Welcome to the New Upstate Synergy!

Welcome to the New Upstate Synergy!

As you’ve probably noticed, we’ve fully overhauled our website and switched our brand name to Upstate Synergy.  Hopefully you like the new look and feel!  It was truly a labor of love that we spent entirely too much time on.  We’re still polishing up some final features here and there so “please excuse the mess” if you come across an old landing page or blog that isn’t formatted correctly. 

Although “Web Synergy of the Upstate” served us well for over five years, the name was too long and our website no longer represented what we really did.  Our first thought was to buy the domain web synergy dot com, but we spent two months trying to contact the domain owner overseas and finally gave up.

Our next thought was to rebrand to a different name completely since all of our larger clients don’t reside in the Upstate of South Carolina.  Tons of potential names were thrown around as we redeveloped this site, but ultimately we decided to stick to our Upstate roots.  

Living in the foothills of SC is a big part of who we are- it just didn’t feel right abandoning that.  So the Upstate Synergy domain name ultimately stayed.

So what’s next for Upstate Synergy?  With a new year and a new brand, we decided to change up our content strategies a little bit.  Our founder Keith Koons has had thousands of followers for many years now in the content marketing niche, and you fine folks represent close to 40% of our total web traffic each month.  It seemed a little silly for us to be giving advice to clients about catering to their visitors while not doing so ourselves.  

 

This was a unique problem for us though since almost half of our traffic comes fron people that will never be our clients.  But then again, they’re our people- writers and digital marketers just like us wo are always searching for new insights.  So do we just chase the all-mighty dollar or focus on giving back?

Blogging for Clients & Our Fans

 

Ultimately, we decided that we have to really ramp up blogging efforts in 2017 with two different series- one that focuses on small businesses looking for web design or branding help, plus another blog catering to novice digital marketers and writers.  Keith will also continue to share client success stories and his own insights as well, so we’re setting the bar pretty high to produce a tremendous amount of content moving forward.

 

Part of that strategy is going to be opening our blog to some great writers that we’ve worked with over the years, so you will start to see a little bit of guest posting moving forward.  If you’d like to be a part of that, shoot an email over to Friends@UpstateSynergy.com with a story pitch and a brief outline.  

 

Just know up front that our content standards are very high and we don’t publish fluff pieces.  If you’re going to get a byline on our site, then it has to be something with actionable advice that directly helps our readers.

 

 

A New Video Blog Series

Additionally, we plan on starting a video series later this year with simple, straightforward advice on topics like creating a powerful digital brand, writing content that converts, building awesome websites and sales funnels, and all sorts of topics on learning about everyday customer engagement.  

We are extremely excited about the video series and we hope that you are too!

Look for this series to start around March or April of 2017.

 

A Kick-Butt Community Forum

Finally, we are also debating whether or not we should add a community forum where our friends and clients can talk about digital marketing.  We’ve always loved sites like Warrior Forum and Digital Point for sharing strategies and just getting to know our peers, but the problem with those places is that they become overrun with big egos.  The solid advice tends to get lost in the cracks far too easily.

So if we did do a forum, we would want to keep it small…maybe even invite only.  We would also have the community moderate to keep the trash talking to a minimum, and just make it a place where folks can share ideas, ask marketing questions or get some quick help.  But to do that, we’d need people like you to share that same vision.

This is one topic where we’d really like to hear your input, so please share some feedback in the comments section below.  

Also, what do you think of the new site?  Did we nail it or not?  We can’t wait to hear your opinion! 

Web Synergy’s “Lunch with Friends” Campaign

Web Synergy’s “Lunch with Friends” Campaign

Lunch with Friends CampaignDo you ever get the feeling that if you could only talk to some of your ideal customers and show them that you’re the real deal; that it could really change things in a dramatic way?

I was thinking about that today when I realized that I have more clients in Los Angeles, Detroit, or Chicago lately than I do in Spartanburg County.  Sadly, my local networking has really been lacking in recent years because I stay so busy with larger national clients.  At the same time though, I started Web Synergy years ago because I wanted to impact local businesses right here in Greenville, Spartanburg, and Asheville…so it’s time for some serious changes.

I decided to start a new “Lunch with Friends” campaign for Spartanburg County and the surrounding cities, and it basically works like this-

  • Visit my online calendar and choose a date to sit down for lunch together
  • When we meet I’ll answer each and every one of your online marketing questions
  • I’ll help you create an action plan to optimize your website and fix any issues
  • We will also look at the fastest way for you to start gaining new customers online
  • I’ll waive 100% of my consulting fees as well…just pick up the check

What am I looking to gain from this?

As I said, I would prefer to have all of my clients locally within the next few years.  I would rather help you out today for free and make a new local contact to network with, or possibly even gain your business.  But either way, you’ll receive my expertise and we both walk away big winners.

So if you’ve been wondering how to significantly boost your online presence, this is the perfect time to learn about search optimization and online marketing from the top authority in the southeast.  I’m looking forward to meeting you soon!

Use Content to Build Links & Your Brand in 2017

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Twenty-Seven Reasons to Never Hire a Website Designer

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Web Synergy’s “Lunch with Friends” Campaign

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The Death of Keywords in 2017

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Creating a Powerful Content Marketing Plan in 2017

One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to search optimization is that it takes mass amounts of content in order for a website to rank favorably.  To this very day, I still see businesses taking the quantity over quality approach…even though...

A Very Merry Christmas to All

A Very Merry Christmas to All

As a child, I can remember feeling sick with anticipation and excitement on Christmas Eve waiting for the morning to arrive; those were easily the longest nights of my life.  Just the thought of Santa somehow appearing in our South Florida home with a sleigh full of presents was more than my small mind could bear…especially since homes in tropical areas don’t have chimneys.  I never could figure that one out.

As an adult, Christmas has a completely different meaning to me.  After all, it is the day we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and for that we have countless reasons to give thanks.  I believe that I am a sinner saved by grace and I have no problem sharing that with the world; even if it is no longer “politically correct” to express my appreciation of God in a public place.  Because let’s face it…this is definitely not the world that was described in the Bible thousands of years ago.

Then again, don’t think that I’m bitter because the birth of our Lord has been transformed into a month-long eCommerce bonanza.  As long as non-believers get into the giving spirit and treat their fellow man just a hair better during the winter holidays, then I can’t help but think that the world is a better place for it regardless.  That’s what Christmas is really about anyway…the act of giving cheerfully…and the Biblical implications can’t be lost there no matter how hard you try.

That’s one of your last marketing lessons of the year- do not be afraid to show the world your religious beliefs during this important holiday season.  It is never in poor taste to say, “Merry Christmas” with a smile and a warm handshake, because you’re relaying exactly what the angels cried out from Heaven in Luke chapter two verse 14- “Glory to God in the highest; have peace on Earth and good will towards men.”  And for those of us who attribute our success to our religious beliefs, it’s the very least we can do to express our religious convictions.

So I’ll say once again, Merry Christmas my friends; and I look forward to working with you again in 2016.  In the meantime, I hope that you have some amazing time off with your family and make lots of cherished memories that will inspire future generations.

Update on PackRise & New Clients

Update on PackRise & New Clients

I just realized that it’s been a few months since I’ve updated my blog, so I wanted to first apologize to my clients and all the other folks that enjoy reading about the finer points of content marketing and search optimization.  I’ve been working extra-long hours recently though and I just haven’t had a chance to post anything worth reading…but you know how that goes.

I’ve also been receiving a lot of emails about my social media site PackRise, and I am as frustrated as you are that we haven’t been able to launch a beta by now.  But I wanted to update you on that journey and sort of give you a first-hand look at how big social media websites get made…which is actually been one heck of a learning experience for me as well.

When I first started asking around for help with PackRise, my original goal was to find a local developer that was strong enough to help complete the core algorithm in-house.  The search actually started back in the fall of 2014, and I’ve yet to find anyone with the proper skill-sets locally.  I’ve even talked to every other web developer in Spartanburg and still came up empty…even the big Greenville agencies couldn’t find anyone to recommend.

So that basically left me with three options-

  • Move to Silicon Valley (which isn’t happening)
  • Work with a solid coder remotely (which I tried three times)
  • Hire a specialty agency to build the entire site (which I can’t afford)

That brought me to the world of angel investing and let me tell you, it’s not anything like you’d expect.  I talked to about a dozen investors total, made it to three face to face meetings, and walked away with for funding from all of them.  But even with the best offer, there were far too many contingencies…and it just didn’t seem worth giving away part of my creative control.

And here’s how a typical investor meeting works.  You email them, give a quick two-paragraph pitch and then send over a very basic business summary.  If the investor likes what he sees, then they ask for the full business plan…and if they like that, they’ll schedule a meeting.  Just getting to this point can take months, however, and then you’ll get an email saying, “Can you meet us in Chicago this Friday at noon?”

So you pack your bags, hop on a flight, book a hotel room and then ultimately sit in a lobby waiting for hours…only to be given three minutes to sell your entire concept.  And even though I covered financial projections and revenue streams, all three investors asked the same first question- how soon can the site be launched with a paid subscription plan?

Now remember, PackRise is a social media site about paying it forward and helping your community, so the last thing I’d want to do is to roll out with a business model that didn’t focus on rapidly building communities.  You can’t do that with a paid subscription model though, at least not on day one, so I thanked each investor for their time and I left empty-handed.

That’s when I started rethinking everything about PackRise and how it should be launched, and I realized that I either needed a great strategic partner or I had to raise the funding 100% on my own.  And for now, I’m going the solo route because it just makes more sense.

For now, I’m working stupid-long hours with an increased client load, plus I’m knocking out a book, “Thrive as a Freelance Writer.”  I haven’t shopped publishers yet, but I think a niche book explaining my journey and helping folks earn a legitimate income writing online could have pretty big potential- I’m covering everything in it from SEO to copywriting, finding clients and time management.

So cross your fingers for me- I’m hoping to get enough of a book advance to go all-out on a crowdfunding campaign for PackRise.  I do have a solid plan of action anyway…it’s just a much longer, slower route than anyone wanted me to take.

I promise to keep you updated more regularly though, and please be sure to start liking/following me on my business social media sites.  That will be critical for me in the months to come.  And please, keep sending the referrals of your business contacts that need marketing/copywriting help…I can sleep when I’m 80.  =)

And hey, how about them 12-0 Panthers!  Go Cam go!

The Independence Day Lesson in Communications

The Independence Day Lesson in Communications

Happy Independence Day everyone!  Hopefully you’re in the process of lighting up those barbeque grills, telling your kids that they can’t play with the sparklers until its dark outside, and packing up your coolers to go see some awesome fireworks.  That’s what Independence Day is all about; being with your loved ones and celebrating the birth of our nation.

So once again, I say happy 4th of July everyone.  Just be sure to be responsible on the way home since there will be police checkpoints everywhere tonight.

While I still have your attention though, I couldn’t help but bring up some current events that has really bothered me lately.  The Charleston shooter Dylan Roof trying to start a race war, and the amazing message of love from Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.  The landmark passing of gay marriage and the arguments that it’s created.  The demands for South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag.  Or Donald Trump’s demand to secure the Mexican borders from rapists, drug dealers and murderers.
Lately, it’s been one rant after another…and they are all focused on stripping away our individual Independence.

I am proud to say that I’m a happily married white male heterosexual Christian that was born and raised in the United States, and I respect the heck out of our forefathers for the liberties we were given.  By law, we can say and do almost anything in our pursuit to find happiness in this country, and I am a firm believer in pro-choice for virtually every political hot topic you can name.  That’s what the United States has always been about- the right to choose and live free.
Then again, we are expected to be “politically correct,” even when it goes against everything we’ve been raised to believe.  Take gay marriage, for example…I am thrilled that homosexuals can now form a lasting union in the eyes of the law.  I believe that the spirit of the constitution was meant to grant these rights to all Americans, and it’s about time that the government got this one right.  And it’s even more important for our nation because it’s establishing a right for a minority voice.

At the same time, however, my Christian upbringing tells me that it’s a sinful lifestyle.  I am against homosexuality because my God commands me to be, but I am certainly not against homosexuals.  Every single one of us is a sinner and the Bible never once says to hate those living in sin…it actually says the exact opposite.  We’re supposed to love everyone and try to help them, even if we disagree with their lifestyles.

You know who else thought that equality wasn’t the way to go?  Hitler.  Napoleon.  Stalin.  Genghis Khan.  Kim Jong-um.  Very, very bad people.

When we look at the other side of the coin though, people like Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Confucius and Thomas Jefferson taught the exact opposite- they wanted real equality.  That’s the kind that can only exist when everyone has an even playing field and NOBODY is told that their views do not matter.  Yet that’s what we do every single day on TV, through the media and every outlet we can think of…we tell others why what we believe is more important than everyone else around us.  Folks, that’s just hate and racism…no matter how nicely you sugar-coat it.

Until our leaders begin to accept that simple truth, organizations like the NAACP and the LGBT will continue to be just as racist as the KKK.  But who’s right and who’s wrong?  It really doesn’t matter if we’re only going to focus on our personal goals and say the heck with everyone else.

NYC Independence DayAs a country, we are more divided than ever before because of our freedoms, and we often use it as an excuse to not even consider opposing viewpoints.  By definition, that makes those types of people a racist, a communist and about a dozen other words I will not use here- but it’s 100% true nonetheless.  We all tend to forget that there can be a middle-ground where everyone’s beliefs are respected…even if they’re not accepted as a popular viewpoint.

Just remember, as Americans we are all granted equal rights to define our own little slice of happiness.  But if you don’t stop and consider all viewpoints before passing judgement, then you’re making our Constitution just a little bit less powerful every time.  And while it’s your right to do so, I would hope that we are better than that as a nation.

So as you celebrate your Independence tonight, I want you to do one very important thing for me.  Take a look around you and see how diverse we are as a nation.  As those colorful fireworks explode over your head, remember that it was a long, hard road to arrive at where we are today.  And the path forward will likely be even harder still, but it’s not too late for you to be a champion for America.

It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, black, brown or white, Republican or Democrat, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or Muslim…you can do a little better to respect the viewpoints of others around you.  That’s the principle that this amazing nation was formed on, and that’s what makes it the most incredible country on the planet.

So the next time you disagree about politics, do what those brave men and women at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church chose to do- let love conquer hate and put a stop to this senseless racism among us.  Have a great Fourth of July everyone.

Unveiling Google’s Latest Algorithm Change- The Phantom Update

Unveiling Google’s Latest Algorithm Change- The Phantom Update

Google Phamtom UpdateShortly after Google’s Mobilegeddon update last month that rewarded mobile friendly websites in smartphone searches, a small portion of domain owners began to report unexpected changes in their core Google rankings.  Some of them almost instantly experienced increased visibility site-wide while others witnessed the exact opposite.  Something had obviously changed behind the scenes- but what?

 

These speculations eventually became known as the “Google Phantom Update”.

And although actual proof of an update was virtually non-existent, one thing was for certain- it made the search optimization community extremely nervous.  Google remained completely silent on the matter and outright denied any changes; some would say too silent.  That has become standard operating procedure for the search engine giant, however, to prevent those who try to artificially manipulate SEO from gaining unfair advantages.

At first, it was believe to be a stealth form of a Penguin or Panda update, but dozens of Google executives quickly dispelled the notion.  Neither Panda nor Penguin had changed…all of their search animals are still in the barn and behaving normally.

Gary Illyes of the Google Webmaster Trends Team finally broke the silence earlier this week at a marketing expo in Sydney.  He claimed that the core algorithm had been updated to better identify quality websites, although he would not specify what those changes actually were.  Since Google uses over 200 distinct signals to determine website rank, it is very difficult to pinpoint this type of “across the board” update when you’re on the outside looking in.

So what actually changed in the Google Phantom update?

That is still speculative at this time since it requires study of the websites hit hardest in the latest algorithm change.  For example, Paul Edmondson, the founder of HubPages, reported seeing a 22% decrease in search traffic literally overnight.  Popular tutorial sites like WikiHow, Answers.com and eHow also saw dramatic changes in their natural traffic patterns, making search experts believe that the latest algorithm update was designed to discredit informational websites.

Rest assured though, this is certainly not true…sort of.

Instead of focusing on a particular type of industry, the latest algorithm change is simply taking into consideration the content provided at the sub-domain level across a website.  It appears that the companies seeing the hardest hits are the ones with a wide range of content stemming from numerous sources, with many of the pages falling below what would be considered professional standards.

For example, HubPages has tens of thousands of contributors worldwide that discuss almost every imaginable topic.  And with any large organization that focuses on mass production of content, quality assurance often takes a backseat to quality.  Since HubPages obviously misinterpreted Google’s intentions when it harshly penalized their weaker content in other recent updates, it appears the search engine giant is now delivering site-wide penalties to make their requirements perfectly clear.  They do not appreciate spammy content- if you have it on your website, get rid of it quickly.

What can we learn from the Phantom Update?  That’s a good question…but also one that you should already know the answer to-

  • Clean up all of your site’s content
  • Either replace or delete under-performing pages
  • Give your visitors a great user experience
  • Focus on providing quality information
  • Do not be over-promotional in your content
  • Avoid generic content at all costs

If any of this seems to sound familiar, it’s because Google has been saying it for over two decades now.  Only this time around, it appears that they’re no longer playing- either clean up all the bad content or risk having the good stuff penalized too.

And just to be perfectly clear, this latest algorithm change was essentially announced by Matt Cutts over a year ago when he talked about low-quality content in general.  While the above video mainly focuses on guest blogging, he also stipulates numerous times that future penalties would relate to any form of spammy content.  He also mentions that those penalties would eventually have effects site-wide…which is exactly what we are now seeing begin to happen.

The intention here is pretty apparent.  If you have low quality content on your website that does not directly lead visitors to take action, then your entire domain is now subject to scrutiny.  It really is that simple, so I suggest that you take an extremely close look at your directories and make the appropriate changes as quickly as possible.