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, archive.org) 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.

  1. Wiki.com

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.

Wiki.com 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.

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Insights into a newsroom: learnings for content marketing

Journalists are renowned for sniffing out a good story; they instinctively know how to get to the crux of a matter, asking the right sort of questions to get to the truth, and can decipher complicated subject matters succinctly for everyone to understand.

Pick up any newspaper or magazine and you’ll find it packed with a wide variety of content with something for everyone; from hard-hitting news investigations to human-interest features, opinion-based columns and picture stories.

Print media may be on the decline, but there is a lot that content marketers can learn from this profession. While content that targets a Google algorithm is a good strategy to have, you should also create content that builds and engages with people.

Back to the start

My career in journalism began in 1989, when I joined the Bucks Herald as an editorial assistant. One of the first lessons I was taught was how to write attention-grabbing content to grab attention from the very beginning.

I had been shadowing a senior reporter and went with her to the local police station to find out what crimes had been committed overnight. We then had to come back to the newsroom to write a series of short, snappy articles – news in brief (NIBs) – to publicize the incidents.

I started my first story: “A house in Wendover was broken into on Wednesday night and £300 worth of jewelry was stolen.” But this was quickly edited to read: “Heartless thieves stole £300 worth of jewelry from a house in Wendover on Wednesday night.”

The senior reporter explained that although my attempt was factually correct, starting with ‘A house’ was not anywhere near as powerful as starting with ‘Heartless thieves’.

This was an invaluable lesson and one that holds true for content marketers: it is vital to hook a reader in from the beginning using emotive language that makes them want to read on.

Keep it succinct

When writing a news article, it’s paramount to summarize the story in the first few paragraphs, giving the reader all the facts quickly. The who, what, where, when and how must be covered in the first two to three paragraphs, while subsequent paragraphs will add more color and detail to the story.

Just look at The Sun newspaper, for example; love it or hate it, they give readers all the information they need/want in around 5 minutes.

 

The content we consume daily – particularly on social media – is the same; it’s attention-grabbing, quick and easy to understand.

We often enjoy this content on-the-go because we don’t always have time to read swathes of copy, or are more frequently consuming content on mobile devices.

However, sometimes short and sweet just isn’t enough. Once you have a person hooked, you may find they want/need more, which is when in-depth content can be invaluable.

Getting into the detail

In newspapers, feature articles are included in every edition. These tend to spread over two pages, with the words broken up by pictures, fact boxes and graphs.

One of the best ways to keep a reader engaged with a longer piece of content is using quotes. Depending on the subject matter, you can include quotes from thought leaders in a given field or bring a story to life with the power of the human interest angle.

Of course, it depends on the subject matter, but ultimately people love reading about people and will engage with long-form content that educates, informs or entertains. This is important to remember when creating long-form content for marketing; while you may be writing to capture a particular keyword of with SEO in mind, you can still be creative.

Every piece of content should keep ‘the audience’ in mind. Ask yourself:

  • Who are you writing for?
  • What kind of questions do they want answers to?
  • How do you keep them engaged/reading for longer?
  • What will make your content stand out from the crowd/capture those answer boxes/make people remember you/go back to your site?

Google rewards sites with a low bounce rate and it’s clear why: if people are visiting your site for longer, you have given them content that is not only relevant to their search, but also resonates with them in some way. There is nothing worse than clicking on a meta title and description that you think answers your question, only to find the content beneath it is irrelevant.

A picture is worth a thousand words

In 2001, I became editor of the Boston Standard in Lincolnshire. Boston is a busy market town with a small port, and agriculture is one of the main industries. Consequently, it attracts a high volume of workers from outside the UK and as a result, tensions between communities ran high.

In 2004, when England were defeated by France in the European football championship, this tension spilled onto the streets with more than 100 people rioting. We covered this story in detail, interviewing the police, shopkeepers and witnesses, but we wiped out the front page using just one image to capture the carnage and destruction – better than words ever could.

This ethos can also be applied to content marketing efforts; sometimes an image, video or graphic can be a powerful tool to bring a written story to life.

Nowhere is this more evident than on social media, and particularly Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat, which rely on images and video to spread a message, including light-hearted memes and funny videos.

What makes a good story?

Understanding what makes a good story is an essential part of being a journalist.

When working as a features editor, the news editor and I would meet every morning with the editor and deputy editor to discuss a list of potential stories we thought were worth pursuing and agree where they would go in the paper.

The basic rule of thumb we followed for coverage and placement was based on how interesting the story was deemed to be, and how many people it affected.

Of course, this can be subjective, so when trying to decide whether a content marketing campaign has the potential to go viral, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the hook?
  • Do you have unique data?
  • Is the idea open to ambiguity?
  • Is it credible?
  • Does it provoke an emotional response?
  • Does it tell a story?
  • Why this idea now?
  • Who – and how many people – does it affect?

Appealing to your audience

The types of content we included in every newspaper was varied and would, we hoped, appeal to a variety of people – a process that content marketers could also to adopt. However, in order to do this properly, it is paramount to understand who you are targeting, the sort of content they enjoy and where you can find them online.

It is easy for a newspaper as the journalists know they have to produce content that appeals to everyone in the community they serve, but in content marketing it can be slightly more restrictive.

The brand you’re working for should have plenty of audience data, but there are also a wide variety of tools available online to help you flesh out your personas and give them a personality to target your content with.

Where to find story inspiration

Despite all these tips and tricks, they can only really be put to good use when you have something to write about. An easy way to continually have content to share is to localize a national story, for example.

Content marketers often do the same by blogging or Tweeting about a national story or seasonal event. Often referred to as ‘newsjacking’, this is a powerful tool to promote a brand across the web.

One of the best examples I have seen is by the toilet tissue brand, Charmin, using the Oscars to promote the brand:

But you must act fast for the greatest impact – sending the tweet after the main event would have had little impact for Charmin.

The final word

As you can see, there are plenty of valuable lessons the digital world can learn from print. It really is simple: people want content that resonates with them. Content that educates or entertains them; something they can share with others to make them look good or make them laugh.

Print media may be declining, but the journalistic principles many of us hold dear still ring true. Storytelling is as relevant today as it has ever been; the platforms may have changed, but the delivery remains the same.

 

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The Ideal Social Media Post Length: A Guide for Every Platform

There’s no such thing as too much engagement on social media.

Marketers can always use more likes, shares, video views, and comments. And integral to driving that engagement is nailing the length of your message. That’s what this article is about.

This article is a curation of research around ideal character counts (not to be confused with character limits) for posts and other types of content on:

Are you writing too much in your social media posts? Too little? Are your videos too long or not long enough? Optimize the length of your content and you’ll be more likely to engage and convert your audience.

Let’s go.

The ideal length for Facebook posts

Shorter posts usually receive more likes, comments, and shares on Facebook. People like when a message makes its point quickly and concisely. It’s satisfying.

Organic posts: 1 to 80 characters

In 2016, BuzzSumo analyzed more than 800 million Facebook posts. Based on their findings, posts with less than 50 characters “were more engaging than long posts.” According to another, more precise study by Jeff Bullas, posts with 80 characters or less receive 66 percent higher engagement:

ideal social media post length

There are a couple reasons for this, including increased:

Barrier to entry: Facebook cuts off longer posts with an ellipsis, forcing users to click “See More” to expand the text and read the entire message. This extra step doesn’t seem like much, but it will drive down engagement. Every time you ask the audience to take action, a percentage of people will lose interest.

Barrier to comprehension: the longer a person reads, the harder his or her brain must work to process information. But people don’t like to think. We just want to get it, just like that. Content that demands less work—less cognitive energy—to consume and understand will enjoy higher engagement rates.

Paid posts: 5 to 18 words

Every Facebook ad needs three types of content: a Headline, Main Text, and a Description.

After analyzing 37,259 Facebook ads, AdEspresso found that ads did best when the copy in each element was clear and concise. According to the data, the ideal length for a:

  • Headline, the first text people read, is 5 words.
  • Main Text, the snippet above your image or video, is 14 words.
  • Description, the text that lives directly below your headline, is 18 words.

The Ideal Social Media Post Length

The Ideal Social Media Post Length

Whether the post is organic or paid, brevity seems to drive engagement.

Capitalize on this by keeping your ad copy concise: don’t use two words when one will do. And keep it clear: omit adverbs, jargon, and the passive voice from your copy.

Learn more social media ad writing tips.

Videos: 30 to 60 seconds

With video, one of the primary measures of success is how long people watch, also known as your video retention rate.

In 2016, Kinetic Social tracked 2 billion social ad impressions and found that 44 percent of 30- to 60-second videos on Facebook were viewed to completion. Meanwhile, videos that ran under 30 seconds or over two minutes saw completion rates of 26 and 31 percent, respectively. A more recent poll, from 2018, showed that 33 percent of Facebook users preferred to watch shorter videos, from 30 to 50 seconds long.

Whenever possible, keep your videos tight.

Careful! Don’t go over the limit:

The Ideal Social Media Post Length

The ideal length for Twitter

In 2017, Twitter doubled its character limit to help make writing on the platform easier.

“Our research shows us that the character limit is a major cause of frustration for people tweeting in English,” explains product manager, Aliza Rosen. “When people don’t have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people Tweeting.”

But just because you have twice the room doesn’t mean people want to see you use it.

Organic and promoted tweets: 71 – 100 characters

Whether you’re running an ad or not, data from Buddy Media shows that tweets containing less than 100 characters receive, on average, 17 percent higher engagement than longer tweets.

This is, in part, because shorter tweets are easier to read and comprehend. Short tweets also give retweeters enough room to add their own message.

Research by Track Social corroborates these findings:

The Ideal Social Media Post Length

Twitter hashtags: 6 characters

“The best hashtags are those composed of a single word or a few letters,” writes Vanessa Doctor from Hashtags.org. “Twitter experts recommend keeping the keyword under 6 characters.”

Again, this length is about reader comprehension, especially since hashtags don’t support spaces.

Careful! Don’t go over the limit:

character count guide social media

The ideal length for LinkedIn

More than 546 million professionals use LinkedIn.

As the platform’s user base grows—making it more and more difficult to win organic attention—marketers must continually optimize their messaging for quality, timing, and of course, length.

Organic and paid updates: 25 words

The research on this topic isn’t very recent, but Hootsuite finds that, as with all other types of social updates, it’s best to keep LinkedIn updates short. Because of the “See More” button, your message will be cut off at the 140 character mark. As a general rule of thumb, we stick to 25 words or less.

Articles: 1,900 to 2,000 words

Paul Shapiro, founder of Search Wilderness, analyzed more than 3000 of the most successful posts on LinkedIn’s publishing platform. These posts, on average, received 42,505 views, 567 comments, and 138,841 likes.

He discovered that articles with more words perform better.

“Posts between 1900 and 2000 words perform the best,” writes Shapiro. “[They] gain the greatest number of post views, LinkedIn likes, LinkedIn comments, and LinkedIn shares.”

The Ideal Social Media Post Length for Every Platform

Shapiro also learned that titles between 40 and 49 characters in length received the greatest number of post views overall:

character count guide social media

Videos: 30 seconds

In 2017, LinkedIn gave its users the ability to natively upload videos that play automatically in their followers’ feeds. Unlike other platforms, LinkedIn also shares video data (e.g., viewers’ companies and job titles), making it a valuable resource for marketers.

Bonus: Download a free guide to discover which hashtags to use to boost traffic and target customers on social media. And then learn how you can use Hootsuite to measure results.

Get the free guide right now!

Technically, videos can go up to 10 minutes, but according to LinkedIn best practices, videos under 30 seconds perform best. In fact, an internal study found that videos under 30 seconds reported a 200 percent lift in view completion rates.

Careful! Don’t go over the limit:

character count guide social media

The ideal length for Instagram

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram was founded on visual content. The platform was made to showcase compelling pictures and videos, but the right combination of words will promote engagement on any post.

Engagement, of course, is crucial to maximizing your content’s reach, since Instagram’s algorithm places posts with the most Likes and comments near the top of your followers’ feeds.

Organic Instagram posts: 138 to 150 characters

“A great Instagram caption will ad context, show off your brand’s personality, entertain audiences, and prompt your followers to take action,” writes Hootsuite’s Michael Aynsley. In other words, the most compelling captions add value to a post.

On Instagram, captions can be up to 2,200 characters long, but you’ll only need a fraction of that limit to move the needle. Most people scroll through their feed quickly, so it makes sense to keep your captions clear and concise, punchy.

Brief copy is easy to consume. It also doesn’t get cut off with an ellipsis.

Sponsored Instagram posts: 125 characters or less

Instagram recommends keeping the captions on sponsored posts under 125 characters.

Again, this length supports readability and ensures that the text won’t get truncated.

Instagram hashtags: 5 to 9 per post at less than 24 characters each

Instagram posts can have up to 30 hashtags, making it tempting to stuff each caption with as many as possible. As a marketer, fight this urge. Using more hashtags won’t necessarily yield higher visibility.

According to research by TrackMaven, posts with 9 hashtags receive the most engagement:

The Ideal Social Media Post Length for Every Platform

And on Instagram, specifically, hashtags with 24 characters or less are the most popular:

character count guide social media

Hashtags, like keywords, demand a strategic approach, one that centers around quality not quantity. Stuffing hashtags makes your post look like spam. It can also get your account shadow banned, meaning your posts won’t show up in search results.

Careful! Don’t go over the limit:

character count guide social media

The ideal length for YouTube

At the end of the day, YouTube is a search engine, meaning it relies on text to organize and rank the nearly 400 hours of video uploaded to its servers every minute.

Therefore, in addition to optimizing video length, marketers must front load their content’s title and description copy with relevant keywords—and that means keeping an eye on character count.

YouTube videos: 3 minutes

Whether you’re watching videos on YouTube or anywhere else, one of the most important KPIs is retention. How long do people actually watch? Are viewers finishing your videos at a high rate? If so, you’re doing something right.

Speaking of doing something right, ReelSEO found that the top 50 videos on YouTube are, on average, 2 minutes and 54 seconds.

YouTube titles: 70 characters

“The title of your video is probably the most important SEO factor to consider,” writes Brendan Cournoyer, marketing VP at Brainshark. “Titles for YouTube videos should include relevant keywords to ensure high rankings in Google and YouTube search, while still being compelling enough to encourage clicks and views.”

Cournoyer recommends keeping titles within 70 characters, including spaces. Anything longer will be cut off in search results.

Descriptions: 157 characters

“The Description field in YouTube represents another opportunity to let search engines know what your video is about,” explains Cournoyer. “These descriptions also appear as rich snippets in search results [and] can help encourage more clicks to your content.”

The Ideal Social Media Post Length

Cournoyer recommends keeping the first line of the description brief, compelling, and rich with keywords, as only the first 157 characters will appear as a snippet in search.

Careful! Don’t go over the limit:

The Ideal Social Media Post Length

The ideal size and length for Pinterest

On Pinterest, image size matters.

So does the length of your description.

Pinterest images: 735 X 1102 pixels

According to Pinterest best practices, images on the platform should have a minimum width of 600 pixels and a 2:3 aspect ratio, which is how the height and width of an image relate.

The Ideal Social Media Post Length for Every Platform

For example, a 2:3 aspect ratio would be 600 pixels wide by 900 pixels tall.

Descriptions: 200 characters

Studies show that descriptions containing about 200 characters receive the most repins:

The Ideal Social Media Post Length for Every Platform

This is your chance to add context, to persuade and sell. It’s your chance to tell a story and conjure emotion, to make a promise. The description is your chance to compel.

Careful! Don’t go over the limit:

The Ideal Social Media Post Length for Every Platform

Now, over to you.

This article will get you started but it won’t carry you across the finish line.

Every audience is unique, so the onus is on you to understand what resonates best with your followers and users. We recommend running extensive A/B tests that’ll help you determine if the suggested character counts in this guide are, in fact, ideal for you.

Your research may prove otherwise.

In any case, you’ll never know unless you test.

Use Hootsuite to share quality content on all your social media channels from one dashboard. Grow your brand, engage customers, keep up with competitors, and measure results. Try it free today.

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How to Plan Anything (So You Actually Get it Done)

My formula for planning anything without getting overwhelmed, plus how you can use it to write the perfect blog post!

How to Plan Anything (So You Actually Get it Done)

Have you ever tried to plan something and just gotten completely overwhelmed? Today, I’m going to give you my PAT formula for planning anything—along with the one tool I use to make any planning process dead simple.

I’ll dig into the details of the PAT formula in just a minute. But first, the thing I love the most about the PAT formula is it’s applicable to just about anything you might be planning. Maybe you’re building a business, or writing a book. Maybe you’re creating something smaller, like a podcast episode or a blog post. Or maybe you’re planning an event, like a party or a vacation. It could even be something as big as a wedding.

Whatever it is, planning it the right way is really important. Smart planning helps ensure that your event or book comes out great, by providing a clear roadmap to completion. The problem lies in the way our brains work. You see, our brains do a really good job of coming up with a bunch of ideas, but a terrible job of organizing them. And as a result, we get overwhelmed.

That’s what the PAT formula is designed to avoid, so let’s talk about it now.

My Simple Three-Step Formula to Plan Anything

So what is this magic formula that helps you avoid the overwhelm? It involves three steps:

Step 1: Post-it notes
Step 2: Arranging those Post-it notes
Step 3: Taking it and making it

Let’s talk about each step!

Step 1: Post-it Notes

First up is P, which stands for Post-it notes. Post-it notes are my secret to success. I use them to plan almost everything I do. The reason they’re so great is because they let you take all the ideas in your head—the ones that are overwhelming you—and put them onto individual notes, where you can see them all in front of you. And when you can see it, you can deal with it! The size of a Post-it note is also perfect, because each note basically only has enough room for one idea. And because they’re sticky, you can post them on your wall or desk to arrange them and make sense of your ideas.

So, whatever it is you’re planning, the first step is to write down each idea you have on a single Post-it note, and then post that note on your wall or desk. This is the first step in a process called mind-mapping.

Step 2: Arrange

At first, your Post-it notes are probably going to look like a giant mess, and that’s completely fine! That’s why step two of this strategy is A, to arrange. Now that you can see everything, you can deal with it. In this step, you start to organize your notes into clusters. You can also remove ones that don’t belong. These clusters then become the different parts of your vacation, or the chapters of your book, or the sections of your online course.

And then to take it one step further, you’ll take these clusters and give them an order. So within each book chapter, for example, you’ll organize the notes according to different ideas or sections in that chapter. It’s in the second step that you start to make sense of everything. This step is where things get really cool, because now this big project or trip or event you previously had as just a big mess in your head can now start to take shape.

Step 3: Take It and Make It

The third part of this strategy is the T, which is to take it and make it. When you’re ready to work on the project you’ve just outlined, you pick just one idea from one Post-it note, and focus on making it happen. You take it . . . and then you make it. So if you’re writing a book, for example, you take one idea from one chapter, and that’s all you work on writing first. Then when you’re done, you move it aside and focus on the next one. Or maybe you’re planning a party. You know you’ll need some sort of entertainment, so you pull out the “entertainment” Post-it note and start brainstorming some potential options.

The PAT Formula in Action: Writing the Perfect Blog Post

If you want to see the PAT formula in action, check out the video below, which is all about how to write the perfect blog post.

The first thing I talk about in the video is to get clear about the topic and purpose of the post you’re about to write. One way to think about it is this: what’s the transformation you want people to undergo after reading the post?

Once you’ve identified that transformation, and therefore what you want to write about, that’s when the PAT method kicks into action. The last thing you want to do after you start writing is to say, “Okay, where do I want to go with this?” or “What’s next?” You want to have an outline in place beforehand. The transformation is kind of like the address you put in the navigation system in your car. It’s the end goal. The outline is the directions to get there, and you’re not going to get to your destination without them.

So, with that transformation in mind, you can use the PAT formula to work backward and create an outline for your blog post using Post-it notes. The first step is to take all the ideas in your head related to that transformation and put each of them onto a Post-It note. What case studies can you mention? What stories can you tell that will lead people toward this transformation? What supporting points do you need to make?

From there, you can organize all these ideas to create your outline, then take that outline and make your blog post!

Of course, writing a blog post is just one example of how you can put the PAT formula to work for you. As I mentioned earlier, the beauty of the the PAT formula is it can be used in so many different ways.

Before we end things today, let’s quickly recap the PAT formula:

  • First, brain dump using Post-it notes;
  • Then arrange the Post-it notes into groups;
  • And finally, take them and make the thing.

Now, you might be tempted to do this process without Post-it notes—and it can be done—but there’s a lot to be said for having one idea on each Post-it note that you can move around and adjust as needed.

I hope you get a lot of value out of the PAT formula, because it was really a huge game changer for me! It saved me a lot of time, headache, and overwhelm, and I know it can do the same for you. So tell me what you’re planning next. I’d love to know. Best of luck!

How to use SEO on LinkedIn

SEO on LinkedIn is too often overlooked, and it’s time you start viewing LinkedIn, just like Google, as a search engine. With access to a whole network of professionals, the opportunities for those who are savvy enough can be endless. LinkedIn is the most popular platform for B2B companies to acquire new clients so being able to optimize your LinkedIn presence has a whole array of potential benefits – both for your personal profile and also for your business.

Due to its high domain authority, search engines deliver a lot of results from LinkedIn in the SERPs for certain search terms, particularly those revolving around job roles. This post considers how you can stand out and how to occupy the top spot for your business.

Devil in the detail

The first step is to fill out as much of your profile as you possibly can. Don’t be lazy and avoid cutting corners – provide the details which will help to elevate your profile. But don’t just mindlessly fill in all the fields; make sure to be descriptive, engaging and use carefully chosen words. Keep it descriptive but to the point through revealing the important information but leave a tad of intrigue. Use bullet points or lists to make it more digestible and encouraging to read.

Remember to upload a clear, professional picture. If you still have your graduation picture, it gives the wrong impression and suggests you are a university grad, not a respected professional with three years of valuable experience under your belt. Right or wrong, consciously or subconsciously, people will inevitably base their first impressions on your picture. Give it a little thought and don’t just publish a pixelated picture from that bar the other night. As a final picture tip, make sure it is named appropriately to increase your chances of appearing in image searches.

Think in keywords

Just like you target certain keywords when optimizing a website, you need to do the same when optimizing your LinkedIn and give considerable thought to user intent when approaching the SEO of a website.

As with optimizing a website, be sure not to overdo keywords. It’ll be so obvious to anyone reading if you’ve stuffed the keyword ‘content marketing expert’ into one paragraph seven times. Remember to be engaging and genuinely interesting. Getting people to find you is only the first step – what’s going to make them ‘convert’, or hit you up with a snazzy job offer / potential new business?

Make use of the summary section to further amplify your keywords. This is likely the first section people will read on your profile, so it goes without saying that you need to make it absolutely flipping fantastic. Self-promotion is great, but put the focus on how you help others. People aren’t visiting your profile to see you congratulate yourself; the chances are that they want something and you need to demonstrate how you’re the right person to speak with.

Customize your URL

If you’ve never previously thought about this, then just take a second to glance at the URL for your LinkedIn profile. A vague reference to your name is not helpful for anyone, particularly not for search engines. Take a second to update your custom URL to something that includes your full name. If you’ve got a painfully common name like myself then you may need to be a bit creative, but keep it professional and as clear as possible. An easy way of doing this is to think whether you’d be happy seeing that URL on your business card.

Network as much as is socially acceptable

LinkedIn is, at the end of day, an online space for networking. So don’t just make your profile pretty – you’ve got to use it. In a very similar way to building links in SEO, if you haven’t got any connections on LinkedIn then you’re far less likely to appear in the search results.

Networking is arguably one of the most important points here. LinkedIn’s search algorithm is based first and foremost on showing people with similar connections and groups. You’ve probably noticed that the results which are prioritized when you search on LinkedIn are those with 1st, 2nd or even 3rd level connections to you. It, therefore, follows that the more people you are connected with on LinkedIn, the more likely you are to show up in the search results. It’s a social network after all, so be social, and network.

Engagement and interaction

You’ve got opinions, so share them. You’ve got expert knowledge, so divulge it. You’ve got a voice, so use it. Like any social network, it’s absolutely imperative to engage with people if you want to make the most out of it. Although this may not directly increase your chances of being found in the search results, it does increase your exposure to other people on LinkedIn. And one thing always leads to another.

Participate in groups

This is an extension of the points about engaging and networking. Groups are an excellent way of finding like-minded people in your industry. Spend some time identifying the groups most relevant to your expertise and profession. It also makes you more visible, as joining a group with thousands of people will suddenly make you more relevant to them in terms of the search results. You’ve got nothing to lose and you’ll probably gain a lot along the way.

Collect endorsements

Nobody seems to know whether or not a higher number of endorsements or recommendations helps your profile appear higher in the search results. Either way, it’s certainly worth trying to collect as many of these as possible. Just like buying a product based on positive reviews, it’s the same theory for hiring humans. Endorsements and recommendations imbue a level of confidence and trust in the authority and credentials of a given person or business.

Just being really good at what you do, sitting back and waiting for the endorsements to come in probably isn’t going to cut it. Take a proactive approach and start endorsing or recommending people in your network. Don’t expect to get anything back as standard, but with any luck, you’ll get at least some people to return the favor.

Sharing is caring

Let’s admit it, one of the primary functions of LinkedIn is shameless self-promotion. This is a place where you can proudly share your work, show it off to the world, and create open discussions.  Just remember that sharing is caring but oversharing is overbearing. As long as you are sharing content and updates which are genuinely interesting and provide value to people, then you’re golden. Don’t approach it as a way to stroke your ego – that’s a recipe for disaster – rather, it’s about collaborating on ideas and sharing value. In short, it’ a great way of interacting with your network and reaching new people. This leads to new connections and a wider network and, a better chance at ranking highly.

Publish posts on LinkedIn

This is different to sharing articles you’ve written elsewhere. Just click on ‘Write an article’ underneath the status update and lay down your best words. Pushing out content as part of an SEO strategy helps boost your authority and ramp up those rankings and the same goes for LinkedIn. Publish some brilliant articles and you’ll be hailed as the go-to industry expert in no time at all. Actually, it does take a bit of time but it’s absolutely worth doing if you are looking to build your LinkedIn profile and enhance your personal brand.

Writing optimized content for LinkedIn is no different to writing content as part of an SEO campaign with all the same rules applying. You can also repurpose content you’ve written elsewhere – just don’t duplicate content because we all know how Google feels about that. For example, if you have an article on your blog that’s no longer doing particularly well, it’s worth including a synopsis of the post as an article on LinkedIn and then link to the full article on your blog. This can also work vice versa.

Generate links to your profile

If you’re even a little bit familiar with the world of digital marketing then you’ll understand the importance of backlinks. It’s no different when you’re trying to rank your LinkedIn profile higher. Always be aware of trying to gain backlinks to your LinkedIn profile at every possible opportunity.

If you’ve got a blog, be sure to link back to your profile. Add a link to your email signature. Promote your LinkedIn profile across other social media accounts. Guest posting is another great way to build on those links, as it’s very common practice to include social links in your author bio. You’ll then find a snowball effect – the more links you have, the more people will see your profile, the more people will engage with you, the higher your profile will rank and the more links you’ll get… you get the idea.

Final words

Many of the above points can be applied to both your personal profile and your business page. Make the most of SEO on LinkedIn and you’ll be able to reach new audiences, generate leads and build on your professional profile. As a final point, don’t forget to make absolutely sure that your LinkedIn public profile is visible and not hidden.

 

 

Related reading

11 Ways to Kickstart Your Social Media Brainstorm

We’ve all been there—sitting around a table with coworkers, staring at next month’s content calendar. Somehow, shockingly, the calendar is blank. “How did I let this happen again?” you may be thinking, or “Will the internet never cease?”

Finally, after minutes of awkward silence, someone croaks, “So…anyone have any ideas?”

This is a nightmare scenario for me—an INFJ personality type who feels obligated to fill all silences with my own mindless chatter. I’m sure it’s a nightmare scenario for you, too. Besides highlighting the insane pace of time, a blank content calendar can inspire panic at the thought of next month’s workload.

But that’s only if you’re doing it wrong. With the right strategies at hand, team (or even solo) brainstorms can be fun and productive events. In fact, looking at a blank content calendar can inspire creativity and excitement.

Don’t believe me? Try one or more of these strategies in your next brainstorm and see what happens.

1. Review top performing posts or content

The best place to look for inspiration when you’re feeling uninspired is the content you already have. What performed well? Ask your team if they have any ideas for how to replicate that success in the coming months.

Reviewing top performing content also enables you to cut out inefficiencies. Besides getting to see which posts worked, you get to see which posts didn’t work and can avoid similar posts in the future.

2. Investigate your competitors

The second best place to look for inspiration is the feeds of your enemies. What are they doing that you’re not? What sorts of posts are successful for them? My personal favourite is: What are they doing that you could do better?

You could go so far as to perform a comprehensive gap analysis. But even a quick scroll through the feeds of one or two of your major competitors is often enough to start the brain rolling.

3. Go seasonal

In the world of social media, there is a “holiday” with a hashtag for every single day of the year. Find out which holidays are coming up in your content calendar and decide which ones make sense for your brand to “celebrate” online. Then discuss the interesting or unique ways in which to celebrate. Hint: there may be some existing content that can be repurposed (see point number one).

For example, in March 2018, Hootsuite decided to celebrate #nationalpuppyday by updating and sharing an older blog post called 8 Dogs That Are Better at Instagram Than You. It took relatively little time and effort to publish, but continues to be a big hit on our social feeds (even though it is no longer #nationalpuppyday). In a perfect world, every day would be #nationalpuppyday.

4. Review your goals

Does your team have a mission and/or a vision statement? Now would be a good time to pull that out. Sometimes all it takes is a reminder of why you’re here to get the ball rolling.

Another great thing to look at is the official goals you set when you created your social media strategy. Ask the team to think about what kind of content they think will help to achieve those goals. Even just having them top of mind when you’re throwing ideas around is useful. That way you can also reject ideas that don’t help you achieve those goals.

5. Keep an inspiration folder

See something you like on the web? Bookmark it or save it in a folder on your desktop so you can return to it when inspiration is running low.

The items you save don’t have to be related to your brand or audience at all. Maybe you like the framing of a certain headline, or the vibe of a certain photograph, or the tone of the writing in a certain article. Keep it all. Inspiration can come from anywhere. And if you liked it, there’s probably a good reason for it.

6. Ask your audience

As an editor of the Hootsuite blog, I’m super lucky that the audience I am trying to reach sits right beside me. Since we publish content for social media professionals, we make it a point to invite our own social team to our brainstorming sessions. And then we grill them relentlessly about what kind of content they want to read next month.

Even if you don’t sit next to your audience, you still have access to them—on social. Ask them what they’re interested in seeing on your channel in the coming months. Or, simply review the comments on your posts for clues.

7. Read the news

So maybe we’re not all the best at keeping up with industry news. There are a million and one things to do in a day, after all. But, if there’s ever a time to get caught up, it’s right before a brainstorming session.

Take this time to note down any news that affects your brand or your audience. Is there something you can publish to address this news? For instance, when Facebook announced major changes to its algorithm in 2018, we published a list of actions brands could take to mitigate the effects of the change.

Bonus: Get the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence with Hootsuite.

Get the free guide right now!

8. Review trending hashtags

This goes hand in hand with reading the news, but it’s also its own thing. Review trending hashtags to see if there’s any that make sense for your brand to engage with. Ask for input from your team about how to get creative with the details. Just be sure you really understand what the hashtag is about and if it’s brand-appropriate before jumping in.

9. Play music

Some people get their best work done in silence, but silence can be extremely uncomfortable for others. My fellow introverts in the room may find it impossible to break the silence at the beginning of a brainstorm sessions with an idea of their own. So, why not avoid silence all together by putting on some tunes?

Keep the volume low—just high enough to banish all intimidation from the room.

10. Do “sprints”

“Sprinting” is not only for runners and software developers. We do it in creative writing class too! It’s a fun exercise that carries over well to brainstorms as the objective is the same: getting your brain warmed up.

Try writing a theme on a board in your meeting room. Set a timer (between three and five minutes, or longer if you think it will be useful) and ask everyone to start writing whatever comes to mind. Last month, for the Hootsuite Blog brainstorm, we used the theme “spring” and came up with a ton of great ideas for blog posts related to the season, including this one.

11. Accept all ideas—at first

One of the most important elements of a productive brainstorm is to make it a safe space for everyone to speak up and contribute. Depending on your team, that may mean leaving the critiquing of ideas until later.

There’s nothing more intimidating in a group brainstorm than having your idea immediately rejected. And for what? Some of the best ideas arrive after a bunch of crazy, terrible ideas are thrown out there.

My suggestion? Take down every single idea submitted in the brainstorm—even the crazy ones—and then book a separate session with yourself or a couple of core team members to “refine” your list.

I’m not saying that you’ll never have to worry about an awkward silence ever again. But, now that you’re equipped with 11 tried-and-true strategies for tackling social media brainstorm sessions, you should find it much easier to come up with new, high-quality ideas for your content calendar on a regular basis. In my books, that’s a win.

Put your great new ideas to use with Hootsuite and easily manage all your social media channels from one dashboard. Grow your brand, engage customers, keep up with competitors, and measure results. Try it free today.

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Is PPC still an effective channel in an ICO marketing strategy?

Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are booming. In 2017, there was approximately $5.6 billion raised by over 900 ICOs. Almost half of these ICOs were deemed a success. In the first quarter of 2018, $6.3 billion was raised via an ICO. This figure includes the $1.7 billion raised in Telegram’s ICO. These numbers tell us that despite advertising bans and regulatory threats, ICOs are still a big business that is only getting bigger.

Naturally, ICO marketing has also become a growing industry. A large number of ICO marketing firms have sprung up which offer a wide range of ICO marketing strategies using conventional and non-conventional marketing channels. Successful ICO marketing takes a broad, multi-faceted approach. However, when it comes to paid marketing and advertising, any ICO marketing agency’s first two choices are Facebook and Google. Pay Per Click (PPC) was an integral part of ICO marketing campaigns in 2017 as they generated consistently strong ROIs – until January this year.

Advertising bans and PPC’s continued role in ICO marketing strategies

In January 2018, Facebook had over 2.2 billion active users when it announced a new advertising policy that banned ICO and cryptocurrency advertisements.  Just two months later, LinkedIn and Twitter, with 500 million and 300 million users respectively, followed suit with bans on ICO advertising. At the same time, Google, with approximately 67% of the PPC market, announced that it was updating its ad policies to include not just ICO and cryptocurrency advertisements, but also all content related to these topics. Google stated that it took down over 3.2 billion ads in 2017, as they were found to be in violation of its policies.

With the updated ban coming into effect in June, there has been a massive change in the way ICO marketing budgets are being planned and spent. Previously, budgets included advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Now, these advertising budgets are strictly focused on Google AdWords campaigns. No statistics are yet available on how much this refocus has boosted ICOs in general, but you can taste the frenzy in the air as marketers squeeze the last drops from what has proven to be one of the more effective ICO marketing tools. An estimated 40-60% of ICO marketing budgets are currently being spent on Google advertising, but come June, what’s next for PPC and ICO marketing strategies?

The increased role of crypto ad networks in PPC campaigns for ICOs

PPC campaigns for ICOs is by no means dead because of the Google ban, nor is it the end of the serious ICOs. If any good will come of this ban, it will be that some of the less serious and scam ICOs will be cleared away. One of the biggest winners from the ad bans will be the crypto-specific networks. Whilst crypto-centric ad networks offer fewer publishers compared to traditional ad-networks, they provide more targeted traffic at reasonably low prices. Some of the top crypto advertising networks are as follows:

Bitraffic.com – Launched in November 2017, Bitraffic has 2,700 sites in their network.

A-ADS.com – One of the first crypto networks, A-ADS.com claims to generate around 142 million ad impressions a day.

CoinAd.com – At the top end of prices, CoinAd.com only accepts publishers with an Alexa ranking below 100k and a minimum of 200k daily impressions.

Cointraffic.io – Established in 2014 and relatively small, Cointraffic.cio has only 400 publishers and provides good quality sites with targeted traffic.

Coinzilla.io –  Launched in 2016, Coinzilla boasts 300 million monthly impressions.

A problem is emerging and will increase post-June, as every ICO will be fighting over the same banner space. Costs will increase and the top sites will continue to be booked for months in advance. While PPC should still form an essential part of any ICO marketing strategy, the rules have changed and, ICO marketing managers have to alter their way of thinking. The crypto ad networks do offer targeted traffic, however, it isn’t as targeted as Facebook and Google. Expectations will have to be adjusted, along with PPC’s part in ICO marketing plans.

In addition, it’s worth bearing in mind that due to the volume of publishers, PPC campaigns on crypto-centric networks aren’t going to get the same amount of impressions and clicks as campaigns run on a traditional ad network. Still, crypto-centric advertising networks should produce a positive ROI if carried out properly. It is important to make sure that the traffic is targeted. As there is an ever-growing choice of publishers and crypto ad networks, ICOs have the ability to run multiple small campaigns on a few different networks in order to compare the results.

The importance of SEO in ICO marketing strategies

It is important to note that while ads are being banned on traditional advertising networks, search engine results are not. This leads to a much more prominent role for SEO. As always, a well-researched and professionally implemented SEO strategy should form the bedrock of any ICO marketing package. SEO is the best long-term and cost-effective strategy for any ICO that is serious enough to think about post-ICO marketing. In addition to the above-mentioned strategies, there are also PR and media outreach, event sponsoring and attendance, and email marketing, all which provide effective marketing channels. There are also other free channels to utilize, including LinkedIn, Reddit, Quora, Telegram, and Steemit, as well as Facebook pages and groups.

PPC: ICO marketing for the future

It isn’t just the ad bans that are making headlines in the world of ICO marketing, regulation is the hottest topic in the crypto world right now. The SEC has stepped up their battle against scam ICOs, which can only be a good thing for the ICO industry. However, what could cause a huge impact on most ICOs is whether or not coins will be classed as securities instead of currencies. A few governments have already banned ICO sales in their countries and regulatory authorities around the world are shining their spotlights brightly on ICOs and cryptocurrencies. In the meantime, ICOs will need to optimize every available marketing channel, including PPC.

Crypto-centric advertising networks will play an important role in ICO marketing strategies. The networks will most likely offer the same potential ROI as Google and Facebook, but they can also become a profitable method of ICO advertising. It’s best to start small and test out the different networks. Small campaigns spread across a few networks will allow you to compare results before you consider increasing the PPC budget for a particular network. For ICOs, there’s still gold in the PPC hills, you just have to dig a little deeper to find it.

For the time being, at least, the popularity of ICOs, as well as the rewards available to those launching them, show no signs of slowing down. The advertising bans mean that ICOs will need to look for other platforms that allow ICO advertising, including Telegram channels, crypto media websites, and crypto review sites. ICO marketing strategies will need to use more content-based marketing to compliment a strong SEO strategy. Articles and videos that share the ICO’s message in a newsworthy and editorial style will play an important part in ICO marketing strategies.

PPC will continue to be relevant in ICO marketing strategies. Smarter, out of the box thinking is required, and some good old-fashioned A/B testing of the networks and publishers that allow crypto and ICO advertising.

 

On Yavin is co-founder and CEO of Cointelligence.

 

 

 

 

 

Related reading

SPI 318: Modern Mindfulness with Melissa Monte—An SPI Student and Her Successful Start

I’ve had a lot of requests for episodes like this, so we’re doing something a little different today. We’re talking to Melissa Monte, a student of my Power-Up Podcasting Fast Track Workshop. Her podcast, Mind Love, launched soon after, and she’s here to share how she created her vibrant and successful podcast from scratch.

I wanted to bring Melissa on today to talk about what she’s learned, what she has planned for the future, and how she’s progressing. It gets pretty personal too. Melissa talks about some of the darker years of her life, and how she was able to overcome them and create a whole new perspective. We go into why she decided to launch a podcast, and why podcasting specifically is helping her fulfill her life’s mission. Now that Melissa has a growing audience, I also offer some help and advice for next steps so that she can take things to the next level.

I’m so thankful that my students—and all of you on Team Flynn—are action-takers. You can truly find yourself through the actions that you take, and courses can help you do that through accountability and the tools you gain as a result. Hopefully this episode inspires you to take action as well, whether you take one of my courses or not. Let’s get started!

If you want to get started with a podcast of your own, check out my free, three-day training course, HowtoStartaPodcast.com. I’ll show you everything you need to know to get your podcast set up and running!

I’m so glad that I finally got out of my own head and started producing online courses. In 2016, I realized that online courses could help so many people go deeper into the processes I teach, and the results have been amazing. If you’re interested in starting your own online courses, I’d highly recommend the platform I use—it’s called Teachable. It’s such an easy tool to use, and it adds so much value to the teaching process. I made over a million dollars in online course sales in 2017 alone, and Teachable has been a critical part of that. Check it out at Teachable.com/pat. [Full Disclosure: I’m a compensated advisor and an affiliate for Teachable.]

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 Melissa Monte for joining me this week. Until next time!

30 Free Instagram Stories Highlight Icons for Your Business

With more than 200 million users visiting at least one Business Profile daily, Instagram is more than just a social network—it’s your brand’s digital storefront.

However, just like a messy store doesn’t give the best first impression to your customers, a disorganized Instagram profile can do more harm than good.

In this post, we’ll explore how you can use covers for your Instagram Highlights to showcase the best of your brand. As a thank you to our dedicated readers, we’ll also give you a designer pack of icons that will boost the look of your profile right away.

If only all renovations were this easy.

What are covers for Instagram Stories Highlights?

Instagram introduced Stories Highlights in December 2017 to let users like you “hold on to your favorite moments from Instagram Stories and share them in ways that help you express yourself.”

Since then, brands have found many creative ways to share the best of their stories. One effective way has been with the use of “covers.”

You’ve probably noticed these visually-appealing icons popping up on the profiles of your favorite Instagram users—and for good reason.

Brands and influencers like Alexandra Grant of To Vogue or Bust, Monika Hibbs, and home and garden site Jungalow use covers for their Instagram Stories Highlights to showcase their brand and bring added value to their audience.

free Instagram Stories Highlights CoversThe JungalowTo Vogue or Bust

As you can see, using covers with appropriate icons make these profiles easier to navigate—and their content easier to find and engage with.

Why brands should use Instagram Stories Highlights

Boost the longevity of your content

Instagram Stories Highlights lets your brand showcase your best Stories and post them permanently on your Instagram profile.

As explained in our post 14 exciting new things to try on social media in 2018, “This feature is super valuable for brands because, unlike self-destructing Story content, Stories Highlights can be saved, reposted, and measured for long-term performance.”

This means that content such as a question and answer session you do with your followers can live permanently on your profile as an FAQ, so you aren’t wasting time constantly explaining the same things over and over again.

Drive more traffic to your website

Since you can share unlimited links in your Stories with the “swipe up” feature, Highlights enables you to drive more traffic to your website.

This let’s you direct your audience to external pages. Giving one use-case example, AdWeek explains, “Marketers can link to lead-generation forms from their respective email marketing software and boom, your email list is going off the roof.”

Whether you’re trying to increase sales by linking to a product page or growing your email list, Highlights allow you to host these valuable links for as long as your business needs.

Establish a solid brand

By adding covers to your Instagram Stories Highlights, you show your audience that your business is dedicated to making their experience as elevated as possible.

Clear and compelling covers and icons are a great way to give visitors to your profile a quick look at what they can expect from your brand. How do you want potential customers to see your brand—disorganized and cluttered, or sleek and thoughtful?

While other businesses might have Instagram Stories Highlights, if they don’t have clear categories with associated icons they’re not making it easy for the audience to navigate their content.

Having aesthetically-pleasing and relevant icons and covers will help set your brand apart from your competition—and positively impact your audience’s experience with your business.

How to create your own covers for Instagram Stories Highlights

Instagram Stories Highlights covers can easily be customized to reflect your brand and business needs with Canva, a desktop and mobile graphic design tool.

To make this even easier for you, Hootsuite’s talented designers created a free download of 30 professional icons and covers:

Click here to download 30 free Instagram Stories Highlights covers

Here’s how to customize these icons and covers to for your brand.

1. Open the Canva desktop version by going to the Canva website.

2. Under the ‘Create a design’ section, select ‘Use custom dimensions.’

3. Enter 1080 as the value in the first box, and 1920 as the value in the second box. Make sure the value is measured in ‘px’ and click the green ‘Design!’ button.

how to create instagram stories highlights covers

4. Now that you have your template ready, open and upload the icons we provided. Either drag and drop the .PNG file from the folder, or locate it manually.

how to create instagram stories highlights icons

5. To locate manually, click on the ‘Uploads’ icon on the left toolbar, then select the grey icon labeled ‘Uploads’ and click the green ‘Upload your own images’ button.

Free Instagram Stories Highlight Icons for Your BusinessFree Instagram Stories Highlight Icons for Your Business

6. Locate the icons folder, select the 1_icononly file and select the icon you want to create the cover with. (Tip: The files may look blank, but it’s because they are transparent.)

Free Instagram Stories Highlight Icons

7. To add a background color or pattern of your choice, select the ‘Bkground’ option from the left toolbar. Choose a color or pattern.

Free Instagram Stories Highlight Icons

8. To create more covers (recommended), click on the ‘+Add a new page’ button below your image and repeat steps 4 through 7 until you have your desired number of covers.

9. You’re ready to download your new Instagram Stories Highlights covers! Click the ‘Download’ button at the top of the page and choose the format you want (PNG or JPG file). Transfer them to your phone via your desired method.

Free Instagram Stories Highlight Icons

10. Once you have the covers saved on your phone, upload them to your Instagram Story. It’s also a good time to make sure your Instagram Story archive is turned on.

11. Turn on your Instagram Story archive by going to your settings, clicking on ‘Story Settings’ and scrolling down to the ‘Save to Archive’ selection and switching it on.

Free Instagram Stories Highlight Icons

12. Now that that’s ready, upload your highlights covers to your Instagram Story. For instructions on how to do this, see our post How to use Instagram Stories: The complete business guide.

13. After you have your covers up on your Instagram Story, click the ‘Highlight’ little heart icon in the bottom right corner.

Free Instagram Stories Highlight Icons

14. When you click ‘Highlight,’ you can either add the post to an existing Highlight or create a new one.Free Instagram Stories Highlight Icons

15. Repeat until you have all of your desired covers added.

16. To edit, add to, or remove a Highlight, click the ‘More’ ellipsis in the bottom right hand corner of the image.

Free Instagram Stories Highlight

Now that you’ve uploaded all your Instagram Story Highlights icons, your profile is showing off your best content and your brand—just like @gloridays is doing below.

Free Instagram Stories Highlight

Save time managing your Instagram presence using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can schedule and publish photos directly to Instagram, engage the audience, measure performance, and run all your other social media profiles. Try it free today.

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Making Your Amazon Affiliate Store Go Viral


If you’ve tried to make money with Amazon (or any affiliate marketing for that matter), the part where most people fail is with the traffic, or more likely… lack of traffic.

Fixing that is easy with the right tools. Viral traffic is the easiest, best and most targeted traffic you can get – again, if you’re doing it right.

For something to go viral it needs to have the following:
• Value
• Share-ability
• Congruency

If you can give people something they’re interested in, a gift, report, video training, software tool that fixes their issue… whatever it is – and for them to fix that all they have to do is click a button?

Well… that’s gold right there.

ShopABot does this for you automatically, building an email subscriber list AND rewards them for buying through your link – and even sharing your store and your affiliate links for you!

When ShopABot has found your niche, working out what kind of gift to pair it up with is easy. For example, if you click the button and it’s found that Green Tea is the perfect niche for you, you could give away any kind of thing like a report that shows how to:
• How to brew your tea for maximum flavor
• 20 iced tea recipes
• The x health benefits from Green Tea
• Where to find top quality teas at bargain prices
• Places around the globe for exquisite tea experiences

In that report, you could even get a little more creative and include other related recommended resources. For example… they are buying green tea, maybe they also need a kettle, or some fancy teacups etc.

If you’re doing the traffic manually (instead of using ShopABot), I’d still stick with social media. It’s like word of mouth, but on steroids!

There are really three sites you should focus on in the beginning:

1. Facebook – This is the goliath of social media. It’s important to get a fan page created for your website ASAP.
2. Pinterest – There’s not many sites that can bring more traffic than Pinterest, especially if you use it correctly. Post often, post relevant content that is likely to be re-pinned a lot, and follow as many accounts relevant to your niche as you can.
3. Instagram – You may have been expecting Twitter to be the third site, but I’ve actually found Instagram a lot more effective than Twitter. There are no “secrets” to Instagram, really. Just follow relevant users, like and comment on their content, and post great images on a regular basis with relevant hashtags. It’s easy.

Twitter is probably the next one you should focus on, followed by YouTube, and then others like Snapchat.

Be careful to grow your social media at a natural rate. If you follow too many people, make too many comments, etc., too quickly, you could get banned.

Using the viral traffic system inbuilt in ShopABot, you can avoid any potential backlash because it’s your visitors who are sharing. You just get the ball rolling by giving away free stuff… the affiliate commissions will snowball from there!

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