8 of the Best A/B Testing Tools for 2019

In the marketing industry, we treat experts like they’re village elders, soaking up every tip and trick they have to offer so we can implement them into our own work, desperately hoping for similar results.

But, when you really think about it, marketing is always changing and experts often don’t have visibility into your unique context.

This naturally begs the questions — what should you do when you can’t find a solution to one of your problems on the internet? To find the answers to your unique problem, consider channeling your inner Sherlock Holmes and become an investigator. Investigators forage for information that’ll lead them to the answers of their own specific questions. And, as a marketer, one of the best investigative tools at your disposal is A/B testing.

Every company has a different set of customers, so there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for designing the most optimal website, crafting the most compelling copy, or building the most effective product. To figure out which website design, line of copy, or product feature will produce the best results for your company, you must discover what your unique set of customers prefer.

To help you do this, we’ve curated eight of the best A/B testing tools for 2019 that’ll help you optimize your website design, copy, product, and, most importantly, help you find the answers to your own specific situation.

1. HubSpot & Kissmetrics’ A/B Testing Kit [Featured Tool]

kissmetrics_Abtestkit_headerimageDownload a free kit with everything you need to run A/B testing – an A/B test tracking template, a how-to guide for instruction and inspiration, and a statistical significance calculator to see if your tests were wins, losses, or inconclusive. 

This tool is ideal for businesses just getting started with A/B testing, or for businesses that need a way to track their existing tests. Download the kit for free to get started with A/B testing in your business

2. VWO

A/B Testing Tools - VMO

Image Credit: VWO

G2Crowd Rating: 4.2/5.0 (130 reviews)

Trusted by over 4,500 enterprise brands including eBay, Target, and Virgin Holidays, VWO is an A/B testing and conversion rate optimization platform tailored specifically for enterprise brands. In their suite, you can build A/B tests, Split URL tests, and multivariate tests with a drop-and-drop editor.

To gauge the performance of your tests, VWO offers a robust reporting dashboard. VWO also offers a SmartStats feature that leverages Bayesian statistics to help you run faster tests, give you more control of your tests, and reach more accurate conclusions.

3. Optimizely

A/B Testing Tools - Optimizely

G2Crowd Rating: 4.3/5.0 (104 reviews)

With 24 Fortune 100 companies as customers, Optimizely is a digital experimentation platform for enterprise marketing, product, and engineering teams. Using their powerful A/B and multi-page experimentation tool, you can run multiple experiments on one page at the same time, allowing you to test various variables of your web design.

Optimizely also offers testing on dynamic websites, various experiment dimensions like ad campaign, geography, and cookies, and various experiment segmentation parameters like device, browser, and campaign.

4. Omniconvert

A/B Testing Tools - Omniconvert

G2Crowd Rating: 4.5/5.0 (47 reviews)

Omniconvert is a conversion rate optimization platform that offers an A/B testing tool, as well as survey, personalization, overlay, and segmentation tools. Using their A/B testing tool, you can run A/B tests on desktop, mobile, and tablet. Additionally, you can turn winning versions of an A/B test into the control for a future test and leverage Frequentist or Bayesian statistics to validate your tests.

Omniconvert also blends their segmentation tool with their A/B testing tool to let you test over 40 segmentation parameters, like geolocation, traffic source, and visitor behavior, to improve your website’s user experience, product features, and content’s ability to engage and convert. If you work for a medium-sized business, Omniconvert could be a great A/B testing solution.

5. Crazy Egg

A/B Testing Tools - Crazy Egg

Image Credit: Crazy Egg

G2Crowd Rating: 4.0/5.0 (28 reviews)

Crazy Egg is a website optimization software that offers A/B testing, heat mapping, and usability testing tools. Their A/B testing tool lets you test variations of every single page on your website by adding one snippet of code to the pages you want to experiment on.

Crazy Egg also lets you build A/B tests without any coding experience, sends more traffic to the optimal variant of your test once it recognizes it’s the winner, and offers intuitive conversion tracking and reporting tools. If you work for a small business, Crazy Egg is definitely a tool you should consider.

6. AB Tasty

A/B Testing Tools - AB Tasty

Image Credit: AB Tasty

G2Crowd: 4.4/5.0 (25 reviews)

Trusted by brands like Sephora, Ugg, and Carrefour, AB Tasty is a conversion rate optimization software that offers A/B and multivariate testing, data insights, marketing, and personalization tools.

Using their experiments tool, you can build and run A/B tests, split tests, multivariate tests, and funnel tests with their visual editor. You can also leverage their advanced targeting to test based off various criteria like URL, geolocation, weather, and more. To help validate your tests, AB tasty offers reports that display your tests and their confidence levels in real time. If you work for a medium-sized business, AB Tasty could be best suited for you.

7. Freshmarketer

A/B Testing Tools - Freshmarketer

G2Crowd Rating: 4.5/5.0 (24 reviews)

Freshmarketer, which is the marketing arm of the business platform Freshworks, is a conversion rate optimization software that offers A/B testing and split URL testing. Their A/B testing tool can test, target, and validate your experiment, integrate with Google Analytics, and even track the amount of revenue your experiments have generated.

Freshmarketer’s Split URL testing tool can help you test multiple variations of URLs, turn winning test variations into real web pages, and grasp the effectiveness of your web design by offering heatmaps of every variation of your split URL test. Freshmarketer could be the A/B testing solution for you if you work for a small business.

8. Convert

A/B Testing Tool - Convert

Image Credit: Convert

G2Crowd Rating: 4.7/5.0 (21 Reviews)

Trusted by brands like Sony, Unicef, and Jabra, Convert is an A/B testing and web personalization software that offers A/B testing, split testing, multivariate testing, and multipage experiment tools. Convert also offers an advanced segmentation tool that allows you to segment users based off their historical behavior, cookies, and JavaScript events.

Additionally, Convert can gauge the performance of all your tests by reporting on a large mix of metrics, from your variations’ click-through-rate to its return-on-investment. If you want to use Convert in conjunction with your other tools, they offer a ton of integrations with third-party tools, like WordPress, Shopify, and HubSpot. Convert is best suited for small businesses.

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10 Simple Ways to Write Stronger Introductions

There’s a lot of material out there about writing great headlines. Hey, getting someone to click on your article is a critical part of your blogging strategy. But what about writing introductions?

Compelling readers to actually read the article is an art form in and of itself — and if you don’t do it well, then you’re denying yourself potential promoters, subscribers, leads, and even paying customers.

Take a look at the following graph from Schwartz to see what I mean. It shows where people stopped scrolling in an experiment covering many articles across the web.

Every time someone landed on an article, Chartbeat analyzed that visitor’s behavior on a second-by-second basis, including which portion of the page the person was currently viewing. Each bar represents the share of readers who got to a particular depth in the article.

percent-of-article-content-viewed.jpg

Image Credit: Slate

Of everyone who landed on an article, 10% never scroll down.

So how do you get more people to scroll? One way is by writing a powerful, compelling introduction.

So, let’s see about making it better now, shall we? In this post, I’ll share with you how to write powerful introductions that turn casual browsers into readers. Article introductions matter, and here’s how to make them count.

1. Keep your first sentence short.

I’m a big fan of short sentences. I love them because people can understand them easily. There’s an insane amount of value in short sentences that are readable, digestible, and punchy.

But often, writers get so caught up in the stress of their introduction that they come out with long, garbled sentences. The problem with long, garbled sentences is that it makes readers work hard. Readers don’t want to work hard to understand your article — especially at the beginning. Lead off your introduction with a bite-sized sentence or two.

2. Say something unusual.

You’ve probably heard advice like “create a hook” and “grab the reader’s attention.” But what kind of stuff actually grabs someone’s attention? I can think of a lot of things, actually, but they probably wouldn’t be appropriate for an introduction.

What these oft-repeated phrases boil down to is this: say something unusual. Something unexpected, even. If your very first sentence is odd enough to make people want to read the next one, then you’ve done a good job. If you start off with something boring or expected, you might lose potential readers.

3. Don’t repeat the title.

Assume that the reader already read the title. You don’t need to write it over again. Instead, take advantage of your chance to reinforce that title and to set the stage for the remainder of the article.

4. Keep the introduction brief.

There is no definitive answer for how long an introduction should be. But, like the Slate study told us, readers have short attention spans. They’re impatient to get to the meat of the article. Your readers are looking for information, so don’t bury it deep in your article. Cut to the chase.

5. Use the word “you” at least once.

The word “you” is a powerful word. It tells the reader that you, the author, are writing the article with them in mind. You empathize with them, you care about them, and you want your piece to resonate with them. It’s a simple trick that establishes a crucial connection with your reader.

Here’s a great example from CloudPeeps’ Shannon Byrne:

shannon-byrne-intro.png

6. Dedicate 1-2 sentences to articulating what the article covers.

Your English teacher would call this the “thesis.” This is where you tell the reader what the article is about. What will you be discussing, in order? What will the reader learn? Lay it out to help set the reader’s expectations and help her decide whether she wants to read the article in full, scroll to different parts, or not read it at all.

Don’t be afraid of writing, literally, “This article is about X” or “In this article, I’ll talk about Y.” Here are some variations on this theme to get you started:

  • “You’re about to find out why sea turtles always lay their eggs on the beach.”
  • “And, if you’ve ever wondered why sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach, here’s everything you need to know.”
  • “This article explains the 17 reasons why these amazing creatures lay their eggs on beaches.”
  • “Fascinating, funny, and shocking, these are the reasons why sea creatures lay their eggs on the beach.”

7. Dedicate 1-2 sentences to explaining why the article is important.

It may be obvious to you why the content of your article is important to your readers, but it may not be obvious to them. Let them know loud and clear why it’s important for them to know the information you cover in your article. You might compel readers who would otherwise have bounced to keep on reading.

In the introduction to this particular article, you’ll recall the following sentence:

If you don’t [write introductions] well, then you’re denying yourself potential promoters, subscribers, leads, and even paying customers.

My goal here was to connect the topic of blog post introductions to the broader issues of readers, customers, and revenue.

8. Refer to a concern or problem your readers might have.

If you can pull a pain point into the introduction, even better. Everyone in every field has their set of problems. You should have some listed already from when you created your buyer personas. Communicate your awareness of those problems in your introduction and you’re more likely to gain a sympathetic reader.

Here’s a great example from Buffer’s Alex Turnbull, whose intro here is a story format with a problem twist:

alex-tumbull-introduction.png

People want to solve their problems, and articles that explain how to do this will help you earn readership.

9. But … be careful telling stories.

A lot of people will tell you that you need to write a story in the introduction. Stories can work, as in the example above, but there are good and bad ways to tell stories in your intro.

Do use storytelling to spark the reader’s curiosity and empathize with her. But don’t get carried away and write a long-winded story that loses readers along the way. Remember the tip about keeping introductions short? That still applies when you’re telling a story.

Here’s an example from one of my own QuickSprout blog posts:

neil-patel-introduction.png

Notice that I highlighted the “empathy” section — the first sentence. Here, I helped form a connection with my readers. Then, I told a short story about my own experience. After that, I finished the introduction with “what’s next.”

If you do begin your article with a story, here’s a tip: Don’t reveal the conclusion until the reader is deeper into the article, or even until the very end.

10. Use a stat or a fact to convey importance.

When journalists begin a news story, they often give readers an eye catching stat or fact about what’s going on. As a blogger or any other type of writer, a really interesting stat or fact will draw your reader in and show them why your topic is really important.

For example, say you’re a plumber writing a blog post on pipe replacement. You might pull in more readers if you start a post by explaining how frequently old pipes burst in the winter. If readers see that this is a common annoyance that others face, they might keep reading to learn how they can avoid it.

Introduction Takeaways

The next time you write an article introduction, think about what kind of introduction would make you want to read the article.

Would a long, wordy first sentence make you want to read more? No. You might find yourself thinking, Yikes, is this what the rest of the article’s going to be like? and bounce from the page. What about a story or question that doesn’t really apply to you? No, probably not.

To compel you to read past the introduction of an article, you want to read something unique, fresh, and engaging. You want to hear about yourself and your problems. You want to be put in a position where the remainder of the article is a must-read experience that will help you solve those problems and change your life.

Introductions are hard, and writing effective ones take time and practice. Sometimes, you might find yourself having to re-write them several times before you’re satisfied. Remember, it’s all worth it if it means keeping the attention of a few more of your readers.

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Recent Grad? Here’s How to Tackle Your First Month of Job Searching

Making the transition from academia to professional life is a milestone that our four-year undergraduate degrees often don’t prepare us for! If you’re getting ready to make the jump from backpack to briefcase, here is a week-by-week plan to help prepare you for your first month of job searching.

Week 1: Self-Reflection

Before diving into your job search and applications, it’s time to start reflecting about what you want your first career move to be. Until this point, it’s likely that your choices and variability have been limited, as academic curriculums can be restricted to your core courses and electives. This is a unique time to explore your life, network, and take the time to learn about yourself and your interests.

To do this, ask yourself the following questions:

In the last few years, what courses, projects, internships, or part-time jobs have “sparked joy”?

In the last few years, which of those same elements have I strongly disliked?

If time, money, and resources were not a barrier, what would I want to pursue?

What professionals, professors, or classmates inspire me? If I could emulate anything about them, what would it be?

Once you have those elements figured out, you can research which jobs exist that would create alignment between your work and your areas of interest. Start by listing out 10 jobs that might include key ingredients that excite you.

Building your career roadmap and vision early on will provide a guiding light as you transition from school to work.

Week 2: Informational Interviews

Once you’ve started exploring and have that list of 10 jobs, seeking out informational interviews will help you develop a better picture of what your desired profession could look like in real time.

If you want to reach beyond your network of professors, friends, family and classmates for informational interviews (which you should!), head to LinkedIn and get networking!

Speaking to people about their careers, and learning about how they got from A to Z will help you build your own roadmap, and expand your professional network. It will also give you a realistic idea of how to emulate certain careers or accomplishments.

If you find yourself getting excited about someone’s job or achievement, it might be because their values and interests align with those of your own. Listen to that inner voice when it’s excited as you start searching for your first job.

While going through this process, you should keep track of all the conversations you have. Mark down who you’ve spoken to, what the interaction was, and what the outcome was. This helps build meaningful relationships early on, fine tune your messaging, and serves as a  journal for self-reflection.

You might find that many people are too busy to take your calls. This is to be expected, so challenge yourself to reach out to at least two to three new people a day, and make sure to follow up.  

Week 3: Look Towards Your Own Network

Now that you’ve explored yourself, spoken to some professionals, and have some guidance about where you want to go, start going through your internal network.

Open up a new spreadsheet and build out a company list of 20 places you would want to work. Once you have that list, start talking to your friends, families, colleagues, alumni, professors, and anyone you’ve spoken to in step one and two, to see if you know anyone working in any of those organizations. See if any of your contacts, or any of your contact’s contacts know anyone that can put you in touch with the right people.

Get your name out there and tell your network you’re looking for a job! If people don’t know you’re looking, and don’t know what you’re looking for, they won’t know to refer you. Everyone has been where you’re starting out, and most people will be willing to help you land that first gig.

Week 4: Head to the Job Boards

Once you’ve moved through your network, it’s time to hit the Glassdoor’s job search.

Rather than sitting home hitting refresh on the job boards every five minutes, give yourself a schedule, and a routine that will help you build good habits and avoid any toxic behaviors. For example, you can say, “After 2:00 pm, I’m not applying for jobs anymore and instead I am going to spend the afternoon improving my French speaking skills”. Also, you should set up a Job Alert for the term or terms that may be contained in your ideal job. For example, if you’re on the hunt for a writing job, set up job alerts for the words “writer,” “editor,” “content,” “content creator.”

At this stage of your career, the focus should be to find a job that will give you skills, and experience to help you build your foundations. While you shouldn’t be too picky early on (ex: rejecting a good job because it’s not your dream job), you should try and only apply for jobs that you feel will help move you in the right direction professionally.

Give yourself benchmarks, and reward yourself along the way. For example, you might say, “if I get 5 really good applications done in the next 2 days, I’ll take myself for a pedicure”. Celebrate yourself!

While academia provides a linear framework for you to work within, you’ll have to get used to the ambiguity and uncertainty that exists when job searching and building your career. Finding the right job will not happen overnight, so keep calm, and remember your career will be a journey, and not a final destination!

This article was originally published on Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest job and recruiting sites. Glassdoor combines all the jobs with valuable data to make it easy for people to find a job that fits their life, while also helping employers hire quality talent at scale. Are you hiring? Post jobs for free with a 7-day trial.

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Author: Stacy Pollack

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9 Highly Effective Order Review Pages to Inspire Your Own

An order review page is almost always the final place a customer goes before they make a purchase.

At this point, they’ve probably done their research, considered competitor products, know the price and details related to your product, and are ready to buy. If the page is easy to understand and causes no confusion, odds are that your customer will press the “Make Purchase” button with no hesitation.

But, if the page feels vague, unprofessional, and doesn’t give full product details, the customer might pause and worry that they’re purchasing the wrong product or giving their money to a less-trustworthy company.

On the other end of the spectrum, if the page includes advertisements, excess images, a complex navigation bar, and other unnecessary elements, the customer might get distracted, click away from the order page, and take longer to make a purchase.

As you design your ecommerce site, you might wonder, “What do I need on this page to seal the deal?”

The truth is, you just need to keep it simple. Think of order reviews like landing pages. Instead of using the page to convert a customer to a lead, you just want them to click the purchase button.

To get them to click quickly, allow the customer to review their exact product selection, a photo of the product(s), delivery information, and accurate costs associated with the order. When this page focuses on the product information that’s important to the customer, they’ll trust that they’re purchasing the correct item and won’t get deterred from pressing the purchase button.

As you create a review page, make sure it includes these helpful elements:

  • A headline, banner, or progress bar saying “Order Review,” “Review Order,” or something similar.
  • The customer’s name, contact information, and shipping address.
  • An image and basic product description for each product.
  • A list of any extra specifications or customizations that the customer has designated.
  • Accurate pricing information showing each product’s cost, a sub-total, total, tax, and delivery fee.
  • Payment information or a payment form.
  • A brightly colored button with a “Place Order” call to action.

To help you build an efficient order review page, here are nine examples of review pages from real companies.

Order Review Page Examples

Neiman Marcus

Neiman Marcus’ order review page allows the customer to make last-minute selections and changes to their shipping information. Then, they can use it to add payment details before making the purchase. On the right of the page, they show transparent pricing information, any gift wrapping designations made by the customer and product information.

 

In the “Item Summary” area, a clear image of the product is shown alongside text that describes color, size, and quantity designations made by the customer. After reviewing this information, the customer will know they’re ordering the correct product and will be confident that the right information is on file when they click “Pay Now.

Neiman Marcus is also using a smart strategy of hiding the navigation bar. When you log into Neiman’s homepage, the bar is much more detailed and highlights different categories of products. On this page, the element is replaced by a progress bar that shows the customer where they are in the checkout process.

Without a navigation bar, there’s less risk that the customer could click off of this page to look at other products. It also focuses the customer on making the purchase at hand. Although Neiman wants customers to look at their products, they’ve removed the bar on this specific page because it could cause customers to get distracted, abandon their cart, or make slower purchases.

Nordstrom

Like Neiman Marcus’ page, this design is simple and shows off images and details related to each product so the customer trusts that they’re making the right purchase. On the top of the page, you see basic shipping information. Then, the bottom of the page goes into detailed specifics. There’s a bright blue “Place Order” button on both the top and bottom of the page.

This page’s organization allows shoppers with limited time to do a quick review and purchase. At the same time, the details and button at the bottom also cater to customers who want to review the more intricate details.

 

Like Neiman, this page also eliminates a navigation bar to ensure that customers are focused on making the purchase as quickly and smoothly as possible.

DoorDash

DoorDash, a HubSpot customer, uses its order review area to give consumers one last chance to edit to their meal delivery. It clearly designates the restaurant they’re ordering from as well as specific meal details.

It also shows the customer’s delivery instructions and allows them to make slight tweaks, such as adding delivery notes. Although there is a DoorDash logo and a “Back to Menu” button on the top of the page, the design also limits distraction that could lead to an abandoned order.

IKEA

IKEA’s review page takes an extremely simple, but efficient approach. While the other pages on this list have a more branded design, this page looks more like a receipt. It displays a small photo of the product and a small IKEA logo. Then it includes very specific shipping, product, and pricing details in a basic font. Although some might call it bland, this makes the page incredibly understandable and straightforward.

Similarly to Nordstrom, IKEA also replaces its usual navigation bar with an order progress bar so the user can focus purely on the order.

 

Purple

Purple, another HubSpot customer, similarly eliminates navigation and includes a progress bar on their order review page. With a sleek, clean design, a customer can easily see a photo of their product, item specifications, and shipping details. Like other pages on this list, there is also a box where you can enter your billing information before making the final purchase.

Chanel

The Chanel Review page is simple and straightforward. While they do still include the navigation bar, the pictures of the products and text about complimentary items might keep the customer focused on finishing the purchase.

This page allows customers to review delivery and product information while also filling out their billing information. It includes a “Complete the Purchase” button that allows them to pay directly after filling out the billing information.

Sock Club

Sock Club, which sells customs socks and offers “Sock of the Month” promotions, has a simple and easy-to-understand layout, despite the fact that they include custom sock details and specifications. The product information is on the right and includes an image of the basic sock and bulleted text that lists all customizations — such as size and sock design — made by the customer.

Similarly to the other examples, the page is a different design than its actual website as it removes navigation and replaces it with a progress bar.

Etsy

Etsy uses a more playful and colorful order review design. The page includes a fun headline that says “Double check your order details” to emphasize that this page is for a purchase review.

The page also encourages customers to place their order with a simple, but eye-catching tan box that says, “Almost done! Please click ‘Place your order’ to complete your purchase.” The place your order button is black which contrasts well with Etsy’s white design.

Customers can see detailed product information, a photo, seller information, and a transparent price. They can also add a note to the seller.

Like the other pages, Etsy ditches navigation and replaces it with a visual progress bar. This bar style might be fun and motivating for a customer who likes to visually see their progress. Each circle fills up when they complete a task within the checkout process, which might be satisfying to some shoppers.

Etsy also includes a “Secure Checkout” sign at the top of the page. Because Etsy allows users to buy products from third-party sellers, this might add a sense of trust that a customer’s billing and contact information is safe.

Airbnb

Although Airbnb sells vacation rentals and not goods, this “Confirm and Pay” page is pretty similar to the other pages on this list. It similarly includes a box to fill out payment information, no navigation bar, a photo of the vacation home, and text-based details about the reservation so the user is sure about their purchase and all of its related costs.

Prior to this page, the customer has already clicked through a page that requires them to agree with the house rules and acknowledge that they understand which amenities are and aren’t provided. Because they have already seen ample details, the product description is a little light on this page.

Along with the standard review page elements, there’s also a note saying that this vacation spot is a “rare find” because it is regularly booked out. This might give the customer added motivation to fill out their information and pay as quickly as possible incase they’re worried another vacationer might take those dates.

Remember. Keep it simple.

Your customer already knows they want to buy your product by the time they reach the order review page. So, you don’t need to put large amounts of detail and design time into it.

To create an efficient page, aim to balance simplicity with need-to-know information so the customer trusts your company and is confident that they’re making the right purchase.

Putting too much unnecessary information on an order review page can distract or slow the customer from making a final purchase. However, not enough information can have the customer worried that they might be ordering the wrong thing. So, focus on telling the customer exactly what they need to know, then encourage them to click “Purchase.”

Want to learn more about the ins and outs of selling ecommerce products? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce Marketing. If you’d rather focus on generating leads than one-time online purchases, we’ve also put together a list of great landing page designs.

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The Ultimate Guide to Platforms and How They Can Benefit Your Business

Once upon a time, the typical business tool belt was sprinkled with digital tools: email marketing software here, website CMS there, and perhaps software for accounting and tracking sales.

In the last decade or so, software has become more intelligent, consumers have become more engaged and easier to learn from … and business owners have become overwhelmed. What was once a manageable tool belt has become an overflowing tool box akin to what you’d find in a construction worker’s pick-up truck.

According to a recent marketing technology study, the average marketer is using around 12 software tools a day — with some using up to 31. And this doesn’t even consider any sales, support, HR, or finance tools those businesses are using, too.

Wow.

As versatile as technology can be, it doesn’t necessarily doesn’t solve the challenge of how to manage, connect, and align all of these different tools. With the sheer amount of software and technology on the market today, is it even possible to return to that convenient toolbelt our entrepreneurial forefathers once knew and loved?

Yes — with a platform. Platforms are the key to creating a centralized home base for all of your marketing technology and more.

We compiled this guide to teach you all about platforms, their various applications, and why your business should consider adopting one.

The concept of platforms isn’t new. In fact, platforms are practically as old as civilization itself — dating back to the marketplaces and bazaars of Ancient Rome. In more recent years, shopping malls and auction houses have taken over this brick-and-mortar representation.

Thanks to the rapid rise of technology, platforms have become mainly digital. Scott Brinker, HubSpot’s VP of Platform Ecosystem, defines this type of platform as “a hub, with spokes connecting other products to its center. The hub binds those disparate products together and orchestrates them in a common mission.”

A platform makes it possible to connect tools, teams, data, and processes under one digital roof — it creates that tool belt we discussed above. It’s the nucleus of all systems and allows you to connect all your favorite tools seamlessly using integrations.

Take a look at HubSpot’s Integrations and Applications Marketplace to see some of the integrations that work with your HubSpot software.

Keep reading to learn how platforms work and how they can benefit your business.

How Platforms Work

Traditional businesses follow a linear model of business, where they manufacture products or services and conduct transactions with other businesses or consumers. These businesses also own their inventory, and consumers access them to purchase their inventory.

how-platforms-work-traditional-business

Platform businesses, on the other hand, follow a circular model of business, where they enable and facilitate transactions between two parties without creating, manufacturing, or owning inventory. Consumers use platforms to purchase products or services from other platform users.

how-platforms-work

Platforms businesses have proven to be highly valuable — to consumers and investors alike. Did you know that six of the top 10 companies by market capitalization are platforms? That’s right: Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet (Google), Facebook, and Alibaba.

It’s clear that in today’s economy, who a company connects with is more important than the product or service they own and sell.

Like we said above, platforms enable interactions and transactions between interdependent groups. These direct interactions inherently create supply (from a seller, service provider, or producer) and demand (from a buyer, service seeker, or consumer) — benefiting both parties.

While traditional businesses create value by creating products or services, platforms create value by enabling these transactions.

Here’s what that transaction typically looks like:

platform-transaction

A platform’s success is dependent on more than these transactions, though. Platforms must also attract consumers and producers, enable matches between these two groups, and provide the right technology to aid a transaction — all while maintaining rules and standards that protect both parties as well as the platform itself.

Here’s what the cycle of these four functions typically looks like:

platform-functions

Platform Benefits

The platform business model has revolutionized business and technology as we know it. Here are a few reasons why.

Platform business models grow faster and scale better.

Platforms that follow the platform business model can grow or scale rapidly because they don’t own the resources that create the value, i.e. the applications, content, service providers, or products. Their growth isn’t contingent upon resources or capital.

Platform business models build a reciprocal, self-sufficient community.

Platforms that follow this business model enjoy “two-sided network effects,” meaning that demand is created from the supply of both buyers and sellers, providers and users, or creators and consumers.

This equates to fewer advertising dollars (to attract either buyers or sellers) and stronger word-of-mouth marketing. It also creates a “win-win” situation that allows both the platform business and service providers or sellers to profit from users.

Platforms solve for connection and efficiency issues.

As marketers (or salespeople or support representatives), we tap into dozens of tools each day. In fact, there are almost 7,000 marketing technology vendors globally. Platforms create a centralized location for the tools and applications we use to grow our businesses, reach our customers, and collaborate with our teams.

Time and energy are two things that businesses don’t have to spare. Platforms that follow the platform business model become a one-stop-shop for user’s day-to-day processes.

We’ve defined a platform, and we’ve talked about how platforms have important business ramifications. Next, we’ll cover some real-life platform business model examples, their impact, and how they’ve become successful.

Platform Business Model Examples

How do platforms play out in everyday life? Surprisingly, you’re regularly using more platforms than you realize. Let’s dive into some platform business model examples that will help round out your understanding of the topic.

Airbnb

platform-airbnb

When planning a vacation and deciding where to stay, the first thing I do is hop on my Airbnb app. I could visit a website like Hotels.com or Google to search for places to stay (which are both platforms, too), but I always choose Airbnb. Why? Not only does it allow me to “live like a local” wherever I’m visiting, but it’s relatively affordable and provides me with a wide variety of lodging.

Airbnb has revolutionized the hospitality and lodging industry. For a company that owns no property, it has beat out some of the most popular hotel chains.

Airbnb has also become successful because of its suppliers — normal people like you and me. Airbnb buyers (guests) attract Airbnb suppliers (property owners), therefore fostering a reciprocal ecosystem that benefits both Airbnb and its users alike.

Uber

platform-uber

Similar to the way Airbnb doesn’t own any properties, Uber doesn’t own any cars … yet it’s given the taxi industry a run for its money. Sure, it’s almost always cheaper, but it also provides a much more modern and arguably safer experience. Riders can pay digitally, split the fare with other riders, and track their ride all the way to the destination.

Uber drivers also receive perks. They control their driving schedule, have access to frequent bonuses, and can find passengers wherever they are — without having to wait at a taxi stand or long queue.

The Uber platform supports both parties. By managing payment, ratings, and all dispute resolutions, Uber makes it easy to be both a driver and rider — and only takes a small percentage of earnings.

Facebook

platform-facebook

Chances are, you didn’t realize Facebook is a platform. Think about it: Facebook produces no original content and owns no media … yet, it collects data and brings in tons of advertising revenue. Talk about brilliant. In fact, you can consider almost every other social network to be the same.

By creating a fun, interactive place for people to connect and share content, Facebook has built one of today’s most influential platforms. Content created by Facebook users attracts other Facebook users who create more content … so on, and so forth. Facebook is a great example of a platform’s reciprocal network effects that create monetization opportunities for the platform itself.

Amazon

platform-amazon

Amazon currently sells over 12 million products to over 310 million active users worldwide — and that product count doesn’t include books, wine, media, and services.

What’s even more fascinating? Amazon doesn’t own the vast majority of the products they sell. Sure, it owns warehouse space, advertising space, a handful of product lines, and now transportation fleets … but it primarily sells other companies’ inventory. It enables (easy, quick, and cheap) transactions between sellers and buyers.

On top of that, Amazon brings in billions from advertising, seller fees, and Prime membership subscriptions.

Medium

platform-medium

Medium rocked the online publishing world when it was released in 2012. Bloggers, writers, and journalists could publish content online (without cost) without having to worry about hosting a website or getting their work approved by editors. In fact, large news sources and companies — including Sports Illustrated and the White House — started publishing content on Medium, too.

It became a content free-for-all, and readers benefited all the same. Readers could visit Medium and access a variety of fresh content from thousands of writers. As a platform, Medium manages its website … and that’s about it. The corporation doesn’t publish any content of its own, nor does it employ any writers. It simply connects readers and writers to produce and consume great content.

HubSpot

platform-hubspot

Last year, HubSpot announced that it’s transitioning from an “all-in-one suite vs. all-on-one platform”. This means that it’s expanding to adopt hundreds of more integrations to benefit customers and help them easily expand their tool belt — instead of requiring them to add and master even more disparate systems.

In short, more disconnected software means more friction (and frustration) for customers. Folks are used to either using too many tools that don’t connect or using archaic platforms that don’t solve for today’s buyer (a.k.a. your customers). HubSpot plans to fix that.

The HubSpot platform will allow you to seamlessly connect your tools, teams, data, and processes so you can power frictionless experiences for your customers.

Grow Better With Platforms

Platforms business have revolutionized the economy and how other companies conduct business. Not only do they bring together consumers and producers and create a valuable network, but they also solve countless connection and efficiency issues.

If you’re juggling dozens of marketing tools, consider working with a platform to help streamline your tools, teams, data, and processes. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the platform businesses around you — you might be surprised by how many you already use on a daily basis.

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How to Get Better at Delegating [Infographic]

Being a good delegator often doesn’t come naturally. In fact, I’m guilty of being a pretty terrible delegator myself. 

Oftentimes, the risk seems to outweigh the reward — for instance, I might have a project I need finished immediately, and the risk of miscommunication that might occur as I offhand tasks to someone else seems too high for me to bother.

But delegating is a critical skill for any manager to learn, and can increase productivity and revenue for your company’s bottom line — in fact, CEOs who delegate generate 33% greater revenue than those who do not.

Additionally, delegating is often critical for achieving the highest-quality work. Why not delegate if you have someone on your team with talents and skills better suited for a certain task?

Simply put, delegating is critical for your team’s success, and your own sanity. But it’s easier said than done. Fortunately, the folks at Headway Capital put together the following infographic, full of tips and tricks to enable you to get better at delegating. Take a look.

How-to-get-better-at-delegating_infographic-2

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14 PowerPoint Presentation Tips to Make More Creative Slideshows [+ Templates]

I like to think of Microsoft PowerPoint as a test of basic marketing skills. To create a passing presentation, I need to demonstrate design skills, technical literacy, and a sense of personal style.

If the presentation has a problem (like an unintended font, a broken link, or unreadable text), then I’ve probably failed the test.

Even if my spoken presentation is well rehearsed, a bad visual experience can ruin it for the audience.

Expertise means nothing without a good presentation to back it up. For starters, grab your collection of free PowerPoint templates below, and use the tips that follow to perfect your next presentation.

No matter your topic, successful PowerPoints depend on three main factors: your command of PowerPoint’s design tools, your attention to presentation processes, and your devotion to consistent style. Here are some simple tips to help you start mastering each of those factors, and don’t forget to check out the additional resources at the bottom of this post.

PowerPoint Style

1. Don’t let PowerPoint decide how you use PowerPoint.

Microsoft wanted to provide PowerPoint users with a lot of tools. But this does not mean you should use them all. Here are some key things to look out for:

  • Make sure that preset PPT themes complement your needs before you adopt them.
  • Try to get away from using Microsoft Office’s default fonts, Calibri and Cambria. Using these two typefaces can make the presentation seem underwhelming.
  • Professionals should never use PPT’s action sounds. (Please consider your audience above personal preference).
  • PowerPoint makes bulleting automatic, but ask yourself: Are bullets actually appropriate for what you need to do? Sometimes they are, but not always.
  • Recent PPT defaults include a small shadow on all shapes. Remove this shadow if it’s not actually needed. Also, don’t leave shapes in their default blue.

2. Create custom slide sizes.

While you usually can get away with the default slide size for most presentations, you may need to adjust it for larger presentations on weirdly sized displays. If you need to do that, here’s how.

  • In the top-left corner, choose “File.”
  • Select “Page Setup.”
  • Type the height and width of the background you’d like, and click “OK.”
  • A dialogue box will appear. Click “OK” again.
  • Your background is resized!

Tip: Resize your slides before you add any objects to them or the dimensions of your objects will become skewed.

Change-Size-of-Background-PPT-2

3. Edit your slide template design.

Often, it’s much easier to edit your PowerPoint template before you start — this way, you don’t have design each slide by hand. Here’s how you do that.

  • Select “Themes” in the top navigation.
  • In the far right, click “Edit Master,” then “Slide Master.”
  • Make any changes you like, then click “Close Master.” All current and future slides in that presentation will use that template.

Change-Slide-Master-1

4. Write text with your audience in mind.

A significant part of a powerpoint’s content is text. Great copy can make or break your presentation, so evaluating your written work from a few different angles could make you seem more persuasive. Thinking about how your text is received differentiates good presenters from the best.

Typography: 

Many people underestimate the influence of typeface, but choosing the right font is important — the perception of your font type could influence your audience’s impression of you. The right font is an opportunity to convey consistent brand personality and professionalism.

Some fonts are seen as clean and professional, but this doesn’t mean they’re boring. A common mistake is thinking your font isn’t “exciting” enough, which could lead you to choose a font that distracts from your overall message.

Powerpoint-creative-tips-fontSource: Workfront

That said, you can still use fun and eccentric fonts — in moderation. Offsetting a fun font or large letters with something more professional can create an engaging presentation. Above all, be sure you’re consistent so your presentation looks the same throughout each slide, so your audience doesn’t become distracted by too many disparate fonts.

Powerpoint-creative-tips-exampleSource: Design Shack

5. Make sure all of your objects are properly aligned.

Having properly aligned objects on your slide is the key to making it look polished and professional. You can manually try to line up your images … but we all know how that typically works out. You’re trying to make sure all of your objects hang out in the middle of your slide, but when you drag them there, it still doesn’t look quite right. Get rid of your guessing game and let PowerPoint work its magic with this trick.

How to align multiple objects:
  • Select all objects by holding down “Shift” and clicking on all of them.
  • Select “Arrange” in the top options bar, then choose “Align or Distribute.”
  • Choose the type of alignment you’d like.

Align-to-Object

How to align objects to the slide:
  • Select all objects by holding down “Shift” and clicking on all of them.
  • Select “Arrange” in the top options bar, then choose “Align or Distribute.”
  • Select “Align to Slide.”
  • Select “Arrange” in the top options bar again, then choose “Align or Distribute.”
  • Choose the type of alignment you’d like.

Align-to-Slide

PowerPoint Design

6. Use “Format Menus” to better control your objects’ designs.

Format menus allow you to do fine adjustments that otherwise seem impossible. To do this, right click on an object and select the “Format” option. Here, you can fine-tune shadows, adjust shape measurements, create reflections, and much more. The menu that will pop up looks like this:

powerpoint_format_menus

Although the main options can be found on PowerPoint’s format toolbars, look for complete control in the format window menu. Other examples of options available include:

  • Adjusting text inside a shape.
  • Creating a natural perspective shadow behind an object.
  • Recoloring photos manually and with automatic options.

7. Take advantage of PowerPoint’s shapes.

Many users don’t realize how flexible PowerPoint’s shape tools have become. In combination with the expanded format options released by Microsoft in 2010, the potential for good design with shapes is readily available. PowerPoint provides the user with a bunch of great shape options beyond the traditional rectangle, oval, and rounded rectangle patterns, unlike even professional design programs like Adobe Creative Suite or Quark.

Today’s shapes include a highly functional Smart Shapes function, which enables you to create diagrams and flow charts in no time. These tools are especially valuable when you consider that PowerPoint is a visual medium. Paragraphing and bullet lists are boring — you can use shapes to help express your message more clearly.

8. Create custom shapes.

When you create a shape, right click and press “Edit Points.” By editing points, you can create custom shapes that fit your specific need. For instance, you can reshape arrows to fit the dimensions you like.

edit_points

Another option is to combine two shapes together. When selecting two shapes, right-click and go to the “Grouping” sub-menu to see a variety of options.

  • Combine creates a custom shape that has overlapping portions of the two previous shapes cut out.
  • Union makes one completely merged shape.
  • Intersect builds a shape of only the overlapping sections of the two previous shapes.
  • Subtract cuts out the overlapping portion of one shape from the other.

By using these tools rather than trying to edit points precisely, you can create accurately measured custom shapes.

9. Crop images into custom shapes.

Besides creating custom shapes in your presentation, you can also use PowerPoint to crop existing images into new shapes. Here’s how you do that:

  • Click on the image and select “Format” in the options bar.
  • Choose “Crop,” then “Mask to Shape,” and then choose your desired shape. Ta-da! Custom-shaped photos.

Crop-to-Shape

Learn more about creating images for your marketing channels in the video below.

10. Present websites within PowerPoint.

Tradition says that if you want to show a website in a PowerPoint, you should just create link to the page and prompt a browser to open. For PC users, there’s a better option.

Third party software that integrates fully into PowerPoint’s developer tab can be used to embed a website directly into your PowerPoint using a normal HTML iframe. One of the best tools is LiveWeb, a third-party software developed independently.

By using LiveWeb, you don’t have to interrupt your PowerPoint, and your presentation will remain fluid and natural. Whether you embed a whole webpage or just a YouTube video, this can be a high-quality third party improvement.

Unfortunately, Mac users don’t have a similar option. Agood second choice is to take screen shots of the website, link in through a browser, or embed media (such as a YouTube video) by downloading it directly to your computer.

11. Try Using GIFs.

GIFs are looped animated images used to communicate a mood, idea, information, and much more. Users add GIFs to Powerpoints to be funny or quickly demo a process. It’s easy to add GIFs to your slides. To do so, simply follow these steps:

  • Download and save the GIF you want.
  • Go to the slide you want the GIF on.
  • Go to the “Home” tab, and click either “Insert” or “Picture”.
  • From the “Picture” drop-down menu, choose “Picture from File”.
  • Navigate to where you saved your GIF and select it. Then, choose “Insert”.
  • To play the animated GIF, click the “Slide Show” tab and then “Play from Current Slide”.

PowerPoint Process

12. Keep it simple.

PowerPoint is an excellent tool to support your presentation with visual information, graphics, and supplemental points. This means  that your powerpoint should not be your entire presentation. Your slides — no matter how creative and beautiful — shouldn’t be the star of the show. Keep your text and images clear and concise, using them only to supplement your message and authority. 

If your slides have dense and cluttered information, it will both distract your audience and make it much more likely that you will lose their attention. Nothing in your slides should be superfluous! Keep your presentation persuasive by keeping it clean. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Limit bullet points and text.
  • Avoid paragraphs and long quotes.
  • Maintain “white space” or “negative space”.
  • Keep percentages, graphs, and data super basic.

13. Embed your font files.

One constant problem presenters have with PowerPoint is that fonts seem to change when presenters move from one computer to another. In reality, the fonts are not changing — the presentation computer just doesn’t have the same font files installed. If you’re using a PC and presenting on a PC, then there is a smooth work around for this issue. (When you involve Mac systems, the solution is a bit rougher. See Tip #11.)

Here’s the trick: When you save your PowerPoint file (only on a PC), you should click Save Options in the “Save As …” dialog window. Then, select the “Embed TrueType fonts” check box and press “OK.” Now, your presentation will keep the font file and your fonts will not change when you move computers (unless you give your presentation on a Mac).

14. Save your slides as JPEGs.

In PowerPoint for Mac 2011, there is no option to embed fonts within the presentation. So unless you use ubiquitous typefaces like Arial or Tahoma, your PPT is likely going to encounter font changeson different computers.

The most certain way of avoiding this is by saving your final presentation as JPEGs, and then inserting these JPEGs onto your slides. On a Mac, users can easily drag and drop the JPEGs into PPT with fast load time. If you do not use actions in your presentation, then this option works especially well.

If you want your presentation to appear “animated,” you’ll need to do a little tinkering. All you need to do is save JPEGs of each “frame” of the animation. Then, in your final presentation, you’ll just display those JPEGs in the order you’d like the animation to appear. While you’ll technically have several new slides in place of one original one, your audience won’t know the difference.

An important consideration: If your PPT includes a lot of JPEGs, then the file size will increase.

15. Embed multimedia.

PowerPoint allows you to either link to video/audio files externally or to embed the media directly in your presentation. You should embed these files if you can, but if you use a Mac, you cannot actually embed the video (see note below). For PCs, two great reasons for embedding are:

  • Embedding allows you to play media directly in your presentation. It will look much more professional than switching between windows.
  • Embedding also means that the file stays within the PowerPoint presentation, so it should play normally without extra work (except on a Mac).

Note: Mac OS users of PowerPoint should be extra careful about using multimedia files.

If you use PowerPoint for Mac, then you will always need to bring the video and/or audio file with you in the same folder as the PowerPoint presentation. It’s best to only insert video or audio files once the presentation and the containing folder have been saved on a portable drive in their permanent folder. Also, if the presentation will be played on a Windows computer, then Mac users need to make sure their multimedia files are in WMV format. This tip gets a bit complicated, so if you want to use PowerPoint effectively, consider using the same operating system for designing andpresenting, no matter what.

16. Bring your own hardware.

Between operating systems, PowerPoint is still a bit jumpy. Even between differing PPT versions, things can change. One way to fix these problems is to make sure that you have the right hardware — so just bring along your own laptop when you’re presenting.

17. Use “Presenter View.”

In most presentation situations, there will be both a presenter’s screen and the main projected display for your presentation. PowerPoint has a great tool called Presenter View, which can be found in the “Slide Show” tab of PowerPoint 2010 (or 2011 for Mac). Included in the Presenter View is an area for notes, a timer/clock, and a presentation display.

Screen_Shot_2013-12-05_at_2.07.31_PM

For many presenters, this tool can help unify their spoken presentation and their visual aid. You never want to make the PowerPoint seem like a stack of notes that you use a crutch. Use the Presenter View option to help create a more natural presentation.

Pro Tip: At the start of the presentation, you should also hit CTRL + H to make the cursor disappear. Hitting the “A” key will bring it back if you need it!

With style, design, and presentation processes under your belt, you can do a lot more with PowerPoint than just presentations for your clients. PowerPoint and similar slide applications are flexible tools that should not be forgotten. 

Want more? Read 20 Great Examples of PowerPoint Presentation Design.

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14 of the Best Public Relations Examples to Inspire Your Next Campaign

Sometimes, a press release about your company’s new product launch, significant hire, or acquisition fails to pick up the coverage you were expecting. Journalists crave juicy stories and viral marketing campaigns, but standing out in a sea of conventional pitches is one of the biggest challenges for any public relations professional.

When you need a dose of inspiration, blogs like PR Examples are a great place to find the most compelling PR plays. To save you some time, we curated a list of the absolute best of the best to get the creativity flowing for your next campaign.

Read on to get inspired by some of the best minds in public relations.

1. Lyft & Netflix: Strange Mode 

Industry Relations

With over 360,000 people who binge watched Stranger Things 2 within a day of its release, it’s clear the show created unprecedented amounts of hype leading up to its premiere date. One of the stunts that built up this hype was Lyft and Netflix’s Strange Mode prank. By immersing Lyft customers in an environment that was as terrifyingly strange and eerily similar to Hawkins, Indiana, they made Stomranger Things fans feel like they were actually in the Upside Down.

2. HostelWorld: Even Divas are Believers

Customer Relations

Traveling the world can give you some of the best experiences of your life, but it can also thrust you into situations that you’ll want to scrub from your memory, like staying the night in a hostel. There are countless hostel horror stories online and hundreds of videos that mock their hospitality scattered throughout social media — so needless to say, they don’t have the best reputation.

But HostelWorld, a hostel booking website, decided to team up with Mariah Carey to freshen up their image and showcase the pleasant reality of staying in a modern day hostel. Together, they blasted through affordable accommodation stereotypes by spotlighting the lesser known luxuries of hostels like having access to the same facilities as more expensive accommodations, but at a cheaper price, and being able to connect with other fellow travelers.

HostelWorld’s message is simple: if hostels are nice enough for divas like Mariah Carey, then they’re nice enough for everyone..

3. Lawyer.com: Choosing Lindsay Lohan to Be their Spokesperson

Customer Relations

Picking Lindsay Lohan to be your company’s official spokesperson could spark a lot of backlash. But when you connect people with lawyers, the move can produce loads of smiles, publicity, and customers. Lawyer.com’s brilliant marketing play resonated with audiences because Lohan’s troubled past and her frequent brushes with the law makes people who might’ve gotten in a little trouble feel like they’re not alone. It also makes them feel better about themselves. If a high-status celebrity needed a lawyer — multiple times — then maybe it’s not so bad if you need one too — right?

4. Stabilo Boss: Highlight the Remarkable

Corporate and Social Responsibility

There have been remarkable women throughout history that might not have been celebrated as they should have been. Stabilo Boss — the company that sells highlighter pens — started a campaign to highlight these women and their incredible accomplishments. 

Stabilo took famous black-and-white photos from historical moments and drew a yellow highlight line to showcase the woman in the photo that made it all happen. The Boss PR campaign highlighted women like Katharine Johnson, the NASA mathematician responsible for the calculations that sent Apollo 11 to the moon. Other examples include Nobel Prize winner Lise Meitner ando First Lady Edith Wilson.

The campaign blew up on social media and went on to win multiple awards.

stabilo_boss_katherine_print_thumbPhoto credit: Ads of the World

5. Logitech: BS Detection Spoof

Industry Relations

Hours after April Fools Day, almost every marketing publication rounds up the best spoofs, pranks, and stunts that distracted everyone at work that day. One of the funniest spoofs that earned a spot in all the major roundups this year was Logitech’s fake Business Speak Detection product video. By giving their product a punny, yet subtly accurate name, the video pokes fun at most businesses’ obsession and overuse of buzzwords. But it also has the feel of a real product overview, which makes it even more hilarious.

6. Old Spice: Paper Blazer Ad

Marketing Communications

Photo Credit: PR Examples

When Fragrance brands advertise in magazines, they usually show off their aromas by drenching an ad with their latest cologne or perfume. But Old Spice realized people usually don’t enjoy unexpectedly pungent scents violating their nostrils when they’re flipping through their favorite magazine. So in typical Old Spice fashion, they gently ribbed other fragrance brands by inserting a paper blazer doused in their new cologne, Captain, in their print ad in GQ magazine. Then they wrote about how these paper blazers can help men attract attention not only with trendy style, but also with masculine smell. The only drawback of the blazer is that it’ll turn into papier-mâché on you in the rain.

Humor and cleverness is one of the best ways to appeal to your audience and gain earned media attention, and it seems like Old Spice can leverage them both on any marketing channel.

Photo Credit: PR Examples

7. Star Wars: Passing the Box-Office Baton to The Avengers

Social Media

Avengers: Infinity War just shattered Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ record for the biggest opening weekend ever by grossing over $250 million. LucasFilm, the studio that created and produced Star Wars, wasn’t bitter though. Instead, they were proud of their friends over at Marvel Studios, and sent them a heartwarming congratulatory tweet. By applauding them for their incredible accomplishment, and not sulking about their broken record, Star Wars earned the respect of movie lovers everywhere — not to mention some media coverage for the gesture.

8. Johnnie Walker: Jane Walker

Corporate and Social Responsibility

 

 Photo Credit: PR Examples

To promote gender equality and honor the many achievements of women throughout history, Johnnie Walker launched a female version of its whisky on International Women’s Day called Jane Walker. The limited-edition bottle featured a woman on their iconic logo, instead of a man, which connected the brand to individuals who also support their commitment to social progress.

In March 2018, Johnnie Walker released 250,000 bottles of Jane Walker, and for every bottle sold, they donated $1 to organizations that empower women. This tangible impact helped their campaign gain even more support and publicity.

9. AirBnB & BBC Earth: Night at Blue Planet II

Industry Relations

Blue Planet II is considered the greatest nature series of all time, with its first episode attracting over 14 million viewers and earning the title of Britain’s highest rated TV show in 2017. Watching the show can almost place you into the habitat they’re filming, but BBC Earth wanted to take things to the next level for their biggest fans: they offered them a chance to experience what it’s like to be a researcher and filmmaker for Blue Planet II.

To do so, they teamed up with AirBnB to run a contest for their members, and two lucky winners got to spend three days and two nights in the Bahamas on the research and exploration vessel used in the show’s filming. During their expedition, they lived with and discussed work with researchers and dove deep into the Atlantic Ocean in a submarine with filmmakers to observe some of nature’s most unique underwater wildlife. By offering a once in a lifetime opportunity, BBC Earth could get more people to watch their hit show, and AirBnB could build their brand affinity.

Photo Credit: PR Examples

10. SpaceX & Tesla: SpaceX Sends a Tesla into Outer Space

Public Affairs

Everyone knows Elon Musk wants to send humans to Mars. So when SpaceX launched their newest rocket, Falcon Heavy, into space, it made some headlines. But when the Falcon Heavy suddenly shot a cherry-red Tesla Roadster blasting David Bowie’s 1971 hit “Life on Mars?” into orbit, it was being called the greatest automotive PR stunt in history.

The car will now float between Earth and Mars for millions of years, and serve as reminder for current and future generations to always reach for the stars. The success of both launches also improved SpaceX and Falcon Heavy’s reputation. Falcon Heavy is now the most powerful rocket on earth, so it’s realistic to say it can launch heavy satellites and future space stations into orbit, shuttle cargo to Mars, and even transport humans to the moon. And that’s exactly what Elon Musk needs the public to think if he wants to accomplish his ambitious goals.

11. BBC Scotland: Scotland From the Sky: Glen Coe

Integrated Marketing and Communications

In 2017, Rough Guides, a renowned travel guidebook, named Scotland the most beautiful country in the world. And a big reason why it’s such a spectacle is because Glen Coe, a Scottish valley that cuts through the ruins of an ancient super-volcano, is one of the most striking landscapes in the world.

BBC Scotland’s immersive, 360 degree video of Glen Coe grips viewers because they’re able able to experience the landscape from an intimate point of view at every possible angle, which makes them feel like they’re actually there. Publicity of this video benefits both Scotland’s tourist industry and BBC Scotland because it compels people to travel to Scotland and consume more of BBC Scotland’s content.

12. State Street Global Advisors: Fearless Girl

Corporate and Social Responsibility

On the morning of International Women’s Day, the world woke up to find a four-foot high statue of a girl across from the Charging Bull statue on Wall Street in New York. She is standing tall and brave, hands on her hips, in a dress and high top converse. 

Fearless Girl, as she is called, was commissioned by the investment management firm State Street Global Advisors as a part of their campaign to pressure companies to add more women to their boards. By standing up to Charging Bull, she is standing up for gender diversity on Wall Street. 

fearless-girl-PR-campaign-exampleSource: Forbes

Some argue that the girl’s defiance toward the bull — and male-dominated corporate boardrooms more generally — is controversial. There has been lots of pushback to the statue, but in general, this PR campaign received widespread support for the women’s movement and diversity in the workplace and remains outside the New York Stock Exchange.

13. ALS Association: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Corporate and Social Responsibility

A few years ago, videos of people dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads flooded social media, now known as the Ice Bucket Challenge. The viral sensation of 2.4 million videos was a way to raise awareness of a neurodegenerative disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The idea was to raise money for the ALS Association and research on the disease. 

 

The viral challenged raised more than $115 million dollars, with almost $80 million going towards research. The campaign was a massive success — awareness and funding for ALS has skyrocketed, all thanks to millions of people giving themselves brain freeze.

14. Guinness: Guinness Clear

Corporate and Social Responsibility

Guinness pushed a series of ads to promote its newest product: Guinness Clear. This completely transparent, refreshing beverage “will keep you hydrated and help you stay in control.” Their secret recipe? It’s just water.

This lighthearted PR campaign is actually trying to address a more serious issue — binge drinking. The company hopes that consumers will drink more of their “Guinness Clear” to remember their nights and not overdo it while still having fun. Guinness hopes the ads will drive conversation and healthier habits.

 

 

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17 Ways to Get Free Advertising for Your 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.

Surprisingly, there are 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 longterm 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 14 ways to get advertising for free.

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 and find out more about this process.

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. 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.

4. Answer Quora questions.

Writing content for Quora can expose your business to a large audience: TechCrunch reported that some of Quora’s active contributors receive more than 30,000 monthly views.

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.

5. Publish content on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is an 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.

6. Offer to do interviews on other business’ podcasts.

To figure out which platforms your team should priortize, 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Network at in-person events.

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 ensures you’re meeting high-qualified leads. For example, a “Best Technology Startups of 2018” 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.

10. Speak at an 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.

11. 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.

12. 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. 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.

13. Create YouTube videos.

YouTube has more than a billion active users, which accounts for almost one-third of everyone on the internet. Plus, 59% of executives — i.e. decision makers — go to videos before written content.

Creating engaging and informative YouTube videos is one of the most efficient ways to sell your brand. If done right, your YouTube videos will entertain viewers enough to seek out your website.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. 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.

Google My Business Delivery Area Form

Optimizing 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 8 p.m.”, Google will examine your business profile’s details 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 My Business Listing-1

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. Here’s a template that can help you plan your SEO strategy this year.

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Author: Caroline Forsey

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Writing for SEO: How to Write Blogs That Rank on Page 1 of Google

Did you know that 91% of web content gets no traffic from Google? While creative marketing tactics like blogging will boost brand awareness and show that you have expertise on an industry, not writing a post properly for SEO could mean it misses out on all the great SEO traffic it could get.

Numbers don’t lie. If you want to climb to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), well-written, engaging content alone won’t cut it. You also need to focus on writing SEO-driven, keyword-focused content that attracts not only website traffic, but the right kind of traffic. You might be thinking, “That sounds great, Courtney! But, how do I get started?”

We’re sharing seven essential tips for creating SEO-friendly blog posts without sacrificing user experience and engagement, tips you can start using today:

1. Identify highly-effective keywords when looking for post ideas.

Google handles over 40,000 search queries a second. Staggering, right? If you want to cut through search result clutter and outrank your competitors, you need to target the specific keywords and phrases your potential customers are searching. How else will they find your content and website?

To identify those hot keywords, head on over to the social platforms your target audience frequents and see what’s trending. Pay close attention to the exact phrases they use and monitor popular industry terms and topics.

Google Trends can also give you a feel for what keywords are popular at any given time. If you see searches are steadily declining over time for a specific keyword, you know that’s probably not the right keyword to target for your marketing and vice versa for increasing trends.

If you’re ever running low on keyword ideas, get inspiration from your competition. Use tools to see what keywords they’re currently ranking for — if these keywords are relevant to your business, consider using them too! SEMRush lets you enter a competitor and see the keywords they’re ranking for, their position in search results, traffic received for that keyword and other key metrics.

Keep in mind that the most obvious keywords aren’t always the best keywords. Searchers tend to use very specific “long-tail” keywords, keyword phrases and questions when they’re looking for something.

Long-tail keywords comprise up to 70% of all search traffic and can unlock the door to successful SEO. When WPBeginner, the largest WordPress resource site for WordPress beginners, adopted a long-tail SEO strategy, they increased their organic search traffic by 20% in just two months!

Because you face fierce competition for shorter, more general keywords, you often have a better chance of ranking in the top results for long-tail keywords. And, long-tail keywords allow you to zero in on higher quality website traffic that often knows what they’re looking for and may be farther along in the buyer’s journey.

Once you’ve done your research and built a list of what you think are the most valuable, relevant keywords, plug them into a keyword research tool like Google’s Keyword Planner, Moz’s Keyword Explorer, Ubersuggest, Keyword Tool and so on. Many keyword research tools give you the monthly volume for any given keyword. Test out different keyword tools — marketers are drawn to different ones for different reasons.

Depending on your business or industry (or budget or bandwidth for SEO efforts), it may be important to rank for high competition, short tail keywords. Still, try to also optimize for a healthy dose of long-tail keywords that are high in search volume but low in competition. You may find it’s much easier to rank for these words.

Remember that your focus keywords will evolve over time as trends shift, terminology changes or your product/service line changes. Be sure to conduct keyword research periodically to ensure you’re still focusing on the right keywords for your target audience and not missing out on vital ranking opportunities.

2. Naturally integrate those keywords throughout your posts.

Once you’ve decided on a list of target keywords, it’s time to write a blog post focused on one of these keywords. Brainstorm blog topics with your team and decide on a topic that will entice and engage your target audience.

Keep your buyer personas, their motivations, challenges, interests, etc. in mind throughout the brainstorming process. Choose a topic that will emotionally resonate with your potential customers and their needs, desires or pains.

As you write your blog, your keyword and natural variations should be regularly interspersed throughout the post. Your primary keyword should appear in these key places:

  • Title
  • Headings and subheadings
  • URL if possible
  • Image alt text (search engines can’t read images)
  • Meta description
  • Throughout the content

Remember that you’re writing for humans, not search engines. Focus on engaging readers with a natural writing style that takes their needs and interests into account.

Be sure to avoid overusing any keyword (also known as “keyword stuffing”) at all costs. Keyword stuffing may lead to a website being penalized or banned in search engine results pages either temporarily or permanently. But even more importantly, if your keyword appears too often and feels forced, you sacrifice a reader’s experience, insult their intelligence and compromise the article’s quality. Don’t give readers any reason to hit the back button and turn to a competitor’s blog for answers.

3. Link to influential websites.

As you build out your blog post, don’t be afraid to link to other articles or blogs.

Linking to applicable and reputable websites not only offers blog readers additional reading material to expand their knowledge, but it also shows Google and other search engines that you’ve done your research. And the blogger or writer may even return the favor and link to your site.

Nothing strengthens a blog post like hard-to-argue-with, research-backed statistics from influential websites. Compelling stats help you build a more convincing and concrete argument that will get your readers thinking (especially when they’re from trustworthy sites they know and love).

4. Aim for scannable, longer posts.

In an age of short attention spans (average of 8 seconds for humans), you would think shorter blog posts are the way to go. But search engines actually prefer longer, in-depth blog posts.

The longer your blog post, the greater its chance of appearing in the top search engine results. SerpIQ found that the 10th position pages have 400 fewer words than 1st position pages. Longer posts will rank more easily for your target keyword.

Think about it: the more content on the page, the more clues search engines have to figure out what your blog is about. We recommend writing a minimum of 300 words per blog post. This length gives search engines plenty of keywords and text to crawl and helps them understand what your blog is about.

The downside to longer blogs is that they may scare off your readers. We live in a world of skimmers and scanners. In a heat map analysis, CoSchedule learned that only 10-20% of their readers were making it to the bottom of their posts. So, the million dollar question is, how can longer blog posts appeal to today’s online readers?

You can write scannable, readable blog posts that hook online readers by tightening up your sentences and paragraphs. Turn a long-winded sentence into two. Keep your paragraphs to 2-3 sentences max.

Also, take full advantage of bulleted lists and subheadings that grab reader’s attention. By following these tactics, you’ll create blogs that are easier to read (especially on a mobile device!) and less intimidating to the scanner’s eye.

5. Internally link words or phrases to other posts on your site.

Linking to other pages or blog posts on your website helps search engines crawl your website and create a more accurate sitemap. It also helps your audience discover more of your content and get to know you as a trustworthy, credible source of information.

Internal links to other valuable content keep users on your site longer, reducing bounce rate and increasing your potential for a conversion (and isn’t that what it’s all about?).

When linking to any pages on your website, or even outside sources, use natural language for your anchor text. Avoid using spammy or generic text such as “top-rated cheap laptops” or “click here.”

Instead, use descriptive keywords that give readers a sense of what they will find when they click on the hyperlink, such as a search engine optimization guide.

Never force feed links to your top webpages, featured products or discounted items. These types of links will only turn off readers and could lead to search engines penalizing your website.

A word of caution: don’t overdo your internal linking or any linking. We know it’s tempting to link to all of your blogs and webpages, but only choose the ones that best enhance the point or insight you’re writing about in any particular blog. Always think about whether or not these links naturally tie in with the subject matter and if they will offer significant value to your readers.

6. Optimize pictures for the fastest possible page speed.

Google rewards pages with faster page speed and places those that lag lower on its rankings. So, it’s important to make sure your page-load times are as quick as possible.

One of the leading culprits of page lag is large photos. If the photo you uploaded is too big, it will make the page take a longer time to load — even if the image doesn’t seem huge on screen. Luckily, you can keep your posts visually interesting without sacrificing crucial speed.

Once you pick a photo, use a free compression software, like Squoosh.app to make it as small as it can go before it loses any quality. Any removal of excess photo data will speed up loading times so readers won’t have to wait.

If you suspect that your SEO issues are related to low page speeds, Google offers a free tool that can score your page and give you suggestions for speed improvement. Here’s a guide on how to use it and boost your score.

7. Preform link building strategies.

Traffic from places other than Google is crucial to your search rankings. Why? Think of search results like a competition where the winners get the most votes. Each webpage that links back to you is considered a “vote” for your website, which makes your content more trustworthy in the eyes of Google. In turn, this will make you rise farther up on search results.

So, it’s good to write posts that other websites or publications will want to hyperlink within their own posts. You can also write posts on other business’ websites that link back to your website in some way.

To make your website’s blogpost more linkable, include valuable assets or information, such as your own data, original thoughts, infographics, definitions, or other facts that people might not find anywhere else.

Here’s an example of how this mindset could help you. If you write a post titled “How to Make a Video Tutorial,” or “13 Stats about Video Tutorials,” bigger sites that are writing about something similar might hyperlink words like “video tutorials” or “research from [Your Company Name]” to your post so they can give their reader more context without repeating your work.

Once you’ve written the post, you might want to start sending it to other publications or websites that might want to discuss it or link it to their other posts. This outreach lets other publications know of the post and might also help you grow link building alliances with them in the future.

You can also consider doing promotion, such as interviews or guest posts that link to your website’s blog post to further encourage link building.

These strategies can be key to your SEO success, but they can be time consuming. To help you, consider trying out one of these softwares.

How to Title Blog Posts for SEO

Even with a great, SEO-friendly post body, a bad title could hurt you in search engines. To title your post with SEO in mind, draft a clear understandable title that both shows the reader what they’re about to read and integrates the keywords you identified in the first step. As mentioned above, write something that pleases Google’s ranking algorithms, but is also understandable and enticing to humans.

Here are a few examples:

  • If you’re a beauty blogger and you see that people are searching “how to wear matte lipstick,” your post could be titled, “How to Wear Matte Lipstick: A 5-Step Guide.”
  • On the other hand, if your blog covers artificial intelligence and you see that people are searching a new AI app, you could write a blog post called “How to Use [Insert AI App Name],” or “We Tried the New [Insert App Name] App: Here’s What Happened”
  • If you blog about farming or sustainability and find out that “what to buy at farm stands” is a regular search, you might write a listicle titled “What to Buy at Farm Stands This Summer.”

The Bottom Line

If you want your blogs to rank at the top of page one (and why wouldn’t you?), your main focus should be on creating blogs that both users and search engines will love. By optimizing your blogs for both, you can earn higher rankings in SERPs, get more qualified web traffic and increase conversion rates.

Wasn’t that the exact reason you started blogging to begin with?

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Author: Courtney Feairheller

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