From being too broad to being too lazy: three common PPC fails 

PPC and search marketing are both vital to a company’s success. So, it’s amazing to see the mistakes that so many brands still make today. AdWords has added tools like upgraded URLs to make it a little easier to manage campaigns.

But glaring errors still happen – and frequently. While these mistakes can seem small – especially if a brand has a big SEM budget – each one can have a significant impact on an advertiser’s reputation and ROI. Here are a few of the most common PPC mistakes search marketers make, and some methods to address them.

Your search terms are too high-level

A common mistake for many first-time (and even experienced) search advertisers is that they start out too broadly. For example, if you’re an electrician in Boston starting out AdWords for the first time, you don’t want to go in big on the mains terms such as [electrician] and rely on city geo-targeting. Instead, be selective about your target keywords and build campaigns around specific terms such as [Electrician Arlington], or [24 callout Brookline Electrician].

The same rule applies to different verticals, including for example retail. It can be costly to start driving traffic on the term [dresses] if you’re a retailer. However, terms like [size 12 red dress] would have a higher propensity to convert. Start with these terms, then start adding more terms that could be higher up in the funnel for more awareness.

This process will install more discipline into how you measure the individual ROI of your range of keywords and bring scale when running on AdWords.

If you’re about to make the leap into broad expensive generics, then why not just target these keywords with RLSA only to build retargeting lists. It’s a more conservative step than going full throttle to make an impact in that auction.

Lazy ad management

Lazy ad copy is a big no-no in paid search. And using the same copy for all sponsored listings should be banned. Tailored ad copy offers the best way to get clicks and conversions, boosting ROI and generally making a much bigger impact than if a brand used the same ad copy for every keyword they were targeting. 

Brands should always add context to their ad copy, and changing the wording for specific ads allow them to do that. For example, if a cruise line offers ads for an all-inclusive trip, they also need to add something tailored to the copy, like the customer perks, to make users want to click. For trips that aren’t all-inclusive and are designed for families with children, the cruise line should change the copy to appeal to those looking for the best deals for kids or for example entertainment. 

Speaking of lazy ad management, in these two ads, the brands somehow forgot to change the auto prompt in their ad setup. This means they’re not only targeting the string “add your keywords here,” but they’ve also set the ad to autofill the headline based on the keywords. This results in a silly ad that’s unlikely to get any clicks.

Now, this could be a simple oversight, since the prompt text sometimes fails to disappear when you start typing your keywords into the box. However, marketers need to check their targeted keywords on an ongoing basis to achieve truly successful PPC management.

In addition, as Google continues to push for more hands-off automation in the AdWords workflow — through features like Dynamic Search Ads — it’s important to keep a close eye on what’s going on. These suggestions may help you automate, but they might not be the best fits to meet campaign goals and could actually hurt your standing if they don’t take the actions of your competitors into account. So advertisers, stay vigilant.

Not mastering your seasonal spikes in demand

If you don’t know your seasonal trends inside out, then there’s a very good chance you’ll be left behind in auctions and miss the spike in demand.

AdWords and analytics allow you to get into the weeds as far as time of day, or week that’s driving impressions. You must be ready to react to these trends, but still within your target margin for a good ROI.

For some big brands, plans around mastering Black Friday peak periods start around three months before the event. A great deal of planning goes into the price, product and type of promotion for this XX day period. As auctions become increasingly competitive, it’s vital that you have a strategy to win, too.

To get the most out of your seasonal spikes, you need to master all match types, segment your RLSA lists, increase bid modifiers by device and day/part bidding where possible and opt into DSA to fill in any gaps you may have missed.

The common theme here is a lack of attention. It’s important that PPC advertisers always monitor campaigns to ensure that they don’t make the same mistakes seen here. This means a more thoughtful strategy, with the right tools – safeguards in AdWords, third-party technology to support by monitoring for errors and mistakes and beyond – in place on the back-end to safeguard.


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An introduction to innovation in consumer search optimization

It may be obvious statement, but over the last 15 years the internet has completely transformed the retail industry. The once flourishing high-street is declining, as more and more consumers are swapping the shopping experience for the convenience and added choice that online retail offers. Mobile technology means more people are purchasing products via apps while on-the-go, rather than popping out on a Saturday morning to browse the isles and rails in-store.

The digital retail space has seen a huge number of disruptive innovations over the years, from artificial intelligence (AI) offering tailored recommendations to smart chatbots transforming and streamlining customer service and the new additions of drone deliveries and augmented reality – it’s an exciting time. Despite these leaps, most search technologies still used by modern retailers and brands are lagging behind. It’s these search engines that are the next element of the retail sphere set to have an innovation makeover.

Search engines today

When it comes to current search engines there are some big issues with accuracy. A Spoon Guru scan of the food search landscape revealed that the majority of leading supermarkets around the globe – including Walmart in America, Sainsbury’s in the UK and Carrefour in France – fail to return accurate search results for common dietary search terms, such as gluten free, low sugar or vegan. These needs seem simple, so imagine the difficulty of finding the right food if you have more complex requirements or multiple preferences.

Similarly, Google – the biggest search engine on the planet – came up short when looking for specific requirements. An analysis of the first page of results on a Google shopping search for vegan sausages found a staggering 19 of the 40 products are not vegan. In fact, two even contained pork.


So, what do you cook when you have a vegan, coeliac and nut allergy sufferer coming over for dinner? It isn’t the start of a bad joke as I’m sure you suspect, but a real-life scenario.

The grocery market (the industry in which Spoon Guru’s technology currently sits) is of course an area where there should be no margin for error, as for those with serious allergies and intolerances the consequences of a mistake can be fatal. However, no matter what the search enquiry – from homeware to sports equipment and clothing – these days consumers deserve, and ultimately should be able to get correct results that perfectly match their personal requirements.

The next generation of search technology

Despite a wealth of available products, people are still finding it challenging to find what they need owing to unstructured metadata and unconnected databases. Being innovation-led is crucial for retailers and brands who want to survive the digital boom, and responsive changes are required to match the shift in consumer expectations. Consumers want a personalized, seamless sand consistent experience. So how do you optimize search capabilities to match this?

A combination of AI, machine learning and human expertise, powers the next generation of search technology: Customer Search Optimisation (CSO). The secret to the CSO system is tagging and natural language processing. Natural language is the biggest problem facing machine learning, as it is presented with imperfect data owing to the ambiguities and variables within it.

Spoon Guru’s TAGS technology breaks down this language and translates it into labels that can then be assigned and organized. Over 24 hours, the system analyses 14 billion data tags, 2.5 million statements and over 16 million words, classifying over 180 preferences within the grocery retail space. CSO literally crunches billions of data points every day, opening up the market to match more products than ever before to specific consumer requirements.

Another important part of CSO is the human-in-the-loop system. Incorporating expertise – in Spoon Guru’s case, nutritional expertise – with the algorithms means that any inconsistencies, conflicts or erroneous classifications can be resolved. It also means that the latest scientific knowledge continues to be integrated into the technology’s DNA.

Tesco have already adopted the TAGS technology on their digital shopping platforms – via desktop and the app, helping shoppers find more products to match dietary needs, from the simple to the very complex.

CSO not only provides a better service for users and consumers, but by appearing in specific online searches, it will help boost brands’ profiles by providing further visibility, as well as becoming a core revenue driver.


Currently TAGS technology and CSO is transforming the grocery industry, as it is an area where specific requirements are becoming more of a necessity to the consumer – 64% of the world’s population are now on some kind of exclusion diet. With Tesco, one of the UK’s largest retailers, on board we can expect the technology to become a set standard across the industry.

Eventually this technology can be expanded and modified to work across different sectors, from entertainment, fashion, sports, hospitality, events, and pets. The possibilities of this transformative technology are pretty wide.

By leveraging smart technology (and smart people) we can cater for the modern multi-preference consumer, providing much more accuracy, relevance and choice.

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When to just say “no” to bidding on brand

Brand bidding is often touted as a hotly debated topic in paid media. That said, a cursory glance will reveal that the typical advice given by PPC experts is to bid on it, without exception. But the question is whether this is good advice or just self-serving.  Let’s look at each of the main arguments for brand bidding in more detail and see if the answer is a bit more nuanced and not just black and white.

Protect your brand

If you have competitors appearing for brand terms, either in paid or organic then yes, you need to consider how you protect this traffic stream and PPC brand bidding is an obvious option, along with improving your SEO rankings. On the flip side, if you have limited or no competition, it really is worth considering pausing branded PPC.

Logic would dictate that if a user is searching specifically for your brand, then they want to visit your site or engage with content. If your SERPs don’t contain competitors and only links associated with properties you own, then the benefits of bidding on brand terms become dubious.

Even if you are convinced that you will lose some brand traffic in this scenario, you need to ask yourself if the incremental value that PPC provides is worth it. Let’s say you lose 5% of brand traffic by turning off PPC brand. What that’s telling you is that 95% of your PPC brand traffic did nothing.

In other words, because you would have to appear on 100% of those impressions to protect your brand loses, a £10,000 brand spend which usually would get a £100,000 return, would actually have an incremental return of just £5,000 When viewed this way your ROI goes from 9.00 to -0.5.

Dominate the SERPs

Dominating the SERPs is a desirable goal for a lot of advertisers, however, this argument falters if you are already dominating the SERPs without a paid ad hogging the top spot. If you don’t have paid competitors bidding on your brand terms and you have good organic rankings for your owned properties you already dominate the SERPs and are just paying to push all your other listings down the page.

If you do have some organic competitors creeping onto your first page results, you should look to manage your other properties outside of your main site. This is a good way to ensure that you capture as many organic listings as possible and push any SEO competitors of the first page longer term. Ensure that your social media sites, Wikipedia page, and local listing are optimized and appearing for brand terms.

Control your messaging

It’s often argued that PPC is better at controlling message and landing page choice. While it is indeed more agile at both, you still have control from an SEO point of view. SEO’s have been optimizing listing copy in the meta descriptions since SEO began and any half decent SEO team will have categorized your pages and actively optimized your brand terms to land on the most appropriate pages.

Potentially if you have a sale running or have launched a new range, you may want to quickly reflect this in your copy. But again, if you have no competitors, it’s logical that you will get the click anyway and you can use your landing page to convey any important messaging.

Your brand terms are cheap

Brand terms often are cheaper than non-brand terms, but unless they add benefits, it is just an additional and unnecessary cost. You could be using that spend on other new customer driving activity to grow your business.

Capture high-quality traffic near the point of conversion

PPC managers and teams love to bid on brands because it converts well, makes reports look great and can mask poor performing activity.

This obviously isn’t a good enough reason on its own and only applies if you must defend from losing conversions against competitors. Otherwise, you are just taking credit for conversions you already would have received.

Brand terms improve overall account quality score

The premise here is that brand bidding will improve overall quality score and therefore decrease cost per clicks on other terms (at least in the early stages when you launch new keywords and they are yet to establish a QS). However, Google has never admitted that account level quality score exists. They have chopped and changed QS measurement over the years, all new keywords used to launch with a QS of 6, now they start at zero and build as they accrue data. According to Google, keywords are assessed on their own merit and gain a quality score once they build data. PPC experts have asserted that account level QS exists, but we have little hard evidence to support that claim, so the known benefit is wishy-washy at best.


My view is that brand bidding should be avoided if possible. A PPC manager will only add value by growing prospecting activity, not piggybacking off the success of a brand name.

If you can turn off brand, ensure that you break your brand terms into different categories and assess the need to bid on them independently. A core brand term [brand x] may have no competition, but a brand + product term [brand x shoes] may be more likely to receive competition as other advertisers broad match on the product term (rather than directly bidding on your brand). Also, add negatives as well as pausing keywords and continue to monitor the situation, in case competitors appear.

If you must bid on brand, then task your PPC manager with making it work for you as efficiently as possible, getting that traffic cheaply. If it’s within your power, take steps to remove the need to bid on a brand. Boost SEO rankings on other owned properties, like Facebook and Wikipedia, reach out to resellers and even competitors about brand bidding, you may be able to reach an agreement to stop bidding on each other’s terms.

Do remember to assess your situation on a case by case basis and understand if brand bidding is right for you.


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A review of the payday loans algorithm in 2018

For several years, the search term ‘payday loans’ has regularly attracted more than 200,000 searches per month on Whether providing loans or generating leads, the payday loans industry has notoriously been big business and at its peak, was estimated to be worth around £2 billion per year.

Because of this, the top positions on Google’s SERPs for ‘payday loans’ have been a hugely lucrative and sought-after search term; and subsequently was dominated by SEO professionals using massive manipulation to hack their way to the top of the search results.

Until 2013, page one for payday loans barely listed a real payday loan company. Instead, the listings were made up of ‘hacked sites’ including bicycle sales, women’s magazine and frankly, just random domain names that once clicked on redirected to a dubious data capture form.



Introducing the payday loans algorithm

With customer data at risk and a mountain of complaints from UK consumers (and similar results in the US), Google reacted and introduced an official “payday loans algorithm” in June 2013. For the search giant to acknowledge a particular search term – demanding its own algorithm and focusing on a micro-industry across the pond – it was certainly out of the ordinary and we are yet to see any other industry treated in the same regard.

The payday loan algorithm update was rolled out over a two-month period. The first payday loan update occurred in June 2013, followed by Payday 2.0 on 16 May 2014 and Payday 3.0 which was rolled out shortly thereafter in June 2014.

Whilst the first algorithm change was a general clean up, payday loans algorithm 2.0 focused on targeting spammy queries, abusing Google+ accounts, doorway and hacked websites. Payday loans 3.0 was geared towards tackling spamming links including links of low quality, reciprocal links, forums, blog networks and websites which require paid submissions in exchange for a link.

Soon after the rollout of Payday 3.0, the search results were essentially cleaned up and have since been a much clearer representation of how rankings for payday loans should be by showing legitimate companies.

Those websites that were targeted by changes in the algorithm were subsequently penalized from Google searches, which included dropping 10 pages or even off the face of Google altogether. There were a handful of sites that had previously dominated the SERPs and then ceased to maintain any online real estate including Tide U Over and Red Wallet.


Bringing payday to today

The payday loans business took another drastic change following the introduction of FCA regulation in January 2015. Whilst the industry remains lucrative, the number of companies’ active has diminished significantly in the last three years – from 200 lenders to around 40 and originally hundreds of comparison sites to around a dozen. Margins have been hit by the introduction of a price cap, keeping the daily interest at a maximum of 0.8% and tougher regulation on the selling of data – leading to much higher operating costs and barriers to entry.

While there have not been any additional releases of the payday loans algorithm, Google is still keeping an eye on it and even implemented a ban on PPC ads for payday loans in 2016. The outcome was far stricter in the US than in the UK where lenders and comparison sites can still show paid ads but are required to show proof of their regulatory license to Google before going live.


How to successfully rank for payday loans in 2018

Fast forward to 2018 and there are 10 legitimate companies ranking in the top 10 for ‘payday loans’ in the organic search on

Our SEO company has successfully ranked five of the websites that are currently positioned in the top 10 and based on the success we have seen, we have identified some of the main trends below, which seem to be very specific to a payday loans algorithm and differ to the techniques used for ranking for other keywords in loans and insurance.


Direct lenders win over comparison websites: All websites positioned in 1 to 10 are essential providers of payday loans, known as ‘direct lenders’ and not comparison websites. While the main comparison sites in the UK dominate the search results for things like life insurance, car insurance and personal loans, none of these companies come near the top 3 pages for ‘payday loans’ despite all having a landing page to target this keyword.

In positions 1 to 20, there is only one comparison website that features all the lenders and we are responsible for their SEO. However, their homepage resembles a more direct lender with a calculator and apply now button versus a comparison table format.

Brands win over exact match or partial match domains: There is no website listed in the top 10 that has the word ‘payday’ in their domain, suggesting that Google prefers to see brands over exact match or partial match domains. Compare this to other industries where ranks first for ‘logbook loans’ and two companies ranking on page one for ‘bridging loans’ that include the main keyword in their domain name.

Keeping in line with the brand theme, sites that rank well will have quality traffic from several sources including direct, paid, social and email. To benefit their SEO, the users should have high engagement rates, high average time on site and low bounce rates. This can be hugely beneficial for search rankings but is not an isolating factor. Companies such as Sunny and Lending Stream advertise heavily on TV and will generate good direct traffic as a result, but their lower search rankings do not correlate with enhanced direct traffic.

Domain age less relevant: Whilst several industries such as car insurance use the age of the domain as an important ranking factor, this seems to be less relevant for payday loans. Notably, 3 of the top 5 that rank (Cashfloat, Drafty and StepStone Credit) are less than two years old. This could be attributed to accumulating less spam and a history of low-quality links compared to much older domains.

Links still win… domains with more links tend to outrank those with fewer links. Interestingly, around 7 of the top 10 seem to have similar domains linking to them, suggesting there are some links that Google clearly values in this industry. However, finding the balance here is key as some of these similar links have a very low DA and spammy link history. Understanding which will work well will be the difference between better search positions or a penalty.

Strong user experience: A strong UX making it clear where to apply for a payday loan is proving to be more effective than providing thousands of words explaining what payday loans are. Keeping in line with user intent, successful websites are making use of calculators, images and videos to drive the application and not provide thin content.

Room for alternatives: Two sites currently in the top 5 for payday loans are offering alternatives (StepStone Credit and Drafty.) This could highlight Google’s moral obligation to offer a variety of products and not just high-cost short-term loans, thus alluding to whether they are in fact manually organizing the SERPs themselves.


To conclude, the usual SEO techniques of brand building, link acquisition and good user experience still apply to rank well in a modern payday loans algorithm. However, there is no doubt that payday loans in 2018 still requires a very specific approach; which can be achieved by looking at the sites that rank successfully and getting a feel of what content they write and what links they get.

In an ideal scenario, we should see MoneyAdviceService ranking top of the tree since it has the most authority and has numerous links from every single payday loans company in the UK – but as they sit on page 3 and have for some time, this is proof that the beast of ranking for payday loans surely has a mind of its own.

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Technical considerations before purchasing a commerce platform

Choosing a commerce platform is one of the most crucial and important decisions you’ll make in the early life of your business. There are a number of factors to consider before purchasing a commerce platform – in fact, the choices are endless. But what’s really important? Here are some of the key considerations.

The product catalogue

Your product catalogue is technically a reservoir for every item you sell. Its role is to promote the items you want to push and simultaneously help your customers find the items they are looking for with ease.

A poorly constructed product catalogue can be rigid and uncompromising, especially if the product attributes you want to store don’t naturally align with the definitions set in your commerce application.

Some commerce platforms charge based on the number of products on your platform. Depending on the requirements of the ecommerce marketplace, you can choose accordingly.

In the case of a multivendor ecommerce marketplace, the product list can easily grow to more than 10,000. It is therefore important to choose an ecommerce platform that doesn’t put a limitation on the number of products a marketplace can have.

The good news is that there are a number of product catalogue software that offer user-friendly tools and outstanding features to provide high-level functionality to entice your customers. Volusion, Big Commerce, Shopio and Shopify are a small selection of the platforms that offer a comprehensive solution, while keeping all aspects of your website up-to-date.

Identifying how you intend to organize your catalogue will have a dramatic impact on how your ecommerce website is developed – and on how well it converts visitors to customers.


Products are extremely important with regard to how successful your online store can be. When you have a quality product with a customer demand, the content you include on your website and your interaction with customers will play a huge role in your success.

According to Rapt Media, 63% of customers said they’d think more positively of a brand if it gave them content that was more valuable, interesting or relevant.

Product photos and descriptions ought to be well written and highly informative; consumers won’t buy something that they cannot clearly see or understand. This is Sales 101 and something that everyone should be aware of when it comes to content on your website.

Taking your content further can really help your business to grow. Consider including a blog page on your online store with posts relating to the niche or industry in which you are selling. This shows customers that you’re an expert on the topic and invested in what you are selling, thereby building trust.

Do you have video or visual presentations as content? Webinars as a sales tool is another alternative. An example of a niche ecommerce solution that specializes in sites for online course merchants is Kajabi. This provides users with email funnel templates and one-click upsells, allowing you to generate sales/leads with one button.

Furthermore, the inclusive nature can encourage loyalty from consumers – and repeat purchases.

Consider a platform that allows customers to leave comments, ask questions and review your products online. In addition, ensure they can share via social media as 71% of consumers who have had a good social media experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others –essentially creating free advertising for your store.

If you decide to use this, then ensure you respond to every question or comment. This will help build lasting relationships with your customers and help grow your brand exponentially.


When choosing a platform for your business, it is crucial to check its scope for scalability. This ensures that the platform will grow alongside you.

Choose an ecommerce platform that not only works best for your platform today, but one that will support your business as it grows. As your platform experiences increasing traffic, it is imperative to ensure your platform can handle your peak traffic, maximum orders and page visits without speed reduction.

Will the site perform efficiently through traffic peaks and troughs? Slow internal applications are annoying, but unresponsive customer-facing applications will frustrate your customers, drive them to your competitors, and prove detrimental to your business.

An ecommerce platform is only measurable against the way it can handle its peak traffic. As your website popularity increases, it needs to scale with minimal effort so you can avoid incurring disproportionate infrastructure management costs.

Choose a platform that you can scale to your business size and that won’t charge outrageous fees for doing so. As a result, you won’t have to pay for features and storage that you’re not using when you first start out. You also want to keep up with higher demands as your business takes off.

Mobile ready

Mobile phone usage is now at an all-time high. Statista believes that in 2017, mobile accounted for 50.3% of all web traffic generated worldwide. With these numbers quickly increasing, retailers should endeavor to create an effective mobile strategy that will reach the masses and convert the clicks into dollars.

Having a user-friendly, fast and easy to navigate mobile site will instantly keep your customer interested, which will directly affect your retention rate. With this in mind, users are significantly affected by a slow site performance; only 2% of the top 100 ecommerce sites load in fewer than 4 seconds on smartphones.

Ensure that your platform is fully integrated and has an infrastructure that enables you to deploy a mobile-ready site, along with social sharing capabilities to maximize the reach of your business.

Having a platform with reliable payment gateways instantly makes your online store functional and profitable. The mode of payment acceptance should be in accordance with the operations of your business. Regardless of whether you require a payment gateway and merchant account – or a payment service provider to handle your payments – your platform should integrate with the payment method.

Whichever experience the commerce platform offers, it should be smooth, reliable and secure to boost customer trust and retention in your site. The ecommerce platform you select should be compatible with the payment gateway of your online store, or it may result in a technical glitch or unacceptability. PayPal, Stripe, and Amazon Payments are just some of the best payment gateway platforms that make payments for online transactions easy.

Online shoppers are not just looking at the product and price; they expect a seamless experience on the platform while making any purchase.

Reports and analytics

Ecommerce platforms house an abundance of information about your customers, their behaviors and preferences. However, businesses tend to find it hard to figure out how to leverage the business value this data holds.

The platform you choose should come with a variety of features to assist marketers, with the most important tool being powerful analytics and a report generation system. Marketers rely on analytical information driven by ecommerce – specific key performance indicators (KPIs) to stay informed regarding sales, strategy and methods to improve sales or traffic.

Payment gateways

Reporting and analytics deliver insights that act as a catalyst in your routine decision making. Popular commerce platforms like Magento will not only help you with marketing automation, but will also provide out-of-the-box integrations with Google Analytics (GA). GA commerce tracking is a powerful engine for ecommerce sites delivering information including transactions, time to purchase and typical sales cycle.

You should choose a commerce platform that allows you to track the activities of visitors, know where a visitor lost interest while checking out, and conduct tests using two different inputs to improve services.

Taking these points into consideration will help you make an informed decision when purchasing a commerce platform. After careful consideration, you’ll be well on your way to opening an online store and joining the wonderful world of ecommerce.


Pius Boachie is the founder of DigitiMatic, an inbound marketing agency.

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How to Create a Custom Geofilter on Snapchat

You can create a Snapchat lens or filter from your phone or computer. In this guide we’ll walk you through each process separately.

How to create a custom Snapchat filter from your computer

To get started, visit Snapchat’s desktop page on custom filters and lenses. Click on Create Filter.

Step 1: Design

Choose whether you want to design your own filter or upload an existing one.

how to create a snapchat geofilter

You can also choose from templates for events like Prom, weddings, and birthdays. These designs are easily customizable.

One of the main things you can do here is add text, change color, shadowing, size, and placement.

custom snapchat filter

You can also add in Bitmoji and other graphic elements:

Snapchat geofilter

If you’re creating a filter from scratch, you can use a design tool like Canva and upload it when you’re finished. Canva is particularly useful because it has preset dimensions specifically for Snapchat filters.

If you’re going on your own, pay close attention to the submission guidelines.

  • You can’t use logos or trademarks without authorization.
  • Don’t include offensive content.
  • Your final submission should be under 300 KB in a PNG format, with a transparent background.
  • It should also be either 1080 x 1920px or 1080 x 2340px.

Once you upload your custom design, you’ll be able to use the preview tool to see how it looks on a device. Make sure to preview your work before moving on.

Step 2: Dates

Next, determine when your filter will be available for users to access. You can choose to make it for a single event, spanning at least one day, for a period of time you specifically choose, or you could make it a repeating event (such as turning it on every Sunday, or once a month). If this is for an annual event, you can even set up a recurring annual filter, so it renews every year.

Snapchat filters

Step 3: Location

Once you’ve chosen a date and time range, you’ll be able to define the physical borders of your custom Snapchat filter. You can either choose a specific address by searching for it, or draw an imaginary “fence” around the area you want the filter to be accessible.

Create Snapchat filter

Note that your “fence” can be drawn to cover an area between 20,000 and 50,000,000 square feet. You can also redraw your fence as many times as you like. In the upper-right hand corner, you’ll notice the price of your custom Snapchat filter will change based on the size of your target area.

snapchat lenses

Step 4: Checkout

Once you’ve chosen the area for your filter, you’ll get a short recap page that explains exactly what you’re purchasing. This will show you the area you’re targeting, a preview of the filter, the date and time it will be available, and the cost.

custom snapchat filter

But before you check out, there’s one more thing you’ll have to do: choose whether this is for personal or business purposes.

Snapchat geofilter

After you’ve paid for the order, Snapchat will need to review your filter to make sure it meets the submission guidelines. Generally, this process takes a day or two. If your content is found to be unacceptable in any way, you’ll receive a written reason for the rejection, and you’ll have a chance to resubmit.

How to create a custom Snapchat lens from your computer

To get started, visit Snapchat’s desktop page on custom filters and lenses. Click on Create Lens.

You’ll notice that the process is very similar, so for steps two through four, you may refer to the “How to Create custom Snapchat filters from your computer” section above for more details if you need them.

Step 1: Design

You’ll notice there are significantly fewer options for Snapchat lenses than there are for custom Snapchat filters.

Snapchat filters

On the left, you’ll be able to choose from at least six different options, which vary depending on the season. These, for example, are specifically “Birthday” lenses:

Create Snapchat filter

The next step is to add text. Add as much as you want, place it where you want, and choose from several font and color options.

snapchat lenses

Make sure to preview your work before moving on.

Step 2: Dates

Once your design is ready, choose when it will be available, or set it to repeat at regular intervals.

custom snapchat filter

Step 3: Location

When you’ve selected the date range, you can move on to the location. Here, you can select a specific address or destination, or draw your own “fence.” The cost of your order will increase with the size of the area. Snapchat geofilter

Step 4: Checkout

You’ll get the chance to review your order before it’s final:

Snapchat filters

And when you submit, you’ll need to select whether the lens is for personal or business purposes. The submission guidelines (linked above) vary depending on how you’re using your custom lenses.

Create Snapchat filter

How to create a custom Snapchat filter from your phone

You can also design a custom Snapchat filter on your phone. The advantage here is that you can do it all within the Snapchat app. The only thing you can’t do is upload a custom filter that was designed outside of the app.

Step 1: Design

Start in the app’s settings menu, and look for the “Filters and Lenses” option.

snapchat lenses 3

From there, select Filter.

custom snapchat filter

Now choose a specific occasion that you’re creating the custom Snapchat geofilter for:

Snapchat geofilter

Snapchat filters

Now add text.

Create Snapchat filter

When creating a geofilter on your phone you can easily add emoji, Bitmoji, and other icons.

Bonus: Download a free guide that reveals how to increase social media engagement with better audience research, sharper customer targeting, and Hootsuite’s easy-to-use social media software.

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snapchat lenses

When you’re done, move on to selecting a date.

Step 2: Dates

The interface here is fairly straightforward. Your geofilter will be active from a specific start time to a specific end time.

custom snapchat filter

Step 3: Location

When that’s in place, you can select a specific location for your geofilter to be active. By default, your app will detect your location and offer a suggested area around it, but you can customize this by setting your own parameters or choosing a specific address.

Snapchat geofilter

Step 4: Checkout

Finally, you’ll get a summary screen that includes the cost of your custom Snapchat filter, at which point you can finalize it or go back for more edits.

Snapchat filters

How to create a custom Snapchat lens from your computer

Step 1: Design

Start in the app’s settings menu, and look for the “Filters & Lenses” option.

Create Snapchat filter

From there, select Lens.

snapchat lenses

Now choose the type of event you’d like a filter for (or you can browse all the options at once).

custom snapchat filter

Now you’ll get to play around with different “base” lenses along the bottom of the screen, applying them with your camera to any face in your area:

Snapchat geofilter

Snapchat filters

Using the T icon in the upper-right, you can add and customize your own text:

Create Snapchat filter

Step 2: Dates

Choosing a date is straightforward and works the way you think. Just set a start time and end time using the app.

snapchat lenses

Step 3: Location

When that’s in place, you can select a specific location for your lens to be active. By default, your app will detect your location and offer a suggested area around it, but you can customize this by setting your own parameters or choosing a specific address.

custom snapchat filter

Step 4: Checkout

And once again, you’ll have a chance to review everything before you finalize your purchase. It’s your last chance to make edits before your filter is processed for review.

Snapchat geofilter 7

What happens next? Snapchat reviews your submitted lens or filter

Snapchat will review your submission to make sure it meets its guidelines. These are relaxed and forgiving, and are mostly in place to ensure a high standard of quality with no legal or reputation issues to jeopardize the image of custom filters.

For example, personal Snapchat geofilters may not have any references to logos, business names, or trademarks. Neither business nor personal filters or lenses may use personal photographs, phone numbers, emails, URLs, social media handles, or any content related to drugs or gambling. These rules aren’t too restrictive, and should fall in line with common sense for what’s considered offensive or dangerous content.

You’ll receive a notification when your submission is approved. From there, your custom lens or filter will be saved for future if you want to reuse it or build off the design.

And there you have it! You now have the power to exercise your creativity and start using Snapchat to promote your business or event—the perfect addition to your Snapchat marketing strategy. Come up with something original, and make your next event unforgettable!

12 Free Instagram Story Templates (And a Guide to Create Your Own)

Here’s a collection of free Instagram Story templates to take your content to the next level (and save time doing it!). Created by the team at Adobe Spark, a free graphic design app, these templates are easy to customize to fit your brand’s unique look.

In this post we’ll also show you how to create your own templates for Instagram Stories. But before we get to those instructions and the templates, you’ll need to know:

How to use the Instagram Story templates

  1. Create a free Adobe Spark account and login.
  2. Click Use this template under any of the templates below.
  3. The link will take you to Adobe Spark to edit the template.
  4. Change the background image, fonts, colors, etc. To remove the Adobe Spark logo, simply select it and click Remove.
  5. Download the template and upload it to your Instagram Story.

Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps an adventure photographer used to grow from 0 to 110,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.

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12 free and customizable Instagram Story templates

News, announcements, and events

Designs for product launches, event promotions, and industry news. The “swipe up to see” call-to-action on the first graphic is especially helpful if you have a landing page or article to append to your Story.

1. New flavors

Use this template

2. Paper folding workshop

Use this template


We share a ton of content on Instagram Stories here at Hootsuite. And one of the most popular content types with our audience is the always-dependable listicle.

3. Women who are breaking barriers

Use this template

4. Hap-pea recipes

Use this template

5. Ways to add cranberries

Use this template

Special offers and promotions

Like the first set of templates on this list, these designs are also great for promoting events.

6. National picnic day sale

Use this template

7. Summertime sale

Use this template

Quotes and inspiration

“There are few types of content that are more shareable and promote as much engagement as a smart and relevant quote.”
-The Hootsuite team

8. The destination

Use this template

9. Make life your runway

Use this template

10. Light to shine

Use this template

Blog post promotion

Pro tip: add a “swipe to read the article” call-to-action and frame it with a shape to draw attention to it.

11. Bolivia

Use this template

12. From inspiration to pattern

Use this template

How to create your own template for Instagram Stories

If you’re inspired by designs above but want to start from scratch, follow these 10 simple steps to create your own.

  1. Get your free Adobe Spark account and login.
  2. From the main Adobe Spark page, click the blue + icon at the top of your screen.
  3. Then click the green + icon to create a new post.
  4. Click start from scratch.
  5. Under “Select a size” click SOCIAL POST.
  6. Select the Instagram Story option and then click Next.
  7. Choose from one of the stock photo options on the right or upload your own image. Then click Next.
  8. Now you can customize the design. Upload your logo, edit the image, change or add text, fonts, colors, and layout. You can even resize the design for other social networks.
  9. Once you’re happy with your creation click Download.
  10. Send the file to your phone and add it to your Instagram Story!

Here’s a design we created in just a few minutes using Adobe Spark.

Instagram Story template by Hootsuite

If you have well-defined brand guidelines—with preferred fonts, colors, logos, and images—then making your own templates is quick and easy.

And that’s it. You’re armed with professional templates to impress the 300 million people who use Instagram Stories every day. Now check out our complete guide to using Instagram Stories for expert tips and content ideas to further refine your strategy.

SPI 319: How to Work Less & Make More with James Schramko

James Schramko is as passionate about surfing as he is about working less, earning more, and helping people learn how to do exactly that. If you’ve ever wanted to design a truly fulfilling lifestyle, you’re going to want to take notes, because that’s what James is all about.

James has been rocking it in online business for ten years now, and quite literally surfing the world at the same time. He’s been able to design the lifestyle he always wanted, but that didn’t happen overnight, and James strives to share what he’s learned. Whenever I hear him speak I’m at peak attention—his methods and mindsets are so powerful and inspirational.

James is also the author of the new book Work Less, Make More, and that title pretty much sums up what he’s all about. James has shaped the lives of thousands of people by helping them build the lifestyles that they want to live. On today’s show, James describes how he went from being a top BMW salesman to owning his own business and redesigning his lifestyle. He lays down useful methods for reinvesting in your business, directing cash flow, and the business models he used to create a 99.9 percent recurring customer base. He also addresses the obstacles one might face when getting started and offers mindsets and tips for tackling them head-on.

This episode is stuffed with so many amazing takeaways, I might even recommend listening twice. Enjoy!

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes or download our mobile app.

Special thanks to James Schramko for joining me this week. Until next time!

No need for Google: 12 alternative search engines in 2018

Working at Search Engine Watch isn’t all about studying, understanding, and reporting on Google. With more than 9% of web users searching on other engines, it’s important that we occasionally take the time to check out what they are using and what those platforms are up to.

Read on for my hotlist of 12 alternatives to ‘The Big G’. As you’ll see, there’s been some changes in the alternative search world since my colleague Christopher Ratcliff wrote his comprehensive listicle back in early 2014. Since then, some have dropped off the map and others have been usurped in usefulness by Google’s increasingly rich functionality, and are not featured here.

  1. Bing

Globally, Bing is still the second biggest search engine after Google and it also still powers the third biggest, Yahoo!.

With its clean white background, blue links, and green URLs, it sure looks familiar although it also features a few things that sets it apart. For example its ‘Rewards’ scheme gives you points when you shop or search via the service that can then be used to go towards buying things like apps and movies.


Bing also has a ‘My Saves’ function acting as a bookmark tool. It also boasts some prominent – and handy – filters for results by date, language, and region.

  1. Baidu

If you have an interest in digital in Asia, you need to know about Baidu.

Baidu is the search engine of choice for around 77% of China’s internet market. Though its dominance can be seen to fluctuate – thanks to fierce competition from other domestic rivals such as Shenma and Haosou.

Like Bing, you have to look closely at Baidu to see many differences between it and Google (other than it being in Mandarin). It is similar aesthetically, has a reliance on ads, and is also making moves to incorporate more rich features in the SERPs.

On the flipside though, the service is noted for its censorship of certain images and blocking of pro-democracy websites – to the extent that might seem quite extreme to searchers who are used to Google.

  1. Yandex

Yandex is to Russia as Baidu is to China. More than 53% of Russian search engine users favour Yandex. It also has a presence in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Belarus.

The search engine is available in English and Cyrillic and incorporates social logins. And if users choose to use Yandex Disk – its cloud storage service – it is easy to search your files right from the search bar.

  1. Ecosia

As more of our computing moves into the cloud, users are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of day to day digital activities.

Googling is – perhaps surprisingly for such a quick innocuous activity – a formidable Co2 producer.

Launched in 2009, Ecosia is a Co2-neutral alternative. With every search made, the social business uses the revenue generated to go towards its tree-planting scheme. On average, 45 searches are needed to make a single tree.

Much of the engine itself is powered by Bing.

  1. DuckDuckGo

We have covered DuckDuckGo extensively in the past and the engine is still going strong.

Its USP is simple: it doesn’t collect, store, or pass on any personal information about its users. It’s a logical choice if you want a search experience which is free from ad targeting and if potential data storage about your search activities makes you feel uneasy.

While the service doesn’t target users with ads or suggestions based on search history, it is not free from ads altogether. The ads it does deliver are syndicated via Bing.

  1. StartPage

Like DuckDuckGo, StartPage was founded with strict user Privacy as its USP. Again, it doesn’t track and store your data, and it doesn’t target ads based on your behaviors.

The engine is powered by Google and does use ads (delivered by Google) to generate revenue. Each search result is also delivered with a ‘Proxy’ option which allows users to browse the following site anonymously.

  1. Twitter

I’ve included Twitter because I think its search functionality can be useful in certain situations.

For instance, during a breaking news event, tweets from people in the vicinity are likely to be the quickest up-to-the-second updates of what’s going on before initial news sites and Google’s algorithms catch up.

You can see this ‘First For News’ authority being something the service is increasingly exploring. Any search on Twitter will lead to a filtered ‘News’ tab initially, but users can easily click over to the ‘Latest’ tab to see updates come in from anyone using that search term second by second.

  1. CC Search

CC Search is a great tool for finding copyright-free content.

Whether you want an image to use on a blog post, a piece of music to add to a video, or you just want a piece of media to remix – it is a really h engine.

The site works by drawing in search results from existing platforms – such as Flickr, or Soundcloud – which have been tagged as Creative Commons material.

  1. Internet Archive

Continuing in the spirit of accessible content, Internet Archive (often known by its URL, is a vast collection of documented material – including music, books, video, educational texts, and more.

It is also home to the endlessly fascinating Wayback Machine, a tool which has been taking snapshots of the internet since the 90s.


You are probably all familiar with Wikipedia but there are thousands of other wikis which are an amazing resource on a range of topics – from politics to pop culture. is a handy search engine which draws in content from wikis only if you want community-led encyclopedic know-how about something (aside from Wikipedia).

  1. Boardreader

Boardreader is a search engine which pulls in results from forums and message boards.

It’s a convenient tool if you’re searching for content written by everyday users about a topic, but you aren’t necessarily familiar enough with the niche to know the best forum or board to visit from the outset.

  1. Slideshare

Slideshare, now hosted by LinkedIn, is a great tool for searching documented slideshow presentations, as well as PDFs and eBooks.

If you’re tasked with needing to do a presentation yourself, or you need information about a topic that is likely to have seen a presentation made for it in the past, Slideshare is a valuable repository. You can save slides you might need to refer to later and download entire slideshows direct from the platform.

Related reading

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