The Roaring PJ - A Social Media Blog

Ask These Seven Questions Before Hiring an SEO Agency

Posted on by Melanie Yunk

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Effective search engine optimization (SEO) requires you to stay updated on best practices and quickly adapt to Google’s changes. Many businesses turn to SEO agencies to help navigate this important marketing element, given the time-consuming nature of understanding and implementing proper and useful SEO.

How does a company embark on a search to find the bestSEO agency? We recommend seeking out firms that practice tactics that both meet and stay within Google guidelines for SEO. Some SEO agencies employ “black hat” SEO practices that violate a search engine’s terms of service. Repercussions from implementing black hat strategies can range from mild to severe, so it’s best to ensure your agency of choice is on the up and up.

The best way to ensure effective and above-board SEO practices is to hire a legitimate “white hat” SEO company that both collaborates with you and educates you along the way. To do this, we suggest you ask these seven key questions before making a commitment:

  1. How do you collaborate with clients? Look for an SEO agency that intends to spend quality time with you upfront to understand your business, and that will also present keyword recommendations to you for approval. You understand your business and the appropriate words and phrases that describe your products and services better than your SEO company, after all! Since the keywords will be implemented in main headlines and copy on your web pages, collaboration and approval to ensure accuracy are downright critical!
  2. Will you educate us, too? We believe the best SEO agencies not only perform great and effective work, but they also teach clients about the methodology and rationale for the work they conduct. If the agency doesn’t want to teach you about the art of SEO, this should be seen as a red flag. Perhaps the agency doesn’t place value on customer service, or the practices are too simple or a little shady.
  3. What reports will you send and how often? Consider clear, frequent and easily understandable reports essential. Ask about the types of reports the SEO agency uses before signing on the dotted line. In addition, you should always have complete access to and control over your account analytics, both now and in the future when you potentially sever ties with the agency. Ensure the agency will do work through your analytics accounts, not through their proprietary account where you won’t have access. To do this, set up your Google Analytics and Google Search Console Accounts and then make your agency contact a “user” of those accounts while you retain ownership; you will own the account, and you can always revoke the agency’s user privileges when or if necessary. It the SEO agency isn’t down with this plan, show them the door.
  4. How do you stay updated on SEO policies and how often do you update your best practices? Since you aren’t an expert on SEO, the answer to this question may challenge you. However, look for a methodical approach to how this SEO company stays abreast of changes in the landscape. Consider how often the team participates in formal education on the topic. Ask where they turn for the latest information. If nothing else, be sure they mention Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, Google’s “official news on crawling and indexing sites for the Google index.” If the team doesn’t have this site bookmarked, or isn’t consulting news sources that write about the latest algorithms, you should be concerned about where and how they get the latest and greatest information.
  5. What SEO methodologies do you use? You are hiring an agency because you aren’t an SEO expert. But, you need to arm yourself with some very basic knowledge of SEO to make an informed decision about the authenticity of the firm you are paying to keep your company searchable. Remember that black hat practices may land you in search engine jail and ignorance is no excuse! Reputable publications frequently publish content on this topic, and a quick search of “black hat SEO techniques” will yield plenty of research like this Forbes article. If a potential agency even suggests any of these techniques, run!
  6. How much time will this require of me? Understand who from the agency will be leading your project and his or her process for keeping deliverables on time. Ask how you will know when you need to be involved and how much time will be expected of you in the startup phase and then on an ongoing basis. For example, you will likely need to update website copy to properly reflect the keywords and ensure keyword density. Is the SEO agency clear about expectations, timelines and turnaround times? Do the time frames work for you?
  7. What complementary services do you offer? For your new SEO to be implemented, updated copy and web pages will be necessary. Does the agency offer copywriting and development services in the event you or your previous vendors can’t execute on a new plan? Or, can they point you in the direction of such services if needed?

Be sure you are hiring the best and brightest for your company’s SEO. Arm yourself with general SEO knowledge – especially SEO practices to avoid – and ask key questions before hiring an SEO agency. When researched and executed properly, SEO drives valuable visitors and demand to your company; don’t miss out on potential customer or clients because you didn’t do your homework or ask the right questions!

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What’s the Fuss About Influencer Marketing? Yet Another Spin on Reputation Management

Posted on by Melanie Yunk

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Recently, we’ve explored a few topics around business reputation management and customer review acquisition. Now, we will look deeper into paid influencer marketing and sponsored content, yet another tactic for proactive reputation management.

At Roaring Pajamas, we believe that managing a business’ reputation proves a mission-critical task. As part of reputation management, we recommend proactively seeking customer reviews on online review sites to help drive increased awareness, interest and business. Influencer marketing is yet another way a business can proactively manage a reputation. Since paid influencer marketing and sponsored content effectively equate to advertising, a business must fully understand the legality around engaging with a blogger, social media influencer, media personality or even a celebrity for endorsement of products or services.

The FTC Endorsement Guides reigns supreme on all legal matters around sponsored content. The Guides reflects the truth in advertising law and are regularly updated to ensure currency with marketing tactics – particularly paid influencer marketing tactics such as sponsored posts on blogs and social media. The Guides indicate that people who receive compensation to promote or review a product should disclose that relationship clearly and conspicuously, stating:

“Endorsements must be honest and not misleading. An endorsement must reflect the honest opinion of the endorser and can’t be used to make a claim that the product’s marketer couldn’t legally make. In addition, the Guides say if there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that consumers would not expect and it would affect how consumers evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed.”

All very straightforward and understandable, but we wanted to get the inside scoop on best – and legal – practices directly from a real-life influencer. With the goal of creating guidelines for businesses looking to jump into the paid influencer marketing game, and to wade through the intricacies of disclosing paid or in-kind product or service reviews, we asked Adriele of StyleAssisted for her expert advice. Adriele, a style and beauty blogger, often works with brands on product reviews. We knew we could count on her to explain both the legal and ethical responsibilities a business must understand before delving into the world of sponsored content. And, in the vein of full transparency, Adriele shared her expertise with us and, in exchange, Roaring Pajamas will train her on key SEO tactics. (See how that works? Honest, upfront and a win-win!)

Adriele kindly explained to us her approach to sponsored content and influencer marketing, which ensures she remains both completely legal in the eyes of the FTC and authentic to her readers and followers. Across all StyleAssisted channels, Adriele

  • Always errs on the side of caution and carefully removes any potential appearance of impropriety
  • Never reviews a product or service she doesn’t like and wouldn’t buy otherwise
  • Always clearly discloses sponsored content
  • Always makes it clear when she reviews a product or services for which she was not compensated, thus erring on the side of caution and assuming that someone believes it is sponsored

Trustworthiness and authenticity are character traits Adriele holds dear personally, but also professionally; readers and followers respond to someone they trust, someone on whom they can rely to tell them the honest truth. This not only allows her to sleep at night but is a bankable business policy for the StyleAssisted brand.

To put paid influencer marketing best practices into action, Adriele offers these insights:

  • Larger brands typically use contracts that state exactly how and where sponsorship must be disclosed. Some brands insist that the reviewer state the relationship at the very top of the post or at the start of a video, and some provide the actual language and hashtags to be used.
  • Smaller brands may not use contracts with such detailed information, so it is up to the reviewer to determine the appropriate way to disclose the relationship.
  • Sponsored posts on social media must always very clearly include #ad or #sponsored. Note that even on Twitter, with a 140 character limit, sponsorship still requires disclosure. Don’t worry, though, #ad only takes up three characters and keeps you out of heaps of trouble!
  • For gifted products, bloggers and influencers typically indicate an item is “c/o and a link to XYZ company.” This notation indicates that the item was given by/in care of a specific company.

Finally, Adriele also reminded us that the business is ultimately responsible for what a paid third party – blogger or otherwise – does and says on the business’ behalf. In fact, the FTC Guide make this point very clear in stating,

“Your company is ultimately responsible for what others do on your behalf.”

With Adriele’s insights and our own experience in initiating blog marketing campaigns for clients, we arrived at simple recommendations for a business to use when considering sponsored content. Influencer marketing allows a business to engage with new audiences, gain exposure and showcase products or services through the blogs, social media and other channels of an outside person. However, a business must be cognizant of the legal and ethical issues surrounding this practice. To that end, here are Roaring Pajamas’ three key guidelines for businesses that engage in paid influencer marketing:

  1. Clear Disclosure: Paid – in kind or in cash – reviews or endorsements by third parties must be very clearly disclosed at the onset of a post or statement. This includes disclosure of special discounts available only to the person reviewing the product or service.
  2. Truthful Statements and Practices: Reviews and endorsements of a product or service by a third party must be truthful and accurate. Plus, clear disclosure of a compensated relationship and an accurate depiction of a product or services behooves a business for legal reasons, but also to remain trustworthy in the eyes of the target audience – be it a potential or existing consumer, customer, client or patient.
  3. No Ignorance: Claiming ignorance on how – or if – a paid influencer marketing relationship is disclosed doesn’t fly; a business is responsible for what others do on its behalf. A detailed contract with specifications for placement and wording around disclosure helps to ensure proper and legal execution of sponsored content.

At Roaring Pajamas, we firmly believe in proactive management of a business reputation and are proponents of using all available methods to achieve a positive and accurate characterization of a business in all forms of media. We encourage our clients to consider paid influencer marketing and content, and we even strategize and execute on these tactics for them. We always insist on transparency and truth in advertising and work hard to find influencers who appropriately reflect a brand and do so with utmost authenticity and integrity.

Do you have experience with influencer marketing? We’d love to hear your views and best practices!

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How to Protect Yourself from Address Lookup Sites

Posted on by Melanie Yunk

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Have you ever Googled yourself and found personal details shockingly easy to uncover? A slew of address lookup sites make personal and sensitive information readily available and at the fingertips of anyone who wishes to find someone’s address. Unnerving as it may be to find a listing with your current home address, past home addresses, former names (usually maiden names), relatives and acquaintances, these address lookup companies exist and thrive – and even charge money to dispense of your seemingly confidential whereabouts and history.

While most of us find the easy availability of information on certain websites irritating and alarming, for some the accessibility of this information may prove outright dangerous and potentially life threatening. For example, some lawyers, investigators and doctors live with the possibility of an angry or unhinged client, defendant or patient looking to threaten or do them harm. Address lookup sites provide the first step for a vexed subject to take ill-advised actions.

Given the gravity of such a situation, how is one able to protect him or herself from an address lookup site that exposes this sensitive information? We recommend that professionals adhere to three important practices to keep private information private:

  1. Vigilance in searching for one’s address online
  2. Diligence in requesting addresses be changed or removed
  3. Persistence in ensuring an address is changed or removed

By way of example, we work with a client for whom it is imperative that a home address is not available, yet who found the home address plastered across the internet and various address lookup sites by an unhappy former associate. Here is how we keep our client’s home address safe:

On a regular basis, we vigilantly conduct extensive Google searches on the client’s name, address, business and other pertinent details. We also occasionally find sites with this information that don’t come up in search results during our regular search. We keep track of the dates of each search, search terms and search results in an extensive tracking spreadsheet.

When we find a site with the client’s home address, either through our regular searches or a random site we happen upon, we diligently look for ways to remedy that listing. Ideally, we figure out how to opt out of a listing automatically. We appreciate these address lookup sites that allow us to make our own changes. One site, FamilyTreeNow.com, let’s you opt out of their address lookout on our own! However, we typically need to work a bit harder and reach out via phone or email to the site owner and request that a listing is either totally removed or changed to an office address. Indicating that an address is incorrect – rather than telling them it is sensitive – tends to be the best approach to making a change. We offer a business address as the correct address. Once the request for change has been made, we continue our diligence by rechecking the site to ensure the changes are indeed made. And, we continue to record all of this activity in our tracking spreadsheet.

After a few persistent outreach efforts, if changes are not made, we turn our attention to the domain registry. Through the domain registry, we can typically find contact information. We contact the domain owner with the same request we used previously – and, of course, track it in our spreadsheet. Finally, if all outreach efforts fail to impact change, we take our persistence to the next level and indicate that our lawyers will be in touch.

The key to this entire process is patience while practicing your vigilance, diligence and persistence. Also key is a “rinse and repeat” mentality. Meaning, this isn’t a time-time task, rather an ongoing endeavor with a regular cadence. It takes time, effort and detailed documentation. But, personal safety necessitates this work.

Are you alarmed by the sensitive information so readily available on address lookup sites? Have you taken any action to have your address changed or removed on these sites? We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on staying safe and keeping private information private. Stay safe!

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