How Links in Headers, Footers, Content, and Navigation Can Impact SEO – Whiteboard Friday

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Which link is more valuable: the one in your nav, or the one in the content of your page? Now, how about if one of those in-content links is an image, and one is text? Not all links are created equal, and getting familiar with the details will help you build a stronger linking structure.

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How Links in Headers, Footers, Content, and Navigation Can Impact SEO

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about links in headers and footers, in navigation versus content, and how that can affect both internal and external links and the link equity and link value that they pass to your website or to another website if you’re linking out to them.

So I’m going to use Candy Japan here. They recently crossed $1 million in sales. Very proud of Candy Japan. They sell these nice boxes of random assortments of Japanese candy that come to your house. Their website is actually remarkably simplistic. They have some footer links. They have some links in the content, but not a whole lot else. But I’m going to imagine them with a few more links in here just for our purposes.

It turns out that there are a number of interesting items when it comes to internal linking. So, for example, some on-page links matter more and carry more weight than other kinds. If you are smart and use these across your entire site, you can get some incremental or potentially some significant benefits depending on how you do it.

Do some on-page links matter more than others?

So, first off, good to know that…

I. Content links tend to matter more

…just broadly speaking, than navigation links. That shouldn’t be too surprising, right? If I have a link down here in the content of the page pointing to my Choco Puffs or my Gummies page, that might actually carry more weight in Google’s eyes than if I point to it in my navigation.

Now, this is not universally true, but observably, it seems to be the case. So when something is in the navigation, it’s almost always universally in that navigation. When something is in here, it’s often only specifically in here. So a little tough to tell cause and effect, but we can definitely see this when we get to external links. I’ll talk about that in a sec.

II. Links in footers often get devalued

So if there’s a link that you’ve got in your footer, but you don’t have it in your primary navigation, whether that’s on the side or the top, or in the content of the page, a link down here may not carry as much weight internally. In fact, sometimes it seems to carry almost no weight whatsoever other than just the indexing.

III. More used links may carry more weight

This is a theory for now. But we’ve seen some papers on this, and there has been some hypothesizing in the SEO community that essentially Google is watching as people browse the web, and they can get that data and sort of see that, hey, this is a well-trafficked page. It gets a lot of visits from this other page. This navigation actually seems to get used versus this other navigation, which doesn’t seem to be used.

There are a lot of ways that Google might interpret that data or might collect it. It could be from the size of it or the CSS qualities. It could be from how it appears on the page visually. But regardless, that also seems to be the case.

IV. Most visible links may get more weight

This does seem to be something that’s testable. So if you have very small fonts, very tiny links, they are not nearly as accessible or obvious to visitors. It seems to be the case that they also don’t carry as much weight in Google’s rankings.

V. On pages with multiple links to the same URL

For example, let’s say I’ve got this products link up here at the top, but I also link to my products down here under Other Candies, etc. It turns out that Google will see both links. They both point to the same page in this case, both pointing to the same page over here, but this page will only inherit the value of the anchor text from the first link on the page, not both of them.

So Other Candies, etc., that anchor text will essentially be treated as though it doesn’t exist. Google ignores multiple links to the same URL. This is actually true internal and external. For this reason, if you’re going ahead and trying to stuff in links in your internal content to other pages, thinking that you can get better anchor text value, well look, if they’re already in your navigation, you’re not getting any additional value. Same case if they’re up higher in the content. The second link to them is not carrying the anchor text value.

Can link location/type affect external link impact?

Other items to note on the external side of things and where they’re placed on pages.

I. In-content links are going to be more valuable than footers or nav links

In general, nav links are going to do better than footers. But in content, this primary content area right in here, that is where you’re going to get the most link value if you have the option of where you’re going to get an external link from on a page.

II. What if you have links that open in a new tab or in a new window versus links that open in the same tab, same window?

It doesn’t seem to matter at all. Google does not appear to carry any different weight from the experiments that we’ve seen and the ones we’ve conducted.

III. Text links do seem to perform better, get more weight than image links with alt attributes

They also seem to perform better than JavaScript links and other types of links, but critically important to know this, because many times what you will see is that a website will do something like this. They’ll have an image. This image will be a link that will point off to a page, and then below it they’ll have some sort of caption with keyword-rich anchors down here, and that will also point off. But Google will treat this first link as though it is the one, and it will be the alt attribute of this image that passes the anchor text, unless this is all one href tag, in which case you do get the benefit of the caption as the anchor. So best practice there.

IV. Multiple links from same page — only the first anchor counts

Well, just like with internal links, only the first anchor is going to count. So if I have two links from Candy Japan pointing to me, it’s only the top one that Google sees first in the HTML. So it’s not where it’s organized in the site as it renders visually, but where it comes up in the HTML of the page as Google is rendering that.

V. The same link and anchor on many or most or all pages on a website tends to get you into trouble.

Not always, not universally. Sometimes it can be okay. Is Amazon allowed to link to Whole Foods from their footer? Yes, they are. They’re part of the same company and group and that kind of thing. But if, for example, Amazon were to go crazy spamming and decided to make it “cheap avocados delivered to your home” and put that in the footer of all their pages and point that to the WholeFoods.com/avocadodelivery page, that would probably get penalized, or it may just be devalued. It might not rank at all, or it might not pass any link equity. So notable that in the cases where you have the option of, “Should I get a link on every page of a website? Well, gosh, that sounds like a good deal. I’d pass all this page rank and all this link equity.” No, bad deal.

Instead, far better would be to get a link from a page that’s already linked to by all of these pages, like, hey, if we can get a link from the About page or from the Products page or from the homepage, a link on the homepage, those are all great places to get links. I don’t want a link on every page in the footer or on every page in a sidebar. That tends to get me in trouble, especially if it is anchor text-rich and clearly keyword targeted and trying to manipulate SEO.

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

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3 Kissmetrics Populations Content Marketers Can Use to Measure Marketing and Retention

Content is basically infinite. Run a Google search for a/b testing and you can spend the rest of your life reading about it.

So in this proliferation of content, it’s retention, attention, and engagement that are key for content marketers. It’s our goal to get visitors to our content, ideally more than once, and eventually get them to convert in some way.

Converting usually starts at the very top of the funnel, by giving eBooks, webinars, email courses, newsletters, content upgrades, etc. Then they’ll be put through a drip campaign to eventually, hopefully, signup or request a demo.

Before we begin, it’s important to be aware of what Kissmetrics Population is, what it does, and who it’s for. This video will explain it:

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Now, let’s get into some Populations Content Marketers can set up.

1. Reader Retention

You probably have about 10 websites you visit regularly. Most of them you visit daily, but some others you’ll visit every other day.

I regularly visit Axios, ESPN, the Kissmetrics Blog (of course), New York Times, Drudge Report, Twitter, and ScienceDaily. I’m an engaged visitor on these sites because I visit them regularly. The publishers love a visitor like me because I am traffic, pageviews, and ad dollars for them. And most of all, they get a piece of my attention everyday.

Wouldn’t you love it if your blog was on someone’s “top 10” list? They read your blog posts, download your eBooks, and you’ve become a trusted source for them. Some may call you a “thought leader” (as much as I dislike that term).

Most marketers use cohort reports to measure retention. These reports group people together based on similar attributes and then track their behavior overtime. This can uncover some useful data. There are also “engagement” metrics that can be measured by any actions a reader may take – reading a post, commenting, sharing it on social networks. These can be easily measured with a simple funnel report.

But what about simply tracking the number of people that have visited your blog at least x times during the last week, and then have a graph to see if it’s going up, down, or holding steady?

Populations will do exactly that. You’ll set your conditions (what people have to do enter the Population) and view the graph.

In our case, we’ll set our criteria to people who have visited the blog at least 10x in the last 7 days:

We’ll click View population and get our data:

At the top, we see that there are currently 187 people in our Population. The graph provides us with a week-by-week performance overview. This Population has improved modestly, up about 2% from 90 days ago. It’s ultimately held steady over the last 90 days, staying in the 150-200 range.

What’s important here is to view this in context. Let’s say you have 10,000 monthly readers and your Population holds steady at 1,000. In this case, you know that about 10% of readers are engaged with your content. But if you have 1,000,000 monthly readers, than that 1k Population is less impressive and may signal that you need to create more engaging content that people want to read and consistently check to see what you’ve published.

2. Signups & Conversions

At the end of the day what we want are signups or some form of conversion. A blog that gets 5 million visitors a month but doesn’t convert is about as good as not having a blog at all.

We’re graded not just on traffic, nor on reader engagement, but on how effective our content is at bringing quality leads to our sales teams. HiPPOs care most about this and it’s our job to produce relevant content that brings our target audience in, and then converts them.

You may already be tracking your conversion rate with our Metrics feature, but it’s also useful to use Populations to get an idea of the amount of people that are moving from reader to converter.

Now, the question is what a “converter” is. Each team will differ. Some marketers want an email address so they can convert this reader into an opportunity through a drip campaign. Others will qualify a free trial request as a conversion. E-commerce companies may having adding an item to the cart or purchasing as their conversion.

Regardless of what you’ll count as a conversion, it’s easy to track it in Kissmetrics and Populations.

You’ll notice that in this configuration, we’re looking for the people who visited the blog and then signed up. They cannot visit our marketing site, sign up, and visit our blog because they need to visit the blog before signing up. If they visited the marketing site, the blog, and then signed up, they’ll be included in this Population.

Not good. It’s down 20% from where it was 90 days ago. We need to figure out why this happened.

In some cases, this can be caused by a/b tests that caused a drop in conversions. In other cases a traffic dip will cause conversions to drop. (As long as the conversion rate percentage holds steady). We’ll need to look at our traffic to see if there was a dip that would correlate with this Population drop. If not, we’ll have to dig deeper to see what could be causing it.

3. Visited Blog x Times But Haven’t Converted

Engaged readers are great, but if we’re not converting them to our content upgrades, webinars, eBooks, or even signing up, then we’re not doing a good job marketing our content (or product).

This Population tracks the number of people that visit your blog many times each week, but never convert. It’s simple to set up, just enter your criteria as “people who visited blog at least x times in the last 7 days and have not converted.”

This will do exactly as it says – track how many people are visiting the blog regularly without converting. We can expect this Population to go up with traffic increases, but if it shows a trendline above overall traffic, that might indicate that we’re not converting our readership.

Let’s view our Population:

So about a 22% increase compared to 90 days ago. As in all Populations, these numbers need to mean something in context. If our overall traffic has remained flat, we can try some new tests to get more of our regular readers converting. Maybe some retargeting will help (which would link to a landing page for an eBook) or other tactics that can drive conversions – exit-intent popups, content upgrades, etc.

Conclusion

As a customer engagement automation platform (CEA), Kissmetrics is made to help you analyze, segment, and engage your online audience. Request a demo today to learn more.

About the Author: Zach Bulygo (Twitter) is the Blog Manager for Kissmetrics.

Did Samsung Just One-Up Apple on Its Cool Factor?

Let’s cut right to the chase: At this week’s Samsung Developer Conference, the event’s namesake announced a bunch of really cool new stuff.

And we’ll get to it — I promise.

But before we do, I want to point out what really resonated with me — perhaps even more than all of the neat new products and features: the emerging topics and trends.

These are things that many of we marketers, in our day-to-day work and responsibilities, don’t give much thought to. Things like, say, a virtual-assistant-equipped refrigerator, or the latest and greatest software development kits (SDK). 

But it’s time that we do. Think about some of the pieces of technology or up-and-coming topics that, maybe five years ago, we thought had nothing to do with us. Those of us who ignored them quickly fell behind the curve. And so, over the next few weeks, I’ll be dissecting the following topics and breaking down why they’re important for marketers to keep an eye on.”

So let’s stay ahead of it. In addition to the below summary of everything that was announced at the Samsung Developer Conference, over the next few weeks, I’ll be dissecting the related topics — breaking down why they’re important for marketers to keep an eye on.

Here Are the Samsung Announcements You Missed

1) Bixby

To put Bixby in context, some describe it as Samsung’s version of Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant. It is, in fewer words, Samsung’s own virtual assistant, and it’s becoming increasingly built into a range of the brand’s products to create what it calls an “intelligent ecosystem.”

Bixby isn’t exactly new — but Bixby 2.0, which took center stage at the opening keynote and subsequent breakout sessions, is. One of the biggest differentiators for 2.0, said Vice President and Service Intelligence Team Leader Brad Park, is that it’s open, which essentially means that its code is available to developers to use, modify, and redistribute by way of something original that they use it to build. That availability will begin with a private beta program and become available to the general public in 2018.

The process, he said, was to “make everything voice-first … and then, see what the user wants.” That’s important — remember, this event is first and foremost designed for developers. Within the context of that remark from Park, that’s why w the open source nature of the Bixby SDK is so important. By making it open, developers will be able to personalize the technology in a way that helps determine how users actually want to, well, use it.

And as marketers, that’s where we potentially play a vital role. It’s our job, in large part, to understand and reach the end user — and now, we have a greater opportunity than ever to partner with developers to reach these users in an innovative way.

The other main emphasis, however, was on Bixby’s availability across a number of devices — like Samsung Smart TVs and the Family Hub refrigerator — which is where the ecosystem comes into play. That’s where another key differentiator of Bixby 2.0 — the aforementioned “voice search” approach, which gives it better natural language capabilities that can help it distinguish between users.

That was one of the biggest early issues that users took with Alexa, for example, illustrating the growing influence of a demand for personalization. But it goes beyond voice recognition — Bixby uses machine learning, too, to anticipate what individual end users will ask it to do. 

2) The Internet of Things

First, a brief vocabulary lesson. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the technology that uses internet connectivity to allow in-home devices and appliances — like your lights, security system, or refrigerator — to be controlled remotely by devices like our phones. In other words, it’s the thing that allows you to turn your lights on or off from your phone when you’re out of town.

Okay, back to that “intelligent ecosystem” and where Bixby plays a role within it. Previously, Samsung had a handful of fragmented IoT platforms: SmartThings (a suite of products that would help “smartify” the otherwise disconnected or “dumb” things in your home), Samsung Connect (the automation system that allowed users to actually execute the smart technology), and ARTIK (the platform that connects and adds security to all of the pieces of a user’s IoT experience). 

But during the opening keynote, Samsung announced the cohesive SmartThings Cloud, which brings all of the above under a single hub that allows all of these previously fragmented IoT pieces under one, central “touchpoint.” 

Here, again, is where the ability for Bixby to be broadly applied and personalized becomes crucial. Within the announcements pertaining to these new IoT initiatives came the unveiling of Project Ambience: a noticeably small dongle that can be plugged into home objects and devices — like an everyday speaker, for example — and turn them into “smart,” connected devices that are equipped with the Bixby experience.

So, why does that matter to you? Think about it: as the technology to turn anything into our homes into something that’s “smart” and connected, not only will it become increasingly easier for users to request and receive information, but the demand for quick solutions will also continue to grow. We’ll get into the specifics of how marketers can leverage these developments in future posts, but for now, it’s certainly an area to watch.

3) An AR Partnership With Google

If you read the previous section and thought, “Sounds like Samsung might be trying to play on Google’s playing field,” you’re not alone. I had the same thought — and then came the announcement of a partnership.

Surprisingly, there weren’t any explicit product announcements about virtual reality, which came as a personal surprise given the heavy presence of the Samsung Gear at last week’s Oculus Connect event. But to continue its progress within VR, Samsung implied, it has to also focus on building an augmented reality (AR) presence.

And that makes sense. Throughout last week’s Oculus Connect keynote, for example, numerous speakers spoke to the importance of making VR accessible, but failed to identify the tangible and incremental steps they would take to make it so. AR, which will be available on a significant number of recent phone models from a variety of manufacturers, is something of a gateway to VR, particularly when it comes to an untethered (not requiring connection to a larger piece of hardware) experience.

Now, Samsung has partnered with Google for yet another open source initiative. Developers will have access to Google’s ARCore SDK to create AR experiences that will be available on such Samsung devices as the Samsung Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, and Galaxy Note8.

Pardon the pun, but this move seems, well, smart. It could be interpreted as a response to Apple’s ARKIT, which provides developers with open source code to create AR experiences for Apple devices — namely, the iPhone and iPad.

Here’s another opportunity for marketers to leverage this information availability to create immersive experiences for their audiences. Not ready to build a full-blown VR experience? Start with AR. It will likely be available to a larger pool of users (after all, they can access it right from their mobile devices), and allows them to integrate your product or service into their respective environments, just by downloading an app.

I mean … I’m excited. As both a marketer and a journalist, these developments are huge. And if you take advantage of them now, I might even consider you a trailblazer — and your peers likely will, too.

But there’s still about half a day left of the Samsung Developer Conference, so feel free to follow along with all of the cool stuff I’m learning about here on Twitter, or let me know if you have a question about it.

How to Understand Facebook Insights for Social Video

Hi. I’m Nick, and I’m new to the HubSpot Marketing Blog. But I’m not new to HubSpot.

I’ve been working at HubSpot for over a year now, and in that time, I’ve created more than 50 videos for HubSpot’s Facebook page.

And over the last year, we’ve grown our organic Facebook video views by nearly 250%. We used a lot of different content creation strategies to change our approach to Facebook videos, and knowing specifically what to track — and why — was a critical part of measuring our success and growth.

Enter Facebook Videos Insights: Facebook’s metrics panel that tells you anything and everything you’d want to know about how your videos are performing on the platform. In this post, I’ll take you through why you should be creating videos for Facebook (if you aren’t already), what the different metrics mean in Facebook Insights, and which five metrics are the most important to measure.

Why Use Facebook to Create Videos?

1) Bigger Audience

At more than two billion users, Facebook is used by almost one-third of the world’s population. That kind of audience isn’t anything to sneeze at, and you should take advantage by publishing video content on the platform.

What’s more, Facebook users spend more than 100 million hours per day watching videos on the platform — almost as much as Netflix. Facebook has a huge audience that’s engaged in video content consumption — so why wouldn’t you post videos on the platform?

2) The News Feed Algorithm

The algorithm that dictates what content is served up in users’ News Feed heavily favors video content — especially if it’s produced live, or if a lot of users are engaging with it (more on that later). Videos on Facebook are more likely to get surfaced to users unfamiliar with your content — thereby growing your audience and leading to more video views.

3) It’s Easy … ish

It’s easier than ever to create and publish video content on Facebook. You can start broadcasting using Facebook Live with the press of a button, and you can even record high-quality videos with a smartphone. With numerous free editing software options and a video camera in your pocket, there’s no reason to wait to start filming for Facebook.

11 Key Facebook Video Metrics to Understand

To access these metrics, navigate to the “Insights” tab on the Facebook Page you manage.

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From this tab, scroll down to the “Videos” section on the left-hand side, and click on the video post you want to analyze.

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1) Video Views

“Video views” represents the number of users who watched your video for three seconds (or more).

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2) 10-Second Views

This metric is the number of users who watched your video for 10 seconds (or more). This number is typically smaller than the number of three-second video views, but ideally, the number is close — indicating that users started watching your video and stayed for at least seven more seconds to keep watching.

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3) Minutes Viewed

“Minutes viewed” is the total amount of time users have spent watching your video (in aggregate).

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4) Video Average Watch Time

This metric is the average amount of time each user spent watching your video. It’s calculated by dividing the total minutes viewed of your video by the number of video views.

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5) Average Percent Watched

“Average percent watched” represents what percentage of your video the average user watched.

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6) Audience Retention

“Audience retention” represents how well you’re able to maintain your video’s audience by visualizing where during your video viewers dropped off.

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7) Reach

“Reach” represents how many users saw your video somewhere on Facebook — in other words, how many users your video reached.

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8) View Rate

Your video’s view rate isn’t a metric provided by Facebook, but it’s a good number to calculate on your own. Divide the number of video views your video earned by the total reach. That will indicate how many users actually decided to watch your video, out of the number of users who saw it.

9) Volume On

This metric indicates how many users viewed your video with the volume turned on or muted. This number is particularly valuable because, as recently as last year, 85% of Facebook users watched videos without sound.

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Last month, Facebook began auto-playing News Feed videos with sound, so we’ll be interested to see how this percentage evolves. Here at HubSpot, we’ve started creating videos that are volume-agnostic, or indicating with captions and graphics that the user should turn on the volume to get the full effect of the content.

10) Reactions, Comments & Shares

This engagement metric includes likes, reactions (like anger, sadness, and laughter), comments, and shares of your video. These are indicators that your video is resonating with — or at least provoking — your audience, and this engagement helps your video rank higher in the Facebook News Feed algorithm.

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11) Clicks

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Clicks to Play

The “clicks to play” metric indicates the number of users who clicked on your video to watch it.

Link Clicks

The “link clicks” metric indicates the number of users who clicked on the link in your Facebook video post.

The Best Facebook Insights to Measure

1) Reach

It doesn’t matter how many followers you have if they aren’t seeing your posts. And since Facebook switched to an algorithm-based News Feed, reach has become more important than ever.

Since Facebook started down-rating posts from brands and publishers in the News Feed, make sure you’re optimizing your organic reach by posting on Facebook no more than three times per day.

2) 10-Second Views

This metric is more meaningful than three-second views because a user could be scrolling, and not even really be watching. In fact, Facebook had a controversy with that earlier this year, when they were found to be inflating video view numbers using this metric.

3) View Rate

This metric represents how many people are watching your video relative to your total reach, and it tells you how relevant or catchy your topic is — or if it’s not resonating with your audience.

4) Shares

This is the ultimate engagement metric, and it’s another measure of relevancy. As a bonus, shares earn you more organic reach when you get free exposure to users’ friend circles.

5) Average Watch Time

This metric tells you how engaging your video is. What’s more, Facebook cares about this metric and provides greater organic reach for more engaging videos in the News Feed.

So, there you have it. Make sure you’re focused on the right metrics — and not just vanity metrics — when you publish your next video on Facebook so you can keep iterating on what works to better engage with your audience.

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18 Fun Corporate Team-Building Activities & Outing Ideas Everyone Will Enjoy

Starting to notice some droopy shoulders around the office? Sounds like it’s time to plan a team outing.

Team outings are a great way to facilitate bonding with your team members, reduce employee stress, and give them the chance to get to know one another outside of the office.

And, you know, they’re really fun.

But how do you find ideas for a great team outing? Maybe you start with a Google search for “team outing ideas” and stumble upon an article that suggests “field trips” and “professional development activities.” Sounds like a starting point, but where’s the real excitement?

Next time you plan an outing for your team, cut the trust falls and get one of these ideas on the calendar instead.

Corporate Team-Building Activities, Games, and Exercises for Work

1) Scavenger Hunt

Find a beautiful day, break everyone out into groups, and have a scavenger hunt around the city. You can organize one yourself, or use an app like Stray Boots. Your team will feel nice and rejuvenated after some fresh air and fun challenges. Be sure to take plenty of silly pictures — you can even have a slideshow when everyone regroups at the end.

Team Outing Ideas: Scavenger Hunt

2) Cook-Off

Here’s a culinary team-building activity that could end in dessert or disaster — in a fun way. Creating new dishes together requires creativity and will require everyone to put their team and leadership skills into action. Divide your team into smaller teams, pick a food category, and challenge each team to whip up something delicious. The category could be anything from ice cream, to salsa, to pizza.

One fun twist you could add? Pick a single ingredient that all teams must use, like maple syrup or Oreos. Or, have each team get creative with the shape of its food — you can make pizzas into almost any shape.

ice-cream-challenge.jpg

Source: Teambonding.com

3) Improv Workshop

Comedy and improv events are fun, interactive experiences that’ll have your employees roaring with laughter while teaching them useful communication and soft skills, like focus and trust. Depending on your budget, you could do anything from simply playing improv games with your employees to bringing in professionals to run competitive, fast-paced activities.

improv-workshop.jpg

Source: Al-Jazeera

4) Board Game Tournament

Here’s one way to spark your team members’ competitive sides without having to leave the office. Organize a team-wide board game tournament. Especially if your team is pretty big, it might be easiest to pick a single game, then have people sign up for specific time slots when they’re free to leave their desks and spend some time playing the game. Some great games with reasonable play times include Boggle, Jenga, or even games using good ol’ playing cards. Don’t forget to incentivize with prizes for first, second, and third place.

board-game-night.jpg

Source: Glassdoor

5) Professional Development Workshop

Want to encourage your employees to bond while providing them with an opportunity to learn and further their career? Offer a shared learning experience either at your office, or at an off-site workshop or conference. The activity could be specifically related to your employees’ jobs, or it could be something broader, like a negotiation or leadership skills workshop.

professional-development-activities.jpeg

Company Outing Ideas

6) Volunteer

Giving time to support a good cause isn’t just good for the soul; it’s also a great way for your team members to bond. Place-based volunteering ideas include things like volunteering at a local soup kitchen, helping build a Habitat for Humanity house, or delivering gifts to children’s hospitals during the holidays. Skill-based volunteering is a cool way to stretch your employees’ expertise: It’s when your team volunteers its time and uses its professional skills — anything from marketing to app development to writing — to help a nonprofit.

Try VolunteerMatch.org for either type of volunteering opportunities, and Catchafire.org for skill-based volunteering opportunities.

People Volunteering

Source: VolunteerSpot

7) Mystery Dinner

Mystery dinners are one of the most beloved traditions here at HubSpot. On a single night, you send a group of folks from different teams within your company to dinner somewhere in your city (or at someone’s house). The dinner is hosted by one of your company’s leaders and paid for by the company. These dinners allow random groups of people from the same company to spend an evening chock full of good food and conversation together.

What makes them a mystery dinner? The only thing participants should know about the dinner ahead of time is the date and time. Then, on the afternoon the dinner is supposed to take place, send each group an email with the name of the restaurant they’re going to and who they’ll be going with, so they can arrange transportation together.

Optional: Give every dinner host the name of a restaurant or bar to invite everyone to congregate at once the dinners are over.

Mystery Dinner

8) Room Escape Games

Here’s a great bonding activity that requires leadership skills, teamwork, logic, and patience. Room escape games — Escape the Room, Puzzle Break, AdventureRooms, etc. — have become a wildly popular team-building exercise for groups around the globe.

Here’s how it works: A group of people gets “locked” in a room for one hour. During that one hour, they have to find hidden objects, solve puzzles, and figure out clues to locate the key that will set them free. And it’s not easy: Only 20% of players actually make it out before the hour is up.

Escape the Room

Source: Escape the Room St. Louis

9) Kayaking/Canoeing

Nothing says “let’s work together” quite like trying not to end up in the water. Want to take advantage of the outdoors? Grab a paddle and head down to the closest river for a great spring or summer outing.

Many public rivers and ponds have boat houses where you can rent kayaks and canoes — and you can encourage folks to rent multi-person ones and pair up with people they don’t usually work with.

company-kayak-outing.jpg

10) Trampoline Parks

Hey, who says trampolines are just for kids? Take your team to a trampoline park for some jumping fun and a chance to work off the day’s stress. Many cities have local places with trampoline activities — if you’re in the Boston area, check out Skyzone for trampoline dodgeball and basketball games.

Team Outing Ideas: Trampoline Jumping

Source: Mustbeart

11) Karaoke Night

What better way to get your employees to break out of their shells than to have them get up and sing some karaoke? You can even have a contest for best group karaoke performance. Bonus points if there are feather boas and cowboy hats involved. This works best for a more extroverted group, so if your team isn’t into strutting their stuff on stage, consider an idea on this list that caters more toward those personalities.

Team Outing Ideas: Karaoke

Source: derekgavey

12) Something Touristy

Embrace your city! Pick a hot tourist destination and go as a team. You can even do a Segway tour. (Fanny packs: optional.) It’ll be fun to laugh at how silly it feels to be a tourist in your own city, and you might even learn something new.

Team Outing Ideas: Something Touristy

Source: Wikimedia

13) Kart Racing

Nothing like a little competition to bond a group together. An adrenaline-pumping event like kart racing is a great way to get employees to interact with one another in a totally new and fun way. Just make sure everyone pays attention during the safety lecture.

Team Outing Ideas: F1 Racing

14) Laser Tag

Another great way to get your adrenaline pumping? A good old game of laser tag. Not only is it great fun, it’s also an opportunity for employees to exercise their strategy and logic skills, as well as teamwork skills. Bonus: Determine teams ahead of time and have people dress up.

Team Outing Ideas: Laser Tag

15) Painting Class

If you’re looking for a slightly more relaxing activity, take a group painting class. Paint Nite hosts painting classes by local artists at various bars throughout major cities for painting on canvases, wine glasses (like in the picture below), and so on. It’s a great way to let your team members unwind, catch up over some drinks, and express their creativity.

paint-nite.jpg

16) Cooking Class

In the mood for something a little more… culinary? Change up the usual outing to a bar or your local restaurant, and try a cooking class. Through a service such as Kitchensurfing, you can hire a professional chef to come cook a fancy meal for you in your home or office kitchen. Between the multiple courses prepared before your eyes, your team will have plenty of time to strike up a conversation and enjoy the delicious aromas.

pasta-class.jpg

17) Explore a New Place

Few things more fun than getting out of the city and exploring for a day. So, why not do it with your team?

For bigger events — maybe on a quarterly basis, when you have more budget to use for outings — charter a bus and take your team to a new place. You can all take a historical tour of the new place, grab lunch at a restaurant serving the town’s finest, or take in a local attraction together.

ptown-outing.jpg

18) Sports Game

Round up the team and head out to a sports game. What a fantastic way to rev up team spirit while combining both competition and camaraderie.

team_outings_baseball_game

Source: Wikimedia

Now you’re ready to show your team a great time while increasing their happiness and creating a great company culture. And hey, you might just be the “cool boss” now. How cool would that be?

Inbound 17 – Announcements and Takeaways

Just returned from HubSpot’s Inbound17 in Boston.  Most of the focus of this event is to learn new tools and tips on Inbound Marketing that we can then deploy for our client along with HubSpot announcing changes and enhancements to their platform.

HubSpot_Banner.pngFor a quick background, when we started Connection Model back in 2008, our first strategic decision was to align ourselves with a company that we saw had potential and could grow with us. We choose HubSpot and if memory serves me correct, Connection Model was first Certified Agency Partner.  Since then, we have enjoyed watching HubSpot’s growth, as a platform and business.

A lot of things have changed since then, but their focus on Inbound Marketing has remained.

Unlike years past, the first day started with over 1,600 HubSpot partners from 38 countries hearing the changes and announcements and getting to shake hands with friends that we have made over the past events.

HubSpot announced some major new changes, here are the big one’s:

1) Sales Professional: They have amped up their Sales portal and with that they have increased the price.  Up until October 31st, the price will remain consistent and anyone who signs up will be grandfathered in, thereafter the cost will be $400/month for the first 5 users and $50/user over 5.

2) Conversations: Now in one portal, you can aggregate HubSpots free messaging platform that combines live chat, bots, and the context-rich CRM. The goal is to allow your customers to communicate with you however they wish. And, with the growth in Automated Bots, having a conversation portal to manage the communication stream will be imperative.

3) Customer HUB: More to come on this, but HubSpot announced they want to focus not only on the sales pipeline but also have a hub for Customers. Obviously more to come.

4) Marketing Changes: Not to be forgotten, the Marketing side has some big announcements as well that are geared towards helping marketers experience better tracking and manage spend.

  • Facebook Audiences and Lead Ads: From a marketing standpoint, I am excited about this. We can now sync our HubSpot SmartLists with Facebook to build targeting audiences and then create, track and sync lead ads all within HubSpot. What is great is that we can then create marketing automation to help prospective customers get through the pipeline.
  • Content Strategy: This is something they announced a few months back as they saw a change in SEO and keywords. Bottom line, blogs need to be revisited to focus on 3-5 keywords with supporting micro blogs feeding one 2000 word macro blog. This is their content hub and spoke approach which has helped organizations on being able to blog more consistently (300-350 word blog is easier than 750-1000 word blog), and has proven better for getting ranked for primary keywords.
  • Account Based Marketing: There were a couple of themes, one of these was Account Based Marketing or ABM. Announcements centered around Facebook Audiences and partnerships that will help especially SMB companies become more effective.
  • Better Ecommerce with Shopify Integration: This has been one of the missing components, although both Shopify and BigCommerce complemented HubSpot well in this space. But now, Shopify can be integrated making marketing automation easier.

Takeaways

Inbound17-Floor.pngThere were a couple, focusing exclusively on the marketing side…

  1. Bots and automation will continue to grow and have an ever-increasing role.
  2. Video will become more and more important. There are organizations out there that can now provide cost-effective video and technology continues to get better so there should be no excuse.
  3. Authenticity will be important for brands that want to truly connect with their customers. The advancement of video, Live Feeds via social media and other tools are allowing your customers to see who you really are.
  4. Inbound Marketing will continue to evolve and HubSpot will be there to have a robust platform to support it.

It is always great to learn new tools.  Upon my return to Seattle, I came back with an 8-point action plan for Connection Model to deliver to our clients that will hopefully benefit their continued growth.  

Inbound has changed, it is no longer this intimate event where we get to enjoy dinner with the founders of HubSpot.  Over 21000 people attended this year, which is a testimony to how Inbound Marketing has evolved and become the priority for organizations focused on growth.  With great ideas and new technology, this will only continue to evolve.

If you were at Inbound this year, would love to hear your opinions on the event. 

 

A Beginner’s Guide to SSL: What It Is & Why It Makes Your Website More Secure

Have you ever noticed that some URLs start with “http://” while others start with “https://”? Perhaps you noticed that extra “s” when you were browsing websites that require giving over sensitive information, like when you were paying bills online.

But where’d that extra “s” come from, and what does it mean?

To put it simply, the extra “s” means your connection to that website is secure and encrypted any data you enter is safely shared with that website. The technology that powers that little “s” is called SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer.

Is your website secure? Enter a URL here to test. 

In this post, I’m going to break down what SSL is, an updated version of Google Chrome that will soon flag websites which are not secure, and how you can evaluate and get SSL.

What is SSL?

First, let’s start with a definition from SSL.com:

SSL is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remain private.”

Let’s break that down.

When you land on a website page that has a form, after that form is filled-in and you hit ‘submit’, the information you just entered can be intercepted by a hacker on an unsecure website. 

This information could be anything from details on a bank transaction, to high-level information you enter to register for an offer. In hacker lingo, this “interception” is often referred to as a “man-in-the-middle attack.” The actual attack can happen in a number of ways, but one of the most common is this: A hacker places a small, undetected listening program on the server hosting a website. That program waits in the background until a visitor starts typing information on the website, and it will activate to start capturing the information and then send it back to the hacker. Scary stuff that is no longer just is sci-fi movies.

But when you visit a website that’s encrypted with SSL, your browser will form a connection with the webserver, look at the SSL certificate, and then bind together your browser and the server. This binding connection is secure so that no one besides you and the website you’re submitting the information to can see or access what you type into your browser.

This connection happens instantly, and in fact many suggest is now faster than connecting to an unsecure website. You simply have to visit a website with SSL, and voila: Your connection will automatically be secured.

Everything You Need to Know About Chrome 62 and SSL

Google is getting ready to release a new version of their popular Chrome browser, version 62, which will begin to indicate that a page is not secure if it contains a form, but does not have SSL-enabled. Chrome has approximately 47% browser market share, so when this update is rolled-out a significant number of websites will be affected almost immediately.

According to recent HubSpot Research, up to 85% of people will not continue browsing if a site is not secure. In January 2017, Google rolled out a similar update that only applied to sites collecting sensative information such as passwords or credit card numbers. With that in mind, users are now familiar with seeing this “not secure” warning, and per the research below will often leave a site because of it.

SSL-Research-Not-Secure (1).png

If you utilize incognito mode in your browser, Chrome will always indicate a page is not secure if it does not have a valid-SSL certificate installed. If you use Chrome outside of incognito mode then this “not secure” warning will only display when starting to enter information into a form.

Image credit: 9to5Google

This means that wherever you host content that contains a form, even if it’s just asking for an email address, you should enable SSL. Keep in mind that if you have content hosted in different platforms, it will be important to talk to each of them and ensure SSL is setup before this Google Chrome update is live. In reality, if it’s not cost prohibitive for you, it’s best to enable SSL across your entire website regardless if a form exists on the page because it can have SEO benefits that we’ll cover in the next section.

Is SSL good for SEO?

Yes. While the primary purpose of SSL is securing information between the visitor and your website, there are benefits for SEO as well. According to Google Webmaster Trends Analysts Zineb Ait Bahajji, SSL is now part of Google’s search ranking algorithm:

Over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.”

In addition, Google has publicly stated that two websites which are otherwise equal in search results, if one has SSL enabled it may receive a slightly rank boost to outweigh the other. As a result, there is a clear SEO benefit to enabling-SSL on your website, and across all your content.

How can I tell if my website has SSL?

When you visit a website with SSL, there are a few distinct differences that display within the browser.

Check your site for SSL with our free tool.

1) The URL says “https://” and not “http://”. 

It looks like this:


2) You’ll see a little padlock icon in the URL bar.

It’ll show up either on the left- or right-hand side of the URL bar, depending on your browser. You can click on the padlock to read more information about the website and the company that provided the certificate.

3) The certificate is valid.

Even if a website has the “https://” and a padlock, the certificate could still be expired — meaning your connection wouldn’t be secure. In most cases, a site that displays as https will be secure, but if you encounter a site that asks for a lot of personal information it may be worth double-checking to be sure the certificate is valid.

To find out whether the certificate is valid in Chrome, go to view > Developer Tools. From there you will need to navigate to the security tab and you can see if the SSL certificate is valid, or expired. If you click the “View certificate” button you will be able to see more information about the SSL certificate and the specific date it’s valid through.

How can I get an SSL certificate for my website?

The first step is to determine what type of certificate you need. For example, if host content in multiple platforms (on separate domains/subdomains) it may mean that you need different SSL certificates.

For most, a standard SSL certificate will cover your content, but for companies in a regulated industry — such as finance, and insurance — it may be worth talking with I.T. because there are specific requirements within your industry that specify the type of SSL certificate you need.

The cost of SSL certificates vary, but you can get a free certificate or pay a few hundred dollars per month to obtain a custom certificate. On the free side — Let’s Encrypt offers certificates at no cost but I would strongly recommend that you have someone knowledgable about the DNS and technical setup of your website to help with this. These certificates will also expire every 90-days, so you’ll need to make sure they stay up to date. 

Many other domain providers will sell SSL certificates that generally range from $50 to obtain a certificate for one domain, up to a few hundred dollars for multiple-domains. This process will be easier than using Let’s Encrypt, but does have a cost associated with the certificate.

(HubSpot customers: If you’re hosting content on HubSpot, SSL is available for free within this promotion. To find out more, contact your Customer Success Manager, or visit our SSL page.)

One of the other key considerations is the validity period of a certification. Most standard SSL certificates that you purchase are available for one to two years by default, but if you’re looking for longer-term options, then look into more advanced certificates that offer longer time periods.

WordPress Plugins To Help Install SSL

If you utilize WordPress to host your content and website, depending on your domain provider, you may need to obtain an SSL certificate and then install it. Here are a few plugins that can help you:

  1. Really Simple SSL. Purchasing your SSL certificate is just the first step. This plugin helps you install it across your all your WordPress content. There are premium versions available to help you install it across sites, and verify there are no warnings on your website. Premium versions run from $20 up to $145 for a full-service configuration and optimization of SSL.
  2. Insecure Content Fixer. Once you have an SSL certificate and it’s installed, your not quite done yet. If your website is built with any hard-coded references to “http”, such as an image file, then it will show a warning when trying to load that securely. This plugin can help you find and fix anything coded that way so your site displays properly, and securely for visitors.
  3. WP Force SSL. Ok, now that you’re done obtaining SSL, installing it, and fixing any errors, it’s time to make sure all your traffic sees the secure version of your site. This plugin will force all traffic to HTTPS so it only loads securely. I strongly recommend that you check for insecure content (also known as mixed content) before enabling this. Without checking for mixed content first your site may appear with warnings because of those insecure files. 

(HubSpot customers: All files hosted within HubSpot File Manager are automatically encrypted with SSL, and in one-checkbox you can force all visitors to utilize the secure version of your site, no plugins required. To find out more, contact your Customer Success Manager, or visit our SSL page.)

 

 
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