Tag Archive | "Development"

Giving Away the Farm: Proposal Development for New SEO Agencies

Posted by BrianChilds

There’s a huge difference between making money from selling SEO and actually making a living — or making a difference, for that matter. A new marketing agency will quickly discover that surviving on $ 1,000 contracts is challenging. It takes time to learn the client and their customers, and poorly written contracts can lead to scope creep and dissatisfied clients.

It’s common for agencies to look for ways to streamline operations to assist with scaling their business, but one area you don’t want to streamline is the proposal research process. I actually suggest going in the opposite direction: create proposals that give away the farm.

Details matter, both to you and your prospective client

I know what you’re thinking: Wait a minute! I don’t want to do a bunch of work for free!

I too am really sensitive to the idea that a prospective client may attempt to be exploitative. I think it’s a risk worth taking. Outlining the exact scope of services forces you to do in-depth research on your prospect’s website and business, to describe in detail what you’re going to deliver. Finding tools and processes to scale the research process is great, but don’t skip it. Detailing your findings builds trust, establishes your team as a high-quality service provider, and will likely make you stand out amongst a landscape of standard-language proposals.

Be exceptional. Here’s why I think this is particularly important for the proposal development process.

Avoid scope creep & unrealistic expectations

Just like the entrepreneur that doesn’t want to tell anyone their amazing idea without first obtaining an NDA, new SEO agencies may be inclined to obscure their deliverables in standard proposal language out of fear that their prospect will take their analysis and run. Generic proposal language is sometimes also used to reduce the time and effort involved in getting the contract out the door.

This may result in two unintended outcomes:

  1. Lack of specific deliverables can lead to contract scope creep.
  2. It can make you lazy and you end up walking into a minefield.

Companies that are willing to invest larger sums of money in SEO tend to have higher expectations, and this cuts both ways. Putting in the work to craft a detailed proposal not only shows that you actually care about their business, but it also helps manage the contract’s inevitable growth when you’re successful.

Misalignment of goals or timelines can sour a relationship quickly. Churn in your contracts is inevitable, but it’s much easier to increase your annual revenue by retaining a client for a few more months than trying to go out and find a replacement. Monetizing your work effectively and setting expectations is an excellent way to make sure the relationship is built on firm ground.

Trust is key

Trust is foundational to SEO: building trustworthy sites, creating valuable and trustworthy content, becoming a trusted resource for your community that’s worth linking to. Google rewards this kind of intent.

Trust is an ethos; as an SEO, you’re a trust champion. You can build trust with a prospect by being transparent and providing overwhelming value in your proposal. Tell your clients exactly what they need to do based on what you discover in your research.

This approach also greases the skids a little when approaching the prospect for the first time. Imagine the difference between a first touch with your prospect when you request a chance to discuss research you’ve compiled, versus a call to simply talk about general SEO value. By developing an approach that feels less like a sales process, you can navigate around the psychological tripwires that make people put up barriers or question your trustworthiness.

This is also referred to as “consultative sales.” Some best practices that business owners typically respond well to are:

  • Competitive research. A common question businesses will ask about SEO relates to keywords: What are my competitors ranking for? What keywords have they optimized their homepage for? One thing I like to do is plug the industry leader’s website into Open Site Explorer and show what content is generating the most links. Exporting the Top Pages report from OSE makes for a great leave-behind.
  • Top questions people are asking. Research forum questions that relate to the industry or products your prospect sells. When people ask questions on Yahoo Answers or Quora, they’re often doing so because they can’t find a good answer using search. A couple of screenshots can spark a discussion around how your prospective client’s site can add value to those online discussions.

Yes, by creating a more detailed proposal you do run the risk that your target company will walk away with the analysis. But if you suspect that the company is untrustworthy, then I’d advise walking away before even building the analysis in the first place; just try getting paid on time from an untrustworthy company.

Insights can be worth more

By creating a very transparent, “give away the farm”-type document, SEOs empower themselves to have important discussions prior to signing a contract. Things like:

  • What are the business goals this company wants to focus on?
  • Who are the people they want to attract?
  • What products or pages are they focused on?

You’ll have to understand at least this much to set up appropriate targeting, so all the better to document this stuff beforehand. And remember, having these conversations is also an investment in your prospect’s time — and there’s some psychology around getting your target company to invest in you. It’s called “advancement” of the sale. By getting your prospect to agree to a small, clearly defined commitment, it pulls them further down the sales funnel.

In the case of research, you may choose to ask the client for permission to conduct further research and report on it at a specified time in the future. You can use this as an opportunity to anchor a price for what that research would cost, which frames the scope of service prices later on.

By giving away the farm, you’ll start off the relationship as a trusted advisor. And even if you don’t get the job to do the SEO work itself, it’s possible you can develop a retainer where you help your prospect manage digital marketing generally.

Prepping the farm for sale

It goes without saying, but making money from SEO requires having the right tools for the job. If you’re brand-new to the craft, I suggest practicing by auditing a small site. (Try using the site audit template we provide in the site audit bootcamp.) Get comfortable with the tools, imagine what you would prioritize, and maybe even do some free work for a site to test out how long it takes to complete relatively small tasks.

Imagine you were going to approach that website and suggest changes. Ask yourself:

  • Who are they selling to?
  • What keywords and resources does this target user value?
  • What changes would you make that would improve search rank position for those terms?
  • What would you do first?
  • How long would it take? (In real human time, not starving-artist-who-never-sleeps time.)

Some of the tools that I find most helpful are:

  • Moz Pro Campaigns > Custom Reports. This is an easy one. Create a Moz Pro campaign (campaigns are projects that analyze the SEO performance of a website over time) and then select “Custom Reports” in the top-right of the Campaign interface. Select the modules you want to include — site crawl and keyword rankings against potential competitors are good ones — and then offer to send this report to your prospect for free. It’s a lot harder for a customer to turn something off than it is to turn something on. Give away a custom report and then set up time to talk through the results on a weekly basis.
  • Builtwith.com. This free service allows you to investigate a number of attributes related to a website, including the marketing software installed. Similar to a WHOIS search, I use this to understand whether the prospect is overloaded with software or if they completely lack any marketing automation. This can be helpful for suggesting tools that will improve their insights immediately. Who better to help them implement those tools or provide a discount than you?
  • Keyword Explorer > Lists. Create a list in Keyword Explorer and look for the prevalence of SERP features. This can tell you a lot about what kinds of content are valuable to their potential visitor. Do images show up a lot? What about videos? These could be opportunities for your customer.
  • MozBar. Use the Page Analysis tab in MozBar to assess some of the website’s most important pages. Check page load speed in the General Attributes section. Also see if they have enticing titles and descriptions.
  • Site crawl. If you don’t have Moz Pro, I recommend downloading Screaming Frog. It can crawl up to 500 pages on a site for free and then allow you to export the results into a .csv file. Look for anything that could be blocking traffic to the site or reducing the chance that pages are getting indexed, such as 4XX series errors or an overly complex robots.txt file. Remedying these can be quick wins that provide a lot of value. If you start a Moz Pro campaign, you can see how these issues are reduced over time.

Want to learn how to add SEO to your existing portfolio of marketing services?

Starting on April 4th, 2017, Moz is offering a 3-day training seminar on How to Add SEO to Your Agency. This class will be every Tuesday for 3 weeks and will cover some of the essentials for successfully bringing SEO into your portfolio.

Sign up for the seminar!

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New Amazon F1 Instance Reduces Capital-Intensive and Time-Consuming Steps in App Development

Amazon’s is making news about lots of interesting things at its AWS re:Invent 2016 conference currently underway in Las Vegas, and their just announced AWS F1 Instance is no exception.

“Today we are launching a developer preview of the new F1 instance,” said Jeff Barr, Chief Evangelist at Amazon Web Services. “In addition to building applications and services for your own use, you will be able to package them up for sale and reuse in AWS Marketplace. Putting it all together, you will be able to avoid all of the capital-intensive and time-consuming steps that were once a prerequisite to the use of FPGA-powered applications, using a business model that is more akin to that used for every other type of software. We are giving you the ability to design your own logic, simulate and verify it using cloud-based tools, and then get it to market in a matter of days.”

Here are the specs on the FPGA (there are up to eight of these in a single F1 instance):

- Xilinx UltraScale+ VU9P fabricated using a 16 nm process.
- 64 GiB of ECC-protected memory on a 288-bit wide bus (four DDR4 channels).
- Dedicated PCIe x16 interface to the CPU.
- Approximately 2.5 million logic elements.
- Approximately 6,800 Digital Signal Processing (DSP) engines.
- Virtual JTAG interface for debugging.

The F1 instance will significantly speed up applications that are built for a specific purpose. “The general purpose tools can be used to solve many different problems, but may not be the best choice for any particular one,” says Barr. “Purpose-built tools excel at one task, but you may need to do that particular task infrequently.”

Typically says Barr this requires another balancing act: trading off the potential for incredible performance vs. a development life cycle often measured in quarters or years.

“One of the more interesting routes to a custom, hardware-based solution is known as a Field Programmable Gate Array, or FPGA,” said Barr. “
This highly parallelized model is ideal for building custom accelerators to process compute-intensive problems. Properly programmed, an FPGA has the potential to provide a 30x speedup to many types of genomics, seismic analysis, financial risk analysis, big data search, and encryption algorithms and applications.”

“I hope that this sounds awesome and that you are chomping at the bit to use FPGAs to speed up your own applications,” said Barr. “There are a few interesting challenges along the way. First, FPGAs have traditionally been a component of a larger, purpose-built system. You cannot simply buy one and plug it in to your desktop. Instead, the route to FPGA-powered solutions has included hardware prototyping, construction of a hardware appliance, mass production, and a lengthy sales & deployment cycle. The lead time can limit the applicability of FPGAs, and also means that Moore’s Law has time to make CPU-based solutions more cost-effective.”

Amazon believes that they can do better, and that’s where the F1 instance comes in.

“The bottom line here is that the combination of the F1 instances, the cloud-based development tools, and the ability to sell FPGA-powered applications is unique and powerful,” says Barr. “The power and flexibility of the FPGA model is now accessible all AWS users; I am sure that this will inspire entirely new types of applications and businesses.”

Developers can sign up now for the Amazon EC2 F1 Instances (Preview).

The post New Amazon F1 Instance Reduces Capital-Intensive and Time-Consuming Steps in App Development appeared first on WebProNews.


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Beyond Responsive: Design and Development Trends for Adaptable Marketers

Posted by Carson-Ward

A friend of mine recently asked me to review and explain a series of site recommendations sent over by a well-known digital marketing agency with roots in SEO. We talked through the (generally good) recommendations for content and search optimization, and then we got to this:

“* Mobile accounts for 53% of your traffic. We recommend building a mobile-friendly responsive website. Google recommends using responsive design so that your site looks good on all devices, and it may help increase mobile rankings.”

And that was it. A bullet point that says “build a responsive site” is like getting a home inspection back with a bunch of minor repairs and a bullet point that says, “Also, build a new house with modern specs.”

We, as professional marketers, need to realize that this advice is not good enough. We’re not helping anyone with broad statements that give no guidance on where to start or what to think about. Google might recommend responsive, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only option or that it’s always the right option. Even if it is the right option, we need to have some idea on how to do responsive right.

If we’re going to tell people to redesign their websites, we’d better have something more profound than a single bullet point on a 20-page document. Implying that “Google will reward you for responsive” and leaving it at that could do more harm than good. It also misses a tremendous opportunity to help clients build a great website with an awesome user experience.

It’s fine if you’re not well-versed in site architecture, design, user experience, and/or user intent. Just don’t mention a gargantuan project like a site redesign if all you have to say is “build a responsive site, because Google.”

This post is a look at how companies are handling the future of the web, for better or worse. My goal is to help SEOs, content marketers, and all other digital marketers to speak more intelligently about responsive, mobile, and other design and development trends.

Don’t follow the crowd: you risk going full Windows 8.

We learned some important lessons about cross-platform design from the disaster that was Windows 8. It was a mess for lots of reasons – and yet I see the same people who mocked Windows 8 beginning to make some of the same mistakes on their websites. For those who never used Windows 8 in its early days, let me explain why it was so bad.

  • “Metro” (or “Modern” or whatever) shunned navigation for modern simplicity. It featured big icons – and no clear way to do more than click icons. Desktop users hated it.
  • There were a bunch of useful features and options most people never knew about hidden in sub-navigation. Windows 8 could actually do some cool new stuff – but few people knew it could, because it wasn’t visible.
  • Users didn’t know how to do what they wanted. Menus and buttons were shunned in favor of bloated pictures of app icons. Common features like the start menu, control panel, and file search were suddenly moved to non-standard places. Thousands of people turned to Google every month to figure out how to do simple things like turn their computer off and run a search. That’s RIDICULOUS.

A small sample of people asking Google to help them navigate a Microsoft product. Also interesting: Windows 7 has always had lower searches for these terms despite 4-5x the number of active users.

Now here we are, three years later, watching the web go full Windows 8 on their users. Menus are scaled down into little hamburgers on desktop. Don’t do that! You’re alienating your desktop users just like Windows 8 did. Users have to click two or three times instead of just once to find what they need in your menu. And don’t kid yourself: You’re not Windows. No one’s going to ask Google how to use your site’s nav. They’re just going to look at result number two.

Let’s look at an example of making the Windows 8 mistake on the web. Let’s go big. Let’s go Honda.

This is what happens when you take a design trend and try to force it on your corporate site without thinking about users or why they’re coming to your site. What does this site sell? Dreams? Clouds? Stock images? The text on the page could be placed on almost any corporate site in the world. Honda has gone full Windows 8 on their corporate site.

Aside: I’m picking on Honda because I know they can take a beating here and keep running – just like my CR-V (which I love).

I’m obviously not a fan of the expanding mobile-style navigational menu on desktop, but Honda blew me away with an overly-complicated mess of a menu.

I understand the company makes major engines, boats, and aircraft parts. Having lots of parts to your business doesn’t mean that each part deserves equal emphasis. Honda needs to step back and ask what users want when they get to the site, and realize that it’s unfeasible to serve every intent – especially if it wants to maintain its simplistic design.

What about the competition?

Toyota and other competitors know most users visiting the site want to look at automobile options or find a dealer. Both Honda and Toyota have sites for racing, and both companies sell industrial engines. But Toyota understands that most users landing on Toyota.com want the consumer brand, and that racing enthusiasts will Google “Toyota racing” instead. There’s also a link way down in the footer.

The exception to the rule of avoiding what I’m calling mobile-only design might be a design firm. Here’s Big Spaceship’s site. They’re a design agency that knows more about web design than I ever will. It’s a great site, and it’s probably going to get them sales. Do not copy them. Don’t imitate a design agency’s website unless you are a design agency. I’m talking to you, Honda.

When a user visits a design firm’s site, they want to see the company’s skills. Design agencies like Big Spaceship are wise to immediately showcase and sell users on their design capabilities. In essence, the home page acts as a full-page product shot and sales page.

I’ve seen SEO/Design/Marketing agencies create what are essentially design-only websites, and then wonder why no one is interested in their SEO services. I’ve seen product companies use a logo + hamburger menu + massive product image layout and have problems selling anything but the product featured in the first image. That’s what you get for copying the cool kids.

It only makes sense to show one thing if you only do one thing. Good design in Amazon’s case is very different. Amazon has millions of products, and they don’t want people clicking through categories, choosing the wrong ones, and getting lost or frustrated. The search function is key with a mega-site: thus the not-so-pretty search bar on every Amazon page.

Align your users’ intents with nav items and landing page content. Show them how to browse or search your goods and services without making them click unnecessarily. Keep browse-able items to a manageable level, and make sure you have a simple click path to things people want to do on your site. Look at how Medium aligns intent with design.

Simplicity works for Medium posts: the user wants to read the post they’ve landed on, and the focus of the site’s design is on reading the post. Medium will hold off on getting you to read or share more until you’re done reading. Most of those calls to action are at the bottom of the article. Now look at the home page.

Smart. When someone lands on a post, they want to read the post. So show them the post! When someone lands on the home page, their intents vary. Give them options that aren’t hidden behind a hamburger menu. Show them what they can do.

Figure out what your users want to know or see, and build those elements prominently into the site. Don’t blindly copy web design, or you risk following Windows 8 in alienating your core users, especially on desktop.

So how do you know what your users want to see?

1. Run on-page surveys

One of the best ways to figure out what people are looking for is to ask them. Don’t continually annoy people with popups, but if you’re just starting out it’s worth gathering the information up-front. Ask people what they’re looking for when they visit your site. We use Qualaroo, but there are lots of simple tools that can be implemented quickly.

If you already know what people are looking for, you should make sure you know what their primary considerations are for buying. Does price matter to them more than power or quality? If price matters most to your buyers, price should be featured prominently in the design.

2. Use split tests to understand intent

There are lots of reasons to run split tests, and the focus should usually be on conversion. The problem is that sometimes we focus exclusively on which version converted better, and forget to ask why.

We use Optimizely, and it’s awesome. We also keep a log of test results with our pre-test hypothesis, pages tested, a link to results, and why we think it won. Then we try to think about the implications if we’re right about our conclusion.

  • Where else might we be making the mistake of the losing version?
  • What other pages are impacted if we’re right about what our users want?
  • Is there content we can create to solve the users’ problems? Are there key pages or explanations that are missing?

It’s a little bit dangerous to over-apply a single test’s conclusions on the whole site, so this usually leads to more testing. After three or four tests you might be ready to make moderate changes without running a split test, allowing you to move on to the next big test.

3. Look at in-market segments

Try to figure out where your users are mentally by looking at in-market segments. Don’t mistake in-market segments for what users are trying to buy. Instead, use it to understand what else the user has been looking at. Here’s a site we work on, for example:

So what is this telling me on our home services site? What do real estate, employment, hotels, new cars, and home furniture have in common? These are all things people need if they’re moving. If we’re smart about it, our site should have messaging and navigation options clearly intended for people who are moving. Maybe moving guides would be a good content idea. These are all opportunities that go unnoticed if we’re only focused on what people want to buy.

Some sites are going back to mobile sites, and that’s okay

It’s been said that Google “likes” responsive design and will reward responsive sites with higher search rankings. I disagree on that second point. Google likes sites that give the user what they want, regardless of the technology used.

Yes, Google has recommended responsive design. So do I, but I do so because it’s by far the easiest multi-device approach to maintain and the hardest to completely mess up. That doesn’t mean it’s the only way, and that does not mean that Google will penalize a site for providing a superior mobile experience in a different way.

There are lots of benefits to mobile sites. On some sites the intent and behavior of mobile users is different enough from desktop users that it justifies creating a mobile-specific experience. It’s also compatible with the goal of a fast-loading site.

Responsive sites are generally much slower to load, according to a report from The Search Agency.

You can and should make your site fast with responsive, but there are a host of reasons most responsive sites end up slower on mobile. Both dynamically-served sites and mobile sites naturally lend themselves to building with speed in mind. A mobile-specific site can also offer an experience that is ideal for the user intent at that time.

This past July, Cindy Krum talked about “mobile intent” during her Mozcon presentation. It might sound like a buzzword, but it’s true that mobile users are in a different spot. They’re not looking to compare as much. They want to either buy quickly or get some quick details on the product.

If you’re thinking about doing a mobile site, make sure you have lots of people ready to build it out correctly and maintain it. Don’t underestimate the dev time it will take to make the entire site work. You’ll need SEOs who know how to set up rel tags and ideally make sure the mobile site has an identical URL structure. You’ll need lots of QA to make sure all your page types are being served correctly.

Some SEOs will say that a mobile sub-domain or sub-folder is worse for SEO because links to one won’t count as links to the other. Nonsense! That’s what the rel=”canonical” and rel=”alternate” tags are for. Just like fretting over non-www 301 redirecting to the www version, these are things that made a big difference at one point, but are no longer as essentially important as they were. Google is smart enough to understand what’s happening – unless you don’t implement them correctly.

Responsive design is still a better option for most companies, but there’s no reason to be dogmatic about it. There’s a reason Google gives you three options. A mobile site can work for larger companies, and is often the best option for mega e-commerce sites.

Web development continues to evolve – including JavaScript libraries

JavaScript usage is place where the SEOs are often guilty of giving dated advice. SEO should enable great content to appear to more people in more searches. SEO should not be used to restrict useful content creating tools unless absolutely necessary.

Traditional SEO wisdom has always been to avoid putting any content into JavaScript that we want the crawlers to see. This is outdated advice for websites in 2015. Libraries like React and Angular can be amazing tools. They’re full of features, fun to use, and can make your website feel faster and more responsive.

If Google wants to reward a positive user experience, and if JavaScript can help site owners provide a stellar user experience, then SEOs should embrace JavaScript. Rather than lobbying against any JavaScript on the site it’s time to get a little more sophisticated in our approach to help the team use their tools correctly.

React and Angular can definitely make your dynamic content more fun to use, but they also make heavy use of AJAX-like client-side execution, which Google doesn’t really understand (yet). Developers and SEOs should be aware of how to make it work.

Making AJAX Google-friendly could be its own post. In fact, there are already several great posts. Google also has some great guides – make sure to check the linked resources, too. One small warning: there’s a lot of outdated info out there on the topic.

You can get around a lot of the nitty-gritty technical SEO using things like Prerender or V8. Try to find a tool that will automatically generate a crawlable version while using AJAX. Communicate with your developers to find a solution that works with your setup.

A humbling example

As I said, it’s important to make sure that you communicate with developers before construction begins. I’ll use a painful recent experience as an example. We just built a react-based tool that helps beginners estimate how much internet speed they need. It immediately redirected all visitors to a URL with a hashtag and the rest of the survey is behind a hashtag. And none of the text could be crawled without client-side execution.

Oops.

We built an awesome tool, and then hid it from Google. Someone fire the guy who missed that… just don’t tell anyone it was me. We used React.js here, and it was a blast. We’ve also received great feedback from users. The lesson here is not to avoid React and AJAX. The lesson here is to communicate SEO requirements to the developers early. The fix will be done soon, but it took a lot longer than if I’d done my due diligence beforehand.

Understanding Google-friendly JavaScript implementation is the job of every SEO. Other digital marketers should at least be aware that there’s a potential problem and a technical solution.

I love interactive tools that are fast and useful. SEOs should be facilitating the building of things that are awesome. That means helping find solutions rather than lobbying against an entire toolset that’s widely used on the modern web.

Don’t forget About indexable apps

Google can now index and rank apps, and they have some decent guidelines on how to do it. It’s possible that app-based companies with an exclusively mobile client base don’t even need a traditional website.

Most companies will still want to build and maintain websites, but be open to the idea that a responsive site might not be the best option for a small mobile game developer. The right option might instead be to add links to content and discussion and then support deep linking within the app.

Even if app-only isn’t the right option, consider that content within apps could be a more engaging medium for people who have already installed the app. For example, a discussion board for players of the game might work better within the game app itself. It could definitely feel more engaging and immersive if users never have to leave the app to ask a fellow user a question or rant about the latest update.

Final thoughts

A site might look awesome when you shrink and expand the window while presenting the design to the c-suite, but if the real decision makers, the users, don’t know what a cheeseburger menu is, you’re not going to sell very many stock photos of earth. Responsive design is a great option – often the right option – but it isn’t the only option. Hopefully this post can help get some thoughts started how to do responsive right.

I’m absolutely not saying that responsive is dead. My point is that if our advice drifts into design and development we should be able to give more concrete advice. Don’t just build websites that respond to screen size. Build websites that respond immediately to your customer’s needs.

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SearchCap: Paid Search Best Practices, Link Development & Search Experience

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: Paid Search Best Practices, Link Development & Search Experience appeared first on Search Engine Land.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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Content Marketing: How McGladrey built a strategy around content development [Video]

In this MarketingSherpa Blog post, watch an excerpt from a session at last year’s B2B Summit. In this video excerpt, Eric Webb, Senior Director of Corporate Communication, McGladrey, shares the steps the accounting and consulting firm took to improve its content marketing efforts and, ultimately, execute a 300% increase in content production.
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The Sprint: A Productivity Technique From Software Development Every Entrepreneur Should Know

I recently had a meeting with my CrankyAds team and a friend named Andy who I had not seen in many years.

Andy left a software company he founded over ten years ago. He’s one of those guys who can do everything. He wore many hats over the years at his company, including programmer, head of hiring and firing, … Read the rest of this entry »

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro Starak

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Job Vacancy: Rails Development Team Leader

Author (displayed on the page): 

Wordtracker is a search marketing company that specialises in helping people get more traffic to their websites.

We're a well-known company, with a strong brand and a worldwide client-base. We are a self-sustaining business which has been running successfully for over 10 years – without a need for VC funding.

We have an opportunity for a Ruby on Rails team leader to join on a permanent basis. You will be looking for an opportunity to use your extensive programming and management experience to develop world beating Ruby on Rails web applications.  

It is important you want to work in a small, fast moving team where you feel there's a point to you turning up in the morning. Your first task will be to expand our team by hiring two more developers, making a team of seven.

Software is at the heart of the company. We work on interesting, challenging problems using Agile methodologies. We work in two week iterations, estimating in ideal days, TDD and we're careful about the quality of our code. Each of our subscription products has its own internal customer with whom the developers work closely to develop new features and plan the future of the tools.

Ruby and Rails are key technologies for this role. We have three Rails 3 apps in production and we're using technologies such as Resque, CoffeeScript and Sphinx. Our main keywords tool runs over 10,000 searches a day and our production infrastructure is spread over 14 machines. 

Most of our test code is written in test-unit with Shoulda and Mocha but we have some RSpec tests too. We also have some PHP code in production – skills in those technologies would be a definite plus. We use MySQL (with Sphinx) for data storage and git for our versioning. Views are rendered with Haml. Front end skills – jQuery, Javascript, Html, Sass, CSS are also important.

Key skills for this role are:

  • A pragmatic approach to software development
  • Experience of recruiting and managing a development team using genuine Agile methodologies
  • Working with internal customers to estimate stories
  • Generalist – knowledge of whole web stack including systems engineering, web server, database, programming, front end.
  • Appreciation of test driven development
  • An entrepreneurial attitude

At Wordtracker we offer a great company culture. You will be based in a modern open-plan office – with exposed brickwork, lots of space and plenty of natural light – in north London (Kentish Town, about five minutes walk from the tube).

We work in a pretty casual environment with flexible working hours. The working day starts at 9.30am and we have standup every morning at 10am. Our lunch on Fridays is provided from a local organic cafe. Of course, there's always plenty of fruit and snacks in the office, a holiday allowance of 23 days a year and a contributory pension scheme. You'll be given a Macbook Pro to work on, with a 24 inch monitor.

Salary: dependent on experience

If you feel you have what it takes to make this role a success please send your CV along with answers to the following questions to justin@wordtracker.com by 20th February.

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How My 5 Question Survey Saved Me Time And Resources In Product Development

Selling information for money – it’s such a beautiful thing. It’s what so many of us love talking (and blogging) about. It doesn’t take a huge office, lots of inventory, and once it’s done, you can almost set it and forget it – right? Well, it all depends. Allow me to explain . . .

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been working on building my title="Biology Website" href="http://www.interactive-biology.com" target="_blank">Biology Website. It has been a huge undertaking. After reading href="http://crushitbook.com/">Crush It, by Gary Vaynerchuk, I was convinced that the way to grow my website was to release videos almost every weekday (three to five times a week). Each video would teach one concept in biology.

I also decided to use href="http://www.youtube.com" target="_blank">YouTube as one of the main ways of getting traffic to my website. It was interesting to see what happened next – my traffic increased significantly and has been increasing every month since I started, with my videos receiving anywhere between 1,000 and 1,500 views every day. I’ve also started getting people sending me testimonials and Thank You emails almost EVERY DAY (254 since January – yes, I counted), it’s such an exciting feeling.

Then I reached the stage that many internet entrepreneurs reach when they realize that their site is getting decent traffic – the stage where the site is demanding for more resources – a stage that starts to cost more and more money (upgrading servers, outsourcing more tasks, etc). It’s the stage when you know you need to start doing things to start making money.

The Great Money-Making Idea

id="more-6735">Since I was satisfied with the level of traffic I was getting, and with the amount of value I was able to share with the world, it was time to take it to the next level – releasing a paid product.

I had many ideas about different products I could release and eventually narrowed it down to what I thought was the best idea – I could take all of my free YouTube videos and create a DVD package. After consulting with an internet marketing friend of mine, we both came to the conclusion that it was the best idea for the following reasons:

  • I didn’t have to create anything new in order to have the product. Since it was based on videos that were already made, all I needed to do was re-export the videos in a form that could go onto DVD.
  • Using a service like title="Kunaki" href="http://kunaki.com/" target="_blank">Kunaki, you don’t even need to purchase the DVDs in advance. They ship the DVD directly to your customer for you at a low cost of $ 1 per DVD. So if you charge $ 97 per DVD, you make a SWEET profit of $ 96.
  • DVDs generally have a higher perceived value than digital downloads.
  • As I made more free videos, I could release more DVDs in the future, allowing me to have multiple products.

Doesn’t that just sound like a great deal? Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense for me to develop a product like that? Yep, that’s what I thought too, until I made a quick decision to do something very simple that proved to be very valuable. What did I do? I’m glad you asked . . .

If You Want To Know – Ask!

Right before I got ready to start putting together the DVD package, I decided to send out a short survey to my audience. I wanted to know whether they would be more inclined to buying a DVD product or a Digital product. My assumption was that they would prefer to get a DVD, and boy was I wrong. The questions on the survey were the following:

  1. Do you think it would be valuable to make a DVD series available?
  2. If you had to choose between having a physical copy (DVD) or a digital copy (Download) of the Interactive Biology videos, which would you choose?
  3. If we made DVDs available (over time), would you buy a copy?
  4. How much would you pay to be able to get a full Series (approximately 40 videos): The full, mobile AND MP3 versions?
  5. If you could choose between purchasing a Set package at one set price (i.e. a Nervous System Package, Energy Package, etc.) vs a Subscription where you get immediate access to ALL Videos as soon as they are released (full, mobile and MP3), which would you choose?

This survey answered a number of questions that have helped me shape my product that I’ll be releasing over the next few weeks. Allow me to share some of those important answers with you:

style="text-align: center"> href="http://cdn.entrepreneurs-journey.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Survey1.png"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-6741" src="http://cdn.entrepreneurs-journey.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Survey1.png" alt="" width="537" height="137" />

When I saw these results, I was very happy. No, it didn’t tell me that 88% of my audience would actually buy, but at least I had a good idea that they thought the idea was worth looking into.

style="text-align: center"> href="http://cdn.entrepreneurs-journey.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Survey2.png"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-6745" src="http://cdn.entrepreneurs-journey.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Survey2.png" alt="" width="536" height="157" />

I’m not sure why these results surprised me, but I was indeed surprised. I was thinking that most people would find more value in a physical product, but the results indicated something different – only 9% was in favor of just a DVD. Everyone else were in favor of either all digital or a combination of both. This showed me that if I were to choose one to start with, digital would be the way to go.

style="text-align: center"> href="http://cdn.entrepreneurs-journey.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Survey3.png"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-6746" src="http://cdn.entrepreneurs-journey.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Survey3.png" alt="" width="537" height="139" />

When it really comes down to it, knowing that my audience thinks that having a product is a good idea doesn’t paint a full picture. What really matters is whether or not they would actually buy. This told me that 62 of the people that took the survey would at least consider spending money.

style="text-align: center"> href="http://cdn.entrepreneurs-journey.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Survey4.png"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-6747" src="http://cdn.entrepreneurs-journey.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Survey4.png" alt="" width="536" height="174" />

This was a very important question for me. I was struggling to decide on a price point. Seriously, I was. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted discussing this question with one of my Internet Marketing buddies over the phone. Now, I know that 74% of the people who took the survey would at least think about paying anywhere between $ 47 and $ 197 to get a product relating to my content.

style="text-align: center"> href="http://cdn.entrepreneurs-journey.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Survey5.png"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-6748" src="http://cdn.entrepreneurs-journey.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Survey5.png" alt="" width="536" height="180" />

The results to this question really amazed me. I’d always thought about adding a paid membership component to my website. However, I always told myself that it wouldn’t work for this non-internet-marketing crowd. Now I know that 55% of the people who completed this survey would at least think about paying a subscription fee to access the resources I could easily make available.

Why Was The Survey Such A Good Idea?

  • It gave me actionable data. I no longer have to guess at what is more likely to work. I can take action based on actual data as opposed to my thoughts and feelings.
  • It saved me a lot of time. Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I can suffer from analysis paralysis – where I try to analyze every aspect of what I’m trying to do, so I waste time not taking action. Now, the decision-making process took a much shorter time and I can spend time building the product.
  • My audience gets to be a part of the decision-making process. My site is not all about me providing information. The goal is to build a strong community, with active participants. By allowing them to take part, it encourages them to take ownership of the community, and that’s exactly what I want.

Tips For Running A Successful Survey

There are certain things you can do to enhance the likelihood that you will get a decent response to your survey. Here are some very useful tips:

  1. Keep it Simple. Don’t try to answer every question you might have in one survey. In my survey, I did five questions. That’s the most I would do in any survey. Long surveys can be intimidating.
  2. Use a service like href="http://www.surveymonkey.com/">Survey Monkey or href="http://www.polldaddy.com/">Polldaddy. They both give you pretty detailed results and stats. I chose to go with Polldaddy because they have a plugin for wordpress that easily allows you to embed your poll into a blog post. With their free service, you can analyze up to 100 responses to each survey.
  3. Promote it in various ways for maximal response. I posted a blog post, sent it to my list, shared it on my title="Interactive Biology Facebook Page" href="http://www.facebook.com/InteractiveBiology" target="_blank">Facebook Fan Page and made a title="Interactive Biology YouTube" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpA6cH-EaHU" target="_blank">YouTube Video about it (I’ve taken down the blog post because the poll is now closed).
  4. Be Human. In creating your surveys, let people know the real deal and ask them for their opinion. I straight up told them that we need money to grow the site, but wanted to make sure to do it in a way that is most beneficial to everyone.

So What Did I Decide To Do?

I decided to set up a membership site that will provide video downloads in two formats (for computer and mobile device), in addition to an MP3 that they can take along with them and listen to even while they are driving in their cars. It will be a paid membership of $ 47 for six months. Yes, I know it’s a low price point, but I want as many people to benefit from it as possible without having a high barrier of entry. Plus, I know that a significant amount of my audience is at least willing to consider paying that price.

I will also produce DVDs, but not right now. The plan is to eventually make them and offer them at a discounted rate to upgraded members.

Do I know that it will be very successful? No, I don’t. The fact is – a Paying customer is only a paying customer when they’ve actually paid for something. Filling out a free survey saying that you will spend money is much easier than actually spending the money. But you know what – that’s what the “Entrepreneur’s Journey” is all about.

What I do know is that I will gain experience from what I’m attempting to do, and I will report back to you in as much detail as I did in this post. Why? Because I want us to learn together. It’s much more fun that way src='http://cdn.entrepreneurs-journey.com/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_wink.gif' alt=';)' class='wp-smiley' />

Your Comments

So what do you think? Do you think doing a survey was a good idea? Did I make the right decision based on the survey? Have you used surveys to help you decide what to do in your online business? How did it work for you? If you haven’t used them, how do you think it would help you to start? Let me know in the comments below.

class="alignleftsize-fullwp-image-5101" src="http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/LeslieSignature.png" alt="" width="212" height="47" />

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