Website Building

Designing a website should be fun and exciting but often it’s anti-climatic not being able to create a site like you see. What’s there secret? Here are articles that assist you in creating the website that you see in your mind’s mind.

These Emojis Can Increase Click-Through Rates, According to New Data

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Emojis can be powerful tools that help your messages stick with your audience: a study found that participants who were sent messages with emojis scored higher on memory than those who were sent messages without emojis, indicating that emojis can make your message more memorable.

That same study also found that emojis can help portray your business as friendlier: participants who chatted online with an expert who used emojis rated the expert as both friendlier and more competent, compared to participants who chatted with an expert who did not use emojis.

From a marketing standpoint, emojis are undeniably useful. Emojis in a tweet can increase engagement by 25.4 percent, and emojis in a Facebook post can increase the number of likes by 57 percent and the number of comments and shares by 33 percent. If emojis can so drastically increase the likelihood of engagement, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be using them.

But with all that said, there are still 2,666 emojis to choose from. So which ones increase engagement the most? Which ones incentivize people to click your link? Which ones should you avoid?

via GIPHY

We wanted to answer those questions for you, so we studied 19,617,281 of our own HubSpot published posts across all social platforms: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and Instagram (Instagram was studied for a shorter duration). Here’s what we found.

The Top Ten Most Popular Emojis

👉
👇
😉
🎉
🤔
👏
🚀
🔥
🎄
👀

These ten emojis are the most popular across all the social media platforms we support. I was initially surprised that the pointing finger outranked the winking face (and that the rocket even made the list) until I considered intent. Most marketers are writing content to direct you somewhere else, so if a pointing finger can playfully articulate “click here,” why not use it? Most of these emojis are useful year-round, but some, like the Christmas tree, are likely effective on a more seasonal basis. Some of them, like the winking or contemplative emoji, are probably popular because they convey your sense of humor or curiosity.

The Top Ten Emojis Most Likely to Increase Engagement

🙆
🍒
🐠
💃
🌤
💘
😔
💕
😢
💓

For our purposes, we’ve defined engagement as likes, comments, and shares. You’ll notice that none of the top five emojis are faces. This could mean it’s productive to use less popular emojis in your marketing strategy, for the novelty factor, which is what I suspect is driving engagement. At least, novelty is the only conclusion I can draw from the cherry emoji … unless people like cherries more than I think?

The bottom five emojis all look related to Valentine’s Day. The fact that we ran this study in February around Valentine’s Day might have something to do with their popularity in this study, but we also wonder if posting a tear or sad faced emoji encourages people to give sympathy likes and engage more actively.

It certainly feels more urgent to respond to a crying face than a smiley face (in real life, too).

The Top Ten Emojis Most Likely to Encourage Click-Through

🐙
🐴
👖
🍒
🚂
🏳
🌉
🆓
👇
🎟

The above ten emojis lead to the most link clicks. None of these are faces, and with the exception of the down arrow, they are not the most popular or most frequently used (I can assure you, I’ve never used the jeans emoji). In fact, some of them are just insanely random — why the octopus is in first place, we’ll never know, unless most of our followers are marine biologists. You’ll see the cherries in this list again (still not sure why those are so popular), and then some other emojis, like the train, which I can almost guarantee aren’t often used elsewhere.

It resembles an absurd game of pictionary, but perhaps randomness is what catches the viewer’s eye. Straying from the pack might lead to big advantages when you’re trying to attract attention to your link.

What now?

Hopefully, this data can help you humanize your brand and convey more meaning and emotion in your content. Emojis, even the octopi and horses … actually, especially the octopi and horses … encourage interaction from your audience, higher click-through rates, and better messaging from your brand.

But use them sparingly! Fill your content up with all the fishes you can find, and it’ll begin to look like an aquarium, not a business link.

Special thanks to Chris Sabanty for collecting the data used in this article.

 

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7 of the Coolest YouTube Banners We’ve Ever Seen

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When someone sends me a really great YouTube video, I always want to know who’s behind it. Was it an ad agency? A small or medium business? A B2B tech company? No matter who it was, if I’m impressed, I want to see more from the content creator. So once the video is done, I click the link to visit their profiles.

And from there, if the brand is really on top of its game, I’ll see its channel art — the horizontal banner displayed across the top of the user’s YouTube channel that, hopefully, shows a combination of good design and brand presence.

But how do they do it?

We’ve all seen design work that inspires us, but can have a bad habit of not taking it any further than that. What makes something like strong YouTube banners so great? And how can you create your own gorgeous artwork? To answer those questions, we found three excellent resources for YouTube banner templates, as well as seven creative channel banners — both old and new — that inspire us as marketers.

What Makes a Good YouTube Banner?
Responsive Dimensions

A YouTube channel banner will take on different dimensions depending on what platform is being used to view it. For example, a banner might have different dimensions when viewed on a TV, desktop, or mobile device.

Google‘s suggested YouTube banner dimensions are: 

Recommended: 2560 x 1440 px
Minimum for upload: 2048 x 1152 px
Minimum “safe area” where text and logos are ensured not to be cut off: 1546 x 423 px
Maximum width: 2560 x 423 px
File size: 4MB or smaller

The recommended resolution seems like an exorbitantly large file size. But think about how YouTube banners would appear on a 30″ smart TV or higher. With a growing number of options to view YouTube videos in this way, you’ll want to make sure your channel art is large enough to display with quality on larger screens.

Here’s a helpful visual representation of those dimensions:

Source: Google
Balanced Design

Take note of the “safe area” we alluded to in the first section. Your banner is essentially the biggest branding opportunity for when people land on your channel, so you’ll want to make sure your logo and supporting text is well-represented in the channel art. That’s why it might be best to place your company name and logo in that center space — this prevents viewer confusion if the name of the company behind the YouTube account is accidentally cut off.

If you’re not sure how to take up the entirety of a 2560 x 1440 frame, video production company MiniMatters suggests “build[ing] the image from the middle out,” putting the most important assets in the center, and going from there.

Finally, as to what to put in your banner, we like to follow a few basic rules:

Use a high-resolution image. A pixelated or blurry banner doesn’t exactly signal that there’s high-quality video to follow.
Keep it on-brand. While your channel art doesn’t have to be a carbon copy of your logo or tagline, it should incorporate visual elements that you want associated with your brand, like certain colors, fonts, or keywords.
Your banner should represent what your company does in a timely fashion. For example, if you run a bakery and you’re gearing up for summer, an eye-catching banner might be a high-res photo of a brightly-colored work surface covered with flour and a rolling pin, along with accompanying text like, “April showers bring May flours.”

How to Make a YouTube Banner

“That’s just great, Amanda,” you might be thinking about these tips. “But where the heck am I supposed to get these beautiful design assets?”

You’re in luck — there are dozens of free resources for creating a great YouTube banner. Here are a few of our favorites:

Google: Why not start with the hosting platform itself? Google has its very own channel art templates to help you get started with your banner design. (Note: Clicking this link will prompt an automatic download of the zip file containing these templates.)
Canva: One of our go-to destinations for DIY design, Canva offers several free YouTube channel art templates that allow you to use your own art, or its library of stock photography.
Fotor: Similar to Canva, Fotor also offers a selection of free YouTube banner templates that allow you to use both your own visual assets or its own library of images.

8 Cool YouTube Channel Art Examples
1. Death Wish Coffee Company

In 2016, Death Wish Coffee was named the winner of a small business marketing competition held by software company Intuit. The reward? A free 30-second commercial during Super Bowl 50. Since then, the self-proclaimed maker of “the world’s strongest coffee” has capitalized on that momentum by making sure its branding stays just as robust.

Its former YouTube banner banner is no exception. It’s straightforward, but also, bold. The company’s logo is displayed as the channel icon, as well as a tiled watermark that doesn’t interfere with the text display. And that message doesn’t leave any doubt about what the brand does. “World’s strongest coffee?” Okay, I’m watching.

2. Adobe Creative Cloud

Seeing as turquoise is my all-time favorite color, there might be a touch of aesthetic bias in our selection of Adobe Creative Cloud’s YouTube banner. But color can have quite an impact in marketing — shades of blue, for example, have been found to invoke feelings of trust.

This banner doesn’t just make great use of color, though. In a single photo, it connotes creativity and visual quality — two things that the Adobe Creative Cloud promises with its suite products. The person depicted seems to be creating something remarkable — an ocean inside of a balloon — with accompanying text to confirm it: “Make wow.” Plus, to learn more, social buttons are right there within the image.

3. Bon Appétit

Is anyone else hungry? It only seems right that the channel art for a food magazine like Bon Appétit should be, well, appetizing. And with a phrase that’s used as frequently as “bon appétit” — before a meal or as the title of a pop song — it’s important that folks who land on this YouTube channel know what they’re getting into.

That’s one thing that makes this banner so great. The branding is clear, from the logo icon to the iconic title text in the center of the image. Plus, the photo itself sends a signal of the type of content visitors can expect to consume — no pun intended — when they start watching the channel’s videos: All things food.

4. TauliaInc

One great thing about YouTube banners is that they can be swapped out or modified whenever you want, time permitting. That makes them especially conducive to temporary promotions or campaigns. That’s what tech company Taulia did for “P2P Superheroes”: a campaign that shows how its software can eliminate difficult, time-consuming tasks, helping everyday professionals focus more on the work that matters and turn them into superheroes.

The banner communicates two things: 1. That Taulia is in the business of P2P (“procure to pay”), and 2. the brand really celebrates procurement specialists. And by using original, cartoon-like art, Taulia is turning what could be a dry topic into something fun and engaging.

5. Refinery29

We’re big fans of showcasing the people that make your brand great. That’s one thing that Refinery29 does well, by frequently featuring its writers, editors, and content producers in its videos. As it turns out, they’ve all become quite popular personalities — which is why the brand put them front-and-center in its channel art.

Creating a banner of this nature is two-fold. First, you have to find a way to incorporate your company’s talent into video content in a way that’s engaging and appealing to your target audience. Here at HubSpot, we have our blog writers, for example, recount important information from blog posts in video and audio summaries. Then, once you’ve produced enough of that media consistently — and if it’s gaining the right kind of attention — you can use those personalities to promote your channels.

6. TripAdvisor B2B

TripAdvisor is a resource used by millions of travelers to discover and rate lodgings, restaurants, and much more information about endless destinations. But did you know it also offers B2B services for hotel and other property owners to make the most of their presence on the site?

We like to think of it as a B2B hybrid of review site Yelp and vacation rental site Airbnb. On the one hand, TripAdvisor B2B helps business owners create a profile with photos, descriptions, and other information that’s going to be helpful to travelers. But, like Yelp, it also allows them to monitor and respond to the reviews their businesses receive.

That’s represented in the YouTube banner by portraying what the site is all about — travel — but also depicts the act of visitors giving feedback on their experiences by way of rating symbols.

7. Nuvolari Lenard

The thing that stands out to us the most about this banner is its simplicity. It represents a Italian yacht design company Nuvolari Lenard, which is known for work that emulates a luxury and chic lifestyle. And while the channel art itself doesn’t portray anything specifically nautical, the use of capital letters and tiered monochrome does connote a brand that’s high-end.

Those kinds of digital aesthetics create what’s often known as aspirational marketing — the kind that symbolizes something that’s unattainable by most, but still has a vast following of people “who covet the look and feel of the brand,” as Mediaboom puts it. Can I afford a yacht? Of course not. But seeing something like this makes me want one anyway, and makes me want to consume the video content pertaining to it.

Channel Your Creativity

It’s important to note that really cool YouTube channel art is just one part of a comprehensive video content strategy. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your banner is, for example, if your channel lacks in quality video, or hasn’t added anything new in several weeks.

So, along with great design must come consistency. And as you begin to create both, you can turn to these examples for inspiration.

What are some of your favorite YouTube banners? Let us know in the comments.

 

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The Ecommerce Guide to Flash Sales (With Examples)

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In 2012, J.C. Penney stopped promoting sales and offering coupons. Instead, they advertised new “everyday low prices” — which seems like a pretty good idea, right? Except, in 2012, sales for J. C. Penney actually dropped 25%.

J.C. Penney found they actually made more money when they raised the prices of their products and then arbitrarily lowered them, calling these “last-minute deals.” People were more likely to buy when they felt like they were getting a special deal, instead of an “everyday low price.”

While the example of J.C. Penney might seem bizarre, it makes sense for people like Ms. Fobes, a blogger who runs Penny Pinchin’ Mom. Ms. Fobes told The New York Times she stopped shopping at J.C. Penney when the discounts went away, because, “For someone like me, who’s always looking for a sale or a coupon — seeing that something is marked down 20 percent, then being able to hand over the coupon to save, it just entices me … It’s a rush.”

If you relate to Ms. Fobes’ discount thrill, you’re not alone. The rush of finding a deal can often entice shoppers to make more purchases. And, luckily for ecommerce sites, the psychology behind discounts doesn’t just exist for brick-and-mortar shops — it extends to online shopping too with flash sales.

What is a flash sale?

A flash sale is a short-term discount or promotion on products offered by ecommerce stores, typically lasting for less than 24 hours. The goal of a flash sale is to entice online shoppers to impulse buy, increase brand awareness and customer loyalty, and compel shoppers to check out other non-sale products listed on the site.

Flash sales generate an average 35% lift in transaction rates. Along with increased revenue, flash sales can help your ecommerce business get rid of excess inventory and stabalize your existing inventory. Most importantly, flash sales often drive a large audience to your site and incentivize viewers to purchase non-sale products, as well.

To feed your audience’s thrill-seeking appetite and grow your online presence, we’ve created a list of seven easy steps to run a flash sale, along with examples of successful ecommerce flash sales to kickstart your own strategy.

How to Run a Flash Sale in Seven Easy Steps
1. Determine the goal of your sale:

Flash sales enable you to accomplish a bunch of different things, and focusing on a goal can help you measure your success. So let’s narrow it down: do you have excess quantity in one specific product that isn’t selling? Do you want to stabalize your inventory by encouraging buyers to focus on different products? Or, do you want to escalate traffic to your site by providing a discount on a high-quality product? Focusing on a goal can help you pick which products you want to use for the flash sale.

2. Choose the right product for your ideal market:

While this might seem like a contradiction to step one, it’s important to note you can’t just choose any product you want to get rid of — the product you choose must align closely with your target audience. If you want long-term customers, you need to put a discount on products that encourage the right people to click on your site.

3. Promote sale ahead of time:

People like to do research and read reviews on products ahead of time, so it’s wise to give your shoppers a heads up before your flash sale is live. This is also a chance to broaden your reach on social media and through email by creating fun countdown emails and social media posts.

4. Word it correctly:

It’s critical that your discount stand out: saving $5 on a $100 purchase probably won’t attract as much attention as you want, so consider how to phrase your offer for optimal reach. There are two different directions you can take with your wording: “Get $$ off,” which emphasizes achieving a gain, and “Save $$,” which emphasizes avoiding a loss. While this depends on your target audience, in general, people are more motivated to avoid pain, and missing out on a good discount definitely feels like pain.

5. Keep time-frame short:

The reason a flash sale works is because it spurs impulse purchases and, to quote Ms. Fobes, a “rush.” Make your audience feel the pressure: Three-hour flash sales have the highest transaction rates at 14%, and ideally, your flash sale won’t exceed 24 hours.

6. Check your inventory:

To get the most out of your flash sale, make sure you have enough of your discount products in stock. Use a logistics company to determine how much you’ll need. You don’t want to sell out of the discount product too early, leaving people with a negative experience of your brand.

7. Prepare for shipping and delivery:

It will be hard to retain your newfound customers’ loyalty if it takes a month for them to receive the products they purchased. In today’s ecommerce world, where same-day and next-day shipping are typically expected, you’ll want to prepare ahead of time for mass shipping and delivery so you can offer a seamless experience, start to finish.

6 Examples of Great Flash Sales
1. J. Crew

This flash sale works because J. Crew ties it into a very specific, niche audience: people who sail. If you’re into sailing, this flash sale will incentivize you to check out J. Crew’s discount sailing clothes. It’s a smaller audience, but it’s also more likely to be an engaged one.

2. Loft

This flash sale works because of its mystery component. The bright purple call-to-action button compulses buyers to click to find out how much of a deal they’ll get, and more than likely, once they see what they’ve “won,” they’ll check out Loft’s products to use their discount.

3. Hype

By offering discount tiers — the earlier you claim your discount, the more money you save — Hype supplies an intense feeling of urgency (Oh, will I be one of the first? Let’s try!). Making your flash sale feel like a competitive game can be very effective.

4. Auchan Retail

Auchan Retail, a French international retail company, shows multiple children in their flash sale advertisement, indicating there will be a lot of items for sale. This flash sale encourages online shoppers to check out all the products they could get half-off.

5. Pottery Barn

This flash sale uses the wording “select dressers,” to increase the desire to click to find out which dressers Pottery Barn means (What if I happen to love one of the discount dressers? I should check, just in case). It also shows an adorable boy sitting on a dresser, inspiring the viewer to imagine their own child using this dresser.

6. JetBlue

When I see this offer, I’m so shocked by the great deal I don’t even worry about where the discount one-way ticket is sending me. The low $15 offer probably isn’t a flight to Paris, but it draws viewer’s attention and provides that much needed rush of thinking, Wait, where can I fly for less than $20? I love to travel, might as well check it out! 

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The Beginner’s Guide to Product Photography [Tutorial + Examples]

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, a stunning product picture is worth a thousand website visits.

I don’t have data to back up that statement (yet). Nevertheless, product photography can become this valuable to your ecommerce website strategy.

According to Trellis, 51% of Americans with internet access prefer to shop online, and that segment of buyers is poised to keep growing. But that also means 49% of Americans might still be more comfortable buying certain things in the store — where they can see, touch, and demo the product before handing over their money.

The convenience of ecommerce isn’t everything to every customer; being able to browse merchandise from the living room couch is just one part of what makes an internet storefront successful. To reach the 51% of people who do prefer buying online, you also need to give your audience clear, eye-catching photos of your products, or these visitors aren’t likely to have confidence in your offerings — confidence they can get by walking into a store and seeing the item in person.

But product photography isn’t as simple as pointing and shooting. Even the most basic products need the correct equipment, lighting, and space to produce beautiful images that sell shoppers right from the purchase page.

Don’t worry, your shopping list isn’t as big as you think. Some items you already own!

Here’s an easy list of tips and tools to get you started, along with real examples of product photos that demonstrate this advice.

6 Product Photography Tips (and Examples) for Taking Pictures That Sell
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Use Your Smartphone Camera

This is the part where I’m supposed to convince you to invest in a high-end, 50-megapixel (MP) camera with a 100-millimeter screw-on lens. But I’m not going to do that. If you already own a camera that fits this description, take advantage of it. But for many types of products, it’s completely acceptable to shoot product photos on a smartphone.

Some of the earliest smartphones had cameras that operated on fewer than 4 megapixels, which made it difficult to capture important visual elements of products where detail matters.

But newer smartphones such as the iPhone 7, Google Pixel, and Samsung Galaxy S4 boast 12MP and 13MP lenses along with numerous “temperature” settings to optimize your shots for the different types of light you might shoot in (we’ll talk more about light in just a minute).

Here’s a product photo you won’t believe was shot with just an iPhone 4s and clever desk lamp placement:

Image by Andrew Griswold

2. Shoot From a Tripod for Photo Consistency

Before explaining tripods, I’m obligated to start with a cardinal rule: Don’t prop your phone against something sturdy to aim your lens toward the subject. It’s just too easy for this makeshift setup to slide around during the shoot and cause inconsistencies in your photos’ appearance. If you rest your camera on, say, a stack of books, just be sure this arrangement doesn’t change over the course of the shoot.

There’s no harm in holding your camera yourself when shooting just a few product photos for your ecommerce website. But as your business grows, and you take more photos of more products, it can be difficult to standardize the product’s orientation in each photo when shooting handheld.

To ensure consistency across your products, you’ll need a tripod. And luckily, buying one isn’t always the big, industrial-sized investment it used to be. Here are two types of tripods to consider and one accessory you’d need when shooting on a smartphone:

Traditional vs. Flexible

Images via AmazonBasics | Sunpak

The one on the left is a traditional, extendable tripod stand, and the one on the right is a shorter but flexible mount with legs you can bend to achieve the camera angle you want.

(You can’t tell from the two photos, but the mount on the right is roughly a foot high — considerably shorter than a traditional tripod, which can extend to more than five feet high.)

Mobile Grip

You’ll notice a screw on the top of both products. This screws into your camera and holds it in place when you’re shooting from the tripod. The underside of most professional-grade cameras has a screw hole just for this purpose, but smartphones can use the following adapter:

Image via Vastar

The adapter grips the sides of your smartphone, and can screw into either type of tripod, allowing you to operate the camera controls with the phone screen facing outward and toward you. Once you determine which mount you’ll need, set it up in front of your product, and consider putting three pieces of tape on the ground to mark where you’d like to keep each leg of your tripod over the course of the shoot.

3. Natural Light vs. Artificial Light: Choose One

Never underestimate how certain types of light can improve (or hinder) your product photography. Remember, buyers get the best look at an item in person, where they can see everything they need to before purchasing. The right lighting arrangement helps you reveal those critical decision-making product features when all website visitors have to go on is a photo.

A single lighting setup might not work for every single product — a lighting arrangement that works for some products might weaken the appearance of others. There are two types of light you can choose as your main light source:

Natural Light

Natural light refers to sunlight — simple as that. It’s also known as “soft light” because the sun casts a larger, softer range of light than, say, a lamp shining directly on the product. Ecommerce product shots thrive in natural light if:

The product is shot outside or meant to be used outside.
The product is used by, worn on, or shot with a person (people tend to look better in natural light).
You’re trying to emphasize the product’s surroundings, rather than specific attributes of the product.

Below is an appealing product photo taken under natural light. The sun coming in from the left lights the briefcase perfectly, while casting a gentle shadow on the legs of the man carrying it to emphasize the product.

Image via WP Standard

Artificial Light

Artificial light includes candles, fire, and more commonly, light bulbs. It’s also referred to as “hard light” because it produces a smaller but more focused light surface. This type of light caters to products with physical details that need to be highlighted to impress an online shopper.

Here’s an appealing product photo taken under artificial light, where the watch’s texture and clock face design are its main selling points.

Image via Modahaus

As a general rule, you should stick to just one type of light per photo — natural or artificial. Adding natural light to an artificially lit photo can soften a product that’s meant to look sharp, and adding artificial light to a naturally lit photo can sharpen a product that’s meant to look soft. You don’t want to get in your own way.

4. Fill or Bounce Your Light to Soften Shadows

Whether you use natural light or artificial light, you’ll need to lessen the shadows any potential hard light casts on the opposite end of a product. There are three ways to do this:

Fill Light

Include another, less-intense light source to supplement your main light. This additional light is called your fill light, and is used as a counterbalance to soften the natural shadow your main light produces behind an object. To do this, place your fill light opposite your main light so your product sits between both light sources.

Flashbulb Bounce Card

A bounce card, or reflector card, is a small card that “reflects” or “bounces” the main light back onto the surface beneath your product to reduce shadows.

Some bounce cards attach to the flashbulb of a professional camera lens to diffuse the light from the camera’s flash. This card splashes a softer light onto the subject from above your set — rather than straight at it — so you don’t have long shadows trail behind the object you’re shooting. See two versions of this item below — both white (left) and foil (right) screens can diffuse the flash.

Image via Andoer

Standalone Bounce Card

If you’re shooting from a smartphone, a flashbulb bounce card isn’t an option, since you don’t have a physical flash you can attach it to. Instead, make your own standalone bounce card positioned opposite your main light source. For beginners to product photography, this bounce card can effectively replace your fill light, which counters the hard light from the camera flash or lamp that’s facing toward the front of your product.

See a standalone bounce card below, set up behind the miniature horse:

Image via Photojojo

No matter which type of light counter you use, your goal is to reduce shadow while still highlighting the qualities of your product that make it valuable to website visitors. If shot just right, you’ll see a huge difference:

Image via GetMeAShop

5. Use a Sweep or Portrait Mode to Emphasize the Product

There isn’t one right way to position your product, lights, and bounce cards – they can change dramatically depending on your background. But don’t choose a background based on what’s easiest to create. Backgrounds should resemble how you want your buyers to perceive your product when viewing it online.

Consider first whether you’d like a white background or a more dynamic, real-world background. There’s an easy way to achieve each one.

White Background: Sweep

For white backgrounds, it’s not as simple as setting up a table against white drywall. Even smartphone cameras can pick up little blemishes on a white wall that you wouldn’t notice with the naked eye. To capture a perfect white background with no corners or blemishes, use a sweep.

A sweep is a large bendable sheet of paper, whose bottom acts as the surface beneath your product and then curves up into a white wall behind the product. On camera, the sweep’s curve is invisible, emphasizing key product details and allowing the item to own all of a website visitor’s attention. Here’s a side-by-side comparison showing why a sweep matters:

Images by Taylor Mathis

Real-World Background: Portrait Mode

Dynamic, real-world backgrounds are very appealing when shooting products that have a specific use or are being modeled by a person — as you saw in the picture of the briefcase earlier in this guide. But, it’s easy for a real-world background to steal the focus of the photo, making it unclear which item in the photo you’re actually selling.

Give your product depth and emphasis with portrait mode, a picture setting on most professional cameras and also available on many new smartphones. This setting blurs the background so the context of the product is clear but not competing against the product itself.

Below is a super awesome photo of a HubSpot pen taken in portrait mode on a Google Pixel 2 (I took this picture myself). You can tell the pen sits on a desk with a computer behind it, but the pen is still the focal point for viewers:

“It’s such an incredible photo, Braden. I totally want my own HubSpot pen now.” Get one here!

6. Shoot a Variety of Images

My last ecommerce photography tip to you is to not stop at one photo per product. Just as your customers look, hold, use, and even try on merchandise in a store, your website should shoot a variety of images to simulate this very experience.

If you’re shooting clothing, for instance, capture the garment of clothing alone — that is, spread out on a white surface — as well as on a mannequin whose color contrasts the color of the product. Then, for additional photos, have the clothing modeled on a person, allowing you to take pictures of the product from the person’s different poses and angles.

Don’t feel obligated to invest in every tip and piece of equipment at once. Apply these product photography tips gradually to see what makes your store look the most presentable, and change your approach as your photography chops get better.

 

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How to See Word Count in Google Docs [FAQ]

I ran across this page} and hope that you learn something from it and that you share your thoughts in the comment area below.

Whether you’re writing a marketing report with a firm 500 word limit, or are just curious if your blog post hits your editor’s 1,000-word minimum requirement, the word count tool in Google Docs can come in handy.

It’s a simple tool to ensure your content is an appropriate length. You can use it for more than just total word count, too — you can also measure how many words you have within a section, how many characters you have, and your page count. To learn how to use word count in a Google doc, or to get a firmer understanding on what it offers, read on.

How to See Word Count in Google Docs

1. At the top of your Google Doc, click “Tools” and then select “Word Count”.

2. Here, you can see how many pages you have in your Doc (three), how many total words you have (777), how many characters you have (4992), and how many characters, excluding spaces, you have (4204). Characters are individual letters (“hey” is one word, but three characters), and typically only matters if a job or school application requires a character limit, rather than a word limit.

3. Next, let’s see how you can check the word count in a specific section. First, highlight the paragraph or section you want to measure. Below, I chose to highlight my third paragraph to get word count information on just that paragraph.

 

4. With a paragraph or section highlighted, click “Tools” and then “Word Count”. As you can see below, the Word Count now tells me how many words my third paragraph has compared to the entire Doc (59 out of 776), which page it’s on (1), and how many characters it has compared to the entire piece (400). This is useful if you need to cut down on word count for a specific section of your Doc. 

There is also a shortcut to find your word count — click “command + Shift + C,” and it’ll pop right up.

Now, you’re equipped to measure the word count, character count, or page length of your Doc, which helps you hit word-limit or page-limit requirements. Word count is also an important tool to use when choosing your audience: 1,000 words is good for a blog audience, but 10,000 might be better as an e-book … or short novel.

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The Staircase Guest Blogging Strategy

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Our startup journey has proved it — guest blogging is king, queen and all the aces in content marketing. Guest blogging lets you share expertise and build authority in the industry, and the backlinks you receive to your own website helps your SERP rankings.

We started Chanty from scratch. Thanks to the staircase guest blogging strategy I’m about to share, we managed to get our monthly traffic from 0 to 5-digit numbers in less than a year.

Chanty website traffic growth

Guest blogging is nothing new. There are tons of articles sharing guest blogging best practices. There are also plenty of posts teaching you how to write for top-tier resources.

However, it’s hard to find resources that guide you through the entire process — from the moment you decide to benefit from guest blogging, to actually getting published on Forbes and Entrepreneur.

Luckily, our team has completed this journey from A to Z. Just a year ago, most of our team had no idea how to write a blog post. As of today, we’ve written for well-known blogs like Foundr, GoDaddy, Search Engine Journal, SemRush, Marketo and many more. We set the bar high in the very beginning. Our grand milestone was Entrepreneur. Thanks to the staircase guest blogging strategy, my guest post for Entrepreneur was published just a few weeks ago. Now that our mission’s completed, it’s time to share our step-by-step process with you.

What is the staircase guest blogging strategy?

In a nutshell, the staircase guest blogging strategy is about writing high quality content for third-party blogs while gradually increasing the quality of the platforms you are writing for (climbing the stairs). You start by picking the low-hanging fruit and pitching the ‘reasonably popular’ blogs. The competition and the editorial calendar for these platforms isn’t too intense. Once you build a writing portfolio, you’ll be able to raise the bar higher and pitch more popular blogs with your next article. Although it sounds simple there are plenty of pitfalls along the way. Therefore, let’s go into more details.

1. Start a loveable blog

When you are a no-name company writing your very first article draft, you obviously can’t just reach out to Entrepreneur with a pitch. Although you can try your luck anyway, there’s a good chance you won’t even get a reply (I know this because the first time we reached out, we failed). However, you’ve gotta start somewhere.

When pitching a blog with a guest article, the best practice is to include examples of your work. When we sent our guest blog pitch for the first time, our writing examples were actually the posts we had written for Chanty. Luckily, starting a company blog is a breeze these days — with platforms like Medium, you don’t need to be tech savvy or even know how to operate Wordpress.

If you don’t know what to write about, start with your experience. As you launch a startup, your way will be paved with many obstacles, pitfalls, and difficult decisions. Your brain quickly falls into the knowledge-consuming mode, constantly searching for answers and solutions. Therefore, you’ll definitely have a few valuable lessons to share with readers, including issues you’ve solved and obstacles your company has successfully overcome.

For example, we’ve written a few posts on our blog covering SaaS pricing models and how we got the first 100 beta testers for our product, all based exclusively on our experience. As a result, we were able to write about similar topics for third-party websites. Another example of experience-based writing I love is Groove’s “From ‘Aha’ to ‘Oh, shit’” startup blog and Grow and Convert blog.

Our blog feedback from a reader

2. Put the content quality in the heart of your strategy

I must emphasize this — it’s hard to overestimate the power of content quality when it comes to climbing the guest blogging stairs. If you write some mediocre content, you’ll certainly be able to publish it on the same mediocre platforms. However, low-quality content will never let you climb to the top. With that said, how do you make sure to deliver excellent copy?

My first advice would be to analyze the leading blogs in your industry. Check out the style, tone, and voice they use. What makes their content engaging, appealing and resonating? Is it the personal experience they share? Is it the storytelling approach that makes you want to keep reading? Moreover, it wouldn’t hurt to analyze the top Google results for your target keywords. You’ll have to write content that is head and shoulders above your rivals if you decide to compete for these keywords.

It goes without saying, but you must make sure your content does not contain mistakes or typos of any kind. Run a check with Grammarly to see if your writing can improve in terms of grammar. Paste your texts into Hemingway App to make them simple to read. Speak the language of your audience. Consider their age, gender, nationality and education. If you are based in Europe (like we are) but targeting the U.S. population with your articles, little things like $9,99 rather than $9.99 could easily determine whether you are a pro or an amateur.

3. Find the low-hanging fruit

Once you have a handful of well-written blog articles to showcase your writing skills and expertise, it’s time to find the first guest blogging opportunity. There are a few ways to do this:

Make a Google search for ‘guest blogging opportunities + keyword/industry’. You’ll find a number of articles like this one with a long list of platforms that accept guest posts.
Make a Google search for ‘inurl:write-for-us + keyword/industry’ (e.g. inurl:write-for-us digital marketing). This will bring you directly to the writers’ guidelines page of those websites where guest writers are welcome.

Create an extensive list of all potential platforms where you can pitch a guest article. Next, I’ll show you how to check out these websites’ domain authority and traffic numbers.

4. Check the traffic and domain rating

Not all website are equal. The exposure you’ll get from an article published on a million-visits-per-month domain will be massive. However, with no previous guest blogging experience, you are unlikely to get into that boat. Therefore, let’s stay patient and take it one step at a time. You can get an idea on how popular a website is by checking the estimated traffic, as well as the domain rating. The tools you’ll need are Similar Web and Moz Rank Checker. There are browser plugins for these apps that you can download to conveniently use the tools.

SimilarWeb Chrome extension data on website monthly traffic

MozBar Chrome extension data on website domain and page rating

Along with other useful information, SimilarWeb shows you the estimated traffic a website gets every month. MozBar indicates the site’s domain and page authority, which predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages. It ranges from one to 100 with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.

At this stage, you should have a list of websites with an estimated traffic and domain authority (DA) for each platform. Make sure to check the numbers for your own website as well. Now, go through the list and highlight the best candidates for a guest blogging outreach.

At that time, our Chanty domain authority was around 10 points, so we started contacting blogs with DA around 20-40 and estimated traffic of 10K+ per month.

5. Send a good guest article pitch

Once we started accepting guest posts to Chanty’s blog, I realized what a hard life editors must live. You can’t imagine how many low-quality pitches we’ve received. At some point, we even had to close down our guest blogging submission, as we started spending too much time going through bad pitches and inferior articles. Here’s just one example of how not to pitch an editor with a guest post idea:

This writer doesn’t mention which company she works for, doesn’t give examples of previous work, and suggests only one topic for consideration. There’s also no image linked to that email account to see who is reaching out. Nothing in this email makes the writer look trustworthy. What happens to an outreach message like this one? Sadly, it goes straight to the trash.

Many companies provide guest blogging guidelines that are an essential read before even sending a pitch. The key is to follow them precisely unless you want to upset an editor. Some websites require a specific form of a pitch, while others prefer to see a full article attached to the outreach email. If the blog you want to write for doesn’t go into detail on pitching requirements, follow this simple formula:

Introduce yourself
Make sure you have a full name and a photo next to your email
Suggest several topics you wish to write about
Include clickable urls to your writing examples

This should be enough to start a conversation with an editor.

Here’s an example of a good pitch:

6. Get published

Editors get a lot of guest post requests. Therefore, it might take a few follow ups from your side to ensure your message reaches the top of their inbox. Be ready to provide an outline for an article as well, since it’s a common practice for some blogs. Once you’ve agreed on the topic, make sure to specify the blog guidelines and follow them thoroughly.

Oftentimes, the article may require some editing or rewriting, especially if you are at the beginning of your writing journey. One of the guest contributors who wrote for our blog had to fix the article eight(!) times before we could accept it. However, I’d like to acknowledge this — our communication remained friendly and the writer was eager to polish the article to make it a perfect fit for our blog. Takeaway? Cooperating with an editor in a friendly and eager manner is key to a published article.

7. Raise the bar higher

Congratulations! You now have a few articles published to showcase some examples the next time you reach out to other blogs. Now, it’s time to start climbing the stairs. Go back to the list of blogs you initially put together, and take a look at the publications where SimilarWeb and MozBar numbers are a bit higher.

You can also reach out to blogs that look attractive to you as a guest blogging platform, even if you are not sure whether they accept guest posts (meaning, if there isn’t a page on their website dedicated to contributions). At this stage, our marketing team raised the bar higher and reached out to more popular blogs with MozRanking’s of 50-60 points.

Although numbers play a significant role in choosing the right website to write for, you should also trust your common sense and intuition. Sometimes, just from the way a website looks, we think: “Nah, I don’t want my article to appear here, despite all the cool numbers.” Or, it could be the opposite: “These guys are small, but they are doing a great job with their blog, and I’d love to contribute.”

8. … and higher

When you’ve published on some well-known websites, get ready for a big move. Don’t be afraid to climb the stairs even higher and pitch the top-tier blogs. However, you might want to use a slightly different strategy when outreaching extremely busy editors who get thousands of pitches every week. Usually, you’d follow the rules and send the article pitch in a form that a platform requires. However, more often than not, you don’t get a reply even after a few follow ups. This is when you should make a step back and think about getting to know your editor.

First off, find and follow the editor on Twitter or LinkedIn. See what their life is about, and what content they post. It doesn’t hurt to like, share or, even comment on their posts. Become the faithful follower of your editor so the moment you send out a pitch, your email account photo rings a bell. For example, here’s the pitch I sent to an editor at Entrepreneur.

Persistence is key when it comes to top-tier platforms outreach. Despite the very detailed and personal email I wrote, it still took another three follow ups and about three weeks before I got the long-awaited “I’m interested in your article” reply.

Last words

You should always keep the content quality in mind, both when writing a guest post or an article on your company blog. The staircase guest blogging strategy is for those who have valuable insights to share with the world, not for blatantly building backlinks. It’s for those who are ready to invest their time researching topics in-depth, and reflecting their personal insights.

It’s not about hiring a $10-per-post freelancer — it’s about putting your heart into every article. At the end of the day, it’s the one and only way to get to the top-tier publications. Now, it’s your turn to make it to Entrepreneur. I’m confident you can do it. Good luck!

 

{What did you think|Did you like that|Wasn’t that interesting|Do you think you could use this information|Do you see the value of this information|Is this something that will help you|Do you agree with this|Have you been looking for this information|Could you use this for yourself|Have you tried any of these ideas|Is this something you will share|Have you used any of this yourself|Would you use this|Will this solve a problem you are having|I have seen these thoughts used on other blogs, have you|Do you want that others would be interested in this information? I felt that it was very informative and a good example? I really hope that you {found it as {interesting as I did|informative as I did|found something that you can use|enjoyed the information|are interested in learning more|want to spread the word|use this as a tool.

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Along with this information, I have used other plugins that I would like to share with you. Click the button below to discover what has trained me to be a better online marketer. I hope that this will help you too so that you can be successful in your niche.

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Unriddled: Instagram Data Downloads, Amazon’s Big Reveal, and More Tech News You Need

I discovered this post and thought that you share with your Facebook friends and let me know in the comment area below.

Welcome to Wednesday, and the latest edition of “Unriddled”: the HubSpot Marketing Blog’s mid-week digest of the tech news you need to know.

This week is big on news from Amazon — from Robots, to user numbers, to in-car deliveries. But that’s not the only thing happening around tech town, and we’re here to help decrypt what’s happening in this big, wide sector.

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

Unriddled: The Tech News You Need
1. We Finally Know How Many Prime Members Amazon Has

In an annual letter written last week to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos disclosed a long-sought-after figure by analysts and tech writers alike: how many Prime members it has. The grand total, he wrote, has “exceeded 100 million.”

Amazon Prime is a paid subscription model (for an annual fee of $99, or $12.99 per month) offered by online retailing giant Amazon, offering such perks as free two-day delivery on many products, as well as free streaming videos and music selections. In certain regions, a membership also includes free two-hour delivery of certain items through a service called Prime Now.

Just yesterday, Amazon announced the launch of In-Car Delivery, which allows Prime members to have Amazon packages delivered to their cars if they’re parked at home, work, or near other locations in your address book.” However, it does come with eligibility requirements, depending on the make and model of your car, and your location.

 

Source: Apple

Paid Prime membership numbers, as well as some of the other figures cited in Bezos’s letter, are likely to come up the company’s Q1 2018 earnings call, scheduled for this Thursday (April 26) 5:30 PM EST.

2. Instagram Will Now Let You Download Your Data

When people began downloading their Facebook data files — present company included — for many of us, things got weird.

But some, like Josh Constine of TechCrunch, wondered when other companies would follow suit — especially those owned by Facebook, like Instagram. 

Yesterday, Constine reported that Instagram has officially made a personal data download available, largely because it will be required to do so by the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) — which comes into force a month from today.

An Instagram spokesperson told TechCrunch that all users should be able to download their data on the network’s desktop site, but that apps across iOS and Android devices might still be rolling out.

To download your data on Instagram’s site, you must be signed in, and can then begin the download process here. When I tried it, I was prompted for an email address and told that it could take 48 hours for the data report to be fully compiled.

It’s worth noting that, as of writing this post, any email address could be filled in to have the data download link sent to — not just the one associated with your account. However, not only do you have to be signed into your account in order to get to that point, but when I tried it, I was also asked for my password again after entering an email address.

I also discovered that regardless of where the link is emailed, you do need to be logged into the account in question in order to download the data file.

Based on my own data download, the file contains all photos, videos, and Stories uploaded to your profile, as well as the content of any direct messages.

Your direct messages, however, are all compiled within a single JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) file format — as are files containing your historical comments, likes, and searches.

3. A Big Week for Earnings Calls

In addition to Amazon’s above-mentioned Q1 2018 earnings call, several Big Tech players are expected to host their own this week.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., held its own Q1 earnings call on Monday, where it was revealed that nearly 5,000 new employees were added to its various companies’ headcounts over the last quarter alone. At the end of March, that left Alphabet with a total of 85,050 employees.

About 40% of those new hires were the result of Google’s acquisition of an engineering team from HTC to work on the company’s Android One line.

Twitter’s Q1 earnings call is also scheduled for this week, and as of the publication of this post (7:00 AM EDT on Wednesday), should be underway and available for live listening on its investor relations page at 8:00 AM EDT.

Finally, Facebook is scheduled to host its Q1 earnings call later today (5:00 PM EDT), after two days of UK Parliament hearings on its practices.

Source: Facebook

On Tuesday, Dr. Aleksandr Kogan — the Cambridge University professor behind the data-harvesting app who eventually sold personal user information to Cambridge Analytica — testified before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer is scheduled to testify before that same committee tomorrow: the same day the U.S. House Judiciary Committee will be hosting a hearing on social media “filtering practices.”

4. Amazon Might Be Building an In-Home Robot

A report from Bloomberg says plans are underway at Amazon’s Lab126 — the company’s Silicon-Valley-based hardware research and development division — to build a “domestic robot,” under a project codenamed Vesta. 

These plans are far from the first within the tech sector to build such a robot, as science fiction novels and films alike have long projected a future in which robots are practically members our families — case in point: Rosie (sometimes spelled Rosey) the Robot from animated series “The Jetsons” — with many tech companies striving to follow suit.

Robots have often been front and center at major brand keynotes at large-scale annual tech events like CES, where this year, Sony and LG were only two companies debuting their own. (LG’s robot, Cloi, malfunctioned more than once durng this presentation).

Meet Cloi — pronounced “Chloe.” #ces2018 pic.twitter.com/AvdeQq2zCc

— Amanda Zantal-Wiener (@Amanda_ZW)
January 8, 2018

Poor Dave. Dude can’t even get Cloi to answer him when he asks for a recipe. (Though I think I saw her “blink.”) #CES2018

— Amanda Zantal-Wiener (@Amanda_ZW)
January 8, 2018

Bloomberg does correctly make the case that Amazon has laid a strong foundation for building such a domestic robot — which it predicts could be a moving Alexa of sorts that would accompany users throughout their homes — citing its success with the Echo personal assistant device, which was something of a pioneer in that area.

However, the same argument could be made about Google, whose Home device has seen success since its 2016 debut. It has been speculated by some, however, that the Alphabet portfolio company could possibly be taking a loss in its hardware-building efforts, especially given the Q1 fiscal results indicating Nest — the home automation device manufacturer owned by Google — had an operating loss.

The big question for me is: if Google loses that much on thermostats, how much is it costing the company to establish itself as a maker of smart speakers, displays, and phones? https://t.co/KZcomwjkLv

— Janko Roettgers (@jank0)
April 23, 2018

And while Bloomberg says Amazon’s Vesta project has been underway for several years now, it also points to job listings on the Lab126 site showing an aggressive investment in getting such a robot built and, possibly, out to market. According to Research and Markets, consumer robot market share is expected to reach nearly $15 billion in the U.S. by 2023.

What Else Is Going Down in Tech Town?
More of the Latest From Facebook

Did Mark Zuckerberg’s answers to lawmaker questions help restore faith in Facebook? Not really, according to new data — which indicates people trust the social media giant even less since the CEO’s congressional hearings earlier this month. Read full story >>

Speaking of trust: What are social media networks doing to protect your personal information? Check out this infographic and learn how three platforms are keeping information secure. Read full story >>

Yesterday, Facebook publicly disclosed its content review policies to shed light on decisions to remove or allow certain posts. The company also plans to roll out an appeals process around these decisions. Read full story >>

That’s all for today. Until next week, feel free to weigh in on Twitter with your tech news questions or thoughts on what kind of events and topics you’d like covered here.

Featured image source: Amazon

{What did you think|Did you like that|Wasn’t that interesting|Do you think you could use this information|Do you see the value of this information|Is this something that will help you|Do you agree with this|Have you been looking for this information|Could you use this for yourself|Have you tried any of these ideas|Is this something you will share|Have you used any of this yourself|Would you use this|Will this solve a problem you are having|I have seen these thoughts used on other blogs, have you|Do you feel that others would be interested in this {article|information|post|idea|I felt that it was very enlightening and demonstrates what you may have been looking for?

I really hope that you {found it as {interesting|informative as I did|found something that you can use|enjoyed the information|are interested in learning more|want to spread the word|use this as a tool.

Please leave a comment below and let me know{what you think|if you would like to see additional videos about this topic.

Along with this information, I have used other sources that I would like to share with you. Click the button below to suggest what has taught me to be a better online marketer. I hope that this will assist you too so that you can be supported in your niche.

As an incentive, I would like to send you a FREE course as a bonus for looking at, and buying, the program as it relates to your interest.

Much appreciation very much, and please don’t forget to leave your comments in the section below.