9 Pillar Page Examples to Get You Started With Your Own

Earlier this year, a handful of my extremely bright and capable colleagues compiled a report on topic clusters. Now first, what the heck is a topic cluster?

A topic cluster is a method that uses a single “pillar page” as the main hub of content for a given topic. All of your content assets related to that topic link back to the pillar page — and the pillar links out to each asset.

Here’s why it’s critical to your content strategy.

Topic clusters aren’t just a nice, clean way of organizing content that brings glee to the most Type A of marketers (me, for instance). It also keeps Google happy. As it turns out, the search engine giant has changed its algorithm to favor topic-based content, making pillar pages a requirement for content marketers who want to maintain a high SERP ranking.

Download Now: 6 Free Blog Post Templates

Here’s a handy video explaining how topic clusters work:

Now, let’s dive into what these pillar pages mean for your business.

What is a pillar page?

My colleague, Sophia Bernazzani, does an excellent job of summarizing pillar pages (and comparing them to HubSpot Marketing Blog’s own previous method of topic organization) in her post on the subject here. As the previous paragraphs suggest, she says:

“A pillar page is the basis on which a topic cluster is built. A pillar page covers all aspects of the topic on a single page, with room for more in-depth reporting in more detailed cluster blog posts that hyperlink back to the pillar page. Pillar pages broadly cover a particular topic, and cluster content should address a specific keyword related to that topic in-depth.”

What’s more, however, is that the idea of a pillar page is to cover broad content in a way that is highly linkable itself — that is, external sites would link to it as a canonical resource for the topic. So, to put it into visual terms, here’s what our blog architecture used to look like using this old playbook:

Disorganized website structure before HubSpot used pillar pages to create topic clusters

This is where the topic cluster model comes into play. Using topics you want to rank for, you can organize the mess of content above by optimizing it for specific keywords related to its respective topic. Then, hyperlink all of those topics back to a pillar page.

Think of this pillar page as a topic’s mother ship, and your blog posts are all smaller soldier ships that give and receive support from this mother ship. This organization offers greater search engine authority because it tells Google you’ve dedicated a certain amount of digital real estate to this topic, and are to be considered a reliable answer to users’ questions on that topic when they conduct a search.

Now, as we’ve established multiple topic clusters, here’s what our blog infrastructure now looks like:

Content structure using the topic cluster model by HubSpot

See how the site architecture is more deliberate in this model? The visual above shows how it organizes content assets together to help searchers more easily find information within your domain.

It has three main components:

  1. Pillar content (your pillar page)
  2. Cluster content
  3. Hyperlinks

Icon legend for HubSpot's topic cluster model

Okay, you get it — pillar pages are both nice and important for SEO. After all, on average, a page that ranks #1 in Google will also rank well for around 1,000 other related keywords. But what are they supposed to look like? Are aesthetics important? How do you organize all of your content assets on a pillar page?

Actions speak louder than words — says the writer — which is why we sought answers to those questions by way of pillar page examples that do an excellent job of organizing and linking to content assets.

9 Great Pillar Page Examples

1. Typeform: Brand Awareness

Pillar page on brand awareness by Typeform

At first glance, it’s hard to ignore the positively inbound-y nature Typeform’s Brand Awareness pillar page. It was built to inform, and lives up to its tagline: “Nearly everything you need to know.”

Not only is it aesthetically pleasing — the color palette is, somehow, at once both soothing and bold — but it’s quite easy to navigate. The table of contents appears immediately, and once you begin to consume the content, it’s clear, comprehensive, and quotable.

Typeform’s Internal Linking Strategy

Notice how the information is interjected with CTAs to tweet various stand-out quotes:

CTA to tweet quote from Typeform's pillar pageAnd while there are several links throughout the pillar page, the vast majority of them don’t link to other Typeform content assets. In fact, it’s not until toward the end of the pillar page that those links to other Typeform pages begin to appear, and even them, they’re used sparingly, and typically used to support points and direct readers to solutions.

2. Cloud Elements: The Definitive Guide to API Integration

cloud-elements-pillar-page-exampleCloud Elements is an API integration platform that helps companies connect with third-party software. Also a HubSpot customer, the company has created some impressive pillar content that (necessarily) delves deep into the concept of software integration for its readers.

Cloud Elements’ API integrations pillar page, shown above, breaks a complex topic down into seven digestible steps — the first of which is shown below. Notice how the pillar uses a “floating” table of contents along the lefthand side to keep reader’s attention and remind them what stage of the process they’re learning about. This is a useful way to maximize the reader experience and the time they spend on the page.

cloud-elements-pillar-page-table-of-contentsCloud Elements’ Internal Linking Strategy

Cloud Element’s internal linking strategy does at least three helpful things for readers:

  1. It links out to blog posts on its website that expand on the processes introduced in the full, definitive guide;
  2. It links back into the pillar page from each of these blog posts; and
  3. It captures readers’ contact information by offering a packaged, ebook-style version of the pillar for readers to download, share with colleagues, and take with them for long-term reading.

As a result, Cloud Elements saw a 53% increase in organic search traffic to its website, and nearly all of the blog posts linked to the pillar page saw their own individual organic traffic growth as well.

3. Matthew Howells-Barby: Customer Acquisition Strategies

Pillar page on customer acquisition strategies by Matthew Barby

HubSpot’s Director of Acquisition, Matthew Howells-Barby, is no stranger to the HubSpot Marketing Blog, or the people who comprise its team. We regularly quote him here, and frequently pester him with our own questions. Naturally, his website is a go-to resource for marketers who want to learn about SEO — and it includes an exemplary pillar page on customer acquisition strategies.

Matthew’s Internal Linking Strategy

Similar to the Typeform example, there’s a noticeable shortage of promotional hyperlinks within the first section of the page. In fact, as you scroll down the page, you’ll also see that links to Howells-Barby’s other content assets are both tastefully and seamlessly inserted between large pieces of tactical information.

CTA on Matthew Barby's pillar page

But these links are supplemental and relevant, and there aren’t tons of them — all of them direct the user to Barby’s tools on the topic at hand, which is customer acquisition. Instead of bombarding the user with numerous in-text links, well-designed CTAs are used to allow readers to click to learn about these tools.

4. HubSpot: The Ultimate Guide to Productivity Apps

HubSpot pillar page on the ultimate guide to productivity apps

Sometimes, pillar pages can look like and belong to the same blog property for which it’s building SEO authority. Recently, we adopted this concept in our very own topic cluster model. Above is our pillar page for productivity apps, a topic we know many of our readers care about and have questions on.

The pillar page above has a blog-like title, feature image, and byline just like the specific blog articles that belong to this cluster. It’s also on the same domain as our blog content — blog.hubspot.com. These attributes show Google there’s a visible connection between the pillar, which is much longer than each blog post to encompass each topic, and the blog articles it links out to.

HubSpot’s Internal Linking Strategy

Related Articles internal linking strategy on HubSpot's pillar page

In addition to the blue anchor text CTA to download related content — as shown in the first screenshot of our Productivity Apps pillar page, above — these pillars also link out to each page in the topic cluster using an RSS feed at the bottom of the pillar page.

In the screenshot directly above, you’ll see each article belonging to the Productivity Apps cluster linked in a “Related Articles” carousel. This carousel allows us to link out to each article in this cluster as they’re created, further strengthening the entire cluster as a result.

5. The Atlantic: Population Healthier

Pillar page on healthcare by The Atlantic

Pillar pages are also an excellent way to organize and create sponsored content with a co-marketing partner. Case in point: The Atlantic partnered with athenahealth to compile a report (and pillar page) on healthcare in the U.S.

The content is absolutely bananas — in the absolutely best way possible. It begins with a story about a historical building in the Massachusetts town of Lowell, which forays into a full-blown interactive, animated, and highly information report about the state of healthcare coverage in cities like this one as the user scrolls down. But the entire time, there’s a helpful plus-sign along the left side of the page that, when clicked on, presents a table of contents.

The Atlantic‘s Internal Linking Strategy

On The Atlantic‘s pillar page, links to additional content found on theatlantic.com are a bit more prevalent than the previous example. But remember, this pillar page was created to support sponsored content. Therefore, it presents an organized, non-intrusive way of linking to this sponsored (but still informative) content that relates back to the central topic of healthcare in the U.S.

CTA on The Atlantic's pillar page

The Atlantic achieves that by placing well-designed, but noticeable links at the end of each section. These lighter-colored boxes match the visual theme that precede them — such as with the link to “The Culture Wars” content in the example above.

6. 3PL Central: State of the Third-Party Logistics Report

3PL-central-pillar-page-example3PL Central is a warehouse management platform that uses the cloud to make tasks like inventory, billing, and shipping easier to track for businesses. A HubSpot user, the company consistently produces fresh new pillar content that, last year, increased the company’s website traffic by nearly 900% and conversions by nearly 200%.

3PL Central’s pillar page example, shown above, contains a series of use cases for 3PL’s product in solving the various logistical challenges businesses today will face. In this way, the pillar works in a couple of interesting ways: First, it positions the pillar as a data resource that other publishers are more inclined to link to — building the backlinks that are critical to 3PL Central’s organic search ranking. And second, it keeps their potential customers abreast of the latest challenges in logistics and warehouse management — driving value into the product from a number of angles.

3PL Central’s Internal Linking Strategy

Across 3PL Central’s pillar page, the company links out to a number of different pages on their website where readers can get more information on a particular subject the pillar touches on. Some of these links direct to landing pages and contact forms, where readers can dig deeper into certain subjects, and 3PL Central can give itself more opportunities to generate leads from readers of the original pillar.

7. ProfitWell: SaaS DNA Project

Pillar page on the anatomy of a SaaS Marketing Site by ProfitWell

We love content that makes good use of examples to point out best practices — just have a look at what we’re doing in this post. But in a move similar to Typeform’s in its Brand Awareness pillar page, ProfitWell’s pillar page on “The Anatomy of a SaaS Marketing Site” incorporates plenty of “in-the-while” instances of both what to do when it comes to SaaS marketing content — and what not to do.

Building that sort of information into a pillar page — or any content, for that matter — preemptively answers the question of, “I know what I’m supposed to do. But what should I avoid at all costs?”

ProfitWell’s Internal Linking Strategy

CTA on ProfitWell's pillar page

Once again, there’s a noticeable lack of link inundation here. Within each chapter, a visual CTA lingers along the right-hand side of the page that allows users to download the full Anatomy of a Saas Marketing Site guide, as well as a single click-to-tweet option for one line of quotable text from the section. It’s a no muss, no fuss approach that fits in well with a text-heavy site, which doesn’t distract from the main content.

8. GoodUI: Evidence

Pillar page on lead conversion evidence by GoodUI

We’re absolutely delighted by the concept of “Easter eggs” — those little hidden, puzzle-like treasures on the internet that turn up cool tricks or nuggets of information. And to us, GoodUI’s “Evidence” pillar page is one big Easter egg.

GoodUI’s Internal Linking Strategy

The page consists of data — or “evidence” — from multiple A/B tests that have uncovered patterns for higher conversions. Clicking on any data point throughout the page will direct the viewer to an expanded, detailed view of the test leading to that information. It’s a treasure trove of eye-catching, compelling experiment results.

Internal linking strategy on GoodUI's pillar page

Within that sub-content, there’s a CTA at the bottom of each dedicated test section to share your own test, providing the reader with an opportunity to contribute her own content and findings to an already impressive plethora of information.

9. GatherContent: UX Design and Content Strategy

Pillar page on UX design and content strategy by GatherContent

I love this pillar page, because you can download it.

Pillar pages are designed to be the mother ships for the topics on which you plan to create lots of content, but they don’t have to just be SEO builders. According to GatherContent’s pillar page, shown above, they can also be lead generators.

This pillar page is a long, open document of subtopics about user experience (UX) design that doubles as a PDF you can download to your computer.

gathercontent-content-strategy-download

Take a look at the table of contents that comes after the title page, above. As you can see, you can download this guide to your computer (after entering your name and email address).

GatherContent’s Internal Linking Strategy

CTA to download content strategy guide on GatherContent's pillar page

GatherContent’s pillar page doesn’t focus much on linking out to related content on UX design. Instead, it links to another guide on a related topic. There, readers will see a preview of a PDF they can then download using their name and email address.

This is an example of a content strategy that uses pillar pages to rank its lead-generating content directly on Google.

What’d you think? Which pillar page style interested you the most? No matter how you organize your content, a thorough pillar page is the support beam that helps you rank well in search across numerous topics across your industry.

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Can Facebook Ads Influence Integration Adoption? Here’s What We Found.

Platforms are embedded in our daily lives — whether we realize it or not.

Have you recently … Ordered food from a service like GrubHub or made a reservation using OpenTable? Booked a ride using Lyft? Used your phone to check your email? All of these seamless interactions require systems to talk to each other via open platforms.

What about at work? How many tools do you use to do your job? Do you spend a lot of time updating disparate systems, or do you use a connected stack of technologies to keep things up-to-date? If it’s the latter, you have a platform to thank for your saved time.

A platform makes it possible to connect tools, teams, data, and processes under one digital roof. It’s the nucleus of all systems and allows you to connect all your favorite tools seamlessly using integrations. An integration allows disparate systems to talk to each other. By joining tools via integrations, a change made in System A automatically carries through to System B.

Leveraging platforms and integrations hasn’t always been commonplace. A couple of years ago, HubSpot Research found that 82% of salespeople and marketers lost up to an hour per day managing siloed tools — a costly mistake.

Today, employees recognize that integrating technologies to do their jobs isn’t an option but a requirement. Individual employees are opting to connect their tools and, on average, leverage eight apps to do their job.

Employees and businesses alike run on connected applications. Okta found that it’s small-mid sized customers (defined as companies with less than 2,000 employees) average 73 apps — up 38% from last year. While larger customers (companies with over 2,000 employees) leverage closer to 130 apps — up 68% from the past year.

From personal life to work, platforms have become a staple in our day-to-day. These platforms are well-oiled machines that initiate seamless connections between technologies. Today, the consumer not only anticipates but also expects their systems to connect — raising the bar for companies to make it possible.

But more tools shouldn’t mean more friction. At HubSpot, we want to help our customers connect their tools on our platform to reduce friction and grow better. Customers should have tools and solutions to solve their needs, regardless of if HubSpot built them. Connecting tools allows for uniform data, processes, and experiences. This year, we’re experimenting with ways to expose integrations to our customers to increase adoption.

However, as a platform scales, it becomes increasingly tricky for customers to navigate exhaustive lists of integrations and identify what’s relevant to them. We recognized this at HubSpot and began experimenting with paid ads to see if this could be a valuable distribution channel to our customers.

Our Experiment on Paid Integration Ads

At the end of Q4, the Platform Marketing team decided to use some leftover budget to try a channel we hadn’t yet proven viable for integration adoption — paid ads.

We hypothesized that we could influence the adoption of an integration through paid ads. To test our hypothesis, we ran a retargeting campaign for three integrations on Facebook. The ads were surfaced to HubSpot’s retargetable audience.

These ads featured three HubSpot-built integrations: Slack, WordPress, and Eventbrite. We selected these integrations because they are natively built (built by HubSpot) and structured in a way that allowed us to measure multi-touch attribution.

By leveraging Google Tag Manager on the in-app integration directory, custom UTM parameters, and funnel reports, we were able to measure all steps from viewing the ad to installing the integration. Before launching the campaign, we tested our Google Analytics custom funnel reports by completing all actions — including installing the integrations to make sure they worked as designed.

Before running the campaign, we made the conscious decision to split our budget evenly across all three integration ads — regardless if one ad outperformed the others. We did this to minimize variables for the experiment.

Because we ran ads through November and December, we decreased spending from $130 dollars a day to $5 a day on and around holidays. We did this to “pause” the campaign on days where the ads would get lost in the noise, as this data could skew overall results.

Lastly, we determined our success metrics. Because we didn’t have apples-to-apples benchmark data for integration paid ads, we worked with our paid team to establish reasonably similar benchmark data. While it wasn’t a direct comparison, we were curious to see how ads could influence multi-step actions. We evaluated our performance based on click-through rates (CTR), cost per click (CPC), and cost per acquisition.

Experiment Results

The integration ads surpassed our benchmark data for click-through rate (CTR), cost per click (CPC), and cost per acquisition at the 7-, 30-, and 44-day marks — supporting our initial hypothesis and prediction.

The 30-day CTR for our integration ads was higher than the 7-day and 30-day CTR for the benchmark data, which is surprising as we expected the audience to become more fatigued over time.

Fatigue can be measured by the frequency a user views the same ad. For example, at HubSpot, we look at if a viewer has seen the same ad over 2.5 times within 30 days, which we consider high. Additionally, we kept an eye out for an increasing cost per acquisition.

Paid ads for these integrations was attractive to our retargetable audience and a legitimate acquisition point for HubSpot. It helped us influence adoption of integrations — resulting in hundreds of installs in the featured technologies. It also provided us with a data point we’ve been curious to see — the cost of an install.

When considering the value and acquisition cost of an install, it’s helpful to understand the impact on the business. At HubSpot, our customers with integrated stacks of technologies tend to be more successful — and they stick around.

This makes sense — as the more apps installed, the higher the likelihood someone will stick around. This is a common finding among platform companies.

On a recent trip to San Francisco HubSpot’s VP of Platform Ecosystem Scott Brinker found that “a common pattern on platforms is that the more apps a customer integrates into their system, the higher their retention rate will be — for both the platform and the apps integrated into it.”

Connecting their tools allows customers to access all their data in one core system while staying flexible and adaptable to their needs as they grow.

Since HubSpot doesn’t currently charge integrators to be part of our ecosystem, spending money to drive a net new install may seem counterintuitive. When weighing the long-term benefits of an install for customer value and retention, we are able to determine what is a reasonable cost per install. The experiment cost was worth the insight, as it allowed us to gain a baseline understanding of the cost per acquisition of an integration install.

Ultimately you can determine if the long-term value outweighs the upfront cost. (While directional value is a good baseline, you’d ideally look to lifetime value [LTV] to establish actual value.)

What This Means for HubSpot — and For You

Our experiment with paid ads outperformed our expectations and helped us reach a larger audience than we anticipated. It became clear that this was and is a viable channel for us to increase adoption of integrations and better understand the cost per integration install.

Future looking, we could alter who we target to see how it impacts CTR. We could leverage enrichment software like Datanyze or Clearbit to see if users have tools and cross-reference install data to create a list of folks using tools we integrate with but have yet to connect to. Alternatively, we could leverage this data to target a group of users going through onboarding to encourage them to connect existing tools to HubSpot.

Additionally, we could look through the required steps to connect an integration and consider how we could reduce them to simplify the process for our users and potentially increase our CTR.

Not a platform company? No problem. This retargeting campaigns can be leveraged to evaluate other valuable actions for your users, such as sign-ups, free trials, or event registration.

The Straightforward Guide to the Google Display Network

Millions of dollars are poured into the Google Display Network (GDN) every day. But why? Google offers endless options for marketers to promote their products, so how is this network different?

Frankly — because it works.

When industry competitors’ congest search engines, the GDN can be a great alternative. With it, there’s less competition for inflated keyword bids, so you’re more likely to reach users actively searching for your products and services. Though the audience intent is not as strong, you get a much lower cost-per-click, and many more impressions.

Here, we’re going to explore why you should use Google Display Network (GDN), how GDN differs from search ads, and how you can target your GDN ads to reach the right people in the right places.

Why Use the Google Display Network?

The value for GDN boils right down to reach and affordability. Prospecting, brand awareness, and remarketing can come with a hefty price tag when pursued for traditional search ads. GDN, by comparison, bypasses a lot of costly competition from other networks. There are also endless options for customizing your audience targeting.

Ultimately, you don’t need a fat wallet to set up a campaign through Google Display — you just need to choose the right targeting factors for your marketing goal.

With Google’s search ads, you’re essentially throwing out a wide net, which can be largely hit-or-miss, both with whom you’re targeting and with how you’re spending.

Google’s Display Network, on the other hand, allows you to define your audience in a way search engines can’t. Since you can target more than just keywords, you aren’t limited to the Google results page. Instead, GDN allows you to target websites by audience affinities, in-market segments, and custom intent keywords. You can even hand-pick website placements that fit your target audience.

The other differentiator is volume. Where do the fancy image ads appear when you market with GDN? Across millions of websites that your prospects are visiting every day.

But really — what’s the difference between GDN and a simple search ad? Let’s explore that, now.

GDN vs. search ads: What’s the difference?

You need a different mentality when using Google’s Display Network than when you’re using the search network and others available on Google Ads. Let’s define some use cases and expectations.

Your average conversion rate with GDN will be a minuscule 0.7%. Why? Because you’re targeting users that may not be familiar with your brand at all. The Google Display Network is first and foremost a tool for prospecting and brand awareness.

The standard CTR for this network is still under 0.5%. But, for targeting prospects outside of search engines and social networks, that’s still pretty good.

The next key differentiator is the fact that the user’s primary interest is the website content itself — the display ad has an indirect, secondary role in the website’s appeal to the viewer.

Marketers are hoping the prospective user will view their GDN ad along their journey to fulfilling another purpose. That makes the user intent different than when an ad appears at the top of a Google results page for a high-intent search phrase. It should be no surprise that the click-through rate and conversion rate for GDN are below 1%.

Unlike with search, there is a variety of targeting options outside of keywords that span across a network of millions of websites. You can access the majority of internet users through website placements. Your number-one goal with GDN is finding the right audience size with strict targeting criteria.

There are ways to approach this network with tighter, more relevant targeting. Ultimately, remarketing is limitless — but it involves audience development outside the Google Ads platform. Let’s start by exploring the default prospecting options Google provides and work our way toward opportunities customized for your brand and those who have engaged with your website.

Should you do prospecting or remarketing?

On the GDN, you can target in two ways. First, you can target prospects on the internet who may have no previous knowledge of your website, brand, products, or services. Second, you can remarket to users who have engaged with your website in some form. Option two allows you to leverage the audiences you find in Google Analytics for your website. If you don’t have any Google Analytics website audiences built, doing so is incredibly easy — simply set up an audience for a user that completes specific actions.

 

Some of the most common remarketing audiences include:

  • General website visitors
  • Users who have submitted a form
  • Users who have downloaded content
  • Users who have viewed specific product pages
  • Users who have signed up for an account or trial offer
  • Users who have completed a transaction or purchased a product
  • Users who have begun any of the above actions but abandoned the page before completing it

Remarketing and prospecting are two vastly different initiatives that you can execute through GDN. Some businesses prefer to focus only on remarketing because reaching users familiar with one’s brand drives leads and sales for the most affordable cost. However, other businesses aren’t focused on the return as much as generating awareness of their products and services. It all comes down to your company’s marketing goals.

How to Succeed With Prospecting and Brand Awareness GDN Targeting

1. In-market segment targeting.

In-market segments are Google users interested in broad categories of products and services, including real estate, education, home and garden, sports and fitness, and more. Google defines these segments based on users’ historical views, clicks, and conversions on previous content. There are sub-categories for specific types of each segment, but the criteria Google uses for these aren’t public. The size of each sub-category is easily millions — and sometimes billions — of users. It’s safe to say that testing a GDN in-market segment is a good starting point.

However, layering demographic qualifiers, device targeting, and other affinities is necessary to create a focused pool of users.

An easy way to control audience size for in-market segments is by comparing with Google Analytics data. The in-market segments on Google Analytics line up perfectly with those on Google Ads. Google Analytics should show you which in-market segments on your site have the highest conversion rates.

Educated guesses for targeting on the Google Ads platform can only go so far. Google Analytics has the tools for identifying and building data-driven audiences from which Google Ads can learn and optimize. Ultimately, using Google Analytics can help ensure you’re reaching highly qualified users.

2. Affinity audience targeting.

Like in-market segments, affinity audiences are Google users with similar interests, including cooking, fashion, beauty, gaming, music, travel, and more. These are very expansive categories of internet users, so it’s equally important to find targeting criteria to narrow down the size of any one affinity interest, or its sub-categories.

Strictly relying on the default options for in-market segments and affinity audiences within Google Ads can leave a giant dent in your budget for marketing spend. Google Analytics can be a huge help in pinpointing exactly which affinity audiences yield the highest conversion rates on your website.

Google Ads will also create a “similar” audience based on the Google Analytics’ audience created. These audiences are usually more focused in size, making them ideal for testing.

3. Custom intent audiences.

Custom intent audiences is another valuable contextual targeting method.

How does it work? Simply put, Google can show your ads to users who are “likely to be interested” in specific keywords and website URLs. It may also show your ads to people who have recently searched for your suggested keywords.

The key difference between custom intent audiences and other targeting methods is that you aren’t targeting websites that use these exact keywords, and Google is not placing your ad exclusively on specified website URLs. Rather, Google serves your ads to users on various other websites that have some contextual connection to the website URL or keyword given to Google.

4. Placement targeting.

Google can show your ads on specific websites when provided with placement URLs. This option offers tighter, more controlled targeting because it limits display ad placements to custom websites selected by the marketer.

You could be saving money by being so specific, but you could also be missing out on mainstream websites that your target audience is more actively visiting.

Simply put, users who visit your website also visit other websites. With custom affinity (interests) and custom intent (keyword and URL) audiences, Google can target these users at other online destinations. Picture your specified website as the center of a digital spiderweb — Google uses the central URL to target the users in other URLs within the spiderweb, amplifying your reach to include websites you may not know about.

These websites may or may not have content related to your suggested keyword or URL, but Google knows that these websites are sites that users of your suggested keywords and URLs also visit.

5. Topic targeting.

Google can show your ads on web pages only about your specified topic. Some of these topics could be similar to interests or affinities, or they may fall outside the default categories that Google offers (e.g., they may be along the lines of hiking, camping, or agriculture).

This targeting is an alternative to researching and selecting website placements for one interest without knowing the impact of those placements.

Three Key Audience-building Factors

Now that you know the basic mechanisms for targeting and creating an audience, let’s dive into three essential tips to ensure you build those audiences better. Here are some high-impact areas for tightening audience targeting where it counts.

1. Select the right devices.

When setting up a display campaign, it’s important to consider where the target audience will be using the product and how they will be signing up. If the user experience is compromised or not nearly as good on a particular device, consider excluding that device altogether.

For example, is mobile really the right platform for your landing page offer? Can your products or services be used easily on tablets and other small devices? If your company produces games or apps, mobile is ideal. But if you’re marketing business software used on desktop computers, mobile targeting could be costly and unnecessary.

2. Choose the right demographics and locations.

Google lets you customize several demographics when targeting for a display campaign. For example, age and household income are broken out into seven different ranges. If you know your audience is not within 18-24 years of age, or the top 10% of household income, you can easily exclude those users when creating ad groups.

There could also be some states in the U.S. or territories internationally to which your business prefers not to drive sales. The bids of these locations can easily be adjusted to redirect your budget to more profitable locations.

3. Mark the box for content exclusions.

Before launching a campaign on GDN, it’s easy to make the mistake of skimming past the additional settings for websites with explicit content. Some advanced content settings are available for preventing your site from appearing on parked domains, sites with sexually suggestive content, sites with sensitive social issues, and more.

Google doesn’t mark these boxes by default, so they must be manually selected to prevent your ads from appearing on undesirable sites.

Optimizing Your Google Display Network Results

Now that we’ve explored targeting methods as well as specific audience-building factors, let’s dive deeper into how you might optimize your GDN results.

1. Assess demographic performance, and then recalibrate if necessary.

Some of your audience demographics may be ideal for traditional marketing but could perform poorly in a digital setting. Even after setting up specific demographic and location targeting, it’s important to review the performance of what hasn’t been excluded. For example, there are some demographic categories (e.g., “unknown”) and ages (e.g., “65+”) that can become costly after launch.

2. Assess placement performance and use those analytics to continually improve.

Google makes it easy to review where your ads are appearing on a daily or weekly basis after campaign launch. You can find this information under “Placements -> Where Ads Showed.”

Filtering placements by unusually high spend or CTR can quickly identify websites that are more of an immediate threat to your campaign’s health. If you’re considering bulk exclusions, you may find it helpful to export web placements within the timeframe of “all time”.

Focus on blocking the duplicate placements that yield no results, since repeat offenders are a higher priority than websites that appear once with only a few impressions. After identifying duplicates, review the relevance of these sites, how much they have spent, and whether they have led to any conversions.

3. Consider which ad style and location will yield the best results.

There are two main ad types available for a GDN campaign — standard image ads and responsive ads. Standard image ads have a number of formats, including square, rectangular, skyscraper, and banner. These ads are an image-only display option. Here’s an example:

Responsive ads, on the other hand, offer a combination of text and image options that display in a variety of formats, depending on where the ad appears. The complete ad is composed of three image types, up to five short headlines, one long headline, up to five descriptions, and a business name. The short headlines and descriptions rotate to find and show the best-performing combination. Here’s an example:

If you’re limited on time, budget, or creative resources, it can be tricky to know which display ads will work best for your campaign, and you might not want to risk time testing different ones. If this is the case, it’s important to note studies have shown that 300 x 250 and 728 x 90 receive more impressions than other ad formats. Half-page ads and large rectangles receive higher CTRs than other ad formats, as well. So if you’re not sure where to begin, try out the rectangular formats and leaderboards!

Figure Out Whether Google Display Network Is The Right Choice For Your Business

You can amass a very powerful reach on the Google Display Network with the right attention to targeting. The network’s affordability, as well as the separation from the competition, makes it a viable marketing option.

This guide has covered several audience-building and optimization factors to help you hit the ground running with Google Display Network campaigns. Whether you’re just starting out or have some room for improvement, check out the custom audience capabilities to see if one might work for your next campaign.

20 Examples of Social Proof in Action in 2019

I recently came across the greatest dog bed in the history of dog beds — seriously, it felt like it was made of clouds. And after asking the dog owner about it, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the same company also made regular beds. (Score.)

Needless to say, I’m now the proud owner of the human-version of said dog bed.

You see, when a friend or family member recommends a product, you’re more likely to take their endorsement seriously. In fact, according to a Word of Mouth Report by Chatter Matters, one of the most meaningful forms of advertising is recommendations from friends and family: 83% of consumers say these recommendations make them more likely to purchase a product or service.Download our free case study templates here to help you display your company's  success.

The story of how I bought my mattress is a great example of social proof, which refers to the theory that people tend to adopt the opinions or actions of people they trust. And to help illustrate how brands are using this persuasive technique in their marketing, we’ve put together a roundup of social proof in action below.

What Is Social Proof?

Social proof is the idea that consumers will adapt their behavior according to what other people are doing. It makes sense, right? When we see a line of customers waiting to eat at a restaurant or a photo of a celebrity drinking a certain brand of coffee, it lends an air of gravitas and quality to the product, doesn’t it?

But there’s more to it than that. In fact, according to business coach Bailey Richert, there are as many as a dozen different types of social proof, with some logical overlap among them. Here’s how social proof can manifest itself:

1. Expert’s Stamp of Approval

Expert social proof is when an industry thought leader or influencer approves of your product. This could take the form of them blogging, posting on social media, or being quoted or photographed as a product user.

2. Celebrity Endorsement

Celebrity social proof typically takes the form of a celebrity using a product and promoting it on social media or in public. This form of social proof is especially meaningful if the endorsement is unpaid.

3. User Testimonials

There’s a reason businesses create case studies about the successes their customers have had using their product: It’s a vote of confidence in the product’s value. All kinds of testimonials can have the same impact. Whether it’s a customer review on the business’s website, a review on a third-party website, a star-based rating, or a full-blown case study, this content creates positive feedback from actual users.

4. Business Credentials

While user testimonials can add value to a product, business credentials can add trust to the product. Businesses can promote credentials like how many customers it has, what well-known businesses are their customers, or the awards and certifications it has received. Sole proprietorships might even use their education or degree as a credential their customers should care about.

5. Earned Media

If the press has published any positive reporting about your brand, this earned media is a great way to build brand awareness, backlinks to your website, and social proof that your business is worth paying attention to.

6. Social Media Shares

The importance of website traffic from social media can vary greatly from company to company, but one thing no business should undervalue is the influence social media posts about your brand can have on potential customers. Enough positive shares of your content on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram can be all the proof one needs to invest in your product or service.

7. “Wisdom of the Crowds”

“Wisdom of the Crowds” social proof appeals to our sense of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): When lots of people are using or buying a product, others want to follow suit.

8. “Wisdom of your Friends”

“Wisdom of your Friends” social proof refers to the phenomenon I described previously: The recommendations from people we know and trust carry far more weight than other types of promotions or advertising.

Which Types of Social Proof Work Best?

The (social) proof is in the pudding: Social proof in your marketing and advertising can have a huge impact. But what type of social proof works best?

While this will likely depend on the product or service you are marketing, our friends at Sprout Social curated some helpful research by BrightLocal to help shed some light on the situation.

Below you’ll find some noteworthy statistics about the types of social proof that perform best, and what you need to know about convincing your prospective customers:

  • 88% of consumers trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • Placing the logos of business customers on a company website can increase conversions by as much as 400%, according to Voices.com.
  • Influencer marketing has been considered the fastest-growing consumer-acquisition channel.
  • The average consumer reads 10 online reviews before making a purchase decision.
  • 57% of consumers will only buy or use a business service if it has at least a 4-star rating.
  • For 50% of all consumers, their very next step after reading a positive review about a company is to visit their website.

Now that we’ve reviewed what social proof is, and the impact it can have, let’s dive into some real-world examples of each type …

Social Proof Examples

Click the categories below to see real-world examples of social proof:

  1. Expert’s Stamp of Approval
  2. Celebrity Endorsement
  3. User Testimonials
  4. “Wisdom of the Crowd”
  5. “Wisdom of your Friends”

Expert’s Stamp of Approval

1. Nature Made

Nature_Made_Expert.png

Nature Made uses the expert certification of the USP (U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention) to speak for their vitamins instead of describing their quality themselves. The image of the seal of approval also echoes the text in their Facebook post.

2. Workday

workdayfinal.png

Workday’s Newsroom features an article in the Harvard Business Review about their company culture, which is a smart use of social proof: By featuring a well-known university name and publication with expertise in business, they impress site visitors from the moment they try to learn more about the company.

3. Fitbit

fitbit-1.png

Fitbit lets health and tech industry experts speak to the quality of their products in the “Buzz” section of their website. It adds a lot of weight to claims of Fitbit’s success when multiple publications are saying the same positive things they are. That could be why Fitbit is often rated the top fitness tracker on the market.

4. 2U

2U_Expert_Proof.png

Education SaaS company 2U uses expert social proof to lend gravitas to its homepage. Highlighting press mentions on your website commands authority and lets visitors know that important voices are talking about you in the press. (Check out this handy PR guide for more on the power of press.)

Celebrity Endorsement

5. Jenny Craig

Jenny_Craig_Celebrity.png

When celeb Kirstie Alley signed on as Jenny Craig’s spokeswoman, she lost a well-photographed 50 pounds on the program, helping to skyrocket the brand’s popularity in a crowded market: It’s one of the top three diet plans in the United States.

6. Cisco

Here’s Cisco using celebrity social proof to add wow factor and storytelling to market their IT systems, which aren’t typically the most exciting commercial topic. The celebrity adds a human element to a highly technological space in a way that’s memorable and inspires recognition. (Who doesn’t love Obi-Wan Kenobi?)

7. Tracy Anderson Method

Tracy_Anderson_Method_Celebrity.png

Gwyneth Paltrow is a longtime fan and friend of Tracy Anderson and her exercise program, which she frequently posts about on social media. This isn’t an official celebrity endorsement, and its authenticity helps drive more people to Anderson’s program: The Tracy Anderson Method is now a multi-studio, DVD, and live streaming fitness empire.

8. Manuka Doctor

Manuka_Doctor_Celebrity.png

I had never heard of Manuka honey until I watched this episode of Broad City, but it exploded in popularity after Kourtney Kardashian started using it on her reality show, and then became a celebrity ambassador. This is a particularly successful celebrity social proof because Kardashian’s longtime use of the product lends more authenticity than a celebrity endorsement alone would.

9. Wix

Website builder Wix uses Heidi Klum for celebrity social proof in their commercial. It works in two ways: to add a high-profile name to a business in a competitive industry, and to demonstrate Wix’s pitch (that anyone can build a website).

Wix also used Kung-Fu Panda (fictitious celebrities count, too) in their 2016 Super Bowl commercial, which garnered more online views than any other commercial at the game.

User Testimonials

10. Yelp

Yelp_User_Proof.png

Yelp relies on user reviews to rate restaurants, bars, and business, and the use of social proof is beneficial for their company and for its users searching for customer reviews. Yelp generates roughly 145 million visitors each month and is one of the most popular websites in the United States.

11. IMDb

IMDB_User_proof.png

IMDb visitors can consult their review directory to learn what other movie-goers are saying about films they’re interested in, and its savvy use of social proof helped make it the top movie review sites online today with 250 million unique visitors per month.

12. Amazon

amazon_user_proof.png

Customer reviews and testimonials are one of the strongest forms of social proof, and Amazon provides another great example of how they can be used. In their review sections, they publish the breakdown of the different ratings so visitors can easily see if the majority of purchasers were happy or unhappy with what they bought.

Customers can also publish reviews with specific comments and photos of their purchases, which are more eye-catching forms of social proof for visitors than testimonials alone.

13. G2 Crowd

g2crowdfinal.png

G2 Crowd is a business built on user social proof: It offers businesses a database of reviews and recommendations before making a software purchase. The reviews feature verified users of the product, their LinkedIn career information, and the logo of the product being reviewed, which is a research-backed strategy for promoting greater viewer recall and retention.

g2crowd2.png

14. BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo_User_Proof.png

Here’s a thorough example of user social proof from BuzzSumo. Their website features customer testimonials and case studies so visitors can read about the full story behind the product they’re considering without any question of its impact on real customers and organizations. This transparent user proof is extremely compelling for visitors and potential customers.

“Wisdom of the Crowd”

15. Copyblogger

Copyblogger_crowds.png

Copyblogger has a fantastic blog, and they use the CTA above to get readers to subscribe by encouraging them to join a larger community of people with shared interests. If 334,000 other people are finding value in the content, it must be good, right?

16. Netflix

Netflix_crowds_proof.png

Netflix takes advantage of user trends by suggesting new TV and movie options based on popularity. This clever use of social proof helps them keep people binge-watching instead of navigating away when they finish a movie or season — a great retention strategy, if you ask me.

Much like when things are trending on Twitter, trending suggestions aim to pique the interest of users and persuade them to tune in.

17. TrackMaven

Trackmaven_crowd_proof.png

TrackMaven’s blog features a “Most Popular Content” sidebar shown above to show blog readers other articles that are generating lots of reader traffic. This feature encourages visitors to go with the crowd and spend more time on the site, where TrackMaven can prompt them with calls-to-action and content offers to generate leads.

“Wisdom of your Friends”

18. Facebook

facebook_wisdom_of_friends.png

Facebook suggests Pages and articles for users based on how their friends are interacting with the social media platform. This form of social proof is supported by our inherent trust in people we already know:

Remember, we take our friends’ recommendations more seriously than any other type of advertising.

19. Ticketfly

Ticketfly_friends_proof.png

Ticketfly pulls customer Facebook data to show them which of their friends are attending the same events as they are. It also uses social share buttons so users can share what events they’re attending to garner more interest among their social media networks.

20. Stitch Fix

stitch_fix_final_friends.png

Stitch Fix recruits new customers for its personal shopping service using social proof by offering a hefty $25 referral bonus for sending friends to the site. It’s a cost-effective method for retaining me, their current customer, and recruiting my friend, who could become a new one.

Now that you’ve learned all about social proof, check out our article to learn how to take your social proof to the next level. Happy brainstorming!

What social proof strategies have worked on you? Share with us in the comments below.

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The Ultimate Guide to Google Data Studio in 2019

Having data is one thing.

Accessing it is another.

Understanding and analyzing it is yet another.

And visualizing it? Well, that’s a level of mastery that most people never reach.

If you can make it to this stage, you’ll be capable of unlocking invaluable insights for your business. You’ll have a serious advantage when it comes to getting competitive opportunities—whether that’s a cool project or promotion at your current organization or a brand-new role at a different one.

Most powerfully of all, you won’t need to rely on others (like a data analyst or ops specialist) to get the answers you need. You’ll have everything at your fingerprints.

Sounds pretty great, right? But how do you go from having data to understanding, analyzing, and visualizing it?

There are tons of resources out there. Luckily, one of my favorites, Google Data Studio, is completely free and accessible to all (even if you don’t have any data of your own!).

In this guide, I’ll walk you through the most useful Data Studio tools. We’ll start with the basics before moving into the intermediate features. Finally, we’ll go over the advanced options.

Like most Google tools, Data Studio can be hard to master, but it’s well worth the effort. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with its features, you can use it to create stunning and informative reports for your clients, coworkers, or leadership team.

Not only that, but you’ll have unlocked the final stage of data analysis expertise. From there, the world is your spreadsheet.

Google Data Studio Tutorial

  1. Use templates
  2. Publish your report
  3. Connect to 150+ sources
  4. Create your own report theme
  5. Embed external content
  6. Send scheduled reports
  7. Download reports
  8. Embed reports
  9. Add a date range
  10. Add filter controls
  11. Create interactive chart filters
  12. Add data control
  13. Add a dimension breakdown
  14. Use Data Studio Explorer (Labs)
  15. Create report-level filters
  16. Create blended fields
  17. Blend your data source with itself
  18. Create a basic calculated field
  19. Creating an advanced calculated field
  20. Create a calculated blended field

1. Log into Data Studio

To log in, you’ll need a Google account—I recommend using the same one as your Analytics, Search Console, and/or Google Ads account.

You’ll land on the Data Studio overview page. Click the “Home” tab to view your dashboard.

2. Explore the Data Studio Dashboard

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 1.51.58 PMIf you’ve used Google Docs, Sheets, or Drive before, this dashboard should look pretty familiar.

1. Reports

Here’s where you can access all of your reports (equivalent to a workbook in Tableau or Excel).

Notice that you can filter by who owns the report:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 1.54.16 PM

2. Data Sources

Data sources lists all the connections you’ve created between Data Studio and your original data sources.

Data Studio currently supports 500+ data sources (jump to the section where I show you how to explore the possibilities.)

Google Data Studio Data Sources

The most popular sources include:

  1. Google Analytics
  2. Google Ads
  3. Google Search Console
  4. BigQuery
  5. YouTube Analytics
  6. PostgreSQL
  7. Search Ads 360
  8. Display & Video 360

If you’re using Google Analytics and/or Search Console (which I highly recommend), you’ll need to individually connect each view and property, respectively.

So if you have three GA views for three different subdomains, you’ll need to set up three different data sources.

Fear not, this is an easy process.

3. Explorer

Explorer is an experimental tool that lets you experiment or tweak a chart without modifying your report itself.

For instance, let’s say you’ve created a table in Data Studio that shows the top landing pages by conversion rate. While looking at this table, you think, “Huh, I wonder what I’d find if I added average page load time.”

You don’t want to edit the chart in the report, so you export it into Labs—where you can tweak it to your heart’s content. If you decide the new chart is valuable, it’s easy to export it back into the report. (Jump to the section where I explain how.)

4. Product Overview

This brings you back to that Overview tab. Not sure why it’s here; I never click it.

5. Report Gallery

This is a collection of templates and examples. More on the gallery in a bit.

6. Connect to Data

And here’s where you add data sources. (You can also add sources within a report itself.) Let’s add our first source.

I recommend starting with Analytics or Search Console.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 1.55.03 PMIn this example, I’ll connect Analytics—however, the process is nearly identical for other sources.

If you want to follow along exactly with what I’m doing, connect the Google Analytics Demo Account for the Google Merchandise Store.

You’ll be prompted to authorize the connection. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to select an account, property, and view.

To finish setting up the connection, click “Connect” in the upper left-hand corner.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 1.55.58 PM(Leave “Field editing in reports” toggled to “On.” If you’re creating a report for, say, a client or an intern, and you want to give them edit permissions without giving up complete control over your data, you can turn this off. Click here to learn more about editing fields.)

You’ll be presented with this menu: a list of every field in your Analytics account (both the standard ones and the ones you’ve added).

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 1.58.01 PMDoes this feel overwhelming? Yep, same here. There’s a lot we could do in this step — add new fields, duplicate existing ones, turn them off, change field values, etc. — but we could also do all those things in the report itself, and it’s much easier there.

So let’s move along quickly. Click “Create Report” in the upper right.

Data Studio will ask if you want to add a new data source to the report; yes, you do.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 1.58.17 PMHere’s what you’ll see. It’s pretty spartan, but not for long!

Click “add a chart” in the toolbar. Data Studio makes it easy to compare chart types with some handy illustrations.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 1.58.50 PMChoose the first option under “Time series.” This chart type shows change over time.

Once it appears on your report, the right-hand pane will change. Here’s what you should see:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 1.59.43 PMBy default, the dimension is “Date”; you can change this to any of the time-based dimensions, including “Year,” “Hour,” etc.

I’m going to stick with “Date” because the Demo Account doesn’t have much historical data.

Data Studio will automatically select a metric (i.e. what’s displayed on the Y axis) for you. Feel free to change this; for instance, it defaulted to “Pageviews” for me, but I’d rather see “Revenue per user.”

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 1.59.59 PM

Make sure you’ve selected the chart so you see the pane on the right:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 2.01.06 PMYou have two options for adding a metric (or dimension). You can click the blue plus-sign icon—which will bring up a search box so you can find the field you want—or you can drag a field from the right into the metric section.

To delete a metric, simply hover over it with your mouse and click the white “x” that appears.

Now let’s add a table. This time choose the third option.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 2.02.28 PMMy chart defaults to Medium (for dimension) and Pageviews (for metric) so I change it to Product and Unique Purchases.

And I think this table’s formatting could use some work. Change the “Rows per page” from 100 to 20 (much easier to read) and check the box for adding a Summary row.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 2.02.07 PMFinally, click “Style” to go to the style tab. Scroll down and select “Add border shadow.” This is one of my favorite ways to make a data viz pop off the page.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 2.03.17 PMTo see the finished product, click “View” in the top corner. This transitions you from Editor to Viewer mode.

Voila!

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 2.04.21 PMTo finish up, we need to give the report a name. Click “Edit.”

Double-click the title (right now it’s “Untitled Report”) to change it.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 2.04.27 PMAnd with that, the first report is officially done. To share your report, click that familiar icon above the Chart Editor and add some email addresses.

Okay, don’t really share the report, because I’m about to reveal the secrets that’ll help you seriously upgrade it.

Beginner tips

1. Use templates

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If you’re not sure where to start with Data Studio, I recommend browsing through their templates for inspiration.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 2.10.57 PMPay attention to the report’s creator. Many templates were built by the Data Studio team; you can find them all in the “Marketing Templates” section. But there’s also 45+ user submissions, located in the “Community” section. A few of my favorite templates:

  • GA Behavior Overview: This dashboard pulls out the most relevant information from the Behavior section of Google Analytics
  • Paid Channels Mix Report: Use this template to understand how your ads are performing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, search, and more.
  • Website Technical Performance Indicators: Get a quick overview of how your site is performing in real time, including JavaScript and 404 errors and page load times.

There are also a bunch of fun, non-marketing templates in the gallery (found in the “Featured” section), like F1: How Important Is the First Race? and Star Wars: Data from a galaxy far, far away. Definitely take a look if you’re curious to see the full potential of GSD unleashed.

2. Publish your report

Want to show off your superior analytics and data viz skills to the world? Submit your report to this gallery using this Google form.

Read over the full instructions at this link, but here’s what I’d keep in mind:

  • Don’t share sensitive information. I recommend creating a report with publicly accessible data so there’s absolutely no chance you get in trouble for sharing data you don’t own. (Pro tip: recreate one of your existing company reports with dummy data from one of Google’s sample data sets!)
  • Make it awesome. The public reports are impressive, so don’t hold back with design, features, and so on.
  • Add context. Provide on-page explanations of what you’re measuring or monitoring with captions, instructions, maybe even a video of you walking through the report (more on how to enable that here).

3. Connect to 150+ sources

As I mentioned, you can bring data from Google-owned sources into Data Studio, including Search Console, Google Ads, YouTube, and Campaign Manager.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are also more than 120 partner connectors—essentially, third-party bridges between Data Studio and platforms like Adobe Analytics, AdRoll, Asana, Amazon Ads, and AdStage (and that’s just the As).

Check out all the options here.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 2.11.20 PM

4. Create your own report theme

Whether your report is meant for internal stakeholders, like the leadership team, or external ones, like clients, it’ll be more effective if it looks good.

To adjust the report’s style and formatting, click the Layout and theme option in the toolbar.

Any changes here will apply across the report—meaning you only need to pick fonts, colors, etc. once versus every time you add a new module to the report.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 2.12.14 PM

Data Studio comes with two built-in themes: simple and simple dark. But it’s easy to create your own — and the results are way more impressive.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 2.12.37 PMChange the “Current Theme” dropdown to “Custom.”

Use your brand style guide to choose primary and secondary colors, fonts, and text color. You might need to get creative here; HubSpot uses Avenir Next, which Data Studio doesn’t offer, so I went with its cousin Raleway.

If you’re creating a report for a client and don’t know their hex codes, Seer Interactive’s Michelle Noonan has an excellent tip: use a free color picker tool to identify what they’re using on their website.

In this tab, you can also create a custom chart palette and edit the border and background settings.

5. Embed external content

Just like you can bring your report to the wider world, you can also bring the wider world … to your report.

With the URL embed feature, you can insert Google Docs, Google Sheets, YouTube videos—even live webpages. Embedded content is interactive, so it’s far more powerful than a screenshot.

To add content, click “Insert” in the upper nav bar, then choose “URL embed.”

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 2.13.22 PMFrom there, simply paste the URL. You may need to resize the box that appears to fit the entire length and width of your content.

The options here are pretty endless. One of my favorite ways to use this feature is embed a Google Form gauging how useful the report was for my audience:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 2.13.56 PM

If a section of the report needs extra context (or my viewers aren’t that technical), I’ll add a short video explaining what they’re looking at and how to interpret the results.

To personalize a report for a client, I’ll add the URL of their website, blog, and/or whatever pages they hired me to create or improve.

And for the HubSpot blogging team, I’ll add the latest version of the Search Insights Report so they can compare our progress to the results.

6. Send scheduled reports

If you have a group of stakeholders that need to see your report on a recurring basis, considering using Data Studio’s “scheduled report” feature. Click the clock in the top menu to set this up.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 2.14.57 PMFirst, enter your recipients’ email addresses, then choose a schedule: daily, every Monday, or every month.

This is particularly handy when you’re working with customers, since you may not want to give them access to the live report.

7. Download reports

Alternatively, you can download your report as a PDF. This is helpful for one-off situations, like if your boss asks for a status report or your client wants to know how an ad has performed so far this month.

To download the file, click the downward-facing arrow next to the clock.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.00.12 PMData Studio gives the option of downloading your current page or the entire report. You can even add a link back to the report so your audience can dig in deeper if they’d like and add password-protection to ensure your data stays safe.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.01.20 PM-1

8. Embed reports

You can even display your report on your company website or personal portfolio—which can be a great way to highlight the results you’ve gotten for a client or project.

Click the brackets icon in the upper nav bar.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.01.45 PM

This box will pop up:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.02.35 PM

Adjust the width and the height as needed and you’re good to go.

Intermediate Tips

9. Add a date range

Give your viewers more freedom by letting them select which dates they’d like to see information for.

For example, my reports always default to the last 30 days, but if one of HubSpot’s blog editors wants to see how their property performed in the previous calendar month, the date range controls let them adjust the report.

They can choose from predefined options, like “yesterday,” “last 7 days,” “year to date,” etc. or pick a custom time period.

To enable this, first navigate to the page where you want to give users date control. Make sure you’re in “Edit” mode. Next, click the calendar icon from the toolbar.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.03.01 PMA box will appear on your report. Drag it into the position you want—I recommend somewhere in the upper right or left corner so your audience sees it first—and adjust the size if necessary.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.03.13 PMClicking this module will bring up a panel to the left of your report called Date Range Properties. Set the default date range to “Auto date range,” if it isn’t already.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.04.08 PMIf your viewers select a date range using the date range widget, every report on the page will automatically update to that time period.

There are two ways to override this:

  1. Set a time period within a specific chart. That time period will always supersede the date range control.
  2. Group the charts you want to be affected by the date range control with the module. Select the chart(s) as well as the box, then choose Arrange > Group.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.04.38 PMNow, only the chart(s) in this group will update when someone adjusts the date range.

Make sure this setting is clear to your viewers—otherwise they’ll probably assume all the charts they’re looking at on their current page are using the same time period.

10. Add filter controls

Give your audience even more flexibility with filter controls. Like the date range control, a filter applies its settings to every report on the page — so if, for example, someone filtered out everything beside organic traffic, all the reports on that page would show data for organic traffic specifically.

Add a filter control by clicking this icon in the toolbar.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.05.03 PMThe filter will appear on the report page. Resize it and drag it into the position you want. While it’s selected, you should see a panel on the left-hand side:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.05.33 PMIn the data tab, pick which dimension you want viewers to be able to filter. These dimensions come from your data source — in this example, I’ve picked Traffic Type.

The metric part is optional. Basically, if it’s checked, viewers will see the values for each dimension sub-category in the filter. (This will make more sense once you see the screenshot below.) They can sort by these values, but they can’t filter by a metric.

You can add an additional filter to your filter control. For example, if you’ve added a filter for Source / Medium, you may want to exclude the “baidu /organic” filter so your viewers don’t see that as an option.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.05.56 PMCustomize your filter control’s formatting and appearance in the style tab. You have a few options: list/check all that apply filters, like this one:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.06.39 PMOr “search all” filters, which allow your viewers to search by numeric and text terms using operators like >=, and <, or “equals,” “contains,” etc., respectively.

This can be a hassle for the people reading the report—plus, they need to be somewhat comfortable with search operators. Unless your filter dimensions has 10,000 values (unlikely), stick with the list filter.

11. Create interactive chart filters

Want to make it even easier for your audience to filter the charts in your report? Create responsive chart filters.

This sounds fancy, but it simply means selecting a dimension in a chart will filter all the charts on that page for that dimension.

For instance, if you click on “organic” in this chart, the other charts on the page will update to show data for organic traffic only—just like you’d applied a traditional filter control.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.07.10 PMYou can also create chart controls for time, line, and area charts. If a user highlights, say, January through March on a time chart, the other charts on the page will show data for January through March as well—just like date range control.

And also just like filter controls, you can group chart controls.

To enable a chart control, select the appropriate chart. In the right-hand panel, scroll to the bottom and check the box labeled “Apply filter.”

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.07.26 PMAdd a caption next to charts that support interactive filtering so your viewers know it’s an option:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.07.53 PM

12. Add data control

Data controls may just be one of the coolest Data Studio features, full-stop. Place one of these bad boys on your report, and you’ll give viewers the ability to choose the source of the data being piped into your charts.

This is a game-changer for anyone managing a complex property or working with multiple different stakeholders.

For instance, imagine you’re the admin of HubSpot’s Google Analytics account. You create a Data Studio report monitoring key website performance indicators, like average page speed, number of non-200 response codes, number of redirect chains, and so on.

You share this report with the blogging team, who has access to the Google Analytics view for blog.hubspot.com. (Need a refresher on how views and permissions work? Check out our ultimate guide to Google Analytics.)

You also share the report with the Academy team, who has access to the GA view for academy.hubspot.com, as well as the Leads Optimization team, who has access to the view for offers.hubspot.com.

To see this report populated with the relevant data, these team simply need to select their view from the “data source” drop down and voila—all the charts will update automatically.

Pretty nifty, right?

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.08.58 PMNot only does this save you from rebuilding the same report for different groups, it also means you don’t need to worry about accidentally sharing sensitive or confidential information. Each viewer can only select data sources they’ve been granted access to.

You can include multiple data controls in a single report.

Add the data control widget to your report by clicking this icon:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.09.12 PMThen choose which primary source you’d like viewers to pull from:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.09.40 PM

13. Add a dimension breakdown

Instead of telling you what a dimension breakdown is, it’s easier if I show you how it works.

Suppose we want to see users by source. To find out, we create a simple bar chart.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.10.05 PM

This is interesting — yet there’s some context missing. Is all of that organic traffic coming from Google? (Since this is U.S. data, probably, but imagine creating the same chart for China or Japan, where Baidu and Yahoo have a far greater presence.)

What about referral traffic? Clearly we’re getting a significant number of users from referral links; is a single source driving most of them or is it distributed fairly equally across a wide variety of sources?

We could create separate bar charts for each source — first filtering by medium and then making the dimension “Source” and the metric “Users.”

Or we could click a single button and have Data Studio do it for us.

Under Breakdown Dimension, click “Add dimension.”

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.10.43 PMAdd “Source.”

Here’s what you should see:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.11.09 PMPretty sure my former Data Analytics professor would cry if he saw this. Don’t worry, Vish, we’re not done yet.

Jump over to the “Style” tab and check the box “Stacked bars.” This will turn your regular bar chart into a stacked bar chart (you should see the chart type update accordingly).

Data Studio will automatically make your bar charts “100% stacking,” which means that every bar will go to the top of the chart. This style is misleading—for example, here it suggests every medium drove the same number of users. Uncheck this box.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.11.40 PMCheck it out:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.12.35 PM

14. Use Data Studio Explorer (Labs)

To bring any chart into Explorer, mouse over the space next to its top right corner. You’ll see three vertically-stacked dots appear; click them.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.12.59 PM

Select “Explore (Labs).”

You’ll see something like this:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.13.23 PMYou can toggle between different visualizations; add and remove dimensions and metrics; change the date range; and apply segments.

Important note: Unlike every other Google tool out there, Explorer does not automatically save your work. To preserve your chart, click the “Save” button on the top nav bar (to the left of your profile icon). Once you do that, your Explorer “report” will be saved in the Explorer section of your dashboard. Every change you make will be saved by default.

Speaking of that dashboard, if you prefer, you can also start with Explorer (rather than a Data Studio report). Go to your Data Studio dashboard and select “Explorer (Labs)” in the left-hand menu.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.13.47 PMAdd a new data source by clicking the blue button in the lower right corner.

At first, Explorer confused me. It feels very similar to the core Data Studio—what was the point of having both?

However, after spending some time in Explorer, I’ve come to appreciate its unique value.

Unlike Data Studio, any modifications you make to a chart in Explorer are temporary. That means it’s a great place to dig into your data and try out different ways of visualizing it without making any permanent changes. Once you’re happy with your chart, simply export it back into Data Studio.

To do this, click the small sharing icon in the top nav bar.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.14.31 PMThen choose whether to add your Explorer work into a new or existing Data Studio report.

Advanced Features

15. Create report-level filters

By default, a filter applies to every chart on that page. But what if the viewer goes to the next page? The filter won’t go with them.

This is confusing for non-technical folks and inconvenient for data-savvy ones. To bring a filter up from page-level to report-level, simply right-click on it and select “Make report-level.”

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.15.03 PM

16. Create blended fields

Data Studio is powerful because you can bring in 400+ sources of data into a single report. Thanks to a new feature, blended sources, it just got even mightier.

Heads up: this will get a little technical. Stay with me and I promise it’ll be worth it.

If you’re familiar with JOIN clauses in SQL, you’ll understand data blending right away. No idea what SQL is? Not a problem.

The best way to think about blending data is with a Venn Diagram. You have two data sets. Each data set has unique information—e.g. the data living in the green and blue areas, respectively.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.15.18 PMBut they have (at least) one data point in common: the information in the blue-green overlap section.

This shared data point is known as a key. If your data sets do not have a key, they’re not blendable.

For example, suppose you want to compare how users behave on your website versus your app. The key is user ID, a custom dimension you’ve created in Google Analytics that your app analytics software also uses. (Note: The key doesn’t need to have the same name in both data sources; it just needs to have identical values.)

You blend your website behavior report from GA with your app usage report. This gives you all the records from the first report along with any matching ones from the second; in other words, if a user has visited the site and used the app, they’ll be included. If they only used the app but didn’t visit the site, they will not be included in the new blended data.

This is known as a LEFT OUTER JOIN. (To learn more, check out this W3Schools primer.) Why do you care? Because the order of your data sources matters.

Put your primary data source first—e.g. the one where you want all the values, regardless if there’s a match in your second source.

Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s set up a blended field.

First, add a chart to your report.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.15.45 PMClick on “Blend Data.”

This panel will pop up:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.16.15 PMSelect your first data source on the left. Remember, this is the primary data source. Then add your second data source. Data Studio lets you add up to five data sources in a chart, but for now, let’s stick to two.

Now pick your join key(s). If the field exists in both sources, it will turn green. If it doesn’t exist, you’ll see this:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.16.38 PMRemember that the key acts as a filter for the second data source. In this example, only records that match the landing page from the GA view for hubspot.com will be pulled from Google Search Console.

Choosing multiple keys will limit the number of records pulled from the second data source even further.

Once you’ve picked your join key(s), the rest of the process should feel familiar.

Pick the dimensions and metrics you want to see for your first data source. Then do the same for your second.

You can also limit the results by adding a filter or date range (or for GA sources, segments). Filters, date ranges, and segments applied to the left-most data source will carry over to the other data sources.

Once you’ve finished customizing the report, click “Save.” Congrats: you just created your first blended data chart!

If you find it easier to create two separate charts and then combine them, Data Studio offers a great shortcut.

Just select both charts, right-click, and choose “Blend data.”

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.17.03 PMUnfortunately, Data Studio can get confused pretty easily, so I’d still make the effort to learn how to blend data using the right-hand pane.

17. Blend your data source with itself

If you’re bumping into limitations with your data source connectors, try this workaround: blend a data source with itself.

To give you an idea, the GA data connector only lets you add one “active user” metric to a chart, so there’s no way to see 1 Day Active Users, 7 Day Active Users, and 28 Day Active Users on the same chart… unless you blend your Google Analytics data source with itself.

Follow the same instructions as above, but instead of picking a new source for your second data source, just select the first one again.

And since all of the fields are identical, you can pick whichever join key you’d like.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.17.37 PMThis option is also perfect when you need to compare trends across two-plus subdomains or segments.

For instance, I wanted to look at organic users for the HubSpot Blog (blog.hubspot.com) and main site (www.hubspot.com) at the same time.

This helps me figure out if we’re growing search traffic across the board. It’s also useful when traffic decreases—have rankings dropped site-wide, or just for the blog (or the site)?

However, you can’t add two separate “user” metrics to a chart at once… unless, of course, you’re blending data.

To set this up, create a new blended data source (following the same process as above).

Add your first view to the left-most column, your second view to the following column, and so on.

Note: Make sure you’re choosing views with mutually exclusive data. In other words, I wouldn’t want to use “blog.hubspot.com” as my first source and “blog.hubspot.com/marketing” as my second source, because all the data for the blog.hubspot.com/marketing view is included in the blog.hubspot.com one.

Because of that overlap, we wouldn’t be able to clearly spot trends.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.18.07 PMUse “Date” as the join key.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.18.43 PMI added the organic traffic segment to both sources, but you can choose whichever segment you’re interested in (paid traffic, social traffic, etc.) Or leave it off entirely! Tons of possibilities here.

In fact, here are some additional ideas for blending a source with itself:

  • Compare two-plus custom segments
  • Compare two-plus landing pages
  • Compare two-plus goal completions

18. Create a basic calculated field

When your existing data doesn’t give you enough information, it’s time to create a calculated field.

Calculated fields take your data and, as their name suggests, perform calculations on them.

It’s probably easiest to explain with an example. Let’s say you want to look at the average number of transactions per user. You can create a calculated field that takes the metric “Transactions” and divides it by the metric “Users.”

Once this field has been created, it’ll be updated automatically—so you can change the chart’s time range, dimensions, etc., and the average transactions per user data will update accordingly.

There are two ways to create a calculated field.

1. Create a data-source-level field, which will make that field available in any report that uses that data source.

It’ll also be available as a filter control or in new calculated fields (like calculated field inception).

Obviously, this is a good option if you plan on using this custom metric more than once. The only caveat—you must have edit rights to the original data source. You also can’t use a data source calculated field with blended data.

2. Create a chart-level field, which means you’ll only be able to use the field for that specific report.

All the limitations of the other type are reversed: while you can’t use a chart-level calculated field in another chart, filter control, or additional calculated field, you don’t need to have edit rights to the original data.

You can also use a chart-specific calculated field for data blending, which we’ll cover in the next step.

Create a data-source calculated field

Add a chart to your Data Studio dashboard, then choose the data source you want to derive your new field from.

Click “Add a new field” in the lower left-hand corner.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.19.18 PM(You can also do this by clicking the pencil next to the data source and then selecting “Add a field” in the upper right corner of your field menu.)

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.20.22 PM-1Use the left menu to search for the metrics you need; click one to add it to the formula.

If the formula has an error, a notification will appear in red underneath the editor explaining where you went wrong.

If your formula works, you’ll get a green checkmark.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.20.39 PMClick “Save” to add your new field to the data source.

And don’t forget to name yours—which I forgot to do. :)

Now you can add this calculated field to any chart just like a normal field.

Create a chart-level calculated field

This option is a little easier.

Simply click “Add a field” underneath the existing dimension(s) and metric(s) you’ve selected.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.21.12 PMThen choose add a new field. This pane will pop up:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.21.39 PMFrom here, enter the formula for your new field—simply typing in the name of your desired metric will trigger a menu of options—and click “Apply.”

Your new field will be added to the chart.

Loves Data’s Benjamin Mangold’s has an excellent round-up of sample calculated metrics, including:

  • Average goal completions per user
  • Non-bounce rate
  • Pageviews per transaction
  • Value per session

Check it out for inspiration.

If you want a little practice before you start going to town on your own data, Google offers a handy sample exercise.

19. Creating an advanced calculated field

Okay, so there’s a lot you can do with simple algebraic calculated fields. But there’s even more you can do once you introduce functions and RegEx.

Don’t be scared off! We’ll walk through these step-by-step.

If you’re comfortable with functions in Google Sheets and/or Excel, then you already know how to use functions in Data Studio.

For instance, let’s say that you majored in English and it’s always bothered you “Source” in Google Analytics is lower-case. (No, I’m not talking about myself. Why do you ask?)

You can use the UPPER function to transform Source into all upper-case.

Simply click “Add dimension” > “Create new field.”

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.22.05 PMThen enter the UPPER formula:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.22.56 PMAs Google Sheets expert Ben Collins points out, this trick will also standardize any custom naming; for example, if some people on your team used “chat” for a campaign, and others used “Chat,” the UPPER function will aggregate both together.

Perhaps you want to create a new field for city and country.

Just click “Add dimension” (since city and state are categorical, not quantitative, variables) > “Create field.”

Then use the CONCATENATE function to smush together the City and Country fields.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.43.36 PMCheck out the full list of functions Data Studio supports.

One of the most nifty is CASE; if you’re unfamiliar, it’s essentially an IF/THEN statement. This function lets you create custom groupings.

For example, let’s say you’re looking at the table we created in the last step:

upper-case-final Data Studio is treating Facebook mobile traffic (m.facebook.com) and desktop traffic (facebook) as two different sources. There’s also l.facebook.com—desktop traffic coming via a link shim, which Facebook implemented in 2008 to protect users from potential spam. What if you want to combine all Facebook traffic into a single source?

A CASE formula solves this issue neatly. Here’s the formula:

CASE

   WHEN condition THEN result

   WHEN condition THEN result

   ELSE result

END

You can have one condition (like the example below) or several. The ELSE argument is optional, so feel free to leave it out if you don’t need it.

Here’s the formula we’ll use to group together Facebook traffic:

CASE

WHEN REGEXP_MATCH(Source,”^(l.facebook.com|m.facebook.com|facebook.com)$”) THEN “Facebook”

END

This formula tells Data Studio, “If the source matches l.facebook.com, m.facebook.com, or facebook.com, call it ‘Facebook.’”

To add a CASE formula, you must be able to edit the data source.

Click the pencil icon next to your source to bring up the data field editor.

Then click “Add a new field” in the upper right corner.

Enter your formula.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.45.16 PMIf the formula works, you’ll see a green check mark. Give your new field a name and click “Save.” Now you can add this field to any chart or data viz that uses this data source.

You might be thinking, “Okay, great, but was that formula written in Klingon? How do I come up with my own?”

Don’t know RegEx? No problem! This blog post has five formulas to get you started.

20. Create a calculated blended field

This is the pinnacle of Data Studio mastery, requiring all the skills you’ve already learned and a hefty dose of luck—just kidding, it’s super easy.

Create a blended data source per usual.

In this example, I blended together the GA views for www.hubspot.com and blog.hubspot.com.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.45.50 PMThen click “Add metric” > “Add new field” as you would to create a normal calculated field.

Enter your formula.

I wanted to see “Total Users” (i.e. users from www.hubspot.com plus users from blog.hubspot.com), which is a simple calculation:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.47.14 PMNote: It can get a bit hairy here if you’re using two different fields with the same name, as I’m doing here. Sometimes Data Studio is smart enough to recognize the difference, sometimes it’s not. If you run into issues, I recommend editing the name of one or both fields in the original data source(s), which you can do at any time by clicking the pencil next to the blended data source.

Then click the pencil next to the field name you want to change.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.48.18 PMThis pane will appear; edit the title accordingly.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 5.48.33 PMThen click “Save” and go back to your calculated field to update the formula:

total-users-finalTa-da.

Now that you know Data Studio inside and out, you’re well-prepared to create stunning interactive reports for your coworkers, clients, and executives. Good luck.

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15 Ways to Get More Followers on Instagram

It’s no secret that business opportunities are quickly growing on Instagram. Approximately 80% of Instagram’s 1 billion active monthly users now follow a business account on the platform. While Instagram hasn’t reported its current number of business users, the platform reportedly hosted more than 25 million of these accounts in late 2017.

As the platform continues to grow and develop more interactive features, such as Instagram Stories, businesses are regularly using it as a tool to humanize brands, recruit future employees, showcase products and company culture, delight customers, and generate new business.

But here’s the deal: Unless you’re famous, it’s really hard to amass a huge following on Instagram without some hard work.

For the average person or business, growing your following takes time and attention on a daily basis.Download 25 Free Business Instagram Templates.Luckily, there are a few things you can do right away to collect at least 1,000 quality followers for your personal or professional Instagram account. It’s all about knowing where to invest your time and effort. Let’s discuss a few strategies that will help you gain those followers, from creating a follow-worthy Instagram profile, to using contests, to staying true to your brand.

1. Create and optimize your profile.

First things first: customize your Instagram profile to make it look good, tell your potential followers who you are, and give them a reason to follow you.

How? Start by making sure your username is recognizable and easily searchable — like your business name. If your business name is already taken, try keeping your business name as the first part of your username so that people searching for your business are more likely to come across you. For example, the Australian activewear line Lorna Jane uses the username @lornajaneactive.

Setting Up Your Account

Step 1. Make sure to add your full business name to the “Name” field in the “Options” section. To find “Options,” tap the three lines in the top right corner of the IOS app, followed by “Settings” which will appear at the bottom of the screen next to a gear. If you’re on Android, tap the three dots in the corner. Your business or name will appear under your profile picture and under your username in search.

Step 2. Make sure your profile is public. To make your profile public, open Instagram, open “Options,” and make sure “Private Account” is turned off.

Switch your Instagram account from private to public to gain more followers.

Step 3. Choose a profile picture that’s on-brand with your other social networks, like your company logo.

Step 4. Fill your bio with delightful, actionable, and informative information about your brand. Information like this lets people know what you’re about and gives them a reason to follow you. Include who you are and what you do, and be sure to add a hint of personality. Here are a few examples for inspiration:

  • @WeWork: “Make a life, not just a living.”
  • @Oreo: “See the world through our OREO Wonderfilled lens.”
  • @CalifiaFarms: “Crafting, concocting and cold-brewing up a delicious, plant-based future.”
  • @Staples: “We make it easy to #MakeMoreHappen”

Step 5. Add a link to your bio to make it easy for people to go straight from Instagram to your website if they want to. The space allotted for URLs is precious real estate. When you receive 10,000 followers, you can add swipe up links to your Instagram Stories. Until then, your bio is the only place within Instagram where you can place a clickable link, so use it wisely. We recommend using a shortened, customized Bitly link to make it more clickable.

Step 6. Finally, enable notifications so you can see when people share or comment on your photos. This’ll let you engage with them more quickly — just like a lot of companies do on Twitter. To enable notifications, go to “Options” and then “Push Notification Settings.” Select “From Everyone” for every category.

A word to the wise: We don’t recommend you link your Instagram account to Twitter and Facebook so your Instagram posts are automatically published on those other accounts. Post types are different.

2. Designate a content creator.

Just like there should be one (maybe two) people managing your other social media accounts, there should only be one or two people managing your Instagram account. If possible, choose someone who has experience using a personal Instagram account, and therefore “gets” the platform — and be sure they know all the handy features Instagram has to offer.

If you work for a large organization, you might find that a lot of people want to have a say in what’s posted. That’s when an organized request or guidelines document comes in hand. This document should inform people how to request a post on your Instagram account, when, the value of the post, and why.

3. Follow photography and editing best practices.

On Instagram, post quality matters. A lot. Your Twitter followers might forgive a few bad tweets, but a bad photo on Instagram is a big no-no. By no means do you have to take a photography course to be a good Instagram poster — nor do you have to practice for weeks before you start. But you should get familiar with basic photography tips and photo editing apps.

Photography Best Practices

Since Instagram is a mobile app, chances are, most of the photos you post to Instagram will be taken on your mobile device. That’s not just okay; it’s expected. While some brands use professional photography for their Instagram photos, most use smartphones — and that’s the vibe that Instagram is meant for, anyway.

Here are some highlights:

  • Focus on one subject at a time.
  • Embrace negative space.
  • Find interesting perspectives.
  • Look for symmetry.
  • Capture small details.
  • Make your followers laugh.

Edit photos before you post.

Instagram has some basic editing capabilities, but oftentimes, they aren’t adequate to make a picture really, really great. Most of your photos should go through at least one or two other photo editing apps on your mobile phone before you open them in Instagram for the first time.

4. Set a regular posting schedule.

Once you’ve created and optimized your profile, have someone manning it, and know a thing or two about phone photography and photo editing, it’s time to start posting.

It’s a good idea to have a solid number of great posts up — maybe 15 or so — before you start really engaging people and working down this list. That way, when people visit your profile, they’ll see a full screen of photos instead of just a handful, so they know you’ll be posting great content regularly.

To start posting on Instagram, first download this social media content calendar template and start planning out your Instagram posts. Over time, you’ll want to build up a backlog of photos for times of need, like the weekends or when you go on vacation.

Keep your target persona in mind when you first start planning out your posting schedule, as that can drastically change your posting timing and frequency — especially if you’re targeting an audience in a different time zone. (Download this free template for creating buyer personas if you don’t have a few already.)

Optimizing your schedule for your specific audience might take time and experimentation.

Here are a few of our best practices:

  • The very best times to post on Instagram seem to be Mondays and Thursdays at any time except between 3:00–4:00 p.m. in the time zone of your target persona. (For a United States audience, your best bet is to combine Eastern and Central time zones, For audiences located outside the U.S., use whichever time zones your target audience uses.)
  • Posting at 5:00 a.m. CDT from Tuesday to Friday generates some of the highest engagement. This is because people tend to check their phones when they wake up.
  • If you post on weekends, try to do so around 11:00 a.m, CDT on Saturday.

Because Instagram is primarily an app for use on mobile devices, users tend to use the network all the time, any time. According to a recent Pew Research study, a majority of U.S. Instagram users are on the app daily, although many users engage with content more during off-work hours than during the workday.  

Some businesses have also seen success with posting at 2:00 a.m., 5:00 p.m., and Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. Experiment with these to see if they work with your audience.

5. Curate some of your content.

Although it’s best to have only one or two people manning your account, one or two people can’t be everywhere at once taking photos. What about that fun sushi night the engineers had last night? Or the event your head of sales spoke at earlier this week?

There’s a whole breadth of content you’ll want to post to Instagram, and more often than not, one person won’t be able to keep track of it all.

One solution? Create a system where you can curate photos and content from members of your team. There are a few ways to do this. One is to create a specific email address for employees to send their photos, short videos, memes, hyperlapses, and so on.

Just encourage people to put a subject line on these emails so you can more easily sort through the photos they’re sending. While this doesn’t seem like the smoothest way to curate photos, it’s actually the easiest for the people sending you photos — and the easier you can make it for them to send content, the more content you’ll get.

If your team shares a Box or Dropbox account, you could also create a shared folder where people can automatically drop their photos and videos. This just makes a few more steps for the people sending you the content, and not everyone might have that app downloaded on their phones. 

6. Use a consistent, platform-specific brand voice.

Photos and videos might be the most important part of your Instagram posts, but captions, comments, and other text should never be an afterthought. If you’re managing a channel for a brand or have more than one Instagram manager, consider developing a consistent voice that humanizes your brand.

This shows potential followers that you are credible and relatable, rather than formal or intimidating. 

When developing a voice, you should keep the platform and your audience in mind. For example, many influencers and prominent accounts on Instagram have a very casual voice and style, but still remain professional and on-brand. Once you’ve got your voice down, make sure it stays consistent and natural in your captions, comments, messages and your bio. 

7. Write engaging, shareable captions.

Captions are an essential part of your post — the icing on the cake, if you will. Consistently great captions can do wonders for humanizing your brand, winning over followers, and making your content more shareable — thereby giving you more exposure.

Here are a few things you might see in a winning Instagram caption:

  • Clever or Witty Comments
  • Calls to Action
  • Relevant Emojis
  • Hashtags

 

Clever or Witty Comments

Some brands and influencers have used clever or witty captions, or even audience-appropriate jokes to further humanize themselves on Instagram.

My colleague Kelly Hendrickson, HubSpot’s Social Media Manager, says that she loves Netflix’s account and sub-accounts, particularly because of the post captions: “They have such a clear brand voice, and you laugh along with them. They’re in on the joke, just like one of your friends.”

Here’s one example she gave where Netflix makes a pun out of the term “ghosting”:

Netflix’s voice is casual, trendy, and humorous while still staying on brand. In the post above, the caption cleverly connects a new commonly used phrase to an older film that’s streaming on the platform.

Calls to Action

Another way to increase the shareability of your caption and engage your followers is to ask questions or have some sort of call-to-action in the captions of your photos. For example, you might say, “Double-tap if you find this funny,” or “Share your story in the comments.” In the example below, we asked followers of the @HubSpot Instagram account to like the image if they agreed with its advice.  

 

Relevant Emojis

According to a recent study, certain emojis can actually spike engagement such as likes, comments, and shares on platforms including Instagram.

Adding just a few relevant emojis can add even more personality to your posts. It could also make them even more noticeable on an Instagram feed. In the post below, HubSpot includes the combination of a call to action and relevant emojis to make the post pop. 

 

Along with the three items listed above, you’ll also want to include hashtags.

8. Optimize posts with relevant hashtags.

On Instagram, a hashtag ties the conversations of different users who wouldn’t already be connected into a single stream. If you use relevant hashtags, your posts will get exposure to a wider audience than the people who already follow you or know about your brand.

The key to using hashtags effectively is to use them smartly and sparingly. Try to limit the number of hashtags per caption to around three. Similarly, don’t use “like for like” hashtags, like #like4like or #like4likes. This is a dirty tactic that’ll leave you with a whole bunch of low-quality followers.

To find the hashtags your audience might be using, do a little research on relevant hashtags in your niche or industry. The easiest way to do this research is in the Instagram app itself, in the “explore” tab (i.e. the magnifying glass icon).

When you search for one hashtag, it’ll show you a list of related hashtags at the top of your screen. For example, when I search for #inboundmarketing on Instagram, it shows me relevant hashtags like #marketingdigital, #marketingtips, and so on.

Hashtags can optimize your post in hashtag-based searches and help you gain more Instagram followers.

To help relate to your followers on a personal level, you might consider hopping on hashtag trends like #tbt (“Throwback Thursday”), #MotivationMonday, #TransformationTuesday, or hashtags that are trending at any given time. 

Here’s a post from @HubSpot’s account using the #InternationalWomensDay hashtag: Once you build up a bit of a following, you can try creating your own hashtags — like your company name or a slogan that applies to a lot of your photos. This is a great way to build up your brand on the platform and build a more cohesive presence.

 

9. Interact with users through follows, likes, and comments.

Instagram is very much a community, and one great way to get involved in that community is to find people who post pictures that interest you, and follow their accounts and interact with their content. It’s the most natural way to draw attention to your own Instagram account. It may also get your foot in the door in the platform’s community.

That does two things for you: for one, when they get the notification that you’ve followed them, they might check out your account and decide whether or not to follow you. (This is why it’s important to have some great content on there before you start reaching out to others.)

Secondly, it means you’ll be seeing their recent posts in your feed, so you can Like and interact with them if you choose to.

As you build a following, celebrate your followers and show you appreciate them by responding to their comments, and even following them and engaging with their posts.

10. Cross-promote with users who have audiences similar to your own.

Once you build a solid relationship with some of the folks behind these accounts that have a similar audience to your own, you might ask to do some co-promotion on each others’ accounts.

The more natural and less spammy you can make the content of these cross-promotions — especially the captions — the better. It also helps to be picky about them, and don’t do them very often.

Below, @flow, an alkaline water company, and @completelymomblog, the account of a blogger named Cortney Lynn, cross-promoted each other at about the same time:

 


11. Run Instagram contests to encourage engagement.

Another great way to expand your reach while increasing engagement on your photos is to publish a post promoting a contest, and then ask people to follow your account and Like or comment on the photo in order to enter.

You might add a UGC (User-Generated Content) element to the contest, too, where people post a photo of their own and use a specific hashtag along with following your account. Here’s an example of a post from Starbucks promoting a UGC contest on their Instagram account.

 

12. Use Instagram Stories and explore its interactive features.

Instagram has always offered the opportunity to post beautiful, curated photos to represent your brand. However, with the introduction of ephemeral Instagram Stories, brands can also share on-the-fly, behind-the-scenes looks for 24 hours that may not be as polished as a published photo, but give your brand more personality on the platform.

One look at Snapchat’s explosion in popularity demonstrates that social media users are clearly responding positively to ephemeral photo and video sharing. Instagram Stories let brands engage with users in different ways to cultivate brand loyalty and appeal.

Although Snapchat pioneered this feature, Instagram Stories now has over 400 million daily users, which is double the amount of Snap’s user base.

Along with sharing video clips and static images through Instagram Stories, users can also use interactive features like polls to gain more engagement and learn more about their Instagram audiences. Once a user is verified or has over 10,000 followers, they can even include a link to a webpage within a story.

How Brands Can Use Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours, unless they are marked as a “Featured Story.” Featured stories will show up at the top of your profile between the photo feed and your bio. We can’t embed Instagram Stories just yet, but you can view HubSpot’s Instagram page to see what we’ve featured.

Here are a few other brands we recommend following to see what they’re sharing:

Rachel Brathen (@yoga_girl) is a yoga teacher and entrepreneur in Aruba who uses Instagram Stories to document the behind-the-scenes action of building a yoga studio. While her Instagram portfolio features beautiful, professional photos and videos of her in yoga poses, her Stories feature her dog sitting in on staff meetings, her team unwrapping amethyst crystals to decorate her studio, and artists painting the walls.

She uses Stories to showcase the other side of her brand to her 2 million followers in an authentic and unpolished way, and to keep her followers apprised of what she does every day (besides yoga, of course).

Dana Shultz (@miniamlistbaker) publishes easy vegan and gluten-free recipes on her blog. Her Stories feature neat how-to videos of her making breakfast and testing out new recipes in her kitchen. The behind-the-scenes aspect of her Stories provide a lot of human context for her blog’s brand, and everybody loves a good how-to video.

Casper (@casper) publishes quirky Instagram content to advertise their mattresses — without overtly doing so. The main theme of their content? Staying in is better than going out (because you can stay in and lay on a comfy Casper mattress, naturally).

They’ve even created a gallery for followers to use as backdrops for their Snapchat and Instagram stories to make it look like they’re out at a party, when they’re really laying in bed. One of their latest Instagram Stories featured someone watching “The Sopranos” in bed, with the caption: “Who needs plans when you have five more seasons?” This video supports Casper’s campaign to stay in bed with a very real look at what millions of people do when they’re hanging out at home.

Here are our tips for using Instagram Stories for your brand:

  • Whether it’s funny, sad, or unique, be authentic. Your photo gallery is where content can be perfect and polished. Instagram Stories are for the raw, unscripted, and un-retouched. Use Stories to share the other side of your brand that followers might not be able to glean elsewhere. Do you have a dog-friendly office? Is your team trying out the Mannequin Challenge? Start filming to showcase the more human side of your brand.
  • Go behind-the-scenes. These are by far our favorite type of content for ephemeral video sharing. Show followers what goes into the planning of an event or the launching of a product, and make it fun. Your followers want to feel included and in-the-know, and you could use Stories to cultivate a brand loyalty program that only rewards people who check out your content.
  • Embrace interactivity. As mentioned above, Instagram allows you to add interactive stickers to your stories. For example, you can ask your audience to vote in a poll, rate something on a sliding scale, or send you burning questions. These features might help you learn about your audience while also engaging with them.

13. Use the Live Video feature.

Instagram also lets users record and share live videos, another content format that’s proven to be hugely popular on other social networks. What’s unique about live videos on Instagram? They disappear when users stop filming.

This authentic, bi-directional experience lets brands share unscripted, raw moments with their audience to incorporate human elements into a social media platform that’s highly edited and polished in its traditional use.

Since the Live feature launched, Instagram has added even more features that may enable more engagement or interactions from viewers. For example, users can now launch live video Q&As or add music to live streams.

Live video is a growing trend across a variety of social media platforms, so if something interesting is happening, start rolling. Whether it’s a team birthday party, a staff meeting, or a cute animal, your devoted followers want to see what you’re up to every day. 

14. Share your profile link on your website and social media channels.

Place a follow button on your homepage, your “About Us” page, and various other places on your website. Consider adding an Instagram badge to your website that hyperlinks to your account. Here’s what the badge could look like:

Instagram

If your brand has brick-and-mortar locations, put out a good ol’ print call-to-action letting people know you have an Instagram account and encouraging them to follow you.

Also, be sure to promote your Instagram account on your other social media accounts. Chances are, the folks who already follow you on Facebook and Twitter will also follow you on Instagram without much prodding. Let those followers know you’re on Instagram and encourage them to follow you there by including a link to your Instagram account in the bios and posts of those other social media accounts.

So give it a shot: Make a profile and start posting, testing, tweaking, and promoting your account. Garnering a following on Instagram won’t happen overnight, but the stronger of a foundation you create on your account in in your niche Instagram community, the higher quality your followers will be.

15. Apply for a verification badge.

When an account on Instagram is verified, it has a blue dot, called a badge, next to the username. When another user comes across this profile or finds the verified username in search, the blue dot confirms to them that the account is the business, individual, or brand that it’s claiming to be. 

While Instagram has a list of eligibility requirements for the badge, the platform does allow users to apply for one. You can learn more about that process in Instagram’s help center

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The State of the Marketing Industry in 2019: 7 Trends to Watch Out For

If you work in content marketing, you probably know that its booming growth and ever-evolving ecosystem forces us to constantly be on the lookout for the next big thing.

One day we’re creating pillar pages and topic clusters to please the Google gods, and then the next, we’re overhauling our entire social strategy because another Facebook algorithm update will flatten our organic reach even more than before.

That said, trends come and go every year, but we believe the seven covered below are here to stay. Read on to learn about the marketing trends that could move from hype to reality in 2019.

1. Neuromarketing

Whether its views, social shares, scroll depth, subscriptions, leads, and sometimes even ROI, digital marketers can measure it all. But even though we have access to a laundry list of metrics, we still can’t measure what is arguably the most crucial indicator of a campaign’s performance — emotional resonance.

Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing a spike in traffic as much as the next blogger. But in an industry where skimming a page for 10 seconds counts as a view, leaving your desk to grab some string cheese will result in a time-on-page of five minutes, and 50% of web traffic and engagement are generated by bots and Chinese click farms, claiming digital metrics are a surefire way to gauge your content’s emotional impact is a stretch.

Fortunately, with neuromarketing, which is a blend of neuroscience and marketing, brands can gauge the emotional resonance of their current and future marketing campaigns. To do this, companies like Immersion Neuroscience and Spark Neuro have developed wearable technology that can gauge certain neurochemical and physiological responses, which both signal emotional engagement while consuming marketing content.

2. Multicultural Marketing

Out of all the challenges a company faces, diversity and inclusion is not only the most pressing one to address but it’s also the most difficult one to overcome. The societal movement for diversity and inclusion has rightfully bled over to Corporate America, enabling the public to expose the working world’s lack of diversity and challenge them to fix their ways.

This has rocketed diversity and inclusion to the top of every company’s mind, but even though the world is a melting pot today, most brands market in a way that only appeals to a country’s majority ethnicity or culture. That means there’s a huge pool of people that brands aren’t resonating with.

However, generating more sales shouldn’t be the only reason you market to minority groups. Acknowledging their ethnicities and cultures should be another huge driving factor.

Because, ultimately, letting minority groups know that it’s not only okay to be different, but it’s also amazing that they bring such different perspectives to the places they immigrate to, will move society forward and help immigrants be proud of who they truly are.

3. Cognitive Computing-Powered Customer Service

Cognitive computing is a technology that can analyze enormous amounts of data in the same way humans think, reason, and remember, so people can naturally interact with the technology and extract data-backed recommendations from it

Brands who implement cognitive computing into their customer support technology are able to assemble two-pronged customer service teams that help provide better, faster customer service.

By setting up computers and robots in their stores that can actually understand natural language and accurately answer people’s routine questions, a retailer’s human employees can service more customers who have more pressing needs.

4. Shows

In the neuroscience field, researchers have proven that storytelling is the best way to capture people’s attention, bake information into their memories, and resonate emotionally with them. The human brain is programmed to crave, seek out, and respond to well-crafted narrative — that’ll never change.

Just like your favorite Netflix show, crafting shows can entice your viewers to watch entire seasons of your series, subscribe to your updates, and get more excited for your show’s newest season than they currently are for the third season of Stranger Things.

So before you green light another slew of listicles, how-to posts, and ultimate guides, remember how powerful storytelling is and consider crafting a show chock-full of conflict, surprise, and emotion that also ties to a unique angle and is told in an episodic fashion.

5. Podcasting

According to a content format study conducted by Edison Research and Triton Digital, people age 12 and older are listening to online audio content at unprecedented levels. On average, people spend 17 hours per week tuning into their favorite podcasts, online radio shows, and audiobooks. There are also 14 million more weekly podcast listeners this year compared to last year, which is more than Guinea’s entire population.

The demand for audio content has exploded, but that doesn’t mean people will listen to your branded podcast just because it’s a podcast. In reality, they’ll only listen to it if it can hold their attention and, ultimately, entertain them. Otherwise, producing yet another interview-an-expert podcast like everyone else will only add to the noise flooding the internet.

6. Word of Mouth Marketing

Nowadays, only 4% of consumers believe marketers practice integrity. So what’s a marketer to do when the very people they need to persuade don’t trust them? They need to rely on their customers’ recommendation of their brand.

People trust customers over marketers because marketers have an agenda — they promote their product or service to generate sales. On the other hand, customers will only rave about a product or service if it truly benefited them.

To create as much word of mouth marketing as possible, you need to stay laser-focused on developing the best product or service possible and providing top-notch customer service. In other words, you need to serve your customers needs before your own. Only then will your customers turn into a loyal, passionate tribe that will recommend your brand to their friends and family.

7. Historical Optimization

In 2015, HubSpot made a revolutionary discovery about their organic monthly blog traffic — the overwhelming majority of it came from posts published prior to that month. In fact, 76% of their monthly blog views came from these old posts.

Today, their groundbreaking revelation rings louder than ever — 89% of their monthly blog views currently come from posts that were published at least six months prior, and they’ve developed an entire strategy dedicated to refreshing and republishing these historical pieces of content.

These types of blog posts are called “updates”, and they comprise 35-40% of HubSpot’s editorial calendar. And by refreshing them with new information and SEO optimization and then effectively republishing them as new blog posts, HubSpot can build upon their existing organic value that these posts have accumulated through backlinks and user engagement and double or even triple their traffic.

This process also helps HubSpot optimize their blog for efficiency, decreasing the amount of new content they have to create while increasing their organic traffic and conversions. And many other brands are starting to jump on the historical optimization train to revamp their blogs too.

The 15 Best WordPress Widgets for Your Website

If you can name it, there’s a WordPress widget for it.

What started as a way to customize your sidebar has become an unimaginable wealth of usefulness. Widgets allow you to easily add complex functions to your site that can have a huge impact on the user experience.

Whether you want an eye-catching display of your best Instagram posts, Google Maps so customers can find you, or a simple but eye-catching contact form to gather more email addresses, there are innumerable options waiting for you to explore.

But what makes a widget a good widget?

Four things to look for in a WordPress widget

1. Usefulness.

It should go without saying, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always. A widget is there to serve a specific purpose. If it fails to do this, it’s useless.

Checking reviews or the number of active installations gives you a good idea of whether the widget does a good job or not.

2. Tested with the latest version of WordPress.

Any WordPress plugin you use should be up-to-date and tested by other users. The last thing you want is to put work into customizing a widget only to find out it has a fatal bug that crashes your entire site. You can check the status on the plugin’s page on WordPress.org.

3. Good technical support.

When things go wrong (and they always do, right?) you want to be sure someone will help you out. Look out for widgets from trusted developers who are known to give great support and who provide detailed troubleshooting videos and articles.

4. Customization.

You want to be able to customize your widgets to fit with the branding of your site. With some widgets, you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version of the plugin to fully customize, while others offer all the options you need right out of the box.

If the widget ticks these four boxes, you’re good to go.

With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the 15 best, most useful widgets for your website.

1. HubSpot All-in-One Marketing

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.6/5 | 104 reviews

Why have one widget when you can have many? HubSpot offers a whole box of tricks via its widget bundle. The bundle is brimming with slide-in boxes, banners, overlay pop-ups and much more, which work right out of the box. It works well with other tools you may use as well, such as meeting schedulers or landing page builders.

One of the most innovative widgets is the live chat widget, which allows you to have real-time conversations with your visitors, or even install a chatbot to cover the times when you’re not around.

This is one of the most useful bundles out there, putting the awesome power of HubSpot’s CRM, marketing, sales, and customer service software right into your WordPress dashboard.

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2. Relevanssi

Price: Free | Premium from $99/year

WordPress.org rating: 4.7/5 | 227 reviews

Relevanssi upgrades the notoriously basic WordPress search bar with a smart search more akin to what we’re used to with search engines. Settings can be configured to your liking with features to search within PDFs, run searches across multiple sites, or add custom fields.

On top of that, search results can be displayed by relevance rather than just by date. However, by the team’s own admission, Relevanssi takes up a lot of memory. Apparently, it will triple your database size, so be warned if you lack storage.

The free version offers all the features you could want, but there is also a premium version, which provides the use of the widget on an unlimited number of sites, along with upgrades and support.

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3. Ultimately Social Media Icons

Price: Free | Premium from $24.98/year

WordPress.org rating: 4.9/5 | 4520 reviews

This popular plugin lets you easily add a multitude of social icons to your WordPress site via a widget. Encourage sharing, likes, and follows at the click of a button. All the major social networks are supported and you can choose from a range of button designs. It also supports quirky features like sticky floating buttons, animations, follower counters, pop-ups and more.

The free version will do nicely for most uses but the premium version supports far more button designs and more obscure social sharing sites.

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4. Instagram Feed

Price: Free | Premium from $39 for the first year of updates and support

WordPress.org rating: 4.9/5 | 2200 reviews

Instagram Feed is a handy widget that displays one or multiple Instagram feeds in the format of your choosing. Adding a colorful grid is a good way to attract more followers to your Instagram feed and grow your audience. This simple widget makes it incredibly easy to put a mobile-responsive Instagram feed in a strategic location on your WordPress site.

Displaying a beautiful feed is all covered in the free version. Premium offers more advanced features like a pop-up light box feed, the option to display feeds for specific hashtags, the ability to show likes and comments for each post, and much more.

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5. Siteorigin Widgets Bundle

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.9/5 | 114 reviews

Siteorigin Widgets Bundle is packed full of useful widgets that you can insert into any page or sidebar, or into the Siteorigin Page Builder tool. It’s a good option if you want to commit to this bundle over all others — in fact, the ever-growing list of widgets for Siteorigin currently sits at 22. Highlights include widgets for Google Maps, sliders, contact forms, a price table, buttons, images, and more.

This is a useful bundle if you were going to grab a ton of these widgets anyway, but it’s important to note the large bundle will take up a fair bit of space, so there’s a trade-off.

Best of all, the widgets can be easily turned on and off via the settings page and the whole thing won’t cost you a dime.

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6. WP Recipe Maker

Price: Free | Premium from $49

WordPress.org rating: 5/5 | 88 reviews

If you post recipes on your food blog, WP Recipe Maker simplifies the process of formatting, and makes the results look better than a table or bullet points of ingredients.

Simply input your recipe information into a form and this widget creates a professional recipe box, including helpful details like serving count, cooking time, measurements, and anything else you might want in a recipe.

It is lightweight, easy-to-use and has become the most popular recipe widget on WordPress, with 20,000+ active installations. Premium features add ingredient links (so you can make some money from affiliate links), recipe taxonomies, user ratings, nutritional information, and more.

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7. YouTube Gallery by YotuWP

Price: Free | Premium from $14

WordPress.org rating: 4.9/5 | 122 reviews

Embed a mobile-responsive YouTube video or entire video gallery anywhere on your WordPress site with this widget. Filter by playlist channel or username, and customize the size and layout of your widget display. This is the simplest YouTube widget available and is now moving ahead of its older rivals in terms of ratings and active installations.

This is a phenomenal way to add video content to your site while also driving more followers to your YouTube channel. Try the Premium version for additional layouts, adding video metadata, custom text for buttons and more — although the free version is excellent for most needs.

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8. EnviraGallery

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.8/5 | 1054 reviews

Envira Gallery is the most popular gallery widget on WordPress and allows you to create a professional photo or video gallery with zero coding. It’s designed to be clean, simple, and easy-to-use. Best of all, it’s responsive, SEO-friendly, and social sharing-ready.

The drag-and-drop gallery creator is intuitive and takes the hassle out of creating a gallery from scratch. The free version supports watermarking, slideshows, pagination, Instagram feed imports, and password protection, among many other features. It’s a no-brainer if you need a beautiful gallery widget.

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9. All-in-One Event Calendar by Timely

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.3/5 | 1506 reviews

The best thing about this calendar widget is the versatility in its placement and design options. The widget allows you to easily customize your view — including options for daily, weekly, or monthly — and lets you incorporate sidebar widgets or Google Maps.

You can filter by tag or category and share to Google Calendar, Apple iCal, and Microsoft Outlook. In my opinion, it’s the best calendar widget you’ll find for your WordPress site.

Add-ons are available for a fee, including more view options, or auto-sharing of events on Twitter and SuperWidget, which allows you to put your calendar on any website.

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10. Black Studio TinyMCE Widget

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.8/5 | 188 reviews

This handy widget allows you to insert rich text and media elements into your WordPress sidebar. The WYSIWYG interface was originally introduced to replace the basic text editor that comes with WordPress, but it still does a better job than even the current default editor.

The widget supports switching between visual mode and HTML, although coding is not necessary to use it. It’s a useful addition to your widget arsenal.

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11. Popups by OptinMonster

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.4/5 | 161 reviews

This powerful plugin offers a suite of lead generation tools, including the ability to create highly-customizable forms in the form of pop-ups or sidebar widgets to collect information. The drag-and-drop builder makes it easy to quickly build customizable forms — alternatively, you can choose from one of their templates.

OptinMonster also allows integration with email marketing services like HubSpot and MailChimp, so you can easily export contacts to your existing lists along with all their data. This is a useful tool for collecting email addresses and syncing with other services, but you want to be careful that your pop-ups aren’t too intrusive. You don’t want to negatively impact the user experience.

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12. WP Live Chat Support

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.7/5 | 763 reviews

Live chat is popping up in the corners of screens everywhere, and WP Live Chat Support has emerged as the best widget to add live chat to your WordPress site. The simple interface has made it the most popular WordPress live chat widget, with over 60,000 active installations.

There are six chat box designs to choose from, which can be placed wherever you like on your pages, with optional animations thrown in for good measure. Other handy features allow you to disable the chat box for mobile users, or have it pop up automatically for other users. A chat box is a great way to capture email addresses to build your list, and this widget allows you to turn this feature on or off.

A simple and effective live chat widget — best of all, it’s absolutely free.

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13. Whistles

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.8/5 | 19 reviews

The difficulty of adding a good tabbed widget into WordPress has long been a frustration for users. Whistles is billed as a brand-new approach to tab plugins. It involves adding some short code, but allows you to add a tabbed widget anywhere on your WordPress site. Additionally, it performs much more reliably than previous tabbed widgets have.

The formatting options are somewhat limited, but the widget does support tabs, toggles, and accordion designs so you can customize to a certain degree.

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14. Advanced Random Posts Widget

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4/5 | 30 reviews

If you have a ton of blog content and you want to give some love to older or less-appreciated posts, a random posts widget is a good solution. It will display random posts from your content library to entice readers to click on something they didn’t even know they wanted to read.

This clean and simple plugin allows you to add an attractive random posts thumbnail widget to any sidebar or page. You can sort by taxonomy and display the post title, excerpt, and post date. You’ll need to add a little bit of short code to the relevant page, but the plugin walks you through how to do this with ease. Additionally, the simple tabbed settings page makes customizing your widget a breeze.

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15. Google Maps Widget

Price: Free | Premium from $39

WordPress.org rating: 4.7/5 | 481 reviews

Including a functional Google Maps widget on your website is critical for helping your customers find you — additionally, it’s also a major Google ranking factor. This widget adds a custom-fitted and designed Google Map to your site, which pinpoints your location.

Plus, the Premium version allows users to open a larger map as a light box and interact with it by zooming in and out, or switching between satellite and road views.

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Choose the best widget for your needs

As we have seen, there is a widget for just about everything. Whatever functionality you need to add to your site, this list gives you the best option for each specific purpose.

If you’re looking for a great bundle of widgets that come from a trusted provider of market-leading software, Hubspot All-in-One Marketing is an incredibly helpful choice, providing a multitude of fully-customizable options and plenty of support if necessary.

16 Email Marketing Best Practices That Actually Drive Results

This is a guest post written by Jamie Turner, founder of the 60 Second Marketer. He is an in-demand marketing speaker and author of the book entitled Go Mobile with Jeanne Hopkins, former VP of marketing at HubSpot.

While email marketing may not get the attention some newer marketing channels get, it’s still a terrific way for you to generate leads and convert more prospects for your business. With that in mind, I want to share some email marketing best practices you can use to generate more leads for your business.

(In addition to the rules for outgoing messages below, check out our new Out-of-Office Email Generator to make your response to incoming messages just as delightful.)

Click here to download our free beginner's guide to email marketing.

1. Don’t purchase contact lists.

This first tip should come as no surprise, but given the rollout of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it bears repeating. Email campaigns depend on a healthy open rate, and if you’re contacting people whose information you bought — rather than earned from a previous interaction — you’ll quickly see your emails’ performance drop.

The GDPR also requires each European recipient’s consent before you reach out to them, and purchased email lists usually do not come with that consent.

2. Avoid using ‘No-Reply’ in the sender’s email address.

Have you heard of CAN-SPAM? This longstanding piece of legislation is a popular and important guideline for all email marketers in the U.S. — and still many companies are trying to comply with it. One major rule in CAN-SPAM is to never use the words “no reply,” or a similar phrase, as your email sender’s name (for example, “noreply@yourcompany.com”).

“No reply” in an email message prevents recipients from responding and even opting out of further emails, which CAN-SPAN protects their right to do at any time. Instead, have even your automated emails come from a first name (for example, jamie@mycompany.com). Your customers are much more likely to open emails if they know they were written by a human being.

3. Stick to fewer than three typefaces.

The less clutter you have in your email, the more conversions you’ll experience. Don’t junk up your email with more than two, or a maximum of three, fonts or typefaces.

4. Optimize the email’s preview text.

You’ve seen this link in the marketing emails you receive, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a helpful warning. But keeping it in the preview text of your email could be a death sentence for the email’s open rate, which averages 22 percent across industries, according to a report from GetResponse. In this case, you’re basically telling recipients, “this email might not work.”

Email newsletter with "can't see images?" listed in preview text, not a marketing best practice

By default, preview text pulls in the first several words of the email body and displays it next to the subject line before the person opens it. The problem is custom email templates often stick conditional statements like “can’t see images?” or “not displaying correctly?” along the top banner, allowing it to slip right into the preview when it goes out.

HubSpot users can fix this problem by customizing the preview text themselves in the backend of their email marketing newsletter.

5. Clean your mailing list regularly.

Some of your email contacts might not opt-out of your email campaign, but still never open your emails. It’s tempting to email as many people as possible to reach more prospects, but keeping your least-engaged recipients on your mailing list can kill your open rate. People who never open emails make your campaign look worse since you’re not analyzing the campaign’s quality against your most loyal recipients.

Analyze who hasn’t engaged with your emails over a certain period of time, and remove them on a regular basis. This gives you a more accurate email open rate and keeps your email campaign clean of the people who are no longer interested in hearing from you.

6. Keep the main message and call-to-action above the fold.

If your main call-to-action (CTA) falls below the fold, as many as 70% of recipients won’t see it. Also, any CTA should be repeated at least three times throughout the email in various places and formats.

7. Personalize the email greeting.

How often do you read emails that begin, “Dear Member”?

You might segment your email audiences by the type of customer they are (member, subscriber, user, etc.), but it shouldn’t be the first thing recipients see in your company messages. Personalizing the greeting of your emails with your contacts’ first names grabs the attention of each reader right away. For HubSpot users, this is called a personalization token, and creating one looks like this:

An email marketing best practice by HubSpot to insert a personalization token into email newsletters

Then, the address line of your email would automatically produce the contact’s first name by fetching this personalization token in the email’s HTML, like this:

Hi, !

Don’t worry, personalizing an email’s greeting line with 50 recipients’ names doesn’t mean you’ll have to manually write and send 50 different emails from now on. Many email marketing tools today allow you to configure the greeting of your email campaign so that it automatically sends with the name of the people on your contact list — so everyone is getting a personal version of the same message.

8. Keep your email 500-650 pixels wide.

If your email template is wider than 650 pixels, you’re asking users to scroll horizontally to read your entire message. This is even more cumbersome for a recipient who’s reading your email on his or her mobile device. Your email pixel width is a critical component of its lead-capturing ability.

9. A/B test different subject lines and calls to action.

If you can’t seem to increase your email’s open and click-through rates, a couple of things might be wrong: You’re not emailing the right people (are you buying your contact list? See the first tip at the top of this blog post), or the content of your email needs to be improved. To start, focus on the latter, and conduct an A/B test.

A/B tests, or “split tests,” can be used to improve almost any of your digital marketing content. In an email, this test effectively “splits” your recipients into two groups: Group A receives the normal newsletter, while Group B receives the newsletter with a specific variation. This variation tests to see if your audience would be more or less likely to take an action if your newsletter was different.

HubSpot marketing users can conduct email A/B tests on anything from the subject line to the call-to-action (CTA) inside it. For example, you might change the color of your CTA from red to green to see if your email’s click-through rate increases. If it does, the test indicates that you should change your emails’ CTA color to green from now on.

10. Put your logo in the center or upper-lefthand side of the email.

Eye-tracking studies have found that people instinctively look for logos in the upper left-hand side of emails — often because it’s consistent with the placement of a logo on most websites. However, it’s also acceptable to put your logo in the center to align it with the email content beneath it.

Whether your logo is centered or on the lefthand side, branding the header of your email reminds your recipients that it came from you and it’s part of a series.

11. Use incentives to increase open rates.

When you include an incentive in your subject line, you can increase open rates by as much as 50%. “Free shipping when you spend $25 or more” and “Receive a free iPod with demo” are examples of good, incentive-focused subject lines.

However, be careful not to overwhelm your readers with savings- or product-related emails. Customer loyalty starts with casual industry insights — only then can you talk business. Here’s an example of an email with an enticing subject line and warm, welcoming body copy:

Email marketing newsletter with incentive in the subject line

12. Allow recipients to subscribe to your newsletter.

You might be thinking, “wait, if they received the email to begin with, shouldn’t they have already subscribed?”

Usually, yes, and therefore adding a “Subscribe” button to your email doesn’t help those who’ve already agreed to receive your emails. But great content is shareable content, and if your current subscribers are forwarding your emails to their friends and colleagues, you’ll want to help them subscribe, too.

Add a small but visible CTA that allows an email viewer to subscribe to the newsletter if they received this email from someone else. But remember, because your newsletter should already be driving another action, such as downloading an ebook or becoming a community member, make sure this “Subscribe” button doesn’t distract or confuse users, weakening your main campaign goal in the process.

13. Write compelling (but concise) subject lines.

A good subject line should contain between 30 and 50 characters (including spaces). Email accounts and mobile devices often cut off any subject lines that go beyond this length. Your email subject line should also create a sense of urgency, while giving readers some indication of what to expect once they open the email.

14. Use auto-responders for opt-ins.

Be prepared for your readers to forget they opted in. Set up an auto-responder that reminds people they opted in to your email database. The auto-responder should be sent out one day, five days, and 10 days after the person registers.

Each auto-responder email should also include additional content or bonus material to reward the reader for opting into the newsletter — or your readers might not feel they have enough incentive to actually opt in.

15. Closely tie emails to landing pages.

Your landing page should match the email in terms of headline, copy, and content. The look and feel of your landing page should also match the email — consistency goes a long way toward a customer’s trust in the content they’re receiving.

Just make sure you’re using tracking tools to see which emails and landing pages performed the best so you can keep sending what’s working.

16. Conduct a five-second test.

Send a copy of the email to a friend or business associate. Can they quickly tell what your call-to-action is? If so, you’re golden. If not, keep working.

There are a lot of new tools at a marketer’s disposal that are getting attention these days. But email marketing has stood the test of time regarding its influence on your users. This old, reliable, and faithful tool can really ensure you get the most out of your marketing initiatives.

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7 Ad Design Tips to Help Your Brand Cut Through the Noise

Before your copy can persuade an audience to buy your product, your design must persuade them to buy your copy. In advertising, your design catches your audience’s eye and points their attention to your copy. Then, it’s your copy’s job to hold your audience’s attention.

To help you grab people’s attention in your advertisements, we’ve put together a list of seven ad tips, supported by examples, that’ll help your brand cut through the noise. Read on to learn how to craft creatively refreshing ads that will convert your audience into customers.

7 Ad Design Tips to Help Your Brand Cut Through the Noise

1. Stand Out From The Crowd

Estee Lauder Ad

Image Credit: VeryGoodCopy

In a world where countless brands fight for a limited amount of attention, the only way your advertisement can grab people’s attention is by being original.

As a marketer, though, it can be tempting to leap onto the latest trend that all your competitors have already pounced on. If everyone else is implementing the latest tip or trick, it must work, right? To captivate an audience, though, you must resist this urge.

Cliches repel attention. They sap your advertisement’s creativity and can’t activate the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for experiencing emotions. But how exactly do you create an original advertisement? Consider one of Estee Lauder’s print campaigns from the 1960s.

Back then, Estee Lauder’s main competitors like L’Oreal, Revion, and Helena Rubinstein all ran vibrant, colorful ads in magazines. Every makeup ad was beautiful and rich. But even though they seemed eye-popping at first glance, audiences became accustomed to these types of ads — they all looked the same. They started blending in with each other.

Realizing that no one could differentiate between the brands running full-color makeup ads flooding magazines during that time period anymore, Estee Lauder did something so controversial it was deemed “radical”, “stupid”, and even “ugly”: they ran their ads in sepia.

Estee Lauder’s print advertising move received its fair share of criticism, but they’re ability to be original helped them immediately stand out from the crowd and rake in 25% more responses than their previous color print campaigns.

2. Turn Your Ad Into a Game

Fisher-Price Ad

Image Credit: AdWeek

The brain is wired to predict things. It’s an evolutionary trait that allows us to anticipate what’s going to happen next and quickly react to it. That said, advertisements that are predictable only require a shred of thought to understand, so they’re too easy to grasp and, in turn, boring to engage anyone.

With this in mind, if you can scrap predictability from your advertisements, you force your audience into a deeper level of thinking to digest your message, compelling them to pay more attention to it.

One of the best ways to ensnare your audience attention and get them to interact with your advertisement is by turning it into a game. By framing your advertisement like a game that can be beat, just like Fisher-Price’s ad above, your audience has the opportunity to earn an intellectual reward if they spend just the right amount of energy and thought playing your brand’s game and grasping your advertisement’s message, which is something most people won’t ever pass up.

3. Convey One Message — And One Message Only

Citizen Eco-Drive Watch Ad

Image Credit: VeryGoodCopy

Sometimes, marketers think the more benefits and features they include in their ads, the higher their conversion rate will be. But trying to read a jumbled ad requires a lot of thought and energy, so cramming an ad with a ton of copy doesn’t actually grab people’s attention. It repels it.

To immediately hook people and persuade them to read the rest of your ad, consider conveying one message per ad. Spotlighting your product or service’s main benefit or feature will make it easy for your audience to understand its value and increase the likelihood of doing business with you because they’ll leave your ad remembering only one message: your product’s or service’s main feature will benefit their lives somehow, someway.

For example, in Citizen’s ad for their Eco-Drive watch, they only use a single line of copy and a simple image to convey their product’s value to their audience — the watch is powered by light.

4. Make It Visual

Lego Ad

Image Credit: VeryGoodCopy

When we were babies, we relied on vision to associate objects with behaviors, like a ball meaning play time. Vision was the only way to learn about the world.

That’s why you can understand visual information in 250 milliseconds and why your visual system activates over 50% of your brain. Visual storytelling is the best way for people to grasp concepts and data easily.

For instance, in LEGO’s ad, they only use two images, a simple lego creation and a shadow of a dinosaur, but you can instantly form a concrete understanding of its core idea — with Legos, you can create anything.

5. Leverage Hyperbole

Nikol Paper Towels Ads

Image Credit: Brilliant Ads

Exaggerating your product’s benefits, in a clever and obvious way, is one of the best methods for slipping some humor into your advertisement, which can capture your audience’s attention and trigger an emotional response from them.

For instance, Nikol’s paper towels obviously can’t turn grapes into raisins, but this ad highlights the product’s absorbent powers in such a clear and artful way, they didn’t need to write a single line of copy.

6. Show, Don’t Tell

Siemens Ad

Image Credit: Brilliant Ads

Showing your audience something is much more engaging and interesting than telling them it. Relying on implications to convey a message is mysterious, making it more fun for your audience to figure out.

For example, in Siemens’ creative ad, they show the benefits of their product by unexpectedly placing their washers and dryers in a library to show you that they’re so quiet, even a librarian wouldn’t need to shush them.

7. Swap Connotations

Heinz AdImage Credit: Brilliant Ads

In relation to food, the word “hot” has multiple meanings: having a high temperature and being spicy. Heinz brilliantly used the connotation of high temperature to highlight the spiciness of their ketchup, and their creative method of communicating the value of their product helped them instantly attract people’s attention.