Should I Hire an In-House Digital Marketing Specialist or Tap an Agency for Help?

The digital marketing landscape is changing at a rapid pace, with many organizations planning to up their budgets and diversify their tactics in the coming years. In fact, according to Forrester research, CMOs will spend nearly $ 119 billion on search marketing, display advertising, online video and email marketing by 2021.

“Over the next five years, search will lose share to display and social advertising while video will scale,” Forrester said. “These changes reflect a new emphasis on quality over quantity, a dynamic that will reintroduce human intervention into programmatic ad buying, turn marketers into growth hackers, and put long-tail publishers out of business.”

To keep pace with these trends and take advantage of growth opportunities, many marketers are wondering how they can best leverage their resources, tools and budgets. As a result, a question that has likely come up is: Should we make a new in-house hire to achieve our goals or is an agency partnership a better fit?

As we close in on two decades of work in the digital marketing realm, our experience tells us there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Every organization is at a different digital marketing maturity level, which requires a tailored approach in order to scale their initiatives and drive results.

So, before your post a job req or sign an agreement with an agency, ask yourself the following questions:

#1 – What are my marketing objectives?

Your goals are the foundation of your marketing strategy, guiding every decision and tactic that comes next. As a result, evaluating your goals is a critical first step in weighing your hiring options. Essentially, you need to consider whether an agency or new in-house talent can put you in the best position to reach your goals.

#2 – What kind of expertise am I looking to add to the team?

Generally speaking, most digital marketers have highly-specific skill sets. So, if your strategy calls for adding or expanding a specific area of expertise such as video production or graphic design, hiring in-house may be a great option.

However, if you’re looking for a jack of all trades, an agency will definitely be better equipped. Why? Because you’ll be able to leverage a team of highly-specialized experts at once.

#3 – How niche is my industry?

This one can cut both ways. If your organization is part of a highly-niche industry, you can certainly bring someone in who already has related experience or can be nurtured as an internal subject matter expert. That said, agencies are staffed with fast-learning individuals who can fill the SME role, too. So, this one may come down to preference and bandwidth.

#4 – What’s the bandwidth of my current in-house team?

Your current in-house team likely has a big workload and/or lacks the specific expertise needed to achieve specific goals. So, if you’re looking to ease their burden or diversify a specific area of talent, hiring in-house talent is a great option — as long as you can commit the training, nurturing and management resources.

If you’re looking for a more hands-off option or can’t commit resources to managing an in-house hire, an agency will likely be a better fit. Hiring in-house typically requires more time and resources to make them successful (i.e. onboarding and ongoing training), whereas hiring an agency could give you more flexibility. In addition, agencies can often take on short-term projects with tight deadlines.

#5 – What’s my budget?

Your budget likely has the final say in your decision-making process. So, using your answers to the previous questions, think about how you can best stretch that budget. Does it make financial sense to add new team members or to outsource to an agency?

Get A Little Help in Answering These Questions

You know you need to make a hire to achieve your goals. And it’s a big decision. If you’re wondering what an agency can bring to the table, we’d love to chat with you. You tell us your hopes, wishes, dreams, goals and needs, and we’ll give you options and honesty.


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Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®

Medium: Why Bloggers Should Consider Publishing on Medium

Want to position yourself as an authority on a specific subject? Have you considered publishing your blog posts on Medium? To explore how Medium can benefit bloggers and marketers, I interview Dakota Shane. More About This Show The Social Media Marketing podcast is an on-demand talk radio show from Social Media Examiner. It’s designed to […]

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– Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

4 Things You Should Know About Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

On July 1, 2014, Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) went into effect. At that time, companies were given three years to meet compliance standards. With the July 1, 2017 deadline fast-approaching, we sat down with Jennifer Noyes, Lead Delivery Specialist here at VerticalResponse to get the facts on how this legislation affects businesses that send emails. Here’s what you need to know:

1. What Canada’s anti-spam legislation is all about

According to Canada’s anti-spam legislation website, “The law will help to protect Canadians while ensuring that businesses can continue to compete in the global marketplace.” More specifically, CASL regulates the manner in which commercial electronic messages (CEMs) can be sent, requiring organizations to first obtain permission from recipients. 

2. How to comply with the legislation

Noyes shared that CASL requires that your emails comply with these elements:

  1. All email addresses you send to must be permission-based. Subscribers must specifically opt in to receive your communications. If you are not currently doing this, you can use an email signup form to collect permission-based subscribers on your website, blog or social media networks.
  2. All emails must contain an easy-to-find unsubscribe link that is valid for 60 days. All unsubscribe requests must be satisfied within 10 days or less and at no cost to the recipient.
  3. Your subject line must pertain to the content in the email. No part of the email message can be misleading or false.
  4. You must identify your name and business. Your name or the name of anyone else on whose behalf you are sending the message, and a current mailing address must be clearly displayed. Also include a phone number, email address or web address. Ensure that this information is accurate and valid for a minimum of 60 days after sending the message.

If you’re using an email service provider, you’re most likely in compliance. VerticalResponse is compliant with all elements of CASL, and provides tools to help you follow these rules. In fact, VerticalResponse’s anti-spam policy is more strict than what you’ll find in CASL.

3. What you need to understand regarding mailing lists

One difference between CASL and other anti-spam legislation, such as the American CAN-SPAM Act, is that subscribers must have specifically opted in to receive your communications. During the three-year grace period, CASL allowed for what’s known as “implied consent” or permission that is inferred through actions rather than expressly given. However, implied consent expires on the upcoming July 1, 2017 deadline. Additionally, beginning July 1, 2017, legal action can be brought against any individual or organization alleged to be in violation of CASL. This means that you need to be able to prove that all email recipients have explicitly consented to receive your messages.

To mail through VerticalResponse, contacts must have signed up in some way to receive your emails. You cannot use a purchased or rented list, and you can’t use an address you took from a website. Here’s what you need to know and understand about your lists:

  • If you’re using an opt-in form you’re good; you have permission and you have proof of signup if you need it.
  • If you’re mailing to your customers, donors or clients and have been for a while, you’re most likely okay. But you may want to reconfirm consent, especially if you aren’t sure when or where they signed up, or if you don’t have any record, in case you need proof.
  • If you have a list that you’ve never mailed to and have no idea where it came from, then you won’t be able to mail it, either through VerticalResponse or to people in Canada.

If you want to reconfirm your subscribers’ opt-in status, you can do so with a signup form. You may also want to create a list segment that contains only Canadian email addresses, and make sure you know where all the addresses came from. You can do this by searching your lists for email addresses that end in .ca

If you have any doubts about how you obtained an email address, don’t send to it. After the CASL compliance deadline, the government will start enforcing fines for violations.

4. What to do if your business isn’t in Canada

If your business is located outside of Canada, this does not mean you’re exempt. If you’re sending email to anyone who resides in Canada, your sending practices must abide by CASL. As you prepare for the upcoming compliance deadline, check out these helpful resources:

  • Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation site has everything you need to know about the law.
  • A FAQ about CASL.

Finally, here’s a handy infographic created by the Canadian government that further breaks down the law:

 

Note: The information in this post cannot be considered legal advice, and is not legally binding.

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Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in June 2014 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and relevance.

© 2017, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

The post 4 Things You Should Know About Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.


Vertical Response Blog

Should SEOs Care About Internal Links? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Internal links are one of those essential SEO items you have to get right to avoid getting them really wrong. Rand shares 18 tips to help inform your strategy, going into detail about their attributes, internal vs. external links, ideal link structures, and much, much more in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Should SEOs Care About Internl Links?

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about internal links and internal link structures. Now, it is not the most exciting thing in the SEO world, but it’s something that you have to get right and getting it wrong can actually cause lots of problems.

Attributes of internal links

So let’s start by talking about some of the things that are true about internal links. Internal links, when I say that phrase, what I mean is a link that exists on a website, let’s say ABC.com here, that is linking to a page on the same website, so over here, linking to another page on ABC.com. We’ll do /A and /B. This is actually my shipping routes page. So you can see I’m linking from A to B with the anchor text “shipping routes.”

The idea of an internal link is really initially to drive visitors from one place to another, to show them where they need to go to navigate from one spot on your site to another spot. They’re different from internal links only in that, in the HTML code, you’re pointing to the same fundamental root domain. In the initial early versions of the internet, that didn’t matter all that much, but for SEO, it matters quite a bit because external links are treated very differently from internal links. That is not to say, however, that internal links have no power or no ability to change rankings, to change crawling patterns and to change how a search engine views your site. That’s what we need to chat about.

1. Anchor text is something that can be considered. The search engines have generally minimized its importance, but it’s certainly something that’s in there for internal links.

2. The location on the page actually matters quite a bit, just as it does with external links. Internal links, it’s almost more so in that navigation and footers specifically have attributes around internal links that can be problematic.

Those are essentially when Google in particular sees manipulation in the internal link structure, specifically things like you’ve stuffed anchor text into all of the internal links trying to get this shipping routes page ranking by putting a little link down here in the footer of every single page and then pointing over here trying to game and manipulate us, they hate that. In fact, there is an algorithmic penalty for that kind of stuff, and we can see it very directly.

We’ve actually run tests where we’ve observed that jamming this type of anchor text-rich links into footers or into navigation and then removing it gets a site indexed, well let’s not say indexed, let’s say ranking well and then ranking poorly when you do it. Google reverses that penalty pretty quickly too, which is nice. So if you are not ranking well and you’re like, “Oh no, Rand, I’ve been doing a lot of that,” maybe take it away. Your rankings might come right back. That’s great.

3. The link target matters obviously from one place to another.

4. The importance of the linking page, this is actually a big one with internal links. So it is generally the case that if a page on your website has lots of external links pointing to it, it gains authority and it has more ability to sort of generate a little bit, not nearly as much as external links, but a little bit of ranking power and influence by linking to other pages. So if you have very well-linked two pages on your site, you should make sure to link out from those to pages on your site that a) need it and b) are actually useful for your users. That’s another signal we’ll talk about.

5. The relevance of the link, so pointing to my shipping routes page from a page about other types of shipping information, totally great. Pointing to it from my dog food page, well, it doesn’t make great sense. Unless I’m talking about shipping routes of dog food specifically, it seems like it’s lacking some of that context, and search engines can pick up on that as well.

6. The first link on the page. So this matters mostly in terms of the anchor text, just as it does for external links. Basically, if you are linking in a bunch of different places to this page from this one, Google will usually, at least in all of our experiments so far, count the first anchor text only. So if I have six different links to this and the first link says “Click here,” “Click here” is the anchor text that Google is going to apply, not “Click here” and “shipping routes” and “shipping.” Those subsequent links won’t matter as much.

7. Then the type of link matters too. Obviously, I would recommend that you keep it in the HTML link format rather than trying to do something fancy with JavaScript. Even though Google can technically follow those, it looks to us like they’re not treated with quite the same authority and ranking influence. Text is slightly, slightly better than images in our testing, although that testing is a few years old at this point. So maybe image links are treated exactly the same. Either way, do make sure you have that. If you’re doing image links, by the way, remember that the alt attribute of that image is what becomes the anchor text of that link.

Internal versus external links

A. External links usually give more authority and ranking ability.

That shouldn’t be surprising. An external link is like a vote from an independent, hopefully independent, hopefully editorially given website to your website saying, “This is a good place for you to go for this type of information.” On your own site, it’s like a vote for yourself, so engines don’t treat it the same.

B. Anchor text of internal links generally have less influence.

So, as we mentioned, me pointing to my page with the phrase that I want to rank for isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I shouldn’t do it in a manipulative way. I shouldn’t do it in a way that’s going to look spammy or sketchy to visitors, because if visitors stop clicking around my site or engaging with it or they bounce more, I will definitely lose ranking influence much faster than if I simply make those links credible and usable and useful to visitors. Besides, the anchor text of internal links is not as powerful anyway.

C. A lack of internal links can seriously hamper a page’s ability to get crawled + ranked.

It is, however, the case that a lack of internal links, like an orphan page that doesn’t have many internal or any internal links from the rest of its website, that can really hamper a page’s ability to rank. Sometimes it will happen. External links will point to a page. You’ll see that page in your analytics or in a report about your links from Moz or Ahrefs or Majestic, and then you go, “Oh my gosh, I’m not linking to that page at all from anywhere else on my site.” That’s a bad idea. Don’t do that. That is definitely problematic.

D. It’s still the case, by the way, that, broadly speaking, pages with more links on them will send less link value per link.

So, essentially, you remember the original PageRank formula from Google. It said basically like, “Oh, well, if there are five links, send one-fifth of the PageRank power to each of those, and if there are four links, send one-fourth.” Obviously, one-fourth is bigger than one-fifth. So taking away that fifth link could mean that each of the four pages that you’ve linked to get a little bit more ranking authority and influence in the original PageRank algorithm.

Look, PageRank is old, very, very old at this point, but at least the theories behind it are not completely gone. So it is the case that if you have a page with tons and tons of links on it, that tends to send out less authority and influence than a page with few links on it, which is why it can definitely pay to do some spring cleaning on your website and clear out any rubbish pages or rubbish links, ones that visitors don’t want, that search engines don’t want, that you don’t care about. Clearing that up can actually have a positive influence. We’ve seen that on a number of websites where they’ve cleaned up their information architecture, whittled down their links to just the stuff that matters the most and the pages that matter the most, and then seen increased rankings across the board from all sorts of signals, positive signals, user engagement signals, link signals, context signals that help the engine them rank better.

E. Internal link flow (aka PR sculpting) is rarely effective, and usually has only mild effects… BUT a little of the right internal linking can go a long way.

Then finally, I do want to point out that what was previous called — you probably have heard of it in the SEO world — PageRank sculpting. This was a practice that I’d say from maybe 2003, 2002 to about 2008, 2009, had this life where there would be panel discussions about PageRank sculpting and all these examples of how to do it and software that would crawl your site and show you the ideal PageRank sculpting system to use and which pages to link to and not.

When PageRank was the dominant algorithm inside of Google’s ranking system, yeah, it was the case that PageRank sculpting could have some real effect. These days, that is dramatically reduced. It’s not entirely gone because of some of these other principles that we’ve talked about, just having lots of links on a page for no particularly good reason is generally bad and can have harmful effects and having few carefully chosen ones has good effects. But most of the time, internal linking, optimizing internal linking beyond a certain point is not very valuable, not a great value add.

But a little of what I’m calling the right internal linking, that’s what we’re going to talk about, can go a long way. For example, if you have those orphan pages or pages that are clearly the next step in a process or that users want and they cannot find them or engines can’t find them through the link structure, it’s bad. Fixing that can have a positive impact.

Ideal internal link structures

So ideally, in an internal linking structure system, you want something kind of like this. This is a very rough illustration here. But the homepage, which has maybe 100 links on it to internal pages. One hop away from that, you’ve got your 100 different pages of whatever it is, subcategories or category pages, places that can get folks deeper into your website. Then from there, each of those have maybe a maximum of 100 unique links, and they get you 2 hops away from a homepage, which takes you to 10,000 pages who do the same thing.

I. No page should be more than 3 link “hops” away from another (on most small–>medium sites).

Now, the idea behind this is that basically in one, two, three hops, three links away from the homepage and three links away from any page on the site, I can get to up to a million pages. So when you talk about, “How many clicks do I have to get? How far away is this in terms of link distance from any other page on the site?” a great internal linking structure should be able to get you there in three or fewer link hops. If it’s a lot more, you might have an internal linking structure that’s really creating sort of these long pathways of forcing you to click before you can ever reach something, and that is not ideal, which is why it can make very good sense to build smart categories and subcategories to help people get in there.

I’ll give you the most basic example in the world, a traditional blog. In order to reach any post that was published two years ago, I’ve got to click Next, Next, Next, Next, Next, Next through all this pagination until I finally get there. Or if I’ve done a really good job with my categories and my subcategories, I can click on the category of that blog post and I can find it very quickly in a list of the last 50 blog posts in that particular category, great, or by author or by tag, however you’re doing your navigation.

II. Pages should contain links that visitors will find relevant and useful.

If no one ever clicks on a link, that is a bad signal for your site, and it is a bad signal for Google as well. I don’t just mean no one ever. Very, very few people ever and many of them who do click it click the back button because it wasn’t what they wanted. That’s also a bad sign.

III. Just as no two pages should be targeting the same keyword or searcher intent, likewise no two links should be using the same anchor text to point to different pages. Canonicalize!

For example, if over here I had a shipping routes link that pointed to this page and then another shipping routes link, same anchor text pointing to a separate page, page C, why am I doing that? Why am I creating competition between my own two pages? Why am I having two things that serve the same function or at least to visitors would appear to serve the same function and search engines too? I should canonicalize those. Canonicalize those links, canonicalize those pages. If a page is serving the same intent and keywords, keep it together.

IV. Limit use of the rel=”nofollow” to UGC or specific untrusted external links. It won’t help your internal link flow efforts for SEO.

Rel=”nofollow” was sort of the classic way that people had been doing PageRank sculpting that we talked about earlier here. I would strongly recommend against using it for that purpose. Google said that they’ve put in some preventative measures so that rel=”nofollow” links sort of do this leaking PageRank thing, as they call it. I wouldn’t stress too much about that, but I certainly wouldn’t use rel=”nofollow.”

What I would do is if I’m trying to do internal link sculpting, I would just do careful curation of the links and pages that I’ve got. That is the best way to help your internal link flow. That’s things like…

V. Removing low-value content, low-engagement content and creating internal links that people actually do want. That is going to give you the best results.

VI. Don’t orphan! Make sure pages that matter have links to (and from) them. Last, but not least, there should never be an orphan. There should never be a page with no links to it, and certainly there should never be a page that is well linked to that isn’t linking back out to portions of your site that are of interest or value to visitors and to Google.

So following these practices, I think you can do some awesome internal link analysis, internal link optimization and help your SEO efforts and the value visitors get from your site. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How Indie Entrepreneurs Should Plan Vacations (FS216)

Travel can lead to inspiration, vision and clarity for your business. That can mean huge gains when you’re an owner-operator of a small business.

As indie-preneurs and solo-preneurs we can often be the bottleneck for our business. Our mindset can be the leading cause of atrophy or stagnation in our strategies and execution.

Play time, vacation and travel, however, can be used to “knock the barnacles off” and reset our intention and focus so we can see clearly and move with more purpose.

BUT you may not want to put everything on hold and dive right into vacation without planning it through a bit.

So, in this podcast we teach you how successful indie entrepreneurs think through and plan their vacations.

Enjoy!

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Different kinds of “Vacation”: First, let’s define our terms a bit. In the episode we talk about the following different kinds of vacation.

  • the staycation or “digital detox”
  • the shorter "do no work" vacation
  • the longer "do some work" vacation
  • sabbatical
  • living abroad
  • paternity/maternity/family leave

Many entrepreneurs have a hard time ALLOWING themselves to let go. Here’s a message from Fizzler Penny Hawes in the Member Community about this:

What is this "vacation" of which you speak?

Seriously, after owning and managing large family run equestrian centers for most of my adult life, there were no vacations. It was 7 days a week, week after week, month after month, and year after year. And even though we were grossing 6 figures, overheads were so high we were barely surviving.

Even after we sold our farm in CT and left our jobs managing a farm here in Virginia, there have always been 2 jobs or a seriously time intensive job and a side hustle.

I get a 2 hour vacation next Tuesday, courtesy of anesthesia…

This is one of my greatest "whys" – I'm sick of working 60 hour weeks where I swap hours for dollars. I'm 58 years old and scared shitless. All of that ends now.

Corbett has a great story about this. For a long time as a new blogger Corbett couldn’t step away from the computer for any significant stretch of time. Then he brought on his first employee, got that employee up to speed and immediately took 5 days away from the computer in Europe. More on that story in the episode.

(Note: that first employee of Corbett’s was Caleb Wojcik, who we just released a Founder Story interview with to Fizzle Members!)


Reset your mind about what vacation is for. Keep your mindset healthy around vacation. Try to see it as an investment in your creativity and business, as opposed to shirking your responsibilities (which always leads to guilt). A fresh brain is often an open channel for new ideas and fresh inspiration. You may feel like Steph when she says, “I work MUCH faster when I’m rested and positive (vs. ground into a pulp and fatigued!).” So, the first step is to think about vacation as a BUSINESS ASSET.

Create a pre-vacation game plan. Define projects you want done before you leave. Be intentional with what you're committed to so you can allow yourself to TRULY release when you're on vacation. As Chase says, “It’s a really big asset for my business when I can completely disengage, experience something new and then come back to my work with clear eyes and optimism. From that perspective, with fresh eyes, I can see all sorts of things in my work that I was blind to before!” It might mean working ahead, batching tasks, outsourcing, leaning on teammates — but no matter what, you gotta have a game plan for stepping away.

Note: you can use the Energizer Project Planning Method to figure out exactly what the most critical projects are before you leave.

Learn to travel simple. One of the things we most love to experience in travel is serendipity, those moments you didn’t plan for, the random, beautiful stuff you just kind of fell into. Part of making yourself open to that is lightness in travel. As Chase says, “Now, i can get more technical here: I literally carry one carry-on backpack; that’s all I allow myself. I love this for so many reasons — freedom, agility, presence — but one of my favorite side effects (and likely the reason I’m so addicted to this kind of travel) is that it equates to MENTAL states of freedom and presence. So, it’s not just ‘I don’t have a lot of stuff with me,’ it’s also ‘I’m literally thinking and behaving with more freedom,’ and that can change your damn life.”

Note: Corbett and Chase share a little moment of glee in the episode when this comes up. You can almost hear Corbett squeal in delight.

Another Note: Chase is so taken with traveling lightly that he has a whole youtube channel devoted to it. And it’s growing, too!

What have you learned about traveling as an entrepreneur? Share what you’ve learned in the comments below because we’d love to hear them!

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Today’s episode is sponsored by Aaptive: Fizzle members can get 30 days free when you go to Fizzle.co/aaptive and use the code “FIZZLE” when you signup.


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