Ahrefs Blogging For Business: A Lesson in Marketing

Ahrefs Blogging For Business: A Lesson in Marketing

Allow me to introduce to you an online course created by Ahrefs named ‘Blogging for Business‘. Blogging for Business is an online course that teaches viewers about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Paid-Per Click (PPC) advertising. SEO and PPC are helpful tactics to use in driving more traffic to your website. The course also provides a great introduction to other elements of blogging with cool words like ‘Spikes of Hope’ and ‘searcher intent’.

If you’ve already read my article on Ahrefs where we reviewed Ahrefs SEO software and service, then you have already been introduced to their course ‘Ahrefs Blogging for Business’. In the article below, we go into depth on the Ahrefs Blogging for Business online course and I give you my feedback on whether the course is worth your time, money, and attention.

My Initial Thoughts

The ‘Blogging for Business’ course regularly costs $799 but from time to time, Ahrefs provides the course for free. On the surface, being ‘free’ sounds awesome and who isn’t appreciative of ‘free’. Recently, I happened to stumble upon ‘Ahrefs Blogging for Business’ as part of an Ahrefs’ promotion during the COVID-19 crisis. I had some extra time on my hands and I have had Ahrefs on my radar, so, I took the course.

Bottom line, what did I think of Ahrefs Blogging For Business? I’ll be candid. If I paid $799 for this course, I would be quite upset. Why? Not because there weren’t great lessons to learn. I learned, a lot. Mainly, my disappointment was because after completing the course and reflecting on the time I invested, I felt the course was more of an infomercial for Ahrefs than anything. I would consider the course promotional content mixed with some cool blogging tricks.

Was Ahrefs Blogging For Business Good?

So, did I think Ahrefs Blogging For Business worth the investment in time? Yes! I would actually recommend the course, but only during periods when the course is free like when I took it.

Would someone have gotten $799 of value out of it? Surprisingly, yes, I do feel someone else may have. Not me, but possibly someone new to SEO and PPC plus interested in possibly using Ahrefs. I describe in my review of Ahrefs who their ideal target audience is. Ahrefs’ target audience I feel are full-time SEO consultants like my friend John Doherty from GetCredo.com. Their software is a little heavily priced for the startup entrepreneur just getting started or the webmaster of a young blog.

Did it teach you how to blog for business? No, not really. Not in the traditional sense. Nothing was in the course about setting up a blog or how to make money from your blog. Because of that, having ‘Business’ in the title was somewhat misleading.

If it didn’t teach the blogging for business, what did it teach? The course covered specifically how to use Ahrefs to grow traffic to your blog. Throughout the course, there were some great tactics taught related to growing your website traffic to your blog. However, as I went through the course, those tactics felt more like a prerequisite to using Ahrefs and not the meat of the course.

Ahrefs Itself Is A Prerequisite to The Course

I would recommend before you take the course, sign up for the 7-day trial like I did. And if you are lucky like me, the course will be free at the same time. To me, the course should always be free. I feel sorry for anyone that paid $799 for it. However, if you paid $799 for it, then you most definitely can afford Ahrefs, at least their Lite plan starting at $99/month. Also, I know exactly why Ahrefs sells the course for $799 and doesn’t offer it for free all the time. More on that later. First, let me summarize my thoughts on the course.

Don’t get me wrong, the course is quite good… if you use Ahrefs already or plan to use Ahrefs in the near future, I would recommend the course. If you bought ‘Blogging for Business’ thinking you would… well… learn the ‘Blogging for Business’, you’ll be confused and probably disappointed like me. A more accurate title for the course I feel should be ‘How To Use Ahrefs’. But a course with that title wouldn’t sell for $799 right?!

Why should Ahrefs Blogging For Business be free? Because the course is promotional at best, propaganda at worst. Below, we dig into why this course is both promotional and propaganda at the same time and my theories for why Ahrefs sells the course for $799. Get ready, we’re about to learn about psychology used in the marketing of Ahrefs Blogging For Business and more!

Why Sell a ‘Free’ Course for $799?

Why would Ahrefs provide a free course online that at times costs $799? Let’s take a deeper look into the ‘why.’ We’ll call this ‘A Lesson in Marketing’. First, let me say Ahrefs isn’t evil. Their genius if anything! Ahrefs was able to title their course in a way that got me to invest over 4 hours of time. They also gave me an deep introduction to the Ahrefs product which I can see being really valuable to the right person. They also gave me some very helpful tips on building a website that attracts traffic.

This course wasn’t my first introduction to Ahrefs. Over the years, I have come to think of Ahrefs as some of the best marketers in the world. Why? Because they put out some of the best emails, Youtube videos, and social media posts that are continuously educating the user on SEO and PPC.

Ahrefs Is Good At Marketing

When you are as good at marketing as Ahrefs, you don’t necessarily need to do things by the book. Why would you? In this example of Ahrefs Blogging for Business, a good marketer can sell what traditionally would be a free online course for $799. Why? Because there are people that will pay for it. It’s really that simple. Why give away something that people are willing to pay for. Kudos to Ahrefs!

Ahrefs Blogging for Business was, in my opinion, an infomercial. An infomercial just like those you see on TV in the middle of the night. Ahrefs Blogging for Business was written and recorded for 1 specific reason: to promote their product. In the article below, we will teach you, our smart business-savvy consumer, the tactics Ahrefs is using in selling their course. Why? So you can replicate these same tactics in your own marketing!

In this article, we will breakdown all the marketing tactics at play by Ahrefs in promoting ‘Blogging for Business’. In this article, we will dive into the psychology of marketing as well as Ahrefs philosophy that drives them. Let’s dive into those reasons now.

Screenshot above is from November 16th, 2018 when the course originally launched at $799.

Ahrefs holds an MBA in Marketing

As I was taking the Ahrefs Blogging for Business course, I couldn’t help think back to my marketing classes in college. I have to be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of my marketing courses. When I was completing my MBA at The University of Arizona, my emphasis was Entrepreneurship and not Marketing. As part of my MBS studies, I did have to take 2 semesters of Introduction to Business Marketing as part of my required course work.

The University of Arizona also offered Marketing as an elective to go deeper into the subject had I wanted to. I didn’t! I remember attending one Marketing elective course based on the recommendation of a friend also taking the course. After feeling dirty listening to some of the tactics we’d be learning over the semester, I quickly dropped that course and signed up for Negotiations. You know that the marketing course must have been bad to lead me to take a course taught by a lawyer, instead! I am joking, maybe!

My gut instinct was before even taking the source was… this so-called ‘Blogging for Business’ may really be a marketing tactic much like those I learned at The University of Arizona. Here are the tactics I remember from my marketing courses that could apply to ‘Blogging for Business’:

  • Price Anchoring
  • Sunk Cost Fallacy
  • Scarcity
  • Reciprocal Effect
  • Bait and Switch

Why Do Marketing Terms Sound Criminal?

When I took Marketing during my MBA studies, I remember always thinking about the fact that all marketing terms sound criminal. I mean ‘Bait and Switch’ don’t really conjure up the feelings of happiness for me. Price Anchoring gives you the feeling your buying a boat that has a history of bad metaphors.

However, I have also learned in my Marketing courses that Marketing and Emotions go hand in hand. So, of course, marketing academia will use words to describe their professions that provoke emotion, right?

This evil connotation may be one of the reasons I have always shied away from Marketing. My Christian upbringing and conservative childhood on the farm probably influenced me to steer clear of anything that seemed to be the work of the devil.

For example, a common negative term used in selling cattle is ‘Penhooking’. That is where someone stops you as you pull into the cattle sales lot and tries to convince you to take cash for your trailer of yearling cattle. This does 2 things: it saves the person buying the cattle from having to face competition from other bidders and saves you from having to sit all day waiting for your check. So what is evil about that? The pen hooker and you are stealing from the auction barn. You know, the company whose driveway you sitting in and who’s advertising dollars brought this rendezvous.

Now to be clear, I don’t think Marketing is evil. My libertarian-leaning tendencies would caution ‘buyer beware!’ That means the buyer should always be aware of what they are getting and the risk involved in the transaction. But, since this course was free, I wasn’t out any money, correct? Oh, now we are on to something. Let’s jump into the first subject: Sunk Cost Fallacy.

Sunk Cost Fallacy

What is Sunk Cost Fallacy? Sunk Cost Fallacy is a key concept in behavioral economics. Professors Hal Arkes and Catherine Blumer of Ohio State have researched the topic including publishing research on the topic in 1985. Arkes and Blumer found through their research that an individual will commit the sunk cost fallacy when they continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of having previously invested time, money, or effort.

How does Sunk Cost Fallacy apply to Ahrefs Blogging for Business? Ahrefs is playing on the fact that after you commit several hours, days, even weeks to taking their Blogging for Business course, you will in all likelihood fall victim to the Sunk Cost Fallacy. Said another way, you are more likely to buy Ahrefs or stay with Ahrefs due to the mere fact you have invested so much into them. The fact I didn’t pay cash for the course is irrelevant. I paid in both time and effort which is some cases is worth more than money.

Price Anchoring

For the next marketing psychology topic, we are going to dig deeper into money. What is Price Anchoring? For this definition, we will turn to my friend Patrick Campbell at Price Intelligently. There, Patrick and his team define price anchoring as:

the practice of establishing a price point that customers can refer to when making decisions. Every time you see a discount with “$100  $75” , the $100 is the price anchor for the $75 sales price.

In my case, I saw the course was free for a limited time. After that time, the price would return to $799 at some point in the future. What Ahrefs did was physiologically anchor the price at $799 in my thoughts. They also ‘time-boxed’ the discount forcing me to make a decision. If I didn’t act now, I will lose $799.

Why? Because if I decide to take the course later when it isn’t on special, that is how much it will cost. Therefore, acting now saved me $799. Is this true? No! The course was free and I never would have paid $799 for it. That was never going to happen. However, Ahrefs successfully got into my head and made me more willing to invest my time and effort in return for their course and my attention.

This tactic is known as price anchoring! The next time you see an item on sale, remember this article. If you buy, marketing wins. Did I take the course? Yes! Then Ahrefs won!

Scarcity

In business marketing, Scarcity is one of the more powerful tactics that exists when it comes to sales. We see it everyday on Amazon when they list only 1 item left. We see it on Hotels.com when they list a special price for a hotel room and show only 2 more left at this price.

Ahrefs does this at least in my case. Ahrefs sent me an email sharing that they were making Ahrefs Blogging For Business free for a limited time. I appreciate this and I decided to rearrange my schedule that week to take advantage of this course. First, I researched that the course was actually a premium course. I did this by using the WaybackMachine at Archive.org which indexes the Internet giving you a virtual rewind button. And yes, I confirmed that in fact Ahrefs historically had sold this course fo $799.

After realizing the value and feeling this would be a great opportunity to learn SEO, Ahrefs, and the business of blogging, I signed up! In this case, I feel Ahrefs used scarcity marketing effectively and honestly. Kuddos Ahrefs for allowing making the course free and for using scarcity well!

The Reciprocal Effect

The Reciprocal Effect is one of my favorites and we all have learned this marketing trick since we were children. You know the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you! Well, marketing calls the Golden Rule the Reciprocal Effect. The effect occurs when someone does something nice for another person and then that person feels an obligation to return the favor.

I could list dozens of examples in my own life. That one time I designed a website for an Angel investor group for free to have them later invest millions into my start-up (yep, that will be a hard one to beat.) Or this past week, when a roofing professional saw me on my roof cleaning out my gutters. He stopped and help hold the ladder for me as I came down. I felt so obligated to him, I let him give me a quote on replacing my roof.

So how does the reciprocal effect come into play with Ahrefs Blogging For Business? Simply by offering the course for free to me, I feel somewhat obligated to pay Ahrefs back. That may even be why I am writing this article itself – psychologically I may feel the need to pay the gift forward or return the payment by giving Ahrefs a backlink or two.

To be clear, I am trying my best to keep this review fair, and not allow Ahrefs gift of the course to affect my judgment. How am I doing?!

Bait and Switch

We’ve all heard this before, the good ole’ ‘bait and switch’ sales tactic. The Bait and Switch tactic occurs when you think you’re buying one thing and you end up buying something completely different. Often so different in fact, that you would have never bought what you ended up getting.

Ahrefs Blogging for Business falls into the category of a Bait and Switch for sure. While technically, I didn’t pay cash for the course, I did pay with my time and attention. As I have described before, Ahrefs Blogging for Business is really a commercial for how you can use Ahrefs to build traffic to your website.

The words in the title ‘Blogging for Business’ lead you to believe that blogging and growing your business will be the course’s two main focuses. Learning about blogging and growing your business is really a secondary benefit. A better title for the course would be ‘How to Use Ahrefs’. However, I am sure ‘How to Use Ahrefs’ wouldn’t attract as many clicks or sign-ups. Why? Money. People pay with their money, time, and attention when they feel they will learn how to make more money. Someone at Ahrefs knows this tactic and they used it in naming this course.

If you signed up for the course thinking you would learn blogging tactics that will immediately grow your business, you will be sadly disappointed. What you will learn is how to use Ahrefs. Thus, when Ahrefs named the course ‘Blogging for Business’, they were describing what they were doing themselves – Ahrefs was blogging for your business!

How These Tactics Help B2B Sales

Ahrefs falls under the category of Enterprise Software. What does that mean? Enterprise Software as a general rule is designed for use by businesses, primarily. Said another way, businesses buy Ahrefs services. The tactics above when all combined have a powerful effect on the business’ decision-maker when it comes down to whether or not to buy a product.

In the old days, like before the Internet, enterprise software was sold very differently. Instead of taking a free or even $799 online course, the company would send a sales rep out to convince you to buy. Often, these meetings were held over a meal. The potential vendor always picked up the check, always! That dinner included for example ‘the reciprocal effect’. How could a purchasing manager say know to a vendor that just bought them a nice steak dinner?

The Virtual Steak Dinner

Speaking of food, a smart company like Ahrefs using the Internet can combine these marketing ingredients if you will into a huge steak dinner. Here, we have a $799 course online for free (Price Anchoring). Then after you take the course, why would you consider purchasing any other tool besides Ahrefs (Sunk Cost Fallacy)?

Also, if you don’t sign up now for the course, the price goes up so, act fact (Scarcity)! Also, we did give you this course for free. So, you should remember us when you go to get a Purchase Order from your boss (The Reciprocal Effect). And you thought you were going to learn about ‘Blogging for Business’. Psyche! You instead got several hours of lessons on how to use Ahrefs and only Ahrefs. Oh yeah, here’s a single chapter on the actually business of blogging so you can’t call us a lier (Bait and Switch).

Great Coding for the Course

One of my favorite features Ahrefs implemented was the ability for me to quit watching from my desktop and pick the course right up from my mobile phone. This was way cool!

Being an executive software developer myself and having led the building of many Enterprise-grade applications, this was no easy feat for Ahrefs. It could be that Ahrefs found an open-source solution and reengineered it for this course. But still, that is an amazing feat. I reviewed the source code and they successfully removed any mention of any prior system they may have customized if that was in fact what they did. However, it could be very possible they custom built this course which is astonishing.

I am sure that Ahrefs has a full team of software developers working for them that make their application hum. In taking this course, I can see the talent they have in the smallest of details.

Features Every Online Course Should Use

A good example of a feature I loved from Ahrefs was how they allow the user to mark when you are done with the course. You do this by selecting the button ‘Mark as completed’. Many courses do this marking as complete automatically when the video finishes and that is not a good practice. It assumes the user was actively watching the video which isn’t always the case. I found myself often on a treadmill getting lost in thought while the course ran in the background. So I appreciated this small but mighty feature allowing me to say when I had completed a specific segment of the course.

My favorite feature of the course was the fact I could watch it from any of my devices and the course remembered right where I left off. I recently bought another course online and the author didn’t have this feature. So I would revisit the course and be lost. Not with Ahrefs Blogging for Business. As soon as you log in from any device, Ahrefs takes you right to where you were last no matter the device. That level of engineering is no easy feat. That small little detail made it easy for me to continue the course at any time and it made taking the course much more pleasant.

Ahrefs: Masters of Marketing (Even After You Cancel)

After my 7-day trial of Ahrefs ended, I decided not to pay to renew it. I am not ruling out subscribing in the future but for now, I have more tools than I can shake a stick at. Ahrefs will need to wait.

So, I was shocked today when I received an email from Ahrefs alerting me on how well my keywords were performing. I had just published some articles using the keywords CTO (Chief Technology Officer) and CIO (Chief Information Officer) and apparently they were starting to rank.

Why was I receiving this email? During my 7-day trial of Ahrefs, I had used their site audit tool to audit Rackless.com. The site is relatively new so I didn’t expect to rank for many keywords or for the audit to be very helpful. I wasn’t wrong. The audit didn’t provide much detail so I wasn’t surprised.

There are good news and bad news with me receiving this email. The good news is that I may apparently keep getting these emails in the future updating me on my keyword ranking without having to pay Ahrefs. The bad news is that these emails may not stop until I pay for a premium membership to disable the audit from running. That is because Ahrefs won’t allow me to sign in and disable this feature without first paying.

First, Ahrefs are marketing geniuses sending me this valuable email even after I have canceled my account. The reason is that it keeps the Ahrefs name in front of me on a regular basis with helpful content. Secondly, it just may make me subscribe in the future to see how well my other keywords are performing.

Is Ahrefs Evil for Using Marketing Tactics?

Is Ahrefs bad for using these marketing tactics? No way! They are geniuses in my book. They also are good sports for allowing me to use their ‘Ahrefs Blogging for Business’ course as a case study. I could have done this with a lot of other companies. The fact I picked Ahrefs speaks to how well their marketing truly is.

While I was disappointed I won’t be able to grow my business immediately due to the learnings from their course, I did learn some cool SEO techniques and now know more about how Ahrefs can help me in the future.

Overall, Ahrefs team is made up of marketing geniuses from naming the course that made me sign up, offering it for free for a limited time, exposing me to all their great tools and more. While I have been hard on Ahrefs because they deserve it, they were successful in getting my attention. So successful in fact, I wrote 2 articles about them! Genius!

To my surprise when I clicked to edit the alert, I was greeted not with a page to edit or even disable the alert. Instead, I am greeted with a pricing page. Genius!

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