What Are the Projected Benefits and Drawbacks to the New Google Penguin Update?

This October will be the one year anniversary since the release of the fifth update to Google’s Penguin algorithm. In case you’re not already familiar with Penguin, this update was created to improve Google’s ability to catch websites that were spamming its search results. For example, websites that buy links or obtain them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings.Penguin Update

The reason why so many websites are anxiously awaiting this update is because when a new Penguin update is released, sites that have taken action to remove bad links may regain some of their rankings. For any business that heavily relies upon web traffic and SEO to draw in customers, this can be the difference between success and failure.

So what can we expect from Penguin 3.0 and will this update offer a substantial improvement over the last version? Here are a few highlights as to what the experts are saying.

The Benefits

Penguin 3.0 is expected to make major changes to the algorithm with the main goal being to make it capable of running more frequently so that those whose websites were impacted wouldn’t have to wait so long to see a refresh. Cue sighs of relief from businesses everywhere.

Google has admitted to the fact that their current algorithms don’t reflect webmasters efforts to clean up the issues that caused them to be penalized by Penguin in a reasonable time. It’s expected that the new update will attempt to resolve this issue. With Penguin 3.0, Google claims that websites that have “sanitized” their backlink profile and replaced spam links with real links will finally see a lift in SERPs.

The Drawbacks

While this update will certainly have its benefits, it also brings several drawbacks and concerns of which you should be aware. Just as previous updates jarring and jolting to thousands upon thousands of websites, we should expect the changes associated with this new update to be just as significant. If you’ve taken the effort to clean up your bad links, this is good news, but if you have not, this could mean even more penalties and negative impact on your SEO. Additionally, over the past year Google has been working on improving their ability to catch “spammy” link and many that may have flown below the radar of the last Penguin update are once again at risk of getting caught.

One final concern to keep in mind is even if your own website doesn’t get caught in the Penguin filter, other “spammy” websites can still negatively impact your SEO by linking to your website. Google’s official position on negative SEO is that “Google aggregates and organizes information published on the web; we don’t control the content of these pages.” Essentially, it’s on you to resolve this issue with the other website, which can be no easy task. Worse yet, you may not even know these links back to your website exist until it’s already hurt your SEO.

How to Bounce Back From Penguin 3.0

If your site has been hit by Penguin, you should immediately perform a link audit to be sure that each and every backlink in your profile conforms to Google Webmaster Guidelines. It’s a small price to pay now compared to getting caught by the new Penguin update. If you do, you may need to wait another year before until a new update provides a chance to recover.

Additionally, if your site hasn’t been hit by a past Penguin update, you are still not safe. If you have any “spammy” links in your profile, remove them now. If you have done any automated link-building or hired shady, offshore link-building services, you are likely at. Non-penalized sites should still perform a thorough link audit to be safe. Failing to do so will make you the next website anxiously awaiting a Penguin refresh.

Once you have sanitized your backlink profile, it is time to permanently end the bad practices that may worked well in the past, but represent risk, today. Instead, focus on post-penalty marketing activities that conform to Webmaster Guidelines.

Just because you are under penalty, doesn’t mean that you have to wait for a Penguin rerun to get organic traffic. In addition to replacing the bad links with good ones, you should spend time and resources on generating traffic that does not require Google organic search- possibly through creative marketing services.

The final takeaway is that every single website should perform a link audit on their website. If you have any bad links, now is the time to correct them – before Penguin 3.0 is unveiled. Furthermore, end the bad practices with spam links one and for all and conform to webmaster guidelines. Also focus some of your marketing efforts on various other tactics that do not involve Google organic search just to be safe. Finally, keep a keen eye on other websites that link back to yours to ensure they are not negatively impacting your SEO. ~Stephanie

What are you most looking forward to or are worried about when it comes to Google’s Penguin 3.0? Share your thought and insights by commenting below!

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The Process of Switching to Https – Why? When? And How?

Ever since Google made the announcement that secure webpages would be given a small SEO boost businesses are beginning to upgrade from HTTP to HTTPS. But what do these letters even mean and why should you want to make the switch? Let’s first start with a brief background on the difference between the two.https

“HTTP” is an acronym for “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol” and this is the format that the vast majority of websites use for their protocol. “HTTPS” stands for “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure.”  This means that information exchanged between the user and a HTTPS web site is encrypted and cannot be hijacked to allow someone to electronically eavesdrop on the information the user provides, such as credit card numbers, passwords, or social security numbers.

This “secure” element becomes most important for ecommerce websites, but nearly all businesses can find several good reasons to also make the switch and provide a more secure online environment for their users.

Why?

On August 6, 2014, Google published on their Webmaster Central Blog that HTTPS will now be considered as a ranking signal as an effort to increase internet safety and reward websites that use HTTPS. It’s important to note that this will be a “lightweight signal” that will affect less than 1 percent of global queries. Google has indicated that, in the future, this signal’s ranking weight will increase.

Additionally, HTTPS will allow more people to access your site from various locations. Many businesses have installed firewalls blocking employees from viewing non-HTTPS sites as precautionary measures. Your blog in HTTP might be blocked from office internet, creating a roadblock between you and your readers.

Now that Internet users are becoming more aware of the meanings of HTTPS and the lock symbols on websites, more trust is being placed in websites with this level of security. Users feel more confident when they see HTTPS on your domain. It builds trust and security not only with your website, but with your entire brand.

When?

Now that the longstanding fear that the switch would hurt your SEO rankings has been addressed by Google, there’s really been no better time to jump on the bandwagon to make the switch.

Users are informed and aware of the difference between the two and appreciate the added security. Even if the SEO ranking signal is modest, there is still an added benefit to making the switch. The answer to “when” is the sooner the better! While the process for how to do so can be a bit more technical, it’s not any more complex than the effort it took to first develop your site or update it.

How?

First and foremost, you will need to buy a Secure Socket Layer Encryption (SSL) Certificate and have it installed on your website. According to Verisign, a provider of Internet infrastructure services, SSL is a technology that enables encryption of sensitive information during online transactions. Each SSL Certificate contains unique, authenticated information about the certificate owner. A certificate authority then verifies the identity of the certificate owner when it is issued.

All links on your webpages will have to link to the HTTPS area or your website will have a caution sign instead of a green closed lock. If you are using a content management system (CMS), all of the dynamic links created by the CMS will adjust accordingly. Links created by the user (ones that are copy and pasted from somewhere else) will need to be manually updated. Finally, if you use any libraries from other websites (such as for hosting your graphics or logos), you will need to ensure that these are linked from an HTTPS link as well to ensure the green closed lock –  a sign of a fully secure site.

A note of caution: a website that uses SSL encryption does not safeguard users from phishing and other schemes.  When visiting websites that accept financial information online, it is always smart to make sure the online company is legitimate, has a good reputation in customer service and uses SSL encryption in their transactions.

Have you made the switch to Https? Share your insights and experience by commenting below!

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5 Tips for Creating a Killer Twitter Bio

Twitter is a complex social media platform that pushes out content faster than the blink of an eye (or the flap of a wing). This is where you can connect with anyone from your neighbor down the street to a celebrity across the globe. To be able to standout in such a large network, you must first begin with a profile that grabs people’s attention and makes them want to connect with you.Twitter bio

While a Twitter profile is fairly simple and straightforward, people often miss out on this valuable opportunity to enhance their brand images by representing their skills and interests. Let’s take a look at five tips for creating a creative and quality twitter profile to make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of content.

  1. Make the Most of 160 Characters

Your Twitter profile allows for just 160 characters of content. Although this is a “generous” 20 characters more than what you are allowed in a tweet, it is still and incredibly short amount of space into which you must cram everything that makes you special. The key is to strategically pick what aspects of your brand you wish to highlight.

Think of the qualities that will most appeal to the people you are trying to connect with. Is it your job title, an accomplishment like publishing a book or some snarky humor that will draw in target followers? Choose 1-3 of the most powerful aspects of your brand and make these the forefront of your Twitter profile content. All the rest of the stuff people can find by clicking on the link to your website or blog (more on that later).

  1. Pick Your Voice

You can go several directions with the voice of your Twitter profile. Do you want it to be first person or third person? Do you want to sound professional or personable? Think about what is going to represent you most accurately and speak to your target audience. The voice of your Twitter profile will set the tone for your conversations moving forward.

  1. Get Personal with Interests, Hobbies or Humor

Once you’ve listed your job and accomplishments, be sure to save (even just a little bit of) room for your interests, hobbies and personality. What do you do outside of work? Maybe this is a mention of your favorite physical activity, type of food or a shout out to your family. Use this final sentence as a way to define yourself by more than just your job title.

  1. Incorporate #Hashtags

Include hashtags in your Twitter profile, especially ones that you use often. Maybe this is your own unique hashtag that helps store, say, all of your motivational quotes in one stream. Or maybe you list a few popular hashtags that reflect your hobbies and interests. Limit these to just several of the most relevant topics that define your brand.

  1. Include a Link

Finally, be sure to take advantage of including a link in your Twitter profile. What should this link to? It depends! It could be your website, blog, Linkedin profile or other social media profile. What do you use most often and where do you want to direct people to learn more about you? No matter what link you choose to use, be sure that it is active and that it leads to updated and professional content that will leave a good first impression with your Twitter followers.

What other strategies have you found to be effective when creating a Twitter profile? Share your insights by commenting below!

~Stephanie

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Social Media Rules of Engagement: How and When to Respond for the Most Effective Results

One of the greatest aspects of social media is how fosters immediate, real-time communication between people all across the globe. However, this benefit can quickly turn into a challenge if you are not prepared to manage this rapid-fire communication. Letting a comment sit for too long without a response could lose you a connection or even worse – a customer.Social Media Rules of Enagagement

It’s so important to be prepared to respond as quickly as possible to any comments that may come through your social media channels. It’s equal as important to respond with quality answers that feel genuine and well thought out. How can you achieve this? Here are six tips to help get you started.

Respond as quickly as possible

Foremost, it’s important to embrace the immediacy of social media and the need for quick responses. Emails and phone calls are fine to respond to within a day or so, but social media does not wait. When someone posts a comment on your Facebook fan page or tags you in a tweet, you need to acknowledge the message as soon as possible.

If not, you risk looking like you don’t care or do not have a good response (if it is a complaint or negative comment). Always be in control of the comment by issuing a response as soon as you receive the message.

Use notifications to your benefit

Social media’s need for immediate responses can be overwhelming. How are you ever to keep track of 4+ accounts and their messages? Luckily there are tools you can use to manage all of your social media accounts in one place. Some examples include Hootsuite, Socialoomph and Sendible.

These accounts will keep you apprised of any comments or messages as soon as they hit your account. This way you don’t need to be checking in to every individual account, just one. You can also choose to be alerted by email so that even if you’re not logged in to any account, you’ll still know you have a message that needs a response.

Avoid canned responses

Even the most well written canned response will still come across spammy and insincere. Take the few extra seconds it requires to individually address each message. Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your network. They will be able to tell based on your past messages if the one they received was written just for them. Make the message persona, address them by name or call out other details that are relevant only to them. It makes a big difference and goes a long way!

Offer a response to everything – the good and the bad

Both positive and negative messages will come in, there’s no way around it. You must respond to both, even if it’s uncomfortable or challenging. While it may be tempting to delete or ignore a negative comment, this is like hanging up on your customer during a service call. On the flip side, positive comments also deserve a response. Thank your contact for sharing their thoughts and let them know how much their opinion means to you.

Be professional and understanding when addressing negative comments

Since you now know that you must address negative comments, here are some pointers on how to do so. You always want to maintain your composure and professionalism when issuing a response. Even if the comment expressed criticism or anger, you do not want your own response to mimic the sentiment. Also, look for a way to try and understand the person’s complaint. Empathize with how they must feel and offer a solution or compromise that makes them feel heard.

Offer a genuine thank you for positive comments

For positive comments, don’t brush these off as not needing a response simply because they aren’t a complaint. When someone leaves a glowing review, be sure and thank them. Go one step further than just offering a “Thank you!” Ask them a follow-up question or comment on something specific that they said so that they know you took the time to read the message.

Overall, the art of responding to social media messages is quite simple. You must keep an eye out for comments as they come in and try and respond to them as close to real-time as possible. Also, you want to offer genuine, well thought out responses that show you care about your contacts and appreciate their opinion. ~Stephanie

What do’s and don’ts do you follow for effective social media engagement? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 

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What is a Pronoun Disagreement Error?

He or She Verses They or Themagreement

Often the rules of grammar are forgotten—sometimes even purposely ignored. However, on occasion, some of the rules of grammar simply slip through the cracks and are not properly taught or reviewed. One of the biggest rules of professional or recreational writing is to make sure that your pronouns agree.

If you create a sentence with “if a person” or “when a person,” the singular pronouns “he or she” will follow. If “they” is used to refer to a single person, a pronoun disagreement error occurs.

  • If a person comes into the store unsure of what to look for, you must ask questions to learn what he or she needs to find.
  • If a person comes into the store unsure of what to look for, you must as questions to learn what they need to find.

The first sentence follows pronoun agreement rules, while the second exhibits a pronoun disagreement error. It’s common to hear pronoun disagreement errors in everyday speech.

 

The Case for Gender Inclusive Language

Let’s face it.  Sometimes the reader doesn’t need to envision a he or a she.  Sometimes, we want readers to not consider gender.  Eliminating the reference to gender is appropriate in many circumstances, such as when writing a workplace policy manual.  However, pause before breaking the pronoun agreement rule. There are ways to rewrite sentences so that pronouns are not needed. There will always be strict grammarians who frown upon disagreement errors and who don’t understand the need for gender neutral wording.  Is breaking the agreement rule worth annoying these readers? In most cases, probably not.  Be creative with your wording and work around the rule.

 

Person Agreement

Keep your writing clear and in the proper (and same) person. For example, if you are working on a book and writing in first person, do not let yourself fall into third person writing. It happens and it’s easy to miss, especially when writing fiction. Whether you’re writing in first, second, or third person, pick one and stick to it.

Finally, make sure your writing stays clear and makes sense. If, for example, you’re working on a letter to the newspaper, don’t write something like “They shouldn’t use pictures like that.” Who are “they?” What are the pictures being used? Separate your sentence and thoughts in order to convey a clearer, more concise message.

Make sure that your pronouns agree by watching your numbers, gender, and in what person you are writing.  Avoid vague references such as “When they wrote about the arrest,” so questions are not left open. Your readers should not ask who “they” are or what “that” is, they should have clear word pictures. By following agreement rules, you will communicate with clarity. ~Holly

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What Is a Split Infinitive?

Split Infinitives are used frequently when speaking, thus noticing them when writing can be difficult.

Often in writing, grammar is left for last. Writers are primarily concerned with getting the point across, so grammar becomes something secondary that can be corrected later, whether by the writer or by an editor. One of the more common, overlooked, grammatical errors are split infinitives.

What is a Split Infinitive?cutting paper

A split infinitive occurs when one places an adverb between “to” and a verb. It’s an extremely common error and sometimes hard to catch.

The following sentences are good examples of split infinitives:

  • You have to really pay attention when he speaks.
  • It’s important to not put those two in a group together.
  • He used to secretly wish he had joined choir.

“Really,” “not,” and “secretly” have been placed in the middle of the infinitive, causing the sentences to technically be grammatically incorrect. The proper ways to write these sentences are as follows:

  • You really have to pay attention when he speaks.
  • It’s important not to put hose two in a group together.
  • He secretly used to wish he had joined choir.

Some People Prefer Split Infinitives

Oxford Dictionaries gives good insight into why anyone would want to uphold the split infinitive. The crux is that we often say them, so why not write them? If you’re trying to capture a certain “voice,” splitting infinitives might achieve your goal; however, the proper way to write a sentence in formal and professional writing is without splitting infinitives.  Whether spoken or written, the meaning of sentences change when word orders change.

As a writer or an editor, it’s important to watch for split infinitives. Catching grammatical errors in another’s work may be your job, but you must also check your own writing before submitting it, even if it’s something as short as an email. Using proper grammar shows you care about your work—double-check those emails, articles, and tweets! ~Holly

 

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When Do I Use a Hyphen Versus a Dash?

dash

When is it appropriate to use a hyphen or a dash?

Hyphen

The main use for hyphens is to connect two or more words into one word that creates a single thought or concept. “Money-saving ideas,” “2-liter bottle,” and “second-grade teacher” are examples of combining two words into one with hyphens.

Another appropriate use for hyphens rather than dashes is when writing numbers—at least, numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine. In both formal and professional writing, it is inappropriate to write numbers like this: 55. Instead, the proper way is to spell the numbers out, as follows: fifty-five. In informal writing, however, a hyphen acts as a substitute for “to” when listing value ranges or game scores.

  • “If you reach 90-99% of your goal, you will have a yellow sticker placed by your name.”
  • “The Cadets won the game with a 34-20 score, so they are now 2-1 for the season.”
  • “The temperature range for Thursday will be in the range of 74-77 degrees.”

Dash

Dashes are twice as long as hyphens. They are used to show an interruption or as a substitute for “it is,” “they are,” or other expressions of a similar nature. Dashes can also be used in place of parentheses. Typically, in word processing programs, when two hyphens are typed together, it becomes a dash. In the written word, when indicating an interruption, they are often found in speech.

  • “I really must leave before—“she paused as the doorbell rang, signaling her doom.
  • “You need to go get cleaned up before—“the oven timer buzzed, causing Ben to smile. “…before we eat dinner,” Rachel finished.
  • Andrew—the quarterback during my senior year—was uncharacteristically kind throughout his high school career.
  • There’s only one person who could let this chaos happen—Amanda.

All these are examples of how dashes can be used.  With these and the examples of uses for hyphens, the questions concerning when to use hyphens versus when to use dashes has an answer. Each has a few specific uses, but those uses cannot be confused. Hyphens are used to connect words into a single concept (and can be suggested when speaking), while dashes are used primarily in the written word to indicate interruption, as a substitute for parentheses, or as a substitute for “it is,” “they are,” or other similar expressions. By understanding the different uses for hyphens and dashes, you’ll be able to double-check your next writing project to ensure proper grammar.  Of course, sometimes its just easier to hire an editor!

~Holly

Additional Dash/ Hyphen Resources:

Purdue OWL

Grammar Book

Grammar Girl

St Michaels College

 

 

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