We are pleased to announce the relaunch of our blog, with a brand new design and fresh content. We will be featuring interviews, survey results, articles from guest experts on various fields and much more – watch this space!

Check out the new blog and don’t forget to subscribe using RSS if you like what you see and would like to stay in touch! If you have already subscribed to the old blog (i.e. this one) you will need to re-subscribe to the new one.  Subscribe to our new RSS feed now >>

Related URLs:

New Blog: http://blog.peopleperhour.com

New RSS feed: http://blog.peopleperhour.com/feed/

Advertisements

Thank you to everyone that has provided us with useful feedback, positive or negative, on the Premium membership scheme that will be launched in September.

We have collected and analysed all the feedback (from the blog and also from your emails) and have used it to identify the main concerns about the scheme and modify the scheme to address them.

Below are the highlights/main points from the feedback and how we have modified the subscription scheme to address them:

  • The bid allocation for the standard and gold membership was too limiting
  • o We have increased the bid allocation for Standard members to 15/month and for Gold to 40/month.
  • o The bid allocation to Gold members has now been doubled to 40 bids/credits.
  • o Also, we have decided to keep the cost of each bid to 1 credit regardless of the project value, which means that essentially everyone will on average be able to bid for double the number of projects with the same credits.
  • It would be more fair to ‘refund’ the bids if the project does not get awarded
  • o We see this point and do agree that it would be fairer to have such a system but unfortunately it would not be possible to ‘refund’ bids because everyone would have to buy bids, then wait until project expiry to before the bids can be refunded.
  • o We decided that it would be more practical to give more free bids (see above) to everyone that will in practice neutralise the effect of some wastage.
  • The number of categories allowed were too restricting
  • o We can see the point that a lot of providers have skills that span two categories so have doubled the free categories for both Standard and Gold members to 2 and 4 respectively.
  • It would be very difficult for new providers to win work
  • o Again, this was one of the major factors behind the big increase of the free bids for the Standard membership.
  • o Also, we are working on a new system to allow providers (new and existing) to ‘import’ feedback from projects they have completed outside PPH. We’re hoping that this will help new providers start with some feedback and win work.

On another positive note, from the buyers asked separately about the scheme, the feedback was almost 100% positive about introducing some type of premium accounts for providers and also to limit the number of free bids to increase quality.

We expect this to improve the percentage of projects awarded, as the common complaints by buyers are that they have often have to go through a large number of bids from providers that do not necessarily have all the skills needed and also that some providers do not respond to the buyers during the bidding stage (and sadly, some don’t even respond after they have won the work!).

It’s worth stressing again that the main drivers behind this is to increase the bid quality and number of projects accepted, as well as provide an avenue for those who wish to benefit from lower commission fees. Without wishing to spark a debate about this (and you’ll have to take our word from it or just ignore this comment!), it’s worth noting that we actually estimate (based on the figures so far) that any financial gains from the bidding will be offset by the reduction in commission, so there will actually won’t be any significant direct financial benefit for PPH – we are however hoping that the increase in the number of projects awarded will benefit both PPH and our provider community.

In summary, the new scheme will be as follows:

 

Standard

GOLD

PLATINUM

Monthly Fee

Free

£7.95

£14.95

Monthly Credit allowance

15

40

80

Additional credits (per bundle of 10)

£5.95

£4.95

£4.95

Service Categories

2

4

Unlimited

Max No. skills listed in profile

10

15

20

Profile listing

Hosted portfolio

2Mb – 5 files

10Mb – 10 files

20Mb – 20 files

Additional service categories

£5.95/mo

£3.95/mo

Free

Service (Commission Fee)

10.00%

8.50%

7.50%

Minimum service (Commission Fee)

£15.00

£10.00

£10.00

       

Project Value

Credits/bid

 

 

Less than £250

1

   

£250 – £500

1

   

> £500

1

   

 Some other amendments to the scheme include:

  • Longer expiry period for purchased bids – this has been increased and instead of expiring at the end of each month, the bids purchased will only expire at the end of the following month e.g. if purchased on 10th of September, the bid credits will expire at the end of October)
  • Free period when upgrading to the premium accounts – the period between the date of upgrade the end of the current month, will be free of charge for those who choose upgrade to Premium accounts e.g. if the upgrade takes place on the 7th of September, the rest of September will be free and the firstly monthly fee paid will be for the month of October.

With the launch of the networking features a few months ago, a large number of providers have been collaborating and building their professional network by connecting with other providers that they can work on projects with.

With that in mind, we have launched earlier today new features to enable providers to form virtual teams with other providers in their network and bid together, as a team, for projects. To start forming a team, you need to log on to the team section under “My Network” and once you have created your team, you will be able to invite other providers to join.

Each team creator is also the leader of each team and is responsible for placing the bid, communicating with the buyer and coordinating the work done. Once the project is completed, the team leader raises an invoice and collects the payment from the buyer to his PPH account. It is up to each team to agree their own business terms regarding payments from the team leader to the team members for the work each one has done.

To assist with the payment process, we are providing the facility (for those who wish to take advantage of it) for team members to raise invoices for the team leader, who can then pay them using the funds in his PPH account. This minimizes the number of payments and hence transaction fees for everyone. Alternatively, team providers can agree on another arrangement for settling payments but we recommend using the PPH payment system available where necessary.

Please send us your feedback if you have any comments/suggestions about the new features that have been launched.

PPH gets a makeover

June 30, 2008

As you may have already noticed, we have launched the new design of PeoplePerHour.com earlier today.

PPH new design

While many of you had given us positive feedback in the past about the old design, we wanted to give a more “modern” feel to the site while maintaining the way the site is structured so that it is still easy to find information and use the site.

Hopefully, you will agree that the new look is a positive change but as always, we welcome any feedback – positive or negative – so please get in touch and let us know your thoughts on the new design.

We have done our best to iron out any bugs and ensure that the new design works well on all major browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari etc) but if you have noticed something that does not work/display as it should on your machine please give us a shout and we’ll fix it asap.

How search engines rank websites

Before any Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) work takes place, we need to understand how search engines work. A widely-held misconception is that search engines rank websites; they don’t!

Search engines rank web pages – a common mistake is to assume that if your website is optimised for a number of keywords, all the traffic will go to your homepage. While the homepage is usually the most prominent page within a site, the search engines will also look at your web pages individually and determine which ones are most relevant for the keyword search for.

This concept is something you should always have in mind when undertaking any optimisation work, since collectively the ‘other’ pages on your site can easily attract considerably more traffic than your homepage. This is particularly true for any sites with regularly updated content e.g. sites with user-generated content, blogs etc.

Getting your new site noticed

While most search engines will sooner or later find your new website, this can take some time. Luckily, you can speed up the process by getting inbound links from trusted, popular sites. When Google and other search engines crawl these sites they will follow the links to your site and add the content from your site in their database.

You can also submit your site to the most popular search engines (Google and Yahoo offer this facility); this will place your site in a queue of sites to be crawled but as this approach can sometimes take months it is recommended to focus on placing relevant links on high-traffic sites instead.

Classifieds sites like Craigslist or Gumtree can be particularly good for this as they are crawled very often by the search engines due to their popularity and changing content and can often result in your website getting crawled within a couple of days. Just remember make sure that your listing contains a proper hyperlink to your site (writing the full URL of your website will usually automatically make them into a hyperlink e.g. http://www.PeoplePerHour.com).

Basic Optimisation of your web pages

This is usually referred to as ‘onsite’ optimisation work, as it involves working on structuring your web pages (or the information on your web pages) in the most effective way to ensure that they achieve the best possible ranking in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Unless you have technical skills, you will most probably need the help of a webmaster or SEO expert to implement some of these changes.

This is by no means an exhaustive list since search engines will take a lot of factors into account when ranking web pages, but should get you off to a good start:

  • Page Title: The page title is the text that appears in the top blue bar of your browser. This is one of the key parameters used by search engines to determine the relevance of a page, so make that an appropriate page title is placed on each of your pages. Ideally, you would like the page title to be as relevant as possible to the content of the web page and contain keywords or key phrases that you would like to appear for in the SERPs. The Page Title also appears in the SERPs, so having a good, relevant page title will increase the chances of your link in the SERPs being clicked.
  • URL: The URL is simply the web address of a web page – having relevant keywords in the URL can help your rankings. To achieve this, you will need to work with your web designer/developer to insert these keywords in each page. A word of caution; avoid excessively long URLs as they can have a negative impact.
  • Text: An SEO saying states that ‘content is king’, meaning that no other SEO technique can beat good, relevant content. While SEO is a combination of many factors it is true that if you do not have the relevant content on your website, it will be very difficult to appear in the SERPs. A lot of people place emphasis on the ‘keyword density’ of the pages but search engine algorithms change constantly so you are better off creating the text with your users in mind while trying to include any keywords you consider important for your site.
  • Metadata: Meta tags are not as important as they used to be but it is still worth ensuring that the right keywords are entered on each page of your site. Again, you will need to work with your webmaster to insert this content on each page and ensure that each page has metadata which is specific to it (as opposed to generic for the site).

Building relevant Inbound Links

Inbound links are links from other web sites to your site. It is important to try and obtain relevant links to your site, meaning that the sites linking to yours have a related ‘theme’ to your site. If you are selling books online for example, an inbound link from a website with book reviews will be very relevant while a link from a mobile phone web site will not.

Broadly speaking, the more relevant inbound links you have the higher your page rankings will be so you should be aiming to get as many of these links as possible. Strictly speaking, different links carry different ‘weights’ (depending on how ‘important’ the page the links are placed on is considered by the search engines) but for the purpose of this article let’s assume that they all carry the same ‘weight’.

However, it is worth noting that links from irrelevant site or sites that are just there to facilitate link building (as opposed to being genuine sites ‘with a real purpose’) will not help your rankings so they are best to be avoided as you can even get penalised for having these inbound links.

There are many strategies for increasing your inbound links; common ways of doing so including contacting other sites to ‘exchange’ links or simply pay them to place a link on their site, finding relevant blogs and contacting the person in charge to see if you can get a relevant link to your site (you might be asked to submit an article on a particular topic etc) and placing links in directories (e.g. Yahoo directory) and classifieds sites (e.g. Gumtree).

Link building is considered to be very important in SEO and apart from improving your search engine rankings, will also drive relevant traffic to your site.

Leveraging Internal Links

While inbound links are key, the importance of internal links should not be underestimated. Internal links are links from pages on your web site to other pages on your site. Your search engine rankings can be improved by creating these internal links by using keywords in your site as the link text.

You will notice that many sites (e.g. Wikipedia) use internal links extensively; every time a word appears and a relevant article exists on Wikipedia, the word is linked to the relevant article. Apart from increasing internal links, this also makes it easier for users to find their way to relevant content on your site.

Analysing Competitor strategies

A useful exercise to conduct is the following: search for the key terms you are interested and note down which pages rank highly in the SERPs. You can then analyse these pages to see how many times are the keywords mentioned in the text, what page title has been used and what keywords have been included in the URL.

Additionally, you can also check to see how many links these websites/web pages have and what sites are linking to them. Each search engine uses different notation but, for example, to achieve this on Google enter the text ‘link:www.peopleperhour.com’ (of course replacing ‘www.peopleperhour.com’ with the URL of the site you are interested in)

Getting crawled

If your site has hundreds or thousands of pages, it is unlikely that the search engines will store all the pages in their database. Search engines will try to determine which pages have unique, different content and include those in their database. The way your site is structured and the internal links (or absence of them) will also determine how easy it is for a search engine to find all your web pages/content and stored them.

You can check how many of your pages Google is storing by entering ‘site:www.(nameofyoursite.com)’ on Google. If most of your pages are not stored by Google it’s time to get some help on making the right changes on your site to ensure that more of your pages are indexed by the search engines.

Also, the size of your site and frequency of change of your content will determine how often your site is visited (‘crawled’) by the search engines; this can be important, particularly if you have content that changes frequently on your site (e.g. daily news on a particular subject) that you would like people to find on the search engines.

Do not forget your visitors

A lot of effort can go into SEO and into trying to make web pages more ‘search-engine friendly’ but at the end of the day, you should not forget to design your pages with real users primarily in mind.

Google and the other search engines are constantly changing their algorithms so SEO should be viewed as an ongoing process. This also means that it is not worth trying to ‘trick’ search engines as they will quickly catch up and possibly penalise your site.

Instead, focus on creating good, relevant content for your visitors, laid out and structured in a way that makes sense. Search engines want people to find what they are looking for so create your content with ‘human users’ in mind and your search engine rankings will improve over time.

We are continuing to look for and arrange relevant deals for PPH users and this week, we are excited to be able to offer a 15% discount to any PPH user wishing to attend the forthcoming Future of Web Apps conference, which will be held on 8-10 October in London.

Registrations for FOWA London will be opening up at the end of this week – to receive the 15% discount, please register with the promo code ‘PPH-15’.

I have attended last year’s conference myself and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in Web 2.0 and the web technologies and business trends of the future. It’s particularly relevant to developers, designers and entrepreneurs as well as anyone working for an internet company.

This year’s array of speakers is even more impressive and the event promises to be even bigger and better. than last year’s. This is the perfect opportunity to learn from the best!

A big thank you to Ryan Carson at Carsonified (the FOWA organisers) for this kind offer. 

Notes on Web 2.0 Expo

July 20, 2007

This April, I attended the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. For those who haven’t heard of it, the Web 2.0 Expo is organized every year (for the 4th year running) by O’Reilly Media – the firm that coined the term Web 2.0. The conference was a week long and hosted some of the most prominent speakers in the world of the internet. Worthwhile? Well, I decided to let you take a view on that by sharing the key learnings from the conference with you (and if you find them self-evident,  well at least you didn’t have to fly 12 hours for them !! )

So here goes (split into the following chapters). The notes were left in the original rough-cut format that I composed them so apologies if there are things that aren’t clear (if so please do email me on xenios@peopleperhour.com and I will try to help )

1. on Web 2.0: what the hell is it ?

–          a lot of confusion and misinterpretation. People defining it as a world of wikis, widgets, communities, networks,  user-generated content etc etc
–          ultimately it’s about people on a website. If you remove them from a web 2.0 site you have nothing. In a conventional site your product is still there regardless if you have 1 user or 1 million users
–          communities Vs networks: a community is a place where people go for a reason i.e. to do something. Web 2.0 is the emergence of a set of tools that allows those people to network within those communities, exchange information, and collaborate
–          It’s not black and white even if a site is not fully Web 2.0 these days, some of the Web 2.0 features can and should be used to enhance the user experience on the site and capture the long tail. People are important on ANY site !

2. on design and development
–         a new design paradigm: hierarchical, top-down, linear design with heavy specs is now obsolete. Gives way to agile iterative design
–          less documentation; more iteration ~
–          not always a big picture from start. We are seeing more emergent systems built from the bottom-up. Features defined in small chuncks; rapid prototyping, time-boxed development, leading to testing and then redevelopment
–          the era of the Beta: everything is beta and stays a beta: cyclic development and continuous improvement. Consumer is now more forgiving: ‘quick and dirty’ approach: just get it out there and don’t wait for it to be perfect
–          emergence of the hybrid designer
–          lots of methodologies on design: common denominator is closed-loop, dynamic cycles, with brainstorming leading to rapid prototyping, testing and then continuous improvement
–          emergence of new environments, platforms, operating systems  and languages that accelerate the above: Ruby on Rails, Solaris, Django
–          open-standards make this easier also: there are now suites of APIs and mashups that are readily available e.g. www.programmableweb.com  Designers need to be aware of them to deploy them to their advantage
–          reduced need for heavy-duty infrastructure and hardware: eg Amazon EC2 services for developers and start-ups
–          increase in offshore development and ‘virtual teams’: problems with communication but gradually being sorted out  

3. on prototyping

–          rapid prototyping is key to the above
–          tools for the above are now increasing: Visio, Plone, Zope, Wuufu, Django, Axure. Adobe Fireworks,
–          importance of usability and user-centric design (UCD)
–          usability testing with a pinch of salt: results often distorted. Use it to weed out the stinkers

4. on measurement, testing and iteration

–          importance of Web analytics: lots of packages out there including Google Analytics
–          Multivariate testing: Optimost, Site Spec, Offermatica, Google Website optimiser

6. on Features

          emergence of an ecosystem with open-standards and APIs, facilitating  rapid deployment, exchange of knowledge & DIY approach
–          communities emerging from features: lego approach: building communities with features upwards
–          tagging, blogging, bookmarking, podcasting
–          APIs & mashups: www.programmableweb.com e.g. wrapleaf.com (online reputation system)
–          Widgets: www.widgetbox.com ; www.widgify.com ; www.clearspiring.com
Design of widgets does make a difference: optimum design: profile/ post (150 x 300 px)

8. on start-up & funding

–          start-ups becoming a lot more capital-efficient as the ecosystem is developing: a drastic drop in the amount of capital needed to get off the ground
–          Some average stats / trends :

  •  
    • $20k – $200 k to build a website
    • Average $1.5m fixed cost base (assuming 8 employees)
    • Relatively easy to break-even but very difficult to get to significant size ($500m is min. for Plc size). Big gap in the middle
    • More and more start-ups deploying a bootsrapping approach
    • VC model changing: small amounts, more early stage  
    • Seed capital: allows you to validate initial assumptions: $100 k – $500k
    • Series A: scale-up $5 – $8 m
    • Series B: ca.  $20 m
    • Exit: lots of deals happening on the $5 – $10 m mark. Very few deals happening on the $100m mark and they all seem to be acquired by a handful of players. This constrains how much money you can raise: to make 5x on exit you can only raise $1m unless you are truly scalable. Chasm in the middle 

–          VCs becoming more receptive to ‘paying out’ founders at spin-out stage
–          Optimum team is 2 people: one business and one technology

7. on PR & Marketing

–          PR 2.0 : use of blogs and online media to promote
–          Offline PR still very important e.g. case-study of Prosper.com (got most of their traction from PR)
–          Emergence of DIY approach: lots of free tools out there to help get traction: Podcasts, You-Tube,. Google News. Google Base, Google Catalogs, widgets
–          Everyone should be making the most use of these free tools to improve traction; but very few people actually are ! 

8. on business models

–          Web 2.0 still quite fickle as far as monetization is concerned. Not a great variety in monetization avenues
–          Broad versus Verticals. Different funding requirements
–          Two predominant models: Media business (advertising), E-commerce. Third is Marketplaces. Some subscription models as well but not as many
–          Media. All about CPMs. CPMs have been stable

1.      Broad CPM = $0.5 – $2 e.g. My Space ($0.52), Netvibes, Youtube, Twitter 

2.      Demographic CPM = $1 – $5 e.g. Facebook  ($1.03), Asmallworld

3.      Endemic Advertising CPM = $10 – $40 e.g. Fandango ($41.67), Flixter

–          Endemic sites are becoming more and more important. Strong emphasis on content to facilitate a purpose e.g. Flickster, Fandango
–          More vertical opportunities to exploit, harder to be successful if you are broad – need to depend on stringer technology  e.g. Youtube
–          Average Revenue Multiples 3.8 x for Media, 1.8 x for e-Commerce
–          E-commerce: still quite a few niche verticals where it’s easy to make money and get to break-even. Challenge is always in scale-up

9. on the new NEW  thing

–          emergence of the webtop. Convergence with desktop
–          offline synchronization: APPOLO by Adobe. (alpha phase) www.adobe.com/go/apollo
–          ethics, copyright issues, morality on the web
–          mobile: still many opportunities. not a reflection of the web but an extension of it
–          the big question: who will fill the remaining 8 slots in the billion dollar mark ?? ca. room for 20 slots. 12 of which are taken !
–          the other big question: must everything on the web be 2.0 these days? Is this the death of 1.0 or 1.5 ? No, but almost every site should maxise the opportunity to utilize these tools to bring their people together and create a community that strengthens their purpose, whatever that may be.