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May

27

2017

8 of the Top Marketing Challenges Marketers Face Today [New Data]

Published by in category Daily, Inbound Marketing, marketing data, Professional Development | Comments are closed

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Every marketer faces different challenges. Although we typically share similar goals, some teams are stuck on hiring top talent, while others are having trouble finding the right technology for their needs.

Whatever the case may be, there’s always at least one area that you can stand to improve. In other words, there’s always room to optimize the various components of your strategy and turn your marketing into an even more effective revenue generator.

Curious about what kinds of obstacles other marketers are up against?

soi-anchor-cta-2017

We polled thousands of marketers on the challenges they face, as well as the tactics they’ve used to meet those challenges head-on. Here are some of the most common challenges marketers reported struggling with … and their solutions.

The Most Common Marketing Problems We Face, According to the 2017 State of Inbound Report

According to our report, generating traffic and leads and proving ROI are the leading challenges marketers face. Here’s a look at this year’s data:

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Image Credit: The 2017 State of Inbound Report

Let’s go through each of these top challenges and how marketers can address them.

1) Generating Traffic and Leads

Why It’s a Challenge

Generating enough traffic and leads was the top marketing challenge, according to the 2017 State of Inbound report. We started asking this question with this answer as a new option last year — and we’re glad we did.

Clearly, marketers are struggling with producing enough demand for their content. And as the years progress and competition stiffens, this will only become truer. With so many options of platforms for marketers to publish their content and even more ways to promote it, it’s hard to know where to focus your efforts.

What Can You Do?

When it comes to creating content that produces enough traffic and leads, marketers should ask themselves two questions: Are you truly creating high-quality content — the type of content people would pay for? And, do you know the type of content your audience actually wants?

For example, HubSpot Research has found that 43% of consumers want to see more video from marketers in the future, while only 29% want to see more blog posts. To learn more about how the way people are reading and interacting with content is changing, check out this HubSpot Research report.

Once you know you’re creating the type of content your audience wants, the focus shifts to promoting it in a way that makes your audience take notice. More than ever before, people are being flooded with content. Consumers don’t have to use a search engine to find answers. Instead, articles fill their news feed or buzz in their pocket via mobile notification.

Needless to say, the content promotion playbook is not the same as it was five years ago. To make sure your traffic and lead numbers continue to rise, check out this comprehensive guide to content promotion.

2) Providing the ROI of Your Marketing Activities

Why It’s a Challenge

Measuring the ROI (return on investment) of your marketing activities has remained a top marketing challenge year-over-year. But, it also continues to be a vital way for marketers to understand the effectiveness of each particular marketing campaign, piece of content, etc.

Plus, proving ROI often goes hand-in-hand with making an argument to increase budget: No ROI tracking, no demonstrable ROI. No ROI, no budget.

But tracking the ROI of every single marketing activity isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t have two-way communication between your marketing activities and sales reports.

What Can You Do?

When it comes to providing ROI, there’s a strong case to be made for dedicating time and resources to establishing links between marketing activities and sales results. This means using both marketing software (like HubSpot) and a CRM solution (like HubSpot’s free CRM), and then tying them together to close the loop between your marketing and sales efforts with a service-level agreement (SLA). That way, you can directly see how many leads and customers are generated through your marketing activities.

We’ve found there’s no better combination than having an SLA and doing inbound marketing. According to this year’s report, inbound organizations with SLAs are 3X more likely to rate their marketing strategy as effective compared to outbound organizations with misaligned marketing and sales teams.

(Use this ROI calculator to simulate the potential ROI you could realize by conducting inbound marketing.)

3) Securing Enough Budget

Why It’s a Challenge

Securing more budget is a pressing challenge for marketing globally. And often, getting more budget is easier said than done — especially for smaller organizations that aren’t working with sizable nor flexible marketing spend.

But the key to securing more money for your team might not be that complex. Here’s what you can do.

What Can You Do?

The key to unlocking budget lies in being able to prove the ROI of your marketing efforts. According to our report, organizations that can calculate ROI are more likely to receive higher budgets.

Again, success with inbound marketing also plays a large role in driving higher budgets. Effective strategies obviously produce results, and our data shows those who feel confident in their marketing strategy are more than 2X as likely to get higher budgets for their marketing teams. But remember, inbound marketing is a long game. If you get off to a slow start, you shouldn’t back off — in fact, you might consider doubling down.

4) Managing Your Website

Why It’s a Challenge

Managing a website was the fourth biggest challenge for marketers in 2017. And chances are, your website’s performance is high on your list of priorities. It’s an asset that works around the clock to draw in visitors, convert them, and help you hit your goals, after all.

Issues with website management include a variety of different factors, from writing and optimizing the content to designing beautiful webpages. Here are a few things marketers can do to deal with this challenge.

What Can You Do?

First, read this report to see how your website stacks up against over 1 million other websites. It also includes a deep analysis on the four most critical elements of website performance and design, from average load time and website securityww to mobile friendliness and SEO.

If your primary challenge with managing a website has to do with the skills and resources you have available, you aren’t alone. This is especially true for small companies who don’t have all the talent in-house required to cover content, optimization, design, and back-end website management.

One solution? Hire freelancers and agency partners. To find freelancers, we recommend:

  • Tapping into your personal and professional network by posting on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networks with a description of what you’re looking for.
  • Browsing freelance writers and designers based on their portfolios and areas of interest. For writers, check out Zerys and Contently. For designers, check out Behance & Elance.
  • Browsing HubSpot’s Services Marketplace, which lists a wide variety of designers from partner companies and agencies we’ve deemed credible.

Overall, you can make website management easier on your team by hosting your website on a platform that integrates all your marketing channels like HubSpot’s COS.

Finally, for the projects you want to keep in-house, here is a list of ebooks and guides that might be helpful to your team:

5) Identifying the Right Technologies for Your Needs

Why It’s a Challenge

Finding the right technologies was the fifth biggest concern for marketers this year. Oftentimes, this is because feedback on technology is scattered. Marketers might turn to colleagues, friends in the industry, and/or analyst reports to figure out which technologies best fit their needs — only to find that feedback is spread across emails, social media, and so on from people of varied reputability.

When you’re looking for a tool, software, or piece of technology to solve a specific marketing problem, where do you go to find it?

What Can You Do?

For those of you looking for a tool, software, or piece of technology to solve a specific marketing problem, we recommend taking a look at Growthverse: a free, interactive, online visualization of the marketing technology landscape that focuses on the business problems marketers are trying to solve, and leads them to specific pieces of marketing technology that aim to solve those problems. We’ve found it to be a really well-visualized map of carefully curated marketing technology resources.

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It’s worth noting that the main tool in top marketers’ arsenals is a platform for automating their team’s marketing efforts. We found that although our respondents indicated using an array of specific products, the larger trend was telling: The top marketers use marketing automation software in some form or another. Meanwhile, 40% of marketers cite marketing automation as a top priority for the next year.

6) Targeting Content for an International Audience

Why It’s a Challenge

Targeting is a key component of all aspects of marketing. To be more effective at targeting, one of the first things any marketer needs do is identify their buyer personas to determine who it is they should be marketing to. If you’re expanding internationally, it can be a big challenge not only to figure out the best ways to market to an international audience but also to organize and optimize your site for different countries.

What Can You Do?

Download our free ebook, The Global Marketing Playbook. There are some really helpful tips in there that’ll help give you some direction on global marketing, including how to identify your top three growth markets, how to explore local trends, and tips on choosing the best localization providers.

Remember, your website visitors might speak a plethora of different languages and live in totally different time zones. To make your content appealing to a wide audience, you’ll need to keep your global visitors top-of-mind when creating all your content. This means being aware of seasonal references, translating units of measure and monetary references, and giving translators the tools and permissions to customize and adapt content for a specific audience when they need to.

Finally, be sure you’re optimizing your website for international visitors, too. For more tips and resources on global marketing expansion, browse our international inbound marketing hub.

7) Training Your Team

Why It’s a Challenge

As companies scale and technologies continue to evolve, training your team will become a greater challenge for marketers. Whether it’s training them on the concepts and tools they’ll be using every day or making sure they’re achieving their full potential, the struggle is real across the board.

To combat this, I’ll share some tips I’ve used during my trainings to make sure the concepts and tool tips stick and have a lasting effect on your team and your marketing.

What Can You Do?

To get an overall idea of where your team stands, take a few minutes to assess each of your team members’ marketing strengths and weaknesses, levels of expertise, and passion/commitment to your company. Then, objectively rate the priority (or level of importance) of their expertise and their contribution to bottom line objectives (ROI) to date. Here’s a simple assessment tool from Lean Labs to help you evaluate your team so you can figure out who needs recognition and who needs coaching.

Next, check out this awesome resource from HubSpot Academy, The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Training. It’s a guide that’ll help you navigate all the marketing training options you have, from quick daily habits to more rigorous, career-launching investments.

You also might consider requiring your team members to rack up some online marketing certification. HubSpot Academy, for example, offers certifications, documentation, and training programs to help people master the basics of inbound marketing. Google also offers training and certifications on analytics with their online Analytics Academy.

What about new hire training, specifically? We recommend creating a training plan for new team members. Here at HubSpot, each new marketer is given a 100-day plan like this one to lay out specific goals and help new hires demonstrate their effectiveness.

8) Hiring Top Talent

Why It’s a Challenge

Hiring top talent was the eighth biggest challenge marketers reported experiencing this year. Why? Many companies are shifting more resources to inbound marketing, which means higher and higher demand for top marketing talent. But supply simply isn’t keeping up. From sourcing the right candidates to evaluating for the right skills, finding the perfect person could take months … or more.

What’s more, the type of marketing talent companies are looking for is changing, too. In Moz and Fractl’s analysis of thousands of job postings on Indeed.com, they concluded that employers are seeking marketers with technical and creative skill sets. And the quick rate at which the demand for these jobs are rising has caused a marketing skills gap, “making it difficult to find candidates with the technical, creative, and business proficiencies needed to succeed in digital marketing.”

What Can You Do?

Employers are looking for marketers with a diverse skill set that includes digital marketing, content marketing, SEO, and social media marketing. To find the best inbound marketer for your team, the first thing you should do is decide what that person needs to be able to achieve for your business.

Ask yourself: What will the new marketer’s tasks and duties include? What skills do those tasks and duties require? What goals or challenges will the new marketer face? Use your answers to these questions to write a compelling job description. (Here are 37 pre-written marketing job descriptions to help you get started.)

Next, post your jobs where talented inbound marketers will find them. While traditional job sites like Indeed.com, CareerBuilder.com, or LinkedIn will help you cast a wide net, we recommend checking out Inbound.org, which is the only job listing service in the world that’s exclusively focused on inbound marketing and sales jobs.

Finally, focus your job description and new hire 100-day plan what people value most in their careers. This year, the data shows that 58% of people consider opportunities for growth when looking for a new job, while 50% are looking for a good work/life balance.

Does Your Company Face Any of These Marketing Issues?

A thorough analysis of your marketing strategy and its current performance will help you discover where your biggest marketing opportunity lies. This will allow you to focus on improving the areas that need the most attention, so you can start making your marketing far more effective.

If you’re faced with a challenge and want ideas on how to best tackle it, you can always consider getting some help by any of the various types of marketing training that are available. Learn more about what other organizations are prioritizing and tackling in the 2017 State of Inbound report.

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

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May

11

2017

The Scarcity Principle: How 8 Brands Created High Demand

Published by in category Daily, marketing data | Comments are closed

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If you took the same Introduction to Economics class that I struggled through in college, you might remember this key lesson:

The law of supply and demand states that a low supply and high demand for a product will typically increase its price.

Download the free introductory guide to marketing psychology here. 

Why am I telling you about basic economic rules? Because changes in the supply and demand of products can result in the scarcity principle coming into play.

This psychological principle of persuasion coined by Dr. Robert Cialdini means the rarer or more difficult to obtain a product, offer, or piece of content is, the more valuable it becomes. Because we think the product will soon be unavailable to us, we’re more likely to buy it than if there were no impression of scarcity.

Brands can use the scarcity principle to persuade people to fill out a lead form, purchase a product, or take another desired action. Here’s an example: On many air travel booking sites, such as KAYAK, flight listings are displayed with a note that only a few seats are left at a certain price. Check it out below:

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We know that airfare pricing is incredibly volatile — that’s why some of us wait until certain times or days of the week to make purchases — so the knowledge that only one seat is available at that price makes me think I should buy it now, instead of waiting and running the risk of paying more later.

Now that we’re all up to speed on scarcity, we wanted to highlight 10 other brands that successfully have successfully used the principle to market and sell different products.

8 Brands That Used the Scarcity Principle to Promote and Sell Products

1) Snap Inc.

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Source: Spectacles

Ephemeral social media app Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc., unveiled Snapchat Spectacles in September 2016: sunglasses that could record 10-second videos from the perspective of the wearer. But instead of selling the new gadget online or at a storefront, Spectacles were initially only sold via Snapbots — smiling, Snapchat-themed vending machines that were randomly dropped in cities around the United States.

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Source: Phandroid

There were never announcements in advance of the arrival of Snapbots — most awareness was generated on social media channels, and huge lines of people would queue hoping to purchase Spectacles before the Snapbot ran out of stock for the day.

Now, Spectacles are sold online or at a few more permanent pop-up locations, so there’s no need to line up outside a vending machine if you don’t want to. But for the initial launch, the Snapbots were a unique approach to the scarcity complex. Spectacles were available for a limited time only — just the day the Snapbot was in your city, and you had to beat everyone else trying to buy Spectacles before the machine sold out.

Plus, the product’s scarcity meant nobody — ourselves included here at HubSpot — could stop talking about the Spectacles. Blog posts and social media comments about the unique selling approach helped fuel even more interest in the products. And although we don’t have hard numbers about how the Spectacles are performing, MediaKix projects Snap will achieve $5 billion in Spectacles sales by 2020.

2) Google

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Source: OptimiseWeb

If you still remember the brief time when we were all obsessed with joining Google+, you might recall that its summer 2011 launch was by invite-only: Users had to be invited by Google or by friends who shared an invitation with them. Under this system of exclusivity, 10 million users joined Google’s social network in just two weeks. By September 2011, Google+ was open to all Google account holders, and 400 million people signed up within its first year. Over 100 million of these were daily active users, and Google started competing with other popular social networks for users’ attention.

Google+ isn’t as popular nowadays — and in recent years, Google started rolling back Google+ from the rest of its more popular products, such as YouTube and Gmail. But the low supply of Google+ invites back at the time of the launch resulted in high demand and a massive number of signups.

3) Nintendo

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Source: TechCrunch

If you weren’t a big gamer back when Nintendo released the Wii gaming console in 2006, you might not remember that the Wii was one of the hottest commodities on the market. When it was officially released in November 2006, people lined up to get their hands on the Wii as soon as possible, but the mania didn’t end there. For nearly three years, the Wii was flying off the shelves and gaming stores couldn’t keep shelves stocked — despite Nintendo increasing its supply to 1.8 million and then 2.4 million units of production per month.

Supply eventually caught up with demand — 48 million Wiis sold later. By starting out with a low monthly production number, Nintendo ensured that customers would be clamoring to buy more right off the bat. The scarcity complex here made people desperate to buy a Wii whenever they could — especially after a Nintendo executive advised shoppers to “stalk the UPS driver” and to figure out when Wiis were being delivered to stores to get their hands on one.

4) Starbucks

 

As majestic as it is magenta… #UnicornFrappuccino. Color-changing, flavor-changing, potentially life-changing. #🦄 Available for a limited time at participating stores in the US, Canada & Mexico.

A post shared by Starbucks Coffee ☕ (@starbucks) on Apr 19, 2017 at 6:05am PDT

Coffee lovers recently decried Starbucks for adding the “unicorn frappuccino” to its menu — made of ice cream, fruit flavors, and sour candy — but people couldn’t get enough of the brightly colored, highly Instagrammable drink. After stating on its website that the specialty drink would only be available for a few days, Starbucks was flooded with unicorn frappuccino orders — which quickly sold out within the first day. There are no sales numbers available for the specialty drink yet, but there are nearly 160,000 #unicornfrappuccino posts on Instagram.

Starbucks gets a lot of orders — and social media engagement — during another of its notorious limited-time offers: the Starbucks Red Cups. During the holiday season in December, Starbucks starts serving coffee in red cups for a limited time only to drive people into cafes and to get them sharing #RedCups photos on social media. In this case, scarcity + food and drink is the magic equation.

5) Girlfriend Collective

 

The Girlfriend legging is here. 🍾✨ The new generation of activewear is yours for just the cost of shipping. You read that right. Our super soft, sheer-proof leggings are designed by veterans of Acne Studios and lululemon, which means you’re not only getting a deal, you’re getting your new best friend. Get yours at girlfriend.com

A post shared by Girlfriend Collective (@girlfriendcollective) on Apr 4, 2016 at 8:29pm PDT

Girlfriend Collective’s offer was simple: For a limited time, if you paid for the cost of shipping, the brand would send you a pair of $100 leggings for free. All you had to do was share a link to its website on Facebook.

Girlfriend Collective had just launched its website, and it was asking its female consumers to spread the word about the leggings so it could dedicate 100% of its advertising budget to leggings production. And if you think about it, that was a smart approach. After all, which are you more willing to trust: a Facebook ad offering free leggings, or half of your friends in your News Feed advocating for the offer?

Using this model, Girlfriend Collective “sold” 10,000 pairs of leggings just on the first day of the campaign — in addition to the myriad of fans and buzz it scored as a by-product. The one-two punch of “limited supply” and “free” made this offer irresistible — even to me.

6) Groupon

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Source: Groupon

Groupon partners with different businesses to offer discounted services in exchange for new customers — and a split of the revenue. The site often uses a limited time remaining warning (pictured above) to encourage visitors to buy quickly at the risk of missing out on a good deal.

For some deals, Groupon uses a few marketing psychology persuasion tactics to encourage you to buy. Check out the deal below:

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This deal uses the scarcity principle and social proof to encourage you to buy it — it’s only available for a limited time, and almost 600 other people have already purchased it and rated it highly. These strategies work well — Groupon made more than $3 billion last year.

7) Spotify

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Source: Geek

When music streaming service Spotify was first launched, the United Kingdom were the only countries that didn’t require an invitation from a friend or from Spotify to sign up. But due to high demand, Spotify U.K. actually had to start requiring invitations to manage all of the news users. The caveat to the invitation-only launches of Spotify around the world? Anyone could sign up for a premium, paid Spotify account. Using the scarcity principle, Spotify managed high levels of consumer demand by offering them a way in — for a price. Now, half of Spotify’s 100 million users are paid subscribers.

8) TOMS

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Source: TOMS

The beloved TOMS shoes offer a great value proposition beyond comfort and style: For every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS donates a pair to a child in need. TOMS takes that a step further by partnering with other advocacy organizations to share sales revenue to benefit other worthy causes.

Because the brand knows its customers are already philanthropic, it’s a safe bet they’ll want to purchase shoes benefiting other causes (such as pandas in the example above), but they still might need a push. So TOMS created this neat mini-site about why TOMS and WildAid are partnering, along with some fun facts about pandas and unique panda-themed shoe designs.

Then, once the visitor has read the entire compelling site and started browsing the vegan, panda-friendly footwear options, TOMS subtly lets them know that the shoes are only available for a short period of time. In other words, helping cute pandas is only an option for a limited time, too.

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TOMS approach of using the scarcity complex to encourage shopping and philanthropy works here — in fact, I might be buying a pair of these myself.

Sometimes, Less Is More

Invoking the scarcity principle to promote and sell a product can be an effective persuasion strategy, but you have to do it correctly. If you phrase the product scarcity as if there used to be a large supply, but due to increased demand, only a few products were left, consumers will be more receptive. But if you phrase the product scarcity as if only a few units of product were ever available, the principle of scarcity won’t be as effective at generating sales.

For more persuasive ideas for effective marketing messages, download our introduction to marketing psychology here.

Are there other brands you buy from that use the scarcity principle? Share with us in the comments below.

download free intro to marketing psychology

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Nov

22

2016

4 Common A/B Testing Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

AB Testing Mistakes Carl.jpg

When you’re creating content for the web, it’s easy to make assumptions about what you think your audience might respond to — but that’s not necessarily the right mentality.

Enter A/B testing: one of the easiest and most popular forms of conversion rate optimization (CRO) testing known to marketers. And while many businesses have seen the value in using this type of validation to improve their decision making, others have tried it, only to be left with inconclusive results — which is frustrating, to say the least. Download our free introductory guide to A/B testing here.  <http://offers.hubspot.com/an-introduction-to-ab-testing/> ” src=”https://no-cache.hubspot.com/cta/default/53/db238795-8fb2-4ed9-916d-c978f32aaeae.png”> </a></p>
<p>The trouble is, small mistakes made during A/B testing can lead to round after round of incremental optimizations that fail to producing meaningful results. To combat that, I’ve outlined some of the most common A/B testing mistakes (as well as their remedies) below. These tips are designed to help you keep your testing plans on track so you can start <a href=converting more visitors into customers, so let’s dive in …

4 Common A/B Testing Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

Problem #1: Your testing tool is faulty.

Popularity is a double-edged sword — it’s true for high schoolers and it’s true for A/B testing software.

The ubiquity of A/B testing has led to a wide range of awesome, low-cost software for users to choose from, but it’s not all of equal quality. Of course, differing tools offer differing functionality, but there can also be some more tricky differences between tools. And if you’re unaware of these differences, your A/B tests may be in trouble before you even get started.

For example, did you know that some testing software can significantly slow down your site? This decrease speed can have a harmful impact on your site’s SEO and overall conversion rates.

In fact, on average, just one second of additional load time will result in an 11% decrease in page views, and 7% decline in conversions. This creates a nightmare scenario where the websites you were hoping to improve through A/B testing are actually hindered by your efforts.

It gets worse: Your selection of A/B testing software can actually impact the results of your tests, too. Entrepreneur and influencer, Neil Patel, found that the A/B software he was using was showing significant differences, but when he implemented the new page he failed to see conversions change. His problem turned out to be a faulty testing tool.

So with all these hidden pitfalls, what can you do to make sure your A/B testing software is working fine?

The Fix: Run an A/A test.

Prior to running an A/B test, you should run an A/A test with your software to ensure it’s working without impacting site speed and performance.

For the uninitiated, an A/A test is very similar to an A/B test. The difference is that in an A/A test both groups of users are shown the exact same page. That’s right, you need to literally test a page against itself. While this may seem silly at first, by running an A/A test you will be able to identify any distortionary effects caused by your testing software.

An A/A test is the one time you want your results to be boring. If you see conversion rates drop as soon as you start testing, then your tool is probably slowing down your site. If you see dramatic differences between the results for the two pages, then your software is likely faulty.

Problem #2: You stop testing at the first significant result.

This is the statistical equivalent to taking your ball and going home. Unfortunately, when it comes to A/B testing, stopping your test as soon as you see a statistical significant result is not just bad sportsmanship, but it also produces completely invalid results.

Many tools encourage this behavior by allowing users to stop a test as soon as statistical significance has been hit. But if you want to drive real improvement to your site, you need to fight the urge to end your tests early. This may seem counterintuitive, but the more often you check your test for significant results, the more likely you are to see incorrect results.

The issue here is false positives: these are results that incorrectly show a difference between pages. The more often you check your results, the more likely you will hit a result that has been thrown off by false positives.

This isn’t an issue if you stay calm and don’t end your test early. However, if you end your test at the first sign of a significant result then you’ll likely fall victim to deceptive false positive outcomes.

Analytics firm Heap published the results of a simulation, which displays how ending your test early compromises your results.

Using standard significance testing, results from a 1,000-user test are checked once there is a 5% chance of false positive. If the tester checked the same group of users 10 times, the chance of a false positive result balloons to 19.5%. If checked 100 times, our 5% chance of a false positive increases eight fold to 40.1%.

These are good numbers to remember next time you get excited about early promising results.

The Fix: Stick to a predetermined sample size.

To combat false positives, discipline is key. You should set a sample size in stone prior to running an A/B test and resist the urge to end your test early (no matter how promising your results look).

Don’t fret if you’re scratching your head on how large your sample needs to be. There are plenty of tools available online for calculating a minimum sample size. Some of the most popular are from Optimizely and VWO.

One last note on sample size: Keep in mind that you’ll need to pick a realistic number for your page. While we would all love to have millions of users to test on, most of us don’t have that luxury. I suggest making a rough estimate of how long you’ll need to run your test before hitting your target sample size.

Problem #3: You’re only focusing on conversions.

When you’re deep in the weeds of an A/B test, it’s easy to focus on the trees and miss the forest. Put more literally, in A/B testing, it is easy to concentrate only on conversions and lose sight of the long-term business results produced.

While adding new copy to your site may produce higher conversion rates, if the converted users are of lower quality then a higher conversion rate may actually create a negative result for the business.

It can be easy to fall victim to vanity metrics while A/B testing, yet these metrics will distract your focus away from the actual revenue-driving results. If you’re testing a call-to-action that leads to a landing page, you should not just focus on conversions to the landing page. Instead, measure the leads produced from the page and ideally try to tie those leads to the revenue they produce.

The Fix: Test a hypothesis.

Before you start your A/B test you should outline a hypothesis you wish to validate or disprove. By focusing this hypothesis on a KPI that drives actual business results, you’ll avoid being distracted by vanity metrics.

Your A/B test should be judged on its ability to affect this KPI, and not its impact on other associated figures. So if your goal is to increase sign-ups, always judge success by measuring sign-ups, not on clickthrough rates to the sign-up page.

When working to validate or disprove your hypothesis, don’t just throw out any results that aren’t statistically significant — use these results to inform your later tests, instead. For example, if a change to your page’s CTA showed a small, statistically insignificant improvement, then this could be a sign that you might be onto something. Try running further tests on your CTA and see if you can hit on one that produces a significant improvement.

Problem #4: You only test incremental changes.

The button color test may have ruined A/B testing, as this test’s popularity has made it the frame of reference for understanding how A/B testing should be utilized. But there’s more to the practice than that. In fact, while a large website might see a big return from adjusting something small like button color, for the vast majority of us, these small, incremental changes are not going to produce meaningful results.

A/B testing can force us to aim for miniscule improvements, but by focusing only on the incremental, we may be missing a much larger opportunity.

The Fix: Periodic radical testing.

A good rule of thumb? Periodically test radical changes to your page. (This practice has since been coined radical testing.) If you’re seeing weak conversion rates, then it’s probably a sign you should invest time in testing out a radical change rather than incremental changes.

Think of your testing efforts like a poker game, you’ll need to periodically bet big if you want to see a big return.

But before you run off preaching the accolades of radical testing, be aware that it has some drawbacks. First, it requires more upfront labor than A/B testing. Radical testing requires that you invest time drafting a major page redesign. Because of this time investment, I recommend only periodically conducting radical tests.

An additional pitfall to radical testing is that it makes it hard to pinpoint what factors are having the largest impact on your site. What radical testing does allow you to do is determine if a large page rehaul will impact your conversions, but it won’t allow you to pinpoint which individual changes might be driving these results — so keep that in mind before you get started.

These are a few of the most common A/B testing mistakes but there are many, many more. Share your thoughts below some of the missteps you’ve seen.

free guide to a/b testing

Nov

22

2016

4 Common A/B Testing Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

AB Testing Mistakes Carl.jpg

When you’re creating content for the web, it’s easy to make assumptions about what you think your audience might respond to — but that’s not necessarily the right mentality.

Enter A/B testing: one of the easiest and most popular forms of conversion rate optimization (CRO) testing known to marketers. And while many businesses have seen the value in using this type of validation to improve their decision making, others have tried it, only to be left with inconclusive results — which is frustrating, to say the least. Download our free introductory guide to A/B testing here.  <http://offers.hubspot.com/an-introduction-to-ab-testing/> ” src=”https://no-cache.hubspot.com/cta/default/53/db238795-8fb2-4ed9-916d-c978f32aaeae.png”> </a></p>
<p>The trouble is, small mistakes made during A/B testing can lead to round after round of incremental optimizations that fail to producing meaningful results. To combat that, I’ve outlined some of the most common A/B testing mistakes (as well as their remedies) below. These tips are designed to help you keep your testing plans on track so you can start <a href=converting more visitors into customers, so let’s dive in …

4 Common A/B Testing Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

Problem #1: Your testing tool is faulty.

Popularity is a double-edged sword — it’s true for high schoolers and it’s true for A/B testing software.

The ubiquity of A/B testing has led to a wide range of awesome, low-cost software for users to choose from, but it’s not all of equal quality. Of course, differing tools offer differing functionality, but there can also be some more tricky differences between tools. And if you’re unaware of these differences, your A/B tests may be in trouble before you even get started.

For example, did you know that some testing software can significantly slow down your site? This decrease speed can have a harmful impact on your site’s SEO and overall conversion rates.

In fact, on average, just one second of additional load time will result in an 11% decrease in page views, and 7% decline in conversions. This creates a nightmare scenario where the websites you were hoping to improve through A/B testing are actually hindered by your efforts.

It gets worse: Your selection of A/B testing software can actually impact the results of your tests, too. Entrepreneur and influencer, Neil Patel, found that the A/B software he was using was showing significant differences, but when he implemented the new page he failed to see conversions change. His problem turned out to be a faulty testing tool.

So with all these hidden pitfalls, what can you do to make sure your A/B testing software is working fine?

The Fix: Run an A/A test.

Prior to running an A/B test, you should run an A/A test with your software to ensure it’s working without impacting site speed and performance.

For the uninitiated, an A/A test is very similar to an A/B test. The difference is that in an A/A test both groups of users are shown the exact same page. That’s right, you need to literally test a page against itself. While this may seem silly at first, by running an A/A test you will be able to identify any distortionary effects caused by your testing software.

An A/A test is the one time you want your results to be boring. If you see conversion rates drop as soon as you start testing, then your tool is probably slowing down your site. If you see dramatic differences between the results for the two pages, then your software is likely faulty.

Problem #2: You stop testing at the first significant result.

This is the statistical equivalent to taking your ball and going home. Unfortunately, when it comes to A/B testing, stopping your test as soon as you see a statistical significant result is not just bad sportsmanship, but it also produces completely invalid results.

Many tools encourage this behavior by allowing users to stop a test as soon as statistical significance has been hit. But if you want to drive real improvement to your site, you need to fight the urge to end your tests early. This may seem counterintuitive, but the more often you check your test for significant results, the more likely you are to see incorrect results.

The issue here is false positives: these are results that incorrectly show a difference between pages. The more often you check your results, the more likely you will hit a result that has been thrown off by false positives.

This isn’t an issue if you stay calm and don’t end your test early. However, if you end your test at the first sign of a significant result then you’ll likely fall victim to deceptive false positive outcomes.

Analytics firm Heap published the results of a simulation, which displays how ending your test early compromises your results.

Using standard significance testing, results from a 1,000-user test are checked once there is a 5% chance of false positive. If the tester checked the same group of users 10 times, the chance of a false positive result balloons to 19.5%. If checked 100 times, our 5% chance of a false positive increases eight fold to 40.1%.

These are good numbers to remember next time you get excited about early promising results.

The Fix: Stick to a predetermined sample size.

To combat false positives, discipline is key. You should set a sample size in stone prior to running an A/B test and resist the urge to end your test early (no matter how promising your results look).

Don’t fret if you’re scratching your head on how large your sample needs to be. There are plenty of tools available online for calculating a minimum sample size. Some of the most popular are from Optimizely and VWO.

One last note on sample size: Keep in mind that you’ll need to pick a realistic number for your page. While we would all love to have millions of users to test on, most of us don’t have that luxury. I suggest making a rough estimate of how long you’ll need to run your test before hitting your target sample size.

Problem #3: You’re only focusing on conversions.

When you’re deep in the weeds of an A/B test, it’s easy to focus on the trees and miss the forest. Put more literally, in A/B testing, it is easy to concentrate only on conversions and lose sight of the long-term business results produced.

While adding new copy to your site may produce higher conversion rates, if the converted users are of lower quality then a higher conversion rate may actually create a negative result for the business.

It can be easy to fall victim to vanity metrics while A/B testing, yet these metrics will distract your focus away from the actual revenue-driving results. If you’re testing a call-to-action that leads to a landing page, you should not just focus on conversions to the landing page. Instead, measure the leads produced from the page and ideally try to tie those leads to the revenue they produce.

The Fix: Test a hypothesis.

Before you start your A/B test you should outline a hypothesis you wish to validate or disprove. By focusing this hypothesis on a KPI that drives actual business results, you’ll avoid being distracted by vanity metrics.

Your A/B test should be judged on its ability to affect this KPI, and not its impact on other associated figures. So if your goal is to increase sign-ups, always judge success by measuring sign-ups, not on clickthrough rates to the sign-up page.

When working to validate or disprove your hypothesis, don’t just throw out any results that aren’t statistically significant — use these results to inform your later tests, instead. For example, if a change to your page’s CTA showed a small, statistically insignificant improvement, then this could be a sign that you might be onto something. Try running further tests on your CTA and see if you can hit on one that produces a significant improvement.

Problem #4: You only test incremental changes.

The button color test may have ruined A/B testing, as this test’s popularity has made it the frame of reference for understanding how A/B testing should be utilized. But there’s more to the practice than that. In fact, while a large website might see a big return from adjusting something small like button color, for the vast majority of us, these small, incremental changes are not going to produce meaningful results.

A/B testing can force us to aim for miniscule improvements, but by focusing only on the incremental, we may be missing a much larger opportunity.

The Fix: Periodic radical testing.

A good rule of thumb? Periodically test radical changes to your page. (This practice has since been coined radical testing.) If you’re seeing weak conversion rates, then it’s probably a sign you should invest time in testing out a radical change rather than incremental changes.

Think of your testing efforts like a poker game, you’ll need to periodically bet big if you want to see a big return.

But before you run off preaching the accolades of radical testing, be aware that it has some drawbacks. First, it requires more upfront labor than A/B testing. Radical testing requires that you invest time drafting a major page redesign. Because of this time investment, I recommend only periodically conducting radical tests.

An additional pitfall to radical testing is that it makes it hard to pinpoint what factors are having the largest impact on your site. What radical testing does allow you to do is determine if a large page rehaul will impact your conversions, but it won’t allow you to pinpoint which individual changes might be driving these results — so keep that in mind before you get started.

These are a few of the most common A/B testing mistakes but there are many, many more. Share your thoughts below some of the missteps you’ve seen.

free guide to a/b testing

Nov

21

2016

Why Data Is The Real MVP: 7 Examples of Data-Driven Storytelling by Leading Brands

Data Storytelling Examples.jpg

Data-driven content strategies are a hot marketing industry trend at the moment, but this is a trend that has some legs. After all, why not make all the data you gather from current and potential customers work for you?

You see, data is the real MVP of marketing: It can be used to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns, track the overall health of your brand, and (when used properly) it can help to spark new content ideas.

And if you need some inspiration, I put together a roundup of some brands that are using data to fuel really compelling and sharable stories. Check them out below.

7 Examples Of Data-Driven Storytelling By Leading Brands

1) OkCupid

OkCupid has all the demographic and connection information that one would expect from an extremely popular online dating site. But instead of keeping this info totally internal, it uses the trends and statistics to create interesting, data-driven posts that are also extremely popular on social media due to the compelling topics.

And let’s not forget the funny, clever, and insightful quizzes that users can and do answer, and how OkCupid uses that data to craft equally funny, clever, and insightful posts. 

Recommended Content:

One popular post — “Don’t Be Ugly By Accident” — talks about crafting great profile pictures for online dating, but the advice is applicable to virtually anyone who wants to put their best foot forward online, whether it is a dating site, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

OkCupid Graph Screenshot.png

2) GrubHub

The folks at GrubHub know what you eat, where you eat it, and when you order it. While this might seem a little mundane, the food delivery app mines this data and turns it into unique content like quizzes, contests, polls, and special offers.

GrubHub also partners with various publishers who use the data to create compelling native advertising that hardly feels like stereotypical sponsored content.

Recommended Content:

Leading up to the U.S. Presidential election, GrubHub created a quiz together with Time Magazine to see whether or not your dietary preferences were Democrat or Republican based on user data overlaid with voting/polling data for the same area.

Grubhub Graph Screenshot.png

3) Jawbone

The team behind Jawbone wants people to be healthy and live better lives. Beyond enabling users to track their own personal data through the fitness band, Jawbone uses that data to support its content creation efforts. 

The content produced typically involves making predictions and then providing corresponding advice based on the research it does into its user bases’ behavior.

The key takeaway for other brands here? Look for ways to use your data and the learnings you take away from it to provide actionable tips and advice that make a real difference in your user’s lives.

Recommended Content:

How University Students Sleep” discusses the sleep trends on some of America’s premier campuses and shows how sleep can affect learning and performance — a topic that’s directly tied to the data Jawbone collects. This information is relevant to almost everyone, but perhaps particularly relevant to younger demographic — one that is likely interested in using the product. 

JawBone - How University Students Sleep.png

4) Zillow

Real estate has always been a data-centric profession — from pricing data to demographic data, and much more. And Zillow takes it to the next level by leveraging the vast amounts of data in its real estate platform to create content that is useful and compelling for current buyers, sellers, and real estate agents, as well as others with a general interest in the industry. 

Take a lesson from Zillow and use your data to tell stories that have a broader appeal than your exact target demographic who is ready to convert. Make your content interesting on its own, and position yourself as an authority in your space or community. 

Recommended Content:

Everyone wants to add value to whatever it is they are promoting or selling, so Zillow used content from successful listings to determine what words they all had in common. The result? This article: “15 Words That Could Add Value To Your Listing.” Straight to the point and actionable, this is news that Zillow’s audience can certainly use, and it has the data to back it up.

Zillow Keywords That Add Value.png

5) Spotify

The popular music app Spotify does more than provide you with some excellent tunes. Instead it takes things a step further by using to data to create custom playlists based on your listening activity, the time of day, current season, and so on. 

They also compile “year of” playlists showing not only the most popular songs of the year, but also when they were popular — sparking memories and happy reminiscing.

Recommended Content:

An oldie (for the internet at least) but a goodie, this 2013 post outlining how Spotify uses analytics and data to produce playlists and other content is still pretty darn relevant and useful.

Spotify Screenshot.png

6) Uber

Having an online newsroom or company announcement page is pretty standard, but the tremendously popular peer-to-peer ridesharing service Uber features much more than the expected updates or self-promotional posts.

Instead, it uses its vast amount of data to show users the value of its service and make connections where most brands wouldn’t — sparking a conversation that is not only about its drivers and riders, but about society and human behavior in general.

Recommended Content:

Ten facts you may not know about Uber drivers,” is not only interesting in a slice-of-life type of way (who doesn’t want to know more about the people driving you around) but points to major societal trends as well. Even if you don’t use Uber, the article provides a compelling story about the types of people working as drivers.

For instance, did you know that 24% of Uber drivers are entrepreneurs using the flexibility and steady income from the app to support their own business development? 

Uber Screenshot.png

7) Mint

As the personal finance gurus of the millennial generation, Mint often uses its vast amounts of data about its audience’s finances and spending habits to create infographics centered around timely topics. 

The lesson? Take a look at Google Trends or use anything you’ve noticed in the news or our collective internet pop culture, see what statistics or behaviors from your users might apply or be connected to it somehow, and make it a story. Bonus points for creative and shareable visuals, and finding ways that your data satisfies the innate curiosity about what our fellow human beings are up to.

Recommended Content:

Mint’s Millennials and Charity Infographic — timed for and posted during the holiday season — might be the perfect mix of data, trends, and a compelling, relevant, and newsworthy topic. 

Mint Infographic.jpg

Ready to tell your data’s story?

Of course, you might not have the budget or access to the sheer volume of user data that some of these relatively big brands do, but nearly all marketers, content creators, and business owners have access to data that can be used to tell a story.

For instance, restaurant owners know what the most popular dishes are, boutique owners know the latest trends amongst their crowd (e.g., microtrends in a given neighborhood or amongst a given style subset), and B2B brand marketers probably have an idea of where the industry is going based on the questions their customers are asking and the keywords that drive users to their websites and landing pages.

Every type or marketer works with data all the time, whether that means using analytics to track user behavior and conversions to analyzing statistical information about the target audience and their interests and demographic make-up. It’s a fundamental aspect of the business, and we all use it to inform our process and measure our efforts — but companies like the aforementioned brands can and do take it to the next level.

What are your favorite examples of data-driven storytelling? Share them in the comments.

how to use customer loyalty programs

Nov

21

2016

Why Data Is The Real MVP: 7 Examples of Data-Driven Storytelling by Leading Brands

Data Storytelling Examples.jpg

Data-driven content strategies are a hot marketing industry trend at the moment, but this is a trend that has some legs. After all, why not make all the data you gather from current and potential customers work for you?

You see, data is the real MVP of marketing: It can be used to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns, track the overall health of your brand, and (when used properly) it can help to spark new content ideas.

And if you need some inspiration, I put together a roundup of some brands that are using data to fuel really compelling and sharable stories. Check them out below.

7 Examples Of Data-Driven Storytelling By Leading Brands

1) OkCupid

OkCupid has all the demographic and connection information that one would expect from an extremely popular online dating site. But instead of keeping this info totally internal, it uses the trends and statistics to create interesting, data-driven posts that are also extremely popular on social media due to the compelling topics.

And let’s not forget the funny, clever, and insightful quizzes that users can and do answer, and how OkCupid uses that data to craft equally funny, clever, and insightful posts. 

Recommended Content:

One popular post — “Don’t Be Ugly By Accident” — talks about crafting great profile pictures for online dating, but the advice is applicable to virtually anyone who wants to put their best foot forward online, whether it is a dating site, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

OkCupid Graph Screenshot.png

2) GrubHub

The folks at GrubHub know what you eat, where you eat it, and when you order it. While this might seem a little mundane, the food delivery app mines this data and turns it into unique content like quizzes, contests, polls, and special offers.

GrubHub also partners with various publishers who use the data to create compelling native advertising that hardly feels like stereotypical sponsored content.

Recommended Content:

Leading up to the U.S. Presidential election, GrubHub created a quiz together with Time Magazine to see whether or not your dietary preferences were Democrat or Republican based on user data overlaid with voting/polling data for the same area.

Grubhub Graph Screenshot.png

3) Jawbone

The team behind Jawbone wants people to be healthy and live better lives. Beyond enabling users to track their own personal data through the fitness band, Jawbone uses that data to support its content creation efforts. 

The content produced typically involves making predictions and then providing corresponding advice based on the research it does into its user bases’ behavior.

The key takeaway for other brands here? Look for ways to use your data and the learnings you take away from it to provide actionable tips and advice that make a real difference in your user’s lives.

Recommended Content:

How University Students Sleep” discusses the sleep trends on some of America’s premier campuses and shows how sleep can affect learning and performance — a topic that’s directly tied to the data Jawbone collects. This information is relevant to almost everyone, but perhaps particularly relevant to younger demographic — one that is likely interested in using the product. 

JawBone - How University Students Sleep.png

4) Zillow

Real estate has always been a data-centric profession — from pricing data to demographic data, and much more. And Zillow takes it to the next level by leveraging the vast amounts of data in its real estate platform to create content that is useful and compelling for current buyers, sellers, and real estate agents, as well as others with a general interest in the industry. 

Take a lesson from Zillow and use your data to tell stories that have a broader appeal than your exact target demographic who is ready to convert. Make your content interesting on its own, and position yourself as an authority in your space or community. 

Recommended Content:

Everyone wants to add value to whatever it is they are promoting or selling, so Zillow used content from successful listings to determine what words they all had in common. The result? This article: “15 Words That Could Add Value To Your Listing.” Straight to the point and actionable, this is news that Zillow’s audience can certainly use, and it has the data to back it up.

Zillow Keywords That Add Value.png

5) Spotify

The popular music app Spotify does more than provide you with some excellent tunes. Instead it takes things a step further by using to data to create custom playlists based on your listening activity, the time of day, current season, and so on. 

They also compile “year of” playlists showing not only the most popular songs of the year, but also when they were popular — sparking memories and happy reminiscing.

Recommended Content:

An oldie (for the internet at least) but a goodie, this 2013 post outlining how Spotify uses analytics and data to produce playlists and other content is still pretty darn relevant and useful.

Spotify Screenshot.png

6) Uber

Having an online newsroom or company announcement page is pretty standard, but the tremendously popular peer-to-peer ridesharing service Uber features much more than the expected updates or self-promotional posts.

Instead, it uses its vast amount of data to show users the value of its service and make connections where most brands wouldn’t — sparking a conversation that is not only about its drivers and riders, but about society and human behavior in general.

Recommended Content:

Ten facts you may not know about Uber drivers,” is not only interesting in a slice-of-life type of way (who doesn’t want to know more about the people driving you around) but points to major societal trends as well. Even if you don’t use Uber, the article provides a compelling story about the types of people working as drivers.

For instance, did you know that 24% of Uber drivers are entrepreneurs using the flexibility and steady income from the app to support their own business development? 

Uber Screenshot.png

7) Mint

As the personal finance gurus of the millennial generation, Mint often uses its vast amounts of data about its audience’s finances and spending habits to create infographics centered around timely topics. 

The lesson? Take a look at Google Trends or use anything you’ve noticed in the news or our collective internet pop culture, see what statistics or behaviors from your users might apply or be connected to it somehow, and make it a story. Bonus points for creative and shareable visuals, and finding ways that your data satisfies the innate curiosity about what our fellow human beings are up to.

Recommended Content:

Mint’s Millennials and Charity Infographic — timed for and posted during the holiday season — might be the perfect mix of data, trends, and a compelling, relevant, and newsworthy topic. 

Mint Infographic.jpg

Ready to tell your data’s story?

Of course, you might not have the budget or access to the sheer volume of user data that some of these relatively big brands do, but nearly all marketers, content creators, and business owners have access to data that can be used to tell a story.

For instance, restaurant owners know what the most popular dishes are, boutique owners know the latest trends amongst their crowd (e.g., microtrends in a given neighborhood or amongst a given style subset), and B2B brand marketers probably have an idea of where the industry is going based on the questions their customers are asking and the keywords that drive users to their websites and landing pages.

Every type or marketer works with data all the time, whether that means using analytics to track user behavior and conversions to analyzing statistical information about the target audience and their interests and demographic make-up. It’s a fundamental aspect of the business, and we all use it to inform our process and measure our efforts — but companies like the aforementioned brands can and do take it to the next level.

What are your favorite examples of data-driven storytelling? Share them in the comments.

how to use customer loyalty programs

Nov

18

2016

How to Run a Competitor Analysis [Free Guide]

Competitor Analysis.jpg

When was the last time you performed a competitor analysis for your brand?

Too often, a competitor analysis is reserved for the early days of a company or the launch of a new product. For others, analyzing the competition doesn’t go further than scrolling through their social media accounts every morning.

Whether it’s lack of time or understanding, many marketers are not taking full advantage of a proper competitor audit. Yet, knowing how your competitors are positioning their product and brand story is a key way to ensure your content remains compelling to your persona.

In our new ebook, How to Run a Competitor Analysis, we’ll show you how to compare your competitor’s weaknesses against your own strengths and vice versa. You’ll learn how to:

  • Identify your direct and indirect competitors
  • Analyze your competitor’s content strategy for quality and reach
  • Grade your competitor’s SEO strategy and increase your own authority
  • Equip your salespeople to compete during the decision stage of the buyer’s journey

Then, we’ll show you how to organize all of your research in a single document to align your entire team.

Fair warning, this is not the ultimate guide to replicating your competitor’s every move. But with our competitor analysis guide, you’ll discover how to run an efficient, on-going analysis that sets your brand apart.

download how to run a competitor analysis

Nov

18

2016

How to Run a Competitor Analysis [Free Guide]

Competitor Analysis.jpg

When was the last time you performed a competitor analysis for your brand?

Too often, a competitor analysis is reserved for the early days of a company or the launch of a new product. For others, analyzing the competition doesn’t go further than scrolling through their social media accounts every morning.

Whether it’s lack of time or understanding, many marketers are not taking full advantage of a proper competitor audit. Yet, knowing how your competitors are positioning their product and brand story is a key way to ensure your content remains compelling to your persona.

In our new ebook, How to Run a Competitor Analysis, we’ll show you how to compare your competitor’s weaknesses against your own strengths and vice versa. You’ll learn how to:

  • Identify your direct and indirect competitors
  • Analyze your competitor’s content strategy for quality and reach
  • Grade your competitor’s SEO strategy and increase your own authority
  • Equip your salespeople to compete during the decision stage of the buyer’s journey

Then, we’ll show you how to organize all of your research in a single document to align your entire team.

Fair warning, this is not the ultimate guide to replicating your competitor’s every move. But with our competitor analysis guide, you’ll discover how to run an efficient, on-going analysis that sets your brand apart.

download how to run a competitor analysis

Nov

17

2016

Facebook’s Miscalculated Metrics: What Marketers Need to Know

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

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

What Happened?

It started with video

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

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

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

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

A bit of a bug

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

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

Facebook Page Insights

Source: Facebook

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

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

What else was impacted?

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

More video miscalculations.

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

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

Instant articles.

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

Referrals.

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

Facebook’s Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What It All Means for Marketers

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

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

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

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

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

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

free ebook: future of Facebook advertising

free guide to using facebook for business and marketing

Nov

17

2016

Facebook’s Miscalculated Metrics: What Marketers Need to Know

Facebook Metrics.png

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

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

What Happened?

It started with video

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

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

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

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

A bit of a bug

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

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

Facebook Page Insights

Source: Facebook

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

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

What else was impacted?

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

More video miscalculations.

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

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

Instant articles.

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

Referrals.

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

Facebook’s Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What It All Means for Marketers

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

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

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

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

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

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

free ebook: future of Facebook advertising


free guide to using facebook for business and marketing

Oct

27

2016

The Ultimate List of 250+ Marketing Statistics [New Data]

Marketing Statistics.jpg

We’ve all been there … the wild goose chase of finding the perfect statistic.

You’re writing a blog post on the importance of using video in your social media strategy, for instance. As you crank through your outline, suddenly you pause. If only I had a stat to insert here.

First you come across a research report, but it requires a hefty membership fee. For your next data point, you follow the trail of links from one article to the next, only to find that the original source is 404-ed. When you finally think you’ve found the perfect social video statistic, you realize it was published during the days “poking” someone on Facebook was still socially acceptable. 

Let’s stop chasing after stats. For your researching ease, we’ve gathered all the top marketing and sales data in one place. So when you need a stat on the rise of video, we’ve got you covered. In fact, did you know 43% of consumers want to see more video content from marketers in the future? 

In our Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics, you’ll find over 250 data points on search engine optimization, content marketing, email optimization, sales and marketing alignment, and more. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Content consumption on Facebook has increased 57% in the past two years.
  • 65% of marketers say generating traffic and leads is their top challenge.
  • 82% of marketers with a service-level agreement think their marketing strategy is effective.

Bookmark our Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics today to spend less time scouring the internet for numbers and more time creating great content.

get the free 2016 state of inbound report

Oct

17

2016

8 Helpful Resources for Creating Beautiful Infographics

create_infographics.png

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

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

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

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

8 Helpful Resources for Creating Beautiful Infographics

1) Canva

Canva-16.png

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

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

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

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

Tullamores_Day_Infographic_2.png

Source: Canva

2) Piktochart

Piktochart2.png

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

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

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

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

3) Venngage

Venngage.png

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

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

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

Venngage Infographic

4) Easel.ly

easelly.png

Cost: Free, or PRO for $36/year

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

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

5) Freepik

freepik.png

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

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

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

6) Infogram

Infogram2.png

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

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

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

7) Zanifesto

Zanifesto.png

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

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

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

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

8) Google Charts

Google_charts.gif

Cost: Free

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

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

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

Google_Geo_Charts.gif

Source: Google GeoCharts

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

Start Creating

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

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

15 free infographic templates in powerpoint


15 free infographic templates in powerpoint

Oct

13

2016

How to Create an Excel Pivot Table With Medians

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As a marketer, you already know that Microsoft Excel is a powerful tool for sorting, analyzing, and sharing data. Trouble is, some of the most beneficial formulas are really tough to figure out — even for us data-crunchers. 

For example, we’ve walked through the steps of how to create a pivot table before, but unfortunately pivot tables don’t compute median values, which can be highly useful information with which organizations can analyze their growth.

Luckily, there is a workaround in Excel called the array, where you can use formulas to calculate the median of a data set. We’ll walk you through how to do that in the example below, which features a list of customers along with their company size and sales cycle length. For context, the two tables (average vs. median) look at the typical sales cycle length for each company size. Download our free Excel guide here for more tutorials to help you master the  essential Excel skills.

Ready to see how it works? Download the file here to follow along with the instructions below.

The Excel Pivot Table Alternative for Calculating Median

Excel_screen_grab-1.png

The “Average of Sales Cycle (Days)” table was created with a pivot table. The “Median of Sales Cycle (Days)” table was created by doing the following:

1) Create a column with the six possible “employees” options: 1 to 5, 6 to 10, 11 to 15, etc.

EXstep1.png

2) In the cell to the right of the “1 to 5” value, type the following:  =MEDIAN(IF($A$2:$A$20=D2, $B$2:$B$20))

ex2.png

3) When you’ve closed the final parenthesis and while you’re still in the cell, type Control+Shift+Enter (on a PC) or Command+Shift+Enter (on a Mac) to populate the median. This is how you tell Excel that you want to create an array.

Note: Once you do this, you will see curly brackets { } appear around your formula. If you type in the curly brackets yourself or copy/paste the formula above into the cell, Excel won’t understand what they mean.

ex3.png

4) Copy the median amount in the first cell (G2 in the example) into the rest of the empty cells in the table (G3-G7 in the example).

ex4.png

Here is a breakdown of what these formula inputs mean: 

median_formula.png
  1. This is the column of values for “# of Employees” in Column A
  2. This is the contents of cell D2: “1 to 5”
  3. This is the column of values for “Sales Cycle (Days)” in Column B

Translation: First, the IF statement finds all rows where the # of Employees = “1 to 5”; it then stores all of the corresponding “sales cycle” values in an array. The MEDIAN function then pulls the median out of that array of sales cycles for the “1 to 5” customers.

When to Use Median to Analyze Data

Average (or mean) and median are common measures of data, but generally speaking average is more commonly used than median.

While average is a helpful way to determine what a typical member of a data set looks like, in some cases, median actually provides a fuller picture of a data set within its context.

In fact, average can actually be misleading if the data set is highly skewed and a large set of the population is similar with several far-away outliers. In such cases, the median is a better indicator of what a typical member of the data set looks like.

For example, in the United States, household income is commonly measured and referred to in terms of the median. This could be due to the fact that high-income inequality nationwide would make the average a poor representation of a typical American household’s income. 

Here’s another scenario: If a business were analyzing sales, it would be important for them to consider the types of data in the sets they were analyzing. For example, calculating the average amount of total monthly sales would be a good indicator of performance because each month has roughly the same number of days and opportunities to sell, so the average would show what a baseline expectation of productivity would be.

However, the average may not be the best measure to analyze each sale’s size that year. If the organization sold products varying in price from $10 to $25,000, then the average sale size might be skewed by the lowest and highest prices. Instead, the median would give the organization an idea of if sales were typically higher or lower in price. See the difference?

Ultimately, analyzing both the average and the median will provide the most full picture possible of your organization’s raw data, and pivot tables in Excel, such as the ones above, can help you analyze both data sets.

What formulas do you use most frequently in Excel to analyze your organization’s data? Share with us in the comments below. 

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

free guide: how to use excel

 
free guide: how to use excel

Aug

16

2016

7 Excel Error Messages You’re Sick of Seeing (And How to Fix Them)

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Here’s the truth: Excel struggles are real.

As marketers, it’s likely that you know these tiny conflicts all too well. From accidental deletes to misplaced numbers, one click can throw your spreadsheet all out of whack. And putting it back together once you’ve done the damage can be seriously frustrating — not to mention, time-consuming. Download our free email tracking template here to easily track your email  campaign metrics. 

But you’re not alone: Even the most advanced Excel users experience these errors from time to time. So for that reason, we’ve put together some tips designed to save you a few minutes (or hours) when solving frustrating Excel errors. Check ’em out below. 

Best Practices That’ll Help You Reduce Excel Errors

Before we go over the errors and tips, we wanted to share a few helpful tricks we’ve learned from our own Excel experts. These precautionary lessons are designed to help you avoid errors all together, making life a whole lot easier:

  • Begin every formula with an equal sign.
  • Use the * symbol to multiply numbers, not an X.
  • Match all opening and closing parentheses so that they are in pairs.
  • Use quotation marks around text in formulas.

7 Excel Error Messages You’re Sick of Seeing (And How to Fix Them)

We’ve all fallen victim to the little green arrow in upper-left hand corner of a cell before. You know, that pesky little thing that Excel uses to indicate something has gone wrong?

In many cases, clicking on that arrow will pull up enough information for you to remedy the problem at hand. Take a look:

Screen_Shot_2016-08-15_at_3.00.58_PM.png

But in other cases, you still can’t seem to figure out what’s gone wrong. For those instances, we’ve provided the following list of common errors, explanations, and tips for overcoming them. Dig in for the context you need to right your wrongs and get back on the Excel saddle.

1) #VALUE!

Excel displays the #VALUE! error when it finds spaces, characters, or text in a formula where it is expecting a number.

Excel requires formulas to contain numbers only and won’t respond to formulas associated with numbers, so it will show you an error is if you’ve included anything else.

Screen_Shot_2016-07-29_at_10.08.28_AM.png

How to Resolve This Error:

An easy solution to this error is to double check your formula to make sure that you only used numbers. If you’re still seeing an error, check for blank cells, missing formulas linking to cells or any special characters you may be using.

In the example above, the “Sum” column is referring to empty cells. Excel can’t calculate the sum of empty columns, so it gives us an error.

2) #####

When you see ##### displayed in your cell, it can look a little scary. The good news is that this simply means the column isn’t wide enough to display the value you’ve inputted. And that’s any easy fix!

Screen_Shot_2016-07-06_at_1.45.26_PM.png

How to Resolve This Error:

Click on the right border of the column header and increase the column width.

giphy-32.gif

Pro Tip: You can double-click the right border of the header to automatically fit the widest cell in that column. 

giphy_2-10.gif

3) #DIV/0!

When you see #DIV/0!, you are asking Excel to divide a formula by zero or an empty cell. In the same way that this task wouldn’t work if you were doing division by hand, or on a calculator, it won’t work in Excel either.

How to Resolve This Error:

This error is pretty easy to resolve. Simply change the value of the cell to a value that is not equal to 0 or add in a value if your cell was blank. Here’s an example:

DIV_Excel_Error.png

Correct_Excel_Outcome.png

In some cases, you might find that you’re simply waiting for input in a particular cell. Rather than including a “0” as a placeholder, and subsequently turning up a #DIV/0! error, you can add a custom display message. Learn more about your alternative options here

4) #REF!

This one can sometimes be a little tricky to figure out, however Excel usually displays #REF! when a formula references a cell that is not valid.

What does that really mean?

That means that you may have accidentally deleted or pasted over a cell that was used in your formula. For example, let’s say that the “Outcome” column references the formula: =SUM(A2,B2,C2).  

SUM_Including_3_cells.png

If we were to accidentally delete the “Number 2” column, we’d see this error:

Outcome_REF_Error.png

How to Resolve This Error:

Before you paste over a set of cells make sure that there are no formulas that will be affected. Also, when deleting cells it’s important to double check what formulas are being referred in those cells.

Pro Tip: If you accidentally delete a few cells, you can click the Undo button on the Quick Access Toolbar (or press CTRL+Z for PC / Command + Z for Mac ) to restore them.

5) #NULL!

#NULL! errors occur when you specify an intersection of two areas that don’t actually intersect, or when an incorrect range operator is used.

To give you some additional context, here’s how Excel reference operators work:

  • Range operator (semi colon): Defines a references to a range of cells.
  • Union operator (comma): Combines two references into a single reference.
  • Intersection operator (space): Returns a reference to the intersection of two ranges.

NULL_Error.png

 ↓

Correct_Range_Excel.png

How to Resolve This Error:

First things first, check to make sure that you are using the correct syntax in your formula.

  • You should be using a colon to separate the first cell from the last cell when you refer to a continuous range of cells in a formula.
  • On the other hand, you should be using a comma should when you refer to two cells that don’t intersect. 

6) #N/A

When you see #N/A, this typically means that the numbers you are referring to in your formula cannot be found.

You may have accidentally deleted a number or row that’s being used in your formula, or are referring to a sheet that was deleted or not saved.

For advanced users, one of the most common causes of the #N/A error is when a cell can’t be found from a formula referenced in a VLOOKUP. (Check out this post for more on VLOOKUPs.)

How to Resolve This Error:

Triple check all your formulas and be sure to look closely at which sheets or rows may have been deleted or incorrectly referenced. If you have a few formulas linked together, check to see that everything in every formula has a value.

For advanced users using VLOOKUP functions, reference this guide.

7) #NUM!

If your formula contains numeric values that aren’t valid, you’ll see an #NUM! error appear in Excel. Often times this happens when you enter a numeric value that’s different than the other arguments used in your formula.

For example, when you’re entering an Excel formula, make sure you don’t include values like $1,000 in currency format. Instead, enter 1000 and then format the cell with currency and commas after the formula is calculated.

How to Resolve This Error:

Check to see if you have entered any formatted currency, dates, or special symbols. Then, make sure to remove those characters from the formula, only keeping the numbers themselves. 

Here’s how you can format numbers after removing the commas and currency from your formula:

giphy_7-10.gif

(To adjust the currency, select the small triangle to the right of the icon to select an option from the dropdown menu.)

What pesky errors did we miss? Let us know in the comments section below.

free guide: how to use excel

Jul

22

2016

What’s the Deal With Ad Blocking? 11 Stats You Need to Know

Ad_Blockers.jpg

It’s no secret that internet users are no strangers to seeking out the information they need online — in fact, Google now processes over 40,000 search queries every second.

And as the volume of search queries continues to climb, advertisers are recognizing an opportunity to introduce a number of different types of ads. (Think: pop-up ads, autoplaying video ads, and the dreaded mobile ad that takes up the entire phone screen.)

As a reaction to some of these disruptive online ads, internet users have started installing ad blocking extensions by the millions. In case you’re wondering: Ad blockers scan websites for advertising code to prevent them from loading on a browser.

Here’s a visual look at how they work:

To help marketers get a handle on the state of ad blocking today, HubSpot Research dove deep into the issue to create this report. Below, we’ve outlined some of they most noteworthy statistics and takeaways from our research to get you up to speed quickly.

11 Ad Blocking Stats You Need to Know

1) Adblock Plus, the world’s most popular ad blocking extension, has been downloaded over 500 million times.

Many research and news sites have different numbers, but it’s hard to ignore the hockey stick growth in adoption here.

Image Credit: PageFair

2) Ad blocking is blamed for costing the advertising industry $22 Billion in 2015.

Why is ad blocking a big deal? When ads aren’t displayed, content sites that host ads and the advertiser lose out on potential revenue. And the losses have been enormous.

3) As for potential revenue losses in the future, Ovum predicts that $35 billion in ad revenue will lost by 2020 because of ad blocking.

4) 64% say ads today are annoying or intrusive.

5) Pop-up ads, autoplaying video ads, and online video ads are the most disliked online ad types.

6) 70% of respondents say they would have a lower opinion of a company that uses pop-up advertisement.


7) 34% of people say usually click online ads by accident.

8) Adoption of mobile ad blocking is growing even faster (90% YOY) than desktop-based ad blocking adoption. A study from Priori Data suggests 419 million people (a fifth of the world’s internet users) have some type of mobile ad blocker installed.

9) 83% of online browsers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and France say they’d like to block mobile ads.

10) 73% of people stated that ads that cover the entire screen on a phone are the most annoying, followed by ads that track browsing (65%).

11) When asked about the best way to support websites (to cover costs), the majority (68%) of respondents say they don’t mind seeing ads — as long as their not annoying.

The lesson? Marketers need to use unobtrusive forms of advertising (native ads, social ads, etc.) that people tolerate more than interruptive ads like pop-ups. (Check out this post on native ad examples for inspiration.)

Want to learn more about ad blocking? Check out the full report here.

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Jul

7

2016

12 Tips for Writing Clickable Search Ad Copy

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Content creation is an essential part of a marketer’s day-to-day job. From drafting ebooks to promoting webinars, we have to be creative and concise with our writing in order to engage our audience.

However, finding the right words can be tough — especially when there is limited space. I’m sure we’ve all struggled with having just one too many characters in a tweet (I know I have).

Creating search ad copy is similarly tough. It’s crucial to craft just the right copy to draw your potential customers in and make them interested in your offer.

So how do you stand out in just a few words? We’ve put together a list of best practices that will help you boost your ad performance in no time.

What Is a Search Ad?

First things first: What does a search ad look like?

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Search ads are ads that appear when a potential customer searches for your product (or related item) in a search engine. They are small snippets of text that sit right above or below the top-ranked results. If you’ve ever searched for something on Google, you’ve likely seen a search ad.

A typical search ad contains a heading, a link, and a short description of the offer the company is making:

  • Headline: This is an eye-catching title that describes your company or product and uses your chosen keywords.
  • Display URL: This is the URL that you’d like the ad to link to. It’s always a great idea to click and make sure the URL is live and working properly.
  • Ad Copy: Time to get creative! The copy of the ad is what will make your brand stand out. This is a good place to put the description of your offer.

Since there’s only a finite amount of space in each ad, it’s crucial to use it wisely. So what are the length limits for each of these components? Here are the official character limits as provided by Google:

  • Headline: 25 characters
  • Display URL: 35 characters shown (255 characters total)
  • Ad copy: 35 characters per line

Now that we’ve gotten the definition of a search ad out of the way, here are 12 tips for writing quality ad copy and making the most of the limited space.

How to Write Click-Worthy Search Ad Copy

1) Highlight what makes your brand unique.

With so many brands out there, it’s essential to make yours stand out. So if you offer shipping to multiple countries, say that. If you specialize in a certain product or service, make sure to mention it. If you have happier customers than your competitors, call that out.

Notice how JetBlue highlights the key offerings that make their brand unique in the search ad below: free WiFi, unlimited snacks, and most legroom in coach. All these features could make a potential customer interested in JetBlue and compel them to click on the ad.

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2) Attract your ideal customers with a special offer.

Because you only have so much space on a search ad, including your special offer will make customers more likely to click. Do you offer a free trial? Perhaps free shipping, if your company is in the B2C space? These features make for perfect headlines that will grab a potential customer’s attention.

As you can see in the search ad below, Gap uses “40% off purchase” and “free shipping” to draw in their customers. A potential customer who might have been hesitant to try Gap because of the price could now be more likely to click, familiarize themselves with the brand, and maybe even purchase — all because of the special offer.

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3) Include an actionable CTA.

In order for an ad to be effective, it needs to prompt customers to take an action. Whether it’s filling out a form, starting a free trial, or ordering now, actionable language prompts a desired behavior.

You can see this in action below. Time Magazine uses actionable language in their ad to compel the viewer to subscribe.

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4) Include at least one keyword.

Keywords are key (pun intended) for your ads to perform well. We suggest including at least one keyword in your copy so that customers looking for a product in your industry can easily find your brand.

For example, if you sell soccer shoes, you’ll want to include that specific phrase in your ad copy. If a customer searches for that keyword, it will appear bolded in the ad.

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To get started with choosing the best keywords for your ad, here are some helpful tips:

  • Think like a customer. What terms would your ideal customer search for if they were looking to buy your product? (Tip: If you don’t know, ask them.) 
  • Strike a balance between general and specific. Choose keywords that are specific enough to target your primary customer persona, yet general enough to generate brand awareness among those searching more broadly.
  • Pick the right amount. Google suggests that you include 5-20 keywords per ad group, affording you plenty of room for both specific and generic keywords.

If you want to learn more about how keywords work with search ads, check out Google’s keyword advice.

5) Keep your ads current.

There’s nothing worse than clicking on an ad for free shipping just to find out the offer expired yesterday. Keeping your ads current and relevant will ensure that prospects have a positive and pleasant user experience, and eventually become paying customers.

It’s also a best practice to address a new product release, updated pricing, or even bad press in your ad copy when applicable. If customers search for your business and expect to see a relevant update, it’s crucial you include the latest in your ad.

6) Get super specific.

Studies show that incorporating numbers and statistics into your copy can make it appear more accurate and credible. Not to mention that the more targeted and specific your ad copy, the better it can perform.

If you add statistics, discount percentages, rankings, or reviews to your ad copy, prospects can be more likely to read and click. Numbers are easy to digest, and help people understand what you’re offering them.

7) Match your ad copy to the landing page.

As marketers, we know the importance of having great landing page copy. But once you start using ads to support your landing page, consistency between the two becomes critical.

Don’t promise a user a free ebook in a search ad if the ebook is not actually free, or tease a 10-day trial when there is in reality no trial at all. Customers value consistency, and they’re more likely to believe in your product if they are confident in your offerings.

Going back to our soccer shoes example, Soccer.com uses a search ad to promote $4.99 shipping on orders over $99. When a user clicks their ad, they’re taken to a page that prominently features this offer.

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8) Optimize for mobile.

According to a recent HubSpot Research study, 33% of respondents said their primary device was their phone. 

This means it’s critical to ensure your ad copy speaks to mobile users as well as those searching on laptops. If a customer is trying to find out more about a product or service from their mobile phone, it’s in your best interest to guarantee they can learn about your brand just as easily as on their desktop.

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9) Watch the competition.

Standing out from your competitors is key when composing search ads. Your copy is what will differentiate your brand from others in the industry.

Here are three search ads that come up when you Google “hotels in New York.” The latter two websites have almost the exact same ad copy, but the first result is a bit different. Booking.com is likely watching their competitors very closely and knows their differentiated copy is what will attract clicks.

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10) Personalize to attract your target audience.

Are you trying to reach college students searching for textbooks? Or perhaps last-minute shoppers who forgot to buy their friend a birthday present? Understanding precisely who you’re going after will help you craft personalized copy that resonates with your target audience, and speaks to their pain points and needs.

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Ready to take your personalization to the next level? Give Google’s Customer Match tool a try. Customer Match allows you to target your ads to specific users and personalize the copy that each of those users sees. For example, if you work for a travel company that offers a loyalty program, you could target customers that just joined the program with copy like, “Get the most out of your loyalty club membership.” Conversely, you could hone in on people who haven’t yet joined the club — “Loyalty club members save $X per year. Join today!”

11) Triple check for spelling and grammatical errors.

You would be surprised how many ads contain spelling, grammar, and/or punctuation errors. And these mistakes can take a toll on your brand.

Notice anything funky with this steak house ad? First, it’s missing a period between “seafood” and “Best.” It then follows by a pretty egregious “manhatten” misspelling.

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Lesson: Solicit the services of a proofreader before you publish your ad.

12) Experiment with your copy.

Just like you experiment on landing pages, emails, and site pages, it’s important to always be testing your ads. There’s no better way to determine what resonates with your target audience and what falls flat than to test. Whether it’s experimenting with CTAs, language, offers, or keyword usage, your tests will help you create maximally effective and relevant ads.

Not sure what experiments to try? Consider adding new keywords, featuring new ad copy, or using different targeting. Then, decide what percentage of your auctions should feature the experimental version of the ad.

WordStream performed a test where they added a comma to their ad headline copy in one variation, and took it out in the other. Just that one change increased CTR by .38%!

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This goes to show that tests don’t have to be complex — tweaking small variables such as punctuation, word order, or even vocabulary can make your ads that much more successful.

These tips will help you create lovable search ads that people love to click. And we’re willing to bet you’ll love your engagement metrics after implementing some of these tactics.

Have any suggestions we might have missed? Let us know in the comments section below.

free guide to using Google AdWords

Jun

23

2016

The Science Behind Design: 8 Psychology Principles to Apply to Your Next Project

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When it comes down to it, design is all about making choices. Each color, shape, line, font, text, and graphic you use will ultimately influence the message you’re trying to get across.

I’ve often been in conversations with people who know they should get better at design, but they don’t feel they have a “natural sense” for creativity. However, I argue that learning to design well has as much to do with psychology and user behavior as it does creativity.

But learning the “psychology of design” doesn’t mean picking up a playbook that’ll tell you the right and wrong way to design something. That’s just not the way it works.

What brushing up on psychological principles (as they relate to design) will do is help you understand what goes into the creation of intuitive, intentional design experiences. 

Want to learn more? We’ll dive into a handful of psychological principles below to help you get the wheels turning.  

8 Psychological Principles That’ll Change the Way You Design

1) Mental Models

Computer scientists and UX designers think and talk a lot about mental models, because the process of designing something new — like a website layout or a new app — requires trying to uncover and act on what users might find to be intuitive.

Mental modeling is the process of mapping out what a person understands about the real world through experience and replicating those models in the design of something in the virtual space. This is all about trying to uncover your audience’s intuitive process.

Think of your computer files and folders. They’re based on the same old-school method of organizing hard files, so it’s easy for the user to understand — despite the visual looking rather different.

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For designers, understanding what mental modeling is and why it’s important comes down to simply designing with your users’ experience in mind.

Throughout your design process, do an “intuitive check.” Are your visuals moving right to left, top to bottom? Is your message clear and easy to understand, or is it unintentionally hidden?

A gut check with a friend or coworker is a great way to keep an eye on whether your mental modeling is working well in your designs.

2) The Von Restorff Effect

The Von Restorff effect is, quite simply, the idea that the oddball out is the one that gets remembered.

When designing, sometimes you want your audience’s eye to be drawn to one spot –even if there are other design elements around it. This might mean using a different color, font, size, etc.

In this example, Target Jobs, a UK-based career and job-searching tool, used this image to illustrate how one might stand out from the crowd in the job market. By placing a group of similar elements next to one different element (the red shoes), this image uses the Von Restorff effect to show how it’s the different idea that really stands out to the viewer.

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Image Credit: Target Jobs

While this example’s idea is fairly straightforward, you can also use the Von Restorff effect throughout your site pages to draw your users’ eyes to certain spots on a page.

For instance, in CTA creation, you can use the Von Restorff to create contrast on your page and draw your users’ attention, like this:

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3) Gestalt Principles

Gestalt psychology explores how elements are perceived in relation to each other visually. The gestalt principles, or gestalt laws, focus specifically on how design elements are grouped together.

  • Proximity: The idea that when objects are placed in close proximity to one another, those objects are seen as a group rather than seen individually. Although there are lots of shapes within the “U,” in the Unilever logo, the eye still recognizes those objects as a group making up the “U” figure.

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Image Credit: Unilever

  • Similarity: Objects that look similar will be perceived as one object or as a part of the same group. In the NBC logo, the similar cones are perceived as a group because they look similar to one another.

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Image Credit: NBC

  • Closure: Closure occurs when a shape is still perceived as a whole even when the object is not fully closed in reality. In the Girl Scout logo, the shapes and whitespace are used to create a perceived series of silhouettes even though only some of the shapes are actually enclosed.

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Image Credit: Girl Scouts

  • Continuity: Occurs as the eye moves naturally from one object to the other. This often happens through the creation of curved lines allowing the eye to flow with the line. In the Olympic logo, the eye can see that the objects are continuous as they link with each other, creating a grouped visual.

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Image Credit: Olympics

  • Figure & ground: When the eye notices an object as an object, it separates the object (figure) from the surrounding area (the ground). In this logo-tribute to Steve Jobs, the viewer either see the white space as the figure or the ground, depending on whether the eye looks at the apple or the silhouette of Steve Jobs.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Mak Long (via The Next Web)

4) Visceral Reactions

Have you ever come across a website, picture, or anything visual that you just instinctively loved but couldn’t necessarily explain why? You probably had a visceral reaction — the kind of reaction that just comes from the gut.

Designing for visceral reactions is essentially designing to create a positive aesthetic impression. To some extent it takes just knowing what looks pleasing to people and what doesn’t.

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Airbnb uses visceral designs to capture the beauty and exotic aesthetic of travel. Although most Airbnb’s for rental probably don’t have beachside views or colorful accommodations, Airbnb uses design to connect their audience with the excitement and possibility of traveling the world.

Designing for the visceral can be as a simple as using beautiful photography and colorful imagery to capture the attention of your audience.

5) The Psychology of Color

We often associate different colors with feelings or thoughts, so designers have done a lot of research to find out which colors humans associate with different moods.

For a more in-depth look at which colors are used for different moods, here’s a great infographic on the psychology of color. Otherwise, here’s the basic rundown:

Blue: Secure, calm, honest, trustworthy, strong, caring

Corporate businesses often use blue to convey a neutral sense of trustworthiness. Facebook’s blue color scheme, for example, helps convey to users that it’s a secure, strong social network. This helps users feel a sense of privacy and security even when sharing and displaying lots of personal information.

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Red: Energy, love, exciting, action, bold, passionate

Coca-Cola is one of the classic examples of how a company has used red in its branding to communicate how exciting and energetic it is as a product.

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Orange: Happy, sociable, friendly, affordable

At HubSpot, orange is our favorite color. And it’s no wonder why we love it so much — it communicates to our audience how happy we are to be helping our customers do better marketing.

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Yellow: Logical, optimistic, forward-thinking, confidence, playful

Bzzy, an app that let’s you easily auto-reply your friends when you’re busy, uses a yellow color scheme to communicate its innovate style while still maintaining a sense of playfulness.

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Purple: Imaginative, creative, nostalgic

Kaleidoscope’s purple color scheme helps communicate the imaginative, helpful nature of its app: an app that helps you do quick and easy file comparison when you need to merge changes across different versions.

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Green: Growth, organic, natural, caring, fresh, earth

For companies, like Whole Foods, that want to highlight an obvious connection to nature and freshness, using green as a basis in their color scheme is a no brainer. Green helps communicate the natural, organic feeling that Whole Foods strives to tie into its branding.

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Black: Sophistication, luxury, seductive, formal, authority

Want to travel in VIP style? 212 Supercars, a luxury car rental and driver service, uses a sleek black-and-white design to communicate it’s luxurious and exclusive branding.

Multi-color: Multi-channel, positive, playful, bold, boundless

Google, the classic example of a multi-channel, playful company communicates it effectively through its use of the multi-color scheme.

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6) The Psychology of Shapes

Like colors, humans associate different shapes with certain emotions and characteristics.

Although less of a principle itself, the psychology of shapes boils down to studies that have shown which characteristics people match with certain shapes.

Circles, Ovals, and Ellipses: Positive emotional messages attached to community, friendship, love, relationships, unity, and femininity.

AT&T’s circular logo helps its brand communicate a universality feel. As a wireless network, this makes sense. The use of shape helps connect the audience with a recognizable pattern.

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Image Credit: AT&T

Squares and Triangles: Stability and balance, strength, professionalism, efficiency, power, and masculinity.

Microsoft and Delta both use triangles and squares in their logos. This helps establish feelings of stability and efficiency when viewing the logo, which are positive feelings to associate with brands.

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Image Credit: Microsoft

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Image Credit: Delta

Vertical Lines: Masculinity, strength, and aggression.

While the basic cloud shape of SoundCloud’s logo might communicate emotions associated with dreaming and creativity, the vertical lines create a more aggressive feel. It’s the combination of the lines and the overall cloud shape that helps communicate the duality of the creative and the strength of SoundCloud as a tool.

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Image Credit: SoundCloud

Horizontal Lines: Community, tranquility, and calm.

As a civil rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign is a great example to consider when thinking about building community and peace. And the horizontal lines/rectangles used in the logo really help to communicate both equality and tranquility. 

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Image Credit: Human Rights Campaign

7) Dual-Coding Theory

You’ve probably heard the statistic before that our brains process visual information 60,000X faster than text. Well, dual-coding theory is the idea that both visual and verbal cues can represent ideas, but using both can help the brain recall those ideas faster.

In other words, we need visual and verbal information to digest and remember information.

When designing, this means illustrating ideas as much as possible, while still using verbal messages to fully explain ideas.

In the example below, the graphic shows a visual, literal representation depicting primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. But to fully grasp the concepts, it’s necessary to pair the visual information with written (verbal) information. The dual-coding is what helps the reader truly understand the concept.

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8) Cost-Benefit Analysis

Whether we consciously think it or not, every decision we make goes through a cost benefit analysis, which is simply the process of weighing the costs and the benefits of an action before we take it.

If the costs outweigh the benefits, we don’t take action.

As designers, our job is to make sure whatever we have designed has benefits that outweigh the costs. This means making our content as simple as possible for the audience while still fulfilling the goal of the content.

Think of a form submission on your landing pages. Say you want to offer your audience some top-of-the-funnel content like a template or high-level ebook.

When you strategize about getting users to fill out a form to claim this content, you have to remember to design your conversion process with your audience’ cost-benefit analysis in mind. In other words, don’t ask for more than you need. 

How do you use psychology to inform your designs? Share you thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

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Jun

22

2016

Data Journalism: A Simple Guide for Marketers

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For as long as we can remember, newsrooms have used data to support their stories. Whether it’s elections, global warming, or Oscar predictions, writers and reporters dig deep for facts and statistics that’ll add credibility to their claims.

However, in recent years, data journalism has become the norm in almost every industry. And as a result, the need for data journalists continues to rise — companies like Priceonomics, Pandora, and many more digital agencies are all looking for people that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty with numbers and charts.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of data journalism, you’re not out of luck. In fact, you’re the right place. To help businesses understand the value of this approach, I’ve done some research myself.

Below you’ll find helpful information surrounding what data journalism is, what data journalists do, and how you can get started.

What is Data Journalism?

Data journalism is a specialized practice that involves the discovery and distribution of news, with a heavy focus on analysis, data visualization, and storytelling.

A brief history of data journalism:

One of the earliest examples of data journalism was seen in one of the very first editions of The Guardian in 1821. The bound volume included a table of leaked data from all the schools in Manchester, the number of students (by gender), and the cost of education.

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Image Credit: Data Journalism Handbook

This was the first time the public had been exposed to this type of information, and the author of the piece suggested that this type of data transparency — while controversial at the time — would be necessary moving forward if they wished to improve current conditions and processes.

If you fast forward to the 1950s, you can see how the introduction of computers — specifically the UNIVAC — helped to more dramatically shift the focus of traditional journalism. For example, one of the first instances of computer-assisted reporting (CAR) was during the 1952 presidential election, where CBS News used the machine’s calculation of election results in their broadcast.

And by the early 1970s, the term precision journalism surfaced as a way to describe a new way of looking at newsgathering — one that was rooted in scientific techniques, data collection, and thoughtful analysis. According to Philip Meyer, who went on to author a book about the practice, this new perspective was needed to help journalists establish both objectivity and truth.

“Precision journalism was a way to expand the tool kit of the reporter to make topics that were previously inaccessible, or only crudely accessible, subject to journalistic scrutiny,” Meyer explained.

Thanks to the wealth of information available today, data journalism continues to evolve and expand. With the help of visual tools such as infographics and interactive charts, journalists have become more sophisticated storytellers — using data to inform a majority of their work.

So, What Do Data Journalists Do?

The general role of data journalists is to create data-backed content that sheds light on facts, interesting trends, and trivia. A data journalist could be a writer, economics writer, data scientist, data visualizer, or even just a data nerd.

As a result of the level of content saturation on the internet, data journalism is no longer restricted to big publishing companies and newsrooms. While businesses of all shapes and sizes continue to seek out opportunities to create better, more informative content, they’re beginning to explore different tools and formats for conveying information.

With an emphasis on in-depth research and lateral thinking, data journalists are able to cut through the content clutter and information overload. But there’s more to the job than that …

They use data in a myriad of ways.

In fact, there is a huge potential for sites that publish content — no matter what the topic may be — to infuse their information with statistics and compelling, supporting visuals.

For example, a group of students from Technical University of Munich built a Game of Thrones-inspired website called A Song of Ice and Data to geek out over the statistical side of the show’s plot lines:

We wanted to tell some of the Game of Thrones stories using data that we acquire on the web. Many fans of the Ice and Fire books and of the HBO show have amassed a lot of data about the plot, the characters, the great houses of westeros, the history and culture of the world of Ice and Fire, and in general anything you can think about this cultural phenomenon.”

And that’s exactly what they do. Check it out:

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They don’t always rely on numbers.

Data journalism is much more than fumbling with Excel sheets and number crunching. In fact, in some cases, it doesn’t have to be rooted in numbers at all.

For example, in this piece for The New York Times, the author has done extensive research on ‘whitewashing’ in Hollywood to make a case for Asian-American’s lack of visibility on screen.

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Rather than focusing solely on numbers, the piece includes quotes from Asian actors, cites examples of various movies, and talks about Twitter trends like #whitewashedOUT.

So while data journalism requires writers to dig through data to uncover statements, sentiments, or credible information that can be used as supporting evidence, it doesn’t have to focus on numbers alone.

They make data appealing or interactive.

In most cases, data-rich content works better when it is visually appealing or interactive. After all, the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than it does text.

With this in mind, many companies have used data to create compelling interactive content. For data journalists, this is where coding, visualizing, and a keen sense of design and UX comes into the picture.

A great example of this comes from the folks at ConcertHotels, who researched the history of rock to create an awesome piece of content that displays 100 years of rock music by year.

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As you scroll down and click on each, sample music plays. They’ve sorted the music pieces by year — and color-sorted the data to make it even more clear.

The lesson? Sometimes people need more than simple pie charts and graphs to understand data. Data journalists get that. And as a result, they must continuously hone their design and development skills. (Looking for some tools to help you get your design skills in gear? Check out this post.)

They know how to tell a story.

The best data journalists are also skillful storytellers. They know how to distill information to create a clear and convincing narrative.

If I told you that 5000+ people have died in New Jersey because of heroin, you’d probably be surprised. But would that number alone be enough to really move you?

Probably not.

Now, what if I made you scroll past tombstones upon tombstones with the names and ages of the people who died? Would that make an impact?

Well, that’s exactly what NJ.com did

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[Click here to view the entire visual]

Pretty alarming, isn’t it?

That’s what makes it such a great example of data journalism. It tells a powerful story without having to relying on a ton of written words. It’s simple, yet impactful.

What Resources Do I Need for Data Journalism?

The internet is full of resources to provide you with data of all types and sizes.

You have data tools that can help you drill down data to the last pixel. You have data visualization tools that help you make sense of data chaos. You have predictive tools that throw light on future trends. At the end of the day, the possibilities in today’s data-driven world are endless.

To help you get started, here are a few basic tools to explore …

Data/Research

Data Visualization

(Check out this post for even more data visualization tools and resources.)

Have you experimented with data journalism? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

free guide to data visualization

Jun

9

2016

48 Instagram Stats That’ll Help You Improve Your Posting Strategy

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With over 400 million active users, brands are quickly recognizing the need to have a presence on Instagram.

But, as with any social network, the brands that are getting the most out of Instagram are the ones who are smart about what they post, when they post, how often they post, and whom they’re targeting.

But how do they know what’s “smart”?

That’s where the data comes in. There’s a whole lot of research out there about Instagram — everything from the demographics of its users and how often brands are posting, to how caption length affects engagement and what the most popular emoji is on Instagram. (See #32.)

For example, did you know that a brand would need about 2,325 Instagram followers to get 100 Likes & comments on a post? Or that brands posted an average of 4.9 times per week on Instagram in 2015? Read on to uncover more Instagram stats that’ll help you get ideas and improve your own Instagram posting strategy.

48 Instagram Stats

Click on a category below to jump to the stats for that category:

  1. Instagram’s Growth
  2. Audience & Demographics
  3. Brand Adoption
  4. Instagram Post Content
  5. Instagram Posting Strategy

Instagram’s Growth

1) The Instagram community has grown from 90 million active users in January 2013 to more than 400 million active users in September 2015. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: Statista

2) Instagram’s more than 400 million active users place it well ahead of Twitter (310 million active users) Snapchat (200 million active users), and Pinterest (100 million active users). Tweet this stat! (Source)

3) The proportion of online adults who use Instagram and Pinterest has doubled since Pew Research Center first started tracking social media platform adoption in 2012. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: Pew Research Center

4) Instagram’s user base is growing far faster than social network usage in general in the U.S. Instagram will grow 15.1% this year, compared to just 3.1% growth for the social network sector as a whole. Tweet this stat! (Source)

5) Between 2016 and 2020, eMarketer predicts Instagram will add 26.9 million users — almost double the incremental users expected for Twitter, and far more than any other social platform tracked. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: eMarketer

6) In 2016, 9.5% of Facebook’s global mobile ad revenues (20.1% in the U.S.) will come from Instagram. By 2017, Instagram’s share will grow to 14.0% globally (28.0% in the U.S.). Tweet this stat! (Source)

7) Instagram and Snapchat are tied for the second-highest used messaging app (behind Facebook Messenger) for millennials at 47%. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: Refuel Agency

8) Other than Instagram’s own account, the most-followed Instagram account as of March 2016 is run by American singer Selena Gomez, followed by celebrities Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian, and Ariana Grande. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: Statista

Audience & Demographics

9) 52% of teens use Instagram, and nearly as many (41%) use Snapchat. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: Pew Research Center

10) 28% of adult internet users used Instagram in 2015, up from 26% in September 2014. Tweet this stat! (Source)

11) 55% of young adults (ages 18–29) used Instagram in 2015, compared with 37% who did so in 2013. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: Pew Research Center

12) In 2015, 59% of Instagram users used the platform daily, including 35% who visited several times a day. This 59% figure reflects a 10-point increase from September 2014, when 49% of Instagram users reported visiting the site on a daily basis. Tweet this stat! (Source)

13) It was predicted that more than one-third of mobile phone users (roughly 89.4 million Americans) will be on Instagram at least once a month in 2016. By 2017, an estimated 51.8% of social network users will use Instagram. Tweet this stat! (Source)

14) More than 75% of Instagram’s user base consists of people living outside of the U.S. Tweet this stat! (Source)

15) In September 2015, the greatest share of traffic to Instagram (23.94%) was from the U.S. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: Statista

Brand Adoption

16) In one social media study, of five industries analyzed (beauty, apparel, big box, electronics, and home goods), only 43% engaged with their consumers via Instagram, despite Instagram’s 237% average follower growth rate. Tweet this stat! (Source)

17) Despite the rise of Instagram adoption among young adults, it was the least adopted social channel in most retail categories, with adoption rates ranging from 26% to 32%. Tweet this stat! (Source)

18) The apparel industry’s Instagram adoption rate (84%) was double or triple that of other industries. Tweet this stat! (Source)

19) In one 2015 study, 31% of B2C marketers said Instagram was a “very important” social channel and 27% said it was “not important,” while only 8% of B2B marketers said Instagram was a “very important” channel and 58% said it was “not important.” Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: RivalHQ

Instagram Post Content

20) More than 80 million photos were shared on Instagram each day in September 2015. Tweet this stat! (Source)

21) On Instagram, photos showing faces get 38% more Likes than photos not showing faces. Tweet this stat! (Source)

22) In a study of 8 million Instagram images, images with a single dominant color generate 17% more Likes than images with multiple dominant colors. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: Curalate

23) On Instagram, images with a high amount of negative space generate 29% more Likes than those with minimal negative space. Tweet this stat! (Source)

24) On Instagram, images featuring blue as the dominant color generate 24% more Likes than images that are predominantly red. Tweet this stat! (Source)

25) There’s little correlation between caption text length and engagement rate on Instagram. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: Simply Measured

26) When Instagram first introduced video in June 2013, more than 5 million were shared in the first 24 hours. Tweet this stat! (Source)

27) Despite more brands posting videos than ever before (13.2% of all posts), photos still see higher average engagement. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: Simply Measured

28) In a study of 100 top brands, the brands’ Instagram captions averaged 2.5 hashtags per post. Tweet this stat! (Source)

29) In one study, posts with 11 or more hashtags received nearly 80% interaction, compared to just 22% when using ten and 41% when using two. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: QuickSprout

30) Instagram posts that include both a hashtag and a location tag see higher engagement. Posts with multiple hashtags also perform better than average. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: Simply Measured

31) Posts tagged with a location see 79% higher engagement than posts not tagged with a location. Tweet this stat! (Source)

32) The red heart is the most frequently shared emoji on Instagram, which is shared 79% more than the next most popular symbol, a smiling face with heart eyes. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: Curalate

33) Four of the top five most popular emojis are positive smiley faces (including the laughing-so-hard-I’m-crying icon). If you look at the top 20 emojis, smileys comprise half. Tweet this stat! (Source)

34) The American flag is the only flag emoji to break the top 100, ranking #59. The next most popular flag comes from Italy, ranked #125, followed by the French flag at #160 and the Japanese flag at #166. Tweet this stat! (Source)

35) Pizza is the most popular Instagrammed food, behind sushi and steak. Tweet this stat! (Source)

Instagram Posting Strategy

36) In a study of 55 brands, the brands posted an average of 1.5 times per day. Tweet this stat! (Source)

37) By late 2014, 73% of brands were posting at least one photo or video per week, a 35% increase from 2012. Tweet this stat! (Source)

38) The best times to post on Instagram are Mondays and Thursdays at any time except between 3:00–4:00 p.m. in your target audience’s time zone. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: Elle & Co.

39) The most common posting frequency for brands on Instagram is 11–20 times per month, with almost one-third of companies measured falling into that bucket. Tweet this stat! (Source)

40) 90% of the Interbrand 100 companies now have Instagram accounts. Of all 100 companies, 80% post at least one Instagram photo or video per week. Tweet this stat! (Source)

41) Of the Interbrand 100 companies, the number of brands that post on Instagram more than 50 times per month has doubled from 7 in 2014 to 14 in 2015. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: Simply Measured

42) Many posts by top brands take more than 19 hours to hit 50% of their total comments, and another 10% of comments coming after 19 days. Tweet this stat! (Source)

43) Many posts continue to receive low-level engagement for days and weeks after posting. Most brand posts continue to receive Likes and comments 18–24 hours after posting, just at a slower clip than the initial fast pace. Tweet this stat! (Source)

44) People miss, on average, 70% of their Instagram feeds. Tweet this stat! (Source)

45) While Instagram is still by far the best social network for organic engagement, its per-follower interaction rate of 2.3% is barely half what it was in 2014. Tweet this stat! (Source)

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Image Credit: Forrester Research

46) In a study of 100 top brands, engagement per post has grown at a rate of 53% year-over-year. Tweet this stat! (Source

47) In a study of several thousand brand posts, the average engagement rate is 4.3% and the median is 3.5%. That means that the average post in this sample saw 4.3 activities (a Like or a comment) per 100 followers. Phrased another way, to get 100 Likes and comments on a post, a brand would need approximately 2,325 followers. Tweet this stat! (Source)

48) One brand added 36X its typical number of new followers each day during the 4 days it ran a set of sponsored posts on Instagram, increasing its follower count by 18.15%. Tweet this stat! (Source

What other Instagram statistics can you add to the list? Share them with us in the comments. 

how to use instagram for business

Jun

8

2016

How to Work Faster in Excel: 6 Helpful Tips & Features

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If you’re a frequent user of Excel, there are probably a few features you’ve found yourself using over and over again in your work.

VLOOKUPs, autofilters, and conditional formatting are critical pieces of any veteran’s arsenal — and they’ve been making appearances in spreadsheets for years.

But what most Excel users don’t know is that these features only represent a fraction of the program’s capabilities. Beyond the basics, Excel has a variety of tools that can make your spreadsheets more beautiful — and your life a lot easier.

Today, in the spirit of exploration, we’ll dive into six of these little-known Excel features to explore some of the most helpful — but least-used capabilities — of our favorite spreadsheet program. These tips and features are designed to help you work faster and smarter … and who doesn’t need more hours back in their day?

(Note: If you aren’t familiar with these features above, don’t panic. Excel can be really tricky to master, so you may want to start here or here … or here.)

How to Work Faster in Excel: 6 Helpful Tips

1) Leverage the Tables Tools to organize data and conduct quick analyses.

Although much of the data we enter into Excel is technically in table format — meaning that it’s organized into rows and columns — Excel has a separate Tables feature that allows you to analyze a group of related data more easily.

To get started with Tables, we’ve got to begin with a set of data. In this case, we’re working with some fake data from one of our favorite television series: Game of Thrones.

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To create a table, select your data. Once your data is selected, follow the instructions below.

  • On Windows:
  • Navigate to the “Insert” tab on the ribbon, then click “Table.”
  • If your data has headers already, be sure to check the “My Data Contains Headers” box so that Excel knows to create a separate header row for your column titles.
  • Press “OK.”
  • On a Mac:
  • Navigate to the “Tables” tab on the ribbon.
  • If your data already has headers, click “New” > “Insert Table With Headers.”
  • If it does not have headers, click “New” > “Insert Table Without Headers.”

Our data immediately becomes much more beautiful, with tastefully-striped rows and a nice blue color theme. Notice that Excel has also automatically added sorting and filtering dropdowns at the top of each column, so we don’t need to insert those ourselves.

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But pretty formatting isn’t the only advantage of using a data table. There are a couple other key features that will make analyzing this data set supremely easy.

First of all, we can reference columns of our table by name within functions. Let’s try summing up the number of castles owned for everyone in our data set. Normally, we’d have to use cell references to obscure cell letters and numbers to perform this calculation. But with Tables, we can reference an entire column at once by name. In this case, we’ll take the SUM of the “Castles owned” column like so:

=SUM(Table2[Castles owned])

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It’s that easy! No confusing numbers or letters to memorize — just the name of a column.

Second, we can easily add data rows to our table without worrying about breaking formulas. Let’s add a row for our dear friend Tyrion, who we’d be remiss to leave off of this spreadsheet.

When we start typing at the bottom of the table, Excel automatically adds a row and autoformats it per the table’s specifications. Best of all, the SUM() function we created automatically updates — no need to change the cell references once we’ve added a table row.

Finally, we can easily add formulas to every row of the table itself without copying and pasting. Let’s create a new column that calculates each character’s total number of properties by adding together their “Castles owned” and “Houses owned.”

In the first row of this column, take the SUM of the “Castled owned” and “Houses owned” columns. Notice that rather than using the standard cell reference nomenclature, Excel has used a new format: =SUM([@[Houses owned]],[@[Castles owned]]). And the formula automatically applies itself to every cell on the table.

2) Use the CONVERT formula to make speedy calculations.

We often find ourselves needing to perform unit conversions in Excel — like degrees Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius or kilograms to pounds — particularly when we’re collaborating internationally.

It’s typically an onerous process involving some online research and manual copy-and-pasting. But there’s an easier way: Excel includes a generic conversion function called CONVERT() that helps us convert weight, distance, time, and temperature to and from various units.

The CONVERT formula looks like this: =CONVERT(number, from_unit, to_unit)

The from_unit and to_unit arguments are strings pulled from a pre-defined set of units built into Excel. Here are some of the most useful:

Distance

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Temperature

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Time

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(Click here for a complete list of text values)

Let’s try it out by converting each character’s preferred temperature from degrees Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius. Rather than looking online for conversion formulas, we can simply use the following formula in a row column of our Table:

=convert([@[Preferred temp (F)]], “F”, “C”)

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3) Use the DATEDIF function to calculate the difference between dates.

We often need to calculate the differences between dates in our spreadsheets — particularly when formatting tables to be used to generate charts and graphs. Many Excel users resort to using numerous columns full of complicated YEAR(), MONTH(), and DAY() columns to extract and compare date information from various cells.

But there’s an easier way: The seldom-used DATEDIF() function. DATEDIF() allows us to take the difference between two dates using a number of predetermined Excel settings. For example, we can find the total difference between two dates, in days. Or we can find the difference between two dates ignoring their years and months, so that only the numerical days are considered.

The DATEDIF() function looks like this: =DATEDIF(start_date, end_date, unit)

That ‘unit’ argument tells Excel what to take the difference between, based on the following table:

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(Click here for more on the DATEDIF function and units.)

Let’s say, for example, that we wanted to find the difference, in days, between the birth dates of Cersei and Tyrion. We could do it like so:

=DATEDIF(D5,D18,”D”)

If we wanted to look up the same value in years, we could use a very similar formula, with the ‘unit’ argument slightly modified:

=DATEDIF(D5,D18,”Y”)

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4) Analyze numerical comparisons using Data Bars.

Setting up a chart in Excel takes time. You’ve got to select your data set, generate the chart, and ensure that the data is being displayed correctly. Then, you have to format the chart, adding axis labels, titles, gridlines, and more. Charts are a great tool for making beautiful data visualizations in Excel, but what if you just want to get a quick look at how a set of data compares internally?

Enter data bars. These are a handy way to visualize numerical comparisons using Conditional Formatting — without going through all the complexity of chart creation and development.

To get started, simply select a row or column of numbers to compare, then — on either Windows or Mac — hit “Home” > “Conditional Formatting” > “Data Bars” and pick the bar color of your choice.

Cells in our selected row or column will automatically fill with in-cell data bars. The length of these bars will be proportional to that of the other bars in our data series, with the largest numbers almost filling the cells in question.

Let’s try it out on our “Houses owned” column. With a couple of keystrokes, it’s easy to get a visual sense for who owns the most houses — no charts required.

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5) Identify trends over time using Sparklines.

Data bars, described above, are an easy way to get an at-a-glance visual comparison of different static numerical quantities. Trouble is, they don’t help us much if we want to quickly look at trends over time.

Of course, we can always use charts and graphs to visualize data, but they become cumbersome and cluttered if we’re trying to look at multiple data sets at once.

Fortunately, there’s an easier way to visualize this data: Sparklines.

Sparklines are in-cell graphics (just like data bars), but they don’t show just static quantities. Instead, they show multiple pieces of data at once — like a mini-chart within a cell. Here’s an example of Sparklines in action, used to show trends in houses owned over time for a number of different people:

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Follow the instructions below to try out Sparklines on your own.

  • On Windows:
  • First, select a column or partial column; this is where our completed Sparklines will be inserted. (Note: Sparklines can only be inserted into adjacent cells within a single column — they don’t work as well when used within adjacent cells in a row.)
  • Click “Insert” then select the type of Sparklines you’d like to insert under the “Sparklines” section. There are several options here: line charts, column charts, or win/loss charts. Choose the one that will best assist in visualizing your data.
  • Enter the data range from which you’d like to generate your Sparklines in the “Data Range” box. The data range you select should be a two-dimensional matrix, and its number of rows should always be equal to the number of cells you selected before creating your Sparklines.
  • Press “OK.”
  • On a Mac:
  • First, select a column or partial column; this is where our completed Sparklines will be inserted. (Note: Sparklines can only be inserted into adjacent cells within a single column — they don’t work as well when used within adjacent cells in a row.)
  • Click “Charts” then select the type of Sparklines you’d like to insert under the “Insert Sparklines” section. There are several options here: line charts, column charts, or win/loss charts. Choose the one that will best assist in visualizing your data.
  • Enter the data range from which you’d like to generate your Sparklines in the “Select a data range for the Sparklines:” box. The data range you select should be a two-dimensional matrix, and its number of rows should always be equal to the number of cells you selected before creating your Sparklines.
  • Press “OK.”

Sparklines provide a quick and easy way to interpret trends in our data without having to invest time and effort in formatting multiple charts.

6) Arrange data using multiple Custom Sort levels.

If you’re a veteran Excel user, you’ve probably used Quick Sort quite a bit to arrange your data in a logical and coherent fashion. (If not, read up on how to alphabetize in Excel here.)

But many spreadsheet users don’t know that it’s possible to sort on multiple levels. For example, we can sort a sheet by last name, and, if two people on the sheet share the same last name, sort by first name next. Each level of our sort can be totally customized — with contents sorted from A to Z, or largest to smallest.

To Custom Sort on both Windows and Mac, select your data and head to “Data” > “Sort” > “Custom Sort.” A window will appear asking which column you’d like to sort by first, and how. Press the small “+” icon at the bottom of the screen to add an additional level of sorting. Using the dropdowns provided, you can choose to sort based on cell values (either numerical or alphabetical), or based on more advanced features such as cell color, font color, or icons.

In the following example, we’ll use an advanced Custom Sort to rearrange our list of people, ordering first by last name, then by gender, and finally by houses owned.

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We now have an easy-to-read list of people ordered by family and properties.

There you have it: six of the most helpful Excel functions to make you faster and more productive. If you enjoyed this article, put it in your bookmarks bar to keep these Excel tips on hand at work.

What do you want to learn how to do in Excel? Share your thoughts below.

free guide: how to use excel