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With the recent release of Google Home in the U.S., voice-activated devices are a big topic du jour lately. But which personal assistant tools are the most helpful? What do you need for each one? And how much do they cost?

While a simple search for “personal assistant apps” seems to yield countless results, shifting through them can be a task.

Today, consider us your digital personal assistant. We narrowed the options down to our very own top five. Read on, and discover which ones will best fit your needs.

5 Personal Assistant Tools That Actually Make Life Easier

1) Operator

  • Price: Free
  • Requirements: iOS

Vacations are great. Holiday parties are, too. But scheduling the former immediately after the latter? Well, it’s a prescription for stress. There are people to feed, wines to buy, and bags to pack.

But wait. There’s an app for that. With a packed work schedule, who has the time to deal with the aforementioned items, let alone to find special decorative lights? The experts at Operator — that’s who.

Once you download Operator, you’ll see a blue dialogue bubble in the lower right corner of your screen. Tap that, then choose where you need help.

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From there, you’ll be asked a series of questions about what exactly you need. Here’s a chat that I had with a real person — Holly — when I needed help finding some decorative lights for that party.

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Holly later went on to ask me about my price range, shipping preferences, and sent me several lighting options. And look, she even laughed at my joke.

2) Charlie

  • Price: Free
  • Requirements: Google Calendar, iOS

Knowing your audience is something on which we place great importance. That’s why we do things like create buyer personas and perform other user research.

That’s important in marketing — and in meetings. After all, if an important contact with whom you’re not completely familiar agrees to meet with you, it’s best to avoid walking in without any knowledge of what the person does. That’s where Charlie comes in.

Charlie connects to your calendar to see who you have meetings with over the next week. Then, it identifies the person and asks if you’d like some background information on them.

It’s not as creepy as it sounds, though. The only information it finds is what’s publicly available online, like on LinkedIn and Twitter. For example, here’s what it would look like if someone had a meeting with me:

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Notice that there’s a section on “ways to start the conversation.” That contains news pieces about the person that can help you open a dialogue with the person. Plus, in case you’ve been in touch with this contact before, Charlie allows you to review any previous communication you’ve had with him or her.

3) Google Home

  • Price: Allo (free), Google Home ($ 129)
  • Requirements: Android 4.1 and higher, iOS 8 and higher (only available in English and for purchase in the U.S.)

When I asked my team for personal assistant app recommendations, HubSpot’s Web Team Tech Lead, Dmitry Shamis, immediately pointed to Google Home.

What does he love about it? Well, it does the same thing that a lot of similar devices on the market do — things like responding to hands-free voice prompts, for example — but it also incorporates many elements of Google that many we use day-to-day, including search.

“The real benefit is how it integrates into my Google life,” Shamis told me. “My trips, my calendar, my shopping list.”

Google Home is less of an app, however, and more of a device. It’s powered by Google Assistant — the technology used to answer questions in the search engine’s Allo app, which is configured to respond to search queries, set reminders, and engage in everyday chit chat. Have a look:

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Imagine if I could have that entire conversation without all the typing. Sure, the Assistant technology alone is great, but the whole hands-free help thing offered by Google Home? That’s just awesome. I mean, just look at its list of features.

4) Amazon Echo

  • Price: $ 179
  • Requirements: Wi-Fi. Compatible with Fire OS, Android, and iOS devices and accessible via web browser.

Before there was Google Home, there was Amazon Echo — which Shamis tells me is what he used first. The Echo is powered by Alexa, Amazon’s voice recognition technology, which is used less for search engine capabilities, and more for instant information like sports scores, weather, and news.

Despite his happiness with Google Home, there are still some things about the Amazon Echo that Shamis misses. He’s particularly nostalgic, he told me, for the ability to quickly buy things with the Echo. For example, he told me, “Things like, ‘Alexa, buy more dog food’ were extremely helpful.”

And another key differentiator for him? Echo’s Spotify integration. “‘Alexa, play Spotify’ would pick up where I left off on my phone,” he explained. “‘Hey Google, play Spotify’ will play something completely random.”

But when I asked Shamis if he’d advise someone to get both, his answer was a resounding “no.”

“It’s one or the other,” he said, since “there’s enough overlap that you don’t need both. I think it becomes a personal preference.”

That’s not to say it’s impossible to use both, especially for one’s personal entertainment — like in this video of the two devices speaking to each other.

 

5) Julie Desk

  • Price: Pro ($ 99.99 month/per user), Manager ($ 149.99 month/per user), Executive ($ 199.99 month/per user)
  • Requirements: Any email client

Visit the official website for Julie Desk, and you’ll be faced with a question: “Want to get back 1 hour in your work day?”

Um, yes. That’s what Julie Desk was created to do — to save us the countless time we spent on managing our respective calendars. And admittedly, for me, that’s a lot.

But starting with that question, Julie Desk’s website is a compelling example of great user experience — which hints at its capacity to work on behalf of, well, you, the user. Have a look:

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There are are few things about Julie Desk that delight us. To start, there are no downloads required, since Julie — as she’s casually called — works with your existing email client.

When you first sign up for the service, you’ll be asked for your meeting preferences, like time of day, location, and mode of transportation.

It takes about 24 hours for Julie to get you completely enrolled in the service, probably because there’s a human element — the service is constantly monitored by actual people to make sure nothing goes awry. But once you’re set up, that’s when the fun begins. Every time you receive an email requesting a meeting, just copy Julie on your reply — she’ll take it from there.

Here’s more on how it works:

 

Appy, Healthy, More Productive

From online human interaction, to digital voice recognition, to a virtual meeting scheduler, these apps might not cover everything, but they certainly make life easier.

Sure, it would be nice if there was a tool out there to, say, virtually clean the entire house. Until that becomes available, we’re not entirely far off. And some of these resources could at least provide information on home-cleaning-made-easy hacks — but only if you ask.

Remember when any of these tools seemed like “a thing of the future”? They’re here — and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

What are your favorite personal assistant apps? Let us know in the comments.

Productivity Guide


HubSpot Marketing Blog

ThinkstockPhotos-493335634-608582-edited.jpgDid you know that the search result in #1 position on Google gets 33% of search traffic? And that page 1 search engine results resulted in 92% of all traffic, dropping off by 95% for page 2?

Numbers don’t lie. If you want to climb to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), well-written, engaging content alone won’t cut it. You also need to focus on writing SEO-driven, keyword-focused content that attracts not only website traffic, but the right kind of traffic. You might be thinking, “That sounds great, Courtney! But, how do I get started?”

We’re sharing 5 essential tips for creating SEO-friendly blog posts without sacrificing user experience and engagement, tips you can start using today: 

1) Pick highly-effective keywords

Google handles over 40,000 search queries a second. Staggering, right? If you want to cut through search result clutter and outrank your competitors, you need to target the specific keywords and phrases your potential customers are searching. How else will they find your content and website?

To identify those hot keywords, head on over to the social platforms your target audience frequents and see what’s trending. Pay close attention to the exact phrases they use and monitor popular industry terms and topics.

Google Trends can also give you a feel for what keywords are popular at any given time. If you see searches are steadily declining over time for a specific keyword, you know that’s probably not the right keyword to target for your marketing and vice versa for increasing trends.

If you’re ever running low on keyword ideas, get inspiration from your competition. Use tools to see what keywords they’re currently ranking for — if these keywords are relevant to your business, consider using them too! SEMRush lets you enter a competitor and see the keywords they’re ranking for, their position in search results, traffic received for that keyword and other key metrics.

Keep in mind that the most obvious keywords aren’t always the best keywords. Searchers tend to use very specific “long-tail” keywords, keyword phrases and questions when they’re looking for something. Long-tail keywords comprise up to 70% of all search traffic and can unlock the door to successful SEO. When WPBeginner, the largest WordPress resource site for WordPress beginners, adopted a long-tail SEO strategy, they increased their organic search traffic by 20% in just two months!

Because you face fierce competition for shorter, more general keywords, you often have a better chance of ranking in the top results for long-tail keywords. And, long-tail keywords allow you to zero in on higher quality website traffic that often knows what they’re looking for and may be farther along in the buyer’s journey.

Once you’ve done your research and built a list of what you think are the most valuable, relevant keywords, plug them into a keyword research tool like Google’s Keyword Planner, Moz’s Keyword Explorer, Ubersuggest, Keyword Tool and so on. Many keyword research tools give you the monthly volume for any given keyword. Test out different keyword tools — marketers are drawn to different ones for different reasons.   

Depending on your business or industry (or budget or bandwidth for SEO efforts), it may be important to rank for high competition, short tail keywords. Still, try to also optimize for a healthy dose of long-tail keywords that are high in search volume but low in competition. You may find it’s much easier to rank for these words.

Remember that your focus keywords will evolve over time as trends shift, terminology changes or your product/service line changes. Be sure to conduct keyword research periodically to ensure you’re still focusing on the right keywords for your target audience and not missing out on vital ranking opportunities.

2) Naturally integrate keywords throughout your posts

Once you’ve decided on a list of target keywords, it’s time to write a blog post focused on one of these keywords. Brainstorm blog topics with your team and decide on a topic that will entice and engage your target audience.

Keep your buyer personas, their motivations, challenges, interests, etc. in mind throughout the brainstorming process. Choose a topic that will emotionally resonate with your potential customers and their needs, desires or pains.

As you write your blog, your keyword and natural variations should be regularly interspersed throughout the post. Your primary keyword should appear in these key places:

  • Title
  • Headings and subheadings
  • URL if possible
  • Image alt text (search engines can’t read images)
  • Meta description
  • Throughout the content

Remember that you’re writing for humans, not search engines. Focus on engaging readers with a natural writing style that takes their needs and interests into account.

Be sure to avoid overusing any keyword (also known as “keyword stuffing”) at all costs. Keyword stuffing may lead to a website being penalized or banned in search engine results pages either temporarily or permanently. But even more importantly, if your keyword appears too often and feels forced, you sacrifice a reader’s experience, insult their intelligence and compromise the article’s quality. Don’t give readers any reason to hit the back button and turn to a competitor’s blog for answers.

3) Link to influencers

As you build out your blog post, don’t be afraid to link to other articles or blogs. Linking to applicable and reputable websites not only offers blog readers additional reading material to expand their knowledge, but it also shows Google and other search engines that you’ve done your research. And the blogger or writer may even return the favor and link to your site.

Nothing strengthens a blog post like hard-to-argue-with, research-backed statistics from influential websites. Compelling stats help you build a more convincing and concrete argument that will get your readers thinking (especially when they’re from trustworthy sites they know and love).

4) Aim for scannable, longer posts

In an age of short attention spans (average of 8 seconds for humans), you would think shorter blog posts are the way to go. But search engines actually prefer longer, in-depth blog posts.

The longer your blog post, the greater its chance of appearing in the top search engine results. SerpIQ found that the 10th position pages have 400 fewer words than 1st position pages. Longer posts will rank more easily for your target keyword.

Think about it: the more content on the page, the more clues search engines have to figure out what your blog is about. We recommend writing a minimum of 300 words per blog post. This length gives search engines plenty of keywords and text to crawl and helps them understand what your blog is about.

The downside to longer blogs is that they may scare off your readers. We live in a world of skimmers and scanners. In a heat map analysis, CoSchedule learned that only 10-20% of their readers were making it to the bottom of their posts. So, the million dollar question is, how can longer blog posts appeal to today’s online readers?

You can write scannable, readable blog posts that hook online readers by tightening up your sentences and paragraphs. Turn a long-winded sentence into two. Keep your paragraphs to 2-3 sentences max.

Also, take full advantage of bulleted lists and subheadings that grab reader’s attention. By following these tactics, you’ll create blogs that are easier to read (especially on a mobile device!) and less intimidating to the scanner’s eye.

5) Don’t forget internal links

Linking to other pages or blog posts on your website helps search engines crawl your website and create a more accurate sitemap. It also helps your audience discover more of your content and get to know you as a trustworthy, credible source of information. Internal links to other valuable content keep users on your site longer, reducing bounce rate and increasing your potential for a conversion (and isn’t that what it’s all about?).

When linking to any pages on your website, or even outside sources, use natural language for your anchor text. Avoid using spammy or generic text such as “top-rated cheap laptops” or “click here.” Instead, use descriptive keywords that give readers a sense of what they will find when they click on the hyperlink, such as a search engine optimization guide.

Never force feed links to your top webpages, featured products or discounted items. These types of links will only turn off readers and could lead to search engines penalizing your website.

A word of caution: don’t overdo your internal linking or any linking. We know it’s tempting to link to all of your blogs and webpages, but only choose the ones that best enhance the point or insight you’re writing about in any particular blog. Always think about whether or not these links naturally tie in with the subject matter and if they will offer significant value to your readers.

Bottom Line

If you want your blogs to rank at the top of page one (and why wouldn’t you?), your main focus should be on creating blogs that both users and search engines will love. By optimizing your blogs for both, you can earn higher rankings in SERPs, get more qualified web traffic and increase conversion rates. And wasn’t that the exact reason you started blogging to begin with?

What are your strategies for optimizing your blogs for SEO? Did we miss any? Share with us in the comments below.

New Call-to-action


HubSpot Marketing Blog

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Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job.

That being said, there are plenty of tools out there to make creating content much easier.

Click here to download our full collection of content creation templates for blog posts, ebooks, infographics, and more.

Below, you’ll find a list of 36 fantastic tools and resources to help you research, write, edit, and design content more easily. (You’ll notice there are a lot of design tools in here — that’s because visual content is often the part of the content creation process where people get the most nervous and frustrated. So don’t worry, we’ve got a ton in there for you.)

Let’s get started.

36 Free Tools & Resources to Make Content Creation Easier

For Researchers

1) Google Drive Research Tool

Google recently added a tool to Drive that allows you to conduct Google searches without ever leaving your Drive window. All you have to do is click “Tools” from the menu bar and choose “Research” from the dropdown menu.

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2) Site:search

This is a handy Google hack I use every day. Basically, it allows you to do a Google search that’s limited to a particular website.

For example, if I wanted to search HubSpot’s blog for marketing resources so I can cite one of our old blog posts, I’d do a site:search for blog.hubspot.com with the search term marketing resources. The formula for site search is site:samplewebsite.com [search query]. So my example would be site:blog.hubspot.com marketing resources.

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3) Google Webmaster Tools

Doing SEO and keyword research? Your marketing software should be able to help. But if it can’t (or you’d like to augment your data), Google’s Webmaster Tools can be a great help. You can check things like the number of indexed pages on your website, submit your site to Google so you’re getting crawled and indexed, and even disavow bad inbound links. It also can give you information on search queries that have a large volume of impressions but low clickthrough rate.

Within Google Webmaster Tools, go to “Your site on the web” and choose “Search queries.” You’ll see a table showing a search query, impressions, clicks, and clickthrough rate (CTR). Comparing this data to your other analytics data can help uncover some opportunities.

4) Percentage Change Calculator

I can’t even begin to tell you how useful this little calculator is when looking for and analyzing data. Ever want to know the percentage change of two values without having to remember the formula? Simply enter the two values into this calculator, and it’ll spit out the percentage change. Trust me, you’ll want to bookmark this one.

Here are a few other handy calculators:

  • 3-Way Percentage CalculatorCalculates answers to these questions: What is X% of Y? X is what percent of Y? X is Y% of what?
  • Conversion Rate Calculator Spits out a conversion rate when you enter the total visitor count during a specific time frame and the number of times during that time frame those visitors took a specific action.
  • A/B Test CalculatorWorks for a basic scenario with two groups of people (A & B) who get to see one version of your website and for whom you track the number of conversions or goals (purchases, downloads, clickthroughs, etc.).
  • ROI Calculator Analyzes your website’s monthly sales and lead generation efforts to determine ways in which marketing efforts can be optimized.

5) Atlas

Atlas is Quartz‘s data center, and it’s chock-full of graphs, charts, and data visualizations. You can search for almost any topic or keyword, and Atlas will have a graphic based on recent research data for you. This is a great tool to get background information on a topic you’re researching, or to find fresh data to use in a project you’re working on. Here’s a chart based on data from early 2016:

atlas dogs.pngSource: Atlas

6) Search in a Giphy

You know that coworker who always seems to find the perfect animated GIFs for your social posts or internal chat client? With the free Giphy Chrome extension, you’ll be able to find great GIFs just as quickly.

To use the tool, all you have to do is open the extension in Chrome, search, choose a GIF, and drag and drop. So far, the tool works in Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, and more — and they’re constantly expanding support.

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For Writers

7) Evernote

I use the free version of Evernote every single day. From to-do lists and research notes to writing entire chunks of articles, it’s proven helpful at every step of the writing and editing process.

One great feature? Its mobile, desktop, and web apps sync automatically as long as you have an internet connection. (And if you work offline, it’ll sync the next time you have internet.) Plus — and this is super important for content creators like us — it’s constantly saving and syncing your work automatically, making it a safe place to write and store ideas.

Use it to keep a running list of ideas, take notes, store inspiring articles or ebooks, or plan your editorial and social media publishing calendars.

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8) Word2CleanHTML

If you like drafting blog posts in programs like Microsoft Word, Evernote, or Google Drive instead of your content management system (CMS), then this simple tool can be your best friend. Why? Because when you copy a document from Microsoft Office and paste it into your CMS, lots of little, weird formatting issues can crop up in your HTML.

Word2CleanHTML applies filters to fix all those things added into the HTML, resulting in well-formatted HTML you can paste directly into a web page CMS. Simply paste in your draft, click one button, and then copy the resulting HTML straight from the tool. When you paste that into your CMS (most will have buttons reading “HTML” or “</>” in their tool bar above your draft), it will appear nice and clean. No hair-pulling or swimming through code required.

9) WordCounter

There is no “right answer” for how long a blog post should be. As long as it serves its purpose — whether that’s thought leadership, driving leads, explaining a new concept, or something else — length doesn’t matter. But although we don’t recommend writing blog posts with a word count in mind, sometimes word count can come in handy. WordCounter works exactly the way you think it does: Paste in your content and it’ll spit out exactly how many words you have.

10) Cofftivity

According to a study out of the University of Chicago, “A moderate level of ambient noise is conducive to creative cognition.” In other words, being the tiniest bit distracted actually helps you be more creative. That’s why for many people, myself included, white noise helps promote focus.

There are a lot of white noise generators out there, but my favorite is Cofftivity. This particular one offers non-stop café background sounds at varying intensities, from “Morning Murmur” and “University Undertones” to “Lunchtime Lounge” and “Brazil Bistro.” It’s available on the web and as an app on iOS and Android.

11) & 12) Zerys & eLance

Need to start creating content but don’t have the bandwidth? We hear about this roadblock a lot. One way to get around it is by hiring freelancers from reputable marketplaces like Zerys or eLance. These resources give you access to skilled freelance writers who can write blog posts, ebooks, whitepapers, and other pieces of written content for you.

13) HTML Hacks for Marketers

While this isn’t strictly a writing resource, basic coding knowledge is quickly becoming a must-have skill for the modern marketer — bloggers and written content creators included. But learning from scratch can be daunting. Where on earth do you start?

If you’re a total beginner, start with HTML Hacks for Marketers, which my colleagues at HubSpot created with Codeacademy. It’ll teach you quick but useful hacks anyone — regardless of coding knowledge — can use in their marketing. For example, you’ll learn how to make small changes to HTML like altering headers and spacing, creating text in block-quote form, and inserting social share links. My personal favorite is the hack to change font colors.

Once you’ve mastered these basic HTML skills, move on to Codeacademy’s free interactive courses. They found a way to make learning HTML and CSS actually fun — and you can go through each lesson at your own pace.

14) Blog Topic Generator

If you need to get to writing blog posts but aren’t sure of an angle or title to get your creativity moving, HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator can do the work for you. Simply enter a few keywords that your blog focuses on, and the Blog Topic Generator will produce a week’s worth of titles and topic ideas for you. It might not produce the final title of your blog post, but it helps get you thinking about creative new angles for topics you’ve written about before.

Here are the blog post titles I received when I entered “content,” “inbound marketing,” and “blogging”:

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15) Blog Post Templates

All blog posts aren’t created equal, but we’ve found that there are steps you can take to make your posts comprehensive and shareable. With these blog post templates, we’ll walk you through an outline to write successful how-to, listicle, newsjack, and curation blog posts. Instead of starting from scratch, you’ll save time and, hopefully, nail your blog goals.

For Content Editors

16) Editorial Calendar Template

Creating a balanced editorial calendar can be tough, especially if you don’t have one centralized calendar that you and your team can refer to. To save you time and headache, we’ve created editorial calendar templates for Google Calendar, Google Sheets, and Excel that you can fill in and share with your team to start the next month or year off on the right foot.

17) & 18) Grammarly & Correctica

While human editors will be able to catch most grammatical errors, editing tools like Grammarly and Correctica are great tools for triple-checking before you press “publish” or “send.” Both free tools check for grammatical errors — and Grammarly even checks for plagiarism.

19) Hemingway App

Ernest Hemingway, admired for his succinct writing style, is the namesake for this handy editing app. Want to make your written content easier to read? Paste your content into this free web app, and it’ll assess your writing and identify opportunities to make it simpler.

My favorite features include identifying passive voice and hard-to-read sentences. Check out the right-hand side of the screenshot below, where the tool has summed up how readable my writing is with a grade. (Some room for improvement here.) Their suggestion to improve readability overall? Shoot for lower than a 10th grade reading level.

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20) Headline Analyzer

Here’s a scary stat for you: Only 60% of people who click into an article end up reading past the headline. That makes your headline both the first and possibly the only chance for you to compel readers to keep reading — so it’s totally worth it to spend the extra few minutes coming up with a really good one.

What does a really good headline look like? The free tool Headline Analyzer by CoSchedule can tell you. It scores your headline quality and rates its ability to drive social shares, traffic, and SEO value. In my experience, its strength is helping you strengthen specific components of your title. For example, it reports on perceived sentiment and commonality of word types. It’ll even show you how it will appear in search results.

So although you should take these scores and grades with a grain of salt, you can use this to give your headlines a “once-over.” (And read this blog post to learn more about writing awesome headlines.)

For Designers

21) Nimbus Screenshot

This is another tool I use every day. Sure, you can capture a screenshot of your entire screen or part of your screen using the old keyboard shortcut method. But what if you want your screenshot to include stuff that’s not visible on your screen?

Nimbus Screenshot lets you capture the visible part of a web page, a selected area, a selected scroll (my personal favorite), the entire page, or the entire browser window — including everything below the fold.

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Once you’ve taken the screenshot, you can crop, edit (like adding notes and callouts), and choose to print or save to your desktop or Google Drive.

22) Canva

If you like creating beautiful visual content in a really short amount of time, you’ll love Canva. The time and resources it takes to learn design, pay for design assets, and/or get inspired to create beauty from scratch can be really difficult when you’re staring at a long list of to-dos — but Canva offers a huge library of pre-made templates and assets that you can manipulate while also adding your own imagery.

Best of all, they have so many assets and graphics available for free that you won’t have to pay a cent if you don’t want to. If you want to use more “premium” assets and graphics found through their image search, they’ll charge you $ 1 for each. But there’s plenty of value for free.

Here’s an example of something you could make:

hubspot_canva_example

23) ThingLink

Ever wanted to make an image (or infographic) clickable? ThingLink lets you upload an image and add little icons to it that appear when a person hovers their cursor over the image. These icons allow users to visit links, watch videos, or read messages you’ve written. Plus, it’s easy to share: Users can easily embed ThingLink images. (Click here for step-by-step instructions.)

Below is part of a a clickable infographic from Thinglink my colleague Ginny Mineo created for another post:

24) Skitch

Skitch is a free app by Evernote that helps you communicate more visually. It lets you mark up images, digital assets, PDFs, and other files with arrows, callout boxes, text, and more all in one place.

In the example below, I opened the program on my desktop and used the “Screen Snap” button to take a screenshot of a web page — which then opened right in Skitch for editing and exporting.

skitch-by-evernote.png

Although it’s free, it does require you to open an Evernote account — but that’s also free (see above).

25) Infogram

While similar to Canva, Infogram is a visual content tool that focuses on helping you create infographics, charts, and data visualization. If you like to create charts using Microsoft Excel, you’re in luck — it also offers compatibility with Excel through Infogram Charts. Also, their infographics are responsive with mobile devices.

26) Infographic Templates

As a content marketer, you might feel more comfortable creating written content than visual content, but that’s no excuse to exclude infographics from your strategy. Visual content is growing in demand from your audience, and infographics are particularly shareable. We’ve created the backbones of 15 different templates that you can easily play around with to customize for your content and audience — here’s a sneak peek of one template, and you can grab the rest here

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Source: 15 Free Infographic Templates in PowerPoint

27) Google Fonts

Want to spruce up your site pages, presentations, ebooks, and other content with cool and different new fonts? Little-known fact: Google has a directory of 600 free fonts ready for you to download and use.

Simply find and select the fonts you like from their directory, then click “Use” to get the HTML code you can copy and paste onto your site. Alternatively, you can download the fonts to your desktop and use them when making new marketing content by clicking “Add to Collection.” (Click here for step-by-step instructions for doing this in the HubSpot software.)

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28) Image Color Picker

Remember that time you wanted to match your call-to-action design to that color you were using on all your event swag … but the one person who would know what that color was didn’t work at your company anymore? Next time that happens, snag a picture of that swag and upload it to ImageColorPicker.com, or use any image URL to do the same thing. Select any point of the picture, and immediately see its corresponding HEX, RGB, and HSV values.

29) PowerPoint Templates

Is there anything more boring than a PowerPoint presentation featuring black text on a white background? With the help of these templates, you’ll be able to put together compelling, visually appealing presentations. Whether you’re driving lead generation or reporting on your blog’s growth to your team, keep your audience’s attention with these eye-catching presentations.

30) SlideShare Templates

SlideShare doesn’t need to be daunting. You can easily create shareable, embeddable SlideShare presentations in PowerPoint with the help of these templates — no need to start from scratch or hire a freelancer. Once you’ve created your first presentation, check out our guide to marketing SlideShares successfully.

31) Haiku Deck

If you’ve ever had to create a PowerPoint or SlideShare presentation in a pinch, you’ll wish you knew about Haiku Deck. This tool helps you quickly find simple layouts, beautiful images, and great fonts. It’s available for the web and for iPad.

Want to see what one looks like? Below’s an example I pulled from their list of featured decks. Note the simplicity of the design — if you want to create super detailed slides, this may not be the right tool for you.


Snowed In? – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

32) HubSpot’s Free Stock Photos

Searching for and buying stock imagery can be a pain in the you-know-what — especially when it comes to deciphering legalese for different use cases. I have a liberal arts degree, and Nietzsche was easier to read than whatever legalese stock imagery companies tended to give me. All I wanted to know is whether to cite or not cite a stock image of a laptop. Why was it so hard?

That’s why our team decided to create a library of 550+ free and royalty-free stock photos. Whether it’s a unique image needed for an ebook or that perfect photo you want to add to a blog post, that collection should have you covered. Here’s one of our “around the kitchen” stock photos — yum.

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Source: The Free Stock Photos You’ve Been Searching For

33) PlaceIt

PlaceIt serves a very specific purpose: It allows you to upload images of your site or product into real-world environments of people holding phones, tablets, and laptops. PlaceIt will automatically alter the image to make it appear natural with the angle of the phone’s screen — which will save you time learning and/or editing in more advanced software to get the angle right.

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You’ll have to pay per image to get really large or high-resolution versions, though I’ve found free images work just fine for blog posts and product page content. The paid downloads also remove that PlaceIt watermark from the bottom right.

34) LICEcap

Looking for the perfect GIF to include in your blog post? If it doesn’t already exist on Giphy, you can make one yourself using LICEcap. Film a screenshot and turn it into a GIF using this handy, free tool — we use LICEcap for our blog posts, too. 

35) & 36) The Noun Project & HubSpot’s Resizable Icons Collection

Like with stock photos, another challenge content creators face is finding elegant icons that resize without getting all fuzzy. There are a few resources out there for great, resizable icons.

The Noun Project is an extensive library of thousands of icons uploaded by contributors. With a free account, you can use icons as long as you either give credit to the creator or purchase them royalty-free for $ 1.99 apiece.

HubSpot has a library of resizeable icons, too, which you can download for free and without any licensing or attribution. The kit comes with a free guide for how to change the color of the icons using PowerPoint, Photoshop, and Illustrator.

To that, we say …

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(From HubSpot’s Free Icon Collection.)

It’s Not the Wand, It’s the Wizard

The tools and resources listed above can help you create, but it’s ultimately up to you to control the quality of your content. You still need to know your customer incredibly well, understand what challenges they face that your product or service solves, and create content that helps them address those challenges.

The brains and heart behind the content creator trump the code behind any tools and technology — and that’s a good thing for succeeding in marketing today.

What other tools or apps do you use to create content more easily? Leave them in the comments so we can extend this list right here!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

free content creation templates


HubSpot Marketing Blog

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When it comes to the final days before vacation, people tend to fall into one of two camps: 1) those who watch the clock incessantly, and 2) those who are so busy before they leave, they might even forget to put up an out-of-office email message.

If you’re anything like I am, you probably fall into team two. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to get creative. But if you plan ahead, you might be able to craft some hilarity.

Out-of-office messages run the gamut. From funny, to clever, to snarky, we’ve come across some of the best — from Google, and from colleagues.

Subscribe to one of HubSpot's Blogs here to access our extended collection of  hilarious and entertaining OOO email templates. 

Here are some of the gems we found. And once you’re back from vacation? Well, not to rush you, but this email productivity guide can help you get back on track after your out-of-office time.

10 Funny Out-of-Office Messages

1) The Not-So-Tropical Getaway

We’ll give this guy first place, since we almost feel bad for him. Almost. Rather than using an out-of-office message for a tropical vacation, he used one to explain his absence during what would likely be a snow storm. Not only did it give us a chuckle, but it also generated a certain amount of empathy — which is often the key to good content.

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Source: New Relic

2) The Sorry-I’m-Not-Sorry

If your email client allows it, you could always just use an image to express your out-office-sentiment, like this one. After all, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words — and, visual content is still essential to successful marketing.

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Source: Barry Moroney

3) The Popular Film Reference

Are you familiar with the film Field of Dreams? If not, allow us to fill you in. It centers around baseball and a family in Iowa, but saying any more might spoil the plotline. 

Movie synopses aside, the opening line of this out-of-office message was taken directly from the Field of Dreams script — fitting, given the sender’s travels to Iowa. So before you leave, research some famous quotes about the place you’re visiting. It might test the recipient’s knowledge, but more likely, it’ll just make them smile.

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Source: New Relic

4) The Scavenger Hunt

When my colleague Sam Mallikarjunan went on vacation, he set an out-of-office message that was both clever and smart. First, he sent the recipient on an imaginary scavenger hunt to “the highest peak of the tallest mountain.” He used humorous absurdity to make it clear that he would not be checking email while he was away.

Plus, he incorporated a delightful technique to let people know that if they really wanted him to read their emails, they should probably send them again after his return. Not only does that keep the sender accountable by saying, “If this is really important, you know when to reach me,” but it also helps Mallikarjunan truly vacate his work while he’s away. And that’s hard to do — And if you struggle with it, check out these tips.

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Source: Sam Mallikarjunan

5) The Blunt Approach

Josh Kopelman, we salute you.

Not only did Kopelman manage to turn his out-of-office message into an epic poem of sorts, but also, he actually went through the trouble of creating a delightfully snarky, vacation-specific email address for his recipients.

Giving the option to contact an email address containing “interruptyourvacation” provides two things — 1) A dose of humor, and 2) discouragement from actually doing what the name suggests. Plus, he prefaces it with a request for empathy, by explaining that he promised quality time to his family.

Here’s where honesty is a helpful device. Sure, Kopelman is truthful about the fact that he’s on vacation, but he also lets the recipient know that he or she would be interrupting important family time if the first option is chosen. It states a point simply, and uses humor to avoid making it sound like he wants the reader to feel guilty.

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Source: Gizmodo

6) The Third Person

When HubSpot Marketing Manager Karsten Köhler is out of the office, he doesn’t mess around. In fact, he’s turned his auto-responses into a running series of commentary for fictional cartoon character Troy McClure.

Each time McClure makes an appearance in these out-of-office messages, he “speaks” on behalf of Köhler and alludes to the previous auto-responses in which he starred. It’s a mild form of self-deprecating humor — as if to say, “I know, I’m out of the office again” — made only funnier by the made-up teaser title included in the last line.

As with the Field of Dreams example, don’t be afraid to use a pop cultural reference that audience would recognize. Instead of bemoaning your absence, they’ll have something fun and familiar to laugh at.

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Source: Karsten Köhler

7) The Twitter Method

… and then, there was the out-of-office tweet. We’re not entirely sure where it originated, but it has two sides.

If you actually want people to be able to reach you, and you’re more likely to be checking Twitter than email while out of the office, it might be an effective way for people to reach you.

But if you tend to use social media during vacation and really do want to be left alone, we would suggest offering a different communication method in your auto-response.

8) The Lack of Filter

There seems to be a widespread belief that you’re not allowed to brag in your out-of-office message. But if you ask HubSpot Marketing Director Ryan Bonnici, who needs a filter when you’ve got a great vacation?

We love about this auto-response because of the marketing humor it injects with hashtags like #TMI and #SorryNotSorry. And, it’s not trying to hide anything, making it clear that Bonnici is on vacation and doesn’t really want to read your email while he’s away. But don’t worry, he says, soon you’ll be on vacation, too, which will fill him with his own karmic envy.

This message also pays tribute to the colleagues who are keeping matters in order during his absence. He specifically lists the best contact for each issue, along with a fun fact about them. Not only do I know who to ask about Field & Events, but I can ask for her dip recipe.

So don’t just be honest in your out-of-office — give credit to the people who are handling things while you’re gone.

RyanBooo

Source: Ryan Bonnici

9) The Liquid Update

We wish we could find the original source of this one. It’s made several lists, and its author is likely a legend within his or her network.

That said, even though we’ve been preaching honesty as the best policy, be careful with messages that are this transparent. Make sure you’re familiar enough with your audience — and your boss, for that matter — to know that this sort of out-of-office message will be met with a snicker, and not with concern.

I am currently out of the office and probably out-of-my-mind drunk. Enjoy your work week.”

10) The Sneak Preview

I have a confession to make. I’m writing this post on the dawn of my own vacation.

Perhaps I had ulterior motives for seeking these examples, in that I was hoping to find inspiration for my very own out-of-office message. And if you ask me, they all have great elements that I’d like to borrow.

So, without further ado — Sorry to have missed you.

AZW_OOO2 

What clever out-of-office replies have you come across? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

out of office templates

  free email pro


HubSpot Marketing Blog

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A great storyteller once said, “brevity is the soul of wit.” And although William Shakespeare wasn’t alive for the invention of video, we think he would agree with our marketing spin: “Brevity is the soul of video content.”

Video content has exploded on social media: Videos are watched by 82% of Twitter users, and 100 million hours of video are watched on Facebook every day.

But those platforms aren’t the only ones engaging users through video: Snapchat video views jumped to 10 billion per day, more than doubling in less than a year. And Snapchat users now watch nearly 800 hours of video content per second. Download our free Snapchat guide to learn how to use it for your business. 

In an effort to keep that growth moving forward, Snap Inc. (Snapchat’s parent company) unveiled Spectacles — sunglasses with a built-in video camera to easily record Snaps and transfer them seamlessly to the mobile app — in September 2016.

Looking for the inside scoop on this launch? You’re in luck, because I just got my hands on a pair of Spectacles to experiment with for this blog post. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about Spectacles and their potential for impact on social media and content marketing — featuring a few videos I recorded while taking them on a test run.

What Are Spectacles?

Spectacles are sunglasses with an integrated camera that records videos and syncs with the wearer’s Snapchat account via Bluetooth for easy capturing and sharing. Check out the video below of yours truly trying on the Spectacles for the first time (I was a little excited):

Users wear Spectacles like sunglasses and record video from their perspective in a new circular, interactive video format that lets viewers rotate their phones while viewing. As shown above, a white LED light will rotate to indicate that video is being recorded live. Check out the videos recorded using Spectacles below (and keep reading to see original footage I recorded using my Spectacles):

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Source: Spectacles

Spectacles battery life allows for an average of 100 10-second video recordings per day, and the device can charge inside of its case several times to allow for wireless charging on-the-go. Spectacles come in black, teal, or coral and can be adjusted for fit or prescription lenses.

Wait, Isn’t This the Same Thing as Google Glass?

Spectacles might take you back to 2012, when Google announced Google Glass — a wearable, hands-free computer system. That project was halted in 2015, after Google faced barriers to widespread adoption, including privacy concerns and pop culture mockery.

Luckily, Snapchat Inc. seems to be following a different playbook when it comes to the positioning of Spectacles. Most notably, the product is dedicated solely to video capturing instead of functioning as a wearable computer system like Google Glass. As a result, the cost is significantly less: Spectacles can be purchased for just $ 129.99.

Sure, the specs are certainly a bit silly looking — the large lenses, bold frames, etc. — but, at the very least, they align with the brand’s colorful image.

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At the end of the day, they’re far more wearable than Glass, which received plenty of less than positive feedback in terms of the design.

How to Get Spectacles

If you’re chomping at the bit to get your hands on a pair, we’ve got some bad news: Spectacles aren’t sold at a traditional storefront. Instead, they’re available in limited quantity for $ 129.99 at Snapbot vending machines that spontaneously pop up around the country. Yes, that’s right, a Snapbot.

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Source: Spectacles

Pretty interesting concept, right?

Now there’s a lot to be said about this unorthodox strategy, as Snap Inc. is disrupting both how video is recorded and how new technology brought to market.

Instead of shopping online or heading to a store, these Snapbots are being dropped without announcement or fanfare. Instead, buyers find out about Snapbot sightings via Twitter, Instagram, and word-of-mouth, then rush to queue in line in hopes that the Spectacles aren’t sold out by the time it’s their turn. Additionally, if you’re near a Snapbot, a Geofilter will appear in Snapchat letting you know:

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Source: Spectacles

If you visit the “Find a Bot” page now, you’ll either see a map to the current location of the vending machine, or this image:

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Source: Spectacles

The strategy behind this interesting distribution method? Aside from the obvious appeal to exclusivity, “It’s about us figuring out if it fits into people’s lives and seeing how they like it,” Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel told the Wall Street Journal.

Spectacles are currently being resold for hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars on sites like eBay (admittedly, that’s where we snagged ours) and Amazon, leaving the rest of us to wonder whether or not this approach errs more on the side of frustrating or brilliant. But if there’s one thing we know, it’s that the buzz — both positive and negative — around this launch has inevitably created an interesting sounding board for ideas and iterations.

Why Are Spectacles Such a Big Deal?

Between the unusual launch and the unique video perspective, it’s easy to understand why Spectacles have the tech industry talking. But what does the introduction of a product like this mean for marketers? How might this launch shape the way brands approach their go-to-market strategies in the future? What impact will this have on the Snapchat app?

Let’s walk through some of the biggest takeaways here.

A New Way to Watch and Record Video

Have you ever had a moment that you wished you had captured on video, but you didn’t have the time to grab your phone, open your camera up, and delete enough photos to make room for storage?

Spectacles allow for (almost) hands-free video recording, granting wearers the freedom to record from their point of view. This adds a new level of ease for the “videographer” to live stream an event, go behind-the-scenes, record a how-to video, or even interview someone. It also creates a new, interesting experience for the viewer: Imagine watching a video from the eyes of your favorite brand or personality.

Here are a couple of Snaps I recorded hands-free using Spectacles:

The camera utilizes circular video, which plays full screen on any device, in any orientation. And the lens is designed to capture the human perspective, offering a 115 degree field of view. This opens Snapchat to a variety of new video content: Previously, users had to record Snaps in vertical format, and the display wouldn’t auto-adjust if videos were recorded horizontally.

Here’s a (very meta) video of me watching my Snapchat Story and experimenting with the circular video format — recorded using Spectacles, of course:

I had fun experimenting with the Spectacles for this article, and I’m excited to keep using them to record unique video content. I especially love the battery-charging case that keeps the Spectacles safe and ready to record at a moment’s notice. 

A Unique Distribution Strategy

If you’re a social media marketer, take note: Snap Inc. does a great job of turning its product into a viral social media moment. The secrecy and exclusivity involved in the rollout make Snapchat users excited and curious — FOMO is real, people.

The larger lesson for marketers here? Use secrecy and exclusivity to generate buzz and make your audience more interested than ever in what you’re up to. For Snapchat Inc., that meant introducing wearable technology vending machines. For your company, that might mean serving up limited-time offers or creating an exclusive ambassador program.

A Platform-Specific Video Format

It’s still too early to analyze how Spectacles will perform, but broadly, Spectacles could impact social media and video marketing in few big ways.

Consumers want more video content, especially on social media. Spectacles answered that call by creating a new video recording format that can only be viewed on Snapchat. Spectacles are effectively helping create more video content on Snapchat while increasing their user base’s engagement with their mobile app. (In 2016, four-year-old Snapchat overtook ten-year-old Twitter’s user base with 150 million daily active users.)

From a brand perspective, this could make Snapchat a more desirable channel for advertising, as shoppers are nearly twice as likely to purchase a product if they’ve seen a video first. (Think: Showcasing your product through the lens of an authentic, human perspective.)

Additionally, if you’re an event marketer, this new video format offers an interesting avenue for showcasing what it’s like to actually be in attendance — something that regular video content or photos can’t capture.

What’s Next?

We can’t tell you much more about data on the Spectacles … yet. But we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop with more circular videos on our Snapchat Story.

And while you wait in line to get your pair, be sure to check out our other Snapchat content, like this hidden features piece, this guide to Snapchat Stories, and this roundup of brands nailing their Snapchat strategies.

What’s your favorite feature of Snapchat? Share with us in the comments below.

Snapchat for Business


HubSpot Marketing Blog

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The Ministry of Magic in “Harry Potter” used enchanted paper airplanes. The offices of Sterling Cooper in “Mad Men” used secretaries. Today’s modern (and nonfiction) offices rely increasingly on messaging apps for inter-office communcation.

One such app is Slack, a real-time messaging app that’s currently used by more than 90,000 different companies. Slack skyrocketed in popularity, making it the fastest-growing workplace software application ever.There are many reasons Slack has 500,000 daily active users and counting, including the folks here at HubSpot. At its core, Slack offers direct messaging and chat rooms for individuals and teams, but takes its software further with a one-stop shop for better productivity at work. Slack offers an archive of team- and company-wide communication, as well as integrations with other bots and apps you may already be using — think Google Drive, Trello, and GrowthBot. Download our complete productivity guide here for more tips on improving your  productivity at work.

Check out this infographic from the folks at SurePayroll to read more about how Slack came to be so widely used. Learn more about its features and tricks to help you have a more productive work day.

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Productivity Guide


HubSpot Marketing Blog

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Work and a busy schedule can take a lot out of a person. Thankfully, vacation is a great time to slow down, recharge, spend time seeing your loved ones, and do things you wouldn’t normally have time to do.

While it can be tempting to fill your out-of-office schedule with travel and funtivities, there is something to be said about making time to tackle some of the things that have been collecting dust in your mental backlog. Download our complete guide here for more tips on improving your productivity. To help you get ahead for the upcoming year, we’ve put together a list of 20 ideas for productive things to do during your downtime while on vacation. Once you’ve picked your favorites, try using one of these awesome to-do list tools to keep yourself on course.

20 Productive Things to Do During Your Downtime

1) Play around with new technology.

There’s never a good time to learn how to Snapchat when you’ve got a billion other things going on, but learning those new technologies is important. For example, Snapchat gets 10 billion video views per day, according to a Bloomberg report. That’s more than Facebook.

So why not use your downtime over the holidays to download and play around with some of these new technologies? A few that we recommend include Snapchat, Instagram (read this post for some great Instagram Story tips), messaging apps like Slack and WhatsApp, and photo editing apps to improve your content creation skills.

2) Write thank-you notes.

Take advantage of the opportunity to make someone’s day by writing them a meaningful, personal thank-you note. It’s a way to distinguish yourself in our increasingly informal, digital world.

Thank-you notes are an easy way to show your appreciation, but there are two roadblocks that cause people to not do it: They don’t have thank-you cards or they don’t know what to write. Let us help out:

  1. Buy blank or thank-you notes in bulk. It’s as easy as searching “thank-you cards” on Amazon and buying your favorite pack. (Don’t forget to stock up on stamps, too!) Or, you could go digital using the Postagram app for iPhone: It lets you type up a quick thank-you note to someone, snap a photo, and then they receive an actual, physical card.
  2. Here’s a thank-you note template from Hallmark.

3) Schedule all your appointments.

Go see your doctor, your dentist, and your barber or hair stylist. Take your pet to the vet for a check-up. Get the oil changed in your car. Think of all those minor inconveniences you just can’t seem to get to when you’re on your regular schedule, and check them off the list. (Or at least schedule them for the future.)

4) Make reservations for future plans and trips.

Whether you have a whole trip coming up or even just a dinner, spend some time doing the thoughtful research you may not otherwise have time to do — and make reservations as far in advance as possible. These things can end up sneaking up on you, so making plans early helps guarantee you won’t lose out on some cool opportunities. Not to mention, it’ll leave you feeling less stressed out down the line.

5) Get your planner or calendar organized for the new year.

Did you get a new planner or calendar for the upcoming year? The holidays are a perfect time to fill it out with the appointments and trips you’ve already planned. When you’re not spending time on everyday work tasks, you can experiment with new organizational formats such as the bullet journal to make sure you’re as productive as possible when you head back to the office.

6) Talk to your friends and family about what you do.

While you should take advantage of the time you have away from work to dial back and focus on other parts of your life, you don’t need to remove work from your mind completely. Talking about what you do with the people you love is different from actually doing it. Work is such an important part of our lives and takes up a huge chunk of our waking hours, so sometimes sharing that with family and friends can actually be a bonding exercise.

If your friends and family aren’t familiar with what you do or are interested in learning more, now’s a great time to fill them in on what you do all day, why you like it (or don’t like it), and what you’re hoping to do in the future. Who knows, you could pick up some great insights from people who are removed from your day-to-day.

(Inbound marketers, feel free to steal some ideas from “5 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family.”)

7) Call your long-distance friends.

You know that list of friends and family members you’ve been meaning to catch up with, but never seem to find the time? Open your phone, find a comfortable spot to sit, and give them a call with your full attention. Now’s the perfect time to connect with people you don’t see regularly but want to stay in touch with.

8) Start building a habit.

Some say it takes 21 days to build a habit. Others say it takes a lot longer. But exactly how long it takes doesn’t really matter. The point is, you have to put the work in up front if you want a habit to stick. So why not use the holidays to get started?

Whether you want to start flossing every day or writing in a journal before bed each night, take the time during your downtime to start habit-forming and set yourself up for success.

9) Learn a new skill for your job.

Most people have a skill they’ve always wanted to learn to advance their career, but simply haven’t gotten around to.

Ever wanted to learn basic coding? Codecademy’s HTML/CSS courses can be finished over the course of a holiday without interrupting family time.

Ever wanted to learn your way around Photoshop? Start by following along with a beginner’s tutorial like the one in this blog post. Unsure how to make anything besides a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel? Experiment with some Excel resources in this blog post. (And if you’re a marketer who’s not sure where to start, here’s a free ebook that analyzes today’s most in-demand marketing skills.)

If you really don’t have the time to dig into a new skill, you can at least use the time to set yourself up for starting to learn one in the new year. Spend some time browsing conferences or classes you could take and figuring out where you can fit them into your schedule.

10) Learn a new skill not for your job.

Skills that aren’t related to your job are usually even more fun to learn. What about learning how to paint art to decorate your home? Taking a new type of workout class? Learning a new language with an app like Duolingo — perhaps for a country you’ll be traveling to this year?

Try to pick something that uses parts of your brain that you don’t usually tap into during the workday. It can do wonders for your happiness, creativity, and wellbeing — and hey, you may even find a new passion or meet people who end up making a huge impact on your life.

11) Catch up on reading.

Here’s a classic but essential vacation tip: Catch up on those books or articles you’ve been wanting to get to so badly. It’s really hard to find time to read when you’re busy with work, but now that you’re on vacation, you can cuddle up with a blanket and a book. If you’re looking for suggestions, check out this list of must-read marketing books from TrackMaven.

12) Listen to podcasts.

Podcasts serve as an amazing way to pass the time on planes, trains, and automobiles during the heavy travel season. The key is picking and downloading what you want to listen to before you go on the trip, when you have WiFi. That way, you’re not draining your battery and data while on the move.

We recommend a good mix of genres: business, comedy, true crime, etc. Here are two lists of exceptional podcasts we’ve put together in the past year: “Want to be a Better Social Media Marketer? Listen to These 10 Podcasts” and “10 of the Best Podcasts About Business and Management.”

13) Organize your inbox.

There are a lot of ways to organize your inbox. If you use Gmail, my personal favorite is the Klinger method for getting to inbox zero and staying there. If inbox zero isn’t your cup of tea, here’s a list of 14 of the best tools for organizing your inbox.

Organizing your inbox isn’t the same as checking email, though. Don’t get sucked in! Organize your inbox, and then log off and enjoy your break. Don’t forget to let your colleagues and clients know you’ll be out — Here are some creative out-of-office messages we love.

14) Volunteer.

Serving others has a long list of intangible benefits, like pride, satisfaction, accomplishment, connections with others, strengthening your community, and improving the lives of others. There are health benefits, too: Along with social benefits, a growing body of research shows there’s a strong relationship between volunteering and physical health.

Don’t have a specific cause in mind? Check out your local library, youth center, animal shelter, homeless shelter, or hospital to see if they’re in need of volunteers. VolunteerMatch.org is another great place to find good causes in your local community for a wide variety of time commitments.

15) Find a quiet space to let your mind wander.

When we’re deep in our work routines, it can be hard to tear ourselves away from our immediate tasks and goals. But not removing ourselves from these things can mean we miss out on seeing interesting new connections and developing innovations. This is especially true during the busy weeks leading up to the holidays.

Take some time to remove yourself from your day-to-day — even from your family and friends — to be alone and reflect. Daydream about being your own customer, or your competitor, or what it’s like to be the product you produce. Analyze how you’ve been spending your time over the past few months and whether you’d like to make changes in the upcoming year.

16) Get exercise in.

I’m not going to get into the benefits of exercise (or we’d be here for a while), but the holiday season is an especially hard time to keep a consistent workout routine. Factors like cooler temperatures, less daylight, busy travel schedules, and food-oriented gatherings can all throw off your schedule. But staying active — even just a little bit each day — can be easy and fun. The American Heart Association recommends 40 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times per week.

Not an athlete? Physical activity doesn’t have to be intense. Find an activity like walking, shoveling snow, vacuuming — heck, even shopping — that gets the blood flowing. Something is always better than nothing. And when you head back to the office, keep it up — here are 10 ways to sneak in exercise at work.

17) Set goals for next year.

It’s amazing how quickly the New Year can sneak up on you. Set aside some time during the holidays to reflect on the past year and make goals for the new one. Setting goals gives you a baseline for measuring success, and the motivation to stay on course when things get crazy.

Setting goals can be as simple as creating two lists: one of your accomplishments this past year, and one of your goals for the next. To get more specific, you can break larger goals into smaller ones by month. If you want to really dig in to your goals and ground them in reality, try setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound) and make a plan for staying on course.

18) Do any work-related tasks in the morning.

Although it’d be ideal to leave all your real work for when you’re back in the office, some people simply get more stressed out when they’re disconnected. The thought of missing an important email, or even just returning to an inbox that’s bursting at the seams, can be incredibly daunting for some.

If you’re one of those people, use the morning hours when everyone else is asleep to get your work-related tasks done. By the time everyone wakes up, you’ll have checked off a few key to-dos, and will be able to focus on spending time with family and friends.

19) Watch a documentary.

Holidays are a time for binge-watching all the TV you don’t have time for during the work grind, and we won’t begrudge you that. But when you’re ready for a break, check out a new documentary film. There are documentaries on almost every subject imaginable, and you might learn about a topic or issue that inspires you. Thrillist recommends several here.

20) Prepare meals in advance.

It’s typically healthier and more affordable to make your meals than to buy them, but when you’re busy with work, it’s hard to make time to prepare wholesome meals for yourself and your family. If you’re taking a staycation this holiday season, spend some time preparing meals that can be frozen or refrigerated to eat on the go or at the office. Here are some make-ahead breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes, including vegan and gluten-free choices.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

What other ideas do you have for using your downtime during the holidays? Share with us in the comments.

free productivity tips

  free productivity tips


HubSpot Marketing Blog

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“We got a $ 300,000 opportunity this week from live chat on our site.”

I’m filled with pride as I hear our VP of sales make this statement. I worked hard for six months to get the sales team invested in live chat as a sales channel and I’m finally seeing the results.

It wasn’t easy, though. For many weeks, I sat in meetings or sent detailed reports trying to explain that while we had dozens of leads coming in through live chat, they weren’t being followed up on. I sadly watched the leads’ value diminish the longer they sat in the database.

But now that the sales team members were committed, live chat was proving to be a lucrative channel. I had members of the sales team asking me every week to add them as agents. They wanted in. They wanted in, because the most valuable leads are those that are on your website.

People visiting your website are there looking for something. If you can provide them with the answer they are seeking, you are going to win their favor. That’s where live chat comes in. The ability to connect directly with your visitor, at the moment they have questions about your product is an incredible driver of marketing-qualified leads and sales.

However, you only get out of live chat, what you put in: It’s difficult to realize the kind of results above without joint investment from your marketing and sales organizations. So, how do you get everyone involved? Below are the steps to getting leadership, sales, and marketing, on the live chat train.

 

1) Get People On Board With Live Chat

Identify an Owner and Then Determine the Benefits

You need a live chat champion. The champion will most likely live in the marketing team. Once this person is identified, it’s critical that they set expectations with leadership, the marketing team, and the sales team regarding what live chat will accomplish.

It depends on the stage and structure of your business, but there is a likely a gap that live chat will fill. Define your initial expectations for the benefits that chat will provide. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Improved understanding of site effectiveness
  • Better insight on site visitors
  • Increased site conversion rate
  • Increased # of leads
  • Increased # of MQLs
  • More sales opportunities

Choose one of these improvements as a goal and make it your focus for the roll out and testing of live chat. Then, set a specific amount of time and an approach to your test. At the end of that period, measure your results.

Test It Out

Get started with a trial. Most live chat providers have a trial and SnapEngage offers a 15-Day Free Trial. It’s incredibly easy to setup. The setup typically just requires adding a snippet of code to your website. Once you’re up and running, you can start to validate the improvements you’ve defined almost instantly.

As you conduct your test, there are a few ways to know if live chat is working:

  • You are chatting daily with your site visitors and chat volume is increasing
  • The bounce rate on the pages where chat is installed is decreasing
  • Marketing is driving conversions from visitor to lead through live chat
  • You learned something from your chat conversations about your market or how to improve your website
  • Your sales team closed a deal with a lead that came through live chat
  • The chat agents are consistently using the tool

Illustrate the Benefits

After you have conducted your test, report your findings and the improvements you experienced to the sales and marketing team. Then, project those improvements out over a longer period of time to provide a full picture of what the future with live chat might look like.

As I mentioned, people who use live chat as an acquisition and conversion channel often find it to be one of the most successful drivers of leads in regards to volume and quality. We’ve seen that clients who use chat, experience a 10-20% increase in conversion from visitor to lead. If you experience an increase in your site conversion rate of 10%, show the impact of that over time.

Here’s an example:

 

Without Live Chat

With Live Chat

Site Visitors/Mo

10,000

10,000

Conversion Rate

10%

20%

# of Leads

1000

2000

Qualification Rate*

36%

36%

Close Rate*

27%

27%

# of Customers

97

194

Ave. Revenue/Customer/Yr

$ 1000

$ 1000

Revenue/Yr

$ 97,000

$ 194,000

*http://blog.capterra.com/average-b2b-conversion-rate/

That’s a huge increase in revenue opportunity–nearly $ 100K per year–just by improving the conversion rate with live chat. 

If you can illustrate these kinds of benefits to sales and marketing leadership, they will be pumped.

If you’re looking for more information to present to your sales and marketing leadership on live chat’s ability to bridge the gap between marketing and sales, you can also read our guide, How to Leverage Live Chat to Get More Out of Inbound Marketing.

2) Implement Successfully

Define ownership and accountability

For chat to be a successful channel for your business, accountability needs to be clear. Most importantly, there should be committed chat agents who will respond to inbound chats. Without that, chat provides no value.

Here is the most common accountability structure we see marketing and sales teams use when it comes to live chat:

  • Marketing or Marketing Operations: Frequently, marketing is the cheerleader of chat. In this role, they are commonly responsible for implementing, training, and measurement.
  • Lead or Business Development Reps (LDR/BDR): These are the committed chat agents. This team is responsible for managing the inbound chats, qualifying them, and then handing them off to sales.
  • Sales Account Execs: Once the leads have been qualified and passed along, sales is responsible for the following up right away and moving qualified leads through the sales process.

For companies with existing LDR/BDR teams, chat is a no-brainer. It provides the entry-level employees with a less intimidating way to interact with prospects and the opportunity to get familiar with the product and frequently asked questions they might encounter, but in a controlled environment, which prepares them for the phones.

For companies without an existing front line for sales, you can enlist sales reps, marketers, or office admins.

Another option is to do what SnapEngage does and make everyone responsible for chat. This approach provides an incredible inside view on the market, the questions prospects are asking, how people are navigating the website, and the first impression of the site and product.

Install Properly

Customize the design of your live chat tool

Having all the design elements on your site working in harmony helps to present a unified structure and visual appeal. It has also been shown to help drive engagement. Make sure that live chat aligns with your existing web presence and brand style guide. 

Place chat on the most qualified pages

It’s possible to choose where your live chat panel appears and where it doesn’t. Taking a strategic approach to where you place live chat on your website will help gradually introduce your team to live chat and also help focus resources on your most qualified leads.”

Instead of installing across the entire website, install chat on only your most qualified pages. These are the pages that people who are further down the funnel are visiting, such as the product page, the pricing page, schedule a demo, or start a trial areas of your website.

Make it personal

Add names and pictures of your agents to make the experience more personal. It’s important to provide a human touch. By adding pictures and names, you establish credibility, which improves the likelihood of conversion.

Train Your Agents

It may sound obvious, but it’s important that you familiarize your chat agents with all of the features and settings. You can expect that live chat tools will have a general guide to chat. But beyond the general overview, it’s useful to find the unique tools that are going to create efficiency and collaboration for your team. Most live chat tools have features such as:

  • Keyboard shortcuts to help make chatting more efficient
  • Canned responses to ensure that your chat agents are leveraging existing marketing content to answer common questions
  • Territory (or other) assignments and chat transfers to send chats to the proper team member  

Integrate with your CRM

Much of the power of chat for marketing and sales comes with integration. SnapEngage integrates with several marketing and sales software providers, like HubSpot. These integrations allow you to store all of your prospect and customer communication history, including chat activities, in one place.

It also provides the seamlessness of assigning leads to the proper team members and the ability for those team members to see a history of lead interactions (including detailed transcripts), so you always know what’s been said. It’s also possible to include chat activity as a lead scoring criteria to support your lead qualification process.

3) Measure and Improve

Continual measurement and improvement is critical to the success of a live chat program. As you roll out the program, be sure to define accountability and set up a scorecard to measure performance on a regular cadence.

Each group and individual should have a clear understanding of who is accountable for what. Again, the most basic action that the group needs to be accountable to is responding to chats.  

Also determine who will own measurement. When it comes to measuring how successful live chat is, you can start at a high level and look at volume and quality.

  • # of chats
  • % of visitor to chat
  • # of leads (from chat source)
  • % of chat to lead

If you want to go a bit deeper, you can follow your chat activity down the funnel and track a few sales-related metrics.

  • # of sales opportunities (from chat source)
  • % of lead to opportunity
  • $ in pipeline (from chat source)
  • # of closed sales (from chat source)
  • $ in sales (from chat source)

Other, more specific things to monitor and measure are chat performance by different criteria such as:

  • Site page
  • Visitor geography
  • Chat agent
  • Product
  • Etc.

You can derive a ton of valuable data about the effectiveness of live chat that will only help you optimize and improve your marketing and sales performance. It’s important to recognize that a live chat program isn’t a “set it and forget it” program.

Continual improvements can make a huge difference and will continue the interest and investment in live chat as a marketing and sales channel.

New Call-to-action

 


HubSpot Marketing Blog

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All bloggers have a number of websites that they visit every single day. Aside from the obvious ones (like email and Twitter), your favorites might be anything from your blog’s publishing calendar, to your online to-do list, to all your favorite social media button generators.

Wouldn’t it be great if all of those helpful resources were just a click away? Download our free guide here for tips to become a better writer. 

That’s exactly what bookmarks are for. In your web browser, bookmarks are links to specific websites that show up as buttons at the top of your web browser — making it easy to visit your favorite websites.

How to bookmark websites will depend on the browser you’re using. But trust me, it’s easy. Here are links to instructions for how to add a bookmark for four popular web browsers:

Now, let’s get bookmarking. What are some of the best websites that all bloggers should add to their bookmark bar? Check out 30 of the HubSpot blogging team’s favorites below. (And be sure to share your own favorites in the comment section.)

30 Websites Every Blogger Should Bookmark

For Keeping Organized

1) Publishing Calendar

Figuring out when you should publish which blog posts is time-consuming enough, right? Bookmark your publishing calendar so it’s only a click away at any given time. You can use it to keep your topics and authors organized, track keyword and call-to-action usage, and make sure all your blog posts are written on time.

(Are you also responsible for running your company’s social media accounts? Then you might want to bookmark social media publishing calendar tools as well.)

2) Trello

Trello is a really simple collaboration platform you can use to brainstorm and organize your blog post and project ideas. Bookmark it so you can easily add new blog post ideas as you think of them, manage your own post-writing to-do list, and see what the rest of your team is working on. You can also use it to build an editorial and social media publishing calendar, prioritize different tasks, and organize notes.

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3) Evernote

While you can install Evernote as an app on your computer and any device, you may also want to make the website a bookmark on your web browser. Even more specifically, you can make notes within your Evernote into separate bookmarks: one for your to-do list, one where you store useful snippets of HTML, one where you store inspiring articles or ebooks, and so on.

4) Waterfall Graphs

We use waterfall graphs to keep track of daily progress on our traffic and leads goals on the blog. If you’re a HubSpot customer, your marketing software has a built-in waterfall chart template that will generate these graphs for you — so you might want to bookmark that page in HubSpot. If you’re not a HubSpot customer, you can create a waterfall graph yourself in Google Spreadsheets and bookmark that.

For Data Analysis

5) Percent Change Calculator

I can’t even begin to tell you how useful this little calculator is when looking for and analyzing data. Ever want to know the percentage change of two values without having to remember the formula? Simply enter the two values into this calculator, and it’ll spit out the percentage change.

6) Atlas (by Quartz)

Atlas is Quartz’s slickly-designed command center for all its charts. There are all kinds of cool, useful data in there — everything from Prada’s share price over time to the highest CEO-to-worker pay ratios in the U.S. You can download, embed, or grab the data. It’s open source so you can create your own versions, too. One of the best ways to build credibility on your blog is to back up your claims with data and evidence, so bookmark resources like Atlas so you can easily search for and grab the data and charts you’re looking for.

7) Comprehensive List of Marketing Statistics

Whether you’re a blogger who writes about about marketing, or you just need statistics to back up your strategy in a team presentation, it’s tricky to find the original source of data within the rabbit hole of the internet. We’ve put together a massive list of marketing statistics that are up-to-date and categorized for easy reference.

For Blog Ideation

8) Quora

Quora’s question-and-answer platform features questions from real people in your audience — and what better way to appeal to your readers than by answering their questions? Quora also offers an upvoting feature that lets you see how many other users are interested in the answer to a question, which can help you prioritize your response blog posts.

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9) Portent’s Content Idea Generator

When you drop a topic into this neat little tool’s search bar, it proposes eye-catching, humorous title and topic ideas for you to test out. It also provides reasoning for the proposed titles, and you can make it spit out a new title idea if you’re unsatisfied. It might not produce the perfect title for your blog post, but it will get your creative juices flowing if you’re wondering what format or style in which to write.

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10) HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator

Our handy free tool produces a week’s worth of blog post title ideas when you submit three nouns or keywords you’re trying to write about. The tool is particularly helpful because you can generate ideas about specific angles by entering several search terms at once. I submitted “blogging,” “tools,” and “marketing,” and I got back these five interesting title proposals:

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For Writing

11) Style Guide

When you’re blogging, posting on social media, and creating other types of marketing content regularly, it’s important to have a written style guide to ensure your writing style is consistent across different marketing channels. But it can take a long time to learn all the nuances of your brand’s style guide, so have it bookmarked for easy reference while you’re writing and editing. (And if you don’t have a style guide yet, learn how to create one here.)

12) Keyword Tools

Keyword research comes in handy when you’re brainstorming, writing, editing, and creating headlines for your blog posts. That said, keep your favorite keyword tool bookmarked. Here are a few of our favorites:

Want to learn more about how to do keyword research for SEO? Check out this blog post.

13) WordCounter

Although there’s no “right answer” for how long a blog post should be, sometimes word count can come in handy. Bookmark WordCounter so you can quickly paste in your content to see how many words you’ve written.

14) Dictation.io

Let’s face it — if you’re a full-time blogger, you might get exhausted by writing sometimes. Don’t worry though, it happens to us too. When you need to take a break, try Dictation.io, a dictation tool that translates talk to text. This is a great way to keep the tone of your blog post conversational and to switch things up if you’re getting writer’s block.

For Editing

15) Pre-Publish Checklist

It can be pretty hard to remember every little thing you should check on a blog post before hitting “Publish.” That’s why we bookmarked this pre-publish checklist, which is a complete list of everything you should do when editing and proofreading your blog content. It covers everything from ensuring all your sources are properly attributed to double checking all your links work.

16) Hemingway App

Have you ever been in the middle of writing a blog post and realized your writing felt a little … convoluted? Bookmark the free Hemingway App for moments like these. All you have to do is paste your content into it, and it’ll assess your writing and identify opportunities to make it simpler. For example, it’ll point out instances of passive voice and hard-to-read sentences.

17) Tone Analyzer

In the same vein as analyzing readability, what about analyzing tone? Sometimes, you might be reading over a blog post and feel like it comes off as a little too negative or a little too excited. Tone Analyzer is a free tool that uses linguistic analysis to detect the tone of a piece — and then offers helpful tips on how to improve and strengthen the tone.

18) HTML Elements

If you edit a lot of blog posts, chances are you’ll be working with HTML on a regular basis. I like to keep this list of HTML elements handy so I can easily make changes to HTML when needed. From there, I can use CTRL + F to jump right to the HTML element I’m looking for.

19) HTML Score

Speaking of HTML, here’s another great HTML resource to bookmark. It’s a long list of special characters that HTML 4.0 processors should support, like the copyright symbol ©, currency symbols € ¥ ¢, and so on.

Image Credit: HTML Score

20) HTML Cleaner

Source codes can sometimes seem to take on a personality of their own and pull in crazy HTML snippets — especially if you’re copying and pasting from an external file, like Google Docs. If you find yourself having that problem regularly, bookmark a tool like HTML Cleaner so you can quickly remove any superfluous code from your content.

21) & 22) Grammarly & Correctica

Before you can officially say you’re done editing a blog post, you should run it through an editing tool like Grammarly or Correctica to triple-check there are no grammatical errors. (Bonus: Grammarly even checks for plagiarism.)

23) Headline Analyzer

You’ve written and edited your blog post. At this point, the only thing standing between your cursor and the “Publish” button is an eye-catching headline. Once you have a few ideas in mind, head to your bookmark bar and open up the Headline Analyzer, a free tool that scores your headline quality and rates its ability to drive social shares, traffic, and SEO value. It also shows you how it will appear in search results.

24) StockSnap.io

Once you’ve written your blog post, a great header image captures reader attention on social media. There are numerous stock photo websites featuring free photo downloads that you’re free to distribute, and we like StockSnap.io’s trending feature that shows you popular photo downloads — so you can steer clear of them to make your blog posts more unique than other web content.

25) Compressor.io

A photo compressor can help speed up the time it takes to load your web page and make your photos smaller for easy social media sharing. Drop your stock photo of choice into Compressor.io, and it will generate a new, compressed image for you to download and use in your blog post.

For Social Media

26) ClickToTweet

Creating a tweetable link is a lot easier than learning custom code. Bookmark ClickToTweet so you can create basic tweetable links to accompany cool quotes in your blog posts at a moment’s notice. (Learn how it works here.)

27) Pinterest’s “Pin It” Button Generator

Ever seen those “Pin it” buttons that let you pin an image to your Pinterest board? We use Pinterest’s “Pin it” button widget builder all the time to create those buttons for images we post on our blog. Bookmark that page so you can create and place these buttons next to images, infographics, and other visual content on your blog. (And scroll to the bottom of this blog post for instructions on how to build your own.)

28) Social Media Button Cheat Sheet

While we recommend bookmarking some of your favorite social media button widget builders (like the “Pin it” button builder above), you may want to go ahead and bookmark this cheat sheet as a handy reference. It has links to all the widget builders for share and follow buttons for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+. It also includes step-by-step instructions for how to create them and implement them on your website and blog.

29) BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo shares analytics about how many social media shares a URL has received, so when you’re getting ready to publish blog posts on social media, drop links into BuzzSumo to see which types of content perform the best. You can also glean insights about posts from your competitors or previous posts from your blog to see which are most shareable and clickable. Here’s an analysis of one of our blog posts about Facebook ads:

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30) Embed Code Generator

Do you create original pieces of visual content (like infographics) and post them on your blog or website? Then you’ll want to provide embed codes alongside them so it’s easy for your readers to share them on their own blogs. (Plus, it’ll help you generate some inbound links because the embedded image will automatically link back to your website.) Bookmark the embed code generator so you can easily create these HTML snippets. (And read this post for instructions on how to use it.)

Here’s an example of what an embed code looks like (taken from this blog post):

Share This Image on Your Site

<p><strong>Please include attribution to Blog.HubSpot.com with this graphic.</strong><br /><br /><a href=’http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/productivity-diet’><img src=’http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/53/hubfs/00-Blog-Related_Images/The_Productivity_Diet-_What_to_Eat_to_Get_More_Done_in_the_Day_FINAL.jpg?t=1434740339844&width=669′ alt=’the productivity diet’ width=’540px’ border=’0′ /></a></p>

What are your favorite websites to bookmark that help you be a more efficient blogger? Share them with us in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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HubSpot Marketing Blog

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2016 marks HubSpot’s 10th anniversary. When my co-founder Dharmesh Shah and I first started talking about the concept of inbound marketing, it wasn’t an evolution — it was a revolution. Instead of big brands beating small companies with expensive TV commercials, massive billboards, and other types of outbound campaigns as a foregone conclusion, content and search marketing equalized the playing field. Marketing became much more about the width of your brain than the width of your wallet.

Fast forward to today. While the fundamental tenets of inbound marketing still ring true, many of the specific channels and methods prospects are using to find, evaluate, and purchase products are different than 10 years ago.

Even the supply and demand dynamics have changed. In 2006, prospects had an average of four to five choices for any product or service they were looking to purchase. In 2016, I’ve found that that number has spiked to approximately 14 or 15 different vendors — and this holds among most industries. Choices that once occupied a few inches on a shelf at a retail store now expand endlessly on the infinite shelf of ecommerce sites.

Supply is way up, and demand is relatively flat. The increased competition means understanding how your prospective buyers research and buy is even more critical.

I’ve spent the last year studying the changes in prospect behavior, and I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re looking at another revolution — which heralds the second act of inbound marketing.

Here’s what that means for you, your prospects, your business, and your 2017 marketing plan.

The Second Act of Inbound Marketing

How to Get Found in 2016 (or, Why Google Is Now Ask Jeeves)

Back in 2006, Google helped buyers find the answers to their questions by serving up links to relevant information. Increasingly today, there’s no click needed — Google just gives searchers the answer directly through a rich answer box. The numbers vary on this but research has found that between 20 and 35% of searches performed today result in a quick answer box populated on the SERP itself.

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Need an answer fast? Just ask. That’s right, Google has finally fulfilled the original Ask Jeeves promise. In our own research we’ve found that clickthrough rates from these answer boxes are also higher than traditional links. RKG Merkle saw a 516% increase in sessions when a client’s page captured the snippet box.

To adapt, companies should start to create content not just intended to rank in search, but also to be pulled into Google’s quick answer box, and educate your buyer directly on the SERP. Here’s a blog post on how to do this.

Quick answer boxes are not the only way Google is changing. Ten years ago, paid AdWords results took up about 50% of the screen “above the fold.” Today, because of a layout shift Google introduced earlier this year, AdWords ads have moved from the right column to the center and take up nearly 100% of the “above the fold” space on both desktop and mobile.

All of which means: If you have the budget, it’s worth integrating ads into your inbound strategy. But how do you run ads in an “inbound” way? Well, bad ads are still useless. If you have a piece of content, however, that’s taken off organically, that’s a good indication it could be even more useful if amplified by some paid budget. I’d suggest using your ad budget to boost quality content that has already done well on social media.

Speaking of social media, Facebook’s Lead Ads product, which enables buyers to complete a form directly in their newsfeeds, is opening up new opportunities and levels of transparency into an ad campaign’s effectiveness. Whereas once we had PPC, we’re now seeing the early days of PPL: Pay Per Lead.

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The ad industry is at a significant precipice. On the one hand we’re seeing a drastic rise in usage of ad-blocking technology; according to the 2016 State of Inbound report, mobile ad blocking has increased 90% year-over-year. On the other, ads are getting more space in search engine results and offering better clarity around their cost per lead ratios. All of this will inevitably influence the way prospective customers find your company.

How to Create Compelling Content in 2016 (or, Why the Silent Movie Is Back)

The way people find answers and discover companies is changing, but so is the format of content itself. Here’s what I’ve noticed about the types of content working well today.

In short: Reading is out, watching is in. Ten years ago, the power content marketing move was search + written content. Now, it’s social media + video content.

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And these aren’t the hyper-produced, long-form videos from years past. The marketing teams winning the video game today are mastering live, off-the-cuff video. Additionally, Charlie Chaplin would likely raise an eyebrow to learn we’ve tƒurned away from talkies: A full 85% of videos today are watched without audio.

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Increases in mobile usage have fueled much of this growth in video popularity. For content marketers, the takeaway here is simple. While text is still important, you may want to stop looking for that next blogger, and start looking for a video producer. At least 50% or more of your marketing content next year should be in video format, either hosted natively on social or created with social distribution in mind.

The other thing to know about content consumption is much of it is now happening away from the bounds of your website on social media. Social media has evolved from a promotion channel alone to a platform for content. Buyers aren’t just stopping by social media sites during work breaks anymore — they never leave.

Facebook in particular has started to dominate how we spend our free time. Four of the apps consumers use most — Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp — are owned by Facebook. Today’s buyers are plugged into Mark Zuckerberg’s universe all day long. If you’re not meeting them there, you risk losing them.

How Buyers Buy in 2016 (or, Why Uber Wrecked Your Website)

Ten years ago, your website augmented your sales rep. Buyers would browse the website to get the basics, and then hop on the phone with a salesperson to get into the nitty gritty.

Today, it’s the opposite: Your sales rep augments your website. Buyers want a self-service experience, making a purchase directly onsite or contacting Sales when they’re ready, not the other way around. Indeed, only 19% of buyers in a HubSpot Research study said they wanted to talk to a salesperson during the “awareness” stage of their purchase process.

And the website of 2006 won’t cut it. Your prospects have been trained in every industry to expect automation, personalization, and self-service. They have been spoiled by Uber to expect a consumer-grade, on-demand buying experience. A website that doesn’t enable viewers to get on-demand information or instantly chat with Sales or Support frustrates your buyers and will send them into the arms of your competition.

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Throughout the entire buying process — from your ads, to your website (mobile and desktop), to your live chat service — buyers expect personalization. They expect you to remember them, give them fantastic service, and enable them to serve themselves through automation.

My Advice For Marketers in 2017 and Beyond

Here are the four things I think every marketer should do next year:

  1. Invest in video. Diversify your content playbook to include social + video in addition to text + search.
  2. Live in social. We’re not B2B or B2C marketers — we’re business to human marketers. Humans live in Snapchat, Instagram, Messenger, and a host of other social apps. Find them there.
  3. Accelerate your content. Combine content marketing and paid marketing. Repurpose your most successful content for multiple channels and boost it with budget.
  4. Automate your buying process. Buyers expect to be able to buy on their timeline with either minimal or no human contact.

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2017 marks the second act of inbound marketing. Are you ready?

get the free 2016 state of inbound report
HubSpot Marketing Blog