RepEquity® Blog: Digital Brand Management Distilled

How Does RankBrain Stack Up Against Google’s Other Updates?

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Google’s official acknowledgement of RankBrain as an algorithm factor is still quite recent, so we haven’t had much time to evaluate it yet in any statistical or scientific way. But, based on what we know, we are not expecting it to radically change any of the best practices we currently recommend. If you were doing things correctly six weeks ago, you shouldn’t need to adjust anything.

Our assessment of RankBrain is that it’s a breakthrough on Google’s back-end in their ongoing efforts to interpret the natural language queries sourced by human users and tie those queries to on-page content. It goes beyond simple keyword matching to draw associations between similar kinds of words people use to express what they’re looking for. In that way, it approximates an AI. If anything, this revelation doubles down on the importance of moving away from overdoing keyword-specific tactics; the goal should be to use natural language to provide quality content. If RankBrain does its job, it will find you.

The buzz around RankBrain over the past six weeks or so did, however, raise questions from our client base about Google’s algo changes in general. And, with the end of the year upon us, it seems like a good time to refresh some perceptions of the seven most notable “named” updates. Beginning with…

Panda: Panda addresses the quality of on-page content. It places value on original, unique content over anything that appears to be pulled or scraped from another source (and was originally designed to crack down on content arbitrage). We’ve found that, in addition to creating original content, working to give a few layers of depth to your sites can help vis a vis Panda. Shallow websites with no internal structure have been the most penalized by Panda.

Penguin: Penguin is all about spam – link spam, specifically. The best tip here is to constantly evaluate your inbound links via Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools), and to disavow anything that throws up flags. Things like poorly designed site-wide links from third-party sites can sometimes raise the alarm, so, even if spamming was not the intent, staying on top of your inbound links is key.

Pigeon: Pigeon launched in 2014, with a focus on improving local search results. Local search is key for many small businesses, and can often be an entirely new animal apart from standard organic search. The most critical tip here is to remember your brick-and-mortar past: always include your physical location and contact information on websites, and be sure to create a Google My Business profile that includes a street address and phone number.

Payday: The Payday update really only affected industries known for a heavy amount of spam. It weeded out obvious traffic arbitrage ploys in the payday loan (hence the name), pornographic, and pharmaceutical markets, to name a few. If you’re optimized for Panda and Penguin, you’ll be fine on this front.

Pirate: Pirate is another update that is pretty specific to certain industries. If you’ve been reported for copyright infringement, you may suffer a penalty under Pirate. If you think this may be the case, check your copyright warnings – the Pirate filter is updated periodically, and it’s possible to dig your way out of this sandbox.

Top Heavy: Launched in 2012, the Top Heavy update penalized sites with an overabundance of ads at the top of pages. This is one of the few updates that is actually most focused on page layout rather than content, but, ultimately, the theme of removing sites that only exist to bait clicks and traffic holds true. Don’t weigh down the top third of your site with advertising, and you’ll be fine.

Mobile-Friendly: Otherwise known as ‘Mobilegeddon’, this update was the first to be revealed before its roll out. In April of 2015, everyone in the SEO industry scrambled to ensure that their sites passed Google’s mobile-friendly test (a very simple one-click tool). The quick tip here? Page load times are one of the most important elements in the algorithm, be it desktop, mobile, or local search.

Over time, we’ll see if ‘RankBrain’ joins this illustrious list as another targeted update, or if it simply becomes part of the foundation of everything Google does going forward. My bet is on the latter..

What Happens In Vegas Comes Back As Great Social Marketing Tactics

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The week before Thanksgiving, I headed out to Las Vegas with our Director of Digital Advertising, Sarah Knoepfler, for Marketing Land’s #SocialPro conference. The two day conference, which took place on November 18th & 19th, was jam packed with great social media marketing tips. We created a simple breakdown of the top 10 take-a-ways:

  1. “Social is free to use, but not free to do.” Social organic reach does not exist like it used to; therefore, you need paid efforts to build your social platforms. How much money are you willing to spend to educate yourself on how your campaign will work among different platforms? Be sure to give your campaign enough backing to ensure that it has a chance to succeed. You can always reallocate budgets later to put money towards the platforms that work for you. Still hesitant? Try remarketing campaigns first; if that doesn’t work, it will be an uphill battle for other campaigns as well.
  2. Eliminate the traditional marketing funnel with powerful new social ad formats, like the social direct response formats on Facebook and the lead generation card on Twitter. Why do “pay per click” marketing when you can do “pay per lead” marketing instead? Note: You should also try those fancy carousel ads on Facebook, data shows they outperform regular Facebook ad formats.

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  4. Ad recall on Instagram is 2.8x higher than other online norms. And now, creating Instagram ads is easier than ever within the Facebook ads manager. Something to note –images of your product may not always generate the most sales or engagement – sell the experience of your product with captivating imagery. And remember to use the call-to-action button!
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  6. “Promote your unicorns.” – Do not pay to promote content just because; pay to promote your BEST content, your unicorns.

Be sure to consistently post on your social media platforms and monitor performance, but only pay to promote your best content to maximize results!

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  1. Utilize custom audiences. Website traffic is the best targeting, so be sure to tag every user. Then, slice your audiences into multiple specific sets so you can understand what is happening and which users are the most beneficial. Then, retarget to those narrow, successful segments. You can also set up look-a-like audiences to be sure you are reaching users similar to your successful audiences.
  2. Social remarketing is powerful! Push hard offers, like downloads or sign-ups with remarketing ads.

To increase actions and sales, you can even try SUPER REMARKETING:

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  1. Engagement snowballs as you go. Be sure give your social media platforms enough time to prove their success. The funnel is not as direct in social – sometimes a user will need to experience your brand and content multiple times before a desired action is taken. Also, ups and downs are normal in social media marketing, so be sure to analyze data over a longer time frame to see the bigger performance picture.
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  3. It is what you say and how you say it! Be sure to stress urgency to users, while also using words like ‘you’ and ‘your’. People want a two-sided conversation and do not respond as well to words like ‘our’ and ‘we’.
  4. Go mobile! You’ve heard it a million times, mobile is on the rise. But what you may not know is that mobile CPCs are 3X less than desktop CPCs. Try targeting mobile users initially, and then retarget those users on desktop devices. Your target audience will be more specific, which will be less expensive.
  5. Users share feelings, not facts. Individuals are willing to be sold to, but they are not on social media platforms to ONLY be sold to. Users want to engage with interesting content and they will only share what speaks to them. Not all paid content has to be brand related in order to be successful.

Users spend 28% of their time online on social media – so be sure you are there to greet them with the right message and engaging content!.

The Developer’s Journey

The pathways to technology careers seem to be all the same: you loved video games and computers as a child; you went to school for computer science, engineering, or math; you build apps, games, websites, and languages in your spare time; and you generally are amazing at all things computers!

Sound intimidating? It was for me!

Fortunately, the truth is that the paths to tech careers are far more diverse than you might expect. I am one of RepEquity’s front end web developers and am a self-taught programmer, with a social science degree, math skills that would terrify your middle school math teacher, and no background in technology whatsoever. In fact, many developers on our team come from non-tech backgrounds. Our Director of Technology was a librarian, we have a developer with a law degree, our staff is full of boot camp grads, and we even have our resident punk rock artist who can make a wordpress site in his sleep.

There are multiple paths to becoming a developer, and with the rise of tech jobs, boot camps, and online tutorials, a door has opened for a whole new type of programmer. This was the subject of our event “The Developer’s Journey” hosted as a part of DC Fem Tech’s Tour De Code. The event facilitated discussion amongst tech enthusiasts of ALL levels – HTML beginners to those with 20+ years in the field. It was an inspiring evening full of great stories, questions, and lessons learned.

If you missed it, that’s okay. We’d love to share the top 5 lessons we learned that evening, in the hopes that it can help developers everywhere – no matter their experience level.

You will be learning forever – and if you’re not – you’re doing it wrong

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It may seem like tech wizards have all the answers. But here’s the secret: There is always a new language, framework, cool design, or hip layout. While this means you’re constantly learning, it also means you can be teaching people who have been in the field WAY longer than you have! It’s easy to fall into the trap of imposter’s syndrome but just remember that no one has all the answers, regardless of how many years you’ve coded. What’s great about tech is that it’s always changing, and the programmers that make the best products are the ones with the humility to be continually learning.

No matter what your level is, you have something to teach

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Okay, so maybe you’ve struggled with [enter current tech challenge/new library/complicated install process]. I mean, who hasn’t?
But do you know how to do a git push? How to make a basic HTML page and give it colors? Do you know what an anchor tag is? Then you can teach the next generation of programmers – especially those coming from self-learning.

Your community is your biggest resource!

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Despite the harsh reputation, there are many programmers out there that are always willing to teach, learn, and collaborate. Sure, there’s always the one jerk who tries to spoil it all, but the best advice I can give to programmers that are just starting up – especially women and those not usually included in tech – is to ignore the haters and keep asking questions!

If you need some help finding a community, there are some great organizations out there to start with, such as DC Fem Tech, DC Tech Meetup, Code for DC, and many others! If you’re not in the DC area, then check out your local boot camp or search for meet-ups. The best way to learn programming is to do it in a supportive group!

Programming is fun! … and programming is terrible.

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Programming is a blast. You get to be master of the internet! Make websites only of cat gifs! Solve complex societal issues with your massive intellect! You bow to no man! And then… there are email templates, antiquated platforms, tight timelines that make you want to pull your hair out.

You’ve got to love tech to get through the hard stuff. There will be days (okay, weeks) where you are stuck on that one problem that will just not work. But, that feeling you get when you finally fix it? When you’ve figured out how to make it work?

There’s no better feeling in the world.

We have the chance to shape the field the way we want

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There is an overwhelming need for tech workers right now, and we all know that things aren’t changing anytime soon. The up-and-coming tech noobs will, in short time, be a solid part of the tech workforce.

We have the chance to shape an industry to be the kind of place we want to work in. With so much demand for jobs, we have the ability to tell employers who ask you to work 80 hours a week, brogrammer shops, or companies who do not actively encourage women, people of color, or the LGBTQ communities, to “git lost!” That is a pretty powerful feeling..

Treat Yo Self to a Halloween T-Shirt Jam

Happy Halloween! For the spookiest night of the year RepEquity is giving away a free downloadable stencil kit. Don’t have a Halloween costume yet? Still carving away at pumpkins? Or… just generally into awesome iconography? Look no further.

Download RepEquity’s Halloween T-Shirt Jam: Treat Yo Self!

These modular stencils were created by our designer Liviu Alvasiloiei and tested by the whole RepEquity team. We’ve included steps in the kit itself, but are happy to help demonstrate the steps here, with additional lessons learned.

What you’ll need:

  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Regular printer paper
  • Scissors or a box cutter
  • A light-colored piece of clothing
  • Fabric spray paint or acrylic paint
  • Double-sided tape

Step 1: Find a light colored t-shirt

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Light colored clothing will best show the spray paint. You’ll also want to make sure to carefully pre-plan before you start spraying. (Ping pong paddles for scale, not stenciling!)

Step 2: Cut out the stencils

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We printed our stencils on heavier paper, but regular printer paper will work, too. To cut out the stencils you can use a box-cutter or a pair of scissors – just be careful not to cut yourself!

Step 3: Place insert inside your t-shirt

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Put a piece of cardboard inside your shirt to prevent seepage to the other side. Clipping the shirt to the insert will prevent it from moving. Make sure your stencil fits on the insert!

Step 4: Place your stencil on the t-shirt

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Securing the stencil with double-sided table will keep the stencil from moving and make sure the lines of your image are sharp.

Step 5: Cover the rest of the t-shirt with a paper guard

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For best results, you can tape the paper guard to the stencils. If you’d rather not, you can get someone to hold down the paper guard – as long as they’re okay with getting some paint on their fingers!

Step 6: Let the paint dry for 5-10 minutes

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And there you have it! Let your paint dry for 5 to 10 minutes and move on to your second stencil of a spooky face.

While we used our stencils on t-shirts, it’s definitely a tool that can be used to create designs on many objects. For example, why not use the stencil to outline a scary face for your jack-o-lantern? The possibilities are endless!

However, we’ll leave you with one last tip: make sure your room is well-ventilated! The spray paint fumes can make people a little loopy…

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RepEquity Named One of the District’s Great Places to Work

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We’re thrilled that Washingtonian included RepEquity in its 2015 list for Great Places to Work. At RepEquity, we embrace the perks of contemporary office life, including a creative open floor plan, a fully stocked kitchen, a break room with ping pong and darts, and a drink cart that makes the rounds on Friday afternoons. But that alone doesn’t explain why we have a core group of staff members that have been here since the company started and we’re still one of the fastest growing companies in the DC area. So, what’s our secret? There isn’t just one.

Diversity

Our team is a diverse, passionate group of professionals that work hard, play hard, and embrace challenges with an energy and grace that’s hard to beat. And when we say diverse, we mean it in every sense of the word: race, religion, political views, you name it. Our teammates speak more than 15 languages and hail from all regions of the globe (much like our clientele).

The diversity in our office makes RepEquity a wonderful place to work in many ways, but the most rewarding is the knowledge that we work for a company that celebrates us for who we are – whoever that may be. PepsiCo exec Brad Jakeman may have said it best: “Innovation and disruption does not come from homogeneous groups of people.” At RepEquity, we pay homage to that fact in the way that we’ve staffed our company.

Passion

The people that we hire succeed at RepEquity because of a passion for the work that we do, not just the number of years they’ve spent in the industry. While many of our staff members have worked for some of the biggest agencies and brands out there, a great number of our team members are self-taught and came to RepEquity because they love the work – be it tech, design, content, or SEO.

creativityThat isn’t to say that we work all the time; on the contrary, RepEquity leadership knows that the most talented, driven employees are ones that have a well-rounded life outside of work. We’ve got musicians, artists, writers, gamers, foodies, yoga instructors, and runners on staff that have plenty of life to live after their 40 billable hours per week. That’s a rare luxury in the agency world, but one that our CEO, Tripp Donnelly, will never let go.

Community

In keeping with our internal culture, RepEquity and our team members stay plugged into the local community. While we often host events in our own office, such as career-building conversations with rising freshmen at American University, Women Who Code’s Front End Hack Night, or our most recent event, The Developer’s Journey, our staff also takes their expertise outside the office.

On our staff is the Board President of the DC Chapter of Society for Marketing Professional Services, Katie Garrett, and the President of Washington Women in PR, Avelyn Austin. In addition, many staff members, like our Vice President of Technology & Engineering, Tedi Konda, or our Associate Developer, Jessica Bell, stay active in the community by teaching and mentoring after hours. Some of us are even celebrity bowlers — but you’d have to ask Tripp about that.

Team

Finally, and most importantly, RepEquity is an amazing place to work because of the team mentality. Everyone at RepEquity embraces the idea of continual learning, and internal trainings are common. Whether it’s for Google Adwords certifications or a general primer from the SEO team on the more technical aspects of their job, staff members are encouraged to cross-pollinate ideas and learn across departments. This ethos thrives so well at RepEquity because of our culture of humility, curiosity, and pursuit of excellence. From upper management to our most junior associates, RepEquity staff members are always eager to ponder a new challenge and embrace a promising solution no matter who raises the idea.

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The RepEquity team sailing in Annapolis for the Blue Angels show.

It’s precisely because of this culture that RepEquity staff members are best able to serve our clients with relentless energy and drive. We cultivate the environment that makes it possible for people to think up big ideas and act on them. So when Tripp tells us that we are “a lean, precision instrument,” he’s absolutely right – and our clients can attest to that.

If you’re interested in joining the RepEquity team, drop us a line. We’re hiring..

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