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February 2015 archive

How Twitter is Rocking Your SEO

This content was originally posted on

Twitter is in a new relationship. It’s not “complicated”, but it should impact the way you approach your social media and SEO strategy this year.

Tweets will start appearing in Google search results within the next 90 days, according to reports.

This is the result of a new agreement between Twitter and Google, which gives the search giant access to Twitter data in exchange for indexing tweets.

If you are a business or online marketer, this means you have an opportunity to raise your profile on Google by tweeting.

Of course, we are talking search, and that means you’ll have to be mindful of how you use the 140 characters in order to positively affect your SEO strategy.

Here’s what we mean:

Keywords are going to be especially important.
Not only in your tweet, but also in the page content of any URLs being shared via the tweet. Google will likely need to see that your tweet and the link that it points to are relevant to the users’ search terms before displaying your tweets further up in search results.

Engagement will (still) be measured.
Likes, shares, comments and clickthroughs have all been important indicators that social media content is relevant to the audience. This data is not going to be lost on Google (especially being granted direct access); you can bet that tweets with higher engagement will receive more SEO weight than those without.

Think mobile.
A big part of what Google is doing now focuses on mobile users, so in creating your tweets you want to be sure you appeal to smartphone and tablet users as well. Develop messaging that speaks to the intent of mobile searchers, which is primarily researching a product/service, looking for reviews, and finding a physical store.

The new relationship between Twitter and Google forces businesses and marketers to evaluate the role of tweets in the overall SEO strategy. You will have to consider the ubiquity of posts as they start to exist outside of your Twitter bubble, and what that means for your organization. Your tweets will soon be backed by the power of Google to give you more exposure, drive more traffic to your website, and grow your Twitter audience through a search (not social) based experience.


Using the “Pipe” Symbol in Regular Expressions

When I train people on Regular Expressions, or RegEx, in Google Analytics, their eyes begin to glaze over.  It is not necessarily straightforward so I encourage people to become familiar with the use of one symbol at a time and to remember there are lots of cheat sheets available online.  Google’s support files describe how to use each character and you can test it out with with Cheatgraphy’s Regular Expressions Cheat Sheet to see if it will work in analytics.

The pipe character (|) is found right below the backspace on a PC keyboard and is used as an “or” function, meaning you want Google to display a or b.  It especially comes in handy if the naming conventions used in your Event Tracking were not set up consistently.  RegEx essentially lets you temporarily exclude data or combine it for reporting purposes without making any permanent changes in your analytics account.

Event Tracking is a way to report on user interaction with a site, such as playing a video.  Often times, there are multiple people determining how Event Tracking is set up so the naming convention is not always consistent throughout the analytics account.  For example I’ve seen accounts where they have a category of Videos and a category of videos with their events.  We look at that and easily recognize that Videos and videos are the same thing.  However, Google Analytics will report that as two different categories.  If you have a situation like this and want to view both of those categories together, you can do so with the pipe character as seen below.


This is a simple example, but what happens is that you now see the data for both of those categories.  If you didn’t combine them, you would look at your data for Videos, then for videos in two separate steps which is extra work.

Viewing two lines of data really isn’t a huge deal, so suppose you have even more variations  of videos like the below.


Hopefully, you won’t have that many variations for the words videos, but you can see how this is helpful if you are in a situation like that.

Another situation where you might use the pipe character in a RegEx statement is if you have two categories that were intentionally named different when you set up Event Tracking, but strategically you now see them as the same thing.  In this case, you have a category called Articles and one called Posts.  When you started out with your site, you envisioned articles and posts as being very different.  Maybe a post was 200 words and an article was 1,000 words.  Or maybe a post was a quick tidbit and an article was a more informational piece.  As you built out the content on your site, you discovered that these were really serving the same purpose.  The below screen shows the RegEx to combine the Articles category and the Posts category.


You are temporarily combining this data so you can view those two piece of content together at a glance with whatever metrics are important to you.  Maybe you want to view number of visitors or the sources for your Articles and Posts at the same time.

For this example, it may still make sense to have Articles and Posts defined as two very separate pieces of content because you do view them as very different from one another.  The pipe character in RegEx gives you a way to look at this information on the fly if you want to view these two categories together at a moment in time.

The pipe character also helpful for including or excluding specific pieces of information.  With videos, there are a number of actions a user can perform: play, back, pause, stop, and forward are some commonly used Event Actions.  If you want to temporarily exclude specific actions, such as pause and back, you can choose to “Exclude” the event action that matches the RegEx of Pause|Back as seen below.


That lets you view your report for all actions except for pause and back.  It could also be reversed where you include only those actions.

We looked at the pipe character for combining or excluding different types of data and hopefully these examples gave you some suggestions for changing how you view your data in analytics.  Remember, this is a very useful tool to look at or remove a piece of data without making a permanent change that can happen with filters.  The Google support article referenced above includes other characters you can use in Regularly Expression but I encourage you to start with “|” and get comfortable with it before trying out some of the others.


Agile Marketing: Sprint 8

Stay flexible…Stay Agile

In this latest sprint, one of our big takeaways was the continual reminder of how important it is to remain flexible in an Agile marketing environment. We faced one of the most common Agile challenges, how to collaborate and be Agile as a distributed team.

This latest sprint was joined by winter storm Pandora who decided to surprise the entire East Coast. Even here in North Carolina, we saw a mix of ice, snow and rain that shut down many businesses for a day or two. But our team managed to soldier on.

As a company, our culture is built on collaboration. We encourage this through the environment and processes that we’ve built. For our team, much of that depends on proximity and face-to-face interaction to breed that collaboration on a daily basis. And with much of the team stuck working from home due to the road conditions, we had to find a way to conduct not only our daily stand-up, but also as luck would have it, our sprint planning meeting. That meant finding a way to conduct a planning poker session remotely. 

Using Cisco WebEx to conduct a planning poker and sprint planning meeting as a distributed team. 

As a long-time Cisco WebEx partner, our group is pretty comfortable inside of their online meeting platform, so we decided that we would leverage their Meeting Center tool to conduct our planning poke and sprint planning meeting.

What we ended up doing was listing the planning poker numbers (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40) on the online whiteboard. We then ended up having each individual indicate their ‘vote’ for the task points and discussing if necessary. How this works in WebEx is each participant can have a unique pointer that contains their name. The marketing manager would introduce a task, just like they would in any other sprint planning meeting, and then each person would move their pointer to the number of points they believed was correct for that particular task. Negotiations would occur and a number of points would be set for each task.

It was pretty organic and just kind of happened.

At first, some team members typed their point number on the white board. Others drew it. And some used the pointer. Eventually, most everyone gravitated to the pointers because of the simplicity and how easy it was to see everyone’s vote. Each method had its own pros and cons, but we eventually normalized to use the pointers.

It was great to see this develop naturally and how easy it was to stay collaborative. The last few sprints we learned how important these planning poker and sprint planning meetings were, and finding a way to make them happen despite being remote definitely contributed to our success in this sprint. We will probably default to this method if we run into a similar problem in the future.



Why Content Marketing Isn’t Gratifying Yet

This content was originally posted on

A great content marketing experience is a lot like falling in love – it happens over time and it takes a good deal of work. But, if you do it right and persevere, the end result can be life changing.

a pic for rso

The idea of developing high quality content as part of an online marketing strategy has been around for some time, at least for online marketers. It’s what we have been urging clients to do, because we saw how it was influencing not only website traffic and SEO, but also social media engagement, time on page, and conversions. Just like a good mother hen would say, we knew what was best for you.

But now that Google and Facebook have confirmed their algorithms give preference to high quality content, more of you are listening. Which is a good thing, because it means you have the opportunity to improve your online marketing ROI by giving your audience what they really want – timely, well organized content that solves a problem, answers a question, and just generally helps them in some way. You are ready to put content out there that resonates with your audience so that they will, in turn, like you and buy your product or service, right?

Wrong. Sort of.

Here is what many clients view as a solid content marketing strategy: you put your content out there, be it on a blog or whitepaper or what have you, and you share it on all your social media channels (yay, people have a chance to see it now), and you sit and wait for the conversions to roll in. But wait, where are the conversions?

The Reality of Content in Online Marketing Strategies

It would be great if we could put one or two really useful pieces out into the universe and get millions of views that also converted to sales, sign ups, etc. (If this has worked for you, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.)

The reality of content marketing is that it takes a lot of grooming; people aren’t just going to read your content for the first time and immediately solicit you. In other words, it might be love at first sight but it won’t be lucrative. Hopefully, what will happen is they will read one of your pieces for the first time and love it, and then want to come back for more of that dopamine-inducing dialogue.

If you continue to deliver high quality content, then over time these loyal readers will begin to think of you as a thought leader in your industry. They will start to trust you and even look to you first for relevant information, they will see you regularly sharing on social media, and they will notice you showing up on search engine results. Eventually, when that magical moment comes and they realize they do really need what you are selling, that is when all of that brainpower and wordsmithing you put into your content pays off. (That magical moment, by the way, can take anywhere between 7 and 20 instances of consuming your content.)

So, in the meantime, focus on creating the type of content that truly speaks the language of your audience and reflects your brand personality. It will probably take some trial and error to figure out what will take off and what will take a nosedive, but anything worth winning takes work. Be authentic, and you stand a chance at being the authority.

Content Marketing Campaign of the Week: Denny’s

Family – America’s Diner

Warning:  I’m about to stereotype.

I’ve eaten at a Denny’s once in my life in some small town in Pennsylvania about seven years ago. The experience was weird. Our server was about 60 years old and had a beehive up do, dyed bright red. There was a sad 17-year-old bus boy hunched over while sweeping up straw wrappers from the carpeted floor. An elderly couple was in a booth eating their dinner at 4pm. A mom and her four unruly children were across the restaurant, but loud enough for everyone to hear about Timmy not eating his toast. And I’m probably happy I did not look at the Department of Health rating when I walked in. The Grand Slam was good, but not enough to bring me back to Denny’s again.

However, I’m tempted to try it again thanks to their content marketing approach. The most adequate description I can give is that they’re showing their crazy card -making a mockery of it – and it is working. Chief Brand Officer Frances Allen said Denny’s has had continual sales growth for the past three years (Source:  That Diner Feeling:  How Denny’s Became a Weirdly Successful Content Marketer.)

Take a look at the Denny’s blog, which is more of a collection of all their social media content than detailed posts. One of the first thing’s you read is “Stalk Us Online.” They’ve created a space to “lean in” to their weird and put it on display. It’s weird, yet intriguing:

Embracing a brand image alone isn’t enough to garner attention and sales. In this scenario, it seems that Denny’s is focusing on the young adult crowd to become a late-night, after-party spot. So what has Denny’s done to create a successful content marketing strategy for this?


There’s a space on the blog for customers to ask questions and submit their own content. Not only does Denny’s respond, they share the questions publicly and continue with their brand voice. They also do a good job of retweeting and responding to Twitter and Facebook posts. From a customer who went to a Denny’s in a sunny side up egg costume to hundreds of customer “Fan Food Pics,” Denny’s has a brand people are engaging with and following loyally.



Giving carte blanche to comedians is without a doubt risky. But Denny’s partnered with a few comedians to create Always Open, a video series posted on College Humor’s YouTube channel in which host David Koechner sits in Denny’s and has conversations with other comedians such as Will Forte, Amy Poehler, Dax Shepard and more.

Denny’s isn’t exactly known for attracting young adults, but this series took the risk of playing to that target audience’s interests. The comedians are popular with a younger audience and the interviews aren’t snarky or gossip, they’re funny. Albeit awkwardly funny, but that’s a tone that resonates with college students nationwide. The series averages about 200,000 views per video.


Another partnership that capitalizes on the out-of-date Denny’s brand is with Atari. The two created a series of mobile games that combines the two brands for the games Hashteroids, Centipup and Take-Out. While inspired by the Greatest Hits Remixed menu at Denny’s, the games feature diner elements such as flying hash browns and syrup bottle shooters and bring back the classic arcade games.

This fits in with the retro – dare I say hipster – cultural swing of young adults. At the moment, nostalgic games are cool. This partnership occurred quickly, and has had such an impact that Denny’s is making changes to their traditional restaurant to include retro décor.

While the Denny’s atmosphere may not be for everyone, you have to admire a company that embraces their brand identity and capitalizes on it instead of trying to become something they’re not. Kudos Denny’s.

Adding Videos to Your Marketing Mix


YouTube is the second most popular search engine so it is no surprise that it’s a top resource for people seeking information or entertainment.  With more than 1 billion unique users each month, it makes sense for businesses to spend some time there as well.

Businesses who ignore video and do not include it in their overall marketing strategy are missing out on a potentially large audience.  Even smaller businesses with a tiny budget can use this medium.  Costs to create video are low and technical expertise is not necessarily required to create a successful video.  If you are ready to begin marketing with videos, work through the below questions as you decide what it is you want to share.

Who is your audience?

It really isn’t “everyone”.  Is what you are creating something your target market would even want to watch?  You can determine what interests your audience by reviewing data from your other channels.

Are product demos popular on your website?  If so, make sure you spend time showing prospects how to use your product in videos you create.  Is the “tips and tricks” section of your email newsletter the most popular thing with readers?  It could be that your audience really appreciates suggestions on productivity and would be drawn to videos that help them do everyday tasks a bit better.


SEO: Search Engine Optimization Basics for Business Owners

cw4Being up to date on marketing your business online is essential to your success. There are different methods to use such as social media, pay per click, LinkedIn and many others. This post is about the basics of SEO and how it can help business owners.
Whenever I do seminars about marketing, one of the top questions I get asked is “how do I get to the top page of Google?”  This can be a very complicated task since it takes time and effort to accomplish. If you have a marketing budget you can hire a SEO specialist to do this for you. The good thing about online marketing is  that there are many strategies that can be done for free if you have the time. Here are three key tips that will help you understand SEO better.

How People Search

Most People search online before making any type of purchase at a retail location. Even if the purchase is online they would still prefer to research other competitors and look at product reviews. For this reason you will need make sure to strive to be on the first pages of search engines. There are many search engines out there for people to use online. The key is to focus on the ones that matter. Currently Google is the top used Search engine. Below is the exact amount

Core Search Entity Explicit Core Search Share (%)
Total Explicit Core Search 100.0%
Google Sites 67.3%
Microsoft Sites 19.4%
Yahoo Sites 10.0%
Ask Network 2.0%
AOL, Inc. 1.3%


1. Keywords

You need to make sure you know the main keywords associated with searching for your type of business.  I would suggests choosing 3-5 keywords that can relate well with your business. Here are examples of keywords that a restaurant owner in Austin could use.

Some of your keywords can include

  • “Austin steakhouse”
  • “Austin dinner restaurant”
  • “Dining in Austin”


Once these keywords are chosen you can then start using them more often when you are writing about your business in a blog or product descriptions.  This technique will help Google determine the purpose of your site.

2. Keyword Research

When choosing keywords you need to make sure you know which ones are actually being searched for by your target customers. We may think we know what people are searching for, but in reality everyone uses the internet differently. To make sure you have the right keywords it is important tour use the Google Keyword Planner Tool. This is a free tool that gives you info on how many times a certain keyword is searched

3. Title Tags and Description Tags

Now that you have chosen your keywords it is critical to figure out where to put them. Title Tags are one of the top things Google looks at when they rank your site.  As you can see in the image below, the highlighted words are called the “Title Tag.” It is very important that you put keywords here so you can rank.


One key is to put the most important keywords first. In this case, “Houston Wine Bar” is the first keyword followed by “Gastropub” and the others. These can also be called Page Titles. Contact your web master to implement this if you do not know how to do it yourself.

Description tags are very important as well. This is the section that is underneath the Title tag and url of a site on the search engines. This is where you can put extra info about your site as well as more keywords that you find useful.

4. Links

Linking your website is also important. This means that you should post your website url link on other notable websites. This lets Google know that your site is being shared with others. It also helps more visitors come to your website.


5. Directories

Directories are used as an aggregator of information about businesses. Using these will help your site get more exposure to an audience that may be outside of your current city. For example putting your link on sites like Yellowpages or Superpages will help your site tremendously. Most of the time it is free to post your link on these directory sites which yield good traffic. 

6. Tools

Make sure to measure your progress after you implement these strategies.  Some people try to find their rankings by manually searching the search engines. This practice is really time consuming and sometimes not accurate because you may be logged into your email provider which gives you different results. Below are some tools to help!

  • Firefox Rank Checker – Gives you the ability to run reports on multiple keyword rankings
  • Google Analytics – Gives you the opportunity to see what keywords people use to find your website.
  • Google Keyword Planner – Find out what are the top keywords are being searched.

Content Marketing Campaign of the Week: Dollar Shave Club

If you’re in marketing and haven’t seen the Dollar Shave Club “Our Blades are F***ing Great” video, you might want to consider a career change. This video has been revered since it came out in March 2012. Why? In two days, a 90-second online video that cost $4500 received:

  • 9.5 million views
  • 23,000 Twitter followers
  • 76,000 Facebook fans
  • 12,000 new customers

I’d say that’s pretty successful ROI. So why did a video about razors go viral and garner a significant amount of new customers? Let’s break it down.

Immediate Product Information

Within 10 seconds you know the company and what product it offers. THANK YOU! How many artsy or exciting commercials do you see that don’t even tell you what the product is until the end? Yes, yes, it’s a preference of whether you want anticipation or to know up front what you’re seeing. I clearly prefer the latter. Throughout the commercial, they also compare their product to fancy razors that are more expensive with silly “shave tech” features. Not to mention that Dollar Shave Club razors are “so simple a toddler can use it.”

Attention grabbing

After you find out about the product and company, the first value proposition is that their “blades are f***ing great.” Although they may have sliced a small portion of their audience at that point (some moms who buy their sons’ razors and men who don’t like the f-bomb), that was assuredly a conscious decision by Dollar Shave Club. The nonchalant and ballsy attitude seems to be the company culture and image, and they certainly didn’t stray from that.

Charismatic spokesperson

Even though he doesn’t smile, there is an immediate likability factor to this young president of Dollar Shave Club. And Mike is actually the president (and a member). He’s attractive, has a pleasant tone, and although purposely sarcastic and self-deprecating, you get the feeling he’s truly a funny person. Who wouldn’t want to play tennis with him?

Emotional connection

Whether your cup of tea is nostalgia, humor, intelligence, patriotism or social issues, there’s something for everyone:

  • The handsome grandfather who had one razor AND Polio
  • The awkward, misplaced bear mascot
  • Job creation for Alejandro
  • Vanderbilt reference to business success
  • Dance party at the end with American flag

What about after this viral video sensation? Since the first wave of success with increased customers, Dollar Shave Club added to their subscription base with 330,000 total customers as of October 2013. At that time they had three products:  razors, shaving cream, and wipes for your bottom (featured in their Video #2, which also went viral in June 2013). But we all know that one medium doesn’t equal continued customer loyalty. How do they keep engaging their customers?

In an All Things D interview, Dollar Shave Club President Mike Dubin said their “goal is to have people look at Dollar Shave Club as a men’s lifestyle brand,” and he knows they will need to continue creating new content not only for advertising, but to inform and entertain. With this in mind, their activity on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest reflects their sarcastic brand voice while entertaining audience members. From featuring a new clothing brand on their blog that aligns with their core audience to poking fun at their competitors in-store displays on Facebook, they are producing relevant and interesting content.



Thanks to a significant capital investment (no doubt the investors were impressed by the first success of razors), they also plan on expanding their product portfolio for 7 to 12 other bathroom related items, all of which should be under $20. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next, but for now, I’ll take their entertaining videos. I might even buy my dad a subscription after relating to their targeted Father’s Day video ad campaign. Linked below for your enjoyment as well.

  1. Why is my computer slow
  2. What the heck is a Tweet
  3. How to search
  4. What not to click

Web Seminar Recap: What is Google Plus and How to Use it for Your Business

Google plus is very important if you want to stand out online. Google gives your site so much more awareness once you create and connect the page to your website. This one-hour web seminar was presented by Chris West on February 11th, and explores how to utilize this platform to your advantage.

What attendees learned:
• What is Google Plus used for?
• How to use Google Plus Circles to reach target market?
• Using Hangouts to reach audiences through live video.
• Creating groups by using the Communities feature.

Missed this web seminar? Find the slides and recording here.

Blog Comments: Useful or a Waste of Time?

Go back in time a few years and there were many ways to game the search engines as a means of moving your website to the top of the rankings. One of the most commonly used tactics was blog comments.

The strategy was simple:  leave a comment on a high page rank blog with your target keyword (not your name) as the anchor text.

Not only was this a quick way to obtain high quality links, but it worked. It was the best of both worlds. But as you know, things have changed over the years and Google is smarter than ever before.

Waste of Time?

From an SEO perspective, there is no point in spending time on blog comments. Even if it only takes you a few minutes here and there to make comments on high authority blogs, you aren’t getting anything in return. In fact, you could be doing more harm than good (and that is not a risk you should be willing to take).

As hard as it may be, it is essential that you change with the times. If you don’t, your online strategy will be dead before you know what hit you.

Important at the Same Time?

Blog commenting may no longer be a useful way to increase search engine rankings for your target keywords, however, there are still benefits of implementing this technique into your day-to-day marketing strategy.

Here are three benefits of commenting on blogs:

  1. Increase traffic.

This has nothing to do with organic traffic and everything to do with people clicking through to your site.

There is no guarantee that every time you leave a comment that people are going to read it, fall in love with what you have to say, and click through to learn more. That being said, this is sure to happen from time to time.

Here are two tips for increasing your click through rate:

  • Only leave comments worth reading. In the past, when commenting for SEO purposes was all the rage, you didn’t need to say anything worthwhile in order to benefit. If increasing click through traffic is on your mind, it is critical that you add insightful, useful comments. These are the types that people will take notice of, both the author as well as other readers. It may take a few minutes (or longer) to craft a comment that you can be proud of, but it is well worth it once you begin to experience the benefits.
  • Be selective of where you leave comments. It will take trial and error to determine which blogs are worth your time and which ones you should put on your “ignore list.” The best thing you can do is spread the love, leaving comments on 5 to 10 blogs per day to get a good feel for which ones provide the best return. As a general rule of thumb, focus on the top blogs in a particular niche, with one eye towards those that have a lot of reader interaction.

2. Build your brand.

At first, nobody will know who you are. From the author to regular readers, your name won’t stick out early on. Over time, as you comment more and more on blogs in the same industry, your brand will begin to grow. This is particularly true if you are doing other things online to enhance your brand and gain recognition.

For those who don’t understand the steps involved with building a personal brand, this Inc. article will point you in the right direction.

Here is a brief passage from the piece that will drive you to remain persistent:

“A personal brand is like a garden. Once you lay the groundwork and plant the seeds, you’ll be in a great position to eventually reap the benefits. However, it still takes time and dedication to nurture and expand your creation.”

3. Conversions.

From an online marketing perspective, your primary goal is the same as many others:  to push as much high quality, targeted traffic to your website as possible.

Since you won’t get any SEO value from blog commenting, your first task (as discussed above) is to determine how this strategy can increase traffic to your website. Once you do this, by pinpointing the blogs that generate the most clicks, it is time to move on to the next phase. This is when you turn your attention to converting visitors into sales, email subscribers, etc.

Once again, it is all about tracking and sticking with the strategy you have created for yourself. Have you found that traffic from one blog has converted at a higher rate? If so, you should do two things:

  • Continue to leave comments on this blog until it stops working.
  • Make a list of the key traits of the blog, and then scour the same industry for others that fit the mold.

Traffic is just the start. What you should care about the most is converting as many visitors as possible. This is when your blog commenting strategy really begins to pay off.

Final Word

Blog commenting isn’t what it used to be, and this will likely remain true well into the future. There is no reason to believe Google will once again tolerate this as a “clean and fair” way of generating links for the sole purpose of SEO.

On the flipside, the information above should show you that there is still a time and place for leaving blog comments. This won’t do anything for your organic rankings, but it could still do wonders for your traffic as well as your bottom line.

If you put blog commenting on the backburner upon it becoming obsolete as a link building strategy, now is the time to revisit the idea. Don’t be surprised if the results knock you off your feet (in a good way, of course).