Is Amazon the go-to search engine this holiday season?

Is Amazon the go-to search engine this holiday season?

Almost everyone knows that the overwhelming majority (93%) of online experiences begin with a search engine, but when you’re looking to finish off your holiday shopping list, what search engine do you go to? Amazon or Google?

In 2012, a Forrester report found that 30% of all online shoppers start research products at Amazon. Wordtracker even went so far as to say that “Amazon has not only topped Google as the number one shopping search engine, but has attracted droves of individual and corporate sellers to its marketplace.”

Apparently, not much has changed since that time.

A recent study at the start of peak season for ecommerce has revealed that online retailer Amazon has taken a huge lead and become the first place consumers go to find products.

The study, run by personalization platform company BloomReach and Survata found that approximately 55% of customers use Amazon before any other site when searching for products online. This was the second annual “State of Amazon” study.

While the company’s gains are impressive, it’s nothing short of what consumers and researchers have come to expect from the retail giant.

In 2015, Amazon surpassed Wal-Mart as the most valuable retailer in the US, and its numbers only continue to grow. In the past, many more people would first turn to a search engine such as Google, but the number of services that Amazon offers puts the company at a distinct advantage for the coming holiday season.

The study

BloomReach’s second annual “State of Amazon” study surveyed 2,000 U.S. consumers over the 2016 Labor Day weekend and revealed surprising results. While 55% of consumers reported going to Amazon before any other retailer, search engines and other retailers lost equal ground, pulling in only 28% and 16% of consumers, respectively.

bloomreach amazon stats

The company’s lead has only increased since BloomReach’s inaugural “State of Amazon” study, conducted in 2015. BloomReach conducted a similar study in April, which revealed that Amazon already possessed 53% of consumers’ first product search.

As it turns out, Amazon is involved in nearly all online shopping experiences. In fact, approximately 90% of consumers will conduct a search on Amazon even if the product they want is on another retailer’s site.

bloomreach amazon stats

“Amazon continues to be the first destination when consumers want to find a product, driven largely by a perceived superior end-to-end experience,” said Jason Seeba, BloomReach head of marketing. “Online shopping is all about relevance and convenience, and comparison shopping has never been easier – especially with mobile growth.”

The retailers

Amazon’s grip on the public doesn’t stop at general shopping, either. With the holiday season creeping upon us, the online retailer is expected to be the first destination for almost all online holiday shopping. Approximately 94% of consumers reported plans to complete their holiday shopping on Amazon, as well.

While retailers are feeling the pinch of Amazon’s incredibly high consumer numbers, that doesn’t mean they’re entirely knocked out of the game. In fact, a majority of survey respondents said that other retailers were better at tailoring their websites and product recommendations.

Roughly one in five respondents reported that quality was their biggest concern while shopping at Amazon. It’s relatively easy to buy some objects, but others face a high rate of counterfeit complaints.

In fact, the biggest complaints came from customers who used Amazon’s relatively new “marketplace” feature. In an effort to compete with Etsy, another online retailer, Amazon created a third-party space for consumers to interact in much the same way they do on Etsy.

However, the growing artisan community came into Q3 2016 with a strong lead over Amazon’s Marketplace.

Wal-Mart

Amazon may have some fierce competition online from the Etsy artisan community, but other retailers are struggling with their ecommerce for the holiday season.

Wal-Mart in particular is making a big push to expand their online presence as holiday season creeps ever closer.

However, investors are still looking for proof that the payoff will be worth all of the time and money in the end. The company stated that it plans to spend approximately $11 billion in its next fiscal year on ecommerce initiatives while still focusing on remodeling its stores.

walmart_exterior

Wal-Mart, while its ecommerce spending might be alarming, isn’t new to this type of investment. In fact, its US online sales are second only to Amazon, the company it’s currently attempting to surpass.

As one of the most successful brick-and-mortar franchises in the nation, Wal-Mart certainly doesn’t have anything to fear as far as holiday sales go. The biggest issue for the company is whether its investors will see the current ecommerce spending necessary to compete with Amazon.

The shoppers

Whether it’s brick-and-mortar retail shopping or it begins on a search engine, holiday creep has arrived. In fact, by the time Labor Day rolled around this year, nearly half of American parents had already started their holiday shopping.

Retailers like Macy’s and Best Buy have already started their holiday advertising campaigns, even going so far as to deck out their stores in red and white holiday garb.

According to data from last year’s Rubicon survey, only 42% of parents had started their holiday shopping by September. This year marks a significant increase in their data, although other studies reveal that Rubicon’s numbers may run a bit high.

According to a CreditCards.com report from 2015, only about 14% of American consumers had started thier holiday shopping by September. However, their most recent survey showed the same upward trend in those consumers choosing to shop earlier in the year.

American parents are expected to spend approximately $1,711 during the 2016 holidays, according to Rubicon. And as the BloomReach survey suggests, most of them will be headed to search engines and Amazon for their initial searches.

According to the BloomReach “State of Amazon” study, when holiday shoppers have an idea of what they want, 59% will start on Amazon and 24% will start on a search engine. However, even a Google search is likely to direct consumers to Amazon before any other retailer.

Amazon’s presence in the e-commerce community hasn’t gone unnoticed by consumers, either. In fact, one in five consumers revealed they were concerned about the company’s dominance relative to other retail outlets.

In conclusion

Amazon, while a powerhouse in the ecommerce community, still has a few issues of its own to work out. For one, its artisan-only Marketplace doesn’t offer the kind of authenticity and service that sites like Etsy do. Consumers are not only concerned with counterfeit products, but with the company’s dominance over the online community.

Nevertheless, the company hasn’t pushed search engines or other retailers completely out of the holiday shopping game. A good chunk of consumers still turn to search engines before they conduct an Amazon search, although most search engines direct them to Amazon before other retailers.

Holiday shopping season has arrived, and although Amazon has its faults, 53% of consumers still report having left another website in favor of Amazon. This year’s holiday shopping trends just may mark a huge milestone for the company.

via Search Engine Watch – Category: seo Read More…

4 Uncommon Ways to Nurture Leads With Personalization

4 Uncommon Ways to Nurture Leads With Personalization

4-uncommon-ways-to-nurture-leads-with-personalization

When someone lands on your blog and signs up for your email list, they’re said to have converted from your owned media.

But what about that funny piece you wrote on BuzzFeed, or that awesome Facebook post that came from a spontaneous idea?

How will you nurture leads from discovery to conversion when the content lies beyond the realm of your control?

The puzzle becomes especially difficult to crack when you are dealing with pricey B2B or SaaS products such as CRM, ERP, or subscription services, which frequently take months to consider and try out, let alone buy.

So how do you take control of content that lives outside your blog or website and present it at the right moment to customers who are at the appropriate points along your marketing funnel?

Where is the lag?

In an attempt to find widespread inefficiencies and insufficiencies in current web-based conversion practices by SaaS providers, I poked around the websites of a few ERP/CRM products and landed on Maximizer (disclaimer: random choice, no professional relationship).

Maximizer is an Enterprise CRM Software that’s apparently been using the most tried and tested methods of content marketing. From press releases to reviews, to webinars and case studies, they have been there and done that.

However, they need to take their conversion attempts a step further to leave a better imprint on people’s minds and convert leads to customers.

  • For starters, they are missing out on retargeting. I spent considerable time on their website, read a few blog posts. I even went through some of their press releases and reviews on third party sites. Despite that, I failed to see their ads after leaving their website.
  • A few minutes into their website, I started wondering why there’s no ubiquitous “Wanna chat?” pop-up or why they’ve managed a paltry 2 reviews on their Facebook page despite claiming to have over 120,000 customers. Whether the visitor is on your site or on your social media page, one on one conversations are extremely important to help them take the final leap to become customers.

Obviously, if you want your leads to convert after reading and interacting with your content, you need to do much more than Maximizer is doing.

There are dozens of tools, tactics and techniques out there that help you gain and keep the attention of your readers that bit longer. When each second is precious and when you are investing a significant amount of resources into producing content, there’s no way you can ignore these tools.

Here are 4 uncommon ways to nurture your leads with personalization and improve your “discovery to conversion” equation:

1. Personalize your content recommendations

Personalized and timely content recommendations are one of the most powerful ways to make your leads stay longer on your website and recall your brand at crucial times. Bloggers and large content publishers vouch by predictive recommendations for awareness, reach and engagement (as opposed to ads).

See how content recommendations work on Inc. They (and many other media publishers) show recent/popular articles on the right hand side.

In addition, a small pop-up with a link to another article that piques your interest appears on the bottom right, as you scroll down and reach the bottom of the post. This pop-up works nicely to re-attract the reader’s attention, just as it is running out.

I’ve no doubt you’ve seen this in action somewhere – and fallen prey to it too!

personalize-your-content-recommendation-for-ways-to-nurture-leads

Image Source: Inc

While these pop-ups work wonders to keep readers on your site, don’t forget that much of your content lives outside your own website or blog. And that may often include your best pieces.

If you are a regular contributor to a third party media site or blog, your only hope for leading readers from there to your own site is through a link within the article or from your byline, which is hoping against hope. Links aren’t as attention-grabbing as – and take up much less screen space than – a pop-up.

What you normally do to circumvent this problem is share your articles and posts on social media, which again are high on the “hope” factor that someone will re-share (and associate you with the content, in case they happen to remember you by the time you consume it).

The middle way out, which helps you associate your content as well as brand with content either created by others and shared by you, or created by you on platforms you don’t own, is to use a recommendation tool like Start A Fire, which helps you draw leads to your website from all the content you share or curate.

You can add up to 5 other links, which show up along with your face/logo, in the familiar pop-up box at the bottom right, when someone clicks through to the main link that you’ve shared.

personalize-your-content-recommendation-2-for-ways-to-nurture-leads

This way, there is less chance they’ll forget you’re the one who shared the link in the first place and more chance they’ll click on the other links you’ve shared once they finish reading that particular post.

Here’s an old-fashioned before-after picture of how pop-up content recommendation work:

personalize-your-content-recommendation-3-for-ways-to-nurture-leads

Whoever thought you could milk more out of links shared on social media, or pop-up boxes for that matter?

2. Amp up your retargeting on social media

It’s annoying.

It’s expensive.

It works.

Retargeting works on the principle of effective frequency, i.e. the exposure of your audience to your message must range between inadequate and wasteful. Thomas Smith, author of Successful Advertising, got it right way back in 1885.

If you want to create a leak-proof sales funnel, make sure your customers see your ads on all relevant sites, if they ever happen to leave your site without buying (or subscribing, or downloading).

Baremetrics used retargeting to acquire customers for as little as $6 on Facebook and $21 with banner ads. Nothing exceptional, you might think, until you realize that a single customer is worth $650 to them. That isn’t exceptional, that is phenomenal!

Baremetrics caters to startups and ecommerce companies, so it was natural for them to advertise on websites that offered startup advice, marketing tips, etc. That is a highly targeted approach considering Baremetrics is a SaaS-based analytics tool that focuses on revenue and customer growth metrics.

Crazy Egg has been doing something similar for a long time, but their approach is a bit different. What makes their retargeting campaign equally effective is that they follow you almost everywhere for a few days, and then for months on certain websites, until you are forced to consider their tool.

amp-up-your-retargeting-on-social-media-for-ways-to-nurture-leads

Image Source: Psychology Today

Now, both of the above examples apply to people who visit your website. What about targeting those folks who see your content but have never been to your website?

That’s where social network-specific retargeting comes to the rescue. For instance, Facebook remarketing ads allow you to define an audience based on their interaction with your content. So, if someone liked a page, post or video that you promoted, you can start serving them targeted ads the next time they get on Facebook.

Of course, you can target customers or visitors to your site or app by including them in a “Custom Audience” on Facebook. What’s more, even if someone hasn’t visited your page or website or seen your content, but share similar interests and characteristics, you can reach them on Facebook with the “Lookalike Audience” feature.

amp-up-your-retargeting-on-social-media-2-for-ways-to-nurture-leads

“Retargeting” can be taken to mean not only users who’ve engaged with your content, but any content in your industry. A friend started getting a tea company’s ads in her feed five minutes after she looked up a competitor:

amp-up-your-retargeting-on-social-media-3-for-ways-to-nurture-leads

While you can’t directly target all of your competitors’ fans on Facebook, you can target people who have “expressed an interest in or Liked a page related to” a specific business using the “Interests” field.

With a little bit of testing and tweaking, you can create an ideal retargeting campaign for any of your owned digital properties. You just need to understand your audience’s content taste and consumption habits to make your campaign a success. Repeated exposure will ensure your leads start converting.

Pro Tip: While you’re at it, also include social proof in the form of details of your current customers in your retargeting campaigns. Smiling faces of happy customers might just tilt the balance in your favor.

Grammarly’s remarketing campaign on Facebook shows you all your friends who like Grammarly on top of the ad, which itself has has over 1600 likes and 130 shares. Not bad at all for a subscription service provider!

amp-up-your-retargeting-on-social-media-4-for-ways-to-nurture-leads

3. Have more one-to-one conversations

When Facebook introduced page messaging for businesses, it opened many doors for one-to-one conversations. You can not only respond quickly to customers’ queries, but also earn badges like “Very responsive to messages” that speak volumes about your prompt services.

One-to-one conversations can be the fastest way to close deals, even better than emails.

Here’s another example from a friend’s conversation with a club and the transaction was finalized within 30 minutes. Needless to say, the chat below is not typical of a B2B conversations, but the idea is to show how being prompt on social media can work in your favor:

have-more-one-to-one-conversations-for-ways-to-nurture-leads

Don’t waste any time striking up a conversation with newly-discovered leads or those who’ve engaged with your brand on social media. Make it a point to introduce yourself and your company to new followers of your brand (even if it means using those annoying DMs):

have-more-one-to-one-conversations-1-for-ways-to-nurture-leads

If you’re a B2B enterprise or large organization aiming to personalize the experience for your leads and be everywhere (multiple digital platforms) at the same time, without having a sales team tuned in and listening with flashing beacons on their heads, you need to rely on a bit of automation.

And just like Start A Fire, there’s another “solution to a solution” tool that comes to the rescue, LiveAgent. This multichannel helpdesk and live chat tool allows you to connect with visitors in real time and get a head start in converting them to customers. It doubles up as a customer service agent by automatically scanning multiple email accounts and sorting emails into pre-defined departments.

LiveAgent not only works with your website and email provider, but also social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It can monitor Facebook Messenger chats and convert wall messages into tickets, which can then be dealt with by your support team in the same way as email, chat or tweets.

have-more-one-to-one-conversations-2-for-ways-to-nurture-leads

Finally, LiveAgent integrates with popular CMS, CRM, ecommerce, collaboration and billing platforms. Crucial, considering your customers are already more than half-way through their purchase process before their first commercial interaction with a vendor, and over a quarter of your competition is getting back to them within five minutes.

The automation part? Your customer care team has help from chatbots that are able to answer common questions, pull up order details, and so on.

4. Give your influencers leeway

If you are using Fiverr or Famebit for your influencer campaigns, you can stop reading here; they’re going to do what they want anyway.

Businesses that aim to develop a long-term relationship with their influencers need to get them not just interested, but deeply involved in your product, so that they engage with your leads using any means they might have in their content marketing arsenal.

First, build trust with the influencers that you work with. Trusting them with your brand’s messaging, voice and personality is the best way to show that you respect them.

Treat them as creative partners and give them the liberty to take the campaign in the direction they want. You may give your final inputs in order to make sure your core offering isn’t misinterpreted, but make sure you don’t control the flow of the campaign too tightly.

A lot of influencers try different methods to keep their followers interested, and most of the time, intuitively know what’s best for their audience.

For instance, Emma from WhispersRed uses the ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Median Response) technique to unbox an online order of cosmetics. The video has heavy tapping, crinkles, lid tapping, glass tapping, and lots of whispering.

It might sound like mumbo jumbo to a typical audience, but has over 65,000 views and 120 comments to its credit. As a brand, you might not want to throw valuable marketing dollars at associating unproven therapies with your product, but believe it or not, just like your spouse, you never really know your customers.

In another example, Swanson Health Products, who sell vitamins and supplements, got “Chocolate Covered Katie” to share a chocolate cake recipe on their blog.

give-your-influencers-leeway-for-ways-to-nurture-leads

Image Source: Chocolate Covered Katie

Chocolate cake and health supplements make for an unlikely combination, but Swanson gets a lot of leverage by inviting guest bloggers to create content for them on linearly related topics.

So trust your influencers. They are experts in their field and have a lot of experience in what will work with their audience. Just give them the background on your brand and the context of the campaign along with some guidelines, and let them unleash their creative genius to create a post or video of their choice.

Crowdtap’s “State of Influencer Marketing” report found that 77 percent of influencers think creative freedom is the most important factor that encourages them to build up a long-term relationship with brands.

give-your-influencers-leeway-2-for-ways-to-nurture-leads

Image Source: Crowdtap

The trick is to keep the interaction going with your influencers on a regular basis, and keep increasing the value they get out of your product. SEMrush has been doing just that – with a broader audience as well as affiliates – for some time now. They proactively reach out to industry experts, bloggers, and the like, and give out free trials to their communities and readers too. I am one such lucky recipient of their Guru account.

What sort of results are they getting? Rishi Lakhani wrote an Ultimate Guide that’s probably more comprehensive than their own documentation. Affiliate Anil Agrawal not only wrote a long, “unbiased” review but also went ahead and convinced his readers to try SEMrush by comparing it favorably with competing offerings.

give-your-influencers-leeway-3-for-ways-to-nurture-leads

Image Source: Bloggers Passion

Pro tip: Allow your influencers to be fully transparent. For example, if a reviewer or affiliate is allowed to be forthcoming about special prices or offers, they have that extra “authority” needed to convince undecided customers.

Over to you

That’s it folks! I seriously hope you can figure out how variations of the best practices, methods and tools we discussed here work for you.

While we started with a lackluster example that showed us what isn’t enough to drive visitors towards conversions, there’s no doubt that retargeting, content recommendations, timely personal conversations, and win-win influencer partnerships are all really good ways to nurture those leads.

Guest Author: Rohan Ayyar is a creative content strategist and CRO specialist at E2M, digital marketing firm par excellence. He doubles up as the resident UX authority at Moveo Apps, a premium app dev agency. Rohan is also an avid business and tech writer, with articles featured on The Next Web, Fast Company, and Adweek.

The post 4 Uncommon Ways to Nurture Leads With Personalization appeared first on Jeffbullas’s Blog.

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Publishers are struggling with AMP page monetization

Publishers are struggling with AMP page monetization

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) initiative has gained significant traction in the past 12 months, and high-profile publishers such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Hearst are among the many companies that have adopted AMP.

According to a DoubleClick study conducted earlier this year that looked at various performance metrics of AMP pages across 150 publisher sites, the majority of publishers using AMP saw increased eCPMs.

But now, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that many publishers using AMP are seeing their AMP pages generate substantially less revenue than their non-AMP mobile pages. According to the Journal, “Multiple publishers said an AMP pageview currently generates around half as much revenue as a pageview on their full mobile websites.”

One of the reasons for the lower revenue is likely that while AMP supports around 75 different ad providers, including many of the largest, there are fewer types of ad units available.

“AMP pages rely heavily on standardized banner ad units, and don’t allow publishers to sell highly-customized ad units, sponsorships or pop-up ads as they might on their own properties,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jack Marshall explained.

Those ad units that AMP doesn’t support might make it easier for publishers to maximize their revenue, but some of them, particularly pop-ups, are the very ad units that degrade user experience.

For now, Google is satisfied with AMP’s ad capabilities and Richard Gingras, Google’s VP of news, suggests that some publishers are seeing lower ad revenue on their AMP pages because they’re not taking full advantage of AMP’s ad capabilities. That said, he acknowledged that AMP is in its early stages.

“We want to drive the ecosystem forward, but obviously these things don’t happen overnight,” Gringas stated. “The objective of AMP is to have it drive more revenue for publishers than non-AMP pages. We’re not there yet.”

AMP is probably the future, regardless of revenue considerations

Despite the fact that Google is aware that some publishers adopting AMP are generating less revenue as a result, it will likely have time to improve AMP’s capabilities. That’s because publishers by and large seem prepared to stick by AMP, even if it’s costing them money in the short term.

One reason for this is that AMP traffic is growing. According to CNN chief product officer Alex Wellen, 20% of CNN’s search traffic now goes to the news outlet’s AMP pages, and AMP traffic has increased by 80% in the past two months.

The other reason publishers are giving AMP the benefit of the doubt is that they strongly suspect Google will favor AMP pages in a big way going forward. As one publisher put it, “Publishers who are not using AMP will probably be penalized.”

Even if that doesn’t come to pass, the expectation that Google will increasingly favor AMP pages over non-AMP pages will probably remain a powerful motivator for publishers to adopt it regardless of revenue considerations.

via Search Engine Watch – Category: seo Read More…

How to Conduct a Quickfire Technical SEO Audit

How to Conduct a Quickfire Technical SEO Audit

How to Conduct a Quickfire Technical SEO Audit

In a recent survey, 39% of SEOs suggested that technical SEO is the first area they look to tackle when taking on a new project. These stats are hardly surprising, as the technicalities of how a website is built will clearly underpin any efforts to improve its performance in organic search.

Here we outline 5 key areas you can audit in just a few hours to highlight essential fixes that will all contribute to improving your websites performance in organic search.

1. Audit indexed pages

The first step in identifying any issues hindering organic visibility is to audit the number of pages Google is indexing from a site vs. the number of pages on the site itself.

Using the site command

This can be achieved at a very basic level via the site command. You can use this command on any domain to assess how many pages from your website Google have indexed.

site-command

Checking index status

Within Google search console you can assess how many pages Google are indexing from a site within the ‘index status’ report:

index-status

You should compare this figure (total indexed pages) with the number of pages in your sitemap to assess whether there is a noticeable gap between the number of pages you have asked Google to index and the number of pages they have chosen to index.

To check the number of pages you have submitted to Google from your sitemap visit crawl > sitemaps in Google search console:

sitemap

If there is a noticeable gap in the number of submitted pages vs. the number of indexed pages, there’s a good chance that the sitemap isn’t up to date. You will often encounter sitemaps that have been manually generated as a one off at some point in the past, and pages have since been deleted – meaning there are huge gaps between submitted / indexed pages for the sites in question. To confirm if this is the case, simply export the XML sitemap, convert to CSV and crawl all the pages using Screaming Frog to analyse the status codes. If you find that any of the URLs in the sitemap have the status code 404 (not found), then you should speak to your web developer to implement a dynamic sitemap solution to ensure Google has an up to date list of all the pages on your site at all times.

What if the number of indexed pages is much less than total number of pages on the site?

There are a number of reasons why this would be the case, but the robots.txt file is the first place to start if you find that the number of pages indexed by Google is significantly less than the number of pages you would like them to.

A robots.txt file gives instructions to web robots about the pages you don’t wish search engines to access. For example, many sites block access to their admin folders, downloads etc. – only allowing access to pages, images and code that search engines need to be able to access.

You can check the set up of your robots.txt file by adding /robots.txt after your domain and looking out for any folders which have been disallowed. If you find the following exclusion, it means that you’re blocking access to every page on your site:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

However, if after reviewing your robotst.txt file you find that Google seemingly has access to all relevant areas of your site, the logical next steps would be as follows:

  • Check no index tags – the meta noindex tag tells search engines not to index the page the tag has been implemented on. If you find that some of your content isn’t being indexed by Google then right click > view source > ctrl + f to search for ‘noindex’. If you spot that this tag has been added to any pages that you want Google to index then remove it.
  • Check for duplicate content – Google will ignore pages that are duplicates of other pages that exist on the web, or on your own site, so if you find Google aren’t indexing certain pages then check for duplicate content using tools such as Copyscape.
  • Check for penalties via the Panguin tool – it may well be that the technical set up of your site is fine, and that the reason your pages aren’t being indexed is due to an algorithmic hit at some point in the past. To check whether this is the case visit http://ift.tt/2dkLe24

If you can’t find any issues after following the steps above and are concerned that key pages on your site aren’t being indexed by Google, it’s probably time to get in touch with an SEO consultant to help dig a little deeper on your behalf.

What if the number of indexed pages is much more than total number of pages on the site?

On the flip side, if you notice that Google are indexing many more pages than you believe you have on the site, the chances are that Google are crawling paginated content, or URLs created as a result of faceted navigation.

Both pagination and URL parameter issues can be diagnosed by:

  • Conducting a site crawl using a tool such as Screaming Frog
  • Exporting the results and searching for any URLs containing ?
  • Checking whether the strings (?product=) identified are blocked via robots.txt

Particularly common on ecommerce sites, URL parameters can often result in multiple variations of the same URL all displaying the same content on the site – and if picked up by search engines this can result in numerous pages being indexed unnecessarily.

For example, the following URLs would, in theory, all point to the same content. The only difference in this case would be that some of these pages might be filtered to contain different types of product:

  • http://ift.tt/2eLSR5s
  • http://ift.tt/2f45fMS
  • http://ift.tt/2eLNJhO

In this case it would be beneficial for Google to only access and index the base URL of those listed above, rather than all 3. To prevent cases like this causing any issues for your ecommerce site then you can block access to ALL search parameters by using the following command:

######## QUERY STRING BLOCKER #########

Disallow: /*?*

2. Analyse crawl stats

Once you have diagnosed any indexation issues, it’s time to analyse the frequency and average duration of crawls undertaken by Googlebot on your site.

Reviewing your website’s crawl stats can help identify wasted crawl budget. For example, are there pages that Google are spending time attempting to crawl that you don’t want them to index? Are Google spending too much time downloading your pages? The answers to each of these questions can be found by analysing the crawl stats report in Google search console:

crawl-stats

When analysing this data, it’s important to note that Google assign a crawl budget to each domain they crawl. With this in mind, you need to ensure that Google is only crawling URLs on your site that you want them to index. For example, if you find Google is crawling 20,000 pages per day in the crawl stats report, and you only have 5,000 URLs on your site, then clearly Google is able to access URLs it shouldn’t – like the search parameters we outlined in the previous section.

Googlebot provides you with its activity for the last 90 days in the crawl stats report, and in addition to listing the number of pages crawled per day, displays information on the total kilobytes downloaded from your site each day, and the time spent downloading your pages each day. If you spot the figures are particularly high on both of these reports, then you will need to carry out further research into compression and improving page speed.

3. Audit crawl errors and server response codes

The crawl errors report is available in Google search console and provides data straight from the horse’s mouth – so it’s important that you keep a keen eye on this.

The server response codes reported here are classified as server errors (5x response codes), not found errors (4x response codes) and incorrectly implemented redirects (3x response codes).

The area most marketers tend to flag up is the dreaded ‘Not found’ report, which displays a list of all the URLs Google have attempted to crawl before being returned a 404 status code by the server – essentially meaning the pages that Google is attempting to crawl have been deleted or simply do not exist.

404-errors

I’d highly recommend checking out Google’s advice on the topic of 404 errors and what to do about them.

The soft 404 error can also have a big impact on organic performance and is reported in the ‘crawl errors’ section of Google search console:

soft-404-errors

A ‘Soft 404’ error occurs when a deleted page displays a ‘page not found’ message to anyone trying to access it, but fails to return a HTTP 404 status code. This is often an issue with sites that have not properly implemented 404 status codes on deleted pages, and have simply set up a 404 message on the page itself. This means Google and other search engines will still attempt to crawl the page in question, as the server is still returning a status code of 200 (OK).

4. Audit and implement necessary redirects

301 redirects are used to signal to search engines and browsers that the requested URL has moved to a new location. For example, you would use a 301 redirect if you had changed your ‘About us’ URL from http://ift.tt/1jOZAoO to http://ift.tt/U4aF9z.

301 redirects help to pass page equity from legacy pages over to the page they’re redirected to, so it’s important not to simply delete key pages on your website, especially if those URLs have inbound links pointing to them.

When auditing redirects I tend to break the task down into two sections:

  • Audit any existing redirects for redirect chains, 301 > 404s etc.
  • Add redirects from any high value pages that have since been deleted, including URLs listed in broken backlink reports

Auditing existing redirects

To audit existing redirects you will need to ask your web host / developer for the file used to manage your server side redirects. Once you have the list of existing redirect rules, you should run any pages that are being redirected to (destination URLs) through Screaming Frog to check the status code of those pages.

If you spot any pages returning a response code of 404 (not found), it means that you’re effectively telling Google that your old page has been replaced, yet the page you’ve replaced it with has since been deleted! In cases like this you will need to find new destination URLs for your legacy redirects.

In addition to checking for 301s > 404’s, you can use Screaming Frog to check for redirect chains, which will also need to be resolved. To do this import all of your redirects into screaming frog using ‘list mode’ and click reports > redirect chains:

redirect-chains

You will then have a list of all redirect chains active on your site, and once exported to CSV you can filter by loop = true:

redirect loops

Redirect loops are confusing for search engines and users alike, so it’s important to identify and avoid these in favour of one-step redirects.

Identifying new redirects

To identify new redirects you will need to analyse any 404 errors currently on your site. You don’t need to redirect all of these pages, just those that could potentially pass value to newer pages on your site. To identify pages of value that should be redirected to relevant replacement pages on your site:

  • Export all 404s errors using a combination of GSC (Google search console) data, any 404s identified as a result of a screaming frog crawl, and any URLs listed in the broken backlinks report from Ahrefs:

broken-backlinks

  • De-dupe your list of 404s
  • Link Screaming Frog to GA and Ahrefs to retrieve data on inbound links and previous traffic to these URLs
  • Redirect any URLs that used to receive a relatively large number of visits compared with your site average and any URLs that have received any valuable inbound links

Other things to check when auditing redirects

  • Ensure that any HTTP URLs redirect to their HTTPS counterparts (if the site has implemented HTTPS)
  • Ensure that any www. / non-www. URLs redirect to their www. / non-www. counterparts – if both versions are active you may have a problem with duplicate content
  • Check file extensions such as .html redirect to the base URL and that both the .html and / versions of your URLs aren’t both active concurrently
  • Check for duplicate versions of your homepage, such as example.com/index and www.example.com/home

5. Audit site and page speed

Google have explicitly stated that they use site speed as a signal within their ranking algorithm, so auditing and improving site speed should be taken seriously by webmasters.

To conduct a quick audit of your page speed and get a set of recommended improvements, you can use Google’s page speed insights tool:

suggested-improvements

Google provide a list of suggestions for both mobile and desktop speed improvements, which they have further explained via the ‘show how to fix’ links.

However, one limitation of Google’s tool is that it isn’t very in depth and doesn’t break down each element on a page to identify where speed improvements can be made. To get even more granular with page speed improvements, I would strongly recommend running your pages through http://ift.tt/1L7oD2B which provides a waterfall overview of the elements taking the most time to download on each page:

testspeed

Tracking progress

By following the steps above, you will no doubt have identified a range of issues and potential fixes. Some of these fixes will be easier to implement than others, so it’s important to keep track of progress in a logical fashion. The guys over at Distilled have created a Google sheets checklist that you can use to keep track of progress, and I would recommend customising this checklist to meet your own specific requirements.

Tools required

There are various tools required to gather the data you need to make informed decisions on technical SEO. Here are the tools referenced in this post:

 

AUTHORED BY:

Ben Wood is the Head of Digital at UK based marketing agency Hallam Internet, and has previously gained extensive client-side experience at a well known FTSE100 company. Ben specialises in SEO, PPC and Web Analytics.

via State of Search Read More…

How to Conduct a Quickfire Technical SEO Audit

How to Conduct a Quickfire Technical SEO Audit

In a recent survey, 39% of SEOs suggested that technical SEO is the first area they look to tackle when taking on a new project. These stats are hardly surprising, as the technicalities of how a website is built will clearly underpin any efforts to improve its performance in organic search.

Here we outline 5 key areas you can audit in just a few hours to highlight essential fixes that will all contribute to improving your websites performance in organic search.

1. Audit indexed pages

The first step in identifying any issues hindering organic visibility is to audit the number of pages Google is indexing from a site vs. the number of pages on the site itself.

Using the site command

This can be achieved at a very basic level via the site command. You can use this command on any domain to assess how many pages from your website Google have indexed.

site-command

Checking index status

Within Google search console you can assess how many pages Google are indexing from a site within the ‘index status’ report:

index-status

You should compare this figure (total indexed pages) with the number of pages in your sitemap to assess whether there is a noticeable gap between the number of pages you have asked Google to index and the number of pages they have chosen to index.

To check the number of pages you have submitted to Google from your sitemap visit crawl > sitemaps in Google search console:

sitemap

If there is a noticeable gap in the number of submitted pages vs. the number of indexed pages, there’s a good chance that the sitemap isn’t up to date. You will often encounter sitemaps that have been manually generated as a one off at some point in the past, and pages have since been deleted – meaning there are huge gaps between submitted / indexed pages for the sites in question. To confirm if this is the case, simply export the XML sitemap, convert to CSV and crawl all the pages using Screaming Frog to analyse the status codes. If you find that any of the URLs in the sitemap have the status code 404 (not found), then you should speak to your web developer to implement a dynamic sitemap solution to ensure Google has an up to date list of all the pages on your site at all times.

What if the number of indexed pages is much less than total number of pages on the site?

There are a number of reasons why this would be the case, but the robots.txt file is the first place to start if you find that the number of pages indexed by Google is significantly less than the number of pages you would like them to.

A robots.txt file gives instructions to web robots about the pages you don’t wish search engines to access. For example, many sites block access to their admin folders, downloads etc. – only allowing access to pages, images and code that search engines need to be able to access.

You can check the set up of your robots.txt file by adding /robots.txt after your domain and looking out for any folders which have been disallowed. If you find the following exclusion, it means that you’re blocking access to every page on your site:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

However, if after reviewing your robotst.txt file you find that Google seemingly has access to all relevant areas of your site, the logical next steps would be as follows:

  • Check no index tags – the meta noindex tag tells search engines not to index the page the tag has been implemented on. If you find that some of your content isn’t being indexed by Google then right click > view source > ctrl + f to search for ‘noindex’. If you spot that this tag has been added to any pages that you want Google to index then remove it.
  • Check for duplicate content – Google will ignore pages that are duplicates of other pages that exist on the web, or on your own site, so if you find Google aren’t indexing certain pages then check for duplicate content using tools such as Copyscape.
  • Check for penalties via the Panguin tool – it may well be that the technical set up of your site is fine, and that the reason your pages aren’t being indexed is due to an algorithmic hit at some point in the past. To check whether this is the case visit http://ift.tt/2dkLe24

If you can’t find any issues after following the steps above and are concerned that key pages on your site aren’t being indexed by Google, it’s probably time to get in touch with an SEO consultant to help dig a little deeper on your behalf.

What if the number of indexed pages is much more than total number of pages on the site?

On the flip side, if you notice that Google are indexing many more pages than you believe you have on the site, the chances are that Google are crawling paginated content, or URLs created as a result of faceted navigation.

Both pagination and URL parameter issues can be diagnosed by:

  • Conducting a site crawl using a tool such as Screaming Frog
  • Exporting the results and searching for any URLs containing ?
  • Checking whether the strings (?product=) identified are blocked via robots.txt

Particularly common on ecommerce sites, URL parameters can often result in multiple variations of the same URL all displaying the same content on the site – and if picked up by search engines this can result in numerous pages being indexed unnecessarily.

For example, the following URLs would, in theory, all point to the same content. The only difference in this case would be that some of these pages might be filtered to contain different types of product:

  • http://ift.tt/2eLSR5s
  • http://ift.tt/2f45fMS
  • http://ift.tt/2eLNJhO

In this case it would be beneficial for Google to only access and index the base URL of those listed above, rather than all 3. To prevent cases like this causing any issues for your ecommerce site then you can block access to ALL search parameters by using the following command:

######## QUERY STRING BLOCKER #########

Disallow: /*?*

2. Analyse crawl stats

Once you have diagnosed any indexation issues, it’s time to analyse the frequency and average duration of crawls undertaken by Googlebot on your site.

Reviewing your website’s crawl stats can help identify wasted crawl budget. For example, are there pages that Google are spending time attempting to crawl that you don’t want them to index? Are Google spending too much time downloading your pages? The answers to each of these questions can be found by analysing the crawl stats report in Google search console:

crawl-stats

When analysing this data, it’s important to note that Google assign a crawl budget to each domain they crawl. With this in mind, you need to ensure that Google is only crawling URLs on your site that you want them to index. For example, if you find Google is crawling 20,000 pages per day in the crawl stats report, and you only have 5,000 URLs on your site, then clearly Google is able to access URLs it shouldn’t – like the search parameters we outlined in the previous section.

Googlebot provides you with its activity for the last 90 days in the crawl stats report, and in addition to listing the number of pages crawled per day, displays information on the total kilobytes downloaded from your site each day, and the time spent downloading your pages each day. If you spot the figures are particularly high on both of these reports, then you will need to carry out further research into compression and improving page speed.

3. Audit crawl errors and server response codes

The crawl errors report is available in Google search console and provides data straight from the horse’s mouth – so it’s important that you keep a keen eye on this.

The server response codes reported here are classified as server errors (5x response codes), not found errors (4x response codes) and incorrectly implemented redirects (3x response codes).

The area most marketers tend to flag up is the dreaded ‘Not found’ report, which displays a list of all the URLs Google have attempted to crawl before being returned a 404 status code by the server – essentially meaning the pages that Google is attempting to crawl have been deleted or simply do not exist.

404-errors

I’d highly recommend checking out Google’s advice on the topic of 404 errors and what to do about them.

The soft 404 error can also have a big impact on organic performance and is reported in the ‘crawl errors’ section of Google search console:

soft-404-errors

A ‘Soft 404’ error occurs when a deleted page displays a ‘page not found’ message to anyone trying to access it, but fails to return a HTTP 404 status code. This is often an issue with sites that have not properly implemented 404 status codes on deleted pages, and have simply set up a 404 message on the page itself. This means Google and other search engines will still attempt to crawl the page in question, as the server is still returning a status code of 200 (OK).

4. Audit and implement necessary redirects

301 redirects are used to signal to search engines and browsers that the requested URL has moved to a new location. For example, you would use a 301 redirect if you had changed your ‘About us’ URL from http://ift.tt/1jOZAoO to http://ift.tt/U4aF9z.

301 redirects help to pass page equity from legacy pages over to the page they’re redirected to, so it’s important not to simply delete key pages on your website, especially if those URLs have inbound links pointing to them.

When auditing redirects I tend to break the task down into two sections:

  • Audit any existing redirects for redirect chains, 301 > 404s etc.
  • Add redirects from any high value pages that have since been deleted, including URLs listed in broken backlink reports

Auditing existing redirects

To audit existing redirects you will need to ask your web host / developer for the file used to manage your server side redirects. Once you have the list of existing redirect rules, you should run any pages that are being redirected to (destination URLs) through Screaming Frog to check the status code of those pages.

If you spot any pages returning a response code of 404 (not found), it means that you’re effectively telling Google that your old page has been replaced, yet the page you’ve replaced it with has since been deleted! In cases like this you will need to find new destination URLs for your legacy redirects.

In addition to checking for 301s > 404’s, you can use Screaming Frog to check for redirect chains, which will also need to be resolved. To do this import all of your redirects into screaming frog using ‘list mode’ and click reports > redirect chains:

redirect-chains

You will then have a list of all redirect chains active on your site, and once exported to CSV you can filter by loop = true:

redirect loops

Redirect loops are confusing for search engines and users alike, so it’s important to identify and avoid these in favour of one-step redirects.

Identifying new redirects

To identify new redirects you will need to analyse any 404 errors currently on your site. You don’t need to redirect all of these pages, just those that could potentially pass value to newer pages on your site. To identify pages of value that should be redirected to relevant replacement pages on your site:

  • Export all 404s errors using a combination of GSC (Google search console) data, any 404s identified as a result of a screaming frog crawl, and any URLs listed in the broken backlinks report from Ahrefs:

broken-backlinks

  • De-dupe your list of 404s
  • Link Screaming Frog to GA and Ahrefs to retrieve data on inbound links and previous traffic to these URLs
  • Redirect any URLs that used to receive a relatively large number of visits compared with your site average and any URLs that have received any valuable inbound links

Other things to check when auditing redirects

  • Ensure that any HTTP URLs redirect to their HTTPS counterparts (if the site has implemented HTTPS)
  • Ensure that any www. / non-www. URLs redirect to their www. / non-www. counterparts – if both versions are active you may have a problem with duplicate content
  • Check file extensions such as .html redirect to the base URL and that both the .html and / versions of your URLs aren’t both active concurrently
  • Check for duplicate versions of your homepage, such as example.com/index and www.example.com/home

5. Audit site and page speed

Google have explicitly stated that they use site speed as a signal within their ranking algorithm, so auditing and improving site speed should be taken seriously by webmasters.

To conduct a quick audit of your page speed and get a set of recommended improvements, you can use Google’s page speed insights tool:

suggested-improvements

Google provide a list of suggestions for both mobile and desktop speed improvements, which they have further explained via the ‘show how to fix’ links.

However, one limitation of Google’s tool is that it isn’t very in depth and doesn’t break down each element on a page to identify where speed improvements can be made. To get even more granular with page speed improvements, I would strongly recommend running your pages through http://ift.tt/1L7oD2B which provides a waterfall overview of the elements taking the most time to download on each page:

testspeed

Tracking progress

By following the steps above, you will no doubt have identified a range of issues and potential fixes. Some of these fixes will be easier to implement than others, so it’s important to keep track of progress in a logical fashion. The guys over at Distilled have created a Google sheets checklist that you can use to keep track of progress, and I would recommend customising this checklist to meet your own specific requirements.

Tools required

There are various tools required to gather the data you need to make informed decisions on technical SEO. Here are the tools referenced in this post:

 

Post from Ben Wood

via State of Search Read More…

WordPress Careers Masterclass: Selling Your Time (Employment or Freelancing)

WordPress Careers Masterclass: Selling Your Time (Employment or Freelancing)

Have you ever thought about, or are you considering, selling your time as a WordPress professional, either as a freelancer or through finding paid employment?

The two ways of working are quite different – one can involve a lot of autonomy while the other follows the more traditional model that people have been using for their careers since jobs were first invented (which I guess would be around the time of the Industrial Revolution).

But they have one major thing in common: instead of producing something (a plugin, a product or a website, for example) which you sell to someone (a user or client), you’re selling your time. As a freelancer, you would be billing the hours you work for a client, while as an employee you would receive a salary.

In both cases, you don’t own the thing you’re producing. Instead, you sell your ability to produce that thing for someone else.

Welcome to the fourth post in this series on how to build a successful career with WordPress. In this part of the series, I’m going to help you decide if selling your time (and your skills) is right for you. I’ll look at the differences between freelancing and employment (and the shades of gray in between), with a view to helping you decide which is most suitable for you. Then I’ll give you some tips to help you land freelance work or a great WordPress job and make a success of whichever one you choose.

And remember, during your career you might switch between different ways of working depending on your circumstances, skills, and the job market – so both employment and freelancing may be relevant for you at different times. And many WordPress developers do both concurrently, supplementing the income from their day job with freelance work they do at night. It’s a good way to get freelance experience before taking the leap into the unknown if you’re used to the security of employment, and of earning some extra cash.

Freelancing vs Employment: Differences and Similarities

Employment can look quite different these days to what our parents might have done – it’s not always about the nine to five grind. And freelancing may not be what you expect: it doesn’t necessarily mean isolation and uncertainty.

WPMU DEV team page
The WPMU DEV team includes staff and freelancers around the world

Here are some of the key features of each, and some of the possibilities afforded by each.

Employment

Employment means that you work for an employer, which may be a company, a charity or a government organization. They could be big or small, and your job could be very general or very specialized.

Your employer might specialize in what you do: they could be a WordPress development agency if you’re a developer, a marketing company if you’re a marketer, etc. Or they might be something different and you provide that expertise for them. For example, you might be a developer working on the website of a retail company.

There are two big advantages to employment: security and being part of a team. You’ll get the same salary every month and you’ll be part of a team of people all working to the same end (hopefully!). If you like stability and company this will suit you.

Freelancing

Freelancing means that people hire you to do work for them. Those people could be agencies working for clients, or they could be the clients themselves.

The main difference between freelancing and selling a service is that as a freelancer you charge for your time. Some freelancers sell their time directly to clients while others go through agencies and others sell a service (such as a completed website) to clients, I’ll look at that in more detail in the next part of the course.

The main benefits of freelancing are variety and autonomy. You get to do varied work for different clients and you get to choose what you do and what hours you work. As you become more experienced and in demand these will increase.

As an employee, you might find yourself working alongside freelancers and vice versa. As a freelancer, you’re likely to be hired by the employees of an agency or client, while as an employee you might hire freelancers to boost the team’s capacity or skills. This means that the choice between freelancing and employment can be less about who you work for but more about the context in which you do that work.

Identifying What’s Right For You

When it comes to deciding whether freelancing or employment are the best fit for you, there are a few things you need to consider:

  • Personality
  • Specialisms
  • Location
  • Finance

Each of these will impact own whether you’ll be better suited to employment or freelancing, and on how successful you’ll be at either.

So let’s take a look at them in more detail.

Personality

Some people are suited to working freelance and some are better suited to employment. There are a few aspects to this:

  • Working alone. If you’re comfortable working on your own initiative (and possibly alone), then freelancing could be ideal. But if you like to be directed in your work or you thrive on being part of a team, then employment could be a better fit.
  • Resilience. As a freelancer, you’d need to be able to cope with the ups and downs of self-employment. As an employee, you may need to deal with the ups and downs of office politics.
  • Self-development. As an employee your employer will support you in this: paying for courses, allowing time to study, providing coaching and mentoring. As a freelancer you’ll have to do it all yourself, unpaid.
  • Motivation. If you’re easily distracted, working freelance will give you plenty of opportunities to procrastinate. If you’re the kind of person who needs external pressure, then employment may be a better fit.
  • Flexibility. If you love flexibility and constantly taking on new things, then freelancing could offer you that. But if you prefer routine and certainty, then employment is more likely to give you that.

Specialisms

Depending on your specialism, you may find it easier to get work as an employee or as a freelancer:

  • If you’re a generalist, then employment by a non-agency employer is likely to suit you best. They’ll want you to look after every aspect of their website development, for example. This can be satisfying and give you plenty of control. Alternatively, generalists can get work selling a service to clients, which you’ll learn about in the next part of this course.
  • If you’re a specialist, then employment in an agency or freelancing for one will probably suit you best. A large agency will employ specialist developers; smaller agencies don’t have the capacity to employ specialists but instead hire them as freelancers.

If you do have a specialism, you’ll need to develop your reputation as an expert. And you’ll need to be adaptable: you may need to change your specialism as the web development landscape changes.

Work Location

Whether you can work freelance or as an employee may come down to where you live and the availability of work. If there are few WordPress jobs in your area, then freelancing is more likely to provide you with opportunities.

As a freelancer, you can work with people all over the world. I work for clients in four continents and it’s all done via Slack, email, and the occasional Skype call. I do have a few clients in my local area (one is just half a mile away) but you don’t need to confine yourself to local clients.

So if you want to travel or work remotely, then freelance opportunities may be easier to come by. However, there are more and more employers, especially in the tech industry, employing remote staff. WPMU DEV is just one example: we have team members, both employees and freelancers, all over the globe.

If your location is flexible, you could freelance from anywhere around the world.
If your location is flexible, you could freelance from anywhere around the world.

But if you like to work in an office with other people, then you’ll either want to get a job or find cowering space you can share with other freelancers.

Finance

Working freelance is riskier than getting a job. You can’t guarantee that you’ll have work coming in next year, next month or even next week, and you’ll have to work to find clients and get contracts.

If you do make a success of it, you can command higher rates of pay. Your clients don’t have to pay your taxes, insurance, pension etc. so they will pay you more. But you will have to manage your finances: you’ll have to complete your tax return, take the hit if you need a day off sick, and pay into your own pension. Don’t neglect these things!

If you hate working with finances and don’t want to manage your own, then you’ll be much better suited to employment than to freelancing.

 

Employment Practicalities

The biggest practicality when it comes to employment as a WordPress professional is identifying the kind of job you want and that you’re suited to, and then landing that job.

I’ve done research into what the big tech companies are looking for these days and have identified the main criteria they use.

Technical Skills and Experience

Without the technical skills for a given job, you’re not likely to stand much chance of landing it. All of the firms I researched ask for relevant technical skills and experience for all of their jobs.

Examples include Apple, who expect applicants for developer roles to have experience with their APIs as well as other relevant technologies and languages; Facebook, who expect industry experience with the systems relevant to each role, and Automattic, who expect applicants to have a high level of WordPress knowledge.

Startups are less likely to ask for many years of experience, as are smaller firms. Generally, the giants will hire the people with the most experience, while companies that haven’t been around so long will value personal qualities and potential.

Communication Skills

Most companies are looking for people with communication skills, even in roles that are purely coding-based: this is so that you can work effectively with other team members and communicate with your colleagues.

Microsoft expects you to be an excellent communicator, Automattic expects all its team members to spend time supporting customers, and Buffer has 10 Buffer values which include listening and communication.

Personal Attributes

As well as communication skills, many companies expect you to have other personal qualities or to share their values. For, example Facebook will expect you to be bold and agree with them that “the riskiest thing is to not take risks,” while Slack values diversity, experience, gumption, and panache.

Analytical and problem-solving skills come up a lot: Apple mentions these in most of their job descriptions as do Microsoft and Facebook, who talk about curiosity. Automattic values problem-solving abilities among other personal qualities.

The ability to work in a fast-paced environment and respond quickly is important: Facebook hire people who can move fast, Automattic specify flexibility, Apple need you to be comfortable with rapidly evolving requirements and Buffer want you to be a ‘no-ego doer’.

Being self-motivated and able to work with minimal supervision is important too, especially at companies with distributed working like WPMU DEV.

Google lists three attributes they look for: leadership, thinking style, and “googleyness”(!). It’s clear that fitting in with Google’s mindset and culture is key to landing a job there.

Qualifications

The level of qualification required varies, with the more established companies or those working with enterprise rather than consumers tending to be stricter.

Apple, Microsoft and Slack all require a Computer Science degree or equivalent for developer roles. Facebook’s criteria vary by role, with experience and skills being a higher focus.

Some companies are just as happy for people to be self-taught: Automattic doesn’t mention a degree as a requirement while Buffer state that being self-taught can be just as valuable.

But there’s no doubt that a degree will give you some advantage.

Landing That Job

So you understand what companies are looking for and you know your own skills and experience. Look back at the career plan you started working on in Part 1 of this course to check what you might need to develop and where your strengths are. And find a way of articulating your skills and experience that works for the company you’re applying to.

There are a few places to find WordPress jobs:

  • Jobs boards
  • Company websites
  • Meetups and networking events
  • WordCamps
  • Word of mouth
  • LinkedIn

Make sure everyone you know, both personally and professionally, knows what you’re looking for and can pass on any opportunities they spot. Prepare your CV and business card so you can give people something when you make contact. And make sure you follow the instructions an employer provides when applying to them: if they have their own application form, don’t send a standard CV. And if they ask for specific skills, attributes and experience, make sure you talk about those in your application.

indeed jobs board site
indeed is one of many jobs boards with WordPress jobs

When I’ve applied for jobs in the past, I’ve developed a CV but I’ve always tweaked it for each employer I apply to. Employers like to know that you’re done your homework and know what they’re looking for. Tell them why you want to work for them and why you’re a good fit. A hiring manager faced with a standard CV is much less likely to notice you.

And finally make sure you check out our post on the places to find WordPress jobs, and sign up to all the relevant jobs boards.

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Freelancing Practicalities

When it comes to launching a freelance career, you have some different practicalities to consider. In common with getting a job you’ll have to brush up your CV and find opportunities, but you’ll also need to start managing your own business and become adept at marketing.

  • Hourly rates. Identify what you need to earn per hour to cover your living expenses plus the costs associated with working freelance and the time when you won’t be charging for your work. Be realistic: follow our guide to setting freelancing rates.
  • Marketing. Find opportunities to tell people about what you do. Develop your website and CV. Keep in touch with previous clients – they might want to hire you again.
  • Networking. Attend events like WordPress meetups to find potential clients and collaborators.
  • Contracts. Make sure you have a contract for every piece of work you take on. Your clients may have their own standard contract. There are tips for developing your own contact in the next part of this course.
  • Finances. Set up a separate bank account for your freelance work and use it to manage work expenses. It’s also a good idea to set aside money for taxes and contingency funds.
  • Legalities. Depending on your country, you may need to register as self-employed or set up a company for your work. Research this and make sure you do what’s required.
  • Workspace. Your clients may require you to work on their premises or you may need to find out r own place to work. This could be anything from a cowering space to a table in a coffee shop, or a space at home. Think about your comfort sitting at a desk or table all day and make sure you look after your back.
  • Self-development. It’s tempting to spend all your time on chargeable work, but you should never stop learning. Set aside time for self-development and be strict with yourself. If you don’t keep up with new trends, you’ll lose work in the long run.
There are WordPress meetups all around the world - your local one can help you develop your skills and make contacts
There are WordPress meetups all around the world – your local one can help you develop your skills and make contacts

For more on the practicalities of setting up a business, writing contracts and marketing, amongst other things, see the next part in this course, on selling a service.

Selling Your Time Needn’t be Dull

The phrase ‘selling your time’ does, I admit, sound a bit dull. Especially when compared to the excitement of launching a startup or selling themes and plugins while you’re on holiday.

But both freelancing and employment can be very rewarding. Freelancing gives you then opportunity to try new things, work with different people, and manage your own time and priorities. While elopement gives you the benefit of being part off a team and contributing to larger projects which you can see through from start to finish.

Which you choose at any given time will depend on you: your personality, your circumstances and what’s available. But if you take some time to identify what will suit you best, and to prepare to make a success of it, then it will be much more rewarding.

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