Why You Shouldn’t Work with a Virtual Agency

Choosing the right agency is a big deal. It is often overwhelming, stressful, and filled with lofty (occasionally empty) promises.

Cities are increasingly crowded with digital agencies fighting for relevance, battling for new accounts and trying to separate themselves from the rest. And recently, virtual agencies have burst into the market, offering businesses another agency option.

You might be considering working with a virtual agency, or this may be completely new to you. In either case, let’s take a look at a few factors that may determine whether or not a virtual agency is the right fit for you.

You shouldn’t work with a virtual agency if…

    1. In-person meetings are of high importance to you. Hand shakes. Eye contact. Power stance. If the psychological mind games played in the boardroom are the highlight of your afternoon, you’ll hate having a remote partner.
    2. You love conference rooms and whiteboards. Dry erase markers are really cool, and we understand if you just can’t give them up. Screensharing a presentation from your own desk just isn’t the same.
    3. You want drinks and eats at every meeting. Bagels, mixed nuts, and cheese trays are the swag bags of having an agency partner. However, if you’re working with a virtual firm, you’ll have to BYOB.
    4. You love travelling around your city. You’ll have meetings, whether you choose a local agency or a remote one. The difference is the travel. Those 15-30 minute trips each way can be a breath of fresh air in your work day…or not.
    5. You’re positive that your exact geographical area represents the best available talent. We’re not naming any names here, but there are some cities that are positive they have the market cornered on creative talent. I mean, if someone was good, they’d certainly move there…right?
    6. Your team has perfectly synced calendars. If getting all the decision makers in the car and across town once a week isn’t a problem, then being able to call in from any phone or computer for a meeting won’t seem like much of a benefit.
    7. You are comfortable using unfamiliar toilets. What is it about meetings that inevitably make you have to visit new restrooms?

You should work with a virtual agency if…

    1. You like to have a high level of communication. For virtual agencies, it’s much easier to coordinate schedules for meetings, since everything is done from a phone or computer. Being remote means that absolutely everything has to be written down, stored and shared, which is great for keeping track of communications.
    2. You live in your inbox. With a remote partner, you can balance most of your work needs from in front of your computer. Don’t want to talk to an Account Manager to get access to information? You just log into the project management system and see for yourself. And the majority of your communication is going to be via email – so no more phone tag.
    3. The outcome is more important to you than the outfit. You don’t care about the “prestige” of working with an agency that has swanky office space filled with bearded men wearing flannel shirts buttoned to the top, hanging fixie bikes, full sleeve tattoos, standing desks, wall typography, Indie Spotify playlists or Herman Miller chairs. You just care about selecting an agency that will deliver the goods.
    4. You value efficiency, access and results. Good virtual agencies remove many barriers and give clients full access into all parts of the process, providing increased visibility and transparency. Since results matter and your ass is on the line, you don’t want guess-work or agency speak. You just want to know where, when and how things are running at all times.
    5. You appreciate intentionality and scrutiny. Running a successful virtual agency requires deliberate and intentionality in all things. Meetings, communication, storage, documentation, billing, etc. Because it seems “too good to be true,” virtual firms often overcompensate to prove value and professionalism to their clients.
    6. Competitive rates are a priority for you. Ever wonder if your traditional agency charges so much because they want to build another “think tank” room or hardwood conference table?
    7. Your “typical hours” aren’t typical. Virtual agencies span all time zones and the work day is predicated on client need. That’s a real boon when you send an email at 4:45 PM, and know that your developer two time zones over has several hours left to get back to you.

Listen, we know that a virtual agency isn’t right for everyone.

You need to know what’s important to you when choosing to engage with any agency. Talent, budget, style, portfolio and trust are all going to factor into a your selection process. If you know what matters to your company (and what doesn’t), then it’s easier to choose the best fit for your needs.

Trust us, you don’t want to rush this step. You’ll be happier in the long run if you spend a little more time on this choice.

Does working with a virtual agency sound like a great fit? We’d love to be on your shortlist. Drop us a line, and we’ll stay in touch.



Google Revamps Local Search with New “Snack Pack”

If you live in the digital marketing world, you may have caught the buzz about a big change Google rolled out recently in local search results. If not, here’s a brief recap:

  • The “Local 7-pack” of search results is being replaced by the “3-pack”
  • Specific addresses and phone numbers are not visible without clicking a local result
  • Google My Business pages are now not linked in local results

If you want more information on the specifics of the changes, when it was seen, where it’s been seen, what day it rolled out and more detail, I recommend checking out the updates from Mike Blumental or TheSEMPost.

Instead, I want to focus on what this could mean for your business.

Reviews Matter More than Ever

Reviews have always been important in Google’s local search. Having a high number of reviews that are great quality is one of the best ways to have your business show up in map listings and localized search. But with the most recent change, reviews are now a massive differentiator.


With the reduced number of scannable local results, those with a star rating have even more of a visual advantage. Look at this search for “San Francisco lawyer” and tell me whose site you would visit? And the only way to get those stars is to have more than five reviews of your business on Google.

Check Your Analytics

The change hasn’t been live long enough to confirm this, but I suspect local listings with Google My Business pages will start using the “Insights” feature a lot more.

Previously, when doing a local search a user could see the businesses, their address, phone number and hours just by hovering their mouse over a listing. This meant that users could potentially see a listing, hover, get a phone number and call, all without recording any type of tracked action for Google to quantify. Now, that information requires the searcher to click on the listing and get directed to a secondary landing page.

Hopefully all of this means that local businesses will get a better sense of how much visibility they have on Google’s local listings. Time will tell for sure.

Get Ready for Pay-to-Play for Local

The most obvious impact of the change is that there is simply less room for a local business on Page 1. And according to one recently released eye-tracking study, 30% of local searchers are clicking on ads.


In a standard desktop layout, a Google user will see all 10 ad listings, as well as the 3-Pack, before they ever reach the #1 organic result. If your business runs on local search and is highly competitive, you may not be able to risk being that low on the page.

Expect that more local businesses will jump into AdWords as their organic visibility decreases, which means that cost-per-click bids are going to increase as the space gets more crowded.


Ultimately, this new change may end up being a lot of noise over nothing, or it may take a while for the impact to be felt, a la Mobilegeddon. As with many Google changes, it’s nearly impossible to predict. But it’s safe to assume that when it comes to local search, if you’re in the top spot the next few weeks may be very, very good for your local SEO. If not, well…time’s a-wastin’!


Content is King, Quality is Queen

Without quality, content is nothing.

Marketers are ferociously rolling out waves of content to engage with their target audience, build SEO value, and garnish new leads. There’s good reason for this – websites utilizing content marketing have a 6% higher conversion rate and typically save $14 per new customer acquired with inbound marketing.

However, in the race to production, the quality of content can suffer.

Can’t see the forest for the content

In an effort to drive design, efficiency and productivity by creating content quickly, many companies are losing purpose. The purpose of creating meaningful content is to generate and nurture leads and sales. 90% of B2B content is to nurture prospects and influence purchases.

It is easy for content managers to get wrapped up in simply building SEO value. Not to mention the ongoing uphill Sisyphus-like battle involved in getting coworkers to create content and turn it in on time. (Editor’s Note: this post was late…like, really late.) It is easy to lose the purpose of the content you are generating.

Visitors come to you hungry for knowledge that will allow them to stay ahead of the competition and stand out. Does your content feed this need for true value?

Go from quantity to quality

The first company to promote and distribute content of value will rise to the top of thought leadership. Here are my top tips for quality content and good user experience.

Know Your Audience

Understand your buyer personas.

The age old saying is still true: Right message, right person, right time. Build your buyer personas and write content accordingly to help add value and move them down the sales funnel.

Tailor your content for your audience. Is it engaging? Is it compelling? Is it useful?

Have a Voice

Invest in talent that will bring in leads. A common route is investing in a content marketing company to primarily produce your content. Companies like Brafton and Page One provide excellent content creation with a strong focus on growing SEO.

Lead generation will depend greatly on the writers’ ability to speak earnestly to your audience. It is recommended that you have a brand editor, or someone full-time on staff to verify the quality of content being created and make sure it truly builds value for your prospects.

Some companies hire an on-staff writer to generate technical content and create a consistent brand voice. Hiring an excellent writer, whether it be staff or freelance, is a wise investment.

Larger companies, such as IBM and GE, invest in hiring a brand editor to ensure a cohesive voice.

Create Trust

Creating fresh content not only establishes expertise, but leads to trust from your customers and from search engines. In a recent survey, 80% of buyers said they purchased because they trusted the company.

Don’t forget the Quality Assurance! Few things are most distracting or lessen credibility as quickly as a typo, a double space or broken link. Have a dedicated source do the QA for formatting, spelling, grammar, and flow for all content you create.

Forget “Ready, Fire, Aim”

You won’t accidentally make great content. The only way to build the high-relevance, high-value content we’ve been talking about is to have a plan from the beginning.

Only 44% of marketers have a documented content strategy. Understand where you want to lead the user next on your website. In B2B, it typically take 7-13 touch points to convert a visitor to a lead.

Content First

Whether you’re building a landing page, an email, or even an entirely new website, avoid the temptation to leave the content for the end. Design and develop around your content, not the other way around.

The most beautiful and engaging website design is rendered useless if the content doesn’t provide value to the reader.

Test and Re-Test

Experiment with different types of content to discover what engages best with your audience and different stages within the sales cycle.

Try out blog posts, videos, case studies, webinars, microsites. The top 3 B2B content formats searched for during purchase research are whitepapers, case studies, and webinars. Infographics are also leading the way.

A final word: measurement

Analytics are your friend.

The only way you know what is truly meaningful to your prospects is by tracking the engagement of visitors on your website. Analytics gives you a more meaningful picture of how visitors are spending time on your website and what types of content and format resonates best with your audience.

Remember, the purpose of content on your site is to drive traffic, but ultimately generate business. Keep that focus in mind when building your content, and you’ll find your quality standing head and shoulders above the rest.


Why a Responsive Website is Worth the Investment

It’s ludicrous to think about creating a website in 2015 that isn’t responsive, and yet somehow, the conversation keeps coming up.  Typically, it’s about the money. Is it really worth the extra time to develop those scaled-down experiences?

Maybe you need to hear this. Maybe your boss does. Maybe your CFO isn’t familiar with this discussion. Whatever the case, here are five reasons you should feel confident in choosing a responsive website.


A big shout-out to KISSMetrics, the Aberdeen Group and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for our source data.

Speaking of website designs worth the investment, check out how one of our website projects helped land our client an $80 million round of funding.


Featured UpTrender – Ashley Mittiga

This post is part of a series highlighting the talented team of UpTrending. We believe in hiring the best and brightest in all areas of expertise, and it shows in the wide range of personalities and skills we have on our team. But our team members are more than just talented professionals – and you deserve to know them a bit better.

This month, we get to talk with Ashley Mittiga, a member of our Project Management team. Ashley has been an UpTrender since early 2015, and before that, spent time working both in-house and in agency environments.

Give us the 15-second version of your job.

I manage people and I grow gray hair.

Gray hair?

Part of my job is not being able to have control over certain variables. As a project manager, I try to put the pieces of the puzzle together in record time. I am constantly trying to think ahead and predict how things will go and avoid chaos and trouble – but sometimes it just happens, no matter how well you plan.

And when it does, it means delivering bad news to somebody, be that a client or team member. I’m getting better at that part, but it will always be a struggle with me – I don’t like delivering bad news. Who does?

Sounds exhausting. How did you find yourself in this role?

I fell face-first into it. After getting a marketing degree and a masters in business, I thought I would be a big city slicker and work in the fashion industry. Somehow, something didn’t go as planned and I ended up working in HR for a tree service.

Fast forward to present day, and I feel like I blinked and I am here in this position. Not entirely sure how I landed here, but I think I may have found something that I really love to do, and that has silenced my inner desire to be the next Rachel Zoe.

Sounds like serendipity to me.

The funny thing about being in the project management field is that I don’t actually think anyone goes out seeking one of these jobs. Every project manager I have ever met somehow just “fell” into the position. It’s not glamorous, but it takes a very specific skillset – a ton of patience, the ability to deal with things that are often out of your control, and the ability to be incredibly creative when approaching situations.

So what brought you to UpTrending?

I actually stalked UpTrending for a while before I even knew they had a position available. After reading about the team, seeing the work, and learning more about the industries they focus on, I decided to be that creepy person who blindly reaches out and says, “Hey, want to work together?”

Ignoring the premature aging, what’s the best part of your job?

Starting a fresh project is almost like getting to start a new job every time. So my job is always fresh and new and no day is ever the same. I love that my days fly by and I forget to eat lunch or look up at the clock.

What’s your unique approach to project management?

I think I approach every new project like a first date, except good or bad, we still have to go on a second one!

Every project has its own personality. Every team works differently together and every client wants things done differently. The key is being able to get acclimated to all of those variables and finding a process that works. I can usually switch gears quickly and change it up if a process isn’t working right for a particular project.

What is a way that your job delivers personal and professional satisfaction for you?

On my second day at UpTrending, I started a new project. I feel like I didn’t really know what I was doing, so thankfully the client was absolutely amazing and made the struggles, the long days, the crazy deadlines, the multiple daily meetings, and the weekend phone calls all worth it. At the end of two months, I remember being awake for 24 hours and turning the switch for both sites, which we launched on the same day. It felt like the countdown to the ball dropping on New Year’s Eve.

There are also just times that give you a good feeling. Those usually happen when a client comes back with praise about the team, or when something we did causes them to hit their target goals. I get excited when clients love designs or are generally just really happy with the results of something our team did. I reward myself with some wine every time that happens!

Sticking with satisfaction, as an UpTrender, you can live anywhere in the United States. But if you could live anywhere on the globe, where would you land?

I think it would be Ireland or Italy. Although, I have never been to either one, so whether or not those are the spots for me, I’m not sure.

I think a more accurate answer would be I would love to live anywhere out in the country, like on a vineyard or a farm. But I am also afraid of the dark, so I would spend the daylight hours there and then I would have to sleep in an apartment in a gated community with a security guard.

What’s a common misconception or myth about Project Managers?

The belief that we just sit around and tell people what to do all day – basically, that we are paper pushers. Luckily, nobody prints anymore, so I think that rumor is dispelled.

Also, I can see where it would be easy to assume that we just put our feet up all day. At times, I wish that was the case! In reality, what we do is really hard to put into something tangible. A lot of what we do is behind the scenes. We basically organize the daily chaos and make sure the client doesn’t see any of that.

Speaking of unseen things, what is something most people wouldn’t guess about you?

I can’t stand to watch anyone eat alone – it ruins my meal. I wanted to start a “call a friend for lunch” program where lonely people could dine with other lonely people, but then I realized it’s a little creepy. I guess that’s what dating services are for.

Give some advice to everyone out there who works with a Project Manager like yourself.

The only key to working with me is communicating with me in every aspect. Knowing all of the details throughout a project helps me better communicate with the client, stand up for my team members when I need to, and get to know what is going on with my team on every level.

Also, teach me things I don’t know that can help me. I always want to get better. I always want to be resourceful to my team, so I know that requires me to always be on my toes and to always be learning.

If you think working with Ashley (and the rest of our awesome team) sounds good, check out our job opportunities. We’d love to have you become our next Featured UpTrender!


Help Readers Stay Within their WordPress Search Results Using this Simple Concept

Everyone knows that content is king, and one of the ways that you can keep your site fresh is to maintain a blog on your website. This is a great way to engage your audience with relative information to your market, news about your company, and even tips and advice on how to use your service or product.

Once you’ve built up some content, your readers may find themselves searching your site for blog posts relevant to them. But we all know that the first result isn’t always exactly what we’re looking for, or perhaps not the only one that we want to read. So I’d like to present a concept we can use with WordPress that will help readers continue traversing through the results their search returns.

Capture the Results

The first thing we want to do is create a function we can use to retrieve the ID’s of the posts that our search returns.
[php]function ut_search_array( $search_hash ) {
// check for existence of unique transient
if ( false === ( $search_array = get_transient( ‘ut_search_’ . $search_hash ) ) ) {
global $wpdb;

$posts = $wpdb->get_results( $GLOBALS[‘wp_query’]->request );

$search_array = array();

if ( false === empty( $posts ) ) {
foreach ( $posts as $post ) {
$search_array[] = $post->ID;

// save the transient for 10 minutes
set_transient( ‘ut_search_’ . $search_hash, $search_array, MINUTE_IN_SECONDS * 10 );

return $search_array;
This function starts out checking to see if a transient unique to this search result exists. If it doesn’t, we create it using a unique string, the `$search_hash`. This function will return an array of post ID’s. Let’s say for our example that the ID’s it returns are 2, 4, 8, 9, and 11.

Store Data in a Session

Next, we’ll need the plugin WP Session Manager. This gives us a simple way to create sessions with WordPress. We’ll store the search string that was entered into the search box, the search hash – a unique string that WordPress creates when a search is performed – and the array of posts ID’s from the function that we created above.
* Set session search_string
function ut_set_search_string() {
global $wp_query;

$wp_session = WP_Session::get_instance();

// if we’re on a search page, save the search data
if ( !is_admin() && is_search() && isset( $wp_query->query_vars_hash ) ) {
$search_string = $wp_query->query[‘s’];
$search_hash = $wp_query->query_vars_hash;
$wp_session[‘search_string’] = $search_string;
$wp_session[‘search_hash’] = $search_hash;
$wp_session[‘search_array’] = ut_search_array( $search_hash );
// if we’re anywhere else, clear the search data
if ( !is_admin() && !is_search() && !is_single() && is_main_query() ) {
$wp_session[‘search_string’] =
$wp_session[‘search_hash’] =
$wp_session[‘search_array’] = null;
add_action( ‘pre_get_posts’, ‘ut_set_search_string’ );[/php]
This is added on ‘pre_get_posts’ and will let us temporarily store data unique to the current user without them having to be a user in the WordPress database. We can now get this data anywhere else on the site. But take note to where the data is destroyed if they are on certain pages.

Find our Place in the Post ID Array

Now we’ll need a function that we can use inside a post to find out where that post is within the post ID array. So for instance, if we’re on post 4, we’re in the second position in the array. That makes the next post 8, and the previous post 2.
* Get the next or previous post in the array
function ut_get_next_search_result( $next = true ) {
$wp_session = WP_Session::get_instance();

// make sure there’s a search saved in the session
if ( isset( $wp_session[‘search_array’] ) === false ) {
return false;

// set variables
$next_key = 0;
$search_array = $wp_session[‘search_array’]->toArray();
$current_key = array_search( get_the_ID(), $search_array );

// get next or previous location in the array
if ( $next === true ) {
$next_key = $current_key + 1;

if ( isset( $search_array[$next_key] ) === false ) {
$next_key = 0;
} else {
$next_key = $current_key – 1;

if ( isset( $search_array[$next_key] ) === false ) {
end( $search_array );
$next_key = key( $search_array );

// return value from that location
return $search_array[$next_key];
This function merely returns the next or previous post ID according to where you are within the search results array. It does nothing if there is no search array stored, which would be true had we visited a page outside of the search results as set by our second function.

Create the Next and Previous Post Links

Finally, we can use all of the data we’ve stored and the functions we’ve created to give the user a chance to go backwards or forwards within their search results, instead of between all of the posts on the blog.
$prev_url = $next_url = false;
// get next and prev search results or just the links
if ( ut_get_next_search_result() ) {
$wp_session = WP_Session::get_instance();
$prev_url = get_permalink( ut_get_next_search_result(
false ) );
$next_url = get_permalink( ut_get_next_search_result() );
} else {
$prev_url = get_previous_post();
$next_url = get_next_post();
<div class=”single-nav”>
<a href=”” class=”prev”>Previous</a>
<a href=”” class=”next”>Next</a>
This checks to see if a next or previous link exists within the search results. If you’ve arrived on the current post without searching, then it will simply return the chronologically next and previous post links.

There are a few checks and balances I’ve omitted for brevity’s sake, but I hope that you’ll find this technique useful. If you have any questions about using this technique, you can connect with us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, or check out our work on GitHub.