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Nov

28

2016

How to Write an Introduction: A Simplified Guide

writing intros struggle.png

Blink. Blink. Blink. It’s the dreaded cursor-on-a-blank-screen experience that all writers — amateur or professional, aspiring or experienced — know and dread. And of all times for it to occur, it seems to plague us the most when trying to write an introduction.

I mean, you already have a blog post you want to write. Can’t you just dive in and write it? Why all the pomp and circumstance with this dag-blasted introduction?

Here’s the thing — intros don’t have to be long. In fact, we prefer them to be quite quick. They also don’t have to be so difficult, but they do have to exist. They prepare the reader and provide context for the content he or she is about to read. Download our free guide here for tips to become a better writer. 

Let’s break down exactly how to write an introduction that’s short, effective, and relatively painless. And if you’re ever having trouble churning out those intros, come back here and re-read this formula to lift yourself out of that writing rut.

How to Write a Good Introduction: 3 Components to Consider

As a lover of all things meta, I will, of course, use this post’s introduction as an example of how to write an intro. But it contains different components that create an introduction “formula” — you can refer to that when you get stuck with your own.

1) Grab the reader’s attention.

There are a few ways to hook your reader from the start. You can be empathetic (“Don’t you hate it when…?”), or tell a story, so the reader immediately feels some emotional resonance with the piece. You could tell a joke (“Ha! This is fun. Let’s read more of this.”). You could shock the reader with a crazy fact or stat (“Whoa. That’s crazy. I must know more!”).

For this intro, I went the “empathetic” route.

Intro for intros

Writer’s block stinks. Blank screens and taunting cursors — the worst. Who’s with me?

2) Present the reason for the post’s existence.

Your post needs to have a purpose. The purpose of this post is to address a specific problem — the pain in the butt that is writing intros. But, we have to do it, and therein lies the approach to something important: making writing introductions easier.

Present the Reason for the Post's Existence.png

Just because you know the purpose of your post, doesn’t mean the reader does — not yet, anyway. It’s your job to validate your post’s importance, and give your audience a reason to keep reading.

3) Explain how the post will help address the problem.

Now that the reader is presented with a problem that he or she can relate to — and obviously wants a solution — it’s time to let the audience know what the post will provide, and quickly.

In other words, the introduction should set expectations. Take this post, for example. I don’t want the reader to dive in and expect to see a list of reasons why introductions are important. I want you to expect to read about what makes a good introduction. But if I hadn’t clarified that in the introduction, you might have expected the former. After all, be honest — did you skim over or forget the title of this post already? That’s okay. That’s why we tell the reader exactly what the post will provide, and why it’s valuable.

Explain How the Post Will Help Address the Problem.png

The underlined sentenced is a way of saying, “Keep reading.” We already established that there’s a problem — here’s how I’m going to make it easy for you to solve.

Of course, there are other valid ways to write introductions for your marketing content — don’t feel the need to follow this formula for every single piece of content, as some are more casual than others. But, this guide should help provide a solid framework to follow if you’re just getting started, or if it’s just one of those days when the words aren’t flowing.

But what are some examples of great introductions in the wild? We thought you might ask — which is why we picked out some of our favorites.

5 Introduction Paragraph Examples to Inspire You

1) “Confessions of a Google Spammer,” by Jeff Deutsch

Google Spammer Intro

There are a few reasons why we love this introduction. Immediately, it grabs our attention — how the heck did this guy make fifty grand every month? And just from 10 hours a week?

But unlike some spammy comments that might contain a similar sentiment, he almost immediately serves us something unexpected — he tells us not to do that.

Then, he states the true purpose of the blog — to explain why we should “never, never ever follow in [his] footsteps.” In just three sentences, this introduction has captivated us and validated the story’s existence with a looming life lesson. The takeaway? Keep it short, but powerful.

2) “Announcing the public preview of Azure Advisor,” by Shankar Sivadasan

Azure Advisor Intro

Here’s a great example of an introduction that presents a problem and a solution to it. Sure, it’s easy to build apps on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform — but maybe you had some issues with its setup. Well, wouldn’t you know? Azure Advisor is here to address those challenges, and you can preview it for free.

But wait — there’s more. The introduction not only immediately presents a problem and a solution, but it concisely summarizes just how this product provides a fix. And, it explains why the text will be helpful, with the sentence, “In this blog post, we will do a quick tour of Azure Advisor and discuss how it can help optimize your Azure resources.”

That’s a best practice for brands that have made a mistake — even a small one. Technology is great, but it can come with bugs. That’s where an intro like this one can be so helpful. It acknowledges the problem, states what the brand has done to address it, and alerts the reader to continue to learn how that solution will work.

3) “Taste the Season at Sushi Sora,” by Chris Dwyer

Sushi Sora intro

Strong introductions aren’t just important for blogs — they’re essentially to quality editorial pieces, too. That’s why we love this introduction to an article from Destination MO, the Mandarin Oriental’s official online magazine.

Remember that thing we said about a captivating start? In addition to being empathetic or funny, visuals can be huge — not just an actual picture or video, but words that actually help the reader envision what you’re describing. This introduction does just that, with expressive phrases like, “the magical silhouette of Mount Fuji on the horizon.” Well, yeah. That does sound magical. But where can I go for such a view? None other than the “Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo,” the author tells me, especially “from the sushi counter at Sushi Sora.”

Here’s the thing about this intro — it gives the reader something to aspire to. We’ve briefly discussed aspirational marketing before, but this instance is one where it can be used in a brief introduction. After reading this first paragraph, I want to go to Tokyo. And when I’m there, I want to stay at the Mandarin Oriental. Then, I want to take in the views from its high-end sushi restaurant.

With just two sentences, I’ve gone from reading an article with my morning coffee, to fantasizing about a thousand-dollar vacation. So whenever possible, use your introduction to paint a picture, and to help your reader dream.

4) “The Secret Club of Admitting You Suck,” by Janessa Lantz

admitting you suck intro

Let’s read through this introduction from ReadThink together.

I know. I know! I once moved very far away to escape my own failure, too! But I couldn’t admit at the time that I sucked, either! Wow. Janessa Lantz really gets me.

See that? That, right there, is a resounding example of how empathy makes a profound introduction. But how did the story end? Did they buy the house? Did she admit that she sucked? Does she still suck? (Spoiler alert: I work with Janessa and can say, with great confidence, that she is far from sucking.)

The point is, I wanted to keep reading for two reasons — first, I related to the author. Second, it was just plain interesting, and it left me with a cliffhanger. It’s okay to tease your readers. Just make sure you ultimately give them what they’re seeking.

5) “Be a responsible tourist: a PSA from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” by Out of the Blue

responsible tourist intro

I’ll admit it — I’m a sucker for a good travel blog, which is why JetBlue’s official blog appeals to me. But at the same time, I also geek out for almost anything that promotes sustainability. In this piece, those worlds collide.

What makes this introduction work? Honestly, it’s scary. “Decline” and “extinction” are strong words, and absolutely present a problem. But research shows that we’re actually more inclined to keep reading bad news — in fact, a few years ago, our media consumption habits suggested that we prefer it.

But it’s not all bad — and JetBlue quickly turns around a potentially devastating situation with the language of this introduction. And, it includes the reader, by inviting travelers to be part of the solution, but joining the brand in its promotion of responsible tourism.

That’s another formula for presenting bad news to your audience, especially if you’re not the one causing it and you have a solution. Scary information + how you’re helping + how the reader can do his or her part = compelling intro.

Let’s Start

Feeling inspired? Good. Next time you find yourself face-to-face with the dreaded blinking cursor, use these resources and compelling examples to find motivation.

How do you write a good intro, and what are some of your favorite examples? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free guide to writing well

 
free guide to writing well

Nov

28

2016

How to Write an Introduction: A Simplified Guide

writing intros struggle.png

Blink. Blink. Blink. It’s the dreaded cursor-on-a-blank-screen experience that all writers — amateur or professional, aspiring or experienced — know and dread. And of all times for it to occur, it seems to plague us the most when trying to write an introduction.

I mean, you already have a blog post you want to write. Can’t you just dive in and write it? Why all the pomp and circumstance with this dag-blasted introduction?

Here’s the thing — intros don’t have to be long. In fact, we prefer them to be quite quick. They also don’t have to be so difficult, but they do have to exist. They prepare the reader and provide context for the content he or she is about to read. Download our free guide here for tips to become a better writer. 

Let’s break down exactly how to write an introduction that’s short, effective, and relatively painless. And if you’re ever having trouble churning out those intros, come back here and re-read this formula to lift yourself out of that writing rut.

How to Write a Good Introduction: 3 Components to Consider

As a lover of all things meta, I will, of course, use this post’s introduction as an example of how to write an intro. But it contains different components that create an introduction “formula” — you can refer to that when you get stuck with your own.

1) Grab the reader’s attention.

There are a few ways to hook your reader from the start. You can be empathetic (“Don’t you hate it when…?”), or tell a story, so the reader immediately feels some emotional resonance with the piece. You could tell a joke (“Ha! This is fun. Let’s read more of this.”). You could shock the reader with a crazy fact or stat (“Whoa. That’s crazy. I must know more!”).

For this intro, I went the “empathetic” route.

Intro for intros

Writer’s block stinks. Blank screens and taunting cursors — the worst. Who’s with me?

2) Present the reason for the post’s existence.

Your post needs to have a purpose. The purpose of this post is to address a specific problem — the pain in the butt that is writing intros. But, we have to do it, and therein lies the approach to something important: making writing introductions easier.

Present the Reason for the Post's Existence.png

Just because you know the purpose of your post, doesn’t mean the reader does — not yet, anyway. It’s your job to validate your post’s importance, and give your audience a reason to keep reading.

3) Explain how the post will help address the problem.

Now that the reader is presented with a problem that he or she can relate to — and obviously wants a solution — it’s time to let the audience know what the post will provide, and quickly.

In other words, the introduction should set expectations. Take this post, for example. I don’t want the reader to dive in and expect to see a list of reasons why introductions are important. I want you to expect to read about what makes a good introduction. But if I hadn’t clarified that in the introduction, you might have expected the former. After all, be honest — did you skim over or forget the title of this post already? That’s okay. That’s why we tell the reader exactly what the post will provide, and why it’s valuable.

Explain How the Post Will Help Address the Problem.png

The underlined sentenced is a way of saying, “Keep reading.” We already established that there’s a problem — here’s how I’m going to make it easy for you to solve.

Of course, there are other valid ways to write introductions for your marketing content — don’t feel the need to follow this formula for every single piece of content, as some are more casual than others. But, this guide should help provide a solid framework to follow if you’re just getting started, or if it’s just one of those days when the words aren’t flowing.

But what are some examples of great introductions in the wild? We thought you might ask — which is why we picked out some of our favorites.

5 Introduction Paragraph Examples to Inspire You

1) “Confessions of a Google Spammer,” by Jeff Deutsch

Google Spammer Intro

There are a few reasons why we love this introduction. Immediately, it grabs our attention — how the heck did this guy make fifty grand every month? And just from 10 hours a week?

But unlike some spammy comments that might contain a similar sentiment, he almost immediately serves us something unexpected — he tells us not to do that.

Then, he states the true purpose of the blog — to explain why we should “never, never ever follow in [his] footsteps.” In just three sentences, this introduction has captivated us and validated the story’s existence with a looming life lesson. The takeaway? Keep it short, but powerful.

2) “Announcing the public preview of Azure Advisor,” by Shankar Sivadasan

Azure Advisor Intro

Here’s a great example of an introduction that presents a problem and a solution to it. Sure, it’s easy to build apps on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform — but maybe you had some issues with its setup. Well, wouldn’t you know? Azure Advisor is here to address those challenges, and you can preview it for free.

But wait — there’s more. The introduction not only immediately presents a problem and a solution, but it concisely summarizes just how this product provides a fix. And, it explains why the text will be helpful, with the sentence, “In this blog post, we will do a quick tour of Azure Advisor and discuss how it can help optimize your Azure resources.”

That’s a best practice for brands that have made a mistake — even a small one. Technology is great, but it can come with bugs. That’s where an intro like this one can be so helpful. It acknowledges the problem, states what the brand has done to address it, and alerts the reader to continue to learn how that solution will work.

3) “Taste the Season at Sushi Sora,” by Chris Dwyer

Sushi Sora intro

Strong introductions aren’t just important for blogs — they’re essentially to quality editorial pieces, too. That’s why we love this introduction to an article from Destination MO, the Mandarin Oriental’s official online magazine.

Remember that thing we said about a captivating start? In addition to being empathetic or funny, visuals can be huge — not just an actual picture or video, but words that actually help the reader envision what you’re describing. This introduction does just that, with expressive phrases like, “the magical silhouette of Mount Fuji on the horizon.” Well, yeah. That does sound magical. But where can I go for such a view? None other than the “Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo,” the author tells me, especially “from the sushi counter at Sushi Sora.”

Here’s the thing about this intro — it gives the reader something to aspire to. We’ve briefly discussed aspirational marketing before, but this instance is one where it can be used in a brief introduction. After reading this first paragraph, I want to go to Tokyo. And when I’m there, I want to stay at the Mandarin Oriental. Then, I want to take in the views from its high-end sushi restaurant.

With just two sentences, I’ve gone from reading an article with my morning coffee, to fantasizing about a thousand-dollar vacation. So whenever possible, use your introduction to paint a picture, and to help your reader dream.

4) “The Secret Club of Admitting You Suck,” by Janessa Lantz

admitting you suck intro

Let’s read through this introduction from ReadThink together.

I know. I know! I once moved very far away to escape my own failure, too! But I couldn’t admit at the time that I sucked, either! Wow. Janessa Lantz really gets me.

See that? That, right there, is a resounding example of how empathy makes a profound introduction. But how did the story end? Did they buy the house? Did she admit that she sucked? Does she still suck? (Spoiler alert: I work with Janessa and can say, with great confidence, that she is far from sucking.)

The point is, I wanted to keep reading for two reasons — first, I related to the author. Second, it was just plain interesting, and it left me with a cliffhanger. It’s okay to tease your readers. Just make sure you ultimately give them what they’re seeking.

5) “Be a responsible tourist: a PSA from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” by Out of the Blue

responsible tourist intro

I’ll admit it — I’m a sucker for a good travel blog, which is why JetBlue’s official blog appeals to me. But at the same time, I also geek out for almost anything that promotes sustainability. In this piece, those worlds collide.

What makes this introduction work? Honestly, it’s scary. “Decline” and “extinction” are strong words, and absolutely present a problem. But research shows that we’re actually more inclined to keep reading bad news — in fact, a few years ago, our media consumption habits suggested that we prefer it.

But it’s not all bad — and JetBlue quickly turns around a potentially devastating situation with the language of this introduction. And, it includes the reader, by inviting travelers to be part of the solution, but joining the brand in its promotion of responsible tourism.

That’s another formula for presenting bad news to your audience, especially if you’re not the one causing it and you have a solution. Scary information + how you’re helping + how the reader can do his or her part = compelling intro.

Let’s Start

Feeling inspired? Good. Next time you find yourself face-to-face with the dreaded blinking cursor, use these resources and compelling examples to find motivation.

How do you write a good intro, and what are some of your favorite examples? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free guide to writing well

 
free guide to writing well

Nov

28

2016

How to Turn a Bad Day Around [Infographic]

reverse bad day.png

“I had a bad day.”

How often do you find yourself saying that? Once? Twice? Several times throughout the day?

If it’s more than once each week, you’ve got company — 29% of people say that they have at least two bad days at work every week

Well, shoot. That’s not good. I mean, I can understand having a “bad day” after you’ve spilled coffee all over your new jeans, or got a wicked papercut. But that same study says that these bad days go beyond little accidents — they’re caused by factors like negative co-workers, a lack of recognition, or generally poor work-life balance.

This stuff has got to stop.

But what is a person to do? It turns out, it’s possible to turn around a bad day — and, some might say, kind of easy with the right kind of approach. And luckily, the folks at Headway Capital put together this nifty infographic that shows you all the ways to do just that. So go ahead — turn that frown upside down. Today doesn’t have to be bad.


How-to-turn-a-bad-day-around-DV2.png

 

free productivity tips

Nov

28

2016

How to Turn a Bad Day Around [Infographic]

reverse bad day.png

“I had a bad day.”

How often do you find yourself saying that? Once? Twice? Several times throughout the day?

If it’s more than once each week, you’ve got company — 29% of people say that they have at least two bad days at work every week

Well, shoot. That’s not good. I mean, I can understand having a “bad day” after you’ve spilled coffee all over your new jeans, or got a wicked papercut. But that same study says that these bad days go beyond little accidents — they’re caused by factors like negative co-workers, a lack of recognition, or generally poor work-life balance.

This stuff has got to stop.

But what is a person to do? It turns out, it’s possible to turn around a bad day — and, some might say, kind of easy with the right kind of approach. And luckily, the folks at Headway Capital put together this nifty infographic that shows you all the ways to do just that. So go ahead — turn that frown upside down. Today doesn’t have to be bad.


How-to-turn-a-bad-day-around-DV2.png

 

free productivity tips

Nov

24

2016

5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving

InboundThanksgiving.png

When Thanksgiving rolls around, there are a few questions that we don’t exactly look forward to hearing. “When are you getting married?” “When am I getting grandchildren?” “Have you been moisturizing?”

And yet, none of those oh-so-polite questions even come close to the complexity of explaining what, as an inbound marketer, you actually do for a living.

It’s not that inbound marketing requires a long, drawn-out answer — after all, it can be described in 140 characters. But explaining it requires some fundamental knowledge of how technology, marketing, and the internet work. You know, the things that your grandparents might not fully grasp in one fell swoop. Download more holiday resources to help your business succeed this season from  HubSpot's #HolidayHUB

Good news — all you really need are a few storytelling strategies. We found five ways you can explain inbound marketing to your family. And sure, some of these are useful, and some are just sarcastic. But hey, family is family, right? They’ll still love you.

5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving

1) The Food Analogy

Pumpkin Pie

Source: Giphy

In the U.S., Thanksgiving typically consists a few staples — turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, to name a few. And while it might sound strange, you can use that knowledge to your advantage by using food preparation as an analogy for different aspects of inbound marketing.

To explain lead nurturing, you can use the pumpkin pie. Sending unnurtured leads to sales is like giving an unbaked pumpkin pie to your guests. I suppose the pumpkin pie could be eaten raw, but … gross. Instead, you should bake the pumpkin pie — that ultimately makes it richer and more palatable.

Nurturing leads before sales contacts them works in the same way. It warms them up to your brand, and starts to qualify them with better information on what they might need. “Warm” leads, like the cooked pie, are already familiar with your business, and will close at a much higher rate than those that are “cold.”

Use whatever analogy you like to describe inbound marketing — it clarifies confusing issues by comparing them to something that, quite literally, is right in front of everyone.

2) The Real-Life Scenario

Telemarketers

Source: Giphy

When I’m asked about inbound marketing, I like to use real-like examples of interruptions that they’ll likely recognize, and explain how the inbound methodology pertains to it. It usually sounds something like this:

Amanda: Hey, Dad. You know how much you hate telemarketers calling you in the middle of dinner?

Dad: Yes. Hate it. Why? Is that what you do for work?

Amanda: No, actually. Inbound marketing is the exact opposite. That’s interruptive marketing. They literally interrupt you. So annoying, right?

Dad: Yes. I’m surprised they’re not interrupting us right now.

Amanda: Well, in my job, I create marketing that doesn’t interrupt what people are doing. In fact, I create content that people are actively looking for, because it’s helpful, entertaining, or informative. Instead of a telemarketer was calling to sell you spoons, I create stuff that someone looking for information about spoons might be searching for on the internet.

Dad: So I would find you, instead of you calling to bother me?

Amanda: Yes! I provide you with actual value from my company, which makes you more interested in what my company sells.

The keys here: 1) Identify which interruptive media your dinner guests are familiar with, and 2) play into their pain points when dealing with that media. Inbound marketing is much more logical when you explain it that way — even if your family doesn’t work marketing or communications.

3) The Theatrics

Thanksgiving theatrics

Source: Giphy

If you’re feeling especially creative — and you have at least one Thanksgiving guest who is willing to participate — you could set up a roleplay. There are lots of scenarios you can act out, but a classic one would be the telemarketer/dinner guest scenario.

Let’s use the telemarketing example above — and be warned, it might require a few minutes of planning before everyone sits down to dinner. You play the role of the telemarketer, and your dinner guest can be, well, the dinner guest. First, put his or her phone’s ringer on the highest volume possible. Then, as soon as someone asks you about your job, excuse yourself and duck out to a quiet area with your own phone. Then, call the dinner guest, have him or her answer the call on speaker, while you pretend to be a telemarketer selling something completely unnecessary at that point — Halloween costumes.

Be sure your dinner guest uses key phrases like “You’re interrupting me in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner with this irrelevant call,” or, “Don’t you think it’s a little late to be calling me about Halloween?” or, if you really want to go nuts, “I wish you had sent me a targeted, personalized email in October about those costumes — I would have bought them.”

Then, have them slam down the phone on the table. You can return from your “bathroom break” and say, “See? Telemarketing, or any type of interruptive marketing like that, is profoundly annoying. In my job, I create marketing that helps people — not annoy them.”

End scene.

Depending on the talent of your guest, you might be able to improv the entire thing. Otherwise, you might want to type a script out and email it to the guest beforehand. And if you really want to go overboard, stay in character the entire dinner. The sight of you dressed up as a skeezy telemarketer with a headset will be just too intense to forget — that is, at least, until your mother requests, “Please remove your headset from the table.”

4) The Puzzle Pieces

Puzzles

Source: Webnode

This technique boils down to an age-old philosophical question — is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? Aristotle thought so, but when you’re describing inbound marketing to an unfamiliar audience, it’s probably okay to explain each tool that goes into it.

Try isolating inbound marketing into the different pieces that pull it off — things like blogging, email marketing, social media, closed-loop analytics, and call-to-action buttons. The folks who haven’t worked in marketing might not know what these are, either. In that case, try using the analogy technique we opened with to explain them. In fact, you can even act out something like social media, by taking a picture of a decadent cranberry relish and showing how you would share it on Instagram in real time.

5) The “I Write Articles on the Internet”

Writing on internet

Source: imoviequotes

If the previous four have all failed, you can always say, “I write articles on the internet for a living.” I mean, it’s somewhat accurate — you drive real business results with inbound marketing, and you don’t just spew out nonsense blogs about your feelings to get paid — but it can get your family off your back, especially if you’re not sure they’d be interested in hearing the whole shebang. If you choose this path, be prepared to hear how easy it is to blog, and how many of your family members wish they could get paid to do it.

Then, try to switch the subject quickly to something everyone can relate to. “Hey, Uncle Eddie, I’d love to get your amazing stuffing recipe.” Trust us — it works every time.

We’re Grateful for You

Good luck out there. And remember: There are so many people who want to know what you do — which, admittedly is why we love writing about it every day.

We always give thanks for you, our amazing readers. And to express our gratitude, we put together what we hope is a hilarious video of what our families think we do. Happy Thanksgiving!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

What other strategies do you use to explain inbound marketing to folks who’ve never heard of it? Let us know in the comments.

Visit the holiday resource hub for all your holiday marketing needs.

Nov

24

2016

5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving

InboundThanksgiving.png

When Thanksgiving rolls around, there are a few questions that we don’t exactly look forward to hearing. “When are you getting married?” “When am I getting grandchildren?” “Have you been moisturizing?”

And yet, none of those oh-so-polite questions even come close to the complexity of explaining what, as an inbound marketer, you actually do for a living.

It’s not that inbound marketing requires a long, drawn-out answer — after all, it can be described in 140 characters. But explaining it requires some fundamental knowledge of how technology, marketing, and the internet work. You know, the things that your grandparents might not fully grasp in one fell swoop. Download more holiday resources to help your business succeed this season from  HubSpot's #HolidayHUB

Good news — all you really need are a few storytelling strategies. We found five ways you can explain inbound marketing to your family. And sure, some of these are useful, and some are just sarcastic. But hey, family is family, right? They’ll still love you.

5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving

1) The Food Analogy

Pumpkin Pie

Source: Giphy

In the U.S., Thanksgiving typically consists a few staples — turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, to name a few. And while it might sound strange, you can use that knowledge to your advantage by using food preparation as an analogy for different aspects of inbound marketing.

To explain lead nurturing, you can use the pumpkin pie. Sending unnurtured leads to sales is like giving an unbaked pumpkin pie to your guests. I suppose the pumpkin pie could be eaten raw, but … gross. Instead, you should bake the pumpkin pie — that ultimately makes it richer and more palatable.

Nurturing leads before sales contacts them works in the same way. It warms them up to your brand, and starts to qualify them with better information on what they might need. “Warm” leads, like the cooked pie, are already familiar with your business, and will close at a much higher rate than those that are “cold.”

Use whatever analogy you like to describe inbound marketing — it clarifies confusing issues by comparing them to something that, quite literally, is right in front of everyone.

2) The Real-Life Scenario

Telemarketers

Source: Giphy

When I’m asked about inbound marketing, I like to use real-like examples of interruptions that they’ll likely recognize, and explain how the inbound methodology pertains to it. It usually sounds something like this:

Amanda: Hey, Dad. You know how much you hate telemarketers calling you in the middle of dinner?

Dad: Yes. Hate it. Why? Is that what you do for work?

Amanda: No, actually. Inbound marketing is the exact opposite. That’s interruptive marketing. They literally interrupt you. So annoying, right?

Dad: Yes. I’m surprised they’re not interrupting us right now.

Amanda: Well, in my job, I create marketing that doesn’t interrupt what people are doing. In fact, I create content that people are actively looking for, because it’s helpful, entertaining, or informative. Instead of a telemarketer was calling to sell you spoons, I create stuff that someone looking for information about spoons might be searching for on the internet.

Dad: So I would find you, instead of you calling to bother me?

Amanda: Yes! I provide you with actual value from my company, which makes you more interested in what my company sells.

The keys here: 1) Identify which interruptive media your dinner guests are familiar with, and 2) play into their pain points when dealing with that media. Inbound marketing is much more logical when you explain it that way — even if your family doesn’t work marketing or communications.

3) The Theatrics

Thanksgiving theatrics

Source: Giphy

If you’re feeling especially creative — and you have at least one Thanksgiving guest who is willing to participate — you could set up a roleplay. There are lots of scenarios you can act out, but a classic one would be the telemarketer/dinner guest scenario.

Let’s use the telemarketing example above — and be warned, it might require a few minutes of planning before everyone sits down to dinner. You play the role of the telemarketer, and your dinner guest can be, well, the dinner guest. First, put his or her phone’s ringer on the highest volume possible. Then, as soon as someone asks you about your job, excuse yourself and duck out to a quiet area with your own phone. Then, call the dinner guest, have him or her answer the call on speaker, while you pretend to be a telemarketer selling something completely unnecessary at that point — Halloween costumes.

Be sure your dinner guest uses key phrases like “You’re interrupting me in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner with this irrelevant call,” or, “Don’t you think it’s a little late to be calling me about Halloween?” or, if you really want to go nuts, “I wish you had sent me a targeted, personalized email in October about those costumes — I would have bought them.”

Then, have them slam down the phone on the table. You can return from your “bathroom break” and say, “See? Telemarketing, or any type of interruptive marketing like that, is profoundly annoying. In my job, I create marketing that helps people — not annoy them.”

End scene.

Depending on the talent of your guest, you might be able to improv the entire thing. Otherwise, you might want to type a script out and email it to the guest beforehand. And if you really want to go overboard, stay in character the entire dinner. The sight of you dressed up as a skeezy telemarketer with a headset will be just too intense to forget — that is, at least, until your mother requests, “Please remove your headset from the table.”

4) The Puzzle Pieces

Puzzles

Source: Webnode

This technique boils down to an age-old philosophical question — is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? Aristotle thought so, but when you’re describing inbound marketing to an unfamiliar audience, it’s probably okay to explain each tool that goes into it.

Try isolating inbound marketing into the different pieces that pull it off — things like blogging, email marketing, social media, closed-loop analytics, and call-to-action buttons. The folks who haven’t worked in marketing might not know what these are, either. In that case, try using the analogy technique we opened with to explain them. In fact, you can even act out something like social media, by taking a picture of a decadent cranberry relish and showing how you would share it on Instagram in real time.

5) The “I Write Articles on the Internet”

Writing on internet

Source: imoviequotes

If the previous four have all failed, you can always say, “I write articles on the internet for a living.” I mean, it’s somewhat accurate — you drive real business results with inbound marketing, and you don’t just spew out nonsense blogs about your feelings to get paid — but it can get your family off your back, especially if you’re not sure they’d be interested in hearing the whole shebang. If you choose this path, be prepared to hear how easy it is to blog, and how many of your family members wish they could get paid to do it.

Then, try to switch the subject quickly to something everyone can relate to. “Hey, Uncle Eddie, I’d love to get your amazing stuffing recipe.” Trust us — it works every time.

We’re Grateful for You

Good luck out there. And remember: There are so many people who want to know what you do — which, admittedly is why we love writing about it every day.

We always give thanks for you, our amazing readers. And to express our gratitude, we put together what we hope is a hilarious video of what our families think we do. Happy Thanksgiving!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

What other strategies do you use to explain inbound marketing to folks who’ve never heard of it? Let us know in the comments.

Visit the holiday resource hub for all your holiday marketing needs.

Nov

24

2016

5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving

InboundThanksgiving.png

When Thanksgiving rolls around, there are a few questions that we don’t exactly look forward to hearing. “When are you getting married?” “When am I getting grandchildren?” “Have you been moisturizing?”

And yet, none of those oh-so-polite questions even come close to the complexity of explaining what, as an inbound marketer, you actually do for a living.

It’s not that inbound marketing requires a long, drawn-out answer — after all, it can be described in 140 characters. But explaining it requires some fundamental knowledge of how technology, marketing, and the internet work. You know, the things that your grandparents might not fully grasp in one fell swoop. Download more holiday resources to help your business succeed this season from  HubSpot's #HolidayHub

Good news — all you really need are a few storytelling strategies. We found five ways you can explain inbound marketing to your family. And sure, some of these are useful, and some are just sarcastic. But hey, family is family, right? They’ll still love you.

5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving

1) The Food Analogy

Pumpkin Pie

Source: Giphy

In the U.S., Thanksgiving typically consists a few staples — turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, to name a few. And while it might sound strange, you can use that knowledge to your advantage by using food preparation as an analogy for different aspects of inbound marketing.

To explain lead nurturing, you can use the pumpkin pie. Sending unnurtured leads to sales is like giving an unbaked pumpkin pie to your guests. I suppose the pumpkin pie could be eaten raw, but … gross. Instead, you should bake the pumpkin pie — that ultimately makes it richer and more palatable.

Nurturing leads before sales contacts them works in the same way. It warms them up to your brand, and starts to qualify them with better information on what they might need. “Warm” leads, like the cooked pie, are already familiar with your business, and will close at a much higher rate than those that are “cold.”

Use whatever analogy you like to describe inbound marketing — it clarifies confusing issues by comparing them to something that, quite literally, is right in front of everyone.

2) The Real-Life Scenario

Telemarketers

Source: Giphy

When I’m asked about inbound marketing, I like to use real-like examples of interruptions that they’ll likely recognize, and explain how the inbound methodology pertains to it. It usually sounds something like this:

Amanda: Hey, Dad. You know how much you hate telemarketers calling you in the middle of dinner?

Dad: Yes. Hate it. Why? Is that what you do for work?

Amanda: No, actually. Inbound marketing is the exact opposite. That’s interruptive marketing. They literally interrupt you. So annoying, right?

Dad: Yes. I’m surprised they’re not interrupting us right now.

Amanda: Well, in my job, I create marketing that doesn’t interrupt what people are doing. In fact, I create content that people are actively looking for, because it’s helpful, entertaining, or informative. Instead of a telemarketer was calling to sell you spoons, I create stuff that someone looking for information about spoons might be searching for on the internet.

Dad: So I would find you, instead of you calling to bother me?

Amanda: Yes! I provide you with actual value from my company, which makes you more interested in what my company sells.

The keys here: 1) Identify which interruptive media your dinner guests are familiar with, and 2) play into their pain points when dealing with that media. Inbound marketing is much more logical when you explain it that way — even if your family doesn’t work marketing or communications.

3) The Theatrics

Thanksgiving theatrics

Source: Giphy

If you’re feeling especially creative — and you have at least one Thanksgiving guest who is willing to participate — you could set up a roleplay. There are lots of scenarios you can act out, but a classic one would be the telemarketer/dinner guest scenario.

Let’s use the telemarketing example above — and be warned, it might require a few minutes of planning before everyone sits down to dinner. You play the role of the telemarketer, and your dinner guest can be, well, the dinner guest. First, put his or her phone’s ringer on the highest volume possible. Then, as soon as someone asks you about your job, excuse yourself and duck out to a quiet area with your own phone. Then, call the dinner guest, have him or her answer the call on speaker, while you pretend to be a telemarketer selling something completely unnecessary at that point — Halloween costumes.

Be sure your dinner guest uses key phrases like “You’re interrupting me in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner with this irrelevant call,” or, “Don’t you think it’s a little late to be calling me about Halloween?” or, if you really want to go nuts, “I wish you had sent me a targeted, personalized email in October about those costumes — I would have bought them.”

Then, have them slam down the phone on the table. You can return from your “bathroom break” and say, “See? Telemarketing, or any type of interruptive marketing like that, is profoundly annoying. In my job, I create marketing that helps people — not annoy them.”

End scene.

Depending on the talent of your guest, you might be able to improv the entire thing. Otherwise, you might want to type a script out and email it to the guest beforehand. And if you really want to go overboard, stay in character the entire dinner. The sight of you dressed up as a skeezy telemarketer with a headset will be just too intense to forget — that is, at least, until your mother requests, “Please remove your headset from the table.”

4) The Puzzle Pieces

Puzzles

Source: Webnode

This technique boils down to an age-old philosophical question — is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? Aristotle thought so, but when you’re describing inbound marketing to an unfamiliar audience, it’s probably okay to explain each tool that goes into it.

Try isolating inbound marketing into the different pieces that pull it off — things like blogging, email marketing, social media, closed-loop analytics, and call-to-action buttons. The folks who haven’t worked in marketing might not know what these are, either. In that case, try using the analogy technique we opened with to explain them. In fact, you can even act out something like social media, by taking a picture of a decadent cranberry relish and showing how you would share it on Instagram in real time.

5) The “I Write Articles on the Internet”

Writing on internet

Source: imoviequotes

If the previous four have all failed, you can always say, “I write articles on the internet for a living.” I mean, it’s somewhat accurate — you drive real business results with inbound marketing, and you don’t just spew out nonsense blogs about your feelings to get paid — but it can get your family off your back, especially if you’re not sure they’d be interested in hearing the whole shebang. If you choose this path, be prepared to hear how easy it is to blog, and how many of your family members wish they could get paid to do it.

Then, try to switch the subject quickly to something everyone can relate to. “Hey, Uncle Eddie, I’d love to get your amazing stuffing recipe.” Trust us — it works every time.

We’re Grateful for You

Good luck out there. And remember: There are so many people who want to know what you do — which, admittedly is why we love writing about it every day.

We always give thanks for you, our amazing readers. And to express our gratitude, we put together what we hope is a hilarious video of what our families think we do. Happy Thanksgiving!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

What other strategies do you use to explain inbound marketing to folks who’ve never heard of it? Let us know in the comments.

Visit the holiday resource hub for all your holiday marketing needs.

Nov

22

2016

8 Interesting Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Google’s Algorithm

Fun_Facts_Algorithm.png

It’s not often that you see the word “fun” and “algorithm” in the same sentence. (Okay, fine. Maybe you do, if you’re a marketing nerd like I am.) But think about this: Google has really been around for over two decades. With a history like that, there’s got to be at least some compelling trivia, right?

Believe it or not, algorithms are really cool. I mean, they get us our search results, after all.But how does Google’s algorithm work? And how has it evolved over the course of so many years? Download our free on-page SEO template here to help you plan and organize your  blog's SEO strategy. 

We thought you might ask that, so we put together some fun facts about Google’s algorithm, and how it’s shaped the way we search today.

What the Heck Is an Algorithm, Anyway?

To quote Google itself, “Algorithms are the computer processes and formulas that take your questions and turn them into answers.” They cut through its estimated “trillions” of web pages in existence to find the information you’re looking for.

Think about that for a second. “Trillions.” One trillion, numerically, looks like this:

1,000,000,000,000

Imagine if there were no algorithms, and we had to somehow sift through that amount of information ourselves. Luckily, Google has developed an algorithm that can read — at a pace few of us can begin to fathom — different signals from these pages that indicate how likely they are to answer your search query.

But it’s not just about the words on the page. Algorithms can also read how recent the content is, how likely it is to be spam, and how it pertains to your location.

As marketers, all of this stuff matters. Where and how your pages rank in Google can make or break your organic search traffic, so it’s important to understand how the algorithm works and how to ethically optimize for it. What’s more, it’s crucial to be adaptable — the Google algorithm has changed a lot over the years, and will continue to do so as it becomes even more user-friendly.

8 Fun Facts About Google’s Algorithm

1) Google’s overall algorithm has had one name since 2013: Hummingbird.

Source: Search Engine Land

If you do keep up with the changes to Google’s algorithm, you’ve probably seen some colorful names assigned to them — Panda, Penguin, and Pigeon to name a few.

However, those names have only been assigned to updates made to the overall algorithm itself — which today is called Hummingbird. It was formally announced in September 2013 and created to make search results more “precise and fast” like the bird itself, according to Search Engine Land [SEL].

SEL has one of the best analogies we’ve seen to describe the algorithm at-large — Hummingbird is a “recipe” with hundreds of “ingredients.” These ingredients are the different pieces that help the algorithm determine the quality of those trillions of pages, and how well any one of them might answer your search.

2) Google makes changes to its algorithm roughly 500 times per year.

Source: pyxle

SEO community Moz states that Google makes between 500-600 changes to its algorithm annually, most of which are so minor that the public doesn’t usually hear about them.

Even without those minor changes, however, Moz has recorded no less than 140 updates to the Google algorithm since 2000.

Because the list was fairly dense, I enlisted the help of a colleague to count the items accurately. In splitting it up into two sections — the eight years before and after 2008, respectively — we noticed something interesting. The first eight years only listed 25 updates of note, whereas the latter had 115.

So why have there been so many more updates in the recent years? It could have something to do with the massive increase in users. But it could also be about changes to the way we search. For one, we’re searching on our phones a lot more — 51% percent of digital media is consumed via mobile — which has led to more than one crackdown by Google on pages that aren’t optimized for such platforms.  

We’re also starting to see an uptick in voice search. And while there currently aren’t precise formulas to plan or rank for those kinds of searches, we imagine that Google will start changing its algorithm for them — after all, it’s seen a 3400% increase in voice queries since 2008.

Like we said — understanding the algorithm requires agility. It’s only going to continue to change, so in order to maintain good search standing, marketers should learn to adapt.

3) One of the original goals was to cut through spammy content from advertisers.

Original algorithm paper

Source: Stanford InfoLab

Google’s “history in depth” dates back roughly 20 years — in 1997, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were working on their first search engine, which they then called BackRub.

Then, in 1998, the pair published a paper at Stanford titled “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.” That’s where we see one of the first mentions of PageRank, which is the technology that Google continues to use to help rank search results.

But there’s one thing in the admittedly dense text that really stood out. At the time of writing the paper, Page and Brin noted, “the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users.”

We can’t help but geek out over the fact that Google remains loyal to that thesis. When I previously interviewed my colleague Marcus Andrews about the algorithm, he told me, “Google is very focused on the user.”

In fact, you could say that’s why Google has continued to make so many changes to the algorithm. It’s finding new ways to get the best content to users.

Just have a look at the search engine’s “Steps to a Google-friendly site” — one of the first things listed is to “provide high-quality content on your pages.” Eighteen years later, Google is working toward the original vision of its founders.

4) PageRank was named after Google co-founder Larry Page.

Google_Founders.png

Source: Stanford InfoLab

When the name “PageRank” is assigned to the technology that helps Google rank pages, it seems fairly intuitive. But it was actually named after one of Google’s co-founders, Larry Page, whose young mug can be found to the right in the image above.

PageRank itself has quite a history. While its technology was in many ways beneficial, it was also very confusing, even to some expert SEOs. That’s why SEL published the in depth article, “What Is Google PageRank?” — very few people understood it.

Google says that PageRank is what “looks at links between pages to determine their relevance.” But SEL says it’s more like a voting system, in which inbound links to a given page count as votes toward its authority. So, the more votes, the more authority. The clincher? Anyone could view a site’s PageRank.

In spring of 2016, Google announced that while it would still be using PageRank technology to internally adjust its algorithm, the public would no longer be able to able to view any of its data. For some, that was happy news, according to SEL and its “retrospective on how [PageRank] ruined the web.” Apparently, PageRank’s emphasis on being linked to created a lot of annoying, borderline spammy behavior — like links becoming available for purchase.

Today, the technology for ranking has become more discerning, thanks in large part to MozRank, which is a “link popularity score.” To learn more about using MozRank for SEO and tracking competition, check out our HubSpot Academy guide here.

5) There’s a Google Dance — but it’s not what it sounds like.

Google dance

Source: Search Engine Land

Our inner marketing nerds wish that “The Google” was actually a physical dance move. In actuality, though, Google Dance was actually the name applied to the sudden changes to its rankings, back when the algorithm used to majorly change every month.

Marketing Land credits forum WebmasterWorld for originating the term, and also for assigning different geographically-inspired names to each dance, like “Boston” in February 2003 and “Florida” later that year. But Florida, it seems, was the last dance — or the last salient one, anyway. That’s when Google stopped making major updates to its algorithm every month, and instead started making the general under-the-radar adjustments it does today.

But to keep track of these changes, especially the minor ones, it can help to keep an eye on the MozCast Google Weather Report. It assigns a temperature that indicates how much the algorithm has changed since the previous day — the higher and stormier the conditions, the greater the shift to Google’s rankings.

Don’t be sad — earlier this year, Google hosted an event at the SMX West conference called “Google Dance” to celebrate “an annual gathering for search marketers.” 

6) There isn’t *really* a reason behind the names for updates.

Google_Names.jpg

Source: Wade Creative Network

I would really love to think that there’s an adorable story behind assigning the name “Penguin” to an algorithm update. But according to Moz, there isn’t really a formal naming method.

Similar to the names for Google’s “dance moves,” WebmasterWorld users also named most of the other updates — “Boston,” because it was announced at SES Boston, and others in the same way that hurricanes are named, though it’s rumored that “Dominic” came from a Boston pizza place

Moz also reports that some of the self-named algorithm updates, like “Caffeine,” “Panda” and “Vince” came from Google itself, and that the latter two were named after Google engineers. 

7) Algorithms are also getting smarter for image searches.

Google cloud vision API

Source: Forbes

Recently, Google announced the debut of the Pixel, its newest smartphone. Among its brag-worthy features? “The highest rated smartphone camera. Ever.

Part of what makes the camera so great are its “its world-class software algorithms,” said Google camera product lead, Isaac Reynolds. That can be attributed to Pixel’s HDR+ algorithm, which helps users capture the best quality photos, despite lighting or movement conditions.

What does that have to do with Google’s search algorithm? Well, nothing directly. But it does show even more progress toward the quest to yield the best content for users, including images. In the realm of visual searches, it’s all about the Cloud Vision API — the technology that allows Google to analyze and determine the content of images.

Late in 2015, Google made that API accessible to the public, which allows geeks like myself to play with it and see how it reads the content of their own photos. Naturally, I had to take it for a spin, first with an image of my dog:

Screen_Shot_2016-10-12_at_11.25.56_AM.png

Next, I tried it with this nice photo of HubSpot’s blogging team: 

blogging team labels

Blog team facial analysis

Whoa. How did it know that I had, in fact, uploaded a photo of a black dog? And how did it know that the second photo was of a team experiencing joy?  

It’s that sneaky, remarkable algorithm, which has been programmed — we predict using tons of existing images with various facial expressions, objects, landmarks, and more — to detect and recognize the elements and objects within an image.

Cool, huh? Give it a try here.

8) There’s a human side — the “search evaluators.”

searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.png

Source: Google

Google enlists the work of human beings to evaluate the quality of search results. Each year, there are roughly 40,000 of these “precision evaluations,” as Google calls them, in which search evaluators determine the quality of results for different searches .

There’s a 146-page document that explains the guidelines used by search evaluators when rating results. It seems to be largely intended for people who are interested in becoming evaluators. But upon exploring the guidelines, the information might also help developers and marketers determine what constitutes search quality.

Different sections of it can even be useful to people who are just getting started with SEO. Have a look at the “Your Money or Your Life” section, which goes into evaluating a page’s potential implications for a user’s health and finances, for example. Some of the criteria might look like common sense, but it also provides some unique insights on how to keep your content accountable, especially if you’re giving advice.

There are also three different sections each dedicated to the highest, lowest, and medium quality pages. Again, what might seem like common sense can actually serve as valuable information to marketers — for example, if a page is deemed to have a “true lack of purpose,” it will be classified as “lowest quality.”

That’s something to keep in mind as you develop and manage your content. Have a read, and see if anything on your pages needs to change.

Have Fun With Search

So, there you have it — algorithms can be fun, after all, especially when you get to play with photo recognition API.

But with a history as rich as the one belonging to Google’s algorithm, there’s sure to be some interesting trivia, and just a splash of drama along the way.

We can’t wait to see what’s next. And, as always, we’re here to keep you posted.

What are your favorite pieces of the Google algorithm history? Let us know in the comments.

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Nov

22

2016

8 Interesting Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Google’s Algorithm

Fun_Facts_Algorithm.png

It’s not often that you see the word “fun” and “algorithm” in the same sentence. (Okay, fine. Maybe you do, if you’re a marketing nerd like I am.) But think about this: Google has really been around for over two decades. With a history like that, there’s got to be at least some compelling trivia, right?

Believe it or not, algorithms are really cool. I mean, they get us our search results, after all.But how does Google’s algorithm work? And how has it evolved over the course of so many years? Download our free on-page SEO template here to help you plan and organize your  blog's SEO strategy. 

We thought you might ask that, so we put together some fun facts about Google’s algorithm, and how it’s shaped the way we search today.

What the Heck Is an Algorithm, Anyway?

To quote Google itself, “Algorithms are the computer processes and formulas that take your questions and turn them into answers.” They cut through its estimated “trillions” of web pages in existence to find the information you’re looking for.

Think about that for a second. “Trillions.” One trillion, numerically, looks like this:

1,000,000,000,000

Imagine if there were no algorithms, and we had to somehow sift through that amount of information ourselves. Luckily, Google has developed an algorithm that can read — at a pace few of us can begin to fathom — different signals from these pages that indicate how likely they are to answer your search query.

But it’s not just about the words on the page. Algorithms can also read how recent the content is, how likely it is to be spam, and how it pertains to your location.

As marketers, all of this stuff matters. Where and how your pages rank in Google can make or break your organic search traffic, so it’s important to understand how the algorithm works and how to ethically optimize for it. What’s more, it’s crucial to be adaptable — the Google algorithm has changed a lot over the years, and will continue to do so as it becomes even more user-friendly.

8 Fun Facts About Google’s Algorithm

1) Google’s overall algorithm has had one name since 2013: Hummingbird.

Source: Search Engine Land

If you do keep up with the changes to Google’s algorithm, you’ve probably seen some colorful names assigned to them — Panda, Penguin, and Pigeon to name a few.

However, those names have only been assigned to updates made to the overall algorithm itself — which today is called Hummingbird. It was formally announced in September 2013 and created to make search results more “precise and fast” like the bird itself, according to Search Engine Land [SEL].

SEL has one of the best analogies we’ve seen to describe the algorithm at-large — Hummingbird is a “recipe” with hundreds of “ingredients.” These ingredients are the different pieces that help the algorithm determine the quality of those trillions of pages, and how well any one of them might answer your search.

2) Google makes changes to its algorithm roughly 500 times per year.

Source: pyxle

SEO community Moz states that Google makes between 500-600 changes to its algorithm annually, most of which are so minor that the public doesn’t usually hear about them.

Even without those minor changes, however, Moz has recorded no less than 140 updates to the Google algorithm since 2000.

Because the list was fairly dense, I enlisted the help of a colleague to count the items accurately. In splitting it up into two sections — the eight years before and after 2008, respectively — we noticed something interesting. The first eight years only listed 25 updates of note, whereas the latter had 115.

So why have there been so many more updates in the recent years? It could have something to do with the massive increase in users. But it could also be about changes to the way we search. For one, we’re searching on our phones a lot more — 51% percent of digital media is consumed via mobile — which has led to more than one crackdown by Google on pages that aren’t optimized for such platforms.  

We’re also starting to see an uptick in voice search. And while there currently aren’t precise formulas to plan or rank for those kinds of searches, we imagine that Google will start changing its algorithm for them — after all, it’s seen a 3400% increase in voice queries since 2008.

Like we said — understanding the algorithm requires agility. It’s only going to continue to change, so in order to maintain good search standing, marketers should learn to adapt.

3) One of the original goals was to cut through spammy content from advertisers.

Original algorithm paper

Source: Stanford InfoLab

Google’s “history in depth” dates back roughly 20 years — in 1997, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were working on their first search engine, which they then called BackRub.

Then, in 1998, the pair published a paper at Stanford titled “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.” That’s where we see one of the first mentions of PageRank, which is the technology that Google continues to use to help rank search results.

But there’s one thing in the admittedly dense text that really stood out. At the time of writing the paper, Page and Brin noted, “the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users.”

We can’t help but geek out over the fact that Google remains loyal to that thesis. When I previously interviewed my colleague Marcus Andrews about the algorithm, he told me, “Google is very focused on the user.”

In fact, you could say that’s why Google has continued to make so many changes to the algorithm. It’s finding new ways to get the best content to users.

Just have a look at the search engine’s “Steps to a Google-friendly site” — one of the first things listed is to “provide high-quality content on your pages.” Eighteen years later, Google is working toward the original vision of its founders.

4) PageRank was named after Google co-founder Larry Page.

Google_Founders.png

Source: Stanford InfoLab

When the name “PageRank” is assigned to the technology that helps Google rank pages, it seems fairly intuitive. But it was actually named after one of Google’s co-founders, Larry Page, whose young mug can be found to the right in the image above.

PageRank itself has quite a history. While its technology was in many ways beneficial, it was also very confusing, even to some expert SEOs. That’s why SEL published the in depth article, “What Is Google PageRank?” — very few people understood it.

Google says that PageRank is what “looks at links between pages to determine their relevance.” But SEL says it’s more like a voting system, in which inbound links to a given page count as votes toward its authority. So, the more votes, the more authority. The clincher? Anyone could view a site’s PageRank.

In spring of 2016, Google announced that while it would still be using PageRank technology to internally adjust its algorithm, the public would no longer be able to able to view any of its data. For some, that was happy news, according to SEL and its “retrospective on how [PageRank] ruined the web.” Apparently, PageRank’s emphasis on being linked to created a lot of annoying, borderline spammy behavior — like links becoming available for purchase.

Today, the technology for ranking has become more discerning, thanks in large part to MozRank, which is a “link popularity score.” To learn more about using MozRank for SEO and tracking competition, check out our HubSpot Academy guide here.

5) There’s a Google Dance — but it’s not what it sounds like.

Google dance

Source: Search Engine Land

Our inner marketing nerds wish that “The Google” was actually a physical dance move. In actuality, though, Google Dance was actually the name applied to the sudden changes to its rankings, back when the algorithm used to majorly change every month.

Marketing Land credits forum WebmasterWorld for originating the term, and also for assigning different geographically-inspired names to each dance, like “Boston” in February 2003 and “Florida” later that year. But Florida, it seems, was the last dance — or the last salient one, anyway. That’s when Google stopped making major updates to its algorithm every month, and instead started making the general under-the-radar adjustments it does today.

But to keep track of these changes, especially the minor ones, it can help to keep an eye on the MozCast Google Weather Report. It assigns a temperature that indicates how much the algorithm has changed since the previous day — the higher and stormier the conditions, the greater the shift to Google’s rankings.

Don’t be sad — earlier this year, Google hosted an event at the SMX West conference called “Google Dance” to celebrate “an annual gathering for search marketers.” 

6) There isn’t *really* a reason behind the names for updates.

Google_Names.jpg

Source: Wade Creative Network

I would really love to think that there’s an adorable story behind assigning the name “Penguin” to an algorithm update. But according to Moz, there isn’t really a formal naming method.

Similar to the names for Google’s “dance moves,” WebmasterWorld users also named most of the other updates — “Boston,” because it was announced at SES Boston, and others in the same way that hurricanes are named, though it’s rumored that “Dominic” came from a Boston pizza place

Moz also reports that some of the self-named algorithm updates, like “Caffeine,” “Panda” and “Vince” came from Google itself, and that the latter two were named after Google engineers. 

7) Algorithms are also getting smarter for image searches.

Google cloud vision API

Source: Forbes

Recently, Google announced the debut of the Pixel, its newest smartphone. Among its brag-worthy features? “The highest rated smartphone camera. Ever.

Part of what makes the camera so great are its “its world-class software algorithms,” said Google camera product lead, Isaac Reynolds. That can be attributed to Pixel’s HDR+ algorithm, which helps users capture the best quality photos, despite lighting or movement conditions.

What does that have to do with Google’s search algorithm? Well, nothing directly. But it does show even more progress toward the quest to yield the best content for users, including images. In the realm of visual searches, it’s all about the Cloud Vision API — the technology that allows Google to analyze and determine the content of images.

Late in 2015, Google made that API accessible to the public, which allows geeks like myself to play with it and see how it reads the content of their own photos. Naturally, I had to take it for a spin, first with an image of my dog:

Screen_Shot_2016-10-12_at_11.25.56_AM.png

Next, I tried it with this nice photo of HubSpot’s blogging team: 

blogging team labels

Blog team facial analysis

Whoa. How did it know that I had, in fact, uploaded a photo of a black dog? And how did it know that the second photo was of a team experiencing joy?  

It’s that sneaky, remarkable algorithm, which has been programmed — we predict using tons of existing images with various facial expressions, objects, landmarks, and more — to detect and recognize the elements and objects within an image.

Cool, huh? Give it a try here.

8) There’s a human side — the “search evaluators.”

searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.png

Source: Google

Google enlists the work of human beings to evaluate the quality of search results. Each year, there are roughly 40,000 of these “precision evaluations,” as Google calls them, in which search evaluators determine the quality of results for different searches .

There’s a 146-page document that explains the guidelines used by search evaluators when rating results. It seems to be largely intended for people who are interested in becoming evaluators. But upon exploring the guidelines, the information might also help developers and marketers determine what constitutes search quality.

Different sections of it can even be useful to people who are just getting started with SEO. Have a look at the “Your Money or Your Life” section, which goes into evaluating a page’s potential implications for a user’s health and finances, for example. Some of the criteria might look like common sense, but it also provides some unique insights on how to keep your content accountable, especially if you’re giving advice.

There are also three different sections each dedicated to the highest, lowest, and medium quality pages. Again, what might seem like common sense can actually serve as valuable information to marketers — for example, if a page is deemed to have a “true lack of purpose,” it will be classified as “lowest quality.”

That’s something to keep in mind as you develop and manage your content. Have a read, and see if anything on your pages needs to change.

Have Fun With Search

So, there you have it — algorithms can be fun, after all, especially when you get to play with photo recognition API.

But with a history as rich as the one belonging to Google’s algorithm, there’s sure to be some interesting trivia, and just a splash of drama along the way.

We can’t wait to see what’s next. And, as always, we’re here to keep you posted.

What are your favorite pieces of the Google algorithm history? Let us know in the comments.

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Nov

18

2016

Grammar Police: 30 of the Most Common Grammatical Errors We All Need to Stop Making

grammar-mistakes.png

Even after years of education, there are some things that some people still mess up. For me, it’s algebra. For others, it’s the laws of physics. And for many, it’s grammar.

It’s not easy. Words and phrases that sound fine in your head can look like gibberish when written down — that is, if you even realize you made a mistake in the first place. It’s easy for little grammar mistakes to slip by, especially when you’re self-editing.

But how do you prevent grammatical errors if you’re not even aware you’re making them? Download this free style guide to ensure you're publishing content that is  well written, persuasive, and trustworthy.

Well, you can start by reading through this post to see which common grammar mistakes resonate with you the most. (It’s okay — we’re all guilty of at least one.) Make a mental note to avoid that mistake in the future, or heck, just bookmark this page to remind yourself of them over and over (and over) again.

30 Common Grammar Mistakes to Check For in Your Writing

1) They’re vs. Their vs. There

One’s a contraction for “they are” (they’re), one refers to something owned by a group (their), and one refers to a place (there). You know the difference among the three — just make sure you triple check that you’re using the right ones in the right places at the right times. I find it’s helpful to search through my posts (try control + F on PC or command + F on Mac) for those words and check that they’re being used in the right context.

Correct Usage: They’re going to love going there — I heard their food is the best!

2) Your vs. You’re

The difference between these two is owning something versus actually being something:

You made it around the track in under a minute — you’re fast!

How’s your fast going? Are you hungry?

See the difference? “Your” is possessive and “you’re” is a contraction of “you are.” Again, if you’re having trouble keeping them straight, try doing another grammar check before you hit publish.

3) Its vs. It’s

This one tends to confuse even the best of writers. “Its” is possessive and “it’s” is a contraction of “it is.” Lots of people get tripped up because “it’s” has an ‘s after it, which normally means something is possessive. But in this case, it’s actually a contraction.

Do a control + F to find this mistake in your writing. It’s really hard to catch on your own, but it’s a mistake everyone can make.

4) Incomplete Comparisons

This one drives me up a wall when I see it in the wild. Can you see what’s wrong with this sentence?

Our car model is faster, better, stronger.

Faster, better, stronger … than what? What are you comparing your car to? A horse? A competitor’s car? An older model?

When you’re asserting that something should be compared to something else, make sure you always clarify what that something else is. Otherwise, it’s impossible for your readers to discern what the comparison actually means.

5) Passive Voice

If you have a sentence with an object in it — basically a noun that receives the action — passive voice can happen to you. Passive happens when the object of a sentence is put at the beginning of a sentence instead of at the end. With passive voice, your writing comes across as sounding weak and unclear.

Hold up. Re-read that last paragraph I just wrote — there’s waaaaaay too much passive voice. See how it seems kind of jumbled and not quite punchy? Let’s try that again.

Passive voice happens when you have an object (a noun that receives the action) as the subject of a sentence. Normally, the object of the sentence appears at the end, following a verb. Passive writing isn’t as clear as active writing — your readers will thank you for your attention to detail later.

Make sense? It’s kind of a complicated thing to describe, but active voice makes your writing seem more alive and clear. Want to get into the nitty-gritty of avoiding passive voice? Check out this tip from Grammar Girl.

6) Dangling Modifiers

I love the name of this mistake — it makes me think of a dramatic, life-or-death situation such as hanging precariously off a cliff. (Of course grammar mistakes are never that drastic, but it helps me remember to keep them out of my writing.)

This mistake happens when a descriptive phrase doesn’t apply to the noun that immediately follows it. It’s easier to see in an example taken from my colleague over on the HubSpot Sales Blog:

After declining for months, Jean tried a new tactic to increase ROI.

What exactly is declining for months? Jean? In reality, the sentence was trying to say that the ROI was declining — not Jean. To fix this problem, try flipping around the sentence structure (though beware of passive voice):

Jean tried a new tactic to increase ROI after it had been declining for months.

Better, right?

7) Referring to a Brand or an Entity as “They”

A business ethics professor made me aware of this mistake. “A business is not plural,” he told our class. “Therefore, the business is not ‘they.’ It’s ‘it.'”

So, what’s the problem with this sentence?

To keep up with their changing audience, Southwest Airlines rebranded in 2014.

The confusion is understandable. In English, we don’t identify a brand or an entity as “he” or “she” — so “they” seems to make more sense. But as the professor pointed out, it’s just not accurate. A brand or an entity is “it.”

To keep up with its changing audience, Southwest Airlines rebranded in 2014.

It might seem a little strange at first, but once you start correctly referring to a brand or entity as “it,” the phrasing will sound much more natural than “they.”

8) Possessive Nouns

Most possessive nouns will have an apostrophe — but where you put that apostrophe can be confusing. Here are a few general rules to follow:

  • If the noun is plural, add the apostrophe after the s. For example: the dogs’ bones.
  • If the noun is singular and ends in s, you should also put the apostrophe after the s. For example: the dress’ blue color.
  • On the other hand, if the noun is singular and doesn’t end in an s, you’ll add the apostrophe before the s. For example: the lizard’s tail.

Simple, right? If you want a deeper dive into the rules of possessive nouns, check out this website.

9) Affect vs. Effect

This one is another one of my pet peeves. Most people confuse them when they’re talking about something changing another thing.

When you’re talking about the change itself — the noun — you’ll use “effect.”

That movie had a great effect on me.

When you’re talking about the act of changing — the verb — you’ll use “affect.”

That movie affected me greatly.

10) Me vs. I

Most people understand the difference between the two of these, until it comes time for them to use one in a sentence. They’ll say something like:

When you get done with that lab report, can you send it to Bill and I?

But that’s wrong.

Try taking Bill out of that sentence — it sounds weird, right? You would never ask someone to send something to “I” when he or she is done. The reason it sounds weird is because “I” is the object of that sentence — and “I” should not be used in objects. In that situation, you’d use “me.”

When you get done with that lab report, can you send it to Bill and me?

Much better.

11) To vs. Too

We’ve all accidentally left the second “o” off of “too” when texting in a hurry. But in case the mistake goes beyond that, let’s review some usage rules.

“To” is typically used before a noun or verb, and describes a destination, recipient, or action. Take these examples:

My friend drove me to my doctor’s appointment. (Destination)

I sent the files to my boss. (Recipient)

I’m going to get a cup of coffee. (Action)

“Too,” on the other hand, is a word that’s used as an alternative to “also” or “as well.” It’s also used to describe an adjective in extremes. Have a look:

My colleague, Sophia Bernazzani, writes for the HubSpot marketing blog, too.

She, too, is vegan.

We both think it’s too cold outside.

You might have noticed that there’s some interesting comma usage where the word “too” is involved. We’ll cover commas a bit more later, but when you’re using the word “too” to replace “also” or “as well,” the general rule is to use a comma both before and after. The only exception occurs when “too” is the last word in the sentence — then, follow it with a period.

12) Do’s and Don’ts

I’m not talking about the do’s and don’ts of grammar here — I’m talking about the actual words: “do’s” and “don’ts.” They look weird, right? That’s because of two things:

  1. There’s an apostrophe in one to make it plural … which typically isn’t done, and
  2. The apostrophes aren’t put in the same place in both words.

Unfortunately, it’s AP Style, so we just have to live with it. It’s a hot angle for content formats, so I wouldn’t shy away from using it. But when you’re checking your writing for grammatical errors, just remember that the apostrophes should be in different places.

Note: There are different schools of thought about how to punctuate this one depending on what style guide/usage book you’re using. The Chicago Manual of Style, for instance, recommends “dos” and “don’ts.” The important thing is to be consistent and stick to one style guide, whether it’s AP Style, Chicago, or your own house style guide.

13) i.e. vs. e.g.

Confession: I never remember this rule, so I have to Google it every single time I want to use it in my writing. I’m hoping that by writing about it here, the trend will stop.

Many people use the terms interchangeably when trying to elaborate on a point, but each one means something different: “i.e.” roughly means “that is” or “in other words,” while “e.g.” means “example given” or “for example.” The former is used to clarify something you’ve said, while the latter adds color to a story through an example.

14) Peek vs. Peak vs. Pique

This mistake is another one I often see people make, even if they know what they mean.

  • Peek is taking a quick look at something — like a sneak peek of a new film.
  • Peak is a sharp point — like the peak of a mountain.
  • And pique means to provoke or instigate — you know, like your interest.

If you’re going to use one in your writing, stop and think for a second — is that the right “peek” you should be using?

15) Who vs. That

This one is tricky. These two words can be used when you’re describing someone or something through a phrase like, “Lindsay is a blogger who likes ice cream.” When you’re describing a person, be sure to use “who.”

When you’re describing an object, use “that.” For example, you should say, “Her computer is the one that overheats all the time.” It’s pretty simple, but definitely something that gets overlooked frequently.

16) Who vs. Whom vs. Whose vs. Who’s

Whoa. This one looks like a bit of a doozy. Let’s break it down, shall we?

“Who” is used to identify a living pronoun. If you asked, “Who ate all of the cookies?” the answer could be a person, like myself (“I did”), or another living being (“the dog did”).

Hey, both are realistic scenarios in my world.

“Whom” is a little trickier. It’s usually used to describe someone who’s receiving something, like a letter — “To whom will it be addressed?” But it can also be used to describe someone on the receiving end of an action, like in this sentence:

Whom did we hire to join the podcast team?

“Whose” is used to assign ownership to someone. See if you can spot the error in this question:

Who’s sweater is that?

Because the sweater belongs to someone, it should actually be written this way:

Whose sweater is that?

“Who’s,” on the other hand, is used to identify a living being. It’s a contraction for “who is” — here’s an example of how we might use it in a sentence here in Boston:

Who’s pitching for the Red Sox tonight?

See the difference? “Whose” is used to figure out who something belongs to, whereas “who’s” is used to identify someone who’s doing something.

17) “Alot” vs. A lot vs. Allot

I hate to break it to all of you “alot” fans out there, but “alot” is not a word. If you’re trying to say that someone has a vast number of things, you’d say they have “a lot” of things. And if you’re trying to say that you want to set aside a certain amount of money to buy something, you’d say you’ll “allot” $20 to spend on gas.

If you’re trying to remember to stay away from “alot,” check out this awesome cartoon by Hyperbole and a Half featuring the alot. That face will haunt you for the rest of your content marketing days.

18) Into vs. In to

Let’s clarify the “into” versus “in to” debate.

They’re often confused, but “into” indicates movement (Lindsay walked into the office) while “in to” is used in lots of situations because the individual words “to” and “in” are frequently used in other parts of a sentence. For example, “to” is often used with infinitive verbs (e.g. “to drive”). Or “in” can be used as part of a verb (e.g. “call in to a meeting”).

So if you’re trying to decide which to use, first figure out if the words “in” or “to” actually modify other words in the sentence. If they don’t, ask yourself if it’s indicating some sort of movement — if it does, you’re good to use “into.”

19) Lose vs. Loose

When people mix up “lose” and “loose,” it’s usually just because they’re spelled so similarly. They know their definitions are completely different.

According to Merriam-Webster, “lose” is a verb that means “to be unable to find (something or someone), to fail to win (a game, contest, etc.), or to fail to keep or hold (something wanted or valued).” It’s like losing your keys or losing a football match.

“Loose” is an adjective that means “not tightly fastened, attached, or held,” like loose clothing or a loose tooth.

A trick for remembering the difference is to think of the term “loosey-goosey” — both of those words are spelled with two o’s.

20) Then vs. Than

What’s wrong with this sentence?

My dinner was better then yours.

*Shudder.* In the sentence above, “then” should be “than.” Why? Because “than” is a conjunction used mainly to make comparisons — like saying one thing was better “than” another. “Then” is mainly an adverb used to situate actions in time:

We made dinner, and then we ate it.

21) Of vs. Have

I have a bad habit of overusing a phrase that goes like this: “Shoulda, coulda, woulda.” That basically means I regret not doing something, but it’s too late to dwell on it now. For example, “I shoulda done my laundry on Sunday.”

But “shoulda,” “coulda,” and “woulda” are all short for something else. What’s wrong with this statement?

I should of done my laundry on Sunday.

Since it’s so common for us to throw around fake worlds like “shoulda,” the above mistake is an easy one to make — “shoulda” sounds like a shortened version of “should of.” But really, “shoulda” is short for “should have.” See how it works in these sentences:

I should have done my laundry on Sunday.

I could have taken a shorter route.

I would have gone grocery shopping on Friday, if I had time.

So next time, instead of saying, “shoulda, woulda, coulda,” I should probably say, “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.”

22) Use of Commas

There are entire courses on correct comma usage, but let’s go over some of the most common comma use cases here.

To separate elements in a series.

Each element in a series should be separated by a comma. For example: “I brought a jacket, a blanket, and an umbrella to the park.” That last comma is optional. It’s called an “Oxford comma,” and whether you use it depends on your company’s internal style guide.

To separate independent clauses.

You can use commas to separate independent clauses that are joined by “and,” “but,” “for,” “or,” “nor,” “so,” or “yet.” For example, this sentence is correctly written: “My brother is very smart, and I’ve learned a lot from him.”

An independent clause is a sentence that can stand on its own. Here’s how to test it: Would the second part of the sentence (following one of those coordinating conjunctions) make a full sentence on its own? If so, add a comma. If it doesn’t, leave it out.

To separate an introductory word or phrase.

At the beginning of a sentence, we often add an introductory word or phrase that requires a subsequent comma. For example:

In the beginning, I had no idea how to use a comma.

Or:

However, after reading an awesome blog post, I understand the difference.

Other common introductory words and phrases include “after,” “although,” “when,” and “while.”

To learn about more use cases for the comma, check out this blog post from Daily Writing Tips.

23) Assure vs. Insure vs. Ensure

All of these words have to do with “making an outcome sure,” which is why they’re so often mixed up. However, they aren’t interchangeable.

  • “To assure” means to promise or say with confidence. For example, “I assure you that he’s good at his job.”
  • “To ensure” means to make certain. For example, “Ensure you’re free when I visit next weekend.”
  • Finally, “to insure” means to protect against risk by regularly paying an insurance company. For example, “I insure my car because the law requires it.”

24) Less vs. Fewer

You know the checkout aisle in the grocery store that says “10 Items or Less”? That’s actually incorrect. It should be “10 Items or Fewer.”

Why? Because “items” are quantifiable — you can count out 10 items. Use “fewer” for things that are quantifiable, like “fewer M&Ms” or “fewer road trips.” Use “less” for things that aren’t quantifiable, like “less candy” and “less traveling.”

25) Semicolons

Semicolons are used to connect two independent clauses that, though they could stand on their own, are closely related. For example, you could use a semicolon in the sentence: “Call me tomorrow; I’ll have an answer for you by then.”

Notice that each clause could be its own sentence — but stylistically, it makes more sense for them to be joined. (If there’s a coordinating conjunction between the two clauses — like “and,” “but”, or “or” — use a comma instead.)

You can also use semicolons to separate items in a list when those items contain commas themselves:

There are two options for breakfast: eggs and bacon, which is high in protein and low in carbs; or oatmeal and fruit, which is high in carbs but has more fiber.

26) Compliment vs. Complement

These two words are pronounced exactly the same, making them easy to mix up. But they’re actually quite different.

If something “complements” something else, that means it completes it, enhances it, or makes it perfect. For example, a wine selection can complement a meal, and two colors can complement each other.

The word “compliment” though, refers to an expression of praise (as a noun), or to praise or express admiration for someone (as a verb). You can compliment your friend’s new haircut, or pay someone a compliment on his or her haircut.

27) Farther vs. Further

People often use “farther” and “further” interchangeably to mean “at a greater distance.”

However, in most countries, there are actually subtle differences in meaning between the two. “Farther” is used more to refer to physical distances, while “further” is used more to refer to figurative and nonphysical distances. So while Paris is “farther” away than Madrid, a marketing team falls “further” away from its leads goal. (Note: The word “further” is preferred for all senses of the word in the U.K., Australia, Canada, and elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Nations.)

The word “further” can also be used as an adjective or as an adverb to mean “additionally.” For example, “I have no further questions.”

28) En Dash vs. Em Dash

Both “–” and “—” are versions of the dash: “–” is the en dash, and “—” or “–” are both versions of the em dash. You can use either the en dash or the em dash to signify a break in a sentence or set off parenthetical statements.

The en dash can also be used to represent time spans or differentiation, such as, “That will take 5–10 minutes.”

The em dash, on the other hand, can be used to set off quotation sources, such as, “‘To be, or not to be, that is the question.’ —Shakespeare.”

29) Title Capitalization

This one is tough, since so many different outlets apply different rules to how titles are capitalized. Luckily, I have a secret weapon — TitleCap.

The site outlines capitalization rules as follows:

  1. Capitalize the first and the last word.
  2. Capitalize nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinate conjunctions.
  3. Lowercase articles (“a,” “an,” “the”), coordinating conjunctions, and prepositions.
  4. Lowercase the ‘to’ in an infinitive (“I want to play guitar”).

Let’s use the title of this post as an example: “Grammar Police: 30 of the Most Common Grammatical Errors We All Need to Stop Making.” If left to my own devices — and remember, I write for a living — I would have left “We” lowercase. I always have to double-check, which is why guides like this one are so valuable.

30) Between vs. Among

Let’s clear this one up: The word “between” is used to refer to two (or sometimes more) things that are clearly separated, and the word “among” is used to refer to things that aren’t clearly separated because they’re part of a group or mass of objects.

So you choose between a red shirt and a black shirt, but you choose among all your shirts. You walk between Centre Street and Broad Street, but you walk among your friends.

Watch Your Language

English, like many other languages, has its own set of tricky rules and intricacies. But with a little bit of practice and help from guides like this one, you can become a grammar master.

These are just a few grammar mistakes we’ve picked up on. Which ones do you frequently catch? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2015 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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Nov

17

2016

Facebook’s Miscalculated Metrics: What Marketers Need to Know

Over the past couple of months, you may have heard some things about Facebook’s metrics.

There was talk of numbers — lots of them. Things were overestimated. Others were underestimated. People were kind of upset. But mostly, they were confused. What the heck happened? How was Facebook going to respond? And at the end of the day, what did it mean for marketers? Breathe, and don’t panic — we’re here to answer all of that.But before we dive in, let’s make one thing clear — none of it is the end of the world. Download our free guide for more data-backed tips on creating the optimal Facebook Ad. In fact, most of the issues have already been addressed and repaired; at this point, the most important item on our agenda is to clarify what’s actually going on.

What Happened?

It started with video

The drama began in September 2016, when Facebook revealed that there was a problem with its video viewership metrics — the average time that users spent watching videos was being largely overestimated.

Mathematically, Facebook wrote in a statement, that metric should have been the resulting figure from dividing the total time spent watching a video by the total number of people who played it. Instead, the total viewing time was divided by the number of times the video was watched for three seconds or more.

So, let’s say a video received a total viewing time of five hours, or 300 minutes, and it was watched by a total of 1,000 people, 700 of whom watched it for at least three seconds. The viewership metric should be 30%. Instead, Facebook was dividing those 300 minutes by 700, resulting in a larger metric of nearly 43%. And, says the Wall Street Journal [WSJ], that went on for nearly two years.

For a social media platform that boasts how effective its video tools are for marketers, the announcement was an embarrassment. The advertising world was especially unhappy about it — Publicis Media, an ad-buying agency, told its clients that Facebook indicated viewing time overestimates of up to 80%. There were calls for third-party metric verification protocols to be put in place, and while Facebook said that it fixed the error and would be looking into such improvements, the metric misfortune didn’t end there.

A bit of a bug

In fact, just yesterday, Facebook announced that it discovered a bug in its Pages Insights that’s been lurking since May. The summary displaying seven- or 28-day organic page reach was incorrectly added up as the sum of daily reach over that period. That means duplicate visitors were being counted in every instance, leading to a number that was 33% higher than it should have been for seven-day summaries, and 55% for the 28-day ones. Facebook clarified that this error would not impact paid ads.

Here’s how Facebook visually represented the error — the red circle indicates where the duplicate viewership would have appeared.

Facebook Page Insights

Source: Facebook

But you’ll notice that there are green circles in that image, too. Those indicate the insights that were unaffected by the bug — which was the “vast majority” of them — and includes the following measurements:

  • All graphs
  • Daily and historical reach
  • Per-post reach
  • Exported and API reach data
  • All data on the Reach tab

What else was impacted?

In addition to the Page Insights, the bug really only impacted a total of four out of Facebook’s 220 measured metrics, according to WSJ. The remainder included:

More video miscalculations.

This time, the “video views at 100%” — which has been renamed to “video watches at 100%” — metric was impacted, thanks to a glitch that sometimes causes a video’s audio and visual components to be unsynced.

That means that even though the visual is played to completion, the audio may continue after the visual stops. But since about 85% of Facebook video is consumed without sound, viewers are likely to stop watching the video before this latent audio completes. As a result, “video watches at 100%” metrics might now increase by an estimated 35%.

Instant articles.

Here’s another case of Facebook’s overestimations. The average time spent reading Instant Articles — a method by which Facebook displays news articles at a rate 10X faster than a typical mobile web browser — was reported to be 7-8% higher than the actual length of time per article.

Referrals.

In Facebook’s Analytics for Apps dashboard, “referrals” are intended to measure the number of clicks on a post that were directed to an app or website. But it turns out that the “referrals” metric was counting more than that, and inaccurately also included clicks on the same post to view media, like photo or video. That led to an overestimate of referrals by about 6%.

Facebook’s Response

In Facebook’s defense, significant measures have been taken to resolve all of the above issues.

For some, the errors pertaining to ads seem to be the most pressing, which could be why the social media platform has dedicated an entire page to the updates around ads reporting alone. Most of those changes are intended to provide clarification over what exactly is being measured and how — mostly in the interest of “fairness and transparency,” Mark Rabkin, Facebook’s VP of core ads, told WSJ.

Plus, Facebook claims to be taking the feedback to implement third-party measuring protocols seriously, and aims to further clarify how it’s going to calculate ad viewership, as well as the source of that data. Some of it will be coming from Moat and Integral Ad Science — platforms that are used to measure ad and content engagement — which will be used to measure display ad campaigns (previously, those platforms were only available to measure video campaigns).

But Facebook is also enlisting the help of a true viewership pioneer: Nielsen.

Nielsen has its own Digital Content Ratings metric, which Facebook will be implementing to count video viewership — both on-demand and live. That comes with Nielsen’s Total Audience Measurement, which helps marketers compare digital metrics to those from TV.

There’s also a new blogging property launching — Facebook’s Metrics FYI — which will contain regular updates about any and all changes to the platform’s metrics henceforth.

These efforts are all compounded by the formation of a Measurement Council — or, as we like to call it, Facebook’s jury of peers. The Council will be comprised of “business and measurement executives,” and is a bit of an extension of Facebook’s existing Client Council, which helped to develop the tools that help businesses measure ROI.

What It All Means for Marketers

So just how seriously should we be taking it? Well, in short, marketers have reason to be happy about the improvements that Facebook is making, but shouldn’t freak out over the miscalculations.

Why is that? According to Daria Marmer, HubSpot’s social product manager, “Most of the metrics in question are what we’d call vanity metrics. Views and impressions are important, but don’t have a huge impact on your business at the end of the day.”

And while Marmer echoes the benefits of Facebook’s measures to fix these discrepancies, “We really encourage marketers to tie their social efforts to more concrete metrics,” she said, “such as website visits, downloads, new leads.”

She adds, “The social data from Facebook in HubSpot customers’ portals won’t change based on these updates.”

We’ve got you covered. And, we’ll continue to bring you updates to all things social as they emerge.

What do you think of Facebook’s latest announcements, and what sort of action are you taking? Let us know in the comments.

free ebook: future of Facebook advertising

free guide to using facebook for business and marketing

Nov

17

2016

Facebook’s Miscalculated Metrics: What Marketers Need to Know

Facebook Metrics.png

Over the past couple of months, you may have heard some things about Facebook’s metrics.

There was talk of numbers — lots of them. Things were overestimated. Others were underestimated. People were kind of upset. But mostly, they were confused. What the heck happened? How was Facebook going to respond? And at the end of the day, what did it mean for marketers? Breathe, and don’t panic — we’re here to answer all of that. But before we dive in, let’s make one thing clear — none of it is the end of the world. Download our free guide for more data-backed tips on creating the optimal  Facebook Ad. In fact, most of the issues have already been addressed and repaired; at this point, the most important item on our agenda is to clarify what’s actually going on.

What Happened?

It started with video

The drama began in September 2016, when Facebook revealed that there was a problem with its video viewership metrics — the average time that users spent watching videos was being largely overestimated.

Mathematically, Facebook wrote in a statement, that metric should have been the resulting figure from dividing the total time spent watching a video by the total number of people who played it. Instead, the total viewing time was divided by the number of times the video was watched for three seconds or more.

So, let’s say a video received a total viewing time of five hours, or 300 minutes, and it was watched by a total of 1,000 people, 700 of whom watched it for at least three seconds. The viewership metric should be 30%. Instead, Facebook was dividing those 300 minutes by 700, resulting in a larger metric of nearly 43%. And, says the Wall Street Journal [WSJ], that went on for nearly two years.

For a social media platform that boasts how effective its video tools are for marketers, the announcement was an embarrassment. The advertising world was especially unhappy about it — Publicis Media, an ad-buying agency, told its clients that Facebook indicated viewing time overestimates of up to 80%. There were calls for third-party metric verification protocols to be put in place, and while Facebook said that it fixed the error and would be looking into such improvements, the metric misfortune didn’t end there.

A bit of a bug

In fact, just yesterday, Facebook announced that it discovered a bug in its Pages Insights that’s been lurking since May. The summary displaying seven- or 28-day organic page reach was incorrectly added up as the sum of daily reach over that period. That means duplicate visitors were being counted in every instance, leading to a number that was 33% higher than it should have been for seven-day summaries, and 55% for the 28-day ones. Facebook clarified that this error would not impact paid ads.

Here’s how Facebook visually represented the error — the red circle indicates where the duplicate viewership would have appeared.

Facebook Page Insights

Source: Facebook

But you’ll notice that there are green circles in that image, too. Those indicate the insights that were unaffected by the bug — which was the “vast majority” of them — and includes the following measurements:

  • All graphs
  • Daily and historical reach
  • Per-post reach
  • Exported and API reach data
  • All data on the Reach tab

What else was impacted?

In addition to the Page Insights, the bug really only impacted a total of four out of Facebook’s 220 measured metrics, according to WSJ. The remainder included:

More video miscalculations.

This time, the “video views at 100%” — which has been renamed to “video watches at 100%” — metric was impacted, thanks to a glitch that sometimes causes a video’s audio and visual components to be unsynced.

That means that even though the visual is played to completion, the audio may continue after the visual stops. But since about 85% of Facebook video is consumed without sound, viewers are likely to stop watching the video before this latent audio completes. As a result, “video watches at 100%” metrics might now increase by an estimated 35%.

Instant articles.

Here’s another case of Facebook’s overestimations. The average time spent reading Instant Articles — a method by which Facebook displays news articles at a rate 10X faster than a typical mobile web browser — was reported to be 7-8% higher than the actual length of time per article.

Referrals.

In Facebook’s Analytics for Apps dashboard, “referrals” are intended to measure the number of clicks on a post that were directed to an app or website. But it turns out that the “referrals” metric was counting more than that, and inaccurately also included clicks on the same post to view media, like photo or video. That led to an overestimate of referrals by about 6%.

Facebook’s Response

In Facebook’s defense, significant measures have been taken to resolve all of the above issues.

For some, the errors pertaining to ads seem to be the most pressing, which could be why the social media platform has dedicated an entire page to the updates around ads reporting alone. Most of those changes are intended to provide clarification over what exactly is being measured and how — mostly in the interest of “fairness and transparency,” Mark Rabkin, Facebook’s VP of core ads, told WSJ.

Plus, Facebook claims to be taking the feedback to implement third-party measuring protocols seriously, and aims to further clarify how it’s going to calculate ad viewership, as well as the source of that data. Some of it will be coming from Moat and Integral Ad Science — platforms that are used to measure ad and content engagement — which will be used to measure display ad campaigns (previously, those platforms were only available to measure video campaigns).

But Facebook is also enlisting the help of a true viewership pioneer: Nielsen.

Nielsen has its own Digital Content Ratings metric, which Facebook will be implementing to count video viewership — both on-demand and live. That comes with Nielsen’s Total Audience Measurement, which helps marketers compare digital metrics to those from TV.

There’s also a new blogging property launching — Facebook’s Metrics FYI — which will contain regular updates about any and all changes to the platform’s metrics henceforth.

These efforts are all compounded by the formation of a Measurement Council — or, as we like to call it, Facebook’s jury of peers. The Council will be comprised of “business and measurement executives,” and is a bit of an extension of Facebook’s existing Client Council, which helped to develop the tools that help businesses measure ROI.

What It All Means for Marketers

So just how seriously should we be taking it? Well, in short, marketers have reason to be happy about the improvements that Facebook is making, but shouldn’t freak out over the miscalculations.

Why is that? According to Daria Marmer, HubSpot’s social product manager, “Most of the metrics in question are what we’d call vanity metrics. Views and impressions are important, but don’t have a huge impact on your business at the end of the day.”

And while Marmer echoes the benefits of Facebook’s measures to fix these discrepancies, “We really encourage marketers to tie their social efforts to more concrete metrics,” she said, “such as website visits, downloads, new leads.”

She adds, “The social data from Facebook in HubSpot customers’ portals won’t change based on these updates.”

We’ve got you covered. And, we’ll continue to bring you updates to all things social as they emerge.

What do you think of Facebook’s latest announcements, and what sort of action are you taking? Let us know in the comments.

free ebook: future of Facebook advertising


free guide to using facebook for business and marketing

Oct

27

2016

Planning Social Media Content? Ask Yourself These 9 Questions

Scheduling_Social_Media.png

It’s no mystery that social media is a crucial part of any marketing strategy — regardless of industry, company size, product, or service.

We’ve all been there. Back in the day, I had to make the case for some businesses to even have a social media presence in the first place. But finally — finally! — it seems like folks are catching on. After all, 69% of marketers are using social media to build a following.

Now that most marketers really do understand that social media is a strategic must-have, how can we make it more manageable? Like many other things in life and in business, planning ahead is the way to go. Manage and plan your social media content with the help of this free calendar  template.

To avoid becoming one of those brands whose Facebook page hasn’t been updated in months — and we’ve all seen them — learning to plan and schedule your social media posts in advance is key. But how? We’ve outlined nine crucial questions to ask when you start this planning process, along with some helpful tools and resources to help along the way.

9 Questions About Planning and Scheduling Social Media

1) What are you promoting?

Part of planning your social media presence is knowing what you’re there to talk about. Maybe you have a looming product launch to promote, a holiday special, or a particular piece of content to get in front of the public eye.

In any case, knowing what you’re promoting should run in tandem with your social media schedule. Do you have multiple product or content launches taking place over the course of the year? That’s where a calendar is particularly useful — not only to announce the launches themselves, but to drop “teasers” leading up to them.

That’s also a good place to plan other pieces of your online presence, like your blog, around these launches — especially considering that 84% of marketers integrate social media with their overall marketing plans.

Let’s say you’re launching an annual report, and you want to use social media to push a high number of downloads. In the days leading up to it, your blog can feature smaller pieces of content pertaining to the different findings within that report. That creates a top-of-mind presence of your brand and your content, among your audience — just in time for the big launch.

2) What are your goals?

In 2015, Google did a study of Digital Leaders — the folks who have seen success with digital marketing — versus Digital Learners — those who have not. Out of the two, a whopping 92% of Leaders had clear digital marketing goals, compared to only 69% of Learners.

Those numbers illustrate the importance of outlining goals when planning social media posts and campaigns. That doesn’t mean they have to be dry or boring — it just means that even funny or out-of-the box posts still need to be aligned with what you’re trying to accomplish.

Just have a look at this collection of Twitter success stories, and the subhead introducing them: “Learn how businesses from around the world achieved their goals with Twitter.”

In the Greenhouse software case study, for example, there’s a very clear objective stated: “The marketing team at Greenhouse was focused on acquiring new subscribers for their weekly newsletter,” which was “focused on increasing brand awareness and purchase consideration.”

Notice how there are three pieces to the Greenhouse goal:

Increase awareness → newsletter subscription → purchase consideration

In addition to overall greater brand awareness, Greenhouse experienced 15% increase in newsletter subscribers within one short month. But remember — it was a two-pronged approach. In order to drive purchases, Greenhouse knew that its digital marketing would first have to aim for brand awareness, which would drive newsletter subscriptions.

Think about your ultimate goal — be it sales, downloads, or event attendance — and consider the smaller pieces that will lead to it. Then, shape and schedule your social media presence around those variables. Social Media Conten Template

3) Who is your target audience?

Here at HubSpot, we’re big on buyer personas — the semi-fictional “characters” that encompass the qualities of who you’re trying to reach.

Outlining your personas is a vital part of planning your social media presence. It’s one of the best ways to determine the needs, goals, and behavior of your potential customers, which can dictate how you digitally convey a product or service. In turn, that can help you understand the voice to use when trying to reach that audience. It works — 82% of companies with better value propositions also use buyer personas.

When you plan and schedule your social media, think about your personas. What are they looking for? What motivates them? What’s going to help them? How are they going to feel at a given time of year? Answering those questions can help determine what kind of media your personas are consuming. To get started, check out HubSpot’s MakeMyPersona tool.

4) What can your audience do with what you’re promoting?

Earlier, when asking about your personas, I posed the question: “What’s going to help them?”

That’s part of the reason why it’s so important to know who your personas are — to make sure that they can actually do something with the content you’re posting on social media. When you plan or schedule a social media post, ask yourself if it’s going to interest, benefit, or ultimately delight your target audience. If the answer is “no,” reconsider sharing it.

Also consider what’s wrong with it. Is there something specific that’s making your social media posts less sharable or engaging? Even the network you’re using can have an impact, since different types of content have varying results, depending on the platform.

Which brings us to our next question …

5) Are you planning accordingly for each network?

Not all social media is created equal. Different platforms attract different audiences. Plus, each one has its own “secret sauce” of when to post, and how often — check out the best times to post to each network.

Remember your buyer personas? As you figure out who they are, it’s also important to determine where they “live” online, and what kind of media they’re consuming — that will help you plan your social media presence for each individual network. It might be helpful to review the Pew Research Center’s Demographics of Social Media Users, which profiles the users of five major social media platforms — Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

While you’re at it, have a look at HubSpot’s Social Media Content Calendar. With a tab for each social network, it’s easy to plan posts by month, week, or even day. That’s an asset when it comes to the networks that require multiple posts per day, and can aid in planning for seasonality.

And speaking of seasonality …

6) Are you promoting seasonal content?

I don’t know about you, but I love the holidays. But I also like them with the right timing — in other words, I don’t get excited when I hear carols and bells in October. Too soon, right?

That said, it’s still a good idea to start planning your social media holiday presence early on. And, it’s important to understand how your personas behave during certain times of the year — there’s a big difference, for example, between B2B and B2C audience behavior during the holidays.

For B2C, it’s a bit more clear-cut. Brands see more first-time buyers during the holidays than they do during the rest of the year, when shoppers are “more influenced by brand allegiance,” writes SocialTimes’ Kimberlee Morrison.

For that reason, it’s important to use a calendar to schedule posts that will both engage potential first-time buyers, and keep them coming back after the holidays. That’s called reactivation — and according to Monetate, it’s imperative if you don’t want to your first-time customers to be part of the 86% of them who never come back.

In the B2B sector, it’s less about influencing purchases and more about increasing brand awareness. Around the holidays, for example, B2B companies are encouraged to promote sharable content that’s both seasonally-oriented and branded. That’s especially true on Facebook, which people browse 4.2X as much as they do search engines before shopping. So while you might not be offering a holiday promotion, you’re still aligning with the mood of your buyers — and keeping your brand at the top of their minds.

7) Are your posts agile enough to be replaced or rescheduled on short notice?

Despite our best planning efforts, unexpected things still come up. The world keeps turning, despite what our social media schedule dictates — which is why it’s important to keep it flexible.

When you plan your social media presence, it’s generally a best practice to leave open slots for things like breaking news or the content that you develop around unexpected current events.

My colleague, Susannah Morris, uses HubSpot’s Social Inbox app to flexibly plan social media this way. “I schedule out evergreen content and curate it as I go,” she says, “leaving slots to fill in with new content, newsjacking, or other interesting things closer to the time.”

In other words — things come up, so be sure to allow for them as you plan your posts ahead of time. But make sure you have a back-up plan, too, and a backlog of timely, sharable content to use as an alternative.

8) What’s performed well on your social networks in the past?

There’s a reason why 72% of marketers analyze their social media activity — they want to see what’s working.

But conversely, only 42% of marketers believe they can do such an analysis. Measuring the ROI of social media is known for being a bit tricky. Which network performs best? What kind of posts? What time of day? It’s answering all of the questions we’ve posed so far, and finding out if your answers to them are effective. And that data on what’s working — as well as what isn’t — will ultimately influence your future social media posts.

Digging into that data doesn’t have to be so complex, and there are quite a few resources that can help. Some social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, have their own analytic tools that provide some insights into post performance. And in your HubSpot software, you can use the Sources report to measure the ROI of your marketing campaigns, including details on how social media is driving traffic to your site — those are things like visits from links clicked on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more.

But in the case that you also have to illustrate the effectiveness of your social media — especially when using that data to plan and schedule future posts — it can be helpful to compile a monthly report that can shed detailed light on performance. Not sure what kind of data to include? Check out our ebook on how to present and prove your social media ROI — it comes with some templates to help you get started.

9) Have you identified influencers?

When it comes to genuinely reaching your audience, trust is huge. That’s why so many of us seek the advice of friends and family in choosing a product or service — 83% of people trust their recommendations more than anyone else’s.

But then, there are influencers — people considered to be leaders and trendsetters in their respective niches (think: bloggers). Many times, brands partner with influencers because the public listens to what they have to say. In fact, 49% of Twitter users say they count on recommendations from influencers first.

There’s a reason why it’s called social media. We’ve come to think of contacts on these networks as reliable acquaintances, even if we’ve never met them in real life. That’s why people like influencers have earned a so much consumer trust, and why marketers are partnering with them.

In fact, many businesses say that they earn $6.50 for every $1 they invest in partnerships with influencers. That’s because influencer campaigns are a bit like economical celebrity endorsements — people have come to recognize, follow, and trust what they have to say.

But many marketers say that finding the right influencers to work with can be challenge. For that, we recommend following a process similar to identifying your buyer personas, to make sure the influencers are aligned with what your brand represents, as well as your goals. And be sure that it’s a mutually beneficial partnership — much like a co-branding agreement, it’s important to determine what you can offer an influencer in return.

Ready to start planning?

With the right tools, managing social media isn’t so overwhelming. And planning ahead can help to create that peace of mind, especially when you allow for the flexibility we discussed earlier.

But make sure you’re not overdoing it. The amount of time spent on social media can vary from marketer to marketer, and can even depend on your industry. Answering these questions and following the right steps accordingly will help determine what works for you.

And as social media continues to evolve, we’ll be here to let you know about it, and what it means for you.

How do you plan and schedule social media? Let us know in the comments.

free social media content calendar template

 
free social media content calendar template

Oct

26

2016

A Brief History of Search & SEO

history of seo.png

Tracing the history of SEO is kind of like trying to trace the history of the handshake. We all know it exists, and we know it’s an important part of business. But we don’t spend a ton of time thinking about its origins — we’re mostly concerned with how we use it day-to-day.

But unlike the handshake, SEO is fairly young, and changes frequently. Quite appropriately, it appears to be a millennial — its birth is predicted to fall somewhere around 1991.

And in its relatively short life, it’s matured and evolved rather quickly — just look at how many changes Google’s algorithm alone has gone through. Download our free planner to learn how to step up your SEO traffic in just 30  days.

So where did SEO begin, and how did it become so darn important? Join us, as we step back in time and try to figure this out — as it turns out, it’s quite a story.

But First, a Look Back at Search Engines

Google Beta

Source: Wayback Machine

The first idea for creating a common archive for all the world’s data came to fruition in 1945. That July, Dr. Vannevar Bush — then director of the now-defunct Office of Scientific Research and Development — published a piece in The Atlantic proposing a “collection of data and observations, the extraction of parallel material from the existing record, and the final insertion of new material into the general body of the common record.” In other words, we believe, today’s Google.

Several decades later, in 1990, McGill University student Alan Emtage created Archie, which some say was the very first search engine — though that remains up for debate, according to research from Bill Slawski, president and founder of SEO by the Sea. However, Archie was what Slawski called the “best way to find information from other servers around the internet at the time,” and is actually still (very primitive) operation.

The next decade saw several pivotal developments, with the more commercial versions of search engines we might recognize today taking shape.

  • February 1993: Six Stanford students create Architext, which would later become the search engine Excite. Some, like Search Engine Land (SEL), say that Excite “revolutionized how information was cataloged,” making it easier to find information “by sorting results based on keywords found within content and backend optimization.”
  • June 1993: Matthew Gray debuts World Wide Web Wanderer, which later became known as Wandex.
  • October 1993: Martijn Koster introduces ALIWEB, which allows site owners to submit their own pages (unbeknownst, sadly, to many site owners).
  • December 1993: At least three “bot-fed” search engines exist — JumpStation, RBSE spider and World Wide Web Worm — which likely means they were powered by web robots to crawl both servers and site content to produce results.
  • 1994: Alta Vista, Infoseek, Lycos, and Yahoo search engines all come to fruition.
  • 1996: Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin begin building a search engine that they initially call BackRub.
  • April 1997: AskJeeves is introduced, later becoming Ask.com.
  • September 1997: Google.com is registered as a domain name.

It’s worth noting that nearly twelve years later, in June 2009, Microsoft released Bing — its previous editions were also known as Live Search, Windows Live Search, and MSN Search.

But here’s where SEO itself comes in. As search engines became more mainstream and widely used, site owners started to get wise. As SEO community Moz puts it, “It was discovered that by taking some rather simple actions, search engine results could be manipulated and money could be made from the internet.”

Those results, though, weren’t exactly quality ones. And that, dear readers, is where the SEO story begins.

A Brief History of Search & SEO

The ‘90s

90s Internet

Source: The Daily Dot

With search engines becoming household names and more families becoming connected to the Internet, finding information came with greater ease. The problem, as noted above, was the quality of that information.

While search engine results matched words from user queries, it was usually limited to just that, as an overwhelming amount of site owners took to keyword stuffing — repeating keywords over and over again in the text — to improve rankings (for which there was no criteria), drive traffic to their pages and produce attractive numbers for potential advertisers.

There was also a bit of collusion going on. In addition to the keyword stuffing, people were using excessive and “spammy backlinks,” according to SEL, to improve their authorities. Not only were there no ranking criteria at the time — but by the time search engines fixed algorithms accordingly, there were already new black hat SEO practices taking place that the fixes didn’t address.

But then, two kids at Stanford got an idea.

Google_Founders.png

Source: Stanford InfoLab

When Page and Brin set out to create Google, that was one of the problems they wanted to solve. In 1998, the pair published a paper at Stanford titled “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine,” where they wrote:

…the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users.”

It was in that same paper that Page and Brin first mentioned PageRank, the technology that Google uses to help rank search results based on quality, and not keywords alone. Some might say that thesis cleared the path for SEO as we know it today.

The Early 2000s

Early 2000s

Source: Wayback Machine

The early 2000s saw the beginning of the Google takeover. In the process of making search engine technology less advertising-centric, Google began to provide guidelines for white hat SEO — the kind that the “good guys” stick to — to help webmasters rank without any of the common fishy behavior from the 90s.

2000-2002

But according to Moz, the guidelines didn’t yet have an actual impact on ranking, so people didn’t bother following them. That’s partially because PageRank was based on the number of inbound links to a given page — the more of those, the higher the ranking. But there wasn’t yet a way to measure the authenticity of those links — for the early part of the 2000s, Marketing Technology Blog says it was still possible to use these backlinking techniques to rank pages that weren’t even related to search criteria.

But in 2001, Brin and Page appeared on “Charlie Rose,” when the host asked them, “Why does it work so well?” As part of his answer, Brin emphasized that — at the time — Google was a search engine and nothing else, and was looking at “the web as a whole, and not just which words occur on each page.” It set the tone for some of the initial major algorithm updates that would begin to more closely examine those words. Have a look at the full interview:

 

 

Source: Charlie Rose

2003-2004

This approach to the web being about more than just words really began taking shape in November 2003, with the “Florida” update to Google’s algorithm. Enough sites lost their ranking for Search Engine Watch to call the response to Florida a massive “outcry,” but careful to note that many sites benefitted from the change, too. It was the first major instance of sites receiving penalties for things like keyword stuffing, signaling Google’s emphasis on solving for the user first — mainly with quality content.

In 2004, one of the more primitive versions of Google’s voice search existed, in what the New York Times called a half-finished experiment. And while the technology was somewhat infantile at the time — just check out what the instructions looked like at first — it was also a signal to the future importance of mobile in SEO. (Stay tuned — more on that later.)

Google Voice primitive

Source: Wayback Machine

 

2005: A big year for SEO

One of the biggest years in the search engine world was 2005. That January, Google united with Yahoo and MSN for the Nofollow Attribute, which was created in part to decrease the amount of spammy links and comments on websites, especially blogs. Then, in June, Google debuted personalized search, which used someone’s search and browsing history to make results more relevant.

That November, Google Analytics launched, which is still used today to measure traffic and campaign ROI. Check out its baby photo:

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 11.35.29 AM.png

Source: Wayback Machine

2009: SEO shakeups

In 2009, the search engine world saw a bit of a shakeup. Bing premiered that June, with Microsoft aggressively marketing it as the search engine that would produce noticeably better results than Google. But as SEL predicted, it was no “Google-killer,” nor did its advice for optimizing content significantly contrast Google’s. In fact, according to Search Engine Journal, the only noticeable difference was Bing’s tendency to give priority to keywords in URLs, as well as favoring capitalized words and “pages from large sites.”

That same year, in August, Google provided a preview of the Caffeine algorithm change, requesting the public’s help to test the “next-generation infrastructure” that Moz says was “designed to speed crawling, expand the index, and integrate indexation and ranking in nearly real-time.”

Caffeine wasn’t fully introduced until nearly a year later — when it also improved the search engine’s speed — but in December of 2009, a tangible real-time search was released, with Google search results including things like tweets and breaking news. It was a move that confirmed SEO wasn’t just for webmasters anymore — from that moment forward, journalists, web copywriters and even social community managers would have to optimize content for search engines.

Here’s Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, discussing Caffeine in August 2009:

 

 

Source: Wayback Machine // WebProNews

2010-Present

Google_Logo_History.png

Source:Wayback Machine // Google

When you’re typing in a search query into Google, it’s kind of fun to see what its suggestions are. That’s thanks to the Google Instant technology, which rolled out in September 2010. At first, Moz says, it made SEOs “combust,” until they realized that it didn’t really have any result on ranking.

But Google Instant, along with the evolution of SEO from 2010 on, was just another phase of the search engine’s mission to solve for the user — despite some controversy along the way around pages whose rankings were actually improved by negative online reviews. The algorithm, Google said, was eventually adjusted to penalize sites using such tactics.

More on Google Instant, circa 2010:

 

 

That year also saw a growing importance of social media content in SEO. In December 2010, both Google and Bing added “social signals,” which first displayed any written Facebook posts, for example, from your own network that matched your query. But it also began to give PageRank to Twitter profiles that were linked to with some frequency. The importance of Twitter in SEO didn’t end there — stay tuned.

2011: The year of the panda

The trend of punishing sites for unfairly gaming Google’s algorithm would continue. Some of these incidents were more public than others, including one with Overstock.com in 2011. At the time, according to Wall Street Journal, domains ending with .edu generally had a higher authority in Google’s eyes. Overstock used that to its advantage by asking educational institutions to link to its site — and use keywords like “vacuum cleaners” and “bunk beds” — offering discounts for students and faculty in return. Those inbound links would improve Overstock’s rankings for queries with such keywords, until Overstock discontinued the practice in 2011 and Google penalizing them soon after.

It was also the year of Panda, which first rolled out that February — the algorithm update that cracked down on content farms. Those were sites with huge quantities of frequently updated, low-quality content that was written with the sole purpose of driving search engine results. They also tend to have a high ad-to-content ratios, which Panda was trained to sniff out.

Panda itself has undergone several updates — so many that in its timeline of changes to Google’s algorithm, Moz declined to list any that weren’t major after 2011. Even with that exclusion, the timeline still lists twenty-eight panda updates — for most of which the impact was difficult to measure — through July of 2015.

2012: Along came a penguin

In April 2012, Google took what it called “another step to reward high-quality sites” with the first of many Penguin updates — and, in the process of announcing it, acknowledged Bing’s month-earlier blog post on the changing face of SEO. Penguin targeted sites that more subtly used non-white hat SEO tactics; for example, those with content that might be mostly informative, but was also sprinkled with spammy hyperlinks that had nothing to do with the page’s H1, like in this example:

Google_Logo_History.png

Source: Google

It’s worth noting that 2012 also saw a throwback to Google’s original anti-ad-heavy thesis with the “Above The Fold” update, which began to lower the rankings of sites with heavy ad-space above the “fold,” or the top half of the page.

Eventually, Google would go beyond targeting spammy content itself. The Payday Loan algorithm update — which was hinted at in June 2013 and officially rolled out the following May — actually focused more on queries that were more likely to produce spammy results. Those were typically searches for things like, well, payday loans, and other things that might make your mother blush. Google adjusted its ranking system to help keep spam out of those results, and while it didn’t necessarily impact the SEO efforts of legitimate sites, it displayed efforts to keep search results authentic.

Google goes local

Keeping with the tradition of animal-named algorithm updates, Google released “Pigeon” (dubbed so by SEL) in 2014, which carried quite an impact on local search results. At the time, it seems to have been designed to improve Maps queries, which began to be treated with some of the same technology that was applied to its other search functions, like “Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms“. Local searches were going to become a big deal — and it will only continue to do so, as you’ll see in a bit.

Then, in 2015…

The biggest post-2010 SEO announcement might have been Google’s mobile update of April 2015, when non-mobile-friendly websites would start getting lower rankings. That meant SEO was no longer about keywords and content — responsive design mattered, too.

Google announced that change in advance, in February 2015, with a mobile-friendly test that allowed webmasters to view potential issues and make changes before the rollout. It wasn’t the last of Google’s mobile updates — in August 2016, it announced a crackdown on mobile pop-ups.

What’s Next?

It might be hard to believe, but it looks like even more change is on the horizon.

To mobile and beyond

As mobile usage is on the rise — 51% percent of digital media is consumed that way, versus 42% on desktop — it makes sense that SEO will continue leaning in that direction.

That’s already apparent with Google’s favorability toward a mobile-friendly user experience. We predict that a future wave of SEO will largely pertain to voice search. That has its own complex history and is on the rise — 20% of Google searches are currently done by voice, as are 25% of Bing’s. And it’s compounded by the rise of such voice-powered digital personal assistants, like Amazon’s Alexa.

While there might not be a clear-cut way to optimize for voice search yet — largely due to a lack of analytics in that area — we anticipate that those resources will become available, creating yet another critical pillar of SEO.

Going local

But that brings up the issue of localization in SEO, and optimizing results to be regionally relevant. That’s especially true in the realm of voice search — Yelp and other business aggregators are used to answer voice queries about what’s nearby, for example. That’s an SEO opportunity for local businesses, by making sure their listings are “comprehensive, accurate and optimized to be referenced” on a third party site.

Getting Social

While the 2009 introduction of Google’s real-time search had some social ramifications, social media is becoming a more pivotal piece of SEO strategy. When the search engine began indexing tweets in 2011, for example, it hinted toward a future in which users seek information on social media in the same way that they do via search. In fact, this indexing might be Google’s version of future-proofing — if you can imagine it — for a time when people no longer use search engines the way we do now.

For example, type in the name of any celebrity — say, Charlie Rose, whose video we shared earlier. The first page of search results for his name includes his Facebook and Twitter profiles. Plus, check out the biographical sidebar to the right — there are social icons with links to his various networks there, too. When users search for a person, that’s one of the first things they want to see.

Charlie Rose google search

Source: Google

In any case, it’s clear why SEO has become a full-time job. Its history will only continue evolving. Executing it well requires a high level of skill, ethics, and upkeep on technology.

But we know that, sometimes, it’s not possible to have a single person dedicated to it, which is why we continue to create the best SEO learning resources we can. Check out some of our favorites:

What are your favorite pieces of SEO history? Let us know in the comments.

Increase SEO Traffic


free guide: common SEO mistakes

Oct

26

2016

A Brief History of Search & SEO

history of seo.png

Tracing the history of SEO is kind of like trying to trace the history of the handshake. We all know it exists, and we know it’s an important part of business. But we don’t spend a ton of time thinking about its origins — we’re mostly concerned with how we use it day-to-day.

But unlike the handshake, SEO is fairly young, and changes frequently. Quite appropriately, it appears to be a millennial — its birth is predicted to fall somewhere around 1991.

And in its relatively short life, it’s matured and evolved rather quickly — just look at how many changes Google’s algorithm alone has gone through. Download our free planner to learn how to step up your SEO traffic in just 30  days.

So where did SEO begin, and how did it become so darn important? Join us, as we step back in time and try to figure this out — as it turns out, it’s quite a story.

But First, a Look Back at Search Engines

Google Beta

Source: Wayback Machine

The first idea for creating a common archive for all the world’s data came to fruition in 1945. That July, Dr. Vannevar Bush — then director of the now-defunct Office of Scientific Research and Development — published a piece in The Atlantic proposing a “collection of data and observations, the extraction of parallel material from the existing record, and the final insertion of new material into the general body of the common record.” In other words, we believe, today’s Google.

Several decades later, in 1990, McGill University student Alan Emtage created Archie, which some say was the very first search engine — though that remains up for debate, according to research from Bill Slawski, president and founder of SEO by the Sea. However, Archie was what Slawski called the “best way to find information from other servers around the internet at the time,” and is actually still (very primitive) operation.

The next decade saw several pivotal developments, with the more commercial versions of search engines we might recognize today taking shape.

  • February 1993: Six Stanford students create Architext, which would later become the search engine Excite. Some, like Search Engine Land (SEL), say that Excite “revolutionized how information was cataloged,” making it easier to find information “by sorting results based on keywords found within content and backend optimization.”
  • June 1993: Matthew Gray debuts World Wide Web Wanderer, which later became known as Wandex.
  • October 1993: Martijn Koster introduces ALIWEB, which allows site owners to submit their own pages (unbeknownst, sadly, to many site owners).
  • December 1993: At least three “bot-fed” search engines exist — JumpStation, RBSE spider and World Wide Web Worm — which likely means they were powered by web robots to crawl both servers and site content to produce results.
  • 1994: Alta Vista, Infoseek, Lycos, and Yahoo search engines all come to fruition.
  • 1996: Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin begin building a search engine that they initially call BackRub.
  • April 1997: AskJeeves is introduced, later becoming Ask.com.
  • September 1997: Google.com is registered as a domain name.

It’s worth noting that nearly twelve years later, in June 2009, Microsoft released Bing — its previous editions were also known as Live Search, Windows Live Search, and MSN Search.

But here’s where SEO itself comes in. As search engines became more mainstream and widely used, site owners started to get wise. As SEO community Moz puts it, “It was discovered that by taking some rather simple actions, search engine results could be manipulated and money could be made from the internet.”

Those results, though, weren’t exactly quality ones. And that, dear readers, is where the SEO story begins.

A Brief History of Search & SEO

The ‘90s

90s Internet

Source: The Daily Dot

With search engines becoming household names and more families becoming connected to the Internet, finding information came with greater ease. The problem, as noted above, was the quality of that information.

While search engine results matched words from user queries, it was usually limited to just that, as an overwhelming amount of site owners took to keyword stuffing — repeating keywords over and over again in the text — to improve rankings (for which there was no criteria), drive traffic to their pages and produce attractive numbers for potential advertisers.

There was also a bit of collusion going on. In addition to the keyword stuffing, people were using excessive and “spammy backlinks,” according to SEL, to improve their authorities. Not only were there no ranking criteria at the time — but by the time search engines fixed algorithms accordingly, there were already new black hat SEO practices taking place that the fixes didn’t address.

But then, two kids at Stanford got an idea.

Google_Founders.png

Source: Stanford InfoLab

When Page and Brin set out to create Google, that was one of the problems they wanted to solve. In 1998, the pair published a paper at Stanford titled “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine,” where they wrote:

…the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users.”

It was in that same paper that Page and Brin first mentioned PageRank, the technology that Google uses to help rank search results based on quality, and not keywords alone. Some might say that thesis cleared the path for SEO as we know it today.

The Early 2000s

Early 2000s

Source: Wayback Machine

The early 2000s saw the beginning of the Google takeover. In the process of making search engine technology less advertising-centric, Google began to provide guidelines for white hat SEO — the kind that the “good guys” stick to — to help webmasters rank without any of the common fishy behavior from the 90s.

2000-2002

But according to Moz, the guidelines didn’t yet have an actual impact on ranking, so people didn’t bother following them. That’s partially because PageRank was based on the number of inbound links to a given page — the more of those, the higher the ranking. But there wasn’t yet a way to measure the authenticity of those links — for the early part of the 2000s, Marketing Technology Blog says it was still possible to use these backlinking techniques to rank pages that weren’t even related to search criteria.

But in 2001, Brin and Page appeared on “Charlie Rose,” when the host asked them, “Why does it work so well?” As part of his answer, Brin emphasized that — at the time — Google was a search engine and nothing else, and was looking at “the web as a whole, and not just which words occur on each page.” It set the tone for some of the initial major algorithm updates that would begin to more closely examine those words. Have a look at the full interview:

 

 

Source: Charlie Rose

2003-2004

This approach to the web being about more than just words really began taking shape in November 2003, with the “Florida” update to Google’s algorithm. Enough sites lost their ranking for Search Engine Watch to call the response to Florida a massive “outcry,” but careful to note that many sites benefitted from the change, too. It was the first major instance of sites receiving penalties for things like keyword stuffing, signaling Google’s emphasis on solving for the user first — mainly with quality content.

In 2004, one of the more primitive versions of Google’s voice search existed, in what the New York Times called a half-finished experiment. And while the technology was somewhat infantile at the time — just check out what the instructions looked like at first — it was also a signal to the future importance of mobile in SEO. (Stay tuned — more on that later.)

Google Voice primitive

Source: Wayback Machine

 

2005: A big year for SEO

One of the biggest years in the search engine world was 2005. That January, Google united with Yahoo and MSN for the Nofollow Attribute, which was created in part to decrease the amount of spammy links and comments on websites, especially blogs. Then, in June, Google debuted personalized search, which used someone’s search and browsing history to make results more relevant.

That November, Google Analytics launched, which is still used today to measure traffic and campaign ROI. Check out its baby photo:

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 11.35.29 AM.png

Source: Wayback Machine

2009: SEO shakeups

In 2009, the search engine world saw a bit of a shakeup. Bing premiered that June, with Microsoft aggressively marketing it as the search engine that would produce noticeably better results than Google. But as SEL predicted, it was no “Google-killer,” nor did its advice for optimizing content significantly contrast Google’s. In fact, according to Search Engine Journal, the only noticeable difference was Bing’s tendency to give priority to keywords in URLs, as well as favoring capitalized words and “pages from large sites.”

That same year, in August, Google provided a preview of the Caffeine algorithm change, requesting the public’s help to test the “next-generation infrastructure” that Moz says was “designed to speed crawling, expand the index, and integrate indexation and ranking in nearly real-time.”

Caffeine wasn’t fully introduced until nearly a year later — when it also improved the search engine’s speed — but in December of 2009, a tangible real-time search was released, with Google search results including things like tweets and breaking news. It was a move that confirmed SEO wasn’t just for webmasters anymore — from that moment forward, journalists, web copywriters and even social community managers would have to optimize content for search engines.

Here’s Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, discussing Caffeine in August 2009:

 

 

Source: Wayback Machine // WebProNews

2010-Present

Google_Logo_History.png

Source:Wayback Machine // Google

When you’re typing in a search query into Google, it’s kind of fun to see what its suggestions are. That’s thanks to the Google Instant technology, which rolled out in September 2010. At first, Moz says, it made SEOs “combust,” until they realized that it didn’t really have any result on ranking.

But Google Instant, along with the evolution of SEO from 2010 on, was just another phase of the search engine’s mission to solve for the user — despite some controversy along the way around pages whose rankings were actually improved by negative online reviews. The algorithm, Google said, was eventually adjusted to penalize sites using such tactics.

More on Google Instant, circa 2010:

 

 

That year also saw a growing importance of social media content in SEO. In December 2010, both Google and Bing added “social signals,” which first displayed any written Facebook posts, for example, from your own network that matched your query. But it also began to give PageRank to Twitter profiles that were linked to with some frequency. The importance of Twitter in SEO didn’t end there — stay tuned.

2011: The year of the panda

The trend of punishing sites for unfairly gaming Google’s algorithm would continue. Some of these incidents were more public than others, including one with Overstock.com in 2011. At the time, according to Wall Street Journal, domains ending with .edu generally had a higher authority in Google’s eyes. Overstock used that to its advantage by asking educational institutions to link to its site — and use keywords like “vacuum cleaners” and “bunk beds” — offering discounts for students and faculty in return. Those inbound links would improve Overstock’s rankings for queries with such keywords, until Overstock discontinued the practice in 2011 and Google penalizing them soon after.

It was also the year of Panda, which first rolled out that February — the algorithm update that cracked down on content farms. Those were sites with huge quantities of frequently updated, low-quality content that was written with the sole purpose of driving search engine results. They also tend to have a high ad-to-content ratios, which Panda was trained to sniff out.

Panda itself has undergone several updates — so many that in its timeline of changes to Google’s algorithm, Moz declined to list any that weren’t major after 2011. Even with that exclusion, the timeline still lists twenty-eight panda updates — for most of which the impact was difficult to measure — through July of 2015.

2012: Along came a penguin

In April 2012, Google took what it called “another step to reward high-quality sites” with the first of many Penguin updates — and, in the process of announcing it, acknowledged Bing’s month-earlier blog post on the changing face of SEO. Penguin targeted sites that more subtly used non-white hat SEO tactics; for example, those with content that might be mostly informative, but was also sprinkled with spammy hyperlinks that had nothing to do with the page’s H1, like in this example:

Google_Logo_History.png

Source: Google

It’s worth noting that 2012 also saw a throwback to Google’s original anti-ad-heavy thesis with the “Above The Fold” update, which began to lower the rankings of sites with heavy ad-space above the “fold,” or the top half of the page.

Eventually, Google would go beyond targeting spammy content itself. The Payday Loan algorithm update — which was hinted at in June 2013 and officially rolled out the following May — actually focused more on queries that were more likely to produce spammy results. Those were typically searches for things like, well, payday loans, and other things that might make your mother blush. Google adjusted its ranking system to help keep spam out of those results, and while it didn’t necessarily impact the SEO efforts of legitimate sites, it displayed efforts to keep search results authentic.

Google goes local

Keeping with the tradition of animal-named algorithm updates, Google released “Pigeon” (dubbed so by SEL) in 2014, which carried quite an impact on local search results. At the time, it seems to have been designed to improve Maps queries, which began to be treated with some of the same technology that was applied to its other search functions, like “Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms“. Local searches were going to become a big deal — and it will only continue to do so, as you’ll see in a bit.

Then, in 2015…

The biggest post-2010 SEO announcement might have been Google’s mobile update of April 2015, when non-mobile-friendly websites would start getting lower rankings. That meant SEO was no longer about keywords and content — responsive design mattered, too.

Google announced that change in advance, in February 2015, with a mobile-friendly test that allowed webmasters to view potential issues and make changes before the rollout. It wasn’t the last of Google’s mobile updates — in August 2016, it announced a crackdown on mobile pop-ups.

What’s Next?

It might be hard to believe, but it looks like even more change is on the horizon.

To mobile and beyond

As mobile usage is on the rise — 51% percent of digital media is consumed that way, versus 42% on desktop — it makes sense that SEO will continue leaning in that direction.

That’s already apparent with Google’s favorability toward a mobile-friendly user experience. We predict that a future wave of SEO will largely pertain to voice search. That has its own complex history and is on the rise — 20% of Google searches are currently done by voice, as are 25% of Bing’s. And it’s compounded by the rise of such voice-powered digital personal assistants, like Amazon’s Alexa.

While there might not be a clear-cut way to optimize for voice search yet — largely due to a lack of analytics in that area — we anticipate that those resources will become available, creating yet another critical pillar of SEO.

Going local

But that brings up the issue of localization in SEO, and optimizing results to be regionally relevant. That’s especially true in the realm of voice search — Yelp and other business aggregators are used to answer voice queries about what’s nearby, for example. That’s an SEO opportunity for local businesses, by making sure their listings are “comprehensive, accurate and optimized to be referenced” on a third party site.

Getting Social

While the 2009 introduction of Google’s real-time search had some social ramifications, social media is becoming a more pivotal piece of SEO strategy. When the search engine began indexing tweets in 2011, for example, it hinted toward a future in which users seek information on social media in the same way that they do via search. In fact, this indexing might be Google’s version of future-proofing — if you can imagine it — for a time when people no longer use search engines the way we do now.

For example, type in the name of any celebrity — say, Charlie Rose, whose video we shared earlier. The first page of search results for his name includes his Facebook and Twitter profiles. Plus, check out the biographical sidebar to the right — there are social icons with links to his various networks there, too. When users search for a person, that’s one of the first things they want to see.

Charlie Rose google search

Source: Google

In any case, it’s clear why SEO has become a full-time job. Its history will only continue evolving. Executing it well requires a high level of skill, ethics, and upkeep on technology.

But we know that, sometimes, it’s not possible to have a single person dedicated to it, which is why we continue to create the best SEO learning resources we can. Check out some of our favorites:

What are your favorite pieces of SEO history? Let us know in the comments.

Increase SEO Traffic


free guide: common SEO mistakes

Oct

20

2016

How to Brand Your Business on a Budget: A 6-Step Guide

budget_business_branding.png

In marketing, it seems like the word “brand” is used a lot — the leading brand, off-brand, personal brand … you get the picture. 

But there’s often confusion around its meaning in business. What does it entail? Do I need to hire an expert? Branding is expensive, right?

To that very last point, it doesn’t have to be. As it turns out, there are some pretty creative ways to brand your business without a ton of cash. And while it can require an investment of time, the ROI won’t go unnoticed — in some cases, it can actually help you save money. Download our essential guide to branding here for even more tips on branding  your company. 

So read on, and see how you can start building a brand today.

How to Brand Your Business on a Budget: A 6-Step Guide

1) Know your personas.

It’s no coincidence that 82% of companies with better value propositions also use buyer personas — the semi-fictional “characters” that encompass the qualities of who you’re trying to reach.

The needs, goals, and behavior of your potential customers dictate how you convey your product or service. Understanding those things helps you determine what kind of media your personas are consuming, what motivates them, and where they “live” online. You can see why having that information helps develop a compelling, effective brand — it helps you reach the right people.

Figuring that out doesn’t have to come at a price. A great way to get started is with our free MakeMyPersona tool, which guides you through a series of questions about the ideal person you want to reach. Take your time with it. The questions are meant to get you thinking about how you want to be perceived and by whom — and that shouldn’t be a quick process.

2) Develop an identity and a voice.

Once you’ve identified your buyer personas, your brand can start to take shape. That involves creating a brand identity — the things that make people aware of what your brand is — and its voice, which is the tone you use in any copy or public communication.

As a writer, I’m particularly interested in the voice aspect — but what does that like for you? Figuring that out follows a process not unlike the one that’s used to determine your personas. But instead of answering questions about your target audience, you’re answering questions that are a bit more introspective to your brand. What are its values? What does it represent? How do you want people to talk about you? (Check out our guide to answering these questions and more on brand voice here.)

Even if you’re not starting from scratch, establishing a strong(er) brand voice can be valuable. Just take the instance of the Zoological Wildlife Foundation — during its recent rebrand, finding its voice was a top priority. The results? Its overall online presence increased by 343%, with website traffic alone seeing a 63% boost.

3) Have a consistent social media presence.

So, we know who your personas are. And now, we know what to say to them — and how to say it. But where are they?

Since you might have a clear picture of the different pieces of your audience, it’s important to figure out where they’re spending the most time, especially on social media. We’ve talked before how effective it is to reach people where they’re already present — that includes their online behavior, too.

We recommend checking out Pew Research Center’s Demographics of Social Media Users, which profiles the users of five major social media platforms — Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Pay attention close attention to the data. Maybe the majority of your personas spend most of their time on one network. While that doesn’t mean you should ignore the others, it does give you an idea of where to dedicate the most resources.

And once you do establish that presence, maintain it. How many times have you gone to a brand’s Facebook Page only to find that nothing has been posted in the past three months? Chances are, it didn’t have a positive impact on your perception.

That can be avoided by diligently planning and scheduling social media posts like you would with any other marketing calendar. Something like our free Social Media Content Calendar can help, and get you thinking about things like the seasonality of what you post. That’s a huge part of staying relevant to your audience — by sharing content that pertains to what they’re likely thinking about at a given time of year.

4) Blog. 

We’ve covered the importance of blogging before, and we really can’t emphasize it enough. It’s a core part of our Inbound Methodology, especially the “attract” stage — the one that turns strangers into visitors to your website.

In fact, blogging might be the most fundamental step of inbound marketing. It helps you reach qualified customers, like your personas, by creating the informative content that matches the information they’re searching for. That’s why it’s so important to make it relevant to this audience — when you’re writing, make sure the content is optimized for those searches. (Here’s a handy list of places where you can learn search engine optimization).

Believe us — your personas are definitely looking for the information that you’re able to provide — if you write about it. After friends and family, blogs are the third most trusted source of information. Plus, that content will also serve as material to populate your social media networks, and we’ve already covered what a crucial part that plays in branding on a budget.

While blogging is fiscally inexpensive, one of the biggest struggles we hear about is the cost of spending time on it. For that, we reference the joke about a doctor asking his patient, “Would you rather work out one hour per day, or be dead 24 hours per day?” The inbound marketing version of that question would ask, “Would you rather blog for one hour each day, or always have insufficient content to draw in visitors?”

Like planning your social media presence, having an editorial calendar for your blog can be helpful in maintaining consistent timing and fresh content. That’s why we put together a free blog editorial calendar template, complete with instructions and content management tips.

5) Make customer service a priority.

When we hear the name “Zappos,” most of us immediately think, “unparalleled customer service.” The online apparel retailer built this level of service into its core approach to doing business — and into its core values.

Why is that so important? For Zappos, making excellent customer service the cornerstone of its brand actually saved money on marketing and advertising. That’s because it created word-of-mouth among existing and potential customers, which is what we call earned media — the recognition that your brand has earned, not paid for, from people talking about something remarkable you did. (Psst — U.S. businesses, as a whole, lose about $41 billion dollars each year because of bad customer service.)

Whether you’re serving customers or clients, the goal is to create a delightful, sharable experience. And when the client or customer experience is a priority, it shouldn’t cost you much for them to talk about it — remember, your work earned it.

But that revisits the importance of your identity and voice. As you go through these brand-building steps, think about the values that you want to be resonated in those things. Is excellent service one of them? Those values are what shape the brand’s culture, and that influences the voice you project to an audience.

6) Take advantage of co-branding.

I’ll never forget what my colleague Lisa Toner told me when I asked her about negotiating co-branding agreements.

“Larger companies may have a large reach,” she said, “but what do they not have?”

When you’re just starting to build a brand, you might not have the reach that Toner’s talking about. You can take the steps to build it, like we’ve described so far, but that takes time. Until then, one way to get your name in front of a broader audience is to partner with a brand that has one.

But don’t just pick any old brand to work with. Make sure it’s one that’s aligned with yours — the partnership has to make sense in the minds of your audience. Here’s what we recommend in seeking a co-brand:

  • Consider your partner’s audience. Would it be interested in your brand? Is it that difficult for you to reach without this partnership? How well does it trust your co-brand? That’s crucial to getting them to listen to you, too — people don’t trust traditional advertisements anymore. So make sure your partner reaches the audience in a way that instills confidence, not doubt.
  • Have something to offer your co-brand. Just like Toner asked, “what do they not have?” The experience should be a win-win-win: for you, your co-brand, and the consumer.
  • Consider selecting a well-known and respected nonprofit as a co-brand. More and more people’s purchasing decisions are based on a brand’s social responsibility — in fact, 85% of millennials say that makes them more willing to recommend a brand.

Get Branding

Building a brand might seem like a huge undertaking, especially when resources are limited. But as we’ve seen, there are plenty of economical ways to not only get started, but to continue the momentum you start with these efforts.

And please, have fun with the process. Of course, there has to be a degree of strategy and logic involved — that’s why we’ve built the tools to help you determine what the different pieces of your brand will be. But it’s a creative exercise, so keep that in mind if you get bogged down in technicalities.

What were some of the first ways you started branding your business on a budget? Let us know in the comments.

free guide to branding your company

 
free guide to company branding

Oct

20

2016

Are You a Good Boss? [Flowchart]

are_you_a_good_boss-1.png

Earlier this year, I wrote about a little thing called “imposter syndrome.” It refers to the feeling we get when, no matter how much we’ve achieved, we feel like we don’t belong or don’t deserve to be in a position of leadership.

About 70% of us will experience it at some point, especially the bosses among us. No wonder why so many of us constantly ask if we stack up. And how do you measure that, anyway?

It turns out, we’re probably overthinking it. Sometimes, a simple question-and-answer flowchart can help us with that introspection, and answer the question, “Am I a good boss?”

You’re in luck. The folks over at Headway Capital have created such a flowchart, chock full of important questions to ask about your leadership style, priorities, and more. Check out the infographic below to see how you measure up as a boss — and where there might be room for improvement. (P.S. Love infographics but struggle with design? Download our free infographic templates here).


Are-you-a-good-boss.png

free ebook: leadership lessons  

Oct

17

2016

8 Helpful Resources for Creating Beautiful Infographics

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Visuals have a huge impact in marketing. Not only do they make content more sharable — 40 times as much — but they help us retain information. When details are paired with an image, we remember 55% more of it.

That can be pulled off with infographics — the nifty images that visually break down complex statistics. They’re customizable, sharable, and they’re easier to create than you might think.

Sure, you could hire a professional to create the infographics for you. But if you’re restricted by budgets or time, there are some great DIY resources out there for making compelling visuals. Save countless hours using these free, pre-made templates to design your  infographics.

We scouted the web for some of them — check them out below. (And for more on how to create an infographic, check out these tips.)

8 Helpful Resources for Creating Beautiful Infographics

1) Canva

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Cost: Free, with an upgrade available for $12.95/month or $119.40/year

Oh, how we love the ease and intuitiveness of Canva. From the very beginning, it asks you a series of simple, colorfully-illustrated questions about what’s brought you to their site. (Today, it’s infographics, but there’s a ton of other stuff you can create there, too.)

Once you’ve let Canva know what you want to do, the site generates several templates you can use as a foundation for your infographic. Plus, it’s got a library of roughly 1,000,000 images that you can add to your project.

From there, you can edit the text, background image, shapes and other aspects of the infographic to make it your own. And it’s so easy — here’s a goofy one that I put together on how my dog spends his day:

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Source: Canva

2) Piktochart

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Cost: Free, with paid packages available starting at $15/month

Similar to Canva, Piktochart can be used to design more than just infographics — it can also build reports, presentations, and posters.

But the templates available for infographics are numerous, and there’s an upgrade available. “Pro” memberships — which run between $15-$30, depending on the features you want — allow access to even more templates, as well as removed watermarks and hi-res downloads.

When it comes to creating the infographic itself, the features are fairly similar to Canva’s — the background, text, and images can all be changed, or users can upload their own files for greater personalization.

3) Venngage

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Cost: Free, with paid packages available starting at $19/month

Like its predecessors above, Venngage has quite a few design features, including its great social media templates, which users can download to create their own personalized Instagram posts, blog headers, and more.

For infographics, there’s a decent range of templates, each categorized by type — statistical, process, and timeline, to name a few. Some of the templates are limited to premium members, reflecting Venngage’s four-tiered approach to pricing — free, premium, education, and non-profit. Plus, there are templates available for those latter two categories. Here’s one that helps non-profits visually communicate highlights from an annual report:

Venngage Infographic

4) Easel.ly

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Cost: Free, or PRO for $36/year

Upon visiting Easel.ly’s website, you’re immediately presented with a plethora of infographic templates, most of which can be immediately clicked and customized without having to create an account. If you want to save and share your work, though, you will have to join — for free.

Unlike its predecessors listed here, Easel.ly seems to be a no-frills platform that’s comprised of infographics. You can choose which category you’d like, but it’s not quite as organized as some other sites — the drop-down menu is a bit hidden to the left of the templates. Still, most of templates appear to be available for free (more become available with a Pro membership), and they’re fairly easy to edit.

5) Freepik

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Cost: Free, with paid packages available starting at $7.50/month

As its name suggests, Freepik is a resource for, well, free pictures. Infographics are just one type, but after performing a search for them, there are plenty of options — most of which are complimentary.

The only drawback? Freepik doesn’t quite allow the same level of customization that some others in this list do. You can download the images for free, but you’ll need a vector graphics editor in order to customize them — Brittany Leaning and Megan Conley of HubSpot’s content marketing team both suggest using Adobe Illustrator.

6) Infogram

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Cost: Very limited options available for free, with paid packages available starting at $19/month

Like many of its visual peers, Infogram is a resource that helps users create both picturesque charts and infographics. It’s definitely one of the more “grown-up” sites available for building these images, which might explain why very few of their tools a re free — including restricting your work from public consumption.

However, Infogram also has the option of enlisting professional help with infographic design. So if you’re short on time and have a bit of room in your budget, this route might be the best one for you.

7) Zanifesto

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Cost: Free, with paid packages available starting at $14/month

At the very top of Zanifesto’s website, there’s bold red banner that reads, “Create something.” Love at first visual, if you ask us.

When you click on that banner, a list of pricing options appear, one of which is free and all of which are reasonable. The only drawback? It looks like you have to create an account to access any of the resources, even the free ones. Plus, the free option restricts you from being able to uploading any custom graphics.

But once you do create a free account, there are plenty of template options and, despite not being able to use your own graphics, Zanifesto’s library of icons provides a decent selection.

8) Google Charts

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Cost: Free

Okay, maybe a chart isn’t exactly the same as an infographic. But, given the interesting selection templates made available by Google, we would be remiss to exclude it.

There are a few items of value in Google charts. First, we love the selection of charts available. From animated bubble graphs — like the one above — to clever word trees, the features allow users to bring information to life. (I mean, admit it — adding animation to data always makes it a little less boring.)

Plus, these charts can be created to be interactive. One of our favorites, GeoCharts, allows data to be assigned to different regions of a map that appear when hovered over. Check it out:

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Source: Google GeoCharts

We’ll admit that some features of Google Charts might be a bit more advanced than the other resources we’ve listed. But, if you’re ready to step up your visuals game, give it a try.

Start Creating

There’s no shortage of resources when it comes to creating your own visuals — charts, reports, and infographics. And, depending on your budget and needs, there’s a veritable plethora of options available, all of which have their pros, with very few cons.

What are your go-to resources for creating beautiful infographics? Let us know in the comments.

15 free infographic templates in powerpoint


15 free infographic templates in powerpoint

Oct

13

2016

The Productive Marketer’s Guide to Better Team Collaboration

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How many different productivity tools do you use?

And how many hours have you spent searching for an email, assignment card, or document, simply because you have so many tools and systems? Maybe that’s why there are project managers — the person dedicated to managing these tasks. But guess what? With the right approach, you might not actually need one.

Optimal productivity really boils down to efficient team collaboration, especially for SMBs. So what does that look like? Download this free guide to learn how to maximize your workplace productivity.

Well, it requires a strong communication plan across all parties working on the project, as well as the tools — in moderation — that help you do that. Check out the tips below on how to collaborate better, and more productively.

The Productive Marketer’s Guide to Better Team Collaboration 

1) Avoid designating a project manager.

As we just suggested, it seems counter-intuitive to avoid hiring a single point person to oversee a project, right? But for SMBs in particular, says Marcus Andrews, HubSpot’s senior product marketing manager, using productivity tools — instead of a project manager — can actually help teams be more productive.

In these environments, “project management should be a shared responsibility,” he says. “It doesn’t make sense for SMBs to buy clunky project management software and to hire a person dedicated to managing their work. It’s overkill, and will slow them down and cost them money.”

Andrews suggests using a cohesive, automated productivity application — one that eliminates the duplicate efforts and distraction of multiple tools. That’s what 51% of people expect such apps to be able to do.

Here at HubSpot, we have a built-in app that does those things called Projects. Each team member is able to own his or her responsibilities, but monitor the different project pieces at the same time. That’s part of the reason, Andrews says, apps like these are so good at boosting team communication.

And hold that thought about automation — we’ll touch more on that in a bit.

2) Define a clear purpose and motivation.

Be honest. Have you ever been mid-task when you asked yourself, “Why am I doing this?”

That question should be answered from the very beginning of the project. What is its purpose? Why is it important to us and the client? And what excites us about it?

Outlining a project’s purpose and motivation can help your team stay engaged throughout the process. Disengaged workers have a drop in productivity — that’s why it’s important to not only define a clear purpose of the project up front, but also, to maintain an awareness of that purpose throughout its stages.

Have project team member identify a genuine reason why the project matters to them, and record it somewhere conspicuous. That way, if they feel overwhelmed or disengaged, they can go back and remind themselves of the work’s purpose.

3) …but, assign specific roles.

While eliminating a project manager can aid your team’s productivity, it’s still crucial to make sure everyone understands the role they’ll play.

When that isn’t clearly defined, it’s a huge blow to productivity. According to Gallup, only half of employees actually understand what’s expected of them at work — and out of that half, only 4% feel engaged at work.

We already know that disengaged teams are less productive. So to avoid it, leave no room for confusion before your team begins a project. It might be helpful to go over roles as a group before the work begins, to make sure there’s no unnecessary overlap or duplicate efforts. That’s also part of the point of removing the superfluous, multiple project management tools that we discussed earlier — we want to remove any unnecessary functions that hinder the team’s focus.

That goes for your team and your technology. Like having one automated app that keeps a project’s moving parts organized, clearly defining roles keeps your team running like a well-oiled machine.

4) Understand how work will move from role to role.

Not only is it imperative to clearly define roles, but it’s equally important to understand the next steps after each task is completed.

To me, project workflows are like baseball batting rotations — the order in which players are supposed to bat against the opposing team. Now, imagine if there was no such list, and a game stopped in the middle of an inning because no one knew who was supposed to hit next. A number of things could happen. The team could stand around waiting for someone to volunteer to step up to bat, or wait for someone in charge to make that decision. Or, it could be complete mayhem, with everyone on the team clamoring to take over. In any case, the game — like your project — would experience a delay, and nothing productive would get done.

For that reason, it’s important to have a workflow and sequence of steps in place. Sometimes, that can be tedious, which is why automation is so helpful in productivity. In fact, 55% of employees feel positive about the prospect of automation replacing tedious workflow tasks. Instead of taking the time to hand off a task and explain its next steps, or move it from app to app, a productivity tool that works within your existing workflow program can help seamlessly execute a sequence of tasks.

It also helps to get things done on time, by assigning deadlines to deliverables that are all organized in the same place. And that can be good for morale — 37% of employees equate meeting deadlines with productivity.

5) Avoid having to teach the same thing repeatedly.

By now, you get it — multiple project management apps = duplicate efforts = unproductive.

But another thing about managing projects with multiple tools? They require your team to learn multiple pieces of technology, many of which are actually built to accomplish the same thing. And learning, as well as remembering all of those different pieces takes time away from — you guessed it — getting your work done.

That repetition can be avoided by using a tool that already exists within your current CMS, CRM, or workflow platform. HubSpot Projects, for example, is already part of the HubSpot Marketing Platform, so it’s connected to our existing productivity apps, like Calendar.

Plus, it’s worth noting that Projects was developed in tandem with HubSpot Academy, says Eric Peters, senior growth marketing manager, which gives it a central repository of marketing resources and knowledge. That’s “part of being more productive,” he says, by “not needing to teach people things over and over.”

And while it’s good to make sure your team knows they can ask questions — 75% of people feel less stressed when they can get the help and support they need — it’s also nice to have these built-in resources for them. That reduces the time they might have otherwise spent searching for information, making them more productive in turn.

6) Hold “help wanted” meetings.

Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in our tasks that we forget to check in and ask each other the questions that help get things done.

That’s what Beth Bridges, a Marketing Manager for J – I.T. Outsource told Wrike. “I ask: What do you need to move forward on this project? Where is it stuck? What can we do to get to ‘done’?”

Plus, when teams receive consistent, voluntary help from their leaders, they’re more likely to help others in turn. But when it comes to these help wanted meetings, we suggest asking attendees to leave their devices behind — 75% of employees say that their smartphones get in the way of productivity.

7) Gather consistent feedback.

We know that your team needs to be able to ask for help and have resources at hand. But other than that — how’s everybody doing?

Earlier, we mentioned that there are times when projects might not go according to schedule. We suspect that has something to do with a lack of two-way feedback. During these help-wanted meetings, or even one-on-one meetings between teammates, use that time to welcome feedback on how the project is generally going.

Are the tools working? Are you better suited for a different phase of the project? Does someone have a new idea?

Having a dedicated time to exchange this feedback avoids spontaneous traffic jams and conflicts that can hold up progress and productivity. And, according to research done in Germany, teams that received the most constructive feedback were three times more engaged in their work.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

It might seem like we’re asking you to do a lot at once. But really, these are all items that you can plan for before your work on a project even gets started.

To break it down:

  • Avoid the using multiple project management tools that duplicate efforts. Instead, look for a single productivity app that can integrate with your current workflow, resource database, and CMS/CRM.
  • The same goes for designating a project manager. An app like the one described above eliminates that person’s work, conserving time and other resources.
  • Clearly outline the purpose, motivation, roles, and steps/schedule of a project.
  • Create opportunities for your team to ask questions and exchange feedback.

And to learn more about how a productivity app can help you, check out HubSpot Projects.

What helps your team work more productively? Let us know in the comments.

Productivity Guide

Oct

11

2016

How to Learn SEO: 9 of the Best Resources to Bookmark

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These days, it seems like most marketing jobs require at least a basic knowledge of search engine optimization. Even writers need to know about it — gone are the days, it seems, of simply composing with words. We have to know how to rank, build links, and yield traffic.

But many of us aren’t sure where to begin. And that, says HubSpot Senior Acquisition Manager Matt Barby, is due to the deluge of information available on SEO.

“The problem is that most of it is either ill-informed or just factually incorrect,” he explains. Luckily, because Barby’s job has involved working with SEO and its experts over the past few years, he’s built a go-to arsenal of resources on the topic — which we’re eager to share. Download our free planner to learn how to step up your SEO traffic in just 30  days.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of sites for learning SEO, fear not — we’ve put together a list of some of the most comprehensive resources out there. Check them out below.

How to Learn SEO: 9 of the Best Resources to Bookmark

1) Moz

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Since 2004, Moz has served as what it calls “a vibrant online marketing community.” In addition to making marketing analytics software, Moz offers several resources to marketers within the realm of SEO, including its “Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

Broken down into 10 chapters, the guide really gets to the basics — what is search engine optimization, and why marketers need to use it. From there, the chapters gradually become more advanced, covering topics like what can impact a search ranking, and how SEO efforts can be tracked.

We particularly like this guide’s layout — with helpful graphics strategically placed throughout the text, it’s makes a detail-rich topic more readable. And, throughout each chapter, Moz sprinkles in different experiments that readers can try along the way to put each lesson into practice.

2) Google

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Since Google is currently holds the #1 Alexa rank, it’s no surprise that the reigning search engine of choice has its own guide to SEO.

Google generally has several resources on optimizing web content for search — usually catered to its own platform. But in addition to helpful articles like “Steps to a Google-friendly site” and “Do you need an SEO?“, the search engine also has its own downloadable Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.

It’s worth setting aside some time to read through this guide. Though comprehensive, it’s also exhaustive — and that’s a good thing, if you’re really serious about mastering SEO. It also goes into best practices for optimizing your web presence for different formats, like mobile, and how to promote your site in a way that search engines recognize as rankable.

And if you want even more resources, check out the “Learn” section of Google Webmasters — it links to a ton of helpful information about creating search-friendly experiences online.

3) Search Engine Land

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Source: Search Engine Land

You might remember the periodic table of elements from high school science classes — it’s a chart that organizes every chemical element according to its atomic number. Since its inception, similar periodic tables have been modeled to break down a number of complex topics, including SEO.

That’s the work of online search marketing publication Search Engine Land. And with such a name, it makes sense that it would have its very own “Guide to SEO.

Similar to the Moz guide, Seach Engine Land breaks down its strategic guidance in chapters, making sure to cover the different rules and spam-like behavior that should be avoided to prevent ranking penalties.

Then, there’s the aforementioned “Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors,” which takes the most fundamental concepts from the guide and organizes them into a descriptive infographic. And we love infographics — they communicate complex information in a way that’s concise and digestible, which is helpful when tackling a new topic.

4) ViperChill

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When you first visit the ViperChill blog, you might notice an area of small, pale text at the top: “New? Start Here.” There, you’ll read the story of how entrepreneur and SEO expert Glen Allsopp created ViperChill, “the place I share everything I’ve learned in order to help other people make a living online.”

While ViperChill doesn’t have a point-by-point guide like some of the others on this list, the blog has a strikingly interesting and informative collection of resources on all things SEO. “It’s a no-frills site, but has tons of value,” says Barby. “If you’re looking to skill up in actually getting sites to rank, then Allsopp’s content is a must read.”

That content is diverse, too — from case studies to unique how-to articles, Viper likely has tips and hacks for any stage of learning SEO, from beginners to people who are getting to the more difficult stages of their strategy.

5) HubSpot

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Here at HubSpot, we make stuff for marketers. And since SEO is a pretty in-demand skills for marketers these days, it makes sense for us to provide the resources that will help you succeed at that skill.

Not only are SEO tools part of our products, but we’ve also created a whole bunch of educational content on the topic — including templates, guides, and even a 30-day website traffic planner

Plus, you may have noticed that we’ve covered SEO a few times in our Marketing Blog. Here are a few of our favorite posts on the topic:

6) SEO auv

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One of the most important aspects of SEO are the keywords you select. In fact, keywords make up such a crucial part of the overall strategy, we would suggest nailing down the basics before trying to master this step.

Once you do, SEO auv has a great guide that you can consult for your keyword strategy — “How To Do Keyword Research For SEO.” One thing we love about it? Right off the bat, the author addresses the frequently changing landscape of SEO, and the tools that marketers use for it.

The article addresses some of the most recent developments within SEO technology, and how a keyword strategy should reflect that. It guides the reader with steps on how to perform the right kind of research that should result in the most optimal keywords — though those steps are lengthy, but valuable, as the guide goes into quite a bit of detail.

7) Ahrefs Blog

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Ahrefs, a big data marketing platform, has a big focus on backlinks — the links from one page to another one, which is also a way of describing inbound links.

The Ahrefs blog is rich in SEO resources, but there’s one in particular that catches our eyes, which is “A Data Driven Guide To Anchor Text (And Its Impact On SEO).” As the title suggests, this entry does a deep dive into anchor text — the “visible, clickable words used to link one web page to another,” like the ones we used to link to the Ahref blog just now.

Essentially, the more external sites use specific anchor text to link to your site, the more search engines think your site should rank for the words within that text.

Getting into the importance of anchor text in SEO is a bit more advanced, but still important. And once you have the basics down, this Ahref blog post will serve as a valuable resource in using anchor text to improve your rank.

8) Matthewbarby.com

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We would be remiss not to mention that Barby, one of HubSpot’s resident SEO experts, also compiled his own search engine optimization guide.

In “19 Actionable SEO Tips to Increase Organic Traffic,” Barby creates an interactive quick jump menu that allows users to navigate any area of SEO they wish to explore, from product snippets to influencer platforms.

Again, it might be best to brush up on basic search marketing knowledge before tackling this resource. But one thing we like about Barby’s guide is that it works to dispel some of the inaccurate — and sometimes, harmful — information out there about SEO. What’s more, there’s an option to simply view the article’s summary when you’re short on time, and revisit the entire text when you’re really ready to dive into these highly relevant tips.

9) Cranberry Radio’s SEO 101

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Sometimes, you just need to get down to the very basics. That’s why we love Cranberry Radio’s SEO 101 — a series of podcasts that dive into search engine optimization from the bottom-up. 

There’s an interesting collection of topics here, from keyword planning to the range of Google’s algorithmic updates that we’ve seen over the years. SEO 101 walks step-by-step through what each of these developments and sub-categories of SEO mean for marketers, along with some valuable do’s and don’ts.

Time to Optimize

The thing is, the way SEO works changes. A lot. And when you don’t have a team or colleague completely dedicated to search marketing, the changing technology and platforms can be so overwhelming that it’s tempting to not even bother getting started.

But don’t fall victim to that. As we’ve covered, SEO is an imperative part of any marketing strategy, and it’s possible to tackle it without a ton of help.

“I have a very small hit list of blogs that I regularly trust for information around SEO,” says Barby. And we, too, suggest bookmarking these sites for future reference. Not only will they assist with your current SEO efforts, but they’re also the most likely resources to keep you posted on the latest developments.

Where did you turn to learn about SEO? Let us know in the comments.

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