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By | Marketing | No Comments

Having intelligence about your direct competition is an essential part of doing business online and is surprisingly simple when you have access to the most powerful web strategy weapons available. Whether it be traffic metrics, advertising spy services or in-depth keyword analysis tools, there are now more options than ever to effortlessly penetrate what your competition is doing and discover how they got from Point Ato Point B.

As you peruse through the various tools, make sure to always examine your own projects through the same comprehensive scrutiny. This helps you gauge the accuracy of given metrics and offers intuition into what your competition may know about you. Because, if they’re smart, they are just as busy digging into as many of your secrets and strategies as they can get their hands on!

If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.

– Sun Tzu

Web Ranking Tools:

Gaining a general understanding of how a website is doing traffic-wise is an excellent first step in knowing which of your enemies should be taken seriously and where everyone stands on the proverbial totem pole.

  • Alexa: As the most popular website ranking service available, Alexa will provide a general ranking of popularity for every website that’s been around long enough to be in their index. While not always perfect, Alexa is often the go-to for figuring out where everyone stands.
  • SimilarWeb: After deeming your competition worthy through Alexa, you can then dig deeper into their traffic patterns and competing sites using SimilarWeb.com’s analytics toolset.

Website Deconstruction Tools:

Once you’ve identified your most dangerous rivals, it’s important to understand where their site(s) have been and to start deconstructing what technologies they are currently powered by.

  • Archive.org: Known as the “Wayback Machine,” Archive.org has a stunningly accurate archive of how the internet has looked over the last long while. Plug a website domain in and you can instantly see working snapshots of how it looked in the past. Use this to see how a website looked in the past, when it really first started and what changes they’ve made over time.
  • BuiltWith.com: This is one of the coolest spy tools you’ll find. BuiltWith.com examines and displays everything from what e-mail server your competition uses, to their hosting, framework, advertising networks, analytic tracking, javascript libraries, widgets / plugins, server information and much, much more.
  • WhatWPThemeIsThat.com: If you’re looking at a WordPress site and want to see if you can detect what commercial theme they are using, this is a great little tool.
  • WhoIsHostingThis.com: If you are curious where a website is hosted, this simple tool will give you the answer.



SEO & Keyword Monitoring Tools:

Organic website traffic can be worth its weight in gold. And if you know how to siphon off the most valuable keywords and rankings that are the life lines of your competition, their golden reservoirs can soon become yours. Use the below tools and strike them intelligently.

Side note: I’ve listed multiple services which often overlap in what they offer. This is on purpose. Use them all to get the most information possible.

  • SEMRush: This is currently my favorite of the keyword analysis tools because it looks at it from a competitive perspective and ranks sites based on their nearest obvious competition. 
  • KeywordSpy: This tool gives you a combination of insight into a competing website’s organic keyword traffic and their paid Ad Words campaign (when applicable).
  • SpyFu: Similar to SEMRush, SpyFu leans towards competitive analysis and will provide even more data to go off of from a varying perspective.
  • iSpionage: iSpionage also lets you put in your target keywords to get a list of the primary competitors. Another awesome feature is their estimation of the monthly Ad Words spend of your competition.
  • KeywordCompetitor: Similar to KeywordSpy, KeywordCompetitor offers a second opinion on the same organic keyword traffic and paid Ad Words campaigns.
  • The Search Monitor: TSM is a paid service only, but additionally offers tools unique to the Affiliate Management space that can help you track who is doing what – especially your own affiliates that are on your payroll!

Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will.

– Sun Tzu

Link Popularity and Backlink Tools:

An important component of any proper SEO strategy is to keep up to date on how many back links both you and your competition are getting. More importantly, who is linking to who and how can you get in the action to steal some of their thunder?

  • Majestic SEO: As one of the largest and most frequently updated indexes of backlinks, Majestic is a solid tool to check up on everyone.
  • Cognitive SEO: Offering a free 14 day trial, CognitiveSEO is an excellent tool for bloggers and small business owners who want to keep an eye on the links and keywords that funnel traffic to their sites and competitors alike. 
  • Link Prospector: This isn’t as much for your competition, but I’ll toss it in here because it’s pretty useful. When you’re trying to build quality back links and improve your site’s authority, it helps to have a cheat sheet on your best prospects. Link Prospector identifies a variety of possible opportunities for your site, ranging from guest columns to contests and you name it.

Advertising & Marketing Spy Tools:

You always want to go to war with the most advanced technology possible, and spying on your enemy’s marketing is the equivalent of a B2 Stealth Bomber. Use the below tools to see where they are advertising, their exact ads (with links), ad spending and literally download an entire folder of any display banners that they’ve ever run online to leverage your current and future campaigns against.

  • WhatRunsWhere: Discover your competitor’s most successful ad campaigns, copy and everything in between using WRW’s comprehensive toolset and reporting. WRW also offers access to an archive of every display and Ad Words ad that a competing website has run on paid ad networks.
  • Moat: Provide another great display ad archive that lets you search by brand name. Bonus? You can just go to Moat’s site and search without signing up for anything.
  • SocialAdNinja: Provides a specific focus on PPC ads on major social media networks.
  • Fanpage Karma: Focusing specifically on monitoring your competitors Facebook business / fan page, Fanpage Karma provides insight into the most effective post strategies on Facebook audience engagement strategies.
  • AdGooRoo: Adding another level of competition analysis and an effective tool to identify competitors who are using your trademarks to purchase and compete against your own ads, AdGooRoo is worth checking out.
  • Adbeat: Spy on your competitor’s most successful ad campaigns, link copy and ad spend using AdBeat.com’s comprehensive toolset and reporting.

If there is disturbance in the camp, the general’s authority is weak.

– Sun Tzu

 Conversation Monitoring:

When you can keep your ear to the ground and know both the good and bad conversations being had about about your competition, you’ll have an easier time identifying opportunities and weaknesses in their social armor.

  • Google Alerts: It’s the simplest, easiest and cheapest (it’s free) tool available to get notices when pages are indexed that mention the keywords you want to keep track of. Simply sign in with your Google account and setup the words or phrases you want to track, get alerts about them. It’s that easy, breezy.
  • Mention: Adding another layer of monitoring who is talking about who, Mention.com focuses more on social mentions for the keywords, brands, phrases and business names you wish to track.
  • Talkwalker: As more of an enterprise level tool, TalkWalker is also one of the most powerful social monitoring options available. Hone in on demographics, who the key influencers are, where the most buzz is happening and more.
  • Topsy: Focusing onto the Twittersphere, Topsy.com lets you search Twitter mentions all the way back to the beginning of Twitter.
  • Social Mention: Another real time search tracker, Social Mention also gives you the opportunity to track sentiment and to see who is doing the mentioning.
  • Open Social Buzz: I’m a sucker for free things and OSB doesn’t disappoint. Search all major social networks for names, terms and brands to see who is saying what.


By | Marketing | No Comments

Before I launch into a completely justifiable tirade about why I despise everything about Yelp and their mafia like advertising sales department, let me first quantify a larger point about online marketing. Any major online advertising decision you make should alwaysbe based on testing, tracking and whatever it takes to make certain that your marketing dollars are being well spent. More importantly, converting into actual customers.

For this reason alone, Yelp is terrible.

They don’t allow for the same kind of short run testing you’ll find on pretty much any major ad network. Instead, they basically browbeat you into an overpriced contract, that will stretch for many (expensive) months, while you basically end up sitting around hoping it converts (spoiler: it probably won’t convert).

Speaking of tracking conversions, you’re pretty much left to reading tea leaves and surveying customers, because there is no reliable way to track performance with Yelp advertising. For those two reasons, I can’t recommend anyone advertise on Yelp. It’s 2015, you have better options in online marketing. As in, pretty much every option other than Yelp is better. And if you need more justification…


My personal experience with advertising on Yelp:

I made the expensive mistake of listening to their “you’ll see a 4 to 1 return on ad dollars spent!” sales pitch for my tour company, Jackify.com. They locked me into a 3 month contract (negotiated down from 12 months) that I didn’t realize automatically renewed on a month-to-month basis (that’s on me), at $350 a month. Better yet, after I scanned in and sent them the contract with my credit card authorization, my (previously aggressive) Yelp ad reps basically hightailed it out and were never seen or heard from again.

Among a long list of things they didn’t do as promised:

  • They didn’t shoot the video that was supposed to be added to our business profile.
  • They didn’t send me a business page login so I could track our advertising performance.
  • They didn’t answer e-mails.
  • We never received screenshots of our (alleged) ad placements.
  • And, most importantly, we didn’t receive even a single customer call, e-mail, inquiry or even a hint that someone was looking into our business because of us advertising on Yelp.

The only thing our $1,050 got us was a bill asking for another $700 because our ghost of an advertising campaign had apparently stretched into another couple of months. Yes, nothing says how effective Yelp is to advertise on like the fact that we didn’t even realize the campaign was going on, or had started.

To be fair, our rep, Alicia Keswani, eventually claimed they had tried to contact us about our campaign. This is fine, except for such technological innovations like “caller ID,” “voicemail” and “e-mail archives” to which no such communication attempts existed within. She also didn’t produce any forwards. Weird.


I’d even be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in thinking that we were a special case, miscommunication occurred and we fell through the cracks. That, however, isn’t the case. Everyone I’ve spoken to about Yelp basically describes the same aggressive, predatory, almost extortion like ad sales techniques, while at the same time mentioning little or no response to their actual campaign. The only person that came to their defense amongst dozens in an online discussion, worked for Yelp.

Speaking of response, we (allegedly) received 6 entire clicks on our ad (to an unknown link) for a total cost of $1,750. This would equate to an entire click every 25 days, at a cost of $291 per click with a whopping conversion rate of 0. I’m not math major, but that’s terrible. Like, industry leading terrible.

So, should you advertise your business on Yelp? No. There are plenty of better places to test advertising, including herehere and here. When you find what works for you, max out your budget through that channel and continue looking for similar opportunities. Unless you just like giving money away, then you can call Alicia at Yelp. 😉

Have a story about advertising on Yelp? Please share below. 


By | Marketing | No Comments

If you’ve been reading StartupStud.com for long, then you already know that smarter wins the race every time. Our goal with any online business that you’re involved in is to always have the most intelligence possibleand then to execute your business with flawless precision based on data– not your gut feeling.

This is where A/B and Multivariate Testing can come in and help you to optimize your site and substantially increase conversions from the traffic that you already have. In the simplest of terms, this testing is basically taking the traffic to your site and then using a recommended testing service to divide it between different versions of a minor (or major) change. It can be changing a headline, color, image, product title, sign up form or anything else you can think of comparing.

You are A/B Testing (aka: Split Testing) when simultaneously comparing one (or more) versions of a single change to your project.

You are Multivariate Testing when simultaneously comparing combinations of multiple changes to your project.

And while I’m the first to admit that all of this sounds boring enough to make a dead person fall asleep, the potential benefits from just taking the time to regularly test and optimize your projects are a little more exciting.

Imagine if you knew that by merely changing the title of an e-commerce product, you would get 10% more sales out of every 1,000 visitors. Or increase newsletter signups 200% by simply changing your mailing service. Or by optimizing your site for mobile users, you would immediately increase profits by $5,000 per week. For obvious reasons, if you like money, then this is worth doing properly.


Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.

– Steve Jobs

There are dozens of A/B and Multivariate Testing services available, which you are welcome to further research on Google, but I’ve kindly done the legwork for you and narrowed down recommendations to the seven best options that are suited for a small-to-medium online business to use with varying levels of marketing expertise.

In other words, these are the ones that are affordable, powerful and relatively easy to learn to use:

  • Marketizator: Marketizator tops my recommendation list because they offer a powerful and simple to use testing interface that is free up to 10,000 tested views per month and also offers surveys and personalization. Monthly plans range from $55 and beyond.
  • Optimizely: As one of the most popular options available, Optimizelyoffers a stunningly simple interface that is jam-packed with testing and data analysis features. Free trial available and monthly plans start at $17.
  • Convert: With a two week free trial and available self-service plans starting at $26 per month, Convert‘s advantage is an impressive list of simple integrations with other platforms and services ranging from WordPress, Volusion, Google Analytics to even a few of the other more specific recommendations like Kissmetrics and Unbounce.
  • Kissmetrics: If you are serious about analyzing data, Kissmetrics is one of the best available options for tracing your testing data down to specific users. Their offerings are impressive to say the least. And with packages starting at $150 with a 1-year commitment, it’s a good thing.
  • VWO: Visual Website Optimizer is an excellent blend of powerful features with a still reasonable monthly service fee. At $49 a month, VWO offers A/B, Multivariate, Split URL, Targeting, Usability Tests, Conversion Tracking and Heatmaps, whereas many other services pack those into much more expensive packages.
  • Unbounce.com: Unbounce is your go to if you’re ONLY focusing on split testing landing pages. That’s all they offer and they are pretty damned good at it. A 30-day trial is available with packages afterward ranging from $49 – $199 a month.
  • Google Analytics: I’m a major fan of all things Google and use Google Analytics on a daily basis for every project I’m involved in. But when you get into some of the more advanced features, like their “Content Experiments” (their A/B Testing platform), you’re faced with a steep learning curve and some less than ideal visual testing features. I’d suggest at least playing with the free and trial options on the other services to get your feet wet on testing before delving too deeply into Google’s offerings. Also, watch as many training videos as you can find, Google’s interface is up there with the NASA Control Room in terms of complexity.


Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing. 

– Warren Buffet

What Is Required To Test Properly?

It’s important to always start with a specific hypothesis that says, “by changing [X], I think [Y] will happen.” Then apply enough traffic for the testing to reliably produce a statistically significant result over a given amount of time.

Your goal is to be 95% sure that “[C]” change will produce “[R]” result, so it’s wise to start with a testing calculator that gives you a ballpark of how many visitors you need to test with to get to that magic 95%. Here is a good one to use. Another great option is to plug in your current traffic and goals to get a minimum amount of days you’ll need to test (as in, at 1,000 visitors per day, i’ll need 15 days worth of testing). Check that out here.

What Should I Test?

You can test anything that you’re wondering about, but I recommend starting with these essentials:

  • Calls-to-Action: This is usually one of the more important (and obvious) features of your site to test as it has one of the most direct effects on your conversions. Just be crystal clear what you are testing. Smart tests to run are: where the CTA is on the page, what the CTA looks like, verbiage of the CTA, shape and style, etc.
  • Copy Length: Look for that sweet spot of copy length that gives the reader everything that they need to know without scaring them off. This is especially important for sales and sales landing pages.
  • Headlines: The reader’s experience generally starts with the headline, so this is an important one to become proficient at knowing what your audience likes.
  • Images: Test a variety of pictures to find what best captures your reader’s eye and inspires their desired action.
  • Mobile: The vast majority of your site users are now viewing your pages on a tiny screen, so testing with the mobile experience in mind is essential.

Can I spy test Results from similar companies?

If there is one inalienable truth about the internet, it is that you can find damn near anything on it – including the results of other websites A/B Testing! While taking all of the obvious differences and variables into consideration, it is worth peaking at other’s results for testing ideas and insight into how their tests faired: WhichTestWon.com.

How Can I Become More Proficient At A/B and Multivariate Testing?

There aren’t yet too many quality online courses out there to learn advanced data analysis strategies (if you find some good ones, let me know), but each of the major recommended testing services at the start of this article offer fairly extensive knowledge bases and blogs on the subject. You can also peruse the internet marketing forums. Online, that’s your best bet.

Offline, however, there are a few great books available on Amazon.com for it:


By | Uncategorized | No Comments

If purchasing (or “seeding”) a fake following on your social media accounts is something that you’re seriously considering, let’s pause for a moment and just think about how embarrassing this will look to anyone who sees it.

Pretend you are 13 years old and are all bent out of shape because, out of all your middle school friends, you’re about the only one who hasn’t kissed a girl or found someone to be “madly in love” with.

You sit alone at the lunchroom table and, in full view of all your swooned friends, are inspired to concoct a totally ‘believable’ story about “Ashley.” You know, the really, really hot girl you’re dating who lives in Canada.

You find a picture, build up a backstory and then run wild telling everyone at school how madly in love you are with “Ashley.” Also, how much she probably definitely wants to have sex with you.


The story snowballs and now you’re totally attached to having a fake girlfriend that no one actually believes exists.

They may be nice about it to your face, but they’re definitely making fun of you behind your back. A lot. Like, they’re seriously making fun of you. They wake up, brush their teeth and then immediately resume making fun of you and your fake Canadian girlfriend.

The rest of your middle school career will now be spent enduring jokes and “dude, come on, that is still not funny” notes left on your locker. And, as a cherry on this cake of pathetic despair, no one named Ashley probably definitely wants to have sex with you.

If you make the ridiculous decision to buy fake followers, it’ll be Ashley all over again.

You’re Not Fooling Anyone With Fake Followers.

It used to be that only some people knew how to spot those who had a bullshit “following.” These days anyone who has spent more than an hour on the internet can see it a mile away. You’re not going to fool anyone.

If you were trying to do it to gain more business, there is a good chance it will end up doing the total opposite. You’ll damage your reputation and will be hard to trust. Also, fake followers don’t interact or do anything you need them to, so they are completely pointless towards your marketing needs.

Once you go down that road, it’s pretty difficult (if not impossible) to reverse your terrible decision without just completely deleting everything and starting over.

You’re just stuck with 22,018 followers, next to no user interaction and, even now, no one named Ashley probably definitely wants to have sex with you. – JC


By | General, Marketing | No Comments

Drivers in Las Vegas have long been forced to contend with a jerk who terrorizes the roads of Southern Nevada in a black Lexus with the license plate “dot com.” That’s me. I’m that jerk. I’m so nerdishly committed to my domain extension of choice, that I’ve gone so far as to tell the world on the back of my car!

As it came time to write the very important guide for StartupStud.comabout selecting the right domain for a new startup, I had to find a way to set my own .com jerk stubbornness aside and provide the best available information about the latest market and SEO trends for domain name purchases.

With all of these new domain extensions floating around, are “.coms” still king? What is the most current domain valuation process? How should someone choose the right name?

Having these burning questions in mind, I reached out to our friends at Sedo.com for a truly data-driven, market expert interview about everything that needs to be taken into consideration when selecting a name.

Far and away the undeniable leader in the global domain aftermarket, Sedo.com‘s marketplace offers more than 18,000,000 domain names and operates the most active domain exchange on earth. With more than 2,000,000 active members and staff working from 30 countries around the world, we would have been hard-pressed to find anyone with more reliable data to help cut through all of the noise you see online about domain names and extensions.

Spoiler Alert: .coms are by far still the most valuable and used of all domain extensions!


StartupStud.com: What recommendations does Sedo have for an entrepreneur seeking the perfect domain name at a price that is within their startup budget?

Sedo: Most businesses, including entrepreneurial ventures, tend to overlook how crucial a domain name can be to their success in not only establishing the best online footprint, but how this fits into their overall branding.

We suggest the following tactics when aiming to find the best domain name:

  1. Avoid using a domain with too many characters or a bulky, unspecific, over-complicated domain name like chicagoaccountantandfinancialservices.com.
  2. Select domains that do not differ completely from your business or concept’s name which easily causes confusion among traffic to the website.
  3. Instead seek generic premium keyword domains improving SEO results and the likelihood of new business growth and development.
  4. Be open to exploring the unique and branded names now available to the right of the dot.

A quality domain is essential to stand out from competition who in most cases is not utilizing the strongest name or strategy to emphasize their online footprint. Creating a strong online identity should be at the forefront in building an effective brand as well as taken into account during early discussions of launching a business, re-strategizing or implementing something new.

We’re seeing this strategy being implemented among many companies like pharmacy chain CVS utilizing a customized domain, www.cvsquits.com when they launched their campaign around the removal of tobacco products. Great, innovative companies like the ones being birthed from the latest boom in startups lack a key component in the nearly unlimited amount of strategic and creative choices for their websites.

We encourage our clients to think of their domain name as their company’s calling card as the days of business cards, phone book listings and printed bulky materials are slowly waning and the first impression a business makes is through their website.

Liking StartupStud.com? You’ll love the Instagram. Click the photo to open the @startupstud profile and find the ‘follow’ button.


StartupStud.com: What are the primary factors that determine a domain’s value?

Sedo: A few of the major categories we take into consideration when placing a value on a domain are the TLD, length of the domain, linguistic suitability, and branding/commerce potential. When providing appraisals on particular domains we also always look to comparable sales data, which can be one of the most helpful indicators of a domain’s value in the current market. As with the real estate market, the domain market is constantly evolving.

As such in the domain world, when seeking a valuation, you want to have the most current sales data to support any values quoted as a fair market value.

StartupStud.com: Are .com’s still the most valuable TLD? If so, do you see that being the case for the foreseeable future? For how long?

Sedo: .com names are still, by far, the most in demand domain name and our expectation for the foreseeable future is that it will stay in this position. Our current market data puts the average price of a .com name at $4,701 while the next highest selling TLD is .net at $1,429. .com is still the TLD that can be used for everything and has the broadest use case although names such as .web, .site and others have good potential, too.

Strong arguments can be made for using the new TLDs such as shortening existing lengthy domain names with the use of the a new TLD or also using one that is more relevant and targeted for your business such as .club, .bar, .shop, etc. It is for the most part too difficult for the new names to compete on the same level with .com in the near future and in all fairness comparisons between long-standing TLDs and the new names should be withheld.

Benefits to using a new GTLD is coverage of a vertical or a geographic area or anything else that further clarifies what your website and business are all about.

Further data and information on market trends: https://sedo.com/us/resources/market-trends/

StartupStud.com: As we’ve seen more and more domain extensions enter the registration landscape, what has the response been in the aftermarket in terms of these new extension’s valuations?

Sedo: To date, the volume of sales has been relatively low when compared to .com and sales of other more established extensions but we at Sedo have been vocal about expectations needing to be set realistically. However, the number of sold domains under new TLDs on Sedo’s aftermarket has increased enormously: In 2013 we had domain sales under 160 different TLDs. As of today, almost 200 TLDs are traded on our market. If you look at this number, the new gTLDs are very successful.

It is still too early to draw any conclusions about the success of the new extensions but the initial sales we’ve seen are good indicators for future price developments industry-wide.

The ten highest public gTLD domain name sales at Sedo in the first half year of 2015 already demonstrate good indicators for some increased success of the new gTLDs.


While domain investors can be quite prosperous by investing in domains and then in turn selling them, they tend to be skeptical with investing in the new gTLDs. On the other hand, smaller companies, startups and local businesses are quite keen on obtaining new gTLD names for their online presence. As a result prices for new gTLDs aren’t comparable to related .com names. Most end users can’t afford a costly domain purchase which is in line with our projections. The trading of gTLDs is still in its infancy, especially since not all TLDs have been released yet, including the most highly anticipated ones like .app or .web or .shop.

If you look at past new TLD launches such as .co, whose good stats and global acceptance demonstrate the need for these domains but you also need a good test case using the TLD. .Co was fortunate enough to have for example Twitter use www.t.co, which created more awareness among users and therefore increased the value of .co names in the aftermarket. The same success is possible with .xyz, since Google’s new parent company Alphabet has decided to use abc.xyz. Other new gTLDs will profit from the publicity about .xyz as well.These test cases will have impact and influence on the value of TLDs in the aftermarket.

We at Sedo believe the key to the success of these names is creating awareness among businesses and end users alike and in turn we’ve been focused on partnering with numerous new gTLD registries. Proactive marketing for these new names is at the forefront of our initiatives in this vast market of thousands of new gTLDs are competing with each other.

It will take some time until we will see the effects of marketing effort among TLD Registries and as time progresses we may see that the number of new gTLDs decreasing since not every new gTLD will have the power, resources and budget to maintain solvency in the domain industry.

StartupStud.com: Are the clients who are purchasing these new extensions in the aftermarket typically speculators or are you seeing them actually being used in commerce?

Sedo: We have already seen users implementing new gTLDs for their online presence. Coffee.club is a perfect example of a new extension being used for an online e-commerce site. This service provides high-quality fair trade coffee delivery direct to their customer base.