Before

How To Use Google Images to Drive E-commerce Sales Before Your Competitors Catch On

What if the biggest source of your SEO traffic wasn’t from the front page of Google?

At least, not the front page exactly.

Imagine that there was a backdoor of sorts that could lead to a healthy amount of organic traffic.

It’s a completely legal, whitehat SEO backdoor too, so there’s no chance you’ll be penalized.

And if you leverage yourself correctly, that organic traffic can naturally turn into a sale for your e-commerce site.

If that situation were to exist, it could change the SEO landscape for quite some time.

It may surprise you then to learn that our imaginary backdoor example already exists.

Because with some of the recent changes in how Google allows image searches, the front page has gotten a little bit bigger.

I want to show you what’s changed, and then give you some quick hacks that can help you drive more e-commerce sales by focusing on optimizing for Google image searches.

The new and improved Google image search

Google’s image search has been a stalwart feature of the search engine since 2001 when searches for Jennifer Lopez’s green Versace dress broke the Internet.

Since then, the service has been improved upon in stages and built into a massive image library.

Best guesses estimate that Google has indexed around one trillion images to date, and that’s probably on the conservative side.

So in February of 2018 when Google and Getty Images announced that they would be partnering up, it turned some heads.

The reason given in the press release was that this change was meant to provide a better experience for both Google users and visual content creators.

And according to a tweet from Google’s Danny Sullivan, this was also part of a broader effort by Google to help connect search users with helpful websites.

google search liaison tweet

That sounds a lot like normal, run-of-the-mill SEO talk on the surface.

And since most of the media coverage of this change centered around the fact that Google had removed the “View Image” option with this update, it was easy to miss the real change here.

To make the waters even muddier, Danny later tweeted that this particular change was part of a settlement with Getty Images.

Thus, it further cemented the idea that this change was just another ordinary Thursday for Google.

google search liaison google image tweet

But when you look a little deeper at what actually changed, this transition has a more significant impact than what you may believe at first glance.

Because while it seems that removing the “View Image” option and replacing it with “Visit” is just meant to annoy desperate college students, it’s actually a shift in the way we search via images.

Or, to put it more plainly, it means you can now try to rank for the front page of Google image search to get organic traffic.

One of the less-heralded statistics from the last few years is that 72% of search engine users search for images before making a purchase.

frequency of visual search

That means that when someone comes to your site via a search engine, there’s a good chance their search started with Google images.

Before these changes, websites weren’t typically in the limelight.

The uproar that surrounded the removal of the View Image option seems to indicate that most users searched for images to use for another purpose.

But now, if someone wants to download or save an image, they have to click through to the website.

That means you have an opportunity to sell to them now, where before they would never see your brand.

So in a way, Google has created a new and improved channel for customer acquisition that flew completely under the radar.

Let me show you an example of how this could work.

Say you search for a pair of binoculars to take hiking this summer.

You search for binoculars and then decide you’d rather find a set that looks more compact.

Here’s the “front page” of your search in Google.

binoculars google image search

None of this is branded, there aren’t any ads, and it’s fairly simple to browse through and find a set of binoculars that meets your needs.

If you click on an image, a window will expand and display a larger version of the image.

You’ll also see an option to Visit, Save, View Saved, or Share.

generate traffic from google image search with the visit button

If a user decides to visit this site, they’ll have generated traffic via a Google image search.

And since they’re in the mood to potentially buy, your best bet is to have these images attached to a product page like this one.

nikon binoculars product page

At this juncture, I want to point out that this is technically the “top ranked” image on Google.

It’s on a site for the brand B&H Photo Video, and very clearly linked to a product page.

So without knowing the actual stats of this site and page, I would say that there’s a good chance that more than a few sales have closed through the exact path I’ve shown you.

But the interesting aspect here is that this page is not on the actual front page of Google.

binoculars not on the front page

It’s not in the sponsored ads, nor is it competing with Amazon or Binoculars.com in the rankings below.

In fact, I scrolled through and didn’t even find this website in the top 10 pages on Google’s search results.

So it’s even more incredible that this image is at the very top of an image search, and it clearly displays an opportunity for more brands to do the same thing.

Especially considering that it wasn’t until my second visit that Google put sponsored ads into my image results:

binoculars ads appear on second image search

With this new visit-oriented searching system, Google has created a backdoor for small brands to sell with organic traffic despite otherwise strong search results.

E-commerce marketing professionals now have a viable window to create a new and improved channel for generating sales.

By focusing on the SEO of the images on your product pages, you can now rank on an image search that can result in more revenue for your business.

So for the rest of this article, I want to share some quick hacks that you can start to implement on your images in order to capitalize on this development.

Hack #1: Optimize file names and alt tags

As Google crawls your site, it relies on your site’s code to tell you if there are any images on your pages that contribute to the overall value of the page.

So when optimizing your images for SEO, the very first place you should start is by ensuring that the products on your site have descriptive file names and alt tags.

Here’s a relatively simple example of a descriptive vs. non-descriptive file name.

corgi puppies file name

If Google were to crawl your site and see a series of numbers followed by .jpg, all it can tell is that there is an image.

But with the keywords of corgi, puppies, adoption, and NYC added, Google can accurately assess the contents of the image and rank accordingly.

This is also part of what ensures that your image will appear in a Google image search to begin with.

From there, the next part of your image that you’ll need to optimize is your alt tag.

Much like your file name, alt tags signal to Google what your image contains.

Each alt text is embedded in the HTML of your website so that when Google crawls your site, it can “see” the image.

Here’s an example from the earlier binoculars page:

nikon binoculars alt tag

Notice that the alt tag, in this case, is the same as the product’s title.

It contains the keyword “binoculars,” and is an accurate description of the true contents of the image.

It’s a fairly straightforward bit of text that once again will make all the difference on a search engine results page.

And thankfully, it’s incredibly easy to set both your alt tags and change your file name if you’ve built your site on WordPress.

When you upload an image, all you have to do is select that image to see this menu:

file names in wordpress

From here, you can change your file name and alt text appropriately.

This will position your images so that when Google crawls your site, it can potentially rank you on its image search.

Without these simple elements, you’ll struggle to rank at all.

But image-based SEO that will help you truly stand out requires investing in some more complex techniques, like leveraging user-submitted images.

Hack #2: Use unique images

You may think that this point goes without saying, but the vast and repetitive use of stock photography online would seem to say otherwise.

Creating and using relevant imagery will ultimately help you draw a Google image search user in and convince them to click through to your site.

For example, if you were to search online for a lawyer in your area only to see something like this:

lawyers google image search

Chances are you wouldn’t click on that image.

So when in doubt, use a relevant and interesting image for every page on your site, and especially for your product pages.

Even if you have to invest in a professional photographer, the effort and money can be worth it.

The last thing you want is for someone to pass up your site because your image isn’t the most relevant to their search.

Hack #3: Leverage user-submitted images

The average Internet user is pretty skeptical, myself included.

That’s why so many brands now turn to social proof as a means to improve audience engagement and drive sales on their e-commerce sites.

But how can social proof help you get to the top of Google’s image search?

The answer lies in utilizing user-generated social proof image content strategically across your site.

Social proof is one of the best ways to increase trust in your brand and improve conversions.

Typically, this type of proof comes in the form of testimonials or case studies that brands leverage in various ways across their site.

But with how image-oriented our current social media lives are, we now see a vast amount of user-generated social proof content in the form of pictures.

boxed water instagram

Sites like Instagram and Snapchat have changed the way we interact with images, and can now further improve the way you optimize your images’ SEO.

The result means that you can start finding user-generated content by merely interacting with and incentivizing your social media audience.

The key to these images is that they have to be sincere and truly user-generated.

You also need to ensure that you integrate your user-generated images on the right page.

And of course, you need to ensure that you’re legally using the images you end up placing on your site.

But once you have all your ducks in a row, a great idea is to implement your user-generated images on your product pages.

vanity planet

As you can see, the bottom image scroll is comprised of user-generated images that used the #VPBeauty when posting on social media.

The company browsed these images for the highest quality options that it felt showed the best side of their brand.

Then, it embedded these images on their product pages to provide immediate social proof when a visitor sees them.

And since these images are on your website and can be optimized accordingly, they can rank on a Google image search and potentially bring more traffic to your site.

Hack #4: Reduce your load time

Fast loading images are one of the cornerstones of SEO.

If a user can come to your site and quickly load an image that contributes to their overall experience, Google has ways of noticing.

Recent studies have shown that images on websites are typically the largest elements that need to be loaded by a user.

In fact, images on average comprise more than half the data of most web pages.

average bytes per page

So when you’re optimizing your product page, there’s a good chance that the image you use is slowing down your site.

And since bounce rates tend to grow rapidly with longer load times, Google sees image size as a significant SEO factor.

That means in order to rank your images on either the front page or an image search, you need to find a way to create a smaller image.

That is where image compression comes in.

Image compression is the practice of taking a large, bulky image file and effectively shrinking it to a fraction of its size.

When there’s less to load, your site loads faster.

Generally speaking, image compression can yield results like this:

clear uncompressed image of man kissing dog

This image is clear, sharp, and pleasant to look at.

If I weren’t telling you it was a compressed image, you probably never would have guessed.

But look at what happens when you take this same image and compress it even more:

blurry compressed image of man kissing dog

The colors go all wrong, the lighting is poor, and it makes the image hard to look at.

This is the darker side of what can happen if you compress too much.

There isn’t too much difference in size between these two photos.

The first is about 350 KB, and the second is about 70 KB.

And when you compare that to a photo that may contain thousands of KB, then you begin to see how much this helps improve your load time.

So compressing images is a balancing act.

Go too far, and you get a bad image.

Don’t go far enough, and you’re undermining your SEO efforts altogether.

But how can you easily optimize your photos to ensure that they load faster and rank higher?

To start with, I recommend testing the speed of your site using Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

pagespeed insights 2018

This will let you methodically insert the URLs of your product pages to test how quickly they load.

If you see less than optimal results, PageSpeed Insights will give you a breakdown of which elements will improve your site’s load speed.

If you see the option to Optimize images, you can click the drop-down menu below to see what needs to be fixed.

optimization suggestion images

PageSpeed Insights will tell you the exact file or files that need to be compressed, as well as how big of a reduction it needs.

optimize image through pagespeed

Once you find out which files need to be compressed, I recommend using a site like JPEGMini to help you complete the task with just a few clicks.

Other options are TinyJPG or ImageOptim (Mac only). Choose lossless compression so you don’t lose image quality.

jpegmini compression

As you can see, there’s arguably no noticeable difference in the quality of these images to the naked eye.

But in Google’s case, it would notice a clear difference between the original file and the resulting compression that’s more than three times smaller.

This can drastically increase your load time, and even put you under the bar recommended by PageSpeed Insights.

All you have to do is upload your photo with a few clicks.

jpegmini compressor

Then let their system work its magic.

You’ll have a compressed file that’s indistinguishable from the original that’s much, much smaller.

In one case, a brand had let its site load speed drop to abysmal levels in a way that started tanking its traffic.

crap the bed traffic

It even got to the point where PageSpeed Insights showed a zero score for their optimization.

In a large-scale effort to combat this, it overhauled its image sizes and compressed the size of its web pages as much as possible.

As a result, it saw a return to “normal” traffic levels.

thumbs up traffic

This is a clear signal that image size matters when it comes to your SEO.

If you let your images slow down your site, then you run the risk of turning away your users and decreasing the chance of a sale.

And if your image is too big, it’s very likely that Google will rank another image over it in its image search.

So if you want to drive your e-commerce sales with image search, it’s highly recommended to start implementing crisp, compressed images on your product pages.

This will increase the chances of organic traffic, and could ultimately help you edge out your competition.

Conclusion

Google image search has come a long way since 2001, and it seems the ride isn’t over.

With its new partnership with Getty Images, the way we search and use images on Google seems to have changed in favor of the brand that gets there first.

Sites that don’t even rank on the top few pages of Google can still have a fighting chance if its images are optimized and rank well.

And since the majority of e-commerce shoppers browse images before they buy, this development has clear implications for online sellers.

So to help set your brand apart, you need to optimize your images for SEO before your competitors catch on.

Start by ensuring that your alt tags and file names are optimized so that Google can “read” your images appropriately.

And of course, make sure that the images you use are both relevant to your search and interesting enough to make a user want to click.

Then, start leveraging your social media presence to build a pool of user-generated content.

These images will provide social proof and allow you to optimize even more images for SEO.

And finally, take steps to ensure that large image files aren’t negatively impacting your site’s load time.

If you approach your images correctly, you will have further optimized your site for Google’s image search and put your SEO in a better position altogether.

Has your brand seen traffic from Google image search? What worked for you?

The post How To Use Google Images to Drive E-commerce Sales Before Your Competitors Catch On appeared first on Neil Patel.


Blog – Neil Patel

Adding Content Before Subscription Checkout Increases Product Revenue 38%

Adding content to a process that leads to revenue for a company seems like a bad idea — particularly when that process is already five steps long. But for iReach (at the time, a division of PRNewswire) the decision to add content led to a 31% increase in conversion and a 38% increase in product revenue.

The Control Checkout Process

Here’s the control entry page:


Click on images to enlarge

 

Here’s an example of the following five cart pages in the control process:

In the data, it appeared that many people were exiting the process due to confusion and a lack of information. After studying customer service inquiries, it was clear that there were many questions potential customers had that were not being answered in the process.

The Treatment Checkout Process

Here’s the treatment entry page:

Below the call-to-action are links to additional content about the product for specific customer segments. Each piece of content was designed to answer further questions the PRN team hypothesized most customers were asking about the product in their minds.

These changes along with a clear product selection page (below) generated a significant result.

 

The Results

By adding steps in the process — particularly product information and a clear product matrix, iReach generated a 31% increase in conversion and 38% more revenue from its subscription/ecommerce offering

You Might Also Like

Call Center Optimization: How A Nonprofit Increased Donation Rate 29% With Call Center Testing

How A Nonprofit Leveraged A Value Proposition Workshop To See A 136% Increase In Conversions

How One Ecommerce Company Generated a 34% Increase by Simply Being Factual About its Product

 

The post Adding Content Before Subscription Checkout Increases Product Revenue 38% appeared first on MarketingExperiments.


MarketingExperiments

Influencer Marketing Ain’t Easy: 5 Client Questions to Answer Before They Ask

The client conversation around influencer marketing is changing. When agencies first began pitching influencers as part of a brand’s social strategy, they spent a lot of time answering “what?” and “why?” But as a recent study by Tomoson Research shows, influencer marketing is now “the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition channel—beating organic search, paid search and email marketing.” Not to mention, nearly 60% of marketers plan to increase their ad budgets to accommodate influencer marketing efforts in the year ahead.

With proof points like these, influencers are no longer a tough sell to clients:

  • 92% of consumers are more likely to trust their peers over advertising when it comes to purchasing decisions.
  • On average, businesses are making $ 6.50 for every $ 1 spent.
  • Influencer marketing has 11 times the ROI of a banner advertising campaign.
  • Marketing-inspired word-of-mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.

While it’s easy to get swept up in the numbers, there’s still much to learn about what makes a successful influencer program. And while agencies may not have to spend as much time answering “why?”—there’s still the very important question of “how do we do it right?”

Here are five of the most common questions about influencers and the answers an agency needs in order to demonstrate expertise in the space and gain buy-in from clients.

1. What Is the Goal of the Program?

Make no mistake, this is the single most important question to consider when developing (and eventually pitching) an influencer program. Before even thinking about who the influencers will be or what they will create, marketers must identify specific, measurable goals. Should the program increase awareness? Generate new followers? Drive sales?

According to a recent survey evaluating the current state of influencer marketing:

  • 89% of marketers used influencers to create authentic content for their brand
  • 77% used them to drive engagement
  • 56% used them to drive traffic to their websites or landing pages

It should go without saying that the goal of the program should also align with the project brief. A successful influencer program is useless if its outcome does not address the ask of the client.

2. How Will We Measure Success?

For 2017, 78% of marketers have cited measuring the ROI of influencer marketing as a top challenge, making it important for agencies to identify which metrics they’ll monitor to measure the program’s success. Meanwhile, 81% of marketers cite engagement as their top metric for measuring influencer marketing success, meaning how many likes, shares and comments the various pieces of content received.

Marketers may also consider tracking traffic and conversions, especially if the program’s goal is an increase in sales. Using trackable links, promo codes and monitoring correlation are just a few ways an agency can propose tracking these markers.

3. Who Are the Right Influencers?

Marketers, repeat after us: fit over followers. One of the biggest mistakes we see marketers make when choosing potential influencers is focusing too much on the number of followers. What good is a million followers if they’re not the right audience for the brand? The personality, values and previous content of potential influencers have to be a good fit for the brand or the program will fail. And it may take a little research to find that information out.

When pitching potential influencers to clients, it’s helpful to include example posts that both demonstrate their fit with the brand and showcase the quality of their content. And even though it’s not the reason they were chosen, it may be smart to include their potential reach as well to strengthen the business case.

4. What Will They Create?

Once an agency has identified the influencer or influencers for the program, it’s time to decide what type of content they’ll create. Knowing the specific ask will help align client, agency and influencer expectations and will make reaching out to the influencer a much smoother process. It’s also easier to quote rates when the influencers have an idea about how much time and effort is expected of them.

Agencies should take into account the program goal, their desired measurement, as well as the influencers’ own content when deciding what to ask for. For example, don’t ask for a blog post if the influencer’s strength is photography.

Marketers also have to consider FTC regulations, which require influencers to disclose when content is part of a paid partnership. There are various ways to do this, but most often we see posts labeled with an #ad or #spon hashtag. It’s imperative that the branded content be just as compelling and entertaining as the rest of the influencer’s content—or else it will stick out like a sore thumb and the influencer’s audience won’t trust it.

5. Should We Pay Them?

To gift, or to pay: that is one of the most common client questions. And in order to answer it correctly, marketers must consider the pros and cons of both gifting and paying an influencer. The biggest pro of gifting is obvious—free marketing. But cons can include no guarantee of quality or positive sentiment, no control over the message and no ownership over the content that’s created. It also may be more difficult to find an influencer with good reach if they believe their value is worth more than just a free sample.

When you offer payment, those influencers with a strong, solid audience are more likely to be on board. Plus it gives marketers more creative, and legal, ownership of the content. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t matter whether an agency gifts or pays an influencer, a paid partnership must be disclosed to abide by FTC regulations.

Influencer rates vary and can depend on his or her follower count. According to a study done by Influence.co on Instagram influencer payment, the overall average cost per Instagram post was $ 271; an influencer with fewer than 1,000 followers (also called a micro-influencer) was $ 83 per post; and the average price for influencers with more than 100,000 followers was $ 763 per post.

When offering compensation to an influencer, agencies need to take into account the type of content they’re requesting, the influencer’s follower count, the project’s budget and FTC regulations.

Influencers aren’t just successful in attracting new business for brands; they also recruit more loyal customers. In fact, Forbes.com found that customers acquired through influencer marketing have a 37% higher retention rate. But without the right strategy in place, poorly planned influencer marketing can backfire—and both brands and influencers can run the risk of damaging their respective reputations, or even running into legal trouble. Agencies who take the time to ask and answer the right questions will not only gain the trust and confidence of their clients, but it will also set their influencer program up for success from the outset.

This post Influencer Marketing Ain’t Easy: 5 Client Questions to Answer Before They Ask originally appeared on Sprout Social.


Sprout Social

What Your Client Needs to Know Before Launching a Brand Advocacy Program

Clients rely on agencies for their expertise. It’s important to be a guiding light for the brands you work with in developing big initiatives, like the launch of an advocacy program. Having a tight circle of advocates is crucial in fortifying your client’s reputation and extending their reach to new and receptive audiences.

I’ve learned a lot about the do’s and don’t’s in leading brand advocacy and community initiatives here at Sprout Social, so I’m happy to walk you through some of the first steps and a few common hurdles involved in building a sustainable advocacy program from the ground up.

We initially started our All Stars program because I’d identified a handful of Sprout users who had established communities and were looked to for their social media expertise. So I wanted to create a program where we formalized our relationships with these customers, equipping them to be the best Sprout advocates they could be.

To give you a clear idea of what needs to be done in order to successfully launch a program like this, I’ve broken down my experience into a checklist:

Brand Advocacy Checklist

  • Foster an advocacy culture
  • Identify your advocates
  • Invite them to join
  • Provide value and make them feel important
  • Communicate consistently
  • Measure success

1. Foster Customer Advocacy Culture First

The foundation to brand advocacy is ensuring the brand itself is valuing its customers. So before shaping your strategy, you need a strong foundation of customer advocacy.

You’re already listening to customers and internalizing feedback, but ensuring this type of proactive culture is established makes advancing to brand advocacy possible.

2. Identifying Advocates

It’s time to learn more about your customers. The customers you’re looking for have a certain longevity on social, are active and spend more on or with your brand than your average consumer.

Companies should work with their customer success and social marketing teams to kick off the process of identifying potential advocates. Twitter and Instagram are the most viable social options since these platforms are the most searchable.

You can put Sprout’s Twitter Report to good use here, easily highlighting users that frequently interact with the brand by sharing content or through relevant conversations.

3. Inviting Advocates Into the Community

Make it a big deal. Make it official. Have a dedicated landing page, badges and internal communication around your program so advocates feel important and valued.

Give your advocates a platform to define their personal brand so they feel valued in their collaboration with you.

4. Provide More Value Than You Ask for in Return

If you don’t know what your customers will find valuable, ask!

It’s commonly thought that word of mouth recommendations happen organically, but what I’ve learned is it often doesn’t happen unless you ask. Sometimes a simple request is all it takes to remind your most engaged customers that you value their advocacy and the power of their recommendations.

Some intrinsically valuable perks you can offer your advocates:

  • Better access to your brand or team
  • Access to other advocates
  • Advanced product insight
  • Social media recognition
  • Speaking opportunities
  • Content collaboration
  • Prioritized customer service support
  • Tickets to industry events
  • Custom swag

On the flip side, be upfront about expectations and ask for things they’d be glad to do in return, increasing the ask as time goes on from more consumption-centric asks to more contributive asks. How you collaborate with them helps them see the value in being a brand advocate.

You can ask your advocates to:

  • Share content
  • Promote the brand through their social channels
  • Attend brand-hosted events
  • Nominate or vote for the brand for industry awards
  • Test new features
  • Refer customers
  • Host meetups
  • Share job postings

Keep the communication consistent and keep it exciting with new initiatives and creative opportunities to collaborate.

5. Communicate Consistently

Keep in mind that your advocates probably have full-time jobs and this program is a small part of their day to day. Take the care to establish a cadence in communicating with them.

We use our own advocacy platform, Bambu, to curate content for advocates to share and to keep them looped in on program communications.

Lastly, have patience. It takes time to incorporate advocacy as an organic, recurring behavior.

6. Show Value by Proving ROI

Advocacy programs can prove more value in the long term. Many of the upfront benefits aren’t as apparent, but here are three key things you can incorporate and focus on from the get-go that lend directly to evaluating ROI:

Referrals: New customers who have discovered your brand through one of your advocates.

References: Tapping advocates to help your sales team close deals more quickly and at a higher monthly recurring revenue.

Reviews: According to Retailing Today, 81% of shoppers research online before buying. Reviews solidify proof of value amongst customers.

It’s crucial when evaluating ROI to assess which metrics are most valuable to track. Setting up the right reports from the start is the key to measurable, quantitative data to inform your program’s growth.

The Don’ts of Launching a Brand Advocacy Program

The culture of brand advocacy is a celebratory one—your most excited customers rallying around your brand and your brand rallying around its most excited customers—but the business of organizing this program certainly comes with its own set of things to avoid.

Don’t incentivize solely with money: this incentivizes the wrong mindset and doesn’t lend to a long term relationship that’s valuable to both parties.

Don’t ask advocates to do things that you would pay employees to do: there are legal repercussions to this.

Don’t set up a program that’s one-sided: it’s key to make sure that what you’ve set up is a mutual exchange. Whatever you’re doing for them you’d gladly do, vice versa.

There’s a lot you learn in taking on a program launch like this. It takes time to gain traction and recognition among a community, but the benefits far outweigh the effort.

At Sprout, we’re fortunate to have amazing subscribers who we can partner and collaborate with to help move the industry forward by providing value and insight on real challenges social marketing professionals face.

Are you a Sprout Social customer and brand champion? Are you looking for opportunities to connect with your industry peers and continue learning new and best practices in social media marketing? We’d love you to join our All Stars brand advocacy community. Click here to submit your info to join!

This post What Your Client Needs to Know Before Launching a Brand Advocacy Program originally appeared on Sprout Social.


Sprout Social

10 Tools That You Need to Use Before You Start Your Next Business

startup

Starting a new business takes a ton of work.

Even with your initial passion, it’s never an easy undertaking.

There are a great number of things that you need to research, plan out, get created, etc. before you “launch.”

And you’ll always be wondering, “Did I forget anything?”

What I’ve put together here is a list of great tools that you’ll want to know about, and possibly use, before you start your next business.

They cover the most important and common things you’ll need to address.

These tools will help you do them faster, cheaper, and/or better than you would be able to do otherwise.

Wherever possible, I’ve given you both a free and paid version to choose from. 

Market research tools

When you have a business idea, first you need to confirm that it’s a good idea.

Basically, you need to answer two questions:

  • Is there a market for this type of product or service (if so, how big)?
  • Will that market like my product or service?

Those are the most important questions to answer. Beyond that, it’s helpful to know how the market is distributed (by location or medium) and whether it will grow in the future.

These tools will help you gain insight into your market.

1. Google Shopping Insights: You’ve probably heard of Google Trends but maybe not the Shopping Insights tool.

They do similar things, but this tool is geared much more towards business in the US.

If part of your market is in the US, you’ll want to use this tool.

It’s simple to use. Just type in a specific product (e.g., a competitor’s product) or a general type of product:

image15

As an example, I put in “microwave ovens,” which gave me these results:

image04

There are two main things you get from these results.

The first is that you learn whether there are any places that are much more interested in your type of product than others. In this example, it’s clear the the states on the East Coast buy many more microwaves than on the West Coast (who knew?).

In addition, if you look at the graph on the bottom, you can see the popularity of searches related to buying microwaves.

You don’t get absolute numbers—this is a relative scale. But you can see whether your product type is trending up or down in popularity.

A graph like the one above, where searches have more than doubled in about 2 years, is perfect to see. It shows that your market is still likely growing.

2. QWILR’s Ad spend calculator: Getting traffic for your new business from the start is tough. There won’t be much organic traffic right away, and even content marketing takes a while to get going.

That leaves you with your standard public relations and paid advertising for the most part.

This ad spend calculator is great for two reasons:

  • It makes a complicated topic simple
  • Everything is based on real numbers

The tool guides you through a few questions where you input one or two numbers about your business to find what your target CPC (cost per click) should be.

To start with, you’re asked about your average revenue per month as well as your churn rate.

Obviously, you don’t have actual data to use, but you can make a good estimate on the revenue side.

image02

You can also use industry standards for churn rate. I went with 5% as an example even though that’s not a good churn rate.

If you’re selling individual products and don’t have recurring income, just put 100% here.

That’s one big area down. Next up is your customer acquisition cost.

You need to answer how long you’re willing to wait until you recoup your initial cost. While patience is good, if you wait too long, you might run out of money.

The tool provides default values, which are good for most cases.

image09

Finally, you’re asked to estimate a conversion rate of your traffic to the site.

This will allow the tool to calculate a CPC:

image01

I left out one or two basic questions, but you get the point. In a quick example illustrated above, I found that my hypothetical business could pay up to $ 0.66 per click (visitor).

Use this tool to plan your initial advertising budget for the first few months.

3. SurveyMonkey: One thing that all good business launching guides will tell you to do is talk to your market.

The only feedback about your idea and product that you must listen to is from your potential customers.

If you know some of your potential customers in real life already, you might be able to interview them in person (or through Skype).

That’s the best option.

But when that’s not an option, consider using SurveyMonkey.

Originally, the tool was used to create surveys and collect answers, but now it can do much more.

Most importantly, you can pay a modest fee and get your survey sent to a panel of survey takers.

image07

While you won’t get perfect targeting, it’ll be pretty accurate, and the results you get will help you design your product and know which features to focus on.

4. Buzzsumo: I’ve mentioned Buzzsumo in many previous lists but need to include it here for anyone who doesn’t know about it. I’ll keep it brief.

Buzzsumo allows you to search for a keyword and see the most popular articles that focus on it (based on social shares):

image14

Immediately, you’ll be able to see which social network is most popular with your target audience.

On top of that, you can enter the URL of a competitor and find their most popular content.

image16

Those results will help you plan your content marketing and learn about the main problems of your market (the more popular, the bigger the problem).

Putting together your first impression

The next area of a business launch is your product and website (which may be one and the same).

The tools in this section will help you with your branding and creating a favorable first impression.

5. NameMesh: Every business and website needs a name. You probably already know that it can be difficult to find a good one that’s actually available for registration (without paying thousands of dollars for it).

Even if you’re good at coming up with names, it might take you an hour or two to do so.

NameMesh is a free tool that may be able to help you with this.

To use it, type in 2-3 words that describe main features of your business.

For example, if I were starting a business that helped others bring their product ideas to life, I could enter:

  • Product creation
  • Product life
  • Product idea creation

image00

Think of as many combinations as you can to improve your chances of finding a good one.

The tool will automatically try hundreds of combinations and see whether the domains are available. You will get a final list of what you could register:

image10

There are tons of other free tools like this. You can find them by searching for “domain name generator.”

6. Name Geniuses: Sometimes you can find a great name with those free generators, but most of the results aren’t very good. You get what you pay for.

Name Geniuses is not free; it’s a pay-what-you-want tool with a $ 20 minimum that allows you to crowdsource your domain name.

Basically, you pick the amount you want to pay. A large portion of this payment is offered as a prize to a few hundred users on the site.

These users come up with domain names (that are available) and submit them to you. Then, you pick a winner whenever you want.

The good part from your perspective is that only the winner gets paid. This incentivizes users to spend a lot of effort to come up with names that are much better than those created by a free generator.

To use the tool, answer a few questions about your business idea:

image17

Then, your project goes on the job board once you pay for it.

Depending on what you pay, you’ll get anywhere from 50 suggestions to hundreds:

image11

By all means, come up with your own name, but this can save you hours of time and potentially generate an even better name.

7. DesignMantic: After the name, comes the logo. While it’s sometimes optional, you’ll likely need some sort of logo.

DesignMantic is a tool that is very quick and simple to use.

All you do is type in your company name and then choose what industry it’s in:

image03

It will quickly generate several logos you can use, complete with your business name:

image05

They’re obviously going to be generic, but they’re fairly attractive and will work as temporary logos.

8. 99Designs: At some point, you’ll need a unique, professional logo. No free tool will do that for you.

You can cheap out on a designer from Fiverr, but that will cost you more in the long run and won’t get you a much better result than what you’ll get from the free tools.

99Designs is another crowdsourcing site/tool I really like.

You buy a package and then get tons of designs (30+) from different designers.

image06

Again, you pick the winner, and they get paid.

Just about all the designs are of great quality, so you can’t go wrong.

Payroll and accounting

The tools in this final group have varying levels of importance.

They will help you manage incoming and outgoing payments, which just about all businesses need to do.

If you’re starting really small, you can probably handle it manually, but I recommend using tools to simplify things (and keep them accurate) once you have a decent cash flow.

On top of that, if you have employees right off the bat, you need to make sure they’re paid on time and that their taxes are taken care of. Hire an accountant, or use these tools.

9. Freshbooks: If you have a service-based business that requires you to send out invoices on a regular basis, Freshbooks is a great tool to help you stay organized.

image13

The time it’ll save you on generating invoices alone is probably worth the cost. On top of that, it will also let you send payments if you work with any freelancers or buy products for your business.

You can then generate reports of all your invoices, expenses, and payments, which will make doing your taxes much easier.

How much does it cost? Not much.

Depending on whether you’re going to allow any employees to use the tool as well (you could have them handle invoicing and expensing, etc.), you’re looking at $ 30-40 a month:

image18

10. ZenPayroll: This is a great tool that helps you handle employees as you grow. You may not need it right away, but keep it in mind because you might in the future.

The main purpose of ZenPayroll, as the name suggests, is to make your payroll simple.

It automatically takes care of setting up taxes for new employees and paying contractors (and taking care of their tax needs), and it can even be set up to do automatic tax filings for you.

Keep in mind that this tool is made for the US. As far as I know, it won’t work as well in other countries.

As far as the pricing, it’s very simple: you pay a base fee and then an extra $ 6 for each person you add (all per month):

image12

You can then configure it so that you just have to add new employees, and it will get all their tax and payment information set up without you having to do anything:

image08

For small- to medium-sized companies, it’s more or less HR and accounting departments in one simple tool.

Conclusion

You have a long road in front of you.

By all means, expect to put in a lot of work. However, if you have a problem that can be solved by the tools I’ve given you, take advantage of them.

To end off, I’ve got to ask you whether I’ve left any tools off this list that you love. I know that I haven’t included every tool in the world here. Please share any of your favorites in a comment below.


Quick Sprout

11 Ways to Accelerate Page Load Time Before Your Prospects Bounce

Science of Speed
This photo is called “Split second before motorcycle crash” — no joke. Image via Skitterphoto.

The creative is stellar.

Headline and value prop impactful. Hero image delightful.

But peeps ain’t converting.

Because the single biggest conversion killer is lurking behind the scenes, completely untouched.

Which is a shame, because speed (or lack thereof) often has a bigger impact on campaign conversions than any of that other stuff.

The impact of speed

Google experienced a 20% traffic drop years ago as a result of a 0.5 second delay — 0.5!

Think that’s bad? If an ecommerce page fails to load in under 3 seconds, it stands to lose nearly half its traffic. As a result, some of the savviest online brands now load in under a second. Less than one second!

The impact of speed only becomes exacerbated on mobile, where limited processing power and spotty connections are the norm. According to Kinsta’s excellent page speed guide74% of people on mobile would abandon if the page doesn’t load in 5 seconds.

Mobile data
Image via Kinsta.

And this is a world where mobile internet usage is fast outpacing desktop. Where a single conversion event isn’t limited to a single page.

The point? If pages aren’t loading, ain’t nobody converting.

Yes, your headline is important. The value prop needs to be clear. A beautiful page is nice to have. Social proof critical to adding credibility.

But if fast loading times aren’t happening, then landing page conversions aren’t either.

Here’s how to fix that.

(Please note that you’ll probably need some technical help to implement some of the following recommendations.)

Page speed TLDR

Accelerate your page load time with these 11 tips and tricks

Grab the 300-word summary of Brad Smith’s actionable post.
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1. Clean up your code

Tidy code doesn’t just make your developer happy, it makes pages load quicker, too.

Reducing the size of site files, especially front-end ones, can have a big impact. Even small issues like excess spaces, indentations, line breaks and superfluous tags can hurt your page load time.

JavaScript is fun. It allows you add little details, like that funny snake or tail that follows a user’s mouse pointer around the screen. Clever! (Sarcasm!) Often, though, JavaScript can be overkill on a landing page. Same with Ajax and other similar extravagances.

Instead, KISS. If you focus on simplicity, there’s (almost) no need for extra stuff.

But if you’re dead-set on keeping your precious scripts (read that in your best Gollum/Sméagol voice), at least load your above-the-fold content first, which is Google’s recommended method.

Gollum
Whoa, someone’s touchy about their scripts. Image via GIPHY.

Find out how your page’s JavaScript is loading with Varvy’s handy JavaScript Usage Tool, and then work on optimizing.

2. Minify HTML & CSS

Jumping on the reducing requests bandwagon, minifying HTML and CSS will help you to package and deliver page data in the most streamlined way possible.

Admittedly, we’re getting out of my comfort zone here. If you’re confident in your technical ability, check out this helpful article. Otherwise open up Google’s PageSpeed Insights, drop in your URL and then send the results to a trusted developer.

3. Utilize GZIP compression

GZIP compression deals with content encoding to again minimize server requests made by your browser. Ouch — that sentence made my brain hurt.

In non-technical terms, GZIP compression reduces your file sizes to enable faster load times. If a more detailed explanation piques your interest, here’s a helpful article.

Use GIDNetwork to see what the current compression on your site looks like now, as well as to get a few ideas of how it could be improved. (Insert helpful developer here.)

4. Minimize redirects

301 redirects are a standard SEO-friendly practice used to tell both search engines and visitors that a page has permanently moved to a new location. It’s a common best practice used when campaigns and sites evolve or change over time, and can help you cut down on broken links or 404 errors.

Computer error
404 errors make everyone angry. Image via Giphy.

Trouble is, too many redirects can also negatively impact speed. So the question is: How many? In typical fashion, Google’s answer is vague — they simply suggest minimizing or trying to eliminate them all together, because they cause extra network trips to verify data (which can be a killer on mobile devices especially).

Screaming Frog can help by quickly identifying all of the redirects currently on your site. In the example below, we found a little over 14% of Runnersworld.com pages contain a redirect. Ouch.

Screaming Frog
How do you get a frog to scream? Toad-al up your redirects.

The key is to dig deeper. What types of redirects are you seeing and why? What are they trying to accomplish? Looking at the example above, there seems to be a lot of temporary 302 redirects from social sharing platforms that can probably be cleaned up to avoid slowing page speed. Here’s a detailed guide from Varvy for more.

5. Relocate scripts

Believe it or not, even script placement can affect load times.

For example, if your tracking scripts are located above the fold or in the <head> of your landing page, your browser will have to download and deal with those scripts before getting to the stuff people actually come to see (like the page content).

It should also go without saying that having duplicate scripts (which is pretty common when multiple people are working on the same page) will slow things down a bit.

And do you really need five analytics packages on that landing page? Probably not. Like most things you’ve read so far, simplify and minimize to reduce the back-and-forth between browsers and servers.

6. Limit WordPress plugins

“Easy.” you say. “Obvious!” you exclaim.

If it’s really so easy, then open up WordPress right now and look at how many plugins your team has installed for simple things like social sharing or tracking. Things that can — and should — be done by a professional so you can completely avoid having to install these plugins in the first place.

The problem is: taking a bunch of third-party tools built by different people and shoehorning them into a Frankenstein-esque page is a recipe for disaster.

If you’d like to diagnose which plugins are worth keeping and which need to be deactivated immediately, you’re not going to like the answer… add another plugin!

P3 (or the Plugin Performance Profiler) will measure your site’s plugin performance and measure their impact on load times. At least you can rest assured knowing that this one will serve some utility while it’s installed.

7. Upgrade hosting

If you have plans to someday make money from your website (so probably everyone reading this blog), paying $ 3 per month for Godaddy hosting is not going to cut it.

One big reason is that many cheap hosting solutions are shared, meaning you’re sharing server space with many other sites (whose own performance might drag down yours).

That might also mean limited control over what you’re able to affect or change to improve things like site speed. This is especially true for ecommerce sites, which can experience sudden traffic jumps and contain many large media files. Simply put, hosting can make or break your campaign.

If you know what you’re doing, PCMag does a decent job ranking and rating dedicated web hosting services.

Best web hosting

If you’re less sure of what you’re doing or would simply like to not worry about it, a managed hosting option is preferable. This is especially true for WordPress websites — besides speed improvements you’re also getting extra security against external threats plus backups for internal mistakes. The aforementioned Kinsta, WP Engine and Pagely are some of the most popular choices.

8. Resize images

Death, taxes and people not resizing images before uploading them. These are universal truths you can always count on. Also, Mashable publishing terrible articles.

Tweet “Death, taxes & people not resizing images before uploading them. These are universal truths you can always count on.”

Asking browsers to automatically squeeze your original 1200px image down to 600px every time your landing page is loaded, multiplied across all visits for all pages and posts, creates a ton of unnecessary extra work. (Especially on mobile devices with limited processing power and relatively poor connectivity.)

Ideally, resize images before uploading them to the server. If that’s too much work (I ain’t judging, I’m lazy too), at least use WordPress’ built-in tool to resize images for you.

Image resizer

Taking this time-consuming, menial step helps you limit potential errors in mediocre browsers like Internet Explorer, because, well, everything causes errors in Internet Explorer (or whatever they’re calling it these days).

9. Compress images

After resizing your images, the next step should be to compress them to again reduce file size.

This is another often overlooked step, with an infographic from Radware claiming that 45%(!) of the top 100 ecommerce sites don’t compress images.

But optimizing your images can be a low-hanging-fruit approach to quickly speed up loading times, drastically reducing the amount of space — and work — they require.

There are a number of fast, free tools out there, like TinyJPG or Compressor.io, which can significantly reduce file size. The test seen below using Compressor.io resulted in a 73% reduction! Multiply that across all of your landing page images and we’re talking serious results.

Image compressor screenshot

10. Deliver Images with a CDN

See a pattern here yet?

Delivering images with a Content Delivery Network (or CDN) is like calling in reinforcements from servers located closer to your site’s visitors. That means it will try to use the closest ones first, using every trick in the book to cut down on the time and effort required to deliver content from server to a user’s browser.

Popular ones like CloudFlare and MaxCDN can drastically improve performance on highly visual sites.

Image CDN
Image via Cloudflare.

11. External Hosting

Another prudent option is to move large files, like images, audio or video, off of your servers entirely and use an external hosting platform like Imgur for images or Wistia for videos.

While we’ve beat the importance of image size to a metaphorical death already, bigger files like audio and video should almost always be hosted externally.

That’s critical, because rich media adoption is immense. It’s predicted that a whopping 74% of internet traffic in 2017 will be video.

Beyond the performance issues, external hosting providers also offer additional benefits like increased audience reach or features that increase interactions and conversions. Wistia founder Chris Savage lays out a few more reasons why external hosting is a good idea, if you’re interested.

Conclusion

74% of people would leave a site if it doesn’t load within 5 seconds. Which means that even if you’re leveraging all the best practices in the world to get those conversions, people won’t stick around long enough to actually see any of it.

Page speed improvements can range from the basic (upgrading your hosting and removing unnecessary plugins) to the more advanced (minifying files). But anything is certainly better than nothing. Even paying extra attention to how you’re uploading images can go a long way to improving performance.

Yes, implementing all of these changes will be a time-consuming process. No doubt. But it’s also the best way to give your landing pages a fighting chance to convert visitors.


Unbounce

15 Things to Check Before Launching a New Website

Thousands of websites are launched daily and the majority of these are incomplete websites, either because the owners do not really mind imperfection or because they have simply forgotten. The problem is, this can affect the website’s credibility and authority.

If you are a web designer, developer, or someone whose business will soon rely on your website, be sure to keep in mind these fifteen items that you need to check before launching your website. By doing so, I assure you that you will have the smoothest launch ever, without a hitch!

Check These Things Before Launching Your Site

1. Website Copy

It is important to have everything written and proofread before launching. Quite often, mistakes in copy, no matter how minor, will take away the credibility of the entire website. This is particularly true if you are offering your services on your website.

Another thing you need to make sure of before launching is to avoid publishing pages without actual content, never write “coming soon” or something similar. Do not launch if you don’t have the content for important pages like About Us, FAQ, and the like.

2. Contact Details

If your website involves selling a product or your services, it is crucial to have your contact details visible on the site. Phone number, email address, and mailing address. Without this, your website’s credibility might take a dive.

If you are located outside of the US and you must use a 1-800 number, you can use VOIP services like Skype for a US number that you can use.

Contact Details

3. Meta Description

Meta descriptions do not play a significant role in SEO, but they are what people see on search results. And if people don’t like what they’re seeing on the search results, they most likely will not click. So, be sure to optimize your site to include a descriptive but brief title and description.

4. Site Security

Every day there are thousands of websites that are being hacked, and it doesn’t matter if the targeted website is a high-volume website or a new one. Personal and financial information can still be at risk. If you are not a web developer by trade, be sure to have an expert check your website’s source code for potential security flaws. If you are one, be sure to check the latest hacks, cracks, SQL injections, and XSS vulnerabilities.

If you are using a WordPress website, I highly recommend installing WordFence Security. It will notify you about the changes in your website, it will block unwarranted logins, notify you of the things you need to update, and other important security details.

5. Legal Pages

I’m talking about pages like Terms and Conditions, Terms of Use, Terms of Service, Refund Policy, and Privacy Policy, whichever applies to you. These pages are important in order for you to cover the legalities involved in people using your website, from copyrights, use of cookies, and information about your company. If you are using WordPress, you can install a plugin called Auto Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Otherwise, feel free to generate your own on Termsfeed.

6. JavaScript Independence

JavaScript brings a lot of client-side functionality to every website, and it’s lightweight too. But not every browser is created equal, and some have their JavaScript turned off for whatever reason, important or they just don’t know how to turn it on (after mysteriously turning it off). If you do not ensure JavaScript independence, your website may look like it’s broken or incomplete to other visitors.

Try turning off your browser’s JavaScript and browse around your website. If it looks broken, then you need to fix that.

7. Backup

Your web host will most likely keep a backup of your website, but don’t put too much faith in them. Most web hosts are not good at keeping backups, unless you are paying them hundreds to thousands of dollars every month. Set a cron job for nightly or weekly backup, depending on your needs, and have the backups saved on a different location independent from your host.

If you are using WordPress, you can install a plugin called Dropbox Backup which will download all of your database and save it to your Dropbox account automatically at your own set intervals.

8. Cross-Platform Compatibility

A newbie mistake is to not check your website across several devices and different screens. It doesn’t mean your website looks good on your browser (however you resize it) it will look good on every device’s screen. For this, you can use BrowserShots to quickly see if your site looks good on every device.

Cross Platform Compatibility

9. CRM Integration

If the purpose of your website is to capture leads, be sure to choose a CRM that you can integrate well with your website. This is to make things smoother and automatic. For example, you can use Mailchimp and HubSpot CRM to automate your sending and labeling of your subscribers. When someone subscribes to your mailing list, your CRM’s automation will kick in and will email them. When someone replies, AKA a hot lead, your CRM will place that person on high priority and proceed with whatever automation you’ve set.

A lot of websites don’t do this. And they are missing out on a lot of leads.

10. Defensive Design

Once in a while a hiccup in your website will occur and people will land on non-existent pages. Sometimes they even land on pages that they shouldn’t have access to. Be sure to check every possible security risk in your website and block public access to those, and of course, when you block people on specific pages, you need to tell them why. In this case, a beautiful 404 page will do to tell rowdy visitors that they shouldn’t be there, or that the page does not actually exist.

Example: Huwshimi
Huwshimi

11. SEO

Great content is good, but if you are aiming to rank your site higher on search engines, be sure to keep in mind SEO as well. Do your research on the keywords you will use on your website’s headlines and body, as well as your meta keywords and descriptions.

12. Validation

Your SEO will not matter much if your website fails on standard HTML and CSS validation. This is important because this is how web crawlers read your website. If it fails in that, search engines will most likely set your website to low priority and you can say goodbye to your dream of ranking your site high on search engines, especially Google.

13. Secure Certificate

If your website accepts payments or other vital information from your users, be sure to use SSL protection for your website. Even though regular users don’t understand the technicalities behind it, they still understand that SSL or https is more secure, and that your site can be trusted.

Secure Certificate

14. Analytics

I’ve seen many developers and designers launch their and their clients’ websites without adding analytics to it. How can you measure the effectiveness of your website if you don’t have an idea how many people are visiting it? This is a very basic mistake, so basic that people just tend to not put much thought into it. So, yeah, be sure to install one!

15. Favicon

Don’t let people think that your website is broken. While a favicon doesn’t serve any purpose at all, except for the fact that it identifies your tab on browsers, it still pays a lot to have one ready. A blank favicon on your tab (yes, it’s that tiny icon on your tab next to your site’s name) will make people think that your website is somewhat incomplete, which it actually is.

Conclusion

These are the best ways to make sure the launch of your or your client’s site goes smoothly. Of course you will find, even after following these steps, that tweaks will be needed along the way – that is a fact of life in the world of development!

Do you use a checklist of steps to ensure before launch, or do you simply commit these steps to memory? Please share your opinion with us in the comments section below.


Onextrapixel – Web Design and Development Online Magazine

10 Things A Web Developer Must Do Before He Dies

It’s all too easy for web developers to fall into a rut where they focus on nothing beyond the assignment at hand. While you may be working on many interesting and worthwhile applications, it can also be good to broaden your horizons. This can even help you with your work. You never know how a new experience might inspire you to create something brilliant that everyone will be talking about. Previously, we talked about what are the places a web designer must visit before he die, with this in mind, here are ten things that every web developer should do before they die.

1. Create a Free Game App

While you naturally want to make a living and get paid for your work, creating a viral game app could be your best chance at fame and fortune. Of course, there is no guarantee that anyone will download your free app, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the attempt. The great thing about this type of project is you can have fun with it and create something that’s in line with your interests and talents. The thing about game apps is that they are often addictive, which is what makes them go viral. Even if it turns out to be a flop, you can always share it with your kids, nieces and nephews.

2. Climb Mount Everest

What does a Himalayan expedition have to do with your career as a web developer? Absolutely nothing, which is exactly why you should do it. This gives you a chance to show the world your versatility and free spirit. You aren’t just another dull web professional, but a world traveler who happens to make his living in a technical field in between adventures. If Mount Everest seems a little too ambitious, you can at least visit Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon and post plenty of pictures to prove you actually left your house and made the journey.

Climb Mount Everest
Image credit: 123rf

3. Build an App That No One But You Understands

If you want to convince the world that you are brilliant, you must create things that are so complex and incomprehensible that only you can understand them. In this case, the application doesn’t even have to work. It’s enough to make a bold attempt. For example, you could create an app that measures the number of neutrinos in a room. Is this even possible? Probably not, but if you create an application for it you will still impress people with your originality and ambition. If someone calls you out on its limitations, you can always say that the bugs will be removed in the next version.

4. Attend a High Profile Conference

Attending a conference with the industry’s leading experts helps to position you as a leader in your field. If you can get your picture taken with someone famous, so much the better. Try to choose a conference in a glamorous location, such as a European capital or at least Las Vegas. It doesn’t matter too much if you actually learn anything at the conference. People mainly attend conferences to network and be seen, so all you really have to do is show up and take some pictures to prove you were there.

5. Run a Marathon

Doing something athletic, whether it’s running a marathon, competing in a triathlon or entering a bodybuilding contest helps you break the stereotype of the nerdy web developer. It allows you to develop a well-rounded persona. If you are lazy, you can simply devote a few months to training and competing in a high visibility event. Then even if you go back to being a couch potato, you will still have pictures and maybe a certificate that proves you participated in at least one endeavor requiring physical prowess.

Run a Marathon
Image credit: 123rf

6. Build a Website That Reaches the First Page of Google

Even though you are a web developer and not an SEO specialist, it helps your credibility if you can point to at least one website that comes up on the first page of the search engines. If you are having trouble with this, choose a topic that is sufficiently obscure that doesn’t have much competition. That way, the next time you’re at a party you can boast, “By the way, I designed the world’s leading website on aardvark racing.” If you need ideas, do some research on the topic of long tail keyword phrases and build a website around the most obscure keywords you can come up with.

7. Organize a Fundraiser

You may have noticed that people now talk more about Bill Gates’ foundation and charitable work than his software company. While you may not be in the position to start a billion dollar charity, you could do something similar on a smaller scale. Pick a worthy cause, and organize an event to raise money for it. As a web developer, it should be easy enough for you to create an impressive website for the cause. You could run a local event or perhaps raise money via crowdfunding online. Either way, this is a chance to establish your legacy as someone who has made a real difference in the world!

8. Teach A Class

Want to impress people with your brilliance and expertise? If you’re a web development professional, you are more than qualified to teach a course to beginners. This can be online, at your local community college or even in your garage. When you teach something, you immediately gain new status as an expert. Millions of people, from part time bloggers to owners of pizza parlors and dog grooming schools want to learn how to build websites or learn some basic programming or graphics skills, so why not be the one to teach them?

Teach A Class
Image credit: 123rf

9. Learn an Esoteric Programming Language

Learning at least one obscure or esoteric programming language helps set you apart from your more ordinary competitors. It shows you have a deep interest in your field and are willing to explore its more arcane levels. There is, for example, a language called Shakespeare Programming Language which actually uses lines from the great playwright’s work to form the code. Knowing such a language will impress both other web developers and the general public.

10. Pull Some Cool Pranks

As a web developer, you have the power to do evil things as well as being constructive. You have to be careful with this, as you don’t want to get fired or sued. However, as long as your employer, co-workers or clients have any sense of humor whatsoever, you can have a little fun once in a while. You can use your imagination here. You might make some subtle but disturbing changes to a website, such as turning some text and images upside down. Or perhaps you could randomly translate some of the text into an obscure foreign language such as Tibetan or Finnish. If you give it some thought, you can probably come up with lots of April Fool’s style pranks that can be even more fun on other days, when people won’t be expecting them.

Conclusion

These suggestions are meant to help web developers become more versatile and creative people. The real point here is that you don’t always have to conform to the public’s stereotype of a web professional. You can show the world that you can be creative and unpredictable.


Onextrapixel – Web Design and Development Online Magazine

Why Most Startups Fail Before They Start

It’s the age of quitting your job to start a blog that will make you an internet millionaire, or so say the ads for people who want to teach you how to start a blog (or “strat” a blog as one former client of mine says on their front page after they decided proofreading wasn’t something they needed).

There are more legitimate startups (or stratups” as my former client says) every day but most are doomed even before the owner decides to look around for free design and content for his/her success and nothing can stop that speeding freight train of incompetence and lack of understanding reality!

Why Most Startups Fail Before They Start
Image credit: Bigstockphoto

What Makes A Startup Fail

It’s Business… With Business Costs!

As with any business venture, it takes research, planning and a “roll-with-the-punches” ability to understand the need for change as fast as one can when the target audience demands it. Most MBAs know that. But, with all the talk on Facebook and stories of internet millionaires, people seem to think there’s a 60mps highway to overnight success. Being the psycho magnet I am, both with women and clients, I can honestly say I have seen some of the worst examples of planning, or rather no planning on the parts of excited and clueless entrepreneurs.

Business Costs
Image credit: Bigstockphoto

Perhaps you’ve been the victim of a startup that fails to start… or pay? I learnt very quickly to spot the red flags, as they were usually shoved into my eye sockets by those who were either too far in the stratosphere to come down to Earth and the law of gravity or those who believed themselves smarter than the “artsy-guy” they would get work from for “peanuts.”

The “Fastlane”

Lately, with my reputation with design and tech blogs, I receive a disturbing amount of contacts from startups that ask me to write for them… after I write ABOUT them for my blogging clients (they’ll talk about design later). The money will, of course, be discussed later.

Firstly, it’s unethical to use such connections for personal gain. Yes, I have spotlighted some great apps, software and other things that serve the readers (usually with other options of the same ilk wherever possible) but to ask for such a thing (many blogs do “sponsored posts” — advertorials of a sort with a small disclaimer attached) is ridiculous and slimy. Secondly… it just doesn’t work!

The Fastlane
Image credit: Bigstockphoto

The ridiculous belief is that kissing up to a similar, larger blog or website will kindle a friendship that evolves into kisses and hugs, long walks on the beach and the larger site constantly linking back to the startup. NOPE!

Then there’s the search for virality. Creating content that will, like a recent video or meme, be shared by a hundred million users because that happens all the time. Personally, excluding kitten and puppy videos, there’s only 193 viral content pieces on the internet that keep going around via Facebook and Twitter.

The Finances

An office, computers, furniture, a location in the best part of town (because internet clients drop by all the time for face-to-face meetings) and a much needed company car for $ 80,000 to “keep up appearances” cost a startup a lot of capital, so why would some “designer” expect to be paid? Startups that demand free work will never respect you or their customers, so that’s a big red flag.

As one failed attempt to come to a contractual agreement brought out the best in startup business ethics, I tried to create a laundry list of tasks against a fee. The startup, in the end, made one addition to the contract. It said, “and anything else we deem necessary.”

Wasting Money
Image credit: Bigstockphoto

I believe they call that, “SLAVERY!” At least they had money but they just didn’t feel like parting with as much of it as I wanted. I joked that this contract term would keep me working until the day I died (legally, it DID!). I did, however, through the back and forth of negotiating, learn more about their business ethics… which were non-existent.

Obviously it didn’t work out and they never launched. I suppose there is a designer out there still crying about the unpaid bill or legally dead promises of “future work and millions of dollars for everybody!”

I have found that one simple request for startups without capital for design separates the serious startups from… are there serious startups when it comes to paid design work? I tell them that their promises of future money, success and inclusion as their creative director can easily be contractual by giving me a percentage of the company they want me to gamble my time and money upon. No one has ever gone for that.

Be Realistic!

One startup “idea guy” contacted me while I was working fulltime and pitched an idea I thought was completely stupid. It cost me a lunch hour (he was buying) to listen to his pitch. I was going to do everything. I gave him a figure for me to quit my job and work on his idea. He didn’t blink. I was shocked he didn’t react like a crazy person. Later I would find out THAT was his psychotic reaction – a quiet, slow burn.

He called me the next day to ask if I would allow three payments over a period of time, rather than an upfront retainer of one payment. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t think it would go this far. I didn’t want to quit my job but I had quoted him a high price and it looked like he was going for it. Then came the meeting with his partner.

Unrealistic
Image credit: Bigstockphoto

We went to a very ritzy highrise in Midtown Manhattan and the front desk concierge told us the partner was coming down to meet us. This building was so high class, there was only a big stone slab in the spacious lobby and that’s where the shorts and T-shirt wearing partner had us sit for our meeting.

He didn’t mention my fee but kept telling me what an “honor” it was for me to have his partner interested in working with me. After a bone-crushing hour of sitting on a stone slab, twisting my spine to look at each partner on either side of me, I said, “well I’ll get started once I have your cleared check!”

A week later the young partner called me and asked how long it would take me to have the website put together (lots of illustrations had to be done first as content). I reminded him that I had to be paid, the illustrators had to be paid and then everything could be put together in about a month.

“It has to be done in a week!” the partner screamed.

I explained the logistics and why it would take a month but he claimed it was too long and I blew my chance. Played to the end I expected.

As with all startups who approach me, I check their URL every now and then to see if they were successful and should I kick myself. In every case, they never launched but this one site actually did… a year later, although filled with lots of “coming soon” pages. It stayed that way for a couple of years until I guess they didn’t want to pay for hosting any more.

In one fit of honesty, while having to listen to a startup whine about not having any funds for design work, I asked them why they’d pay for phone service and not design service. “you could use your existing cell phone for that!” I pointed out. The blank stare and abrupt end of the Skype conversation told me they didn’t plan to pay for design work.

No Sense!

Think of it this way: if there’s such a lack of financial planning to cover all professional services and you are asked to provide free work, what other bad business decisions are being made? Seven months with a former client, another ill-fated startup, gave me a good look at the inner workings of supreme incompetence.

Frustrated
Image credit: Bigstockphoto

The lessons in how not to start a website business were an everyday occurrence. Here’s a step-by-step list of how to spot an incompetent startup by their actions:

  1. They don’t have a business plan in place BEFORE obtaining funding so everything is covered.
  2. The owner can’t decide who will do what. If two or more people are posting on the startup social media accounts, chances are one of those people has a problem relating to people and will post insane things, hurting the brand.
  3. They publish the website before everything is in place! Launching too soon and continuing to build their site while people visit is dangerous. On the site I worked with, the owner kept adding guides in niche interests, while the social media drew traffic to the site based on the promise there was something for everyone. People who went to the site and found information for three minor niches and not the one they wanted went elsewhere and will NEVER RETURN!
  4. An MBA from Full Sail University means nothing. I fell asleep on my keyboard once and when I woke up I had an MBA from an online university. If the owner doesn’t listen to the experts he/she hired and lets them do their jobs, then how successful can their startup ever be?
  5. The owner has a brilliant idea of paying “top bloggers” to mention the website as a way of getting around the ethics of a website that values its trusted professional reputation among its loyal followers. It won’t work and the website name will get around as a “shifty site.”
  6. They buy followers for Twitter or “likes” for Facebook. It’s only trouble in the end. If going for quality followers, rather than a quantity of followers made up of spammers, scammers, and 13 year-olds looking for follow numbers is the way they are going to build a following, remember that it’s better to have 500 followers that listen to messages, posts/tweets than 10,000 that are made up of 9,000 inactive accounts, 500 people selling followers, 100 or so followers who only tweet quotes from dead people and 400 totally unrelated followers that have no interest in the website.
  7. The owner is impatient! Success takes hard work, dedication and constant evolution. Will the owner foolishly think his/her business is at a point where he/she believes everything will run itself? Page ranking can drop in a matter of hours. With great content, more and more people will come to the site. It takes years – not weeks or months for the average business to start to really find it’s audience and success. Anyone who tells you it’s not the case doesn’t know what’s needed. RUN!

Snowed Under
Image credit: Bigstockphoto

Conclusion

The internet has made more millionaires in ten years than all of U.S. history (and without the “robber Baron” attitude), so everybody wants to get on board. There are over a million “How to Start Your Own Blog” websites out there, promising the sky and only delivering hot air. People dream, hope and look for the easy way to succeed. They need logos and web design, apps and other delights only a professional designer can provide… and they all want it for free. The wrong people are becoming millionaires!


Onextrapixel – Web Design and Development Online Magazine