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The Simple Guide to Building a Martech Stack

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The Simple Guide to Building a Martech Stack


There is no one marketing tool that can handle all marketing processes and enable team collaboration at the same time. And even if there is, it won’t be the best at everything.

This reason alone is why marketers need to look for various tools to put together their martech stacks.

It’s no wonder why there is no such “miracle” tool yet. Marketing processes can be quite complex. For example, this is our blog content creation process:

Flowchart of Ahrefs blog's content creation process

As you can see, there are multiple stages in this process. Thing is, those stages need different tools; one for keyword research, one for writing, a couple for communication, a couple for publishing, etc.

Generally, the more tactics you use and the more processes you create, the more tools you’ll need in your martech stack. But this process of amassing ad hoc solutions can easily get out of control and hurt your performance. So let’s try to avoid that and start from the beginning:

Martech” is short for marketing technology. A martech stack is a collection of software used by marketers to conduct, manage, measure, and improve their marketing activities.

Oftentimes, martech stacks are designed to work in conjunction with one another (through built-in integrations or APIs) to supplement marketing processes.

What is martech used for?

The short answer: probably everything. Personally, I was amazed when I found out there is a dedicated tool for transferring content from Google Docs to WordPress—something I’ve done manually for years. I never thought I might need a tool like Wordable. But now there’s no turning back.

So it’s really good to know what’s out there in terms of marketing technology. Here are some of the main areas where you can use martech:

Research

Some types of research are impossible to do without the right software. For example, you can’t do keyword research without an SEO tool.

Matching terms report results

Just four seed keywords resulted in almost 4 million keyword ideas. Data via Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

In other cases, martech will help you streamline your research process. For example, when analyzing the social reach of media or influencers, you don’t need to manually check each social media platform. A tool like Sparktoro has it all in one place.

Report on TechCrunch. Key data above. Below, bar graph showing social followings, etc

Creation

Here, martech offers tools for teamwide collaboration, getting feedback, no-code page building, and streamlined visual content creation.

For example, while looking for a design tool, you will inevitably come across Adobe’s Creative Suite. While it offers great tools, they’re a bit of an overkill for marketers. You’d be better off with a streamlined design tool like Figma or UXPin.

Ahrefs webpage design on Figma

Our team used Figma to create Ahrefs’ website, etc. We also use it to store our design system.

Content distribution

Whatever marketing channels you’re using, there is a tool for that. For example, you can schedule your social media posts to be sent out to multiple platforms within the same tool. No need to jump back and forth between social media profiles, trying to fit in the perfect spot for posting.

Page on MeetEdgar to schedule posts. Drop-down filters on left and preview of post on right

You can use tools like MeetEdgar to take the strain off social media posting.

User experience personalization

With the right technology, you can set up systems that personalize your website’s texts, images, displayed products, and more. This way, instead of showing generalized messages that are “all things to all people,” you can display content that feels like it was specifically prepared for the reader.

Pictures, prices, and brief write-up of products

Barilliance allows e‑commerce stores to automatically personalize visitors’ experience using AI. For example, it can display competing products that past visitors viewed when considering an item or show cross-sale opportunities based on dynamic models.

Marketing automation

With marketing automation tools, you can plan how your brand will engage with people throughout the customer journey, from setting up lead generation forms without any coding to devising automated email workflows based on your subscribers’ engagement signals.

Flowchart of example email workflow

And going after the latest trend of conversational marketing, you can have a chatbot to answer your customers’ questions 24 hours a day, as IKEA Canada does.

IKEA Canada's chatbot

Analytics

If it’s digital, it can be measured. And if it can be measured, it can be improved. For example, at Ahrefs, we constantly monitor our content’s performance in terms of keyword rankings and organic traffic. If we see one of those on a downtrend, we can improve the content or promote it more.

In the screenshot below, you can see the organic search graph for one of our articles. The arrows mark instances when the article was republished with updated content. As you can see, revamping the article led to an increase in organic traffic multiple times.

Optimization

Not sure what page design will convert more visitors? Don’t guess. Use A/B testing tools like Google Optimize or Optimizely. Tools like these will let you easily deploy your test (even if you can’t code), automatically gather data for as long as you need, and report the results.

For instance, in the screenshot below, you can see us using Tubebuddy to test two versions of video thumbnails.

Data Analytics page showing bar graphs, pie charts, etc

Customer relationship management

Popularly known as CRMs. These are tools marketers (together with sales teams) use to keep important information about their leads and customers.

Using spreadsheets for this purpose is a thing of the past. Modern CRMs have the advantage of being central, dynamic databases that send and receive information from other tools automatically.

A great illustration of the role that CRMs have in digital marketing is the promise that one of the biggest marketing automation providers, HubSpot, aims to deliver: first and foremost, a great CRM.

Excerpt of HubSpot article talking about its CRM

How to build a martech stack

Before you even think about building a martech stack, make sure you’ve identified your marketing goals and chosen your marketing tactics. It’s impossible to build a useful stack without first deciding these things because the purpose of the stack is to help improve your marketing activities. If you need help with these two things, read our guides on choosing marketing goals and marketing tactics.

With that out of the way, let’s see the next steps of creating your own martech stack.

1. Identify your needs and match that with your current stack

Your needs pertaining to the martech stack will likely stem out of two things: your marketing goals and your team’s need to make everyday operational work happen.

If you’re doing digital marketing, your goals almost automatically translate into software needs. For instance, improving organic traffic without an SEO tool is a guessing game. Trying to increase your share of voice on social media effectively without analytics and scheduling tools is just crazy. And you won’t set up a single email workflow without an email automation tool… you get the idea.

So here’s what you can do. Simply write down your marketing goals and see if you’ve got the right tools for the job already. If not, make a note next to the goal. This way, you will buy what’s really necessary, save some money, and avoid the confusion of having too many workspaces.

Depending on your company size, digging through your current stack can take several minutes or several hours. Larger organizations will most likely have a martech stack built up over the years. Some tools in the stack may not even be used anymore for some reason. If so, it may be worth coming back to the tried and tested tools.

At Ahrefs, we keep a list of our marketing tech that also mentions people with access to it. This way, we know:

  • The tools we use/don’t use.
  • Whether we should still be paying for them or not.

List of Ahrefs' martech

Here’s another thing to add to the list: your team’s needs. This is an important component of your software requirements, but it’s so obvious that it can slip the managers’ minds. The end result is them buying software that simply suits their personal opinions.

Sometimes, managers choose the martech stack on their own. They often think, in their best intentions, that doing things this way won’t distract the team. Wrong. They’re actually doing their team members a disservice. It’s important to ask your teammates what they need. More often than not, your fellow marketers will be well versed in the martech landscape.

2. Establish a budget

Because you need to know what you can afford. And it’s good to know this before you go shopping for software.

As in life, you can be in one of two scenarios here. You either have a stiff budget, or you have some room to move. And what you get depends on how well you can justify your needs.

If your budget has already been decided, you may need to prioritize some tools over others, cut costs through single-seat subscriptions, or choose the lower-cost (or even free) options.

But if your budget is not some arbitrary number you can’t influence, here’s a tip:

Try to explain the demand for new tools through your marketing goals. It’s not always transparent to CFOs or CEOs why you need a particular software, especially when it’s pricey. On that note, it’s worth mentioning that if you can’t meet your marketing goals because you don’t have the software, the whole company is in trouble.

3. Research possible software options

So by this point, you should be able to determine what kinds of software you’ll be looking for (and may even have some brands in mind) and how much you can spend on them. Now it’s time to pick and choose.

Here are a few ideas on how to find the right kinds of tools:

  • Get recommendations – Ask your network on LinkedIn or Twitter, post a question in your marketing community, or post a query on Quora.
  • Analyze your competition and/or companies you look up to – For this, you can use websites like StackShare, BuiltWith, or Slintel. Sometimes, you can find that information directly from the source, e.g., by browsing that company’s blog (many companies actually like to share this information, and we’re doing it too in this article).
  • Check out review platforms – First, websites like G2 and Capterra have curated lists of software in probably every software category (some have buyer’s guides too). Second, people go there to share their experiences of using the software. It’s wise to take the reviews with a grain of salt, but you can pick up patterns in opinions or some details you may want to check for yourself.
  • Cross-check your tools – See if there are any unnecessary overlaps and check if the tools that are supposed to work together have the required integrations. Remember, having more tools is not always better.

4. Deploy the tools and make the transition

Once you finally get access to your new set of tools, here are some things worth remembering:

  • Make a list of your entire martech stack and share it with whoever is concerned (marketing team, possibly your CEO and/or CFO). You can create a similar list (like the one from point #1) that shows the tools’ URLs, the people responsible, how to access the tools, the prices, and whatever else you feel may be helpful to keep track of.
  • If you have any old tools still running, don’t cancel them just yet because they probably hold valuable data that will perish if you stop paying for them. Whenever possible, export data from the old tools and import it into your new tools. You can also continue running some of the older tools until you’re 100% confident everything you need is in the new stack.
  • Consider reaching out to the creator of your software for some guidance to make sure everything works as it should. Some tools are quite complicated to implement (especially when you’re making data transitions or performing integrations with other software).

5. Make sure your tools are used properly

New tools will probably confuse your team for the first couple of weeks. Even interface changes between your old and your new software could cause a temporary drop in productivity. Make sure to put some time aside to actually learn the tools.

Many software companies offer comprehensive educational materials for free (or without any additional charge). For example, when you sign up for Ahrefs, you may not know anything about SEO except that you need it. And that’s OK because, through our Academy, we show you how to do SEO effectively as you master our software.

Ahrefs Academy's page

Going further, if you need to develop custom operating procedures (like reporting or content creation processes), it’s a good idea to have one person responsible for documenting them using the new tools.

Final tip: consider doing regular evaluations of your martech stack. You can ask your teammates’ opinions during meetings or send out an internal survey once every couple of months. This way, you may get some additional insights, e.g., your tools need an upgrade/downgrade, or your team needs additional training.

Now, let’s see what an example martech stack can look like.

Our favorite marketing tools (a sample of our martech stack)

Here is a portion of our martech stack we use to run an eight-figure ARR company.

1. Ahrefs

Ahrefs is an industry-leading, all-in-one SEO tool. We created this tool to help marketers rank higher on search engines and get more traffic. So naturally, we use it every day to fuel our own marketing strategy. We use it mostly for:

  • Finding topics to write about.
  • Studying how to structure our blog posts.
  • Choosing which articles to update.
  • Finding outreach prospects.
  • Studying competitors.
  • Monitoring our performance in search engines.
  • Finding technical SEO issues.

Copy of Ahrefs' value proposition

Where to get: ahrefs.com
Price: Free tools available; paid plans start at $99 per month (you get two months free if you decide to pay annually)
Some alternatives: SEMrush, Moz

2. Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free service from Google that helps you monitor and troubleshoot your website’s appearance in the search results.

It offers the most accurate data when it comes to Google’s search-related products, e.g., organic traffic data, organic click-through rates, index coverage, etc.

GSC's value proposition

Where to get: search.google.com/search-console
Price: Free
Alternative: Ahrefs Webmaster Tools. Disclaimer: not exactly an alternative (only Google Search Console features exact organic traffic numbers from Google Search) but rather a complementary tool that fills the gaps of Google’s tool

3. Google Workspace

The first non-marketing tool on our list that marketers need too. It’s productivity and collaboration in one place. But this product probably doesn’t need an introduction. Google Workspace ties together tools such as Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Drive, and more. Even at this moment, I’m using Workspace to write this article.

These tools are free, but businesses will most likely need to jump to the pricing site right away to pick a plan that suits their data storage needs and see what other premium features Workspace offers.

Google Workspace's value proposition

Where to get: workspace.google.com
Price: Free for personal use; premium plans start at $6/mo
Some alternatives: Microsoft Office 365, Zoho Workplace, ONLYOFFICE Workspace

4. Notion

Another non-marketing tool that we can’t live without. Notion is our team workspace. Something that Google Workspace falls short of. We use it for internal documentation and collaboration.

Remember the blog creation process in the intro of this article? We track that entire process on Notion.

Notion's value proposition

Where to get: notion.so
Price: Free for personal use; premium plans start at $4/mo
Some alternatives: ClickUp, Confluence

5. Grammarly

Even the best writers make mistakes. Grammarly automatically checks our articles for spelling and grammar issues and can even make style suggestions. If you’re doing content marketing, you simply need a tool like this.

Grammarly's value proposition

Where to get: grammarly.com
Price: Free for personal use; premium plans start at $12/mo
Some alternatives: ProWritingAid, Sapling

6. Wordable

We use Wordable to export articles from Google Docs to WordPress. The tool exports texts and images and translates original formatting to HTML. Otherwise, publishing on WordPress is more repetitive, manual labor, which can result in more mistakes.

Wordable's value proposition

Where to get: wordable.io
Price: Free for personal use; premium plans start at $12/mo
Some alternatives: Official WordPress Add-on for Google Docs

7. WordPress

Another tool that probably doesn’t need any introduction. We use this massively popular CMS as the infrastructure for blogging. And because you’re reading this article right now, that makes it so that we both use WordPress.

WordPress's value proposition

Where to get: wordpress.org
Price: Free for personal use; premium plans start at $12/mo
Some alternatives (when it comes to flexibility): Drupal, Joomla

8. vidIQ

vidIQ is one of the few video marketing tools we use (the other one is Tubebuddy, which has already been mentioned in this article). We use this tool to get insights on videos and channels on YouTube.

vidIQ's value proposition

Where to get: vidiq.com
Price: Free plan available; premium plans start at $7.5/mo
Some alternatives: Tubebuddy, Ahrefs (for YouTube SEO)

9. MeetEdgar

MeetEdgar is the tool we use to automate posting on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. This is not just another social media scheduling tool. It’s truly a social media marketing automation tool. It can even generate social media updates automatically based on the content of an article.

MeetEdgar's value proposition

Where to get: meetedgar.com
Price: Starts at $19/mo
Some alternatives: Buffer, SproutSocial, Hootsuite

10. Sparktoro

Sparktoro helps us find creators/influencers based on topics, following, and other signals. It’s especially helpful for finding potential partners in a niche we’re not familiar with.

Sparktoro's value proposition

Where to get: sparktoro.com
Price: Starts at $19/mo
Some alternatives: No single platform I’m aware of (though Klear and Social Blade come quite close)

11. Hunter

Hunter is a tool for finding anyone’s email address with just the name of the person and where they work. It’s one of the tools we use to do outreach for link building. Basically, once we find and vet an outreach prospect, we need to find their email address to contact them—which is rarely public information. This is where Hunter comes in.

Hunter's value proposition

Where to get: hunter.io
Price: Free plan available; premium plans start at $49/mo
Some alternatives: FindEmails, NinjaOutreach

12. Pitchbox

Pitchbox is an influencer outreach and content marketing platform. However, we don’t use all of its features, only the ones that allow us to send emails to our link prospects at scale (e.g., email personalization and automated workflows).

Pitchbox's value proposition

Where to get: pitchbox.com
Price: Free plan available; premium plans start at $49/mo
Some alternatives: BuzzStream, NinjaOutreach

13. Figma

Figma is a collaborative interface design tool. Aside from being a great design and prototyping platform, Figma makes our lives easier by allowing us to share designs among our designers and developers and keep a consistent design system.

Figma's value proposition

Where to get: figma.com
Price: Free plan available; premium plans start at $12/mo
Alternative: UXPin

Final thoughts

So there you have it. Building a martech stack is deceptively similar to shopping, but it’s not necessarily that fun and easy. It’s a good idea to forget about your personal preferences for a moment and think about how a particular choice will fit your processes, how it helps you achieve your goals, and whether your teammates will like it too.

At Ahrefs, we’ve been building our stack through trial and error for years, and it’s never a finished process. But that’s a good thing. From time to time, we do spot a new tool that makes us wonder how we got by without it. So keep your eyes open to increasingly smarter and easy-to-use martech.

Lastly, if you want to see what other online tools we use for marketing, check out this list.

Got questions or comments? Ping me on Twitter.





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Meta Reinstates Trump to Facebook & Instagram

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Meta Reinstates Trump to Facebook & Instagram

Meta announced that the suspension of former president Trump from Facebook and Instagram will be lifted within a few weeks, with “guardrails” in place to discourage repeat offenses.

2021 Suspension of Trump

Meta indefinitely suspended the account of then-president Trump after he praised the people who engaged in anti-government violence that ended in several deaths.

The suspension was reviewed by the Meta Oversight Board who concluded that the indefinite suspension was inconsistent with rules in place for dealing with policy violations.

The Oversight Board wrote:

“…it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.

The Board insists that Facebook review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform.”

Facebook responded to the board that the suspension will last for two years beginning on January 7, 2021 after which the suspension would be reconsidered.

The indefinite suspension remained in place until the announcement that it will be lifted in the weeks following January 25, 2022, just over two years after the suspension.

Why the Suspension of Trump was Lifted

The review of the suspension was timed for two years after the imposition of the original suspension on January 7, 2021. This was by agreement with the Oversight Board.

Meta undertook a review of whether Trump continued to pose a risk to public safety and decided that enough had changed to lower the risk.

The explanation of the decision indicated that multiple factors were considered:

“To assess whether the serious risk to public safety that existed in January 2021 has sufficiently receded, we have evaluated the current environment according to our Crisis Policy Protocol, which included looking at the conduct of the US 2022 midterm elections, and expert assessments on the current security environment.

Our determination is that the risk has sufficiently receded, and that we should therefore adhere to the two-year timeline we set out.

As such, we will be reinstating Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks. However, we are doing so with new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses.”

Facebook Public Figure Penalty Guardrails

Meta published updated policies, Restricting accounts by public figures during civil unrest, that describe the new protocols for dealing with public figures who violate Meta guidelines.

The updated rules apply to both Facebook and Instagram.

The new policies outline tiered penalties increasing in severity depending on the content violations.

Meta explained that the goal of the penalties were to deter violations of their policies.

The penalties last from one to thirty days to as long as two years for especially egregious violations.

Three factors will be considered to determine the severity of the penalty:

  1. “The severity of the violation and the public figure’s history on Facebook or Instagram, including current and past violations.
  2. The public figure’s potential influence over, and relationship to, the individuals engaged in violence.
  3. The severity of the violence and any related physical harm.”

 

Heightened Penalties

Public figures who return after a suspension will face heightened penalties, including disabling the account of any public figure that fails to respond to repeated warnings.

Meta’s rules targets QAnon content and outlines specific measures they will take that will limit the reach of penalized public figures.

That means anyone who is following the restricted account of a public figure will not see content posted to those accounts, plus the removal of reshare buttons.

“Our updated protocol also addresses content that does not violate our Community Standards but that contributes to the sort of risk that materialized on January 6, such as content that delegitimizes an upcoming election or is related to QAnon.

We may limit the distribution of such posts, and for repeated instances, may temporarily restrict access to our advertising tools.

This step would mean that content would remain visible on Mr. Trump’s account but would not be distributed in people’s Feeds, even if they follow Mr. Trump.

We may also remove the reshare button from such posts, and may stop them being recommended or run as ads.”

Response to Reinstatement of Trump

Facebook’s announcement stated that they expect to be criticized but that the decision was guided by guidelines set down by the Oversight Board.

The response on social media was predictably passionate, with congressman Adam Schiff characterizing the reinstatement as Facebook having “caved.”

Others accused Facebook of having no rules or procedures even though Meta’s decision was based on rules and procedures.

Many of the top tweets commenting on the Trump reinstatement commented that Facebook’s decision was based on greed while others lamented the lack of consequences from Trump’s action, even though he was punished with a two year suspension.

Read Meta’s Announcement:

Ending Suspension of Trump’s Accounts With New Guardrails to Deter Repeat Offenses

 

 



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Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To Try

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Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To Try

Much of the web is ephemeral.

Web pages exist until they don’t. The content on them exists until it’s updated – and then it’s gone.

Unless you go digging in an archive.

Archiving the web is important for cultural and anthropological research. It’s also helpful for business reasons, like competitive analysis. It can even help document or monitor political processes.

Your particular reason for seeking archived content might determine which service works best.

The Wayback Machine is the most commonly known archive.

Screenshot, https://archive.org/web/, January 2023.

The Internet Archive is a nonprofit organization, and the Wayback Machine is the web version of its archive, containing an absolutely massive amount of data.

You can request that it save a webpage in its current state, as well as make use of tools, like an API.

As huge as the Wayback Machine archive is, it’s likely not 100% complete. If you’re having trouble finding something specific or wondering if there are alternatives with more features, these alternatives might help.

I won’t be going over paid SaaS subscriptions, as I don’t consider a paid service a true alternative to a free one provided by a nonprofit.

Let’s go!

1. The Memento Project

Memento is an exceptional alternative to the Wayback Machine because it aggregates several different sources, including the Wayback Machine itself.

On the website, you can access archives from several sources by using the Time Travel tool.

Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To TryScreenshot, http://timetravel.mementoweb.org/, January 2023.

This is the first distinction that makes Memento so cool, and it includes some of the other archives on this list, too. That means it’s a customizable experience and likely one of the most complete.

Memento’s other distinct feature is the Chrome extension that allows you to select the date on which you’d like to view your current page. This brings the tool to where you’re browsing instead of making you put a URL into a form.

You can also create a snapshot of a page and generate a link to it that won’t break. This is particularly useful for citation.

If you’re concerned a page might disappear, or the content might get updated, but you want to use the information, creating one of these links ensures that people will be able to see your original source.

2. Archive.today

Archive.today is another “snapshot” tool. It allows you to save a link to a page as it currently exists.

Following the link will send users to an unalterable version of the page.

Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To TryScreenshot, https://archive.ph/, January 2023.

It also features some relatively advanced search queries you can perform on domains and URLs to find snapshots that have been saved with the tool.

This tool also features a Chrome extension as well as an Android app.

Searches on Memento can include results from Archive.today.

3. WebCite

WebCite has powerful applications for authors, journalists, academics, and publishers.

It offers a variety of ways to build and present the archived pages and the URLs.

Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To TryScreenshot, rhttps://webcitation.org/, January 2023.

Unfortunately, at the time of publishing, it doesn’t appear to be taking new requests. But you can still access already archived pages. When and if it starts accepting requests again, it’s a very useful tool for that.

Its most powerful feature for authors and publishers is the ability to upload a manuscript directly to the website.

The tool will scan every link in an uploaded manuscript and automatically create archives of each of the pages linked to as they currently exist. This saves a lot of time if you’ve used a lot of website citations.

If you’ve created content that you want people to be able to create snapshots of, then you can add a specific WebCite link to your page that users can click on. This embeds archive functionality into your page, saving users time if they decide to use your work as a citation.

4. GitHub

GitHub is a development and collaboration platform that also prioritizes public projects and open-source code.

It documents and archives open-source code and programs, and is searchable by other archives such as the Wayback Machine.

Wayback Machine: 5 Alternatives To TryScreenshot, https://github.com/explore, January 2023.

But, if you’re looking for something related to code or software development, it might be easier to go straight to GitHub instead of using another archive service.

While it does have paid business plans, GitHub is free for the average user. It even offers 15GB of storage and some computing power in its cloud developer environment for free for your personal use.

5. Country-Specific Web Archives

Several countries run their own web archives.

These can be particularly helpful alternatives to the Wayback Machine if you’re looking for a website highly relevant to a specific location, or the culture of a country.

More focused archives might have more complete information if you’re having trouble finding it elsewhere, although again, I want to mention that the first alternative in this list, Memento, pulls from several different country-specific archives.

I should also note that many archives specific to a country, region, educational institution, or individual library are partnered with Archive-it, a service provider built by The Internet Archive (makers of the Wayback Machine).

They curate specific collections based on relevance, but all Archive-it partners leverage the same source: The Internet Archive.

These are a few of the country-specific web archives:

Conclusion

When you’re looking for alternatives to the Wayback Machine, you might not realize that a great many of them, in part or in whole, are powered by the same archive.

But there are other services out there you can use. Some have more helpful features, depending on what your goals are.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of alternative tools, but it’s most of the easily accessible tools for the average user.

Others require monthly payments, and some are free to academic and legal institutions, but not to individual users.

I chose to focus on the best of the tools that you could go and use right now with no fuss.

More resources:


Featured Image: Studio Romantic/Shutterstock



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Indirect Marketing: Definition, Types, & Examples

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Indirect Marketing: Definition, Types, & Examples

Indirect marketing is marketing where you’re not trying to explicitly sell a product or service.

Instead, it focuses on activities that generate brand awareness, build relationships with potential customers, and nurture them to eventually buy from you.

Indirect marketing relies on the assumption that potential customers will not purchase your product or service immediately, but over time. 

And if we look at our buying behavior, that’s probably true. For example, if we need a new pair of headphones, we’ll probably first do some online research, browse forums, ask our friends, and get familiar with available brands and models—all before buying.

In contrast, direct marketing is marketing where you’re explicitly trying to get potential customers to buy right now. Channels include cold email, direct mail, and ads.

Types of indirect marketing

Here are some types of indirect marketing:

1. Public relations (PR)

PR is the practice of positively influencing a brand’s perception by managing communications with the media and the general public.

Common tactics include being newsworthy, responding to media inquiries (e.g., HARO), creating press releases, building relationships with journalists, and creating PR stunts. 

For example, Ahrefs was featured on TechCrunch in 2022.

Ahrefs is featured in a TechCrunch article

This was possible because we had:

  1. A newsworthy event (“we’re making a search engine”).
  2. Relationships with the right people (all thanks to the hard work of my colleague, Daria Samokish).

2. Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO is the practice of optimizing your website and its pages to rank higher in search engines like Google. You’d want to make sure your important pages appear on Google for relevant keywords. For example, if someone is searching for your brand, your website should appear:

Google search results for keyword "ahrefs"

But nobody will search for your brand if they do not know it exists. So beyond optimizing your homepage, you should also target keywords your customers are searching for.

At Ahrefs, we create content targeting problems our potential customers have. For example, 14,000 people per month search for “link building” in the U.S.  

14,000 people per month search for “link building” in the U.S.

This is a problem our toolset helps with, so we created a piece of content targeting that topic.

Ahrefs' link building guide

Whenever someone is searching for that keyword on Google, they’ll discover our content and, in the process, our product and brand. 

Repeat this ad infinitum and you’ll expose hundreds, if not thousands, of people to your brand (in our case, an estimated 3.4 million).

Estimated amount of search traffic Ahrefs receives every month, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Recommended reading: SEO: The Complete Guide for Beginners 

3. Social media

Creating valuable content that persuades people to follow you on social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok is a great way to generate brand awareness and build relationships with your audience.

For example, our Twitter account has 128,000 followers, and we regularly share SEO and marketing tips with our audience:

Indirect marketing: pros and cons

Should you invest in indirect marketing? Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pros

Here are the advantages of indirect marketing.

1. Indirect marketing builds demand and awareness

Why is it important to build brand awareness and demand? 

Simple: There are only so many people who are ready to buy right now. Most of your potential customers are still unaware they have a problem, unaware of solutions, or unaware of your particular product or service. 

So if you’re using direct marketing, you’re only focusing on a small pool of people. Not only that, but you could actually just be reaching out to people who are already primed to buy in the first place.

Eventually, you’ll still need a way to open up a pool of potential customers. And you can do that with indirect marketing tactics. 

2. Indirect marketing is less intrusive and non-pushy

Prospects purposely seek out content that helps them solve problems. Not only that, but indirect marketing tactics also rarely involve reaching out to people. 

Cons

Here are some downsides to indirect marketing.

1. Indirect marketing takes time

You can’t build a brand overnight. Neither can you amass 100,000 followers in one day. Relationships with journalists take time to build. And ranking on Google takes time too.

Results for a poll on how long SEO takes

Recognizing that customers need time to buy also means recognizing that nurturing the relationship takes time.

2. Indirect marketing is less trackable

Life gets in everyone’s way. You must have had the experience of researching for something to buy, only for you to give it up for a few years before suddenly returning to purchase it. Your customers are the same too. 

As a result, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which indirect marketing tactic contributed to the success. But it doesn’t mean that indirect marketing doesn’t work, just that it’s not attributable. 

Direct marketing: pros and cons

Should you invest in direct marketing? Here are the pros and cons.

Pros

What are some advantages of direct marketing?

1. Direct marketing is measurable

Direct marketing tactics are usually trackable—how many opens, how many clicks, how many conversions, and so on. You can see these metrics on ad platforms and email marketing software.

2. Direct marketing is fast

Since it’s intended to elicit a response or purchase, direct marketing tactics can have an immediate impact on a business’s bottom line. 

Cons

Direct marketing is not all sunshine and roses. There are some downsides.

1. Direct marketing is intrusive

Direct marketing tactics like cold email and ads are generally seen as interruptive. That is because the prospect did not request them and yet is still served a sales message.

An unwanted ad from Emirates on the Twitter timeline

2. Direct marketing has a smaller reach

As mentioned earlier, there are only so many people who are ready and willing to buy. Direct marketing merely converts these people, but it cannot generate purchases among people who don’t even know you exist. 

3. Direct marketing can be blocked

CAN-SPAM, GDPR, ad-blockers—they exist to prevent unwanted sales messages from reaching consumers.

Examples of successful indirect marketing

Looking for successful examples of how companies have used indirect marketing? Here are three to be inspired by.

1. Ahrefs – Blog

The main marketing type we use is SEO-driven content marketing. It can be summarized into one sentence:

We create and maintain high-quality, search-focused content about topics with business potential, search traffic potential, and ranking potential.

To break it down:

  1. We research topics our customers are searching for on Google.
  2. We filter them by checking their business potential—how easy it will be to pitch our product while tackling these keywords.
  3. We prioritize by analyzing their ranking potential—how viable it is for us to rank in the top three with our available resources.
  4. We create content targeting those topics.
  5. We update or rewrite them if they don’t rank or are out of date.

This strategy means customers are always discovering us whenever they’re searching for solutions to their problems on Google. 

Ahrefs customers mentioning that they found out about our product from Google

Our strategy is simple. No fancy tactics or the latest hot trend. But this deliberate simplicity makes the strategy easy to follow and is the driving force behind our eight-figure annual recurring revenue (ARR).

Learn how to replicate our strategy in the guide below.

Recommended reading: How to Create an SEO Content Strategy (Follow the Ahrefs’ Framework) 

2. Wendy’s – Twitter

Wendy’s is a fast-food restaurant chain. Yet, you might not be able to tell from its tweets:

If you’re out of the loop, Wendy’s basically revolutionized how brands can use social media and communicate with their customers. Rather than post boring bureaucratic tweets in “corporatese,” it decided to do a 180° by sharing memes, roasting rival companies, and posting in a sassy tone. And it rarely has a call to action to visit a Wendy’s restaurant.

But this indirect marketing works for it. In a highly competitive fast-food scene, this social media strategy puts its brand top of mind. 

Not only do its tweets gain attention on the network itself, but it also spreads virally across other channels. Memes, anime parodies, and YouTube videos—the list goes on. 

Since 2012, Wendy’s has overtaken Burger King to become the #3 U.S. fast-food chain.

3. Slidebean – YouTube

Slidebean is a pitch deck design platform for startups and small businesses. It has >400,000 subscribers on YouTube. Many of its videos aren’t about pitch decks or pitch deck design; instead, they’re about startups, marketing, and business.

This is deliberate. It initially started out with topics related to its product. But it found that it exhausted those topics in a short amount of time. So it decided to move up the marketing funnel into broader topics.

Since we had found a “YouTube formula,” we decided to apply it to other kinds of content, and one of them was this idea of exploring failed companies. The first one was WeWork, which was just the right bridge between a startup-focused company and a widely known brand. At this stage, the series was called “Startup Forensics.”

However, there were only so many tech startups to explore, so we quickly opened that up to “Company Forensics” to broaden our horizons.

Jose Cayasso

This allowed Slidebean to get as many eyeballs as possible on YouTube, which puts its brand top of mind. The company hit $1.5 million in revenue with 3,000 customers in 2022. 

Final thoughts

The best companies use both indirect and direct marketing. They don’t discriminate between strategies. If you want to improve your business, you should use both. 

Any questions? Hit me up on Twitter



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