This may be of some interest.
With over 1 billion active users, Instagram is undoubtedly one of the most far-reaching social media networks you can use for marketing purposes.
Instagram has proven a viable advertising option for businesses today, and shows no signs of slowing down — in fact Instagram ad revenues will exceeded $20 billion in ad revenue in 2019, an exponential increase from 1.86 billion in just three years.
If you’re not already using Instagram for your business, you’re missing out on a ton of opportunity to grow brand awareness and reach a wide audience. Fortunately, adopting an Instagram strategy can be relatively easy with enough time and effort.
However, if you’ve never used the app, you might be daunted by the first question likely to cross your mind — How can I post my first image?
If you’re ready to post an image to Instagram, we’ve got you covered. Here, we’ve cultivated a quick-and-easy guide to posting on Instagram, to ensure you can begin attracting the attention of your audience with Instagram marketing.
How to Post to Instagram
Posting to Instagram consistently can help businesses find resonance with their audience and grow better, but doing it right is just as important. Here’s how to post to your Instagram account step-by-step.
1. Tap the + icon at the bottom of your screen.
See that plus sign [+] in the image above? That’s your starting point. See that post from our culture account? That’s your end point. Click that plus sign and you’ll be ready for the next step, below.
2. Choose a photo or video from your library — or shoot one in the app.
Instagram will show you the photos already saved to your phone. Choose one of those to post. Alternatively, you can click “Photo” or “Video” in the bottom to take a photo or video within the Instagram app itself, if you don’t already have an image you want to use.
Once you choose an image, click “Next” in the top right.
3. Crop the image.
You aren’t limited to just a square image on Instagram. You can actually share horizontal or vertical images as well. To get more of your image seen, pinch the screen of the photo you’ve selected on the Library screen.
However, while Instagram does allow vertical and horizontal options, the images still need to fit into some specific dimensions. So, you might still need to crop a tiny bit of your photo to get it to fit.
4. Try a carousel post.
Do you have multiple photos and want to highlight them all? Instagram allows you to do this with its carousel feature.
As you go to tap a photo or video, first tap the icon just above your photos to the right that looks like stacked squares. Once you tap this, you’ll see a number on the corner of every image or video you tap. This number notes where the content will show up in the carousel.
5. Pick a filter.
Instagram offers 24 filters — scroll to the right to peruse your options, and click on one to preview how it will look on your photo. (Take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Instagram Filters to learn more).
6. Edit your photo.
You can also click “Edit” at the bottom right to adjust contrast, brightness, etc.
When you’re ready, click “Next” in the top right.
7. Type your caption.
Get creative and write a nice, interesting caption to go with your photo. Since text can help optimize your post in Instagram’s search, writing something can only benefit you.
8. Use hashtags for post optimization.
With Instagram’s search feature, users can search by hashtags. So, you should make sure to write relevant hashtags in your caption. If someone does a search of a hashtag you placed in your caption, they might find your post as well as others that included the same one.
9. Tag friends.
Want your friend or their followers to see a photo that you posted of the two of you? Tag them!
On the post page, you can click “Tag People” to tag other Instagram accounts in your post. Alternatively, you can include their handle (or their username beginning with an @ symbol) in your caption.
10. Add your location.
If you’re on a fun vacation or at a neat event and you don’t feel like including that information in your caption, you can mark where you are in another way. On the post page, tap “Add Location” to put a location on your image (which makes it easier for people to find your post).
When you post an image or video with a location, it will show up between your name and the block of content on the feed.
11. Play with emojis.
Emojis are fun and can make your caption more eye catching. If you know of a few relevant emojis that could fit with your post, stick them in the caption area.
For example, if you’re posting a vacation photo, you could include a beach umbrella or a plane to show you flew somewhere.
Be sure not to go overboard and post emojis just for the sake of posting them. If you post a bowling emoji along with a photo of a beach, that obviously won’t make sense to people. Similarly, if you post 20 emojis that loosely relate to a post, you might just annoy your followers or come off as desperate.
12. Share the post on other social media platforms
Finally, if you want to share your content on your other, connected social media sites (like Facebook or Twitter), simply slide the bar from the left to the right.
When you’re ready to post, click “Share” in the top right.
Instagram Saved Drafts
If you’re not ready to post right away, you can also save it to your Instagram Saved Drafts. Simply go back to the filtering and editing step, tap the back arrow in the top left, and select “Save Draft.”
13. Edit the post.
Typos happen to everyone! If you just posted something and notice a glaring spelling error, don’t panic. Simply tap the three dots that appear on the right across from your name, then tap “Edit.”
Now that you know how to post to Instagram, you can begin creating content for the platform and connecting with your audience. If you’re a business or brand, you’ll want a solid strategy for earning engagement and awareness.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Thank you for reading.
This may be of some interest.
So, you’ve read dozens — if not hundreds — of SEO articles online. You’ve digested countless tips and tricks for improving your website’s SEO. You’ve even (over)paid that self-proclaimed “expert” to help you develop an SEO strategy that aligns with your business goals.
But after all of the reading and learning and strategizing, it dawns on you: You haven’t actually done anything yet. Perhaps you’re intimidated. Maybe you’re crunched for time.
Regardless, when it comes to on-page SEO, there’s no excuse for dragging your feet. On-page SEO has the power to bring countless new visitors — and customers — right to your website.
On-page SEO is also completely up to you: You get to establish what the topic and/or goal of each page will be. You get to decide on the target audience for that page. And you get to choose the target keywords and phrases you want to focus on.
All you have to do is get started, and we built this guide to help you.
Google’s algorithm ranks your website on three main factors: on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO:
- We’ll cover on-page SEO elements below.
- Off-page SEO refers to social sharing, external linking, and more.
- Technical SEO refers to all the SEO elements not included in on-page and off-page practices, such as structured data, site speed, and mobile readiness — the more technical parts of SEO.
Note: This SEO “trilogy” isn’t always divided into three clean sections; some of these SEO elements will overlap. You’ll see how and why throughout this piece.
Why is on-page SEO important?
On-page SEO is important because it tells Google all about your website and how you provide value to visitors and customers. It helps your site be optimized for both human eyes and search engine bots.
Merely creating and publishing your website isn’t enough — you must optimize it for Google and other search engines in order to rank and attract new traffic.
On-page SEO is called “on-page” because the tweaks and changes you make to optimize your website can be seen by visitors on your page (whereas off-page and technical SEO elements aren’t always visible).
Every part of on-page SEO is completely up to you; that’s why it’s critical that you do it correctly. Now, let’s discuss the elements of on-page SEO.
All on-page SEO elements fall into three main categories:
Content elements refer to the elements within your site copy and content. In this section, we’ll focus mostly on crafting high-quality page content that benefits your visitors and tells Google that your website provides value.
High-Quality Page Content
Page content is the heart of on-page SEO. It tells both search engines and readers what your website and business are all about.
The first step to creating high-quality content is choosing relevant keywords and topics. Conduct keyword research by searching Google for terms and seeing what surfaces for competitors and other websites. You can also use tools like Ahrefs, AnswerthePublic, and UberSuggest.
Also, read our Beginner’s Guide on How to Do Keyword Research for SEO.
Next, consider how your page content falls into the buyer’s journey and visitors’ search intent. These will impact how you will use your keywords and what types of content you will create:
|Stage in the Buyer’s Journey||Suggested Content/Website Pages|
Blog posts, videos
Buyer’s guides, case studies
Product demos, comparison tools
Now, it’s time to write your page content or clean it up if you’re currently auditing your on-page SEO.
Here are a few best practices for writing high-quality page content (we’ll touch on some of these in more detail below, in our Checklist):
- Incorporate short and long-tail keywords naturally.
- Add engaging and relevant visual content.
- Write for your specific buyer persona(s).
- Actively solve your audience’s problem.
- Develop content people will share and want to link to.
- Optimize for conversions with CTAs to offers and product pages.
Page content is your opportunity to communicate value to Google and your site visitors; it’s the heart of the on-page SEO process. All other on-page SEO elements stem from high-quality page content, so invest ample resources to develop and optimize it.
HTML elements refer to the elements in your source code.
Note: To see the source code for any page in your browser, click View > Developer > View Source in the top menu.
Your website page titles (also known as title tags) are one of the most important SEO elements.
Titles tell both visitors and search engines what they can find on the corresponding pages.
To ensure your site pages rank for the proper intent, be sure to include the focus keyword for each page in the title. Incorporate your keyword as naturally as possible.
Here are some best practices for when developing a page title:
- Keep it under 70 characters (per Google’s update) … any longer and your title will be cut off in search results. Mobile search results show up to 78 characters.
- Don’t stuff the title with keywords. Not only does keyword-stuffing present a spammy and tacky reading experience, but modern search engines are smarter than ever — they’ve been designed to specifically monitor for (and penalize!) content that’s unnaturally stuffed with keywords.
- Make it relevant to the page.
- Don’t use all caps.
- Include your brand in the title, i.e. “The Ultimate Guide to On-Page SEO in 2019 — HubSpot Blog“.
Headers, also known as body tags, refer to the HTML element <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, and so on.
These tags help organize your content for readers and help search engines distinguish what part of your content is most important and relevant, depending on search intent.
Incorporate important keywords in your
headers, but choose different ones than what’s in your page title. Put your most important keywords in your <h1> and <h2> headers.
Meta descriptions are the short page descriptions that appear under the title in search results. Although it’s not an official ranking factor for search engines, it can influence whether or not your page is clicked on — therefore, it’s just as important when doing on-page SEO.
Meta descriptions can also be copied over to social media when your content is shared (by using structured markup, which we talk about below), so it can encourage click-throughs from there, too.
Here’s what makes for a good meta description:
- Keep it under 160 characters, although Google has been known to allow longer meta descriptions — up to 220 characters. (Note: Mobile devices cut off meta descriptions at 120 characters.)
- Include your entire keyword or keyword phrase.
- Use a complete, compelling sentence (or two).
- Avoid alphanumeric characters like —, &, or +.
Image alt-text is like SEO for your images. It tells Google and other search engines what your images are about … which is important because Google now delivers almost as many image-based results as they do text-based results.
That means consumers may be discovering your site through your images. In order for them to do this, though, you have to add alt-text to your images.
Here’s what to keep in mind when adding image alt-text:
- Make it descriptive and specific.
- Make it contextually relevant to the broader page content.
- Keep it shorter than 125 characters.
- Use keywords sparingly, and don’t keyword stuff.
Structured markup, or structured data, is the process of “marking up” your website source code to make it easier for Google to find and understand different elements of your content.
Structured markup is the key behind those featured snippets, knowledge panels, and other content features you see when you search for something on Google. It’s also how your specific page information shows up so neatly when someone shares your content on social media.
Note: Structured data is considered technical SEO, but I’m including it here because optimizing it creates a better on-page experience for visitors.
Site Architecture Elements
Site architecture elements refer to the elements that make up your website and site pages. How you structure your website can help Google and other search engines easily crawl the pages and page content.
Your page URLs should be simple to digest for both readers and search engines. They are also important when keeping your site hierarchy consistent as you create subpages, blog posts, and other types of internal pages.
For example, in the above URL, “blog” is the sub-domain, “hubspot.com” is the domain, “sales” is the directory for the HubSpot Sales Blog, and “startups” indicates the specific path to that blog post.
Here are a few tips on how to write SEO-friendly URLs:
- Remove the extra, unnecessary words.
- Use only one or two keywords.
- Use HTTPS if possible, as Google now uses that as a positive ranking factor.
Internal linking is the process of hyperlinking to other helpful pages on your website. (See how the words “internal linking” are linked to another HubSpot blog post in the sentence above? That’s an example.)
Internal linking is important for on-page SEO because internal links send readers to other pages on your website, keeping them around longer and thus telling Google your site is valuable and helpful.
Also, the longer visitors are on your website, the more time Google has to crawl and index your site pages. This ultimately helps Google absorb more information about your website and potentially rank it higher on the search engine results pages.
Google started favoring sites that are optimized for faster mobile speeds — even for desktop searches.
Mobile responsiveness matters.
It’s critical to choose a website hosting service, site design and theme, and content layout that’s readable and navigable on mobile devices. If you’re not sure about your own site’s mobile readiness, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
Whether being viewed on a mobile device or desktop, your site must be able to load quickly. When it comes to on-page SEO, page speed counts big-time.
Google cares about user experience first and foremost. If your site loads slowly or haphazardly, it’s likely your visitors aren’t going to stick around — and Google knows that. Moreover, site speed can impact conversions and ROI.
Check your website’s speed anytime using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. If your website is movin’ slow, check out 5 Easy Ways to Help Reduce Your Website’s Page Loading Speed.
Note: Mobile responsiveness and site speed are considered technical SEO, but I’m including them here because optimizing them creates a better on-page experience for visitors.
Now that you understand the different on-page SEO elements, let’s talk through the steps of auditing and improving your on-page SEO.
If you’ve been in search of a solution for organizing and tracking the various on-page SEO elements, you’re in luck. The HubSpot marketing team released an updated version of our On-Page SEO Template, an Excel document that allows you to coordinate pages and keywords — and track changes — all in one place.
In this section, we’ll be using this template as a guide as we walk you through a checklist for your on-page SEO management, step by step. Download the template now and follow along.
Note: The fictional website “http://www.quantify.ly” will be used as an example throughout this post. It’s simply meant to help you imagine how your own website will fit into the template.
1. Crawl your website.
Get an overview of all of your website pages that search engines have indexed. For HubSpot customers, our Page Performance tool (under Reports) will allow you to do this. If you’re not using HubSpot, you can try using a free tool like Xenu’s link crawler.
After crawling your site and exporting the results into an Excel (or .csv) file, there will be three key columns of data that you should focus on:
- The web address (a.k.a. URL)
- The page title
- The page meta description
Copy and paste these three columns into your template.
The URL should be pasted into column B, the page title into column C, and the description into column E.
2. Conduct an SEO audit and define your site architecture.
Now that you have a basic index of your site in the template, you’ll want to organize and prioritize your web pages. Start by defining where within your site architecture your existing pages currently sit.
Do this in column A. Note whether a page is your homepage (ideally you’ll only have one of those), a page in your primary (or secondary) navigation menu, an internal page, and so on.
3. Update URLs, page titles, and meta descriptions.
Review your current URLs, page titles, and meta descriptions to see if they need updating.
(This is the beauty of using a template to organize your SEO: You get a broad overview of the type of content you have on your website.)
Notice how column D and column F automatically calculate the length of each element. The recommended length for page titles is anything under 60 characters. (And, actually, a quick and easy optimization project is to update all page titles that are longer than 60 characters.)
The recommended length for page meta descriptions is 155-160 characters. This is the perfect length to ensure none of the description is cut off by the ellipses. Make sure you’re not too repetitive with keywords in this space. Writing a good meta description isn’t tough, but it deserves just as much consideration as the page content itself.
(Note: For some sites, you may also have to update the URLs, but that’s not always the case and thus was not included as part of this optimization template.)
4. Make sure your keyword is in your URL.
As we mentioned above, add your keyword to your URL. For example, image you own a hot yoga studio called ADYoga. You have a web page that includes videos of your classes. The keyword for this page is “hot yoga online classes” — so, you’d want to include that keyword in your URL. The URL for this web page may look like this: www.ADyoga.com/hot-yoga-online-classes.
5. Include your keyword throughout your web page.
In addition to your URL, you’ll want to add your keyword throughout your web page(s). This includes your title and headers. Sprinkle your keyword throughout your content as well where it fits naturally.
6. Track keywords and topics for each page.
Think of your target keyword as the designated topic for a particular page. If you’re using the HubSpot template, In column O, define just one topic per page.
By doing this, you’ll be able to go more in-depth and provide more detailed information about that topic. This also means that you are only optimizing for one keyword per page, meaning you have a greater chance to rank for that keyword.
There are, of course, a few exceptions to this rule. Your homepage is a classic example. The goal of your homepage is to explain what your entire website is about, and thus you’ll need a few keywords to do that. Another exception is overview pages like services and product pages, which outline what all of your products and services may be.
7. Don’t keyword stuff.
We just covered many examples in which keywords are both helpful and necessary for SEO purposes. However, one mistake many first-timers make when improving their on-page SEO is “keyword stuff”.
Keyword stuffing can be detrimental to your website and web page’s SEO and it can feel spammy to readers/ visitors.
8. Establish value propositions for each page.
A very important next step, which is often overlooked, is establishing a value proposition for each page of your website. Each page should have a goal aside from just ranking for a particular term.
If you’re using the template, you’ll do this in column G.
9. Define your target audience.
Define your target audience — do you have a single buyer persona or multiple personas? Keep this persona in mind as you optimize your site’s pages. (Remember, you are optimizing for humans, too — not just search engine robots.)
In column H of our template, you’ll have the opportunity to define your page’s target audience.
10. Plan new page titles.
Now that you’ve documented your existing page titles and have established value propositions and target audiences for each of your pages, write new page titles (if necessary) to reflect your findings.
You can do this in column K of the template — and double check each title length in column L.
People usually follow the formula of “Keyword Phrase | Context.” The goal of the page title is to lay out the purpose of the page without being redundant. You should also keep the additional recommendations we made above related to titles.
11. Add new meta descriptions.
As we covered above, meta descriptions should be a short, declarative sentence that incorporates the same keyword as your page’s title.
It should not reflect the content verbatim as it appears on the page. Get as close as you can to the 150-character limit to maximize space and tell visitors as much as possible about your page.
If you need to create new meta descriptions, do so in column M of the template.
12. Review and edit page content as needed.
Good copy needs to be thorough, clear, and provide solutions … so, be compelling! Write for your target audience and about how you can help them. Compelling content is also error-free, so double check your spelling and grammar.
Aim to have at least 500 words per page, and format content to make it easier to read and digest with the use of headers and subheaders.
Columns P through R can be used to keep track of changes that you’ve made to your content or to note where changes need to be implemented.
13. Incorporate visual content.
Content can be more than just text, so consider what kind of visual content you can incorporate into each page (if it adds value and serves a purpose, of course). Columns S and T allow you to note which visual elements need to be added. When adding an image to a page, be sure to include a descriptive file name and image alt-text.
14. Optimize your visual content.
We talked earlier about image alt text. You’ll want to optimize your visual content this way — and be sure to include your keyword in your image alt text. It’ll help with the page’s SEO as well as offer the potential to rank in image search (e.g. on a search engine image results page or image carousel).
15. Add internal links.
As stated earlier, incorporating links throughout your pages is a must, but it’s often something that’s easily overlooked.
Make sure that your anchor text includes more than just your keywords. The goal isn’t to stuff in as many keywords as possible, but to make it easy for people to navigate your site.
Use columns U through W to plan for these elements if you don’t already have them, or to document how you’ll improve them.
16. Include external links.
It may seem counterintuitive to include external links throughout your page considering we just covered multiple reasons why internal linking is so important for on-page SEO. However, external links are also important.
By externally linking, to credible and trustworthy sites, Google will know your page is also credible and trustworthy. Not only does Google want to know your site is well-referenced, but your visitors do, too.
17. Optimize for conversions.
If you’re also not optimizing your site to increase the number of leads, subscribers, and/or customers you’re attracting … you’re doing it wrong.
Remember that each page of your website presents a conversion opportunity. That means every page of your website should include at least one call-to-action (CTA), though many pages may have multiple CTAs.
Columns X through AF allow you to plan for conversions.
Be sure that your site has a mix of CTAs for different stages of the flywheel.
(Note: The On-Page SEO Template refers to the stages of the buying funnel — top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and bottom of the funnel. If you are a HubSpot customer, you can even use Smart Content to display these specific CTAs only to people in a specific part of the funnel.)
Also, as you add, edit, or update CTAs, be sure to note conversion rate changes in columns Z, AC, and AF.
Put Your On-Page SEO to Work
Once you finalize your SEO plans, implement these changes on your website or pass them along to someone to implement for you. This will take time to complete, so aim to work on 5 to 10 pages per week.
Remember: SEO is not a one-and-done deal. It’s something you should continually improve upon. You should treat this On-Page SEO Template as a living, breathing document that will help guide your SEO strategy for months (or years) to come.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
Thank you for reading.
This may be of some interest.
Are you confused — even intimidated — by Google Analytics? Good news: you’re not alone. GA is notoriously complicated.
In fact, when I first started to delve into GA’s waters, I wondered if I’d ever truly get it. There were so many concepts to learn and reports to run. How did people ever conquer this thing?!?!
Lots and lots of reading plus some trial and error, it turns out.
I’m not saying I’ve reached total mastery — there’s always something new to pick up — but I’m vastly more comfortable.
And I want you to be, too. So, here’s the cheat sheet to everything I’ve learned over the years. This guide might be long, but it’ll take you from zero to hero in ~6,000 words. And if you still have questions, let me know! I’m @ajavuu on Twitter.
What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics, or GA, is an analytics tool that gives you an extremely in-depth look at your website and/or app performance. It integrates with Google’s marketing and advertising platforms and products (including Google Ads, Search Console, and Data Studio) making it a popular choice for anyone using multiple Google tools.
What other types of people is GA popular among?
Other marketing analytics options, such as HubSpot, can give you all the data you need with much less work. Oh, and here’s another aspect of GA you’ll want to take into consideration:
Is Google Analytics free?
There’s a free and a paid version of GA (the latter is called Analytics 360). Small and medium-sized businesses will likely get all the features you need from the free version. Enterprise businesses need to upgrade if you want:
- Advanced funnel reporting and attribution modeling
- Roll-up reporting
- More views, dimensions, and metrics per property
- Unlimited and unsampled data
Paying for 360 also gives you access to dedicated support, including your own account manager. This alone can make the subscription fee worth it.
And about that subscription fee? It’s not cheap. Analytics 360 begins at $150,000 per year (invoiced monthly) and increases after your site receives more than one billion monthly hits.
360’s cost will price out many businesses. However, if you have the budget for both the service and an agency or in-house analyst to manage your analytics operations, consider investing.
Now, what steps will you need to follow when setting up GA? Good question.
How to Set Up Google Analytics
Before you start using Google Analytics, you’ll have to set up a Google account. This means you must have a registered Google Account email address and password.
Once you’ve created a Google account, that doesn’t mean you automatically have access to GA — rather, you have to register for Analytics (which we’ll review how to do in the next section). But the important thing to note as you go to set up GA is that you can only access the tool by using a valid Google account.
Additionally, to set up GA properly, you’ll want to understand the various layers of the tool — specifically, the hierarchy.
Google Analytics Hierarchy
Here’s a look at the GA hierarchy:
Let’s dive into each of the sections within the hierarchy.
The organization is the highest level. It represents a company. For example, our organization is HubSpot, Inc. One organization can encompass multiple GA accounts.
Organizations are recommended for larger businesses, but not mandatory.
Accounts are not optional. Using Google Analytics requires at least one (sometimes several) accounts.
An account doesn’t mean a user account. I can log into the HubSpot Google Analytics accounts using my Google email ID. HubSpot’s head of technical SEO can also log into the same account using his Google email ID. Our historical optimization specialist can also log into the same account using his Google email ID.
- You can assign one property to each account or multiple properties to one account. Every account can hold up to 50 properties.
- You can give user permissions for an entire Analytics account, a property in an account, or a view in a property.
You might be wondering, “What’s better: creating a new account for every property or adding every account to the same property?”
It depends on your use case and goals.
For example, suppose you have one website — the Stark Industries corporate site — and five subdirectories, including the Stark Industries blog, careers section, media resources, case studies, and investor relations information.
You want to create separate properties for each subdirectory so the people on each team can look at how their portion of the site is performing, as well as the larger site.
But maybe you have another site that discusses Tony Stark’s work with S.H.I.E.L.D. You want the S.H.I.E.L.D. team to see data for this subdirectory, but you don’t want them to see data for the rest of the website. You create a new account and property for the S.H.I.E.L.D. site.
A property is a website or app. Each property can support up to 25 views.
At the minimum, you need two views per property:
- One with zero configuration — essentially the “raw” version of the view
- One with filters set up to exclude any traffic from within your company (i.e. a filter for your IP address) as well as bots and spam traffic
A view only captures the information after your filters and configured settings have been applied. And once you delete a view, that data is gone forever. For those reasons, it’s critical to keep an unfiltered view of your data.
Now that you have completed the basis for how how to set up GA, here are the steps involved in using the tool.
Here are the steps involved in using your GA account.
1. Create a Google Analytics account.
First, you’ll have to create a Google Analytics account. Or, sign in to your current account.
2. Add the name, URL, and industry of the website you want to track.
Choose which account you want to add the property to. You should create and name your Property at this point and enter the website’s URL as well as industry and reporting time zone. Then you’ll be able to Create and Finish this step of the process.
3. Add a view to your property.
Go to the account and property you want to add a view to — use the menu to Create a View, name your view, select the type of view (web or app), and answer a few other questions. Remember, you can add up to 25 views to a property in GA.
4. Add your tracking code directly after the <head> tag of your site.
When you create a property, you’ll have access to a unique ID for tracking and a global site tag (code you need to add to each site page you want to measure). This is how you’ll be able to collect data in your property.
Then, paste your global site tag right after the opening <head> tag on each site page you plan on measuring.
You’ll be asked to choose your type of site (static, dynamic, web hosting, Google Tag Manager) so that you can set up the data collection accurately.
(For more, read our guide to installing the Google Analytics tracking code on your site.)
5. Visit your GA portal and verify the code is working.
Lastly, verify your code is working. You can do this by looking at the Real-Time reports section while clicking around on your site in a different tab or on your phone. The report should show at least one visitor to the site (that’s you!)
And that’s pretty much it! After that review, you may be wondering the following:
Do you need to add the GA code to every page of your site?
That’s a lot of manual work — especially if your website has more than 50 pages. Plus, what happens when you create new pages? Do you need to add the tag every time?!
Relax, because the short answer is: no.
The longer answer: you only need to add the tag to every page template. So, if you have one page type on your site (meaning every individual page uses the same header module), you only need to add it to that module — and it’ll be applied to every page.
If you have two page types, you’d need to paste the code into the two separate header modules. Three page types? Three header modules.
And if you use a CMS like HubSpot, this task is even easier. These tools come with a separate field where you paste your tracking code just once. HubSpot users can follow these simple instructions for adding GA.
Additionally, to use GA successfully, you need to understand dimensions versus metrics.
Google Analytics Dimensions and Metrics
I’ve found the easiest way to think about it is:
- Dimensions = categorical variables. Simple examples include names, colors, and places.
- Metrics = quantitative variables. Basic examples include age, temperature, and population.
Or as my Data Analytics professor put it, “Metrics are what you can do math on.” Not the most eloquent phrasing, but it works.
- Landing page
- Customer type
- Bounce rate
- Session duration
In any GA report, your dimensions are your rows and your metrics are your columns.
Custom Dimensions and Metrics
GA lets you create custom dimensions and metrics from Analytics data plus non-Analytics data. To give you an idea, suppose you track the membership type of customers who have created an account in your CRM. You could combine this information with page views to see page views by member type.
Or maybe you run a blog. If you want to understand how audience engagement impacts other metrics (like conversions, pages per session, etc.), you could create three custom dimensions for each type of reader:
- Advocate: user who shared one-plus posts on social media
- Subscriber: user who signed up for your email list
- Customer: user who purchased premium access
Using these dimensions will give you invaluable information.
What’s a Google Analytics audience?
An audience is a group of users that have something in common. That commonality could be anything: maybe you’re targeting consumers in Australia, so you have an “Australian audience,” or you want to sell to millennials, so you have a “25-34 audience.”
GA comes with several built-in audiences (including the two I just mentioned, location and age). You don’t need to do a thing to set these up — once you have the tracking code installed, GA will automatically break down your visitor data into these audience reports.
However, you can also create custom audiences. Perhaps you’re only interested in “Australian millennials”; you’d need to make a custom audience that only includes visitors who are A) in Australia and B) between the ages of 25 and 34.
Creating an audience is fairly easy. Honestly, the hardest part is figuring out what you’re trying to accomplish and then identifying the user characteristics that’ll help you do that.
Once you’ve done that, follow these instructions to create a new audience segment. From there you can import a segment to use as the basis for your Audience Report.
That brings us to the next question:
What’s a Google Analytics segment?
A segment is a subset of your data. I like to picture an entire pizza made up of all different slices — one slice has pesto and mozzarella, another has sausages and spicy peppers, another has ham and pineapple, and so on. Metaphorically speaking, each slice is a segment.
You can create segments based on:
- Users (e.g. users who have bought something on your site before, users who have signed up for a consultation, etc.)
- Sessions (e.g. all sessions that were generated from a specific marketing campaign, all sessions where a pricing page was viewed)
- Hits (e.g. all hits where the purchase exceeded $85, all hits where a specific product was added to the cart)
Like audiences, GA provides you with several segments. I wouldn’t stop there: you can get incredibly granular with your segments.
To give you some inspiration, here are a few of HubSpot’s segments:
- Users who viewed a specific product page and watched the demo video
- Users who viewed the same product page and didn’t watch the demo video
- Users who view a specific Academy course page
- Users who view a specific Academy lesson page
- Users who view a blog post and a product page
The sky is your limit — well, that, and GA’s segment cap.
Alright, now let’s look at GA Reports. Remember, you can apply up to four segments at a time to any report.
Google Analytics Reports
GA’s left-hand sidebar can be a bit overwhelming. You’ve got six reporting options (all with confusing, vague names), and clicking on any of those only gives you more options.
Let’s walk through each report together.
Google Analytics Real-Time Report
As the name suggests, the Real-Time report gives you insight into what’s happening on your site at this very moment. You can see how many visitors are on your site, which pages they’re visiting, which social platforms they’re coming from, where they’re located, and more.
While this report is fun to look at occasionally, it’s probably the least valuable. Here are some ways to use Real-Time:
- See how much traffic you’re getting from a new social or blog post
- Know immediately if a one-day sale or event is driving views and/or conversions
- Make sure tracking URLs and custom events that you’ve just set up are working as they should
These are useful, but as you’ll see, the other reports pack a far greater punch.
Google Analytics Audience Report
The GA Audience report gives you a high-level overview for the property you’re currently looking at. Check this report once a day to get a sense of how you’re trending overall.
Underneath “Overview,” you’ll see “Audiences,” as well as expandable menus for “Demographics,” “Interests,” “Geo,” “Behavior,” “Technology,” “Mobile,” “Cross-Device,” “Custom,” and “Benchmarking.”
Explore each of these sections to get a sense of what they can tell you about your visitors.
Every section describes an audience.
Whoever named this report belongs in the same group as the person who named guinea pigs: “active users” doesn’t refer to users currently on your site — that’s the Real-Time report — and guinea pigs are neither pigs nor from Guinea.
The Active Users report shows you the number of users who visited in the last day (1-day active users), week (7-day active users), two weeks (14-day active users), and four weeks (28-day active users.)
What’s the value of this report, you ask?
If you have more one-day users than longer-term ones, you’re struggling with retention. People aren’t coming back to your site or app — you need to figure out why.
I’d also recommend looking at this report with various segments; for instance, perhaps you see that users in a certain age bracket have much better retention than the average.
First things first: do you need a refresher on Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and how to calculate it? We’ve got you.
The Lifetime Value report gives you a sense of how valuable users are to your company. You can see lifetime value for, say, the users you generated from email marketing versus the ones you acquired from organic search. Armed with this information, you can decide which channel to invest more in.
A few notes: Lifetime Value is capped at 90 days. The Acquisition date range, however — which you can adjust — reflects all the users you acquired in that time frame.
Imagine you’re interested in looking at transactions per user for users you acquired in the week before Black Friday. You’d adjust the date range to that week specifically. Then you’d see the average transactions per user for that cohort over the following 90 days.
Because HubSpot is a SaaS company, not an ecommerce business, I look at goal completions per user, page views per user, and sessions per user by Acquisition Channel.
If my team has recently wrapped up a marketing campaign, I’ll look at the same metrics by Acquisition Campaign.
But if you are in ecommerce and want to see transaction and revenue data, you’ll need to have ecommerce tracking set up.
(By the way, here’s how to track revenue in HubSpot.)
So, how does it work? This report groups users by one characteristic — so far, “Acquisition Date” is the only “Cohort Type” you can use. By the way, Acquisition Date is the day a user first visited your website.
You have several options from there.
- First, pick your cohort size: day, week, or month.
- Next, pick your metric, or what you want to explore for this cohort. It can be further broken down into Per user, Retention, and Total.
- Per user means the total count of that metric divided by the cohort size. So if you choose Transactions per user, for example, you’ll see the average number of transactions per user for that cohort.
- Retention is simple: user retention, or the number of users who returned that day, week or month (determined by the cohort size you selected) divided by the total number of users in that cohort.
- Total: the total number of sessions, transactions, etc. that occurred for that cohort size.
Now let’s dive into reading the report, because it’s not obvious.
The left-hand column shows you the Cohort Type you picked — Acquisition date, by default — broken down by Cohort Size (day, week, or month).
The first row shows you the totals for all the users in that cohort. Each row underneath that represents the activity in that day, week, or month (in this example, we’re looking at month.)
The row outlined in light blue reflects the Cohort Size you’ve chosen. Remember that data only goes back three months at the max.
The row outlined in yellow shows you the values for the metric you chose (in this case, Goal Completions per User). In the eternal words of Calvin Harris: baby, this what you came for.
Look at the first row. This tells you the average goal completions for the entire cohort in the first month after they were acquired was 1.09. Average goal completions for the entire cohort in the second month after they acquired dropped to 0.09. By the last month, it’s 0.02.
Now look at the next three rows. It looks like average goal completions per user in the first month after they were acquired increased slightly from December to January and again from January to February.
This is pretty usual behavior. Let’s imagine that instead, this report tells us average goal completions per user for February 1-28, 2019 (the last row) was 4.07. Woah! That’s nearly four times as high as December and January.
We’d definitely want to investigate further. And to do so, all we have to do is right-click on the cohort we’re interested in.
Make sure you click on the column if you want the entire day, week, or month analyzed. Click on a cell if you want to analyze only the users who, for example, completed a goal three days after they were acquired on February 27, 2019.
When you right-click, this box will pop up:
Give this cohort a descriptive name. Change the views to “Any View” if you want to use this segment across your entire property (which I usually recommend), then click “Create.”
Voila — now you can compare this cohort to any other segment in any report you choose.
Google Analytics Acquisition Reports
The Acquisition report breaks down your traffic by source: organic, direct, referral, email, social, paid search, display, affiliate, and (Other). (GA uses the (Other) category when it doesn’t know how to categorize a subset of traffic.)
From All Traffic, you can click into Channels.
Click on any category to explore each source in detail.
Depending on the category, you’ll see landing pages (which URLs your visitors entered the site on), source (which website brought them to yours), or keyword (which query took them to your site.)
To see this information presented visually, click on All Traffic > Treemaps. This post walks you through how to read and adjust the Treemaps report.
The next report, Source/Medium, breaks down the general category of traffic (which you saw in “Channels”) into the search engine or domain.
It’s useful if you want to get more granular insight into the ways people are coming to your site. For example, you might notice that a whopping 70% of your referral traffic is coming from LinkedIn, while just 5% is coming from Pinterest. Depending on your marketing team’s priorities it may be time to shift focus.
The last report, Referrals, reveals the specific URLs that sent people to your site, e.g. your referral traffic.
I like to add “Landing page” as a secondary dimension so you can see which pages on your site are receiving the referral traffic.
Google Analytics Behavior Reports
Out of all the reports in GA, I use the Behavior ones the most.
This report gives you a review all of the blog posts, landing pages, web pages on your site.
Let’s start with Site Content > All Pages. This shows the top-trafficked pages for your current view and/or segment. It’s useful in and of itself — you should always keep a careful eye on your most viewed URLs — but I especially like it when I’m analyzing traffic growth or declines.
To give you an idea, maybe total traffic to my website has dropped 10% month over month. I’d navigate to Site Content > All Pages and change the date range to this month compared to the last month (making sure the days of the week match up).
Then I can see the differences in page views by URL:
This helps me identify which pages received less traffic and contributed to that decline.
Helpful tip: I like to change the “Sort Type” from “Default” to “Absolute Change” so I see the results sorted by the greatest differences in percentage rather than total views.
I also add Page Title as a secondary dimension so I can see the name of each page alongside its URL.
This report breaks down the structure of your site by subdomain and then subfolder. To give you an idea, for HubSpot we can see data for each of our subdomains, including:
And so on. If I clicked into blog.hubspot.com, I could then see aggregated data for:
You get the drift. This report is probably most valuable for those managing highly complex properties.
Landing pages is another one of my favorite reports. GA defines a landing page as the first page in a session — in other words, the visitor’s first interaction with your website.
There are a few ways to slice and dice this report.
First, if you’re interested in the sources (organic, paid social, direct, etc.) driving users to the landing page, you can add Source/Medium as a secondary dimension.
This is basically the opposite version of the report we added earlier.
Second, if you only want to see which landing pages users visited from a specific source, on a specific platform, or within a specific category, you can add the appropriate system segment:
Maybe you’re most interested in the landing pages that mobile and tablet users see — so you choose the Mobile and Tablet Traffic.
Or perhaps you’re curious about users who ended up buying something, so you choose the “Made a Purchase” segment. There are lots of possibilities here.
This report shows the last pages users visited in their sessions before they left your site.
That’s a little confusing, so let’s use an example.
I want to find a place to grab dinner with my friends so I search, “Mediterranean restaurants near me.” A place that looks good pops up, so I click on it. First, I check out the menu. They have a hummus sampler — yum. Then I click on their press page. It links to a recent article on Eater, so I leave the site to read it. The reviewer loved the food. I’m sold.
The Press page would be my exit page.
You may hear that you should analyze your exit pages to understand why users are leaving your site — I think this example reveals why that strategy doesn’t always make sense. Just because someone has left doesn’t mean anything is wrong with the content.
Check this report out but take the data with a grain of salt.
This report is pretty self-explanatory: it tells you how quickly your site is loading for users. Obviously, the faster the better — not only do faster pages correlate with higher revenue, but Google’s algorithm takes page load time into account.
Site Speed Page Timings
This report delves into the average page load times for each URL. I use it to identify the slowest-loading pages on HubSpot’s site with the ultimate goal of figuring out why they’re taking their sweet, sweet time and how to speed them up.
The default metrics are page views and average page load time, but I also recommend looking at:
- Avg. page load time and bounce rate
- Change the Sort Type to “Weighted” so you see the blog posts with the highest page views first
- Avg. page load time and page value
- The latter gives you a sense of how much a specific page contributes to your total revenue
- Looking at these two together helps you find slow-loading pages that are valuable to your bottom line (even if they don’t get a ton of traffic), making them a high priority to fix
First things first: if users can search your website, make sure you’ve set up Site Search in GA. You must enable it for every view separately (here are the step-by-step instructions).
I typically start with the “Usage” report, which tells me how many sessions occurred with and without one-plus searches. In other words, I learn how frequently people used site search for the view and time period I specified.
Here’s where you learn what people are searching for. Look for themes: if you see the same search terms coming up multiple times, there are a few conclusions you could draw.
Either you need to create new content that gives users the information they’re looking for, and/or you need to better surface existing content so it’s easier to find.
Pay attention to the “% Search Exits” column, as this tells you how many users clicked away from the search results page rather than choosing a result. You can usually infer there wasn’t a good answer for their question (or it wasn’t appropriately titled.)
This report displays which pages users are starting searches from. It’s important to think about this contextually. Maybe people are commonly beginning searches from your 404 page — that makes sense and isn’t anything to be alarmed about.
If, on the other hand, they’re starting searches from a product landing page, something’s wrong. The content clearly isn’t living up to the expectations they had when they clicked the ad link.
Loves Data provides a solid overview of GA’s Site Search reports if you want to explore them even further.
A user clicks a button. Then they download a file. Next they watch a video.
No, this isn’t the world’s most boring bedtime story — it’s an example of a GA event. Three events, to be specific.
GA defines events as, “user interactions with content that can be measured independently from a web page or a screen load.”
Those user interactions are up to you; you’ll need to add special code to your site or app that tracks the specific actions you’re interested in. Here are the instructions.
If you’re not excited about events tracking already, I want you to get excited. There are infinite possibilities here: if you have an event set up for watching a product demo, and another for clicking a link to an external review of your tool, you can measure how many times each event happened.
Maybe you discover your video isn’t getting many plays. It’s probably time to optimize the current video, make it easier to find on your site, or create a new one. Or perhaps you see that way more users than you expected are checking out the third-party review of your product.
That tells you users want more social proof and testimonials. Since the review is favorable, you might want to put it front and center on your site.
This report tracks the events taking place most frequently — pretty straightforward. You’ll see total events (e.g. how many times that event happened) and unique events (how many sessions included one or more occurrences of that event).
If you’ve set values for your events, this report also shows you how the total value of each event and its average value (or the total value divided by the frequency.)
In this report, you can see which pages generate the most actions. I typically add “Event Category” as the secondary dimension, then filter for the event I’m most interested in.
To give you an idea, my team tracks “Blog CTA.” This event fires whenever a user clicks a CTA embedded in a blog post. To get to the report below, I added “Event Category” as the second dimension, then filtered for “Page begins with blog.hubspot.com” (so I’d only see URLs on the blog) and “Event Category equals Blog CTA.”
Now I can see which posts generate the most CTA clicks. Hopefully you’re starting to see the power of event tracking!
The Events Flow report tracks the order in which events take place on your site. It can tell you:
A) Whether particular events tend to happen first — and if they trigger other events
To give you an idea, maybe users frequently watch your demo video, then click the CTA to schedule a call with a salesperson.
B) Whether certain event categories are more common than others
Imagine you see that videos are played far more often than PDFs are downloaded.
C) Whether users act differently based on segment
For example, perhaps people coming in via organic scroll to the bottom of your pricing page far more than people coming in via social media.
Note: This report is very subject to sampling. (Read more about GA’s data sampling practices here.) Sampled data is usually pretty accurate, but it means the more important the conclusion you’re drawing, the less uncertainty you’ll be able to tolerate.
To reduce the level of sampling, make the date range smaller.
If you monetize your website with Google AdSense or Ad Exchange, you can use the Ad Manager and Google Analytics integration to bring information on how your ad units are performing into GA.
I won’t go into any more detail here, but I recommend reading the following resources if you want to know more:
Google Analytics Conversion Reports
If you have a website, you have an objective — probably several — for the people who visit your site.
Ecommerce store owners want their visitors to subscribe to their mailing list, make a user account, add something to their cart, and/or complete the order confirmation process.
Media companies want their visitors to stay on their site for as long as possible and/or view a certain number of pages (all the better to maximize their ad revenue.)
B2B businesses want their visitors to download an ebook, sign up for a webinar, or book a call with a sales rep.
Google Analytics makes it possible to measure all of these things — plus many more.
A goal is essentially a conversion that you’ve defined (which is why this info shows up under the Conversion section.)
There are four main types of goals:
- Destination: This goal is completed when a user reaches a specific page, like a product page, order confirmation page, or thank you page
- Event: This goal is completed when a predefined event fires (like the Events you can set up as, well, Events — think watching a video or sharing something to social media)
- Duration: This goal is completed when a user’s session lasts longer than a pre-set time
- Pages/screens per session: This goal is completed when a user views a specific number of pages (or screens for an app) per session
The first two are insanely useful. The last two are pretty useless. (If you have an interesting use case for Duration or Pages/screens per session, let me know on Twitter @ajavuu. I’d love to be proven wrong.)
Head here to learn how you’re doing goal-wise across the board. I get the most from this report when I compare date ranges and/or look at goal completions by segment.
For example, quickly looking at goal completions by device reveals mobile visitors sign up for the blog newsletter much less frequently than desktop and tablet visitors. That could be because it’s hard to sign up for the newsletter on a phone — or it could be mobile users are looking for one thing and ending their session as soon as they’ve found it. I should dig in more to decide which case it is.
Knowing a goal was completed isn’t helpful in and of itself; you also need to know where it happened. Suppose you’ve embedded the same form in three separate pages on your site.
It’s great that Daenerys Stark from Dragonstone, Blackwater Bay just filled out your form to get in touch with a consultant, but which page did she fill it out on?
The Goal URLs report shows you. It breaks down conversions by “Goal Completion URL” (read: where it went down.)
Reverse Goal Path
Reverse Goal Path is the unsung hero of the Conversion section. Well, I’m singing its praises now. This report allows you to see the last three pages a user visited before completing the goal.
It’s useful for goals that aren’t sequential. Maybe you have a contact form that appears in multiple places on your site, or there are two different paths that lead users into buying your ebook. Thanks to this report, you can understand the various ways people arrive at the end destination — and there’s no need to set up a funnel.
I usually filter down to a specific goal completion location or goal previous step 1, 2, or 3.
For example, since I’m interested in seeing which blog posts generated leads from content downloads, I added “Goal Previous Step – 1 containing blog.hubspot.com” to the filter.
Here’s what I got:
“(Entrance)” means the user came to the site on that step; “(not set)” means the user didn’t complete any steps prior to that one — because they weren’t on the website yet.
For a comprehensive exploration of Reverse Goal Path, take a look at OnlineMetrics’s guide.
For sequential goals, Funnel Visualization is your go-to report.
Going back to the ecommerce example, the last goal would be “Arrived at the order confirmation page.” The goal before that, or goal #3, would be “Clicked checkout.” The goal before that, goal #2, would be “Added something to cart.” And the goal before that, goal #1, would be “Looked at product listing page.”
At each stage, you can see user drop-off. That lets you identify areas where you can improve conversion rates; for example, maybe you lose a lot of users during the checkout process. You change the flow so they can check out as a guest (versus needing to create an account), which dramatically reduces checkout abandonment.
To see this level of detail, you’ll need to map out your goals as a series. If all of your goals are simply the end objective, like “Arrived at the order confirmation page,” you won’t be able to reverse-engineer how users progress.
The Funnel Visualization report also requires you to mark the first step in the goal path as required or not. If you tell GA that yes, the first goal needs to be completed, Funnel Visualization will only show you the sessions where the user first finished goal #1. If a user skips goal #1 and goes straight to goal #2, their session won’t be represented here.
If Funnel Visualization is the uptight relative who always made you take your elbows off the table and wash your hands before you ate, Goal Flow is the laid-back, fun relative who’d randomly take you out of school to go to the zoo.
All that to say: Goal Flow gives you a lot more freedom than Funnel Visualization. Unlike the latter, Goal Flow shows you all sessions that led to the completed end goal — regardless of whether the user completed the required goal #1 or not.
Another difference from Funnel Visualization: Goal Flow also shows you loopbacks — i.e. when a user goes back to a previous page or refreshes their current one.
If the user skips a step, Funnel Visualization “backfils” it. Goal Flow doesn’t.
If you edit an existing funnel or create a new one, Funnel Visualization will show you all your data from that moment onward. Goal Flow, on the other hand, can show you data from the past.
You can also toggle the Dimension and Level of detail of the report, as well as the segment, to get even more granular.
I recommend looking at various segments to see which convert at the highest and lowest rates — plus where they commonly drop out.
Note: This report is subject to sampling. (Read more about GA’s data sampling practices here.) Sampled data is usually pretty accurate, but it means the more important the conclusion you’re drawing, the less uncertainty you’ll be able to tolerate.
To reduce the level of sampling, make the date range smaller.
This report is helpful if you’re A) using Google Ads and B) not measuring conversions. Basically, Google uses machine learning to identify your “best” sessions — or those likeliest to generate conversions — and then translates those themes into Smart Goals.
Once you have Smart Goals, you can use them in Google Ads to optimize your ads performance.
Smart Goals are controversial within the marketing community because the data is minimal and businesses will be far better served by setting up their own conversion tracking. Keep that in mind if you decide to use them.
Now You’re Ready to Track
Google Analytics is a highly valuable tool for any business as it gives you tangible data that you can apply to grow your business. Bookmark this guide and come back to it as your data tracking becomes more sophisticated.
Good luck on your Google Analytics journey.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August, 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Thank you for reading.
This may be of some interest.
Posted by MiriamEllis
Image credit: Robert Couse-Baker
Before all else, gratitude to every delivery person, whether in-house or third party, doing the essential work of keeping households safer and supplied in these times. I’m dedicating today’s column to the manager of a nearby Sprouts grocery store who personally drove my order to my door when an Instacart driver just couldn’t get the job done.
If your business or clients are weighing whether to fulfill delivery in-house or partner with a third party, my small experience is an apt footnote to the huge, emergent debate over last-mile fulfillment options. I’d searched all over town for scarce potatoes, finally arranging by phone with the local Sprouts market to hold their last two bags for me one morning, and texting the Instacart driver about where the spuds were being held. Next:
For whatever reason, the driver chose not to retrieve them, claiming the manager told them there was nothing being held for me. Not knowing whom to believe, I phoned the manager who confirmed the driver had never asked for the potatoes and, to my astonishment, told me he was going to bring the groceries to my house right away, himself.
“I feel really bad about this,” he said. “Sometimes Instacart’s drivers just go so fast, they don’t do a good job. It’s really important to me that my customers get good service and feel good about our store, especially with this hard time we’re all going through.”
And that’s the crux of what has suddenly become a pressing issue for millions of local businesses, as well as all local search marketers who draw a through-line between reputation and revenue.
- Stack up the pros and cons of in-house vs. third-party delivery
- Interview a software engineer who has been on the ground with this evolving narrative of critical choices
- Excerpt the revealing comments of a former head of development at Grubhub.
- Plan SEO and marketing strategy for competing with corporate delivery
- Examine the welfare of and best options for drivers
- Help your brand or clients make a better-informed delivery decision
A piece of the pie
On March 15, 2020, downloads of Instacart’s app shot up 218% over their normal daily average. Restaurants, grocers, and a wide variety of retailers have spent the past two months forging paths from shelves to customers’ front doors to meet demand. While initial implementation may have been a scramble for the state of emergency, we’re getting to the place where it’s time to talk long-term plans.
I recently surveyed a group of several hundred local business owners and local search marketers to ask whether they intend to permanently offer home delivery. Of those who answered “yes,” I asked whether they would be staffing up an in-house delivery fleet or outsourcing to a third party, like Instacart, or Postmates, GrubHub, or Uber Eats. I found it amazing that my survey group was split right down the middle:
Clearly, there’s an even divide between brands that expect to manage the entire customer experience from start to finish, and those whose circumstances are causing them to entrust the last mile to a workforce they can’t directly control. I wondered if the 50/50 split represented settled decisions or indecisions and, also, how my pie chart might look a year from today, when all parties have had more time for implementation and analysis.
For now, we’ll start by examining another type of pie with a technician who experienced a pizza company shifting from in-house to third-party delivery.
A tale of cold pizza and ghosting drivers
My friend is a software engineer who worked on last-mile delivery integration for a headlining US pizza startup, and whose anonymized takeaways serve as a stunning cautionary tale. The engineer tells it this way:
“We started with an in-house delivery fleet, with two drivers assigned to each company vehicle and each vehicle servicing a radius of approximately five miles. Delivery times were under fifteen minutes with this setup, and we had a ton of very happy customers. Leadership then decided to outsource delivery to a well-known third party.”
Take note of what happened next.
“Average delivery time shot up to sixty minutes for peak dinner hours, and holidays were especially bad. One Hallowe’en, it was taking three hours for customers to receive their dinnertime pizza because of driver availability. The third party can’t simply add more drivers as they have no control over when drivers sign onto their platform, but with an in-house fleet, you can plan for high demand and increase staffing. And, instead of having an in-house driver waiting with their truck on the premises to take a delivery, you have to wait for the third party to assign a driver (between 5-30 minutes), wait for the driver to arrive (another 5-30 minutes), and then, finally, deliver. You’d sometimes see deliveries assigned to third-party drivers twenty miles away who would end up ghosting because they don’t want to be bothered with the long drive.”
As for technical concerns, the engineer told me:
“Technically, the third-party service was not reliable. I had to deal with a lot of random bugs in their API, as well as constant service interruption, and they had very poor engineering support for their API. This might not be true of all third-party services, of course.”
And, finally, here’s how the engineer summed up the impact of this on customers:
“The third-party delivery fleet wasn’t just inefficient in terms of time, but often, they didn’t have the proper bags to keep the pizzas warm. Customers waiting a long time for cold pizza will obviously lead to dissatisfaction. In-house drivers care more about the product they’re delivering, in my experience. I’m convinced that, given the choice, customers would always prefer restaurants to have in-house delivery staff, but it’s hard to compete nowadays with the big name last-mile platforms. Some brands have taken a very public stance on refusing to work with third parties, and I’d like to see Google and Yelp roll out features to let customers know when businesses have their own delivery staff, because it can make such a difference for the customer.”
As a local SEO, I know that difference for the customer is going to show up in the reviews and word-of-mouth sentiment for any brand, and that, cumulatively, it could equal the brand building, maintaining, or shedding loyalty. Reputation can, quite literally, be the difference between solvency and closure.
Positive press for third-party deliveries
If there are so many potential negatives associated with outsourcing delivery, why do so many successful brands go this route? We’ve looked at some cons, but this shortlist of pros is illuminating:
- Third parties have their own, highly-visible, well-ranked directories of businesses they service. These websites are hard to compete with if you’re not included in them. Seen in a certain light, third parties can bring a business new visibility and new customers. More on this ahead.
- Third parties have ordering technology, logistics, drivers and either proprietary or driver-owned vehicles all ready to go, doing much of the heavy lifting. Not having to pay for a fleet of vehicles or directly pay the wages of drivers can impact brands’ initial, fixed, and ongoing costs. Concerns about insuring these drivers also belong to the third party, not the brand.
- Third-party reliance means the grocer can focus on groceries and the chef can focus on cooking, not delivery. For some brands, the challenge of becoming delivery experts is just too distracting.
Many brands report having a good experience with major third parties. It’s important to read pre-COVID stories like these told by QSR’s Daniel P. Smith about companies that have relied on these providers for multiple years. Consider:
- The Buona family found that trying to focus on delivery detracted from the core operations of their 27-location Italian restaurant chain. In 2017, they turned the last mile over to DoorDash and were so pleased with the operation that they’re now also partnering with Uber Eats and Grubhub.
- Two years ago, the Habit Burger Grill launched a Postmates partnership in Northern California, and were happy enough with the arrangement to expand delivery from all 240 of their locations via Postmates, Doordash, and Uber Eats.
- Meanwhile, the 40-unit Just Salad chain has been using Grubhub since it launched sixteen years ago and praises their delivery time of under 35 minutes. At the same time, Just Salad also has an in-house delivery fleet. CEO Nick Kenner states that the company would prefer customers to choose the brand’s own delivery service, to “cut out the middleman.”
That last point is absolutely key to this story and to the third-party vs. in-house decision.
Cost issues with the middleman
A narrative amplifying in volume during the public health emergency is that third-party delivery fees simply aren’t sustainable for small businesses. When BBQ restaurant owner Andy Salyards shared his Uber Eats bill with a local news station, I started doing some math.
- Salyards made $636.00 (pre-tax) selling 22 dinners.
- Uber Eats charged him $190.80 to deliver them.
- Salyards paid Uber Eats 30% of his earnings.
I found averages stating that a driver can typically make 2.5 deliveries per hour, though this depends on geography. Out of respect for the drivers, let’s hypothesize that Salyards is operating in a city that’s passed a $15 minimum wage and that he decides to employ in-house delivery persons.
- It would take 8.8 hours for one driver to make 22 deliveries.
- 8.8 hours x $15 an hour = 132.00.
- Salyards would be paying 20.75% for in-house delivery instead of 30% for third-party fulfillment for the same work in this dynamic. And obviously, where the minimum wage is lower, Salyards costs for in-house delivery would be far less.
On the face of it, in-house fleets look far more profitable than third parties, but here’s what my math doesn’t cover:
- Do in-house drivers use their own cars, or does the business have to make a major initial investment in a vehicle fleet?
- Who pays for gas/electric charging, auto maintenance, and liability insurance?
- How do you measure out the benefits of marketing your own brand by advertising on your company vehicles, vs. the loss of that opportunity because third-party vehicles don’t display your logo?
- What is the true cost to reputation, retention, and revenue when a brand loses control of the last mile of the customer experience? Is there an acceptable level of customer dissatisfaction caused by slower delivery times, lack of proper equipment, or ghosting drivers?
Each business has a unique scenario, and all of them will need to find customized answers to all of these questions.
Trust issues with the middleman
Customer service rules the viability of local businesses, and the best ones labor over every aspect of their operations to get things just right. Handing off the home stretch between the physical locale of the business and the customer’s front door is a phenomenal act of trust, and unfortunately, the local SEO industry has long been documenting the damages of trust misplaced.
To be completely honest, being set down amid Google, Yelp, and some of the major delivery brands, local business owners are gazelles amid a pride of lions. Some of the more infamous accusations against the lions over the past few years have included:
- Yelp and Grubhub cited for partnering up to replace restaurants’ listed phone numbers with Grubhub numbers.
- Google giving prime placement to Doordash on local business listings and telling furious business owners it’s on them to request removal of these unauthorized links.
- Grubhub’s awkward refutation and subsequent cancellation of the appearance of cybersquatting — i.e. buying up the domain names of its customers.
- Doordash cited for pickpocketing its drivers’ tips
- Uber Eats cited for giving no thought to safety inspections and delivering food from unvetted backyard BBQers.
- Most recently, and perhaps most infamously, Doordash cited for unauthorizedly scraping restaurant website menus and opening the door to bizarre pizza arbitrage.
This last example, published by Ranjan Roy, received hundreds of frustrated comments, but it was the epic statement of Collin Wallace that glued me to my screen and deserves excerpting here:
“I was the former Head of Innovation at Grubhub, so I have seen the truth behind many of these claims first hand. Sadly, I invented a lot of the food delivery technologies that are now being used for evil…COVID-19 is exposing the fact that delivery platforms are not actually in the business of delivery. They are in the business of finance… like payday lenders for restaurants and drivers…
In the case of restaurants, these platforms slowly siphon off your customers and then charge you to have access to them. They are simultaneously selling these same customers to your competitor across the street, but, don’t worry, they are also selling their customers to you.
For drivers, they are banking on a workforce that is willing to mortgage their assets, like cars and time, well below market value, in exchange for money now. They know that most delivery drivers are simply not doing the math…If they did, drivers would realize that they are actually the ones subsidizing the cost of delivery.
Delivery platforms are “hyper-growth” businesses that are trying to grow into a no-growth industry. Food consumption really only grows at the rate of population growth, so if you want to grow faster than that, you have to take market share from someone else. Ideally, you take it from someone weaker, who has less information. In this industry, the delivery platforms have found unsuspecting victims in restaurants and drivers… Restaurants need to realize that they are now running e-commerce businesses and they need to act accordingly. Being proficient on Google, Yelp, Facebook and the dozens of other platforms is no longer optional, it is essential.”
Local SEOs will nod their heads over the need for local Internet proficiency, but it’s Wallace’s summation of the welfare of the drivers that strikes the most discordant note with me for relationships hinging on trust.
The Instacart driver who didn’t bother to bring me my potatoes sincerely worries me, not for my family’s sake, but for theirs. I already knew before reading Collin Wallace’s comments that some gig workers are living in their cars, camping in parking lots, and being forced to choose between safety and money. When you have a moment, brace yourself and read Quora threads in which gig drivers are arguing about how little they make. One of my own nieces is a gig worker, and she’s out there today as I write this column, trying to make ends meet and sanitizing her hands every five minutes. I’m worried about her every single day.
There are local business owners who treat their staff like family, and others who don’t. Where trust and your brand’s reputation are involved, a question that deserves to be asked is whether you can trust business partners and models that rely on a desperate workforce. How do you feel about your handcrafted pizza being delivered, not by employees whose wellbeing you directly influence, but by one in four drivers who are hungry enough to be eating the food they’re supposed to deliver?
As we look ahead with hope to a post-COVID marketplace, it’s worth taking the time to reflect on this question and how it relates to the quality of life in the community where you live and serve.
Dignified work for local delivery drivers
“Please leave it on the walkway. Thank you so much!”
“Okay. You take care!”
“Thank you. Stay safe! Take care!”
This is the socially-distant duet I now sing through my kitchen window several times a week with the essential delivery workforce. While we may not deserve a Grammy, I do feel every driver who has brought water, food, and goods to my family these past few months deserves more than recognition — they deserve a dignified workplace and wage.
If Grubhub’s former head of innovation is troubled by drivers subsidizing delivery costs in exchange for urgently-needed quick money, I am completely convinced that no local community is improved by reliance on an underpaid workforce with few protections, inadequate healthcare in time of illness, or housing insecurity. That’s the thing about seeing life through a local SEO’s lens: everyone is a neighbor, and people working in your city are your friends and family.
I would prefer my niece to find work with a local business with an in-house delivery fleet being paid a living wage. I’d prefer her workforce to have a union, too. This is the advice I would give both as an aunt and as a local SEO, but if you are a driver trying to evaluate your personal decision about where to work, these links are for you:
- Here’s a short but good article from Fast Company comparing in-house to third-party realities for drivers.
- Read up on Instacart gig workers unionizing and Safeway drivers unionizing
- Read up on gig workers forming the first delivery app unions
- Check out the PayUp initiative organizing for a $15 minimum wage + tips + transparency for gig workers in Washington. Gig Workers Rising is a similar effort in California.
In recent memory, many delivery jobs were filled by teenagers — like my big brother at 16 — with a new driver’s license, a stack of pizzas, and a need for part-time income to purchase disco records and car insurance. Now, it’s mothers, fathers, and grandparents driving those long miles to bring absolute necessities to our doors.
If you work in delivery, my best advice to you is to study what Collin Wallace has said, study the market, and seek jobs with the best pay and best protections. You and your work are essential, and if you plan to work in delivery for the long haul, finding a union job, like the American Postal Workers Union, is likely to offer you the most protections and benefits.
It’s not accurate to state that in-house drivers will automatically do a better job than gig workers for third parties. Many gig workers are going above and beyond to provide excellent service, day-in-day-out. But it’s only the in-house model that enables employers to ensure staff are receiving what they need to support themselves and support the brand. Last year, I did a very quick Twitter poll asking what it is that employees want most:
Employers: keep seeing that through-line between reputation and revenue when weighing the wages and working conditions you feel will make your brand most trusted by customers. Think of me, and my hunt for taters, and my feelings of uncertainty about trusting Instacart again, or any business that’s using them for fulfillment right now.
If you opt for in-house delivery, how will you compete?
While competition will differ from market to market, here’s a very simple schematic of the typical set of Google results I’ve seen in my region for delivery-related queries, broken down into third-party vs. in-house delivery entries:
As referenced above, corporate delivery services have massive, authoritative websites and big ad budgets that allow them to gobble up visibility in Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages). In my schematic of 16 opportunities — which represents an actual SERP in my town for the keyword phrase “hamburger delivery near me” — 10 of the entries are being bought or won by brands like GrubHub, DoorDash, and Postmates.
If your business isn’t listed on the highly-ranked directories published by these services, and you lack a large paid advertising budget, a SERP like this leaves you just six places to compete for the customer’s attention. Here’s a basic three-part framework for how to compete:
1. Build your business for customers
If Collin Wallace is right in casting third parties as payday lenders and in the business of finance, your competitive advantage is to be in the business of customers’ needs. In practical terms, this means:
- Analyzing what’s essential to the community you wish to serve.
- Investing in staffed, always-on lines of communication with customers and vigorously inviting feedback.
- On-going analysis of all forms of customer sentiment, especially online reviews, as cues for operational improvements.
- Mastering transforming negative sentiment into positive sentiment.
- Determining to feed, fight, and flip Google in ways that will benefit your local community.
2. Build the strongest website you can
The usefulness, optimization, and technical quality of your website will all help you compete in both the organic and local SERPs. The more competitive your market, the more you will need to invest in implementing:
- Organic on-site SEO
- On-site local SEO
- Keyword research
- Local content publication and marketing, including great content about your delivery service
- E-commerce and delivery technology
- Local link building
- Local competitive analysis (check out the beta of Moz’s Local Market Analytics for pro-level analysis)
- Technical SEO
Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO and Local Learning Center will get you well on your way to competitive wins. And double down in writing about the superlatives of your delivery service — don’t be shy about explaining exactly why ordering directly from your brand is best for the customer, the business, the delivery staff, and the community.
3. Build the strongest local SERP presence you can
Your ability to publish, distribute, and manage your non-website-based local assets will strongly contribute to your ability to compete in Google’s local search engine results. Depending on your market competition, you’ll need to meet and exceed your competitors’ investments in:
- Managing all aspects of your Google Business Profiles, from basic informational fields, to reviews, to Google Posts, menus, Q&A, photos, and more.
- Getting your other third-party local business listings in good shape with complete and accurate data (a service like Moz Local can help with this).
- Fighting Google local spam with determination.
- Staying alert: if a third-party delivery service “mysteriously” appears on your Google listing, take these steps to request removal.
There’s no downplaying the hold corporate delivery websites have on Google’s SERPs, nor the fact that Google has special relationships with some of them that redound to Google’s own financial interests. In competitive markets, it will be no easy task to compete with these brands. Many local businesses may feel that “if you can’t beat them, join them” is the only option to remain operational.
But don’t overlook the powers you do have to compete by dint of running a beloved business and a brilliant search marketing strategy. You could even choose to utilize a third-party service only until you’ve got a large, built-in customer base you can guide to come directly to you for fulfillment in the years ahead.
Summing up third-party vs. in-house delivery risks and benefits
As you evaluate which solution will be the best fit for last-mile operations for your brand, you’ll want to painstakingly chart out the pros and cons of each option. Here’s my simple checklist to get you started, delineating which solution is most likely to afford the benefits we’ve covered today, as well as a few extra points of consideration:
It’s too soon to predict what the sum total of change will be to the whole concept of delivery across all relevant industries. I talked with multiple business owners on St. Patrick’s Day, when California instituted its shelter-in-place order and all of them were hustling to create piecemeal solutions for remaining operational and serving my community. Several months later, brands are in a better position to evaluate consumer feedback and make adjustments to their delivery strategy.
As our risk/benefit chart shows, there are clear pros and cons for in-house vs. third-party implementation. Many brands will take a “best of both worlds” approach, like Just Salads, while hoping more customers come directly to them instead of their outsourcing partner. Other business owners may steer clear of the big delivery brands and bet on a smaller service, like Takeout Central serving North Carolina, or Lodel covering seven states in the American West. And definitely check out this CHOMP restaurant cooperative story over at Localogy.
What we can say with certainty in June of 2020 is that the brands you operate and market have major decisions to make about serving customers in both the best and worst of times. This is crucial work, and the only thing more important in local commerce right now is the significant power brands are suddenly wielding to set standards for how delivery and delivery persons will work. Recognize that power.
We’ve all had enough of experiencing the “worst”, and it’s motivation enough to plan a better future, with consistently excellent service for customers, the building blocks of lucrative reputation for brands, and local communities that deliver fair and dignified livelihoods for valued essential workers.
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Thank you for reading.
This may be of some interest.
Want your employees to share more about your business on social media? Wondering how best to guide their social media posts? In this article, you’ll discover how to develop guidelines to help employees post more on social media and find examples of types of posts employees can model. #1: Create Clear Social Media Guidelines for […]
The post How to Guide Your Employees to Post More on Social Media appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.
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Can you imagine if the world run out of energy source? The world will go dark, cold and still! Think about it, the daily conveniences you used to enjoy and maybe take for granted because you can easily have them frequently, all gone. How you can easily charge your mobile phones and smart devices when their batteries are empty because of electricity, how transportation is readily available because of fuel, how your homes are warm and bright because of power. That is how you are dependent with energy, that when it is gone, you are immobilized.
This is why even with the soaring prices of electricity, people pay for it, you pay for it from your hard earned money. The prices of electricity are influenced by many factors like fuels, power plants, transmission and distribution system, weather conditions, regulations and of course there are some for profit utilities that need to gain financial return for the owners and shareholders. Everything is costly because there are maintenance, operating and repair costs that need to be handled and the constant changing supply and demand. But despite the surging prices, you pay for it because you need it.
But imagine during strong typhoons, when all power lines have been destroyed in your area and your electricity provider would just inform you that they are aware of the problem but you have to wait for at least 48 hours for the electricity to come back. What will you do then? Because Mark Edwards was asking the same question when their electricity was cut because of destroyed power lines. He witnessed his wife and daughters embracing one another to battle the cold and he can’t do anything to alleviate the situation. That moment was heartbreaking that he swore to himself it will never happen again, that he will never put his full trust in those big electricity companies who don’t seem to care about what families are going through without electricity, despite paying on time. He swore he will protect his family and keep them safe and warm.
Who is Mark Edwards?
He made the revolutionary Power Efficiency Guide that can drastically change your life and the lives of others. It is a digital guide that will help you build your very own energy source and will save you a lot of money. Seeing his family’s bad condition without electricity and feeling himself powerless about the situation was life changing for him, he researched and studied about alternative sources of power that should be cheap and easy to make since he doesn’t have any background in building complicated machines, he is after all a geography teacher.
His hard work paid off when he remembered his late uncle who was an engineer who researched about energy fields. He also asked help from another engineer who used to work with his uncle to interpret his research about spinning principle, that is actually used in electric cars today. From there, they were able to build a new technology that charges itself while providing power. It’s a self sufficient generator and you can build it with the Power Efficiency Guide.
To give you a better understanding about it, here’s a list of what you should know.
The Good Points:
1. You don’t need to have any building experience, the guide provides you with a step by step process. The illustrated instructions teach you how to put the materials in the right position and you’re done.
2. It is an incredible technology that is easy and cheap to build. 90% of its materials you can get from your yard or your nearest junk shop. It’s that cheap but can give you big savings and can power any appliances in your home.
3. While you may have the traditional generator, it can cost you a lot with its dependency on expensive gas. You may be thinking of getting a solar panel which is really costly and is it sustainable? You can’t expect sun 24/7. This energy source though can power up an entire home and is a lifesaver when the electricity goes out. You don’t even need to wait for a blackout, you can use it once you’re done building it.
4. The design is brilliant and it produces clean energy. It is SAFE because it produces NO dangerous fumes that may cause fires and explosions.
5. It is the real thing! It has changed the lives of more than 80,000 individuals and made them save an average of $1,600 a year.
6. If you are not blown away by the result, you will have a 60-day, no questions asked, money back guarantee. Plus you will have an unlimited customer support for life because Mike Edwards will be giving you his personal email for any of your questions.
The Bad Points:
1. Building something so useful may intimidate you but the guide is pretty simple and was created for everybody.
2. It’s a digital copy so you will need to download it in your smart devices or computer with internet connection.
Should You Get It?
It is hard to become fully dependent on something that is so expensive. You work so hard to provide for yourself and your family, at the same time trying so hard not to fall behind paying your utility bills which prices are always going up. What if there is an effective and efficient way to cut your expenses? What if instead of paying those energy moguls, you can actually save your money and spend it somewhere else, like your children’s education fund or just about anything your family wants and needs? If you are like more than 80,000 individuals who have built this amazing device to save themselves from paying expensive bills, then this guide is FOR YOU!
This may be of some interest.
Earning the trust of prospective customers can be a struggle. Before you can even begin to expect to earn their business, you need to demonstrate your ability to deliver on what your product or service promises.
Writing a case study is a great way to do that.
Sure, you could say that you’re great at X, or that you’re way ahead of the competition when it comes to Y. But at the end of the day, what you really need to win new business is cold, hard proof.
One of the best ways to prove your worth is through a compelling case study.
Below, I’ll walk you through what a case study is, how to prepare for writing one, what you need to include in it, and how it can be an effective tactic. To jump to different areas of this post, click on the links below to automatically scroll.
What Is a case study?
A case study examines a person’s or business’s specific challenge or goal, and how they solved for it. Case studies can vary greatly in length and focus on a number of details related to the initial challenge and applied solution.
In professional settings, it’s common for a case study to tell the story of a successful business partnership between a vendor and a client.
Whether it’s a brief snapshot of your client’s health since working with you, or a long success story of the client’s growth, your case study will measure this success using metrics that are agreed upon by the client you’re featuring. Perhaps the success you’re highlighting is in the number of leads your client generated, customers closed, or revenue gained. Any one of these key performance indicators (KPIs) are examples of your company’s services in action.
When done correctly, these examples of your work can chronicle the positive impact your business has on existing or previous customers.
To help you arm your prospects with information they can trust, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to create effective case studies for your business — as well as free case study templates for creating your own. Get them using the form above, and then get creating using the steps below.
How to Write a Case Study
- Determine the case study’s objective.
- Establish a case study medium.
- Find the right case study candidate.
- Contact your candidate for permission to write about them.
- Draft and send your subject a case study release form.
- Ensure you’re asking the right questions.
- Lay out your case study format.
- Publish and promote your case study.
1. Determine the case study’s objective.
All business case studies are designed to demonstrate the value of your services, but they can focus on several different client objectives.
Your first step when writing a case study is to determine the objective or goal of the subject you’re featuring. In other words, what will the client have succeeded in doing by the end of the piece?
The client objective you focus on will depend on what you want to prove to your future customers as a result of publishing this case study.
Your case study can focus on one of the following client objectives:
- Complying with government regulation
- Lowering business costs
- Becoming profitable
- Generating more leads
- Closing on more customers
- Generating more revenue
- Expanding into a new market
- Becoming more sustainable or energy-efficient
2. Establish a case study medium.
Next, you’ll determine the medium in which you’ll create the case study. In other words, how will you tell this story?
Case studies don’t have to be simple, written one-pagers. Using different media in your case study can allow you to promote your final piece on different channels. For example, while a written case study might just live on your website and get featured in a Facebook post, you can post an infographic case study on Pinterest, and a video case study on your YouTube channel.
Here are some different case study mediums to consider:
Written Case Study
Consider writing this case study in the form of an ebook and converting it to a downloadable PDF. Then, gate the PDF behind a landing page and form for readers to fill out before downloading the piece, allowing this case study to generate leads for your business.
Video Case Study
Plan on meeting with the client and shooting an interview. Seeing the subject, in person, talk about the service you provided them can go a long way in the eyes of your potential customers.
Infographic Case Study
Use the long, vertical format of an infographic to tell your success story from top to bottom. As you progress down the infographic, emphasize major KPIs using bigger text and charts that show the successes your client has had since working with you.
Podcast Case Study
Podcasts are a platform for you to have a candid conversation with your client. This type of case study can sound more real and human to your audience — they’ll know the partnership between you and your client was a genuine success.
3. Find the right case study candidate.
Writing about your previous projects requires more than picking a client and telling a story. You need permission, quotes, and a plan. To start, here are a few things to look for in potential candidates.
It helps to select a customer who’s well-versed in the logistics of your product or service. That way, he or she can better speak to the value of what you offer in a way that makes sense for future customers.
Clients that have seen the best results are going to make the strongest case studies. If their own businesses have seen an exemplary ROI from your product or service, they’re more likely to convey the enthusiasm that you want prospects to feel, too.
One part of this step is to choose clients who have experienced unexpected success from your product or service. When you’ve provided non-traditional customers — in industries that you don’t usually work with, for example — with positive results, it can help to remove doubts from prospects.
While small companies can have powerful stories, bigger or more notable brands tend to lend credibility to your own — in some cases, having brand recognition can lead to 24.4X as much growth as companies without it.
Customers that came to you after working with a competitor help highlight your competitive advantage, and might even sway decisions in your favor.
4. Contact your candidate for permission to write about them.
To get the case study candidate involved, you have to set the stage for clear and open communication. That means outlining expectations and a timeline right away — not having those is one of the biggest culprits in delayed case study creation.
Most importantly at this point, however, is getting your subject’s approval. When first reaching out to your case study candidate, provide them with the case study’s objective and format — both of which you will have come up with in the first two steps above.
To get this initial permission from your subject, put yourself in their shoes — what would they want out of this case study? Although you’re writing this for your own company’s benefit, your subject is far more interested in the benefit it has for them.
Benefits to Offer Your Case Study Candidate
Here are four potential benefits you can promise your case study candidate to gain their approval.
Explain to your subject whom this case study will be exposed to, and how this exposure can help increase their brand awareness both in and beyond their own industry. In the B2B sector, brand awareness can be hard to collect outside one’s own market, making case studies particularly useful to a client looking to expand their name’s reach.
Allow your subject to provide quotes with credits back to specific employees. When this is an option to them, their brand isn’t the only thing expanding its reach — their employees can get their name out there, too. This presents your subject with networking and career-development opportunities they might not have otherwise.
This is a more tangible incentive you can offer your case study candidate, especially if they’re a current customer of yours. If they agree to be your subject, offer them a product discount — or free trial of another product — as a thank-you for their help creating your case study.
Backlinks and Website Traffic
Here’s a benefit that is sure to resonate with your subject’s marketing team: If you publish your case study to your website, and your study links back to your subject’s website — known as a “backlink” — this small gesture can give them website traffic from visitors who click through to your subject’s website.
Additionally, a backlink from you increases your subject’s page authority in the eyes of Google. This helps them rank more highly in search engine results and collect traffic from readers who are already looking for information about their industry.
5. Draft and send your subject a case study release form.
Once your case study candidate approves of your case study, it’s time to send them a release form.
A case study release form tells you what you’ll need from your chosen subject, like permission to use any brand names and share the project information publicly. Kick off this process with an email that runs through exactly what they can expect from you, as well as what you need from them. To give you an idea of what that might look like, check out this sample email:
You might be wondering, “What’s a Case Study Release Form?” or, “What’s a Success Story Letter?” Let’s break those down.
Case Study Release Form
This document can vary, depending on factors like the size of your business, the nature of your work, and what you intend to do with the case studies once they are completed. That said, you should typically aim to include the following in the Case Study Release Form:
- A clear explanation of why you are creating this case study and how it will be used.
- A statement defining the information and potentially trademarked information you expect to include about the company — things like names, logos, job titles, and pictures.
- An explanation of what you expect from the participant, beyond the completion of the case study. For example, is this customer willing to act as a reference or share feedback, and do you have permission to pass contact information along for these purposes?
- A note about compensation.
Success Story Letter
As noted in the sample email, this document serves as an outline for the entire case study process. Other than a brief explanation of how the customer will benefit from case study participation, you’ll want to be sure to define the following steps in the Success Story Letter.
First, you’ll need to receive internal approval from the company’s marketing team. Once approved, the Release Form should be signed and returned to you. It’s also a good time to determine a timeline that meets the needs and capabilities of both teams.
To ensure that you have a productive interview — which is one of the best ways to collect information for the case study — you’ll want to ask the participant to complete a questionnaire prior to this conversation. That will provide your team with the necessary foundation to organize the interview, and get the most out of it.
Once the questionnaire is completed, someone on your team should reach out to the participant to schedule a 30- to 60-minute interview, which should include a series of custom questions related to the customer’s experience with your product or service.
The Draft Review
After the case study is composed, you’ll want to send a draft to the customer, allowing an opportunity to give you feedback and edits.
The Final Approval
Once any necessary edits are completed, send a revised copy of the case study to the customer for final approval.
Once the case study goes live — on your website or elsewhere — it’s best to contact the customer with a link to the page where the case study lives. Don’t be afraid to ask your participants to share these links with their own networks, as it not only demonstrates your ability to deliver positive results, but their impressive growth, as well.
6. Ensure you’re asking the right questions.
Before you execute the questionnaire and actual interview, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. A strong case study results from being prepared to ask the right questions. What do those look like? Here are a few examples to get you started:
- What are your goals?
- What challenges were you experiencing prior to purchasing our product or service?
- What made our product or service stand out against our competitors?
- What did your decision-making process look like?
- How have you benefited from using our product or service? (Where applicable, always ask for data.)
Keep in mind that the questionnaire is designed to help you gain insights into what sort of strong, success-focused questions to ask during the actual interview. And once you get to that stage, we recommend that you follow the “Golden Rule of Interviewing.” Sounds fancy, right? It’s actually quite simple — ask open-ended questions.
If you’re looking to craft a compelling story, “yes” or “no” answers won’t provide the details you need. Focus on questions that invite elaboration, such as, “Can you describe …?” or, “Tell me about …”
In terms of the interview structure, we recommend categorizing the questions and flow into six specific sections that will mirror a successful case study format. Combined, they’ll allow you to gather enough information to put together a rich, comprehensive study.
Open with the customer’s business.
The goal of this section is to generate a better understanding of the company’s current challenges and goals, and how they fit into the landscape of their industry. Sample questions might include:
- How long have you been in business?
- How many employees do you have?
- What are some of the objectives of your department at this time?
Cite a problem or pain point.
In order to tell a compelling story, you need context. That helps match the customer’s need with your solution. Sample questions might include:
- What challenges and objectives led you to look for a solution?
- What might have happened if you did not identify a solution?
- Did you explore other solutions prior to this that did not work out? If so, what happened?
Discuss the decision process.
Exploring how the customer arrived at the decision to work with you helps to guide potential customers through their own decision-making processes. Sample questions might include:
- How did you hear about our product or service?
- Who was involved in the selection process?
- What was most important to you when evaluating your options?
Explain how a solution was implemented.
The focus here should be placed on the customer’s experience during the onboarding process. Sample questions might include:
- How long did it take to get up and running?
- Did that meet your expectations?
- Who was involved in the process?
Explain how the solution works.
The goal of this section is to better understand how the customer is using your product or service. Sample questions might include:
- Is there a particular aspect of the product or service that you rely on most?
- Who is using the product or service?
End with the results.
In this section, you want to uncover impressive measurable outcomes — the more numbers, the better. Sample questions might include:
- How is the product or service helping you save time and increase productivity?
- In what ways does that enhance your competitive advantage?
- How much have you increased metrics X, Y, and Z?
7. Lay out your case study format.
When it comes time to take all of the information you’ve collected and actually turn it into something, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Where should you start? What should you include? What’s the best way to structure it?
To help you get a handle on this step, it’s important to first understand that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the ways you can present a case study. They can be very visual, which you’ll see in some of the examples we’ve included below, and can sometimes be communicated mostly through video or photos, with a bit of accompanying text.
Whether your case study is primarily written or visual, we recommend focusing on the seven-part outline, below. Note: Even if you do elect to use a visual case study, it should still include all of this information, but presented in its intended format.
- Title: Keep it short. Develop a succinct but interesting project name you can give the work you did with your subject.
- Subtitle: Use this copy to briefly elaborate on the accomplishment. What was done? The case study itself will explain how you got there.
- Executive Summary: A 2-4 sentence summary of the entire story. You’ll want to follow it with 2-3 bullet points that display metrics showcasing success.
- About the Subject: An introduction to the person or company you served, which can be pulled from a LinkedIn Business profile or client website.
- Challenges and Objectives: A 2-3 paragraph description of the customer’s challenges, prior to using your product or service. This section should also include the goals or objectives the customer set out to achieve.
- How Product/Service Helped: A 2-3 paragraph section that describes how your product or service provided a solution to their problem.
- Results: A 2-3 paragraph testimonial that proves how your product or service specifically benefited the person or company, and helped achieve its goals. Include numbers to quantify your contributions.
- Supporting Visuals or Quotes: Pick one or two powerful quotes that you would feature at the bottom of the sections above, as well as a visual that supports the story you are telling.
- Future Plans: Everyone likes an epilogue. Comment on what’s ahead for your case study subject, whether or not those plans involve you.
- Call to Action (CTA): Not every case study needs a CTA, but putting a passive one at the end of your case study can encourage your readers to take an action on your website after learning about the work you’ve done.
To help you visualize this case study outline, check out the case study template below, which can also be downloaded here.
When laying out your case study, focus on conveying the information you’ve gathered in the most clear and concise way possible. Make it easy to scan and comprehend, and be sure to provide an attractive call-to-action at the bottom — that should provide readers an opportunity to learn more about your product or service.
8. Publish and promote your case study.
Once you’ve completed your case study, it’s time to publish and promote it. Some case study formats have pretty obvious promotional outlets — a video case study can go on YouTube, just as an infographic case study can go on Pinterest.
But there are still other ways to publish and promote your case study. Here are a couple of ideas:
Gated Behind a Blog Post
As stated earlier in this article, written case studies make terrific lead-generators if you convert them into a downloadable format, like a PDF. To generate leads from your case study, consider writing a blog post that tells an abbreviated story of your client’s success and asking readers to fill out a form with their name and email address if they’d like to read the rest in your PDF.
Then, promote this blog post on social media, through a Facebook post or a tweet.
Published as a Page on Your Website
As a growing business, you might need to display your case study out in the open to gain the trust of your target audience.
Rather than gating it behind a landing page, publish your case study to its own page on your website, and direct people here from your homepage with a “Case Studies” or “Testimonials” button along your homepage’s top navigation bar.
Business Case Study Examples
You drove the results, made the connect, set the expectations, used the questionnaire to conduct a successful interview, and boiled down your findings into a compelling story. And after all of that, you’re left with a little piece of sales enabling gold — a case study.
To show you what a well-executed final product looks like, have a look at some of these marketing case study examples.
1. “New England Journal of Medicine,” by Corey McPherson Nash
When branding and design studio Corey McPherson Nash showcases its work, it makes sense for it to be visual — after all, that’s what they do. So in building the case study for the studio’s work on the New England Journal of Medicine’s integrated advertising campaign — a project that included the goal of promoting the client’s digital presence — Corey McPherson Nash showed its audience what it did, rather than purely telling it.
Notice that the case study does include some light written copy — which includes the major points we’ve suggested — but really lets the visuals do the talking, allowing users to really absorb the studio’s services.
2. “Shopify Uses HubSpot CRM to Transform High Volume Sales Organization,” by HubSpot
What’s interesting about this case study is the way it leads with the customer. This reflects a major HubSpot credo, which is to always solve for the customer first. The copy leads with a brief description of why Shopify uses HubSpot, and is accompanied by a short video and some basic statistics on the company.
Notice that this case study uses mixed-media. Yes, there is a short video, but it’s elaborated upon in the additional text on the page. So, while case studies can use one or the other, don’t be afraid to combine written copy with visuals to emphasize the project’s success.
3. “Designing the Future of Urban Farming,” by IDEO
Here’s a design company that knows how to lead with simplicity in its case studies. As soon as the visitor arrives at the page, he or she is greeted with a big, bold photo, and two very simple columns of text — “The Challenge” and “The Outcome.”
Immediately, IDEO has communicated two of the case study’s major pillars. And while that’s great — the company created a solution for vertical farming startup INFARM’s challenge — it doesn’t stop there. As the user scrolls down, those pillars are elaborated upon with comprehensive (but not overwhelming) copy that outlines what that process looked like, replete with quotes and additional visuals.
4. “Secure Wi-Fi Wins Big for Tournament,” by WatchGuard
Then, there are the cases when visuals can tell almost the entire story — when executed correctly. Network security provider WatchGuard is able to do that through this video, which tells the story of how its services enhanced the attendee and vendor experience at the Windmill Ultimate Frisbee tournament.
5. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Boosts Social Media Engagement and Brand Awareness with HubSpot
In the case study above, HubSpot uses photos, videos, screenshots, and helpful stats to tell the story of how the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame used the bot, CRM, and social media tools to gain brand awareness.
6. Small Desk Plant Business Ups Sales by 30% With Trello
This case study from Trello is straight forward and easy to understand. It begins by explaining the background of the company that decided to use it, what their goals were, and how they planned to use Trello to help them.
It then goes on to discuss how the software was implemented and what tasks and teams benefited from it. Towards the end, it explains the sales results that came from implementing the software and includes quotes from decision-makers at the company that implemented it.
7. Facebook’s Mercedes Benz Success Story
Facebook’s Success Stories page hosts a number of well-designed and easy-to-understand case studies that visually and editorially get to the bottom line quickly.
Each study begins with key stats that draw the reader in. Then it’s organized by highlighting a problem or goal in the introduction, the process the company took to reach their goals, and the results. Then, at the end, Facebook notes the tools used in the case study.
Showcasing Your Work
You work hard at what you do. Now, it’s time to show it to the world — and, perhaps more important, to potential customers.
But before you show off the projects that make you the proudest, make sure you follow the important steps that will help ensure that work is effectively communicated, and leaves all parties feeling good about it.
Want to learn as you write your case study? Listen to an audio summary of this post below.
For an easy way to get started, grab your free case study template below, and go create a case study that makes your subject proud of their success.
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in February 2017 but was updated for comprehensiveness and freshness in February 2020.
Thank you for reading.
This may be of some interest.
Posted by David_Farkas
In link building, few things are more frustrating than finding the perfect link opportunity but being completely unable to find a contact email address.
It’s probably happened to you — if you’re trying to build links or do any sort of outreach, it almost always entails sending out a fairly significant amount of emails. There are plenty of good articles out there about building relationships within the context of link building, but it’s hard to build relationships when you can’t even find a contact email address.
So, for today, I want to focus on how you can become better at finding those important email addresses.
Link builders spend a lot of time just trying to find contact info, and it’s often a frustrating process, just because sussing out email addresses can indeed be quite difficult. The site you’re targeting might not even have a contact page in the first place. Or, if the site does have a contact page, it might only display a generic email address. And, sometimes, the site may list too many email addresses. There are eight different people with similar-sounding job titles — should you reach out to the PR person, the marketing director, or the webmaster? It’s not clear.
Whatever the case may be, finding the right email address is absolutely imperative to any successful outreach campaign. In our industry, the numbers around outreach and replies aren’t great. Frankly, it’s shocking to hear the industry standard — only 8.5% of outreach emails receive a response.
I can’t help but wonder how many mistakes are made along the way to such a low response rate.
While there are certainly instances where there is simply no clear and obvious contact method, that should be the exception — not the rule! An experienced link builder understands that finding relevant contact information is essential to their success.
That’s why I’ve put together a quick list of tips and tools that will help you to find the email addresses and contact information you need when you’re building links.
And, if you follow my advice, here is a glimpse of the results you could expect:
We don’t track clicks, in case you were wondering 😉
ALWAYS start by looking around!
First, let’s start with my golden rule: Before you fire up any tool, you should always manually look for the correct contact email yourself.
Based on my experience, tools and automation are a last resort. If you rely solely upon tools and automated solutions, you’ll end up with many more misfired emails than if you were to go the manual route. There’s a simple reason for this: the email address listed on your target website may, surprisingly, belong to the right person you should contact!
Now, if you are using a tool, they may generate dozens of email addresses, and you’ll never end up actually emailing the correct individual. Another reason I advocate manually looking for emails is because many email finding tools are limited and can only find email addresses that are associated with a domain name. So, if there is a webmaster that happens to have a @gmail.com email address, the email finding tool will not find it.
It’s also important to only reach out to people you strongly believe will have an interest in your email in order to stay GDPR compliant.
So, always start your manual search by looking around the site. Usually, there will be a link to the contact page in the header, footer, or sidebar. If there’s not a page explicitly named “contact,” or if the contact page only has generic email addresses, that’s when I would recommend jumping to an “About Us” page, should there be one.
You always want to find a personal email, not a generic one or a contact form. Outreach is more effective when you can address a specific individual, not whoever who is checking email@example.com that day.
If you encounter too many emails and aren’t sure who the best person to contact is, I suggest sending an email to your best hunch that goes something like this:
And who knows, you may even get a reply like this:
If you weren’t able to locate an email address at this point, I’d move on to the next section.
Ask search engines for help
Perhaps the contact page you were looking for was well-hidden; maybe they don’t want to be contacted that much or they’re in desperate need of a new UX person.
You can turn to search engines for help.
My go-to search engine lately is Startpage. Dubbed as the world’s most private search engine, they display Google SERPs in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you just stepped into Times Square. They also have a cool option to browse the search results anonymously with “Anonymous View.”
For our purposes, I would use the site: search operator just like this:
If there is in fact a contact page or email somewhere on their website that you were not able to find, any competent search engine will find it for you. If the above site query doesn’t return any results, then I’d start expanding my search to other corners of the web.
Use the search bar and type:
If you’re looking for the email of a specific person, type their name before or after the quotation marks.
With this query you can find non-domain email addresses:
If that person’s email address is publicly available somewhere, you will likely be able to find it within the search results.
There are many, many excellent email finding tools to choose from. The first one I want to talk about is Hunter.
Hunter has a Chrome extension that’s really easy to use. After you’ve downloaded the extension, there’s not much more that needs to be done.
Go to the site which you are thinking about sending an email to, click on the extension in the top right corner of your screen, and Hunter, well, hunts.
It returns every email address it can find associated with that domain. And also allows you to filter the results based on categories.
Did I say “email address?” I meant to say email address, name, job title, etc. Essentially, it’s a one-click fix to get everything you need to send outreach.
Because I use Hunter regularly (and for good reason, as you can see), it’s the one I’m most familiar with. You can also use Hunter’s online app to look up emails in bulk.
The major downside of working in bulk is coming up with an effective formula to sift through all the emails. Hunter may generate dozens of emails for one site, leaving you to essentially guess which email address is best for outreach. And if you’re relying on guess-work, chances are pretty high you’re leaving perfectly good prospects on the table.
There are several other email finding tools to pick from and I would be remiss to not mention them. Here are 5 alternative email-finding tools:
Even though I personally try not to be too dependent on tools, the fact of the matter is that they provide the easiest, most convenient route in many cases.
The guessing game
I know there’s no word in the digital marketing world that produces more shudders than “guessing.” However, there are times when guessing is easier.
Let’s be real: there aren’t too many different ways that companies both large and small format their email addresses. It’s usually going to be something like:
If you’ve ever worked for a living, you know most of the variations. But, in case you need some help, there’s a tool for that.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you just pick any one of these random addresses, send your email, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. Far from it. There are actually tools that you can use that will indicate when you’ve selected the right one.
Sales Navigator is such a tool. Sales Navigator is a Gmail extension that is easy to use. Simply enter the name of the person you’re looking for, and it will return all of the possible standard variations that they may use for their email address. Then, you can actually test the address from your Gmail account. When you type in the address into the proper line, a sidebar will appear on your screen. If there no is no information in that sidebar, you have the wrong address. If, however, you get a return that looks like this:
Congratulations! You’ve found the right email address.
Obviously, this method only works if you know the name of the person you want to email, but just don’t have their email address. Still, in those scenarios, Sales Navigator works like a charm.
Trust, but verify
There’s nothing more annoying than when you think you’ve finally struck gold, but the gold turned out to be pyrite. Getting an email that bounces back because it wasn’t the correct address is frustrating. And even worse, if it happens too often, your email can end up on email blacklists and destroy your email deliverability.
There are ways to verify, however. At my company, we use Neverbounce. It’s effective and incredibly easy to use. With Neverbounce, you can enter in either individual email addresses or bulk lists, and voila!
It will let you know if that email address is currently Valid, Invalid, or Unknown. It’s that easy. Here are some other email verifiers:
Subscribe to their newsletter
Here’s one final out-of-the-box approach. This approach works more often with sites where one person clearly does most, if not all, of the work. A site where someone’s name is the domain name, for example.
If you come across a site like davidfarkas.com and you see a newsletter that can be subscribed to, hit that subscribe button. Once that’s done, you can simply reply to one iteration of the newsletter.
This method has an added benefit. An effective way of building links is building relationships, just like I said in the opening. When you can demonstrate that you’re already subscribing to a webmaster’s newsletter, you’ll be currying favor with that webmaster.
When you send a link building outreach email, you want to make sure it’s going to a real person and, even more importantly, ending up in the right hands. Sending an email to an incorrect contact periodically may seem like a negligible waste of time, but when you send emails at the volume a link builder should, the waste adds up very quickly. In fact, enough waste can kill everything else that you’re trying to accomplish.
It’s well worth your time to make sure you’re getting it right by putting in the effort to finding the right email address. Be a picky link builder. Don’t just choose the first email that comes your way and never rely solely on tools. If you email the wrong person, it will look to them like that you didn’t care enough to spend time on their site, and in return, they will ignore you and your pitch.
With the tips outlined above, you’ll avoid these issues and be on your way to more successful outreach.
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This may be of some interest.
Year after year, hundreds of marketers report increased efforts and spending on their content marketing — or the intention to do so.
But great content is a waste if your audience doesn’t know it exists.
Content distribution is an integral, if not the most important, part of your content strategy.
In recent years, there’s been a rapid influx of content … met with dwindling demand. With almost 4.5 million blog posts published every day, there’s only so much content we can consume. Marketing influencer Mark Schaefer argues that, because of this “content shock,” content marketing may not be a sustainable strategy for every business.
While I won’t agree or disagree with this theory, I will equip you with the tools you need to distribute the content you create. By the end of this guide, you’ll be able to build a content distribution strategy that gets your content in front of — and consumed by — your audience.
Although the content distribution process happens after you create your content, it should be step one of your content marketing strategy. You should know where and how you’re going to publish and promote your content before you put the proverbial pen to paper — otherwise, your time and resources could go to waste.
Where should I publish my content, you ask? Through the various content distribution channels we discuss next.
Content distribution channels are the channels through which you share and promote the content you create. There are three types of content distribution channels: owned, earned, and paid. The channels you use to distribute your content will vary based on your audience and resources.
Owned Content Distribution
Owned channels are the content properties your company owns. You can control when and how content is published on your owned channels. These include your website and blog, your social media profiles, your email newsletter, or a mobile publishing app.
Earned Content Distribution
Earned channels (also known as “shared” channels)are when third parties promote or share your content. These third parties could include customers, journalists, bloggers, and anyone who shares your content for free — hence the name “earned”.
These channels include public relations, social shares and mentions, guest articles and roundups, and product reviews. They also include forums and communities like Reddit or Quora — while posting on these sites is free, the content is owned by these third parties and therefore falls under earned channels.
Paid Content Distribution
The following diagram illustrates how these three content distribution channels overlap and how you can combine them to enhance their impact and reach.
If 70% of marketers lack a content strategy, how many do you think have a content distribution strategy? I’d bet not many.
Moreover, some marketers recommend that you spend 20% of your allotted content marketing time creating your content — and the other 80% promoting it. Sound like something you’re doing? If not, this is where a content distribution strategy comes in handy.
A content distribution strategy is important for a few reasons:
- It boosts your content impact past curation and creation. As I said above, great content is practically useless if nobody’s reading it. A content distribution strategy gets your gorgeous content in front of the right eyes.
- It aligns your team and the teams with which you collaborate to create and share the content. Depending on the size of your company, you may have several cooks in the content marketing kitchen. (I know we do at HubSpot.) A content distribution strategy aligns all these different parties and ensures you’re all collaborating efficiently.
- It sets goal benchmarks against which you can measure your distribution performance. Content distribution can be vague — a simple press of the “Publish” button, and you’re done. A content distribution strategy helps you set benchmarks and hard goals to chase while publishing and promoting your work.
Here’s how to build a content distribution strategy for yourself.
1. Research your target audience.
Content distribution is all about getting your content in front of your audience. You can’t do this properly if you don’t know where they are and what they like to read. Before you build your strategy any further, research your target audience so you know precisely who will be consuming your content.
Start by collecting demographic data from your website visitors, email subscribers, social media followers, and customers. Take a look at your audience’s gender, age, income, location, education, and related categories. You can pull this information from Google Analytics or your social media analytics tools.
Next, collect feedback directly from your customers, email subscribers, and social media followers. Ask them about their pain points and needs as well as how they feel about your current content and distribution efforts.
Use these two data points to create your buyer persona. Your buyer persona(s) act as models of your ideal customers and content consumers and represent their pain points, information preferences, and motivations as you build out the rest of your content distribution strategy.
2. Audit your content.
You may already have some published content out there, such as blog posts, videos, social media content, and more. While your new content distribution strategy doesn’t involve removing that content, you should perform an audit to understand if it’s helping or hurting your distribution efforts. Auditing your current content will also remind you of which topics you’ve already written about and which ones you can expand on.
A thorough content audit is comprised of three main parts:
- Logging your content. Logging your content can be done manually or with a tool. (We recommend the latter, especially if you’ve been publishing content on multiple properties and channels.) Tools like Screaming Frog can help you crawl and collect your content, listing each URL, title, and description in a spreadsheet. The free version crawls up to 500 URLs. If you opt for a manual content audit, follow the steps in our blog post here.
- Assessing your content impact. If you crawl your content with SEMRush, the tool will also list content length, social shares, and backlinks. This information can help you assess the impact of each piece of content, alerting you to anything that needs to be updated, rewritten, or erased.
- Identifying your content gaps. You can also identify gaps in your content using the Ahrefs Content Gap tool or by performing keyword research to discover new keywords or keyword phrases to add to your content, thus helping it rank higher and for more terms.
Check out this blog post for 30+ more content auditing tools.
3. Choose your content distribution channels.
Your content distribution channels are arguably more important than your content itself, hence why this step comes before content creation and after target audience research. Once you know your target audience, you’ll have a much better idea of how to get your content in front of your followers and customers.
Depending on your analysis, you may post on forums and communities like Reddit or Quora — and pay to promote your content on those sites, too. Alternatively, you may choose to exclusively share content on social media channels, or perhaps you find that traditional PR is your best route.
Regardless of which content distribution channels you choose, ensure they align with your audience’s preferences and behaviors.
Also, be sure to optimize your owned distribution channels — your blog, email newsletter, and social media profiles — as these are relatively inexpensive and in your control. Even if research shows that your audience prefers forums to social media or news sites to company blogs, never neglect your owned properties as these reflect on your brand and product.
As you work through this step, set aside time to optimize your blog-to-gain readership, brush up on how to send email newsletters (or start sending them), and learn about organic social media marketing.
4. Decide on your content types.
After you determine your distribution channels, consider what types of content you’d like (and have the resources) to create.
Many companies choose to publish all of their content on their blog and then repurpose and re-publish it. Blog posts are universally consumed, easy to repurpose and localize (i.e. translate into other languages), and simple to share — not to mention that almost 50% of buyers read a company’s blog while making purchase decisions. For these reasons, we recommend building a business blog and then expanding your content types from to share on other channels.
Consider these content types — and how you’ll repurpose and distribute them — as you create your blog posts:
- Podcasts and interviews
- Case studies
- White papers
- Checklists and listicles
Goals help us recognize where we’re going and what success might look like when we get there. Your content distribution strategy should involve setting goals for your content key performance indicators (KPIs) and their subsequent metrics:
|key performance indicators||related metrics|
|Traffic/reach||Unique page views by channel and source|
|Engagement||Bounce rate, average time on page|
|Top content (and falling content)||Top page views, top exits|
|Impact||Click-throughs, conversions, backlinks|
|Sentiment||Comments, social shares|
These metrics may vary based on your distribution channel (i.e. you can’t track comments on your email newsletter or top exists on your social media ads), so be sure to choose the metrics that correspond best to each channel. It might take a few months to establish a baseline for each channel, especially if you haven’t used it before.
Set SMART goals for your content using these metrics. Here’s an example:
- Specific: I want to increase our blog’s organic traffic by boosting backlinks from other reputable websites and blogs. This will increase our search engine ranking, thus bringing in more organic traffic.
- Measurable: I’d like 30 new backlinks to our blog.
- Attainable: We’re already generating 10 new backlinks each month without an intentional strategy, so I believe 30 new backlinks this month with our strategy is feasible.
- Relevant: This goal aligns with our broader organic content marketing strategy and could also boost our earned media as we get mentions from press outlets and third-party bloggers.
- Time-bound: I’d like to receive these backlinks within the next month.
6. Build an editorial calendar (and include distribution).
Content marketing and distribution require lots of planning to be successful. This is where an editorial content calendar can come in handy. You can create one in Excel or Google Sheets, or even use Google Calendar. Tools like CoSchedule, Asana, and Trello are helpful, too.
Your editorial calendar, like your content distribution strategy, helps your team stay aligned and work towards common goals. It also gives your writers and editors a roadmap for what they’ll be working on in the coming weeks and months.
Here’s what your editorial calendar may look like (using this post as an example):
Your editorial calendar is the perfect place to include your content distribution plans and goals. Here’s what that may look like on your editorial calendar:
See how the right-hand columns now include categories like “Publish Destinations” and “Repurposing Plans”? Your editorial calendar should serve as your hub for all content creation and distribution plans.
7. Create your content.
After you research your audience, audit your content, decide on your distribution channels and content types, and build your editorial calendar … it’s time to create your content. Content creation will vary based on your resources, team size, industry, and brand, so to get the most pointed, applicable advice, check out our Guide to Content Creation.
As you work on your new content, check out these tools:
- AnswerthePublic, which can help you flesh out topics and understand what your audience is searching for
- Canva, which can help you build gorgeous infographics and images
- Vidyard, which is a video hosting and publishing platform made for marketers
- Anchor, which is a free podcasting tool for beginners
We’ll talk more about content distribution tools in the next section.
8. Distribute and market your content.
You’ve created your content … now it’s time to put it out in the world. Following your editorial calendar and chosen distribution channels, publish and market your new content. As for any marketing channel, be sure you follow rules to optimize your posts on each channel.
For example, our team at HubSpot paid for ads on Reddit and found that it was helpful to organically engage with Redditors as well as pay for ad space. Alternatively, if you’re posting on (or paying for) social media, be sure to follow the guidelines for the best times to post and share content — the same goes for sending emails.
9. Measure and analyze your results.
As always, be sure to keep an eye on your content distribution results. Remember those KPIs, metrics, and SMART goals you established in step five? Time to pull those out.;
After you’ve published your content, take a look at Google Analytics, your social media analytics dashboards, and your blog performance — depending on where and how you distributed the content. Make sure you set a routine time to measure and analyze (weekly, monthly, or quarterly) so that you can establish a baseline and know which numbers you can beat the following week or month.
Whew! So, that’s what it takes to build a content distribution strategy. Be sure to iterate on this process; these guidelines may change as you expand your content efforts and scale your team. Now, let’s talk about the tools you need to get it done.
Content distribution can be an arduous process, but thankfully there are many content distribution tools out there to help you get your work discovered and consumed.
These tools help you publish your content on additional networks and forums to reach broader audiences.
Medium is a content platform that individuals and businesses alike use to publish content. You can use Medium in addition to or in lieu of your traditional blog. (We recommend in addition to your blog as this will give your content the broadest reach.)
Medium is where thousands of readers consume content. It’s a one-stop-shop platform for all kinds of content … kind of like Amazon is for products. For that reason, consider publishing to Medium to increase the number of people who see your content.
Price: Free and paid
LinkedIn Pulse is similar to Medium except it lives on LinkedIn. While there isn’t a homepage that aggregates all the published content, it’s still a helpful tool for getting your written content in front of your followers (for free). You can publish on LinkedIn Pulse through your personal or company LinkedIn pages by simply clicking “Write an article”.
Note: LinkedIn Pulse is also a mobile application that you can download to receive daily headlines and trending news.
Read more about publishing on LinkedIn Pulse here.
These tools help connect you with journalists and publications to help expand your earned distribution channels and gain backlinks.
PR Newswire is a press release distribution network. The platform helps you target and contact journalists and outlets by specific industries, geographic areas, and topics. It offers packages for state and local, regional, and national press.
HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out, which is an online platform that connects journalists and sources. In this case, you’d be the source.
When you sign up for HARO, you’re sent daily emails with journalist queries. Respond to these queries to be potentially featured in an article. This is a reactive content distribution tool, but it’s helpful for getting press mentions and backlinks.
Price: Free and paid
These tools help distribute your content on social media and amplify your posts.
HubSpot is an all-in-one marketing software, meaning its useful for email marketing, analytics, and social amplification. I’ve placed it in the “Social Tools” section because its Social Inbox is incredibly helpful for content distribution.
From your Social Inbox, you can monitor, schedule, and post content to your social networks. You can also access information from your email marketing campaigns so you have the big picture of your readers and customers.
Price: Free and paid
ClickToTweet is a tool that equips your readers to share soundbites of your content on Twitter with a single click. You create your content soundbites, and ClickToTweet provides a link. When readers click that link, the tool opens their Twitter with the content soundbite already ready to post.
It also links to your Twitter account and content — allowing your readers to distribute your content for you.
GaggleAMP is a social amplification tool that allows you to aggregate your employee’s social networks and post company content directly to them. Employees have the option to review and improve content before it’s posted or allow it to go through automatically. This is a great alternative to constantly bugging your staff to post on about your business.
You can also use this tool to link to social networks from partners, customers, brand advocates, and more.
Price: Free and paid
AddThis is an on-page social sharing tool. It allows your readers to share your content without bouncing from your page (and potentially getting distracted). You can also integrate AddThis share buttons into your email newsletter and other assets.
These tools help you measure and analyze the impact of your social posts and other distribution efforts.
Mention is a social media monitoring tool that provides social media listening, publishing, crisis management, and more. You can use Mention to monitor any mentions of your brand name, content, or social networks and respond accordingly. This is a great tool for measuring the impact of and engagement around your content and see who is promoting it for you.
Price: Free and paid
SharedCount is a tool that helps you measure the engagement of your social media posts. Simply input a URL, and SharedCount will report on its likes, shares, comments, and other engagement measures. While it can’t help you distribute your content, it can alert you to which pieces are performing well and which pieces may need to be updated or scrapped.
Price: Free and paid
Outbrain is a paid amplification tool that aggregates your content at the bottom of other articles. You can set up content campaigns with an RSS feed or specific URL(s), and Outbrain will place them under related content, encouraging readers to click and read yours.
Outbrain works with an impressive network, including digital publications like NYT and Mashable.
WiseStamp is an email tool that allows you (and your employees) to share your latest content in your email signature. Your email signature is often a forgotten but important piece of digital real estate that practically everyone who opens your emails will see. WiseStamp helps you make the most of that space.
Distribute Your Content to Grow Better
Amazing content is a waste if no one is consuming it. Content distribution is a critical piece of the content marketing puzzle. It’s is also the key to boosting your brand awareness, collecting loyal followers, and encouraging your readers to click, act, and become customers.
Put these content distribution tips and tools to get your content in front of your audience.
Thank you for reading.
This may be of some interest.
The average consumer is spending five hours per day on their smartphones and this number is only going up.
We do everything on our phones these days, from shopping to browsing social media and managing our businesses.
This is why it’s more important than ever to optimize the user experience to keep people on your app for longer periods, enjoying it more, and sharing it with friends.
If you’re trying to optimize your mobile app, I’m sure you’ve already tinkered with the layout, fonts, copy, and more, but there’s one thing you probably haven’t…
Mobile deep linking.
It’s a small detail that can drastically enhance how users engage with your app but few are taking advantage of it.
That’s why I’m going to be teaching you what mobile deep linking is, why you need it, and how you can implement it yourself.
Let’s dive in.
What is mobile deep linking, anyways?
Mobile deep linking is the practice of funneling users deeper into your app through the use of a uniform resource identifier or URI for short.
This allows mobile app developers to push to a specific page within an application versus simply opening it.
Think of it as a website URL.
If you were trying to sell a product, would you want users landing on the homepage or being forwarded to a sales page found deeper in the website?
The latter, of course.
By helping users go to a certain page within an app, you’re making the customer journey easier by getting them closer to the end goal sooner.
Here’s a visual of what the process looks like:
While it might seem simple, mobile linking comes in three different forms that you need to be aware of. They include the following:
Standard deep linking
This is the straightforward deep linking that forwards a user to a specific part of the app. It’s also known as universal linking.
It only works if the customer already has the app installed.
The problem is within traditional linking is that when a user clicks a link, it won’t open the mobile app, but rather directs them to the browser version.
If someone is on a mobile device, the app version will always be more optimized and streamlined.
Here’s what happens if you search for my Instagram on Google for example with the app installed.
The results appear to be the exact same whether you have the Instagram app or not, but clicking it opens up the app seamlessly.
This is a good example of basic deep linking.
Someone that doesn’t have the Instagram mobile application installed will be given an error or redirected to a fallback page.
Deferred deep linking
This form of deep linking works the same way as standard linking does with the exception that it will direct users without the app to the download location.
This is beneficial because it can help app developers and companies acquire more customers.
Once the app is installed, the user will be referred to where they were originally navigating.
Check out the Skip The Dishes app to see what I mean.
While a user is creating their order, they are able to download the mobile app for Android or iOS.
They are forwarded back to the exact step they were taking, except in the mobile app after downloading it.
This means that they don’t have to manually go through the entire process again to get back to where they were.
Contextual deep linking
Contextual deep linking, also known as onboarding, is commonly used for gathering information on customers to personalize the user experience of an app.
Data such demographics, how users navigate to the app, and more is recorded.
The app onboarding process can be different depending on if the user installed via the Google Play Store, the Apple Store, a Facebook campaign, or another source.
A mobile app downloaded through a Facebook Ad might look different than when it’s downloaded through a Google Display Ad, for example.
The landing page is able to be customized through what is known as a deep view in mobile app development.
Just as the deep link forwards users to a specific deeper page in the application, the deep view is the visual result they see that’s different than others.
Deep linking is only doable thanks to what is known as URI schemes. These schemes are similar to how a website URL can direct you to a specific page on a website.
See the fetched URI? Its format is appname://path/to/location.
Custom URIs are simple to set up for developers (Often created by default) and present the opportunity to redirect users wherever you please.
The mobile customer journey and how it applies to deep linking
The mobile buyer’s journey is the individual’s steps a user takes to find, use, and share your application.
It’s similar to the regular funnel a customer goes through when purchasing a product with some small differences you need to be aware of.
Here’s how the various steps in the mobile buyer’s journey can be applied to mobile deep linking.
The first step in the mobile customer journey is discovering your app in the first place.
While this can be achieved through strategies like content marketing and SEO, deep linking gives you a nice boost to these tactics.
Google indexes deep links from mobile apps, giving you more opportunities to rank and drive organic traffic.
Users can click the search engine listing and open the link directly through the app instead of an internet browser.
Look at this search for Google Analytics to see what I mean:
This helps businesses acquire more users and increase brand awareness versus having a single search engine listing.
Check out my video on skyrocketing mobile app organic traffic, and pair it with deep linking for mind-blowing results.
Once a user has narrowed down a few options, they’re naturally going to want to find the best app by comparing them.
They’ll look at factors such as pricing, ease of use, and features.
Deep linking enables you to push users to the best features of your app, reviews, or customize the experience to make your application better than competitors.
By reducing the number of steps it takes to get to important functions of the app, you’re also decreasing the chance of users bouncing.
The third step in the mobile buyer’s journey is making a decision and commitment to a single app.
Having a clear value proposition and refined user experience is crucial here.
Better yet, contextual deep linking helps you collect data to make the application as tailored as possible to your buyer’s persona.
Marketing campaigns can also be optimized with this information to improve targeting and performance.
Once you begin acquiring more users, you need to keep them.
Standard and deferred deep linking will help navigate users back to your app when they are on search engines, social media, and other platforms.
This keeps them using your app more often.
Data that can be collected as a result of deep links will assist you in understanding why and how they use your mobile application.
Doubling down on these is what we call Pareto’s Principle or the 80/20 rule.
This rule can be seen everywhere and defines that 80% of results come from 20% of actions.
In the case of mobile app development, you might discover that users are only engaging with a few features and others are taking up space.
You could hypothetically update the features and pages that are used the most, boosting engagement and retention.
Businesses will miss out on discovers like this if they don’t use deep links to collect information.
Why mobile deep linking matters
I know what you’re thinking.
“Why should I bother with mobile deep linking?”
Let me explain.
It improves the user experience
If you can save the user from going through multiple steps instead of one, why wouldn’t you?
That’s exactly what deep linking does, and improves UX because of it.
You’re making the life of users easier by using deep linking to get them where they want to go faster.
This gives them a better experience and impression with your app as a result.
Here’s what the difference between not using mobile deep linking and taking advantage of it looks like:
Much simpler, right?
This brings me to my next point.
It increases customer retention and engagement
Wouldn’t it be nice if every user that downloaded your app stay active all year round?
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
It’s been found that 55% of users will churn after the first month of use. That means nearly half of the new downloads will be lost.
Look at mobile app user retention the same way you approach a website.
It’s common for nearly half of all visitors to leave a website and not take any action.
Do you just sit there and do nothing about it? Of course not!
You implement strategies like email options through popups and exclusive content to capture those users before they leave.
This is precisely what deep linking can be used for but in the sense for a mobile app.
Once a user has visited your app, you can retarget them and use a different style of deep linking to improve their experience.
It improves the onboarding of new users
When a mobile app uses a form of deep linking like the deferred approach, you are capable of acquiring more users.
This is because as a user goes through the mobile browser version of your application, they will be given the option or automatically forwarded to the appropriate download location.
The contextual linking technique can be used to onboard new users in different ways depending on where they originally download the app from.
If you understand that users coming from a Facebook ad campaign regularly navigate to a certain product category, you can push them there automatically.
Furthermore, perhaps users from Google like to learn more about your business first before purchasing.
You can use contextual deep linking to direct those users to the page detailing your company’s history.
You can re-engage users
Once a user has used your app, you have a small window of opportunity to retarget them.
Did you know that 46% of search engine marketers believe that retargeting is the most underused form of marketing right now?
It’s a hidden gem that deep linking enhances.
If a segment of users downloaded your app, viewed product pages, and bounced, you could retarget them in advertising campaigns and use deferred linking to forward them back to the high-interest product pages.
Strengthens your marketing
Personalization is key. Contextual deep linking allows you to customize the user experience, which improves marketing results.
Take into consideration that 39% of consumers will spend more money when given a mobile coupon.
You could collect data on users via contextual deep linking to discover what product categories they enjoy the most, then offer a discount for them to align with this behavior.
Similarly, mobile deep linking has the potential to increase conversion rates.
This is because you are pushing users through the sales funnel quicker. Normally this consists of:
- The user lands on the homepage of your website.
- They navigate to a product page and add a line item to their cart.
- They visit the cart page to confirm their order.
- Finally, they pay and check out.
Mobile deep linking can effectively cut the sales funnel in half by helping customers go straight to sales pages.
Take the ticket mobile app SeatGeek as an example. They were able to increase revenue by 10.6% and app open rate by 8.8% with deep linking.
Firstly, they struggled with reminding users to finish their purchases and buy tickets through the app.
They resolved this issue by using deep linked mobile ads. These target ads based on past user activity would display relevant ads in other existing apps the customer used.
SeatGeek noticed that they were getting thousands of new users per day and had to keep them.
Their team began creating ads that would serve different audiences based on previous behavior.
An example of this would be a user adding tickets to their favorite basketball team’s game to cart, but then abandoning before checking out.
When this user was on another application that supported ads, they would see an advertisement for that same basketball game.
The ads were simple in nature, using a related image, and straight forward call to action.
Boosts app discoverability
Don’t you want to get discovered by more customers?
Of course, you do!
And that’s precisely why you need to implement more deep linking in your mobile app.
Deep links are indexed on Google, giving you more opportunities to rank and drive traffic to your business.
And seeing as Google receives over four billion searches per day, you don’t want to miss out on the free exposure.
Think about how a website like mine ranks for thousands of pages, and not just the homepage.
You can achieve that same performance but for your mobile app.
Users on search engines like Google will be able to visit deeper functions and features versus landing on the welcome page.
This creates the opportunity to optimize applications for SEO via keywords, meta descriptions, and title tags, as well.
Provides analytics and insight into campaigns
Mobile deep linking allows you to refine your buyer’s persona and better understand their behavior.
This information can be used to improve the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and the overall experience of your app.
You will also be able to discover which links are being clicked the most and by whom.
Doing so creates the opportunity to double down on the best-performing links and optimizing who you target in advertising campaigns.
Deep links also shine light in which parts of your app are used the most and which aren’t.
Google offers its Firebase product to track deep linking in an easy to use platform.
You can begin using it by selecting the Android, iOS, C++, web, or Unity options.
Using Android as an example, you will need to ensure that you meet the prerequisites Google outlines in their documentation.
Firebase’s SDK automatically captures various metrics, user properties, and allows you to create custom events if you wish to track a specific action.
This data is then relayed through the Firebase dashboard which has a very familiar look and feel to other Google products.
You will feel right at home if you’ve ever used Google Analytics.
Which by the way can be connected to Firebase if you need to add events specific to your business like e-commerce purchases.
How to perform mobile deep linking
Now that you’re excited to get started using mobile deep links, here’s how to implement it yourself.
Deep linking on Android
Android devices will select one of three options when a URI is requested:
- It opens a preselected app with the URI.
- It opens the only available app that can handle the URI.
- The user is prompted to choose an available app.
To begin adding deep links to achieve this, you will need to navigate to the AndroidManifest.xml file of your Android mobile app.
You will then have to add the following elements to the file through an intent filter:
- Specify the ACTION_VIEW attribute in the <action> element.
- <data> tags which include the URI scheme, host, and path.
- CATEGORY_DEFAULT and CATEGORY_BROWSABLE attributes to move users from a browser to your app.
Here’s an example from Android’s official documentation on deep linking of what the code will look like:
The second step is to ensure that your app can read data from the intent filter you created.
This is achieved through adding getData() and getAction() methods like so:
Deep links should not require users to log in or perform other actions to visit the desired content unless desired like in the case of promoting app downloads through deferred linking.
Adding deep links to iOS apps begins by enabling them through what is known as Associated Domains Entitlement.
That’s a fancy way to say you’re letting search engines know what app belongs to what website.
This way when a user clicks on your website, it activates the specified type of deep linking you choose.
You will then have to add an Apple App Site Association file to your website to verify it.
This association file needs to contain the following code, as you can see from Apple’s official documentation:
Similar to how Android apps have the manifest file, the app delegate file acts as the root of iOS apps.
This is why you will have to program your app delegate file to respond to deep links like Apple shows in this example:
They are specifically handled through the NSUserActivity object and activityType value of NSUserActivityTypeBrowsingWeb.
Your iOS app will be prepared to handle and accept users that navigate to it from browsers like Safari after you complete these steps.
Mobile deep linking is a powerful technique to improve the user experience, on-boarding, and marketing of applications.
The three types of mobile deep linking are standard, deferred, and contextual. It’s important to understand each of these to know when to use them properly.
Standard deep linking is used when customers already have an app installed. When they click on a mobile link, it will give them the option to open it in the app or automatically.
Deferred deep linking works by forwarding users to the appropriate app store to download the app if they don’t have it, then pushing them to the originally intended page.
Contextual linking is the most complicated but allows developers to collection information on users to customize the on-boarding and overall experience of the app.
Mobile deep linking can be implemented in each step of the buyer’s journey to acquire and retain users, too.
How do you use deep linking to improve mobile app performance?
Thank you for reading.