5 Ways Your Digital Marketing Depends on Your Landing Pages

Digital marketingWhat does digital marketing have in common with competitive gymnastics? When push comes to shove, it is all about the nailing the landing … page, that is.

What a Landing Page Is

In the broadest sense of the word, any webpage on which a visitor can “land” is a landing page. But for the purposes of digital marketing, a landing page is much more.
Unbounce describes landing pages in this way: “When discussing landing pages within the realm of marketing and advertising, it’s more common to refer to a landing page as being a standalone web page distinct from your main website that has been designed for a single focused objective.”

In most cases, that objective will be to generate leads. That is why
Hubspot notes: “A good landing page will be targeted to a particular stream of traffic – say from an email campaign advertising a particular whitepaper – and, because it is targeted, and because it has an interesting offer behind a lead capture form, you will convert a higher percentage of your website visitors into leads with which you can follow up.”

Landing pages typically fall into one of two broad categories: click through landing pages or lead generation landing pages. Click through landing pages are just as they sound. They exist to persuade a visitor to click through to another web page where a conversion can occur. Lead generation landing pages, on the other hand, largely exist to capture information about a visitor that will enable you to market to him or her at another time or via another method. Typical lead generation landing pages might prompt a visitor to download an ebook, opt in to a newsletter subscription, or schedule a free trial.

Elements of a Good Landing Page

There is no set standard for what constitutes the perfect landing page, largely because the elements you include on your landing page must be largely dictated by the action you wish a visitor to take once he or she lands on your page. Just like every other piece of your digital marketing strategy, your landing pages must have a focus and a goal particular to your business.

The one item that continues to be overlooked is that with the growth in mobile usage, having a responsive page is no longer nice to have but is now a requirement.  Many consumers are not only digesting content with their phone, but are willing to complete financial transactions as well.  

In building your responsive landing page, there are some common elements that make landing pages of any sort more effective. They are:

  • An attention-grabbing headline.
  • Relevant messaging consistent with the referral source.
  • Error-free, grammatically correct copy targeted to a specific objective.
  • Simple layout and design.
  • Clear, strong call to action.

Digital marketing

Why Your Digital Marketing Success Depends on Effective Landing Pages

Getting landing pages right is a fundamental part of an effective digital marketing strategy. Why? Here are just some of the ways landing pages affect your marketing success:

  1. Landing pages act as lead generators, depositing leads into the top of your sales funnel for follow-up
  2. Landing pages enable you to gather important information for your customer database.
  3. Landing pages help you clearly define your offer, making it easier for visitors to understand the action you want them to take.
  4. Landing pages can be continuously tested, analyzed, and adjusted to fit the needs of your target audience.
  5. Landing pages provide an uncluttered customer experience and prompt conversions.

The Takeaway

Landing pages are an essential piece of your digital marketing strategy. They generate leads and help you deliver a highly targeted marketing message. When done well, landing pages are designed to move a lead forward in the sales funnel, prompting more conversions and thereby growing your business. Are your landing pages all they can be? Why not find out today?

Request an assessment and leverage the insight you gain to make your landing pages the lead generators you need them to be.

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Why Your Unique Value Proposition Isn’t as Important as You Think It Is (and What Matters More)

A hot prospect has demoed your software or product, and now you’ve got Sales talking with the decision-makers about an enterprise solution that will be your biggest yet. You find out they’ve narrowed down their decision to you and two of your competitors. This should be a slam dunk—you just spent the last three months doing market research and sharpening your UVP, and you know your team now clearly communicates the unique value you provide.

But the sales process drags out weeks and months. . . and the prospect is asking for discounts and extra customization at no additional charge. You’re crunching the numbers, trying to figure out how to keep the deal alive and asking yourself why you’re stuck competing on price again. And then you find out the prospect chose a competitor.

What went wrong? Your UVP was strong. Your sales team was at the top of their game. What happened?

As it turns out, UVP isn’t as important as we think it is. CEB research surveyed 3,000 B2B buyers across 36 brands and 7 industries and revealed that only 14% of buyers perceive enough meaningful difference between brands’ business value to be willing to pay extra for that difference. Unless you’re selling something truly revolutionary—solving a problem that has not yet been solved in any way, shape, or form—your UVP is pretty much the same as your best competitors’ UVPs. Although there are subtle differences, your prospects are saying they’re not willing to pay for them. So you end up competing on price.

difference-between-supplies-enough-to-payOnly 14% of buyers saw enough difference between suppliers to be willing to pay a higher price for it. (Image Source)

What’s the solution? It’s not that UVP doesn’t matter at all. B2B buyers demand ROI—you have to deliver at least as much business value as your competitors do, in order to get into the consideration set. So all the work you put into developing your UVP isn’t wasted.

Personal Value Beats Business Value

But while nearly all B2B companies focus on business value and treat B2B buying as a rational decision process, the reality is that people are making these buying decisions—people who have emotions and who are concerned about things like getting a promotion, being respected by their peers, and not making mistakes. They fear risk. They want admiration. They are driven by the desire to be successful.

According to CEB’s research, over 90% of the B2B buyers surveyed would either put off the purchase indefinitely or would buy from the lowest-price supplier in their consideration set. If you’re going to consistently win deals profitably, you need to address personal value at least as much as you address business value.

buyers-who-see-personal-value-versus-those-that-dontBuyers were much more likely to purchase from the supplier that demonstrated personal value. (Image Source)

There are two sides to personal value—a positive and a negative. If you tackle both in your marketing and sales materials, you’ll build a strong case that will motivate buyers. Let’s look at each of these in detail.

Address Personal Benefits

The positive side of the personal value coin is personal benefits—how your product or service benefits your prospects personally. While every individual will have his or her own goals and desires, you’ll want to identify two or three that are shared by most of your prospects so you can focus on these in your marketing. (If you break out different market segments or personas and market separately to each, you have the freedom to get more specific with the personal benefits you highlight.)

To identify the personal benefits that will resonate with your prospects, you’ll need to do a bit of research. The easiest way to learn this info is to set up brief phone interviews with current clients or prospects who fit your ideal client profile. Here are a few questions you can ask that will give you insight.

  • What is important to you as a [title or role]?
  • What are your currently working toward? (A promotion? A role change? You’re looking for what motivates them.)
  • What are your one-year goals?
  • Where do you see yourself in two years?

Once you’ve completed your interviews, look over the words and phrases that your interviewees used to describe what matters to them. What words and phrases were used the most? These are the ones that you’ll want to incorporate into your messaging to ensure prospects fully understand and instinctively react to what you’re saying.

Address Personal Risk

The negative side of the personal value coin is personal risk. Fear is one of the strongest forces that prevent people from taking action—even action they logically know they need to take. If you want prospects to move forward in the buying journey, you’re going to have to address their fears.

Nearly every B2B buyer, no matter what his or her job role, has the following fears.

  • Potential loss of time. Would-be buyers are busy and almost always have more on their to-do lists than they can possibly get done. They worry that implementing your solution will take up too much of their valuable time.
  • Potential loss of respect. To get the deal agreed upon, buyers have to champion your solution to their teams. They worry that if your solution doesn’t deliver as promised, or if it’s a nightmare to implement, they’ll lose the support of coworkers and superiors.
  • Potential loss of job. If the performance of your product or service is bad enough and causes a large loss of money or potential revenue, a buyer could lose his or her job over the purchase. This is a fear that can easily and completely derail a purchase.

If you want to close the deal, you’ll need to address each of these fears in your bottom-of-the-funnel marketing content or sales materials.

Personal value is a powerful driver of purchase decisions.

It’s important to note that “showing” is more effective than “telling” prospects that they don’t need to worry about these potential hazards. Besides that fact that it would be weird, no one would believe you if you simply stated, “And there’s no reason to fear losing your job if you buy from us—you won’t!”

Use testimonials and case studies to demonstrate the results you’ve achieved for other companies similar to theirs. Point out how quickly or easily the implementation went and the specific ROI you delivered. Social proof (especially if you’ve got testimonials or case studies from companies well-known in their industry) will alleviate their fears better than anything else.

Dig into the Pain of Non-action

The best way to overcome that last bit of doubt remaining after you’ve addressed potential fears is to dig into the pain that will result from not moving forward with the purchase.

Find out what the buyer will lose if he or she puts off the decision, and quantify it. How much revenue is he or she sacrificing? How much time is he or she wasting?

Then compare the loss resulting from inaction to any remaining potential risk. You need to show the buyer that the reward greatly outweighs any potential risk. This is the final kick-in-the-pants that buyers need to make the purchase.

The best time to point out the pain of non-action is in your proposal. After you’ve clearly communicated business benefits and personal benefits, and after you’ve assuaged their fears, make sure they feel how much the status quo hurts—and how that pain will just continue to get worse the longer they stay there.

Never Forget You’re Selling to People

The companies that win will be the companies that thoroughly understand their prospects and clearly communicate personal value as well as business value. Never lose sight of the fact that, even as a B2B company, you’re selling to people. Show off that shiny UVP, but don’t stop the conversation at business value. And you’ll find that price is no longer holding you back from those highly-coveted enterprise deals.

About the Author: Laura MacPherson is a freelance writer who integrates persuasion psychology and research into copywriting and content for B2B companies. Follow her (or connect) on LinkedIn for an unlimited supply of marketing tips and tricks.

What is a 301 Redirect, and When Should You Use One?


I moved five times in the last year. And every single time I moved, I forgot to sign up to have my mail forwarded to my new address.

Mail forwarding is an important step in any moving process, as it ensures you don’t lose any valuable information that’s sent to you. And the same can be said for your website: If you’re moving a website from one URL to another, you need to take the necessary steps to ensure your visitors get sent to the right place. In the world of tech, this is called a 301 redirect.

A 301 redirect is key to maintaining a website’s domain authority and search rankings when the site’s URL is changed for any reason. It easily sends visitors and search engines to a different URL than the one they originally requested — without having to actually type in a different URL. Download our free guide here to learn more about 301 redirects and common SEO  mistakes to avoid.

Here, we’ll cover the details of a 301 redirect, why websites use them, and how they differ from other redirects. 

What Is a 301 Redirect?

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. 301 redirects send site visitors and search engines to a different URL than the one they originally typed into their browser or selected from a search engine results page. These redirects also link various URLs under one umbrella so search engines rank all of the addresses based on the domain authority from inbound links

Let’s put it into practice. Below are two different URLs that take you to the same site. That’s thanks to a 301 redirect. That way, when people link to HubSpot Blogs using either URL, the URL we direct blog traffic to (blog.hubspot.com) retains the search engine authority associated with inbound links to either URL.

  1. blog.hubspot.com
  2. http://blog.hubspot.com

Did you notice that even though the second link has “http://” at the beginning of the URL, by the time you arrived at the blog, the URL in your browser read “blog.hubspot.com“? That’s because of a 301 redirect. It’s essential to set this up so the domain authority from inbound links to the http:// address are linked to blog.hubspot.com to improve its search rankings.

Why Set Up a 301 Redirect?

The big reasons marketers might set up a 301 redirect are:

  1. To associate common web conventions (http://, www., etc.) with one URL to maximize domain authority (hint: this is the same situation as the scenario we outlined above.)
  2. To rebrand or rename a website with a different URL
  3. To direct traffic to a website from other URLs owned by the same organization

In the second scenario, when a brand is changing its company or website name, a 301 redirect is integral to maintaining the power of inbound links to the original URL on the migrated new domain. Additionally, the 301 redirect is necessary in this case to do exactly what redirect means — to send website visitors to the right web address to get what they’re looking for.

In the third scenario, brands sometimes purchase domains that are similar in name or subject matter to their brand to generate more search traffic to their website. A 301 redirect is necessary to make certain that the brand’s original domain maintains its search authority in the process.  

What’s the Difference Between Permanent HTML Redirects and other Redirects?

Generally speaking, a 301 permanent redirect is better for search engine optimization than a temporary redirect because it transfers the inbound links from the redirected domain to the new one, which helps the website maintain its search rankings and prevent any dip in search traffic.

There are few situations where a 302 temporary redirect would be preferable over a 301 permanent redirect — except for when website content needs to be moved temporarily, such as when a site is undergoing maintenance and visitors need to be directed to a different domain to consume their content.

301 Redirect Mistakes to Avoid

Now that you understand the importance of the 301 redirect, we’ll review common steps in the process to review to make sure you don’t make a mistake that could adversely impact your site’s SEO.

1) Set up a 301 redirect between the http:// and http://www versions of your domains.

301 redirects point the power of inbound links from one URL to another, and although it might not look like it, http://blog.hubspot.com and blog.hubspot.com are two different URLs. Make sure you set up a 301 redirect from all of the different iterations of your brand’s domain to boost your search engine results.

2) Don’t move to a new domain without first setting up a 301 redirect.

Back in 2010, Toys ‘R Us purchased the toys.com domain without setting up a 301 redirect first, and their new site’s SEO results plummeted because it was re-crawled by Google as a brand-new domain without inbound links from the original Toys ‘R Us domain pointing to it. Be sure to set up the 301 redirect before migrating your website content so your site doesn’t lose traffic in the process.

3) In almost all cases, set up a 301 permanent redirect instead of a 302 temporary redirect, which may be the default setting of your website management software.

Unless you’re temporarily migrating your website’s content while updating or repairing your website, use a 301 redirect to maintain the inbound links and your search rankings while making changes to your domain.

4) Set up redirects to older internal links on your website.

If you don’t set up redirects from the older internal links on your website (such as a link to your company blog on your homepage), you’ll create a bad user experience for site visitors who click on these older, not-directed links. The old internal link will eventually kick over to the new domain, but it might take several seconds or show a white screen in the meantime.

The good news is that it’s easy to set up a 301 redirect correctly following the steps above and if you’re using HubSpot software to optimize your website. We wish you the best of luck with your next website redirect and moving process. (P.S. – We can help with one of those.)

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2010 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

free guide: common SEO mistakes

free guide: common SEO mistakes

6 Key Takeaways From an Analysis of 200+ Popular Pinterest Infographics


The following is an excerpt from our free resource, How to Create Beautiful Infographics. If you’d like to download the full guide, click here.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re creating an infographic to use on social media or a marketing campaign. If you’re creating the infographic for marketing purposes, you’ve got one more step, and that’s promoting it.

After all, there is no point creating content if no one sees it, is there?

Here are some methods on how to promote your infographics:

  • Make it into a blog post and share on all your social channels.
  • Send out an email newsletter. (Check out how to make emails more engaging with infographics here.)
  • Ask your advocates to share explicitly.
  • Post it on social discovery sites like Stumbled Upon, Reddit, Imgur..etc.
  • Outreach – find bloggers who will benefit from sharing your infographic.

If you’re not a big brand with a large following, you’ll get limited mileage on most of these methods without determined effort on outreach. Outreach is an unavoidable necessity. It’s like cold calling and door to door selling. It works, but usually not how you would expect it to. You have to start at the bottom of the influencer pyramid and work your way up.

With so much content on Pinterest, how do you make your infographic stand out? What are the characteristics of highly-pinned and liked Pinterest infographics?

To answer these questions, Venngage looked at over 200 popular Pinterest infographics and evaluated them based on a series of qualitative and quantitative characteristics. The results? A comprehensive guide to what types of infographics get more “likes” than others. Based on their research, six factors were identified for a great Pinterest infographic.

1) Topic

Does the topic or subject matter of your infographic matter? Yes, it does. On Pinterest, the top topics were travel, food and marketing. This is not really surprising if you use Pinterest regularly. Travel and food images do extremely well on Pinterest given the demographic of their users. These three topics performed a lot better than all the other topics.


2) Mood: Funny, Challenging, or Useful 

One of the most important aspects of any content is the reaction is garners from its audience. Did the content leave an impact on the person, whether it was a good laugh or something useful they could use in life? Venngage looked at our sample of Pinterest infographics and coded each one with what they thought would be the reaction the infographic produced.

The results are consistent with a lot of other literature and research on content. The winners are infographics that are funny, challenging or practical. These infographics have the highest pins.


3) Simplicity of Information

One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that you need to have a lot of data and a complex infographic for it to be shared and liked a lot. Venngage’s research shows that simple infographics, such as informational and text based infographics, perform the best. Simple = Win.


The other characteristic examined was the dominant style of the infographic. Venngage classified IG style into one of five styles — text based, image based, illustration based, or a combination. The results showed text based infographics performed the best.


4) Serif Fonts

While the majority of infographic fonts were sans serif types (the more modern looking font), serif fonts perform better. Why?

Here is one plausible reason: people believe text written in serif fonts more than those written in sans serif. There was a popular study highlighted by the New York Times about how people tend to find statements written in serif fonts more credible.


5) 2-3 Colors

Colors have an effect on people. Marketers know this and have been using it to increase sales and conversions for a long time. It turns out when we looked at the number of colors used in top infographics and which primary colors are dominant, we see a very distinct pattern.


Less is more. Infographics with only two colors performed the most. Infographics that have more than five were the worst. [Click to Tweet]


6) Longform vs. Shortform

If you group the infographics based on their length to width ratio — a ratio is used since infographics have varying dimensions — and chart the distribution, you’ll notice that while shorter infographics do well, the ones that performed really well had between 5-9 length to width ratio (the infographics’ length were 5-9 times longer that its width).

I guess that is consistent with other longform content such as blog articles. But too long is not necessarily a good thing — as you go beyond the 9X ratio, the performance drops. So don’t over do it.

Want to learn more? Download How to Create Beautiful Infographics here.

how to create beautiful infographics

9 Genius Examples of Empathetic Content Marketing in Action


Successful content marketing is about creating a connection between your audience and your brand.

This doesn’t mean just throwing content at them. It means creating content that they truly value — content that serves their needs and addresses their biggest pain points. And this type of content is much easier to create when it’s informed and driven by empathy.

As Dr. Brené Brown notes, “Empathy is feeling with people.”

When you put yourself in your audience’s shoes, it becomes easier to acknowledge their struggles and think critically about the best solutions. That’s why empathetic content marketing is such a powerful strategy for businesses — both B2B and B2C.

Not sure what that looks like? Let’s walk through nine brands that nail empathetic content marketing in multiple mediums.

9 Genius Examples of Empathetic Content Marketing in Action


Content Type: Video

With the tagline, “Fresh, handmade cosmetics,” LUSH is a beauty brand that is all about natural products. As such, we see their radical transparency showcased in their How It’s Made video series, wherein they go behind the scenes of some of their most popular products.

Each episode features actual Lush employees in the “kitchen,” narrating the step-by-step process of how the products are made. Lush (pun intended) visuals showcase just how natural the ingredients are. You see mounds of fresh lemons, tea infusions, and salt swirled together to become the product you know and love. It’s equal parts interesting and educational.

How it shows empathy:

Their customers want to buy beauty products that are truly natural. They care about using fresh, organic, and ethically sourced ingredients — hence why the videos feature colorful, close-up shots of those organic lemons and sea salt to drive that point home. Taking customers inside the factory and showing them every part of the process — with a human face — assures them that they can consume these products with peace of mind.

2) LinkedIn

Content Type: Ebook

LinkedIn Marketing Solutions is all about mobilizing marketers to grow their audience, create more effective content, and, ultimately, achieve their goals. Naturally, they want their audience to leverage LinkedIn to help them achieve those goals. While they produce plenty of content related to the benefits of LinkedIn, the team has made a significant push into content that educates all levels of marketer on a variety of topics (as you can see on their blog).

This 27-page ebook, Native Advertising: What It Is. How to Do It, provides a ton of information on all aspects of native advertising, which is one of LinkedIn’s enterprise marketing services.


It’s packed with tips, stats, deep dives into the various types of native ads, strategy, as well as the benefits of LinkedIn’s various native ad services.

How it shows empathy:

One immensely effective empathy marketing tactic is education. LinkedIn wants to empower their audience to do their jobs better (and use their product to do so), and this ebook is the single tool they need to understand and confidently use native ads to their advantage.

Through offerings like this, customers learn that they can rely on LinkedIn as a trusted source to guide them in the right direction, and LinkedIn can continue to provide solutions through their product offerings. It’s a win-win all around.

3) Home Depot

Content Type: Infographic

Home Depot is a home and garden supply store that caters to all types of builders and DIY-ers — whether you’re a construction worker building a gazebo or a homemaker experimenting with gardening. In other words, their content must cater to various demographics.

As they are all about the DIY, their marketing focuses on what their supplies can help you do — not just what the supplies are. This “Grow a Living Salad Bowl” infographic teaches consumers to grow their own salad, offering information on how to do it, which vegetables grow best, and what supplies they need — all with minimal branding.

Home_Depot_Salad_Bowl.png[Click here to see the full infographic]

How it shows empathy:

Their customers dream of being skilled DIYers, but need a bit of help working through the unknown, as well as some encouragement. This infographic delivers on these, and inspires customers to take action.


4) Dove

Content Type: Instagram Images

Dove is a beauty brand all about positive self image, and they’ve done a great job of creating a supportive and loving environment for their fans on social media. Almost all of Dove’s posts on Instagram are about active self-love, and their messages and engagement are tailored to inspire this.

Through inspirational messages and captions that dictate little self-love “assignments,” they not only encourage but actually mobilize their followers to practice what they preach. Whether it’s tagging a friend or trying out a mini journaling exercise, Dove is using Instagram to inspire action.


Tell us: “I feel beautiful when __________.”

A photo posted by Dove (@dove) on Nov 30, 2015 at 8:55am PST

How it shows empathy:

Dove’s posts offer customers regular reminders of their worth, as well as ways to actively recognize themselves and other women. This is not only a good relationship-building tactic employed by Dove, but it also provides a real benefit to their audience: A 2013 Carnegie Mellon University study found that positive self-affirmations help you perform better under stress. It’s both a sincere and scientific approach to bring self-love into customers’ everyday lives.

5) Extra

Content Type: Interactive Site

We’ve seen just about every twist on gum marketing possible: sexy encounters, romantic trysts, and more. Extra is pushing past that narrative. They realize that gum is an everyday part of life, a seemingly mundane product, but its omnipresence means it’s there for many of life’s little moments. Hence the #givextragetextra campaign is all about celebrating those moments — the awesome fishing trip, the road trip with friends, the engagement — by turning them into art.


The interactive site and social campaign encourages you to submit photos of those everyday moments to be turned into sketches, some of which appear on the inside flap of Extra packaging. At the site, you can see the images, watch video of the artist’s sketches, peruse the gallery, and search to see if your submission has been turned into art.

How it shows empathy:

In many ways, gum is a product meant to enhance intimacy, making your breath fresh for more closeness. In our techno-connected world, those everyday moments of intimacy are often overlooked. This campaign helps customers become more aware and celebratory of those moments. By encouraging them to capture and share those memories — and honoring them through the gum-wrapper art — Extra is helping customers live a more full and present life.

6) Microsoft

Content Type: Interactive infographic

Microsoft’s security solutions are all about keeping consumers’ data safe. Their goal, then, is to educate and explain why their products are important. That said, data security is not the sexiest topic — not to mention plenty has been said about it.

To give it a new twist, Microsoft created the Anatomy of a Data Breach interactive site, which explains the issue of data security through a new and exciting lens: the data heist.


The site puts consumers in a hacker’s shoes, guiding them through the stages of a data breach and showing, in detail, exactly how the data is stolen. Coupled with statistics about data security, the messaging is clear.

How it shows empathy:

Consumers know data breaches are a problem, but they don’t know exactly how they happen. By making an engaging story and using real consumer survey data, Microsoft brings the problem to life in a genuine and accessible way. Through the interactive, customers truly see their vulnerabilities and better understand how to protect themselves.

7) Michael’s

Content Type: Blog

In a world where Pinterest dominates, Michael’s craft stores is making a play to capture its own audience on its own properties. They have long provided the standard craft tutorials and product features on their site, but with The Glue String blog they are inserting themselves into their readers’ lifestyles with a variety of content.

Posts like “12 Ways to Store Washi Tape” may sound a little silly, but for the avid crafter, these are the exact types of posts that are relevant to their lives. The beautiful layout and high-impact visuals only help to bring these stories to life.


How it shows empathy:

Crafting is an exciting hobby, but not without its own frustrations. Providing useful tips and hacks on how to do things better via a free publication helps readers do more of what they love with fewer headaches. Additionally, fans get to share their enthusiasm through social, helping Michael’s extend its reach while helping their audience show their interests off.  

8) JetBlue

Content Type: Video

JetBlue is a brand known for superb customer service and humor. At this point, we know where they fly, we know their hook, so their marketing needs to extend beyond the services they provide. As such, their content is focusing more on the world of flying and the experiences we all have.

Their Flight Etiquette videos are funny PSAs that spotlight some of the most pervasive problems we encounter while traveling: overzealous flight boarding, chatty seat mates, etc. By giving it the sarcastic “How NOT to” twist, they showcase their humor and brand voice.


How it shows empathy:

There are specific instances that make the flying experience suck for all of us. These videos attempt to remedy these troubles by commiserating with and educating the public.

9) J.Crew

Content Type: Visual How-Tos

J.Crew is a sophisticated clothing brand that has always marketed toward lifestyle, framing their clothes within that context. While they have a devoted following, they are always searching for ways to deeper connect with their audience. 

Their blog is a fantastic outlet for that. Naturally, as design is a core part of their business, it is a major component of publishing. Its clean design superbly showcases their products, tips, and tricks. And they consistently use on-brand visuals to enhance their content. For example, The Bandana, 4-ways tutorial includes directions, illustrations, clever captions, and actual product visuals to tie it all together.


How it shows empathy:

Their customers want their fashion to reflect their personalities. Giving them more options to express themselves through clothing, via different bandana styles, helps them achieve that.

Ready to Try It?

Approaching the content that you seek to create as a brand from a perspective that puts others and their wants, needs, and dreams before your own is the smartest way to grow an audience. This is because, in doing so, you’re showing people that you care about them as humans, first and foremost. And people want to work with (B2B) or support (B2C) people that they like, and companies that they believe, “get them”

You can always talk about your brand and what you’re peddling once there’s a connection, and then a relationship established, but, if you doing things right, people will be drawn to you and you won’t ever have to toot your own horn.

What’s the best example of empathetic marketing you’ve ever seen? Share it in the comments.

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Content Gating: When, Whether, and How to Put Your Content Behind an Email/Form Capture – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Have you ever considered gating your content to get leads? Whether you choose to have open-access content or gate it to gather information, there are benefits and drawbacks you should be aware of. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand weighs the pros and cons of each approach and shares some tips for improving your process, regardless of whichever route you go.



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 going to chat about content gating.

This is something that a lot of content marketers use, particularly those who are interested in generating leads, individuals that their salespeople or sales teams or outreach folks or business development folks can reach out to specifically to sell a product or start a conversation. Many content marketers and SEOs use this type of content as a lure to essentially attract someone, who then fills in form fields to give enough information so that the sales pipeline gets filled or the leads pipeline gets filled, and then the person gets the content.

As opposed to the classic model that we’re used to in a more open content marketing and open SEO world of, “Let me give you something and then hopefully get something in return,” it’s, “You give me something and I will give you this thing in return.” This is a very, very popular tactic. You might be familiar with Moz and know that my general bias and Moz’s general bias is against content gating. We sort of have a philosophical bias against it, with the exception of, on the Moz Local side, some enterprise stuff, that that marketing team may be doing, may in the future include some gating. But generally, at Moz, we’re sort of against it.

However, I don’t want to be too biased. I recognize that it does have benefits, and I want to explain some of those benefits and drawbacks so that you can make your own choices of how to do it. Then we’re going to rock through some recommendations, some tactical tips that I’ve got for you around how you can improve how you do it, no matter whether you are doing open content or full content gating.

Benefits of gating content

The two. This is the gated idea. So you get this free report on the state of artificial intelligence in 2016. But first, before you get that report, you fill in all these fields: name, email, role, company website, Twitter, LinkedIn, what is your budget for AI in 2017 and you fill in a number. I’m not kidding here. Many of these reports require these and many other fields to be filled in. I have filled in personally several that are intense in order to get a report back. So it’s even worked on me at times.

The opposite of that, of course, would be the report is completely available. You get to the webpage, and it’s just here’s the state of AI, the different sections, and you get your graphs and your charts, and all your data is right in there. Fantastic, completely free access. You’ve had to give nothing, just visit the website.

The benefits of gating are you actually get:

  • More information about who specifically accessed the report. Granted, some of this information could be faked. There are people who work around that by verifying and validating at least the email address or those kinds of things.
  • Those who expend the energy to invest in the report may view the data or the report itself as more valuable, more useful, more trustworthy, to carry generally greater value. This is sort of an element of human psychology, where we value things that we’ve had to work harder to get.
  • Sales outreach to the folks who did access it may be much easier and much more effective because you obviously have a lot of information about those people, versus if you collected only an email or no information at all, in which case would be close to impossible.

Drawbacks of gating content

Let’s walk through the drawbacks of gating, some things that you can’t do:

  • Smaller audience potential. It is much harder to get this in front of tons of people. Maybe not this page specifically, but certainly it’s hard to get amplification of this, and it’s very hard to get an audience, get many, many people to fill out all those form fields.
  • Harder to earn links and amplification. People generally do not link to content like this. By the way, the people who do link to and socially amplify stuff like this usually do it with the actual file. So what they’ll do is they’ll look for State of AI 2016, filetype:pdf, site:yourdomain.com, and then they’ll find the file behind whatever you’ve got. I know there are some ways to gate that even such that no one can access it, but it’s a real pain.
  • It also is true that some folks this leaves a very bad taste in their mouth. They have a negative brand perception around it. Now negative brand perception could be around having to fill this out. It could be around whether the content was worth it after they filled this out. It could be about the outreach that happens to them after they filled this out and their interest in getting this data was not to start a sales conversation. You also lose a bunch of your SEO benefits, because you don’t get the links, you don’t get the engagement. If you do rank for this, it tends to be the case that your bounce rate is very high, much higher than other people who might rank for things like the state of AI 2016. So you just struggle.

Benefits of open access

What are the benefits and drawbacks of open access? Well, benefits, pretty obvious:

  • Greater ability to drive traffic from all channels, of course — social, search, word of mouth, email, whatever it is. You can drive a lot more people here.
  • There’s a larger future audience for retargeting and remarketing. So the people who do reach the report itself in here, you certainly have an opportunity. You could retarget and remarket to them. You could also reach out to them directly. Maybe you could retarget and remarket to people who’ve reached this page but didn’t fill in any information. But these folks here are a much greater audience potential for those retargeting and remarketing efforts. Larry Kim from WordStream has shown some awesome examples. Marty Weintraub from Aimclear also has shown some awesome examples of how you can do that retargeting and remarketing to folks who’ve reached content.
  • SEO benefits via links that point to these pages, via engagement metrics, via their ranking ability, etc. etc. You’re going to do much better with this. We do much better with the Beginner’s Guide to SEO on Moz than we would if it were gated and you had to give us your information first, of course.

Overall, if what you are trying to achieve is, rather than leads, simply to get your message to the greatest number of people, this is a far, far better effort. This is likely to reach a much bigger audience, and that message will therefore reach that much larger audience.

Drawbacks of open access

There are some drawbacks for this open access model. It’s not without them.

  • It might be hard or even totally impossible to convert many or most of the visits that come to open access content into leads or potential leads. It’s just the case that those people are going to consume that content, but they may never give you information that will allow you to follow up or reach out to them.
  • Information about the most valuable and important visitors, the ones who would have filled this thing out and would have been great leads is lost forever when you open up the content. You just can’t capture those folks. You’re not going to get their information.

So these two are what drive many folks up to this model and certainly the benefits of the gated content model as well.


So, my recommendations. It’s a fairly simple equation. I urge you to think about this equation from as broad a strategic perspective and then a tactical accomplishment perspective as you possibly can.

1. If audience size, reach, and future marketing benefits are greater than detailed leads as a metric or as a value, then you should go open access. If the reverse is true, if detailed leads are more valuable to you than the audience size, the potential reach, the amplification and link benefits, and all the future marketing benefits that come from those things, the ranking benefits and SEO benefits, if that’s the case, then you should go with a gated model. You get lots of people at an open access model. You get one person, but you know all their information in a gated content model.

2. It is not the case that this has to be completely either/or. There are modified ways to do both of these tactics in combination and concert. In fact, that can be potentially quite advantageous.

So a semi-gated model is something we’ve seen a few content marketers and companies start to do, where they have a part of the report or some of the most interesting aspects of the report or several of the graphics or an embedded SlideShare or whatever it is, and then you can get more of the report by filling in more items. So they’re sharing some stuff, which can potentially attract engagement and links and more amplification, and use in all sorts of places and press, and blog posts and all that kind of stuff. But then they also get the benefit of some people filling out whatever form information is critical in order to get more of that data if they’re very interested. I like this tease model a lot. I think that can work really, really well, especially if you are giving enough to prove your value and worth, and to earn those engagement and links, before you ask for a lot more.

You can go the other way and go a completely open model but with add-ons. So, for example, in this, here’s the full report on AI. If you would like more information, we conducted a survey with AI practitioners or companies utilizing AI. If you’d like the results of that survey, you can get that, and that’s in the sidebar or as a little notification in the report, a call to action. So that’s full report, but if you want this other thing that maybe is useful to some of the folks who best fit the interested in this data and also potentially interested in our product or service, or whatever we’re trying to get leads for, then you can optionally put your information in.

I like both of these. They sort of straddle that line.

3. No matter which one or which modified version you do, you should try and optimize the outcomes. That means in an open content model:

  • Don’t ignore the fact that you can still do retargeting to all the people who visited this open content and get them back to your website, on to potentially a very relevant offer that has a high conversion rate and where you can do CRO testing and those kinds of things. That is completely reasonable and something that many, many folks do, Moz included. We do a lot of remarketing around the web.
  • You can drive low-cost, paid traffic to the content that gets the most shares in order to bump it up and earn more amplification, earn more traffic to it, which then gives you a broader audience to retarget to or a broader audience to put your CTA in front of.
  • If you are going to go completely gated, a lot of these form fields, you can infer or use software to get and therefore get a higher conversion rate. So for example, I’m asking for name, email, role, company, website, Twitter, and LinkedIn. In fact, I could ask exclusively for LinkedIn and email and get every single one of those from just those two fields. I could even kill email and ask them to sign in with LinkedIn and then request the email permission after or as part of that request. So there are options here. You can also ask for name and email, and then use a software service like FullContact’s API and get all of the data around the company, website, role and title, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc., etc. that are associated with that name or in that email address. So then you don’t have to ask for so much information.
  • You can try putting your teaser content in multiple channels and platforms to maximize its exposure so that you drive more people to this get more. If you’re worried that hey this teaser won’t reach enough people to be able to get more of those folks here, you can amplify that through putting it on SlideShare or republishing on places like Medium or submitting the content in guest contributions to other websites in legit ways that have overlapped audiences and share your information that you know is going to resonate and will make them want more. Now you get more traffic back to these pages, and now I can convert more of those folks to the get more system.

So content gating, not the end of the world, not the worst thing in the world. I personally dislike a lot of things about it, but it does have its uses. I think if you’re smart, if you play around with some of these tactical tips, you can get some great value from it.

I look forward to your ideas, suggestions, and experiences with content gating, and we’ll see you next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Earning the Link: How to Pitch and Partner with the 5 Publisher Personas

Posted by QuezSays

I stood up from my office chair, stepped behind it and leaned on its back with both hands so I could stare at the email from a new angle. I was silenced by the response of the blogger:

“We’ve had a recent policy change here, and we no longer offer followed links. It’s hurting our reputation and being flagged by Google.”

In that moment, the game changed for me. I’ve received some interesting responses from editors and bloggers about links before, but never as adamant and uninformed as this. I realized that I needed to develop a communication strategy for my emails to publishing partners about links.

The challenge

Content marketing is a great way to amp up the reputation and visibility of your business. This includes well-placed bylines on high-authority sites that cover your market place. From our perspective, it’s completely appropriate to receive an attribution link in return. Creating interesting, authoritative, and valuable content is something my team excels at — that’s not the issue. The issue is working with publishing partners who have preconceived notions about links.

Publishers, bloggers, and editors have a wide range of opinions when it comes to links and how they’re treated by Google. This can create challenges for content creators who want to submit their work to these publishers but are being refused a link back to their site in their author attribution. A variety of people find themselves in this situation — SEOs, content marketing professionals, freelancers, thought leaders, etc.

The fact that people have different opinions on links is not exactly breaking news. My CEO, Eric Enge, does a good job recapping how this nofollow madness came about.

So how do you communicate with publishers in these circumstances in a way that’s credible, respectful, and effective?

After placing roughly 150 pieces of content on a wide range of sites, I’ve learned that it’s crucial to identify someone’s perspective to effectively communicate with them. There are so many myths and misconceptions about links and how Google treats links — you never know what perspective you’ll be dealing with.

This piece will help you quickly identify the perspective at hand, personify it, and from there, help you strategically communicate to give you the best chance of attaining that well-earned attribution link.

Step 1 – Pitch properly

As Rand Fishkin said in his 2012 Whiteboard Friday, “Stop link building and start link earning.” This context is the foundation of all communication with publishing partners.

Practice good pitching etiquette and do your homework researching the site. There are many resources that cover this, so I won’t go in-depth here. However, I will touch on my pitching strategy because I truly believe in its effectiveness.

When I draft all of my pitch emails, I refer to a sticky note stuck to my monitor that outlines the four sequential questions an editor is going to have when they receive my email:

Sticky note.jpg

1. What does this person want?what they want.png

Answer this question in the subject of your email, and in the first sentence. Eric Enge suggests you treat this as your value proposition.

2. Is this credible?

is this credible.png

Ask yourself the question, “What would make my communication more credible in this person’s eyes?”

For example:

  • Name-dropping a big brand that is a part of the collaboration
  • Mentioning an accolade that your writer has earned (e.g. rated top Southern mommy blogger back-to-back years)
  • Highlighting other places the author has been published (e.g. monthly Forbes and USA Today contributor)
  • Mentioning a very specific piece of information that proves you’ve spent a lot of time on their site:
    • “Penny Pens has a lot of tips to share on how to road trip around the Midwest. I think this would complement your travel-heavy July editorial calendar. It would also build nicely off of Christina WritesALot’s piece on Choosing Travel Buddies Wisely.”
  • Speaking directly to their content strategy:
    • “I think that Bobby Beers UCLA Tailgating guide would be a great piece to help promote football ticket sales on your events page.”

Worth noting: If you’re unwilling to do the in-depth research that allows you to speak this way, don’t slapdash this communication. Go another route. “I read your recent article on plants and found it very interesting” doesn’t give you any credibility, and it can even hurt you by coming off as insincere. Emails like that already plague editors.

Don’t believe me? Check out Michael Smart’s article on how we’ve ruined the compliment approach to pitch introductions.

In fact, I’ve even seen software that mimics this approach for marketers that are trying to scale their outreach. The user selects the publication and editor and the software creates an email template that automatically pulls in the title of the last article the editor published. That is how manipulative the email outreach environment has become.

3. Is this valuable?

is this valuable.png


4. Will this work?

will this work.png

Ask yourself what details would be worth including here. Is the detail crucial to the communication? Would including it prevent the recipient from misunderstanding your offer or not responding?

For example, when I pitch writers that work for a big brand, sometimes I mention that we’re not interested in giving or receiving any compensation for the contribution I’m offering. I’ve had experiences where the editor sees the name of my Fortune 100 client and immediately thinks that I’m offering a sponsored post. Or they think that my writer wants payment and will immediately write off the opportunity because they don’t have the budget for another writer at that time.

By answering these questions clearly and in this order, I’m helping the editor quickly determine if this is an opportunity that interests them. Assisting editors in being able to make that determination quickly, and prioritizing that over being persuasive, is the best gift you can give them. It shows that you respect their time and will keep the door open for future opportunities. It’s how to begin building trust in a long-term relationship.

Side note: Talking about links during pitching

I generally don’t talk about links with an editor upfront and often wait until they’ve had a chance to see the completed content. First of all, the attribution link is only one of the benefits we’re looking for (reminder: the others are reputation and visibility). It just doesn’t seem fair to talk to the editor about your author attribution before they see the piece. They don’t know you and want to see that you can deliver something valuable and non-promotional first.

It can also come off as unnatural to some editors. Do you really want to risk having your email mistaken for one of the hundreds of spam emails they regularly get promising “high-quality relevant content in exchange for only one dofollowed link!”? Unfortunately, talking about links right away can sometimes trigger an editor to see your content opportunity as low quality.

Step 2 – Earn the link

Once the editor requests your content, work with the writer or content creators until you have something that you’re proud to represent. Ask yourself this question: “Is this link-worthy?” If the answer isn’t a resounding “Heck yeah,” then you won’t have the leverage that you need later on if you end up in a sticky situation (i.e. if you aren’t given a link or you’re given a nofollow link). In those situations, you need to make a powerful request to remedy the situation. Are you willing to make that request for a piece of content your team created half-heartedly? That’s up to you. You need to decide what type of content you want associated with your personal brand.

In short, there are no shortcuts. Earn the editor’s respect and earn the link.

link building vs link earning.png

Step 3 – Write a simple “white-hat SEO” author attribution and submit

For example:

  • Usually no more than two to three sentences
  • Avoid direct-match rich anchor text
  • Link to a page that has high relevance to the author or the content
  • Don’t include more than one to two links

Step 4 – When encountering a nofollow link or missing link, communicate strategically

Once in a blue moon, when you check to see if an article you’ve submitted has been published, you’ll find a nofollow tag or a missing link.

What you SHOULDN’T do in this situation is send an email that justifies or explains why you deserve the link, or why the link is important to you. Don’t make an assumption as to why the link isn’t there. You don’t know what happened.

What you SHOULD do is make a simple request. There is no need for the email to be longer than three sentences:

“Hi Max, thanks for making Sally McWritesALot’s article look so great. It looks like the link in her attribution is nofollowed. Can you remove that nofollow tag?”

The editor’s response will give you hints on how to proceed. Below, I’ve outlined some of the flavors of responses you might get, with a publisher persona associated with each one that will help guide your communication strategy.

Skeptical Sally

skeptical sally.png

  • How to identify:
    • Skeptical Sally might respond with something like this (real examples I’ve received):
      • I don’t allow follow links on the site in sponsored or guest content. As I’m sure you are aware, it can dramatically damage our Google ranking. I love Andrea’s piece, but can’t risk a portion of the site … this is my full-time job — and one that I love. My Google ranking can affect future business opportunities.
      • We do not allow dofollow links any longer; this is in an effort to abide by SEO best practices for our blog.
  • Skeptical Sally’s perspective:
    • Sees links in general as very risky, especially a link that may be associated with a brand
    • Due to their policy change, she now plans to put a nofollow tag on every outbound link, “just to be safe”
    • Has an immediate skepticism of people asking for links
  • Communication strategy:
    • Move on. It is unlikely that Skeptical Sally will be open to a new perspective about links. If you try to educate her on the issue or talk through it, she may even get offended. Oftentimes, it’s just not worth impacting the relationship. After all, there may be ways to collaborate in the future that don’t involve content links (social media cross-promotion, interviews, etc.). Best to say thanks and move on. You still get the reputation and visibility benefits of the article that was published, but you now know that Sally’s site isn’t one where you can expect fair attribution.

Pseudo-Smart Steve

pseudo smart steve.png

  • How to identify:
    • Pseudo-Smart Steve might respond with something like this (real examples I’ve received):
      • The [client] link is just to [client] and will appear spammy to Google. Big red flag.”
      • Other language to look out for — any mention of “PageRank sculpting” or “retaining link juice”
  • Pseudo-Smart Steve’s perspective:
    • Has absorbed some SEO advice from outdated or unreliable sources
    • Knows that links are important, and wants to cash in on the best way to use them on his site
    • May attempt some type of “page sculpting” strategy to prevent precious PageRank from leaking off of his domain (note that this notion is a myth)
  • Communication strategy:
    • Make an attempt to educate these people, standing shoulder to shoulder with them. Sometimes they are just doing the best they can with the knowledge that they have and are open to new information.
      • For example, if the editor responds, “We prefer to nofollow as it retains the link juice,” then perhaps there is an opportunity to send them a link to a resource that will explain that the PageRank that would have been distributed to that nofollow link is NOT redistributed, it is essentially wasted (such as this Matt Cuts blog post).
      • Important – I wouldn’t recommend explaining SEO concepts in-depth over email. What would be more credible and powerful is to make your point in a sentence or two and then provide a link to a resource that backs up your point from an obviously credible source (Google’s blog, something that contains a quote from Google, a reputable study, etc.). Empowering an editor with the information they need to make their own decision is powerful and helpful.
      • Here are a couple of recently published resources to have bookmarked in case you are in a situation like this:

Here’s the extent I’d recommend explaining something in the email itself (real example):

  • Me: “Regarding the link, you can nofollow if it’s an absolute sticking point for you. However, we do feel that since the link is going to a relevant page (where you can find more writing by Julia), there won’t be any risk. Also, there are millions of websites linking to [client], so we feel from that standpoint, it’s not really going to raise any red flags.”
  • Editor: “OK — that all works. The nofollow link really isn’t a sticking point … I appreciate your feedback.

Savvy Shelby

savvy shelby.png

  • How to identify:
    • Responses that comment on how a topic relates to user experience, engagement, visibility, or other editorial areas
  • Savvy Shelby’s perspective:
    • Knows what she needs to know about links — that they are important to people, relevant to search engines, and are a form of currency when working with writers and freelancers
    • Knows that there are things that she doesn’t know about links — that search engines and technical marketers know a lot more than she does about exactly how links work
    • Knows that user experience is what really matters — that if a link doesn’t feel valuable to a user and isn’t a gesture to reward a contributor for a brilliant piece (trusting the contributor enough to know that it won’t be harmful), it may not be something she wants to include
  • Communication strategy:
    • If the link was omitted entirely, explain why including that link will positively impact user experience.
      • Will it provide author credibility?
      • Help users find more content that the author has written?
      • Expand on the topic somehow?
    • If the link has a nofollow tag, let the editor know that the author you are working with prefers to have the freedom to include a followed link in their attribution. This is why it’s so important that you’ve earned the link and provided incredibly valuable content to her and her audience. Trust must have been built by now.

Side note: Make this editor your best friend. They are your most powerful publishing partner.

Oblivious Oliver

oblivious oliver.png

  • How to identify:
    • There may not be specific language to look out for here, besides hints that suggest complete apathy or a lack of editorial structure or direction. Look for off-topic content or grammatical errors during your initial research. You probably don’t want to do a lot of work (and build an association) with a site that doesn’t scrutinize the work of their guest contributors.
  • Oblivious Oliver’s perspective:
    • Doesn’t know anything about links or an association between links and search engines
    • He’s willing to do almost anything with links, as long as it doesn’t make the page look bad
    • May be so hungry for original content that he’s willing to sacrifice quality in general
  • Communication strategy:
    • If you’re just realizing that you’re dealing with an Oblivious Oliver at this stage, it may be a sign that you’re not doing enough detailed research on the site upfront. Perhaps there were some hints within content on his site that you could have picked up on.
    • Regardless, at this point it doesn’t matter. Follow through on your word to deliver a high-quality piece of content and move on to the next opportunity.

The biggest takeaway here is the simplest one: Email communication around controversial or misunderstood topics (such as links) is difficult. Because of this, it will benefit you to keep your communication in simple editorial vernacular until you have earned the right to talk about links — by providing something valuable. When you identify a Savvy Shelby, cultivate the relationship. And for the rest, I hope that this guide empowers you to respond in a manner that’s more effective and will get you results.

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