The 2 Most Effective Blog Post Types

Today I did a little research to see what some of the top blogs (in terms of traffic and lead generation) were doing to get some ideas that I could then use on my company’s blog. I decided to pull the blog post titles of the last 15 blogs published by HubSpot, SalesBenchmarkIndex, and KissMetrics and analyze the titles to see if there were any trends on what makes an effective blog post title. My findings were shocking…

44% were “List” blogs

That’s right. 44% of the blogs published started with “5 keys to…” or “Top 10 ways…” or “7 Steps to…” or “The 6 things…”

Here are some examples:

  • 30 Careless Mistakes That Will Totally Muck Up Your Marketing
  • 7 Real Marketing Interview Questions From HubSpot’s CMO
  • 4 Failing Marketing Relationships You Need to Fix ASAP
  • 11 Modern Technologies That Make the Case for Inbound Marketing
  • 15 Examples of Brilliant Homepage Design
  • 8 Real-Life Examples of Outbound Marketing Gone Terribly Wrong
  • 5 Steps for HR to Develop 2013 Sales Leaders
  • 3 Keys to Navigating Change Management in Sales
  • 3 Places Sales Leaders Should Look if You Missed the Number in 2012
  • New Quota? Two Questions You Need to Ask Next
  • 5 Marketing Trends That will Impact 2013
  • 3 Signs your Sales Team Isn’t Happy
  • The 6 Worst Decisions Sales Leaders Make
  • Sell More This Year by Not “Selling” at All – 3 Simple Guidelines, and One Perfect Secret Weapon
  • The Top 50 KISSmetrics Posts of 2012
  • 5 Ways to Automate Your Pinterest Marketing Strategy
  • 5 Google Products That Failed and What Startups Can Learn From It
  • The 5 “Must Have” Metrics for Your SaaS Business
  • Analyze This: 3 Techniques Every SaaS Product Marketer Should Know
  • 3 Great Content Sites and What You Can Learn From Them
27% were “How-To” blogs

Yup. Blogs that teach you something is the next popular type of blog post used across these blogs. Here are some examples:

  • How to Use Photoshop: The Ultimate Guide for the Design-Impaired Marketer
  • How the HubSpot CMO Screens for Top Marketing Talent
  • How to Be a Spammer in 20 Simple Steps
  • How to Pick the Perfect CTA for Every Blog Post
  • How to Develop a Website Redesign Strategy That Guarantees Results [+ Free Template]
  • How to Spot Where Your Customer is on Their Buyer’s Journey
  • How Today’s Sales Manager Needs to Change their Field Coaching
  • Avoid the Headline Holdup: Learn How to Unplug The Bottleneck in Your Business
  • How to Not Get Ghost Banned on Social Media Sites
  • How to Make Your Email Open and Click-Through Rates Skyrocket
  • How to Use Contests and Giveaways to Get User-Generated Content
  • How to Steer Your Company Away From its Own Fiscal Cliff
Why are these blog post types so popular?

I think there are a bunch of reasons these blog post types are popular.

  1. People love lists.
  2. People like to learn.
  3. Lists are easy to scan.
  4. There is a clear upfront promise.
  5. Readers know exactly what they will learn.
  6. Reader knows the info they will receive is valuable/actionable.
Why should you care?

The next time you go to write a blog post think about if you can write it using one of these blog post types. If you can, you’re chances of your blog being successful will be much higher.

It’s Official! Facebook launching external ad network

About 2 and half years ago I wrote about how I thought Facebook was going to launch their own version of Google Adsense. The idea was that Facebook would create an external advertising network that leverages that vast amount of data Facebook collects on its users to serve targeted ads based on likes, interests, music, comments, etc.

Well, 2 and half years later and GigaOm has confirmed that Facebook will release an external advertising network.

It is going to be interesting to watch how Facebook rolls out this network. How will they minimize complaints about privacy? Will they start with close partners first (Zynga, Instagram, etc)? Will it only be for external websites that utilize the Facebook Graph API? What will the impact be on the company’s bottom line? Will this be the killer revenue model that justifies a $100 billion valuation for Facebook? Should Google be nervous?

It is going to be fun to watch how this plays out and evolves over time…

How to write a blog post that converts

As an online marketer, are you optimizing your blog posts to convert visitors into leads?

Are you making it easy for readers to share the one big idea of your post?

If you think putting a call-to-action in the right sidebar and including the many social sharing icons in each blog post is enough, you are sadly mistaken.

HOW TO WRITE A BLOG POST THAT CONVERTS LIKE CRAZY

If you’re like 99% of people who write and publish blog posts, you write what’s on your mind and publish it to your blog. This is great if you are a casual blogger. However, if you are an online marketer where the goal of your blog is to drive traffic, leads, and sales, this is the wrong approach.

And, I have to admit, I’ve been guilty myself of taking this “Field of Dreams” approach to blogging thinking “if I publish it, they will come.”

The reality is that even if you have remarkable content, very few people will remember to come back to your blog. This is why it is so important to optimize the content, layout, and call-to-action of each blog post you write in order to get the reader to take the next step with you (subscribe to blog, watch a demo, download a how-to guide, etc).

The good news is that Derek Halpern of Social Triggers has published the exact formula for writing the perfect blog post, and I’m going to share it with you below.

THE MAGIC FORMULA FOR A BLOG POST THAT DRIVES MORE TRAFFIC, LEADS, AND SALES

So here it is, the magic formula for the perfect blog post…

By the way, this post was written using this template, so how’d I do? If you liked the post, please share it on Twitter…

Examples of Salesforce Validation Rules

I’ve recently written a couple Salesforce validation rules that I wanted to document and share for those trying to do something similar. First, let’s start with how to create a validation rule in Salesforce.

CREATING A VALIDATION RULE IN SALESFORCE

It is actually very easy to create a validation rule. Here are the steps…

  1. Click on Your Name -> Setup
  2. Under App Setup, click Customize
  3. Select at what level you want to apply a validation rule: Lead, Contact, Opportunity, etc
  4. Click Validation Rules
  5. Click New

Then to create a validation rule, you need to write a formula that if it does not validate to true, will return an error message that will then require the sales person to complete an action in order to make your rule validate to true.

EXAMPLE #1: DEAL SLIP REASON

In this first example, we wanted to start collecting data on opportunities that were older than 100 days. Why were the deals slipping? Budget? Infrastructure delays? Still testing our product? Just not responding? To do this, we decided to create a new field called “Deal Slip Reason”. If the “Deal Slip Reason” was blank and a sales person tried to edit/save an opportunity that had a “Close Date” of greater than 100 days after the “Create Date”, we would display a message alerting the sales person to complete the “Deal Slip Reason” field.

Here’s the validation rule that we used:

AND (
CloseDate – DATEVALUE(CreatedDate) > 100,
ISBLANK(TEXT( Deal_Slip_Reason__c ))
)

EXAMPLE #2: DEMO VDI PHASE

Another piece of data that we wanted to collect was the “Demo VDIO Phase” of any prospective leads that were being converted to a contact/opportunity . This meant that we needed to first validate that the “Partner” field was either blank or “N/A” as we didn’t want to ask this question if reseller partners or strategic partners were being converted this this demo phase is irrelevant to them. Next, we only wanted to apply this rule to those that were being converted and the “Demo VDI Phase” field was blank. So, here’s the complete rule we used:

AND (
OR (ISBLANK(TEXT(Partner__c)) && IsConverted && ISBLANK(TEXT(Demo_VDI_Phase__c)), TEXT(Partner__c) = “N/A”) && IsConverted && ISBLANK(TEXT(Demo_VDI_Phase__c))
)

Hopefully these examples of a couple of the Salesforce validation rules that I have written will help you to write some of yours. As I write more rules, I will be sure to update this post.

How To Put a Label Inside of an HTML Text Box

In this post I am going to show you a relatively basic trick in the world of web development and web design, but has a big impact on the design and usability of your web forms. This post will explain how to put the label inside of an HTML text box and then have it appear and reappear based on if the user click inside or outside of the text box.

EXAMPLE OF HOW IT WORKS

Here is a text box with this code implemented. Notice that when you click on the text box the “Click Here to Test” text goes away and you can type. When you then click outside of the text box the “Click Here to Test” text then reappears.

THE CODE TO IMPLEMENT

From the following code you can probably pretty easily see how this is implemented. The “onclick” and “onblur” attributes are the pieces of code that you will want to edit.

How to record a side-by-side Skype conversation

For a recent project I am working on, I needed to figure out how to 1.) Record a Skype conversation, and 2.) Edit and produce the Skype conversation as a video so that the two pictures were side-by-side. Here is a summary of my research and a step-by-step breakdown of how to accomplish this…

IF YOU ARE USING WINDOWS

Download VodBurner. VodBurner is a Skype plugin that will allow you to record the Skype conversation and then edit it right in the program as well. VodBurner will allow you to create a side-by-side recording of the conversation and when you go to produce the video it even has a checkbox that will allow you to export just the audio separately if you want to make it available in addition to the video on your website.

IF YOU ARE USING A MAC

Download Ecamm’s Call Recorder and ScreenFlow. Ecamm is obviously used to record your call and ScreenFlow is used to edit it. Using these two pieces of software will allow you to produce a side-by-side recording.

Hopefully you find this post helpful and if you have any other software or ways to improve this process, please post it as a comment.

How to Disable Tracking Image in Salesforce Emails

When you send an email from Salesforce a 1×1 pixel image is inserted into the email. This image is used for tracking purposes. If the image that is hosted on Salesforce’s server loads, then Salesforce knows the email has been opened and will report it as such. In theory this is great, however it does have its drawbacks.

Drawback #1: Email recipients get alerted to “Download Images”

Many email clients (specifically Microsoft Outlook and Google) are setup by default to not download any images in an email. Instead they prompt the user to “download images”. If you are sending something like a newsletter where images are expected, this is probably okay. However, if you are sending what you think is a plain text email and the recipient gets this prompt – it will probably raise some red flags. Which leads to Drawback #2…

Drawback #2: Text emails with “Download Images” alert are suspicious

Personally, anytime I get what appears to be a text email and the email asks me to download images I know it was a mass email that is being tracked. Immediately you’ve lost that personal connection with the recipient and if you are in sales that is a bad thing.

So, how do you disable the tracking image in Salesforce emails?

It is actually very simple. Just follow the steps below…

1.) Go to … Your Name | Setup | Customize | Activities | Activity Settings.
2.) From there uncheck the checkbox for ‘Enable Email Tracking’

That’s it – you’re done!

[INFOGRAPHIC] How Google Slowly Killed the Long Tail Keyword

It isn’t too often that I see an infographic that is spot on, but this infographic on how Google diminished the effectiveness of long-tail keywords hits the nail on the head. Having made a very nice income in the past focusing exclusively on organic traffic from Google, I saw first hand how each move by Google slowly killed the traffic from long-tail keywords.

The credit for this infographic goes to SEOBook for a job well done.

Cookies: Every Online Marketer’s Guilty Pleasure

Every online marketer should understand cookies. No, I’m not talking about the kind that come out of the oven warm and gooey and go great with milk. I’m talking about the web cookie, also known as a browser cookie or HTTP cookie.

WHAT IS A COOKIE?

A cookie is a piece of text stored on a user’s computer by their web browser. A cookie can be used for authentication, storing site preferences, shopping cart contents, the identifier for a server-based session, or anything else that can be accomplished through storing text data.

WHAT DO COOKIES HAVE TO DO WITH ONLINE MARKETING?

Good question – while cookies are mainly used in the world of web development and programming, they can be an extremely powerful tool for an online marketer. As an online marketer we mainly have two jobs: generate leads and qualify leads so that sales can follow-up on the “hot” leads first while allowing marketing to nurture the not-so-hot leads further. Cookies can’t help with generating leads, but they certainly can help with qualifying leads by helping to streamline the process of gathering more information on your prospects.

DO YOU HAVE AN EXAMPLE OF HOW COOKIES CAN BE USED IN ONLINE MARKETING?

Absolutely. Let me walk you through a recent example…

At the company I work at we do a lot of online webinars through either GoToMeeting or WebEx. As you probably know, when you create a webinar in either of these services they automatically create a registration page for you that is hosted on their servers. Typically, you will just promote the registration page that is hosted on either gotomeeting.com or webex.com, and call it a day. This is actually a HUGE mistake. Here’s why…

By sending all your traffic to GoToMeeting or WebEx, you miss a PRIME opportunity to drop a cookie on your prospects computer. You should be creating a registration form on YOUR website that when a user registers, it drops a cookie. Why is it important to drop a cookie? Because as soon as you can collect a user’s information (through the registration page) and drop a cookie on their computer, you will be able to track things like when a prospects comes back to your website, what pages on your website a prospect viewed, how many pages on your website a prospect viewed, etc. This type of information is hugely important for qualifying a prospect.

THAT IS IT? WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO WITH COOKIES?

Here is another example of a creative way to use cookies to qualify prospects… Above I talked about how we now have everyone register for webinars through our own website in order to drop a cookie on their machine. We decided to take this idea one step further. When a prospect registers for a webinar, we now send them to a short survey that is positioned in a way that asks for what they would like to learn on the webinar. The key to this survey is that it appears to be anonymous to the prospect, but in reality we are able to match up the prospects survey responses and map it back to their lead information in Salesforce.

This short survey typically asks two questions that are optional:

  1. What would you like to learn from the webinar?
  2. What specific questions would you like to see addressed on the webinar?

We then will put 3-4 additional questions that are required and help us qualify the lead. Here are a couple of examples, but not the questions that we ask:

  1. How many employees are at your organization?
  2. Do you have budget for [enter your product/service]?
  3. What other products/services are you currently evaluating?
  4. Etc.

Our last webinar had over 350 people register, and using this method we were able to capture ALL the lead qualifying information we needed on 71.2% of the registrants. This allowed our sales team to immediately follow-up on the leads that were PERFECT fits for our product and had budgeted projects. Also, by knowing exactly what the prospected wanted to learn and what questions they had we were able to arm our sales team with valuable information that allowed them to tailor their conversations and address the prospect’s concerns/pain-points.

DO YOU USE A PRODUCT/SERVICE TO ACCOMPLISH THIS?

Yes we do. We currently use HubSpot with Salesforce integration. All the lead capture and webinar registration pages on our website are HubSpot web forms. As soon as someone lands on our website, HubSpot will drop a cookie. This cookie will then collect information while that person is browsing our website. As soon the visitor completes a HubSpot web form, we then become aware of that person’s identity and all their contact information is synced up to Salesforce where the sales team can then get access to it. Through HubSpot, the sales team is also aware of which pages the visitor has viewed, how many pages they have viewed, and when the visitor returns to the website.

Was this post clear? I’d love to get your feedback…

SyllabusCentral passes 14,000 members: Lessons Learned

Back in July of 2008 I co-founded a website called SyllabusCentral. The idea behind SyllabusCentral was simple – create a platform that makes it super easy for professors and students to post, update, and view syllabi online.

SyllabusCentral currently has over 13,200 members and is adding about 20-30 new members a day. The site generates about 8,000 unique visitors per month and about 94% of those visitors come directly from search engines. The average visitor spends a little over a minute on the SyllabusCentral and will view a little over 3.5 pages.

THINGS WE DID RIGHT

1.) Outsourced document hosting to Scribd

When you are building a start-up it is important to understand that you can’t do everything. When you try to do too much, quality will suffer and you will have done a lot of things just okay. One of the cool things about creating a start-up today is that you don’t have to build every new technology in-house. One of the key decisions we made with SyllabusCentral was to outsource all our document hosting (in our case syllabi hosting) to a third-party service called Scribd. Through Scribd’s API, we were able to use their document hosting and viewing service to do things like convert a Microsoft Word document into an embeddable format that was easy to work with and provided our users a great user experience. If we had tried to develop this technology in-house, it would have taken us months and the end product wouldn’t have been nearly as good as Scribd’s solution.

2.) Focused on SEO

A decision we made early when designing the architecture for SyllabusCentral was to have a maniacal focus on search engine optimization (SEO). We knew that we had a significant opportunity to drive a lot of free search engine traffic though organic rankings since long-tail keywords like professor names, class names, and school names with the word “syllabus” appended to them had little competition and lots of searches.

3.) Made it super easy to upload syllabi

If you can make your website easy-to-use, you dramatically increase your odds of success. This is one of the things we did really well. One example of this is using Scribd as our document hosting and embedding solution. Traditionally, it was very difficult to view Microsoft Word documents on the Web. You either had to download the document to view a document, and even then sometimes you wouldn’t have the right version of Microsoft Word or the user uploading the document would have had to convert it into a PDF, which for the average internet user isn’t an easy task. With SyllabusCentral, all our users had to do was browse any file on their desktop and they would then be able to view the syllabus right in their browser regardless of the file type. Back in 2008 there were very few websites using this technology, so it was a competitive advantage for us.

4.) Made it super easy to request a syllabus from a professor

The other thing we did that was innovative was to make it super easy to request a syllabus if a syllabus wasn’t already on the website. All a visitor had to do was enter the professor’s email address and the class that they would like to get the syllabus for. We’d then send the professor an email that came from SyllabusCentral notifying the professor that one of their students has requested that they upload a syllabus to the site. All the professor would then have to do is click a link, browse the syllabus on their computer, and click “upload”. The entire process from start-to-finish would take no more than 30 seconds.

5.) We served a need in the marketplace

Finally, SyllabusCentral was serving a real need in the marketplace. At the time, the idea for SyllabusCentral was solving my own need. As a college student at the time, I thought to myself that wouldn’t it be nice to be able to view the course syllabus while picking classes and have it so that you could order your textbooks online in advance of the first day of classes. When I searched online, I found that a similar site did not exist, so I decided to fill this void in the market. Today, 94% of our traffic is from student searching for syllabi online.

LESSONS LEARNED

1.) Chicken or the egg

In order to attract visitors to SyllabusCentral, we needed an extensive library of syllabi. But in order to build an extensive library with thousands of syllabi, we needed thousands of visitors to upload syllabi. This was the problem of the chicken or the egg. How do other companies solve this problem? Usually with money, which unfortunately for us was something that we didn’t have access to at them time. Had we had some money to spend on hiring cheap labor to find and upload syllabi all day, we probably would have been able to reach a tipping point where we had enough syllabi on the site to make it extremely useful. Hitting this critical mass is crucial for any start-up.

2.) Monetization

Monetization is a big buzz (or taboo) word in the start-up world. While SyllabusCentral had a solid plan to monetize the site, it required a large and active community to execute. The eventual model was to have students viewing syllabi weeks in advance of classes starting. If we could establish this behavior, then we’d be able to automatically scan the syllabi for an ISBN# of the textbook for that class and offer the student a price comparison of the textbook of that class. The student would then be able to order the textbook, have it arrive in time for classes, and save a couple hundred dollars per semester in the process. Sounds good, right? If only SyllabusCentral reached the critical mass to make this a viable business model…

3.) Think big, but start small

When we started SyllabusCentral, we had high expectations for the site. Right away we tried to conquer the world. Looking back, this was probably a mistake. A more strategic approach would have been to smart small, prove out the business model, and then slowly expand. Had we focused on 3-5 schools from the start and focused on really making those schools successful by establishing a large library of syllabi and a strong user base, we would have then felt more comfortable investing more money into the business and expanding to additional schools.

4.) Have a solid marketing plan in mind

Promoting a new idea is never easy. Right away we realized it was going to be very difficult to acquire new members at a low cost. We knew we’d have to rely on word-of-mouth and organic search engine traffic in order to really grow the business. While organic search engine traffic has been great, we never reached the critical mass of syllabi on the site in order to really get the word-of-mouth engine going. If you are starting a business, make sure you have a solid plan to acquire members at a low cost. If you have a capital intensive marketing model, you will need to have a high lifetime value of a member in order to justify every marketing dollar you spend.

5.) Cyclical businesses can be difficult

One of the things that made it really difficult to identify trends and adapt the site accordingly was the fact that students typically only register for classes two times a year usually around November and then again in April. This made things difficult because if we wanted to test a new idea we’d basically have one shot to get it right, and if we got it wrong, we’d have to wait another 4-6 months to test it again. While this type of business is nice in that it is very exciting two times a year, it can be frustrating in that you don’t get that slow steady growth with continuous tweaking and improvement.