6 Questions to ask Yourself Before you Buy SEO Software and Tools

seo software and toolsIf you are a search engine optimizer, internet marketer, blogger, or small business owner you are probably always looking for ways to get an edge over your competition.  This makes you always on the lookout for new search engine optimization (SEO) software and tools to buy to add to your SEO toolkit.

Companies that build and sell SEO software and tools won't like me saying this but a lot of times I see people needlessly waste money on these SEO programs.  To be honest with all of my readers I've been one of those people.  If you have also wasted money on SEO software I can tell you that the issue, like buying anything, is that you don't ask yourself the right questions before opening your wallet.  To try to save my blog readers time, money, and hassle I've decided to make this list of “6 Questions to ask Yourself Before you Buy SEO Software and Tools.”

1. Do I need this SEO Software or Tool?

Sounds pretty simple and like common sense, right?  Not quite.  A lot of people will just buy any SEO program or tool because they saw on some forum or blog that it was supposedly really useful.

What you need to understand is that most SEO software and tools have fairly good affiliate programs.  Meaning the blog or site owner gets money if you click through their link to buy it.  (Just so everyone is aware I have nothing against affiliate links and use them on this blog.)  The reason I want you to realize when someone is using affiliate links is that most people don't.

Consider if the person is recommending the product on the merit of it's usefulness or if they just want to collect affiliate money.  Just because someone recommends something doesn't mean you have to buy it.

2. What will I use this SEO Tool for?

I guess this goes into question #1 but I'd recommend you ask yourself this anyway.  You need to have a clear idea of how that SEO tool or SEO software you are going to be paying for will be helping your online business.

If you can't think of an area where the tool will help you, then just don't buy it.  If the SEO tool seems legitimate, you know what you will use it for, and it's going to fill a specific SEO need you have, then go ahead and open your wallet.

3. Is there good Documentation and Tutorials?

Before I put any money on the table for SEO tools or SEO software I like to check the website and see if they have a reasonable amount of documentation.

For instance I want to know if the software has any bugs.  Issues with certain operating systems might be something you want to think about.  If you use Mac computer you will probably need to run most SEO programs in Parallels, which emulates Windows in a virtual environment.   Most SEO developer don't spend time making a version for Macs or Linux desktops.  Often times in the documentation they will state if there are issues of it's been tested in Parallels or WINE (like Parallels but for Linux).

I also like to understand how the SEO software works and what it does.  Is an SEO tool that can be used for whitehat or is just for blackhat link building techniques?  Consider who built and who the developers are behind it too.

The creators of any SEO software should have clear and easy-to-understand video and picture tutorials on how to use it and state specifically why you need it.  This will make your decision for question #2 easier.

4. Is this SEO program Easy to Use?

If you don't understand how to use the SEO program and software, you will have just wasted your money.  If you check the documentation and tutorials this should give you a clear idea of the difficulty for picking it up.

I've personally found that most SEO programs and tools have a learning curve higher than average.  So you will need to put time into learning but do consider how much time you want to put in. 1 hour or less?  A week?  Keep in mind a lot of SEO programs are built by programmers and NOT people that are great with intuitive design layouts.  Often they focused on making things easy-to-use, but failed miserably.

Most creators of various SEO tools will offer a short free trial period before you buy so you can see whether it's useful, easy-to-use, and will fit your needs.  They vary in length but usually are between 7-30 days for a free SEO software trial period.  Some don't but I'd take advantage of any free trials.

5. Is the Support Good?

If support is non-existent or isn't helpful, don't buy.  I've been surprised by how many times I've needed to contact support for an SEO tool due to an unexpected bug or issue.

I usually recommend you send an email after looking over the documentation, FAQs, and tutorials and see how long the response time is and what the response is like.  If they seem helpful and answer your questions clearly that's a good sign.  If not, you might want to move on and keep searching for another SEO software with the tools you need that has responsive and helpful support.

6. Can I afford these SEO Tools or SEO Software?

A lot of SEO tools comes with monthly subscription costs which can be quite costly.  The reason for this is that most SEO programmers know that marketing and SEO agencies often charge a king's ransom.

Most of us probably don't have a huge amount of money to drop on every single SEO tool that we feel we need.  So don't break the bank by overextending your finances.  Again, it's common sense but if you can't afford something don't buy it.  If you feel you need that SEO software with a monthly subscription cost for your toolkit ask some friends or family with websites that wan't better Google rankings if they want to split the monthly cost with you.  All of you could then save a ton of money learning and building links on your own sites.  You will have to all collectively ask questions 1-5.

I usually try to find SEO software that does not have a monthly or yearly renewal.  I like to pay once and forget about it.  That's just easier for me and my wallet.  Also I like to weigh whether the software will cover the cost of buying it.  Meaning can I make back what I spent on the SEO tool?  You should consider the same thing too.

Sometimes it might be worth it to check around first to see if there is something for free that can fill your SEO needs.  Honestly for something like basic keyword research you probably won't need much else besides the Google Keyword Planner.  If you want free keyword rank tracking all you need is Google Webmaster Tools.  Most of the time though you will find you need to spend money on buying an SEO tool, unfortunately.

Final Thoughts on Buying SEO Software and Tools

My final recommendation would be to just watch out for any shyters selling useless SEO tools or ones that will get you banned or deindexed by Google.  There are a lot of people selling useless products out there and I met plenty at Affiliate Summit.

I hope you've found my “6 Questions to ask Yourself Before you Buy SEO Software and Tools” useful and helpful.  If you want to refer to these next time you are considering purchasing any SEO Software and Tools feel free to bookmark this article.  If you have any questions or comments to add feel free to leave them below.

Paid Links, one of Blogging’s Dirty Secrets

paid links

A few weeks ago I was reading a few successful and highly trafficked blogs.  I was quickly looking through what I thought was a well written article when all of a sudden the article flow came to a halt and I noticed something interesting but not unusual… paid links in the article.

Was I surprised?  No, not really since paid links are one of the dirty little secrets in blogging and the SEO (search engine optimization) industry that nobody really likes to talk about.  However, I will since I am not afraid of touching on taboo internet marketing topics I will.

What are Paid Links?

Paid Links are pretty self-explanatory and sound exactly like what you think they are.  It's when a site owner or blogger agrees to place a link on their website in exchange for cash.  The link is mostly always a DoFollow link which passes pagerank onto the other site.  Sometimes the SEO company gives you the article content and other times they'd rather a blogger work the link into an article so it makes sense.

The amount of money a company has to pay is usually determined by a site's pagerank, age of the domain, authority of the site, amount of traffic, and the authority of the blogger.  I've seen some people charge as much as $1,500+ per year for a link.  Sounds like a lot but when you hear what some SEO agencies charge, some bloggers should be asking for more.

In case of of the big time blogger I was reading she probably charged a lot for the link since it was for freezing women's eggs (embryos).  More importantly her demographic seems to be women 22-40 years old.  The medical company was aiming for wealthy women 20-30 years old probably.  (Although the article and blog is not entirely aimed at women.)  Most people know that health (and fitness) is a very profitable internet vertical.  If you are in fertility and cord blood and can manage to get paid for a link for it, that's some serious money.

What does Google think of Paid Links?

Google frowns upon companies and people paying for links and it is against their Webmaster guidelines.  (It would be good to read them if you haven't by the way.)  However, few people that engage in paid link schemes get caught.

Since Google is not on the side of bloggers making any real money honestly… fuck them.  They are many ways to monetize a blog but few that pay well enough so you can make a living.  Paid links are one of the best and most profitable solutions if you are someone with an authority blog.  (Of course creating an authority blog nowadays is no easy task.)

The blogger in question will probably never get caught and will not face any Google penalties.  I don't like she was using paid links and misleading her readers, but quite honestly it's not like I don't understand why she was doing it and haven't seen it before.

Keep in mind Google employs engineers that can't read for shit.  Just look at search results for competitive topics like domain names, web hosting, medicine, etc.  Low quality spammy sites still rank 1st or 2nd in a lot of cases.

How Did You Know the article had Paid Links?

It wasn't like the blogger explicitly said, “Hey these are paid links.” but I knew immediately since;

  1. The article lost it's flow at that point.
  2. They were medical related sites for freezing women's eggs.  Which in turn made me say, “WTF is this?”
  3. The keywords used were highly competitive.
  4. It was deep linked URL.

When you add it all up it was clear this blogger's article on, “6 Things to do in your 20s to make your 30s good” had paid links placed in it.  At least that is my “expert” opinion.

Paid Links Conclusion

Next time you are reading one of the millions of blogs out on the internet I encourage my readers to be aware of paid links.  It's good to be aware of how other bloggers monetization and content strategies.  This is why I try to read a wide variety of authors and bloggers.  You get an idea of how they target their content and who they is reading them, especially when you notice paid links.

On this blog I've had plenty of link requests but since it is a personal blog, I do not accept any of them.  I haven't been offered money for this blog yet but if a person or company did, I wouldn't accept it.

What do you think of paid links?  Is it ok for a blogger to use them to cover the costs and time they need to put into a blog?  Should they be upfront with readers?  Have you been offered money for a link on your site?

Top 6 Misconceptions about Blogging

I read a lot of different articles about blogging all around the internet and it always surprises me that the same misconceptions about blogging are getting passed around.  While I think some information you read about blogging out there might kind of be accurate, it is not telling you the whole truth about the difficulties and realities of what it takes to be a successful online nowadays.  So, I am going to break the myths and misconceptions.

misconceptions about blogging

1. You can make a lot of money Blogging

While there are definitely a lot of bloggers who make a full time living from their blogs or writing, the vast majority don't.  You need to understand that the act of writing doesn't make any money.  To monetize your blog and visitor traffic you will have to display ads, use affiliate links, or possible encourage people to pay for a monthly subscription to your blog.  (This is possible to do but your content better be really good and niche specific.)  If your writing is top notch you might even be able to snag a book deal, but those sorts of deals are not likely to happen to an average blogger unless you are putting in a lot of time and effort.

2. Lots of Traffic is Always a Good Thing

Even if you have a lot of traffic it may not always be the best thing.  If your users are not clicking on ads or converting sales via your affiliate links than all that traffic is likely to be costing your money.  I know a lot of webmasters and bloggers that have high traffic sites but are spending more money keeping up a VPS (virtual private server) or dedicated server than what they are making blogging.  If you ever get to this point your blog should probably serve as sales funnels for some product or service you want to sell, such as your book or web consulting services.

3. Content is King

Having great content that people like is important if you want repeat visitors, but that doesn't mean content is everything.  I see lots of terrible writing and content still ranking well on Google while great content is not getting ranked and has ZERO traffic.  It is honestly your ability to have good SEO (search engine optimization) and how you distribute your articles and content around the web that make the difference.  Google honestly can't tell between bad and good writing.  Keep in mind it is a computer (an extremely advanced one) that does the ranking and not a human.

4. Social Media is more Important than SEO

I imagine a dumbass “social media guru” started this one.  While social media should be part of your blogging strategy, it is important to use strong keywords and write your articles and posts so they that search engine can find your content easily.  SEO is cyclical with social media actually.  If Google sees a lot of people are Tweeting your articles, it is likely you will retain higher ranks for certain keywords and therefore get more visitors via search.  You will make it easier though if you use keywords people are searching for in the first place and serving up what people want to see.

5. Blogging in a Specific Niche will make you Successful

This really depends on the niche.  For instance I love writing about cars and I like Japanese automakers.  I can start a blog about cars that focus only on Japanese automakers, their models, and news.  This way I have a niche that is specific but open enough I can find new content for the blog on a daily basis.  I see a lot of people choose niches that are too specific and they don't have enough to write about to keep the blog updated.  You need to ask yourself, “Can I blog about this topic and find lots of subjects to write about?”  If the answers is, “No.” you should consider looking at another niche unless your goal is to build mini-websites.  If you really want to be successful niche blogging you should find an area that is what I like to call “Wide Fucking Open” (WFO).

6. Everyone Should Start a Blog

No, not everyone should start a blog.  It really depends on your skills and what you want to accomplish.  Not everyone is a good writer and I don't think everyone can blog.  Do you prefer listening to the radio?  Are you more a visual person?  Maybe a weekly podcast and video show in your area of interest would be better than starting a blog.  Have you considered starting a forum?  Sometimes forums can work better since you are not solely responsible for coming up with interesting content and can engage in great conversations with people and let them share their thoughts openly.

If you have any other misconceptions about blogging that you want to add or that I missed, please leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear bloggers thoughts and anyone who is considering starting a blog to comment about what I wrote about above.

Catch me on Twitter @AdamYamada … if you can!