Conversion.ai Review

Background / Intro

One of my longtime friends who was Internet marketing long before I was hit me up on Skype about a week ago praising Conversion.ai. I have to think long and hard about any other time he has really pitched or recommended something like that & really I just can't think of any other time where he did that. The following day my wife Giovanna mentioned something to me and I was like "oh you should check out this thing my buddy recommended yesterday" and then I looked and realized they were both talking about the same thing. :D

I have a general heuristic that if people I trust recommend things I put them near the top of the "to do" list and if multiple people I trust do that I pull out the credit card and run at it.

Unfortunately I have been a bit burned out recently and launched a new site which I have put a few hundred hours into, so I haven't had the time to do too much testing, BUT I have a writer who works for me who has a master's degree in writing, and figured she could do a solid review. And she did. :D

She is maybe even a bit more cynical than I am (is that even possible?) and a certified cat lady who loves writing, reading, poetry and is more into a soft sell versus aggressive sales.

Full disclosure...the above link and the one at the end of this post are affiliate links, but they had zero impact on the shape or format of the review. The reviewer was completely disconnected from the affiliate program and I pulled out my credit card to pay for the software for her to test it out.

With that tiny bit of a micro-introduction, the rest of the post from here on out is hers. I may have made a couple minor edits for clarity (and probably introduced a few errors she will choke me for. :D) but otherwise the rest of this post is all her ...

An In-depth Review of the Conversion.ai Writing Software

Considering the possibilities of artificial intelligence (AI), we picture robots doing tasks autonomously like humans. With a computer’s brain power, productivity is accelerated significantly. We also expect AI programs to have the capability to evolve intelligently the longer they are used. These types of AI employ “machine learning,” or deep learning to solve problems.

AI technology can be leveraged by various industries, especially with writing. Recently, I learned about the Conversion.ai copywriting tool. It uses machine learning which claims to write “high converting copy” for websites, ads, landing pages, emails, etc. The software is geared towards writers, marketers, entrepreneurs, and agencies that benefit from creating engaging and effective copy. To date, companies such as Hubspot, Shopify, and Salesforce are known to use the software. Currently, it’s offering a 7-day free trial with 20,000-word credits.

To give you the lowdown on Conversion.ai, I wrote an in-depth review of how this software works. I’ll go through its various features and show examples of how I used them. I’ll include the advantages of using Conversion.ai’s Jarvis (that’s what it’s called) in writing scenarios. More importantly, I’ll discuss challenges and specific limitations this tool might present.

Assistance in Creating High Conversion Copy

As a writer doing web copy for 10 years, including the time I took a post-grad creative writing degree, I grabbed the opportunity to try this AI software. For starters, it struck me how Conversion.ai claims to provide “high converting copy” for increased conversion and higher ROI. Such claims are a tall order. If you’ve been in the marketing or sales industry, you’d know conversion depends on so many other factors, such as the quality of the actual product, customer support, price, etc. It’s not just how well copy is written, though it’s a vital part. But anyway, upon more research, I learned the app generates copy based on proven high conversion sales and marketing messages.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this conversion strategy. I believe it’s a double-edged sword. This is not to undermine facts or measurable data. Basing content creation on “proven content” means you’re likely using the same phrases, techniques, and styles already used by successful competitors. This serves as a jumping board for ideas of course, so you know what’s already there. However, it can be an echo chamber. Marketers must not forget that execution must still be fresh. Otherwise, you’ll sound like everyone else.

Next, while it seems sustainable, it also sounds pretty safe. If your product or service is not that distinct, you must put extra effort to create content that stands out. This applies to all aspects of the marketing strategy, not just in writing content. It’s a crucial principal I learned after reading Purple Cow by Seth Godin (thanks for the book suggestion, Aaron!).

Depending on your product or service, Conversion.ai will generate copy that most consumers keep going back to. Based on the samples it generated, I’d say it really does come up with engaging copy, though it needs editing. If your business must rewrite product descriptions for extensive inventories, Conversion.ai can cut the time in half. It can help automate description rewriting without hiring more writers. That saves money and time, so businesses need fewer writers and editors.

What did I learn? Conversion.ai can make writing and editing faster, yes, especially for low-level content focused on descriptions. It can also inform the strength of your ideas for more creative campaigns. However, it still takes solid direction and creativity to drive good marketing copy forward. That said, it’s only as good as the writer utilizing this app. As a content creator, you cannot rely on it solely for creativity. But as an enhancer, it will significantly help push ideas forward, organize campaigns, and structure engaging copy effectively.

When you use this app, it offers many different features that help create and organize content. It also customizes copy for various media platforms. Beyond rewriting , it even has special brainstorming tools designed to help writers consider various idea angles. This can add more flavor and uniqueness into a campaign.

At the end of the day, what will set your copy apart is the strength of your ideas and your communication strategy. How you customize content for a business is still entirely up to you. AI writing tools like Conversion.ai can only help enhance your content and the ideas behind it. It’s a far cry from creating truly unique concepts for your campaign, but it definitely helps.

Conversion.ai Writing Features & How They Work

This AI writing app comes with plenty of “writing templates” that are customized to help you write with a specific framework or media platform in mind. Currently, Conversion.ai offers 39 different writing templates or content building blocks that deliver results. We’ll provide details for how each one works.

For company or product descriptions, Conversion.ai has a Start Here step by step guide, which says users should alternate between the Product Description and the Content Improver template until they have found the right mix they’re looking for. But for this review, I just focused on how to use the templates for different writing projects. The app comes with video instructions as well as a live training call if you need further assistance on how to use it.

Each template asks you to input a description or what you want to write about. This is limited to 600 characters. Writing the description is the sole basis for how Jarvis will generate ways to write or expand your content. It also helps you brainstorm and structure ideas for an article or campaign.

But as an issue, I find the 600-character limit can hinder reposting the full content generated by the AI back into the template for improvement. Yes, it churns out marketing copy of more than 600 characters. If you want to post the improved copy again, you might have to do this in two batches. In any case, Jarvis can generate as many improved writing samples as you need.

To give you a better idea, here are different Conversion.ai templates and how they work. This is going to take a while, so have your coffee ready.

Long-form Assistant

This is for longer articles, emails, scripts, and stories. It’s also suggested for writing books. It has two modes, a blank document where you can start typing freely and an assistant workflow. The blank document also lets you access the rest of the other writing templates vertically. On the other hand, the long-form assistant workflow is where the app asks you to describe the content you want to create. Consider this carefully. The better you can articulate your topic, the higher quality content Jarvis can help generate.

For the example, suppose I want to write about what it took to finally release Zack Synder’s 2021 Justice League. I want to write this feature article for my film and culture website.

Jarvis asks for a maximum of three keywords. It’s optional, but I presume adding keywords will help Jarvis generate more relevant content. Next, it prompts you to write a working title and start an introductory paragraph. Once you write your initial title, it will generate other title ideas.

For the title, I wrote: The Challenges of Releasing Zach Snyder’s Justice League 2021
It generated the following suggestions:

Jarvis generated a long list of appropriate and catchy titles. I personally liked “The Tumultuous Journey of Zack Snyder’s Justice League 2021,” though I’d shorten it a bit. I also liked “The Darkest, Toughest Production in Film History,” which basically tells audiences how hard it was to produce the version of the film. Though it’s an exaggeration, it can be qualified in the article. The other suggestions with “Behind the Scenes” and “Towards a Better Script” were more specific angles. I like that I could explore those topics too. Generally, I think it’s definitely a great tool to make title writing faster.

So far, so good, right? But when I got to content suggestions, it got a bit messy. It was mainly because the suggested content was too general. It also tended toward suggesting expansions that were incoherent to the main topic. This did not sound very promising. Moreover, the AI added bits of information such as dates and other related information. I had to check if these details were used accurately. In a previous test I did (and even for this example), it completely got a date wrong. So I advise writers to always double check the details suggested by Jarvis.

Take a look below. The top paragraph was the one I wrote, while the ones below are suggested by Jarvis.

Content suggestions from Jarvis:

1) You might not be able to see Zack Snyder’s Justice League on the big screen, but you can catch it online in 2021. It was released digitally by Warner Bros. on November 27th 2020 and we’ve been watching it slowly climb the ranks of IMDB since then. The film had a troubled production between 2016 and 2017 with the script going through major changes before and during shooting. But now that all is said and done, what did people think? Let’s find out!

2) Justice League is a film that was released on November 17, 2017. The movie had been preceded by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Wonder Woman. It’s also the fifth installment in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Despite being generally well-received by critics, it was considered to be a disappointment at the box office. In this blog post, we’ll take you behind the scenes and show you what went wrong with Zack Snyder’s 2021 Justice League film production!

3) Director Zack Snyder’s Justice League film was one of the most anticipated films of 2017. Unfortunately, the film had a troubled production and was not released until 2021. That didn’t stop it from becoming one of the highest-grossing films of all time. What does this have to do with SEO? When you release content on your website, be sure to include keywords that are relevant to your business and industry!

At first glance, the introduction actually looks appealing to Justice League fans. Many people have been anticipating it on the big screen. But upon further reading, compared to the paragraph I wrote, the AI content had so many problems. Besides being too general, it had issues with imprecise details. Though you can argue these problems are small and editable, it adds time to your work. It can even derail you from focusing on your topic.

The first AI suggestion wrote that Snyder Cut was released digitally by Warner Bros. in November 27, 2020. Upon further research, I found no such confirmation of this. However, there was a YouTube video “speculating” it’s release in November 2020. But from the looks of it, this did not pan out. Officially, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was released in March 18, 2021 by HBO Max via streaming platform, according to Rotten Tomatoes. And yes, it has been climbing the ranks since its digital release.

If you’re not careful about fact-checking, you might end up with misleading information. And frankly, I feel as if some of the other suggestions may tend towards fluff. However, what you can do is choose the best suggestions and put them together into one coherent paragraph. The first suggestion ended the introduction with “But now that all is said and done, what did people think? Let’s find out!” While it’s something I want to touch on eventually, it is not the main focus of my introduction. The AI was not sensitive enough to sense this follow up was out of place. I’d rather get to the details of the challenging production. If I use this suggestion, I’ll have to edit it into “Let’s take a look at what it took to deliver the highly anticipated Snyder Cut,” or something to that effect.

The second example, on the other hand, was quite a miss. It started by talking about the 2017 Justice League film. While it’s good to expound on the history of the project started, it got lost in discussing the 2017 version. Worse, it did not transition the topic smoothly into the 2021 Snyder Cut. If I read this introduction, I’d be confused into thinking the article was about the 2017 Justice League. Finally, it awkwardly ended the paragraph with “we’ll take you behind the scenes and show you what went wrong with Zack Snyder’s 2021 Justice League film production!” Besides the wordy sentence, suddenly it’s talking about the 2021 Justice League out of nowhere. I would not phrase the production’s challenges as something that went wrong. That’s unnecessary hype. It’s confusing, and just an example of bad writing. Again, while it can be fixed with editing, I feel better off writing on my own.

Finally, the third example actually started okay. But then it started talking about SEO out of nowhere. I don’t know where that came from or why the AI did that, but I’ll count it as a totally unusable suggestion from the app. I reckon there might be more of those glitches if I generate more content suggestions from Jarvis.

SIDEBAR FROM AARON: COUGH. SEO IS EVERYTHING. HOW DO I REEEEECH DEZ KIDZ

I noticed these were nuances the AI was not able to catch. It’s probably even based on trending articles at the time, which had a tendency towards hype and dated showbiz information. And though the suggestions were interesting, they were mostly too general or against the direction I needed. If the usage of the information is not accurate, imagine what that would mean for health or political articles. But too be fair, it did generate other usable suggestions with less serious edits. It’s worth looking into those.

However, by this time, I felt I was better off writing the feature without the app, at least for this example. I guess it’s really a hit or miss. Even with so many content suggestions, I think you can still end up with inappropriate samples even if you find good ones. But at least you got a good title already. Personally, I’d rather go straight to researching on my own.

Framework Templates

Conversion.ai allows you to write copy based on marketing frameworks that have been used by professionals for years. It’s ideal for brands, products, and services you need to promote. This features includes the following templates:

  • AIDA Framework: The AIDA template stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. This basically divides your copy into sections drawing attention from consumers and piquing their interest. The suggested copy also includes content that appeals to the consumer’s desire, then ends with a call to action.
  • PAS Framework: The PAS template is structured by generating copy which highlights the consumer’s Problem, Agitate, and Solution. It’s focused on how a particular product will help solve a consumer’s problem.
  • Bridge-After-Bridge Framework: Also known as BAB framework, this copywriting structure revolves around the idea of getting a consumer from a bad place to a better one. It shows the before and after scenario after benefitting from a product.

For this example, I used the AIDA template for an imagined non-invasive weight loss service company. The new company promotes fitness and advocates against fad diets. It performs non-surgical weight loss procedures, such as wraps and thermomagnetic massages.

Again, Jarvis asks for a description. It also requires you to specify the tone of the copy. I placed “friendly” and “professional” under the box. See my input below.

Here’s the first suggestion from Jarvis:

Based on this example, I’d say the AI-generated content is quite engaging. It tried to have a personal touch by letting the customer know they’re here to help. The writing empathizes with consumers who have a hard time losing weight. However, since this is for a new company, the introduction “We have helped thousands of people lose weight and get in shape,” does not apply. So as a writer, I simply have to remove it. This can be replaced with the intent to help more people lose weight and get in shape.

I actually pulled out at least 6 different content suggestions. From these, writers could get the best parts and edit them into one strong copy description. On it’s own, the content would still benefit from a lot of editing. Here are some issues you might encounter while generating copy suggestions:

  • Hard Sell Copy. The sample content can be hard sell, even if you specify a professional tone of voice. It tends to use exclamation marks (!) per sample. I believe this depends on the product or service you are writing about. Certain products or services may sell more with the hard sell approach, so the AI suggests this strategy. It may also appear like the “proven” way to communicate to consumers. But if you’re going against this direction, it’s a nuance the AI tool might miss. If your business or client specifically avoids exclamation marks your copy, be ready to make the necessary edits.
  • Can be Wordy, Long, Redundant. In terms of style, here’s where you can’t rely on Jarvis to write the entire thing. If you happen to input a long and detailed product description, the AI has a tendency to generate wordy variations of the copy. If you notice, some details are also redundant. In copywriting standards, this needs tightening. Conciseness can be an issue, most notably if you’re not used to brevity. Thus, I believe this tool will best benefit writers and editors who have considerable experience in crafting straightforward copy.

Product Description

The app comes with a special template for creating product descriptions. If you have a large inventory of product information for rewriting, this is the right tool to use. It even comes with an optional language output translation feature, which is available in other templates too.

However, the language feature is limited. I tried putting Thai, Italian, and Japanese and it generated few suggestions, some mixed with English. Same thing with Punjabi and Vietnamese. In other templates, they just keep making English suggestions. Filipino is also not recognized by the AI, which likely means it cannot translate a bunch of other languages. This feature obviously needs development. But it’s not the main feature, so I doubt they’ll do a lot of improvements.

For this example, I used an imagined tire center that offers products and services throughout the U.S. I specifically wrote that it’s the second most affordable tire center in the country. I asked for a professional and witty tone. I’m not at all fluent in Spanish, but I placed Spanish under the output language box.

Below is the first suggested copy in Spanish:

When translated through Google, it reads:

“Don’t think twice, Adam’s Tire Center is your best option because it offers the largest range of products for cars and wagons. Join our satisfied customers and insure your tires with the Road Hazard Warranty service. Call or visit our sales center in Miami, FL, where we are honored to help you.”

Obviously, I can’t comment much on the accuracy of the translation. Though certainly, I have doubts for how writing in another language can capture certain styles and tones. But right now, what I’m more concerned with is the tendency to use superlative descriptions that might not accurately fit the brand. Things like “we offer the largest range of products” should probably be tweaked to “we offer a wide range of products…” If your tire center does not offer the largest inventory, you should not be writing that. It also assumed a specific location, which prompts the writer to include the actual business location (this is a good suggestion). Again, the AI copy would benefit from fine-tuning to make it specific to your product or service.

Now, back to English. Here are three other content samples generated by Jarvis:

The English AI-generated samples are not so bad. But in the last sample, there is a tendency for hard sell terms like “unmatched in quality,” that you need to watch out for. You can get the best parts and put them into one solid brand description. But again, these tend to be wordy and long. It would help to use the Hemingway app or Grammarly to make the descriptions tight and concise.

Content Improver

Using the Content Improver template will help you tweak the product or service descriptions you came up with. To show you how it works, I placed the content I wrote based on the edited tire center descriptions Jarvis generated.

For this example, I placed professional and witty under tone of voice.

Suggested content from Jarvis:

Based on the sample suggestion, I’d say the first two can pretty much stand on their own. These are straightforward copies that address consumer needs with a direct call to action. Though the first one may sound a bit informal, it might fit the type of consumer demographic you are targeting. Finally, the last example gets a bit wordy but can be fixed with a couple of edits. The major issue is the number (555-5555), which the AI mistook for an address.

Marketing Angles

Besides churning out copy suggestions, Conversion.ai has a brainstorming tool. This basically takes your product or service and comes up with various campaign ideas to promote it. If you’re running out of concepts for promotion, Jarvis leverages on your product’s features and strengths. I appreciate that it tried to come up with benefit-driven copy based on the example I put.

For this example, the product I used is a gym management software. It helps gym owners manage activities, schedules, and handle payments. The software aims to run gyms more efficiently.

I personally find the following suggestions helpful in pushing the strengths of a product. I would definitely use this tool for brainstorming ideas. Here’s what Jarvis generated:

Unique Value Propositions

Another intriguing feature is the unique value propositions (UVP ) template. UVP is essentially a clear statement that describes the benefit your product offers. It also captures how you address your customer’s needs and what distinguishes you from the competition.

If you have a product or service, It claims to generate copy that describes your product’s unique advantage in a remarkable way. To test how this works, I used the previous example, which is the gym software. It came up with several statements that emphasized the product’s benefits. See Jarvis’ suggestions below. Personally, I like the idea of software that helps me make more money with less work.

Feature Benefit

The feature benefit template comes up with a list of advantages offered by your product. For this example, the product is a camisole for plus size women. You’ll see how it took the paragraph details and made bulleted benefits based on those features. It’s a useful tool if you want to break down your product’s unique selling points so you can further emphasize them in your campaign.

Persuasive Bullet Points

Another related function is the persuasive bullet points template. This is very similar to the feature benefit template. Personally, I think it’s either you use this or the feature benefit template if you want to highlight product advantages in bullet points. On the other hand, this template doesn’t categorize benefits as emotional or standard advantages.

Copy Headline and Sub-headline Templates

Conversioan.ai also comes with copy headline and sub-headline templates. They claim the AI is “trained with formulas from the world’s best copywriters.” It also guaranteed to create “high-converting headlines” for businesses. At this point, the only way to know if it does have high conversion is to see actual results. Right now, my review can’t prove any of that. But it would be interesting to know from companies who have been using this software for results.

  • Perfect Headline: For this template, I used an earlier example that provides non-invasive weight loss services. You’ll see the product description I used, followed by the suggestions made by Jarvis. I specifically liked the headline: Science-based approach to safe, effective fat loss. It’s right concept I was going for.

  • Website Sub-headline: I used the same product description for the sub-headline. I also used the suggested headline generated by Jarvis, which is “Science-based approach to safe, effective fat loss.” Based on Jarvis’ suggestions, I liked the last one, which emphasizes non-invasive slimming. It also tells consumers the procedure is safe. Though it tends to be wordy, I appreciate it provides different ways you can get your message across.

Sentence Expander

Another interesting feature is the sentence expander. It claims to make your sentence longer and more creative. I guess it should help you get to another thought if you caught writer’s block. But I’m wary what kind of suggestions it might give. When I tried it, it’s just another way to rewrite your sentence in a longer, more detailed way.

In any case, see my sentence below.

Here’s what Jarvis generated:

I’m actually not a fan of long-winded sentences. However, I do appreciate the extra details added by the AI. I can use these suggestions if I make further edits on them. But realistically, if I’m writing an article, I’d skip this and go directly to what I’m trying to say. That would save me time. If I want to talk about the negative psychological effects of social distancing, I’d write that point per point. My idea of expansion is moving an argument forward, not merely adding more details to what was already said.

Creative Story

Here’s an interesting template I was curious to try. I wonder how Jarvis would develop a two sentence plot. It’s fascinating to see how an AI that uses “proven high conversion data” would suggest story development.

For my example, I took a horror story plot inspired by the Bone Turner from a popular horror podcast called The Magnus Archives. See my plot description and the suggestions made by Jarvis.

Story suggestions by Jarvis:

I have to say, these are very interesting ideas for an introduction. It’s also funny how it used the name “Jonathon,” because the actual name of main character in the Magnus Archives is “Jonathan.” I kind of think that was on purpose, since the AI probably knows the Bone Turner is from a popular online show.

In any case, I particularly liked the second suggestion. With some editing and fine-tuning, you could fix the details to fit the story in your head. On the other hand, I’m wary authors might rely too much on this to bridge plot gaps. While it’s amusing, it’s more compelling to read plot twists and resolutions that are not forced. At this stage, I’m still not convinced the AI can make a story without contrived plot twists.

Email Subject Lines

Besides creative writing tools, Coversion.ai also has templates for email marketing. This feature is made for businesses or individuals who want to promote products and services via email. The app claims to come up with catchy subject lines that draw consumers to open your email. In this example, I used an imaginary cake shop that delivers throughout LA. I thought Jarvis came up with a long list of creative subject lines. These were spot on for the example. Since I am a cake person, I’d likely read this kind of email.

Personal and Company Bio

You can also generate creative personal and company bios through Jarvis. If you’re running a personal blog or website, Jarvis generates personal bios in first person or third person POV, whichever you are more comfortable with. I’m actually pleased with what the AI suggested. It’s a good start, because I find it hard writing about myself.

The example below is not me, of course. I made up Jessica Ackerman as the founder of Mad Cakes in LA.

Here’s what Jarvis generated:

It does sound like a personalized bio. Especially with the detail about cuddling with cats and dogs. Again, I’d edit it to be more particular about details. Other than that, I think it’s a good tool to use.

Next, Jarvis also generates company bios that sound professional. I put a three-sentence info about a company that boosts website conversion for businesses. I was surprised how long the suggestions were. It also presumed the names of clients the company has serviced (TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.). Again, for particular information like this, it’s important to edit or remove them. Otherwise, you might publish copy with misleading details.

Suggestions from Jarvis:

Real Estate Listing – Residential

You can utilize this template to create creative and descriptive residential listings. It’s helpful for real estate agents and people who are planning to sell their property. The following shows information about a house for sale, followed by listing suggestions by Jarvis.

Suggestions from Jarvis:

It’s interesting how the suggested content appeals to the consumer’s idea of a perfect home. It tries to paint a picture of affluent living just based on the golf course description I supplied. But again, for accuracy, these added details should be edited by the writer.

Templates for Specific Online Platforms

Besides articles and product or brand descriptions, expect Conversion.ai to provide special writing features for online platforms. This includes Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google, and Amazon accounts. The AI’s content suggestions are based on posts and ads that have generated high traffic on these platforms. I think this a good tool to use if you want an edge over what already sells.

  • Facebook Ad Headline: Makes catchy headlines for FB ads, claims to increase chances of clicks that lead to sales.
  • Facebook Ad Primary Text: Claims to generate high converting copy for FB ad’s primary text section.

For the Facebook ad headline, my example is a cake shop that delivers a wide assortment of cakes in Los Angeles. It specifically mentions delivering cakes “within an hour or your money back.” Here’s the example and Jarvis’ suggested content.

AI ad sample headlines:

I must say these sound like fun and friendly FB headlines. I personally would like a last minute dessert. And if I don’t have time to pick up cake, I’d certainly like one delivered. Just not sure about “Get 500 Instagram Followers,” the suggestion is out-of-place. I’d use this tool for a fresh and exciting FB headline.

Here’s the AI sample for Facebook ad primary text:

Based on the FB text sample, the AI instantly suggested to give away free cake. Most of the generated samples headed toward this direction. It didn’t just generate engaging copy, it likely showed you what other cake shops do to draw more customers. I think it’s a great marketing strategy to have promos and free cake. I also like that it suggested catchy hashtags. But again, I’d fix the wordy and adjective-ridden descriptions. With a little editing, the samples should read more smoothly. Other than that, it’s a fast way to come up with social media copy.

Photo Post Captions for Instagram

You can use the app for a company or store’s IG accounts. Here are some samples based on a Mad Cakes Black Chocolate Indulgence photo. If you need ideas for your IG post, this tool can suggest copy that’s simple and straightforward for IG. Depending on your product or service, it suggests content that typically targets your customers base.

Video Writing Templates for YouTube

Next, Conversion.ai offers specialized templates for videos, specifically for platforms such as YouTube. But I also think you can use the content similarly if you’re posting on other video sites. However, the suggestions are based on content with high traffic on YouTube. It includes the following features:

Video Topic Ideas: For brainstorming video content concepts that rank well on YouTube. For example, your initial topic is baking homemade cake. It’s a useful tool for letting you know what people are actually interested in. It gives you an idea what to work on right off the batt. Here are the AI’s suggestions. It mentions concepts for cake baking videos many people look for:

Video Script Outline: Helps make script outlines for any topic. However, this works more suitably for how-to and listicle type videos, not the ones with a narrative. The example below for how to spot aurora borealis or Northern lights. From the AI suggestions, you can choose the best strategies to come up with your own outline. I noticed many suggestions can be too general, besides the more specific ones I posted below. It’s still best to do your own research to make your video content more nuanced and unique. Otherwise, you may just parrot what other content creators have already done.

Video Titles: Like the other templates, there’s also a video title feature. As an example, many users on YouTube like to create content about shows or films. Suppose you want to write a feature about the anime Attack on Titan. For the suggestion, the AI actually came up with pretty awesome titles and topics you can start researching on. While this is based on high-traffic fan search, what you can do is watch what’s already there. This will help you come up with more unique insights about the show that has not been tackled. Again, try to focus on what would set your content apart from what’s already there.

Blog Post Templates

Conversion.ai provides templates that help you conceptual blog posts for your brands. It has tools to help you brainstorm topic ideas and outline your content. These suggestions are all based on high ranking topics on Google. It also comes with features that help compose blog post introductions and conclusions.

  • Blog Post Topic Ideas
  • Blog Post Outline
  • Blog Post Intro Paragraph
  • Blog Post Conclusion Paragraph

For the example, let’s focus on the topic template. I used the earlier example, Best Shape, which is an imaginary non-invasive weight loss service. See the AI’s suggestions below.

Jarvis’s results show topics that trend around non-invasive weight loss methods. Trending topics around your market is always good to know. For ideas on blog topics, I think Conversion.ai will really be a useful tool. If you need help structuring your outline, I think it’s worth using it especially if you’re having trouble with organization.

Personally, after getting different topics, you can start writing your post without the app. You won’t need it especially if you already have an idea what to write. It’s still better to do proper research than rely on the app to add information on your post. As you’ve noticed, it has a tendency to supply the incorrect information, which you must diligently edit.

Would I Recommend This Software?

After crash testing Conversion.ai, I would recommend this tool to agencies or individuals that deal with extensive online copywriting and product rewrites. They will benefit the most by eliminating the time-consuming process of doing product descriptions. I would also recommend it for businesses that run social media campaigns, including Google and Amazon ads. This will help generate and organize copy ideas faster, especially if you have a lot of products and services to promote. And because the AI suggestions are based on high-ranking topics, you have a better idea of what your client base is also looking for. It can also enhance messaging concepts and help brainstorm new campaign ideas for a product or brand. Just remember to always edit the content suggestions.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this app for long-form writing. I do not think it is ideal for any writing that requires a lot of research. Because the AI suggestions tend towards incorrect information, you’re better off researching current data on your own. It’s an interesting tool for wring stories, but I also worry authors might be too reliant on the app for plot ideas. There is a difference between carefully worded prose versus long-winded sentences composed by this app. Human writing is still more precise with expression, which the AI has yet to learn.

While it’s a good tool to have, the bottom line is, you still need to edit your content. It will help you structure your outline and compose your post. However, the impetus for writing and the direction it will take is still on you, the writer. My verdict? AI writing technology won’t fully replace humans anytime soon.

SEMrush IPO (SEMR)

On Wednesday SEMrush priced their IPO at $14 a share & listed Thursday.

There have been many marketing and online advertising companies which are publicly traded, but few that were so focused specifically on SEO while having a sizeable market cap. According to this SeekingAlpha post at the IPO price SEMrush had a valuation of about $1.95 to $1.99 billion. For comparison sake, here are some other companies & valuations.

  • Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion.
  • Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion.
  • Yelp trades at around a $2.9 billion market cap.
  • Yahoo! was acquired by Verizon for $4.48 billion.
  • Hubspot has a market cap of around $20.4 billion.

A couple years ago Gannett bought AdWords reseller WordStream. A few years before that they bought ReachLocal. The Hearst publishing empire also bought iCrossing long ago. Marin Software remains publicly traded, but they are only valued at about $20 million.

Newspapers reselling Google AdWords ads isn't really SEO though. Beyond those sorts of deals, many of the publicly traded SEO stuff has been only tangentially relevant to SEO, or crap.

There are some quality category-leading publishers which use SEO as a means of distribution but are not necessarily an SEO service provider like TripAdvisor, BankRate, and WebMD. Over time many of these sorts of companies have been gobbled up by Red Ventures or various private equity firms. Zillow, Yelp and TripAdvisor are some of the few examples which still exist as independent companies.

So that puts most of the publicly traded SEO stuff in one of the following categories...

  • small scale - does anyone other than Andy Beal & Mike Grehan still remember KeywordRanking / WebSourced / Think Interactive / MarketSmart Interactive?
  • hope and nope - sites like Business.com were repeatedly acquired but never really gained lasting relevance.
  • affiliate networks - which reliant on partners with SEO traffic like Quinstreet & Commission Junction. many affiliate networks were hit hard as the barrier to entry in SEO increased over the years. Quinstreet is doing well in some verticals but sold their education division to Education Dynamics for $20 million. CJ was part of the Publicis Groupe acquisition of Epsilon.
  • pump and dump scams - Demand Media, owner of eHow, which later rebranded as Leaf Group & still trades at a small fraction of their IPO price.

[Editorial note: 8 days after writing this post LEAF announced a $304.3 million all cash buyout offer from Graham Holdings at 21% above current market prices and was trading at $8.63 a share. If you bought shares at $40 or $30 or $20 and hoped it would at some point come back - nope - the losses are crystalized on a take out. Graham Holdings formerly owned the Washington Post but sold it to Jeff Bezos 8 years ago for $250 million.]

The one lasting counter-example to the above is Barry Diller's IAC. [edit: added ... here is the WSJ recommending the stock 3 months later, even after a big run]

IAC's innovation ecosystem is surreal. Across time & across markets Diller is the best creator of vertical leading properties later spun off as their own companies. He's owned Expedia, TripAdvisor, LendingTree, HomeAdvisor, Match.com, TicketMaster and so many other category leaders.

His buying of Ask.com did not pan out as well as hoped as web browsers turned the address bar into a search box, his ability to differentiate the service went away after they shut down the engine in 2008, he was locked out of mobile search marketshare by default placement contracts & Google pushed back against extension bundling, but just about everything else he touched turned to gold.

A lot of IAC's current market cap is their ownership of Vimeo, which by itself is valued at $6 billion.

[Added a section on Vimeo here since it was spun out after this post was originally published.] Vimeo was a throw in when IAC bought CollegeHumor owner Connected Ventures. IAC was willing to sell Vimeo to Kodak for around $10 million over a decade ago, but there was no transaction. Around that time I ran a membership website here and we were going to use Vimeo for delivery of our videos but they deleted our paid subscription claiming Vimeo wasn't for businesses and was just for artistic uses. They probably did that hundreds or thousands of times over the years and then realized ... wait, we should allow businesses to use this, everyone else will just upload to YouTube. So they switched focus to business use, YouTube kept increasing ad load, and Vimeo kept becoming more appealing on a relative basis. This year YouTube updated their terms of service allowing them to monetize and and all uploaded videos, which only makes Vimeo look that much more appealing to businesses which are on the fence about paying a small monthly subscription for video hosting. When IAC spun out Vimeo this year (VMEO) it was valued at north of $6 billion. Someone like Microsoft could buy it and promote it in Bing search results the way Google does YouTube.

What is the most recent big bet for Barry Diller? MGM. Last August he bet $1 billion on the growth of online gambling. And he was willing to bet another billion to help them acquire Entain:

IAC has to date invested approximately US$1 billion in MGM with an initial investment thesis of accelerating MGM’s penetration of the $450 billion global gaming market. IAC notes in its letter of intent that IAC continues to strongly support this objective for MGM whether or not a transaction with Entain is consummated.

Barry Diller not only accurately projects future trends, but he also has the ability to rehab broken companies past their due dates.

The New York Times bought About.com for $410 million in 2005 & did little with it as its relevance declined over time as its content got stale, Wikipedia grew and search engines kept putting more scraped content in the search results. The relentless growth of Wikipedia and Google launching "universal search" in 2007 diminished the value of About.com even as web usage was exploding.

IAC bought About.com from the New York Times for $300 million in August of 2012. They tried to grow it through improving usability, content depth and content quality but ultimately decided to blow it up.

They were bold enough to break it into vertical category branded sites. They've done amazingly well with it and in many cases they rank 2, 3, 4 times in the SERPs with different properties like TheSpruce, TheBalance, Investopedia, etc. As newspapers chains keep consolidating or going under, IAC is one of the few constant "always wins" online publishers.

At its peak TheBalance was getting roughly 2/3 the traffic About.com generated.

Part of the decline in the chart there was perhaps a Panda hit, but the reason traffic never fully recovered is they broke some of these category sites into niche sites using sub-brands.

All the above search traffic estimate trend charts are from SEMrush. :)

I could do a blog post titled 1001 ways to use SEMrush if you would like me to, though I haven't yet as I already have affiliate ads for them here and don't want to come across as a shill by overpromoting a tool I love & use regularly.

I tend to sort of "not get" a lot of SaaS stocks in terms of prices and multiples, though they seem to go to infinity and beyond more often than not. I actually like SEMrush more than most though & think they'll do well for years to come. I get the sense with both them and Ahrefs that they were started by programmers who learned marketing rather than started by marketers who cobbled together offerings which they though would sell. If you ever have feedback on ways to improve SEMrush they are fast at integrating it, or at least were in the past whenever I had feedback.

When SEMrush released their S-1 Dan Barker did a quick analysis on Twitter.

Some stats from the S-1: $144 million in annual recurring revenues @ 50% compound annual growth rate, 76% gross margins, nearly 1,000 employees and over 67,000 paying customers.

At some point a lot of tool suits tend to overlap because much of their data either comes from scraping Google or crawling the open web. If something is strong enough of a point of differentiation to where it is widely talked about or marketed then competitors will try to clone it. Thus spending a bit extra on marketing to ensure you have the brand awareness to be the first tool people try is wise. Years ago when I ran a membership site here I paid to license the ability to syndicate some SEMrush data for our members & I have promoted them as an affiliate for what seems like a decade now.

When Dan Barker did his analysis of the S-1 it made me think SEMrush likely has brighter prospects than many would consider. A few of the reasons I could think of off the top of my head:

  • each day their archive of historical data is larger, especially when you consider they crawl many foreign markets which some other competitive research tools ignore
  • increasing ad prices promote SEO by making it relatively cheaper
  • keyword not provided on organic search means third party competitive analysis tools are valuable not only for measuring competitors but also measuring your own site
  • Google Ads has recently started broadening ad targeting further and hiding some keyword data so advertisers are paying for clicks where they are not even aware what the keyword was

That last point speaks to Google's dominance over the search ecosystem. But it is also so absurd that even people who ran AdWords training workshops point out the absurdity.

In Google maximizing their income some nuance is lost for the advertiser who must dig into N-Gram analysis or look at historical data to find patterns to adjust:

The account overall has a CPA in the $450 range. If the word ‘how’ is in the query, our CPA is over double. If someone searches for ‘quote,’ our CPA is under $300. If they ask a question about cost, the CPA is over $1000. Obviously, looking for quotes versus cost data is very different in the eyes of a user, but not in the matching search terms of Google.

Every ad network has incentive to overstate its contribution to awareness and conversions so that more ad budget is allocated to them.

  • Facebook kept having to restate their ad stats around video impressions, user reach, etc.
  • Facebook gave themselves a 28 day window for credit for some app installs.
  • Google AMP accidentally double counted unique users on Google Analytics (drives adoption = good).
  • Google Analytics came with last click attribution, which over-credits the search channel you use near the end of a conversion journey.

There are a lot of Google water carriers who suggest any and all of their actions are at worst benevolent, but when I hear about hiding keyword data I am reminded of the following quote from the Texas AG Google lawsuit.

"Google employees agreed that, in the future, they should not directly lie to publishers, but instead find ways to convince publishers to act against their interest and remove header bidding on their own."

That lawsuit details the great lengths Google went to in order to leverage their search monopoly to keep monopoly profit margins on their display ad serving business.

AMP was created with the explicit intent to kill header bidding as header bidding shifted power and profit margins to publishers. Some publishers saw a 50% rise in ad revenues from header bidding.

Remember how Google made companywide bonuses depend on the performance of the Google Facebook clone named Google+? Google later literally partnered with Facebook on a secret ad deal to prevent Facebook from launching a header bidding solution. The partnership agreement with Facebook explicitly mentioned antitrust repeatedly.

When a company partners with its biggest direct competitor on a bid rigging scheme you can count on it that the intent is to screw others.

So when you see Google talk about benevolence, remember that they promise to no longer lie in the future & only deceive others into working against themselves via other coercive measures.

We went from the observation that you can't copyright facts to promoting opinion instead:

to where after many thousands of journalists have been laid off now the "newspaper of record" is promoting ponzi scheme garbage as a performance art piece:

Is it any wonder people have lost trust in institutions?

The decline of About.com was literally going to be terminal without the work of Barry Diller to revive it. That slide reflected how over time a greater share of searches never actually leave Google:

Of those 5.1T searches, 33.59% resulted in clicks on organic search results. 1.59% resulted in clicks on paid search results. The remaining 64.82% completed a search without a direct, follow-up click to another web property. Searches resulting in a click are much higher on desktop devices (50.75% organic CTR, 2.78% paid CTR). Zero-click searches are much higher on mobile devices (77.22%)

The data from the above study came from SimilarWeb, which is another online marketing competitive research tool planning on going public soon.

Google "debunked" Rand's take by focusing on absolute numbers instead of relative numbers. But if you keep buying default placements in a monopoly ecosystem where everyday more people have access to a computer in their pocket you would expect your marketshare and absolute numbers to increase even if the section of pie other publishers becomes a smaller slice of a bigger pie.

Google's take there is disingenuous at the core. It reminds me of the time when they put out a study claiming brand bidding was beneficial and that it was too complex and expensive for advertisers to set up a scientific study, without any mention of the fact the reason that would be complex and expensive is because Google chooses not to provide those features in their ad offering. That parallels the way they now decide to hide keyword data even from paying advertisers in much the same way they hide ad fees and lie to publishers to protect their ad income.

Google suggests they don't make money from news searches, but if they control most of the display ads technology stack & used search to ram AMP down publishers throats as a technological forced sunk cost while screwing third party ad networks and news publishers, Google can both be technically true in their statement and lying in spirit.

"Google employees agreed that, in the future, they should not directly lie to publishers, but instead find ways to convince publishers to act against their interest and remove header bidding on their own."

There are many more treats in store for publishers.

Google Chrome stopped sending full referrals for most web site visitors late last year. Google will stop supporting third party cookies in Chrome next year. They've even floated the idea of hiding user IP addresses from websites (good luck to those who need to prevent fraud!).

Google claims they also going to stop selling ads where targeting is based on tracking user data across websites:

"Google plans to stop selling ads based on individuals’ browsing across multiple websites, a change that could hasten upheaval in the digital advertising industry. The Alphabet Inc. company said Wednesday that it plans next year to stop using or investing in tracking technologies that uniquely identify web users as they move from site to site across the internet. ... Google had already announced last year that it would remove the most widely used such tracking technology, called third-party cookies, in 2022. But now the company is saying it won’t build alternative tracking technologies, or use those being developed by other entities, to replace third-party cookies for its own ad-buying tools. ... Google says its announcement on Wednesday doesn’t cover its ad tools and unique identifiers for mobile apps, just for websites."

Google stated they would make no replacement for the equivalent of the third party cookie tracking of individual users:

"we continue to get questions about whether Google will join others in the ad tech industry who plan to replace third-party cookies with alternative user-level identifiers. Today, we’re making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products. We realize this means other providers may offer a level of user identity for ad tracking across the web that we will not — like PII graphs based on people’s email addresses. We don’t believe these solutions will meet rising consumer expectations for privacy, nor will they stand up to rapidly evolving regulatory restrictions, and therefore aren’t a sustainable long term investment."

On the above announcement, other ad networks tanked, with TheTradeDesk falling 20% in two days.

Competing ad networks wonder if Google will play by their own rules:

“One clarification I’d like to hear from them is whether or not it means there’ll be no login for DBM [a historic name for Google’s DSP], no login for YouTube and no login for Google properties. I’m looking for them to play by the same rules that they so generously foisted upon the rest of the industry,” Magnite CTO Tom Kershaw said.

Regulators are looking into antitrust implications:

"Google’s plan to block a popular web tracking tool called “cookies” is a source of concern for U.S. Justice Department investigators who have been asking advertising industry executives whether the move by the search giant will hobble its smaller rivals, people familiar with the situation said."

The web will continue to grow more complicated, but it isn't going to get any more transparent anytime soon.

"Google employees agreed that, in the future, they should not directly lie to publishers, but instead find ways to convince publishers to act against their interest and remove header bidding on their own."

As the Attention Merchants blur the ecosystem while shifting free clicks over to paid and charging higher ad rates on their owned and operated properties it increases the value of neutral third party measurement services.

The trend is not too hard to notice if you are remotely awake.

While I was writing this post Google announced the launch of a "best things" scraper website featuring their scraped re-representations of hot selling items. And they are cross-promoting competitors in "knowledge" panels to dilute brand values & force the brand ad buy.

Shortly after Google launched their thin affiliate scraper site full of product ads they announced an update to demote other product review sites.

Where Google can get away with it, they will rig things in their favor to rip off other players in the ecosystem:

Google for years operated a secret program that used data from past bids in the company’s digital advertising exchange to allegedly give its own ad-buying system an advantage over competitors, according to court documents filed in a Texas antitrust lawsuit. The program, known as “Project Bernanke,” wasn’t disclosed to publishers who sold ads through Google’s ad-buying systems.

If I could give you one key takeaway here, it would be this:

"Google employees agreed that, in the future, they should not directly lie to publishers, but instead find ways to convince publishers to act against their interest and remove header bidding on their own."

New Version of SEO Toolbar

Our programmer recently updated our SEO toolbar to work with the most recent version of Firefox.

You can install it from here. After you install it the toolbar should automatically update on a forward basis.

It is easy to toggle on or off simply by clicking on the green or gray O. If the O is gray it is off & if it is green it is on.

The toolbar shows site & page level link data from data sources like SEMRush, Ahrefs & Majestic along with estimated Google search traffic from SEMrush and some social media metrics.

At the right edge of the toolbar there is a [Tools] menu which allows you to pull in the age of a site from the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, the IP address hosting a site & then cross links into search engine cached copies of pages and offers access to our SEO Xray on-page analyzer.

SEO today is much more complex than it was back when we first launched this toolbar as back them almost everything was just links, links, links. All metrics in isolation are somewhat useless, but being able to see estimated search traffic stats right near link data & being able to click into your favorite data sources to dig deeper into the data can help save a lot of time.

For now the toolbar is still only available on Firefox, though we could theoretically have it work on Chrome *if* at some point we trusted Google.

Internet Wayback Machine Adds Historical TextDiff

The Wayback Machine has a cool new feature for looking at the historical changes of a web page.

The color scale shows how much a page has changed since it was last cached & you can select between any two documents to see how a page has changed over time.

You can then select between any two documents to see a side-by-side comparison of the documents.

That quickly gives you an at-a-glance view of how they've changed their:

  • web design
  • on-page SEO strategy
  • marketing copy & sales strategy

For sites that conduct seasonal sales & rely heavily on holiday themed ads you can also look up the new & historical ad copy used by large advertisers using tools like Moat, WhatRunsWhere & Adbeat.

New Keyword Tool

Our keyword tool is updated periodically. We recently updated it once more.

For comparison sake, the old keyword tool looked like this

Whereas the new keyword tool looks like this

The upsides of the new keyword tool are:

  • fresher data from this year
  • more granular data on ad bids vs click prices
  • lists ad clickthrough rate
  • more granular estimates of Google AdWords advertiser ad bids
  • more emphasis on commercial oriented keywords

With the new columns of [ad spend] and [traffic value] here is how we estimate those.

  • paid search ad spend: search ad clicks * CPC
  • organic search traffic value: ad impressions * 0.5 * (100% - ad CTR) * CPC

The first of those two is rather self explanatory. The second is a bit more complex. It starts with the assumption that about half of all searches do not get any clicks, then it subtracts the paid clicks from the total remaining pool of clicks & multiplies that by the cost per click.

The new data also has some drawbacks:

  • Rather than listing search counts specifically it lists relative ranges like low, very high, etc.
  • Since it tends to tilt more toward keywords with ad impressions, it may not have coverage for some longer tail informational keywords.

For any keyword where there is insufficient coverage we re-query the old keyword database for data & merge it across. You will know if data came from the new database if the first column says something like low or high & the data came from the older database if there are specific search counts in the first column

For a limited time we are still allowing access to both keyword tools, though we anticipate removing access to the old keyword tool in the future once we have collected plenty of feedback on the new keyword tool. Please feel free to leave your feedback in the below comments.

One of the cool features of the new keyword tools worth highlighting further is the difference between estimated bid prices & estimated click prices. In the following screenshot you can see how Amazon is estimated as having a much higher bid price than actual click price, largely because due to low keyword relevancy entities other than the official brand being arbitraged by Google require much higher bids to appear on competing popular trademark terms.

Historically, this difference between bid price & click price was a big source of noise on lists of the most valuable keywords.

Recently some advertisers have started complaining about the "Google shakedown" from how many brand-driven searches are simply leaving the .com part off of a web address in Chrome & then being forced to pay Google for their own pre-existing brand equity.

Rank Checker Update

Recently rank checker started hanging on some search queries & the button on the SEO Toolbar which launched rank checker stopped working. Both of these issues should now be fixed if you update your Firefox extensions.

If ever the toolbar button doesn't work one can enable the Menu bar in Firefox, then go under the tools menu to the rank checker section to open it.

Years ago we created a new logo for rank checker which we finally got around to changing it today. :)

Rank Checker.

Free Google AdWords Keyword Suggestion Tool Alternative

Google recently made it much harder to receive accurate keyword data from the AdWords keyword tool.

They have not only grouped similar terms, but then they broadened out the data ranges to absurdly wide ranges like 10,000 to 100,000 searches a month. Only active AdWords advertisers receive (somewhat?) decent keyword data. And even with that, there are limitations. Try to view too many terms and you get:

"You’ve reached the maximum number of page views for this day. This page now shows ranges for search volumes. For a more detailed view, check back in 24 hours."

Jennifer Slegg shared a quote from an AdWords advertiser who spoke with a representative:

"I have just spoken to a customer service manger from the Australia support help desk. They have advised me that there must be continuous activity in your google ad-words campaign (clicks and campaigns running) for a minimum of 3-4 months continuous in order to gain focused keyword results. If you are seeing a range 10-100 or 100-1k or 1k -10k its likely your adwords account does not have an active campaign or has not had continuous campaigns or clicks."

So you not only need to be an advertiser, but you need to stay active for a quarter-year to a third of a year to get decent data.

Part of the sales pitch of AdWords/PPC was that you can see performance data right away, whereas SEO investments can take months or years to back out.

But with Google outright hiding keyword data even from active advertisers, it is probably easier and more productive for those advertisers to start elsewhere.

There are many other keyword data providers (Wordtracker, SEMrush, Wordze, Spyfu, KeywordSpy, Keyword Discovery, Moz, Compete.com, SimilarWeb, Xedant, Ubersuggest, KeywordTool.io, etc.) And there are newer entrants like the Keyword Keg Firefox extension & the brilliantly named KeywordShitter).

In light of Google's push to help make the web more closed-off & further tilt the web away from the interests of searchers toward the interest of big advertisers*, we decided to do the opposite & recently upgraded our keyword tool to add the following features...

  • expanded the results per search to 500
  • we added negative match and modified broad match to the keyword export spreadsheet (along with already having phrase, broad & exact match)

Our keyword tool lists estimated search volumes, bid prices, cross links to SERPs, etc. Using it does require free account registration to use, but it is a one-time registration and the tool is free. And we don't collect phone numbers, hard sell over the phone, etc. We even shut down our paid members area, so you are not likely to receive any marketing messages from us anytime soon.

Export is lightning quick AND, more importantly, we have a panda in our logo!

Here is what the web interface looks like

And here is an screenshot of data in Excel with the various keyword match types

If the tool looks like it is getting decent usage, we may upgrade it further to refresh the data more frequently, consider adding more languages, add a few more reference links to related niche sites in the footer cross-reference section, and maybe add a few other features.

"Every market has some rules and boundaries that restrict freedom of choice. A market looks free only because we so unconditionally accept its underlying restrictions that we fail to see them."Ha-Joon Chang

Restoring Firefox Extensions After The Firefox 43 Update

Update: Our extensions are now signed, so you should be able to download the most recent version of them & use them with the most recent version of Firefox without having to mess with the Firefox plugin option security settings.

Firefox recently updated to version 43 & with that, they automatically disabled all extensions which are not signed, even if they were previously installed by a user and used for years.

If you go to the add ons screen after the update (by typing about:addons in the address bar) you will see a screen like this

Extensions which are submitted to the Mozilla Firefox add ons directory are automatically signed when approved, but other extensions are not by default:

Only Mozilla can sign your add-on so that Firefox will install it by default. Add-ons are signed by submitting them to AMO or using the API and passing either an automated or manual code review. Note that you are not required to list or distribute your add-on through AMO. If you are distributing the add-on on your own, you can choose the Unlisted option and AMO will only serve as the way to get your package signed.

In a couple days we will do that submission to get the add ons signed, but if you recently had the extensions go away it is fairly easy to override this signing feature to get the extensions back working right away.

If you recently saw rank checker, SEO for Firefox or the SEO toolbar disabled after a recent Mozilla Firefox update, here is how to restore them...

Step 1: go to the Firefox settings configuration section

Type about:config into the address bar & hit enter. Once that page loads click on the "I'll be careful, I promise" button.

Step 2: edit the signing configuration

Once the configuration box loads you'll see a bunch of different listed variables in it & a search box at the top. In that search box, enter
xpinstall.signatures.required

By default xpinstall.signatures.required is set to TRUE to force add ons to be signed. Click on it until it goes to bold, which indicates that the TRUE setting is set to FALSE.

Step 3: restart Firefox

After changing the add on signature settings, restart Firefox to apply the setting & your Firefox extensions will be restored.

Installing These Extensions On a New Computer

If you are having trouble setting up your extensions on a new computer, start with the above 3 steps & then go here to download & install the extensions.

My Must Have Tools of 2014

There are a lot of tools in the SEO space (sorry, couldn't resist :D) and over the years we've seen tools fall into 2 broad categories. Tools that aim to do just about everything and tools that focus on one discipline of online marketing.

As we continue to lose more and more data (not provided) and the data we have access to becomes a bit more unreliable (rankings, competitive research data, data given to us by search engines, etc) one has to wonder at what point does access to a variety of tools start producing diminishing returns?

In other words, if you are starting with unreliable or very, very inexact data does layering more and more extrapolations on top make you worse off than you were before? Probably.

I do think that a fair amount of tool usage scenarios have become less effective (or less necessary) at this point. Consider what were once the cornerstones of industry research and data:

  • Rankings
  • SERP difficulty analysis
  • Link prospecting
  • Competitive link research
  • Analytics

Each one of these areas of data has really taken a beating over the last 2-3 years thanks to collateral damage from broad-reaching, unforgiving Google updates, the loss of actual keyword data, the less obvious relationship between links and rankings, personalized search, various SERP layout changes, and on and on.

I believe the best way forward for evaluating what tools you should be using is to determine what does X best to the point where supplementing it with data from a similar provider is overkill and not worth the extra monthly subscription cost nor the cognitive overhead.

Which Ones to Choose?

Well, this certainly depends on what you do. I'm going to focus on the small to mid-size agency market (which also includes freelancers and folks who just operate their own properties) but for those tetering on mid-large size I'll make 2 recommendations based on personal experience:

If I were operating a bigger agency I'd strongly consider both of those. They both do a really solid job of providing customized reporting and research modules.

For the rest of us, I'll share what I'm using as a basis for my recommendations with reasons why I selected them.

These tools are focused on what I do on a daily basis and are the ones I simply cannot live without. They cover:

  • Reporting
  • Competitive Link & Keyword Research
  • Keyword Research
  • PR and Outreach
  • Advanced Web Ranking

    This is the tool I rely on the most. It does just about everything with the only drawbacks being the learning curve and that it is desktop software. The learning curve payoff is very much worth it though. This tool does the following for me:

    • Reporting for pretty much every aspect of a campaign
    • Interfaces with Majestic SEO for link data as well as data from Moz for link research and tracking
    • Connects to social accounts for reporting
    • Site audit crawls
    • Interfaces with Google Analytics
    • Keyword research
    • Competitor analysis
    • Rankings
    • On-page analysis

    They have a cloud version for reporting and I believe that in the near future a good amount of this functionality will go to its cloud service. This tool is highly recommended.

    Advanced Web Ranking - here's a basic overview of the software from a few years ago, though it has been updated a number of times since then

    Ahrefs

    I remember when this was for sale on Flippa! I find Ahrefs to be very reliable and easy to use. They have added quite a few features over the past year and, in my opinion, they are right up there with Majestic SEO when it comes to relevant, deep link data.

    Their interface has improved dramatically over time and the constant addition of helpful, new features has left other tools playing catchup. I'm hoping to see more integration with them in 2014 via services like Raven and Advanced Web Ranking.

    Ahrefs.com - here's a review from last year (though they no longer offer the SERP tracking feature they offered back then)

    Authority Labs

    The most accurate and stable online rankings provider I've used thus far. The interface has improved recently as has the speed of exports. I would still like to see a bulk PDF export of each individual site in the near future but overall my experience with Authority Labs has been great.

    I use it as a stable, online, automated rank checker to supplement my data from Advanced Web Ranking. It also has some nice features like being able to track rankings from a zip code and showing what else is in the SERP it encounters (videos, snippets, etc).

    Authority Labs - here's a review from 5 months ago

    Buzzstream

    Buzzstream is an absolute must have for anyone doing PR-based and social outreach. The email integration is fantastic and the folks that help me with outreach routinely rave about using Buzzstream.

    The UI has really been turned up recently and the customer support has been excellent for us. I'm positive that our outreach would not be nearly has effective without Buzzstream and there really isn't a competing product out there that I've seen.

    This is a good example of a really niche product that excels at its intended purpose.

    Buzzstream - here's a review from a couple years ago

    Citation Labs Suite

    We use the Contact Finder, Link Prospector, and Broken Link Building tool inside our prospecting process. Much like Buzzstream this is a suite of tools that focuses on a core area and does it very well.

    You have to spend some time with the prospector to get the best queries possible for your searches but the payoff is really relevant, quality link prospects.

    Citation Labs - here's a review from a couple years ago

    Link Research Tools

    While LRT is primarily known for its Link Detox tool, this set of tools covers quite a bit of the SEO landscape. I do not use all the tools in the suite but the areas that I utilize LRT for are:

    • Link cleanup
    • Link prospecting
    • SERP competition analysis
    • Competitive domain comparisons

    It's missing a few pieces but it is similar to Advanced Web Ranking in terms of power and data. LRT hooks into many third party tools (Majestic, SemRush, Moz, etc) so you get a pretty solid overview, in one place, of what you need to see or want to see.

    The prospecting is similar, to an extent, when compared with Citation Labs but you can define specific SEO metrics to prospect filtering as well as base it off of links that appear across multiple sites in a given SERP.

    LinkResearchTools

    Majestic SEO

    Majestic is still the defacto standard for deep link data (both fresh and historical data). They recently launched a new feature called Search Explorer, which is designed to be a specialized search engine devoid of personalization and what not, while showing rankings based on its interpretation of the web graph and how influential a site is for a given term.

    As of this writing, Search Explorer is in Alpha but it does appear to be a really solid innovation from Majestic. The other reason for having a Majestic subscription is to get access to it's API so you can integrate the data however you choose to. I use it (access to the API) inside of LRT and Advanced Web Ranking.

    Majestic SEO - here's a review from a couple years ago by Julie Joyce

    Moz

    I use Moz mainly for access to it's link data via Advanced Web Ranking. Compared to the other tools I use I do not see a ton of value in the rest of its tool suite and I also get data from it via my Raven subscription (which is where I tend to do a fair bit of research).

    If you are on a tight budget it's worthy of consideration for the breadth of tools the subscription offers but I think you could get better options elsewhere if you have some budget to spread around.

    Moz

    Raven Tools

    I don't use every single feature in Raven but I find Raven to be one of the most well-executed, stable tool suites on the market. I use Raven to:

    • Manage keyword lists
    • Research competitors
    • Manage and report on Twitter/Facebook profiles and campaigns
    • Track social mentions
    • Automate site crawls
    • Compare various, customizable metrics between sites
    • Google Analytics and Google/Bing Webmaster tools integration

    In 2014 I'm looking to do more with Raven in the content management area and in the reporting area. I still prefer to supplement GWT rankings data with rankings data from another source (Advanced Web Ranking, Authority Labs, etc) but a goal for 2014, for me, is to fit more reporting into Raven's already excellent reporting engine.

    Raven - here's a review from a few years ago

    SemRush

    In terms of keyword, ranking, and PPC competitive research tools SemRush really has moved ahead of the competition in the past year or so. I use most of the features in the suite:

    • Organic SEO Research
    • PPC keyword and strategy research
    • Multiple domain comparisons covering organic and paid search strategies
    • Yearly historical data feature on a specific domain

    I also like the filtering feature(s) that really help me whittle down keyword data to exactly what I'm looking for without worrying about export limits and such.

    SemRush - here's a review from a few years ago

    SeoBook Community and Tools

    Knowledge is power, naturally. All the tools in the world will not overcome a lack of knowledge. All of the specific, unbiased, actionable business & marketing knowledge that I've received over the last handul of years (and the relationships made) is the single most direct reason for any succcess I've had in this space.

    The SeoBook Toolbar is still one of my most utilized tools. It is data source agnostic, you get data from a variety of sources quickly and reliably. Seo For Firefox takes most of the info in the toolbar and assigns it to each individual listing in a given SERP. Both tools are indispensible to me on the research front.

    We also have some premium tools that I like quite a bit:

    • Local Rank - It scans up to 1,000 Google results and then cross-references links pointing from those sites to the top 10, 20, or 50 results for that same query. The tool operates on the premise that sites that are well linked to from other top ranked results might get an additional ranking boost on some search queries. You can read more about this in a Google patent here.
    • HubFinder - HubFinder looks for sites that have co-occuring links across up to 10 sites on a given topic. This is useful in finding authoritative links that link to competing sites in a given SERP.
    • Duplicate Content Checker - This Firefox extension scans Google for a given block of text to see if others are using the same content. The Duplicate Content Checker searches Google for each sentence wrapped in quotes and links to the results of the search.

    Screaming Frog SEO Spider

    This is my desktop crawler of choice for most sites, it's complimented by Raven's Site Auditor (which can be run automatically) and Advanced Web Ranking's site audit tool in my usage.

    Just about anything you can think of from a site architecture and on-page standpoint can be done with this tool.

    Screaming Frog - a few years ago Branko did a great review

    TermExplorer

    A cloud-based tool that processes large amounts of keywords pretty quickly and does a good job of bringing in terms from multiple sources.

    It also offers a competitive analysis feature that I don't use very much as well as white-label reports. It has pretty slick filtering options for keywords and scans for exact match domains (.com and .net) in addition to CPC and keyword volume data.

    Term Explorer

    Avoid Tool Fatigue

    There is going to be overlap across some of these tools and while the idea of all-in-one sounds nice it rarely works in practice. Clients are different, deliverables are different, and business models are different.

    The trick is to avoid as much overlap as possible between the tools that you use, otherwise you end up wasting time, money, and resources by overthinking whatever it is that you are doing.

    I have less than 20-ish toolsets that I use on an almost daily basis. Some of these are not used daily but definitely monthly. At one point I had access to over 40 different tools. The tools mentioned in this post are the ones that I've found the most value in and gained the most success from.

    Advanced Web Ranking Review - Website Auditor

    Advanced Web Ranking (AWR) is one of my favorite pieces of SEO software on the market today. It has been indispensable to me over the years. The software does it all and then some.

    I reviewed it a few years ago; you can read that here, most of it is still relevant and I'll be updating it in the near future. In this post I want to highlight their Website Auditor tool.

    Combining On and Off Page Factors

    The beauty of this feature is the simple integration of on and off-page elements. There are other tools on the market that focus solely on the on-page stuff (and do a fantastic job of it) and AWR does as well.

    The all-in-one nature of Advanced Web Ranking allows you to deftly move between the on and off (links, social, etc) page factors for a site (and its competition) inside of the Website Auditor feature. AWR has other tools built-in to go even deeper on competitive analysis as well.

    A quick FYI on some general settings and features:

    • You can crawl up to 10,000 pages on-demand
    • All results are exportable
    • Audits are saved so you can look at historical data trends
    • Complete white-label reporting is available
    • Because it's software it's all you can eat :) (save for the page limit)

    You can also set the tool to crawl only certain sections of a site as well as completely ignore certain sections or parameters so you can make the best use of your 10,000 page-crawl limit. This is a nice way to crawl a specific section of a site to find the most "social" content (limit the crawl to /blog as an example).

    Interface Overview

    Here's what the initial interface looks like:

    awr-site-audit-interface-overview

    It's a thick tool for sure, on the whole, but just focus on the Auditor piece. It's fairly self-explanatory but the top toolbar (left to right) shows:

    • Current site being viewed
    • Update date history for historical comparison
    • Filtering options (all pages, only specific pages (200's, 404's, missing title tags, basically all the data points are available for slicing and dicing)
    • Button for on-page issues to show in the view area
    • Button for page-level external link data to show in the view area
    • Button for page-level social metrics (Twitter, Facebook, G+) to show in the view area
    • Update Project button (to update the Audit :D )
    • Text box where you can filter the results manually
    • Auditor settings (see below)
    • Link data source, Open Site Explorer for now (Majestic is available in other areas of AWR and I'm told it will be available in Website Auditor as another option on the next release, 9.6 (due out very soon)

    The tool settings button allows to configure many areas of the Auditor tool to help get the exact data you want:

    awr-site-audit-tool-settings

    On-Page and Off-Page Data Points

    The on-page overview gives you all of what is listed in the viewport shown previously and if you click on the Filter icon you'll be able to look at whatever piece of on-page data you'd like to:

    awr-site-audit-page-filters

    I did just a short crawl here in order to show you how your data will look inside the tool. The view of the initial on-page report shows your traditional items such as:

    • Title tag info
    • Meta descriptions
    • Duplicate content
    • Robots and indexing information
    • Broken link and external link counts
    • Levels deep from the root
    • HTTP Status Code

    Each page can be clicked on to show specific information about that page:

    • Links from the page to other sites
    • Internal links to the page
    • Broken links
    • External links pointing into the page with anchor text data, Page Authority, and MozRank. Also whether the link is no-follow or an image will be shown as well
    • Broken link and external link counts
    • Levels deep from the root
    • HTTP Status Code

    The on-page overview is also referred to as the Issues Layout:

    awr-site-audit-on-page-view

    The other 2 views are more of a mix of on-page and off-page factors.

    The Links Layout shows the following (for the root domain and for the sub-pages individually):

    • Levels deep from the homepage
    • Page Authority
    • MozRank
    • Linking Root Domains
    • Total Inbound Links
    • Outbound Links
    • No-follows
    • Inbound and Outbound Internal Links

    awr-audit-links-overview

    In this view you can click on any of the crawled pages and see links to the page internally and externally as well as broken links.

    The Social Layout shows the following information:

    • Facebook Shares, Twitter Shares, and Google +1's for a given URL
    • Internal and external links to the page
    • Indexed or not
    • HTTP Status
    • Meta information
    • Broken Links

    awr-audit-social-layot

    This data is helpful in finding content ideas, competitor's content/social strategy, and for finding possible influencers to target in a link building/social awareness campaign for your site.

    Reporting and Scheduling

    Currently you can provide white label PDF/interactive HTML reports for the following:

    • Issues Layout
    • Link Layout
    • Social Layout

    You can also do a quick export from the viewport window inside the Website Auditor tab to get either an HTML/PDF/CSV export of the data you are looking at (list of link issues, social stats, on-page issues, and so on).

    Reports can be scheduled to run automatically so long as the computer AWR resides on is on and functional. You could also remote in with a service like LogMeIn to run an update remotely or use the AWR server plan where you host the AWR application on one machine and remote client machines (staff as an example) can connect to the shared database and make an update or run a report if needed.

    Advanced Web Ranking's Website Auditor is one of the most robust audit tools on the market and soon it will have integration with Majestic SEO (currently it ties into OpenSiteExplorer/Linkscape). It already pulls in social metrics from Twitter, Facebook, and G+ to give you a more comprehensive view of your site and your content.

    If you conduct technical audits or do competitive analysis you should give AWR a try, I think you'll like it :)

    Pages