Unriddled: The Latest From Facebook, Announcements From (And About) Apple, and More Tech News You Need

Welcome one, welcome all to a very warm Wednesday. Not only have we reached the week’s halfway point, but we’re one day away from the official start of summer here in Boston.

This Wednesday also brings another edition of “Unriddled”: the HubSpot Marketing Blog’s mid-week digest of the tech news you need to know. We’ve sifted through the vast pool of tech news items to help you decrypt what’s happening.

It’s our Wednesday tech news roundup, and we’re breaking it down.

Unriddled: The Tech News You Need

1. A Big Departure and New Ads From Facebook

Last week, Facebook’s now former head of public policy and communications, Elliot Schrage, announced that he would be leaving the social media giant.

“Leading policy and communications for hyper growth technology companies is a joy,” Schrage wrote in his official statement, “but it’s also intense and leaves little room for much else.”

In his announcement, Schrage also said that he would stay on just long enough to find and assist with the on-boarding of a replacement. It comes after months of criticism toward Facebook — from lawmakers, consumers, and others — not only for the Cambridge Analytica crisis, but also, for how the company responded to it.

Schrage’s looming departure is followed by a recent announcement that Facebook will display ads in more places, the latest being Messenger. While ad space has been sold within Messenger for about a year and a half, users will now see autoplay video ads.

The changes provide another means of ad revenue for Facebook, but how well-received they are by all users remains to be seen. Read more about the new autoplay video ads from Recode‘s Kurt Wagner. Read full story >>

2. Aleksandr Kogan Appears Before Senate Sub-Committee

Aleksandr Kogan — the Cambridge University professor who developed the app blamed for improperly obtaining Facebook user data that would later be exploited by voter profiling firm Cambridge Analytica — appeared yesterday before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security.

Very little new information emerged from the hearing, where Kogan was joined by witnesses John Battelle (CEO of NewCo) and Ashkan Soltani (former CTO of the FTC).

In his written testimony, Kogan discounted the effectiveness of any data obtained by his app in “a political campaign,” but did comment on what he sees as flaws in Facebook’s approach to terms and user consent, as well as what can be done to prevent similar events or crises. Alfred Ng of CNET writes more on today’s events and Kogan’s commentary. Read full story >>

3. Apple Closes the Data Transfer “Backdoor”

Apple is making it harder for law enforcement to hack iPhones, announcing a future software update that would disable the phone’s charging and data port — the port used by authorities to transfer the phone’s data to another device — if it’s been inactive for an hour since it was last locked.

The announcement comes after a 2016 high-profile disagreement between Apple and the FBI, when the former refused to provide what it called “backdoor” methods of accessing a locked iPhone. which it cited as potential violations of “basics of digital security.”

At the time, the FBI eventually enlisted a third-party that discovered a loophole — which is what Apple is seeking to close with this latest update. Jack Nicas of the New York Times has the full report. Read full story >>

4. Apple + Public Safety

Meanwhile, Apple has announced more consumer-friendly, public-safety-oriented features within the yet-to-be-released iOS 12. When an iPhone user makes a call to 911, the public emergency telephone number in North America, the device will automatically and securely share its location with first responders.

The feature addresses the growing number of emergency calls made from mobile devices — about 80%, Apple says — that previously could not be traced to a precise location. And while the FCC requires wireless carriers to locate 911 callers “within 50 meters at least 80% of the time by 2021,” Apple says that’s not soon enough — and wants to provide a more immediate solution. Read full announcement >>

5. The App Store and Antitrust

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal from Apple to a lower court’s ruling that would allow a class-action lawsuit by iPhone customers.

The plaintiffs seeking the suit claim that Apple has an unfair monopoly on mobile apps, which leads to prices that are more “inflated” than they would be if apps were available for purchase from other outlets. And while developers determine a price point for a given app, Apple charges them 30% commission for every purchase. Andrew Chung of Reuters explains more. Read full story >>

6. Login With Snapchat

Snapchat announced last week that it would launch a brand-new “Snap Kit” for developers, which contains — among other items — a “Login Kit” that allows users to log into certain sites with their Snapchat accounts.

The Snap Kit launch comes at a time when social networks, like Facebook, are dealing with particularly high scrutiny for the way these login APIs can be misused, such as the improper sharing of personal user data, even if unintentional. But Snapchat’s Login Kit shares far less information — only the user’s display name and Bitmoji avatar — with third parties than Facebook Login does. Read full announcement >>

That’s all for today. Until next week, feel free to weigh in on Twitter to ask us your tech news questions, or to let us know what kind of events and topics you’d like us to cover.

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Using Human-Centered Design to Create Better Products (with Examples)

Using Human-Centered Design to Create Better Products (with Examples)

To understand what human-centered design is, let’s start with what it isn’t.

Imagine you work at a gaming design company, and one day your boss comes to you and says, “Teenagers these days — they need to get off their phones. Let’s design a crossword-puzzle board game for teenagers — they’d welcome the opportunity to get offline.â€�New Call-to-action

Your boss has good intentions, but his intentions don’t match your consumer’s reality. His idea isn’t empathetic towards a teenager’s actual passions, and it isn’t a solution that fits their actual wants and needs.

Now, let’s look at a real example of human-centered design: meal subscription boxes.

Take HelloFresh, which was founded in 2011 by Dominik Richter, Thomas Griesel, and Jessica Nilsson. The company delivers a box of fresh food to your door, with easy recipes included. The founders recognized people have trouble finding time to shop for groceries, and they also struggle to create healthy, affordable meals — they came up with a solution to both problems.

Unlike your boss in the first example, the HelloFresh founders didn’t come up with an idea unrelated to real consumer’s actual needs. Instead, they recognized a struggle someone was facing, and then worked to invent a solution. In this way, it’s arguable human-centered design is a safer and more trustworthy approach to problem-solving.

Whether your role requires you to pitch ideas in marketing meetings, or design the products your company sells, it’s critical you know the process of human-centered design. By putting your consumer at the forefront of your creative process, you’re ensuring each product you create and distribute is a true, long-term solution to your consumer’s needs. If done correctly, you’ll gain a much more reliable and loyal customer-base.

Now that we’ve covered the importance of human-centered design, let’s dive into the various stages of a human-centered design process, and take a look at some examples, so you feel confident implementing the strategy for yourself.

Human-centered Design Process

IDEO — the global design firm behind Apple’s first computer mouse, the Palm Pilot in 1998, and more — came up with three phases for the human-centered design process, which has helped them create such successful and long-lasting products.

The three phases of the human-centered design process are inspiration, ideation, and implementation.

If you want to improve a piece of software all you have to do is watch people using it and see when they grimace, and then you can fix that. — David Kelley, Founder of IDEO

Phase One: Inspiration.

The inspiration stage requires true on-the-ground research. You’ll need to engage with your target audience directly to understand their biggest problems and pain points. It’s important to research your target audience. You want to find out: what makes your consumer happy? What makes them frustrated? What do they do first in the morning? How do they devour content? What takes up most of their time?

Essentially, you want to see from their point of view.

There are a few different methods you could use to research your audience. For instance, you might send out surveys to customers via email, or create a survey submission form on one of your web pages. If you find it difficult to get people to fill out the survey, you might offer incentives — 10% off their next purchase, or a ticket for a raffle contest with a giveaway prize.

If you don’t feel comfortable with surveys, you could facilitate a focus group.

If you interact often with consumers on the phone or email, you might organically hear about issues they’re having.

If you’re still unsure of which direction to take, check out 17 Tools & Resources for Conducting Market Research for more ideas.

Once you’ve done your market research, make a list with your team of all the trivial and major problems with which your consumer struggles (within your skill set or products, of course). Consider the biggest hassles your consumer faces, and how your products could get better, to solve for those issues.

Phase Two: Ideation.

Like the HelloFresh founders, your team must envision a future that doesn’t exist yet. Now that you know what problems your consumer faces, what solutions could help them become better, happier, and more productive?

The ideation stage is your “no such thing as a bad idea� brainstorming session. It requires you and your colleagues to create a long list, and tweak it. Take good ideas, and make them better. Refine and tweak them. Imagine all the different ways you could solve a customer’s problem, big and small.

When you’re confident you have a realistic, human-centered idea to solve for a customer’s needs, you’ll need to envision how a product could solve that solution.

Let’s use our HelloFresh example to see this stage more clearly. In Phase Two, Ideation, you’ve already recognized people don’t have time to grocery shop and want healthy meals (that was Phase One). In this step, you’ve made a long list of potential solutions, i.e. “YouTube tutorials to create healthy meals? Write a cookbook? Pay for someone to come into your home and cook for you? Pay for a truck to deliver healthy food to your door?�

Ultimately, your team has decided — aha! We’ll create a meal subscription service.

Now, you want to create a prototype of this product and test it on your ideal persona.

Remember, the whole premise behind human-centered design is digging into your consumer’s actual needs and providing a solution to those needs. If you receive feedback on limitations of your product, don’t get dejected — get inspired. That feedback is exactly what you need to ensure your product will gain long-term traction with your target consumer-base.

Phase Three: Implementation.

So you’ve created and tested a prototype of your product, you’ve collected feedback, and the product seems ready for release to a wider audience.

Now, it’s time to market your product. Ultimately, you’ll want to imagine yourself in your consumer’s shoes, and then market to them from that point of view: How would I like to learn about this product if I were them?

Since your product revolves around your consumer’s struggles, you’ll want to come up with an effective marketing strategy to spread the word about your product as a long-term solution to a real struggle.

You also might want to consider partnering with other businesses who offer similar solutions or share an audience with similar problems. By partnering with a business, you’re able to offer the user more of an all-in-one solution.

Human-centered Design Examples

1. Colgate Toothbrush 

Colgate-Palmolive’s toothbrush, Acti-Brush, was innovative in the 1990’s, but since then, competitor’s toothbrushes have surpassed Colgate’s on the market. Colgate-Palmolive hired Altitude, a design consulting firm focused on human-centered designs, to create a new toothbrush model.

The Altitude team extensively researched the audience, and then developed the Motion, a new, slimmer, high-powered toothbrush with oscillating heads and an arcing neck. The entire product, from superficial features to performance, centered around one critical question: will this serve our user’s needs? Ultimately, the Motion was successful by solving a user’s problem — needing a slender toothbrush that could still deliver on performance — the industry hadn’t previously addressed.

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 2.42.16 PM 

Image courtesy of Altitude Inc.

2. Spotify

Remember the days of paying $1.99 for one song, or hanging around the aisles of Walmart, searching for your favorite album?

One of the most impressive displays of human-centered design, I’d argue, is Spotify — a product that showed me my prior method for purchasing music was a problem, before I even recognized it as one.

Spotify succeeded by empathizing with their users’ struggle to pay for music from disparate sources, and created a solution we could all embrace. Thanks to Spotify, users are able to get all their music in one place, for one monthly fee. I’m willing to pay more for that kind of tailored, customized, helpful service.

Image courtesy of Spotify.

3. Fitbit

Before handy fitness trackers, we’d have to estimate how many calories we burned in a day, and find inherent motivation to be more active (which, as we all know, is an untrustworthy source).

The invention of products like Fitbit is undeniably human-centered. The inventors of fitness trackers recognized people’s challenges with tracking and maintaining fitness goals, and provided a useful long-term solution. The product works with the user in mind, by telling the user how many calories she burned, and urging her to get more exercise.

Image courtesy of FitBit

4. Venmo

Venmo is another example of a product which solved a problem before most people realized it was one. I personally didn’t see how cumbersome exchanging money was, until Venmo provided a solution.

In fact, the founders of Venmo, Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail, stumbled across the idea of Venmo only when they themselves encountered the problem. They took a trip to New York City, and Iqram forgot his wallet. Andrew paid for everything, and at the end of the trip, Iqram wrote him a check.

During that exchange of money, they thought to themselves, “Why is this still the best way of exchanging money? Why can’t we do this on our phones?�

The Venmo founders needed to solve a problem they encountered, and built a solution from which other people could also benefit.

Image courtesy of Venmo.

Feeling Inspired?

Hopefully, these examples confirm the usefulness of human-centered design for creating long-lasting and innovative products. You’re now ready to tackle your creative process from a new angle — the human angle.

download 195+ free design templates

195 free visual design templates

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Here's How AI Will Pull Content Marketing Back From the Brink of Destruction

Hemingway tried to warn us.

“All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.â€�

And bleed we shall.

Because we’ve created a monster that’s bent on ruining the content marketing that was once the saving grace in our long journey toward self-destruction.

“There is a content monster, and it’s tearing apart content marketing. Monsters are creatures that are out of control, that don’t respond to reason or logic, that just are; with no purpose.�

You know what’s even scarier?

Almost everyone is doing content marketing. Yet, less than half of B2B marketers feel their efforts are performing better than “meh.�



We’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn things around.

If what Seth Godin said about content marketing being the only marketing we have left is true, we’d better grab it.

Artificial intelligence is here, and it might pull content marketing back from the brink of destruction — if we’ll just let it.

When I say AI will save content marketing, you might jump at the thought of getting some of your most time-consuming tasks — like that whole writing thing — off your plate.

Not so fast.

Quality content isn’t something that can be completely automated just yet. But it can be augmented.

Some chatbots are already smart enough to put tons of relevant data at our fingertips as quickly as we’re able to make a query.

Take GrowthBot that is used by over +12K marketers today. It talks to over a dozen systems and APIs to bring some of these cool, useful features:

And yes, it is true that AI can write entire blogs. In fact, it already has. You might have read one without even knowing it.


Associated Press already uses AI to create stat-heavy sport and finance write-ups.

Engadget mixed a million words and a few rules to create a “Blogbot� that spit out a complete, though drab, tech announcement.

The rear-facing camera is a 12-megapixel unit, which is lower resolution than most sensors in this price range, but Samsung claims it takes great pictures anyway thanks to its larger pixels and fast autofocus.

Can you believe a robot wrote that? Probably.

As far as coherence and creativity, this is the outer limit for AI.

These current limitations might actually be a good thing, considering that a deluge of content isn’t exactly working.

What is working is quality. Quality content gives the reader a unique experience. Quality content meets both your objectives and theirs.

Quality content is epic.

“Content volume is important. Enterprise organizations need lots of content in many different forms and multiple channels. But quality cannot be sacrificed. To break through the clutter, content must be epic.â€�

— Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute

Can AI create epic content? Not yet.

But it can go a long way in helping you research, edit, and maintain extremely valuable content marketing.



Remember Clippy, the paper clip the world loved to hate?

It might not have been self-aware, or all that helpful, but it heralded a future for content marketing that Vedant Misra, founder of machine-learning company Kemvi, dreams of:

“Machines will help us produce content. Machines will suggest assets to include in the content you’re making, or subsets of content to include. Executive control will remain with creators, but the ideation and production process will become increasingly automated. Think Clippy the Microsoft Office Assistant, but with a much bigger brain.â€�

While that dream isn’t yet fully realized, a shape is starting to form that looks a lot like a life raft rescuing us from drowning in content.

AI-enabled tools can examine trends to tell you what content each and every one of your readers wants to read. And they can tell them what to read based on their behavior and tons of other data.

But can they help develop that epic reading material from scratch?

Actually, yeah.

Take for example Atomic AI.

Once given enough data about the target audience for your story (or email, or whatever), the smart program will calculate readability to give you customized, predictive recommendations in real time.



That, of course, is only the first step.

If there’s one thing AI excels in over humankind, it’s making sense of data.

AI-enabled platforms deduce behavioral patterns from a number of inputs that would take us years to organize, much less understand.

Better yet, they can tell you how to act on this knowledge.

“By analyzing hundreds of data points about a single user (including location, demographics, device, interaction with the website, etc.), AI can display the best-fitting offers and content.�
Content Marketing Institute

Once you have the perfectly-personalized content in hand; an intelligent system can tell you when, where, and how often you should be publishing and sharing it for maximum impact.

Then the whole cycle starts over again with smart recommendations on which topics your audience is interested in based on how they’ve interacted with your content.



The implications go well beyond simply crafting epic blog posts.

Evergage and Researchscape International found that 70 percent of organizations surveyed said email was the most important marketing channel to personalize.

Luckily for those respondents, AI makes it easier than ever to actually personalize email content based on the stuff subscribers care about.

No more yelling into the void.



User experience and conversion rate optimization can also benefit from intelligent personalization.

An AI-enabled platform allows you to serve the perfect content and products throughout a user’s experience, increasing the likelihood of a conversion while keeping the churn rate low.

AI will deliver us from crappy copy by making it obsolete.
I like to think we haven’t done things completely wrong as content marketers. Maybe we’ve done too good of a job.

Too much content with too little intelligence is crushing us under its weight.
Consumers have shown us they want extreme value. They want relevance. They expect the perfect solution at the perfect time.

They want epic content marketing.

We need a little help cutting through the chatter. The most powerful tool we have to reach epic status is AI that augments our natural skills.

Artificial intelligence isn’t replacing content marketers, it’s working alongside us.

Afterall, Hemingway told us “There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.�

Let’s see a machine do that.


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5 Marketing Plan Examples to Help You Write Your Own

5 Marketing Plan Examples to Help You Write Your Own

You did it.

You’ve been spearheading your organization’s content marketing efforts for a while now, and your team’s performance has convinced your boss to fully adopt content marketing.

There’s one small problem, though: your boss wants you to write and present a content marketing plan to her, but you’ve never done something like that before. You don’t even know where to start.Receive a 12-month marketing plan in less than 10 minutes with the help of our  free generator. 

Fortunately, we’ve curated the best content marketing plans to help you write a concrete marketing plan that’s rooted in data and produces real results.

Read on to get inspired by some of marketing’s top content strategies.

5 Marketing Plan Examples to Help You Write Your Own

1. Shane Snow’s Marketing Plan for His Book Dream Team

A successful book launch is a prime example of data-driven content marketing. Using data to optimize your content strategy spreads more awareness for your book, gets more people to subscribe to your content, converts more subscribers into buyers, and encourages more buyers to recommend your book to their friends.

When Shane Snow started promoting his new book Dream Team, he knew he had to leverage a data-driven content strategy framework. So he chose his favorite one: the content strategy waterfall, which is defined by Economic Times as a model used to create a system with a linear and sequential approach. To get a better idea of what this means, take a look at the diagram below:

content strategy waterfall

Snow wrote a blog post about how the content strategy waterfall helped him successfully launch his new book. After reading it, you can use his tactics to inform your own marketing plan. More specifically, you’ll learn how he:

  • Applied his business objectives to decide which marketing metrics to track.
  • Used his ultimate business goal of earning $200,000 of sales or 10,000 purchases to estimate the conversion rate of each stage of his funnel.
  • Created buyer personas to determine which channels his audience would prefer to consume his content on.
  • Used his average post view on each of his marketing channels to estimate how much content he had to create and how often he had to post on social media.
  • Calculated how much earned and paid media could cut down the amount of content he had to create and post.
  • Designed his process and workflow, built his team, and assigned members to tasks.
  • Analyzed content performance metrics to refine his overall content strategy.

You can use Snow’s marketing plan to cultivate a better content strategy plan, know your audience better, and think outside the box when it comes to content promotion and distribution.

2. Buffer’s Content Marketing Strategy Template

Writing a content plan is challenging, especially if you’ve never written one before. Since only 55% of marketing teams have a documented content strategy, Buffer decided to help out the content marketing community.

By sifting through countless content marketing strategy templates and testing the best, they crafted a content marketing plan template with instructions and examples for marketers who’ve never documented their content strategy.

After reading Buffer’s marketing plan template, you’ll learn how to:

  • Answer four basic questions that’ll help you form a clear executive summary.
  • Set SMART content marketing goals.
  • Create highly accurate audience personas by interviewing real content strategists.
  • Solve your audience’s problems with your content.
  • Do competitive research by analyzing your competitors’ and industry thought leaders’ content.
  • Evaluate your existing content strategy by examining the topics and themes of your highest and lowest performing pieces.
  • Determine which types of new content to craft, based on your team’s ability and bandwidth.
  • Establish an editorial calendar.
  • Develop a promotional workflow.

Buffer’s template is an incredibly thorough step-by-step guide, with examples for each section. The audience persona section, for example, has case studies of real potential audience personas like “Blogger Brian”. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process of creating a marketing guide, this can help ease you into it. 

3. Contently’s Content Plan

Contently’s content methodology works like a flywheel. Instead of applying an entirely new strategy to each new marketing campaign, they leverage the strategy of their previous marketing campaign to drive the next one. Similar to a flywheel, their content methodology needs an initial push of energy to get the gears in motion.

What supplies this energy? Their content plan.

Contently fleshed out their entire content plan in a blog post to help marketers develop a self-sustaining marketing process. After reading it, you’ll learn how to:

  • Align your content objectives and KPIs with your business goals.
  • Create highly detailed buyer personas using psychographics instead of traditional demographics.
  • Craft content for each stage of your marketing funnel, based off your prospects’ pain and passion points.
  • Identify your most effective marketing channels.
  • Discover the content topics your audience actually craves.
  • Assess your organization’s need for resources.

By applying a flywheel-like strategy to your own marketing efforts, you essentially take away the burden of applying new strategies to each individual marketing campaign. Instead, your prior efforts gain momentum over time, and dispel continual energy into whatever you publish next.

4. Forbes’ Marketing Plan Template

An oldie, but a goodie — Forbes published a marketing plan template that has amassed almost four million views since late 2013. To help you sculpt a marketing roadmap with true vision, their template teaches you how to fill out the 15 key sections of a marketing plan, which are:

  • Executive Summary
  • Target Customers
  • Unique Selling Proposition
  • Pricing & Positioning Strategy
  • Distribution Plan
  • Your Offers
  • Marketing Materials
  • Promotions Strategy
  • Online Marketing Strategy
  • Conversion Strategy
  • Joint Ventures & Partnerships
  • Referral Strategy
  • Strategy for Increasing Transaction Prices
  • Retention Strategy
  • Financial Projections

If you’re truly lost on where to start with a marketing plan, this guide can help you define your target audience, figure out how to reach them, and ensure that audience becomes loyal customers.

5. HubSpot’s Comprehensive Guide for Content Marketing Strategy

At HubSpot, we’ve built our marketing team from two business school graduates working from a coffee table to a powerhouse of over 200 employees. Along the way, we’ve learned countless lessons that’ve shaped our current content marketing strategy, so we decided to illustrate our insights in a blog post to teach marketers how to develop a successful content marketing strategy, regardless of their team’s size.

In this comprehensive guide for modern marketers, you’ll learn:

  • What exactly content marketing is.
  • Why your business needs a content marketing strategy.
  • Who should lead your content marketing efforts.
  • How to structure your content marketing team, based on your company’s size.
  • How to hire the right people for each role on your team.
  • What marketing tools and technology you’ll need to succeed.
  • What type of content your team should create, and which employees should be responsible for creating them.
  • The importance of distributing your content through search engines, social media, email, and paid ads.
  • And finally, the recommended metrics each of your teams should measure and report to optimize your content marketing program.

These marketing plans serve as initial resources to get your content marketing plan started — but to truly deliver what your audience wants and needs, you’ll likely need to test some different ideas out, measure their success, and then refine your goals as you go.

Marketing Plan Generator

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This Strategy Helped the HubSpot Blog Break a Year-Long Traffic Plateau

This Strategy Helped the HubSpot Blog Break a Year-Long Traffic Plateau

Presiding over a 10+ year old blog has a lot of unique challenges. There are some days when it seems like we’ve covered all there is to cover, and others when it doesn’t seem like we can possibly keep up with changing trends and technologies fast enough.

From where you sit, it might seem like we’ve figured it all out — we’re one of the largest and most visited B2B blogs on the internet, we have a team of extremely talented and motivated staff writers, and we still manage to find new stories you want to read on a daily basis.

But growth doesn’t just happen — you have to work at it, and then keep working at it.

There isn’t one magical strategy that will keep your blog growing forever. Your approach needs to constantly evolve to fit your changing needs as a property.Click here to download our free ebook on how to start a successful blog for  your business or project.

When I joined the HubSpot Blog team in 2016, our editorial strategy looked drastically different than it does now.

About once a month, our entire team would gather in a conference room for a brainstorm session. Armed with coffee and spreadsheets full of topic pitches, we’d spend a few hours going around the room, discussing what we wanted to cover for the month. At the end of the meeting, we’d leave with a solid list of articles to get started on.

For a long time, this process served our interests well. Our team developed a keen sense of what our audience wanted to read, and an extensive knowledge of what we’d already covered. But as our property grew and our audience expanded, it became clear that something was missing.

We could no longer manage our archives and identify topic gaps (areas we haven’t yet covered on the blog) by gut feeling alone. Although we had some processes in place to pinpoint gaps and select pieces for historical optimization on an article-by-article basis, none of these methods were scalable or precise enough to keep up with what our readers were searching for — and those issues starting catching up with us.

Rediscovering our momentum meant completely changing the way we plan, write, and optimize content. In March 2018, we started to see the impact of these changes: a new all-time traffic record across our three blogs — Marketing, Sales, and Service — and a renewed sense of purpose for the future. After months of traffic plateaus and uncertainty, we know where we’re headed now — and we’re ready to share our new strategy with you.

The Blog Traffic Plateau of 2017

I won’t sugarcoat it: 2017 was a tough year to be a blogger. Between 2014 and 2016, we’d become accustomed to seeing month-over-month traffic growth without regularly switching up our strategy. When 2017 hit, that line started to flatten out, and then — even more alarming — decline. And it wasn’t just us — Unbounce, Wordstream, and WordPress all saw some form of traffic decrease in 2017.

Traffic to the HubSpot Blog 2014 – 2017

To say we were confused would be an understatement. Up to this point, we thought we’d perfected the formula for sustainable traffic growth: Traffic from existing posts in organic search + new traffic from new posts = steadily increasing traffic, forever … right?

It turns out it wasn’t nearly that simple. Our usual protocol for fixing a slump — changing publishing volume, leaning into more clickable topics, historically optimizing a handful of our heavy-hitting posts — wasn’t having a significant impact. This downward trend wasn’t just a temporary dip in our numbers — it was starting to look like the new normal.

So we did what any good content marketing team would do, and cracked open our reporting dashboards to take a deeper look. Unfortunately, what we discovered after many hours of analysis and many coffees consumed wasn’t comforting. Much like the factors behind the mysterious decline of the bee population, there seemed to be multiple culprits converging to create a disaster.

We’d gone looking for a single root cause, and found several macro trends instead:

1. Social algorithms (and users) love native content.

Social media has long been a (relatively) dependable distribution channel for digital publishers, but recent algorithm changes across multiple social networks increasingly favor native content over links that take users off site. The shift makes perfect sense from the social networks’ perspectives — they want users to spend as much time as possible on their network — but it hurts publishers who depend on social traffic.

2. Conversational search is constantly improving.

Google has gotten a lot better at understanding the intent behind a specific query, and as a result, they’re able to serve up extremely relevant pieces of content to meet your exact query. This is great news if you regularly use a home assistant device, but bad news if you’re a publisher looking to capture organic traffic from multiple long-tail keywords with a single, comprehensive piece of content.

Back in 2012, a post on “The Best Interview Questions” might have appeared as a top result in searches for “great interview questions,” “interview questions to ask an interviewer,” and “what questions to ask during an interview.” But in 2018, those long-tail search queries are more likely to result in entirely different SERPs with entirely different top results. This means many of our “ultimate guides” started ranking for fewer long-tail keywords, resulting in organic traffic losses on some of our most highly-trafficked pieces.

3. Featured snippets and other on-page search features are taking a toll on CTR from SERPs.

You’re probably familiar with Google’s featured snippets: those short lists or paragraphs that appear at the top of a SERP and (usually) directly address your query. In addition to featured snippets, there are also a number of other on-page search features that push a piece of content ranking number one even further down your screen.

While these quick answers have certainly made the search experience faster for users, they’re eating our organic traffic — even on SERPs where we hold the number one organic result. People don’t have any reason to click through to a blog post (even if it’s ranking number one) if the answer they’re seeking is already on the top of the SERP. As a result, fewer users are clicking on the number one organic result. Ahrefs found that on SERPs without a featured snippet, the top result received 26% of clicks. When a featured snippet appeared on the SERP, the top result received only 19.6% of clicks.

None of these were things we could fix with a band-aid solution. These shifts called for a massive overhaul of our editorial strategy, and a completely new way of approaching blogging in general.

Our New Editorial Strategy

While these trends were scary for the future of our blog, they weren’t entirely surprising. We’d been aware for a while that future-proofing for Google algorithm changes meant restructuring our site architecture. Back in late 2016, Leslie Ye had begun the tedious and challenging work of transitioning the blog’s internal linking system into a pillar-cluster model. This move was intended to give us an organized way to understand our content gaps, and a cleaner architecture to help posts rank faster and bring in more organic traffic.

Thanks to a blog redesign project (headed up by Carly Stec) that automated this pillar-clustering process across the entire blog, our 10,000+ posts were neatly sorted into the pillar-cluster model by mid-2017. But our process for planning and writing new content hadn’t fully adjusted to work optimally within this new system. We had a much better understanding of where our content gaps were, but we weren’t filling these gaps systematically — we were still largely guessing when it came to the topics we should be writing about on a monthly basis.

We were also suffering from a lack of foresight: we weren’t planning for the search terms that would be popular a few years or even a few months into the future. This left room for other blogs and publications to capture organic green space that would be essential to our sustained growth down the line.

With this in mind, we made the decision to focus all our efforts behind stabilizing and growing our organic traffic. If our existing content was slowly but surely losing clicks to featured snippets in search, and our new content wasn’t consistently earning as much traffic from promotional channels like social, we needed to offset those losses. And that meant zeroing in on organic green space in a big way.

This led us to create three guidelines we now use to determine what net new content we create:

  1. Does this topic have search volume, or will have search volume in the future?
  2. Does it fit into our pillar-cluster model?
  3. Is it duplicative (is there a piece of content on this topic that already exists)?

If no one is searching for a topic, and we don’t anticipate the search demand to grow in the foreseeable future, there’s no long-term benefit in covering it. At least for our blog, posts created without a clear keyword in mind tend not to produce sustainable traffic after their first month of publication.

To rank these days, your site usually needs both depth and breadth on a topic — in other words, you need to cover a concept or subject at a high level, then dive deeper with specific, detailed posts. Using the pillar-cluster model (more on that here) makes our content much likelier to rank than if we published an individual post that targeted one or two keywords. If a blog post doesn’t fit into an existing cluster, it’s probably not worth our time and energy to write it.

As you can probably imagine, we’ve covered quite a bit of ground in our 10+ years as a blog. Some overlap is inevitable, but writing on the same exact topic more than once — even if the takeaways are ultimately different — can lead to self-competition in the SERPs. And if we’re already ranking highly for a topic, our efforts are better spent creating a piece of content for a SERP we’re not on at all instead of piling on where we already have valuable real estate.

If a topic doesn’t meet these three guidelines, we won’t create content around it. There are a few exceptions of course — The Marketing Blog’s news program (headed up by Amanda Zantal-Wiener) and thought leadership on topics we think our readers need to hear about — but for the most part, this organic-first strategy represents an enormous shift in the way we plan our editorial calendar and create content. Posts created with an organic goal in mind don’t always pay off immediately, but organic is the only type of traffic that can consistently pay off month over month.

The Editorial Process in Action

Adopting an aggressive organic-first approach required a serious mindset change for our team — one that required us to put aside our obsession (some would even say addiction) with quick wins, and instead put our primary focus on sowing seeds for the future. We weren’t going to publish a post with no strategic organic potential, even if we knew it would bring in a satisfying spike in traffic.

Ultimately, the temporary traffic from a quick-win post brought us nothing of value in the long run. To truly grow, we need to keep our eyes on the organic gaps in our pillar cluster model.

A big part of seeding for the future also means educating ourselves on emerging topics: subjects our readers aren’t too concerned with right now but that will eventually become trending search terms, like the nuts and bolts of artificial intelligence, or practical applications for blockchain. These are the technologies people will likely be searching for in droves in the future, and we want to get out ahead of the competition and position our blog as a resource right now — and earn the traffic when the search volume spikes.

So how exactly do we select which topics to cover? We’ve talked about the reasons behind our new strategy, now let’s see what this process actually looks like on a quarterly basis.

Stage One: Planning

We’ve partnered internally with our SEO team to create a blog taskforce of sorts, headed up by our former Sales Blog Editor and current Sr. SEO Strategist Aja Frost. Each quarter, Aja conducts in-depth keyword research across our three onsite blog properties (Marketing, Sales, and Service), taking into account both gaps in our existing topic clusters, and emerging topics we haven’t yet thoroughly constructed content clusters around.

The resulting quarterly report includes well over 100 post suggestions broken down by topic clusters for each blog. Here’s what our completed “Advertising” cluster looks like on the report:

Stage Two: Execution

Our Multimedia Content Strategy team handles the creation of each cluster’s pillar page (the long-form piece of content that serves as a broad, foundational resource on the subject), and the Blog team owns the production of the supporting blog articles that delve deeper into specific subtopics. Most of the articles need to be written from scratch, but in some cases, we already have a blog post in existence that just needs to be updated to include a fresher, more exhaustive take on the subject.

SEO optimization has always been a consideration for our team when writing posts, but under this new strategy, its become a top priority. Before a single word is typed on a first draft, our writers already have information from our SEO team on the keyword(s) to target, section titles (H2s) to include, and featured snippet sections to work into the copy.

Here’s an example of a typical article assignment on our editorial calendar:

Targeting featured snippets with consistently formatted sections has removed some (but definitely not all) of the guesswork when it comes to ranking for featured snippets. Matthew Howells-Barby, HubSpot’s Director of Acquisition, has stressed that clean and consistent code is a significant factor in winning snippets.

His team created a simple code our writers can use when formatting sections of copy for paragraph or list snippets. Not only has our team started incorporating featured snippet sections into all our new posts, but we’ve also historically “snippetized” hundreds of posts from our archives to help Google surface them more frequently.

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ve likely encountered these snippet boxes before:

While there’s unfortunately not a 100% guaranteed formula to win featured snippets, this method has helped our team capture more than 6,300 featured snippets as of June 2018.

In addition to optimizing our articles more intentionally for featured snippets, we’ve also adopted a more aggressive historical optimization approach in 2018. Our team has had a historical optimization strategy in place for several years now, but it’s been years since we’ve had a full-time human dedicated to making sure our existing content is performing optimally in search.

Braden Becker, a Senior Staff Writer on the Blog team, has taken on the task of monitoring the organic performance and optimization of our 10+ years worth of archives as a full-time responsibility. Each month, Braden works with our SEO team to develop an update strategy that works with the new content clusters we’re producing. He selects posts for updating largely based on their individual monthly organic traffic — “the better they’re performing, the higher the potential benefit once I optimize them,” he explains.

Stage Three: Analyze

Once a month, the Content and SEO teams meet to discuss our progress, dig into the numbers, and plan for the next few weeks. We examine organic traffic numbers across our three blog properties, report on featured snippet attainment and loss, and discuss new ways we can adapt to Google’s ever-changing algorithm.

The biggest shift in our reporting method under our new organic-first strategy has been a mental (and, I’ll say it, emotional) one. Although we still report at a monthly cadence, we’ve had to largely abandon our fixation with month-over-month growth, and instead focus on broader trends over longer periods of time.

When I first joined the Blog team, month-over-month growth was the ultimate goal. If the end-of-month traffic number beat out the previous month, we considered it a success; if that number was in the red — a lost month. No matter what, the slate was wiped clean on the first day of the next month, and we started the race all over again. This short-term mentality led us to become so focused on hitting monthly numbers, we ended up neglecting the bigger picture: our blog’s health and continued growth over time. Enter the traffic plateau of 2017.

Under our new editorial strategy, we’re more focused on seeding for the future — and that means letting go of our monthly traffic goals. An article we publish this month on “How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy for Virtual Reality” might not have a ton of search volume right now, but we’re betting it will sometime in the future. It might be many months before we see the rewards reflected in our traffic numbers, and we have to be okay with waiting, knowing we’re setting ourselves up well for the future.

As a result of this strategy, our team’s mindset has gone from “We’ll do anything to smash our monthly traffic goals” to “Stick to the plan.”

Getting out in front of future search terms and filling gaps in our existing topic cluster structure will pay off more than watching the monthly traffic numbers rise over a few well-timed, clickable posts.

What challenges is your blog facing? How are you approaching growth in 2018? Talk to us @HubSpot.

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7 Expert Cover Letter Tips to Get the Job

7 Expert Cover Letter Tips to Get the Job

Here’s a hard truth: your cover letter might have almost no impact on whether or not you get hired. A hiring manager might gloss over it, or not bother reading it at all.

But under certain circumstances when a recruiter is unsure if she wants to move forward with you, it counts big-time.

Cover letters are important regardless of the size of the company, but can be used differently depending on the company’s recruitment goals.Use these free cover letter templates to save time.

Madeline Mann, Director of People Operations at Gem HQ, says cover letters are crucial if you’re applying for a position at a small-to-medium company: “For us little guys — the companies who hire dozens instead of hundreds; the start-ups looking to change the world with team members who are equal parts talented and passionate; the tribes where each new person immediately sends ripples through the culture — we read every cover letter, and make our interview decisions based on them.â€�

Even if you’re applying for a position at a larger corporation, writing a cover letter is still important. Our recruiters at HubSpot have said they often use cover letters when they’re on the fence about a candidate. They use the cover letter to decide if they’ll move forward.

Claire McCarthy, a recruiter at HubSpot, says a cover letter is, “your opportunity to showcase your business acumen and written communication skills. Cover letters can just as much disqualify you as a candidate as they can sway me to move you forward.�

At the very least, as Jodi Glickman, a communications expert and author of Great on the Job, points out: “Not sending a cover letter is a sign of laziness. It’s akin to making spelling and grammar mistakes in your resume. You just don’t do it.�

Ultimately, a cover letter differentiates you from other candidates beyond the content of your resume. It can prove your enthusiasm for a company, showcase how well you’ll fit into the culture, or explain gaps in your resume.

But that’s only if you write a good cover letter. Otherwise, the cover letter wastes your time, and the hiring manager’s time. To ensure your cover letter demonstrates exactly why you’re an exceptional fit, we’ve compiled powerful tips from experts in the recruiting and career development field.

1. Address the hiring manager personally.

Claire McCarthy, a recruiter at HubSpot, says, “Specificity is key. I can spot a generic ‘fill in the blank with company name’ cover letter from a mile away.� That specificity should start early, with an appropriately addressed letter, which says, “To [Hiring Manager’s Name].�

Here are a few ways to find out who is hiring for a certain position:

  • Reach out to any contacts you have at the company and see if they can tell you.
  • Email or call the company, and ask who is hiring for position X.
  • Do some sleuthing on LinkedIn or Google. Type in [hiring manager + company X] and see what you find.

At the very least, you’ll want to address “The Hiring Team� instead of “To whom it may concern.�

These little touches go a long way towards proving you’ve put genuine effort into this cover letter, and aren’t simply sending out generic ones to every company you find online.

2. Stand out from the start, and don’t fall back on a generic introduction.

John Lees, a UK-based career strategist and author of Knockout CV, told Harvard Business Review: “People typically write themselves into the letter with ‘I’m applying for X job that I saw in Y place.’ That’s a waste of text.�

Your cover letter introduction is your one shot to capture the hiring manager’s attention and ensure they don’t throw it away. No pressure, right?

Claire McCarthy seconds Lees’ point, explaining that as a recruiter, she already knows you want the job — it’s why you applied, isn’t it? She urges candidates to instead use the introduction as space to explain why you’re qualified.

Start off by saying something direct, dynamic, and persuasive. Lees suggests saying something like this: “Before you read any further, let me draw your attention to two reasons why you might want to hire me …� See? This sentence sets you up to share critical information the recruiter needs to read early on.

The exact contents of your introduction will vary depending on what you know of the company culture: a tech start-up, for instance, could invite a more candid or creative introduction, whereas a financial position probably deserves more stiff professionalism. You’ll need to do your research to ensure your tone fits their brand.

3. Address gaps in your resume — or risk seeming suspicious.

No one has a completely linear career path. Most employers won’t fault you for having career setbacks or gaps, but it’ll look suspicious if you’ve got a full six-months unemployment on your resume and can’t explain it.

Bart Turczynski, a career expert and editor for Uptowork.com, suggests using your cover letter as a chance to fill in those gaps in your resume that could otherwise raise an eyebrow.

Turczynski says, “use the cover letter to share what you did during that gap time. Think of any courses, [or] workshops you might have attended in that period.�

It’s likely if you don’t address it, a recruiter is going to be skeptical of your work ethic. It’s important you explain what you learned or how you pursued professional growth during an unemployment period. If you took off time to travel after college, you don’t have to hide it — own up to your own life story and explain how the opportunity to travel positioned you to be more successful, long-term.

4. Answer the three critical questions a hiring manager might ask herself.

Jenny Foss, Founder and CEO of JobJenny.com, writes three questions hiring managers will be looking to answer when they read cover letters:

  1. Can he or she do this job?
  2. Do we like him or her?
  3. Do we think he or she is going to fit around here?

Your resume partially answers the first question, but it doesn’t answer the second or third. When you’re up against plenty of people with similar skill sets, your cover letter needs to convince the hiring manager you’ll be the better fit than the rest of the pile.

First, do extensive research on the company’s culture. In your cover letter, you want to try to match their tone — do they come across as goofy, relaxed, fast-paced, or conservative?

For instance, if the company seems incredibly results-driven from their About Us page, you might adjust your tone to reflect how focused and disciplined you are, with points like, “Over the past year as digital marketing manager at Company A, I’ve generated $30k+ in revenue, increased organic traffic to our blog by 14% …�

However, if the company seems more playful and relaxed, you might use a tone that sounds similarly fun-loving (check out 8 Impressive Ways to Start a Cover Letter, with Examples for some ideas).

Answering Foss’s question two — whether you’re likeable — is harder to address. It’s often difficult to come across as likeable through digital correspondence, but you want to be authentic and use friendly and respectful phrases.

For instance, you could convey a general good-naturedness via email correspondence, with phrases such as, “At your earliest convenience,� “Have a great weekend� and, “I look forward to hearing from you,� etc. Stay clear of sounding pushy or frustrated, and remain humble by focusing on past achievements (“I’m a fast learner … I got two promotions in seven months�), rather than sounding boisterous (“I’ve always been smart.�).

5. Don’t waste time repeating the contents of your resume.

Wasting a recruiter’s time by repeating information already on your resume is an easy way to lose their interest — plus, it’s depleting space you could be using to convince them you’re the most qualified candidate.

Vicki Salemi, a Monster career expert, says, “Recruiters are looking for a cover letter that highlights your professional achievements, like the fact that you got promoted two times in three years, you earned a coveted award within your industry and/or you possess a unique skill set. Think of it as a ‘best-of’ roundup of your career so far.�

Notice Salemi mentioned professional achievements such as promotions or awards: while those achievements might be listed on your resume, they aren’t explained or highlighted. Use your cover letter as a chance to explain more in-depth.

For instance, your resume might say “Event planner, Two years�. But your cover letter could take it a step further: “I dealt with the nuts and bolts of the event planning process, and I have increased my leadership skills and my teamwork skills exponentially. I increased event retention and was recognized as the ‘event planner of the year’ at my company.�

See? Your cover letter lets you provide critical background details about your experiences, showcasing how you’ve learned and grown from past roles.

6. Prove your values and passions align with the company’s.

Passion is a major indicator of success, as well as long-term company loyalty. It’s often challenging to display passion in the rigid format of a resume, so your cover letter is a good opportunity to show your excitement for the position.

Madeline Mann, Director of People Operations at Gem HQ, says: “The other important ‘why’ in the cover letter is, ‘Why this company?’ It is a huge bonus in the cover letter if there is any mention of geeking out on our technology, cultural tenets, or our mission. These candidates are the ones who understand, at least on a basic level, what we are building and why it is important, and are enthusiastic about it. This gives them an edge because our small start up runs on passion and thirst for knowledge — if you don’t get excited about complex bleeding edge technology then you won’t have nearly as much fun as everyone else.â€�

The easiest way to prove your ability to do a good job, apart from writing a list of skills, is to show recruiters you understand the company’s bottom line and crave the opportunity to help drive success. This is more convincing if your values align with the company’s, or if you care deeply about the company’s overarching goals.

7. End with your elevator pitch.

To write your closing statement, Claire McCarthy recommends thinking of yourself as a lawyer: “You’re making a case as to why you are a qualified candidate for this position, and why the recruiter should move you forward. What’s your value prop? What will you bring to the table, and what’s going to set you apart from the pack?â€�

This is your chance to dig into skills or experiences that might not be obvious from your resume. With your closing statement, you want to speak confidently about how you envision your future at the company and in the position to which you’re applying. This is an opportunity to paint a picture to show the recruiter the connection between your past success at Company Y and your likely future success at her company.

Be blunt. Claire recommends saying something like this: “As the most junior rep at my Boston-based company, I worked West Coast hours and hit 125% of my annual quota in 2017, and plan to take this track record of success, and commitment to my craft to Company X’s sales team.”

Essentially, your closing statement should be your elevator pitch for why you’re best suited for the role. Take all your prior experiences and relate them in a convincing argument for how you’ll succeed next.

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The Top 7 Free Alternatives to Adobe Illustrator of 2018

The Top 7 Free Alternatives to Adobe Illustrator of 2018

Adobe Illustrator is a hugely popular tool for designing vector graphics, logos, icons, and more.

But when you’re a web or graphic designer with a small budget, you probably can’t afford Adobe Illustrator’s steep $239.88 pricing.Take the crash course in visual content creation that delights customers on  every digital channel.

Luckily, there are plenty of top-notch free alternatives on the market, some of which even offer features unparalleled by Illustrator.

If you’re shopping for a program that offers features comparable in quality to Adobe’s product, check out our list of the top free alternatives to Illustrator.

1. Inkscape

One of the most comparable substitutes to Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape has plenty of similar sketching, illustrating, and editing tools, including keys to move and rotate by screen pixels, bitmap tracing, color painting over objects, and edit gradients with handles. Inkscape is a quality product for pro- or semi-pro web designers working within SVG file format. It also offers an open source vector graphics package, so if you have the technical skills, you can incorporate Inkscape into your other software programs.

Platform: Mac, Windows, Linux

Image courtesy of Inkscape.


GIMP, which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, has limited vector functions but has similar tools to Photoshop, making it an impressive image editor with powerful image manipulation options. Better still, GIMP provides options for customization and third party plug-ins, so if your image editing needs are somewhat unique, you might want to check this tool out.

Platform: Mac, Windows, Linux

Image courtesy of GIMP.

3. BoxySVG

BoxySVG runs as an extension in Google Chrome, so it’s easy to store vector graphics including icons, charts, and illustrations on the web. It provides options for Google Fonts integration and has an Open Clip Art Library, as well as illustrator tools including pens, bezier curves, groups, shapes, text, and more. Ultimately, BoxySVG is simpler than Illustrator, and while this means less advanced tools, it also means a quicker and easier process for creating vector graphic files.

Platform: Mac app, Windows app, Chrome app, Web app

Image courtesy of BoxySVG.

4. Pixlr

Pixlr offers plenty of useful features for editing, creating, and sharing creative images — while it’s less advanced in function than Illustrator, it’s cloud-based and supported on mobile, desktop, or the web. If your position requires you to work from different devices to create images, give Pixlr a try.

Platform: Windows, Mac, Web, Mobile

Image courtesy of Google Chrome.

5. Gravit

You’ll find plenty of your basic vector-editing tools in Gravit, including pen, line, knife, slice, bezigon, gradient editor. It also has more advanced features, such as boolean operations, symbols, international text support, and more. Plus, it’s designed in a user-friendly interface and offers video tutorials. Gravit works from right within any browser, which means you can edit and export your files anywhere with wifi. It also supports cmyk rendering, so you can print quality images without downloading anything. You can also import and export files in a variety of formats including pdf, png, jpg, svg, and sketch — which makes this option more flexible than Illustrator.

Platform: Mac, Linux, Windows, Chrome, Any Browser

Image courtesy of Gravit.

6. Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer is allegedly “built from the ground up over a five-year period … with the needs of creative professionals at its core.â€� With rasterizing controls, infinite zooming, a precision-engineered pen tool, automatic snapping points, colors that pop, and an extensive array of vector editing tools, this system truly compares in design and function to Illustrator. The full version is $49.99, but the trial version is free and offers plenty of the full version tools.

Image courtesy of Affinity Designer.

Platform: Mac

7. OpenOffice Draw

While not the most aesthetically pleasing platform in the bunch, OpenOffice Draw still has plenty of high-quality tools for creating posters, charts, diagrams, or graphics, including a manipulate objects tool and 3D controller tool. The system also lets you create flash versions of your design. You can use OpenOffice Draw’s clipart gallery, or create images and add it to the gallery yourself for easy future access.

Image courtesy of OpenOffice Draw.

Platform: Windows, Linux, Mac

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9 Native Advertising Examples People Actually Enjoyed Reading

9 Native Advertising Examples People Actually Enjoyed Reading

In 2012, the concept of native advertising broke onto the scene. Back then, who would have predicted the deep impact of native on the world of online advertising?

Native ads have since overtaken display ads as the most popular form of digital advertising. For marketers everywhere, native ads — used on social, search, and content recommendation platforms — have become a staple item on the online advertising menu.

Clearly, native advertising hits a nerve. Over time, native ads have become more sophisticated, calling on complex design and UX principles in the never-ending grab for consumer attention.

Click here to take inspiration from the most remarkable marketing and ad  campaigns we've ever seen.

There are so many amazing examples to choose from, so we’ve narrowed it down to nine exciting, advanced, and current native ads that we think do a great job:

9 Native Advertising Examples

1. Altran Engineering in the Financial Times

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9i_9gwOz_jQ?ecver=1]

This native advertisement combines some of the best elements of digital advertising: video, a human interest story, and classy hi-tech with an Elon Musk connection.

Produced by the Altran engineering company, and published in the Industrial Tech section of the Financial Times, the above video, “Hyperloop: designing the future of transport?” tells the story of a group of students from the Technical University in Valencia, Spain who are competing in the 2018 Hyperloop Pod Competition run by Musk’s SpaceX company.

This native video ad has a palpable human component — the students and the Altran staff who are supporting them in the tough competition. This brings in its futuristic aspect — the best and the brightest working to design the fastest transport pod that will transform the future of transportation. And it’s presented as a news story, not as a promotion or ad for Altran or the SpaceX competition (although it’s actually promoting both).

Together with high production value and a compelling narrative, it’s a great example of a native video ad.

2. Land Rover — A Mini Suspense/Action Movie

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUwzWHD3Htg?ecver=1]

Land Rover uses diverse outstanding content marketing campaigns to promote its vehicles. These native content strategies are in full form in Land Rover’s Dragon Challenge video, shown above. It’s eye-catching, slick, and suspenseful. It’s everything a native campaign can and should be.

This nail-biting ad shows the world’s first attempt to scale the stairs leading to the Heaven’s Gate landmark in China — by vehicle. In February 2018, a specially fitted Range Rover SUV successfully drove up the 999 steps to Heaven’s Gate, at a frightening angle of 45 degrees.

The native campaign perfectly captures the brand essence of Land Rover — daring, excellence, adventure, and ultimately, success. Promoted via social Land Rover’s networks, it’s much more than an ad. It’s a record-breaking event and a story of its own.

3. Eni Energy on CNN

Native advertising example from Eni Energy on the Green River Project in the Niger Delta

Here’s an example of graphic, luscious storytelling, ripe with green landscapes, promoted by oil and energy conglomerate Eni. It focuses on the Green River Project in the Niger Delta, an Eni development program for farming and livestock to improve the livelihoods of local communities. The campaign is promoted with native ads on CNN.com, linking back to the Green River Project. It’s a truly impressive example of native content.

The site is designed as a story, divided into three sections: Past, Present and Future. The content is a mix of just about everything — text, imagery, audio, video, personal stories, animations, and illustrations. The complete look and feel is reflective of an environmental agency, rather than an oil company.

In this native campaign, Eni succeeds in distancing itself from the criticisms faced by energy conglomerates, and creates a brand image as a 21st-century social and environmental force for good, and a beacon of corporate responsibility.  

4. Mercedes in the Washington Post

Native advertising example by Mercedes-Benz called The Rise of the Superhuman

This native campaign by Mercedes is an example of smooth, clean content designed to pique interest and engage the user. The campaign is called “The rise of the superhuman,” and it focuses on various technologies that are turning people into “superhumans,” such as robotic exoskeleton suits, virtual reality in medical settings, and the Mercedes Benz E-class series that integrates the new Intelligent Drive system.

The native content above is highly interactive, featuring quiz questions and hot spots the user can click to get more information. But one of the best things about this campaign is how it effortlessly creates a connection between Mercedes and the “superhuman.” It’s reminiscent of one of the oldest native examples, the “Penalty of Leadership” ad by Cadillac, which enhanced the Cadillac image as a prestigious leader. That simple print ad, published in 1915, is credited with reviving the Cadillac brand and boosting flagging sales that plagued the company at the time.

Today’s native interactive Mercedes ad relies on the same principle — creating a powerful connection between the car and the concept of cutting-edge excellence.

5. Viral Meme on VentureBeat

Native advertising example by VentureBeat on Laurel vs. Yanny meme

Nothing beats a viral meme in terms of sheer stickiness, and it’s a great way to promote brand awareness. Recently, during the famous “Laurel or Yanny?” dispute, we saw VentureBeat take advantage of the meme in native content to promote the upcoming Transform conference on artificial intelligence and analytics. How? By using an artificial intelligence (AI) device to settle the dilemma of Laurel versus Yanny, once and for all.

VentureBeat promoted an article that briefly describes how AI was used to determine whether the stated name was Laurel or Yanny. The native article discusses some of the problems that arose, and how the engineers had to adjust the algorithms to get an accurate result.

It also opened up the issue of the limits of algorithms — which will presumably be explored at the Transform conference run by VentureBeat and scheduled to take place in August. Of course, the article opened with a clear CTA to register for the conference, including a tempting 30% discount offer. A great example of not letting a viral meme go to waste in a native campaign.

6. ‘Know Your Girls’ on AOL

Native advertising example for Know Your Girls campaign

Here’s a great example of native advertising used to advance a great cause. The “Know Your Girls” campaign is designed to promote breast health and breast cancer awareness among African American women in the US. Promoted natively on AOL.com, the “Know Your Girls” ad title is catchy, intriguing, a little naughty, and clearly speaks the language of the target audience.

A click leads you to an informative and well designed website that provides health resources, personal stories, and important information about risk factors, screening, and much more. The campaign is a partnership between the Susan G Komen breast cancer foundation and the Ad Council, which unites this important cause with the latest and best advertising practices. Clearly, that includes native ads.

7. Influencer Promotion on BBC.com

Native advertising example by BBC showing the average American face

BBC Future is one of the BBC’s “storytelling” channels, which connects brands to audiences via sponsored stories. An interesting example is this 2017 article, which purports to show the face of the “average American politician.”

In fact, this is achieved by using technology to perform “face averaging,” creating composite images of all American politicians to derive the average face.

This technology can lead to all kinds of research and suppositions about what the average politician represents, including gender, race, republican, and democrat — all hot topics in a highly politicized time period.

The article ends with a call-to-action (CTA) to learn more about face averaging with an online tutorial on OpenCV, an open-source computer vision software. The link leads to a website, owned not by a large corporation or software giant, but to an individual entrepreneur, programmer, and blogger — Satya Mallik. In this example, we love how native advertising is accessible to small businesses and influencers, affording powerful promotion opportunities on premium websites like the BBC.

8. Colored Corn on Business Insider

Native advertising example in Business Insider about Glass Gem Corn

One of the best native tactics is creating a story. And if the story is visual and colorful, well, that’s a huge help. Take this example of native content promoted on Business Insider.

The example above looks and feels just like a regular Business Insider article. It’s about Glass Gem Corn, a multi-colored corn variety that became a public sensation in 2012. It’s the story of one man and his search for his Native American roots that led him to develop the colored corn. And in true Business Insider fashion, the story of the rainbow corn is retold in amazing, bold, eye-catching visuals.

The article contains links to buy the seeds online from Native/SEARCH, a not-for-profit conservation company that now owns the product. So what’s in effect a product sales page is presented as a remarkable, colorful news story.

What’s most interesting about this article is the disclaimer published by Business Insider: “This article was originally published in 2013 and has been updated because the story is timeless.” It just goes to show: Evergreen content promoted natively can truly be a long-term success story.

9. KPMG on Forbes

Native advertising example on Forbes called The Great Rewrite

Forbes’ BrandVoice is a platform for native advertising and sponsored content. Many brands have their own BrandVoice channel, such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, SAP, Deloitte, and even the government of Japan.

KPMG has taken its own native content on Forbes to the next level, with a campaign called “The Great Rewrite.”

Big and bold (just like native advertising should be), The Great Rewrite focuses on different industries and how they are being “rewritten” in a post-innovation age. The campaign look and feel is grand and ultra modern, yet easy to navigate.

It makes its point, connecting KPMG with the future of innovation, while continually adding new “chapters” about various sectors. Each chapter is packed with content, including video, featured articles, and content recommendations. This is a great example of a native campaign that, just likes its title, is rewriting the rules of native in an ongoing, ever- growing, content-rich user experience.

These days, many native ads that we see online are truly spectacular. Some are eye-catching, others are original, and yet others offer inspiration for new ways to promote compelling content and capture mindshare.

The nine examples above are by no means an exhaustive list. However, they do give a taste as to how native advertising is constantly advancing, pushing the boundaries of content and design to create new, unexpected online brand experiences.


Best Mktg and ad campaigns

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How to Start a Business in Australia

Embarking on a new business venture is both exciting and terrifying in equal measure. On one hand, you’ll finally be the boss; the master of your own destiny who’s pursuing success in something that you’re truly passionate about. On the other hand, you now have a laundry list of things that you need to tick off before you even start to make sure everything kicks off smoothly.

Whereas working for someone else alleviates these responsibilities, the startup owner takes on all these stresses themselves. Not only that, every country has different laws, regulations and requirements to get your business up and running. So, even if you’ve started a business in one country, you’ve still got to do a pile of research to make sure you do it properly in another.

To help you out in Australia, at least, we’ve put together a list of the main things you need to sort out when starting a business Down Under:

How to Start a Business in Australia

1. Choose your business structure.

The structure you choose for your business is very important, as it has a direct effect on things such as:

  • Your level of control
  • The amount of tax you need to pay
  • Regulatory obligations
  • Health and safety requirements in the workplace
  • The level of personal liability you will incur

There are four structures on which you can build your business in Australia:

  • Sole trader: This is when you register someone (usually, yourself) as the sole owner of the business. That means you’re responsible for all legal aspects of running the business, but you’re entitled to hire people to work for you.
  • Company: This is a commercial business or entity that has a separate legal existence to its shareholders.
  • Partnership: A Partnership is when more than one person and/or entities run a business together, but not in the form of a company.
  • Trust: A Trust is an entity that is in possession of property, income, or any other assets for the benefit of a third party.

Image Source: AnyBusiness.com

You must decide on the structure of your business before you register it, as each structure entails different steps to do so. Along with this, it’s worth noting that you might change the structure of your business as it grows and evolves over time.

2. Pick a business type.

With a structure in place, you can better understand the type of business you’re likely to need. There are a myriad of business types to choose from, and some of the main types include:

  • An online business
  • A franchise
  • Independent contractor

Every industry has a different set of legal obligations and regulatory requirements, so it’s crucial that you pick the business type that best suits your industry.

3. Apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and register your business name.

You can’t legally start a business in Australia unless you own an ABN. This is an 11-digit number that is unique only to your business and acts as a government identifier for the business.

Once you’ve got an ABN, you’ll be able to:

  • Register your business name
  • Identify your business to other entities for things like ordering goods and services or sending invoices
  • Claim taxes such as Goods and Services Tax (GST)
  • Avail of credits for things like energy grants

It’s best to decide on your business name before you go about creating assets like your website URL, logo or any other designs. Otherwise, you’ll need to change everything in the event that your business name changes. If you do create a business logo, it’s worth considering if you need to patent it to protect yourself from copyright infringement.

You can register your ABN and business name separately if you wish, but it’s easier to apply for both at the same time here.

Image Source: Department of Industry, Innovation & Science

4. Register your domain name.

You can only complete this step after you’ve secured your business name and ABN as it’s only possible to get a .com.au address if you’re a registered Australian business. The domain name you pick should be related to your business in some way and make it easy for prospective customers to find and recognize.

While you might have the perfect domain to go with a killer business name, you’ll still need to check that someone else hasn’t taken it already. Luckily, there are plenty of sites out there that can help you with that — here’s one of them to give you a head start.

Image Source: Instant Domain Search

Once you’ve found a domain name that isn’t taken, you can go to the .au Domain Administration Ltd (.auDA) website to find links to domain registrars and resellers. Here, you’ll get an idea of how much you’ll have to pay to secure your domain name.

4. Identify your funding source.

If you’re like the majority of new startups, cash flow will be your primary concern. You can have the best business plan in the world, but it won’t be of any use if you don’t have the money to keep the lights on while you’re getting your feet on the ground. With this, it’s important to know what resources are available to make the initial growth period a lot easier.

While there aren’t many government grants to help you start your business, there are plenty of options that are specific to each state. For example, if you’re starting a business in Adelaide, you can apply for a cool $20,000 Small Business Development Fund.

Image Source: Department of Industry, Innovation & Science

There are other grants based on:

  • Taking your idea to market
  • Marketing and sales
  • Buying equipment
  • Importing and exporting
  • Employing people

Check out this page for a full list of grant types that can help fund parts of your venture.

5. Register for the correct taxes.

As the saying goes: “The only certainties in life are death and taxes.” Unfortunately, this is also true if you start a business in Australia – you absolutely must register for the correct taxes to avoid any potential legal implications. The taxes you must register for are dependent on the type of business you choose to start, with some applicable to every type and others only mandatory for certain types.

Some examples include:

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST) – this is compulsory if your business has a turnover of $75,000 AUD or higher
  • Pay as You Go (PAYG) withholding tax – this is required if you need to withhold an amount for tax purposes, such as paying wages or salaries
  • Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) – if you’re lucky enough to be able to provide perks like a company car to your employees, then you’ll need to register for this

You can get more details on tax types by clicking here.

With the above essentials sorted, you’re almost good to go. But, we do have one last tip for you – starting a business is a tough task that’s made a lot easier if you can find ways to save money and build a solid network of peers and partners to work with.

A great way of doing both is to set up shop in one of Australia’s many coworking spaces. You’ll save a tonne of money on office costs and also open the door to networking opportunities which can lead to other benefits down the line.

Whatever you do and wherever you decide to start your business, we wish you the very best of luck!

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How to Change All Margins in Google Docs [FAQ]

You probably don’t typically alter the default margins in a Google Doc. But a marketing proposal or design project might require you to change the margins, and if you’ve never done it before, it can seem complicated.

Changing the left and right margin space is easy. You simply click and hold the small blue triangle on the left and right side of the ruler at the top of your Google Doc, and drag it to another position:

It’s important to note you must drag the blue triangle, not the rectangle right above it. The rectangle on your ruler changes a paragraph’s indentation, not the margins.

However, dragging the triangle alone alters the left and right margins. What do you do when you need to change all the margins at once? It’s an easy three step process:

1. Go to File > Page Setup…

2. In the text box beside Top, Bottom, Left, Right (under Margin), type in a margin size.

3. Click “OK�. If you plan on using the margins often, you could also click “Set as default�.

And that’s it! Hopefully, this will help you create more customized Google docs to fit your needs. If you’re also interested in changing your paragraph indentations as well, check out How to Create a Hanging Indent in Google Docs.

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