GMT NewYork London Moscow Tokyo Sydney

Mar

16

2016

How the HubSpot Marketing Blog Actually Generates Leads (Hint: It’s Not How You Think)

man-reading-hubspot-marketing-blog-cropped.png

Business blogging “best practices” instruct bloggers to include a relevant call-to-action at the bottom of every blog post. This is nothing groundbreaking — it’s how you convert visitors to your blog into valuable inbound leads for your business.

But are those end-of-post calls-to-action (CTAs) really the best option? After all, any conversion rate optimization expert worth their salt knows to take industry “best practices” with, well, a grain of salt.

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing HubSpot’s Marketing Blog. While I’ve been able to identify which individual blog posts generate the most leads, I’d never dug any deeper to understand which specific calls-to-action within those blog posts people were actually converting on.

Until now.

When we introduced a new type of CTA to our blog posts as part of the historical optimization project last year, we ultimately doubled the conversion rates of the posts we added it to. So it got me wondering: Are end-of-post CTAs really the best way to generate leads from our blog? How do different types of CTAs within a post compare?

To get a better understanding of where our blog leads are coming from on the post level, I analyzed a cohort of 11 posts on the blog that generate an above average number of leads every month

To do so, I created unique tracking URLs (using HubSpot) for the CTAs used within each blog post. Essentially, any individual link within a blog post that led to a landing page got its own tracking URL. So for a post with 10 different CTAs, I created 10 unique tracking URLs. Then I replaced the links within those posts using my unique tracking URLs, and waited four weeks to collect data. 

Here’s what I found …

End-of-post banner CTAs contributed an average of just 6% of posts’ total leads.

Crazy, huh? Actually, when you think about it, it’s really not that surprising that these CTAs get very little play. We’ll talk about the reasons why in just a minute.

Here’s how an end-of-post banner CTA might look on our blog. It’s essentially a full-width banner CTA at the very bottom of the post, and it typically includes some copy, an image, and a “download” button.

end-of-post-cta-banner-1.png

So, if our leads aren’t coming from the CTAs at the bottom of our blog posts, where are they coming from … and why?

Anchor text CTAs are responsible for the majority of our blog leads.

I know what you’re thinking: “What the heck is an ‘anchor text CTA’?”

An anchor text CTA is the term I’ve given to a specific kind of text-based call-to-action. It’s a standalone line of text linked to a landing page, and it’s styled as an H3 or an H4 to make it stand out from the rest of the post’s body copy. On HubSpot’s Marketing Blog, we mainly use these between the post’s first few introductory paragraphs, but we may also add them throughout the post in cases like this.

Here’s an example of an anchor text CTA within one of our blog posts:

anchor-text-cta.png

In every single post we tracked, the anchor text CTA was responsible for the largest percentage of that post’s leads (by far).

In fact, between 47% and 93% of a post’s leads came from the anchor text CTA alone.

And the data gets even more compelling when you factor in the anchor text CTA’s cousin — the internal link CTA. 

An ‘internal link CTA’ is my term for what is essentially an anchor text CTA, but rather than being styled as an H3 or an H3 in a separate line of text, it’s positioned within a paragraph block, making it blend in more with the content around it. It could be something as discrete as hyperlinking a keyword to a landing page like you see in image A below, or something more direct like you see in image B (which we found to be the most successful type of internal link CTA).

Image A:

discrete-internal-link-cta-1.png

Image B:

direct-internal-link-cta-1.png

Now here’s what’s interesting about this …

Between 83% and 93% of each post’s leads came from anchor text CTAs and internal link CTAs.

Why Anchor Text CTAs Outperform End-of-Post CTAs

Here are some theories we have about why anchor text CTAs are our silver bullet for blog lead gen … 

1) People tend to develop “banner blindness,” and these text-based CTAs don’t look like ads.

The fact that these anchor text CTAs blend in more with the rest of the post may be one of the reasons they perform well. Like I mentioned earlier, because people are so accustomed to seeing and ignoring ads, they’re more likely to ignore CTAs that resemble them. I’d say this is especially true for marketers — and marketers are the target audience for this blog. 

And aside from the fact that anchor text CTAs are slightly larger than the rest of the blog’s body copy, there are really no bells and whistles or gimmicks associated with this type of CTA. Because they’re so straightforward, people may also perceive them as being more genuine than the typical image-based, banner CTA. 

2) Readers rarely make it to the end of a blog post, so showing relevant CTAs sooner is more effective.

There are quite a few studies out there that show that most people don’t read articles in their entirety. In fact, scroll map tracking we’ve done on this very blog supports this data, too. We recently tracked a bunch of blog posts in Crazy Egg, and the scroll maps all show that our readers rarely see the CTA at the bottom of posts because few of them even make it to the bottom.

And those who do make it to the end seem to bounce as soon as they read the last line of text, completely avoiding the image-based CTA at the bottom — which supports our first theory about banner blindness. 

3) Relevant anchor text CTAs give visitors exactly what they were searching for right off the bat.

Many of our top lead generating posts have highly relevant anchor text CTAs that include the exact keywords visitors were searching for when they found the post. This is one of the main goals of our historical optimization project: Knowing that the majority of the blog’s new traffic and leads comes from organic search, we’ve optimized our highest traffic posts using the keywords they rank for.

To explain using an example, let’s say you search for “press release template” in Google, and you click on the first organic result, which is currently our blog post about how to write a press release. As a searcher, the next thing you’d probably do is quickly scan the post to see if it satisfies your search. Now, if one of the first things that catches your eye is an anchor text CTA that reads, “Download our free press release template here” — which happens to be exactly what you were looking for when you searched “press release template” — then there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to click on it.

In other words, the anchor text CTA works really well in this case because it satisfies the visitor’s need right away — within the first few paragraphs of the blog post. What’s important to emphasize here is relevancy. The more relevant the anchor text CTA is to what the visitor is looking for, the better it performs. 

This means that simply adding an anchor text CTA near the top of every blog post won’t necessarily mean it will generate a ton more leads; the relevancy of the CTA to the content of the blog post is a critical factor in its success.

In analyzing the varying lead gen effectiveness of different posts that include anchor text CTAs, it’s easy to identify why some perform better than others, and it all boils down to how relevant the anchor text CTA (and thus the offer it promotes) is to the content of the blog post.

What About Slide-In CTAs?

A slide-in CTA is a CTA that slides into the page as the reader scrolls down. Ours typically include copy, an image, and a “download” button, like you see here … 

slide-in-cta-example.png

Based on my analysis, slide-in CTAs do seem to perform better than end-of-post CTAs. This makes sense since visitors see them sooner (they slide in at about 25%-50% of the way down the post), and they’re more interactive (they slide out at the visitor and catch their eye). That said, they still don’t come close to matching the effectiveness of text-based CTAs. 

Putting Anchor Text CTAs to the Test 

Once we knew how valuable anchor text CTAs were for generating leads from our blog, we doubled down and added them to about 80 other old, high-traffic blog posts that didn’t already have them.

The increase in conversion rates we witnessed is only proof that these CTA are the silver bullet for our blog …

The view-to-lead conversion rate of posts that didn’t previously have an anchor text CTA increased by an average of 121% when anchor text CTAs were added.

Jackpot. 

But With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility … 

While we now know how valuable anchor text CTAs are, our team is still very selective about which posts we add them to. We mainly target old posts that rank in search because it allows us to identify which keywords searchers are using to find those posts and match that intent with a highly relevant offer/anchor text CTA. 

We also know that the majority (68%) of traffic we get to our blog comes from organic search, and the majority of that organic search traffic (74%) is made up of brand new site visitors who can’t possibly be leads in our database. This means our older posts, which pull in all that organic search traffic, have the highest potential to generate new leads. 

On the flip side, we know that the majority (60%-70%) of initial traffic we generate to a brand new post we publish comes from our email subscribers. We also know that 80% of the email traffic to the blog is made up of returning visitors, and 79% of our email subscribers are already leads in our database. In other words, our brand new content doesn’t have as much potential to generate leads because of the type of traffic it attracts.

As a result, we purposely limit our use of anchor text CTAs on brand new posts, because most of the traffic we get to those posts are A) already leads, and B) some of the biggest fans of our content, whom we want to have the best possible user experience.

One Final Note About “Best Practices”

Remember, while we’ve found that end-of-post banner CTAs don’t perform very well for our particular blog, that doesn’t mean they won’t for yours. Each blog is unique, attracting different types of audiences and publishing different types of content — among a slew of other variables. 

In a perfect world, every blog manager would run this CTA study and conduct a lot of testing themselves to determine the best conversion strategy for their individual blog. But it’s also important to understand that not every blog has access to the resources necessary — like a dedicated optimization team and a high volume of traffic — to do a lot of in-depth testing.  

So while conversion rate optimization experts warn against relying on “best practices,” taking direction from them isn’t a bad approach when you’re just getting started with a new tactic or you don’t have a lot of resources, time, or traffic to test things out for yourself.  

At the very least, maybe we’ve opened your eyes to a promising type of call-to-action (which just so happens to be very easy to create) you can try on your own blog 🙂 

free guide to historical blog optimization

Dec

9

2015

Why We Unsubscribed 250K People From HubSpot’s Marketing Blog & Started Sending Less Email

graymail-man.png

A few weeks ago, we deliberately unsubscribed 250,000 people from HubSpot’s Marketing Blog — people who had opted in to receive emails about new content we published on the blog. This subscriber purge brought our total subscriber count from 550,000 down to 300,000.

We’re crazy, right? We must be crazy. We’re the same people who just recently blogged about how important growing subscribers is to increasing blog traffic. What gives?

Graymail. Graymail is what gives …

Graymail? What’s Graymail?

Graymail is email you technically opted in to receive but don’t really want. 

Graymail is kind of like spam’s risk-taking but law-abiding cousin. It’s not against the law like spam is, but it’s also not as pure as spam’s straight-edged cousin “ham” (which is apparently what they call email that people actually want to receive). I guess that’s why some people call graymail “bacn” (bacon). Email deliverability experts can be so clever, huh?

Here’s an example: Let’s say you signed up for an ecommerce website’s email list because doing so got you a 15% off coupon for a fishing pole you bought for your brother as a birthday gift. But you’re not into fishing yourself, and now you’re getting emails from them that don’t interest you. 

That’s one type of graymail. It’s not considered spam because you signed up for it, but you’re still not likely to engage with it. 

Why Graymail Hurts Marketers 

Although it’s not considered spam, sending graymail is problematic because it can hurt the deliverability of your email overall. Tipped off by low engagement rates, email clients may deliver email from known-graymail senders straight to recipients’ “junk” folders … even for brand new subscribers who haven’t even had the chance to engage with your email. In other words, the email technically gets sent (and delivered), but it’s not necessarily seen. 

Yuck, right?

Well, as it turned out, the HubSpot Marketing Blog had a bit of a graymail problem on our hands. Our email deliverability team wasn’t mad, but they were disappointed. So we took action.

Here’s What We Did

We did a couple of things, actually … 

1) We Created Automated Workflows to Unsubscribe Subscribers Once They Became Unengaged

The first thing we did was set up a workflow using HubSpot’s Workflows App that automatically unsubscribes people once they hit a certain threshold of unengagement — specifically, the workflow unsubscribes someone from the Marketing Blog if they haven’t clicked on an email from us in the last 6 months. While it was a slightly more aggressive approach, we chose “clicks” over “opens” as our criteria for engagement since open rate is an unreliable email marketing metric.

Our workflow also triggers an email to these unengaged recipients to let them know they’re getting unsubscribed, and attempts to re-engage them.

As you already know, this workflow unsubscribed about 250,000 unengaged subscribers right off the bat. It also continues to unsubscribe people as they become unengaged, strengthening the quality of our email list and helping to prevent the ill-effects of graymail.

Here’s What Happened …

If you think we didn’t have anxiety about unsubscribing 45% of our list, you’re dead wrong. But once we got over the sticker shock, we realized there wasn’t really anything to be worried about.

After all, 550,000 subscribers is nothing but a vanity metric if 250,000 of those people aren’t actually engaging with your content. And the people we were unsubscribing hadn’t clicked through to our blog from any of the emails we’d sent them over the course of the last 6 months, so we weren’t at risk of losing any email traffic.

2) We Eliminated the Marketing Blog’s “Instant” Subscription

Shortly after we activated our unengaged subscriber workflow, Marketing Blog Manager Ginny Soskey also made the decision to completely eliminate the Marketing Blog’s instant subscription option, which had been sending instant subscribers a separate email for each new post we published. Instead, she moved those instant subscribers over to our daily subscription, which sends a once daily round-up of our best new posts.

When we made the switch, we also sent an email to our former instant subscribers to let them know we were discontinuing our instant subscription in favor of our daily email, and that they’re inboxes would be a little lighter for it.

We did this for several reasons, but I’ll highlight a couple of the major ones here. For one, the graymail problem. Because of the volume at which we publish to the Marketing Blog, we were sending 4+ emails per day to our instant subscribers, which at the time consisted of about 10,000 people. That’s a heckuva lot of email, which leads me to my second point.

4+ emails per day isn’t a very lovable amount of email. In fact, it’s a very unlovable amount of email. What if we ever decided to increase our publishing frequency? That would mean we’d be sending even more email. Consolidating all that into one daily email that includes our best content was logical and lovable.

Here’s What Happened … 

Compared to the unengaged workflows we set up, getting rid of our instant subscription was a riskier move because.

  1. We didn’t want to sabotage the traffic we were generating from our instant subscribers. Would fewer emails to our former instant subscribers lead to less blog traffic?
  2. We didn’t want to upset subscribers who actually liked receiving multiple emails per day about our latest blog content.

On the traffic front, we basically broke even. Sending just one email per day instead of multiple emails didn’t translate into less traffic to the blog from email. This wasn’t that surprising to us, because in order to lose traffic, lots of subscribers would’ve needed to be clicking on more than one email per day, which was an unlikely scenario. We knew that was an unlikely scenario because we did our due diligence and analyzed the traffic to our blog from our instant emails before we made the decision to discontinue that subscription option … just to be safe. 

And as it turns out, what we did was actually a welcome change for most of our instant subscribers. The majority of the email replies we received were very positive and included sentiments like this:

  • “Thanks for giving me some breathing room. I can use it.”
  • “Thanks for that. I was close to ending my subscription, to be honest 🙂 But now, never.”
  • “This is a much better solution for me. Thanks for practicing what you preach to make my experience better.”

From the few people who spoke up and said they were actually disappointed about the discontinuation of our instant subscription, we noticed two common themes:

  1. People like being in control of their own inboxes. Of the blog emails we send them, they like being able to choose which ones to click on, and which ones to delete.
  2. Some people genuinely like to read every email/blog post we send them.

Time to Reinvent Blog Content Distribution?

While most people were in favor of our switch to fewer emails, the reasons some people were disappointed shed light on an opportunity for improvement on the blog content distribution front.

In other words, there’s got to be a better way to give these subscribers what they want than by flooding their inboxes with email messages. 

For blogs, content distribution to subscribers has always boiled down to either email notifications or RSS, but is there a better way — particularly when it comes to instant notifications? For instance, what if there was a way to automatically send instant subscribers a tweet whenever a new post was published? Could someone invent a completely new platform or tool that helps to solve this problem?

Perhaps better personalization is the solution here. If people want to have control over their own inboxes, maybe offering more robust subscription options is the answer, allowing subscribers to decide which types of blog content they were emailed about. If people were able to subscribe only to the content they’re interested in, instant email notifications would become much more tailored to the subscriber and a whole lot more valuable as a result.

This is definitely something we’ll be noodling on, so let us know if you have any ideas 😉

learn how to get 100,000 blog readers

Oct

1

2015

13 Email Workflows You Should Be Using in Your Marketing Automation

workflow-tubing-image-2.png

Are your contacts going with the flow, or are they just sitting dormant in your marketing database? If you don’t have any automated email workflows set up, your answer is probably the latter — which means you’re missing out on some major opportunities to nurture and engage your existing contacts.

Did you know that B2B marketers who implement marketing automation increase their sales pipeline contribution by an average of 10% according to a report by Forrester? But wait … there’s more.

Lead nurturing campaigns aren’t the only type of email marketing automation you can use to get more out of your contacts database. Think about the contacts who are already your customers. Email automation can not only help you convert leads into customers, but it can also help you delight your existing customers and encourage activity like greater product adoption, upsells, evangelism, and additional purchases. 

If you want to get more out of your contacts database, this post will give you some ideas for automated email workflows you can set up to engage and activate all different types of contacts in your database.

To learn more about how to use automated email workflows, download our free guide here.

Setting Up Email Marketing Automation Workflows

If you hadn’t already guessed, email workflows need to be set up using marketing automation software. Different software providers will have different features and functionality, but the concept of marketing automation is pretty universal. 

If you’re using HubSpot’s Workflows App, for example, you can create personalized, automated email workflows that can get triggered in a number of different ways — when a contact gets added to a list, submits a form on your website, clicks a link in an email, views a page on your blog, clicks on one of your AdWords ads, or becomes a marketing qualified lead. 

You can also set up email workflows based on any information you have about the contacts in your marketing database, such a page views, email or social media clicks, content downloads, contact properties, or any combination of these and more. That’s some pretty powerful stuff! 

And that’s just the beginning of what you can do with workflows. Workflows can also enable you to automate other actions besides email, such as setting or clearing a contact property value, updating a contact’s lifecycle stage, adding/removing a contact from a list, and other administrative tasks that allow for more targeted, effective marketing to your prospects and customers. But we’ll save all that for another post. 😉

Now let’s walk through some examples of automated email workflows you can set up to start getting more out of your contacts database and marketing automation tools.

13 Examples of Email Marketing Automation Workflows You Should Try

1) Topic Workflows

Main Triggers: Page Views or Content Offer Downloads

Create a workflow for each of the industry-related topics you create content about. So if, hypothetically, you’re a unicorn breeder whose main content topics include unicorn diets, unicorn gear, and unicorn boarding, you could bucket your content marketing offers (e.g. ebooks, webinars, kits, etc.) and blog posts by these topics, create an email workflow for each topic, and trigger the appropriate workflow when one of your contacts views a page or downloads an offer centered around that topic.

So if a contact downloaded your ebook called 10 Tips for a Balanced Unicorn Diet, your “unicorn diet” workflow would be triggered, sending that contact other helpful content, like blog posts about unicorn dietary tips.

2) Blog Subscriber Welcome Workflow 

Main Trigger: Subscription to Your Blog

Give your brand new blog subscribers a nice, warm welcome with a blog welcome email. You can use this email to thank contacts for subscribing, remind them what they’ll get out of reading your blog, review their subscription settings (and allow them to make adjustments), and promote your blog’s best-performing articles or other offers.

Get tips for creating a successful blog welcome email here, and learn more about optimizing welcome emails here.

3) New Customer Welcome/Training Workflow

Main Trigger: Lifecycle Stage

While we’re on the subject of warm welcomes, consider setting up a series of welcome emails when a contact converts into a paying customer, which you can trigger when a contact’s lifecycle stage gets updated to “customer.”

Not only is this a great way to kick off your new customer relationship on a positive note, but it can also keep your customers engaged after they buy. And if your product or service requires a little training on your customers’ part, use this workflow as an opportunity to introduce helpful training materials on an incremental basis.

4) Engaged Contact/Evangelist Workflow

Main Triggers: Visits, Clicks, or Form Submissions

Create a dynamic list (we call these Smart Lists in HubSpot’s Marketing Platform) that automatically updates to include contacts who are really engaged with you. To create this list, use trigger criteria such as a high threshold of visits to your website, clicks on your emails or social media posts, or form submissions. Then create an email workflow to leverage this list as a way to encourage evangelism of your top content in social media.

Because these contacts are highly engaged with you already, they’re more apt to share your top content. You can also consider adding list criteria to pull in contacts with a certain number of Twitter followers so you can leverage the power of those social media influencers in your database. 

5) Lead Nurturing Workflow

Main Trigger: Multiple Top-of-the-Funnel Conversion Events 

If a contact has downloaded several of your top-of-the-funnel marketing offers like ebooks and webinars, it might be a good sign they’re ready for a little bit more. Set up workflows that help to advance these contacts further down the funnel.

If the contact is a lead, try sending them emails containing more middle-of-the-funnel content that might upgrade them to a marketing qualified lead (MQL) or an opportunity in your sales process. This workflow could include content and web pages you’ve identified from an attribution report analysis as influential in converting leads into customers — perhaps content like customer success stories/case studies, free trial offers, or product demos. 

(Bonus: If you’re using HubSpot’s Workflows, you could set up a condition that automatically upgrades these leads to a new lifecycle stage as a result!)

6) Internal Sales Rep Notification Workflow

Main Triggers: Bottom-of-the-Funnel Page Views/Conversion Events

On any given website, there are certain page visits and conversion events that indicate product interest more so than others. First, identify these pages and conversion events using an attribution reporting tool like HubSpot’s. You’ll notice that, more often than not, the pages you unearth will be your pricing page, your product pages, etc. — pages contacts view when they’re truly evaluating your products or services.

Use workflows here to trigger an internal email notification to your sales rep informing them of these high-value activities. Using personalization, give the rep all the information they need about the lead in question, including relevant mid- and bottom-of-the-funnel content that they can send to the lead in their outreach email. This allows you to connect sales reps with the best possible leads at the right time.

7) Re-Engagement Workflow

Main Trigger: Inactive Contacts

Reawaken inactive contacts with a re-engagement workflow, enrolling contacts once they’ve met certain list criteria. For example, you could set conditions such as the length of time since their last form submission, website visit, or email click, triggering the email when it’s been a while since a contact last engaged with you.

In your workflow, try sending them an exclusive offer or coupon to get them excited about your company again. For more tips about launching an effective email re-engagement campaign, check out this post.

8) Event Workflow

Main Trigger: Registration or Attendance

Hosting a live, in-person event? Or maybe an online event, like a webinar? Use email workflows to automate your communication to event registrants and attendees before, during, and after the event.

For example, create a workflow that delivers important information registrants should know leading up to the event, such as hotel accommodations and agenda information for live events, or webinar log-in information for online events. When the event ends, set up a workflow that gives attendees online access to session slides and continues to nurture them with additional content or promotion for future events. 

9) Abandoned Shopping Cart Workflow

Main Trigger: Shopping Cart Abandonment

If you’re an ecommerce business, you’ll likely benefit from an abandoned shopping cart workflow. The concept here is simple: When someone adds an item to their online shopping cart but leaves your site without completing the purchase, you can trigger an email workflow that reminds them of their forgotten purchase and motivates them to complete the transaction by offering a special discount code or some other incentive to buy.

10) Upsell Workflow

Main Trigger: Past Purchases

Communication with your customers shouldn’t stop after they make a purchase. This is especially true if you sell a variety of different products and/or services. Use workflows as an opportunity to upgrade or upsell your existing customers, or sell them complementary products and services depending on what they’ve already purchased.

Create dynamically updating lists of contacts who purchase a certain productor combination of products — and create workflows aimed at recommending other products/services or encouraging upsells or add-ons.

11) Customer Happiness Workflow

Main Trigger: High or Low NPS Scores

If you administer regular Net Promoter surveys of your customer base, you can use customers’ Net Promoter Scores as a property to trigger workflows.

Simply determine what your ideal customer happiness score is, and use that as the threshold for your dynamic list of happy customers. Then trigger a workflow for customers with “happy” scores and reward them with exclusive content, offers, or discounts.

Trigger a different workflow for your “unhappy” customers that includes content/offers aimed at helping to improve their happiness. We’ll give you a few bonus points if you segment those unhappy customers by the reasons they’re unhappy, and send them even more targeted workflows aimed at addressing the issues that are making them so grumpy.

12) Customer Success/Engagement Workflow

Main Triggers: Success Metrics or Product Usage

If you keep track of customer success metrics, you have a prime workflow opportunity on your hands. For example, if you’re trying to build up your arsenal of customer case studies, you could automatically trigger an email that asks customers if they’d be interesting in being featured as a success story once certain customer success metrics were met.

Furthermore, if you keep track of customers’ product adoption or feature usage, you could trigger a workflow for users who are exhibiting low product engagement, providing resources that educate and train them on how to use the product features they’re not taking advantage of.

13) Upcoming Purchase Reminder Workflow

Main Trigger: Purchases Made on a Cycle

Does your contacts database include customers who typically purchase on a cycle? Enter those people into a workflow that gets triggered when they make a purchase.

For instance, let’s say you sell eye care products, and a customer purchases a six-month supply of prescription contacts. Enroll that customer into a workflow that sends them an automated email five months later as a reminder that their six-month supply is about to run out, and it might be time to order a new batch of contacts.

What other automated email workflow ideas would you add to this list?

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free marketing automation ebook

 
free email workflows ebook

Aug

13

2015

Want More Blog Traffic? Focus on Growing Subscribers

“How do I grow traffic to my blog?”

It’s one of the most common questions I get from people launching a new blog, and I always tell them the same thing: The key to growing blog traffic is actually to focus on growing subscribers. 

On the HubSpot blogging team, we found that investing in the growth of your email subscriber base is critical to growing and scaling traffic to your blog — whether it’s in its infancy, or it’s been around for years. We’ve even blogged about it once before. But even though we’ve always had anecdotal evidence that more subscribers leads to more traffic, I wanted some actual data to back it up.

So I pulled traffic and subscriber data for the HubSpot Blog over the past several years to see how those numbers correlate. Check out what I found:

subscriber-growth-hubspot-blog.png

(Unfortunately, we don’t have subscriber data from the years prior to 2011.)

traffic-growth-hubspot.png

What’s Up With Those Big Bumps in 2012 and 2013?

Here’s what happened: Near the end of 2012, we started adding opt-in check boxes to the lead capture forms on our landing pages to give people the opportunity to subscribe to our blog. In other words, if people filled out a form on a HubSpot landing page to get one of our gated offers (like an ebook), they could also opt in to receive emails about new content on the HubSpot Blog.

This was HUGE for us. In fact, by adding these subscribe check boxes to a bunch of our landing pageswe doubled our email subscribers in just three months’ time. It worked!

By the end of 2013, we had added the blog subscribe check box to all of HubSpot’s landing pages for marketing-related offers, which enabled us to more than double our number of blog email subscribers from 2012 to 2013 – an increase of 147%

And as you can see from the charts above, traffic grew right along with it.

Of course, it’s always worth noting that correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. And with a blog, performance can be impacted by a whole slew of variables like publishing frequency and quality, timing, subject matter, and usability that are practically impossible to isolate. This means it’s even more difficult to determine causation. But this data is pretty convincing, and that’s why growing subscribers is the one of the best pieces of advice I can give to people who are trying to grow traffic to their blog.

Why Do More Subscribers Lead to More Traffic?

As you may already know, one of the biggest benefits of blogging is its long-term ROI. That’s because new blog posts don’t disappear the day after you publish them. Thanks to the beauty of search engines (and social networks), those new posts can get rediscovered days, weeks, months, even years after they were originally published. Which means that over time, the more posts you publish, the more opportunities you’re creating to rank well in search engines and drive ongoing, sustainable traffic to your website.

In fact, about 75% of the traffic and 90% of the leads we generate from the HubSpot Blog each month come from blog posts that weren’t published that month. That’s right — old content is responsible for the lion’s share of our blog’s results every month.

The thing is, it takes time for your blog to accumulate a critical mass of content and search authority that leads to sustainable traffic from organic search … and a new(er) blog doesn’t have that yet. But that initial traffic needs to come from somewhere, right?

This is where subscribers come in. They can provide that initial surge of traffic to the new blog posts you publish, which ultimately propels those posts’ long-term success — in addition to your blog’s overall long-term success.

Here’s How It Works

You publish a new post and send an email to your subscribers to notify them. That traffic you get from your email subscribers provides an initial base of traffic to your new blog content. While your email subscriber base is mostly made up of repeat visitors, what’s great about it is that your subscribers are the people who come back to your blog time and time again, making them some of your blog’s biggest fans and content evangelists.

So that initial surge of traffic from those subscribers leads to social shares, inbound links, and even more views by brand new visitors, all of which helps that content (and other content on your blog) rank in search engines … which translates into sustainable organic search traffic growth over time. 

Here’s some sample data from a real post on the HubSpot Blog, which was published back in March. The chart below shows the breakdown of the initial traffic the post generated in the first few days after it was published. 73% of the initial traffic this post generated came from our email subscribers — and this is typical for any new post we publish on our blog.

initial-blog-post-traffic-2.png

The chart below shows what has happened to this post in the longer term. While email subscriber traffic was largely responsible for the initial traffic surge, this post still generates a ton of monthly traffic, and it’s mostly from organic search.

organic-search-traffic-over-time.png That’s because that initial surge of email traffic led to social shares, inbound links, and even more views that helped it to rank well in organic search for some highly searched keywords this post was originally optimized for.

Make Subscriber Growth an Ongoing Priority 

While focusing on subscriber growth is critical for blogs just starting out, it can help drive ongoing blog growth for more mature blogs as well. It’s simple: The more subscribers you have, the greater your reach, and the more potential you have for generating more traffic from new visitors. In fact, the HubSpot Blog has been around since 2006, and subscriber growth is still one of our team’s main goals.

This post covers the “why,” but if you want some tactical advice about how to actually go about growing your blog subscribers and traffic, check out these additional resources:

learn more about INBOUND 2015

Jul

31

2015

8 Creative Ways to Enhance Your Content Marketing With Visuals

On the web, there are few things more discouraging than a big block of text. That’s because humans are visual creatures — we tend to gravitate toward content that is pleasing to the eye, and we’re especially drawn to visuals that capture (and keep) our attention. 

It’s no wonder that 70% of marketers planned to increase their use of visuals in their content marketing this year. Sometimes visuals are just a more effective and creative way to present information, data, or difficult-to-understand concepts. After all, they don’t say a picture is worth a thousand words” for nothing. 

Adding visuals is not only a smart way to enhance the quality of your content — but it’s also proven to make your content marketing more effective.

In fact, tweets with images receive 18% more clicks and 150% more retweets, photo posts on Facebook brand pages account for 87% of total interactions, and in a recent study by Demand Gen Report, 86% of buyers expressed some level of desire to access interactive/visual content on demand. If you need even more convincing to incorporate visuals into your content marketing strategy, there are even more stats where those came from.

Download our free guide to learn more about how to use visuals in your content marketing.

So are you ready to enhance your content with visuals? Here are some great ways to start incorporating visuals into your content marketing.

Visual Content Marketing: 8 Ways to Visually Present Information & Data

1) Include high-quality photos and images to attract attention to your content.

What’s the first thing that you noticed when you clicked through to this blog post? Probably the photo at the very top, right? And if you came across this post through social media or a subscriber email, that photo probably caught your eye in those channels, too.

If you incorporate no other visuals into a piece of blog or website content, make sure it at least has an attractive featured image. That way, you know your piece of content will be accompanied by an eye-catching visual when it gets shared on social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. And considering what we just told you about how much better visual content performs in social networks, I’m sure you can understand why. 

(Tip: To make sure Facebook features your image prominently in the News Feed when users share links to your content, make sure the featured image you upload to your content is at least 600 x 315 pixels.)

When selecting a featured image for a piece of content, make sure you choose one that’s relevant, high quality, and attractive (find more tips for choosing images for your content here). But most importantly, make sure you have the rights to use it. There are a lot of free stock photos out there that you can use; or you can purchase a stock photo subscription from a site like Thinkstock or iStockphoto.

In addition to including a featured image, add photos and images throughout the body of your content to offer readers visual examples that support your copy. Just be that if you’re using an image of an example you found on another site, you attribute it properly.

2) Use infographics to visualize a collection of data or information in an easily digestible way.

Infographics continue to be a highly shareable, traffic-driving content type. In fact, in a recent content quality vs. quantity experiment we did on the HubSpot Blog, infographic posts were one of our blog’s best traffic-drivers. And according to Demand Gen Report’s 2014 Content Preferences Survey, 39% of B2B buyers said they share infographics in social media frequently.

If the thought of creating your own infographic seems daunting, it doesn’t have to be. We have a free guide to creating beautiful infographics, plus 10 free infographic templates you can download and use in PowerPoint. I’ve even used one to create a full infographic in under an hour — check it out.

But here’s another secret — the infographics you publish on your blog don’t have to just be the ones you create yourself. In fact, the majority of the infographics we publish on this very blog aren’t ours — they’re just high-quality infographics with content that is relevant to our audience. Just keep in mind that if you source an infographic from another website, you make sure you properly attribute the original creator.

3) Use data visualization to present data, information, or concepts in a more compelling way.

While infographics are a great visual content format for portraying a collection of data, sometimes you just want to visualize a data point or two. Maybe it’s a statistic you’re using to support an argument you’re making in a blog post, or perhaps it’s a data point you want to visualize for a slide in a presentation.

Charts, graphs, diagrams, scatter plots, heat maps (and so many more) — these are all great visualization tools to help you tell a more compelling story with your data, or put your data into perspective.

Here’s an example of the latter. In a blog post I recently wrote about historical optimization, I wrote about how, prior to our historical optimization efforts, 46% of the monthly leads we generated from our blog came from just 30 individual blog posts. But in my opinion, the written stat alone didn’t really do make as strong a statement I wanted it to. It needed more perspective.

So I visualized the data using two pie charts. The pie chart on the left shows the distribution of monthly leads we were generating, and the pie chart on the right shows the distribution of the number of total posts we had on our blog:

Much more impactful, right? 

Data visualizations can be as simple as this, or they can be a little bit more creative or complex. The following example is a more complex interactive data visualization from Column Five. Using Forbes’ “Top 50 Most Valuable Sports Franchises 2014” list, the interactive visualization enables users to see the number of years each team has competed in addition to the number of championships they’ve won, offering a more complete look at the each team’s history and success as a franchise. (Check out the interactive version here.)

Visualizations can also be used to explain certain concepts that may be difficult to understand from a text description alone. In the following example, Randall Munroe, creator of the webcomic XKCD explains the concept of gravity wells via this straightforward illustration (click to enlarge): 

To learn more about how to use data visualization in your content marketing — and how to choose the right type of visualization for your data, download our free guide here.

4) Experiment with animated GIFs to delight and inform your audience.

All controversy about proper pronunciation aside, animated GIFs can be a delightful (and in certain cases, very useful) visual content tool. GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, and if you’re not familiar, the format can used to display animated images.

But don’t take my word for it — here’s an example of a GIF we created to promote our ebook How to Get 100,000 Blog Readers:

Delightful, right? But like I said, animated GIFs can serve more of a purpose than just sheer delight. They can be really functional, too. 

Here’s a great example of how a data visualization can be made even more valuable when displayed as an animated GIF. This GIF, from Pew Research Center, uses animation to show how age demographics are shifting over time. It keeps the graphic more compact while still showing the changes in population over the years. What’s more, this GIF is perfect to use in blog, email, and social media promotion of Pew Research Center’s larger study

Another great use for GIFs is to provide a preview of your downloadable content offers — like ebooks, templates, or other downloads. The following is a GIF used to promote our free business-themed stock photos download. The GIF scrolls through a sampling of images to give potential downloaders a sense of what they’ll get with the download.

The animated GIF can then be used on the landing page for the stock photos download, in blog posts promoting the offer, and in email and social media promotion for the offer, too.

Want to learn how to create an animated GIF of your own? Check out this blog post.

5) Be smart about formatting to make your content more reader-friendly. 

You have to admit that those big, discouraging chunks of text you often come across online would be much more palatable if they were broken up by some strategically placed headers and other types of formatting like bullets, bolded text, etc. 

Want to make your content easier on the eyes? A little formatting can go a long way to make your content more reader-friendly. As much as you might not want to believe it, people rarely read blog posts, articles, and other types of online content in their entirety. Instead, they skim and scan and read only the parts that interest them. 

Make it easier for readers to do just that by breaking up your copy with clear, concise headers that help them discover the bits and pieces they really want to read. Check out how we did it on this very post as an example.

If your content is on the longer side, you can also leverage the use of anchor links that enable readers to jump to different sections of a blog post or a longer form piece of content such as an ebook without having to scroll. Check out how we did it in this post, which includes a table of contents in the post’s intro that allows readers to jump to different parts of the article:

Learn how to create anchor links here.

6) Create graphics to use as social media content.

Remember those stats I mentioned in the beginning of this post? Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks and 150% more retweets.

Is it really any wonder why? Which of the following tweets draws your attention? 

Case in point.

And images don’t just take the cake on Twitter. Photo posts account for 87% of total interactions for Facebook brand pages, too. Seems like you might want to use visuals in your social media updates if you aren’t already.

Consider creating custom graphics to accompany the links and status updates you share on social networks. Here are a couple examples of images we created to promote our survey for the 2015 State of Inbound Report and our upcoming INBOUND event.

If design isn’t exactly your forte, we have 60 free templates and tips you can use to easily create visual social media content right in PowerPoint. Download them here.

7) Bring your content to life with video.

When most people think of visual content, video tends to be the first thing that comes to mind. And rightfully so — because video is such an engaging form of content, it’s only increasing in popularity, especially in social media.

In fact, Facebook reports that on average, more than 50% of people who come back to Facebook every day in the U.S. watch at least one video daily — which could explain why the amount of video from people and brands in the News Feed has increased 3.6X year-over-year, globally.

While video seems to be the golden ticket on social networks, it can also be used to supplement your website and blog content, too. Take the following video for example, which was used to within our blog post about how to create an infographic in under an hour (yup — the one we mentioned earlier!). The video supports the existing content in the post by offering another form of media for people who prefer video to text.

This video was then also repurposed and promoted on Twitter and Facebook. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

Here are just a few ideas for how you can use video in your content marketing:

Because video production can be daunting if you’re just starting out we recently released a new interactive guide that will teach you how to create high-quality videos for social media. Check it out here.

8) Create SlideShare presentations to tell visual stories.

Did you know that SlideShare — a popular website for sharing slideshows and presentation slides — has more than 70 million professional users? It also happens to be one of the top 100 most-visited websites in the world. That’s no small potatoes.

Slideshows and PowerPoint presentations are another great form of visual content that can make great fodder for blog posts, landing pages, and social media content. You can use them in a variety of ways — to promote your offers (example), provide quick, helpful tips (example), or to stand alone as a really shareable piece of content that tells a story (example).

Here’s another example of a really awesome SlideShare presentation from Velocity Partners, which has generated over 1.2 million views on SlideShare to date (and here are several more presentation to get your creative juices flowing).

Want to create SlideShare presentations of your own, but aren’t sure where to start? Here are some resources that can help:

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2011 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

learn how to use data visualization  

 
how to use data visualization to enhance content

Jun

17

2015

The Blogging Tactic No One Is Talking About: Optimizing the Past

looking-back-fish.png

Nine months ago, I analyzed a report that would transform not only my role on the HubSpot blogging team, but also the whole blog’s editorial strategy. The results have been nothing short of eye-opening. And I’m not just talking about the findings from the report — I’m also talking about the business results we’ve generated from the shift we made in our blogging strategy because of those findings.

That shift is an ongoing internal project we call “historical optimization.” The goal? Update old blog content and generate more traffic and leads from it in the process.

Great for us, right? Hang on — it’s great for you, too. I’m writing about all this because any experienced blogger who’s tasked with growing and scaling the results they generate from their blog needs to know about it. The thing is, no one is really talking about it … yet.

As a result of HubSpot’s ongoing historical optimization, we’ve been able to generate way more value from content we’ve published in the past. As a matter of fact …

  • We’ve more than doubled the number of monthly leads generated by the old posts we’ve optimized.

  • We’ve increased the number of monthly organic search views of old posts we’ve optimized by an average of 106%.

So I’m going to tell you the story of the historical optimization project, explain what we’ve done to achieve those results, and touch on how you can do it, too. And for even more in-depth information about how to do historical optimization yourself, we’ve created a whole ebook on the subject. Download it here for free.

What Is Historical Optimization?

Simply put, historical optimization means optimizing your “old” blog content so it’s fresh, up-to-date, and has the ability to generate even more traffic and conversions than it already does. By “old,” I just mean posts that already exist on your blog — whether you wrote them last month or three years ago.

If you’re not sure whether it really has a place in your blogging strategy, let me tell you the story about how our focus on historical optimization came to be and why we realized it was so important.

I had just returned to work from my three-month maternity leave, and I learned that the product team had just released a new tool within the HubSpot Marketing Platform called Attribution Reports

Attribution Reports enabled us to better determine how many new leads each of our individual blog posts directly generated. And since I’m responsible for the optimization and growth of HubSpot’s core blogs, I started analyzing our Attribution Reports as soon as I could, hoping to discover some actionable nuggets of wisdom my team could use in one way or another.

Discoveries From the Attribution Report Analysis

My Attribution Report analysis was an attempt to determine which of our blog posts were the most influential in generating leads — which posts got the most visitors to click on a call-to-action within the post and convert on the landing page it directed them to. In other words, use last touch attribution to figure out exactly which posts directly resulted in lead generation.

When I came out from the other side of that analysis, this is what I’d discovered:

  • 76% of our monthly blog views came from “old” posts (in other words, posts published prior to that month).

  • 92% of our monthly blog leads also came from “old” posts.

hubspot-old-new-blog-distribution.jpg

So essentially, if the whole blogging team went on vacation for a month, we’d still generate 76% of the traffic and 92% of the leads we would’ve otherwise generated by also publishing new content. That may sound like an oversimplification, but still … nuts, right?

Here’s another crazy tidbit I learned:

  • 46% of our monthly blog leads came from just 30 individual blog posts.

I’ll let that sink in a little.

Now what if I also told you we publish about 200 new posts every month, and at that time, we had accumulated nearly 6,000 total posts on our blog?

Here’s some perspective. The pie chart on the left shows the distribution of monthly leads we were generating, and the pie chart on the right shows the distribution of posts we had on our blog. 

hubspot-distribution-posts-leads.jpg

This seems pretty crazy, right?

Our Light Bulb Moment: Optimizing the Past 

What’s funny is, this shouldn’t have been as surprising as it was. In fact, it’s exactly what you’d expect to happen as an inbound marketer. Getting recurring, lasting value from old content is one of the main benefits of blogging. And the traffic sources for our top lead-generating posts supported it — these were all posts that were generating a lot of traffic from organic search month after month after month. 

Once the sticker shock of all these findings wore off, we had to decide what to do with this newfound data and information. While we knew we couldn’t just stop creating new content (after all, “new” eventually becomes “old”), it was clear we needed to make a change in our blogging strategy. 

We came to two conclusions that have become the core components of the historical optimization project:

1) Figure out how to get more leads from our high-traffic but low-converting blog posts (AKA Historical Blog Conversion Optimization).

Being able to identify which posts were our top lead generators meant we could also identify which posts were our worst lead generators. Coupled with traffic data, we were able to determine which posts were generating a lot of traffic but had low conversion rates — and potentially generate a lot more leads from content we already have by improving those conversion rates.

2) Figure out how to get more traffic to our high-converting posts (AKA Historical Blog Search Engine Optimization).

On the flip side, we also knew there were posts that converted well but weren’t getting a lot of traffic month after month. If we could search engine optimize those high-converting posts, we could potentially get them to rank better and generate more traffic that we already know would convert well.

In other words, we should stop focusing only on brand new content, and try to get more traffic and leads out of the content we already have — we should optimize the past

And with that, the historical optimization project was born.

Why Historical Optimization Is More Important Now Than Ever Before

These days, we have a content overload problem. Just take a look at the graph below, which shows the number of new blog posts published on the WordPress blogging platform each month since October 2006. 58 million in May! And that’s just on WordPress — it doesn’t even take into consideration the posts published on other blogging platforms like HubSpot’s.

wordpress-content-may.png

As more and more businesses have started buying into the importance of content marketing, more and more businesses are creating content. And as the supply increases, so does the competition for getting that content found online.

According to Paul Hewerdine of B2B marketing agency Earnest (via Forrester’s 2014 report on building the case for content marketing), the problem is that “the supply of content is growing, but demand is static.” In other words, the people on the receiving end of all this content are only going to consume so much. Their demand isn’t growing with the supply. 

The result, according to that same Forrester report, is that an estimated 50% of content from enterprises is going completely unused. So for marketers who have been blogging consistently for a while and are being tasked with growing and scaling their blogs, the answer can’t just be to increase content production proportionally to the growth goals they need to achieve. 

This is why historical optimization becomes so important. Not only is it a way to get more out of the content you already have; but it’s also a way to get a leg up on such a competitive content landscape. And last, but certainly not least, it’s a way to deliver even more value to the people reading your content. After all, if people are going to continue finding your older content through search engines, don’t you want it to be fresh and up-to-date?

Okay … so how did we achieve those results I mentioned at the top of this article?

Historical Blog Conversion Optimization

We tackled the conversion optimization piece of the project first (figuring out how to get more leads from our high-traffic posts by improving their view-to-lead conversion rates). While we’d done some conversion optimization of old content in the past, without the Attribution Report, we had no way of knowing whether the changes we were making directly improved their conversion rates. Now we did!

The Playbook: Keyword-Based Conversion Rate Optimization 

The very first thing we tried was conversion rate optimization based on offer relevancy — in other words, pairing the most relevant offer we had with the subject matter of the post. This is exactly how we approach call-to-action (CTA) selection for brand new posts, but the idea was that as we’ve expanded our library of marketing offers over the years, we may now have a more relevant and/or better performing offer than we did when we first published the blog post.

The results of this approach were hit or miss: Sometimes we’d improve the conversion rate, sometimes it’d stay about the same, and in some cases, the conversion rate would actually decreaseThe reason was that this approach was purely a guessing game — it was based on assumptions about what the blog post’s visitors were looking for. 

What we needed was an approach based on data, not assumptions. So then we thought, what if we focus on the specific keywords people were using to find these posts? Knowing that the primary referral source of traffic to these posts was search engines like Google, we figured we could much more accurately understand and satisfy the needs of our blog visitors by matching the offer we promoted in the post with the keywords people were using to find it.

In other words, get inside searchers’ heads and give the people what they really want.

So we tried it on one of our highest-traffic posts, which ranked highly for the keywords “how to write a press release” and “press release template.”  

Jackpot.

hubspot-conversion-increase-chart.jpg

Using this keyword-based conversion optimization methodology, we increased the conversion rate of the post by 240%. In other words, this post generates 3X more leads now than it did before we conversion optimized it. Then we tried it on 12 more of our top-trafficked posts, and we doubled the number of leads we generated from them.

In fact, of the 75 posts we’ve conversion optimized using this method, we’ve increased the conversion rate on every single one.

So how did we do it?

How to Conversion Optimize Old Blog Posts Based on Keywords

I’m going to provide a brief explanation of how to execute keyword-based conversion optimization, but if you’re looking for a more in-depth explanation, download our free ebook about historical optimization here. It explains each of the steps outlined below in much greater detail, and also provides a visual example of exactly what we do to posts we conversion optimize in this way.

  • Step 1: Export your blog analytics to identify your top-viewed “old” blog posts.
  • Step 2: Identify which keywords each post is getting found for using a combination of keyword research and a keyword tracking tool like HubSpot’s. Then prioritize your keyword list based on the one or two keywords the majority of each post’s traffic seems to be coming from.
  • Step 3: Conversion optimize your posts using the target keywords identified in Step 2, incorporating those exact keyword phrase(s) into your posts’ calls-to-action (CTAs). 

Historical Blog Search Engine Optimization 

The next part of the historical optimization project we tackled was search engine optimization. If you remember, the goal of historical search engine optimization is to improve the search rankings for posts that already convert well but aren’t getting a lot of traffic from search. More traffic to these high-converting posts could result in more leads.

Someone once said (honestly, no one can figure out who to give credit to), “The best place to hide a dead body is page two of Google.” If you’re not sure what I mean by that, take a look at the following chart from a 2014 study conducted by Advanced Web Ranking, which shows the clickthrough rates of specific organic search ranking positions in Google:

Google-Organic-CTR-by-position.png

This chart shows that on average, results on page one of Google get 71% of the clicks. Results on pages two and three, on the other hand, only get about 6%. Furthermore, the first five positions on page one of Google get 68% of all clicks

In other words, if you want to benefit from the lion’s share of search traffic for a given keyword, you need to be on page one — and you need to be near the top. So how do you get your blog posts to the top of page one?

The Playbook: Updating and Republishing Old Blog Posts

Since inbound links is still one of the most important ranking factors, our first thought was to use guest blogging as a way to generate more inbound links to the content we wanted to rank better. But considering how difficult that approach would be to scale, we decided to look more closely at the internal assets we had more control over instead.

Over the years, we’d dabbled in updating and republishing old content that had gotten stale and outdated. We targeted posts we knew still generated a lot of organic search traffic month after month, and the goal was primarily to keep this high-traffic content fresh and up-to-date for our search visitors.

Knowing that one of Google’s ranking factors rewards freshness, I had a hunch one of the reasons these posts continued to do well was because we kept them updated. So I looked at our analytics to investigate. Sure enough, my hunch seemed to have some truth to it.

This graph shows how one particular blog post’s rank has changed over time for the keyword “how to use linkedin.” The date highlighted (3/26/2014) shows that this post ranked in the 19th position (i.e. the bottom of page 2) right before we updated it on 3/31/2014. If you look at the graph, it’s pretty clear what happened after that.

how-to-use-linkedin-1

To me, this looked really promising. What if all we had to do to improve the keyword rankings of our blog posts was update and republish them as new? This would be a much more scalable solution for us for a number of reasons:

  • We can update and republish posts a few posts per week. 
  • It supports more than one blogging team goal: historical optimization and new content creation.
  • It replaces a new slot on our editorial calendar.
  • It’s often less work than creating a brand new post from scratch. 

Not only that — it also makes for a better user experience for our organic search visitors. Instead of coming across content in search that is stale and outdated, they’d find fresh, up-to-date, and more valuable content. Now that’s what I like to call a win-win.

So we decided to try it with a few posts. 

Again, jackpot.

The chart below shows a sampling of six blog posts we’ve updated and republished. We used views generated from organic search as our primary KPI, because if the keyword ranking(s) for these posts improved as a result of the update, it would manifest as an increase in organic search views.

The “before” bars are a representation of the monthly views the posts generated from organic search before the updates, and the “after” bars represent the monthly views the posts generated from organic search after the updates. It’s worth noting that we also waited a period of 30 days in between the “before” and “after” time frames to give Google some time to improve the ranking of the post based on the update. 

In every instance, we improved the number of monthly views these posts generated from organic search. And using HubSpot, for each of these posts, we can also dig into the individual keywords they’re ranking for and see how these rankings have improved as a result of the post update. 

search-views-before-after-post-updates.jpg

Based on this initial success, post updates are now a regular part of our blogging editorial strategy. We’ve incorporated about 2-3 post updates per week since we started scaling this project, and as we pointed out earlier, we’ve increased the number of monthly organic search views to posts we update and republish by an average of 106%.

And considering we also run the keyword-based conversion optimization playbook on all the posts we update and republish, we’ve also tripled the number of monthly leads we’ve generated from posts we’ve updated and republished

Why Updating and Republishing Old Blog Content Leads to Better Search Rankings

If you’re curious why this approach works so well, here are a few reasons:

  • Google rewards freshness. So do searchers. As I mentioned earlier, in 2011 Google introduced a freshness factor into its ranking algorithm. It makes perfect sense — high-quality, valuable content that’s fresh and up-to-date is exactly what Google wants to surface to searchers. Simple enough, right? But I also want to share a little anecdote with you: When we were doing some usability testing of our most recent blog redesign, one of our testers mentioned that she consciously considers the publish date listed in search engine results pages (SERPs) for results she’s considering clicking. She mentioned that she’ll automatically disregard outdated results for fresher ones. Nod your head if you do the same thing. Case in point.
  • You’re building off the existing search authority the post has already accumulated. In other words, you’re starting with a post that already has some degree of page authority, rather than starting completely from scratch.
  • New visits naturally lead to new social shares and inbound links. By re-promoting your updated blog posts to your blog subscribers, social media followers, etc., you’re generating a new surge of traffic from additional sources. This naturally leads to an increase in social shares and inbound links — both important search ranking factors. This is also what makes it so important for you to have a substantial number of social media followers and blog subscribers — the greater your reach, the more impactful your results will be.

Want to take advantage of this approach for yourself? Here’s how to do it.

How to Update and Republish Old Blog Posts

While I‘ll briefly outline how to update and republish old blog content below, if you’re looking for a more in-depth explanation, you should download our free ebook about historical optimization here

  • Step 1: Identify blog posts worth updating. Ideally, posts worth updating are outdated or can be improved in some way, and have the potential to rank higher for keywords whose search volume offers a promising opportunity. Our ebook can give you specifics how to do keyword research to determine what keywords a post has the potential to rank better for, as well as other criteria you should be considering when choosing posts to update.
  • Step 2: Update the content of the post with the aim of achieving three goals — accuracy, freshness, and comprehensiveness. In general, you should strive to make enough noticeable improvements to a post that warrant republishing it as new.
  • Step 3: Conversion optimize and search engine optimize the post. Put all the keyword research you’ve done to work by conversion-optimizing the post using the keyword-based method mentioned earlier in this post as well as on-page search engine optimizing it using the keywords you identified in Step 1 above.
  • Step 4: Publish your updated post as new by changing the publish date so it’s featured as a brand new post on your blog. Then promote your updated content just like you would any brand new post. Email it to your blog subscribers, promote it in social media, and leverage any other promotional channels that work for promoting your content.

Who Should Do Historical Optimization?

Here’s the thing: Historical optimization isn’t a tactic meant for newer blogs that have only been around for a year or two. It’s a tactic best-suited for a blog that’s been around for several years, has already tried all the basic blog growth tactics, and is looking for brand new ways to grow. Here’s why:

  • You need to be generating a significant amount of organic search traffic. Because all of these approaches are mainly based on search traffic data, none of this really works unless you’ve been blogging long enough to be generating a significant amount of search traffic and have built up decent search authority.
  • You need to have built up a critical mass of blog subscribers and social media followers. As I mentioned earlier, one of the reasons post updates perform so well for us is because of the surge of traffic generated by the promotion to our blog subscribers and social media followers. As a result, you’ll only generate a significant return on investment if your subscriber and follower base is substantial. So if you’re a newer blog, your first and foremost optimization focus should be to build those audiences and expand your reach.
  • You need to have a sizable repository of old posts at your disposal. After all, historical optimization only makes sense if you have content worth optimizing.

Don’t Sacrifice Creating New Blog Content for Updating Old Content

Before I wrap this up, one final word of caution ….

Historical optimization should be a piece of your overall blogging strategy — not the whole strategy.

You can’t completely give up on creating new blog posts in an attempt to optimize the past. Remember, the old content you’re optimizing now was once brand new, and not every new post will turn into an SEO success story. So if you completely forgo new content marketing, you could be shooting your future self in the foot by giving yourself fewer chances to rank for new keywords. You could also miss out on capitalizing on new topics/trends emerging in your industry, as well as opportunities for thought leadership, among other benefits of new content.

That said, only you can decide what the right editorial balance is between updating old content and creating brand new content. As a starting point, audit your old content to determine how many post update opportunities you have. A blog that’s been around for several years and has a large repository of content likely has more opportunities than a blog that’s only been around for a couple of years. 

Keep in mind that historical optimization is an ongoing project — if it proves successful for you, it should become a permanent tactic in your blogging strategy like it’s become for us. To help you track your historical optimization results, we’ve also included a free tracking template with the download of our historical optimization ebook. Get them both here.

If you’re already adopting a historical optimization approach, share your experiences in the comments, and if you’re new to historical optimization, give me a shout in the comments with any questions. Good luck optimizing the past!

free guide to historical blog optimization

 

May

28

2015

How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business [Free Persona Template]

buyer-personas.png

Restaurant Owner Roy. Caregiver Katie. Landscaper Larry. Do you know who your business’s buyer personas are? And exactly how much do you know about them?

Buyer personas (sometimes referred to as marketing personas) are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. Personas help us all — in marketing, sales, product, and services — internalize the ideal customer we’re trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real humans. Having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, and really anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention.

“Okay, so personas are really important to my business. But … how do I actually make one?”

Ahh … the million dollar question. The good news is, they aren’t that difficult to create. You just need to ask the right questions to the right people, and present that information in a helpful way so the people in your business can get to know your persona(s) better than the backs of their hands.

Now for the even better news: We’ve put together an interview guide and a free template for creating buyer personas, so it’s easy as pie to do your persona research and compile it all into a beautiful, presentable, palatable format. So follow along with this interview guide, and download the persona template so you can start plugging in your research. Before you know it, you’ll have complete, well thought-out buyer personas to show off to your entire company!

Download the free buyer persona template here. 

Before we dive into the buyer persona-creation process, let’s pause to understand the impact having well-developed buyer personas can have on your business — and specifically your marketing.

Why Exactly Are Buyer Personas So Important to Your Business?

Buyer personas help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better. This makes it easier for you to tailor your content, messaging, product development, and services to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups. In other words, you may know your target buyers are caregivers, but do you know what their specific needs and interests are? What is the typical background of your ideal buyer? In order to get a full understanding of what makes your best customers tick, it’s critical to develop detailed personas for your business.

The strongest buyer personas are based on market research as well as insights you gather from your actual customer base (through surveys, interviews, etc.). Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or two personas, or as many as 10 or 20. But if you’re new to personas, start small! You can always develop more personas later if needed.

What About “Negative” Personas?

Whereas a buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer, a negative — or “exclusionary” — persona is a representation of who you dont want as a customer.

For example, this could include professionals who are too advanced for your product or service, students who are only engaging with your content for research/knowledge, or potential customers who are just too expensive to acquire (because of a low average sale price, their propensity to churn, or their unlikeliness to purchase again from your company).

How Can Personas Be Used in Marketing?

At the most basic level, developing personas allows you to create content and messaging that appeals to your target audience. It also enables you to target or personalize your marketing for different segments of your audience. For example, instead of sending the same lead nurturing emails to everyone in your database, you can segment by buyer persona and tailor your messaging according to what you know about those different personas.

Furthermore, when combined with lifecycle stage (i.e. how far along someone is in your sales cycle), buyer personas also allow you to map out and create highly targeted content. You can learn more about how to do that by downloading our Content Mapping Template

And if you take the time to also create negative personas, you’ll have the added advantage of being able to segment out the “bad apples” from the rest of your contacts, which can help you achieve a lower cost-per-lead and cost-per-customer — and see higher sales productivity.

Now, are you ready to start creating your buyer personas?

How to Create Buyer Personas

Buyer personas can be created through research, surveys, and interviews of your target audience. That includes a mix of customers, prospects, and those outside your contacts database who might align with your target audience.

Here are some practical methods for gathering the information you need to develop personas:

  • Look through your contacts database to uncover trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume your content.

  • When creating forms to use on your website, use form fields that capture important persona information. For example, if all of your personas vary based on company size, ask each lead for information about company size on your forms.

  • Take into consideration your sales team’s feedback on the leads they’re interacting with most. What generalizations can they make about the different types of customers you serve best?

  • Interview customers and prospects, either in person or over the phone, to discover what they like about your product or service. This is one of the most important steps, so let’s discuss it in greater detail …

How to Find Interviewees for Researching Buyer Personas

One of the most critical steps to establishing your buyer persona(s) is finding some people to speak with to suss out, well, who your buyer persona is. That means you’ll have to conduct some interviews to get to know what drives your target audience. But how do you find those interviewees? There are a few sources you should tap into:

1) Customers

Your existing customer base is the perfect place to start with your interviews, because they’ve already purchased your product and engaged with your company. At least some of them are likely to exemplify your target persona(s).

Reach out to both “good” and “bad” customers. You don’t just want to talk to people who love your product and want to spend an hour gushing about you (as good as that feels). Customers who are unhappy with your product will show other patterns that will help you form a solid understanding of your personas. For example, you might find that some of these “bad” customers have bigger teams and thus need a collaboration element to the product. Or you may find that “bad” customers find your product too technical and difficult to use. In both cases, you learn something about your product and what your customers’ challenges are.

Another benefit to interviewing customers is that you may not need to offer them an incentive like a gift card (a typical incentive for participating in surveys or interviews). Customers usually like being heard, and interviewing them gives them a chance to tell you about their world, their challenges, and what they think of your product. Customers also like to have an impact on the products they use, so you may find that, as you involve them in interviews like this, they become even more loyal to your company. When you reach out to customers, be clear that your goal is to get their feedback and that it’s highly valued by your team.

2) Prospects

Be sure to balance out your interviews with people who have not purchased your product or know much about your company. Your current prospects and leads are a great option here because you already have their contact information. Use the data you do have about them (i.e. anything you’ve collected through lead generation forms or website analytics) to figure out who might fit into your target personas.

3) Referrals

You’ll probably also need to rely on some referrals to talk to people who may fit into your target personas, particularly if you’re heading into new markets or don’t have any leads or customers yet. Reach out to your network — co-workers, existing customers, social media contacts — to find people you’d like to interview and get introduced to. It may be tough to get a large volume of people this way, but you’ll likely get some very high-quality interviews out of it. If you don’t know where to start, try searching on LinkedIn for people who may fit into your target personas and see which results have any connections in common with you. Then reach out to your common connections for introductions.

4) Third-Party Networks

For interviewees who are completely removed from your company, there are a few third-party networks you can recruit from. Craigslist allows you to post ads for people interested in any kind of job, and UserTesting.com allows you to run remote user testing (with some follow-up questions). You’ll have less control over sessions run through UserTesting.com, but it’s a great resource for quick user testing recruiting.

Tips for Recruiting Interviewees

As you reach out to potential interviewees, here are a few tips for getting a better response rate:

1) Use incentives. While you may not need them in all scenarios (e.g. customers who already want to talk to you), incentives give people a reason to participate in an interview if they don’t have a relationship with you. A simple gift card (like an Amazon or Visa credit card) is an easy option.

2) Be clear this isn’t a sales call. This is especially important when dealing with non-customers. Be clear that you’re doing research and that you just want to learn from them. You are not getting them to commit to a one-hour sales call; you’re getting them to commit to telling you about their lives, jobs, and challenges.

3) Make it easy to say yes. Take care of everything for your potential interviewee. Suggest times, but be flexible; allow them to pick a time right off the bat; and send a calendar invitation with a reminder to block off their time.

How Many People Do You Need to Interview?

Unfortunately the answer is, it depends. Start with at least 3-5 interviews for each persona you’re creating. If you already know a lot about your persona, then that may be enough. You may need to do 3-5 interviews in each category of interviewees (customers, prospects, people who don’t know your company).

The rule of thumb is, when you start accurately predicting what your interviewee is going to say, it’s probably time to stop. Through these interviews, you’ll naturally start to notice patterns. Once you start expecting and predicting what your interviewee is going to say, that means you’ve interviewed enough people to find and internalize these patterns.

20 Questions to Ask in Persona Interviews

It’s time to conduct the interview! After the normal small talk and thank-you’s, it’s time to jump into your questions. There are several different categories of questions you’ll want to ask in order to create a complete persona profile. The following questions are organized into those categories, but feel free to customize this list and remove or add more questions that may be appropriate for your target customers.

Role

1) What is your job role? Your title?

2) How is your job measured?

3) What does a typical day look like?

4) What skills are required to do your job?

5) What knowledge and tools do you use in your job?

6) Who do you report to? Who reports to you?

Company

7) In which industry or industries does your company work?

8) What is the size of your company (revenue, employees)?

Goals

9) What are you responsible for?

10) What does it mean to be successful in your role?

Challenges

11) What are your biggest challenges?

Watering Holes

12) How do you learn about new information for your job?

13) What publications or blogs do you read?

14) What associations and social networks do you participate in?

Personal Background

15) Describe your personal demographics (if appropriate, ask their age, whether they’re married, if they have children).

16) Describe your educational background. What level of education did you complete, which schools did you attend, and what did you study?

17) Describe your career path. How did you end up where you are today?

Shopping Preferences

18) How do you prefer to interact with vendors (e.g. email, phone, in person)?

19) Do you use the internet to research vendors or products? If yes, how do you search for information?

20) Describe a recent purchase. Why did you consider a purchase, what was the evaluation process, and how did you decide to purchase that product or service?

The #1 Tip for a Successful Persona Interview: Ask “Why”

The follow up question to pretty much every question in the above list should be “why?”

Through these interviews, you’re trying to understand your customers’ or potential customers’ goals, behaviors, and what drives them. But keep in mind that people are not always great at reflecting on their own behaviors to tell you what drives them at their core. You don’t care that they measure the number of visits to their website, for example. What you care about is that they measure that because they need a number they control to show their boss they’re doing a good job.

Start with a simple question — one of our favorites is, “What is your biggest challenge?” Then spend a good amount of time diving deeper into that one question to learn more about that person. You learn more by asking “why?” than by asking more superficial questions.

How to Use Your Research to Create Your Persona

Once you’ve gone through the research process, you’ll have a lot of meaty, raw data about your potential and current customers. But what do you do with it? How do you distill all of that so it’s easy for everyone to understand all the information you’ve gathered?

The next step is to use your research to identify patterns and commonalities from the answers to your interview questions, develop at least one primary persona, and share that persona with the rest of the company.

Use our free, downloadable persona template to organize the information you’ve gathered about your persona(s). Then share these slides with the rest of your company so everyone can benefit from the research you’ve done and develop an in-depth understanding of the person (or people) they’re targeting every day at work.

Here’s how to use the template to do it …

Fill in Your Persona’s Basic Demographic Information

If you didn’t feel comfortable asking some of these demographic-based questions on the phone or in person, you can also conduct online surveys to gather this information. Some people are more comfortable disclosing things like this through a survey rather than verbal communication.

It’s also helpful to include some descriptive buzzwords and mannerisms of your persona that you may have picked up on during your conversations to make it easier for people in your sales department to identify certain personas when they’re talking to prospects.

Here’s an example of how you might complete Section 1 in your template for one of your personas:

persona-template-demographics.png

Share What You’ve Learned About Your Persona’s Motivations

This is where you’ll distill the information you learned from asking “Why” so much during those interviews. What keeps your persona up at night? Who do they want to be? Most importantly, tie that all together by telling people how your company can help them.

persona-template-goals.png

Help Your Sales Team Prepare for Conversations With Your Persona

Include some real quotes from your interviews that exemplify what your personas are concerned about, who they are, and what they want. Then create a list of the objections they might raise so your sales team is prepared to address those during their conversations with prospects.

persona-template-quotes.png

Help Craft Messaging for Your Persona

Tell people how to talk about your products/services with your persona. This includes the nitty gritty vernacular you should use, as well as a more general elevator pitch that positions your solution in a way that resonates with your persona. This will help you ensure everyone in your company is speaking the same language when they’re having conversations with leads and customers.

persona-template-messaging.png

Finally, make sure you give your persona a name (like Restaurant Owner Roy, Caregiver Katie, or Landscaper Larry), and include a real-life image of your persona so everyone can truly envision what he or she looks like. Purchase an image from a stock photograph site like Thinkstock, or download one of our royalty-free images. It may seem silly, but it really helps to put a name to a face, so to speak!

And if you’re a HubSpot customer, you can add your persona right into your HubSpot Marketing Platform. Just follow this step-by-step setup guide

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free buyer persona creation template

 
free buyer persona creation template

Apr

2

2015

How to Make an Infographic in Under an Hour [15 Free Infographic Templates]

infographic-templates.jpg

Wouldn’t it be great if creating infographics was as simple as writing regular ol’ text-based blog posts? Unfortunately, the reality is that making visual content like this usually takes a lot more time, effort, and let’s face it — skill — than the written word. Usually.

But considering the popularity and effectiveness of visual content in marketing today, you can’t just afford to throw in the towel.

That’s why we decided to take all the pain and suffering out of infographic creation. Seriously — don’t throw in the towel just yet. You, too, can create professional-looking, high-quality infographics, and quickly. I’m going to prove it. First things first:

Download our 15 free infographic templates here.

Then, all you have to do is provide the content to use inside them. Easy as that! In fact, I’m going to show you just how easy it is by taking one of our 15 infographic templates in PowerPoint (pictured above) and creating my own, customized infographic with it. Then, I’ll explain exactly what I did so you get a sense of how easy it really is. 

Would you rather watch this tutorial instead of read it? Check out the video below:

Click here to download your free infographic templates.

How to Create Infographics For Free in Under an Hour

Step 1: Collect your data/content, and choose your desired template.

Your first step is to collect the data/content you’ll be using to populate your infographic, and choose an infographic template appropriate for representing that data. The important thing is to choose a template that specifically works for the type of data set/content you want to present. As you saw pictured above, you can download our 15 infographic templates in PowerPoint and choose whichever template you’d like. Some of your template options here include a timeline, flowchart, side-by-side comparison, and a data-driven infographic.

You can either collect third-party data or use your own original data. If you use third-party data, just be sure you properly cite your sources — just like in any other good piece of content.

To keep your infographic uncluttered by a ton of different source URLs, a great way to cite your sources is to include a simple URL at the bottom of your infographic that links to a page on your site listing the individual stats used in your infographic, and their sources — such as the blog post you’re using to publish your infographic. That way, your infographic looks clean and professional, yet people will still be able to access the sources no matter where the infographic gets shared or embedded. It may also even drive visitors back to your site.

For the sake of time (remember, our mission is to create an infographic in under an hour), for my infographic, I’m going to choose a compilation of social media stats, charts, and graphs we’ve already collected from our 2015 Social Media Benchmarks Report, and I’m going to pick the “Cold Hard Numbers” infographic from our collection of infographic templates, which is appropriate for my data set since it conveys statistics using charts and graphs. This template is pictured below:

data-driven-infographic.jpg

Step 2: Customize your infographic.

Obviously, this is the most time-consuming part — but it’s also the most fun! Simply come up with a catchy title, plug in your data/content, and adjust your font sizes and formatting. Feel free to switch up the graphics, too, so they’re relevant to the data you’re citing. You can use the simple graphs and charts provided by PowerPoint to create things like the bar graph or the pie chart. (Note: Download our free infographic templates for a cheat sheet for using PowerPoint’s various features and tools.)

To customize the look of the infographic even more, you might add or change up the colors or font styles.

Finally, I included a link to my source (which can be found here), as well as the HubSpot logo so people know who created the infographic if it gets shared in social media or embedded on other websites — which is definitely something you want, since one of the main benefits of infographics is their shareability.

That’s it! This whole thing took me under an hour to put together — much shorter than it would’ve taken me if I’d started from scratch (not to mention more professional looking … and cheaper than hiring a designer). Here it is:

social-benchmarks-infographic.jpg

Share this Image On Your Site

<p><strong>Please include attribution to http://blog.hubspot.com/ with this graphic.</strong><br /><br /><a href=’http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/free-ppt-infographic-templates-designs-ht’><img src=’http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/53/social-benchmarks-infographic.jpg’ alt=’social-media-benchmarks-hubspot’ width=’669px’ border=’0′ /></a></p>

Step 3: Add an embed code and “Pin It” button, and publish it!

The only thing left to do is to publish and promote your awesome new infographic. As I mentioned earlier, we recommend using your blog to publish it (including your list of sources), including a “Pin It” button for visitors to easily share your infographic on Pinterest, and create and add an embed code for visitors to share it on their own websites and blogs, as we did above.

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

download 15 free infographic templates

 
10 free infographic templates in powerpoint

Feb

19

2015

15 Google Marketing Tools You Should Be Using

marketing-tools-1

You may have heard of this little thing called Google. You know, where 1.17 billion people go to find stuff on the web?

But Google is more than just a search engine. So much more.

In fact, Google offers a ton of tools in addition to its search engine that can be hugely valuable if you’re a marketer. So we decided to round up some of the most essential Google marketing tools at your disposal so you can be sure your business is taking full advantage of all Google has to offer.

And for even more Google marketing tools and tips you should know, download our free guide here.

15 Helpful Google Tools for Marketers

1) Google My Business

Want to get yourself some free advertising on Google? I kid you not — it’s a real thing. 

All you have to do is claim your Google My Business listing (formerly known as Google Places), and your business can get featured in the search results (as well as in Google Maps) for local searches like the one pictured below. Check it out — all the businesses within the red call-out in the screenshot below are local Google My Business results for the search “mexican restaurant, boston.” Best of all, unlike Google AdWords (which we’ll touch on later), none of those businesses paid for their positions in these local results.

google-my-business-listings

If you haven’t already claimed your Google My Business listing, follow the simple steps in this blog post to get your listing up and running. Keep in mind that as Google walks you through the setup of your listing, you’ll automatically create a Google+ Page for your business as well, which leads us to our second Google marketing tool …

2) Google+ Business Pages 

With the death of Google Authorship and the elimination of Google +1s from search results, the jury is out about the importance of maintaining an active Google+ Business Page these days if you’re not a local business. That said, given Google’s massive empire, we think it behooves all businesses to play it safe and create a Google+ Page, even if you only update it every so often. To create a page, get started here.

But if you’re a local business, setting up and maintaining a Google+ Page goes hand in hand with your Google My Business listing (see above), making Google+ even more critical for you. And considering your Google My Business listing will include a link to your business’ Google+ Page, it’s important to take some extra time to make your page the best it can be. You can learn more about how to optimize your Google+ Page in this free ebook, and you can check out HubSpot’s own Google+ Page here

hubspot-google+

Last, if your audience is active on Google+, it may be smart to add the Google +1 share button to your website — particularly to articles on your blog. Google uses social signals as a ranking factor, so making it easy for your website visitors to share your content on Google+ can help your content rank better in search. To learn how to create Google +1 buttons, check out this post.

HubSpot customers can easily add the Google +1 button to their blog within the HubSpot Marketing Platform

3) Google Webmaster Tools 

Want better insight into how healthy your website is in the eyes of Google? Just set up a Google Webmaster Tools account. Google Webmaster Tools will alert you to any red flags that could prevent your site from getting found in search results, and help you analyze your existing search traffic so you can understand how visitors are currently finding you.

Here’s an overview of how Google Webmaster Tools can help you optimize your website, straight from the horse’s mouth …

4) Google AdWords

If you want to give your organic efforts to rank in search a bit of a jumpstart, it might make sense to dabble in Google AdWords, Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) product. If you have yet to try it, here’s how it works: You create ads that target specific keywords related to your business, and your ads appear above or to the right of organic search results on Google when people search for these keywords (see screenshot below). The cost your ads depend on the competitiveness of the keyword you’re targeting, but you only pay if visitors actually click on your ad. For more resources about how to do PPC effectively, check out our PPC Marketing Hub here.

boston-plumbers

Keep in mind that AdWords can quickly become an expensive marketing tool, and unlike organic search, it offers quick wins rather than longer term, lasting (and free) results. That said, if used smartly, PPC can help you plan your organic search strategy. By testing different keyword variations using PPC, you can quickly figure out which keywords will send you quality traffic. You can then use this knowledge to target your organic search engine optimization and content creation efforts. This leads us to tool number five …

5) Google AdWords Keyword Planner

If you’re looking to boost your organic SEO, you’ll want to do some keyword research first and foremost. Keyword research helps you identify keywords to target as you’re creating blog and website content, focusing your SEO and content creation efforts so you can get found by the right searchers. 

The Google AdWords Keyword Planner, though a tool meant to help you plan your AdWords campaigns, can also help you search for new keyword ideas and suggestions to help you with your organic keyword research as well. Keep in mind you will need to set up an AdWords account to use the Keyword Planner, but that doesn’t mean you actually have to create an ad. 

google-adwords-tool

If you’re a HubSpot customer, our Keywords App has keyword research tools built right in. The app provides keyword suggestions based on relevancy, monthly search volume, and difficulty.

6) Google Trends

In addition to the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Google Trends can be a great tool for helping you make smarter keyword choices. It enables you to evaluate the popularity of certain terms, compare them against other keyword variations, analyze how their popularity varies over time and in different regions/languages, and shows related keywords, which can be helpful in getting new keyword suggestions.

Trying to decide between two keyword variations for your latest blog post title? Do a quick comparison in Google Trends to see which one is getting searched more often:

google-trends

Google Trends can also help you identify trending topics, news, and content, which may be helpful for spotting opportunities to newsjack … but more on that in number 10.

7) Google Docs, Sheets, Slides & Forms 

Collaborating on a project with other marketers on your team? Then Google has some great collaboration tools you can use in place of typical software on your desktop:

Consider using them to share and collaborate on marketing data analyses, ebook or blog post drafts, marketing or SlideShare presentations, or surveys and polls. Projects save automatically and can also be accessed across devices with a quick download of a mobile app. 

google-spreadsheets

8) Google Drive

Google Drive is Google’s free online storage service, allowing users up to 15 GB of free storage in the cloud for files like photos, documents, designs, videos, etc. Trying to send a large image or PowerPoint file to others on your team? Google Drive allows you to share your files or folders with others, making collaboration easy and reducing the headache of too-large email attachments.

google-drive-files

9) Google Alerts

Google Alerts enables you to monitor the web for mentions of specific keywords or phrases. Once set up, you’ll receive either email alerts or results via RSS whenever these phrases have been mentioned online. For instance, you can sign up to get notified whenever someone mentions your company, products, executives, or your competition. This PR tool is a great way to stay on top of your business’ online reputation and react to online mentions of your brand in a timely manner.

google-alerts

10) Google News

Newsjacking, or capitalizing on the popularity of a news story to amplify your sales and marketing success, is a great way to piggyback off the success of a news story that is already getting traction. If you’re interested in taking advantage of newsjacking in your marketing content strategy, use Google News to search for and identify news relevant to your industry with good newsjacking potential. To learn more about newsjacking and how to integrate it into your content strategy, check out our “Complete Guide to Newsjacking.”

11) Google Voice

In an era when people use their phones to surf the web, it’s only natural to start using the web to manage our phones. Google Voice, albeit only available in the U.S., allows you to do just, making it easy to manage multiple phone lines, create personalized voicemail messages depending on who’s calling, and easily transcribe voicemail messages, making it much easier to stay on top of a busy voicemail inbox. 

To learn more about the various features available with Google Voice, check out Google’s support documentation, and watch the video overview below.

12) Google Calendar

Being organized is key to being a productive marketer — especially if you’re wearing multiple hats. Enter Google Calendar, an easy way to organize your day, keep track of meetings, and share your schedule with others. Things get even more efficient if your business uses Google Apps for Work so your colleagues can automatically use Google Calendar to book conference rooms and check coworkers’ meeting availability.

But when it comes to marketing, Google Calendar can also be a great tool for setting up an editorial calendar to organize your blog and other marketing content, which can be shared amongst content contributors both internally and externally. For inspiration in setting up your own editorial calendar, check out our free Blog Editorial Calendar Template as well as this post for setting up your editorial calendar in Google Calendar.

HubSpot customers can easily set up an editorial calendar that’s integrated with their blog and other HubSpot Marketing Platform apps within the HubSpot software. 

calendar-26

13) Google Analytics

How many of your website visitors are brand new versus returning? How long are people spending on your site? Does it have a high bounce rate? All of these important analytical questions can be answered by Google Analytics, Google’s free website analytics product. Google Analytics can give you smarter insight into your website traffic and help you understand how people are finding and navigating your site. 

google-analytics

That said, website analytics is definitely not a replacement for marketing analytics (here’s the difference). You’ll still need integrated marketing analytics software like HubSpot’s to help you measure your entire marketing funnel and track your visitors all the way through to becoming leads and customers — the metrics marketers are ultimately measured by. 

14) Google FeedBurner

Want to grow your reach? Then you should be allowing your visitors to subscribe to your website content, particularly your blog, using feeds. By setting up a Google FeedBurner account, your site visitors can subscribe to your content and receive regular updates via their web browsers, RSS readers, or email. And considering subscribers are extremely critical to the growth and reach of a business blog, offering subscription options for your content isn’t something you want to overlook. 

HubSpot customers can get RSS feeds (as well as email subscription features) for their blogs right out of the box. 

15) YouTube

That’s right! YouTube has been a Google product since 2006, and considering the fact that YouTube’s more than 1 billion users watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views every day, video marketers can’t afford to ignore it as a powerful marketing tool.

So if you haven’t already, create a YouTube channel for your business here. Then check out HubSpot’s own YouTube channel here.

To get even more out of the marketing videos you share on YouTube, check out this blog post about how to annotate your YouTube videos. By annotating your videos, you can add clickable calls-to-action to your videos that drive traffic back to your website — so you can really amplify the value you get out of YouTube.

What other Google tools do you use for your marketing? Share your tips in the comments! 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2011 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

free ebook: google marketing tools & tips

 
free download: google marketing tools & tips

Dec

4

2014

We Completely Redesigned the HubSpot Blog. Here’s Why.

blog-homepage-screenshot-wide-resized2-border
If you’re a regular reader of HubSpot’s Blog, you’ve probably noticed things are looking a little bit different today. It’s not just you. Last night, we gave the HubSpot Blog a pretty drastic makeover. 

A lot of planning and strategizing went into the new design, so we thought we’d share how the current design came to be and why we made the changes we did.

A little over a year ago, we redesigned the blog’s homepage. (This is how it looked.We wanted to make our homepage the go-to start page for people who were looking for marketing or sales content. Prior to that redesign, our blog homepage was essentially just a listing page of the few most recent posts on the Marketing Blog, and it received less than 5% of the blog’s total monthly visits.

A few months after our new homepage went live, traffic to it remained stagnant. User testing revealed that while people liked the new homepage, they weren’t necessarily going to start using it. Turns out people preferred to discover individual blog posts through channels like search, social media, and email. Over time, we realized that trying to influence a change in those visitors’ behavior just wasn’t going to happen.

So we took a closer look at our analytics. These days, even less (under 3%) of our blog’s overall traffic goes to the homepage. In other words, while the overall traffic to our blog has grown substantially in the past year, that growth is attributed to individual blog posts, not increased homepage traffic. So if 97% of our monthly blog visits are to individual article pages, shouldn’t we be paying more attention to the design of those pages? 

Yup. We thought so, too. Below is some insight into what’s changed and why it’s changed.

Why We Redesigned HubSpot’s Blog

1) To Improve Content Discoverability

If you were to look at the sources of our blog traffic, you’d find that 75% of our monthly visits come from organic search, subscriber emails, and social media. This means people are clicking on links to individual articles they find in those channels. Prior to our redesign, when someone finished reading an article, they had two main choices: 1) convert on the subscription form or lead generation call-to-action (CTA) at the bottom of the post, or 2) bounce from the page. 

Don’t get me wrong — that first choice is the most desirable action for us. But if you’re already a subscriber and what we’re offering you in the CTA isn’t tickling your fancy, the bottom of our blog posts was a big dead end. And we’d much rather have our visitors stick around and check out more content than leave the blog altogether. 

Improving content discoverability within the HubSpot Blog was one of our biggest motivations for the redesign. To encourage people to stick around, we got rid of the typical blog sidebar you’re used to and added a left-hand feed of featured and recent posts that is fixed no matter how far you scroll down the page. We also added more content below the post you’re currently reading and included public-facing topics on each article so readers can explore more content similar to the topics they’re interested in.

Voila! No more dead ends.

2) To Integrate Our Core Blogs and Improve Usability 

Another catalyst for the redesign was to better integrate our core blogs — and enable more cross-pollination between them. We had recently acquired Agency Post, a blog for agency professionals, but we still needed to bring it under the HubSpot umbrella. Rather than adding yet another blog to the existing four we already had, we decided to consolidate our five blogs into three to simplify the user experience, improve usability, and increase visibility. Now you’ll see that our content is organized under three core blogs — Marketing, Sales, and Agency.

With the introduction of side navigation arrows and the navigation above the left-hand feed, we think visitors will find it much easier to navigate between the blogs and find the content they’re looking for. We’ve also made it a lot simpler for visitors to share our content with their social networks and colleagues, adding an email share button to our social share module and fixing those buttons so you can share whenever the mood strikes as you scroll down the page.

side-nav-example

When you’re going through a redesign, it’s all too easy to clutter your blog with a bunch of “stuff” — miscellaneous features, plugins, widgets, and add-ons. But people mostly just want to be able to consume your content, and they don’t want to have to jump through a bunch of hoops to do it. So in an effort to simplify the blog and improve usability, we took the opportunity to cut some things from the previous design.

That’s why we decided to collapse comments, remove author bios on the post level, and get rid of our blog’s sidebar — to make it easier for our readers to find more of the content they’re looking for. It’s also why we’re discontinuing the use of slide-in CTAs on the new posts we publish. They added too much clutter and, based on our data, not enough value.

3) To Better Support Our Goals 

When our blogging team was tasked with achieving some pretty aggressive growth goals for our newer Sales and Agency blogs, we knew we needed to keep those goals in mind as we were planning our blog redesign. The majority of our traffic comes from visitors to our Marketing Blog, so making it easier for those visitors to discover the content of our other blogs was a big part of how we structured the new design. And because traffic and subscriber generation are the most important goals for our newer blogs, we added more opportunities for visitors to subscribe via email. 

To make it possible for the blog to support some of our broader, company-wide goals, we’ve also introduced the concept of an “ad unit.” Although atypical from traditional ad units, which are paid for and used by external advertisers, these so-called ad units provide real estate to promote non-lead generation activities related to HubSpot marketing. While they don’t generate revenue, they do generate much needed awareness for initiatives like events, new product launches, and promoting our other blogs, which aren’t necessarily aimed at lead generation. These ad units, which are positioned in between articles, make it easier for us to support these other marketing goals without replacing our end-of-post CTAs and sacrificing the blog’s lead generation potential.  

ad-unit-example-2

4) To Create a Better Mobile Experience 

Truth be told, our blog’s mobile experience left something to be desired. So we completely revamped the mobile version of our blog to make navigation, content discoverability, and social sharing much easier for our mobile visitors, which make up 20% of our monthly traffic.

mobile-blog-images-524001-edited

We also removed our lead generation CTAs entirely from the mobile version to better align with the behavior of our mobile visitors and place more emphasis on a much less complicated, more likely conversion event: email subscription. 

What’s your opinion of the HubSpot Blog’s new look? We’d love to hear what you think!

website redesign workbook guide

Oct

15

2014

Want to Increase Your Blog’s Conversion Rates by 87%? Try Focusing on Keywords

kid-magnifying-glass-search-689570-editedWe’re on a historical blog optimization kick over here on the HubSpot blogging team. “What in the Sam Hill is ‘historical blog optimization,'” you ask?

Basically, it means optimizing our “old” blog content to generate more traffic and leads. And by “old,” I just mean posts that already exist on our blog, whether we wrote it three years ago or last month.

(more…)

Oct

8

2014

Why You Should Measure New and Mature B2B Blogs Differently

baby-measure_(2)-109115-editedWith blogging, success doesn’t happen overnight.

I know, right? How many times have you heard that little nugget of blogging wisdom?

But seriously — a B2B business blog is a huge time investment. It can take a while before you’ve grown it into a truly valuable marketing asset. 

(more…)

Sep

26

2014

Want to Improve Your Blog’s Conversion Rates? 11 Tests to Try

kid-scientist-testing-260546-editedThese days, I spend a lot of my time on blog optimization. I’m constantly trying to figure out how we can fill the top of our funnel with more blog visitors, and how we convert more of those visitors into subscribers and leads. 

Because my role is focused on optimization and growth, I try to make sure we’re always testing something. (more…)

Sep

2

2014

Which Works Better for Blog Conversion: A Standard CTA or a Full Form?

Published by in category Blogging, HubSpot InBound Marketing Blog Feed, lead generation | Comments are closed

plan-a-plan-b-199521-editedFile this one under Why You Need to Test Stuff for Yourself.

A couple of months ago, we got rid of the secondary call-to-action (CTA) we were using at the bottom of our blog posts to increase blog subscriptions, and replaced it with an actual subscribe form.

(more…)

Aug

19

2014

Why You Need to Stop Neglecting Your Old Content

neglected_contentRaise your hand if this sounds familiar …

As an inbound marketer, you work hard to keep your content engine going. You publish new blog posts, launch new ebooks, and produce new webinars regularly. You rinse and repeat, pumping valuable time and resources into new content creation to keep your blog fed and your offers fresh. 

(more…)

Aug

18

2014

25 Job Titles That Describe What Your Co-Workers ACTUALLY Do

Published by in category Business | Leave a Comment

a78b722b-70a5-4291-aeb7-65d3f5e00415Most people’s job titles are an accurate description of their role.

For example, if you manage your company’s email marketing campaigns, your title might be something like “Email Marketing Manager.” If you work in your company’s customer service department, you might be a “Customer Service Representative.”

(more…)

Aug

12

2014

How to Create a Curated Blog Post [+5 Free Blog Post Templates]

robot-collection-846252-editedI’m going to let you in on a little secret: Not all of the content you create has to be 100% original. 

I know. Mind-blowing, right? And for those of you inbound marketers plagued by the incessant demands of content creation, maybe also a little comforting?

(more…)

Jul

23

2014

72% of People Who Complain on Twitter Expect a Response Within an Hour

Published by in category Social Media | Leave a Comment

stressed-woman-at-computer-300pixels-wideTurns out people have some pretty high standards when it comes to Twitter response time. Especially when they’ve got a bone to pick with your brand.

We recently came across some survey data from Lithium Technologies that shows just how critical response time is in social media if you’re a brand.

(more…)