If the com is taken, should I settle for co

If the .com is taken, should I settle for .co?

This is a great question, and I get it often. So often that I decided to write a blog post without first doing keyword research. To answer the question “if the .com is taken, should I settle for .co”, depends largely on the situation. To make things harder, the situation your business is in, changes over time. Therefore the decision you make today may prove to be wrong in a few years after the market conditions change. Here are some key factors I suggest you take into consideration before making a decision.

1. Is this a long-term project?

If this is a one-off thing or a side-hustle blog, you can certainly get by without investing a few thousand dollars in a good .com domain name. On the other hand, if this is your “baby”, and you plan to invest the next decade into building this project you may want to invest in a great name. This will spare you money and time you will have to spend later on rebranding.

Do you remember in school when there was a kid with a funny name? Everybody knows that kid, and that person is stuck with that name for the rest of its life. Don’t make that mistake. It is not easy being teased and calling you funny names all the time.

2. Is that particular .com domain name worth it?

If you go to Sedo, Flippa or any other domain name marketplace you will see a ton of domain names for sale. May are so overpriced it’s ridiculous. Mind you, I am not saying great domains are not worth the price, they sure are! What I am saying is don’t pay a ton of money for something that it just so happens you aren’t able to get for the base price. This is also called the “grass is always greener on the other side”. It happens to everybody! Yes, these 10 domain names that are available for registration are awful. But this one that is registered, oh, I like that one so much I’ll sell my kidney in order to get it. Don’t fall for that, and evaluate the real price of this domain name.

If the com is taken, should I settle for co
If the .com is taken, should I settle for .co?

3. If the .com is taken, should I settle for .co?

This is the wrong question to ask because it presupposes these are the only two options out there. You need to get out of this frame of thinking! In my opinion, I would always go with a .com, unless I really like the name with the new TLD (like webmaster.ninja, vegan.club, check here some other nice combinations) and there’s no way I can afford the .com or if I conclude it is not worth it.  The question you really need to be asking yourself is: “What is the very best domain name I can afford?”. Once you get inspired, you can check for domain availability here. That’s how I found a domain name for this website.

4. Am I thinking like an investor?

When you are buying a domain name, you need to be thinking like an investor. Yes, there are great courses to get you started and there are automated tools that help you evaluate the cost of a domain name but you should at least know what you are getting into to. Check services like Namebio to check other similar names, or even if your domain name has been sold in the past. You wouldn’t buy a plot of land without considering some serious thought, would you? Even domain names like Google.com, Youtube.com, and Instagram.com were at one point bought for $10. Sure, some found their new owners for hundreds of thousands of dollars (instagr.am became instagram.com), but at one point they were bought for the base price. I am not saying your company is going to grow like TheFacebook.com in the early days, but it is possible to avoid some pitfalls. The domain name can be a great asset or just some “address” that you type in.

5. I have a business and a name, it’s time to go online.
6. We are doing business locally, it’s time to go global

I put 5 and 6 together because it’s the same problem with different background. It essentially means you’ve built something from the ground, using a certain name built on a local TLD (or no domain name), and now you need to get a .com. In this scenario there are two options:

  1. You need to pay the money that’s being asked for the .com domain name and negotiate during that process. I’ve seen companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, giving equity in return for the domain ownership and other big leaps, just in order to get that .com domain name.
  2. Don’t like option #1? An alternative is to rebrand. If you are shifting gears from local to global, there’s a good chance you might need a rebrand anyway due to the language being used. If your car is called “Nova”, you don’t want to go with that name into the South American market. (Check that urban legend here)
  3. I thought I said 2 options? Well, I know some of you are going to hate the first two so much, you are going to disregard me as an expert. So, here’s a bonus option. Keep doing what you are doing without the website, until you have the money for a great domain name. There’s no point in going after the global market with a bad domain name. If you are going to save money on a domain name, you are probably going to tighten the budget on a website, and the social media accounts (the handle, such as facebook.com/ourcompany) are probably not going to follow the guideline Michael Cyger shared with us in an interview.


Ok, let’s recount the advice I’ve given here.

  • Always register a .com domain name, unless the TLD really makes sense for your business, and is not local TLD
  • When deciding how much you want to invest in a domain name, use tools such as Estibot, Namebio or go through a course like DNAcademy
  • You will use this domain name for a long time in a lot of different places. Make your life easy by choosing a good name



List of marketplaces to buy and sell online businesses

Up to this point on webmaster.ninja blog, I only wrote about starting a brand new website from scratch and how to start making money online. Although that approach has some advantages, there are also various risks and problems involved. For example, how do you make sure there’s already demand for that type of product you decided to build? How do you know if you are going to be able to rank for those keywords? Will you have enough money to get the venture of the ground? How long will you have to wait before you start making any money? How much money and time will you have to invest to get the website up and running? So why not check this list of marketplaces where you can buy and sell established websites?

We will go deep into this topic on a later date, but I wanted to scratch the surface today because of two things. 1. I got the chance to interact with a professional website investor and broker, and 2. I just found out an exciting opportunity in a relatively new website marketplace. An established brand in the E-commerce industry launched a new marketplace for buying and selling websites. But, first things, first.

Websites for sale?

Yes, you can buy and sell your website. There are blogs, e-commerce shops, small SAAS businesses, dropshipping businesses and websites that use other ways of monetizing your traffic. If it is a website that is making money (or not), it might be a good idea to purchase it. You can do it either to increase your market share, to cross-sell, to increase your revenue or for any other reason. But the questions I will attempt to answer with this post is, where do you find such websites?

1. Flippa

Flippa has been the go-to place for years for finding good profitable and established websites for sale. Like any other marketplace, there are sneaky people (let’s call them criminals) who will try to trick and scam you. Flippa is getting better and better in tracking them down. Also, buyers are now more sophisticated then they were when Flippa just started out. There are some great websites with a solid track record that you can find on Flippa. Budget starts from as low as $500 or even $100 for a starter site, all the way up to $1,000,000.

Unlike some other marketplaces, Flippa doesn’t have an official vetting process, meaning, everybody can list anything. This is where your experience as an investor comes into play. You may see an “Editor’s choice”, but that doesn’t mean you should let someone else do the due diligence. On the screenshot below you can see the Editor’s choice icon or just click here to see all the latest editor’s choice picks. Couple more important things to note. Flippa is a marketplace that also sells domain names, apps and e-commerce websites like Amazon FBA and Shopify stores. Furthermore, it is an auction-based (like eBay) marketplace. This means that buyers are bidding against each other, the seller can set a reserve (minimum price for which he intends to sell his asset (website)).

Flippa listing with Editor's choice icon
Flippa listing with Editor’s choice icon

We have a long way to go (as you can see below), so I don’t have time to go into specifics of how exactly this auction-based marketplace works, how you can buy the website for BIN (Buy it now) price and how to spot a scam. Hopefuly I will be able to do this in the future, and certainly you can ask me anything in the comment section.

2. Exchange

Speaking of Shopify stores, back in Nobember 2017 Shopify officially launched Exchange after testing the model on their website (subdomain exchange.shopify.com to be exact). Model is very simple in this marketplace. You can buy established stores and starter stores that are based only on Shopify. So if you are into dropshipping, for example, this could be the perfect gateway! Why? In these listings you already have almost everything laid out, and in some cases, even the inventory is stocked up!

Although you can theoretically get your foot in the door by buying a low-value store with $500, and there are a few stores priced that low. I wouldn’t recommend it. Usually, what I’ve seen, stores that make some sense are priced at $7,000, all the way up to $2.5 million (highest I’ve seen on the time of creation of this post). Out of all the marketplaces listed here, this one is the newest.

Through the Exchange app, merchants can list their online stores for sale, including information like traffic and revenue data pulled directly from Shopify. Sellers can’t edit this data, which means interested buyers can feel secure knowing that what they see is what they get. Exchange takes only whitelisted sales into account when generating the sales graphs in listings. — Source

Word of advice. Just like with Flippa, this doesn’t mean you should let someone else do your due diligence. You would be shocked how far a criminal will go to scam you. Here’s an example listing on Exchange of a store that is selling Thuggies. You can see their average revenue, sessions per month, average profit per month and inventory value. The owner is asking a 23X multiple on the profit (not on the revenue) + full inventory value.

Example listing on Exchange marketplace
Example listing on Exchange marketplace

Personally, I am not a huge fan of droppshiping because I think there’s more work involved compared to affiliate marketing. You can call me lazy, but I don’t see a point in doing something I am not passionate about or don’t have the necessary level of experience / contacts, etc. Furthermore, why work on something when you can use a lever.

Another word of advice I can give regarding scamming. If you buy a website and then you get several lousy reviews on your product, or Google changes their algorithm and your traffic disappears over night, there’s a chance you weren’t scammed it’s just that the market conditions have changed! You bought a small a business! Someone might tell you this is “passive income”, or that there’s no work involved and other bedtime stories. Make no mistake about it, if it is not growing, it is dying and like everything else. Your website needs your attention.

3. Empire Flippers

After listing Flippa (a marketplace where I am most active) and Exchange (newest marketplace) it’s time to start mentioning more serious and reputable marketplaces. In order to list your website on Empire Flippers, the website needs to be making a minimum of $500 per month for 12 straight months. Besides this raised bar, there is a vetting process that a broker from Empire Flippers conducts. You absolutely have to have Google Analytics, and they double check your revenue numbers and proof.

Once you have 12 months where your average net profit is above the $500 per month range, you can submit your business with Empire Flippers.Click To Tweet

One very important thing you need to know as a buyer is that you only get limited info from their website. If you are interested more, you need to make a 5% refundable deposit. For example, if the list price is $26,555 you need to make a refundable deposit of  $1,328. Unlike Flippa, you don’t see an exact domain name of the website being sold. You get a general niche and monetization methods.

For example:

  • Niche: Sports. Monetization: Advertising, Affiliate.
  • Niche: Package: Technology. Monetization: Amazon Associates
Data sample of a listing on Empire Flippers
Data sample of a listing on Empire Flippers

On the other hand, if you are interested in selling your website, or want to learn how Empire Flippers can automatically evaluate your website, check their website valuation tool and see what numbers come out. Bonus tip. If you are a SAAS business and want a second opinion there’s this calculator that can help you get a better perspective. In both cases, have in mind that calculators are prone to errors.

I’ve reached out to Empire Flippers and asked them why website owners should turn to them with so many available options. Here’s what they had to say:

“Empire Flippers is a pretty disruptive marketplace. We take the best of being a broker and a marketplace and get rid of the negative. Instead of having one guy that walks you through the sales process, we have a dedicated highly skilled team for each step of the way, from marketing and sales to migrating the actual business over to the new owner.

Selling at the volume we do, we have the data to back up our claims and the experience to handle even the most unique edge case businesses. We actually just launched a scoreboard of sorts where you can see real data of the deals we’ve done and read more about why we are a bit different than others over at EmpireFlippers.com/scoreboard“. — Joseph Magnotti and Greg Elfrink (Special thanks to Spencer Haws for making the intro.)

One last thing I’d like to mention about Empire Flippers. Greg recently posted some findings on a huge research they conducted. You can see what is the DNA behind several six-figure affiliate websites they brokered on their marketplace. Things like how much content, how many backlinks which niches were they in… Check it out here.

4. FE International

As for FE International, I’ll start by saying that the cheapest website I found on their marketplace was listed for $27,300. So in that respect, FE International is probably not a good place for newbie website investors to start their website investing journey. Sure, the possibility of getting scammed is lower, but you will have to be ready to shell out $30k, $40k or more for your first deal. I am not sure that’s a great idea unless you have money laying around and want to have fun.

Last time I checked with FE International (2017), in order to get the information on a listing, you need to sign an NDA with them. You fill out a form (example below), and they email you to review and sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. If you are serious, this shouldn’t pose as a problem, and the listing itself is enough to tickle your mind. I am hesitant to notice that multiples are higher on FE International compared to Empire Flippers because many factors come into play and a more serious comparison between the two is necessary.

Example listing on FE International
Example listing on FE International


5. Latona’s

They have “only” 72 listings, but these are all pre-vetted established and profitable online businesses! A website I’ve seen listed in October 2018 sells for $13.500 (lowest), all the way up to $18 million USD. In order to see the details of the listings, you need to sign up on their website. The sign up is free, but you have to sign an NDA. As soon as I signed up a broker reached out to me (same day), so compared to other services I got more of a “concierge” kind of feeling and approach. I explained my position (I bought a few smaller sites, but the reason for my sign up was this review). What happened next was more of a surprise than the broker reaching out to me. Rick Latona himself emailed me, and wanted to make sure his service is reviewed in the right way.

Well, if they handle their clients the same way they handled this “out of the blue email”, they are doing a great job! You can read on old 2009, but an in-depth interview with one of the co-founders Rick Latona, here. As you can see, Latona’s broker business is not his first rodeo. Here’s Rick’s take on what differentiates them from other brokers and marketplaces for buying and selling websites.

“Every year our average deal size has increased. In 2008, it was just $25,000. By 2012 it was $175,000. By 2016 it was $350,000. This year our average deal size will be closer to $700,000. Our listings continue to get bigger and bigger. Right now we are marketing one for 17.9 million!
We think we have the best website, largest subscriber list of buyers and the best process but what really makes us different is the quality of our brokers. We have 8 M&A brokers on staff and our turnover has been near zero. Most have been with us for a decade+. They are experienced, knowledgeable, honest and capable. — Rick Latona”

URL: Latonas

Listing example on Latonas website
Listing example on Latonas website

6. Other services

Website properties

Website Properties – If you read Website Properties homepage, you get the feeling they are focused more on sellers. Confirming this with a long list (17,000 during January 2019) of strong buyers and a small dealflow (only 21 websites (January 2019)), so I haven’t included them in the top marketplaces with Flippa, Empire Flippers, and others. Supposedly they have been in business for 15 years, but the web archive only shows data since 2007 (which is still a very respectable track record!). Their website may occasionally feel a little bit dated, but with a nice design and a few dedicated illustrations to highlight the websites they have for sale. Their blog is updated with solid advice to website investors! Deals are ranging from $25,000 all the way up to $10 million. (Wow, Canabis.net is currently being sold).
URL: Website Properties

Website Broker website screenshotWebsite Broker – I quickly looked at a few websites being sold here, and I don’t plan to return here looking for more. Income numbers are projections but listed as facts, some websites look illegal (selling books for $1), and so on. The overall design looks really dated and they have only 33 websites listed.

URL: Website Broker


Biz Broker 24 website screenshotBiz Broker 24 – For a company that is allegedly the “largest E-Business Merger & Acquisition Company in the world listing over $100 Million in businesses”, they have a nice looking website, but with errors, without SSL and with limited information. On the homepage there are logos of “NYT, TEDx, BBC and Forbes”, but when you click here to see the proof, you actually get media appearances at “Cyberchimps, addicted2success and SB Wire”. The person giving a testimonial on their Facebook page had a generic Windows background on his computer (to me this is screaming Fiverr review), and other weird details. Website listed for sale include: legal online casino, website for escort agencies, service for selling Instagram followers.

URL: Biz Broker 24


We Buy Websites - website screenshot

We Buy Websites – Is a broker company. You have to signup to their newsletter in order to see the deal flow. But, if you do that, you get an error 500 (12th October). I’ll try again in the future and report back here. As you can see from the screenshot on the left, they have a simple website with limited information.

URL: WeBuyWebsites


QuietLight Brokerage - website screenshotQuiet Light Brokerage – Is another high-end brokerage company. The cheapest website was listed at $30,000 USD, while the most expensive was being sold for $15 million USD. Listings on the website have only basic data, so you need to contact the broker in charge to find out everything you need about the listing. For example domain name, product, traffic numbers and other crucial information are not listed. Like several others in this space, they mention doing more than $100,000,000 in website deals. Unlike their competitors, they have educational podcasts, videos and guides which is definitely a plus. I am looking forward to checking them out again in the future! Their blog is also very informative, packed with posts such as this “Step-by-step guide to performing a financial trend analysis

URL: QuietLight Brokerage


We Sell Your Site - website screenshotWe Sell Your Site – like many before mentioned, We Sell Your Site also has listed on their website that they’ve sold over $100,000,000 in website deals. Well, at least unlike BizBroker24 they have an SSL certificate installed and no errors on their website but only two blog posts (October 2018). More importantly, their listings are pretty empty, only 2 websites listed for sale, so you have to sign up to their newsletter in order to get new listings in your inbox. On the website screenshot you can see media mentions on Forbes and Entrepreneur, but if you click on those nothing happens, so you can’t actually see the articles. I tried Googling those appearances but wasn’t able to find them.we

URL: WeSellYourSite


Domain Magnate - website screenshotDomain Magnate – Nearly last, but certainly not the least favorite, Domain Magnate is run by Michael Bereslavsky. According to an interview with Flippa he manages more than 100 websites and has sold websites for as much as $165k on Flippa. I signed up on Michael’s newsletter a year ago, and he sends new deals every once in a while in your inbox. Just like other premium brokers, Michael is interested only in serious buyers, and legitimate owners selling their businesses and websites. Here’s a word from Michael himself!

“That interview is a bit old, currently, I have $418,710 in Flippa sales under my profile. Domain Magnate is a super seller and a verified broker with Flippa, we are also a verified partner with Escrow.
Domain Magnate is different in that we mostly cater to sellers who are looking for quick deals and do not want to go through the lengthy processes associated with other brokers, and we buy directly, acting as buyers, often closing deals in just 1-2 days. Domain Magnate also act as a buyer-side broker, guiding first-time buyers through their first acquisition and helping them find the best deal based on their budget, requirements, and expertise, or helping established buyers find and buy websites according to their exact specifications.” — Michael Bereslavsky

URL: Domain Magnate

Businesses for sale – Is not a website marketplace by definition, and certainly, the name is descriptive, but there are websites for sale as well. The thing that caught my attention were overpriced starter sites like these. If you take that same budget and go to Exchange, you are going to get a far better deal. I feel sorry for the baby boomers which this seller (Pure Ecommerce) is clearly targeting on their website. That’s the problem with marketplaces, you get one bad seller, and you lose faith in the entire marketplace. Now I will be extra careful when sourcing deals from Bussinesses For Sale, as I comb through descriptions such as: “Start a fully automated Amazon affiliate website, 100% Passive Income from affiliate links. Potential to make a profit of $150-$200 per week within 6 months, and $500 per week within year 1.”

URL: Businesses for sale / technology category

Telderi – is the largest marketplace in Russia for sale and purchase of domain names and websites. It’s been around since 2011, and the website design hasn’t really changed since. However, Telderi marketplace has a lot of websites for sale! If you know Russian, or if you are brave enough to purchase a website and talk with the seller using only Google Translate, good luck! Don’t let the screenshot here fool you, the website does have an English choice (URL below) but a large portion of the website is in Russian Cyrillic, and most of the websites being sold are in Russian.

URL: Telderi

6. Various Forums

For me personally, this has so far been a very good source of deals. I am Croatian (yes, that’s why my English isn’t like the one you find on Wall Street Journal), but the added benefit is I can also work in a Croatian speaking market (Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian to be exact). One of the places is an old webmaster forum where other webmasters from that region often post websites for sale. These are both starter and established websites. Mostly in one of the regional languages, but also in English. You still have to do the due diligence, but since it’s an active community, other users also comment which forum user provided a positive experience, and which provided a bad experience. Sometimes, like in every other forum users are banned for bad behavior or for scamming somebody.

I understand that the majority of the readers here aren’t from Croatia, but surely you can look around and there is probably a forum dedicated to buying and selling websites in your local community. Also, I’d thought I’d list a few English based forums where you can look for deals.

List of marketplaces to buy and sell online businesses

7. Other options

Yes, even after all those options I’ve listed earlier, there are even more options you can try. The marketplaces, the brokers, the forums, and still there are other ways you can buy and sell websites. One may start to suspect certain website investing arbitrage is possible where you buy from one location, and sell via a different avenue. Anyway, here are 3 more options.

  • Ebay is a marketplace, but after seeing some very shady websites listed, I decided not pay more attention to it.
  • Freemarket – I saw a website being sold on Freemarket that on its second month had 150,000 pageviews, and currently being sold for $100. Be cautious of such offers.
  • Individual website investors – There are people, myself included, that often buy websites. Reach out to them directly. This is by far the best alternative option, but you should pick very carefully who you are working with.


Talk about scratching the surface. If it took a while for you to go through this guide, imagine how much time I’ve spent creating it! I feel that I’ve done some injustice to the marketplaces and brokers listed here, so I do apologize and promise to do my best next time when I dive deeper into each of this options separately. I’d love to do that, but it will probably take me a week just to review one of them. As I’ve mentioned earlier, some of these require newsletter subscriptions, then you have to wait for them to send you their deal flow, and then you can do a proper evaluation. After all, this is what it boils down to, what is the quality of the websites being sold, and what multiple you are being charged.

Put yourself in the marketplace’s shoes. You want to promise great multiples (on the seller monthly profit), but that might turn away some buyers. It is a double-sided marketplace where you have to attract both buyers and sellers! So although I do mention website design, speed, SSL certificates in my review, it is not the most important factor. It sure helps to create that positive first impression. But, if I can buy a website that is making great money for a long time and is being sold for a low multiple… that’s the thing that’s going to keep me coming back.

webmaster ninja coaching session - passion meets skills

How to start making money online

I just realized I haven’t publicly posted an update, but as promised, back in mid-September I picked one person to coach 1 on 1. We’ve started the first week of October and will proceed until we reach a $100 / month for 3 months in a row. If we fail to do that, I will stop the coaching session on October 1st, 2019. Just as explained in my invitation.

Out of the people that signed up, I decided to coach Aigerim Bektemirova, a young lady from Kazakstan. She is currently working as a freelancer, mostly helping with mail marketing campaigns. That’s how I meet her a couple of years ago when we briefly worked together. The furthest she got with starting an online business is with a dropshipping business on Shopify. She shut it down after 3 months as it was wasting much more money, then it was generating.

How has the coaching with Aigerim started? And how can you start making money online?

Pick your passion that is enhanced by your skillset

I already wrote a huge post about finding your passion, and I really think it’s very important to find your purpose. Your reason. If you don’t have that, forget it, it will be hard to get out of the bed. Not to mention when some hardships come along, and hardships will come. But, as experience has taught us, passion is not enough. If you are passionate, but you are incapable… or to put it more bluntly, if you are an idiot, then you are just a passionate idiot. I think we’ve seen many of those in the world. So we need to have at least some level of expertise.

We don’t have to be an expert, or a guru or a ninja which in most cases (not all, but most), are just constructs fabricated by the world. You at least have to know a little bit more than the rest of the world. If you walked into a crowded cafe, can you with certainty say that you are the most knowledgeable about topic X? If so, that’s enough to get you started. Here’s a true story that will make you think. If you haven’t watched a movie inspired by a true story, “Catch Me If You Can, with Leonardo Di Caprio”, this will be new to you. Frank Abagnale said that “he worked as a sociology teaching assistant at Brigham Young University for a semester, under the name Frank Adams.“. This is interesting because this man was a con artist, and the college (obviously) denies that they hired him. However, he said that he was a teacher, and the way he was able to teach was that he learned the lesson just a little bit earlier than the students.

webmaster ninja coaching session - passion meets skills
How to start making money online? This is where the magic happens.

So, step 1: Create a list of ideas, products, companies, niches of your passions and preferably enhanced by your skillset. What is the thing you are doing on a Saturday morning? What are you daydreaming about? What was the topic you were talking about that other people weren’t excited about as much as you were? What was it that people were asking you to help them with? Is there something that people are constantly asking you? Once you have a few of those, it is time to hunt for keywords.

High demand, low supply

Same as anything else, this is valid for the traffic to your website. You are looking for high demand, low supply (or low competition). Depending on your skills, you may choose different sources of traffic. Strongest are search engine optimization, social media, email marketing, and paid traffic acquisition. Conversion or monetization comes next, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I always start with SEO for numerous reasons, and since you are reading this, I’ll assume you know them. I’ll also assume you know that SEO splits into on-page SEO and off-page SEO. But before doing any on-page or off-page SEO you need to do the research. Keyword research to be more specific. Here’s why.

You want to know what people are searching. What problems are they looking to resolve? And where the solutions (displayed on the Google’s SERP) aren’t up to par. That way, you can create a superior: product, content, solution, recommendation, video, photo, enter your favorite word here ___________. There is absolutely no point in creating something that nobody needs. No point.

There are several tools that help you find keywords that are being searched a lot, with low competition. I personally use KWFinder, but, since I personally know the founder of LongTailPro (and you can read the interview with Spencer Haws here) I can confirm that both tools get the job done. For an in-depth comparison come back here on a later date I’d love to do a KWFinder vs LongTailPro post when I find some extra time.

These tools show you how much keywords in your niche are being searched, and how good the current top 10 results are. This is exactly what I explained to Aigerim today. How these tools work, and how to find good keywords for the niches she is passionate about. Hopefully, Google keeps allowing various SEO SAAS providers to scrape their SERP, so we will have these insights. Use them while you can.

Step 2: Find keywords that are high in volume, but with low competition. There are tools that tell you just that (mentioned earlier). Bonus tip. Keep in mind there are “purchase intent keywords”. Imagine someone holding a credit card in their hand, and they are ready to buy. They just need to find this one last thing before they do. Something like “Cheapest place to buy product x” or “product X coupon”. If you can’t find that, try to go lower on the scale where the buyer is still exploring options. Then we use keywords such as “Product X vs Product Y” or “Product X review” or “Best in category for product x”.

Interview with Michael Cyger

Interview with Michael Cyger

In our quest in building a profitable website, many will think the work starts with registering a domain name. However, as Spencer Haws explained it, your first step is actually doing research and picking a niche. Once you are set on that, then you choose a (domain) name. So if you missed that interview I recommend you go back and read that first. Nothing worse than picking a wrong niche!

When it comes to choosing a domain name I invited Michael Cyger to join us and share his thoughts. Michael started a very popular domaining blog and podcast DomainSherpa.com back in 2010, and most people know him from there.

Interview with Michael Cyger
Interview with Michael Cyger

Recently he started DNAcademy which I attended and was able to learn a few tricks myself! I am thrilled to recommend it, so if you have any questions before signing up, let us know in the comment section. I am no newbie when it comes to domain names myself (I wrote a white paper on the topic), but it’s always to brush up on your skills, even if you don’t plan to become a domain name investor. These skills also come in very handy when:

  1. You are evaluating a website for purchase / investing
  2. Plan to own / build more than 1 website
  3. Protect your brand online


Goran: Michael, can you tell us a little bit about how you got into the domaining business in the first place? What were your first wins and loses?
Michael Cyger: In 2000 I started an online media company on the side while working full-time at General Electric. I needed a domain name but as all entrepreneurs find at one point or another, all the obvious good domain names were registered—most notably, the exact-match domain and the domain with an “e” in front of it (which was popular at the time)—but luckily the exact-match domain with an “i” in front was available so I hand registered it. (Goran: Just for you non-domainers out there. Hand-registering a domain name means buying several domain names one-by-one via a domain registrar for the base price. Some domainers use software for registering a ton of domain names in bulk without looking at exact domain names they are registering. And now, back to Michael.). It was the first of hundreds of domain names that I would later own for my media company, for ideas I had for new ventures, and for investment.

I remember one time back in 2004 when I wanted to buy a defensive domain name for my media company and discovered that while it was already registered to someone else it was expiring soon. Trying to “catch it” when it expired, I paid $70 to Pool.com but ultimately was unsuccessful in securing the domain. I was discouraged, but I had a $70 credit that I had to use within a year or lose it. Months later, on a long list of domain names that were expiring soon, SunPill.com caught my eye. I placed a backorder for it and got it. I figured someday someone would invent a pill that you could take to look suntanned without having to go out in the sun and worry about skin damage or cancer. About two years later I was contacted by the founder of Banana Boat sunscreen, who told me he had invented a pill to provide sun protection from the inside out. I loved the idea and agreed to sell him the domain name for $7,500 plus a case of Banana Boat sunscreen.

As for first losses, I’m sure I purchased plenty of domain names in .net, .mobi and with hyphens that I later dropped because they were worthless in all respects – like domain-sherpa.com and ctqmedia.net. As an entrepreneur and eternal optimist, I tend to forget the failures and focus on the positives – but the lessons learned stick with me.

Goran: I am going to play devil’s advocate with this question, so bear with me. I know plenty of successful million-dollar businesses with lousy domain names. How do you explain that, and where is the leverage in a good domain name?
Michael Cyger: Of course any business can launch on any domain name. Pick the worst domain name imaginable. Yes, you can launch and build a business on that. But it’s going to cost that business time, resources and money to do so over the long term. Let me explain…

I typically see startup businesses selecting a domain name that’s available for hand registration because they say that they don’t have a budget to buy a better one. They end up with a domain name that’s hard to spell, fails the “radio test,” is long and prone to spelling errors, has a top-level domain that people aren’t familiar with, is “gimmicky” with repeating letters or missing vowels, or is easily confused with other businesses.

Recently I discovered a company called Snyk.io that has raised $32 million to date. Cool company that is focused on enterprise security. But let’s say I was talking to you about the company so you only heard its name. If you wanted to check out more about it, it’s unlikely you’d know or remember to spell the company snyk, much less that the top-level domain is .io.

I can guarantee you that at some point someone is going to send an email to someone@snyk.com or some variation of that. Without clear knowledge to the contrary, most people simply default to .com.

Now consider if they selected a real word like “deadbolt” for their enterprise security company and paired it with the .com top-level domain. No confusion in any of those areas, and it’s easily spelled correctly. It also connotes a sense of security, like the deadbolt on your home’s front door.

I’m going to guess that snyk.io was registered for the regular registration fee of $20-30 initial cost. But how much is it costing the company when customers and suppliers ask them to repeat their email address spelling or when they don’t receive the emails they expected? How much is it costing them when they go to a tradeshow and buyers later visit snyk.com only to find a website in Japanese?

These companies are trading the up-front cost of buying a premium domain name for years of hidden costs, not just from a lack of productivity in communications but also from being associated with a weak brand. And we haven’t even talked about the authority upside a premium domain name lends a business.

“These companies are trading the up-front cost of buying a premium domain name for years of hidden costs, not just from a lack of productivity in communications but also from being associated with a weak brand. ”Click To Tweet

Companies with weak brands and confusing domain names in highly regulated fields like healthcare or financial services pose a particular problem. Imagine if your healthcare or banking records were emailed to the wrong address because of spelling, top-level domain confusion, or a typo—unfortuantely, it’s happened.

So to answer your question, there are exceptions to every rule, including successful companies that are built on a lousy domain name. But in most cases, a weak brand is like a weight around a company’s neck, keeping it from reaching its full potential. As my friend Andrew Rosener of MediaOptions likes to say, “It’s like trying to build a skyscraper on top of a bed of sand.” Choose the bedrock of a strong brand and domain name if you have the ambitions to build that high.

Goran: What tools and tactics would you recommend to someone who is looking for a great domain name in a small niche?
Michael Cyger: If it’s a small niche, you can usually secure a premium brand and matching domain name for a few thousand dollars. Over the lifetime of the business, it’s a very small portion of expenses and it’s an asset that endures.

For example, when I launched DomainSherpa in 2010 I brainstormed many different names but I settled on DomainSherpa.com. It had the keyword “domain” in the name, included my vision (a “sherpa” who helps you navigate dangerous terrains with skill and knowledge), wasn’t too long or easily misspelled or confused, and was in the .com top-level domain space.

Of course, DomainSherpa.com was registered by someone already and I could have easily found an alternate brand that I could newly register for $10. But by negotiating with the then-owner, I was able to secure it for around $500—a bargain for the domain name that would be used to generate five to six figures in annual revenue for many years.

For companies targeting millions in revenue, I would suggest that they look at their company brand and domain name in perspective to that revenue. They could purchase a single dictionary word in .com for tens of thousands of dollars.

And for companies looking to become the next “unicorn” with $1 billion valuation, then think just as big with your brand…Box.net upgraded to Box.com, UberCab.com upgraded to Uber.com, and SlackHQ.com upgraded to Slack.com. Big vision companies need a big brand.

Goran: If I found a great domain name for my niche, but it is taken, how do I proceed? How can I get the domain that is already registered? And how can I find good alternatives if I can’t afford the one already registered?
Michael Cyger: First, you should make sure you’re on the right order of magnitude when pursuing a domain name for purchase. See the HowMuchIsADomainNameWorth.com Price Guide for guidelines. (Will these guidelines work in every case? No. Are they a rough estimate for reasonable owners interested in selling a domain name? Yes. But remember, even though you’re offering fair market value doesn’t mean that someone is obligated to sell.)

Now, do a whois lookup and reach out to the domain name owner to ask if they would consider selling their domain name. If they respond affirmatively, then start negotiating. If they fail to respond, email or telephone again, and again. Noah Kagan pursued the owner of Sumo.com for 7 years before finally purchasing the domain name for $1.5 million. I pursued the exact match domain name of my media company for 5 years before the previous owner finally decided to retire and accepted my offer. Persistence pays off.

But so does financial creativity. Kagan didn’t just pay $1.5 million in cash up front, he set up a payment plan that allowed him to finance the purchase of the domain name through the cash flow of his business. And UberCab purchased Uber.com by offering 2 percent of the company.

Sometimes the whois record will be under privacy, or General Data Protection Regulation redacted, or the contact information will be outdated. In that case, using a historical whois service like DomainTools.com or domainIQ.com can come in handy. And in some cases, looking at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine might point you to a name or functioning email address. I’ve even known founders to hire private investigators to track down the contact information of people based on previous whois addresses.

If you don’t want to pay more than $10 for a domain name no matter what, then it’s time to get creative. Try some domain name spinners, ask your significant other and friends for ideas, or take your most creative colleague out for a coffee. There is power in the crowd. Make sure you create one big list of options that you can then compare and contrast. You might also want to consider which brands have available domain names and matching social media handles. (Goran: here’s an exact example of how a domain name with matching social media handles that’s for sale looks like.)

Goran: Where do you buy domain names, and why there? Would you recommend the same registrar to someone who owns less than 20 websites?
Michael Cyger: I buy my domain names at two registrars: GoDaddy and Uniregistry.

I like the Domain Transfer Validation Service that GoDaddy offers their premier accounts (those customers with about $5,000 spend per year through all products at GoDaddy), because they have to call me and voice verify that I approve a domain name being moved out of my account for any reason. That ensures that my company’s domain name assets are being kept safe.

I also have quite a few domains at Uniregistry and enjoy their two-factor authentication and their up-to-date and user-friendly interface.

I highly recommend that entrepreneurs keep their domain names at a registrar that focuses on domain names, rather than a company that is focused on hosting. You can always point your DNS anywhere you want, but when you decide to change hosting platforms, which inevitably happens, you’ll be glad you have a separation between the two so there’s less confusion about who is controlling what.


Get your website online today

Get your website online today

Yes, you can get the ball running in a single day. If you have to, make it a home-made 24 hour hackathon! Either way, we are here to help you get your website online today! The title does say “get your website online today”, but we want to deliver more on that promise. It’s a very special moment in time when you launch your website, not to mention when you launch it for the very first time!

Step 1. pick the right domain name

It all starts with a domain name. Domain names are important when it comes to bringing your company online, but that is also just the first step. In case you are not sure where to buy a domain name check our post on where to buy domain names. Picking the right domain name can also become an issue due to trademarks, .com availability and practical things like pronunciation. So more on this soon!

Step 2. pick the right web hosting

Do you want to create a WordPress website? Would you like cPanel as a control panel for your web hosting? Space, lots of space? The questions don’t stop there. Putting a website online shouldn’t be the end goal. You probably want to increase sales, connect with your clients, provide better support, improve brand awareness, reach potential international clients. This list could go on and on. In essence, you want a fast website, with plenty of disk space with good local support.

Step 3. set clear goals

After reading the last paragraph you could have seen this step coming. Setting clear goals matters in any project, and especially for getting your website online. So why not begin with the end in mind? That’s what Stephen Covey would advise in 7 habits of highly effective people. So why not become effective and apply this principle to creating your website.

Step 4. pick the right technology

Do you want to install WordPress, or a build a custom CMS (Content Management System)? What is your budget in this regard? Can you afford a WordPress theme or do you want a custom-tailored design for your CMS? Don’t worry, if you need help making a decision, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Or maybe you want to go with a website builder and have somebody else worry about the web hosting?

Get your website online today
Get your website online today

Step 5. get your website online

After you’ve completed the first steps you have to fill the website with content (text and images) and your website is ready! Don’t be fooled, now is not the time to rest. That is day one! Now you have to do search engine optimization, promote the website on social media and even advertise on search engines to get first website visitors. Another great way to keep communication channels open is to host a newsletter and reach out on a regular basis to your clients.

Step 6. install an SSL certificate

More and more SSL certificates are gaining importance. This is true due to several reasons. Websites are e-commerce oriented, with various forms and enhanced communication between the user and the website. This is also interesting to criminals, so it is important to protect ourselves by installing an SSL certificate. Google, in particular, understands and supports this behavior, so they have decided to update their algorithm and position website with HTTPS on a higher position. For a full list of benefits, check this post.

Step 7. setup website monitoring

After getting your website online, either with a website builder, a WordPress or some other method, we need to set up website monitoring. I know, I know, this one is a bit self-serving, but the cost really makes up for the advantages! Let’s face it, domain names and SSL certificates expire, we get blacklisted for spamming, our web hosting goes down, our website speed decreases… all this and more needs to be monitored and we need to take proper action as soon as possible!

9 tips for a freelance content writer

9 tips for a freelance content writer – ready for 2018

High-quality and engaging content plays a vital role in making a website successful. It is crucial for keeping visitors on the website and earning an excellent search engine ranking. Since many websites rely heavily on search engine traffic (sometimes as high as 90 percent), it makes the difference between success and failure. It is true that attractive design is important in making a first impression, but unique, informative website content will keep visitors coming back again and again. The leading and most reputable search engine, Google, is very particular when it comes to content on a site. If you have poor-quality content on the website, your website will not rank on Google – no matter how good your website looks to the visitors. It’s true – Google cares more about the content itself. That is why we are giving you these 9 freelance content writer tips.

9 tips for a freelance content writer
9 tips for a freelance content writer

As a freelance content writer or a solopreneur that has create content for himself, you should focus on writing content that will boost your SEO rankings, gain traffic, and generate leads or sales! Google has made it very clear that they will penalize websites with duplicate content. In other words, they are going to reward good websites that have quality content. So, if you have high-quality content on your website, you will have good exposure on a search engine. And this will have a positive impact on your business.

It is obvious you will have content on your website for visitors and, ultimately, your business or if you are a freelance content writer, for your clients. So you need to do it right the first time. Here, we will share some tips for creating unique, engaging content that gets shared.

Content writing tips for freelance content writer
Content writing tips for freelance content writer

1. Develop original content

As we already mentioned, go with original content as it goes a long way with Google and with your visitors. Google will penalize your website if you have copied content, and this can impact your position in a big way. You should always have something useful for your visitors. If no one else covers that topic, even better! Do your research before writing anything. Find out what topic and point of view is original, and give that gift to your readers.

2. Focus on crafting strong headlines and punch lines

A strong headline or punch line will attract your visitors’ attention. It will invite your readers to invest time to read what you have to say. It is the first thing that will grab the attention of the readers. So, invest time in crafting attractive and meaningful headlines. If the headline doesn’t attract readers, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of the copy is. What’s that? Were you never good at writing headlines? Don’t worry, Pauline Cabrera from Twelweskip.com has your back. Check out hers: “100+ Blog Post Title Templates That Grab Attention.” Yeah, that is a great title, and we know you are going to click on that one. That’s exactly what you should be doing.

“will make you” – Best headline with most engagement
“will make you” – Best headline with most engagement

Learn why “will make you” is the best headline – Research by Buzzsumo

3. Create actionable content

Your content should be meaningful for your readers. It should give help them understand how to apply the information you have provided them. When you are creating a blog, give users tips on applying what you are offering them. Your focus should be on creating something that will spark ideas for the users. This will also help you avoid passive voice. Remember, your content cannot contain more than 10 percent content written in passive voice. There are SEO WordPress plugins like Yoast SEO that you can install that automatically track passive voice percentage for you.

4. Show accuracy in reporting and sourcing information

Imagine a situation here. You have written a blog post and the information in it turns out to be inaccurate. What impact will it have on your business reputation? People will stop trusting you. So be accurate in reporting as well as sourcing your content. If you are linking to other websites, ensure they are quality websites. This will help you earn trust from your readers – just like we did before with the Buzzsumo research. If you link to a bad website, not only can Google associate you as a bad website, but also if that page is deleted, you are sending your readers nowhere. That is not good for your readers, for your business, or your website.

Successful freelance content writer
Successful freelance content writer

5. Craft thought-provoking content

An engaged audience will take interest if your content is engaging and thought-provoking. You can make your content thought-provoking by leaving your users with questions and using a promising introduction. Creating appealing stories will also help because people love to read stories. These introductions can be used in social media, ads, and at the beginning of a blog post. Here’s an example.

Sorensen Communications forgets to renew their domain name. Ends up paying a fine of 3 million dollars! – Read here who else had similar misfortune, and why Sorensen Communications had to pay such a hefty fine.

6. Use images, videos, tweets and other embeds

It has been observed that people are more attracted to images and videos, and they learn better by hearing or seeing visuals. Use images, diagrams, and videos as they will help you illustrate your point. Whatever the topic, add pictures and videos as these days no one is interested in reading a long, boring paragraph. It also helps to use third-party embed options like tweets, Quora questions and Quora answers! This helps spark debate or provides an alternative opinion from an objective source (someone you don’t personally know).

7. A great freelance content writer writes a short and crispy content

Nothing is better than short, crisp content. As a freelance content writer, you need to write to the point and fill your blog with lots of information your users are interested in. Avoid long sentences and make the content scannable. That way, someone with a short attention span or very little time can get value out of your post.

So don’t take the job of writing content for your business lightly and use correct grammar, title, and format your content properly. More on this in point number nine. You can write content in various formats besides our central topic here (content writing tips for your blog). You can write content in the form of long- and short-form blogs, articles, infographics, whitepapers, e-books, presentations and more. I’ve tried all of them and each is different and unique.

8. Different types of content – Long- and short-form blogs

Long blogs are blogs with more than 1500 words. They are more popular as they contain a lot of information and help solve many questions for the users. If they contain great value, they are considered pillar content. Even SEO experts prefer long blogs because in most cases they rank better in Google search results. Short blogs have a word limit in between 250 to 1000 words. As the length of this kind of blog is shorter, the content should be good enough to engage the audience. I like to stay between 1000 and 2000 words. In most cases I manage to write what’s on my mind, but not have to spend a lot of time creating the content. Once upon a time, I wrote a blog post with 5000 words titled “Is this your online marketing grind?”. Suffice to say, it took me a while.

  • Videos: people love digital content in the form of videos. If you have an appealing video, your job is done. It will work wonders.
  • Infographics: are a visual representation of information. It is one of the most shared content types as compared to other types of content.
  • E-books: are an effective way of sharing your information with others. When you are writing an e-book, ensure you divide all the information into small topics so that readers can easily grasp what you want to say.
Domain data infographic
Part of a domain data infographic that we did for WhoAPI. Right away you see some staggering data, like the one saying that almost two-thirds of most-visited websites don’t have an SSL certificate installed.

9. Use translators, proofreaders or advanced tools

If like me, you were not born in an English-speaking country, but you want to write in English, you’d better make sure your writing level is higher than that of a 10-year-old. For example, I have been writing and speaking in English intensively for six years straight, and still I pay my proofreader to check my text (bless you, Robin, for checking up on me, like you are doing right now), and recently I installed a tool called Grammarly that follows me everywhere I go, and reminds me when I wrote “then” instead of “than” or when I misspell scannable, as I did just a moment ago. In my opinion, this is a must for any freelance content writer.

Grammarly to the rescue
Grammarly to the rescue

We know there are many more content writing tips. Which ones do you think we missed?

Need even more to improve your content writing skills? Check out this resource I found for you on Quora!
Read Sagar Mandal‘s answer to What is the best strategy for content writing for a product? on Quora

Interview with Tim Soulo

Interview with Tim Soulo

The Internet really is a crazy place. If you just stop for a second and think about it you risk a mindblowing moment. So many domain names are being registered, new websites, new pages of content, new backlinks… that at this point in time, you would probably have to be mad to start tracking all that.

One of the wealthiest company in the world, Google, as other smaller search engines are doing just that. Obviously, that’s working out fine for them, but what about us? What about webmasters, SEOs, and other digital marketing experts? How are we suppose to find out which websites are ranking high, which have the best backlinks, which pages are getting the most search engine traffic and other juicy data that can help us make a difference to our website?

Interview with Tim Soulo
Interview with Tim Soulo

Luckily, companies like Ahrefs are doing the heavy lifting for us. In a recent interview posted here on Webmaster.ninja, Glenn Allsopp recommended Ahrefs, and I can also relate, as I have been using them for years. On and off I was a paying client because for some projects I couldn’t afford them (hey, they only have to pay 2500 servers to keep the thing running). But their free account is super, super useful!

Not only that, but Tim Soulo from Ahrefs has produced some really insightful content over the years. You can see me raving about it on Twitter just below. The data (as of September 2018, total content index size = 975 million pages) they gathered certainly did not go to waste.

Goran: Hey Tim, thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for the loyal readers at webmaster.ninja. Can you share with us just a little bit on how and why you joined Ahrefs, and why you think the work at Ahrefs is so important to the community?

Tim Soulo: Hey Goran, thanks for having me!

I joined Ahrefs back in 2015 and it actually happened almost on accident. I was doing outreach for one of my projects and got in contact with Ahrefs’ CEO Dmitry. He offered me to do a bit of freelance marketing work for Ahrefs, which almost instantly turned into a full-scale product/marketing consulting. And after just a few weeks of working together, Dmitry offered me to become a marketing director for Ahrefs and move to the head office to Singapore.

Which I did 🙂

Goran: I’d like to ask you something I already asked you privately. I think that most businesses and webmasters struggle with this a lot, so I think it’s very much worth repeating. Every day we are bombarded with the mantra “content is king”, and we are inclined to generate as much of it as possible. How do you create content that’s shared, that converts and that people are “looking for”? How do we avoid generating content, for the sole purpose of content generation?

Tim Soulo: Well, if you don’t want to “create content for the sake of creating content,” you need to have a very specific goal in front of you.

  • Do you sell banner ads and you need the kind of content that will generate huge traffic?
  • Or do you want to grow your email list, and you need the kind of content that will effectively convert readers into email subscribers?
  • Or maybe you want to sell your product, and you need content that will persuade readers to buy it?
  • Or maybe you’re just looking to share your thoughts with the world and educate people in your niche, with a goal of becoming a well-known thought leader in your industry?

See where I’m going with this?

Depending on the goal that you want to achieve, you will have to create a different kind of content.

Goran: That makes sense, so a website owner has to have a strategy in place or a plan about doing things before diving in. We can talk a lot about this and go in many directions, but I don’t want to ask a broad question, so let’s focus on one of those. How do you create content that will persuade readers to convert?

Sure! That is one of our main priorities at Ahrefs Blog actually.

In essence, all you need to do is pick the right topic. When we do keyword research for Ahrefs blog, we don’t only look at the search traffic potential of a keyword, but we also assign each topic a so-called “business potential.”

We like to use a simple scale from 0 to 3:

  • “3” – our product is an absolutely irreplaceable solution for the problem that people are looking to solve;
  • “2” – our product helps quite a bit, but it’s not essential to solving the problem;
  • “1” – our product can only be mentioned fleetingly (mostly for “brand awareness,” rather than “sales pitch”);
  • “0” – there’s absolutely no way to mention our product.

My favorite example is this article on Hubspot blog on the topic of “how to make a GIF image.

If you were in charge of content marketing at HubSpot, how would you rate the business potential of this topic?

Let me ask a more direct question: How easy would it be to pitch HubSpot marketing software to a person who is looking to make a GIF image?

I’d say the business potential here is 1 at best. And only because this article has some downloadables that generate leads for HubSpot sales team.

And once you find a topic with a high search traffic potential where your product can be mentioned as an irreplaceable solution – it is a real breeze to convert readers into customers.

Goran: What are three tools that help you bring traffic to Ahrefs.com or that help you grow the business? How big of a role does Ahrefs (the tool) play at Ahrefs and bringing traffic to your site? More importantly, does Ahrefs explode, after you type in ahrefs.com into ahrefs.com search bar?

Tim Soulo: Ahrefs is the marketing tool that I use 90% of the time.

After the GDPR hype, we had to remove Google Analytics from our website. And you know what? I don’t feel helpless without GA as long as I have Ahrefs. I get enough insights from our own tool to know if our SEO/content strategy is working and if we’re succeeding at it or failing.

Other than Ahrefs, I might use SimilarWeb from time to time, as they provide some cool traffic data that we don’t have in Ahrefs.

As for our marketing team, they enjoy using Buzzstream for doing outreach (PitchBox is awesome too btw) and they also use some social-media automation tools like Buffer, MeetEdgar, Hootsuite, etc.

Goran: How does your process at Ahrefs work for growing traffic? I remember seeing some at the Blogging For Business course that’s being sold for $799 at the moment, so perhaps we can give some insights for free to our readers?

Tim Soulo: I’m afraid there’s no silver bullet that I could give to people. Our SEO strategy is very conventional and straightforward:

  1. Keyword research – finding awesome topics with solid search traffic potential (that are relevant to our business)
  2. Creating amazing content – we always try to create something original, that would be based on our own experience. Rehashing content from other people will get you nowhere.
  3. Promoting content – we promote content to existing Ahrefs audience, we put some money into Facebook/Twitter ads and we try to distribute our content to all sorts of communities. The more eyeballs you’re able to get on your piece of content, the higher the chance that some of these people will link to it naturally.
  4. Building links – if we see that content promotion didn’t bring us enough quality links to rank well in Google, we might do some targeted outreach to relevant people who might link to that article. We also have a small guest blogging team who try to feature our content in their guest articles.
By looking at the total search traffic to each of the top-ranking pages, you can make a rather accurate prediction of how much traffic you’re going to get to your own page.Click To Tweet

Goran: In an interview with Spencer Haws, Spencer says that niche selection and keyword selection is the most important step. This is essentially your source of traffic and hopefully revenue, so of course you need to know the demand before diving in. How can Ahrefs help us in finding what are some keywords with high volume?

Tim Soulo: Yes, knowing what people are searching for is where SEO actually starts.

Ahrefs has a great tool called Keywords Explorer. All you need to do is type any “general” type of keyword (like “cats”) and this tool will show you all search queries that contain your word in them.


Keywords explorer example

That’s over a million keywords that contain the word “cats” in them.

But let’s say “can cats drink milk” keyword piqued your interest. It gets 3,500 searches in the US according to Ahrefs. But how much traffic are you going to get if you rank for it?

Well, if you put this keyword into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and scroll down, you’ll see this:

How much traffic do top 10 pages get
How much traffic do top 10 pages get

This is called “SERP overview” report, which pulls the top10 ranking pages for your keyword and shows you how many links each of them has and how much traffic each of them gets from Google in total.

I mean we all know that a page doesn’t rank in Google for just a single keyword alone. It automatically ranks for all sorts of relevant search queries (see my research here).

So by looking at the total search traffic to each of the top-ranking pages, you can make a rather accurate prediction of how much traffic you’re going to get to your own page, should it start ranking for that keyword.

When we look for topics for our own blog, we rarely look at the search volume of an individual keyword (here’s why), but we rather open the SERP Overview report and examine how much search traffic the top ranking pages get in total.

Goran: That just blows my mind. I recommend the pages you shared there so that the reader can better understand what is going on behind the curtain! Just this one sentence I found sums it up nicely and would make everyone think about their content strategy: “According to our data, almost 75% of pages that rank in top10 for a given keyword doesn’t have even a single mention of that exact-match keyword anywhere on the page.”

According to Ahrefs data, almost 75% of pages that rank in top10 for a given keyword doesn’t have even a single mention of that exact-match keyword anywhere on the page.”Click To Tweet

Last question. Where do you see SEO and website creation, in general, going to be in 5-10 years from now? Is the direction security, privacy, speed, UX, owner reputation, or something else without me listing many possibilities? Do you see websites losing ground compared to various social media platforms? What kind of impact do internet penetration and generation change have on this?

Five years is a VERY long time, so I prefer not to plan this far and just roll with whatever the industry will throw at us.

As for “websites losing ground compared to various social media platforms” – yes, this is definitely happening to a certain extent. For example, I’ve seen a ton of cases where people would build an entire business off their Instagram account, and they don’t really care about launching a website.

But overall my prediction is that websites aren’t going anywhere in the next 5-10 years. 🙂

Interview with Spencer Haws

Interview with Spencer Haws

I bet you had this experience at least once in your life. You stumble onto something by chance, and somehow this becomes your habit, and ultimately it changes your life. I don’t like saying a single thing changed my life, but Niche Pursuits podcast definitely put me on a different path. For years I thought about going into affiliate marketing and making money online with AdSense. For years I thought about buying profitable websites (even after I got burned on my first try, and more on that some other time). But after I listened to a few episodes I was hooked. Driving in my car and listening to all those people that left their jobs, or just making some additional money from their hobbies, it was super inspiring!

Interview with Spencer Haws
Interview with Spencer Haws

Today you get to meet Spencer Haws, host at the Niche Pursuits podcast, owner at NichePursuits.com website (highly recommended), and the founder of Long Tail Pro and owner of many niche websites.

I can’t remember how I found out about Niche Pursuits, but after being bombarded with success and topics that were music to my ears, I started investing, building and improving some of my old niche websites on my own. It was love at first sight and I was hooked.

Spencer is also no stranger to Amazon FBA. He started that business from scratch and selling it for nearly half a million dollars. In his podcast, Spencer goes deep, and I have to say, it is super weird when you are listening to a podcast episode of someone starting a business, taking it to thousands of dollars of monthly profit, and ultimately selling it for what some would describe as a dream amount.

I’ve asked Spencer to start us in this series of “How to build a profitable website” because, in my opinion, he is the “niche selection guy”. Spencer went so far as to create a tool called Long Tail Pro to help him find the keywords in the niches he wants to fill. These keywords have low competition and are easier to rank for, bringing you much needed first visitors.

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Goran: Spencer, thank you so much for doing this, let’s kick things off from the start – niche selection. Without a shadow of a doubt, I believe that niche selection is the single most important thing when starting a project. I am sure that readers have different thoughts on how to go about this, but perhaps you can shed some light on the subject. In my opinion, it is at the intersection of “supply and demand”, meaning how big of a demand there is currently online, and how good I am at meeting that demand. Do you have some strategies, tactics, and tools that can help with that?

Spencer Haws: I agree that niche selection is very important. The ideal niche can be found is at the intersection of these 3 things: low competition keywords, money in the niche, and your interests.

If you can find something that meets all 3 of those, that’s ideal.

A couple of great tools to help you find low competition keywords are Long Tail Pro and SEMrush.

The ideal niche can be found is at the intersection of these 3 things: low competition keywords, money in the niche, and your interests.Click To Tweet

Goran: I suppose that Long Tail Pro and SEMrush can mostly assist with finding low competition keywords and competition in general. Do these tools also help with finding out how much money is in a particular niche? How do we know which 1000 searches are worth more?

Spencer Haws: The tools can help you find out if there is money in the niche, but you also need to use your intuition. First, Long Tail Pro has a column for how much “advertiser competition” there is. If there are lots of advertisers, you can be sure that there is plenty of “money in the niche”.

Another way is to use your intuition. Is the keyword product focused? Are there products or services being sold on Amazon or other places where you can be an affiliate? For example, “how to tie a tie” might get lots of searches, but there’s not real money to be made there…since my intuition tells me that the searcher just wants to learn how to tie a tie, not buy a tie.

Goran: Moving from there, I think that psychology plays a huge part. Let’s say you picked a niche you are passionate about with a ton of demand, and competition is not so cutthroat, but after 3,6 or 12 months (depending on the individual) of abysmal results you are thinking about throwing in the towel. How do you turn things around? Do you improve your “niche seeking skills” or do we focus on learning where we missed the point or something else?

Spencer Haws: I think it’s important to remember that if you are trying to rank in Google, it can take almost 6 months before a new site will gain any real traction. So, if someone is throwing in the towel before that amount of time, they are potentially wasting all the time and effort they’ve already put in.

I would focus on how you can fix what you already have and see if you’ve missed something. Perhaps you need to see what your competitors are doing. Is your content longer and better than theirs? Do you need to focus on acquiring a few more links? Do you need to consider alternate traffic sources such as Pinterest or other social media?

Goran: In one of your podcast episodes you share how you bought a website that was getting traffic mostly from Pinterest. What are your thoughts on diversifying your traffic from Google to various social media, your email list, paid traffic? Should we improve our skills in one area until we reach superiority and grow from there? In line with that, do you believe that some people are more “social” and get better results on Instagram, while some B2B companies are better tailored for search traffic?

Spencer Haws: I think you should only take on tasks that you are able to complete. It’s possible for someone to get overwhelmed and perhaps not get very good at anything if they attempt all strategies: ranking in Google, link building, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, paid ads, etc.

So, I would only attempt what you are able to feasibly accomplish or can afford to outsource to others.

For many people just producing great content for SEO and a little bit of link building is all they can handle. For others, they might be able to add Pinterest or other social strategies. I think so much depends on the individual and the time and money that they have.

Goran: What advice would you give to someone who is passionate about a niche that’s really competitive with not so many long tail keywords with a low KC score? Find the best ones (although hard) and keep punching above your weight until you get somewhere, or picking a different niche, a different spin or go for something completely different?

Spencer Haws: I would personally go with a different niche, but that’s just me and my personality. Some people are able to stick it out for a couple years before seeing many results in a competitive niche, but I’m not sure I could do that.

If I don’t see many keywords that are low competition in the niche, I would strongly consider moving on.

If I don’t see many keywords that are low competition in the niche, I would strongly consider moving on.Click To Tweet

Goran: Do you think there are some personality types that do better than others? Or that there are some personality types that just can’t live this lifestyle and have to have a boss in order to function?

Spencer Haws: Sure, I don’t think everyone can be an entrepreneur. It takes someone that does well directing their own activities. If you are not self-motivated, you likely won’t see much success in this business.

Goran: What lead you to the idea of ranking for the low hanging fruit when you were starting out, the long tail keywords that weren’t getting many searches? And how has that changed your perception of creating niche websites?

Spencer Haws: I had created a couple of sites where I didn’t really understand how Google worked and I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t getting much traffic. This led me down the rabbit hole of reading lots of blogs and other forums.

Somewhere along the line, I decided to just try super low search volume and of course low competition type keywords to see what would happen. To my surprise, I started ranking quickly for keywords and getting much more traffic than I expected.

This revelation was really what led me to create “niche sites” in the first place, and I still follow this strategy, now many years later.

I decided to just try super low search volume and of course low competition type keywords to see what would happen. To my surprise, I started ranking quickly for keywords and getting much more traffic than I expected.Click To Tweet

Goran: Being so long in the lifestyle of creating, buying and managing niche websites, and seeing the changes that come and go (PBN, the importance of authority, the rise of the mobile-social-local) where do you see this going, and how do we stay ahead of the curve?

Spencer Haws: Google is clearly moving towards higher quality and more search query intent results. So, I do think it’s important to focus on quality content and really doing a great job of answering the searcher’s questions.

I think that some searches will get more and more difficult for the average person to rank for (like Medical questions for example). However, the comparison, reviews, and other typical affiliate type queries will continue to be filled by affiliate type content in my opinion.

While I don’t know how long Google will exist in its current form, I do think it will be a while. At the same time, the smart entrepreneur would also be building up their own audience via an email list and other methods to ensure that if Google ever changes how much traffic your site is getting, you still have an audience.

Interview with Glen Allsopp

Interview with Glen Allsopp

Today I have a real treat for you! I am thrilled to introduce you to a guy who has been at the forefront of the SEO world as long as I can remember. Glen Allsopp is one of those guys you read about years ago in places like The Guardian telling a story of a prodigy who is somehow being able to make money in the weirdest places, like the Internet simultaneously traveling. Crazy, I know. However, take into consideration this was almost a decade ago.

I’ve first heard about Glen through one of his websites, viperchill.com something like a decade ago. I remember like it was yesterday, a friend came along running and raving about this SEO wizard spraying SEO tips on his website like they were dime a dozen. Today, he is literally making Google take action after he publishes the research on one of its loopholes. This happened twice.

Interview with Glen Allsopp
Interview with Glen Allsopp

As you will see from the interview, Glen will share with you which tools help him with SEO most, and how to deal with hate comments and negative SEO. To warm you up, with start with some motivation and reasons why you should build your own website portfolio, and what to do when it’s search traffic is in jeopardy after a Google update. If you liked the interview, please don’t forget to share and comment.

Goran: Glen, before we dive into some of the strategies and tactics on creating a successful website, or should I say online presence that’s making money, let’s start off with a psychological question. Why build one in the first place? What was your force behind building your online empire? Did you want to be your own boss, travel, become a millionaire, what was it?

Glen: I’ll be honest, making money was definitely part of the equation.

When I first started out I used to read the income reports of Shoemoney and John Chow and saw how much money they were generating. I never thought I could get similar numbers but thought that even if I earned a small % of what they did it would have been a dream come true.

Honestly, my biggest motivation was not having to go into an office or any other workplace every day. When I started learning SEO I was working at a clothes store in England, spending my weekends scanning tags on items to see if their price should be reduced.

I just didn’t want to have a boss telling me what to do each day.

Freedom was (and is) far more important to me than any monetary amounts.

When I started learning SEO I was working at a clothes store in England, spending my weekends scanning tags on items to see if their price should be reduced.Click To Tweet

Goran: When you start a project, how do you decide which traffic source you are going after? Do you always focus just on SEO, or do you work on projects where sales come from Social Media, email marketing, and other traffic sources, or should I say platforms?

Glen: I’m primarily always thinking about SEO because if you can figure that out you can always have a stream of visitors landing on your websites.

Even if your primary focus isn’t SEO, I think it’s important to keep in mind as it often determines site structure, pages to create, headlines and more. Or at least it probably should.

With my SEO clients, many of them actually primarily rely on PPC (Adwords) or social media advertising (mostly Facebook). Search is not a big percentage of their traffic at all when they contact me.

It’s often an afterthought, but once they have a converting funnel in place, then they want to look at getting free traffic from search.

If you can become profitable through paid ads, any traffic you can get from a search is really huge, “free” (besides paying your SEO / content team) source of visitors.

Goran: What are your 3 favorite SEO tools, and why? How do these help you get to #1 position, and why do you think that tactic is important.

Glen: ScreamingFrog’s SEO Spider is easily my favorite SEO tool.

It has helped me uncover issues with websites I just don’t believe I could find any other way. Fixing on-site issues is often the quickest and easiest way to improve rankings so anything that helps with that is a bonus.

It’s very reasonably priced as well at just $191 for the year.

My second favorite SEO tool is Ahrefs. I should add full disclosure here that I worked with them on a consulting / strategy basis once-off this year (and hope to again).

That said, I have been using and recommending their tools for years before ever working with them. They have the best interface, the freshest data and are constantly adding new features before other competitors.

They cover everything from link research, keyword research, content inspiration that could pick up links and shares and so much more. I’m still finding new things it can do every time I use it.

Three is hard to pick because I really spend 90% of my time doing things manually. I am a huge believer in knowing exactly how tools work so you don’t have to rely on them. When I do use any tools it’s usually always ScreamingFrog or Ahrefs.

If I was pushed to recommend another service it would be Spyfu. I love their ranking history data which gives you insights into why some websites have increased in rankings and why those have dropped.

That’s always useful if you’re trying to figure out the same for your own websites or clients websites.

Goran: What advice do you have for someone who is relying on traffic from Google, and the traffic drops 50% due to a Google update. There was again a big one at the beginning of August 2018, targeting mostly health niche. What do you do in those situations?

Glen: I think for the August update specifically it’s hard to say.

If you look at all of the people writing their thoughts – and there are some great blog posts on the topic – everyone seems to have varying opinions of what was targeted.

I think the first thing you have to do in any update is refuse to make any sudden changes. It can be very tempting to try and fix and work on every little problem on your site and take action straight away, but it is possible that changes can ‘roll back’ not long after an update so stay patient.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to start looking at things you can improve. Do you have a lot of thin pages? Are you really the best result for a user? Does your website load slowly? Did you actually use the thing you’re reviewing? If you run a health site, did you consult with doctors or professionals before giving advice?

When you have obvious things you can improve and few quality links (at least compared to the competition), that’s actually a much nice position to be in when it comes to ranking drops.

If your on-site SEO is completely on-point, you have fantastic links and so on, then it’s much more confusing and frustrating to see rankings drop.

From there, find the winners and losers in your space and see if you can reverse-engineer anything they’re doing (the winners specifically) that you aren’t.

Finally, it doesn’t hurt to look into other sources of traffic if you’re highly reliant on SEO. I dabble quite a bit with Facebook ads for my own businesses and it’s something I’m always learning about.

Goran: Do you think it is possible to stay ahead of the curve with Google and anticipate their moves. If so, how do we do that? For example, we know that mobile, privacy and security are more important, and Google is rewarding HTTPS, mobile websites, etc. How do we stay at the top of our game?

Glen: Yes and no. You can follow their guidelines to the letter and still struggle to rank.

The best strategy is to think of things logically. Google needs people to use their search engine – and be happy with the results – for them to make money.

If the results showed nothing but spammy websites full of ads and pop-ups they would, in time, start to lose some of their massive market share.

It makes logical sense that they would want to present fast, ‘clean’, informative and authoritative websites in their results.

Anything you can do to fit the logical impression of what makes a great search result can only be a good thing.

It makes logical sense that they would want to present fast, ‘clean’, informative and authoritative websites in their results.Click To Tweet

Goran: In a world where we are looking to get as much coverage and backlinks as possible, how do you fight your critics, bad press and negative SEO? Criminals go so far as let you know over email they “sent you 20 bad backlinks, and asking for a payment in a well-known cryptocurrency”? How do you protect yourself from that?

Glen: When I started gaining more popularity through my writing at ViperChill, it was actually quite crazy to watch my own emotions and see how I would react to negative comments.

I’ve had blog posts where I get 300+ comments of total praise, and then one or two which are just…harsh.

Of course, being the slightly flawed humans that we are, it tends to be that those 300 positive comments quickly go out of the window and it must be the two negative ones which we believe to be true.

I see this happen on a lot of blogs. Authors ignore a lot of the praise but always rush in to defend themselves against the critics.

One thing that helped me a lot with this was when I was researching one of my favorite authors, who I became pretty obsessed with at one point in my life, and reading all of their one-star reviews on Amazon. I just couldn’t believe they had any at all.

I like to think negative SEO attacks, in terms of “I’m going to fire 100,000 links at your site if you don’t do X” isn’t really that huge of a problem. I am not Google’s biggest fan, but they do a great job of protecting people from this for the most part.

(Of course, with billions of websites out there, there will be some exceptions).

Reputation management is definitely a big sector in SEO a number of companies focus on, just because of how much money CEOs and similar will pay to hide negativity, but sometimes it’s better to just focus on doing good and getting good results, rather than stressing about the hate.

Goran: Can you tell us a little bit about your current affairs? Where are you at the moment (which town) and what project are you currently working on, which one is making the most revenue for your business?

Glen: I’m always on the move to be honest with you, besides the last few months where I managed to break my ankle – ha!

Usually, I can be found somewhere in Asia such as Hong Kong or Singapore. I’m from England originally but moved to South Africa when I was 17/18 so it has been kind of normal for me to travel a lot.

Right now my primary focus is working with clients for my agency at Detailed.com. I’m focused on finding and sharing the type of SEO advice you won’t find elsewhere and like to think I’m delivering on that pretty well at the moment.

I also write about online business ideas over at Gaps.com. Because I spend my days reverse-engineering websites and their traffic sources, I also come across a lot of business opportunities, so Gaps is where I write them out and stop myself from being distracted.

I have a few other agency sites that target specific businesses where I look to help them grow their search engine traffic in specific markets.

I also have a few sites of my own – though many are mostly used for SEO testing – that I work on in my (very) spare time.

Thanks for your time, Goran!