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Top 10 ways to share files securely

Keep your files safe when sharing online

The internet is made for sharing and it’s perfectly understandable that the moment you snap a picture of a new addition to the family, or some other unmissable photo, you want to show it to your loved ones. Or you might want to share critical documents with work colleagues.

How can you make sure that whatever you share is seen only by the people you choose? Simply placing a password on files won’t always do – as you’d need a way of sending the password to the recipient securely in the first place!

In this article, we’re going to explore some quick and simple options for sharing your files safely over the net. These are not exclusive so don’t be afraid to combine them if necessary, or look into other ways to share files safely, too.

1. Dropbox

Most Dropbox users know that they can click ‘Share’ next to a file or folder to generate a link to allow other people to download that file or folder.

This is especially useful when you want to share files that are too large to email. Only people who have the link will be able to access the data, and you can delete the link at any time.

If you have a paid Dropbox Pro account (or a business one) you can password protect individual files and folders, as well as set the link to expire automatically.

2. Password protection

Many applications such as the cross-platform word processor LibreOffice Writer contain an option to password protect documents. Usually you’ll be asked to type in the password twice to make sure it’s entered correctly. Note it down carefully.

The specific steps you need to follow plus the strength of the encryption used will vary depending on the piece of software in question. Check with the developer (look for the support section of the website) if you need help with anything. Ideally documents should be protected with at least 128-bit AES encryption.

You will of course need a way to send the password to the recipient securely after sending the file.

3. PGP/GPG

PGP and GPG are two programs which make use of public key cryptography to send files securely.

They get around the problem of having to send someone the password of a file you’ve encrypted by using a ‘public key’ to encrypt documents and a ‘private key’ to decrypt them. Your private key never leaves your computer but anyone can use your public key to send you files.

Setting this up can be tricky for less tech-savvy types. The easiest way is probably to install the cross-platform email client Mozilla Thunderbird, then use the free add-on Enigmail which has a handy step-by-step wizard.

4. OTR

OTR (Off the Record) messaging is a feature that can be added to a number of messaging programs such as the cross-platform app Pidgin.

Messages are encrypted before leaving your machine, so you can safely send files to your correspondent. You can also use security codes to make sure no one is sitting between you and them, intercepting your messages (known as a ‘man-in-the-middle’ attack).

OTR messaging is available as a plug-in for Pidgin, as mentioned, but is also built into other messenger clients such as FrozenChat for Android.

5. One-Time Pad

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To use a One-Time Pad, first you must create a list of random numbers by rolling dice or using a computer. Your correspondent does the same, then you both meet and give each other a copy of the pads.

When you want to send your correspondent a file, you can then combine the random data in the pad with it, and send. The recipient can then use their copy of your pad to take away the random data to reveal the file.

This is tricky to get right, but theoretically it’s perfectly secure. There are a few programs as listed here, such as the Paranoia plug-in for the Pidgin messaging app, which can automate the process for you.

6. LastPass

LastPass is an excellent service which stores all of your usernames and passwords in one place. One of its niftiest features is that you can choose to share a login – say, for Google Photos – via email.

Part of the beauty of LastPass is that if you choose you can allow your correspondent to log in and access files without them seeing the password. Your connection is also protected by SSL so there’s very little chance anyone could connect to your data in the same way. In short, this is one of the most respected password managers out there, and with good reason.

7. Snapchat

Snapchat users will be aware that photos sent over the app theoretically self-destruct after a certain length of time. The recipient can take a screenshot of important information, however, and you’ll receive a notification that this has been done.

Snapchat updated its terms and conditions in 2014 to say that the firm may store copies of images you send. Ideally, you should use this app in combination with another of the methods listed here – for instance, you could encrypt a spreadsheet and send via email, then transmit the password separately via Snapchat. Splitting the file and the key in this way means only your correspondent will be able to view the data.

8. Resilio Sync

Resilio Sync (formerly BitTorrent Sync) synchronises files using the BitTorrent protocol. The advantage of this is that instead of having to share files via a cloud service like Dropbox, files can be synced directly between two devices.

Provided both your device and your correspondent’s are online, files can be shared in real-time and the connection is secured by 128-bit AES. BitTorrent is particularly good for sharing large files and folders as it was originally designed for that purpose. More devices can be added to share files with others if you wish.

For more details and to download clients for both desktop and mobile platforms visit the Resilio website as linked below. The client is not open source so there’s no easy way for security experts to check the code used for any vulnerabilities.

9. SSH

SSH (Secure Shell) is a network protocol which establishes an encrypted tunnel allowing people to log in to a computer remotely. It can be used to upload and download files as well as run commands on the target computer.

If you have a server, you can give your correspondent their own username to log in and access files you’ve uploaded. Alternatively you could create an account for them on your own machine so they can connect to you.

Mac and Linux users will be pleased to hear they can use SSH directly from the Terminal app. Windows users can download the free program Putty to do the same.

10. SFTP

Continuing the trend of obscure acronyms, SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) is an extension of the SSH protocol used specifically for transferring files. In order to make use of it, you need to have access to a server, for instance by renting one from a provider like Hosted FTP.

You’ll be supplied with a username and password that you can use to connect and upload/download files. Most operating systems integrate FTP into the file explorer so you can move, edit and copy files onto the server just as you would with an ordinary folder. Although the connection is encrypted, documents stored on the server aren’t, so consider protecting them with a password before uploading.

Source: http://www.techradar.com/news/top-10-ways-to-share-files-securely

The Most Important Color In UI Design

As you probably already guessed this article is dedicated to blue color. Without a doubt, blue is one of the most important colors in UI design, and one of the most frequent. Just look at your smartphone app icons, and you’ll see that a lot of them are blue: Facebook, Twitter, Shazam, Safari, etc.

So why is blue the chosen color?

There are a lot of reasons to use blue, I’ll list a few of them:

  • People like this color. Surveys show majority of people see blue as their favorite color. Blue is considered to be the safest color globally.Color preference is an important aspect of visual experience
  • Associated with nature. Blue is strongly associated with clean water, clear skies, etc., which leads to its high preference as a color.

    Blue has an association with nature due to this being the color of ocean and sky.

  • Universal color for UI designers. From a UI designer standpoint, it’s an incredibly useful color. A lot of colors from designer’s toolbox such as red, orange, and green already have strong built-in associations —for error, caution/safety, success. This makes the blue color a good choice for designers.
  • Gives a sense of innovation. Often, companies use blue because it associated with tech and innovation.
  • Makes people feel safe. Blue is a very common color for websites and apps in the travel industry. It represents reliability, which is a good thing for travel companies.

    Delta airlines

  • Makes the product seem trustworthy. More often than not, it’s a case of trying to convince the user that this is the right product to use. The purpose of adding blue, in this case, is convincing the user of its credibility. Technology brands like Dell, IBM, Intel, AT&T and PayPal take advantage of blue’s trustworthy message; they create products that people rely on day after day.

    Blue evokes a sense of balance as well as calm intelligence. That’s why the vast majority of financial services firms use blue.

  • Colorblindness. Most common types of colorblindness (Protanopia and Deuteranopia) can see the color blue. This can’t be said for colors like green or red.

    How visually impaired people see colors
    Blue is Facebook’s dominant color, because Mark Zuckerberg is colorblind. As he said, “blue is the richest color for me — I can see all of blue.”

Conclusion

I hope that after reading this article you have a good idea of why blue color is so popular among designer. However, this doesn’t mean that you should go and change the main color in your app/website to blue.

Blue isn’t the universal best color. There’s simply no universal best color.

What works on one site or app, doesn’t necessarily work on another. It’s a safe bet to select the color according to the preferences of your target audience:

Ultimately, the right color for your design is the one that your users think is right.

Thank you!

The Rise of ReactJS

Developer hiring trends in 2017 show demand for ReactJS skills as the fastest growing area of expertise.

Source

It’s been four years since the JavaScript library React was open-sourced, but it didn’t take long for it to cement itself as a leading framework for front-end developers. The library, which is used to easily make user interfaces, is propagating throughout the wider community.

All this is to say that you should consider learning and applying React if you’re working on user interfaces in JavaScript. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to get started, and the rewards can be significant.

But let’s start by examining what React is, and exactly why it has become so popular.

What makes React special?

React was developed by a Facebook engineer and first used in the Facebook News Feed in 2011. After it was open sourced in 2013, it became a popular — standard, even — library for front-end devs building user interfaces. It’s intended to be used in tandem with other libraries, and it doesn’t assuming anything about what else is being used in your stack. So part of its success is its versatility.

There’s more to it than just that, though. React achieved popularity in part because it addresses one of the most frustrating things about building out complex UIs: dealing with the DOM API, which allows your applications to make changes to HTML and XML documents in effective and efficient ways.

React employs a Virtual DOM that achieves maximum efficiency by only re-rendering nodes on a need basis. It’s kind of like video compression over YouTube, where the only data transferred relates to pixels that change. This means much more efficient rendering, and it’s easier to work with on the fly.

There are other reasons React has become popular, like server-side rendering and the fact that you can essentially describe your UI in a declarative fashion.

React is one of the largest growth areas

So how popular is React? Well, let’s put it this way: Stack Overflow data on developer hiring trends in 2017 show demand for ReactJS skills as the fastest growing expertise.

Graph: StackOverflow

And that’s only the beginning; React was previously primarily used in web apps, but we’ve now seen the release of React Native and React VR.

As you might guess, React VR allows you to build VR experiences for platforms like Facebook’s Oculus Rift using standard web tools. You can read more about it in Facebook’s announcement on the subject from this past April or on the project’s GitHub page.

React Native allows you to build UIs for native mobile apps using JavaScript and React. It’s pretty far along, and is in use by teams at Airbnb, Tesla, and others. It’s easy to get started with it on GitHub.

It’s easy to learn in a few hours if you know JavaScript

If you know JavaScript, you’re already most of the way to mastering React. Using tutorials like the one Facebook hosts in GitHub, it should take a skilled JavaScript developer less than day to get up to speed with React. Additionally, there’s a thriving React community on Stack Overflow, IRC, GitHub, and beyond. As always, joining and tapping the community is the most effective path to mastery.

If you’re new to all of this and just want to learn JavaScript, check out these tutorials on Tuts+:

Get ready for React Fiber

It’s worth it to invest your time in learning React now, but keep in mind that Facebook has already announced its successor. React Fiber, revealed at F8 2017, is a ground-up re-write of React — but it will be backwards compatible with existing React projects. The goal is to make UIs built in React more responsive, and developers will get their hands on Fiber later this year.

Resources to help you with your React project

There are some excellent React resources available in CodeCanyon, for both web and native React projects. Consider ReactPage, a Bootstrap starter kit for ReactJS and WordPress — or Remain, an elegant WordPress theme built using JavaScript and React.

Or if you’re more interested in React Native, extend your project with the React Native Search Filter Plugin or use React Native Bootstrap. You can even find full-featured applications like Tudu, a React Native to-do list.

How will SEO be priced and sold in the future?

Source : https://www.onlinekickstart.com/seo-cost-and-price/

In this blog post I am going to provide you as much insight about the process as possible so you can make an educated decision about what to pay for SEO and how to work with your chosen agency.

How much is this going to cost me and tell me why?

This is typically one of the first questions I get asked  by business owners or marketing people like you, once they’ve decided to go with SEO as their primary traffic strategy.

The answer is “It depends”.

You hate that answer right?  We all do.  You hate it  because you think it’s just another angle  digital marketers use to squeeze more money out of your wallet.

The reality is that there are many things that go into determining the right price you should be paying for digital marketing and seo services.

In this blog post I am going to provide you as much insight about the process as possible  so you can make an educated decision about what to pay for SEO and how to work with your chosen agency.

I’m also going to give you my opinion about how SEO services will be bought in the future.

The Importance of SEO

In my time as a digital marketer,  I’ve seen “SEO” sold from anywhere from $499 a month to $40,000 a month.

Value can be found at each of these price points and anywhere in between – depending on your specific circumstances, but to make sure  you are getting value you need to understand in detail what SEO is and why it’s important for your business.

Amongst business owners there continues to be a lot of confusion about SEO, with many people still confusing Paid search and Non-Paid search.

With Google being the largest referrer of search traffic, both paid and non-paid, SEO is critically important if you want to have a steady, consistent flow of targeted traffic to your site.

SEO helps search engines understand what your page is about and how relevant it is to users. And if your pages are relevant and sufficiently authoritative, you will be rewarded with a high visibility search listing and traffic to your site.

What do SEO’s actually do for their money?

When you engage an agency to “do seo” for you,  they traditionally do any or all of the following activities.  This list is constantly growing along with the changing nature of the role of the SEO agency.

Some of these activities are one-off and might only occur at the commencement of a campaign;  others are ongoing.

Read the list below and take the time to understand what your agency is doing for you.  That way there  will be fewer surprises and you’ll be able to ask more insightful questions.

Market Research

This involves researching your company,  its competitors, your products, your industry  and the online marketing tactics and strategies that are most effective in your space.

In Depth Competitor Research

Involves researching your competitors and their marketing tactics and strategies in  detail. Specifically their online marketing activities that assist with growing their visibility in search engines. This includes analysing:

  • Their link profiles to understand how they are acquiring quality  back links, critical to strong rankings and visibility
  • Their on-site optimisations to understand the keywords their pages are targeting
  • Their content marketing activities to understand how they are using content for link attraction – a critical element in the current Google environment.

Strategy Development & Implementation

This involves developing strategies for your business to help improve your sites’ performance in the organic search results. For most  small businesses these strategies are mostly the same.

Larger clients in competitive markets however,  require a little  more creativity to develop  approaches that  get results in the face of stronger competitors.

When you have a strategic engagement that costs many thousands of dollars, you are paying for the experience and creativity of the SEO consultant involved.

If you are investing a bunch of money in SEO you should expect a strategy that is more than just “We’re gonna get you these awesome links – 50 a month guaranteed.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is at the heart of everything an seo does.

In the past this was a simple process of researching the keyword phrases that prospective customers typed into the search engines, making an assessment of the relevance and competitiveness of the keywords, choosing target keywords for your websites pages and then drafting the require on site optimisations to help pages rank for these keywords. (Simple right?)

Even with the changes in Google where all searches are encrypted and the keywords people use to find you are not passed into your analytics, understanding keywords is still critical because they help you to understand your customers and how they search for you online.

This in turn helps your SEO team write compelling content, page titles and meta descriptions. (Those bits on the page that help Google figure out what a page is all about)

For smaller  businesses with a small number of pages on their site, keyword research  typically happens at the beginning of an engagement and helps the SEO team  the preparation optimised  page titles,  meta descriptions and content improvement recommendations.

On larger sites such as e Commerce sites keyword research is typically an ongoing activity that drives monthly optimisations to help get more and more pages ranking in the search results.

On site Optimisation and Recommendations

This involves anything to do with optimising the pages of your website.

Based on their research, your SEO agency will be drafting page titles and meta descriptions, recommending or making updates to content, creating new pages, improving internal linking, fixing duplicate content issues, setting up and configuring your blog, installing social sharing buttons.

Pretty much anything to do with your site that will improve the search engines ability to find your content and rank it is what they will be taking care of.

On site optimisations are where some of the biggest gains can happen. The simple act of  including the right keywords in a well crafted page title often sees  pages suddenly jump into the rankings now that Google knows what it is about.

A good example of onsite optimisations can be seen on a recent e-commerce site that I launched. www.MyKidsShoes.com.au

Looking at the spreadsheet below you can see the wide range of keyword phrases that have been included in the page titles of the category pages.  This requires the completion of detailed keyword research which then drives the creation of the page titles and meta descriptions.

mykidshoes-onsite-optimisations

In the past your SEO agency might have been chasing links to these pages with these keyword phrases in the anchor text.  The reality is that Google is smart enough to figure out what keywords are relevant to rank for.  You and your agency should focus on building the overall domain authority and trust which will help these pages rank for the many keyword variations included in the page titles.

Content Strategy and Development

With the importance that quality content now plays in getting found online, most seo’s now offer content strategy and or content development services.

This can be as comprehensive as a Content Marketing Plan for your business or as simple as sourcing blog posts for your blog.

Most agencies now offer content marketing as a separate service that they want you to purchase in addition to SEO.

The reality is, given it’s importance, content strategy and development should be considered a key element in any ongoing SEO engagement.

If your SEO agency is not doing this for you then you need to be asking hard questions about why not?

Rich Snippet Optimisations

Rich snippets simply refers to the extra bits of text and images that appear around your content in the search results.  Google Authorship is a type of rich snippet which is no longer being used.  Others include star ratings on product review ratings, recipes, videos.

For a simple explanation of what Rich Snippets are check out this post.

Reporting and Insights

Reporting is an activity that can vary greatly in terms of what you get and the time invested in producing the reports for you.

At a minimum you will (or should) get a set of standard SEO reports that might be as simple as some traffic reports and ranking reports.

Better SEO agencies will provide information on goal conversions (whether they be sales, sign ups or other goals) and the contribution that SEO or organic search made towards these goal conversions.

Larger clients with more complex businesses should  get more than just a data dump.  They should receive “insight” into what is happening, why and what this means in light of your business goals.

Information about which traffic sources are driving the best (or lowest cost) conversions, information on competitors and about updates in Google’s algorithm and what it means for your strategy.

Expect to pay extra for additional reporting or insight above the standard reports that everyone receives.

Account Management

Broadly speaking this is the cost of taking care of you, the client.  It includes the time an account manager spends talking to you about your campaign goals, briefing the SEO team and meeting with you to discuss your report and results.

If you are a small client you will typically get only nominal account management which might be at the on commencement of an SEO campaign and monthly when the report is delivered.

If you are investing under $1,000 a month don’t expect to be talking the ear off your account manager unless you want to reduce the time spent on actually working on your account.

[themedy_pullright colour=”yellow” colour_custom=”” text=”Get better educated and ask better questions and you will get more value from your account manager.”]

I’ve seen agencies where this role is done by a dedicated account manager and agencies where the account management role is taken on in part by an seo campaign manager; that is a technician who knows a lot about SEO.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. With a dedicated account manager, the agencies  SEO team spends more time actually “doing SEO” for you while the account manager answers your questions.

However in the situation where you are an enterprise level client you  expect to be able to ask questions and get insightful responses quickly.  Sometimes having to go through the account manager results in miscommunication via Chinese whispers and wasted time.

If you are a big enough client ask to talk directly with the seo campaign manager to get your technical questions answered directly.

Just be aware that as an enterprise client, you will be paying for the account managers time whether you are aware of it or not.

Remember from the agencies perspective, this can be a massive time and cost sink if not managed correctly.

As long as both you and the SEO agency are aware of the account management cost and both of you have matching expectations, any friction can be minimised. You can get the information you need while the agency can get on with doing the work needed to get you results.

 

SEO Pricing Models

Now to the Meat n Potatoes.

There are various pricing models for the delivery of SEO services.  The choice depends on your specific needs and the size of your organisation.

Hourly Rates

Hourly rates are often used when the work can be broken into many discrete tasks and you juts need those specific tasks done.

The benefit is you can easily allocate a discrete cost to each activity and make sure you are not getting charged for inefficiencies.

However expect to pay more per hour to compensate the consultant or agency for the costs associated with managing time and billing at an hourly rate.

If you are using hourly rates for anything make sure you review the output after an agreed upon set of hours to make sure you are getting value.

Fixed Price Services

Most SEO agencies have a list of services  they offer for a fixed price.

Typically these are the component tasks that make up a larger seo campaign.

Good examples of these services include:

  • Keyword Research
  • Conducting an SEO Audit
  • SEO Migration Planning
  • Drafting On site optimisations such as page titles and meta descriptions

Fixed price services are an ideal way of testing out a new SEO agency before committing to a longer term retainer.

Project Based Pricing

Where your needs are more complex or you have a fixed period project like a new mini site to build, SEO agencies are open to quoting on a project basis.

Depending on your projects needs they will provide you with a custom proposal to conduct specific SEO work on your behalf.

Project based pricing is good when you already have a creative agency or web design company doing most of your work and you need the services of a real SEO specialist to take care of your SEO needs for the life of a specific project.

Retainer

The retainer model is the most common form of pricing model in the SEO industry.

Retainers make sense because of the broad ongoing nature of SEO work.

Most SEO campaigns have a discrete set of activities which logically follow a set order.  In the beginning agencies do the research. They make and implement recommendations about fixing technical issues on your site. Then they  move onto ongoing marketing activities.

This way each month specific activities are conducted by the agency for you.  Then each month you get to assess how much this activity contributed to the online performance of your business.

Agencies like retainers because they can budget revenues and costs and plan activities for the months ahead.

Heres how to make retainers work:

  • Collaborate with the agency in the development of a 6 or 12 month campaign.
  • Take the time to understand what the agency will be doing for you each month
  • Make sure you are aware of your commitment in terms of resources, providing answers promptly to questions and implementing optimisations when requested
  • Involve the agency in your traditional marketing plans for the year ahead so they can tailor their strategy to leverage any offline work being done.
  • Get clear about how long things take to happen.  SEO takes time so in those early months track the agreed upon activities in the absence of high search visibility and sales which might take a few months to kick in.

This gives both you and the agency visibility into what is going to happen and when. That way they can plan their activities around your traditional offline marketing activities while you can manage your expectations as to what the results will be and when.

Retainers are typically offered as Packages at different price points.  In the next section I’m going to discuss these in more detail.

If you are interested in what pricing models to avoid check out  Four Pricing Models to avoid on EConsultancy by  Ben Potter @BennaP.

Which SEO Package Should I choose?

The SEO Package is simply the best way to sell SEO retainer services.  There is a package to suit each budget and requirements level.

This is done for several reasons.

The first is that you have the ability to  self-select depending on your budget allowing  you to test SEO at a price point you can afford.

The second is pricing packages allow agencies to create a standard set of services, which they know in advance how much it will  cost them to deliver.

This allows them to budget revenues and costs and resource for the delivery of SEO services.

Most Retainer packages typically fall into the following general categories. (Allow for regional variations but the types of businesses that fall into these bands is generally accurate.)

Small – Generally Up to $1,000

Suitable for companies just starting out, or which have a single local geographic area.

Think local retailers, local service providers such as plumbers, electricians, doctors, cosmetic surgeons, new small commerce businesses.

These campaigns typically should include local search optimisation to help you rank for local searches.

The type of work you should expect from an agency would be the acquisition of local directory links and citations to support  their optimised  Google My Business listing.  An example of this includes sites like Rubber StampsAustralia which are in low competition niches.

Medium – Between $1,000 to $4,000

Suitable for businesses with an established online presence,  which target a national or international audience or operate in more competitive niches.

Think multi-unit retailers, larger online retailers, wholesalers, larger brands making the move into online marketing.

Other local type businesses that would potentially fall in this pricing bucket include local electricians and used cars dealers in competitive markets.

Large or Custom – $5,000 and above

Budgets beyond $5,000 are typically for enterprise businesses targeting  national or international audiences in very competitive markets.

Think car insurance, life insurance, travel, tertiary education, credit cards, home loans and personal loans.

An example of this type of enterprise client is Tours to Go.  They are a national travel tours company selling a wide variety of highly competitive products.  The site has many thousands of pages which require optimistions, copy and content creation.  It’s important to make sure pages have the opportunity to get indexed so they can rank.

For example if, you look at this page promoting tours of the great ocean road, you can see the opportunity to expand on page content, site load speed and keyword targeting.

At this level an agency should have a strong focus on technical seo as which has the potential to benefit the site much more than a few more links.  In addition,  the agency would be providing strategic content marketing advice as well as competitive analysis and tracking.

Which package you choose depends on:

  • The size of your business and your budget
  • The geography you target,
  • The competitiveness of the industry in which you are competing
  • Your specific business goals,
  • And your level of understanding of what you are engaging the SEO agency to do for you.

The more educated you are about online marketing, the better you will be able to choose an SEO package that suits your business needs and the less chance of mismatched expectations between you and your agency.

SEO Ranking Guarantees – Real or False

I’ve always disliked SEO guarantees. Many (not all) of them prey on the ignorance of the customer and their trust in the agency to do the right thing.

Typically an SEO ranking guarantee says “We guarantee to rank your website on page 1 for your keywords within 3 months or else your money back”

Here’s the problem with that statement.

Which search engines?

The guarantee typically does not state in which search engine so it could include Yahoo or Bing which provide very little traffic when compared to Google.

Which keywords are they targeting?

The agency offering the guarantee typically selects easy keywords that might have very little search volume or competition and are easy to rank for.

Why are they easy to rank for? Because they are completely irrelevant and no one else in their right minds is chasing them.

Some of the keyword phrases they include as evidence of the guarantee could have been ranked for by simply publishing a blog post with the keyword in the title.

Furthermore, keyword rankings in and of them selves have long since lost their position as the number 1 KPI or metric.

There are broader metrics that are better aligned to your business goals or are better indicators of improved organic search performance such as Non-Paid Organic Conversions or the # of unique keywords bringing visitors to your site.

So take SEO guarantees with a grain of salt and don’t rely on them for assurance that you are getting a no risk deal. 

How to Get the best out of your SEO Agency

I bet through this blog post you’ve been waiting for this section right?  How to I keep my agency accountable?

Most areas of conflict arise because of issues around expectation management.

That is you did not get what you thought what you were getting or the agency thinks you are demanding more than they promised or sold you.

Key areas around which conflict arises include:

What are you doing for me?

If you don’t understand what the agency is doing for you then you will get frustrated when their bill arrives.

Make sure before you start you have a detailed campaign plan that breaks down the proposed SEO activities by month.

If you don’t know what these activities are, make sure you ask your account manager in advance.

How do I know this is working?

If you are looking at the wrong metrics or your expectations about how long positive results are going to take are misaligned then you are going to get really frustrated.

Before the campaign starts, make sure both you and  the agency are clear on what your business goals are and how the SEO agencies activities are going to contribute to helping you achieve them.

Decide on the metrics that you are both going to track and make sure the metrics tie back to your business goals.

Create a simple report tracking these key metrics and just focus on them.

Chasing vanity rankings is no longer a viable goal. SEO is now a much broader more complex activity now than ever before.

This SEO thing is taking far too long?

If you need or expect instant traffic then SEO might not be where you should be investing your online marketing dollars.

Safe, sustainable SEO takes time to implement and get results but once your site is performing well it’s the gift that keep on giving.

If you need instant traffic then you might be better served by using Paid Traffic such as Google Adwords rather than SEO.

To learn more about the discussions that occur between agencies and clients watch this discussion between @rand and @dejanseo about the future of SEO and agencies.

Read the full post here:  http://dejanseo.com.au/an-interview-with-rand-fishkin/

 

The Future of Buying SEO

The SEO world has changed massively in the last two years.

In the past,  you were able to “manipulate your way to top rankings” with paid or artificially created links.  Many companies were happy to take the risk of link building this way because the payoffs from a page 1 ranking were huge.

However, things have changed.

Google is getting more effective at detecting and penalising ranking strategies that go against their terms of service.

Nowadays to get sustainable rankings and organic visibility  you need to earn then through well promoted quality content;  with the goal of acquiring enough links, authority and social signals so that Google will grace your site with higher visibility in the search results.

How will SEO be priced and sold in the future?

Here are some of my thoughts on how SEO services will be priced and sold in future.

  1. There is going to be a large growth in agencies offering you content marketing services, whether included in your SEO campaign or sold separately.  It’s already happening now.  At the smaller end of town this will be in the form of blog content creation services and social media services.  At the top end of town in the form of strategic content marketing campaigns covering  content strategy,  content development  and  content promotion.
  2. Good SEO agencies are going to change the conversations they are having with you as a business owner.  They will be talking with you about sustainable SEO, content marketing, social media and it’s importance as a part of content promotion, new ways to measure SEO performance.  If you are not having these discussions you are talking to an agency that hasn’t kept up with the times.
  3. SEO guarantees will be gone.  A guarantee implies they can control the outcome.  SEO agencies will stop offering these as business owners like yourself become more educated.
  4. Retainers will continue to be the dominant way to provide SEO services. The composition of work done will change however. Think more content marketing.  There will also be a large growth in providing educational services where your agency will help you and your team understand the massive changes in online marketing and how to take advantage of them in your business.
  5. There will be less “SEO Services” and more “Online Marketing Services sold.  The reality is that while SEO is a critical part of making sure your website gets visibility in search, now more than ever it is just one part (albeit an important one) of the full range of online marketing services you need to bring to bear to make your business successful online.  For some insight into how the responsibilities of SEO have changed in the last few years check out this blog post from Moz.com called The Responsibilities of SEO have been upgraded.
  6. SEO & PR.  At the end of the day they do the same thing.  There is going to be more focus placed on how the traditional PR and promotional activities you implement can be optimised to benefit your online visibility.

 

Key Takeaways for Business Owners and Marketing Managers

Here are the key things you need to be doing as a business owner to help ensure a successful SEO engagement with your agency.

  1. Educate yourself.  A more educated business owner or manager can make better decisions.  Too busy to learn?  That’s not an excuse anymore is it? Subscribe to the Moz.com Blog and review the content weekly or choose an agency who is interested in educating you.
  2. Have better discussions with SEO providers.  The ideal SEO agency should be trying to educate you about why you need to invest in content, blogging, audience development etc.  If they are simply talking about tactics like article marketing, comment spamming, or  #1 rankings, ranking guarantees then walk away.  They haven’t kept up with the times.
  3. Demand and work to a detailed plan.  Have a detailed plan in place so you know what is being done each month.  The plan will help manage your expectations and give you an assurance that you are getting value each month.
  4. Embrace content marketing & social media.  Miss the old days when you didn’t have to invest in blogging and content?  Too bad.  You now have the budget for it because within 2 years the old paper-based Yellow pages will be gone and you can invest that money in content and building a social media audience that can be used to promote your content. Great examples in boring or traditionally “hard to write for industries” like used cars, industrial are the Used Cars Buying Guide created here.
  5.  Choose the right metrics.  Take the time to work with your agency to develop a simple way of tracking the right metrics for your business.  There are a ton of good articles about this.  If you and your agency agree on these metrics up front there is less chance of disagreements down the track.

 

In Summary

SEO as a service you buy has evolved massively in the last two years.  So should the way you engage someone to “do SEO” for you.

In all likelihood, the retainer model will continue to be the most popular way to engage an agency to deliver these services for your business.  However what will change is what you get for your money.  More content marketing, more social media, more education and consultation.

As a business owner and manager,  you need to get more educated about what is being done for you and how long it will take to deliver a return for your business.

Got question?  Agree or disagree with anything I’ve said?  Please comment below and let’s have a chat.

In this blog post I am going to provide you as much insight about the process as possible so you can make an educated decision about what to pay for SEO and how to work with your chosen agency.

How much is this going to cost me and tell me why?

This is typically one of the first questions I get asked  by business owners or marketing people like you, once they’ve decided to go with SEO as their primary traffic strategy.

The answer is “It depends”.

You hate that answer right?  We all do.  You hate it  because you think it’s just another angle  digital marketers use to squeeze more money out of your wallet.

The reality is that there are many things that go into determining the right price you should be paying for digital marketing and seo services.

In this blog post I am going to provide you as much insight about the process as possible  so you can make an educated decision about what to pay for SEO and how to work with your chosen agency.

I’m also going to give you my opinion about how SEO services will be bought in the future.

The Importance of SEO

In my time as a digital marketer,  I’ve seen “SEO” sold from anywhere from $499 a month to $40,000 a month.

Value can be found at each of these price points and anywhere in between – depending on your specific circumstances, but to make sure  you are getting value you need to understand in detail what SEO is and why it’s important for your business.

Amongst business owners there continues to be a lot of confusion about SEO, with many people still confusing Paid search and Non-Paid search.

With Google being the largest referrer of search traffic, both paid and non-paid, SEO is critically important if you want to have a steady, consistent flow of targeted traffic to your site.

SEO helps search engines understand what your page is about and how relevant it is to users. And if your pages are relevant and sufficiently authoritative, you will be rewarded with a high visibility search listing and traffic to your site.

What do SEO’s actually do for their money?

When you engage an agency to “do seo” for you,  they traditionally do any or all of the following activities.  This list is constantly growing along with the changing nature of the role of the SEO agency.

Some of these activities are one-off and might only occur at the commencement of a campaign;  others are ongoing.

Read the list below and take the time to understand what your agency is doing for you.  That way there  will be fewer surprises and you’ll be able to ask more insightful questions.

Market Research

This involves researching your company,  its competitors, your products, your industry  and the online marketing tactics and strategies that are most effective in your space.

In Depth Competitor Research

Involves researching your competitors and their marketing tactics and strategies in  detail. Specifically their online marketing activities that assist with growing their visibility in search engines. This includes analysing:

  • Their link profiles to understand how they are acquiring quality  back links, critical to strong rankings and visibility
  • Their on-site optimisations to understand the keywords their pages are targeting
  • Their content marketing activities to understand how they are using content for link attraction – a critical element in the current Google environment.

Strategy Development & Implementation

This involves developing strategies for your business to help improve your sites’ performance in the organic search results. For most  small businesses these strategies are mostly the same.

Larger clients in competitive markets however,  require a little  more creativity to develop  approaches that  get results in the face of stronger competitors.

When you have a strategic engagement that costs many thousands of dollars, you are paying for the experience and creativity of the SEO consultant involved.

If you are investing a bunch of money in SEO you should expect a strategy that is more than just “We’re gonna get you these awesome links – 50 a month guaranteed.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is at the heart of everything an seo does.

In the past this was a simple process of researching the keyword phrases that prospective customers typed into the search engines, making an assessment of the relevance and competitiveness of the keywords, choosing target keywords for your websites pages and then drafting the require on site optimisations to help pages rank for these keywords. (Simple right?)

Even with the changes in Google where all searches are encrypted and the keywords people use to find you are not passed into your analytics, understanding keywords is still critical because they help you to understand your customers and how they search for you online.

This in turn helps your SEO team write compelling content, page titles and meta descriptions. (Those bits on the page that help Google figure out what a page is all about)

For smaller  businesses with a small number of pages on their site, keyword research  typically happens at the beginning of an engagement and helps the SEO team  the preparation optimised  page titles,  meta descriptions and content improvement recommendations.

On larger sites such as e Commerce sites keyword research is typically an ongoing activity that drives monthly optimisations to help get more and more pages ranking in the search results.

On site Optimisation and Recommendations

This involves anything to do with optimising the pages of your website.

Based on their research, your SEO agency will be drafting page titles and meta descriptions, recommending or making updates to content, creating new pages, improving internal linking, fixing duplicate content issues, setting up and configuring your blog, installing social sharing buttons.

Pretty much anything to do with your site that will improve the search engines ability to find your content and rank it is what they will be taking care of.

On site optimisations are where some of the biggest gains can happen. The simple act of  including the right keywords in a well crafted page title often sees  pages suddenly jump into the rankings now that Google knows what it is about.

A good example of onsite optimisations can be seen on a recent e-commerce site that I launched. www.MyKidsShoes.com.au

Looking at the spreadsheet below you can see the wide range of keyword phrases that have been included in the page titles of the category pages.  This requires the completion of detailed keyword research which then drives the creation of the page titles and meta descriptions.

mykidshoes-onsite-optimisations

In the past your SEO agency might have been chasing links to these pages with these keyword phrases in the anchor text.  The reality is that Google is smart enough to figure out what keywords are relevant to rank for.  You and your agency should focus on building the overall domain authority and trust which will help these pages rank for the many keyword variations included in the page titles.

Content Strategy and Development

With the importance that quality content now plays in getting found online, most seo’s now offer content strategy and or content development services.

This can be as comprehensive as a Content Marketing Plan for your business or as simple as sourcing blog posts for your blog.

Most agencies now offer content marketing as a separate service that they want you to purchase in addition to SEO.

The reality is, given it’s importance, content strategy and development should be considered a key element in any ongoing SEO engagement.

If your SEO agency is not doing this for you then you need to be asking hard questions about why not?

Rich Snippet Optimisations

Rich snippets simply refers to the extra bits of text and images that appear around your content in the search results.  Google Authorship is a type of rich snippet which is no longer being used.  Others include star ratings on product review ratings, recipes, videos.

For a simple explanation of what Rich Snippets are check out this post.

Reporting and Insights

Reporting is an activity that can vary greatly in terms of what you get and the time invested in producing the reports for you.

At a minimum you will (or should) get a set of standard SEO reports that might be as simple as some traffic reports and ranking reports.

Better SEO agencies will provide information on goal conversions (whether they be sales, sign ups or other goals) and the contribution that SEO or organic search made towards these goal conversions.

Larger clients with more complex businesses should  get more than just a data dump.  They should receive “insight” into what is happening, why and what this means in light of your business goals.

Information about which traffic sources are driving the best (or lowest cost) conversions, information on competitors and about updates in Google’s algorithm and what it means for your strategy.

Expect to pay extra for additional reporting or insight above the standard reports that everyone receives.

Account Management

Broadly speaking this is the cost of taking care of you, the client.  It includes the time an account manager spends talking to you about your campaign goals, briefing the SEO team and meeting with you to discuss your report and results.

If you are a small client you will typically get only nominal account management which might be at the on commencement of an SEO campaign and monthly when the report is delivered.

If you are investing under $1,000 a month don’t expect to be talking the ear off your account manager unless you want to reduce the time spent on actually working on your account.

Get better educated and ask better questions and you will get more value from your account manager.

I’ve seen agencies where this role is done by a dedicated account manager and agencies where the account management role is taken on in part by an seo campaign manager; that is a technician who knows a lot about SEO.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. With a dedicated account manager, the agencies  SEO team spends more time actually “doing SEO” for you while the account manager answers your questions.

However in the situation where you are an enterprise level client you  expect to be able to ask questions and get insightful responses quickly.  Sometimes having to go through the account manager results in miscommunication via Chinese whispers and wasted time.

If you are a big enough client ask to talk directly with the seo campaign manager to get your technical questions answered directly.

Just be aware that as an enterprise client, you will be paying for the account managers time whether you are aware of it or not.

Remember from the agencies perspective, this can be a massive time and cost sink if not managed correctly.

As long as both you and the SEO agency are aware of the account management cost and both of you have matching expectations, any friction can be minimised. You can get the information you need while the agency can get on with doing the work needed to get you results.

 

SEO Pricing Models

Now to the Meat n Potatoes.

There are various pricing models for the delivery of SEO services.  The choice depends on your specific needs and the size of your organisation.

Hourly Rates

Hourly rates are often used when the work can be broken into many discrete tasks and you juts need those specific tasks done.

The benefit is you can easily allocate a discrete cost to each activity and make sure you are not getting charged for inefficiencies.

However expect to pay more per hour to compensate the consultant or agency for the costs associated with managing time and billing at an hourly rate.

If you are using hourly rates for anything make sure you review the output after an agreed upon set of hours to make sure you are getting value.

Fixed Price Services

Most SEO agencies have a list of services  they offer for a fixed price.

Typically these are the component tasks that make up a larger seo campaign.

Good examples of these services include:

  • Keyword Research
  • Conducting an SEO Audit
  • SEO Migration Planning
  • Drafting On site optimisations such as page titles and meta descriptions

Fixed price services are an ideal way of testing out a new SEO agency before committing to a longer term retainer.

Project Based Pricing

Where your needs are more complex or you have a fixed period project like a new mini site to build, SEO agencies are open to quoting on a project basis.

Depending on your projects needs they will provide you with a custom proposal to conduct specific SEO work on your behalf.

Project based pricing is good when you already have a creative agency or web design company doing most of your work and you need the services of a real SEO specialist to take care of your SEO needs for the life of a specific project.

Retainer

The retainer model is the most common form of pricing model in the SEO industry.

Retainers make sense because of the broad ongoing nature of SEO work.

Most SEO campaigns have a discrete set of activities which logically follow a set order.  In the beginning agencies do the research. They make and implement recommendations about fixing technical issues on your site. Then they  move onto ongoing marketing activities.

This way each month specific activities are conducted by the agency for you.  Then each month you get to assess how much this activity contributed to the online performance of your business.

Agencies like retainers because they can budget revenues and costs and plan activities for the months ahead.

Heres how to make retainers work:

  • Collaborate with the agency in the development of a 6 or 12 month campaign.
  • Take the time to understand what the agency will be doing for you each month
  • Make sure you are aware of your commitment in terms of resources, providing answers promptly to questions and implementing optimisations when requested
  • Involve the agency in your traditional marketing plans for the year ahead so they can tailor their strategy to leverage any offline work being done.
  • Get clear about how long things take to happen.  SEO takes time so in those early months track the agreed upon activities in the absence of high search visibility and sales which might take a few months to kick in.

This gives both you and the agency visibility into what is going to happen and when. That way they can plan their activities around your traditional offline marketing activities while you can manage your expectations as to what the results will be and when.

Retainers are typically offered as Packages at different price points.  In the next section I’m going to discuss these in more detail.

If you are interested in what pricing models to avoid check out  Four Pricing Models to avoid on EConsultancy by  Ben Potter @BennaP.

Which SEO Package Should I choose?

The SEO Package is simply the best way to sell SEO retainer services.  There is a package to suit each budget and requirements level.

This is done for several reasons.

The first is that you have the ability to  self-select depending on your budget allowing  you to test SEO at a price point you can afford.

The second is pricing packages allow agencies to create a standard set of services, which they know in advance how much it will  cost them to deliver.

This allows them to budget revenues and costs and resource for the delivery of SEO services.

Most Retainer packages typically fall into the following general categories. (Allow for regional variations but the types of businesses that fall into these bands is generally accurate.)

Small – Generally Up to $1,000

Suitable for companies just starting out, or which have a single local geographic area.

Think local retailers, local service providers such as plumbers, electricians, doctors, cosmetic surgeons, new small commerce businesses.

These campaigns typically should include local search optimisation to help you rank for local searches.

The type of work you should expect from an agency would be the acquisition of local directory links and citations to support  their optimised  Google My Business listing.  An example of this includes sites like Rubber StampsAustralia which are in low competition niches.

Medium – Between $1,000 to $4,000

Suitable for businesses with an established online presence,  which target a national or international audience or operate in more competitive niches.

Think multi-unit retailers, larger online retailers, wholesalers, larger brands making the move into online marketing.

Other local type businesses that would potentially fall in this pricing bucket include local electricians and used cars dealers in competitive markets.

Large or Custom – $5,000 and above

Budgets beyond $5,000 are typically for enterprise businesses targeting  national or international audiences in very competitive markets.

Think car insurance, life insurance, travel, tertiary education, credit cards, home loans and personal loans.

An example of this type of enterprise client is Tours to Go.  They are a national travel tours company selling a wide variety of highly competitive products.  The site has many thousands of pages which require optimistions, copy and content creation.  It’s important to make sure pages have the opportunity to get indexed so they can rank.

For example if, you look at this page promoting tours of the great ocean road, you can see the opportunity to expand on page content, site load speed and keyword targeting.

At this level an agency should have a strong focus on technical seo as which has the potential to benefit the site much more than a few more links.  In addition,  the agency would be providing strategic content marketing advice as well as competitive analysis and tracking.

Which package you choose depends on:

  • The size of your business and your budget
  • The geography you target,
  • The competitiveness of the industry in which you are competing
  • Your specific business goals,
  • And your level of understanding of what you are engaging the SEO agency to do for you.

The more educated you are about online marketing, the better you will be able to choose an SEO package that suits your business needs and the less chance of mismatched expectations between you and your agency.

SEO Ranking Guarantees – Real or False

I’ve always disliked SEO guarantees. Many (not all) of them prey on the ignorance of the customer and their trust in the agency to do the right thing.

Typically an SEO ranking guarantee says “We guarantee to rank your website on page 1 for your keywords within 3 months or else your money back”

Here’s the problem with that statement.

Which search engines?

The guarantee typically does not state in which search engine so it could include Yahoo or Bing which provide very little traffic when compared to Google.

Which keywords are they targeting?

The agency offering the guarantee typically selects easy keywords that might have very little search volume or competition and are easy to rank for.

Why are they easy to rank for? Because they are completely irrelevant and no one else in their right minds is chasing them.

Some of the keyword phrases they include as evidence of the guarantee could have been ranked for by simply publishing a blog post with the keyword in the title.

Furthermore, keyword rankings in and of them selves have long since lost their position as the number 1 KPI or metric.

There are broader metrics that are better aligned to your business goals or are better indicators of improved organic search performance such as Non-Paid Organic Conversions or the # of unique keywords bringing visitors to your site.

So take SEO guarantees with a grain of salt and don’t rely on them for assurance that you are getting a no risk deal. 

How to Get the best out of your SEO Agency

I bet through this blog post you’ve been waiting for this section right?  How to I keep my agency accountable?

Most areas of conflict arise because of issues around expectation management.

That is you did not get what you thought what you were getting or the agency thinks you are demanding more than they promised or sold you.

Key areas around which conflict arises include:

What are you doing for me?

If you don’t understand what the agency is doing for you then you will get frustrated when their bill arrives.

Make sure before you start you have a detailed campaign plan that breaks down the proposed SEO activities by month.

If you don’t know what these activities are, make sure you ask your account manager in advance.

How do I know this is working?

If you are looking at the wrong metrics or your expectations about how long positive results are going to take are misaligned then you are going to get really frustrated.

Before the campaign starts, make sure both you and  the agency are clear on what your business goals are and how the SEO agencies activities are going to contribute to helping you achieve them.

Decide on the metrics that you are both going to track and make sure the metrics tie back to your business goals.

Create a simple report tracking these key metrics and just focus on them.

Chasing vanity rankings is no longer a viable goal. SEO is now a much broader more complex activity now than ever before.

This SEO thing is taking far too long?

If you need or expect instant traffic then SEO might not be where you should be investing your online marketing dollars.

Safe, sustainable SEO takes time to implement and get results but once your site is performing well it’s the gift that keep on giving.

If you need instant traffic then you might be better served by using Paid Traffic such as Google Adwords rather than SEO.

To learn more about the discussions that occur between agencies and clients watch this discussion between @rand and @dejanseo about the future of SEO and agencies.

Read the full post here:  http://dejanseo.com.au/an-interview-with-rand-fishkin/

The Future of Buying SEO

The SEO world has changed massively in the last two years.

In the past,  you were able to “manipulate your way to top rankings” with paid or artificially created links.  Many companies were happy to take the risk of link building this way because the payoffs from a page 1 ranking were huge.

However, things have changed.

Google is getting more effective at detecting and penalising ranking strategies that go against their terms of service.

Nowadays to get sustainable rankings and organic visibility  you need to earn then through well promoted quality content;  with the goal of acquiring enough links, authority and social signals so that Google will grace your site with higher visibility in the search results.

How will SEO be priced and sold in the future?

Here are some of my thoughts on how SEO services will be priced and sold in future.

  1. There is going to be a large growth in agencies offering you content marketing services, whether included in your SEO campaign or sold separately.  It’s already happening now.  At the smaller end of town this will be in the form of blog content creation services and social media services.  At the top end of town in the form of strategic content marketing campaigns covering  content strategy,  content development  and  content promotion.
  2. Good SEO agencies are going to change the conversations they are having with you as a business owner.  They will be talking with you about sustainable SEO, content marketing, social media and it’s importance as a part of content promotion, new ways to measure SEO performance.  If you are not having these discussions you are talking to an agency that hasn’t kept up with the times.
  3. SEO guarantees will be gone.  A guarantee implies they can control the outcome.  SEO agencies will stop offering these as business owners like yourself become more educated.
  4. Retainers will continue to be the dominant way to provide SEO services. The composition of work done will change however. Think more content marketing.  There will also be a large growth in providing educational services where your agency will help you and your team understand the massive changes in online marketing and how to take advantage of them in your business.
  5. There will be less “SEO Services” and more “Online Marketing Services sold.  The reality is that while SEO is a critical part of making sure your website gets visibility in search, now more than ever it is just one part (albeit an important one) of the full range of online marketing services you need to bring to bear to make your business successful online.  For some insight into how the responsibilities of SEO have changed in the last few years check out this blog post from Moz.com called The Responsibilities of SEO have been upgraded.
  6. SEO & PR.  At the end of the day they do the same thing.  There is going to be more focus placed on how the traditional PR and promotional activities you implement can be optimised to benefit your online visibility.

 

Key Takeaways for Business Owners and Marketing Managers

Here are the key things you need to be doing as a business owner to help ensure a successful SEO engagement with your agency.

  1. Educate yourself.  A more educated business owner or manager can make better decisions.  Too busy to learn?  That’s not an excuse anymore is it? Subscribe to the Moz.com Blog and review the content weekly or choose an agency who is interested in educating you.
  2. Have better discussions with SEO providers.  The ideal SEO agency should be trying to educate you about why you need to invest in content, blogging, audience development etc.  If they are simply talking about tactics like article marketing, comment spamming, or  #1 rankings, ranking guarantees then walk away.  They haven’t kept up with the times.
  3. Demand and work to a detailed plan.  Have a detailed plan in place so you know what is being done each month.  The plan will help manage your expectations and give you an assurance that you are getting value each month.
  4. Embrace content marketing & social media.  Miss the old days when you didn’t have to invest in blogging and content?  Too bad.  You now have the budget for it because within 2 years the old paper-based Yellow pages will be gone and you can invest that money in content and building a social media audience that can be used to promote your content. Great examples in boring or traditionally “hard to write for industries” like used cars, industrial are the Used Cars Buying Guide created here.
  5.  Choose the right metrics.  Take the time to work with your agency to develop a simple way of tracking the right metrics for your business.  There are a ton of good articles about this.  If you and your agency agree on these metrics up front there is less chance of disagreements down the track.

 

In Summary

SEO as a service you buy has evolved massively in the last two years.  So should the way you engage someone to “do SEO” for you.

In all likelihood, the retainer model will continue to be the most popular way to engage an agency to deliver these services for your business.  However what will change is what you get for your money.  More content marketing, more social media, more education and consultation.

As a business owner and manager,  you need to get more educated about what is being done for you and how long it will take to deliver a return for your business.

Got question?  Agree or disagree with anything I’ve said?  Please comment below and let’s have a chat.

How Much Does SEO Cost?

How much does SEO cost? How much should business owners be expecting to pay for SEO?

These are typical questions that come to the mind of any business owner when trying to make sense of pricing within the SEO industry.

Some say $99 a month, others start at $2,000.

So what gives? Why the huge difference?

Confusion about SEO pricing

There’s an enormous amount of confusion about how much SEO costs and that’s for good reason.

To demonstrate my point, I did a little bit of research across a number of websites offering SEO services and found that out of the sites I looked at, pricing varied enormously. Some providers were offering SEO services for just $99 per month, whilst others ranged anywhere between $2,000 to $5,000 per month and beyond.

seo-pricing

So what the hell is going on here?

How can business owners make any sense of this? I understand there are obviously differences in quality and service offerings, but how could the gap be so wide?

Let’s look a bit closer at some of the existing problems.

Many business owners don’t understand the service offering

Let’s say for instance a business owner is faced with several sites – some offering SEO services at $99 per month, whilst others are in the thousands.

If the business owner has no idea what any of the service offerings mean, then many SEO packages might look something like this.

confusing-seo-pricing

 

And when this happens, they focus on what they DO understand – which is price.

When there is a lack of understanding of the actual service offering, it becomes near impossible to differentiate between good SEO and bad SEO.

Needless to say, when there’s a level of uncertainty or confusion, many business owners might try to minimise the risk by throwing the smallest amount of money at it in hope that it works. Again, this happens because they don’t understand the service offering.

Of course this isn’t going to be true in every case – but according to some studies, many site owners are spending as little as possible on their online marketing. In my experience, most that I’ve seen are small business owners.

I don’t know how many business owners I’ve worked with that have used cheap SEO agencies, have said,

“We really had no idea what they were doing, or what we were paying for – but at $199 a month we figured we didn’t have much to lose, so we gave it a go”.

Taking this approach (decision making based upon price alone) especially in the SEO space, is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.

Cheap SEO is incredibly expensive

Firstly, what would I define as “cheap SEO”?

Anything less than $500 a month. Definitely anything in the $99-$299 range. Infact I would go as far as saying anything less than $1,000 per month.

Why?

It comes down to paying for time (I’ll cover more on that below)

Before I continue, I want to point out that expensive SEO doesn’t instantly mean “better SEO”, but it should at the very least indicate a level of care and quality. Investing in very cheap SEO is extremely dangerous because it can work out much more expensive in the long run.

To give you an example, let’s say there’s a problem with your car, and you take it to a professional mechanic. The quote comes in at $2,000 to repair your car. You think to yourself “This is ridiculous, I can’t afford this”, so you call your brother in law (who knows a guy that knows a guy) who can do the job for $800.

So you take the car, and get the work done.

Everything seems fine until a month later when suddenly – BANG!

Your engine literally explodes and you’re left on the side of the road, stranded.

Realising the terrible mistake you’ve made, you return to the original workshop where they shake their heads and say “Oh mate, this is really going to cost you now because the repairs are going to be far more extensive than they were before.”

So now you’re out of pocket the initial $800, plus $160 for the tow truck, and now it’s going to cost $6,000 to get fixed instead of $2,000 (plus your car is going to be out of service MUCH longer)

All because you tried to save a few dollars.

cheap-mechanic

I see this ALL THE TIME in the SEO space, and as a result I find business owners that have –

  • Lost all of their site revenue
  • Been burnt by some cheap SEO agency
  • Had their sites penalised as a result of dodgy work
  • All of the above

When this happens the damage has been done, and in many cases it becomes extremely difficult to undo it. Sometimes the damage is so bad, the business owner has to dump the domain and start over. That can be an incredibly expensive exercise, especially if it’s going to impact your branding (vehicle decals, signage, uniforms, print media, stationery etc)

Again, expensive SEO doesn’t immediately mean “instant success”, but there are signs to look for. (I’ll cover those in a moment)

Many business owners consider SEO an expense

SEO will be nothing more than an expense if you’re not focusing on the metrics that matter.

If you’re paying for SEO, then you should be focusing on putting a dollar in, pulling the lever, and getting 2 dollars out – not just rankings.

A great deal of business owners make the mistake of focusing on rankings alone. Infact, I had an interesting discussion with a client recently, who said “We don’t care about the money, we just want to rank”.

This was said in response to me trying to educate the client about the importance of measuring their marketing efforts. Having comprehensive reporting in place so that they knew how their site was performing.

Within any SEO campaign, you should know –

  • What percentage of traffic you’re receiving is organic search traffic
  • What percentage of that traffic is actually converting
  • What your conversion rates are
  • Overall site revenue (per month)
  • …and whether or not your numbers are improving each month

Having this information will ensure that you can work towards making your site profitable – and when that happens, SEO is no longer an “expense”, but an “investment”. That should be the whole point of the exercise.

Making your site profitable – NOT RANKINGS.

This is where cheap SEO fails every time, because service providers in this space offer useless features like –

  • Directory submissions
  • Social bookmarks
  • Free crappy press releases
  • SEO articles

None of this stuff is going to make any difference to making your site profitable in any way, and this is what separates the cheap crap from good quality work (that you pay for)

Any reputable service offering is charged accordingly

Here’s an interesting diagram that I did up based upon a survey carried out at Moz. This diagram shows average hourly SEO rates within Australia.

hourly-seo-rates-australia

As you can see, the majority of hourly rates falls between $76 to $200 an hour. Here at Works Media, we charge anywhere between $75-$125 an hour, depending upon what type of work is being performed.

It’s interesting to note how there are a small percentage of firms charging at both the high end $750 an hour (which is extreme) right down to less than $25 an hour which is typical of rates that you might find overseas (India for example)

What this diagram shows us is that any reputable SEO company, in order to provide a quality service, and run a profitable business – needs to be operating within that $100-$200 per hour range.

This is why I shake my head at site owners investing in SEO at $99 a month.

It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out exactly what sort of work you could expect at such a small fee.

SEO takes time. Time is money

I’m not quite sure what site owners are expecting to happen at $99 a month, but I can tell you it won’t be much. Infact, it may be nothing at all (yes, I’ve heard of SEO companies taking payment then doing absolutely nothing) The problem that exists when you’re talking about such small fees are – profit margins.

If you’re paying an agency say, $99 per month, then for them to be making ANY sort of margins, they’d need to be making at least say $50 out of it – which leaves $49 to go towards your marketing. Seriously??????

But SEO agencies can charge so little because they’ve got thousands of clients, right?

Exactly, which brings me to my next point.

Churn and burn.

Agencies that push clients through the wringer at $99 a month couldn’t give a SHIT about the success of their clients, let alone be able to service them in any effective manner. I mean seriously, how could you possibly provide any quality of service to clients when you have thousands of them?

You could, if you had hundreds of staff, but how can you pay for staff when the margins are so small?

It just doesn’t work unless –

  • The entire system is plugged into some crappy PBN
  • The work is being outsourced overseas at $5 an hour
  • Customers are being fooled into thinking work is being done, where nothing is being done at all

For effective SEO, there needs to be bums in seats.

That is, staff doing the actual work. And staff expect to be paid.

Keeping perspective

What I find irritating is how some business owners actually expect results for just a few hundred dollars a month. That is – build their business and enhance their marketing and sales, for just a few hundred dollars. I’ve sat on calls with potential clients that have said, “We want at least 6 enquiries a day (each lead was worth several thousands of dollars) and our budget is around $500 per month, can you help us?”

Needless to say I ended the call quite quickly.

$500 per month equates to $6,000 per annum. That, in terms of marketing is ridiculous.

Let me ask you something….

Would you work as an employee for someone at $500 per month? Of course not.

Infact according to this article here published by news.com.au points out that the lowest paid job right now in Australia is a “Fast Food Cook” who earns just $37,705 a year.

$37,705 a year equates to just over $3,100 per month.

Even fast food cooks wouldn’t get out of bed for $500 a month. So why are business owners expecting to pay that for marketing?

It’s ridiculous.

How to make sense of the costs involved

I’ve never shown this before, but this spreadsheet helps us calculate the costs involved for each campaign we work on. This spreadsheet is actually a customised version of one that was originally put together by Lane Boland – so I want to give credit where credit is due.

keyword-seo-calculator-estimation-tool

Firstly, you have the top 10 keywords as chosen by the client. (no we’re not talking about PPC, keep reading)

These keywords are entered within Google’s Keyword Planner to identify the CPC or “cost per click” for each term. As you can see, each keyword has a value, along with estimated traffic and the cost of acquiring that traffic. It should be noted that we use Adwords to get an idea of what a client would be paying if they used paid traffic as opposed to organic SEO.

We then calculate the estimated traffic x cost, then total it up.

In this instance, it comes to $14,447.40.

We then divide this figure by 10% to calculate our monthly SEO fee. (We charge 10% of what paid traffic would cost). Here, the total comes to $1,444.74. We then add 10% of the LTV (the lifetime value of the customer) to this total which now gives us $1,524.74. We then calculate the difficulty rating of the chosen industry using a proprietary difficulty measuring tool to get an average of the difficulty overall. In this case it’s 25%. So we add that percentage of the total, BACK to the total. More competitive markets result in much higher ratings, therefor costing more.

So we’re now at a total of $1,905.93 cents which we round up to the nearest dollar – $1,906 per month.

This equates to 15 hours worth of work per month, (again rounded as it went slightly over) to which we can then present to the client within our proposal and quote.

From here two things can happen –

  • We go ahead at the agreed quote
  • We negotiate the amount of hours the client wishes to work at, if we are above or below the clients allocated budget. Some clients want more hours, others less.

At the end of the day, it equates to roughly $125 an hour.

You might be asking, “Well if it’s a flat hourly rate, why not just offer fewer hours to accommodate cheaper clients?” ($500pm)

There’s good reason why we don’t, and it’s because putting in 4 hours of work per month on SEO would be a complete waste of time. It’s just not viable, especially when some areas of what we do may take 10 hours or more (eg research, onpage optimisation etc)

You get what you pay for

To finish up, I want to say – as with anything, you get what you pay for. SEO is no different.

Here’s a simple diagram that illustrates my point. You can see that anything around the $25 an hour mark has the potential to be spam, which could damage your site, or there may be no work performed at all. At the other end of the scale you have agencies with large teams that may charge up to $200 an hour or more. Typically agencies of this size are heavily involved with media, and only work with large corporate organisations such as banks and government.

I think anywhere in the $75 – $200 an hour range should see decent quality work performed that will bring about tangible returns on investment.

seo-cost-quality-chart

Conclusion

It really amazes me when business owners just throw their sites over to some random SEO agency for a few hundred dollars a month, and they think they’re going to get some sort of valuable service in return. I mean, trolley boys collecting trolleys at Coles wouldn’t work for $300 a month, and you’re asking for BUSINESS MARKETING services?????

Really?

Here’s the thing – SEO takes time, and that time needs to be applied for any successful campaign.

So next time you’re on the phone to an SEO agency, ask them “How many hours per month do I get for X$?” and I will almost guarantee you that they will stumble and stutter through some illogical response and eventually admitting that they don’t break their service down into “hours”, which is total bullshit.

They’ll say something like “We don’t charge an hourly rate, we just have deliverables each month”.

Again, total BS.

For a few hundred dollars a month, they’re not going to do a damn thing. I mean, would YOU work for $300 a month?????

As with anything, you get what you pay for.

I know when it comes to pricing, it’s a very sensitive subject and many may argue against some of the points I’ve made in this article, which is a good thing. If you have something to say, I want to hear it. Post up your thoughts below, and let me know what you think.

Source : http://www.seopoint.com.au/blog/how-much-does-seo-cost-how-much-should-you-be-paying/

Use Video Background The Right Way

We cover some general usability guidelines and best practices for creating your own video backgrounds.

 

It should come as no surprise that fullscreen video backgrounds are quickly growing in popularity. Internet speeds are increasing, browser technology is advancing, and the simplicity of capturing HD video is galvanizing.

Since this trend has gained such a large following I’d like to cover some general design tips, guidelines and some resources for creating your own video backgrounds.

From entertainment venues to creative agencies and personal portfolios, there are dozens of websites that incorporate fullscreen videos. Granted not every project can benefit from this type of server-intensive design technique. Yet using a keen setup paired with careful attention to detail, fullscreen video backgrounds can be an enormous benefit to an overall layout design and website branding.

Simple Videos with Contrast

The best style of background video will build heavy contrast between the video and the page text. A simple rule of thumb is to lighten text with a dark video or darken text with a lighter video. It definitely helps if the footage is mostly uniform with just a few colors.

coulee creative agency website portfolio

Coulee Creative is a pristine example. In the website header you’ll find a small navigation along with some intro text. The video switches between various scenes but each of them appears somewhat faded. This effect is created with an overlay grid of repeating black dots. If you look real close you’ll notice a repeating pattern on top of the video.

While this tiled pattern method isn’t foolproof, it really does work and looks fantastic. You might also try editing the video in software like Premiere Pro or After Effects – but not all designers will have experience with video editing.

Just Say Mute

Website video media that’s setup to auto-play has one fatal flaw: loud audio. I can’t count how many times I’ve recoiled away from a website because of the unrequested noise. It’s something that’s almost never expected, which means it’s unwelcome and just plain annoying.

When people notice an embedded video player on the page it usually waits to be activated. The person can choose whether to play the video or leave it alone. Video backgrounds are set to autoplay, which is totally fine. But there’s a reason why most of them are muted by default.

photodune-5105254-woman-screams-into-megaphone-l

People browsing the Internet will often be playing music of their own. When another sound comes out of nowhere it’s either a brief shock or a persistent annoyance. Even if you assume most visitors will have their speakers turned off, is it really worth the risk?

Do the right thing and just mute background videos. Trust me, you and your visitors will be happy you did.

Partial-Height Video

Not every video background needs to conform to a fullscreen interface. It may be wiser to limit the background section to a smaller height, thus leaving direct access to further areas on the page. Take a look at BKWLD to see a wonderful example.

bkwld portfolio background video design

All of the video content is crisp and fits nicely into the layout. Also there’s no text to worry about, so the design flows with less effort. Each design project will be different so it’s smart to consider all of the options before moving onto a completed mockup.

risk everything website background video design

Another example I really like can be found on Risk Everything. The video tends to shift between differing rates of contrast, but it also fits nicely into the header and doesn’t belittle surrounding content.

There is no size requirement when it comes to fullscreen backgrounds. Most videos will span the entire width of the page but there’s no reason you have to follow this ideology. Find whichever dimensions work best for each project and take it from there.

Parallax Scrolling

The video BG trend is most commonly fitted into divs on the page. The design often runs naturally and scrolls like regular content. But some designers go for the parallax effect where background content shifts as you scroll down the page.

whiteroom uk parallax video background

Take for example Whiteroom which actually uses a fixed video background. As you scroll through various content sections the background will follow along. This is a strange yet intriguing style of background design which I haven’t run into on other websites.

Specific development techniques would be required to incorporate a parallax effect into the background. It would definitely require some custom development or a combination of plugins.

I recently found a fullscreen video case study which talks about the implementation of a video background on Wistia. There’s a surprising drought of fullscreen video articles but information is out there if you know where to look.

Browser Compatibility

On the topic of usability there’s a burning question related to video filetypes and widespread browser support. HTML5 has shortened the gap but we’re far from a universal solution.

So what can you do to ensure compatibility with background videos? The first step is to check browser support for native filetypes. The website Can I Use provides a detailed analysis of CSS & JavaScript properties, along with HTML5 elements. Use this to your advantage and remember to aim for a specific audience.

caniuse html5 elements properties webapp

If you have traffic analytics at your disposal they can prove immeasurably helpful. Track which browsers are most commonly used and tally up the level of support for each video type. Flash video is perhaps the most widely-supported choice if you need to handle legacy versions of Firefox and IE.

But generally speaking aim for the most widely-supported codecs and video containers. H.264/MP4 and VP9/WEBM seem to be the two most popular choices. If your video uses at least one of these filetypes then you’re off to a great start.

pixate fullscreen video background effect

Another important thing to keep in mind is file size. Your 1080p video might look amazing scaled on the larger iMac. But is it worth the trouble of forcing a video that’s hundreds of megabytes onto each visitor using a 13″ laptop?

Unlike traditional JPEG backgrounds, videos have a more natural method of scaling. Even with a reduced filesize your video should still look pretty darn good. So for video background usability the two most important tenets are proper filetype and reduced filesize.

Video Background Resources

Unless you want to reinvent the wheel by hard-coding a video background from scratch, in which case I wish you the best of luck and a 6-pack of Red Bull, then investing in a plugin will reduce your coding time & blood pressure.

Since video backgrounds are still somewhat new to the scene you won’t find that many options. But there are some great JavaScript options out there, as well as some WordPress plugins, that will help you get the job done.

The trend of fullscreen backgrounds has slowly burrowed itself deep into the world of modern web design. Although background images are still the most popular choice, video backgrounds are gaining traction with larger support and easier methods of implementation.

This post should offer ideas in the way of tips and resources to help any designer or developer create a marvelous video background experience.

 

Source :

https://envato.com/blog/video-backgrounds-web-design-trends-usability-best-practices/

http://www.websitebuilderexpert.com/video-background-for-websites/