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Logo Design For Tightwads With No Design Skills

designing a logo

I have a troubled history with logo design. On the one hand, I've always respected the value of a gorgeous logo.

On the other, I've refused to spend money to get one 'professionally' designed. 

This meant many late nights in PowerPoint designing grainy logos that looked like bad clip art.

But I've had a revelation that I want to share with you: a super-simple, free way to design a high-resolution logo that will automatically add 5 points to your Domain Authority. (Not really.) 

Undoubtedly, logos are an incredibly important component of site experience.

Logos & Site Experience

Especially on mobile, your logo is the FIRST thing a user sees when they land on your site. Users will make a snap judgment about the quality of your site based on your logo design.

(Unless you don't have a logo at all- which I've been guilty of before.) 

You'll want your logo to look sharp and trustworthy- something that assures users they've landed on a reputable website that contains the high-quality information they're looking for.

To illustrate the negative effects of a bad logo, check out this design:

Logo Example 1:

bad logo example

How does it make you feel? What sort of immediate impression does it convey? Granted, it's for a bar and grill- so I wouldn't necessarily dismiss eating there. But, still, it screams 'internet 2002'- it looks dated, prehistoric and sloppy. I would assume that the site content is similarly outdated and probably useless. 

Logo Example 2:

bar and grill good example of logo design

I really like this logo- it's emphatic and cogent. The styling is sleek- it's the sort of brand imagery that conveys quality and authority. Granted- there's a good bit of custom design work going on here.

How To Design A Logo For Free

I'm going to walk you through how to design your own modern-looking logo without getting ripped off on Fiverr.  

I've applied this formula across all of my sites. And, not to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty happy with the NicheFacts.com logo: 

NicheFacts Logo

It's crisp and modern-looking. And I didn't have to wade into Fiverr or UpWork to hire a graphic designer to create it. 

Formula For High-Resolution Logo Design

I'm going to share with you a simple formula for generating an attractive logo for free. And, believe me, I have about zero design instinct- so this is something you'll be able to replicate if, like me, you have zero graphic design skills. 

  1. Create a Canva Account
  2. Grab a free icon from FlatIcon
  3. Create the logo in Canva

Canva

Using Canva Example

Canva is a fantastic, free resource for graphic design. Besides its ease of use, you can use its custom dimensions option  to create the perfectly sized logo for your WordPress theme.

FlatIcon

Reviewing FlatIcon

FlatIcon is one of many icon marketplaces you can find online. You can use some of their icons for your logos or a favicon generator for free as long as you provide attribution. 

I actually have a paid FlatIcon plan so I don't have to provide attribution. I like the style and diversity of the icons- plus they're only like 6 kb large so it helps with load speed. 

Anyway, there are free logos you can download- just make sure you provide attribution. They'll walk you through how to do that. Or you can search out a different icon marketplace.

Create The Logo

Now that you have a Canva and FlatIcon account, the next step is to head over to Canva and create a Custom Dimension graphic.

Use these dimensions 600 x 180. 

This is the real secret- Canva creates a large image that will scale down to a small size nice and sharp.

canva logo design example

Have you ever seen sites with logos that looked incredibly sharp? That's how it's done. It took me awhile to figure that out. I had been sizing my logos 50 x 50, for example, and it ended up looking grainy and ugly. 

On to design. Drag and drop your icon into Canva and then click it to insert it into the 600 x 180 canvas.

What I like to do is left align a FlatIcon image and then add some lowercase paragraph text- use the "add a little bit of body text" option. This lets you bold the letters- with headings and subheadings you can't bold them.

As you can see for the NicheFacts logo, it's all lower case, with the second half of the word bolded. 

Canva Text Example

This creates a modern-looking design that assures site visitors that your website is high-quality. I had to crop the image a bit by adjusting the width dimensions a touch- as you can see the layout is a bit wide for the text.

This will depend on your icon size and how long the text is. 

Optimization Options

Image Compression

The next thing I suggest you do is use this free image compression tool like Compressimage.toolur.com to make sure your logo's file size isn't too big.

You can reduce the image quality to 60%, as I did in the screengrab below, skimming  about 100 kb off in the process. 

Play around with this bit. It's likely that the logo file will be small to start- but every kilobyte counts when it comes to page load speed. 

Icon Image Compression Example


Color Schemes

Another thing- be mindful of your color scheme. I'm not great at this, but when you choose a logo, its colors basically become your brand colors.

Perhaps you already have an idea of the sort of brand colors you'd like to use- but if you haven't considered it, it's worth mulling over. You can play around with Adobe's color wheel and select a theme for yourself

Brand colors for website using Adobe

Final Thoughts

It took me way too long to figure out how to create a decent-looking logo.

As we transition to a mobile-first universe, logos are even more important. If you're doing SEO and attracting primarily new visitors every day to your content, these people have NO idea who you are.

You only have a couple seconds to convince them to stay on your site and hopefully click an affiliate link or signup to your email list.

Make sure your logo isn't causing them to bounce back to the SERPs to your competitor!

Shared Hosting: A Data-Backed Performance Comparison

Beaker

In this post, I'm going to help you make an educated decision about selecting a hosting provider using actual third-party performance data.

This won't be a long-winded analysis about auto-scaling and RAM usage. I'm not a hosting geek- but I know enough to be dangerous.

I'd like to help you make a quick and data-backed decision about which shared hosting provider you should choose to start your online business.

That way we can dive into the actual interesting stuff- building a monetized content site that will free you from your 9-5 job.

What Is Shared Hosting?

Shared hosting allows multiple websites to utilize a single server. Typically, you’ll have no idea who or what other websites you’re sharing the resources of a server with. Each customer will usually have a limit on the total amount of server resources they can use, depending on their hosting package.

Shared hosting is easily the cheapest and most economical option for your needs. Once your site gets more traffic, you'll want to upgrade to a plan with more dedicated resources. When I hit 1,000 visits a day on my main site- that's when I upgraded to a VPN plan with SiteGround.

Why Your Host Matters

If you're going to build an online business, you're going to need hosting. 

It's how your audience accesses the content your site. All of your content needs to be 'hosted' somewhere.

A good host will quickly and reliably serve your pages to your audience. They'll also help you when you run into any difficulties. 

In a nutshell, when evaluating hosting providers you'll want to assess their:

  1. Speed
  2. Reliability
  3. Support

As someone who makes a living online, I've gone through many ups and downs with my hosting providers.  

Trying to find an honest hosting review online is insanely difficult.

This is because hosting programs have incredibly lucrative affiliate programs- so internet marketers in the hosting 'review' space have crammed the internet full of hosting promotions that masquerade as reviews.

Why Is This Hosting Review Any Different?  

After extensive research, I've come to trust Down.com's recommendations- the site keeps a running performance tally of the best shared hosting providers. They actually buy the hosting plan, set up a test website, and run performance tests on a monthly basis to truly assess the speed, uptime and customer support quality. 

This is one of the few websites that actually generates an easy-to-understand comparison of the most popular hosting providers.

You can evaluate some of the more popular options below, comparing their performance on Page Speed, Uptime, and Support responsiveness. HostGator is currently the fastest with the best Uptime, though GoDaddy and MDDHosting have the most responsive support. 

Comparing Shared Hosting Providers

HostPage SpeedUptimeSupport Responsiveness
Bluehost3.11 s99.93 %34.7 h
DreamHost3.14 s99.79 %2.8 h
GoDaddy2.99 s99.96 %0.1 h
HostGator2.85 s99.97 %53.4 h
InMotion Hosting3.22 s99.96 %0.9 h
MDDHosting3.16 s99.89 %0.1 h
Namecheap3.23 s99.94 %2.2 h
Site53.37 s99.76 %0.3 h
StableHost3.05 s99.94 %0.4 h
Yahoo Small Business4.12 s99.81 %50.9 h

*Down.com doesn't include SiteGround, my current host in its comparison- but according to HostingFacts.com it has a page speed of 483ms,  99.98% uptime, with an average support response of ~2 minutes. The numbers don't really align with Down.com's stats- but I wanted to include SiteGround because that is the host I would recommend since I currently use them.

**Table is accurate as of November 2017

If you're just starting out, go with a shared hosting plan. (That's what this table compares). It's cheap and you don't need a ton of dedicated resources like you'd get in a VPN solution. You can always upgrade later on- I've done this before and the switch is seamless. 

Speed

This one is a no-brainer. You'll want your host to quickly load your website for your user- people have a very limited attention span. According to Kissmetrics, "47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds."

Reliability

While speed is crucial- a reliable up time is essential. If your host goes 'down' and your site can't be accessed by your audience- it harms your brand reputation and negatively affects your SEO. Down.com recommends that you aim for a hosting provider that has an uptime of 99.99%, which translates to a maximum outage of 5 minutes per month. 

Support

Support is huge. I've spent an inordinate amount of time in conversation with hosting support, theme support, plugin support, auto-responder support, software support- anything and everything.

When something breaks and I don't know how to fix it- my Pavolovian response is to open a support thread to initiate a fix. Down.com averages support response time.

My personal experience has been with Bluehost and SiteGround, and I've found support to be pretty fast- for some issues I post tickets in my SiteGround account and sometimes I use Live Chat- it really depends on the issue.

Affiliate Disclosure


In the interest of complete transparency, I'm currently an affiliate for Bluehost, SiteGround and HostGator. (I'm a current SiteGround customer). That means I receive a commission at no cost to you if you decide to purchase a plan with one of those providers.

These commissions help me to keep creating actionable and useful content on NicheFacts.

All that said, that will not influence my recommendations- mainly because these hosting recommendations are coming from Down.com, not from me.

My Hosting Story

When I first started building an online business, I chose a hosting provider based on Pat Flynn's recommendation.

He endorsed Bluehost, so I went with Bluehost. He's an affiliate for Bluehost- you can view his income reports to see how much money he makes from promoting them.

The Best Web Hosting Bluehost Review

For me, the Bluehost shared hosting plan was OK. Their live chat support was pretty responsive and their service support ranged from incompetent to good. Bluehost gets a lot of flak- one review I read claimed that their support staff actually has sales goals. That's really unethical, if true. 

The bottom line was that I found their shared hosting to be an adequate option when my sites were getting under 1,000 visits a day. I ended up switching to SiteGround, however, because Bluehost detected malware on my account and wouldn't help me fix it without potentially shutting my entire account down.

The Bluehost Malware Email

Bluehost Malware Email

They also promoted a malware removal company that they were clearly affiliated with to help solve the problem for an outrageous amount of money. 

This left a really bad taste in my mouth. 

Since I was already considering upgrading my hosting from shared to VPN, I decided to migrate to SiteGround. SiteGround promised to help me remove the malware without having any downtime on the sites. 

The migration went well and they helped me remove some of the malware so that I didn't have to spend over a $1,000 dollars. All I had to do was manually delete about 6 files. It took me 15 minutes. 

I'm still with SiteGround and I'm pretty satisfied- their support is solid. Better than Bluehost's, but I'm also paying more money- so I might be getting comparatively better treatment just for that reason.

Final Thoughts

If you're a novice looking to grow an affiliate site, eCommerce store, or a small business, hosting will be one of your biggest expenses. Before you commit to buying, it's useful to have an honest side-by-side comparison of their performance statistics. 

Use this page or Down.com as a resource so that you have a ballpark idea of the sort of speed, uptime and customer support you'll receive from your hosting provider. 

Ranking & Banking In The Woodworking Niche

ranking for woodworking

This is another fun, visual niche that has both physical and informational affiliate products you can promote to a passionate audience.

The idea is: Woodworking.

You'll be creating a woodworking site that reviews woodworking tools while also publishing informational content like 'how-to' and long, image list posts.

The site can be a resource for hobbyists, professional craftsmen, and a general audience of people who enjoy buying or building gorgeous woodwork. 

Woodworking is a huge market.

According to Wood Industry Almanac:

  • Cabinet demand will be $16 Billion in 2018.
  • There are over 4,000 household furniture firms in the United States.
  • In 2013, Americans spent over $95 Billion on residential furniture and mattresses (Source)

Why I Like This Niche

  • Lots of physical + info products
  • A 'visual' niche- opportunity to leverage images/videos
  • Passionate community
  • Solid SEO opportunity

Tons Of Affiliate Products

Indeed, there are lots of physical product terms you can rank for. Whether it be types of hinges or power saws. In addition, there are lots of information products you can promote.

Examining ClickBank, the search term "wood" returns over 100 info-product results. Including one of ClickBank's most popular information products, Ted's Woodworking.

This combination of physical and information products means you can diversify your revenue sources. This niche also lends itself to informational, How To Guides.

What this means is that, besides the physical/info affiliate products you can promote, you can also produce informational content that helps you get backlinks and legitimizes your site.

If all you do is review products, sure you'll make some money, but it will be hard to get people to link to you, which is really crucial if you want to own top rankings.

Visual Niche

The woodworking niche is also heavily visual.

Check out some of these woodworking Pins from Pinterest. A powerful style of content is an image list post. An example could be the 50 coolest birdhouses ever built. You would source 50 images of built birdhouses, add a 50 word blurb, and perhaps link to the woodworking plans, if they're available.

You will have to ask permission for some, unless you can embed them from social media sites like I did above with the Twitter embed.

Imagery can also be a means of traffic acquisition. There's certainly an opportunity to create your own images in Photoshop or Canva and share them on Pinterest, for example.

Community Interest

This is also a passionate community.

Great SEO Opportunity

Running the term "woodworking" through LongTailPro, there are about 645,000 searches for woodworking-related terms. There are some solid options here- "furniture plans", "easy wood projects", "wood chisel" & "cool wood projects", for example.  

Keyword Competitiveness Scores

  • 0-10 (No Competition),
  • 10-20 (Extremely Low Competition),
  • 20-30 (Low Competition),
  • 30-40 (Moderate Competition),
  • 40-50 (Somewhat High Competition),
  • 60-70 (Very High Competition),
  • 70-100 (Don't Even Think About It).

*Read more about their scoring.

Woodworking Niche LongTail Questions

*If Google Trends doesn't load- just refresh the page.

The Opportunity

I would list out all of the woodworking products I could promote, along with their corresponding search volume.

I would investigate the sort of informational woodworking content I could create. Popular Woodworking has a list of woodworking projects.

I'd start documenting these opportunities and think about the style of content I could create around those topics.

Perhaps, I do an image list post, like Buzzfeed is famous for, that gathers the 50 coolest Adirondack chairs. I would link to free and affiliate woodworking guides that describe how to build them. I would list out the required tools and materials- these would be affiliate links.

I would use Ahrefs to see what keywords popular woodworking sites like Rockler and Popular Woodworking rank for. This will help gin up more content ideas.

I'd use a site like similarsites.com to discover other woodworking sites- I can use these for even more keyword research and to get a sense of how they structure both their sites and their content. It'll also help me figure out how they monetize- which affiliate programs they use, etc.

Content Harvesting NicheFacts Example

Pumping Out Content

If I decide to go into this particular niche, I'd have my writers start churning out review content.

Since they're already trained on how to do that, I'm comfortable immediately outsourcing it while I figure out the informational content.

If I decide on doing large image list roundup posts, I'd do several posts myself, and then writeup a training guide, and shoot a short training video, so that I can hire writers to begin producing this content for me.

Content Promotion

I'd also want to define an organic and potentially paid promotion process. Perhaps I run each image list roundup post through my content harvesting process below. That, too, could be outsourced.

I might even decide to run FaceBook ads to these image list posts- they're the sort of fun digestible content that readers like. Another good thing about image list posts is that, since they're so long, you can insert multiple Display Ads and email captures into them- enabling you to earn back some of the ad spend.

I'd keep churning out content and once I've filled out the site with at least 20 posts (split between informational and affiliate) I'd consider doing some outreach following Authority Hacker outreach principles.

I'd keep up this pace, splitting my time between Content Creation and Content Promotion. I'd expect have some solid traffic and earnings after 3 months.

How To Make Money

The Amazon Associates affiliate program is a good place to start. Amazon makes it easy to link to their products and it converts incredibly well.

How To Make Money With Your Niche

Other physical product retailers like Jet, Walmart, Rockler are also viable affiliate program alternatives- they'll have some products Amazon doesn't have, especially a specialty store like Rockler.

Join affiliate networks like ShareASale and LinkShare and search for Merchants that specialize in woodworking. I'd also examine woodworking information products on ClickBank.

You'll monetize by doing review posts, i.e. "The 10 Best Wood Clamps" and affiliate-linking to physical product stores. Informational content like the Adirondack chair roundup post- you can insert Display Ads, sprinkle in some affiliate links to both physical and informational products.

For the informational products, it's best to do your own review. That way, you're not just throwing 'cold' traffic at an offer page like this.

You'll be warming the traffic up a bit, explaining what, in this instance, Ted's Woodworking is all about, why you endorse it, etc. Remember, it's important to cherish the trust of your readership- treat them with respect. They'll sniff out disingenuous cash grabs.

6 Black Magic Content Hacks To Grow Your Niche Site

black magic content hacks

As a niche site builder content is the life-blood of my business.

If you're building a niche site, outside of hosting costs, content is going to be your biggest expense.

This can be a big hurdle if you don't have a lot of spare cash to hire quality writers.

I've been there.

Fortunately there are some ways you can hack content creation and cost-effectively produce massive amounts of content.

6 Ways To Hack Content Costs

1. Dictation

The first one is to use a dictation app.

(*Update: Now I use Google Docs and the Voice Typing feature located in Google Docs > Tools > Voice Typing)

For many of my product reviews, I'll transcribe content using my iPhone and the Recogniser app in conjunction with Siri's voice recognition.

I find that Recogniser captures technical language better, while Siri is better for simpler words and phrases.

I've transcribed hundreds of thousands of words this way. Most commonly I've done this for my general product review site.

Recogniser Transcription App

For example, if I'm reviewing the best Asics running shoes, I'll head over to a product page and do a on-the-fly, voice rewrite of what reviewers are saying.

Very often this will be bullet-pointed content that I insert at the bottom of a review post with higher-quality, outsourced content sitting above it.

 Or I'll find a really simple article about something related to Asics shoes- how to clean sneakers, how to choose the best athletic shoe, etc. and do a on-the-fly voice rewrite of that.

This a fast way of producing a lot of content. Plus it's easy to incorporate lots of long-tail keywords.

It should blow your mind: you can speak into a phone to create traffic to a website that can make you money while you sleep.

Another of my sites is in the ticket niche- so I'll use voice apps to rewrite Yelp or TripAdvisor user reviews on the fly:

 Many novice site owners I've spoken with get stuck on creating content- they think they have to outsource all content creation right from the start.

Combine that with an inability to cost-effectively hire writers and they get in the red overpaying for content when all it takes is half an hour to bang out a 1,000 transcribed words.

It's actually very easy to transcribe a 1,000 words of content and then copy-edit it into something high-quality. I'll email myself the transcription and then paste it into Grammarly where I'll copy edit it before I migrate it into the post itself.

For over a year, the first thing I would do every morning would be to transcribe a 1,000 words of content.

This amounted to hundreds of thousands of keyword rankings: 

and hundreds of thousands of dollars of affiliate commissions.

2. Data Scraping

Here's a weird one- try using the Instant Data Scraper Chrome extension. The way it works, the extension quickly scrapes pages and pulls information into a downloadable spreadsheet table.

Video Demonstration

Depending on the type of content you're producing, you can easily scrape other pages for relevant and useful information- perhaps formatting it into a handy comparison table, importing it with TablePress, or maybe you scrape links from Reddit and quickly create some listicle content. 

When you paste a Reddit URL into WordPress, it generates a link preview if you're working in the standard Visual Editor. Unfortunately, since this post uses Thrive Architect page builder, which I've generally stopped using, the link preview won't populate here.

Try out the extension on different pages- you'll quickly see that you can pull in some unique content very quickly. Sometimes you have to touch it up a bit to make it unique and reader-friendly, but it's an interesting strategy.

4. Article Spinning

*Disclaimer: I don't use this tactic myself.

If you're not familiar with spinning software, programs like TheBestSpinner let you select multiple synonyms of words and phrases from a piece of content, remove the original word, and produce a technically unique piece of content.

This black art is a staple of old-school SEOs- it's why you often see garbled comment spam on your site. An SEO somewhere is running a blog commenting campaign, perhaps with Scrape Box, with auto-spun comments.

That said, there are two primary ways you can spin content: automatic and manual.

Many people use spinning software to do automatic spins- this generally makes the content unreadable because the software is only marginally capable of auto-producing readable content. I don't do this nor do I recommend you do this.

To use spinning software correctly, people those use these tools recommend that you do a manual spin (like Matthew Woodward demonstrates in the above video) as opposed to an automatic one.

That means that you will go word by word through a 500 word piece of content and swap out words with different alternatives.

That said, I don't use this strategy because I can easily recycle a portion of my affiliate profits back into my internet business to hire writers, but if you want to add a chunk of content to a review post for SEO reasons, many grey and black hat SEOs will give it a quick manual spin to make it unique.

This method can be effective when the language you're rewriting is really technical and complex and voice transcription tools annoyingly can't decipher the terms.

Spinning is really of supplementary utility- it's never going to wholly replace hiring writers and doing some of the content yourself, but it has its purposes.

5. Hire ReWriters

A rewriter will 'rewrite' an existing piece of content. The value here is that you can hire rewriters for lower rates than you can for 'writers'. Check out my UpWork hiring guide for a detailed outsourcing strategy.

For example, if you want 500 words on web hosting, it can be cheaper to have someone rewrite a Wikipedia entry than hire a writer to create something.

Plus, unless your writer is good, and you're also able to provide detailed instructions, it's likely that the content they create won't have the structure and comprehensiveness of the rewriten content.

Use UpWork Search Filters 

One of my favorite hiring strategies is to use UpWork to recruit Native/Fluent English writers who don't have any work experience.

There are many American college students, for example, looking for part-time work. They can write coherently but because they haven't successfully billed any clients on UpWork, or only billed for a couple small projects, they don't get much attention on the platform.

Plus, these writers often aren't savvy enough to apply to the jobs you post on the UpWork hiring platform. These novice writers might need some training and feedback to get up to speed, but can be a cost-effective way to scale your content creation once trained.

Many new freelance writers will discount their UpWork rates in exchange for an honest rating using UpWork's freelancer review system.

All that said, it does take some effort, patience and ingenuity to successfully recruit writers on UpWork.

Below are some search filters I use to find inexpensive, qualified writers.

Cheap Inexperienced Writers Who Speak Fluent English

Check out these UpWork search filters:

These U.S. based writers include those with an hourly rate that is below $10, they have billed more than 1 hour, and their English level is "Fluent". 

This produces hundreds of writers with cheap hourly rates, who speak Fluent English, and have billed a small amount of work.

This is a good population to find cheap, quality English writers.

Cheap Experienced Writers Who Speak Fluent English

Or, try toggling the Earned Amount to "$10k+ earned". This returns 39 writers that are inexpensive, Fluent English, but have significant experience writing on UpWork: 

Eastern European Writers With High English Test Scores

Here's another interesting one- I filtered by Eastern Europe and Top 10% in the "English Test for Writers". 

This provides several writers based in Eastern Europe who've taken one of UpWork's English language tests and scored highly on it.

Foreign writers are another fertile source of talent you can leverage for inexpensive content.

6. Use iWriter

I did a whole writeup of how I use iWriter here.

Plus a video tutorial showing me actually ordering the content: 

If you're unfamiliar with iWriter, it's a self-managed content agency. 

You manage the writers- which means you place content requests and these content orders are filled by writers on the marketplace.

You can get decent quality writing there- it's written really fast and you have the option of rejecting poor quality writing. 

I'll often use iWriter as supplemental content- instead of dictation. I give very detailed instructions- you can grab my iWriter Order Template here.

Final Thoughts

The takeaway here is that you shouldn't be too fancy. What's stopping you from taking a half hour out of your day to dictate 1,000 words? 

Combine that with hiring an inexperienced writer for $8-$10 for 1,000 words and begin cranking out content. The two of you can easily produce 10,000 words of content a week. 

That's five 2,000 word posts. Hire another writer to do another 5,000 words a week and another and another.

Hire a virtual assistant to do all the formatting and publishing- and before you know it you have a content factory pressing out tens or hundreds of thousands of words a month. 

Trust me, you will have success if you commit to publishing like this- as long as the content is unique, it's decent, and you're targeting buyer keywords.

3 Tools For Pinterest Shock And Awe

Pinterest passive traffic strategies

In this post I'll walk you through my Pinterest traffic strategy.

Historically the majority of my traffic has originated from Google Search to an affiliate site that is very Pinterest-unfriendly.

However, a new site I started is a DIY-style site, which is image-heavy. That means that it's a natural fit for an image-rich social-media platform like Pinterest.

I should say, I'm not a Pinterest expert- I'm really just playing around with it and seeing what works. That said, I'm pretty happy with the results so far. And I'm fast becoming a more confident Pinterest user. 

This DIY site is new (under 3 months) and isn't getting any significant organic traffic yet, but I have received 1,000 Pinterest visitors in between 7/21/17 and 8/19/17. See the traffic screengrab below. 

And that's with only 20 followers. That's the real beauty of Pinterest- you don't need to be some mega-brand with 500,000 followers to get traffic.​

Pinterest Traffic Example

As I wait for organic traffic to grow, the Pinterest traffic I am getting is gravy. I only expect it to increase as I get more Followers, Pin more, and create new Boards. Below I'll walk you through my (evolving) strategies regarding generating Pinterest traffic. 

My Current Pinterest Board Strategy

My current Board strategy is to create one Board for every post I do on my DIY site. These posts are really long, image-list posts- frequently over 5,000 words. So I'm comfortable having a 1:1 ratio of Boards to posts.

I'll fill the board up with a mix of Pins directing to my site and Pins directing to other sites.

Every so often I'll go into Analytics and redirect the Pin's URL, if it's getting a lot of Impressions and Clicks, to my site. In terms of generating Pins, I'm using some paid and free Pinterest tools to schedule Pinning and to generate unique images.

My 3 Pinterest Tools

My strategy depends on three different tools:

  1. ViralTag (paid)
  2. Follow Liker (paid)
  3. Canva (free and paid)

1. How I Use ViralTag For Pinterest

ViralTag has several useful functionalities. Probably its strongest feature is that it will let you load a page of images like this Bunk Bed search path on Instructables, and it enable you to schedule these images as Pins to a specified Board, as well as to Twitter and Facebook pages.

ViralTag Logo

The main ways I've been using ViralTag is to:

  1. Pin from Instructables, Instagram and similar image-heavy search paths, either linking to my DIY site or to the original image's site
  2. Pin from Instagram to find unique graphics with long-tail Pin Descriptions
  3. Upload my own graphics in bulk and schedule them out across the week

I also like that ViralTag will grab the image description and use it as a Pin description- I think that this helps attract long-tail search traffic on Pinterest.

You can also upload images in bulk and Pin them to a Board at a set schedule. That's particularly useful if you have a designer create hundreds of Pins, this is the best way I've found of uploading them and drip-feeding them to your account.

Pinterest is hungry for new images. Besides creating my own custom graphics, I've been experimenting with Pinning from Instagram. I search using hashtags for DIY-style content and then use ViralTag to scrape and schedule the images to a specified board.

The Instagram images often are text-heavy, which I suspect attracts long-tails search queries on Pinterest itself.

ViralTag And Content Scheduling

The way I'm currently using ViralTag in coordination with my site's Post publications is that as I come up with new post ideas I'll create a Private Board in advance and fill it up with Pins pointing to the URL of my pending post.

Since it's not published yet I don't want to make it a Public Board. Once I've published it, then I can make it public. It takes awhile for me to publish posts on this site. Much longer than creating a Board and scheduling relevant Pins to it.

So ViralTag pinning always runs ahead of the content schedule. Anticipating the content and pinning in advance of a post's publication helps to drive traffic to it from day 1. 


2. How To Use FollowLiker For Pinterest

Follow Liker is a desktop application that automates a variety of Pinterest tasks. I use it primarily to automate Following and Unfollowing actions, and sometimes repinning, whenever the ViralTag queue is empty.

FollowLiker Logo

You can also automate Commenting- but I'm somewhat leery of getting penalized for spam commenting, so I stopped auto-commenting.

Though this guy recommends using emojis as comments- not a bad strategy.

Don't Get Banned By Pinterest

It should be said that FollowLiker goes violates Pinterest's Terms of Service- so proceed at your own risk. ​In my experience, however, as long as you don't act too spammy, especially right out of the gate, you should be alright.

There are no exact rules for what constitutes spammy-looking behavior- but Pinterest does not condone the automation of following and unfollowing, that's for sure.

The TailWind blog has a good take on how to stay out of 'Pinterest Jail'.

Follow Liker Pinterest Settings 

As I mentioned, I use FollowLiker to automate following and unfollowing and sometimes to Repin, but I want to walk you through some settings considerations. When you buy FollowLiker you do get access to a complete training document. It's a fairly comprehensive resource.  

Take It Slow On New Accounts

Especially for a new account, it makes sense to start off slow. You don't want to come out of the gate shotgunning likes and mass unfollowing Pinterest users. You might attract the wrath of Pinterest and have your account banned.

I adjust the settings to mimic a normal user as much as possible. This means I'm not Repinning every 3 seconds, 24 hours a day, with a Repin limit of 10,000.

Since I run Follow Liker in the background on my work computer, and it's running pretty much 18 hours a day, I'm comfortable setting the Delay Repin limit really broad- something like 95 seconds and 1,045 seconds.

I also like to keep the Follow:UnFollow ratio near 1 that way it looks like a quality account and not someone desperate for Follows. 

When in doubt about a particular setting, ask yourself how 'human' it looks. You don't want to come across like a bot. 

Getting Followers By Providing Unique Value

Also, when it comes to getting followers, it's best to follow people who are likely to follow you back.

When I first started using Follow Liker I followed the followers of general DIY accounts. I've recently switched that up a bit and I started following woodworking accounts and rebranded my own Pinterest account as a woodworking plans resource- which it is.

It might be that my first pass at gaining followers failed because I came across too generic. There are tons of generic DIY sites on Pinterest- so I wasn't providing unique value.

I'm thinking if I niche down and demonstrate value to a specific, core-audience of Pinterest users (those who like woodwork crafts), I might get better follower conversions.


3. How I Use Canva For Pinterest

Canva is a free graphic design tool. Very much a drag-and-drop, Photoshop alternative, it lets you create and save graphics and store everything on the cloud.

Once you play around with it for a bit, you'll realize how easy it is to create fairly stunning social media graphics. Since I lack a true design sense, I'll often research top-performing Pins on Pinterest in my niche and then see how close I can approximate them in Canva.

Then I'll save the graphic as a template and re-use it over and over with different images.

Canva Pinterest Template Example

Pinterest Pin Canva Template Example

I'm in the process now of of creating these Canva templates that are based off of DIY pins that have proven popular. My goal is to hire and train someone to use my Canva templates to create hoards of new graphics for my Pinterest account.

Since Canva is so intuitive, my goal is to hire a generic Virtual Assistant to do the work, rather than an 'overpriced' graphic designer.

I've created Canva templates in different sizes- a really long graphic and also some with Canva's own recommended dimensions for Pinterest.

Time will tell what performs best- I'll update this post once I've seen the results of my custom-graphic Pinterest experiment. When it comes to hiring the right freelancer, you can read more about my UpWork hiring process- though this post specifically deals with how I hire and train writers, it also applies to how I would recruit and negotiate with a graphic designer.

Final Thoughts

I'm really at the beginning of defining the best Pinterest strategy for this DIY site. It's a little bit messy. For example, I'll often forget to fill up the ViralTag schedule with Pins.

Or I'll forget to turn off Follow Liker Repinning after I've loaded up the ViralTag schedule with Pins. That could lead to Pinning too close together (less than 3 seconds apart) and might flag my account for review. 

All that said, it feels good to be in a visual niche that diversifies my traffic channels. I've never liked being so dependent on Google organic traffic. No traffic channel is 100% safe, so it only makes sense to spread out your user acquisition channels as broadly as possible.  ​

How to Replace Your Salary As A Ticketmaster Affiliate

ticket affiliate sites

This niche report is pretty exciting for me.

Why?

Because I'm personally pursuing it. The good news is that there's a ton of wide-open white space in this niche, so you don't have to worry about me eating up all the opportunity.

The niche is ticket sales. More specifically, becoming an affiliate for a ticketing platform like Ticketmaster, Ticketfly (an Eventbrite company) or TicketNetwork.

Video Explainer: Why I Like This Niche

Check out my video walk through below- I examine why I like this niche and discuss strategy. I'd be deeply appreciative if you left a like or a comment on the video. I respond to all comments!

How does this work? 

You'll be writing up local event guides for Chattanooga, Tennessee, for example.

You'll be profiling local concert halls, ranking for these low competition terms, and adding your ticket affiliate links to the page.

It doesn't even have to be concert halls- you can profile local sports teams, regional music acts, even business conferences.

For example, since I'm a rabid Knicks fan, you can even be an affiliate for Knicks tickets. You can even niche down and profile the Westchester Knicks- the Knicks G-League team. 

Keyword Research

Below, I extracted 1,000 of SongKick's venue category pages.

As you can see below, there's a ton of venues with significant search volume and low Keyword Difficulty scores.

For example, the term "foxwoods concerts" has a KD of 1 with 6,800 searches a month. The term "lincoln hall chicago" has a KD of 0 with 5,900 searches a month.

The point being, there's a ton of search volume, with very little competition, for venue terms.

With a couple backlinks from guest posting, my guess is it'll be pretty easy to rank for these terms and monetize traffic with a ticket, flight, parking affiliate partner.

Why I Like This Niche

  • I love SEO + affiliate plays- it's my favorite way to make money online.
  • It diversifies me from depending on one affiliate program too much. 
  • It's interesting discovering local concert halls and entertainment centers.
  • It's easy to generate cheap content- having my team of writers rewrite Yelp and Google reviews to generate landing pages that rank for buyer-intent keywords like "[venue name] + tickets".
  • Represents an opportunity to get into the ultra-lucrative 'travel' niche.

*If Google Trends doesn't load- just refresh the page.

Ticket Affiliate Programs

  • Ticketfly (25% of sale)
  • TicketNetwork (12% of sale)
  • StubHub (7% of sale)
  • TicketMaster (varies by region)

The Best Part

Some of these websites also partner with Parking affiliate programs, Hotel affiliate programs, and Air Travel affiliate programs. This is an excellent, 'backdoor' way of tapping into ultra-lucrative travel affiliate programs.

Now, imagine you've written up a profile of Bobby Bakala's Chattanooga Bar & Grill- you're ranking on the first page for this imaginary location.

This page will have links to upcoming shows as well as affiliate links for pre-paid parking, flights and even hotels! Out of town attendees will conceivably use your links to buy the ticket, buy a flight, purchase accommodation, and maybe register with a parking garage.

Now imagine you build a content machine that pumps out these hyper-local music hall profiles. There are thousands and thousands of venues across America each with thousands of searches a month.

Some of the ticketing giants like TicketFly don't even bother to create good content for their venue pages. There's just too many of them to cover. For example, check out TicketFly's page for Bowery Electric, a concert hall near me in NYC. 

Bowery Electric | New York, NY

for party reservations and general info 212-228-0228

There's no content on it! It has the widget that produces the upcoming schedule. That's it. It currently ranks on the first page for the 9,900 monthly search term "bowery electric".

While your site won't have the same domain authority as a site like TicketFly, you can outcompete them on content.

Write a 1,000 words on Bowery Electric. Hell, write 2,000. See what happens. I'm honestly surprised at how little content there is for pages ranking on the first page...

Using A Ticket Plugin Creator

When I joined TicketNetwork, they link to where you can create customized ticket plugins like the one below that I made for Bowery Electric:

A Great Opportunity For Beginners

This is also a great niche for noobs because these ticketing services are hungry for affiliates. Which means you'll likely be accepted.

(Though the Amazon Associates program is still the best place to start if you're looking for a high-converting, easy-to-join affiliate program.)

It's not like applying to some snooty program that has 'artisinal' standards for their affiliates. Like they're doing you a favor letting you into their program.

The ticket business is cut throat and these ticket platforms are desperate for traffic. No doubt they're upselling the leads you send them on their end- the traffic you send their way is REALLY valuable.

If you buy a ticket from one of these purveyors, you'll have provided both your email and credit card/PayPal information to them.

This means that upselling you going forward is easier now that they've locked in your payment information, they have your email, they know your location and music tastes. You shouldn't have too much difficulty getting into one of the programs.

How I Discovered This Opportunity

I try to spend some part of my day wandering around the internet brainstorming for new ideas.

One of my favorite websites is Flippa.com. It's a place to bid on websites and domains. It's also a great place to get inspiration.

 I found an auction listing for a site that uses this ticket affiliate model. It appealed to me straightaway. The SEO --> affiliate offer recipe is probably the most delicious opportunity online, providing the means for true passive income

Ultra Secret Content Tip

I was listening to the AffiliateBuzz podcast recently where a Vinny O'Hare, a successful niche site marker, talked about one of his secret content strategies. 

In a nutshell, he'll use the WordPress plugin Gravity Forms to interview people in his niche. The respondents will fill out the survey, submit it back to his site and because Gravity forms integrates with WordPress, the response can be imported as an unpublished Post.

This means that he gets tons of User Generated (i.e. Free) content. Obviously there needs to be an incentive for the survey respondents to do this. In his case, he runs a site in the book niche and he's interviewing authors who are desperate for some added publicity.

Down the line, I anticipate doing something similar- sending out Gravity Forms to music venues and publishing their responses to rake in more traffic.

Breaking Down The Niche

The opportunity

Rank for low competition local businesses (concert halls, convention centers) like this local event guide site does.

Any place that your ticket affiliate partner has tickets for.

Add in your affiliate links using the 'widget' tool that TicketNetwork provides and voila you have a high-converting landing page.

How to get traffic

This is a SEO-heavy opportunity. That said, depending on the quality of your writeups, you could discover some social media traction.

For me, I'm really going to focus on building out these local business landing pages.

If you need writers, check out my UpWork hiring guide. Also to be sure to read my domain name buying guide. It really isn't rocket science- choose a city like Chattanooga, search for it in the ticketing service you've affiliated with, pick some of the venues from the list and writeup your profiles. 

Once you've profiled all of the venues in a city, move on to a new city.

How to make money

As I've covered in the intro, you'll monetize by joining ticket, parking, flight and hotel affiliate programs. Traffic comes from SEO.

Don't be impatient!

Especially if you're a beginner, give it a couple months before you start seeing a trickle of profit.

Ticket Affiliate Programs Ticketmaster and Eventbrite

The Duplicate Content Question

The duplicate content question

It raises the hackles of every SEO: "duplicate content".

If you publish content online, you're probably aware that Google frowns upon duplicate content.

According to the search giant, duplicate content refers to "substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar." (Source)

The consequences of duplicate content could include duplicate content being filtered from search results or even the deindexing of offending sites from Google Search.

I have special cause to be leery of duplicate content because I've been penalized for it in the past.

So my interest was piqued by a recent Lion Zeal podcast where Kyle Roof discussed his intriguing empirical insights into the duplicate content question.

I'll discuss his insights in a bit, but first I'll share my own story of how I was smacked down with a duplicate content penalty several years ago.  

How I Got Deindexed


When I first started in internet marketing in 2014, about 6 months in, my fleet of junky affiliate sites was ultimately deindexed for thin and duplicate content.

I learned a painful lesson early on that helped me 'course correct'. 

The Backstory 

When I first started building niche sites in 2014, I was using a product called Kontent Machine, The Best Spinner (article spinning software), and a WordPress plugin called WooZone, to create hundreds of product pages and spun posts.

Kontent Machine

Within the sites, the spun content was very similar and between my site and the Amazon product pages WooZone was cloning, the content was completely identical. Looking back, I really should have known better.

But I was just screwing around on the internet.

I was buying exact match domains and spending agonizing hours spinning words, sentences, paragraphs, and images and then using Kontent Machine to upload it to a site with specific keywords, downloaded from LongTailPro, dynamically inserted into the content. 

I think I came to Google's attention after a particularly ambitious WooZone session where I imported over a hundred "seat cushion" product pages for my seat cushion review website.

That's when the hammer came down and I received a manual penalty for thin or duplicate content on all of my sites. I was deindexed.

SCR logo

Probably the best-looking logo I've ever designed

It was pretty demoralizing. I was making ~$150 a month (peanuts compared to now) at that point and getting a couple hundred visitors a month across all of my sites- nothing too impressive. 

While dispirited, I had enough perspective to realize that it was a valuable learning opportunity. Plus I was too obsessed with digital marketing and niche site building to quit.

I'm not a moralistic white hat SEO- at this point I'm more 'practical' than anything else. I prefer building sustainable, 'no risk' websites, rather than using Private Blog Networks or grayer-hat strategies to rank- though I'm still fascinated learning about those techniques.

What's The Point?

After my sites were penalized I became super paranoid about duplicate content on my sites. I knew that duplicating a product page was obviously "duplicate content", but what about 7 words of content in a row? 10 words? 13 words?

What exactly is the threshold?

I had no idea.

For example, searching for this exact phrase in Google: "When I first started building niche sites" there are 7 exact matches. And you can see at the bottom of the page that Google has filtered out some other exact matches from the SERPs.

When I first started building niche sites Google Search (Small)

Does this mean that because I use this exact match phrase in the first few paragraphs of my post that the entire post would suffer a ranking penalty or be filtered from the SERPs altogether?

What's The Duplicate Content Threshold?

No one in the SEO community really knows what threshold Google uses to determine duplicate content because their algorithm isn't public knowledge.

However, Kyle Roof, who appeared on the Lion Zeal podcast, has some unique insight.

His SEO agency, High Voltage SEO, specializes in running statistical tests to empirically analyze some of these confounding questions about Google's ranking algorithm.

One of his insights is that the duplicate content filter is actually "binary". The video below will start at the relevant section where Kyle Roof discusses this.

Transcript:​

"So Google talks about unique content. Google just wants unique content, fresh content, you know, we want the most unique thing that's going on the web.

So my thought process as soon as you read that it's like well how much unique is unique? And so we tested that and you may have seen it, have you ever seen a little blue line where they filter out these results because we think they're the same?

So you can get past that filter, the duplicate content filter, with 51% unique content. 

So that's what we tested and figured out your page only needs to be 51% to get past that threshold for Google's uniqueness which is a pretty low bar.

So when Google is talking about like 'hey, we need fresh new things', yeah, they need 51% unique."

The Takeaway

The takeaway is that, as of this writing, October 2017, a page is either considered duplicate or not. This has important implications.

To my mind, I had blindly assumed that Google was assigning qualitative scores to content- analyzing content duplication across and between sites and that your SERP rank was either helped or harmed depending on whether it found 0%, 10%, 15%, 25%, etc. duplication.

Apparently, Google's algorithm when it comes to monitoring duplicate content in the SERPs is a lot less advanced than that. The decision to filter your content from search is as binary as whether it is 51% unique or not. 

For me, this is somewhat relieving. Although I only publish unique content on my various money-making properties, I'm less paranoid now about rewritten or marginally similar content triggering a death-blow from Google. 

It's okay, for example, to block quote a section of text if it enhances your content- as long as that content isn't more than 49% of the total. 

Keep In Mind

This isn't to say that Google won't release an update in the future that changes how it analyzes redundant content in the SERPs. So I wouldn't go wild, for example, producing 51% unique content because it halves your content expenses. 

As well, you're not immune to manual reviews. The SERP filtering is automated- but if you are reproducing lots of exact-match duplicate content on your site, there's still a chance you'll end up in Google's crosshairs. 

I'm not a technical SEO- there are a lot of people (check out Josh Bachynski's YouTube channel) with a more advanced, technical understanding of the search engines. This is just my perspective as a content & affiliate marketer making a living online. 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Why MailChimp Terminated My Account

MailChimp Logo

In this post, I discuss why my MailChimp account was terminated. And what I did about it.

Why was it banned?

Apparently the emails I've been sending are in violation of their Acceptable Use policy.

What it boils down to is that this site, nichefacts.com, which is technically in the notorious 'make money online' space, had autoresponder emails that contained keywords that presumably triggered an automated review/suspension of my account. 

Below, I'll discuss the email I received, how I responded, and what you should do if your account is banned by MailChimp.

*Update: I have switched to ConvertKit and I'm happy so far. What I like best about it is the minimalist, modern design and its intuitiveness.

The Termination Email

This is the email I received:

Hello Ryan,

MailChimp is not able to serve as the email provider for your account with the username [redacted], because the content associated with your industry conflicts with our Acceptable Use Policy (mailchimp.com/legal/acceptable_use) or presents a significant risk to our deliverability.

Though we don't judge anyone's content or industry, there are strict anti-spam and ISP rules that we must comply with in order to maintain the best possible sending reputation.

These filters are sensitive to certain keywords, and some industries tend to generate greater-than-average complaint rates with their emails.

You may log in at any time to back up your data (http://eepurl.com/6BOJv). For questions related to billing, please contact billing@mailchimp.com.

When I first received the email I thought that it was some sort of glitch on their end- but after replying back, it became apparent that the account was terminated and there was nothing I could do about it. 

Their account suspension page essentially reaffirmed the email's vague wording:

Why Accounts Get Suspended

If you tried to log in to MailChimp, but got an Account Suspended message, our abuse-prevention system or human review team likely noticed something about your account or last email campaign that raised a red flag.

The Offending Email

Given the limited amount of email I send, I think it was this email that triggered the violation:

If you're looking to earn affiliate commissions on high-ticket items, my post on gym-equipment is a goldmine.

This is a great SEO play- if you focus on publishing long-form, high-quality, product reviews on items like elliptical machines and weight benches, you can begin tallying affiliate commissions on items that cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars with Amazon Associates, Walmart, Jet and other fitness-equipment retailers. 

Let's run the numbers...

Take elliptical machines, for example- a 201,000/monthly search term.

A quick scan of some eCommerce sites shows me that an elliptical trainer ranges in price between $500 and $3,000 on average.

Some of these elliptical machines are in the Amazon.com Sports & Outdoor category, which earns you a 4% commission from Amazon if you're an affiliate. That means for every elliptical you can get someone to order, the average commission you earn will be between $20 - $120. 

Imagine the average commission is $70. If you're able to get 3 elliptical orders a day, you'd be making $210 a day on average.

That's $76,650 in a year.

I Already Did The Keyword Research For You

A common question I get is 'how do I do keyword research for [name niche]'. Well, you're in luck because I love doing keyword research and I already did all the work for you. 

Check out this keyword research table for gym equipment- it lists out ALL the gym equipment keywords I could find. Scroll through these gym equipment niches. I hope they provide you some inspiration. 

As always, if you have any questions, just respond to this email!

Red Flags?

As you can see, while the email contains certain keywords like "cash" and $ signs, it's not spam.

It walks the recipient through the math of making a sustainable living from affiliate commissions.

If you're like me, your Spam folder is chock full of obscene and unsolicited emails from suspect senders- and apparently I was now lumped in with this crowd.

spam

That said, I do understand that they probably have hundreds of thousands of users sending millions of emails. Their brand reputation and email deliverability essentially depends on the quality of the emails their users are sending.

If Google, for example, begins spam-filtering MailChimp-sent emails because it offends Gmail's standards, that will dramatically hurt their bottom line. I am somewhat sympathetic to that issue. Regardless, from my end, the user experience in this case was awful.

What Recourse Do You Have?

boxing

There is no phone support- so if you're suspended there's no one you can speak with. At least in my case.

I pasted in the content of the 'offending' email to support to demonstrate its legitimacy.  

Obviously, I'm not some 'sexual health spammer' blasting my subscribers with erectile enhancement offers.

Their support was completely unhelpful- there was no wriggle room. And, honestly, it's not like I would have continued using MailChimp even if they had given me a 'reprieve'.

This sort of automated termination is a real red flag- I would never have felt comfortable building my online business on the back of a platform that is so cavalier with account suspension. 

What I Did

I asked for a 3 month refund for the inconvenience. They accepted and provided the refund once I deleted my account.

I'm now in the process of evaluating autoresponder alternatives. I also took the time to post my experience on some blogs that evaluate autoresponder services.

Affiliate Monetization

It's important that this issue receives some exposure- especially if you think the content of your emails might be mistaken for spam.

Final Thoughts

I'm currently in the market for a new email provider. At the end of the day, MailChimp did have limited functionality.

For example, if you want to merge 2 lists, their support had a convoluted workaround. So if you have an opt-in that you just want to send 3 emails to as part of a funnel, and then merge it with you primary followup sequence- it isn't easy to do.

But, I've found it difficult so far to find an honest appraisal of autoresponders because every review I've seen is an affiliate review. I'm considering ConvertKit, but have seen some negative reviews.

You really don't want to have to migrate from email providers- it's a considerable hassle.

Anyway, what to do if MailChimp suspends or terminates your account...

  1. Figure out if you can recover AND whether you even want to. 
  2. Ask for money back for the inconvenience.
  3. Find an alternative provider.

When you source an alternative provider, you'll want to do some due diligence ahead of time.

For example, if MailChimp bans you because you used keywords they don't like, you'll want to make sure the new provider doesn't have a similar policy. 

That's something I'm definitely going to be asking about ahead of time. As well, this termination gives me a reason to up my list-building strategy.

Now I'm actually forced to switch email providers and implement a more powerful strategy using a more robust software solution. That's the silver lining in all of this. 

If you've been banned by MailChimp, let me know in the Comments section below.

How To Choose A Brandable Domain Name

how to choose a brandable domain name

Choosing domain names can be a tricky business.

When I first started I was big on Exact Match Domains.

So I registered domains like BestChineseDietPills.com, RollatorReviews.com and SeatCushionReviews.com.

Don't do that...

Make sure you choose a brandable domain name.

What do I mean by brandable?

For example, if you want to build a site that ranks for "best tea kettle" (2,900 monthly searches and an Ahrefs Keyword Difficulty score of 2), don't register bestteakettles.com. 

Why not, you ask? I'll walk you through six reasons why it's a bad idea. 

6 Reasons Not To Buy An Exact Match Domain

1. It Just Looks Spammy

Long exact match domain names look untrustworthy. They have an unmemorable URL structure. They just don't engender trust from your users.

2. It Caps Your Growth Potential

Once you've reviewed every tea kettle on Amazon, you'll realize that you could probably rank for "tea mugs" (8,100 monthly searches) and "tea cozy" (6,600 monthly searches). 

But if your site's scope is capped by an Exact Match Domain, it'll be difficult to expand. 

As well, its harder and more incongruous to write informational content ("how to steep green tea", "the 25 health benefits of green tea", etc.) if your domain is BestTeaKettles.com versus something like TeaDollar.com.

3. No One Will Link To You

If you want to get backlinks to your site to increase its Domain Authority, you'll likely have to do some manual outreach to other websites. 

Trust me, it's much, much easier to get links to a site called TeaDollar.com, from the email address Ryan@TeaDollar.com, than BestTeaKettles.com.

(If you're into the tea niche, check GoDaddy to see if TeaDollar is still available).

The Exact Match Domain positively screams "affiliate site". Other webmasters are savvy and are unlikely to share your URL with their audience if they think you're just in it for profits. 

Think about it...

Do you think the New York Times website would ever link to a site called BestTeaKettles.com?

Unlikely. But, I could reasonably see them linking to TeaDollar.com. To me, it sounds like a site for budget-conscious tea-drinkers. Or perhaps a quirky finance blog. You get the picture.   

4. It'll Prevent You From Getting Into Other Affiliate Programs

Once you've 'outgrown' Amazon and want to experiment with other affiliate programs, it's much easier to approach them with your brandable domain than a 3-word exact match domain.

Will it really prevent you from getting into the Upton Tea affiliate program? Who's to say. But it certainly doesn't help.

5. Your Email List Will Suffer

Think about your own web-browsing habits. Would you feel comfortable giving your email address to a site called BestTeaKettles.com?

Say you were reading about a new Breville tea kettle on this hypothetical site and a popup appears asking you to subscribe to their email list.

How likely is it that you'd want to ever hear from BestTeaKettles.com?

I wouldn't.

If that were me, I'd be thinking, "OK...so I'm going to be sent emails about the best tea kettles. Since I'm buying one now from Amazon there's no reason to hear from this site again."

But "TeaDollar.com"? I would think, "Sure...now that I have my tea kettle I could certainly use some tips on how to brew my tea and recommendations on the best teas to buy."

You get the idea. 

6. It Harms Healthy Anchor Text Ratios

When people backlink to you, they'll use anchor text like "click here", or keywords related to your site. In many cases they'll use your domain name. If your domain name is stuffed with your primary keywords, your backlink profile might look spammy to Google.

Google takes a dim view of over-optimized backlink anchor text- their Penguin update targeted backlinking strategies that they viewed as manipulative. For example, a website with 100% of it's backlink anchor text reading "best tea kettles" would have been targeted by the Penguin update.

So, if your domain name is stuffed with niche-related keywords, and people use them to link to you, there's a chance your backlink anchor text ratio will look somewhat 'off' to Google. It's another reason why you should opt for a brandable domain name. 

A site name like "TeaDollar.com" will allow you to manually build and naturally acquire healthier backlink anchor text like "Tea Dollar", "TeaDollar", "Tea Dollar site" as opposed to something that looks spammy and keyword-stuffed like "Best Tea Kettles".  

Gotch SEO has a really great post on understanding anchor text ratios in a post-Penguin world. 

Exact Match Domains And SEO Value

All that said, there is some SEO value to having an Exact Match Domain. But, in my opinion, its costs dramatically outweigh its benefits. While choosing an exact match domain for "best chinese diet pills" might incrementally help you rank for that specific term, you''re losing out on the more important fronts I enumerated above.

How To Choose A Compelling Domain Name

For domain name inspiration, I use 5 primary tools. First, head over to GoDaddy and then choose one of the following tools for inspiration:

  • Shopify's Business Name Generator: just input your keyword and it'll provide you some fairly brandable options (depending on how competitive your niche is). 
  • Panabee: basically combines 2 words together into unique combinations- a good brainstorming tool. 
  • Thesaurus.com: an online thesaurus- if you're feeling stumped, check out some synonyms for your keyword. 
  • DomCop: basically an expired domain name marketplace. You can filter through tons of expired domain names. It's good for inspiration or even purchase- just be careful not to buy a domain name with a spammy backlink profile. Yoast has a good writeup of how to identify a bad backlink profile. 
  • Domainr: a minimalist tool that quickly checks availability and helps coordinate purchase options. 

You can also run a search for "domain name" on ​ProductHunt.com. Product Hunt is a discovery tool for startups and services, essentially- it'll have new domain name products every so often. 

Anyways, depending on your niche, it's more or less easy to find a compelling domain name.

For something like "Tea" it's pretty easy. For a keyword like "Money" or "Lawyer" or "SEO", it's understandably much more competitive. 

One process I've used is to scour Thesaurus.com to find a bunch of interesting synonyms for my niche's primary keyword and then plug them into the Shopify and Panabee domain name tool.  

Before you know it you'll have a pretty strong list of candidates. 

Keep track of all the domain names you come up with in a Google Sheet. Once you have 25 or so you can ask your friends and family which ones they like- that'll give you some objective feedback.

You can even create a Google form survey and distribute it to a bunch of people to get more comprehensive feedback. 

While choosing a strong domain name is undeniably important, you don't want it to become an all-consuming task. Stick to the organized process I've outlined above and you'll be able to make a timely selection of a brandable domain name. 

$800 A Day Using LongTailPro [Keyword Research]

LongTailPro Keyword Research Review

In this post I'm going to review the 3 different ways I've profitably used the LongTailPro keyword research tool.

  1. I've used it to locate long-tail content ideas for my money sites (Affiliate Content) and generate about $800/day passively.
  2. I've used it as a freelance digital marketing consultant to provide keyword research and content generation services to a health and wellness company (Content Consulting).
  3. I've also used it as an AdWords consultant for a large media-measurement company in NYC to organize their paid search campaigns. (Paid Search Consulting).

What Is LongTailPro?

It's an ultra-functional keyword research tool that lets you input "seed" keywords and then spits out a near comprehensive list of long-tail, related keywords.

It will additionally provide you their Average Keyword Competitiveness scores (KC), search volumes, advertiser competition, suggested bid and even average number of Amazon reviews.

I really only use it for the keywords, volume, and KC scores, however.

When you buy it, you'll get access to their desktop tool (which is what I use) and online access to their cloud keyword tool, which includes keyword rank tracking.

The addition of rank tracking is important because often times that's a separate service you have to pay for. LTP has bundled the two together- so that's good extra value.

LongTailPro Pricing Plans

What You Get

There are 3 different pricing plans. I'm currently on the Annual Starter Plan, at $37 a month. The more expensive plans entitle you to greater number of keyword searches a month.

But, for me, I don't conduct anywhere near the limit of 10,000 keyword searches a month. They also offer a free 7-day trial. I'd recommend trailing the software to see what you think- there's no risk.

Let's dive in...


1. Using LongTailPro For Affiliate Profit

One of my primary affiliate sites targets a keyword for every post. There's zero overlap between posts.

So when I come up with a keyword I want to target I'll always run it through LongTailPro to get ALL the possible keyword data for that content.

Affiliate Monetization

I'll then download the terms it produces into a spreadsheet and then send it along to my writers who can reference the list as they write and thematically incorporate the different terms into their content.

As I've touched on in other posts, these keywords are like traffic pathways. The search engines are trying to serve the most relevant content, so if someone is searching for a "discount patio rug", and my keyword research prompted me to include that content in my "Outdoor Rug" write-up, my site will have the opportunity to rank well and get traffic for that term.

Example #1

Recently I decided to do a long image-list post for "outdoor rugs". Here's what the process looked like and how I used LTP.

  1. I used the LinkClump Chrome extension​ to scrape product URLs from an eCommerce store I'm an affiliate for and compiled them into a spreadsheet.
  2. I then hand rewrote their product titles using LTP to source keywords that I then included like "plastic", "large", "patio carpet", "discount", "bamboo", etc.
  3. I then sent these URLs, with their rewritten titles over to my writers with the LTP "Outdoor Rug" keyword spreadsheet and they provided 100 word keyword-optimized blurbs for each rug. 

As you can see, LTP provides granular keyword research data. This information gets incorporated into your content to help you attract long-tail, buyer-motivated searches. That's how you use it to make money online. 

2. Using LongTailPro As A Digital Marketing Consultant

As I mentioned, I've used LTP as a consultant- it was an indispensible tool for me. I used it to generate content ideas for companies I was consulting with.

I've used it when I was an AdWords consultant at a well-known media-measurement company to help organize their paid search strategy. And I've used it to grow my own six-figure online business.

Marketing Consulting Using LongTailPro

As an aside if you want to start your own digital marketing consulting business, one offering I would recommend is using LongTailPro to find quantifiably low-competition content ides and then managing writers you hire off of UpWork to produce the content.

I did this for awhile, freelancing, before my site's earnings were significant enough to 'retire' into. This is great if you're trying to build a passive-income business. You're probably already in the content generation game, so doing this for a business will be a cinch.


One of my favorite uses of LongTailPro is to discover topically relevant, long-tail keywords, and then calculate their Keyword Competitiveness scores. The way it works, LongTailPro will intake 'seed' keywords and output a focused list of related long-tail keywords. You can then gather the KC scores- this will help you discover low-competition keywords you can create content around.

Content Consulting Example #2

Back when I was consulting for an integrative health coaching company, I was tasked with building a content pipeline for their health blog.

This was before my own affiliate site was producing a livable income.

Content Generation Strategy Using LongTailPro

The process was finding low-competition keywords and then managing a team of UpWork writers who would produce the content the blog would publish.

Since they published a lot of healthy eating content, one content strategy I used was compiling a list of fruits and vegetables, importing them using Find Keywords > Add My Own Keywords, and then calculating the Avgerage Keyword Competitiveness.

Once I had this list, I played around with the filters, setting the max Average Keyword Competitiveness to 35 and picking off some of the larger volume keywords like Sassafrass and Corn Salad (49,500 and 22,200/monthly searches) as potential content ideas for the writers.

Even further, I would run that individual keyword through LongTailPro again. So, LongTailPro would produce even more keywords for the seed keyword "Sassafrass".

This list of keywords would serve as a content resource for the writers who were instructed to sprinkle in all of the different variations into their writing.

Organizing The Keyword Content

Below is an excerpt from the spreadsheet I used to track the keywords, their volume, the KC, and the status of publication (green meant it was published).

Organizing Content Ideas With LongTailpro

Great For Consulting

The advantage to using LongTailPro, especially in a consulting environment, was that I wasn't picking content ideas out of nowhere.

I had quantifiable proof that these were low-competition keywords to produce content for.

My UpWork Hiring Process

Now, they might never achieve great rankings, though many of them did, and LongTailPro also provides keyword rank tracking, but I could also defend my work by deferring to the KC metrics.

In addition, you can begin correlating your ranking with the KC metric- so if you see that you get to the first page of Google for KC scores in the range of 20-30, but not for KC scores in the range of 30+, then you know which KC scores to target going forward. 

Content Consulting Example #3

Besides fruits and vegetables, they also did a lot of content around "detoxing". As an aside, think about the sort of content your website produces, or if you're a consultant, think about the primary content themes.

If your goal is to get organic traffic by playing in the 'long tail', LongTailPro is the best tool I've used to discover 3 word phrases that get at least 4 figure monthly search volume. As well, you'll always attract hundreds of ancillary search traffic visitors because keyword research is 'holistic'. You aren't just getting traffic for some one that types in "detox diet". You're getting traffic to the post when someone searches for "detox diet for vegetarians", for example.

I always recommend going another level deep- so once you have a list of keywords for "Detoxification", it might make sense to run a keyword you turn up like "Natural Cleanse" through LongTailPro again, like I did for "Sassafrass" in the prior example.

As you can see in the table below, there are a TON of ideas and topics here. There are things I've never heard of like "Lemon Detox". While the KC is 45, don't let that dissuade you. Run it through LTP again and you'll find a bunch of different Lemon-Detox-related keywords you can include in your content to get passive, organic traffic.


3. Paid Search Consulting

LongTailPro was also a useful tool when I was an AdWords consultant at large media-measurement company based in NYC.

Paid Search Example #4

One of the strategies I used was to input the company's name as a seed keyword to discover all of the company's brand-related searches.

Once I had the list it was easy to thematically structure their AdWords accounts so that certain Ads were displayed to certain searches.

AdWords Strategy With LongTailPro

This meant that someone searching for a particular company product was sent to the correct landing page rather than just being pushed to the company's Home Page, as they had been in their old setup.

For example, before I applied my changes, anyone who searched for the company name was served the same ad and sent to the homepage. After I did my magic in LongTailPro, we were serving highly targeted Google search ads to people and sending them to the right product page.

I preferred using LongTailPro to AdWord's own Keyword Planner because I found the interface more intuitive and the keyword lists much more comprehensive. Plus, LongTailPro makes the keyword results filterable/searchable.

This was really helpful for AdWords because it allowed me to exactly segregate different searches into different Ad Groups without overlap between them. This made my work very comprehensive and thorough. I was confident that I was covering all my bases, especially when it came to branded search terms.

And I had LongTailPro's keyword outputs saved as spreadsheets for the company's higher ups to review.

Final Thoughts

LongTailPro was one of the first internet-marketing products that I ever bought and I've been a customer for several years now. ​In my experience, the keyword lists it produces are the most relevant and focused.

While I love Ahrefs, I find that their keyword tool produces a lot of extraneous results- random, unrelated keywords, and oftentimes duplicate results. Ahrefs is heading for a major overhaul as of this writing, so this might be addressed in the future. 

I know that I can rely on LTP to easily output the majority of the related keywords​, easily export it to a CSV file in a single click, so that my writers and WordPress admins can create content that gets free, organic traffic.