Here’s How to Use Your Daily Habits For Writing Better Content In Less Time

Posted by Lesley_Vos

I write every day for my blog as well as other publications. I’m a big fan of guest posting, and every day I do everything I can to reinforce better writing.


The problem: Content creation is time-consuming:

    • Content marketers deal with multiple tasks: social media content (93%), newsletters (81%), articles for websites (79%), blogs (81%), in-person events (81%) and more.
    • Lack of time is one of top 5 challenges for 51% of content marketers while 50% face the challenge of producing truly engaging content.

As a result, we have to find and apply different tactics to become more productive and efficient, as well as optimize our work to achieve better results.


Yes, creating content is hard work. Every time I read works of Neil Patel, Rand Fishkin, or Jon Morrow, I wonder, “How do they write so many articles every week together with dozens of other tasks to complete?”


Do they “work 80-hour weeks?” Do they have an “army of assistants?”


It seems Neil Patel somehow heard my silent moanings when he wrote How to Write 5 or More Articles a Week and Not Burn Out, explaining the best tactics available for content marketers anytime and anywhere.


His article made me think of using alternative habits for writing more content in less time.


Famous writers didn’t hesitate to use their weird habits for more efficient work. So, maybe it makes sense to follow their lead and find benefits in our love for coffee and music for better content writing?


So, I’ve taken my daily habits and decided to learn how to develop them for writing better content in less time.



#1 – Read the news

I can’t help reading the news online. Turns out, this daily habit holds benefits for content writers:

    • It improves writing skills, encouraging better cognitive skills and brain functioning. Plus, it enriches vocabulary.
    • It provides ideas for new content.
    • It lets them learn from professionals and follow their steps.

To make this work, avoid reading everyone and everything. Make a list of channels and resources that inspire you as well as educate you.


Learning from experience, I can say Moz, Copyblogger, QuickSprout, and Smart Blogger are the best helpers in my niche. Rand Fishkin and Neil Patel teach me all the aspects of and latest trends in content and Internet marketing, while Brian Clark and Jon Morrow demonstrate the art of writing and encourage me to polish up my writing skills.


And applications such as Digg or Newsbeat have helped me organize a newsfeed the way I could take the most out of my reading habit.


#2 – Free writing

If your daily habit is getting up early, your free writing are ripe for development.


It’s a writing technique described by Julia Cameron and Mark Levy as a way to free the subconsciousness by telling all your worries to a piece of paper. All you need to do is start every day with writing three pages of text.


The topic doesn’t matter. Just sit and write.


When developed, the habit of free writing can be a big help, including providing topics for new content and allowing you to create drafts quickly.


To develop this habit and use it for content creation, you should do nothing but write three pages of text every morning. Don’t try too hard. Simply allow your thoughts to flow, write quickly, and set some time limits.


I dared to try it after I had read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. While I’m a night owl, and it’s an act of bravery for me to wake up early, I was faithful in writing three pages of text every morning and even discovered the site 750 Words. Working and spending 8–10 hours at a computer regardless the day of a week, I supposed it would be easier for me to free write online.


The most helpful thing about this website was its analytics and charts about every piece I wrote:



It let me analyze my writing and see what I needed to change for faster and more accurate work: I decreased the number of distractions and the level of wateriness in my writings (the tool showed which words I used the most).


My final attempt to fall in love with free writing was a master class by one local artist. Armed with a pen, a notebook, and cappuccino, I was in a good mind to give free writing a chance…


She gave us three tasks:

    • “You have 5 minutes. Write about the latest problem that worried you and how you solved it.” It helped me realize what a slow writer I was. Five minutes were not enough for me to describe the problem, much less speak of the solution.
    • “You have 10 minutes and three topics. Choose one and write about it.” Mine was to take a phrase and begin a story with it. It taught me to start writings with a hook, as it saved time and made me write faster.
    • “You have 15 minutes. Make a to-do list for 2016.” The trick was to write 100 items and avoid mentioning the same deed twice. It taught me to concentrate on the train of my thoughts to avoid wateriness and save time for editing my writing afterward.

Now I use free writing when I need to come up with writing ideas. It saves time for brainstorming, and every free writing session gives me 2–3 ideas for future articles. Plus, I write faster now. (Yes, time frames matter.)


The moral of this story: free writing is a daily habit worth developing. Don’t give up. Just write.


The technique is a big hit today, and many tools have been developed to use it with comfort. Try 750 Words, Write or Die, or Written? Kitten!




#3 – Drinking coffee

A daily habit of drinking coffee has its scientifically proven benefits, too:

    • Coffee stimulates productivity.
    • Coffee helps to stay more alert.
    • Coffee increases creativity and mood.

I’m a coffee addict, so I can say with full confidence that it helps with my content marketing endeavors. The trick is to know when and how much coffee to drink for better writing.


I drink two cups per day.


Although the perfect time is between 10 a.m. and noon, and between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., I take my first americano with milk on early mornings. It stimulates my workflow, as well as gets me into the swing of writing.


My second cup comes between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. It works like a charging system to revive spirits and, therefore, support a sufficient level of productivity in the afternoon. After my second cup of coffee, I have the energy to research and write outlines for my content.


#4 – Plan everything in advance

Does it make your friends smile? Mine still don’t understand why I want to be ahead of the game and plan everything two or three months before deadlines.


Want to know the best part? This habit is my savior:

    • It leads to better and more organized research.
    • It sets time limits, stimulating you to write faster.
    • It lets you create content plans and schedule like a boss.

With that in mind, I’ve chosen Trello to make this habit of planning flourish. My favorite thing about this tool is its keyboard shortcuts that allow me to manage tasks with one click. Plus, I use its Google Drive integration and desktop notifications to share and edit content quickly, as well as remember about all deadlines for planning my time properly.


Besides Trello, Asana, Evernote, or Wunderlist are worth exploring as well.


#5 – Listening to music

This one is my favorite.


Working in the open-plan office with 14 people, half of whom regularly practice idle chitchat, I’ve found the perfect escape from frustration and, therefore, procrastination: music.


Music helps me concentrate on work, lowers my frustration, helps me write letter-perfect text, and speeds up my writing.


Listening to music in the office has also helped my writing accuracy.



Image via Music Works For You infographic


Following the advice from Neil Patel on “youifying” content (I love that word), I use music to cheer up, gain inspiration, awaken creativity, and put me back on a productive track while writing my articles.


Listening to music also helps me save writing time:

    • It signals to others that they shouldn’t interrupt you. (Headphones work perfect for me!)
    • It stimulates thinking.
    • It makes writing more enjoyable. (Thank you, Karl Frierson!)
    • It raises efficiency. (Jazz is my #1 choice here.)

Numerous studies confirm music’s positive influence on productivity and efficiency at work. University of Birmingham, England shares that music makes repetitive work more enjoyable. And according to researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, music boosts moods and helps us focus.


(HubSpot shared six science-based playlists to choose for listening at work.)


But when it comes to tasks requiring more brainpower, sounds of nature, songs without lyrics or classical music seem to have the best impact on our productivity.


Are there any daily habits you use for writing content and organizing your time for better productivity? How do they work for you?


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Here’s How to Cut Your MozCon Travel Costs by Half

Posted by BeardedMarketer


Marta Turek speaking at Mozcon 2015

When it comes to digital marketing conferences, the choices are overwhelming.


From Minnesota to Austin, Seattle, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Europe, and Asia, there seems to be an event nearly every week of the year.


To me, one conference stands out as not your typical marketing conference: MozCon.


Every July, for three days, 1,500 people from across the globe descend upon Seattle for the event.


When I speak with colleagues, I hear over and over how they avoid attending conferences in general because of the cost. From conference ticket to airfare to hotel accommodations, the expenses can add up quick. And if you’re a small agency owner (like me), a freelancer, or just a dedicated digital marketer footing their own bill, every expenditure matters and resources are eternally limited – myself included.


So after attending MozCon 2014 and spending more than $3,000, including the event ticket, I figured there had to be a better way.


And there is…


In the last two years I’ve been able to dramatically trim the cost of attending MozCon, and most of the tactics I use can be used for any event.


Small steps, big savings

Event tickets: One of the biggest expenses for attending conferences is the event ticket. Simply put, there is no replacement for early planning. Whether it’s MozCon, ComicCon, or a Beyoncé concert, early-bird pricing is typically available and can result in substantial savings.


For MozCon, specifically, the biggest savings can be had by taking advantage of super early bird pricing: $599; early bird pricing: $799; or becoming a Moz Pro Subscriber: $999.


Bottom line, book early.


Lodging: Seattle is an expensive city to travel to. While the public transportation makes getting around a breeze, finding a hotel to rest your head on for a reasonable rate can be a seemingly insurmountable task.


There are other options.


In the last 18 months, I’ve become the biggest fanboy for Airbnb. With a little bit of research and due diligence, you can find a shared room, a private room, or in my case an entire home to rent, and (surprisingly enough) at rates far more affordable than a hotel room.


I’ll break down my exact costs for the trip below, but I was able to secure an Airbnb just a few miles from the convention center for significantly less per night than the cost of the host hotels. Additionally, when I factoring in the cost of catching an Uber each morning and afternoon, I was still spending far less per day than had I stayed at one of the host hotels.


Want to lower your housing costs even further? Find a two or three bedroom Airbnb and split it with 1–2 roommates, which is exactly what I did. (Check the Capitol Hill, First Hill, Squire Park, & Hilltop neighborhoods, which are all fairly close and offer lots of options.)


Airfare: I’m not going to pretend for a second that I’m some sort of amazing travel agent or have some sweet algorithm that helps me get the lowest airfare prices and deals. But I am smart enough to know that, like conference ticket prices, it pays to get airfare well in advance.


Quick life hack: Google’s flight booking system is awesome in the fact that it will show you the cost of flying in/out at multiple dates/times so you can save yourself significant money by flying out at a less desirable time, like 7:30am on a Sunday morning like I did.


If you have flexibility, traveling during some “off” hours can pay huge dividends in flight savings.


How much money I saved (and you can, too)

Here’s (my first) 2014 MozCon travel expenses:

    • Conference Ticket: $1,000 (Eds. note: $999)
    • Hotel: $1,500
    • Airfare: $500
    • Total: $3,000

For comparison sakes, here’s the 2015 travel expenses:

    • Conference Ticket: $800 (Eds. note: $799)
    • Airbnb: $400 (my share)
    • Airfare: $320
    • Total: $1,520

Expenses for 2016, so far:

    • Conference Ticket: $599
    • Airbnb: $642 (Sunday–Thursday)
    • Airfare: $260
    • Total: $1,502

And if you’re asking me, having an apartment/house is a huge upgrade compared to any standard hotel room. Add in the fact that our Airbnb has a rooftop deck and balconies off every bedroom and the living room, and it’s nearly incomprehensible to me why anyone would stay in a hotel room.


Best part, I just booked my Airbnb and flights last week, which means there’s still one to two weeks to take advantage of the timing window and reap significant savings.

Another resource worth perusing: The Positive ROI of Conferences: A Deep Look at #MozCon

Get in your boss’s ear

Want to win your bosses appreciation? Come to her with the cost breakdown similar to what I highlight above, and you’re sure to have helped your cause. I bet your pitch on attending MozCon, or whatever event you endeavor to attend, converts a little better.


Find me at the MozCrawl, Ignite, or the Garage Party, because every dollar saved is one more dollar for cocktails.


Care to share any ideas you have for saving money when traveling to events?


Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Helpful Hints On Sustaining An excellent Business enterprise Reputation

Reputation Marketing can help you keep on best in your private and professional well-being. Preserve reading into the following paragraphs to get a quantity of useful ideas you’ll want to know.


This can be the case if your business enterprise is on the larger business enterprise. Shoppers would like to really feel as if they may be vital to you. Implement automated systems that should enable you to verify in with customers. You may also ask them to provide a feedback on purchases they’ve made.


Ensure that all consumers are not ignored. Turning unfavorable expertise into very good ones can show buyers that you just do care. It’s even greater when you do this on the internet.


This may frequently your company’s name. Search engines like google like firms which have authority inside a space. Your internet site will get moved up after they view your business as official.


Remain as much as date on top rated from the news about your service or item. This assists you are able to provide your buyers with the latest facts. Just read one of the most recent sector developments on the web.


Pay close focus to how you on the net. You don’t know when your corporation might obtain a organization could get a unfavorable search engine outcome from an unhappy consumer or somebody that just does not like you or your business. Monitoring search engine benefits oneself will enable keep you on leading from the scenario and as a result capable to put out tiny fires as they pop up. Do that on a handful of occasions a month.


Run your social media accounts within a experienced way.They are a whole lot about your company.


Quite a few business enterprise individuals do not pay strict focus to this location of their small business, and there may be serious consequences. If disgruntled personnel begin talking, they might avoid doing business enterprise with you.


Preserve any private sales or secret promotions private. This can be specially true if you present a big discount to compensate for any complaint. You don’t want unscrupulous those that are only looking to get free of charge products or services.


Be at places your customers are. Check out any places you realize they go to. You can become acquainted with clients and give them the best service probable if you go to locations they go. Persons will feel comfortable in this variety of environment.


Should you do an online look for your business and see false information, you are able to try to have the owner with the website to remove it. If there is certainly proof this info is not accurate, a lot of web-site owners will not take situation with removing it.


You will obtain additional generally with clientele as your business expands. You’ve got to address them within a manner that other individuals agree with.


You must check out all areas online exactly where persons talk about your enterprise. Get familiar with whatever web-sites persons use to post evaluations and share comments about the market your enterprise represents.


This really should have offered you a terrific jump start off to improving your reputation. Be careful implementing this tips to acquire the best outcomes. Begin now, and you will commence seeing the results soon.

Why Mobile-First Is the Only Design Worth Your Investment

Posted by bsmarketer

Most marketers think they’re hiring web designers to design an aesthetic.


But the savviest practitioners know they’re not.

They’re hiring experts to think through design interactions. The way people will arrive, hunt, look, and browse to ultimately find what they’re looking for in the most pleasing way possible. (Also, a few conversions along the way would be nice.)

As mobile users outnumber desktop, the importance of designing experiences on fluid surfaces becomes even more critical.

The trouble is that trying to transform an outdated, legacy website into a desirable mobile experience is problematic, if not impossible.

Compare that to a ‘mobile-first’ site which, from Day 1, is created to leverage the extra capabilities of mobile devices. But more importantly, also limit or mitigate the significant drawbacks of a smaller screen and limited processing power.

Here’s why that distinction is important, and how you can take advantage of it.

The legacy website conundrum

Recently I had a client who was approached by Google.

They offered to build them a completely new mobile site – gratis – because their legacy site wasn’t responsive. (Oh, almost forgot to mention, they’re a big AdWords advertiser too.)

The result was good. The work was clean and fast. Also, free.

But my client turned their offer down and hired us instead. Paying, well, much more than free.

Google’s emphasis on mobile-friendly design served as a catalyst for an increase in the number of mobile sites being added to legacy, outdated websites (built years before mobile usage was relevant).

The problem is that adding a mobile version to a legacy site doesn’t fix many of the underlying structural or architectural issues that are creating difficult mobile experiences in the first place.

Trying to ‘adapt’ an old infrastructure for new devices and technology is like jamming a square peg in a round hole. There are so many elements – design, IA, speed and other – that when formatted and compressed, get kinda… meh.

The challenges with mobile devices are well documented (seriously – it’s even in ‘Dummies‘). The screens are too damn small. Processing power is limited. Links and other important elements are too close together, making it difficult to select what you want while avoiding every other option.

In what now seems prescient, Bruce Lawson wrote in Smashing Magazine way back in 2012: “For a maintainable, future-friendly development methodology, I recommend that your default approach to mobile be to design one website that can adapt to different devices”.

Being on top of a fluid grid system allows for collapsable layouts, enabling a site’s content to have the best chance at success regardless of device. We’ve all been on sites that required intense left-to-right scrolling because the content or images haven’t adjusted. Or we’ve all seen when sites reach a breaking point on mobile that render them almost useless.

However beyond the surface, there’s a deeper rationale, again outlined years ago.

The first point, is that mobile requires focus. You simply don’t have room for all the extra crap that every single department head wants on the site. Starting with mobile creates a tremendous constraint that forces you to focus only on the essential, high-priority objectives.

The second is that mobile devices present an untapped opportunity to utilize extra functionality that’s unavailable for desktop users. The smallest examples including your real-time GPS or the advances being made with applications like Apple’s Health. Even the gestures you can use on mobile present a more dynamic world that leaves the mouse button behind.

All of this sounds great. Thanks for the history lesson.


But WTF does it have to do with SEO?


There are many advantages to starting from scratch when building an optimized website. But two of the biggest that affect conversions and SEO – your information architecture and site speed – stand to gain the most from a ‘mobile-first’ approach.

Optimizing IA through mobile-first

According to UX Booth, information architecture (IA) is concerned with the movement and interaction between a user and a system, with the goal of inspiration, utility, and delight. It connects people to the content they are looking for in an interactive and pleasing way.



image source: User Allusion, Murray


Tip #1: Design for use

Are Halland, an Information Architect, came up with a term to help information architecture influence your content strategy and path: core model. The core model puts the focus on designing a website from the inside out, emphasizing where your business goals and what your users need to get out of your site overlap.

Practically this means mapping content based on what’s most important (business objectives) and relevant (user needs).

Start with determining your goal. How is site success measured? What are you hoping to gain?

Compare that with who you’re trying to reach (or your buyer personas). How you deliver information is largely dependent on audience type, so content mapping (and organization) is based on their goals.

After laying the groundwork, you can begin to assess and integrate the different ways users find content. According to Web Designer Depot, there are four ways users seek information:

1. Known Item: the user knows what they’re looking for and how to describe it. For these users, you’ll need well-organized and logical information. And a search function that offers relevant results.

2. Exploratory: the user has an idea of what they might need to know…but don’t know where to start. For these users you’ll need a search function that auto-suggests search terms (based on what the user is typing) and a search function that suggests related terms.



image source: etsy


3. Unknown: the user doesn’t know what they need – they are often simply browsing. For these users you’ll need to guide visitors through content and to give users options, helping them narrow down their search.



image source: New York Magazine


4. Re-finding: the user is looking for something they’ve already seen… but don’t know how to find it again. For these users, you’ll need to have a function that saves “recently viewed” items, as well as interactive tools for visitors to “save for later”.



image source: Anthropologie


Tip #2: Keep information organization simple (and flat)

Your primary IA goal is to create a structure that makes it easy for users to find what they’re looking for. Now that you know the four ways your users will be seeking information, here are a few tips on information organization.

Start with conventional (not clever) labeling. There’s a reason ‘About’ or ‘Contact’ is so prevalent: people are used to it, they know what it means, and they know where to look for it. Breaking convention by using a phrase like “Hit Us Up!” or “Get in Touch” may sound unique, but it will confuse most of your readers (especially on non-traditional mobile screens).

The more information you have, the greater your organizational structure needs to be. Storyboarding can help. You need to be able to visualize how your site will look, test driving its usability. Online tools like AWWAPP or RealTimeBoard can help.



A flat site architecture also makes sure the most important information is only a few clicks (or taps) away (within 2-3 ideally). Otherwise, you end up with fewer top level categories, requiring more clicks to reach subcategories.



(image source: ZoomHead)

A flat architecture makes information more easily accessible, easier for search engines to crawl and index, while also providing a better user experience.

(Caveat: The only time deep architecture works better is with very large sites that have a lot of subcategories. If you have a lot of information, creating a deep architecture will make all of the information easier to navigate and it will create a less cluttered landing page.)



(image source: Content Standard)


Last but not least, map out your hierarchy. Based on your core model, determine what elements need to be forefront, and what elements can hang out a click or two into your site.

Another SEO bonus comes from determining your website hierarchy ahead of time so that you can map out your keyword hierarchy.

Tip #3: Design for conversions

Everything done so far is focused on increasing conversions.

However, the final IA tip is that conversion rates tend to be higher when your mobile site is more easily digestible (i.e., simple, straightforward, and easy to navigate).

HubSpot tested this by conducting a free ebook giveaway experiment in July 2015. By switching to more straightforward layouts, they decreased bounce rates by an average of 27%.



‘Solve for the user’ sounds trite, but it pays.

That means straightforward, easy terminology. While also keeping your links, menus, search, and filter options simple. Information should be easily accessible. Less is more when streamlining menu options for quick navigation. Especially when you’re dealing with important elements, like selecting one link instead of the other with a fat thumb, which can pose usability challenges that simply don’t happen on desktop.



(image source: Inology)

And simplify number input. Ain’t nobody got time to enter a 16-digit credit card number. Make it easy for your users to convert by simply giving them the keypad to type their credit card numbers.

Mobile speed – the silent conversion killer

Speed has one of the biggest bearings on usability and conversions across devices.

But on mobile, it’s especially problematic.

Limited processing power, lower connection speed, and spotty service present unique challenges to mobile devices that most desktops don’t experience.

How that translates, is through decreasing mobile conversion rates on purchase, losing these visits to competitors, while also diminishing brand value in the process.

Of the 87% of US citizens who own mobile devices, 90% use their devices to go online. Most staggering though, 74% will leave your mobile website if it doesn’t load in 5 seconds.



(image source: Kinsta)


The best place to start to in order to speed things up is decreasing page loading times.

Tip #1: Clean up your code

Pardon the obvious, but get started by cutting out excess space, indentations, and line spaces will reduce the size of your site’s core and front-end files. Especially any gibberish created by your CMS.

Believe it or not, this includes 301 redirects to a point. While they’re the best SEO friendly option, excessive 301 redirects can still cause confusion. Hunt down your redirects with Screaming Frog to see how you can actually improve the site’s structure (see above) and do it properly to reduce your site’s avoidable redirects.

Another potential problem area happens on WordPress site’s with too many (or low quality) plugins. Using something like the Plugin Performance Profiler to determine if any of your plugins are slowing down your site can help. (Wait – add a plugin to see which plugins to remove? I know.)



Managed hosting, done properly, can also help WordPress sites (or more specifically, their owners) keep things running quickly by taking care of the heavy lifting. The best in the business (depending on locale and preference) are WP Engine, Kinsta, and Pagely.

Tip #2: Minify, cache and compress

Javascript files take much longer to load than most site content. They also selfishly insist on loading first, causing significantly lower page speed load times. Google suggests the removal or deferral of all Javascripts that get in the way of loading any above-the-fold content. By doing so, the rest of your web content will be able to load first and the files will only need to be loaded one time, making each return visit that much quicker.

Check out the Varvy’s Javascript Usage Tool to see how your site is currently utilizing javascript.



Unless your site is being updated significantly every five minutes, you should be using a content management system (CMS) that will cache your pages. “Caching” saves your web pages so they don’t have to be regenerated every time. WordPress offers some great cache plugins, including W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache.



GZIP compression will cut your page load time significantly, especially benefiting mobile devices and desktops with poor internet connection. While it’s not the best compression method, it is the most compatible across servers, is quick, and the ratio is decent.

Head over to GIDNetwork to test the compression of your site. GIDNetwork will tell you if you’re site’s already been compressed, they type of compression, size and compression percent. They’ll also give you a list of ways to decrease page load time from most to least crucial.





Tip #3: Optimize images

While HTML may enable you to convert a large graphic into a much smaller graphic, it isn’t necessarily taking up less server space. And when it comes to page load time, server space is really what we care about. Make sure to optimize your images first. Then you can adjust the height and width.

Optimizing images can result in the largest byte-saving, performance improvements for your site, and as Google puts it, “The fewer bytes the browser has to download, the less competition there is for the client’s bandwidth and the faster the browser can download and render useful content on the screen”. There are a number of applications and graphic programs that can be used to optimize your images, including Photoshop, Fireworks, and SmushIt.

Next, you can deliver those images via a CDN, or content delivery network, that works by delivering web pages based on a user’s geographical location. By using a CDN such as CloudFare or Brightbox, you are ensuring quicker connection to a server near a user’s geographical area. This means that you have a better chance of your site loading faster.



Looking for even more tips on how to make your page load time faster? Check out Google Developer’s PageSpeed Tools and WebPageTest’s Analytical Review.



The best site improvements don’t come from checking off to-do list items from a tactical perspective based on artificial deadlines.

Yes, a mobile version of your legacy site is better than nothing. Obviously. But in most cases it doesn’t go far enough. At the end of the day, you’re still living with significant issues that are affecting mobile experiences (which in turn, impacts conversions).

A “mobile-first: approach is ideal, because it’s easier to address the most difficult aspects – like your information architecture and speed – going from mobile to desktop (rather than vice versa).

In an ideal world, the best investment of time and money is to fix the problem once instead of cobbling together band-aids as an afterthought.


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Here’s How AdWords Basics Took an Account from Cost Center to Profit Center

Posted by PaidInsights

Your AdWords account doesn’t need to be complex to be profitable, but there are a few (often forgotten) settings and tweaks that can make a huge difference in ROI. Many times these “small” things can be the difference between losing and making money on your ad spend.

I took over an account that wasn’t in horrible shape, but it needed a little help to stop the bleeding.

I’ll walk you through my initial steps to make this account profitable:


Tracking conversions

Making sure conversions are being tracked properly should always be step No. 1. If your goal is to get leads or sales, you need to know if your ad spend is producing leads or sales at a price you can afford. You can’t improve what you can’t track.

(I was interviewed by CallRail about how keyword-level call tracking helped me to reduce cost per acquisition by 66%, but that’s only part of the story. I consider CallRail’s integration with AdWords step 0.5 because it allowed me to track phone calls to the business as a lead.)

CallRail / AdWords Integration

Form leads for the win

When I took over the account, form leads were being tracked manually through a spreadsheet. There was no integration into AdWords. Not only was this a huge waste of time, but it was inaccurate and prone to errors.

I needed to tie form leads back to AdWords clicks.


But first, in order to track those leads, I needed to create a thank you page.


For the website we were advertising for, there was no thank you page, email confirmation, nor visual indication that a lead was received. The page just refreshed. This led to many double and triple form submissions (which were counted as separate leads), and follow-up calls just to check that the messages were being received (and being counted as leads).


From a user experience perspective, you have to let people know you received their messages, what to expect next, how long they’ll have to wait, and simply say, “Thanks for contacting us.”

The thank you page I created let prospects know they could expect a response within 24 hours. It also provided answers to some frequently asked questions, and contained a tracking code that enabled form leads to be tracked within the AdWords account.

Now that I was tracking both call and form leads coming from PPC, I needed to address a few other oversights and basic settings that were making the account a cost center as opposed to a highly profitable lead generator.

Negative keywords

In this particular account, they had attempted to sculpt ad groups with negative keywords so there was no overlap as to which searches showed which ads. Not a bad idea, but it was done so exhaustively it was nearly impossible to manage. And branded terms were still showing up in general searches.

The main negative (pun intended) was that there was no account-wide negative keyword lists.


This advertiser focused on all types of home repair and installation jobs. They were getting huge amounts of searches (and clicks) for searches related to car and vehicles repairs, services they do not provide.


car window search query report

Adding negatives for the keywords car, truck, auto, and vehicle was a good start. Looking through the search query reports, I found there were many searches that were clearly related to vehicles, but used terms like rear, driver, and side. Also, many searches were using car make and/or model numbers, so I found added a list of popular car makes and models as a separate negative keyword list.


Because most of the keywords were phrase matched, they were triggering for expensive “emergency repair” terms, but this business did not offer 24-hour service. Some of those keywords were over $40 CPC, so excluding the term “emergency” was another quick win.


There were also no generic negatives for things like pictures, videos, training, and jobs, so those were carefully added as negatives, too. (When you do this yourself, ensure you do not exclude searches you do want from showing.)

Finally, there were searches around “how-to” and “do it yourself,” but I was less sure about how those would convert. I didn’t exclude them initially as I wanted to get some conversion data before adding them as negatives.


Right away, the click-through rate nearly doubled; the bounce rate dropped by about 10%.


CTR vs Bounce Rate

Doing negative keyword research can greatly minimize wasted ad spend in the beginning stages of a PPC account. You will still come across many weird and irrelevant searches over time as you continue to monitor the search query reports, but any good PPC manager should put in the time to set this up right before Day 1.

Ad extensions

Ad extensions were non-existent for this account. As nearly every study or article about ad extensions explains, they increase click-through rate and are a positive factor in quality score. This in turn lowers the amount you have to pay per click for the same ad position.


I added sitelinks, callouts, reviews and call extensions to all campaigns. In every case, they increased CTR and conversion rate, which lowered cost per lead.


Because this was a multi-location service area business, I only added location extensions to locations that had enough reviews to show local review star ratings within the ad. This is a more recent change Google made to allow star ratings attached to Google My Business to show within ads.


Local Review Stars in AdWords

I had also noticed while conducting research that dynamic sitelinks were showing, but for the wrong locations, so I used Google’s form to opt out from displaying these. AdWords has been updated so that you no longer have to submit a form to Google in order to opt out of dynamic extensions. You can find the updated instructions on how to remove automated extensions here.


More recently I added structured snippets, AdWords’ newest extension, which have also been performing very well.



Because I made many of these changes while simultaneously setting up proper conversion tracking, I couldn’t see exactly how cost per leads and conversion rates were impacted.


The good news is that Google Analytics was linked to the account, so I could compare bounce rates and a few other engagement metrics before and after the changes. The analytics are not perfect, since many people call directly from the landing page, which looks like a bounce. But I was still able to get a decent estimate of how performance compared before and after integrating conversion tracking.


I did some basic statistical analysis to help estimate the conversion rates prior to tracking based on bounce rate:

Bounce vs CTR Scatter

After a few simple tweaks, lead volume (and quality) went up, cost per lead went down, and the account started to consistently provide a positive ROI.


As more conversion data came in, I was able to further optimize the account by segments like day of week, location, and user device. Substantial results were realized within the first few weeks.

Do you have any similar stories of taking over accounts in bad shape? Surprised by anything? Let me know in the comments!


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12 Ways Infographics Can Be Used to Drive Results

Posted by AdamThompson

Infographics are a hot commodity in the digital marketing space, both as part of SEO strategies and for content marketing initiatives. They’re a great way to connect with audiences, educate readers in a creative and visual way, and build editorial backlinks. About 65 percent of people are visual learners. That means well over half of your target audience is people who you should market to visually.

As infographics have gained in popularity, though, many companies have pushed out graphics that don’t offer enough value to the viewer. Ask yourself these questions when you’re developing an infographic to ensure your graphics offer enough value to rise above the crowd:

    • Is the internet a better, more useful place because we released this infographic?
    • Does this infographic provide information or insights that existing infographics don’t?
    • Does this infographic provide insights that readers will find interesting, compelling, and relevant to their lives and pursuits?

Once you have created a high-value infographic, how do you turn a one-off infographic strategy into a complete marketing campaign? Here are some of the tactics we’ve used to maximize the return on investment from infographics.


#1 – Offer an initial exclusive

If you’re creating an infographic for SEO benefits, it’s a safe assumption that you’re doing outreach. Before you start the general blogger outreach, though offer exclusive first coverage to a few top tier publications. Many to-tier publications will be more likely to publish your infographic if you offer them exclusive first-publication rights. Typically, this means they get to publish it first and you won’t allow it to be published elsewhere for a certain amount of time thereafter (for example, one week). After that time period is up, you can publish it anywhere you choose.


#2 – Submit a press release


If your infographic contains original data or combines data in a fresh way to arrive at unique conclusions, consider writing and distributing a press release. We’re not interested in the backlinks we get from the press release itself; rather, we’re interested in the possible coverage we can get if editors see the press release and decide to cover the story.


This screenshot above, from, shows a press release we submitted for an infographic. (We created Black Friday Survey 2015 for one of our clients.) The infographic was based on original data, making it a newsworthy angle publishers were interested in. The piece was cited by several targeted top-tier publications.

#3 – Leverage UGC as data for your infographic campaign

Create a survey to gather original data for your infographic. By getting your audience involved in providing data, you get at least two additional benefits:

  1. The survey itself is social media content that can help drive engagement and shares.
  2. Once the infographic is done, survey takers will feel invested in the piece and be more likely to share it.

#4 – Cite it as source in guest blog posts

Citing data from an infographic or using part of it as a graphic in a guest blog post is a great way to:

    • Work an attribution backlink into a relevant blog post (for example, into a guest column on a high authority website)
    • Build a natural backlink and diversify your link portfolio

#5 – Spin the infographic into posts for your blog

Once you’ve done the research and designed the infographic, you can write blog posts covering each section of the infographic in more details. You’ve already done the research and created a custom graphic you can use for each post!


#6 – Include it in emails

Infographics can be great content to use in emails. Here are a few ways you could transform infographics into email content for your list:

    • Send out a newsletter highlighting the entire infographic
    • Write auto-responder emails based on slices of the infographic
    • Feature the infographic in your next newsletter
    • Politely brag about any top-tier publications that featured your infographic

#7 – Piggyback on a holiday

In addition to the major holidays, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, the calendar is packed with lesser-known holidays. Aligning your infographic with one or more of these holidays could be very beneficial. Consider how leveraging this could enable you to:

    • Provide opportunities to ride the wave of hashtags and buzz within relevant communities
    • Give you a unique angle for pitching bloggers on your infographic
    • Open doors for joint ventures with individuals, organizations, and communities that are invested in the chosen holidays

#8 – Slice and dice it for social media

Most infographics can easily be sliced up into bite-sized pieces perfect for posting on Facebook, Pinterest, and other websites. If you’re able to make some slices that have very little text, you can boost the posts on Facebook as well. (Remember, Facebook has a maximum 20% text rule for posts you want to boost.)



This excerpt from 5 of the World’s Most Secure Vaults & Bunkers (another infographic we created for a client) is a great example of how infographics can be sliced into smaller pieces for sharing on social media or using in a blog post. An entire infographic is too long and too in-depth for quick social media sharing, but an excerpt like this is a quick read and easy share!


#9 – Tie it in with a contest or giveaway

An infographic can be paired with a contest to drive additional buzz and encourage blogger participation. For example, Macy’s partnered with Better Recipes on a campaign around the KitchenAid mixer. The infographic showed 25 kitchen items you can replace with a mixer and was then attached to a giveaway of a KitchenAid mixer for Valentine’s Day. Keep in mind that giving away free gifts in exchange for links is (according to Google) the same as purchasing links, so tread carefully in this space.


#10 – Use it as a lead generation landing page

Infographics can be repurposed as a lead generation asset.

Here’s how to make it work:

    1. Create an ebook or whitepaper with more data and details on the same topic as your infographic
    1. Publish the infographic with a prominent opt-in form to download the ebook/whitepaper

#11 – Use it in paid ad campaigns

Infographics can be repurposed and worked into your paid advertising campaigns in several ways, including:

    • Using data and graphical elements from the infographic to create display ads
    • Using data and stats from the infographic in ad copy and landing pages
    • Running ad campaigns to a lead generation page that features the infographic
    • Running a low-CPC (display and/or native) ad campaign featuring the infographic to drive brand awareness and leads

#12 – Include your brand’s charity work in the infographic

Are you participating in a humanitarian program or charity? Create an infographic that ties in with the charity or issue you’re involved with. Remember to keep the focus on promoting the charity/issue at hand, not on patting yourself on the back for your contributions. This offers several additional benefits:

    • Gets more of your organization involved your company’s marketing efforts in an organic way
    • Helps you support charity work and make the world a better place (cliched, but true!)
    • Opens up additional channels to promote your infographic

What other ways do you use infographics across different channels to maximize the return you get on the time and money invested in creation?


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What We Can Learn From Heat Map Studies to Improve Our Calls-to-Action

Posted by AnnSmarty

Most of those reading this probably already know about heat maps. But stay with me while I give a quick explanation to those who don’t.


A heat map is a visual graph delivered in a unique style. Rather than showing straight statistics, it works by using different colors to show things like…

    • Mouse movement: Where the mouse was moving (my means of mouse-tracking)
    • Click tracking: Where the actual click occurred
    • Scroll tracking: How far down the page the visitor scrolled
    • Eye tracking: Where the eye is most likely to focus upon first viewing an image.

What’s more, a heat map can be incredibly helpful when improving the clickability of your images.


It will let you know what people are looking at and what details they are missing. From there you can adjust, remove, and add whatever you need to increase the effectiveness of each image used


Three things we can learn from heat map studies

1. People prefer to view faces: A Nielsen Norman Group study showed that users ignore stock photos.


When viewers looked at a company’s page presenting photos and bios of the entire team, the test revealed that users spent 10% more time viewing the portrait photos than reading the biographies, even though the bios consumed 316% more space.



The “headshot” phenomenon is confirmed by this study of LinkedIn profiles: This Heatmap Proves That Looks Are The Most Important Thing On Your LinkedIn Profile.



In a study conducted by TheLadders, an eye tracking heat map showed that recruiters spend 19 percent of the total time they spend on your profile looking at your picture.


The same goes for Facebook profiles, where people seem to be most interested in the headshots:


facebook profile

The conclusion? Whether you like the idea of marketing your headshot or not, you have better chances to succeed online if you do. Your face shot can make your social media profiles more memorable and engaging, as well as trigger more clicks to your on-site calls-to-action.


2. A smile garners more attention: The study by Specs found that something as simple as a smile can have a huge impact on whether or not an image gains any real attention. Not only will it draw the eye, but it will be more memorable to the person viewing it.


A Smile Always Gets Attention


Being easily recognized is an important part of content marketing. How can you really make an impression? By posting your work alongside the same smiling photo (or a couple of photos where you are clearly recognizable). Your site visitors will learn to associate you with quality. Then, when they see your image posted with a piece of content, they will be sure to click on it every time.


You can use the same tactic on social media. A good picture makes your profile more appealing, and will help you gain more followers. So smile!


They Look Where You Look

3. People look where you look: Direct eye contact is effective. Eyes in the picture almost always draw attention. But eyes also guide attention.


This case study shows that eyes can guide the users’ attention to where you want them to be guided (e.g., glancing to the left will guide the viewer’s eyes to the left.)


But it’s not just the eyes. It’s also been found that emotions (plus eye direction and straightforward pointing to the on-page object) trigger the most conversions.


In this case study it has been found that the photo of the model who looked excited and was looking at (and pointing to) the CTA generated the best conversion rate.


smiling pointing

What we can take away from these studies

These studies show that our images might not be viewed in the way we intended them to be viewed.


When we post images, we have a tendency of focusing entirely on the quality of those pictures.


You could have a perfect, high-quality image of yourself smiling on your front page. But with a minor tweak (e.g., posting a photo of yourself looking at your CTA), you could dramatically improve your conversions.


Put this information to use for your brand

Start by strategically testing different facial expressions and positions.

    • Maybe begin by using slightly different images of yourself for your bio, About Us page, and social media profiles
    • Also consider using authentic testimonials with well-recognized pictures of social media influencers, as in the example shown below

First Site Guide

    • Use smiling faces in your banner ads or as CTA click triggers

banner ads

There is no perfect solution

With visual marketing, it is never straightforward.


Images put on different social networks or offered in front of different audiences can generate absolutely different levels of engagement from what they would on your own website.


This case study done by Curalate and introduced by Wired is a great example. The Curalate team analyzed millions of pictures to find the perfect combination of elements that made up the best possible Pinterest image.


What did their research find?

    1. Images without human faces performed better
    1. Shallow depth-of field wins (i.e., main image in the foreground, with the background blurred)
    1. People prefer moderate light and color

This study makes clear there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to what will resonate with vast audiences across the web.


The key to discovering what works for your brand and target audiences is to test and re-test.

If you’re now excited to do some testing on your own site, there are some easy-to-use tools that can help.

Popular heatmap tools

Sumome Heatmaps (freemium): I use Sumome simply because I have Sumome already installed and it has heatmaps nicely built in (and they are free).


Sumome Heatmaps

Bannersnack (paid, but offers a free trial): Inherently this is banner-analyzing software. However, Bannersnack can also be used for designing and analyzing any on-site images you use for CTAs and/or design.


First, create the visual using the handy online editor, grab the embed code, and put it on your site. (You can embed it on a landing page or within your article.) Give it some time to work,then go back to see how your audience interacted with your banner. With Bannersnack, you can see where exactly people clicked when engaging with that visual.


Then, if you like what you see, download the image and re-use it for social media advertising or other types of social media marketing you are doing.


Piwik Overlay Maps (free): Piwik’s click maps are not as nicely done as Sumome, but they are very useful nonetheless.


Piwik Overlay Maps

A page overlay displays the actual website and puts bubbles next to the links on the page that show how many visitors clicked the link.


It’s a nice way to compare on-page images (for example, navigation icons like those in my screenshot above).


Visual Attention Software (freemium): This is a new tool I only recently discovered that uses its own algorithm to simulate what people see during the first critical 3-5 seconds of viewing.



It’s science-based, so it’s not actually tracking anything. (It analyzes the image using its own patent-pending algorithm.)

Do you have a case study on using heating tracking to improve CTAs you would like to share? Let us know in the comments.


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