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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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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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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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Social Media Signals and Search Engines: How Much Really Counts?

If you’ve ever wondered about search engines and their ranking factors, you’re not alone. An entire industry full of SEOs ask themselves the same questions every day, but thankfully, because of that questioning, we’ve been able to learn a little bit more about how search engines consider websites for ranking. We know that quality content matters. We also know that a site’s backlink profile matters. But what about social media? How can a website’s social media presence tie into ranking?

When you think about it, it’s really no surprise that social plays into SEO. Google’s own webmaster guide to optimization puts an emphasis on offering value to users and social media is just another touch point for adding value. If you can create meaningful relationships online on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+, why shouldn’t you be able to do the same on your own website?

As far as most SEOs can tell, there is in fact a direct correlation between a solid social media presence and better search engine visibility. As for how much visibility, that really all depends on what networks you’re participating in and how actively and effectively you’re doing so. For example, Google+ tends to rank very well within Google, so having a presence there is good for owning more SERP real estate. Plus, if you’re establishing Authorship, that can lead to higher clickthrough rates (up to 150% more, in fact, according to Catalyst). Another example is that of Facebook, which some SEOs suggest sends signals to search engines based on the number of shares and likes (i.e. the more popular you are on Facebook, the more visible in the SERPs). It’s all common sense, really. Being social and going viral are inherently connected and the more opportunities you have to connect with more people and motivate them to share, the more backlinks you earn, the more mentions you gain, the stronger your site looks, etc.

For your organization, the best thing you can do is to not worry so much about how social media signals play into ranking and instead, focus on building up a meaningful social presence. The SEO benefit will go along with a strong social presence – that’s a given, but by looking only at the SEO impact means that you’re missing out on the opportunity to offer value to customers, stakeholders, and audience members who can contribute positively to your online visibility, reputation, and level of trust within your industry.

Social signals and their weight algorithmically will always be in flux. We’ve seen this happen with certain types of links, content, and keyword usage – one can expect for social media to be affected by the constant change of user behavior and the search experience eventually. The number of Twitter followers, Facebook shares, or Pinterest repins are all important for measuring campaign success – but don’t put all of your eggs in that basket when trying to evaluate your search engine visibility. Just expect that being more social can mean more space in the SERPs.

Focus on creating valuable and unique social hubs for your advocates to connect and converse with you in the social sphere. The search engine visibility will come with time and continued effort.

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Consistency: The Secret to Successful SEO, Social Media, & Email Marketing

Social Media, SEO, and Email: Consistency is Key!

Social Media, SEO, and Email: Consistency is Key!

If you were to ask your marketing team what the most important part of a successful SEO, email marketing, or social media strategy was, what do you think their responses would be?

  • Is it solid design?
  • Compelling copy?
  • Engagement, engagement, engagement?

What would surprise you is that while all of these responses contribute to a successful campaign, they’re not the actual foundation. So what is it? The answer lies in your calendar.

Take a look at your marketing calendar. Are there a rhythm and a pattern for communication? Do you plan out your messaging in advance? Is there a finite task list to have work completed at regular intervals? Scheduled promotions? An overarching strategy to guide it all? If you answered “yes”, then you’re already on the right path. If not, you’re lacking the secret ingredient to a successful online marketing campaign: consistency.

Consistency, while not as flashy or exciting as the design elements that usually bring a campaign to life is critical to any communications effort. When you’re consistent, your audience can not only become accustomed to receiving communication from you, but it also invites trust and even an expectation of receiving your message. Just think about that – your customers EXPECT to hear from you. This is huge.

Much like the relationship you have with your marketing team, your customers – once they opt in to receive your messaging – come to depend on regular communication to motivate them to action. They actively seek deals or coupons, they check their inbox before shopping, or they do a quick search of your site, social media channels, and Google to see if there’s a new item or a new deal to be taken advantage of. When you establish a regular rhythm of communication, a comfortable relationship can form, which is the ultimate goal for any marketer – a long-standing, trusting, and mutually beneficial relationship.

But let’s look a little bit deeper. What other value does consistency bring to the table?

On Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, or whatever flavor of social media your organization prefers, consistency allows for conversations to occur. If users can expect your updates at certain times, that opens the door for engagement. They’ll know that they can ask a question, tweet a response, or give feedback and there’ll be someone there to respond. That engagement is what makes or breaks a brand’s reputation, not to mention, enhances the overall communication and customer service process. If you give your audience a chance to get your message and respond, you can build that relationship you’re looking for. (Plus, having an active social media presence often correlates with higher search rankings and improved online visibility). You should also note that consistent messaging in tone and type can help you build a brand persona, which can further facilitate trust and authority.

Consistency also means producing regular, fresh content for indexation and for search engines, the freshness factor matters. In fact, it’s baked right into the algorithm so that content that is new, timely, and valuable tends to get preference in rankings – even if it’s only for a short period of time. That short period of higher ranking may be just enough to get the notice you’re looking for. Additionally, consistency in optimization approach (meaning that you have a consistent format for UX, navigation, meta tags, content structure, code, etc.) can make your SEO process more organized and even more impactful.

Tracking results is also easier when you have a consistent calendar to go from. Utilizing data from your social media management tools, Google Analytics, URL tracking systems, or other sources can help you evaluate what works and what doesn’t in your timing, approach, or audience segment. It’s easier to report success when you have a consistent pattern to work from. The more sporadic your messaging, the more difficult it can become to assess what’s working and what isn’t. Track EVERYTHING. The time something is sent, the duration of the conversation, the day of the week, the time of the month or year, the channel, the audience segment targeted. The more data you have on these key metrics, the easier it’ll be to make decisions on your overall online marketing strategy.  Plus, this gives you the edge of being able to make soft predictions of what will happen in future marketing efforts.

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What Role does Google PageRank Play in Your Site’s Reputation?

Google PageRank is a number system from 0 to 10 that Google assigns to each page on the internet that is based on how powerful the site is in relation to the number of quality links it has. However, the number Google displays may not be an accurate measure of a site’s ability to rank highly in search engine results.

In the beginning, PageRank was used as a way to increase profit for people selling links, the higher the rank, the more money was made. Google was unsatisfied with this practice and began to delay updated data in the toolbar, giving a PageRank a 6 month or longer delay of your actual public PageRank. When Google first started using PageRank, it was an important variable in their algorithm to order web pages.  Google has removed PageRank from their webmaster tools and issued an explanation of why PageRank might not actually matter at all. Read an official Google statement Here.

Does PageRank Really Matter?

PageRank does play a small role in where a site ranks in search engine results, but in the grand scheme of SEO there are more important variables at play. PageRank is a metric that can’t accurately be tracked, as the actual results are delayed. Your ranking may not be updated for up to 9 months making your rank a useless metric, as it isn’t entirely accurate. Many websites with a PageRank of 0 are still gaining organic rankings and search traffic. It’s more important to focus on other metrics such as analytics, conversion rates, returns on investment, relevancy and other metrics that benefit meaningful gains for your website or business.

Another reason why PageRank may be a useless metric is that it has no relevancy toward social media results. Social media engagement, status updates and other social content are making their way into search results. However, a tweet or status update that is ranked 0, still shows up in search results. Google has also made it clear that sites with strong social networking profiles are gaining increased preferences. Ideally, the most important way to gain SEO benefits is to keep creating strong content, and optimizing the content for search. The utilization of SEO in social media is a great way to promote your content and turn visitors into potential customers.

Low PageRank? Don’t Worry

Google PageRank is a great way to “show off” your site if it has a high ranking, but it is entirely useless in SERPS. Having a PageRank of 0 doesn’t reflect your sites reputation. Newer websites may be ranked extremely low because they are new. Newer websites may also receive a low PageRank because of their lack of backlinks, however these sites still have the potential to rank incredibly high in search engine results. When all is said and done, the best way to get your site ranked is to concentrate on the content you are writing. Content is still king, regardless of your PageRank number. Stop worrying about PageRank and start focusing on actionable metrics. A low PageRank is in no way the be-all and end-all of your site’s ranking potential.

Question:

What do you think about PageRank? Do you think it has any significance in your sites reputation?

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Google Algorithm Updates – Changing the Focus from Link Building to Content Marketing

We’ve seen a number of updates come down the pipe from Google as they continue to advance their algorithm and its ability to sniff out people who are out to manipulate search results.  From the Panda update to the Penguin/over-optimization update, a lot of business owners who thought they were in the right as they gained steam in search found otherwise when their rank slipped not by a few spots… but by as much as dozens of pages.

These kinds of results have scared some small business owners who don’t have the budget to keep attacking competitors with expensive campaigns, and they’re even more concerned about SEO.

Mainly “how do I know what I’m doing now won’t hurt me later, and how do I know what’s too much?!”

Countless marketing directors have asked me how many links they should be building each month, or how many they should expect an SEO company to build for them.

The problem is there’s no hard and fast answer here.  SEO is more about best practices and general guidelines than strict rules regarding numbers.  That’s unfortunate for savvy marketing directors who want a quantifiable way to figure out how their campaigns are performing (especially when they’re paying a provider to get results).

Building Links is Bad, So Start Building Links

It’s almost a contradiction when you warn organizations that paying for links can get you in trouble, and then every SEM company out there takes an approach of building links under a paid service agreement.  Not a single provider offers a limit on how many they think is appropriate – this goes back to no real hard limit.

It’s impossible to give an exact number, and I hate not being able to provide marketing directors with an answer when they ask this question.  Obviously if you generate a few thousand links for a website overnight that had virtually nothing the day before then you’re going to raise flags.

…But what if you launch a piece of content that goes viral and generate millions of links in the span of a few hours.

It’s impossible to control how many people share it, and you certainly don’t want to kick the cord out of the wall in a frenzy if content you produced suddenly opens the flood gates. For an example of viral content, checkout this connected culture video.

Understanding the Variables in Assessing Link Quality & Relevancy

When the algorithm is looking at your links, it’s not a black and white comparison of “there’s new links” or “there’s too many links”.  There are a lot of variables, and the new algorithm updates constantly add new variables to consider including:

  • Anchor text
  • No anchor text
  • Authority of the link provider
  • Other outbound links from the link provider
  • Quality of the other sites the link provider links to
  • Frequency of links
  • Links from the same provider vs. different providers
  • Link relevancy vs. surrounding content

And that’s just to name a few.  Because of these variables, it doesn’t really come down to how many links you need to build to make an impact, and how many are too much.

It’s also impossible to say how many links you can expect from a broad digital marketing campaign.  For example – you publish a press release through PRWeb with 2 anchored links that point to your new site or new landing page.  That press release might get syndicated to 70 digital networks (totally 140 links), or it might only get picked up by 8 (16 links).

On the flip side, your product launch and press release could get the attention of a major media source, be picked up by a major news site and as a result be syndicated to hundreds of other sites (with links pointing back on each).

If you’re concerned about link building and over-optimization, stop.  Your core focus with your digital marketing strategy should remain focused on content and creating something of real value to your audience.  As you create compelling stuff that people naturally want to share, you’ll see links begin to appear among various networks while content spreads.

As the algorithm follows those links back and indexes your content, a natural relevancy will be established.  You don’t have to worry about building too many links to fast when your focus isn’t on link building – your audience will do that for you. Your focus will always be on creating smart content. Here’s 7 tips to get you started.

The 7 Elements of Smart Content

 

Question:

What has been your experience with link building?

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