DIY SEO Software Reviews

Apr 6th

Is DIY SEO any good? Does it work?

When I got to look at DIY SEO my first thought was: good structure & layout, lets see what is under the hood. But then after opening up the hood I found a car with no engine.

On a score of usability I would give the site a 9 or a 10, but in terms of utility it would be lucky to score as high as a 2 or a 3.

Google AdWords: The Cheapest SEM Strategy for Small & Local Businesses

Maybe there are some small businesses out there who are content being obscure, or who only want to rank for their own business name plus maybe 1 or 2 longtail keywords. But for those businesses I suggest bypassing SEO and buying a few Google AdWords ads.

  • Low traffic keywords are typically cheap to buy search ads on - because you only pay by the click. If few people are searching for something then there will be few clicks to buy.
  • Not only are such markets small, but due to their small size they are also heavily fragmented, making the AdWords traffic even cheaper.
  • If few people are searching for your brand then you can likely spend $25 a month on AdWords and ignore learning SEO.

A Legitimate SEO Strategy Requires Investment

With a paid search campaign, you can use Google AdWords to instantly buy search traffic and gain new customers. SEO is a drawn out strategy & typically requires a much deeper initial investment.

There is little value in investing in SEO unless your goal is to dominate your market, and there is sufficient market scale to justify investing thousands of Dollars (and far more when you consider the value of your time). After all, a single link from Business.com or the Yahoo! Directory will run you $299, and 2 links hardly makes for an effective SEO strategy - but they will set you back $600 a year.

And you don't get those links any cheaper just because your business is small. ;)

Why Does DIY SEO Offer Such a Weak SEO Solution?

When looking at DIY SEO it took me a while to think it through, because I kept thinking "something is missing." Why did they raise funding to build THAT? But then I thought it through. DIY SEO was designed by marketers looking to sell something that would be easy to sell at scale - it was not created out of passion to solve a real problem with the desire to help make a difference in people's lives.

The difference is not subtle.

After all, Andy is the guy who had time to build out hundreds of thin affiliate sites, while being too lazy (and lacking the concern needed) to fix his SEO blog for months while it installed malware on anyone who visited his site. That blog had the tagline Livin' the dream, but that is for him though...you can live with malware. He doesn't care.

Could you imagine a reputable SEO site like Search Engine Land, SEO Book, SEOmoz, or Search Engine Journal delivering malware for months without any care or concern? I can't.

SEO Consulting is Expensive

SEO is both time consuming and expensive. Neither Andy or Patrick offer consulting services because they value their time too much to actually dig into client websites and provide useful, relevant, honest, and effective feedback. Patrick states this on his blog

And as Andy's site states: he no longer sells consulting, and he does not want you to email him

DIY SEO was designed as a high margin automated solution which is so automated that it wouldn't require much feedback or interaction with customers.

But there is one big problem with that strategy...

SEO is *NOT* a Mechanical Process

For anyone looking to seriously compete on the web the DIY SEO tool/system is inadequate, and potentially even harmful. Why?

In SEO, a lot of the potential profit comes from knowing your market well, leveraging new technologies & distribution channels to gain market share, and putting a new spin on old marketing ideas. But they tried to make SEO too black and white...far too mechanical. Anywhere where critical thought & analysis can add value to your SEO strategy, you can count on none of it being done with DIY SEO, just some predetermined path which doesn't really account for everything that makes your business and your market unique.

In an age where the algorithms keep advancing faster and subjective things like branding start playing a role in the search results, mechanical doesn't cut it.

DIY SEO is too prescriptive and limited in nature, and it is a backward looking product. What the phrase "for the rest of us" actually means is "good enough to rank on page 5 of the search results, where you will get virtually no search traffic and make no money."

Paint by Number SEO: An SEO Failure Case Study

Google doesn't always respond to marketing efforts in a predictable way. Consider what happened when Patrick purchased SearchEngineOptimization.net for over $60,000.

At the end of last year he tried to do a 301 redirect to get it to rank, but when it didn't work he asked Matt Cutts about it:

Google's spam czar Matt Cutts never responded (of course), but Patrick ended up having to remove that redirect. Months later that $60,000+ domain name was a "coming soon" page.

And now that the redirect has been removed the original redirected site does not rank as well as it did in the past. So that was certainly a lose / lose scenario.

And the worst part is, when he mentioned the strategy people warned him about what would happen right up front:

He would have been better off donating that money to charity!

Advanced SEO? Or Simpleton SEO?

I don't want to share too many examples of how/why/where their program falls short, but to pick a rather glaring one...

Links are the backbone of an effective SEO strategy. Patrick Gavin built from scratch the #1 link broker on the web - Text Link Ads. A few years back he sold that company for over $30 million. Since then links have only increased in importance while becoming harder to get, but if you check out the advice on links in DIY SEO (or at least when I recently checked it out), one of the "advanced" SEO tips was to ensure that you are not engaging in any link buying or selling.

The advanced tips were not sharing safe & effective link buying techniques. Nope.

The advice was to ensure you were not engaging in link buying or selling.

And, of course, on their own websites they don't follow their own advice.

What Do Effective SEO Campaigns Consist of?

I have no desire to out any of their specific websites (hey I have some crappy ones too), but when you look at the EFFECTIVE strategies that you see Andy and Patrick use in their own publishing efforts, at a minimum they contain strategies like:

  • buying old websites
  • buying strong domain names
  • selectively buying links
  • providing a bit of grease to certain About.com guides for coverage of new 1 page sites
  • nepotistically cross linking sites
  • launching top 100 linkbait lists about trending popular topics
  • building social media accounts to promote those lists
  • buying out some blogs to further seed giving legitimate looking coverage to those lists
  • launching egobait lists of topics like the top 100 ambidextrous hermaphrodite bloggers (complete with running an automated email script to alert people of the "award" they have won, with some people winning multiple awards in the same day - congrats again Nancy P. from Texas on your multiple meaningless awards + thanks for the links...your email address is now in the database, and you will win many more awards as they build out their portfolio of websites!!!!)

... all the clever bits of marketing that go into REAL SEO campaigns that compete on the competitive commercial web ... well that stuff is NOT part of the DIY SEO program.

And it likely won't EVER be, because it isn't paint by number.

Better Small Business SEO Solutions

Want an effective guide to small business SEO? Check out Matt McGee's small business SEO guide. It will give you more than the above program while only setting you back $25.

There are numerous free guides worth recommending as well. Both Bing and Google offer SEO starter guides. We created this one for non-profits, this one for bloggers, and this one for general business websites. SeoMoz offers a pretty good one too.

Published: April 6, 2010

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Comments

April 6, 2010 - 1:29pm

Thanks for the honest review - I was just looking into DIYSEO this morning. I've yet to see an automated solution that works, and I guess that will still hold true after this product launches.

April 6, 2010 - 3:04pm

"In an age where the algorithms keep advancing faster and subjective things like branding start playing a role in the search results, mechanical doesn't cut it."
THIS is at the core of what has been bothering me so much lately. I should have known, wait long enough, and you'd put it into succinct words out here for me.
But this idea is right on the head of it, to me. Thanks - now I can get back to work. :)

April 6, 2010 - 3:07pm

The name in itself is an oxymoron.

Great piece Aaron! I too was suspicious of the initial announcements surrounding DIYSEO. I wasn't surprised when reading your review this morning to find out what I had expected.

It's unfortunate, our industry is getting hit with a plethora of DIY tools and I've seen users of those tools/plugins do more harm than good in some instances.

On a side note, there are some automatic content generators for SEO that we should review sometime soon. ;)

April 6, 2010 - 3:20pm

My initial thought when I first heard of DIYSEO was that it was going to be a fully automated website built to scale, and it was going to be targeted to ignorant small business owners who don't have a clue that DIYSEO is not going to help them achieve their business goals.

Patrick is aware of the fact that he can capture ALOT of market share from ignorant small businesses.

Anyhoo Aaron - I thought this review was solid. And not as emotionally charged (bais) as some other posts you've done :)

But I wanted to point something out:

Low traffic keywords are typically cheap to buy search ads on - because you only pay by the click. If few people are searching for something then there will be few clicks to buy.

Myself and some fellow PPC comrades have had problems with running local PPC campaigns lately. Google is punishing our local terms with poor quality scores because the search volume is so low. What qualifies as "so low"? Not sure. I've run campaigns for Lawn Services in a major California city, and my comrades have run campaigns for legal services in another major city and we get the same "Low Search Volume" punishment from Google.

I know what you had said wasn't in reference to JUST local small businesses, but I needed to throw that out there so local businesses know they may run into some challenges running local campaigns on Google Adwords.

Could you imagine a reputable SEO site like Search Engine Land, SEO Book, SEOmoz, or Search Engine Journal delivering malware for months without any care or concern? I can't.

Andy is no longer concerned with his rep as an SEO. He could care less about an audience. He seems to be following the money right now so I wouldn't be surprised if he sold his web site. I'm not trying to bring him down, the guy obviously knows how to make money - WAY more than me :)

April 6, 2010 - 4:21pm

Aaron - What are your thoughts on Brian Clark's recent project, Scribe? Would love to see a review of that software.

April 6, 2010 - 4:35pm

Have not tried it yet. But thusfar mostly I use the Google search results as a keyword research tool when fine tuning a page (just wrote a SEL article about that which should be published tomorrow).

April 6, 2010 - 5:08pm

When I was reading about the launch of diyseo.com I was skeptical obviously and now I can see that you have exactly the same problems as I was thinking would come up.

However, I am not disappointed with diyseo.com - I don't care for Patrick Gavin , I don't know him and don't read his blog (if he has any). What I am really disappointed is to see such a over-hyped review of diyseo.com on Shoemoney = http://www.shoemoney.com/2010/04/05/the-night-seos-couldnt-sleep/ .I have respected Shoemoney in the past, and I am still reading his blog, but I think he is completely loosing his creditability by pushing products/services that are utter shit.

It's great to see that you Aaron still have the same editorial consistency ..and ...a spine..that seems many SEO/affiliate bloggers have missing.

April 6, 2010 - 6:38pm

I understand your criticisms Aaron and maybe they are warranted. I don't personally know Patrick Gavin, vaguely familiar with his works but I don't think DIYSEO should be discredited.

I too am skeptical of its value longterm, but for what it's worth, I think the value in it is that it is a great stepping stone for small businesses to take their first step into SEO. I've demo'ed it and while the value for a tool such as this is minimal at best for an experienced SEO, I see the value in it in that it creates very simple actionable steps for anyone to do to get started. I don't think DIYSEO should be marketed as a be-it-end-all tool for all things SEO, since obviously SEO doesn't end with simple steps and one would be foolish to think SEO is that simple and expect big results, but for those who are clueless as to how SEO works and what steps to take first, I think this saves many small businesses from being charged thousands and thousands from some run of the mill SEO's.

Personally, I am more wary of any/every webmaster coming out of the woodworks with a DIYSEO account who will be offering consulting to businesses and simply running the steps provided by DIYSEO and calling it "SEO." Fortunately and unfortunately, this opens up a tool for everyone to take a step into SEO.

For face value however, it is a tool that simplifies SEO (maybe this is the negative to it that you critize) is in demand by many small businesses out there. I for one, won't be pushing for small businesses to use it but if a mom and pop shop comes across it and gets a good insight on SEO, then good for them. It'll better educate them for when they're ready to start talking to some consultants.

April 6, 2010 - 6:57pm

I don't mind simplification or clarity. Those are good things of course!

But over-simplification is another issue.

How do you go from being the biggest link broker in the world to saying that not buying or selling links is an ADVANCED SEO strategy?

Its like a fish warning you off of water.

Further they are marketing that they want to help the small business with a $500 budget for SEO. And yet they recommend Business.com & Yahoo! Directory links ($598 per year between the 2). So if you get those 2 links then they already blew 125% of the budget (even without buying any software or domain names or other links).

And what is bad about that oversimplification on the pricing front is that it teaches people that SEO can be had for only $500. Then people sign up, realize the cost is greater, and think the SEO industry is yet again a bunch of scammers.

Part of the pitch is that consultants are overpriced, but when DIY SEO is suggesting you buy some of the same links that consultants would buy the money doesn't pour out of the sky for free. Real SEO has real costs. Its a game of margins & $500 isn't a legitimate effective strategy in 2010 for most companies.

April 6, 2010 - 6:48pm

Seriously lol... that was a systematic destruction of DIYSEO unlike any I've seen around.

Burn.

April 6, 2010 - 8:14pm

I gotta couple things to say..

DIYSEO will not stop me from whooping your ass in the search engines so you better start learning it.. It takes years to get to the level where you see all elements as a whole.. Years to learn how to jump in a market and dominate the mo fo'..

DIYSEO will never show you how to see the WHOLE spectrum.. not just links and content..you have to think like Google, you have to envision yourself as an engineer and what signals you would use to make the serps better..

Now the other thing I have to say is why is shoemoney saying
http://www.shoemoney.com/2010/04/06/the-future-of-seo-for-small-business/

I give this product my highest endorsement

Patrick Gavin has taken an ingenious approach to SEO and I firmly believe its going to revolutionize the small business SEO industry.

hmmmm.....Aaron what do you think about what shoemoney is saying? I think he's turning into a douche recently.. promoting lots of crappy shit for an affiliate link.. Frank kern, video boss, DIYSEO etc.

April 6, 2010 - 8:24pm

Of course Shoe endorses it. How many of his tens of thousands of blog readers do you think will buy it via his affiliate link? Lots. That's what the corporate world would call a "sound business decision."

I agree, ever since he started associating with Kern and Jenkins he's followed them down the super-hype-marketing path. Sadly, I can only assume that's because this approach works well.

April 6, 2010 - 8:31pm

Amusingly, I just noticed that their site resolves both to the root domain as well as www. I guess the automated system missed a factor. Oops! =P

April 7, 2010 - 12:50am

Aaron I've noticed you've been doing a fair few reviews lately. I definitely trust your opinion and advice, so I was wondering if you could perhaps do a review (or even just respond to this comment) on this new tool which you may or may not have heard of yet.

It is basically an automated directory submission tool, and while it obviously isn't an SEO strategy in itself, I thought it might be useful for reducing the SEO workload for small websites using long-tail keywords.

I'm still fairly new to SEO, but I've read enough to be wary of things like this.

April 7, 2010 - 1:58am

I removed that link Gus as that is not the sorta stuff I want to promote on my website.

And in terms of quality, the bigger question there is how many website that are 1 page sales letters with autoplaying video are worth trusting. If a product needs to be that hard sell then it doesn't speak highly for the quality of the product (or the market segment they are trying to target).

RoboForm is awesome and doesn't do anything like that...their product sells based on quality.

July 19, 2010 - 5:06pm

Yeah from what I've seen it looks really basic. It may be good for people who have no idea about SEO however. Not something I would personally find useful.

April 7, 2010 - 3:58pm

My publishing strategy is organized around horizontals and verticals.

Every time I go into a new vertical I discover an entirely different linkbuilding climate.

In some verticals I can easily put together semi-automated systems that syndicate content and generate hundreds of OK links a day. The limiting factor is that I'll hit Google's Tilt switch if I build too fast.

In other verticals, it seems the spam is so intense that the same strategies are good for building maybe 2-3 links an hour; every so often I find a target site that's wide open, but it's usually a half-abandoned splog or a forum that's now about erection pills instead of whatever it was about before.

What's funny is that the advertising eCPM always seems to suck in the hyper-spammed verticals, so assuming you do crawl your way to the top, you'll still have a hard time paying your server bills.

April 10, 2010 - 10:56pm

As a small business Internet marketing firm, this article is particularly informative and helpful. It is true, most people can make one quick mistake doing their own search engine optimization and search engine marketing for their site and end up being considered spam by Google or Yahoo!. That's why it is so important to invest the time and money not only in Google Adwords, but also in effective, but affordable SEO marketing specialists to assist you! Thanks for the post, excellent and relevant information!

April 12, 2010 - 12:20pm

I must admit when I saw the adwords adin my Gmail I was really tempted to take it for a spin as I had been trialing alternatives for my agency.

first thing I noticed - hell, where do you sign up? It took a day before the signup button was published.... weird

and then no fail safe - you needed a credit card to apply for the trial ($149? per month) and it was only a 7 day trial.

out of all this, Raven tools does seem to be the better SEO management tool out there - no it does not do the work for you, just enables you to manage it better.

Cheers
Christopher P West
PPC Matters

April 12, 2010 - 11:26pm

Funny, I read a post at search engine watch today about DIYSEO and it sounded really good. Then reading this,Aaron you raise some good points.

You would think the people whose websites are listed as untitled document could one day have some worthwhile help from somewhere show up to their rescue, at a price they are willing to pay. Maybe they will read this post or the many others as informative.

Warner Carter
http://pageonebusiness.com

April 13, 2010 - 3:57am

I tried the free trial myself and felt the same way. There was no substance of any kind as far as link building. The only thing they said to do was to buy directory listings. Great review Aaron.

May 1, 2010 - 11:56am

Great post Aaron and I couldn't agree more with you on the principles however I did find taht some of the free tools did have some merit to them and all things considered, were okay for newbies or small businesses as a low cost way to have a go at SEO.

Tahire Khan

May 2, 2010 - 3:49am

They don't offer any free tools. But plenty of other SEO websites do :D

Though I am sure they will eventually try to offer some free stuff to gain awareness. But I suspect if/when they do that it would be rather low level based on what they are charging people to access.

November 30, 2011 - 9:16pm

Hey, I just read a bit of your blog yesterday and are impressed with your honesty. We need help and I believe one who won't lie to us is needed . Recently I bought two websites from a1stopmall2011 on eBay.com for $1 and he works for a hosting service called Hostdevil.net . The websites are electronicstouch.com and freakinggame.com. Both websites allow ebook downloads by giving an email. The system does not keep these emails but instead keeps the failed ones, the hosting service says there is no way to track it yet how do they send the emails, is something wrong there? We aren't hating on the service they are amazing overall, but we are concerned about that one issue and would like your response. By the way, both websites have the same code and one was flagged for being a bridge page while the other went through perfectly fine, something we do not understand...Another issue is that we have wasted $100 on Google advertisements and have gotten about 1,800 visitors, yet not a single purchase has been done by them, what do you think of this issue? We sent Amazon(we are affiliated with them) and Google an email stating our concerns. Google stated that they had nothing to do with this and Amazon says that customers sent through our link is only kept for 24 hours, but one of my friends purchased something and I was given the necessary percentage for the sale. That is the only purchase made.
So to sum it up
1) where could those emails be?
2) Why do I have around 2 thousand visitors that don't purchase anything, is that normal?
3) Why did Google flag one site for bridge paging while the other was not, even though both are the same codes?

Please help us and I await a reply

Thank you, Roger and Johny (electronicstouch@gmail.com)

December 1, 2011 - 4:42am

...so I can't really review the legitimacy of $1 "investments" ... but generally if something is a great deal & a real business would it be available for $1? If actual profits were plug-n-play, then why would they sell it for $1 instead of keeping the opportunity for themselves?

December 1, 2011 - 8:14pm

They did sell it for one dollar, but they tried to sell us more expensive products such as getting our site ranked high in google, constant advertising with their blogs, so it really wasn't a plug-n-play situation, more like they had the website pre-built with the codes and we had to set everything else up (the affiliation, google ads, etc.), but our major concern is the fact that nearly 2,000 people visited and there is only one purchase and that the emails are not saved in the server. What do you think about these problems? Thanks again

December 1, 2011 - 8:27pm

...I think you should keep buying their upsells until you run out of money. ;)

December 2, 2011 - 3:40am

I do appreciate the time you give to us in responding these questions, we are going view all your guides and such and hopefully get an idea from there, but you still left the main problem we asked. What about the many visitors that have only purchased one item and the emails not being registered in the server but the failed ones are? Again, thanks a lot and sorry to bother you. I will recommend your site to any new site creator and such.

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