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Category Archives: Business

Finding quality outsourcers, the story of TangoSource

Does your outsourcing experience resemble the image above? A ton of strangers, randomly trying to find work? And after finally choosing someone from the crowd, having to deal with a lack of accountability, poor work product, and lack of passion. I know, I’ve been there, and I’ve learned many lessons. Hopefully my story will help you save time and anguish.

How is all started:

TangoSource’s 1st product was, drumroll, a social network for tango dancers! After the bliss of the first couple of months, I realized that our market wasn’t big enough, so I included ALL social dancers and created DanceHop, an events 2.0 website. I’ve outsourced the design to Yilei Wang and Ruby on Rails development to a local developer, who I’ll call Ahab.

Ahab repeatedly apologized that it was taking him so long, which should have been a red flag. Fast forward, he quit after 3 months of work and gracefully declined equity. This forced me to look at Working with Rails to find a replacement. I settled on an Argentinian developer, Rodrigo. He started coding, and Ahab said I’d found “a diamond in the rough”. Now being smart, I’d engaged a local Seattle Rails guru a couple hours each week for code review to ensure I’d only keep developers that were improving.

A month in with Rodrigo, it became clear he could only code part-time, so I was back looking for help. This resulted in a string of devs, including an Indian developer, Dibya, who delivered but was a bit expensive; a cheaper Indian developer who didn’t deliver; and two more part-time Ukranian developers Dmitry and Igor who eventually also dropped out.

Finding a true partner:

A month after Rodrigo dropped off, I found my co-founder, Federico Ramallo, on Working With Rails. After a long and enjoyable interview with Federico on Skype, I asked if he was open to taking equity to offset some of his compensation. I’d already seen that his life values were compatible with mine, and our personalities jelled together well. He was open to equity, and after a month trial, with my Seattle Rails guru overseeing the process, we started a professional relationship that turned 2 years old as of September 2011.

Federico eventually moved to Colima, and we set up an office/co-working space there, which has been fantastic for recruiting. At that point, any thought of recruiting outside of our realm of influence was gone. We’ve trained up some great devs, found others, and the investment has been paying dividends in terms of output, and company culture. To wrap up, I’ve included some guidelines that I learned through my hiring experience, which I may go into detail in future posts.

Quick tips for finding great outsourced devs:

  1. Discuss values in the interview to see if you’re on compatible paths
  2. Offer a trial period of 1 month, with increasingly large test tasks
  3. Clearly define what meeting your expectations means
  4. Have an outside observer if you aren’t an expert in the field
  5. Run a daily SCRUM standup meeting, for clear lines of communication and personal connection with your team. Have accomplishments since the last meeting submitted in text before the voice meeting.
  6. Give a bit of a benefit of the doubt, but more than a couple days of poor performance or communication and it’s probably time to move on to the next candidate.
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SEO keyword research part 2

When you start optimizing for keywords, a few chosen terms will typically be the most that you can focus on at any given time, so it’s super important to be focused on the right terms. In my previous article introducing SEO keyword research I reviewed keyword intent, and how to determine search term value. Now I’ll be going over the process of finding keyword ideas, and determining competition.

Finding keyword ideas

First things first, you’re going to want a plentiful list of keywords to sort through so you can find a few valuable terms to optimize for, as well as low hanging fruit that you can sprinkle into your content. Going back to our original example, helping a friend’s cupcake recipe site, let’s see what kind of terms we can find.

First let’s look at the Google keyword tool’s keyword ideas.


For the results above, I clicked “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms”. In this case, I used both “cupcake recipes” and “cupcake recipe” to get more ideas, given I’m using exact match. Looking at the keyword ideas, we can see some of the top searches by clicking on local monthly searches. I choose local typically because it’s often easier to monetize off of US traffic. It looks like the traffic isn’t great for the top related terms. Interestingly the short tail is recipe specific, the slightly longer tail (with more traffic) is more about the quality of the recipe.

Remember to sign in, otherwise you’ll be limited to 100 results. I got 800 results (the max) after signing in, and if I wanted to get more ideas, I could use more narrow terms to find a broader selection of keyword ideas. To save time researching, remember that you can export the results to spreadsheet!

For more resources, here’s a nice survey of keyword generator tools.

I’ve used the Wordtracker trial to good effect myself.

You can also sign up for SemRush, and look at your competitors terms that are driving the most traffic.

Now let’s narrow this down by competition to find out some reasonable targets given a first campaign.

Keyword competition

Now it’s time to plug all of these terms into a spreadsheet based on value (intent x traffic) and determine their short term value.

Short term value = (intent x traffic / competition).

Ways to gauge competion:

  1. Seomoz keyword difficulty tool (first month is free). I’d advise avoiding the terms above 55 for the difficulty number if this is a new site. The keyword difficulty number takes a lot of different factors into account, and is fairly accurate, although if you’re trying to get to a specific spot on the SERP, you need to do your own research.
  2. Average number of root domain links for top few competing pages ranking for the term. Take a look at Open site explorer cupcake recipe results for an example.
  3. Page authority of the top results. It’s a good indicator of quality links with good anchor text, and domain authority factors in a bit here too.
  4. Site authority of the top results. It’s easy for Wikipedia to rank for terms because of its massive authority, but with authoritative links and the right anchor text, you can compete easily.
  5. Average number of links per high ranking site with the chosen term as anchor text.
  6. Number of pages with the term in their title. Put allintitle:”cupcake recipes” into google, and you’ll see that nearly 100K results show up with pages that have “cupcake recipes” in their title. This is a fast and cursory way to see overall keyword competition.


Disclaimer: Niches vary in competition. There’s a lot of factors that Google’s algorithm looks at, which requires testing, and a few months for your efforts to propagate, particularly if your site is still in the Google sandbox.

Wrap up

I’ve now shown a few different ways of finding keywords, as well as shown some tools to guess at the difficulty in terms. Of the five methods I mention, it will take some experience to figure out the right mix. If you’re looking to get a very specific SERP spot for a term, you can use a combination of page authority and number of links with anchor text to see how tough the competition is, otherwise I’d advise using a mix of all five methods. Your milage may vary. It’s a question of how you want to spend your time building up the site overall, versus optimizing for specific keywords, and it takes some experience to figure out the right mix.

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Intro to SEO keyword research part 1

Countless companies live and die based on their ability to show up highly in on search engine results pages (SERP) for a variety of terms. If you don’t have a lot of money to throw around, getting organic (unpaid) search traffic is one of the best ways to ramp up a business. But where to start? Competing for terms that don’t convert to sales, have no traffic, and/or are too competitive is a sure fire way to fail.

Criterion for winning keywords

Keyword Intent

Choosing the right keyword requires you to get inside the mind of the searcher. Part of the reason why Google has made so much money over the years is that when people search, they are looking for a solution, or something new, and this expansive mindset is very often associated with buying. Some keywords have the right mindset towards purchasing, such as product reviews, and mindset directly relates to how valuable a visitor is.

Let’s pretend that you want to help do SEO research for your friend’s cupcake recipe website. We’ll start in the Google keyword tool. In the screenshot below, I’ve entered “cupcake”, with Exact as the Match Type, to see how many people are actually searching for the terms. Notice that for exact match, even the difference of a single letter means a different search term to optimize for.


Out of this list, the search term most likely worth the most money is cupcake stand, since it’s a more expensive item, and people searching are in a buying mood. Looking at the top search terms we can get an idea of what searchers are thinking. Clearly, most people online are looking for recipes, with a smaller segment looking for supplies. In the case of our friend’s business, they’ll be hoping that by creating a valuable experience, visitors will be more likely to make purchases on their site.


Here’s my equation for the value of a search term:

Search Term Value = Traffic X Intent

Everything else is how well a site capitalizes once a person visits. This is part of the reason why popular search terms are usually more competitive, and why the long tail and local is increasingly the way to go for newer sites.


At this point, we’ve discussed what makes for valuable keywords. Tune in for part 2, where we’ll talk about keyword competitiveness, and finding keyword candidates. I hope that this will help provide you with laser focus for your SEO efforts, which will then lead to real profits.

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