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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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How a Digital Marketing Agency Can Save You from Job Burnout

Find out if it’s time to hire a digital marketing agency to achieve your organization’s marketing goals and drive your digital marketing success in 2017If you’re of a certain age, you probably remember how marketing departments operated prior to the digital age. Sure, there were deadlines and goals to meet, but projects typically ran at a manageable pace. In stark contrast, marketing professionals today are dealing with fast-moving business elements that range from content development and branding to public relations, SEO and a growing list of digital channels. Skill sets must now also include knowledge of mobile technology, real-time data analysis and even programming. Both the number of projects and job requirements to complete them have expanded dramatically, and this evolution has been rapid.

The result is overworked and understaffed marketing departments. In a study of more than 500 marketing professionals, from Workfront, a supplier of project management software, 72 percent reported tension in the office due to an increased workload, and 1 out of 4 say they’re either “overly stressed” or “stressed to the max.” With marketing playing a more vital role in the success of a business than ever before, the increasing stress and pressure placed on marketers is a cause for concern that every organization should take seriously.

What Can Be Done?
Are you a marketing director who is struggling to keep up with an overwhelming list of projects and daily tasks? It may be tempting to forego digital marketing altogether. However, today’s customers are online, and staying competitive means, like it or not, embracing digital marketing.

What about new time-saving technology? While solutions that automate processes, such as CRM and project management software can be beneficial, they don’t make up for the dramatic increase in workload due to the expansion of digital marketing.

Some organizations try to fill the lack of staff by hiring temporary workers or interns. This is a quick fix but certainly not a solution. It’s highly unlikely you’ll be lucky enough to find someone who is qualified to independently manage complex projects that require industry and company knowledge, as well as technical skill and expertise.

It’s Time to Call in the Experts
Continuing to struggle with an overload of work is a setup for failure. If you’re burning the candle at both ends and consistently finding that not everything can get done successfully, it’s time to ask for help. And, the best source for help is a digital agency that can partner with you to support your goals and drive your success. With a skilled agency on your side, you don’t just get another pair of hands to help, you get a dedicated team with broad expertise and deep experience to tackle the projects you need tackled and to even provide ideas and guidance on how to achieve even greater levels of success.

Let us help you shine in 2017 by being your digital marketing agency. Contact the experts at Connected Culture today.

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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’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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The Best of the Best Blog Posts of 2015

We’ve posted a wide variety of posts in 2015 to help you increase your digital marketing success. While each post offers valuable takeaways, the following have proven to be the most beneficial according to our readers because of their useful tips, ideas and best practices.

Are you ready to experience significant results in your digital marketing efforts in 2016? We encourage you to read the list below of our top blog posts for 2015. And, why keep this valuable content to yourself? In the spirit of the holidays, go ahead and share this list with a few colleagues, too!

Traditional SEO: Going Old School Pays Off
With all the talk in 2015 about content, many began to wonder if there was still a place for SEO in a successful digital marketing campaign. Yet, the reality is that SEO is still alive and well and being utilized effectively by savvy marketers who want to increase their site’s rankings.
Read more about the benefits of traditional SEO

SEO Cheat Sheet
Did we convince you that SEO is still beneficial? Good! To serve as a basic guide to help you with your SEO efforts, we created a handy cheat sheet for you to hang on to and use as needed. This is a good post to bookmark or print and tuck into your desk drawer for easy access.
Get the Cheat Sheet.

Build Your Online Fingerprint: How to Create a Unique Social Media Presence
With countless businesses building their presence on social media, it can be a challenge to differentiate yourself from the others. This blog post offers some very helpful ideas on how to create a unique online fingerprint that will make you stand out in an increasingly crowded digital environment.
Start Building Your Online Fingerprint.

Content Marketing Hack: How to Repurpose Your Content Effectively
Most likely you upped your content marketing game in 2015. You may even have an amazing stockpile of blog posts, case studies, newsletters, articles and other content that is no longer being used. One of the benefits of producing quality content, is that it can be repurposed to extend its reach and effectiveness.
Learn a few creative hacks to repurpose your content.

5 Facebook Post Ideas to Keep Your Page Fresh
Yes, it can be difficult coming up with new ideas for Facebook posts. We’ve all seen the pages of those companies that bore their online audiences by simply promoting the same products and services over and over. The good news is that there are some simple ways to create posts that will encourage your existing community to engage with your brand and will generate interest from others.
Read these 5 post ideas and attract more people to your Facebook page in 2016.

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Google Search Console: The New Webmaster Tools

True or false: You must be a master to understand Google Webmaster Tools. False! But it certainly does sound like you should be well-equipped when it comes to the internet, right? If you’ve been intimidated by the mere thought of Google Webmaster Tools, you’re not alone. Sure, SEO expword-clouderts, marketers, and developers likely know a thing or two about online optimization, but what about the hobbyists, small business owners, or bloggers who aren’t well, experts?

Simply the title “webmaster” may deter certain individuals from utilizing the tools available through Google Webmaster Tools. That’s why Google is taking an initiative to rebrand Google Webmaster Tools as Google Search Console. According to Google, they hope that all types will utilize Google Search Console – webmasters and internet novices alike.

So what is Google Search Console and is it any different from Google Webmasters?  In a short answer, no, Google Search Console will not be any different, although Google does constantly add new tools to their service. The main purpose of Google Search Console (previously Google Webmasters) is so help websites obtain more traffic through search engine optimization. This is done through a number of tools and programs found within Search Console. The main purpose is so help better understand what is going on within a specific website.

From a very basic standpoint, here are just some of the things you can do with Google Search Console:

  • Assign which pages you would or would not like Google to crawl
  • Gain insight into sites that link back to your own website
  • See which keywords are most frequently found by Google when crawling your website
  • Assess your overall site performance and bounce rate

So there you have it – if you’ve ever been hesitant to utilize Google Webmasters, give it a try – or, should we say, give Google Search Console a try. It’s not just for webmasters, after all!

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‘What’s in it for Me?’ Upping the Ante for Link Building

Business man drawing social network structure

When it comes to creating a reputable online presence, link building is a key ingredient that is often overlooked. Thinking of your online presence, you’re likely to primarily focus on writing content, such as website content and blog posts and perhaps building a social media presence. However, link building helps you to further build relationships with other websites, with other businesses, and with potential audience members. Perhaps more importantly, link building helps to build a positive reputation amongst search engines in an effort to boost your search engine rankings.

If you’re new to link building, the process of obtaining links may seem overwhelming. However, there are a variety of ways to obtain links, all of which can be utilized by a variety of different industries and identities:

  • Natural links—As the name suggests, natural links come “naturally” to you or your business. This means no real effort needs to be done on your end, aside from, of course, being interesting and newsworthy! If you or your small business is heavily involved in the community, a local newspaper may cover your efforts and link back to your website in an online article. Or perhaps your business has won an award of some sort and is cited online? Congratulations! That’s a natural link!
  • Manual link building—Manual link building refers to creating links through outreach on your end. This can be done in a number of ways. One way is through submitting your URL to directories like DMOZ and Yahoo. Never pay for links, that will get you in trouble. Another way is to simply reach out and ask! Email bloggers asking if they’ll take a look at your product or service and write a post including a link back to you. If you’ve got an event going on, reach out to journalists to cover the story with an online article linking back to your website.
  • Self-created link building—The easiest but least successful way to gain links is to include a link back to your website within your social networking profiles, blog comments, news forums, and other places where conversations take place. Do this only where it makes conversational sense to do so. Don’t create these types of links as a link building strategy as those links will not help your seo efforts, but they can lead  to qualified traffic visiting your site which is always important.

While the credibility and search-ability of your name or website largely depends on polished content and an established social media presence, link building is a great way to further get your name out there and to form relationships. Keep these three SEO link building methods in mind in an effort to boost your online presence!

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The Mobile Site Advantage

The Mobile Site AdvantageUntil now, having a mobile version of your website was a luxury for many companies. Sure, international brands had mobile sites, but the average business just didn’t explore that path. With the latest announcements from Google, a mobile version of your site will likely become a necessity.

With an ever-increasing number of users logging in through mobile devices, Google has decided to make “a significant change” to its mobile search results. By incorporating “mobile-friendliness” into their algorithm, Google is rewarding sites worldwide that have invested in a better experience for mobile users.

Google has made the decision because according to their data, “94% of people with smartphones search for local information on their phone, [while] 77% of mobile searches occur at home or at work, places where desktop computers are likely to be present.” This indicates that more people are considering their phone as their primary device for internet activity.

The changes take effect on April 21st. If you don’t have a mobile version of your site, it’s a good idea to invest in one as soon as possible if you don’t want to be invisible to so many users who now favor mobile search results. While this upgrade will require an investment and a web developer, you may lose a lot of visibility. In 2015, most developers automatically incorporate mobile sites into your architecture, but if you have an older website, it’s important to prepare for this drastic change so you aren’t buried by the competition.

The importance of mobile devices will continue to grow with time, so if you’ve been waiting to go mobile, the time to act is now!

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Building an Online Community: The Basics

Building An Online CommunitySo you want to build a community online? An online community is the perfect way to broaden the reach of your brand. By engaging with your community, you’ll be enticing buyers, engaging with existing fans of your brand, and extending your reach to new customers. In short, an online community is both a source of revenue, an advertising platform, and a way to spread the word about you and your products or services to new customers.

If you’re ready to begin, here are a few basic tips to keep in mind that will help you get started.

  1. Quality – whether it’s on-site content, blog posts, videos, podcasts, or other forms of media, it doesn’t matter. People will be drawn to excellent content and return continually for more of it. Quality then is both a hook and a reason for people to come back.
  1. Originality – ask yourself: why should people come to my community for this content instead of going somewhere else? It’s important for you to have something unique about your brand.
  1. Consistency – International brands earn their reputation by delivering their specialty on a regular basis. This schedule of interactions helps foster community. If you disappear, so will your followers.
  1. Sharing – For your community to grow, you’ll need people to find your content/products/brand and share it with others. Sharing is easiest on social media. Make your content as easy to share as possible and make it appealing so people will want to see and share it with their friends.
  1. Communication – A community isn’t about broadcasting to an audience. It’s about establishing connections. Engage your community. Take time to acknowledge those who interact with you and those who have helped you along the way. If you only promote yourself, you’ll never attract a following. Post links to topics your community will find interesting. Ask questions. Make re-visiting your site and social media channels worthwhile.

Every online community is different and you’ll have to experiment with yours for maximum benefit, but by following the 5 basics above, you’ll be building a great foundation.

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How to Use Analytic Data to Create Quality Content

SEO Analytic DataAnalytic data shows you the behavior of users who visit your website, making it a valuable tool that many companies don’t harness. Many people know that analytics show how potential customers find your site, but that’s just the beginning of how you can improve your SEO using analytic data. By collecting information about user behavior on each site, you can tailor your site and your SEO to match their needs.

It’s widely known amongst SEO professionals and savvy webmasters that you can see what keyword searches lead people to your site using analytics. You can also see their activity on each individual page, but analytics data can provide you with other important information.

Start by considering your bounce rate. This shows how many people navigate away from your page quickly. If this number is high, it indicates that users are not finding what they were looking for on your site. Search engines can factor this activity toward your ranking position.

How can you improve this? Give the people and the search engines what they want! Adjust, improve, and enhance your content. This will better inform search engines about where to put you and keep visitors on your site. You can also use this to think about a site redesign—remember that user experience is one of the top factors when it comes to SEO.

Don’t forget your meta data! While meta keywords are marginal in today’s search results, the meta title and meta description are vital to you in another way—they are what users see in search results. If these aren’t enticing enough for users, they may click on another result and end up on a competitor’s site. Don’t let that happen.

For more information on how to use your data effectively, contact our SEO experts today.

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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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