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Does this content marketing formula sound (very) familiar?

  • Create content
  • Publish content on my company's website or blog
  • Post the link on all my social channels
  • Cross fingers and hope my audience bites

This is a foundational play in most marketing playbooks -- and sometimes, it works. But waiting and hoping to see if your audience can be convinced to click a link back to your website isn't the only option marketers have anymore.

In April 2019, LinkedIn announced that users can now upload documents and presentations to the platform. Instead of having to convince users to take an extra step back to your website, you can now meet them where they're already spending a lot time -- their LinkedIn feeds.

Have a deck from a recent talk you gave? Or maybe an ebook your company wants to distribute to a relevant audience? This new feature enables you to post content assets directly to your feed for your followers to view without needing to download a file or visit a new location.

To give you a better idea of how this feature looks in action, here's a recent presentation the HubSpot team shared on LinkedIn: 

Uploading documents and presentations is a smart way to connect with your followers on a deeper level and encourage more meaningful engagement. In fact, investing in more visual and multimedia content on LinkedIn just might help you reach a broader audience outside of your direct network.

To get started using the new feature, you can follow the steps below.

1. First, navigate to your LinkedIn feed, or the LinkedIn group where you want to share your document or presentation. At the top of the feed, you will see the "Start a Post" box with three content type options. Click on the document icon, highlighted here:

2. Once you click on the document icon, you'll be prompted to select a file from your computer to upload. LinkedIn accepts .pdf, .ppt, .pptx, .doc, and .docx file types.

3. You'll be able to add a title, caption, and include relevant hashtags and user mentions in the description box before finalizing your file upload. You can also control who sees your file if you want to limit access to your connections only.

4. When you're ready to go, click "Post" and the file will be shared on your feed with the audience you specified, or with members of the LinkedIn group you selected in the first step.

And that's it! You can start sharing decks, presentations, ebooks, case studies, and more multimedia content assets directly on LinkedIn.

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Nowadays, voice-enabled devices such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home are becoming increasingly commonplace. Additionally, mobile searches for local services continue to rise, and by 2021, mobile devices are expected to influence $1.4 trillion in local sales.

All of which is to say -- people searching online for local services is now more prevalent than ever before.

If you haven't optimized your business for "near me" and voice-activated local searches, it's time you consider doing so. Here, we'll explore the importance of local SEO, how you can rank both on desktop and mobile for "near me" related searches, and how to optimize for voice search, as well.

The Rise of "Near Me" Searches

In the past two years, "Near me" searches have witnessed exponential growth, as highlighted in the stats below:

  • There has been 150% growth for phrases like "near me now". For example "Pizza near me now".
  • There has been a 900% growth for phrases like "near me tonight/today". For example "clubs near me tonight".
  • There has been 200% growth for phrases like "now" + "near me". For example "stores open near me now".

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Additionally, from 2013 to 2017 there was a 900% increase in "near me" searches:

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Most users now have location or GPS enabled on their mobile devices -- and since most apps require this to be enabled, even users who previously had this turned off for privacy reasons now leave them on. This allows Google to automatically detect their current location and present the most relevant and localized search results to the user.

"Near me" searches are critical for marketers, since it allows you to reach your intended customers during micro-moments when they most desire your service or product.

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As pointed out by Lisa Gevelber, Global VP Marketing, Google, "'Near me' searches are used to find a specific thing, in a specific area and in a specified period of time."

The rise of "near me" search queries with purchase intent are rising considerably. In fact, there has been a 500% growth in "near me" mobile searches that contain a variant of "can I buy" or "to buy" over the last two years.

Adding "near me" searches at the end of a search query demonstrates the user's eagerness to take immediate action on the search results. More than likely, the user intends on visiting a place to purchase a product immediately, or within the foreseeable future.

Now that we've explored the popularity of local search, let's dive into the top categories that correspond the most with "near me" searches.

Top 'Near Me' Query Categories

A survey conducted by Uberall tracked the responses of 1,000 smartphone owners and found around 82% of smartphone users had conducted a "near me" search between July 23 and July 27, 2018.

The hierarchy of the categories are given below:

  • Food: 84%
  • Entertainment: 56%
  • Banking: 50%
  • Apparel: 41%
  • Persona care: 38%

From the survey, it's clear the maximum "near me" searches are conducted for food businesses, followed by entertainment and banking. However, apparel and banking businesses aren't too far behind. The results clearly show the intent of the searcher. If you're a business owner, then optimizing for "near me" searches is absolutely essential for the success of your business.

How Do You Optimize For "Near Me" Searches?

Optimizing your business for "Near me" searches is extremely crucial to increase your business presence in local search.

Here are some ways through which you can optimize your business for “near me” searches:

1. List your business on Google My Business and optimize it.

In order to get your business to the top of "near me" searches, you need to rank your business on local business results' pages, as shown in the screenshot below:

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Maggiano's Little Italy is ranking on top of the local search results when searched with the query "Italian restaurants near me" -- but how?

In order to list your business in the local search results, you need to open a business account on Google My Business. Simply click "Start now" and follow the instructions provided to add your business on Google local.

It's equally important to follow the instructions below to properly optimize your business listing in the Google local search results:

  • Enter your complete business name and business address.
  • Add the complete direction to reach your business address using Google Maps. Follow this guide to edit your business details in Google.
  • Add your business hours and contact details like phone number and website.
  • Include your business in the correct category and be as specific as possible.
  • Add photos of your favorite services.
  • Ask people to leave reviews on your business page. More than 145 million people visit Yelp each month just to read the reviews left by other users. Reviews are a great way to filter the best businesses from the average ones, and Google always prefers to list the best businesses on top. Hence, if you wish to move your business to the top of the local search results then you need to acquire a ton of positive reviews for your business.
  • Make sure the NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number) remains consistent on each of your business profiles scattered around the web, including social media sites like Facebook.
  • Ensure your business information remains accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date.

Lastly, you'll want to add attributes like amenities your business offers, such as WiFi. For instance, have a look at the below screenshot that highlights the different amenities offered by the Marriott's Grande Ocean Hotel to its guests:

2. Use proper schema markup.

Schema markup is a great way to help your business stand out from competitors in the local search results. Schema data helps search engines acquire more information related to your business and present them in the form of rich snippets, which are immensely helpful for the user.

Have a look at the below screenshot, where proper holiday hours have been added in the business listing to avoid any confusion to the visitor. This information is added with the help of a schema markup:

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Add schema markup to every location page that your business serves. The schema data should have the business address, hours of operation, and contact information.

Additionally, add the homepage schema markup to allow your business to show up in the Knowledge Graph and help ensure business information accuracy. An example of an organizational schema markup can be seen in the screenshot below:

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Use this sheet to add local schema markup on your website. Remember to include only the information in the schema markup that you have displayed in the webpage.

3. Acquire backlinks having geographic anchor text.

Backlinks work well to improve your business rankings on Google local. In order to increase your business rankings for "near me" searches, you need to acquire high authority/relevant backlinks with geographically-rich anchor text.

For example, if you want to rank for "near me" searches for the location "Los Angeles" and for the category "bakery", then you need to use location rich variants of anchor text like "best bakery in Los Angeles", "bakery in Los Angeles", "Los Angeles bakery 3rd street", "LA bakery 3rd street", "cakes in 3rd street LA", "fresh cakes LA", etc.

4. Create pages targeting every location of your business, and optimize them.

If your business serves several locations then you need to create different pages for different locations. For example, if your bakery business serves five different U.S. cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, Boston, and Austin, then you need to create five different web pages serving each of these different cities.

Additionally, you need to optimize those web pages for "near me" searches by using the following tactics:

  • Keep user-friendly URL structure for easier readability. For example, if you're advertising a bakery in Los Angeles, then name your page "www.mysite.com/LA-bakery''.
  • Optimize the title and meta tags for your target keyword.
  • Add proper alt tags and title tags to the images used in the web page. It's better if you provide an image of your bakery and use your location keywords in the alt and title tags of the image.
  • Add a suitable description to your bakery and include store hours, your menu, store directions, and other amenities offered.
  • Include a video of your store and add a video transcription to it. This way, you'll be able to increase the relevancy of your web page with respect to the specific location your business is serving.

Lastly, use internal linking wisely. You can link to different location-specific pages in the footer of your site with the anchor text "near me" in them.

For instance, have a look at the below footer from TripAdvisor, which links to location-specific pages and also uses the words "near me" in the anchor:

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5. Make your site mobile-friendly.

Google prefers to return those sites in the search results that offer the best experience to the user. Making your site mobile-friendly and improving your overall site speed are some of the best ways to improve your site experience for users and rank higher for "near me" searches. Here are some of the best ways to make your site mobile-friendly:

  • Make your site responsive so that the same content and experience is delivered to all the visitors regardless of the device they're using to visit your website.
  • Improve your site speed and create AMP pages.
  • Enable compression on your site by using Gzip.
  • Use the search bar on your site to make it easier for people to look for information.
  • Minify CSS, JavaScript and HTML.
  • Reduce the number of redirects and remove render blocking JavaScript.
  • Avoid using Flash as it degrades the user experience.
  • Turn on auto-correct for forms and the search bar.
  • Keep the button sizes large so that it becomes easier for the user to click on it.
  • Leverage browser caching to improve your website loading time.
  • Use the power of a CDN to distribute load so that your site loads even faster.
6. Create a blog and acquire local links.

Creating and maintaining a blog is one of the best ways to acquire local links. A blog lets you share articles on a regular basis, which allows users to remain updated about your business services when they subscribe to it.

A blog is a good way to earn local links -- and, additionally, it can persuade users to buy your products when they are in the "I want to know" phase of the customer journey.

You can conduct interviews with local influencers related to your niche and publish them on your blog. The influencers might link to your blog in return, which will help you acquire relevant links.

Additionally, you can conduct local surveys and publish the report regularly on your blog. This is an excellent way to earn authority back link.

If you have an informative list of queries where people are looking to find answers to their questions, then you can create blog posts that specifically answer the exact query of the users.

"Near me" Searches in the Era of Smart Devices like Alexa and Google Home

The sale of smart devices are rising considerably -- according to the National Public Media, there are around 43 million smart speaker users in the U.S. alone.

It's no surprise that people love to ask questions to smart devices, and a ton of those questions contain the "near me" phrase. Some example queries are:

  • "Alexa, what movies are playing near me?"
  • "Alexa, what bourbon events are near me?"
  • "What’s a good sushi place near me?"
  • "Alexa, what restaurants are near me?"
  • "Okay Google, find a tire store near me"
  • "Okay Google, find a hiking trail near me"
  • "Okay Google, is Pizza hut near me open now?"
  • "Where are ATMs near me?"

You need to prepare a list of queries that people might ask smart devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home. After that, you need to optimize your Google My Business profile by using the above six strategies so that it starts to rank on the top search results for your selected voice-related queries.

Business owners who get in early to the game of optimizing their website for "near me" searches, and for voice search, will be able to defeat their competitors in the near future. Both Amazon Echo and Google Home have begun showing users the convenience of using voice commands, so business owners need to find a way to get their business recommended by these smart devices.

If you haven't started optimizing your business for voice search and "near me" searches, then the time is just ripe to start doing so. Remember, the businesses who think ahead of their competitors and take efforts to keep their customers happy are able to generate maximum profits. Make use of the strategies discussed in this article to optimize your business for "near me" searches and satisfy your customers, both now and into the future.

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Platforms are embedded in our daily lives — whether we realize it or not.

Have you recently … Ordered food from a service like GrubHub or made a reservation using OpenTable? Booked a ride using Lyft? Used your phone to check your email? All of these seamless interactions require systems to talk to each other via open platforms.

What about at work? How many tools do you use to do your job? Do you spend a lot of time updating disparate systems, or do you use a connected stack of technologies to keep things up-to-date? If it’s the latter, you have a platform to thank for your saved time.

A platform makes it possible to connect tools, teams, data, and processes under one digital roof. It’s the nucleus of all systems and allows you to connect all your favorite tools seamlessly using integrations. An integration allows disparate systems to talk to each other. By joining tools via integrations, a change made in System A automatically carries through to System B.

Leveraging platforms and integrations hasn’t always been commonplace. A couple of years ago, HubSpot Research found that 82% of salespeople and marketers lost up to an hour per day managing siloed tools — a costly mistake.

Today, employees recognize that integrating technologies to do their jobs isn’t an option but a requirement. Individual employees are opting to connect their tools and, on average, leverage eight apps to do their job.

Employees and businesses alike run on connected applications. Okta found that it’s small-mid sized customers (defined as companies with less than 2,000 employees) average 73 apps — up 38% from last year. While larger customers (companies with over 2,000 employees) leverage closer to 130 apps — up 68% from the past year.

From personal life to work, platforms have become a staple in our day-to-day. These platforms are well-oiled machines that initiate seamless connections between technologies. Today, the consumer not only anticipates but also expects their systems to connect — raising the bar for companies to make it possible.

But more tools shouldn’t mean more friction. At HubSpot, we want to help our customers connect their tools on our platform to reduce friction and grow better. Customers should have tools and solutions to solve their needs, regardless of if HubSpot built them. Connecting tools allows for uniform data, processes, and experiences. This year, we’re experimenting with ways to expose integrations to our customers to increase adoption.

However, as a platform scales, it becomes increasingly tricky for customers to navigate exhaustive lists of integrations and identify what's relevant to them. We recognized this at HubSpot and began experimenting with paid ads to see if this could be a valuable distribution channel to our customers.

Our Experiment on Paid Integration Ads

At the end of Q4, the Platform Marketing team decided to use some leftover budget to try a channel we hadn’t yet proven viable for integration adoption — paid ads.

We hypothesized that we could influence the adoption of an integration through paid ads. To test our hypothesis, we ran a retargeting campaign for three integrations on Facebook. The ads were surfaced to HubSpot’s retargetable audience.

These ads featured three HubSpot-built integrations: Slack, Wordpress, and Eventbrite. We selected these integrations because they are natively built (built by HubSpot) and structured in a way that allowed us to measure multi-touch attribution.

By leveraging Google Tag Manager on the in-app integration directory, custom UTM parameters, and funnel reports, we were able to measure all steps from viewing the ad to installing the integration. Before launching the campaign, we tested our Google Analytics custom funnel reports by completing all actions — including installing the integrations to make sure they worked as designed.

Before running the campaign, we made the conscious decision to split our budget evenly across all three integration ads — regardless if one ad outperformed the others. We did this to minimize variables for the experiment.

Because we ran ads through November and December, we decreased spending from $130 dollars a day to $5 a day on and around holidays. We did this to “pause” the campaign on days where the ads would get lost in the noise, as this data could skew overall results.

Lastly, we determined our success metrics. Because we didn’t have apples-to-apples benchmark data for integration paid ads, we worked with our paid team to establish reasonably similar benchmark data. While it wasn’t a direct comparison, we were curious to see how ads could influence multi-step actions. We evaluated our performance based on click-through rates (CTR), cost per click (CPC), and cost per acquisition.

Experiment Results

The integration ads surpassed our benchmark data for click-through rate (CTR), cost per click (CPC), and cost per acquisition at the 7-, 30-, and 44-day marks — supporting our initial hypothesis and prediction.

The 30-day CTR for our integration ads was higher than the 7-day and 30-day CTR for the benchmark data, which is surprising as we expected the audience to become more fatigued over time.

Fatigue can be measured by the frequency a user views the same ad. For example, at HubSpot, we look at if a viewer has seen the same ad over 2.5 times within 30 days, which we consider high. Additionally, we kept an eye out for an increasing cost per acquisition.

Paid ads for these integrations was attractive to our retargetable audience and a legitimate acquisition point for HubSpot. It helped us influence adoption of integrations --- resulting in hundreds of installs in the featured technologies. It also provided us with a data point we’ve been curious to see — the cost of an install.

When considering the value and acquisition cost of an install, it’s helpful to understand the impact on the business. At HubSpot, our customers with integrated stacks of technologies tend to be more successful — and they stick around.

This makes sense — as the more apps installed, the higher the likelihood someone will stick around. This is a common finding among platform companies.

On a recent trip to San Francisco HubSpot’s VP of Platform Ecosystem Scott Brinker found that “a common pattern on platforms is that the more apps a customer integrates into their system, the higher their retention rate will be — for both the platform and the apps integrated into it.”

Connecting their tools allows customers to access all their data in one core system while staying flexible and adaptable to their needs as they grow.

Since HubSpot doesn’t currently charge integrators to be part of our ecosystem, spending money to drive a net new install may seem counterintuitive. When weighing the long-term benefits of an install for customer value and retention, we are able to determine what is a reasonable cost per install. The experiment cost was worth the insight, as it allowed us to gain a baseline understanding of the cost per acquisition of an integration install.

Ultimately you can determine if the long-term value outweighs the upfront cost. (While directional value is a good baseline, you’d ideally look to lifetime value [LTV] to establish actual value.)

What This Means for HubSpot — and For You

Our experiment with paid ads outperformed our expectations and helped us reach a larger audience than we anticipated. It became clear that this was and is a viable channel for us to increase adoption of integrations and better understand the cost per integration install.

Future looking, we could alter who we target to see how it impacts CTR. We could leverage enrichment software like Datanyze or Clearbit to see if users have tools and cross-reference install data to create a list of folks using tools we integrate with but have yet to connect to. Alternatively, we could leverage this data to target a group of users going through onboarding to encourage them to connect existing tools to HubSpot.

Additionally, we could look through the required steps to connect an integration and consider how we could reduce them to simplify the process for our users and potentially increase our CTR.

Not a platform company? No problem. This retargeting campaigns can be leveraged to evaluate other valuable actions for your users, such as sign-ups, free trials, or event registration.

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Millions of dollars are poured into the Google Display Network (GDN) every day. But why? Google offers endless options for marketers to promote their products, so how is this network different?

Frankly -- because it works.

When industry competitors' congest search engines, the GDN can be a great alternative. With it, there’s less competition for inflated keyword bids, so you're more likely to reach users actively searching for your products and services. Though the audience intent is not as strong, you get a much lower cost-per-click, and many more impressions.

Here, we're going to explore why you should use Google Display Network (GDN), how GDN differs from search ads, and how you can target your GDN ads to reach the right people in the right places.

Why Use the Google Display Network?

The value for GDN boils right down to reach and affordability. Prospecting, brand awareness, and remarketing can come with a hefty price tag when pursued for traditional search ads. GDN, by comparison, bypasses a lot of costly competition from other networks. There are also endless options for customizing your audience targeting.

Ultimately, you don’t need a fat wallet to set up a campaign through Google Display -- you just need to choose the right targeting factors for your marketing goal.

With Google's search ads, you're essentially throwing out a wide net, which can be largely hit-or-miss, both with whom you're targeting and with how you're spending.

Google's Display Network, on the other hand, allows you to define your audience in a way search engines can't. Since you can target more than just keywords, you aren't limited to the Google results page. Instead, GDN allows you to target websites by audience affinities, in-market segments, and custom intent keywords. You can even hand-pick website placements that fit your target audience.

The other differentiator is volume. Where do the fancy image ads appear when you market with GDN? Across millions of websites that your prospects are visiting every day.

But really -- what's the difference between GDN and a simple search ad? Let's explore that, now.

GDN vs. search ads: What’s the difference?

You need a different mentality when using Google's Display Network than when you're using the search network and others available on Google Ads. Let's define some use cases and expectations.

Your average conversion rate with GDN will be a minuscule 0.7%. Why? Because you're targeting users that may not be familiar with your brand at all. The Google Display Network is first and foremost a tool for prospecting and brand awareness.

The standard CTR for this network is still under 0.5%. But, for targeting prospects outside of search engines and social networks, that's still pretty good.

The next key differentiator is the fact that the user's primary interest is the website content itself -- the display ad has an indirect, secondary role in the website's appeal to the viewer.

Marketers are hoping the prospective user will view their GDN ad along their journey to fulfilling another purpose. That makes the user intent different than when an ad appears at the top of a Google results page for a high-intent search phrase. It should be no surprise that the click-through rate and conversion rate for GDN are below 1%.

Unlike with search, there is a variety of targeting options outside of keywords that span across a network of millions of websites. You can access the majority of internet users through website placements. Your number-one goal with GDN is finding the right audience size with strict targeting criteria.

There are ways to approach this network with tighter, more relevant targeting. Ultimately, remarketing is limitless -- but it involves audience development outside the Google Ads platform. Let's start by exploring the default prospecting options Google provides and work our way toward opportunities customized for your brand and those who have engaged with your website.

Should you do prospecting or remarketing?

On the GDN, you can target in two ways. First, you can target prospects on the internet who may have no previous knowledge of your website, brand, products, or services. Second, you can remarket to users who have engaged with your website in some form. Option two allows you to leverage the audiences you find in Google Analytics for your website. If you don't have any Google Analytics website audiences built, doing so is incredibly easy -- simply set up an audience for a user that completes specific actions.

Some of the most common remarketing audiences include:

  • General website visitors
  • Users who have submitted a form
  • Users who have downloaded content
  • Users who have viewed specific product pages
  • Users who have signed up for an account or trial offer
  • Users who have completed a transaction or purchased a product
  • Users who have begun any of the above actions but abandoned the page before completing it

Remarketing and prospecting are two vastly different initiatives that you can execute through GDN. Some businesses prefer to focus only on remarketing because reaching users familiar with one's brand drives leads and sales for the most affordable cost. However, other businesses aren't focused on the return as much as generating awareness of their products and services. It all comes down to your company's marketing goals.

How to Succeed With Prospecting and Brand Awareness GDN Targeting 1. In-market segment targeting.

In-market segments are Google users interested in broad categories of products and services, including real estate, education, home and garden, sports and fitness, and more. Google defines these segments based on users' historical views, clicks, and conversions on previous content. There are sub-categories for specific types of each segment, but the criteria Google uses for these aren't public. The size of each sub-category is easily millions -- and sometimes billions -- of users. It's safe to say that testing a GDN in-market segment is a good starting point.

However, layering demographic qualifiers, device targeting, and other affinities is necessary to create a focused pool of users.

An easy way to control audience size for in-market segments is by comparing with Google Analytics data. The in-market segments on Google Analytics line up perfectly with those on Google Ads. Google Analytics should show you which in-market segments on your site have the highest conversion rates.

Educated guesses for targeting on the Google Ads platform can only go so far. Google Analytics has the tools for identifying and building data-driven audiences from which Google Ads can learn and optimize. Ultimately, using Google Analytics can help ensure you're reaching highly qualified users.

2. Affinity audience targeting.

Like in-market segments, affinity audiences are Google users with similar interests, including cooking, fashion, beauty, gaming, music, travel, and more. These are very expansive categories of internet users, so it's equally important to find targeting criteria to narrow down the size of any one affinity interest, or its sub-categories.

Strictly relying on the default options for in-market segments and affinity audiences within Google Ads can leave a giant dent in your budget for marketing spend. Google Analytics can be a huge help in pinpointing exactly which affinity audiences yield the highest conversion rates on your website.

Google Ads will also create a "similar" audience based on the Google Analytics' audience created. These audiences are usually more focused in size, making them ideal for testing.

3. Custom intent audiences.

Custom intent audiences is another valuable contextual targeting method.

How does it work? Simply put, Google can show your ads to users who are "likely to be interested" in specific keywords and website URLs. It may also show your ads to people who have recently searched for your suggested keywords.

The key difference between custom intent audiences and other targeting methods is that you aren't targeting websites that use these exact keywords, and Google is not placing your ad exclusively on specified website URLs. Rather, Google serves your ads to users on various other websites that have some contextual connection to the website URL or keyword given to Google.

4. Placement targeting.

Google can show your ads on specific websites when provided with placement URLs. This option offers tighter, more controlled targeting because it limits display ad placements to custom websites selected by the marketer.

You could be saving money by being so specific, but you could also be missing out on mainstream websites that your target audience is more actively visiting.

Simply put, users who visit your website also visit other websites. With custom affinity (interests) and custom intent (keyword and URL) audiences, Google can target these users at other online destinations. Picture your specified website as the center of a digital spiderweb -- Google uses the central URL to target the users in other URLs within the spiderweb, amplifying your reach to include websites you may not know about.

These websites may or may not have content related to your suggested keyword or URL, but Google knows that these websites are sites that users of your suggested keywords and URLs also visit.

5. Topic targeting.

Google can show your ads on web pages only about your specified topic. Some of these topics could be similar to interests or affinities, or they may fall outside the default categories that Google offers (e.g., they may be along the lines of hiking, camping, or agriculture).

This targeting is an alternative to researching and selecting website placements for one interest without knowing the impact of those placements.

Three Key Audience-building Factors

Now that you know the basic mechanisms for targeting and creating an audience, let's dive into three essential tips to ensure you build those audiences better. Here are some high-impact areas for tightening audience targeting where it counts.

1. Select the right devices.

When setting up a display campaign, it's important to consider where the target audience will be using the product and how they will be signing up. If the user experience is compromised or not nearly as good on a particular device, consider excluding that device altogether.

For example, is mobile really the right platform for your landing page offer? Can your products or services be used easily on tablets and other small devices? If your company produces games or apps, mobile is ideal. But if you're marketing business software used on desktop computers, mobile targeting could be costly and unnecessary.

2. Choose the right demographics and locations.

Google lets you customize several demographics when targeting for a display campaign. For example, age and household income are broken out into seven different ranges. If you know your audience is not within 18-24 years of age, or the top 10% of household income, you can easily exclude those users when creating ad groups.

There could also be some states in the U.S. or territories internationally to which your business prefers not to drive sales. The bids of these locations can easily be adjusted to redirect your budget to more profitable locations.

3. Mark the box for content exclusions.

Before launching a campaign on GDN, it's easy to make the mistake of skimming past the additional settings for websites with explicit content. Some advanced content settings are available for preventing your site from appearing on parked domains, sites with sexually suggestive content, sites with sensitive social issues, and more.

Google doesn't mark these boxes by default, so they must be manually selected to prevent your ads from appearing on undesirable sites.

Optimizing Your Google Display Network Results

Now that we've explored targeting methods as well as specific audience-building factors, let's dive deeper into how you might optimize your GDN results.

1. Assess demographic performance, and then recalibrate if necessary.

Some of your audience demographics may be ideal for traditional marketing but could perform poorly in a digital setting. Even after setting up specific demographic and location targeting, it's important to review the performance of what hasn't been excluded. For example, there are some demographic categories (e.g., "unknown") and ages (e.g., "65+") that can become costly after launch.

2. Assess placement performance and use those analytics to continually improve.

Google makes it easy to review where your ads are appearing on a daily or weekly basis after campaign launch. You can find this information under "Placements -> Where Ads Showed."

Filtering placements by unusually high spend or CTR can quickly identify websites that are more of an immediate threat to your campaign's health. If you're considering bulk exclusions, you may find it helpful to export web placements within the timeframe of "all time".

Focus on blocking the duplicate placements that yield no results, since repeat offenders are a higher priority than websites that appear once with only a few impressions. After identifying duplicates, review the relevance of these sites, how much they have spent, and whether they have led to any conversions.

3. Consider which ad style and location will yield the best results.

There are two main ad types available for a GDN campaign -- standard image ads and responsive ads. Standard image ads have a number of formats, including square, rectangular, skyscraper, and banner. These ads are an image-only display option. Here's an example:

Responsive ads, on the other hand, offer a combination of text and image options that display in a variety of formats, depending on where the ad appears. The complete ad is composed of three image types, up to five short headlines, one long headline, up to five descriptions, and a business name. The short headlines and descriptions rotate to find and show the best-performing combination. Here's an example:

If you're limited on time, budget, or creative resources, it can be tricky to know which display ads will work best for your campaign, and you might not want to risk time testing different ones. If this is the case, it's important to note studies have shown that 300 x 250 and 728 x 90 receive more impressions than other ad formats. Half-page ads and large rectangles receive higher CTRs than other ad formats, as well. So if you're not sure where to begin, try out the rectangular formats and leaderboards!

Figure Out Whether Google Display Network Is The Right Choice For Your Business

You can amass a very powerful reach on the Google Display Network with the right attention to targeting. The network's affordability, as well as the separation from the competition, makes it a viable marketing option.

This guide has covered several audience-building and optimization factors to help you hit the ground running with Google Display Network campaigns. Whether you're just starting out or have some room for improvement, check out the custom audience capabilities to see if one might work for your next campaign.

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I recently came across the greatest dog bed in the history of dog beds -- seriously, it felt like it was made of clouds. And after asking the dog owner about it, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the same company also made regular beds. (Score.)

Needless to say, I'm now the proud owner of the human-version of said dog bed.

You see, when a friend or family member recommends a product, you're more likely to take their endorsement seriously. In fact, according to a Word of Mouth Report by Chatter Matters, one of the most meaningful forms of advertising is recommendations from friends and family: 83% of consumers say these recommendations make them more likely to purchase a product or service.

The story of how I bought my mattress is a great example of social proof, which refers to the theory that people tend to adopt the opinions or actions of people they trust. And to help illustrate how brands are using this persuasive technique in their marketing, we've put together a roundup of social proof in action below.

What Is Social Proof?

Social proof is the idea that consumers will adapt their behavior according to what other people are doing. It makes sense, right? When we see a line of customers waiting to eat at a restaurant or a photo of a celebrity drinking a certain brand of coffee, it lends an air of gravitas and quality to the product, doesn't it?

But there's more to it than that. In fact, according to business coach Bailey Richert, there are as many as a dozen different types of social proof, with some logical overlap among them. Here's how social proof can manifest itself:

1. Expert's Stamp of Approval

Expert social proof is when an industry thought leader or influencer approves of your product. This could take the form of them blogging, posting on social media, or being quoted or photographed as a product user.

2. Celebrity Endorsement

Celebrity social proof typically takes the form of a celebrity using a product and promoting it on social media or in public. This form of social proof is especially meaningful if the endorsement is unpaid.

3. User Testimonials

There's a reason businesses create case studies about the successes their customers have had using their product: It's a vote of confidence in the product's value. All kinds of testimonials can have the same impact. Whether it's a customer review on the business's website, a review on a third-party website, a star-based rating, or a full-blown case study, this content creates positive feedback from actual users.

4. Business Credentials

While user testimonials can add value to a product, business credentials can add trust to the product. Businesses can promote credentials like how many customers it has, what well-known businesses are their customers, or the awards and certifications it has received. Sole proprietorships might even use their education or degree as a credential their customers should care about.

5. Earned Media

If the press has published any positive reporting about your brand, this earned media is a great way to build brand awareness, backlinks to your website, and social proof that your business is worth paying attention to.

6. Social Media Shares

The importance of website traffic from social media can vary greatly from company to company, but one thing no business should undervalue is the influence social media posts about your brand can have on potential customers. Enough positive shares of your content on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram can be all the proof one needs to invest in your product or service.

7. "Wisdom of the Crowds"

“Wisdom of the Crowds” social proof appeals to our sense of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): When lots of people are using or buying a product, others want to follow suit.

8. "Wisdom of your Friends"

“Wisdom of your Friends” social proof refers to the phenomenon I described previously: The recommendations from people we know and trust carry far more weight than other types of promotions or advertising.

Which Types of Social Proof Work Best?

The (social) proof is in the pudding: Social proof in your marketing and advertising can have a huge impact. But what type of social proof works best?

While this will likely depend on the product or service you are marketing, our friends at Sprout Social curated some helpful research by BrightLocal to help shed some light on the situation.

Below you'll find some noteworthy statistics about the types of social proof that perform best, and what you need to know about convincing your prospective customers:

  • 88% of consumers trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • Placing the logos of business customers on a company website can increase conversions by as much as 400%, according to Voices.com.
  • Influencer marketing has been considered the fastest-growing consumer-acquisition channel.
  • The average consumer reads 10 online reviews before making a purchase decision.
  • 57% of consumers will only buy or use a business service if it has at least a 4-star rating.
  • For 50% of all consumers, their very next step after reading a positive review about a company is to visit their website.

Now that we've reviewed what social proof is, and the impact it can have, let's dive into some real-world examples of each type ...

Social Proof Examples

Click the categories below to see real-world examples of social proof:

  1. Expert's Stamp of Approval
  2. Celebrity Endorsement
  3. User Testimonials
  4. "Wisdom of the Crowd"
  5. "Wisdom of your Friends"
Expert's Stamp of Approval 1. Nature Made

Nature Made uses the expert certification of the USP (U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention) to speak for their vitamins instead of describing their quality themselves. The image of the seal of approval also echoes the text in their Facebook post.

2. Workday

Workday's Newsroom features an article in the Harvard Business Review about their company culture, which is a smart use of social proof: By featuring a well-known university name and publication with expertise in business, they impress site visitors from the moment they try to learn more about the company.

3. Fitbit

Fitbit lets health and tech industry experts speak to the quality of their products in the “Buzz” section of their website. It adds a lot of weight to claims of Fitbit's success when multiple publications are saying the same positive things they are. That could be why Fitbit is often rated the top fitness tracker on the market.

4. 2U

Education SaaS company 2U uses expert social proof to lend gravitas to its homepage. Highlighting press mentions on your website commands authority and lets visitors know that important voices are talking about you in the press. (Check out this handy PR guide for more on the power of press.)

Celebrity Endorsement 5. Jenny Craig

When celeb Kirstie Alley signed on as Jenny Craig's spokeswoman, she lost a well-photographed 50 pounds on the program, helping to skyrocket the brand's popularity in a crowded market: It's one of the top three diet plans in the United States.

6. Cisco

Here's Cisco using celebrity social proof to add wow factor and storytelling to market their IT systems, which aren't typically the most exciting commercial topic. The celebrity adds a human element to a highly technological space in a way that's memorable and inspires recognition. (Who doesn't love Obi-Wan Kenobi?)

7. Tracy Anderson Method

Gwyneth Paltrow is a longtime fan and friend of Tracy Anderson and her exercise program, which she frequently posts about on social media. This isn't an official celebrity endorsement, and its authenticity helps drive more people to Anderson's program: The Tracy Anderson Method is now a multi-studio, DVD, and live streaming fitness empire.

8. Manuka Doctor

I had never heard of Manuka honey until I watched this episode of Broad City, but it exploded in popularity after Kourtney Kardashian started using it on her reality show, and then became a celebrity ambassador. This is a particularly successful celebrity social proof because Kardashian's longtime use of the product lends more authenticity than a celebrity endorsement alone would.

9. Wix
Nouveau spot publicitaire avec Heidi Klum #ToutSimplement - YouTube

Website builder Wix uses Heidi Klum for celebrity social proof in their commercial. It works in two ways: to add a high-profile name to a business in a competitive industry, and to demonstrate Wix's pitch (that anyone can build a website).

Wix also used Kung-Fu Panda (fictitious celebrities count, too) in their 2016 Super Bowl commercial, which garnered more online views than any other commercial at the game.

User Testimonials 10. Yelp

Yelp relies on user reviews to rate restaurants, bars, and business, and the use of social proof is beneficial for their company and for its users searching for customer reviews. Yelp generates roughly 145 million visitors each month and is one of the most popular websites in the United States.

11. IMDb

IMDb visitors can consult their review directory to learn what other movie-goers are saying about films they're interested in, and its savvy use of social proof helped make it the top movie review sites online today with 250 million unique visitors per month.

12. Amazon

Customer reviews and testimonials are one of the strongest forms of social proof, and Amazon provides another great example of how they can be used. In their review sections, they publish the breakdown of the different ratings so visitors can easily see if the majority of purchasers were happy or unhappy with what they bought.

Customers can also publish reviews with specific comments and photos of their purchases, which are more eye-catching forms of social proof for visitors than testimonials alone.

13. G2 Crowd

G2 Crowd is a business built on user social proof: It offers businesses a database of reviews and recommendations before making a software purchase. The reviews feature verified users of the product, their LinkedIn career information, and the logo of the product being reviewed, which is a research-backed strategy for promoting greater viewer recall and retention.

14. BuzzSumo

Here's a thorough example of user social proof from BuzzSumo. Their website features customer testimonials and case studies so visitors can read about the full story behind the product they're considering without any question of its impact on real customers and organizations. This transparent user proof is extremely compelling for visitors and potential customers.

"Wisdom of the Crowd" 15. Copyblogger

Copyblogger has a fantastic blog, and they use the CTA above to get readers to subscribe by encouraging them to join a larger community of people with shared interests. If 334,000 other people are finding value in the content, it must be good, right?

16. Netflix

Netflix takes advantage of user trends by suggesting new TV and movie options based on popularity. This clever use of social proof helps them keep people binge-watching instead of navigating away when they finish a movie or season -- a great retention strategy, if you ask me.

Much like when things are trending on Twitter, trending suggestions aim to pique the interest of users and persuade them to tune in.

17. TrackMaven

TrackMaven's blog features a "Most Popular Content" sidebar shown above to show blog readers other articles that are generating lots of reader traffic. This feature encourages visitors to go with the crowd and spend more time on the site, where TrackMaven can prompt them with calls-to-action and content offers to generate leads.

"Wisdom of your Friends" 18. Facebook

Facebook suggests Pages and articles for users based on how their friends are interacting with the social media platform. This form of social proof is supported by our inherent trust in people we already know:

Remember, we take our friends' recommendations more seriously than any other type of advertising.

19. Ticketfly

Ticketfly pulls customer Facebook data to show them which of their friends are attending the same events as they are. It also uses social share buttons so users can share what events they're attending to garner more interest among their social media networks.

20. Stitch Fix

Stitch Fix recruits new customers for its personal shopping service using social proof by offering a hefty $25 referral bonus for sending friends to the site. It's a cost-effective method for retaining me, their current customer, and recruiting my friend, who could become a new one.

Now that you've learned all about social proof, check out our article to learn how to take your social proof to the next level. Happy brainstorming!

What social proof strategies have worked on you? Share with us in the comments below.

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If you work in content marketing, you probably know that its booming growth and ever-evolving ecosystem forces us to constantly be on the lookout for the next big thing.

One day we’re creating pillar pages and topic clusters to please the Google gods, and then the next, we’re overhauling our entire social strategy because another Facebook algorithm update will flatten our organic reach even more than before.

That said, trends come and go every year, but we believe the seven covered below are here to stay. Read on to learn about the marketing trends that could move from hype to reality in 2019.

1. Neuromarketing

Whether its views, social shares, scroll depth, subscriptions, leads, and sometimes even ROI, digital marketers can measure it all. But even though we have access to a laundry list of metrics, we still can’t measure what is arguably the most crucial indicator of a campaign’s performance -- emotional resonance.

Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing a spike in traffic as much as the next blogger. But in an industry where skimming a page for 10 seconds counts as a view, leaving your desk to grab some string cheese will result in a time-on-page of five minutes, and 50% of web traffic and engagement are generated by bots and Chinese click farms, claiming digital metrics are a surefire way to gauge your content’s emotional impact is a stretch.

Fortunately, with neuromarketing, which is a blend of neuroscience and marketing, brands can gauge the emotional resonance of their current and future marketing campaigns. To do this, companies like Immersion Neuroscience and Spark Neuro have developed wearable technology that can gauge certain neurochemical and physiological responses, which both signal emotional engagement while consuming marketing content.

2. Multicultural Marketing

Out of all the challenges a company faces, diversity and inclusion is not only the most pressing one to address but it’s also the most difficult one to overcome. The societal movement for diversity and inclusion has rightfully bled over to Corporate America, enabling the public to expose the working world’s lack of diversity and challenge them to fix their ways.

This has rocketed diversity and inclusion to the top of every company’s mind, but even though the world is a melting pot today, most brands market in a way that only appeals to a country’s majority ethnicity or culture. That means there’s a huge pool of people that brands aren’t resonating with.

However, generating more sales shouldn’t be the only reason you market to minority groups. Acknowledging their ethnicities and cultures should be another huge driving factor.

Because, ultimately, letting minority groups know that it’s not only okay to be different, but it’s also amazing that they bring such different perspectives to the places they immigrate to, will move society forward and help immigrants be proud of who they truly are.

3. Cognitive Computing-Powered Customer Service

Cognitive computing is a technology that can analyze enormous amounts of data in the same way humans think, reason, and remember, so people can naturally interact with the technology and extract data-backed recommendations from it

Brands who implement cognitive computing into their customer support technology are able to assemble two-pronged customer service teams that help provide better, faster customer service.

By setting up computers and robots in their stores that can actually understand natural language and accurately answer people’s routine questions, a retailer's human employees can service more customers who have more pressing needs.

4. Shows

In the neuroscience field, researchers have proven that storytelling is the best way to capture people’s attention, bake information into their memories, and resonate emotionally with them. The human brain is programmed to crave, seek out, and respond to well-crafted narrative -- that’ll never change.

Just like your favorite Netflix show, crafting shows can entice your viewers to watch entire seasons of your series, subscribe to your updates, and get more excited for your show’s newest season than they currently are for the third season of Stranger Things.

So before you green light another slew of listicles, how-to posts, and ultimate guides, remember how powerful storytelling is and consider crafting a show chock-full of conflict, surprise, and emotion that also ties to a unique angle and is told in an episodic fashion.

5. Podcasting

According to a content format study conducted by Edison Research and Triton Digital, people age 12 and older are listening to online audio content at unprecedented levels. On average, people spend 17 hours per week tuning into their favorite podcasts, online radio shows, and audiobooks. There are also 14 million more weekly podcast listeners this year compared to last year, which is more than Guinea’s entire population.

The demand for audio content has exploded, but that doesn’t mean people will listen to your branded podcast just because it’s a podcast. In reality, they’ll only listen to it if it can hold their attention and, ultimately, entertain them. Otherwise, producing yet another interview-an-expert podcast like everyone else will only add to the noise flooding the internet.

6. Word of Mouth Marketing

Nowadays, only 4% of consumers believe marketers practice integrity. So what’s a marketer to do when the very people they need to persuade don’t trust them? They need to rely on their customers’ recommendation of their brand.

People trust customers over marketers because marketers have an agenda -- they promote their product or service to generate sales. On the other hand, customers will only rave about a product or service if it truly benefited them.

To create as much word of mouth marketing as possible, you need to stay laser-focused on developing the best product or service possible and providing top-notch customer service. In other words, you need to serve your customers needs before your own. Only then will your customers turn into a loyal, passionate tribe that will recommend your brand to their friends and family.

7. Historical Optimization

In 2015, HubSpot made a revolutionary discovery about their organic monthly blog traffic -- the overwhelming majority of it came from posts published prior to that month. In fact, 76% of their monthly blog views came from these old posts.

Today, their groundbreaking revelation rings louder than ever -- 89% of their monthly blog views currently come from posts that were published at least six months prior, and they’ve developed an entire strategy dedicated to refreshing and republishing these historical pieces of content.

These types of blog posts are called “updates”, and they comprise 35-40% of HubSpot’s editorial calendar. And by refreshing them with new information and SEO optimization and then effectively republishing them as new blog posts, HubSpot can build upon their existing organic value that these posts have accumulated through backlinks and user engagement and double or even triple their traffic.

This process also helps HubSpot optimize their blog for efficiency, decreasing the amount of new content they have to create while increasing their organic traffic and conversions. And many other brands are starting to jump on the historical optimization train to revamp their blogs too.

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If you can name it, there’s a WordPress widget for it.

What started as a way to customize your sidebar has become an unimaginable wealth of usefulness. Widgets allow you to easily add complex functions to your site that can have a huge impact on the user experience.

Whether you want an eye-catching display of your best Instagram posts, Google Maps so customers can find you, or a simple but eye-catching contact form to gather more email addresses, there are innumerable options waiting for you to explore.

But what makes a widget a good widget?

Four things to look for in a WordPress widget 1. Usefulness.

It should go without saying, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always. A widget is there to serve a specific purpose. If it fails to do this, it’s useless.

Checking reviews or the number of active installations gives you a good idea of whether the widget does a good job or not.

2. Tested with the latest version of WordPress.

Any WordPress plugin you use should be up-to-date and tested by other users. The last thing you want is to put work into customizing a widget only to find out it has a fatal bug that crashes your entire site. You can check the status on the plugin’s page on WordPress.org.

3. Good technical support.

When things go wrong (and they always do, right?) you want to be sure someone will help you out. Look out for widgets from trusted developers who are known to give great support and who provide detailed troubleshooting videos and articles.

4. Customization.

You want to be able to customize your widgets to fit with the branding of your site. With some widgets, you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version of the plugin to fully customize, while others offer all the options you need right out of the box.

If the widget ticks these four boxes, you’re good to go.

With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the 15 best, most useful widgets for your website.

1. HubSpot All-in-One Marketing

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.6/5 | 104 reviews

Why have one widget when you can have many? HubSpot offers a whole box of tricks via its widget bundle. The bundle is brimming with slide-in boxes, banners, overlay pop-ups and much more, which work right out of the box. It works well with other tools you may use as well, such as meeting schedulers or landing page builders.

One of the most innovative widgets is the live chat widget, which allows you to have real-time conversations with your visitors, or even install a chatbot to cover the times when you’re not around.

This is one of the most useful bundles out there, putting the awesome power of HubSpot’s CRM, marketing, sales, and customer service software right into your WordPress dashboard.

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2. Relevanssi

Price: Free | Premium from $99/year

WordPress.org rating: 4.7/5 | 227 reviews

Relevanssi upgrades the notoriously basic WordPress search bar with a smart search more akin to what we’re used to with search engines. Settings can be configured to your liking with features to search within PDFs, run searches across multiple sites, or add custom fields.

On top of that, search results can be displayed by relevance rather than just by date. However, by the team’s own admission, Relevanssi takes up a lot of memory. Apparently, it will triple your database size, so be warned if you lack storage.

The free version offers all the features you could want, but there is also a premium version, which provides the use of the widget on an unlimited number of sites, along with upgrades and support.

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3. Ultimately Social Media Icons

Price: Free | Premium from $24.98/year

WordPress.org rating: 4.9/5 | 4520 reviews

This popular plugin lets you easily add a multitude of social icons to your WordPress site via a widget. Encourage sharing, likes, and follows at the click of a button. All the major social networks are supported and you can choose from a range of button designs. It also supports quirky features like sticky floating buttons, animations, follower counters, pop-ups and more.

The free version will do nicely for most uses but the premium version supports far more button designs and more obscure social sharing sites.

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4. Instagram Feed

Price: Free | Premium from $39 for the first year of updates and support

WordPress.org rating: 4.9/5 | 2200 reviews

Instagram Feed is a handy widget that displays one or multiple Instagram feeds in the format of your choosing. Adding a colorful grid is a good way to attract more followers to your Instagram feed and grow your audience. This simple widget makes it incredibly easy to put a mobile-responsive Instagram feed in a strategic location on your WordPress site.

Displaying a beautiful feed is all covered in the free version. Premium offers more advanced features like a pop-up light box feed, the option to display feeds for specific hashtags, the ability to show likes and comments for each post, and much more.

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5. Siteorigin Widgets Bundle

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.9/5 | 114 reviews

Siteorigin Widgets Bundle is packed full of useful widgets that you can insert into any page or sidebar, or into the Siteorigin Page Builder tool. It’s a good option if you want to commit to this bundle over all others -- in fact, the ever-growing list of widgets for Siteorigin currently sits at 22. Highlights include widgets for Google Maps, sliders, contact forms, a price table, buttons, images, and more.

This is a useful bundle if you were going to grab a ton of these widgets anyway, but it’s important to note the large bundle will take up a fair bit of space, so there’s a trade-off.

Best of all, the widgets can be easily turned on and off via the settings page and the whole thing won’t cost you a dime.

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6. WP Recipe Maker

Price: Free | Premium from $49

WordPress.org rating: 5/5 | 88 reviews

If you post recipes on your food blog, WP Recipe Maker simplifies the process of formatting, and makes the results look better than a table or bullet points of ingredients.

Simply input your recipe information into a form and this widget creates a professional recipe box, including helpful details like serving count, cooking time, measurements, and anything else you might want in a recipe.

It is lightweight, easy-to-use and has become the most popular recipe widget on WordPress, with 20,000+ active installations. Premium features add ingredient links (so you can make some money from affiliate links), recipe taxonomies, user ratings, nutritional information, and more.

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7. YouTube Gallery by YotuWP

Price: Free | Premium from $14

WordPress.org rating: 4.9/5 | 122 reviews

Embed a mobile-responsive YouTube video or entire video gallery anywhere on your WordPress site with this widget. Filter by playlist channel or username, and customize the size and layout of your widget display. This is the simplest YouTube widget available and is now moving ahead of its older rivals in terms of ratings and active installations.

This is a phenomenal way to add video content to your site while also driving more followers to your YouTube channel. Try the Premium version for additional layouts, adding video metadata, custom text for buttons and more -- although the free version is excellent for most needs.

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8. EnviraGallery

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.8/5 | 1054 reviews

Envira Gallery is the most popular gallery widget on WordPress and allows you to create a professional photo or video gallery with zero coding. It’s designed to be clean, simple, and easy-to-use. Best of all, it’s responsive, SEO-friendly, and social sharing-ready.

The drag-and-drop gallery creator is intuitive and takes the hassle out of creating a gallery from scratch. The free version supports watermarking, slideshows, pagination, Instagram feed imports, and password protection, among many other features. It’s a no-brainer if you need a beautiful gallery widget.

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9. All-in-One Event Calendar by Timely

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.3/5 | 1506 reviews

The best thing about this calendar widget is the versatility in its placement and design options. The widget allows you to easily customize your view -- including options for daily, weekly, or monthly -- and lets you incorporate sidebar widgets or Google Maps.

You can filter by tag or category and share to Google Calendar, Apple iCal, and Microsoft Outlook. In my opinion, it’s the best calendar widget you’ll find for your WordPress site.

Add-ons are available for a fee, including more view options, or auto-sharing of events on Twitter and SuperWidget, which allows you to put your calendar on any website.

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10. Black Studio TinyMCE Widget

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.8/5 | 188 reviews

This handy widget allows you to insert rich text and media elements into your WordPress sidebar. The WYSIWYG interface was originally introduced to replace the basic text editor that comes with WordPress, but it still does a better job than even the current default editor.

The widget supports switching between visual mode and HTML, although coding is not necessary to use it. It’s a useful addition to your widget arsenal.

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11. Popups by OptinMonster

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.4/5 | 161 reviews

This powerful plugin offers a suite of lead generation tools, including the ability to create highly-customizable forms in the form of pop-ups or sidebar widgets to collect information. The drag-and-drop builder makes it easy to quickly build customizable forms -- alternatively, you can choose from one of their templates.

OptinMonster also allows integration with email marketing services like HubSpot and MailChimp, so you can easily export contacts to your existing lists along with all their data. This is a useful tool for collecting email addresses and syncing with other services, but you want to be careful that your pop-ups aren’t too intrusive. You don’t want to negatively impact the user experience.

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12. WP Live Chat Support

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.7/5 | 763 reviews

Live chat is popping up in the corners of screens everywhere, and WP Live Chat Support has emerged as the best widget to add live chat to your WordPress site. The simple interface has made it the most popular WordPress live chat widget, with over 60,000 active installations.

There are six chat box designs to choose from, which can be placed wherever you like on your pages, with optional animations thrown in for good measure. Other handy features allow you to disable the chat box for mobile users, or have it pop up automatically for other users. A chat box is a great way to capture email addresses to build your list, and this widget allows you to turn this feature on or off.

A simple and effective live chat widget -- best of all, it’s absolutely free.

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13. Whistles

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.8/5 | 19 reviews

The difficulty of adding a good tabbed widget into WordPress has long been a frustration for users. Whistles is billed as a brand-new approach to tab plugins. It involves adding some short code, but allows you to add a tabbed widget anywhere on your WordPress site. Additionally, it performs much more reliably than previous tabbed widgets have.

The formatting options are somewhat limited, but the widget does support tabs, toggles, and accordion designs so you can customize to a certain degree.

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14. Advanced Random Posts Widget

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4/5 | 30 reviews

If you have a ton of blog content and you want to give some love to older or less-appreciated posts, a random posts widget is a good solution. It will display random posts from your content library to entice readers to click on something they didn’t even know they wanted to read.

This clean and simple plugin allows you to add an attractive random posts thumbnail widget to any sidebar or page. You can sort by taxonomy and display the post title, excerpt, and post date. You’ll need to add a little bit of short code to the relevant page, but the plugin walks you through how to do this with ease. Additionally, the simple tabbed settings page makes customizing your widget a breeze.

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15. Google Maps Widget

Price: Free | Premium from $39

WordPress.org rating: 4.7/5 | 481 reviews

Including a functional Google Maps widget on your website is critical for helping your customers find you -- additionally, it’s also a major Google ranking factor. This widget adds a custom-fitted and designed Google Map to your site, which pinpoints your location.

Plus, the Premium version allows users to open a larger map as a light box and interact with it by zooming in and out, or switching between satellite and road views.

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Choose the best widget for your needs

As we have seen, there is a widget for just about everything. Whatever functionality you need to add to your site, this list gives you the best option for each specific purpose.

If you’re looking for a great bundle of widgets that come from a trusted provider of market-leading software, Hubspot All-in-One Marketing is an incredibly helpful choice, providing a multitude of fully-customizable options and plenty of support if necessary.

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Before your copy can persuade an audience to buy your product, your design must persuade them to buy your copy. In advertising, your design catches your audience’s eye and points their attention to your copy. Then, it’s your copy’s job to hold your audience’s attention.

To help grab people’s attention in your advertisements, we’ve put together a list of seven ad tips, supported by examples, that’ll help your brand cut through the noise. Read on to learn how to craft creatively refreshing ads that will convert your audience into customers.

7 Ad Design Tips to Help Your Brand Cut Through the Noise 1. Stand Out From The Crowd

Image Credit: VeryGoodCopy

In a world where countless brands fight for a limited amount of attention, the only way your advertisement can grab people’s attention is by being original.

As a marketer, though, it can be tempting to leap onto the latest trend that all your competitors have already pounced on. If everyone else is implementing the latest tip or trick, it must work, right? To captivate an audience, though, you must resist this urge.

Cliches repel attention. They sap your advertisement's creativity and can’t activate the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for experiencing emotions. But how exactly do you create an original advertisement? Consider one of Estee Lauder’s print campaigns from the 1960s.

Back then, Estee Lauder’s main competitors like L’Oreal, Revion, and Helena Rubinstein all ran vibrant, colorful ads in magazines. Every makeup ad was beautiful and rich. But even though they seemed eye-popping at first glance, audiences became accustomed to these types of ads -- they all looked the same. They started blending in with each other.

Realizing that no one could differentiate between the brands running full-color makeup ads flooding magazines during that time period anymore, Estee Lauder did something so controversial it was deemed “radical”, “stupid”, and even “ugly”: they ran their ads in sepia.

Estee Lauder’s print advertising move received its fair share of criticism, but they’re ability to be original helped them immediately stand out from the crowd and rake in 25% more responses than their previous color print campaigns.

2. Turn Your Ad Into a Game

Image Credit: AdWeek

The brain is wired to predict things. It’s an evolutionary trait that allows us to anticipate what’s going to happen next and quickly react to it. That said, advertisements that are predictable only require a shred of thought to understand, so they’re too easy to grasp and, in turn, too boring to engage anyone.

With this in mind, if you can scrap predictability from your advertisements, you force your audience into a deeper level of thinking to digest your message, compelling them to pay more attention to it.

One of the best ways to ensnare your audience attention and get them to interact with your advertisement is by turning it into a game. By framing your advertisement like a game that can be beat, just like Fisher-Price’s ad above, your audience has the opportunity to earn an intellectual reward if they spend just the right amount of mental energy playing your brand’s game and grasping your advertisement's message, which is something most people won’t ever pass up.

3. Convey One Message -- And One Message Only

Image Credit: VeryGoodCopy

Sometimes, marketers think the more benefits and features they include in their ads, the higher their conversion rate will be. But trying to read a jumbled ad requires a lot of thought and energy, so cramming an ad with a bricks of copy doesn’t actually grab people’s attention. It repels it.

To immediately hook people and persuade them to read the rest of your ad, consider conveying one message per ad. Spotlighting your product or service’s main benefit or feature will make it easy for your audience to understand its value and increase the likelihood of doing business with you because they’ll leave your ad remembering only one message: your product’s or service’s main feature will benefit their lives somehow, someway.

For example, in Citizen’s ad for their Eco-Drive watch, they only use a single line of copy and a simple image to convey their product’s value to their audience -- the watch is powered by light.

4. Make It Visual

Image Credit: VeryGoodCopy

When we were babies, we relied on vision to associate objects with behaviors, like a ball meaning play time. Vision was the only way to learn about the world.

That’s why you can understand visual information in 250 milliseconds and why your visual system activates over 50% of your brain. Visual storytelling is the best way for people to grasp concepts and data easily.

For instance, in LEGO’s ad, they only use two images, a simple lego creation and a shadow of a dinosaur, but you can instantly form a concrete understanding of its core idea -- with Legos, you can create anything.

5. Leverage Hyperbole

Image Credit: Brilliant Ads

Exaggerating your product’s benefits, in a clever and obvious way, is one of the best methods for slipping some humor into your advertisement, which can capture your audience’s attention and trigger an emotional response from them.

For instance, Nikol’s paper towels obviously can’t turn grapes into raisins, but this ad highlights the product's absorbent powers in such a clear and artful way, they didn’t need to write a single line of copy.

6. Show, Don’t Tell

Image Credit: Brilliant Ads

Showing your audience something is much more engaging and interesting than telling them it. Relying on implication to convey a message is mysterious, making it more fun for your audience to figure out.

For example, in Siemens’ creative ad, they show the benefits of their product by unexpectedly placing their washers and dryers in a library to show you that they’re so quiet, even a librarian wouldn’t need to shush them.

7. Swap Connotations

Image Credit: Brilliant Ads

In relation to food, the word “hot” has multiple meanings: having a high temperature and being spicy. Heinz brilliantly used the connotation of high temperature to highlight the spiciness of their ketchup, and their creative method of communicating the value of their product helped them instantly attract people’s attention.

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One year ago on May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect and replaced the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive (DPD) with the goal of significantly enhancing the protection of the personal data of E.U. citizens and increasing the obligations of organizations who collect and/or process personal data.

Although the GDPR is an E.U. regulation, its rules still apply to any business that markets or sells their products to E.U. consumers and/or that monitors the behavior of people in the EU. Basically, if you’re located outside of the E.U. but you control or process the data of E.U. citizens, the GDPR applies to your organization.

The GDPR ensures eight rights for individuals, including granting consumers easier access to the data companies hold about them, requiring companies to inform consumers about such data collection, and necessitating companies to obtain consumer consent before data collection occurs.

If you're curious, take a look at how HubSpot navigates the GDPR.

Since going into effect last year, the GDPR has already made headlines -- regulators fined Google $57 million in January of this year for not properly disclosing to users how the company collected their data for personalized advertisements.

To mark the one year anniversary of the GDPR going into effect, HubSpot partnered with Professor Nicole Votolato Montgomery at the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia to evaluate E.U. versus U.S. consumers’ perceptions of the current organizational data practices, online consumer-company interactions, and organized responses to privacy regulations. We wanted to explore how (and if) consumer attitudes have changed a year later, since we last conducted a survey on GDPR.

We surveyed a group of 1,115 subjects across the U.S. and E.U. (United Kingdom, Germany, and France).

Consumers’ focus on the GDPR has declined.

In 2019, consumers aren’t as focused on the GDPR as they were before its implementation in 2018. In the E.U. overall, the number of respondents reporting that they were familiar with the GDPR dropped by 13.6%.

In the U.S., consumers’ focus remains relatively consistent, but overall, far fewer Americans are familiar with the GDPR than in European countries.

Fewer consumers report that the GDPR has improved their interactions with companies.

Since 2018, the number of E.U. and U.S. consumers that claim that the GDPR improved their interactions with companies decreased, with France experiencing the largest decrease of 6%. While the U.S. saw a decrease of less than 2%, more American consumers report improved interactions in both 2018 and 2019 than E.U. consumers.

However, when asked whether they believe that something similar to the GDPR should be instituted in the U.S., only half of American consumers responded positively.

Additionally, while most consumers report that the GDPR hasn’t improved their interactions with companies in the past year, over 63% of E.U. consumers believe that the GDPR has had a positive impact on consumer data privacy in 2019 -- fewer consumers in the U.S. and Germany versus other E.U. countries report this belief.

Fewer consumers are concerned with how companies are collecting their personal data.

Even though the majority of E.U. and U.S. consumers report that the GDPR hasn’t improved their interactions with companies since 2018, fewer consumers responded that they’re likely to opt-out of company data collection, with U.S. and U.K. consumers remaining relatively consistent.

Plus, the number of E.U. consumers who report that they’d go a step further to request that companies delete all the information stored about them decreased in the last 12 months, yet increased by almost 5% in the US.

Fewer consumers expect companies to alter their behavior because of the GDPR.

Consumers in the E.U. and U.S. express lower expectations when it comes to companies changing the way they demonstrate, update, and even change the way they address data privacy. Fewer E.U. and U.S. consumers over the course of the last year expect companies to educate them on how they plan to follow the new GDPR regulations.

Fewer still expect organizations to update their data protection policies since 2018 or to stop selling data to other companies.

Additionally, fewer E.U. consumers expect companies to change the consumer data they’re collecting – only the U.S. saw an increase in these expectations, but by less than 2%.

Plus, while one of the main tenets of the GDPR is to illuminate data collection transparency, the number of consumers across the E.U. and U.S. who expect this transparency decreased in 2019, compared to 2018.

Consumers’ expectations about companies’ responses to the GDPR are country-specific.

While consumers across the EU and US are mostly unified in their perceptions of the GDPR, their expectations for companies in response to the privacy regulation differ by country.

U.S. consumers’ primary expectation about these regulations from 2018 to 2019 remains unchanged -- that companies would update their data protection policies. Meanwhile, E.U. consumers in 2018 expected companies to stop selling data to other companies, and in 2019, their expectations mirror those of U.S. consumers.

In the U.K., consumers value the transparency of company data practices more over the past 12 months, while French consumers value transparency less. German consumers’ expectations, however, remain consistent.

Research Methodology

HubSpot Research partnered with the University of Virginia to survey consumers in the U.S. and Europe in 2018 and 2019. 540 consumers in the E.U. and the U.S. were asked to respond to survey questions about organizations’ data collection and usage practices and privacy policies in 2018 (the year GDPR went into effect).

1,115 consumers in the E.U. and the U.S. were asked to respond to the same questions in 2019 (one year after GDPR).

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Culture is critical for your business's long-term growth and profitability.

Ultimately, businesses with strong company culture perform better than companies without it -- for instance, organizations with deliberately developed company cultures experience a 14% turnover rate, compared to a 48% turnover rate at companies without strong culture.

Those same culture-strong businesses also see a 19% increase in operating income, as well as a 28% boost in earnings growth.

Many organizations might look at high turnover rates and believe that the issue is their workforce quality. However, that is not the real cause of turnover rates. High turnover rates, as well as other operational issues, are often reflective of bad company culture.

To fix an organization's culture, you must start at the top -- which is why I've cultivated this list of the seven ways corporate leaders unwittingly erode trust and create a toxic company culture. Keep reading to make sure you're not accidentally making one of these grave mistakes.

1. Allowing "helpfulness" to go awry.

No one likes being micromanaged. It clearly implies a lack of trust.

Sometimes, managers nitpick every task and assume they're assuring success -- but, instead, all they're doing is aggravating their employees.

Additionally, those managers have created an opportunity for team members to simply follow directions, contribute the bare minimum, and collect a paycheck.

"In an environment of trust, employees have the freedom to explore, innovate, create, stretch, and yes, sometimes make mistakes," says Bob Whipple of Leadergrow Incorporated.

"These mistakes can be thought of as waste, but enlightened leaders think of them simply as learning opportunities."

Instead of detailing how every assignment should be completed, managers should establish clear goals and ensure employee preparedness to undertake the job at hand. Managers should express trust, encourage creativity, and push for safe, thoughtful risk-taking.

2. Encouraging hasty hiring.

A bad hire is literally no good for a company. Few veteran staff members are going to want to work longer or harder to carry a bad hire's dead weight, and few established teams want to adopt a new member who doesn't add value or mesh well with the culture.

Additionally, a bad hire could lead to lost revenue, or a bad reputation with certain customers.

While it might be tempting to cut corners when recruiting for positions that must be filled quickly, it's never a good idea. There's far too much at stake.

"A comprehensive company-wide background screening policy can help to mitigate this risk by verifying the information that candidates provide before hiring, rather than finding out about issues afterwards," says Scott Girdler of HireRight.

When screening for future employees, always do so in a way that correlates to their prospective duties and responsibilities.

3. Showing blatant favoritism.

Awarding a favorite employee with promotions and bonuses.

Ignoring when a certain high-performing employee breaks dress code.

Looking the other way when that golden team member keeps irregular hours.

Ultimately, this kind of behavior is frustrating to other employees, and leaves them feeling neglected and unmotivated. It can also lead to lawsuits.

Humans are innately biased, so leadership and organizations as a whole must adopt more awareness when making decisions. The best way to avoid inherent biases is by practicing decision making across multiple, diverse leaders instead of leaving those choices to a single supervisor.

4. Bucking the spirit of teamwork.

A company's leadership may often mistake cooperation with collaboration -- a big no-no.

Whereas cooperation involves individuals working independently alongside each other, collaboration involves collective work.

Cooperation leads to individual achievement, which can breed competition and contempt.

Collaboration, on the other hand, creates a culture of sharing where individual success is reliant on group success.

Building a collaborative spirit starts with creating optimized communications. "Having a central place for teams to collaborate, brainstorm, exchange ideas and keep track of progress is absolutely crucial," shares Raphaela Brandner of MeisterTask. Nothing builds more trust, camaraderie and a shared sense of purpose than supporting open exchange among team members.

5. Encouraging gossip.

Gossip is simply an element of the human experience -- but its one that managers frequently ignore.

Additionally, depending on the gossip, and whether it is about personal matters or the company itself, some managers may even engage in it.

A certain amount of gossip is always going to exist. However, what lies at the heart of rampant gossip in the workplace is the desire to know exactly what is going on. Leadership should curb gossip whenever possible by making sure to disseminate and broadcast information thoroughly and effectively.

For example, managers can prevent rumors of layoffs by being frank and open about potential downsizing.

If certain employees are at the root of the workplace gossip machine, employ coaching, progressive discipline, and warnings to stop the behavior.

6. Sending mixed messages with employee recognition.

If an employee excels in an organization by operating outside of what the company culture prescribes, then that behavior is what will truly define the company culture.

"Boards and compensation committees need a complete picture of the relationship between compensation as it relates to corporate culture,” says Pearl Meyer’s David Swinford. "One that includes both financial and non-financial rewards, and that goes beyond the board's statutorily-defined responsibility for oversight and compensation of talent."

It is paramount to define compensation, accolades and recognition based upon long-term business and leadership strategies throughout the organization.

7. Putting up with bad behavior.

Company leaders often believe that tolerating certain behaviors is part and parcel of being open-minded and promoting diversity. Again, this is a misconception. Whatever a manager tolerates will ultimately determine the company culture.

Micromanaging, rewarding bad behavior, favoritism, and gossip -- if you tolerate it, it will take root and proliferate.

Confronting and eliminating bad behavior may be the most difficult aspect of leading a workforce team because it involves having hard, honest conversations. But those difficult conversations are necessary because there is much more at stake than being uncomfortable.

Don't take the easy way out by saying nothing. Speak up, act, and promote the culture you want your organization to develop and maintain.

Take a look at The Ultimate Guide to Company Culture to learn more about different types of cultures, and get ideas to improve your own workplace culture today.

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