THE ONLY CONSTANT IS CHANGE

In web development, the saying “The only constant is change” seems to be industry-defining. Web development is changing every second and 2018 will be no different.

User expectations are growing and it is more important than ever to build digital experiences  that are engaging, fun, and intuitive. Content needs to be accessible everywhere, in real-time, and, of course, on mobile devices.

In order to make that happen, new programming languages and frameworks are on the rise (Hello Vue JS!), extensions are becoming more compatible, and real time web apps are becoming more popular.

In order to keep up with what is happening, we want to show you the top 7 web development trends that are happening right now!

Here are the top 7 web development trends to watch out for in 2018

1. Vue JS is getting more popular

Vue was created in 2014 and is gaining in popularity in 2018. It is one of the most lightweight frameworks and it is fast.

VueJS is in a unique position as it is not backed by a major company. While React is backed by Facebook and Angular by Google, VueJS was created by one person, Evan You.

Evan describes his pre-launch and post-launch activities in a blog post, where he lists daily activities for the launch week.

Evan writes:

“I just launched an open source project that I’ve been working on for quite some time: Vue.js. It’s a library for building web interfaces using MVVM data bindings with a very simple API. If that sounds interesting to you, you can check out more details at vuejs.organd the GitHub repo. The motivation and reasoning behind the library is probably best explained in a separate post – this post is mostly about the personal experience of my first serious attempt at building, launching, marketing and maintaining an open source project.”

From the start, the documentation has been available in Chinese, resulting in VueJS high popularity in China.

Vue is now used by big companies such as Expedia, Alibaba, Nintendo, and GitLab. They now lists 20 people on their team page.

And recently, VueJS was listed among the 10 most-forked GitHub projects in 2017, even more popular than Facebook’s React. It also has over 77k stars on Github.

web-development-trends-vue-js

You can find a growing list of projects made with VueJs here: https://madewithvuejs.com/

2. Functional Programming benefits from Javascript improvements

Functional programming has been up and coming for years, but its impact will increase in 2018 again. Functional Programming (FP) describes the process of building software based on fundamental principles. Principles of functional programming include building software by composing pure functions. Shared state, mutable data and side effects are avoided in FP.

Functional code is more predictable, and some say ‘easier’ than object oriented code. It is definitely easier to test. If you have been working in Javascript for a while, you are very likely to have encountered functional programming principles and concepts, which encourage developers to decompose a program into small functions.

// classic
var numbers = [1, 5, 8, 13];
var doubledNumbers = [];

for (var i=0; i < numbers.length; i++) {
   doubledNumbers[i] = numbers[i] * 2;
}

// functional
var numbers = [1, 5, 8, 13];
var doubledNumbers = numbers.map(function(number) {
   return number * 2;
});

In 2018, Functional Programming especially benefits from the recent Javascript improvements such as ES6 and ES7.

Useful for functional programming are the following Javascript improvements:

Arrow functions: Arrow functions reduce boilerplate when writing functions.
We can simplify the example from above even more with arrow functions:

// functional ES6
const numbers = [1, 5, 8, 13];
const doubledNumbers = numbers.map((number) => number * 2);

Object/Array Spread: Object spread makes it really easy to avoid mutating objects, because it is so much easier to create new objects that contain existing values.  Here’s an example demonstrating it:

// old school
var oldState = { email: 'foo@example.com', comment: 'i really like javascript' };
var newState = {};
Object.assign(newState, oldState, { ip: '192.168.5.87' });

// with spread
const oldState = { email: 'foo@example.com', comment: 'i really like javascript' };
const newState = { ...oldState, ip: '192.168.5.87' };

async/await: Sometimes we do need to call functions that have side effects, even in functional programming – e.g. when we’re talking to our backend. Often we even have multiple calls that depend on each other. First there was callback hell, then came promises, and now async/await has come to make these things even easier.

3. Extensions get more compatible

Browser-extensions have been key add-ons for Chrome, Firefox and Co. for years. What is new in 2018 and what will continue to grow is browser extension compatibility.

What does that mean?

Browser Extensions are bits of code written in JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. They modify the functionality of a web browser and can add new features, change appearances or content of websites. Extensions used to be build for a specific browser, such as Chrome or Firefox. This is changing as Firefox is also supporting Chrome extensions and Edge is catching up on this as well.

In the developer manual of Mozilla you get an explanation of this cross-browser support system:

“Extensions for Firefox are built using WebExtensions APIs, a cross-browser system for developing extensions. To a large extent the API is compatible with the extension API supported by Google Chrome and Opera. Extensions written for these browsers will in most cases run in Firefox or Microsoft Edge with just a few changes. The API is also fully compatible with multiprocess Firefox.”

While Firefox extensions were using three different systems in the past, WebExtension APIs will now be the only way to develop Firefox extensions, making them available for other browser systems as well.

There has been some controversy around that because since the introduction of Firefox 57 (Quantum), the old extensions no longer work. Once a new version with a new API was released the old extension was gone.

To test the browser compatibility of your extension, you can make use of this simple extension compatibility tester.

4. Real-Time Web Apps are getting more popular

Real time web apps, based on websockets, have been around for years, but they are getting more and more popular. The reason: users want fast interactions and real time web apps are delivering on the need to share information instantly.

The main idea of real-time web apps is that a connection between client and server is left open, and the server pushes the new data once it’s there. Prior to real time web apps, clients had to check back manually to find out if something new had happened.

While this has been very common in the world of Node.js, this trend is really spreading to other languages and frameworks as well. Even Ruby on Rails, a framework which has always relied heavily on server side rendering, and very long ignored the rise of Javascript single-page-applications, has seen the need for realtime (as you can see in Basecamp 3), and incorporated it under the name “ActionCable”.

5. Progressive Web Apps

Progressive web apps are web apps with the functionality and design of mobile apps.

While the question has long been: How can we emulate web content for mobile – it is now the other way round. Web applications are trying to emulate what is working on mobile to give their (mobile) users a familiar touch and feel.

The idea is to create app-like experience on web pages or websites.

Here are some of the benefits, Google lists in its developer manual on why you should build a PWA:

When the Progressive Web App criteria are met, Chrome prompts users to add the Progressive Web App to their home screen.

Service workers enabled Konga to send 63% less data for initial page loads, and 84% less data to complete the first transaction!

Web push notifications helped eXtra Electronics increase engagement by 4X. And those users spend twice as much time on the site.

The ability to deliver an amazing user experience helped AliExpress improve conversions for new users across all browsers by 104% and on iOS by 82%.

6. Mastering Mobile Web Development

With mobile traffic increasing every day, responsive websites have become obligatory in the last years. In 2018, it is time to really master mobile development. The question is no longer: Does our website work on mobile? It is: How does it work on mobile best?

80% of internet users are owning a smartphone and they are using it. In fact, the average time spent on mobile devices is steadily increasing and has gone up to over 5 hours per day, according to TechCrunch.

Mastering mobile development and understanding how content can be best consumed on smaller devices will be a key challenge in 2018.

One key element to achieve that is that content must be easily navigable with one hand. Think about how you are using your smartphone. You might read articles while standing in the bus or subway and you might be texting when walking through supermarket aisles. Chances are you are doing some of these things with just one hand.

According to Steven Hoober, 49% of smartphone uses are executed with one hand, not cradled and not two handed. 49 percent of the time are we holding and browsing on our phone.

That means navigation has to be adapted for the thumb to reach every or the most part of the screen.

Web-Design-Trend-2018_

Thumb zones on different iOS devices. Illustration: Scott Hurff

7. Material Design

Material Design is a popular design trend that is likely to gain more popularity. It was developed by Google in an attempt to combine visual material and motion.

Material design is based on the modern, responsive Materialize CSS framework that comes in two forms: Materialize and Sass. It is based on Google’s material design language and provides components such as Parallax and Toast. It is compatible with all modern browsers and it is something that scores high in user experience design.

web-development-trends-gusto

Material design used at https://gusto.com/

Wrapping it up.

New frameworks, design trends, user expectations, and mobile developments are changing web development every day. The main thing is: Web development is responding to growing user expectations and design trends. Like Google’s material design, which is likely to gain more popularity in 2018. Or the need to communicate and work together in real time from everywhere.

No matter what you will be working on in 2018, these are exciting times and an exciting industry to be working in!

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Web Development Trends in 2018

Source: https://clockwise.software/blog/web-development-trends-in-2018/

Trends in web development sometimes change faster than they can be implemented. That’s why it is important to be ahead of the game.

Don’t ask what are the trends today, ask what will be the trends tomorrow.

We have gathered the most credible predictions to show you what will be the trends in web development for the next year. If you are about to build or redesign your website, be sure that you are aware of them.

Progressive Web Applications

Progressive Web Apps

The world first heard about progressive web apps in 2015. The next year we met the pioneers of this technology, and in 2018 progressive Web Applications seem to have become the major competitor of native mobile apps.

Progressive web apps (or PWAs) are websites that feel like native mobile apps. Thanks to service workers, they can work offline, delivering an extraordinary user experience.

The users can save the shortcut to the website on their home screen if they use it frequently. As the most information is stored in the cache, the app loads instantly. Service workers run in the background and ensure that the latest information is cached every time the device is connected to the internet. The ability to work without any connection is one of the major advantages of progressive web apps.

PWAs are gaining traction and becoming a true web development trend. Some world’s leading companies prove the efficiency of this technology.

The e-commerce website Flipkart experienced a 70% increase in conversions and tripled the time spent on their site after the launch of the PWA version of the website. And the informational website The Washington Post reported an almostfivefold increase in user engagement.

PWAs have fewer features on iOS devices since the platform doesn’t support service workers. However, Flipkart and The Washington Post have proved that the progressive web apps significantly improve user engagement and conversions on all platforms. The UX of the PWAs plays the key role.

After such inspiring examples, the world awaits the hype around the progressive web applications in 2018. Even though the technology is quite new, its prospects look very promising.

Online customer support

Progressive Web Apps

2016 was the year of chatbots. 2017 is the year of helpful chatbots. Since there are thousands of bots out now, the quality of their services will be the next web development trend.

The prediction is that 85% of all customer interactions will proceed without human assistance till 2020.

A customer service chatbot becomes a must on almost every website. Whether you are selling electronics, crocheted toys or software development services, you should have a chatbot.

The conversational interface has transformed the way businesses interact with their customers. Having a bot on the company’s website ensures you are in contact with your client at any time, in any situation.

The customer service chatbot gives the client a feeling of interacting with a human. The bot is smart enough to answer frequently asked questions, to redirect clients to the needed page, to help them to choose the right product and even to proceed with payments. And all this without the round-the-clock customer support department.

In 2018 customers will prefer websites with appropriate online assistance. You can create a customer support department or get a chatbot that will guide a potential client through your website. The second option will allow you to save time and resources, and optimize the working process. So why not to join the hype around chatbots?

Static websites

Static Websites

You definitely remember the concept of a static website from the early years of the World Wide Web. All the first websites on the Internet were static.

But then the era of dynamic websites began.Websites became more functional and easier to update even for people with no technical background. At the same time, the development process became more complicated, as the extended functionality required communication with the server, so backend development got involved. Modern CMSs are the actual dynamic websites

Nowadays, the web is returning to its roots. Static websites are becoming the web development trend of 2018 again. But they have been improved by static site generators which allow combining the advantages of a static website and a CMS. The most popular of them, for example, HexoGitBook and Gatsby are written in JavaScript. There is also a huge variety of static site generators written in other programming languages. You can find out more and compare different solutions on the StaticGen website.

There are several reasons why static websites are back. They are faster, safer and cheaper. And they can satisfy the needs of different types of businesses. So, the prediction is obvious: static websites will experience a new reincarnation in 2018.

Single-page websites

Single-page websites

Another web development trend for simplicity is single-page websites. This solution allows putting all the content onto one long scrollable page, removing any clutter.

One-page websites have a bunch of advantages. They don’t challenge the visitor with complex navigation, multi-level menu, and tons of text. The essential information is all on one page. The user only has to scroll to it.

Of course, the use-cases of single-pagers are limited. This type of website will not suit e-commerce projects and blogs. At the same time, businesses can significantly benefit, presenting their services in a simplified and more engaging manner.

When visiting your one-page website the user consumes the information consecutivelyand doesn’t jump over the pages in the random order. You have certain control over the way he learns more about your company. Such websites are great for mobile use.

This type of website is definitely more user-friendly. At the same time, it allows to reduce the costs of the website: design is cheaper, development is cheaper, hosting is cheaper.

The single-pagers usually attract with extraordinary design, and powerful accents which bring an impressive increase in conversion. That’s why single page apps will gain traction in 2018.

Push notifications for websites

Push notifications for websites

Mobile apps notifications turned out to be a highly efficient means of user re-engagement. And recently this idea has been implemented for websites and is becoming new web development trend.

The workflow looks quite simple: the user visits a website and is offered to enable push notifications. The user will then be notified of any changes on the website (like a new blog post or a private message), even after he has closed the tab with that website.

The major benefit of such a technology is obvious – you can keep the user engaged without big efforts.

In some cases, push notifications can be a cheaper alternative toa mobile app. They deliver new information instantly and redirect the user to the website to find out more.

Push notifications beat emails, SMS and social media in providing up-to-date information. They are quick, come on time, and don’t require any complicated actions. They are just user-friendly.

Since push-notifications are just making the first steps in user engagement, you have a chance to become the pioneer of this technology in 2018.

Flash to HTML

Flash to HTML

In 2010 Steve Jobs published his thoughts on Flash and its future. It became clear that this technology won’t last long. Jobs’ statement about the death of Flash is quite popular for around two years now when YouTube defaulted to HTML5 players.

The major weakness of this technology is the incompatibility with mobile devices. An enormous amount of traffic is lost just because of the outdated technology.

If you still use Flash on your website, 2017 is the final call for you to change this. The best alternative is the well-known HTML5.

HTML5-based videos and games will reach a wider audience. And the general tendency is: HTML5 is becoming the universal format for all types of digital content.

It’s no use being sentimental about your old Flash website. Trust us, the HTML5 one will be much cooler and correspond with the latest web development trends.

Motion UI

Motion UI

Simplicity is the trend in recent years. This is also true for web design. Users are already tired of crazy GIFs and flashing ads, that’s why websites with moderate design get more appreciation.

At the same time, sophisticated motion UI is becoming more popular. Animations allow to add more style and enable you to distinguish your website from the thousands of others with the static UI.

There are several ways to add some life to your minimalistic website. Consider page header transitions, nice hovers, animated charts, background animations and modular scrolling. These and many otherelements may make your web presence much more enjoyable for users. The true artwork!

JavaScript – Angular 2 and Angular 4

AngularJS

JavaScript is the number one programming language for web applications. With dozens of JS-related technologies already existing and still in development, it will even strengthen its positions. The highly anticipated release of the last years Angular 2 becomes highly appreciated in modern web development.

We met Angular 2 in 2016. It is a complete rewrite of the AngularJS framework. The main advantages are improved modularity, app architecture scalability, improved dependencies injections, etc.

What to expect from Angular 2? Compared to its predecessor, it is faster and simpler in structure. Moreover, it follows the mobile-first approach, which is highly important in 2018. Many solutions are ready to use right out ofthe box, which reduces the development time.

Angular 2 recommends the use of TypeScript. This combination is by now the most productive way to develop medium and large web applications compatible with any modern web browser or mobile platform.

Angular 4 appeared in March 2017. This is not a complete rewrite of the second version, so they are quite similar. Angular 4 is faster and consumes less space, reducing the size of the generated code to around 60%. The animation package has been removed fromthe core and put into a separate package, which is an advantage for those who don’t use animation in their projects.

According to the roadmap, it is planned to release patch versions weekly with minorreleases following every several months. The next major release is planned for September 2017 – we are expecting the new Angular 5.0.0. We can predict that the changes will also influence the web development trends for the nearest future. So, don’t forget to follow the Angular Blog to stay tuned for the freshest updates. Or subscribe to our blog – we won’t miss a chance to write about this major update of one of our favourite frontend frameworks.

PHP 7.x – Laravel 5.x

Laravel

PHP remains the popular choice for website backend development. This programming language has improved its positions even further after the release of version 7.x. The latest update of the PHP framework Laravel 5.x is a recognized web development trend in 2018.

Laravel is the most popular open-source PHP web framework. All the benefits of it can be fully experienced on dynamic websites with complicated backend.

Laravel offers ready solutions for complex tasks. The variety of existing packages makes the development process faster and more reliable. Regular updates ensure that the framework complies with the current needs of the website owners and the requirements of the time.

The current stable version is Laravel 5.5, released in July 2017. Major updates occur every fewmonths.

This open-source framework has a large developer community, so you will never have to deal with the problems in your web app on your own.

If you want to find out more about Laravel along with other backend frameworks, don’t miss our article.

Conclusion

Nowadays having a website is more important for the company than having an office.

Being ahead of web development trends means attractingnew customers, satisfying existing customers and encouraging older customers to return.

Are you just about to create or redesign your website? Contact us to get it done according to the last word in web development.

How to share big files online for free

Wave goodbye to bloated emails

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.