Month: September 2016

Streamline Your Writing Process in 5 Easy Steps


Many of us writers are pretty particular when it comes to how we piece together our writing samples, especially when it comes to digital rhetoric. Content creation is something that becomes routinized, but getting to stuck in the same groove can lead to writers block, low motivation, and an inability to produce the quantity of content needed.

In my experience, one of the best ways to avoid such issues is by trying out new content creation processes that make you more aware of each step. Every few months when I burn myself out on writing things the same way over and over, I try and change the writing process to hit the refresh button. Check out my current streamlined writing process and give it a try if you’re in a writing rut.

  1. Discover It

Step one is to find something to write about, and Reddit is one of my favorite resources to use for this. Users ask questions, share ideas, and comment on trends for all industries in a very organic way. This facilitates actual discovery of topics at a base level really easy and gives a range of angles on various topics you can cover.

Regardless of where you do your discovering, make sure you carve out time for it. Having the freedom to poke around and lose yourself in topic exploration is an important part of lighting that writer’s fire.

  1. Research It

Once I settle on a topic, I research it to see how many times it’s been covered. This is an important part of the process, because you should really focus on creating content that is unique and entirely your own. If a topic is over-saturated on the internet, the chances that it’ll pick up much traffic are starting pretty low.

Research is also important because it gives your writing some substance. Referencing studies, surveys, and other information in your own writing piece can reinforce the point you’re trying to get across while also making you an authority on the matter.

  1. Format It

Before I write a single word on a content piece, I decide what the format is going to be. Lists, bullet points, infographics, surveys, checklists-whatever. This helps me firstly because it gives me some direction on how to approach the topic while I’m writing it. I wouldn’t write a think piece the same way I’d put together a tutorial. It also keeps me focused on utility, because I’m actively transforming what I’m focused into a usable piece of content that others will actually be able to use.

  1. Outline It

For me, the single most important step in my writing process is creating an outline-I always do it. It always ends up being snippets of writing organized in the order they’ll be in when the piece is complete. Getting those key arguments, ideas, and steps out saves me a lot of time because later on all I have to do is connect the ideas together.

To create an outline, put your main points on paper and try and organize them in a way that makes sense to you. Break each chunk of text down, see what you have, and figure out what you need to fill in the blanks.

  1. Put It All Together

Finally, go back to that outline and fill in the blanks with writing that’s been reinforced by your research. Connecting your ideas and bringing them to life is the fun part, because your content piece will shift from blocks of writing to a comprehensive content piece. After you put it all together, go back over it to make sure it’s polished and communicating exactly what it is you want to say.

is courtesy of


Get Out of Your SEO Comfort Zone


We all have a tendency to find our comfort zones and snuggle in there. In our personal lives and at our jobs, clinging to what’s comfortable is appealing because it’s what we know.

A similar thing happens with brands and their SEO practices-they get comfortable with what’s already being done because it’s what they know, and they know it works, and deviating from that plan of action can feel risky. But getting out of your SEO comfort zone is necessary for finding online success, especially when it comes to SEO.

Consistently doing the same things without evolving your approach will only keep you where you’re at, and while that may seem like enough for your website, that will eventually become the bare minimum. Google rewards the websites that truly go above and beyond, which often entails evolving your search strategy to remain competitive.

The days of updating your title/description tags being enough may not be gone, but that effort alone is simply not enough anymore. Try pushing yourself to do more with your SEO strategy by checking out these easy starting points.

Make a development investment.

Further developing your website can have huge pay offs when it comes to SERP. If your website structure is hard to navigate, investing in some structural development could reap big rewards from search engines. Or if you’re a business or e-commerce website without a blog, adding a blog component and populating it with high quality content can improve traffic and drive your site’s SEO. These may not be things you’re equipped to do yourself, but investing in such developments is definitely a big way to push yourself past your comfort zone. Plus, development investments almost always have a positive turn out, so you can get out of your SEO comfort zone while still playing it safe.

Start looking at analytics.

This is where I push myself out of my comfort zone. The mere word ‘analytics’ intimidates me, so I wasn’t exactly comfortable exporting my traffic reports from our website. If you feel the same, this is exactly where you should be starting. Digging deep into the analytics of your traffic, clicks, and content performance is not only a great way to understand how every day users are interacting with your website, but also an awesome foundation for coming up with new ideas. For me, that meant looking at how certain content pieces out-performed others, and reworking my blogging strategy around similar formats and topics. Whether you’re a business site or a blogging site, looking at your analytics with an open mind and critical eye will reveal where you need to make your next move.

Make advanced updates.

You have to make the most advanced, up-to-date changes to your website in order to remain competitive, plain and simple. For you, that means optimizing your website across the board with content, structure, images, title tags-all of it. It also means following trends that can isolate you from competitors. Take, for example, mobile optimization. It’s advanced update that requires some investment and pushes past old comfort zones, but it’s completely necessary for SEO success. As consumer behavior shifts towards these types of advancements, your SEO behavior must also adjust.

is courtesy of

Return of the Penguin


It’s been two long years since Google’s last Penguin update, Penguin 3.0 happened on October 17, 2014. Finally, Penguin 4.0 is here, and the sites slammed by Penguin 3.0 are finally penalty free. Even more exciting is the news that the waiting game played in anticipation of these updates is over for good, because Penguin 4.0 is the last release of this kind, because Penguin is now real-time.

What does that mean?

In the past, the sites affected by Penguin updates would be labeled as spammy, and slapped with penalties all at once. As webmasters made changes to address the penalty and improve their websites, a waiting game would follow because the list of Penguin sites needed to be refreshed.

Waiting for Penguin to refresh will now be a thing of the past, because Penguin 4.0 refreshes data in real time. This means that as Google recrawls and reindexes pages, the changes webmasters make will be visible much faster.

Anything else?

Yep. Google says Penguin is now more granular, meaning the update is more page-specific rather than dishing out penalties sitewide. There is, however, still some ambiguity about what exactly that means:

penguin Return of the Penguin

Is this update live right now?

For the most part, yes, but the update is still rolling out. The real-time features may take a while to work out glitches and fully integrate, but within the next month you can expect to see a complete roll out.

is courtesy of

Doing Too Much of This is Slowly Killing Your Brand


Social media brings together people of all practices and experience levels. Yes, novices and experts tweet right alongside one another, bringing together the best of social media etiquette and the worst. From a brilliant marketing campaign to misplaced selfies on LinkedIn, we’ve all likely seen both ends of the spectrum.

While it’s wonderful to see new users and brands getting their social media sea legs, there is one thing that irks me to the core of my being, and that is excessive hashtagging. Ever had a friend on social media who #turns #every #word #into #a #hashtag? If you have, their posts probably look something like this.

http-2F2Fmashable.com2Fwp-content2Fgallery2Finstagram-for-beginners2F4372b44b531cb9fbd411667c1714d243 Doing Too Much of This is Slowly Killing Your Brand

http-2F2Fmashable.com2Fwp-content2Fgallery2Finstagram-for-beginners2F085e2fa175ce43e5649dca0d02dec323 Doing Too Much of This is Slowly Killing Your Brand

http-2F2Fmashable.com2Fwp-content2Fgallery2Finstagram-for-beginners2F956284417726923a69da3479bcd3cd30 Doing Too Much of This is Slowly Killing Your Brand

Posts such as these represent a pet peeve of many, which is why excessive hashtagging is a good way to get yourself, or your brand, labeled as annoying and spammy. If you’re one of those users or brands spamming your own posts with hashtags, I forgive you, but let’s state the obvious and unapologetic truth: no one wants to see a surplus of hashtags in their social media feeds, no matter how #awesome you think they are.

Hashtags are not bulking agents intended to beef up your post like protein powder, and treating them as such probably won’t do you any favors. There are better ways to signal the topics and expressions you feel your posts complement, and there are certainly better ways to treat our dear old friend, the pound sign (#). Here are a few golden rules to go by.

The Simplified Guide to Hashtag Usage

Yes: Humor

In my opinion, hashtags have their place in this world, and that place is with Jimmy Fallon. One of the best ways to use hashtags is for humorous purposes. For example, Jimmy Fallon’s hashtag games:

worstfirstdate Doing Too Much of This is Slowly Killing Your Brand

The effect is twofold: it engages his viewers with the show while also providing tons of hilarious, organic content. Users tweet at him and play the hashtag game, and then continue watching the show to see if their tweet gets shared. The main point is that the hashtag doesn’t overwhelm the humor, it merely facilitates it. Rather than hound users with a bunch of hashtags, leave the hashtag in the hands of users to respond and react to freely.

No: Bombarding Users with Brand Names

A hashtag is not a tool for you to bombard users with your brand name. For guidance, look to some big name brands. For example, if you go to Nike’s social media pages, you will never see a series of hashtags like this: #nike #nikeshoes #nikesoccer #nikeUSA #nikewomen. That’s called brand bombardment, and it’s obnoxious.

Rather, the powerhouse brand hashtags their signature phrase, #justdoit, alongside inspired images showcasing their products. Your hashtags should not overwhelm the message you’re conveying, regardless of whichever platform you’re conveying it on. This is especially important for your brand’s tweets, because 140 characters is a limited space to work with already- don’t waste any precious bit of it with unnecessary hashtags.

Yes: Conversations, Q&A

Hashtags are a great way to get dialogue going with your audience. Culture and news publications do it all the time to draw opinions and discussion from their users. Aside from generating significant traffic, it helps bridge the gap between users and the brands they following. A clean and simple hashtag can tether many social media interactions to a theme hosted by your brand. All you have to do is keep it short, sweet, and easy for users to respond to.

No: Irrelevant Hashtags

Hashtagging outdated phrases or words isn’t just embarrassing, it also puts your brand in a negative light. An important thing to remember when it comes to hashtags is that they often have the potential to prompt more trolling than positive participation from users. One stray spelling error or misplaced punctuation could get you the wrong kind of attention.

The same can be said for irrelevant words and phrases. If something goes viral or creates a buzz online, you can’t wait a week or so to chime in; by then, your comment with be irrelevant. Be mindful of not just how you’re using your hashtags, but when you’re using them as well, and don’t try mention things that were once hot and now are not.

fetch Doing Too Much of This is Slowly Killing Your Brand

Yes: Trending Topics

In referencing trending topics on social media, the use of hashtags is always acceptable, because hashtags are how topics become trending in the first place. Note the trends section of your Twitter feed.

twitter-trends Doing Too Much of This is Slowly Killing Your Brand

It shows you what people are talking about across your network and the specific hashtags people are using to reference those topics. As you can see, those trending hashtags aren’t excessively long or spammy; they’re to-the-point and easy to tag in 140 characters. Start by using the trending sections of your brand’s social media profiles to see what your audience is talking about, then leverage those topics into a strategic communication and marketing plan that suits your needs.

No: Over Hashtagging

Above all, do not be a hashtag hag (refer to sample images at the beginning of this article). One hashtag is enough hashtags and a few good hashtags is pushing it. Any more than that and you put your brand at risk for coming off as spam, therein creating a disconnect between users and your online presence.

Remember: be brief, purposeful, and deliberate when deciding when and how to use hashtags.


is courtesy of

Fix Your Low AdWords Quality Score


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2011 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
If you have a low AdWords quality score and don’t know how to fix it, you’ve come to the right place. These tips on how to impgoogle-quality-score-300x294 Fix Your Low AdWords Quality Scorerove your low quality score will keep your keyword results in higher positions and at lower costs.
In AdWords, your quality score is a formula that measures how relevant your keyword is to your ad text and to a user’s search query.  Quality score effects your keywords position, minimum CPC and also if your ad will even be shown. That’s why having a low quality score can drastically hurt your chances of having a successful PPC campaign.

Here are 7 tips to fix your low AdWords quality score. 

Organize Your Account – It’s really important to keep a well-structured account. Not only does it make it easier to manage but it will allow you to target your audience better. You will want to split your keywords into more targeted ad groups. For example: green widgets, buy green widgets, what is a green widget, should be in a separate ad group from yellow widgets.
Targeted Ad Copy – For each new ad group you create you need to make sure the ad copy incorporates your main keyword phrase in the title and description.  If your ad group is green widgets your ad should target “green widgets”. Many advertisers make the mistake of not following this simple technique, and it makes It is amazing how many advertisers don’t follow this simple technique.
Targeted Keywords – You might want to get the most possible clicks, but if those clicks don’t convert or they bring your quality score down then you are already fighting an uphill battle. Make sure your keywords are targeted and relate directly to the theme of your ad group and your landing page.
Test Ad Copy – You will want to test different ad copy for each of your ad groups. As a best practice, it’s recommended that you create a minimum of 4 ads per ad group to find which ones perform the best and offer you the best quality score.
Take Advantage of Keyword Matching Options – With some keywords, you’ll get more ad impressions; with others, you’ll get fewer impressions, but potentially more clicks. Testing these different options strategically will lead to better quality scores and lower costs.
Optimize Landing Page – Your landing page should be extremely related to the theme of each ad group and fully optimized. You can do this by creating a separate landing page for each ad group and incorporating the main keyword in the content of that page.
Utilize Your Descriptions – A big part of earning a high quality score is securing a high CTR, which means creating appeal and incentive that makes users want to click your link. Many PPC experts suggest creating that appeal through your descriptions by listing features and benefits, identifying your target audience specifically (e.g. “Perfect for small businesses”), adding a call to action, or promoting limited time offers.
Improving your low AdWords quality score is vital if you ever want to have a successful PPC campaign. While there are many factors that determine your quality score, if you following these best practices will put you well on your way to reducing costs and increasing clicks through a higher quality score. If you have any questions or need more help with fixing your low quality score check out our Pay per Click Management services. Good Luck!

is courtesy of

Spotlight Subject: Quality Score


If you’re familiar with AdWords, then you’ve definitely heard about the somewhat mysterious Quality Score (QS). But even if you’re not big into PPC or don’t have an AdWords account, QS is still something you should know about-especially since some exciting new updates were rolled out earlier this week.

What is Quality Score?

Within AdWords, QS represents how Google rates the quality and relevance of keywords and PPC ad campaigns. It’s calculated by accounting for a handful of factors, including CTR, the history of a past keyword performance, keyword relevance to ad group, and so on. Google keeps how much each of these factors weighs pretty private, which has made understanding QS notoriously mysterious.

Being aware of and understanding QS as best you can is important for those investing in PPC practices, because it could be affecting their budgets. A low QS results in a higher cost-per-click, and a high QS results in a lower cost-per-click. Your QS also affects the moving parts and pieces of search advertising campaigns, and a low score can significantly reduce the success of your traffic.

What changes were made to Quality Score this week?

Released on Monday, September 12, new updates to QS were released that may alleviate some of the surrounding gray area. Whereas keywords with little or sparse history would get a low QS, they will now get a null score. Instead of seeing a default AdWords score of 6, you will now see dashes. This will be a more transparent way to report and more accurately determine a keyword’s true QS.

QS Spotlight Subject: Quality Score

While how quality score is exactly calculated remains somewhat of a mystery, there are certain practices and procedures you can follow to improve your quality score, which we’ll explore more next week.


is courtesy of

You got a Google penalty. Now what?


Our colorful friend Google drops the hammer by dishing out manual penalties by the thousands. Their commitment to user experience and trust is what makes them the top dog of search engines, which is why SEO practices have to be carried out in a legitimate, procedural way.

Shortcutting or investing in black hat SEO is a good way to wind up with one of these common Google penalties, but it doesn’t mean your website is ruined forever. You can bounce back from a Google penalty by knowing what to do.

First and foremost, identify what kind of penalty you’ve been slapped with. Google provides step by step instructions for identifying what kind of penalty you got and how to recover from it, so this is your starting point. Unless you’ve committed a major SEO offense, you’ll more than likely be dealing with a manual action penalty.

Next, do a thorough inspection of your website’s architecture and perform a site audit. This will mainly entail checking for clean source code, page depth, and other foundational aspects of your website that Google looks at.

After that, you’ll want to make your website Panda friendly, which deals in large part with content. Believe it or not, things like low quality and duplicate content are punishable because they disrupt a user’s access to reliable content, which is a no -no in Google’s eyes.

Your final step in bouncing back is to build new links that are authoritative and high quality. Despite it sounding like a huge undertaking, a few really good links can drastically improve the traffic and search ranking of your site. Focus less on building bulk spam links and more on securing editorial links on respected websites with high traffic. You can do this through guest posting, developing creative content like infographics or tutorials for others to share on their websites, or even by writing reviews.

While receiving a Google penalty certainly isn’t a good thing, it can definitely be overcome and is certainly not the end of the world. By approaching it as an opportunity to correct the weak spots of your website, the penalty can eventually be lifted and your site left in better standing to build new traffic.

is courtesy of