All Posts By

Josh MacDonald

NeuronWriter vs SurferSEO: Is Surfer worth the extra money?

SurferSEO has been the standard in SEO when it comes to optimizing articles for SEO. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars with them in the last year alone.

NeuronWriter on the other hand has been popular in SEO groups lately. It has gotten a lot of favoritism from the bootstrapped/solopreneur folks. I recently bought like 10 lifetime licenses when they had the sale with AppSumo.

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I Tested The Best Sites To Buy Instagram Likes For A Brand

Growing an e-commerce brand can be tricky. Paid ads are a common channel, but they don’t convert without some level of social proof. That social proof starts with an active organic profile. Today I wanted to share reviews of a handful of popular services, because many of these services are selling fake engagement, which isn’t helpful.


Viralyft is not as popular as many on this list, but it was one of the better ones I tried. Delivery started within 5 minutes of ordering. They accept credit card. Many of the profiles looked real. About 10-20% of them had active stories, which is always a good sign when looking for real vs fake accounts. The accounts were a mixture of people, brands, etc.


This one is probably the most popular. I tested their “premium” likes. Similar to Viralyft, the account had stories, actually a higher percentage of them did. The accounts did have profile pictures as well, but the captions were weird, and many accounts didn’t have engagement. The photos were also weird, like this photo of a random tennis match on television. The accounts were mainly of people, particularly female accounts. Many European, and mostly non-English.


Similar to the 2 others above, these account had stories. Some had people profile pictures but some had the “New York Hilton” logo as their picture. I wouldn’t say this one is better than Buzzoid because it has less people and more random accounts.

This one had a minimum of 500 likes which was not ideal. If you’re growing a brand, 500 likes is a bit sketchy.

The upside however, these were real accounts. Stories, bios, real comments, likes on every post. The account are without a doubt, real in every way possible. However, the accounts are mainly Indian. If you’re trying to target a Western market, this one is still not the answer.

More to come.

The degradation of basic tax knowledge in Western society

Would you like to round up to the next dollar? Would you like to give us money so we can make a charitable donation to pay down our corporate tax liability without using our own money?
A popular misleading meme circling the web with over 19,000 likes

I came across this post recently, and like any other post on social media, it broke out in the comments as an argument. Some correctly pointed out that these pass-through donations do not qualify as the company’s own charitable contributions for tax purposes, thus not providing direct tax benefits. Those folks were met with arguments from others who don’t understand tax law as well, but think they do.

Lyle Lingenfelter (@seve0992) stating he believes companies can eliminate their tax burden via donations
Joe Frederick (@bigjoe_24) and Ryan Matsumoto (@ryan_mats) in disagreement

According to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), specifically sections 170(c) and 162(a), while corporations are permitted to claim deductions for charitable contributions, this privilege extends only to donations made directly by the corporation from its own assets. In the context of pass-through donations, where the company merely acts as a conduit for transferring customer donations to charities, these transactions do not qualify as direct contributions from the company’s assets.

The IRC and accompanying Treasury Regulations (e.g., Treas. Reg. § 1.170A-1(h)(1)) establish that for a donation to be deductible, it must be an outright gift without the donor (in this case, the company) receiving substantial benefits in return. This regulatory framework underlines that the tax benefits for a business making a charitable contribution are contingent upon the contribution being both voluntary and made without expectation of direct financial return, as interpreted in case law such as United States v. American Bar Endowment, 477 U.S. 105 (1986).

Here’s an example transaction:

Line ItemAmount ($)Tax Treatment for Business
Purchase of Clothing (Excl. Tax)47.50Taxed as income (subject to normal business income tax rules)
Sales Tax3.80Collected on behalf of the government, not income
Subtotal (Clothing + Tax)51.30Overall subtotal partially taxable (only the clothing and tax portion)
Charitable Donation (Rounded Up)0.70Not taxed as income (passed through to charity, not deductible as a business expense)
Total Charged to Customer52.00Overall transaction partially taxable (only the subtotal portion)
  • The Purchase of Clothing and Sales Tax are regular business transactions, taxed accordingly.
  • The Charitable Donation represents the amount to round up the total to the nearest whole dollar. This amount is not considered business income and is not a deductible business expense.
  • The Total Charged to Customer includes the donation, but only the subtotal (clothing price plus sales tax) is taxable for the business.

In summary, the tax system, as codified in the IRC and interpreted by relevant case law, does not support the idea that companies can reap significant tax advantages from pass-through charitable donations. It is concerning that individuals think there are loopholes, without understanding what they are talking about.

I prefer to not round up and instead make lump sum donations so it’s easier to track come tax season.

Black Friday Fail: How Hulu is burning advertising money and they don’t even realize it

I see landing page errors all the time, but you usually don’t see it scaled. You might see it on a brand that spend $5,000/month, but not on a brand that spends that much a day.

I came across an excellent offer today from Hulu on Facebook today. You can get Hulu for $0.99 a month. As an ad buyer, I love a good offer, so I tapped to check it out to see what the catch was.

By the number of likes and comments, it was quite obvious this ad was scaled. No analytical tools required.

After clicking into the ad and trying to register/login, I get brought to a page that says my browser is unsupported. This is not good. When buying ads, you want a seamless user flow start to finish, particularly during the checkout phase.

Before getting into performance marketing, I studied computer science for 4 years. What’s going on here is these social media apps use their own internal browsers. When you advertise on Facebook, your ads don’t open up in one of the big browsers like Chrome, Safari or Firefox. Facebook has it’s own in-app web browser that ad buyers and developer alike should be familiar with. However, their development team appears to have neglected this user segment.

It appears they may have developed with a desktop-first prioritization, something that’s not recommended in 2023, and hasn’t been for years. Mobile-first development has been popular since 2010. The reason being that over 98.5% of Facebook users access Facebook from their mobile phone. I also saw this ad on my phone, so I know they’re not excluding desktop traffic, which would be a reasonable solution from an ad buyer if the engineering team was firm on not developing for the in-app browsers that social media sites use.

It’s Tuesday now, the last day of the sale meaning if this ad went live on Friday, this error has went unchecked for the entire weekend. As an ad buyer, I can testify that’s an ad buyers worst nightmare. Again, something more common at the small level, but certainly shouldn’t become the norm at the Hulu level.

brightonSEO conference’s underwhelming speaker list

If you know me, you know I hate fake gurus. If you have the audacity to stand on the stage in front of a paying audience and suggest you are an expert, I hope you are. That’s why I don’t do it. I’ve been in SEO for 14 years at the time of writing, and I still have so much to learn.

brightonSEO is currently holding a conference in San Diego. They describe themselves as “the ultimate event for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in talks from the leaders in both Search, Content and Influencer Marketing” and boast over 50 speakers at the event. I was surprised to recognize few names in the SEO space. No Brian Dean, Neil Patel, or Cyrus Shepard. The only name I recognized was Danny Sullivan. I think of myself as a nobody in the SEO space, but I was shocked to see how many speakers had an even smaller audience than myself.

I looked at all 61 speakers and found 54 domains. I checked out some of their sites and realized, none of them actually have organic traffic. Isn’t that ironic? A conference with experts on organic traffic, don’t have organic traffic themselves?

Only 20 of the 54 domains had over 1,000 visitors per month in Ahrefs.

11 of them had over 10,000 visitors. That’s 20%.

In fact, the bottom half of the list averaged 88 visitors a month.

It’s not fair to judge based off of pure traffic, because every business is at different stages. So I looked at sites with over 500 traffic (a good start) but not large enough to have a DR of 40. One site! has a DR of 36 and 583 traffic. The rest of them were either sitting on large DRs (which anyone can get with deep pockets) or they had minimal traffic.

The median traffic for domains over DR 40 was just 1425. There are companies on this list with less than 1000 traffic yet sitting on the power of a DR70 domain.

How To Rank Your Small Business On Google

This blog is mainly dedicated to more advanced techniques, however here is an introductory rundown for those new to the space.

So you’re a small business, and you have a website, but you want to rank higher on Google. This process is called search engine optimization, or SEO. Since 2009, I’ve been studying the hundreds of factors that affect the rankings. I’m now going to summarize a few points that I have for small businesses who are just starting to get interested in SEO.

Submit your URL to Google

You need to check if your website is indexed at all by Google. Simply use the search query below to check if your site is indexed. If your website comes up, you’re safe. If it doesn’t display any results, then you need to submit it here. This is mainly just for new websites.

List your website in local directories

Start with submitting your website to Google Maps. Then add it to YellowPages, Yelp and any other speciality directory that applies. If you run a dog kennel, maybe search “dog kennel directory.” This may bring direct traffic to your business, but the main focus here is links and mentions of your website name. The more mentions, the higher you will rank, essentially. It’s more complicated than this, but it’s all you need to understand.

Create social profiles

I’m not asking you to become a social rockstar, but if you can start up a Facebook page, get 50 likes and post a photo once a month, Google will be able to determine that you’re a legit business.

Craft Quality Content

While word count does play a role, the quality and relevance of your content are paramount. To rank for specific terms like “Toronto corporate law firm,” it’s not enough to just mention these words; your content must provide valuable information that addresses the needs and questions of your audience. Aim for comprehensive coverage of your topic that naturally incorporates your target keywords. Remember, the goal is to engage readers, not just to hit a word count. Quality content that resonates with your audience and provides genuine value is what sets you apart in the eyes of both users and search engines.

Get reviews

Once you’re on Google Maps, it’s very helpful to have a few reviews, again to prove you’re a legit business. I manage the SEO strategy for a very large motorsports rental company and over the years, we have built up to over 80 reviews on Google Maps. We are one of the most-reviewed companies in that industry in Canada and are ranking #1.

Get links to your site

Securing links from other reputable websites in your industry is more than just a mutual recommendation. It’s about establishing your site’s authority and trustworthiness. Instead of just exchanging links, focus on creating valuable content that others naturally want to link to. Engage with your industry community, participate in relevant discussions, and contribute guest posts to respected publications. Remember, the quality of links is far more important than quantity. A single link from a well-regarded site in your niche can be worth more than dozens of low-quality links.

I Tried 7 SurferSEO Alternatives And Here’s The Best

How things change. Surfer was once known as the affordable alternative to superior enterprise-level solution ClearScope. However, Surfer has been getting expensive. It still makes sense for deep-pocket clients who want maximum efficiency. I continue to recommend it as an excellent tool. However, for my own projects and for small businesses, it’s not a cost-effective recommendation so I wanted to dive into some alternatives.

Oh, and no one pays me to write these, so unlike every other article on this topic, I’m not biased. If I think a tool is garbage, I’m going to say it. As I checked out some of the others who wrote blog posts on the topic, I was shocked at some of the trash they were recommending. So let’s dive in.

Tool NameStarting Monthly CostArticles Per Month$ Per ArticleOverall Score

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Top Browser With Built In VPN For Enhanced Privacy

In the digital age where privacy is paramount, browsers with built-in VPNs have emerged as a beacon of hope for secure and private internet browsing. These browsers offer a straightforward solution for those daunted by the complexities of VPN technology, integrating it directly into the browser itself. This integration means users can avoid the hassle of setting up a separate VPN or adding extensions.

While these browser-based VPNs may not match the full security and performance capabilities of dedicated VPN services like ExpressVPN or NordVPN, they do provide a basic level of protection. Typically, these are simple proxies that mask your IP address without encrypting your traffic, and they only secure activities within the browser itself, leaving other applications unprotected.

However, the appeal of browser VPNs lies in their simplicity and cost-effectiveness. They are often free, have no data limits, and require no registration, making them an attractive option for users satisfied with fundamental privacy features.

The article examines four of the best browsers with built-in VPNs, evaluating their privacy settings, ease of use, speed, data limitations, and cost. Whether you’re looking for a VPN for casual browsing or something more robust for your smartphone, there’s likely a browser-based VPN that can meet your needs without the complexity of a full-fledged VPN service.


Opera, once a leading name in the browser industry, continues to offer a unique browsing experience to its 350 million users worldwide. Distinguished by its comprehensive suite of built-in tools, Opera eliminates the need for additional extensions. Users can enjoy ad-blocking, messaging, file-sharing, and a complimentary VPN service, all without the need for registration.

The browser’s VPN, while basic, provides users with a choice between three broad geographic regions: the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Although it doesn’t allow for country-specific selection, which limits its use for unblocking content, it does offer respectable speeds, with tests showing over 30Mbps on transatlantic connections.

Opera’s VPN is more of a secure proxy than a full-fledged VPN, focusing on user privacy rather than comprehensive security. While it may not be suitable for streaming or unblocking specific content, it adds significant value to the browser for those who prioritize privacy in their web activities.

For users content with basic VPN functionality and looking for a simple, cost-free solution, Opera’s integrated VPN could be a satisfactory choice, especially when compared to the more advanced, paid services like ExpressVPN.


Aloha Browser stands out as a mobile-centric browser that offers a true VPN experience, not just a proxy, for both Android and iOS users. It’s designed with a suite of privacy and media features that go beyond the basics, including a secure file manager, private browsing that blocks ads and trackers, and media handling capabilities with a built-in player for streaming and downloading content.

The VPN service within Aloha Browser is robust, offering unlimited data usage without the need to select a specific location in its free version. It automatically connects to the nearest server, ensuring optimal speed and performance. While the free version doesn’t allow for specific location selection, upgrading to Aloha Premium provides additional features such as VPN country selection and the ability to extend VPN protection to other apps.

Although Aloha Browser is limited to mobile devices and doesn’t support desktop operating systems, its premium version is reasonably priced at $2.99 per month. This offers a competitive edge, especially when compared to other VPN services like Private Internet Access, which also covers desktops but starts at a slightly higher price point on a three-year plan.

Aloha Browser is an excellent choice for those seeking a comprehensive VPN solution on mobile platforms, offering a balance of privacy, security, and media management in a single package.

Epic Browser

Epic Browser is touted as the first Chromium-based browser with a focus on user privacy. It operates exclusively in private browsing mode, stripping out Google’s tracking technologies and blocking potential privacy threats like WebRTC IP leaks, fingerprinting scripts, and hidden cryptomining scripts.

The browser comes with a built-in ad blocker and an “encrypted proxy,” which is similar to a VPN but is limited to browser traffic. This feature is free to use, has no data caps, and offers a choice of eight countries, including the US, UK, and Canada, among others.

The developers of Epic Browser pride themselves on transparency, openly sharing information about the company and its advisors, which include notable internet figures.

However, there are some drawbacks. The default search engine is powered by Yahoo, which may not align with the privacy-focused ethos of the browser, though you can switch to Epic’s own PrivateSearch for a fee. Additionally, the browser has not been frequently updated in recent years, with sparse blog posts since 2018.

Despite these issues, Epic Browser delivers decent VPN speeds and has successfully unblocked certain websites, even allowing access to BBC iPlayer.

UR Browser

UR Browser is a Chromium-based application that comes with a plethora of security features right out of the box. It boasts anti-phishing, virus scanning for downloads, automatic redirection from HTTP to HTTPS, randomized user agents, and blocking of cookies, trackers, and ads.

Moreover, it offers a free VPN service with no data caps and a selection of 16 locations across North America, Europe, India, Singapore, South Africa, Brazil, and more. This is a significant advantage for users looking for a variety of virtual locations.

However, there are some caveats. During installation, UR Browser tends to set itself as the default Windows browser and is configured to launch on startup unless the user deselects these options. This level of system integration without explicit user consent can be a concern for those cautious about software behavior.

Another point to note is that while the VPN service is free, it requires registration. This means you’ll need to provide an email address and create a password, which is a departure from browsers like Epic that offer VPN services without the need for personal details.

The VPN performance is mixed, with speeds ranging from 2Mbps to 35Mbps depending on the server location, which may not place it among the fastest VPNs. Additionally, the unblocking capabilities are inconsistent, partly because the server locations might not always match their advertised countries—for example, a connection to a US server might yield an IP address from Greece.

While UR Browser won’t be replacing dedicated VPN services anytime soon, its array of 16 locations and the built-in security features make it an interesting option for users who prioritize convenience and are looking for an all-in-one solution.

Closing Thoughts

In the realm of browsers with integrated VPNs, the quest for a balance between convenience and security is paramount. These browsers offer a compelling alternative for users seeking a straightforward privacy solution without the intricacies of standalone VPN services. However, it’s crucial to understand their limitations and strengths to make an informed decision.

Opera, with its no-registration-required VPN, provides a user-friendly experience and a suite of integrated tools including ad-blocking and messaging, making it an attractive option for users who are content with basic VPN functionality. Its VPN service, while not as sophisticated as a full-fledged VPN, still offers a decent speed of over 30Mbps, which is commendable for a free service.

Aloha Browser, tailored for mobile device users, steps up the game by offering a real VPN experience, not just a proxy. Its premium version, at a modest $2.99 per month, unlocks additional features like VPN country selection and app-wide protection, presenting a strong case for those who prioritize a comprehensive mobile VPN solution.

Epic Browser, with its commitment to privacy, operates in permanent private browsing mode and offers a selection of eight countries for its encrypted proxy. It’s a browser that appeals to users who value transparency and privacy, even managing to unblock BBC iPlayer, which is a notable feat for a browser-based VPN.

UR Browser rounds out the options with a plethora of security features and a free VPN service that spans 16 locations. Despite the requirement for registration and some inconsistencies in server locations, it presents a solid choice for users looking for an all-in-one browser with robust privacy features.

When selecting the best browser with a built-in VPN, it’s essential to weigh the trade-offs between the ease of use and the level of security and performance offered. While these browsers cannot rival the capabilities of dedicated VPN services like NordVPN or ExpressVPN, they do provide a layer of privacy that caters to users who prioritize convenience and are satisfied with a fundamental level of protection for their online activities.

The Essential Guide to Slug SEO: Why It Matters and How to Optimize

In the vast labyrinth of SEO strategies, slug optimization often slips through the cracks, left unnoticed and unattended. Yet, much like the humble yet industrious garden slug, a well-optimized URL slug can serve as a crucial factor in boosting your website’s search engine rankings. Let’s unravel the mystery of slug SEO and explore how to optimize it effectively for maximum organic reach.

What is a Slug?

In the context of a URL, a slug is the part that comes after the domain name, separated by slashes, often representing the specific page or post. For example, in the URL, ‘slug-seo’ is the slug.

The Importance of Slug SEO

User Experience

A well-crafted slug provides a clear, easy-to-read URL that helps users understand the content they can expect from the page. This readability is a key component in enhancing user experience and enticing clicks.

Search Engine Rankings

Search engines like Google also pay attention to URL slugs when indexing pages. A well-optimized slug can help search engine bots to accurately index your content, thereby improving your SEO ranking.

Tips for Effective Slug SEO

Keep it Short and Simple

The ideal slug should be easy to read and remember. Try to limit it to 3-5 words that encapsulate the essence of your page content.

Use Hyphens to Separate Words

Using hyphens instead of underscores or spaces is beneficial for SEO because search engines read hyphens as space, making it easier for them to understand the slug.

Include Keywords

Incorporate relevant keywords into your slug without keyword stuffing. This will help improve its SEO value.

Avoid Stop Words

Words like “and,” “or,” “but,” and “the” don’t add any SEO value and can clutter your slug. It’s best to leave them out.

Be Descriptive

Your slug should give both users and search engines a good idea of what the page content is about. Avoid using generic terms like “page1” or “article.”

Tools for Slug Optimization

There are several tools available online that can help you create and optimize URL slugs. Popular options include Yoast SEO and Webpilot’s Slug Optimizer, which offer suggestions and even automate slug creation based on your page content.


While it might not be the flashiest part of your SEO strategy, slug optimization is an essential cog in the wheel of a well-optimized website. By adhering to best practices and using tools to aid you, optimizing your slugs can offer an easy yet effective boost to your website’s search engine rankings.

By giving slugs the attention they deserve, you ensure that they serve as strong supporting characters in the story of your website’s SEO journey. And remember, just like a garden can’t thrive without the little creatures that maintain it, neither can your SEO strategy without optimized slugs.

How to charge $3,000 per guest post

I enjoy getting cold emails. It gives me insight as to how others are making a buck. Today I heard from a “magazine” who charges $3,000. They claim their email newsletter has 95,000 subscribers.

Their traffic is below 1,000 visits a month and their DR is 49, which isn’t all that bad, for $50-250.

Hi Josh,

I am Rachel Nelson with Construction Tech Review Magazine and I am glad to share with you that [company] is shortlisted to feature among the “Top 10 Construction Tech Startups 2023” in our upcoming annual edition on Construction Tech Startups.

[company]’s construction tech solutions will be showcased with a full-page client-centric profile illustrating how your exceptional solutions enhance the construction industry’s efficiency, productivity, and sustainability. You can utilize the reprints of the profile in your selling efforts, which will persuade your prospects to associate with you and convert them into clients. The vast majority of our previous clients have shared that profile reprints have enhanced their prospect-to-client conversion rate.

Along with converting more prospects, [company] will receive lots of business inquiries as this edition will reach out to our 95,000 subscribers comprising Project Managers, Construction Engineers, Contractors and supervisors, Construction Contracts Administrators, and many other senior executives.

Josh, in this edition, we will also have invited thought leadership articles from VCs, Corporate Investors, and Incubators working for the Construction Tech Startup ecosystem.

[company] will receive unlimited print and digital rights of the profile for 3000 USD, which also includes a Certificate of Honor and Recognition Logo. [company]’s profile will be hyperlinked to our website so prospects can directly reach you.

Josh, I would like to connect with you to discuss this recognition and why top companies prefer our reprints.


And here’s the follow up after I didn’t reply.

Hi Josh,

I am following up on my earlier email about [company]’s feature among the ‘“ Top 10 Construction Tech Startups’. I want to explain how you can make the most out of this recognition by opting for the reprint rights, which gives you extended coverage in this edition.

Our existing clients have benefited from this exposure in the magazine. Most importantly, they have used the profile along with recognition to assist them in their PR and selling efforts, which enhances their exposure in the Industry and also gave them a jump in their prospect conversion rate.

Please inform me of your availability to discuss how you can make the most out of this unique recognition. I look forward to your response.