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Jun

10

2017

Google Strikes Another Blow to Intrusive Ads: Here's What You Need to Know

Published by in category Daily, SEO | Comments are closed

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We all know those moments when we stumble upon what looks like a golden piece of content. And just as you’re about to dive in — an ad appears.

You can’t just close it, either. Before you can get to what you visited that site to see, you have to wait, as a countdown clock in the corner of the ad taunts you with, “Close this ad in 5 … 4 … 3 … ”

At this point, does anyone else just hit the “back” button with an angry mutter of, “Nevermind, I’ll read something else”? That’s because ads like these tarnish your online experience. They keep you from getting to the content you want to see. They’re intrusive. Google knows that — and now, it wants to prevent that from happening to Chrome users. New Call-to-action

Last Monday, Google announced that it would further crack down on websites that feature intrusive ads like these. And while that might sound great for many, what does it mean for content creators who rely on ad revenue? Don’t panic — you’re not doomed.

Below, we’ve broken down what marketers need to know about these new guidelines (spoiler alert: Google isn’t doing away with ads altogether), and what you can do to prepare for their rollout.

What’s New in Google Ad Blocking

A Better User Experience Without Revenue Loss

To repeat our earlier spoiler, it’s not Google’s intent to do away with ads completely. Rather, the goal appears to be for webmasters to move away from digital ads that interrupt a user’s content consumption — but not to lose critical ad revenue in the process.

The problem with intrusive ads, writes Google SVP of Ads & Commerce Sridhar Ramaswamy in the official announcement, is that they motivate users to install browser plugins that block ads altogether. And ultimately, that widespread blockage takes “a big toll on the content creators, journalists, web developers, and videographers who depend on ads to fund their content creation.”

Given Google’s algorithmic history, this announcement doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. It’s penalized sites with heavy above-the-fold ad content since 2012, and last year, it announced that mobile sites with intrusive pop-ups wouldn’t rank as well — both among consistent changes that, at least on the surface, appear to be motivated by an endless quest to improve user experience.

This particular move is largely the result of Google’s partnership with the Coalition for Better Ads, which recently developed Better Ads Standards — it appears that those standards serve as the foundation for Google’s new ad recommendations to content creators. Once publishers modify their ads to meet the new standards, they can then use Google’s Ad Experience Report to test if they’re in violation of the new standards.

The Penalty

But it’s not entirely clear how, in a broader sense, what the penalty will be for those in violation. The official announcement makes no mention of search ranking implications, though given the search engine’s history within this realm, we wouldn’t be surprised if websites in violation perform as well in search results.

What was clear in the announcement, however, is that within Google Chrome — which as of May 2017 had just over 63% of global desktop browser market share and 49% on mobile — the ads in violation of the new standards will be completely blocked. The browser already “prevents pop-ups in new tabs based on the fact that they are annoying,” Ramaswamy writes. Now, Google plans “to have Chrome stop showing ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that are not compliant with the Better Ads Standards starting in early 2018.”

The Criteria for “Bad Ads”

Using combined data from its own surveys and those conducted by The Coalition for Better Ads, Google outlined what constitutes a “bad ad” on its DoubleClick blog. Here’s a quick summary of the findings:

  • Ads that Interrupt. Remember those taunting countdowns we opened with? That counts as an ad that interrupts: one that “forces you to wait 10 seconds before you can” access the content you want. That’s especially true on mobile, where 74% of users would describe these ads as “extremely or very annoying.”
  • Ads that Distract. These are ads with ornate animation or that play loudly, automatically, as or after content loads. As one colleague said to me, speaking for many of us, “Those scare the heck out of me.”
  • Ads that Clutter. Many ads also cause a page’s load time to slow down. They’re what Google calls “high-density displays,” and they can make it even longer for users to get to the content they came to a site to see.

Google also created these handy images to show how much “bad ads” annoy mobile users: 

Mobile_Graph..max-800x800.png
Source: Google

… as well as those on desktop:

Desktop_Graph..max-800x800.png
Source: Google

3 Ways to Make Your Ads Better

Within the same DoubleClick post that outlines the worst practices for ad experiences, Google also lists three key elements of the best ones, which content creators can use to guide their revisions:

  1. Immediate. When ads themselves load quickly, and don’t slow a page’s load time, people tend to engage with them more. Using Google’s AMP framework for advertising can help — that’s what Time Inc. did, resulting in an increased clickthrough rate, among other measurables.
  2. Immersive. These are the ads that, in a way, assimilate with the content being viewed, making it less distracting and less likely to interrupt or interfere with the consumption experience. It’s part of what Google calls “native advertising,” in which ads are designed by the publisher of the site where they appear, and not by the advertiser. (Read more about that here.) That way, ads can more seamlessly fit in with your site’s format and purpose.
  3. Relevant. It’s never been easier to learn more about the people who are consuming your content, by tracking analytics or through simple research. Those are some of the things that comprise “programmatic technology,” Google says, and having that information can help content creators build ad experiences that are relevant to their users. And relevance, we’ve found, correlates with engagement — maybe that’s why 72% of marketers say creating relevant content was one of their most effective SEO strategies.

The 1 Thing You Should Do Right Now

Remember, Google says that these changes won’t fully take effect until early 2018. With that said, however, it’s never too early to start creating a better ad experience based on the criteria above, and using the tools provided by Google to determine if it meets the new standards.

And again — the official announcement may not have specifically stated any search ranking implications for those in violation of the new standards, but at risk of sounding like a broken record, Google’s algorithmic history has us suspecting that that could very well be the case.

When all else fails, put yourself in the shoes of a site visitor, and honestly determine if you have any of these responses to your own ad content:

  • I don’t care.
  • How do I make this go away?
  • No. Back to the search results.
  • GAH! That ad was LOUD!
  • I’m bored.

If any of those thoughts occur to you, then it’s probably time to revisit and re-strategize your ad experiences. We’ll be here to keep you posted on Google’s changes — and whatever implications come of them for marketers.

Will you change your ad experiences in response to the new standards? Let us know in the comments.

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Jun

1

2017

YouTube SEO: How to Optimize Videos for YouTube Search

Published by in category Daily, SEO, Tactical, Video | Comments are closed

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When I was just a wee lass and HubSpot was first starting to make a name for itself, inbound marketing was a brand new idea. Marketers were learning that they couldn’t just publish a high volume of content — it also had to be high-quality and optimized in ways that made it as discoverable as possible through search engines.

And once upon a time, that content was largely limited to the written word. Eleven years later, that’s no longer the case — a comprehensive content strategy includes written work like blogs and ebooks, as well as media like podcasts, visual assets, and videos.

That last part — video — continues to be on the rise. According to the 2017 State of Inbound, marketers named video as a huge disruptor. “I mostly write content right now,” one respondent said, “but I’m afraid it may begin to diminish more and more with video.” New Call-to-action

And with the rise of other content formats comes the need to optimize them for search. One increasingly important place to do that is on YouTube, which is a video distribution website used by the masses (HubSpot included).

But how does that work? What are the steps you need to take to optimize your YouTube channel for search? We’ve outlined some major tips below. And if you’re short on time, no problem — check out the video summary here.

7 YouTube Search Optimization Tips

1) Title

When we search for videos, one of the first things that our eyes are drawn to is the title. That’s often what determines whether or not the viewer will click to watch your video, so the title should not only be compelling, but also, clear and concise.

It also helps if the title closely matches what the viewer is searching for. Research conducted by Backlinko found that videos with an exact keyword match in the title have a slight advantage over those that don’t. Here’s a linear representation of those findings:

exact-match-title.pngSource: Backlinko

So while “using your target keyword in your title may help you rank for that term,” report author Brian Dean explains, “the relationship between keyword-rich video titles and rankings is” weak, at best.

Finally, make sure to keep your title fairly short — HubSpot Content Strategist Alicia Collins recommends limiting it to 60 characters to help keep it from getting cut off in results pages.

2) Description

First things first: According to Google, the official character limit for YouTube video descriptions is 1,000 characters. And while it’s okay to use all of that space, remember that your viewer most likely came here to watch a video, not to read a story.

If you do choose to write a longer description, keep in mind that YouTube only displays the first two or three lines of text — that amounts to about 100 characters. After that point, viewers have to click “show more” to see the full description. That’s why we suggest front-loading the description with the most important information, like CTAs or crucial links.

As for optimizing the video itself, it doesn’t hurt to add a transcript of the video, especially for those who have to watch it without volume. That said, Backlinko’s research also found no correlation between descriptions that were optimized for a certain keyword and the rankings for that term.

keyword-in-description.pngSource: Backlinko

Dean is careful not to encourage ditching an optimized description altogether, though. “An optimized description helps you show up in the suggested videos sidebar,” he writes, “which is a significant source of views for most channels.”

3) Tags

YouTube’s official Creator Academy suggests using tags to let viewers know what your video is about. But you’re not just informing your viewers — you’re also informing YouTube itself. Dean explains that the platform uses tags “to understand the content and context of your video.”

That way, YouTube figures out how to associate your video with similar videos, which can broaden your content’s reach. But choose your tags widely. Don’t use an irrelevant tag because you think it’ll get you more views — in fact, Google might penalize you for that. And similar to your description, lead with the most important keywords, including a good mix of those that are common and more long-tail (as in, those that answer a question like “how do I?”).

4) Category

Once you upload a video, you can categorize it under “Advanced settings.” Choosing a category is another way to group your video with similar content on YouTube.

It might not be as simple as it looks. In fact, YouTube’s Creator Academy suggests that marketers go through a comprehensive process to determine which category each video belongs in. It’s helpful, the guide writes, “to think about what is working well for each category” you’re considering by answering questions like:

  • Who are the top creators within the category? What are they known for, and what do they do well?
  • Are there any patterns between the audiences of similar channels within a given category?
  • Do the videos within a similar category have share qualities like production value, length, or format?

5) Thumbnail

Your video thumbnail is the main image viewers see when scrolling through a list of video results. Along with the video’s title, that thumbnail sends a signal to the viewer about the video’s content, so it can impact the number of clicks and views your video receives.

While you can always pick one of the thumbnail options auto-generated by YouTube, we highly recommend uploading a custom thumbnail. The Creator Academy reports that “90% of the best performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails,” recommending the use of images that are 1280×720 pixels — representing a 16:9 ratio — that are saved as 2MB or smaller .jpg, .gif, .bmp, or .png files. If you follow those parameters, it can help to ensure that your thumbnail appears with equally high quality across multiple viewing platforms.

It’s important to note that your YouTube account has to be verified in order to upload a custom thumbnail image. To do that, visit youtube.com/verify and follow the instructions listed there.

6) SRT Files (Subtitles & Closed Captions)

Like much of the other text we’ve discussed here, subtitles and closed captions can boost YouTube search optimization by highlighting important keywords.

In order to add subtitles or closed captions to your video, you’ll have to upload a supported text transcript or timed subtitles file. For the former, you can also directly enter transcript text for a video so that it auto-syncs with the video.

Adding subtitles follows a similar process, however, you can limit the amount of text you want displayed. For either, head to your video manager then click on “Videos” under “Video Manager.” Find the video you want to add subtitles or closed captioning to, and click the drop-down arrow next to the edit button. Then, choose “Subtitles/CC.” You can then select how you’d like to add subtitles or closed captioning.

Google has provided great instructions on how to do that here, as well as in the video below.

7) Cards and End Screens

Cards

When you’re watching a video, have you ever seen a small white, circular icon with an “i” in the center appear in the corner, or a translucent bar of text asking you to subscribe? Those are Cards, which Creator Academy describes as “preformatted notifications that appear on desktop and mobile which you can set up to promote your brand and other videos on your channel.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 6.02.40 PM.pngSource: Google

You can add up to five cards to a single video, and there are six types:

  1. Channel cards that direct viewers to another channel.
  2. Donation cards to encourage fundraising on behalf of U.S. nonprofit organizations.
  3. Fan funding to ask your viewers to help support the creation of your video content.
  4. Link cards, which direct viewers to an external site, approved crowdfunding platform, or an approved merchandise selling platform.
  5. Poll cards, which pose a question to viewers and allow them to vote for a response.
  6. Video or playlist cards, which link to other YouTube content of this kind.

For detailed steps on adding a card to your video, follow these official steps from Google, or check out the video below.

End Screens

End screens display similar information as cards, but as you may have guessed, they don’t display until a video is over, and are a bit more visually detailed in nature. A good example is the overlay with a book image and a visual link to view more on the video below:

Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 6.09.28 PM.pngSource: Jamie Oliver on YouTube

There are a number of detailed instructions for adding end screens depending on what kind of platform you want to design them for, as well as different types of content allowed for them by YouTube. Google outlines the details for how to optimize for all of those considerations here.

It’s important to note that YouTube is always testing end screens to try to optimize the viewer experience, so there are times when “your end screen, as designated by you, may not appear.” Take these factors into account as you decide between using either cards or end screens.

It’s Worth It to Optimize

These factors may seem a bit complicated and time-consuming, but remember: The time people spend watching YouTube on their TV has more than doubled year over year. There’s an audience to be discovered there, and when you optimize for YouTube, your chances of being discovered increase.

Of course, it all begins with good content, so make sure your viewers have something high-quality and relevant to watch when they find you.

How have you optimized for YouTube search? Let us know in the comments.

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May

20

2017

9 of the Biggest Google I/O Keynote Announcements

Published by in category Daily, SEO | Comments are closed

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Each year, bonafide tech geeks and enthusiasts gather or tune in for one of the biggest events of the year: Google I/O, the search giant’s annual developer conference.

It’s a learning opportunity for many, with sessions and talks creating what Google describes as “an immersive experience focused on exploring the next generation of tech.”

But it’s the annual opening keynote that really has everyone paying the most attention. That’s when the company’s leadership, from the CEO to various VPs, unveils and describes the newest technologies, devices, and product features released by Google. Download our guide on how to advertise on Google for free now.

If you missed this year’s opening keynote, fear not: We’ve got you covered with the nine biggest announcements from it. And each month, we’ll continue to bring you a digest of what big Google news you may have missed. So read on — and stay tuned.

What You Missed From the Google I/O Opening Keynote

1) Google Lens

Anyone else remember this video from July 2015?

As “La Bamba” plays in the background, mobile device cameras hover over various words that are then translated into another language. It was a preview of something huge — something that’s finally come to fruition: Google Lens.

There are those moments when you see something that you don’t recognize — like a bird or plant, or perhaps a new cafe somewhere — but can’t identify specifically what it is. Now, with Google Lens, all you have to do is point your camera at it to get the details you want. Check out this super short video to see how that works with a storefront:

Source: Google

But it doesn’t stop with plant species and restaurant information. With this technology, you can also join a home WiFi network by hovering the camera over the name and password. From there, you’ll be prompted with the option to automatically connect.

According to TechCrunch, Lens will be integrated with Google Assistant — “users will be able to launch Lens and insert a photo into the conversation with the Assistant, where it can process the data the photo contains.” That’s a pretty concise summary of what the Lens technology is able to do: understand what a photo means. During the keynote, Google’s VP of Engineering, Scott Huffman, used the example of being able to add concert information to your calendar by taking a Lens photo of the marquee.

google-io-2017-0141.jpgSource: TechCrunch

2) Google for Jobs

google-io-2017-0362.jpgSource: TechCrunch

Anyone who’s ever undertaken a job search knows that there’s an overwhelming number of outlets where openings are listed. “Wouldn’t it be nice,” many job seekers asked, “if all of this information were readily available in one, central place?”

Ask, and ye shall receive. Google set out to synthesize job listings from a number of posting sites — as it’s wont to do, after all — and display it within search results. From there, writes Jessica Guynn for USA Today, “job hunters will be able to explore the listings across experience and wage levels by industry, category and location, refining these searches to find full or part-time roles or accessibility to public transportation.”

Google for Jobs addresses “the challenge,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai during the keynote, “of connecting job seekers to better information on job availability.” It helps to make the application process that much more seamless, by pulling listings from both third-party boards and employers, and sending users who find a listing that interests them directly to the site where they can apply for it.

3) Google.ai

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 9.39.34 AM.pngSource: Google

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of those inevitably cool areas of technology that’s talked about by many, but thoroughly understood by — or available to — few. That was part of the motivation behind the launch of Google.ai, or what TechCrunch describes as an “initiative to democratize the benefits of the latest in machine learning research.”

In a way, the site serves as a centralized resource for much of Google’s work in the realm of AI, from news and documentation on its latest projects and research, to opportunities to “play with” some of the experimental technology. Much like the open source software TensorFlow, which allows aspiring AI developers to create new applications, a major point of Google.ai is open access to the documentation that helps professionals from a variety of industries — like medicine and education — use AI to improve the work they do.

4) Google Assistant Is Coming to the iPhone

Starting today, we’re bringing the #GoogleAssistant to iPhones. Whether at home or on the go, your Assistant is here to help. #io17 pic.twitter.com/a6T20HwnU9

— Google (@Google)
May 17, 2017

Some of the features announced during the I/O opening keynote either require or are heavily enhanced by Google Assistant — technology that previously wasn’t available to iPhone users. Now, that’s all changed. Google Assistant is, in fact, at the disposal of iPhone users, and available for download in the iTunes store.

Many are comparing the iOS version of Google Assistant to a slightly better, but underwhelming version of Siri. We took it for a spin, and here’s how it went:

Not bad, but it might also require a bit more tinkering with to discover all of the features. Its biggest advantage over Siri, writes Romain Dillet for TechCrunch, is its ability to let users “ask more complicated queries,” as well as its third-party integrations and connected device control capabilities.

5) New Google Home Features

screen-shot-2017-05-17-at-10-40-09-am.pngSource:

CNET

A number of new features available on Google Home were also unveiled during the I/O opening keynote — here are the ones that stood out.

Hands-free calling

Recently, it was announced that the Google Home had new voice recognition capabilities that could distinguish one user’s commands from another. That technology is now aiding its new hands-free calling feature, which allows you to call any U.S. or Canadian landline or mobile phone, by linking your mobile phone to your Google Home profile and asking the device to make the call. And, because of that voice recognition, it knows whose mother to call with the command, “Call Mom.”

Proactive Assistance

Like the best human personal assistance, Google Home can now proactively bring important things to your attention, without having to be asked. For example, if your next meeting requires a commute and traffic is bad, the device will suggest leaving a bit earlier. (Google Calendar users might recognize this feature from the more primitive “leave at X:00 to arrive on time” mobile alerts.)

Visual Responses

They say that “a picture is worth a thousand words” — because sometimes, information is better explained visually than verbally. Now, Google Home can do that, by redirecting a visual response to your mobile device or TV (via Chromecast). So if you ask the device for directions, for example, they’ll be sent directly to your phone.

6) Android O

Android O is a new version of the Android operating system which, while nothing too fancy, “focuses mostly on the nuts and bolts of making the software work better, faster and save battery,” according to CNET.

The publication does a nice job of breaking down the most important features of the new operating system, but to us, there’s one major highlight: picture-in-picture. We’ve all had those moments when we’re watching a video on YouTube and realize that there’s something else you’re supposed to be doing. Now, with Android O, instead of having to exit out of the app, just press the home button and the video will collapse into a smaller, movable window, but continue playing while you attend to the other task you have to complete.

7) From GPS to VPS

When you’re lost, or can’t figure out how to get somewhere, GPS has been there to save dozens of us. But what about misplaced objects — like when we’ve misplaced our keys, headphones, or sunglasses?

Now, there’s technology for that: the Visual Positioning Service, or VPS. Using Google’s Tango augmented reality (AR) platform, it’s a “mapping system that uses augmented reality on phones and tablets to help navigate indoor locations,” writes Raymond Wong for Mashable, using the example of holding up a Tango-enabled phone in a large warehouse store to locate a specific product.

One of the best parts of the VPS, Google noted, is its potential use to individuals who are visually impaired to help them find their way around places that are historically difficult to navigate.

8) Smart Replies Come to Gmail

Bringing our AI-first approach to more products, we’re introducing Smart Reply to 1 billion users in #Gmailhttps://t.co/FKhOiBN41e #io17 pic.twitter.com/fF5GxGVMq6

— Google (@Google)
May 17, 2017

When we return from vacation, one of the most daunting tasks is sifting through and responding to the deluge of emails that came in while we were out. Of course, there’s always the option of indicating to senders via auto-response that you’ll be deleting everything when you come back. But for those occasional urgent emails that arrive during our time of leave, many of us long for a more automated way to address them.

Now, there’s Smart Reply for that: a new Gmail feature that uses smart technology to suggests quick responses based on the text of the email you received. Here’s a look at how it works:

Smart_Reply_in_Gmail_Pixel_Gray_background.gifSource:

Google

Right now, it’s only available in Inbox by Gmail and Allo, but according to Google’s official blog, the technology is slated to “roll out globally on Android and iOS in English first, and Spanish will follow in the coming weeks.”

9) Standalone VR Headsets

New #Daydream standalone headsets from partners like @htcvive won’t require a phone or PC. #io17 pic.twitter.com/7TpYPJGEdU

— Google (@Google)
May 17, 2017

Google is no stranger to the world of VR. It started with Cardboard, some might say, and expanded into more advanced and expensive headsets. Now, in partnership with HTC and Lenovo, Google is developing its first standalone VR headset.

What does that mean, exactly? Previously, becoming fully immersed in Google’s VR experiences required the power of a computer or smartphone. Now, using something called WorldSense technology, these new standalone headsets can “track your precise movements in space,” according to VRScout, “without any external sensors to install.”

Until Next Time

We’ll be keeping an eye on all things Google, including the rest of the big announcements from I/O 2017. Next month, we’ll bring you those top news items, algorithm updates, and other trends that can aid your marketing.

Until then, enjoy those May flowers — we’ll see you in June.

Which I/O announcements are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments.

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May

12

2017

Here's the 2017 State of Digital Marketing [Infographic]

Published by in category Daily, IGSS, SEO | Comments are closed

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Digital marketing is one of those areas that’s become, in a way, all-encompassing. There’s social media, there’s SEO, and there are the analytics that come with both. And with the rapid pace at which digital marketing evolves, it can be difficult and confusing to prioritize which parts deserve your attention.

That’s why the Search Engine Journal launched the 2017 State of Digital Marketing.
To find out where digital marketers focus their time and budgets, and how they set parameters of success, over 200 industry professionals were surveyed, filling roles within SEO, paid search, and content marketing. 

Some of the most interesting findings were broken down into the handy infographic below. Among them were statistics on PPC spending — which ranges from $50 to $5,000 — and data showing that Facebook is still the preferred social media channel for 62% of marketers.

Want to know where things stand in other areas of digital marketing? Read on to learn more.


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May

2

2017

58 Best Marketing Tools to Build Your Strategy in 2017

Published by in category lead generation, marketing automation, SEO | Comments are closed

Best Marketing Tools 2017

In the world of marketing, it seems like there are always new tools, tips, tricks, and trends to discover and incorporate into your marketing strategy. How is it possible to keep up with them all?

As a marketer myself, I often wish I had a better sense of all of the tools available to me — and what sets each of them apart — so I can make more informed decisions on how to create and optimize content.

Luckily, I have the privilege of working on a team of 150+ other marketers who specialize in different functions than I do. And because of that, I was able to curate this list of the top 58 tools every marketer should know about and being using in 2017.

I’ll make it easy for you. I broke up my list of recommended tools into different sections so you can get a better sense of what tools are available for different functions of the job. At the end, you’ll see the whole list of 58 tools that you can skim and bookmark for later.

Enjoy!

Automation

Automation is nothing new to marketers. Whether you want to save time doing marketing tasks or simply cut time wasted doing those daily tasks like saving emails and files to spreadsheets, having a tool that makes your life easier and saves you time is ideal.

While there are lots of automation tools out there for specific fields or verticals (for example, the HubSpot workflows tool for marketing automation), there aren’t many tools that allow you to automate the various different tools you use throughout all aspects of your life.

Wouldn’t it be nice to link lots of tasks between different apps together? Like posting your Instagram photos to all your social networks or linking your app reminders together. With IFTTT you can!

IFTTT (IF This Then That) is a  service that allows you to create chains of simple conditional statements, called applets. These “if this then that” applets are triggered by a wide range of other web-based services at the choice of the user. Some of the web-based services that work with IFTTT include Gmail, Google Drive, Facebook, Twitter, Fitbit, and much, much more. 

Sounds great, right? Check it out. 

hscm - marketing tools post - IFTTT .png

IFTTT_Logo.svg.png

Closing Deals and Tracking Relationships 

You and your sales team want to sell your product or service — not fight with messy spreadsheets, cluttered inboxes, or clunky tools that slow you down. That’s why using a Customer Relationship Management System — also known as a CRM — is essential. Not only will it help your sales team manage relationships, but a CRM will also give you a place to deliver those leads you generated to your sales team.

CRMs are such an essential part of any good marketing and sales team that we think everyone should have one. That’s why the HubSpot CRM is completely free. 

HubSpot CRM automates the tasks salespeople hate and takes minutes to learn — not months. That means doing more deals and less data entry. 

Check out the HubSpot CRM Now

crm logo.png

Content Creation

In the world of content creation, there are admittedly tons of different tools you could use to create various types of content. Whether it’s social images, logos, blog posts, or ebooks — the options and tools are endless. 

That said, a newcomer among the Adobe Suite of tools is winning the hearts of many marketers, including this one, for its ease of use to create stunning webpages, awesome videos, and eye-catching graphics. The best part? It’s completely free and impossibly easy. 

Adobe Spark is a suite of three web or mobile apps – Spark Page, Spark Post, and Spark Video — that allows marketers to easily create graphics, webpages, and videos in a variety of themes in minutes.

You can completely avoid the hassle of page layout, video editing knowledge, or a CMS and start creating content that looks remarkable immediately. For example, we use Spark Page at HubSpot to create some of our online guides and promote them with Spark Videos and Posts. You can too!

Check out Adobe Spark 

HSCM - marketing tools post - spark.png

adobe spark logo.jpg

Other Content Creation Tools: 

  • Venngage
  • Piktochart
  • Canva
  • Recordit
  • Kap
  • Adobe Color CC 

Video 

It’s 2017 — haven’t you heard? Video is the thing everyone is talking about. But how do you actually implement it into your marketing? 

Maybe your strategy is just to put a YouTube video embed on one of your blog posts or landing pages. But then what happens? Someone else’s ad plays on your landing page before your video even begins. That’s bad for your conversion rates, brand, and your user. Luckily, there’s a solution. 

Wistia is a powerful video hosting platform that allows you to host your videos on your website — ad free — with a guaranteed smooth playback and responsive player. Wistia also helps you prove the ROI of your video efforts by offering you video analytics and key metrics to fine-tune your video marketing efforts over time. Ready to take your video marketing to the next level?

Try Wistia for Free Now

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Other video tools:

  • Vidyard
  • Vimeo
  • Youtube

Content Distribution and Brand Awareness:

While it might seem like a given, when it comes to getting your content distributed online, there really is king that we’d be remiss if we’d different mention: 

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I know, I know. Google isn’t “exactly” a new or a fascinating tool that you didn’t already know about. That said, within the same parent company is another important distribution channel that many marketers often forget when they’re strategically distributing content for the sake of brand awareness.

YouTube is becoming more and more important to marketers lean more heavily on video-based content. While, of course, you should continue to optimize your text-based content for search engine optimization, don’t forget to consider Youtube as an important channel as well. Not only is YouTube great for hosting your videos and getting them shared across social networks, it’s also important to optimize your videos for search to get found on Youtube as well. 

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Other distribution and brand awareness channels:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linkedin
  • Product Hunt

Continuing Education and Learning

A challenge all marketers face is the need for continuous learning over time. With new tools and methods changing all the time, it’s essential to stay on top of the trends and changes. Luckily, there aren’t a shortage of tools and platforms for you to learn new tactics or techniques and take necessary classes.

HubSpot Academy, for example, is a great place to go anytime you need to get up-to-date information on the latest marketing best practices, find answers to your questions, get certified in a new area of expertise, or renew certifications on subjects that you’re a little rusty on.

 Bookmark your HubSpot Academy portal today

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 Other ongoing education and learning tools:

  • Lynda.com
  • Udemy
  • Codeacademy
  • Skillshare
  • General Assembly

Conversion Rate Optimization

When it comes to your bottom-line goals, you probably want a few top-notch tools up your belt for not only getting visitors to your website, but just as importantly, converting those website visitors into leads and customers. 

Unbounce lets you quickly build beautiful, branded landing pages that will turn those visitors into leads in no time. Between it’s easy-to-use drag-and-drop features, modal overlays, and integrations with tons of different CMS platforms and tools, Unbounce is an ideal tool for anyone looking for a simple tool that will amp up their conversion rates on landing pages. 

Try Out Unbounce Now

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Other CRO Tools:

  • HubSpot Marketing Free
  • HubSpot Landing Pages tool
  • Hotjar
  • Optimizely
  • Leadpages

Event Marketing

Whether your team holds monthly customer and prospect events, yearly conferences, or just occasional community outreach parties and events, it’s important to have the best event marketing tool up your sleeve when the time comes to use it. After all, in-person events are some of the best ways to interact with potential customers and create a brand experience that prospects, customers, and your community will remember. 

Eventbrite is an efficient, easy-to-use tool tons of marketers rely on not only to manage the logistics (like ticketing) of events but also to promote their events. Eventbrite lets you create an event landing page and allows you to set up your ticketing and payment for the event all within the same platform. The best part? Eventbrite is always free if you’re hosting a free event!

Check Out Eventbrite Now

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Other event marketing tools:

  • Picatic
  • Facebook 
  • AddEvent

Fun and Innovative Tools:

If you’re on the search for new marketing tools, chances are you’re not just looking for the hammer and the nail in your toolkit. Instead, you might be looking for new and innovative solutions to try out and experiment with in your marketing. Sound about right? 

As marketers, you’ve probably used forms — whether on your site or in a survey — more than a few times. But have you ever started to get bored with the same old, robotic form type?

Typeform is the tool you need to try if you’re looking for new ways to interact with your prospects and customers while giving them a positive, human-centered experience. Typeform isn’t just another survey tool. It’s a conversational, interactive typeform that feels more interactive than a standard form. Use it to host survey content, lead forms, or even create content with it by putting together quizzes and more.

Try Using Typeform in your Marketing Today

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Other fun tools to try:

  • Giphy
  • To.Doist

Keeping Up with the Latest Industry News Tools

Reading this post alone won’t end your career-long pursuit for the latest tools, trends, and marketing techniques. That’s why keeping up with the latest industry news is a full part of your job as a marketer.

Product Hunt, a tool meant for finding the latest tools and products, is a must for any marketer trying to stay on top of the industry and find new channels to promote their own product launches. Product Hunt is a daily feed of launched tools, letting people upvote what they think is interesting. Pro tip: when you sign up for Product Hunt, set it as your homescreen in your browser so you’ll always have a reminder to keep an eye out for what’s new. Who knows? You might even decide to use some of the featured tools yourself!

 Sign Up for Product Hunt Now

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 Other news and timely tools:

  • Flipboard
  • Pocket
  • Your choice of online news sources or magazines

Lead Generation Tools 

If you’re in the mood for demand generation, you probably have you eyes on the prize: converting anonymous website visitors into contacts with email addresses that you can successfully nurture. While landing pages are a must for some things, sometimes you want a shorter, simpler user experience to capture lead information.

HubSpot Marketing Free is the simplest, easiest way to do just that. The moment a lead shares their email, you’ll know who they are, where they work, and what pages they visited — all in real time. When they view an offer or check your pricing, you’ll be ready to follow up right away.

And with simple but powerful analytics, you’ll learn more about what’s working and what’s not — like which traffic sources or pieces of content are driving the most conversions. It’s a risk-free way to find out what inbound marketing can do for you. No budget necessary.

Try Out Hubspot Marketing Free

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Nuturing

In the world of nurturing, the tools and techniques used are constantly involving. While some aspects of nurturing remain the same, like using email to nurture contacts down your funnel, for example, the content and positioning you use is ever-changing. It would be easy for us to introduce a set of standard workflow and automation tools (like HubSpot’s, for example) you can use to nurture your contacts down the funnel. But if you’re looking for something a little more innovative for actually creating nurturing content, we have a new tool for you to try.

Vidyard is a great tool for creating and hosting awesome video content in your nurturing flows and otherwise. At HubSpot, for example, we’ve even started using Vidyard to create unique, customized nurturing videos specific to our audience and product. What makes Vidyard so great is its variety of video tools that you can use  to create remarkable content. 

From Vidyard’s live feature to its studio content creation products to its free tool – ViewedIt — Vidyard is an excellent tool if you’re a marketer looking to jump on the video bandwagon and start integrating video into all of your content. 

Check out Vidyard Today 

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Online Advertising Tools

If your team is making investments into PPC ad campaigns on platforms like Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, it’s probably a bit of a hassle to manage all the different ad campaigns you’re running across each different network. Besides just managing them, you then have to try and report on the results of all of them. What a struggle. Luckily, there’s a tool for that.

AdStage takes the hassle out reporting on all of the PPC campaigns you’re running and puts it all in one place. AdStage helps you automate, create, and manage your campaigns across all of the major PPC platforms, then allows you to report on your results. With visual features and powerful automation tools, AdStage is a must for PPC experts and newbies alike. 

Check out AdStage

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Other online advertising tools:

  • HubSpot Ads Add-On
  • Perfect Audience
  • Google Adwords
  • Facebook 
  • LinkedIn 
  • Adroll

Collaboration

In any marketing team, the inevitable happens: there’s a million files and pieces of content between everyone on your team without one place to keep it all. Organization on any team — let alone a marketing team — is essential. That’s why it’s important to have a collaborative organization tool to keep you sane. 

Dropbox is the perfect tool to keep your team organized and your files under control. With cloud-based software to keep your files accessible anywhere at anytime, Dropbox helps your team store all of its files in a central location. Dropbox makes it easy to collaborate, too. With tools like Dropbox Paper, which allows you to write and collaborate in real time on the same doc — and sharing tools for shared folders and files, you’ll be organized and ready for any project that comes your way.

 Get Dropbox for Your Team Now 

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Other organization tools:

  • Google Drive
  • Box
  • Trello 

Project Management

File management and organization is one thing, but how do you manage all of the moving pieces of a marketing campaign or project? There are many different tools you can use for project management, but only one sticks out when it comes to the number of integrations and features at the price of — oh yeah — free! 

Trello is a great project management tool for small teams and individuals. With it’s Kanban-style setup and fun user interface, Trello lets you set up to-do lists and tag individual cards with due dates, members, labels, and more. You can attach files, links, images, and more to your cards and easily get a full-view of any project that you’re working on. At HubSpot, we use Trello daily to manage our team campaigns and individual to-do lists. Want an example of how we do this? Check out our guide to managing marketing campaigns in Trello.  

Get Trello — It’s Free! 

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Other project management tools:

  • HubSpot Projects Tool (one of many tools in the HubSpot Marketing Platform)
  • JIRA
  • Asana

Search Engine Optimization

Whether its keyword research, content optimization, or checking your current page rankings, every marketer needs a go-to tool for planning what content to create and how to optimize it for SEO. Google Analytics and SEMrush our great tools for planning which keywords to rank for, but how do you make sure the content you create actually meets your goal once it’s created?

OnPage.org is the ideal tool marketers can use to make sure their SEO efforts are having a real impact on their marketing strategy. 

Check out OnPage.org now

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Other SEO tools:

  • HubSpot Content Strategy Tool 
  • Google Analytics / Keyword Tool 
  • Keywords Everywhere Chrome Extension
  • SEMrush
  • Moz

Social Media

Social Media Managers know the pain of posting that perfect social media post only to have a follower find a typo a minute later and call you out. For marketers, using a social media tool to schedule all of your posts (so you catch those typos beforehand) is a must. But it also helps to get the right analytics from your social posts, especially on channels where it can be hard to get that information.

Iconosquare is the perfect tool for marketers to grow their brand on Instagram with easy-to-use analytics. It’s not always easy to know what’s working and what’s not on Instagram. But, as the second most popular social channel and one that’s quickly approaching first most popular among some age groups, it’s a channel that marketers can’t afford to miss out on. Try Iconosquare now to maximize your Instagram analytics and optimize your brand Instagram channel for success. 

Try Iconosquare Now

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Iconosquare

Other social media tools:

  • HubSpot Social Inbox (one of many tools in the HubSpot Marketing Platform)
  • Buffer
  • Hootsuite
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linkedin

Team Communication 

Where would your work day be without accessibility and communication between you and your colleagues? Probably pretty frustrating. Marketers can’t shy away from communication when it comes to aligning with team members and across the company, so having the right team communication tools is necessary every single day.

I’d be given a lot of slack if I didn’t make the world aware of this tool.

Slack is a powerful messaging app that allows you and your teammates to quickly message back and forth without the hassle of email. But it’s not just AOL instant messenger 2.0. Slack has powerful features and integrations that make it possible for you to integrate all of your other daily tools — like Trello, Gmail, Giphy, and so many more — right where you’re already communicating. You can start channels between different teams or just chat with specific colleagues. Slack makes remote and in-person work possible and easier than ever.

Get Slack today. Seriously. Do it.

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Other team communication tools:

  • HipChat
  • Google Chat
  • Join.Me
  • Zoom
  • Skype

Website Optimization

As marketers, sometimes it feels like we’re constantly making educated guesses about how our site visitors are going to interact with our content. While we might design a page to draw our user’s eye to a spot on a page, how do we ever really know where their focus is so that we can improve that experience?

Hotjar is a new and easy way to truly understand what your web and mobile site visitors are looking at when they interact with your site. WIth its visual heatmap tools, you can understand what users want, care about, and interact with on your site. Hotjar visually represents visitors’ clicks, taps and scrolling behavior, giving you the ability to find hot areas for growth and conversion rate optimization.

Convinced? Try Hotjar. It’s Free!

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Other website optimization tools:

  • HubSpot Website Platform
  • Optimizely
  • Unbounce

Want the full list of tools? Here it is:

We’ve covered a lot of tools for every part of your job on this page. But sometimes, it’s just helpful to see the full list. Here is our list of the top 58 marketing tools you need to know about. 

Top 58 Tools Every Marketer Should Know About

     
AddEvent Hootsuite Piktochart
Adobe Color CC Hotjar Product Hunt
Adobe Spark HubSpot Academy Recordit
Adroll HubSpot CRM SEMRush
Adstage HubSpot Marketing Skillshare
Asana Iconosquare Skype
Box IFTTT Slack
Buffer JIRA To.Doist
Canva Join.Me Trello
Codeacademy Kap Twitter
Dropbox Keywords Everywhere Typeform
Eventbrite Leadpages Udemy
Facebook LinkedIn Unbounce
Flipboard Lynda.com Venngage
General Assembly Moz Vidyard
Giphy OnPage.org Vimeo
Google Adwords Optimizely Wistia
Google Analytics Pocket Youtube
Google Drive Picatic Zoom
HipChat    
     

You’ve got all the tools you need, but are you looking for a place to start putting them all together? Check out our free marketing blue print guide.  It’ll walk you through creating your own marketing plan and teach you how to use all of these tools together. 

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Apr

29

2017

9 Link Building Email Outreach Templates That Actually Work

Published by in category Inbound Marketing, SEO | Comments are closed

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Thanks for joining me here on the HubSpot Marketing Blog today. I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you all a few things you might not know about me.

I’m ambidextrous (I can write with both hands), I’m the adoptive mother of three cats (one of whom is named Kitty), and before coming to HubSpot, I spent a lot of time writing and sending link building outreach emails.

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Inbound links back to your website play an important role in achieving your inbound marketing goals. They also require strategy and diligent work to come by. I would know — I worked very hard to earn inbound links for a long time.

Whether you’re just starting out with inbound link building or you’re getting fatigued by nobody replying to your outreach emails, I wanted to help you out. I’ve created nine different templates for killer outreach emails that you can borrow and adapt for your own link building strategy.

What Is Link Building?

Before we dive into the templates, let’s quickly review the basics of inbound link building. If you’re already caught up to speed, skip ahead to check out the templates.

Inbound links, otherwise known as backlinks, are links pointing toward your website from another website.

Here’s an example: Check out this publishing volume experiment analysis on the Moz Blog. If you’ll notice, the previous sentence contains a link pointing toward Moz’s website. That’s a backlink. And if you read the article, you’ll notice it contains a link pointing back to our website here at HubSpot. That’s a backlink, too.

Now that we all understand what inbound links are, why are they important?

  1. Inbound links drive traffic to your website. In the example above, the HubSpot blog earned traffic from any of Moz’s blog readers who followed the link to HubSpot’s website.
  2. Inbound links improve your search engine rankings. Inbound links tell search engines that your website knows what it’s talking about — otherwise, why would someone link to it? The more inbound links you earn from high-quality sites, the higher your website will rank in search engine results pages (SERP).

To sum up, inbound links are valuable because they help your website rank higher in search, which helps more people find your organization, start clicking around, and eventually become a lead.

Link building is the process of obtaining those inbound links. When your website is a high-powered, well-respected content engine, other sites and individuals online will link to your content organically — without you having to ask. But if you’re like a lot of other inbound marketers out there, your website still has a ways to go.

A dedicated link building strategy starts with an ask — usually via email — and that’s where these templates come in.

Link Building Outreach Rules

But before we get to the templates, some rules.

There are right and wrong ways to go about improving your site’s SEO, and inbound link building — when done correctly — is generally regarded as one of the right ways. You’re pitching your content to publications that might be interested in sharing it with different audiences. A backlink is just the cherry on top.

However, there are wrong ways to go about asking for inbound backlinks, and I want to make sure you sure understand the rules of the road before you start emailing.

1) The best way to generate quality backlinks is to publish exceptional content publishers organically cite.

That being said, a dedicated backlink outreach strategy can be helpful for newer websites or if you’re promoting a specific piece of exceptional content. The more content you produce and, in turn, promote with social media content and backlinks, the more search engine authority your site will accumulate.

2) Only pitch guest posts or backlinks that add value for the reader.

Instead of asking your contacts to randomly link back to your site somewhere on theirs, ask publishers if you can write for their blogs or conribute new ideas and data for content they’re already working on. Offers such as these will result in quality backlinks that provide readers with valuable information.

3) Send individualized emails to specific publishers.

Never, and I mean never, mass email an enormous contacts list with a pitch template. It’s spammy, impersonal, and likely won’t get you the results you want anyway. Adapt the templates below if you like them, but it’s critically important to individually craft specific emails for particular publishers.

The first step of your outreach process should always be researching publications and specific people who might be interested in your content. You shouldn’t start with typing up an email and sending it to everyone in your industry with a website. Read on for new ideas for how to ask for an inbound link — in ways that are polite, clever, and might just get you that backlink.

Note: These email templates are based on emails I’ve sent and received. Any references to industries, companies, or individuals are meant to illustrate these fictitious email examples.

9 Link Building Outreach Email Examples to Try

1) The preview

If you don’t have any connections with the person you’re pitching, offering a preview might be an effective way to share your content. With this type of email, you’re asking first if the recipient would like to see the piece of content you’d like them to link to. The key to getting a reply is making sure you’ve personalized your email and enticed the reader with enough details to get them to reach back out.

Interest in new infographic about social media stats?

Hi Sophia,

Happy Friday! I’m reaching out because I’m an avid reader of your work on the SocialVille blog — I loved your latest piece about social media news.

I just followed you on Twitter, and I saw you’ve been tweeting about Facebook’s F8 conference. What did you think of the event?

I work over at SocialWorld, where we conduct market research and collect data for social media analysts and experts. We recently produced an infographic detailing a breakdown of the social media market and what changes you can expect over the next year.

Would you be interested in checking it out? I’d love to see what you think.

Let me know if you’re interested, and I can send you the infographic to take a look.

Best, Jack

2) The exclusive offer

If you’ve produced new research or data with surprising or intriguing results, it might be worth pitching your content as an exclusive before pressing publish on your own blog. An exclusive offer to a top-ranking publication in your industry could get you a lot of traffic from a single link, so it might be worth adjusting or reconsidering your own publication schedule.

When pitching to top journalists whose inboxes are probably flooded, keep your subject lines detailed and your emails short to communicate as much information in as few words as possible.

Exclusive: New data about Snapchat ads

Hey Sophia,

I’ve been reading your coverage of the competition heating up between Snapchat and Instagram, and I wanted to let you know that we’re releasing new data about Snapchat ad usage this week.

Among other insights, we found a surprising number of brands and publishers that were regularly advertising and publishing on Snapchat have started transitioning over to Instagram, where they achieve higher ad clickthrough rates.

I’d be happy to give you exclusive early access to our full report to be the first to write about it on the blog this week — what do you think?

Best, Jack

3) The DYK

Everyone likes to learn a fun fact. Couch your pitch as a “did you know” moment to pique the recipient’s curiosity to read the rest of your content for more fun and new information. If you were able to teach them something new, they may want to feature your fresh insight for their own readers.

DYK bots are more popular than blogs?

Hi Sophia,

Did you know that there are more than 100,000 active bots on Facebook Messenger?

If you aren’t already communicating with your audience via Facebook Messenger, you could be missing out on an opportunity to provide better customer service — and faster.

We rounded up more Messenger bot usage stats in a new report that I’ve attached below. Do you think it would be a good fit for an article on the SocialVille blog? Thanks in advance for checking it out, and let me know if you have any questions.

Best, Jack

4) The personalized pitch

The most critical part of a successful outreach email is personalization. I’m not talking about addressing your email to the correct name and spelling everything correctly — although you should definitely do both of those things. By showing the recipient that you know who they are and what they’re about, your pitch reads as genuine, and you read as a comprehensive possible partner.

It’s easy to write, “I loved your last article about [subject],” but it takes some digging and understanding to write, “I love reading your monthly social media news series. Did you catch the latest Facebook update that came out today?” Make sure your email shows that you’ve taken the time to understand what the person is all about and what they regularly cover.

Hi from a fellow Snapchat diehard

Hi Sophia,

I know you’ve been closely following the social media smackdown between Snap Inc. and Facebook — and I know who we’re both rooting for. So I wanted to show you this interactive timeline we created that compares the growth trajectories of the two companies.

Snap Inc. is similar to Facebook in a lot of ways, but its path to growth into the billions is mired with more competition. But this competition hasn’t limited Snapchat’s engagement — users are spending up to half an hour a day inside the app.

I noticed that you publish a social media news roundup every month featuring the latest stories and research, and I wondered if you thought this timeline could be a good inclusion. Let me know if you have any questions about the data!

Thanks, Jack

5) The offer

Nobody likes having extra work on their plate, so why not pitch doing the work for them? If you pitch a great idea alongside an offer to write a guest post, the recipient might be more inclined to say “yes.” But remember to do your due diligence before pressing “send.” If the person you’re pitching has already written about a specific angle a few times before, make sure you’re pitching something new and different to avoid getting ignored.

Offer to write up new report for SocialVille?

Hey Sophia,

You’ve written previously about successful Facebook ads and headlines, and I wanted to share some new research my team has put together about effective Facebook ad copy. We found that Facebook ads under 20 words in length performed significantly better than longer ads, along with a ton of other eye-opening stats.

Do you think this would be a good fit for the SocialVille blog? I’d be happy to write it up for you to take the legwork out of it. Let me know if you’d like me to get started.

Thanks for your consideration, Jack

6) The mention

Everybody likes to see their name in print. A clever way to angle for a backlink is to mention a product or an individual in a published piece, then circle back and share it with them. Ask for their feedback to get them reading the post, and they might link to it or share it on social of their own accord.

Your data featured in our latest report

Hey Sophia,

I love reading your stuff on the SocialVille blog! In fact, we featured your recent data about the impact of tools on productivity in our report on the growth of productivity as a business — I’ve attached the PDF below, and we’ve also shared it on Twitter.

I wonder if you’d be able to check out the report and let me know what you think or if I missed any important stats.

Thanks in advance for checking it out, and thanks for such an interesting write-up.

Best, Jack

7) The social proof

Social proof is the concept that consumers will be influenced by what others are already doing. For example, if you head to the bottom of this blog post, you’ll notice that we ask you to subscribe, noting that 300,000 marketers have already subscribed. That’s social proof in action: You might be more likely to subscribe now that you know hundreds of thousands of people are already doing it.

So, if you’ve published a great piece of content that people are responding positively to, tell people that when you pitch it for backlinks. They might be more inclined to cite you if other people in their field are already doing so.

Guide to Instagram ad analytics

Hi Sophia,

I’m sure you get a lot of content submissions, but I wanted to bring to your attention to a new guide we released about the ins and outs of Instagram ad advertising.

This helpful how-to guide tells you everything you need to know about advertising on Instagram and how to drive ROI, in addition to sharing real-world examples of ads that delivered results. Shameless #humblebrag here — the guide has been downloaded more than 5K times and has been retweeted more than 4K times — so I wanted to make sure you had a chance to check it out.

Do you think it would be a good fit for the SocialVille blog? I’d love to get your thoughts.

Best, Jack

8) The joke

Tread carefully with humor, but if you’ve perused their social media and they seem like they would appreciate a goofy joke, it could be a smart way to get your recipient’s attention.

As in the rules of the workplace or cocktail parties, avoid making jokes about politics, religion, or anything rated PG-13 and up.

What do cats, cooking videos, and your latest blog post have in common?

… they all went viral on social media!

Forgive the silly joke, but I knew cats would get your attention. I loved your recent piece about social media predictions for the coming year, and I wondered if you’d given any thought to predictions for where SEO is headed, too.

Here at SearchWorld, we predict that AMP and machine-learning will take center stage in Google’s quest to make search easier and more intuitive for the searcher.

We put together a report about how SEO has evolved and other predictions for where we think it’s headed next, and I think it would be a great reference if you decide to write a follow-up piece about the future of SEO. I’ve attached the report below — take a look, and let me know if there are any changes you’d suggest!

Thanks in advance, Jack

9) The response

This is another risky outreach strategy, but it could pay off if you do it properly.

The ultimate way to demonstrate that you’re an avid reader (instead of just saying so) is to respond to someone’s work with an opinion — even if it’s divergent. Other options besides the counterpoint in the example below could include:

  • A case study of you taking their advice and applying it to your brand
  • A different content format on the same subject — for example, a video explainer instead of a blog post
Quick question about your Facebook F8 recap

Hey Sophia,

Thanks for writing such a thorough recap of Facebook’s F8 conference. It was super helpful for those of us who couldn’t attend in person or watch the live stream!

I thought you made an interesting point about the competition heating up between Facebook and Snap Inc., but I think you could be missing a bigger idea here. I think it’s not as much a competition for users as it is a competition for features innovation vs. features execution.

I wrote up my take on the brands’ competition on our blog today and cited your recap — would you like to take a look? Maybe we could collaborate together on a blog post or video on how social media marketers should best evaluate the two companies’ competing apps.

Thanks, Jack

Email Link Building Best Practices

So, you might have noticed that these aren’t the traditional templates you can copy and paste into your own inbox.

And that’s because I don’t want you to simply plug in these emails and replace them with your own pitch. Part of the reason successful link building takes time and effort is because you have to craft a personalized email every time. You should use the guidelines I’ve outlined above, but copying and pasting the same exact message is just bad news for all involved. Don’t do it.

Below are more of my link building outreach email best practices:

1) Edit, then edit again.

Nothing makes me less interested in responding to a pitch email than when there is immediately a typo or grammatical error as early as the subject line — or my name. Double-check to ensure that all names are spelled correctly, that capitalization is perfect (Hubspot vs. HubSpot), and that punctuation is perfect.

On the other side of editing, cut your email down wherever you can. It’s better for your email to be on the shorter side than too long, so try to delete any extra words and phrases that aren’t completely necessary.

2) Keep your subject lines short and sweet.

My rule of thumb for subject lines is to avoid making them complete sentences. Stick to the important details to communicate as much enticing information in as few words as possible. If your brand name is recognizable, make sure to name drop yourself, too.

3) Don’t fake flattery.

If it’s easy to tell when someone’s compliments are inauthentic in person, it’s even easier to tell via email. Don’t flatter people you’re contacting for the sake of it — genuinely compliment their work, their insights, or their achievements, and take the compliment a step further to add value with your own content.

4) Do the legwork before you send.

Demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about by doing your research before you press “send.” When you think you’ve found the right person to pitch, take some time to research what they’ve written about in the past and what they discuss on social media. Pay attention to timing, too. If an author has just written about social media statistics, they might not want to write about the same angle one week later, so try to bring a new or related pitch to the table.

5) Don’t follow up more than once or twice.

Let’s face it — we’re all busy. Even if your outreach email is impeccable, it could get lost in someone’s inbox during a busy morning. You should feel free to reach out once to follow up, but don’t go overboard in pestering someone if they’re not getting back to you. After one or two follow-ups, let your pitch go, and reach out to them with another pitch further down the line.

For more link building strategies and best practices, the pros over at Moz can point you in the direction of more replies and backlinks and fewer ignores and “no”s. For more must-have SEO strategies to tackle in 2017, check out our free guide here.

Do you have an email link building outreach email that got you great results? Share with us in the comments below.

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Apr

26

2017

The Character Count Guide for Blog Posts, Videos, Tweets & More

Published by in category Blog, Canonical, Content Marketing, Daily, SEO, Social Media | Comments are closed

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When it comes to writing text for your blog and social media posts, many marketers wonder, “But what’s the character limit?” It’s never a simple question — sometimes, it’s answered by parameters established by certain channels. And on other occasions, it’s more a question of what’s ideal.

For example, you probably know the character limit for a tweet is 140, but did you know that the ideal length is actually less than that? (Hold tight — we’ll explain why.) While we’ve written before about optimizing your actual content, we thought it would be helpful to gather the numbers of character limits — both enforced and ideal — for different online channels, all in one place. Manage and plan your social media content with the help of this free calendar  template.

Below, you’ll find a more detailed guide to character limits and ideal character counts for posts on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, SnapChat, and YouTube.

The Length & Character Count for Everything on the Internet

1) Blog Posts

1-6nX_PYNpn0Ajc0tardzIkg.pngSource: Medium

Quick reference:

  • Post length: 2100 words
  • Title: Under 60 characters
  • Meta Description: Under 155 characters

Post Body

When it comes to the length of blog posts, there are a few different items to consider. For example:

  • According to Medium, posts with an average read time of seven minutes captured the most attention.
  • The average reading speed of native English-speaking adults remains commonly cited as 300 words per minute, according to research conducted in 1990.
  • At that reading rate, the ideal post length is 2100 words.
  • That aligns with research previously conducted by serpIQ, which indicated that, on average, the top 10 results for most Google searches are between 2,032 and 2,416 words.

That means that this ideal word count can address goals around both readability and SEO. But that’s just the actual body of the post. Plus, when we looked at our own blog on organic traffic, we found that the sweet spot was 2,250–2,500 words.

word-count-vs-organic-traffic.png

But that’s just the post body — let’s have a look at the other areas of text that comprise a full blog post.

Title

The length of your title depends on your goals, and where it will appear.

Let’s start with SEO. Do you want this post to rank really well in search? It turns out, that often has to do with the dimensions of each entry on a search engine results page (SERP). For Google, titles of search results are usually contained at a length of 600 pixels — which Moz measures as being able to display the first 50-60 characters of a title tag. So, if you don’t want your title to get cut off in the search results, it might be best to keep it under 60 characters. But when in doubt, you can double-check the length of your meta description and title tags with this handy tool from SEOmofo, or you can use Moz’s title tag preview tool.

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Then, there’s optimizing your title for social sharing. On Twitter, for example, consider that each tweet has a limit of 140 characters — however, if you include an image, that doesn’t count toward the limit. But consider that even the average shortened URL takes up about 23 characters — that leaves you with about 116 characters left for the title and any accompanying text.

In our own analysis at HubSpot, we found that headlines between 8–12 words in length got the most Twitter shares on average, while headlines with either 12 or 14 words got the most Facebook Likes.

headline-length-vs-social-shares.png

Meta Description

A meta description refers to the HTML attribute that explains the contents of a given webpage. It’s the short description you see on a SERP to “preview” what the page is about.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 12.22.10 PM.png

Moz notes that Google seems to cut off most meta descriptions — which are sometimes called snippets — after roughly two lines of text — though there’s some conjecture that, like title tags, it’s actually based on pixel count. In any case, it amounts to about 160 characters, though this particular outlet recommends keeping it at 155.

Again, you can double-check the length of your meta description and title tags with this handy tool from SEOmofo.

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2) Facebook

Quick reference:

  • Status updates: 63,206-character maximum | Ideal length is 40 characters
  • Video: 120-minute maximum | Ideal length is two minutes

Status Updates

Facebook’s character limit on status updates is 63,206. However, that’s far from ideal, says HubSpot Social Media Marketing Manager Chelsea Hunersen. “The social gurus will throw around the number 40 characters. That data seems to be backed up by BuzzSumo’s ranking of HubSpot’s own Facebook Page.

But why 40, specifically? “Ideally,” Hunersen says, “you’ll want to use the copy in a status update to provide context for whatever you’re linking to.” That said, she notes, the copy of the status update itself isn’t as important as the copy in the meta title or meta description that gets pulled in when you insert a link into your post. That’s right — social media posts have their own meta data too.

“Often, people look at the image of the article and then directly down at the meta title and meta description for context clues,” she explains. “A lot of people don’t realize you can change those.”

Even on Facebook, it’s still best to keep your meta title to fewer than 60 characters, and to 155 for meta descriptions. There are some resources available to those familiar with coding that let you play around with social media metadata character counts, like these templates. But unless you’re a developer, we recommend keeping it short and sweet.

Video

While Facebook allows a maximum of 120 minutes for videos, we wouldn’t advise posting anything that long, unless you’re doing a special, social-media-only screening of a full-length film.

According to research conducted by Wistia, two minutes is the “sweet spot” — even a minute longer than that shows a significant drop in viewership. “Engagement is steady up to [two] minutes, meaning that a 90-second video will hold a viewer’s attention as much as a 30-second video, the research reads,” so “if you’re making short videos, you don’t need to stress about the difference of a few seconds. Just keep it under [two] minutes.”

b3c077ee5e1cad372628b599fceca8c7717cd4ba.jpgSource: Wistia

However, optimal length can vary depending on the topic. “If you produce something as catchy as BuzzFeed and Refinery29 are putting out there, it can be up to five minutes long,” says Hunersen.

Regardless of the length of your video, Hunersen reminds us that all Facebook videos start without sound, meaning users have to make a conscious decision to stop scrolling through their feeds and unmute the video. Facebook videos should be visually compelling from the get-to, make sense without sound, and be engaging enough to encourage the user to stop and watch.

3) Twitter

Quick reference:

  • Tweets: 140-character maximum
    • Does not include images, videos, polls, or quotes tweets
    • Ideal length is 120-130 characters
  • Hashtags: No more than two
  • Videos: Maximum length is two minutes and 20 seconds

Length of Tweets

Marketers everywhere rejoiced when Twitter finally eased up on its character count parameters, and such media as images, videos, and polls, as well as quoted tweets, ceased counting toward its 140-character limit.

Still, the “Quote Tweet” feature remains available, providing even greater character-saving measures. That happens when you press the rotating arrow icon to retweet a post, and then add a comment in the text box provided. You’ve still got 140 characters all to yourself to comment.

LeiQz3vJLI-iloveimg-compressed.gif 

Ideal Length Overall

Like so much of what we’ve covered, it seems that when it comes to the overall length of a tweet, aim for short and sweet. (See what we did there?) That’s resonated in research conducted by social media scientist Dan Zarrella, who found that tweets with 120-130 characters showed the highest click-through rate (CTR):

Screen-Shot-2013-08-16-at-10.51.12-AM.pngSource: Buffer

The same goes for hashtags. While they can technically be any length up to 140 characters, remember that people will want to accompany the hashtag with other copy. Short hashtags are always better. Ideally, your hashtags should be under 11 characters — shorter if you can.

Also, in a single tweet, stick to one or two hashtags, and definitely don’t go over three. Buddy Media found that all tweets with hashtags get double the engagement metrics than tweets without any. But tweets that kept the hashtags to a minimum — one or two — have a 21% higher engagement than tweets with three or more.

Screen-Shot-2014-04-06-at-6.45.50-AM.pngSource: Buffer

Videos

You can post a video on Twitter by importing a video or recording it using the Twitter app. In any case, the maximum video length is two minutes and 20 seconds.

4) LinkedIn

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 1.39.48 PM.png

Profiles

Here’s a handy list of some of LinkedIn’s most important profile character maximums, according to Andy Foote:

  • Professional headline: 120
  • Summary: 2,000
  • Position title: 100
  • Position description: 2,000 (200 character minimum)
  • Status Update: 600 characters — however, Foote also notes that, “if you select to also post on Twitter from LinkedIn, only the first 140 characters will show on your Twitter post.”

Original Content

With LinkedIn’s publishing platform, users can now compose and share original written content with their networks, or publicly. Of course, that comes with its own character counts, according to Foote:

  • Post headline: 100
  • Post body: 40,000

5) Instagram

Quick reference:

  • Bio: 150-character maximum
  • Hashtags: Maximum of 30
  • Captions: Ideal length is under 125 characters

Since Instagram is, first and foremost, a platform for sharing photos and videos, the primary focus is typically your visual content. However, it’s always helpful to provide some context, and let users know what they’re looking at.

Given that, here are some helpful character counts for the text you include with your visual content:

Captions

While Instagram doesn’t seem to specify a maximum total number of caption characters, it does note that, within users’ feeds, the caption is cut off after the first three lines. For that reason, it’s advised to limit captions to 125 characters. However, don’t leave out important information just for the sake of keeping your entire caption visible. Instead, frontload it with crucial details and calls-to-action, leaving any hashtags, @mentions, or extraneous information for the end.

As for Instagram Stories, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of detail on character limits there, either. However, because the text overlays the visual content — which is the focus — don’t obscure too much of the photo or video with a caption.

6) Snapchat

Quick reference:

  • Character limit: 80 per post

Speaking of not obscuring visual content — that brings us to Snapchat.

Instagram Stories was, many believe, an effort to emulate the features of Snapchat, to create an opportunity for users to share quickly-disappearing photos and videos. And again, because the focus here is on the visual, you’ll want to prevent distracting viewers from it with too much text.

According to Teen Vogue, Snapchat’s character limit is 80 per post, which is more than double its previous 31-character limit. And, if you’re looking for more guidance, just look to this particular app’s name, and remember the “snap” element of it — a word that implies brevity — and try not to ramble. Here’s a great example of how SXSW uses its captions efficiently:

7) YouTube

Here we have yet another network that’s focused on visual content, leading some to incorrectly assume that accompanying text — like titles and descriptions — don’t matter as much.

That’s not entirely false — as a video-hosting platform, YouTube should primarily be used to showcase a brand’s quality videos. However, like any other visual content, it needs context. People need to know what they’re watching, who it’s from, and why it matters.

Unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t appear to provide any specific parameters over its character counts — except for your channel description, which according to the official help site is limited to 1,000 characters. But other than that, it seems that the only guideline available is the alert display that lets you know, “Your [title or description] is too long,” if you’ve entered too much text in either of those fields.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 2.57.09 PM-1.png

In this case, we would advise taking the same approach as adding text to support your visuals on Instagram and Snapchat. Like the former, a video’s description is cut off after the first line or two, so frontload the most important descriptors and CTAs, leaving extra details for the end.

Show Your Character

As you set out to determine the length of your text, regardless of the platform, remember to do so with the user in mind. Many of these channel-mandated character limits are established for that reason — to keep audiences from getting bored or overwhelmed.

Like anything else in marketing, however, it’s never an exact science, despite the best data. We encourage you to follow these guidelines, but don’t be afraid to experiment if they don’t always work. Test different amounts of text within your various channels, and keep track of how each post performs. From there, you can make decisions about which types of content, as well as its accompanying titles and descriptions, are the most well-received from your audience.

How do you approach text with different online channels? Let us know in the comments.

This post was originally published in January 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Apr

26

2017

How We Grew Our Organic Traffic by 43% Without Publishing a Single New Blog Post

Published by in category Blogging, Daily, SEO | Comments are closed

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Today I’m going to show you how we boosted our organic traffic by 43% over a 3 month period.

The best part is, we did it without publishing any new content, spending any more money on marketing or adding any additional resources to our team.

We call the strategy, The Mission Week, and I will tell you exactly how we do it.

But First, a Little Story …

I am the founder of small business-focused job board called Proven.

In October of 2015, we made the difficult decision to completely forgo building a sales team and focus all our efforts instead on acquiring customers via content marketing and SEO.

We knew that given the price point of our product, it was not economically viable for us to have people make sales calls. We needed a lower cost solution to bringing in new customers.

This led us to seeking a content marketing and SEO strategy.

Like many companies new to blogging, we rushed into it full steam, cranking out tons of new posts. We started to realize that this was a doomed strategy. We had hundreds of posts, but were barely moving the needle on our overall traffic. We figured we could only get a traffic boost as long as we were creating new content.

In early 2016, we started to learn a lot more about content promotion and link building. This led to a number of content successes, like ranking in the top 5 on Google for the search term“job board”, but after a while, this growth started to tail off.

Our content promotion was unfocused, lacked clear goals, and as a result, great pieces of content were not ranking well.

Finally, this all changed when our amazing Director of Marketing, Caileen Kehayas, invented The Mission Week.

What is a Mission Week?

Our Mission Weeks consist of choosing one piece of content that’s under performing and everyone on the team focuses their promotional efforts only on this piece of content.

 We gamify the process by assigning points to different types of promotional activities.

 For example, sending an outreach email might get you 1 point, you can earn 2 points for broken link building and 5 points for writing a guest blog that links to the article. Each person must accumulate 20 points to complete their mission for the week.

Regardless of your role in our company, you can participate. If you aren’t comfortable writing articles, you can earn points through outreach emails, discovering linking opportunities or responding to relevant questions on Quora.

As part of the promotion, we will do minor content updates and perhaps update the title and meta tags of the article.

The weekly point goal is small enough that it doesn’t take up so much time that it becomes overwhelming. Team members can easily earn enough points without compromising their regular workloads. 

Involving everyone at Proven — even those outside of the marketing team — helps create more dynamic and diverse supporting content. We all have different backgrounds and skill sets, and everyone is focused on promoting the same piece of content. With everyone participating, it’s a great opportunity for team building across different departments.

A Mission Week Case Study

In January 2016 we published an article called How to Interview: The Definitive Guide. After being live for 10 months on our blog, it never cracked the top 10 for Google search results for any high value set of keywords.

We chose this article back in late October as our first Mission Week.

This article now ranks 5th on Google for “how to interview”, and has 49 backlinks from 27 domains.

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 12.57.52 PM.png

So, how did we do it?

Resource Link Building

Each participant was awarded 1 point for an outreach email sent to a site that was linking to similar content. Primarily, we use a resource link building strategy that I wrote about previously.

During this week, each person on the team sent an average of 18.5 outreach emails to sites linking to similar content.

To research 15 to 20 different possible sites and send them an email doesn’t take up too much of a person’s week. However, if someone was left doing all this outreach on their own, it becomes a huge tedious job that eats up a large portion of their week.

Guest Blogging

Each participant was awarded 5 points for writing an article that contained a link to this blog post.

During this week, our team produced 7 related articles that our Director of Marketing helped publish to different sites.

Again, writing one support piece is not too bad, but writing 7 is completely unreasonable for our small team.

Content Updates

We updated the title of the article to How to Interview Job Candidates (The Definitive Guide), because adding brackets to your title can help increase CTR on Google. We also updated the introduction and gave the design of the page a bit of a face lift.

All of these things help to improve CTR, bounce rate and dwell time, which are all ranking factors for Google.

Social Promotion

As part of the mission, we schedule promotion of the article on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. We typically schedule up to 8 tweets for a single article, changing up the text and hashtags we use. If one tweet is performing really well, we will re-use it again and again on different days and different times.

Quora Answers

Each participant was awarded 2 points for finding and answering a relevant Quora question. Although these are no-follow links, it does help to create brand awareness, referral traffic, and authority in the industry.

During the week, we had one team member answer 5 questions on Quora.

Results

As mentioned, this article now ranks 5th on Google and went from delivering close to zero organic traffic to now being one of our top performing pieces.

We’ve seen consistent movement in our Google rankings for every subject of a Mission Week thus far. Following the same process outlined above, we did a Mission Week for this article about job ads.

We now rank 2nd on Google for ”job advertisements” ahead of industry giants like Indeed and CareerBuilder.

Organizing Our Missions

Each week, our marketing director chooses the article with the most SEO potential that is under performing.

She puts together a document outlining the following:

  • Article title
  • Article URL
  • The keywords we are targeting
  • Current rankings for those keywords
  • Suggestions for supporting article topics
  • Search suggestions for finding sites that may link to us

Separately, we track in a shared spreadsheet all the outreach emails we send so that we don’t accidentally email the same person. This is also good for historical reference because it’s sometimes worth revisiting and following up with any outreach emails that get sent.

Transforming The Way We Promote Content

Mission Weeks have completely transformed the way we actively promote our content. Prior to having the Mission Weeks, we used a lot of the same promotional strategies, but it was not focused and many team members didn’t have clearly defined weekly goals to work towards.

Now, every week, everyone knows exactly what they need to accomplish. Marketing, engineering, customer support and the executives of Proven all participate, driving towards the same goal of accumulating 20 points. We brag to one another over Slack when we complete our missions or land a new link, which is typically followed by a barrage of GIFs.

Not only has The Mission Week process grown our organic traffic, it’s increased our new customers significantly in a short period of time.

I strongly encourage you to give it a try. You can play with the point system and weekly goal based on the needs and resources of your company.

Would you consider running a Mission Week at your company? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Apr

7

2017

The Beginner's Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Published by in category A/B testing, Daily, marketing automation, SEO | Comments are closed

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Today, most marketing teams are structured to drive traffic towards websites, which then converts into leads for the sales team to close. Once this process starts to deliver results, marketers then seek to generate even more traffic, and hopefully even more success.

An oversimplification, but that’s the standard marketing playbook. Few marketing teams focus on getting more from existing traffic. That’s where conversion rate optimization (CRO) comes in.

In this blog post, we’ll teach you all about CRO — what it achieves, why you should do it, and how your team can execute it. We’ll explain how you can drive more results from your existing traffic so your content can work smarter, and not harder, for you.

What Is Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?

I’m glad you asked. Many websites are designed to convert website visitors into customers. These conversions occur all over the website — on the homepage, pricing page, blog, and landing pages — and all of these can be optimized for a higher number of conversions. The process of optimizing those conversions is exactly what CRO entails.

CRO is a huge, often untapped opportunity for marketing teams, and you might be surprised by the oversized impact you could deliver by fine-tuning your website for conversions.

When Is Conversation Rate Optimization (CRO) Right for Your Business?

Once your sales and marketing engine attracts website visitors who consistently convert into leads for your sales team, you should start thinking about CRO.

Most businesses have a finite demand for products and services, so it’s imperative that you make the most out of your existing website traffic. Tools like Google’s Global Market Finder can show you online search volume to give you an idea of your potential customer demand. Once you determine the threshold of your customer demand, it’s time to nail down how to get more out of your existing website traffic.

Below are three formulas to help you figure out how to tackle CRO at your company, and what goals to set:

  1. New revenue goal ÷ average sales price = # of new customers
  2. # of new customers ÷ lead to customer close rate % = lead goal
  3. Leads generated ÷ website traffic X100 = % conversion rate

To help you understand the impact CRO could have on your business, here’s an example of the formulas in action.

If your website has 10,000 visitors per month that generate 100 leads and subsequently, 10 customers each month, the website visitor to lead conversion rate would be 1%.

But what if you wanted to generate 20 customers each month? You could try to get 20,000 visitors to your website and hope that the quality of traffic doesn’t decrease. Or, you could get more leads from your existing traffic by optimizing your conversion rate.

If you increased the conversion rate from 1% to 2%, you’d double your leads and your customers.

The table below shows the impact of increasing your website’s conversion rate:

  Company A Company B Company C
Monthly website traffic 10,000 10,000 10,000
% conversion rate 1% 2% 3%
Leads generated 100 200 300
# of new customers 10 20 30

The key point here? Trying to generate more website traffic isn’t necessarily the right approach. Think of it like a leaky bucket. Pouring more water into a leaky bucket won’t fix the root cause — you’ll just end up with a lot of waste. Conversion rate optimization is about getting more from what you have and making it work even better for you.

Ready to take the first steps towards CRO at your company? Check out the strategies below, and start testing.

8 Conversion Rate Optimization Strategies to Try

1) Create text-based CTAs within blog posts.

While it’s good practice to include a call-to-action (CTA) in your blog post, these sometimes fail to entice people to take the desired course of action. Banner blindness is a very real phenomenon as people become accustomed to ignoring banner-like information on websites. This lack of attention, coupled with the fact that website visitors don’t always read to the bottom of a blog post as they “snack” on content, means a new approach is required.

That’s where the text-based CTA comes in handy. Here at HubSpot, we ran a test with text-based CTAs — a standalone line of text linked to a landing page and styled as an H3 or an H4 — to see if they would convert more traffic into leads than regular CTAs at the bottom of a web page. Here’s one of ours below:

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In HubSpot’s limited test of 10 blog posts, regular end-of-post banner CTAs contributed an average of just 6% of leads that the blog posts generated, whereas up to 93% of a post’s leads came from the anchor text CTA alone.

2) Include lead flows on your blog.

Another test you should consider is including lead flows on your blog. Essentially, these are high-converting pop-ups designed to attract attention and offer value. You can select from a slide-in box, drop-down banner or pop-up box, depending on your offer. We experimented with the slide-in box on the HubSpot blog, and it achieved a 192% higher clickthrough rate, and 27% more submissions than a regular CTA at the bottom of a blog post.

Head over to the HubSpot Academy to learn how to add lead flows to your blog posts. They can dramatically increase conversions on your website.

3) Run tests on your landing pages.

Landing pages are an important part of the modern marketer’s toolkit. A landing page is where a website visitor becomes a lead, or an existing lead engages more deeply with your brand. These pages play an important role on your website, so you should run A/B tests to get the most from them.

But what should you A/B test? We know that a high performing landing page can have a tremendous impact on a business, so at HubSpot, we make it easy to test variants and eke out more conversions. You can quickly and easily test website copy, content offer, image, form questions, and page design. Check out these tips for effective A/B testing and our A/B testing calculator.

4) Help leads to immediately become a marketing-qualified lead (MQL).

Sometimes, your website visitors want to get straight down to business and speak with a sales rep, rather than be nurtured by marketing offers. You can make it easy for them to take this action (and immediately become a marketing qualified lead) with a combination of thoughtful design and smart CTAs.

Compelling, clear copy has the ability to drive action and increase conversions for your business. But which actions do you want to encourage so visitors can become MQLs?

Here at HubSpot, we discovered that visitors who sign up for product demos convert at higher rates than visitors who sign up for free product trials, so we optimized our website and conversion paths for people booking a demo or a meeting with a sales rep. Admittedly, this depends on your product and sales process, but our best advice is to run a series of tests to find out what generates the most customers. Then, optimize for that process.

The key takeaway is to look for ways to remove friction from the sales process. That being said, if you make it easy for people to book a meeting with sales reps, we do recommend further qualification before the call takes place, so the sales rep can tailor the conversation.

5) Build workflows to enable your sales team.

There are a number of automated workflows you can create that your colleagues in sales will thank you for. For instance, did you know it’s possible to send emails on behalf of sales reps, so leads can book a meeting with them at the click of a button? Or that sales reps can receive an email notification when a lead takes a high intent action, such as viewing the pricing page on your website? And if you work in ecommerce, you can send an email to people who abandon their shopping cart.

All of this is possible with marketing automation. Want to learn more? Master marketing automation with our helpful guide.

6) Add messages to high-converting web pages.

With HubSpot’s messages tool, it’s now possible to chat with website visitors in real-time. To increase conversions, you should add messaging capabilities to high-performing web pages, such as pricing or product pages, so leads convert rather than leave.

You can also make chatting action-based. For example, if someone has spent more than a minute on the page, you may want to automatically offer to help and answer any questions they may have.

HubSpot’s messages tool is coming in the spring of 2017, but you can apply to join the beta program here.

7) Optimize high-performing blog posts.

If you’ve been blogging for more than a year, it’s likely you’ll have some blog posts that outperform others.

The same is true at HubSpot — in fact, the majority of our monthly blog views and leads come from posts published more than a month ago. Blog posts are a big opportunity for conversion rate optimization.

To get started, identify the blog posts with high levels of web traffic, but low conversion rates. It may be that the content offer you’re promoting isn’t aligned with the blog post’s content, or your CTA could be unclear.

In one instance, we added a press release content offer to a blog post about press releases and saw conversions for that post increase by 240%.

Additionally, you should look at blog posts with high conversion rates. You want to drive more qualified website traffic to those posts, and you can do that by optimizing the content for search engines or updating the content to ensure that it’s fresh and relevant. If you’re a HubSpot customer, you can drive traffic to these pages from LinkedIn and Facebook using the ads add-on.

8) Leverage retargeting to re-engage website visitors.

It doesn’t matter what your key conversion metric is: The cold, hard truth is that most people on your website don’t take the action you want them to. By leveraging retargeting (sometimes known as remarketing), you can re-engage people who’ve left your website.

Retargeting works by tracking visitors to your website and serving them online ads as they visit other sites around the web. This is particularly impactful when you retarget people who visit high-converting web pages.

The normal inbound rules still apply — you need well-crafted copy, an engaging image and a compelling offer for retargeting to work. If you’re a HubSpot customer, you should take a look at how the AdRoll integration can improve your conversion efforts.

How to Get Started with Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

We’ve shared a ton of information in this post, and at this point, you may be thinking, “where should I start?”

Here’s where the PIE framework comes in. Before starting a CRO project, we recommend prioritizing through the lens of PIE — rank each project based on its potential, importance, and ease. We used this framework at HubSpot with great results.

You should use this framework to answer the following questions for every strategy outlined in the previous section. Assign to each strategy a score between one and 10 (with one being the lowest and 10 being the highest):

  1. How much total improvement can this project offer?
  2. How valuable will this improvement be?
  3. How complicated or difficult will it be to implement this improvement?

Once you’ve assigned a score for each strategy, add up the numbers and then divide it by three — this gives a score which shows what project will have the greatest impact. Then, work on the projects with the highest scores first. The framework isn’t perfect, but it’s easy to understand, systematic, and a great way to communicate to the rest of your colleagues which CRO projects are being selected and why.

Want to learn more about the PIE framework? Take a look at this explanation from WiderFunnel.

What’s next?

There are a lot of “best practices” out there, but ultimately, you need to find out what your customers respond to, and what drives results for your business. Here are three follow-up actions to get started with CRO today:

  1. Use the three formulas to start the CRO conversation.
  2. Leverage the PIE framework to help prioritize your strategy.
  3. Make CRO someone’s responsibility.

What CRO strategies does your business leverage? Share with us in the comments below.

32 Ecommerce Conversion Mistakes to Avoid

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Mar

7

2017

The Beginner's Guide to Small Business Marketing Online

Published by in category Marketing, SEO, Small Business | Comments are closed

According to Forbes, 80-90% of consumers research purchases online before buying. 

Whether you’re in the process of launching a new business or already have one, having an strong online presence for your brand is extremely important.

Small business owners looking for a way to track ROI and brand awareness need digital marketing. Not only is digital marketing a must-have for promoting your products or services, but optimizing your online assets is also critical to your business’ overall success.

Trellis reports that over 90% of people searching online will not go past the first page of results on Google. To ensure that your website shows up in search ahead of your competitors, It’s important for your company to invest in search engine optimization (SEO) and keyword research. For local businesses, it’s equally as important to have essential and updated information readily available for potential clients. 

If you’re a small business owner with little experience in online marketing, this might all sound like a foreign language to you. Have no fear — we’ll go through what all these words mean, and why you should care about them! 

In this post, we’ll help you build and optimize your marketing strategy using inbound marketing, setting you up to attract new clients and ultimately grow your business. Organic traffic (someone finding you on their own through internet search) is the most cost-efficient way to acquire new business.

We are going to answer the following questions and provide marketing tips about promoting your small business:

  • How can I make a website? How can I make a website without a developer?
  • Why isn’t my website appearing in Google?
  • Why is my competitor above me in Google?
  • What is blogging?
  • Why does blogging matter?
  • Why do I need social media accounts?
  • How do I get more traffic to my website?

The Core Elements of Small Business Marketing

If you haven’t officially started your business, check out this comprehensive guide for how to start a business. It outlines everything you need to become an officially established small business, including tax and licensing information, and all the other resources you’ll need to get up and running.

If you’ve already officially launched your small business, here are the most important things you’ll need to begin leveraging inbound marketing and acquiring new customers from organic search:

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Brand 
  • Email tool
  • Conversion tool
  • Social media accounts

Website

Having a professional-looking website is one of the most important assets you will create for your small business. This is where you will show who you are, what you offer, where you are, and how a potential customer can get in touch with you.

If you’ve never made a website before and aren’t entirely comfortable with the technical elements, there are a variety of free tools and services to help you get started. When you create your website, make sure you implement Google Analytics or HubSpot Marketing Free (both of which are free products) so you can easily track who’s looking at your site.

Do-It-Yourself Tools

If you’re a fairly tech-savvy small business owner, you’ll probably want to build your own website. If you choose to do this, you can use a CMS (content management system) to do so.

Most CMSs offer pre-made templates for your site that you can get for free or purchase, then customize to your brand (we’ll get to branding later.) There are a handful of inexpensive and even free options for various skill levels — from beginner all the way to advanced.

Once you’ve created your website, most CMS platforms offer plugins to help you optimize your content for search (look for SEO plugins). This will help you rank better in Google — which we’ll discuss more in depth in a bit.

Freelancers and Agencies

If you aren’t on the technical side and want a website built for your small business, you can use a freelancer or a marketing agency that specializes in web design. This is a great option for businesses that already have a website but need it to be updated and revamped for SEO (search engine optimization) to help improve your Google ranking.

To find a freelancer or marketing consultant in your area, you can use Upwork (filtering by design/creative) or Freelancer. To find a marketing agency, try looking through HubSpot’s Agency Partner directory. All HubSpot Partners are SEO experts and will help you rank in search engines and be found online.

Speaking of SEO and Google rank, what’s that all about? 

Google Ranking and SEO

If you already have a business, have you ever searched for yourself or your product/service online? If so, did you think, “Why isn’t my website showing up on Google?” If so, you probably thought, “How do I rank on Google?” or “How can I improve my Google ranking?”

There are a lot of factors that play into why a certain site or page appears in the top spots on the Google (or other search engine) search engine results page (SERP). Backlinko reports some of Google’s top factors, which include having relevant keywords (and their placement on your site), the length of your content, having high-quality content, how fast your page loads, how often you post content, and more.

When it all boils down, Google essnetially tries to find the best piece of content to present to the person searching. For example, if I’m searching for the best salon in Newport, Rhode Island, it wouldn’t be helpful for me to find a webpage of a salon that has closed down and is located in Newport, Kentucky. It would, however, be helpful for me to find a salon in my area with great Yelp reviews, an easy-to-navigate website, and contact information readily available. Google always wants to surface the most relevant, highest-quality piece of content.

To rank higher on Google, you can leverage the power of SEO, or search engine optimization. To start learning everything there is to know about this powerhouse marketing tactic, check out The Ultimate Guide to SEO in 2017.

What is SEO? Well, first off, it’s simpler than you might be thinking. HubSpot explains it as “techniques that help your website rank higher in organic search results, making your website more visible to people who are looking for your brand, product, or service via search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.” In other words, it’s the basic concept of structuring your website and blog posts to be in the best shape for appearing first on search engines. 

SEO strategy usually consists of a few things. These include buyer persona research, keyword research, and on-page SEO research. These three areas can help you learn how your target market is searching online, and position your business to get discovered by the right people.

By learning more about your target customer through buyer persona, you can better figure out what types of things they may be searching for so you can include those terms on your website.

Keyword research is an extension of buyer persona research. You can use the personas you’ve created to search for the best keywords for your brand, then use a tool like KW Finder to find related keywords for your target audience.

Finally, you can do some on-page SEO research and optimization. This is where you put those keywords in the correct places on your website like in the meta-description, page titles, and H1 tags. 

Blogging

As we learned in the SEO section above, content and blogging are extremely important when it comes to ranking. The more often your desired keywords appear in your high-quality and helpful content, the more likely you are to appear in search results. A great way to become an authority on your topic, product, or service is to blog. For HubSpot, most of our traffic comes from our blog and content marketing campaigns.

To start a blog, you can use an inexpensive or free website tool to make a free blog and use one of their templates. Even if you only publish once a week, it will improve your website’s visibility online and help educate your potential customers on why they should trust your company.

If you’re planning to write your posts yourself, check out this beginner’s guide to writing. If you need some help and want to hire someone to write for you, try Upwork for a freelance blogger, or use a marketing agency like I mentioned above. Make sure you’re writing with SEO in mind — use this SEO checklist for bloggers, or a WordPress plugin like Yoast.

Once you start writing blog posts for your small business, you can add a call-to-action on your posts for visitors to subscribe to your blog and receive emails This is a great way to start collecting leads and offering potential customers a way to get information if they aren’t ready to buy anything from you yet. 

Brand

Having aconsistent brand identity to promote your business will make you look more professional and help you attract new customers. According to a study from Facebook, 77% of people are loyal to brands.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has described a company’s branding as “what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” In other words, your brand is the feelings and emotions people have when hearing your company name. It’s is a combination of your brand name, logo, aesthetic, and the design of all your assets.

To start getting the creative juices flowing, consider your color scheme and peruse palettes with Adobe Kuler or Coolors. You can create your own or look through pre-made or customized color palettes. 

To create a logo, I’d recommend checking out Upwork and Freelancer, or reaching out to a marketing agency. There are free and less expensive options for designing your own logo online, although using a freelancer or agency can give you a higher quality product and connect you with a designer who can change and update your brand assets as your company grows.

Email Tools

Email marketing is a critical part of your marketing toolkit. MarketingSherpa reports that 72% of adults prefer communication via email. Email marketing is an easy, free, and scalable way to communicate with both new and existing customers.

Once you have an email marketing tool in place (many are inexpensive or even free), experiment with emailing out newsletters (with your sleek new blog posts), and other promotions to your database. We know small business owners don’t have tons of free time to devote to digital marketing, so consider using marketing automation to make this process even easier for yourself.

To get started planning your email marketing strategy, check out this guide and template from HubSpot.

Conversion Tool

We’ve been talking a lot about the assets you need to grow your business, but haven’t really covered how these will help drive revenue yet. One simple way to start generating leads or customers from your website is to implement a conversion tool.

A simple, free option is HubSpot Marketing Free. By using this tool to add a pop-up widget to your website, you can start collecting email addresses of potential customers. From there, you can send out promotions and offers and convert them into paying customers. You can also implement any of these 24 conversion tools to help you optimize your website and use it to drive leads. 

Social Media Accounts

Social media might seem like it’s just a fun platform for people to socialize and connect, but it’s actually a powerful business tool. Social media can help you increase traffic, improve your search engine rankings, and engage with potential customers. 

Social Media for Local Businesses

If your business is foused on a local area, the most important accounts for you are Facebook, Yelp, and Google’s business feature. Having high Yelp reviews improves your authority online and helps your search ranking. You can claim your business on Yelp for free, customize your profile and add pictures, and start asking for reviews.

The same thing goes for registering your Google business page. You can register your business with Google (for free) and add pictures. (If you’ve ever searched for your business in Google Maps and been disappointed not to see it, it’s because you haven’t claimed it yet!)

On Facebook, you can create a Facebook business page so that people can find your location and hours. 

For any business, having up-to-date social media accounts will help you be found and engage with prospects. Create a Twitter account for your business, Facebook page for business, learn how to use Instagram for business, create a Pinterest page for your business (if relevant), and use them as a way to discover new clients. You can also try your hand at using Snapchat for business if you’ve already mastered the basics. 

Small Businesses Need a Strong Digital Presence to be Found

Well, there you have it. You probably have a long road ahead to build your online presence, but any steps you can make will have a huge impact on your business. Some things like blogging definitely take a few months to start kicking in and sending you traffic, but social media accounts and posts can have immediate effects.

Congratulations on starting or updating your small business! Let us know in the comments if any of these strategies helped you.

hubspot

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Mar

4

2017

SEO Cheat Sheet for Facebook, Yelp, Pinterest, Etsy, and Google [Infographics]

Published by in category Ecommerce, IGSS, SEO | Comments are closed

SEO_business_pages_compressed.jpg

Before the internet was more widely available, your business may have relied on printed directories, such as the Yellow Pages, to be found and discovered by new customers.

The greatest likelihood someone would call you over your competitors was if you paid for larger print ad placements, or if your brand’s name started with one of the first letters of the alphabet.

Thanks to the internet, it’s easier for prospects and leads to find businesses by simply conducting a search or checking out social media. In fact, 81% of shoppers conduct online research about a product before making a purchase. Now, it’s more important than ever to have well-optimized business pages across search engines and social media platforms so your business can be found and so you can generate more leads. Stop wasting time on SEO strategies that don't work with the help of this free  PDF guide />>” src=”https://no-cache.hubspot.com/cta/default/53/bd685600-02f9-40f3-a4e7-18488a8d79ba.png”></a></p>
<p>The folks at <a href=HigherVisibility produced minigraphics with tips for how to optimize your business page on Facebook, Pinterest, Etsy, Yelp, and Google. A few simple steps to improve your pages could result in more traffic, leads, and revenue for your business, so be sure to bookmark the minigraphics below.

Facebook

e-commerce-facebook-optimization.jpg

Yelp

e-commerce-yelp-optimization.jpg

Pinterest

e-commerce-pinterest-optimization.jpg

Etsy

e-commerce-etsy-optimization.jpg

Google

e-commerce-google-optimization.jpg

seo myths 2017

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Dec

6

2016

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

Mobile-First-Google-compressor.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Is Mobile-First Indexing?

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

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

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

What About #Mobilegeddon?

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

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

See the below conversation with Illyes for more:

Mobile-Indexing.png

How You Can Prepare For the Mobile-First World

1) Ensure you have a mobile-friendly website.

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

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

2) Consider if content should be adjusted for mobile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

free guide: guide to mobile marketing

Nov

29

2016

How to Validate Your Blog Post Topics: A 3-Step Process

validate-blog-post-ideas.jpg

Imagine you own a business that films and produces yoga routines for at-home practice. As search engine results pages become more crowded, your chances of ranking for a popular industry keyword — such as “yoga” — begin to diminish.

But as it turns out, that’s not the end of the world. These days people are actually conducting more specific, conversational queries — think: “how do I teach myself yoga?” — to get the information they’re looking for, faster.

Unsurprisingly, Google responded to this change in behavior by introducing RankBrain — a machine-learning artificial intelligence system — as well as Hummingbird — a search algorithm designed to focus on the meaning behind the search terms being used.

The result? An increased number of long-tail keyword variations that are regularly searched within a topic. Jackpot. Learn more about HubSpot's latest tools to power your growth here.

But with more topic opportunities on the table, how can you be sure that you’re going after the right ones? To help you avoid wasting time on topics and keyword plays that won’t generate a meaningful return for your business, we’ve put together a simple process for validating your ideas before you start writing. Check it out below. 

How to Validate Your Blog Post Topics: A 3-Step Process

1) Get to know your audience really well.

Ideally, you’re already conducting market research and thinking about your audience before you start writing a piece of content. But in case you’re not, or you need to refresh your memory, here are a few questions you should be asking when you’re brainstorming blog content ideas:

  • Who searches for information on this topic? What are their ages, job roles, and demographic traits?
  • What emotions do you want to evoke? What are their goals?
  • What do you want viewers to do with your blog posts once they read it?

When you have a clearer idea of the demographic and psychographic traits of your ideal audience, you can then use this information to substantiate your list of ideas. Chuck the ideas that don’t fit their mold, and keep the ones that do — it’s that simple.

2) Create a topic cluster based on your persona research.

Once you know who you’re writing for, figure out what questions they need answers to. To start, think about providing solutions to challenges your audience is facing.

For example, in the yoga example above, your audience’s problems might include: not having enough time to go to the gym, a lack of nearby gyms, an inability to afford a gym membership, or high levels of stress.

From there, marketers should ask questions to determine the specific angle of their content. What’s the best way to deliver this information — a blog post, an infographic, or a video? What content has already been published about the topic, and what angle can I pursue to differentiate mine?

One of the best ways to organize your thoughts and finding here is through a topic cluster a new way to strategize blog content geared toward how search has evolved.

Continuing with the yoga example, you’d want to create a topic cluster centered around “yoga” as the main topic. Then, you’d come up with subtopics that are related to yoga but based on long-tail keywords that are easier to rank for in search. These could include “at-home workouts,” “exercises for stress relief,” “yoga for beginners,” and “online yoga classes.”

Here’s an example cluster that HubSpot’s Head of Growth & SEO Matt Barby created. Notice that while the core content topic is “workout routines,” the cluster content — referred to as pillar content — spans a wider variety of related topics.

workout routines topic cluster-1.png

By clustering ideas around one core topic that is relevant to your audience, it become easier to generate content that you know will resonate.

“This is a very simplistic overview but can work as a light framework for prioritizing content ideation and production,” explains Barby in an article detailing the full process. “The role of the pillar content is to cover the core topic broadly and also perform well at converting visitors into leads (or whatever your conversion goal is). The cluster content that is built for each of the subtopics will focus on gaining greater topic visibility and funneling traffic through to the pillar content in order for them to convert.”

3) Use tools to gut check your topics.

Once you have topics in mind for blog posts, do some testing: Just because you think the topic is interesting and good for search engine optimization doesn’t always mean it will resonate with your audience.

Here on the HubSpot Blogging team, we propose blog topics and titles alongside a reason why we think they will perform well. Here are some of the tools we use to determine if an angle is worth writing up:

  • TitleTester: As the name of the tool suggests, TitleTester allows you to plug different title options into its tool to analyze which has the highest clickthrough rate. Use this tool to test different angles on a topic to see which generates the most interest.
  • Twitter Polls: Ask your followers to vote for topics they’re most interested in reading more about using Twitter Polls. Use that data to guide your topic choosing before starting to write.
  • Twitter Chats: Figure out which Twitter Chat most closely aligns with the topics you’re writing about, click on the hashtag, and see what types of questions people are asking about. That will give you an idea of a content gap that your blog post could fill with resources for your audience.
  • BuzzSumo: BuzzSumo analyzes how many times a URL has been shared via social media or linked to by another domain. Do some quick competitor analysis by dropping in links to content on the topic you’re writing about to see how different angles have performed in the past.
  • Blog Comments: Does your blog have commenting enabled? If not, it should, because feedback from your subscribers is the exact answer to the questions you’re asking — what content is my audience interested in? Take positive and constructive feedback from readers to inform your strategy.

Once you’ve aggregated responses to different tests and questions you’ve asked your audience, choose a topic and title with the greatest level of engagement and response, and start writing your blog post.

Quality > Quantity

The biggest takeaway for marketers is to emphasize blog post quality and relevance over quantity. Instead of writing multiple blog posts without a review of the strategy behind them, it will be difficult to rank in search and achieve lead generation goals.

For HubSpot customers, HubSpot Content Strategy will help guide you through the process of creating a topic cluster. Based on data from the HubSpot Keywords App, Content Strategy and the Blog Topic Generator will recommend topics that you should create content around, and advise against topics that will be hard to rank for or are unrelated to your central topic. It’s coming soon to the HubSpot software, and users can sign up for early access now.

How do you decide which topics to write blog posts about? Share with us in the comments below.

Product Launches INBOUND 2016

Nov

29

2016

How to Validate Your Blog Post Topics: A 3-Step Process

validate-blog-post-ideas.jpg

Imagine you own a business that films and produces yoga routines for at-home practice. As search engine results pages become more crowded, your chances of ranking for a popular industry keyword — such as “yoga” — begin to diminish.

But as it turns out, that’s not the end of the world. These days people are actually conducting more specific, conversational queries — think: “how do I teach myself yoga?” — to get the information they’re looking for, faster.

Unsurprisingly, Google responded to this change in behavior by introducing RankBrain — a machine-learning artificial intelligence system — as well as Hummingbird — a search algorithm designed to focus on the meaning behind the search terms being used.

The result? An increased number of long-tail keyword variations that are regularly searched within a topic. Jackpot. Learn more about HubSpot's latest tools to power your growth here.

But with more topic opportunities on the table, how can you be sure that you’re going after the right ones? To help you avoid wasting time on topics and keyword plays that won’t generate a meaningful return for your business, we’ve put together a simple process for validating your ideas before you start writing. Check it out below. 

How to Validate Your Blog Post Topics: A 3-Step Process

1) Get to know your audience really well.

Ideally, you’re already conducting market research and thinking about your audience before you start writing a piece of content. But in case you’re not, or you need to refresh your memory, here are a few questions you should be asking when you’re brainstorming blog content ideas:

  • Who searches for information on this topic? What are their ages, job roles, and demographic traits?
  • What emotions do you want to evoke? What are their goals?
  • What do you want viewers to do with your blog posts once they read it?

When you have a clearer idea of the demographic and psychographic traits of your ideal audience, you can then use this information to substantiate your list of ideas. Chuck the ideas that don’t fit their mold, and keep the ones that do — it’s that simple.

2) Create a topic cluster based on your persona research.

Once you know who you’re writing for, figure out what questions they need answers to. To start, think about providing solutions to challenges your audience is facing.

For example, in the yoga example above, your audience’s problems might include: not having enough time to go to the gym, a lack of nearby gyms, an inability to afford a gym membership, or high levels of stress.

From there, marketers should ask questions to determine the specific angle of their content. What’s the best way to deliver this information — a blog post, an infographic, or a video? What content has already been published about the topic, and what angle can I pursue to differentiate mine?

One of the best ways to organize your thoughts and finding here is through a topic cluster a new way to strategize blog content geared toward how search has evolved.

Continuing with the yoga example, you’d want to create a topic cluster centered around “yoga” as the main topic. Then, you’d come up with subtopics that are related to yoga but based on long-tail keywords that are easier to rank for in search. These could include “at-home workouts,” “exercises for stress relief,” “yoga for beginners,” and “online yoga classes.”

Here’s an example cluster that HubSpot’s Head of Growth & SEO Matt Barby created. Notice that while the core content topic is “workout routines,” the cluster content — referred to as pillar content — spans a wider variety of related topics.

workout routines topic cluster-1.png

By clustering ideas around one core topic that is relevant to your audience, it become easier to generate content that you know will resonate.

“This is a very simplistic overview but can work as a light framework for prioritizing content ideation and production,” explains Barby in an article detailing the full process. “The role of the pillar content is to cover the core topic broadly and also perform well at converting visitors into leads (or whatever your conversion goal is). The cluster content that is built for each of the subtopics will focus on gaining greater topic visibility and funneling traffic through to the pillar content in order for them to convert.”

3) Use tools to gut check your topics.

Once you have topics in mind for blog posts, do some testing: Just because you think the topic is interesting and good for search engine optimization doesn’t always mean it will resonate with your audience.

Here on the HubSpot Blogging team, we propose blog topics and titles alongside a reason why we think they will perform well. Here are some of the tools we use to determine if an angle is worth writing up:

  • TitleTester: As the name of the tool suggests, TitleTester allows you to plug different title options into its tool to analyze which has the highest clickthrough rate. Use this tool to test different angles on a topic to see which generates the most interest.
  • Twitter Polls: Ask your followers to vote for topics they’re most interested in reading more about using Twitter Polls. Use that data to guide your topic choosing before starting to write.
  • Twitter Chats: Figure out which Twitter Chat most closely aligns with the topics you’re writing about, click on the hashtag, and see what types of questions people are asking about. That will give you an idea of a content gap that your blog post could fill with resources for your audience.
  • BuzzSumo: BuzzSumo analyzes how many times a URL has been shared via social media or linked to by another domain. Do some quick competitor analysis by dropping in links to content on the topic you’re writing about to see how different angles have performed in the past.
  • Blog Comments: Does your blog have commenting enabled? If not, it should, because feedback from your subscribers is the exact answer to the questions you’re asking — what content is my audience interested in? Take positive and constructive feedback from readers to inform your strategy.

Once you’ve aggregated responses to different tests and questions you’ve asked your audience, choose a topic and title with the greatest level of engagement and response, and start writing your blog post.

Quality > Quantity

The biggest takeaway for marketers is to emphasize blog post quality and relevance over quantity. Instead of writing multiple blog posts without a review of the strategy behind them, it will be difficult to rank in search and achieve lead generation goals.

For HubSpot customers, HubSpot Content Strategy will help guide you through the process of creating a topic cluster. Based on data from the HubSpot Keywords App, Content Strategy and the Blog Topic Generator will recommend topics that you should create content around, and advise against topics that will be hard to rank for or are unrelated to your central topic. It’s coming soon to the HubSpot software, and users can sign up for early access now.

How do you decide which topics to write blog posts about? Share with us in the comments below.

Product Launches INBOUND 2016

Nov

25

2016

7 Marketing Automation Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

marketing-automation-mistakes.jpg

I have money in my savings account because my bank has a built-in auto-deposit process. I’m not logging into my account every day and moving money around, but when I do log in, I can see the progress I’ve made toward my goals by setting my account to automate deductions.

Think of marketing automation like auto-deducting money from your checking account and putting it into savings: The automatic process lets you invest in your future goals in an easier way than if you did it manually.

Marketing automation can play a significant role in the success of your inbound marketing strategy, but there is a right way and a wrong way to use it. Learn more about HubSpot's latest tools to power your growth here.

We want to help you understand marketing automation, and how and when to use it to your organization’s benefit. In this post, we’ll discuss traps marketers can fall into when incorporating marketing automation and alternatives that solve for these challenges.

What Is Marketing Automation?

Quite simply, marketing automation refers to the software that exists to automate marketing actions — actions like email, social media, and more. All of these automated actions are designed with the concept of lead nurturing in mind. In other words, marketers are creating and automating various types of content with the goal of actively attracting, qualifying, and moving prospects through the sales funnel towards a purchase.

And the marketing automation industry is huge — Emailmonday estimates that 49% of companies use marketing automation software, and Marketing Automation Insider estimates that the industry is worth $1.62 billion per year.

The trouble is, because marketing automation software has grown so significantly as a part of the inbound marketing movement, some marketers aren’t adopting it correctly. Let’s dig into some of the most common marketing automation mistakes below.

7 Common Marketing Automation Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

1) You’ve invested in marketing automation without an inbound lead generation strategy.

The Problem:

You’ve purchased and started using marketing automation software, but you don’t have a strong content strategy in place yet. As a result, you aren’t attracting enough qualified leads to your website, so the ROI of your marketing automation software is low.

To solve this problem, you might be considering buying an email contact list to build the size of your database.

The Solution:

Before you buy an email list, don’t.

You see, it’s not a sound lead generation strategy to purchase email contact lists for a few reasons. For one, people don’t generally like being contacted unsolicited, and you don’t want to irritate potential customers. Additionally, purchased email lists have generally high churn rates — because the leads are often unqualified — meaning your database won’t have the long-term growth that you’re looking for.

Instead of going that route, focus on developing an inbound marketing strategy aimed at attracting folks that actually want to hear from you. Write blog posts, create content offers, calls-to-action, and landing pages, and optimize your website so it will rank well in organic search. These efforts will ensure that your content is being discovered by your audience. Then, once you start generating more leads, you’ll be able to nurture them effectively with automated emails and social media posts.

2) You don’t have a goal for your marketing automation.

The Problem:

You’re sending out multiple automated email and social media messages without an end goal in mind. 

The Solution:

Take advantage of the ease of use marketing automation software provides and invest time and efforts into determining your goals first. Once you have them, you’ll want to assign these goals to each automated effort — social media, email workflows, and so on — to ensure it’s easy to track progress.

After all, marketers need a way to measure success when it comes to marketing automation, and one means of doing so is by evaluating goal attainment. For example, here at HubSpot, the Visual Workflows App (currently in beta) lets you set a specific goal for each automated workflow. A goal might be a new lead transitioning into a marketing-qualified lead based on certain behaviors, such as downloading a specific number of content offers.

HubSpot Visual Workflows also allows you to track the percentage of contacts in each workflow that achieve the goal, which is another great way to measure the success and ROI of your marketing automation.

3) You don’t segment your email list.

The Problem:

You have a database full of qualified leads, but you’re using marketing automation software to blast out tons of emails that aren’t customized at all. As a result, your leads are churning because your emails aren’t useful to them.

The Solution:

Develop a lead nurturing strategy that includes email list segmentation so you’re sending specific emails to specific people that they’re more likely to open.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, 77% of email marketing ROI came from targeted, segmented campaigns in 2015, and segmented emails generate 58% of all revenue. Seems like a must-have strategy, right? Unfortunately, only 42% of email marketers are sending targeted messages.

With the right marketing automation software, it’s easy to execute an email list segmentation strategy that delivers strong results. For example, HubSpot customers can use the Visual Workflows App to target their emails based on dozens of criteria, both demographic and behavioral.

Need inspiration? We recently published a blog post with 30 ideas for email list segmentation from real brands.

4) You send too many emails.

The Problem:

Perhaps your email list isn’t segmented, or maybe you’re a little overzealous with your marketing automation software. Whatever the reason, you’re annoying potential prospects by sending way too many emails.

The Solution:

Strategically send fewer emails.

When it comes to your email database, focus on quality over quantity. It’s better to have a lower volume of leads with higher engagement rates than a massive database of people who don’t open your emails.

Why? Because higher quality leads are more likely to become customers.

A staggering 78% of customers recently surveyed by HubSpot Research have unsubscribed because the brand was sending too many emails. To avoid sending one of many such emails, make sure that every single email you send provides value to leads in a way that they won’t be able to help but click.

5) You’re only automating your email marketing strategy.

The Problem:

You use your marketing automation software to send out emails, and not much else.

The Solution:

Take advantage of all of the features your software offers to maximize efficiency.

There are probably a lot of little tasks over the course of your work day that don’t seem time consuming individually. However, if you add up all of the time you spend posting on social media, updating contact information, and other tasks, you end up with a large chunk of your day spent on things that can probably be automated.

Poke around your marketing automation to see which processes you can make more efficient. For example, in the HubSpot software, users can bulk update lead contact information instead of clicking into each record and changing details there.

The more processes you automate, the more time you’ll have each day to strategize with your team about content, lead generation, and lead nurturing tactics to keep attracting quality leads to your site.

6) You’re only sharing your marketing automation efforts within your marketing department.

The Problem:

You have marketing automation set up only for email marketing, social media, and other lead activities that are only impacting your marketing team’s bottom line.

The Solution:

Use a “smarketing” approach, and make your marketing automation work for sales reps as well.

Think bigger than just the marketing team: What processes would help your sales team if they were automated?

For example, if there were a process in place that alerted reps to when their leads were checking out parts of your website, that would help inform their next call or email. When a lead fills out a form, it could trigger a specific email send from marketing and a follow-up call from their sales rep. Marketing automation software also helps users set follow-up tasks and to-do lists, which reps could use to keep track of the many leads they’re working at a given time.

Take your sales and marketing alignment to the next level by making processes easier for team members across the board to achieve their goals with the help of marketing automation.

7) You use too many different tools.

The Problem:

Roughly half of marketers use marketing automation software, and those who do often combine different strategies into a “Frankensystem” of tools to achieve their bottom line.

For example, they might start on a whiteboard, move to a spreadsheet, then shift onto an online flowchart maker, and only then will they use marketing automation software. This system is problematic in a few ways — it’s time consuming, numbers can be incorrectly analyzed, and communication is complicated.

The Solution:

Invest in all-in-one marketing automation software.

The point of marketing automation is to make things easier and more efficient, and your team won’t achieve that if you’re spending too much time updating different documents or manually targeting your leads database.

All-in-one marketing automation software offers a variety of criteria options to target your audience, as well as visualization tools so you can see how your marketing automation efforts are working together. That means you’ll be spending less time writing out numbers and emailing spreadsheets to your team members, and more time implementing strategies designed to qualify leads.

What’s the biggest challenge you encountered when you purchased marketing automation software? Share with us in the comments below.

Product Launches INBOUND 2016

Nov

25

2016

7 Marketing Automation Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

marketing-automation-mistakes.jpg

I have money in my savings account because my bank has a built-in auto-deposit process. I’m not logging into my account every day and moving money around, but when I do log in, I can see the progress I’ve made toward my goals by setting my account to automate deductions.

Think of marketing automation like auto-deducting money from your checking account and putting it into savings: The automatic process lets you invest in your future goals in an easier way than if you did it manually.

Marketing automation can play a significant role in the success of your inbound marketing strategy, but there is a right way and a wrong way to use it. Learn more about HubSpot's latest tools to power your growth here.

We want to help you understand marketing automation, and how and when to use it to your organization’s benefit. In this post, we’ll discuss traps marketers can fall into when incorporating marketing automation and alternatives that solve for these challenges.

What Is Marketing Automation?

Quite simply, marketing automation refers to the software that exists to automate marketing actions — actions like email, social media, and more. All of these automated actions are designed with the concept of lead nurturing in mind. In other words, marketers are creating and automating various types of content with the goal of actively attracting, qualifying, and moving prospects through the sales funnel towards a purchase.

And the marketing automation industry is huge — Emailmonday estimates that 49% of companies use marketing automation software, and Marketing Automation Insider estimates that the industry is worth $1.62 billion per year.

The trouble is, because marketing automation software has grown so significantly as a part of the inbound marketing movement, some marketers aren’t adopting it correctly. Let’s dig into some of the most common marketing automation mistakes below.

7 Common Marketing Automation Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

1) You’ve invested in marketing automation without an inbound lead generation strategy.

The Problem:

You’ve purchased and started using marketing automation software, but you don’t have a strong content strategy in place yet. As a result, you aren’t attracting enough qualified leads to your website, so the ROI of your marketing automation software is low.

To solve this problem, you might be considering buying an email contact list to build the size of your database.

The Solution:

Before you buy an email list, don’t.

You see, it’s not a sound lead generation strategy to purchase email contact lists for a few reasons. For one, people don’t generally like being contacted unsolicited, and you don’t want to irritate potential customers. Additionally, purchased email lists have generally high churn rates — because the leads are often unqualified — meaning your database won’t have the long-term growth that you’re looking for.

Instead of going that route, focus on developing an inbound marketing strategy aimed at attracting folks that actually want to hear from you. Write blog posts, create content offers, calls-to-action, and landing pages, and optimize your website so it will rank well in organic search. These efforts will ensure that your content is being discovered by your audience. Then, once you start generating more leads, you’ll be able to nurture them effectively with automated emails and social media posts.

2) You don’t have a goal for your marketing automation.

The Problem:

You’re sending out multiple automated email and social media messages without an end goal in mind. 

The Solution:

Take advantage of the ease of use marketing automation software provides and invest time and efforts into determining your goals first. Once you have them, you’ll want to assign these goals to each automated effort — social media, email workflows, and so on — to ensure it’s easy to track progress.

After all, marketers need a way to measure success when it comes to marketing automation, and one means of doing so is by evaluating goal attainment. For example, here at HubSpot, the Visual Workflows App (currently in beta) lets you set a specific goal for each automated workflow. A goal might be a new lead transitioning into a marketing-qualified lead based on certain behaviors, such as downloading a specific number of content offers.

HubSpot Visual Workflows also allows you to track the percentage of contacts in each workflow that achieve the goal, which is another great way to measure the success and ROI of your marketing automation.

3) You don’t segment your email list.

The Problem:

You have a database full of qualified leads, but you’re using marketing automation software to blast out tons of emails that aren’t customized at all. As a result, your leads are churning because your emails aren’t useful to them.

The Solution:

Develop a lead nurturing strategy that includes email list segmentation so you’re sending specific emails to specific people that they’re more likely to open.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, 77% of email marketing ROI came from targeted, segmented campaigns in 2015, and segmented emails generate 58% of all revenue. Seems like a must-have strategy, right? Unfortunately, only 42% of email marketers are sending targeted messages.

With the right marketing automation software, it’s easy to execute an email list segmentation strategy that delivers strong results. For example, HubSpot customers can use the Visual Workflows App to target their emails based on dozens of criteria, both demographic and behavioral.

Need inspiration? We recently published a blog post with 30 ideas for email list segmentation from real brands.

4) You send too many emails.

The Problem:

Perhaps your email list isn’t segmented, or maybe you’re a little overzealous with your marketing automation software. Whatever the reason, you’re annoying potential prospects by sending way too many emails.

The Solution:

Strategically send fewer emails.

When it comes to your email database, focus on quality over quantity. It’s better to have a lower volume of leads with higher engagement rates than a massive database of people who don’t open your emails.

Why? Because higher quality leads are more likely to become customers.

A staggering 78% of customers recently surveyed by HubSpot Research have unsubscribed because the brand was sending too many emails. To avoid sending one of many such emails, make sure that every single email you send provides value to leads in a way that they won’t be able to help but click.

5) You’re only automating your email marketing strategy.

The Problem:

You use your marketing automation software to send out emails, and not much else.

The Solution:

Take advantage of all of the features your software offers to maximize efficiency.

There are probably a lot of little tasks over the course of your work day that don’t seem time consuming individually. However, if you add up all of the time you spend posting on social media, updating contact information, and other tasks, you end up with a large chunk of your day spent on things that can probably be automated.

Poke around your marketing automation to see which processes you can make more efficient. For example, in the HubSpot software, users can bulk update lead contact information instead of clicking into each record and changing details there.

The more processes you automate, the more time you’ll have each day to strategize with your team about content, lead generation, and lead nurturing tactics to keep attracting quality leads to your site.

6) You’re only sharing your marketing automation efforts within your marketing department.

The Problem:

You have marketing automation set up only for email marketing, social media, and other lead activities that are only impacting your marketing team’s bottom line.

The Solution:

Use a “smarketing” approach, and make your marketing automation work for sales reps as well.

Think bigger than just the marketing team: What processes would help your sales team if they were automated?

For example, if there were a process in place that alerted reps to when their leads were checking out parts of your website, that would help inform their next call or email. When a lead fills out a form, it could trigger a specific email send from marketing and a follow-up call from their sales rep. Marketing automation software also helps users set follow-up tasks and to-do lists, which reps could use to keep track of the many leads they’re working at a given time.

Take your sales and marketing alignment to the next level by making processes easier for team members across the board to achieve their goals with the help of marketing automation.

7) You use too many different tools.

The Problem:

Roughly half of marketers use marketing automation software, and those who do often combine different strategies into a “Frankensystem” of tools to achieve their bottom line.

For example, they might start on a whiteboard, move to a spreadsheet, then shift onto an online flowchart maker, and only then will they use marketing automation software. This system is problematic in a few ways — it’s time consuming, numbers can be incorrectly analyzed, and communication is complicated.

The Solution:

Invest in all-in-one marketing automation software.

The point of marketing automation is to make things easier and more efficient, and your team won’t achieve that if you’re spending too much time updating different documents or manually targeting your leads database.

All-in-one marketing automation software offers a variety of criteria options to target your audience, as well as visualization tools so you can see how your marketing automation efforts are working together. That means you’ll be spending less time writing out numbers and emailing spreadsheets to your team members, and more time implementing strategies designed to qualify leads.

What’s the biggest challenge you encountered when you purchased marketing automation software? Share with us in the comments below.

Product Launches INBOUND 2016

Nov

22

2016

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

Fun_Facts_Algorithm.png

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

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

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

What the Heck Is an Algorithm, Anyway?

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

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

1,000,000,000,000

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

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

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

8 Fun Facts About Google’s Algorithm

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

Source: Search Engine Land

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

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

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

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

Source: pyxle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original algorithm paper

Source: Stanford InfoLab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google_Founders.png

Source: Stanford InfoLab

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google dance

Source: Search Engine Land

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

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

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

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

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

Google_Names.jpg

Source: Wade Creative Network

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

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

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

7) Algorithms are also getting smarter for image searches.

Google cloud vision API

Source: Forbes

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

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

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

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

Screen_Shot_2016-10-12_at_11.25.56_AM.png

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

blogging team labels

Blog team facial analysis

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

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

Cool, huh? Give it a try here.

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

searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.png

Source: Google

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

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

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

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

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

Have Fun With Search

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

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

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

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

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free guide: learning seo from the experts

Nov

22

2016

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

Fun_Facts_Algorithm.png

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

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

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

What the Heck Is an Algorithm, Anyway?

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

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

1,000,000,000,000

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

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

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

8 Fun Facts About Google’s Algorithm

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

Source: Search Engine Land

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

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

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

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

Source: pyxle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original algorithm paper

Source: Stanford InfoLab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google_Founders.png

Source: Stanford InfoLab

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google dance

Source: Search Engine Land

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

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

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

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

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

Google_Names.jpg

Source: Wade Creative Network

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

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

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

7) Algorithms are also getting smarter for image searches.

Google cloud vision API

Source: Forbes

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

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

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

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

Screen_Shot_2016-10-12_at_11.25.56_AM.png

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

blogging team labels

Blog team facial analysis

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

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

Cool, huh? Give it a try here.

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

searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.png

Source: Google

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

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

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

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

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

Have Fun With Search

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

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

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

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

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Nov

21

2016

Google’s AMP: A Marketer’s Guide to Accelerated Mobile Pages

 

Did you know that, on average, smartphone users touch their phones 2,617 times each day?

According to the survey conducted by dscout in the spring of 2016, smartphone users also spend an average of 145 daily minutes on their mobile phones.

In other words, we’re leaning on our mobile devices more than ever before. In fact, data from HubSpot Research revealed that a whopping 33% of respondents use their smartphone as their primary device for internet use.

Unsurprisingly, Google has responded to the growth of mobile search by launching The AMP Project, or Accelerated Mobile Pages. In short: AMP was designed so publishers could build web pages that load more quickly on mobile devices.

What do marketers need to know about this new project? We’re glad you asked. Let’s walk through some of the most common questions and answers below.

What is AMP?

AMP enables content to load near-instantaneously by removing JavaScript from the page. It prioritizes text-based content, then loads additional content after the remainder of the page has rendered.

Google’s decision to launch this open-source initiative was rooted in the importance of improving the user experience (UX) for the millions of mobile searchers worldwide. (And, in part, to compete with Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles.)

Google has partnered with several different publishers and platforms to start using AMP on its content — Twitter, Vox, BuzzFeed, and the Washington Post, to name a few. It’s also created a carousel of “Top Stories” in Google Search that highlights web pages and articles built with AMP.

Here’s an example of what an AMP-formatted story on the Top Stories carousel looks like once you click:

Product_Demo.gif

Source: Search Engine Land

You can test what AMP looks like on your own mobile phone now. Open up your Google app and type in the newsworthy topic of your choosing (I chose Mars):

amp-1.gif

Pretty fast loading speed, right? As you also probably noticed, articles with the lightning bolt AMP designation can appear in a carousel of results at the top of the search engine results page.

AMP-formatted websites also appear in the main Google search engine results page, as shown below:

AMPdemo.gifSource: Search Engine Land

If this seems like a big shift, you’re right. Let’s explore why AMP will be so impactful on mobile search and search engine optimization (SEO).

Why Does AMP Matter?

The biggest benefit of AMP is improved user experience: When mobile searchers find the information they’re looking for faster, they’re less likely to navigate away from a website. The AMP Project Product Manager, Rudy Galfi, said that the median time for an AMP-formatted page to load is 0.7 seconds — in comparison, the median load time for other web pages is 22 seconds.

More than half of site visitors spend fewer than 15 seconds on a website before navigating away, so AMP has a huge impact on publishers’ ability to attract and keep potential customers on their blog and landing pages. Google found that 29% of smartphone users will immediately navigate away from a site if it loads too slowly or if they can’t find the information they’re looking for.

Users are spending more time searching on their mobile devices than on computers all over the world. If you’ve optimized your website and email for mobile devices, AMP is a way to optimize your content for mobile search, too.

Another benefit of AMP is content visibility. AMP-formatted content is published in the AMP carousel at the top of a Google search results page, and the lightning bolt icon denotes AMP-formatted pages in search results. These layout and design changes help AMP content stand out in the crowd to users searching for information, which could drive more clicks and traffic.

How Does AMP Impact SEO?

According to Advanced Web Ranking, the first position in Google search results achieves an average clickthrough rate of 31% internationally. The second position? Only a 19.5% clickthrough rate. So, search rankings are very important to marketers.

The ultimate goal of inbound marketing is to get your website discovered by potential customers, and discovery in search engine results is key to making that happen. Blog posts and news articles formatted with AMP HTML code is one of many tools, such as keywords, headings, and alt-text, that marketers can use to optimize their content for search results.

But AMP is not a direct search engine ranking factor, and sites that format their pages with AMP will not see an immediate leap in search rankings. Instead, Google Senior Director of News and Social Products, Richard Gingras, told AdAge that AMP is one of the 200 signals Google looks at when determining rankings.

“If we had two articles that from a signaling perspective scored the same in all other characteristics but for speed, then yes we will give an emphasis to the one with speed because that is what users find compelling,” explained Gingras.

 

So, what’s the takeaway for marketers? Speed is a signal that impacts search rankings, but that doesn’t mean AMP formatting alone will get your site on the first page of Google.

But, it could contribute to higher rankings in combination with other strong signals. For example, if fewer visitors are immediately navigating away from your content because it loads quickly and is relevant to their search query, that would signal to Google to increase the ranking in search because it’s highly useful for users.

How to Use AMP

In order to implement AMP on your own web pages, you’ll need to build and develop new version of web pages with AMP HTML.

The reason you can’t simply build one web page with AMP for desktop and mobile search? AMP removes third-party JavaScript to speed up the page’s load time for mobile users, so the same web page would be simplified and less exciting for the viewer on their computer.

Remember, AMP is designed to improve user experience, so when you create a separate AMP version, you ensure that desktop and mobile visitors alike enjoy your content. Marketing Land recommends using rel= “canonical” tags so Google doesn’t downgrade your content because it’s been duplicated.

The AMP Project website provides specific instructions and tutorials for how to build a web page with AMP code. Additionally, they offer a portfolio of AMP examples for AMP design inspiration.

Below is a video from The AMP Project that explains the ins and outs of what goes into an AMP-formatted page:

Source: The AMP Project

If you’re a HubSpot customer, AMP is coming to the HubSpot Marketing Platform in early 2017. With this setting, blogging teams won’t have to hire a developer or learn how to code AMP with the resources outlined above. Instead, users will only have to check a box in order to create AMP-formatted blog posts to get discovered in mobile search.

Here’s what it will look like:

AMP in HubSpot.png

See the check box above the “Save changes” button? That’s the entire process for creating pages formatted with AMP in HubSpot Software. Easy, right?

What’s Ahead

Expect to see more results appear in the AMP carousel when you search for content on your mobile device, and keep an eye out for new developments in mobile optimization from Google’s competitors among search engines, software, and social media networks.

For now, head to The AMP Project to learn more about AMP, and look for HubSpot blog content in your AMP carousel soon.

What are your strategies for optimizing your blog for mobile search? Share with us in the comments below.

Learn about all the product launches from INBOUND 2016

Nov

21

2016

Google’s AMP: A Marketer’s Guide to Accelerated Mobile Pages

get discovered with amp-2.jpg

Did you know that, on average, smartphone users touch their phones 2,617 times each day?

According to the survey conducted by dscout in the spring of 2016, smartphone users also spend an average of 145 daily minutes on their mobile phones.

In other words, we’re leaning on our mobile devices more than ever before. In fact, data from HubSpot Research revealed that a whopping 33% of respondents use their smartphone as their primary device for internet use.

Unsurprisingly, Google has responded to the growth of mobile search by launching The AMP Project, or Accelerated Mobile Pages. In short: AMP was designed so publishers could build web pages that load more quickly on mobile devices.

What do marketers need to know about this new project? We’re glad you asked. Let’s walk through some of the most common questions and answers below.

What is AMP?

AMP enables content to load near-instantaneously by removing JavaScript from the page. It prioritizes text-based content, then loads additional content after the remainder of the page has rendered.

Google’s decision to launch this open-source initiative was rooted in the importance of improving the user experience (UX) for the millions of mobile searchers worldwide. (And, in part, to compete with Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles.)

Google has partnered with several different publishers and platforms to start using AMP on its content — Twitter, Vox, BuzzFeed, and the Washington Post, to name a few. It’s also created a carousel of “Top Stories” in Google Search that highlights web pages and articles built with AMP.

Here’s an example of what an AMP-formatted story on the Top Stories carousel looks like once you click:

Product_Demo.gif

Source: Search Engine Land

You can test what AMP looks like on your own mobile phone now. Open up your Google app and type in the newsworthy topic of your choosing (I chose Mars):

amp-1.gif

Pretty fast loading speed, right? As you also probably noticed, articles with the lightning bolt AMP designation can appear in a carousel of results at the top of the search engine results page.

AMP-formatted websites also appear in the main Google search engine results page, as shown below:

AMPdemo.gifSource: Search Engine Land

If this seems like a big shift, you’re right. Let’s explore why AMP will be so impactful on mobile search and search engine optimization (SEO).

Why Does AMP Matter?

The biggest benefit of AMP is improved user experience: When mobile searchers find the information they’re looking for faster, they’re less likely to navigate away from a website. The AMP Project Product Manager, Rudy Galfi, said that the median time for an AMP-formatted page to load is 0.7 seconds — in comparison, the median load time for other web pages is 22 seconds.

More than half of site visitors spend fewer than 15 seconds on a website before navigating away, so AMP has a huge impact on publishers’ ability to attract and keep potential customers on their blog and landing pages. Google found that 29% of smartphone users will immediately navigate away from a site if it loads too slowly or if they can’t find the information they’re looking for.

Users are spending more time searching on their mobile devices than on computers all over the world. If you’ve optimized your website and email for mobile devices, AMP is a way to optimize your content for mobile search, too.

Another benefit of AMP is content visibility. AMP-formatted content is published in the AMP carousel at the top of a Google search results page, and the lightning bolt icon denotes AMP-formatted pages in search results. These layout and design changes help AMP content stand out in the crowd to users searching for information, which could drive more clicks and traffic.

How Does AMP Impact SEO?

According to Advanced Web Ranking, the first position in Google search results achieves an average clickthrough rate of 31% internationally. The second position? Only a 19.5% clickthrough rate. So, search rankings are very important to marketers.

The ultimate goal of inbound marketing is to get your website discovered by potential customers, and discovery in search engine results is key to making that happen. Blog posts and news articles formatted with AMP HTML code is one of many tools, such as keywords, headings, and alt-text, that marketers can use to optimize their content for search results.

But AMP is not a direct search engine ranking signal and sites that format their pages with AMP will not see an immediate leap in search rankings. Instead, Google Senior Director of News and Social Products, Richard Gingras, told AdAge that AMP is one of many features and signals Google looks at when determining rankings.

“If we had two articles that from a signaling perspective scored the same in all other characteristics but for speed, then yes we will give an emphasis to the one with speed because that is what users find compelling,” explained Gingras.

So, what’s the takeaway for marketers? Speed is a signal that impacts search rankings, but that doesn’t mean AMP formatting alone will get your site on the first page of Google.

But, it could contribute to higher rankings in combination with other strong signals. For example, if fewer visitors are immediately navigating away from your content because it loads quickly and is relevant to their search query, that would signal to Google to increase the ranking in search because it’s highly useful for users.

How to Use AMP

In order to implement AMP on your own web pages, you’ll need to build and develop new version of web pages with AMP HTML.

The reason you can’t simply build one web page with AMP for desktop and mobile search? AMP removes third-party JavaScript to speed up the page’s load time for mobile users, so the same web page would be simplified and less exciting for the viewer on their computer.

Remember, AMP is designed to improve user experience, so when you create a separate AMP version, you ensure that desktop and mobile visitors alike enjoy your content. Marketing Land recommends using rel= “canonical” tags so Google doesn’t downgrade your content because it’s been duplicated.

The AMP Project website provides specific instructions and tutorials for how to build a web page with AMP code. Additionally, they offer a portfolio of AMP examples for AMP design inspiration.

Below is a video from The AMP Project that explains the ins and outs of what goes into an AMP-formatted page:

Source: The AMP Project

If you’re a HubSpot customer, AMP is coming to the HubSpot Marketing Platform in early 2017. With this setting, blogging teams won’t have to hire a developer or learn how to code AMP with the resources outlined above. Instead, users will only have to check a box in order to create AMP-formatted blog posts to get discovered in mobile search.

Here’s what it will look like:

AMP in HubSpot.png

See the check box above the “Save changes” button? That’s the entire process for creating pages formatted with AMP in HubSpot Software. Easy, right?

What’s Ahead

Expect to see more results appear in the AMP carousel when you search for content on your mobile device, and keep an eye out for new developments in mobile optimization from Google’s competitors among search engines, software, and social media networks.

For now, head to The AMP Project to learn more about AMP, and look for HubSpot blog content in your AMP carousel soon.

What are your strategies for optimizing your blog for mobile search? Share with us in the comments below.

Learn about all the product launches from INBOUND 2016


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