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Aug

29

2017

16 Email Subject Lines You’ll Probably Want to Click

I’d venture to guess you get tons of emails in your inbox every day.

From coupons, to daily deal sites, to newsletters, to password resets, to your mother wanting to know when you plan to visit — it’s a lot to sift through, never mind actually open.

So what makes you want to take that extra step to actually open an email? Often, it’s the subject line. After all, it’s your very first impression of the email — and from it, you’ll do your best to judge the content on the inside.Click here to download our free ebook featuring 104 email marketing myths,  experiments, and inspiration.

If you’re an email marketer, or just someone who happens to send emails on behalf of your company, you don’t want to be one of those ignored (or — gasp — deleted) emails in your subscribers’ inboxes. You’ve got to make sure your email subject lines are top-notch — and what better way to learn how to do that than by examining some great examples of subject lines? Let’s take a look at what makes a great subject line, followed by a few examples that, old or new, we’re crazy about.

What Makes the Best Email Subject Lines?

Before we dive into these fabulous examples, let’s look at what common elements you might find in a subject line. There were eight different components we found again and again in our top performing email subject lines:

1) Urgency

There’s a phrase that, for many of us, is reminiscent of classic infomercials: “Act now!” And while we wouldn’t encourage using that exact language in your content, we do agree that communicating urgency and scarcity in an email subject line can help compel readers to click (or act) — when phrased creatively and strategically. But because you don’t want to be known as “the brand that cried wolf,” use these subject lines sparingly, and try to limit them to when the occasion genuinely calls for immediate action.

2) Curiosity

Sometimes, subject lines work because of their ability to send the message, “You will benefit from opening this email.” But other times, it’s good to maintain some sense of mystery — especially if it pique’s the recipient’s natural curiosity and interest. Because they require opening the email to get more information, they can result in, well, a higher open rate. But make sure the subject line, while enigmatic, still aligns with your brand. Too obscure, and it could end up being seen as spam.

3) Offers

Here’s where that benefit of opening a given email comes in. At the end of the day, people love new things and experiences — especially when they come free, or at least discounted. Open with that by including it in your subject line. Personally, I’m much more inclined to open my daily newsletters when there’s an offer of or allusion “free stuff” directly mentioned in my inbox.

4) Personalization

No two email subscribers are exactly the same — and, sometimes, that means the emails you send them shouldn’t be, either. At this point in time, marketers have never had more ways to learn about their subscribers’ preferences, jobs, or general (dis)likes. So when you send them content, on occasion, make it catered toward the individual.

5) Relevance and Timeliness

When we subscribe to an email list, much of the time, it’s because we want to be kept informed, or at least learn more about a given topic (more on that later). Similar to piquing your audience’s curiosity, crafting email subject lines that incorporate trending topics or timely headlines can help you establish your brand as an authority within your industry — and can compel people to click to read.

6) Name Recognition

Let’s face it: We all have famous people who, at some point, we presently or previously have admired. And when you understand your audience’s preferences and interests, you can pique their interest by including the names of this admired, recognizable individuals by including them in your content — and mentioning them in your email subject lines. But take heed: This tactic really only works when it aligns with your brand, product, or service, so keep it relevant, rather than just throwing out a recognizable name for the sake of recognition.

7) Cool Stories

At risk of sounding like a broken record, here’s another place where curiosity comes into play. By front-loading your email subject line with a compelling allusion to a story that the message tells — but can only be read if opened or clicked — your audience is like to become intrigued, and want to learn more. Again, make sure the story is relevant to your brand. Otherwise, it might just confuse your readers and prevent them from opening the email.

16 Email Subject Lines to Inspire Your Own

1) Warby Parker: “Uh-oh, your prescription is expiring”

Not too long ago, a HubSpot alum received this email two weeks before he needed to renew his prescription — talk about great timing. And when you’re eye prescription is expiring, it happens to be an excellent time to upgrade your glasses. By sending an email at the right time, Warby Parker increased its chances of this email getting opened.

But timing isn’t the sole reason we included this example. This subject is brilliant because it appeared at the right time and with the right tone. Using conversational words like “uh-oh,” keeping the subject line sentence case, and leaving out the period at the end, the subject line comes across as helpful and friendly — not as a company trying to upsell you.

2) Groupon: “Best of Groupon: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)”

It’s hard to be funny in your marketing, but Groupon’s one of those brands that seems to nail it again and again. After all, who can for get this classic unsubscribe video?

This subject line is no exception. The quip, “(Unlike Our Nephew Steve),” actually had us laughing out loud. Why? It’s completely unexpected. The first part of the subject line looks like a typical subject line you’d get from Groupon, highlighting a new deal. The parenthetical content? Not so much — making this one a delightful gem to find in your inbox.

3) Clover: “👗 Free (Cool!) Clothes Alert 👖”

First of all, we have a not-so-secret love for emojis in email subject lines. Personally, I’m partial to turquoise — so when I see an email implying that I might somehow be able to obtain a free turquoise dress, chances are, I’m clicking.

That’s part of what makes this subject line work. It draws the recipients eye by using visual content (emojis), and it hints at an offer of something free. That hints at an incentive to open the email: There’s a something to gain inside.

4) King Arthur Flour: “The timer’s going off on your cart!”

Similar to Warby Parker, this subject line makes use of urgency. If I don’t take action on my King Arthur Flour shopping cart — like actually buying them — it will be cleared, and I’ll have to start all over again.

Okay, so maybe this is a low-risk scenario. But when it comes to my baking goods, personally, I don’t like to take any chances, or risk forgetting what I was going to buy. That’s where the personalization aspect of this subject line comes in: King Arthur Flour — especially its online shop — tends to attract both professional and home bakers who take all things culinary a bit more seriously than, say, someone who only buys flour on occasion from the supermarket. And wouldn’t you know? Those are the same bakers who probably don’t want to spend time building their shopping carts from scratch.

The moral of the story: Know your audience when you’re writing email subject lines. Is there something that they take seriously more than others? If so, incorporate that into your copy.

5) Manicube: “*Don’t Open This Email*”

Ever been told to not do something? Being asked to refrain from something can actually have the opposite effect — you now want to do that thing even more.

That’s the strategy behind Manicube’s subject line. It’s a simple but effective way to make people curious enough to open your email. (Just be sure that the contents of your email actually have something worthy of that subject line.)

6) Refinery29: “I got Botox—& THIS is what it looked like”

Okay, so maybe your business doesn’t involve Botox. But still — are you intrigued? I am, and despite my better judgment, I clicked.

That’s the power of leading your emails with a story: It sparks curiosity, which works in two ways. There are times when our natural curiosity can pique our interest without context, such as in the example above. But in this case, the subject line implies that there’s an intriguing story ahead. Why the heck did this person get Botox? And what did it look like? As the saying goes, “Inquiring minds want to know.”

Think of the stories behind your industry, and then, find ways to include them in email newsletters and frame them within the subject line in a way that piques your recipients’ collective curiosity.

7) Zillow: “What Can You Afford?”

Imagine getting this subject line in your inbox from a website showing apartments for rent. It’s both exciting and encouraging (“Here are a bunch of apartments right in your budget. Yay!”), but also kind of competitive — pitting your cash against what the market offers. Would you click it? I certainly would.

Personalizing emails to cater to your audience’s emotions — for which there’s a broad spectrum, when it comes to real estate — is key to getting people to open your emails. You don’t have to be a psychologist to know how to take advantage of them, either. In addition to principles like urgency, crafting an email subject line that implies scarcity is another great way to increase your conversion rates.

8) UncommonGoods: “As You Wish”

When writing emails, you should also think about the recognizable names and reference that make people tick. For example, take this subject line from UncommonGoods forwarded to us from HubSpot’s Content Director, Corey Wainwright, who happens to be a die-hard fan of The Princess Bride. Apparently, “As You Wish” is a pretty big reference to that movie (I know, I know — I need to watch it again), so when she saw this subject line in her inbox, she just HAD to click.

Even though she knew logically that the email was part of a larger-scale send, it almost seemed like it was tailored to be sent personally to her — after all, why else would it include a reference to Princess Bride in the title?

UncommonGoods knows its buyer persona like the back of its metaphorical hand. While it may not send emails to individual subscribers with references to their favorite movies in the title, it does have a general understanding of its subscribers and their interests.

9) TechCrunch: “Google sees smartphone heroics in Oreo. It’s The Daily Crunch.”

If you’re subscribed to a newsletter from a publication like TechCrunch, chances are, you signed up because you’re either interested in or want to learn more about technology. To reflect that, the media outlet crafts its daily email roundups (“The Daily Crunch”) with a subject line that reflects one of the latest, most compelling news items in the industry.

Here’s the thing: Staying on the cutting edge is hard, especially with something that evolves as quickly as technology. So by writing email subject lines that reflect something that’s recent and relevant, TechCrunch is signaling to email recipients that opening the message will help them stay informed and up-to-date on the latest industry news.

Think about the things that your audience struggles to keep up with — then, craft an email roundup and matching subject line that reflects the latest news in that category.

10) Eater Boston: “Where to Drink Beer Right Now”

Okay, you caught me: I’m a beer lover. (One of the many reasons I like working at HubSpot.) But that’s not what hooked me here. The subject line arrived in my inbox just at the time I needed it: at 6:45 on a Wednesday evening. Absolutely. Genius.

Think about it: You’re just over hump day and want to decompress with a few coworkers after work. Right as you’re about to head out, you get a notification on your phone that says, “Where to Drink Beer Right Now.” Perfect timing makes this subject line something you can’t help but click on.

For your own emails, think about how timing will affect how people perceive your emails. Even if you send an email in an off-peak hour, you could get higher engagement on your email — if you have the right subject line.

11) BuzzFeed: “Not Cool, Guys”

Okay, we admit it: We love BuzzFeed. If nothing else, its staff knows how to write great copy — and that sentiment includes an exceptional email marketing team. Many of my colleagues have signed up for BuzzFeed’s daily emails, and pretty much any day of the week, they win for best subject line in their inboxes.

While there are a few of BuzzFeed’s subject lines here and there that aren’t anything to write home about, it’s the combination of subject lines and the preview text that is golden. They’re friendly, conversational, and, above all, snarky.

Here’s the text that followed the subject line above: “Okay, WHO left the passive-aggressive sticky note on my fridge. Honestly, who acts like this?” That conversational tone and snark pull us in over and over again — and it’s the preview text that completes the experience for me.

We’re not all equipped to be snarky writers, but most email platforms have the preview text easily available to edit. How can you use that little extra space to delight your customers (oh, and probably improve your email stats)? Maybe you could use the subject line as a question, and the preview text area as the answer. Or maybe it’s a dialogue: The subject line is one person, and the preview text is another.

You get the idea. By using that space, you have more opportunities to attract new subscribers.

12) Thrillist: “DO NOT Commit These Instagram Atrocities”

No matter how humble people are, most don’t like to do things wrong … so why not play on that natural human tendency in an email subject line, especially if you’re in the business of helping clients (or prospective clients) succeed? Thrillist certainly does in the subject line above, and it makes the language even more vibrant by using DO NOT — a great takeaway for B2B marketers.

Instead of using the typical contraction “don’t,” Thrillist spells it out and adds the all-caps for effect. That way, you’ll notice the subject line in your inbox, and then not, finder it harder to resist clicking on it.

Think about how going negative in your marketing might be a good thing. For example, many of us have anxiety about looking silly and stupid, so figure out how you can play to those emotions in subject lines. Of course, it’s important to back up that subject line with encouraging, helpful content, so that you’re not just ranting at people all day.

Getting negative can get your subscribers’ attention — this subject line certainly caught mine.

13) Buffer: “Buffer has been hacked – here is what’s going on”

Next is a subject line from Buffer. Back in 2013, Buffer got hacked — every tech company’s worst nightmare. But Buffer handled it exceptionally well, especially on the email front.

What I admire about the subject line is that it’s concise and direct. In a crisis, it’s better to steer clear of puns. People want to see that you’re not only taking the situation seriously, but also be reassured that the world isn’t ending.

Because of the way the subject line is worded and formatted, you feel like Buffer is calm and collected about the issue, and is taking your personal safety into consideration. That’s pretty hard to do in just a few words.

14) Copy Hackers: “Everything you wanted to know about email copy but were too afraid to ask”

Here’s another great example of leveraging your audience’s full plate to your email marketing advantage. Who hasn’t refrained from asking a question out of fear of looking silly or out of the loop? Excuse me, while I sheepishly raise my hand.

” … but were too afraid to ask” is one of those phrases that, to us, probably won’t go out of style for a long time. People seek insights from Copy Hackers — an organization dedicated to helping marketers and other professionals write better copy, as the name suggests — because, well, they have questions. They want to improve. And when that audience is too afraid to ask those questions, here’s Copy Hackers, ready to come to the rescue with answers.

What does your audience want to know, but might be too embarrassed to ask? Use that information to craft your content — including your email subject lines.

15) Wag!: “🐶 Want a Custom Emoji of Tullamore & 6 Months FREE Walks? Book a Walk Today for Your Chance to Win!”

First of all: For reference, Tullamore is my dog.

Second: Another emoji for the win — especially when it’s a cute dog.

Here’s a great example of how personalization goes beyond the email recipient’s name. Wag!, an on-demand dog-walking app, includes the names of its customers’ pets in a portion of its email subject lines. But this type of personalization is more than just a first-name basis. If there’s anything I love more than free stuff and baking goods, it’s my pup. Wag! knows that, and by mentioning Tullamore by name in the subject line — in tandem with an offer, no less — it catches my attention and piques my interest.

16) Quirky: “Abra-cord-abra! Yeah, we said it.”

Last, but certainly not least, is this punny email subject line from Quirky. Yes — we’re suckers for puns, in the right situation.

What we like most about it is the second part: “Yeah, we said it.” The pun in the beginning is great and all — it refers to a new invention featured on Quirky’s site to help everyday consumers detangle their numerous plugs and cords — but the second sentence is conversational and self-referential. That’s exactly what many of us would say after making a really cheesy joke in real life.

Many brands could stand to be more conversational and goofy in their emails. While it may not be appropriate to go as far as Quirky’s subject line, being goofy might just be the way to delight your email recipients.

These are just some of our favorite subject lines — and since we receive plenty of them, we’ll continue adding the best ones as we discover them.

104 email marketing myths, experiments, and inspiration

 
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Aug

29

2017

Here Are the Top Employer Branding Challenges [New Report]

Around here, we’re not exactly shy about our nerdiness.

We love data. We love running experiments. And upon the release of a new report that combines the two, we gleefully geek out and immediately devour the results — always keeping in mind what they mean for marketers.

One of the more recent instances of this phenomenon is Hinge Research Institute’s 2017 Employer Brand Study. It’s full of data about the latest challenges faced by B2B firms, especially those within the realm of professional services — with particular emphasis on recruiting and retaining the best talent.Click here to download our ultimate toolkit for social and PR branding.

As it turns out, a lot of that comes down to branding — specifically, branding your firm as an employer, as well as a service provider.

In this post, we’ll dive into the report’s findings, and what marketers need to know when it comes to building a brand as an employer.

What Is Employer Branding?

According to BusinessDictionary, a brand is the “unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these … creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors.”

In the past, we’ve written about the importance of and ways to brand your business based on an audience of current and potential customers, as well as buyer personas. But when it comes to recruiting the best talent to help your organization grow, branding remains key — but how you position your company as an employer might look different than the way you do as a service provider.

In no way does that mean you should falsify your brand for a different type of audience. It just means that you might use different (factual) information to build a value proposition as someone who’s hiring, as opposed to that for your products and services.

In a nutshell, your employee brand should encompass three key pieces:

  1. Your employer value proposition (EVP). According to Hinge, that’s “an engaging appeal to prospective employees … made up of a set of characteristics, features, and values that describe what it’s like to work in your organization and how it improves employees’ lives.” But in order to authentically communicate that, you should also include …
  2. The voice of your current employees. From their perspective, what’s it like to work for your company? How would they describe the culture? What do they love most about it?
  3. Specialized marketing content. That can include any current content you have that establishes your firm as an authority or thought leader — in some cases, this content might need to be repurposed for employer branding and recruiting purposes, but anything that builds your appeal as an exciting place to work is worth considering.

The Top Employer Branding Challenges for Marketers

The Methodology

In publishing the Employer Brand Study, Hinge sought to answer several questions — for the exhaustive list, check out the full-length study here. But we wanted to dig into the two that intrigued us the most:

  1. What challenges are professional services firms faced with today?
  2. What is marketing’s role in employer branding?

In answering these questions, Hinge surveyed a sample of 801 professionals, who fell into one of two categories:

  1. Talent-Evaluators: employees who are directly involved in the company’s recruiting and hiring efforts, who were asked to answer questions about these internal processes.
  2. Employee-Candidates: employees who are generally removed from recruiting and hiring efforts, who answered questions about how they approach their own respective job searches.

Here’s a breakdown of how each category was represented:

Research-EmployerBrandStudy-1.jpg
Source: Hinge Research Institute

And, a look at the industries represented:

Research-EmployerBrandStudy-2.jpg
Source: Hinge Research Institute

The Data

What challenges are professional services firms faced with today?

When Hinge asked respondents to identify their top professional challenges, they weren’t restricted to one particular business category. And yet, have a look at how many of the top challenges fall within the realm of recruiting, developing, and retaining talent:

Research-EmployerBrandStudy-3.jpg
Source: Hinge Research Institute

In fact, over half of the respondents identified “attracting top talent/recruiting” as their biggest challenge, making it the second-highest-cited difficulty facing both talent-evaluators and employee-candidates. In fourth place, meanwhile, there was the reduction of turnover.

In other words: People operations — as we call them here at HubSpot — impact all areas of a business. Not only does something like turnover lead to extensive costs to employers, but it also leaves individual teams and employees in a lurch when they lose talent. In addition to their own workloads, they now have to take on the tasks of those who have left, all while trying to find fitting replacements.

Notice that “maintaining a positive public image” is also on the list. That’s reflected in recruiting efforts — according to Harvard Business Review, a company’s bad reputation can cost it 10% more than a firm with a good reputation to acquire a new hire.

So how can firms manage their reputations in a way that heightens their appeal to talent? It goes beyond doing the right thing — which, yes, is imperative — and often involves managing their brands, too.

That’s where marketers come in. After all, the subject of the study was employer branding — and branding is a category of marketing. That could be why Hinge also posed the questions to respondents: “What is marketing’s role in employer branding?” Next, we’ll explore those findings.

What is marketing’s role in employer branding?

Research-EmployerBrandStudy-4.jpg
Source: Hinge Research Institute

When looking at the previous two charts side-by-side, it’s interesting to note the similarities between the top challenges identified by professionals, as well as those named as the biggest responsibilities of marketers within employer branding. Both questions generated answers identifying lead generation (whether in the form of a customer or talent pipeline), a positive public image (or making the firm seem attractive), and best leveraging technology (we include maintaining a website and focusing on social media here) as priorities.

But we want to dig into some of those marketing responsibilities a bit more, especially “creating content for digital marketing.” We’ve covered a lot on the topic of content strategy, including that within the digital realm. And while creating quality, valuable content can attract an audience of business leads — one of the main principles of inbound marketing — it could potentially do the same for talent leads.

When I was preparing for my interviews with HubSpot, one of the first things I did was voraciously read the Marketing Blog. Of course, that’s the team I was interviewing to join — but reading that content, as well as looking further into the downloadable offers created by the team — provided me with some insight into the company’s culture, and got me thinking about the creative process. What do brainstorms look like there? How are all of these ideas for blog topics and downloadable content generated? It was very intriguing and contributed to my excitement to be part of it.

But before I read the blog, I did a general search for information on the company. I read Glassdoor reviews, perused the Culture Code, and even came across the HubSpot culture and careers blog, Move On Up. And while that first piece — the Glassdoor reviews — weren’t technically owned by HubSpot, the company was still managing its presence there, by providing a detailed response to every reviewer. And when combined, all of that content composed a cohesive presence: the employer’s brand.

See what we’re getting at?

What to Do With This Information

Now, just for fun, let’s have a look at the report’s findings with regard to “Top Criteria Candidates Consider When Evaluating Opportunities”:

Research-EmployerBrandStudy-5.jpg
Source: Hinge Research Institute

Aha! The top response from employee-candidates was, “firm culture.” And while your firm might have a remarkable culture, it won’t do anything to benefit your recruiting efforts if you keep it a secret. It should be part of your employer brand and communicated across the content you produce.

And if you don’t already have an established culture — or Culture Code, like we have here — here’s a great opportunity to establish one. Not only will this work toward your recruitment efforts, but it can also force you to acknowledge exactly what type of business and team you want to have, and how (or if) your actual culture presently aligns with what you’d like it to be.

These principles can guide the type of hiring decisions you make in the future, and can even influence the way you manage your current teams, ideally supporting talent retention.

That speaks to the importance of internal employer branding, too. I’m a big fan of the phrase, “Practice what you preach.” While it’s much easier said than done, the employer messaging you broadcast externally should truthfully reflect what actually happens inside your company. The last thing you want to do is focus all of your employer branding efforts on recruiting outside talent, only to have those new hires enter the company to witness something completely different, or high turnover — that can position them as flight risks.

So, remember: As you build your employer brand, think about where you want your workplace culture to be — and just how much you’re currently missing the mark on those criteria. An important element of branding is honesty, with both target audiences, and with yourself.

Oh, and by the way: We’re hiring.

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Aug

21

2017

29 LinkedIn Tips for Professional Networking, Business & Marketing

In April, LinkedIn announced it had reached 500 million members, making it one of the most popular social networks for professionals and one of the top social networks overall. But are you using LinkedIn to its fullest potential?

With new social networks sprouting up constantly, LinkedIn is a platform that often gets underutilized or put on the back burner. But the truth is, LinkedIn can be extremely powerful — especially when you’re aware of all the platform’s hidden features that don’t get nearly as much attention as they deserve. Get a free two-week planner on how to run successful LinkedIn Ads here.

So to help you learn how to use LinkedIn effectively, this post is chock full of LinkedIn tips you may be overlooking … but definitely shouldn’t.

What Is LinkedIn?

About LinkedIn

Before we dive in, here’s a quick little primer on LinkedIn for those of you who may be new to the social network. LinkedIn launched in 2003 and is currently the fourth most popular social network among U.S. adults. The social network is primarily centered around careers, and it enables users to connect and share content with other professionals, including colleagues as well as potential employers, business partners, and new employees. If you’re a business on LinkedIn, it can also be a fantastic marketing tool.

Now, are you ready for a treasure trove of LinkedIn tips? Let’s get our hands dirty.

29 Top LinkedIn Tips

1) Customize your public profile URL.

Make your personal profile look more professional (and much easier to share) by customizing your LinkedIn public profile URL. Instead of a URL with a million confusing numbers at the end, it will look nice and clean like this: http://www.linkedin.com/in/amandazantalwiener. For detailed instructions on customizing your URL, click here.

2) Add a LinkedIn background photo to your personal profile.

In June 2014, LinkedIn finally jumped on the cover photo bandwagon and starting rolling out the ability for users to add a background photo to their personal profiles. Give your LinkedIn profile a little bit more personality by adding a background photo of your own. Just keep in mind LinkedIn is a professional social network, so choose your photo accordingly.

LinkedIn recommends a background photo size of 1584 x 396 pixels, and that it must be a JPG, PNG, or GIF file under 8MB. 

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Check out how Sam Mallikarjunan, Executive Strategist at HubSpot, uses his background photo:

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3) Add a ProFinder Badge to your profile.

Over the years, LinkedIn has made some changes to the types of Badges it offers. But depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, you might want to consider adding a ProFinder Badge, which is used to identify freelancers within LinkedIn’s ProFinder — a service that matches contractors with project managers seeking help. Freelancers can display a ProFinder badge on their profiles to show prospective clients their skills, expertise, and recommendations.

4) Take advantage of the blog/website links on your LinkedIn profile.

Instead of using the default anchor text links in the Websites list within your LinkedIn profile’s Contact Info section, you can now add links to your portfolio and social networks, to name a few. Plus, you can also add links to your work under each job description —  so if you want to increase clicks, make sure you populate those areas with the online presence to which you want to draw the most attention.

Even cooler: If you produced multimedia for a given job or assignment, you can now upload those files. For example, if you’ve produced podcasts and want to feature that work, you can add links to something like SoundCloud tracks.

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5) Search engine optimize your LinkedIn profile.

SEO isn’t limited to blogging — it turns out, you can also optimize your profile to get discovered by people searching LinkedIn for key terms you want to get found for. You can add these keywords to various sections of your profile, such as your headline, your summary, or your work experience. 

6) Add, remove, and rearrange entire sections of your profile.

LinkedIn also enables you to reorder entire sections of your profile in any way you prefer. When in edit mode, simply hover your mouse over the double-sided arrow in each section. Your mouse will turn into a four-arrowed icon, at which point you can click, then drag and drop to another position on your profile.

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Find a full list of sections to add to and remove from your profile here.

7) Take advantage of Saved Searches.

LinkedIn allows users to save up to ten job searches and three people searches. After conducting a search, clicking the Save search option at the top right allows you to save a search and easily run it again later. You can also choose to receive weekly or monthly reminders (+ daily for job searches) via email once new members in the network or jobs match your saved search criteria.

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8) Find a job through via LinkedIn’s job postings.

Now that you’ve optimized your LinkedIn profile, use it — and LinkedIn Jobs — to help you land a fabulous new position. Using its Advanced search feature, LinkedIn allows you to search for jobs by keyword, title, industry, location, company, function, experience level, and more. Also, based on your application history and saved searches, LinkedIn can send suggestions of jobs you might be interested in, relating to location, company size, and industry.

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9) Get endorsed for your skills.

Back in 2012, LinkedIn launched a feature called Endorsements, which enables users to endorse their connections for skills they’ve listed in the Skills section of their profile — or recommend ones they haven’t yet listed. These endorsements then show up on your profile within that same Skills section, as you can see in the screenshot below.

Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 3.49.37 PM.png

Okay, so you can’t guarantee your connections will endorse you for those skills, but because it’s so easy for your LinkedIn contacts to do (all they have to do is click on the + sign next to a particular skill on your profile), you’ll find that many of them will do it anyway. Also, when people visit the site, LinkedIn will often prompt them to endorse their connections passively. Just make sure your profile is complete and you’ve spent the time to list the skills you want your contacts to endorse you for — it will definitely give your profile a bit of a credibility boost.

You can also remove endorsements if you find people are endorsing you for skills that don’t accurately describe your strengths,

10) Use Open Profile to send messages to people you’re not connected to.

With the exception of your fellow group members (more on this later), LinkedIn only allows you to send messages to people who you share a first-degree connection with. But did you know some people let you send them messages anyway, even if you’re not connected? The ability to be part of the Open Profile network is only available to premium account holders, but it allows those users to be available for messaging by any other LinkedIn member (regardless of their LinkedIn membership level) if they choose to be.

There are other options for sending messages to those with whom you’re not yet connected, like sending a request to connect with a note — though we don’t recommend overdoing this one. Or, if you have a premium account, you can use InMail.

11) Check your Network Updates (or share your own).

Found on your LinkedIn homepage, Network Updates are essentially LinkedIn’s version of the Facebook News Feed. Check this feed periodically for a quick snapshot of what your connections are up to and sharing, or share updates of your own, such as noteworthy content related to your industry/career, content you’ve created yourself, etc. You can also sign up for email notifications, and sort by Top Updates or Recent Updates to filter your feed in one way or the other.

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12) Be identifiable.

Allow others to see who you are if you view their profile. To enable this, visit your Settings (click your thumbnail image in the top right and click Privacy & Settings) and click “Profile viewing options” under “Privacy.” Make sure you check off the Your name and headline (Recommended) option, as it will allow you to take advantage of the next feature on our list.

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13) Check out who’s viewed your LinkedIn profile.

How? With the Who’s Viewed Your Profile feature, of course. This tool, which is accessible in the main navigation via the Profile dropdown, enables you to identify which other LinkedIn users have visited your profile page (so yeah, exactly what it sounds like). In fact, LinkedIn gave this coveted creeper feature a facelift in February 2014, so the information it provides is even better than ever. You can also see how you stack up against the profile views for your connections, people in your company, and other professionals like you.

Has someone been checking out your profile that you might want to connect with? This might be the “in” you’ve been waiting for to connect. (Remember, if you don’t make yourself identifiable via the above, you won’t have access to this feature. It’s a two-way street!)

14) Export connections.

Want to transfer your LinkedIn connections to another contact management system? Luckily, LinkedIn enables you to export your connections. Go to your account settings, and under “Basics,” click “Getting an archive of your data.” That will allow you to download a file that includes data on your LinkedIn account, including your connections.

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15) Easily find new connections — or connect with old ones!

Speaking of connections, the Connections tab in the top navigation offers a variety of other tools to grow and connect with contacts in your professional network. When viewing your connections, click the right-hand side display that says, “Manage your synced and imported contacts” From there, you’ll be able to sync your email contacts to see who’s on LinkedIn, and who you can invite to join.

16) Leverage the perks of LinkedIn Groups.

Did you know that if you’re a member of the same group as another user, you can bypass the need to be a first-degree connection in order to message them? As long as you’ve been a member of LinkedIn for at least 30 days and a member of the particular group for at least 4 days, LinkedIn allows you to send up to 15 free 1:1 messages to fellow group members per month (across all groups you belong to).

In addition, group members are also able to view the profiles of other members of the same group without being connected. Join more groups to enable more messaging and profile viewership capabilities — and be sure to participate in the discussions.

17) Share your LinkedIn status updates on Twitter.

Ever since the big LinkedIn/Twitter breakup of 2012, you can no longer automatically sync your tweets to publish on LinkedIn. But don’t fret — as long as you add your Twitter account to LinkedIn, the opposite is still possible. So if you’re ever posting an update to LinkedIn that you’d also like your Twitter followers to see, you can easily syndicate that update to Twitter by selecting the Public + Twitter option in the dropdown menu within the LinkedIn update composer.

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18) Leverage @mentions in your status updates.

In 2013, LinkedIn rolled out the ability to tag or @mention other users and companies in status updates — much like the way it works on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Want another LinkedIn user or company to see your status update? Include the @ symbol immediately followed by the user’s/company’s name in your status update. As a result, that user/company will get alerted that you mentioned them, and their name will also link to their profile/page in the status update itself.

19) Optimize your LinkedIn Company Page.

The design of LinkedIn Company Pages has changed a lot over the years. Make sure yours is set up correctly and optimized for the latest layout, featuring a compelling and high-quality banner image. We’ve published an entire free guide about how to optimize your page for the latest design. Here’s how HubSpot’s Company Page currently looks:

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20) Create targeted LinkedIn Showcase Pages.

LinkedIn Showcase Pages are niche pages that branch off your main Company Page. Think of them as extensions of your main Company Page that allow you to promote specific products or cater to your individual marketing personas, providing a more personalized experience for your Company Page visitors.

LinkedIn users can also follow specific Showcase Pages without having to follow a company’s main page or its other Showcase Pages, allowing your business to tailor the page closely to the audience specific to the page.

To create a Showcase Page, go to your Company Page and click “Manage page.” Then, at the top, click “Admin Tools,” and select “Create a Showcase Page.” Find more information about Showcase Pages here.

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21) Post Company Status Updates (and target them!).

Make the most of your LinkedIn Company Page by publishing Company Status Updates for all your page followers to see. This will give LinkedIn users even more reason to follow your Company Page, growing your LinkedIn reach. For a high-level guide to these updates, click here.

Been using Company Status Updates for a while? Why not step it up a notch and leverage the power of segmentation with LinkedIn’s targeting options, which enable you to target your status updates to specific users? Company Page administrators can target their updates using criteria like company size, industry, job function, seniority, geography, language, or by including/excluding company employees. These targeted updates will appear on the Company/Showcase Page itself for those users as well as in the users’ Network Updates feed on their LinkedIn homepage.

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22) Check out LinkedIn’s Content Marketing Score & Trending Content resources.

If you’re a LinkedIn Business Solutions customer, you can learn how impactful your organic and paid LinkedIn content is with the Content Marketing Score and Trending Content resources. Your Content Marketing Score measures user engagement with your Sponsored Updates, Company Pages, LinkedIn Groups, employee updates, and Influencer posts (when applicable). It then provides recommendations for how you can improve your score, and thus the effectiveness of your LinkedIn content.

23) Experiment with LinkedIn Ads and Sponsored Updates.

If you’re looking to complement your organic LinkedIn marketing efforts with some paid advertising, LinkedIn Ads are a smart choice. One of the biggest benefits of LinkedIn advertising: the targeting options. LinkedIn’s PPC ads let you target specific job titles, job functions, industries, or company size, to name a few — you know, the people who are more likely to want/need what you sell.

If you want to get started with LinkedIn’s advertising platform, check out our free guide to advertising on LinkedIn here.

24) Create your own industry LinkedIn Group, and join other relevant groups.

Consider creating a LinkedIn Group of your very own, like HubSpot did with our popular Inbound Marketers Group. Create a group based on a relevant industry-related topic, and become a LinkedIn Group administrator. You can then use this group to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry, grow a community of advocates, generate new marketing content ideas, and even generate new leads — more on that next. You should also consider joining (and getting executives from your business to join) other relevant groups and participating in discussions to exhibit thought leadership in your industry.

25) Email your LinkedIn Group.

One of the perks of managing a LinkedIn Group is the fact that you can email all the members of your group — up to once per week. These emails take the form of LinkedIn Announcements, which are messages sent directly to the email inboxes of group members (if they’ve enabled messages from groups in their settings). It’s a prime opportunity for generating leads from LinkedIn, particularly if you’ve built up a robust group of users.

26) Experiment with publishing content on LinkedIn’s publishing platform.

Good news! You no longer have to be a LinkedIn Influencer to publish new articles to LinkedIn. Publishing is available to all users, ever since a February 2014 feature announcement. Experiment with how this feature can support your marketing goals by creating content for the platform and promoting it via your Company Page. For example, you could experiment with syndicating content from your business blog to LinkedIn Pulse and using it to promote subscription to your full blog.

To publish an article, click “Write an article” on the update box on your LinkedIn homepage. From there, you’ll be taken to the publishing platform, where you can compose your draft.

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27) Recruit new talent via LinkedIn Jobs.

Looking to fill a position or two on your marketing team — or another department within your company, for that matter? Then be sure to build out the Jobs section of your Company Page, which you can use to promote your available job openings.

The look and feel of your Jobs page depend on what information and images you choose to include, such as a list of jobs, people at your company, a summary section for your careers, what employees are saying about working at your company, and recent updates. Furthermore, if you’re actively recruiting candidates with specific skills and expertise, this goes both ways — you can use LinkedIn’s various search criteria to find the best fit.

Here’s another look at HubSpot’s Company Page — notice how the job listings are prominently displayed on the right.

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28) Add the Company Follow and LinkedIn share buttons to your website/content.

Promote your company’s LinkedIn presence and help grow the reach of your Company Page by adding the Company Follow button to your website. Also consider adding the LinkedIn Share button to your various content assets like blog posts, emails, and landing pages to extend the reach of your content to LinkedIn users. 

29) Analyze your LinkedIn marketing performance with the Analytics tab on your Company Page.

So … how are your LinkedIn marketing efforts faring? Use your Company Page Analytics to evaluate the performance of your Company Page. This feature offers data about the effectiveness of your page’s status updates, engagement, and reach, as well as information about your page’s followers — demographics, where they came from, how your following has grown over time, how your data compares to other companies.

Linking Up

Ready to get started? Great. With so many changes and features added to LinkedIn since its very first launch, we can’t wait to see how the network continues to make itself indisposable to job seekers, marketers, and other professionals.

free planner: how to run successful LinkedIn ads

Aug

15

2017

How to Build a Chatbot from Pitch to Promotion

In April 2016, something happened at Facebook that would quickly result in a revolutionary paradigm shift on the horizon of online communication — from mobile to desktop, marketing to services, personal to corporate — everything, really.

Messenger opened its doors to developers with an invitation to create chatbots — something of which roughly 78% of online adults were unaware. 

Within six months, developers had created about 30,000 active Messenger bots. Today, less than a year later, that number is up 233%, with 100,000 active bots on the platform. 

But it’s not just a popular, funky thing to do. Businesses using chatbots are seeing results, like Sephora, which reportedly earns “an average spend of over $50 from clients who have booked an in-store service via its Messenger assistant,” according to VentureBeat.

In case you’re wondering what the heck a chatbot actually is, though, here’s the condensed definition: A bot is nothing more than a computer program that automates certain tasks, typically by chatting with a user through a conversational interface.

There’s a vast range of chatbots. They can be rule-based, or powered by artificial intelligence (AI), both of which will drastically change the process of developing one. And if you’re looking to formulate your own chatbot strategy — from building the bot from scratch to promoting it and getting customers to use it — we’ve developed a basic framework for just that.

Read on, and let’s start building.

How to Build a Chatbot from Pitch to Promotion

1) Decide your bot’s purpose.

Ultimately, the purpose of a bot is to provide a service people actually want to use — time and time again. No bot is meant to do everything, so when you set out to create your own, think of an existing problem that it can fix in a more efficient way.

While there are many types of chatbots, if you’re building one for the first time, you’ll likely want to choose from the following two options:

Informational bots

As the name suggests, these bots provide users with a new format of information consumption. For example, breaking news bots send developing stories as the information becomes available. TechCrunch has a bot of that nature — check it out below:

Utility bots

These bots are automated to complete tasks and answer questions. In other words, they solve a user’s problem or inquiry via a chat transaction. Customer service bots might immediately come to mind here, but a growing number of utility bots are being built for purposes like booking appointments or shopping online. One of our personal favorites is TacoBot: Taco Bell’s still-in-development bot that allows people to order food via Slack. Join the waitlist here, and check out the preview:

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Source: Taco Bell

2) Decide what messaging app your bot will live on.

Earlier, we provided examples of bots that live on Messenger and Slack, respectively. And while those are two very popular options, there are many more available — for example, Kik and Viber.

Your chatbot’s “home” will largely depend on who’s using what. You’ll want to aim for the apps with an audience that matches the one you’re trying to reach. Slack, for example, tends to be more business-focused, so productivity bots are particularly helpful there.

Sephora is a great example. While the brand has bots on both Messenger and Kik, each one functions differently. The Messenger version is used for customer service, feedback, and booking makeovers:

The Kik version, on the other hand, is designed to help users find products and makeup tips:

3) Decide which platform you’ll use to build the chatbot.

Most messenger apps have tools and documents to help developers build bots — for example, Messenger has an entire library of resources here.

However, there are numerous platforms that can also help you build your bot — in some cases, without a lot of coding required. Here are a few that we recommend:

  1. Motion AI
  2. Chatfuel
  3. Botsify
  4. Beep Boop
  5. Bot Kit
  6. Octane.ai

4) Create your bot’s personality.

Remember when we mentioned the importance of matching your bot’s home with the audience you’re trying to reach? Well, we have a similar guiding principle for your bot’s personality: It should match your brand.

One of our favorite examples here is Pegg, a financial assistant designed for startups and small businesses — but speaking as someone who recently returned from vacation, it’s helpful for anyone trying to track their spending. And while finance isn’t something that’s usually associated with a fun, playful voice, Pegg’s bot, HelloPegg, flips that connotation on its head with a cute logo and friendly voice.

5) Build your bot’s flow.

When you begin creating your chatbot, the platform you’re using should provide options on how to build out conversations. Usually, this is by way of providing the user with drag-and-drop or multiple choice responses, or frontloading the bot with if/then statements. For example, with the HelloPegg app above, the if/then flow might look like this:

If the user begins the sentence with, “Spent” — then respond with, “Who did you pay?”

It’s a way of building a series of questions that are dependent on certain input criteria from the user to reach a given response or solution. Remember, a bot is supposed to be able to understand intent and deliver a solution in the most efficient way possible — that’s the main point of building a conversational strategy. Unlike a type form, for example, not every user can receive the same questions, and each answer the user gives should alter the following question to make the conversation as productive as possible.

Chatbots don’t necessarily need to be loquacious — they serve the purpose solving real problems from real people with the same (or better) ability as a human.

Things like buttons, cards, or other UI elements can be helpful here. For example, when chatting with a friend on Messenger, you might notice that the app prompts you to do certain things, depending on what you’ve typed in — like when I used it to wish my colleague, Eric Peters, a happy birthday.

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To help you build out these various pieces, we created the conversational framework below.

Finally, you’ll need to set up your chatbot’s ability to process the natural language that most users will input — meaning, the conversational vernacular that we use day-to-day. For example, “People don’t typically chat using words like ‘affirmative’ and ‘negative’,” explains HubSpot Senior Manager of Web Development Dmitry Shamis. “They say things like ‘yup’ and ‘nah, playa’ so natural language processing allows your bot to understand the underlying message and sentiment of those words.”

The way to do this varies with each platform, so depending on what you’re using to create the bot, going about this step will vary.

6) Connect the bot to the messaging app.

Once you’ve reached this step, you’ve likely finished building your bot. Now, it’s time to connect it to the app where you want it to live.

Many of the resources we listed in section 3 will allow you to do this within the same platform you used to build the bot. Both Motion AI and Chatfuel, for instance, have buttons in the interface that allow you to simply attach your bot directly to your Messenger page. But before you commit to those options, make sure you do thorough research to make sure you won’t be expected to pay any fees to the platform in the case that your bot sees a high level of success.

There are a few tools available to help you do this, one of which is the Recast.ai Bot Connector. It’s integrated with a number of apps, including Kik, Messenger, and Slack. It’s open source and free — check out the instructions for getting started here.

7) Test and train with a beta group.

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve finished a project of which I’m particularly proud, I’m impatient to share it with the world. But as much as we want to get our work out into the hands of the adoring masses, it’s imperative to make sure it works — especially with something as highly customer-facing and interacting as a chatbot.

That’s why we recommend forming a beta group to test the bot before it’s launched for public consumption. That can be internal or external — here at HubSpot, for example, we often test new products and features by sharing them with our colleagues and asking them to check for functionality, quality, and bugs.

But whoever you choose to test your chatbot, make sure they’re not afraid to give you their honest feedback. In order to fix a mistake, it needs to be unabashedly pointed out to you first.

8) Promote your chatbot.

Once your chatbot has been thoroughly QA’d and de-bugged, it’s time to release it to the public — and, of course, promote it.

There are several ways to go about the latter, but for the sake of keeping your strategy focused, we recommend the following steps to get started.

Add it to chatbot directories and catalogs.

Not every app will have a listing like this, but if you’re using one that does, make sure your app is included. (For example, here’s Slack’s.) Otherwise, look to third-party directories like BotList or Bot Finder for such listings.

Create a dedicated, SEO-friendly landing page.

For us, there’s often nothing more frustrating than catching wind of a great chatbot and being unable to find a dedicated website for it. That’s why we encourage you to create a dedicated, central page to explain the purpose, features, and where to find/install your chatbot to avoid any difficulty finding it, or other confusion.

TOPBOTS marketing and strategy specialist Adelyn Zhou emphasizes the importance of such a page. “A dedicated landing page for your bot gives users the option to first read and understand your distinct value add,” she writes on Medium. “Without the introduction, you’re leaving them to deduce your functionality by themselves.”

Include a messaging option in your emails.

Many emails include CTAs and icons for the reader to follow the sender on social media. Now, you can also add an option for your audience to engage with you via chatbot, by including icons for Messenger and Slack, for example.

Continuing the Conversation

Before you begin, remember: The hardest part of this process is not building your chatbot.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but if you re-read the steps above, you’ll see that while the actual bot buildout isn’t without its challenges, it doesn’t present the most difficulty. Rather, the hardest part is improving your conversational strategy over time — based on how actual humans are interacting with it.

Even after you’ve completed the steps we’ve outlined, your work won’t be completely done. You’ll want to see how users are engaging with your chatbot, and if they’re not, what might be the cause of it. Is it truly addressing the problem it was built to solve? Has it turned out that your audience has other issues it wishes to resolve with a bot?

Think about these different factors once your chatbot goes live, and the various ways you can continue to make it even better.

Intro to Lead Gen

Aug

14

2017

How to Create the Best Powerpoint Presentations, With Examples

Some presentations are better than others. Some have gorgeous designs. Some have insanely actionable takeaways. Some just give down-to-earth advice. But the best presentations represent all three.

And if you’re looking to get started making your own presentation, why not learn from the best of the best?

To help you kick your own presentations up a notch, we’ve curated 24 awesome PowerPoint and SlideShare decks below. 

Since you're already interested in PowerPoints – click here for our free guide  on delivering a great presentation.

When you’re clicking through the presentations below, notice how they weave an interesting story through the format, design their slides, and make their presentations interactive with features exclusive to the platform on which they were created. These are all crucial elements to making an awesome presentation — ones that you can certainly adapt and apply them to your own, with the right approach.

Even better … you may just learn a thing or two about marketing while you’re at it.

How to Create the Best PowerPoint Presentations

1) Less is more.

Here’s the thing — SlideShare exists for a reason. It allows users to view information in a presentation format without having to go somewhere else to see it presented. When you, a human being, deliver a presentation, chances are that that’s part of the reason why people are tuning in. They care about the topic, but they also are curious about the person speaking on it.

That’s why it can be valuable to keep your slides simple when delivering a presentation to an audience in-person. You want the focus to be on the message, rather than just the slides themselves. Keep the slides on-topic, but simple enough that people can still pay attention to what you’re saying, using the visual presentation to support your message.

2) Keep text to a minimum.

One way to accomplish the aforementioned simplicity is to reduce the amount of text in your presentation. People recall information better when images are paired with it (as opposed to text), so to help your message resonate with the audience, focus on visual content when you create your slides — we’ll cover more on that in a bit.

You certainly won’t be alone — even Google CEO Sundar Pichai practices the reduction of text in his presentations. “Since stories are best told with pictures,” he reportedly remarked at Google I/O 2017, “bullet points and text-heavy slides are increasingly avoided at Google.”

3) Rethink visuals.

When you reduce the amount of text in your slides, you’ll need compelling visuals to support the message you’re delivering to your audience. But that doesn’t mean you can just throw some nice-looking photos onto your deck and move on. Like any other content strategy, the visual elements of your presentation need to be strategic and relevant.

Templates

While PowerPoint templates have come a long way since the program was first unveiled to the world, chances are, they’re still commonly used. To help make your presentation unique, choose a theme that your audience hasn’t seen dozens of times before — one that matches your brand and complements the topic you’re speaking about.

Sometimes, it pays to look beyond to other presentation platforms other than PowerPoint to find unique templates, like Prezi. There are also many visual content design sites that offer customizable templates that you can adapt for your own brand and topic, like Canva. In fact, in addition to templates, Canva also offers its very own platform for building presentations from scratch, which you can check out here.

Charts and Graphs

One of the best ways to support the message you’re delivering in your presentation is by including data and statistics — and the good news is that they, too, can be represented visually, rather than bulleted out in text.

That’s where charts and graphs come in: They provide a colorful and engaging way to present the details that support your point. That said, make sure they fit in with the rest of your presentation’s visual theme — otherwise, it’ll distract the audience from what you’re talking about, rather than enhancing it. 

Color Themes

There’s been some research around the way color can influence our emotions, especially when used in marketing — in some cases, changing the color of a CTA button boosted conversions by 21%.

And while the goal of your presentation may not necessarily be to make a sale, you might be trying to invoke certain feelings or impressions, which a strategic use of color can help you do. Check out Coschedule’s guide on the psychology of color in marketing, which highlights the ways different tones, shades, and combinations can influence purchasing decisions.

Fonts

When you do include text, you want it to be readable enough for your audience to fully consume and interpret it easily enough to avoid becoming distracted from your message. If you include text that’s too small or dense to easily read, they’ll become too focused on trying to decipher it to pay attention to what you’re saying.

That’s why the designers at Visage recommend choosing Sans Serif fonts that opt for “legibility over fun,” noting that text should not only be big enough for people in the back of the room to read it, but also, presented in the right color to maintain visibility over your background.

Image quality

Incorporating this fabulous visual content into your presentation will go to waste if the images are low-quality. Make sure your photos and other visual assets are high-resolution enough to be crisp and clear when displayed on a huge presentation screen.

4) Incorporate multimedia.

There’s a reason why we love examples. You can give out the best advice available, but sometimes, in order to believe it, people need to see it in practice.

Multimedia is one way to achieve that — in a manner that can also capture and maintain your audience’s attention. A simple Google search for “music in presentations” yields enough soundtrack results to suggests that it’s a unique way of engaging your audience, or at least create a welcoming atmosphere before and after you speak.

Within the presentation itself, video — as it is in so many other applications — serves as valuable visual content to keep your audience engaged. After all, 43% of people want to see more video content from marketers, often because it helps to illustrate and explain theories in practice in a way that the spoken word or photographs can’t do alone.

24 Great SlideShare & PowerPoint Presentation Examples for Marketers

1) “How to Produce Better Content Ideas,” Mark Johnstone

We all get writer’s block sometimes. You’ll stare at a screen, hoping for inspiration to strike — and for that idea to be amazing.

But that’s not actually the best way to think of ideas. In the presentation below, Mark Johnstone outlines a better way to brainstorm ideas that will help build your business.

2) “How Google Works,” Eric Schmidt

Ever wonder what it’s actually like to work at Google? The presentation below from Eric Schmidt (Alphabet, Inc.’s Executive Chairman and ex-CEO of Google) could clue you in — it outlines some of the top lessons he and his team have learned from running and hiring for one of the top companies in the world. Besides giving you a peek behind the scenes of a top company, it could inspire you to make changes to the way your business runs.

3) “Fix Your Really Bad PowerPoint,” Slide Comet

Okay, maybe your PowerPoint isn’t that bad, but this presentation has some awesome takeaways we all could learn from. Even if you’re following all the tips in this presentation, you can sure be inspired by its expert copy and design.

4) “KPCB 2017 Internet Trends,” Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Mary Meeker’s report on the latest internet trends is one of the most hotly anticipated data reports of the year. Even if you gave this presentation a gander when it first came out, it’s worth revisiting — the data’s fascinating, current, and relevant to marketers in any industry.

 

5) “Why Content Marketing Fails,” Rand Fishkin

Sometimes, the most helpful pieces of content tell you what not to do. Rand Fishkin’s presentation does just that. He takes an in-depth look at the most common reasons people fail at content marketing — and offers practical, original advice on fixing it.

6) “The What If Technique,” Motivate Design

Most marketers are looking to grow … but sometimes they can get stuck making incremental improvements. While these improvements are growth, larger, bigger growth jumps are what most people want. To help you get unstuck from incrementalism, Motivate Design outlined a process in the presentation below.

7) “Digital Strategy 101,” Bud Caddell

Even though this presentation is almost 100 slides long, its content is pure gold. Caddell answers some of the biggest FAQs about digital strategy in a very accessible way. The reason his slides are so straightforward is because of the way he’s laid them out. He’s really adept at making “animated” slides explain his story — something we all should learn how to do.

8) “10 Ways to Win the Internets,” Upworthy

Even though Upworthy’s got a bad rap for creating clickbait headlines, their lessons on going viral are incredibly interesting. Besides having great advice about going viral, Upworthy does a great job of making its presentation interactive using clickable links.

9) “Crap: The Content Marketing Deluge,” Velocity Partners

Even though this SlideShare is a few years old, it’s one every content marketer should flip through. The reason we love it so much is because the message — and delivery of that message — is pretty much flawless. Definitely take a second to flip through the presentation, as you’ll learn a great lesson while also soaking up a great piece of SlideShare content.

10) “What Would Steve Do? 10 Lessons from the World’s Most Captivating Presenters,” HubSpot

Not to toot our own horn, but this presentation has been one of our most successful ones, so we wanted to share it with you. I personally love how actionable tips are provided in a visual way. For example, in slides 47 through 49, the author explains the difference between “showing” and “telling” by putting the word “circle” next to a picture of a circle. Although showing, not telling, is a key storytelling technique in writing, it’s especially effective in presentations.

11) “How I Got 2.5 Million Views on SlideShare,” Nick Demey

Feeling inspired to create a SlideShare of your own? Make sure you flip through Nick Demey’s presentation first. He shares some tried-and-true tips for creating awesome presentations that rack up tons of views.

12) “10 Powerful Body Language Tips for Your Next Presentation,” Soap Presentations

This presentation is inspirational from a design perspective — we especially love the color scheme. Using complementary colors (colors opposite each other on the color wheel) can be overwhelming at times, but because Soap Presentations uses them with lots of white space in the background, the colors draw your attention to the content of the slides.

13) “What 33 Successful Entrepreneurs Learned From Failure,” ReferralCandy

Learning from mistakes is a crucial part of growing in your professional and personal lives. But sometimes, it’s better to learn from others’ mistakes instead of making them yourself. This presentation outlines some core lessons successful entrepreneurs have learned by making mistakes. Read on so you don’t have to make the same ones.

14) “Displaying Data,” Bipul Deb Nath

We admire presentation for its exceptional display of data — now this post will explain how to do the same in your own presentations. I also love how this presentation is very concise and minimal, as it helps communicate a fairly advanced topic in an easy-to-understand way.

15) “Design Your Career 2017,” Slides That Rock

This presentation’s advice is applicable and its design admirable. The whole black-and-white color scheme really makes the salmon accent color pop — and the SlideShare creatively combines these elements for different slide layouts. Definitely bookmark this presentation as an example of a great SlideShare design.

16) “A-Z Culture Glossary 2017,” sparks & honey

The first time I heard the phrase “on fleek,” I had no idea what it meant. (Apparently, it’s a term that means “on point,” in case you were wondering.)

If you’re like me and feel like it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the latest cultural trends, spend time with the presentation below. It’ll outline the most popular trends you should know this year — most definitely worth a read.

 

17) “The History of SEO,” HubSpot

SEO’s changed a lot in the past two decades. Most of us are concerned with keeping up with the latest and greatest changes … but have you ever taken a minute to step back in time? The presentation below will walk you through SEO history from the very beginning — it’s been a fascinating ride.

18) “5 Killer Ways to Design the Same Slide,” Crispy Presentations

Once you start designing presentations, it’s easy to fall back on tried-and-true layouts, photos, fonts, and colors. While keeping everything consistent can be good for branding or for shipping a deck quickly, it can also prevent people from noticing the awesome new content you’ve put together. The quick presentation below shows you a few different ways you can design the same slide — all depending on what you want it to accomplish.

19) “The Seven Deadly Social Media Sins,” XPLAIN

Besides having some great takeaways for any inbound marketer, I love how this presentation successfully uses Creative Commons images in almost every slide. It’s pretty inspirational — even if you don’t have budget for stock photos, you can have an engaging presentation.

20) “The Minimum Lovable Product,” Spook Studio

When they’re first getting started, many startups and agile teams talk about creating a minimal viable product — using the smallest amount of resources to produce something that’s good enough to begin testing. After all, why pour tons of resources into something that you don’t know will work?

This presentation challenges the MVP concept in favor for creating something that people love. Check it out — it has lessons even for those of us who aren’t building technology every day.

21) “How to Teach Yourself HTML and CSS This Month,” Ryan Bonhardt

Lots of people have “learn to code” on their to-do list … but they never get to it. In marketing, knowing how to navigate code is becoming even more important to being successful. If you’ve been waiting to get started with coding, check out the presentation below.

22) “How People Really Hold and Touch (Their Phones),” Steven Hoober

When you hear the phrase “design for mobile” what do you think? Probably that you need to create a responsive website, and that’s about it.

But that’s not all you need to worry about. When you’re creating mobile-optimized content, you need to know how people actually use their phones — and the presentation below will you a great overview of consumer behavior.

23) “How to Really Get Into Marketing,” Inbound.org

If you’re graduating from school or making a career change and looking to get into marketing, it can feel tough to actually get started. It’s one of those “you need experience to get the job, but you have no experience” conundrums.

Well, that’s where this presentation comes in. Hull growth marketer Ed Fry — once employee #1 at Inbound.org — gives real, actionable tips to help you get your foot in the door at your next marketing gig.

24) “Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing,” Velocity Partners

Sometimes, it’s easy to get bogged down and think you’re doing “just marketing.” You’re not operating on people and saving lives, right?

From the creators of “Crap: The Content Marketing Deluge” comes the following presentation. If you’re ever feeling down-in-the-dumps about marketing, I’d highly recommend reading it. It’s thoughtful, funny, and a great presentation to keep in your back pocket for a rainy day.

The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing from
Velocity Partners
 
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Free Guide Presentation Skills

 
Free Guide Presentation Skills

Aug

3

2017

Marketers Weigh In: Which Live Video Platform Should You Use, and When?

Do you like to argue?

I do. I come from a long line of debaters, negotiators, and general question-askers — and now, it turns out, sparking these discussions has become part of my job.

That often manifests itself during our team’s lively Slack discussions 

around everything between what’s for lunch and the latest marketing news — the latter of which often includes a healthy amount of debate around which tools and channels we prefer to use, both as marketers and consumers of technology.

So when my colleague, Marketing Blog Staff Writer Sophia Bernazzani, recently covered an entire discussion around which is better — Snapchat, or Instagram — I thought, “That’s a great idea. What else can we debate?” New Call-to-action

This time, the contenders were some of the major live video platforms out there: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. I opened up the discussion on Slack …

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 2.31.09 PM.png

… and, a la Bernazzani’s approach to her debate, decided to open it up to our inbound.org community members.

We asked marketers the following:

  1. Which is your preferred platform for live video?
  2. Do you use different platforms for different purposes?
  3. Why do you prefer this/these platform(s)?
  4. Do you particularly dislike the non-preferred platforms, and if so, why?

And now, we’re sharing some of marketers’ biggest reasons why they prefer each platform — read on for some of the highlights of the debate below.

Why Use Facebook Live?

1) There’s more engagement.

According to Facebook Head of Video Fidji Simo, about 20% of all videos on the channel are live, with the time spent watching them having grown 4X over the past year.

Video already makes for a popular content format on Facebook, with roughly 100 million hours of it consumed on the channel each day. So when you consider that 20 million hours of that is comprised of live video, the data speaks for itself — people are engaged with this kind of content. It’s no wonder that HubSpot marketers agreed:

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 3.32.36 PM-1.png

2) There’s greater reach.

Notice that, in his quote above, HubSpot Academy Senior Growth Marketing Manager Eric Peters also spoke to Facebook Live’s reach.

To date, Facebook has 1.28 billion daily active users. On top of that, it continues to rank as Pew Research Center’s most popular social media channel. In other words — when content is shared on Facebook, it’s done so with a bit of a built-in audience.

With so many people already using Facebook, users often come across content from creators that they don’t already follow because it’s recommended by the platform’s algorithm, or one of their friends engaged with it or shared it, which shows up as activity on their feeds.

Therefore, when marketers share content on Facebook, viewership isn’t necessarily limited to the people who already like their Pages — it also has the potential to reach new audiences in the ways we mentioned above. HubSpot Social Media Marketer Nick Carney agrees:

NickCFBLive.png

3) It’s easy to use.

Carney also spoke to the fact that, when it comes to broadcasting live video with convenience, Facebook emerges as a leader once again.

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 4.03.58 PM.png

As he points out, Facebook Live not only seamlessly integrates with a number of other platforms, but it’s also responsive across more than one viewing or recording medium — like desktop or mobile. And when you’re a marketer trying to capture an event unfolding, or provide a spontaneous look at what your brand is doing, that sort of translatable use is important.

Maybe that’s why social media strategist Christine Gritmon had the following responses to our questions:

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 4.08.29 PM.png

4) The actual content outlives the live broadcast.

Gritmon also mentioned the somewhat evergreen nature of Facebook Live video content. Unlike other ephemeral content platforms, she explains, viewers can continue to consume her live video content long after the broadcast has ended.

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 4.10.25 PM.png

Notice how she addressed the idea of repurposing Facebook Live content elsewhere. While non-live Instagram posts, for example, can be shared and embedded elsewhere — Stories and live video cannot. Using Facebook, Gritmon explains, allows this specific video content to continue existing elsewhere, long-term, so that it can still reach those who didn’t catch the live broadcast.

Why Use Instagram?

1) It’s good for short-form content.

When it comes to streaming live video on mobile, Fresh Egg’s Social Media Manager Mark Longhurst says that Instagram Live is his go-to platform:

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 4.24.38 PM.png

Here’s where discoverability comes into play. Instagram, similar to Facebook, is a platform where users are scrolling through a feed of multiple pieces of consumable content. They’re not looking for anything in particular, and haven’t arrived at this destination as a result of searching for something. Rather, they’re here just to see what’s new and what might be interesting.

That’s especially true of Instagram’s “Videos You Might Like” feature, which includes hand-picked Stories, live, and pre-recorded videos that it’s determined a given user might like, based on her viewing behavior on the platform — and which, personally, has led to following more than one previously undiscovered profile.

IMG_0379.png

That said, people aren’t necessarily looking to consume a long piece of content while they’re scrolling, even if it does come in a live video format. About two-thirds of viewers prefer video that’s under one minute, and in a crowded feed of content, it’s likely to be even less. So as Longhurst says — when it comes to this platform, keep it short.

2) Sometimes, the content seems a bit more natural.

Pre-produced and formal live videos are great — in a certain context. If you’re hosting a webinar, for example, or a longer sit-down interview that you’ve teased or promoted in advance, viewers have a better idea of what they’re in for — in fact, they’ve probably already registered for or planned to watch it before the broadcast begins.

But there’s a time and a place for that, says Greater Kalamazoo Association of Realtors Director of Marketing Angela M. McMillan — and Instagram Live isn’t it.

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 4.43.38 PM.png

When it comes to Instagram Live, focus on short, helpful videos with aesthetic appeal — and content that doesn’t need to stick around after its initial live broadcast has passed.

These criteria make Instagram an ideal platform for live videos that are update-like in nature — a way to say “hello” to viewers and show them what your brand and its people are up to. For example, maybe there’s a trendy industry event where you might have a presence — Instagram Live provides a great avenue for letting your audience know that you’re there and that you’ll be bringing them a glimpse of all the cool action that’s taking place. Later on, if you want to do a compiled review of the event that’s a bit less spontaneous in nature, find a different platform for it.

Why Use YouTube?

1) It’s valuable to those who already have an audience there.

When Gritmon was weighing in on live video platforms, she noted that “YouTube Live is wonderful for those who have an audience there,” but that it’s simply “not where my audience is.” For that reason, if you’re just starting out on YouTube, it might not be the best venue for your live videos.

However, if you already have an established YouTube presence and typically use it for pre-recorded content, it can be a valuable platform for a “special edition” of something, or an event that your audience should “tune in for” — which you can promote and tease with a non-live video prior to the broadcast.

Here’s an example of how Sony Pictures Entertainment did just that to tease its live Hangout with the Amazing Spider-Man 2 cast:

2) It’s better for long-form content.

As we noted above, YouTube is a better platform for longer live videos — especially when you’ve promoted them in some of the ways we’ve discussed above. That’s especially true on mobile, says Longhurst — in fact, check out the latest edition to the platform’s listing in the iTunes store:

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 5.04.51 PM.png

That wasn’t always the case — according to TechCrunch, the listing previously read, “YouTube – Watch, Upload and Share Videos” — with no mention of live content. But from a consumption standpoint, we haven’t noticed anything remarkably different about the live viewing experience on here than on the other channels we’ve discussed. While it does allow users to minimize the video into a corner for continuous play while browsing elsewhere within the app, Facebook offers the same feature.

It seems, then, that the platform may be making an attempt to catch up with other platforms in the realm of live mobile viewership. And from a marketing standpoint, recording and streaming live video via mobile is currently only available to verified accounts with at least 100 subscribers — making it less than ideal for short-form, spontaneous content.

Why Use Snapchat?

Truth time: We didn’t hear from a ton of marketers who are too crazy about using SnapChat for live video.

For her part, Gritmon says she uses Snapchat for the sake of “staying in the game” as a social media strategist, and that she doesn’t believe it’s used by the demographic that she or her clients are trying to reach. She also noted that it appears to largely be used for sharing private content with a select group of friends — not for reaching new audiences with live content.

In sum, it seems the verdict is in:

  • Facebook = Good for engagement and reach, especially with longer-form live videos.
  • Instagram = Good for discoverability, with spontaneous, shorter-form live videos.
  • YouTube = Good for marketers with a pre-established audience on this platform already, who can upload pre-recorded videos on their channels to tease live broadcasts.
  • Snapchat = Good for sharing among friends — not new audiences.

Many thanks to the HubSpot and inbound.org community marketers who participated in this discussion. Where do you stand on the debate over the best live video platform? Let us know in the comments.

free guide: how to use facebook live

 

Aug

2

2017

What You Missed Last Month in Google

It’s September, and yes — we’re sad that summer is coming to an end, too.

Around here, August is just such an exciting time. It means beach days, baseball games, blueberries being in season — and for Google’s part, it meant a lot of news.

Gone are the days, it seems, of August coming with a lot of downtime — at least, that seems to be the case for the aforementioned search giant. As we said last month, Google knows no such thing as a “break” — and neither do we, until we fill you in on all things Google from last month.Click here to download our free guide to search engine optimization (SEO) for  2017.

We’ve put together another list of the major highlights from the most talked-about search engine — this time, for the month of August. Read on for the full recap.

August News About Google

More Algorithm Updates

Toward the end of the month — around the 19th — a few outlets were reporting were reporting changes in Google search results, which largely amounted to what Search Engine Roundtable called “chatter [that] died out” after a couple of days of intense speculation. 

Here’s a look at the month’s MozCast:

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 12.23.42 PM
Source: MozCast

While the cast shows an ever-so-slight spike in the days surrounding the time these changes were reported, there have been more significant spikes at other points throughout August that weren’t accompanied with similar rumors. 

The SEMRush Sensor showed a similar pattern:

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 12.31.41 PM
Source: SEMRush

However, you’ll notice that this image comes with a bit of a footnote. On August 19th, the Sensor added that there may have been an update in Google Rankings — but didn’t provide much information beyond that. It summarized the same reports from webmasters that were synthesized by Search Engine Roundtable, stating that “details of an update are unclear at the moment.”

Google, for its part, seemed a bit displeased with this chatter — which isn’t exactly a new development. Back in 2016, Google’s webmaster trends analyst, Gary Illyes, affirmed with the tweet below the belief that such algorithm forecasting and reporting tools are far from perfect and often pick up on incorrect signals that have nothing to do with ranking:

That impression seemed to continue with these more recent spikes, with John Mueller — another webmaster trends analyst at Google — sending out this tweet in response to one webmaster’s speculation over possible changes in search results:

That said, we wouldn’t discourage marketers from keeping an eye on tools like MozCast or SEMRush Sensor — but at the same time, we wouldn’t advise using them as the end-all, be-all of your SEO strategy. When analyzing your organic traffic, you can certainly use these tools to support your overall strategy, but we caution you to also take a close look at everything else that’s going on: things like CTR, queries that are getting people to your content, and other sources of traffic.

New Results for Queries Related to Depression

On August 23, Google announced its partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to create PHQ-9: A questionnaire that users who search for “clinical depression” can take — voluntarily — to measure their levels of depression. 

The questionnaire is just one part of the resulting Knowledge Panel that’s displayed when these queries are entered, which also lists basic information on depression, as well as symptoms and types of treatment.

depression
Source: Google

The purpose of this new feature, according to National Alliance on Mental Illness CEO Mary Giliberti — who authored the official announcement on The Keyword — is for “more people will become aware of depression and seek treatment to recover and improve their quality of life.” However, she also cautions that “while this tool can help, it’s important to note that PHQ-9 is not meant to act as a singular tool for diagnosis.”

The tool’s effectiveness has been tested by some outlets, including BuzzFeed’s Morgan Shanahan, who identifies as clinically depressed. In her review of the PHQ-9, she guides the reader through each question and why she provided the answers she gave to each one. Ultimately, she surmises, “each person who takes this test, depressed or not, will come through with a deeper understanding of what depression can look like.”

The Pixel 2 Is Coming 

Mobile tech writer Evan Blass — who has earned quite a reputation for his product announcement leaks — tweeted on August 23rd that Google will debut the latest version of the Pixel on October 5th: one year and one day after the first model was brought to light.

The Snapdragon 836 refers to the device’s internal processor, or SoC, which stands for “system on chip.” The first model of the Pixel runs on the Snapdragon 835, which means that this change could result in incrementally better processing speed and battery life

As is so often the case with the imminent release of new and (hopefully) improved versions of mobile devices, The Verge reports that not only are current Pixel models selling for between $125-$200 less than their original prices, but also, any purchase of a Pixel device now comes with a free Daydream View headset, which is Google’s VR viewer. We’ll be watching this story as it develops, and will share details of the Pixel 2 as they become available.

Google Is Trying to Emulate Snapchat

First, it was Instagram. Then, it was Facebook. Now, Google is reportedly joining the ranks of tech giants trying to emulate Snapchat’s ephemeral content features. Its alleged name? “Stamp”: A hybrid of Stories (“St”) and AMP, Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages.

The feature will reportedly be modeled after Snapchat Discover, which allows brands to publish content created specifically for Snapchat. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google will potentially partner with such publishers as the Washington Post, Vox, and Mic, who “would run stories that could be several swipeable slides encompassing text, photos and video, just as on Snapchat.” The difference, however, is that Stamp won’t be its own app — rather, this content would display under the Google search bar.

Because of Google’s history of forays into social media — Buzz and Wave, to name two of its more notable flops — we’re encouraged to see that it doesn’t seem to be making any attempts to build a new social network. 

Android Oreo Launch

Yes — this news also makes us crave a certain sandwich cookie.

Timed to be announced alongside the August 21st solar eclipse, Google unveiled the latest Android mobile platform: Oreo.

One of the more prominent features, according to the official announcement penned by Android & Google Play VP of Product Management, Sameer Samat, is its picture-in-picture capability. Samat uses the example of wanting to check your schedule while on a video call without losing live visuals — with Oreo, users can now do that. Plus, it boasts better payment security, and better speed, with boot time that is rumored to be twice as fast as the Pixel’s.

So, why do all of these mobile announcements matter to marketers, anyway? Well, with more and more users turning to these devices as their primary browsing platforms, mobile is more important than ever: It’s one of the best places to reach your audience. And with different operating systems offering different options for consuming content — whether it’s by way of an app, a browser, or more — we want to make sure marketers are aware of these various platforms.

Stay tuned — we’ll be covering more of this information as it becomes available. In the meantime, here’s an adorable promo video of Android creatures watching a soaring sandwich cookie:

 

More Crackdowns on Loud, Annoying Websites

Last month, we reported that Google partnered with the Coalition for Better Ads to create stricter guidelines for audibly intrusive ads — you know, the kind that loudly play in a tab you forgot you had open without you having clicked to play it.

Now, Google is taking that same approach to websites across the board, with a looming Chrome feature that allows users to mute entire pages.

Right now, Chrome tabs can be muted by right-clicking on them and selecting “Mute tab” — but that silence is canceled once the browser (or tab) is closed. This new feature will come with a setting to mute or unmute a site from the Page Info bubble, as per the image below:

sound-site-setting
Source: François Beaufort

Until the formal launch, users with access to the experimental Canary version of Chrome can test it.

In the meantime, we’ll make one general recommendation: Let your users decide when they want to listen to your audible content. If a video plays without them asking it to, chances are, your audience will take advantage of these options to silence you. After all, this development is just the latest in a few channels experimenting with the sound on/sound off debate. 

Until Next Month

As always, we’re watching all things Google. We’ll continue to pick out top news items, algorithm updates, and trends that can aid your marketing.

Enjoy your September — we’ll see you next month.

Free Download Intro to SEO

 
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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.

free guide: make your site mobile-friendly

 
free guide: learning seo from the experts

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.

free guide: make your site mobile-friendly

 
free guide: learning seo from the experts

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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fix grammatical errors with the free writing style guide

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

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

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