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Aug

16

2017

Search Has Changed. Here’s How Your Content Needs to Evolve.

When inbound marketing was on the rise in 2006, search engines were the primary way readers discovered new content. In 2017, this still holds true.

Social, video, and messaging apps now occupy a fair share of the content landscape — but with over 3.5 billion searches per day on Google alone, search is a channel marketers still can’t afford to ignore.

Over the last ten years or so, it feels like we’ve figured out a pretty standard content formula: publish a large volume of content to target long-tail keywords, and convert that organic traffic into leads via gated content offers. 

But this way of thinking about content has hit a wall. Search has changed, and it’s time content did too. 

How Search Has Evolved

There are two big ways search has changed in recent years:

  1. Our search behavior has shifted.
  2. The technology search engines use to interpret and serve results has improved.

Let’s dive into each.

How Our Search Behavior Has Changed

Back in 2006, search behavior was relatively simplistic. We typed at search engines with queries like, “Restaurants Boston,” rather than talking to them conversationally.

Today, the average search query goes something like, “Where is the best place to eat near me right now?”.

In fact, in May 2016 Google CEO, Sundar Pichai announced that 20% of queries on mobile and Android are voice searches.

Regardless of whether you type or use voice search, longer, more-conversational queries have become standard.

In a study conducted by Ahrefs of search volume by keyword length, they found 64% of searches are four words or more. And the rise of conversational search is only making this search pattern more prevalent.

keyword-length-distribution.pngSource: Ahrefs long-tail keyword study

This isn’t because we’ve suddenly become comfortable talking to robots. It’s largely because the quality of results that search engines serve has substantially improved, along with the quantity of content.

We’ve learned the playbook and have published so much content, some marketers say we’ve hit “content shock,” and that producing content at this rate is no longer sustainable.

"While the quantity of content has dramatically increased, quality has not."

While the quantity of content has dramatically increased, quality has not. Sure, there are individual publishers and sites that create amazing content you probably consume regularly. But for the most part, a lot of content published today doesn’t contribute much to the conversation.

In addition to our search behavior, the general way we use the internet to interact with sites has changed. We’ve shifted from desktop-based PCs, to mobile laptops, to smartphones as mini-computers in the palm of our hands.

Readers are skimming content and searching for quick answers. The emergence of messaging also means visitors are less likely to fill out a lengthy form. This has natural consequences on how we think about our content to build an audience, brand, and ultimately generate leads.

The Impact of Search Engine Updates

We’re going to focus on Google-specific updates here, since between their core search, image search, and YouTube, they collectively control 90% of the search market.

When Google first popped up on the scene, the way they returned results was to essentially deconstruct queries into their fundamental pieces — meaning individual keywords that appeared — and serve results based on exact matches. At that time, marketers who stuffed matching keywords into content would naturally rank for the query, until Google started adjusting their algorithm.

If we go back just a few years, we can see a rich history that leads us to the search experience we have today, and we can uncover lessons that apply to our own content strategies.

Let’s walk through three of the most important Google search updates and how they impact your strategy.

Penguin Algorithm Update — Rolled out April 24, 2012.

This algorithm update was designed to penalize “webspam” and sites that were over-optimized using black-hat SEO techniques. Webspam –such as keyword stuffing and link schemes — was penalized in this update, with 3.1% of English search queries impacted.

In the official Penguin announcement, Google described a blog post that was written about fitness and had relevant content. But within the post, there were also completely irrelevant links to payday loans and other sites. This form of random keyword stuffing is a perfect example of an SEO tactic that was likely impacted by Penguin.

The takeaway: Include relevant links and keywords in your content, but don’t overdo it. While there’s no magical number that’s right or wrong, look at your content through the lens of a reader and make a judgment call if it’s too much.

Hummingbird Algorithm Update — Announced on August 20, 2013.

Based on what we know, this was a core algorithm update that focused on improving semantic search. As search becomes more conversational, Hummingbird is now the core algorithm interpreting these queries and translating them into meaningful results.

For example, if you search for “what’s the best place to buy an iPhone 7 near my home?” a traditional algorithm before Hummingbird would have taken each individual keyword and looked for matches. With Hummingbird, Google began to look at the meaning behind these words and translate them into a better result. 

Digging into that example query above, “place” means you’re looking for a store you can physically go to, instead of a website you can buy from. Hummingbird looks at the entire query and attempts to understand the meaning behind the words used to return relevant results.

The takeaway: We now search the way we talk. Focusing only on keywords means you’re likely missing out on traffic from conversational search. Start thinking about clustering your content into topics, and adjusting the way you create content with pillar pages.

RankBrain Algorithm Update — Announced on October 26, 2015.

In October 2015, Google announced that machine learning, via RankBrain, had been a part of their algorithm for months and is now the third most influential ranking factor.

It’s important to understand that there are over 200 ranking signals when Google evaluates a page. When RankBrain was announced, it immediately became the third most-important factor Google uses to determine rank. 

So, what does RankBrain do? At a basic level, this algorithm helps interpret searches to find pages that might not have the exact words searched for. For example, if you search for “sneakers,” Google understands that you might have meant “running shoes” and incorporates that factor into results.

Although Google begun to understand synonyms between words prior to this update, RankBrain propelled that understanding forward and truly brought a focus on topic-based content to the forefront.

The takeaway: Searchers are likely discovering your content even though they don’t use exact keywords. When you combine this update with Hummingbird, the evidence is clear that we need to shift how we think about, plan, and create content.

Based on our search behavior, and the search technology updates, the playbook for content needs to change. The same formula we used for the past ten years might still generate moderate results, but it will not help us adjust to the way potential buyers are searching for our content today, or the way search works.

Wait, does this mean keywords are irrelevant?

No — keywords are still very relevant today. Yet many marketers solely rely on keywords to inform their content strategy. With the search behavior and technology changes we’ve discussed, your future playbook must be based on the overall topics that match the intent of a searcher, and the specific keywords they use.

For example, if you want help companies redesign websites, then you would naturally want to appear on a search engine results page for the keyword “website redesign.” In this case, “website redesign” is the overall topic. But some users might be really be searching for “redesign existing website”, which is essentially the same query with different keywords. 

With this shift in search technology, search behavior, and how we interact with content, the way we make content to attract users has to change.

Here are core tenets of the new playbook to help you adjust:

The New Content Playbook

The new content playbook is comprised of three parts: overall topics that you want to be known for organized into clusters, pillar content, and subtopic content. This model can helps you establish areas of influence into overall topics, and a solid information architecture at the same time.

Topic Clusters

As Matt Barby, Global Head of Growth and SEO at HubSpot, explains:

 

“The basic premise behind building a content program in topic clusters is to enable a deeper coverage across a range of core topic areas, whilst creating an efficient information architecture in the process.”

Instead of thinking about every variation of exact keywords, think about the topics you want to be known for, and the content you create will deeply cover that topic. Then, within this topic-based content, include relevant keywords. To explain this further, let’s break down topic vs. keyword in the table below.

Keyword-and-Topics.png

An overall topic cluster is represented with a comprehensive piece of content at the center (called pillar content) and then surrounded by subtopic content. Visually it looks like this:

Cluster model.png

A topic cluster should be specific to the topic you want to be known for and should be short — ideally between two and four words.

For example, at HubSpot “inbound marketing” is a topic cluster, and we have pillar content dedicated to describing the methodology. You can have numerous topic clusters across your site for as many topics as are relevant to your company. 

Pillar Content

Pillar content is central to this new strategy. It is typically comprised of a single page — such as a website or landing page — that offers a comprehensive view of the topic. 

If you have a lot of content, this page might already exist on your site. If not, or you want to expand into a new topic, check-out this decision tree to help decide when to create a new piece of pillar content.

final2-pillar-cluster-flowchart.jpg

There are a three key aspects of pillar content that you should consider:

  • Ungated – Pillar content should be ungated. That is, all of the content should be available for search engines to crawl and visitors to read without having to fill out a form. You can have a form on the page, but just don’t hide content behind the form. 
  • Comprehensive – Pillar content should be comprehensive, which also generally means long-form. Consider all of the questions your sales, services, and support teams regularly receive concerning a specific topic and build in answers within the page content.
  • Related terms – Remember when we talked about the algorithm updates above? Be sure to mention your core topic a number of times on the page, but also include synonyms as well. That way, no matter how someone searches for that topic, they’ll hopefully land on your page.

Subtopic Content

Subtopic content should be related to your pillar content. It centers around the same overall topic, but should answer longer, more niche questions. These can take the form of blog posts or site pages, and should contain a text link that points back to the pillar content. 

This hyperlink helps signal to search engines that all of this content is related. With all of your subtopic content pointing towards the pillar, it builds authority within your site.

Here’s an example of what this could look like for your website:

New structure.png

This new approach helps you attract more traffic from broad topics, and still captures long-tail keyword based traffic as well. It’s a solution that is better for your visitors, and allows you to provide answers they expect to find without encountering technology hurdles. 

The best content will be remarkable, comprehensive, and organized in this structure to not only help search crawlers discover their content, but naturally provide answers to topic-based queries. Content creation has evolved over the past few years, and is now hitting an inflection point where another major evolution is happening right before our eyes. 

As marketers, it’s up to us to create valuable content people actually want. Content that is helpful, human, and easily found.

Ultimately you want to achieve your goals — whether that’s increasing traffic, leads, or MQLs — but it all begins with content that matches the way people search, and the way search engines work today.

Intro to Lead Gen

Dec

6

2016

Google Is Shifting to a Mobile-First Index: What Marketers Need to Know to Prepare

Mobile-First-Google-compressor.jpg

We’re living in a mobile-first world. For most of us, that means from the moment you wake up in the morning, your phone becomes a part of your daily routine — from silencing your alarm, to reviewing the daily news, to checking email, and so on.

And search engines are seeing the result of this trend: search queries on mobile have now surpassed desktop-based queries.

Now you may be thinking, my website is already mobile-friendly … so I’m set, right?

Sure, you are ready for mobile visitors, but your content may not be optimized for the new realities of search. What exactly do we mean by that? Download our free guide here to learn how to design your own mobile-friendly  website. 

Well, Google recently announced that its search results index is essentially being flipped and will prioritize mobile results first:

With Google currently experimenting with this change, there’s a lot you need to know to ensure you’re prepared. But don’t panic, we’ll walk through it all below.

What Is Mobile-First Indexing?

As Google’s Gary Illyes said, this is a big change, so let’s start by discussing some of the details first. Keep in mind this update is currently in testing so you may not notice any differences at the moment.

  1. Mobile-friendly websites matter, regardless of technology. Google has previously stated their preferred method of a mobile-friendly website was responsive design. For this change to mobile-first indexing, Illyes stated that specific mobile site versions and responsive design will work.
  2. SERPs will now be primarily based on mobile content. Today, if you have a page that shows some specific content to desktop-based visitors, but excludes content for mobile visitors, you may notice a change in results because of the mobile-specific content. Because results will start to primarily use mobile content first, you should consider what, and how much content, to add to your mobile version.
  3. AMP-enabled pages are treated as mobile content. If you have Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for your website, or blog, these pages will be treated as other mobile pages and will be indexed first.

Again, this update is still being tested and is likely still “months away” so many details are still emerging and being worked out. In the meantime, it’s worth starting to prepare for mobile-first indexing.

What About #Mobilegeddon?

One of the primary premises behind the mobile algorithm update, affectionately referred to as Mobilegeddon, was that Google was beginning to establish a separate mobile-index for results.

While it seems that Google may continue to build a separate mobile index, the key part here is that they will flip the indexing from desktop-first to mobile-first.

See the below conversation with Illyes for more:

Mobile-Indexing.png

How You Can Prepare For the Mobile-First World

1) Ensure you have a mobile-friendly website.

Google’s preferred technology utilizes responsive design so your website adapts to the screen-size of the visitor, but if you have a dedicated mobile website (m.example.com) that is fine, too.

HubSpot Customers: Any of your content created using the HubSpot software will utilize responsive design and, as a result, you should be prepared for mobile-first content indexing.

2) Consider if content should be adjusted for mobile.

Most content created specifically for mobile is naturally shorter. You should ensure that your page is still seen as the authoritative source on the content topic you’re writing about, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be long-form content.

Don’t be afraid to consider other types of content — like video and audio — that you can integrate into your strategy. These additional content types can be better for the user experience, and a transcript can be included on the page to ensure the maximum impact for SEO.

Any content you have on pages that is incompatible with mobile devices — i.e., Flash videos — should be replaced as soon as possible.

If you do not have a mobile-friendly website, Google will still index your website but the mobile crawler may appear in your Search Console. Not sure if your website is mobile-friendly? Get your website graded to find out.

3) Prioritize the factors that are important in this new mobile-first index.

What are those factors? Here are two you’ll want to keep a close eye on:

  • Site speed has always been important, but now with a mobile-first index, it’s become even more crucial. This also means you need to be aware of the weight of content on a page, which can drastically affect page speed and has a cascading effect on user experience. More on that here.
  • User experience and engagement have become increasingly important signals for search engines. If a visitor comes to your page and leaves within a few seconds, it’s an indication they didn’t quite find what they were looking for. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if the visitor stays on your page and engages with various links and resources, they are likely highly engaged. In a mobile-first world, consider the experience of that one page, but also how users travel between pages and their experience between each step.

Again, these updates are still actively being discussed, but in the meantime, get involved in the discussion and ensure your website is mobile-friendly.

What questions do you have about the mobile-first shift? Share them in the comments below.

free guide: guide to mobile marketing

Apr

22

2016

Time for a Website Overhaul? A Look Into the Redesign Timelines of 6K+ Businesses

Website_Redesign-Timelines-Data.jpg

Redesigning your website is a great way to get a fresh start. But how do you know when it’s actually time to get the ball rolling on an overhaul? 

Many times, a redesign begins when an executive or marketer begins to feel like the website is outdated. This can especially be true if a competitor, or someone in an adjacent industry recently redesigned their site. 

To help shed some light on how businesses look at redesign frequency, we surveyed 6,000+ HubSpot customers about their redesign plans for the future. The results revealed some interesting trends that should help you determine when to start your own project.

A Look Into the Redesign Timelines of 6K+ Businesses

Of the 6,000+ companies that answered the survey, 57% told us of their plans to redesign this year. That’s 3,500 website redesigns from this survey group alone.

Here’s the breakdown of specifically when marketers are planning to redesign:

Redesign-Timeframe.png

The last time we surveyed our customers, their redesign timeline was within 18-24 months. Why the shift in frequency? Well, when you think about how much your business has changed in that timeframe, this shift becomes much easier to understand. As you learn more about your audience, gather feedback from visitors, and develop a better sense of how certain pages are performing, design needs begin to crop up more often. 

Beyond general redesign timelines, we also looked at how redesign timeframes compare by industry. There were over 40 industries captured in this survey, but here are the top three:

  1. Software
  2. Marketing Services
  3. Consulting / Advisory

How does the redesign timeframe breakdown by industry? Let’s take a closer look …

Software / SaaS

Software-Redesign-Ind-Data.png

Marketing Services

Marketing-Services-Ind-Data.png

Consulting / Advisory

Consulting-Redesign-Ind-Data.png

What can we learn from these timeframes? How can we apply these findings to our own business? There are a few lessons here, starting with when you can start your next website redesign. Let’s dive in.

When Should You Start Thinking About Your Next Website Redesign? 

Of the 40 different industries captured by this survey, software companies are redesigning most often, while construction/building materials companies seem to be redesigning least often.

When should you start thinking about your next website redesign? It depends.

While there’s no one perfect universal answer, we’d recommend that you begin planning your redesign anywhere between 90-120 days before you’d like to launch it. Again, this is simply a general guideline. The larger — and more complex — your plans are, the more time you should allow. 

To get a better sense of timeline, we’d recommend defining your strategy and then determine your goals of the new website. Once you nail down your goals, you can begin to plan your redesign needs and develop an approximate sense of timeline.

There’s a Better Way to Redesign Your Website

Many website redesigns take 3-4 months, have a moderate up-front cost, and don’t guarantee success. In fact, 1/3 of marketers are unhappy with their last website redesign. 

Growth-Driven Design helps address many of these key issues with a traditional website redesign, and ensures that your next website will be connected to — and help drive — results.

This approach to design fundamentally starts with an initial version of your new website, and layers in testing and heatmapping. This allows you to quickly iterate from the feedback you are receiving. For example, let’s say you’re a software business looking to drive trials of your product through your homepage CTA. To get the best results, you could test CTA colors, location, size, and so on, and make a design decision based on the results. 

In other words, your redesign will truly never be complete. Instead, you’ll be continuously iterating based on data from visitors to ensure that you’re delivering the best experience possible. Pretty cool, right? (Learn more about Growth-Driven Design (GDD) here.)

When did you last redesign your website? When are you planning to redesign your website next? Let us know in the comment section below.

introduction to growth-driven web design

Feb

25

2016

Is Your Mobile Website Stressing People Out? A Simple Guide to Improving Page Load Time

mobile-website-horror-movie.jpeg

When is the last time you visited a website on your smartphone and had to wait for the page to load?

According to Akamai, 73% of mobile users say they’ve encountered a website that was slow to load. Many times, this happens when users aren’t on WiFi and are relying on a cellular connection.

But when it takes a few seconds for a webpage to load, time seems to slow to a crawl. The longer that website takes to load, the more frustrated we become.  And who could blame us? Shouldn’t mobile websites load just as fast as their desktop counterparts?

Yes, they should. Your mobile website included.

So, how are mobile websites performing today? To find a benchmark, HubSpot Research conducted a study analyzing the performance of over 26,000 websites. Not only does the study paint a not-so-pretty picture of how many business’ mobile websites are performing today, but it also uncovered exactly how slow loading times affect more than your bottom line — they affect the visitors’ heart rate.

Let’s dive in to some of the results from this study, why slow loading times are so bad, and how you can make your website faster.

How is Your Mobile Website Performing?

Chances are, it’s barely passing.

According to HubSpot Research’s study, most websites are not performing so well. In fact, the average load time we found in looking at these websites was almost four seconds — which, by itself, is enough to cause many visitors to bounce and look elsewhere.

Website-Load-Time.png

There are a lot of reasons why websites got a D- grade on average for performance in the study. One of the top contributors to slow load times are images and videos. Often, it’s because images or videos have not been optimized for a webpage — and especially not for a mobile data connection.

Take a moment to think about that beautiful, high-resolution image you probably have on your website’s homepage. It’s just the perfect representation of your brand or product, isn’t it?

Well, that image probably looks great, but its large file size could be causing your website to load slowly — thereby giving your mobile visitors a poor user experience.

Why Fast Loading Times Matter

Before we get to how to make your website load faster, let’s talk a little more about why fast loading times matter.

Slow Loading Times Stress Out Your Visitors

It makes sense that slow loading time would frustrate your site visitors and affect conversion rate and brand perception. But did you know it actually leads to increased heart rate and stress levels? According to a 2016 Ericsson Mobility study, single website loading delays lead to a 38% increase in heart rate, on average.

It’s hard to quantify a 38% increase in heart rate — especially if you don’t monitor it actively. So think of the last time you did something stressful, like watching an horror movie. The delay in mobile load times is roughly equivalent to how you felt watching that horror movie.

Slow Mobile Websites Lead to Increased Stress

 

As marketers, that’s not the way we want visitors feeling when accessing our content or evaluating our product or service.

Visitors May Blame You for Their Bad Experience

In some cases, when website visitors experience a delay in loading time, they blame their cellular provider for bad service. But the longer the delay, the more the blame for the delay turns to you: the content provider.

In the same Ericsson study, the researchers ran a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey for customers, which asked them at what point they transfer blame from their mobile service providers to the content provider.

NPS-Mobile-Load-Times.png

For customers in the study that experienced no delay loading a mobile website, their NPS score increased drastically (by 4.5 points) for their mobile service provider. But customers that experienced some delays started to place blame on the service provider; and the longer the delay, the less they blamed the actual provider, and the more they pointed a finger at the folks behind the website itself.

Slow Videos Seems to Be the Most Stressful

The use of large imagery and background video has become more common in website design lately. Videos are great assets and bring life to your content — but it turns out they can also be pretty stressful.

The researchers at Ericsson found that a YouTube video that had even a two-second delay in loading increased viewers’ stress levels by 3%; and once a video started playing, just a single pause caused stress levels to increase another 15%:

Streaming-Video-Stress.png

This added stress brings us right back to that horror movie — a feeling we certainly don’t want to leave visitors with.

Knowing how much load time delays can affect visitors physiologically, what can we do to make our mobile websites faster and give them a better experience?

5 Ways to Make Your Mobile Website Faster

There’s a lot that goes into website performance, but let’s cover the top five factors that play a role in your mobile website loading quickly.

1) Determine how your mobile website is setup.

Do you have a separate mobile website (such as m.exampledomain.com) or does your website use responsive design?

Google recommends using responsive design as their preferred methodology and based on how your mobile website is setup there are performance optimizations that your team can investigate. Read this blog post to learn how to test your website for mobile-friendliness.

2) Compress your images.

Remember that beautiful product or brand image I mentioned above that could actually be slowing down your website? If you compress that image, you could take seconds off your page’s load time. Because websites generally have a significant number of images, this is often the largest reason for slow load times — so we recommend addressing this first.

For example, let’s say your product image is displayed on a page as 500 x 500 pixels, but the actual size of the image file is 3500 x 3500 pixels. That image probably weighs a few megabytes (MB), and in many websites, the visitors browser will be forced to load the 3500-pixel version of the image first, and then resize it properly to its smaller version — all during the loading process. On desktop connections this happens constantly, but generally, it happens so quickly we don’t notice it.

But on mobile — especially on a cellular connection — the full-size image can take a long time to load, which can really frustrate users. To fix this, consider resizing, cropping, and then compressing your images. (HubSpot customers don’t need to worry about compressing their images — images uploaded to HubSpot’s software are automatically compressed. For non-HubSpot customers, tools like TinyPNG will help you reduce an image’s file size.)

We also recommending saving images in a format like JPG that’s relatively lightweight, good for your pages, and won’t bloat the user’s experience.

3) Minify all code, especially JavaScript.

“Minifying code” is the process of removing unnecessary characters without affecting the website’s functionality. It has a significant impact on time it takes for a website’s code to be processed, thereby making your website load faster across any device, whether desktop or mobile.

To minify your code, you’ll likely want to get someone from your website team or development team involved because it does involve directly changing the code on your website. It’s even better if you can remove some JavaScript (or other code) from the mobile versions of webpages to speed them up further. (To learn more about minifying code, check out these instructions from Elegant Themes.)

4) Load videos in the background (or not at all).

Videos are likely the largest resource on your pages, and will take the longest to load on mobile. If the video is not critical for the user experience, consider hiding it in the background — or not even loading it at all. By hiding videos in the background, they’ll loading will help with the perception of your website loading quickly but may not ultimately solve an issue of a slow-loading mobile website. 

How do you make a video load in the background? You or a member of your development team could insert some CSS into the code so that the video won’t show up at all when the visitor lands on the website.

If your website includes long videos that describe your product or service, you could try using a call-to-action instead of putting the video directly on the website so mobile-specific visitors can, for example, email the video to themselves and view it later. This saves time in the near-term, and also makes the mobile experience vastly better for visitors.

(Note: If you choose to create CTAs for mobile users, think about the spacing around your text boxes and images to make sure your webpage is legible and easy to interact with, regardless of which device your visitors are using to access your page. Buttons that are difficult to interact with on a small screen could lead to a frustrating user experience.)

5) Take advantage of the cache and speed benefits of a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) help cache and load content on servers in different locations so that, no matter where on the internet the visitor is coming from and which device they’re using, they’ll have a faster — and better — user experience. If your website isn’t on a CDN, you could be missing out on a number of performance benefits that we would strongly recommend.

(HubSpot customers: The HubSpot Website Platform uses responsive design, has automatic image compression, and is backed by our CDN for loading your website really quickly — so you don’t need to worry about these things. In fact, according to Yottaa, an independent Internet Performance company websites on HubSpot load faster than on other content management systems.)

There’s a lot at stake for marketers in ensuring our websites not only look great, but function and perform great as well. A fast-loading mobile site will ensure your visitors don’t bounce from your site, and that they won’t experience levels of stress similar to watching a horror movie. You can use the tips above right away to dive in and to start improving performance of your desktop and mobile website.

25 website must-haves

Nov

17

2015

Is Your Website Ready for Black Friday? 7 Last-Minute Tips to Prepare

Does your website have what it takes to survive Black Friday?

Last year, $1.5 billion in sales were generated on Black Friday — a new record for the post-Thanksgiving shopping holiday, according to ComscoreIn addition to the impressive growth in sales, IBM stated that 51.2% of all ecommerce browsing was from mobile, and 28% of purchases came from mobile devices. 

While the scale of opportunity presented by Black Friday is no joke, many businesses — specifically ecommerce — fail to adequately prepare their websites for this uptick in traffic. So with the shopping holiday quickly approaching, we’ve put together a few last-minute tips to ensure your website is ready to handle the influx of traffic and potential sales. 

These tips are mainly directed towards ecommerce, however, most of them can be used by any business looking to strengthen their website for instances of high traffic. 

Traffic Management 

One of the big concerns for marketers and respective IT folks around this time is a surge in traffic. Many websites can see multiple-times the traffic that is standard during other times of the year, and it all happens over the course of a few days. So how do you ensure your website is ready for all of the impending visitors? 

1) Contact your CDN provider.

If you utilize a Content Delivery Network (CDN), check with your IT team to ensure they have reached out to the CDN provider and planned for the increased traffic. 

If you don’t utilize a CDN, talk to your web hosting provider and inquire about the traffic limitations and cost of an upgraded server. Generally a better server can help handle increased traffic and sustained volume. Before you agree to anything, make sure you ask about the time it will take to get the new server and any procedure to move over. You will want to be sure your website and content is on the new server before Black Friday to avoid any potential problems on the shopping holiday.

HubSpot customers: If you use the HubSpot Website add-on, you’re covered. We have automatically built-in scalability to handle increased traffic and sustained volume over-time.

Website Speed

After analyzing 26,000 websites through Website Grader, we found the average time for a website to display was 3.9 seconds. If your visitors are waiting any longer than three seconds for your website to display, you could be losing some of them — especially on mobile. 

So, how should we ensure our website loads as quickly as possible? There are a few last-minute things we can all do to recover lost milliseconds, which add-up.

2) Compress and resize images.

If you have any images — especially on your homepage and popular product pages — make sure they are sized appropriately. For example, if you uploaded a high resolution image of one of your products, but it’s only displaying as 500 x 500 on the page, the browser still has to load the entire original image.

If you don’t have time to check through your entire site, we’d recommend at least going through your homepage and your top product pages to ensure they are optimized. For more tips and tools to help you reduce your images, check out this post on page weight from my colleague, Carly.

3) Reduce or remove unnecessary third-party snippets.

Third-party snippets that display content from another service take up valuable time to load. If you have any scripts on your website from a service that you’re no longer using, remove them. To do so, talk to your IT team about ensuring these are no longer on your website.

While there are more complex, longer-term changes you can make to improve the speed of your website, the above changes should be relatively quick and help measurably improve the load time of your website for Black Friday.

Trust & Security

One of the key concerns for shoppers online is ensuring their personal information is going to stay safe. We’ve covered a few key elements of trust below to help you ensure conversion rates are as high as possible for Black Friday.

4) Display content that proves it’s safe to shop with you.

Many ecommerce websites display safe shopping badges, and as long as you have this guarantee and service, it’s wise to display it. For example, Zappos shows a lock icon with their “safe shopping guarantee” at the bottom of every product page and also during the checkout process. 

5) Ensure your return policy is clear and easy to find. 

Some shoppers like the added peace of mind that they can return an item if it doesn’t meet their needs. This can especially true with categories such as clothing home decor. To ease any concerns, make sure you have the return policy clearly stated on your website. For example, check out the return policy Pottery Barn includes on all of their product pages:

6) Enable SSL. 

SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, is a technology that encrypts the connection between your visitors browser and your website. At a minimum SSL, which can be seen when the URL contains HTTPS instead of the traditional HTTP, should be enabled for your checkout process to ensure the users private information remains safe, and the confidence they have shopping with you remains high.

HubSpot customers: Anyone that hosts their website with HubSpot automatically gets SSL included at no additional charge. 

Search Engine Optimization

Organic search can help generate additional sales from visitors looking for a specific item, but unsure of where to find it. While an SEO strategy takes time to implement, this audit is meant to address any significant omissions that could help contribute to more organic traffic and sales on Black Friday.

As we mentioned before, many shoppers are carrying out their Black Friday errands on mobile devices. To help optimize your website for those visitors, check out this free mobile SEO guide.

7) Optimize for specific keywords.

If you don’t have time to go through all your assets and ensure everything is perfect, you should aim to make sure that your homepage and key product pages are optimized. To optimize for specific keywords, focus on including them in: titles, descriptions, headings, body content, alt text, and URLs.

If you utilize a lot of imagery on your product pages, alt text is very important. To improve your site’s crawlability, be sure to go through all of your images to add alt text that is relevant to the item and ties back to the keyword(s) you’re optimizing for.  

For more on keyword optimization, check out this post on SEO 101 from my colleague, Lisa. And for a more advanced dive into on-page optimization, download this free SEO template to help organize your strategy.

What are you doing to prepare your website for the holidays? Let us know your best tips in the comments section below.

Want more helpful tips to improve your ecommerce inbound marketing? Subscribe to receive HubSpot’s ecommerce blog articles delivered right to your inbox.

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Oct

8

2015

The 8 Elements of Modern Web Design (And Web Design Trends to Watch)

Every year, we see new elements and styles in website design begin to emerge.

Some elements — when incorporated thoughtfully — help tell stories and explain your company. Other elements work to improve how content looks on a specific device. While it’s not necessary to include every trend that comes about on your website, many of them have the potential to improve your visitor’s experience. 

But with so many options to choose from, it can be challenging to determine which ones are really worth considering. To help you narrow your focus, we’ve detailed eight important elements of modern website design that you can include to improve your site’s performance. 

For more tips on creating a modern web design, download our free website redesign template here.

8 Modern Website Design Elements and Trends

Element #1: Unique and Large Typography

Most companies have a particular font or typography that they use to help their customers immediately identify them versus their competitors. In recent years, designers have received a larger selection of fonts to choose from, making it easier for brands to more accurately express themselves through typography. 

For example, The New Yorker is recognized instantly through their use of unique font, Adobe Caslon Pro. While more unique fonts, such as Blokletters-Balpen, have begun to be used by startups and technology companies like Zero.

Why is it useful?

Typography uses one design trend across the website to lead readers to different parts of the page. For instance, The New Yorker website leads visitors from one section to another based on the typography and font sizes.

When creating your company’s brand, your choice in typography can indicate subtle hints about who you are. Are you fun or serious? Functional or informational? Regardless of what font you choose, be sure that your designer considers its applicability across browsers and computers. Choosing a font that is not supported by common browsers and computers could mean that your website displays awkwardly on different devices. 

Element #2: Large & Responsive Hero Images

You don’t have to go far beyond the popular publishing website Medium.com to see an example of a large hero image:


Large images such as this one do away with the concept of above and below the fold. By focusing on just the image with text rather than a CTA or social buttons, Medium creates a strong visual experience that encourages you to scroll down to read more. 

Large hero images are also often placed in the background with text and other content overlaid on top, like on Uber’s website. Regardless of the approach you utilize, large images can help visually tell your story without having to rely on just text. 

Why is it useful?

Your customers are coming from all over the place and have high expectations. You may not be sure if they are finding your website from their phone, tablet, or desktop computer. The image that Medium uses above is extremely powerful, but if it was only visible from desktop computers, many people may miss it. 

That said, ensuring your images are responsive makes for a good user experience. Website visitors can look at different images — whether they are the background or product images — and be able to get the same experience no matter what device they are coming from. 

Element #3: Background Videos

Videos that automatically play in the background can add a lot to a page. They can be used to tell a story and significantly reduce the amount of other content that is needed to explain your business.

Let’s take Wistia‘s website, for example. When you land on their homepage a large video automatically starts playing in the background, and by clicking on the play button, you get a deeper look at Wistia:

This background video serves as a brilliant way to get the visitor engaged to click-through to the main video. 

Why is it useful?

Background videos focus on enticing the visitor from the moment they land on your page. The video allows your visitor to understand the key points about your company without ever having to read a single line of text. 

In addition, video is processed 60,000 times faster by our brains compared to text. While people are often hesitant to read heavy blocks of text, videos appear effortless and can be consumed very quickly. It also helps that connection speeds are increasing and mobile device sizes are growing, making for better video experiences.

Element #4: Semi-Flat Design

In 2013 Apple fundamentally shifted to flat design. Simply put, flat design is any element that does not include or give the perception of three dimensions, such as shadows. Not only is flat design is easier for users to comprehend, but it can also load more quickly on websites without complicated or overly-technical elements.

Following in Apple’s footsteps, many other organizations — both large and small — have shifted to flat design. However, company’s like Uber have put their own spin on the style by adding subtle shadows and dimensions. As you can see in the image below, the boxes have an element of depth with shadows around them, without overdoing it:

When you scroll over any of the boxes on the Uber homepage the shadow disappears and relieves the image behind it.

Why is it useful?

Flat design helps the visitor understand your content more quickly, and adding some elements of depth can bring it to life. Regardless of whether you fully design your website using flat design or utilize shadows and other elements, it’s important to be consistent throughout your website. Ensure that your homepage, product pages, and any other key sections of your website all utilize the same design cues so that visitors can instantly understand what they’re viewing.

Element #5: Hamburger Menus

It’s likely that most websites you come in contact with have a long menu of options to choose from. The advantage of this is that the menu can take the visitor directly to where they want to go. However, the disadvantage is that they generally take up a ton of valuable screen space. 

The hidden, or hamburger, menu changes this. This menu was common in web applications before making it’s way to web design — even in Google Chrome you can find a hamburger menu on the right-hand side.

Source: UX movement

Wondering why it’s called a hamburger menu?

If you use your imagination, the three lines that are stacked on top of one another look like hamburger patties. Get it?

Why is it useful?

The pages of your website should have a clear path for the user to take. Removing a busy navigation makes the experience cleaner and distraction free. This improved experiences help to improve the likelihood that the user will find the information they need to complete a desired action. 

Element #6: Giant Product Images

You may have noticed that many B2B websites are starting to display large product images on their sites to highlight different features or parts of their product. This is no coincidence. 

To give you a better idea of what we’re talking about, let’s take a look at the product page for the HubSpot Website Platform:

There is a large featured image at the top of this page, and as you scroll down the page there are additional in-depth product images. The images are also responsive which aims to ensure an optimized experience for viewers coming from different devices, as we mentioned earlier. 

Why is it useful?

Larger product images help designers highlight different features of a product in a more efficient and effective way.

This approach reinforces the benefits of a feature by providing the opportunity to highlight the most valuable pieces. For instance, in the second image, you will notice that there are numbers on the image corresponding with benefits of certain features.

These large images are also scan-friendly. They help visitors generate a solid understanding of what the different product features do by convey them through images instead of words.

Element #7: Card Design

With the rise of Pinterest, designers and marketers alike have become fascinated with cards. Individual cards help distribute information in a visual way so the visitors can easily consume bite-sized pieces of content without being overwhelmed. 

Brit + Co’s homepage serves as a great example of card design in action:

By breaking up different pieces of content into cards, users can pick and choose which articles they want to expand. This helps to keep the homepage feeling clean and organized, without relying on a ton of text. 

Why is it useful?

Card design is becoming more and more popular across B2B and B2C websites because it helps to deliver easily digestible chunks of information for users. Using this design on your site can help highlight multiple products or solutions side-by-side. 

Keep in mind that your cards should be responsive. This means that as the screen size gets smaller or larger, the number and size of cards shown should adapt accordingly.

Element #8: Short Product or Feature Videos

In addition to background videos, companies are also beginning to use short product or feature videos to highlight a specific use case. These short videos are great at bringing your solution to life, while not overwhelming the visitor with a long experience that they must sit through.

A strong example of this comes from the folks at InVision. They display this short illustrator of how easy it is to use their product by dragging-and-dropping a design directly on their homepage:

Why is it useful?

According to Inc. Magazine, 92% of B2B customers watch online video, and 43% of B2B customers watch online video when researching products and services for their business. Therefore, B2B companies need to create videos that explain their products because it is influential in the buyer’s decision-making process.

These short videos allow for your prospect to quickly understand value without watching a really long, in-depth experience. Sure, both have value, but the shorter videos allows for quick understanding that is best for top of the funnel. 

What other design elements are important to incorporate into your website? Let us know in the comments section below. 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2014 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free template to plan your modern website redesign

 
use your free template to plan your next modern website redesign

Sep

11

2015

A Beginner’s Guide to SSL: What It Is & Why It Makes Your Website More Secure

Have you ever noticed that some URLs start with “http://” while others start with “https://”? Perhaps you noticed that extra “s” when you were browsing websites that require giving over sensitive information, like when you were paying bills online.

But where’d that extra “s” come from, and what does it mean?

To put it simply, the extra “s” means your connection to that website is encrypted so hackers can’t intercept any of your data. The technology that powers that little “s” is called SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer.

In this post, I’m going to break down what SSL is and how it works. Then, I’ll show you how to tell whether a website has SSL and how to get it on your own website.

What is SSL?

First, let’s start with a definition from SSL.com:

SSL is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remain private.”

Let’s break that down for a second.

Imagine you’re watching American football. Your team is only down by a few points to win, and the receiver needs to catch the ball in the end zone to put your team ahead. The quarterback drops back in the pocket, throws, and … it’s intercepted! Bummer, man.

Similarly, when you enter information into a webpage without SSL, it can be intercepted by a prying hacker and your information can be stolen.

This information could be anything from details on a bank transaction, to high-level information you enter to register for an offer. In hacker lingo, this “interception” often referred to as a “man-in-the-middle attack.” The actual attack can happen in a number of ways, but one of the most common is this: A hacker places a small, undetected listening program on the server hosting a website. That program waits in the background until a visitor starts typing information on the website, and it will activate to start capturing the information and then send it back to the hacker.

But when you visit a website that’s encrypted with SSL, your browser will form a connection with the webserver, look at the SSL certificate, and then bind together your browser and the server. This binding connection is secure so that no one besides you and the website you’re submitting the information to can see or access what you type into your browser.

This connection happens instantly and doesn’t require you to do anything. You simply have to visit a website with SSL, and voila: Your connection will automatically be secured.

Is SSL good for SEO?

Yes. While the primary purpose of SSL is securing information between the visitor and your website, there are benefits for SEO as well. According to Google Webmaster Trends Analysts Zineb Ait Bahajji, SSL is now part of Google’s search ranking algorithm:

Over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.”

How can I tell if a website has SSL?

When you visit a website with SSL, there are a few distinct differences that display within the browser.

1) The URL says “https://” and not “http://”. 

It looks like this:


2) You’ll see a little padlock icon in the URL bar.

It’ll show up either on the left- or right-hand size of the URL bar, depending on your browser. You can click on the padlock to read more information about the website and the company that provided the certificate.

3) The certificate is valid.

Even if a website has the “https://” and a padlock, the certificate could still be expired — meaning your connection wouldn’t be secure.

To find out whether the certificate is valid, click on the padlock and choose “Certificate Information.” That’ll take you to a certification authority page, which’ll show you the time frame of the certificate. Notice the two fields toward the bottom of the screenshot below: “Not Valid Before” and “Not Valid After.” If the “Not Valid After” date is in the past, then the certificate has expired.

How can I get an SSL certificate for my website?

If you’re looking to get an SSL certificate for your website, you’ll need to figure out which type of certificate fits your needs.

First, consider how many certificates you need and which domains you need to secure. For example, you may want to secure your blog, your website, and your landing pages. In that case, depending on how each is configured, you may need to purchase a specific type of certificate from SSL certificate authorities like GeoTrust or Globalsign.

(HubSpot customers: If you’re using the Website Platform, you can get a standard SSL certificate for free. If you’re a customer but don’t have the HubSpot Website Platform, SSL is available for purchase. To find out more, contact your Customer Success Manager, or visit our pricing page.)

One of the other key considerations is the validity period of a certification. Most standard SSL certificates are available for one to two years by default, but if you’re looking for longer-term options, then look into more advanced certificates that offer longer time periods.

live webinar: INBOUND 2015 HubSpot product launches

Sep

11

2015

A Beginner’s Guide to SSL: What It Is & Why It Makes Your Website More Secure

Have you ever noticed that some URLs start with “http://” while others start with “https://”? Perhaps you noticed that extra “s” when you were browsing websites that require giving over sensitive information, like when you were paying bills online.

But where’d that extra “s” come from, and what does it mean?

To put it simply, the extra “s” means your connection to that website is encrypted so hackers can’t intercept any of your data. The technology that powers that little “s” is called SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer.

In this post, I’m going to break down what SSL is and how it works. Then, I’ll show you how to tell whether a website has SSL and how to get it on your own website.

What is SSL?

First, let’s start with a definition from SSL.com:

SSL is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remain private.”

Let’s break that down for a second.

Imagine you’re watching American football. Your team is only down by a few points to win, and the receiver needs to catch the ball in the end zone to put your team ahead. The quarterback drops back in the pocket, throws, and … it’s intercepted! Bummer, man.

Similarly, when you enter information into a webpage without SSL, it can be intercepted by a prying hacker and your information can be stolen.

This information could be anything from details on a bank transaction, to high-level information you enter to register for an offer. In hacker lingo, this “interception” often referred to as a “man-in-the-middle attack.” The actual attack can happen in a number of ways, but one of the most common is this: A hacker places a small, undetected listening program on the server hosting a website. That program waits in the background until a visitor starts typing information on the website, and it will activate to start capturing the information and then send it back to the hacker.

But when you visit a website that’s encrypted with SSL, your browser will form a connection with the webserver, look at the SSL certificate, and then bind together your browser and the server. This binding connection is secure so that no one besides you and the website you’re submitting the information to can see or access what you type into your browser.

This connection happens instantly and doesn’t require you to do anything. You simply have to visit a website with SSL, and voila: Your connection will automatically be secured.

Is SSL good for SEO?

Yes. While the primary purpose of SSL is securing information between the visitor and your website, there are benefits for SEO as well. According to Google Webmaster Trends Analysts Zineb Ait Bahajji, SSL is now part of Google’s search ranking algorithm:

Over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.”

How can I tell if a website has SSL?

When you visit a website with SSL, there are a few distinct differences that display within the browser.

1) The URL says “https://” and not “http://”. 

It looks like this:


2) You’ll see a little padlock icon in the URL bar.

It’ll show up either on the left- or right-hand size of the URL bar, depending on your browser. You can click on the padlock to read more information about the website and the company that provided the certificate.

3) The certificate is valid.

Even if a website has the “https://” and a padlock, the certificate could still be expired — meaning your connection wouldn’t be secure.

To find out whether the certificate is valid, click on the padlock and choose “Certificate Information.” That’ll take you to a certification authority page, which’ll show you the time frame of the certificate. Notice the two fields toward the bottom of the screenshot below: “Not Valid Before” and “Not Valid After.” If the “Not Valid After” date is in the past, then the certificate has expired.

How can I get an SSL certificate for my website?

If you’re looking to get an SSL certificate for your website, you’ll need to figure out which type of certificate fits your needs.

First, consider how many certificates you need and which domains you need to secure. For example, you may want to secure your blog, your website, and your landing pages. In that case, depending on how each is configured, you may need to purchase a specific type of certificate from SSL certificate authorities like GeoTrust or Globalsign.

(HubSpot customers: If you’re using the Website Platform, you can get a standard SSL certificate for free. If you’re a customer but don’t have the HubSpot Website Platform, SSL is available for purchase. To find out more, contact your Customer Success Manager, or visit our pricing page.)

One of the other key considerations is the validity period of a certification. Most standard SSL certificates are available for one to two years by default, but if you’re looking for longer-term options, then look into more advanced certificates that offer longer time periods.

live webinar: INBOUND 2015 HubSpot product launches

Aug

17

2015

Don’t Kiss 5% of Your Organic Traffic Goodbye: New Data on Why You Should Optimize Your Website for Mobile

This past spring, the web was abuzz as Google released the much-feared algorithm update that severely punished websites that were not optimized for mobile. Marketers were anxious. Fear mongering abounded. But now that “Mobilegeddon” is actually upon us, some are saying that the reports of doom and destruction have been greatly exaggerated.

Many marketers have asked the HubSpot team just how worried they should be, so we sifted through the post-apocalyptic dust to review the damage for ourselves.

The Mobilegeddon Effect

After an analysis of more than 15,000 of our customers’ websites, here’s the takeaway: Websites that aren’t mobile optimized had an average of 5% decline in organic traffic.

Starting on April 21, we saw a marked decline in organic traffic over a three-week period. In the same time-period as this analysis, websites that were not prepared for Mobilegeddon lost 4.7% of organic traffic while mobile-optimized sites lost only 0.5% of traffic (likely due to seasonal traffic changes).

A 5% drop in traffic may not be catastrophic, but it’s nothing to shrug off either. For businesses pouring significant time and money into optimizing their websites’ search rankings and conversion rates, a 5% decrease means lost progress and hundreds of lost leads every month.

Let’s examine an example to show you how this might play out in real life. A non-mobile-optimized website was generating 10,000 visits in April when the algorithm was released. Then, in the five months since, traffic has steadily declined by almost 2,000 visits. If we assume an 8% conversion rate, this business lost nearly 150 leads over the same timeframe — all because it didn’t optimize its site for mobile. 

If your organic search traffic has also slipped since Mobilegeddon, that likely means your rank in Google’s search results has fallen as well. If that’s the case, the clock is ticking to get your site back on track. The longer you take to optimize your site and reclaim your spot from search results competitors, the harder it will become.

Mobilegeddon may not have been the death knell some were predicting, but the writing’s on the wall: Sites that aren’t mobile-optimized will see a significant impact on traffic and their overall business.

How to Get Your Site Back on Track

If your web presence screams 2009, you should be thinking about a comprehensive strategy to modernize your site and bring it in line with consumer expectations. If you’re limited by the technology you have in place, it may even be time to move to a modern website platform that delivers a responsive experience.

If the time isn’t right yet for a fully optimized site, you can still start to turn back the clock on Mobilegeddon by doing the following three things.

1) Give Your Landing Pages a Tune-Up

Look at your landing pages and consider the technology being used to power those. Because Google’s new algorithm works on the page level, it’s worthwhile to ensure your top 15-20 landing pages are mobile-friendly so you can keep your lead generation efforts growing.

If you’re using a platform that is not mobile-friendly by default, you can easily configure your mobile viewport on landing pages and have Google recognize these pages as mobile friendly. While a mobile viewport alone will not give your pages an optimal user experience, it does signal to Google and other search engines that your page is mobile-friendly (which will help you retain or regain search rankings).

For more information on configuring your mobile viewport, check out this post.

2) Consider Cutting Out Pop-Ups

Like it or not, pop-up windows (although less obtrusive ones than what we saw in the 90s) are making a comeback because they convert well.

However, for mobile visitors, they can often be more of a frustration than anything else. Mobile users are unlikely to convert on them and may simply bounce rather than trying to close a fiddly pop-up window. So think about hiding them for anyone not using a desktop

3) In the Meantime, Create a Mobile-Friendly Homepage

We talked about ensuring that your top-performing landing pages are mobile-friendly, but it’s just as important to ensure your whole website displays in search results on mobile. There are multiple ways you could make your website mobile-friendly, including creating a subdomain (e.g. mobile.website.com), incorporating responsive design, or considering using a website platform that helps make your website mobile-friendly.

We recommend, at a minimum, that you set your mobile viewport. Like we mentioned above, this will help you pass Google’s mobile-friendly test and start displaying again in mobile search results.

That being said, a mobile viewport is not enough by itself. The viewport will scale the content based on the device (and how you have it configured). However, it does not necessarily rearrange the page or make content on the page dynamic.

But if you’re looking for an interim step, setting the mobile viewport is a great option that does not require too much overhead. To start, take a look at this post on setting a mobile viewport and copy the HTML snippet into the header of your website.

If you would rather create a subdomain where you can place some of your most important information on a mobile-friendly page, you can redirect users to that address based on their device. If you’d like to do this, ensure you build the mobile version of your website first.

After doing so, you can redirect users in a few ways, but one of the easiest ways is based on the screen width of the visitor. If you simply add the following to the header of your website, it will redirect any visitors with screen width less than 800 pixels to the domain set. Be sure to replace this domain with your own mobile domain.

<script type=”text/javascript”>
 <!–
 if (screen.width <= 800) {
   window.location = “http://m.domain.com”;
 }
 //–>
</script>

While this is not the best long-term experience, it can help solve the immediate requirement of having a mobile friendly website while you work on a responsive version.

The optimal experience for your visitors and your own performance is to implement responsive design. Responsive design makes your page adapt to the visitor and will display information that is sized and zoomed appropriately so it’s easy to read on whatever device he or she is using.

In addition, responsive design is Google’s recommended web design pattern, as the Googlebot (the spider that crawls your website and content) only needs to look at your website once to index it. This also makes your website experience faster because there are no redirects in place, and no duplicate assets on a separate subdomain. You can learn more about how to implement responsive design from Google on Responsive Web Design Basics.

Note: For customers hosting your website with HubSpot, you automatically get responsive design included with your COS Website. Your website should be mobile-friendly by default and look beautiful for visitors from any device.

So, while the doom and gloom may be a bit overstated, there’s certainly some carnage among us. It’s now a matter of how we rebuild (or build) for the better. The user demands a richer mobile experience — it’s up to you to deliver.

learn more about INBOUND 2015

May

20

2015

Form Length Isn’t Everything: 3 Other Ways to Optimize Your Forms for Conversions

how-long-should-forms-be.jpeg

What’s the best length for landing page forms? Would a shorter form increase submissions while retaining quality, or are longer forms better?

These exact questions have been at the center of a hotly contested debate that’s been raging on since 2009. In fact, the popular website WhichTestWon that catalogs A/B tests, has 40+ tests on forms alone. Because forms are a central component to your inbound strategy, it’s important to optimize them for conversions while retaining any of the indicators of quality that you and your sales team care about.

But here’s the thing: It isn’t all about form length. You should be creating specific forms based on on the context of your web visitors (like whether they’re arriving on your landing pages on desktop or mobile), as well as that of your own goals. Only after considering that context can you test and refine form length to provide higher or lower quality leads.

In this post, we’ll walk through how to consider the context of your forms, and how you can use dynamic forms to improve quality and lead flow.

What to Consider Before You Change Your Forms

Before you begin to alter form length or change questions within forms, be sure to …

a) Get a measure of lead quality.

I would recommend doing this in two ways. First, look at your overall leads and how many are making it to the marketing qualified lead (MQL) stage. Then determine the close rate (i.e. how many are actually turning into sales).

Once you have a handle on close rate, speak with a few people on your sales team and get their opinion on quality. Combining the qualitative information with in-person feedback can provide a good signal of whether lead quality needs to improve, or if it’s already really good that may allow you some room to experiment.

b) A/B test elements of your form.

If your forms have a lot of questions, consider asking them in different ways, or having different ways of filling out the form. For example, changing your form from requiring a free text response to offering multiple choice answers could increase form submissions and help standardize answers — as long as the variability in free text is not crucial to your team. 

Display a Dynamic Form by Channel

If your highest quality channel is email, you may be able to display a longer form to visitors knowing they won’t bounce as easily. For other channels that don’t provide as a high quality leads, you could choose to display a shorter form and nurture any low-quality prospects towards your goal, or display a long form to weed out potential low quality submissions.

How Do You Know If It’s Working?

Look at the form’s conversion rates, lead quality, and the bounce rate on that page by different referral sources.

HubSpot customers: You can use smart content to display different forms based on the referral source of the visitor, and to easily change out forms without needing a line of code.

Show a Mobile-Specific Form

Mobile visitors fundamentally interact with your site differently. If you’re displaying the same form to them as you are to desktop users, they may not complete it due to length, form fields, or style.

For example, if you have a number of questions requiring free text responses, it’s unlikely many mobile visitors will want to complete the form because typing out a long answer can be tedious. Instead, try showing mobile visitors multiple choice fields. Consider testing how the length of your form impacts conversion rates as well as quality, too.

Here at HubSpot, our standard form length for ebooks and similar content is 15 questions. We use this form for any desktop visitors; but recently, we started to display a shorter form for mobile visitors that has fewer fields that can be completed easily. The result? Our mobile prospects increased by 5X in two weeks.

While you should consider form length for mobile visitors specifically, first think about how long your form is today. If it’s only a few questions right now, try keeping it the same and then try increasing and decreasing the number of questions to find the optimal length.

How Do You Know If It’s Working?

Look at submissions of the mobile form in particular. Are they high quality enough for your sales team? Do they need additional information? Use these questions (and the submissions) to gauge next steps on your mobile form.

Display a Different Form for Prospects vs. MQLs

You want prospects who are already familiar with your business to have the best experiences possible. One surefire way to deter them from having a great experience? Continue asking the same questions all the time.

Instead, we should be asking different information about our prospects than we do about MQLs, or even customers. Consider removing questions that are unnecessary at different stages of the buyers journey. For example, the question “What’s your budget?” may not be required at the bottom of the funnel.

Changing the questions and form length for each of these can lead to a much higher quality of leads and information, a better experience for visitors, and an increase in conversions as a result.

How Do You Know If It’s Working?

Your close rate should be able to tell you how prospects are moving through your funnel. You can also look to see whether that conversion rate between each stage changes. 

There you have it: Three ways of changing your form length dynamically. It’s not necessarily all about the length of your form, but when combined with the context you can easily decide what length is appropriate while ensuring that you are getting the required information.

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Nov

17

2014

4 Creative Ways to Make Your Website More Personalized

personalization_ideasWe’re now encountering more personalized experiences than ever before. Before, it was just your favorite coffee shop barista who greeted you by name. Now, your News Feed is customized to your interests and behavior, your online purchases are largely influence by what Amazon’s algorithm think you’d like, and you can’t open up an email without it saying, "Hi [First Name]."

You can thank technology for all of that. It’s made it easier and easier for companies to personalize their products, services, and marketing to individuals — but it’s also risen consumer expectations. In fact, a study by Janrain showed that 74% of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content appears that has nothing to do with their interests. 

As a marketer, you need to be prepared to offer personalized experiences to your audiences — and we’re not talking about adding someone’s first name in the greeting of your next email send. Keep on reading to discover a few ways you definitely should be personalizing your marketing.

1) Cater to individual personas.

Your website should be catered to different buyer personas and serve relevant content to individuals in your core personas. For example, let’s say you sell time management software and you have two very different personas. The first is HR Harry who is looking at any of his hourly employees times and any concerns with time and payment are correct. The second is Independent Contractor Isabella who is consistently monitoring time to ensure she is as productive as possible, and she appropriate stays within her project limits. 

How would you personalize your website for each of these personas? To start, think about your homepage, where all of your visitors get a first impression of your business. Utilize CTAs, content, and imagery that specifically address your main personas’ needs and interests. In the context of the previous example, if we were personalizing our pricing page, we’d want to show HR Harry information on employee time management. Independent Contractor Isabella, on the other hand, should be shown information about personal project time tracking.

2) Display different content based on social referral source.

The referring location a visitor comes from can tell you a lot about what they are interested in. If a visitor comes from a Twitter link, for example, they may prefer to read shorter-form content and have shorter forms that allow you to quickly capture their attention and then move on. However, if a visitor comes from The New York Times they may prefer more thorough or in-depth explanations that contains more detail. 

So how should we actually personalize these experiences?

Look at your top referral sources for one high-trafficked page, and then tweak messaging, content length, and imagery (among other things) for each referral source. If that is successful, then try scaling the personalization strategy to other landing pages with high traffic.

3) Show a unique experience to first-time website visitors.

When a new visitor comes to your website and you don’t have any of their contact information, how do you deliver an experience that delights them?

Because each device connected to the Internet has a IP addresses, you can use this IP address to get a general idea of where your visitors are coming from. As a result, if you have a significant number of visitors in the U.S. and Germany, you can show visitors from Germany a version of page written in German. Or, you could show "Contact Us" information to get someone in touch with an office more local to them.

You can also try personalizing based on the device someone’s using. For example, you can show visitors coming from smartphones shorter-form content and the ability to send any offers to themselves via email (rather than download them directly). 

4) Nurture individuals through your funnel with lifecycle stage specific content.

If you’re using email to nurture prospects through your buyers journey, why shouldn’t your webpages also be personalized for each of these steps along the journey, too? 

You should change headline messaging on your homepage to show different copy to people in different stages of the buying journey. This is how we’d do it if we were working for a landscaper:

  • Visitor: Prepping your house for winter is a tough task. Download this free checklist to make sure you’re not forgetting a thing. 
  • Marketing Qualified Lead: We’ve helped over 80 customers with fall cleanup. Find out how we can help you!
  • Customer: Welcome back! It’s time to schedule your next appointment.

Going beyond just headlines, you can display completely different content to each of these groups to tailor the experience. This personalization to individuals and tailoring to the needs at that time in the buyer’s journey helps make your page far more relevant and more likely to generate the desired results. 

How else are you using personalization? We’d love to hear your ideas below.

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