Valentine’s Day is one of our favorite holidays. At WooRank we feel extra lucky because we don’t have just one Valentine; we have thousands! This year, we wanted to show WooRankers how much we love them with an extra-special present. We thought and thought about what to get for all of you.
Chocolates? So cliché. Flowers? They’ll only wilt.
Candlelight dinner? Perhaps a bit much…
Instead, we’re giving you the gift that keeps on giving all year long: site-wide responsive design!
You read right! From now on, it’s not only our reviews that go where you go and stay easy to read on smartphones, tablets, and any other device. It’s everything on WooRank that you need! Scroll and resize – WooRank now adapts to put easy-to-read reviews and a simple interface at the tips of your fingers, no matter where you are.
Check it out! Isn’t it beautiful?
We know, we know – you’re pretty excited.
What can we say? We like you guys. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Our introduction to the WooRank team continues with three more members! We’re out of communicators by now, but don’t worry — there are still developers left to meet.
From the Development Team – Avik Shee, System WOOperations
Meta Description: Avik is one of WooRank’s longest-term techies, handling much of our system’s operations in India. When he’s not working, he loves making music and going to parties with friends. Length: 148 characters
Social Impact: You’ll find Avik tweeting about all things web (and some other sundry topics) @Avik_Shee
Keywords: Music Composer, Web Addict, Artistically Inclined
Also from the Development Team – Jan Potoms, Development Wolf
Social Impact: Jan tends to be a man of the material world, and prefers a beer with friends to tweeting any day of the week.
Keywords: Hacker, Music Enthusiast, Social Media Averse
Detected: English, French, German
From the Design Team – Emile-Victor Portenart, Creative WOOfficer
Meta Description: If WooRank is beautiful, it’s entirely due to our resident creative genius, Emile. When he’s not working for WooRank, he keeps busy at his design firm as well as with his many other pursuits. Length: 157 characters
Social Impact: Emile tweets prolifically about design, startups, and being an entrepreneur @emilevictorp
Keywords: Spicy Food Addict, Italian Sun Lover, Entrepreneur
Detected: English, Italian
Favorite Twitter Feeds: @HackerNews, @MarkBoulton
Favorite Blogs: Wired.com, hippy-djkit.blogspot.com, thenextweb.com
Favorite Books: Great Expectations, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, René Barjavel
(All links non-affiliate)
We couldn’t get anyone to invest in WooRank when we got started, and despite this seeming like the hardest path at the beginning, it might well be the best thing that could have happened to us.
After WooRank was born in 2010 we didn’t wait long before starting conversations with professional investors (both business angels and VC firms) with the goal of raising roughly 300,000 euros to kick-start the business. To our disappointment, none of them were interested in investing in the company, which severely slowed down our projected growth and resulted in us having to make some difficult decisions very early on.
And yet, now we realize we were very lucky that we couldn’t talk any of these investors into backing us financially in the beginning of our company. Let me explain why.
Why did we need a capital injection in the first place?
There are many reasons why a company would raise funding, but it’s especially useful when you’re already on a growth trajectory and need more cash to accelerate that growth. In WooRank’s case, we wanted to make the product more robust, more quickly, which meant we needed more people and resources to add new features and improve the ones that we already had.
Another reason was that we really wanted the ability to adequately compensate the people who were working hard to turn WooRank into a successful business, and be able to hire more highly-specialized profiles to keep pushing for growth. Money is just one way to motivate and attract people, but it’s a crucial one nonetheless.
There were more reasons for raising capital for WooRank at the start of the company, such as marketing so we could promote our services in the right places, and to the right audience.
Our Early Bootstrapping Days
Our first year of operations was, well, very tough.
We weren’t able to convince investors to financially back us, so in the beginning we were ultimately a startup with no demonstrable revenues or traction. This resulted in a few things:
- Night-time work: Before WooRank became a sustainable business, both co-founders worked as freelancers during the day and pumped the income from that into the venture.
- Slow growth: Once the free WooRank website analysis tool was launched, WooRank still didn’t generate any revenue until after the first 15 months.
- Recruitment barriers: It’s difficult and frustrating to not be able to hire talent because of lack of funds. Although money is not the only motivation talented developers, engineers and designers need, it certainly helps!
During this time we also learned that:
- It’s not easy to do everything on your own.
- It’s better to start a company with a partner (or several) with the same determination and motivation, who complements you and shares the same values and vision.
- You need a lot of support from your significant other or family.
- You need a plan of action to avoid losing your vision to tedious day-to-day tasks.
- You need to focus on the business and keep distractions to a minimum.
- It’s better to recruit one extremely smart professional than to hire too many people, too fast.
- Cash is important, and setting it aside as much as you can to serve as a buffer can make all the difference. You need to be careful not to spend your early money on ‘nice-to-have’ things that are not really necessary for operation at the beginning.
- Communication with your co-founder(s) and your team is extremely crucial.
Our Future Looks Bright
Nonetheless, bootstrapping the WooRank business has also had advantages that we’ve clearly benefited from in the long run.
The first benefit is that there weren’t external pressures on us (from investors) to achieve specific levels of profits, or to develop WooRank in a way that was not necessarily in our customers’ or our own long-term best interests.
Although it was difficult at the start, we decided to, and were able to, keep the tool free for a long time. This allowed us to build up traffic and a sizeable user base, and learn from their feedback and usage. We understood their needs and were able to adapt to them more swiftly than would have possible otherwise.
Another consequence of not having early investment is that we’ve had the flexibility to cultivate the company culture as we ideally envisioned it. This includes giving team members additional incentives and a great work environment – and despite long working hours at the beginning, to give the team the necessary professional freedom to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Who knows if this would have been possible with the pressure of measuring up to our investors’ wishes weighing us down?
After the launch of WooRank it took 15 months before we started bringing in revenue. Three months after the first sales, WooRank became a company rather than a project.
We have been profitable since March 2012 when we switched to a freemium model and today we’re a team of 19 people and counting.
We are proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, especially after bootstrapping the business, and we’re excited about what we’re working on now and our plans for the future of WooRank. And although it hasn’t always been easy, looking back, we’re very happy that we didn’t manage to convince investors to back us early on.
Share at bit.ly/woorank-2013
Figuring out how to hire the right, talented people fast enough to keep up (but not too fast) is one of the most important dilemmas any startup goes through. Navigating it successfully makes a big impact on the company, regardless of the startup’s stage or the industry it’s in.
At WooRank, we have built an amazing team over the years, and we’re going to keep on recruiting talented and motivated people as we grow. How we recruit talent is a story in its own right, and from what we’ve gathered it’s a rather unconventional strategy. So, we figured we should share our thinking about the matter with you, in hopes that you find the information useful or inspirational in your own search for the right people.
Bear in mind that ours is not a silver-bullet strategy; it may not be the appropriate or smart thing to do in your company, and we’ve made our fair share of mistakes (which we’re not going to hide from you either).
What We Don’t Do
To explain how we hire, we’re going to start with how we don’t hire. For one, we detest job boards. Granted, we’re not the only ones, but to us using job boards feels like shopping for people on marketplaces à la Amazon or eBay. It just doesn’t jive with our company culture (which was made by the people we hired in the first place). Plus, smart, talented people are rarely searching for a job, so you won’t find them on job boards. The best people are usually ultra-motivated by their current endeavour, so you have to go after them.
What We Do
At WooRank, we think a company is only as good as its ‘weakest’ team member, so we have high standards. To hire the right people, we often compare the process of recruitment to marketing.
Our favourite way to bring in new people is through referrals, because personal recommendations can be so powerful. We also chase people that catch our attention on LinkedIn.
Whenever we interview someone, we try to be as transparent as humanly possible about what we do. Even if a candidate turns out not to be a fit, in the end he or she may know someone who could be.
We also ask our team who they consider to be the brightest people within their social graph. Then, we go after them – rather intensively at that.
Oftentimes (and this is where it gets a tad unconventional) we’ll encounter someone, somehow, and if we think he or she is a smart person that would be able to contribute to WooRank’s growth and success, we’ll hire him or her knowing full well that there isn’t a clear-cut position for the person to fill straight away. If we feel this person will be able to add value in one way or another, we think it should be up to us to find a role suited for his or her skill set and not lose out on a talented person simply because there’s no open position specific to his or her qualities.
A Real Example
Take Olivier for instance. Our youngest developer on the team, he was only 20 when we first met him. He had just left school, had no job experience and, frankly, didn’t have a lot on his CV either.
He was, however, referred to us by our UX designer, so we decided to give him a chance. After all, school is not necessarily where you learn what the near future is going to be like, so we figured the important thing was not about how much Olivier already knew, but how fast he would be able to learn new skills and gain new knowledge.
We had Olivier take a technical test, and we saw promise in what he delivered. The potential was clear: his coding was clean and, above all, reflected reasoned thinking.
Perhaps most importantly though, we could easily envision Olivier ‘the person’ collaborating well with the existing team. If we didn’t think he would ‘fit in’ and be compatible with WooRank’s culture, we would probably have turned him down. We’re not just hiring people – we’re hiring WooRankers, and we take that seriously. And that’s what Olivier was when we hired him: a budding WooRanker, capable of awesomeness.
Two of Us Always Interview
It’s not difficult to tell when someone lacks essential traits needed for a certain job, and it’s typically easy to filter out these people with a phone screening.
But how do you distinguish great talent from good or ‘okay’ talent? One way to do that is through an intentional, probing approach to face-to-face interviews. We’ve also learned that a pair of interviewers tend to better identify a person’s skills and evaluate their achievements.
We often take the classic good cop / bad cop approach when interviewing a candidate in pairs. Typically, our CEO Jean will ask ‘open’ questions to learn more about the person, while our CTO Nils asks very technical questions. This way we can start to get a feel for what a person is good at, but also what he enjoys – and doesn’t enjoy – doing, whether he or she can work under pressure, deal with conflicted priorities, and so forth.
I am different type of interviewer (Boris). I will often sit in silence, listening carefully to everything a candidate says, paying specific attention to his or her body language. Non-verbal signs will tell you a lot about a person’s passions, whether they are more about ‘me’ than ‘us’ in groups or teams, etc.
At WooRank, we use two cardinal hiring filters during an interview:
1) Eagerness to Learn
Our technical architecture is rather complex, and it evolves constantly.
If a candidate does not demonstrate curiosity or if they have a tendency to ask questions or make remarks that would – in our mind – mean a shift toward the status quo, we won’t be the right company for him or her. If he or she doesn’t have questions (or even well-argued criticism) about the way we handle things at WooRank, this is almost always a red flag.
2) Willingness to Fail
Failure can be part of success, if you view it as a learning experience. What you don’t try, you’ll never learn or know. Mistakes are fine, as long as you don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again. We prefer ambition and initiative-taking over fear of failure any day of the week.
At the end of interviews, we want candidates to realize that we’re building something big, and that they could be a crucial part of it and learn a lot in the process. One question we ask ourselves after any interview is what we call the “weekend test”: if the candidate was working alone in the office on a weekend, would I be likely to want to come in to work with him? If the answer is a clear ‘no’, than we won’t be offering this person a job.
We’ve been fortunate to hire amazing people this way, so we tend to think our strategy has legs!
Not that we haven’t made any mistakes.
Sometimes you learn things the hard way. It would be silly not to admit that we’ve made mistakes in hiring people, and we’d like to give you one example.
A while ago we found ourselves needing someone to deal with operations and data mining – and needing to find them very quickly. We needed a person that would eat analytics for breakfast, and handle administrative stuff and deal with banks and public services after lunch. We were in a hurry, we met a lot of candidates, and none of them suited us.
Then in came this bright young woman (let’s call her Emma). A recent graduate, she possessed all the right skills on paper: a ninja with Microsoft Excel and all that jazz. We’d lie if we told you that we were totally convinced, but we were in something of a rush and we saw potential.
We hired Emma on Monday. And let her go on Friday that same week.
Why? Because we made a serious error of judgment. We were so used to being around people whom most would classify as ‘geeks’ that we forgot to ask some of the basics, such as can you typewrite, and do you know how PayPal works. It was a casting mistake, and it was entirely on us.
We figured that since Emma’s role wasn’t meant for a technically skilled person, we could hire someone with virtually no knowledge of technology. We were wrong. In the end, we’re a technology company, and even the people who handle the non-technical jobs should be able to understand the ‘WooRank language’ we speak in the office day in and day out. This is especially true for WooRank because we encourage people to collaborate closely and share knowledge exhaustively.
During Emma’s interview, we fell into what we call the confirmation trap: we only saw what we wanted to see, and we didn’t go with our gut feelings because of all the wrong reasons. Time pressure is one thing, but you could argue that we lost a lot more time because of our mistake in hiring Emma, not to mention the impact that hiring a ‘weak link’ may have had on the recruitment of top talent down the line.
We’ve learned our lesson.
Our advice? Develop a company culture and stick to it. Listen to your people. And mostly, hire bright, talented people who are eager to learn, and help them work to their strengths, both for your benefit and theirs.
Do you have any great hiring stories? Indispensable hiring strategies? Do you use a similar process when you’re hiring? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Say hello to the next three members of our team! This is the fourth instalment of our Meet the WooRankers series, where you get a behind-the-scenes look at the staff of WooRank, both in Brussels and abroad. Is this your first time here? Not to worry — the staffers that have already been introduced can still be found in the first, second and third editions of the series!
From the Development Team – Olivier Cuypers, Web Crawling Wolf
Meta Description: Olivier is an all-around developer and a data-mining ninja. Father, husband and handy man, you can find him enjoying the Belgian rain breaks in a kayak or sail boat. Length: 165 characters
Keywords: Team Player, Believer in Human Good Nature, First to Help Out
Detected: English, Dutch
From the Communications Team – Javier Sanz, Brandketer
Meta Description: Javier is our go-between man. He puts the V in versatile and speaks in code, tweets and marketing-ese. He’s also the man who rocks WooRank’s hispanic market. Length: 126 characters
Social Impact: Discover a range of insights on the internet @malditojavi
Keywords: Internet Kid, Spaniard, Metal Lover, Tester-Extraordinaire
Detected: English, French, German
From the Communications Team – Deanna Witwer, Content Editor
Meta Description: Deanna is in charge of quality control of the blog and provides customer care for you North American WooRankers while the Belgian contingent is asleep. She is Canadian to the core with a soft spot for all things Belg. Length: 185 characters
Social Impact: Catch her (let’s be honest) re-tweeting @DeannaWitwer
Keywords: Sentence Crafter, Dance Artist, Bird Hunter, Tea Obsessed
Detected: French Nouns
Favorite Twitter Feeds: @fabpot, @AmyHoy, @DiegoMarino, @CIAwesome
Favorite Blogs/Websites: www.echojs.com, www.bonillaware.com newsletter, www.upcyclethat.com
Favorite Books: Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture, SuperFreakonomics, Lonesome Dove
(All links non-affiliate)
What started as an innocent Twitter conversation between one of our marketers and US-based digital marketing expert Mike King quickly escalated into a full-blown SEO and digital marketing meetup. WooRank was happy to welcome Mike to our headquarters on November 19th (last Tuesday) for our very first hosted event, co-organized with FeWeb, the Belgian Federation of Web Agencies.
The evening’s lineup was stellar; in addition to our visiting star, we also had the privilege of hearing from our very own Aleyda Solis (who joined the WooRank team this month), as well as well-known Belgian digital marketers Stéphane Bouchez and David Hachez. We started by hearing a keynote presentation from Mike in which he outlined how he developed a digital marketing strategy for his previous company, iAcquire. A panel discussion followed in which we heard from all of our visiting rock stars about creating strategic digital marketing campaigns on a budget.
Here’s a run-down of what we learned from Mike:
Switching from Link-building to Inbound Marketing
Mike started at iAcquire by shifting the company focus from link-building to inbound marketing. After a PR nightmare outed his company for selling links, Mike turned the bad press into an opportunity to turn around the online marketing brand into a fully white hat gig. ”I don’t develop marketing plans, I develop a quarterly content strategy,” he told us. He utilized diversified content types like the “Pay With a Tweet” tool & custom comic strips to get the word out about the areas where his brand had expertise.
With the success of their new strategies, two new teammates were brought on board for help in social media management and analytics. Real brand exposure came from getting out to conferences and talking with people, as Mike shared the expertise of iAcquire. His team also developed ideas for small complimentary tools and took advantage of guest posting to gain visibility as knowledge leaders.
Mike said that if he were to do it over again, he would start with goals & measurement plans. He also talked about how they made personas to inform their strategy of who they were communicating with (their audience!). After defining a core strategy and finding their brand’s voice they went for a full-on website redesign, highlighting the content areas that analytics told them people were searching for the most.
The success of these inbound strategies turned into the hiring of more collaborators and increased organic search traffic – right on!
Mike’s team used further strategies like getting leads from referral sources, holding webinars on new topics of interest, hosting events and improving their landing pages’ conversions to achieve increased traffic and gain new clients.
- Identify knowledge gaps that set you apart
- Focus on content strategy
- Choose channel owners
- Over communicate with your team
- Track everything
- They don’t build links, but have earned over 11,000 links organically
- Customer Acquisition Cost:Lifetime Value = 1:14
There were still “failures”, things that never got fully implemented; but hey, its always better to have too many great ideas than not enough.
Check out Mike’s slide deck for yourself below!
We also loved the panel discussion that followed. Aleyda, Mike, David and Stéphane shared great insights and answered questions from the audience on everything from how to effectively increase Twitter followers to the future of gamification.
After the formal event was over, guests had the opportunity to enjoy drinks, snacks, and networking in WooRank’s new office.
A big thanks from the WooRank team to all of the participants who made the event a great success!
Interested in attending a WooRank event? We would love to read your topic ideas in the comments below!
WooRank Projects are now Advanced Reviews
WooRank users will be getting a brand new tour of their data this week, thanks to a big update in our monitored reporting features. Project data will now be stored under the new Advanced Reviews area as our classic website review data is joined by graphs and information from Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, SERP tracking, backlinks monitoring, server uptime and more.
As our goal is to make the lives of digital marketers easier, in the coming weeks users will see new features building off of Advanced Reviews that we think are really exciting! Our faithful users have been sending us lots of feedback, and we promise we’ve been listening.
Get a sneak peak of what’s inside Advanced Reviews with screenshots from the new tour below.
1. Welcome to WooRank
On the Overview page we’ve added new Getting Started content – start the tour at any time, immediately find the FAQ and stay up-to-date with digital marketing tips from the WooRank blog.
2. Review a Website
Nothing has changed here, it’s still easy as ever to run a website review and add your competitors.
3. Download your Branded Report
Don’t forget that our branded reviews make reporting quick and easy.
5. Define your Settings
There are so many great options in Settings, don’t miss out on email sharing and competitor tracking.
6. Prioritize your Job
7. Enjoy Clean Advanced Metrics
You’ll now find all of your Project data within Advanced Reviews, putting all of your website data in one convenient place.
9. Get Things Done
Browse each category of your Marketing Plan to view your tasks, their descriptions and resources to help you complete them.
From free to freemium… and to profitability: here’s what we learned along the way.
When we first started WooRank and launched our website analysis tool in January 2010, the service was entirely free for unlimited use. Being a bootstrapped startup, however, we needed to generate revenue fast to stay afloat. Initially we made money by charging customers to generate white-label SEO reports while at the same time adding useful new features to the product.
In March 2012, our core product had matured enough for us to comfortably charge customers for an upgraded, premium service, especially the heavy users who we knew were making (more) money for their own businesses with our product. These users were typically digital agencies using WooRank to run instant website reviews for their clients in mere seconds, enabling both better service and the acquisition of more customers.
Despite this, the reality at the time was that the company was in jeopardy, and needed to find a better way to generate revenue not just to stay alive but to grow. We weren’t in dire straits yet, but we realized something needed to be done to fine-tune the freemium model.
Our options were two-fold and based on capping usage:
- Limit the number of website reports our users could generate (e.g. only 1 full report per week).
- Limit the content of the reports by showing less data and fewer actionable tasks.
We quickly decided to go with option one, because we wanted to:
- Make sure every business customer had access to a full rather than a ‘crippled’ report.
- Be able to demonstrate the full capacity of the software to every free user.
- Charge for heavy usage of the product as we were giving those customers a lot of value.
It was a quick decision, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy one. We feared that we would make a lot of our users unhappy, and that’s the last thing we wanted. We were also afraid that we would lose out on a lot of the traffic that helped us get to where we were in the first place.
What actually happened:
- Traffic did not drop much at all (phew).
- Sales multiplied three times in just one month.
We went from being close to running out of cash to profitability in a short period of time, allowing us to grow the team exponentially and significantly improve our product and customer service.
There were also a few unexpected consequences. We noticed that after our decision to start charging some of our users, searches for things like ‘WooRank alternatives’ and ‘WooRank clones’ shot up.
That was good news for us, perhaps counterintuitively, because we know how difficult it is to build a high-quality website analysis and SEO tool, and how impossible it is to simply clone it. We were sure that people who tried these lower-quality alternatives would come back to us eventually, due to the quality of our product; speedy results that are at scale and with a much higher level of accuracy (and care), thanks to our phenomenal developer team.
All things considered (and in hindsight), we made the right choice in going from free to freemium because we did it for all the right reasons. The assumptions we made out of fear turned out to be wrong, and in the end we learned that people appreciated the great service we offered at a reasonable price point, even if it took them some time and trying out of other products to realize it.
Starting to charge professionals and other heavy users allowed us to stay alive, and it not only helped these users make more money and win more clients over time, but it also allowed WooRank to continue offering once-a-week full reports for casual users free of charge. It was a win-win-win situation.
Has your company experienced anything similar? Or is your company in a similar state of transition? We’re interested to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
We’re super excited to announce that WooRank has hired international SEO specialist and search marketing professional, Aleyda Solis, as Head of Digital Strategy. If you’ve frequented any SEO conferences on the global scene lately, chances are you’ve seen on stage – or bumped into – Aleyda, and you’ll likely have read her popular blog.
Not only is Aleyda an internationally known authority on search engine optimization and digital marketing, she is also a tremendously energetic, kind person and we couldn’t be happier to welcome her to the WooRank family.
We are on a mission to make it as easy as possible for professionals to generate instant reports about their websites and learn how they can be optimized for search engines, increased conversion and a better return on their marketing investments with clear, actionable insights and comprehensive tasks.
Aleyda knows this space inside out, and will help us continue keeping the WooRank methodology bullet-proof, spread the good word and keep WooRank in touch with the latest digital trends.
Aleyda will be relocating from Madrid, Spain to Belgium to work from our offices in Brussels, and will regularly travel to represent WooRank at industry events the world over.
Starting on the 12th of November, Aleyda will become our 19th team member, and what a diverse and amazing team it has become.
WooRank now has a presence in North America (Canada), Europe (Belgium) and Asia (India) to ensure that all our customers can enjoy the best support possible. All in all, our team now boasts 8 nationalities (hailing from countries like the USA, Canada, Spain, Belgium, France, India and Nicaragua) and speaks more than six languages, including English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German and Portuñol.