Ask Business 2.0
Tips for hiring coders and restoring your Google rank.
(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- Q: How do I find a good Web developer? -- David Hom, via e-mail
A: We get this question more often than you can imagine. With Web 2.0 in full swing, Web designers, user interface experts, and Ajax-savvy engineers are heavily in demand.
"Craigslist" is the one answer everyone we asked could agree on. Webheads like simple, well-designed sites, which makes Craigslist a natural place to recruit. It even has a special category for "Internet engineers."
Other than that? Prepare for "weeping and gnashing of teeth," says Greg Knauss, an L.A.-based software-engineering manager who's been developing websites for 12 years. "I'm a programmer, so my interview technique consists mostly of looking at my feet, mumbling, and feeling embarrassed. But I look primarily for passion. One of the best hires I ever made, a database administrator, answered the question 'So, why SQL?' with 'I just love data.'"
Knauss likes language-specific job-posting boards like Jobs.perl.org. But Ken Fromm, co-founder of Web recommendation service Loomia, disagrees: "When you advertise for an expert in a particular language, you can find someone who sees everything as a nail because all they have is a hammer."
When interviewing candidates, it doesn't hurt to test their knowledge of websites. Dean Heistad, CTO of Letix (and former VP for engineering at Business 2.0), quizzes potential hires about their favorite Web 2.0 site. "If I get 'What's Web 2.0?,' I hang up the phone," Heistad says. "But if the candidate names a hard-core mashup or Ajax-driven site like Script.aculo.us or Twittervision, I'm instantly sold."
Word of mouth, or word of mouse, also works well. "It's the only way I go about hiring anyone," says Matt Haughey, founder of social-news website MetaFilter. "I either know people I hire or have followed their blogs for ages and like their work." That's the great thing about Web developers: There's no such thing as hiring them site unseen.
Q: Our website, Commodity.com, used to be on the first page of Google's search results for the word "commodity" but has now fallen to obscurity. How can we regain our prominence on Google? -- George Kleinman, President, Commodity Resource
A: First of all, don't panic. Google product manager Vanessa Fox says, "The Web is dynamic by nature and rankings are always in flux." Also, keep in mind that as Google personalizes its search results, the sites you see may not be the same for everyone else.
That said, it looks like Commodity.com has indeed dropped off. We asked Josh Cohen, a search-engine consultant who runs PocketSEO.com, to take a look.
"A drop in rankings could be caused by many factors," he says. "First, you've got to make sure your site's not using any 'black hat' techniques such as cloaking, hidden text, or doorway pages." (Google lists some forbidden techniques at google.com/support/webmasters.) But Commodity.com doesn't appear to be doing anything naughty; it's just "not really optimized for search engines," Cohen says, despite its catchy URL.
Cohen recommends that Kleinman expand the site's content -- for example, by posting pages with lots of detailed information about specific commodities. Also, some of the site's best information is hidden away, requiring users to register. This means search engines can't index those pages.
He also suggests that Kleinman post his problem in the forums of SearchGuild and SearchEngineWatch and get advice from other users before hiring a professional search-engine marketer. After participating in the forums, "you'll know which questions to ask," Cohen says.
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From the July 1, 2007 issue