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CONNECTED CULTURE Blog by Jerry Allocca

Now, more than ever, we're all connected. What does it mean to be part of the Connected Culture? Share your thoughts and ideas here!
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What’s in a Name? Would a Domain By Any Other Name, Rank as Well?

website-454460_640SEO has traditionally been a landscape defined by connecting your site to users via keyword phrases, providing content that can be shared across social networks (which drives traffic), and delivering an excellent experience for the users who visit your site.
But SEO is always changing. One of the safest ways to ensure that your site will perform well in search engine results is to establish and cultivate a brand. The brand will incorporate traditional marketing and SEO tactics, but differs from these in being recognizable and memorable.

Developing a brand propels your business forward and ahead of your competition. One of the best ways to cement this brand is to make the best use of your domain name. The heart of your URL should be just as unforgettable and to-the-point as your brand. As one of the extensions, and most visible components, of your brand, your domain name is crucial to establishing your online credentials—and your favor in search engine results.

Contrary to popular belief, your domain name doesn’t need to be a keyword phrase—though it won’t hurt if that is the case. Recent algorithm updates have reduced the need for exact keyword matches in the names of domains.

Here are some tips to choose a memorable, SEO-friendly domain name:

• Keep it short. The longer and more complicated your domain name, the more difficult it is to remember. The top one million websites have 10 characters on average. The top 5 websites average 6 letters.
• Give it weight. Present a clear and powerful message about who you are and what you do. Lots of letters or abbreviations are rarely appropriate.
• Be Unique. Your domain name is your brand online. By choosing a distinctive name, you can further your brand’s presence online.

Remember, internet marketing isn’t about keyword stuffing anymore. It’s about having a great brand, delivering the products or services that your customers expect, and establishing yourself as the kind of business/website that search engines WANT to rank above the competition who have already earned favor.

Your domain name can certainly affect your rankings so make sure you choose well and choose wisely.

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How to Sell Digital Marketing to Your Boss

connected-culture-blog-listeningWhile you’re probably already convinced that your organization needs to increase its digital marketing efforts this year to stay relevant and grow, you may find that you have to convince others that the additional investment in time and money to do so will offer sufficient ROI.

How can you best present the benefits of digital marketing to your boss and other decision-makers? We’ve provided five essential tips for getting them enthusiastically on board:

1. Create a Comprehensive Plan

Jumping into digital marketing without a plan is akin to starting a long journey without a map. To best share with others what you’re planning to do, it’s essential to breakdown digital marketing into key components. These include:

  • Website and landing pages
  • Blog
  • Email Marketing
  • Social Media
  • SEO
  • Analysis and Reporting

You’ll also want to define your target audience and map out a strategy for how each component can be integrated into the plan. Use visual tools such as charts, spreadsheets, and calendars to help explain the plan and to keep you on track once you get the green light to get started.

2. Have a Realistic Budget

Digital marketing isn’t free advertising. It takes time and money to manage all of the elements of your plan. To prevent unrealistic expectations on the part of others, you’ll want to allocate accurate amounts for everything from website maintenance and Facebook ads to hiring an outside SEO agency and content writers.

Very few organizations can execute a comprehensive digital marketing plan solely in-house. So, it’s important to clearly determine what you can successfully tackle and what needs to be outsourced to create a viable budget.

3. Create Specific Goals

One of the most common objections heard when it comes to digital marketing is that it doesn’t actually offer any “real” value. This is why it’s so important to establish goals for your plan early on. A well-thought out and executed plan will help in business development and support other marketing and sales efforts. Therefore, goals should be aligned with overall company strategic goals. They should also be specific enough to be clearly measured.

4. Detail the Potential ROI

Showing potential ROI is vital in getting others excited about digital marketing. This means explaining its measurable value. Of course, it’s ideal if you can prove a direct financial return. However, it’s more likely that your digital marketing efforts will contribute to more leads that can eventually be converted into more sales. This doesn’t devalue the importance of digital marketing. Rather, it’s simply necessary to connect the dots carefully when trying to get the buy-in from others.

In may be beneficial to compare the ROI of your digital marketing plan to other marketing efforts such as print collateral, advertising, and telemarketing. When you look closely at the costs for each, you may find that digital marketing offers the highest ROI.

5. Give Examples

It’s a good idea to show what your competitors are doing when it comes to digital marketing. Find several good examples of organizations within your industry that are getting it right. Be able to explain what they’re doing and why it’s working for them. These examples may be the most compelling aspect of your pitch.

Getting buy-in for increasing digital marketing efforts requires a detailed plan that can be effectively communicated and executed. With expectations clearly set and a strategy for measuring results, you’ll have the ability to show real ROI that will turn doubters into enthusiastic believers in the value of digital marketing.

Question:

What can you add to this list?

 

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Backlink Analysis (Part 2): Removing Penalties

In our last post we discussed how to conduct a preliminary backlink analysis, along with how to determine if your site has received a penalty from Google or if the penalty is only directed at the links pointing toward your site. In this post, we’ll examine what to do if a penalty is impacting your site’s visibility in search engine results.

If the penalty is affecting your site’s ranking, you’ll need to address the backlink profile in a more urgent way. Use your spreadsheet to identify the sites that are having a negative impact on your site and attempt to contact the owners of these sites to take your links down or add a no-follow tag to the links. Some sites will ask that you pay for link removal. Google has advised site owners that they do not have to pay for link removal, and to simply disavow these links.

Using the link disavow tool in Google Webmaster Tools is easy—sometimes too easy. Remember that you should only disavow links after trying to have them removed naturally. Once they’re gone, you can’t get them back, so make sure to use this tool carefully. Once you’ve disavowed your troublesome links, you can write a reconsideration request and submit it to Google. If they deem your request sufficient, they’ll lift the penalty.

Even if your site has not been penalized or doesn’t seem to be at risk, there are quite a few benefits to conducting regular link analyses. You can see opportunities to improve the link profile, and by using third party tools, you can see how your competitors’ link building strategies are progressing.

Links are an important part of any site’s cyber footprint. Make sure your link profile is a benefit, and not a hindrance, to your site. If you have further questions, we can help you make positive changes. Contact Connected Culture to learn more about backlink analysis today.

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Backlink Analysis (Part 1): Getting Started

Link Penalty. Two words no website owner wants to see. If you’ve been hit by one of Google penalties, or if you’re concerned that previous SEO work puts the site you’re working on in danger, it’s time to conduct a backlink analysis.

The first order of business is to see what kind of backlinks the site has currently. Google Webmaster Tools is invaluab

le here, as it is the only place to see all of the links pointing back to the site (as seen  by Google).

You can also use a variety of SEO tools to get a deeper look into the quality of these links. If you see links from sites with a low page rank, low trust ratings, or simply sites that don’t seem relevant to your site, you can separate these links and d

ecide how to deal with them. Linking red flags include links posted in sidebars or footers of every page on a website, text hyperlinks that appear to

be placed unnatural without any context, and sites that appear to be ‘link farms.’

In Google Webmaster Tools, you can also see if your site has been penalized, and if so, what kind of penalty the site has received. Many of the messages site owners receive are frightening, but upon closer inspection in the Manual Actions tab, you’ll see that that some penalties are not on the site itself, but rather on the links that are pointing toward the site. This doesn’t harm the site at all, but does take away any effect those links may have brought in the past.

This kind of penalty isn’t a major problem and it’s very difficult to get lifted—after all, it’s not directed at your site. But if you have a different kind of penalty that does impact your site’s ranking or appearance in search results, you’ll need to follow a number of steps to get back in Google’s good graces.

We’ll discuss an overview of how to remove link penalties in Google in our next post.

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Avoiding SEO Mistakes Most Sites Make: Part 1

Avoiding SEO MistakesIf you want your site to be more visible to search engines and users, it’s important to take advantage of all the search engine optimization tactics possible. But some tactics are more worthwhile than others. Use this guide to make sure your site is not making the most common SEO mistakes.

  • Misusing Meta Keywords – Once the arbiters of a site’s search engine ranking potential, meta keywords have been relegated to the backwaters of SEO. Used only marginally, if at all, by modern search engine algorithms, it’s far more important to spend time deciding which words should be used in the site’s content, rather than in their html.
  • Misusing Meta Title & Description – Though not an important part of search engine algorithms anymore, searchers see the meta title and meta description in search results. These two fields play an integral role in enticing users to click through to your site. If these meta fields are displaying what the user is searching for, they are much more likely to click than if the field is generic—or not filled in at all.
  • Not Using Keywords in Text – Search engines examine the text on your website carefully, so onsite text without keywords isn’t helpful. Generic business copy may be beneficial for site visitors, but search engines are looking for clues about what your site does and where they should categorize it in their results. Make sure you give the search engines what they’re looking for if you want to be found.

SEO mistakes are common but avoidable. We’ll provide other common errors for you to address in future blog posts.

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Is My SEO Working? 3 Ways to Tell

Is My SEO Working?When SEO is questioned as a marketing strategy, you need to know exactly how to assert its value to your website. Unlike other internet marketing measures, SEO isn’t the easiest tactic to measure. With paid advertising campaigns, it’s easy to produce numbers that show profits and return on investment. For e-mail marketing, interaction metrics are also easy to acquire. But organic search results are an entirely different matter.

For one thing, search rankings fluctuate—sometimes wildly in a single day. Additionally, search results vary by location, search preferences, and a host of other variables. With so much uncertainty, search engine rankings aren’t a reliable measure of your site’s SEO success.

To provide the same level of reporting precision in the SEO world, you’ll have to adjust expectations toward the metrics you can measure reliably:

  1. Site Traffic – increased site traffic is the reason everyone wants to rank higher in the search engines to begin with, isn’t it? So if you can show that your SEO efforts are driving traffic to the site, you can show growth outside of where you rank in search results (and consequently improve your ranking by demonstrating value over time). You can measure whether this traffic comes from organic or paid searches using tools like Google Analytics.
  2. Sales Increases – Some sites will actually see more sales/interaction through organic searches than paid advertising. You can use a variety of ways to determine where these sales originate, but Google Analytics has an eCommerce tracking tool that can help you show what sales are from organic search.
  3. Site Influence – Is your social media campaign booming? Are you seeing more general awareness of your site? Have the links to your site increased organically? All of these metrics are important to showing how much more visible your website has become thanks to your SEO efforts.

Ultimately, if the above metrics continue to rise, you will see an increase in your site’s search engine ranking. Once you’ve adjusted expectations to not focus on this, your success in this category will be even sweeter when your site does escalate past your competitors.

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10 Questions to Jumpstart Social Media Engagement

Connected CultureNo one likes the guy at a cocktail party who talks endlessly about himself without letting anyone else get a word in edgewise. Not only is he annoying and rude, he’s usually not all that interesting to boot!

Unfortunately, many businesses are guilty of the same lack of etiquette when it comes to social media. Perpetual self-promotion without any attempt of trying to encourage social media engagement or conversation is one of the most common and detrimental mistakes that can be made when trying to build a community.

Of course, the objective of any business that leverages social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter is to expand brand exposure with the ultimate goal of increasing sales. However, social media isn’t advertising. Rather, it’s relationship building. With an engaged, loyal online group of followers, you’ll cultivate an audience that will want to buy from you. And, here’s an even bigger benefit – they’ll share information about your brand with their communities, too!

So, let’s get down to the business of how to be the organization that people actually want to engage with at the “online cocktail party” known as social media. Here are 10 great ways to start and sustain the conversation.

1. Curiosity

Online audiences are perpetually searching for something that piques their curiosity. If you can give them something that propels them to find out more and combine it with a question, you can generate initial interest and start building valuable engagement.

Example: Would you like to know how John increased his online network from 40 to 4,000?

 

2. Opinions

The questions you ask can be generic and broad-based or focused on your industry or even on the products and services you provide. You might be surprised just how much social media engagement you’ll generate from a single question. These types of questions can even serve as an informal type of market research.

Example: What’s your opinion of ________?

 

3. Yay or Nay

Yes or no questions are quick and easy for your audience to respond to. Yet, they can still encourage social media engagement, and you may find answers that are far more extensive than you expected.

Example: Do you own an iPad? Yes or no?

 

4. This or That

Like the yes or no questions, you can quickly encourage engagement by asking a question that gives your online audience two choices.

Example: Sneakers or flip flops?

 

5. The Survey Says…

Why not conduct a one question survey to learn more about your audience and their preferences? You’ll get them pondering the question, and their answers might spawn others to share how they feel, too!

Example: What is the single most important thing about ______________?

 

6. Photo Feedback

Posts you share that include photos will almost always generate larger numbers of responses. By combining a question and a photo, you have a winning combination that can spawn significant engagement.

Example: What are your thoughts on this photo?

 

7. Discovery

Questions that encourage your audience to dig a little deeper can often be interesting and insightful.

Example: Why is _____________ important to you?

 

8. Play Favorites

Another strategy for generating more social media engagement is to ask questions that give your audience the chance to share their favorites. These can be serious and industry-focused or just for fun.

Example: Where is your favorite place to spend a summer vacation?

 

9. Cause and Effect

You can create a thought-provoking scenario to spawn some creative ideas.

Example: What would happen if ______________?

 

10. Fill in the Blanks

A fun type of question that often generates a large number of responses is the “anything missing.” There are endless options that you can toss out that will start a conversation.

Example: My three top must-haves in my desk are ___________, ___________, and _______________.

 

Bonus Question!

11. Did You Know?

Have an interesting fact or figure? Instead of phrasing it in a form of a sentence, make it a question for others to answer.

Example: Did you know TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters on only one row of the keyboard?

Yes, questions are fundamental to building up an online community that actually engages with your brand. Social media platforms are designed to encourage sharing and conversation. By doing so, you’ll have much more success than those organizations that simply post one-sided content that inspires little more than a quick glance.

Question:

Do you have a favorite type of question that works with your community? Feel free to add it below in the comments.

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How Do I Look Like A Digital Guru To My Boss Part 2 – The Best Tools to Demonstrate Social Media ROI

Connected CultureWe’ve discussed how important it is to show the impact of social media work on a particular brand. But what is the best way to collect this data?

Any analytics and tracking data is always a key element of a successful social media campaign, as it shows customers all the work you’ve been performing on social media—traditionally a tricky place to demonstrate ROI. But with a few additions to your toolbox, the process of collecting meaningful data becomes much easier.

  • Measure awareness – Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics allow you to track the success rate of your posts, advertisements, and interactions. These are the perfect places to start charting the effectiveness of your social media efforts.
  • Show engagement – Measure trends, topics, hashtags and more with Brandwatch, GroSocial, and Keyhole. This allows you to see how your efforts are affecting your brand’s visibility off of your specific profile.
  • Chart influence – You can use tools like HootSuite and SocialFlow to track sentiment toward your brand across the internet. This allows you to see if your social media efforts are painting your organization in a positive or negative light.
  • Demonstrate conversion – Using the advertising metrics made available by Twitter and Facebook, you can track the click through rate on your ads. It’s also useful to measure direct conversions to an e-commerce store—this shows just how much income is coming from social media.

Showing ROI can be a timely process, but these tools help to expedite the process. By showing how effective social media can be to any brand, you’ll continue to demonstrate that you are a digital guru.

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New Tools for Managing Social Media

Connected CultureSocial media is integral to any online marketing strategy in today’s competitive marketplace. As a company that relies on social media for our work, we are constantly looking for the latest tools to help make social media management services easier. Here are some of our most recent finds that will surely improve your social media endeavors.

 

  • Create and share content with Klout. By suggesting shareable content that your audience hasn’t seen yet, Klout creates a reaction for your online community by tracking impact and engagement with posts, likes, and retweets.
  • Boost Instagram Traffic with TheInstamarketer. This tool engages potential customers by liking and commenting that follower’s posts. The Instamarketer allows you to gain followers on autopilot—condensing 720 hours of work down to just 10 minutes!
  • Manage multiple social media accounts at the same time with Buffer. Schedule content postings from anywhere on the web, collaborate with your fellow team members, and then analyze rich data and statistics on how your posts perform.
  • See what other people are saying about your brand or company with ExactTarget. This tool manages Twitter accounts and gathers analytical data. Like HootSuite, it also allows you to schedule Tweets and monitor conversations.

New social media management tools are made available every day. You’ll want to experiment with these and other tools to see which fit your brand and business model best.

Find another tool we should know about? Let us know about your favorite new social media management tools today!

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WordPress SEO: Comparing SEO Plugins

wordpress-logo-stacked-rgbAnyone using WordPress understands the effectiveness of a good plugin. However, when it comes to SEO plugins for WordPress, it is a different story altogether. There are numerous plugins to choose from and it’s hard to know which ones actually work best.

There are three main plugins which hold the most downloads for SEO, and we’ve taken each for a test drive. If you’re thinking of optimizing your WordPress blog and need an SEO plugin to help you do so, consider one of these picks:

1. Yoast

Yoast is one of the most popular SEO plugins on WordPress today. Yoast is integrated into the platform and allows a user to improve his or her own SEO efforts manually by offering flexible features that require important user input. The user types their focus keyword into a text box, from which Yoast evaluates the post for keyword density, secondary and tertiary keywords, placement, and more. Colors are used to indicate optimization levels; red means the post isn’t very well optimized, while green indicates sufficient use of the keyword. It also establishes permalinks and sitemaps, making it easy for the user to focus on the more manual aspects of SEO. All in all, a good plugin for anyone with a strong grasp of SEO knowledge who wants manual control over optimization.

2. All in One SEO Plugin

The All in One SEO Plugin automates several aspects of optimizing a post for the user. For instance, it automatically generates a title and a meta description. The user can still enter the title manually, however. Preferences can be set for how the plugin should approach different elements of the post, and it will remember the settings for the next use. Perhaps the best part of the All in One SEO Plugin is that it links to Google+; Google Authorship has become such a big influence on SEO with the latest update that it is essential an author has these settings enabled. Good for users who have intermediate skills in SEO.

3. SEO Ultimate

SEO Ultimate allows a lot of really cool features like automatic linking. For instance, if the user types “about me” in a post, the plugin can be set up to automatically link to the “About” page. This plugin is best for those who want to automate the optimization process as much as possible. While it doesn’t help with keyword density as much as the others, there is no better tool for ensuring links are in place. Good for beginners in SEO.

These are just three SEO plugins available. There are numerous others, but no single plugin is any more effective than the rest. The best way to approach these plugins is to evaluate what each and every one of them does, their strengths and weaknesses, and measure how they fit in with the goals your blog is trying to accomplish. For instance, a travel blog might benefit more from links and social media sharing than it would from keyword usage, while a niche blog would heavily rely on keywords. It is possible to use these plugins in tandem with one another, but that generally complicates things too much.

Every SEO plugin for WordPress has its own strengths and weaknesses. Evaluating the specific purpose it is needed to serve will help you select the one that’s best for your site as well as your marketing strategy.

Question:

Which SEO plugin do you use for wordpress, and what’s been your experience with it?

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