One of the great things about this time of year is not the Bronco Christmas Party or our secret Santa (although they are highlights) but the opportunity to look back on the year. We have had a very busy year, with lots of new and exciting clients, huge changes in the digital marketing sector and plenty of exciting things happening in the Bronco office. So sit back and enjoy our Peaks and Pits of 2018.
This year has been another great year for the Bronco team with many successes and exciting projects, with lots of lovely new clients coming on board. We’ve had another year of fitness with plenty of muddy obstacle courses and races entered and completed, and it’s great to see the company growing stronger as a team, especially through our fitness.
One peak this year for me was the Bronco Garden. After acquiring a patch of wasteland on the business park the team set about transforming the area and creating our lovely outdoor space that was enjoyed throughout the Summer. The determination shown by the team who gave up many lunchtimes to do hard graft and transform the space was inspirational and fantastic to see.
As one to always look on the positive side of things I can’t identify a Pit as such, as everything that comes along that we face can just be seen as a new challenge and anyone who knows me will know I like a challenge 😊 I’m very fortunate that we have a superb team, who are very knowledgeable and adaptable, that I can rely on to help the company overcome any changes in the industry with the least amount of detriment to our clients.
2018 has most definitely been an exciting year here at Bronco. We’ve seen a bunch of fun and exciting clients come on board, allowing us to grow our portfolio, but also adapt our knowledge in new areas. We’ve also been presented with new and exciting challenges both at work and on many obstacle course runs throughout the year, uniting us as a team which is great! I also became the digital marketing manager which was a huge highlight for me!
As with every up, there’s a down, of course! Being a part of the SEO team, the second half of the year has presented us with many challenges due to the sheer amount of notable updates Google has rolled out in quick succession. Albeit challenging, there’s always a silver lining with many clients showing excellent recovery following strategic change.
Being able to share Bronco’s success as an integral part of the local community. Becoming the primary sponsor for Ripon Rugby Club, Ripon Football Club and Ripon Cricket Club as well as being shirt sponsors of the Yorkshire ladies rugby team for a historic game against Surrey at Twickenham. Additionally supporting Sporting start and sponsoring this year’s Ripon Rugby Club Beer Festival.
It wasn’t just home city causes we supported, this spring we sent all our clients and local businesses some Bronco Bee Friendly organic flower seeds, to help raise awareness for the plight of honey bees here in the UK and globally. We also created the Life of Bees website to highlight this, which was picked up by some sites and the press, helping spread our message. As a team we also came together to create a quiet space to relax, making an overgrown plot of land on the business park into a beautiful bee and insect friendly garden. With the hot summer, we had it was the perfect place to chill out.
Facebook, I could write so many things here! At the beginning of the year, Facebook made a significant change in the way their social media platform algorithm worked. They stated they wanted users to have ‘meaningful interactions’ so they were prioritising posts that create meaningful conversations, especially those from family and friends.
At first, this seemed like they were pushing for brands to invest more in adverts to get traffic and this was the knee-jerk reaction from marketers, however, we learnt that organic Facebook posts weren’t a lost cause. The algorithm uses signals that heavily favour “active” interactions such as comments, likes and shares over clicking, watching or hovering over a post. So if lots of people share and comment on your business page posts, it will be prioritised by the Facebook algorithm in users newsfeeds. So curate content which your brand followers and their friends would be interested in, rather than just plugging your brand. A nice little side effect of this change has been the reduction of viral and ‘click bait’ posts, 🙂
With the process of getting a project from design to launch it can be tough to come out the other side without feeling that maybe there are opportunities missed. Our skills constantly improve, so each project becomes a learning experience for the next.
But the Paul Roffman website, launched in April, is a project I look back on and think is as near to perfect as I might ever produce; I’m still amazed that I created that design. It utterly reflects the client, his industry and the level of professionalism he wishes to convey. The design is rich and complex with elements of delight that most may never even notice. Even with heavy transparent PNG’s the site is lightweight compared to much of the web and with a hand in writing the content there evolved a balance and complexity to the layout of every page.
Unfortunately, advancements in our build process mean there are opportunities to make the website even faster now. But as much as I’d love to fix them we can’t retrospectively change all our websites every time we find a new way of doing something.
But the website isn’t without one small annoyance and that’s the need to use a 3rd party service the contact form. With no API integration we’re at the mercy of a solution that the 3rd party can change, and already has done, which as a result has introduced small imperfections we never accounted for in an otherwise fantastic project.
It sounds strange, but planning ahead to 2019 has been a big peak for me in 2018. As I’ll be away on maternity from the beginning of the year, I didn’t want to leave my clients in the lurch and my colleagues floundering to pick up my work. The past couple of months I’ve spent researching and making client plans in advance for 2019, and the whole team has really pulled together to help me with this. We’ve had brainstorm meetings incorporating people from every team, bringing some fresh, new life to our campaign ideas and really helping to take the pressure off me.
In other news, the food bank we donated to this Christmas was a big highlight of Bronco life for me. It’s something I was already passionate about – I’m a local Brownie leader too and it’s something we were running there as well – so bringing it to the office was a big peak. Everyone made a huge effort to add something to their shopping baskets each week and we ended up with a massive haul of items to send off to those in need.
One of the pits of the digital world, in general, this year for me has been changing algorithms in everything from search engines to social media. This is something that’s always going to be a challenge as the networks constantly update to try to appeal to the mass market, but it results in influencers who sadly end up losing motivation to spend their time cultivating real interaction as it’s an unproductive task for them. It makes life a lot harder for us working in outreach, seeing influxes of new influencers with promising large followings that turn out not to be real, and those realistic micro-influencers still struggling to push against the algorithms. This also has its downfalls for clients as they’re affected by changing algorithms too, and 2018 seems to be a particularly bad year for them. It’s something we like to take on board as a challenge though to find new and creative ways to push through barriers so that they don’t define us.
Outside the digital world but still, part of Bronco life, a pit for me has been falling out of the gym habit. I could blame spending the latter half of the year pregnant, but in reality, it’s just me being lazy! Hopefully, after I’ve returned from maternity in the next year, I can take advantage of this offering again.
Seeing one of my clients getting hit hard by the E-A-T update is definitely the downside to this year, having worked with them personally for close to 8 years, it’s hard to see the website hit so hard and lose organic traffic. The marketplace has seriously evolved over the last few years and whilst their specialist bricks and mortar store is managing to hold off stiff competition from new lower cost product shops, they continue to excel with product knowledge & experience.
Overall 2018 has been a good year whilst my pit is only one client other clients have excelled keeping top positions over the busy seasonal period or have seen superb increases in Google’s updates late in the year. Seeing both Clicks & Impressions almost double when looking back at earlier in the year.
The continuing development of websites and relationships with our clients is what drives me, and this year has been no different. One such client is Yotspot – a company which brings together yacht owners/managers and crew – for whom we’ve added more features this year. This build gives great satisfaction as it’s completely bespoke, made from scratch a few years ago, and now has thousands of users who we help find a job or crew. It is satisfying adding new features requested by frequent end-users which make a real difference to their daily lives.
As is always the case with development, technology progresses and we must keep pace. Not only is this with the processes and more technical aspects of the job, but users are wanting more features all the time as everyone relies on the web more and more. This provides us a challenge which we have never failed to overcome.
Creating brand awareness for our clients and their products and services is at the core of the Digital Media Marketing process here at Bronco, and 2018 has been no different. Having a piece of content or press release that gains lots of coverage is one of the perks of the jobs, and seeing that information being beneficial to the readers and clients is great validation for all the hard work.
It’s not just about our clients either. With Bronco working with and sponsoring many worthwhile causes which are close to our hearts. One of the most interesting releases we produced this year was about the Life of Bees. We set this website up to highlight the decline of the honey bee and provide information for those who want to help. Through our outreach and bee focused releases we were able to gain coverage on a range of gardening websites, publications and social media profiles to provide awareness on the issue.
One big peak in my personal life has been the Bronco gym. As well as working out at the weekly Bronco Bootcamp with the rest of the team, I have been working with a personal trainer on my Olympic lifting and CrossFit training and have been seeing steady results in my strength and stamina throughout the year.
With the digital ecosystem constantly evolving, and the likes of Google, Twitter and Facebook changing their algorithms on how they rank and show websites, adverts and profiles, it has never been more important to make sure that our outreach is going to the right people and the right websites.
During the research stage, we now have to be certain that the websites we reach out to are not only relevant to the client but also have a real social media user base which has not been manipulated. Even websites that were previously authorities in their sectors have diversified into different sectors meaning that they are no longer relevant to our clients, while some have been caught out by Google updates and have been penalised. This all means that careful screening and research is key to producing a good DMM campaign that will produce results for the client.
It’s been really interesting watch the SERP landscape change throughout the year and making sure we stay on top of that and be adaptive. From the basics like changes in Meta description length through to a number of results on page one, and of course the influence of the E-A-T update.
Despite it being a challenge, it is certainly interesting and exciting to adapt campaigns and strategies to suit various changes. It prevents SEO from being flat and wheeling out poor quality, ‘spammy’ content, and I respect Google’s ever-increasing focus on providing users with something much more valuable and less ‘sales-y’. So my peak this year has been adapting to content quality related updates – although implementing a specific content strategy to ensure users gain a deeper understanding of products and services, whilst also checking that clients are seen as experts and a source of authority and trust, which is a challenge for smaller businesses, the logic can most definitely be understood and fed back to clients with ease.
It’s hard to be proactive as opposed to reactive in the SEO world. Unless Google gives notice that changes are coming, for example, HTTPS warnings on Chrome, a tough consequence of this industry is reacting quickly and efficiently when something does change.
All sites should deliver expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness, but it can be difficult for say, an e-commerce site, to compete with a trusted, non-bias and highly popular resource on this front. Implementing these guidelines across campaigns, especially when a client is offering a highly technical product offering, is no easy task. Although this isn’t necessarily a pit, it is definitely a difficulty we as SEOs face, and will continue to face in the coming months and even years.
Adobe Muse was an amazing product that took all the complex features of web design and packaged them up into an interface that was familiar to digital illustrators and graphic designers. It was particularly useful for making parallax animation websites and micro-sites for our DMM pushes.
Muse was not perfect, however. It produced messy, semantically incorrect and bloated code that caused websites to have a huge size which caused huge issues for SEO. The mass use of responsive design put the final nail in the coffin for Muse, many of its key features including animations were unusable at varying breakpoints. This left users with the only option of designing fixed websites if they wanted animation.
Adobe was put under pressure to fix these issues but was unable to, and decided to end production of Muse releasing the following statement ‘On March 26 2018, we will release the final feature improvement release of Adobe Muse. We will continue to offer technical support to all active Creative Cloud customers until March 26 2020’.
While at first, this was unfortunate, I decided to turn it into a positive and find a better alternative; what other WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) website design tools were out there, and were any better than Muse?
The 3 main alternatives that I decided to look into were Bootstrap Studio, Pinegrow and Webflow. All looked fairly similar on the surface but after weighing up the pros and cons of each one decided to opt for bootstrap Studio.
Bootstrap studio is built on top of the widely used Bootstrap framework. it exports (mostly) clean and semantic HTML which is auto generated and can be altered or entirely re-written at any time in a separate panel.
Bootstrap Studio is based upon a drag and drop interface that while user-friendly won’t simply allow you to just drop an item anywhere on the page (creating the bloated code that Muse was famed for). Adding items to the page needs to be constrained to the normal laws of website building.
Items such as nav’s, galleries and contact forms can be dragged from a library of components and used ‘as is’ or amended to fit your needs. HTML and CSS can also be used to scratch build items, just like in a programme such a Dreamweaver.
There have been many highlights this year, in and outside the office. Helping transform the Bronco garden was a real positive and therapeutic experience. We cleared up and created a beautiful space for everybody to relax, and enjoy the good weather in a nice surrounding.
Throughout the year, to see an old press release essentially, come back to life and to gain the exposure it did, was great to see. To begin with, it started by finding relevant journalists and contacts to reach out to. After successful pickup from various news sites, a journalist then picked up our press release and issued the article on a bigger scale. It was featured by many top news sites including Fox news, CBS news, New York CBS Local news, Las Vegas Now, Forbes, Lonely Planet, Matador network and loads more. It was fantastic to see our old research unfold, in the way it did. There were interviews that were filmed on these top news networks discussing it. The article then triggered a domino effect with placements and was soon picked up by lots of journalists and freelancers. It went on to activate international coverage and sourcing big news sites.
We tackled together as a team, Tough Mudder, Total Warrior and Yorkshire Warrior. All obstacles were thrilling and challenging experiences. It’s turned us all into adrenaline seekers, wanting more. Till next year!
Donating towards the Ripon Foodbank was a great way to end the year. Giving back to others who have found themselves in a tough situation is always a beneficial and great feeling. Everybody in the office and others around the business park, all came forward and donated all kinds of different foods, utilities, toiletries and more. We accumulated a towering collection and successfully achieved a great deed throughout.
There was a lesson learnt when a press release didn’t work in the way I expected. In terms of engagement and placements being generated. Interest was of struggle, and quite frankly, taking a step back and re-analysing the downfalls was needed. It seemed targeting different areas wasn’t working either.
Halfway through the distribution process, I realised people weren’t reading the material, and I noticed people weren’t wanting to hear more about it. All of this was tough to digest, especially when there was more to offer. Also, the original ideas were seemingly a good one at the time. But lessons were learned.
However, there’s always a positive you can take away from negatives, and in this circumstance, I learnt a few things, for example; It could be said, the chosen topic was not in hot favourites in terms of recent discussions at that time. Not holding up its relevancy. Perhaps it wasn’t newsworthy enough? Either way, I can assess the issues that arose.
When taking over a project from another company it can be challenging in many respects but this time, I got to make a real difference. The site had underlying issues which were masked just by using cache. Caching should not be an afterthought and nor should it be used to mask underlying issues. You will in most cases just push the problem elsewhere. By removing all the cache, it was clear to see where the issues were. Tweaking both the backend and frontend I managed to get it performing as well without the cache as it was with the cache.
Going back to my opening line, new projects can be challenging, you have no idea why something was done in a certain way. There may have been a perfectly valid reason behind certain decisions, we will never know in this case. For this project, we had to restructure the bulk of the data which mean that the site does now have reduced functionality. The positive to that though is that the restructure of data helps negate the reduced functionality. Getting the basics correct now will mean that we can build upon it in future phases.
The BRONCO family; each year we grow stronger together, whether it be in the muddy fields of Yorkshire or the digital world in which we apply our crafts. However, this year for me it has to be the impact we have had on the local community, the Ripon Foodbank, the Rugby, Football and Cricket clubs. While walking around Ripon, it always fills me with joy and pride from the way this great City commemorated the 100 years since the end of the First World War to the amazing Christmas tree and lights in the marketplace.
By now Bronco’s clients shouldn’t surprise me, but yet again the comments and well wishes we have received this year have left me truly grateful to be working with some of the smartest people in the world.
Google Updates, personal surgeries and injuries now seem such a long time ago, and Bronco’s strap-line is “There’s Always a Solution” and without a doubt that has been tested to the max, but 2018 still hasn’t thrown a problem we haven’t overcome as a team, BRING ON 2019.
Learning something new is always a challenge, and this year it was getting to grips with Adobe Illustrator and learning to how to create, import and edit images as vector graphics which can then be outputted as SVG files for use on the web. As these files are essentially a group of mathematical rules, it was then a case of learning how these files are put together by understanding the code and being able to hand edit or build them from scratch them where necessary.
Having this understanding of the files means not only being able to create and optimise them fully but it also means as a developer you are not reliant on the designer for any amendments or changes which frees up their time for other projects and this, in turn, makes the whole development process far more efficient, productive and profitable.
WordPress seems more popular than ever and with the release of version 5, its popularity as content management may increase even more. However in some ways, its popularity is also its main weakness as this makes it the biggest target for hackers and malicious attacks on the web and this means your software, servers and network have to be able to deal with such attacks on 24/7 basis 365 days a year.
We’ve taken on some interesting Google Ad accounts from diverse industries this year, all with their unique requirements. It’s been a challenging but rewarding year researching their sectors and building up these accounts.
Google finally switched over permanently to the new Google Ads interface, which has seen a multitude of new features and tools to help with the daily management of accounts and audience targeting. It’s good to see these UX improvements and time-saving features.
We’ve seen some pleased clients this year and received some great feedback, which is great for morale and leaving me with a sense of a job well done.
Extracurricular activities have seen the Bronco team run various obstacle courses this year, of which Total Warrior was my personal favourite. A few of us ran a 10k race organised by one of our clients, my first 10k under an hour and possibly my last ha! Being 40+ my overall health is essential to me, and I’ve seen some good gains in my strength, endurance and mobility this year with a varied approach to training styles and free Bronco gym access.
It’s hard to pick out any real pits this year. I’m not a huge fan of the many Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) available as an alternative to Google. Although suitable for high volume clients wanting to save some cash on their clicks. It’s made the shopping experience clunky for me as a user, as I predominantly use Google shopping to compare and find the cheapest provider of a product in the shopping results. However, the majority of the CSS are omitted from the Google shopping search results, so makes it difficult to make this price comparison anymore.