Well, it’s official. Google doesn’t like overly intrusive ads like pop-ups on websites. This sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? After all, Google makes its money from advertising. However, as a search engine, Google’s number one priority is to make a searcher’s experience a positive one. And, just as Google put sites with mobile interstitials on the naughty list earlier this year, it’s now taking a stand against pop-ups and other annoying ads.
Google’s not the only one that is annoyed by pop-up ads. Your potential customers don’t like them either.
In a recent survey by inbound marketing giant HubSpot, they found that consumers don’t like overly intrusive ads. Consumers especially don’t like pop-up ads, mobile ads and video ads.
Not surprisingly, the HubSpot Adblock Plus Research Study found that one of the most frustrating types of ads were full-page pop-up ads that make the user find the “X” or some other (often difficult-to-find) button to close the ad.
Just look at the example below. On CNN.com, a half-page ad appears at the top of the screen when you go to the home page. This ad literally takes up HALF the screen (valuable real estate) — and there’s no obvious way to close it. This makes for a horrible and intrusive user experience.
Here are some other stats from HubSpot’s survey:
As consumers, we all know what “annoying ads” look like: ads that force you to wait before you can get to the content you want to read, full-page ads that overtake your screen, ads with music or videos that automatically start playing — you know the ones. (If you’ve ever been at your cubicle quietly working, then clicked on an article link and been greeted by the unexpected audio from an ad that started playing, you know what I mean.) These types of intrusive ads are part of the reason for the 30 percent increase in ad blocking software.
Google cracks down on these annoying ads
Google’s latest anti-intrusive ad effort relies on the Coalition for Better Ads standards, and it has already begun by sending out emails warning websites that have “highly annoying, misleading or harmful” pop-up ads on their sites that violate these standards.
So, what types of ads are offensive? The group ran surveys to determine which ads most annoy and irritate consumers. In their survey, they simulated “real world” experiences of users as they looked at ads while reading website content.
The research results identified the types of ads that are most likely to frustrate users — four types of desktop ads and eight ad types for mobile devices:
Here are a couple more examples that I’ve experienced. Forbes.com double-whammies you when you try to read an article on their site. First, you are confronted with a full-page “prestitial ad with countdown” — the countdown timer must run to zero before you can get to the article you want to read:
And then when you finally get to the content you want to read, a video automatically starts playing on the article page itself:
In the example below, check out the article that The Wall Street Journal wrote about how Google is planning to block ads. Notice the pop-up ad on the page? (A little ironic, huh?)
Google’s backing of these Coalition for Better Ads standards is leading up to next year’s release of a version of the Chrome Browser that will stop showing ads (including those ads owned or served up by Google) on websites that are not compliant. This feature will be turned on by default on desktop and mobile versions of Chrome.
Given that Chrome is the most popular browser, with more than 1 billion users, every business needs to re-evaluate the type of ads they put on their site — starting today.
Why the switch?
There are a variety of reasons for this massive switch in how Google identifies and evaluates intrusive ads. First, we are moving more and more to a mobile-first world. Companies vying for potential customers are trying to improve the mobile user experience — and Google encourages that.
Secondly, studies show that consumers do not like intrusive and obnoxious ads. When providing search engine results, Google’s mission is to give users a list of websites that provide great information and a great experience. Intrusive ads on websites can frustrate users and make them leave offending sites more quickly.
A high bounce rate signals to Google that the site either didn’t provide the information the consumer was looking for or didn’t provide a good user experience. When Google sees that a website has high bounce rates, that can negatively impact how that site ranks on Google’s search engine result pages (SERPs).
Ad guidelines for businesses
To help businesses understand which ads they should keep on their website and which ads are annoying visitors, Google has created a new tool called the Google Ad Experience Report. Google defines an ad experience as the combination of site layout and behavior, as well as the content and ads that your users are exposed to.
This tool gives website owners a clear look at how the Better Ads Standards apply to their web pages. It even gives you screen shots and videos of the annoying ad experiences on your website so you can find and fix them.
Users and owners of websites that are verified on Search Console can review the Ad Experience Report.
After you get your website connected to the Ad Experience Report, you can choose to view either the Desktop or Mobile version of the report.
If your website hasn’t been reviewed by Google, you will see “Not Reviewed” in the Status section:
If this is the case for your site, a Google representative in the Ad Experience Report help forum asks that you be patient: “The Ad Experience Report is focused on covering as many domains as possible and our coverage will ramp up during the year. While there isn’t a way to request a review and we can’t provide timelines for when your site will be reviewed, new sites are getting reviewed every day.”
If a sample of your site has been reviewed by Google, you’ll see either a “Passing,” “Warning” or “Failing” notice.
The meaning of your review status
You’ll see one of the following statuses at the top of the Report:
Note: Google does not look at every page of your site; they look at sample pages and report on the ad experience they find.
What do you think of Google ad blocking?
What do you think? Have you noticed any sites that have changed the type of pop-up ads they have? Are you planning to change the type of ads you put on your site? Do you see offending sites with obnoxious ads?
We’d love to hear your thoughts — please share them with Search Engine Land on Twitter or post on our Facebook Page.
The post Google hates obnoxious pop-up ads: Here’s why you need to look at the ads on your site appeared first on Search Engine Land.
via Blogger Google hates obnoxious pop-up ads: Here’s why you need to look at the ads on your site
This article was co-authored with my colleague at Go Fish Digital, Samantha Hughes.
Working at an agency that does a large amount of online reputation and crisis management, brand protection is always top of mind. I’ve written about how autocomplete is your brand’s true first impression, and that is still very much the case. What comes up when people search on your brand name also sheds light on your company’s reputation — even when those results aren’t from your own site.
If you aren’t actively working on what ranks for your brand name, you leave yourself exposed to potential damage from:
As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It is much better to spend time proactively preventing one of the situations above, rather than reacting to it after the fact.
And the prevention isn’t all that difficult. If you can create some strong properties that can rank alongside your own domain, you can build a proverbial “wall” that would help suppress negative content from surfacing on page one for your brand name.
Before undertaking the SEO tactics to get that “wall” of content to rank, though, you have to have the right content available to work with. When working with clients, we always start by identifying existing pages that could rank well. These should be highly targeted (brand name in the URL, title and so on), have good domain authority, and ideally already rank on page two or three.
After that, though, we often turn to creating new content to rank. This new content, combined with what already exists, gives us a lot of bricks to build that strong wall.
The following are some common, and not-so-common, options for creating content that can rank well for your brand name.
Creating a profile on Crunchbase is super-easy, and your profile there has the potential to rank really well. The fact that Crunchbase has been around for over a decade and has domain authority of 89, according to Moz, means that Google tends to trust content on the site.
Profiles on Crunchbase can be a simple or as rich as you’d like them to be. We encourage our clients to use every category possible, filling out as much information and making it a really useful profile for people actually researching the company.
An example of one of the categories is “News,” which allows businesses to add news articles/publications to their profile. As new articles are posted about your brand, we recommend you add them here, which will keep the page updated with fresh content, as well as providing a backlink (albeit no-followed) to that new article.
An example of Crunchbase ranking on page one for a brand name is for Fatwallet, pictured below. Their profile could use some expanding, as it really only highlights the “News” and “Competitor” categories, but even so, it ranks well for a pretty popular internet brand name.
Marketing on Reddit is a minefield, but when done right, it can be a huge branding win. However, what most people don’t realize is that it can help with online reputation management (ORM) as well. Cooler brands with large fan bases can have dedicated, highly-active subreddits where loyalists interact and share relevant content.
Outlier Clothing, makers of high-end everyday wear, have such a community, whose digital home is on the r/Outlier subreddit, which ranks #2 in Google when you search “Outlier Clothing.”
If you have a community of people who love your services or products, and that community overlaps with Reddit’s demographic, studying what Outlier did would be wise, as it could also be a smart play for your brand.
IdeaMensch is a simple but brilliantly effective site that every entrepreneur and executive can, and should, use to their advantage.
The execution here is straightforward: Everyone is welcome to answer the same set of 16 interview questions. The questions and answers are then published on their website, along with a great head shot, bio, and links to your other web properties. There is currently a backlog of interviews waiting to publish, so we always spring for the $30 expedited publishing option.
The company name is typically included in the title of the interview, which is one of the reasons the site can be very powerful. You can have an executive or founder of an organization do an interview, and, if you pair that with other ORM strategies, that interview can rank really well for branded search.
Here is an example from a stock photo company, Colorstock, which has an interview with their co-founder and CEO ranking in position two for their brand name. Also notice their Crunchbase profile a few spots below.
Don’t let YouTube’s video dominance steer you away from Vimeo. Although often overlooked, the platform boasts over 100 million users. Vimeo is a different type of video site, and, when optimized for a brand name, it can hit page one for branded searches.
RVCA, a California-based clothing company, is very active with their Vimeo account. They host 541 videos and have 28.9K followers on the platform, which helps their profile rank #5 in Google for a search of “RVCA.”
As you will find with most social profiles, the more engagement and real activity you have on it, the more likely it is to rank for your brand.
5. Branded jobs websites
Many big companies will take the time to create separate subdomains and domains to highlight their career opportunities. Often this is done due to technical limitations of the CMS on the main site, but a nice added benefit is that these sites open up new ORM potential.
For ORM, when creating a microsite, we typically recommend using a completely new domain rather than a subdomain. The reason is that most times, Google will treat a subdomain just like any other page on the root domain (although you can see in the Chevron example in #6 that this isn’t always the case) –whereas a whole new domain is treated separately and can get pulled into the SERPs to defensively occupy another position.
CVS and Macy’s are great examples of companies that utilize these unique domains to take up a position within their search results.
6. Other microsite options
Creating a separate jobs/careers domain isn’t the only option companies have for building unique microsites on their own domains (although it is the most common).
We’ve helped clients create dedicated websites for scholarships, charitable arms and foundations, photography, specific products and more. The key for this strategy to be successful is that there actually has to be a need or interest in the microsite. Just creating “stuff” to fill the search results doesn’t work anymore; the microsite you create should be logical and useful.
You can see this strategy put to good use (whether intentionally or not) in Chevron’s search results. They actually have three microsites on page one for their brand name. The different sites make logical sense, as they are very different lines of business, so the strategy is logical from a business standpoint, and it pays off by keeping negative content about Chevron off page one.
Those are some of our favorite sites and types of content to work with to help improve the search results for your brand name. Other sites, like Wikipedia, will rank really well but open you up to a whole new type of risk. Because of that, we prefer options like those above, where you retain most of the control, and the likelihood of the content turning negative is pretty low.
Using these types of content, plus strong interlinking and backlinking strategies, you can build that protective wall that’ll help prevent negative content from surfacing.
The post 6 web properties you can use to protect your branded search results (with real examples) appeared first on Search Engine Land.
via Blogger 6 web properties you can use to protect your branded search results (with real examples)
Google released their AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) framework nearly two years ago, and even though Google noted at their recent I/O event that more than 900,000 domains have adopted the framework, that’s just a small fraction (.075 percent) of the 1.2 billion websites on the internet.
Given Google’s emphasis on the coming mobile-first index and its continuing full court press to get webmasters far and wide to implement AMP for the sites they work on, we’re interested in understanding how the Search Engine Land audience is approaching AMP adoption.
We’ve put together a brief survey — 10 quick questions, will take you about three minutes tops — and invite you to participate. We’re looking for feedback on whether and why you or your clients have or have not adopted AMP for your sites. We’re also interested in knowing whether or not you or your clients are using AMP landing pages and AMP ads.
We’ll be looking at the responses and discussing the trends that emerge from the initial data on our “Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP): Is faster better?” webinar next week — and we invite you to join us for that as well!
The post Take the Search Engine Land AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) survey appeared first on Search Engine Land.
via Blogger Take the Search Engine Land AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) survey
Google announced in the Local Guides Forum that they now are rolling out support to upload videos to Google Maps local listings on Android devices.
The help document explains the feature is currently only available to Android users. Google wrote, “To add videos, you must use an Android device. To remove videos, you must use an Android device or a computer.”
You can add videos from three different areas:
Meg from Google announced this first to the Google Local Guides who earn points when they add videos or photos to local listings. Meg from Google wrote:
Here is a clip of what it looks like to add videos:
Hat tip to Mike Blumenthal for spotting this.
The post Google Maps local listings can now have videos uploaded appeared first on Search Engine Land.
via Blogger Google Maps local listings can now have videos uploaded
It’s not often that we get this lucky.
One of the most powerful analytics tools is right at our fingertips.
I’m talking about Google Analytics.
It offers some of the most advanced tracking and reporting features that I’ve seen. And it’s completely free to use.
Shockingly, not many people take advantage of that.
This got me thinking.
Why don’t people make better use of Google Analytics?
Well, it’s likely for two reasons:
I’ll address both of these in this article.
I won’t dwell on the first one too much because I’ve noticed that people are developing a bigger appetite for data.
As for the challenges of navigating Google Analytics, I get it.
There are lots of features, and it can get overwhelming quickly.
Fortunately, I have a good handle on how this stuff works, and I’ll share my insights with you.
You don’t need to be tech-savvy to master Google Analytics.
In fact, you can start from ground zero and become pretty dang good at navigating all the features in just a few hours.
Our goal here is mastery without the complexity.
Sound good? Let’s get into it.
Why a data-driven approach to business matters
Successful businesses aren’t built on guesswork. They thrive on your ability to make data-driven decisions.
When you don’t have critical analytics in place, you’re taking the shotgun approach. You fire some pellets and hope that one hits the mark.
Wouldn’t you rather use a sure-fire approach?
Adding relevant data to your arsenal can make your efforts far more specific. And it’s especially important for marketing.
Here’s a map of what a sound marketing strategy looks like using analytics:
Do you see how this is a much better approach than acting blindly?
You get the ability to really see your customers.
You can analyze where they come from, how they interact with your business, and what makes them tick.
You can also understand how effective your marketing efforts are and what you can do to improve them.
That insight is indispensable.
Your ability to drive conversions and sales depends on it.
With that said, let’s move onto the meaty stuff.
Laying the groundwork for collecting actionable data
Data is useless if you can’t make your way through it with clarity.
It means you won’t be able to extract any insights that you can act on.
Actionable data is what makes the magic happen.
Now, Google Analytics puts a lot of information in your hands. You don’t have to use all of it.
That’s why it’s important to begin with the end in mind.
So, what is your goal here?
What do you want to achieve in your business for the next 90 days? How about the next year?
Here are some ideas that may apply to your business:
These are a few options. It’s not unlikely that you’ll have multiple goals at a given time.
You decide. Then, go to your Google Analytics account to configure your Goals settings.
I’m assuming that you already have an account set up with your tracking code fired up.
If not, here’s how to do it.
Once you’ve done that, you can find the Goals settings by clicking on “Admin” at the bottom of the menu.
Here’s what you’ll see.
Click on Goals.
Why is this step necessary?
When you add a new goal, you tell Google Analytics exactly what to track. This way, you can stay on top of what’s happening on your website.
Let’s say that your objective is to increase sales conversions.
How would you know when a sale has occurred on your website?
One way to know is to check the number of visitors that have landed on your “thank you for buying” page.
You can set this up as a goal to be tracked on your Google Analytics account.
When you click on “Goals,” you’ll see a “New Goal” button.
Choose “Custom” and “Continue.”
Name your goal, select “Destination,” and “Continue.”
Configure your goal details by adding the URL of your “thank you” page as the “Destination.”
You have the option to add a monetary value to a conversion. What’s it worth to you?
You also have the option to specify the path that someone would take leading up to a conversion.
Add all the steps and a corresponding web page for each one. Then save your goal.
You can repeat this process for up to 20 goals on your website.
Not too difficult, right?
Now that you have set some goals, it’s time to get into how to navigate Google Analytics reports.
I’m going to cover all the possible options for tracking and analyzing data. It’s up to you to extract the information that serves your goals.
Good, let’s do this.
A deep dive into Google Analytics reports
There are several reports available to you.
If you look at your left-side menu on your Analytics dashboard, you’ll see the five categories.
Regardless of your business goals, these reports are insightful.
I’ll get into the details of each one.
As the name suggests, this type of report monitors what’s happening on your website right now.
You can see who’s visiting your site in a given moment, what website pages they’re engaging with, and how they’re influencing your goal conversions.
The “Real-Time” tab is spliced up six ways.
First, get an overview to see the big picture.
Then, you can delve deeper into the details.
You may be wondering, “What use is it to monitor website activity in the very moment that it occurs?”
That’s a good question.
Historical data is much more useful for making your decisions.
But there is utility in real-time reports.
It’s excellent for tracking marketing campaigns that have a sense of immediacy.
I’m talking about social media promotions, email marketing campaigns, traffic to fresh blog posts, and other urgent matters.
Well, with Google Analytics, that’s easy.
You can track the response as it happens. And that goes for all marketing activity that requires a look at the immediate impact.
Real-time reports are also great for split testing different elements on your website.
For example, you may want to test the creative elements of a particular ad to see which converts best.
You can set up an event for ad clicks and view that data. The ad that is triggered the most in any given moment tells you what you need to know.
That’s super useful.
Events can be created by configuring your goals settings. We already walked through how you can set that up.
Want an in-depth look at who’s visiting your website?
You may want to pay special attention to this feature.
The reports under this section will give you information on your visitors from multiple angles.
I recommend getting an overview first to analyze some important metrics.
Then you can dive into the subsections for more detailed insights.
Let’s explore some of the information that you’ll find in these sections.
As you can imagine, this data can power your marketing efforts across multiple channels.
Think about it. There’s no information as insightful as what you collect on the people who matter most.
Everything from your content to your ads will be more effective because of audience reports.
Let’s talk about traffic.
Without it, nothing else can move forward.
No engagement. No leads. No conversions.
This way, you can tap into the traffic sources that are working best for you so you can maximize that.
And it’s not just about which channel brings in the most visitors. It’s also about which one drives the highest-quality traffic.
What determines quality?
Well, you don’t want to attract spectators. Instead, you want the type of visitors who engage with your content and eventually makes a purchase.
Your acquisition reports will help you with all these insights.
I want to reiterate this:
Collecting data without acting on it is a waste of time and resources.
Let’s say that you find out that LinkedIn brings you the most qualified leads. It’s up to you to double down on that social channel to drive more leads and ultimately conversions.
Here are the different subsections available to you under “Acquisition.”
For organic traffic, I recommend that you pay particular attention to “Overview,” “All traffic,” “Search console,” and “Social.”
“Campaigns” and “Adwords” are geared toward paid traffic.
Just as important as traffic is how your web visitors interact with your content.
Behavior reports will give you the kind of information that’s necessary for optimizing the user experience on your website.
It will also give you an engagement breakdown on each page.
From there, you can decide which elements on your website perform best, which need improvement, and how you can bridge the gap.
Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll find.
Let’s look at the most important ones.
The site-search feature has to be configured first.
It’s super important, so I highly recommend you do that. It’s tied to the search box on your website.
Go to “Admin” on your account and click “View Settings.”
At the very bottom, find the “Site Search Settings.”
Toggle the button to on and leave the window open. You now have to find the “query parameter.”
To do that, go to your site and run a random search.
Note the URL of the results page for that search.
The query parameter is the letter that comes at the end of the URL following the question mark.
In my case, it’s an s. It’s usually an s or a q.
Go to Google Analytics and type that in.
You can also enable site search for different categories. This is excellent for tracking the most popular content categories.
And that’s it! You’ve configured site search.
Who doesn’t love conversions?
This is where the magic happens.
You’ll find data relating to the actions that visitors take when they’re on your website. This could be anything from a newsletter sign-up to a product purchase.
Let’s look at the information you’ll get under conversions.
Want a breakdown?
Naturally, this layer of reporting may not be useful to businesses that are not yet generating sales.
But if you’re at that stage, this information is golden.
You can determine which products sell more and what part your marketing efforts have to play in these sales.
You can also get the details of each transaction to see how you can maximize your profits and increase your customer value.
These are all key growth needles in business that you should be focused on.
Beyond basic reporting: Advanced Google Analytics features that you should know
We’ve gone through every aspect of reporting on Google Analytics.
Here’s the thing though:
Standard reports don’t even begin to touch the full capabilities of this tool.
Sure, you’ll get some awesome data that can transform your sales and marketing.
But I want to delve into the realm of advanced segments, tags, filters, custom dashboards, and all that fun stuff.
Don’t get put off by some of the terms.
This is easy, and I’ll simplify it even more for you.
1. Create advanced segments
Remember what I said about actionable data?
You need to be able to use the information that you collect.
The overarching reports on your website visitors don’t give you the most actionable intel.
It’s undifferentiated and surface-level information.
That’s where advanced segments offer a unique opportunity.
You can isolate traffic and view data from a specific viewpoint.
For instance, you can segment by:
These are just a few options.
Here’s how to create segments.
Go to “Audience” and then “Overview.” Click on the option that says “Add Segment.”
You’ll be given a list of segmentation options to choose from.
Check the ones that you want and click “Apply.”
Are you restricted to the default options? Not at all.
You can create your own. Click the button that says “+New Segment.”
You can toggle the options here to define your custom segment. Include as much information as you like, name your segment, and save it.
Your data will automatically be updated to feature all the segments that you create.
2. Customize your Google Analytics dashboard
The default dashboard is not very useful.
It doesn’t tell a cohesive story about what’s happening on your website.
You’ll get a range of data that may or may not be related to each other.
With custom dashboards, you can pull specific types of data together. It tells a better story visually and will have more meaning to your business.
You can create custom dashboards for any number of purposes.
And much more!
You can create up to 20 dashboards, each with 20 widgets.
Find the customization tab and click “Dashboards.”
You can opt for either a “blank canvas” or “starter dashboard.” There’s also an option at the bottom to “import from gallery.”
Which should you choose?
The “blank canvas” allows you to put your dashboard together from scratch. “Starter dashboard” gives you templates to work from.
You can also use a custom dashboard created by someone else. Simply import it from your gallery.
Choose your option, name it, and click “Create dashboard.”
Click on “customize dashboard” to select a custom layout.
Decide based on whatever screen real estate you’re working with or the number of widgets you’d like to include.
Then, go to “+Add widget” to fill out your custom dashboard.
Give your widget a title and select one of six options for the type of widget you’d like to add.
This is simply to decide how your data will be displayed.
Standard widgets give you historical data, while real-time widgets give you data as the actions happen.
Now, click “add a metric.”
You’ll get a menu with a ton of options.
Select the ones specific to the custom dashboard that you want to create.
Let’s say that you want to build a social media monitoring dashboard. You may want to include metrics like:
These are just a few options.
Once you’ve configured your custom dashboard, save it, and your data will be available.
3. Create custom reports
As we saw earlier, you have five types of reports available to you.
Each of these has about 5-10 subsections.
That’s a lot of data!
The point of custom reports is to home in on the information that is relevant to your business.
You can create reports based on:
Useful, right? Here’s how you can do it.
Go to “Custom Reports” and click “+New Custom Report.”
Select your report type, metrics, and dimensions. Explore the options to see what’s best for your needs.
There’s also a feature to add specific filters.
I love this option as it allows you to restrict your data. The more targeted information you have, the more informed decisions you can make.
So add your filters and save your custom report.
There’s a whole database of custom reports created by other people that you can use. You don’t have to start from scratch.
You can access them from the Solutions Gallery.
4. Create custom alerts
Imagine this scenario.
You write an epic blog post.
It gets on the radar of a major influencer and goes viral.
You get a huge traffic spike.
Your epic blog post has no content upgrades or any other means of collecting new subscribers.
Buzz dies down before you even get a chance to do something about it.
It’s unfortunate, yes. But it happens all the time.
The simple solution is to create custom alerts for unusual activity on your website. This way, you are notified immediately.
You can capitalize on the positive changes and stop the bad ones from turning into a catastrophe.
That’s why this is one of my favorite features.
I recommend creating multiple alerts for:
Here’s how to set it up.
Go to “custom alerts” and click “manage.”
Select “+New alert.”
Configure the details and you’re good to go!
Making data-driven decisions for your business is no longer an option.
At least, not if you want to outcompete and outperform other players in your space.
With a tool like Google Analytics, you can track just about anything that happens on your website.
Best of all, this a free tool that puts loads of data in your hands.
You can stick to the basics, but you can also used some advanced tricks to give yourself that edge.
The other thing is that all this data can get overwhelming.
It can also water down your insights.
That’s why I recommend getting as narrow and as precise as possible. Use the advanced segments, customize your reports, and delve as deep as you can.
That’s where the gems are.
Last bit of advice?
Use the insights that you gain to double down on what’s working, change what’s failing, and strengthen your business all round.
What Google Analytics features do you use the most?
The post How to Navigate Google Analytics Like a Pro (Way Beyond the Basics) appeared first on Neil Patel.
via Blogger How to Navigate Google Analytics Like a Pro (Way Beyond the Basics)
So you’ve decided to step up your content marketing game and bring in some marketing professionals.
Congrats! This is a big step, and it can end up making a massive difference in both the quality and the quantity of the content you produce.
Which will be great, considering how important content marketing is these days.
One quick look at the graph below from MarketingProfs shows that blogs are anticipated to be one of the biggest content marketing tactics of this year.
Of course, being the savvy business owner you are, you’re aware that this process isn’t without its potential hurdles.
Making sure that you hire the right people is hard enough. How do you figure out how to manage those writers once you’ve brought them onto the team?
Let’s just say that things can get messy really quickly.
Fortunately, that’s where I come in.
I’ve put together this checklist to make this is as easy as possible for you.
As usual, you can click on any of the topics below and check out a specific section if it interests you.
But I strongly suggest that you read this particular article all the way through.
The entire point is that you understand how to hire and manage these writers, and I’d hate for you to leave with an incomplete understanding of the topic.
3 steps for the hiring process
1. Intention is everything
Every time I start talking about the importance of establishing goals before you dive into the digital media marketing world, I worry that people aren’t taking it seriously.
Let me be clear. I’m not telling you to set goals because it’s a convenient first step.
I’m bringing this up because going into this process blind is arguably one of the worst things you could do.
Especially when you’re about to hire someone, taking the time to step back from everything and determine exactly what you want can save you a world of hurt in the future.
Your intention won’t just determine what type of person you hire. It’ll also determine whether or not that person will successfully accomplish the goals you need them to.
In this plan, there are going to be a few key issues you’ll want to address.
Why don’t we start with the basics?
What kind of content will you be making? Determine whether it’s educational, inspirational, entertaining, or some mixture of all three.
It really doesn’t matter, as long as you have it well defined long before you interview your first potential candidate.
If you’re really struggling, here are some of the most popular tactics used, courtesy of MarketingProfs.
Next, let’s look at what their schedule will be. Will they be creating an original piece of content once a week?
Once a day?
Again, take a second to decide what you’d consider being a healthy content output.
How much will you be offering as compensation for the writers?
How often do you plan to pay them?
When do you want them handing in work?
These are just some of the questions that you should answer long before you conduct your first interview.
Remember that even if you’re planning on working with professionals, your intention for both the role and the person who fills it will dictate just how successful this entire process is.
2. Where to hunt for talent
Okay, so at this point, you’ve established a series of goals that you expect your writers to crush once you hire them.
So far, so good, right?
This next step is pretty simple, actually. There’s one minor hurdle, but we’ll get to that in a second.
Now that you’re ready to hire someone, it’s time to start scouting the talent and figure out who’s ready to be on your team.
But before we can get there, we have to go through hundreds, if not thousands, of writers.
Where should you go hunting for talent?
My first suggestion is always to speak with friends, family, and colleagues.
It might sound a bit cliche, but there are plenty of people in your immediate network who know someone who’d be interested.
Beyond that, reach out to other businesses that have featured writers you’ve enjoyed.
A great example of this? The Huffington Post. Not only do they have plenty of talented writers, but each article also gives you the chance to connect directly with the authors.
You could also scan your favorite sites and reach out to the writers directly, with Medium being a great example.
It might not seem like much, but you’d be amazed at what kind of people you can find with just a degree of separation.
Of course, you can reach out to companies that exist to provide you with the right tools for the job.
These agencies can do just about anything you need them to.
Maybe you want to start with just a few jobs, just to make sure things are a good fit. You can use a service like Creative Circle.
Services like these are typically used to give people smaller gigs.
But let’s say you wanted to skip the process of hiring individuals altogether!
In that case, you can reach out to businesses like BlogMutt for all your business blogging needs.
There are plenty of perks to working with an agency, as long as you pick the right one.
Another great way to find potential writers? LinkedIn! That’s where many marketing professionals are likely to be.
Which brings me to that hurdle I was talking about earlier.
You’re going to get plenty of people to apply for your position. It’s not that hard to find people.
You know what is hard? Finding the right people.
3. Preparing for and executing the interview
You’ve done all your research, you’ve got yourself a few hundred applicants, and you’re getting ready to hire someone.
There are really only two steps left. The first is reducing the size of that applicant pool, and the second is actually hiring the person.
When it comes to reducing the size of the applicant pool, there are a few tools you can use to save yourself a ton of time down the line.
First, check for grammar.
Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
Once that’s taken care of, consider the writing samples that people have submitted.
Do they have experience in your industry? If so, how many years have they been involved?
Is their tone a good match for the tone you’d like your brand to have?
And finally, the most important aspect: Is their writing actually good?
Determining whether writing is good or bad is going to come down to two simple aspects here.
Seriously, that’s it.
Now that you’ve narrowed it down, it’s time to start interviewing!
But before we get caught in the interview vortex and spend an entire day interviewing people, let’s take a moment to think about the interview process itself.
Do you remember the last time you were interviewing for a job?
If I had to take a guess, I’d say that you were a bit nervous but eager to make the best impression possible, right?
Well, guess what? Things haven’t changed.
Just typing in the phrase “how to interview well” on Google brings up 271,000,000 results.
The people you interview will be armed with every trick in the book to make sure they’re making a dynamite first impression.
That’s not to say they’re vain people or anything. They just don’t want to make a bad first impression.
But remember that list of goals we made way back in the first section? Well, this is where it’s really going to come in handy.
Instead of getting caught up in how much you like a particular person during the interview process, focus on reading the questions you’ve prepared.
The information you gain through those questions will give you much more to work with than simply a gut feeling you got after chatting for 15 minutes on Skype.
3 steps for the management process
1. Communication determines success
Hey, you just hired your first writer!
And assuming you followed my guidelines, you probably ended up with quite a solid writer on your team.
But I’ve got some bad news. The hiring part is actually the easiest part of this entire process.
Here’s the good news. As long as you follow these next three guidelines, you’ll be in good shape.
The first step to managing a team of writers, or any team for that matter, is mastering the art of communication.
Let me be the first to say that responding to emails constantly is a major pain, and my heart goes out to everyone that wakes up to urgent work emails.
That being said, that’s typically how these situations begin.
Even if you’ve armed your writers with a style guide as thorough as the one The Economist uses, there are bound to be situations where they need your guidance.
Believe me, they take no enjoyment in emailing you constantly. It’s mostly because they want to be sure you’re getting what you want.
Once your writers have been working with you for a while, they’ll email you less frequently.
Assuming that you hired someone who’s actually a professional, they should be able to pick up the tone that your brand is going for pretty quickly.
Which is great, since it means that you’ll be able to worry less about the execution of the content and focus more on which ideas your team of writers should be working on.
Even so, what’s important to keep in mind is that you should still try to reply quickly to your writers.
One of the reasons that a tool like Slack is so powerful is that it supports efficient workflow by removing as many communication barriers as possible.
In Slack, you can send out everything from major announcements to minor edits. Plus, you can instantly send files and images to your team.
Not only will this ensure that the content is finished as soon as possible, but it will also guarantee that there are no miscommunications about what the content should look like.
And believe me, there’s nothing more frustrating (for both parties) than for the writer to have to start over from scratch because they didn’t understand exactly what they should be doing.
But good communication is about more than just speedy replies.
2. Feedback should be consistent
As your writer creates content, you should help them tweak it.
Simple. It ensures that the piece of content they’re working on will be that much better.
Plus, it gives them even deeper insight into the type of content you want to see in the future.
Honestly? Most of the frustration in editorial situations can be summed up in one phrase.
Radio silence on either side for extended periods of time can be a bit of an issue.
Okay, more than just a bit.
And speaking of consistency, the feedback that you give your writers should be pretty consistent.
I’m not just talking about the timing of it.
If you want to avoid any potential confusion between you and your team of writers, tools like Trello can be incredibly useful.
Trello provides two major benefits that can boost productivity with your writing team.
And that last part is important because you need to be sure that the feedback you’re giving is easy to understand and consistent.
There’s no easier way to frustrate your new writer than by telling them to do one thing today and then tomorrow telling them not to do it.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with evolving as a business and wanting to be sure that it shows in your content.
The issue is when your writer isn’t sure about what the brand is supposed to be anymore.
This is exactly why we clearly defined your goals earlier. This ensures the feedback that you give your writers matches up perfectly with the well-established objectives.
Aside from being a frustrating experience, being unclear about what you want will also make it impossible for your writers to deliver satisfactory work.
3. Understand that delegating means letting go
Remember way back in the first section of this article where I said that your intention will dictate the overall success of this entire project?
Well, this is where everything you’ve done comes together.
If you’ve done everything correctly, your writer should be just about ready to handle the vast majority of the creative process.
You’ve made sure to hire people who are a good fit for your business.
You’ve created a style guide that emphasizes the importance of telling compelling stories.
You even prepared goals that have helped inform the feedback you’ve given them.
Now you’re ready for the final step: embracing the nature of delegation and trusting your writers to execute.
You hired them because of their skill, right? I know it’s hard to take a step back and let someone else handle it, but this is part of the practice.
If your writers have questions, they can send you emails. But if you’ve done your job properly, you shouldn’t be getting too many of those.
Putting together a team of writers can seem pretty intimidating at first glance.
There’s worry about compatibility, skill level, compensation, and plenty of other issues that can come up.
You’ll never be able to anticipate everything. The bigger your team is, the more likely it is that you’ll always have a fire to put out.
But you can take steps now to prevent the situation from ever getting too out of hand.
Clearly establish guidelines and goals, and figure out what you want this operation to look like.
Once you’ve handled that, start scouting for talent and find potential candidates.
Narrow down the applicant pool, and get your questions ready for the interviews.
Once you’ve hired someone, make sure that speedy communication is the norm.
The feedback you’re giving them should also be consistent, both when it comes to timing and when it comes to the message you’re delivering.
And finally, you’ll need to learn to embrace the nature of delegation and let your team of writers do what they do best.
If you’re able to pull all that off, then you and your content marketing efforts are in good shape.
In no time at all, your team of highly-skilled marketing professionals will increase the quality and quantity of your content in a way you’ve never seen before.
Have you ever added a writer to your team? What’s your opinion on delegating content creation?
The post How to Hire and Manage Freelance Writers and Marketing Professionals appeared first on Neil Patel.
via Blogger How to Hire and Manage Freelance Writers and Marketing Professionals
If there is one app that I find myself opening more and more frequently, it’s Instagram.
The attractive images and videos provide a respite from a lot of the content on other social networks.
I’m not alone.
Instagram is growing at quite a clip.
Today, it has over 700 million active users. At the rate it’s going, it will soon reach the billion mark that other platforms have reached, such as Facebook (its parent company) and Whatsapp.
When people thought that Snapchat would usurp Instagram, Instagram launched Stories.
200 million stories are shared per day, according to Facebook, and a lot of people are biting their nails over at Snapchat.
Instagram is not just pretty — it’s lucrative.
With high engagement rates and people with massive audiences, Instagram has reinforced the notion of influencers.
If you’re hoping to gain followers on Instagram, you have to create content that stands out.
That’s not easy to do.
Instagram is now home to the world’s top photographers, models, and celebrities.
Kendall Jenner has 82 million followers.
To put that in perspective, The New York Times has a circulation of under 1 million on weekdays, with 2 million digital subscribers.
The Instagram potential, therefore, is enormous.
How can you reap the rewards for yourself?
In this article, I’m going to show you how to use 6 apps to enhance your Instagram pictures and videos so that you can have content that breaks out and catches people’s attention.
But first, I want to explain why you should be enhancing your pictures and videos.
Why you should be enhancing your Instagram pictures and videos
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you are probably not a professional photographer.
If you were, you wouldn’t need my help understanding how different apps work.
Professional photographers do a lot of work with their equipment — equipment that’s out of most regular people’s price range.
Professional photographers also travel to places to captures extraordinary shots.
Take Alex Strohl. He frequently contributes to National Geographic.
You can see why.
But you probably aren’t hiking in the Pyrenees on a daily basis, which brings me to the first reason why you should enhance your Instagram pictures and videos:
Reason 1. Your photos just aren’t that interesting by themselves.
I’m not saying that your photos aren’t interesting or that you aren’t interesting.
I’m saying that compared to the other content that’s being shared on Instagram, it’s very hard to compete on the subject matter.
Photos of you and your daily life are interesting to your friends who follow you.
Those photos are not very interesting to other people, though, because they don’t know you.
When you look at the people who have large audiences, they are almost all very attractive or very skilled at taking photos of images that make people dream.
Here is the list of the people with the most followers on Instagram:
Selena Gomez could post a picture of her coffee and get 1 million likes. That’s because she has die-hard fans who love her for her music and persona.
You are trying to attract followers on Instagram who don’t know you.
You need to make your images super impactful and pretty.
The way to do that is by enhancing your photos.
Reason 2. Photography has rules.
Photography is a real profession with various rules and best practices that take years to master such as:
A lot of these things, like exposure and shutter speed, are highly technical.
What’s more, these options aren’t always available for adjustment on your smartphone.
Only advanced cameras will let you play with different settings to elicit certain effects the moment an image is taken.
If you’re shooting with a smartphone, you have no choice but to use an app to take your photo from OK to excellent.
Reason 3. You need a consistent graphic and visual style to gain followers.
When people follow you, they do it for a reason.
That reason is often the first bit of content that drew them in. Then, they might come to your profile to see what else you’ve shared.
Because they don’t know what to expect.
Look at the Instagram profile of Teresa C Freitas. Her style of soft pastel colors and open spaces is consistent and attractive.
Having a coherent graphic style is a great way to get people to follow you. Once they see that you consistently post content that they find attractive, they will immediately follow you because they want to receive more content.
Apps can help you to develop a consistent graphic appeal. Some will even let you save combinations of settings so you can rapidly apply them to future images.
Now that you understand why enhancing your Instagram pictures and videos is so important, let’s take a look at some of the best apps to do just that.
6 Apps to enhance your Instagram pictures and videos
App 1. Snapseed
It’s the go-to reference and one of the highest rated image-editing apps out there. Snapseed is a free, fully functional app that lets you do all kinds of things to make your images magnificent.
To get started, click anywhere on the home screen to open an image.
I’ll use a picture of a little stream in a forest that I recently took.
All of the editing options are under the button at the bottom right of your screen. Click on it.
Here you can see all of the different options divided into a menu of three parts. First, there are the editing features.
I’m going to use the crop function first so that I can optimize for Instagram’s square format.
I select the square option from the bottom menu where you could choose other pre-determined formats or crop freely.
I want to point your attention to the vertical lines (which I’ve indicated with pink arrows).
Remember earlier when I talked about the rule of thirds? Well, in photography, those are the lines that are most attractive and harmonious.
If you have a horizon, for example, it should be along one of the horizontal thirds. If you are taking a portrait, the person’s eyes should be on one of the intersections of the third lines.
Snapseed makes it easy to see where you should be focusing your cropping to get the best possible photo.
Once the photo is cropped, I’m going to tune the image.
The next part is a little tricky if you’ve never used Snapseed before. In order to select the option that you’d like to tune, you need to touch the image with your finger and scroll up or down. That will open the menu.
Stop scrolling on the option you want. I’d like to tune the saturation for this example.
To adjust, scroll to the right and left. If you scroll right, you will increase the saturation. You can see the level on the top of your screen.
If you scroll to the left you will decrease your saturation.
All of the settings work like this in Snapseed, so remember that you scroll up and down to change which setting you’re adjusting and side to side to increase or decrease its effect.
My favorite option in Snapseed is the Selective editing. This lets you rework parts of your image without changing the whole thing.
Click on the Selective option from the main menu.
Then, click on the plus button on the bottom. This will let you select the region of the image that you’d like to adjust.
Click on the part you want to edit. I’d like to work on the tree on the right so I click on it to place the marker.
Once your marker is placed you use the same interaction of swiping up and down to move between the options. You can adjust the saturation, brightness, structure, and contrast.
Once you’ve selected the setting, you scroll side to side to increase or decrease the effect, just like we did earlier in the Tune Image menu.
In addition to adjusting the colors, light, and saturation, you can rotate your image.
It will automatically suggest a correction if there is a clear horizontal line that is not flat. Or you can control the angle of rotation that you want.
When you scroll down to the second part of the main menu, you get to more advanced options. The first is the lens blur.
The lens blur option can add depth and focus to your image, in either circular or linear format, by clicking on the icon at the bottom.
Then, you can move the center of focus around with the blue dot. You can expand or contract your area of focus.
And finally, you can intensify the blur effect with the side-to-side scrolling action.
There are also tons of different filters and effects that you can apply directly. Retrolux, Glamour Glow, Drama: all of these can be applied, and the effect can be lessened or intensified.
Glamour Glow, for example, brings you into a dreamscape. You can select different types of glow by using the options at the bottom.
This is only scratching the surface of Snapseed. I highly recommend trying different functions with different types of photos so that you can see the wide range of possibilities.
App 2. VSCO CamVSCO is a very popular option. It’s not just a photo editing app, but it’s also a sort of social network unto itself. Users can share their VSCO images with each other directly in the app.
It’s very similar to Instagram in that regard, as well as in their mutual functionalities.
To use VSCO, you have to create an account.
Once that’s done, you arrive in your Studio. From here, you can either take a photo (at the top) or upload an image.
Click on the image to edit it.
The first thing you can do is add a filter, and VSCO has a lot of them.
Horizontally scroll through the filters to see all of them.
The next option on the bottom menu is Adjust.
Again, you’ll find a wide menu of options by scrolling to the right.
VSCO is highly recommended for its ability to beautifully manipulate light. Here is what happens when you add more light to the shadows.
My favorite option is at the end of the same horizontal menu. There are actually two of them that do the same thing but in different ways: Shadows Tint and Highlights Tint.
These options enable you to adjust the color structure of the highlights or shadows in stunning ways that look as good as a template filter.
That’s a big differentiator and a great argument to use VSCO over the options native to Instagram
App 3. Quick
Quick lets you add text. Nothing more, nothing less.
Their whole goal is speed.
When you open an image, text is already added for you to modify.
Like the instructions say, double tap to open the text editor.
Write what you want. Then swipe side-to-side on the fonts to select the one that looks best.
Drag the text around to reposition it.
And finally, there is a very cool interface for selecting the color. Swipe along the colored line. If you move your thumb up while holding down, the color darkens. Move your thumb down and it gets lighter.
When you’re ready, the share buttons are a click away.
App 4. Tangent
I’ve shown you a few photo-editing apps and one for adding text, but Tangent goes in an entirely different direction.
You know all of those trendy brands using geometric shapes?
That whole world can be open to you with Tangent.
It’s not free, so you’ll have to shell out a few bucks. It’s completely worth it if artistic photos are what you want to create.
There are two ways to get started on the home screen. The left button lets you edit one of your photos. The right button takes you to a feed of original creations to get your creative juices flowing.
When you’ve got your photo loaded, it will ask you if you want a Fresh Start or to use a template.
Click on Fresh Start and you will arrive at the editing screen.
At the bottom, there are three options:
Click on the shape option. This is where it really gets wild.
There are tons of different options to play with here. The white shaded area is the element that I’m adding where I will apply a pattern. I can inverse the white shaded area so that it’s the inside of the hexagon.
When you’ve selected and adjusted your shape, click on the pattern button from the previous menu.
You get this view and an equally impressive array of graphic options:
The horizontal menu goes on for a while, so you should try out as many options as possible. You can pinch to make the patterns more or less dense. And the slide on the bottom controls the transparency.
The final step is to apply a color.
You can choose a solid color or one of the color filters from the menu.
If you want to add a different shape on top of your first layer, instead of sharing the image right away, you can click the Retangent button.
You can add continue to add layers.
And edit them too.
App 5. Splice
Now that you’ve got the different angles of photo editing covered, I’d like to show you my favorite app for editing and enhancing videos.
I’ve already shared how to create a marketing video with you on my blog. This is more for enhancing videos that already exist.Splice is much more simple and intuitive than something like Adobe After Effects or Final Cut Pro.
Splice is not only a video editing app, but it’s also a photo montage creator that will automatically build videos from a collection of photos.
It’s owned by GoPro, so you can trust that they know a thing or two about how to make awesome videos.
And it’s free.
Since we’re talking about enhancing videos for Instagram, I’m not going to talk about the photo-montage option, but rather focus on how you can use Splice to edit your existing videos.
Start by starting a new project.
It will prompt you to select the photos and videos you want to upload. I’m going to use my recent video about increasing email deliverability.
Here it is for your reference (and some Neil Knowledge).
There is a step that I’m going to skip since I’m not making a montage, but I could use this to add music to the video. Splice offers some prefabricated music tracks in different styles to accompany your video.
You could also upload a track directly from your iTunes on iOS.
I’m going to just skip this step using the button at the top right.
Then you come to a very important screen where you select the settings of your video.
Since we’re talking about Instagram, square is still the default format and the best way to ensure that people see your video as you intend it.
Splice will reformat your videos for you if you select the square option.
This alone is worth downloading the app since it’s one of the best free apps out there to reformat your videos for Instagram’s format.
Then you get to actually edit your video. The tutorial that overlays the first time you use the app is pretty helpful.
Basically, you’re going to see your videos in a sequence going from left to right.
Click on the part you want to edit, like the tutorial says.
The menu will pop up, giving you different options. The blue plus buttons on either side let you add media before or after the part that you are going to edit.
Click on Edit.
You will see the editing menu on the bottom of your screen.
The first thing to do with Splice is to trim or cut your video.
The trim option lets you place two markers: one at the beginning and one at the end of your video.
When you apply the trim, Splice will cut the beginning and end of your video off, keeping only the part of your video clip that’s inside your blue markers.
The cut option is the same thing but in inverse. You can cut out a part of your video and keep the rest.
Just adjust the blue markers to isolate the part you want to remove.
The Text option lets you add text to all or a part of your video.
Like the Quick app described above, there are a bunch of different fonts to choose from.
You can click on the effects button to change how the video looks by adding a filter.
This is what I look like in Sepia:
One of the best features is the crop option, which will let you zoom in on a different part of the frame. This is great when you have a cool shot but you want to draw people’s attention to something specific.
The last feature I want to talk about is sound since Splice lets you do a lot of interesting things with music and other noises.
If you skipped the audio step at the beginning like I did, you can always add sound later. Click the blue plus button to add a track.
Pro Tip: To spice your video up, try adding fun sound effects. You can download free sound effects in MP3 form here.
Finally, you can easily add a voice-over to your video. Click the red record button and you can narrate as the video plays for you on your screen.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that sound is an untapped territory for marketers.
App 6. Boomerang
No article about enhancing images and videos for Instagram would be complete without mentioning Boomerang.
If you use Instagram, you’ve definitely seen it. Basically, Boomerang makes a video loop that repeats.
To use the app, find something that’s moving and hold down the record button.
It’s made by Instagram, so the interface is super easy to use. You can watch the promotional video for it here.
It’s impossible not to have seen a few Boomerangs considering that the app has been installed nearly 100 million times.
As you can see, the apps available for enhancing your images and videos make the possibilities endless.
From developing an individual and unique graphic style to creating legitimate works of art, like Apple used to say, “there’s an app for that.”
The key is to practice. At the beginning, your photos and videos might come out looking a little bit too reworked.
Experiment with each app to find which one (or ones) are right for you!
Try adding pre-made filters. When you feel more confident, adjust specific settings to your liking, from exposure to saturation.
Add text overlays to help your audience connect with your images. Play with geometric shapes to add dimension.
Finally, don’t neglect video. Use apps to edit and adjust your videos before they go live.
All of these steps can help you get more attention on Instagram.
What apps do you use to boost your Instagram photos and videos?
The post 6 Apps to Enhance Your Instagram Pictures and Videos appeared first on Neil Patel.
via Blogger 6 Apps to Enhance Your Instagram Pictures and Videos
Founding and running a startup is hard.
I’ve started over 5 companies in the past decade or so and been a partner in others. It’s an incredibly difficult process.
I don’t need to tell you the stats by now. You’ve probably already heard them everywhere.
9 out of 10 startups won’t make it past the 5-year mark.
Surviving for the long haul depends on many factors, like your ability to raise funding and attract top talent.
Your experience plays a part, too.
Experienced entrepreneurs are 3x more likely to succeed with a new startup than an inexperienced founder.
That makes sense. The more practice you have at a task, the better you tend to perform.
I would argue there’s a fair bit of luck mixed in, too.
But you can help improve your odds of being one of the long-term survivors, even if you’re working on your first startup.
Below are some of the biggest and most common mistakes startups make. Don’t make the same ones!
Stop hiring the wrong people
When your startup is new, it’s absolutely essential that you hire people who will help you grow.
You can’t afford to waste time paying people who aren’t effective.
That doesn’t mean they’re bad people or bad employees. The wrong hire could still be a talented and committed person.
It just means they’re not the right fit for your startup at that moment.
When you’re scaling up beyond yourself, or beyond you and your co-founders, you need to hire people who match your passion for growth.
Hiring the wrong person could actually reduce your productivity and cost you up to $50,000.
So how do you make sure you’re hiring the right person?
It starts with the interview.
Top experts say you shouldn’t hire people who only demonstrate strong technical skills. You should be looking for problem-solvers.
Of course, they need to have solid technical skills, too.
However, it’s more important that they can think fast to solve tough problems. This is what will help your startup grow in the early stages.
Thomas Edison had a creative way of testing candidates’ problem-solving abilities before hiring them.
He asked them to eat a bowl of soup.
He would wait to see if they added salt or pepper to the soup before tasting it. If they did, they were out.
Adding salt or pepper before tasting it told Edison that the candidate made assumptions. They assumed the soup wouldn’t be to their liking.
Edison wanted open-minded thinkers. People who weren’t afraid to try the soup first to check for a problem before jumping in with a solution that may not be needed.
The early days of running your startup are similar to Edison’s research: you need problem-solvers.
Ask behavioral interview questions to assess how well each candidate solves problems.
Behavioral questions focus on past events. An example could be, “Tell me about a time you faced a challenge at work and how you overcame it.”
If they can’t think of an example, be like Edison and rule them out.
Stop having processes for everything
You don’t need to have documented procedures for everything.
Processes are important and good to have, but like everything else, they should be used in moderation.
The above image lists some examples of common office time-wasters, like interruptions, waiting for approvals, and data re-entry.
It adds up to a lot of wasted time.
It’s not that processes are evil. It’s just that they can stifle creativity.
Creative problem-solving can save your startup from financial ruin.
Don’t burden your employees with complicated processes that distract them from doing the work they need to do.
So how many processes should you have?
You need processes. It’s not the Wild West.
The trick is to continually be evolving those processes.
A process can be anything. It’s how your customers get billed. It’s how your team handles a new feature request or bug report.
You also need smart people and creative solutions.
Most of all, you need freedom for those smart people to create creative solutions even if they don’t fit into a nicely-defined checklist.
Encourage your employees to come to you with their suggestions to make current processes more efficient or useful.
Instead of doing away with processes entirely, focus on continually improving them.
Continuous improvement is exactly what it sounds like: always improving your operations to be better, faster, and more productive.
It’s also called the Kaizen method.
Toyota uses the process to improve their manufacturing.
In one plant in the United States, each employee contributed on average 8 new ideas to improve processes.
Even more surprisingly, over 99% of the employees’ ideas were implemented by management.
Imagine if you could make that many improvements in just one year!
Focus on solving problems first, then figure out a way to work that solution into your processes for next time.
Stop assuming that you know your customer
I’m going to ask you a question.
When was the last time you held a focus group?
Or even sent out a survey to your customers?
If you’re not sure of the last time any of these things happened, you’ve got a major problem.
You need to listen to your customers.
The best way is to straight-out ask people for feedback.
You could set up a focus group for your new product idea or a beta test group for your software.
Your beta testers could receive your product for free in exchange for using it. They then would provide suggestions and feedback on features or find bugs.
If you’re just starting out, you’ll need to do a lot of research to determine if your idea has a place in the market.
One online tool I love for that is Answer the Public.
You can type in a keyword and see all the questions real people have searched online for that topic.
For example, I typed in “content marketing” and I get the results below.
The questions are sorted by who, what, when, where, and why. They also include questions that start with “are.”
This is an easy way to find out the problems people are having or things they want to know more about.
To try it out, go to Answer the Public.
Make sure your country is set to the U.S. (or wherever you live) and type in your keyword. Click on the Get Questions button.
You’ll see the list of questions in a visual diagram first, sorted by who, what, where, etc.
If you prefer to view the questions in a list like the first screenshot I shared, click on Data at the top of the results page.
You will need to do more research than simply a few online search queries.
You should talk to the real humans who you want to attract and figure out what they like and dislike in products like yours.
Don’t assume you know what features your ideal customers want.
Take the time to do research and routinely check in with your customers. It will pay off!
Don’t try to serve everyone
Your target market is not “everyone.”
It should be a small segment of people who have a specific problem that your product solves.
For Crazy Egg, those people are website owners who want to see what’s working on their website and continually optimize it for conversions.
Crazy Egg isn’t for people who only want to know how many people visited their website or where they came from. Google Analytics tells you that for free.
Once you know who your product is for, marketing to them becomes easier.
You don’t just need to know what problem they’re having. You need to know everything about your target market.
Where do they live? Where do they hang out online? What’s most important to them in a product: time-saving, price, certain features?
You need to be able to answer those questions before you start marketing.
One strategy to make sure your product is a good fit for your target market is to build what’s called a “minimum viable product.” Then test it out with a small group of customers.
Minimum doesn’t mean crappy. Nobody wants to use a crappy product.
You need to build something that still delivers value, but that doesn’t have any extra features or “bells and whistles” yet.
It should have a clean, simple design, even if it’s not the final design interface you want.
Think of it like a prototype of your idea.
It should be functional and offer something new to the customer. Let them test it out, then use their feedback to refine your product in future versions.
That feedback can also provide valuable testimonials you can and should use in your marketing materials.
A good example of creating a minimum viable product is how GoPro cameras were invented.
Nick Woodman, who started GoPro in 2004, noticed surfers buying cheap, disposable cameras to take out on the water with them.
At that time, sports videos were filmed either far away (from a boat) or from land. You couldn’t see the action up close.
Nick noticed the surfers taking these cameras out with them to capture the action up close. Because the disposable cameras were cheap, the surfers didn’t mind if they got ruined by the waves.
He decided to make a wrist-mounted 35mm camera that was fully waterproof.
Its hands-free capabilities would be perfect for athletes who wanted to capture the action without having to hold a camera.
He sold the first model on QVC in 2005. It was basically just a camera strapped to your wrist.
The sales of that product proved there was a demand for it.
Nick later created the GoPro models we know now: rugged, digital, and able to record high-definition video. He also created accessories like chest and helmet mounts.
GoPro’s valuation peaked in 2012 at over $2.25 billion.
While 2016 was a tough year for the company, their cameras are still used by action-sports enthusiasts and professionals around the world.
Stop having unnecessary meetings
Meetings are a huge cause of lost productivity.
A 2015 study by Clarizen found that 46% of employees would rather do something else than sit in a meeting. Some of the things they said they would rather do included having a root canal, watching paint dry, or even getting a mullet.
They’re not just bad because people don’t want to be there.
Most employees spend longer preparing for a meeting than actually attending the meeting!
This doesn’t mean you should get rid of all meetings.
A popular way to keep everyone informed and manage projects is to hold daily stand-up meetings.
These are also known as “scrum meetings” or “huddles.” They come from the Agile project management philosophy and are commonly seen in software companies.
Daily stand-ups are done, as you might expect, standing up. This helps keep them short.
A stand-up should only take 10-15 minutes. It’s meant as a way for all employees to briefly state what they’re working on and whether they need any help from other teammates.
Stand-ups help everyone stay focused on the overall company goals.
They also help everyone feel like they’re connected to the team, especially if their jobs are done mostly alone.
Don’t waste money on things you don’t need
This one applies to everyone — not just startups!
You don’t need a big, fancy, downtown office with a foosball table. You really don’t.
Don’t give into the hype and compare yourself to other startups that have luxurious offices and perks like free lunches for staff.
Those things are great to offer when you can financially afford to, but offering them too soon could spell the end for your startup.
Remember: 46% of all failed startups flopped because they ran out of money.
It’s not only free food and office space that can derail your budget.
Hiring too many people too soon is a mistake that can drain your bank account.
You may think that if you hire more people than you can afford, they’ll build your product faster, which will allow you to attract paying customers faster.
This is a huge risk.
Hiten and I thought we were going to make much more revenue at first with Crazy Egg than we actually did.
We got rid of our free plan, expecting that more people would sign up for premium paid plans.
That didn’t work out like we planned.
Our first few months of revenue were only a few thousand dollars. Definitely not enough to support a team of employees!
Of course, Crazy Egg went on to become successful, but my point is that you don’t know what your revenues are going to be at first.
Don’t hire a large team thinking it will result in an equally large return on investment.
Stop pitching if it’s not working
If you’re trying to raise capital for your startup, make sure your pitch is effective.
If you’re not receiving any interest from investors, stop using the same pitch. Change your pitch deck or the way you’re presenting your product.
It’s also important to ensure you have a solid elevator pitch.
Ask someone you know to listen to your pitch. Make sure they don’t have any previous knowledge of your company or product.
At the end, they should have a clear idea of what your product does and how it’s different than your competition.
If they don’t, go back to the drawing board and create a new pitch.
Repeat this process until it starts working!
Like product development, you need to be tweaking your messaging and marketing often, too.
There’s no definite answer, but experts say your pitch success rate should be around 15%.
If you’re not reaching that, keep tweaking until you do.
Some common reasons pitches fail are taking too long, not being engaging enough, and getting too hung up on the details.
You don’t want to take longer than 20 minutes to pitch your startup. Consider that a rule!
As far as being engaging, make sure you’re telling a story when you’re up there in front of a room full of investors.
Think of it like a movie.
Start off with your introduction. This is why your team created the product.
Then talk about how you created it and the competency of the team behind it.
That all leads into your overall vision.
It could be something like, “To be the best website analytics and user experience testing tool on the market. Crazy Egg is easy to use and provides actionable insights for optimizing your conversion rate.”
Don’t get so into things that you talk about all the nitty gritty aspects, though.
Keep your pitch to the 5,000-foot view of your company. Investors don’t need to know the finer details, like what exact features will be in the next release.
You can always share more details if they ask questions or in follow-up meetings.
You should provide enough detail so investors know the key facts about your product and business model, but not so much that they forget what your vision is.
That’s the point of your pitch: to sell them on your vision.
When you’re starting out, it’s hard to know what to put the most focus on.
You want to get to market quickly so other people don’t beat you, but rushing to market too fast can backfire, too.
Wastage in your company can come in the form of time, tasks, or money. Make sure you’re staying on top of all three to maximize your startup’s chance of success.
It’s crucial to first focus on creating your minimum viable product. Act on user feedback to test and refine it before launching to the public.
Before you can even create your product, you need to know who it’s for.
Who is your ideal customer?
You also need to guard your time.
Don’t waste time on meetings that aren’t important. It’s much more efficient to hire a good team and let them have responsibility for their own areas instead of holding frequent progress meetings.
Building your team is essential to scaling up your startup.
Being frugal also has it advantages. You’ll rely less on investor funding and have more control over your product and company.
Don’t waste money on big offices or expensive perks until your revenue can support it.
The average investor is putting in 200-300% more funding than what’s really required to run a startup!
Give yourself the best chance to succeed by hiring quality talent, launching your minimum viable product, and staying on top of your finances.
Have you run a startup before? If you could go back in time, what would you have done differently in the beginning?
The post These Are the Things Your Startup Needs to Stop Doing Immediately appeared first on Neil Patel.
via Blogger These Are the Things Your Startup Needs to Stop Doing Immediately
Browsing through Google Analytics or any PPC platform can be overwhelming.
There are more metrics than you can count.
There are clicks, impressions, views, unique visitors, conversions, and of course, cost per conversions.
I could go on and on.
The fact is there are too many metrics.
And that’s a problem because a lot of them are pointless.
You can easily get hung up on all the wrong metrics. The “bad” ones don’t actually show you how successfully, or unsuccessfully, your campaign is running.
You need to be able to focus on the metrics that do matter if you want to track ROI properly.
Traffic is great, but what happened when that traffic hit your site?
Did they bounce immediately?
Even generating 100,000 visitors per month is useless if they aren’t converting and buying your products or services.
Here are six pointless marketing metrics to avoid at all costs. And then I’ll show you the ones I like to use instead.
1. Facebook fans and likes
It seems like every day I see another marketer or celebrity boasting about their follower and fan counts.
“I have 5,000 Twitter followers!”
Well, that’s wonderful. But do any of them engage with your content?
Do they give you valuable traffic?
Most people are enamored with the idea of having a large following.
But on places like Facebook, where organic reach is declining, it’s a vanity metric.
Organic reach on Facebook has been declining for a while now.
It’s gotten so bad that it might even be close to zero soon.
And if you keep racking up followers, it gets even worse for you.
Why? Facebook wants you to advertise on their platform!
There’s a correlation between the number of fans you have and what your reach is.
The short story? The bigger your fan base, the fewer fans you can reach as a percentage.
It’s almost like Facebook doesn’t want you to accumulate millions of fans and simply reach every one of them for free.
Here’s an example of this straight from my own Facebook page.
Currently, I have over 900,000 fans on my Facebook page.
How on earth did I get that many?
Well, here’s the truth: I advertised like crazy on Facebook.
I boosted countless posts and advertised my page with the goal of driving more fans and likes.
In fact, I spent over $400,000 in the process.
I spent that money on everything from fan page boosting, to post boosting, and general advertising to accumulate 900,000 fans.
And when I first started, it was paying off in a big way. I was driving over 240,000 visits to my site every month through free Facebook posts on my page.
Looks pretty great, right?
Getting 240,000+ visitors each month using free Facebook posts is an excellent return.
However, it seemed too good to be true because it eventually was.
That number quickly began to decline with Facebook’s new algorithm changes over the past few years.
That meant the value in having 900,000 fans was almost reduced to nothing.
Here’s what my Facebook referral traffic looks like now:
Yikes. Now, I’m happy if it even gets me 60,000 visitors in a given month.
Facebook fans and likes are almost meaningless with the new changes to Facebook’s organic reach.
Don’t waste your time accumulating Facebook fans and page likes anymore. You can barely reach your audience!
This once useful strategy of boosting your page and bringing in new fans doesn’t work anymore.
Instead, try boosting your current posts to drive traffic to your site, rather than boosting your page.
Keep using Facebook to sell your products and services, though, because we know that converts!
Just stay away from running page promotions to build up your fans and likes.
You’re better off spending that money in other places.
2. Total links
I’m sure this is going to come as a shock to a few of you.
Most people think that accumulating as many backlinks as possible will help them rank higher, faster.
That’s somewhat true. But it’s also somewhat risky and generally a waste of time.
You need backlinks in order to rank on the first page.
If you don’t have them, there’s a slim chance your post will show up in the top 10.
But that doesn’t mean you should go out and build links on every random site that you can find.
For example, most people will buy or place links on directory sites.
Like this one:
It’s a “.org” and has a relatively strong domain authority. So most people will see that as a huge win.
But that’s also part of the problem.
Google knows that the links on this site are extremely easy to get.
Google is obviously pretty smart. They know that when a site gives out backlinks like candy, there’s little to no value in those links.
So all those links you accumulated from directories won’t help you.
Let’s take a quick look at my current root domain metrics profile:
Now, you may notice that “Total External Links” is at 211k.
And you might say, “Wow, Neil! You’re a backlink machine!”
But when you dive a little deeper, it’s not the total links that matter.
It’s the “Total Equity-Passing Links” and the quality of those links.
“Equity-Passing Links” are links that search engines see as passing ranking value to your site or page.
Instead of focusing so much on generating thousands of backlinks, you should focus on getting high-quality links.
Getting high-quality links will have a much greater impact on your rankings than spamming your links across forums and directories.
Instead of focusing on the metric of total links, focus on your total high-quality links.
3. Traffic and pageviews
Unless you run ads on your site via AdSense, then traffic and pageviews are pretty much meaningless.
Don’t get me wrong, getting tons of traffic is great.
You get X number of visits, multiply your conversion rate of Y, and you get a bunch of customers.
If you want to increase sales, you can increase traffic numbers on the frontend or conversion rates on the backend.
The tricky part about driving new traffic comes back to quality.
New visits aren’t worth the expense if that traffic doesn’t do anything on your site.
What if they bounce immediately, or what if they don’t convert?
Then you’ve got an issue with irrelevant traffic.
Typical online conversion rates aren’t very high to begin with.
So why is it that we always focus on traffic and pageviews rather than improving our conversion rates?
If you had to tell me one reason why you still run your business today, what would it be?
Your answer probably revolves around making money. You want to turn a profit.
There needs to be a positive ROI at the end of the day.
It can be exciting to see your Analytics dashboard lighting up with traffic:
But where is that traffic going? Do you have ways to capture those leads?
Or are they coming to your site only to leave without giving you their precious digits?
If you get all that traffic, but your conversions are low then what’s the point?
Remember, unless you’re running AdSense ads on your site, traffic shouldn’t always be your top priority.
Instead, focus on trying to increase your conversion rates so that you don’t need to drive 100,000 visitors to meet your conversion quota.
4. Email open rates
Email is one of the most effective marketing channels today.
In fact, for every $1 spent, email marketing generates $40 in return.
That means email is the most effective marketing medium at generating a positive ROI.
It can even be double SEO if you play your cards right.
What could possibly go wrong?
For starters, there are billions of emails sent every single day. And that number continues to climb.
Email is still a popular form of communication. It’s still a marketing powerhouse.
With such a positive average ROI, it’s no wonder that people still use email as a major marketing platform.
Typical email open rates are still actually pretty good, too. They usually hover around the 20% mark.
That’s pretty great if you think about it.
Typical website conversion rates are only a few percent. So it feels good when you get 20%+ of your email list to open your email.
But when you peel back the layers and look at the steps it takes to go from opening an email to conversion, those joyous thoughts go straight down the drain.
Let me explain what I mean.
The average click-through rate for emails is less than 4%.
That means only 4% of 21.73% are actually clicking through to any links or offers you give in your emails.
But just because 4% clicked through to your post, it doesn’t mean all 4% will convert on your offer.
It’s a vanity metric.
It looks awesome on the surface. But when you break it down, it’s not really what it seems.
Instead, try focusing on improving your offers to drive more conversions.
5. Bounce rates
Your bounce rate is one of those metrics that people “sort of” understand. It can be hard to explain.
But the bounce rate is pretty simple when you get right down to it.
Let’s say that someone searches for “SEO Tips for 2017” and clicks on your blog post.
They browse around for 30 seconds, and then they click back to the Google SERPs.
That would be a bounce. They didn’t visit any other pages on your site, and they left.
Some people tend to think that this is devastating.
They think the bounce rate is the most important of all success metrics.
For example, if people aren’t bouncing you must be a genius, right?
And if there’s a bounce rate of over 80%, you might need to close the company!
Okay, that was a slight exaggeration.
But here’s what I really mean.
Bounce rates aren’t cut and dry. Just look at the average range of typical bounce rates:
That means if your bounce rate is anywhere between 20% or 70%, you’re in the average range.
And that’s not very helpful, at all.
That’s a huge range!
Your bounce rate isn’t set in stone. That means there are tons of reasons why your bounce rate might be high or low.
For example, do you get a ton of mobile traffic?
Then you can easily justify a high bounce rate without worrying about having bad content or ineffective landing pages.
Mobile traffic bounces at a much higher rate than desktop traffic. So if your business has mostly mobile traffic, you shouldn’t stress about your bounce rates.
If someone tells you that a 90% bounce rate is terrible, they might be wrong.
It all depends on the context of the bounce.
For example, simple goal-based landing pages are much more likely to have higher bounce rates.
Why? Your entire goal is to keep them on that page! So it would be bad to have a low bounce rate on your simple landing page.
That would mean you’re driving people away from the intended goal of converting on that page!
So stop worrying about your bounce rate.
Any single raw number can be good or bad. It all comes back to the context around each of them at the end of the day.
6. Time on Site
Time on site is another metric that marketers love to brag about.
And it’s another metric that can quickly become pretty pointless.
Why? Because it doesn’t mean that people are converting. It doesn’t mean people are buying your products or services.
When you sign in to your Google Analytics and see your average time on site, it makes you feel good:
But just like bounce rates, it can vary heavily by industry, content, and page type.
So simply saying that “you have a low time on site/page” doesn’t make any sense.
Let me give you an example. Just check out the Slack home page.
Browse around the homepage for just 10 seconds, and you’ll see that it’s a short homepage.
It might only take you a few seconds to explore.
The goal here isn’t to get you to spend a lot of time on the page. Instead, they want you signing up ASAP!
So their average time on site is going to be much lower than a long-form homepage like HubSpot.
Again, you have to put this data into context!
If you have a super-short landing page like Crazy Egg:
You can obviously expect the time on site to be drastically lower than a blog post on Kissmetrics.
Each blog post might be a few thousand words. People might take five or ten minutes to read each one.
Time on site doesn’t tie back to the number one metric you should be focusing on: ROI.
It doesn’t matter if your time on site is 45 minutes or 5 minutes or even less.
As long as you’re converting customers, you shouldn’t be focusing on pointless metrics like time on site!
When you fire up Google Analytics or your favorite marketing analysis tool, you get bombarded with vanity metrics.
Things like pageviews, email open rates, time on site, and more look fun on the surface.
You can’t help but feel extreme joy at your perceived success.
25% email open rate? Let’s have a party!
But in reality, their beauty is only skin deep.
These metrics are pointless, and you should be avoiding them at all costs.
They aren’t always an accurate measure of your success. They aren’t a leading indicator like conversions and cost per acquisition.
They don’t tell you the end goal.
Did you make money on that sale? Was the cost per lead too high or was it low?
These are the metrics you need to focus on instead. Tweaking your cost per lead can grow your profits massively if you do it right.
Most of these other metrics are misleading in comparison.
You’ll often read a blog post that says the industry bounce rate is lower than yours.
But that number has no context.
Is it a landing page? If so, you should want your bounce rate to be high to keep people on that page.
And in that case, the time on site should be equally low.
You know what? Your bounce rate and time on site might be well below the “industry average.”
All that matters at the end of the day is whether you’re producing higher-than-average conversions and revenue.
Don’t fall for these other misleading marketing metrics. They’ll only knock you off course.
Instead, keep your eye on the most important prize. Stay focused on what truly matters.
What are your favorite marketing metrics to measure over time?
The post 6 Pointless Marketing Metrics to Avoid at All Costs appeared first on Neil Patel.
via Blogger 6 Pointless Marketing Metrics to Avoid at All Costs
You know the old expression, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps?”
It applies to your startup, too.
Bootstrapping your startup means growing your business with little or no venture capital or outside investment. It means relying on your own savings and revenue to operate and expand.
It’s not easy to do, but it’s incredibly rewarding.
When Hiten and I started Crazy Egg, we thought we could get funding right away.
We were wrong.
Hiten and I ended up bootstrapping Crazy Egg ourselves to the tune of about $500,000 before we ever got a funding deal.
We pitched to over 30 venture capitalists who all said no.
We eventually received a buyout offer of $6 million, but we didn’t take it.
Looking back, I wish we had. But we were young and idealistic and thought we could do better.
We grew Crazy Egg into a profitable business, but it took many years.
However, using what we learned about bootstrapping ourselves, we were able to raise $10 million in venture funding for KISSmetrics, our second company.
But when KISSmetrics came out, a bootstrapped startup called MixPanel was able to out-market us. That’s when I really noticed the importance of being able to respond quickly to change.
Today I’m going to share some valuable lessons we learned while bootstrapping Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics that you can apply to your own startup.
Let’s dive in.
Sell services first
If you have a great idea for an app, but you aren’t a developer, you need a creative way of raising money to produce your idea.
According to Fundable, the majority of startups are bootstrapped. In other words, they’re funded by the founder or co-founders.
A relatively easy way to do this is to sell your consulting or freelance services first.
I say “relatively easy” because it’s still not easy!
But it’s possible.
Jon Westernberg the founder of Creatomic, is on track to make $20,000 per month with his agency. This is because he started selling writing services first.
He knew he needed to earn $3,000 per month to start the development of his marketing platform.
He created a sub-brand of his business targeted to one vertical (real estate) and cold-pitched real estate agents on his email writing service.
Out of 500 pitches, he received 63 replies, which turned into 8 customers.
That got him to the $3,000-per-month mark he wanted. He re-invested all the profit from that into building his agency.
That’s a bootstrapped startup!
I did the same thing when I was starting out. I was able to reinvest the money I earned through SEO consulting into my business.
Even though my first startup failed, I learned valuable lessons that helped the next ones succeed.
I highly urge anyone who’s interested in founding a startup raise funds themselves by selling consulting or freelance services.
It’s estimated that 35% of America’s current workforce are freelancers.
79% of those freelancers said they’re more satisfied working for themselves than at a traditional job.
Freelancing is on the rise. By 2020, experts say that up to half of the American workforce could be freelancers.
Popular freelance careers are in graphic design, web development, writing, and IT consulting. Don’t let that limit you if you don’t fall into one of those.
As long as you market your services well, you can be successful at freelancing.
Choose a good co-founder
I don’t mean that they should have the same skills as you!
Hiten and I have founded multiple companies together, most notably Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics. We each handle different aspects of them, which works out well.
Hiten handles all the management, team building, and product development.
I handle sales and marketing.
We didn’t define our roles clearly at first. As time went on and our team grew, I realized I wasn’t good at managing employees.
Hiten gladly took that on, and he’s much better at it.
A good pair of co-founders work well together, and each brings something unique to the table.
In a 2015 study of Inc. CEOs, 68% said that their team of founding partners remained working at their startups.
Interestingly, 43% of the survey respondents said that they founded their company with a close friend.
This was certainly true for Hiten and I, but I had no idea that it was such a prevalent practice.
Trust is a big part of a successful co-founder relationship.
You have to know the other person is as committed as you are about growing the company and being successful.
You’ll both likely be working long hours for little pay at first.
And if you fail, you don’t want that to disrupt your friendship, but it could happen.
Think of it like dating.
Starting a business means that you could be tied together for life, so make sure your co-founder is someone you could stand being legally attached to!
If you don’t have any close friends who would make suitable co-founders, you can search for one on sites like Co-Founders Lab.
Co-Founders Lab allows you to search for potential co-founders, advisors, freelancers, and other key team members using their platform.
Seek help from advisors
Even if you and your co-founder have different skill sets, it’s unlikely that both of you will know everything about how to run a company.
Advisors can help your startup grow, but there’s a downside, too.
Most advisors will want a stake in your company in exchange for their help and advice.signed a bunch of advisors to help us.
We thought they’d help us grow quickly. They did, but the problem was how we structured the deals.
We gave away a lot of equity and diluted our options pool. This limited how much we were able to grow KISSmetrics in the future.
This graphic shows how a founder’s equity gets diluted over time.
You start with half and half, which quickly gets sliced up like pieces of a pie as you add more advisors who are paid in equity.
Over time, the fictional founder in this graphic, “Ted,” ends up with only 25% equity in his company when he started with 100%.
It was our biggest mistake at KISSmetrics.
If you’re going to bring on advisors, make sure you negotiate their options well.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t hire advisors.
The ones we had at KISSmetrics were very valuable, knowledgeable, and helpful.
Our only mistake was not paying attention to how fast we were diluting our own equity in the process.
You also need to make sure your advisors are contributing real value.
Many startup founders appreciate the connections their advisors have for introducing them to good talent or professional services, like lawyers, but your advisor isn’t just a Rolodex.
They should be providing long-term guidance and help with strategic decision-making.
In the early stages of your startup, you’re likely wearing a lot of hats.
From product design to HR and marketing, it starts with only you and your co-founder.
But as you grow, it’s important to know when to start outsourcing tasks that you no longer need to personally take care of.
Hiring a full team too soon can lead to negative cash flow, and soon enough, you’ll be laying everyone off and packing up your own desk.
Luckily, the Internet has provided countless ways to hire help for your startup.
As I mentioned above, the freelance economy is booming.
You can find any type of freelancer you need on one of these platforms, from designers to marketers.
It may be tempting to outsource as soon as you have the money to do so.
I suggest waiting until you physically don’t have time to do the task anymore before outsourcing it.
This prevents you from spending money too soon, but it still lets you grow your startup when the time comes.
Thanks to these online platforms, finding a freelancer is quick and easy, so you don’t need a lot of notice.
Cut your expenses
If you haven’t already made a budget, do it.
You need to know what your fixed expenses are each month.
Fixed expenses are things like your rent, car payment, electric bill, and other things you can’t completely control.
You could sell your car, but you can’t make the electric company charge you any less.
Social media scheduling company Buffer is notoriously transparent about their finances. Below is a representation of their monthly expenses.
Your startup won’t be spending anywhere near this amount yet. Buffer has over 70 employees and over 1 million customers.
When you’re starting out, you need to keep it lean.
A “lean startup” is actually a term Eric Ries came up with.
It means creating a startup that acts fast but also acts on data. That means conducting research about your customers and creating minimum viable products to test out that research.
It also means taking a pass on the expensive office space and big salaries many venture-funded startups have.
When Hiten and I were at KISSmetrics, we didn’t take a salary for a long time.
Eventually, after we received $10 million in venture funding, we decided to start paying ourselves. Our funders didn’t set a limit, so we limited ourselves to $5,000 per month each.
We were living in San Francisco at the time, so that wasn’t a lot of money with the city’s high rent and cost of living.
It’s important to realize that a startup isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme.
If you’re just in it for money, you won’t get very far. It takes years to build up the business to a point where you’ll likely be able to pay yourself a decent salary.
If you’re very lucky, years after that, you’ll grow even more to reach a multi-million dollar valuation.
75% of startup founders are earning under $75,000 a year.
Repeat startup founders tended to pay themselves more. Even entrepreneurs who had previously started 6 or more businesses still paid themselves under $80,000 a year.
Depending on where you live, that’s either a lot of money or not very much.
Whatever your salary or budget is, get used to living frugally during the first few years of your startup.
I got used to not owning a car or wasting my money on things like games or the latest tech gadget.
I bought things that further my business and nothing else.
It may seem harsh, but that’s an entrepreneur’s reality — at least at first.
Invest in your brand
Okay, I’ve just told you to live frugally and not expect to have a lot of money, but now I’m saying that you should invest in branding.
Hear me out.
The value of a strong brand in today’s crowded marketplace is worth its weight in gold.
Your brand is what makes you different. It attracts new users and gets people’s attention among all the competition out there.
B2B decision-makers consider your brand an important factor when comparing suppliers.
I’ve written a lot about branding before. It’s so important for growing your business, especially to build user trust in the beginning.
It doesn’t need to cost a lot.
You can find freelance designers on the sites I mentioned earlier in this article, like Upwork.
Do a search for the elements you’ll need, like “logo design,” “website design,” or “email template design.”
You’re then taken to a results page of some of Upwork’s top logo designers.
Rates vary widely based on experience, location, and how many reviews a freelancer has. You can easily find someone in your budget here.
The really important part of investing in your brand is drawing in new users. With a strong brand promise, you can turn those users into brand advocates.
A brand advocate is a customer who is so passionate about your company that they willingly refer their friends and family to you.
They are powerful customers!
Referrals from brand advocates are 150x more likely to convert than regular leads.
Investing in your brand to create these loyal advocates is one of the smartest ways to spend your marketing budget.
Use content-marketing tactics to attract users
I’m going to recommend that you set up a content marketing strategy for your startup.
Big surprise, right?
Content marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach new people. 70% of consumers think that brands who create original content want to build relationships.
You can either produce your own content or reach out to bloggers and other content creators.
When we were marketing Crazy Egg on a shoestring budget, we contacted all the top bloggers on Technorati.
We offered them our paid plan for free. Many of them ended up writing an article to review Crazy Egg.
This helped drive a lot of new users to us, and it didn’t take any effort beyond sending an email. The cost of giving away a few free accounts was easily made up in the users they referred.
One of the most powerful content marketing tools a startup can use is to create an explainer video.
This is a video that describes how your product works and what the key benefits are are in 30-60 seconds.
Think of it like a TV commercial for your startup.
Here’s an example of Mint’s explainer video:
We created an explainer video for Crazy Egg and instantly saw huge results.
Conversions went up 64%, which resulted in over $21,000 of new monthly revenue.
Video is increasingly popular among consumers. 92% of people who watch videos also share them with friends.
Using video in your marketing can grow your sales 49% faster.
Of course, blogging isn’t going out of style, either.
You’re reading this, aren’t you?
Whichever tactics you choose to make up your content marketing strategy, make sure you’re focusing on what your users want. Create content that answers their questions and objections.
A 2017 study by Time Inc found that 90% of consumers want custom content. So give it to them!
Bootstrapping your startup is hard work.
You need to raise enough money to form your company and work on your product in the first place. This often requires freelance or consulting work to pay the bills.
But you don’t need a lot of money to start a company.
Some of the world’s most successful companies began with less than $10,000.
Hewlett-Packard was started with just $538 in a garage in Palo Alto, California!
That was a lot of money in 1936 when the company was founded, but that still equals only about $7,500 in today’s currency.
You need to find a compatible co-founder with skills that complement your own.
Or, you can go it alone, but being the only founder carries a lot of risk.
Seeking advice from seasoned pros is always a good idea, but it doesn’t come cheap. You’ll have to give up some equity.
You also need to learn when to do tasks yourself and when it’s time to outsource.
And while all this is going on, you need to maintain a strong brand presence and keep a watchful eye on expenses.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that you should tell anyone who will listen about your startup at networking events and in your blog and social media posts?
It’s really tiring.
I know because I’ve been there more than a few times.
Running your own successful startup is possible. I know that, too.
9 out of 10 businesses may eventually fail, according to statistics, but you can be that 1 success story if you keep trying.
Learning from failure will be your greatest strength.
Are you planning to start your own bootstrapped startup? Let me know in the comments!
The post The Definitive Guide on How to Bootstrap Your Startup appeared first on Neil Patel.
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