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Here’s How to Start an Online Business (9 Steps to Success)

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Here's How to Start an Online Business (9 Steps to Success)

Starting an online business changed the course of my life forever. It allowed me to live my perfect life, travel the world, and set my own hours. It taught me more than my four-year college degree and any job I ever worked.

An online business allows you to take control of your life in a way that nothing else can. It’s one of the few ways to create true financial freedom.

But it also comes with its challenges. There’s a lot to learn, and it takes time to see the fruits of your labor. I started five different businesses before finally finding one I loved enough to stick with and make it work. Since then, I’ve built three separate six-figure companies.

It would have never happened if I didn’t allow myself to “fail” over and over again to learn what works and what doesn’t. Luckily, I already failed plenty, which means you get to learn from my mistakes.

So how do you start an online business? And how do you grow it to become your primary income source? Here are the nine steps to building an online business I’ve learned in my decade of entrepreneurship.

1. Develop the mindset needed to be a digital entrepreneur

The first step of starting an online business is getting your head in the right place.

Know that you will “fail.” Probably a lot. You may lose some of your investments. You may spend money on ads that don’t convert. You may stock products that never sell.

That’s not only normal—it’s a good thing.

Every time you mess something up, it’s an opportunity to learn what doesn’t work. In the words of Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

What matters is not that you mess something up but that you keep going despite the hiccups. Learn to look forward to your mistakes, and you will succeed in any endeavor.

2. Figure out how you will monetize

There are many ways to make money online: 

  • Making and selling your own physical products
  • Dropshipping
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Services (web design, copywriting, etc)
  • Infoproducts (courses, ebooks, etc)
  • Subscription models
  • Display advertising
  • And more

I have done almost all of these at one point or another in my career. I’ve sold SEO services, dropshipped jewelry and other products from China, made home decor items by hand and sold them both locally and online, done affiliate marketing for other brands, sold display ads on my websites, and more.

Each has its own pros and cons, and each can work. It depends on what you prefer to do. Here’s a quick and dirty overview of each:

E-commerce

Making and selling your own physical products, or even buying and selling them using a manufacturer, tend to have bigger profit margins per sale than dropshipping.

However, it’s more labor intensive and costs more. You need to handle the production, shipping, handling and storing inventory, and customer service.

Dropshipping cuts out a lot of this excess labor by off-loading the inventory management and, in some cases, the customer service to another company. But it comes at the cost of a lower profit margin.

How dropshipping works

You can either start your own e-commerce website or sell on websites like Amazon, Etsy, or eBay. Again, it depends on how much labor you want to put in—building your own website is best for profits in the long run but requires you to handle more variables.

Services and info products

Another lucrative option is starting an online business by offering services such as freelance writing, graphic design, coding, etc.

You can either offer these services via a website like UpWork or Fiverr or build your own website and work with clients directly. Many people start on the former and move to their own brand after seeing some success, which is the method I recommend.

Info products like courses and ebooks are also a great way to make money online. If you have nearly any skill, you can turn it into an info product you can sell. I’ve spent over $100,000 over the last 10 years buying online courses and info products to learn how to do everything from SEO to speaking Spanish, playing instruments, investing, and more.

Subscription models

There are a ton of subscription-model businesses these days. It could be a monthly delivery of your products or a membership to your club or course materials.

The great thing about subscriptions is recurring revenue, which is crucial to growing an online business. This model is best used in conjunction with other models.

For example, say you sell dog toys. You can capture recurring customers by adding a subscription box with dog toys that ship every month, like BarkBox does.

BarkBox subscription monetization

Display ads and affiliate marketing

The method I have had the most success with is affiliate marketing. Basically, you promote other people’s products and services and make a commission from any sales you make.

It’s my favorite because I like having as few responsibilities as possible. I don’t have to handle customer service, inventory, or any of that stuff. I just talk about the products I love and make money.

For example, I wrote a guide to buying a rooftop tent and included affiliate links to each tent:

Affiliate link examples

Affiliate marketing also pairs well with display advertising. This allows you to monetize the supporting content you need to develop topical authority in addition to your direct affiliate content. 

For example, let’s say you’re writing about the best mattresses for side sleepers. 

You can promote specific mattresses and make a commission on them. But if you want to fully cover the mattress niche, you also need content covering things like “When should I buy a new mattress?” and “How to get rid of bed bugs?” These won’t typically convert well, but you can still display ads on those pages to monetize them.

My recommendation is to pick a method that sounds interesting and try it. But don’t be afraid to try different methods to see which ones you like. You may hate affiliate marketing but love making and selling your own products. You won’t know until you try.

3. Come up with niche ideas

Steps #2 and #3 can be done interchangeably. You may find you want to stick to a certain niche then figure out how to monetize it later, or you may decide you want to make a course or do a particular type of monetization and figure out the niche later.

Either way, choosing a niche is one of your most important decisions. It can take one to two years of work before you start making significant money from your business, so ensure it’s something you’ll be OK with talking about for a long time.

Some niches will be more competitive than others. 

A good niche is one that:

  • Has high-paying affiliate programs or products with a high margin.
  • Isn’t too competitive.
  • Has a large variety of things you can talk about.
  • Is interesting enough to keep you working on it for a long time.

Personally, I only work in niches that I am interested in learning about myself. Even if I don’t know a lot about something, if I’m at least curious about it, I will be able to stick to it. I’ve tried working in niches I don’t care about, and it doesn’t work for me. You may be different.

To come up with niche ideas, answer the following questions:

  • What do I know a lot about?
  • What am I curious about?
  • What do other people tell me I’m good at?

The answers can help guide you into a niche. Alternatively, you can just pick something random and try it. I did that for a few of my own businesses—I just had a random idea one day and went for it. In the worst-case scenario, you learn a lot and figure out what you don’t like.

Another way to come up with niche ideas is by looking at affiliate programs, then choosing one based on high-paying affiliate partners. From there, you can either build an affiliate site or build your own competing business with that affiliate. If the affiliate program pays well, the business likely makes a good profit margin on its products.

For example, if you head to AvantLink’s merchant list (you have to make an account to see it), you can browse affiliate programs in any niche and sort them by things like commission, category, conversion rate, and more.

AvantLink affiliate merchant list

I like to sort the list by commission rate (high to low) and go from there. But you can also continue to step #4 if you can’t decide because doing keyword research will help you find more opportunities.

4. Do some keyword and market research

As you develop ideas for a niche, it’s crucial to figure out how difficult it will be to break into it and where people in that niche are spending their time.

I always start with keyword research because it shows me the potential of the niche and the kind of content I’ll have to create to compete in that niche.

It starts with “seed keywords.” These are broad, generic keywords that cover the biggest topics in a niche. 

For example, if you’re interested in the coffee niche, some seed keywords may be:

  • coffee
  • cappuccino
  • french press
  • nespresso
  • Etc

Use these keywords to find the big competitors in your niche that most closely represent your own website or the one you’re trying to make. If the results are too different from a niche website, you’ll need to get a little less broad.

For example, if I Google “coffee,” I see sites like Starbucks, Wikipedia, Peets, etc. Obviously, these giant brands are not my competition.

Google SERP for "coffee"

Instead, let’s try something a little more niche, such as “how to use a french press.” Here, we find a website called homegrounds.co.

Google SERP for "how to use a french press"

This site is closer to an affiliate marketing site, which is what I’m looking for. Now, I can plug that website into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and see what other keywords it’s ranking for and the page ranking for that keyword.

Organic keywords report based on a coffee-focused website

You’ll also see how many people search for that keyword per month (volume) and an estimation of how difficult it will be to rank for that keyword on Google (KD or Keyword Difficulty).

By scrolling through these keywords and looking at the potential volume, KD, and what page is ranking for them, we can get an idea of how hard it may be to enter the niche and what kind of traffic we can expect. We can also browse the website to see how it monetizes its content (paid ads, affiliates, products, etc.).

Do this for three to five websites in your niche to better understand how to tackle entering the niche and make money from it. 

In addition to keyword research, you can use a tool like SparkToro to get an idea of where your potential audience spends their time (which social media channels, forums, etc.).

An example SparkToro report based on an audience that talks about coffee

If you like what you see, continue to step #5. If not, continue researching other niches.

5. Decide on a business name

The name of your business won’t make or break it, but it’s still important. Here are some tips for choosing a good business name:

  • Be clear, not clever Your name should be easy to understand and spell.
  • Pick a name that doesn’t limit you too much You may start selling chairs, but you want a name that allows you to expand into selling other furniture or even other things entirely.
  • Shorter is usually better – This is especially true for an online business where your customers may need to type out your URL and social media handles.

You also need to make sure you’re not encroaching on any trademarks or existing business names. If you’re in the U.S., you can look up whether a name is available or not on your state’s local government website or with a service like LegalZoom.

6. Handle the legal tasks

Once you’ve decided on a name, it’s time to set it up as a legal entity. Note that I’m not a lawyer, this isn’t legal advice, and my knowledge is limited to the U.S.

Sidenote.

This step doesn’t need to be done right away. You can do it at any point before you actually start earning money. Check out this Business Insider article for more info.

Typically, you can get away with a sole proprietorship to start. This is the bare minimum requirement to do business in the U.S. 

However, once you start making decent money, it’s a good idea to upgrade to an LLC (limited liability company) or even eventually a corporation to limit how liable you are in the event of legal action, as well as to benefit from tax savings. 

I recommend talking to a business attorney to help you set this up when you’re ready. But don’t feel pressured to do it from the beginning; you can worry about it once you’re making some money.

Beyond setting up a company, you also need to register your business and obtain any relevant permits. How you do that and if you need permits depend on which state you live in and how you monetize, so I’ll leave it up to you to research. Consider calling your local SBA (Small Business Administration) office for advice.

At this point, you should have a business entity set up and be ready to buy your domain name and build your website.

Your domain name will typically be your business name with a top-level domain (TLD) like .com or .co.uk at the end. You can get a name from a service like NameCheap or GoDaddy. Or you can buy one directly from your hosting company if you want to spend a little more but have an easier time setting it up.

Hosting is a service that allows you to “host” your website on the internet. Think of it as digital rent. I use Kinsta or SiteGround for WordPress blog websites, Shopify for e-commerce websites, and Wix for everything else (services and local businesses).

Sidenote.

Shopify and Wix are two-in-one platforms: They are both a content management system (CMS) like WordPress and provide website hosting. This makes them a bit easier to use and set up than WordPress with a separate hosting service.

My preferred method of building websites is with WordPress. If you’re planning on doing affiliate marketing or blogging, it’s the best option because it’s the most flexible.

Keep in mind that WordPress.com and WordPress.org are separate things. I use the .org version, which you must install on your website using your hosting provider. Usually, this is a one-click install. The .com version is a competitor to Wix, but I don’t like it personally.

With SiteGround, you just purchase its WordPress hosting plan and it will set it up for you.

SiteGround WordPress hosting

Once the backend is set up and you’ve finished purchasing your domain name and hosting, you can log in to your website by typing www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin.

Once you log in, the backend of your website looks like this:

WordPress admin panel

This is where you can manage the appearance of your website via themes and customization, the blog posts and pages on your site, and more.

You’ll need to choose a theme to start building the frontend of your site. Most WordPress themes are well optimized these days, but you should focus on picking one that looks good and also loads quickly. Choose one that only has features you will use.

At this point, there’s a lot to learn and do to build your site. Rather than going through every single step in this article, here are some guides I will refer you to:

8. Create and promote valuable content

Regardless of the type of business you create, content is king. Publishing blog posts, videos, or podcasts is the best way to promote your business and get sales online.

Therefore, learning how to create and promote valuable content is one of the most important skills you can learn as a digital entrepreneur.

What makes content “valuable” depends on the platform. When it comes to SEO, valuable content means satisfying the search intent of the person using Google to find your content.

But “valuable” content on TikTok may mean your video is entertaining, YouTube may mean your video is informative or visually fascinating, and Facebook may mean your content sparks discussions.

My best advice is to figure out what content does well in whatever medium you’re creating content in, then master the fundamentals of that type of content.

For example, I write blog posts with the goal of ranking highly in Google search results. The content I create needs to be informative, helpful, easy to skim, and (when possible) entertaining.

To get better at my craft, I studied writing tips to become a better writer, researched how the Google search algorithm worked so I knew what it was looking for, and constantly pushed to find information I could include that no one else in the search results had.

I also spent well over $100,000 on online courses and mentors to teach me how to be better. It has been a constant game of self-growth and improving my craft.

All of these efforts have resulted in the sale of one of my websites for nearly half a million dollars. I can’t show the figures for that site, but I’ve since started another website I’m working on that is getting over 7,000 visits per month in less than one year as a side hustle:

Google Analytics traffic report

Organic search-focused content is the main traffic generator for many websites; chances are it can be for yours too. It’s free, recurring traffic.

That said, you can figure out the type of content to create by studying your competitors and seeing what does well for them, then creating your own version of that content.

For example, say I want to break into the golf niche. I would look at my competitors on Google and social media to see what content they’re creating that’s working well and how they’re promoting it.

If we search for “golfing” on YouTube, we see three different kinds of videos from three different competitors that are each doing well:

YouTube search results for "golfing"

To take it further, we can use Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer to find keyword ideas to rank for on Google and to see what kind of content our competitors are creating.

Ahrefs' SERP overview for "golfing"

However, these competitors are already well established, and it may take a lot of work to beat them. That’s where Ahrefs’ Related terms report comes in handy.

Ahrefs' Related terms report for "golfing"

For example, the keyword “golf tips for beginners” only has a KD score of 12, which means it’s relatively easy to rank for compared to the keyword “golfing” at 31.

If we look at the SERP overview, we can find competitors who aren’t as established, then look at the keywords their website is ranking for.

Ahrefs' SERP overview for "golf tips for beginners"

The website free-online-gold-tips.com only has a Domain Rating (DR) of 36. This means that compared to bigger competitors like Golf Digest, with a DR of 82, it is relatively new to the game. The fact that it’s ranking for this keyword means it’s not as competitive.

If we look at its website in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, we can see other keywords it’s ranking for that aren’t as competitive, as well as the content it wrote that’s ranking.

Ahrefs' Organic keywords report

Doing this can help you decide what type of content to create. Making your content better is another story—here are some other guides to help you with that:

Once you’ve created the content, it’s also important to learn how to promote it so it can actually be seen and give you an ROI in the short term. Basically, your goal is this:

Content promotion vs. SEO graph

You hustle to get the early site traffic, then SEO kicks in to give you free, recurring traffic.

Now, there are a lot of ways to promote your content. Social media, email outreach, paid ads… the list goes on.

Rather than going over every content promotion strategy here, I’ll refer you to our guide to content promotion.

The final step in becoming a digital entrepreneur is scaling up your efforts or pivoting into another business idea.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this guide, I pivoted five times before I found a business I could scale up. It wasn’t because I failed or threw in the towel. I just realized I didn’t want to continue putting effort into those businesses to make them succeed.

This is a part of the journey. Trying things and being OK with changing and possibly “losing” your investment. It’s completely all right to choose to pivot if you’re not enjoying the process and can’t see yourself continuing in the long term.

If you decide to continue, it’s time to scale up whatever is working. For me, that means hiring a team of writers, editors, outreach specialists, and a virtual assistant. But it also means NOT doing certain tasks that aren’t moving the needle.

At this point, I recommend you create a brain dump of all the tasks you do to run your business. This could be things like:

  • Doing keyword research
  • Creating content
  • Promoting content
  • Making sales calls
  • Finding affiliate or manufacturing partners
  • Etc

Once you’ve written out every task—even the smallest ones you may only do on occasion—it’s time to organize them into four lists:

  1. Things only you can do.
  2. Things that can possibly be done by someone else.
  3. Things that can be automated with a tool or software.
  4. Things that don’t need to be done at all.

From here, it’s easy to create standard operating procedures around the tasks that can be done by someone else, find tools to automate things, and cut some tasks out entirely.

Here are some helpful related guides:

Voilà—you now know how to start an online business from scratch.

Final thoughts

I have to reiterate that starting an online business has been the single best decision I’ve ever made in my 29 years on this planet. It’s given me the freedom—both financially and over my time—to travel the world and build the exact life I want.

There’s a lot to learn (certainly more than I can teach you in one guide), and it’s a steep learning curve. You will fail, and you will feel disappointment and doubt. It’s all part of the process.

If you start today and commit to learning how to make money online, I promise you will succeed. You may have to pivot, but you will eventually hit a winner. And 10 years from now, you’ll thank yourself for reading this guide and making this life-changing decision.

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12 Great Link Building Tools That Are Essential To Your Success

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12 Great Link Building Tools That Are Essential To Your Success

Link-building strategies, along with SEO tools, have certainly changed over the years.

Since the old automated link-building tools that automatically placed content like KontentMachine or GSA’s Search Engine Ranker, modern tools have moved to manual research and outreach platforms.

Tools that many of my link-building colleagues and I use today look more like ones used for public relations (PR) rather than link-building. However, there are still tools specific to link building that aren’t going anywhere.

These can be divided into four categories:

  • Link research.
  • Prospecting and outreach.
  • Reporting.
  • AI-powered tools.

Emerging technologies powered by AI can make the link-building process easier.

Link Research Prospecting And Outreach Reporting AI-Powered Tools
1. Majestic

Excellent for identifying the types of domains you should generate links from.

3. Pitchbox

Combines email outreach with SEO metrics.

8. Agency Analytics

Connects a variety of performance metrics.

10. Link Whisperer

Good for internal linking efforts.

2. Ahrefs

Provides useful reports to analyze trends.

4. BuzzSumo

Use to identify authors and sharers/backlinkers.

9. Cyfe

Customizable but automatic reporting.

11. Postaga

Find opportunities and initiate outreach.

5. Hunter.IO

A browser extension that helps you find contact information.

12. CTRify

WordPress plugin that generates content.

6. BrightLocal

Submit and manage citations.

7. HARO

Link Research Tools

Link research is vital to figuring out what type of sites you should be approaching. This includes establishing quality criteria, categories of sites, authority metrics, and others.

Majestic and Ahrefs are two research tools that provide large databases and robust reporting.

I’ve included both of these sites as I constantly see each having data that the other doesn’t.

You may find some links to your competitors’ sites in Majestic that aren’t listed in Ahrefs and vice versa.

These tools can be used together to build a comprehensive list of sites to analyze. As with many SEO tools, the pricing depends on how many features your team needs.

1. Majestic

  • Pricing: $49.99 per month with one user for the ‘Lite’ package. $99.99 per month for the “Pro” package, which they recommend for SEO agencies and consultants.
  • Payment options: Monthly or receive a discount for an annual subscription.
Screenshot from Majestic, January 2023

Here are some recommendations on using it and what reports should influence your link-building.

  • Topics: This data can be used to identify the types of sites you should be generating links from. Consider running this report on the link profiles for top-ranking sites, then finding sites that fit into similar categories.
  • Referring Domains: Use this to evaluate the number of unique domains you should focus on building for your site. This also offers a look into the trust/citation flow distribution (count of domains by trust/citation flow).

2. Ahrefs

  • Pricing: $99 per month with only one user for the ‘Lite’ plan. $199 per month for the “Standard” plan.
  • Payment options: Monthly or receive a discount for an annual subscription.
Ahrefs toolScreenshot from Ahrefs, January 2023

In contrast to Majestic, Ahrefs has some reports that are much easier to run inside the tool. It certainly costs more, but if you want more data, then Ahrefs is the right choice.

Here are reports to use in Ahrefs over Majestic:

  • Pages > Best by links: Two useful applications of this report are:
    • Identify competitors’ most linked content to influence your content strategies.
    • Identify the type of sites that link to the content you will produce.
  • Pages > Best by link growth: This is a “trend” report providing content that has been generating links over the last 30 days. Find content here that is receiving a rapid number of links and create more robust content.

Prospecting And Outreach Tools

Finding highly relevant sites that may link to your content is the most excruciating part of link building.

You can create a large list of sites and bulk outreach to save time, but when evaluating your link-building success on links gained per hour and the quality of those links, it’s best to handle prospecting manually or in a semi-automated approach.

I’ll go through five tools, Pitchbox, BuzzSumo, Hunter.io, BrightLocal, and HARO.

These tools can be used for the most popular link-building strategies.

3. Pitchbox

  • Pricing: Averages $500+ per month.
  • Payment options: Prices are dependent on an individual walkthrough with Pitchbox.

Pitchbox is one of the pricier tools on the market compared to email tools like MailChimp, but integrated prospecting helps reduce the time to qualify sites.

The prospecting sites list builder and SEO metrics integrated right into the opportunities report make the tool stand out.

PitchboxScreenshot from Pitchbox, January 2023

4. BuzzSumo

  • Pricing: $99 per month for the “Pro” package. $179 per month for the “Plus” package. There’s a pared-down free version with limited searches per month.
  • Payment options: There is also a free version with limited features.

This is an excellent tool for building lists of blogs, influencers, and authors. Out of all the prospecting tools on the list, BuzzSumo has the best filtering options.

You can use the tool for a lot of purposes, but for link building, these are two effective use cases:

  • Identifying authors: The content research and influencers sections provide lists of authors/influencers that are searchable by keywords in the content they shared or produced. One fantastic use for this is to search through the “most shared” report and find influencers that received more than 2,000 shares of their content, then outreach to them to share yours. This can yield a lot of natural links.
  • Identifying sharers/backlinks: The second use goes a layer deeper than the first, finding those that have shared the content. Pull a list of shares or backlinking websites by content, then create similar but better content.
Buzzsumo platformScreenshot from Buzzsumo, January 2023

5. Hunter.io

  • Pricing: Starts at free. The first two upgraded packages are $49 per month and $99 per month.
  • Payment options: Free for 25 monthly searches up to $399 per month for 30,000 searches.

This browser extension finds email addresses for easy contact options.

It helps cut down on time spent sifting through About pages. You can also take it a step further and use the tool for outreach.

Hunter.ioScreenshot from Hunter.io, January 2023

6. BrightLocal

  • Pricing: $29-$79 per month, depending on package size.
  • Payment options: You can also pay for the citation builder, reviews, or enterprise.

Citation building is important for local SEO and should be considered a link-building project.

One of the tools with the best value for submitting and managing citations is BrightLocal.

There are two components: citation monitoring and citation building. The tool also allows you to figure out how you’re ranking based on the local competition.

BrightLocalScreenshot from BightLocal, January 2023

7. HARO

  • Pricing: Starts at free. The first paid plan is $19 per month, which adds alerts and search functionality.
  • Payment options: The free options offer media options delivered to your email three times a day and up to $149/month for premium.

While this tool is traditionally used in the journalism world, it can also help link builders. It connects you with credible sources and allows you to build natural backlinks.

HAROScreenshot from HARO, January 2023

Reporting Tools

Although many of the tools in the previous section have reporting functionality built in, I’ve found them lacking in custom reporting or the ability to associate links to ranking performance.

These tools solve that issue; AgencyAnalytics and Cyfe.

8. Agency Analytics

  • Pricing: $12 per month, per campaign. $18 per month per campaign for custom reporting features.
  • Payment options: Pay annually to save money.

Agency Analytics automatically populates the dashboard with data from Moz and Majestic and connects that data to critical performance metrics, like ranking and organic traffic.

Qualified traffic that converts to leads or sales is the purpose of link-building and SEO efforts, so reporting needs to make a connection between them.

Agency AnalyticsScreenshot from Agency Analytics, January 2023

9. Cyfe

  • Pricing: $19 per month for one user, with higher tiers for more users.
  • Payment options: Unlimited users for $89/month.

This tool can be built out as a hybrid between Google Sheets and Agency Analytics, meaning it’s very customizable but can also automatically and easily aggregate data from multiple sources to create a meaningful report.

CyfeScreenshot from Cyfe, January 2023

AI-Powered Tools

AI-powered tools can significantly simplify otherwise complex and time-consuming tasks. Remember that some of your processes will require a human touch, so always evaluate how performance is impacted when integrating AI into your processes.

The following tools, Link Whisper, Postaga, and CTRify use AI to discover opportunities and automate processes.

10. Link Whisper

  • Pricing: $77 per month for one site, with additional plans for more sites.
  • Payment options: One to 50 site licenses.

Link Whisper is useful for internal link building.

AI technologies offer automatic link suggestions as content is produced. It can also help you recognize old content that needs more links directed to it.

The tools also automate links based on keywords and offer internal link reporting. It’s pretty all-inclusive and can help speed up internal link-building automatically.

Link WhispererScreenshot from Link Whisperer, January 2023

11. Postaga

  • Pricing: $84 per month for one account with five users. $250 per month for 30 accounts with unlimited users.
  • Payment options: Save by paying annually.

Postaga does everything from finding opportunities to initiating outreach.

AI comes into play with the outreach assistant, which finds relevant information from influencers to include in emails. You can also enter your domain into the tool to find relevant campaign ideas.

PostagaScreenshot from Postaga, January 2023

12. CTRify

  • Pricing: A free version. $197 or $497, depending on the plan.
  • Payment options: Single payment.

CTRify is a WordPress plugin that is great for content creation.

All it takes is a single keyword, and the AI creates the content you need for a specific campaign. You can then automatically publish the posts – it doesn’t get much simpler than that.

CTRifyScreenshot from CTRify, January 2023

Conclusion

I’ve curated this list with the intent to offer a tool for every reader, providing enterprise-level affordable solutions and highly technical tools.

There is diversity in the available tools, and you will need to select the right one for the job.

You don’t need to have a $1,000 monthly tool budget to be a link builder, but all of the tasks will take time. Allocating your time and budget in the right combination improves business outcomes.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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WordPress Admin Interface Is “Simply Bad”

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WordPress Admin Interface Is "Simply Bad"

Yoast SEO plugin founder, Joost de Valk, published a critical appraisal of the WordPress user interface (UI), saying that it makes it  “harder to use” and may be a reason that contributes to WordPress losing market share to companies like Wix and Shopify.

The official WordPress design philosophy states that they want to make WordPress easier to use with every new version published.

They write that it’s their goal that the “non-technically minded” user is the one they design for so that they can be set up within five minutes with a fully functional website.

However the reality of how easy WordPress is to use falls far short of their philosophy statement.

Even the developer of WordPress itself, Matt Mullenweg, said that designing in Wix is faster than doing the same thing in WordPress.

WordPress User Interface Design

Joost points the finger at the current WordPress admin user interface as a contributing factor to why WordPress is confusing to use.

He called attention to the fact that WordPress has three different user interfaces, forcing users to learn how to use each interface and complicating the experience of using WordPress.

To make things worse, themes and plugins introduce their own user interface elements, which again forces users to learn an entirely different way to navigate and user the software.

An ideal user interface (UI) offers a consistent workspace so that a user doesn’t have to stop and rethink where all the buttons and links are.

Interacting with the interface should be similar across every screen, regardless of what they are trying to accomplish.

Joost wrote:

“The current state is simply bad: WordPress core basically has 3 designs now.

The edit post page I’m typing this in looks nothing like the Posts overview page, which looks nothing like the Site Health page.

And then you go into plugins and each has their own UI there too. This makes WordPress as a whole harder to use.”

WordPress is Old Fashioned and Losing Market Share

Aside from the UI being inconsistent, Joost also pointed out that competitors like Wix have a consistent UI throughout their content management systems.

So while the rest of the world is moving on with best practices WordPress is stuck with the same inconsistent interface it’s had for years.

Yoast insisted that the poor user interface is contributing to the exodus of users from WordPress to competitors.

“This is how we lose CMS market share to companies like Wix and Shopify (who each do have their own design system).”

Is WordPress Hard to Use?

A major feature that makes a closed source CMS like Wix attractive is that it’s easy to use. One of the reasons it’s easy to use is a consistent design system.

PC Magazine gave Wix an Editors Choice Best of the Year Award in 2022, writing:

“If you want to build a website online with minimal effort and maximum creative freedom, look no further than Wix.”

WordPress received no such award. However, in PC Magazine’s overview of WordPress, the authors remarked that it wasn’t “particularly difficult.”

But the authors of the PC Magazine overview also acknowledged the learning curve to using WordPress:

“…people who aren’t familiar with the process may need a guiding hand.”

WordPress theme website ThemeIsle writes:

“While WordPress does not require any coding knowledge, customizing your theme is often not that straightforward.

By default, you don’t get quite the same visual editing experience as you would with Squarespace or Wix, although the new Block Editor is evolving in that direction…Some poorly coded themes might also be a pain to adjust unless you’re an advanced user.”

One of the goals of WordPress is to be easy for users to build with.

So it’s puzzling that WordPress is acknowledged as difficult to use, particularly in comparison to closed source alternatives like Wix, Shopify and Duda.

Joost de Valk puts his finger on the outdated admin UI as one reason why WordPress is so hard to use.

He practically pleads for the leadership at WordPress to prioritize designing a consistent user interface.

“WordPress needs a design system and it needs it fast…”

Response from Twitter WordPress Community

The response to Joost’s article was overwhelmingly positive, with many from the WordPress community thanking Joost for calling attention to the topic.

@learnwithmattc tweeted:

“Excellent write-up, summary, recommendations, tips, resources. It’s not often you get this much valuable info in one blog post.

WP Product Devs, pay attention! Settings UIs matter, whether you like the route Yoast took or not, I think it’s worth paying attention to.”

@Shock9699 tweeted thanks for the article, calling attention to the mismatched menus within the WordPress admin interface.

“Totally agree. WordPress now looks like a 10/15 year old CMS. Especially with the advent of the new FSE where the internal menus are different from those of the normal dashboard.”

@mnowak_eth tweeted agreement with the opinions about the state of the WordPress admin UI:

“…Wordpress panel is starting to look like ancient enterprise software (you know the names). With the whole SaaS movement constantly educating the Internet society on good and bad UX and ergonomics, wp panel was overlooked.”

A standardized design that is shared by plugins and themes would create a seamless and coherent admin interface. @wpsecurityuser tweeted an appeal for a standardized design system.

“Please stop plugins implementing their UI systems, update the wordpress admin UI and standerdize everything, let’s get modern.”

@bitartem called attention to the value of having a design system in place so that the WordPress ecosystem can know ahead of time what to expect.

“Another problem is that WordPress is in a transitional phase, I mean Block Editor, and Full Site Editing, and new features are added almost every day, so if there’s a Design System, we need to know what WordPress will become in near future.”

WordPress Admin User Interface Needs Improvement

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that WordPress is in trouble when the person who created it says that it’s faster to get things done in a closed source competitor than it is with WordPress.

Joost’s article focuses on the outdated state of the WordPress admin interface and calls attention to the need for a coherent design statement that plugin and theme developers could adopt in order to create an easier to use end product.

Read Joost de Valk’s Blog Post

WordPress’ admin UI needs to be better



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Top YouTube Videos, Shorts, And Ads of 2022

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Top YouTube Videos, Shorts, And Ads of 2022

Examining YouTube’s list of the top trending videos and top Shorts of 2022, as well as the YouTube Ads Leaderboard: 2022 year-end-wrap-up can teach content marketers, content creators, and digital advertisers some important lessons that they can apply in 2023.

But, it helps if you have a secret decoder ring to decipher why there are three lists – and why each one uses a different methodology to come up with the rankings.

YouTube unveiled its first list of the 10 most-watched YouTube videos back in December 2010. Unfortunately, that list taught many marketers that “view count” was the only metric that mattered.

But, I got my secret decoder ring back in October 2012, when YouTube started adjusting the ranking of videos in YouTube search results to reward engaging videos that kept viewers watching.

In other words, YouTube replaced “view count” with “watch time.”

This was a significant shift, because “watch time” gives you a sense of what content viewers actually watch, as opposed to videos that they click on and then abandon.

In December 2012, YouTube shifted from unveiling its 10 “most-watched” videos of the year to unveiling its “top trending videos,” based on time spent watching, sharing, commenting, liking, and other factors.

In other words, “watch time” and “engagements” were now the metrics that mattered.

Today, YouTube’s algorithm rewards “viewer satisfaction.”

In other words, YouTube doesn’t pay attention to videos; it pays attention to viewers.

So, rather than trying to make videos that’ll make an algorithm happy, focus on making videos that make your viewers happy.

This brings us to YouTube’s lists of “trending videos” and “top Shorts” for 2022.

To learn important lessons that can be applied in 2023, we need to realize that YouTube’s discovery system uses both absolute and relative watch time as signals when deciding audience engagement.

Ultimately, YouTube wants both short and long videos to succeed, so relative watch time is more important for short videos, and absolute watch time is more important for longer videos.

Top 7 Trending Videos Of 2022

1. “So Long Nerds“ By Technoblade (6:32 long, 88.3 million Views, 10.2 million engagements)

In this moving tribute, the father of beloved Minecraft creator Technoblade reads a farewell letter from his son.

The gamer lost his battle with cancer in June, but his legacy remains on YouTube.

2. “Watch The Uncensored Moment Will Smith Smacks Chris Rock On Stage At The Oscars, Drops F-bomb” By Guardian News (1:24 long, 104 million Views, and 1.8 million engagements)

It was the smack heard ‘round the world: Academy Award winner Will Smith went off-script and slapped Chris Rock, live on-stage, at the film industry’s most prestigious event.

3. “Hi, I’m Dream” By Dream (5:42 long, 48.5 million Views, and 4.7 million engagements)

Dream’s ingenuity within Minecraft has led him to become a top creator with a devoted fanbase.

But no one knew what he looked like IRL, until now.

4. “ Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar & 50 Cent Full Pepsi Sb Lvi Halftime Show” By NFL (14:41 long, 146 million Views, and 3.5 million engagements)

Lose yourself in this epic Super Bowl halftime show packed with some of the biggest artists in hip-hop history: Dr. Dre, Snoop, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lama, and 50 Cent.

5. “I Built Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory!” By Mrbeast (17:01 long, 132 million Views, and 5.1 million engagements)

In a “Willy Wonka” inspired warehouse, MrBeast challenges contestants to traverse a chocolate river, climb a candy wall, compete in confection-themed games, and indulge in their sweetest fantasies.

6. “Pranks Destroy Scam Callers- Glitterbomb Payback” By Mark Rober (26:41 long, 55.9 million Views, and 2.2 million engagements).

Engineer Mark Rober exacts dazzling revenge on a scam call center in the latest version of his glitterbomb series.

7. “Being Not Straight” By Jaiden Animations (15:22 long, 17.8 million Views, and 1.7 million engagements)

In this coming-out video, Jaiden Animations depicts a personal journey from adolescence to adulthood, sharing how they discovered their sexual identity along the way.

Top 7 Shorts Of 2022

1. “Diver Cracks Egg At 45 Ft Deep #Shorts” By Shangerdanger (0:56 long, 251 million Views, and 12.3 million engagements)

The ocean floor is a mysterious place. It’s full of unknown sea creatures, strange plants, and…chicken eggs?!

Join Shangerdanger as he cracks up the internet and dives egg-first into the blue depths.

2. “Sarah Trust Challenges” By Hingaflips (0:31 long, 142 million Views, and 6.5 million engagements)

Better than parkour? This is Trampwall: an epic sport where acrobats defy gravity and leap off a wall, onto a trampoline, to pull off mind-blowing aerial stunts.

3. “Come With Me To Shave My Fluffy Dog! #Doggrooming #Grooming #Goldendoodle” By Brodie That Dood (0:52 long, 108 million Views, and 6.8 million engagements)

For years, his long fluffy fur has made Brodie one of the most iconic dogs on YouTube. So, the heartbreak was real when it was decided that he needed a close trim.

4. “Dave and Busters Bet Me 1000 Tickets I Couldn’t Do This…” By Chris Ivan (0:59 long, 83.6 million Views, and 6.3 million engagements).

No one does trick shots like creator Chris Ivan. In this Short, he attempts to land a plunger on a Dave & Buster’s sign.

The prize? 1,000 tickets … if he can pull it off.

5. “That Gap Between Your Car Seat and Center Console” By Jay & Sharon (0:58 long, 182 million Views, and 6.4 million engagements)

We’ve all lost something in the dreaded gap between the car seat and the center console.

In this comedic sketch, creators Jay & Sharon show us what’s really going on down there.

6. “Welcome To The Stomach #Shorts” By Adrian Bliss (0:34 long, 118 million Views, and 7.0 million engagements)

In this bite-sized skit, witty creator Adrian Bliss brings to life all the characters trying to gain entrance – and party in – his space-limited stomach.

7. “This Magic Trick Explained (America’s Got Talent)” By Zack D. Films (0:34 long, 97.4 million Views, and 5.6 million engagements).

How did he do it? The judges of “America’s Got Talent” were confounded by this magic trick.

But not internet-sleuth Zack D., who unveils its clever secret.

Top 7 YouTube Ads Of 2022

Meanwhile, YouTube uses an entirely different methodology to determine the top YouTube ad for its 2022 year-end wrap-up Leaderboard. This makes sense.

The top ads are generally the ones with the biggest budgets, which drive up view counts, but not always engagements.

1. “Amazon’s Big Game Commercial: Mind Reader” By Amazon (1:31 long, 69.7 million Views, and 25,700 engagements)

The creative agency for this ad was Lucky Generals and the media agency was IPG – Rufus.

The ad’s description asks, “Is Alexa reading minds a good idea? No. No, it is not.”

2. “Welcome To Clan Capital! Clash Of Clans New Update!” By Clash Of Clans (1:20 long, 52.9 million Views, and 212,000 engagements)

The creative agency was Psyop, and the media agency was in-house.

The ad’s description says,

“Welcome to the ultimate clan destination! A place where you and your clan can BUILD and BATTLE together! A place called CLAN CAPITAL!”

3. “Goal Of The Century X BTS | Yet To Come (Hyundai Ver.) Official Music Video” By Hyundaiworldwide (4:08 long, 40.5 million Views, and 886,000 engagements)

The ad’s description says,

“Our ‘Goal of the Century’ can’t be achieved by one individual alone, but we can achieve it if we all join forces and unite.

Just like football players come together as a team to score goals, we aim to use the power of football to go forward together in pursuit of the greatest goal – ‘A united world for sustainability.’”

4. “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return To Hogwarts | Official Trailer | HBO Max” By HBO Max (1:58 long, 27.3 million Views, and 739,000 engagements)

The creative agency was in-house, and the media agency was Hearts & Science.

The ad’s description says,

“Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts invites fans on a magical first-person journey through one of the most beloved film franchises of all time as it reunites Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and other esteemed cast members and filmmakers across all eight Harry Potter films for the first time to celebrate the anniversary of the franchise’s first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

5. “Introducing iPhone 14 Pro | Apple” by Apple (4:20 long, 23.8 million views, and 571,000 engagements)

The ad’s description asks, “What lies beyond a traditional smartphone? Let’s find out. This is iPhone 14 Pro.”

6. All of Us Are Dead | Official Trailer | Netflix” by Netflix (2:35 long, 22.6 million views, and 518,000 engagements)

The creative agency was The Refinery, and the media agency was in-house. The ad’s description says,

“All of us will die. There is no hope.” The school turned into a bloody battleground and our friends into worst enemies. Who will make it out alive?”

7. Sally’s Seashells (Extended) | Big Game Commercial 2022“ by Squarespace (1:07 long, 21.6 million views, and 67,600 engagements)

The media agency was in-house. The ad’s description says,

“See everything that Sally sells in this extended cut of our 2022 Big Game commercial. Starring Zendaya as Sally and narrated by andré 3000.”

Most Important Lesson That Marketers Can Apply In 2023

Looking back at YouTube’s lists of top trending videos, top Shorts, and top ads for 2022, there is a meta-lesson that marketers can learn: one size does not fit all.

Different metrics matter when measuring different types of video, and different types of ads are better for different marketing objectives.

Or, as the British say, “There are horses for courses.”

Now, that’s a lesson that all of us can apply in 2023, and beyond.

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