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What 2018 is leaving behind

Evident trends and lessons learned

     
7:03 pm on Dec 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Considering this thread (predictions for 2019: [webmasterworld.com ]), decided to open this one. Every case and niche is different, this is what I learned recently, specially 2018.

Had to let go some websites and domains. After growing from 1 to many sites (that I own) I had to let go a few, some years back, but 2018 was the year to let go some others. Why? too much time needed to keep it growing, relevant and with good content. Good content is king yes but you always need to post some more, and sites generate expenses. It was wiser to let them go. Selling them? I experienced this but not always I'm willing to spend time and effort in the process, specially domain transfers and installs (my sites run my own CMS). In general letting go this 2018 has been a money saver.

The audience is getting dumber. This was discussed somehow in two separate threads. Over the years the way and style people communicate via websites has changed, many will contact me to ask questions that are already answered in the articles. 2018 was the record. most people don't read, and many have issues reading to the point of "I-can't-believe-it". It's not just me, friends and colleagues running advertising campaigns and online strategies are struggling on simplifying their messages, things like: 5 words is already too much on any square ad or promo box, alert or whatever. I'm really impressed. So, instead of making it easier for readers to contact me I did the opposite: now the users have to search the "contact us" button, why? it's too much stupidity day by day (yes my sites tend to receive daily and weekly emails). This has worked pretty well, no more reading stupid messages. This is alarming, my experience showed established contact with potential clients was also a headache, I had to write like when you try to communicate with children.

Buttons make audience stupid. Facebook introduced new functions regarding some publications. Readers will see a set of buttons so you can have an item for sale and suddenly you receive "is this still available?" something like that. Then you notice you have 50 of those, why? people don't even write, they just click the button. Such a time waster.

Facebook is mostly a waste of time. I added the share/like whatever buttons to my sites. The result is a lot of people were giving likes, good! but let's face it, after the full year I learned I was just helping FB to track people around the web. In fact despite my efforts invested posting on FB and people pushing the like button, the FB page didn't really generate traffic to my website. In fact after several tests I noticed people push the like button even if they don't read anything. So the large amount of likes came from my own website generating traffic to FB, not the other way around. I ended up removing the share buttons and likes. Oh yes my websites came back to their full speed.

I have friends and "colleagues" doing online campaigns. In depth discussions about this bring nothing, FB is something their clients ask them to do because they want it, but there are very little conversions.

FB changed over 2018 way too much. I made some tests at the beginning of the year and I had fair success selling stuff (just as friends and colleagues), then over the year things changed a lot til your efforts prove unsuccessful time after time. FB just doesn't work the same as beginning of the year regardless of organic likes or paid advertising. The result is my friends and colleagues are struggling with their campaigns, me? I don't do that anymore. Today more than ever 10K - 100K likes prove to work as if you had only 2 readers (and I'm not talking about paid traffic).

Mobile is definitely here to stay. My reports show a huge jump into mobile, desktop in my case is the smallest group checking my websites. We already know many of them are not even humans. Bots loose around the web are doing the job. Sure it's a more complex world in terms of advertising due to many adblockers, some mobile browsers blocking naively the ads, diff screen sizes, etc.

My content is your content. More than ever I notice people treating content as if it was a free resource and we were all entitled to it. New companies with lots of hired employees are basing their work on stealing content. They make people read and alter the content, now it's new content!. Lucky you if there is some link to your site, most people are using scripts to do the jump to your site. This is not new but the trend this 2018 is huge.

Video, people want videos. It's quite evident how more people enjoy video content rather than posted articles, why? to entertain their eyes and senses? perhaps, but mostly because today people seem to access content by hearing it while doing something else, and no, podcast are not as attractive as video, people watch bits of the videos, they want images and depending your niche they want tutorials and detailed reports.

The death of more newspapers and online media. The largest newspaper in the region covering 5 countries where I used to work for 13+ years is now asking people to disable ad blockers, they cut their staff amazingly. Near bankruptcy and now using their press (paper printing) to print promotional material like and small local newspaper that don't last (newspapers for communities) they are in really deep problems financially and cutting staff 50 employees at the time on each wave.

Local online media on the rise. Small groups of people covering specific regions of 5km are covering news and posting online, they are fast and they don't go far. They use smartphones and write with their feet (terrible writing) but they are FAST! and you can read the news there first. They are getting paid by VERY SMALL businesses but together that's a lot, from local stores to shoe repairs and restaurants, no more big advertisers.

Dead forum. Lots of forums were already dying but this 2018... damn, there are big communities now having one new topic every 2 days, almost nobody gets online, most moved to FB and Instagram or Twitter.

Lot's of small business opening and closing. This 2018 more and more clients try to research the companies selling services, why? there is already a history of new companies that didn't make it over the year so they want to know "how many developers you have?" so in case something goes wrong they have their backs covered.

Less cash. Never... in my life witnessed this big, huge effort from clients to get the companies to finance their projects so they would pay at the very end. Very few pay in advance 10, 20, 40%, most try as hard as they can to avoid paying upfront. Most want to push "pay at the end of the project".

Websites kinda gone... I see less people interested on websites, but I also see more interested on website-infrastructure to manage internal data.

Letting clients go. One of my most money and time saving efforts this 2018 was letting go some clients. The amount of detail and requests from them was just too much around unrealistic expectations (online) so it was more efficient to have less clients.

Moving to something else. Interesting enough (I posted about this), I've been doing woodworking and other stuff. The effectiveness of time-money is way better and specially because I deal with real stuff, things we can touch, measure, use and mostly because I can start and finish in specific amounts of time. Plus: there is no future maintenance as server updates breaking functionality. 2018 more than ever meant in my case a big push... out of the online world. And honestly it feels good, healthier.

Adsense. More cryptic than ever. Few things translate into more earnings, and if it works, it does so for a few weeks and then goes back to the same earnings because advertisers seem to sail around more strict weekly limits.
8:47 pm on Dec 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Some excellent observations explorador! Many are things I've noticed as well. In general I find too many contact questions to be a result of lazy or impatient visitors.
9:47 pm on Dec 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Thanks not2easy. Some things have been slow trends but 2018 really made them impossible to ignore. All over the year I was constantly remembering a few VERY old threads about removing all the ads from the websites. In context: there were some threads years ago where some old forum members said an ad or an ad-link it's a click OUT of your website. Sure I understand this and also the reasons it makes sense, also how it doesn't apply to every goal or strategy, but the amount of data (making the website slower) and the amount of tracking hurts the user experience. Whenever you remove the ads from your already optimized website: magic! you have an amazing user experience.

It's not that ads make no more money in my case, nope, it's not that. I'm just tempted to remove all the ads at intervals so users get good experiences visiting the site and not finding the annoying ads, then they would see them some other time. Or perhaps showing the ads only to the second visit from the same user.

One thing is for sure, 2018 is moving me more and more to really think on using my ad space to promote my own products (everything new that I'm creating), the ads would be way fast and light, and I will be able to show them despite any ad blocker visitors may have.
10:19 pm on Dec 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Showing your own products in place of ads probably would offer a far higher PPC. Given all the issues (and more to come) with browsers dropping 3rd party tracking, ads may need to reinvent themselves. Who wants ads if there is no return?
10:36 pm on Dec 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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after the full year I learned I was just helping FB to track people around the web

Back in 2011 social media buttons were suddenly included on every WebmasterWorld page.

But not for long.

...
5:57 pm on Dec 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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People think social media works as long as they do not measure the results!
11:32 pm on Dec 30, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Clients ... The amount of detail and requests from them was just too much around unrealistic expectations


Let a few of them go myself actually -- These were mostly those who don't code telling me how long it takes to code something --
4:12 am on Jan 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I fired a few clients in 2017-2018 also. Most were websites that too had been eclipsed by their own Facebook pages. I had to duplicate all their Facebook updates for a bargain (embarrassingly low) fee. In checking one was getting less than 100 humans a day!

The part that led me to those clients was to look at the traffic generated by the links from their sites to mine. They were a part of my 'old school' link network from the pre-2008 days. Traffic forwarded to my money sites? It was 90-98% bots and the few click thru's were looky-loos that never/rarely converted.

I also dropped a lot of Wordpress (fancy widgets) plugins that the only benefit was to their authors/target sites. My sitespeed index and bank account went up.
4:53 am on Jan 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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(well known voice speaking)

"The past has many events of a terrifying nature. Entities of human invention proliferated beyond comprehension to consume the entire width and breadth of society. Ordinary humans struggled to survive in this cold and uncaring environment. And then the year changed. What comes next is ... the Twilight Zone."

Well, I put the twilight to a number of clients increasingly desperate for me to make them money by making g treat their sites right. Informed them I am not a magician, their sites are coded solid, and other than that the only suggestion I could make to prevent more bleeding was "change your product offerings, do better on service, and do some other advertising instead of relying on a one-trick pony determined to buck your a$$et$ out of your pocketbook!"

One of them was so non-receptive of the friendly advice I got the "You're Fired!", to which I thanked them profusely and submitted my final bill.
5:37 am on Jan 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@not2easy: exactly. This 2019 I will play with my own traffic -> advertising, mostly over my own products. I bet this will be fun. Adsense and related can be useful, make money (or pennies) while you do other stuff, but they can also make people lazy (been there), there are lots of discussions behind the benefits of advertising and not "producing products" (instead) but truth is, when you are not a re-seller, when you are the producer... you can play around a bit and your margins will always be better, this means sometimes one, two, or even let's say 5 sales of your products per month can be more productive than one month of pure advertising revenue.

I went side topic there sorry, you are 100% right on your post. And yes, who will pay for advertising if there is no return? makes no sense, exactly.


@Samizdata: that's true. I kept myself from existing on FB, then I decided to give it a try. Well, after one attempt you think "I'm doing something wrong" and classic developer style you change, you try to adapt, but then after X number of attempts it's evident why your "colleagues" can give you straight answers on FB, because... well there is very little return. I'm not saying that's a full waste of time, it is to great extent but there are just diff ways to use it and none of those are really profitable, are they? well not in my experience after seeing what a well positioned website with good products can do, there is no comparison.

I no longer talk (openly) about this because then instead of questions I get lots of people trying to tell me "You are doing it wrong" but hey, they have no website, they don't sell anything, they can't provide numbers on ROI regarding their-clients, etc, it's just smoke and mirrors. At certain point out of fun I discussed this point by point only to see them jumping from topic to topic, it was fun but I have better things to do.

@mcneely: those are the worse.
5:41 am on Jan 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@Hoople: same here, exactly. I gave good honest advice to clients regarding WP, after a while I just told them to find someone else. It's easy to set up but it's not the best idea when you want your site to last years. Mine have been around more than 5, one is reaching 20. That's not easily done with WP and plugins. It's not about static sites that you won't ever modify, it's about stability and flexibility to grow.

@tangor: been there, not a pleasant situation. I don't know what you have been doing about this lately, me? I switched to the other side in terms of "I can do it, but you can't pay me" and that's the truth. Another approach has been just telling them to find someone else (they look surprised and usually stop talking, silent, like shocked), why? they are used to service providers fighting to get clients (cheap clients). I've been avoiding those conversations because their strategies are so bad! anything you tell them is actually free -valuable- advice they don't deserve (remember they are not paying for it) so I keep my mouth shut. I knew about this but 2018 was the final year to me. Lot's of precious time saved.
10:03 am on Jan 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@tangor: been there, not a pleasant situation. I don't know what you have been doing about this lately, me? I switched to the other side in terms of "I can do it, but you can't pay me" and that's the truth.


What I am leaving behind from 2018 (and earlier) is the hoo-rah BS clients new to the web demanding make me rich! and I will pay you 27 a day to get it done! And you should thank me!

Expectations are so off the charts, realities are not recognized, and what I DO KNOW works (as I ditched g stuff years ago) I don't share without a wheelbarrow or two full of filthy lucre involved. Vast majority of this experience/knowledge is NOT "traditional" SEO---which I have also left behind.

It is time for the grown ups to get involved. Creating incomes, building business, or simply existing in an environment that is increasingly hostile to the zillions (over stated, but you know what I mean) jumping on the web every freakin' day thinking they can make a living.

These days I only accept serious folks, Folks who can articulate what they wish to accomplish, and also have reasonable expectations. And enough money to make it happen (I don't work for free, or cheap).

These days it is quality, not quantity!
3:17 pm on Jan 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Wise words tangor, well explained, I totally agree.
7:48 pm on Jan 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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It's not about static sites that you won't ever modify, it's about stability and flexibility to grow.


Even still, I do the modification of the static sites frequently. It's a lot of work sometimes, but at the end of the day it's worth the effort.

What's worked out really well around here lately has been a static front end coupled with the dynamic back end. Dynamic is fine I suppose, but over long periods of time it can become more difficult to scale (citing WP and those pesky plugins). I only have a few 100% dynamic sites left (mine/client sites) -- The rest are a blend of both. It's a lot easier for me to come up with something on my own than it is to try to determine the reasoning as to why somewhat else built what they built.

It's tough to keep up with what other developers are doing these days, what with having to deal with compatibility issues and things of that nature, so I pretty much keep it all to a dull roar around here.

@tangor -- I get these too, and my usual response is that if the build isn't going to adhere to the standards of the day, then I won't do it. Even if for some reason what they might want will work, their over all attitude is a major factor in where I say yes or no. We are all going to have a minimum amount we would be willing to work for, and there always seems to be those few out there that will test those minimum requirements on a regular basis.
4:20 am on Jan 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I walked away from cookie cutter setups years ago. These days I look for the challenge, something to test my skills and experience. That criteria separates the wheat from the chaff pretty darn quick. Toward that end I created a small card I hand out to the folks who have no real plans, only a burning desire to "be on the web and make money". On that card is a list of 5 hosting services I know and trust to do the ordinary, and and HTML instruction site plus three CMS cut and paste packages of varying degrees of difficulty from easy, to medium, to difficult, with the advice to do it from the HTML first. The card also contains a list of "near free" to "a reasonable amount of money" combinations. When I produce it for the disappointed person I've just turned down, face lights up a bit as I offer it.

When they reach for it I say, "That's $5 bucks. Covers my cost of printing these things up."

The light changes, of course, but those who won't pay don't get the card. Those who DO pay ALSO get my personal card with this statement:

"Give it a go for six months. Do your best. See how it works. If you still want to talk to me for consult after that, give me call."

Sorts all kinds real quick ... and at the same time has built a small clientele roster that knows what they are dong, why they might need some help, and are willing to pay for it.

2013 wasn't much different from 2018, but back then I put the above in place. In the years since, things changed, so 2019 and future is looking a bit brighter for me as a "hired hand".

Tough love is an education for new webmasters, or those who want to do business on the web. They have to learn there's more to it ... and that $5, for those who play, has been the best investment they have made. Nothing makes the world spin better than Harsh Reality.

YMMV