Category Archives: Marketing Strategies

Local Lead Generation: The Tips, Tricks, and Tools to Do It Right

Let’s imagine you manage a balloon animal artist collective in Omaha, Nebraska. You notice your company’s growth is plateauing. You mostly serve a strange crop of repeat customers who throw a lot of parties and really like balloon animals, but they can only do so much for you.

You realize you need new business and decide a base of interested contacts would be a great place to start. In other words, you need to generate new leads, but you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do.

Your company isn’t some multinational balloon animal conglomerate — it’s just a collective that features three of the top ten most celebrated balloon animal artists in the greater Omaha area. And you only book customers in Douglas County (that’s where Omaha is — I just looked it up.)

If you’re trying to generate leads for your business, it doesn’t make sense to employ the same lead generation strategies as companies that operate on a global scale. Instead, you would do something called local lead generation.

Let’s get a picture of what that concept is and how to do it right.

Local Lead Generation Tips

Local Lead Generation Software

What is Lead Generation?

Before understanding what local lead generation is, it might help to know what lead generation itself is. As per HubSpot’s own definition, “Lead generation is the process of attracting and converting a strangers and prospects into people who have indicated an interest in your company’s product or service. Some examples of lead generators are job applications, blog posts, coupons, live events, and online content.”

There’s a wide variety of lead generation strategies available, including tactics specific to social media platforms and lead generation through paid-per-click (PPC) ads.

A solid lead generation strategy is an invaluable asset for a business of any shape or size. So that brings us to the point of this article — how can doctors, dentists, smaller law firms, contractors, construction companies, and any other business that operates regionally turn prospects into leads?

More bluntly, how can a local business construct and leverage an effective lead generation infrastructure?

Local Lead Generation

On a fundamental level, local lead generation is just another category of lead generation. That might sound obvious, but it’s still helpful to keep in mind. You’ll be using the concept’s same core principles, but you’ll apply them within specific parameters. Here are some important factors and tactics to consider, and what they mean in the context of local lead generation.

Local SEO

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is essentially the process of expanding a company’s visibility in the organic search results on engines like Google. Its endgame is to drive more visitors to a company’s site, increasing chances for more conversions.

Ranking well on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) is one of the most important factors for local lead generation, but ranking locally is a different process than ranking nationally.

To gather information for local search, search engines rely on signals such as local content, social profile pages, links, and citations to provide the most relevant local results to the user.

There are several strides you can take to ensure that your local SEO strategy is optimal and effective. These steps include improving your website’s internal linking structure, ensuring your website is mobile-friendly, engaging with customers on social media, and ensuring your contact information is consistent online.

This is obviously a very high-level overview of local SEO. For a more thorough, technical explanation of the optimization process, check out this article.

Local SEM

HubsSpot defines SEM, or Search Engine Marketing, as “using paid advertising to ensure that your business’s products or services are visible in search engine results pages (SERPs). When a user types in a certain keyword, SEM enables your business to appear as a result for that search query.” In a nutshell, it’s the process of placing targeted advertisements on search engine pages.

The practice can be leveraged by businesses of any size and provides another excellent avenue for local companies to generate leads. Like SEO, targeted search engine ads are rooted in search interest — meaning high ranking SEM ads generally bring in already engaged prospects.

If your ad placements can rank well for regional search inquiries and keywords, you should be in a good position to generate local, interested leads. To learn more about SEM, check out this article.

Landing Pages, Forms, and Offers

Landing pages — website pages specifically dedicated to turning visitors into leads — are central to almost any virtual lead generation effort. A landing page contains lead forms that ask visitors for their contact information, but they won’t give that information up for nothing.

The process is transactional. Prospects can’t be expected to dole out their phone numbers or email addresses without receiving something in return. That “something” is known as an offer. It’s some sort of incentive that is designed to drive interest in a company while establishing its credibility.

Offers are often content-based. Whitepapers, ebooks, and webinars are all examples of potentially compelling offers. But offers don’t always have to be content-specific — particularly when it comes to local businesses.

Local companies might get more out of offering a discount or a free consultation in exchange for a prospect’s email. No matter how your business operates, well-constructed landing pages and compelling offers are crucial when it comes to converting an interested website visitor into a legitimate lead.

There are also various kinds of software available to aid your local lead generation efforts.

1.HubSpot Marketing Hub

The HubSpot Marketing Hub’s suite of features can assist with your audience targeting efforts. It contains resources that provide real-time SEO suggestions to help you tailor a content strategy to your local audience.

It also enables more sophisticated and effective promotion over social media and other online marketing avenues. Businesses can also leverage the platform to design compelling calls to action and personalize messaging based on location, traffic source, buyer persona, and more.

Ultimately, The HubSpot Marketing Hub is an affordable option for local businesses looking to attract and garner interest from prospects. It provides the necessary resources for any local business to get a picture of who its customers are, how they’re interacting with its marketing efforts, and what it can do to translate prospects’ interest into legitimate leads.

2. Google Search Console

Google Search Console can be an invaluable asset to any local SEO strategy. The software brings data about where your content appears in Google’s search results to light and shows how often search visitors are interacting with your site when it appears on search result pages.

The console’s reports provide legitimate, quantifiable visibility into the impact of your content marketing, considering factors like clicks, impressions, and page rank. It also offers insight into keywords or phrases people are searching for when your site appears on the results page — a powerful resource for coming up with new content ideas based on the keywords your prospects are actually searching.

3. OptinMonster

OptinMonster is a conversion optimization toolkit that features resources to generate leads, gain subscribers, and ultimately provide sales opportunities from your site’s traffic.

It contains templates to create offers and a powerful targeting and segmentation engine — taken together, these tools can identify when to show the right visitors offers relevant to their interests. It also has analytics resources to measure the efficacy of your campaigns. 

Source: OptinMonster

4. Google Ads

Google Ads can be one of the most mission-critical components of a local business’s SEM efforts. And the software’s HubSpot integration allows companies to identify and reach highly-targeted local audiences.

It can use any CRM data point to serve as a reference for targeted messages — an asset to local businesses looking to pinpoint who and where their potential customers’ interest is coming from.

It also lets small businesses set their own advertising budgets by offering insight into which ads are most effective — allowing local companies to keep careful tabs on the ROI of their paid ads.

5. Typeform

Typeform allows you to capture more leads with engaging interactive forms. The software features mobile-ready contact forms, surveys, quizzes, and more — all from premade or custom templates.

Its automatic tracking tools allow you to pinpoint where your most engaged audience is coming from — whether it be specific social media channels, your website’s home or contact page, or any other source that feeds leads to your business.

No matter the shape, size, or nature of your company, gaining exposure to interested prospects will always be in your best interest. Local businesses still need to grow, and new customers are central to that process. Companies with any sort of online presence should always be looking to generate new leads — no matter how far or wide their geographical reach extends.

So when you’re ready to take your balloon animal collective to the upper echelon of the Omaha, Nebraska novelty party entertainment scene, be sure to look into the different local lead generation strategies explored in this article.

Your Email Testing Playbook for 2020 (& the Tools You'll Need)

A/B testing is one of those techniques that, if you have enough volume to give you significant results, is pretty much guaranteed to generate better results from your marketing.

Email marketers have known this for ages, but what drives me nuts is that they waste their time on tiny little tests — instead of tackling some of the bigger, more exciting tests that yield real insights and improvements.

In fact, MarketingSherpa’s email survey found that subject lines are still the most commonly tested element in email marketing. Meaning that those few words that get your subscribers to open your emails and see your wonderful offers are what marketers focus on most in their attempts to optimize their email marketing.

While I’m sure this strategy can end up getting you the most tested, optimized subject line that will ever reach an inbox, the impact of these tests are minimal compared to all the other things an email marketer could be testing.

So … are you ready to run some big, exciting tests? In this blog post, we’ll highlight what you should be experimenting with and which tools can help you. But, first, we’ll explain the importance of A/B testing. 

 
A/B testing is a great way to test two different newsletter formats that promote the same content or two newsletters with slightly different design elements, such as different images or types of CTAs.
 
Rather than testing one template repeatedly for a few weeks, followed by another email format test, this testing phase quickly allows you to test two styles and pick a winning template on a limited schedule.
 
As you consider A/B testing or other email experimentation, here are a few vital things you’ll want to test when building out your email marketing strategy.

Email Testing

1. Test different types of offers in your messages.

Possibly the biggest lever you have in your email marketing is not the few words you use to describe your offer, but rather, the offer itself.

Whether you’re testing two ebooks against each other, or an ebook versus a webinar, this test is bound to get you better results overall. The reason this is particularly important is, while you may think your offer is the best thing since the iPod, you may also be wrong.

We started doing this sort of testing religiously back in the summer of 2010 and saw dramatic results. Instead of taking our email list and sending them all our latest ebook, we would take a smaller portion of the list, split it in half, send them each two different offers, and then send the better performing offer to the (larger) remainder of the list. This testing alone increased our monthly email leads 4-8x instantly.

Email leads increase

Here are some more specific offer elements you can consider testing:

  • Topic: Do certain offer topics resonate better with your audience? For example, we might test one of our ebooks on Facebook against one of our ebooks on Twitter.
  • Format: Which offer format does your list prefer? Do they love webinars? How does that compare to their interest in ebooks, kits, free trials, etc.?
  • Length/Size: Does your audience prefer smaller, bite-sized offers like tip sheets, or are they hungry for more, like an 80-page ebook? Try testing longer forms of content vs. shorter offers, or one offer vs. a set of offers.
  • Name of Offer: Sometimes the way you position your offer can make a difference with your audience. Think ebook vs. guide vs. whitepaper, or factbook vs. slideshow vs. download.

2. Analyze the landing page you’ll be linking to.

The goal of your email is not just to get someone to open or click through; it’s also to take some action. For example, to download your offer. So don’t think of your email in a vacuum. Think of it in the context of driving that particular action, which means optimizing where the action takes place: the landing page.

After all, if you create this great email that drives lots of clicks to your website but then you lose those potential leads at the last stage, it’s like you’ve run the first leg of a marathon but then decided to drop out of the race during the very last mile.

Here are some important landing page elements to test:

  • Description of Offer: The way you position your offer may have an impact. Calling out that a consultation is free, or referencing testimonials of people who have downloaded that offer, for example, can be interesting variables to test.
  • Length of Description: Do you go on and on about your offer, providing testimonials and screenshots, or do you keep things short and sweet in bullet point form?
  • Image/Preview of Offer: Using a supporting image is great, but what do you show? An image of the ebook cover, a sample page of the ebook so people can see what’s inside, or a preview of the first few pages?
  • Form Placement: Do you put the form on the left? The right? Below a block of text? Best practices say make it visible on immediate page load (above the fold), but feel free to play around with the placement.
  • Number of Form Fields: What data do you really need from your prospects? Fewer form fields usually leads to a higher conversion rate, but you should always test asking the bare minimum versus asking for every personal detail — and somewhere in between. We’ve also published some great advice about this debate here.
  • Which Form Questions to Ask: In addition to the number of form fields, which questions you ask on your form can have a big impact. Asking for Social Security Numbers or visitors’ first born child’s name is very different from asking for size of company or industry.
  • Form “Submit” Button Text: Do you use a straightforward, action-oriented phrase like “Download Ebook Now,” a fun option like “Let’s Go!” or a standard “Download” button? Test out the text of the button you know each lead is clicking on.

3. Leverage audience segmentation tests.

The success of your email is not just dependent on what you’re emailing or how you’re emailing it, but also *who* you’re emailing.

For HubSpot, an offer called, Agency Kit: How to Create Effective Ebooks for your Clients may get a great response from marketing agency owners, but it’d probably get a terrible response from the nonprofit marketers interested in our content.

The simple act of segmenting your email list to narrow your audience down to one that would find your content more relevant can have an amazing impact on your results.

Here are some audience segmentation tests you can run:

  • Interest: Has someone downloaded an ebook on this topic before? Do you know they have a particular challenge based on their website browsing history? Target the offers around those interests for a boost in response rate.
  • Persona: Identify your main business personas, and target your content to each one. At HubSpot, this means we send different content to small business owners than what we send to nonprofit marketers, for example.
  • Recency or Level of Engagement: Did this subscriber come to your site recently, or has it been a few months? Did they download a dozen ebooks, or just one?
  • Other Demographics: Try segmenting on other demographics collected by marketing or sales – things like industry or role or company size.
  • Lifecycle Stage: Where is this person in the sales and marketing funnel? Did they just start engaging with you, or are they in the last stages of the sales process? This article provides suggestions on what to send at each stage of the funnel.

Check out this blog post for even more examples of how you can slice and dice your email list for better segmentation.

4. Test different newsletter formats.

Changing up the format of your email can also have a surprising effect on your response rate. This could mean everything from the length of the email, to including a lot of images, to creating a simple, plain text email. Keep in mind that your results may differ depending on the type of offer.

For example, our new ebooks perform best when sent in a nicely formatted html email, while our free consultation offers perform better when sent as a simple, plain text email.

Here are some formatting elements you can test in your email marketing:

  • Plain Text vs. HTML: Simply try changing your pretty HTML email into a plain, personal-looking email to see how that changes your response rates. You might be surprised at the results!
  • Content in Text Only vs. Text and Images: At HubSpot, for example, we tend not to rely too much on images because many subscribers don’t enable or download images in their emails. That being said, some companies have had great success with using visuals to tell stories that you simply can’t convey through words alone.
  • Number of Calls-to-Action: Do you go with a newsletter style with a lot of calls-to-action, or zone in on one single offer?
  • Length of Email: Do you go short and sweet, include meaty content, or go on and on about the value of the offer?

If you have a number of different email templates or design tweaks you want to test in a limited amount of time, you could consider A/B testing. 

5. Send newsletters at different times and frequencies.

Timing is one of the most popular things marketers try to optimize. But it seems like there’s more talk about the best time to send in general, and not enough testing going on to determine the best time to send email to your own subscribers — or even a specific segment of your subscribers.

Even within HubSpot, we have segments of subscribers who respond more to emails on Mondays, Saturdays, mornings, afternoons — on top of that, all in their own timezones.

Instead of sending email at every marketer’s favorite time (Tuesdays at 10 a.m.), break away from the pack and see what works specifically for your audience in order to optimize for your particular business — and to have a better chance of breaking through the clutter of other businesses’ emails.

Consider conducting the following timing/frequency tests in your email marketing:

  • Day of the Week: If you always email on Tuesdays, try mixing it up and sending on a Monday or Saturday.
  • Time of Day: Do you always send emails in the mornings on the East Coast? Try an afternoon send — or even go for after work hours.
  • Triggered by Specific Behavior: It’s not just about when you want to send an email, it’s about when your subscriber has taken some interesting action. Try targeting your follow-up around when they take an action using marketing automation.
  • Timing Around Trigger Event: How soon after the triggering event should you send that email? Immediately? An hour later? A day later? Longer?
  • Frequency: How much should you email someone, and how much time should you leave in between? Once a month, once a week, once a day? Check out this article to help you determine your optimal email frequency.

6. Determine if your sender name or address impacts your email numbers.

If you haven’t tested a different sender name or address yet, definitely add this to your list. While best practices still apply (in other words, using a name that recipients will recognize as well as a real email address that your prospects can respond to), you can always try out different names to see how it affects your open and clickthrough rates.

Here are some sender name tests to try out:

  • Consistency vs. Change: Should you use the same name for consistency, or try changing it up email to email to garner more attention?
  • Personal vs. Company: Should you use an individual’s name, your company name, or some combination? (e.g. ‘Ellie Mirman,’ ‘HubSpot,’ or ‘Ellie Mirman, HubSpot’)
  • Category-Related Name: If you have a subscriber in a particular segment of your business, you can try sending an email from the name of that segment (e.g. ‘Small Business Team’). If your subscriber signed up for a particular type of content, try using a name related to that specific content type (e.g. ‘HubSpot Webinars)’.

HubSpot’s Free Email Software

HubSpot’s free email tool allows you to create email campaigns that can be ent to email subscribers or contacts in your CRM.

hubspot-marketing-email-drag and drop layout

Aside from providing an easy-to-use drag-and-drop software, HubSpot also allows you to test email designs through an A/B test feature. The software also provides tips related to length in the subject line and preview text area which can help you write captions and instantly verify that they won’t get cut off.

On top of all these features, HubSpot’s software will notify you if it can’t find a link in your email. It will also warn you when inboxes like Gmail will trim your message. 

Litmus

Ever wonder if your email will look aesthetically pleasing on different devices and in different email provider inboxes? With Litmus, you can sign up for free and send them the email you want to test. From there, Litmus will automatically review the email and send you screenshots showing what your message will look like to readers using different email providers. 

Litmus email design testing software

Mail-Tester

Worried you’re using phrases or wording that could trigger spam filters to burry your email? With Mail-Tester, you can log in and get a special email address to send your test email to. After you send it, Mail-Tester will send you a report that notes any of the spammy trigger words that were in your message so you can correct your language before sending to your full list.

Mail-tester email testing tool

Sender Score

Sometimes, if your IP address is associated with sending many different email newsletters, email providers might move your email to spam. If you suspect that your IP address could be negatively impacting your email numbers, you can use SenderScore to find out if your IP address is considered “spammy.”

Sender Score IP address tester

SubjectLine

If you need help with writing subject lines, you can test a few before sending your email with SubjectLine.com. When you go to the website, you simply type in a subject line and click the submit button. Then, you’ll receive a grade out of 100 points as well as pointers for improvement. 

SubjectLine.com subject line scorecard

Reminder: Test only one thing at a time. 

The key with any of these tests is to test just one element at a time so you can isolate your variables and thus tie the difference in results is to that particular change. And if you crank through this list of BIG email tests, here are some great ideas for quick, smaller tests to; always be optimizing.

Happy testing!

Editor’s note: This blog post was originally published in 2012 but was updated for comprehensiveness and freshness in March 2020. 

How to Create an SEO Strategy for 2020 [Template Included]

Here’s a cliche among digital marketers: Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t what it used to be.

Here’s a true statement you don’t hear as often: Your SEO strategy for 2019 shouldn’t focus on keywords.

These days, most businesses understand the basic concepts of SEO and why it’s important.

However, when it comes to developing and executing a sound SEO strategy for your business, just creating content for the keywords your customers are searching for is both arduous and, well, wrong.

What is an SEO?

Search engine optimizers (SEOs) are people who optimize websites to help them show up higher on search engines and gain more “organic traffic.” In essence, an SEO is a highly specialized content strategist, and helps a business discover opportunities to answer questions people have about the industry via search engines.

Here are three types of SEO that an SEO strategist can focus on:

  • On-page SEO: This SEO focuses on the content that’s “on the page,” and how to optimize that content to help boost the website’s ranking for specific keywords.
  • Off-page SEO: This SEO focuses on the links that are directing to the website from elsewhere on the internet. The number of “backlinks,” and the publishers carrying those links, that link to your website help you build trust in the eyes of a search engine. This causes your website to rank higher as a result.
  • Technical SEO: This SEO focuses on a website’s architecture, examining the backend of that website to see how each webpage is “technically” set up. Google cares as much about the code of a website as it does its content, making this speciality quite important to a website’s search engine ranking.

Bear in mind that not every business can optimize their website for search the same way, and therefore not every SEO will have the same optimization process. It’s an SEO’s job to examine his or her industry, find out what’s important to their audience, and develop an SEO strategy that puts the right content in front of that audience.

With that in mind, here are nine steps you can take to make sure all of your SEO bases are covered in 2019. Then, at the bottom of this blog post, you can grab your free planning template to master on-page SEO.

1. Make a list of topics.

Keywords are at the heart of SEO, but they’re actually not your first step to an organic growth play anymore. Your first step is to make a list of topics you’d like to cover from one month to the next.

To start, compile a list of about 10 short words and terms associated with your product or service. Use Google’s Keyword Tool to identify their search volume and come up with variations that make sense for your business.

You are associating these topics with popular short-tail keywords, as you can tell, but you’re not dedicating individual blog posts to these keywords. These keywords are simply too competitive to rank highly for on Google if you’re just starting to optimize your website for search. We’ll go over how to use these topics in just a minute.

Using search volume and competition as your measure, narrow down your list to 10-15 short-tail keywords that are important to you, and that people within your audience are searching for. Then rank this list in order of priority, based on its monthly search volume and its relevance to your business.

For example, if a swimming pool business is trying to rank for “fiberglass pools” — which is receiving 110,000 searches per month — this short-tail keyword can be the one that represents the overarching topic on which they want to create content. The business would then identify a series of long-tail keywords that relate to this short-tail keyword, have reasonable monthly search volume, and help to elaborate on the topic of fiberglass pools. We’ll talk more about these long-tails in the next step of this process.

Each of these keywords is called a “pillar,” and it serves as the primary support for a larger “cluster” of long-tail keywords, which is what brings us to our next Step …

2. Make a list of long-tail keywords based on these topics.

Here’s where you’ll start optimizing your pages for specific keywords. For each pillar you’ve identified, use your keyword tool to identify five to 10 long-tail keywords that dig deeper into the original topic keyword.

For example, we regularly create content on the topic of “SEO,” but it’s still very difficult to rank well on Google for such a popular topic on this acronym alone. We also risk competing with our own content by creating multiple pages that are all targeting the exact same keyword — and potentially the same search engine results page (SERP). Therefore, we also create content on conducting keyword research, optimizing images for search engines, creating an SEO strategy (which you’re reading right now), and other subtopics within SEO.

This allows a business to attract people who have varying interests in and concerns about owning their product — and ultimately create more entry points for people who are interested in buying something.

Use subtopics to come up with blog post or webpage ideas that explain a specific concept within each larger topic you identified in Step 1. Plug these subtopics into your keyword research tool to identify long-tail keywords on which to base each blog post.

Together, these subtopics create a cluster. So, if you have 10 pillar topics, they should each be prepared to support one cluster of five to 10 subtopics. This SEO model is called a “topic cluster,” and modern search engine algorithms depend on them to connect users with the information they’re looking for.

Here’s a short video on this concept:

Think of it this way: The more specific your content, the more specific the needs of your audience are — and the more likely you’ll convert this traffic into leads. This is how Google finds value in the websites it crawls; the pages that dig into the interworkings of a general topic are seen as the best answer to a person’s query, and will rank higher.

3. Build pages for each topic.

When it comes to websites and ranking in search engines, trying to get one page to rank for a handful of keywords can be next to impossible. But here’s where the rubber meets the road:

Take the 10 pillar topics you came up with in Step 1 and create a web page for each one that outlines the topic at a high level — using the long-tail keywords you came up with for each cluster in Step 2. A pillar page on SEO, for example, can describe SEO in brief sections that introduce keyword research, image optimization, SEO strategy, and other subtopics as they are identified. Think of each pillar page as a table of contents, where you’re briefing your readers on subtopics you’ll elaborate on in blog posts.

Use your keyword list to determine how many different pillar pages you should create. Ultimately, the number of topics for which you create pillar pages should coincide with how many different products, offerings, and locations your business has. This will make it much easier for your prospects and customers to find you in search engines no matter what keywords they use.

Each web page needs to include relevant content for your prospects and customers and should include pictures and links to pages on your site to enhance the user experience. We’ll talk about those links in Step 4.

4. Set up a blog.

Blogging can be an incredible way to rank for keywords and engage your website’s users. After all, every blog post is a new web page that gives you another chance to rank in search engines. If your business does not already have a blog, set one up. This is where you’ll elaborate on each subtopic and actually start showing up on Google.

As you write each blog post and fill up your clusters, you should do three things:

  1. First, don’t include your long-tail keyword more than three or four times throughout the page. Google doesn’t consider exact keyword matches as often as it used to. In fact, too many instances of your keyword can be a red flag to search engines that you’re “keyword stuffing.” This can penalize your website and drop your rank.
  2. Second, link out to the pillar page you created on this topic. You can do this in the form of tags in your content management system (CMS), or as basic anchor text in the body of the article.
  3. Once you publish each blog post, link into it from the pillar page that supports this subtopic. Find the point in your pillar page that introduces this blog’s subtopic, and link it here.

By connecting both the pillar and the cluster in this way, you’re telling Google there’s a relationship between the long-tail keyword and the overarching topic you’re trying to rank for.

5. Blog every week to develop page authority.

Not every blog post or web page you write needs to belong to a topic cluster. There’s also value in writing about tangential topics your customers care about in order to give your website authority in the eyes of Google. This will cue Google to pay extra attention your domain as you add content to your primary topics.

With that in mind, make a point to blog at least once a week. Remember, you are blogging primarily for your audience, not the search engines. Write about things your audience and/or prospects are interested in, make sure you’re including relevant keywords where appropriate, and your audience will slowly start to notice and click.

Keep in mind that each topic won’t be equal in importance, and as your clusters get off the ground, you’ll need to prioritize based on your company’s needs. So, create a list of all the different web pages you would like to create and rank them. Then, develop a schedule and devise a plan of attack to get those pages built.

Keep your list updated and prioritized by what web pages will help you to best achieve your business goals.

6. Create a link-building plan.

The topic cluster model is your way forward in SEO this year, but it’s not the only way to get your website content to rank higher once it’s been created.

Our first five steps were dedicated to on-page SEO tactics. Link-building is the primary objective of off-page SEO, and is also a huge factor in how search engines rank your web pages. What is link-building? Glad you asked.

Link-building is the process of attracting inbound links (also called “backlinks”) to your website from elsewhere on the web. As a general rule, the more page authority the origin website has, the bigger affect it will have on the rank of the web page to which it is linking.

Dedicate some time to brainstorm all the different ways you can attract inbound links to your website. Start small –- maybe share your links with other local businesses in exchange for links to their sites. Write a few blog posts and share them on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. Consider approaching other bloggers for guest blogging opportunities through which you can link back to your website.

Another great way to attract inbound links is to use your blog to post articles related to current events or news. That way, you have shot of getting linked to from an industry influencer or other bloggers in your industry.

7. Compress all media before putting it on your website.

This is a small but important step in the SEO process. As your blog or website grows, you’ll undoubtedly have more images, videos, and related media to host there. These visual assets can help retain your visitors’ attention, but it’s easy to forget these assets are still technically computer files — and computer files have file sizes.

As a general rule, the bigger the file size, the harder it is for an internet browser to render your website. And it just so happens that page speed is one of the most important ranking factors when search engines decide where to place your content in its index.

So, the smaller the file size, the faster your website will load, and the higher you can rank on Google as a result. But how do you shrink a file size once it’s on your computer?

If you’re looking to upload an image to a blog post, for example, examine the file for its file size first. If it’s anywhere in megabyte (MB) territory, even just 1 MB, it’s a good idea to use an image compression tool to reduce the file size before uploading it to your blog. Sites like TinyPNG make it easy to compress images in bulk, while Google’s very own Squoosh has been known to shrink image file sizes to microscopic levels.

Ultimately, keeping your files in the kilobytes (KB) can sufficiently protect your website’s page speed.

Be careful when compressing your images, and check the file’s actual size once you export it back to your computer. While some tools might not be true to the size it shows you, others can sacrifice some image quality when compressing the artwork.

8. Stay current on SEO news & practices.

Like the overall marketing landscape, the search engine space is ever-evolving. Staying on top of current trends and best practices is a difficult task, but there are multiple online resources that can make it easy for you to stay on top of SEO news and changes that may impact your website and your SEO strategy.

Here are a few resources to check out:

  1. SEOmoz
  2. SEOBook
  3. Search Engine Roundtable
  4. Search Engine Land
  5. Diggity Marketing
  6. This Blog!

9. Measure and track your content’s success.

SEO can take a lot of time and effort. What good is spending all this time and effort if you can’t see the fruits of your labor? There are many metrics you can track on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to keep your SEO plan on track and measure your success.

Because the metric you care about is organic traffic (traffic that comes from a given search engine), seek out a tool that allows you to track both your overall organic traffic number and how your pages are ranking under each long-tail keyword your pages are targeting. SEMrush is a great reporting tool for just this purpose.

Create a monthly dashboard using Excel, Google Sheets, or a web analytics package so you can monitor how much traffic comes to your website from organic search.

Also, tracking indexed pages, leads, ROI, inbound links, keywords, and your actual ranking on SERPs (search engine results pages) can help you recognize your success as well as identify areas of opportunity.

SEO Process

Once you create your monthly SEO plan, you should also build a process to continue to optimizing it to fit new intent and keywords. Here are a few steps you can take. 

1. Historically optimize your content. 

Devote some time each month to updating old blog posts with new and up to date information so it continues to rank in SERPs. You can also use this time to add any SEO optimization that wasn’t in the original post, such as missing alt text.

2. Look out for changing keywords and new search intent.

After a few months, track where your blog posts are ranking and which keywords they’re ranking for. This can help you adjust subheads or text to leverage that new keyword ranking.

3. Add more editorial value to your old content.

Sometimes, you’ll find that a post is completely out of date. In this scenario, you should go beyond the average SEO update and give it a full refresher. You can do this by updating out of date information or stats, adding new sections that add depth to the post, or adding quotes or original data that can make the post gain more referral traffic.

4. Note new content and updates aimed at SEO in a monthly content plan.

To keep up with your SEO strategy, it can be helpful to create and refine a monthly content strategy. Then put your content plan into a spreadsheet or document that your team can monitor and track easily.

Below is an example of a content monthly content planning process that takes the steps above into account. 

With a monthly SEO plan like the one above, plus a tracking document like a search insights report, you can build out and execute on an efficient SEO strategy. You can also identify and leverage low-hanging-fruit topics to discuss related to your industry.

To learn more about SEO, check out our Ultimate Guide to SEO

Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in April 2019 but was updated in March 2020 for consistency and freshness.

How To Promote Your Business

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it — to waste time, I start a Google search query and let the suggestions do the rest, hoping to fall into a rabbit hole of interesting facts.

For instance, today’s lucky search query was “How many businesses”, and I ended up going with “…does Shaq own” (let’s just say, I was shocked to see the result.)

Here’s what I figured out: Shaquille O’Neal is the joint owner of over 150 Five Guys restaurants, 17 Auntie Annie’s Pretzels restaurants, over 100 car washes, 40 fitness centers, a mall, a movie theater, and a few Vegas nightclubs.

With over 30 million businesses just in the United States (and 300 owned by Shaq alone), it’s easy to slip into panic mode if you work for a small start-up. How are you supposed to attract customers when there’s so much competition?

You might feel like you’re constantly throwing darts at the wall and seeing what sticks in the realm of business promotion. Or, perhaps you’ve hit a plateau with traffic and you’re wondering how you can boost lead generation.

Let’s talk about how to promote your business.

Regardless of the motivation, we’ve provided some tools and tips to help you reach new customers and expand brand awareness. In the next section, we’re going to provide some tips you can use to promote your business.

1. Craft a brand image to stick out among the crowd.

Seth Godin once said, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

Essentially, a brand image is your identifier — how you stick in the heads of the public. It’s constructed from your business values, how you sell, and the feelings you want to evoke when customers interact with your products.

A brand identity is what your audience recognizes is unique to your business — whether it be reputation, a tagline, a logo, or a product. These factors work together to create your brand’s holistic identity.

For example, if you think about one of your favorite businesses, you can identify things about it, right? How the products make you feel, what the logo looks like, why you’re a customer, and what the business’s purpose is.

Take Spotify, a company with a strong brand identity. When I think of Spotify, I think of their green logo, their accessibility as a streaming service, how the audio quality keeps me a loyal customer, and their tagline: “Music for everyone.”

To create brand identity, think about how you want to create credibility, establish your business in your industry, and incorporate your mission into all your communication materials. You can use marketing tools like HubSpot’s branding resources to help you along the way.

Brand identity helps you stay in the mind of customers. If they forget, for instance, your company name, they can still identify you by different factors of your identity, like your logo.

2. Know your audience and what they respond to.

Having a good idea of your audience helps you identify their desires and challenges. Also, knowing your audience establishes brand loyalty and makes them more likely to be an advocate of your brand to others.

To find your audience, start by creating a buyer persona, if you don’t have one. Buyer personas are fictionalized versions of your ideal customer that identifies their challenges and desires. Additionally, you can look over data you’ve collected to gain a more holistic idea of how your audience responds to your business so far.

With tools like HubSpot’s marketing software, you can create surveys, segment your audience, and monitor the feedback and comments customers are leaving, all in one place. This keeps your data accessible, automated, and accurate.

Creating content with your customers in mind delights them, and delighted customers love to share their favorite brands with the world, promoting your business through word of mouth marketing. That starts with knowing your audience.

3. Start using social media to expand your reach.

I’ve found most of my current favorite brands on social media — and it’s usually from stumbling upon a post or tweet that makes me feel connected to the brand.

Social media marketing is important to include in promotion efforts because it’s how you can interact with your audience. Additionally, you can boost brand awareness, monitor competitor strategy and identify what works for them, and generate leads. If you don’t have a social media account, it’s a good idea to make one as soon as possible.

You might’ve already made some social media accounts, but are unsure of how to use them to promote your business. Keep in mind that different platforms are best for different business goals.

For example, Twitter’s audience is primarily millennials, impacts both B2B and B2C industries, and is best for customer service. Alternatively, LinkedIn has an older audience (working professionals), impacts the B2B industry, and is best for fostering professional relationships and developing business goals.

By knowing this information, ideally you’re able to correctly identify how each social network can help you achieve one subset of your overall marketing goals and reach your intended audience(s) on whichever platforms they prefer.

To organize your business goals, identify how you want social media to accomplish promoting your business and build a strategy to help.

Contents of a social media strategy should include unique content, a schedule, data collection, and determining which platforms you’ll focus on.

Once you find your audience on social media and cater to their interests with your content, you can engage with them on a personal level and begin to build your community. If you’re confused about how to do that, visit our crash course on social media marketing.

4. Make use of an email marketing strategy.

An email marketing strategy can be a vehicle for promoting exciting things about your brand to segmented audiences that have shown an interest in your brand. Email marketing shares (and gets the word out about) content your audience will see as valuable, such as exclusive offers, discount codes, and pre-sales for new products.

Similarly, on the lead-building side, email marketing can invite potential subscribers to exchange their information on a form to obtain valuable content, like an ebook for free. Then, you can nurture those leads by sending delightful content that helps your audience achieve their goals.

How do you get started preparing an email marketing strategy? The easiest way is to use a content management system (CMS) with tools that help you build and monitor email lists. For example, HubSpot’s email marketing software allows users to create and manage lists. 

5. Engage with your audience to build community.

Engaging with your audience is one of the most effective ways to do audience research. What better way to know what makes your audience tick than to ask them?

Audience engagement can give you fruitful insights into how to make campaigns that will serve as effective promotion, while making your prospects feel connected to your brand.

There are a myriad of ways you can go about engaging with audiences. If you’ve been answering comments, asking questions that invite participation, and re-posting user-generated content on social media, you’re already off to a great start. These tactics can get you into the groove of communicating with audiences in a way that resonates with them.

You can also encourage email subscribers to leave a net promoter score of your business so you can spot ways to improve upon the customer experience, and ultimately lead to satisfied customers recommending your service to a friend.

In a similar fashion, try engaging with your industry to promote your business. Writing a guest post for a competitor’s blog and plugging your business is a great way to grow your audience.

And for those who don’t have stage fright, hosting a webinar about an industry topic or speaking at a local university about your career boosts your credibility and generates leads. (Remember LinkedIn — networking on the platform can help you find industry professionals and university contacts).

6. Optimize your content to get found.

Search engine optimization (SEO), in a nutshell, helps your business’s content get found on Google. Optimizing your website for search can bring it out of a traffic plateau and generate leads.

A great thing about SEO is that there are things you can do right now to improve it. For instance, one tactic you can do to improve SEO is adding alt text to images. Alt-text is a short description that tells Google what’s going on in the image.

Developing a robust SEO strategy is key to making sure your business is being found by the right audiences. For instance, if your business develops sales software, you want to be on the search engine results page (SERP) for those searching “sales software”.

SEO isn’t a quick fix to promote your business. It does take time to target keywords, create CTAs, and aim for featured snippets. Even so, optimizing content has a huge payoff. Plus, it’s 2020 — there’s SEO software tools to help you begin the process.

If you’re short on time but want a larger overview of SEO, (and how HubSpot learned to master it), check out these 13 critical SEO tips.

Strategies to promote your business are in reach, and with proper planning and execution, you can expand your reach to larger audiences. Not every business needs a Shaq in order to thrive — just patience, knowledge about your business and audience, and consistency.

Remember that not every success story is an overnight one. Your business grows over time, and so will your audience if you’re approaching them in the right way. I can’t wait for your business to be the one I fall in love with next.

Why Marketers Need Responsive Emails in 2020

The other day, I received the following email from Adobe and opened it on my desktop at work:

This email from Adobe gave me a top-notch email experience on desktop. However, I didn’t have time at the moment to “Learn more”, so I marked the email as unread and saved it for my commute home.

An hour later, on the T, I re-opened the email on mobile. Now, imagine if I opened this email on my phone and the image was low-quality, the text was too small to be read, and the call-to-action button was broken — as someone who prefers to read email marketing messages on their phone, this would frustrate me and, ultimately, drive me to unsubscribe from the email list altogether.

I’m not the only one who prefers to read marketing emails on their phone. In fact, more than half of U.S. residents prefer to look at email marketing messages on their phone. Optimizing emails for mobile is so important because that’s how many readers are accessing marketing messages.

So the proof is out there, sure, but how do marketers stop sending emails that aren’t optimized for multiple screens? Responsive email is the answer.

Responsive emails are emails that use fluid images and tables to remain flexible across different screen sizes. Ultimately, they deliver content designed for the user’s optimal experience.

Though responsive emails can be designed using CSS media queries, you don’t need any coding experience to make one. Creating a responsive email isn’t just a job for coders. Here, we’ve lined up some best practices, ready-to-use templates, as well as a quick tutorial about the fundamentals concerning responsive emails.

But first, let’s clarify — what is a responsive email, anyway?

To illustrate, here is how a promotional email I received yesterday looked on desktop:

Glossier responsive email desktop

This email has awesome imagery, shoppable icons, and is nicely formatted. When I open the email on mobile, this is what I’m greeted with:

Glossier responsive email MobileI still have the same information, and the same photos and shoppable icons —the only noticeable difference is the email format. It’s different to better fit the mobile experience.

Now, imagine if that same desktop layout was applied to mobile. I’d have to zoom-in on my phone to see any of the pictures or text. Instead of doing that, I’d unsubscribe.

Low-quality emails could potentially communicate to the subscriber that the quality of that interaction wasn’t taken into consideration. Ultimately, non-responsive emails can result in a loss of subscribers.

With responsive email, user experience can be enhanced, as well as campaign ROI. Think about it: subscribers satisfied with an optimized mobile email design will find themselves opening more marketing messages because they know it’ll look good.

So, with all this talk about responsive emails, you must be itching to create your own. Next, we’re going to look at easy ways to create responsive emails, as well as provide best practices.

Responsive Email Templates

A responsive template will automatically adapt to any screen size, so whether the email is opened on a smartphone, tablet, or computer, it will look great and have complete functionality.

For those with less of a coding background or those looking to spend less time with design, my advice is to use a template. They’re a surefire way to make sure your email will look professional and be responsive.

Responsive email templates save you time on designing an email that could’ve been picked out from a selection. For example, HubSpot’s email marketing tool includes over 60 templates just for responsive emails.

Let’s take a look at some templates options now.

1. HubSpot

HubSpot offers a couple of free responsive email templates. If you’re a HubSpot customer or a free user, you can download and try them out for yourself. For instance, here’s one of the responsive email templates — notice the sidebar, where you can preview the template on multiple devices.

HubSpot responsive email preview

Clicking through device types and making sure your email is formatted accordingly is one of the final steps in the design process, and is the only step in the responsive email process when you’re using software like HubSpot.

By clicking on the smartphone device for preview, for instance, you can see if your content — including font size and image resolution — is formatted in a way that’s pleasing for mobile.

2. CampaignMonitor

The templates offered by CampaignMonitor are similar to many others, in which responsive email results are shown in the preview tool. For example, here is a CampaignMonitor template:

CampaignMonitor responsive email template

Source

One thing I really like about this set-up is how you can see the different devices side-by-side so you can compare design elements easily. Tiny edits can be made to create the best experience for all subscribers.

CampaignMonitor templates are often free, so it’s a good choice if you have a minimal budget.

3. Stripo

Stripo offers over 300 free HTML email templates. You can choose templates by industry, season, type, and feature. For instance, here’s a template from their business industry section:

Stripo responsive email template

Source

A good sign of a solid responsive email template is the option to see the preview in both desktop and smartphone variations, as shown in Stripo’s preview mode. Notice how a single column layout was adopted in the mobile preview to fit the specifications of phones.

I like Stripo because it’s a website you can visit quickly to find a template that fits your goals. You might consider Stripo if you’re looking to try out responsive emails or want some design inspiration.

4. Constant Contact

Constant Contact offers over 200 professional email templates that are accessible after signing up. From looking at the example below, you can see that the platform offers responsive email templates:

Constant Contact responsive email example

Source

Constant Contact’s templates have drag-and-drop editing, the option to add surveys, Ecommerce functions, and a photo library tool. These features can all help to create the email subscribers want to see.

It’s helpful to use a service like Constant Contact because the specific tools allow you to maintain consistency, like in the example above. You can tell that the responsive nature of the email doesn’t compromise any of the design elements.

Now that we’ve taken a look at some template options, let’s look at another way to make responsive emails work, and best practices.

How to make an email responsive

If you have a coding background, you can make an email responsive by using code.

Some best practices when coding responsive emails include making sure your responsive email is scalable and flexible. Additionally, remember that responsive emails require CSS media queries to change fields that are fixed to fields that are fluid.

Another responsive email design best practice is to use larger fonts that will be easy to read on screens that are smaller. Single column layouts are also easier to be scaled, so if simple layouts are good for your webpages, definitely consider it for a responsive email.

The next time you create an email campaign, it’s a good idea not to finalize any of the designs until you see how they look across multiple screen resolutions. So many people access emails by mobile just for the ease of it. A simple way to check the effectiveness of your email is to send it to yourself or team as a test — does it stack up against the other responsive marketing emails in your inbox?

6 Brands That Used Social Media to Boost Their Subscriber List

More than likely, you’ve heard the debate on whether it’s more worthwhile to invest in email marketing, or social media marketing, to turn leads into customers.

Of course, ultimately, the most effective approach to marketing would be to integrate both social media and email marketing, so you can make the most of your email subscribers as well as social media followers.

With intense competition in the digital marketplace, it isn’t enough to follow the email marketing tips and simply include social media links in the emails — on the other hand, it also isn’t enough to create a newsletter CTA in your Instagram profile.

To get the most out of social media and email marketing, you’ll want to fully integrate the two. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Here, we’re going to explore six brands that correctly integrated social media and email marketing to increase conversions for both.

1. Typo

Typo, an Australian ecommerce company, sent this attention-grabbing email, which promoted their 40% off sitewide sale for Christmas. Additionally, if a user clicked on their Facebook link, they’d see the same promotion. Ultimately, the brand harnessed the power of repetition to bring higher conversions.

2. McDonald’s

A dedicated email that asks subscribers to follow the brand on social media goes a long way for enhancing subscriber engagement and garnering more social media followers.

For instance, take a look at this email by McDonald’s, which invites social media followers with a catchy headline: “Sometimes, it’s good to be a follower.”

Ultimately, the brand’s headline captures the recipient’s attention, and the playful humor might encourage subscribers to take a look at McDonald’s social channels, as well — especially since the email promises “fresh insider info”, with readily available links to their social sites.

3. Innocent Drinks

Innocent Drinks, a natural, healthy drink brand, sent out this fun email, which informs the subscriber about their social media channels. You only have to follow the signs in the email, and you will be redirected to the respective social media channel. If you make it easy for email subscribers to find and follow your social channels, you’re more likely to increase your following.

Additionally, Innocent Drinks included their social links in their welcome email to new subscribers — a good call, since it comes across as helpful, not pushy.

4. Home Depot

During Holiday Season 2019, I received an email from Home Depot that promoted 25% off on select electrical tools. Sure, it employs some impressive email marketing techniques, but it also integrates social media marketing to create a ripple effect.

For instance, when you click on the link to their Facebook page, I saw the same offer appear:

The email ad, as well as the Facebook post, redirected the reader to a landing page that displayed the same products.

 

Now, isn’t that a perfectly synced omnichannel marketing strategy?

5. Skillshare

Skillshare, curated courses ranging in topic from animation to writing, launched their new visual identity in the beginning of 2020. They sent a visually attractive email to their customers and prospects to announce the change — here’s a glimpse of the email.

When the users clicked through to the Facebook page, they could read the same information along with a link that took them to the latest blog explaining their new visual identity.

Ultimately, it’s important you deliver your message to whichever platform(s) your audience prefers — in this case, SkillShare ensures their message is well-received whether their recipients prefer reading about company changes via email, or through Facebook.

6. Blurb

I stumbled across a Facebook post by Blurb that was endorsing their first sale of the year along with the discount coupon code:

Additionally, to make sure I didn’t miss out on the sale, they sent me an email that promoted the same offer — plus, their Twitter page promoted the discount, as well:

Ultimately, their efforts to broadcast the discount through email and social proved worthwhile — after seeing the discount for a third time, I purchased a book.

Best of all, their consistency across platforms demonstrated brand credibility, since it showed me they’re committed to consistently updating their social channels with relevant offers. As a result, they didn’t just get a sale — they also got a new social follower.

Ultimately, integrating social media and email boosts subscriber interaction and prompts them to take the next action. Have you used these digital marketing channels to their maximum potential by taking an omnichannel approach? If not, now is the right time.

Banner Ads Explained in 500 Words or Less

Let’s talk about online advertising.

Specifically, banner ads.

You know the ones: when you’re scrolling through your favorite website, (Today, mine is The New Yorker), and are greeted with one of these beauties:

Source

Banner ads, also called web banners, are ads displayed on web pages. Generally, they’re more image-based than other digital ads to catch the web browser’s attention. They usually contain an image or short animation, like a gif.

The goal of a banner ad is to drive traffic to a website. This happens when a browser clicks on the ad.

Also, if your banner ad is a potential customer’s first introduction to your brand, it could make-or-break their perception of your company. Plus, sizing can impact whether or not someone sees the ad at all.

Ad effectiveness can be impacted if a banner ad is too small or too large, but the correct size adds to the positive impression an ad could leave on a web browser.

So, we’ve got the basics. Now, let’s go over the proper sizes for banner ads:

The first two sizes, 300 x 250 and 336 x 280, are for medium-sized and large rectangles, much like the smaller ads on the sides of blogs. The leaderboard sizing (728 x 90) will look like The New Yorker ad from above, and the last two sizes are aimed to act as headlines or billboards on the top or bottom of a page.

Sometimes, finding the proper size for a particular ad requires experimentation. Remember that this isn’t one-size-fits-all.

Play around with sizes before committing to one — for instance, a medium rectangle might be switched in favor for a half-page ad.

Ultimately, ad size is critical. If well-sized, your ad will look natural, professional, and eye-catching — however, if it isn’t well-sized, it could look clunky or awkward on the page.

Can’t decide on an ad size? To combat that issue, when the ad is ready to go live, think about testing potential ad performance to see which size performs better with audiences. This is a great case for an A/B test, a process that puts different versions on a trial run to see which one customers interact with better.

Software, such as content management systems, help track metrics. HubSpot’s ad management software, for instance, can show you the ROI on different ads, which helps brands make informed decisions about which ad type to use.

Lastly, when creating ads, keep in mind that sizes aren’t the only key to incredible ads. It’s also good to focus on ad design, copy, call-to-action, and branding. These design details can take an ad from looking okay to outstanding.

Banner ads work online as they do in real life: they’re meant to catch a consumer’s eye and spark interest in a product or service. They’re intended to increase traffic and sell a product early in the buyer’s journey.

The right sizing can accomplish all of this. If an ad is visual and interruptive, there’s a great chance of having an effective ad — sizing shouldn’t disrupt that process. When planning out targeted sites for customers, think about the kind of ads that work best with the platform and go from there.

5 Ways to Increase Your Market Share

In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone. The cell phone boasted a full touch screen, a slew of personalization options, and internet capabilities. These features were rare in the phone market before the iPhone, and having them all on one device was especially enticing.

Because of these innovative features, Apple built a reputation and loyal fan base in the first year of the iPhone’s release, earning the company a 3% market share.

Today, Apple has a 50% market share in the mobile phone industry. This means that half of phone owners globally own an iPhone.

As a business, knowing your market share tells you how you stack up against competitors. Ultimately, Apple needed to know its market share back in 2007, and continue to innovate and grow, to become a leader in the market today.

When we talk about raising market share, we’re talking about making informed marketing decisions that contribute to overall sales and customer retention. Here, let’s explore what it means to increase market share, and how you can do that, today.

What does it mean to increase market share?

To increase market share means increasing the effort you put into sales as a business, and using new or additional strategies to help you get there.

Market share is the percent of total sales in an industry generated by a particular company.

Simply put, market share is calculated by taking the company’s sales over a certain period of time, and dividing it by the total sales of the industry over that same period.

Basically, market share is how much you make as a company in the industry, and how that stacks up against others. So, to increase your market share, you need to make more sales than your competitors to increase your share in the industry.

Which is, of course, much easier said than done. How does one go about increasing market share? Let’s dive into that, next.

1. Find your niche and stick with it.

Your company should have a few characteristics that set it apart from the competition. For example, Apple’s logo and sleek design is seen on Apple’s entire suite of products.

Having that distinguishing brand characteristic — such as the Apple logo — enables people to more easily identify your company’s products across a line of similar-looking items. If your company is able to create a recognizable brand identity, while also producing higher-quality products or services than the competition (or products or services that serve a niche market), you’ll have a better chance of finding a larger piece of market share to capture.

For instance, I don’t know much about makeup, but I know a NARS blush when I see one because the design and logo of their products are so unique to the brand, and the quality of NARS products is undeniably good:

Nars makeup ad

Source

This strategy increases market share for a business that has found success with a previous launch. If a consumer sees your mark on a product, they will know what they’re getting, which informs their purchase decision.

As a marketer, you also want to consider which marketing materials can help you increase market share. For instance, do you have a popular eBook or YouTube series? Continue to work with those avenues more frequently to expand the reach those products get.

2. Innovate as society does.

Sony’s PlayStation owns 68% of the home console market share. Since 1994, Sony has been finding ways to innovate and update their video game consoles faster than their competition. These innovations are necessary to stay current in the industry and increase market share.

For reference, here is a 1994 PlayStation console:

Source

And a 2014 PlayStation 4:

Source

While some design elements have stayed the same, such as the logo and base system design, upgrades have been applied to match the times.

Take, for instance, the controller. They’re both similar, but while the PS4 controller is wireless, has a power button, and battery life, PS1 controllers don’t. PS1 power buttons are large and can be found on the side of the console, whereas much smaller PS4 power buttons can be found on the controller and on the console itself.

This is because as more advancements have been made in the gaming industry, Sony has adapted accordingly. The company has a keen eye on what gamers want as years pass, earning them a high market share.

If you fail to innovate in a way that’s reflected on the times, your business may fall behind and be forgotten. (RIP, outdated Aatari consoles).

3. Engage with customers.

Customers know what they want to see, so one way businesses can increase their market share is by asking them.

A carefully crafted survey sent out to loyal customers with questions about design, updates, and features can help you visualize tangible ways to improve your product or service, and in turn, increase your market share.

You don’t have to only use surveys, either. Engaging with customers on social media, such as in an Instagram story, works as well. Skincare company Glossier does this effectively:

Glossier skincare customer engagement

Source

Going to the source to ask what customers will spend their money on is a good campaign strategy for increasing market share. It’s a low-cost way to conduct market research and learn more about your place in the industry based on consumer perception.

4. Think about an acquisition.

You can increase market share through the acquisition of a company that aligns well with your own products or services. This requires a bit of research, but will ultimately end up in potentially gaining a larger market share.

Companies usually acquire companies to gain a larger market share or expand their suite of products. For example, Microsoft owns LinkedIn and GitHub. While the former (LinkedIn) can lead to an increase in market share among social media revenue, the latter (GitHub) can lead to an increase in market share among Cloud OS revenue.

Acquiring a competitor involves choosing the right company — one that will be a positive addition to your suite of products or services.

5. Continue to delight customers.

Netflix is no stranger to creating loyal customers. The platform is constantly adding more original shows and tightening its algorithm to cater to its customers. This constant refining of the platform led to a 2014 report that Netflix had a 90% market share in the streaming service market.

Having such a large market share due to these updates has helped Netflix even as more streaming services have entered the market. Customers have found themselves not wanting to cancel their Netflix subscriptions because they’ve found such deep value in it.

In short, Netflix makes its customers happy. I know I’m certainly happy when I can turn on the Netflix app and see most of my favorites displayed without needing to scroll further.

Netflix home page

Netflix positioned itself as a leader in the industry. Don’t wait for customers to come to you for ideas — think ahead, not just of what they need, but what they’ll want as customer buying experience changes overtime.

In 2007, Apple completely revolutionized mobile phones and tripled their market share in a year. 13 years later, Apple is still a leader in the mobile phone market because of the ways they constantly improve their product and create loyal customers.

By looking at your market share and finding ways to increase it, you’ll find greater customer retention and a more stable position in your industry.

Subdomain or Subdirectory? What They Are & How They Affect SEO

One of the most heated debates that I’ve been apart of is when I was arguing with my best friend that Taylor Swift is a good dancer.

The first thing you should know about me is that Taylor Swift is my favorite artist, so you’d have a hard time convincing me she’s bad at anything (because she isn’t).

That’s how I imagine the debate is between two search engine optimizers who debate whether subdomains or subdirectories are better for SEO.

As a marketer, that debate can cause confusion.

Below, let’s review the differences between a subdomain and subdirectory and how they affect SEO.

Essentially, it’s all about site hierarchy.

A subdomain can be used if portions of your site are extensive enough that they need a separate hierarchy. When it comes to a subdirectory, though, all portions of your site branch off of the main domain.

So, how can a company use a subdomain? Below are the most common ways:

1. Support: Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to have your customer support on your main site. For instance, Google uses support.google.com instead of google.com/support. The main reason is probably because of the site structure. Since Google is a search engine, it wouldn’t make sense to have its support as a subdirectory.

2. Different Regions: If you serve multiple regions, whether nationally or internationally, using a subdomain would be a good idea. If you had a site in German and one in English, it wouldn’t make sense to list those as subdirectories. For instance, Craigslist uses subdomains for the different regions it serves. Here are two of its subdomain sites: orangecounty.craigslist.org/ or stgeorge.craigslist.org/.

3. Blog: Many companies choose to have their blog as a subdomain. In fact, that’s what HubSpot does. If you’ll notice, the page you’re on right now is a blog.hubspot.com page. However, this specific article is in the Marketing subdirectory of the blog.hubspot.com subdomain. Sites choose to have their blog as a subdomain if they want to create a distinction between the blog and the rest of the site. Additionally, a subdomain is useful for a blog if you want to create a niche authority.

4. Ecommerce Store: For companies that sell merchandise, in addition to their regular product or service, they can put their ecommerce store on a subdomain. For instance, that’s what HubSpot does. Besides the main products, merchandise is available at shop.hubspot.com.

5. Events: If your company hosts events, it might be a good idea to partition that section of your site into a subdomain. Again, this is helpful when you want to distinguish a section of your site from your regular product or service. Microsoft does this with its events.microsoft.com.

Ultimately, subdomains are still a part of a website, but when a search engine goes to index those pages, they’re considered a separate entity. Below, let’s dive into how these affect SEO.

How do Subdomains and Subdirectories Affect SEO?

Some SEO experts believe that Google’s crawlers could confuse a subdomain for an entirely different website from the main domain. However, Google says its crawlers can recognize subdomains as extensions of parent domains.

According to Google, the site crawls, indexes, and ranks subdomains and subdirectories the same.

In the video below, Google Webmasters Trends Analyst John Mueller says, subdomains generally don’t hurt a site’s rankings. In fact, he says Google is smart enough to see your main domain and subdomain as being tied to the same website.

However, plenty of SEO experts still disagree with using subdomains.

Critics argue that subdomains will steal links from and hurt the organic reach of your main site. For instance, the theory is that since subdomains are considered a separate entity, inbound links to your subdomain won’t provide any value to your site.

Additionally, if you’re optimizing pages for the same keywords on your main site and subdomain, you could be competing against yourself.

On the other hand, supports of subdomains argue that subdomains make it easier to navigate your site. Ultimately, this leads to a better user experience, which could result in better engagement rates, therefore improving your SEO.

Additionally, subdomains can be beneficial if you have a large corporation and your subdomains serve a different purpose and essentially function as a separate business.

For example, Disney has subdomains such as cars.disney.com, shop.disney.com, and movies.disney.com.

Since these subdomains serve very different purposes, it doesn’t matter whether the critics are right, because they probably aren’t targeting the same keywords.

According to supporters, another benefit is that subdomains can help build niche authority. For instance, you might want your blog to be considered a separate entity from your product or service.

Conversely, if your site doesn’t have any extensive verticals on your navigation, then you might not need to use a subdomain because you want as many links going back to your main site as possible. If you don’t have a compelling reason to use subdomains, then subdirectories work just fine.

Although this topic can often be confusing, ultimately the decision depends on your website’s needs. Subdomains can provide organization and structure to your site for complicated site hierarchies. If you don’t have the need, then using a subdirectory can help bring all the “link juice” to your main domain.

The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2020

During the 1950s, Volkswagen sold a bus. Although now considered a classic vehicle, the bus remains an icon for the car company decades later.

The cool part? Volkswagen announced their new VW Bus — it’s electric and features sleek, modern styling. Volkswagen’s marketing for the vehicle is eye-catching, unique, and fun, and it complements the original “hippie” vibe the company was once known for.

Source

Volkswagen also released a TV commercial for the bus that’s clever, minimalist, and on-brand. It introduces the new vehicle with the song The Sound of Silence playing in the background (hint: electric cars are silent) and ends with a short message on the screen for viewers to read: “Introducing a new era of electric driving.”

This sentiment touches on the fact Volkswagen is contributing to society’s interest in electric, eco-friendly vehicles. It also relates to this being a new era for the bus.

So, who works on this type of marketing? Who helps create content that excites consumers about new and updated products, like the Volkswagen bus? Who encourages consumers to buy? Product marketers.

What makes product marketing unique? How is it different from conventional marketing? Let’s unpack the differences.

Product Marketing vs. Conventional Marketing

Product marketing is strategic whereas conventional marketing is all-encompassing.

Product marketing is considered a component of conventional marketing. In fact, if you look at the seven Ps of marketing, you’ll see product marketing is one of the most important aspects of a business’s marketing efforts.

Product marketing is focused on driving demand for and adoption of a product among existing customers. It’s focused on the steps people take to purchase your product so product marketers can build campaigns to support this work.

Product marketing is about understanding a specific product’s audience on a deep level and developing that product’s positioning and messaging to appeal to that audience. It covers the launch and execution side of a product in addition to the marketing strategy for the product — which is why the work of a product marketer lies at the center of a business’s marketing, sales, and product teams.

venn diagram with marketing sales and product for product marketing

Conventional marketing is focused on broader topics under the umbrella of marketing such as lead generation, SEO, and anything related to acquiring and converting new leads and customers. It’s about promoting the company and brand as a whole, including the products that are sold. These marketers make sure there’s a consistent, on-brand message behind all of the company’s content.

Why is product marketing important?

Product marketing is a critical part of any business’s marketing strategy. Without it, your product won’t achieve its maximum potential among your target audience. Let’s look at what product marketing does so you get a better idea of that I mean by this.

  • Understand your customers better.
  • Target your buyer personas effectively.
  • Learn about your competitors (products and marketing tactics).
  • Ensure the marketing, product, and sales teams are all on the same page.
  • Position the product appropriately in the market.
  • Boost revenue and improve sales.

There are also questions you, as a product marketer, will have to ask yourself and reflect on in regards to your product. Asking yourself these questions will help you ensure your product is a success among customers.

  • Is this product suitable for today’s market?
  • Is this product appropriate for our customers today?
  • How is this product unique from similar products of our competitor’s?
  • Is there a way to further differentiate this product from those of our competitor’s?
  • Are there any products we’ve sold in the past that we wouldn’t market or sell ever again now that we look back? Is so, why not?

As you can see, product marketing requires you to look at your products from a strategic perspective to ensure they’re successful among customers in your current market.

Now, let’s take a look at the specific responsibilities you have as a product marketer (or product marketing manager).

Your responsibilities as a product marketer may vary slightly based on industry, company, products, and company size and resources. If you’re working for a startup, you may be a product marketer who also helps create the content the broader marketing team produces due to limited resources and budget. As the business grows, you may move onto a team whose sole job is product marketing.

Let’s take a look at six common product marketing responsibilities.

1. Identify the buyer personas and target audience for your product.

You must identify the buyer personas and audience for your product so you can target customers in a way that’s convincing and makes them want to make a purchase. This will allow you to tailor your product and its features to solve for the challenges your audience is facing.

Use templates to create buyer personas for your business.

2. Successfully create, manage and carry out your product marketing strategy.

A product marketing strategy (which we’ll review shortly) allows you to create, build, and execute content and campaigns — this supports the steps that will lead your buyer personas and customers to make a purchase.

3. Work with and enable sales to attract the right customers for your new product.

As a product marketer, you have to maintain a direct relationship with sales. You’ll work with sales to identify and attract the right customers for the product at hand and provide sales enablement materials to reps to ensure they understand the product inside and out, along with all of its features.

This way, you and your teams are on the same page in terms of what’s being shared with customers, allowing you to provide a consistent, on-brand experience for anyone who comes in contact with the product.

4. Determine your product’s positioning in the market.

One of the most important parts of your job is determining the product’s positioning in the market. Think about this process in terms of storytelling — your positioning requires you to create and tell the story of your product.

As a product marketer, you’ll work with the broader marketing team and the product team to tell this story by answering critical questions like:

  • Why was this product made?
  • Who is this product made for?
  • What challenges does this product resolve?
  • What makes this product unique?

5. Ensure your product meets the needs of your target audience.

You must also make sure your product meets the needs of your customers and target audience. Through the research conducted to determine your buyer persona’s and target audience, you should have uncovered the pain points and challenges you’re working to solve with your product.

If your product doesn’t meet the needs of your customers, they’ll have no reason to make the purchase or choose your product over your competitor’s.

6. Keep your product relevant over time.

Your product needs to stay relevant over time. As needs, expectations, and challenges change and evolve, it’s your job to make sure your product marketing strategy, and the products themselves, remain relevant among customers.

This means you may have to manage slight changes in your product marketing strategy (which we’ll discuss next), or updates and modifications to the product itself (you’ll likely work with the product team, who actually creates the product, to do this).

Now, let’s take a look at five steps that can help you optimize your product marketing strategy.

1. Define your product’s target audience and buyer personas.

As mentioned, one of the main roles you have as a product marketer is to define a specific target audience and create buyer personas for the specific product being sold (different products will likely have different target audiences). This the first step to marketing your product.

By understanding your customers and their needs, challenges, and pain points, you’ll be able to ensure all aspects of your product marketing strategy (as in, the rest of the steps we’ll define below) are tailored to that target customer and persona. This way, the product and the marketing content that’s created for the product will resonate with your audience.

2. Determine the positioning and messaging to set your product apart.

After performing your customer research and learning about your audience, you’ll have identified their needs, challenges, and pain points. From here, you can think about how to highlight the ways your product resolves those challenges for your customers.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve differentiated yourself from your competitors. After all, they are your competitors because they solve the needs of your customers in a similar way to your company.

The key to setting your product apart is positioning (which we touched on earlier) and messaging. Positioning and messaging answers key questions your customers might have about your product and what makes it unique and then turns those answers into the main points behind your product’s marketing strategy.

It’s your job as the product marketer to ensure your customers and audience know the answers to these questions and don’t have to dig around for (or make assumptions about) them.

Examples of questions you’ll need to answer to develop your product’s positioning and messaging include:

  • What specifically makes our product unique?
  • Why is our product better than our competitors’?
  • Why are our product’s features ideal for our target audience?
  • What will our customers get out of our product that they cannot get from our competitors’ products?
  • Why should our customers trust and invest in us and our product?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can compile these responses into one, impactful, and shareable statement that captures your positioning and messaging as a whole. To do this, follow these steps:

  • Turn the answers to the positioning and messaging questions into an elevator pitch.
  • Use action words to excite your customers.
  • Ensure the tone of your statement captures the tone of your brand.
  • Focus on the benefit of your product as a whole (not just one specific feature).

And if you need more guidance, check out the HubSpot Marketing Hub product page. The main positioning and messaging statement reads as follows: “All-in-One Inbound Marketing Software: Everything you need to launch effective marketing campaigns that make people interested in your business and happy to be your customer.”

Tip: As product marketers, you should ensure the sales, product, and (the broader) marketing teams are also aware of your positioning and messaging around the product so they too can communicate the same information to prospects and current customers.

This allows you to ensure the entire company is consistent in the content and information they share about your product. Additionally, you can provide this information to your support team if you think it’s necessary, as they may be fielding support calls and working with your customers who’ve already invested in the product.

3. Set goals for your product.

Next, you’ll want to set goals for your product. These will vary based on your specific product, the type of company you work for, your overall marketing goals, and more — your goals will be specific to your business and situation. However, let’s review some common goals product marketers aim to achieve:

  • Increase revenue
  • Engage with customers
  • Improve market share
  • Gain customers from competitors
  • Boost brand recognition

Tip: Feel free to combine several of these goals or just choose one to focus on — every company and product will have different goals. The key is making sure you view and set these targets in the SMART goal format, meaning they’re specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

Use a free template to help you create and achieve your SMART goals.

4. Price your product.

As a product marketer, you’ll also have to contribute to the discussion of the price of your product. Depending on the company you work for, you might work with other teams on this part of the strategy, or it might be a job just for you and your fellow product marketers. Either way, you can consider competitive vs. value-based pricing.

Competitive vs. Value-Based Product Pricing

Competitive pricing means you’re basing your product’s price off of the similar products your competitors sell. It’s ideal for companies who have created a product similar to one that several other companies sell.

If you believe your unique features warrant a significantly higher price than those of your competitors’, you might choose to price your product above the other similar products on the market. A good way to evaluate the fairness of the pricing of all of your competitors is by studying financial reports and industry trends.

Value-based pricing allows you to maximize your profit, although it’s a bit more time-consuming to establish in comparison to competitive pricing. It’s ideal for companies selling a product with very few competitors on the market or one with exceptionally new and unique features.

Value-based pricing quantifies your item’s value in a way your customer can relate to their profitability. It allows you to base your product’s price on its value for your customer rather than whatever the market, industry trends, and your competitors say.

5. Launch your product.

Now it’s time for the most important part of your role as a product marketer — not to mention, the most exciting: the launch of the product you’ve been marketing.

There are two main parts to the launch to focus on as a product marketer: the internal launch (what goes on within your company upon product launch) and external launch (what goes on outside of your company, with customers and audience members, upon product launch).

Internal Aspects of a Product Launch

As previously stated, your job as a product marketer entails making sure the entire organization is on the same page about your product. This way, your customers only receive consistent and accurate details about the product.

The marketing, product, and sales teams at your company should be aware of the following information:

  • The product’s benefits
  • Any available product demo information
  • Sales training opportunities on your product and details about how it’s used
  • What the positioning and messaging looks like
  • Who your buyer personas and ideal customers are
  • What the goals for your product include
  • What your product’s features are
  • The pricing of your product
  • How your product is being launched to customers (which we’ll discuss momentarily)

Now, you might be wondering how to provide this information to marketing, product, and sales. Which channels are ideal for sharing these details with your fellow employees?

Here are a few examples of ways to do this:

External Aspects of a Product Launch

Externally, there are many ways to market your product launch so your current base of customers, prospects, and target audience learn about whatever it is you’re selling.

First, determine where you’re going to focus your product marketing efforts. Here are some examples of channels and places to do this (you might choose several of these or just one to focus on depending on your needs, goals, and resources).

  • Social media
  • In-store
  • Product launch event
  • Blog
  • Website landing page
  • Exclusive product preview (prior to the official launch)
  • Promotional event/ campaign (in-person and/ or online)

On whatever channel you choose to focus your product launch marketing efforts, you should include relevant product information (focused on your positioning and messaging) so prospects and customers can learn all about your product and why they need it. This includes your product’s features, what makes it unique, pricing, demos for customers, training for customers, and any other materials you’ve created and want to share.

Congrats! You’ve just worked through the steps to marketing a product. Remember, this process is one that should be thought about and updated as your products change and evolve so they remain relevant among your customers. (This shouldn’t be an issue as long as you have a member of your team focused on product marketing, considering it’s one of their main responsibilities.)

Let’s review four real-life examples of stellar product marketing.

1. Apple

Apple is a household name for leading technology products and software. Not only are its products gorgeously well-designed; they’re also super useful. But Apple’s product marketing doesn’t focus on the many product features — they market the user benefits.

product marketing example apple product benefitsSource

Apple doesn’t simply list the impressive features of their products; it uses those features to tell consumers who they could be and how they could work if they purchased those products. They tell a narrative using their products and encourage people to buy in the process.

2. Billie

Billie is a women’s razor brand. In a highly competitive market, Billie has helped its products stand out. How? It established a sharp competitive edge (no pun intended) by doing what no razor brand had done before — show body hair in its advertising.

product marketing example billie body hair campaignSource

Not only did this advertising approach get Billie’s audience talking about the brand, but they also appreciated the brand’s accurate portrayal of women’s bodies and body hair. These differentiators were more than enough to set Billie apart from other razor brands and products.

3. Coca-Cola

Did you know that over 95% of people around the world recognize Coca-Cola and its red and white branding? This comes as no surprise when you notice that most people order a “Coke” when purchasing a soft drink or cola. In fact, the brand recognition is so strong that Coca-Cola’s competitor Pepsi used the narrative in its Super Bowl advertising.

Through highly targeted positioning, repetitive advertising, and consistent branding, Coca-Cola has become a truly global household name and product.

4. MailChimp

There are dozens of email marketing tools on the market, but MailChimp hasn’t been fazed by competition. In fact, its risen above their competition by positioning itself as more than an email marketing tool: it’s an all-in-one marketing platform that helps businesses grow.

product marketing example mailchimpSource

Like Apple, MailChimp primarily highlights its benefits for the end user, not just its product features. A recent rebranding and site redesign further drives this narrative home.

Start Marketing Your Products

Product marketing is the process through which a company brings a product to market. Being a product marketer (or product marketing manager) means you’re at the center of your company’s marketing, sales, and product teams.

You’re an integral part to the success of your product, as you create and manage your product’s specific marketing strategy, but you also serve as a liaison between all three of these departments, ensuring everyone is on the same page with your product, it’s features, capabilities, and more. So, start developing your latest product’s marketing strategy to ensure it’s a success among your target audience and customers.

This post was originally published in February 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Step by Step Guide to Creating a Website

In 2017, 71% of small businesses had a website, and 92% of businesses without a website said they’d have one by the end of 2018. Today, having a website is as necessary for a company as having a phone number.

Maybe you’re starting a new business venture or developing your personal brand. Or, maybe you’re looking to update your company’s outdated website. Whatever the case, creating a new website can feel overwhelming, particularly without technical expertise or a budget for web developers.To alleviate any frustration you might feel, we’ve put together a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to creating a website. Best of all, you won’t need a coder, web designer, or big budget to create one — all you’ll need to do is follow the seven steps below.

1. Choose your CMS.

The first thing you’ll need to do when creating a website is find the right CMS (content management system) for your business. There are plenty of free or budget-friendly site builders out there, but they aren’t all created equal, so you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons before choosing one.

For instance, consider whether you need a platform that allows you to code, or whether you’d like to avoid coding altogether. You might also narrow your list if you want your website to support multiple languages. Perhaps you simply want to check out templates offered by different CMS systems, or price ranges to see which you can afford.

Popular CMS systems include WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, and, of course, HubSpot. In fact, the new HubSpot CMS will be released in 2020.

Check out 15 of the Best Free Website Builders to simplify your decision-making process. Once you’ve chosen the best CMS for your needs, continue to step two.

2. Get a domain name and web hosting.

One of the easiest ways to appear illegitimate as a company is to shirk on paying for a domain name. If you were looking for a freelance writer, would you more likely hire from Carolineforsey.weebly.com or Carolineforsey.com? A .weebly or .wordpress extension is an indicator you didn’t pay for the full service, which might seem unprofessional or lower in quality — worst case, a consumer might wonder why you can’t afford the full service, and draw conclusions that you’re not fully established.

Fortunately, purchasing a domain name is typically inexpensive, and there are a few different domain sites you can use. Both Godaddy.com and Bluehost.com are cheap, secure, and effective options for buying a domain name, with added benefits such as SSL security and office 365.

Here’s where it gets tricky. You’ll need to choose a domain name as similar as possible to the name of your company, but with over 1.8 billion websites out there today, your company’s name might already be taken.

If your ideal domain name is already taken, consider using a different extension. I’d advise you to use one of the three most common extensions if you can: .com, .net, or .org. However, if it makes sense for your business, you might want to check out an alternate extension like .us or .shop.

Play around with it. Once you’ve chosen and paid for a domain name, you’ll usually also get personal email accounts attached, so make sure you’re happy to use your domain name as your main online identity.

3. Choose a template for your site.

Now, for the fun part.

On whatever CMS platform you chose, take the time to browse through templates and themes, and choose one you think best represents your brand.

When in doubt, you can’t go wrong if you choose something clean with straight lines, and a limited amount of text. If you need some inspiration, check out 27 of the Best Website Designs to Inspire You in 2020.

Ultimately, no one knows your business better than you. Take the time to consider which template would most likely appeal to your ideal demographic.

Within your CMS, you can probably use filters or search to narrow down on templates related to your industry.

It’s important your template is responsive, so your site will look the same on all devices. When considering templates, you also need to decide whether you want a static header or slideshow header, and how many pages you’ll need to fit in your menu bar. Stay away from hard-to-read fonts or flashy backgrounds that could distract a consumer from understanding your core message.

Once you’ve chosen a template and theme, take the time to customize it. Your site’s design and functionality is your chance to persuade an audience to take a closer look. It’s imperative your design makes sense to your ideal consumer and works to enhance your product’s success rather than hinder it.

4. Add pages to your site.

It’s important to plan exactly which pages you’ll need to include in your site. While it varies business to business, I’d guess you’ll need at least a “Home” page, an “About Us” page, a “Services/Product” page, and a “Contact Us” page.

Of course, you can choose to rearrange page topics any way you want, or combine them. If you’re unsure, check out other company websites within your industry to get ideas for how to organize your navigation bar, or which pages to include and exclude.

I might be biased, but you should probably also include a blog — you know, sometimes they come in handy.

While every platform is different, it’s typically easy to add and remove pages on whichever platform you use.

5. Write content.

This is arguably the most important step. Now that you have your pages set up, what will you put on them?

I’d suggest writing rough drafts for pages like your “About Us” page and landing page. Talk with coworkers and stakeholders — what message do you want to put out there? What tone do you want to set? Should you make jokes and be funny, or aim to be more inspirational?

If your online audience stumbled across your site, what questions would they have first?

Imagine your website is your only chance to have a full conversation with a potential customer. The home page is the preliminary introduction, “Hey, we do XYZ.” Your “About Us” page digs deeper, “We are XYZ.” And your products or services pages are your big push to the finish line: “You want to work with us? Great, here’s how you’ll benefit.”

During this stage, it’s imperative you do your keyword research.

For instance, if you’re selling eyeglasses, and you notice “retro eyeglasses” has more monthly search volume than “vintage eyeglasses”, you might use this research to steer the direction of the content on your site.

If you’re stuck, check out competitor’s websites to gauge what other companies in your industry are doing.

6. Fill in general settings.

Once you’ve filled in your pages with the heavy-hitter content, you can still increase your search visibility by filling in gaps in your CMS settings.

Essentially, these are your SEO elements. On your pages, you should include:

  • High-quality page content
  • Page titles
  • Headers
  • Meta descriptions
  • Image alt-text
  • Structured markup
  • Page URLs
  • Internal linking
  • Mobile responsiveness
  • Site speed

Make sure you include a site title and tagline in the “Settings” of your website building platform. Go through, and check out the URLs — are those optimized for search?

All these elements should be optimized because it tells Google all about your website and how you provide value to visitors and customers. It helps your site be optimized for both human eyes and search engine bots.

7. Install plugins.

Lastly, take a look at your site and figure out what you’re missing. The best CMS platform will ideally offer all the integrations you need.

Website plugins are individual services that improve a specific functionality of your site.

Perhaps your business is ecommerce, in which case, it might be wise to install a Shopify plugin extension.

Or, maybe you want to ensure your website is secure, to protect client data. In that case, find a plugin that offers firewall protection and attacks malware or other threats.

Plugins regarding security, SEO, image compression, and social media are necessities because it’s much easier to do all this work in one place rather than having to log on to several platforms.

Whatever the case, browse your plugin library and pick and choose a few you think will take the effectiveness of your site to the next level.

Once you’re ready, click “Publish”, and your site is ready for use.

How to make a website with HubSpot

Lastly, let’s take a look at how to make a website with HubSpot. If you’re not using HubSpot already, you can try the CMS free trial. If you’re already using HubSpot’s CRM, it probably makes the most sense to build a website within HubSpot to integrate all your sales and marketing needs in one place.

HubSpot offers a variety of plugins and extensions, themed templates, and sophisticated tools for SEO analysis.

If you want to build a website with HubSpot, it’s easy and intuitive. Here’s how:

1. Create home page.

Within your HubSpot portal, click “Content” on the dashboard at the top of your screen. Then, click “Landing Pages”.

After that, click the orange “Create landing page” button and name your page. 

HubSpot landing page creation button.

2. Select a template.

Now, you’ll be taken to this “Select a template” page. Scroll through your options, search page templates, or check out the Marketplace. When you’ve found a template you like, select it.

HubSpot landing page templates.

3. Edit the modules.

This is your landing page. You can scroll over text boxes, images, or other modules to edit them. In the below picture, I scrolled over the “See The World” Banner Text, and when I click it, it allows me to edit that text.

HubSpot landing page modules.

You can also click the “Edit modules” tool on the right side of your screen and edit from there. For instance, I selected “Service 2 Text”, which directed me to the “Make it your own” paragraph on my landing page. You can add text, images, sections, forms, and more from the “Edit modules” section.

HubSpot landing page text blocks.

4. Create other pages on your website.

When you’re happy with your landing page and want to move on, go back to your dashboard and click “Content” at the top of your screen, and then “Website Pages”.

HubSpot content creation.

Here, you’ll click the orange “Create website page” button and name your page, just like your landing page. Then, you’ll be taken through a similar process of choosing a template and adding content. If you want a more in-depth tutorial, check out a quick tour of website pages.

HubSpot website creation.

5. Incorporate social media accounts.

If you want to incorporate your social media accounts, click “Social” on your dashboard. You can monitor all your social media accounts and also publish tweets, Facebook statuses and comments, Instagram pictures, and other content straight from your HubSpot dashboard.

HubSpot social media integration.

6. View analytics.

If you want to check out your site analytics, go to “Reports” and then “Analytics Tools”. You’ll need to install the tracking code, which is easy to do within the HubSpot platform by clicking the orange “Install the tracking code” button. If you’re still unsure, check out how to install the HubSpot tracking code.

HubSpot analytics tools.

7. Add blogs to your site.

If you want to write blog posts, go to “Content” > “Blog” on your dashboard to create, publish, and monitor your website’s blog posts.

HubSpot blogging portal.

This is a fairly broad and general overview to get you started building a website with HubSpot, but there are plenty of more in-depth features and tools you might want to explore with a HubSpot specialist, or by checking out some articles on academy.hubspot.com.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Header Tags: What They Are and How to Use Them

When I first started blogging, I had no idea how to structure my posts to rank for search engines, or even why it was important.

I just threw in bolded words and phrases that looked good, and hoped to be randomly selected for the search engine results page (SERP).

Now, I know there is a science, and what I was throwing into my blog posts to make them look professional was called header tags — which is an important tool for comprehension and SEO.

When we talk about header tags, we’re talking about those bolded words that separate sections on blog posts.

To illustrate, the header tag referred to in this post is the title, “The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2020.” This is also called the H1.

Below are two other types of header tags (there are six,) which are indicated by arrows.

example of an h2 and h3

As you can see, every header tag looks different, and each header tag is used for different things. Here, let’s explore what header tags are, why they matter for SEO, and how you can add your own to HTML.

Here’s a quick guide on header tags and what they’re used for:

  • H1 — The title of a post. They’re usually keyword-centric.
  • H2 — These are subheaders that classify the main ideas of your paragraphs and separate sections. These should also be keywords.
  • H3 — A subsection that clarifies the points of subheaders further.
  • H4 — These are usually used in formatting lists or bullet points.

Keep in mind that H1 tags should always be at the top of your page because they’re usually the title. Your headers should stick to the theme of what you’re writing about. When you’re formatting, use your best judgment when breaking up sections.

Now that you know a little more about what header tags are, let’s get into how they’re used for SEO.

Header Tags and SEO

Header tags and SEO have more in common than it may seem at first glance. Not only are they used to differentiate important pieces of content, but they hold weight with keyword relevancy and readability.

Google favors headers. When it scans your post, it places header tags as high-priority. Ultimately, header tags is what Google uses to tell web browsers their search query is relevant to your post.

That’s why it’s important when using header tags to make sure they’re correctly matching a keyword intent. If a post’s H1 tag doesn’t have a keyword, it won’t rank well in search results.

To illustrate, let’s say your keyword is “eCommerce.” You’d want this to be reflected in your H1 tag, so a title like “The Guide to Starting an eCommerce Business” would be ideal. That would tell Google exactly how to send web browsers to your post.

Search engines also look at header tags within your post, so it’s good to keep those keyword-centric, as well. For instance, you might create some H2 sections surrounding popular long tail keywords related to eCommerce, like “five steps for creating an eCommerce business” or “best social media tools for eCommerce”.

You don’t have to think of keywords by yourself, either — in fact, you can do some easy keyword researching to help you out, or look into keyword research tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs.

Headers also make pages easier to read. Sectioning off different parts of a webpage keeps information organized and broken up in a comprehensible way. This helps readers, but also search engines, which are scanning along, too.

If your sections aren’t making sense, your page might not rank. Think of the sections in this post — do you think they were broken up in a readable way?

How to Add Header Tags in HTML

To add header tags in HTML, it’s a fairly simple process. If you want to notate an H1, you would type in <h1> and </h1>, putting the H1 text in-between those two tags. This is the same method for any type of header tag.

For example, if your h1 was “The Guide to Starting eCommerce,” it would look like this:

<h1> The Guide to Starting eCommerce </h1>

You can also include punctuation between the two tags. For instance, you might have:

<h3>Create an Instagram account to market your eCommerce products.</h3>

This will work for HTML4 or older. If you’re working with HTML5, you might have to use a slightly different line to get the same result. The change is to give a heads up to Google about what the H1 is:

<header> <h1> The Guide to Starting eCommerce </h1> </header>

Remember, Google will scan the HTML of header tags to tell web browsers what your page is about, so it’s important to look them over and see if your headers in HTML are formatted correctly.

Some blogging platforms, like WordPress and HubSpot, have an option on the toolbar to create header tags, so every time you want to add one, you don’t have to dig into the source code or HTML to do so.

The next time you create a post for your website, see if adding the correct header tags affect SEO, and how your readers are comprehending information.

A good test I like to use is sending posts to a close family member who doesn’t know much about blogging or marketing. Using outsider feedback and asking if they can comprehend my writing before I publish helps me format posts so they’re understandable.

The big things for header tags are readability and SEO, so as long as your headers are keyword-driven, they should see a jump in page rank.

 

5 Alternatives to Facebook, Google, and Amazon Ads

According to a recent survey from Lawless Research and Factual, marketers are spending an average of 43% of their ad budget on Google and Facebook, with Amazon not far behind.

Regardless of business size, online advertising strategies are similar. In fact, 46% of marketers working for agencies and brands with an ad budget of $50 million or higher report say they spend up to 60% of it on ad programs from the three tech giants.

These programs also include ad offerings on sites owned by the oligopoly, such as YouTube (owned by Google) and Instagram (owned by Facebook).

The chart below compares how companies with differently sized ad budgets spend their money on platforms owned by Google, Facebook, and Amazon:

Source: Lawless Research and Factual

But although Google, Facebook, and Amazon have been heavily adopted, marketers are still worried that these platforms will grow even more powerful and dictate their advertising options in the future. When asked to rate their level of concern that the oligopoly would limit their advertising options, 78% said they were somewhere between concerned and very concerned.

As we continue to see innovation and growth in online advertising, could this area be disrupted by ad alternatives?

Yes. In fact, marketers are hoping for new advertising options. Although most marketers and agencies spend huge chunks of their budgets on Google, Facebook, and Amazon, 65% of them want alternatives. The Lawless and Factual study even revealed a few platforms that participants were already using, including YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.

Interestingly, the study suggests that participants using YouTube and Instagram as alternatives did not realize that they were paying into the oligopoly. The report concludes that this shows the true power of the tech giants.

To help you keep your eye out on options other than the oligopoly, I’ll walk you through some of today’s most prominent advertising alternatives and show you a few examples of brands that use them.

5 Alternatives to Facebook, Google, and Amazon Ads

Google-Specific Alternatives

Microsoft Advertising

Yes, Google still monopolizes the search market, but you might not want to write Microsoft search engine options off as an alternative.

Microsoft Advertising, formerly known as Bing Ads, is similar to Google in that you can create, optimize, and track PPC ads that show up in searches on Microsoft Search Network platforms, including Bing, MSN, and Yahoo.

Bing Search with dog food ad matching search keywords

If you’re thinking, “But, everyone exclusively uses Google,” think again. Microsoft claims that 5.5 billion monthly searches occur on its search network.

Microsoft Ads is also less competitive because it isn’t as heavily used as Google. Because so many advertisers are bidding, optimizing copy, and competing for precious slots in search engine results, the prices of PPC ads and the cost of wasted spend, can be quite high.

According to WordStream, Microsoft Advertising clients see cost-per-clicks that are 35.5% lower than their Google ads. WordStream also notes that its clients report higher placement on search result pages due to lower levels of ad competition.

Like Google Ads, you’ll still want to familiarize yourself with PPC strategies to properly monitor your budget and wasted spend. You’ll also want to brush up on keyword research and other SEO strategies to make your ad show up higher than other sponsored search results. To learn more about this, here’s a how-to post on launching Bing-based ads.

Social Media Alternatives

LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn’s advertising and content promotion offerings are very similar to Facebook’s in that you can create native ads or promote visual or text-based posts in LinkedIn’s newsfeed. Like Facebook, you can also designate ad objectives, like web traffic or lead generation and target your content to specific demographics, such as age groups or locations.

If you haven’t already seen what promoted content looks like on LinkedIn, here’s an example:

Amazon ad based on Facebook

Like Facebook and other social media ads, paid content on LinkedIn also been seen to boost traffic and lead generation, especially in the B2B world. In fact, 80% of B2B leads come from LinkedIn, while 94% of B2B marketers use the platform.

While LinkedIn Ads are very similar to Facebook, the platform’s nature is slightly different from Facebook or Instagram’s because it embraces professional networking and career growth. This makes the platform especially good for brands that want to sell products or services to professionals or other companies.

Want to learn more about how to successfully generate leads on the platform? Check out this recent blog post that features tips straight from LinkedIn’s VP of Marketing.

Twitter Ads

Twitter Ads are similar to Facebook Ads in that you can pay to promote tweets or launch native ad-styled campaigns.

While promoted tweets show up higher in the feeds of target users with a “Promoted” sign on them, campaigns might show up on Twitter feeds or sidebars with images or video content linking to a website.

Here’s an example of a promoted post from Gold Peak:

Twitter ad for Gold Peak

Like Facebook, you can also choose objectives — or goals — for Twitter Ads. These include tweet engagements, video views, app installs, web sessions, and other common objectives that you might have on other online ads.

Aside from providing similar options to Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads are getting more affordable and more effective each year. Twitter says that engagement with paid ads has increased by 50% year over year. However, the cost per engagement decreased by 14% in 2018.

Reddit Ads

Reddit is a community-centric social network that encourages users to contribute to discussion-based threads called subreddits.

Although the platform is very unique, it’s still gained more than 330 million monthly active users, mostly within the millennial and Gen-Z age groups.

While brands have tested out multiple strategies that involve contributing to discussions and starting their own subreddits, many have also taken advantage of paid promotions on the platform.

When it comes to paid promotion, you can consider sponsoring your posts to ensure that they are placed higher on threads, subreddits, or feeds of targeted users. Here’s an example:

Reddit feed promoted content

If you’re less familiar with how to engage people on the platform, but sell a product that Reddit users would like, such as media, a technological gadget, or video games, you can also consider a native ad that will show up on Reddit feeds or on Reddit’s sidebar.

A Reddit native advertisement

One important thing to know is that Reddit has been seen as one of the trickiest platforms for marketers to crack. Although you can promote content, users on the platform primarily respond to content that values them or adds to conversations on the platform, rather than branded language. However, Reddit is reportedly making more efforts to become more brand-friendly — so it might be worth keeping on your radar.

If you do want to advertise on Reddit, you should still do a bit of research to learn more about the audience, what they’ll respond well to, and what topics they don’t care for. To help you learn the ins and outs of Reddit and see examples of brands that have succeeded on the platform, check out this blog post.

Pinterest Ads

If you’re selling products, like home decor, or lifestyle experiences, like travel bookings, you definitely shouldn’t forget about Pinterest.

While it’s not the most prominent social media platform, Pinterest still has over 300 million monthly active users, is photo-friendly, and encourages people to pin images and products they like to inspiration boards. This might be why big brands, like Target, have embraced the platform and its aspirational nature.

Here’s an example of a pin from JCPenney which links to a holiday line of products on its website:

Advertisement on Pinterest

While bigger businesses have leveraged Pinterest, small businesses have also leveraged the platform’s advertising tools to launch ROI-generating ads. Want to learn more? Here’s a great blog post from a PPC consultant on four tests that are proven to boost Pinterest Ad conversions.

Navigating Ad Alternatives

With the growing number of advertising options out there, it can be hard to determine which is right for you. While we gave you a quick rundown of a few major alternatives in this post, it’s important to do a bit more digging on each.

Make sure to pay into platforms that your buyer will actually be on in the first place. Then, determine what ads are most interesting to them. If you decide that you want to zone in on social media marketing and ads, check out this blog post to learn about which platforms consumers use most to discover new products.

Still interested in leveraging PPC or want to improve on your strategy? Here’s our Ultimate Guide to Google Ads.

Dwell Time is the SEO Metric You Need to Track

This morning, I made a quick Google search.

When the results page loaded, I spent time clicking through the first page of websites to find what I was looking for. When I didn’t find my answer, I clicked back to that results page to look at the next one.

This process took me through to the bottom of the page until I refined my search and started the process again.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was actually contributing to a powerful metric — dwell time.

When we talk about metrics, we tend to focus on demographics. We ask questions like, Who’s looking at your site, where are they located, and what are their interests?. These interests help marketers make informed decisions about campaigns tailored to their customers’ interests.

Dwell time is the metric that runs through various search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s the time I spent reading those results pages before I went back to Google to take a look at other results.

Let’s explore more about what dwell time means, and its usefulness, below.

What is dwell time?

Remember that dwell time begins and ends with the SERP.

It’s important to note, dwell time and bounce rate are two different things. Bounce rate is what happens when a user clicks on one page, and then almost immediately leaves the site.

For it to be considered dwell time, on the other hand, the user needs to click on a page from the SERP, stay a while, and then either clicks back to the SERP or otherwise exits the page.

If you use search engines, you rack up dwell time daily, without even thinking about it. I can already recall two separate instances in which I’ve contributed to dwell time today, all before lunch.

Essentially, dwell time metrics can show marketers if their web pages are capturing the attention and needs of browsers. It has the potential to tell you what to include on web pages, and what to exclude.

For instance, let’s say you write a blog article called “Social Media Tips and Tricks”. You notice the piece has a high click-through rate, but low dwell time. Upon further inspection, you see the rest of the articles on the SERPs include comprehensive information regarding social media scheduling, how to create posts for social media, and which social media sites have the highest conversion rates. More than likely, you thought your post was solving for a user’s search intent when it really wasn’t — which is why most readers jump back to the SERP to find an alternative source.

It can also lead to clues about improving UX. For instance, if you have a slow loading time on your web page, you may see that reflected in dwell time metrics, since a user might exit your page if it’s taking too long to load

This metric can lead to important decisions you make for your site, among other metrics.

Next, let’s explore some average benchmarks regarding time spent on sites.

Average time on site benchmarks

According to Google Analytics, “Average Session Duration” is a metric that tells you how long visitors are staying on a website on average. It’s measured by the total duration of all sessions, or visits, in seconds, divided by the total number of sessions.

A session begins when a user goes to a website. After 30 minutes of inactivity, or when the user leaves, the session ends. The inactivity cutoff exists so you can get an accurate report of your metrics without untrue inflation.

You can find this metric already calculated for you in Google Analytics, displayed in minutes and seconds. *Can you give readers an alternative if they don’t have Google Analytics? Is there another time-on-page measurement website?

But what’s a “good” average session?

Try to go for anywhere between 2-4 minutes, the time most marketers agree is a good average duration. It’s also the general benchmark across most metrics of SMBs. It usually takes around this time to explore a website and get a feel for the design.

You can find this metric for your own site by visiting Google Analytics or other metric websites that host the same information. Here is an example of what that’ll look like on Google Analytics:

Most marketers agree that it’s rare to see average session duration times over 10 minutes or less than one minute, so if you’re looking for a goal, between 2-4 minutes is where the average typically lies.

When you’re looking at metrics, it’s a good idea to look at all of them to get a full scope of how your site is performing. If you’re ranking high on the SERP, that means that your SEO is great, but if your website isn’t providing useful information, your session duration might underperform.

To provide a holistic experience for customers, looking into the meaning behind session durations is important. Dwell time contributes to session duration, but remember that the two aren’t cut from the same cloth. Remember that dwell time doesn’t count from anywhere but the SERP, and that sessions end after 30 minutes of inactivity on that SERP.

The Beginner's Guide to Structured Data for Organizing & Optimizing Your Website

It’s Friday afternoon, and your team is jonesing for Happy Hour.

For the last few weeks, you’ve been going to the same ol’ bar by your office, so you decide it’s time to try something new. What do you do? Step outside and walk around until you find a new spot? No, you hop on Google and let it conduct the search for you.

Your ideal post-work pub is nearby, open right after work, and offers a few gluten-free options so your entire team can partake. You plug these criteria into Google, and you’ve got three viable options at your fingertips — in a handy map format to boot.

Pause. Have you ever wondered how Google can whip up such accurate, precise answers in so little time … and present them in such an easy-to-read way? Moreover, what are those restaurants doing to get featured so dominantly on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs)?

Heck, I’d love my business to pop up when consumers search for criteria relevant to me … wouldn’t you?

No one knows exactly how Google’s algorithm works — but, there are a few ways to organize and optimize your website content so Google knows what content to feature on the SERPs for the various searches people conduct to find you.

This is where structured data comes in. Structured data can make your organization more visible to potential customers and increase your click-through rate by up to 30%.

Not sure what structured data is? That’s OK. By the end of this guide, you’ll be a structured data wizard — and your website will reap the benefits.

We know that what searchers see online is much different than what search engines see.

While searchers see this…

Source

… search engines see this:

structured data exampleView the source code for any website by going to View > Developer > View Source.

This behind-the-scenes code tells browsers how information should be organized on the website (as part of its website development) and tells web crawlers what’s on the page.

Structured data is also at play here. Embedded tags of code (a.k.a. “markup”) throughout the HTML of a webpage tell Google and other search engines what information to display in the SERPs and what this information represents. It also helps social media platforms synthesize your social media posts into snippets that preview the content using Open Graph Protocol (which we touch on later).

This markup is important. It educates search engines on what specific content is on the page. This creates more relevant, informed searches and makes the site a candidate for enhanced results like featured snippets, rich snippets, image and video carousels, knowledge boxes, and more (which we’ll touch on later).

Google’s SERPs weren’t always as easy on the eye as they are today. Don’t remember? Check out this Google result for “pool tables” from 2008.

structured data old google example pool tablesSource

Let’s compare. Here’s the same result from today.

structured data new google pool tables

Wow. That’s a world of difference. Not only are these results easier to read, but the extra features make for a much more informative, intelligent searching — and shopping — experience. Between the sponsored content and live map (plus the product carousel, question snippets, and related searches not shown in the screenshot), Google provides pretty much everything I need to know about pool tables.

Heck, sometimes I search for something and find the answer right on the SERP — I don’t even have to click on a result. Does that ever happen to you? If it has, you can thank structured data.

How does structured data work?

At this point, you might be asking: How can there exist a language (markup) that is consistently recognized by search engines and people alike?

In order for this markup to be accurately and universally understood, there are standardized formats and vocabularies that should be used.

Let’s go back to basics for a minute. When conveying information, whether you’re communicating with a human or a computer, you need two main things: vocabulary (a set of words with known meanings) and syntax (a set of rules on how to use those words to convey meaning).

Most terminology surrounding structured data markup can be organized into these two concepts — vocabularies and syntaxes — and webmasters can combine whichever two they need to structure their data (with the exception of Microformats).

VocabulaRY SYNTAX
Schema.org Microdata
DCMI JSON-LD
FOAF RDFa

Okay … that’s enough of the fancy developer speak. What should you be using for your structured data?

Schema.org is the accepted universal vocabulary standard for structured data. It was founded and is currently sponsored by Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex. It’s flexible, open-sourced, and constantly updated and improved.

Note: Schema is called such because it features markup for a wide variety of schemas — or data models — for different types of content.

Here’s an example of Schema Markup language (which is good for SEO) pulled from my article on branding.

“@context” : “http://schema.org”,

“@type” : “Article”,

“name” : “The Ultimate Guide to Branding in 2019”

“author” : {

“@type” : “Person”,

“name” : “Allie Decker”

},

“datePublished” : “2019-04-02”,

“image” : “https://blog.hubspot.com/hubfs/branding-2.jpg”,

“url” : “https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/branding”,

“publisher” : {

“@type” : “Organization”,

“name” : “HubSpot”

As for syntax, there’s no correct answer. Google recommends JSON-LD (and defaults to that syntax when using its Structured Data Markup Helper — as you see below). JSON-LD uses Javascript code and embedded widgets to dynamically display your content, which is typically a simpler development process.

Google also recognizes Microdata and RDFa. Both of these syntaxes use HTML to identify properties within structured data. Microdata is typically only used in the page body, whereas RDFa is commonly used in both the page head and body.

On the other hand, JSON-LD is only placed in the page head, meaning, for certain types of markup, JSON-LD makes it so you don’t have to navigate subheaders, supporting copy, and related styling that’s included in the page’s HTML. This is why JSON-LD is considered simpler than the other two.

Ultimately, it all depends on the data you’re trying to implement, what the benefit is to your website, and what would be easier to share with your team.

Structured Data and Mobile

Structured data affects mobile a little differently — through Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). Accelerated Mobile Pages is a Google-backed, open source project to help all mobile pages load quickly regardless of device.

Pages with AMP markup appear within Google’s special SERP features, such as Top Stories and News Carousels. Here’s how to create an AMP HTML page.

structured data amp exampleSource

Structured Data and Social Media

Structured data markup works a little differently for social platforms. This requires Open Graph Protocol and similar languages that ensure your website and blog content appear in an easy-to-read way when you promote this content on a social network. Two common social media features that use Open Graph Protocol are Pinterest Rich Pins and Twitter cards. We talk more about how to do this below.

Here’s an example of Open Graph Protocol language (which is good for social media) using the same source.

<meta property=”og:title” content=”The Ultimate Guide to Branding in 2019”/>

<meta property=”og:type” content=”article”/>

<meta property=”og:URL” content=”https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/branding”

<meta property=”og:image” content=”https://blog.hubspot.com/hubfs/branding-2.jpg”

<meta property=”og:admins” content=”Allie Decker”

<meta property=”og:site_name” content=”HubSpot”

<meta property=”og:description” content=”Discover how to create and manage a brand that helps your business become known, loved, and preferred”

Note: Unfortunately, structured data doesn’t impact your organic search ranking (besides helping you grab a spot in a knowledge panel or Featured Snippet at the top of the list). It also doesn’t change how your content looks or behaves on your website — it only affects how and where it might appear on SERPs.

Examples of Structured Data

To the average internet user, structured data can’t be seen. It’s hidden among the code that makes up our favorite websites and online platforms. So, how does structured data affect what we (and our customers) see? What does it look like to the “naked” eye?

When webmasters adhere to structured data standards, search engines like Google and Bing reward their websites and organizations by featuring their content in a variety of SERP features (another reason to use structured data).

structured data googleSource

Let’s talk about those features — specifically on Google. Google SERPs display a wide variety of information, but the ones we talk about below are specifically influenced by structured data.

There are also a couple of ways that structured data can benefit your non-SERP marketing efforts on social media and email marketing.

Content Features

Content features appear as separate search results among normal search results.

1. Carousels

Carousels show up as images with captions related to a search, such as movie actors, cars, or news articles. Searchers can click through these images to access a separate SERP for that search. Here’s how to use structured data to show up on Carousels.

structured data carousel example mid-size suv

2. Videos

Videos function similarly to carousels but feature videos instead of images or other listings. Searchers can scroll through these results to directly access and watch each video.

Based on how you mark-up your content, you may also qualify for video enhancements such as LIVE badges and video host carousels. Here’s how to use structured data to show up on videos.

structured data example videos

3. Featured Snippets

Featured Snippets display information relevant to a query — and link to a third-party website (which sets them apart from Answer Boxes and Knowledge Panels, which draw from public domain databases). They don’t count as one of the ten organic results on a SERP, so if you “win” the Snippet, your website shows up twice.

Featured Snippets can also be displayed as quotes, tables, jobs, rich cards (for movies and recipes), or the question section titled “People may ask”. Here’s how to optimize your content for Google’s Featured Snippet box.

structured data featured snippet google example stainless steel water bottles

4. Knowledge Panels (a.k.a. Knowledge Graph Cards)

Knowledge Panels pull together the most relevant information from a search and display it as a separate panel on the right side of a SERP. They typically include images, dates, and category-specific information, such as stock prices for companies or birthdays for celebrities. You can use a structured data markup like Schema to tag your content with all of these categories, but there’s no guarantee that Google will reward you with your own knowledge panel.

In fact, structured data doesn’t promise anything, it only makes it easier for search engines and social networks to interpret your content.

Also, Knowledge Panels aim to answer queries without requiring a click-through … good news for searchers, and bad news for businesses. Here’s how to make your site easier for bots to crawl (to increase your chances of showing up in a Knowledge Panel).

structured data knowledge panel example idris elba google

Enriched Search Features

Unlike content features, enriched result features enhance regular search results. They’re also called rich search results or rich snippets.

1. Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs “indicate a page’s position in the site hierarchy,” according to Google. Breadcrumbs appear on mobile devices, in place of a URL, above the title of the results page, and next to the site’s favicon (as of 2019). They help searchers understand a page’s relationship to the rest of a website. Here’s how to use structured data to display breadcrumbs in your results.

structured data breadcrumbs favicon mobile example hubspot

2. Sitelinks and Sitelinks Searchbox

Sitelinks are additional links displayed beneath a search result that navigate to different parts of a website. Google pulls them into a SERP when it thinks additional results would benefit a searcher. Websites with intelligent anchor text and alt text that’s informative, compact, and avoids repetition have a good chance of displaying a result with Sitelinks.

structured data sitelinks example chicago cubs

Sitelinks Searchbox is like Sitelinks with a search bar directly featured in the result. That search box uses Google — not the featured website — which creates a brand new SERP. Sitelinks Searchboxes only show up in branded searches.

Here’s how to get a Sitelinks Searchbox for your website.

structured data sitelinks searchbox google example hubspot

3. FAQ

FAQ can be used on any page that lists questions and answers — not just traditional frequently asked questions (FAQ) pages.

This feature allows searchers to access your questions and answers right from the SERP; it also extends your result vertically, taking up even more SERP real estate and helping your site stand out. Here’s how to use structured data to display FAQ in your search results.

structured data content feature faq

4. How-To

The how-to feature is similar to FAQ in that it displays a page’s content (if it fits certain criteria) on the SERP so searchers can see that information. It walks searchers through a set of steps and can feature video, text, and images.

Unlike FAQ, the individual steps in how-to result aren’t linkable; however, searchers can access the entire list of steps by clicking your results. These results can show up in two formats: standard accordion layout or rich result carousel, depending on the content. Here’s how to use structured data to display how-to content in your search results.

structured data example how to rich result carouselSource

Non-SERP Features

Structured data can also be used to enhance to non-SERP features.

1. Social Cards

Social-specific markup doesn’t have a big impact on SEO, but it’s still important for marketers to understand. Not only does this markup enhance your social posts and ad efforts, but it can also be read by search engines — which could contribute to any SEO changes in the future.

Social cards display images and rich text when links are shared on social media. Any organization who uses social media to share content should be using proper social markup, such as Open Graph Protocol.

Here’s how you ensure your social content displays social cards:

structured data open graph twitter swell bottle

2. Email Marketing

Have you recently booked a flight or ordered something online? If you have Gmail, you might’ve seen your reservation or order details summarized at the top of the confirmation email. This is due to email markup.

If you send emails for orders, reservations, confirmations, or bookings, consider using email markup to make your email recipients’ lives easier. Here’s how to get started with email markup in Gmail.

structured data email markup gmail

The concept of structured data might seem confusing, but its implementation isn’t nearly as complicated. In fact, there are a number of structured data tools that can help you along the way, namely Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper and Testing tools. Sure, you can implement structured data by hand, but Google’s tool ensures accuracy — and makes your life easier.

It’s important to note that adding structured data markup on your website doesn’t guarantee a Featured Snippet or Sitelinks Sitebox. Google can take weeks to crawl your new HTML markup, and sometimes, the information doesn’t show up at all.

However, taking the steps to implement structured data is critical. Google might be smart, but it can’t (yet) understand everything on its own. It might seem like a lot of extra work, but using the correct structured data markup will ensure Google can make sense of your content and can help you potentially increase your click-through rates and visibility.

Here’s how to implement structured data by using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper tool.

1. Open Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.

Open up Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper tool.

structured data google markup tool

2. Select your data type and enter the URL.

Make sure the Website tab is open. Choose the type of data to which you’d like to add the HTML markup. Plug the web page URL (or the HTML code) at the bottom, and click Start Tagging.

structured data google markup tool select data type

3. Highlight page elements and assign data tags.

When the tool loads, you should see your web page on the left side and data items on the right. Highlight different components of your web page to assign data tags such as name, author, and date published. (The tool will suggest different data tags for different types of data, i.e. Events or Book Reviews.)

structured data google markup tool highlight page elements

As you select and assign data tags, you’ll see the information pop up under My Data Tags on the right panel. You can also add any missing tags that might not be visible on the web page; just click Add missing tags.

4. Create the HTML.

When you’re finished tagging and assigning data items, click Create HTML in the upper right-hand corner.

5. Add the schema markup to your page.

On the next screen, you should see your structured data markup on the right side. The tool automatically produces the script as JSON-LD markup, but you can change it to Microdata by clicking the JSON-LD drop-down menu in the top menu.

structured data google markup tool add schema markup to page

Click Download to download the script as an HTML file. To read more about adding structured data to your article (or any other data type), click Articles in the right corner above the markup.

To “publish” your markup, copy and paste the new HTML markup into your CMS or source code of your web page. Lastly, click Finish in the top right corner to check out Google’s recommended Next Steps … one of which will bring you to this next one.

6. Test your markup with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

Open up Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. You can enter any URL of a web page you’d like to test, or you can enter HTML code. (In the example below, I’m analyzing the code previously produced by Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper Tool.) Click Run Test to begin.

structured data google markup testing tool test structured data

7. Diagnose and fix any detected issues.

The tool will show you your HTML markup on the left side and the markup analysis on the right. Note any red errors or warnings. Click on any data row to highlight the corresponding markup on the left.

If necessary, you can edit any errors in the HTML directly in the tool panel before “publishing” the tested HTML markup.

8. Be patient.

This last step is simple but arguably the hardest — to sit back and wait. Google can take weeks to re-crawl new HTML, and even then, your content isn’t guaranteed to show up in rich snippets or other SERP features.

As long as you follow the correct structured data standards and markup, give Google all the information it needs to know, and be patient, your website and business can benefit greatly from structured data and enhanced SEO.

Get Started with Structured Data Today

Google and other search engines continuously improve how they aggregate and present information. They offer enhanced, intelligent search experiences with the customer in mind. It’s up to you as a business to keep up, and you can do so through structured data.

Structured data benefits businesses — through increased visibility — and consumers — through better usability. Use this guide, tools, and resources to optimize and organize your website and make your customers’ lives easier.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

The Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn Company Pages

In November 2018, LinkedIn launched LinkedIn Pages. This launch provided a new way for consumers to discover and vet their favorite businesses — and for businesses, organizations, and institutions to connect with their audiences.

A lot happens on LinkedIn. People post updates, professionals seek new jobs, salespeople pitch prospective customers, and LinkedIn members of all kinds connect, chat, and build relationships. With almost 600 million members, this level of activity comes as no surprise.

LinkedIn Company Pages provide a unique way for your organization to stand out from the noise — important noise, but noisy nonetheless. We developed this guide to help you get started.

LinkedIn Company Pages were developed to give your company a home base and reach your audience on the network. If you haven’t built a LinkedIn Page for your business yet, you’re missing out on new connections, followers, employees, and customers.

Before we talk about how to build your own LinkedIn Company Page, let’s discuss the benefits of the network.

Why LinkedIn?

When compared to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, LinkedIn may not seem like the most intriguing, exciting social media network. But it’s still important — especially because 62% of people trust a brand’s social media accounts and activity more than its advertising.

Creating a LinkedIn presence for your company only expands your brand trust and awareness. Here are a few reasons to invest time in building a LinkedIn Company Page.

1. Share company updates and news.

LinkedIn, like any other social network, features a content stream on which people share and discuss important articles and updates. This is a perfect place to post your company updates and news for customers, employees, investors, and fans to review and share.

2. Post open jobs and connect with potential employees.

LinkedIn is a professional social network, meaning users benefit from work and career-related updates, connections, and interactions. LinkedIn members are primed to discover and discuss job opportunities, including the ones at your company. If you have any open roles, LinkedIn is the perfect place to share them. In fact, LinkedIn provides Career Pages — a space separate from your Company Page that’s dedicated to open jobs, recruiting, and employer branding.

3. Build a community.

Every social network boasts its own ability to foster a sense of community, and LinkedIn is no exception, including LinkedIn. Your LinkedIn Company Page is a place to build a community of LinkedIn members who are interested in your business, updates, and jobs. Here, they can connect and collaborate on their shared interest in your company.

4. Grow and keep your brand’s image consistent on social media.

If you’re active on other social networks, having a presence on LinkedIn can help you grow your audience elsewhere. Most social networks allow you to link to and from your LinkedIn page to boost recognition and increase your number of followers. Additionally, some of your audience may only be active on LinkedIn, so creating a Page would give you a chance to connect with new potential customers and employees.

5. Improve your discoverability on search engines.

LinkedIn Company Pages rank on search engine results pages (SERPs) like any other website or social network. Creating a Page gives your company another opportunity to be discovered by those searching for your products, services, or brand. 

LinkedIn Company Pages vs. LinkedIn Groups

Another popular feature on LinkedIn is LinkedIn Groups, where like-minded people digitally gather to discuss common topics, industries, or — in some cases — companies. Many users get these two features confused.

LinkedIn Company Pages are the equivalent to your website on LinkedIn; you create it on behalf of your company, and it belongs to you (as a business owner and/or marketer). You’re responsible for updating your Page and posting new content and updates. Other LinkedIn members can follow your Page and engage with your content.

On the other hand, LinkedIn Groups are collaborative networks that can be created and engaged with by any LinkedIn member. Some groups are private while Open Groups can be read or joined by anyone. Now, a company can create a LinkedIn Group for certain internal teams or subgroups, but LinkedIn Groups can’t necessarily replace LinkedIn Company Pages.

How to Create a Company Page on LinkedIn

Whether you already have a LinkedIn account or are new to the platform, creating a LinkedIn Company Page is easy. Follow these steps to get started.

1. Create a new LinkedIn Page.

Head to LinkedIn and visit the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions site. Hover over the LinkedIn Pages option in the top menu and click Create a LinkedIn Page.

If you’re already signed into LinkedIn, tap the Work drop-down menu in the top right corner and click Create a LinkedIn Page+ from the very bottom.

linkedin company pages create a company page

2. Choose your company size and type.

Choose the size of your business from the first two options. (Notice the other two options to create a Showcase Page or create a LinkedIn Page for an educational institution, both of which you aren’t required to provide this information.)

create a linkedin company page choose a page type

For the purpose of this guide, I’m going to choose Small Business.

3. Fill out your company details.

Next, fill out the details of your business. Only some of the details are required, but I recommend fully completing this step (as we’ll discuss in the best practices section below).

linkedin company pages fill out your company details form

Let’s walk through the form fields.

  1. Name: Enter your entire company name to improve discoverability and searchability.
  2. LinkedIn public URL: As you fill out your Name, LinkedIn will automatically input your URL to match. Ideally, your URL will be your company name; this keeps your online identities consistent. For example, HubSpot’s LinkedIn Page URL is www.linkedin.com/company/hubspot/. If your company name isn’t available, choose a URL that’s similar and still identifiable, such as one of your social media handles and/or a shortened version of your brand name.
  3. Website: Enter your company’s website. Although not required, this information is critical as it connects LinkedIn followers to your company website.
  4. Industry: Choose this from the drop-down menu. This information helps LinkedIn categorize your company for Page visitors.
  5. Company size: Choose your company size from the ranges provided.
  6. Company type: Choose your company type from the options provided.
  7. Logo: Upload a high-quality logo that matches the logo on your other social media accounts. This is important so new followers can recognize your brand and Page. It must be 300 x 300px.
  8. Tagline: In 120 characters, briefly describe what your company does. Consider using the same tagline from your other social media accounts. You can change this information later.

When finished, check the checkbox at the bottom and click Create Page.

4. Complete your LinkedIn Page.

The final step should show you the Admin View of your LinkedIn Company Page. This is essentially the behind-the-scenes dashboard from which you can make changes to your Page.

If you’re building your Page from scratch, you’ll see that LinkedIn provides a helpful checklist of actions to complete. These tasks will also unlock new features such as Content Suggestions and Invite to Follow that can help grow your Page.

linkedin company pages build your page checklist

Let’s walk through the important tasks to complete in this step.

  • Description: Add an About Us section that describes your company. It should be longer than your tagline. This is the place to include relevant keywords and phrases that can help people discover your Page on LinkedIn and through search engines. This section can be up to 2,000 words. LinkedIn also allows you to create taglines and descriptions in multiple languages.
  • Location: Add at least one location for your company. You can add multiple locations and name each one. Consider at least adding your headquarters or central company location.
  • Cover photo: Add a cover photo that will engage and entice visitors to check out your Page. Many brands upload another orientation of their logo or their latest marketing or advertising campaign graphics. This photo must be 1,128 x 191px.
  • Hashtags: Although relatively uncommon on LinkedIn, hashtags on your Page provide a unique way to connect with followers and engage with posts. Add up to three hashtags that are related to your company, industry, and audience. They will be added as Community Hashtags to your Page.

You can also add a company phone number, the year your company was founded, and any LinkedIn Groups you want to show on your Page.

Voila! Your LinkedIn Company Page is now created and ready to share. Continue poking around your Page to complete all fields and features. The following section of LinkedIn Page best practices will help you use your Page to connect and grow.

Follow these six tips and techniques to optimize your LinkedIn Company Page.

1. Complete all the Page details.

According to LinkedIn, fully completed LinkedIn Company Pages get 30% more views. Take the time to fill out every Page detail, even those that aren’t required. 

The more details you provide about your company, the easier it will be for people (a.k.a. potential customers) to discover and connect with you. It will also serve to educate those who are interested in working for or investing in your company.

2. Add important Page admins.

Maintaining a LinkedIn Company Page can be a lot of work, especially if your team is already manning multiple social networks and accounts. Once you create your Page, don’t forget to add more Page admins to give other people permissions.

Do add new Page admins, click Admin tools > Page admins in the top right corner of your Company Page.

linkedin company page add new page admins

The following box will allow you to manage all your Page administrators. As you can see, there are five types of admins you can add to your Page. LinkedIn explains them in detail here.

You must be connected to your Page admins in order to add them. To do so, simply type in the person’s name, choose them, and click Save changes.

linkedin company page add designated admin form

3. Keep your images up-to-date.

Your Page logo and cover photo are very important; they visually introduce and engage anyone who visits your Page. Keep these images up-to-date with your latest branding and marketing materials. 

Not only is this critical for presenting a unified social presence, but it ensures your LinkedIn Company Page also matches your website, blog, and other digital marketing materials. Doing so will boost brand awareness and help new customers, employees, and fans discover your brand on LinkedIn.

4. Share content and engage with your followers.

Like any social network, you can’t expect to simply create your account and be finished. Building your LinkedIn Page is only half the battle; you must also consistently post content to successfully engage, inform, and market to your audience.

Download this free ebook to access templates, guides, and infographics on how to use LinkedIn for business, marketing, and networking.

Consider posting updates to your products and services, job openings, trends or news that involve your brand, and behind-the-scenes content featuring employee life, product development, or other unique content. 

LinkedIn also provides a handy Content Suggestions tool to help you discover topics and content your audience is already engaging with on the network. Tap Content Suggestions along the top menu of your Page, and update the filters as they apply to your audience.

linkedin company page content suggestions

Tap View content suggestions, and you’ll see a content stream based on your chosen topic and audience parameters. You can edit the filters further in the left menu, and you can add or take away content topics along the top. This tool shows you the engagement rates of popular or trending content and makes it easy to share this content with your audience.

As always, don’t forget to engage with your audience, too. Like, comment on, and share things posted by your followers and connections. This will remind them there are humans behind your brand’s LinkedIn Company Page.

5. Customize your call-to-action.

On your LinkedIn Company Page, under your logo and next to the Follow + button, you’ll find a call-to-action (CTA). Mine says Visit website.

linkedin company page cta

LinkedIn allows you to customize this CTA to better engage your followers and audience. To do this, tap the pencil icon next to your CTA. Make sure the Custom button option is turned on.

linkedin company page custom url

Choose a button name from the drop-down menu and enter a URL. Use this setting to direct followers to your website, landing pages, event registrations, and more.

6. Engage your employees.

Your employees are some of your best brand advocates. This is especially true on LinkedIn, where employees have an average of 10x more first-degree connections than a company has followers.

As you develop your Company Page, encourage your employees to follow and engage with it. Also, ask each employee to list your company as an employer, as this will link their profile to your Page and vice versa. This is a helpful resource when growing a new Page audience of customers and potential employees.

Connect with Your LinkedIn Company Page

Over 60% of consumers trust a brand’s social media over its advertising. Your LinkedIn Company Page contributes to this statistic, and, in turn, helps bolster your brand awareness, trust, and social activity. Use this guide to develop your LinkedIn Company Page and start engaging with new customers, employees, investors, and followers.

(If you’re looking for additional resources, LinkedIn also provides their own handy Playbook for optimizing your Company Page.)

How HubSpot Service, Support, and Sales Reps Stay Productive on a Noisy Floor

As a customer-facing representative — whether you work in sales, service, or support — you’re probably used to working in a busy, noisy office space. Maybe you work on a loud sales floor surrounded by reps chatting on the phone with leads. Perhaps you work in an office space with customer service and support reps working to assist customers over the phone or video chat throughout the day.

Whatever the cause of your workspace being noisy, it’s not always easy to block out the environment around you. That’s why we’ve compiled the following list of tips and tricks HubSpotters use to stay productive and focused in a noisy, busy, and sometimes, distracting workspace.

Before diving into the examples from HubSpotters, let’s take a look at some all-encompassing and actionable techniques to improve your productivity.

Now, let’s hear from HubSpotters about how they use these specific tips and techniques.

1. Block time on your calendar or communicate your need for disruption-free time to your coworkers.

  • “One of my staples is creating a ‘working signal’. Since I’m typically on calls and that signifies I’m unable to chat, I usually keep my headphones on to show that I’m still at work. When my headphones come off that means I’m available to speak with or help others. I’ll also find a booth or another area where I know fewer people so I’m less tempted to converse and can focus on the task at hand.” — John Vassar, Customer Onboarding Specialist, HubSpot HQ
  • “I find while working in a collaborative environment, people still approach you even if you have headphones on — so, I recommend informing your team in advance when you need time to focus. I set 30 to 60-minute blocks in my calendar that I try to religiously follow. During this time, I won’t get up or go for a wander or banter with any of my colleagues.” — Ricky Huang, Principal Account Executive, HubSpot Sydney

2. Invest in noise-canceling headphones.

  • “My headphones have a noise-cancelation feature that I can turn on when it’s really loud. That’s typically what a lot of us on the team do.” —Ado Kawuba, Partner Specialist, HubSpot HQ
  • “I have noise-canceling headphones (Sony WF-1000XM3) that I wear when I don’t need to be on a call, but have to work on a proposal or something else with a hard deadline.” — Ricky Huang, Principal Account Executive, HubSpot Sydney

3. Listen to white noise or music (specifically, without lyrics).

  • “When I need to just put my head down and focus on doing some work, I usually play white noise which helps block everything else out.” — Sotiria Qirjazi, Customer Onboarding Specialist, HubSpot Dublin
  • “I like my classical music — it keeps me focused and blocks out the noise. I stick with music without words so I don’t get distracted singing in my head (typing lyrics into emails!).” — Zoya Khatuntseva, Senior Channel Account Manager at HubSpot, HubSpot HQ

4. Move around, find a quiet space elsewhere, or work remotely when possible.

  • “I know firsthand the toll that working on a noisy sales floor can have on reps, so I encourage my team take the time they need to move around the office, visit HubSpot’s Meditation Room, work remotely (and work on a flex-schedule, if possible), or just take a break when they feel overwhelmed. This helps improve overall productivity — remember, sometimes you need to sit out an inning to play the whole game.” — Dan Love, US Sales Manager, HubSpot HQ
  • “While working as a rep, I’d get up and take breaks between my calls. Leaving your desk can do wonders for resetting your focus, especially if you’re given a few minutes to write case notes between calls. I’d write my notes quickly and use any extra time to leave my desk, walk around, get coffee, etc. This helped me reduce fatigue and stress whenever I felt it was a very busy or noisy day.” — Clint Fontanella, Service Blog Writer and Editor (former Customer Support Rep), HubSpot HQ
  • “I like to grab my laptop and work from somewhere else in the office between my calls to get some time to focus.” — Sebastian Ferreira, Customer Support Specialist, HubSpot Sydney
  • “I find that scheduling time to work remotely one day a week or a few times a month really increase productivity levels.” — Serena Shah, Sales Partner Manager, HubSpot HQ
  • “I typically take my calls on the sales floor, but when I need time to focus, I’ll move to a quiet area of the office to get work done.” — Tim Ferraro, Principal BDR, HubSpot HQ

5. Make daily to-do lists and micro-goals, then cross them off items upon completion.

  • “I stay productive with HubSpot Tasks and I create micro-goals for myself throughout the day to help me stay focused and make things easier to digest. For example, a micro-goal may be, ‘For the next hour, I’m going to either just make calls or strictly focus on my follow-up emails.'” — Cam Karosis, Small Business, HubSpot HQ
  • “Make a list of what you want to accomplish that day, so when you get distracted and forget what you were doing, you can reference the list. Additionally, crossing something off a list is very cathartic.” — Serena Shah, Sales Partner Manager, HubSpot HQ

6. Experiment with tactics that are specific to your particular role in the office.

  • “When my customers can hear it’s noisy in the background, I work harder to ensure they know I’m focused on their problem rather than what’s going on around me. Sometimes, when they hear noise, I worry they’ll be concerned that I’m not completely understanding or hearing their problem. To show I’m 100% focused on them, I try to be more conversational so they can tell I’m fully invested in our conversation and not what is going on in the background.” — Katelyn Tierney, Customer Support Specialist, HubSpot HQ

Stay Focused and Productive

No matter what your current technique is for staying productive on a noisy floor, don’t be afraid to chat with your fellow reps about their favorite tactics. Or, try using one of these tips from HubSpotters located across the globe. Who knows? You might just find your new favorite strategy.

The State of Video Marketing in 2020 [New Data]

A decade is a long time. I mean, just think back to the end of 2009.

Barack Obama was about to enter his first full year in the White House, Farmville was the flavor of the month with 83 million monthly users on Facebook, and Avatar had just hit movie theatres worldwide, becoming — at the time — the highest-grossing movie ever.

But even then, ten years ago, people were already starting to make big predictions about online video, and its potential to change the world of marketing.

Not all predictions come true — but, as we reach the end of the decade, it’s fair to say that these ones certainly did.

If any marketing trend can lay claim to being the defining tactic of the last ten years, video is surely up there.

A decade ago, video was an expensive, pie-in-the-sky luxury. Since then, it’s become a staple — an accessible, affordable must-have tool to help attract audiences, explain products, and support customers.

And now, as we once again march forward into a brand new decade, new research conducted by Wyzowl strongly suggests:

  • Video remains a key priority for marketers.
  • Marketers feel more positive about the return on investment offered by video than ever, as it continues to strongly influence traffic, leads, sales, and audience understanding.
  • Usage and spend on video marketing are likely to increase yet again in 2020.
  • People watch significantly more video than ever before.
  • Consumers continue to use video as an integral part of their journey with brands, and are excited to see even more video content in the year ahead.

About the survey

Wyzowl’s State of Video Marketing Survey is an annual report, now in its sixth iteration. Every year, we ask a range of questions — many of them the same from year-to-year — to evaluate how the video marketing landscape is changing and growing. 

This time round, our survey was taken by a sample of 656 unique respondents, consisting of professional marketers and consumers.

The key findings…

85% of businesses use video as a marketing tool. This is actually a slight decrease from last years figure (87%) but still represents a highly significant number, which has generally grown since 2016 (the first time we asked this particular question in this way.)

What’s more, 92% of marketers who use video say that it’s an important part of their marketing strategy — the highest percentage of any year since 2015.

Screen Shot 2019-12-23 at 4.11.16 PM

Perhaps most strikingly, 88% of video marketers reported that video gives them a positive ROI — a 5% increase on last years figure, and a world away from the lowly 33% who felt that way in 2015. This could well be attributed to greater understanding of how to use video, as well as how to track and quantify its impact. 

Screen Shot 2019-12-23 at 4.11.35 PM

Looking forward…

As you might expect given all the above, all the signs suggest that usage and spend are on course to continue their growth in 2020.

99% of current video marketers told us they’ll continue using video in 2020, and 95% plan to increase or maintain their spend. 

Screen Shot 2019-12-23 at 4.12.02 PM

What’s more, from the people who told us they don’t currently use video, 59% told us they expect to start in 2020.

Screen Shot 2019-12-23 at 4.12.26 PM

The net result of this is that we can all expect to see more noise and competition for audience attention in the coming 12 months. And, given that 92% of video marketers feel the level of noise and competition increased noticeably in 2019 … that’s a lot of noise!

Of course, while this is a challenge, it isn’t an insurmountable one. It simply raises the bar in terms of content quality. Video needs to be well-planned, and very well-executed.

The big opportunities…

You’d be forgiven for looking at these numbers and feeling that video might be on the verge of reaching saturation point. Most of the data points around usage, spend and consumer opinion are in the 80s and 90s — where they’ve held, consistently, for a number of years.

But the good news is that there still seems to be underutilized opportunities for marketers to explore around video.

Unsurprisingly, YouTube and Facebook are the most widely used platforms among video marketers — used by 85% and 79%, respectively. 

But some of the lesser-used video tactics also seem to be reaping real results for video marketers.

Most notably, for the first time ever, LinkedIn has emerged as the most successful channel for video marketers, with an overwhelming 87% of LinkedIn video marketers describing it as an effective channel.

TikTok — often cited as a video platform with huge potential (and not only by Gary Vee) — remains largely untapped, with only around 1 in 10 video marketers having given it a shot. Out of those who’ve tried it out, though, 66% report having seen success.

There are flops to go with the success stories, too, though. Snapchat continues its poor performance of recent years. Only 11% of video marketers say they’ve used Snapchat as a video channel, and, out of those, less than half report success, making it comfortably the lowest-performing video marketing platform for the third year in a row.

To Sum Up

Video looks set to continue its ten-year overnight success story into the coming decade. These stats paint a picture of a media type that’s almost universally popular among both marketers and their audiences, helping achieve a number of incredibly important goals.

You can check out the full report — with plenty more data points — and get a downloadable version by visiting Wyzowls State of Video Marketing 2020 page.

Hreflang Tags: The SEO Attribute for Content in Multiple Languages

Have you ever visited a webpage that was in a different language, and your browser asked you if you wanted to change it to your first language?

It’s a life-saver, right?

Now think about whether you’ve provided the functionality so your own webpages are ready for a global audience. If you haven’t properly tagged or re-directed your content to be optimized in different languages, it may not be gaining the traffic it could be.

The name for this attribute is called language tagging, and it’s an SEO tag you can use to make sure search engines know what language your content is in.

There are two different types of language tags: HTML tags and hreflang tags.

While both HTML and hreflang tags are intended to optimize content in multiple languages, they have a couple of differences.

Simply put, language (or lang) tag attributes on an HTML tag tells your browser the language of the current document or webpage, while the hreflang tag attribute tells your browser the language of the webpage that’s being linked — for instance, a lang tag on HubSpot.com tells your browser the language of HubSpot.com, but a hreflang tag attribute tells a search engine the language of HubSpot.com when a user searches for HubSpot.

If a user searches for HubSpot.com from Germany, a hreflang tag is responsible for changing the link available in the search engines. However, when someone lands on HubSpot.com in Germany, a lang tag changes the language on the page itself.

It might be easier to visualize, so here’s a sample lang tag:

<html lang=”en”>

Alternatively, here’s a sample hreflang tag:

<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/” hreflang=”en” />

Google recommends using hreflang when indexing websites that are in different languages.

Next, let’s explore what hreflang tags are used for and how you can use them for your own webpages.

The tag is:
rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”

Hreflang tags allow you to show Google and other search engines the relationship between webpages that are in different languages. For instance, if your tag needs to link to an English-language blog, you’d use the following tag: hreflang=”en”.

This is a sample of what a website will look like when it’s tagged with an hreflang attribute:

<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://hubspot.com” hreflang=”en-us”/>

The “en” in the first part of the tag refers to the language code, English, and the “US” refers to the country code, for the United States.

Users with an IP address that notifies which language is being used will automatically see a properly tagged webpage, so a hreflang tag is especially helpful if you have a global audience and want to make their user experience delightful.

To illustrate how hreflang works, let’s consider an example. Let’s say you make two homepages that are the same, but one is in English (hreflang=”en”), and the other’s in Spanish (hreflang=”es”).

When a user searches for your homepage in Spanish or from a Spanish-language browser, they’ll receive the Spanish version of your homepage, as long as it’s properly tagged.

Each language and country has its own hreflang tag. Here’s a list of common ones:

German/Germany: de-de

English/USA: en-us

Irish/Ireland: ga-ie

Hindi/India: hi-in

Italian/Italy: it-it

Japanese/Japan: ja-jp

Korean/Korea: ko-kp

Portuguese/Brazil: pt-br

Russian/Russain Federation: ru-ru

Chinese (simplified)/China: zh-hans-cn

Thai/Thailand: th-th

If you are sharing the same page in different regions, note that it is possible to have multiple hreflang tags on the same page. For instance, if your French website sells to customers in Germany and Spain too, you’ll be able to tag your page accordingly in HTML.

Keep in mind that because hrefleg tags are able to be overridden by other SEO options, your page may rank higher in a different language. To avoid this, make sure search engines are equipped with the correct attributes, so they know which language to present your page in.

Ultimately, the point of hreflang tags is to give customers who speak different languages, or who live in different regions of the world, content meant for them. Search engines will give international users the version of the page in their language on the results page.

Now that you know a little bit more about hreflang tags, let’s talk about HTML language tags.

HTML Language Tag

HTML language attributes define the language of a webpage. For example, an HTML language tag for an English webpage would look like this:

<html lang=”en”>

Recall that Google doesn’t look at HTML language tags, but other search engines might, so it’s a good idea to still include them for search engines that don’t look at hreflang tags.

You might also want to use HTML language tags in conjunction with an hreflang tag — they can work together to inform search engines about the content on your webpages. Having both tags tells search engines what language a webpage is in, while directing users from other countries to the appropriate webpage.

When you’re optimizing your content for search engines, it’s important to do everything you can to rank on the SERPs. This helps people across the globe find your business.

5 Dos and Don'ts When Making a SMART Goal [Examples]

When I was 14, my dream was to play college baseball. But I had one small problem: I only weighed 100 pounds. And even though I still had four years to bulk up and improve my skills, I knew I had a long way to go. Fortunately, my coach always knew how to give me opportunities to shoot for that kept my drive alive.

I think of SMART goals like my former baseball coach.

After a grueling practice or workout, he would harp on how the long term is just a series of short terms. And to hammer that mentality into our heads, he would make us write down our off-season training goals every year. But he didn’t just accept the first draft of your goal sheet. He never did. He would make you edit it until you knew exactly what your goals were and how you were going to achieve them.

 

 

 

Setting a goal like “improve upper body strength” and planning to lift weights three times a week wasn’t enough. You had to write down how much you would improve your bench press by and how many times you would work out your upper body per week.

Every year, I set concrete off-season training goals, and since I had a plan and clear direction, I always achieved them. By the time I was a senior in high school, I had gained 70 pounds of muscle and earned a baseball scholarship. 

In this post, you’ll learn exactly what a SMART goal is, why it reminds me of my baseball coach, and how you can set one today, Want to skip to the information you need most? Click on one of these headlines to jump to the relevant section.

When I first learned about SMART goals, I had an epiphany. I realized the reason why I could keep improving my athleticism in high school was because my coach made me set SMART goals. But, to give you a more professional example, here’s a template that shows how HubSpot encourages users to create their own SMART goals:

Download this Template for Free

In the working world, the influence of SMART goals continues to grow. The reason why successful marketing teams always hit their numbers is because they also set SMART goals.

The “SMART” acronym stands for “specific,” “measurable,” “attainable,” “relevant,” and “time-bound.” Each SMART goal you create should have these five characteristics to ensure the goal can be reached and benefits the employee. Find out what each characteristic means below, and how to write a SMART goal that exemplifies them.

The thing I love about sports is the life lessons you learn playing them directly apply to your career. Setting SMART goals not only helps you get better at baseball, but it also makes you a better marketer.

 

1. Use specific wording.

SMART goals are “specific” in that there’s a hard and fast destination the employee is trying to reach. “Get better at my job,” isn’t a SMART goal because it isn’t specific. Instead, ask yourself: What are you getting better at? How much better do you want to get?

If you’re a marketing professional, for example, your job probably revolves around key performance indicators, or KPIs. Therefore, you might choose a particular KPI or metric you want to improve on — like visitors, leads, or customers. You should also identify the team members working toward this goal, the resources they have, and their plan of action.

In practice, a specific SMART goal might say, “Clifford and Braden will increase the blog’s traffic from email …” You know exactly who’s involved and what you’re trying to improve on.

Common SMART Goal Mistake: Vagueness

While you may need to keep some goals more open-ended, you should avoid vagueness that could confuse your team later on. For example. instead of saying, “Clifford will boost email marketing experiences,” say “Clifford will boost email marketing click rates by 10%.”

2. Include measurable goals.

SMART goals should be “measurable” in that you can track and quantify the goal’s progress. “Increase the blog’s traffic from email,” by itself, isn’t a SMART goal because you can’t measure the increase. Instead, ask yourself: How much email marketing traffic should you strive for?

If you want to gauge your team’s progress, you need to quantify your goals, like achieving an X-percentage increase in visitors, leads, or customers.

Let’s build on the SMART goal we started three paragraphs above. Now, our measurable SMART goal might say, “Clifford and Braden will increase the blog’s traffic from email by 25% more sessions per month … ” You know what you’re increasing, and by how much.

Common SMART Goal Mistake: No KPIs

This is in the same light of avoiding vagueness. While you might need qualitative evidence or more open-ended evidence to prove your success, you should still come up with a quantifiable KPI. For example, instead of saying, “Customer service will improve customer happiness,” say, “We want the average post-customer service call satisfaction score from customers to be a seven out of ten or higher.”

3. Aim for realistically attainable goals.

An “attainable” SMART goal considers the employee’s ability to achieve it. Make sure that X-percentage increase is rooted in reality. If your blog traffic increased by 5% last month, for example, try to increase it by 8-10% this month, rather than a lofty 25%.

It’s crucial to base your goals off of your own analytics, not industry benchmarks, or else you might bite off more than you can chew. So, let’s add some “attainability” to the SMART goal we created earlier in this blog post: “Clifford and Braden will increase the blog’s traffic from email by 8-10% more sessions per month … ” This way, you’re not setting yourself up to fail.

Common SMART Goal Mistake: Unattainable Goals

Yes. You should always aim to improve. But reaching for completely unattainable goals may knock you off track and make it harder to track progress. Rather than saying, “We want to make 10,000% of what we made in 2019,” consider something more attainable, like, “We want to increase sales by 150% this year,” or “We have a quarterly goal to reach a 20% year-over-year sales increase.”

4. Pick relevant goals that relate to your business.

SMART goals that are “relevant” relate to your company’s overall business goals and account for current trends in your industry. For instance, will growing your traffic from email lead to more revenue? And is it actually possible for you to significantly boost your blog’s email traffic given your current email marketing campaigns?

If you’re aware of these factors, you’ll be more likely to set goals that benefit your company — not just you or your department.

So, what does that do to our SMART goal? It might encourage you to adjust the metric you’re using to track the goal’s progress. For example, maybe your business has historically relies on organic traffic for generating leads and revenue, and research suggests you can generate more qualified leads this way. Our SMART goal might instead say, “Clifford and Braden will increase the blog’s organic traffic by 8-10% more sessions per month.” This way, your traffic increase is aligned with the business’s revenue stream.

Common SMART Goal Mistake; Losing Sight of the Company

When your company’s doing well, it can be easy to say you want to pivot or grow in another direction. While companies can successfully do this, you don’t want your team to lose sight of how the core of your business works.

Rather than saying, “We want to start a new B2B business on top of our B2C business,” say something like, “We want to continue increasing B2C sales while researching the impact our products could have on the B2B space in the next year.”

5. Make goals time-bound by including timeframe and deadline information.

A “time-bound” SMART goal keeps you on schedule. Improving on a goal is great, but not if it takes too long. Attaching deadlines to your goals puts a healthy dose of pressure on your team to accomplish them. This helps you make consistent and significant progress in the long term.

For example, which would you prefer: increasing organic traffic by 5% every month, leading to a 30-35% increase in half a year? Or trying to increase traffic by 15% with no deadline and achieving that goal in the same time frame? If you picked the former, you’re right.

So, what does our SMART goal look like once we bound it to a timeframe? “Over the next three months, Clifford and Braden will work to increase the blog’s organic traffic by 8-10%, reaching a total of 50,000 organic sessions by the end of August.

Common SMART Goal Mistake: No Time Frame

Having no timeframe or really broad span of time noted in your goal will cause the effort to get reprioritized or make it hard for you to see if your team is on track. Rather than saying. “This year, we want to launch a major campaign,” say, “In quarter one, we will focus on campaign production in order to launch the campaign in quarter two.”

If you want a more concrete understanding of SMART goals, check out the examples below. You can always revisit this blog post and reference them when it’s time to set your goals.

6 SMART Goal Examples That’ll Make You a Better Marketer

1. Blog Traffic Goal

  • Specific: I want to boost our blog’s traffic by increasing our weekly publishing frequency from 5 to 8 times a week. Our two bloggers will increase their workload from writing 2 posts a week to 3 posts a week, and our editor will increase her workload from writing 1 post a week to 2 posts a week.
  • Measureable: An 8% increase is our goal.
  • Attainable: Our blog traffic increased by 5% last month when we increased our weekly publishing frequency from 3 to 5 times a week.
  • Relevant: By increasing blog traffic, we’ll boost brand awareness and generate more leads, giving sales more opportunities to close.
  • Time-Bound: End of this month
  • SMART Goal: At the end of this month, our blog will see an 8% lift in traffic by increasing our weekly publishing frequency from 5 posts per week to 8 post per week.

2. Facebook Video Views Goal

  • Specific: I want to boost our average views per native video by cutting our video content mix from 8 topics to our 5 most popular topics.
  • Measurable: A 25% increase is our goal.
  • Attainable: When we cut down our video content mix on Facebook from 10 topics to our 8 most popular topics six months ago, our average views per native video increased by 20%.
  • Relevant: By increasing average views per native video on Facebook, we’ll boost our social media following and brand awareness, reaching more potential customers with our video content.
  • Time-Bound: In 6 months.
  • SMART Goal: In 6 months, we’ll see a 25% increase in average video views per native video on Facebook by cutting our video content mix from 8 topics to our 5 most popular topics.

3. Email Subscription Goal

  • Specific: I want to boost the number of our email blog subscribers by increasing our Facebook advertising budget on blog posts that historically acquire the most email subscribers.
  • Measurable: A 50% increase is our goal.
  • Attainable: Since we started using this tactic three months ago, our email blog subscriptions have increased by 40%.
  • Relevant: By increasing the number of our email blog subscribers, our blog will drive more traffic, boost brand awareness, and drive more leads to our sales team.
  • Time-Bound: In 3 months.
  • SMART Goal: In 3 months, we’ll see a 50% increase in the number of our email blog subscribers by increasing our Facebook advertising budget on posts that historically acquire the most blog subscribers.

4. Webinar Sign-up Goal

  • Specific: I want to increase the number of sign-ups for our Facebook Messenger webinar by promoting it through social, email, our blog, and Facebook Messenger.
  • Measurable: A 15% increase is our goal.
  • Attainable: Our last Facebook messenger webinar saw a 10% increase in sign-ups when we only promoted it through social, email, and our blog.
  • Relevant: When our webinars generate more leads, sales has more opportunities to close.
  • Time-Bound: By April 10, the day of the webinar.
  • SMART Goal: By April 10, the day of our webinar, we’ll see a 15% increase in sign-ups by promoting it through social, email, our blog, and Facebook messenger.

5. Landing Page Performance Goal

  • Specific: I want our landing pages to generate more leads by switching from a one column form to a two column form.
  • Measurable: A 30% increase is our goal.
  • Attainable: When we A/B tested our traditional one column form vs. a two column form on our highest traffic landing pages, we discovered that two column forms convert 27% better than our traditional one column forms, at a 99% significance level.
  • Relevant: If we generate more content leads, sales can close more customers.
  • Time-Bound: One year from now.
  • SMART Goal: One year from now, our landing pages will generate 30% more leads by switching their forms from one-column to two columns.

6. Link-Building Strategy Goal

  • Specific: I want to increase our website’s organic traffic by developing a link-building strategy that gets other publishers to link to our website. This increases our ranking in search engine results, allowing us to generate more organic traffic.
  • Measurable: 40 backlinks to our company homepage is our goal.
  • Attainable: According to our SEO analysis tool, there are currently 500 low-quality links directing to our homepage from elsewhere on the internet. Given the number of partnerships we currently have with other businesses, and that we generate 10 new inbound links per month without any outreach on our part, an additional 40 inbound links from a single link-building campaign is a significant but feasible target.
  • Relevant: Organic traffic is our top source of new leads, and backlinks is one of the biggest ranking factors on search engines like Google. If we build links from high-quality publications, our organic ranking increases, boosting our traffic and leads as a result.
  • Time-Bound: 4 months from now.
  • SMART Goal: Over the next four months, I will build 40 additional backlinks that direct to www.ourcompany.com. To do so, I will collaborate with Ellie and Andrew from our PR department to connect with publishers and develop an effective outreach strategy.