Category Archives: Mobile Marketing

The 11 Best Social Media Dashboard Tools & Apps

When implementing your social media strategy, it’s easy to realize that manually posting on multiple different websites, multiple times a day, isn’t optimal for your busy schedule. But it’s not easy to tell from a baseline or pricing page which tools are not only the best for efficiency but best for your business.

Instead of spending hours of extra research combing through all of your options and sitting through countless demos and free trials, we’ve compiled a list of the best social media dashboards that fit your budget and brand.

These social media dashboards are optimized for every type of SMB; whether you’re a social media team or a party of one, these apps will help you accomplish your goals in a streamlined, efficient way.

1. HubSpot

Price: Included in Professional version ($800/mo) or Enterprise version ($3,200/mo)

Why it’s great: All-in-one social media software

With HubSpot’s social media management tool, you get an all-inclusive package. Connect up to 300 accounts and schedule up to 10,000 posts a month. Plus, for super in-depth planners, you can schedule posts up to 3 years in advance.

HubSpot’s social media management features include monitoring mentions and engagement, and provides full analytic reports. You’re able to schedule posts all in one place without leaving the system.

2. Later

Price: $9, $19, $29, $49 per month, and enterprise pricing

Why it’s great: Instagram scheduling

While you can connect Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest profiles, Later is best for Instagram scheduling. This is because of its image-based content calendar scheduling, so you can see a bird’s eye view of your brand in a monthly, visual format.

later scheduling example

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Later is also an Instagram partner, which means it integrates with Instagram’s API. This partnership means your account information will stay completely safe, which is important for Instagram Business accounts that have Shopping set up.

3. Sendible

Price: $29 up to $299 per month

Why it’s great: Agency-based management

Are you a social media or marketing agency? Sendible may be the answer to unkempt management: it’s a tool fit for an agency with clients. It helps you streamline how you manage brands and offers a couple unique features that help you succeed.

sendible report example

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Sendible has a royalty-free image search tool and a Canva integration. Sendible also has social listening tools, a Reports function, scheduling, and post previews. To put it simply: this is a full dashboard and suite of tools to put your client accounts all in one place.

4. Tailwind

Price: $9.99 up to $799.99 per month, or enterprise pricing

Why it’s great: Pinterest and Instagram management

Tailwind is a very unique program, providing services for two apps normally not paired with each other: Pinterest and Instagram. It makes sense, however, considering both apps focus on visual multimedia. Offering a full media dashboard with scheduling, social listening, and analytics tools, Tailwind also has a few interesting program-specific services.

tailwind report example

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First, it gives suggestions about how to improve Instagram and Pinterest performance. It also comes with a way to promote Pinterest content and manage Instagram user-generated content. If your brand is heavily focused on visuals, Tailwind may be right for you.

5. Sprout Social

Price: $99 up to $249 per user per month

Why it’s great: Team-based management

Sprout Social is a dashboard platform that’s focused entirely on social media teams. What you get for your money is a full suite of tools, including options that allow you to create and schedule posts, social listening tools, and most of all: analytic data.

sprout social report example

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The analytic tools are the shining star of Sprout Social. Expansive, in-depth reporting is available. If that’s a focus for your brand, consider Sprout. They make the reports so professional and easy to read, there’s no editing required.

6. MeetEdgar

Price: $49/month

Why it’s great: 100% automated scheduling

MeetEdgar is an app with a different approach to social media management, is. All users do is upload categorically-based content into their account and create time slots for when they want their account to post said content.

meetedgar category example

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Then, according to the time slots and categories, the app will schedule and upload content. If you want your Twitter account to post a meme at 11 AM on a Thursday, MeetEdgar would search through the “Meme” category of content you’ve already uploaded, schedule, and post it.

Managers might like this option, if they don’t have enough time to constantly schedule and upload content. They can plug in their entire content calendar at the start of the month and remove the heavy lifting for the next few weeks.

Post-enhancing dashboards such as these three can take care of your social strategy without losing any of quality.

1. TweetDeck

Price: Free
Why it’s great: Twitter dash management

TweetDeck is amazing if you’re tired of flipping back and forth through the different tabs on Twitter. It’s a free extension of twitter (no download required) that automatically gives you your account’s Home, Notifications, Trending, and Messages in a dashboard view.

tweetdeck dsahboard example

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This app is especially handy for posting quickly. You can engage with your Twitter in-app, and it feels like a much faster method of running your account than the in-browser functionality . Plus, TweetDeck automatically updates with any new notifications.

2. TweetStats

Price: Free
Why it’s great: Free basic Twitter analytics

This little website is super handy if you don’t have the budget to pay for analytic tools. TweetStats can give you the analytics of any Twitter account in about two minutes. The website displays graphs of when you’ve tweeted, the volume of tweets, time you usually tweet, and your most used words and hashtags.

tweetstats analytics example

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Using TweetStats is especially helpful if you want to view the ecosystem of your Twitter. Are you staying on-brand? Are you meeting your tweet goals? What hashtags can you elevate the use of?

3. TubeBuddy

Price: Free plan, or $9 up to $49 per month
Why it’s great: YouTube management

If you have a large YouTube presence, consider TubeBuddy. TubeBuddy offers a hefty suite of perks to present a full dashboard. Categories include video dashboard, video SEO, bulk processing, promotion, data & research, and productivity.

tubebuddy card template

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The screenshot above features one of TubeBuddy’s card template features. Card templates streamline the process of uploading and finalizing YouTube videos, making it easier to sort videos into a playlist on your channel.

You can install the program for free on Chrome, working sort of like an extension. The free plan gives you access to analytics, productivity, and SEO tools to get started. TubeBuddy is also a YouTube Partner and integrates with Alexa.

4. MavSocial

Price: Free plan, or $19 up to $499 per month
Why it’s great: Visual-based streamlined management

This is a great post-enhancing tool. MavSocial has a focus on visual-based management, and as such, offers unique perks, like editing multimedia content and a stock photo digital library. With the editing tools, you can add filters to your photos, crop, and search for royalty-free images.

mavsocial dashboard example

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On top of all of this, MavSocial has a full dashboard suite, meaning you can schedule content and engage with followers. MavSocial supports YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The app is also an Instagram Partner.

5. Hootsuite

Price: Free plan, or $29 up to $599 per month
Why it’s great: All-in-one social media management

Hootsuite is a popular social media tool and boasts over 15 million users. The free plan lets you add three social accounts from different platforms on one screen and has a limit on how many posts are available to make.

hootsuite dashboard example

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While user-friendly, Hootsuite is an expansive app. You can create ads, running an ROI report on those ads, and also has options to schedule and create posts. Note that you can only post on your Instagram using the scheduler, if you have an Instagram Business account.

Every business is unique, and so is every social media dashboard. Because of that, finding the best fit can be daunting. Covering all your bases can be simplified with a social media dashboard, as well as building a community and social presence.

If you want to take a crack at building your own content calendar that’ll help you plan your social media posts, check out our article here.

What is a website taxomomy?

While scavenger hunts can be fun, users don’t want to frantically search through a website to find answers to their questions. They want them quickly, and they want them to be easy to find.

The structure users want is called taxonomy. Scientifically, a taxonomy is a classification scheme that dictates how things are organized and classified based on their characteristics.

A website’s taxonomy can dictate the user experience, and can also influence search engine rankings. This post will go over what a website taxonomy is, and give you the resources to create a successful organization system for their site.

Website taxonomy is also related to URL structure, which is how URLs are organized to reflect content within specific site pages. Every website domain stays the same for every URL address, but subdirectories and URL slugs change as page content gets more specific.

For example, say your website’s primary domain is

Your taxonomic structure will include subdirectories within your domain that are relevant to the page’s content. So, if your samplewebsite has a ‘Contact’ or ‘Announcements’ page, the URLs would change to reflect the information displayed on each page. The URLs for these pages would be and, respectively.

Why is a website taxonomy important?

A well-planned taxonomy can transform how users interact with your site, especially when your content is organized logically. If users can get to your site and find what they’re looking for, they’ll view you as a reputable source and they’ll stay longer.

Websites that don’t have a specific structure tend to be difficult for people to understand. In fact, an average of 38% of site visitors will leave a site if it’s poorly organized.

A carefully crafted taxonomy is also crucial for search engine optimization (SEO), as a taxonomic organization is easier for search engine bots to recognize as they analyze and index your site.

Let’s put all of this in context with a hypothetical website. Say you own Since you know that your visitors are coming to your site for specific recipes, you want to set up categories that help them find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible. If they’re looking for desserts, for example, they likely want to find those recipes through the corresponding category page, not by browsing through a list of unrelated meals.

The URL for this page would be A user knows what they’ll find within this subcategory of recipes. For search engine bots, the URL subdirectory helps them understand what the page is about and when they should show the page in search results.


Best Practices for Creating a Website Taxonomy

Ultimately, you want both users and search bots to understand your site. You don’t want them to be bombarded with content that isn’t going to fulfill their needs. While it may seem clear cut, various factors go into creating a successful website taxonomy.

Know your audience.

Just like all types of marketing, the key to creating your taxonomy is understanding your users.

You’ll want to know who they are, why they’re visiting your site, and what they want to find on your site. It’s essential to understand what their specific needs are so you can structure your content accordingly. To better understand your users, you can do things like create buyer personas.

Continuing with the example, whoever runs the site knows that their visitors are coming because they want help with their cooking. It’s great to know this, but is there anything else they’ll want from your site? They may also want you to recommend kitchen supplies that will help them make these recipes, or recommend brands to buy ingredients from.

If you take the time to get to know your future users, you can design your site accordingly.

Conduct keyword research.

When you know who your users are and what they want, you want to make sure you have the necessary information to keep them on your site.

You can use your site’s primary purpose to rank in search results, but it’s essential to have multiple keywords for the additional categories you’ll create within your site. These keywords should be directly related to the content that users will find on those specific pages.

For instance, if you run a blog on travel tips, travel tips can be your main keyword. However, your research may show that users also associate travel tips with travel packing tips and travel insurance tips. You’ll want to use that information when creating your structure.

Be consistent.

Consistency with categories and the content within those categories makes it easier for users to understand your site. It also makes it easier for those executing your content strategy to create relevant content. For example, on the HubSpot Blog, we have four different properties: Service, Sales, Marketing, and Website.

Blog posts are categorized based on their relationship to each property, and this organizational consistency makes it easier for visitors to find relevant information. For example, a user would know to search within rather than for a tutorial on how to use WordPress.

Consistency is also important for SEO, as bots dislike poorly organized websites, and sites with jumbled and unrelated content is considered spammy. Bots also recognize contextual relationships between categories and content, and they’ll learn how to index your site for specific search queries.

Keep it simple.

While there are certainly hundreds of categories and subcategories you could come up with to sort content on your site, less is more. The ideal web taxonomy is focused and straightforward.

With, there are so many different types of dishes that it would (and will) become overwhelming for users to sift through hundreds of different categories.

Keeping it simple means creating fewer high-level categories that can house lower-level categories. You can have a high-level category page dedicated entirely to baking recipes, and the content you post within that page will be specific to baking recipes.

The URL for this category would be rather than and Then, if a user goes on your site to find a blueberry pie recipe, the page URL may be

Leave room for growth.

Taxonomy can, and should, change as your business scales.

If you create new forms of content, you may need to shuffle categories to ensure that they still relate to each other and have room for new content.

Say you’re running a blog about content marketing, but you cover the topic generally. It’s unlikely that you’ll have multiple page categories or subfolders within those pages. However, suppose you decide to hire new team members who are experts in specific types of content creation. In that case, you’ll want to create different taxonomic categories to distinguish between the different types of content.

You may also realize that certain categories and subcategories aren’t as intuitive as you’ve hoped, per user feedback. Taking the time to understand what is and isn’t working for those who interact with your site is essential.


Types of Website Taxonomy

Once you know your audience and have created your keyword-relevant categories, it’s essential to decide on the taxonomic structure that works best for your site. Since taxonomy is a classification system, it may seem like the logical structure is a hierarchical one, organized by importance. However, this isn’t always the case. Let’s review the different types of website taxonomies so you can select the one that works best for your site.

Flat Taxonomy

A flat taxonomy, sometimes called unlayered taxonomy, is a simple list of top-level categories. All categories on this site carry equal weight in comparison to each other. It’s a perfect structure for smaller websites that don’t have a large amount of content.

For example, a veterinarian’s office likely doesn’t have many needs to fulfill. Their homepage may only have three to four categories, like ‘About Us,’ ‘Book an Appointment,’ ‘Location,’ and ‘Services.’ Users visiting the site won’t need much more than that.

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Hierarchical Taxonomy

A hierarchical taxonomy is an arrangement of categories by order of importance. Larger websites typically use it, and top-level categories are broad.

hierarchical website taxonomy model

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Moving down a hierarchical structure means getting more specific. This allows users to quickly identify and navigate between different sections and categories. Search engines will recognize these relationships as well.

For example, displays three main categories at the top of the page: Software, Pricing, and Resources. Each of those categories is broad and overarching. If a user mouses over them, they’re then shown more specific categories.

In turn, our URLs for these categories look like this:,,, and

It’s important to note that there shouldn’t be too many high-level categories or subcategories, as excessive groups can become confusing for users and SEO crawlers.

Network Taxonomy

A network taxonomy involves organizing content into associative categories. The relationships and associations between categories can be basic or arbitrary, but they should be meaningful to users.

For example, a ‘Most Popular’ category within a website may contain lists of different articles covering a broad range of topics that are popular among that audience. Still, they’re all similar in the sense that they are highly rated, viewed, and visited by others.

network taxonomy website structure diagram

Facet Taxonomy

A facet taxonomy is used when topics can be assigned to multiple different categories. Sites that typically use this structure allow users to find content by sorting for specific attributes. It’s also great for users who will likely arrive at certain content by different means.

facet website taxonomy model

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For example, Nike sells a variety of different products. While there are specific categories for shoes and clothing, there are also subcategories for color, size, and price. A shoe that shows up on a search for ‘blue shoes’ may also show up on a list of cheap shoes because they’re currently on sale.


Put time into your website’s taxonomy.

Creating and maintaining a successful website taxonomy that makes sense for users and search engines essential to your marketing strategy.

If other elements of your site are already optimized for other SEO ranking factors, the addition of a structured taxonomy will help your site rank highly in search query results, not to mention, it’ll keep users on your site.

If you want to learn more about website best practices, consider taking the HubSpot Academy Website Optimization course!

What is Real-Time Marketing? (In 300 Words or Less)

While it might seem like people use delayed media (like streaming services or podcasts) more often, real-time media hasn’t come to a halt.

Real-time marketing is still a great way to get in front of and convert your audience.

In fact, a new report from Monetate and Econsultancy concludes that UK marketers report a 26% increase in conversion rates from real-time marketing.

Additionally, a study found real-time marketing not only positively impacts standard marketing goals — word-of-mouth, attention, preference, likelihood to try or buy — but it also turbocharges other marketing initiatives, including paid and owned media effectiveness.

As marketers, those stats are impossible to ignore.

Below, let’s learn more about real-time marketing, and then we’ll see what it looks like in action.

This type of marketing occurs when your company reacts, instead of planning or strategizing a marketing plan for months. That’s not to say that you won’t have a real-time marketing plan, but it’ll be a quicker turnaround.

The objective? To connect with your audience and communicate your brand position.

You might be able to plan real-time marketing if there’s an event or ongoing trend. For example, if you strategize an ad around a current fad, your company might become more appealing to your audience because you understand them.

Real-time marketing helps you provide relevant messaging that is tailored to your audience’s wants, interests, and needs.

One way for marketers to implement a real-time marketing strategy is to have an active social media presence.

Your social media team will often be the first people to know about a current fad or trend if they’re implementing social listening (which they should be).

Additionally, you can learn more about your audience and their current interests by looking at your own data.

For instance, you can look at your website or social media analytics to discover the most popular topics of conversation. You can also learn what questions your audience is asking through social listening tools.

Having a team actively look at this information every day can be helpful in planning and strategizing a real-time marketing plan.

When you want to implement a paid real-time marketing ad, you can use social media and search engine targeting tools to ensure you reach the right audience. That type of personalization in marketing has elevated real-time marketing efforts.

Ultimately, to effectively implement a real-time marketing plan, you should always listen to your audience, monitor industry trends, and know where the conversation is taking place.

Then, you need to react. Respond to your audience on social media and create assets to discuss what’s going on.

Before you implement a real-time marketing campaign, think about your audience and what you want to achieve with your reaction. Once you know the goal, you can create your message, whether it’s a social media comment, an email, or an ad.

Now that we know more about real-time marketing, let’s review some examples.

Real-Time Marketing Examples

1. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

One of the greatest lessons in real-time marketing is the ice bucket challenge from 2014. This phenomenon went around the globe and every company or celebrity who took part in the challenge was participating in real-time marketing.

Taking part in the challenge was a way to raise awareness and money for ALS. But since it was a current event and trend, companies were able to increase brand sentiment and awareness by participating.


Every year, INBOUND attracts thousands of business professionals from almost every industry to learn more about marketing, sales, and customer service.

During this three-day event, businesses and professionals are active on social media and commenting on the live events, such as HubSpot product updates and the keynote speech.

All of these social media posts and comments about the live breakout sessions or speeches are real-time marketing in action.

3. Taco Bell

Taco Bell has built a reputation as a great company to follow on social media through their crafted brand messaging.

The reason? On social media, Taco Bell’s strategy is to take part in enthusiastic real-time marketing. They respond to messages on Twitter almost twice an hour every day.

The company has made it a priority to listen to their customers online and to interact and connect with them, no matter what is happening that day.

Real-time marketing is a great strategy to connect with your customers right now. However, to implement this type of marketing, it’s important to measure conversations and sentiment to determine how real-time programs will develop. To get started, you can use free monitoring tools, or invest in one of the many paid social media monitoring technologies.

How to Create an Editorial Calendar in Google Calendar [Free Templates]

One of the most frequent questions we get from aspiring and current inbound marketers is, “How do you manage all of that content?”

When we tell them we use an editorial calendar, the next question is often, “Oh, how much does that cost?”

Nothing. Because, for the most part, we use Google Calendar.

Surprised? There are a lot of great calendar tools out there you can choose from. (In fact, for those of you who are HubSpot customers, there’s a marketing calendar built right into HubSpot’s software.) But after trying a ton of other solutions, our team found that we really operated the best with just a simple Google Calendar. In fact, this has actually been the longest-running editorial calendar solution our team has ever seen.

Here’s how we set it up.

Follow Along With Free Editorial Calendar Templates

Download the Template for Free

1. Download HubSpot’s free editorial calendar templates.

First thing’s first: Download the calendar templates, above (they’re free.) By doing this, you’ll have three editorial calendar templates on your computer to use at your leisure: one for Google Calendar, one for Excel, and one for Google Sheets. In this blog post, we’ll be going over how to import the Excel template into Google Calendar.

2. Customize your template and prepare for import into Google Calendar.

By default, the publish dates on the templates you download will be stamped for the year 2016. Feel free to change them to the present year in the spreadsheet itself — you can also drag them to the dates of your choosing after you upload the file into Google Calendar.

Google Calendar makes it easy to load a calendar you might have pre-created in another program into Google. This includes Microsoft Excel. Here’s how to import the Excel calendar template you downloaded in the previous step into Google Calendar:

3. Open Google Calendar.

Once you’ve downloaded (or, for that matter, created) a calendar that opens in Microsoft Excel, it’s time to open Google Calendar. Just make sure you’re already logged into the Gmail account you want this calendar to give access to.

4. Use the lefthand dropdown menu to create a new calendar.

Now it’s time to set up your Google Calendar to accommodate the information in your Excel spreadsheet. First, go into your Google Calendar and click the plus sign to the right of “Other Calendars,” as shown in the screenshot below. In the dropdown menu that appears, select “Create new calendar.”

Adding a New Calendar in Google Calendar

5. Fill out the details of your new calendar.

Fill out the fields that appear on the next screen. This includes a brief description of your calendar, as shown below, to give people proper context when you invite them into this calendar. When you’re done filling in the details, click “Create calendar.”

Adding Details in Google Calendar to Create New Calendar

6. Import your XLS or CSV file from the same dropdown menu.

Using the same dropdown menu you used to create your editorial calendar, you’ll now import the Excel file itself into Google Calendar. Click that plus sign and select “Import.”

Click the upload box that reads “Select file from your computer,” and locate the file entitled “Blog Editorial Calendar – Excel” that was included in the ZIP file you downloaded in Step 1, above.

7. Select which calendar to add this file to.

In the second box below your imported file, click the “Add to calendar” dropdown. Be sure to choose the name of the calendar you just created from the dropdown menu, as shown below. Then, click “Import.”

Import Excel Calendar in Google Calendar

8. Click Import.

Once you’ve uploaded your Excel file and selected the calendar you want to add this file to, click “Import.” You should see an Import calendar dialog box telling you that seven events were successfully imported. Click “Close.”

Now, if you didn’t change the dates of the first seven assignments in the original Excel document, you can now. Navigate to January 3, 2016, which is the start of your calendar. Be sure all of your other calendars are temporarily hidden by clicking the colored box to the left of the calendar name. On the week of January 3, 2016, you should just see one “Blog TBD” calendar event on each day from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Use the edit window of each assignment to change the publish date. For example, if you’re satisfied with the 10 a.m. publish time, you can simply change the date from January X, 2016 to January X, 2019. Each assignment will then appear as event blocks in your 2019 monthly calendar view.

9. Determine your publishing schedule.

Now that you have your calendar created, it’s time to fill it in with assignments for the year. This is when you have to make some decisions about your blog’s publishing schedule.

While the Excel file you imported accounts for one blog post per day, this doesn’t mean you need to publish seven days a week. Maybe you want to publish every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Or perhaps you plan on publishing on just Thursdays. Remember, the key to successful blogging is quality over quantity. Don’t overcommit to a blogging schedule if the quality of your content will take a hit. (Read this blog post for some great benchmark data on how often companies should blog.)

If you decide to decrease the number of days you want to publish, click on the calendar event of that day and select “Delete.”

Even if you wanted to publish multiple times a day, updating this calendar is as easy as adding an event. Select a slot on your calendar to add another “Blog TBD” event and copy the default description from another one of the events you imported.

Next, it’s time for some minor adjustments. Currently, the “Blog TBD” events are set for 10 a.m. Feel free to move these events to whichever time your blog publishes during the day. 

10. Set up recurring events.

Now that you have your publish dates and times set, you can make these recurring events on your calendar. If you have a regular publishing schedule, like every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00 a.m., then put that in as a recurring “slot” on your calendar. It’s okay if you don’t have a piece of completed content — or even a working title — to put there yet. It’s just a reminder that you want to publish something that day.

To add your recurring slot, click on your first “Blog TBD” event and click the pencil icon to edit your event. This will take you to the details of the post, where you can create a custom recurring schedule for each assignment, as shown in the screenshot below.

Setting Custom Repeat Schedule in Google Calendar for Recurring EventYou can set the post up as a recurring post so it automatically appears every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00 a.m. (or whatever days and times you want).

Setting Custom Recurrence in Google Calendar for Recurring Event

Once you’ve selected the recurring days, hit “Done” and “Save,” and you’ll have an editorial calendar framework to work with.

For now, keep the title of the event as “Blog TBD,” but feel free to customize the description with any extra details you want to be sure you include for each post. Wait to invite any guest, as we’ll use this to assign posts to an author once you begin filling in your topics. With everything complete, click “Save.”

If you don’t have a recurring schedule like this, you might not be in need of an editorial calendar just yet — but it is a good way to set goals for yourself. If you know you want to publish a certain number of posts each week, even if you don’t hit every single slot, it’s a good reminder for yourself and your team that this is something you should all be striving for.

11. Fill your publishing slots.

Now that you know all of the slots you want to fill, you gotta actually … you know … fill ’em. (If you don’t have topic ideas yet, check out this free topic idea generator. It’ll give you some good ideas for content to put in the calendar.)

Let’s say one of the posts you want to write is “10 Surprising Facts About Tapirs,” and one of the posts you’ve already written and want to publish later is “Think You’re Cut Out to Own a Tapir? Read This First.” Cool! Just add ’em both to the calendar by clicking on “Post – TBD” on the correct date, choosing “Edit Event,” and then changing the “Post – TBD” text to the actual title of the post.

Changing Name of Post in Google Editorial Calendar

Now, let’s say you don’t actually want to write “10 Surprising Facts About Tapirs,” and you want your colleague to write it instead. To assign the post an author, you’ll invite them to the event as a guest. To do this, click on the event, hit “Edit Event,” then invite that colleague to the post by typing his or her name or email address into the “Add guests” box, selecting “Add” when their name pops up, and hitting “Save” on the event once you’re done.

Adding Guests in Google Calendar

Now, anyone can see who is responsible for writing the post that’s going up in that time slot.

You can take it a step further by adding details to the “Description” box of the event, as shown in the large box in the screenshot above. You might include a quick synopsis, the keywords you plan to target the post for, the target audience you’re trying to reach, and the offer or CTA you will direct the reader to at the end of the post. Don’t forget a due date for the draft.

Before Google Calendar will let you save the event, you’ll see a dialog box asking if you would like to change just this event or all of the events in the series. Select “Only this event.”

Edit Recurring Event to Save Only This Event

Repeat these steps to assign each blog topic today and in the future.

12. Share your editorial calendar with others.

Now that you have your calendar set up, you can start to invite people to see it. I’d recommend you start with your immediate team and regular contributors — as well as anyone who regularly asks you about publishing content on your company blog.

To share this editorial calendar with people, simply find your editorial calendar under “My Calendars,” as shown below. Click the three dots next to the calendar name and then select “Settings and sharing” when it appears in the dropdown menu. You’ll be taken to the same screen we saw when you first filled out the details of your editorial calendar in Step 2.

Sharing Settings in Google CalendarThen, you can add in the names of people with whom you’d like to share the calendar and set the right permission levels for each invitee.

It’s wise to keep those with the permission settings to manage changes and sharing to a minimum so there aren’t too many cooks in the kitchen — but I recommend you let everyone see all event details so it’s clear exactly what content is going up in each slot.

Under the “Share with specific people” heading, enter the email addresses of those on your content team and decide if they have viewing, editing, or admin privileges. Save your updated settings.

Why Using Google Calendar as an Editorial Calendar Works

I mentioned earlier that we tried a lot of different editorial calendar solutions, and this is the only one that’s stuck for more than a couple months. I think one reason for that is because we use Gmail for our corporate email, which means everyone on our team is already in Gmail (and their calendar, specifically) all day. As a result, it isn’t hard for people to form a habit of checking the editorial calendar, because it’s not difficult for them to find it.

Google Calendar also makes things really easy to move around and schedule because … well … it’s already a calendar. It has all the functionality you need to schedule stuff out and let the people who need to know about it know. When we were using other solutions for this, we were trying to hack a calendaring function instead of just relying on one that already existed.

Along those lines, adding people to view your calendar is simple, which makes it easy for multiple teams to collaborate, see what’s being published, and figure out when they might be able to launch content and campaigns.

Finally, this sets a precedent for other teams to coordinate with you in a really simple way. You can have a calendar for upcoming campaigns, offers, social media pushes, product launches — you name it. And you can all share those calendars with one another for a single-screen view of everything that’s going on so you can coordinate more easily.

Are there other solutions of there for maintaining an editorial calendar? Of course. But if you’re looking for a minimum viable product, and a free one at that, this ain’t too shabby. It’s kept our content team sane, agile, and transparent for quite some time — and I think it could do the same for you.

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

5 Myths About Video Marketing, Debunked

By now, you’ve probably heard video marketing is a powerful tool for generating leads and capturing new customers.

So why aren’t you using it yet?

For many small to medium businesses, the reluctance to adopt video comes from a fear of the unknown. Video marketing feels expensive, cumbersome, and difficult to track. And these would be valid reasons … if any of them were still true in 2020.

Video technology has come a long way in the past few years. We’ve gone from “put it on YouTube and hope the millennials find it” to video enablement platforms which empower small businesses to create, share, and analyze videos without the agencies, actors, or expense.

In fact, 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.

If you haven’t seen what video can do for your company, it’s time to stop putting it off.

In this post, let’s review the top video marketing myths.

5 Video Marketing Myths, Debunked

1. Video is too expensive.

Sure, HBO’s Westworld may have beaten The Game of Thrones’ record with a price tag of $10 million per episode, but you don’t have to play their game. In fact, stay as far away from it as possible.

Video doesn’t have to be expensive. Today’s buyers and consumers actually appreciate authenticity over production value.

According to Fast Company, consumers prefer lower quality but “authentic” goods and services over those of a higher quality but which seem “inauthentic.”

This craving for authenticity is why we’re seeing such an explosion in micro-influencer marketing and user-generated content. With both of these marketing strategies, brands rely on their own buyers to create content, usually with little more than an iPhone.

With your own video content, don’t stress over having a low production budget if you have something valuable to say. For example, Vidyard produces Chalk Talks where they ask experts within their company to chat about topics like outbound sales, analytics, and video strategy in front of a chalkboard. The videos have been shared thousands of times, and the cost? A few minutes of someone’s time and a lot of colored chalk.

2. Video is cumbersome.

What many small business owners typically mean by this is “I don’t know where to begin.” When they think of video, they imagine a time-consuming process of coming up with scripts and storyboards, procuring actors and equipment, and hiring someone in jockey pants to operate the clapperboard and shout, “Action!” Yet modern video marketing is worlds apart from Hollywood and requires a lot less effort.

When it comes to camera equipment, the age-old aphorism still holds true: the best camera is the one that’s with you.

Today, most iPhone cameras rival all but the top-of-the-line DSLRs and video equipment and are a great substitute. You can easily capture videos of yourself, your office, events, and customers giving off-the-cuff testimonials when your sales and account teams pay them a visit.

And when it comes to actors, don’t worry that you can’t afford Gal Gadot: you don’t need her. Your employees will do a far better job because they actually know your products, your customers, and the details of your industry. After the initial awkwardness of seeing themselves on camera fades, you’ll have all the actors you need.

And finally, not everything needs to be scripted. Writers are great and preparation has its place, but a lot of great content can be created with little or no forethought. Take entrepreneur and internet personality Gary Vaynerchuk, for example. He built a media empire from selfie videos recorded on his mobile phone. The below video of him giving advice to young entrepreneurs might be what the internet would call “potato quality” but it still gets the powerful point across.

If you feel like you don’t know where to start, HubSpot’s Video Marketing course can serve as a great guide to helping on your way.

3. Our industry doesn’t really use video.

What most brands hopefully mean by this one is “our industry doesn’t use video yet.” Video is industry agnostic and the demand is being driven not by businesses, but the people who work within them. Remember, both B2B and B2C are really just B2H (business-to-human), and humans love video. One need only look at the numbers for a reminder:

real estate

      , where agencies are suddenly embracing everything from drone flyovers to virtual reality walk-throughs. To see similarly outsized gains ask yourself,

“What would the people who make up our customer base, business or otherwise, like to see?”

4. Video is hard to track.

Videos can indeed be difficult to track, but only if you’re using a bare bones video hosting platform like YouTube or your website’s video feature. These platforms only show you total video views which is like measuring your website’s success based solely from visits.

What if 95 percent of your video’s viewers dropped off in the first three seconds? You’d never know. A true video enablement platform, on the other hand, can give you insights into how people watch your videos, who they are, what they liked and didn’t like, and what they did afterward.

You see, video has some unique characteristics that make it highly trackable. Because it’s linear and people watch it from end-to-end, video enablement platforms, like TwentyThree and Wistia, can tell you what parts viewers watched, where they skipped, and where they revisited. From this, you can automatically infer an individual’s interest in particular products or value propositions that appeared in the video.

And, with CRM and marketing system integrations, you don’t have to spend all your time on these analytics. You can trigger actions based on how your viewers watched the video. Did they only complete 25 percent of it? Better send them a different video. Did another viewer rewatch the part where the product is shown over and over? Better ping your sales team because you might have a qualified lead on your hands.

5. Video doesn’t have enough uses.

Of all the excuses, this one invariably makes our editor cough and spit out her coffee in surprise. Video is perhaps the most dynamic and repurpose-able type of content that you have: It increases open rates for email, boosts click through rates for landing pages, encourages shares on social media, increases time on page for websites, and drives more leads than text alone. And, with a great video editing platform, you can optimize one video for all channels.

A good video editing platform provides small to medium businesses with the tools they need to easily cut up, edit, and optimize one video into many formats for many channels. This scales easily because users can easily A/B test videos just as they would an email and can render dynamic content to personalize videos to viewers, such as inserting logos, names, or even swapping out different products. With the right tools, video has more uses than you’ll know what to do with.

Video is easier than you think.

Once you have the epiphany that unscripted and low production value videos are both desirable and trackable, you’ll also realize that it’s useful for more than just marketing and sales.

You can use video in your customer support to demonstrate how to use your product, in your internal communications to update your remote teams, and as a way for people within your company to communicate on a day-to-day basis.

So, knowing that video isn’t nearly as expensive, difficult, or untraceable as you previously thought, are you ready to stop putting it off?

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

The Ultimate Guide to Email Design and 13 Best Practices

By 2022, the number of email users around the world is expected to hit 4.3 billion.

Among all of those users are members of your target audience, a.k.a. quality leads and prospects you can work to reach and convert via email.

To ensure your emails stand out and grab the attention of these audience members, your email design needs to be on point.

In this guide, we’ll talk about what email design is, cover 13 best practices, examples of successful email design, and offer some tools you may be interested in experimenting with. Let’s get started.

Email Design

Email recipients often scan information and abandon emails that don’t offer them value or simply appear to be too dense. That’s why having great email design is so important — it’ll help you capture the attention of, and engage, your email recipients. 

Your email design should be attention-grabbing, aesthetically-pleasing, and on-brand, among other things — let’s dive into those things next with these 13 best practices for email deign.

1. Craft a strong subject line.

Your email subject line is the first thing anyone sees when you send them an email. It’s the brief statement that’s supposed to pique the interest of your recipients. It should capture their attention so they want to open your email and continue reading.

Here’s what a subject line looks like in your email inbox:

Here’s what a subject line looks like in your mobile device’s email inbox:

Email subject line example  from email on mobile

A great subject line will have these characteristics:

  • Grab the attention of your readers in as few words as possible (remember: less is more).
  • Provide value for the recipient that makes them want to open the email.
  • Summarize what recipients are going to read and/ or see once they open the email.

2. Write an attention-grabbing pre-header.

Your email pre-header is a preview of what the email is about, similar to the meta description of a web page. It’s the second thing recipients see.

Rather than rewriting the first sentence of your email, you can customize the pre-header to provide an inside look into what your recipients are about to read in your message.

Here’s what a pre-header looks like in your email inbox:

email preheader example in desktop email inbox

Here’s what a pre-header looks like in your mobile device’s email inbox:

email preheader example from a mobile device

3. Be concise.

How many times throughout the day do you find yourself opening an email thinking, I can’t wait to sit down and take the next 5-10 minutes to really dive into this email from Business X!

If you’re anything like me, your answer is likely rarely or never.

Give email recipients the information they want and need from you without getting into the weeds. This will show them you value their time which has the potential to help you improve email subscriber retainment.

4. Keep your email on-brand.

When your email recipients open your message, they should know the email was sent from your company. Meaning your email should be branded.

To keep your email on-brand, consider using the following tactics:

  • Use a tone in your emails that complements your other content and marketing materials (like your website and social media).
  • Incorporate the same colors and fonts that you use in your other branding and marketing materials.
  • Include your logo, a link to your website, links to your social media accounts, and calls-to-action (CTAs) that are relevant to your products or services. This is a great way to increase brand awareness while also boost conversions.

5. Use the layout to enhance your email’s user experience.

Nobody wants to read a cluttered and unorganized email — this makes recipients feel overwhelmed and can lead to increased abandonment.

Instead, organize your layout with user experience (UX) in mind — meaning, leave empty/ white space and strategically place your written and visual content so it’s organized and easy to consume and navigate.

6. Personalize every email.

When you customize an email and tailor it to your recipient, it’ll feel more thoughtful, professional, and personal. Email personalization also helps you humanize your brand. This touch helps you foster a relationship between your business and email recipients and boost retention rates.

7. Incorporate unique visual content.

If recipients open an email and only see paragraphs of information, it’s likely going to be difficult to hold their attention and keep them interested in your message. Rather, incorporate on-brand and engaging images, videos, GIFs, animations, etc. to break up the written content and create a memorable experience.

And speaking of incorporating creative and unique visual content in your emails, let’s talk emojis.

8. Don’t be afraid to use emojis. 🧡

At first, emojis may seem like an unnecessary or unprofessional addition to an email. While this may be a fair assumption, it’s actually untrue in a number of scenarios.

In fact, when you add emojis to your email subject line and/ or email copy, you can increase your open and click-through rates. But remember: When using emojis for marketing purposes, make sure you know the meaning and connotation of the specific one(s) you incorporate. 😃

9. Use a responsive design.

A responsive design means your email changes format to fit the screen it’s being viewed on, whether it’s on a desktop, laptop, or mobile device. Recipients will be able to read your emails with ease no matter where or how they’re viewing them. By incorporating a responsive design, you’ll be able to enhance UX and improve email retention across all devices.

10. Optimize your email with CTAs.

Calls-to-action (CTAs) are used to convert your email recipients. For instance, you can use a CTA to get recipients to follow you on social media, visit your website, chat with a sales rep, or become paying customers.

CTAs should be visible, enticing, and clearly show why they’re valuable to click. Additionally, you might choose to personalize your CTAs to tailor them towards specific recipients — this tactic has been proven to increase conversions.

11. Add an “unsubscribe” button.

Email marketing is highly effective as long as you’re providing relevant content to your recipients. The unfortunate but true reality of email marketing is that your recipients and customers change over time — especially as your business grows and evolves. Therefore, your content may not always be relevant to certain audience members.

For this reason, allow your recipients to leave (or unsubscribe from your emails) on a good note so they can remember your business in a positive light — who knows, they may need your email content, products, or services again in the future. To do this, simplify their lives with an easy-to-use and visible “unsubscribe” button.

In addition to offering a better experience for users, you’re actually required by law to add that unsubscribe button.

According to the Federal Trade Commission and CAN-SPAM Act, you’re legally required to include a “clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt-out of getting emails from you in the future”. Meaning, that unsubscribe button isn’t an option.

(If you need some inspiration, check out these effective unsubscribe pages.)

12. A/B test your design.

Similar to most marketing efforts, email design is an iterative process. You might determine you need to make changes and updates to get the most out of your email design.

Whether it’s modifying your CTA, colors, images, layout, or tone, don’t be afraid to A/B test designs to determine which one works best in terms of ability to reach, resonate with, and convert the greatest number of recipients.

13. Design an email signature.

Great email signature design is another way you can establish a professional and personal feel over email. Email signatures shouldn’t just include your name — they should contain other defining and memorable characteristics about you, your role, contact information, and company.

Here are some specifics you can include in your email signature:

  • First and last name
  • Contact information (and secondary contact information)
  • Job Title / Role
  • Company Name
  • Link to your meeting calendar
  • Social media links (e.g. LinkedIn profile)
  • Pronouns
  • Photo
  • Industry disclaimer or legal requirements

here’s a free email signature generator tool to help you design your signature.

A great way to streamline the process of working on and incorporate all 13 of the above best practices is to use email design tools and software.

In fact, many of the best practices we reviewed will come up naturally while you’re designing, writing, and planning your messages with email design software.

Email Design Tools

There are a number of email design tools with a wide range of capabilities (some completely unrelated to email design!) — here are some popular examples.

1. HubSpot

HubSpot’s Email Marketing software allows you to create, design, personalize, and optimize all of your emails. You don’t need any IT or coding knowledge, and you can easily customize mobile-friendly emails. The software allows you to A/B test emails to determine which designs work best.

2. BEEPro

As a BEEPro user, you can design responsive emails in just minutes. Smart design tools provide you with a quick way to format your emails and ensure your layout complements your content. You can also customize and save various email design templates so your messaging and branding is consistent.

3. MailChimp

With over 100 templates offered, MailChimp allows you to customize your email design for your target audience. If you’re someone who does have coding experience, and you want to take your design a step further, MailChimp offers you the ability to code your template as well.

4. Stripo

Stripo requires no HTML knowledge to create and design professional email templates. All of their pre-made templates are responsive so readers can easily view them via any device. You can also sync your current email service provider (ESP) with the software to access all of your email and contact information from a central location.

5. Chamaileon

As a collaborative email builder, Chamaileon gives you the ability to invite members of your team to collaborate on your designs. The software ensures your emails will have a responsive design and automatically comes with over 100 pre-made templates to customize for specific recipients.

Email Design Examples

Let’s take a look at some successful email designs to inspire your work.

HubSpot Marketing Blog

HubSpot sends subscribers Marketing Blog emails every day. These include a few blog marketing-related articles to read and learn from. If recipients choose, they may also subscribe to HubSpot’s Sales Blog and Service Blog emails.

hubspot marketing email email design examples

The emails are branded so readers immediately know who the email is from and what it will include. To make the daily emails engaging and unique, they include previews of the articles and an occasional quiz.

Starbucks Rewards

Starbucks customers and members may have seen this email, or something similar, in their inbox before:

starbucks email design example

The email complements Starbucks’ marketing and branding, and there’s plenty of white space separating the written information from the engaging imagery. And the CTA that recipients can click on to activate the offer is clearly placed.

Vital Proteins Email Design

Although Vital Proteins’ email design contains many images and a lot of information, it’s neatly organized so it doesn’t feel overwhelming to recipients. The email’s colors, font, and visuals are on-brand and feature the company’s products.

vital proteins example of email design

There’s an obvious CTA that redirects recipients to their Instagram page — in turn, this type of CTA helps the company increase their follower count and brand awareness on the social platform.

Get inspired with 15 free and downloadable email templates designed for marketing and sales with previously written copy to save you time.

Grow Better With Really Good Email Design

With great email design, you’ll reach and resonate with your audience members more effectively, allowing you to grow better. Eye-catching and impactful emails will help you build long-lasting relationships and convert more people into paying customers and brand advocates. So, begin designing your emails while keeping the best practices and examples we reviewed in mind.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August, 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

The Ultimate Guide to Successfully Livestreaming From Home

This post is written by Kerry Shearer, “The Livestream Expert”. Kerry is a conference speaker, workshop presenter, online course creator and smartphone video trainer based in Sacramento, California. 

In 2020, the way we work, shop and entertain ourselves has been completely up-ended.

Work and school transitioned online, placing many people in unfamiliar situations with frustrating technical challenges as they livestream from home.

The results have sometimes been cringe-worthy.

On live webinar meetings, for example, we’ve been treated to up-the-nose camera angles, inadvertently-shared bathroom breaks, echo-y audio and dark, grainy webcam video.

Not the best way to make an impression!

The good news is that it’s actually pretty easy to give your viewers an outstanding experience, whether you’re participating in an online meeting on Zoom or livestreaming on popular platforms like Facebook Live, Twitter Live, Periscope or Instagram Live.

When you have the right mindset, the right approach, and the right accessories, you can absolutely look and sound like a pro.

Here, I’ll share my best practices when it comes to live streaming, including the platform(s) you should consider when livestreaming, and all the equipment you need to get started.

But first — let’s dive into the benefits of livestreaming for businesses.

Benefits of Livestreaming

I’ve spoken with many entrepreneur and communications colleagues, and months of lockdown have definitely taken an emotional toll.

Staying motivated when your lifestyle and habits have been disrupted means it’s more important than ever to get exercise, eat well, and practice self-care so you can be your best self in these trying circumstances.

And it also means you need to put yourself in the place of your customer or client.

When livestreaming, it’s critical to remember that it’s not about you — it’s about the difference you’re going to make in the life of the person you’re impacting with the information you’re delivering!

Many of us are doing two types of livestreaming these days: online meetings or webinars with colleagues, and livestreams related to promoting our products or services.

For our purposes we’ll focus on the second type of livestreaming: promoting a product or service. 

Livestreaming is a powerful tool to help entrepreneurs and small businesses differentiate themselves and connect with customers (or potential ones).

And doing it well can make a huge difference in your impact — and your earnings.

Vancouver therapist Julia Kristina, who holds a Master’s degree in Psychology, used live video as a springboard to create a thriving online business to compliment her existing in-person clinical practice.

She told me, “I began showing up live on Periscope and Facebook, nearly every day at first, doing short talks about different mental wellness topics.”

“Doing all those unscripted livestreams, either from home or from my office downtown, made me an even better public speaker. At the same time, it grew a loyal audience whose lives were being impacted by what I was teaching.”

Kristina eventually began creating and selling live online group coaching and recorded video courses on topics such as having healthy boundaries, overcoming anxiety, and building confidence.

Last fall, Kristina launched her membership program, “The Shift Society,” which features both live video coaching and recorded video content for members.

“Livestreams don’t need to be perfect,” Kristina says. “You just need to show up, be yourself, and let your passion for the topic be the magnet that draws your ideal audience in.”

Particularly in 2020 when many brick-and-mortar shops needed to shift largely online, livestreaming can provide opportunities for small businesses to connect with their customers and prospects in real-time.

Miranda Pinto, owner of La Piccolina Baby Boutique in Lincoln, CA, turned to Facebook Live in an effort to keep sales afloat after having to close her doors to walk-in customers.

Initial livestream attempts were hampered by poor internet upload speeds at her store, so she and an assistant grabbed piles of clothing and headed to Pinto’s house to do their first big online sale.

“I felt totally out of my element as a video host, but I know my product, so I just kept talking and describing each item.”

Pinto says the sales just kept coming in. “We use a subscription-based tool called ‘Comment Sold’ to track sales and send invoices.” 

“I credit livestreaming with saving my business and giving homebound moms an easy and fun way to shop locally for baby clothing.”

Pinto says each sale she conducts on Facebook Live lasts 1-2 hours, and creates the income normally earned in 2-4 days of walk-in sales when the store is open.

Live Streaming Platforms 

So if these stories have inspired you, it’s time to choose a livestreaming platform to focus on. That involves figuring out where your potential audience is (or, upon which platform you want to build a presence). There are more choices than ever, but it’s better to get started with one. 

Next, let’s go over a brief overview of each popular livestreaming platform.

1. Facebook Live

Facebook is undeniably the most popular social platform worldwide, with more than 2.7 billion monthly active users.

Facebook Live allows you to broadcast to the world in real-time, and live video is more often prioritized by the algorithm and shown in your news feed.

Facebook Live is an effective way of providing training and information in Facebook Groups, and many Business Pages use it to reach out to followers with how-to demonstrations, product unboxings, trainings, and sales events.

It’s easy to go live via the Facebook app on your phone, or through Facebook Studio on a desktop or laptop.

2. Twitter and Periscope

Periscope is Twitter’s live broadcasting app, which launched in March 2015. When you go live, you broadcast to the app and your followers get a push notification that you’re live.

Your livestream is also shown in user’s Twitter feeds if your accounts are linked with the same username.

For this reason, use of hashtags in the broadcast title can result in a bigger audience.

You can also broadcast directly from the Twitter app using the “Live” button. Twitter is known as the place to go for “what’s happening now”, so livestreams involving timely events are popular.

3. Instagram Live

2020 marks Instagram’s 10th year of operation, and the service has about 1 billion active users.

That userbase could grow even more with Instagram’s recent release of Reels, its answer to Tik Tok for creating short videos that can go viral.

Instagram Live also offers a feature that lets you bring one guest at a time into the broadcast.

Instead of expiring after 24 hours, any Instagram Live broadcasts that you want to save can now be shared to your Instagram TV channel.

Best Livestreaming Equipment

Once you’ve chosen the right platform for your needs, you’ll need to ensure you have the equipment necessary to create high-quality live videos.

Livestreams don’t have to be perfect, but it is critical to have good lighting, great audio, and a steady shot. Here are some of the options I recommend regularly to clients who want to put on a great broadcast.

1. Lighting

Natural light on your face always looks great, so if your computer desk faces a window that lets in ambient outdoor light (rather than direct, harsh sunlight), it will provide a natural look.

If natural light isn’t available, you can add LED lighting. Dimmable LED ring lights are popular, and the better ones are bi-color.

That means they have control knobs to let you “warm” the color of the light to match the tone of the room, or “cool” the color to mimick the look of outdoor light.

Ring lights, such as the Dracast Halo 180, come in a popular 18″ size, which generally requires mounting on an aluminum light stand.

A smartphone or video camera can be mounted inside the ring and set at eye-level, giving your face a nice, even glow.

There are also smaller desktop ring lights available, such as the Neewer 10″ ring light, or GVM rectangular ring light, which can hold your smartphone or serve as a webcam light by peeking over the top of your computer monitor.

The Lume Cube company has created LED lighting specifically for video conferencing, including a rectangular light with a suction mount that sticks to the back of your computer monitor.

2. Audio

Viewers will often put up with less-than-perfect video quality, but if the audio is poor, don’t expect them to hang around your livestream for long.

Poor audio is an issue for either smartphone broadcasting — where the built-in microphone picks up lots of annoying background noise — or for streaming from a laptop computer, where the cheap internal mic often produces thin-sounding audio that’s hard to listen to for long periods of time.

One solution for smartphones is a simple wired lavaliere smartphone mic, such as the YouMic.

The mic clips onto your shirt, blouse or blazer, and the cord connects to the audio jack on your smartphone.

If you have an iPhone 7 or newer, you’ll also need the Lightning-to-3.5mm headphone adapter that came with your phone.

Connect your mic to the adapter, and the adapter to the Lightning port.

If you’d prefer to go wireless, a dependable lightweight system like the Rode Wireless Go is a great solution. The receiver and transmitter are very small and operate for seven hours on built-in rechargeable batteries.

Additionally, the transmitter has a built-in mic, so you can just clip it to your jacket.

Or, to be more discreet, Rode’s plug-in Lavaliere Go mic can be purchased separately so you can ditch the transmitter in a pocket and use the small clip-on microphone.

Another option is the similar Pixel wireless lavaliere microphone.

If you’ve had experiences sitting on a Zoom call for hours, you know how hard it can be on the brain to listen to tinny audio from participants speaking from echo-y home offices.

A solution for this is to use a plug-in USB microphone with your laptop or desktop computer so you can get your voice closer to a microphone.

One option is the Fifine wired clip-on lavaliere USB microphone. Simply plug the connector into any available USB port on your computer, and then change the audio selection in your webinar software or livestreaming app to the new audio source.

Another high-quality option would be a USB microphone typically used for recording podcasts.

The Audio-Technica ATR-2100X, the Fifine PC Microphone, and the Rode NT USB microphones are all examples of podcasting-style mics that connect quickly to your computer and will skyrocket the quality of your audio.

Note that although these microphones all come with small desktop stands, the best approach is to mount them to an articulating boom arm that clamps to the edge of your desk. That will prevent the mic stand from transmitting any thumps and bumps created by your hands or elbows tapping your desk surface.

3. Tripods

Shaky video can be incredibly distracting and frustrating when someone is watching a livestream.

Fortunately, there are lots of options to help you have a steady shot. If you already have a video or camera tripod and will be livestreaming from a smartphone, you can simply attach a smartphone mount.

My favorites are the Square Jellyfish metal smartphone mount, or the Arkon Road-Vise heavy duty smartphone mount.If you don’t have a tripod, one place to begin is with a mini-tripod that sits on a desk and has an extendable middle column.

The Benro BK-15, when placed on a desk, will extend to the equivalent of full standing height for standup presentations or interviews.

The advantage to a small tripod like this is that you can easily move it from room to room, walk with it while you talk, or throw it in your messenger bag so you’re always prepared to livestream.

For other uses, you might need a floorstanding tripod. The least expensive option is to buy a basic tripod like this Endurax aluminum tripod. It extends to 66 inches.

Tripods in this price range often have a plastic pan/tilt assembly, which is fine if your camera will be locked down and not moved, but often doesn’t allow for smooth camera movement.

If you’ll be panning and tilting and following the action during your livestream, go for a more expensive tripod that has a fluid head.

A fluid head mechanism gives very smooth camera movements which look professional. One of my personal favorites is the Manfrotto Be Free aluminum Lever Lock video tripod. It is only 16″ long when folded for transport.

And for livestreaming on the go, there’s nothing like a 3-axis electric smartphone gimbal. A gimbal holds your smartphone level and steady while you walk, giving you silky-smooth Steadicam-like results.

I use the Benro 3XS gimbal, and one of the main reasons I love it is because it does not block the Lightning port on a smartphone like many gimbals do — that’s important if you want to connect a microphone to the port do to a walk-and-talk narration during your livestream.

A single push of a button rotates the phone from horizontal to vertical, and the mounting arm also folds for compact storage.

New equipment is constantly coming out for smartphone video shooting and livestreaming, allowing you to ensure that your video will be wonderfully watchable.

On-Camera Confidence

Assuming you have selected your platform, have a smartphone mic, LED light and tripod, it’s time to curate your confidence so you come across well on video. Keep in mind the following tips:

  • No, you don’t look weird or sound weird on video, so stop judging yourself!
  • We usually need to ramp up our energy a bit for video. If it helps, before you go live play a favorite song from your playlist that gets you pumped up. Dance around like a crazy person for a couple of minutes. Anything to get the blood moving and get a dose of energy!
  • Remember, like I told you earlier, it’s not about you. Focus on the people you’re helping.
  • If you’re livestreaming from a laptop, do whatever you need to do to get the webcam lens at eye level. That may require propping your laptop up on a box or a stack of books if you’re using the unit’s internal webcam.
  • Be sure to smile (as appropriate). You want to appear open, approachable, and authentic.
  • If you normally gesture wildly as you talk, reel it in so your movements are appropriate for a tighter webcam image.
  • If you’re in charge of the livestream and are primarily the one presenting information, do whatever you can to keep people engaged. Ask questions and tell viewers to put their answers in the chat. You can also “flag” important points, by saying things like: “If you’re multi-tasking right now, come back to me because I’m about to give you some really important information.”

Remember, livestreaming is a mix of using your best presentation skills and some smart tech to make sure that you’re communicating clearly and effectively.

It is also a skill that you can develop over time. If you’re looking for more tips related to livestreaming, take a look at our checklist for getting started with your first livestream

How to Learn Social Media Marketing: 39 Resources for Beginners

Social media is no longer an optional marketing channel — it’s a necessary one.

But that doesn’t mean results are a given. When it comes to social media, you’ll either have a lot of success interacting with your customers, or you’ll see little results — and that depends on the level of effort you put into it.

For every business that has found success in social media marketing, there are at least two more spinning their social wheels with no tangible results. It’s time to change that trend.

For many, social media is simply a place to post links to content they’ve created in hopes that thousands will see it, click through, and share with their followers. So they have profiles on every network, and every network looks exactly the same; line after line of self-promotion.

This is not going to bring results. In fact, Facebook‘s algorithm now penalizes link-based content, and Instagram has made it all-but-impossible to share a link.

Half-heartedly sharing your content on social media is not social media marketing. It’s spamming.

Social marketing is a lot of work, and it takes time listening and responding. After all, it’s social, and anything social takes an investment of effort and skill.

To hone these skills, check out these resources that will help you develop the skills needed to be effective on social media. (You may want to bookmark this post so you can easily refer to it again later.) Click the links below to jump to each section of resources in this article:

How to Learn Social Media Marketing: 40 Free Resources

Social Media Marketing Blogs

Social marketing is a science involving special communication skills. And the landscape changes constantly.

One of the best ways to develop your social media prowess and to stay up-to-date is to follow experts in the field. These blogs are always fresh with actionable information you can use to improve your marketing:

1. Social Media Explorer

SME is both a strategic services agency and a blog with a bevy of social media and marketing experts. The SME blog is consistently considered one of the most insightful in the industry, and several of its authors have written popular books on several aspects of digital and social marketing.

2. Scott Monty

Monty is a marketing guru who covers a ton of subjects. However, his social media articles are always eye-opening. If you haven’t heard of him yet, check out his “this week in digital” posts — these will keep you up-to-date with all the news on social, and every other aspect of digital marketing as well.

3. Social Media Examiner

Not to be confused with Social Media Explorer, the Examiner is one of the top blogs in the world for social media. Its social media reports are filled with all the important data social marketers want, and the blog posts are filled with valuable tips, as well. If I had to pick just one social media blog to follow, this is the one I would choose.

4. HubSpot Marketing Blog

Right here on the HubSpot Marketing Blog, you can find breaking news and actionable how-to guides on every social network there is.

Social Media Publishing Templates

5. Social Media Content Calendar Template

Before you load your social media content into a publishing tool (HubSpot has one, when you’re ready for it), you’ll want to organize it all in an offline calendar. The free template linked above allows you to sort your social media content in a spreadsheet that’s designed to help you track the day, time, and social media channel on which everything you create is being promoted.

6. Social Media Calendar Templates

This social media template helps you track your social media campaigns not just by social network, but by how much engagement they get, which holidays they’re aligned with, and which ones have paid promotion behind them.

7. Airtable’s Content Calendar

Once you’ve organized your social media calendar into a spreadsheet — like the one linked to #6, above — you might also want to load this content into a project management platform so you can track its progress in real time. Airtable is one such platform to help you do that, and it comes with a content calendar format so you don’t have to shoehorn the platform around your business.

8. Social Media Image Templates

It’s well-known that visuals get more engagement on social media than just text. Get your designs off on the right foot with this collection of social media image templates.

9. Instagram Templates for Business

Instagram is the most image-focused social network out there, and because of that, not just any image will reach your audience. To cut through the crowds, use this collection of Instagram templates to create brand-aligned posts that resonate with your audience.

Social Media Marketing Ebooks

These ebooks will provide deeper information on specific networks and topics.

10. How to Use Instagram for Business

This step-by-step guide explains the reasons to create a business Instagram account and how to execute on Instagram to drive results.

11. A Visual Guide to Creating the Perfect LinkedIn Company Page

If you’re building a company page for the first time, or trying to upgrade your page, this guide will show you exactly how to do everything from crafting an engaging company description to creating an eye-catching banner image.

12. How to Attract Customers with Facebook

This multi-page ebook will show you how to use Facebook to drive real business results for your organization.

13. How to Get More Twitter Followers

HubSpot partnered with the experts at Twitter to provide actionable tips for social media managers starting new accounts to build a following, and fast.

14. The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media

Here’s an amazing guide from Moz. The 12 chapters in this book are filled with valuable information that every marketer absolutely needs to know. Bookmark this guide, you’ll refer to it more than once.

15. How to Create High-Quality Videos for Social Media

Like images, videos drive a ton of engagement on social media. And although the idea of shooting a quality video for your social channels sounds daunting, it’s actually easier than you think. Grab the free guide above to learn how to quickly turn your office into a production studio.

Social Media Marketing Courses

16. Developing an End-to-End Instagram Marketing Strategy for Your Business

This free course in the HubSpot Academy will teach you how to stand up an Instagram marketing strategy in just 95 minutes. The course consists of 3 lessons, 13 videos, and 3 quizzes.

17. Putting Social Media to Work for Your Coaching Business

Even consultants need consultants to learn how to, well, be a consultant. The free Udemy course linked above will teach you how to use social media to market your business as a coach or consultant in your industry.

18. Developing an End-to-End Facebook Marketing Strategy

Opposite the Instagram marketing course linked in #16, above, take this hour-long course to learn the basics of Facebook marketing.

19. Social Media Influencer Course

You’ve probably heard of influencer marketing — it’s particularly common in the context of social media. Take this course by Captevrix to learn how to work with an Influencer who resonates with your audience to promote your brand.

Social Media Marketing Videos

Videos are my second favorite medium to learn, behind books. Being able to glean from the brightest minds on any subject as if you’re face-to-face is powerful. These videos will give you valuable insights, just how to do social media, but you’ll get insights into the why and what as well.

20. The #AskGaryVee Show

You can’t talk about social media without talking about the speaker, author, and social expert Gary Vaynerchuk. On the Gary Vee Show, he takes questions from his audience and answers them as only he can. If you have a burning question on social media marketing, send it to him.

21. TED Talks: Social Media Marketing

If you aren’t in love with TED, you might want to check your pulse. This is a playlist of videos from TED Talks on social media. There may not be that much actionable advice in these videos, but if you want to become an expert on social media, these videos will give you insight into the deeper subject like “the hidden influence of social networks.”

22. Learn Social Media Marketing

If you’re really new to social media, and you want to learn through a structured lesson experience, consider Lynda’s massive library on social marketing courses.

23. Free Social Media Certification

HubSpot Academy has a breadth of video courses across inbound and digital marketing. Their free social media course is an eight-step video curriculum that teaches you the fundamentals of managing a social media campaign for your business. It also earns you a fresh Social Media Certification.

Social Media Podcasts

If you like to learn while you chill, work out, or commute to and from work, podcasts are one of the best ways to do it. And these podcasts will help you develop your social media expertise.

24. Social Media Marketing Podcast

Michael Stelzner, from Social Media Examiner, brings you success stories and expert interviews from leading social media marketing pros.

25. The Social Toolkit

If you like to stay up-to-date on digital tools, apps, and software for social media marketing, this is the podcast for you.

26. The Social Pros Podcast

Every episode of the Social Pros Podcast shines the light on real pros doing real work for real companies. You’ll get insights from Jay Baer of Convince and Convert when you tune in.

Slideshows & Infographics About Social Media

If you’re a visual learner, these slide decks and infographics provide great ways to learn social media.

27. The B2B Social Media Palette

This SlideShare walks you through the channels and tools you’ll need to be most effective at B2B social media marketing. Sometimes, success can be found by using the right tools and channels for the right audience.

28. The Complete Guide to the Best Times to Post on Social Media

Timing is very important when it comes to social media. Post it the wrong time, and your update can go completely unnoticed because of the flood of updates in your audience’s feeds. Being able to master the timing of social media is critical to effective marketing.

29. 58 Social Media Tips for Content Marketers

This slideshow is from the folks at Content Marketing Institute. This deck shows the proper methods for promoting your content over social media. This is a must-read for any social marketer who wants to use those channels to promote content.

30. The Best and Worst Times to Post on Social Media

Again, timing is everything. This infographic lays out the best and worst times to post on each major network. You should save this infographic for referencing when you schedule your social media posts.

Social Media Marketing Books

Books are my favorite way to learn. Many experts agree that if you read a book a week, on your area of expertise, for 5 years, you will have the equivalent of a Ph.D. on the subject. That may or may not be true, but reading books from the experts definitely doesn’t make you a worse marketer. Here are some books to get you started.

31. The B2B Social Media Book

This book covers the specific application of social marketing to B2B companies, to leverage social media to drive leads and revenue.

32. The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users

You’ve got to read this book by the legendary former Chief Evangelist of Apple, Guy Kawasaki. He’s one of the pioneers of social and content marketing, and this book is filled with expert advice from one of the best.

33. The Tao of Twitter

This book is supposed to be for busy marketers who need to get the basics of Twitter down quickly. It shows you how to connect and start creating meaningful connections in less than two hours.

34. The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising

Facebook is one of the most effective advertising and PPC platforms available. You can target a plethora of metrics, allowing you to drill down and advertise to a very specific audience. This book will show you how to optimize your Facebook ads.

35. Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World

Gary Vaynerchuk gives insight into how he uses a conversational, reactionary approach to engaging his audience. He gives concrete, visual examples of great social marketing, as well as not-so-great ones.

36. The New Rules of Marketing and PR

David Meerman Scott’s book on digital marketing is an international bestseller, and worth every penny. Some argue that it should be required reading for any marketer — and in this marketer’s opinion, “Just read it.”

37. Likeable Social Media

Dave Kerpen claims the secret to viral social marketing is to be likable. When someone likes you, they’ll recommend you. But being likable on social networks is easier said than done. This book will help you crack that code.

38. Social Media Marketing for Dummies

One of my mentors taught me to read children’s books on a subject if I just couldn’t grasp a concept. That principle gave way to movements like “Explain It Like I’m 5.” And, sometimes you just need it broken down like you’re, well, less than an expert on the topic, to put it gently. If that’s you, this book is valuable. Go ahead and buy it — we won’t call you dummy.

39. Contagious: Why Things Catch On

This book by Jonah Berger provides a strong foundation to understand how content goes viral — and how to create ideas on social media that are so catchy, your audience won’t be able to help but click them.

Now that you’ve reviewed the top social media marketing resources, it’s time to create your action plan for getting out there and actually doing it.

1. Go where your customers are.

You don’t have to be on every network. It’s a common mistake when starting out to overextend across platforms. If you’re running short on marketing resources, identify which platform (or two) your audience is most likely to be found and then double-down on creating meaningful content and experiences on that platform. You can always expand your efforts into different platforms later.

2. Be helpful. Period.

Audiences watch TV to be entertained, get informed, or unwind, not to view commercials. The same is true for social media users. Chances are, if you do nothing except promote yourself, you won’t get far with social media because signing into social media is not indicative that they’re ready to be sold to.

So how do you meet audiences on their turf in a way that’s earns you meaningful awareness and engagement? The 80/20 Rule.

This “rule” states that successful social media marketing means providing something for the audience 80% of the time and promoting your brand 20% of the time. If your audience is hungry for your content, they’re much more willing to also accept promotional messaging as long as it’s not too overwhelming or obtrusive.

3. Set realistic and measurable goals.

If you begin your social media marketing efforts with no destination in mind, you may find yourself floundering. Get clear on what you need from your efforts so that you can set goals and measure your progress towards them.

For example, you might be using social media to increase your brand awareness, which means you’d look at your posts’ reach and how your audience is growing. On the other hand, if you want to drive traffic from your website, you might measure click-throughs.

It’s important also to begin with a benchmark so that you can set realistic goals. Shooting for the moon is nice, but you’ll also want to measure against achievable milestones to gauge performance and make accurate (within reason) predictions for strategic planning.

4. Maximize your existing resources.

Sit down and decide on a publishing schedule that is appropriate for the network you’ve chosen and the resources you have for content creation. Creating content can be arduous, even if you choose just one or two platforms, so it’s important not to overtax your resources. Instead, consider ways that you can utilize, adapt, and repurpose existing content to make your resources stretch even further.

5. Have conversations.

Don’t forget the “social” in “social media.” Social media marketing isn’t about broadcasting; it’s about communicating. By interacting with your audience online, you can increase brand awareness by increasing engagement. In addition, this engagement tends to be more memorable and delightful than non-personalized interactions.

6. Listen to your audience.

Customer feedback, direct mentions of your brand, and even industry chatter can all inform your social strategy. By listening to the conversations your audience has on social media, you can come up with new ideas for content based on real-time industry trends, shifting your social media marketing strategy to fit their needs. Social listening tools such as HubSpot and Sprout Social can streamline this process and lead to amazing insights.

7. Don’t get trapped by #followback loops.

You may notice trends such as #followfridays as you’re establishing your platform. It may be tempting to participate, but these follow chains can often lead to a large audience of unengaged followers who aren’t interested in your brand. This isn’t an ideal way to grow. The best thing you can do is check out these follow trains and see if there are any individuals that you or your business wants to follow based on their perspectives rather than simply as a reciprocal act of increasing numbers.

8. Focus on quality, not quantity.

This tip can be applied to so many things in the social media space:

  • Quality, not quantity, of followers
  • Quality, not quantity, of posts you create
  • Quality, not quantity, of promotions

The fact of the matter is, even though it may seem like slow growth over time, quality matters on social media and will drive more meaningful results and better ROI, which is the foundation of successful social media marketing.

9. Never copy/paste the same message into every social profile.

If you’re on multiple platforms, it’s best to adhere to best practices for that specific platform. While it may be tempting to create the same message and promote the same way to save time, this can actually hurt the experience for social media users. Each platform has different native browsing behavior, image thumbnail formats, character counts, best practices for hashtags, and more. For optimal experience (and performance), understand what works best on each social media channel and tailor your messaging to fit.

10. Never stop learning.

No matter how many social networks you set out to master, or how long you work in the social marketing field, there is one secret that will ensure you’re successful: Never stop learning.

Social media constantly changes, so it’s impossible to master this topic with a once-and-done approach; it requires continual education.

The list above is massive, I know, and there’s no way to consume all these resources in the next week. But if you set yourself to learning every day, every week, every month, every year, you’ll eventually be the one writing the books that help others learn social marketing.

It all begins with learning.

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

8 Common Instagram Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in 2020

Since coming into existence in 2010, Instagram has given brands the opportunity to engage with their audience and tell their story through the power of visuals.

The Facebook-owned app was one of the fastest growing major social networks in 2014, and is now home to more than 1 billion users.

Along with growing its user base, Instagram has expanded its features as well. In the last five years alone, it’s embraced business accounts, live video, and advertising, but it’s also become a leading platform for social media stories

In addition to the network’s impressive growth, users are also highly engaged with the platform. Each day, half of all users use the app and spend an average of 21 minutes on the app. Top brands have quickly realized the potential Instagram presents.

But, while a number of brands have absolutely thrived on the platform, many still struggle to grow their audiences there. This is because a number of seemingly small mistakes could impact your whole strategy on the fast-paced platform.

Whether you’re considering joining, are new to the network, or feel like your Instagram game is lacking, learning about some of the most common Instagram mistakes can help you avoid them and build an effective social strategy.

In this post, we’ve gathered a list of eight mistakes brands make on the platform, backed by data and HubSpot’s own social media team.

The Most Common Mistakes Brands Make on Instagram

1. Brands don’t take time to plan out an Instagram strategy.

Instagram offers brands a means of telling their story through photographs, video clips, live video, and Stories, but with all of the features on the app, it can be tempted to create content for every possible post and hope that it’s engaging.

When used strategically Instagram is ideal for showcasing products being used in real-life situations, showing the progress of something through photos over time (such as the construction of a vehicle, the making of a new record, showing a new office space from empty to furnished and functional, or a new or favorite recipe from ingredients to the plated final product), or even answering frequently asked questions through short video clips or Instagram Live.

Yes, the possibilities are near limitless on Instagram, but like any other form of digital marketing, you’ll want to define goals early on and create a strategy to help you reach them.

Whether you’re on Instagram to increase brand awareness, showcase a new product line, or add a human element to your brand, each piece of content you publish on the platform should be adding value and help you attain goals.

Who’s doing it right? Quest Nutrition

Quest Nutrition is a nutrition company popular amongst the low carb and fitness crowds. They create nutritional food and drink products to help people reach their own health and fitness goals. According to TOTEMS Analytics, Quest Nutrition grows in follower count by roughly 15k / month. There’s no questioning how well of a job they do connecting with their audience and their lifestyles.

Furthermore, they’re making it work in a somewhat surprising fashion, through video.

Instagram introduced a 15-second video component to their platform back in June of 2013, and the adoption and engagement rates have been lesser than photo content. However, Quest Nutrition has found a way to make it work, driving far more engagement with video content, according to PicStats.

Here’s an example of Quest Nutrition creating a “how-to” video with one of their products, all while sticking to their #CheatClean (health and wellness) message and strategy.

2. Brands focus on production quality rather than audience value.

Because major brands might post high-resolution photos and video content on Instagram, smaller brands might get the impression that you need a fancy camera or a studio to succeed on Instagram. This is far from the truth, according to HubSpot’s Social Media Manager Kelly Hendrickson:

“Quality is more than the video equipment you use to film or the design software you use to create. Quality is about providing value,” Hendrickson explains.

When you don’t focus on creating content that your audience enjoys or values, they might be less likely to like it, share it, or keep following you. 

Take a second to think about how Instagram works. Users typically scroll through a single column of photos, quickly glancing at photos and skimming captions, only slowing down and stopping when something catches their eyes or piques their interest.

Other times they’re exploring content via hashtags, tapping quickly through Instagram Stories, or scrolling through a 3-column search layout until a photo or video stands out.

The more focus you put on the quality and value of the content you’re publishing on Instagram, the more likely users will be to slow down, stop at, and engage with your account and content.

Hendrickson suggests asking yourself, “What can your audience get from your brand’s Instagram account that they can’t get anywhere else? How are you improving their experience on the platform? How are you identifying with them?”

Who’s doing it right? Taco Bell

Taco Bell is no stranger to effectively utilizing social media. By summer of 2020, they had well over 1.4 million followers over a thousand posts with well over that amount of engagements.  

And while you might not typically group fast food and photography, Taco Bell has always made it work and taken full advantage of Instagram’s highly-engaged user base.

The fast-food chain does an extraordinary job leveraging vibrant colors in their photos and creates a laidback, entertaining feel through photo and video captions.

Taco Bell’s posts and Stories, which often contain delectable images of food are eye-catching, relevant, engaging, and make you crave their products. On top of showing images of their most hunger-inducing meals, Taco Bell also regularly highlights images of customers eating their products in daily life.

Here’s just one example where Taco Bell highlighted a recent graduate eating a wrap:


3. Brands don’t determine a posting frequency that’s right for them.

While a number of studies in the last decade hinted that posting more often each day would create more engagement, newer research has debunked the theory that you must post as much as possible to be successful on the current Instagram platform. 

As part of your Instagram strategy, post frequency should be addressed and studied, but you should take more than engagement into account. For example, if posting a lot doesn’t get you high engagements, but still takes time away from your overall social media strategy, you might want to post less. On the other hand, if you’re a large company that has the resources to post more highly engaging content each day, that might be a tactic you should continue.

Ultimately, you’ll want to look for a happy medium between quantity and quality, ensuring one isn’t sacrificed for the other. If you determine that you’re able to post quality content 15 times-per-day, it’s important you stick to a similar posting schedule for a bit and pivot if your engagement numbers change. 

Who’s doing it right? MAC Cosmetics

MAC Cosmetics is a cosmetics manufacturer founded in 1984 in Toronto, Canada. According to TOTEMS Analytics, MAC Cosmetics grows in follower count on Instagram by roughly 231k / month. A post on Instagram earns the cosmetics manufacturer an impressive 34k likes and 300+ comments on average according to PicStats.

MAC Cosmetics is close to hitting 3 million followers and that’s due in part to their frequent and consistent posting schedule. It’s uncommon to go a day without seeing several quality posts from the brand.

Again, it’s worth noting that the brand isn’t sacrificing quality, as you’ll see in the examples below.



4. Brands purchase followers or engagements.

If you’re even slightly considering buying followers or engagements, stop. For years, the network has been cracking down on fake and spam accounts, and they’re taking them out in massive numbers.

“Social media companies are savvy. Whether it be Twitter purging bots or TikTok shadow banning users, social media companies can sniff out fakes pretty quickly. And here’s the thing, so can you audience,” Hendrickson reveals. 

“A high purchased follower account won’t meet your brand’s goal of being on Instagram in the first place,” Hendrickson explains. “In fact, it can harm them. Do those purchased followers help your genuine audience build an affinity for your brand? Does it make them look to your brand for value? Does it make them trust you?”

“In the end, all these purchases end up doing, is having your audience ask why the likes are so low on a post when you have so many followers,” Hendrickson points out. 

So, what should you do instead? Focus on real engagement, like the accounts noted in this post. 

Who’s doing it right? Nike

Nike is a multinational corporation known for their footwear, apparel, sporting equipment, and services. The brand is often referenced for their innovative marketing strategies, and they’ve earned an impressive Instagram audience with a whopping 120 million followers

Nike’s attention to quality, compelling and influential messages, and an ability to create genuine connections with their audience through photo and video is what’s earned them one of the most dominant presences on the social network.

The high-quality photos, captivating captions, utilization of location tagging, and branded hashtags are working well for the brand as you’ll see below.

5. Brands focus on gaining — but not retaining — followers.

Instagram users are engaged and they’re consuming and enjoying branded content at impressive rates. The social network continues to give brands huge opportunities for growth. However, an engaged following today doesn’t guarantee an engaged following tomorrow. How you interact with and leverage your Instagram following can mean the difference between flourishing and flopping on the social network.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to offset the additional resources needed to create a successful Instagram presence can be found within your audience. Instagram is the perfect platform for promoting user-generated content (UGC), probably more so than any other social network. Whether you’re running a photo contest or are encouraging the use of a branded hashtag, Instagram is the perfect platform for building real relationships with real people.

Give your followers the opportunity to spread your message, share your content, use your hashtags, and serve as advocates to your brand.

Who’s doing it right? BarkBox

BarkBox is a monthly surprise package for dogs that includes toys, treats, and goodies. The company donates 10% of their profits to dogs in need and has already rescued 800 puppies. 

The brand has one of the funniest, most entertaining accounts on Instagram. They feature some of the most popular dogs of Instagram on their account, which has helped them promote engagement, grow their following, and promote branded hashtags. They’ve also created a VIP program that helps them earn business return via Instagram.

There’s a reason BarkBox is raking in 15k likes and 1k comments average on each post.

Try not to laugh (volume recommended).




6. Brands are overly promotional.

Is there anything more unflattering than brands posting nothing but promotional content on their social networks? Buy this, sale on this, big savings, free shipping!

Overly promotional posts come across as selfish, lazy, and depending on timing, potentially distasteful. While there’s certainly a time and a place to be promotional, brands succeeding on Instagram are the ones delivering powerful and meaningful messages, visually presenting their culture, sharing quality photos and videos, and engaging with their audience.

In addition, it’s no secret Instagram is a Facebook-owned entity. If you remember, Facebook made a News Feed update back in November of 2014 announcing significant drops in organic reach for promotional posts.

Don’t be tacky on Instagram.

Who’s doing it right? Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s is a dairy company known for their delicious ice cream, and more recently, their mouth-watering Instagram feed.  The chain’s Instagram account has over 1.5 million followers.

Instead of posting pictures of ice cream every day (which would most likely still work for them), Ben & Jerry’s regularly shares fans’ photos on their page. What better way to get people excited about taking pictures with your product than sharing them publicly for the world to see? It’s worked well for the brand that on average scoops 20k likes-per-post according to PicStats.

Below is an example of user-generated content shared by Ben & Jerry’s, along with a video post delivering a very powerful message while utilizing their product.



7. Brands use as many hashtags as they can think of. 

Similar to other social networks, hashtags play an important role in the discovery process on Instagram. While, lesser-known brands or brands with low follower counts can use popular but relevant hashtags to optimize their posts, using too many can make your brand look spammy, desperate, or out of touch.

While past research once suggested that brands should use 11 or more of Instagram’s 30 allotted hashtags for each post, Sprout Social now suggests that less is more. According to the social media software company, using two to five relevant hashtags in a post can yield more engagements that using 10 or more. 

Many brands take a "less is more" approach to Instagram hashtags

Image Source

In terms of relevancy, brands should also be sure to avoid misusing hashtags in an attempt to increase exposure. This is a surefire way to lose credibility and come off as lazy on a network that was built on authenticity and quality.

Who’s doing it right? GoPro

GoPro is the creator of the “world’s most versatile camera,” a favorite amongst extreme athletes, amateur photographers, and pets around the world. According to TOTEM Analytics, GoPro grows in follower count on Instagram by roughly 221k / month and is one of the most popular brands on the network.

With 4.3m followers, GoPro could probably eliminate hashtags completely without sacrificing engagement. The brand chooses to leverage the discovery mechanism and it’s just one of the reasons they’ve created such a memorable Instagram presence.

Below is a GoPro post that gets a couple things right in the hashtag category. For starters, they’re utilizing more than one hashtag. More importantly, they’re utilizing hashtags that are relevant to the photo.

8. Brands avoid Instagram completely.

If you’re still questioning whether or not Instagram has a place in your social media marketing strategy, you’re not alone.

Despite all the opportunities Instagram provides, smart marketers still will approach any new social media platform with caution. They’ll ask themselves questions like, “Do I have enough time to manage another social network?,” “Is it worth joining Instagram if my business or offerings aren’t visually friendly?,” or “Do I have the right resources to create quality photos and videos?”

The truth is, the questions above are absolutely worth asking — especially if your brand has a limited budget or social team. However, you shouldn’t let these fears hinder your social strategy too much, especially when the social platform’s history is as long and successful as Instagram’s.

As the fastest growing major social network with one of the most engaged audiences, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to overlook Instagram’s value.

As we mentioned above, in less than six years, the platform’s grown to a whopping 1 billion users, while hosting millions of active businesses and influencers who regularly spread awareness about products. 

In 2020, it’s safe to say that Instagram is worth considering.

Who’s doing it right? General Electric

General Electric is a power and water, oil and gas, energy management, aviation, healthcare, transportation, and capital corporation. While they may not be the first brand that comes to mind when you think Instagram, General Electric has been known for leveraging social media to connect with their audience.

The brand does an incredible job bringing their core values to life through photo and video on Instagram. In addition, they’ve found a way to take an otherwise very serious subject matter and make it educational, interesting, and exciting.

Working around the clock to build, power, move, and cure the world is the theme they showcase throughout photos and videos like the following:


A Mistake-Free Instagram Marketing Strategy

In recent years, Instagram’s gone from a social network known for selfies and food pictures to a platform brands are leveraging to deliver meaningful messages, tell stories, and engage with people on a human to human level.

We’ll continue to hear about, read about, speak about, and experience firsthand the opportunity Instagram presents to brands and marketers as network continues to grow.

Brands getting the most out of the network are the ones posting quality content on a consistent basis, and are doing so with a purpose. Even brands that aren’t thought of as visually friendly are leveraging the network and seeing it work.

The Instagram community is genuinely interested in connecting with these brands; so much so that they’ve expressed interest in learning more about brands and products after they’ve been inspired by what they’re posting.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 but was updated in August 2020 for comprehensiveness and freshness. 


The 5 Kinds of Digital Marketing Collateral You Should Be Creating

It goes without saying, but your marketing materials shouldn’t be limited to conventional outbound advertisements — particularly if your business is B2B. Sure, capturing attention is part of the battle, but what happens when a prospect visits your website and sees nothing but some product descriptions and a pricing page?

There has to be more there. You need to have some material to show that you can walk the walk. One kind of content that helps get you there is known as marketing collateral, and it can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Here, we’ll get a more in-depth understanding of the concept and go over the five most important marketing collateral formats you can use to help establish legitimacy and supplement your sales efforts.

At its core, marketing collateral is a way to let prospects know that you know what you’re talking about. It’s not supposed to be as flashy as conventional advertisements. In creating marketing collateral, your first priority generally isn’t to capture attention — it’s to retain and enhance it.

In most cases, the prospects who are looking at your marketing collateral are curious about your company, but they might not be intimately familiar with you or your offering. Well-crafted marketing collateral can put them at ease. It can help build the kind of trust necessary to start and sustain a customer relationship.

Marketing collateral tends to be educational in some capacity. When done right, the informative nature of the format lets you separate yourself from the competition by letting you showcase an extensive understanding of your industry that others in your space might not be projecting.

If all of your marketing materials are solely dedicated to talking up your product or service, you’re selling yourself short. When prospects are deciding to buy, they’re not just considering what’s for sale — they’re considering your company as a whole.

They want to know they’ll be taken care of by a competent, capable, knowledgeable organization that they can rely on to address any issues and concerns they might have as they arise. Creating thoughtful marketing collateral is one way to help that cause.

1. Blog Posts

Producing good marketing collateral is often a matter of consistently providing value to your audience. One of the better forums to create and promote the kind of material that does that on an ongoing basis is a well-maintained company blog.

It allows you constantly to supplement your sales efforts with helpful insight and audience engagement — driving traffic to your website and generating leads through actionable advice, expertise, and entertainment.

Like any other kind of effective marketing collateral, good blog posts can project authority in your industry. You want to show you’re staying abreast of industry trends and understand the nuances of your space — constantly churning out high-quality, helpful content can help that cause and put your prospects at ease.

2. Ebooks

Ebooks are similar to blog posts in that they should project industry authority through engagement, but they tend to be longer, more in-depth, and less snackable than typical blog content. This type of marketing collateral generally attracts prospects with a vested interest in your industry. Here are some examples from HubSpot.

Image Source: HubSpot

In some ways, an Ebook could be likened to an extended blog post or a few blog posts strung together. Like blog content, an Ebook generally contains accessible language and directly actionable advice.

In many cases, Ebooks are downloadable and can only be accessed in exchange for a prospect’s contact information — making them a powerful vehicle for lead generation.

No matter where your company stands, you likely have the resources and knowhow to channel your industry-specific knowledge into a thoughtful Ebook. Remember, your marketing collateral should be designed to build trust with prospects and customers.

If you can put out Ebooks to reliably bolster their knowledge of your industry, you can convince them they’re in good hands when they buy your product or service.

3. Case Studies

Case studies are offering-specific documents that detail how specific customers saw success as a result of leveraging your product or service. This format is different from the previous two in that it’s never product-agnostic. Here’s an example from HubSpot:

marketing collateral case study

Image Source: HubSpot

Every case study is made in collaboration with a satisfied customer. It’s a form of cross-promotion that shows what your product or service is like in practice — a roadmap that lets prospects imagine what you could do for their business.

Like almost every other example on this list, case studies are educational. They provide a more thorough explanation of how your product or service works through an active example. It’s also another avenue for building trust.

If you can point to reputable customers who are willing to vouch for your business in extensive detail, you can bolster your company’s reputation as a solid, knowledgeable organization with a product or service that delivers results.

4. Testimonials

Testimonials are essentially condensed, snackable case studies. Many — if not most — prospects don’t have the time or interest to delve into a full-on case study. If you want to reach them, you’re going to have to provide quick-hitting content that they can glance over passively. Testimonials can do just that.

Here’s an example of one from HubSpot:

marketing collateral testimonial

Image Source: HubSpot

This testimonial follows the format’s best practice. It’s visually engaging, clearly establishes who provided the quote, and references specific benefits — a solid example of an appropriately informative, easily digestible piece of marketing collateral. Ultimately, a good testimonial helps project the company’s legitimacy while inspiring potential customers to further explore the product it’s promoting.

5. White Papers

A white paper is a persuasive, authoritative, in-depth report on a specific topic. Generally, one of these documents will raise a problem and present a solution to it.

It’s typically more technical and less accessible than an Ebook. It’s meant to draw a crowd more intimately involved with or interested in your industry — an audience that might naturally run into the issue at the core of the document.

White papers shouldn’t be product pitches. It’s best practice to keep them objective and educational. That being said, the topics you choose need to be relevant to your company or space.

This kind of collateral also needs to be thoroughly researched, thoughtfully formatted, polished, and written in a serious tone. That means no flashy language or cute gimmicks. Here are some examples of topics from HubSpot’s Not Another State of Marketing Report.

marketing collateral whitepaper

Image Source: HubSpot

As I keep mentioning, every format listed in this article is tailored to project authority to some extent — the white paper is the purest example of that trend. It’s a technical document that’s meant to demonstrate technical knowledge to a crowd with technical prowess.

Well-crafted marketing collateral can give you a leg up on your competition. Not only is it an excellent vehicle for lead generation, but it can also offer your business an element of authority and trustworthiness to make potential customers more comfortable and inclined to buy from you. If your company isn’t producing it, consider trying out one of the formats listed above.

The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Analytics

There are over 3.8 billion social media users across the globe.

As you can probably imagine, that’s a major reason why businesses want to be active on social, too. Businesses use social media to market, sell, and provide support to their target audience and customers as well as learn about and bond with them.

The key is to understand what types of posts on which platforms are most effective in resonating with these audience members and customers.

This will allow your business to consistently produce engaging content that positively impacts your bottom line.

How do you do this? Well, it requires social media analytics and reporting.

What is social media analytics?

Social media analytics is the process of gathering and analyzing data and reports based on metrics from one or multiple social media accounts.

Social media analytics provides insight into a number of important factors that are directly tied to the success of your marketing efforts and your business as a whole.

Here’s a list that explains the importance of social media analytics:

  • Develop a deeper understanding of who your target audience is and where they spend their time
  • Identify which social platforms receive the greatest amount of traffic
  • Determine what type of social content leads to the most conversions, engagements, etc.
  • Discover what type of social media post has the greatest reach and resonates best with your audience on certain platforms
  • Learn about what is and isn’t working in terms of social media campaigns and ads among your audience while they’re live and after they wrap up
  • Develop a stronger social media strategy for your business’s specific goals related to things like your marketing, sales, and service efforts

Social Media Analytics Reports

Social media analytics reports provide an overview of specific metrics and data points — such as engagements and impressions — related to the content you share on various social media platforms. Simply put, reports are how you’ll review your social media analytics.

Social media analytics tools (which we’ll review next) make the creation of reports simple — some of these resources provide reports from one social platform at a time while others provide reports from multiple social platforms.

Either way, social media analytics reporting tools are typically customizable — meaning, you can view and pull the data and reports that matter most to you and your business.

With the tools we’re going to review below, reports can be automatically made and shared for you. But, here are some of the unique aspects of social media analytics reports that you can typically customize:

  • Statistics and data points that matter to you and will be displayed in the report
  • Time frame (weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, campaign start to end)
  • Progress growth (i.e. how you’ll share your progress growth over time through a report — typically, either in the form of a snapshot or a comparison of stats in a given time period).

Learn how to create impactful monthly reports to show ROI on your social media efforts.

As stated, your reports will be unique based on the analytics software or tool you use. However, let’s look at some of the most common social media analytics reports that you may come across or create at some point.

Types of Social Media Analytics Reports

To give you an idea of some of the different types of social media analytics reports available in commonly-used tools, let’s look at HubSpot’s social media analytics reporting options.

1. Audience Analytics Report

The Audience report displays your current number of followers for each of your social accounts compared to the number of followers you had in a previous time period.

2. Published Posts Analytics Report

published posts social media analytics report

The Published Posts report shows the number of social posts published across your social accounts during a specific time period.

3. Interactions Analytics Report

interactions social media analytics report

The Interactions report displays the number of likes, reactions, and comments on all of your posts across multiple platforms.

4. Clicks Analytics Report

clicks social media analytics report

The Clicks report displays how many clicks you get on your social posts published through HubSpot.

5. Shares Analytics Report

shares social media analytics report

The Shares report displays the amount of your posts that were shared by your audience members.

6. Impressions Analytics Report

impressions social media analytics report

The Impressions report shows the number of views that posts on your LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram pages received.

7. Sessions Analytics Report

sessions social media analytics report

The Sessions report displays how many web sessions took place within a given time period on your site that were driven from social media.

8. New Contacts Analytics Report

new contacts social media analytics report

The New Contacts report displays how many new contacts have been created in HubSpot as a result of web sessions driven from social media within the selected time period.

Now you may be wondering what tools are available to help you pull these reports and data — next, we’ll cover some of your options.

Social Media Analytics Tools

There are a plethora of social media analytics tools available today which is why identifying the right one for your business can seem like a daunting task. We’ve compiled the following list of seven of our favorites to help get you started.

Download 10 free social media templates to help you manage and optimize your content to achieve the best results.

1. HubSpot Social Media Software

HubSpot Social Media Software gives you insight into the customer journey through integrated analytics tools. These help you understand which of your marketing tactics are working best among your audience, determine how your marketing efforts are impacting your bottom line, and learn about your search engine optimization (SEO)-related ROI.

Try HubSpot’s social media tools free for 30 days.

In addition to this HubSpot’s Social Media Software, there are a number of resources including social media analytics report templates, free social media analytics tools, and social media courses available for you to implement in your strategy.

Note: HubSpot also integrates with other analytics software, like Oktopost, as well as major social platforms and their respective analytics tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube (among many others, which you can learn about in the HubSpot integrations marketplace).

2. TweetDeck

TweetDeck is an analytics tool used for Twitter. It works in real-time to help you view and analyze your Tweet engagement, organization, management, and tracking on the platform.

3. Tweet Reach

Despite what you may think based on its name, Tweet Reach isn’t just used for Twitter. The analytics tool creates snapshot reports to help you efficiently monitor and pull key takeaways from your Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook profiles based on factors you identify as most important to your business.

4. Buffer

Buffer provides an in-depth look at how you can strategize to grow your brand on social media. The software does this by measuring your performance on various social platforms, creating detailed reports about the data points that matter to you, and recommending ways to improve your reach, engagement, and more.

5. Hootsuite

Hootsuite allows you to create customized social media reports using over 200 metrics over any of your social channels and campaigns. These reports are easily shareable with members of your team as well as your clients to keep everyone on the same page and prove ROI.

6. Sprout Social

Sprout Social provides a look into the needs of your customers through the conversations your customers and followers are having on social. The software also measures your specific content and campaign work across various platforms and channels to determine what’s working best among audience members and what should be improved upon.

(Note: Sprout Social is another social media software that integrates with HubSpot.)

7. Mention

Mention is a tool that allows your company to monitor, listen, and analyze your posts as well as your interactions with and among audience members via different social channels and platforms. The software also makes it easy to create automated reports to share this data with fellow employees or clients.

Next, let’s look at how to apply these tools and resources in your day-to-day work by reviewing the steps involved in tracking social media analytics (also known as your social media analytics strategy).

Work through the following steps to begin tracking your social media analytics and gaining a better understanding of which parts of your processes are working and which need to be modified. Again, you can think of this as your social media analytics strategy.

1. Set SMART social media analytics goals.

Create and set SMART goals to help you achieve your social media analytics goals. By ensuring your goals are SMART, they’ll be Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound — meaning, you’ll be able to focus your strategy to reach or even exceed your expectations efficiently.

To begin, ask yourself, “What do I want to learn from my social media analytics?” Then, dive into each part of the SMART goal. Here’s an example of a SMART goal related to your social media analytics strategy for reference.

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

  • Specific: I want to use social media analytics to identify specific data points related to my marketing tactics to determine which posts and campaigns are working best in reaching and engaging our audience members.
  • Measurable: I want to be able to identify some specific data points to accomplish this goal.
  • Attainable: I will work to identify three specific data points to help accomplish this goal.
  • Relevant: These data points will help my team and I measure our success in reaching and engaging our audience members across social media channels as well as identify any gaps or areas for improvement in our social media strategy.
  • Time-bound: I want to identify these specific data points over the course of the next month — this way, in four week’s time, we can begin using them to measure our success in reaching and engaging audience members across social channels and identify gaps and areas for improvement in our social media strategy.

2. Decide which metrics you’ll and focus on and track.

Now it’s time to decide which social media metrics you’re going to track. There are a number of commonly-tracked social media metrics for your consideration. Metrics may vary by social platform as well as which analytics tool you chose. But, here are some all-encompassing metrics applicable to virtually every social channel and analytics tool to get started.

  • Reach is the total number of people who have seen your content.
  • Engagements are all interactions including shares, likes, and comments.
  • Impressions are the number of times or content is displayed on someone’s feed.
  • Mentions are the times your business and brand are referenced on social media by audience members or other businesses.
  • Social ROI provides insight into whether the investment you’ve put into your social media marketing is resulting in an increase or decrease in customers, sales, brand awareness, and customer loyalty.
  • Social listening is when you monitor conversations about your business and brand on social to see what customers and audience members are saying about you.
  • Likes are when an audience member taps (or double taps) on your social content to show they’re a fan of your post.
  • Retweets/shares/reposts are when audience members post the content your business published on their profiles.

3. Determine which social media analytics tools you’ll use.

Next, determine which social media analytics tools you’ll use — we covered some popular choices above but you can always review other options through a simple Google search.

Before making a decision regarding which tool or tools you’ll use, think about the following questions:

  • Do you want a tool or software to help you manage your social media analytics across multiple channels and platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) or just one (e.g. Twitter)?
  • Which metrics did you decide you’re going to track (as we touched on in the above step)?
  • What is your budget? Do you need a tool with flexible pricing options and features that you can add to or remove from over time? (To find this information, review the pricing pages like this page on Sprout Social’s website.)
  • Which tools and software options are suited to help you achieve the SMART goals you set? (Check out feature pages for this type of information, like this page on Oktopost’s website.)
  • Do you want your tool to integrate with the greater software your team uses to run your business (such as HubSpot’s CRM, for example)?

4. Measure the success of your social media analytics efforts.

Once you implement your social media analytics software, you’ll be able to measure the success of your efforts. To do this, you may use the analytics tool you implemented — depending on your software, you might have the ability to create customized reports and dashboards or pull the specific details about data points you care most about.

In addition to applying your tools to help measure your success, you may also consider your answers to the following questions:

  • Did you achieve your SMART goals?
  • Did the metrics you chose to focus on tell a story that’s helpful for your business?
  • Did the software or tool you implemented support your business needs?

5. Make necessary social media analytics adjustments.

Once you measure the success of your social media analytics efforts, you’ll be able to determine whether or not any part of your strategy needs to be changed or updated.

Maybe you realize one of your data points isn’t providing the level of insight into your marketing efforts across social platforms, so you need to identify a new one to measure. Maybe your software doesn’t allow you to customize cross-channel reports the way you want to, so you need to implement a new tool. Or, if you’re happy with the way your social media analytics reporting and strategy is working, be sure to revisit your strategy in the future to ensure it continues meeting your expectations.

Begin Tracking and Applying Social Media Analytics

By tracking and applying the process of social media analytics to your strategy, you’ll be able to more effectively reach your audience. And when you do this, you’ll see improvements in factors that are directly tied to your ROI like engagement, conversions, loyalty, and more.

Consider which tools and software are best for you and determine how you’ll track your social media analytics to create deeper relationships with your customers and followers.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

The Ultimate Guide to Google Analytics in 2020

Are you confused — even intimidated — by Google Analytics? Good news: you’re not alone. GA is notoriously complicated.

In fact, when I first started to delve into GA’s waters, I wondered if I’d ever truly get it. There were so many concepts to learn and reports to run. How did people ever conquer this thing?!?!

Lots and lots of reading plus some trial and error, it turns out.

I’m not saying I’ve reached total mastery — there’s always something new to pick up — but I’m vastly more comfortable.

And I want you to be, too. So, here’s the cheat sheet to everything I’ve learned over the years. This guide might be long, but it’ll take you from zero to hero in ~6,000 words. And if you still have questions, let me know! I’m @ajavuu on Twitter.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics, or GA, is an analytics tool that gives you an extremely in-depth look at your website and/or app performance. It integrates with Google’s marketing and advertising platforms and products (including Google Ads, Search Console, and Data Studio) making it a popular choice for anyone using multiple Google tools.

What other types of people is GA popular among?

Other marketing analytics options, such as HubSpot, can give you all the data you need with much less work. Oh, and here’s another aspect of GA you’ll want to take into consideration:

Is Google Analytics free?

There’s a free and a paid version of GA (the latter is called Analytics 360). Small and medium-sized businesses will likely get all the features you need from the free version. Enterprise businesses need to upgrade if you want:

  • Advanced funnel reporting and attribution modeling
  • Roll-up reporting
  • More views, dimensions, and metrics per property
  • Unlimited and unsampled data

Paying for 360 also gives you access to dedicated support, including your own account manager. This alone can make the subscription fee worth it.

And about that subscription fee? It’s not cheap. Analytics 360 begins at $150,000 per year (invoiced monthly) and increases after your site receives more than one billion monthly hits.

360’s cost will price out many businesses. However, if you have the budget for both the service and an agency or in-house analyst to manage your analytics operations, consider investing.

Now, what steps will you need to follow when setting up GA? Good question.

How to Set Up Google Analytics

Before you start using Google Analytics, you’ll have to set up a Google account. This means you must have a registered Google Account email address and password.

Once you’ve created a Google account, that doesn’t mean you automatically have access to GA — rather, you have to register for Analytics (which we’ll review how to do in the next section). But the important thing to note as you go to set up GA is that you can only access the tool by using a valid Google account.

Additionally, to set up GA properly, you’ll want to understand the various layers of the tool — specifically, the hierarchy.

Google Analytics Hierarchy

Here’s a look at the GA hierarchy:

Let’s dive into each of the sections within the hierarchy.

1. Organization

The organization is the highest level. It represents a company. For example, our organization is HubSpot, Inc. One organization can encompass multiple GA accounts.

Organizations are recommended for larger businesses, but not mandatory.


Accounts are not optional. Using Google Analytics requires at least one (sometimes several) accounts.

An account doesn’t mean a user account. I can log into the HubSpot Google Analytics accounts using my Google email ID. HubSpot’s head of technical SEO can also log into the same account using his Google email ID. Our historical optimization specialist can also log into the same account using his Google email ID.

Important details:

  • You can assign one property to each account or multiple properties to one account. Every account can hold up to 50 properties.
  • You can give user permissions for an entire Analytics account, a property in an account, or a view in a property.

You might be wondering, “What’s better: creating a new account for every property or adding every account to the same property?”

It depends on your use case and goals.

For example, suppose you have one website — the Stark Industries corporate site — and five subdirectories, including the Stark Industries blog, careers section, media resources, case studies, and investor relations information.

You want to create separate properties for each subdirectory so the people on each team can look at how their portion of the site is performing, as well as the larger site.

But maybe you have another site that discusses Tony Stark’s work with S.H.I.E.L.D. You want the S.H.I.E.L.D. team to see data for this subdirectory, but you don’t want them to see data for the rest of the website. You create a new account and property for the S.H.I.E.L.D. site.


A property is a website or app. Each property can support up to 25 views.


At the minimum, you need two views per property:

  • One with zero configuration — essentially the “raw” version of the view
  • One with filters set up to exclude any traffic from within your company (i.e. a filter for your IP address) as well as bots and spam traffic

A view only captures the information after your filters and configured settings have been applied. And once you delete a view, that data is gone forever. For those reasons, it’s critical to keep an unfiltered view of your data.

Now that you have completed the basis for how how to set up GA, here are the steps involved in using the tool.

Here are the steps involved in using your GA account.

1. Create a Google Analytics account.

First, you’ll have to create a Google Analytics account. Or, sign in to your current account.

2. Add the name, URL, and industry of the website you want to track.

Choose which account you want to add the property to. You should create and name your Property at this point and enter the website’s URL as well as industry and reporting time zone. Then you’ll be able to Create and Finish this step of the process.

3. Add a view to your property.

Go to the account and property you want to add a view to — use the menu to Create a View, name your view, select the type of view (web or app), and answer a few other questions. Remember, you can add up to 25 views to a property in GA.

4. Add your tracking code directly after the <head> tag of your site.

When you create a property, you’ll have access to a unique ID for tracking and a global site tag (code you need to add to each site page you want to measure). This is how you’ll be able to collect data in your property.

Then, paste your global site tag right after the opening <head> tag on each site page you plan on measuring.

You’ll be asked to choose your type of site (static, dynamic, web hosting, Google Tag Manager) so that you can set up the data collection accurately.

(For more, read our guide to installing the Google Analytics tracking code on your site.)

5. Visit your GA portal and verify the code is working.

Lastly, verify your code is working. You can do this by looking at the Real-Time reports section while clicking around on your site in a different tab or on your phone. The report should show at least one visitor to the site (that’s you!)

And that’s pretty much it! After that review, you may be wondering the following:

Do you need to add the GA code to every page of your site?

That’s a lot of manual work — especially if your website has more than 50 pages. Plus, what happens when you create new pages? Do you need to add the tag every time?!

Relax, because the short answer is: no.

The longer answer: you only need to add the tag to every page template. So, if you have one page type on your site (meaning every individual page uses the same header module), you only need to add it to that module — and it’ll be applied to every page.

If you have two page types, you’d need to paste the code into the two separate header modules. Three page types? Three header modules.

And if you use a CMS like HubSpot, this task is even easier. These tools come with a separate field where you paste your tracking code just once. HubSpot users can follow these simple instructions for adding GA.

Additionally, to use GA successfully, you need to understand dimensions versus metrics.

Google Analytics Dimensions and Metrics

I’ve found the easiest way to think about it is:

  • Dimensions = categorical variables. Simple examples include names, colors, and places.
  • Metrics = quantitative variables. Basic examples include age, temperature, and population.

Or as my Data Analytics professor put it, “Metrics are what you can do math on.” Not the most eloquent phrasing, but it works.

Dimension Examples
  1. Browser
  2. Location
  3. Landing page
  4. Device
  5. Customer type
Metric Examples
  1. Sessions
  2. Pageviews
  3. Conversions
  4. Bounce rate
  5. Session duration

In any GA report, your dimensions are your rows and your metrics are your columns.

google analytics metrics

Custom Dimensions and Metrics

GA lets you create custom dimensions and metrics from Analytics data plus non-Analytics data. To give you an idea, suppose you track the membership type of customers who have created an account in your CRM. You could combine this information with page views to see page views by member type.

Or maybe you run a blog. If you want to understand how audience engagement impacts other metrics (like conversions, pages per session, etc.), you could create three custom dimensions for each type of reader:

  1. Advocate: user who shared one-plus posts on social media
  2. Subscriber: user who signed up for your email list
  3. Customer: user who purchased premium access

Using these dimensions will give you invaluable information.

What’s a Google Analytics audience?

An audience is a group of users that have something in common. That commonality could be anything: maybe you’re targeting consumers in Australia, so you have an “Australian audience,” or you want to sell to millennials, so you have a “25-34 audience.”

GA comes with several built-in audiences (including the two I just mentioned, location and age). You don’t need to do a thing to set these up — once you have the tracking code installed, GA will automatically break down your visitor data into these audience reports.

However, you can also create custom audiences. Perhaps you’re only interested in “Australian millennials”; you’d need to make a custom audience that only includes visitors who are A) in Australia and B) between the ages of 25 and 34.

Creating an audience is fairly easy. Honestly, the hardest part is figuring out what you’re trying to accomplish and then identifying the user characteristics that’ll help you do that.

Once you’ve done that, follow these instructions to create a new audience segment. From there you can import a segment to use as the basis for your Audience Report.

That brings us to the next question:

What’s a Google Analytics segment?

A segment is a subset of your data. I like to picture an entire pizza made up of all different slices — one slice has pesto and mozzarella, another has sausages and spicy peppers, another has ham and pineapple, and so on. Metaphorically speaking, each slice is a segment.

You can create segments based on:

  • Users (e.g. users who have bought something on your site before, users who have signed up for a consultation, etc.)
  • Sessions (e.g. all sessions that were generated from a specific marketing campaign, all sessions where a pricing page was viewed)
  • Hits (e.g. all hits where the purchase exceeded $85, all hits where a specific product was added to the cart)

Like audiences, GA provides you with several segments. I wouldn’t stop there: you can get incredibly granular with your segments.

To give you some inspiration, here are a few of HubSpot’s segments:

  • Users who viewed a specific product page and watched the demo video
  • Users who viewed the same product page and didn’t watch the demo video
  • Users who view a specific Academy course page
  • Users who view a specific Academy lesson page
  • Users who view a blog post and a product page

The sky is your limit — well, that, and GA’s segment cap.

Alright, now let’s look at GA Reports. Remember, you can apply up to four segments at a time to any report.

Google Analytics Reports

GA’s left-hand sidebar can be a bit overwhelming. You’ve got six reporting options (all with confusing, vague names), and clicking on any of those only gives you more options.

Let’s walk through each report together.

google analytics reports

Google Analytics Real-Time Report

As the name suggests, the Real-Time report gives you insight into what’s happening on your site at this very moment. You can see how many visitors are on your site, which pages they’re visiting, which social platforms they’re coming from, where they’re located, and more.

While this report is fun to look at occasionally, it’s probably the least valuable. Here are some ways to use Real-Time:

  • See how much traffic you’re getting from a new social or blog post
  • Know immediately if a one-day sale or event is driving views and/or conversions
  • Make sure tracking URLs and custom events that you’ve just set up are working as they should

These are useful, but as you’ll see, the other reports pack a far greater punch.

Google Analytics Audience Report

The GA Audience report gives you a high-level overview for the property you’re currently looking at. Check this report once a day to get a sense of how you’re trending overall.

Underneath “Overview,” you’ll see “Audiences,” as well as expandable menus for “Demographics,” “Interests,” “Geo,” “Behavior,” “Technology,” “Mobile,” “Cross-Device,” “Custom,” and “Benchmarking.”

google analytics audience report

Explore each of these sections to get a sense of what they can tell you about your visitors.

Every section describes an audience.

Active Users

Whoever named this report belongs in the same group as the person who named guinea pigs: “active users” doesn’t refer to users currently on your site — that’s the Real-Time report — and guinea pigs are neither pigs nor from Guinea.

The Active Users report shows you the number of users who visited in the last day (1-day active users), week (7-day active users), two weeks (14-day active users), and four weeks (28-day active users.)

google analytics active users report

What’s the value of this report, you ask?

If you have more one-day users than longer-term ones, you’re struggling with retention. People aren’t coming back to your site or app — you need to figure out why.

I’d also recommend looking at this report with various segments; for instance, perhaps you see that users in a certain age bracket have much better retention than the average.

Lifetime Value

First things first: do you need a refresher on Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and how to calculate it? We’ve got you.

The Lifetime Value report gives you a sense of how valuable users are to your company. You can see lifetime value for, say, the users you generated from email marketing versus the ones you acquired from organic search. Armed with this information, you can decide which channel to invest more in.

A few notes: Lifetime Value is capped at 90 days. The Acquisition date range, however — which you can adjust — reflects all the users you acquired in that time frame.

Imagine you’re interested in looking at transactions per user for users you acquired in the week before Black Friday. You’d adjust the date range to that week specifically. Then you’d see the average transactions per user for that cohort over the following 90 days.

Because HubSpot is a SaaS company, not an ecommerce business, I look at goal completions per user, page views per user, and sessions per user by Acquisition Channel.

If my team has recently wrapped up a marketing campaign, I’ll look at the same metrics by Acquisition Campaign.

But if you are in ecommerce and want to see transaction and revenue data, you’ll need to have ecommerce tracking set up.

(By the way, here’s how to track revenue in HubSpot.)

Cohort Analysis

Some people have gone so far as to call Cohort Analysis “the single most powerful report in GA.”

So, how does it work? This report groups users by one characteristic — so far, “Acquisition Date” is the only “Cohort Type” you can use. By the way, Acquisition Date is the day a user first visited your website.

You have several options from there.

  1. First, pick your cohort size: day, week, or month.
  2. Next, pick your metric, or what you want to explore for this cohort. It can be further broken down into Per user, Retention, and Total.
    • Per user means the total count of that metric divided by the cohort size. So if you choose Transactions per user, for example, you’ll see the average number of transactions per user for that cohort.
    • Retention is simple: user retention, or the number of users who returned that day, week or month (determined by the cohort size you selected) divided by the total number of users in that cohort.
    • Total: the total number of sessions, transactions, etc. that occurred for that cohort size.
  3. Choose your date range. GA lets you see up to three months of data.

Now let’s dive into reading the report, because it’s not obvious.

google analytics cohort report

The left-hand column shows you the Cohort Type you picked — Acquisition date, by default — broken down by Cohort Size (day, week, or month).

The first row shows you the totals for all the users in that cohort. Each row underneath that represents the activity in that day, week, or month (in this example, we’re looking at month.)

The row outlined in light blue reflects the Cohort Size you’ve chosen. Remember that data only goes back three months at the max.

The row outlined in yellow shows you the values for the metric you chose (in this case, Goal Completions per User). In the eternal words of Calvin Harris: baby, this what you came for.

Look at the first row. This tells you the average goal completions for the entire cohort in the first month after they were acquired was 1.09. Average goal completions for the entire cohort in the second month after they acquired dropped to 0.09. By the last month, it’s 0.02.

Now look at the next three rows. It looks like average goal completions per user in the first month after they were acquired increased slightly from December to January and again from January to February.

This is pretty usual behavior. Let’s imagine that instead, this report tells us average goal completions per user for February 1-28, 2019 (the last row) was 4.07. Woah! That’s nearly four times as high as December and January.

We’d definitely want to investigate further. And to do so, all we have to do is right-click on the cohort we’re interested in.

Make sure you click on the column if you want the entire day, week, or month analyzed. Click on a cell if you want to analyze only the users who, for example, completed a goal three days after they were acquired on February 27, 2019.

google analytics cohort report

When you right-click, this box will pop up:

google analytics cohort segment

Give this cohort a descriptive name. Change the views to “Any View” if you want to use this segment across your entire property (which I usually recommend), then click “Create.”

Voila — now you can compare this cohort to any other segment in any report you choose.

Google Analytics Acquisition Reports

The Acquisition report breaks down your traffic by source: organic, direct, referral, email, social, paid search, display, affiliate, and (Other). (GA uses the (Other) category when it doesn’t know how to categorize a subset of traffic.)

google analytics acquisition report

From All Traffic, you can click into Channels.

google analytics acquisition by channel

Click on any category to explore each source in detail.

Depending on the category, you’ll see landing pages (which URLs your visitors entered the site on), source (which website brought them to yours), or keyword (which query took them to your site.)

google analytics acquisition report

To see this information presented visually, click on All Traffic > Treemaps. This post walks you through how to read and adjust the Treemaps report.

The next report, Source/Medium, breaks down the general category of traffic (which you saw in “Channels”) into the search engine or domain.

It’s useful if you want to get more granular insight into the ways people are coming to your site. For example, you might notice that a whopping 70% of your referral traffic is coming from LinkedIn, while just 5% is coming from Pinterest. Depending on your marketing team’s priorities it may be time to shift focus.

The last report, Referrals, reveals the specific URLs that sent people to your site, e.g. your referral traffic.

google analytics acquisition by landing page

I like to add “Landing page” as a secondary dimension so you can see which pages on your site are receiving the referral traffic.

Google Analytics Behavior Reports

Out of all the reports in GA, I use the Behavior ones the most.

Site Content

This report gives you a review all of the blog posts, landing pages, web pages on your site.

All Pages

Let’s start with Site Content > All Pages. This shows the top-trafficked pages for your current view and/or segment. It’s useful in and of itself — you should always keep a careful eye on your most viewed URLs — but I especially like it when I’m analyzing traffic growth or declines.

To give you an idea, maybe total traffic to my website has dropped 10% month over month. I’d navigate to Site Content > All Pages and change the date range to this month compared to the last month (making sure the days of the week match up).

google analytics site content

Then I can see the differences in page views by URL:

google analytics page views

This helps me identify which pages received less traffic and contributed to that decline.

Helpful tip: I like to change the “Sort Type” from “Default” to “Absolute Change” so I see the results sorted by the greatest differences in percentage rather than total views.

google analytics

I also add Page Title as a secondary dimension so I can see the name of each page alongside its URL.

Content Drilldown

This report breaks down the structure of your site by subdomain and then subfolder. To give you an idea, for HubSpot we can see data for each of our subdomains, including:


And so on. If I clicked into, I could then see aggregated data for:


You get the drift. This report is probably most valuable for those managing highly complex properties.

Landing Pages

Landing pages is another one of my favorite reports. GA defines a landing page as the first page in a session — in other words, the visitor’s first interaction with your website.

There are a few ways to slice and dice this report.

First, if you’re interested in the sources (organic, paid social, direct, etc.) driving users to the landing page, you can add Source/Medium as a secondary dimension.

This is basically the opposite version of the report we added earlier.

Second, if you only want to see which landing pages users visited from a specific source, on a specific platform, or within a specific category, you can add the appropriate system segment:

google analytics landing pages

Maybe you’re most interested in the landing pages that mobile and tablet users see — so you choose the Mobile and Tablet Traffic.

Or perhaps you’re curious about users who ended up buying something, so you choose the “Made a Purchase” segment. There are lots of possibilities here.

Exit Pages

This report shows the last pages users visited in their sessions before they left your site.

That’s a little confusing, so let’s use an example.

I want to find a place to grab dinner with my friends so I search, “Mediterranean restaurants near me.” A place that looks good pops up, so I click on it. First, I check out the menu. They have a hummus sampler — yum. Then I click on their press page. It links to a recent article on Eater, so I leave the site to read it. The reviewer loved the food. I’m sold.

The Press page would be my exit page.

You may hear that you should analyze your exit pages to understand why users are leaving your site — I think this example reveals why that strategy doesn’t always make sense. Just because someone has left doesn’t mean anything is wrong with the content.

Check this report out but take the data with a grain of salt.

Site Speed

This report is pretty self-explanatory: it tells you how quickly your site is loading for users. Obviously, the faster the better — not only do faster pages correlate with higher revenue, but Google’s algorithm takes page load time into account.

google analytics site speed

Site Speed Page Timings

This report delves into the average page load times for each URL. I use it to identify the slowest-loading pages on HubSpot’s site with the ultimate goal of figuring out why they’re taking their sweet, sweet time and how to speed them up.

google analytics site speed

The default metrics are page views and average page load time, but I also recommend looking at:

  • Avg. page load time and bounce rate
    • Change the Sort Type to “Weighted” so you see the blog posts with the highest page views first
  • Avg. page load time and page value

Site Search

First things first: if users can search your website, make sure you’ve set up Site Search in GA. You must enable it for every view separately (here are the step-by-step instructions).


I typically start with the “Usage” report, which tells me how many sessions occurred with and without one-plus searches. In other words, I learn how frequently people used site search for the view and time period I specified.

Search Terms

Here’s where you learn what people are searching for. Look for themes: if you see the same search terms coming up multiple times, there are a few conclusions you could draw.

Either you need to create new content that gives users the information they’re looking for, and/or you need to better surface existing content so it’s easier to find.

Pay attention to the “% Search Exits” column, as this tells you how many users clicked away from the search results page rather than choosing a result. You can usually infer there wasn’t a good answer for their question (or it wasn’t appropriately titled.)

google analytics search terms

Search Pages

This report displays which pages users are starting searches from. It’s important to think about this contextually. Maybe people are commonly beginning searches from your 404 page — that makes sense and isn’t anything to be alarmed about.

If, on the other hand, they’re starting searches from a product landing page, something’s wrong. The content clearly isn’t living up to the expectations they had when they clicked the ad link.

Loves Data provides a solid overview of GA’s Site Search reports if you want to explore them even further.


A user clicks a button. Then they download a file. Next they watch a video.

No, this isn’t the world’s most boring bedtime story — it’s an example of a GA event. Three events, to be specific.

GA defines events as, “user interactions with content that can be measured independently from a web page or a screen load.”

Those user interactions are up to you; you’ll need to add special code to your site or app that tracks the specific actions you’re interested in. Here are the instructions.

If you’re not excited about events tracking already, I want you to get excited. There are infinite possibilities here: if you have an event set up for watching a product demo, and another for clicking a link to an external review of your tool, you can measure how many times each event happened.

Maybe you discover your video isn’t getting many plays. It’s probably time to optimize the current video, make it easier to find on your site, or create a new one. Or perhaps you see that way more users than you expected are checking out the third-party review of your product.

That tells you users want more social proof and testimonials. Since the review is favorable, you might want to put it front and center on your site.

Top Events

This report tracks the events taking place most frequently — pretty straightforward. You’ll see total events (e.g. how many times that event happened) and unique events (how many sessions included one or more occurrences of that event).

If you’ve set values for your events, this report also shows you how the total value of each event and its average value (or the total value divided by the frequency.)


In this report, you can see which pages generate the most actions. I typically add “Event Category” as the secondary dimension, then filter for the event I’m most interested in.

To give you an idea, my team tracks “Blog CTA.” This event fires whenever a user clicks a CTA embedded in a blog post. To get to the report below, I added “Event Category” as the second dimension, then filtered for “Page begins with” (so I’d only see URLs on the blog) and “Event Category equals Blog CTA.”

Now I can see which posts generate the most CTA clicks. Hopefully you’re starting to see the power of event tracking!

google analytics page

Events Flow

The Events Flow report tracks the order in which events take place on your site. It can tell you:

A) Whether particular events tend to happen first — and if they trigger other events

To give you an idea, maybe users frequently watch your demo video, then click the CTA to schedule a call with a salesperson.

B) Whether certain event categories are more common than others

Imagine you see that videos are played far more often than PDFs are downloaded.

C) Whether users act differently based on segment

For example, perhaps people coming in via organic scroll to the bottom of your pricing page far more than people coming in via social media.

Note: This report is very subject to sampling. (Read more about GA’s data sampling practices here.) Sampled data is usually pretty accurate, but it means the more important the conclusion you’re drawing, the less uncertainty you’ll be able to tolerate.

To reduce the level of sampling, make the date range smaller.


If you monetize your website with Google AdSense or Ad Exchange, you can use the Ad Manager and Google Analytics integration to bring information on how your ad units are performing into GA.

I won’t go into any more detail here, but I recommend reading the following resources if you want to know more:

Google Analytics Conversion Reports

If you have a website, you have an objective — probably several — for the people who visit your site.

Ecommerce store owners want their visitors to subscribe to their mailing list, make a user account, add something to their cart, and/or complete the order confirmation process.

Media companies want their visitors to stay on their site for as long as possible and/or view a certain number of pages (all the better to maximize their ad revenue.)

B2B businesses want their visitors to download an ebook, sign up for a webinar, or book a call with a sales rep.

Google Analytics makes it possible to measure all of these things — plus many more.

A goal is essentially a conversion that you’ve defined (which is why this info shows up under the Conversion section.)

There are four main types of goals:

  • Destination: This goal is completed when a user reaches a specific page, like a product page, order confirmation page, or thank you page
  • Event: This goal is completed when a predefined event fires (like the Events you can set up as, well, Events — think watching a video or sharing something to social media)
  • Duration: This goal is completed when a user’s session lasts longer than a pre-set time
  • Pages/screens per session: This goal is completed when a user views a specific number of pages (or screens for an app) per session

The first two are insanely useful. The last two are pretty useless. (If you have an interesting use case for Duration or Pages/screens per session, let me know on Twitter @ajavuu. I’d love to be proven wrong.)

Once you’ve identified your goals, take a look at these instructions for creating, editing, and sharing them. This guide on choosing goal values is also quite helpful.


Head here to learn how you’re doing goal-wise across the board. I get the most from this report when I compare date ranges and/or look at goal completions by segment.

For example, quickly looking at goal completions by device reveals mobile visitors sign up for the blog newsletter much less frequently than desktop and tablet visitors. That could be because it’s hard to sign up for the newsletter on a phone — or it could be mobile users are looking for one thing and ending their session as soon as they’ve found it. I should dig in more to decide which case it is.

Goal URLs

Knowing a goal was completed isn’t helpful in and of itself; you also need to know where it happened. Suppose you’ve embedded the same form in three separate pages on your site.

It’s great that Daenerys Stark from Dragonstone, Blackwater Bay just filled out your form to get in touch with a consultant, but which page did she fill it out on?

The Goal URLs report shows you. It breaks down conversions by “Goal Completion URL” (read: where it went down.)

google analytics goals

Reverse Goal Path

Reverse Goal Path is the unsung hero of the Conversion section. Well, I’m singing its praises now. This report allows you to see the last three pages a user visited before completing the goal.

It’s useful for goals that aren’t sequential. Maybe you have a contact form that appears in multiple places on your site, or there are two different paths that lead users into buying your ebook. Thanks to this report, you can understand the various ways people arrive at the end destination — and there’s no need to set up a funnel.

I usually filter down to a specific goal completion location or goal previous step 1, 2, or 3.

For example, since I’m interested in seeing which blog posts generated leads from content downloads, I added “Goal Previous Step – 1 containing” to the filter.

google analytics reverse goal path

Here’s what I got:

google analytics reverse goal path

“(Entrance)” means the user came to the site on that step; “(not set)” means the user didn’t complete any steps prior to that one — because they weren’t on the website yet.

For a comprehensive exploration of Reverse Goal Path, take a look at OnlineMetrics’s guide.

Funnel Visualization

For sequential goals, Funnel Visualization is your go-to report.

Going back to the ecommerce example, the last goal would be “Arrived at the order confirmation page.” The goal before that, or goal #3, would be “Clicked checkout.” The goal before that, goal #2, would be “Added something to cart.” And the goal before that, goal #1, would be “Looked at product listing page.”

At each stage, you can see user drop-off. That lets you identify areas where you can improve conversion rates; for example, maybe you lose a lot of users during the checkout process. You change the flow so they can check out as a guest (versus needing to create an account), which dramatically reduces checkout abandonment.

To see this level of detail, you’ll need to map out your goals as a series. If all of your goals are simply the end objective, like “Arrived at the order confirmation page,” you won’t be able to reverse-engineer how users progress.

The Funnel Visualization report also requires you to mark the first step in the goal path as required or not. If you tell GA that yes, the first goal needs to be completed, Funnel Visualization will only show you the sessions where the user first finished goal #1. If a user skips goal #1 and goes straight to goal #2, their session won’t be represented here.

Goal Flow

If Funnel Visualization is the uptight relative who always made you take your elbows off the table and wash your hands before you ate, Goal Flow is the laid-back, fun relative who’d randomly take you out of school to go to the zoo.

All that to say: Goal Flow gives you a lot more freedom than Funnel Visualization. Unlike the latter, Goal Flow shows you all sessions that led to the completed end goal — regardless of whether the user completed the required goal #1 or not.

Another difference from Funnel Visualization: Goal Flow also shows you loopbacks — i.e. when a user goes back to a previous page or refreshes their current one.

If the user skips a step, Funnel Visualization “backfils” it. Goal Flow doesn’t.

If you edit an existing funnel or create a new one, Funnel Visualization will show you all your data from that moment onward. Goal Flow, on the other hand, can show you data from the past.

You can also toggle the Dimension and Level of detail of the report, as well as the segment, to get even more granular.

I recommend looking at various segments to see which convert at the highest and lowest rates — plus where they commonly drop out.

google analytics goal flow

Note: This report is subject to sampling. (Read more about GA’s data sampling practices here.) Sampled data is usually pretty accurate, but it means the more important the conclusion you’re drawing, the less uncertainty you’ll be able to tolerate.

To reduce the level of sampling, make the date range smaller.

Smart Goals

This report is helpful if you’re A) using Google Ads and B) not measuring conversions. Basically, Google uses machine learning to identify your “best” sessions — or those likeliest to generate conversions — and then translates those themes into Smart Goals.

Once you have Smart Goals, you can use them in Google Ads to optimize your ads performance.

Smart Goals are controversial within the marketing community because the data is minimal and businesses will be far better served by setting up their own conversion tracking. Keep that in mind if you decide to use them.

Now You’re Ready to Track

Google Analytics is a highly valuable tool for any business as it gives you tangible data that you can apply to grow your business. Bookmark this guide and come back to it as your data tracking becomes more sophisticated.

Good luck on your Google Analytics journey.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August, 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

The Ultimate Guide to PPC

Marketers, can we be honest with each other for a second? On a scale of 1-10, how much do you really understand the world of paid advertising?

Despite the fact that 45% of small businesses use paid ads, pay-per-click is still a concept that eludes many of us. But if half of small businesses are using it, we just can’t afford to ignore this channel, no matter how perplexing.

As a marketer, PPC is a skill that you should have in your tool belt — or at least have a basic understanding of.

This guide will help you grasp pay-per-click marketing in its entirety. To start, we’ll begin with the benefits of paid advertising and then get into some key definitions that you’ll need to know.

When done right, PPC can earn you quality leads. If you can create a seamless user journey (which you’ll learn how to do later in this piece), it could mean a huge ROI for your PPC efforts.

Pay-per-click advertising is most common in search engine results pages (SERPs), like Google or Bing, but is also used on social channels (although CPM is more common). If you’re wondering where you can find pay-per-click ads, they’re the results you see before and to the right of the organic search results. For instance, check out the ad that came up in my search for “cards”.

Benefits of PPC

So, why would you pay for ads when you can reach your audience organically through great content and strategically-placed keywords (otherwise known as SEO)?

The answer is: keywords have become increasingly competitive. This makes it more difficult for a business that doesn’t have the domain authority to get them into the top rankings on a search engine or in front of their target audience on a social platform. In fact, so many businesses are using ads that organic results often don’t even start until you’re further down the page.

That doesn’t mean you should ditch all SEO efforts completely — your paid advertising should complement your SEO strategy as opposed to replace it.

“When people search for your keywords, you know their search intent and can display the most relevant ad to your audience. This means more clicks and a greater chance of conversion.” – Laura Mittelmann, Paid Acquisition at HubSpot

Paid advertising will help you rise to the top in a competitive market and be seen by potential customers who may not know that you exist. It can help you promote your next marketing initiative, improve brand awareness, or rank for difficult keyword terms. In other words, PPC is your shortcut to getting to the top within your niche. And, if done responsibly, PPC can be integral to your inbound marketing strategy.

PPC-Related Terms You Should Know

What’s a marketing channel without a few acronyms and a little jargon? If you’re going to enter the paid advertising space, there are a few terms you should know. Below, we review the main elements of a PPC campaign, ranging from broad to the more specific.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

The objective of all forms of digital advertising is to rank for a target keyword, and that can be done in a number of ways. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) refers to any digital marketing (paid or unpaid) done on a search engine, like Google, Yahoo, or Bing. SEM is an umbrella term that encompasses both paid advertising and search engine optimization, that is, ranking organically for keywords. It’s important to note that not all PPC occurs on search engines — social media has PPC ads, too (think: Facebook Ads).


Cost-per-click (CPC) is the amount that an advertiser pays for each click on your ad. CPC acts as your bid in an auction that determines where your ad will be placed. As you can imagine, a higher bid equates to better ad placement. You set your CPC at the maximum price you are willing to pay per click on your ad. What you actually pay is determined by the following formula: (Competitor’s Ad Rank / Your Quality Score) + 0.01 = Actual CPC. Let’s go over the terms in this equation so you know what you’re paying for:

Ad Rank

This value determines the position of an ad on a search engine results page. It’s equal to Maximum Bid x Quality Score.

Quality Score

This is the score that search engines give to your ad based on your clickthrough rate (CTR) — measured against the average CTR of ads in that position — the relevance of your keywords, the quality of your landing page, and your past performance on the SERP.

Maximum Bid

This is the maximum you’re willing to pay per click on you ad.

Here’s an image by WordStream that illustrates what I mean:

maximum ad bid example


You can set your CPC to manual, where you determine the maximum bid for your ads, or enhanced, which allows the search engines to adjust your bid based on your goals. One of these enhanced options involves bid strategies that automatically adjust your bids based on either clicks or conversions.

CPM (Cost per Mille)

CPM, also known as cost per thousand, is the cost per one thousand impressions. It’s most commonly used for paid social and display ads. There are other types of cost-pers… like cost-per-engagement, cost-per-acquisition (CPA), but for the sake of preserving your mental space, we’re going to stick with clicks, a.k.a. CPC.


The first step in setting up your PPC ads is determining your ad campaign. You can think of your campaign as the key message, or theme, you want to get across with your advertisements.

Ad Group

One size doesn’t fit all. That’s why you’ll create a series of ads within your campaign based on a set of highly related keywords. You can set a CPC for each ad group that you create.


Each ad within your ad group will target a set of relevant keywords or key terms. These keywords tell search engines which terms or search queries you want your ad to be displayed alongside in SERPs. Once you determine which keywords perform best, you can set a micro CPC just for keywords within your ads.

Ad Text

Your keywords should inform your ad text. Remember, your Quality Score is determined by how relevant your ad is, therefore, the text in your ad (and landing page for that matter) should match the keyword terms that you’re targeting.

Landing Page

A landing page is a critical piece of your paid advertising strategy. The landing page is where users will end up once they click your PPC ad. Whether it’s a dedicated webpage, your homepage, or somewhere else, make sure to follow landing page best practices to maximize conversions.

Best PPC Platforms

Now that you understand the PPC basics, I’m guessing your next question is: Where should I advertise?

There are dozens of online spaces where you can spend your coveted ad money, and the best way to vet them is by taking a close look at your potential ROI on each platform.

The most popular advertising platforms are effective because they’re easy to use, and, most importantly, highly trafficked. But for a smaller budget, you might consider a lesser-known alternative to these key players. Some additional things to consider when choosing a platform are the availability of keyword terms, where your target audience spends their time, and your advertising budget.

Here a non-exhaustive list of some of the top PPC platforms.

Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords)

cleaning supplies google ads ppc example

How many times a day do you hear the phrase “Let me Google that”? Probably more than you can count … hence why Google Ads is the king of paid advertising. On average, Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second, giving you plenty of opportunities to target keywords that will get your intended audience to click. The downside is that keywords are highly competitive on this platform, meaning a greater ad spend.

If you’re planning to use this popular platform, start with our free Google Ads PPC Kit.

Bing Ads

great coffee at home bing ppc ad example

The perks of using Bing Ads over Google Ads is a slightly lower CPC at the expense of a larger audience, of course.

Facebook Ads

example of ppc ads on facebookFacebook Ads blend in with other posts on the platform.

Facebook Ads is a popular and effective platform for paid ads (more commonly used as CPM than CPC), mainly due to its specific targeting options. Facebook allows you to target users based on interests, demographics, location, and behaviors. Also, Facebook allows for native ads, which means ads are introduced and blend into the social feed. Not to mention, you can use Facebook Ads to advertise on Instagram as well.


example of ad rollChipotle retargeting me as I search for dessert recipes.

AdRoll is a retargeting platform that advertises to people who have already visited your website. For instance, say someone read your article on cheese making. You can retarget them on other sites that they visit with display ads that advertise your online cooking classes. While retargeting is possible with Google Ads, the benefit of using AdRoll is that it can display ads on Google and social media sites, which gives you more opportunities to capture clicks or impressions, depending on your goal.


RevContent focuses specifically on promoting content through PPC. It has the same impact as a guest post, where your content is displayed on an external site, except it’s in the form of an ad. You still bid on keywords and your advertisement is displayed next to content that is relevant to those keywords. With this platform, you’ll reap the benefits of a low CPC and highly engaged traffic.

How to Get Started with PPC Advertising

Now that you understand the benefits of PPC, have your key terms, and know what platforms you can advertise on, let’s dive into crafting a quality PPC campaign. You don’t need to tackle these items step-by-step, but you will need to work through each of them to ensure that you create an effective campaign.

Set Parameters

I know I wrote that you don’t need to do these things in order, but you should do this step first. Without parameters, you risk your ad being untargeted and ineffective. You want to put your ad campaigns into the context of your ultimate business goals. Consider how your paid campaigns will contribute to those goals. Then, think about what you want to accomplish with your ads — whether that be visits, sales, brand awareness, or something else — and how much you’re willing to spend to accomplish that goal.

Your ads should encompass a few things:

  • Who you want to target
  • Theme of your campaign
  • How you will measure success
  • Type of campaign you will run

Create Your Goals and Goal Metrics

Your campaign goals will give you something to show for your ad spend as long as you determine how you will measure those goals. Your goal metrics should not be confused with your campaign metrics, which we’ll discuss below.

Let’s touch on some common PPC goals and how to measure them.

Brand awareness is how familiar your target audience is with your company. It might be a good idea to look into display ads for this goal so you can supplement your copy with engaging imagery. You can measure brand awareness through social engagement, surveys, and direct traffic.

Lead generation is the direct result of having a relevant and engaging landing page to follow your paid ad. Since you will create a separate landing page for each ad group, you should be able to easily track lead conversions either in the Google Ads interface via a tracking pixel, or through UTM parameters, if you’re using a tool like HubSpot.

Offer promotion is great if you’re running a limited time offer, product or service discount, or contest. You should create a dedicated sign-up page or a unique discount code so you know which users came from your ad.

Sales can be measured by how much of your product or service is sold based on your paid ads. You should be able to track this through a quality CMS software or with attribution reporting.

Site traffic is a great goal if you have high-quality content throughout your website. If you’re going to spend money getting people to visit your site, you want to have some level of confidence that you can keep them there and eventually convert them into leads.

Choose Your Campaign Type

You don’t only need to know where you’ll advertise but also how. There are many different types of paid advertising campaigns, and the one that you choose depends on where you can reach your audience. That isn’t to say that you can’t advertise through various means; you can also try a combination of campaign types as long as you’re consistently testing and revising.

Search Ads are the most common type of PPC and refer to the text ads that show up on search engine results pages.

Display Ads allow you to place ads (usually image-based) on external websites, including social. There are several ways to buy display ads, including Google Display Network (GDN) and other ad networks.

Learn how to integrate Display Ads into your inbound marketing plan.

Social refers to any ads that you see on social media, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. You can pay to show up in your target audience’s social feed or somewhere else within their profile, depending on the platform.

Remarketing can use either cookies or a list of contacts that you upload to target people who have previously engaged with your company through some action. That action could be filling out a form, reading a blog, or simply visiting a page on your website.

Google Shopping is most effective for ecommerce sites. Your ad — including image, price, and a short product description — will show on a carousel on a search page based on your target keywords.

Perform Keyword Research

Each ad group you create needs to be assigned a set of keywords to target — that’s how search engines know when and where to display your ad. The general rule of thumb is to select between one to five keywords per ad group, and those keywords should be extremely relevant — your Quality Score depends on it.

Select keywords that are closely aligned with the specific theme of your ad group. If you find keywords you want to target that fall outside of one theme, you should create a separate ad group for them.

It’s important to note that you’re not stuck with the keywords you start with. In fact, you should closely monitor your keyword list throughout your campaign — eliminating those that don’t bring in the types of visitors that you’re looking for and increasing your bids on those that do. Do your best to select the most relevant keywords, but don’t feel pressured to get it 100% right the first time around.

Set Up Google Analytics and Tracking

Google Analytics is free to use so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t install it on your website. The tool provides you with insights into how your website is performing, how users are interacting with your pages, and what content is attractive to visitors. The information you can gather from Google Analytics can be used for PPC and beyond.

Best Practices for a Quality PPC Strategy

You didn’t think we’d let you spend your hard-earned money on advertisements without providing some best practices to follow, did you? Of course not. We want to make sure you succeed with your next PPC campaign. So, let’s get into some PPC strategy that will help you maximize your efforts and your budget.

As a note, we’re going to dive specifically into paid search ads (those little guys you see in search engines) here.

PPC Ad Copy

Bidding on targeted keywords will get your ad in front of the right people; good ad copy will get those people to click on your ad. Like your keywords, your ad needs to solve for the intent of the searcher — you need to give the searcher exactly what they’re looking for and make sure that is clear through the words you use.

Search ads are comprised of a headline, a URL, and a short description, and each of these have limited character requirements to follow. To make the most of this space, make sure your ad copy does the following:

  • Speak directly to your target persona
  • Include the main keyword that you’re bidding on
  • Provide an actionable CTA so the searcher knows what to do next
  • Make the offer appealing
  • Use language that matches your landing page copy
  • Perform A/B Split tests with your copy

Landing Page Best Practices

Arguably the most important element of PPC (after your ad copy) is the page that you send leads to after they click on your ad. This page needs to be highly targeted, relevant to your ad, deliver what was promised, and present a seamless experience. Why? Because the point of your landing page is to convert your new visitor into a lead or customer. Not only that, but a high-converting landing page will improve your Quality Score, leading to better ad placements. There’s nothing that will diminish PPC profits like a poorly crafted landing page.

What should a PPC landing page include to increase conversions? Glad you asked …

  • Strong headline that mirrors your search ad
  • Clean design and layout
  • Responsive form that is easy to use with a stand-out CTA button
  • Copy that is very specific and relevant to your target keywords
  • Presents the offer that was promised in your ad
  • A/B tested

A/B Testing Your PPC Ads

Rarely will you as a marketer throw something out to your audience that works without testing. PPC campaigns are no different. A/B testing is as critical to your paid ad campaign as is every other element. The goal of testing your ad is to increase both your clickthrough rate and your conversion rate.

The good news is that ads are comprised of just four parts that you’ll need to test: headline, description, landing page, and target keywords. Small tweaks to just one of these elements can significantly alter your results, so you want to make changes one at a time so you can keep track of where improvements come from.

Since there are many variations that you could test one at a time, it’s a good idea to list out all the potential tests you can run and prioritize them by greatest impact. Finally, you should allow your ads to run long enough to gather the data you need and test them early enough so you don’t waste budget on a poor-performing ad.

Maximizing Your ROI

At a high level, maximizing ROI on your ad campaigns means considering customer lifetime value and customer acquisition costs, which will help you determine how much is worth spending on a new lead and how much of that spend can come from paid advertising.

To get more granular, we need to talk inputs and outputs, that is 1) lowering your input (cost per lead [CPL]) and 2) increasing your return (revenue). There are a few factors to keep an eye on that will affect both, so let’s break it down.

Ways to Decrease Inputs

  • Determine an ad budget before you get started.
  • Create more relevant ads. The more relevant, the lower your CPC.
  • Improve your Quality Score. The higher your QS, the less search engines will charge your for clicks.

Ways to Increase Revenue

  • Follow landing page best practices to increase conversion rates.
  • Go after quality leads by being specific with your ad. The more quality your leads, the more likely they will convert and eventually become customers.

Additional PPC Tips and Tricks

There are a few other things you can do to maximize the ROI of your paid ads, whether it’s time spent, budget, clicks, or conversions.


Google allows you to tailor your audience so you save marketing dollars and get in front of the right people. You can upload a customer list so that you don’t waste money on people who have already bought from you. Google also has options for prospecting audiences. For instance, In-Market Audiences employs user behavior tracking to put you in front of prospects who are in the market for a product or service like yours. You can also increase your bid for more relevant subgroups within your target audience — a practice called layering audiences. For example, HubSpot may layer on people who are in the market for CRM software and add a 30% bid adjustment because those people may be more likely to convert.

Bid Adjustments

Bid adjustments allow you to increase or decrease your bids based on performance. You can even make these adjustments based on different categories, like device, demographics, language, and more. For example, if a keyword isn’t performing as well on mobile as on desktop, you can add a negative bid adjustment so that when someone searches your keyword on mobile, you’ll bid X% lower than your normal bid.

Custom Ad Scheduling

You can set up ad scheduling in Google Ads to display your ad only during specific days and times. This can cut down on ad spend and improve relevance for your target audience.

Sitelink Extensions

Sitelink extensions allow you to supplement your ad with additional information. For instance, if you’re running an ad for a seasonal promotion at a local store, you can add a sitelink extension to display your store hours and location. These extensions take up more real estate on SERPs and, therefore, stand out. Not only that, but they play a role in improving your Ad Rank.

Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking monitors how your landing page is performing via a tracking code that you place on the page where people land after completing your form (usually a “Thank You” page). By enabling this feature, you’ll be better equipped to make adjustments that can improve your conversions.

Keyword Monitoring

Don’t let too much time pass before you check how your keywords are performing. You can place higher bids on the keywords that are creating the best results for your campaign, and “defund” or eliminate others.

Match Types

Match Types in Google Ads allows you to choose how closely related you want your ad group to be associated with a search team. There are four match types: broad, modified broad, phrase, and exact match. Google will display your ad in results according to your selection. For example, if your keyword phrase is “how to catch geese” and you select “broad match,” then Google will display your ad for queries that include any word in your key phrase in any order … including “geese catch” and “geese catch how”.

Negatives Keywords

A negative keyword list tells search engines what you don’t want to rank for, which is equally as important as what you do. You might know some of these upfront, but likely you’ll determine these keywords by what isn’t performing so well within your campaign.

Social Media Ads

Although CPM is more common on social platforms, social media sites do offer PPC that works similarly to search engine ads in that you set a budget and bid on ad placements. The difference is social media ads can show up directly in your news feed on most platforms, decreasing the effectiveness of ad blockers. Social platforms, like Facebook, let you set targeted demographics as well as target people based on interests. While paid search is more keyword-focused, paid social is broadens into a demographic focus, leading to more ways to target your persona.

Social media has two paid ad functions that are critical to ad success — retargeting and Lookalike Audiences. Retargeting is remarketing to people based on site visits or manually uploaded contact lists. Lookalike Audiences reviews the people on your marketing list and creates an audience that parallels your list, which expands your potential target. Paid social also allows for a wider variety of ad types, like images, videos, text, and more.

PPC Management and Tracking

Paid advertising is not “set it and forget it.” You need to manage and constantly monitor your ads to ensure that you’re reaching optimal results. Management, analysis, and tracking is crucial to a PPC campaign, not only because they provide you with useful insights but also because they help you create a more effective campaign.

What is PPC Management?

PPC management covers a wide range of techniques, including creating and adjusting goals, split testing, introducing new keywords, optimizing conversion paths, and shifting plans to reach goals.

Managing your PPC means looking at both strategy and spend. On one hand, it means iterating on your plan to optimize keyword effectiveness. On the other hand, it means thinking about how to allocate resources to certain keywords as well as how to adjust those resources to maximize ROI.

A good management strategy also pays attention to providers — like search engines, social platforms, and ad networks — to monitor changes and updates that could affect paid campaigns.

Overall, PPC management is a hefty undertaking, which is why investing in solid PPC management tools could be a great idea.

Use our PPC management tool to monitor all of your paid campaigns.

PPC Tools and Software

With all of the variables that you need to track, PPC management tools should make things easier. You can opt to monitor your ads within platform, but if you’re looking for additional assistance and organization, a robust, easy-to-read spreadsheet or sophisticated software that gives you insight into your ad performance is key.

If you plan to go the software route, there are some features that you absolutely want to look for: multi-user support, cross-platform management, A/B testing, scheduling, reporting, and ad grading.

Here’s a list of some popular, highly-rated PPC software and resources.

  • WordStream automates the tedious parts of setting up and managing your PPC campaign.
  • HubSpot offers a robust template to help you monitor and manage the moving parts of your campaign, making it easy to keep track of your ad groups, keywords, and A/B tests.
  • NinjaCat lets you combine all of your analytics from multiple platforms into one report so you can track your entire campaign in one location.
  • Optmyzr has end-to-end PPC support, from creation to reporting … and they offer a free trial of their software.
  • SEMRush can help you manage the most important part of your PPC campaign — keywords. You can find relevant keywords, manage and optimize your keyword lists, and create negative lists.

PPC Metrics to Track

Metrics are everything (but you already knew that). Here are some key metrics to track within your PPC campaign.

Clicks refer to the total number of clicks you receive on an ad. This metric is affected by your keyword selection and the relevance of your ad copy.

Cost per click (CPC) measures the price you pay for each click on your ad.

Clickthrough rate (CTR) is the percentage of ad views that result in clicks. This metric determines how much you pay (CPC). CTR benchmarks vary by industry.

Impressions is the number of times an ad is viewed. Cost per mille (CPM) is determined for every thousand impressions. Impressions are most relevant for brand awareness campaigns.

Ad spend is the amount you are spending on your ads. You can optimize this by improving your Quality Score.

Return on ad spend (ROAS) is the ROI of your ad campaign. This metric calculates the revenue received for every dollar spent on ads.

Conversion rate refers to the percentage of people that complete the call-to-action on your landing page and become a lead or customer.

Cost per conversion refers to the cost to generate a lead. This is calculated as the total cost of an ad divided by the number of conversions.

Quality Score (QS) determines ad positioning, so it’s an important metric to keep an eye on.

By paying close attention to each of these metrics, you can increase the ROI of your paid campaign and spend less for better results.

Go Paid!

Paid advertising is an effective tool that should be a part of your inbound marketing strategy no matter how long you’ve been in business. PPC just might be the boost you need to get an edge on your competition — or at least ahead of them in the SERPs.

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

A Look Back at How COVID-19 Impacted Businesses in Q2

Since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic on March 11, businesses have had to reckon with its economic impact for over a full quarter.

For the last several months, we’ve been publishing weekly cuts of data on core performance metrics, to provide business owners with useful benchmarks as they adapted to circumstances that were changing by the day.

Now that businesses have closed the books on Q2, we wanted to take a step back and assess where our customers are, four months later. How does the state of business compare today to where it was in March? How have teams changed their behavior to adapt to the new economic climate? What’s worked, and what hasn’t? And what changes are here to stay?

This retrospective takes a deep dive into buyer interest, marketing and sales outreach, and sales outcomes (spoiler alert: there’s a lot of engaged prospects out there, but sales teams have work to do in capturing that interest). We examine how different industries, regions, and company sizes have been impacted by COVID-19, and offer suggestions for investments that make sense right now.

HubSpot can’t make predictions about what will happen, and nobody knows what the future looks like. But we hope this report from our customer base provides a helpful reference as businesses enter the next quarter, and that the insights are useful to you in some way. To explore the accompanying dataset on your own, you can find our interactive microsite here.

This data is based on benchmarks calculated using weekly averages from Q2 vs. post-holiday weekly averages from Q1. Because the data is aggregated from our customer base, please keep in mind that individual businesses, including HubSpot’s, may differ based on their own markets, customer base, industry, geography, stage, and/or other factors. While certain data is reported by industry, please note that we do not track all industries, and that HubSpot’s industry classifications may not correspond with standard industry classifications.

What We’re Seeing Today: A Q2 Snapshot

When COVID-19 began shutting down economies in Q1, businesses that already had an online presence were at a distinct advantage. The data shows steady and sustained growth in buyer engagement, and that businesses with an online presence were ready to capture that interest.

The story gets a little murkier once buyers actually start to engage with companies. Marketing teams have risen to the challenge of keeping prospects interested in a messy, chaotic crisis and met an audience of buyers who suddenly spend all day at their computer. While email volume has risen significantly — typically a no-no for teams hoping to keep their open rates up — open rates have risen faster than volume has grown, demonstrating that teams have been successful at providing relevant and helpful content.

On the sales side, things aren’t going so well. We at HubSpot are wholly empathetic to the uncertainty of buyers everywhere and the stressful situation salespeople work in right now — and that stress has been reflected in an explosion in prospecting activity. Sales teams sent up to 60% more email than pre-COVID benchmarks. But response rates have been dismal. Marketing teams have been able to connect, but sales teams haven’t. This is a huge area of opportunity for businesses as they enter the next quarter of COVID-19.

How COVID-19 Impacted Businesses in Q2

1. Buyer Interest

Site Traffic

Website traffic has been one of the strongest-performing marketing metrics over the last three months. As buyers have moved their purchasing online out of necessity, businesses with an established digital presence have reaped the rewards. Global site traffic increased by 16% during Q2 compared to Q1. Traffic started increasing the week of March 9 and peaked during the week of April 20, at 24% above the benchmark. The metric then settled in the 15-20% range throughout May and June, and currently sits at 20% above the pre-COVID benchmark. Since we saw a similar drop for this metric at the end of Q1, we hope that site traffic will rebound again in July.

With the exception of last week, construction is one of the few industries where website traffic has risen consistently, increasing by 28% since Q1. In fact, traffic to construction websites was almost 50% above the benchmark at the start of June, before coming down a bit later in the month. Computer software followed a similar trend until late April; its positive momentum stalled during May, but rose again in early June. Both industries plateaued last week, but are still trending around 40% above the benchmark.

All other non-structurally impacted industries are following the global trend at just above or below the benchmark. But this average is a tale of two pandemics — some industries are overperforming, while others are lagging far behind. Industries like human resources and manufacturing are seeing similar traffic patterns to pre-COVID, and have remained consistent throughout May and June. Travel, an industry that was structurally impacted by COVID-19, has recovered a remarkable 40% since the week of March 30. Its site traffic is now just below the benchmark at -1%.

Customer-Initiated Chat

Since the business world has suddenly shifted to a remote setting, chat volume has soared. Sales teams have pivoted to chat to grow their pipelines, while customer service teams are leveraging this medium to manage the increased demand for support.

With the exception of two weeks, chat volume has steadily risen week-over-week since the beginning of March, peaking at 45% above the benchmark in late-May. Total chat volume in Q2 outpaced Q1 by a notable 31%. As restrictions on businesses continue to be lifted around the world, it’ll be interesting to see if chat volume maintains this steady growth.

Every industry is trending above the benchmark when it comes to live chat. This is a positive sign that buyer interest is increasing, and that people are engaging with companies more frequently. The industries that have seen the strongest performance in Q2 are construction, consumer goods, human resources, and manufacturing, which all grew by 25% or more during this last quarter. Consumer goods and construction were certainly outliers in Q2, with both industries seeing a bump of 45-50% in volume.

2. Buyer Engagement

Email Marketing

Global marketing email sends rose significantly during the week of March 9, and stayed at elevated levels throughout Q2. Marketers sent 21% more emails during Q2 than Q1, and email sends have recently peaked at 36% above the benchmark during the week of June 15. This elevated volume is the basis for one of this report’s most surprising findings — open rates have not only remained steady relative to the increased send volume, they have actually gone up. The world has only gotten noisier since COVID-19 shut down business as usual, so this is a real testament to marketing teams that have been able to remain relevant and top-of-mind in a stressful time.

Email open rates have hovered around 10-20% above the benchmark throughout Q2. Currently, marketing email open rates sit at 18% above pre-COVID levels. It’s clear that marketing email has been a reliable outlet for engagement during the pandemic, leaving it up to sales teams to capitalize on these opportunities.

It’s also interesting to see how companies of different sizes pivoted their approach to email marketing during COVID-19. For instance, companies with 0-200 employees experienced the most growth in terms of marketing email sends during the past few months. In Q2, 0-25 employees grew 31% compared to Q1 and 26-200 grew 21%. Companies with 201+ employees sent 14% more emails in Q2, and currently this metric sits at 23% above the pre-COVID benchmark.

Even as open rates reached unexpected highs, one rule of marketing email remained true — companies that sent less email got more opens. Companies with 201+ employees had the smallest increase in email volume, and saw consistently higher open rates, currently performing 25% above the benchmark at the end of Q2. 0-25 and 26-200-employee companies also showed a strong end of June, with open rates roughly 15% above benchmark. These numbers are likely trailing behind larger companies because 0-200 employees are sending a lot more emails to a smaller customer base.

All the industries we’re tracking seem to be following the same global trend for marketing email sends, with the exception of human resources, which is sending 81% more email than pre-COVID levels. However, open rates have been quite volatile since late March, calling into question how effective their strategy has been. Right now, open rates for human resources are trending 4% below benchmark, consistent with the maxim that companies should be using email to communicate with customers, but not overusing it to the point where it’s ineffective.

Sales Emails

If Marketing’s job is to identify buyer interest, Sales is responsible for finding the prospects in that pool who will eventually become customers. While sales outcomes are improving (more on this later), sales prospecting has fallen short of its potential.

The number of emails sent by sales teams experienced an immediate and dramatic uptick following the pandemic declaration. From early-March to late-April, sales teams pushed hard to generate pipelines, leading to a 42% increase in email volume. Compared to Q1, sales teams sent 44% more email in Q2. Today, global sales email volume is at an eye-popping 59% above the pre-COVID benchmark.

The problem is that customers aren’t responding to sales emails the same way they’re responding to marketing ones. Like marketing, sales teams increased their email send frequency following the pandemic declaration. But, unlike marketing, their response rates fell significantly during the week of March 16, and have hovered at 25-30% below the benchmark ever since.

Response rates dropped 24% in Q2, even as email volume fluctuated throughout the quarter. As sales teams increased email sends, customers began to tune these messages out or even mark them as spam in their inboxes. So far, it seems if email send rates remain this high, we can expect response rates to trend in the opposite direction.

Two industries — construction and consumer goods — have really stood out. In Q2, both more than doubled the number of sales emails sent compared to Q1, are still well above the benchmark despite some decline in volume during June. Their response rates have been correspondingly lower than the global decrease, with both industries receiving 33% fewer responses in Q2 than Q1.

These trends tell an important story. Email prospecting, to put it bluntly, is out of control. It’s easy to send thousands of emails with just a few clicks, and in a chaotic time, we understand why sales teams are sending so many. But volume and quality is a tradeoff — the time a team saves by sending out email blasts is wasted if that outreach isn’t personalized, relevant, and helpful. These gaps are clear in the data. At this point, sales teams should be working closely with marketing to understand how they can improve their email engagement rates, and sending far less email.

Call Prospecting

As both marketing and sales email volume went up globally, call prospecting plummeted, falling to a low of 27% below the benchmark by the week of April 6. This has been trending upward since, as call events are now at 9% below pre-COVID levels. However, the total number of prospecting activities (email and calling) has increased by 19%, and the shifting ratio between calling and emailing is revealing. In Q1, the ratio was closer to 1:1 while in Q2, sales people sent more than twice as many emails as they made calls. Sales teams will need to return to their pre-COVID balance in order to see improvements in response rates.

All regions have demonstrated overall positive momentum since the week of April 27. EMEA is the furthest below benchmark at -18%, while NORTHAM and APAC are close to pre-COVID levels, trending at 6-7% below the benchmark. LATAM is currently the closest to the benchmark at -2%, following a recent rise in call activity in June. We hope to see these numbers continue to trend in a positive direction as we move into the start of Q3.

3. Sales Outcomes

Deal Creation

New deal creation took a nosedive in March, as companies paused “business as usual” to understand what cutbacks and operating changes they’d need to weather the pandemic. Globally, the number of new deals created was at its lowest point the week of April 6, where 30% fewer deals were created compared to pre-COVID levels. Overall, the number of deals created in Q2 is 8% less than the number of deals created in Q1, and this trend is reflected in all regions and company sizes.

More recently, this metric has been on an upward trajectory globally, though this growth has been volatile. In the 11 weeks since April 6, eight weeks have seen week-over-week growth in deal creation, while three weeks have seen week-over-week decline. The number of deals created have increased for each of the last four weeks, and businesses are hoping that this trend will hold.

All regions are trending positively and are re-approaching pre-COVID levels. APAC, the region that was first impacted by COVID-19 and has to date been relatively successful at containing the virus’ spread, created 5% fewer deals in Q2 than in Q1. North America created 6% fewer deals in Q2, and EMEA and LATAM trail the group at 12% below Q1 averages.

All company sizes are on a similar upward trend, though none have returned to pre-COVID levels. Companies with more than 200 employees are leading the pack, creating just 2% fewer deals in Q2 than in Q1. Compared to Q1, companies with 0-25 employees are down 8%, and companies with 26-200 employees are down 12%.

Unsurprisingly, deal creation cut by industry is seeing the most variability. Travel and entertainment, the two most structurally impacted of the industries we’re tracking, are still far below pre-COVID benchmarks (35% below and 27% below, respectively). Consumer goods is 11% below benchmark, human resources is 10% below benchmark, and computer software is 3% below benchmark. The two industries that are outperforming pre-COVID levels are manufacturing (6% above) and construction, a whopping 36% above benchmark.

Deals Won

Globally, the number of deals won is trending upward as well, and was 8% above benchmark the week of June 22. Like deal creation, this metric has been highly variable since its lowest point — also the week of April 6, when it was 36% below pre-COVID benchmarks. Deals won has seen week-over-week increases for 10 out of the last 11 weeks.

When comparing Q2 to Q1, this metric lagged slightly behind new deals created in its climb toward pre-COVID levels. There were 11% fewer deals won in Q2 compared to Q1, with variability among regions, industries, and company sizes balancing out to that number. As deal creation is a leading indicator of future revenue, this trend is to be expected.

By region, APAC has made the best recovery, with only 6% fewer deals won in Q2 than in Q1. EMEA is the farthest behind at 17% fewer deals won in Q2, while LATAM and NORTHAM are on par with each other at 13% and 9% below Q1 volume, respectively.

Companies with 0-25 employees are closest to Q1 volume, at only 5% fewer deals won in Q2. Companies with 26-200 employees won 17% fewer deals in Q2 than in Q1, while companies with 201+ employees won 16% fewer deals.

As with deal creation, deals won is the most variable when viewed through an industry cut. Four industries are closing more deals than pre-COVID, while three are still far below. Here’s how each industry we’re tracking shakes out:

Above pre-COVID benchmarks:

  • Construction: 24% above benchmark
  • Computer software: 14% above benchmark
  • Manufacturing: 13% above benchmark
  • Consumer goods: 8% above benchmark

Below pre-COVID benchmarks:

  • Human resources: 20% below benchmark
  • Entertainment: 21% below benchmark
  • Travel: 29% benchmark

Perhaps more than any of the other metrics covered in this piece, the long-term health of both deal creation and deals won wholly depends on how the biological reality of the pandemic unfolds. It’s also important to remember that this data should be viewed not as a commentary on the overall health of the economy, but rather as a snapshot of how businesses are behaving right now. Because our data is pulled from HubSpot customers, it is not reflective of the entire economy and does not capture the economic circumstances of any individuals or HubSpot’s own business.


1. Invest in chat.

As many businesses move online for the first time, live chat numbers have skyrocketed in a few industries: construction, consumer goods, and manufacturing. The next few months of the pandemic are, by all expert accounts, uncertain. But we can say that there will be a significant change in how structurally affected industries operate in the future. Many companies who have transitioned online recently will remain online in the future, and this is an investment businesses will be thinking seriously about.

Investing in chat is not only a way to capture the significant uptick in online buyer interest, it’s also a long-term play to help scale your business. Even simple chatbots can take the manual work of basic qualification screening, meeting booking, lead routing, and even simple customer service tasks off your team’s plate, leaving them free to focus on higher-value activities.

Resources to Help:

Free Software to Get Started

2. Shift prospecting away from quantity and toward quality.

The ratio of call prospecting to email prospecting was almost 1:1 before the pandemic. Now it’s closer to 1:2. But response rates are historically low for the non-holiday season, a disconnect between marketing and sales performance that cannot be explained purely by the economic downturn. Salespeople are prospecting 19% more than they were in Q1, and the quality of that outreach has suffered as activity has increased.

Calling is inherently a forcing function in quality sales prospecting. It’s almost not worth it to get on the phone unless you do some research, and that background is key to building rapport, qualifying (and disqualifying), and connecting with buyers. In the age of COVID-19, your entire qualification framework should change — a product that would never have been considered pre-pandemic could be business-critical today, and vice versa. Rethink what a “good fit” looks like right now, create crisp disqualification frameworks to work through leads efficiently, and reprioritize prospecting appropriately. Sales should also be borrowing tactics from marketing — personalization through content, adding a personal touch through video, and prioritizing help over selling.

This ratio also reveals a broader principle sales leaders would do well to remember. Part of sales will always be a volume game, and it’s pointless to deny that. Adopting automation and software cuts down on the time the team has to spend manually sorting leads, and frees them up to feel secure in taking a slower approach to prospecting. Prospecting must be worked from an individual and an operational perspective, and can’t succeed without investment in both processes.

Resources to Help:

Free Software to Get Started

3. Invest in online discoverability.

As a company that sells software to help businesses grow online, we’re witness to a unique moment for our industry. Huge numbers of businesses and buyers shifted online out of necessity, many for the first time. Because this data is reflective of our customer base, which contains companies that have chosen to invest in their online strategy, we don’t have a clear picture of what these numbers look like for businesses that are still 100% offline. But one thing is clear: Businesses that already had an online presence in March were at an advantage.

For most of us right now, our business’s online presence is our business. Whether it’s through a website, a landing page, or a business run through social media, buyers need to be able to find you online. Prioritizing relevant and helpful content, investing in SEO, or taking advantage of a cheaper-than-usual ad marketplace (global ad spend is 8% below pre-COVID levels, and fewer buyers means cheaper keywords), are just a few of the many options you have to reach the right buyers at the right time.

For businesses that do not already have online presences, it may seem intimidating to think about building a website. But the ubiquity of CMS software in 2020 means that it’s possible to stand up a simple site in half a day, for free. And social accounts take even less time. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution — if a website is too daunting right now, it’s perfectly fine to start with just one account and go from there. Any move to online will be more valuable than relying exclusively on analog methods of growing your business.

Resources to Help:

Free Software to Get Started

Sign up for this week’s webinar for more insights surrounding our three-month COVID-19 retrospective.


HubSpot COVID-19 Q2 Retrospective Infographic

What is the Purpose of Marketing? [FAQ] defines marketing as, “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.”

If you work in a marketing role like I do, it’s probably difficult for you to define marketing even though you see and use it every day — the term marketing is a bit all-encompassing and variable for a straightforward definition.

This definition feels unhelpful.

The selling part, for instance, overlaps a little too snuggly with a “what is sales” definition, and the word advertising makes me think of Mad Men brainstorming sessions.

But upon digging deeper, I began seeing that actually, marketing does overlap heavily with advertising and sales. Marketing is present in all stages of the business, beginning to end.

At first, I wondered why marketing was a necessary component during product development, or a sales pitch, or retail distribution. But it makes sense when you think about it — marketers have the firmest finger on the pulse of your consumer persona.

The purpose of marketing is to research and analyze your consumers all the time, conduct focus groups, send out surveys, study online shopping habits, and ask one underlying question: “Where, when, and how does our consumer want to communicate with our business?”

Modern marketing began in the 1950s when people started to use more than just print media to endorse a product. As TV — and soon, the internet — entered households, marketers could conduct entire campaigns across multiple platforms. And as you might expect, over the last 70 years, marketers have become increasingly important to fine-tuning how a business sells a product to consumers to optimize success.

In fact, the fundamental purpose of marketing is to attract consumers to your brand through messaging. Ideally, that messaging will helpful and educational to your target audience so you can convert consumers into leads.

Today, there are literally dozens of places one can carry out a marketing campaign — where does one do it in the 21st century?

Types of Marketing

Where your marketing campaigns live depends entirely on where your customers spend their time. It’s up to you to conduct market research that determines which types of marketing — and which mix of tools within each type — is best for building your brand. Here are several types of marketing that are relevant today, some of which have stood the test of time:

  • Internet marketing: Inspired by an Excedrin product campaign that took place online, the very idea of having a presence on the internet for business reasons is a type of marketing in and of itself.
  • Search engine optimization: Abbreviated “SEO,” this is the process of optimizing content on a website so that it appears in search engine results. It’s used by marketers to attract people who perform searches that imply they’re interested in learning about a particular industry.
  • Blog marketing: Blogs are no longer exclusive to the individual writer. Brands now publish blogs to write about their industry and nurture the interest of potential customers who browse the internet for information.
  • Social media marketing: Businesses can use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and similar social networks to create impressions on their audience over time.
  • Print marketing: As newspapers and magazines get better at understanding who subscribes to their print material, businesses continue to sponsor articles, photography, and similar content in the publications their customers are reading.
  • Search engine marketing: This type of marketing is a bit different than SEO, which is described above. Businesses can now pay a search engine to place links on pages of its index that get high exposure to their audience. (It’s a concept called “pay-per-click” — I’ll show you an example of this in the next section).
  • Video marketing: While there were once just commercials, marketers now put money into creating and publishing all kinds of videos that entertain and educate their core customers.

Marketing and Advertising

If marketing is a wheel, advertising is one spoke of that wheel.

Marketing entails product development, market research, product distribution, sales strategy, public relations, and customer support. Marketing is necessary in all stages of a business’s selling journey, and it can use numerous platforms, social media channels, and teams within their organization to identify their audience, communicate to it, amplify its voice, and build brand loyalty over time.

On the other hand, advertising is just one component of marketing. It’s a strategic effort, usually paid for, to spread awareness of a product or service as a part of the more holistic goals outlined above. Put simply, it’s not the only method used by marketers to sell a product.

Here’s an example (keep reading, there’s a quiz at the end of it) …

Let’s say a business is rolling out a brand new product and wants to create a campaign promoting that product to its customer base. This company’s channels of choice are Facebook, Instagram, Google, and its company website. It uses all of these spaces to support its various campaigns every quarter and generate leads through those campaigns.

To broadcast its new product launch, it publishes a downloadable product guide to its website, posts a video to Instagram demonstrating its new product, and invests in a series of sponsored search results on Google directing traffic to a new product page on its website.

Now, which of the above decisions were marketing, and which were advertising?

The advertising took place on Instagram and Google. Instagram generally isn’t an advertising channel, but when used for branding, you can develop a base of followers that’s primed for a gentle product announcement every now and again. Google was definitely used for advertising in this example; the company paid for space on Google — a program known as pay-per-click (PPC) — on which to drive traffic to a specific page focused on its product. A classic online ad.

Where did the marketing take place? This was a bit of a trick question, as the marketing was the entire process. By aligning Instagram, Google, and its own website around a customer-focused initiative, the company ran a three-part marketing campaign that identified its audience, created a message for that audience, and delivered it across the industry to maximize its impact.

The 4 Ps of Marketing

In the 1960’s, E Jerome McCarthy came up with the 4 Ps of marketing: product, price, place, promotion.

Essentially, these 4 Ps explain how marketing interacts with each stage of the business.


Let’s say you come up with an idea for a product you want your business to sell. What’s next? You probably won’t be successful if you just start selling it.

Instead, you need your marketing team to do market research and answer some critical questions: Who’s your target audience? Is there market fit for this product? What messaging will increase product sales, and on which platforms? How should your product developers modify the product to increase likelihood of success? What do focus groups think of the product, and what questions or hesitations do they have?

Marketers use the answers to these questions to help businesses understand the demand for the product and increase product quality by mentioning concerns stemming from focus group or survey participants.


Your marketing team will check out competitors’ product prices, or use focus groups and surveys, to estimate how much your ideal customer is willing to pay. Price it too high, and you’ll lose out on a solid customer base. Price it too low, and you might lose more money than you gain. Fortunately, marketers can use industry research and consumer analysis to gauge a good price range.


It’s critical that your marketing department uses their understanding and analysis of your business’s consumers to offer suggestions for how and where to sell your product. Perhaps they believe an ecommerce site works better than a retail location, or vice versa. Or, maybe they can offer insights into which locations would be most viable to sell your product, either nationally and internationally.


This P is likely the one you expected from the get-go: promotion entails any online or print advertisement, event, or discount your marketing team creates to increase awareness and interest in your product, and, ultimately, lead to more sales. During this stage, you’ll likely see methods like public relations campaigns, advertisements, or social media promotions.

Hopefully, our definition and the four Ps help you understand marketing’s purpose and how to define it. Marketing intersects with all areas of a business, so it’s important you understand how to use marketing to increase your business’s efficiency and success.

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

7 Steps to (Effectively) Branding Your Business on a Budget

In marketing, it seems like the word “brand” is used a lot — the leading brand, off-brand, personal brand … you get the picture.

But there’s often confusion around its meaning in business. What does it entail? Should you hire an expert?

Most of all — branding is expensive, right?

Not exactly. As it turns out, there are some creative ways to brand your business effectively without a ton of cash. And while it can require an investment of time, the ROI won’t go unnoticed — in some cases, it can actually help you save money, while also growing your business.

Building your brand is a crucial part of developing your business. It’s the foundation of giving your organization a voice, identity, value, and awareness among consumers. And, thanks to the plentiful number of resources, tools, and platforms available today, a brand build might not be as burdensome (or costly) as some think.

So read on, and see how you can use the following seven steps as a guide for your brand build.

How to Brand Your Business on a Budget

You don’t have to break the bank to grow and maintain a brand. In fact, you can complete most of these tips without spending money. The most important things to remember when brand building are to keep your customers in mind and deliver messages that support your company’s mission.

Below, let’s discuss a budget-friendly way to grow better on a budget.

1. Create a persona to understand your audience.

You’ve probably heard that knowing your audience is the key to creating marketing messages that appeal to them. A great way to get to know them? Create a buyer persona — a semi-fictionalized representation of the values and characteristics of your ideal customer.

Personas outline the challenges of that customer and where your business fits in to solving their problems. Below is an example of a buyer persona, Marketing Macy. Notice how my persona lists demographics, like age and education, as well as tools needed for the day-to-day, like a CRM.

The needs, goals, and behavior of your potential customers dictate how you convey your product or service. So for Macy, I want to focus on a B2B strategy that caters to her goals of lead generation and brand building.

Understanding those goals helps you determine what kind of media your personas are consuming, what motivates them, and where they “live” online. This information allows you to develop a compelling, effective brand that reaches the right people.

Make your own buyer persona with HubSpot’s free MakeMyPersona tool, which guides you through a series of questions about your ideal customer. The tool is fun, interactive, and meant to get you thinking critically about who you want to reach with your brand and how you want to reach them.

2. Develop an identity and voice for your brand.

Once you’ve identified your buyer personas, your brand can start to take shape. Create a brand identity — what makes your brand, your brand — and its voice, which is the tone you use in any copy or public communication.

Developing brand voice and identity is similar to constructing your personas. But instead of answering questions about your target audience, you’re answering questions that are more introspective to your brand: What are your company’s values, what do they represent, and how do you want people to talk about you?

When you answer these questions, focus on creating content that supports them. Craft compelling emails, blogs, social posts, and multimedia that reflect your company’s mission, values, and how you want to appear to customers.

For example, if one of your values is to be accessible to customers, communicate contact information on social media pages and answer service questions that appear in comment sections.

Developing your voice comes through in the copy of that content. Are you going to use conversational language that relates to customers? Or will it be more beneficial to reach your audience from a technical standpoint?

For example, one of my favorite brands to follow is Glossier, a beauty company with a great understanding of brand voice.

When I tag the company in a photo on Instagram, I usually get a reply with one of their famous logos: An emoji version of a smile and wave (🙂👋). This logo appears on the bottom of marketing emails and packaging, keeping the brand consistent across multiple formats.

Even if you’re not starting from scratch, establishing a strong(er) brand voice can be valuable. Just take operating system software service Android, for instance: Their 2019 rebrand was a logo re-up, making the design cleaner and modern:

The Android rebrand of 2019

Image Source

The logo came from a need to speak to a shift in audience. Initially, Android’s target audience was the developer, but instead, the company has become more consumer-facing. The change was bred from this analysis.

3. Map out a consistent social media presence.

So, we know who your personas are. And now, we have an idea of what and how to create messaging that connects with them. But where are they?

Since you have a clear picture of what your audience is interested in, next, figure out where they’re spending the most time on social media. We’ve talked about how effective it is to reach people where they’re already present, and that includes their online behavior.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to play Inspector Gadget to figure out where your audience spends time online. Check out competitors — see where they’re most active (and how their language may or may not connect to audiences).

Additionally, look at how your audience interacts with social media. For instance, the highest percentage of U.S. men and women who use Facebook are between the ages of 24 and 35. So, if your persona fits that bill, focus your strategy on Facebook.

If you find the majority of your audience prioritizes one social network, you’ll have an idea of where to allocate your resources. But don’t ignore other sites. When you build a presence on multiple social media platforms, you’ll have an opportunity to diversify how you reach audiences. Diversifying the methods and channels you use for obtaining new leads helps you to connect with as many potential customers as possible.

Maintaining a presence is just as important as building one — for example, have you ever gone to a brand’s Facebook page, only to find that nothing has been posted in the past three months? Chances are, it didn’t have a positive impact on your perception.

That can be avoided by planning and scheduling social media posts, like you would with any marketing calendar. This free Social Media Content Calendar can help.

4. Start a company blog.

We’ve covered the importance of blogging before, and it can’t be emphasized enough. It’s a core part of the inbound marketing flywheel, especially the “attract” stage, which turns website browsers from strangers to visitors.

Inbound Marketing flywheel attract stage.

Image Source

In fact, blogging is a fundamental step of inbound marketing. It helps you reach qualified customers, like your personas, by creating the content that matches what they’re searching for. That’s why it’s so important to make blog posts relevant to audiences (and optimize them for search engines — here’s how).

Customers are definitely looking for the information you’re able to provide. Plus, that content can serve as material to populate your social media networks. To find what your audience is searching for, conduct keyword research, which will tell you what the most important topics for your audience are via search engines.

While blogging is fiscally inexpensive, it does take time.

The inbound marketing version of that question would ask, “Would you rather blog for one hour each day and promote content created by and for your company, or several hours a day sourcing content for your ideal customer from your competitors?”

An editorial calendar is also helpful in maintaining consistent timing and fresh content on your blog. That’s why we put together a free blog editorial calendar template, complete with instructions and content management tips.

5. Make customer service a priority.

When we hear the name “Zappos,” most of us immediately think, “Unparalleled customer service.” The online apparel retailer built this level of service into its core approach to doing business.

Why is that so important? For Zappos, making excellent customer service the cornerstone of its brand actually saved money on marketing and advertising. That’s because it created word-of-mouth among existing and potential customers.

This is called earned media: The recognition that your brand has earned, not paid for, from people talking about something you did that was remarkable.

For example, when I’m shopping on a new website, the first thing I do is read reviews. If I see reviews that mention speedy shipping, friendly customer service, and high quality products, I’m more inclined to purchase.

This revisits the importance of your identity and voice. As you go through these brand-building steps, think about the values that you want your audience to experience, like excellent service. Those values are what shape the brand’s culture, and that influence the voice you project to an audience.

6. Take advantage of co-branding.

I’ll never forget what my colleague, Lisa Toner, says about negotiating co-branding agreements.

“Larger companies may have a large reach,” she explains, “But what do they not have?”

When you’re just starting to build a brand, you might not have the reach that Toner’s talking about. You can take the steps to build it, but that takes time. Until then, one way to get your name in front of a broader audience is to partner with a brand that does have that reach.

But don’t just pick any brand for a partnership. Make sure it’s one that’s aligned with yours so it makes sense in the minds of your audience. Here’s what we recommend in seeking a co-brand:

  1. Will your partner’s audience be interested in your brand? Is this audience difficult for you to reach without this partnership?
  2. Will your audience trust your co-brand. That’s crucial to getting them to listen to you, so make sure your partner reaches the audience in a way that instills confidence.
  3. Do you have something to offer your co-brand? Just like Toner asks, “What do they not have?” The experience should be a win-win-win: For you, your co-brand, and the consumer. As an example, if you have an international audience that your partnering brand doesn’t, consider pointing to that when discussing the partnership.

Building a brand might seem like a huge undertaking, especially when resources are limited. But there are plenty of economical ways to not only get started, but to continue the momentum.

And please, have fun with the process. Of course, there has to be a degree of strategy and logic involved — that’s why there’s tools to help you determine the different pieces of your brand. But it’s a creative exercise, so keep that in mind if you get bogged down in technicalities.

7. Host a masterclass or webinar.

What are some of the talents the minds at your company display on a daily basis? Are they masters of email marketing? Do they excel at coding? Do you earn a “World’s Best Brand Strategist” superlative every year?

A fantastic way to grow your brand — and earn leads — is to leverage these talents into a masterclass or webinar, and promote them online.

By optimizing your class with hashtags and witty captions, you’ll find audiences that are interested in the talents for which you’re offering lessons. These masterclasses can be a 45- to 60-minute session that provides an overview of your special expertise, how to do it right, and how use your own strategies to illustrate.

For example, if I were to offer a webinar, it would highlight the art of using emojis for business, an experiment I’m passionate about. I would start by describing why engaging copy is important for attracting customers. Then, I’d explain the pros and cons of emoji usage. Finally, I’d share the right and wrong times to include emojis in marketing messages.

After that, I would present an experiment and report on my findings. Whether the experiment supports or negates my thesis always leaves room for fruitful discussion — leading to the last portion, questions. Voila: An outline for a masterclass that uses my talents to back up the credibility of a business that focuses on, let’s say, marketing or social media.

Running experiments doesn’t have to cost a dime, and hosting a webinar takes only about an hour of your day. The result, however, is spreading the word about the talents of a company, providing data that supports credibility, and promotes company values like delighting customers and giving helpful, educational content to your audience.

Branding on a budget? Absolutely possible. What counts, when you’re brainstorming ways to brand effectively, is how to use the resources you have to the best of your ability. Keeping your audience in mind is the first step — after that, it’s about thinking of creative ways to engage those target customers.

Have fun with building your brand. After all, this is a creative process and while every experiment may not work, you can always learn to improve. Good luck, and happy branding.

19 Free Advertising Tips for Your Small, Large, or Local Business

When you work at a small business with a limited budget, it’s not really possible to shell out $340,000 for a 30-second TV commercial or $10,000 for an email marketing campaign.

It can be frustrating when your budget dictates how many people your business can reach. Here are some free and inexpensive ways to promote your local business: 

1. Use Google My Business to optimize for local search.

One of the most powerful free ways to advertise your business is through Google My Business, which enables companies to manage their presence on Google Search and Google Maps. The tool can bolster your rankings in local search results.

Ranking high in local search shows you’re a legitimate and relevant company: you wouldn’t rank #1 in Google for “pizza places near me” if you’d closed down six months ago. Plus, if you rank high in local search, more consumers will choose your business over a competitor’s. In today’s fast-paced world, convenience is key.

Click here or scroll to the bottom of this post to learn how to advertise on Google for free.

2. Check out Yext.

The more places your business is listed online, the better your chances of showing up in search results, and the easier it is for potential customers to find you. To ensure great local SEO, the details of your listings on every website and online directory need to match up.

For instance, if your website lists your company’s new phone number, but Yelp lists your old one, this inconsistency could hurt your SEO.

Yext scans the web to find every place your business is listed, so you can tweak your listings to guarantee accuracy.

3. Attend networking events and mixers.

Connecting with fellow professionals at industry networking events is a great opportunity to meet potential consumers in a place where they are eager to discuss your business. The niche topics of networking events ensure you’re meeting high-qualified leads. For example, a “Best Technology Startups of 2020” event will primarily be filled with participants who are interested in technology and startups.

Particularly for small businesses looking to make their first connections, networking is a chance to get your name out there, meet potential partners, and find opportunities for growth. Plus, it’ll keep you up-to-date on trends in your industry.

4. Speak at an association or local event.

Similar to networking, speaking at an event about a topic related to your industry is another way to exhibit your expertise. Giving a thought-provoking and powerful speech will draw attention to you and, by association, your business, which can increase brand awareness and prove your business is qualified to tackle consumer’s challenges.

To start, brainstorm different topics and volunteer at various upcoming networking events and trade association conventions. If you’re afraid of public speaking (don’t worry, a lot of us are), you could enroll in a local Toastmasters chapter to improve your game.

5. Put up brochures or flyers.

Putting up brochures or flyers in local libraries, coffee shops, and businesses is a unique way to market to offline locations where people spend a good deal of their time.

You can create free brochures and flyers on PowerPoint or Canva. Depending on your industry, it might even help you reach an ideal clientele: if you’re a physical therapist, for example, perhaps you could hand out brochures to local gyms or nearby hospitals.

6. Run geo-targeted Facebook ads. 

Facebook has more targeted advertising capability than any other platform. In addition to being able to advertise to a certain type of consumer based on interests or job description, you can target people who fit that criteria in a certain location. 

By putting a few dollars per day behind a geo-targeted Facebook campaign, you’ll build up a local following over time. Be sure to continue posting great content as well to keep this new audience engaged. 

7. Invest in direct mail campaigns. 

With direct mail, you’ll know that the right audience in your nearby area is receiving your promotions. 

While a single batch of mailers may not be enough to drive tons of business, doing frequent distribution campaigns will increase the number of impressions you make on your audience, which in turn drives brand awareness and keeps you top of mind. 

Surprisingly, there are also a lot of free ways to supplement your paid advertising efforts. By incorporating free advertising tactics into your strategy, you can remove some nonessential costs and dedicate your budget to deeper, more long-term plays.

In fact, we suggest some of these methods regardless of your budget. To help you spread the word about your business without breaking the bank, we’ve compiled a list of ways to get advertising for free.

1. Write guest posts for other blogs.

There are a few major advantages to guest posting for a well-established blog. You can benefit from connecting to that blog’s audience, and you can also start establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

Since guest posting on a popular blog allows you access to an established audience and high domain authority, this practice can sometimes be more beneficial than posting to your own blog. Plus, you can link back to your own website from your article, giving you an inbound link that boosts your domain authority and can increase your own website’s ranking in search engines.

2. Answer Quora questions.

Writing content for Quora can expose your business to a large audience: in 2018, Quora reported a worldwide audience of 300 million monthly visitors.

Besides the large built-in audience, your business can answer direct questions from prospective customers. This lets you interact with high-quality potential leads and establish yourself as an expert in the subjects that matter most in your industry.

3. Publish content on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a platform to connect with professionals, which is why it’s also a great place to share business-related content. LinkedIn’s blogging platform lets you demonstrate your expertise within your industry.

Your connections and other LinkedIn members will engage with your posts and share them, doing the free promotion for you. With almost half of all social media traffic coming to B2B company sites from LinkedIn, it’s a missed opportunity if you don’t publish and promote content on LinkedIn.

4. Offer to do interviews on other business’ podcasts.

To figure out which platforms your team should prioritize, it’s important to diversify your promotion platforms to discover where your audience is already consuming content. Some of your audience might prefer listening to podcasts over reading articles. To reach those people, contact a few businesses with podcasts and pitch interview ideas.

5. Promote your website on your email signature.

With all the emails you send every day, it’s a shame if you aren’t taking advantage of the promotional potential of your email signature. Your email signature can also be unexpected property to promote a sale, contest, event, or even a new blog post.

Add a link to your business’ website on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles, as well.

6. Send email newsletters.

An email newsletter can be a useful vehicle to promote content, share business-related news, and build deeper relationships with both potential and existing customers. There are plenty of free tools out there that assist you in designing, sending, and optimizing your newsletter.

With the right time investment, an email newsletter can be the perfect place to share quality content with leads and potential consumers, establishing your brand as helpful and informative.

7. Do a free product giveaway or contest.

A product giveaway or contest is an easy way to incentivize new viewers to check out and subscribe to your social media channels or website. Plus, handing out inexpensive branded products like t-shirts or mugs is a good way to spread your brand name.

Word-of-mouth is alive and well — and a little swag can go a long way.

8. Create YouTube videos.

YouTube has more than two billion active users, which accounts for almost half of everyone on the internet. 

Moreover, in a recent study, 84% of people said they’ve been convinced to buy something after watching a brand’s video, and people reported being twice as likely to share videos with their friends than any other type of content.

Creating engaging, informative, and share-able YouTube videos is one of the most efficient ways to sell your brand. If done right, your YouTube videos will entertain viewers enough to share your content and seek out your website.

9. Take advantage of your partnerships.

Partnerships are an opportunity to offer supplementary services that you don’t provide. For example, a web design company and a copywriting agency might choose to partner together, so when a client requires written content for her web pages, the web design company can offer copywriting services from their partner.

This increases consumer satisfaction, and it also provides exceptional advertising opportunities. When your partner’s consumers need your services, your partner will point them in your direction.

10. Post on social media.

Nowadays, social media is crucial to most marketing strategies. Luckily, most types of social media platforms and posts are free — even to businesses. While many platforms will let you advertise, you can still post or tweet for no cost if you’re on a budget.

Pick the platforms that best suit your audience. Then, post links, photos, videos, or text posts about your company, product launches, or any other occurrence that you’d like to promote.

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are a suitable place to start for most businesses. They all offer a way to share video, text, photo, and link-based posts and have large user bases. To learn more about other forms of social media, check out this post.

11. Experiment with photo and video platforms.

While Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn could be great platforms to start on, expanding to platforms like Instagram or Pinterest will give you more opportunities to show product shots or embrace the heavily-visual strategy of influencer marketing.

Aside from spreading awareness with free images of your product or service, most social platforms, including Facebook, offer live video and story features which can allow you to create video promotion related to your products. For example, you might use Instagram Stories or Facebook Live as an outlet to publish tutorials of how to use your products.

Because these videos and photos are on social, you can also boost their shareability by hashtagging them, creating interesting captions, and encouraging fans to react with actions like “likes” or comments.

12. Encourage happy customers to give online reviews.

Word-of-mouth is still one of the best ways to market your product. Consumers trust the opinions of other consumers, especially when there are many great testimonies.

If you have happy customers, encourage them to write a review about their experience on popular review platforms like Google, Facebook, and Yelp. If you want great reviews on Facebook, be sure to create a Facebook Business page if you don’t have one already.

How to Advertise on Google for Free

As mentioned above, you can create a free page on Google My Business which can help you rank higher or first in search results. Here’s how it works.

Create your Google My Business account.

First, you’ll want to create a Gmail account for your business. Then you’ll want to register for Google My Business with that account.

Google will first ask you to enter the name of your business. Then, you’ll be asked to select a “Delivery Area.” In this form, note the mileage and area where your target audience lives.

Optimize your business page.

After your setup process is complete, you’ll be able to fill out your profile. As you do this, you ideally want to fill out all the information Google requests for the best search optimization.

A few key things you’ll want to include will be:

  • Your address
  • A phone number, email address, and other contact information.
  • Your website
  • Hours of operation
  • Photos of your business and products
  • A detailed description on what your business offers
  • Pricing or menu information
  • The year your company opened
  • Other business attributes such as “free Wi-Fi.”

The above items are things locals might search specifically for. For example, if someone searches for a “cheap Mexican restaurant open after 8pm”, Google will examine the details in business profile and prioritize your restaurant if it seems like a great match.

Here’s an example of what it looks like when a Google business fills out all their information:

cambridgeside galleria google business listing

Verify and monitor your business page.

Once you’ve created your Google My Business profile, be sure to verify your listing so Google knows it’s a real, legitimate business. There are a few ways to do this including email, postcard, and phone verification.

You can also download the GMB app to monitor how your business is doing on a smartphone. This post walks you through the different verification processes.

Don’t forget about SEO.

Along with Google My Business, taking advantage of free SEO strategies can also help your website rise higher in search results. These tactics can be simple and easy to work into blogging, web design, or other processes. 

Don’t let your advertising budget dictate how many people your business can reach. Start putting together your advertising plan today.

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

How Dynamic Content Makes Your Marketing More Personal

The first time Amazon introduced me to the perfect book for me via their recommendation engine, I was completely awed.

The idea that a website could not only recognize a return visitor, but also discern their interests and alter their site experience accordingly felt like nothing short of magic. For instance, when I check Amazon’s site, I can find numerous personalized recommendations just for me, and it still feels like a delight, every time.

Since then, data-driven personalization has become more common, though not entirely pervasive in the marketing space — perhaps due to a lack of understanding around how it really works. I mean, just what drives all this highly adaptive content?

More than that, how does adaptive content affect a lead’s decision-making process? That’s what we’ll go to in this post. I’ll break down the concept of “smart,” or “dynamic” content, explain what it is, how it works, and give you some strategies for incorporating it into your marketing.

First, let’s explain what dynamic content is and why it’s important to use for your business.

What is Dynamic Content?

Smart content delights customers. When you utilize data-driven content, you can influence a lead’s buyer journey. Let’s talk about what exactly dynamic content means.

Dynamic content creates an experience that’s customized specifically for the visitor or reader at that moment. One of the most well-known examples of smart content is Amazon’s recommendation engine, which we talked about earlier. Other forms, however, range from personalization fields in emails to entire images or offers on a webpage that shift based on who is looking at them.

For example, let’s say I visit an ecommerce site for the first time. During this first visit, I browse around, click the “like” button on a few products, and maybe purchase something. When I come back a couple of weeks later, the home site has now changed to say “Welcome back, Kayla!”, and recommends items I might like based on my history.

Suggested items were chosen based on what I purchased previously, and the information I gave while purchasing, such as my name, was stored by the website’s scripts to create a personalized experience the next time I visited.

Dynamic content also works with ads. Earlier this morning, I browsed a cosmetics site I hadn’t visited before. After closing the website, I opened Facebook, and all of my ads were from that company I’d just visited. Facebook chooses ads to show users based on their browsing history and interests, so when I visited that makeup website, Facebook found the ads from that business and displayed them on my feed.

Now that we have a deep understanding of dynamic content, let’s take a look at how it works.

How Dynamic Content Works

The key to dynamic content’s effectiveness is its relevance. This content is developed from data known about the user based on behavior.

The data collection works by scripts in a webpage’s HTML that changes to make the page relevant to the user. This data is stored in the site’s database, and is what’s called a database driven website.

If a website is database driven, it’s dynamic. This is because most of the content on these websites are stored in its database. The content being stored is user data that’s then used to create personalized experiences.

Ultimately, dynamic content is collected from what the user gives the website, such as an email address, first name, or shopping history. This data will be organized and stored in database driven websites with associated values — think of this as a filing system. The website then assess the need of the page and shows the viewer content that’s relevant to the user.

There’s two different types of content-based websites, however. Other than database driven, dynamic websites, there’s websites that have its content stored in HTML files, known as static websites.

Next, let’s go in deeper about the differences between dynamic and static websites and how they work together.

Dynamic content vs static content

As we’ve learned, dynamic content is powered by a database driven website. Static websites are powered by websites where the content isn’t stored on a database, rather HTML files.

Generally, most are used to static websites. To sum it up, static websites are the ones that don’t recognize user behavior and change to be personalized. Think of pages you visit that don’t change based on your past behavior, such as ecommerce sites that don’t give you suggestions and marketing emails that don’t mention you by name.

It might be a good idea to use static pages if you don’t have the time to devote to creating dynamic pages. Additionally, if you want to get more comfortable with running a website, static pages take less time to create, and you can still create a delightful experience for customers if you manage your website using software to manage your pages seamlessly, like a CMS.

Even webpages that have a section similar to “Based on people you follow,” like Twitter, are dynamic. There’s awesome benefits to using dynamic websites, for instance, the personalized aspect can help improve KPIs like conversions and return visits.

Other benefits include an improved user experience, clean web design, and low maintenance. A page that’s dynamic doesn’t need to be constantly updated — it’ll always be active.

Technology dynamic web pages uses to be dynamic include:

  • A Centralized Marketing Database — Your marketing database is the brain behind your dynamic content. It stores your contacts’ download and interaction history with your site.
  • A Smart Content Generator — Informed by the database, a smart content generator will show or hide content (blocks of images or text) based on rules you set.
  • Malleable Web Pages — A dynamic site has to be one that is easily editable and typically marketing-controlled, rather than run through another department like IT.
  • An Integrated Email System — Extending smart content to the emails you send will require an email system that is tied into your contact database.

To sum it up, static content is easier to use and manage. Dynamic content thrills the viewer, but both can provide an engaging content to the reader if managed using the right software.

Let’s take a look at some strategies that can help you create dynamic experiences.

Smart Content Marketing Strategies

Now that you know what smart content is and how it works, you should use it all the time without discrimination.

Just kidding. Actually, the bottom line with smart content is to make sure you’re purposeful and intentional about its use. Smart content should create a better experience for your leads and customers.

When you’re integrating smart content of any sort into your marketing strategy, it’s a good idea to start with the question of how it will improve potential customers’ time on your site or with your emails. Here are a few places to start if you’re having trouble envisioning how to integrate smart content into your marketing.

Eliminate Repeat Conversions

If a website visitor has already downloaded a particular lead generation offer or purchased a particular item, you can use smart rules to remove that offer from their view. The result is two-fold: you’ll create a website or shopping experience that never gets old for your customers, and create an opportunity for you as a marketer to expose fresh offers and products that boost reconversions.

To use smart rules, check for the option to add it on your CMS software. Alternatively, code it into your website. Here’s a page on how to add a transaction ID into your dynamic page to eliminate a repeat conversion.

Lead the Lifecycle Stage

A lead’s lifecycle stage refers to how far along the visitor is in his or her decision-making process. Is this their first visit? Are they ready to buy? Are they still evaluating options?

Taking what you know about how much experience a particular lead has can help you avoid over-selling to someone who is in the early stage of their research — or miss out on an opportunity to sell to someone who is ready to make a purchase.

The perfect remedy? Mapping content to the stages of a potential customer’s buying cycle . This is typically done through a series of gradually evolving emails in a lead nurturing campaign. Smart content tools, like HubSpot’s smart call-to-actions (CTAs) , can also extend this adaptability to your website and landing pages.

Example of customer mapping stageWhen you use smart CTAs, you are helping the customer along through every part of their journey.

Help Loyal Customers Skip Excess Steps

Many B2B companies offer content behind a form in order to generate leads. While this is a nice way to get to know new leads, it can be a hassle for customers who may be interested in the content, but have already filled out your forms previously.

Rather than having a customer fill out another form, using dynamic content recognizes a visitor as a customer and gives them a CTA. This CTA either minimizes the form fields or lets them bypass the download form entirely.

Reflect Different Industries or Personas

Most companies serve a number of personas from a variety of industries. While it may be difficult to tailor to every different industry you touch, dynamic content can help you create a highly customized experience for your highest-value industries.

Start by talking with your sales team about the different personas or industries with whom they have had the best success. Then pick one or two industries to focus in on at first as a test.

Use smart content to set a default, and then another set of images that reflect your top industry segments. In the example below, we’ve selected two images — one to represent the manufacturing industry, and another the healthcare industry. When anyone from those industries lands on a given page, this image will change to reflect that context.

Smart content leverages the valuable insights your visitors, leads, and customers have provided you with: their interests, preferences, and historical behavior. Make sure you put that knowledge to work by guiding and supporting your prospective customers with personalized content. Every potential buyer should be recognized as an individual with unique and evolving questions; smart content is one tool in your arsenal for creating marketing that’s more personalized and tailored to their needs.

The Ultimate Guide to Podcast Audio, According to HubSpot's Podcast Experts

In 2019, Google began rolling out what is arguably one of the most significant changes to its search engine since the introduction of dedicated video carousels in June 2018, or the introduction of featured snippets in October 2017: Google has begun to ad podcasts to search results.

Every minor tweak to the search algorithm can have marketers scrambling to understand how they can take advantage of this shift — or, for the more pessimistic, how to avoid getting pushed to the dreaded page two of search results.

Adding the podcast to search results is going to affect content creators, SEO specialists, marketers, and perhaps most importantly, it will also likely have a major impact on podcasts.

In this post, we’ll explore how to take advantage of the advent of audio SEO. Then we’ll dive into how you can create high-quality audio from home, if you’re creating a podcast remotely. 

But before we dive into how marketers can create SEO-friendly audio content, let’s look at the primary problem Google is solving by indexing all podcast content.

The History of Podcasts Discoverability Problem

If you do any reading on the podcast industry, you will find endless articles lamenting “the discoverability problem” of podcasts.

When people talk about the discoverability problem they’re not referring to being able to find a podcast they’ve already heard of — instead, they’re talking about how difficult it is to discover new, unheard-of shows.

For the majority of podcasting, there has been one primary mechanism for discovering new shows: the iTunes Charts. The vast majority of podcast downloads occurs on iTunes.

Despite Android commanding ~75% of smartphone ownership, iTunes commands the vast majority of podcast downloads.

As Google’s PM for Podcast Zach Reneau-Wedeen notes: “It’s actually so egregious that on a device-by-device basis, the average iPhone listens to over ten times more podcasting than the average Android.”

Due to Apple’s outsized command of podcast downloads, their charts have played a critical role in helping new shows gain traction.

As a quick overview, the iTunes podcast section has Top 100 charts based on regions. There are charts for the top shows, charts for the top episodes, and then a whole collection of categories and sub-category charts such as Top 100 Business Shows. These charts are algorithmically generated.

iTunes also has a hand-curated list such as “New & Noteworthy” where they can promote interesting new shows that have yet to gain a massive following. Beyond these charts, many podcasts are discovered through word-of-mouth or social media.

The problem with Apple’s system for discovering new podcasts is the shows that tend to get traction on the charts are the ones that already have built-in audiences. This is why you tend to see New & Noteworthy being filled with shows from reputable publishers.

The one area that has never been particularly effective for finding a new podcast has been search. In 2018, Google set out to change that.

Google’s Quest to Fix Podcast Discoverability

With over 700,000 podcasts out there, millions of episodes and even more hours of content, podcast are a set of data that Google can help people sift through. However, Google is not only trying to make it easier to find podcasts — they’re also trying to rapidly grow the number of people listening to podcasts.

As Google Podcasts
Product Manager Zack Reneau-Wedeen notes, “Our team’s mission is to help double the amount of podcast listening in the world over the next couple years.”

Google’s approach to solving discoverability is two-fold: 1) make podcast discoverable via search, and 2) enable new content creators who have traditionally been excluded from the podcast world to develop new shows and attract new audiences.

Here’s what Google has done to help fix podcast discoverability:

  • June 2018: Google rolls out new Google Podcast App
  • October 2018: Google partners with PRX creator program to attract new creators and audiences to podcasts.
  • March 2019: Google begins indexing podcasts. Google collects information including the name of the podcasts, episode titles and descriptions, and transcriptions of new episodes.
  • May 2019: Podcast begins to surface in podcast results

Looking at Google’s new smartphone, the Pixel 4’s recorder app, you can see how incredibly good big G has gotten at transcribing voices. It makes sense, considering they have tons of data from YouTube videos, Google Home products, and all Android phones.

There is no company better positioned to digest massive amounts of audio data than Google.

So now that they have all of this data on podcasts, let’s explore how they’ve begun to integrate it into search results.

Google Adds Podcast to Search Results

As of writing this, the majority of search results that involve podcasts require the word ‘podcast’ to be in the search query. We are seeing podcast appear in two ways.

Broad Category Search aka Popular on the Web: When you search a broad topic like “business podcast”, shows will show up in a carousel at the top. Clicking on these results will simply open a new search for the name of the show.

Searching for an Answer: When you’re looking for a more specific answer and include the word “podcast” you will find a Podcast Carousel. The carousel appears to give weight to the title of the show, then the episode title, show description, and finally the actual content of the episode. In the example below, you can see a mix of shows that either including something about home building in the show, or in the episode title.

The “Popular from the Web” and podcast carousels are the two mechanisms for how Google is surfacing podcasts into search results. In terms of real estate, both these carousels occupy top positions in the SERPs.

HubSpot’s SEO strategist Aja Frost explains what the addition of podcasts will mean: “This will definitely have an impact on SEO.”

Frost says, “Search is a zero-sum game — there’s a set amount of space on the SERP, so every new search feature, like a podcast carousel, means there’s less space for the traditional blue links.”

Every marketer who cares about their position on Google should be interested in how to get their content into these coveted carousels.

What types of shows will do well?

In this new world of audio SEO who will be the winners? Here are some characteristics of shows we feel will do well:

  1. Lots of Episodes: The more episodes your show has, the more likely it will be to surface for a variety of search results.
  2. Short Episodes: Generally a show with shorter episodes is likely to have more of them, which increases ranking opportunities. Now that you can play an episode from the search results, it’s likely we will see shorter episodes become more popular when someone is looking to answer a question.
  3. Quality Audio: Your show will be less likely to be successfully transcribed if it does not have quality audio. This could impact your ability to appear in search queries.
  4. Titles Aligned to Queries: If the show title, episode title, or description aligns to a search term with a high search volume, those shows are likely to appear more often.
  5. Big-name guests: Elon Musk podcast is going to get a lot more searches than Sam Balter podcasts. Having celebrity guests will help you rank for more popular search terms.

Looking forward in time, we also expect shows with segments to do particularly well. We’re in the early stages of audio SEO, but we know that Google has already transcribed the content of the episode. Shows that take one topic and then have particular segments that align to the overarching search term will likely perform well.

For example, let’s say our episode is about digital advertising. We might have a segment for each show called “Overview”, where the host uses a search-friendly phrase like “Now we’re going to provide an overview of digital advertising on LinkedIn.”

Then, another episode might have the same “Overview” segment, and the host might say something like “Now, we’re going to provide an overview of digital advertising on Facebook.”

We believe show segments will help surface podcasts to page one of Google.

Optimizing HubSpot’s Podcast for SEO

We have officially relaunched our educational podcast Skill Up. The first season of Skill Up focused on SEO and had in-depth conversations with our SEO expert, Matt Barby. There were eight episodes averaging over 40 minutes long.

For the new run of Skill Up, we intend to take a different approach. We’re creating seasons based on specific topics which we identify as relevant to our core business and have high search volume. Episodes will be much shorter, averaging ~10 minutes per episode.

Additionally, individual episodes will include segments where the host mentions key phrases.

Finally, we are moving away from an interview format — instead, we want our Skill Up host to act as more of a narrator to the content.

By focusing the content of each season around a specific topic, we’re doing right by the listener by providing interesting bite-sized content that is easy to consume.

We’re also doing right by the search engines by making titles simple, descriptions keyword-rich, and integrating segments within the episode that makes it easier for search engines to identify parts of the episode.

A Word of Caution

Podcasts have evolved alongside but independent of search, social media, YouTube, and blogging. The success of podcasting today is built upon the backs of hard-working creators that have strived to make amazing shows that develop loyal followings.

Podcasts have not become successful through growth hacking, newsjacking, or search engine optimization. Keyword stuffing a low-quality show that does not inspire listeners to subscribe is a recipe for failure. No matter what changes Google makes to their algorithm, better content will ultimately rise to the top.

Above all else, remember you make shows for the listener, not Google’s web-crawler.

Next, let’s dive into how you might create a high-quality podcast from your living room. 

How to Create a Podcast From Home

2020 hasn’t exactly gone as planned, which likely means your company has pivoted to remote work for the foreseeable future.

If your company has a podcast, your team is likely recording podcast episodes from home. For most producers, that means calling guests via Zoom to interview them.

But that’s probably not the best way to do it.

That’s not to say a Zoom recording won’t work out well in a pinch. But to put it into baking terms, a Zoom recording is the panko crust. Great for texture, not worth a meal.

While audiences are more forgiving of audio quality during these times, they’re even more appreciative of any production effort.

Traditionally, high-quality recordings were done through tape syncs — booking local audio producers to record your guests in-person. Once you had your host and guest’s respective tracks, you’d sync the two together to make it sound like they were in the same room all along. Magic.

In this time of social distancing, however, it’s not safe to tape sync. What you need is to have your guests self-sync.

Here, let’s dive into the best practices you can use to create high-quality audio from home.

How to Self-Sync Audio

Fortunately, it’s easy enough to record high-quality audio within your own home.

Whether your team is working from home temporarily or you’re an entrepreneur aiming to create your own podcast from home permanently, you can follow these instructions to ensure your podcast is top-notch.

Note: To ensure you have backup audio, you’ll want to call your guest on Zoom and record through Zoom’s software.

To self-sync, your guest will need three basics: a laptop, headphones, and a cell phone. They can always swap the laptop for an iPad or a second phone. With those in hand, here’s the walkthrough list I send to every guest ahead of appearing on our The Growth Show podcast:

1. Use your laptop for the Zoom call

2. Plug in headphones to your laptop

3. Take one headphone out of your ear, leaving the other in

4. Turn down the volume of your headphones/laptop

5. Put your phone on Airplane Mode — or cell data turned off

6. Open the Voice Memo app on your phone (or Google Keep if you have Android)

7. Hit record in voice memo app & turn off screen

8. Put the phone to your non-headphone ear — like talking on a normal phone call

After the interview, you’ll need your guest to email you the audio file they recorded on their phone. This will act as your clean copy, and your Zoom will work as the backup. All that’s left is to sync the phone recording with your host’s track. Go ahead and dub yourself a wizard, because you just made magic.

One More Option

Another option is to record your guests through Zencastr — a cloud-based software that records guests locally through their computer’s built-in microphone. All it takes is a simple share of a link and you’re all set up.

Your guests will still need an external microphone to get the highest-quality. Otherwise, welcome to the wide world of room noise. There’s only so much you can do to fix it in post.

Ultimately, no set-up is perfect. And sound quality aside, the last thing you want is to re-record an entire interview. That’s the stuff of nightmares.

What’s most important is that you do your best to record a clean track, making sure to always have a backup in place. That way, when chaos inevitably reigns, there’s always a second option.

To learn more about successful podcast creation, check out The Anatomy of a Perfect Podcast Episode, According to HubSpot’s Podcast Expert.

29 Free Resume Templates for Microsoft Word (& How to Make Your Own)

No matter what industry you work in (or your experience level in that industry), a plain, black-and-white resume written in Times New Roman font can actually weaken a job application.

But just because resumes have gotten more creative doesn’t mean you need special design software to make your application stand out. On the contrary, writing your resume in good old Microsoft Word is still the perfect way to develop your personal brand, while also communicating your experience and career goals.

Read on to find out how to make your resume in word, then download one of these amazing resume templates that open directly in Microsoft Word.

1. Open Microsoft Word on your computer.

If you have Microsoft Word installed on your computer, open the program and let it load for a moment. There will be a couple of helpful options waiting for you on the first screen, specifically for resume creation.

2. Select either “Basic Resume” or “Bold Resume” from the template menu.

Once you’ve launched MS Word, a window of templates will appear. Scroll down until you see the template options designed for resumes — there will be at least two of them. Double-click the one that suits your style and personal brand, but don’t be too particular about design just yet … you can customize these templates quite a bit.


3. Fill in your name and contact information at the top.

When your resume template opens, you’ll see placeholder text for each line of your resume, starting with your first and last name at the top. Delete this header text and enter your name, as well as any contact information by which you want the recruiter to contact you.

4. Draft a brief summary of your experience and goals.

Use the first line below your name and contact info to describe who you are, what you do, and what you’re looking for in your career.

5. Enter your school and latest education.

List any relevant degrees or certificates you received through schooling. You can safely exclude secondary education if you’ve graduated from an accredited college.

6. Describe each job you’ve held using the lines prompted on the template.

Your professional experience is frequently the most important section of your resume, so feel free to rank this section above your skills and education, depending on how many jobs you previously held.

7. List all relevant skills.

If you have experience in certain software, exercises, problem-solving, or management techniques, use them to populate your skills. Your resume’s “Skills” section helps reveal what all of your previous jobs or related experiences have in common, based on what they taught you and what you provided them.

8. Describe any relevant accolades and accomplishments.

Finish out your resume with any personal accomplishments or accolades you think a hiring manager in your industry would appreciate. Although this section shouldn’t include a Most Improved recognition from little league, for example, it should definitely include your Marketer of the Month award from your last position.

Free Resume Templates That Download in Word

Of course, if you’re already employed full-time, it’s hard to find the time to apply to a new job opportunity, let alone update your resume to reflect your qualifications. Luckily, there are numerous publishers out there who’ve created incredible resume templates for quick editing and formatting in Word.

To keep you from hunting the internet for the resume templates that are both free and compatible with MS Word, we’ve listed 19 more options below for you to customize with your own information right now. Some of them come with variations so you can pick your favorite design. Four of them cater specifically to marketers.

They’re so nice, you won’t believe they open up in Microsoft Word once you download them.

1. Monogram Header Resume Template

We’ll start with a simple one. This is a HubSpot exclusive resume template that is simple and clean with attractive monogrammed headers to call out each section of the resume. The rest of the design relies on a simple serif font for easy reading, which is a good thing considering that hiring managers only take 7.4 seconds to evaluate a resume. You want your experience section to be easily scannable.

Download this template here.

2. Maroon Sidebar Resume Template

Pulling your more text-heavy information off to the side in an attractive color-blocked sidebar, this resume lets your experience stand for itself in white space at the top. It’s also easily customizable with no difficult-to-manipulate tables or formatting. The sidebars are in movable text boxes that can even be removed if you wish.

Download this template here.

Maroon Sidebar Resume

3. Centered Bar Resume Template

This resume takes on a different look than most resumes, centered around a single bar. This makes the resume more visually striking, which could draw attention as hiring managers are evaluating candidates. It also puts emphasis on the objective with your chronological experience supporting it underneath. All of this is in an attractive serif font that is elegant and classy.

Download this template here

Centered Bar Resume

4. Bold Serif Resume Template

Speaking of serif font, this resume puts forward an element of grace and formality with its font choices. It’s perfect for individuals who are looking for more organic color than the ones more typically found in resumes, and the colors are also easily changed in Microsoft Word’s theme settings. It also includes a skill-level bar, adding a nice visual touch to the template.

Download this template here.

Bold Serif Resume

5. Modern Chronological Resume Template

This resume template is available from Microsoft itself, and it’s one of many free templates the company has prepared for those who depend on Microsoft Office tools to create content. Yes, it is written in Times New Roman — don’t freak out. Designs like this can borrow an old-school typeface and still impress recruiters with a clean layout and subtle use of color. You can also change the font if you wish (and the same goes for every template in our list).

Download this template here.

Modern chronological resume template for MS Word

6. Digital Marketing Resume Template

The digital marketing resume below comes from our own collection of resume templates, all of which open directly in MS Word. Coming with two pages total, this sheet holds a wealth of information and offers the perfect amount of style while maintaining professionalism. Mid-level marketers all the way up to CMOs can find this template valuable.

Download this template here.

Digital marketing resume template

7. Simple and Clean Resume Template

This template is the perfect balance of creative and modest — best for the professional who wants to seem casual, thoughtful, but not over the top. Not only does it feature a space for a headshot on the top-left, but you can customize the color of that entire panel. Created by Zoki Design, the resume template also comes with a matching cover letter template.

Download this template here.

Simple and clean resume template for MS Word

8. Black and White Resume Template

The Black and White resume template below suits professionals who prefer using color and shading to add structure to their resume. The black banner at the top contrasts the applicant’s name nicely to help make him/her more memorable to recruiters. The gray banner just below the header is perfect for a summary or career objective — it makes one’s goals known but doesn’t overpower the experience listed below it.

Download this template here.

Black and white resume template

9. Urban Development Resume Template

The illustration on the top-left of this template shows who the designers at Hloom had in mind for this resume: civil engineers. But because it’s a Word document, that graphic is easy to edit and replace with an image that represents your line of work. Are you an analytics buff? Design a clever bar or line graph icon and place it next to your name in blue (or whatever color you’d like!).

Download this template here.

Civil engineer's resume template for MS Word

10. Email Marketing Resume Template

Red color never fails to stick out on a sheet of paper, especially if it’s included in small amounts. The resume template for email marketers, below, captures that balance. In addition to the professional title in the top-righthand corner, this template also stands out with a thin sans-serif font, helping make a lot of text easier for a recruiter to digest and read through.

Download this template here.

Email marketing resume template with red header text

11. Info Pop Resume Template

This one, also from Hloom, gives you exactly what the name suggests: ample space for the info you need, with headers that pop just enough to get your employer’s attention. Although the template fits a ton of text, its soft color palate prevents the document from seeming overwhelming.

Download this template here.

Info Pop resume template for MS Word

12. Dark Resume Template

Ironically, a dark background could be just the thing to ensure your resume doesn’t fall into the black hole of resumes piled on the hiring manager’s desk. Using soft, yellow font, the resume template below inverts the usual color scheme of a resume without trying too hard to be creative.

Download this template here.

Dark resume template with black background and yellow font

13. Neat and Confident Resume Template

Similar to the Simple and Clean template mentioned earlier, this resume design by Nowpixelse communicates a truly professional tone. The template’s muted colors work very well with the side panel layered over the top header.

Download this template here.

Neat and Confident resume template for MS Word

14. Inbound Marketing Resume Template

Here’s another resume template dedicated to the digital marketer. This sheet offers all the inbound marketing language you need to express your values as a passionate, brand-loyal professional. Similar to a few other templates on this list, it also uses just a dash of vibrant color in the applicant’s name at the top (where it matters most).

Download this template here.

Inbound marketing template for interns and marketers

15. Smart and Professional Resume Template

This is another sharp template that offers a basic but confident design for any professional. The warm-colored panel on the right-hand side is pre-formatted for a written profile, where you can write a summary of your background or a form letter to each employer. Just be sure to personalize this messaging to each new recipient so it works for the job you’re applying to. This template is available on Freesumes, and is free to users once they share the page to Facebook or Twitter.

Download this template here.

Smart and Professional resume template for MS Word

16. Spick and Span Resume Template

There isn’t a better name for the template below. The Spick and Span resume might be the cleanest-looking sheet on this list. It uses boldface, all-caps, and gray typeface to structure various headers of the document differently and maximize the hiring manager’s reading experience. And all that minimalism makes the professional headshot at the top pop off the page.

Download this template here.

Spick and Span resume template with clean, bold typeface and professional headshot

17. Timeline-Style Resume Template

Similar to the Centered Bar resume earlier in the post, Hloom’s Timeline template is a super simple but creative way to tell your story. You can convey your progression through various jobs you’ve held on one side of the vertical line, and more static elements of your background — such as skills and education — on the other.

Download this template here.

Timeline-style resume template for MS Word

18. Content Production Resume Template

This basic resume template is suited for content producers at all stages in their career. By spreading out the header and “Skills” text horizontally, the resume below fits a lot of crucial information comfortably on one page (of course, it also comes with a second page if you need it).

Download this template here.

Content production resume template

19. Fresh Resume Template

This is perhaps the most imaginative of all the Word-based resume templates on this list — with both a skills meter and a comic headshot. The template was designed by Venkata Naresh and comes with 12 different versions of the design you see below. Have you created a Bitmoji of yourself? Do you think your employer would find it creative? Match the template and add it as your photo.

Download this template here.

Resume template for MS Word with space for comic headshot

20. CV Resume Template

The curriculum vitae-style resume below flips the typical two-column resume so the basic applicant information is listed across the right side, rather than the left. Feel free to change the color of this sidebar in Microsoft Word if dark-red isn’t your thing — the template can pull off any color you wish.

Download this template here.

Reverse two-column resume template in CV style with red sidebar

21. Goldenrod Resume Template

This template, also offered on Freesumes, dares to use yellow as the dominant color — but doesn’t sacrifice professionalism in the process. The document anchors the education section to a thick, bright banner across the bottom, but you can likely change this to a skills section with some simple editing in Microsoft Word.

Download this template here.

Goldenrod yellow resume template for MS Word

22. Resume Template With Personal Endorsements

This resume template has quite a flashy header — no photography pun intended — but it’s not just for photographers. What makes this resume unique is the space for references on the lower right-hand side. Does your field need others to vouch for your experience? This resume gives you room for three solid recommendations.

Download this template here.

Photographer's resume template for MS Word with space for recommendations and endorsements

23. Creative Resume Template

This one was designed by the stationery experts at MOO and is offered for download by Microsoft. Simple but vibrant, this template hugs the text with an artistic header and footer — great for recent graduates who need to fill empty space on the page.

Download this template here.

Resume template for MS Word with header and footer design

24. Modern Resume Template

This resume embraces simplicity with a slight touch of color to make things a bit more interesting. It also nicely sections off Skills and Education notes from the Work History list. With, you can generate a template with your basic information and then download it to add small details.

Download this template here.

Modern Resume Template

25. Functional Resume Template

This template is colorful and includes a place for your headshot which could make you look both interesting and confident to an employer. A colorful format like this might be great for someone in the media or advertising industry that wants to keep their job application visually memorable to prospective employers.

Download this template here.

functional-resume-template26. Elegant Resume Template

If you’re looking for simplicity and efficiency rather than something colorful, consider this Elegant Resume Template from Jofibo. With Jofibo, you can select this or other similar templates on the website, enter your information, and then download it quickly and easily.

Download this template here

Screen Shot 2019-10-03 at 2.23.03 PM27. Blue Corporate HR Resume Template

Canva, an easy-to-use design template website, offers a few great resume templates. One of them is this simple resume with a touch of color in the background. Because of the color and image, it’s pretty memorable. But, for those who prefer a more conservative resume look, this template is fairly simple.

Download this template here.

canva-blue-corporate-hr-professional-resume-MADftnj-Tj4 (1)28. Concept Resume

This resume is great for people in the technical space because it adds a touch of color and feels more compact, which will force you to get right to the point about your key skills, certifications, and work experiences. 

Download this template here

Concept Resume Template

29. Cream and Green Account Executive Resume Template

This resume is also downloadable and editable on Canva. It was created for account executives but could also be great for graphic designers or people working in visual fields due to its unique, but still professional, color scheme. 

Download or edit the resume template here.

Cream and Green Account Executive Resume Template

How to Save Your Resume

Remember, once you’ve finished personalizing your resume, you’re not ready to submit an application yet. To ensure your resume’s format stays the same for everyone who receives it, save the document as a PDF. Best case scenario? Even the hiring manager won’t believe your resume came from Word.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2018 but was updated in May 2020 for comprehensiveness.