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CONNECTED CULTURE Blog by Jerry Allocca

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Insights from Google’s Penguin Update

Google Penguin After a two-year wait, Google’s Penguin algorithm update has finally been launched. In its simplest terms, Penguin is a filter created to catch sites that are spamming Google’s search results to increase their rankings. First introduced in 2012, Penguin was designed to find sites that violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and penalize them. Even if the sites were improved, they would stay penalized until the next time the Penguin filter ran. This often took months. In 2014, Penguin 3.0 was introduced, cracking down even harder on spammy sites. The penalty went from a couple of months to two years.

With the new Penguin 4.0, these delays are now gone, according to Google. The filter is now real-time. This means that as Google crawls and indexes, pages will be constantly assessed by the Penguin filter. Pages will be caught or freed by Penguin on an ongoing basis.

The algorithm is also more granular. According to Google, “Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.” While Penguin used to be a site-wide penalty, it’s now more specific to affected pages.

What This Means for Your Website
With the rollout of Penguin 4.0, search engine result pages have been more volatile than usual. This highlights the importance of having specific and relevant content on your website. Google values the quantity and diversity of content and will catch pages that have similar content that is repeated specifically to get back links.

What else can you do? If you’re using anchor text for PageRank shortcuts, you’re likely to get penalized. Excessive blog commenting on a similar website or reciprocal link exchange are also red flags in the eyes of Google. While there are tools to evaluate back links, it’s wise to manually audit and remove bad links from directories, PR sites, paid links and link farms to avoid being penalized.

Yes, the update will mean more work to consistently retain a high ranking on SERPs. For those who continuously work to build quality websites, Penguin 4.0 should ultimately be a benefit by swiftly and consistently penalizing low quality sites and ensuring they don’t rank well in search results.

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Google Data Studio: Transform Your Data into Visual Reports

Why You Need Google Data StudioThe growing use of data and analytics has put many digital marketers in the challenging position of having to create reports. Yet, most have little or no background in graphic design. While some are able to create rudimentary charts and tables that get the job done, others invest in expensive report generation software or even hire outside providers to create consumable reports.

Have you been tasked with creating reports even though you have little or no background in graphic design? If so, you’ll appreciate Google’s latest release – Google Data Studio. This new data visualization product integrates data across multiple Google products and other data sources to transform it into amazingly professional-looking, interactive reports and dashboards with built-in real-time collaboration.

You Never Thought You Could Create Reports Like This!
Digital marketing professionals know that Google Analytics is fantastic for generating data that drives business decisions. Yet, it has always been tedious and time-consuming creating reports that actually make sense to executives, shareholders and clients. With Data Studio, the process of pulling information to create agency-quality, consumable reports is intuitive and simplified. The new tool provides the ability to change colors, gradients, fonts and more to make reports professional enough to be placed in presentations, annual reports and brochures.

You can choose from bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts and other formats. It’s easy to add text boxes, images, shapes and even your logo to customize a report. Do you use data from sources, other than Google Analytics? Not a problem! One of the most amazing features of Data Studio is that you can pull information from a wide variety of sources and combine them in one report. Some of the data sources you can integrate into a Google Data Studio report are:

  • Adwords
  • BigQuery
  • MySQL
  • YouTube Analytics
  • Google Sheet

Real Time Updates and Collaboration
With Data Studio, your reports don’t have to be stagnant. Instead, they can be changed in real-time whenever there is an update to a data source. Want to collaborate with others on reports? Not a problem! Data Studio reports are just like other documents on Google Drive. You can grant permission for others to access and update.

Who Said Nothing Is Free?
Yes, Data Studio currently won’t cost you a dime! But, there are some restrictions. You’ll be limited to five reports per account. However, you can create additional pages on each report you create.

Have you tried Google Data Studio yet? Tell us your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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Digital Media ROI: How to Determine Its Effectiveness

digital-media-roi-connected-cultureIn the highly segmented, complex world of digital media, results and analytical data can be obtained on a real-time basis. However, the challenge is being able to calculate the return on investment (ROI) of this never-ending stream of information and communicate it to those decision-makers who sign off on marketing budgets.

When you have multi-faceted digital
marketing campaigns that are focused on multiple audiences, it can be difficult to keep track of what’s working and what’s not, as well as where it’s best to allocate resources. One Google AdWords campaign may be highly successful, but others may be lagging in results. A single email blast can generate many click-throughs, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they translate into leads or sales.

In the simplest terms, the goal of any digital media effort is to generate relevant traffic and ultimately generate qualified leads and increase sales and revenue. Yet, the question is how best to track these efforts to determine if your goal is being achieved. The following are a few of the most valuable sources of data to evaluate your campaigns’ effectiveness.

Website Analytics
Because your website is truly the storefront for your organization, it’s absolutely essential to have your finger on the pulse of who your visitors are and how many are converting. This means analyzing your visitor traffic to understand their behaviors and their needs. Google Analytics is an invaluable tool for determining your digital media ROI because it enables you to measure online sales and conversions, as well as gain valuable insights into how visitors find and use your site and what makes them come back again.

Need to drill down and find the ROI of just one campaign? Google Analytics can provide great detail about a single landing page to help you determine the effectiveness of your content. Other ways to accomplish this are to provide a dedicated phone number for each digital marketing campaign or a specific promo code for site visitors to use. These unique markers are easy to track for the purpose of calculating ROI.

Social Media Analytics
One of the many benefits of an organization taking the time to build exposure on social media is to access the analytics that these channels offer. Every social media channel, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, offers amazingly detailed analytics that enable you to track the success of what you share, especially Facebook’s conversion tracking pixel method. From posts to advertisements and interactions, learning who is responding to your content, as well as if they are converting, can help guide your marketing strategies and determine the value of what you’re putting out there for your specific audiences.

Email Analytics
Do you have an extensive email list? If you’re already sending out email blasts in the form of newsletters or promotions, you will want to carefully assess the metrics on how many recipients are actually opening your content and then clicking through to take the next step. And of course tracking how many of those clicks to your website result in conversions.

Putting It Together
When it comes to determining the overall effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts, you need to first generate the data from each individual campaign and then review them collectively to gain a greater understanding of the big picture. With a 360-degree view of where your online audiences are coming from, where they are going and how many are converting, you can calculate the value of your digital efforts and develop a deeper understanding to improve your results.

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Google AdWords Expanded Text Ads: Best Practices

Google made an exciting announcement earlier this summer that made digital marketing experts jump for joy! Among several AdWords changes that were presented in the announcement was a big change to the size of Google text ads. Advertisers can now delight in having nearly twice the space they previously had to create ads that compel readers to click on them. Yes, this is big news for anyone who has struggled with creating quality ads with strong headlines and descriptions with such an abbreviated character count.

Google AdWords Text Ads

Google actually referred to the change as the biggest update since AdWords was launched 15 years ago. The reason for the change is to make text ads more visible on mobile devices. This change comes after Google’s decision earlier in the year to remove right-side ads on desktop. It’s apparent that Google wants to create a more unified experience across devices.

So, what can digital marketers do to make the most of these new expanded ads? The following are a few best practices to help you modify existing ads and to create new ads with the updated format.

Reevaluate Your Message – Many advertisers will simply add a second headline to existing ads. While this is a faster, easier way to update ads to the new format, it’s not the most effective route. This larger format offers the ability to reconsider messaging and to build more content around it. By taking into account each line of content and fine-tuning messaging, you’ll increase the likelihood that a reader will take the next step of clicking on it.

Expand Your Headlines – With the change, your headline character count grows from one 25-character headline to two 30-character headlines. This is substantial and dramatically increases the clickable space of your ads. Think carefully about how you want to convey your headline to attract the attention of someone who is searching ads.

Consider the Formatting of Your Headline – Your ad’s headline fields are combined with a hyphen in the new format. On a mobile device, headlines can wrap beyond the first line. You will want to experiment with different headline options to see how your ad will appear on a variety of devices to maximize your ad’s readability.

Power Up Your Descriptions – Your descriptions are increasing from two 35-character description lines to one 80-character description line. Like with headlines, you’ll want to take some time to determine how to best communicate your message with the extra characters.

Use Bulk Editing – Do you have many ads that are still in the old format? There’s more good news. You don’t have to update each ad individually. To make bulk changes, multi-selecting them in the “Edit” menu and make the edits to any number of ads you want with a single process.

Keep Track of the Changeover – On October 26th of this year, AdWords will no longer support the creation or editing of standard text ads. Existing ads made prior to the change will remain in the old format, and all new ads must use the expanded ad format.

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Should You Be Advertising on Snapchat?

SnapchatIt may be difficult to believe that a social media site that eliminates photos and videos in a matter of seconds is all the rage with teens and young adults. It may be even more unfathomable that the same site turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook. However, if you’re familiar with Snapchat, you already know that its rapid adoption has been nothing short of unbelievable.

Today, Snapchat is one of the most popular social sharing sites on the Internet, and its popularity continues to grow. To generate revenue, Snapchat introduced advertising on its site back in 2014. However, unlike Facebook and Google that display ads based on information they’ve gathered from users, Snapchat doesn’t target ads or place them in personal communication. Rather, the company offers multiple options for advertising to enable businesses of all sizes the opportunity to reach new audiences on the site.

Snap Ads
The top-of-the-line advertising opportunity on Snapchat is “Snap Ads.” This is a mobile video ad that enables users to swipe to get more information. Swiping reveals extended content, such as an app or mobile website. The swipe-up rate for Snap Ads is five times higher than the average click-through rate on comparable platforms, according to Snapchat.

Sponsored Geofilters
For those with smaller budgets, Snapchat’s “Sponsored Geofilters” may be an option for reaching the site’s coveted demographic. Geofilters are snippets of art that appear on images in the location(s) of your choice. You can set up a campaign that targets a specific location or a major event and get your name on snaps being sent on a specific day. According to Snapchat, a single Geofilter typically reaches 40 to 60 percent of those who use Snapchat daily.

Sponsored Lenses
With “Sponsored Lenses” you get the opportunity to create interactive ads. When you consider that the average Snapchatter plays with a sponsored lens for 20 seconds, you can begin to see the advantage of these ads and how they can help support a larger digital marketing campaign.

With both advantages and limitations, it’s unlikely that Snapchat will be the sole advertising medium for a typical digital marketer. However, it can be a wise addition to an otherwise strong marketing plan that is focused on attracting a young audience such as college students.


Have you advertised on Snapchat or are you considering it?

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User Explorer Joins the Google Analytics Arsenal of Tools

Google Analytics User ExplorerFor marketing professionals, having a solid understanding of Google Analytics is incredibly important to gain insight into marketing performance. It’s the tools and features within Google Analytics that can determine if measurable results are being achieved. This is why it’s important to stay on top of introductions and new features like User Explorer which was recently released. This new set of reports lets users perform analysis of anonymized individual interactions within websites. User Explorer leverages existing anonymous Google Analytics data to provide incremental insights needed to improve and optimize websites.

Types of Insights
With User Explorer, a list of client IDs is collected from visitors’ devices and browsers, as well as their session count, average duration, bounce rate, revenue, transactions and goal conversion rate. The report also provides user activity history and time-stamps each site interaction. Some believe that this new feature will give digital marketing platforms like Marketo, Pardo and Eloqua a run for their money.

The new feature also enables examination into specific users within a segment to gain deeper insights into their behaviors. With this data, the site experience can be personalized based upon these behaviors, and users can be directed to relevant content that is targeted to them. Ultimately, this feature offers tremendous opportunities to identify key personas, upsell, remarket and personalize customer service.

Other Valuable Reports from Google Analytics
Of course, User Explorer is not the only source of reports. Google Analytics can also be used to create a wealth of custom and standard reports that can guide many digital marketing decisions. These include:

Traffic Acquisition Reports – This important report provides tremendous insight into the success of ad campaigns, websites and SEO strategy. This includes details on which external sites are driving site traffic.

Content Efficiency Report – When content is king, you need a report that tracks entrances, page views, bounces and goal completions. This data can help answer common content questions, such as:

  • What content (images, videos, infographics, etc.) performs the best with site visitors?
  • What content is most likely to convert site visitors into customers?
  • What content is being shared by users?

Keyword Analysis Report – This is another valuable report that offers data that can help guide digital marketing decisions. A Keyword Analysis Report offers details, including visitor metrics, conversion rates, goal completions and page load time for every keyword.

Are your digital marketing efforts falling short of expectations? Do you need help creating a digital marketing plan that can enable you to achieve your goals? Call the experts at Connected Culture today.

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5 Strategies for Maximizing Your Digital Marketing Dollars

digital marketingWe’re well into the second quarter of 2016, and you probably have a good idea what has and hasn’t worked so far this year when it comes to your digital marketing dollars. If you aren’t getting quite the results you expected, or you want to hit even higher goals that you projected for the year, the following ideas may help you make the most from your digital marketing budget.

  1. Strengthen Your Website
    Some marketing professionals make the common mistake of launching aggressive digital marketing campaigns without first ensuring that their website is functional and robust. Your website should have an XML sitemap, correct page titles, simple-to-use navigation, a strong call to action, quality search engine optimization (SEO), conversion tracking through Google Analytics and mobile responsiveness. Without taking care of these necessities first, dollars spent on other digital marketing efforts will not be as effective as they could be.
  2. Don’t Focus Solely on Customer Acquisition
    Another common mistake is putting all of your marketing dollars into acquiring new customers. Nurturing relationships with existing customers can sometimes be more financially beneficial. The key is to evaluate the potential of both potential and current customers to determine which one can generate greater profit. This is where you should put the largest percentage of your marketing budget.
  3. Identify the Best Social Media Channels
    An industrial manufacturer is unlikely to generate interest on Pinterest. Likewise, a non-profit won’t attract much interest on an industrial blog or forum. Carefully consider where your potential and current customers are consuming content. These are the channels that you should be focusing your efforts. The latest and greatest social media channel may or may not be right for what you’re trying to achieve and who you’re trying to reach.
  4. Extend Your Budget with Remarketing Efforts
    Remarketing is a strategy that involves continuing to market to website visitors once they’ve left your website. With this strategy, a visitor will continue to gain exposure to your branding and advertising on third-party websites for up to 90 days. This is not only cost-effective, it offers a higher conversion rate than many other forms of online advertising. Remarketing can happen on Google, as well as Facebook and YouTube.
  5. Stay Current
    Digital marketing continues to grow and change in a multitude of ways. With a single Google update or the launch of a new social media channel, you may have a new opportunity to reach potential customers. Also stay up-to-date on your KPIs. From organic keyword ranking and social media stats to cost per conversion and competitive insights, you need to always be up to speed on your efforts and those of your competitors.

Continuously sustaining successful digital marketing campaigns isn’t easy. It requires both expertise and daily effort. Do you need help maximizing your marketing dollars? Contact the team at Connected Culture today.

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Google Releases New Analytics Tools to Increase Marketing Insights

Website StatisticsIf you haven’t heard already, Google recently launched a new marketing suite that was created to help busy marketing professionals improve their digital marketing results. Called Google Analytics 360 Suite, the new offering integrates tools that enable you to better understand your online audiences by giving you greater insight into marketing data.

This suite doesn’t come a moment too soon. According to a survey conducted by Google and Forrester Research, 84% of marketers believe that their data sources lack sufficient integration. Google Analytics 360 Suite is designed to help address this common challenge by linking platforms to allow users to seamlessly transfer data between six programs contained in the suite.

Analytics have become an essential part of achieving digital marketing goals. However, there has been the ongoing challenge of integration. Because of this, Google set out to build a new solution that would enable a 360 view of the customer journey, provide greater insights and offer better sharing of these insights to support cross-functional goals and better decision-making. Alas, we now have Google 360 Suite.

How It Works
Google Analytics 360 Suite consists of six products, four of which are new, that support sharing of data and insights:

  1. Google Audience Center 360 – This data management platform can help you understand your customers and find more of them across channels, devices and campaigns.
  2. Google Data Studio 360 – Provides data analysis and visualization to integrate data across all of the suite products, as well as other data sources. You can create reports and dashboards using this product, too.
  3. Google Optimize 360 – A website testing and personalization product to help deliver better experiences. Using the product, you can show consumers multiple variations of your site, depending on what best works for them.
  4. Google Tag Manager 360 – Empowers you to make better decisions by gathering site information.
  5. Google Analytics 360 (formerly called GA Premium) – This product is still being rolled out, but will serve as the tool to analyze customer data from multiple touchpoints and can be integrated with Google ad products.
  6. Google Attribution 360 (formerly called Adometry) – Enables analysis of performance across channels, devices and systems to help support smart marketing investments and budget allocation.

Currently, Google Analytics 360 Suite is in limited BETA. It is expected to be fully launched in the 3rd quarter.


Leave a reply below.

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Google’s New SERP Ad Layout – What It Means for You

serp-ad-layoutLast month, Google announced that its search result pages for desktops will no longer display text ads in the right sidebar. Instead, up to four text ads are now being displayed above organic search results, and three ads appear at the bottom of the page. The reason behind Google’s update was to make the user experience more consistent across all devices. While this certainly de-clutters the look of the desktop search engine results page (SERP) it affects online advertisers that now have to compete for ad space on the top and bottom of search results. Many digital marketing professionals were shocked by Google’s recent change. However, the reality is that the company has been testing variations of this new layout for a few years.

With changes to the layout resulting in fewer ads per page, many are rightfully concerned that advertising costs will jump due to supply and demand. Digital advertising experts are currently weighing in on this, and only time will tell exactly what the impact will be over the long term. While there are some uncertainties with the new layout, there are some unwavering facts worth considering:

The Change Only Impacts Desktop Searches
The SERP layout on your smartphone will not look any different. It’s important to note that more than 50 percent of all searches are now conducted on mobile devices.

Top Positions Get Higher Click-Through Rates
Advertisers that are able to secure top positions will enjoy higher click-through rates than when their ads were on the right side of the page.

Ads Appear More “Native”
Because ads now blend in with organic search results, they are more likely to produce click-throughs.

Lower Position Ads Will Be Less Effective
Few users will actually scroll down to see the ads at the bottom of a page. Thus, first page and top of page bid minimums may change quickly. Advertisers are wise to update their bid-to-position strategies.

Organic Search Has Become More Difficult
With this change, Google has made the paid position #4 the new organic position #1. Organic search results will now be located below the fold on many desktop computers and tablets – especially on highly commercial queries where there may be four ads before the first organic position. Space on search pages has been diminishing for years with the steady addition of news, images, ads and more. This change has simply continued the trend of reducing available space for organic search results, and because of this, SEO strategies will also need to be adapted accordingly.

Have specific questions about Google’s new SERP layout and how it will affect your advertising campaigns and SEO efforts? We have answers! Leave a reply below.

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Discover Your Most Profitable Audience Segments

people-profilesMuch has changed since Google first launched Google Analytics (GA) more than a decade ago. If you’re responsible for your organization’s digital marketing, you’re probably already familiar with some of its basic functions. Yet, there have been updates and it’s always beneficial for a refresher when it comes to these valuable tools.

Get to Know Audience Insights
Audience Insights can help you make more informed decisions when it comes to your digital marketing campaigns. The tool allows you to reach people based on their specific interests as they browse pages, videos, and content across YouTube and the Google Display Network. Once you’re able to identify the audience segments that generate the most conversions (i.e. Leads or Sales), then you can target those specific segments in your online advertising campaigns.

Familiarize Yourself with These Other Reports
There is a tremendous amount of data that can be generated from reports created through GA. Each one can help you better understand your web traffic. These include:

  • Source/medium reports – Provides information on who is visiting your website and their behaviors, including how long they spend on your site and how many pages they view.
  • Audience acquisition reports – Offers you a view of what channels are bringing you traffic so that you can evaluate your qualitative metrics.
  • Content report – Gives an overview of the pages on your site and the performance of each page, including whether or not these pages are leading to conversions.
  • Funnel reports – Also referred to as goal flow reports, these let you look at how your site’s users flow through a process, such as the order in which they view your site’s pages. From this data, you can determine where you may be seeing traffic drop off and areas you can improve.
  • Use GACheckerGAChecker.com crawls your site and creates a spreadsheet of missing Analytics and AdWords tags. This useful tool makes sure all your pages have the right code in place so you can accurately track visitors.

Link Your Google AdWords with GA
Do you have a Google AdWords account? If so, you will want to link this with GA so that the two can feed and inform each other. By doing so, you can gain a much better view into your campaign performance.

Leverage the Tutorials
Google Analytics Academy provides a wealth of information to help you improve the success of your website. There are intro videos on how the platform works, along with tutorials on how to install tracking tags, work with reports and even set goals.

Although Google Analytics certainly provides you with information about how your site has already performed, its real value is in providing predictive and prescriptive insights to guide the decisions you make as your website continues to evolve. By using it to help drive your decisions, you can make intelligent modifications based on measurable data.


How have you used audience insight reports to help improve your results?


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