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Find the Right SEO Tool: The first ting*:  99% of you want a free SEO tool one. Gotchu. These apps might reward you A) Keywords

What’s Hard About Digital Marketing?

It’s easy to justify marketing spend. What’s really hard…validating that spend. Validation: the action of checking or proving the validity or accuracy of something. My

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The Truth About Google Advertising – Differences Between Google & Facebook Advertising Strategies

Google wants everyone, to click everything, over-and-over, all the time…… that’s okay if advertising expenses are outperforming the wildest expectations. However, without a deep understanding of who is clicking your ads and why, you’ll fail.

How do Google and Facebook make money? 

Well Senator, advertising, of course. 

Google and Facebook make money by advertising, period. Advertising revenue is by far the single most lucrative income stream for both platforms.

Google puts your business in front of customers, that’s it. Google wants you to sell as many “things” as possible, because that means Google users found what they were looking for after clicking on your ads. If users find what they want, either online or at your business, they’ll come back the next time they’re in the market. 

The downside, is that Google doesn’t care if you spend $10 to make $1. It’s your job to put the right product, in the right place, at the right time. It’s no different from paying the rent at your retail space or corner store. You still have to pay the rent and utilities, regardless of how many people walk into your store, regardless of whether you made any money. 

Google Wants You to Make Money

Google wants you to make money on your advertising campaigns because if you don’t make money, you’re not going to advertise on google anymore.

On the other hand, Google also wants you to make money because that means people are buying things. If people are buying, they are finding what they are wanting. When people find a place that has what they want, they’ll come back for more.

If users arrive on a Google search results page and see ads irrelevant to what they want, ads become a nuisance to finding what they want, instead of an enabler. They’ll not only be annoyed, but they also are not going to click spammy, irrelevant ads. When Google users don’t click ads, Google doesn’t make money.

The Difference Between Google Ads and Facebook Advertising

There are two basic advertising models which run most of the internet’s advertising, “impression-based” (Facebook, Twitter) and pay-per-click (Google, Bing). 

For now we’ll just stick to these basic strategies, as they are the most important when assessing the costs of online advertising. While most platforms continually develop more advanced bidding methods, here are the differences between how you’ll evaluate how you’ll spend money on Facebook and Google advertising platforms.

Facebook Advertising: How Much Will I Pay?

Pay per Impression: On Facebook advertising, you’ll pay for how many people SEE your ad, but will not pay extra money for each click. It’s essentially a flat rate, fixed dollar bidding strategy. 

Facebook charges for advertising based on the number of users who viewed your ad.

Facebook Advertising Cost Structure (Impression Based Advertising)

For example, if 1000 people on Facebook SEE my ad, and 10 people click, my ad cost is not different than if all 1000 people clicked. Instead of paying for each click, you’ll pay the market price for each ad view based upon how competitive your market is. 

Advantages of Advertising on Facebook 

The more competitive your market is, the more you’ll pay for each impression. This strategy has advantages when ad space is undervalued, or when your ads are far more compelling than your competitors. If you’re willing to pay for more impressions, you’re effectively gaining market share over your competitors. 

Facebook Serves Ads to Billions of Users Each Day

There’s only a limited amount of eyeballs on the internet, so if a Facebook user is viewing your ad, it means they’re not viewing your competitors ad.

Facebook Advertising is Easy

Facebook advertising is easy. Put in your credit card and off you go whether you want to promote your local business or boost a post with a service you offer or item you’re selling.

Downsides to Facebook Advertising

When the barrier to entry is low, the competition is steep. On Facebook, you’ll see ad budgets which range between enterprise and fortune level companies, to mom and pop shops, and global brands. That means you’re ads better be well targeted, and they better be relevant, or nobody has time for you in a sea awash with alternatives.

Impression Based Advertising – How to Measure CPM – Cost Per Mile (CPM)

Impression based advertising strategies like those used on Twitter and Facebook ads are measured with a metric called CPM bidding, which means “cost per mile”. Statistically, your CPM is how much you paid for 1000 clicks. 

Frankly, I try to avoid throwing around acronyms; it’s easy to get confused. But when you’re looking for digital marketing and advertising strategies online, it’s important to know that when “CPM” or “impression share” are involved, you’re paying for how many people SEE your ad, not how many people click. 

How Does Google Advertising Work? PPC Advertising Strategy

Every major search engine offers a pay-per-click advertising plan. It’s quite simple, you only get charged when your ad gets clicked. Even if millions of people see your ad, you won’t be charged other than when people click. Google and Bing, which make up the overwhelming number of online searches each day both serve ads under this ad cost model.

How Much Does Google Advertising Cost?

The most reliable advertising strategy on Google is called pay-per-click (PPC). Yes, it’s that simple; if people click on your ad you’ll be charged for each one of the clicks. Unlike Facebook, you won’t be charged for people that view your ads and do not click on them. 

How Much Does Each Click Cost?

The cost of each Google click is based on a “silent bidding” auction. You’ll decide how much money you’re willing to pay for each click (Max Bid), and if your bid is higher than your competitors, your ad will be shown on top theirs. If your ad shows first on the page, we call this the first position bid. 

Because each search results page only has a max of 3 – 4 ads at most, the lowest bids will not be shown on the page. 

The trick: is finding the least competitive ad clicks for the most valuable customers. 

Google Ad Budgets

Pay-per-click models don’t mean that you pay an unlimited amount of money if more people happen to click your ad. Every advertising campaign is capped by daily or monthly budget cap. So that means you’ll control how much much money is spent per month without worrying about blowing your budget out of your wallet

Highest and Lowest Possible Ad Click Price on Google

The lowest possible ad click on Google Ads is $0.05 cents. The most expensive and competitive markets may cost upwards of $100 per click. For example, if you’re selling $60 million dollar mega yachts, $100 clicks for a relatively small number of possible customers is just a drop in the bucket. 

What is the advantage of Google advertising over Facebook? 

The advantage of Google advertising..is that you’re only paying for people who walk into your digital store, meaning they click on your ad and come to your website. If nobody clicks your ads, you wont pay a dime, not even a penny. It’s that simple.

How Humans Search for Things Online: If That, Then This

How Humans Search for Things Online: If That, Then This

Search engines help us get closer to things we desire by decoding the intent behind our verbal cues and filling in the blanks between what we want, and the where, when why and how of getting it.

Humans are an “if that, then this” creatures. If I want that, then I do this to get it. Sometimes, we don’t know what it’s called, nor do we know how to get it, but sure as shit, if it exists, Google can find it. 

How Does Google Know What You Want? Even When We Don’t?

Google answers questions the only way it knows how “if not that, then this”. Humans, however, are “if that, then this, this and this might happen.” 

Humans don’t always know what they want, but they always know what they don’t want. 

Humans get the benefit of conversation, context, and follow up questions. type creature. Humans get to ask follow up questions. Robots get to observe follow up searches.

Before the Search

Google bots don’t understand what you’re asking them. Bots don’t know how to answer a question, they just know how to find the answer to a question someone else has already answered. Google doesn’t know what users are thinking, it just connects users who “they think” are “thinking the same thing” 

After the Search

After any search, Google determines whether or not the user found what they were looking for. If 99/100 users click the back button after clicking the first search result, Google bots know what you asked for, but they don’t know what you’re looking for. Google makes its money in gold by understanding what happened after the click.

A robot may infer what people want to find, because after they click on a search result, clicking another link on the page indicates that the content display is at least somewhat related to what they were looking for. 

Google not only knows what you click on after you search, but it also knows what you click next, but it also knows what you click after that.

Even if you clicked the first search result, and thought “get me the hell out of here”, you’ll probably keep Googling until you find what you’re looking for.

Google evaluates all of these interactions, creates metrics based on how related the search results were (did they click, download, or keep searching), looks at the previous searches, and then infers the most likely meaning based upon those who were analyzed in the same way.

Now imagine this happening on a scale of billions of search queries a day. Every variation of two or more words allows Google an anonymous-looking glass of what users wanted to find…and what they actually find.

Yeah, robots are still a bit awkward and clumsy — they were trained by the best..

There’s a Gap Between Digital & the Corner Store – Asking the Right Questions

There’s a gap.

Together, big and small businesses alike spend millions of dollars educating their customers, doing redundant paperwork, fielding pointless phone calls, and responding to emails written by cave dwellers.

It’s how a lot of big and small businesses blow billions of dollars each year…not with their advertising budgets…but by how much time they spend educating customers about solutions that might work. Do you realize how time you spend in this unbalanced information spin cycle every day?

Why do we spend so much time writing bits, blurbs, and pieces on our website for people just looking for our phone number or store location?

How do we stop wasting time reaching the wrong customers?

Things we need to consider in the digital realm

Do you have any idea how many people read your last email newsletter or Facebook post? How many of them actually clicked on it?

Did your last email results look like this?

Emails Delivered to Mailbox: 15,465
Emails Opened: 592
Email Clicks after Opening: 71

Pay for Only the Clicks That Make Money

Did any of your last social media posts or email campaigns make your business money? Did any of those clicks generate meaningful action toward a purchase? Did any of these actions actually drive revenue?

How much time did you spend responding to emails or wandering through the comment section on social media?

Did anyone even read it? Is this thing even on? Are there better ways to reach customers?

Things we need to ask in the retail and brick-mortar world

Do you know how much extra revenue you generated from your last coupon or discount campaign? Are you sure that customers weren’t already going to buy that product even without the discount rate?

For the time and money spent on advertising and its related activities, what other activities could you have been doing?

It’s easy to forget that it’s not just the money we spend on advertising, it’s the time spent in the trenches: responding to new emails and new messages from potential new customers.

Time is fickle, and the real cost of digital advertising is sublime when we’re not looking at the full picture.

Is your advertising and marketing strategy actually driving you toward a more robust market position? Or is it just sucking money out of the bottom line?

It’s easy to point out how many people liked your Instagram photo, gauge how many people saw your billboard based on traffic volume, or reach 99% of drivers over 35 by running radio ads. It’s really easy to make up statistics in hypothetical scenarios. It’s really easy to justify marketing activities by clicks, likes, and views.

What’s hard is making predictable and scalable advertising models that keep money where it belongs: in the net revenue pile.

Find the Right SEO Tool

Find the Right SEO Tool:

The first ting*: 

99% of you want a free SEO tool one. Gotchu.

These apps might reward you

A) Keywords Everywhere`- Free

  • Shows related keywords within your Google results
  • Download the data directly into a CSV from the browser

B) SERP-Stat – Free and Premium Version

Serpstat is the dark horse of keyword planning. 

Google data is wildly unreliable. Serpstat isn’t built to such focus on Google data.

  • Google data covers only native advertising and search engine data
  • Results are too broad; lacks competitor data and filtering options 
  • Gives your competitors the same data you have

Let’s remember, SERP, stands for ‘search engine results page’.

What I like about Serp Stat?

  • My competitors don’t know about it

It’s not built on Google but leverages the same data Premium filtering, long term keyword tracking, features save sorting time ($20 a month) Growing API capabilities 

Read the reviews on Serp Stat Google Chrome extension (free). Too good to be true, I know.

It’s not perfect. Sometimes, Serp Stat misses obvious keywords, and has a smaller window of Google-based search data. So, I’ll take keywords from sites like (Ad Planner | UberSuggest | Keyword.Io) and then run them through Serp Stat to compare.

This post is not sponsored by Serp Stat, but — it could be —*wink *wink *nudge *nudge @serp-stat. 

But seriously, it’s the most powerful premium SERP platform on the market for the money. 

Why is internet marketing so hard? It’s not; I just gave you all the tools you need. You do not need premium SEO tools for success. You’ll just spend 30 minutes finding your keywords instead of 10 minutes with premium tools. 

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What’s Hard About Digital Marketing?

It’s easy to justify marketing spend. What’s really hard…validating that spend.


Validation: the action of checking or proving the validity or accuracy of something.

My goal with every advertising campaign is to make you $10 for every $1 spent on digital advertisements. Does that seem like a lot?

But even a 1000% return on investment doesn’t mean you actually made money.

That’s a 10X (1000%) return on investment (ROI).

Let’s say your products costs $100 (MSRP) and costs you $20 to make (80% net revenue).

Now let’s adjust for the cost of actually delivering that product.

Shipping = $5
Transaction Fees: $3
Advertising and Marketing: $10
Overhead inventory: $10

$100 less total cost of goods sold so far = $31 for overhead + $20 to make the product = $54

Want to sell that product on Amazon? Subtract another $20.

So let’s just say that if

Continuing, your overhead costs (keeping the lights on, paying your employees) costs you about 60% o

For 99.9% of sites, that rate is probably closer to 0%. And that’s okay. One of the biggest differences in overhead websites costs is whether or not your require the infrastructure

It certainly doesn’t mean they’ll buy it. Not even if the want it.

Selling products online is competitive. It’s easy to eat up your margins before you’ve cleared any sales. This is not the field of dreams. It’s a long-term game that requires a long-term strategy.

If you’re tired of burning through your budget faster than you can say “advertising agency”, then you’ve come to the right place. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel; we just need to provide information in a more compelling and organized way than our competitors.

I build lean marketing and advertising campaigns that connect ideal customers…the ones that deliver long-term profits and repeat purchases. I catch the bigger, badder fish and leave the junk trophies for my competitors. But first, what are we trying to catch?

The Digital Divide of Country and Electronic Dance Music

The content herein is a modified version of an article I originally published in 2013 on the music culture website Do Androids Dance (DAD). DAD was later dismantled and reintegrated with its parent company, Complex, including my original article.

Complex reached over 90 million unique users per month in 2013,[4] across its owned and operated and partner sites, socials and YouTube channels.[5]

In August 2014, Complex ranked #3 in the United States in a ComScore survey of unique visitors between the ages of 18 and 34 with 20.3 million in that demographic per month.[29]

In 2013, Complex launched the dance music site Do Androids Dance[22] and Green Label, a branded content site presented by Mountain Dew. That year, Complex also acquired the sneakerhead culture magazine and website Sole Collector.[24]

Wikipedia

In America, Country and EDM Can Coexist Without Comparison

Comparisons are ultimately about relationships. When determining the merit and relevance of these relationships, context is everything.

Comparing the historic and long-lived American success of mainstream country music to EDM (electronic-dance-music) seems like cannon fodder for web pages. Or… is it a fair comparison?

In retrospect, it would have been easier to cast these ideas off as heresy rather than explore the validity.

The short-term optics and parallels between country and EDM and the American “pop” mainstream might be more comparable than once thought.

But the distinctions between the two must consider whether the massive growth in EDM demonstrates a lasting and sustainable future for decades to come.

What must be highlighted are the contradictory measurements of success that define country’s mainstream prosperity. Additionally, both genres’ unique structures of industry and creation, which equate to very distinct and divergent identities, must be contrasted.

If there is one thing apparent about EDM’s success up to this point, it has had little to do with America’s mainstream radio broadcasting.

EDM listeners have little interest in American broadcast radio

Country’s traditional measurements of success in previous time periods have been based upon hard copy record sales and radio play, unlike EDM. While there may be a push of youth into the pop-country market, the traditionally older audiences of country are being pushed away, and understandably so. This division could become troublesome for the future of a formerly undivided market.

Country is built on lifestyle and cultural sediments.

It appears that country genres, in the midst of an anemic sales market, are closer to an identity crisis than to a push for mainstream dominance.

Reports of east coast radio stations moving from EDM to country doesn’t say a whole lot. One could speculate that EDM listeners have very little active interest in American broadcast radio, therefore making pop-country radio a more profitable market place.

The contrast here is that EDM on American radio has been relatively rare since its mainstream inception, and most EDM listeners have no intention of switching mediums just to hear repeated, advertisement-based propaganda. Most EDM listeners are using mobile streaming from SoundCloud, Spotify, and Internet radio, supplemented with digital downloads. EDM fans are active listeners, and are heavily invested in choosing the material they consume, rather than having it chosen for them.

The New World Order: country WAS Built to Last. Is it Still Built to Last?

It’s hard not to agree with the statement, “country music in America is built to last”. The next question in order must be “is it still built to last?”

Pre-Internet, and generally for the last century, content and distribution was scarce. Consumer attention was abundant; the tools for creators were slim. The barriers to market entry were high, while information was exponentially more scarce and less accessible.

The overwhelming majority of country music success was built in decades pre-Internet, where traditional record labels flourished. The music industry used to be a sellers market, with the cost of substitutes being high and the quantity of substitutes being low.

In a physical world, with limited shelf space, scarcity makes things more valuable. The music industry has always been about selling hard goods—up until digital sales turned everything inside out. In the history of CD sales, 2013 was the worst year ever. In a digital world, high accessibility leads to exponential visibility, brand familiarity, and higher potential revenue.

The key comparison here is that EDM was built on, and for, a highly mobilized world. Old habits and excessive caution could mark the beginning of the end for those who cannot adapt. What remains certain is that independent creators will continue to innovate, and continue to push forward into the unknown.

The democratization of content, discovery, and creation challenges the traditional top-to-bottom hierarchies of nearly all mainstream music industries.

The Internet not only fuels independent innovation, but also influences corporate strategy and decision-making processes. *2019 Update*: Can somebody please explain to me why Trader Joe’s has a podcast?

The Internet is erasing the division between consumers and creators and this has the music industry desperately scraping to find ways to remain relevant. As previously reported, record labels and production companies have done this through acquisitions and stake holds in previously independent entities, such as SoundCloud. Big industry is no longer the gatekeeper, and EDM has proven that. Examples of this paradigm shift are the massive successes of self-built americanized-dubstep sensation, Skrillex, and the virally explosive mainstream introduction of “electronic trap” via the “Harlem Shake.”

The world is not flat and EDM is not geocentric

The lack of a kingdom to rule for EDM is not based upon its inability to create one. EDM relies on globalized and hyperactive lines of communication and creation. These new tech fueled capabilities redefine the rigid infrastructures, which create overhead expense, and inefficiency.

As quoted from a recent Billboard article featuring some random white dude, “…He (Diplo) was in Ibiza, Spain, with Skrillex, where they set up a makeshift hotel room studio… This is how a modern hit gets made, Diplo-style: not in big-money studios, but on the move, in hotel suites, private jets, SUVs — bits and pieces pasted together with collaborators all over the world.”

EDM is the pinnacle of lean business.

While industrial hubs create infrastructure and jobs, true success in business is about utilizing efficiency, and maximizing margins. The rise of EDM never required geographically based industrial hubs. This provides a case model of efficiency that exceeds all genres and movements that have come before. EDM holds a model of elasticity through flat organization and democratized distribution, which gives it an immense advantage in a world that is rapidly evolving. Fundamentally, its popular use of cloud services like SoundCloud and BandCamp is not only the future of musical movements, but also of business and commerce as a whole. EDM has not only mobilized beyond the geographical production of music, but continues to influence innovative and resources through symbiotic relationships with parallel industries.

The Making of a Country Hit

Country as a mainstay has been based upon simple principles: creating hits, and when the conditions are perfect, blockbusters. To quote DAD, “the deciding factor of excellence must go to the style of music that has consistently best lent itself to commercially friendly songs for a longer period of time with a more sustainable level of success.” To determine the value of this statement, we must examine the realities of how “pop” hits are made.

As Chris Anderson notes in his book The Long Tail, when it comes to creating hits there are two basic options: (1) search far and wide for rare, unpredictable genius, or (2) use lowest-common-denominator formulas to manufacture something to sell.

If you Want to Grasp Country Music’s Standard of Success, Look No Further than Luke Bryan

Luke Bryan’s 2013 album Crash My Party sold more albums in its first week than any male country artist in the last nine years.

Bryan’s August 2013 single “That’s My Kind of Night” reached #1 on the Hot Country Songs listings in its third week and #2 in Airplay for October 2013. While being a massive win for the country industry as a whole, homegrown country star Zac Brown regarded it as “…the worst song I’ve ever heard.” If the model by which we are judging value and success stems from creating hits, then country certainly holds the belt.

The two most important words in EDM are “new” and “free.”

When winners and losers are based upon sales, the automatic assumption is that if something sold poorly, it was of low quality. While this may be true in some cases, it makes comparisons slim within the shift that has led artists to give away music for free. When looking at key examples of American success based upon this model, one could point to recently Grammy-nominated artist Pretty Lights. While going into the depths of the value in delivering content for free isn’t the purpose of this article, you can read more about the ideas and successes that have underlined this new model.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a crusade against the sale of music, I’m simply defining the very different ways in which success is measured and sold between the twilight zones of EDM and country. As the previous article-in-question states, “mainstream music is a corporate democracy, a game defined by choice creating a clearly defined winner and loser.” There’s certainly some truth to this statement.

What needs to be pointed out is that an industry’s measurement of success by sale doesn’t define excellence. It also does not define what is in the best interest of fans, aspiring artists, or long-term sustainable profits. When comparing the limited amounts of visible country releases, to a wide variety of free EDM substitutes, the “choices” presented by the mainstream industry are merely an illusion,

More choice is more, for better or worse

The EDM hierarchy does have its valid criticisms, you won’t find country music divided into numerous and often times confusing subgenres. Even as someone spending the last decade immersed in electronic music subculture, I often find myself hopelessly surrounded by sounds that seem indefinable. As a listener of a wide range of electronic music it can be frustrating to sift and sort through the massive amounts of music-released daily, with value often times scattered few and far between.

There is a reason that EDM is so segregated and that is because the content often evolves faster than our ability to classify and organize it. As referenced, “EDM is very much temporal, in other words it is constantly happening and changing through time.”

While I agree this is problematic for gaining new audiences, strong sub genres provide niche content for retaining subscribers. In many ways, the very existence of music and culture curators is to guide listeners through these genres and present findings. Ironically, we don’t need writers and publications to sift, sort, and deliver us music over the web if all the options were obviously available over mainstream channels.

EDM Rarely Conforms to Mainstream Audiences, Success Never Required It

EDM has never been accountable to anyone, and as a whole, it never wanted to be. No one ever knew things would get this big; ideals and expectations were not based around it being so. Why should any of that change now?

One of the greatest statements made by the rise of electronic music was the freedom from image, freedom from perfection, and abstaining from the scrutiny and destructive nature of the public eye. EDM has been overwhelmingly free from the tyranny of the public eye, and up until recently the ever so tainted corporate money.

Over its short history, EDM has been dynamically creative, but also mindlessly not-so-creative. These dynamics are in large part because of the fact that creators pursued their own sovereign visions, beyond the dogma of big label money and influence, but also because they were able to appeal to mainstream audiences without needing big-label recognition.

If you want to press play on a multi million-dollar light cube with an LED mouse head, you can do that. If you want to throw cake at your fans, fans will eat it. If you want to create an entire orchestrated masterpiece, utilizing historically accurate live instrumentation, featuring members from the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, you can do that, too.

If you want to do absolutely nothing on stage, mainstream audiences won’t stop you. However, there is more depth to EDM than stage presence, and regurgitated cookie cutter acts who just happen to be really, really, really, really good looking. At the end of the day, you can just be you, because unlike country, the music travels further than the face.

A Marketer’s Field of Dreams

The coining of the term EDM has been a marketer’s dream. From packaging to selling everything electronic, an essential pathway has been created into all things mainstream. This point of comparison to coined genres like country is in fact very relevant, but only in the mainstream realms. While scattered fan bases may be a hindrance to effectively defining market segments and directing content, for those who really dig deep to find music they love, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

3D Printed Gun Myths – Legality, Parts, Blueprints, & Materials 

3D Printed Gun Myths

Legality, Blueprints, & Materials

In the debate over 3D printed guns, technical context is often rare, and we’re hoping to clear up some misconceptions. Easy, simple, accessible: 3D printing is that “new, simple thing”, that’s not very new and not very simple. While most people are well aware of the things 3D printers can do, most are not aware of what they cannot do

The term “3D printed gun” is often misunderstood. 100% thermoplastic guns have yet to be a fruitful technique for manufacturing firearms. Before addressing legality, the differences in 3D printed firearm design, components,

Myth: The Debate Over 3D Printing Firearms is New

The first 3D printed gun made headlines in 2012 when 24-year-old 3D printing enthusiast, Cody Wilson, indicated his intent to manufacture and distribute weapons using a Stratasys 3D printer. Stratasys, a self-proclaimed world-leader in 3D printing, promptly canceled Wilson’s $20,000 U-Print-SE and retrieved the printer— the machine was never removed from the box.

Cody Wilson, founder of gun manufacturing advocacy group of Defense Distributed, arguably violated federal firearm laws before ever getting off the ground. He was also not an engineer. 

In the case of Defense Distributed’s Liberator, a 3D printer renders almost every component in plastics….the handle design sometimes includes a metal weigh in the grip and also a metal firing pin. The end user could choose to forgo metal components completely, but, they would be in violation of federal firearms laws.

The manufacture and sale of a firearm requires a federal firearms license. But what about selling the blueprints for firearms? 

Wilson’s first working 3D printed firearm prototype was a small, single-shot pistol materialized from ABS thermoplastics. The plastic parts required a 48 hour build time (time in the printer) before hand assembly. then required hand assembly. 

If it didn’t blow up on the first round, the pistol fired with a lifespan of just 10 – 20 shots. 

The first Liberator gained Wilson notoriety after publishing a 3D print-ready file (STL) which online enthusiasts could materialize from their own 3D printer.

Media and regulators largely disregarded that the pistol requires a metal firing pin and hand reloading after every shot. 

How Does the ATF Define a Gun?

The term “firearm” is defined by 18 U.S. Code § 921:

(A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will be or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive;

(B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon;

(C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or

(D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.

In the case of Defense Distributed’s Liberator, the handle design included a metal weight and metal firing pin. The ATF prevents the manufacturing of any firearm that forgoes metallic parts.

Myth: Assembling a 3D printed gun of 100% plastic is already illegal.

“The law prohibits a person from assembling a non–sporting semi-automatic rifle or shotgun from 10 or more imported parts, as well as firearms that cannot be detected by metal detectors or x–ray machines.”

ATF.GOV

The single-shot pistol rarely fired, required hand reloading, and frequently exploded. The “Liberatory” failed every standard of manufacturing, firearms, and engineering, but also — basic common sense. When printed and tested by ATF agents, the Liberator exploded without ever firing a shot

If I ever get in a shootout, please let my opponent have a 3D printed pistol. 

This story should end here. But it turns out Wilson’s critics may have underestimated the man — and overestimated the technology. Wilson didn’t have engineering prowess. But he understood how to garner support from the counterculture and fuel media spins

Eventually regulators starting taking notice.

In August 2018 a district court judge extended a ban on web distribution of blueprints for 3D printed lower receivers for semi-automatic rifles and pistols.

In response, announced he’d sell his blueprints as physical deliverables instead of uploading them online for download. In permitted states, you’ll just pay a $7 shipping fee.

Myth: 3D Printers Legally Create Guns that Cannot Be Detected with Metal Detectors and X-Ray Machines

The term “3D printed gun” is often misunderstood. 100% thermoplastic guns have yet to be a fruitful manufacturing technique for reasons disclosed later in the post. Before addressing legality, the differences in 3D printed firearm design, components, and assembly methods must be distinguished.

Methods of Manufacturing a 3D Printed Firearm

Method 1

The first method produces a 3D printed component that mimics traditional metal lower receivers for connection of metal assemblies, trigger frames, and barrels. After printing the lower receiver, aftermarket barrels, stocks, and upper receivers are sourced from 3rd parties without serials numbers or registration requirements. This is a common and controversial workaround to avoid ATF firearm regulations. Retail-ready, fully assembled firearms must contain a serial number for identification and registration.

Method 2

The second technique includes printing every component of the weapon, including the springs, barrel, and grip assembly with a 3D printer.

Myth: Cheap, Accessible Filaments Are Great for 3D Printing Robust Parts

What’s the problem with using thermoplastics for 3D printed guns?

They Melt.

By definition, a thermoplastic becomes molten plastic when heated and hardens upon cooling. Nozzle based (extrusion) 3D printers are known for effective tensile strength, low cost per print, and are easily adapted for assembly and limited end-use applications. The technology is known as Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) and equatable to Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM – a patented trademark of Stratasys systems).

Theoretically, there are handful of 3D printing filaments capable of withstanding the rapid expansion, heat, friction, and high pressure gasses produced by small munitions. Any tactical weapon must resist moisture, impact, overheating, dirt, and UV exposure. 90% of 3D printing materials don’t meet these basic requirements.

Common Flaws of ABS Plastics for 3D Printing

ABS plastics are the most common and accessible thermoplastics used in 3D printers. If there’s one thing introductory 3D printing filament materials were not made for, manufacturing firearms might be at the top of the list.

Like most people, Cody Wilson isn’t an engineer. With a melting point of 222 F°, ABS is typically extruded at a temperature is between 204 – 238 °C (400 – 460 °F). When heat is reapplied, the material will return to a molten form.

Unfortunately, gunpowder burns at ~5,000 °F and even advanced gun barrel designed for rapid heat dissipation may reach several hundred degrees at a high rate of fire.

ABS is not meant to withstand prolonged heat under duress. The weakest assembly points will quickly fault. At best, the firing pin unseats from the assembly and the gun will refuse to fire. At worst, it implodes.

While ABS plastics are cheap and more durable than other popular novice materials like PLA, they have very poor resistance to UV light. Performance and mechanical properties degrade quickly when exposed to sunlight.

Limitations of ABS 3D Printers

ABS requires a heated printed bed and enclosed chamber. Heated print beds and enclosed chambers require significantly larger upfront costs ($800 – $3,500) than open-faced designs.

Unlike ABS or PLA materials common among hobbyists, commercial-grade 3D printing filaments render prints that are durable and thermally stable for more robust applications. Novel materials allow processes like drilling and snap fitments for multi-part assembly with less vulnerability to heat, moisture, friction, and repeated action.

Filaments range in capability (and price) between consumer grade plastics like ABS or PLA, and engineering or aerospace quality materials like PEI (polyetherimide), Nylon, polycarbonate, and carbon composites.

Myth: High-Temperature Thermoplastics are Readily Available

A printer capable of high-performance thermoplastics ranges between $5k – $500k on the retail market.

Thermoplastics capable of melting points upwards of 7000 °F exist, they have yet to be adopted for 3D printing. High-temperature materials are trickling into open source markets, but the application has yet to reach consumer-grade printers.

Myth: 3D Printers Bring Guns to Market Faster

The print rate is a key performance benchmark of a 3D printer. Once something goes wrong during the 3D printing process, it goes really wrong. Any small glitch such as filament not feeding properly, a design flaw, or a muddy extrusion rate skews filament placement, cooling rate, and nozzle trajectory. A botched print must be started over from scratch, which usually means an extra 24 – 72+ hours of uninterrupted build time.

But What About 3D Printed Metals?

3D printed metals are notoriously hard to print, expensive, and not easy to work with.

3D printed metals may be relevant in the near-sometime-later future of technology, but likely a decade away from consumer accessibility.

Myth: 3D Printing is The Best Way to Obtain an Untraceable Firearm

Modern firearm designs such as the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle have hot-swappable modules that are sourced piece-by-piece and then assembled into a completed weapon post-delivery.

As opposed to 3D printing an entire weapon, Wilson focused his efforts on printing “lower receivers” which provide a housing for the firing pin and trigger mainframe. Barrels, stocks, clips, and optics are then ordered a la carte to meet the user’s needs without requiring serial numbers or ownership permits.

The lower unit is the only component of a weapon that differentiates an object between a paperweight and a firearm. Before the lower unit is deemed as a firearm, it requires an individual to make custom alterations for fitment of the trigger and chamber assembly.

Myth: Ghosts Gun are Illegal

80% receivers provide a prefabricated lower that requires slight modification and are openly sold online. The aluminum mainframe requires some precision tooling with a drill press to connect a trigger assembly and mechanize an action of firing.

Manufacturing a weapon for personal use (non-felons) is not illegal in many states. In many cases, a weapon built for personal use does not require a serial number or registration (again, varies state by state). These are commonly referred to as “ghost guns”.

In states with most strict legal parameters, once a receiver is drilled and slotted for assembly it is considered a firearm, and therefore subject to state and federal regulation.

In the most simple terms, a ghost gun is a firearm without serial numbers. Ghost guns do not require background checks or registration, however, they must be manufactured by the individual and not assembled from an already completed receiver or frame.

Each state has its own limitations on the types of weapons permitted for self-manufacture, and stipulate their own regulations for registering homemade firearms.

Myth: 3D Printing a Safe & Functional Firearm is Easy

A July 2018 chronicle in the L.A. Times demonstrates that for organized criminals, tried and true metal lower units are the most direct path to military-grade assault rifles.

Digital modeling, print optimization, iterative design, post-processing, and material efficiency are all essential for successful, scalable prints when extruding molten thermoplastics.

Those less familiar may think 3D printed parts pop off a print tray like a soda can falling out of vending machines. Unlevel print beds, saturated or stuck filaments, clogged extruders, or too slow/fast feed are a short list of reasons 3D printed builds fail.

Fused Filament Vulnerabilities

Fused filament designs sometimes require significant post-processing to remove support material, smooth edges, and remedy blemishes. Final fit and form require precise measurement and significant elbow grease. Build time is slow, and the final product is subject to many more variables with far less reliability and durability than traditional manufacturing methods. These are among reasons firearms manufacturers reserve 3D printing technology for prototyping accessories, ergonomics, and proof-of-concept.

Related: Why Do My Builds Keep Failing – Is Moisture a Silent Killer of 3D Printed Parts?

Because some 3D printing filaments are hygroscopic, meaning that they absorb moisture from the air, prolonged exposure to even moderately humid room air causes moisture saturation. After 150 hours in standard conditions, PLA filament may swell up to 40 micrometers before reaching its saturation point. 3D printers rely on tight tolerances and extremely small layer heights. Before the print even gets underway, an increased filament diameter of even 20 – 40 microns, (roughly the width of a human hair) can derail a build before it ever begins.

Read More

Myth: Regulation Can Stop Web Distribution of 3D Printing Blueprints

Since the rise of the internet, digital sleuths have found ways to build illicit markets in the dark corners of the web. The internet allows anonymous exchange of three major resources: currency, files, and communication.

The “darknet” was marked with infamy after the arrest of Ross Ulbricht, founder of the Silk Road. The Silk Road was an online black market that facilitated money laundering, computer hacking, narcotics trafficking, fraudulent document trafficking, and alleged murder-for-hire.

Encrypted transactions were crucial for the Silk Road market which produced upwards of 100 million in yearly revenue. These transactions were facilitated with BitCoin. BitCoin, is an encrypted digital currency (cryptocurrency), which shields personal identity but passes artifacts of ownership anonymously through a network of computers. Payments are arguably secure and extremely difficult to trace. Much like an offshore bank account, asset ownership is maintained and liquid, but the owner of those assets remain unknown.

Privacy-forward internet browsers such as TorBrowser and file-sharing networks like BitTorrent allow deep harbors for criminal activity, but they also represent the frontline of technology against identity theft, ensure transaction integrity, and protect personal web data.

Sometimes, the late-evolving benefits of new technology are only realized when bad actors arise from the shadows.

So What? How Do TorBrowser and Cryptocurrency Relate to 3D Printing Blueprints?

Yes, government policy may prevent Cody Wilson from openly distributing blueprints for a 3D printed firearm through public channels. It has not stopped him from doing so through private channels.

Although we won’t provide a link to them here, a simple Google search will reveal dozens of reuploaded files via GitHub sourced from Defense Distributed’s Liberator project. For $40 a year, a dedicated VPN network allows a user to upload and share files anonymously within peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. Large-scale distributors could simply “leak” their 3D printing download files without discourse.

The attempt to remove 3D printed components from open markets will follow historical precedent — when high demand meets regulatory injunction, black markets thrive. Instead of residing in observable communities scattered across public domains, the dark web will congregate in dark places — the savvy — and the savage.

Much to the chagrin of the public , stopping private users from trading illicit files over forums and online program hubs is extremely challenging. The existence of the Silk Road is just one example. Is it a brilliant success gone bad, or a cold future for the distribution of proprietary materials through web mediums?

Creating Technical Context for 3D Printed Guns

It’s been over 5 years since 3D printed guns first broke headlines. The landscape and concern over 3D printed guns continues to boil over — 3D printing capabilities have yet to reach a fever pitch.

Systems, material capabilities, print process, preliminary engineering, post-processing, environmental factors— little consideration is needed when 3D printing trinkets and spare lawn mower parts. Meanwhile, 3D printing a weapon capable of firing a projectile down range is more challenging — it’s also a lot more dangerous.

Engineer or Enthusiast? What impact do you think 3D printing will have on the future?

How Much Does a Website Cost?

First, there’s no scientifically valid way of determining how much a website costs. Yes, we can look at averages and market expectations, but even within the industry, everyone uses different cost structures.

What we can do is look at the bare-minimum of keeping a website online. One thing is certain: inflation and the never ending demand for faster, more data intensive websites will increase websites costs over time. I wrote the body of this article ~3 months ago and I can already tell you my server costs have already gone up.

The good news is, bare-bones website hosting cannot get much cheaper than it already is for quality service offerings.

Initial Website Costs

Domain Name Purchase Costs

Each site requires a unique domain name. 

Generally, a domain requires a one time purchase fee (usually around $12) and then a recurring payment of the same amount each year. Monthly hosting usually ranges between $8 – $15 depending on the number of domains and monthly data requirements. That generally includes essential, integrated security protocols which have become a web standard over the last few years.

That’s not to say you can’t host a website for less than $5 a month, but over here we like fast, responsive internet experiences that go online and stay online. I’m not going to go deep into the metrics of website costs/performance here, but you will get what you pay for (and be punished accordingly if you skim on the most critical asset of your website).

Remember, that if you build your website on something like Wix, SquareSpace, or WordPress.org, you’re going to be ‘taxed’ in perpetuity and get really mediocre server performance. (WordPress.com is a different thing)

So, the good news is, once you’ve found a name for your website that isn’t taken, it will cost you only $10-12 a year to secure the domain, and another $8 – $15 a month for something that’s zippy fast with multi-site support.

Search for a domain that isn’t taken >> I prefer Namecheap

Server Hosting Costs

The files of every website require a centralized server which stores the website’s content infrastructure. The cost of server hosting varies based upon the sites requirements for speed, file transfer, and number of users. More users means more file transfers, which means a faster server is required to maintain site speed.

Generally, server hosting for my average customer is between $10-$20 a month for a 1 – 3 domains (website addresses). That’s because I don’t use the cheapest, slowest servers. I prefer server hosting with prompt and well trained customer service because if issues arise, they can identify and resolve problems faster without having to rip the metaphorical motor out of your website and remachine the pistons. The saves a lot of costs from being passed down to the customer.

Most websites do not require extraordinary security measures, server side caching, or massive file traffic and file loads, hence 99% of websites will fall within the above data tier. Server hosting is provided by many companies you’ve likely seen advertisement for: GoDaddy, Hostgear, Dreamhost, Rochen, ect. (Again WordPress.com, SquareSpace, and Wix are “all-in-one-hosting” solutions that you’ll pay extra for based on convenience)

Personally, I’ve been working with Rochen for roughly the last 10 years and while they are not perfect, they’ve also been more than helpful with working out an issues and have a ton of value added services that make my life easier, and my customer’s websites less expensive.

Value Added Services

Hosting companies provide many value added services to win your business by making the deal sweeter (and your life easier). Some of these services include free registration of a domain name, transfer of your old website to your new domain, or installation of content management platforms like WordPress.  

The thing about those services is they usually get baked in to a recurring monthly fee. Thus, you can end up paying 25 – 30% in monthly fees over the life of your website.

My customers enjoy me handling all of their mission-critical recurring payments that keep their website online and I just pass along the invoice. Most people don’t realize that if you forget to renew the license for the name of your website every year, people can steal it from you. It’s not joke. Google once paid a guy $10K because they forgot to renew their .com domain. Luckily, he was a very nice guy and they simply gave him a reward for returning it to them.

Considering File Size and Video Bandwidth Limitations

A website which hosts unlimited movies and music for user download, or one that sees overs 100K users each month requires more storage, faster speeds, and higher file transfer rates to maintain stable function and prevent crashes. Sites with large volumes of visitors, extensive media downloads, or integration of many sites into the same account may exceed $100/month or more, if not hundreds-of-thousands-and-millions per month for enterprise level media sites (Netflix, Amazon, Ect)

Website Administrative Costs 

Website updates

Website updates are an essential task in maintaining the functionality of a website. Just like updates for your phone, a fast, safe, and functional website requires maintenance. Developers must respond nimbly to changes from many sources and ensure cohesiveness for the device in question: Tablet, iPhone, Desktop, ect. 

Administration and Website Updates

Some clients have the internal resources and skill sets to update their website on their own, while many prefer the ease and “worry-free” option of hiring a developer for web and security maintenance.

Administrative Updates:

  • Changes to fix bugs and security loopholes
  • Changes to improve website speed and page load times
  • Updates to the Content Management System (CMS) platform (Ex: WordPress, SquareSpace, Wix, Drupal, ect.)
  • Updates for evolving regulation and legal compliance (Ex: Europe’s new privacy requirements)
  • Security certificates and protocol updates

Website Updates that Stem from External Forces

Continual updates for the latest best practices ensure compliance with updates to various search engines like (Google algorithms), regulatory compliance, page speed improvements, and core infrastructure updates from framework and plugin developers. 

  • Changes in user behavior or customer preferences and suggestions
  • Updates for new and legacy support of device platforms 
  • Adding checkout options for new payment technologies (Bitcoin, Apple Pay, ect)
  • Updates and changes required by partners or affiliates

Ecommerce 

Initial Ecommerce Costs

The initial costs of getting your products online and ready for sale varies for each business. The number of products, complexity of the products, checkout features, security requirements, and extent of customer information management all have implications, 

Recurring Ecommerce Costs

Just like doing business in a retail store, each online transaction incrues a marginal expenditure, generally between 1 – 3% for each transaction when using payment platforms like Stripe, Paypal, or Shopify. Some payment platforms simply require a one-time fee to purchase the service, while others like Shopify require a recurring subscription free.

Recurring Ecommerce Management Fees

While online transactions have never been easier, facilitating online checkouts requires a significant extension of developer responsibility. Particularly, maintaining a secure place for transactions and ensuring that the customer has a simple and easy path to purchasing your products online. This also includes troubleshooting checkout issues such as failed transactions, invoice propagation, and revising page designs for better user experience. A painless online checkout experience is the absolute most important feature of an ecommerce website in today’s market.

Total Monthly Cost of Website Ownership

For most of my business-orientated customers, basic hosting costs are covered by $15 – 20 a month which supports up to three websites and about 100K visitors a month.

I only do maintenance plans for websites I’ve built personally, as the only way I can keep costs so low is because I intimately understand each and every gear, knob, and lever of the websites critical assets. Maintenance fees are just too variable to address in full here, but my plans start around $100 a month per-site for upkeep and maintenance with a pre-allocated number of service hours included. The best part for customers is that they don’t spend extra on one-time services and recurring fees at initial start up and get all of their web services bundled into a single invoice.

How Much Influence Does the Internet Have on Customer Purchases?

A lot.


If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re looking for your customers online. Good news: they’re also looking for you. So how do we start the conversation with a warm introduction and skip the small talk?

Let’s start with some basic stats on how online experiences influence online shopping behavior.

Business-to-Consumer-Marketing (B2C)

  • 90% of shoppers are not absolutely certain of the brand they want before they begin searching online.
  • Over 50% of consumers state that reading blogs has an influence on whether they make a purchase or not.
  • 61% of consumers say that they are more likely to buy from a company that provides custom content

Business to Business Marketing (B2B)

  • 89% of B2B researchers use the internet during the B2B research process.
  • 90% of B2B researchers who are online use search specifically to research business purchases.
  • 71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search

Putting a product or service online doesn’t mean that somebody will find it. For every 100 people that find your product online, if 1 of them buys something (1%) you’re doing something right. It’s a numbers game — a game that’s won and lost by focusing on the right numbers.

It’s easy to make statistics look pretty. It’s easy to spend a lot of cash on marketing and advertising services as long as the numbers keep going up. Everyone loves data that supports their inner-narrative.

It’s easy to justify marketing spend. What’s really hard…validating that spend.


Validation: the action of checking or proving the validity or accuracy of something.

In that same scenario, if you spent $1000 per each $1 of generated revenue, you’ll of those online transactions attributed

For 99.9% of sites, that rate is probably closer to 0%. And that’s okay. One of the biggest differences in overhead websites costs is whether or not your require the infrastructure

It certainly doesn’t mean they’ll buy it. Not even if the want it.

Selling products online is competitive. It’s easy to eat up your margins before you’ve cleared any sales. This is not the field of dreams. It’s a long-term game that requires a long-term strategy.

If you’re tired of burning through your budget faster than you can say “advertising agency”, then you’ve come to the right place.

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel; we just need to provide information in a more compelling and organized way than our competitors.

I build lean marketing and advertising campaigns that connect ideal customers…the ones that deliver long-term profits and repeat purchases. I catch the bigger, badder fish and leave the junk trophies for my competitors. But first, what are we trying to catch?