The Westmark Group Blog

linking

Link building has always been a crucial component of SEO. Now, with Google’s latest Penguin update, it’s more important than ever to build valuable, strong links, lest your website be penalized in search engine rankings.

When it comes to internal link building, it’s easy. Simply build several high-quality, well-written landing pages and blog posts which all pertain to your industry. Once you have posted all your content, link everything you’ve written to everything else, whenever you see a reasonable opportunity to do so.

External links are equally simple: just embed outbound links within your content which lead to high-ranking external websites, and reap the SEO rewards.

But inbound links are another story entirely. Inbound links are earned when another website links back to yours. They are much harder to achieve because, while you are in total control over your own website, you have no control over what someone else decides to post. However, there are many strategies which you can use to acquire inbound links. Here are just a few.

List your site in a trustworthy directory

There are many online directories that provide no real value to users, and Google excludes all of them from its search results. However, there are a few online directories that Google still values. These directories offer an excellent place to post a link to your website and provide useful information about your company to consumers.

Give a testimonial

Spamming websites with useless testimonials and posting links back to your own site will only get you penalized by Google. However, there’s nothing risky about leaving a valuable, coherent review about a product or service you have used on a site related to your business. This usually works because two parties benefit: the contact receives a new testimonial, and you receive an inbound link. As you will learn as you read through this list, inbound link building is all about scratching someone’s back so that he or she will scratch yours.

Just ask

Think of your friends, relatives, partners, and clients with a blog or website. Ask them to post a link to one of your blog posts or landing pages. Be sure to ask for an in-content link, rather than a link in the sidebar or footer. Be warned, however, that if the link comes from a website that is irrelevant to yours, it will have little positive impact on your rankings and may even trigger a Google penalty.

Write a (good) guest post

Many sites and blogs are more than happy to accept and publish free content; if the organization maintains a regular blog schedule, that’s one less piece of content they have to pay for. However, as with the rest of this list, don’t cut corners. The post should be relevant to the website, professional, and interesting. Additionally, the subject should not be your company and how great it is.

Recover your dead backlinks

Maybe your site was relaunched, and not all content was successfully moved. Or maybe another webmaster posted a link to your site that was misspelled. Whatever the reason, there may be many broken links to your website across the internet that return 404 errors. In this case, tools like LinkJuice can help you identify and fix the broken links.

Turn mentions into backlinks

If someone wrote about your brand or product, but neglected to link back to your website, simply reach out and ask the webmaster to do so. Most webmasters will be happy to help, as they themselves understand the SEO struggle.

Build a Successful Linking Strategy with Westmark Group

There are literally hundreds of additional ways to build inbound links, but we simply don’t have the space to discuss them all. If you have any more questions about link building or SEO in general, don’t hesitate to reach out and touch us—we’re always happy to be a resource for new business owners.

usingsocialmedia

Many businesses—especially new ones—seem to view Social Media as a necessary evil. It may seem risky, or unnecessary, or like your 14-year-old niece could do it. But anyone who makes those assumptions is making a big mistake. Social Media is a major power player in the world of Digital Marketing, and a marketing strategy that lacks it is simply incomplete.

Here are the top reasons why your business should be using Social Media Management—and no, your niece probably shouldn’t be the one doing it.

It’s a major player in your digital marketing strategy

Think of a baseball team. You have a pitcher, a catcher, three basemen, and some outfielders. The team works together as a whole, with no player more important than the other. If your team lacks a Social Media Coordinator, or at least a strong Social Media strategy, you haven’t covered all your bases.

Many business owners want to see results from Social Media and Social Media alone. Those that do are failing to see the big picture—the fact that Social Media supports the entire Digital Marketing strategy, from Public Relations to SEO. As awesome as Social Media is in itself, its most important function is existing as a key component of your entire team. How, you ask? Keep reading.

It drives your traffic

Sure, organic traffic is great—that’s why SEO experts take great care to optimize blog posts and landing pages with well-researched keywords. But why post content and hope that your target users will find it, when you can place it directly in front of them? Social Media has massive power in this respect. A single link posted on a site like Reddit can generate tens of thousands of visitors in one day, and posting a blog to Facebook can bump its rankings from dozens to hundreds. Ideally, Social Media is Content Marketing’s best friend, and every blog that your marketing team creates should immediately be distributed across all applicable channels. Without Social Media, you’re just throwing content into the void and hoping something sticks.

It boosts your SEO

Content Marketing is one of the biggest components of SEO, so it goes without saying that Social Media helps your SEO rankings increase, too. When your pages receive consistent traffic, search engines like Google will rank them much higher, and your entire website will benefit.

It allows you to build real relationships with your target market

Social Media offers something that marketers have never been able to do before: the ability to actually communicate, in real time, with consumers. Social Media marketers can read their audience’s tweets, posts, updates, and comments exactly as they occur. That kind of real-world insight is invaluable when determining how to build your brand and give the people what they want. As an added bonus, interacting with your clients on a daily basis helps to build your brand as a positive, friendly presence in their daily lives.

All the cool kids are doing it

At this point in the game, not having a social media presence is like pulling out a flip phone at a company meeting about the importance of technology. It’s embarrassing, and more than that, it’s telling. Your clients—and competitors—do notice when you don’t have any social media strategies in place, and will perceive your brand as outdated, unfriendly, and behind the times. In order to stay competitive in the 21st century, Social Media is just a requirement of doing business.

A Social Media Marketing company that drives results

If you’re ready to push past your competitors and take the Social Media world by storm, give us a call. We’ll help you develop a Social Media marketing strategy that drives your web traffic, improves your search engine rankings, and shows the world what your brand has to offer.

penguinblog

For months, SEO experts have suspected that something fishy was going on in Google-land. Now, after months of playing coy, Google has finally rolled out its latest algorithm update, which the SEO community has dubbed “Penguin 4.0.” If your marketing strategy includes any kind of Search Engine Optimization, it’s vital for you to understand how the update will affect your search engine rankings, your conversions, and ultimately, your sales.

Back to Basics: What is Penguin?

If you’re new to the world of search engines and SEO in general, allow us to back up. In the days of old—2011 and prior—the internet was a frustrating place. Sites could, and did, achieve higher search rankings by using scummy tactics like populating entire pages with links or churning out useless, poorly-written content.

Google’s first major algorithm update, Panda, changed all that. It dramatically overhauled the way Google evaluated search quality, penalizing sites that posted spammy content and rewarding those that offered rich, valuable content. A year later, Google unrolled Penguin, which aimed to do the same as Panda, only with links. Suddenly, sites with low-quality links were penalized, and sites with strong inbound link profiles were rewarded.

Since then, Penguin has seen a few minor updates—but Penguin 2.0 and 3.0 were nowhere near as significant as the 4.0 version. Below are three of the biggest changes.

Penguin 4.0’s Top 3 Updates

Here’s what’s different in the SEO world now that Penguin 4.0 is here.

  1. Constant refreshing. Before, if a website uploaded spammy or manipulative links, it could be weeks or months until the faux-pas was caught by Penguin’s crawlers. Now, Penguin is refreshing itself constantly, meaning that guilty sites will be caught and penalized almost immediately. On the flip side, those who are attempting to remove a Penguin-imposed penalty won’t have to wait until the next refresh to restore their rankings and seek a second chance.
  1. No more full-domain penalties. Previously, Google used spam indicators to flag entire websites as worthy of penalty. For example, if a webmaster built a low-quality link pointing to a landing page, the entire domain’s rankings would tank across the board. Now, individual pages will be penalized, and the website as a whole will remain safe.
  1. Full incorporation into Google’s core algorithm. This latest update integrates Penguin into dozens of other separate algorithms that all function together to evaluate a site’s value. This integration will doubtlessly make Penguin more smooth and efficient.

So, What’s it to Me?

Ultimately, Penguin 4.0 means two very important things:

  • Black Hat SEO users will be caught and punished more quickly.
  • Black Hat SEO users will be forgiven more easily.

Now, hopefully, your marketing company isn’t using any Black Hat SEO tactics in the first place. In that case, you don’t have anything to worry about. Google wants you to play by the rules—so play by the rules, and you’ll have nothing to fear.

Mainly, the new update offers an impetus to check your link building practices. Are your links leading to high-authority sites that will lend you valuable credibility? Are you using appropriate anchor text and embedding your links in well-written, well-researched content? Will your target audience find your links useful? This update will help SEO experts analyze their current practices and take their optimization techniques to the next level.

In other words, SEO experts simply have all the more reason to take time and care when building websites, aiming to tell their brands’ stories via data-driven content, research, and industry knowledge. Another plus? This huge change in the SEO world means that the demand for quality link building services will only increase in upcoming years—great news for marketing companies and their clients. If you do make an SEO mistake, real-time updates mean you will be able to quickly fix the violation. Eventually, Black Hat SEO techniques will slowly become obsolete, which is exactly what Google wants in the first place.

phone with coffee
A study from Lithium Technologies illustrates the dissatisfaction customers have when they interact with brands via social media, and specifically when they reach out to ask a question or stress their concern with a product.

It’s one thing to unlike a company’s Facebook page or unfollow a brand on Twitter, but it’s a whole other issue when the consumer decides to express their discontent by posting negative reviews or going off on a Twitter rant.

Timing is of utmost importance. Customers generally become distressed when they feel they are not valued by the brand and the time between when the outreach is initiated to when they are responded to, increases. According to the study, more than half of unsatisfied customers will take negative actions to show their dissatisfaction in you, the company. This is the last thing you want, as a company owner. Your attention automatically refocuses to remedying the situation and performing crisis communication to the displeased customer. Essentially, if not handled swiftly, this form of discontent can quickly erupt into a PR disaster for a brand.

However, there is an upside to handling the complaint or overall interaction in a timely manner. Not only will the customer have a favorable attitude of your brand, they are more likely to purchase additional products from your company. Most of all, when customers have a positive experience with you, or when you have resolved an issue for them, they are that more likely to recommend you to their friends and spread the word about how a complaint or negative experience was handled appropriately, resulting in a favorable mindset of the brand.

Involvement on Twitter and Facebook are merely instantaneous and take only a couple of seconds to have an everlasting impact. This is a two-way street. If we act speedily and with purpose we have the ability as marketers to transform the social customer service experience for brand as a whole.

facebook login iphone

Nearly a year ago Facebook introduced slideshows, allowing advertisers to seamlessly compile a collection of images into a video. Video consumption online whether it be through a desktop or mobile device, continues to increase daily. After a year of understanding and experimenting with this unique feature from Facebook, advertisers have suggested changes and improvements that could be introduced to make the entire process more effective. Facebook is now introducing several new features that will allow advertisers to more easily display products and market their ideas.

Stock Images:

Facebook has long had a stock image database free to us through ad manager, but now this feature has been added to the slideshow tab. Advertisers can now pick from a gallery of thousands of pictures and simply place them into the slideshow ads they are creating.

Add-ons:

Adding text and music to slideshow ads is now possible through this update! There are a number of templates to pick from, each with a different theme. Furthermore, you can now choose from a sound library to add music to your slideshow. Facebook says that soon you will be able to pick music from your personal audio library too!

What If You Already Have a Video?

If you already have a video that you’d like to convert into a slideshow ad, you can easily convert it by uploading the actual video into the slideshow tool. The technology will do the rest by taking the image stills from the video and turning them into your slideshow ad. Creating a slideshow ad by using already created content is beneficial to those who have a lot of content within their video but do not necessarily want to show the entire file. Marketers can be selective and pick the content they have a priority on advertising.

As a digital marketing agency we are excited for the new features being added to the slideshow ad function within Facebook. Our hope is that advertising on Facebook will continue to evolve and change with the times, making it more effective to advertise and tell our clients stories!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

snapchat logo

If you know anything about about Snapchat, you probably operate the app with the assumption that nothing is truly private. Somewhere, in their watchtower, Snapchat staff are most likely able to grab any information they wish with little to no effort. While they may not be able to see your actual snaps to friends, they can get just about any other data they wish, and starting soon, they’ll be using this data to target the user and bring in significant advertising revenue.

By understanding what accounts you follow, Snapchat has the ability to better target you with ads related to these accounts. Even more invasive, Snapchat can design ads to target you based on the discovery stories you frequent. For instance, if you follow beauty brands, you will begin to see ads for makeup. If you follow a number of basketball players or frequent the ESPN discovery page, you will start to see sports ads.

Advertising via Snapchat is becoming more regular. In July the app created their first application programming interface, or API, which assists advertisers in the buying process of ad space and eventually allows them to analyze their ads privately as a company.

While these changes might sound a little nosy, we think it’s better to have some control over what ads you view within the app. If you’re going so far as to follow and watch specific accounts and stories, it’s nice to know Snapchat isn’t wasting your time (and theirs) showing you ads that you have no interest in. For advertisers, this allows the opportunity for them to collect data. If Advertisers know who is watching specific channels causing their ads to be played for certain users, they can find out more details about these consumers such as their age and gender.

Tell us what you think in the comments below!

pay per clicks, marketing, keyboard, apple products

If you have recently developed a website, chances are you are in the process of attracting people to said website. It is probably not as easy as you thought it would be, and at times it could be frustrating. That’s where Pay Per Click advertising, or PPC comes in to play.

PPC is a great way to get people to your site by getting the website to show more prominently as a search result. The further up in the search results your website appears, the more views your page will receive and ultimately the more leads and customers you will be able to generate. All of these increases will allow for a more successful business in the long run. Keep reading to find out beginner tips regarding PPC so that you can have the most impactful results on your website.

PPC 101:

  • PPC advertising is a form of digital advertising
  • PPC Account Managers will bid on keywords that will be used when you search for related info that pertains to their website
  • The goal is to get your website at the top of search engine results

Now What?

Once you have your targeting figured out, you need to figure out where you’d like to place the actual ads. PPC Campaign Managers primarily suggest Google as this is the most used search engine.

Cost:

If you are truly serious about your website and overall business (and we assume you are), then you know there is a price that comes with really promoting your business at the top of a search or generating leads to your website. Cost Per Click, or CPC, is what you will end up paying every time a person clicks on the PPC advertisement. It is wise to create a budget in this scenario, and the manager of your campaign understands enough of lead generation to know what is suitable for your specific business. The money you allocate to your campaign can be transitioned into a number of options. You can elect to allocate money to various keywords or allocate the budget over a time amount that has an end date.

At The Westmark Group we pride ourselves in our skill and talent when it comes to PPC advertising. If you are interested in learning more about PPC or our other services, please get in touch!

When it comes to Pay Per Click ads you want to get the most bang for your buck, but which search engine is going to give you that? Each one has unique features and benefits, so it’s hard to say but these are our thoughts.

For starters, Google controls 2/3 of the market between Google Search Network and Google Display Network. Google Search Network refers to the search features like Google Search, Google Shopping, and Google Maps. While Google Display Network refers to the other non-search based sites like Gmail, YouTube, or Blogger. The Yahoo! Bing Network offers similar options between the Bing-Search Network (Bing and Yahoo! direct properties) and the Bing Content Network (Bing and Yahoo! owned and operated websites).

Cost-wise if you’re looking for cheap, Bing is the winner. The cost per click on a Bing ad is 50 to 70 percent less than that of a Google ad. The impression cost is 76 to 90 percent lower, but it’s important to note that you’re also getting significantly less impressions using Bing. The CTR (click-through rate) is also exponentially higher on Google. So you may be paying less, but less people are seeing your ad when you use Bing. An advantage though is that there is then 36 percent less competition between advertisers on Bing.

When it comes to settings, Bing offers a little more flexibility in most areas (but not all). While Google AdWords allows you to adjust your budget by day, Bing Ads allows you to have either a daily or monthly budget. In Google AdWords you’re limited to location targeting at the campaign level, however Bing Ads allows you to adjust it at both the campaign and ad group level. However, if you like to get super organized with your ads keep in mind that Bing Ads doesn’t offer labeling, Google AdWords does. Google AdWords also allows for different sizing and format options for the images on your ads. Bing Ads doesn’t even allow for images with your ads, text only.

In conclusion, both platforms have unique advantages making it hard to declare a winner. If you’re looking for the cheaper option or more flexibility with your ads then Bing is definitely the way to go. Want an image with your ad? Looking for more impressions and a higher CTR? Google AdWords is the platform for you.

Instagram just rolled out their newest feature: Instagram Stories. Essentially on your profile or homepage you can upload content that expires after 24 hours. Sound familiar?

IG Story

As much as we want to say they have vastly different features and serve different purposes, we can’t. To be fair Instagram still has strides to take, they don’t have any of the filters that make Snapchat unique. Part of what has kept Snapchat relevant has been their use of Geofilters and MSQRD (face filters), the entertainment value. As of now Instagram’s story feature only has text and a drawing feature with a few options. So if you’re snapping a picture on Instagram don’t go looking for the “rainbow vomit” filter or your town’s Geofilter, you won’t find them.

Particular to businesses on Instagram, the new story feature is a blessing in disguise. Why? Now rather than having to build up an audience on two separate platforms, they can just focus on building up the audience they probably already have on Instagram. Additionally, the demographics of Instagram are far wider than those of Snapchat, whose main demographic is 35 years and under.

While it’s only been out for a day, it’ll be interesting to watch what kind of traction Instagram stories gets. Will people quit Snapchat? Which will businesses take to more? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, you can follow our Instagram stories @WestmarkGroup.