My Start to Finish Review of the React Nanondegree at Udacity

I decided to enroll in the React Nanodegree because I have been trying to learn React for a while with little success. I have not found it easy to pick up because it is a significant shift from the traditional way of building web applications. It also uses a lot of ES2015 which requires a lot of new JavaScript topics to learn and get used to like classes and arrow functions. I have had success learning to code with mentor-based online programs previously. I completed a 36-week 1 on 1 online mentorship through the front-end web development program and was able to significantly level-up my skills in JavaScript and build an interactive web application that a few people use (

Week 1

The program just started and Udacity emailed me to let me know that the course is open. The first step is to read their student handbook which explains how the program will work. The program will hold our hand to guide us to build three React projects and then we will build three more React projects on our own.

I checked the program’s Slack community for the program where students can interact with other students and instructors. I also learned that there are mentors that you can contact anytime when you get stuck and code reviewers who review your code submissions and provide feedback.

The first project is building MyReads, a book tracking application.

The course starts with viewing and reading through an introduction to React concepts like declarative programming. Lesson 1 contains some short videos followed by a text explanation and quiz questions. There are also some in-browser code exercises.


I learned how to bootstrap a React app and serve it locally. It is pretty quick and easy with Create React App. You just need to install Create React App with NPM.


Week 2

I have four more weeks to turn in the first project, a book tracking application.

Previous to starting this program, I read through Learning React by @kirupa It was a really good intro to React and I feel a little more comfortable with all the weird syntax and conventions of React.

I was able to clone the starter files branch at and then serve it locally with npm start.


I like Udacity’s approach of breaking up the lessons into small bite sized videos.

This 2 minute video really helped clarify the idea of props in React. In JavaScript you can pass arguments to a function. In React you can pass “props” into a component and then it can be accessed with this.props.nameoftheprop. So props are basically similar to an argument in JavaScript.


Week 3

The videos helped clarify the differences between props and state. Props are like arguments that are passed to a function, but the argument is passed to a component from the attribute value, e.g. name=“Earl.” Props are immutable, however state is different because it is intended to change (it’s mutable). You can set state by creating an object at the top of the component, e.g. state: {health: 100, power: 55, food: 44}.

We created a method to remove a contact in the App component which took me more than a couple times to wrap my head around.

It is essential to have the React Developer Tools extension added to Chrome so you can inspect React components on any webpage using React. It also shows the state and props of the component.


Week 4

I’ve finished the first three sections of React Fundamentals and started the fourth section which covers external data.


I feel like I have a better grasp of some of the important concepts of React like component lifecycle, state, props, and React Router. There are still some parts that are still a bit cloudy but I’m pretty comfortable that I have a good grasp of the foundational concepts and can start learning by building things.

I’m starting the MyReads application which is the first project of the course. The first step is to clone the starter template:

After cloning the repo to my desktop and running “npm install” I can use “npm start” to view the app before the JavaScript is added.


I was able to create a Book component and render the Book component in the BooksApp component.


Week 5

I’m currently working on getting data back from the Google Books API. I imported BooksAPI into my Book component and am using ComponentDidMount to make the API call.

I found a YouTuber named Ricky Garcia who is documenting his journey through the React Nanodegree. It is interesting to see his progress at the same point in the course that I am currently at.

I’m currently trying to render the book information to the Search Results page after getting it from the BooksAPI.

I’m having some trouble using setState to change the state to the object returned from the call to the BooksAPI. I decided to try out the Live Help feature in Udacity which is a chat. Someone responded within a couple minutes.

The Udacity person offered some suggestions and then cloned my repo to troubleshoot and came up with a solution that worked. It seems like a good way to get help quicker than on the Slack channel.

It’s also great to read the conversations other students are having about the MyReads project in the Slack channel. I’m learning a lot by reading about problems other students are discussing and how they are solved.

Week 6

I was able to pass the input value with Props to the child component BookResults which is making the API request (with the help of someone on the Slack channel).

I can now render the images from the BooksAPI based on the input value entered.


I also change the state when one of the select menu options below a book is selected. I need to pass the state of the book to the main BooksApp component.

I tried to get live help on a Saturday night at 8:20pm PST and wasn’t able to get help after 30 minutes. I also posted my question Saturday morning on the Slack, but there was no response today.

Week 7

I’m still working on getting the event handlers to work on my book component so that the user can change the state for any book.

Week 8

I’m having trouble changing the state of my book component with the select element. I have a handleChange method on my component where I setState to the selected value. I think the state is changing, but it is not rendering on my page. I thought when I use setState it automatically re-renders.

The React Nanodegree is supposed to take 4 months to complete. I learned that if you don’t finish within 4 months, it automatically extends for one more month. I am aiming to finish in 5 months.

It seems like it is rare to get live help within their 10 minutes as they promise. If I get stuck, I usually post my problem in the Slack and come back later. Usually another student has provided help or a solution within 24 hours. It is hard to tell who the faculty are in the Slack and it would be nice if they had some kind of symbol on their avatar.

Code Newbies is an excellent podcast for people looking to get started in the coding industry. This is an excellent episode that explains how to effectively answer coding interview questions like FizzBuzz.

5 Ways to Boost Your Marketing Campaign With Animation

Video has become a critical component of marketing campaigns these days.

A recent study by Nielsen found out that Facebook marketing videos boost brand awareness by 32-65%, increase purchase intent by 44-72%, and enhance video recall by 47-74% during the first 10 seconds of a video.

These statistics speak for themselves. And within the umbrella of video marketing, animation is beginning to show its strength.

During the last few years, animated videos have become more popular than ever. Brands use animation to deliver short and humorous business stories, present company values and culture, explain products or services, and deliver engaging brand messages.

Are you looking for a way to include animation in your marketing campaign? Here are five smart ways to use the power of animation to in your content marketing.

1. Animated explainer videos

Animated explainer videos are popular because they describe a product or service in an engaging,emotional, and visual way. You can use this type of videos to talk about a complex idea in a simple way. Animated videos also allow creating visual metaphors that help audiences in understanding brand messages.

Another perk of animated explainer videos is that they're mobile-friendly and mobile devices have a huge impact on the sharing of video content these days. That's why addressing users who consume your content from mobile devices is critical. Consider that video makes up for over a half of all mobile online traffic today and it’s expected to grow by 61%.

A professional motion picture developed by an animation studio will also allow you to easily measure the performance of your campaign, in more specific ways than other online content. You’ll be able to get in-depth information such as the number of re-watches by the same user or the full viewership rates of a video.

2. Animations in social media

Short animated videos and GIFs are bound to attract and hold the attention of your target audience because they're easy to consume and exciting. Create an animated video with simple lines, attention-grabbing colors and constant movement – you're bound to keep your audience glued to the screen.

Just like animated explainer videos, such short videos have an enormous potential for shareability on social media. You can be sure that users will share your video all over the place. In fact, video is the easiest content to grow on social media. Videos have 12 times more chances to be shared than links or text. And they tend to go viral.

3. Direct emails and newsletters

Another marketing use of animated video to include it in the emails and newsletters you sent to your target audience. Instead of featuring images and paragraphs that explain what's going on, add animated videos and GIFs to show your products.

According to Inc. Magazine, one big brand increased their ROI by 400% thanks to that type of content marketing. Another company that sent an animated cartoon to their email subscribers increased their open rate by 40 to 50%.

The only thing you need to consider when sending out that type of email is its compatibility with the devices your target audience is using, as well as downloading times and demographics.

4. Animated infographics

Infographics have been with us for a while, and their popularity is still on the rise. In fact, infographics are shared and liked on social media three times more than any other type of content.

While some infographics delve deep into a topic, others present instructions for completing a particular task. Research shows that people who follow directions with text and illustration do 323% better than those who follow textual directions without any illustration.

You can only imagine how useful animated infographics could be for your audience, especially if your product or service is complex and requires explanation. You could create a series of product tutorials in the form of animated infographics that might quickly go viral.

5. Cartoons

The focus on visual content makes it difficult for brands to stand out. With everyone investing in visual marketing, you need to create content that instantly attracts the attention of your audience and holds it long enough to deliver your message.

Since the visual content has become so homogeneous, you need something different. And that could be animated cartoons.

In a recent case study, Mark Anderson revealed that readers choose cartoon-illustrated content over content with generic photos by even 90%. He also discovered that 64% of users preferred to share the cartoon article over the article featuring the stock photo. Finally, the cartoon text received twice as many responses.

If you’ve got a well-performing ad, consider commissioning a cartoony image for it.

Then conduct some A/B testing to see how the cartoon performs versus the original ad. If you find out that your target responds well to the cartoon, it's time to invest time in animation by creating some fun cartoons and distributing them in your marketing channels.

You can locate cartoons in your blog posts, replace your boring PPC ads with cartoons and create marketing materials that stick with your prospects.

Key takeaway

It pays to be original on the incredibly competitive content marketing scene. Animated videos come in various shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: they're emotional, visual, and bring incredible ROI.

A single investment in an animated explainer video is bound to boost your marketing campaign on many fronts, starting with your email marketing to your social media presence.

3 Ways to Find Inbound Links to Your Site

1. Google Analytics Referral Traffic

If you are getting referral traffic from other sites then those are sites that have linked to you.

You can find the sites that are referring visitors to you by logging into Google Analytics and clicking on the “Referrals” link under the “Acquisition” tab in the menu.


Change the date range to a month or longer to see a longer list of referring websites.

Also, select the drop down menu “secondary dimension” and select “Acquisition” and “Referral Path”. This will show the exact page URL that is linking to your site.


You can then view the referring URLs in Google Analytics or export the file to Excel or Google Sheets.


I like to export to Google sheets and then run a vLookup against a list of domains that I already know link to my site to discover new links that I didn’t know about yet.


Ahrefs is my favorite backlink checker tool. It is very intuitive and has a great index of links.

Simply enter your domain and it will display a report of the backlinks to your website.


You can also click on “New” in the left menu to find the latest links to your site that Ahrefs has found. This is not always accurate (as it often shows old links) but I have found a lot of new links to my site with this method.

3. Google Search Console


If you click on “Search Traffic” and “Links to Your Site” on the left menu you can view the links that Google knows about and is willing to show you.

If you click on “More>>” it will display a button to “Download Latest Links”.

You can export either a CSV or Google Sheets and then run vLookup if you want to compare the exported list of “latest” links to a list of known linking domains.

The “latest” links are not always new links as there are a lot of false positives but I still find this feature very helpful. Google updates the “latest” links every few days.

If you have any questions or can suggest additional methods, leave a comment below.

Categories SEO

SEMRush Review and Tips

SEMRush is the top SEO tool for many digital marketers because it offers a wide range of tools and data to analyze competitors in any niche.

Stealing Competitor Search Traffic

Clicking on “Domain vs Domain” in the left menu will take you to a page where you can enter two or more domains to compare.


Enter the domains you want to compare in the input fields and click the “Go” button.


SEMRush will display the keywords that the two domains both rank for and how each domain ranks.


You can also filter the list to show which keywords your competitor is ranking for on the first page that you are not.


Click on the “Advanced filters” and then select the domains and greater than 10 for your domain and less than 10 for your competitor.

You can try to improve your rankings for these keywords by creating content on that topic or building links to your existing page. If you don’t have content for those keywords, it can be a great opportunity to increase your search traffic.

Top Pages

This is a feature that is a little hidden in SEMRush. Click on “Domain Analytics” and “entire menu” and “Pages” to see the pages on any domain that receive the most traffic.


This will show you which pages on a competitor website are driving the most traffic. You can use this information to try to duplicate their top pages on your site and make them better to take some of that traffic.

This will also show a percentage breakdown of how much of a website’s traffic is coming from their top pages. For Cool Marketing Stuff, the article on “The Compromise Effect” accounts for 31% of the site’s traffic (almost one-third) according to SEMRush’s estimates. It is common for a handful of pages to account for a majority of a site’s traffic.

How to Influence Online Behavior: The Smarter Screen

The Smarter Screen is a new book about influencing people’s behavior while they are spending several hours a day staring at screens.

Author Shlomo Benartzi is a professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and has applied behavioral economics to help Americans increase their savings rates with Richard Thaler.

Benartzi writes, “My hope is that we can use the scale of technology to bring more fixes to more people in far less time. In order to take advantage of these digital nudges, I believe we need to tailer them for our new online environment. Although we like to pretend that our brain isn’t altered by technology, new evidence suggests that these splendid inventions are shifting the patterns of our behavior in all sort of subtle ways. What’s more, these shifts are often predictable, allowing us to anticipate how people will act on a device, and how they will respond to our interventions.”

In the book he discusses how people’s behavior differs online. For instance you are more likely to add bacon to your pizza if you order online and you’re likely to overvalue a product you are considering if shopping with a touch screen device. He also discusses how you are more likely to choose a product if it is in a screen “hotspot”, even if there is a better option available and how online viewing affects memory.

You can learn more about the book at Amazon. The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior is available in hardcover.

Listen to 20 Seth Godin Interviews in One Place

If you are a fan of Seth Godin’s work, you may appreciate this curation of 20 audio interviews. Click on a play button to start receiving a heavy dose of insights and ideas that challenge the status quo (the interview should load after you click the play button).

Gape Into The Void: Podcast Episode 9 with Seth Godin Gaping Void

Flying Closer to the Sun with Seth Godin The Unmistakable Creative

AC #132: Seth Godin on ‘Tribes’ Accidental Creative

STARVE027 – Seth Godin – Go Make A Ruckus! Starve the Doubts

Seth Godin – You Cannot Measure Success with a Bank Balance Eventual Millionaire

43: Seth Godin Entrepreneur on Fire

SPOS #340 – Flying High Again With Seth Godin Twist Image

Seth Godin on Choices Work Talk Show

You can’t make ‘Art’ if you are not willing to fail – Interview with Seth Godin on The Icarus Deception Adrian Swinscoe

Funding the Dream on Kickstarter Ep 63 with Seth Godin The Game Whisperer

43 Folders – Interview with “Linchpin” author, Seth Godin 43 Folders

Seth Godin on Blogging, Business Books, and Creating Content that Matters Copyblogger

#143 – Show #57 Seth Godin on Linchpins and Startups The Startup Success Podcast

Interview with Seth Godin: Podcast 31 The Driven Business

ETG Podcast: Episode 1 Ending the Grind

An Agent of Change (Seth Godin) Giant Robots Smashing into other Giant Robots Podcast

Special Interview with Seth Godin Marketing Over Coffee

Talking Linchpin with Seth Godin Duct Tape Marketing

We Are All Artists Now Duct Tape Marketing

This Might Not Work: A Conversation with Seth Godin About Art Goins Writer

On the Future of Books: A Discussion with Seth Godin Zen Habits

You will probably need one of the following browsers to play the MP3 with the HTML5 audio player: Chrome 6+, IE 9+, or Safari 5+. Alternatively you can follow the link to the original interview source.

Seth Godin’s books to check out:

Creative commons photo by Simone Brunozzi

How to Find Most of the Links to Your Site With Google Analytics

If you would like to keep track of every website that has linked to you, Google Analytics can help you find a large percentage of URLs with a link to your site.

From your Google Analytics home page click on your website. Then click on “All Referrals” under the Acquisition section on the left sidebar.


This will display a list of the top 10 website domains that are referring traffic to your site in the past month. You can display up to 5,000 rows and extend the date range to when you started your website.

To find the URL of the specific webpage with the link to your site click on the website domain.


This will show you the specific URL on the domain that is referring you traffic. Previously you had to create a custom report in Google Analytics to find the referring page URL.


Now that you have the specific URLs that have a link to your site, you can track them in a spreadsheet like a Google Doc.


This is useful to monitor the growth of your link profile, and it can be encouraging to see new links that you can add to your list. You may want to document your new links in a spreadsheet to monitor things like anchor text distribution and link velocity. You can also use a tool like Raven Tools’ Link Manager to track your links to see if any are removed for some reason. Sometimes link removal is inadvertent (e.g. during a site redesign) and you can contact the webmaster to have the link added back.

If you extend the date range to the beginning of your site, you can find almost every link since someone has probably clicked on the link at some point. If no one has ever clicked on the link, then it is probably not a very good link. If a URL only has one referral since the site launched, it may be a spammy link that you may want to have removed if practical. A downside to this technique for finding links is that some URLs displayed in Google Analytics may be no-follow links such as blog comments.

You can also find links with tools like Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Link Explorer, Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, and Majestic SEO.

Do you have a tip for finding links to your site? Please share it in the comments.

Charles Sipe is an Online Marketing Specialist in Seattle. You can follow him on Twitter (@charlessipe) or Google+ for interesting marketing links.

Launch a Successful Podcast with Podcasters' Paradise

A podcast is one of the best marketing opportunities right now to build an audience and get people to know, like, and trust you. The number of podcast listeners has been growing rapidly due to factors like the widespread adoption of smartphones and new cars that can play podcasts during your commute. Podcasts provide a intimate connection with your listener who is often listening to your voice through their headphones. They can even be addicting because of the learning opportunity they provide. According to the book Brainfluence by Roger Dooley, “There is a feedback mechanism in the brain that rewards the acquisition of knowledge and most humans have a knowledge addiction.”

logoI am a frequent listener of podcasts and one of my favorites in Entrepreneur on Fire by John Lee Dumas. John’s journey from corporate finance employee to one of the top business podcasters in iTunes is an inspiring success story. John quit his corporate finance job and started his podcast to fill a need he saw for a daily podcast that interviews successful entrepreneurs. He took massive action by hiring a coach, flying to New Media Expo, and getting commitments from well-known podcasters like Derek Halpern and Pat Flynn. Just over a year later his podcast is downloaded about 400,000 times a month and each episode brings in over $1,000 in sponsorships.

john-lee-dumasOne thing I love about Entrepreneur on Fire is that it is very actionable content. While a lot of interview podcasts include a lot of random conversation, John focuses on pulling out actionable takeaways from each interview. The interview is also very structured and focused on answering some specific questions that provide useful insights and advice. Even if you are not into entrepreneurship, you will learn a lot about how to be successful at anything you want to do.

Podcasting is much harder than starting a blog. There is a relatively high learning curve compared to the five minutes it takes to start a blog and this can be a bit intimidating. There’s a lot to learn like recording equipment and software, editing, creating cover art, setting up a podcast feed, submitting to iTunes, and building an audience. That’s where the video tutorials, expert webinars with top podcasters, and community forum can help someone start and grow a successful podcast. All this is provided by Podcasters’ Paradise.

The cost for lifetime membership is $397 and the price is expected to increase over time as the community grows and more valuable tutorials and webinars are added. Currently there is a discount if you join before the Oct 31st launch. I am excited and nervous to start my own podcast in the coming months with the help of Podcasters’ Paradise.

You can learn more by checking out the webinar where John discusses the opportunities in podcasting and the features of Podcasters’ Paradise.

Learn to Promote Your Content with the Blog Post Promotion Course

One of the greatest mistakes that people make with content marketing is that they put all their effort into creating great content but little or no effort into promoting it. In the Blog Post Promotion Ultimate Course, Kristi Hines shows you the tactics, tools, and strategies that she uses to get thousands of social shares and readers for her articles.

Kristi has written popular guides and articles for high profile sites like Kiss Metrics, Social Media Examiner, HubSpot, and Unbounce that have been shared hundreds to thousands of times. Since Kristi is able to get her articles to spread, she is able to earn over $1,000 for a single article that she writes.

Some examples include:

How to Generate More Leads With Your Blog: 5 Tips Social Media Examiner = 1,848 Tweets

16 Ways Businesses Are Using Twitter Vine Social Media Examiner = 3,297 Tweets

28 Things You Need To Know About The New Facebook Pages Kiss Metrics = 1,611 Tweets

Measuring Social Media ROI & Goal Conversions with Google Analytics 5 Unbounce = 1,414 Tweets

Kristi also runs the excellent blog Kikolani, one of the top blogs in the online marketing and blogging space.

Some useful things you can learn from this course include:

  • How to develop relationships with influencers in your industry.
  • How to find timely and highly relevant opportunities to promote your content.
  • How to leverage the top social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest to promote your content.
  • How to tap into paid advertising on social networks to build momentum.
  • What online tools can help you to spread your content.
  • How to find top articles in your niche on social sites like Stumbleupon and Reddit.
  • Websites that you didn’t know you could use to promote your content.

The course contains 16 modules of instructional content to help you master the multiple types of blog post promotion from promotion networks to blogger outreach to effective guest blogging. The tactics still require a lot of work and hustle but the course provides detailed instructions on how to execute proven tactics.

I think this is a great resource for anyone who wants to promote their content and get it to spread much faster than normal. The skill of getting a piece of content to spread is extremely valuable for marketers and business owners as it will increase inbound links, traffic, and sales. A college student who can effectively promote content can help their chances of getting hired in a marketing role. Freelance writers can stand out and earn higher rates by getting their articles to spread to a larger audience.

There are also some great bonus features like a closed Facebook Group to network with other people taking the course. For a limited time Kristi will review your blog and provide recommendations on how you can improve traffic, leads, and sales. There are also some helpful bonus tutorials on how to build an email list and grow your social media followers as well as Kristi’s email templates that can be used for blogger outreach.

The price is $197, which is a great value if you are willing to take what you learn and implement the tactics and develop your content promotion skills.

If you are not ready to commit, Kristi also offers a lot of free resources on her site like the article 32 Experts Share Their Best Blog Post Promotion Tips and the free mini-course 8 Days to Promotable Content.

Summary: This is the best available course for learning how to get a piece of content to spread and earn a high number of social shares. It is full of specific tips that you can put into action immediately to encourage people to share your content.


Full disclosure: I received a review copy and am an affiliate.

Pat Flynn Talk on Using Free as a Marketing Tactic

Pat Flynn is the creator of the very popular podcast and blog Smart Passive Income and is an exceptional online marketer who has made a living from publishing niche websites and eBooks. The SPI podcast focuses primarily on interviews with lifestyle entrepreneurs who are making a living from successful online businesses and also covers online marketing topics like SEO. His mantra is to work hard now so you can reap the benefits later which is a very attractive offer for a large segment of the population who dream about passive income that was made famous by The 4 Hour Workweek. Becoming an effective online marketer can certainly help individuals in pursuit of this goal. Here is Pat’s excellent presentation on leveraging the power of free in your marketing that he gave at New Media Expo in 2013.

Key takeaways from the talk:
-People will go amazing lengths for free like waiting 3 1/2 hours for a free Grand Slam from Denny’s.
-We know that free works to build connections.
-Dan Ariely did an experiment where he sold Lindt Truffles for 15 cents and Hershey’s Kisses for 1 cent. 73% bought a Lindt Truffle and 27% bought a Hershey’s Kiss. When he lowered the price of both by 1 cent, then 30% bought the truffle and 70% took the Kiss.
-Free is an indirect path to profit.
-What is the ultimate goal for people coming to your site?
-If you create something amazing, people will share it.
-Introducing free changes behavior.
-We hate to lose things.
-Free is not a business model, it has to lead to something else.
-Make it easy, people are lazy online. Make it one click.
-Earn trust with people and show them you can create amazing content.
-You will get higher quality leads.
-Cliff Ravenscraft’s free teaser course was viewed 24,000 times. 40% of purchasers of the full course also took the free course.
-Surprise people with something out of the blue.

Check out Pat Flynn’s book Let Go: