serve as intermediate steps toward problem solving.

ToT allows LMs to perform deliberate decision making by considering multiple different reasoning paths and self-evaluating choices to decide the next course of action, as well as looking ahead or backtracking when necessary to make global choices.

Our experiments show that ToT significantly enhances language models’ problem-solving abilities…”

Tree Of Attacks With Pruning (TAP)

This new method of jailbreaking large language models is called Tree of Attacks with Pruning, TAP. TAP uses two LLMs, one for attacking and the other for evaluating.

TAP is able to outperform other jailbreaking methods by significant margins, only requiring black-box access to the LLM.

A black box, in computing, is where one can see what goes into an algorithm and what comes out. But what happens in the middle is unknown, thus it’s said to be in a black box.

Tree of thoughts (TAP) reasoning is used against a targeted LLM like GPT-4 to repetitively try different prompting, assess the results, then if necessary change course if that attempt is not promising.

This is called a process of iteration and pruning. Each prompting attempt is analyzed for the probability of success. If the path of attack is judged to be a dead end, the LLM will “prune” that path of attack and begin another and better series of prompting attacks.

This is why it’s called a “tree” in that rather than using a linear process of reasoning which is the hallmark of chain of thought (CoT) prompting, tree of thought prompting is non-linear because the reasoning process branches off to other areas of reasoning, much like a human might do.

The attacker issues a series of prompts, the evaluator evaluates the responses to those prompts and then makes a decision as to what the next path of attack will be by making a call as to whether the current path of attack is irrelevant or not, plus it also evaluates the results to determine the likely success of prompts that have not yet been tried.

What’s remarkable about this approach is that this process reduces the number of prompts needed to jailbreak GPT-4. Additionally, a greater number of jailbreaking prompts are discovered with TAP than with any other jailbreaking method.

The researchers observe:

“In this work, we present Tree of Attacks with Pruning (TAP), an automated method for generating jailbreaks that only requires black-box access to the target LLM.

TAP utilizes an LLM to iteratively refine candidate (attack) prompts using tree-of-thoughts reasoning until one of the generated prompts jailbreaks the target.

Crucially, before sending prompts to the target, TAP assesses them and prunes the ones unlikely to result in jailbreaks.

Using tree-of-thought reasoning allows TAP to navigate a large search space of prompts and pruning reduces the total number of queries sent to the target.

In empirical evaluations, we observe that TAP generates prompts that jailbreak state-of-the-art LLMs (including GPT4 and GPT4-Turbo) for more than 80% of the prompts using only a small number of queries. This significantly improves upon the previous state-of-the-art black-box method for generating jailbreaks.”

Tree Of Thought (ToT) Outperforms Chain Of Thought (CoT) Reasoning

Another interesting conclusion reached in the research paper is that, for this particular task, ToT reasoning outperforms CoT reasoning, even when adding pruning to the CoT method, where off topic prompting is pruned and discarded.

ToT Underperforms With GPT 3.5 Turbo

The researchers discovered that ChatGPT 3.5 Turbo didn’t perform well with CoT, revealing the limitations of GPT 3.5 Turbo. Actually, GPT 3.5 performed exceedingly poorly, dropping from 84% success rate to only a 4.2% success rate.

This is their observation about why GPT 3.5 underperforms:

“We observe that the choice of the evaluator can affect the performance of TAP: changing the attacker from GPT4 to GPT3.5-Turbo reduces the success rate from 84% to 4.2%.

The reason for the reduction in success rate is that GPT3.5-Turbo incorrectly determines that the target model is jailbroken (for the provided goal) and, hence, preemptively stops the method.

As a consequence, the variant sends significantly fewer queries than the original method…”

What This Mean For You

While it’s amusing that the researchers use the ToT method to beat an LLM with another LLM, it also highlights the usefulness of ToT for generating surprising new directions in prompting in order to achieve higher levels of output.

  • TL/DR Takeaways:
  • Tree of Thought prompting outperformed Chain of Thought methods
  • GPT 3.5 worked significantly poorly in comparison to GPT 4 in ToT
  • Pruning is a useful part of a prompting strategy
  • Research showed that ToT is superior to CoT in an intensive reasoning task like jailbreaking an LLM

Read the original research paper:

Tree of Attacks: Jailbreaking Black-Box LLMs Automatically (PDF)

Featured Image by Shutterstock/THE.STUDIO

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Continue Reading


The Lean Guide (With Template)



The Lean Guide (With Template)

A competitive analysis (or market competitive analysis) is a process where you collect information about competitors to gain an edge over them and get more customers.

However, the problem is that “traditional” competitive analysis is overkill for most businesses — it requires impractical data and takes too long to complete (and it’s very expensive if you choose to outsource). 

A solution to that is a lean approach to the process — and that’s what this guide is about. 

In other words, we’ll focus on the most important data you need to answer the question: “Why would people choose them over you?”. No boring theory, outtakes from marketing history, or spending hours digging up nice-to-have information.

In this guide, you will find:

  • A real-life competitive analysis example.
  • Templates: one for input data and one for a slide deck to present your analysis to others.
  • Step-by-step instructions.

Our template consists of two documents: a slide deck and a spreadsheet. 

The Slide deck is the output document. It will help you present the analysis to your boss or your teammates.

The spreadsheet is the input document. You will find tables that act as the data source for the charts from the slide deck, as well as a prompt to use in ChatGPT to help you with user review research.

Competitive analysis template — spreadsheet sneak peek.Competitive analysis template — spreadsheet sneak peek.

We didn’t focus on aesthetics here; every marketer likes to do slide decks their own way, so feel free to edit everything you’ll find there. 

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the process. The template consists of these six tasks: 

  1. Identify your direct competitors. 
  2. Compare share of voice. 
  3. Compare pricing and features.
  4. Find strong and weak points based on reviews.
  5. Compare purchasing convenience.
  6. Present conclusions.

Going forward, we’ll explain why these steps matter and show how to complete them. 

1. Identify your direct competitors

Direct competitors are businesses that offer a similar solution to the same audience. 

They matter a lot more than indirect competitors (i.e. businesses with different products but targeting the same audience as you) because you’ll be compared with them often (e.g. in product reviews and rankings). Plus, your audience is more likely to gravitate towards them when considering different options. 

You probably have a few direct competitors in mind already, but here are a few ways to find others based on organic search and paid search ads

Our basis for the analysis was Landingi, a SaaS for building landing pages (we chose that company randomly). So in our case, we found these 3 direct competitors. 

Slide 1 — direct competitors.Slide 1 — direct competitors.

Look at keyword overlap

Keyword overlap uncovers sites that target the same organic keywords as you. Some sites will compete with you for traffic but not for customers (e.g. G2 may share some keywords with Landingi but they’re a different business). However, in many cases, you will find direct competitors just by looking at this marketing channel. 

  • Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and enter your site’s address. 
  • Scroll down to Organic competitors
  • Visit the URLs to pick 3 – 5 direct competitors.
Top organic competitors data from Ahrefs.Top organic competitors data from Ahrefs.

To double-check the choice of competitors, we also looked at who was bidding for search ads on Google.

See who’s advertising 

If someone is spending money to show ads for keywords related to what you do, that’s a strong indication they are a direct competitor. 

  • Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.
  • Type in a few broad keywords related to your niche, like “landing page builder” or “landing page tool”. 
  • Go to the Ads history report. 
  • Visit the sites that have a high presence of ads in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). 
Ads history report in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer.Ads history report in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer.

Once you’re done checking both reports, write down competitors in the deck. 

You can also take screenshots of the reports and add them to your deck to show the supporting data for your argument. 

 Slide 2 — direct competitors by organic traffic. Slide 2 — direct competitors by organic traffic.

2. Compare share of voice

Share of voice is a measure of your reach in any given channel compared to competitors. 

A bigger share of voice (SOV) means that your competitors are more likely to reach your audience. In other words, they may be promoting more effectively than you. 

In our example, we found that Landingi’s SOV was the lowest in both of these channels. 


Slide 3 — share of voice on Google Search.Slide 3 — share of voice on Google Search.

And social media:

 Slide 4 — share of voice on social media. Slide 4 — share of voice on social media.

Here’s how we got that data using Ahrefs and Brand24.

Organic share of voice 

Before we start, make sure you have a project set up in Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker

Create a new project in Ahrefs' Rank Tracker.Create a new project in Ahrefs' Rank Tracker.


  • Go to Ahrefs’ Competitive Analysis and enter your and your competitors’s sites as shown below. 
Create a new project in Ahrefs' Rank Tracker.
Create a new project in Ahrefs' Rank Tracker.
  • On the next screen, set the country with the most important market for your business and set the filters like this:
Content gap analysis filter setup.Content gap analysis filter setup.
  • Select keywords that sound most relevant to your business (even if you don’t rank for them yet) and Add them to Rank Tracker
Common keywords found via Ahrefs' Competitive Analysis.Common keywords found via Ahrefs' Competitive Analysis.
  • Go to Rank Tracker, open your project, and look for Competitors/Overview. This report will uncover automatically calculated Share of Voice
Organic share of voice data in Ahrefs.Organic share of voice data in Ahrefs.
  • Add the numbers in corresponding cells inside the sheet and paste the graph inside the slide deck. 
Filling the share of voice template with data.Filling the share of voice template with data.

It’s normal that the numbers don’t add up to 100%. SOV is calculated by including sites that compete with you in traffic but are not your direct competitors, e.g. blogs. 

Social share of voice 

We can also measure our share of voice across social media channels using Brand24.

  • Go to Brand24.
  • Start a New project for your brand and each competitor. Use the competitors’ brand name as the keyword to monitor. 
  • Go to the Comparison report and compare your project with competitors. 
Using Brand24's Comparison tool for competitive analysis.Using Brand24's Comparison tool for competitive analysis.
  • Take a screenshot of the SOV charts and paste them into the slide deck. Make sure the charts are set to “social media”.
Social media tab in share of voice report.Social media tab in share of voice report.

3. Compare pricing and features

Consumers often choose solutions that offer the best value for money — simple as that. And that typically comes down to two things: 

  • Whether you have the features they care about. We’ll use all features available across all plans to see how likely the product is to satisfy user needs.
  • How much they will need to pay. Thing is, the topic of pricing is tricky: a) when assessing affordability, people often focus on the least expensive option available and use it as a benchmark, b) businesses in the SaaS niche offer custom plans. So to make things more practical, we’ll compare the cheapest plans, but feel free to run this analysis across all pricing tiers.

After comparing our example company to competitors, we found that it goes head-to-head with Unbounce as the most feature-rich solution on the market. 

Slide 5 — features vs. pricing.Slide 5 — features vs. pricing.

Here’s how we got that data. 

  • Note down your and your competitors’ product features. One of the best places to get this information is pricing pages. Some brands even publish their own competitor comparisons — you may find them helpful too. 
  • While making the list, place a “1” in the cell corresponding to the brand that offers the solution.
Filling data in the spreadsheet.Filling data in the spreadsheet.
  • Enter the price of the cheapest plan (excluding free plans). 
Adding pricing data inside the spreadsheet.Adding pricing data inside the spreadsheet.
  • Once finished, copy the chart and paste it inside the deck. 

4. Find strong and weak points based on user reviews

User reviews can show incredibly valuable insight into your competitors’ strong and weak points. Here’s why this matters:

  • Improving on what your competitors’ customers appreciate could help you attract similar customers and possibly win some over.
  • Dissatisfaction with competitors is a huge opportunity. Some businesses are built solely to fix what other companies can’t fix. 

Here’s a sample from our analysis: 

 Slide 6 — likes and dislikes about Competitors. Slide 6 — likes and dislikes about Competitors.

And here’s how we collated the data using ChatGPT. Important: repeat the process for each competitor.

  • Open ChatGPT and enter the prompt from the template.
ChatGPT prompt for competitive analysis.ChatGPT prompt for competitive analysis.
  • Go to G2, Capterra, or Trustpilot and find a competitor’s reviews with ratings from 2 – 4 (i.e. one rating above the lowest and one below the highest possible). Reason:

businesses sometimes solicit five-star reviews, whereas dissatisfied customers tend to leave one-star reviews in a moment of frustration. The most actionable feedback usually comes in between.

  • Copy and paste the content of the reviews into ChatGPT (don’t hit enter yet). 
  • Once you’re done pasting all reviews, hit enter in ChatGPT to run the analysis.
Sample of ChatGPT output with charts.Sample of ChatGPT output with charts.
  • Paste the graphs into the deck. If you want the graphs to look different, don’t hesitate to ask the AI. 

There’s a faster alternative, but it’s a bit more advanced. 

Instead of copy-pasting, you can use a scraping tool like this one to get all reviews at once. The downside here is that not all review sources will a have scraping tool available. 

5. Compare purchasing convenience

Lastly, we’ll see how easy it is to actually buy your products, and compare the experience to your competitors. 

This is a chance to simplify your checkout process, and even learn from any good habits your competitors have adopted.

For example, we found that our sample company had probably nothing to worry about in this area — they ticked almost all of the boxes. 

Slide 7 — purchasing convenience.Slide 7 — purchasing convenience.

Here’s how to complete this step:

  • Place a “1” if you or any of your competitors offer convenience features listed in the template. 
  • Once done, copy the chart and paste it into the deck.

Step 6. Present conclusions

This is the part of the presentation where you sum up all of your findings and suggest a course of action. 

Here are two examples: 

  • Landingi had the lowest SOV in the niche, and that is never good. So the conclusion might be to go a level deeper and do an SEO competitive analysis, and to increase social media presence by creating more share-worthy content like industry surveys, design/CRO tips, or in-house data studies.
  • Although the brand had a very high purchasing convenience score, during the analysis we found that there was a $850 gap between the monthly full plan and the previous tier. The conclusion here might be to offer a custom plan (like competitors do) to fill that gap. 

We encourage you to take your time here and think about what would make the most sense for your business. 


It’s good to be specific in your conclusions, but don’t go too deep. Competitive analysis concerns many aspects of the business, so it’s best to give other departments a chance to chime in. Just because your competitors have a few unique features doesn’t necessarily mean you need to build them too.

Final thoughts 

A competitive analysis is one of the most fruitful exercises in marketing. It can show you areas for improvement, give ideas for new features, and help you discover gaps in your strategy. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it’s fundamental to running a successful business. 

Just don’t forget to balance “spying” on your competitors with innovation. After all, you probably don’t want to become an exact copy of someone else’s brand. 

In other words, use competitive analysis to keep up with your competitors, but don’t let that erase what’s unique about your brand or make you forget your big vision. 

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Critical WordPress Form Plugin Vulnerability Affects Up To +200,000 Installs




Critical WordPress Form Plugin Vulnerability Affects Up To +200,000 Installs

Security researchers at Wordfence detailed a critical security flaw in the MW WP Form plugin, affecting versions 5.0.1 and earlier. The vulnerability allows unauthenticated threat actors to exploit the plugin by uploading arbitrary files, including potentially malicious PHP backdoors, with the ability to execute these files on the server.

MW WP Form Plugin

The MW WP Form plugin helps to simplify form creation on WordPress websites using a shortcode builder.

It makes it easy for users to create and customize forms with various fields and options.

The plugin has many features, including one that allows file uploads using the [mwform_file name=”file”] shortcode for the purpose of data collection. It is this specific feature that is exploitable in this vulnerability.

Unauthenticated Arbitrary File Upload Vulnerability

An Unauthenticated Arbitrary File Upload Vulnerability is a security issue that allows hackers to upload potentially harmful files to a website. Unauthenticated means that the attacker does not need to be registered with the website or need any kind of permission level that comes with a user permission level.

These kinds of vulnerabilities can lead to remote code execution, where the uploaded files are executed on the server, with the potential to allow the attackers to exploit the website and site visitors.

The Wordfence advisory noted that the plugin has a check for unexpected filetypes but that it doesn’t function as it should.

According to the security researchers:

“Unfortunately, although the file type check function works perfectly and returns false for dangerous file types, it throws a runtime exception in the try block if a disallowed file type is uploaded, which will be caught and handled by the catch block.

…even if the dangerous file type is checked and detected, it is only logged, while the function continues to run and the file is uploaded.

This means that attackers could upload arbitrary PHP files and then access those files to trigger their execution on the server, achieving remote code execution.”

There Are Conditions For A Successful Attack

The severity of this threat depends on the requirement that the “Saving inquiry data in database” option in the form settings is required to be enabled in order for this security gap to be exploited.

The security advisory notes that the vulnerability is rated critical with a score of 9.8 out of 10.

Actions To Take

Wordfence strongly advises users of the MW WP Form plugin to update their versions of the plugin.

The vulnerability is patched in the lutes version of the plugin, version 5.0.2.

The severity of the threat is particularly critical for users who have enabled the “Saving inquiry data in database” option in the form settings and that is compounded by the fact that no permission levels are needed to execute this attack.

Read the Wordfence advisory:

Update ASAP! Critical Unauthenticated Arbitrary File Upload in MW WP Form Allows Malicious Code Execution

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Alexander_P

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