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  • Writer's pictureRobert Brandl

Tooltester Update: How Our Side-Project Saved the Company

I wanted to give you a little update on Tooltester.

So there is both good news and bad news. Let's get the bad news out of the way first:

The past 12 months haven't been easy for us.

The state of

Tooltester has gotten a bit of a beating in the current March Google updates.

We are down roughly 30% from the beginning of the year:

tooltester ahrefs
Tooltester's traffic chart on Ahrefs

Did this come as a surprise? No.


What most of you don't know: in March 2023 we started shifting our focus completely to EmailTooltester. So we haven't produced much content on Tooltester lately.

As you can see in the graph, Tooltester has been in a steady decline for the past 1.5 years. It just turned into an endless, unrewarding grind for the team that slowly destroyed our morale.

I don't know what it is with the website builders / hosting niche, but SEO-wise there is an intense headwind.

All of our competitors (big and small) seem to be struggling right now. The only ones winning are huge sites like Forbes, Techradar etc. and of course Reddit.

EmailTooltester - The Star of the Show

Tooltester's decline led me to reevaluate our "side-project", EmailTooltester, which has always been more stable.

It's also much more focussed. With Tooltester I feel like we tried to be "dancing at too many weddings". EmailTooltester, on the other hand, is all about email marketing.

emailtooltester on ahrefs
EmailTooltester on Ahrefs

And it seems to be paying off: we are currently growing our traffic and rankings.

I mean, it's a modest growth, let's not get too excited. It also doesn’t fill the revenue gap created by Tooltester’s decline.

But in the current climate, if your rankings are not getting hammered, it certainly feels like you are winning 💪

An added bonus is that everyone seems to be talking about email marketing again. Website owners want to reduce their dependency on Google, and one of the best ways to achieve this is to start building a list and send out an email newsletter.

All this led EmailTooltester from being the support act to becoming the star of the show.

Other thoughts about the Google update

I know how lucky we are. It's hard to imagine the difficult decisions, I would have had to face had EmailTooltester not been there (or worse, had we integrated and redirected it into Tooltester, which was my original plan ☠️).

But I do feel for other niche site owners. Sites like HouseFresh, RetroDojo

and Travel Lemming have all seen their traffic get smashed in front of their eyes. Despite creating content by humans and playing by Google's rule book.

HouseFresh in particular looks like a very decent website

A lot of people compared this update to Penguin and Panda, which happened back in 2012. I can vividly remember it. The big difference to 2024 is that these updates targeted sites that couldn't care less about Google's rules: employing shady tactics like content spinning, public link networks, keyword stuffing etc.

But this time is different: we saw what ranked on Google, tried to improve upon it and started ranking. The good old Skyscraper technique Brian Dean made popular. And this approach has worked really well for more than 10 years. We seem to have collectively Surfer-SEOed ourselves into this mess.

Yet Google never explicitly told us that this was wrong. Instead, it rewarded us with traffic.

But now, Google doesn't jive with it anymore. In the long run, this is probably a good thing. If Google figures out a way to rank original content that provides unique perspectives, I'll be the last one to complain.

However, it would have been nice to get a little heads-up, that such a drastic change was coming. And to receive some guidance of what Google will value moving forward. I appreciate Danny Sullivan's tweet, where he got pretty specific about what Google wants.

I just find it was too little too late, considering the damage it has done to the world of niche site owners. And don't get me started on the companies that are dominating the SERPs right now. I can't imagine that this is what Google users want.

Let me hear your side of the story in the comments!

P.S. If you are interested, please follow (X) or connect (LinkedIn) with me to get updates about my journey. I am already running some experiments on how we can reduce our dependency on Google 🚀

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May 15

Although managing Google's constantly changing algorithms might be challenging, it's wonderful to see EmailTooltester doing well. Your assessments of SMTP service providers particularly interest me because dependable email delivery is essential for organizations.


Apr 19

I have referred people to Email Tooltester a few times recently

The content comes across as being a specialist in a field that is quite murkey, but large enough to make a reasonable income as an affiliate.

Also of note, many ESPs have decent lifetime commissions rather than large upfront payouts, so it is a different financial management situation.

Tooltester would be an interesting rescue project

Robert Brandl
Robert Brandl
Apr 19
Replying to

Thank you, I appreciate your support (a lot)! We're doing our best at ETT, testing everything we talk about. Also everyone on our team has worked in email marketing professionally in the past, so that helps.

Let's see what we do with Tooltester. Once the dust has settled, we're going to run some experiments to see if there's still life in it.

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