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Building Blocks of a Successful Start Up

Written by Brandi Bennett

Monday, June 9th, 2014


productivity key

There are many different areas that need work in order to ensure that a business start up becomes successful. The business plan must be solid, the product or service being offered must either be necessary or be presented in a manner that makes it desirable to others, and the management and leadership of the organization must be top notch. If any of these fail it may mean the downfall of the business.

In spite of these possibilities, there are other aspects that are just as important, offering a firm foundation on which the business may blossom, ensuring that even if there are hiccups in other areas that the business will be able to pick itself up and carry on.

Good Business Habits

In order for a business to succeed, those who are responsible for the business must work to ensure that they have implemented good business habits.  Some examples would be prompt responses, attention to detail, appropriate risk management strategies, and a clear directional path for the organization.  If ingrained early on, it will be possible for the business to continue even if an issue arises. A manager who has failed in their duties will be able to affect the company far less if all employees have already had a sense of detail and a firm grasp on the company’s direction instilled within them, as one example.


Productivity is an equally important task. If an organization works to ensure that all of their employees stay productive during the work day, the chances of that productivity trailing off, or of a lack of productivity affecting the business itself, drastically decrease. If all employees have a sense that while they are at work they are there to work, the chance of something detracting from that and causing issues for the business are far less, allowing the business to fly more smoothly through crisis situations.

Pulling it all Together

It’s not always possible to devote one’s full time to a new business. New entrepreneurs often maintain their existing employment while getting a new business up and running. However, by working to instill best practices in yourselves and in your workers, that new business beomes far more likely to succeed!

Image Source: (2014). Productivity. Retrieved from

A Quick Primer on Google’s Panda 4.0 Update

Written by Brian Rakowski

Friday, June 6th, 2014

In Chinese culture, the panda bear is considered be a symbol of peace. So why did Google name one of their best known – or maybe most notorious is more like it – major algorithm updates that has caused a lot of headaches in the SERP’s over the past few years after this wonderful animal?

To be ironic?

Who knows, but since there are a lot of people that are trying to figure out how to “beat” it (first step, stop always being reactive) and there is a ton of speculation out there on it, I want to take a few minutes to distill what’s being said with a few thoughts.

A Quick Recap Of Panda

Google makes hundreds of tweaks to their search algorithm every year, but the updates that are especially impactful typically get internal code names like Vince, Caffeine, Hummingbird (this is a core rewrite to a major part of their natural language query engine, so calling it an update is an understatement), Penguin and Panda.

The Panda updates are geared towards content quality on a website and are intended to boost higher quality sites while punishing other site’s that have primarily two things:

  • Thin or spammy content
  • Duplicate content

The idea with the Panda updates is to try and send searchers to sites with high quality, helpful, unique and relevant content that’s going to satisfy the intention behind their query in the best way possible. One could definitely argue that’s the point of Google’s entire search algorithm, but this is all about the content side of the equation.

SEO Joke gets Eaten By A Rabid Panda


SEO Visibility


Since there’s not currently a lot of hard data out there on what exactly is being targeted other than the general stuff I mentioned above, I wanted to provide a quick example of a site that got hit hard which will hopefully provide some insights.

Disclaimer: I don’t mean this as a post to call out for doing anything wrong, since I think this is an extreme example of a site being de-ranked vs. completely penalized. The former rewards competitors for producing better content while the latter is a direct slap to the face with a stern “No!” in response for doing something against Google Webmaster’s Guidelines which often results in dropping 100+ spots. Hopefully, they’ll bounce back soon.

As you can see, saw a MASSIVE drop which coincides with Panda 4.0 which was officially announced early evening on 5/20/14. Many SERP trackers like Mozcast and Algoroo saw big fluctuations earlier than that, though.

SEO Graphs

Considering there was another announced update which reported went into effect around May 17th or so which targets traditionally spammy queries/niches like payday loans, it’s hard to tell exactly which update we’re dealing with. It could very well be a combination of the two depending on the verticals each tracker is targeting. Nonetheless, you can see that there was a pretty large shakeup in SERP’s around then.

So Where Did They Lose Visibility, And What May Have Caused It?

When I dug into what may have happened using one of my favorite tools, Searchmetrics, I immediately noticed that the vast majority of the drop happened with a handful of specific subdirectories. So what’s going on with them that could have caused the panda to get so angry?
SEO Organic Directories on

Scraped Content From Other Authority Sites

So let’s check out some pages in the /question/ subdirectory to see if we can find some things from a content standpoint that might be causing the cataclysm.

Considering that I work in the web hosting industry, I decided to check out questions related to “Web Hosting & Domain Registration”, and a question about TLD’s (Top Level Domains) immediate stood out to me. Here’s what I found when I clicked over to the page:

What Is A TLD
I immediately noticed how little unique content is on the page, since the vast majority is just scrapped from other sources like eHow and Wikipedia. Even the direct answer to the question at the top of the page appears to be part of the Wikipedia description on the right with an additional sentence. No bueno.

When I clicked through to the Wikipedia link on to top right, I’m taken to what is essentially an entire scraped post from this Wikipedia page.

What About User Experience?

When it comes down to one of the main things that Google cares about, the user’s experience, I don’t think that is 100% in the wrong. Sure, it would be much more valuable if they expanded on the topic by including unique additional reading that they produced vs. scraping it from other sites, but I also think that there’s value from the searcher’s perspective in having these related resources available on one page. In this example, the question is answered, and there’s additional reading that’s readily available without having to go back to Google if the searcher needs more information.

That seems like a good user experience to me, but I think this is definitely one of those cases where both sides can be argued, especially since there are so many sites that do similar things which don’t add any value to the user.

What do you think?

Do sites which primarily just act as content syndicators provide value to their users?

Should search engines like Google show the multiple sources to the searcher instead?

Is Google overstepping its bounds by essentially forcing the internet to adhere to its vision/standards vs. just arranging and displaying the world’s knowledge as they originally intended?

Google’s Thirst For Quality Content Continues

While this isn’t intended to be a definitive case study on Panda 4.0, I think provides some possible examples of why a huge site lost a lot of visibility in Google due to thin and/or duplicate content issues with some of their top subdirectories.

If there’s enough interest, I’d be happy to take a deeper dive into additional large sites that may have been affected by Panda 4.0, so if you’d like to see that, please let me know in the comments!


Stand Out On Pinterest With Rich Pins

Written by Kyler Patterson

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014


If you haven’t started using Pinterest to share your products and blog posts yet, then you should start doing so. Especially if your target market happens to include a fair percentage of females. Although it may sound cliche, I will still say it: Go where your customers are. And Pinterest is definitely home to a lot of active users. But how do you stand out in the crowd of pins? The answer is actually pretty easy.


Rich Pins

If you’ve been following the HostGator blog and have implemented some of the suggested seo strategies, then you’ve likely already optimized content such as meta data and share buttons. If you’re using WordPress or another CMS, you may be able to find a plugin to add these if you haven’t already. For sites created without a Content Management System, you will need to manually add these tags onto your pages. For information on what is needed for Rich Pins and how to apply, please review the Rich Pin Documentation.


What Do Rich Pins Do?

Simple Answer: Make You Stand Out. Whether on the home page or within a board, there is a sea of pins. With Rich Pins, you will pop out in the crowd. Take a look at this picture of a Pinterest live feed:


You may have noticed that, unlike most of the other pins on the page, the HostGator pins display:

  • The title in bold
  • The associated Favicon
  • The title of the source blog

These extra cosmetic enhancements make these pins stand out in the crowd, drawing the audience’s attention. If you have physical products on your page with prices, it will even show the price! This shows the viewer that the product is for sale and if they like what they see, they’re just a click away. But the enhancements don’t just stop on the boards. Your actual pin has new features too. Taking a closer look:


Just like on the board, you’ll see some of the same features: bold title, blog title, favicon, but also the Author’s name. For products, you’ll also see the price. However, there’s one additional feature that is not just helpful for SEO, but will show even more content to your readers, enticing them to click your site’s link! This is your meta description data! For most blogs/product pages, this is the first few sentences of your content. But for those who know how to optimize their meta description, this can be your sales pitch! If used properly, you should start driving targeted leads to your page straight from Pinterest.


How To Get Rich Pins?

First you need to make sure your page is optimized for this. The link for tips on this is posted earlier in this article. After you’re optimized, you can validate the pin using the Rich Pin Validator. If successful, it will allow you to Apply. The turnaround time on this can vary from a single day up to several weeks.


Hopefully this helps you stand out on Pinterest! Good luck!


Do you have other Pinterest tips? Please share them in the comments below.

The Science Of Video Marketing For Small Businesses

Written by Jeremy Jensen

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

The Science Of Video Marketing For Small Businesses

Nothing in the world of marketing can convey a message as dynamically as the combination of motion, sound and colorful graphic animation. While a picture is said to be worth 1,000 words, a one minute video is said to be valued at 1.8 million words, according to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research. Due to our modernly low attention spans of 8 seconds, video promotion has been determined to be 600% more effective than print and direct mail combined.

It’s no wonder that as we shift into the future of content marketing, video remains at the forefront being used by 93% of marketers in their campaigns. Although it can be intimidating for small businesses to compete with the high-end production large corporations advertise with, independent production companies have never been more accessible. We’re here to show you how to make video marketing affordable, while also providing tips on how less can be more.


You Can Afford It

Ten years ago there were not 6,455 licensed video production companies in the United States. Since the advent of commercialized video equipment, film enthusiasts everywhere have been able to afford their own professional gear, and create start-ups independently.

Whether they attended a film school, educated themselves online, or went the DIY approach, the talent is out there and so is their competition. Just because a company is new, doesn’t mean they can’t provide you with exactly the standard of quality you’re seeking.

Things To Consider When Looking To Hire A Video Company:

  • Cost - Ask for a price quote up-front, every company will be different. Newly graduated and ambitious film students can often produce a much higher quality video than ‘professional’ companies at half the price or less.

  • Film Reel/Portfolio - Check out their work and see if their capabilities match what you’re looking for. While many aspects to film can take years and expensive software to produce, content marketing needs are usually relatively simple.

  • Turnaround - Whether you plan on making one video, or one a week, the turnaround for a finished video is an essential element to consider. Between planning, production, post-production and getting the video online, knowing your time frame is an important aspect to keeping your content consistent and your viewers engaged.


The Do-It-Yourself Approach

Perhaps hiring someone else just isn’t in the budget right now, and that’s alright. Making your own videos has never been easier, and can be done for under $50. Here are some tips to consider when getting started:

  • Pre-Production - Decide what you need, and have a definitive script/plan for what you want to shoot before looking into renting the gear.

  • Equipment - Many successful marketing videos have only required a web cam or an iPhone to get the companies message across. The bottom line is providing content your viewers want to engage with. If the look and sound are crucial to you, try renting from a reputable company like:


  • Editing and Post - There is an outstanding amount of free software that has everything you’ll need to create a final cut of your video. If you’re looking to invest in a professional program, we recommend tyring:


  • Uploading - Having your video seen is the whole point, but getting it online can be tricky for those of us less familiar with file sizes and formats.

    • File Size - Sometimes the file we export can be far too large to get online. If this is the case, try handbrake, a free conversion software to make your video file smaller but still retain the same qulaity in sound and resolution.

    • Format - Most programs will have ‘built in settings’ for where you’re attempting to upload a file. For instance, Adobe Premiere has built in YouTube and Vimeo settings to optimize how your video streams online.


Video Marketing Tips

With how popular video has become for marketing purposes, it’s a good idea to know what has been working:

  • Keep It Short - Even video has a tough time keeping our attention. Videos under 1-minute have shown to retain viewers 80% up to the 30 second mark, while those 2-3 minutes in length still see 60% retention.

  • Keep It Light - Humor and personality are not bad things when it comes to conveying professionalism. Culturally we’ve lost touch with the human aspect to business, and the greater connection you make with your viewers the more likely they’ll choose to engage with your service.

  • Make Sure Your Customers Can Find You - Just because you captivated their attention, doesn’t mean you mentioned how to get to your location. Include your address, phone number, website, and e-mail either in the video or somewhere noticeable on the page the video is hosted on.

  • Make It Seen - Most videos will never go viral, but taking the time to share it yourself can guarantee additional views. Promote your video by:

    • Investing in an online ad campaign

    • Share it with your e-mail contacts

    • Post it on Social Media

    • Post it publicly on YouTube

    • Embed it on your own website

    • Front a small cost for online services that can promote it for you


It may seem like an awful lot of work, but there’s no doubt that to remain competitive you need video. Soon you’ll come to realize how fun creating one can be, as well as how beneficial having a face your customers can recognize will be to your business.


Image Source:

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