Posted by Paddy_Moogan
Over the years, I’ve often referred to our link building work as “campaigns”, which isn’t wrong, but isn’t completely right, either. I think that as an industry we need to alter our mindset to focus on what link building should be: an ongoing, integrated, business-as-usual activity.
Link building processes that work for brands now and that will continue to work in the future need to sit closer to the rest of the business. This means tighter integration with other disciplines, or at the very least, acknowledgment that link building isn’t a siloed activity or dark art like it used to be.
In this post, I’d like to propose how we should think about link building and share some ways to make it more sustainable, efficient, and effective.
The problem with campaigns
I want to start by being super clear on something, and I make no apologies for reiterating this throughout this post: Link building campaigns aren’t a bad thing. My core point is that they should be thought of as one piece of the puzzle — not something we should focus all of our time and attention on.
“Campaign”, in the context of link building or digital PR, implies a few things:
- It has a start and an end point
- It is a one-off activity
- It is about a specific “thing”, whether that be a topic, product, or piece of content
There is nothing wrong with these as such, but link building shouldn’t be thought about only in these ways. If link building is seen as a series of one-off activities, or about a specific thing and with a start and end point, it’s never going to be integrated into a business the way it should be. It will always sit around the edges of marketing activity and not benefit the bottom line as much as it could.
Even if you are reading this thinking that you’re okay because you have lots of campaigns lined up — maybe one a week, one a month, or one a quarter — the core problems still exist, but at a more zoomed-out level.
As digital marketers, we want link building to be:
- Taken seriously as a tactic which helps support SEO within a business
- Integrated with other areas to allow for efficiency and wider benefits
- Fit into the overarching digital strategy of a business
- Have measurable, consistent results
Let me demonstrate the final point with the graph below, which is the monthly performance of an Aira client on a 6-8 week campaign schedule:
On the face of it, this looks pretty good. We built over 200 links in 12 months, and were ahead of target in terms of individual campaign objectives.
This graph is the reality of link building campaign execution. We were honest and up-front with clients about the results, and those peaks and dips are perfectly normal.
But it could (and should) be a lot better.
Let’s take a quick step back.
An uncomfortable truth
The uncomfortable truth for many link builders is that a business shouldn’t really need to worry about link building as an intentional, proactive activity. Instead, links should be a natural consequence of a fantastic product or service which is marketed and branded well.
However, companies in this position are the exception rather than the rule, which means that as link builders, we still have a job!
I’d argue that there are only a relatively small number of businesses that truly don’t need to worry about link building. Think of the likes of well-established and popular brands like Apple, McDonalds, Amazon and Coca-Cola. These companies truly are the exception, rather than the rule.
Trying to be an exception and aiming to reach the nirvana of never actively worrying about link building should absolutely be your goal. Putting efforts into areas such as product development, customer service, content strategy, and brand building will all pay dividends when it comes to link building. But they all take time and you need to generate organic traffic sooner rather than later in order to grow the business.
Link building, as part of your larger integrated and robust digital strategy can get you there quicker. I worry that businesses often leave money on the table by waiting for that nirvana to come. They may indeed get there, but could they have gotten there sooner?
The question then becomes, how do they move quicker toward that ideal state, and what does link building look like in the interim? Running campaigns can help for sure, but you’re not really building upward as quickly as you could be.
This is the crux of my worry and problem with running link building campaigns and allowing our strategies to lean on them too heavily:
When the campaigns stop, so will the links.
I know, I know — Aira launches campaigns all the time.
Yes, we have launched many, many link building campaigns at Aira over the years and have been nominated for campaign-specific awards for some of them. I’ve even written about them many times. Campaign-led link building has a very valuable part to play in the world of link building, but we need to reframe our thinking and move away from campaigns as the primary way to generate links to a business.
Driving the right behaviors
It’s not just about results. It’s about driving the right behaviors within businesses, too.
Putting link building in the corner of a one-off project or campaign-led activity is not going to encourage habitual link building. It will drive behaviors and thinking which you don’t really want, such as:
- Link building is a line item which can be switched on and off
- Internal processes have to bend or break in order to accommodate link building
- There is little desire or motivation for wider team members to learn about what link builders do
- Link building is an isolated activity with no integration
- Link building results aren’t consistent (you get those huge peaks and dips in performance, which can bring into question the marketing spend you’re being given)
Working under these pressures is not going to make your life easy, nor are you going to do the best job you possibly can.
I worry that as an industry, we’ve become too focused on launching campaign after campaign and have gotten too far away from effecting change within organizations through our work.
As digital marketers, we are trying to influence behaviors. Ultimately, it’s about the behaviors of customers, but before that point it’s about influencing stakeholders — whether you’re an agency or in-house SEO, our first job is to get things done. In order to do that, link building needs to be thought of as a business-as-usual (BAU) activity. Campaigns have a place, but are part of a much, much bigger picture. Link building needs to get to the point where it’s not “special” to build links to a content piece, it’s just done. If we can get there, not only will we accelerate the businesses we work with toward link building nirvana, but we will add much, much more value to them in the meantime.
Link building as a BAU activity
It is my firm belief that in order to mature as an industry, and specifically as an activity, link building needs to be understood much more than it currently is. It still suffers from the issues that plagued SEO for many years in the early days when it truly was a dark art and we were figuring it out as we went along.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve come a long way, especially since April 2012 (can you really believe it was over eight years ago?!) when link building began evolving into a content-led practice thanks in part to the Penguin update.
But we still have further to go.
We need to get out of the corner of “launching a campaign” and train our bosses and clients to ask questions like, “How can link building help here?” and “Is there a link building opportunity in this activity?”.
A case study
The best way I can explain this shift in thinking is to give you a real example of how we’ve done it at Aira. I can’t give you the exact client, but I can give you an overview of the journey we’ve been on with them, supporting an SEO team that is relentlessly committed to getting things done — the perfect partners for such an initiative.
I should also point out that this has never been easy. We are on this journey with a number of our clients, and some of them are barely into it. The examples here show what happens when you get it right — but it does take time, and the reality is that it may never happen for some businesses.
Where it started
One campaign. That was it. One shot to get links and show the client what we could do.
This was back in 2016. We were lucky in that the client trusted the process and understood why things had gone wrong on this occasion. So, they gave us another chance and this time did a great job.
From there, the project grew and grew to the point where we were launching scaled campaigns like clockwork and getting links consistently. All was well.
Then I was asked a question by someone on the client’s team:
“What’s the evolution of our link building?”
Whilst link building is never far from my mind, I didn’t have a mental model to answer this straight away with any conviction — particularly given what I knew about this client and their industry. I took some time to think about it and consolidate a bunch of observations and opinions I’d actually had for years, but never really made concrete.
Side note: It’s often hard to take a step back from the day-to-day of what you’re doing and think about the bigger picture or the future. It’s even more difficult when you’re growing a business and generally doing good work. It can be hard to justify “rocking the boat” when things are going well, but I’ve learned that you need to find time for this reflection. For me at that point in time, it took a direct question from my client to force me into that mindset.
I confirmed that our existing model of link building for them was something that was likely to continue working and adding value, but that it should NOT be our sole focus in the coming years.
Then, I explained what I’ve talked about in this post thus far.
I told them that our work wasn’t good enough, despite them being one of our happiest, most long-standing clients. We were getting hundreds of links a month, but we could do better.
Running campaign after campaign and getting links to each one would not be good enough in the future. Sure it works now, but what about in two years? Five?? Probably only partly.
We knew we needed to bridge the gap between different content types:
- Content for links (aka campaigns)
- Content for traffic (informational and transactional pages)
- Content for building expertise and trust
We’d only been focusing on the first one, pretty much in isolation. We’d come up with some relevant topic ideas, build them out and get links. Job done.
This wouldn’t be good enough a few years down the road, because link building would be taking place in a small pocket of a very large organization with limited integration.
It’s now been over a year since that conversation and guess what? Our campaigns are still working great, but we are evolving to do so much more.
If you haven’t taken a look at what else your business is doing and where link building can add value, this is the first step towards better integration, and thus better link building. By the time the conversation above happened, we’d already recognized the need to integrate with other teams within the client’s organization, so we had a head start.
With the help of the client’s SEO team, we started to discover other activities within the organization which we could add value to or leverage for greater wins:
- The traditional marketing team had been running campaigns for years on different industry topics. Some of these crossed over with the topics we’d created content for.
- The internal PR team had lots of activity going on and had often seen our coverage pop up on their trackers. As it turned out, they were just as keen to meet us and understand more about our processes.
- The brand team was starting to review all on-site assets to ensure conformity to brand guidelines. Working with them was going to be important moving forward for consistency’s sake.
- With our help, the client were building out more informational content related to their products, with us helping brief their internal copywriters.
All of these opportunities sowed the seeds for a new focus on the evolution of link building, and pushed us to move quicker into a few things including:
- Running joint projects with the internal PR team where we collaborate on ideas and outreach that don’t just focus on data visualization
- Running ideation sessions around topics given to us by the SEO team, which are also focused on by their traditional marketing team
- Building relationships with several subject matter experts within the organization who we are now working with and promoting online (more on this below)
- Testing the informational product content for link building after noticing that a few pieces naturally attracted links
- Working alongside the PR team to carry out brand-reclamation-style link building
Where we are now
Just one year from that open and honest conversation, we have been able to show our value beyond launching campaign after campaign whilst still building links to the client’s content. This will hold value for years to come and mean that their reliance on campaigns will be reduced more and more over time.
We’re making good progress toward taking our reliance off campaigns and making it part of our strategy — not all of it. Yes, campaigns still drive the majority of links, but our strategy now includes some key changes:
- All campaigns (with the odd exception) are evergreen in nature, can always be outreached, and have the ability to attract links on their own.
- We are launching long-form, report-style content pieces that demonstrate the authority and expertise the client has in their industry, and then building links to them. (They’re far slower in terms of getting links, but they are doing well.)
- We are raising the profile of key spokespeople within the business by connecting them with writers and journalists who can contact them directly for quotes and comments in the future.
- We are doing prospecting and outreach for informational content, aiming to give them a nudge in rankings which will lead to more links in the future (that we didn’t have to ask for).
Link building isn’t quite a BAU activity just yet for this client, but it’s not far off from becoming one. The practice is taken seriously, not just within the SEO team, but also within the wider marketing team. There is more awareness than there has ever been.
Content strategy framework
I want to share the framework which we’ve used to support and visualize the shift away from campaigns as our sole link building strategy.
We’ve been aware for a while that we need to ensure any link building work we do is topically relevant. We’d found ourselves defaulting to content which was campaign-led and focused on links, as opposed to content that can serve other purposes.
Link builders need to take a long, hard look at the topics we want our clients and businesses to be famous for, credible to talk about, and that resonate with their audience. Once you have these topics, you can start to plan your content execution. After that, you’ll start to see where link building fits in.
Contrast this with the approach of “we need links, let’s come up with some relevant content ideas to help do that.” This can work, but isn’t as effective.
To help clients shift their strategies, we put together the framework below. Here’s how it works:
Let’s imagine we sell products that help customers sleep better. We may come up with the following themes and topics:
Notice that “Campaigns” is only one format. We’re also acknowledging that topics and themes can not only lead to other forms of content (and links), but also that our KPIs may not always be just links.
If we put together a long-form content guide on the science of sleep, it may not get on the front page of the New York Times, but it may get a slow, steady stream of links and organic search traffic. This traffic could include potential customers for a sleep product.
Once you have a specific topic in mind, you can go deeper into that topic and start thinking about what content pieces you can create to truly demonstrate expertise and authority. This will differ by client and by topic, but it could look something like this:
In this case, the blue circles denote a topic + format which may be link-worthy. While the orange ones denote a valuable execution that aren’t as link-worthy, we may still want to create this content for longer-term link and traffic generation.
To wrap up
Link building campaigns still have huge amounts of value. But if that’s all you’re doing for clients, you’re leaving opportunities behind. Think bigger and beyond campaigns to see what else can be done to move you and your business closer to link building nirvana.
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To build customer loyalty during COVID-19, maximize interactions between transactions
- To develop a true relationship with a consumer, brands will need to look beyond the point of sale (POS) to focus on the moments of engagement captured through the likes of social media interactions, feedback loops, customer service moments, content sharing, video connections and more.
- Customers may re-evaluate their routines, which in essence is evaluating who they are loyal to. This may be driven by safety, convenience, online presence, etc. An economic recession always breaks old habits and remakes them anew. Layer on a health crisis like COVID-19, and then the threats to long-term loyalty skyrockets.
- Right now, customers are dealing with many new experiences, such as working from home, wearing facemasks outside and cooking healthy meals for their families with limited supplies. Build a stronger emotional connection with customers by serving up content that supports these sometimes-difficult activities.
- At a time when many people are struggling, offering customers wiggle room on return policies and other terms and conditions can surprise and delight—and convince customers that your brand is a keeper.
- Supporting causes bigger than your company is a key element of reciprocity.
Most brands focus their marketing energy at driving transactions. From years of experience, they know how to nudge a customer down the sales funnel with a well-timed discount offer or well-placed retargeted ad. However, these techniques are not as effective during the COVID-19 crisis… and may not position them well as consumers return.
In order to protect long-term top-line revenue, brands need to look past short-term profits and focus more on lasting relationships.
To develop a true relationship with a consumer, brands will need to look beyond the point of sale (POS) to focus on the moments of engagement captured through the likes of social media interactions, feedback loops, customer service moments, content sharing, video connections and more.
One reason interacting at just the POS is not enough is simply that because transactions are fewer and further between during this time. With unemployment rates in the double digits, many customers simply do not have the discretionary funds they did before the pandemic.
Those who are still employed may feel anxiety about their financial security, as well as their emotional wellbeing. These feelings of stress and anxiety pose another challenge for brands during the pandemic.
Customers may re-evaluate their routines, which in essence is evaluating who they are loyal to. This may be driven by safety, convenience, online presence, etc. An economic recession always breaks old habits and remakes them anew. Layer on a health crisis like COVID-19, and then the threats to long-term loyalty skyrockets.
To weather the storm, your brand should address these emotions, not avoid them. Pivot your experience to create a human connection, not just a transactional one.
Address customers’ concerns and current situation through authentic engagement and meaningful interactions, and you will build loyalty that will have lasting impressions… long after COVID-19 passes. This pivot is key for most brands’ post-pandemic revival.
Three ways to drive emotional loyalty between the transaction during COVID-19
Three main emotions drive customer loyalty: the need for a habitual routine, a desire for status and feelings of reciprocity. As mentioned above, a crisis-situation will almost always disrupt consumer’s habits, and it usually makes them care less about status and exclusivity, too.
All this makes the notion of reciprocity ever so important. Customers right now are highly emotional and want to feel valued and heard by the brands they choose to engage and interact with.
They want brands to reflect their own values and priorities, and may even want the ability to contribute to a greater cause. This is one reason that socially conscious brands like Everlane and Patagonia took off after the last recession. They gave customers good reasons to stick around even during tough times.
Keep these principles in mind as you brainstorm ways to engage customers in between transactions during and after the pandemic:
1) Add value with non-sales content
Right now, customers are dealing with many new experiences, such as working from home, wearing facemasks outside and cooking healthy meals for their families with limited supplies.
Build a stronger emotional connection with customers by serving up content that supports these sometimes-difficult activities.
For example, Best Buy offered tips for setting up a home office rather than pushing computer sales. Share your helpful content via email, on social media or anywhere else you connect with your customers.
2) Make your policies flexible
At a time when many people are struggling, offering customers wiggle room on return policies and other terms and conditions can surprise and delight—and convince customers that your brand is a keeper.
For example, Marriott paused points expiration for its Bonvoy loyalty program, as well as adjusting the hotel chain’s cancellation policy to be more flexible during the pandemic.
Announcing policy changes is also a good excuse to reach out to customers to keep your band top of mind, without pushing a sale.
3) Find ways to give back to your community
Supporting causes bigger than your company is a key element of reciprocity.
For example, shoe brand Tom’s, a pioneer in this space, is donating one-third of its net profits to organizations on the front lines of the pandemic. You do not have to donate cash; in fact, the contribution might be more impactful if it is tailored to your business and its products or services.
Recently, many restaurant chains including Chipotle have donated free food to healthcare workers.
Address emotions now, but plan for the post COVID-19 future
The instability and uncertainty we all feel today will not last forever. However, brands that respond empathetically and effectively to customers’ emotions during this crisis will be best positioned to weather the storm.
Old habits are broken during a recession — but new habits are also established. In addition, those who keep customers engaged between transactions, building valuable emotional loyalty, will become part of those new habits as they form.
In order for brands to truly understand customer’s emotional drivers, you should look into tools like Kobie’s Emotional Loyalty Scoring to help re-segment and decipher customer reactions to messaging, benefits, and offers.
Marti Beller is President at Kobie Marketing. Beller has more than 20 years of loyalty marketing and customer engagement experience after most recently serving as senior vice president of global loyalty products and platforms, Mastercard. Prior to her tenure at Mastercard, she served as president of Connexions Loyalty (formerly Affinion Loyalty Group), where she led the customer engagement and loyalty strategies of multiple global brands, including top credit card issuers, worldwide hoteliers and national airlines.
The post To build customer loyalty during COVID-19, maximize interactions between transactions appeared first on ClickZ.
Tips and tools to combine content marketing and PPC
- Many businesses opt for content marketing because organic traffic is free. But, this strategy makes them miss a great opportunity to grow fast because combining SEO-optimized content with PPC speeds up the lead generation process.
- Online businesses need to know specific use cases for content marketing and PPC to assess the value of the strategy.
- Less than half of small businesses (45%) invest in PPC.
- PPC and SEO content marketing can bring in more leads by capturing more quality traffic with more effective keyword optimization of blog content, lead magnets, and landing pages.
- To get the most value from content marketing and PPC, businesses need to master keyword research, searcher intent, and the consistency between the landing page and ad optimization.
As someone who primarily engaged in SEO and content writing for small businesses, I didn’t really care about PPC advertising.
Maybe because of people like me, only 45% of small businesses invest in PPC.
I thought that the best way to bring high-quality leads was with super optimized content, so paid advertising was the realm of bigger companies. That’s the mindset of many small business owners. With teeny tiny marketing budgets, they have to choose between SEO/content and PPC.
SEO/content often becomes their choice, especially of those with interest in content creation and a lack of real marketing experience.
SEO was my preferred choice, too, and I saw PPC as something secondary.
Boy, was I wrong about this!
After a couple of projects involving PPC promotion, my view of the strategy completely changed. No, they didn’t change how I thought about SEO, but they showed how amazing the results could be if you combine the power of both strategies.
To all SEO specialists still not using PPC and the other way around, here’s what you’re missing.
1. More effective content thanks to PPC-tested keywords
Developing a content strategy is one of the most complex and important tasks for any SEO specialist. They use keyword research tools, PPC tools, Google Search Console results, and other methods to find those precious keywords used by customers.
When they find the keywords they think are good for targeting SEO/content marketing, they begin a slow process of creating content. I wrote oh-so-many blog articles, eBooks, checklists, reports, and other content to find out the keywords that attracted the most conversions.
All of this takes a lot of time.
In fact, to write a super effective blog post, you need more than six hours.
When you’re done with writing the draft, there’s also proofreading, editing, making visuals, and keyword optimization. To cut a long story short, you might need a few days to complete a good article that can bring quality organic traffic.
But that’s not the end of that road.
Google, too, needs some time to index the article and rank it. In fact, it might take between two and six months to rank in the top 10.
That’s a bit much, agree?
To top it all off, the keywords you’ve chosen for your content might not the best ones to target. If you make this mistake, you’ll have to learn your mistakes and start all over again (welcome to the world of SEO content writing, folks).
Is there a way to speed this time-consuming process up? Yes. It’s PPC.
It can get you in front of the audience and allow you to test your keyword ideas much faster. If you have content to test, use PPC ads, and equip them with the keywords.
Get them out there and see what people respond to best. You can have some great results as early as a few days, which is pretty much impossible with SEO/content marketing.
Another great news is that you can run A/B testing. This means running ads featuring different keywords for the same content piece. If one performs much better than the other, update the content with the more popular keywords.
So, the takeaway here is that running PPC campaigns for content is a much faster way to test keywords. Start by finding keywords with research tools and make some ads, and you’ll be more likely to discover how your customers look for businesses like yours.
2. More leads from lead magnets
In content SEO, we often create lead magnets.
They are content pieces like reports, white papers, eBooks, webinars, videos, and other valuable content that people need to sign up to access.
You’ve seen tons of them before. A common example is a banner promoting an industry report with an irresistible CTA on a blog. It says that you need to provide your email address and name to access it instantly.
Click on that CTA, and you’ll go to a landing page with the lead capture form.
Like this “The Ultimate Agency Guide to Video Marketing” landing page, where everyone can download a guide with helpful tips on video marketing.
As you can see, the content is offered in exchange for some data. Not a bad deal of a guide packed with useful instructions for businesses.
Unsurprisingly, many content producers often turn to lead magnets for quick lead generation.
Ozan Gobert, a senior content writer at Best Writers Online said,
“Lead magnets work well for both B2B and B2C businesses aslong as they have some value for customers. You can generate some high-quality leads with them, as they typically attract those interested in insights and tips inside.”
If a blog has thousands of visitors every week, then there might not be a need for PPC promoting lead magnets. But is that true for your blog?
Many people think they can manage without the ads (I was one of them). Basically, it’s because they think that great content will “sell” itself.
Despite what they might think, not so many blogs are that successful in attracting visitors. In fact, more than 90% of web pages don’t get any organic search traffic from Google.
As you can see, only about 1.3 percent of web pages out there get decent traffic. Just for that tiny share, promoting a lead magnet with PPC advertising might not be necessary every time.
Obviously, the situation is very different for the rest.
If your website doesn’t have a lot of visitors, too, then creating lead magnets might be pointless. They’ll just sit there only to be discovered by a few people per week.
Not good because you need more leads.
If you wish that there was a way to get more people to pay attention to, there is actually a way.
And it’s PPC, of course. To get some emails, you need a well-crafted PPC campaign that leads people to the landing page where they can sign up to receive the content.
You can try to bring people with keyword-based ads promoting the lead magnet. If you choose the right keywords, the ads have a much greater chance to attract leads than SEO alone.
This is how it works: PPC does the job bringing in visitors, the content converts them into leads by having them complete the capture form.
To increase the chance of people signing up, the value of content is critical. But, the visual appeal is also a major consideration. You need tools for creating visual content like images, graphics, and infographics to add to your lead magnets.
3. Better marketing campaign performance thanks to a smart keyword use
Many businesses out there don’t realize they can bring much more quality traffic to their websites if they focus on best-performing keywords in both SEO, content marketing and PPC.
Much more traffic.
When an SEO/content marketing specialist and a PPC marketer share a list of relevant keywords, they can decide how to divide them to:
- Target the most promising keywords together to bring the most traffic
- Identify the keywords that are the most difficult for SEO and target them with PPC and the other way around
- Define which search queries to focus on with each lead acquisition strategy
Ultimately, the cooperation between the PPC and SEO teams can result in a much more effective keyword strategy. In turn, this strategy could attract more traffic to your websites.
To make content keyword optimization work, you need to master searcher intent or purchase intent. Put simply, searcher intent is the reason behind a search query.
For example, the query “Samsung a10 review” implies that the searcher is looking to do some research but has not made the decision yet. If they search Google for “buy Samsung a10 cheap”, then they might be ready to buy.
Each intent defines how you should create content. It matters a lot for SEO because Google’s goal is to provide its users with the most relevant results.
Dive Deeper: Tapping into Google’s Algorithm for Searcher Intent.
4. Create landing pages that convert more visitors
A landing page is the heart of any PPC marketing.
But, in many cases, PPC specialists aren’t the best persons to write the copy for it. By engaging content and SEO specialists and having them work with PPC folks, you can create a keyword optimized copy that also appeals to the readers.
For example, PPC specialists can provide keywords and ideas for optimized headings and subheadings for attracting traffic. In turn, content writers contribute by creating a copy that’s easy to read and entices the visitors to act.
So, the collaboration of PPC and SEO/content teams can result in campaign landing pages that generate clicks and converts.
A good way to start doing PPC campaign landing pages is to create a checklist to cover all bases. This checklist can include images, copy, sign up options, etc.
SEO and PPC: Two are better than one
I’m not exaggerating when I say that SEO and PPC are a marriage made in heaven. I am positive that these points described in this article prove that.
Don’t make a mistake I made by neglecting the power of PPC advertising. Combined with SEO and quality content, you can greatly increase the quality of your traffic.
If you’d like to try them together, feel free to start by doing PPC ads for your best-performing blog articles. The results you’ll see will definitely impress and inspire you to try more. Thanks to this article, you’ll know your next steps.
Ana Mayer is a project manager with 3+ years of experience. She likes to read and create expert academic materials for the Online Writers Rating writing review website.
The post Tips and tools to combine content marketing and PPC appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
HubSpot CRM review 2020: A super honest look at the pros, cons, and sales tools
They expanded its effects beyond just marketing into sales, and now even customer service — all at no additional cost to start.
Pros and cons of the HubSpot CRM
The HubSpot CRM makes it easy to organize, track, and grow your contact list and sales pipeline, but like everything, it has both its pros and cons.
Pro: It’s FREE
According to HubSpot, the CRM will be free to use forever — even if you’re not a paying HubSpot customer.
Not only is it free, but it includes unlimited users – meaning you can add your ENTIRE team – Marketing, Sales, whoever!
Pro (Released in 2018): Live chat
HubSpot released their Live Chat tool (Conversations) this year to all users, free or paid.
It’s super simple to set up and manage, and you even get basic chat bot functionality to take your online visitor and customer experience to the next level.
With paid levels of the HubSpot tools, you get even more robust functionality to be able to customize and manage live chat and incoming inquiries in a way that makes sense for your team.
Pro: Better insights
The HubSpot CRM tracks customer interactions automatically, providing valuable insights into customer behavior and making it easier to know when to follow up.
With the Gmail and Outlook extensions, you’re able to track email opens and clicks to see how users are interacting with your emails in real-time.
Note: for the free CRM, you’ll be able to see the first 7 days of tracked website activity on a contact. With HubSpot’s paid Marketing Hub tools, you’ll be able to see ANY tracked data.
Pro: No customization limits
Most CRMs have annoying customization limits, but HubSpot allows you to customize everything to your brand and your specific sales process.
(We saved an IMPACT client thousands a year with a customized HubSpot CRM. Learn all about it here!)
Pro: Uses the same database as marketing platform (no integration needed)
Both marketing and sales perform best when they’re in alignment. The HubSpot CRM is natively connected with the HubSpot marketing tools, allowing a smooth transition of leads from marketing to sales in your funnel and far easier communication of data.
As you grow with HubSpot, all of your data will remain in the same place — upgrading your subscription will simply give you added functionalities and features.
Pro: can be used with other CRMs
At IMPACT, we often find that many of our clients enjoy using the HubSpot CRM for prospecting due to its simplicity and functionality (and integration with HubSpot’s other sales tools), but find Salesforce (or another legacy system) is still useful for other needs.
Luckily, the HubSpot CRM doesn’t affect anything your organization is doing in other CRM platforms, such as SFDC or Microsoft Dynamics.
They can be used simultaneously — and both can be integrated into HubSpot as well.
Con: relatively new
Since HubSpot CRM is still relatively new compared to other major CRM players, there are some feature limitations.
However, HubSpot’s emphasis on research and development has alleviated many former qualms about the platform and there are updates being made to regularly.
Although HubSpot CRM is great for growing businesses, organizations with large sales teams might find that HubSpot CRM isn’t advanced enough just yet.
Con: Lack of flexibility
Compared to other CRMs, HubSpot’s platform is relatively inflexible. While there are certainly features you can customize around your team’s processes and needs, we’ve found that organizations with very complex sales processes aren’t able to find the flexibility they’re looking for in the HubSpot CRM.
HubSpot CRM vs Salesforce
As with any business decision, deciding which CRM is right for your business comes down to the current state of your business, sales team, and goals.
According to HubSpot, the CRM was not designed to compete with that of Salesforce (in fact, they have an integration for it.)
🔎 Related: ‘HubSpot CRM vs Salesforce: Which one is better?‘
Rather, it is for companies that have never used a CRM before and want to start or those that find Salesforce is too robust for their needs.
If you’re a growing company looking to implement a lightweight CRM that improves organization and efficiency for sales reps and creates closed-loop reporting on sales and marketing initiatives, then HubSpot CRM is for you.
If you need an enterprise-wide ecosystem in one platform, however, Salesforce may be a better option.
HubSpot Sales Tools
While the HubSpot CRM has many basic tools to get you started, it’s rarely ever used in a silo. If you’re going to start using the CRM, you’re likely going to eventually start using the Sales Tools as well.
Here’s a brief overview of the Sales Tools pros and cons to get you started:
HubSpot’s Sales Tools have come a long way in last year.
They now have several sales tools available, including Email Templates, Snippets, Meetings, Prospects, Sequences, Documents, Tasks, and a tool for email tracking.
Not only have the tools come a long way, but at INBOUND 2018 HubSpot announced the new Sales Hub Enterprise — making their sales tools much more appealing to the mid-market.
Pro: You can start using free, and scale up as you grow
HubSpot is making a big push to help businesses improve their inbound sales by providing several sales tools, in addition to their CRM, free of charge.
Most of the tools are available for free (with monthly usage limits), but for $50 per user/month, you can get a Starter account with higher limits and premium tools like Meetings, Sequences, and Prospects.
As you get into Professional and Enterprise level accounts, you start to unlock features like the native Salesforce integration, multiple pipelines, teams, and even 1:1 video for sales.
Pro: Work from inside your inbox, OR HubSpot
HubSpot’s sales tools live in your inbox (Gmail or Outlook), so you don’t have to go back and forth between various windows and you can get more work done faster.
Not only that, but HubSpot’s CRM and Sales tools could effectively replace your inbox altogether.
By connecting your email account to HubSpot, you can send and receive emails to and from any of your contacts right within their HubSpot contact record.
Pro: Automatically syncs with other HubSpot hubs
Similar to HubSpot’s CRM, their sales tools work perfectly with HubSpot Marketing, your contacts, and all of their other software.
If you’re familiar with HubSpot, you’ll be able to jump right in and use these tools.
Con: Not as robust as HubSpot Marketing (yet)
HubSpot’s marketing software is a true all-in-one platform, whereas their sales tools make up a new collection of convenient and useful tools.
They make an excellent addition but historically have lacked the advanced functionality to be the exclusive sales tools for most large sales teams.
However, with Sales Enterprise, HubSpot is working hard to make that issue a thing of the past.
Ready to get started with the HubSpot CRM?
We’re here to help. Get your team trained all at once with an on-site company training with a HubSpot Specialist.
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