4 Old-School Marketing Tactics Making a Comeback in 2018

Online marketing promises a holy grail of customer acquisition where you can flip a switch and watch leads waltz through the door.

But that fairytale notion is becoming exceedingly rare and infinitely more difficult to achieve.

More than 60% of marketers say their Facebook Ads aren’t working.

So the try organic posting. But, Facebook organic reach is hovering at just 2%.

Social media traffic in general? It’s half of what it was just a few years back!

What about pay-per-click (PPC)? In 2018, the average display conversion rate is less than 1%.

Email marketing is great…

…if you can reach prospects through the noise of the 121 emails they get daily (not including promotional ones).

So, what’s left? Search engine optimization?

With 55% of marketers saying that growing their website traffic is their number one priority, it’s becoming more competitive than ever before.

More specifically, 61% stated SEO and building their organic presence as their top project.

Every single modern advertising method is going through the same cycle of conception, testing, success and inevitable saturation.

Meanwhile, we’ve completely ignored dozens of old-school marketing tactics, getting caught up in the inbound noise.

We’ve left them in the dust where “they belong.” But they’re making a resurgence.

Here are four old-school tactics that are making a comeback in this currently saturated landscape.

1. Direct mail produces massive average ROI

Did you know that the average American worker gets over 120 emails every single day? That’s just for work.

That’s not including the 49.7% of emails that people get, which is filed under their spam or promotional folders.

People are getting hundreds of them a day beyond just work.

And they’re sending 40+ business emails daily.

According to the Washington Post, the average person spends 4.1 hours every single day on their email account.

That adds up to more than 20 hours weekly.

Using their online calculator, you can plug in simple numbers and get estimates of how many hours you will write work emails for in your entire lifetime.

It’s safe to say the data is shocking.

Even 79% of people say that they check their work email on vacations.

I know I’m guilty. It’s hard not to.

So, why does all this matter for old-school marketing tactics?

Because it proves the point that email is more saturated than ever.

And it shows a clear distinction between work emails and promotional emails.

People are ignoring promotions because they are already spending 20+ hours weekly on just business emails.

So all of your outreach emails to land leads, prospects, and sales are barely getting noticed.

People aren’t checking them. Not when they have 120+ business emails to respond to.

Breaking through the noise is becoming harder and harder. A fool’s errand.

Sure, if you can do it, it can pay off big time.

But with the current amount of saturation, it’s time to think of different ways to get attention.

And with direct mail, you can do exactly that.

Direct mail? I know what you’re thinking, is this a joke?

Absolutely not. In fact, the statistics proving it’s worth will shock you.

Let me explain:

First, direct mail volume, as in the amount of direct mail sent, has declined heavily over the last decade:

Wait, Neil, I thought you were going to tell us good news?

While the decline in direct mail usage might seem like a negative, it’s the exact opposite.

Why? We’re trying to avoid saturation.

In fact, the fewer people sending direct mail, the better. It means less competition for you.

According to the DMA, direct mail is thriving still. Over 100 million adults made a catalog purchase in 2016.

And of those who receive catalogs, 42% read them. That’s a high open rate compared to emails.

Well, what about direct mail response rates? They average at 5.3%.

Compare that to email and PPC marketing that average at just 0.6%.

To add to its efficacy, 70% of people think that direct mail is more personalized than online interactions.

So, what about return on investment? The average ROI ranges from 15-17%.

You can bet that if you put hard work and effort into direct mail that you’d be seeing double that ROI, too.

Overall, the average response rate is 10-30x higher than digital efforts.

Don’t believe what people tell you about direct mail. It’s far from dead. While it may be outdated compared to online methods, the data proves it’s worth.

In a recent case study, Intronis, a cloud backup and data protection company, implemented direct mail efforts to reach big clients.

Why? Because Aaron Dun, the Chief Marketing Officer of the company was struggling with saturation.

He couldn’t reach the prospects he needed through typical marketing channels.

There was too much noise and too many competitors vying for attention.

Instead, he sent multiple direct mail pieces to each client in attempts to drive phone call engagements with his sales team.

Outlining his target prospects, he was able to ensure that his message was received.

The direct mail piece consisted of an Atari replicated unit, and a sticker saying “Intronis got game.”

Prospects who responded to the direct mail via phone or email outreach got pushed further down their funnel.

They were targeted for a second campaign, upgrading them to a new gaming system like a Playstation or Xbox.

Going even further, qualified prospects that were close to converting were sent $200 steakhouse gift cards.

It’s safe to say that they went all out.

But the result was worth the high cost of acquisition:

They generated a 35% conversion rate on their target outreach list.

With an initial group of 50 leads, they got 50% of them to schedule a 30-minute sales call with the sales team.

22% of the 50 target prospects converted into full-time customers.

Overall, their return on investment was 700%.

I know what you’re thinking: I can’t spend $10,000 on a direct mail campaign.

But let me ask you this: why not?

What if you generated a 35% conversion rate and those customers spent thousands with you over the course of a year?

Then your acquisition costs wouldn’t matter.

That’s exactly what happened to Intronis. Dun said:

“We’re willing to invest a little more in the acquisition of those customers because our expectation is that they are going to spend more with us. And, by and large, that has been the case.”

By focusing on lifetime value, they allowed themselves to spend more on acquisition, making a direct mail piece that would knock competitors out of the park.

And it clearly worked. Want to see the full story? Check it out:

This isn’t some one-off success, either. Conversion Fanatics, an SEO company, used direct mail to generate a 25% response rate and dozens of big-ticket clients.

Direct mail works and loads of companies are finding success with it.

You just have to get creative, think outside the box, and only focus on targeting big clients that would heavily impact your yearly revenue.

2. Use account-based marketing for big clients

Every marketer thinks they know “personalization.”

They slap a few [fname] brackets on their emails and call it a day.

But we all know that’s not real personalization.

Using someone’s name at scale is bottom of the barrel personalization. In fact, it’s just respect and common behavior.

It’s a weak attempt that customers see coming from a mile away.

Just because you’ve used their name doesn’t mean they will buy from you.

Not unless you use real personalization.

And data shows that the majority of customers prefer personalized offers.

Cookie-cutter marketing tactics won’t work in this saturated environment. And it’s definitely not going to stand out or build brand awareness.

Instead, you should be using account-based marketing. While it’s not directly old-school, it actually is:

Before the Internet, you had to talk individually to potential accounts. To woo them. To build real, one-on-one relationships.

And that’s what ABM is all about!

So, what exactly is it?

ABM flips the typical funnel on its head:

Where inbound marketing seeks to follow a buyer’s journey from awareness to purchase, ABM instead identifies targets beforehand.

You qualify prospects upfront, ensuring that you don’t waste money when your leads drop off further down the funnel.

You only target the best of the best and set yourself up for big wins and big clients.

ABM is a fundamentally different approach than standard inbound marketing campaigns.

With inbound, you are focusing on casting a massive net and roping in as many leads as possible.

With ABM, you focus on accounts as their own individual market.

This allows you to get extremely personal and build actual relationships with each prospect or target account.

Instead of blasting out email campaigns that aren’t personalized based on each prospect’s wants and needs, hoping to land a few percent, you send out individualized campaigns that directly tap into each account’s pain points for maximum impact.

Every marketing campaign you send is laser-focused on one account and their business.

Optimizely is a perfect example of this strategy in action. At a marketing conference, they unveiled their strategy of ABM and how they targeted 26 different accounts:

Using dynamic landing pages, they optimized each one for a different account. For example, in the image above, they targeted Microsoft as their own market.

Meaning Microsoft got a fully custom experience directly targeted to their specific wants and needs, rather than a generalized idea of those pain points.

Using that approach, they saw a 117% jump in account signups.

According to a survey, 97% said ABM had a higher ROI than other marketing mediums.

On top of high ROIs, 84% said it improved relationships between clients and their company:

While ABM isn’t exactly old-school, it’s built on old-school foundations of actually talking to clients and servicing their individual needs.

To the days when business lunches were key to success.

According to Marketo, the average returns for B2B ABM are huge. Using personalized campaigns for target accounts, you can expect 33% conversion rates.

Plus, your qualified lead gen rate will explode:

ABM is the go-to tactic that mimics old-school marketing with new-school efforts.

It follows a traditional model of a few key steps:

  1. Lay out your firmographics: what account demographics are most likely to buy from your business
  2. Find targets: identify businesses that could benefit from your product
  3. Produce content: create personalized content for each target account.

Once you’ve done those three steps, you can start to build real relationships that drive massive sales for your business.

Account-based marketing is thriving using old-school principles.

Combine it with direct mail and you’re on your way to building a huge business.

3. Attend a conference prepared for selling

Attending conferences used to be an amazing way to build connections that produced leads and sales.

It’s just like account-based marketing: you focus on a small list of people that you want to talk to in hopes of bringing in new business.

It’s old-school. It’s the classic way of business that’s all but been destroyed by inbound marketing.

But now when you bring up the idea, most people see it as a waste of time and money.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Most people just don’t do conferences right. They don’t have a plan.

They don’t have specific goals, objectives, and ways of reaching them.

Or they see it as too expensive. But remember:

Nothing is too expensive if your potential ROI outpaces your acquisition costs.

Spending $10,000 on a conference and business dinners is a no-brainer if you are likely to land five new clients, each paying you thousands a month.

By using a combination of direct mail, events, and telemarketing, one company generated a 300% ROI, landing 140 new clients.

HubSpot’s “unbooth” at Dreamforce generated 2,300 new leads and 362 product demos.

Attending conferences works.

You just have to come in ready and with a plan.

To start, begin by looking for conferences in your area.

Simple Google searches can net instant results for events in your niche:

For example, the first link gives me an interactive map of where the upcoming marketing conferences are being held:

It even provides a direct list of information including costs, direct location, description info, date range and website links:

Next, click on a conference that you think you’d want to attend or could attend for cheap in your immediate area.

For example, I selected the IBM Think 2018 conference in Las Vegas:

Directly on their website, you can start to look for sponsors and partners, giving you a clear idea of what types of companies will be attending:

With the sponsor list, I found an entire goldmine of company data:

From premium sponsors to multiple level sponsors, I can see exactly what companies are attending.

This single conference has hundreds of sponsors:

From smaller companies to massive accounts like Salesforce.

Now that you know exactly who’s attending this conference based on sponsors alone, you can start to research each company individually, seeing which ones are a good fit for your business.

For example, let’s say you have a SaaS tool. You sell heat mapping technology and want to land some big-ticket clients at this event.

You could use a site like BuiltWith, to analyze what software each company on that list uses:

Maybe they are even using your competitor.

You can then leverage this information into a sales pitch, undercutting them and potentially landing yourself a game-changing client.

Repeating this process of research based on your own company and product, you can identify exact targets to make connections with at the conference for big returns.

4. Pick up the phone and start dialing

In October of 2016, mobile and tablet traffic online passed traffic from desktops:

This historical change to the way we thought about Internet traffic has some serious implications.

Currently, 51%+ of traffic is now mobile and tablet based.

More than 50% of Google searches are done on mobile phones.

Almost all Facebook browsing is done with mobile apps, too.

The fact of the matter is, mobile traffic is exploding. And mobile searches lead to phone calls.

A new report found that 75% of phone calls to a business come from smartphones.

Mobile search is the main driver of calls out of any medium or source:

Now is the time to start picking up the phone and start dialing.

The old-school medium of phone calls is making a resurgence. And the numbers are positive.

That same report found that calls have, on average, 30-50% conversion rates. That’s virtually unheard of in most other mediums.

And current marketing technology for phone calls is outstanding.

One of my favorite tools to use to integrate old-school efforts of phone calls to online efforts like landing pages is CallRail.

Using CallRail, I can track each visitor on my site individually, generating a diverse profile of information from their phone number to location and their exact web session:

Meaning I can tell what pages drove interest.

Which ones sparked a desire to browse more.

And most importantly: what products, services, or content topics kept them on my site.

All of that data is invaluable in marketing.

It helps you sell with ease as you can quickly address pain points without asking tiresome questions.

By using CallRail’s Keyword Pool feature, every visitor on your site gets their own phone number, tracking their page views, keywords and interest:

With a tracking number, users that call into your business will be recorded on your dashboard with all of their information, too:

Now all that’s left for you to do is pick up the phone and start dialing.

Contact your customers and reach them on a medium that converts well.

Use your data to your advantage.

Knowing their browsing history will give you clues into their interests and even their funnel stage.

For example, are they a return visitor? If so, how many times have they visited your site?

Data shows that on average, users take 7-13 touches to become a lead.

Next, look at their specific history. For example, are they just reading your blog posts?

If so, they are likely still at the top of your funnel. They are becoming more brand aware with each visit.

If they start to view product pages and pricing or click on lead magnets, you can tell they are further down your funnel, nearly ready to convert.

Phone calls are a great way to connect with prospects.

In fact, according to State of Inbound, the most successful channel to connect with prospects is via phone:

And that goes for every single level of seniority in your company.

Phone calls can help you drive tons of sales, even in 2018.


Online marketing promises the world at our fingertips.

We click a few buttons, flip a few virtual switches and campaigns are live, published to the masses.

But soon, the traffic stops. Or it simply “doesn’t work.”

Why? Saturation.

As tactics start to become commonplace, they produce diminishing returns.

What worked five years ago doesn’t work with as much efficiency today.

You can’t run a banner ad and expect everybody to click it.

Meanwhile, we’ve all but neglected old-school methods like direct mail, account-based marketing and more.

But that’s actually a good thing. With everybody focused on inbound tactics, old-school ones aren’t as saturated as they once were.

In fact, customers are more receptive than ever to them.

To get started, consider running direct mail campaigns. They produce a 15-17% ROI on average. The average response rates are 10-30x higher than digital efforts.

Combine that with account-based marketing and you’ll be landing big clients in no time.

Consider attending a conference. They are still alive and well.

If all else fails, pick up the phone and start dialing. And most importantly of all:

Tie back old-school methods with new-school efforts like landing pages.

Sometimes, the old, forgotten marketing tactics can produce the best results.

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.


Does Buying Instagram Followers Work?

You might know your Instagram content is good, but imagine how much better it will seem if it looks like 10,000 people agree.

Whether you’re trying to become a social media celebrity or simply looking to spread brand awareness on Instagram, it can seem tempting to pay for your first couple thousand followers.

There are plenty of services available that allow you to buy 1,000 followers for the price of a small Starbucks latte. But of course, if it really was that cheap and easy, everyone would be doing it. So what’s the catch? Is buying Instagram followers legal and safe for your business? Is it a worthwhile investment?

Here, we’ve gone ahead and covered all the questions you might have about buying Instagram followers to give you a better idea of how it actually works. We’ve also explored the pros and cons, so you can decide for yourself if it’s a good move for your brand.

As a quick Google search will reveal, there are many cheap services you can use to buy Instagram followers. For about $6 USD, you can get 500 followers, and for about $10 USD, you can get 1,000 followers.

The vast majority of these purchasable followers, however, are either bots or inactive accounts.

When you buy Instagram followers, you’re paying for a number alone. Engagement is not guaranteed, or even likely.

In addition to buying followers directly, you can also pay services to strategically follow other accounts on your behalf based on your preferences (location, hashtag usage, account type, and gender). Ideally, those followed accounts will then follow you back.

With this option, your followers are more likely to be real people, but engagement is still unlikely. Since you can’t even guarantee these accounts will follow you back, it’s a risky investment. Most accounts won’t follow you back, and even if they do, they probably aren’t going to be long-term, loyal, or active followers.

If your priority is simply to have a big follower count, than these services can definitely help you. When your number of organic followers dips, these services even replenish your pool with other followers.

But remember the risks: these followers will probably never like or comment on a post, and if you’re caught with a ton of fake followers, you could ruin your credibility with your real audience.

Think of it this way: would you keep following an account if you saw that most of their “loyal audience” were inactive accounts or bots? I’m guessing not. It could seem deceitful, and lead you to believe the brand couldn’t get authentic followers through content alone.

And how helpful, really, are 10,000 followers that don’t engage with you? Engagement is key to how Instagram’s algorithm displays posts to users. Without likes or comments, your post probably won’t show up on your audience’s newsfeeds, and it also won’t show up on any Explore Pages.

Having a lot of followers could convince users to follow you organically, but it’s not a guarantee.

Users might notice you don’t have a ton of engagement on your posts, which could deter them from following you. If you have 10,000 followers but only four likes per post, it won’t take people long to realize something is up.

Without real followers to engage with your content, your posts are essentially hidden from everyone except your unauthentic audience. Plus, your fake followers won’t share your post on any of their channels. And they won’t discuss your brand in real life with friends or family, because, well … they don’t exist in real life (no offense, bots).

It’s also practically impossible to measure how well your target audience is connecting with your brand if a high percentage of that audience isn’t real. How will you measure posts that do well with your real audience if those bots and inactive accounts skew the ratio?

If you don’t know how well your posts are doing or what your real audience thinks, you’ll never convert your Instagram followers into real customers. And isn’t that the point?

Ultimately, if you pay for Instagram followers, you aren’t paying for quality, real-life followers. You’re paying for a blank number. And since Instagram’s algorithm is largely tied to engagement, not followers, buying followers isn’t a long-term solution. In fact, it isn’t really a solution at all.

Take the time, energy, and money that you would’ve dedicated to buying followers, and focus instead on building genuine relationships with a real audience. If your content is engaging and authentic, your loyal followers will spread the word and engage with your brand without needing any bribes.

Where Clickbait, Linkbait, and Viral Content Fit in SEO Campaigns – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

When is it smart to focus on viral-worthy content and clickbait? When is it not? To see fruitful returns from these kinds of efforts, they need to be done the right way and used in the right places. Rand discusses what kind of content investments make sense for this type of strategy and explains why it works in this week’s Whiteboard Friday.



Where clickbait, linkbait, and viral content fit in SEO campaigns

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!


Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about when and where you might use clickbait and linkbait and viral-focused content as compared to other types for your SEO-driven campaigns.

There’s a lot of savvy sort of folks at the intersection of SEO and content marketing who are practicing things like this right now. We’ve actually spoken to a few agencies who are specifically focused on this, and they have really solid businesses because many brands understand that these types of investments can produce significant returns. But you have to apply them in the right scenarios and the right spaces. So let’s walk through that.

Content investments

Let’s say that you’re a payroll software provider. Your goal is to increase traffic and conversions, and so you’re considering what types of content investments you and your consultant or agency or in-house team might be making on the content front. That could be things like what we’ve got here:

A. Viral, news-worthy linkbait

I don’t necessarily love the word “linkbait,” but it still gets a lot of searches, so we’re putting it in the title of the Whiteboard Friday because we practice what we preach here, baby.

So this might be something like “The Easiest and Hardest Places to Start a Company.” Maybe it’s countries, maybe it’s states, regions, whatever it is. So here are the easy ones and the hard ones and the criteria, and you go out to a bunch of press and you say, “Hey, we produced this list. We think it’s worth covering. Here’s the criteria we used.” You go out to a bunch of companies. You go out to a bunch of state governments. You go out to a bunch of folks who cover this type of space, and hopefully you can get some clickbait, some folks actually clicking, some folks linking.

It doesn’t necessarily have the most search volume. Folks aren’t necessarily interested in, “Oh, what are the hardest places to start a company? Or what are the hardest versus easiest places to start a company?” Maybe you get a few, but it’s not necessarily going to drive direct types of traffic that this payroll software provider can convert into customers.

B. Searcher-focused solutions

But there are other options for that, like searcher-focused solutions. So they might say, “Hey, we want to build some content around how to set up payroll as an LLC. That gets a lot of searches. We serve LLCs with our payroll solution. Let’s try and target those folks. So here’s how to set up payrolls in LLCs in six easy steps. There are the six steps.”

C. Competitor comparison content

They see that lots of people are looking for them versus other competitors. So they set up a page that’s “QuickBooks versus Gusto versus Square: Which Software is Right for Your Business?” so that they can serve that searcher intent.

D. Conversion-funnel-serving content

So they see that, after searching for their brand name, people also search for, “Can I use this for owner employees, businesses that have owner employees only?” So no employees who are not owners. What’s the payroll story with them? How do I get that sorted out? So you create content around this.

All of these are types of content that serve SEO, but this one, this viral-focused stuff is the most sort of non-direct. Many times, brands have a tough time getting their head around why they would invest in that. So do SEOs. So let’s explain that.

If a website’s domain authority, their sort of overall link equity at the domain level is already high, they’ve got lots and lots of links going to lots of places on the site and additional links that don’t go to the conversion-focused pages that they’re specifically trying to rank for, for focused keyword targets isn’t really required, then really B, C, and D are where you should spend your time and energy. A is not a great investment. It’s not solving the problem you want to solve.

If the campaign needs…

  • More raw brand awareness – People knowing who the company is, they haven’t heard of them before. You’re trying to build that first touch or that second touch so that people in the space know who you are.
  • Additional visitors for re-targeting – You’re trying to get additional visitors who might fit into your target audience so that you can re-target and remarket to them, reach them again;
  • You have a need for more overall links really to anywhere on the domain – Just to boost your authority, to boost your link equity so that you can rank for more stuff…

Then A, that viral-focused content makes a ton of sense, and it is a true SEO investment. Even though it doesn’t necessarily map very well to conversions directly, it’s an indirect path to great potential SEO success.

Why this works:

Why does this work? Why is it that if I create a piece of viral content on my site that earns a lot of links and attention and awareness, the other pieces of content on my site will suddenly have a better opportunity to rank? That’s a function of how Google operates fundamentally, well, Google and people.

So, from Google’s perspective, it works because in the case where Google sees DomainX.com, which has lots of pages earning many, many different links from all around the web, and DomainY.com, which may be equally relevant to the search query and maybe has just as good content but has few links pointing to it and those links, maybe the same number of links are pointing to the specific pages targeting a specific keyword, but overall across the domain, X is just much, much greater than Y. Google interprets that as more links spread across the content on X makes the search engine believe that X is more authoritative and potentially even more relevant than Y is. This content has been referenced more in more different ways from more places, therefore its relevance and authority are perceived as higher. If Y can go ahead and make a viral content investment that draws in lots and lots of new links, it can potentially compete much better against X.

This is true for people and human beings too. If you’re getting lots and lots of visitors all over Domain X, but very few on Domain Y, even if they’re going in relatively similar proportion to the product-focused pages, the fact that X is so much better known by such a broader audience means that conversions are likely to be better. People know them, they trust them, they’ve heard of them before, therefore, your conversion rate goes up and Domain X outperforms Domain Y. So for people and for search engines, this viral-focused content in the right scenario can be a wonderful investment and a wise one to make to serve your SEO strategy.

All right, everyone. Look forward to your comments below. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Blog SEO: How to Search Engine Optimize Your Blog Content

Search engine optimization is incredibly important for marketers. When you optimize your web pages — including your blog posts — you’re making your website more visible to people who are entering keywords associated with your product or service via search engines like Google.

But Google’s copious algorithm updates make this tricky. And today’s SEO best practices are all about relevancy and intent. Keep reading — I’ll explain.

How do you know what matters and what doesn’t? What are today’s blog ranking tactics, and what’s considered “old-school”? How on Earth can you keep it all straight?Click here to download our free guide on how to double your blog traffic and  leads.

Confusion is a common issue facing digital content marketers — and we want to help. In this post, we’ll cover how to optimize your blog posts for the keywords you care about, along with a few other optimization tactics you should keep in mind.

Note that this list doesn’t cover every single rule under the sun. Rather, the following 10 SEO tips are the on-page factors to get you started with an SEO strategy for your blog in particular.

SEO can be confusing. Listen as HubSpot’s own Matt Barby and Victor Pan clear things up:

HubSpot customers: If you want to see specific SEO optimization tips for your individual blog posts, click the bar graph icon on the far left side of the blog editor when you’re working on the post to access the SEO Optimization screen.


If you’re not a customer, you can use these tips as a checklist as you blog.

(Want to learn more about content creation, strategy, and promotion? Sign up here to take our free Content Marketing Certification course.)

10 Blog SEO Tips to Search Engine Optimize Your Blog Content

1. Focus on 1–2 long-tail keywords that match the intent of your ideal reader.

Optimizing your blog posts for keywords is not about incorporating as many keywords into your posts as possible. Nowadays, this actually hurts your SEO because search engines consider this keyword stuffing (i.e., including keywords as much as possible with the sole purpose of ranking highly in organic search).

It also doesn’t make for a good reader experience — a ranking factor that search engines now prioritize to ensure you’re answering the intent of your visitors. Therefore, you should use keywords in your content in a way that doesn’t feel unnatural or forced.

A good rule of thumb is to focus on one or two long-tail keywords per blog post. While you can use more than one keyword in a single post, keep the focus of the post narrow enough to allow you to spend time actually optimizing for just one or two keywords.

Why long-tail keywords? These longer, often question-based keywords keep your post focused on the specific goals of your audience. Website visitors searching long-tail terms are more likely to read the whole post and then seek more information from you. In other words, you’ll generate right type of traffic: visitors who convert.

2. Include these 1–2 keywords in specific parts of your post.

Now that you’ve got your one or two keywords, it’s time to incorporate them into your blog post. Where are the best parts of your posts to include these terms so you rank high in search results?

There are four essential places where you should try to include your keywords: title tag, headers & body, URL, and meta description.

Title Tag

The title (i.e., headline) of your blog post will be a search engine’s and reader’s first step in determining the relevancy of your content, so including a keyword here is vital. Google calls this the “title tag” in a search result.

Be sure to include your keyword within the first 60 characters of your title, which is just about where Google cuts titles off on search engine results pages (SERPs). Technically, Google measures by pixel width, not character count, and it recently increased the pixel width for organic search results from approximately 500 pixels to 600 pixels, which translates to around 60 characters.

Long title tag? When you have a lengthy headline, it’s a good idea to get your keyword in the beginning since it might get cut off in SERPs toward the end, which can take a toll on your post’s perceived relevancy. In the example below, we had a long title that went over 65 characters, so we front-loaded it with the keyword for which we were trying to rank: “on-page SEO.”

Search engine result link with a keyword-optimized title

Headers & Body

Mention your keyword at a normal cadence throughout the body of your post and in the headers. That means including your keywords in your copy, but only in a natural, reader-friendly way. Don’t go overboard at the risk of being penalized for keyword stuffing. Before you start writing a new blog post, you’ll probably think about how to incorporate your keywords into your post. That’s a smart idea, but it shouldn’t be your only focus, nor even your primary focus.

Whenever you create content, your primary focus should be on what matters to your audience, not how many times you can include a keyword or keyword phrase in that content. Focus on being helpful and answering whatever question your customer might’ve asked to arrive on your post. Do that, and you’ll usually find you naturally optimize for important keywords, anyway.


Search engines also look to your URL to figure out what your post is about, and it’s one of the first things it’ll crawl on a page. You have a huge opportunity to optimize your URLs on every post you publish, as every post lives on its own unique URL — so make sure you include your one to two keywords in it.

In the example below, we created the URL using the long-tail keyword for which we were trying to rank: “email marketing examples.”

Search engine result link with a keyword-optimized URL

Meta Description

Later in this post, we’ll dive into meta descriptions a bit more. Your meta description is meant to give search engines and readers information about your blog post’s content — so be certain to use your long-tail term so Google and your audience are clear on your post’s content.

At the same time, keep in mind the copy matters a great deal for click-through rates because it satisfies certain readers’ intent. The more engaging, the better.

3. Make sure your blog is mobile-friendly.

Did you know more people use a search engine from their mobile phones than from a computer?

And for all those valuable search queries being done on mobile, Google displays the mobile-friendly results first. This is yet another example of Google heavily favoring mobile-friendly websites — which has been true ever since the company updated its Penguin algorithm in April 2015.

(HubSpot customers: Breathe easy. All content created on HubSpot’s platform is automatically responsive to mobile devices.)

So, how do you make your blog mobile-friendly? By using “responsive design.” Websites that are responsive to mobile allow blog pages to have just one URL instead of two — one for desktop and one for mobile, respectively. This helps your post’s SEO because any inbound links that come back to your site won’t be divided between the separate URLs.

As a result, you’ll centralize the SEO power you gain from these links, helping Google more easily recognize your post’s value and rank it accordingly.

Pro tip: What search engines value is constantly changing. Be sure you’re keeping on top of these changes by subscribing to Google’s official blog.

4. Optimize the meta description, and use all the space.

To review, a meta description is the additional text that appears in SERPs that lets readers know what the link is about. The meta description gives searchers information they need to determine whether or not your content is what they’re looking for, and ultimately helps them decide if they’ll click or not.

The maximum length of this meta description is greater than it once was — now around 300 characters — suggesting it wants to give readers more insight into what each result will give them.

So, in addition to being reader-friendly (compelling and relevant), your meta description should include the long-tail keyword for which you are trying to rank.

Google result link with extended meta description

In the example above, I searched for “email newsletter examples.” The term is bolded in the meta description, helping readers make the connection between the intent of their search term and this result. You’ll also see the term “E-Newsletter” bolded, indicating that Google knows there’s a semantic connection between “email newsletter” and “E-Newsletter.”

Note: Nowadays, it’s not guaranteed that your meta description is always pulled into SERPs as it once was. As you can see in the above image, Google pulls in other parts of your blog post that includes the keywords searched, presumably to give searchers optimal context around how the result matches their specific query.

Let me show you another example. Below is an example of two different search queries delivering two different snippets of text on Google SERPs. The first is a result of the query “no index no follow,” and pulls in the original meta description:


The second is a result of the query “noindex nofollow,” and pulls in the first instance of these specific keywords coming up in the body of the blog post:


While there’s not much you can do to influence what text gets pulled in, you should continue to optimize this metadata, as well as your post, so search engines display the best content from the article. By creating reader-friendly content with natural keyword inclusion, you’ll make it easier for Google to prove your post’s relevancy in SERPs for you.

5. Optimize your images’ alt text.

Blog posts shouldn’t only contain text — you should also include images that help explain your content. But search engines don’t just look for images. Rather, they look for images with alt text.

Because search engines can’t “see” images the same way humans can, an image’s alt text tells them what an image is about — which ultimately helps those images rank in Google Images results. Alt text also makes for a better user experience, as it’ll display inside the image container when an image can’t be found or displayed, and can improve accessibility for people with poor vision who are using screen readers.

Technically, alt text is an attribute that can be added to an image tag in HTML. Here’s what a complete image tag might look like (bolding added for emphasis):

<img class=”wt-blog__normal-image” src=”image.jpg” alt=”image-description” title=”image tooltip”>

Adding keywords to your alt text may seem minor — and it isn’t going to impact your search rankings as much as other things on this list. But it is worth the extra minute it takes to change the name from “IMG23940” to something accurate and descriptive, like “puppies-playing-in-basket:”


Read this blog post to learn more on-page SEO tips for keyword optimizing the most critical parts of your website.

HubSpot customers: The SEO Panel will recognize whether or not you have optimized your images. Though these elements are not as important as some other optimizations, they’re still necessary (not to mention easy to add).


6. Don’t use too many similar topic tags.

Topic tags can help organize your blog content, but if you overuse them, they can actually be harmful. If you have too many similar tags, you may get penalized by search engines for having duplicate content.

Think of it this way: when you create a topic tag, you also create a new site page where the content from those topic tags will appear. If you use too many similar tags for the same content, it then appears to search engines as if you’re showing the content multiple times throughout your website. For example, topic tags like “blogging,” “blog,” and “blog posts” are too similar to one another to be used on the same post.

If you’re worried that your current blog posts have too many similar tags, take some time in the near future to clear them up. Choose about 15–25 topic tags that you think are important to your blog and that aren’t too similar to one another, and then only tag your posts with those keywords. That way, you won’t have to worry about duplicate content.

7. Use URL structures that help your visitors.

The URL structure of your web pages (which are different from the specific URLs of your posts) should make it easy for your visitors to understand the structure of your website and the content they’re about to see. Search engines favor web page URLs that make it easier for them and website visitors to understand the content on the page.

This differentiation is baked into the HubSpot blogs’ respective URL structures. If I decided to go to the Marketing section from this main page, I would be taken to the URL http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing. If we want to read the Sales section, all we have to do is change where it says “marketing” in the URL to “sales”: http://blog.hubspot.com/sales. This URL structure helps me understand that “/marketing” and “/sales” are smaller sections — called subdirectories — within the larger blog.

What if there’s a specific article we want to read, such as “How to Do Keyword Research: A Beginner’s Guide”? Its URL structure — http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-do-keyword-research-ht — denotes that it’s an article from the Marketing section of the blog.

In this way, URL structure acts as a categorization system for readers, letting them know where they are on the website and how to access new site pages. Search engines appreciate this, as it makes it easier for them to identify exactly what information searchers will access on different parts of your blog or website.

Get more best practices for URL structure from Moz here.

8. Link internally when possible.

Inbound links to your content help show search engines the validity or relevancy of your content. The same goes for linking internally to other pages on your website. If you’ve written about a topic that’s mentioned in your blog post on another blog post, ebook, or web page, it’s a best practice to link to that page.

You might’ve noticed that I’ve been doing that from time to time throughout this blog post when I think it’s helpful for our readers. Not only will internal linking help keep visitors on your website, but it also surfaces your other relevant and authoritative pages to search engines.

HubSpot customers: The SEO Panel automatically suggests linking to other internal resources on your website. Think of it as solving for your SEO while also helping your visitors get more information from your content.


If you’re looking for more internal links to add to your post but aren’t sure which would be relevant, you can click “Explore some internal links you might use in this post” for a list of recommendations.

9. Use Google’s Search Console.

Google’s free Search Console contains a section called the Search Analytics Report. This report helps you analyze clicks from Google Search, and it’s useful to determine which keywords people are using to find your blog content. Learn how to use it by reading this blog post written by my colleague Matthew Barby, and by checking out Google’s official support page here.

If you’re interested in optimizing your best-performing older blog posts for traffic and leads like we’ve been doing since 2015, this tool can help identify low-hanging fruit.

Line graph showing keyword performance on Google Search Console

A lot of content marketers struggle with optimizing their blog posts for search. The truth is, your blog posts won’t start ranking immediately. It takes time to build up search authority. But when you publish blog posts frequently and consistently optimize them for search while maintaining an intent-based reader experience, you’ll reap the rewards in the form of traffic and leads long-term.

10. Use topic clusters.

The way most blogs are currently structured (including our own blogs, until very recently), bloggers and SEOs have worked to create individual blog posts that rank for specific keywords. The result is disorganized, and hard for the user to find the exact information he or she needs. It also results in your own URLs competing against one another in search engine rankings when you produce multiple blog posts about similar topics.

Here’s what our blog architecture used to look like using this old playbook:

Flowchart of HubSpot's topic cluster SEO model

Now, in order to rank in search and best answer the new types of queries searchers are submitting, the solution is to use the topic cluster model: Choose the broad topics for which you want to rank, then create content based on specific keywords related to that topic that all link to each other, to create broader search engine authority.

Using this model, this is what our blog infrastructure looks like now — with specific topics surrounded by blog posts related to the topic, connected to other URLs in the cluster via hyperlinks:

A set of topic clusters for SEO

This model uses a more deliberate site architecture to organize and link URLs together to help more pages on your site rank in Google — and to help searchers find information on your site more easily. This architecture consists of three components — pillar content, cluster content, and hyperlinks:

SEO model using icons for pillar content, cluster content, and hyperlinks

We know this is a fairly new concept, so for more details, check out our research on the topic, or the video below.

We don’t expect you to incorporate each of these SEO best practices into your content strategy right away. But as your website grows, so should your goals on search engines. Then you’ll be able to do some link building to get other websites to link back to your blog!

Once you identify the goals and intent of your ideal readers, you’ll be on track to deliver content organically that is always relevant to them.

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This Is How You Tell a Story (and Other Things SXSW Taught Me)

I write a lot about creating an experience.

About humanizing. About authenticity. About telling a story. About being helpful.

In a marketing context, much of this boils down to the idea of your brand: about who you are, what you can do, and how that shapes the messages you send your audience, and how you send them.

And personally, I closely align all of those things with the idea of a story. A brand story, perhaps.

But what I’ve learned at SXSW is this: your story is just as much about what you aren’t as it is what you are, especially when you’re creating an experience for your audience.

Here’s how I came to that conclusion — and what I learned about how to tell a story.

What SXSW Taught Me About Storytelling and More

Brand Activation

At SXSW, there’s been a great deal of buzz around the term “brand activation,” which branding firm Cramer defines as “any campaign, event, or experience that enables your brand to engage directly with consumers and build a loyal brand community around your product or service.”

Which, coincidentally, is how I’ve always defined experiential marketing. Essentially, you’re creating a real-life, hands-on way for people to experience your brand — or, as the saying goes now, activate it.

And at SXSW, these types of experiences tend to run rampant — whether it’s from YouTube, Mercedes-Benz, Google, or an app for meditation (in this case, Headspace). 


Each one of these experiences seemed to center around a single phrase or keyword. YouTube’s, for instance, was the concept of stories — classic ones, like fairy tales, that were retold in its big red “house” (the “YouTube Story HQ”) by way of digital videos and interacting with them.

When users first arrived at the house, they were asked to blow into a microphone. Why? Because they were being inserted into the role of the big, bad, wolf from the story of “The Three Little Pigs” — and by blowing into the microphone, they would see by way of a video broadcasted on a screen above it what would happen to that little pig’s house.

(Full disclosure: I didn’t actually know what I was doing at the time and felt terrible for blowing down the pig’s house, even if it was just a fictional video.)

But here’s the thing: at the core of YouTube’s brand is video, whether we use the platform to view it, create it, or share it.

And by participating in this experience — I was activating the brand.

What isn’t necessarily central to the YouTube story, however, is the concept of fairytales — especially in the context of recent scrutiny its received for some of the content shared on the platform and how the company is handling it.

When the average online consumer thinks of “YouTube,” I would predict that the first associations that come to mind aren’t the tales of Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, or The Three Little Pigs. Personally, I think of makeup tutorials, hours-long videos of relaxing music that I leave on for my dog while I’m at work, and “Saturday Night Live” skits that I missed. 

But fairytales? Not so much.

Which is what makes what YouTube did at SXSW so brilliant. It took something that’s not associated with its brand and used what it’s known for to re-tell these classics in the best way the brand knows how to: by way of video.

This experience was as much about what YouTube isn’t, as much as what it is. At the center of YouTube’s SXSW story was, well, stories — and re-framing them in a way that aligned with the brand.


The keyword for this story was “smart.”

One of the first sessions I attended at SXSW was a talk given by Wilko Stark, VP of Mercedes-Benz Cars Strategy, on little-known facts about self-driving cars.

What underscored his points was the idea of automobiles as intelligent machines — cars that are smart enough to take care of themselves and navigate their surroundings in a way that allows passengers to carry out their day-to-day lives during the ride.


And that’s a key component of this story: not just the smart factor, but how it helps the audience.

It reminded me of something that Facebook Product Design Manager Tutti Taygerly said at a different panel: “Anchor on the core people problem, and then figure out, ‘What is the work?’ ‘What are the use cases?'”

Mercedes-Benz had quite a widespread presence throughout SXSW that went far beyond this talk. In fact, the brand took over a park in Austin to create an entire multi-installment experience based on the foundation of “smart,” in the form of cars, homes (in this case, a “Kasita”), and more.

But wait — Mercedes-Benz doesn’t make homes. At the core of its brand is cars: high-end, luxury, and often cost-prohibitive cars. So what place did the idea of smart homes have in this experience?

The “smart” part. Mercedes-Benz is building the concept of intelligence into its brand, whether it’s by way of autonomous technology or vehicular efficiency, the latter of which was made apparent in this somewhat compact but well-equipped car that I got to take for a make-believe spin:

Plus, it was just a really cool thing for the audience to see at an experience under the Mercedes-Benz name. So while this particular brand doesn’t build houses — it can build an overall smart experience. And to do that, it partnered with another brand — Kasita — to help.


Headspace is an app that provides users with guided meditations, mantras, and other calm-inducing experiences. It’s something you find on your phone, and experience virtually.

But at SXSW, Headspace brought that experience to live with its “Room to Breathe.”

It’s not always easy to bring something like a mobile app to life in a tangible, hands-on way, especially when that app is what Wired once called “incredibly ironic”: a digital service that’s meant to give us space from, well, our often over-connected digital lives.

Here, it made sense. For all the benefits of SXSW, it could also be described as overwhelming: a constant sea of music, film, panels, and brand activations.

But here, the brand was activated when attendees stepped away from the chaos and into a room with space to breathe.

There wasn’t anything particularly fancy about it. The room was small, and there were no big and shiny installations, with the minor exception of a projection screen that displayed guided mindfulness exercises.

Instead, there were small stations with mobile devices and headphones where users could read about different meditation exercises offered by the app, and choose the one that best fit their schedules.

And that’s exactly what the app itself provides: only here, it took place in-person in a nicely-decorated room that also hosted daily guided meditation sessions by a human, not a recorded voice on a device.

The moral of this story, I thought, was “pause” — which was in part reflected in the simplicity of the story the experience told.

The question I pose now is this: What’s your story?

In answering that, remember that stories have more than one character. And while they have protagonists, that central character is supported by others. 

The same is true of brands. Your story is about who and what you are — the protagonist — as much as what you aren’t.

And when it makes sense to include what you’re not in your story, that’s where your supporting characters come in. Sometimes, that’s a co-brand, or something new that might not be your primary offering, but still fits into your story and helps to tell it in a way that creates a better experience for the user.

Here’s to the occasional plot twist.

Using Email to Increase Repeat Purchases for your eCommerce Store

Getting prospects to convert to customers is one thing. But, how do you get customers to buy again and again after the first purchase? It’s more than just ‘nice to have’, consistent repeat purchases can be the difference between success and failure. This is where attentive, behavior based emails become important.

At Kissmetrics, we have a product that is built around the ability to powerfully segment your customers based on their behaviors so you can deliver the right engagement (ad, email, etc.) at the right time to the right customer and drive more repeat (and first time!) purchases. The better you align your messaging with actions your customers have taken, the more success you’ll have. This post focuses on email engagement, but check out our Connections feature which enables you to send Populations (segments) directly to Facebook and more.

So what kinds of emails should you send? How often should you send them, and what should they contain? Here are a few of the best examples of eCommerce follow-up emails and why they work so well.

One more thing – this is just a start. What are some of your most successful campaigns? Let us know below.

The Repurchase Reminder

Oftentimes, when you make a purchase on a website, they email you immediately after encouraging you to buy again. This marketing strategy is rooted in the idea that customers are likely to come back and purchase while your brand is still fresh in their mind. But oftentimes, companies send emails out immediately and when the customer (naturally) doesn’t respond, they no longer follow up.

If your repeat purchase numbers are flat-lining and your emails are stale, why not wait until more time has passed (depending on how often the customer uses the product) to remind them? Here’s a great example from Sephora, which reminds the customer to restock based on how much time has passed since their first purchase:

Sephora reminds the user to restock based on their past purchase. (Image Source)

Another creative spin on the restock email comes from Clinique. Since their data likely shows that women tend to shop online for beauty products more than men, they wouldn’t have as much luck sending a shaving gel refill reminder to men — so they advertised a refill reminder for him, to her. See how they did it:

An advertisement for men’s shaving gel — targeted to women, who are likely the ones shopping for beauty products. (Image Source)

We Miss You!

One alternative on the restock/repurchase follow-up email is tailored to the bargain hunter, like this email from Starbucks. There’s no better way to stay top-of-mind than with a coupon, and many customers actively wait to purchase until they get a deal. Knowing this, why not reach out with a discount?

This reminder from the Starbucks Store gets right to the point with a discount for customers that haven’t shopped in awhile. (Image Source)

Going Beyond “How Did We Do?”

For the customer who doesn’t have time to write up a huge review, but the company still needs their feedback data to work with, I present to you the Amazon 1-click review:

Amazon encourages busy customers to simply click to review the size of garments they’ve purchased online. (Image Source)

Of course, you’ve likely received plenty of emails asking for your feedback, and even some that go the extra mile by giving you a discount coupon, entering you into a contest and much more. But this one is noted for its pure simplicity plus its unobtrusive style. It doesn’t get in the way — one click and you’re done.

And speaking of Amazon, you already know that they’re the e-commerce leader simply because of how much they test, monitor, tweak and track everything about their site. One of the more famous changes was adding in the “Customers who bought X, also bought Y” feature. Now much more commonplace on e-commerce sites, this “Frequently purchased together” option often encourages greater purchase volume per customer.

But what happens when they don’t purchase all of the items together? Is emailing them about it a lost cause? Not exactly…

Frequently Purchased Together

Not all “Frequently Purchased Together” emails have to be a sales pitch. And if the customer didn’t buy them when they were originally presented, there must have been a reason.

Of course, the reasons why customers choose not to buy could be a whole other blog post in itself, but knowing what you know, why not steer the customer more toward educating them about the product add-ons or accessories rather than simply presenting them?

An example of a Thank You follow-up email from BabyFirst. (Image Source)

Since, in the example above, the customer is shopping for baby-friendly TV shows, the company naturally recommends a couple of DVDs that a baby or toddler might like, as well as a coupon and directions on how to get it for free.

The Window Shopper

With all of the email examples showcased so far, you’d need the appropriate data based on what the customer bought previously. But what if they haven’t bought yet, and are only looking? Are you out of luck? Not at all. Provided you have the prospect’s email address (a pop up that offers a discount emailed to them is a great way to collect more emails), you can still send them reminders, even if they haven’t added a product to their cart:

Recommendations on shirts and a reminder based on shirts and slacks previously looked at, from Calvin Klein. (Image Source)

Here’s another example that reminds the user of the products they browsed in case they want to take another look and don’t want to have to sift through their browser history:

An email reminding the user of the products they looked at. (Image Source)

*Major Tip*: Kissmetrics ties anonymous users to identified ones (aka: when you collect their email), so you can measure the average number of visits before someone makes a purchase and factor that into when you send them emails, serve them ads, etc.!

Use Demographics to Sell

As opposed to many of our other examples, these emails do not rely on previous purchases. They start fresh with new product recommendations based on the demographics.
For example – has it been raining in Minnesota for the past few days? Find all your prospects located in Minnesota and send them an email showcasing your umbrellas.

Many of your prospects are likely either searching for one because a) they don’t have one or b) the one they have is old, has holes, etc.

This is just a take on what we said earlier – good marketing is the right message at the right time to the right person.

This is a tactic used by some of Kissmetrics’ most successful customers – it might seem simple, but people in different regions shop differently and putting a little effort into making that obvious in your email campaigns will go a long way.

New Product Recommendations Based on Past Purchases

Finally, we have the “new product recommendations” email. Rather than always notifying customers every time you have new items in stock (and hoping they might like some of them), why not segment the new product announcement emails based on what the customer has purchased previously? They’re much more likely to buy, and they’ll welcome the added personalized attention!

Despite the different products and industries, all of these emails have one major thing in common — and that is a dedicated — almost fanatical attention to customer orders, browsing habits and preferences. And although you may be doing a great deal of e-commerce by email, there are still, as these emails demonstrate, new ideas and approaches that can be capitalized on.

About Kissmetrics

Kissmetrics is a data-driven segmentation and engagement solution built to provide marketers with deep behavioral insights to power more targeted emails and ads. If you’re an eCommerce brand looking to turn more window shoppers into repeat purchasers through better customer engagement, request a demo here.