Google’s ‘Shelfie’ Prank Becomes Latest Feature | Velocity Agency | New Orleans, LA

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Following Popularity of April Fools Feature, Google Releases ‘Shelfie’

April Fools: the day for pranksters rolls around every April 1st, evoking joy or dread, depending on whether or not you’re a lover of schadenfreude. Never one to be outdone by others, tech-giant Google launched a salvo of its own pranks last Tuesday. Between transforming Google Maps into an augmented reality game of Pokémon and the invention of the Magic Hand, a device that lets mobile users text and surf the web on their tablets and phones without lifting a finger, the company made a huge splash.

“Shelfie” Prank Becomes Permanent Function

Of all of Google’s April Fools pranks, only one proved successful and “practical” enough to find a place among the company’s ever growing suite of tools it offers its more than 425 million Gmail users. A function named “Shelfie” was released in the prank onslaught, giving Google users the ability to share their custom Gmail themes with the world at large. For most people, the fact that Gmail offers 15gb of free storage and the ability to send e-mails of up to 25mb in size is reason enough to use the service, but by adding the hugely popular “Shelfie,” now referred to as Shareable Custom Themes, to Drive, Maps, and the rest of its menagerie of services, Google has tightened its grip on its users, if only slightly.

Should We Be Surprised by Its Success?

It’s hard to believe that the Silicon Valley behemoth only intended “Shelfie” to be a one-off joke. In a world where 70 billion pieces of content — from selfies, to statuses about cooking dinner, to overly emotional song lyrics — are shared just on Facebook every month, another web function that gives self-promotion capabilities to the “Me generation,” particularly one syncing with a hugely popular e-mail service, is sort of a no-brainer for added success. As a millennial myself, I plan to start sharing my custom themes, whether “My Little Pony” or “Frozen” inspired, straight away.

What custom Gmail theme are you most looking forward to sharing?

Velocity Agency is a digital marketing and advertising firm specializing in digital and internet marketing & advertising, print, web design, graphic design, film, and HD video promotion and post-production. Velocity serves clients all over the United States from our Metairie, LA office just outside of New Orleans by strategically implementing proprietary tools and techniques to get you the most conversions for your business through lead generation, cost-per-acquisition, and top line revenue.

Free Office Online: Microsoft’s New Strategy | Velocity Agency | New Orleans, LA

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A couple of years back my colleagues and I were discussing the importance of Google’s entrance into the cloud services space, and how their new service, Google Docs, would benefit small businesses and individuals. The proposition was simple: give us a bit of your personal information by signing up for a GMail account, and we’ll let you create, edit and share documents à la Microsoft Office. Initially, the sentiment was that such an underpowered, cloud-only productivity software wouldn’t meet the needs of consumers. That sentiment WAS correct. Fast forward seven years, Google Docs has grown and now integrates many of the features that longtime Office users crave. It has also proven to be a great aid for cash strapped small businesses and students that would otherwise have to pay for productivity software. Now Microsoft has announced Office Online, a free web-based version of its Office suite.

So why would we start a conversation about Microsoft’s latest move with a story about Google Docs? It’s simple: the technology industry’s ever-changing pace requires companies to be agile in the way they develop new products. While we can only speculate, Microsoft’s decision to make Office Online free has probably something to do with Google. Microsoft, however, was not the first to react to Google’s cloud based apps. Late 2011 saw the release of Apple’s iCloud, which offers similar document creating tools. So what does Office Online have to offer?

Firstly, it is great to see that Microsoft has learned. It no longer stubbornly sits on legacy software written in the last millennium. The company as a whole, new CEO included, has started a long yet focused shift towards the cloud and into the consumer space it once ignored. Let’s not forget Microsoft’s cash cow is its enterprise business, which provides about half of its profits, and it keeps growing. Things have changed, however, and the business known by millions for its enterprise-geared operating system and apps is now trying to be a consumer first company.

Secondly, Office Online has an actual intuitive and appealing design. The signup process is fairly easy, as all is needed is a valid Email address and personal information. Once logged in, the user is welcomed with the familiar Office 2013 design language and menu options. Some consumers find this easier to navigate as it mimics the desktop and tablet versions of the software. However, some users will find the interface to be too “bloated”, especially those who don’t think highly of Office for desktop. Personally, I think is a step in the right direction. Let’s not forget Microsoft is playing catch-up, so they need to offer a full-fledged solution to remain relevant in the consumer space.

Thirdly, Microsoft is offering five of its most important apps for free. During the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the Windows monopoly forced users to rely on Office to write documents, make presentations, draw up spreadsheets and check Emails. We are all familiar with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, One Note and Outlook, and some of us decided to let go of them as we moved to the cloud. Now Microsoft is reaching back to those customers with an appealing offer. Too little, too late? We’ll see.

Lastly, since the introduction of Bing in 2009, Microsoft has been in the “getting to know you” business. In other words, they offer a “free” service (search with Bing, productivity with Office Online) in the exchange of our personal information. Companies then turn our input into a big data aggregate used to better develop their products or to sell it to advertisers. While there is nothing particularly wrong with this business model, we as internet users should be aware of how our information is being used. So if you’re comfortable sharing your information with Facebook, Google, Apple and now Microsoft, and you feel you’re getting a good service in exchange, you have nothing to worry about. Don’t forget to try out Microsoft Online and share your feedback with us.

Velocity Agency is a digital marketing and advertising firm specializing in digital and internet marketing & advertising, print, web design, graphic design, film, and HD video promotion and post-production. Velocity serves clients all over the United States from our Metairie, LA office just outside of New Orleans by strategically implementing proprietary tools and techniques to get you the most conversions for your business through lead generation, cost-per-acquisition, and top line revenue.

From Intern To Full Time, In No Time | Velocity Agency | New Orleans, LA

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It’s that time of year again, juniors and seniors at colleges everywhere are researching businesses across the city, pining for internships. Getting that foot in the door isn’t easy, and once you have it there, the work only gets harder. Here are some simple tips to landing an internship, and turning it into the start of your career.

Find local job searching sites.

The web is a big place, and can leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused when searching for work. If you know what city you want to intern in, try googling local job search sites before you go to the big ones. monster.com and jobs.com have their place, but WorkNola.com, for example would be a good start.

Don’t get set on a paid internship

Of course you want to make money- we all do. But when you’re this early in your career, it is important to  remember that putting in serious work now will only help you make real money in the future. So if you find an internship that seems perfect, only to find out they don’t pay, do not write it off. Explore options to receive income with another part time job first.

Your dream company doesn’t offer internships?

Many companies do not offer internships because they may not have room in the budget for it. If you’re willing to work for free, and have your eyes set on a company that doesn’t publicly offer an internship, visit their website and get in contact with someone. Just because they don’t have an intern now doesn’t mean they would turn down free work from someone with enough drive to create a position for themselves.

Know where to look

Although online resources are always helpful, some employers like the idea of meeting in person. Find career fairs through your school or local chamber of commerce and be ready to introduce yourself to recruiters. In addition to your resume, have a little introduction prepared that states your skills and experience.

Be patient

It might take more than a few interviews or applications for you to land the right internship. Be prepared to hear “no” for an answer, and don’t keep all your eggs in one basket. Some companies might take longer than others to reply, so don’t give up. Finding the right internship takes time, planning and patience.

Crush that interview

Once you got someone’s attention, prepare. Go over your resume several times and make sure someone helps you rehearse for the interview. Be prepared to answer questions about yourself, about your experience and about your school. Also be sure to look sharp and be well rested. Don’t chew gum, don’t swear or use slang, and cover any tattoos you may have.

Be sure to follow up with prospective employers and collect the necessary contact information during your interview. Remember to take your internship seriously as this might be your chance to prove yourself in a professional setting. Good luck!

Velocity Agency is a digital marketing and advertising firm specializing in digital and internet marketing & advertising, print, web design, graphic design, film, and HD video promotion and post-production. Velocity serves clients all over the United States from our Metairie, LA office just outside of New Orleans by strategically implementing proprietary tools and techniques to get you the most conversions for your business through lead generation, cost-per-acquisition, and top line revenue.  

Domain Authority: Is It Worth the Trouble? | Velocity Agency | New Orleans, LA

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Having your online marketing efforts be successful in 2014 is a big deal. After all, web users around the globe are expected to drop $1.5 trillion this year on their favorite goods and services online. While you undoubtedly understand that great SEO, content marketing, and social media outreach are essential to your success in tapping into that huge revenue stream, you may not have heard about domain authority. If that is the case, you need to become familiar with the concept to start improving your business.

What is Domain Authority, and How is It Calculated?

To put it simply, your domain authority is a numerical score assigned to your website based on a number of factors. After running these factors through a complex scoring algorithm, your site is assigned a domain authority score out of 100 based on its authority in popular search algorithms, like Google PageRank.

How your domain authority is calculated depends on the service that’s doing the calculation. Generally, checkers will combine your total number of quality back-links, the number of rooted links, and any links your page uses from known authorities on various subjects. Just like popular search engine algorithms, domain authority checkers also take into consideration the relevance of your content and the amount of traffic flooding your site.

You need to keep in mind that your domain authority score has no impact on how you’ll appear in search engines. Instead, it’s an indication of how effective your web marketing efforts are. Why? As you’ve seen, your domain authority is simply a score that’s calculated based on your relevance, back-links, and the like; in other words, it’s completely dependent on the success of your SEO efforts.

Steps to Improve Your Own Domain Authority

Having said that, you might think that there is little value to your domain authority other than its use as a metrics tracking tool. However, you need to consider this: the higher your domain authority, the more likely it is you’ll place high in search engine results. Facebook.com, for instance, has a domain authority score of 100. That means anytime the site publishes a new piece of content, whether it’s an overview of a new app or news on the changes to their privacy policies, it is likely to shoot to the number one spot in Google results, ahead of any other listing resulting from a search for “Facebook.” If you want to improve your domain authority, you should focus on your SEO efforts overall, but there are a few specialized tactics you can take to grow your score:

  • Improve Onsite Content

Improving your onsite design, content, and functionality is a sure step toward an improved score. Keeping your interface clean, streamlining your design to improve your loading times, and keeping your links numerous but relevant, a key factor in any domain authority calculation, will go a long way in bringing that score up.

  • Combine Content Marketing with Social Media

61% of web users say that content marketing makes them more likely to buy from a company online, which is great for your revenue. However, content marketing can also have an impact on your domain authority. Quite simply, the better quality of content you write, the better chance you have of it being shared across social media, thereby building more links. By building your own presence on Facebook, Twitter, and other popular platforms, you further improve your chances of building these quality links.

Unlike other metrics, your domain authority score cannot easily be improved, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important for you to try. In general, better marketing efforts, whether in your content production team or through social media, will yield a better authority score, and that will go a long way in helping you get noticed online.

Velocity Agency is a digital marketing and advertising firm specializing in digital and internet marketing & advertising, print, web design, graphic design, film, and HD video promotion and post-production. Velocity serves clients all over the United States from our Metairie, LA office just outside of New Orleans by strategically implementing proprietary tools and techniques to get you the most conversions for your business through lead generation, cost-per-acquisition, and top line revenue.

Three Simple Ways to Do SEO

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It’s only natural that search engine optimization (SEO) intimidate small business owners, because it puts them between a rock and a hard place. The online marketing strategy is meant to garner more web traffic, which means that a higher amount of business leads come to the business’s website. These leads are then converted into sales, and that’s how SEO makes businesses money. According to a study released by OutBrain, search engines are the best drivers of traffic to content websites, a sentiment that’s echoed by statistics showing that 93% of all online experience begins with the use of a search engine.

While they know they need it to compete in this Internet saturated business world of today, they don’t know if they can make it work with their budgets. This leaves small business owners asking two questions. Can they afford SEO, or can they afford to go without SEO?

Thankfully, there’s a third option–DIY SEO. While optimizing your site can be quite tricky and complicated, if you are a smaller business with a small website, there are many SEO efforts which you can make. This method can’t guarantee success, nor is it “free,” since you’ll have to invest a ton of time. However, if you can’t make SEO work on your budget, it might be your best bet for online success. Here’s how you can do it, too.

1. Do Your Keyword Research.

Developing a list of the right keywords is an SEO staple, because your keywords and phrases have a profoundly direct impact on the overall performance of your website. Use the Wordstream Free Keyword Tool to help you generate your target words and phrases. It offers thousands of ideas from a massive database of more than a trillion unique searches, and it even outperforms some of the paid alternatives in the market.

2. Start a Blog.

Now that you’ve got your keywords, what are you to do with them? You naturally should incorporate them throughout your website–in the headlines, meta-data, URLs, and everywhere else possible–but you should also weave them into your on-site content. The more keywords you have, the more search engines will relate your site to them. The more relevant your site is for a topic, the higher it’ll rank, I.E. have SEO success.

Blogs can also help in a more technical way, too. The more blogs you write, the more pages your site accumulates. Also, keeping your blog updated lets a search engine know that your site has the most up-to-date information. The more up-to-date, high quality, relevant pages that a search engine indexes, the better your search engine ranking will do.

3. Get on Social Networks.

Yes, you need a Facebook and Twitter, at the very least. It could take a whole other article to explain the benefits of social media marketing, but for now, know that according to a study in 2013 from Searchmetrics, a strong social presence correlates with strong SEO. Sites with higher social user engagements rank higher, which means that the more likes, comments, and tweets that your site has affiliated with it, the better your SEO is.

Social media also gives you a great platform to build links, and share content. People who don’t regularly check your blog will see your post come up in their newsfeed, and check it out. What’s more, users will also share high-quality content, which amplifies its reach, exposing your previously inaccessible audiences to your brand.

These are only a few of the most practical, simple things that you can do yourself to improve your site’s SEO. Of course, it’s not wise to look at SEO like an expense, because it’s really an investment. If at all possible, it’s worth your while to invest in a professional SEO company. Though the cost of their services will remain fixed (unless you upgrade or downgrade your plan), they’ll help you earn more revenue, and eventually start paying for themselves.

In the mean time though, roll your sleeves and start plugging away.

Velocity Agency is a digital marketing and advertising firm specializing in digital and internet marketing & advertising, print, web design, graphic design, film, and HD video promotion and post-production. Velocity serves clients all over the United States from our Metairie, LA office just outside of New Orleans by strategically implementing proprietary tools and techniques to get you the most conversions for your business through lead generation, cost-per-acquisition, and top line revenue.

What Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp means for Online Marketing 2014?

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At the end of February 2014, it was announced that social media giant Facebook would buy WhatsApp, a social messaging company, for a whopping $19 billion USD. The move came as WhatsApp hit the 450 million user mark and estimates showed that it would continue to gain around a million additional users a day. For Facebook, the most popular social media platform in the world with over 1.4 billion active users, buying the world’s most popular messaging app is just another step on the way to their domination of the way people communicate in the Internet Age.

Velocity Agency - Facebook Acquisition of WhatsApp

 

What the Acquisition Says About Social Media in Marketing

If Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp proves anything, it’s the importance social media plays in the business marketing sphere in 2014. Keep in mind, of WhatsApps 450 million and growing user-base, 70% use the application on a daily basis. On the other hand, only 62% of Facebook users use the big blue social media giant daily. For Zuckerberg and the rest of the Facebook team, WhatsApp was poised to draw significant marketing revenue away from them. Keep in mind, 70% of businesses say they’re going to spend more on social media marketing in 2014, and Facebook doesn’t want that spending going anywhere but to its coffers. Zuck and the gang have taken a time-honored approach to competition in business: if you can’t beat them, buy them.

Why You Need to Keep Using the Expanded Facebook

With this purchase, Facebook proves it understands the pivotal role it and other social media platforms play in the online marketing game. Just in case you aren’t clear on what the purchase means to you, think of it this way: Facebook now controls a bigger portion of the social media playing field and is playing an increasingly important role in successful online marketing with social media. You need to continue to take steps to please the powers that be. Here’s why:

  • Social Media is the Fast-Track to Online Recognition

SEO, content marketing, and the like are all insanely effective when it comes to successfully building a presence online. However, you first have to draw people to your neck of the internet. By building a presence on social media platforms, places you know billions of people visit daily, you can skip over the part where you have to wait for people to come to you.

  • Social Media is Like an Acceptable Link-Farm

In the past, to build links to your site, you would have to rely on link-farms. Of course, then Google came in and rightly labeled that a black-hat SEO tactic. However, link-building remains an important part of generating more traffic to your website online. By creating high-quality content and sharing it on social media, you can effectively generate your own organic link-farm. Think about it, if your content is good enough, your followers will do the work for you, sharing your links far and wide.

Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp consolidates an already gigantic social media empire. While it doesn’t necessarily change the playing field for marketers, power plays such as this demonstrate how keenly aware Facebook and its ilk are of their centrality going forward into the Internet Age.

Velocity Agency is a digital marketing and advertising firm specializing in digital and internet marketing & advertising, print, web design, graphic design, film, and HD video promotion and post-production. Velocity serves clients all over the United States from our Metairie, LA office just outside of New Orleans by strategically implementing proprietary tools and techniques to get you the most conversions for your business through lead generation, cost-per-acquisition, and top line revenue.

Brand Recognition Importance for your business: State Farm Success

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Staying ahead in a competitive marketplace is a constant exercise in push and pull, dos and don’ts, and lucky breaks. Taking the lead in the increasingly online world of business in 2014 means taking advantage of evolving SEO, great web design, and success in social media. After all, eCommerce sales grew to $262.3 billion in the United States, and are expected to grow to $440 billion by the end of 2017.

Having said that, web-marketing isn’t the only thing to consider. Harnessing the power of brand recognition and utilizing the mobile market is equally important to keeping your company at the front of potential and actual customers’ minds. This is a lesson that American insurance giant State Farm took to heart. After 91 years of offering a high quality insurance option to Americans, State Farm is still the most profitable insurance company in the country, pulling in an estimated $3.2 billion in profits annually. Its closest competition, Allstate, only earns around $2.3 billion. By realizing the need to change and grow as the nature of business does the same, State Farm has ensured its success into the future.

What Did State Farm Do?

1. Updated Their Classic Logo

One of the smartest things State Farm did for their brand was updating their logo. The company’s original logo, in use since 1953, was recognizable, but it didn’t quite fit with the digital direction business marketing is heading. In 2011, the company reduced the size of their well-known ovals, placing them next to the State Farm name, resulting in a streamlined, modern look. For their online presence, they now use only the three ovals as their emblem.

It might not seem like this is a big fix, but consider this: people remember visual information a lot more readily than they do written information. That’s why a brand’s logo, the bit of information customers are most likely to remember, is said to be the face of a company; it represents everything your customers can expect from your business in a memorable, condensed form.

2. Harnessed the Power of Celebrity

Recognizing the need to fight back against the steady stream of quirky, strange, but effective ads being put out by competitor Geico, State Farm contracted Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, hoping to harness the power of celebrity to bring their company added recognition. The Discount Double Check program, the campaign Rodgers helms, is memorable for the potential 40% savings customers can gain by using it, but it’s unarguably Rodgers’ presence that makes the campaign successful.

Of course, banking on star power for increased recognition and sales is not a new concept. Activia Yogurt brought in actress Jamie Lee Curtis to pitch their female-focused yogurt and subsequently saw sales increase by 80%. Even when marketing isn’t the goal, sales increase with the power of celebrity. For instance, after President Obama was recorded singing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” in 2012, sales of the song jumped by 490%.

3. Optimized for the Mobile Market

All estimates show that 2014 is the year mobile internet usage will finally overtake traditional desktop usage. 63% of mobile users use their devices to go online, with nearly a quarter saying they access the internet exclusively from their phones. Additionally, 29% of Americans say they cannot live without their phone, meaning they play with their mobile apps and check their devices for text messages and social media updates constantly.

Hoping to take advantage of the geometric growth of the mobile market, State Farm released a series of mobile apps to make it easier for customers to take care of their insurance needs and to make tracking their driving ability more interesting. The Pocket Agent® app, for example, lets customers file a claim, make deposits in their bank accounts, and find an insurance agent on the go. Other tools tell drivers how safe they are driving and what they need to do to earn certain insurance discounts. All of this ensures State Farm is increasingly part of the growing mobile market.

State Farm is proof that dynamism in business is as important as any product or service offered. By modernizing a familiar logo, fighting fire with fire by producing memorable, celebrity-filled commercials, and realizing the need to tap into the mobile market, State Farm has cemented their dominance in the insurance world. Using the same methods, you can do the same for your business, whatever your field.

Velocity Agency is a digital marketing and advertising firm specializing in digital and internet marketing & advertising, print, web design, graphic design, film, and HD video promotion and post-production. Velocity serves clients all over the United States from our Metairie, LA office just outside of New Orleans by strategically implementing proprietary tools and techniques to get you the most conversions for your business through lead generation, cost-per-acquisition, and top line revenue.

10 Things Guaranteed to Happen to You During Mardi Gras

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It’s just about that time again. King Cakes are in every store (I just bought one from Magnolia Discount), there’s a jester holding a giant sign that says: “get your beads here!” and that guy I haven’t talked to since middle school just hit me up on Facebook. Yes, Mardi Gras is coming.

Now, I’m a Veteran. Born and raised in New Orleans. I know what to expect. Even now these things happen to me every year and I’m supposed to know better and trust me, I go to Mardi Gras prepared. So, if this is your first Mardi Gras or are just curious as to what goes on, here are 10 things guaranteed to happen to you during Mardi Gras:

1) You Will Get Lost

Lost

Mardi Gras is one of the biggest parties in the world and attracts a never-ending sea of people. There are distractions everywhere, and if your doing things right, your in no shape to ignore them…Combine these things with little to no cellphone service and your left with a guarantee to get lost.

2) You will pee in public with a stranger

lookout

Now everyone knows that they will pee in public during Mardi Gras, but did you know you will do it with a complete stranger?  Pee spots are often hard to find, there are cops, and your best friend is flirting with the sorta pretty girl he just gave all his beads to0. You need someone to watch your back while you do the deed and I guarantee you someone else is in the exact same situation. You will join forces with them in the search for relief. (Note: Since this is illegal & can end with you facing sex crime charges, we STRONGLY recommend you AVOID doing this and find one of the many free port-a-potties the city provides)

3) You will see someone you haven’t seen in ages

reunited

Despite it’s nickname, The Big Easy is really a small town. Mardi Gras attracts an enormous amount of people. Chances are someone you know is going. That teacher, from 3rd grade that taught you how to write in script…yeah she’ll be there. Somehow your going to run into this person and have an overly excited (and probably hazy) reunion.

4) You will get into a confrontation

ramsbuttingheads

Crowds and alcohol for nearly a week…..Need I say more.

5) You will dance like no one’s watching

carlton

Yes, even the most anti-dance stuffy is dancing at Mardi Gras. It’s contagious. Just accept it and worry about all of the pictures later.

6) You will end up somewhere and have no idea how you got there

whitepersondancing

After the third day of drinking and debauchery, things start to get a little hazy. How you ended up in that one guy’s car going for a Rally’s Cheeseburger will completely slip your mind.

7) You will trespass on someone’s property

No Trespassing Sign on Manitou Incline

I feel sorry for the people who live on the parade routes for only one reason. But at least their yards are well hydrated if you catch my drift.

8) You will completely overvalue your beads

New Orleans Parties During Traditional Mardi Gras Celebration

You just did something really stupid and got the biggest, nicest, pair of beads anyone has ever laid eyes on. You will brag to all your friends, share them on all of the social sites, and vow you’ll never part with them. However, just like your first relationship, you will throw them in the trash once you realize how uncomfortable you are.

9) You will get wet

Wet Dog

I can’t predict the weather, but it almost always rains at least once during Mardi Gras. If it doesn’t you’re going to get a drink or 2, or 3 spilled on you….. Prepare accordingly

10) You will have a great time

mardigrasgoodtime

If somehow this post scared you, or discouraged you from going to Mardi Gras at all, don’t fret. No matter how stupid you look or how many strange things you do you are going to have a great time! These things are just small moments of the day that make Mardi Gras memorable. Remember, Mardi Gras is a marathon not a sprint and it’s fun for everyone….except the police.

How to Evolve SEO and Find Success in 2014

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2013 saw the foundation of traditional SEO brought into question. Google forbade many older techniques, and updated others, to bring them in-line with where the internet is heading in 2014. This shouldn’t be read to mean that SEO is dead; with an estimated 97% of all web experiences beginning with a search engine, it’s more important than ever. SEO in 2014, however, is about optimizing content to drive a successful campaign.

The Trends of 2013

Google introduced a number of changes in 2013, all of which were meant to put the final nail in black-hat SEO’s coffin and bring more utility to web users. Here’s a recap of the biggest changes Matt Cutts and the Google team brought our way last year:

Panda Goes Clandestine- In May of 2013, Google announced that updates to Panda, an algorithm update meant to penalize producers of low-quality web content, would no longer be announced. Instead, updates will be made quietly, driving the point home that the Google is through firing warning shots at abusive marketers.

Penguin Targets Links Along with Content- Updates to Google’s equally reviled Penguin expanded the spam-utility’s scope from content quality to link quality. Penguin no longer takes a cursory glance at included links while focusing on keyword stuffing and content quality. Not only does it check for content quality, it now evaluates each piece of linked content to ensure it offers readers value.

Hummingbird Impacts 90% of Google Searches- Hummingbird was Google’s last major update of 2013 and one they hoped would drive their message home. Unlike Panda and Penguin, Hummingbird was a near complete overhaul of the PageRank algorithm Google had been using since its inception. Whereas Panda and Penguin affected an estimated 10% and 3% of search results, respectively, Webspam head Matt Cutts estimates Hummingbird impacted 90% of results.

Hummingbird fundamentally shifted the way the algorithm works. In the past, people searched using simple phrases and keywords. For example, “pizza Rochester delivery” was used to find a Rochester pizzeria that delivers. Hummingbird fills the need to answer search queries using conversational speech, an increasingly popular way of searching online. Now, users search using full questions, like “Where can I find a Rochester pizzeria that delivers near me?” Using geo-caching data and an algorithm that actually considers the meaning behind queries, Hummingbird offers a more human, and thereby more accurate, search experience.

Where Are We Heading in 2014?

Taken together, last year’s changes focus on value. Content, links, web design — everything you do online needs to offer value or you risk being penalized. If you want to attract traffic and avoid sparring with Google, you need to optimize every facet of your SEO campaign.

Content Built to Answer Questions- Staying ahead of Google in 2014 means focusing on content. Everything you publish has to fill a need. If you stop focusing on “relevant” keywords and start writing relevant content, you can easily adapt to Hummingbird’s shift toward conversational search queries. Great writing brings with it all the keywords and value you need to implement effective SEO.

Synergize Reviews with Search Results- One of the most exciting developments in SEO is the ability to link reviews with your listings in Google results. A professional review of up to 67 characters can be attached to your search results and cited. Place reviews above your content’s meta-description line to increase visibility and improve credibility.

Develop a Link-Building Strategy- Like anything else, you need to take a strategic approach to the way you list links in and develop links for your content. Fixing broken links using Google Webmaster Tools, checking the reputation of cited sources, and ensuring links are relevant to your content are going to be huge in 2014 for avoiding Penguin’s ire.

In some ways, SEO changes in 2014 are simply continuing the trends of 2013. The main difference is that Google, owner of 70% of the search industry market share, has taken the gloves off and made it clear that you either get in line, or you’re going to be severely penalized for using antiquated marketing strategies.

Getting Your Thing To Succeed Using Social Media In 2014

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It’s been established that if you want your thing to succeed in today’s information based society you must be advertising online and using social media. Online ads and social media campaigns have the ability to target exact demographics and give consumers, businesses, and event planners the ability to interact in a much more powerful and engaging way than traditional forms of advertising like television, radio, and news.  However, choosing which social media sites to utilize has become a very important and often overlooked step in getting your thing to succeed in the social media world.  From the giants of social media like, FacebookYoutube, and Twitter to sites that target more specific niches like Playfire and CultureInside Gallery, where you focus your attention could make or break your thing.

A few years ago experts were touting that one should use every social media outlet at his disposal in order to maximize a brand. This is a completely outdated and unrealistic concept in 2014. There would simply be too many sites for you to manage and too much information for you to create in order to stay engaged with your audience.

 Then there’s this question: the world is a really big place and there is tons of information out there, how does one get noticed amongst the clutter that is consuming these vast social media sites? First, you’ve got to figure out what your thing is and then determine what your goals are. If your only goal is to get 10 thousand likes on Facebook, then you using social media wrong. All of those likes are meaningless unless you are engaging with your consumer. Remember, the point is to engage with your community so that they know of, and better relate to, your thing. Many people, businesses, and event coordinators have forgotten this fundamental concept and simply spam the Internet looking for meaningless follows on Twitter and petty likes on Facebook. They somehow don’t realize that spam isn’t engaging, and that it’s actually bad for their brand image. New and established brands alike have to stay away from this temptation if they want anyone to take their brand seriously. The companies and people that are engaging in these spamming activities have either: A. Gotten lost and forgotten what social media is supposed to be (a community of interested, likeminded individuals that otherwise could not, or would not, engage with one another) or b. have never understood what social media is and are dinosaurs trying to claw their way out of their imminent extinction.

I’m not saying that Facebook, Twitter and the other giant online communities aren’t useful or engaging, they are. My point is that there could be a better alternative you’ve overlooked or a niche within one of those sites that you should target instead of the entire world. Don’t be a dinosaur, be innovative, and stay on your toes. The Internet evolves much to fast for followers and you will never get anywhere if you don’t evolve, pick up your tools, and start creating. If your goal is to reach the entire world, yes choose Facebook, but if your goal is to get more people to your art gallery, weightlifting competition, LAN-party, or whatever your thing is, don’t rule out the possibility that there might be a niche site better suited for your needs.

Here are the steps to figuring out which social media site is right for you.

 Step 1: Determine what your thing is

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Step 2: Define your target demographic

i.e. Who cares about your thing?

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Step 3: Google it! See if a social network for your niche exists. If it doesn’t, by all means make one! If your community exists in a giant like Facebook; great! Go there.  Just make sure your engaging!

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Step 4: Engage with the online community that cares about your thing. Because isn’t that what social media is all about?

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P.S. Google keeps updating its algorithm and is trying to make engaging content king. Vast knowledge of SEO eventually is not going to matter. Work with Google, not against it. You will lose if you choose the latter.