The rise of personal searches: How can content marketers take advantage?

As marketers in the ever-changing world of digital, success depends on knowing what consumers want and expect from us. After all, it’s the only way we can deliver.

So, it’s interesting to see that a recent data release from Google tells us that personalized search is becoming more and more prominent among internet users.

No longer are they turning to friends and family for personal advice and recommendations, but search engines too.

Of course, we already knew that… that’s why we work so hard at getting to know our audience and understanding their micro-moments and pain points, delivering the right content at the right time, in the right way.

But what Google is telling us is that rather than searching, “How often should you wash your hair?”, we are now searching “How often should I wash my hair?”. Changing those two little words is making the way that we use search engines far more personal than ever before.

And the data suggests that consumers now truly trust that their most specific needs can be answered by content on the web. In fact, in the last two years Google has reported that mobile searches using “…for me” has grown by a huge 60% over the last two years.

On top of this, they have also seen an 80% increase in mobile searches including “…should I?”. As a result, we really are treating search as one of our best, most trusted friends.

And that’s great news for content marketers.

For those of us working in motor, beauty, finance, fitness and pet care, it seems that this new insight is especially relevant – these are the industries in which users are most frequently turning to Google to solve their personal pain points.

How can we prepare and optimize our content for these types of search?

Tools

Creating calculators and tools is a brilliant way of targeting personal search terms and providing our users with the personalized response they are looking for. Let’s use a fitness example to demonstrate this:

This recent data circulation from Google suggests that users are starting to search for something like, “how much water should I drink each day?” in higher volumes than something like, “how much water should you drink per day?”.

Now, most of us know that the answer to this question will depend on a number of different factors including gender, body composition, activity level and so on.

What our audience is expecting from this search is a personalized answer that takes all of these things into consideration and tells them exactly how much water they should personally be drinking each day.

A water consumption calculator would do this well, and if the user wants the specificity of an individual result, they will be willing to fill in the necessary personal details to retrieve it. A blog post that simply states the average recommended fluid intake for a man or a woman as recommended by the NHS is no longer user focused enough.

Case studies and testimonials

Providing personalized content will not always be easy, and at times users may need encouragement to spend a little longer on a page to find the personalized answer they are looking for. In this instance, case studies and testimonials are a great way to push users further through their journey in the right direction.

For example, “How much money do I need to retire?” is a more complex question than our fitness example. There are so many variants that could alter the accurate and personalized response to this question, so it’s difficult to answer it quickly in a personalized way.

However, if we provide users with a testimonial or case study at the right stage in their journey – one that was created after a lot of persona research and uses someone or a situation that will resonate with them – they are likely to engage with the content.

Creating engagement via a case study will increase the likelihood that they’ll enquire with your brand for a more personalized answer, continuing their journey on their way to the personalized answer they are looking for.

Hygiene content

Informational content (something we refer to here at Zazzle as ‘hygiene content’) is absolutely essential in light of this evolution of search.

It’s critical that all the informational content and resources on your website are up to date, and as specific to the different types of users you’re expecting to visit your site as possible. Not only this, but ensuring that on-page content is optimised for longtail search (tying back to your personas) is a must.

Moreover, having a clear call to action that points the user in the direction of personalized answers to their questions is also important. It isn’t always possible to answer their query in an individualized way using written content, but pointing the user towards a ‘contact us here’ call to action could make all the difference in their user journey, and ultimately, whether they end up with you or your competitor.   

Thought leadership and expert content

Finally, with consumers turning to search like a trusted friend or family member more than ever before, you need to ensure that the content you’re putting out there is seen as being the most reliable. Therefore, it’s never been more important to be viewed as a thought leader within your field.

Expert content will naturally help to strengthen the consumer-brand relationship. It also means that when you are appearing in SERPs, your expert reputation will stand you in good stead when it comes to users choosing which ‘friend’ they want to seek advice from.

We can’t wait to see how the evolution of search changes the way that Google is rewarding and penalizing brands’ content. The above is just a start, but we are certain we will be kept on our toes as time goes on!

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Pinterest Lens one year on: Where is Pinterest’s visual search tool now?

It’s been a year since Pinterest announced the launch of Lens, its new visual search tool. How has it evolved since then?

When Pinterest Lens launched in 2017, it was the latest – and boldest – step in Pinterest’s evolution from a visual social network into a powerful visual search tool.

Pinterest knew that there was great potential to blend its “inspiration”-focused online platform, full of enticing DIY, craft, beauty and recipe ideas, with the offline world to help its users make their ideas into reality. The goal was to offer a camera search that helps you discover online what you come across in the offline world.

The idea seemed ambitious, but Pinterest made it clear at the time that its Lens technology was still developing, encouraging users to help it build a powerful tool:

“Lens is still learning, and doesn’t always recognize exactly what you’re looking for.

Lens will stay in beta as it gets even better at recognizing all the things. And that’s where you come in!

If you get results that feel a little meh, tap the new + button to add feedback and help Lens get better at finding ideas inspired by whatever you just Lensed. As more and more people help teach Lens about more and more objects, soon it will earn its way out of the beta zone.”

A year on from this announcement, how has Pinterest’s visual discovery evolved – and what has the impact of Pinterest’s Lens tool been on the wider industry?

The evolution of Lens

In a news post celebrating the one-year anniversary of Lens, Pinterest revealed some significant stats about the growth of Lens:

  • There are now twice as many Pinterest users who use Lens every day, compared to 6 months ago
  • People carry out more than 600 million visual searches with Lens every month, which marks an increase of 140% year-over-year

According to Pinterest, the more people searched, the better Lens got. Several new developments over the past year have also contributed to Lens’ growth:

  • Lens was moved to the front of Pinterest’s app and they have also created shortcuts to facilitate the fast search
  • Pinterest introduced Pincodes, a QR-code-esque technology, to help users seamlessly switch between Pinterest and the offline world
  • Lens your Look has also been launched to “bring together text and image searches in one query”, and encourage people to use Pinterest for outfit inspiration
  • A partnership with Samsung brought the Lens to the latest smartphones worldwide, while Target activated visual search to their products
  • The visual search technology now understands more than five times as many things as it did a year ago. This means that you can now search for recipes, clothes, and countless objects for your home with increasing accuracy.

What’s next for Lens

Pinterest has announced that their next step includes an enhanced image search that also allows you to include it in your text search. Starting with iOS apps, people will be able to include an image to their text search to make their discoveries easier.

This will help users find exactly what they’re looking for by benefiting from all the elements of a consideration journey. They can start with an object they’ve come across in an actual shop, they use Pinterest’s Lens to discover it and if they are not able to purchase it directly through a pin, they can use the image to include text search and find more details about it.

This feature is also expected to roll out to Android users soon and it aims to make visual search even more useful. It is a clever way to include the benefits of visual and text search to help both the consumers, but also the retailers in strengthening their customer journey between the online and the offline world.

The future of visual search

The growth of Pinterest Lens shows how visual search is steadily gaining traction as a genuine tool and not just a novelty. Pinterest is also not the only player in this space: three months after the launch of Pinterest Lens, Google debuted its own version of the tool, Google Lens.

Soon afterwards, Bing released an update to its visual search capabilities which allowed users to search for a specific object within images – a noticeably Pinterest-like feature. 

Pinterest is clearly blazing a trail in the visual search space which has left the other big players in search scrambling to catch up.

Above, Pinterest’s “search within image” feature, and below, Bing’s strikingly similar capability

Pinterest seems to be aware of its product’s value, and is heading in the right direction to make it profitable.

Pinterest already had a strong business proposition which capitalized on the fact that its users would come to its platform for inspiration on everything from fashion to design, food to furniture. With the introduction of Shoppable Pins, Pinterest was able to monetize this, allowing users to actually buy the components of their new dream house, garden or outfit. 

Now, Pinterest Lens has made that possible in the offline world, too.

Business Insider has foreseen a bright future for mobile visual search technology, releasing a new report which cites “strong evidence that mobile visual search technology will take off in the near future, including growing access to technology, strong usage rates of camera-related apps, and early indication of potential revenue growth”.

By getting into the visual search space early and investing heavily in developing the technology, Pinterest has put itself in an excellent position to be the leader in visual search going forward.

While visual search has yet to truly cross over into the mainstream, the foundations have been laid, and the statistics shared on Lens’ one-year anniversary paint a positive picture for the future.

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Everything you need to know about the Google Chrome ad blocker

Google launches a new version of its Chrome web browser today (February 15), which will include an in-built ad blocker to try and eradicate intrusive ads from the browsing experience.

There are some clear standards and some unanswered questions relating to this new approach, so what exactly do marketers need to know?

Google announced last year that certain ad types would be blocked automatically within Chrome. This seemingly seismic update is due to go live today in the latest upgrade to the world’s most popular web browser.

The integration of an ad blocker within Google Chrome is just a small part of a much bigger movement to improve the quality of online advertising, however.

This has been driven by consumers, who are increasingly frustrated with ads that interrupt and distract them from the content they want to view. As people spend more time on mobile devices and advertisers invest more in video, that tension has only heightened. ads

The survey results in the image above tally with the findings from Google’s own research. Axios revealed recently that Google has found two concerning trends when analyzing user behavior on Chrome:

  1. One-in-five Chrome feedback reports mentions annoying/unwanted ads
  2. There were 5+ billion mutes from people using Google’s “mute this ad” feature in 2017

Of course, this has led to huge growth in the adoption of ad blockers over the last few years. Consumers have found these to be an easy and convenient solution, but this is not a permanent stance.

There is a widespread acceptance that if advertisers can provide some value to consumers, the latter will be much more receptive to the messaging.

ad_blockers

Worryingly for advertisers and publishers, the growth in mobile ad blocker usage has been very notable and that trend has been particularly marked in the Asia-Pacific region over the past 12 months.

Many publishers have implemented “ad block walls”, which do not allow access to their content for users with an ad blocker installed. That approach is only a stop-gap measure and does not strike at the heart of the issue, however.

It is pretty clear which way the wind is blowing, so Google is aiming to take a modicum of control over the prevailing trend rather than ignore it altogether. Third-party ad blockers, after all, might also end up blocking ads from the Google Display Network.

Moreover, Chrome accounts for 62% of the mobile browser market and 59% of desktop, so it certainly has the clout to make a difference.

And yet, there is a fine balance to strike here between permitting the ads that fuel so much of the digital economy, while precluding those that are overly intrusive. Google, of course, has much to lose if it adopts an overzealous approach, but much to gain if it can become the arbiter of the correct standards for digital advertising.

Which ads will be affected?

The standards by which the Chrome ad blocker will operate are based on the guidelines set by the Coalition for Better Ads. Google is on the board that sets these regulations, but so are many other influential bodies, including the Association of National Advertisers, Unilever, and Facebook.

This collective set out to pinpoint the ad experiences that consumers found to be overly negative when browsing. The research (which can be viewed here) revealed certain types of ad that are most typically tied to negative experiences.

The desktop web experiences that will be affected are:

desktop ads

While the mobile ad types that will be affected are:

Of course, these are broad categories and there are levels of sophistication within each. Google has added the stipulation that publishers have a 7.5% non-compliance threshold before their ads are blocked.

There is also an element of common sense to be applied here. We have all been subjected to the kinds of ads that this initiative targets, whether they are full-screen auto-play videos or pop-up ads that feel impossible to close.

How will Google enforce this?

Significantly, Google estimates that just 1% of publishers will be affected in the short-term by the new ad blocker. It would be fair to say that the approach to cutting out sub-par ads has more in common with a scalpel than an axe. After all, Google knows better than anyone that advertising supports the vast majority of what we see online.

Wes MacLaggan, SVP of Marketing at Marin Software, commented to Search Engine Watch that:

These new standards are meant to create a better user experience for consumers, and ultimately encourage fewer ad blocking installations. In the short term, we’ll see some ad formats and advertisers shut off. These advertisers and publishers will need to invest in more quality ads, while publishers will no longer be able to rely on monetizing with intrusive formats.

Google will also alert sites that are at the “warning” or “failing” level on its scale, to provide an opportunity to clean up their ads. The search giant reports that 37% of sites that were initially in violation of their standards have since made changes to improve the quality of their ads.

Websites that violate the new standards will be given 30 days to remove the offending ads from their sites or Google will block their ads.

Chrome Ad Blocker

How will this affect advertisers and publishers?

It is a sign of how much the industry has changed that this is not quite the doomsday scenario it would have been for many just a few years ago.

The business model that drives so many publishers has been under threat for some time now. The move to a digital-first publishing world could only really be supported by a revenue model based on digital advertising, but unfortunately it has proved highly challenging to square this with the consumer’s best interests.

The ultimate aim for Google, via Chrome, is both ambitious and idealistic: to work with publishers and advertisers to create a customer-centric browsing experience. There are some clear statements on this from the Coalition for Better Ads, including the following:

The Coalition encourages advertisers, publishers, and advertising technology providers to review its research and the initial Better Ads Standards, as part of their efforts in the marketplace to improve the online ad experience.

  • Advertisers can use the initial Better Ads Standards to inform campaign development and execution
  • Publishers can use the initial Better Ads Standards to develop improved experiences for their audiences
  • Ad technology platforms can use the initial Better Ads Standards in the development process for new ad experiences
  • Providers of measurement technologies can use the initial Better Ads Standards to develop new ways to assess marketplace prevalence of the ad experiences preferred by consumers

Wes McLaggan of Marin Software has some further advice for advertisers as they take stock of how this update may affect them:

High quality, relevant ads are always going to perform better than those shouting to get a user’s attention. Marketers should leverage all targeting options to put the right ad in front of the right person. Ads should also reflect the user’s frame of mind when they are on that platform. There isn’t a one-size fits all approach for in-stream video on Facebook, Instagram Stories and display ads on a website. In short, digital advertisers should let user engagement, relevance, and ad quality be their guide.

Although an in-built ad blocker that initially affects 1% of publishers will not drive a fundamental shift in digital consumer-advertiser relationships on its own, it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

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How the LinkedIn Algorithm Works (And How to Make it Work for You)

When you log in at LinkedIn.com or use the LinkedIn app, you’re immediately taken to your homepage feed. This page acts very much like the Facebook feed, where you see updates from your friends or Pages you follow.

You’ll notice, however, that your LinkedIn feed doesn’t show everything your network is posting by default. That’s because it’s only showing content it believes is relevant to you.

Note: users can switch the posts they want to see based on “recent” activity (but this has to be done manually).

Screenshot of how to switch your LinkedIn feed settings to "recent" instead of "top"

So, how can you, as a social media marketer, ensure your content appears in as many feeds as possible?

How the LinkedIn algorithm works

LinkedIn’s algorithm is designed to make homepage feeds more enticing and user-friendly. The social network has published a lot of articles on the updates and improvements they continue to make to the algorithm, including:

Note: there are other LinkedIn algorithms that may affect things like search, or spam messages in your inbox. But those are not what we’re talking about here. We are specifically focusing on the algorithm that organizes the homepage feed.

To begin with, your LinkedIn feed has a spam filter, which determines:

  • Whether your content shows up in the feed (it’s rare it will be taken down, though)
  • How far of an audience it reaches within LinkedIn (the most important part)
  • Whether to take you down as a spam user (also rare)

Below is a diagram showing how the LinkedIn algorithm works on the feed, and the four stages of the content review process:

Diagram of LinkedIn spam fighting strategy

Keep in mind these stages are not completely sequential or divided. Multiple factors affect how far a post spreads throughout the network, and these algorithmic decisions happen over time, sometimes moving the post backwards and forwards in the process.

Stage 1: Content is posted and passes an initial, computerized filter

Every time you post an update to LinkedIn (even if it’s an image), a bot immediately places the content into one of three categories:

  • “Spam”’
  • “Low-quality”
  • “Clear”

You want to be in the “clear” category. But if for some reason your content gets placed the “low-quality” category, you may still have hope, and could still move on to the next stages.

Stage 2: Content is left on the feed temporarily to measure engagement

At this stage, indicators of initial engagement from your audience (such as likes, comments and shares) will signal that your content is good enough to pass to stage 3 of the algorithm’s spam filter.

However, if users flag your post as spam, or hide it from their feeds because they don’t want to see it, LinkedIn’s algorithm will draw more negative conclusions.

To avoid having users “hide” your content from their feeds, consider the following:

  • Is my post annoying or offensive?
  • Am I over-posting?
  • Would people in my network care about this post?
  • Is my post so unique and insightful, people would want to share with others?
  • Is my post relevant to others’ professional lives?

When determining your answers to the above, you may want to re-think your post, or tone it down a bit. We’ll give more tips on hacking the LinkedIn algorithm below.

Stage 3: Content passes a computerized “virality” check

After users engage with your content to signal its quality score, the algorithm looks for clues as to the quality of the poster and the poster’s network to determine if the content is spam or not.

This is because a spammer could technically have posted garbage and gotten hundreds of other spam accounts to like and comment on the post within an hour, still successfully making it to stage 3.

Besides checking your credibility, the algorithm may also be determining the relevance and usefulness of the post to the network (i.e., the connections and followers receiving the post in their feeds) at stage 3.

As such, this stage is also when the algorithm decides whether to “demote” your content, sending it backwards in the queue for another chance at winning credibility. If your post looks “suspicious,” but the algorithm doesn’t want to make a definitive call on it (giving you the benefit of the doubt), it will remain in the feed but not show very highly or very frequently. At this point, it’s up to your audience to give your content the engagement metrics mentioned in stage 2. If it gets more engagement, it moves back to stage 3.

PRO TIP: This is why posting at the right time, plus optimizing your headlines and images for click-through-rate (CTR) are important. See below for more on this.

Stage 4: Content is reviewed by human editors

Part of the LinkedIn algorithm’s uniqueness is that it uses real humans to filter through user-generated content, and to learn more about what makes a post noteworthy (or not).

This is the stage where those humans determine whether your post is valuable enough to continue displaying in the LinkedIn feed. If your post continues to get engagement, the cycle continues, and it keeps getting shown.

There’s a lot of speculation that, at this stage, if your content is amazing, it may get a boost and reach more people. It might even show up on a LinkedIn Channel (see below for more on this).

Take a look at the sample post below. At the time of the screenshot, it was two weeks old. But, it had plenty of likes and comments (i.e., LinkedIn engagement signals). It was also liked by someone in my own network, and was relevant to content in my personal profile (such as marketing). You can’t see it in the screenshot below, but this post was ranked above another that was up for less than a day!

As a result, the post kept showing up in my newsfeed, exemplifying the recirculation power of the LinkedIn algorithm:

Screenshot of a LinkedIn post that is two weeks old but still showing up in news feed

Note: Pulse is now integrated into your homepage feed. But Pulse articles from the LinkedIn Publisher tool work a little differently when being shown to your audience, or on Pulse Channels.

8+ tips on how to “beat” the LinkedIn algorithm

Now the fun part: learning how to make the algorithm work in your favor (a.k.a. getting your posts seen by as many people as possible).

1. Understand the type of content that LinkedIn craves

LinkedIn sources are fairly clear on what they want the focus of their platform to be: the professional world.

Instead of animated GIFs, Ellen videos and “texts-from-my-mom” screenshots, the LinkedIn algorithm aims to show users news, job posts and timely, popular content related to your career (or those of peers you’re connected to). This kind of content can be images, videos, LinkedIn article posts, external webpage links or text updates.

Any content you post should:

  • Be of value to someone’s career (whether as a business owner or employee)
  • Offer a tip related to business growth, or a career
  • Inspire someone in their work life
  • Be relevant to the industry in which you operate in
  • Come from a credible source

For examples, take a look at the types of content LinkedIn promises to deliver in its Pulse app.

Also, remember that part of the LinkedIn algorithm is designed to find a factor of relevance to the audience a post is being shared with.

How does LinkedIn determine relevance? By looking at people’s profiles. And user profiles are all about their careers and businesses.

Take a look below at some of the posts that LinkedIn thought I’d be interested to see on my homepage feed.

An inspirational leadership quote (22 likes in 15 hours):

Example post of a leadership quote on LinkedIn feed

An article from the BBC (a credible source), trending in an industry I work in (1,078 likes and 18 comments):

LinkedIn trending story from BBC in home feed

A blog post written on LinkedIn by one of my connections. It only had 1 like in 7 hours, but notice the hashtag usage. Can you guess what stage in the algorithm this post was likely in, at the time of the screenshot? Hint: it’s possible it was stage 1 or 2!

LinkedIn feed showing a post with little engagement but lots of hashtags

An article by a LinkedIn Influencer that someone in my network had commented on. It had 60,715 likes and 1,846 comments in seven days (LinkedIn influencers pre-pass stage four in the LinkedIn algorithm, but other posts that get this far would surely have passed the human editor check).

LinkedIn post published by Bill Gates with lots of comments

You get the idea.

2. Build your audience (personal or business) strategically

We know that relevance, credibility, followers and connections play a big part in the LinkedIn algorithm. So, it goes without saying you should be growing your personal or business audience (or both) on LinkedIn.

Whether you run a personal profile or a Company Page on LinkedIn, be sure to:

  • Fill out your personal profile and Company Page as completely as you can, and keep them updated.
  • Add connections (people you know, or think would be interesting to see updates from).
  • Encourage employees to indicate they work at your company.
  • Follow others and attract followers (these are different than connections on LinkedIn).
  • Participate in LinkedIn Groups, or host your own.
  • Give and receive recommendations.
  • Make sure your profile is public, so more people can find you, add you and see your posts (especially Publisher or Pulse posts, explained below).
  • Join conversations and be active on the network, generally.
  • Promote your LinkedIn profiles and Company pages on your website and in other appropriate spaces (e.g., employee bios, business cards and brochures, email newsletters, email signatures, etc.). Setting up customized URLs is useful for this.

Here are some resources to help you get started on the above:

3. Strive to be an Influencer

LinkedIn’s Official Blog made a clear statement in 2016 that feeds would intentionally contain Influencer content.

Influencers are credible users (usually company leaders) writing content approved by LinkedIn editors. They automatically pass the “no spam” test as a result.

LinkedIn Influencer content shows up on the LinkedIn feed with a special icon next to the poster’s name. It’s akin to a verification badge on a platform like Twitter.

Post by Ryan Holmes highlighting LinkedIn Influencer icon

So, how do you become a LinkedIn Influencer?

It used to be that you could apply to be one. Nowadays, it’s a select club of invite-only users.

But that doesn’t mean you should give up hope.

LinkedIn gives advice on how to get yourself to the top echelons of LinkedIn content creators. Follow their lead (and our tips in this article), to start producing amazing content they’ll notice.

4. Optimize your content for engagement

Content you post on LinkedIn should be optimized for engagement and quality. Below are LinkedIn’s actionable tips for producing the best content for its network.

  • Include puns or fun jokes to make professionals laugh—usually at their industry.
  • Provide useful, career-related tips.
  • Show impressive industry or company stats.
  • Keep it short and include a link, image, or video.
  • Evoke an emotion.

Next, check out these tips on our blog:

How do know if your content is performing well, even when using the tips above? Look to the data:

Remember, when you do get those hard numbers, it’s important to learn something from them. Keep revising and experimenting until you figure out what works best for your audience (and in your industry) on LinkedIn.

5. Post to the LinkedIn feed at the right time

If you’re posting at 2 a.m., when most of your network is asleep (time-zone nuances aside), your post can be up for hours before receiving likes or comments, no matter how good it is.

This is why posting to the LinkedIn feed at the right time is important.

But when is that time? A popular hypothesis is “working hours,” because LinkedIn is a professional network, and most people work 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

However, some suggest that posting when workaholics are likely to take a break and visit LinkedIn is better.

The LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions EMEA Blog says the best time to post is 8 p.m., but that you need to find your own “8 p.m. moment.” That’s when decision-making is supposedly done, even if it’s at home.

According to yet another LinkedIn article, the best time to post is going to depend on tests you perform. This is because location, time zones and people’s daily habits affect when they’re on LinkedIn—and that differs in any given audience segment.

In fact, 50% of LinkedIn users check their accounts through mobile devices, implying you have as much of a chance of reaching people after hours as you do during the workday.
6. Share other users’ posts, and they’ll probably share yours

Remember that LinkedIn is primarily a social network, so it helps to be social!

Be kind to others by sharing their posts, or embedding their videos on your site. You’d be surprised at how many will like your share, comment to say thanks, or reshare your posts to give you credit on their network. These actions increase your profile reach.

Plus, if you’re striving to be a LinkedIn Influencer, making friends on LinkedIn is a good idea.

6. Share other users’ posts, and they’ll probably share yours

Remember that LinkedIn is primarily a social network, so it helps to be social!

Be kind to others by sharing their posts, or embedding their videos on your site. You’d be surprised at how many will like your share, comment to say thanks, or reshare your posts to give you credit on their network. These actions increase your profile reach.

Plus, if you’re striving to be a LinkedIn Influencer, making friends on LinkedIn is a good idea.

7. Use the LinkedIn Publisher tool

There’s no doubt that LinkedIn is pushing posts that originate from their Publisher tool (which end up on LinkedIn Pulse, now integrated with the homepage feed).

The Publisher tool on LinkedIn is like a blogging platform—it’s made for users to publish as individual authors (not hiding behind a company name). You or your employees can write blog posts through Publisher and share them to your network(s).

The Publisher tool on LinkedIn is like a blogging platform—it’s made for users to publish as individual authors (not hiding behind a company name). You or your employees can write blog posts through Publisher and share them to your network(s).

LinkedIn’s Corporate Publishing Playbook recommends you use your employees’ expertise as your brand “assets” in this regard (see slide 6 on this Slideshare presentation).

The Editor-in-Chief at LinkedIn explains that Publisher posts show up in the feed for your connections and followers based on time. So, be sure to follow our engagement tips above, to keep the post circling through the LinkedIn algorithm.

However, Publisher posts get even more exposure outside the homepage feed on LinkedIn. They are shown on:

  • Your profile
  • Highlights emails to your connections and followers (if they are signed up for them)
  • Notifications (sometimes, if they’re relevant), including on the LinkedIn Pulse app (now integrated with the feed)
  • Channels

Note: Channels are curated categories of Publisher posts found within LinkedIn Pulse. If your content is good, it could be placed in these featured areas for more eyes to see.

8. Promote your LinkedIn Publisher articles

Below are some tips to get your LinkedIn articles in front of people, benefiting your rank in the LinkedIn algorithm.

@mention other LinkedIn members

When you write a Publisher post, be sure to actively share it, and use the @mention feature to tag relevant LinkedIn members. This will notify other users, and their networks, when your content is applicable to them (you don’t need to be officially connected to do this).

For example, you can @mention someone you quoted in your article, or whom you linked to. They’ll likely be flattered may even reshare it to their audience.

Or, you can @mention personal connections you feel would benefit from the article (but never spam a bunch of random users for exposure!).

Use hashtags

Hashtags will make your post discoverable by other users who are looking for information on that topic (when using LinkedIn’s search bar). They might then share it with their networks, increasing your exposure.

Use common SEO and content marketing tactics

Search engines, at one point or another, need to rely on factors like keywords to determine what a URL is about. And, good internet marketers know the value of a strong headline and image.

With that in mind, freshen up your SEO and content marketing skills before posting to LinkedIn. Here are some resources to get you started:

Ask for a follow

This may sound somewhat forward, but hear me out. Since people can now follow, and not just connect with you on LinkedIn, there’s no harm in asking for the follow when you publish a striking article.

When you share your post, try adding a short sentence—with a clear benefit—like, “follow me for more on this topic next week!”
The more followers you have, the more people are likely to see your future posts in their homepage feed. Your content will have more potential to get those engagement signals we now know are so crucial to the LinkedIn algorithm.

Share on outside social media

Use the tools LinkedIn gives you to share on Twitter. Plus, use a platform like Hootsuite to syndicate your article to multiple social media profiles, giving it an extra traffic boost.

Share to LinkedIn Groups

If you’re part of LinkedIn Groups (and you should be), use the opportunity to post your Publisher articles to those groups when it contains useful content for group members. The benefit here is that you’ll show the article to group members who may not be your 1st degree connections or followers. If it’s useful, they’ll hopefully share it to their networks or become a follower.

For example, you can use your articles to answer someone’s question, or use group member questions to inspire your content. You can also start a post on the group page, inducing a conversation about your enticing, topical and relevant article.

Try sponsored content

While you could use paid advertisements to help share your LinkedIn Publisher posts, you may get better conversions by leading ad-clicks to your website blogs, with specialized calls-to-action (CTAs). See our section below on repurposing your website content on LinkedIn.

Plus, follow our guide to LinkedIn Ads for more on this topic:

A Guide to LinkedIn Ads: How to Run a Successful Campaign

Keep in mind that the guidelines for sharing any LinkedIn content still apply to sponsored posts. See this ad from SharpSpring, and notice it stays within the realm of being useful, professional, and targeted for a LinkedIn audience:

Example of a promoted post from Sharp Spring

Users can treat ads like any other piece of content, to further personalize their feed:

Example of a promoted post from Sharp Spring with LinkedIn user options

Paying to promote spammy or irrelevant content won’t help you. Always keep your audience in mind when sharing content on LinkedIn.

The LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog published a post that emphasizes the importance of audience targeting when setting up ad campaigns on its network.

Allow comments on your articles, and reply to them

While you may fear spam and negative trolling, keep in mind comments are an engagement signal for the LinkedIn algorithm. That makes them necessary to keep your content in the LinkedIn feed.

Keep your audience engaged and let them know you’re listening. When appropriate, respond to comments to keep those engagement signals going.

Use LinkedIn analytics

Like we mentioned above, always use data and analytics to continually improve your content and its reach. Test the headline, photo, teaser text, share text, and even the time you shared a post. LinkedIn provides analytics to its users for this purpose.

Hootsuite also offers a tool to help you gauge the effectiveness of your team’s social media efforts.

Repurpose content from your website’s blog, within reason

We know what you’re thinking when repurposing content: what about SEO? That’s a very good question. Traditionally, SEOs will say you should avoid duplicate content on your website, which can cause ranking dilutions in the search engines.

However, you can be safe from duplicate content issues when posting through LinkedIn Publisher in two ways:

  1. A reliance on search engines to understand the original source of content, and the intended reuse on other domains.
  2. A nifty HTML linking trick SEOs use, called the Canonical rel link.

This process is explained more fully, with examples, in the following article I’ve written to answer this question:

Should you re-publish your blog articles on high quality websites?

So rest easy. You don’t need to create separate posts for your website and your LinkedIn profile. You can tactfully repurpose the same posts, but only if they’re worth the effort.

Don’t overuse this strategy though—you still want to attract people to your website for original content!

Key takeaways

What have we learned about how the LinkedIn algorithm works?

  • Engagement is critical to the LinkedIn algorithm.
  • Engagement is dependent on relevancy, the reach of your network, the times they are checking LinkedIn and your credibility within that audience.
  • Using the LinkedIn Publisher platform is a good idea. Sometimes, you can republish posts from your blog, but not always, and only when you know what you’re doing.
  • Reciprocity wins on any social media, including LinkedIn.
  • Use analytics and experiments to refine your LinkedIn posting strategy, further improving your algorithm hacks.

With that said, start experimenting with posts on LinkedIn, and start spending time on the LinkedIn feed, to get acquainted with the audience you’ll be interacting with. Get to know their likes and habits, and be known as a producer of engaging content yourself!

Schedule posts and manage your brand’s LinkedIn presence with Hootsuite. Try it free today.

Get Started

 

 

8 tips for boosting the speed of your WordPress site

Chances are you’d not have waited for this page to load had it taken a second or two longer.

That’s the truth – users expect web pages to load pretty much as soon as they click on a hyperlink.

Slow loading web pages can become the leading cause of high bounce rates, low user engagement, lost traffic opportunities, and abandoned sales journeys. Here are some numbers to put things in perspective.

What’s more, ecommerce websites associate fast loading with increased revenue, and the reverse is also true.

The calling is clear: your websites need to load super quickly to sustain and nurture audience attention, avoid high bounce rate, and prevent abandoned sales.

If you have a WordPress site, there are a number of easy and effective methods you can begin using today that will significantly increase your site’s loading speed.

Use grids and floats instead of nested tables

It’s surprising how many websites still continue to use nested tables, in spite of the negative impact they have on page loading speeds. Here’s what a nested table code looks like:

<table>
<table>
………
</table>
</table>

Such coding adds additional burden on the browser, delaying complete loading of the content. Instead, use non-nested table structure as follows:

<table>...</table>
<table>...</table>

More importantly, use floats and grids to enhance loading speed. Here is a basic float example:

<h1>Basic float example</h1>
<img src="https://www.examplesite.com/files/image.jpg" alt="image anchor text">
<p> Sample text </p>
<p> Sample text </p>

Reduce the number of HTTP requests

A web page consists of several components – stylesheets, Flash components, images, scripts, and more. To deliver content rich experiences, you need to opt for entire PageSpeed Insights Optimization process.

More the number of elements per page, more the number of HTTP requests made for each of these, resulting in longer page loading time durations, which could hurt your conversions. Yahoo estimates that almost 80% of page loading time is accounted for the time spent in downloading the different elements of the page.

Use the HTTP requests checker tool to find out how many requests your page makes.

Luckily, you can reduce HTTP requests without ruining your web design. Here’s how:

  • Combine files: Use scripts and external style sheets (but don’t have more than one script and CSS file each.
  • Image maps: Use contiguous images instead of several image blocks, to reduce the number of HTTP requests.
  • CSS Sprites: Combine multiple images to a sprite, and call the sprite instead of each image. When the sprite contains images from internal pages also, the internal page load times improve, because the content is already downloaded before the user reaches there.
  • Make smaller Javascript blocks inline.
  • Convert images to Base64 coding using an encoder; because it transforms an image into code, the HTTP request is prevented.

Break comments into pages

Your most popular content posts could also be the ones loading the slowest, because of the hundreds of comments on the page. You can’t block comments, because they are conversation starters and link builders for you.

How do you manage, then? WordPress offers a very smart solution – break the comment stream into pages.

In the Dashboard, go to Settings. Under the section Other comment settings, you can tweak the settings for how many comments appear on a page, and which page is displayed beneath the article.

Upgrade to the latest PHP version

Upgrading your website every time a new PHP version is launched can be a bit of a headache. But it’s worth your time and effort. The same scripts could run almost 25-30% faster on newer PHP versions; imagine the kind of website loading time improvements it can bring for you.

PHPClasses published an extensive experimental study, which highlighted that scripts ran significantly faster on PHP 7.1 as compared to previous versions.

Gzip compression

If you use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool for a quick analysis of your web pages, it’s likely you will find advice to use Gzip compression. This compression enables web servers to compress heavy website content elements.

The compression is so effective that it could reduce your page size to 30-40% of its initial size. Dolloped speeds, because of this, could increase to three or four times their previous speed.

For many webmasters, installing a Gzip compression plugin continues to be the best option. W3 Total Cache plugin, apart from all its amazing features, also offers HTTP compression.

Other options are:

  • Ask your web host if it offers Gzip compression.
  • Manually enable Gzip compression via .htaccess (this guide by Kinsta explains how to do so)

Don’t let ad scripts and pop-ups spoil user experience

Chances are you run at least some form of pop-up to optimize conversions. As beneficial as these might be for your website’s monetization strategies, they may also be causing significant damage in terms of higher page loading times.

To take control and strike the perfect balance, you need to know the third-party scripts running on your website, their source, and their impact.

I recommend Pingdom’s Website Speed Test for a thorough analysis of each file and script from a webpage. The tool will tell you which script takes the most time to load.

Gauge the effectiveness of your pop-ups; do away with non-performing pop-up plugins, as they’re only slowing down your page. OptinMonster is one of the most reliable pop-up plugins, helping you optimize conversions without killing speed.

Install a caching plugin

Caching plugins can be a blessing for your website; these plugins create static copies of your webpage content, and instead of making to and fro queries to the database, use the static versions to immediately showcase the web content to users. Since you ordinarily won’t update your web pages daily, caching proves to be very useful for almost all web pages, always.

Among the many caching plugins you can use, WOT Cache Plugin enjoys a lot of trust and popularity. Among its many features are:

  • Combines CSS and Javascript files
  • Leverages the power of page caching and browser caching
  • Utilizes lazy load to massively improve the page load time
  • Helps with database optimization and removes query strings from CSS/Javascript files
  • Saves a lot of bandwidth by reducing the file size of the webpages.

Bonus tip: Seek help from your web hosting service provider

It makes sense to move to a dedicated hosting plan, so that your website gets all the resources it needs to load in a jiffy, always. Ask your web host as to what help it can provide you to improve your website speed.

Most web hosts are willing to offer their technical expertise to help you pluck the low hanging fruits in terms of your website’s speed issues. This, in turn, benefits them, as the load on their servers reduces.

Particularly, ask for their advice on optimizing mobile website speed, because the impact of slow loading is much severe on mobile devices.

Concluding remarks

Every few milliseconds of improvement in your web page’s loading speed could bring tens of percentage point of improvements in its traffic and conversion rates.

Start with these easy and practical tips, most of which will result in almost immediate improvements in page loading speed for your website.

Related reading

SPI 305: The Funnel After the Funnel with Nicole Walters

Today’s special guest is Nicole Walters of NicoleWalters.tv, who’s talking about the funnel after the funnel, what that is, and why it’s so critical to her mindset and success. We’ll also be talking about how she quit her job . . . in front of a live audience! Since then, she’s built a seven-figure business while being an amazing mother too. She’s here to talk about all that and more, today on The Smart Passive Income Podcast.

There are things that we purposefully focus on that help us grow and scale our businesses. For Nicole it’s her incredible community. We’d spoken at an event together—Business Boutique with Christy Wright, in Nashville—and after the event I swear we didn’t go ten feet without someone stopping Nicole to ask for a selfie or an autograph.

The value Nicole provides for her community is incredible and her journey is inspiring. From a high-level corporate career, to the world of online business and a buzzing community, her story is unique, and what she’s built because of those experiences is truly special. She’s learned some essential lessons, strategies, and techniques along the way, and she’s here today to share all of that with you!

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 Nicole Walters for joining me this week. Until next time!

15 Apps and Tools for Social Marketers on the Go

Imagine every time you needed to make a phone call you only had a landline. It’s a feverish thought—but that’s the marketer’s equivalent of not having the right apps and tools on their mobile device.

The right combination of apps will make your life a lot easier and won’t force you to be tethered to your desk. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite mobile tools for doing social on the go. If you’re looking for a list of the best social media apps, we’ve got you covered on that front too.

1. Hootsuite Mobile

Best for: Managing social networks

Hootsuite Mobile gives you the flexibility to manage your social projects and collaborate with your team while on the go.

Whether you need to make a last-minute edit to a social post or monitor customer conversations away from your desk, Hootsuite Mobile can help. Schedule content, publish posts to all major social networks, connect with customers, and approve posts from your team–all from a single app.

2. Evernote

Best for: Note sharing, tagging projects

Evernote is a simple and intuitive note-taking app. If you’re drafting copy for social posts, writing notes for an upcoming campaign, or adding a team workback schedule—you’ll want to use Evernote.

Evernote has some other handy features that allow you to share documents, tag projects by date or campaign type, and add links to other documents like decks or calendars. It’s great for personal use and team sharing, which makes it an ideal app for marketers.

3. Hootsuite Enhance

Best for: Image editing and effects

Hootsuite Enhance is a photo editing app for iOS that allows you to edit and share photos on social. You can resize, crop, add filters or text to create the perfect visual.

Enhance also takes the guesswork out of image sizing, with templates that meet the spec requirements for each social network.

When your images are ready, share them directly from Enhance across your social networks, or schedule them for publishing later through Hootsuite.

4. Canva

Best for: Image editing and design templates

Canva has a photo editing app for iOS that allows you to edit photos, add text, stickers, frames and effects to your social media photos. Canva benefits from a huge collection of free and paid photos so you can find images quickly depending on theme or style.

Canva also offers pre-designed templates so if you’re in a rush, you don’t have to worry about choosing fonts or designs for image overlay. You can share photos directly to social or through a social media management tool.

5. TouchRetouch

Best for: Basic photo retouching

TouchRetouch is a retouching tool that allows you to remove unwanted content from your photos. It’s quick and easy to use (you don’t have be a professional!), allowing you to take out anything from power lines to stop lights in just a few taps.

If you post a lot of branded content on Instagram, this may become your go-to app, allowing you to turn any photo into an Instagram-ready post.

6. Adobe Premiere Clip

Best for: Editing social videos

Adobe Premiere Clip is a video editing app that allows you to create, edit, and share social videos. You can easily edit clips, add titles, transitions, slow motion effects, and audio to create high-quality social video on the go.

With Adobe Premiere Clip you can sync your videos across all your devices and upload content directly to social. The app has more simplified features than the desktop version, but you have the option to send it to Premiere Pro on your desktop to make changes or do final touchups before posting.

7. Quik

Best for: Editing live-action or GoPro videos

If you take a lot of live action videos for your brand, then Quik for mobile is a great video editing tool. Created by GoPro, it allows you to quickly and easily edit your GoPro videos (or other photos and videos) from a phone or other device.

Quik also has a unique audio feature. You can choose from almost 100 free songs (or upload a song of your own) and Quik will automatically sync your transitions to the beat of the music.

8. Clips

Best for: Editing short social videos

Created by Apple, Clips is a handy tool for creating and editing square video. It’s best for capturing short videos on your iPhone and doing basic edits before uploading to social media.

Once you’ve recorded a video, you can easily add text, effects ,and graphics. The Live Titles feature allows you to you add animated captions and titles simply by talking.

All videos in Clips are synced with the iCloud, so you can edit your videos across all your devices.

9. Slack

Best for: Team communication

Messaging app Slack is super useful for cross-team collaboration. If you’re working on a social campaign and need to share documents, get feedback, or come to a group decision quickly, you should use Slack.

Slack has lots of useful features that allow you to set up working groups, tag campaigns, and search for old projects or campaigns in your conversation archives.

10. Asana

Best for: Team collaboration and productivity

When you’re working on a social campaign with multiple team members, it’s important to assign roles and responsibilities to make sure projects get done. The Asana app lets you organize and track your team projects from start to finish.

With the Asana app you can create tasks, add documents and due dates, assign roles, and have conversations around the project. Asana works best if your team uses the G suite.

11. Trello

Best for: Personal to-dos and project management

Trello is a useful app that will help you cross off items on to-do list while monitoring the tasks and workflow of your team.

If you’re someone that prefers to see your work laid out visually, then Trello’s boards are a good option. You can create boards according to different projects and teams, and arrange the subtasks in a way that’s most useful for you.

Trello also has the option for you to build out an advanced editorial calendar, which is super useful for social marketing teams.

12. Narro

Best for: Listening to articles

Narro is a text to speech podcast app that will take your bookmarked articles and read them back to you. You can subscribe to your Narro readings like a podcast, so you can listen to your articles from any podcast player.

If you’ve got a long commute, a crazy day at the office, or need something to listen to at the gym, this is a great option to catch up on your favourite readings.

Narro can detect over 10 different languages and allows you to choose from a variety of voices.

13. Facebook Pages Manager

Best for: Managing multiple Facebook Pages

If you manage several branded Facebook Pages, the Pages Manager app will help you respond to customers faster. You can also connect your Instagram account to manage Facebook and Instagram comments or messages from one inbox.

If you need to check in on the performance of a post, Page Insights is also available through the app.

14. Google Drive

Best for: File storage and collaboration

The Google Drive app is a safe place for your files and makes them easily accessible from a mobile device. If you need to catch up on some work or review shared documents on the go, Google Drive will sync any changes across your devices.

Similar to the desktop tool, you can create and share docs, slides, and sheets, set viewing and sharing permissions, and update documents.

15. Dropbox

Best for: File storage and sharing

The Dropbox app is an easy way for you to share and collaborate on Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents from the cloud.

Dropbox also allows you to share large files with other people who don’t have Dropbox, which can be really handy for project-sharing with external clients. You can also set up shared folders, set permissions, and collaborate on projects.
Choose the right apps for you

There are lots of apps out that will make your life easier. The trick is to choose the ones that work best depending on your role and working style. That’s how you will cut down time and get tasks done more efficiently.

Increase your productivity with the Hootsuite mobile app. The easy-to-use social media app allows you to schedule, publish, and monitor conversations from anywhere.

Get Started

A beginner’s guide to display advertising

If you are a business looking to dive into display advertising, it can be overwhelming.

In an increasingly digital world, where everybody’s eyes are glued to a screen, most advertising can seem like white noise. So you want to make sure you’re designing and promoting worthwhile ads in a proper venue.

Here we’ll go over some simple best practices for creating a display ad: how to decide where to advertise, and what type of advertising you want to pursue. You can reach out to websites directly and do the dirty work yourself, or you can also utilize a marketing network to manage your marketing.

Lastly, you want to make sure that you are spending your dollars wisely, so you’ll need to measure the impact of your campaign.

What are the main types of display advertising?

Display advertising is a bit of a blanket term because it covers just about any visual advertisement on a website. However, this broad category can be divided up into a few main types:

  • Site placement advertising: This is when a marketer/advertiser chooses the site they would like to advertise on.
  • Contextual advertising: This is when you advertise your product or service on a website with similar content. IE- promoting wedding dresses on a honeymoon destination website.
  • Remarketing advertising: These ads appear when a user has already been to your website. A service uses cookies to track the visit, and then your ad would appear on another website they visit, and ideally this causes the user to return to your website. This would be done through a marketing network like Google Display Network (more on that later).

Display ad standards

When it comes to digital advertising, there are standards that both advertisers and publishers must adhere to.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is an organization that provides insight on industry standards for digital media. In its display ad guidelines, the IAB states that display ads should be “distinguishable from normal web page content and the ad unit must have clearly defined borders and not confused with normal web content”.

They also recommend flexible ad sizing, meaning the ad units are defined by aspect ratios that can adjust based on the screen size the user is viewing. In their guide to ad sizes, Google lists top performing ad sizes as 300×350 (medium rectangle), 336×280 (large rectangle), 728×90 (leaderboard), 300×600 (half page), and 320×100 (large mobile banner).

Display ad creation best practices

When working on design it is important to create ads that are unique and clearly identify your goal, here are some simple practices for creation.

Make sure you are relevant

Ads need to be relevant to your audience as well as your main objective. You want to entice a viewer, not annoy them.

If you are using contextual display advertising, your ad is already on a website with similar content to your product. When a user clicks on your ad, it’s important that it leads to a corresponding landing page, not just your main website.

For instance, if the viewer clicks on a banner ad for a Valentine’s Day sale, you should have this link to a stand-alone landing page that focuses on that topic, not your main ecommerce site.

Keep mobile in mind

Display ads were originally geared towards a desktop user, and mobile users were considered second. However tides have turned and that has flipped around.

According to recent eMarketer research 70.5% of all display ads in the US are mobile. Meaning depending on the audience you are trying to target, you may want to create ads with mobile-viewing in mind first.

Compelling, concise, clear design

Google Marketing advises to use the “3 C’s” when it comes to creating display ads: compelling, concise, clear. You want your ad to stand out by using eye-catching design, with a clear call to action button (CTA).

Use high resolution images. Display ads can be very compact, so your pitch and CTA need to be brief. Lastly, your marketing goal needs to be clear, only advertise one message- sign up now, check out our holiday sale, etc. You want to avoid overloading your viewer.

How to start display ad marketing 

With site placement advertising you can directly approach a website or publisher on your own. This could work for a small local business that knows its market.

For instance, if you are an event planning company, you could approach your local chamber of commerce about advertising on their website. However, depending on your digital marketing goals, it might be better to work with a third-party service.

Here are three popular options:

Google Display Network

This is the display ad arm of Google AdWords. Google Display Network offers over 2 million websites that your ad can appear on. It also promotes ads across other platforms like apps and mobile-based programs.

They use contextual and remarketing advertising to target your audience. Their guidelines can be somewhat strict to adhere to, but this is one of the largest audiences you will be able to reach, all with the backing of Google. AdWords also offers deep analysis of your campaign’s performance.

Facebook Audience Network

With over 1 billion users worldwide, Facebook offers a  huge audience for digital marketing. Their ads not only appear on Facebook, but other high traffic apps and sites. If you are already using Facebook advertising for your business page, transitioning to using the audience network is fairly simple, their advertising guidelines are the same.

Media.net

This allows you to display ads on the Yahoo! Bing Network, which may not be as large as it once was (or as Google’s), but they claim that they reach 46 million unique searchers who aren’t using Google.

Measure your results

However you chose to display advertise, you need to track your ad performance. What is your marketing goal, and is your digital campaign getting you there?

Hubspot recommends tracking the following KPIs:

  • New site visitors: How many new visits after launching the campaign
  • Engagement: Time spent on your site, page views, bounce rate
  • Number of conversions

If you are individually managing your display advertising, you can request this info from your publishing website, or track where traffic is coming from on your landing pages.

If you are using a service like Google Display Network you can download analytic reports and use their tools to monitor conversion tracking.

Is it worth it?

Display advertising can help you reach a targeted customer base, drive engagement, and get users to your site. Navigating this type of digital marketing can be complicated. The click-through rate on display ads hovers around 0.07% worldwide, which often scares marketers away.

Yet in spite of this, display advertising is continuing to grow. A recent IAB study found that display ads grew 13.1% in 2017 (compared to search ads at just 12.8%). If you have a measurable goal for your campaign, create compelling ads, and you keep track of results you can see a high ROI in a short amount of time.

If you found this guide useful, don’t miss our other beginner’s guides to search marketing and advertising:

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for No Risk SEO, an all-in-one reporting platform for agencies. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn, or check out her content services at amandadisilvestro.com.

Related reading

Vector graphic of a document with a key superimposed on top, and a red circle with a line through it on top of that.

Five Truths About the Mindset of a Successful Entrepreneur

The most important part of any entrepreneur’s journey? Mindset. Learn the five most important lessons I’ve uncovered about mindset and entrepreneurship, plus how you can be featured in an upcoming video on my YouTube channel!

Five Truths About the Mindset of a Successful Entrepreneur

Wow, 2018. It’s safe to say that this year is a big year for me. October marks the ten-year anniversary of starting my business, and on June 17th it’ll be ten years since I was laid off (not that I’m keeping track or anything!). In fact, there’s something special that’s going to be happening on June 17th, 2018—but I’ll save that for later.

But . . . ten years. What a journey it’s been! Over that time, I’ve moved from focusing mainly on my own business to becoming a coach and teacher for others getting started in online entrepreneurship. I’ve had the opportunity to guide so many smart, committed people starting their own businesses from scratch. I’ve also seen several of my friends go on to become very successful entrepreneurs—as well as a few who were once very successful but had to start over for some reason and rebuild their success.

Through all of these examples, I’ve learned just how important mindset is for the success of an entrepreneur. In fact, I’d say it’s probably the most important thing. You can have the best products, you can have all the right marketing strategies, you can have the right customers . . . but if you don’t have the right mindset, none of that stuff matters.

In this post I want to share five essential truths that I’ve learned about mindset over the course of the last almost-decade of being an entrepreneur. Three of them even come with brand-new videos I recorded. Check them out as you’re reading, and subscribe to my YouTube channel to be updated whenever I release new videos.

So, here are the five biggest things I’ve learned over the past ten years about entrepreneurship and mindset. I’m excited to share them with you now. Let’s do this!

#1: You Were Meant for This

The number one thing is this: If you’re reading this right now, it means you were meant for this entrepreneurial journey. There’s a reason you’re here, why you’re doing what you’re doing. There’s a reason you’re working so hard, experimenting, doing the research, and building a business. You have a deep and powerful drive for it—and if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be here. Maybe that drive stems from being unhappy with your current job and wanting something more, whether it’s on the side or full-time. You know there’s something more out there for you.

A lot of people question themselves. They say, “Well, I don’t know if I’m cut out for this, or, “I don’t know if I was meant to do this.” But when you adopt that mindset, it keeps you from committing fully. Full commitment is what’s required. You need to have that mental commitment to going all in—not necessarily with your time, but with your attitude. If you ever question yourself, always remember why you started on this journey in the first place. What is it deep down about making this change that excites you? What are the opportunities that lie in front of you? Always remember: This is something you were meant to do.

#2: Failure Is a Part of the Process

I grew up in a household where I was trained to try and be as perfect as possible. I was near perfect through high school and even college, getting a 4.2 GPA, graduating at the top of my class, magna cum laude from UC Berkeley in architecture. I grew up in a household where I came home from school with a 94% on my math test, and I was asked, “What happened to the other 6%?” I wasn’t necessarily congratulated, although I was, but I felt like the stress was on what I had missed and not the rest of that I had gotten right. And so, I experienced one of the biggest failures in my life when I got let go.

This is sadly common. We live in a day and age where we are expected to be perfect. I recently watched a video of Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking at a college graduation, talking about how we prize knowledge over the process of learning, and memorization over ingenuity. Neil gave the example of a spelling bee. A person who spells “cat” correctly, “C-A-T,” goes on to the next round. If the next person goes up and tries to spell it “K-A-T,” it’s incorrect. It’s really close! But it’s still incorrect, and they’re out of the competition. Then, if someone else comes up and spells it “Q-Z-V,” they are equally as out as the person who spelled it “K-A-T.” Even though the “K-A-T” person was really close, much closer than the “Q-Z-V” person—and they had arguably spelled it just as correctly, if not more so (if you look at the pronunciation guide in a dictionary for the word “cat,” you’ll see “/kat/”!).

As Neil says, our society is too focused on “the right answer.” We’re too focused on the what, and not the how, the process of learning. We’re too focused on perfection rather than good enough, even though good enough is often good enough! The person who spells it “K-A-T” is going to feel like they’ve failed, and they are viewed as being on the same level of failure as somebody who got it completely wrong.

And when you’re trying to become an entrepreneur, this is something that can be really dangerous. The need to be perfect, to avoid failure, comes into conflict with what it actually takes to be successful. Because if you’re worried about perfection all the time, you’re never going to get anything done. The quest for perfection is going to delay you from doing what you need to do to actually run a business. As Seth Godin says, “Just ship.”

In entrepreneurship and in life, we’re sometimes afraid of failing and making mistakes because we feel like those mistakes will ruin us. The thought of that big fat red “F” marker on the paper scares a lot of people. So we study harder, and try to avoid failure as much as possible. But when you’re an entrepreneur, failing is good! The faster you fail, the better you can learn. This is why in my book Will It Fly? failing is a crucial part of validating your business idea: Seeking out conversations in which people can poke holes in your business model is the part of the process. Pre-selling your items so that when you don’t sell anything, you can go back to the people who said they were interested but didn’t buy to learn what you need to do differently.

So remember, there are no overnight successes, and you might have to fail a lot before you succeed. When you realize that even some of the most successful people out there didn’t do it overnight, and often faced tons of rejection, you learn to appreciate the hard work, patience, and persistence needed to make it as an entrepreneur. If you let failures stop you, you’re going to let a lot of people down, including yourself and the people you could be serving.

In case you’re still scared of failure, I wanted to share this next video, “9 Successful People Who Were REJECTED 138 Times.” It features several people you might recognize who failed a lot but forged ahead and found success over time. I won’t give them away right away, so try to play along and guess each person before I reveal them. There are some big names on this list, and I think you’ll be pretty surprised when you learn what they had to go through before they became successful.

#3: It’s Never Too Late to Begin

With my courses now, especially Smart From Scratch, I get a lot of messages from new entrepreneurs who are feeling disillusioned. They’ve done their research, and they’ve seen how much competition is out there for their business idea—and they think this is a bad thing. They feel like they’re too late to the game. But there’s actually a big advantage in being late! When you do your research, you can find the holes in the market, see what your potential competitors are not doing well, and start to carve out your own unique positioning. You also know that because of the simple fact that there is competition out there, there’s a market out there for the kind of business you want to start. This gives you a chance to listen to the market and create something different and better.

Also, when you start out small, you have the ability to more easily connect with people, to have close and meaningful interactions that help you cultivate raving fans much more quickly. You can create a more personal connection with your customers, something that’s harder for larger companies to do.

Finally, some people consider themselves too old to start a business—but that’s simply not true!

I address this fear, that it’s too late to get started, in the next video, “I’m TOO OLD to Start a Business…” If you ever think it’s too late to begin starting a business, whether because of your age or because of competition, what I share in this video will show you the real truth behind this faulty assumption. I talk about Richard, who at the age of 52 told me he felt like he was too old to start a business. I helped Richard break down that myth and realize why you’re truly never too old to get started at anything.

So stop making age or timing an excuse. Maybe you wish you’d started earlier, but that’s just fear of missing out, and it’s something we all deal with from to time.

#4: It’s All in Your Head

When you start off on an entrepreneurial path, you encounter things that you just haven’t experienced before. And you start to do what I call “weird entrepreneur math.” We start to put more importance on some numbers and not others, even when it doesn’t make sense to. What am I talking about? I’ll explain everything in the next video, where I talk about some of the numbers that trip up entrepreneurs who are starting out. I’ll tell you which numbers you should ignore, and which ones you should pay attention to if you want to be successful.

By the way, if you’re enjoying these videos—and I hope you are—simply go to smartpassiveincome.com/youtube to subscribe!

#5 You Can’t Do This Alone

Entrepreneurship can be very lonely. That’s why it’s really important to connect with the right people, build the right relationships that will sustain you.

I love to meet people, and I love to help other entrepreneurs meet each other. For all of my courses, I hold meetups for my students, and I encourage them to set up their own private meetups, too. I also love meeting people at conferences. I think conferences are one of the best ways to connect with awesome people who are on a similar path to you. Even if you’ve never been to a conference, I encourage you to go out there and find one this year that fits you and your business. The connections you make at these events can be a game-changer.

As a matter of fact, I’ll be speaking at a number of events this year, and I’d love to meet you if you can make it to any of them! Here are some of the highlights on my schedule:

[Full disclosure: I am an affiliate for Social Media Marketing World and Podcast Movement.]

You can find the full list of my speaking engagements on my Speaking page.

To recap, these are my five truths about the entrepreneurial mindset:

  1. You Were Meant For This
  2. Failure Is a Part of the Process
  3. It’s Never Too Late to Begin
  4. It’s All in Your Head
  5. You Can’t Do This Alone

Finally, I’m running a little contest! When you enter the contest at SmartPassiveIncome.com/coffee, you could be one of three (3) winners to receive:

  • A 1-on-1 virtual chat over coffee to discuss whatever you’d like: your business, personal life, if you are stuck on something and need help, or want to run an idea by me.
  • To promote anything you want (business name, social media handles, “hi, mom!”, etc.) and be featured in an upcoming YouTube video that I’ll post on the Smart Passive Income YouTube channel.

PLUS, you can earn additional entries by subscribing to my YouTube channel (10 additional entries) and referring friends to sign up (3 entries for each friend), or following me on Instagram (1 entry)!

So be sure to enter the contest today!

Why the Internet Laughs at My Face—And Other Things We Learned in 2017

At Hootsuite, we’ve published hundreds of blog posts and crafted thousands of social posts. Some work wonderfully. Others fail miserably. Today, I’d like to skip over the mountains of mistakes we’ve made in the past and focus on Hootsuite’s most successful social posts of 2017.

Stick around and you’ll find out more about:

  • Our top-performing social posts of 2017 and what we learned from them
  • Successful examples of Facebook video, LinkedIn, and Instagram content
  • Why the internet loves to laugh at my face on LinkedIn (a true story, I’m afraid)

Let’s jump into what worked in 2017.

Our top-performing Facebook video:

TED Talks Facebook Post Screenshot | Hootsuite Blog

Our top-performing social video of 2017 was a listicle of TED Talks for social marketers. This video was based on a successful blog post (written by Hootsuite’s Dara Fontein).

How it performed:

Video views: 132k
Shares: 1,051
Link clicks: 2,551
Comments: 353
Likes: 2,402

Why did it work?

If you look at the copy in the social post, you’ll notice a very clear promise to the reader: we did work so you don’t have to.

This value proposition—“we spent 10 hrs hunting down the best TED Talks for social media marketers (so you don’t have to)”—came from Dara’s original blog post. It’s a good reminder that the content format doesn’t really matter. It’s more important to have a compelling concept and simple story that can be told across multiple platforms—whether text or video.

In terms of promotion, we invested a bit of paid budget. “Our secret here,” explains Hootsuite’s social marketing lead Amanda Wood, “was targeting the ads to people who are interested in TED Talks and social marketing. This helped us gain traction with a specific audience who would appreciate the value of the video.”

How we’ve replicated this success:

As we saw success with the TED angle, we created a similar social video called “3 TED Talks to Boost Your Creativity.” It wasn’t as successful. Guess you can’t win them all.

We also use Hootsuite’s social video integrations—including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram—to schedule successful video content again and again. This feature is included in all our plans including for free users.

Our top-performing Facebook post:

Screenshot of Facebook post featuring an article on Instagram Hacks

Instagram is a fast-evolving network with an endless amount of new features. And we know that our audience of social media professionals need to keep up with these changes.

In this Facebook post, our goal was to use curiosity to attract readers to our blog post, enticing the reader to make sure they know all of these helpful tricks.

How it performed:
Link clicks: 14,194
Likes: 1,656
Shares: 477
Comments: 45

Why did it work?

If you look closely at the metrics above, you’ll notice that this copy was incredibly successful at driving one particular metric: link clicks. This is the holy grail for promoting blog post content on Facebook as you obviously want people to click through to the post, not just comment or share.

“This was very much intentional,” explains Wood. “The copy specifically called out a specific audience—people who run a brand’s Instagram account. We knew they’d click through as they want to make sure they are up-to-date on Instagram’s hidden tricks and new features.”

As a side note, if you’re wondering how we gather data about our social media performance, we use our own solution Hootsuite Impact. With Hootsuite Impact, it’s pretty easy to gather data on different content formats (like video or paid posts), quickly create reports, and simplify UTM tracking.

How we’ve replicated this success:

Love them or hate them, the concept of “hacks” work. We’ve used the “hacks” format for other social networks with similar results. It’s easy to hate on these types of posts—but the reality is that our minds enjoy the pull of curiosity.

Our top-performing Instagram post:

Screenshot of an Instagram post featuring a puppy asleep at a desk | Hootsuite Blog

As my first creative director used to scream at me, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times. James, the secret to success in advertising is DOGS, DOGS, DOGS.”

Our top-performing Instagram post of the year included—as you’ve likely guessed—a dog. Hootsuite, of course, is a dog-friendly workplace. Posts like these are part of our Instagram strategy—sharing customer stories and glimpses of our workplace culture. Though, we didn’t expect a simple photo of a dog to do so well.

How it performed:

Likes: 1,033
Comments: 32

Why did it work?

I think we’ve covered this.

How we’ve replicated this success:

When Instagram content performs well, we reschedule it. By the way, you can now schedule Instagram posts directly from Hootsuite. No workarounds. Just click and schedule from your dashboard. This feature is included in all plans including our free plan.

Our top-performing Instagram Story:

Instagram Story of a live event at Hootsuite | Hootsuite Blog Instagram Story of kombucha bottles at live event | Hootsuite Blog

As I mentioned, we use Instagram to share customer stories, build our employer brand, and share education with customers.

Our top Instagram Story for the year was pretty simple: a behind-the-scenes look at one of our customer and industry events held by our advocacy team.

How it performed:

Opening views: 3,179

Why did it work?

Instagram and live events are a powerful combination. This Instagram Story was widely viewed by attendees looking for a few tips about measurement and ROI strategies.

How we’ve replicated this success:

“This event was on Social ROI, a topic that we knew would resonate with our audience as we’ve seen high engagement in 2017 on this topic,” says Wood. “It’s a good example of social data being used to inform event strategies and an example of how all of our content—whether Facebook Live, social videos, social posts, blog content—tends to always be replicated and extended into many different formats throughout the year.”

Our top-performing LinkedIn post:

LinkedIn post on LinkedIn Etiquette Fails featuring a man with a funny expression | Hootsuite Blog

In our final post—a successful blog article about LinkedIn etiquette tips—I am faced with the rather odd professional job of explaining why the internet loves to laugh at my face.

As you can see above (or from the comments on the post), it is the photograph that helped to make this one of our most successful LinkedIn posts of the year. The good news is that this photograph worked, bringing lots of engagement every time we share this post.

The bad news is that photograph is of me. As I wrote the article, I sent our social team a picture of myself looking like an off-balanced professional—or, as one commenter on Facebook put it, “like looking into the eyes of Satan himself.”

How it performed:

Link clicks: 15,337
Shares: 65
Comments: 13
Likes: 365

Why did it work?

Apart from me nailing the look of a workplace weirdo, the copy also uses a sense of urgency to make sure you’re not making one of these mistakes.

“From spammy salespeople to clueless networkers, everyone has experienced some form of questionable etiquette on LinkedIn,” says Wood. “It’s a hilarious photo and universal fear of people—that they’re making a mistake that might be embarrassing in a professional context.”

How we’ve replicated this success:

As I covered in our Social Trends 2018 webinar, we’ve seen LinkedIn evolve their social features. This means that LinkedIn offers a bigger platform of content beyond white papers or your standard career advice posts.

We’re looking for more ways to balance this humor and emotional-style content on LinkedIn, while also making sure we’re delivering practical things that help people do their job better.

Our social toolbox:

If you’re interested, here are a few tools that Hootsuite’s social team uses to manage our campaigns and report on ROI.

Scheduling Instagram content: As mentioned, we use Hootsuite to schedule Instagram content. It’s a feature of all of our plans, including free. Schedule your first Instagram post here.

Hootsuite Impact: we use this solution to track UTMs, gather data about content performance, and measure the revenue impact of our content. As you can see below, it’s easy to analyze different content formats including video, text, photos, and paid social. Learn more about Hootsuite Impact here.

Screenshot of Hootsuite's Social Media Dashboard with top posts and metrics | Hootsuite Blog

AdEspresso by Hootsuite: this tool helps us easily optimize and test different Facebook ad formats. It’s an amazing product—and now, the AdEspresso team works at Hootsuite, so we’ve been able to learn a ton about paid social from them. Learn more about our tool (and download some helpful paid social resources) here.

Social video integrations: we schedule and manage our Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter videos using our native video tools. This feature is also included in all of our plans, including free. Use our video tools here.

Connect with your audience using Hootsuite. Easily manage your social channels and engage followers across networks from a single dashboard. Try it free today.

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