Why Virtual Agencies Might Be More Creative

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I wrote this post by the pool. Not by my pool — I don’t have one — but by a pool. It was 104 degrees. Since I recently left behind big New York agency life to focus exclusively on writing and consulting, I’m able to do that — work by pools. I can work when I want, how I want. And I’ve noticed I get more done, better.

It got me thinking about the nature of remote working, yes, but not in a trendy way.

We’ve all seen the stats. We know cloudworking is a growing phenomenon, and it’s here to stay. Last year, 37% of workers telecommuted some of the time. That’s quadruple the number that did so a decade ago. Right now, research suggests around 63 million members of the U.S. workforce work remotely. That’s 43%.

It got me thinking not about the productivity part — a robust body of research clearly shows that flexibility is a boon to productivity.

It got me thinking about the creativity part.

Is a virtual work environment simply more conducive to creativity? Is the distributed agency, therefore, an innately more creative business model?

I didn’t want to rely on data to answer this question. Data is persuasive, but it doesn’t always convince. Stories convince. And I wanted to hear about the relationship between telework and creativity first-hand.

So I reached out to some top distributed business leaders to get their take on it.

Now I know what you’re thinking: These people run distributed companies. They’re biased. And full disclosure, I once ran a 100% distributed Manhattan agency. But I don’t do that anymore. And if you want directions, you ask the people that have been there.

This is what I learned: Remote workers are up to 20% more creative, and there are probably three primary reasons why.

You’re Only as Good as the People You Work With

Creativity begets creativity. To reach creative potential, one must surround one’s self with creative people. And virtual agencies have the edge when it comes to recruiting and retaining top creative talent.

Jason Fried, CEO and co-founder of Basecamp, has employees in more than 32 cities globally. “I keep hearing about the ‘talent wars, and how no one can find great people,” Fried said.

The talent war, or rather, the war for talent, is a term created by Steven Hankin in 1997. A Harvard Business Press book immortalized it in 2001. But more recently, the war for talent has become a lot more aggressive.

“The reason no one can find great people is that they’re all looking in their own backyards,” Fried said. “We find the best people in the world, not our own zip code.”

“There’s always someone better suited for the job whom you can’t bring on board because they live elsewhere,” says Abdullahi Muhammed, CEO of the content marketing agency, Oxygenmat. “Being fully distributed means … city and time zone become mere data to know about your team, not selection criteria.”

Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic, the creator of WordPress, sums it up well: “Our company can recruit from a global talent pool that is greater in aggregate than any geographic subset, even Silicon Valley.”

The ability to fish in a bigger pond — heck, a sea! — is worthless, however, if the fish aren’t biting. But they are.

Highly-flexible work practices are a potent recruitment tool. Employees wouldn’t be taking advantage of them in such exploding numbers if it were otherwise. Telework is particularly attractive to millennials: 68% of them say the ability to cloudwork vastly increases their interest in an employer.

Teams With a Singular Perspective Get Stuck

Creativity feeds on diversity. One study on the subject illuminates five primary reasons this is true. Greater diversity:

  1. Opens access to novel ideas.
  2. Offers the opportunity to think opposably.
  3. Encourages workers to re-evaluate their creative habits and look at their processes differently.
  4. Opens doors to normally inaccessible information.
  5. Promotes a willingness to leverage ideas from unfamiliar sources and places.

Diversity’s impact on creativity was well known to all the leaders I interviewed.

Fried captured the dynamic nicely: “Flexible work practices help you create a team with a broader perspective. If you’re only hiring people from your own ‘echo-chamber,’ they’re all going to think relatively the same. When you have people that think the same, that stifles creativity. When you hire people from all over the place, you have a shot at a team of different perspectives, and that’s invaluable for creativity.”

Quality of Life Influences Creative Output

Despite the romanticized trope of the super-artistic malcontent, research indicates happiness enhances creativity. And people who work remotely are happier.

One study scored workers on a scale of 1 to 10. Teleworkers scored an average of 8.10, while traditional workers averaged only 7.42.

Buffer formalizes the notion of encouraging happiness to encourage creativity in its culture. “One of our core Buffer values is ‘Live Smarter, Not Harder,'” says Hailley Griffis, who does communications for the maker of social media management tools. “And with that, we say, ‘You choose to be at the single place on earth where you are the happiest.'”

“It’s about eliminating things that are soul-sucking,” Fried said. “Our employees can see their kids grow up. They don’t have to spend three hours a day commuting. The ability to work remotely improves the overall quality of life … and I can’t quantify it, but I’m sure that improves creativity, too.”

The data is there, but so are the boots-on-the-ground stories. And that’s something agencies can’t afford to ignore. Working remotely does appear to enhance creativity.

And I hope I’ve convinced you working by a pool does, too.

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Responsive Design is Killing Two-Thirds of Your Conversions. Here’s How to Fix It.

Posted by TaliaGw

Allow me to start with a quick summary of this article:

There’s a 270% gap in conversions between desktop and mobile, because mobile websites suck and we’re all doing it wrong. (Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll explain why and what needs to be done to fix this.)

At its essence, responsive design is supposed to make a cross-device world a more seamless experience by adapting your desktop design to a smaller mobile screen. Unfortunately, condensing all that desktop content into such a small screen has the exact opposite effect — it’s actually causing huge loss in conversion rates. But how?

Responsive design clutters mobile sites with irrelevant content for on-the-go visitors. Built with a desktop user in mind, a mobile visitor who has different intentions and a different state of mind may not find what they’re looking for, and leave your site feeling frustrated and confused. This is the source of your huge loss in conversions.

This isn’t to say you should abandon responsive design altogether. Rather, you must think more specifically about the mobile web experience and the mobile visitor’s state of mind instead of simply transferring the desktop design to a mobile one.

To develop a useful responsive mobile experience we must do two things:

  1. Most importantly, consider why a mobile customer has come to your site;
  2. And understand their intent.

(Here are 5 metrics you should follow to understand your mobile visitors better.)

These two parameters will help determine what you need to highlight, remove, or optimize on your mobile site and give greater clarity to what your responsive design should include. Below are the 5 basic elements you should consider when designing your mobile experience:

5 Steps for Optimizing Your Responsive Site

1. Optimize image scaling and consider value

Most images scale down with responsive design. However, an image that looks nice on a desktop can suddenly become a dominant and distracting part of a mobile site. Although images are scalable, depending on their value, they might not be necessary to mobile design. Consider the way an image appears within your responsive design. Is it an effective use of visuals? If the image is taking up the entire screen on a phone, or simply serves as nice centerpiece to the site, it’s time to rethink how that image is used device-to-device. For example, Simpsons Solutions’ desktop image doesn’t scale well and overtakes the mobile screen, cluttering the design and making it hard to comprehend what’s going on on that page.

Images (both logo and main image) that work well on desktop completely overtake the mobile screen, have almost no value on a phone, and make it difficult to understand the product.

Outdoor retailer REI’s website, on the other hand, uses the same photo as a focal point on both mobile and desktop, but it scales to the appropriate needs of the visitor.

2. Simplify navigation

Perhaps one of the most important features a mobile site can include is a clear and functional navigation bar. Having a visible, easily accessible menu or search bar helps mobile visitors get where they’re going quickly. Most mobile visitors are coming to a mobile site with a single objective in mind; they’ll waste no time in finding the menu bar, searching for a keyword, and clicking to the page they need.

Analyzing what your mobile customers are doing on your site and searching for is integral for understanding how to tailor your mobile site to those needs. You may discover most mobile visitors use the search bar rather than click on your main call-to-action button; as a result, you might redesign your mobile site to feature the search bar more prominently, helping mobile visitors achieve their goals more quickly. In addition, understanding what people are actually searching for on the site will give you an indication to what’s missing, what isn’t clear, and what needs optimizing.

Because they’re on the go, mobile visitors are often in need of a contact page, usually looking for an address or a phone number to easily reach your company. Brick-and-mortar businesses should be especially cognizant of this, ensuring they have an easy-to-find contact page directly via the site navigation or on the homepage itself. Customers are much more likely to complete an order, visit your physical shop, and leave satisfied with the experience if finding you is simple and straightforward.

3. Kill responsive pop ups, use mobile overlays

Overlays and pop ups built for desktop experiences on mobile tend to distract from a mobile visitor’s primary purpose for landing on your site. Instead, guide them and focus them on a singular goal — their goal. Using a desktop solution for a mobile experience kills conversions. Since desktop overlays/pop-ups aren’t designed to fit the 19,000 combinations of screen size and resolutions found on mobile devices today, it’s wise not to use them on mobile. You don’t want an overlay fit to the resolution and specs of a desktop — these won’t scale down, making mobile navigation unbearable.

A bad overlay, like the examples below, completely take over the mobile screen, prevent you from seeing any other content, are hard to click out of, and do not fit the mobile screen (see how the email field is cut on the LastKings example).

Instead, studying how a mobile visitor behaves on your site can help you determine what your overlay should ask for, lead to, or even just what information should be included. Take into consideration both the mobile technical necessities and the customer’s mobile behavior to design an overlay to the exact needs of your mobile visitors.

4. Less is more: simplify, shorten and optimize your text

While it might seem obvious, text is often one feature that very few brands take the time to develop for effective desktop (let alone mobile) sites. To avoid overcrowding and confusion, it’s always better to keep text brief and to the point in terms of how many words appear on a site. This is where information hierarchy comes heavily into play. Your company can rearrange, rewrite, and reformat any headlines and taglines to feature only the most important information for a mobile visitor. This practice also ensures that the text isn’t taking over a page with long and wordy visuals.

While all this text seems to work well on desktop, mobile is a completely different story. The text completely hides the page, is impossible to read, and all conversion elements (such as trust symbols and call-to-action buttons) have been pushed below the fold. This is yet another case of failed responsive design:

Another factor to consider is the automatic nature of scrolling on a mobile device. A desktop can capture a full message, words, and pictures in a single glance. While less people scroll when on a desktop, on mobile, visitors instantly begin scrolling hoping for something to catch their eye. This should influence how you write a headline based on where and how it scrolls. Text should be short and concise so it catches the eye and is valuable to the reader.

5. Reconsider and clarify your calls-to-action

A mobile site should have one clear goal that the call-to-action button should support. The call-to-action button should be the first element a mobile visitor pays attention to and it should instantly tell the visitor what to do. For example, Udemy, an online learning platform, puts a very clear call-to-action at the top of their mobile landing page that aligns with the company’s overall goal. They know their customers have come to their site to learn, so to help them accomplish this goal instantly, they provided a button for finding courses and a search bar for enhanced navigation.

Create seamless design today

While the goal is to create a seamless experience across all channels for your customers, in order to increase conversions and create a better experience on mobile or any other device, companies must get to know their customers better, understanding their behavior and state of mind before choosing to implement the simple, common solution that may kill their conversions and experience. Remember to always have your mobile customers’ specific behavior and needs in mind before designing your next landing page or site.

What mobile design tactics have worked for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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Moz is Doubling Down on Search

Posted by SarahBird

Hi Moz community,

We wouldn’t be here without you so I wanted to give you a brief update on some big changes happening at Moz.

Tl;dr: We’re focusing our efforts on core SEO such as rank tracking, keyword research, local listings, duplicate management, on-page, crawl, and links. In the future, we’ll no longer offer Moz Content or Followerwonk.

How is Moz’s strategy changing?

Back in 2012, we started to invest in a broad feature set because we wanted to serve all aspects of inbound marketing. We thought it would increase retention by providing more value to customers, and also align with where we believed the industry was headed. Thus, we invested in many new directions: social media marketing, local SEO, content marketing, keyword research, on-page optimization, topic analysis, a next-generation link index, enterprise sales, customer success, ambitious infrastructure projects, events, education programs, and more.

Increasing the breadth of the product suite added a lot of complexity to the business, but didn’t result in the growth we expected. We do, however, have momentum in our core SEO products, especially Moz Local and the new features in Pro.

Moz Local continues to provide a ton of value for customers who care deeply about Local SEO. Our new duplicate management features are cutting-edge. We’re seeing passion and enthusiasm like we haven’t seen in years about our Keyword Explorer feature in Moz Pro. We believe it’s the best of its kind in the market. Our rankings technology has also improved by leaps and bounds with more coming soon. Really soon.

Churn rates are at all-time lows and Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) is climbing for all of our SEO-focused products.

After a lot of analysis and soul searching, we decided to radically simplify our strategy to re-focus on what we love and what our customers value from us: search. Reducing product complexity also creates space for us invest in the technical and business infrastructure we need to support growth. We’re also increasing investment product marketing, CRO, SEO, and email marketing.

❤ Search is our hedgehog ❤

We believe the search industry is as important as ever, and surprisingly doesn’t see near the investment it should given the clear value of SEO as a channel. Organic results still get 80% of the clicks and a fraction of the marketing spend. Further, with a phone in every pocket, mobile and local searches continue to grow. Organizations ignore search at their peril.

We’re passionate about search, we’re good at it, and it’s driving the growth in our business. Classic hedgehog.

What does this mean for the company?

This is the gut-wrenchingly painful part. The hardest part of my job is asking people who have put their hearts and souls into Moz to part ways. To align the organization with this strategic shift, we will be asking about 28% of Mozzers to leave. They are a part of the Moz family and it is heartbreaking that they will not be working alongside us in the future.

We will do everything we can to give them the Mozziest transition possible, including severance, coaching, and assistance finding new roles. Because I know the caliber of folks we’re parting with, I am confident they will go on to do great things.

What does this mean for customers?

Customers will enjoy increased investment in core SEO features, especially in local. We’re on a roll with these products; we’re out to win this market and we believe we can. We’ve got updates planned for crawl and rank tracking that we think you’ll love. We know we’re behind in link technology right now, and we’re working on something ambitious. If you love SEO, please keep watching the blog for updates.

The strategy shift means we will not be investing in Followerwonk or Moz Content. Despite our efforts, we’re not seeing the growth we hypothesized from these products. We will find a graceful way to sunset Moz Content. We’re also looking for a good home for Followerwonk. It is beloved by many, but isn’t having the revenue impact we believed possible, and isn’t close enough to our core base to make sense in our product offering. More details to come.

Send good vibes.

As you can imagine, this is an emotional time for us internally. Hug a Mozzer near you because we need it this week. We’re so grateful for this community’s support and look forward to making SEO software you truly love.

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

12 Blogging Mistakes Most Beginner Bloggers Make

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Sometimes, when I tell people that I blog for a living, they roll their eyes. “That’s so easy,” they say. “You get a paycheck for sitting on the internet all day and writing. A monkey could do your job!”

That’s when I roll my eyes. See, people are quick to deem blogging as a no-brainer job. But when they actually sit down to write their first couple of posts, it hits them: This is way harder than I thought. Like any person starting a new job, they mess things up.

That’s okay — it happens to pretty much every new blogger. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to avoid these roadblocks if you know they’re coming. Download our free introductory blogging guide here for more beginner business  blogging tips. 

So for all of you beginner bloggers out there who are looking to get up-to-speed quickly, keep on reading. Below are 12 common mistakes most beginners make and some tips on how to avoid them.

How to Avoid the 12 Most Common Beginner Business Blogging Mistakes 

Mistake 1: You think of ideas in a vacuum. 

When you start blogging, ideas will come to you at random times — in the shower, on a run, while on the phone with your mom. While the ideas may come at random moments, the ideas themselves should never be random. Just because it’s a good idea in general doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for your company. 

Solution: Your blog posts should all serve larger company goals.

The reason you’re blogging is to grow your business, so all of your blog post ideas should help serve those growth goals. They should have natural tie-ins to issues in your industry and address specific questions and concerns your prospects have. 

Need help figuring out what those goals are and how to address them? Chat with your manager about the larger company goals, and then schedule a meeting with someone on the sales team to hear what questions they get asked most often. After both meetings, you should know which goals you need to achieve and have some ideas on how to achieve them. 

Mistake 2: Your writing’s too stiff. 

Writing a blog post is much different than writing a term paper. But when bloggers first start out, they usually only have experience with the latter. The problem? The style of writing from a term paper is not the style of writing people enjoy reading.

Let’s be honest: Most of the people who see your post aren’t going to read the whole thing. If you want to keep them interested, you have to compel them to keep reading by writing in a style that’s effortless to read.

Solution: Write like you talk.

It’s okay to be more conversational in your writing — in fact, we encourage it. The more approachable your writing is, the more people will enjoy reading it. People want to feel like they’re doing business with real people, not robots.

So loosen up your writing. Throw in contractions. Get rid of the jargon. Make a pun or two. That’s how real people talk — and that’s what real people like to read. 

Mistake 3: You think people care about you as a writer.

It sounds harsh, but it’s the truth: When people first start out blogging, they think that their audience will be inherently interested in their stories and their interests … but that’s not the case. It’s no knock against them as a person — it’s just that when you’re new, no one is interested in you and your experiences. People care way more about what you can teach them. 

Solution: Show your personality; don’t tell it. 

Even though people don’t really care that it’s you that’s writing the post, you can infuse parts of your personality in your writing to make them feel more comfortable with you. How you do that is entirely up to you. Some people like to crack jokes, some like to make pop culture references, and others have a way with vivid descriptions.

HubSpot’s Director of Content Corey Wainwright is particularly good at this. Here’s an example from the introduction of one of her posts:

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To infuse personality into your own writing, try looking for ways to relate to your readers on the topic you’re writing about — then write in the first person as if you’re hanging out with them and chatting about it. Make your tone personal, approachable, and engaging, just like you would in a face-to-face conversation.

Mistake 4: Your topics are too broad.

When people start blogging, they generally want to write on really big topics like:

  • “How to Do Social Media Marketing” 
  • “Business Best Practices”
  • “How to Make Money on the Internet”

Topics like these are far too broad. Because there are so many details and nuances in these topics, it’s really hard to do a good job answering them. Plus, more specific topics tend to attract smaller, more targeted audiences, which tend to be higher quality and more likely to convert into leads and customers.

So, to get the most short-term and long-term benefits of blogging, you’ll need to get way more specific.

Solution: Create very specific working titles.

Nailing really specific topics is crucial to knocking your first few posts out of the park. My colleague Corey wrote another fabulous post on how to do that. Go read it now. Seriously. She’ll tell you how to pick a topic that works for business blogs, and walk you through the process of narrowing it into a working title.

The working title isn’t final — it’s just a concrete angle you can use to keep your writing on track. Once you nail those two things, it’s much easier to write blog posts.

Mistake 5: Your writing is a brain dump. 

Sometimes when I get a great idea I’m excited about, it’s really tempting to just sit down and let it flow out of me. But what I get is usually a sub-par blog post.

Why? The stream-of-consciousness style of writing isn’t really a good style for blog posts. Most people are going to scan your blog posts, not read them, so it needs to be organized really well for that to happen. 

Solution: Use a specific post type, create an outline, and use headers.

The first thing you should do is choose what type of blog post you’re going to write. Is it a how-to post? A list-based post? A curated collection post? A SlideShare presentation? For help on this, download our free templates for creating five different types of blog posts. Once you have a template down, it’ll be easier to write your outline.

Writing an outline makes a big difference. If you put in the time up front to organize your thoughts and create a logical flow in your post, the rest becomes easy — you’re basically just filling in the blanks.

To write a blog post outline, first come up with a list of the top takeaways you want your readers to get from your post. Then, break up those takeaways into larger section headers. When you put in a section header every few paragraphs, your blog post becomes easier and more enjoyable to read. (And plus, header text with keywords is good for SEO.) When you finally get to writing, all you’ll have to do is fill in those sections.

Mistake 6: You don’t use data as evidence.

Let’s say I’m writing a blog post about why businesses should consider using Instagram for marketing. When I’m making that argument, which is more convincing?

  1. “It seems like more people are using Instagram nowadays.”
  2. “Instagram’s user base is growing far faster than social network usage in general in the U.S. Instagram will grow 15.1% this year, compared to just 3.1% growth for the social network sector as a whole.”

The second, of course. Arguments and claims are much more compelling when rooted in data and research. As marketers, we don’t just have to convince people to be on our side about an issue — we need to convince them to take action. Data-driven content catches people’s attention in a way that fluffy arguments do not.

Solution: Use data and research to back up the claims you make in your posts.

In any good story, you’ll offer a main argument, establish proof, and then end with a takeaway for the audience. You can use data in blog posts to introduce your main argument and show why it’s relevant to your readers, or as proof of it throughout the body of the post. 

Some great places to find compelling data include:

Mistake 7: Your content borders on plagiarism.

Plagiarism didn’t work in school, and it certainly doesn’t work on your company’s blog. But for some reason, many beginner bloggers think they can get away with the old copy-and-paste technique. 

You can’t. Editors and readers can usually tell when something’s been copied from somewhere else. Your voice suddenly doesn’t sound like you, or maybe there are a few words in there that are incorrectly used. It just sounds … off. 

Plus, if you get caught stealing other people’s content, you could get your site penalized by Google — which could be a big blow to your company blog’s organic growth.

Solution: Learn how to cite others.

Instead, take a few minutes to understand how to cite other people’s content in your blog posts. It’s not super complicated, but it’s an essential thing to learn when you’re first starting out. 

Mistake 8: You think you’re done once the writing’s done. 

Most people make the mistake of not editing their writing. It sounded so fluid in their head when they were writing that it must be great to read … right?

Nope — it still needs editing. And maybe a lot of it.

Solution: Take 30 minutes to edit your piece.

Everyone needs to edit their writing — even the most experienced writers. Most times, our first drafts aren’t all that great.  So take the time you need to shape up your post. Fix typos, run-on sentences, and accidental its/it’s mistakes. Make sure your story flows just as well as it did in your outline. 

To help you remember all the little things to check before publishing, check out our checklist for editing and proofreading a blog post

Mistake 9: You try to make every post perfect

I hate to break it to you, but your blog post is never going to be perfect. Ever. 

There will always be more things you can do to make your posts better. More images. Better phrasing. Wittier jokes. The best writers I know, know when to stop obsessing and just hit “publish.”

Solution: At a certain point, just ship the post.

There’s a point at which there are diminishing returns for getting closer to “perfect” — and you’re really never going to reach “perfect” anyway. So while you don’t want to publish a post filled with factual inaccuracies and grammatical errors, it’s not the end of the world if a typo slips through. It most likely won’t affect how many views and leads it brings in.

Plus, if you (or your readers) find the mistake, all of you have to do is update the post. No biggie. So give yourself a break once and a while — perfect is the enemy of done.

Mistake 10: You don’t blog consistently.

By now, you’ve probably heard that the more often you blog, the more traffic you’ll get to your website — and the more subscribers and leads you’ll generate from your posts. But as important as volume is, it’s actually more important that you’re blogging consistently when you’re just getting started. If you publish five posts in one week and then only one or two in the next few weeks, it’ll be hard to form a consistent habit. And inconsistency could really confuse your subscribers.

Instead, it’s the companies that make a commitment to regularly publishing quality content to their blogs that tend to reap the biggest rewards in terms of website traffic and leads — and those results continue to pay out over time.

To help establish consistency, you’ll need a more concrete planning strategy.

Solution: Use an editorial calendar.

Use it to get into the habit of planning your blog post topics ahead of time, publishing consistently, and even scheduling posts in advance if you’re finding yourself having a particularly productive week.

Here at HubSpot, we typically use good ol’ Google Calendar as our blog editorial calendar, which you can learn how to set up step-by-step here. Or, you can click here to download our free editorial calendar templates for Excel, Google Sheets, and Google Calendar, along with instructions on how to set them up.

Mistake 11: You concentrate your analytics on immediate traffic. 

Both beginner bloggers and advanced bloggers are guilty of this blogging mistake. If you concentrate your analysis on immediate traffic (traffic from email subscribers, RSS feeds, and social shares), then it’s going to be hard to prove the enduring value of your blog. After all, the half-life for those sources is very brief — usually a day or two.

When marketers who are just starting their business blogs see that their blog posts aren’t generating any new traffic after a few days, many of them get frustrated. They think their blog is failing, and they end up abandoning it prematurely.

Solution: Focus on the cumulative potential of organic traffic.

Instead of focusing on the sudden decay of short-term traffic, focus instead on the cumulative potential of organic traffic. Over time, given enough time, the traffic from day three and beyond of a single blog post will eclipse that big spike on days one and two thanks to being found on search engine results pages through organic search. You just have to give it a while.

To help drive this long-term traffic, make sure you’re writing blog posts that have durable relevance on a consistent basis. These posts are called “evergreen” blog posts: They’re relevant year after year with little or no upkeep, valuable, and high quality.

Over time, as you write more evergreen content and build search authority, those posts will end up being responsible for a large percentage of your blog traffic. It all starts with a slight shift in perspective from daily traffic to cumulative traffic so you can reframe the way you view your blog and its ROI entirely.

Mistake 12: You aren’t growing subscribers.

Once you start blogging, it’s easy to forget that blogging isn’t just about getting new visitors to your blog. One of the biggest benefits of blogging is that it helps you steadily grow an email list of subscribers you can share your new content with. Each time you publish a new blog post, your subscribers will give you that initial surge of traffic — which, in turn, will propel those posts’ long-term success.

The key to getting significant business results (traffic, leads, and eventually customers) all starts with growing subscribers. <img class="hs-cta-img " alt="Download our free introductory guide to A/B testing here.  ” src=”http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/53/hub_generated/resized/c639d718-6b58-4243-bffa-eebc1d49912c.png” style=”box-sizing: border-box; border: 0px; max-width: 100%;”>

Solution: Add a subscription CTA to your blog, and set up an email send.

First, use your email marketing tool to set up a welcome email for new subscribers, as well as a regular email that pulls in your most recent blog posts. (HubSpot customers: You can use HubSpot’s email tool to easily set up these regular email sends, as well as set up a welcome email for new subscribers.)

Next, add subscription CTAs to your blog (and elsewhere, like the footer of your website) to make it easy for people to opt in. These CTAs should be simple, one-field email opt-in forms near the top of your blog, above the fold. As for where to put these CTAs, we typically place our blog CTAs at the bottom of our blog posts or add a slide-in, which you can learn how to do using a free tool called Leadin here.

You can also create a dedicated landing page for subscribers that you can direct people to via other channels such as social media, other pages on your website, PPC, or email. (For a list of more simple ways to attract subscribers, read this blog post; for more advanced ideas, read this one.)

Don’t worry if you read through this list and are now thinking to yourself, Well this is awkward … I’ve made literally every single one of these mistakes. Remember: I used the word “common” to describe these mistakes for a reason. The more you blog, the better you’ll get at it — and you’ll reap the benefits in terms of traffic and leads in the process.

We hope you’ll use this list of mistakes as fuel for the fire to step up your blogging game. After all, the benefits of keeping up a healthy business blog will be well worth the time and effort.

What mistakes are we missing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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free intro to business blogging

Make Personas for Your Nonprofit [Free PowerPoint Templates]

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Who are you marketing to?

It’s a question that’s all-at-once simple, yet hard to answer in short and with confidence.  For many nonprofits, this question is a vital one. 

With limited marketing budgets, and stretched resources nonprofits of all shapes and sizes cannot afford to waste their efforts on marketing that is not tailored to the right audiences. 

That’s where personas come in. Persona’s can be defined as fictional, generalized representations of your ideal audience. They help you understand your constituents (and prospective constituents) better, and make it easier for you to tailor content and campaigns to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups.

We’ve built a PowerPoint presentation that provides an overview of what personas are, and how they work—followed by examples and fill-in-the blank templates that you can use to build your own personas by answering questions about

  • Who you’re targeting
  • What their goals and challenges are
  • Why they should care about your organization
  • How you can engage with them

Ready to give it a shot for your organization? You can download the Nonprofit Persona Templates here, or by clicking on the button below. 

Nonprofit Persona Templates

22 Stats That Show Why Your Business Should Be Active on Instagram [Infographic]

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Despite its impressive reach — over 300 million daily active users and counting — it took some time for marketers to realize the business potential of Instagram. 

Not only is including Instagram in your social media marketing strategy helpful in terms of achieving high levels of engagement and brand awareness, but it can also make it easier for you to attract new leads and customers.

Why should your business be on Instagram? Check out the infographic below from Buzzoid to learn why Instagram deserves a place in your marketing strategy, along with some tips for how to make the most of your Instagram content. Then, check out our ebook How to Use Instagram for Business to master Instagram marketing so you get the most ROI out of the platform that you can.

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how to use instagram for business

Google Keyword Unplanner – Clickstream Data to the Rescue

Posted by rjonesx.

Let’s start with the happy ending, which is actually a happy beginning, too. Moz Keyword Explorer has utilized clickstream-derived keyword data in a novel manner since day 1, allowing us to provide consistent keyword volumes despite Google Keyword Planner’s dramatic shifts in data availability and reporting. You probably haven’t noticed any changes in our keyword volume, and you probably won’t notice any going forward, which is just how we built it to begin with: resilient, evolving, and trustworthy.

That being said, the truth is that keyword data has been on shaky ground lately as the foundation upon which most keyword tools are built — Google Keyword Planner — has been grossly disrupted. This single point of failure has put a lot of tools at risk, so let me explain how we preemptively addressed this concern and subsequently haven’t lost a step.

Problem 1: Keyword Planner has started aggressively grouping keywords

You have probably seen this story floating around for quite some time. Google Keyword Planner has always combined some words, especially misspellings, so when we built Moz Explorer, we already planned out a strategy to correct for these wherever possible. It turns out that same volume disambiguation technology works for other types of grouped terms. For example, Google Keyword Planner groups “SEO” and “Search Engine Optimization” together, recognizing that one is an acronym of the other.

seo-exampleAs you can see, Keyword Planner reports “SEO” and “Search Engine Optimization” as having identical average monthly searches and suggested bid price. Even worse, because Google has grouped the words when making volume predictions, but not un-grouped the words when building the graph, it appears that if you were to advertise on both of these terms, you would get over 200,000 impressions per month (at least, according to the graph). Well, you don’t have to worry about this if you’re a Moz Keyword Explorer user, because we get it right, showing the two phrases as having different volumes in the correct proportions.

seo-example-moz-02seo-example-moz-01Another classic example of keyword grouping we see in Keyword Planner is related to stemming. Take, for example the word “play,” which is also the stem of “plays” and “playing.” Google groups these three terms together in Keyword Planner and presents them as having identical average monthly searches and suggested bid. Once again, we see the same graph problem as well, where it appears that someone ranking for these terms could enjoy nearly 1 million searches per month. This is actually a misrepresentation of already grouped keywords.

play-exampleSometimes you can get lucky and, if the keywords are commercial enough, you can see their actual proportional relationship in Keyword Forecaster. This is not always the case. Forecaster has very peculiar behavior when it perceives a grouped keyword as a misspelling rather than simply a similar term. This differing treatment of lexically vs. semantically related terms makes Forecaster an unreliable replacement for Keyword Planner alone, but in this case it serves as a decent illustration. If we were to set identical bids in Google for these terms, the keyword “play” would return far more impressions and clicks than “playing” or “plays.”

play-example-forecasterWe can confirm this with our clickstream data, which gives us similar representations. We can marry clickstream data with historical data, forecaster data, and planner data to build our own volume predictions.

playing-example-clickstreamWhich, when all worked out, looks something like this:

play-moz plays-moz playing-moz

Problem 2: Keyword Planner has started throttling access to raw data for users not running active campaigns.

In perhaps a bigger bombshell announcement, Google has started obfuscating data for users who aren’t spending enough money in Adwords. The ranges are very large and, frankly, unworkable for anyone looking to do keyword research (for Adwords or SEO). But, once again, Moz Keyword Explorer’s blended technology keeps us ahead of the curve. Even if we were never able to get keyword volume again from Google Keyword Planner, we would be able to continue to provide users with a stable set of volume metrics that models closely to actual Google search volume.

How we do it:

1. How do we determine when words are grouped together?

This is one place where size really does matter. Moz has a huge keyword corpus of over 2 billion keywords, and we have collected volume from Google for hundreds of millions of them. Because of this, we can identify the rare occasions where two words have identical search data histories (same CPC, competition, volume, etc.). Sometimes two words share the same history just by chance, so we then use a variety of NLP and string-similarity measurements, including an incredible deep learning model built by Dr. Matt Peters to determine if the keywords are related to one another. It is important to use multiple methods because string-similarity methods are notoriously finicky. Once we apply these various string similarity metrics to the set of keywords with identical metrics, we can identify those that are grouped by Keyword Planner.

2. Once we know what words are grouped together, how do we determine the volume of each?

Once we have a group of related terms, we apply a predictive model based on data both from Google and our clickstream sources to determine the appropriate percentage of traffic that should be allocated to each word or phrase. Again, this is where having a huge data set really shines. Without detailed data on the constituent phrases, we would have to make unjustified assumptions about how to divide the grouped volume. Luckily, this is rarely the case, and we choose to be explicit with our customers and state “no data” when we do not have sufficient data to make a prediction.

3. How do we determine the volume for keywords when we don’t have Google Keyword Planner data?

Luckily, we can rely on our vast clickstream data to make these calculations. Clickstream data is intrinsically noisy and biased, so our models are quite comprehensive to remove random occurrences, strip out bias in the sampled data, and model projected traffic against the general Google corpus. There is a chicken/egg problem here, to a degree, because we can’t model against the Google data if it has grouped-keyword problems, but we can’t solve all the grouped keyword problems without the clickstream data. However, as long as we are reasonably certain that the clickstream data is internally proportional, then we can rely on it to solve the grouping problem first, and then use the ungrouped Keyword Planner data to model against with general clickstream data. It is a complex procedure, but in the end we can reasonably predict monthly search volume without ever having data from Google.

Let me give you an example. Khizr Khan, father of Purple Heart recipient Captain Humayun Khan, has caused quite a political stir following his speech at the DNC convention. His story represents a common issue in keyword data in that, prior to his speech, no one ever searched his name. After his speech, his name shot up on Google Trends but, even then, Google Keyword Planner has lagged in reporting his numbers due to the month-long delays in releasing data. Because our clickstream data can pick up on rising trends, we can predict Google volume without needing to have Google Keyword Planner data.

khizr-khan-example

This is also the case for keywords that are not trending. If we see a term that is regularly searched in our clickstream data, but is not represented in our Google data set, we can make predictions without having to rely on the potentially misleading (grouped volumes) or inaccessible data sources that Google Keyword Planner has become.

A long story short

If you’re a Moz Keyword Explorer user, you can be confident that we will continue to deliver you state-of-the-art metrics, regardless of how difficult Google makes it to get data from Keyword Planner. This is just another way that Moz Keyword Explorer continues to lead the way in keyword research. If you need keyword data, come and get it.

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