A Step-by-Step Guide to Producing a 3,000-Word Article on Any Topic

Creating long-form content is one of the best things you can do for your online marketing strategy.

Long-form content that passes the 3,000-word mark blurs the line between an article and a guide, making it a unique type of content. It’s detailed, but it’s not too long.

It’s the perfect type of content to truly help your readers.

Not only that, but long-form content also sets you up as an authority, attracts backlinks, and helps you create a sustainable content marketing system.

Throughout my career, long-form content has always been an important part of my marketing strategy. And most of the radically successful entrepreneurs I know also use long-form content. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

I know what you’re thinking: “But how can I write these humongous articles? I don’t even know where to start.”

If you have an idea for an article in mind, that’s enough to get started. All you need is an idea, some time, and good Googling skills.

Over the years, I’ve honed the process of writing long-form content that works for any topic. It’s so easy to learn, I bet you’ll finish your first 3,000+ word article within a few days.

Ready? Let’s get started.

Write about what you know

First, I want to tackle an issue I see all the time.

I’ll read an article that ticks all the right boxes, but the content sucks. And it’s extremely clear that the author hasn’t studied the subject.

If an article makes a lot of vague statements and relies heavily on others’ quotes, you can bet that the author doesn’t really know the topic.

And when you’re writing 3,000+ words, you need to know what you’re writing about.

I can crank out 3,000 words on marketing, no sweat. But if I tried to write a 3,000-word post on how to backpack across Spain, I’d be totally lost.

Writing 3,000 words requires you to know a lot about the topic. If you’re fumbling and making things up as you go, your finished product won’t be that good.

But when you write about what you know, your experience shines through. Your readers will be able to tell you’re an expert on the subject.

Most importantly, your article won’t be boring. It’ll be informative and in-depth.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the process of writing long-form content.

Building your outline

When most people think of an outline for writing, they think of this:


Source: LumenLearning

While these outlines may be great for writing academic papers, they’re convoluted for articles.

You can use a much simpler form of outline. For example, your outline might be a list of all the subheadings in your article. Or it could be a bullet point list of things you want to write about.

Whatever you use for an outline, don’t spend too much time on it. You want to move to the drafting part of the process as soon as possible.

Getting your sources

Sources are vital to an article’s success. If you don’t have good sources, your readers won’t trust your points.

Your sources need to meet two important criteria: they need to be trustworthy, and they need to be relevant.

Try to use sources known for their credibility. Case studies are always safe bets.

Here are some great places to look for sources:

  • Online publications
  • Research-based sites (e.g., MarketingSherpa, HubSpot)
  • Industry blogs

Always choose primary sources over secondary sources. A primary source is original research or content.

Here’s an example of Buffer using a primary source:


Of course, your primary sources don’t have to come directly from you or your company. For example, you could cite the Buffer post above, and that would count as a primary source.

Here’s one of the best writing tips I can give you: Find your sources first.

If you wait till later to find your sources, it’ll be tougher to organically implement them into your writing. But if you find them at the beginning, you can write using your sources as the basis of your article.

This makes your writing flow smoother and your arguments stronger. It also saves you time in the long run.

Look back at your outline, and identify the main points you want to make. Find one or two primary sources for each point. This will ensure your arguments are sufficiently supported.

Draft with detail

After you have your sources, it’s time to knock out your first draft. When drafting, keep one important thing in mind: detail.

That’s one of the reasons why I generally dislike short content—it’s not detailed enough.

If you asked me to write a 500-word article on long-tail keywords, I’d have to sacrifice a lot of detail just to fit in the main points.

Shorter content can work under the right circumstances, but if you’re trying to build authority and grow your readership, you need longer content. And that means detail.

Many bloggers make the rookie mistake of assuming that their readers will know what they’re writing about. But you can’t make that assumption. If you do, you run the risk of alienating some readers.

As a rule of thumb, it’s always better to go into too much detail than not enough. Keep that in mind when writing your articles.

When you start writing, just let it flow. Write whatever comes to mind even if you think it’s bad. At this point, your goal is to get words on the page. If they suck, you’ll edit them later.

While you’re drafting, try to keep the following two points in mind.

Break it down

When you’re writing an extra-long article, you need to make sure everything is broken down into parts. Explain each aspect thoroughly.

When you write your first draft, try to answer some fundamental questions:

  • If you were completely new to this topic, what questions would you have?
  • Have you broken down every area into easily digestible parts?
  • Have you defined terms some readers may not understand?

If you’re writing about an advanced application of a topic, include a beginners’ guide somewhere in the opening of your article. That way, uninitiated readers can learn the basics before moving on to your article.

You might consider including a table of contents at the beginning of your article. Kolakube uses them nicely:


Remember, your goal is to help the reader, and a table of contents helps break down the article into smaller, bite-sized chunks.

Build pillars

Revisit your outline again, and take a look at your main points. You should have 5-7 points you want to make.

These 5-7 points are your pillars, and together, they support the central argument.

For example, take a look at this Kissmetrics article:


The title is the main point, and the subheadings give you the pillars of the article.

That’s the format you want to aim for. I like using subheadings as the pillars, but as long as you have your supporting sections, you’ll be golden.

One final word about your first draft: Try to make it longer than you want your post to be. That’s because during the editing process, you’ll usually cut out a lot more than you think.

I recommend going about 400-500 words over as a safety net. If you want your final post to be 3,000 words, aim for 3,400-3,500 words in your first draft.

Edit ruthlessly

Next, it’s time to edit.

When you edit your own writing, you have to be brutally honest with yourself. It’s easy to develop editing blindness: you’re too familiar with your own writing and can miss mistakes.

To battle this, leave your article for a day or two. When you come back to it, you’ll be able to be more objective when editing.

Start by reading through your article, preferably aloud. (Yes, it’ll take a while, but it allows you to notice mistakes you might not otherwise notice.)

At the very least, give your article a close read all the way through. Do all sentences make sense? Are all phrases unclear? Be ruthless with your editing.

It’s also a good idea to use apps to help refine your drafts. First, put it through a spell checker, but be careful because a spell checker won’t catch everything.

(For example, if you wrote “I through the baseball” instead of “I threw the baseball,” a spell checker won’t catch it even though it’s incorrect.)

Next, use Grammarly. It’s a free grammar checker that will highlight any errors and help you correct them.


Finally, run your article through the Hemingway app. This is a fantastic text editor that will point out long sentences, complex words, and adverbs.

The idea behind Hemingway is to make your writing more concise and more powerful.


Finally, give your article one last run-through, and if it looks good, it’s ready to be published.


That wasn’t so difficult, right?

And the best part is, once you do this over and over, you’ll get better and better at it, and it’ll be easier and easier to do.

Writing a long-form article is simply a formula that you can apply to any topic. Find your topic, get your sources, build your pillars, write with detail, and edit. Rinse and repeat.

If you write about something you know well, the formula can’t fail. All you need is a few hours behind your screen and some motivation.

In fact, I’d say that writing 3,000+ word articles is easier than writing short (500-700-word) articles. You can cover a lot of ground in 3,000 words without having to worry about rambling on.

But it still takes a lot of practice to write great long-form articles. (I’m still practicing after 10+ years of blogging.)

So, take this formula, and use it to create some awesome long-form content.

What’s your biggest challenge with writing long-form content?

A Cheat Sheet to Designing a Pricing Page that Converts

Most pricing pages have three plans laid out horizontally across the page.

But why?

And in what order?

Simply copying what everyone else is doing, without understanding the purpose behind certain features or the research that shows which features convert the best, will give you a hollow page that fails to convert.

Here is a breakdown of five research-backed steps to create your own high converting pricing page.

Overview of the Five Steps for a High Converting Landing Page

This post is long, with tons of research and additional recommendations for high converting landing pages. So here are a few of the highlights:

  1. Psychology-Backed Layout: Use techniques like price anchoring (to set context) or scarcity (to increase visitor urgency).
  2. Easy to Understand: Remove clutter (like extra nav details) and complexity (like hard-to-understand features).
  3. Order & Recommended Plan: Order plans from MOST to LEAST expensive, while also adding one recommended plan.
  4. Copy, Colors & Risk Reversals: Use copy and color to sell value, and credibility indicators to reverse risk.
  5. Conversion-Boosting Features: Include a free option with FAQ and live chat options.


Step #1. Understand the Psychology Behind High Converting Landing Pages Design, Layout, and Tactics

People hit the Pricing page for one of two reasons.

Either they’re getting a quick spot check; finding out if this option fits within their expected potential budget range.

Or they’re deep in the weeds by this point, actively evaluating this option against a few others and deciding whether or not to click that button and give the free trial a spin.

This last group has already put in at least a modicum of thought by now, and they’re trying to make a decision one way or another.

That means your pricing page can either be greased to send people directly into a free trial, or become a bottleneck to growth by stopping people dead in the tracks.

The best converting pages are created with user psychology in mind. This is well tread territory, with much longer (and more exhaustive) resources available for your viewing pleasure.

But here’s a sample of the problems (and their psychological solutions):

Problem #1. We don’t understand context.

People always think something’s “expensive” if they lack a detailed understanding of the problem or pain point your solution solves.

So instead, the better retort is… compared to what?

Price anchoring takes your expected or preferred options and compares them to a much more expensive one to make them appear more palatable in comparison.

Problem #2. We’re stressed and overwhelmed.

President Obama wears the same color suit everyday. Sartorial statement? Not really… it has more to do with attempting to limit the amount of decisions he has to make on a given day. He (and we) is so overwhelmed with choices throughout the day that it’s easy to suffer from decision fatigue.

A side-product of this is analysis paralysis; where someone has already looked at 10 other pricing pages exactly like yours and is now staring glassy eyed.

Problem #3. We sometimes need a kick in the pants.

The first two problems lead to stagnation. We do all the research and analysis, and then… stop – failing to cross the proverbial finish line.

Introducing urgency into the equation is one of the most powerful ways to persuade and influence those stuck.

How exactly? By emphasizing scarcity, a shorter timeline, or limiting the availability, you can increase pressure on those to take action before it’s too late.

Step #2. Improve Information Presentation Before Tactical Decisions

Pricing pages are difficult to construct because they’re complex.

They’re trying to whittle down all of the possible information a user might need to make a purchasing decision and present it in a coherent manner.

Sometimes that’s easier said than done. And the results heavily dictate the ultimate success or failure (more so than the number of pricing plans you’re highlighting and other tactical considerations that follow).

Hiten Shah and ProfitWell did a study to determine which pricing pages got this right, splitting popular apps you know and love into different categories based on the level of information they’re providing, along with how actionable they were.

Their findings showed that pricing pages that packed the most information with the most action resulted in confident users (who converted more because of their proportionally higher level of trust and information understanding).

That compared with other pages that got one of these key elements incorrect, results in a mix of intimated, distracted, or discouraged users.

pricing-decision-chart(Image Source)

Let’s look at a few examples.

Zendesk’s pricing page was one of those that left users overwhelmed.


On first blush, it looks like they nail all the basics. It appears like any other standard pricing page.

However, look at two plans and try to determine what makes them different.

There’s no simple, easy way to spot the difference, because there’s a TON of differences. It’s only after you click on the Compare Plans option above and methodically comb through each individual feature set like a forensic accountant that you begin to grok which plan may or may not have your specific features.

This page could benefit from some of the specific improvements listed below, but the main point here is that the information needs to be organized and translated better first.

Now compare that with Campaign Monitor, which succeeded in both high information and high action:


Three plans with easy-to-understand features for each, with a sliding scale above to determine which pricing range you fall into.

It’s simple and clear-cut, helping users feel confident that the decision they’re about to take is the right one.

Step #3. List Your Most Expensive Plans First, and Highlight a Recommended Option

Process.st analyzed the pricing pages from the Montclare 250 – a ranking of the most successful SaaS companies.

Unsurprisingly, 81% of those with pricing pages listed the least expensive pricing plan on the left-hand side before moving up to the most expensive.

In fact, BOTH examples we just looked at (Campaign Monitor and Zendesk) followed suit.

But here’s the thing.

Some experts recommend the exact opposite, and ConversionXL just proved why in a recent original research study:

“Participants choose more expensive packages more often when they are listed first, or furthest left in left-right order.”

To figure this out, they ran through different task scenarios, conducted eye-tracking studies, and used survey tools to gather feedback.

While people generally consumed or “processed” the information the same, listing the expensive plans first on the left resulted in longer ‘dwell times’ on the page. The first two positions tended to receive the most attention.

dwell-pricing-studyImage Source

This is price anchoring in full effect, plain and simple. The initial expensive options might provide a bit of sticker shock, but your middle and lower tier plans look excellent in perspective.

Inserting a ‘Contact Us’ pricing tier for more complex, enterprise options is a good idea (38% of the Montclare pricing pages feature this), but consider locating it somewhere else (like in plain text underneath) so that you don’t interfere or sabotage this powerful price anchoring effect.

The second research study ConversionXL conducted focused on how ‘calling out’ a preferred or recommended plan impacted results.

They ran the same study as above, manipulating the pricing tier order for SurveyGizmo’s pricing page, along with highlighting a recommended option with a different color.

Here’s what they found using the same task scenario, eye-tracking, and post-survey feedback methods:

survey-gismo-pricing-studyImage Source

Ordering your pricing tiers from most expensive to least expensive results in higher revenue. And highlighting one of those options results in even greater results.

Step #4. Pricing Page Tactics 101: The Five Features All Good Pricing Pages Have in Common

Pricing pages typically fail because they’re missing the mark on one of the first three steps above.

However once you get beyond those, it’s all downhill from there.

Because pricing page principles or tactics rarely differ much, no matter if we’re talking B2B or B2C, SMB vs. enterprise, or CRM vs. help desk app.

Here are some of the most common tactical elements that all good pricing pages have in common (pulling from both the process.st Montclare study and the ProfitWell + Hiten Shah study):

Feature #1. Include a Free Option

Almost every single pricing page featured at least one ‘free’ option, whether that was a free trial or freemium plan.

The benefits are obvious. You want to give people an easy, ‘next step’ that requires zero thought.

It’s low risk, removing any barriers to entry or possible doubts and suspicions that might prevent them from giving your product a fair evaluation.

Another spin on this for larger-ticket items is “concierge onboarding”, which is like a guided walkthrough or one-on-one demonstration to help enterprise clients get a feeling for how their setup will work within your app.

Feature #2. Keep Package Tiers to Three Max

The average number of most pricing pages comes out to around 3.5.

If you didn’t skip over the first few steps above, the reasoning should be obvious.

You want to provide people enough information and context so that they can quickly understand which option is right for them, while also avoid presenting too many options that might induce decision fatigue or analysis paralysis.

Feature #3. Allow for Flexibility & Customization

Limiting plans to only three options might sound like a tall order if your product is complex or expensive.

Two ways to combat this:

First, simply offer an ‘enterprise’, customizable plan as mentioned before where people can get in touch for a tailored approach.

The second is to borrow from the Campaign Monitor example earlier where you incorporate a sliding scale option that will dynamically change or update your pricing tiers as you go. That way, you can use a very simple interactive element to condense a TON of possibilities into an easily digestible format.

For example, Autopilot uses a selector (monthly vs. annual) and a sliding scale (based on the number of contacts) to help users quickly demystify an otherwise complex pricing system.


Feature #4. Add a FAQ Under the Pricing Tiers

66% of the most successful pricing pages proactive answer questions before they pop-up, with a convenient FAQ section under the pricing tiers.

The goal is to head-off the most common potential sales objections you get before they happen. (Essentially anything that might stand in the way of someone signing up for a free trial.)

This section becomes especially helpful if you require payment information upon free trial sign-up for example, to make sure there’s no confusion around how billing might work or change depending on if someone cancels their account.

When done correctly, you can also use this section to help differentiate you from the competition. For example, many CRM tools will charge per-user. But not Highrise, which they’re quick to point out on the right hand side of the FAQ section on their pricing page.


Feature #5. Provide Multiple Contact Options

One final way to further reduce friction on a pricing page is to provide convenient ways to get in touch with sales and support.

According to one study, 76% of companies had at least one option, with 13% of those coming in the form of a live chat popup.

One increasingly common option is Drift, which powers a little widget in the lower right hand corner of someone’s screen.


The added benefit of a tool like this is that you can also use it for in-app messaging, and for behavioral or segment-based targeting (to aid your other retention-based strategies).

Step #5. Pricing Pages 201: Copy, Colors and Risk Reversals

Incorporating each of the first five features is good, but just a start. They’re table stakes.

Here’s five tips to enhance those essential ingredients to get more bang for your buck.

Tip #1. Sell the Value & Benefits

Every single line of copy on your pricing page needs to reinforce the value and benefits you’re delivering.

That sounds obvious and trite, but there are a few common missteps many pages still make.

The first is incorporating “lazy ass messaging” in your headline with overly general or clichéd phrase like “save time and money”.

The second is over-emphasizing the features of each plan (as opposed to the benefits those features produce).

A final example involves plan names with meaningless words like “Essential” that don’t do enough to (a) translate value or (b) differentiate one package from the next.

Bad example: the oft-mentioned ProfitWell uses trademarked product names for their plans that curiously doesn’t do a great job explaining the value a user is supposed to get.


Instead, you should try this…

Tip #2. Name Your Packages Based on Customer Segments

Naming your package tiers can help people self-select faster. Ideally, your packages should align with specific customer segments too.

For example, Bidsketch uses package names like Team and Solo to instantly communicate which plan is for which type of customer.


Introducing segmented plans like this helped Bidsketch see the biggest increase in monthly revenue they’ve had, in addition to increasing the average revenue per user.

Tip #3. CTA Language

The word ‘submit’ commonly underperforms in conversion tests because it has a negative connotation (submission). In addition, it’s generic and not particularly inspiring (see also: ‘download’ and ‘buy now‘).

Instead, try using more specific language that emphasizes the next action (like ‘Add to Cart’) or the benefit someone is about to get (like ‘Download My Report’).

The Bidsketch example above uses ‘Start Trial’ as a way for the user to reaffirm the next step a user’s about to take next.

Tip #4. Use a Contrasting Color

We’ve already seen that you should be highlighting a recommended plan.

The two most common ways to do that are through (1) color and (2) sizing.

AdEspresso uses a color variation, shading the entire recommended plan before using a HUGE green button to simply get people into the trial first (which is obvious based on the specific CTA language).


Tip #5. Credibility Indicators

Last but not least, you want to reverse the risk (from the user back to your company) to limit any other potential barriers to entry.

A free trial is the first obvious example, or its money back guarantee alternative that provides people the ability to ‘test drive’ the product to determine whether or not it’s going to be a good fit.


Most pricing pages look similar.

Many have the same surface-level features.

But simply slapping a few generic options across the page with little understanding of how to organize them or what you’re calling them won’t give you the results you’re looking for.

Instead, start by understanding the psychology behind what users want when they hit your page. Then focus on presenting and organizing your pricing information as simply as possible, from most expensive to least, with a recommended or highlighted product to prevent decision fatigue.

Then you can dive into the common tactical features, like limiting your plan features or incorporating a FAQ to ‘tick all the boxes’ users will expect.

Once you’ve gotten this far, you can switch attention over to the advanced stuff like what you’re calling each plan, or how your CTA language and color choices are helping (or hurting) conversions.

The best pricing pages somehow walk a fine line between giving people everything they need to make a decision, while also reducing any extra friction that might disorient, discourage or dissuade someone from signing up.

About the Author: Brad Smith is a marketing writer, agency partner, and creator of Copy Weekly, a free weekly copywriting newsletter for marketers & founders.

5 Surprising Marketing Predictions for 2017 – and What We’ve Learned from 2016

2016 has been an exciting year full of unexpected booms and busts in the marketing and technology world, making us look toward 2017 with eager anticipation. So what predictions came true and which ones started with a bang, but ultimately fizzled out? Let’s take a closer look:

1. Blended Marketing Continued to Dominate in 2016

To the surprise of no one who monitors these kinds of things, mobile marketing continued to dominate the web as I predicted back at the end of 2015. However, just as the incredible rise of ad blockers on the web has filtered out much of the advertising noise, so too are consumer bombarded by omni-channel offers that don’t really meet their needs, or happen at inopportune times.

As a result, consumers are being much more selective about the apps they install, the sites they visit and the emails they receive. If you’re not doing enough to stay at the top of their minds in ways that aren’t intrusive, you’re giving yourself a one-way ticket to UnsubscribeLand.

This is why many businesses look at omni-channel as more risk than reward. Do you really want to be everywhere the customer is all the time? Does the customer want you to be? Are you more of an elegant butterfly in their minds, or a pesky fly? If you don’t take the time to refine and chart your marketing course appropriately, they’ll make that decision for you.

Social media and mobile media continued to blur the lines with integrated shopping, recommendations, videos and reviews – creating an even greater push to get noticed among the amalgamated chunk of product pitches, retargeting ads and “I’m-an-authority-look-at-me” videos. As more and more advertisers step up to the plate, they look at what others are doing and then copy their efforts – rather than test on their own to see what their unique audience would respond to.

And, in an effort to get in on this big, blended push, Google shifted its search results to include video, recent news, location information and other details to help match the user with their search request even faster and more thoroughly than before.

So if everything’s coming together in a more finely-tuned customer experience, what didn’t really take off as well as we expected it to?

2. From Lifestyle Apps to Augmented Reality

I had originally predicted that 2016 would see the rise and greater adoption of lifestyle apps – meaning apps that people installed as a reflection of who they were. These could be a combination fitness-weather-diet tracker app rather than having apps for all three of these items. But the looming spectre of data overages constantly nipping at their heels means developers have tended to go easy on what’s available via app versus the much more open and accommodating web.

What stirred everyone’s imagination was augmented reality. The undisputed summer hit was Pokemon Go, but it, too, failed to gain much traction after the initial buzz wore off. Still, it was a masterpiece of gamification and as mobile becomes more powerful, we can look forward to seeing what augmented reality can do – particularly when you’re able to bring together the aforementioned apps into an all-in-one experience that isn’t just helpful, but subtly addictive too.

3. Talk To Me – Dash Buttons and the Internet of Things

Voice-guided search, wearable devices and innovations like the Amazon Echo and Google Home are starting to bridge the gap between the internet you access on your computer, and the internet you access everywhere.

Awkward attempts to blend e-commerce with that always-on, on-demand functionality has come out in the form of Amazon Dash buttons – WiFi connected devices that let you instantly order your favorite household products, but they’re more of a novelty than a really useful and innovative design. Watch them become as memorable and curious as the CueCat.

What will be changing for marketers is an increasing investment in understanding analytics and getting a truly cross-channel view of the consumer. Rather than throwing out a bunch of things that the company “thinks” the customer might want, they’re finally gathering enough intelligence (and enough of an understanding to know what to do with it), that they can track a consumer from a search on their home computer to a product description page on their mobile phone, to an order form on their company laptop.

This is known as advanced attribution, and it’s going to change the way we market to customers in ways we probably can’t even imagine. But think of the potential of engaging that consumer at the right time and place, on the right device, when they’re at the right stage of the buying cycle, and you can see precisely how much of a game-changer this technology is.

4. A Bigger Focus on Tools and Services that Fill in the Gaps

Things like predictive analytics and personalization tools are great – but they’re mostly in a vacuum. That means you can’t really leverage them to see the big picture, as well as the granular details you need in order to make decisions with confidence.

Expect innovations in 2017 to help bridge the gaps with many of these services, allowing for greater integrations with existing systems and a better, visual picture of what all that information really means. Kissmetrics is one such type of service. Rather than plop a bunch of analytical data in your lap, it zeroes in on who is doing what, and allows you to track and monitor their engagement across devices.

Other types of services that are not even part of the analytics industry are popping up to fill in the empty spaces left by other innovators. Uber, Airbnb, Amazon Echo/Google Home and many other services like these are becoming ubiquitous in our lifestyle because of the service they provide — a service we never even knew we needed until we saw its potential.

Tools like these are poised to change the way we market on the web, and you can expect even more integrations with popular software and SaaS products to broaden their reach and capabilities.

5. The Power and Passion of Social Media – Who Decides What You Get to See?

Although this doesn’t just apply to marketing, the U.S. election was watched, dissected, ranted and raved over across social media platforms. So much so, that “fake news” and allegations started littering people’s news feeds.

But this then begs the question – should you encapsulate yourself in a bubble – seeing only what you want to see, or should companies give you a little bit of everything and let you choose accordingly? Who decides? Social media has a very powerful and passionate audience on its side – and a significant amount of data that it’s going to have to make some definitive and perhaps unexpected decisions on. After all, not offering a balance can affect user engagement, and losing user engagement is the one thing that no social network wants to imagine – it’s their lifeblood. How they plan to approach this particular conundrum remains to be seen, but you can bet that eventually they’ll be forced to decide – and not everyone may agree with the results.

What Do You Think is in Store for 2017?

Do you think we’ll see some surprising changes on how we market to consumers in 2017? What do you think will happen? Share your own predictions with us in the comments below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!

Ready to become a Snapchat Badass?

Ready to become a Snapchat Badass?

Step-by-step guide for systematically growing your Snapchat followers

I’m gonna be honest: I used to think Snapchat was stupid and represented everything wrong with social media.

“Laying in bed @1 pm! OMG I’m such a baddd gurl 😈”

I’d rather have Wolverine give me a glove-less colonoscopy than see another Snap of what your poodle had for lunch.

But, the proof is in the poodle pudding: people love Snapchat and it’s ripe for the taking… IF you do it right.

Most marketers have no idea what they’re doing on Snapchat. They’re blasting out random stories and hoping to breakthrough.

Aint. Gonna. Happen.

You need a clear and simple strategy for systematically growing your followers and building your influence.

Luckily, that’s what our buddy Austin Iuliano has created for you, with Snapchat Mastery.

Lifetime Access to Snapchat Mastery

Snapchat Mastery is a course that will teach you everything you need to know about building a Snapchat empire.

Since over 50% of internet traffic is mobile, you NEED to be using a mobile-friendly platform for the highest engagement and broadest reach. That’s exactly what Snapchat is!

Why is Austin the best person to teach this course?

Well, his Snapchat stories are viewed by thousands of fans, allowing him to generate more sales, find new clients, and reach a broader audience… every marketer’s dream!

Austin’s Snapchat expertise has been featured on the Huffington Post, Small Business Trends, SEM Rush and Social Media Today.

His step-by-step video instruction will make learning how to use all of Snapchat’s features seem like child’s play.

Things you’ll also learn from Austin in his Snapchat Mastery course:

  • How to develop a unique and authentic personal brand that will set you apart from the competition… it’s easier than you think.
  • Storytelling hacks, secret functions and hidden features (like, hands-free filming), and how to turn limitations into competitive advantages!
  • The 6 Secrets to creating addicting content… you’ll have followers itching for more.
  • How to avoid the 8 fatal mistakes that destroy influence, progress and growth.
  • And lots more!

Lifetime Access to Snapchat Mastery

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4 Design Terms Every Marketer Needs to Know

The transition from text-based to visual marketing is already well underway, as customer demand drives organizations to rethink how people communicate on the most basic level.

Cisco estimates video will constitute 80% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2019, and although marketers are racing to catch up, they’re still behind the times: in 2015, 52% of senior marketing executives believed that visual assets such as infographics, photos, videos and illustration could help them tell their brand story. But given that human attention spans dropped a whopping 33% between 2000 and 2015, from 12 to 8 seconds — and some report its dropped even lower — marketers no longer have any choice in the matter: eye-catching visuals that are quick to digest and easy to share will be an essential tool for any brand moving forward.

But what’s a brand to do when you have no idea what visual assets will be both effective and the right fit for your organization? This post will explain a few essential terms and tips you’ll need to get started.

1. Visual Communication

Visual communication may be the most form of all.

It may sound simple enough: visual communication uses images and visuals to create meaning.


Because it is likely to become the only way that the majority of marketers communicate with their audiences — so you need to know it when you see it. This isn’t just because people prefer video to text, and are more likely to share photos. It’s also easier than ever for any brand to reach an international audience. Just take a look at Google AdWords, which (finally!) launched a redesign in March, of which an essential part of the design was making it language-agnostic to remove obstacles for audiences with a wide variety of backgrounds and skill sets.

new-adwords-designThe new Google AdWords features clean visualization and icons that communicate the type of information being mapped, no matter what language you speak. Image Source

When necessary, limited text is included to explicate the meaning. Take a look at Starbucks’ visual communication strategy: one tweeted image incorporates autumn leaves combined with moss emblematic of their Pacific Northwest roots, announcing that the drink in hand is both seasonal and rooted in Starbucks’ larger tradition.

Starbucks’ visual communication strategy ensures every piece of visual content is immediately identifiable with their brand. In one of Starbucks’ most-liked tweets of the last few months, autumn leaves communicate the seasonality of the drink while moss connects to the company’s Pacific Northwest roots — no text necessary.

Another tweet reminds customers (without using a single word) that the brand is famous for just how personalizable their products are. Their stores and products project the same visual identity as their social pages. You know a Starbucks image immediately when you see it. That’s effective visual communication.

Starbucks communicates its reputation for personalized drinks, the breadth of its product offerings, and its release of seasonal cups — all in a single, text-free illustration.

But it’s easy to fall short of this goal. A great piece of visual communication should communicate in just the same way as the AdWords interface now strives to: without reading a word, you should be able to look at the design and tell what the graphic is about — what message it’s trying to send.


Here are a few questions to ask to determine whether your visual content meets the standards that your audiences will hold you to. If the answer is “no” to any of these, rethink whether your content is really communicating effectively:

  1. Ask someone unfamiliar with the graphic or video to glance at it for 5 seconds. Can she tell you what the theme is?
  2. Are you using illustrations and assets custom-made for the content, as opposed to cookie-cutter graphics or clip art?
  3. Is the content targeted toward achieving a single goal?
  4. Are both the design and the copy calibrated to attract and interest your target audience?
  5. Have you kept text to a minimum?

2. Visual Storytelling

Every brand has a story to tell, but with more stories to choose from than ever before, keeping an audience engaged can be a challenge.

The answer lies in what’s already interesting to your viewers: we’re living in the golden age of television and online video; game and virtual realities are becoming more complex every day; and websites encourage visitors to interact actively with their content. Storytelling today has to be something users can see, interact with or hear before they’ll share.

Take a look at Carrington College’s informational motion graphic on springtime allergies:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn4mZTgFXSc?wmode=transparent&modestbranding=1&autohide=1&showinfo=0&rel=0]

It transforms pollen, white blood cells, and even mast cells into humorous characters to reframe what could otherwise be a boring explanation as a story. Every audience is attracted to stories — it seems to be a part of our human DNA. And with the help of clever visual storytelling strategies, anything can become a story.

Visual storytelling uses visual communication to craft a narrative that explains a concept and often evokes an emotional response. It’s ideal for those marketers seeking to share an idea, promote a point of view, or convince potential customers of the quality and effectiveness of their product. As with visual communication, education is one of the end goals, but this approach aims to persuade the viewer to reach a specific conclusion.

Here are a few elements that make for a great visual story:

  1. Plot: You should carefully guide your viewers from beginning to end.
  2. Priorities: Only use the strongest data and arguments. Too much information is overwhelming.
  3. Audience: Identify a single target audience and create a story they can relate to.
  4. Goal setting: If you’re trying to make too many points at once, or share too many ideas, you’ll end up turning viewers away. A targeted, single goal promotes shareability and engagement.

3. Information Visualization

You’ve got more data than ever and no idea how to cull meaning from that data. Or maybe you do know what it means, but it’s nearly impossible to get your colleagues interested in what that data has to say — much less get your customers so excited that they’re willing to retweet that data to their followers. This is where quality information visualization comes in — and “quality” is the keyword.

Information visualization aims to convey meaning as quickly as possible. The primary focus is to educate the viewer, not to persuade them to form a specific opinion. Information visualization can also be aesthetically engaging and even interactive, as The New York Times proves with its visualization of deportation numbers.

trump-deporation-nytimesMassive amounts of data are made meaningful in The New York Times’ visualization of U.S. deportation numbers. The graphic transforms as readers scroll down. Image Source

But to be effective, you need to use visualizations that stand up to scrutiny, follow mathematical and scientific best practices, and quickly communicate the big picture. Not everyone is up to this task. Here are a few essentials for when you’re visualizing information:

  1. Check your graphs: Using a pie chart for something that’s not a percentage or setting inconsistent scales for your graphs are both big errors that could take center stage instead of your actual message.
  2. Keep it simple: Don’t try to pack too much information into one image. One graph should have one takeaway.
  3. Focus on the message: Getting lost in the data is the opposite of the point. Help readers understand what’s important and why through careful organization of the content, as well as icons and illustrations when necessary.

4. Visual Campaigns

What if you have a more complex story to tell? Most companies do. One piece of content just can’t say everything you need to say.

One piece of content — even if it’s a social post that goes viral or a video that gets thousands of likes — also isn’t likely to assure the long-term success of your company. That’s why more and more organizations are looking at improving their branding by placing more emphasis on visual content and creating a consistent look and feel that will span multiple marketing campaigns and a variety of content types, from motion graphics and interactive pages to infographics and social posts. At the same time, marketing campaigns are now expected to have a consistent and recognizable visual element — something that can be recognized instantly.

Take a look at how Coca-Cola’s one brand campaign launched this year. Its products were available in dozens of countries, with dozens of looks designed for maximum appeal wherever they were sold. It was a massive undertaking, but the company pared down its product design to just four universally recognizable packages.

coca-cola-one-brandImage Source

Coca-Cola’s old strategy was to create new branding for each new product. Now, they’ve united their global branding with four consistent, and instantly recognizable, colors, each of which is visible on all sides, no matter which way the bottle or can is turned on the shelf.

“When people see this new brand identity, they’ll know they’re buying a Coca-Cola,” explained James Sommerville, vice president of global design.

This is all to say that companies are redesigning all their customer-facing content to offer up a consistent visual message. Here are just a few of the benefits of undertaking a visual campaign:

  1. The consistent use of quality assets across your brand communicates an overall dedication to quality that customers today are equipped to recognize and prepared to appreciate through engagement and sharing.
  2. A single face for your visual content communicates that you’re committed to authentic and honest communication — not changing your stripes with every new piece of content.
  3. Multiple visual assets can reach a broader audience because of their adaptability to different platforms.
  4. A consistent look builds brand awareness.


In the end, visual communication is an indispensable tool for any marketer, but execution is key. Not just any visual content will do the job. Consumers ignore sloppily designed or cookie-cutter graphics in favor of those that inspire — not only in how they look but also in how they deliver their primary message. Armed with these essential terms and a list of dos and don’ts, you’ll be well prepared to avoid the pitfalls as you navigate to the visual communications agency that’s right for your brand.

About the Author: Erin McCoy is the Public Relations Manager for Killer Infographics.

3 Simple & Effective Email Marketing Resolutions for the New Year

The New Year is fast approaching, and everyone knows what that means — it’s time to start making your resolutions! But as you reflect on the past 12 months and promise yourself to exercise more or learn a new language, why not take the opportunity to also set a few email marketing resolutions for your business?

Whether you’ve seen a decline in engagement and want to get things back on track, or you want to take a successful strategy to the next level, the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to whip your email marketing program into shape. To help give your campaigns a boost in 2017, here are three simple and effective resolutions you might consider for your email marketing — plus tips that will make sticking to them a cinch.

1. Win ’em back

After the ball has dropped and folks get back into their post holiday routines, it’s a great time to send out a winback campaign. A winback is typically used to get people who purchased or considered purchasing from you a while ago to come back and give your product or service another try. But you need to be thoughtful about how you go after them. Many people may have post-holiday shopping burnout or have resolved not to buy for a while in the New Year. Try to anticipate their needs and appeal to those. For instance, many people resolve to get more organized, lose weight, or be more efficient. How can your products or services meet those needs?

Or, if you’re in sales, you can reach out to folks who may have considered using your service in the past, but perhaps chose a different provider. See if their needs are being met, and remind them of any changes, improvements, or upgrades that have been made that may influence their decision.

2. Remind them of your value

During the holiday season and just thereafter, many people go on an unsubscribe bender in which they unsubscribe from any email lists they think aren’t providing value. This often happens because people get inundated with so much email during the holidays. In 2015, email deliveries increased by 25 percent compared to the 2014 holiday season. 

So what can you do to stay in your subscribers’ good graces? Remind them of the value your emails provide. What’s in it for them? Do you offer exclusive content, deals, or promotions? Do you send specific content based on their preferences? This email from Yelp, for example demonstrates the benefits of receiving messages from the company. Namely, the content is personalized and helpful, featuring local restaurant recommendations. Take a page from Yelp’s playbook and remind your subscribers why they signed up in the first place and all the good value you provide:

3. Polish up your lists

To enable the best possible delivery rates and engagement, it’s a good best practice to keep your email lists clean and tidy. We recommend creating some subsets of your list (called segments) so you can create more targeted content based on your subscribers’ preferences or engagement. For instance, you can create a list of your most engaged subscribers by looking at everyone who opened or clicked your last 4 emails. These folks could make up a segment you call “Engaged.” You can also segment your list based on people who have made a purchase and those who haven’t to better target offers and promotions.

As you prepare your business for 2017, let these three resolutions guide your email marketing, and you’re bound to see real results in the New Year and beyond.

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Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in January 2014 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and relevance.

© 2016, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

The post 3 Simple & Effective Email Marketing Resolutions for the New Year appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

How to Improve Your Site’s Performance When Using GIFs

Posted by Web_Perfectionist

The GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) format was originally developed in 1987. Debuted by Steve Wilhite of Compuserve, GIFs improved on the black-and-white images in use during that time by allowing the use of 256 colors while maintaining a compressed format that could still be loaded by those utilizing slow modems. Furthermore, web developers and designers could create animations via timed delays. And to this day, little has changed regarding GIFs.

Due to its simplicity, the widespread support for this format, and the ease with which it can be used to stream video clips, the GIF format is the oldest file format still commonly used today. This frame animation feature of GIFs ensures that the format remains popular, despite the rise of JPEG and PNG images.

How to Improve Your Site’s Performance When Using GIFs

In spite of their popularity and ubiquitousness on the Internet (especially with regards to animated GIFs), GIFs are not the most performant of image options. If you are using GIFs on your sites, it’s important that you take care to optimize your GIFs so that they do not create too much overhead.

This article will cover ways to optimize your GIFs, both static and animated, and will offer an excellent alternative you can use to eliminate the page bloat resulting from use of GIFs as animation.

Why should you optimize your GIFs?

Performance matters when it comes to designing your web pages, and GIFs are not the most performant of image options. While they are excellent for capturing your user’s attention and are universally liked for providing short bursts of information in an entertaining way, GIFs were not designed for animation (despite them being commonly used for such). As such, usage of GIFs leads to heavy page weights and poor user experiences resulting from slow page load speeds.

How to improve the performance of your site while using GIFs

In this section, we’ll cover several ways you can improve the performance of your site with regards to using GIFs. We’ll first dig into ways to handle static GIFs, and we’ll end by discussing ways to minimize the overhead resulting from animated GIFs.

There are two methods for compressing images:

One of the primary methods for optimizing GIFs is to compress them. There are two methods of compression that are commonly used:

  • Lossy compression: Lossy compression removes some of the data from the original file, resulting in an image with a reduced file size. However, every time you save the file after compression, the quality of the graphic degrades somewhat, which can result in a fuzzy, pixelated image over time.
  • Lossless compression: Lossless compression preserves all of the data from the original file, which means that the compressed file can be uncompressed to gain the original file. While your file size remains larger than if you had used lossy compression, your image’s quality does not degrade over time.

Later on in this post, we’ll cover the impact of both types of optimization on GIFs.

Improve the performance of sites that are using static GIFs by converting to PNG.

The easiest way to improve the performance of your site is to render your image using the PNG format instead of the GIF format. While the two formats are very similar in terms of being good choices for displaying simple graphics, PNG files have the advantage of being able to compress to a size 5–25% smaller than the equivalent GIF file. GIFs were originally created to use a lossless compression technique called the Lempel-Ziv-Welch (LZW) algorithm, which was defined in the 1970s. However, modern compression techniques are much more performant than LZW, and you can take advantage of this by using formats that utilize these techniques, such as PNGs.

Such file format conversions are pretty easy to do, and there are an abundance of software options you can choose from, including free web-based utilities such as the ones from Pic.io and Convertio.

Improve the performance of sites that are using animated GIFs one of two ways:

Animated GIFs, while extremely popular, can be huge files that require lengthy load times. For example, a GIF that is just a few seconds long can be a few megabytes in size. To improve the performance of your site, use one of the following techniques:

  • Lossy optimization
  • Converting your animated GIF to a HTML5 video

Lossy optimization on animated GIFs

Because the vast majority of data comprising animated GIFs is graphical data, and because lossless optimizations cannot modify graphical data, you have only one viable option when it comes to optimizing an animated GIF beyond the bare minimum: lossy optimization techniques.

Lossy optimizations work because the human eye does not do a very good job at distinguishing between subtle changes in color. For example, an image might contain thousands of shades of one color, with one pixel showing as only slightly different from the ones next to it. Because your eye won’t be able to differentiate between the two shades, the image file can easily be manipulated: One of the colors replaces the other, making the file smaller.

Because animated GIFs are essentially a series of individual GIFs, you can utilize these techniques to decrease the size of your animated file. By making each individual file smaller, your overall file is smaller as well. One way you can do this is by utilizing a simple software suite that can automatically perform such compressions (such as a modified version of gifsicle).

Converting animated GIFs to HTML5 videos

While you can minimize the size of an animated GIF, you may still end up with a file that is larger than it needs to be. GIFs were never intended to store video, and what is now considered animation is really the result of an attempt to reduce overhead on the storage and transmission of multiple images that share identical metadata. Today, however, we have another option that could potentially make your GIFs up to 95% smaller: converting your animated GIFs to HTML5 video.

HTML5 video is a catch-all term for a modern web browser’s ability to play video content using the <video> tag without needing to use external plugins. When this feature was first released in 2009, there was a lot of debate over how such videos would be stored and how they would be encoded. Today, though, the accepted standard is an H.264-encoded video stored in an MP4 container file (which, for simplicity’s sake, we’ll refer to as an MP4 video from here on out). In addition to looking a lot better due to its being designed to stream video, MP4 files are much smaller as well:

Over 90% of modern web browsers support MP4 videos.

There are many ways to convert your animated GIF to MP4, such as the popular open-source command-line tool ffmpeg and the web-based utility Cloud Convert. Using the latter, you can see the file size savings possible by making the conversion.

Here’s the original animated GIF:


Here is the MP4 video that’s created from the GIF:

Sadly, your browser doesn’t support the video tag. This is a smooth MP4 video of the above GIF, which features Oaken from Disney’s Frozen.

Looking at the sizes of the files, we see that the original was 100 KB. By converting the GIF to MP4, we end up with a file that is just 23 KB, which is 75% smaller:


GIFs are the oldest file format still commonly used today due to their simplicity, near-universal support, and ability to be used as animation. Despite these positive features, GIFs tend to be large files, resulting in page bloat that can negatively impact the performance of your webpages and lead to poor user experiences. As such, you should consider serious optimization of static GIFs, moving away from animated GIFs, and implementing video clips using more modern techniques such as HTML5/MP4 videos. And for additional in-depth information on implementing these changes, download Rigor’s free ebook, The Book of GIF: A Comprehensive Guide to Optimizing GIFs.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Using Surveys to Better Understand the Customer Journey

Your organization has plenty of data about customer behavior that tells you what different customers do where and when. You can see when they visit you online, how long they search, and how much they spend.
But too often the “why” behind their actions remains elusive. With the mountains of information you collect, the insights are often difficult to find, take too much time to discern, or require additional data. All this means it takes marketers too long to get important information that could make a real difference to the customer experience — and the bottom line.
“If you want to have a major impact, you need an integrated approach to see what is happening at all customer touch points and understand how effective you are,” says Joerg Niessing, a marketing professor at INSEAD.
The number of sources of marketing and customer data that a company integrates correlates strongly to performance vis-à-vis competitors, according to a recent study published by INSEAD. The study focused on customer and marketing data, including:
  • Digital analytics, such as optimizing email campaigns, testing content, and analyzing digital pathways to optimize website use and experience.
  • Customer analytics, including lifetime value and loyalty calculations, response and purchase propensity modeling, and micro segmentation.
  • Marketing analytics, such as demand forecasting, marketing attribution models, market mix modeling, and media budget optimization.
  • Sales analytics, including pricing elasticity modeling, assortment planning, and sales territory design.
  • Consumer analytics, including surveys/questionnaires, customer experience research, and customer satisfaction/advocacy modeling.
The study found that those companies that leverage multiple sources and focus diligently on demand generation have significantly stronger business performance, especially total shareholder return.
Straight to the source
But insights uncovered from many data sources often beg the question, “Why?” To answer that, modern marketers go directly to the source: consumers.
Traditionally, companies that use surveys and field research to try to get at the “why” behind the “what” pay a lot of money for information that is often too complex to understand and too slow to arrive. When it does come in, it is sometimes no longer relevant and leaves organizations trying to solve last month’s or last year’s problem at the expense of current ones. Attempting to get speedier or less costly results risks compromising accuracy.
But innovations in market research are changing the game. Easy-to-use survey tools like Google Surveys help marketers fill out their knowledge of customer behavior much faster than traditional surveying methods.
Companies that make use of these fast, convenient survey solutions gain insight not only into what people actually do, but also what they say they will do — and in that gap there could be opportunities. “Marrying digital and marketing analytics with consumer research from surveys gives marketers deeper insights and opens up the number of hypotheses a company can test,” says Suzanne Mumford, Head of Marketing for the Google Analytics 360 Suite. “Marketing today is in near real time and your data should be, too.”

“Marrying digital and marketing analytics with consumer research from surveys gives marketers deeper insights and opens up the number of hypotheses a company can test.”
—Suzanne Mumford, Head of Marketing, Google Analytics 360 Suite

Say your website analytics reveal that one segment of your visitors are highly engaged with your site content, but their visits aren’t converting into sales. “You can ask them directly why they keep coming back but don’t end up buying. Surveys let you take your data one step further and round out the picture of the customer so you can make informed business decisions and tailor your customer experiences,” says Kevin Fields, Product Marketing Manager for Google Surveys.
Supporting business decisions with surveys
Surveys are also useful if marketers find themselves in an internal debate about two campaign concepts. Before making a large investment based on subjective opinion, marketing leaders can validate messaging by asking the target audience about their preference.
For modern marketers, surveys have become an essential element in an integrated marketing approach — they produce insights that complement those uncovered by other data sources. “I want to make sure that the customer voice is front and center but that we also surround it with other data — that we can make really good, holistic business decisions,” says Stacey Symonds, Senior Director for Consumer Insights at Orbitz.

So think about what you’d most like to ask your customers — or those who visit your site but don’t buy. Survey solutions like Google Surveys allow businesses to get sophisticated, accurate data in a matter of days, not months. Because these methods are more affordable and quick, they allow businesses to continually iterate to meet customers’ needs.
“Surveys empower organizations to get answers when they matter,” Fields says. “And getting those insights quickly helps marketing stay nimble.”
Download “Measuring Marketing Insights,” an online Insight Center Collection of articles from Harvard Business Review, to learn how organizations are using market research to gain more consumer insights.
A version of this article first appeared as sponsor content on HBR.org in August 2016.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Organic Traffic Audience Segmentation with Google Analytics

Call it a case of too much of a good thing.

Google Analytics puts a lot of data at your fingertips. It’s a mountain of metrics, and a deluge of dimensions. With it, you can drill deep down into your website visitors, their demographics, and their behavior.

But by default, it just throws everything into one enormous bucket. The reports show stats, graphs, and charts for “All Users/Sessions”.

And while that’s perfect for getting a big-picture-at-a-glance snapshot, you need to break things down a little if you want to find the buried treasure within.

Mixing everything together is good for smoothies, metallurgy, and cocktails. For analytics, you want to separate and segment.

Segmentation in Analytics

Click on any report in Analytics – audience, acquisition, behavior, or conversions – and you get a wonderful presentation of the data collected for your site. For everyone that visited during the chosen time frame (the last 30 days by default).


The beauty of Analytics, though, is in whittling away from general to specific. Of finding the statue of David within the block of marble. Or the chewy core at the center of a Tootsie Pop.

With audience segments, you can break that pile of data into more manageable sections based on the criteria that matters most to you. What insights are you looking for?

Segments group visitors together who share common traits or behavior. And the best part? You get to decide exactly what traits and behavior to group.

Knowing how many visitors you had last week is useful. But how many visitors did you have on desktop devices, from the United States, who viewed at least three pages, but left without making a purchase? That’s the power of segments.

Segments give you ultra-targeted insight into audience behavior, like visitors arriving via mobile, from which country, number of sessions with a conversion, visitor type, demographics, traffic source, value, browser, users with multiple sessions, and so on.

Sounds fantastic, right? Yet 41% are not using audience segments at all. Get out of that group.

There’s no end to the possible combinations you could create (although that’s technically not true…you are limited to 1000 segments that can be edited in any View, and 100 segments for any one specific View). Create an uber-precise segment for tracking and analysis that represents your exact audience and serves your particular needs.

Hit vs Session vs User

When creating a segment, you can often assign the scope as either user, session, or hit, so it’s important to recognize the difference:

  • Hit – an individual interaction with your website (usually a page view); a visitor did this, a visitor did that, a visitor…
  • Session – a collection of hits; one complete visit to a website
  • User – a person’s entire journey with your website (may encompass multiple sessions)

Most experts suggest focussing on users and sessions. It’s all about the relationship you have with them.

Segments: A Simple How-to

Getting started is mercifully uncomplicated. Even an Analytics amateur can create, save, and use segments.

To begin, simply click on the +Add Segment button at the top of any report.


You’ll next see the Segment dashboard, and you’re presented with several options. Down the left-hand side, you’ll find the View Segments column. You can select All, System (the segments pre-loaded on Analytics, like Converters, New Users, and Organic Traffic), Custom (the segments you’ve made), Shared, Starred (you can save segments to this favorites list by clicking the star beside their name), and Selected (the segments you’re currently using).

Do you want to work with an existing segment (select from the list), import from the gallery (custom segments created and shared by others), or create your own new one (click +New Segment to start from scratch, or click on the Actions dropdown beside an existing one, and select Copy to use it as your foundation)?


Let’s copy Organic Traffic. This will allow us to build a custom segment for all incoming organic traffic.

The next dashboard displays the current segment parameters. Because we opted to copy and build upon the Organic Traffic segment, there’s already one criteria listed:

Medium > exactly matches > organic

On the right, you’ll see a segment summary (updated in real-time when you add or delete criteria), and down the left are the categories and filters you can use to define your segment.

Options include Demographics, Technology, Behavior, Date of First Session, Traffic Sources, Enhanced Ecommerce, Conditions, and Sequences.


So far so good. Still with me?

You’ll want to zero in, so we’ll add a few more filters to this segment. Click on the +Add Filter button.

Next, click on the Ad Content dropdown menu, and you’ll see a long list of possible filters and criteria. Click around. Explore. There’s also a handy search field at the top to save you some time.

We’re going to segment by users who’ve viewed at least two pages during a session:

  • Type “Page Depth” in the search field and select it (it’s found under Behavior if you want to locate it yourself)
  • Click on “=” and select “>” (greater than symbol)
  • In the blank field, enter 2

Your summary will update, and you’ll see Medium: organic and Page Depth > 2 listed under Conditions. This segment now includes all organic traffic visitors who look at three or more pages during their session.


Starting to get the hang of it? Try this one on your own: add a country filter for visitors from the United Kingdom.

Done? Excellent. You can include that filter by either adding another condition (Users > Country > Contains > United Kingdom), or clicking on Demographics > Location > Country > Contains > United Kingdom. Either way, your summary will update, and your segment will now only count visitors from the UK.


We can make “organic” even more precise by adding a filter under Traffic Sources > Source > contains > google

Finally, give the segment a name that reflects what it is, such as UK Page Depth > 2 or something similar (whatever works for you), and click Save.

Congratulations. You just created your first audience segment. Kudos! This one will only exhibit organic traffic from the UK arriving specifically from Google that viewed at least three pages. How’s that for precise data?! It’ll be listed with all the other available segments, ready to be called upon whenever you need it.

Basic Segments

But segments don’t have to be complex. They don’t have to include multiple criteria, either. They can be very simple and straightforward:

  • By traffic source or medium (email, social, paid, organic, direct, referral, google, facebook, twitter) to get insight into visitor offsite behavior. Where are they coming from, and how are they finding you?
  • By user type (new visitor vs returning visitor, mobile vs desktop, frequent vs infrequent visitor, long vs short sessions, multiple pageviews vs single page) for insight into their engagement with your brand and company.
  • By location or language to understand your customer demographics better.
  • By Content Viewed (product pages, checkout page, thank you page) to get insight into their onsite behavior.
  • By Engagement (more than x pages, more than x seconds) to see how well your content and presentation is appealing to them.
  • By revenue, product viewed or purchased, brands added to the cart, or even product variants like specific sizes and colors.

The basic categories along the left on the segments dashboard – Demographics through Enhanced Ecommerce (which does require the ec.js plugin) – are easy to navigate and implement. Try them out.

The Advanced Options

Both Conditions and Sequences are considered advanced options. But that shouldn’t scare you (you’ve already mastered conditions).

As we’ve already seen, Conditions simply set a series of criteria that must be met for a visitor to be included in that segment. It allows for a tremendous amount of customization. There’s a bit of a learning curve – finding the right criterion and definition, for example – but there are plenty of tutorials that can guide you from absolute beginner to pro in no time.

Sequences are a series of conditions that must be met in order (step 1, step 2, and so on), but the fundamental idea is the same. A sequence where users visit your cart (step 1) but then don’t go through with an actual purchase (step 2) gives you an audience ripe for a follow-up.

The More the Merrier

Once you have a few favorite segments, you can start to compare one against another. Go to any report, click on +Add Segment, choose up to four different ones, and click Apply. You’ll then see the report with all segments presented at one time…color-coded for your convenience (thanks Google). Compare and contrast.


Get Fancy

The more comfortable you get with segments, the more you can create ones for every possible group of your audience.

How about a segment that shows you frequent and recent visitors that still haven’t purchased something?

  • +Add Segment
  • Behavior – Days Since Last Session < 5 (less than five)
  • Behavior – Sessions > 4 (more than four)
  • Behavior – Transactions = 0 (no purchases), or even Conditions – Page Title – contains – thankyou.html (your order confirmation page, but make sure you select EXCLUDE rather than include)

Once you’ve created a segment like this one, you can then create an Audience from it, and target only that group with ads promoting your free shipping, or current sale, or special coupon to entice them to pull the trigger (they’re obviously interested).

Creating an Audience from a Segment

Segments give you valuable, targeted data. And that’s a very good thing.

But they can extend beyond the Analytics dashboard if you create an Audience from a segment.

For the UK Page Depth > 2 segment we created earlier, let’s assume you’d like a way to send them – and only them – a special ad for a discount available only to UK residents.

Head to the segments list, find that segment, select Actions, and click Build Audience.

For this to work, your Analytics and Adwords accounts need to be linked (but don’t worry, Google walks you through it if they’re not yet connected).

Choose the View (your ecommerce site) and Destination (your linked Adwords account), and define the Audience. The definitions (i.e. criteria) will be prepopulated based on the segment you selected.


On the right, you’ll see a few fields:

  • For segments scoped to hits or sessions, you’re limited to Users over last 7 days (this will present the estimated size of this audience from users that meet the criteria in the last week).
  • Membership duration sets how long visitors will remain a member of this audience once slotted into it, anywhere from 1 to 540 days. If you’re creating an Audience for visitors with a recent purchase, for example, you’d set this for a relatively short period of time.
  • Segments scoped to Users gives the option of lookback days, either 7, 14, or 30. This is a time frame for Analytics to go back and find users that qualify for the Audience.
  • Eligibility tells you where you can share this audience, such as search and display ads (Adwords), or Google Optimize (for testing and personalization).

Give the Audience a name to help you remember it over in Adwords, and click Save. Done.

When you’re next in your Adwords account, you can select this Audience and create a targeted ad for them about your exclusive coupon for those in the land of tea, bangers, and mash.

It may be the gentle push they need.

See how everything comes together in the Googleverse?

Segments allow you to identify strengths, weaknesses, and patterns, find reliable revenue sources, and provide the guidelines to improve where you’re falling short.

There are many stellar custom segments ready to import, you can experiment and create your own, or simply utilize the ready-to-go standard segments there already.

The Google Analytics Help portal provides everything you’d want to know about segments but were afraid to ask.

They’re often ignored, but always beneficial. You can use them to track your most lucrative markets, identify where, when, and how the big spenders are coming to you, remarket to specific groups at just the right moment (via Adwords and Audiences), and more.

Anything you can do to better understand your audience behavior and acquisition is time well spent. Grasp the basics of segments, move on to more advanced techniques, and know your audience like never before.

It’s big data broken down.

Have you jumped in the audience segmentation pool? What filters do you find most insightful? Leave your comments below.

About the Author: Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, their Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Dominating Any Keyword You Choose

Page one, position one.

It’s the ultimate goal of every SEO marketer.

But of course reaching this goal can be difficult, and there is a seemingly infinite number of variables that determine how your content ends up ranking.

And let’s not forget about Google’s fickleness.

Their unending updates can leave you scratching your head as to what your next move should be.

I know that I’ve found myself frustrated more than a few times.

But what if I told you that there was a specific formula you can follow to dominate any keyword you choose?

What if you could knock it out of the park every time and continually outrank your competitors?

Well, there is!

Not to sound like a sleazy used-car salesman or an obnoxious motivational speaker, but there’s definitely a recipe for crushing it with your keywords.

During the years, I’ve experimented with nearly everything under the sun and have come up with a surefire formula for dominating the SEO game by targeting the right keyword and tailoring your campaign to reach your audience.

Here’s how to do it step by step.

Target descriptive phrases

Your first order of business should be to go after long-tail keywords.

As you may already know, it’s extremely difficult to gain any traction by targeting broad phrases.

There’s just too much competition out there, and the top spots are usually filled by the usual suspects—big-name companies with deep pockets and massive brand equity.

But long-tail keywords level the playing field significantly. They’re what lets the little guys hang with the big boys.

I like to think of them as the low hanging fruit of SEO. A top spot in the SERPs is there for the taking.

My general rule for long-tail keywords is that they should be a minimum of four words.

This should ensure that you have a realistic chance of breaking through and at least getting on page one (if not in the top three spots).

Here’s a nice graph that illustrates long-tail SEO and keyword length:


Notice that the more words you include in your keyword phrase, the more your competition, cost, and risk shrink while your probability of making a conversion increases.

The best part is that there are plenty of long-tail keywords to choose from.

In fact, they account for roughly 70% of all keywords.

Here’s how the “search demand curve” breaks down overall:


And I know what you might be saying.

Hardly anyone will be searching for super specific keyword phrases. It’s going to negate the entire purpose of going this route if there’s a low volume of users who actually find my content.

But as I mentioned before in another article on Quick Sprout, “long-tails don’t have a lot of search volume. But you shouldn’t worry about this. You’re not going for high volume—you are going for focused intention.”

The trick here is to find a long-tail keyword phrase with minimal competition that still receives enough searches to justify you targeting it.

Let’s go back to the example of long-tail keyword SEO. You would be much better off targeting “red Nike mens running shoes” than “mens shoes.”

Finding low competition keywords

If you’re looking for a shortcut, there’s a simple one on Google’s Keyword Planner.

Here’s what you do:

Click on “Keyword filters” located on the left-hand side of your dashboard.


Then click on “Low,” and it will leave a checkmark indicating that you want all your results to have low competition. Then save.


Your results will be populated only by keyword phrases with low competition.


Note: Sometimes there may be pretty slim pickings for low competition keywords. In this case, you may want to also search for medium competition.

This will save you a lot of time from having to manually sift through the results to find something relevant.

If you’re using some other type of software, just look for a similar feature to streamline the keyword research process.

Ideally, you’ll find a keyword phrase that receives a reasonable number of searches but isn’t completely saturated with competition.

Understanding user intent

Intent is everything.

When creating content, it’s vital that you understand precisely what your audience is looking for and deliver the goods.

Let’s look at two slightly different keyword phrases as an example.

Phrase 1: buy red Nike mens running shoes

Phrase 2: red Nike mens running shoes review

Although both phrases are geared toward the same thing—red Nike men’s running shoes—the user is at two very different stages in the sales funnel.

People searching for the first phrase are further along the sales funnel and ready (or at least close to ready) to make a purchase.

In this case, it would probably make sense to incorporate a call to action (CTA) in your content.

However, people searching for the second phrase aren’t quite there yet and are looking for information to help them decide whether this is a product they actually want to buy.

In this case, you would simply want to provide them with the information they’re looking for and warm them up rather than straight up trying to make a sale.

For instance, you might want to point them to other resources on your site, get them to sign up for your newsletter so you can get them to buy later, etc.

Keep this in mind when creating your content because it will influence your approach and how quickly you go for the sale.

I think this graphic breaks down user intent quite well:


The bottom line is that Google’s mission is to provide users with content that best matches their intent.

If you’re able to do that effectively, you have a high probability of achieving a favorable ranking.

Create epic content

Okay, so you’ve selected long-tail keywords with a reasonable number of searches and minimal competition, and you have an understanding of what your audience is looking for.

The next step to dominating the search results is to create epic content that vastly exceeds anything that the competition is doing.

This is perhaps the most important step in the process and your ticket for getting the results you’re looking for.

In fact, I’ve based my entire marketing campaign on this concept.

And not to toot my own horn, but my ability to consistently create in-depth, insightful, and valuable content has been a large part of my success.

How exactly do I go about this?

Well, there are several things that make content stand out, but from my experience, you should focus on the following:

  • Longform content – just over 2,450 words is the average length of content that ranks number one on Google.


  • Use plenty of high-quality visuals for maximum aesthetic appeal
  • Incorporate videos
  • Sprinkle in data-driven charts and graphs
  • Throw in external links to credible and relevant third-party publications
  • Make it scannable (e.g., use short paragraphs, sub-headers, and bullet points)

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

I don’t have time to fully launch into all the components that make for epic content here. But you can learn much more by checking out this other post I wrote.

I actually prefer to think of each piece of content I write as “an ultimate guide” instead of just another post.

Having this kind of mindset helps me ensure that I go above and beyond the status quo and increases the odds that my content gets shared, receives mass exposure, etc. so that it inevitably ranks highly.

Circulate your content

Let’s assume your post is in fact epic.

That’s great. But you can’t just sit back and wait for good things to happen.

You need to take action.

But what should you do?

For starters, you’ll want to post it on relevant social media accounts to generate some initial buzz.

If you’ve got a considerable number of followers, that right there should have a decent impact.

But what I really recommend is reaching out to influencers to see if they will link to your content.

If you can make this happen, the number of shares your content receives can skyrocket.

In fact, a study from OkDork and BuzzSumo found that “just having one influential person sharing your content resulted in 31.8 percent more social shares.”


But look what happens as more influencers link to it. The number of shares continues to increase.

Getting five influencers to link to it could be considered the tipping point with a dramatic spike in the number of shares.

For more information on creating content that influencers will link to, just check out this post I wrote.


Let’s recap.

There is a wide array of factors that determine where content gets ranked. However, there is definitely a degree of predictability to the process.

When you use the formula I discussed, you should be able to target the right keywords that you have the best possible chance of competing for.

Then, by building your content around those keywords and following my recipe, you can surpass your primary competitors.

This ultimately translates into a great ranking within SERPs and plenty of highly targeted, organic traffic that’s likely to convert.

What successful tactics have you used to dominate a keyword?

[Gifographic] Better Website Testing – A Simple Guide to Knowing What to Test

Note: This marketing infographic is part of KlientBoost’s 25-part series. You can subscribe here to access the entire series of gifographics.

If you’ve ever tested your website, you’ve probably been in the unfortunate situation of running out of ideas on what to test.

But don’t worry – it happens to everybody.

That’s of course, unless you have a website testing plan.

That’s why KlientBoost has teamed up with VWO to bring to you a gifographic that provides a simple guide on knowing the what, how, and why when it comes to testing your website.


Setting Your Testing Goals

Like a New Year’s resolution around getting fitter, if you don’t have any goals tied to your website testing plan, then you may be doing plenty of work, with little results to show.

With your goals in place, you can focus on the website tests that will help you achieve those goals –the fastest.

Testing a button color on your home page when you should be testing your checkout process, is a sure sign that you are heading to testing fatigue or the disappointment of never wanting to run a test again.

But let’s take it one step further.

While it’s easy to improve click-through rates, or CTRs, and conversion rates, the true measure of a great website testing plan comes from its ability to increase revenue.

No optimization efforts matter if they don’t connect to increased revenue in some shape or form.

Whether you improve the site user experience, your website’s onboarding process, or get more conversions from your upsell thank you page, all those improvements compound into incremental revenue gains.

Lesson to be learned?

Don’t pop the cork on the champagne until you know that an improvement in the CTRs or conversion rates would also lead to increased revenue.

Start closest to the money when it comes to your A/B tests.

Knowing What to Test

When you know your goals, the next step is to figure out what to test.

You have two options here:

  1. Look at quantitative data like Google Analytics that show where your conversion bottlenecks may be.
  2. Or gather qualitative data with visitor behavior analysis where your visitors can tell you the reasons for why they’re not converting.

Both types of data should fall under your conversion research umbrella. In addition to this gifographic, we created another one, all around the topic of CRO research.

When you’ve done your research, you may find certain aspects of a page that you’d like to test. For inspiration, VWO has created The Complete Guide To A/B Testing – and in it, you’ll find some ideas to test once you’ve identified which page to test:

  • Headlines
  • Subheads
  • Paragraph Text
  • Testimonials
  • Call-to-Action text
  • Call-to-Action button
  • Links
  • Images
  • Content near the fold
  • Social proof
  • Media mentions
  • Awards and badges

As you can see, there are tons of opportunities and endless ideas to test when you decide what to test and in what order.

A quick visual for what’s possible

So now that you know your testing goals and what to test, the last step is forming a hypothesis.

With your hypothesis, you’re able to figure out what you think will have the biggest performance lift with the thought of effort in mind as well (easier to get quicker wins that don’t need heaps of development help).

Running an A/B Test

Alright, so you have your goals, list of things to test, and hypotheses to back these up, the next task now is to start testing.

With A/B testing, you’ll always have at least one variant running against your control.

In this case, your control is your actual website as it is now and your variant is the thing you’re testing.

With proper analytics and conversion tracking along with the goal in place, you can start seeing how each of these two variants (hence the name A/B) is doing.

Consider this a mock-up of your conversion rate variations

When A/B testing, there are two things you may want to consider before you call winners or losers of a test.

One is statistical significance. Statistical significance gives you the thumbs up or thumbs down around whether your test results can be tied to a random chance. If a test is statistically significant, then the chances of the results are ruled out.

And VWO has created its own calculator so that you can see how your test is doing.

The second one is confidence level. It helps you decide whether you can replicate the results of your test again and again.

A confidence level of 95% tells you that your test will achieve the same results 95% of the time if you run it repeatedly. So, as you can tell, the higher your confidence level, the surer you can be that your test truly won or lost.

You can see the A/B test that increased revenue for Server Density by 114%.

Multivariate Testing for Combination of Variations

Let’s say you have multiple ideas to test, and your testing list is looking way too long.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could test multiple aspects of your page at once to get faster results?

That’s exactly what multivariate testing is.

Multivariate testing allows you to test which combinations of different page elements affect each other when it comes to CTRs, conversion rates, or revenue gains.
Look at the multivariate pizza example below:


Different headlines, CTAs, and colors are used


The recipe for multivariate testing is simple and delicious.

Different elements increase the combination size


And the best part is that VWO can automatically run through all the different combinations you set so that your multivariate test can be done without the heavy lifting.

If you’re curious about whether you should A/B test or run multivariate tests, then look at this chart that VWO created:


Which one makes the most sense for you?

Split URL Testing for Heavier Variations

If you find that your A/B or multivariate tests lead you to the end of the rainbow that shows bigger initiatives in backend development or major design changes are needed, then you’re going to love split URL testing.

As VWO states:

“If your variation is on a different address or has major design changes compared to control, we’d recommend that you create a Split URL Test.”


Split URL testing allows you to host different variations of your website test without changing the actual URL.

As the visual shows above, you can see that the two different variations are set up in a way that the URL is different as well.

URL testing is great when you want to test some major redesigns such as your entire website built from scratch.

By not changing your current website code, you can host the redesign on a different URL and have VWO split the traffic between the control and the variant—giving you clear insight whether your redesign will perform better.

Over to You

Now that you have a clear understanding on different types of website tests to run, the only thing left is to, well, run some tests.

Armored with quantitative and qualitative knowledge of your visitors, focus on the areas that have the biggest and quickest impact to strengthen your business.

And I promise, when you finish your first successful website test, you’ll get hooked on.

I know I was.


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The post [Gifographic] Better Website Testing – A Simple Guide to Knowing What to Test appeared first on VWO Blog.

Facebook Live Updates for Facebook Mentions

Facebook Live started out as a feature of the Facebook Mentions application for celebrities, public figures and journalists, and the social network rolled out a host of updates for Facebook Live on Mentions.

Engineering manager Jesse Chen and product manager Chris Hatfield detailed the following updates to Facebook Live for Mentions in a Facebook Media blog post:

  • Team prompts, which allows users to create drafts of the descriptions for their Facebook Live posts.
  • A new comment-moderation tool, which enables Mentions users to filter certain words and phrases, preventing them from appearing in comments during their broadcasts.
  • Ad adjustments tray, enabling users to customize the appearance of their broadcasts.
  • A broadcaster status bar—being tested with a “small group” of Mentions users—which provides information including audio level, connectivity, and battery status.
  • Trimming, which allows users to eliminate excess footage from the beginning or end of their live broadcasts so that the unnecessary content does not appear in the archived versions of the videos.

Chen and Hatfield provided more details on the new features, saying they will roll out “in the coming weeks”:

While many live broadcasts begin spontaneously, some public figures collaborate with their teams on ideas and themes for a broadcast before going live. With our new team prompts feature, a public figure’s team can create drafts of Facebook Live post descriptions, making it easy for the public figure to review and post via Mentions when going live. The team can also schedule reminders for a public figure to go live or publish posts from the Mentions app at a specific time, such as from an event.


Live video on Facebook is social and interactive–fans can react to broadcasts, comment and ask questions. This interactivity is one of the things that make Facebook Live so engaging, but we know that public figures want more ways to help manage these comments. With our new comment moderation tool, people using Mentions can add words and phrases to a blacklist before they go live, which will prevent comments containing those words from appearing during the broadcast. This moderation tool can help make live broadcasts friendlier and safer for broadcasters and viewers alike.


We’re rolling out an adjustments tray to give people using Mentions more control and customization over how their broadcast appears to the viewer. Now, broadcasters can flip the camera horizontally or vertically, adjust brightness settings and choose whether to mirror the picture or not. The mirroring setting is especially useful when the broadcaster wants to showcase certain text or a sponsor logo during a branded content broadcast.


We are also testing a broadcaster status bar with a small group of people using Mentions. The status bar provides information about audio level, connectivity and battery status while the broadcaster is live. These visual cues are located at the bottom of the broadcast and provide a useful overview of the status of the live video in real-time–for example, the broadcaster could avoid unexpectedly ending the live video due to a dying battery. We’ll be listening to feedback and hope to make this feature available more broadly in the coming months.


Finally, we’re excited to introduce trimming, which lets people using Mentions trim excess footage from the beginning and end of their live video after the broadcast has ended. We know that it can sometimes take a few minutes for people to tune in or for broadcasters to field introductory questions from fans. Trimming gives public figures the control to create a more polished viewing experience for audiences who watch a live video after it airs.

Facebook Mentions users: What are your thoughts on these updates?

Do You Really Need to Test Your Site to Improve Your Conversion Rate?

Talk to almost any online marketer and you’d think that they held a PhD in psychology. At the drop of a hat, they can tell you all about what button colors, typeface, contrast, spacing, line of sight, hero shots, etc you should use to subconsciously drive a website visitor to convert.

But do marketers really have these incredible mind powers? Do they wield the awesome power of psychology to control the rest of the world?

Testing the Testers

Recently, Chris Dayley, my head of CRO, ran a little experiment at the SearchLove conference in Chicago. Chris wanted to see how well marketers could use their understanding of psychology, marketing best practice or even gut instinct to predict which landing page design would produce the best conversion rates.

So, he presented an example A/B test from a real client of ours. There were four page variants and one of them had generated a 146% increase in leads. The room of marketers was given a link to a survey where they could examine each variant and submit their guesses as to which page had been the winner.

Take a look for yourself. Which one would you have picked as the winner?


Here’s how the marketers voted:

  • Original: 0%
  • V1:32%
  • V2: 42%
  • V3: 26%

Now, only one of the variants actually produced 146% more conversions, so—if we assume that V2 actually was the winning variant—at least 58% of these marketers were wrong.

But that wasn’t the real trick of the survey.

While the marketers were guessing which page had won in Chris’s A/B test, he was actually running an A/B test on them!

Only half of the surveys showed the page variants in the order seen above. The other half saw a scrambled version with the original and V3 switched like this:


Here’s where things got a little crazy. In the second group of marketers, no one voted for the “original” page—even though that page received 26% of the votes in the first group!

Even more intriguingly, V2 received the most votes in both groups:


But here’s the thing, V2 wasn’t actually the top-performing page—V3 (the “Control” in group 2) was. That meant the actual champion only got 13% of the popular vote!

The question is, why? How did the vaunted best practices and gut instincts of so many marketers fail them? To answer that, let’s take a step back from marketing psychology and take a look at the psychology of marketers:

Newer is Better

The most obvious thing highlighted by Chris’s experiment was that all the marketers assumed that the highest performing page variant couldn’t be the original. In both groups, the variant labeled “original” didn’t receive a single vote…even when it was the actual winner.

Now, there’s a dangerous assumption at play here. Everyone who puts an A/B test together would like to believe that he or she is going to shake things up and make them better. But can you assume that newer is better?

Null Hypotheses

In scientific testing, there’s a concept called the “null hypothesis.” The null hypothesis states that whatever you change in an experiment won’t affect the results. So, if you change the button color from blue to red, your null hypothesis is that conversions won’t change at all (the effect will be “null”).

In a good study, you’re supposed to act as though the null hypothesis is true until the evidence proves this can’t be the case (kind of an “innocent until proven guilty” sort of thinking). Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen very often.

Selective Perception

Instead of assuming that a change won’t affect conversion rates, most marketers tend to focus on other hypotheses like, “if I change the button color, the conversion rate will go up.”

As a result, many marketers fall into the selective perception (only acknowledging one possibility) trap and assume that new and different will always be better. Clearly, that was the case with this group of marketers.

This is part of the reason why testing is so important. If you just assume that your new idea will perform better and make changes without testing, you could end up hurting your site performance without realizing it!

I Already Know What Works!

So in Chris’s experiment, maybe people didn’t choose the right variant because it was the “original” in one of the groups and they were biased against the null hypothesis.

But why did so many vote for V2?

It’s hard to be sure without tracking them all down and asking them, but chances are that V2 was just the closest representation of their mental image of what a successful page should look like.

Now, having a sense for what a successful page looks like isn’t a bad thing, but if it keeps you from testing, that’s when your marketing skills can get you into trouble.

Appeal to Authority

There are plenty of sources out there that will tell you how a high converting site “ought to look”, but just because something’s “best practice” doesn’t guarantee that it will work on your customers.

A blog post (even this one) or a study by an authority figure should not be the end-all-be-all for your marketing decisions. As helpful and well informed as an expert’s advice might be, it’s still no substitute for doing your own testing.

For example, the most famous example of misplaced trust in authority occurred in 1923, when world-famous zoologist Theophilus Painter incorrectly stated that the human genome had 24 pairs of chromosomes.

Now, future studies quickly revealed that humans have 23 pairs of, but Theophilus was so famous that these scientists threw out their results, assuming they must have been wrong. Textbooks were even printed with pictures of 23 chromosomes, captioned with the number 24!

This went on for over two decades before somebody finally decided that “Theophilus said so” was not a good enough reason to ignore cold hard facts.

Now, I’m not trying to rag on authority figures or studies. They can be extremely valuable sources of information and a great way to come up with testing ideas. However, if you are so focused on marketing “best practice” that you aren’t testing to see how those ideas play out on your own pages, you’re headed for trouble.

In the case of the marketers at Chris’s presentation, many of them may have voted for V2 because they felt like it met the criteria of a “best practice” page. However, “best practice” doesn’t always mean “best results.”

False Consensus Effect

Of course, just because you can’t rely on best practice doesn’t mean that you should just rely on your own know-how instead. In fact, the most dangerous authority figure that you can rely on is yourself.

The problem is, it can be easy to assume that “if the site looks good to me then it must look good to my customers,” when—in reality—customers and marketers are typically more different than alike.

After all, most of your customers have no idea what a landing page is, much less what makes a good one. A marketer might say that his or her site design caused a conversion, but I’ve never had a customer tell me “I converted because of your excellent hero shot.”

Psychologists call the tendency to assume that others think the same as we do the “false consensus effect.” The word “false” in the name ought to give you an idea of how accurate this assumption is.

For example, to many of the marketers at Chris’s speech, V2 may have seemed like the page that would get them to convert. That’s great, but our client wasn’t targeting SearchLove attendees. Their target audience was different and, as a result, converted better on a different page.

Again, this is why testing is so important. Without testing, it’s easy to assume that a page that fits best practice or your own personal preferences will be a slam-dunk with your audience. Sure, that could turn out to be the case, but it’s much more likely that your ideal page design will be just as unique and unpredictable as your audience.

I’ve Got a Feeling…

So, if we don’t know how other people think and we can’t necessarily trust what other people tell us will work best, why do so many marketers think they “know” what’s going to work?

Believe it or not, this is actually a very normal part of being a human. It is surprisingly easy to believe that you have cracked the code on how life works and that you have evidence to prove it.

For example, let’s say you have a theory—“Redheaded people have bad tempers”—originally taught to you in the second grade by a competent authority (Billy on the playground). For the rest of your life, every time you see a redhead lose it, you remember this theory and think, See? That proves it! Billy was right!

But Billy never told you the null hypothesis: “Redheaded people behave the same as everyone else.” So, when you see a levelheaded ginger you think nothing of it and soon forget about it all together. Over the years, you amass a lot of memories of angry carrot-tops, but can’t think of any calm ones, so you decide that your theory must indeed be true.

Psychologists call this behavior “confirmation bias”—the tendency to only pay attention to information that confirms our preexisting opinions.

Unfortunately, confirmation bias is probably where most “marketer’s intuition” comes from.

If you only pay attention to the data that backs up your “gut instinct,” you’ll wind up feeling right all the time. This might be great for self-esteem, but it’s not a real great approach to site design or marketing in general.

You might think you have a great “sense” for what your audience responds to, but if you haven’t tested those instincts, odds are that you’re subject to at least a little confirmation bias.

Conclusion: Stick to the Data

Can you just shortcut the whole testing process and “go with your gut?” Not really…at least, not if you want real results from your online marketing.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to put aside your biases and take a datadriven approach to site optimization, you’ll be in a good position to make a real impact for your business.

So, before you gather your marketing team in a dark room, hold hands, burn incense, and try to “channel” the customer, try putting your hands on some real data and give yourself a reality check.

Did you guess the winning page variant? How good are your marketing instincts? Do you have any examples of when biases held back the potential of a website?

About the Author: Jacob Baadsgaard is the CEO and fearless leader of Disruptive Advertising, an online marketing agency dedicated to using PPC advertising and website optimization to drive sales. His face is as big as his heart and he loves to help businesses achieve their online potential. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

6 Things You Can Do in January to Make Your Blog Better in 2017

6 things you can do in January to make your blog better in 2017 | on ProBlogger.net

As 2016 winds down, many of us are looking towards 2017 wondering what we can do to take our blogs to the next level. Will next year be the year we finally:

  • Turn our blog into a legitimate side-hustle?
  • Score a guest post on a big site?
  • Launch that online course?

Whatever our individual goals might be, every blogger can benefit from doing the following six things in January:

1. Take a break

Those first couple of weeks in January? Everyone’s either still on holiday, or slowly working their way back into the new year after the craziness of Christmas. If ever there was a good time to take a blog hiatus, this is it. Many people fret that if they take time off they will lose the momentum they’ve spent the whole year building. Experience has taught me nothing is further from the truth. A hiatus makes your readers miss you and this is always a good thing.

Give yourself permission to have at least the first two weeks of January off. Don’t post anything on your blog. Reduce the time you’re spending on social media. Use that time to catch up on reading and go for long walks.

Not only will you be mentally refreshed when it comes time to write on your blog again, you’ll also have a ton of ideas ready to work on.

2. Reflect on 2016

January’s also a good time to do deep dive into your stats. Analyse what was common to your most popular posts. Make a note of the posts you most enjoyed writing. Identify the things you thought would go well, but didn’t.

The difference between a good blog and a great blog lies at the intersection of what your readers enjoy reading, and you enjoy writing. It’s difficult to identify where that intersection lies if you never take time to reflect.

3. Run a survey

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the years, it’s that many of the assumptions I make are wrong. Which is why it’s good policy to always test your assumptions and there’s no better way to do this than via a survey.

Identify the assumptions you have made about who your readers are and what kind of information they want from you … and then create a survey that tests those assumptions. The results you get might lead to a slight change in direction that makes all the difference for your blog in 2017.

4. Set goals like a ninja

January is not the time for vague statements like ‘I want to be a better blogger in 2017’. January is the time for identifying exactly what you want to achieve and then ensuring the things you are striving for are SMART goals:

S – specific, significant, stretching

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable {Source}

What your 2017 SMART goals might look like:

  1. Increase my email subscribers by 5% in the first quarter of the year
  2. Publish eight quality posts over the course of February and March
  3. Send out a subscriber email every week without fail
  4. Start a podcast
  5. Create an e-book

5. Map out the exact steps for achieving your goals

Telling yourself ‘I will increase my email subscribers by 5% in the first quarter of the year’ is one thing. Doing it is another. (Sounds silly, but quite often I see people thinking the setting of the goal is all they need to do to achieve it.)

What actually allows you to achieve your goal is mapping out, step-by-step, the things you are going to do to get there.

The steps for increasing your email subscribers might look like this:

  1. Check your email sign up form actually works
  2. Ensure the call to action/opt in gift is something your readers really want
  3. Create a pop-up version of your subscribe form and set it to appear when a reader has made it all the way to the end of a post
  4. Monitor the conversion rate on the pop-up subscribe form after two weeks and see if there is anything I can do to increased that conversion rate

If your goal is to write one blog post each week for the entire year, you will benefit from writing down exactly which day of the week you’re going to:

  1. Write your first draft
  2. Edit the post
  3. Press publish

As an example, this year I’ve aimed to publish a high-quality blog post every Thursday. To do that consistently I know I need to write a dodgy first draft on Monday, edit it on Wednesday, then give it a final polish and publish it on Thursday.

Studies have shown that writing down your intentions about WHEN you are going to do the things involved in achieving your goal significantly increases the likelihood of you achieving that thing – and I have certainly found that to be true this year.

6. Choose a guiding word or mantra for the year

Sometimes, when we’re toiling away deep in the bowels of our blogs, it’s easy to lose sight of why we do this thing. Particularly when things aren’t going as well as we’d like. At times like these, it’s handy to have a guiding word or phrase that acts as a reminder of the impact we’re trying to have on people’s lives. Phrases like:

  • Be useful
  • Change lives
  • Interact – Inform – Inspire

While we’re all blogging for some kind of personal gain (increased income or profile, an outlet, a way to connect with others), it’s important to remember that a blog can’t be successful without happy readers. The mantras above (or the mantra you choose for yourself), help remind us of this.

Bring on 2017

In an interview I did with Mark Manson a few months he said: ‘With my writing, I aim to always be moving ahead, always experimenting and exploring. A repetitive blog is a dead blog.’ Take care of the above six things in January and you can be assured your blog won’t be in any danger of becoming repetitive or dead any time soon.

Kelly Exeter is a writer, editor, and designer who’s endlessly fascinated by the power of the stories we tell ourselves. She explores these on her blog and in her books Practical Perfection and Your Best Year Ever. Connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

The post 6 Things You Can Do in January to Make Your Blog Better in 2017 appeared first on ProBlogger.


Advanced Reporting Is Awesome: Part 3 — Heat Mapping

Here at VerticalResponse HQ, we’re pretty excited about all the insights Advanced Reporting offers users. To showcase the unique edge Advanced Reporting brings to your email marketing, we’re examining each feature individually to highlight its advantages. 

Today’s feature is Advanced Reporting’s heat mapping. 

Heating Up

A heat map is a visual representation of where readers are clicking within your email messages. VerticalResponse has always displayed the number of clicks your emails received. Now, with Advanced Reporting, you can see exactly where those clicks are happening.

Take a look at our test email below. One person clicked at the uppermost link, but three people clicked the call-to-action button beneath the images.  

By scrolling further down on the email, we see that some of the bottommost links received one click apiece:


Based on this information, we can tell that our CTA button performed well, just like it was intended to. It garnered the most clicks within the email, which means the majority of our readers took the action we wanted them to. We can also see that at least two of our readers made it all the way to the bottom of our email, which is useful knowledge as well.

On Fire

How does this help you? Advanced Reporting’s heat map feature shows exactly where people are clicking — and where they’re not. If the majority of your clicks are at the top of your emails, you might consider putting the most important information and your CTAs near the top, where the maximum number of people will take advantage of them. Likewise, if the majority of your clicks are midway down or near the bottom, that will help you determine where to position your most important information and links. 

Finally, if heat mapping shows over the course of several emails that there’s no real pattern to your readers’ clicks, that might mean that you have too many links and buttons competing for readers’ attention, or that they can’t find the information they’re looking for. Knowing this helps you craft emails that perform even better.

Advanced Reporting lets you focus your time and effort on designing an email that looks best, performs the best, and makes the maximum impact. Upgrade to a Pro plan to start using Advanced Reporting right away.

Don’t Have a VerticalResponse Account Yet?

It’s easy to use and free to get started. Sign up and send up to 4,000 emails per month for free.

Start for Free


© 2016, John Habib. All rights reserved.

The post Advanced Reporting Is Awesome: Part 3 — Heat Mapping appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

How to Rapidly Build Brand Signals for SEO

In SEO’s never-ending evolution, algorithms are continually assessing different elements to determine where brands rank.

I remember the time, “back in the day,” when you could often get ahead with only rudimentary SEO tactics like keywords stuffing, e-zine posting, and even article spinning.

Oh, but how things have changed…

Search engines have never been more sophisticated, and Google is relentless in its pursuits of providing users with the best experience possible.

One element of SEO in particular that’s garnered a lot of attention recently is brand signals.

What are brand signals?

In a 2011 post on Moz, Rand Fishkin explained that

Google wanted to separate the ‘brands’ that produce happy searchers and customers from the ‘generics’ – sites they’ve often classified as ‘thin affiliate’ or poor user experiences.

Long story short, brand signals are cues that show:

  1. Your brand exists
  2. You’re a credible brand
  3. You’re a trustworthy brand

In other words, brand signals prove to Google that you’re legit—you’re not merely a “generic” charlatan.

The way I see it, building brand signals is fast becoming an important way to establish trust with Google and increase your exposure in search engines.

On top of this, effectively building brand signals should also have a positive impact on your overall brand equity.

I also predict that the companies who skimp in this area will be at a major disadvantage in the very near future.

How does Google decide whether you’re a brand?

I think the best way to answer this question is to look at this chart Moz created:


On the left hand side, you can see which factors cause Google to view your business, website, blog, etc. as a “brand.”

On the right hand side, you can see which factors will result in it being viewed as “generic.”

Needless to say, you want Google to consider you as a “brand” and not “generic.”

Even though this chart is a little outdated (it’s from early 2011), it definitely offers some valuable criteria to guide our efforts in building brand signals.

In one of my posts on The Content Marketing Institute website, I also pointed out some of the main categories that comprise brand signals:

  • Mentions on the web (e.g., references to your brand on big-name publications)
  • Verifiable identity (e.g., business incorporation listings and comprehensive contact information)
  • Activity on social accounts
  • User queries (e.g., a high volume of people searching for your brand on Google)

How can you build brand signals for SEO?

Now that we know how Google determines whether or not you’re a brand, let’s discuss how to build brand signals for SEO value.

More specifically, I’d like to explain how to do it in a hurry.

Here are some techniques that have worked for me and should work for you as well.

Create a comprehensive About page

As Moz clearly indicates, Google wants to know your brand actually exists.

Therefore, it’s important you beef up your About page and include plenty of details.


You’ll notice on the About page of Quick Sprout that I’m pretty comprehensive in explaining my background. I leave no stone unturned.

While you don’t have to go to this length, this should serve as a good template to guide you.

What’s another thing that Google is looking for? Whether or not you have a physical address.

Let’s be honest. It’s easy for any snake oil salesman to create a website and claim that they’re an authority in their industry.

But Google wants to know that you’re a legitimate brand and genuinely adding value. That’s why it typically gives preferential treatment to businesses with an actual office address and a physical presence.

So, be sure to include this information as well.

Be active on top social networks

Do I really need to even say that having a social media presence is important?

I’m sure you already know this.

But if you needed yet another reason to be active on social media, building brand signals is it.

Besides the direct traffic it brings and the SEO juice that comes from its signals, social media also plays a direct role in whether or not Google deems your business as a brand.

I would say the networks you’ll most definitely want to be active on are:

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter (ideally, as a verified account)
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest

Google+ is optional, considering it’s pretty much a digital graveyard these days. But if you’re feeling frisky, creating a Google+ account should be beneficial as well. After all, it is Google’s social network.

If you’ve got the time, I also recommend creating an account on YouTube.

Besides the fact that it’s owned by Google, it can really be advantageous from a branding standpoint.

It’s also incredibly popular and should help you penetrate your market more effectively.

Here’s proof:


And there’s one other trick I think will help you build brand signals through social media even quicker.

That’s to have your employees create profiles on these networks and link back to your company’s profile.

For LinkedIn, make sure that they explicitly state they work for your company.

Doing so shows Google that you DO have employees working for you, which makes it more likely that it’ll identify you as an actual brand.

Be active on relevant niche platforms

Another strategy for quickly gaining traction is to sign up on “niche platforms,” which are basically sites geared toward a specific industry.

For instance, a lawyer would want to be on Avvo, and a real estate agent would want to be on Zillow.

You get the idea.

This should send the right message to Google and get it to take notice.

Sign up for review sites

I also suggest taking advantage of sites such as:

  • Google Places
  • Yelp!
  • Angie’s List
  • Bing Places
  • Yellow Pages

Google Places in particular should serve as a great brand signal.

Consistently create high-quality visual content

Okay, so this probably sounds like a no-brainer. And it is.

I’m not going to drone on about the impact a well-run content marketing campaign can have, but consistently distributing high quality content throughout the right mediums will help your SEO on many levels, including building brand signals.

But for maximum impact, visual content is the way to go.

Why visual?

As I mentioned before,

…brand signals aren’t just about mentions. They are about mentions that people see, recognize and identify. Brand signals are for users, not algorithms.

Visuals not only help you connect with your audience in a memorable way but also expedite your brand signal building efforts considerably.

That’s because visual content tends to receive a lot of shares and has the potential to go viral.

In fact, “content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.”


Infographics in particular are a great medium to utilize.

Just look at how popular they have become in recent years:


This graph illustrates the spike in searches for the term “infographics” over the past decade.

Guest-post on authority sites

I mentioned before in another post that

as other websites mention your own, your brand gains credibility through cocitation.

That’s why my final suggestion for building brand signals for SEO is to guest-post on relevant highly respected and authoritative sites within your industry.

For example, I make it a point to contribute to sites such as:

  • Forbes
  • Inc.com
  • Entrepreneur
  • The Content Marketing Institute


They all have to do with business, marketing, and entrepreneurship and have helped me create tremendous leverage.

Of course, the specific sites you target will depend upon your unique industry/niche.

Just go after the big boys that receive a high volume of traffic and are well-respected.

You can learn more on the process I use for guest-posting in this guide.

To maximize your impact even more, use branded anchor text (where your brand name is included in the hyperlink) when linking back to your site.

Just make sure it looks natural—not like you’re deliberately trying to stuff your brand name into your hyperlinks(s).


Although the concept of brand signals is a fairly new one, it’s something you’ll definitely want to have on your radar moving forward.

If you haven’t already made a concerted effort to ensure that Google views your business as “a brand,” it’s definitely time to get on board.

Fortunately, building brand signals for SEO isn’t rocket science. And it actually revolves around several techniques most brands are already implementing in some capacity.

It’s just a matter of understanding what Google is looking for and structuring your branding strategy accordingly.

By following this formula, you can kill two birds with one stone.

First, you can appease search engines so that your brand’s content ranks consistently higher.

Second, you can establish a tighter relationship with your audience and boost your overall brand equity.

What kinds of things is your business doing to build brand signals?

20 New Year’s Eve and 17 New Year’s Day Subject Lines

Happy New Year! 新年快乐! Feliz Año Nuevo! !سنة جديدة سعيدة Bonne Année!

Can you believe it? 2016 is nearly at an end and the New Year is upon us. Champagne is chilling, resolutions are being made, and before you know it, it’ll be 2017!

In the spirit of ushering in the new, we took a look at our inboxes (past and present) and picked out some of our favorite email subject lines for the occasion: 20 for New Year’s Eve and 17 for New Year’s. Because let’s be honest, choosing 2,017 subject lines would just be crazy!

Countdown… 3… 2… 1…

Getting ready for the ball drop dominates NYE subject lines. And don’t forget the power of emojis! Use this last email of the year to drum up last-minute revenue, offer special sales, or simply wish your readers a Happy New Year:

  1. One day left: NYE reservations | OpenTable
  2. Happy New Years Eve: The Top 15 from 2015! 🎆  | GrubMarket
  3. COUNTDOWN: $10 Coupon + 40% off all Meat, Olives, Fish, Caviar and Crackers | World Market Explorer
  4. When the clock strikes 12… | Uber
  5. Celebrate New Year’s Eve with Free Shipping on ALL Orders! | Pottery Barn
  6. The Best Cookbooks (and Finger Foods) of 2015 | Epicurious
  7. End 2015 with a WIN | Yahoo Sports
  8. Hold on to these at midnight | Snowe
  9. Last Chance: Win a $500 Gift Card by Voting for T+L’s Destination of the Year! | Travel + Leisure
  10. ENDS THURSDAY: Find NYE Looks for $20.16 | Rent the Runway
  11. ⭐️ New Year Countdown! Save 16% Until The Ball Drops ⭐️ | LivingSocial
  12. 3, 2, 1, Guess What? | uforia studios
  13. Skip the Auld Lang SIGH | Jonathan Adler
  14. Start counting down to dressing up! | Nordstrom
  15. The Procrastinator’s Guide to NYE | 7×7
  16. Countdown to Chic | Etsy
  17. It’s the Best of the Rest of 2015 | Wakefield National
  18. It’s been quite a year! Just look at what you helped us accomplish. | Casper
  19. Wishing you a very happy New Year | Crate and Barrel
  20. Give by midnight to double your gift | SF-Marin Food Bank

Happy New Year!

“New Year, new you” dominates emails after January 1. Whether your business focuses on retail, fitness, hospitality, or services, there’s an opportunity for everyone to take advantage of a seasonal pun.

  1. Happy New Year! Shop resolution-ready favorites for less | Wayfair
  2. Your post-NYE recovery plan | Tasting Table
  3. Joshua Tree Yoga Retreat 🌵  A New Year, A New You | Yoga Lately
  4. Conquer Your Cooking Resolutions Next Year | Panna
  5. Start the year by learning something new | Coursera
  6. 🎉 NYE 2016 Giveaways: The Flaming Lips, Chet Faker, Flying Lotus, Girl Talk… | DotheBay
  7. Out with the old and in with the new year | Zipcar
  8. Start Your New Year Off at The Pad | New Year’s Day Workshop, Detoxes, & REBOOT’s back! | The Pad Studios
  9. New Year. New Styles. | Everlane
  10. Hungover? 13+ Cures From Around the World | Travel + Leisure
  11. New Year. New Socks. Only in the Pop Shop. | Pop Physique
  12. 🎊 Happy New Year | Banana Republic
  13. 15 Satisfying, Healthy Recover Recipes | Food & Wine
  14. Bright New Year | Move Loot
  15. New Year Resolution: Hydrate! 20% Off SodaStream + EXTRA 20% Off CLEARANCE | Williams-Sonoma
  16. Happy New Year 🎉! $12 activewear pants today: cardholders, get a running start on your resolutions | Old Navy
  17. Welcome the New Year with New Shoes, Of Course | Barneys New York

Christmas and Hanukkah are just five days away — don’t forget to start setting up your New Year’s email campaigns too! 

Ready to send your New Year’s email campaigns?

VerticalResponse is easy to use and free to get started. Sign up and send up to 4,000 emails per month for free.

Let’s Go!

© 2016, Tori Tsu. All rights reserved.

The post 20 New Year’s Eve and 17 New Year’s Day Subject Lines appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.