Online Marketing Tool Review For New Bloggers And Authors

When it came to defining and communicating an online brand, then starting an online business, I struggled with what to do, and in what order. Even with paid training and coaching, it’s been like drinking from a firehose. There are so many things to do, and so many people encourage differing priorities! I would have appreciated a brief, simple, online marketing tool review, so I’m providing one for you! I’ll follow this soon with a brief social media marketing tool review, then a WordPress Plugin review, based on my experience with these tools. I’m not proposing to tell you which tools you need. That’s up to you. I’ll say which tools I have some experience with, and what that experience was like.

How I Choose The Tools I Use And Rate

I sign up for almost every web property I come across, and I usually sign up for their mailing list, unless it’s clearly just not a fit. There are many I’ve signed up and never returned after that first visit, despite their ongoing marketing emails. Each new sign-up is an exploration of how an online business has designed and built their messaging, home page, login, security, and basic features. Of course, eventually I unsubscribe from any mailing list where the underlying subject or tool just isn’t for me.

How To Interpret These Tool Reviews

I’ve ranked tools from most useful to least, as I define it for my own purposes. Your mileage may vary. These are the tools I use and don’t use. For example, you may not choose to use an email opt in tool (I don’t recommend it, now that I’ve had one), though the five users who signed up via Sumo and the 8 who signed up via WordPress.com may be my only authentic followers to date!

My commentary is my experience only, and by no means a complete, formal review of the entirety of each tool or all its capabilities. Nor is it a review of any given tool class. This is essentially a list of the tools I’ve deployed and how I’ve used them, including my view of whether there’s value there. However, my experience was enough to drive the learning and/or behavior I describe. I use any tool long enough to get value out of it and continue using it, or to conclude it’s not a fit. The most full-featured, great product may receive low marks from me if its installation or configuration or use is not easy or intuitive, or if its documentation or support is poor. You may love one I hate — let me know!

Some Questions I Ask As I Consider The Value Or Usefulness Of A Tool

  • Is it intuitive?
  • Is is useful to me?
  • Who would use it?
  • Why?
  • Is it a premium model (I’m the customer), free to me (I’m the product), or is it a freemium model (I can pay for more than the minimum features offered with a free product)?
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Online Marketing Tool Review

WordPress.org

No online marketing tool review could be complete without considering WordPress. Finally got my handful of articles moved from Blogger and WordPress.com. You’re looking at the result.

What I learned:

  • Like Medium or Blogger, this is a great place to share your thoughts. It also has good supporting and social features, including the ability to sell ads on your “blog”.
  • All the advice I paid for suggested creating my own hosted site, so I did that.
  • Like anything that’s infinitely customizable, the hurdle here is high. You can do anything you want, but you’ll spend a lot of time and maybe money learning how to do it the way you want.
  • There are other more “out of the box” simple blogging and web development solutions below and on the web. Each has limitations.

Next steps:

  • Build out the web site and create the blog as just one section of it. Pages will include About, Blog, Services, and maybe links to key social media pages like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
  • Create funnels:
    • Email or social media to
    • product announcement pages, to
    • application, to
    • possibly interviews, to
    • sign up pages, to
    • online courses or real-life services.
  • Get scientific about who would be interested in my blog posts and how to put my blog posts in front of them. Until now, my social strategy and blog post sharing has been just to share my new posts with my existing audience, which mostly is more like Twitter Followers than Fans.
    • For an article about running, where can I put the article in front of runners?
    • For an article about hernias, where can I put the article in front of surgeons or people who’ve had hernias or people who are considering surgery?
  • Move articles from LinkedIn to this blog.

SiteGround

Web hosting. Highly rated in reviews by people who objectively consider multiple hosting companies.

What I learned:

  • Inexpensive, highly reliable, easy to set up and use.
  • Straightforward to sign up, transfer your site, and configure.
  • Fast, competent support at all hours of the day and night. Very low or no wait time.
  • Free backups.

Next steps:

Continue using SiteGround.

MailChimp

Email list management, campaign management, and opt in forms. Free up to 2,000 records. This is a “multi-tool” type of supplier: you can manage many elements of list management, opt in, forms, and campaigns here.

What I learned:

  • It’s easy to sign up.
  • No matter how you manage your email list and your emailing, you may soon spend as much time crafting and managing email campaigns as you spend writing blog posts and other communications. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it wasn’t a predictable activity when I installed WordPress. It’s marketing! Plan to begin a whole new activity stream writing emails, defining and managing campaigns, in addition to the writing you do for blog posts, books, or whatever other types of writing you do.

Next steps:

Define campaigns and sequences. Implement them.

  • New subscribers.
  • Campaigns per topic of interest and product.

BrandYourself

This tool inspired me to write this online marketing tool review blog post. Amazing service enables users to track all online mentions of themselves. Only uses results from Google searches, not results from other search engines. I have a paid account, and I no longer recall what it gets me that a free account does not. They’ve massively updated their site in the last year.

  • They put too much emphasis on “high risk” mentions of “me” online. Too bad they only use a match on either first name or last name as a “mention”. I spend too much time notifying the site that a mug shot that doesn’t look like me, in a state where I’ve never been, with a match only on first or last name (not both) isn’t me. Every single time I login, I see the same list.
  • The site also flags any mention, by me, in social media, of any potentially questionable terms, regardless of context. Then it asks me to affirm whether this is a risky use of the term that could affect my online reputation. It re-flags the same posts over and over instead of keeping a record of them, the way it does my search engine ranks. BrandYourself flags terms like “weed”, “alcohol”, and “sex” even if used in the context of lawn care, first aid, and determining the gender of a puppy. Same as the “high risk” list, I can’t mark each of these mentions so they don’t keep coming up, time after time.

What I learned:

  • I’m blessed to have a unique name. For a long time, I could easily control half of the top 10 spots in a Google search of my name. There are a lot of young people with my name. They’re rapidly coming online, and competition for high-ranking results in searches of “Dylan Cornelius” is intensifying. There’s another Dylan Cornelius right here in Austin, and he inspires me to follow my dreams. He’s a more advanced social marketer than me. You can even pay him to play video games!
  • Most negative information online associated with a person, is placed there by them. To get big or important enough to have someone making negative references is to have really made a mark! Libel is a crime, so most sophisticated people and organizations will avoid making negative statements about others publicly.

Next steps:

In the final analysis, this has mostly been an ego or vanity thing. I can always just look at the first 100 Google results for my name if I want to see the stuff that ranks. For that matter, I can search on any key term and look at the first 100 Google results the same way.

WordPress.com

I created an account during the transition from blogger to WordPress, so I could keep the discipline of writing regularly. Ultimately I moved all my writing to my WordPress.org hosted site. WordPress.com’s parent, Auttomatic, has several helpful plugins I use. They help with things from site security to backup to sharing blog posts on social media channels.

What I learned:

  • Like Medium or Blogger, this is a great place to share your thoughts. It also has good supporting and social features, including the ability to sell ads on your “blog”, and enable people to follow your blog by email or online notifications.
  • All the advice I paid for suggested creating my own hosted site and building my mailing list.

Next steps:

  • Clean up all the old blog post detritus from various WordPress accounts and point them to my WordPress.org site.
  • Continue to use relevant plugins.

Medium

This is a great little online blog like blogger and WordPress.com. The sharing, following, and feedback mechanisms are simple, intuitive, and a pleasure to use. I share my blog posts here via a WordPress.org plugin. They don’t update when I go back and revise my posts, which happens occasionally, but I see occasional traffic from medium to my blog. I see a fair amount of traffic on medium.

What I learned:

  • I like Medium as a place to be entertained by smart writers publishing good content. Your mileage may vary.
  • All the advice I paid for suggested creating my own hosted site.

Next steps:

  • Continue sharing new posts to Medium.
  • Unclear whether it’s valuable to follow back as on Twitter. Probably not particularly worthwhile, except where I’m authentically interested in the author or their subject.

Tumblr

  • A “blog” site that enables you to share just about any kind of file. Many people use it like a social media site to publish images, very much like Instagram.
  • I share new blog posts here through a WordPress plugin. Otherwise, I spend very little time here.

What I Learned:

I can up my game on Tumblr by posting a lot more of all kinds of content, and engaging more.

Next steps:

I don’t see a business use in this for me yet, since I still think of it a log like I think of Instagram, and I don’t think of Instagram a lot like a place authors market themselves. Do you see a use I’m missing? I’ll post more general content like photos as I post them to Instagram/Facebook/Twitter. Let’s see what more engagement gets me. If nothing else, I’ll learn something.

NameSilo

Cheap domain registration.

What I learned:

  • Even in domain registration, there’s product and service differentiation.
  • Some companies charge for services NameSilo will give you for free, e.g. domain privacy.

Next steps:

Move domains from other companies to NameSilo or Google.

Sumo

Email opt in forms. I use the free version.

What I learned:

  • Managing this metric (how many web site visitors sign up at my site), is an optimization a new blog doesn’t need. These are more important metrics to manage. Once you get traffic to a double or triple digit number daily, then worry about optimizing this metric.
    • Who is my audience and how do I reach them?
    • How do I get my audience to my blog?
    • How many people are coming to my blog daily/weekly/monthly/per post?
  • It just worked. Straightforward to install and configure.
  • It seems to slow down my web page loads.
  • Requires manually transferring email list to MailChimp or other list management or CRM system.

Next steps:

  • Understand my audience for each post, and how to reach them. Reach out to them where they are, consistently, for each post.
  • Write compelling content that attracts and retains visitors.
  • Get visitors to double digits and beyond daily. Initial benchmark goal is 500 daily to begin ads.
  • Automate transfer of new list members to MailChimp or other CRM system.
  • Understand the page load impact (if any). Consider moving this feature to MailChimp or elsewhere.

GoDaddy

I use GoDaddy for Domain Registration and Office 365 accounts. I used to use it for hosting. God bless GoDaddy! Any web services company doing so much business it can afford to sponsor a NASCAR driver is a company I want to own. As a customer, I’m lukewarm. They’ve been in business since before there were many standards like cloud apps and WordPress. Much of their early software was custom, and that was part of their appeal and marketing. Now their customer software is quirky and idiosyncratic. Much of their early marketing was edgy and amusing. That hasn’t changed, and certainly drives them a lot of business that never bothers to learn about their cheaper competitors who offer better service and value. They seem to have changed their business model from writing and distributing their own custom software, to selling branded services like WordPress hosting and Office365 hosting.

What I Learned:

  • If you want a single supplier that can offer you many or all the services you need, under one user interface, this may be a good bet for you.
  • Not often the best value for money.
  • Upsell is so blatant and ubiquitous, it interferes with me doing what I need to do.
  • Seems like I research a Domain Name, don’t buy, come back the next day and it’s taken. Who’s monitoring my research and them buying the domain name?
  • GoDaddy recently acquired me as a Office365 customer from a smaller, cheaper, no-name  competitor that had lower prices and better service, then they immediately tried to upsell me and raise my price. I already had another Office365 subscription with GoDaddy, so now GoDaddy has all my Office 365 business.
  • Every time I call them for help with my Office365 account, they tell me they can’t support it because they don’t write they software: Microsoft does. When I’ve reached out to Microsoft, they say I need to get help from the company I pay for the service. These are not rocket science requests, but they are difficult enough or poorly documented enough I have no recourse but to contact support. I rarely contact support if I can find an answer in documentation or via a search engine.

Next steps:

  • Move domains to NameSilo or Google.
  • Move Office365 accounts to GoogleSuite.

OptinMonster

Email opt in forms. Michael Hyatt’s team referred me here. They say he uses it. There is no free version.

What I learned:

  • This seems like a fairly narrow space, but there’s competition even here.
  • The reference client promoted broadly on OptinMonster (Social Media Examiner) must have a HUGE list and traffic if they added 95,000 subscribers in 7 months!

Next steps:

Consider this as an alternative to Sumo or MailChimp opt in forms when I have enough traffic and volume to optimize this metric. See more in my MailChimp tool review.

Branded.me (now Remote.com)

Was once a cute, simple website builder. Will auto-populate your web site with data from your LinkedIn profile. Now it’s morphed into a job search site for people who want remote jobs. Your web site is now your professional profile on this job hunting site.

What I learned:

All advice suggested moving to a model where I control the resources (WordPress.org). This is now a site with data about me, but my intention is everything points to my WordPress blog (this site), not the other way around. Branded.me’s business model was partly based on getting you to point all your traffic at it. I don’t know if that’s still the case, now that they’ve rebranded as Remote.com.

Next steps:

Ensure this points to tools I actively manage. No further activity anticipated, except as looking for remote work is involved. I may kill this mention of me as it may eventually result in brand confusion. On the other hand, it likely gets so little traffic it won’t matter.

Blogger

Blogging site with a simple, intuitive user interface. Like most things produced by Google, this just works. Easily. No support necessary. Documentation included. Intuitive.

What I learned:

All advice I paid for suggested moving to a model where I control the resources (WordPress.org). I’ve since forwarded all contents and no longer use this site.

Next steps:

No further activity anticipated.

BlueHost

Heavily promoted hosting service.

What I learned:

  • While everyone and their mother promotes BlueHost, it’s interesting how many don’t actually use it to host their own properties.
  • Other than their rich Affiliate Marketing program, I couldn’t find a lot of reasons to stay a BlueHost customer.
  • I found many reasons to stop being a BlueHost customer.
    • Documentation and user interface insufficient to complete basic setup and configuration.
    • Usually waited on hold dozens of minutes, or it took several hours for support to get back to me. They may work 24/7, but they weren’t available when I wanted them.
    • The most satisfying part of the relationship was the ease with which I got my last refund, after I waited for their response, and after I contacted them twice to tell them they hadn’t refunded the entire amount they should.
  • I cancelled and got a refund inside of the 30 day refund period.

Next steps:

None

When they pay you to leave, get going!

Consider And Act

  • Do you have a different experience of one or more of the above? Please share!
  • What other online marketing tools have you used successfully? What results did you achieve?
  • Are there other online marketing tools you hate? Why?
  • What other online marketing tools would you recommend I consider using?
  • Would you be willing to share a online marketing tool review for me to host on this site?
  • Is there a tool you’d like to see me test and write up in another online marketing tool review?
  • Watch for my Social Media Marketing Tool Review, coming soon.
  • Watch for my Favorite WordPress Plugins Review, coming soon.

Also published on Medium.

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Dylan Cornelius helps business people create laser-like focus on exactly what they want in their lives and businesses, re-invent themselves, their lifestyles, and their business systems to powerfully support getting those results, devise workable action plans to deliver the results, and master the skills necessary to build and sustain the results — all in 10 sessions over 4 months.

Our approach works because it enables anyone to quickly leverage fundamentals of sustainable change revealed in:
– a decade coaching individuals to breakthrough results in their lives, including weight and fitness, job and career, relationships and effectiveness, satisfaction and decision-making,
– more than two decades building products and leading large scale change for Fortune 500 companies including Dun & Bradstreet, Oracle, IBM, Accenture, Deloitte Consulting, Best Buy, Circuit City, CVS, Sears Holdings, Ross Stores (Dress For Less), and Applied Materials,
– training in neuroscience and human development at UC Berkeley, management of innovation at Santa Clara University, and ontology and phenomenology at Landmark Worldwide.

You care because any aspect of your life or business that does not serve you, your family, and community diminishes the gift you’ve been given in life.


Also published on Medium.

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