Web developers' fortunes in East Valley are rising - East Valley Tribune: Business

Web developers' fortunes in East Valley are rising

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Posted: Sunday, July 10, 2011 9:00 am | Updated: 2:04 am, Sat Aug 6, 2011.

East Valley web development companies are seeing business surge, with many college graduates finding work in the growing industry.

Laura Kalkman is the director of social media and marketing for ROCKET MEDIA, a Gilbert-based web developer. They already have 12 web designers on staff, but she says they’re hiring.

“If you’ve got any friends graduating, send them my way,” Kalkman said. “We’re even looking for an intern.”

ROCKET MEDIA has seen about a 25 percent growth in clientele in the last year, allowing it to expand, Kalkman said.

“One thing all people are realizing is that their website is their No. 1 source to keep clients coming,” said Kalkman. “That puts security in our business.”

Justin Grossman, managing partner of Tempe-based developer meltmedia, says that the market has picked up, specifically in the last year. His company made the Top 5 in the Phoenix Business Journal’s list of 2010 Top Web Design Firms.

“In the last two years, companies have started making fundamental shifts in their marketing dollars to do more digitally,” Grossman said. “This shift continues to accelerate, creating opportunity.”

Because of new ways to advertise and new capabilities for websites, web-development firms are seeing business spike. According to Grossman, meltmedia has been growing about 30 percent a year for the last three years, a progression he says the company sees continuing throughout 2011. The company had just under $4 million in revenue for 2010.

One thing contributing to the growth of East Valley web developers is the emergence of search engine marketing as a tool for advertisers, a process that allows a company to increase its visibility online.

A part of search engine marketing, the process of optimizing a website to take the best advantage of search engines, is what East Valley web developers are focusing on. The method “organically” increases exposure for a website with search engines, meaning a company’s website will show up in results naturally when a user searches for certain keywords. These results are separate from the paid advertising results that also appear with search results. By capitalizing on the organic or natural results, a company gets visibility without having to pay for ad space.

For example, a patio furniture company can code its website so that when a person searches for “patio furniture” using an online search engine, the company that’s done the search optimization has a higher ranking on the search results pages. For small- to medium-size companies, one year of this service can cost around $5,000.

The process is tedious and must be constantly monitored. In some highly competitive industries, search engine optimization can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Experts, however, are saying it’s worth it.

John Leach, managing partner of Digital Strategies LLC, a Phoenix company that advises small and mid-size businesses on web strategy, points out the value in a higher ranking on engines like Google or Bing.

“It’s similar to the advantages for retail businesses in prime locations,” said Leach, a former managing editor at The Arizona Republic. “More customers come in the door.”

Leach says increasing capabilities online are furthering this expansion of web development companies.

“Websites increasingly are selling goods and services,” Leach said. “Mobile marketing is making the Internet always on … and companies are increasingly using social networking tools to connect with customers.”

Also on the rise is job placement for college graduates entering the web development industry.

David Cardoza, a senior at Arizona State University already had a job lined up at graduation. “I’m happy,” Cardoza said. “I’m going to do it until another job pays me more” Working at a small, Tempe-based company since January, Cardoza says his technical background and web knowledge is something that a younger generation is primed to offer. He admits that search engine optimization is “pretty complicated,” but thinks his generation is best suited for the job.

“(Younger people) are quicker with a lot of the programs, more flexible with the stuff that goes on online,” Cardoza said. “Even the guy who’s 29 who works there didn’t know how the Facebook pages worked.”

The growth of the web industry in the East Valley has provided jobs for many, especially college graduates.

Grossman says being located in Tempe has given his company a crop of grads for internships, some of whom have joined meltmedia’s growing 45-person staff.

Also excited about the new workforce is Kalkman, who’s serious when she says her company, ROCKET MEDIA, is looking to hire. The company has already expanded its reach internationally and needs developers to maintain the growing clientele base.

Cardoza’s own success, he said, should inspire those like him.

“Search engine optimization is a growing field,” Cardoza said. “(Web development companies) just want the fresher minds and a younger workforce.”

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