Posts by Alyson Shane

How to Write Newsletters People Want to Read

- by Alyson Shane

This post was guest written by Rose Regier.

If you’ve been around here for a while, you already know that “We’ll just post on Instagram” isn’t a marketing strategy. 

If you’re new to these parts and you beg to differ, let us bring you up to speed:

While social media probably should be a huge part of your marketing mix, it’s not everything. Social media is like playing to a crowd at a music festival where hula hoops, kettle corn, and hand-made jewelry are competing with you for your audience’s attention.

Email marketing, on the other hand, is like inviting someone from that crowd to your house to jam. 

Now you have them on your front porch, ready to hear the acoustic versions of your songs, and they’ll probably stay and chat after. And there’s the beauty of email - it’s consent-based, it’s personal, and it’s free! 

Signing Up for The Goods

Before we talk about the newsletter, let’s talk about the opt-in process. 

It’s a good idea to have a marketing strategy for promoting your newsletter. Use your social platforms to tell people why they should sign up, and make it easy for them to do so by linking to an opt-in page and featuring your sign-up box prominently on your website. 

Consider giving something away for free when people sign up - this could be a product discount or a free guide to get them interested in your offerings. 

This may not be right for everyone though, depending on your business. A lot of people sign up for emails just to get the freebie and then unsubscribe once they get it.

The Welcome Email

Once they’ve signed up, you have one golden opportunity to start the relationship off on the right foot - the welcome email. Welcome emails have 4x the open rate and 10x the clicks as any other type of email

Here’s where you deliver your freebie or a discount code if you’re doing that, and also where you set expectations by letting folks know how often they’ll hear from you and what type of content they can expect. Once you’ve told them what to expect, you’d better follow through. Consistency is an important part of building trust with your potential customers.

The Subject Line

What makes people want to open an email in their inbox? Take a look through your own inbox and make note of which promotional emails you’ve opened recently and consider why. 

Subject lines personalized to your customers’ interests are the most likely be opened. In fact, this matters more than discounts or time sensitive offers.

Every email you send deserves a unique subject line. “Weekly email” or “Newsletter #27” won’t cut it. Let folks know what’s in this specific email and why they should read it.

Subject lines should be short (less than 10 words), use emojis if appropriate, and contain a hook that gets people curious. Verbs are your friends! Consider using your customer’s name in the subject line to take your personalization up a notch.

Make sure what you’re promising in your subject line is delivered in the email.

Here are some subject lines we love:

  • Rock the colour of the year (Etsy)
  • Must-have tees from $15 (Everlane)
  • How to live at home 24/7 (Feather)
  • Where to drink beer right now (Eater Boston)
  • 3 rules for marketing during a crisis (Digital Marketer)

The Pre-Header

An email pre-header is the text that follows your subject line, and it’s another opportunity to create interest in opening your email. 

Your subject line and pre-header should work together to capture your customers’ curiosity. 

Different email providers have different limits on the number of characters, so keep it short and snappy - somewhere between 30 and 80 characters. You can use this space to ask a question, offer an incentive, include a call to action, or to summarize your email.

The Goods

Let’s get into the content of your newsletter. What you write depends on your business and what your customers find valuable. Remember to think about what’s in it for your customer when they open your newsletter. Be energetic in your copy, and use humour if appropriate.

Your newsletter could focus on industry news, products, company updates, testimonials, or blog posts. You can include a mix of all of these, but choose one type of content as your feature.

Start somewhere, and then measure. After a few months, the data will tell you what content is working and what you can ditch.

If you have more than one type of customer, segmenting your email list and sending more personalized content is a good idea.

The Best Time to Send

Recognizing the sender and having time to open an email are the two biggest factors that affect whether people will open your email or not. Given that they’ve subscribed, you can check off the first one. 

Figuring out the best day and time to send your email newsletter will require some testing, but some recommendations on a starting place are to send your email:

  • On weekdays - Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday tend to perform better than Mondays and Fridays
  • During the day - test a few different times of day to find out what works best for your audience

The Format

The average time spent looking at an email newsletter is 10 seconds, so make it easy to skim by using white space and separating copy into bite-sized chunks. Put the most important information at the top, and use descriptive headers to separate content sections.

Remember that more than half of your subscribers are likely opening your email on their mobile device, so keep this in mind when you’re designing your newsletter. Send test emails and open them on your desktop and phone to make sure the format works for both.

Length

Aim for an average of 20 lines of text, or around 200 words. Any longer than that and you’re probably wasting time on content that won’t get read.

Images

Including images makes your newsletter more visually appealing, but remember that images can also slow down load time which can hurt your open rates.

Start with high resolution images and scale them down to keep them crisp. Optimal image size will depend a bit on which program you use to draft your newsletter. In general, keep file sizes less than 1 mb. Image types can be PNG, GIF, or JPEG. Header images should be 600 pixels wide.

Be sure to include alt text with your image for accessibility.

If you need more help writing newsletters that your customers want to read, we’ve got you!


 

What's an Entity First SEO Strategy and How to Build One?

- by Alyson Shane

“Entity search” “might just be one of the most important SEO tactics you’ve never heard of!

This (somewhat) obscure term has become something we’ve been focusing on here at Starling Social since Google updated its topics application program interface (API) back in June of this year.

This update to Google’s most comprehensive and powerful deep learning algorithms means that marketers and businesses need to be thinking more deeply about semantic search than ever before. 

If you’re new to terms like “semantic search” and “entity SEO” don’t worry! Today we’re going to dig into what these two terms mean, and how you can leverage them to help customers find your business.

What’s Semantic Search?

Semantic search describes a search engine’s efforts to generate the most accurate results on the search engine results page (SERP) by using algorithms to understand search intent, query context, and the relationship between the words being used.

Or to put it another way: semantic search is a search engine’s attempts to understand natural language the way a person would.

What is Entity Search?

Back in the day, a search was performed almost exclusively by typing words (keywords) into a search engine, but now 40 - 50% of all searches are conversational, meaning that they’re done through smartphones, Alexa, Google Home, etc.

This change is why search engines have put so much energy into understanding the context and intent behind a search query. As a result, search has evolved from keywords, to “entities”.

“Entities” are expressions that a search engine can understand without ambiguity, regardless of the language being used. This can include:

  • A person’s name
  • A numerical expression 
  • A place
  • An object
  • An event
  • A concept


Let’s look at an example: the search query “what’s the cheapest price for an AirBnB in Toronto?”

Here’s how a search engine would understand the query:

  • What: A concept (question qualifier)
  • Cheapest: A numerical expression (lowest cost)
  • Price: Numerical expression
  • AirBnB: Organization
  • Toronto: Location

By connecting these entities, search engines can understand both the search query, as well as the intent behind it.

Once these areas are understood, a search engine will try to find the most relevant information about the “entities” in the query by scanning content on the web and using AI to sort and present it to the user. This is called “entity/semantic search”.

The Difference Between Entity SEO and Traditional SEO

In traditional SEO, web pages are ranked on “scores” based on relevance, authority, and the number of backlinks from other websites.

Entity SEO focuses on showing the most useful information based on entities, facts associated with those entities and questions related to them.

What

The topic of the search query and what a user expects to find when they search for that topic. This sounds similar to traditional SEO and keywords, but semantic search takes a different approach.

Let’s think back to the example above: how many ways could someone ask the same question? Would it be asked differently in other languages? 

Making sure your content is as comprehensive as possible and offers credible information about the topic, and covering as many related topics as possible, is how you can optimize your content for entity SEO.

Why

This describes the intent behind the search. What is the person looking to find out? 

Are they considering and comparing options? 

Are they looking for directions? 

To make a decision? 

To complete a transaction?

Using a combination of “what” and “why” will allow you to create content that’s SEO friendly and caters to your customers at every stage of their buying journey, so creating content around these topics and interconnecting them can help your page show up on a SERP more often.

How

Nowadays, how a search was performed is almost as important as what’s being searched for, so consider how your audience might want to consume the information they’re hoping to find.

Video, images, bulleted lists, hours of operation, FAQs and question and answer sections, and more are all excellent ways to create entity SEO-friendly content for your site.

The Four Outcomes Your Content Should Accomplish

The five outcomes you want to accomplish are:

1. Discoverability. Make sure your content is “discoverable” by search engines and by customers at different stages of their buyer’s journey.

2. Relevancy. Your content needs to meet your searcher’s needs and have as much info as possible.

3. User-friendly. Your content needs to be easy to read and understand.

4. Engaging. Engaging content encourages readers to take the desired goal (learn something, sign up, fill out a form, etc.)

Creating content that’s relevant, topical, and increases “discoverability” means keeping these elements in mind:

  • The content should be personalized. Readers should feel like it was written for them, specifically.

  • The content must tell a story. It needs to be engaging and capture readers’ attention.

  • The content should be scannable. It needs to include headers, sub-headers, and elements like bulleted lists to make skimming easier.

  • It must include images. These both break up the text, make things clearer, and offer more SEO optimization opportunities.

  • The content must be mobile-friendly. According to Statista, 55.79% of all web traffic in Q1 2022 came from mobile devices, so make sure your content is readable on smaller screens.

How to Align Your Content With Entity First SEO

Before we talk about how to align your content, let’s take a quick look at how search engine priorities, algorithms, needs, and results have changed over time:


Like we said before: the way people are searching is changing, and the shift to searches performed through “screenless” devices means that the AI powering search engines is trying to replicate how humans think and speak.

If you’re wondering how you can tailor your SEO strategy to match how search engines have evolved, here’s how:

Consider Your Website Schema

This is a bit wonky, so stay with us: schema markup (also known as structured data) is the language of search engines. It was introduced by Google in 2011 as a way of helping search engines display more relevant results to users. 

Web schemas are basically words or “shared vocabulary” that help refine searches and display more relevant results to the user.

Here’s an example: you and your friends want to go camping in Red Deer, Alberta… but when you try to perform a search, a bunch of results for red deer the animal come up. This is because Google didn't have context to understand that you wanted information on the city, not the animal.

So when you’re considering the content to write and the metadata to add to various pages on your site, make sure to consider the schema vocabulary to include, and the most relevant pages to include it on.

Consider the Market Opportunity for your Keywords

Use an in-depth keyword research tool (our fav is SEMRush) and do research into how different keywords in your industry are performing.

Then, map your content based on three factors:

1. Informational

2. Navigational

3. Transactional

Here’s an example of what that could look like:


Identify Topic Gaps

Once you’ve identified your high-priority keywords and the best pages to use them on, cross-reference those findings against topics and entities covered by other high-ranking websites.

Some things to cross-reference against your own site include:

Update Your Web Pages

Once you’ve identified what other high-ranking sites are doing, it’s time to compare against the pages on your own site and start identifying the areas where you can start adding in more content and schema-focused keywords.

Some areas you’ll want to focus on updating and optimizing include:

  • Meta Keywords Attribute. A series of keywords you deem relevant to the page in question.
  • Title Tag. This is the text you’ll see in the SERP and at the top of your browser. Search engines view this text as the “title” of your page.
  • Meta Description Attribute. A brief description of the page.
  • Meta Robots Attribute. An indication to search engine crawlers (robots or “bots”) as to what they should do with the page.

More info on these topics can be found in this handy article from WordStream

Protip: if your site is hosted on WordPress, the Yoast SEO tool is a great plugin that can help you optimize all these elements!

Optimize Your SEO for Entity Search: Recap

SEO is more about just the content on your page (though that’s important, too) — you need to consider the page layouts, how they link to one another, design elements, entity coverage, and schema.

To make this easier for yourself, think about the main pages on your site as “spokes” in a wheel, the other relevant pages that link back to it as the “spokes” in that wheel.

To recap, if you want to optimize your site for entity first SEO, take these steps:

  • Consider your website schema
  • Do research on your target keywords
  • Identify topics on other high-ranking sites
  • Identify content gaps between those sites and your own
  • Update your pages with content, headers, metadata, etc.

Staying up-to-date with the latest SEO trends is easy! Just subscribe to our weekly digital marketing newsletter for the latest articles, resources, and insights. 


 

Our Top 7 Favourite Content Marketing Tools

- by Alyson Shane

We first read about the three-legged stool metaphor in Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive. In her metaphor, the three legs of the stool—money, power, and well-being—are the pillars of success, and eliminating any one of them causes your stool to topple over.

We think this metaphor works well for content marketing too. The three legs of your content marketing stool are strategy, creativity, and process.

If you have a lot of creativity and great processes but no strategy, you’re going to create some banging content on the regular, but it’ll fail to to drive the results you’re looking for.

If you have strategy and processes down but no creativity, you’ll be efficiently pumping out some very bland and derivative content that has an objective, but doesn’t keep people interested.

And finally, if you’re creative and strategic but you can’t get your s*** together, all those great ideas will just live in your head or on a post-it somewhere without getting to the people who you’re trying to reach.

Lucky for you, you don’t have to be naturally proficient in all three areas to be successful. There are tools and resources to help you, and if you use them consistently your content marketing stool will be topple-proof.

A Note on Order of Operations

Strategic planning comes before process and creativity. Without strategy, you’re shooting your arrows into the sky. Strategy ensures you know what you’re trying to achieve, who you’re trying to reach, and how you’re going to get where you want to go.

Unfortunately there’s no magic tool that will hand over a strategy, that’s work you just have to sit down and bang through. As you’ll see though, tools come in very handy when it comes to the measurement part of your strategy.

Google “Content Marketing Tools” (Actually, Don’t)

A quick Google search will tell you there are way too many tools out there to choose from, and if you’re like us, this type of research can quickly turn into a rabbit hole of procrastination. 

Let us save you some time so you can get back to business. Here’s a look at our favourite tools that we use daily at Starling Social, and which legs of the stool each supports.

1. Trello (Process)

Image via Trello

Trello is the foundation of our processes. This kanban-style project management tool is visual, it’s collaborative, and it keeps us on track.

Here are some ways Trello supports our processes: 

  • Collaborate internally and with clients
  • Assign tasks
  • Add due dates
  • Keep track of upcoming events
  • See what’s in progress, in review, or done
  • Link to templates, planning documents, spreadsheets

There are countless ways to use Trello, and a quick search will help you find templates to get you going with minimal effort. Click here to dive deeper and see exactly how we use Trello in our business.

2. Sendible (Strategy)

Image via Sendible

A key part of your digital marketing strategy is measurement. If you don’t take the time to measure results, you don’t know if what you’re doing is working. Measurement also tells you where to focus your efforts and allows you to refine your strategy as you go.

Going into each social platform to pull out data is mega time-consuming, so having a tool that collects all that data in one place is key. We use Sendible to collect and analyze data for our clients so we can create handwritten reports with recommendations every month.

Here’s why we like it:

  • It not only presents data, it gives insights that are actually meaningful rather than just showing generic charts that don’t paint a true picture of how things are going. For example
  • "Twitter was your most engaged platform last month, with a 22.4% increase"
  • It's affordable. We’ve looked at many analytics tools, and this one does more for less.
  • The Reports hub is clear and useful. Mentions are clearly broken down by source with the number of mentions and the corresponding percentage. You can see overall sentiment based on positive, neutral, and negative mentions. It’s a great interface for finding trends and measuring mentions against competitors.
  • You can access Google Analytics within Sendible, which is very convenient for tracking how effective your social campaigns are driving traffic to your website.

3. Feedly (Creativity)

Image via Feedly

Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Even the most creative types get inspiration from others. Seeing what people are talking about as it relates to your business can inspire you, and also keeps you relevant. Seeking out news and finding inspiration can take a lot of time, and that’s where Feedly comes in. 

You tell Feedly what’s important to you, and it uses AI to flag content that you might find useful. We use Feedly to track marketing trends, and to curate content for our weekly newsletter.

4. Buffer (Process)


Image via Buffer

Buffer is a scheduling app that works with all major social platforms. For maximum efficiency, we recommend scheduling posts up to a month ahead of time and reviewing weekly to make sure what’s in the queue is relevant based on current events.

The dashboard is super user-friendly and the calendar function allows you to see all your planned posts at a glance to make sure there are no gaps in your posting schedule. 

We find the draft posts function especially useful, because it allows other team members to jump in and review before content is officially added to the queue.

5. Google Drive (Process)

Image via FileInfo

Google Drive is our go-to for documents and spreadsheets. It’s cloud-based, so any number of people can collaborate on the same document at the same time. We use Google Docs for meeting notes, marketing plans, and for drafting blog posts and social content. Google Sheets allows us to create spreadsheets for customer personas and content calendars.

Why choose Google Drive over Microsoft OneDrive? It comes down to personal preference. They both offer real-time collaboration, offline access, and syncing across all your devices. The major difference is how you access them on a desktop computer: Google Drive is browser-based, and OneDrive is an app you download. Die-hard Microsoft Office users will likely find the familiarity of OneDrive preferable.

6. Canva (Creativity)

Image via Canva

Canva is a design-light tool for people who want to make eye-catching graphics but don’t have the time/desire/skills to start from scratch in a program like Adobe Illustrator.

Forget trying to find the right image size for different social platforms, because Canva has the optimal sizes pre-loaded in their templates. You can start with a blank canvas or use one of their thousands of templates to get started and then customize it.

We also use Canva to search for stock images, though this feature works best if you have a Pro account, which gives you access to 90 million stock photos. 

Hot tip: you can filter your image search by colour to find photos that work with your brand colours. 

7. LinkTree (Process)

Image via LinkTree

Do you see people including links in their Instagram captions? Don’t do it! They aren’t clickable. They’re not even copy-pasteable, unless you’re scrolling on a browser, which is not how most people use Instagram.

 Create a smooth user experience by directing people to your Instagram bio where you can use a linking tool like LinkTree to send people to the specific content they’re looking for.

You can customize the colours to match your brand, and unlike many other Instagram linking tools, this one is free! According to LinkTree, the optimal number of links is 3-7. Any more than that and you can overwhelm your customer.

Improve Your Content Marketing Today

There you have it folks. Happy stool-building! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we’re here to help you get your content marketing stool into tip-top shape.


 

The Top 5 Link in Bio Services for Social Media

- by Alyson Shane

One of the biggest challenges to converting your social media followers into customers is directing them to your website. This is why you may have noticed people using the expression “link in bio” on platforms like Instagram.

Today we’re going to talk about what the phrase means, how you can use it to direct more traffic to your website, and some tools to help make that easier.

What Does “Link in Bio” Mean?

The phrase originated on Instagram back when the platform only allowed users to add urls in their (you guessed it) bios.

As a result, people started saying “link in bio” in their Instagram captions to let readers know where they could go to buy something, read a blog post, or contact them. 

Some companies also use the  #LinkInBio hashtag to reinforce the message - here’s an example:


Nowadays Instagram allows users to add links in a few places, like as a Stories sticker or through Instagram Shopping tags, but the “link in bio” feature is still one of the most powerful and popular ways to direct users to your site.

It’s not just for Instagram, either: “link in bio” is popular on TikTok, Twitter, and even YouTube as well.

What’s the Benefit of a Link In Bio Tool?

The reason a link in bio tool matters for your business is because it doesn't just direct people to your website — it also allows you to create a custom landing page within the app that directs people to multiple urls.

Here’s what a link in bio tool looks like on our Instagram profile:



This one link directs our audiences to a landing page with a bunch of different links to our latest blog posts, calls-to-action to book an audit, sign up for our newsletter, and get in touch:


As you can see, a link in bio tool doesn’t just send people to your website, it allows you to strategically showcase high-priority links to your target audience and make it easy for them to click.

That being said, not all link in bio tools are created equally! Some offer simple interfaces, while others create mini-sites within the social platform for users to browse. 

With literally dozens of options to choose from it can feel overwhelming to try and pick the right one for your needs, which is why we’ve done the leg work for you and collected this roundup of the best-in-class options:

The Top 5 Link In Bio Tools

1. LinkTree

As you may have noticed in the example above, our link in bio tool of choice is LinkTree.

LinkTree was the tool that made this kind of service popular in the first place, and turns a single link into a landing page with clickable buttons to showcase your most important content.

LinkTree also has a ton of great features, including one that allows you to “Prioritize” a link by adding an action to it, like a wobble or a swipe, to draw people’s attention to it:


LinkTree also allows businesses and creators to accept payments and donations, has great analytics, and is easy to edit, update, and integrate with tools like MailChimp and Facebook. Some other features include:

  • Unlimited links
  • Customizing colours, fonts, and button styles
  • Retargeting using the Facebook Pixel
  • Timing links to go live with scheduled posts (we love this feature!)

Cost: Free with limited features with Pro plans starting at $6 per month.

2. Linkin.Bio by Later

Later is one of the most popular Instagram scheduling tools on the market, so it’s no surprise that they’ve also gotten into the link in bio game.

Later’s Linkin.bio tool turns a single link into a mini-website for your business where you can showcase products and other content without the user ever leaving the app.

Here’s an example of how Later’s linkin.bio looks:


When users click on your bio link they’ll get taken to a recreation of your Instagram feed, but now when they click on a post they’ll be able to click the link you wanted to insert into that post.

Some other features include:

  • Adding links to your feed 
  • Adding up to five links per post
  • Scheduled links (like LinkTree does)
  • Analytics and link tracking
  • Up to two Instagram accounts 

Cost: Later’s Free Forever plan is (obviously) free, and paid versions start at $15 per month.

3. Sked Link

Sked Link is a tool from the company Sked Social, and allows you to link your followers to newsletter signups, blog posts, products, and lots more. 


This tool offers a few pricing plans with various features, from Basic, Pro, or Enterprise. Some of the features included in the Basic and Pro plans include:

  • Choosing from custom or existing themes
  • Integrating with Google Analytics and Facebook Pixels
  • Link analytics
  • Customizing your UTM parameters

Cost: Starts at $25 a month and goes up from there, but offers a free seven-day trial.

4. Shorby

Shorby creates mini landing pages and pulls content from any RSS feed that you connect it to. It’s a cool service because you can include content pages, prices, and even lists of services.

Image via 99signals

The pages you can create with Shorby are mobile-friendly and come packed with lots of features including:

  • Adding videos, backgrounds, animated avatars, and icons to your page
  • Adding text blocks, gifs, and rich links
  • Robust analytics
  • The ability to cross-link to other social profiles
  • Retargeting audiences through websites like Amazon and Clickbank

Cost: Pricing ranges from $9 to $99 a month, and offers a free five-day trial so you can check it out before committing to a plan.

5. Milkshake App


The Milkshake App lets you build mini sites within Instagram like Shorby does, but has some cool features that make it stand out, including:

  • Sharing your mini-site to your Instagram Stories
  • Customize and add themes to your cards (the pages on your mini-site) 
  • Analytics and follower insights
  • Giving users the option to email you directly (great for ecommerce!)
  • Inviting followers to call or message you directly

Cost: Free for iOS and Android users.

Start Converting More Followers Today

Using a link in bio tool is just one part of the puzzle when it comes to turning your social media followers into customers - you also need a content strategy, hashtag research, and lots more. 

If you’re looking for help building a marketing strategy, drop us a line and let’s chat about how we can help.

Tags: Social Media

 

How to Scale Facebook Ads the Right Way

- by Alyson Shane

Facebook Ads have been a “must” for almost every business over the last several years thanks to its robust and detailed targeting options that allow you to show your ads to your target audience.

But what do you do if you feel like you’ve hit a ceiling with your Facebook Ads return-on-investment (ROI)? What other tactics can you use to extend your reach and help your ads get shown to even more of your ideal customers?

Keep reading to find out:

How to Scale Facebook Ads the Right Way

There are two main ways you can scale your ads: through your budget, or through your audience targeting.

Let’s start with how to scale your budget

Option 1: Increase your budget

This probably comes as no surprise, but one of the easiest ways to get more out of your Facebook Ads is to increase how much you’re spending.

This sounds simple, but scaling your budget on Facebook isn’t the same as other platforms like Google or Bing Ads.

(Also: if you’re looking for a team with 20+ years’ experience running pay-per-click ads like Google and Bing, let’s chat.)

But back to Facebook: every time you change your Ads budget, the algorithm that decides who sees your ads changes, too. If you change your budget mid-campaign you run the risk of resetting the Learning Phase (Facebook’s way of saying “we’re figuring out what to do next”).

Generally speaking, the guidelines for scaling is to keep all budget changes within 20% or less of the original budget. Here’s a video that digs into the “why” in deeper detail, but for the sake of this post we’ve summarized it into a handy chart:


The above applies to both daily and lifetime budgets (we prefer lifetime budgets since you don’t run the risk of maxing out your daily limit and missing out on potential Impressions).

Option 2: Extend Your Targeting Into “Lookalike” Segments

If you’re looking for a way to scale your campaign beyond just the budget, consider expanding your targeting into audiences that are similar (but slightly different) than the audiences you’ve already targeted.

One way to do this is to target audiences who like similar products or services. 

For example, if you’re a small business selling personalized children’s stuffed animals, create a new target audience of people who Like the Business Pages of stores in your area that carry gifts, furniture, and items for babies and new families.

The way we described above is one way to do it, but another way to take the guesswork out of things and let Facebook’s algorithm do the heavy lifting by creating Lookalike Audiences.

Lookalike Audiences are exactly what they sound like: they’re groups of people who “look like” your target audiences. You can set them up easily just by following these steps.

Another way to lean into using Lookalike Audiences is to create “seed” audiences of people with similar attributes to people who meet this criteria:

  • People who have added products to their cart
  • Newsletter subscribers
  • People who filled out a lead gen from
  • High-value customers

Option 3: Go After the Competition

A rising tide floats all boats, but why leave customers on the table when you could make them aware of your products and services, too?

To do this, see if you can set the competitor up as a targeting option. 

This will likely only show up for larger brands, but you don’t have to be a big brand to attract customers from a larger competitor (in fact, when most people realize there’s a local option they choose to buy from that business, instead).

Option 4: Use Affinity Brand Audiences

Similar to competitor brands, “affinity brands” refer to brands that your customers also buy from. 

Let’s use the “stuffed animals” example from above, if we’re trying to target audiences of people who would be interested in baby gifts and products we can target audiences of people who have visited websites about parenting, baby food, diaper, and other related topics.

Option 5: Test With Broad Targeting

“Broad targeting” is when you create a Facebook Ads campaign focused on the conversion action you want more of… then you leave the rest up to the Facebook algorithm.

If that sounds dicey, we know! That’s why this option has a caveat: only test with this option if you already have high volumes of the desired conversion action.

Aka, in order for this option to work, you need at least 100 desired conversions happening per week. Otherwise Facebook’s algorithm won’t have enough data to make smart decisions on your behalf.

Start Scaling Your Facebook Ads Today 

These are some high-level strategies to scale your Facebook Ads results and generate an even better return-on-investment (ROI) on your ads, but there are all sorts of individual strategies that can be applied on a per-business basis.

If you’re ready to start getting more out of your Facebook Ads, drop us a line and let’s chat.


 

Instagram Hashtags 101: How to Use Hashtags on Instagram

- by Alyson Shane

Hashtags are one of the most effective ways of connecting your Instagram posts to your community, customers, and target audience.

In this post, we'll show you how to use hashtags to attract new followers, engage with your audience, and build brand awareness so you can grow your business.

What’s a hashtag?

A hashtag is a word, acronym, or a phrase used with the pound symbol (#) in front of it.

When you click on a hashtag you’ll be shown all the post on that platform that use the same hashtag — this is how you “connect” your posts to larger collections of content and discussions around a specific idea or theme.

Hashtags started on Twitter, but can now be found on most social media platforms including:

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter (obviously)
  • TikTok

Why use Instagram hashtags?

While the platforms listed above use hashtags, Twitter and Instagram are the platforms where hashtags are the most important. Some of the benefits of using hashtags include:

  • Increasing engagement. Instagram posts that use hashtags see a 12.6% increase in engagement than those that don’t.

  • Expand your reach. Hashtags make your posts, Reels, and Stories easier for people to find  (this is known as “discoverability”) which helps you content be seen by a larger audience.

  • Attract new followers. Hashtags help your posts get seen within niche groups, which means using them can result in more Instagram followers who have the potential to become customers.

  • Improving brand awareness. Hashtags play an important role in helping your brand express its “voice” and build trust and familiarity with your audience.

How to add hashtags on Instagram

Adding a hashtag is super simple! Here are a few tips to help make it even easier:

  • Don’t use punctuation. Hashtags are all one word — don’t use spaces or punctuation (eg: #ThisIsRight, vs. #This-Isnt-Right)

  • Use title case. Capitalizing the first letter of each word makes it easier for people to read your hashtag, and makes your hashtags more accessible since screen readers are much more likely to read the hashtag as intended vs. reading it as one, long and jumbled word.

  • Don’t repeat your hashtags. Using the same hashtag twice in the same post doesn’t help discoverability, so stick to using one hashtag one time per post.

  • Double-check before using a hashtag. Some hashtags might be associated with inappropriate content or content that isn’t right for your brand, so always take a look at how other people are using it.

Types of Instagram hashtags

There are several different kinds of hashtags that you can use on Instagram, including: 

  • Location hashtags. These hashtags connect you with your local community and help you get in front of potential customers nearby. Some examples include:



    • #ExploreMB
    • #TorontoLife
    • VancouverIsland
  • Popular hashtags. These hashtags tend to be super broad because lots of people use them. As a result, they’re not great for connecting with a specific niche, but can help your brand be seen by a broader audience. Some examples include:



    • #ThrowbackThursday
    • #PetsOfInstagram
  • Trending hashtags. These hashtags are usually related to a specific event or theme and are super-popular for a shorter amount of time. These could include:
    • #Superbowl2022
    • MarchMadness2022

  • Branded hashtags. These are exactly what they sound like! They’re hashtags that are specific to a brand or a marketing campaign. Some examples include:



    • #ShareACoke by Coca-Cola
    • #TweetFromTheSeat by Charmin

How many hashtags to use on Instagram?

Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags in a post, and while most advice says to use around 10, research from Later shows that 20-30 hashtags for Feed posts are actually optimal. Here’s what they suggest:

  • 20 hashtags for optimal reach
  • 30 hashtags for optimal engagement

How to hide Instagram hashtags

Let’s face it: 20-30 hashtags is a lot. Below are some of our favourite ways to hide them so they don’t make your post look clunky:

  • Add them as a comment. This has been the tried-and-true method for years. Just write your post caption and then add a comment with the hashtags you want to include.
  • “Push” them down. Once you’ve written your caption, create new lines with just a period after each line to create “white space” that buffers your post caption from the hashtags.
  • Cover them. This is a great way to use multiple hashtags in an Instagram Story post. Add your hashtags, then make the hashtag tex the same colour as your background or cover them with a sticker.

How to use hashtags on Instagram

As we’ve seen, hashtags are a powerful tool to help you promote your Instagram content to your ideal customers and target audience. Here are some ways to inject some strategy into your hashtag use:

Treat hashtags like keywords

Keywords are how websites optimize for SEO, and on Instagram, hashtags take the place of keywords.

Here at Starling Social we use a “blended hashtag strategy” which is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a blend of lower and higher-volume hashtags that help our client’s posts be seen by the widest possible audience.

Here are some examples:

  • Broad, low intent: #nailsalon, #eyebrowthreading
  • Less broad, medium intent: #eyelashtechnichan #browbarwinnipeg 
  • Specific, high intent: #browswinnipeg, #lasheswinnipeg

Save a list of “default” hashtags

While you shouldn’t repeat the same hashtags in a single post, you can repeat hashtags that work in different posts.

Here at Starling Social, we create a hashtag strategy document that lists the best hashtags to use that are organized popularity, relevance, and categorized by topic. This helps us go always choose the most strategic hashtags, no matter what the post is about.

Create your own hashtag campaigns

Some of the most widely-known campaigns have been hashtag-based. A great example is the #IceBucketChallenge which raised awareness for ALS and raised $115 million.

The trick here is to get your followers to want to use your hashtag, which means it needs to be something related to your business or the campaign you’re currently running.

Create a branded hashtag

As we discussed earlier, branded hashtags are a great way to generate awareness and encourage user-generated content (UGC) which is when other people include your hashtag in their content.

For example, we helped the Manitoba Museum come up with the branded hashtag #MyMBMuseum which they’ve used in campaigns, giveaways, and encouraged visitors to use when checking out exhibits at the museum.

Not sure how to create your own branded hashtag? Here are some tips:

  • Make it unique. Be specific and include your brand name.
  • Make it easy to remember. Long hashtags are easy to forget and can be annoying to type out, so make it short and snappy.
  • Research it. Check the hashtag you’re considering to make sure it’s not already being used, or (even worse) being used for something insensitive or inappropriate. 

Use hashtags for giveaways

One of the easiest ways to track entries in a contest (which can get overwhelming if you have lots of entries) is to use a hashtag associated with the contest. Not only does this make it easier for you to track entries, but you can repurpose any UGC it generates for your own feed!

Use other branded hashtags

If you’re looking to support or cross-promote with another brand, or think their followers would be interested in your content, then don’t be afraid to use their branded hashtag.

Follow hashtags

Instagram allows you to “follow” hashtags on the platform, so make sure you’re following these groups:

  • Your branded hashtag. Staying on top of engagement related to your brand is critical, so make sure to follow your branded hashtag, if you have one.
  • Your competitor’s hashtags. This allows you to keep tabs on them on the DL.
  • Industry hashtags. This allows you to stay in-the-know about the latest trends and news in your niche.
  • Geo-location hashtags. Following hashtags for your geographic area allows you to see content from people (aka, potential customers) in your city or region.

To follow a hashtag, just click the “follow” button in your search results.

Start using hashtags on Instagram

Hashtags are one of the most powerful tools at your disposal to grow your presence on Instagram. Use them to increase your reach, grow your follower count, and generate buzz about your business.

Looking for professional help with your Instagram strategy? Drop us a line and we’ll develop a plan that’s custom-fit for your business. 


 

45+ Headline Examples to Drive Clicks to Your Website

- by Alyson Shane

Let’s be honest: very few of us actually sit down and read every piece of content that comes across our screens every day. If we did, that’s all we’d do!

In fact, research shows that 81 percent of people only skim the content they read online, which makes writing strong, attention-grabbing headlines critical to getting people to click on your content.

That’s why today we’re doing a deep-dive on how to write scroll-stopping headlines across a variety of use cases — let’s get to it:

How to write a great headline?

A great headline should appeal to its intended audience and get them to click to find out more. How it does this will depend on the context in which the headline is being used.

For example, a blog post title should explain what the reader will get out of the article before they start reading.

Google Ads headlines need to make the offer clear and entice someone to click right away:


That being said, there are some basic headline writing strategies that apply no matter what the headline is being used for, which include:

Write with an “active voice”

Most of us tend to write with a “passive voice” which is when the subject is the focal point in the sentence, and “active voice” happens when the subject does the action that’s being described.

Here’s an example:

Passive voice

  • Users get warned about misinformation on the platform by Facebook

Active voice 

  • Facebook warns users about misinformation

Use unusual words

The more unusual words you can use, the more your headline will stand out. Instead of using commonly-used words like “better”, “great”, and “faster”, choose synonyms that stand our a little bit more.

Here’s an example:

Generic

  • 5 Great Calls-to-Action for Your Website

Unusual

  • 5 Unbeatable Calls-to-Action for Your Website

Notice how the word “unbeatable” stands out more because we’re not used to seeing it in this context? Try applying this trick to your headlines!

Ask questions

Headlines written as questions make readers feel like we’re having a conversation with them, which is more engaging than even using an “active voice”.

Questions are also a great way to keep our headlines short and snappy while grabbing people’s attention. Take a look at these examples: 

Write headlines for your audience

One of the easiest ways to get people to click on your headline is to make sure they know it’s intended for them.

When writing your headlines, ask yourself: what do these people want? Why do they care about my product or content? Writing your headlines with these questions in mind helps you be more specific, which makes your copy more impactful.

Check out these examples:

  • 10 Instagram Trends Every Digital Marketer Should Know
  • Example App: The #1 Tool for HR Leaders
  • Here’s Why Event Creators Choose PromoApp 

Communicate value right away

No matter where your headline is being read, it’s important to make the benefits of clicking on it clear to your reader right away.

Whether it’s important information, a discount, or something that will help them save time, make sure to lay this out as clearly as possible in your headline.

Here’s a few examples:

Make emotional connections

People are more likely to click on a headline that triggers an emotional response. 

In fact, ads with purely emotional content perform twice as well (31% vs. 16%) compared to those with only rational content. Here are a few examples:

  • How to Take Command of Your Next Meeting
  • TGIF: 12 Ways to Treat Yourself After Working Hard All Week
  • How to Wow Your Clients With Your Next Marketing Report

How to write homepage headlines

The easiest way to write a headline for your home page is to write a few and choose the one you like best, then A/B test which versions perform best.

The most important thing to keep in mind when writing home page headlines is that it needs to march your brand voice. Think about it: your website probably isn’t the first time someone has interacted with your brand — they probably saw you on social media or found you through a Google search — so you want this to be a seamless brand experience.

Some ground rules include:

  • Stick to a similar tone
  • Use the same vocabulary (write for an 8th grade reading level)
  • Include familiar sentence structure

Website homepage headline examples 

Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are a few examples to get you going: 

  • Introducing _____
  • The New Approach to _____
  • _____, Staring at Just $_____
  • Refresh Your _____
  • A Fresh Approach to _____
  • Meet Your New _____
  • The #1 _____ for [your audience]
  • The Best _____ for [your geo-location]

How to write blog headlines 

A great blog post title catches a reader’s attention, tells them what they’ll get out of the article, and encourages them to click and learn more.

Luckily, you have lots of opportunity to convey that messaging: a 2020 study by SEMrush found that headlines between 10 and 13 words can double your traffic and increase social shares by 1.5x compared to headlines with seven words or less.

If this sounds like a lot of work, don’t worry: a study from Orbit Media found that most content marketers only draft two or three headlines per post.

Image via OrbitMedia

Blog headline examples

The trick to writing effective blog headlines is to start with the purpose of your post and your audience in mind. Ask: what is the clearest and more interesting way I can state what this post is about?

If you’re still stuck, try using some of these headline examples to get started:

  • _____ Tips From Experts on _____
  • Everything You Need to Know About _____
  • _____ Examples to _____
  • How to _____ When You _____
  • How to _____ in [Time Frame]
  • _____ Ways to Start Doing _____ Today
  • How to _____: Best practices
  • What is _____? (And How to [Solve/Fix/Do] It)
  • How _____ Can Help Your Business
  • _____ Ways to Improve _____

How to write Google Ads headlines

An effective ad headline needs to convey enough information that people will want to click on it, without giving everything away before they click.

Before we get too deep into Google Ads headlines, let’s talk quickly about something you should understand: response search ads.

What are responsive search ads?

Responsive search ads are a Google Ads format that can “blend” elements of pre-written headlines and descriptions to create ads that are “responsive” to a user’s search query.

With traditional ads, you create a single, static ad, but with responsive ads you can write up to 15 different headlines and up to four different descriptions which can be arranged in over 43,600 ways!

Google will automatically test different combinations of headlines and descriptions to figure out which work best together, so over time your responsive ads will show the more relevant message to users depending on what they’re searching for, their browsing history, and other defining characteristics. 

Responsive ads best practices

Now that we’ve covered what a responsive ad is, let’s discuss some of the basics:

  • You can write up to 15 different headlines, so we suggest at least 10

  • Headlines need to be shorter than 30 characters, but we suggest varying up headline lengths (at least a little bit) since Google can sometimes show as many as three headlines

  • Switch up your headlines so some include your target keywords, while others highlight benefits, features, and other elements that drive clicks

Google Ads headline examples 

Since we have multiple headlines to work with it’s important to be creative and have lots of variety. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • _____ in [your geo-location]
  • Voted Best _____ of 2022
  • Find Your _____
  • Get Your Quote Today
  • The Best _____
  • _____% Off Your Purchase
  • [Your brand] vs. [your competitor]
  • Free Shipping
  • Try 30 Days Risk-Free
  • Save With _____

How to write Facebook Ad headlines 

Facebook ads should be short and to the point, with emphasis on the images or visual assets instead of the copy itself. 

According to research from Adspresso, the average length of a Facebook Ads headline is five words — meaning you need to get to the point as quickly as possible.

Facebook Ad character limits

One of the most important things to remember when writing your ads is that you don’t want your text to truncate (when it’s too long and gets cut off with a “...”) — this makes your messaging unclear and can reduce the number of people who click on the ad.

With this in mind, here are the latest limits to keep in mind for Facebook Ad text:

Facebook Feed ad character limits

  • Text: 125 characters
  • Headline: 25 characters
  • Link description: 30 characters

Facebook Stories Ad character limits

  • Text: 125 characters
  • Headline: 40 characters

Facebook Carousel Ad character limits

  • Text: 125 characters
  • Headline: 40 characters
  • Link description: 20 characters

Facebook Right column ad character limits

  • Headline: 40 characters

Facebook Instant Article Ad character limits

  • Headline: 40 characters
  • Primary text: 125 characters
  • Description (images): 30 characters

Facebook Marketplace Ad character limits

  • Text: 125 characters
  • Headline: 25 characters
  • Link description: 30 characters

Facebook Ad headline examples 

Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Order Now to Get _____
  • Save _____ on _____
  • Start Your Free Trial Now
  • Do _____ With Confidence
  • Accomplish _____ With _____
  • Gift the Gift of _____ This [holiday] 
  • Sign Up for _____ Today

How to write LinkedIn Ad headlines

Just like with Facebook, LinkedIn ads show the image or video first, with the copy being secondary. The most common types of LinkedIn Ads are single-text ads and promoted content posts where you can use up to 70 characters in your headline.


As we can see, the headline appears below the image and the ad text, which means the goal is to reinforce the message conveyed in the image and encourage people to click.

LinkedIn Ad character limits 

Just like Facebook, you don’t want your text to truncate and muddle your messaging so you’ll want to keep character counts in mind.

That being said — LinkedIn offers a lot more options for ad types (Message Ads, Video Ads, etc.) that don’t specifically have headlines, so the list below includes only LinkedIn ad types that have headline requirements: 

LinkedIn Single Image Ad character limits

  • Name of ad (optional): Up to 225 characters
  • Introductory text: Up to 150 characters
  • Headline: Up to 70 characters to avoid shortening (but can use up to 200 characters)
  • Description: Up to 100 characters to avoid shortening (but can use up to 300 characters)

LinkedIn Carousel Ad character limits

  • Name of ad: Up to 255 characters
  • Introductory text: Up to 150 characters to avoid shortening on some devices (255 total character limit)
  • No more than two lines in each card’s headline text
  • Character limits: 45-character limit on ads leading to a destination URL; 30-character limit on ads with a Lead Gen Form CTA

LinkedIn Follower Ad character limits

  • Ad description: Up to 70 characters
  • Ad headline: Choose a pre-set option or write up to 50 characters
  • Company name: Up to 25 characters

LinkedIn Spotlight Ad character limits

  • Ad description: Up to 70 characters
  • Ad headline: Up to 50 characters
  • Company name: Up to 25 characters
  • CTA: Up to 18 characters

LinkedIn Lead Gen Ad character limits

  • Form name: Up to 256 characters
  • Headline: Up to 60 characters
  • Details: Up to 70 characters to avoid truncation (Up to 160 characters total)
  • Privacy policy text (optional): Up to 2,000 characters

LinkedIn Ad headline examples

Since our LinkedIn Ad headlines need to support the heavy lifting happening in the image and text sections of the ad, we want our headlines to be clear and to-the-point.

Try these out:

  • Start _____-ing Today
  • Introducing _____: Learn More
  • Try Our _____ Today
  • Request Your Demo Today
  • The _____ You Need to Get the _____ You Want
  • Grow Your Business With _____
  • The Only _____ You’ll Ever Need

Use these headline examples to get more clicks

Headlines can be hard to write — but they don’t have to be! By leaning on the examples we listed in this article you’re already on your way to creating headlines that are on-brand, packed with information, and are more likely to capture clicks from your target audience.

If you’re still struggling to write scroll-stopping headlines, we’d love to help! Drop us a line and let’s chat.

And hey, if you liked this article and to get a roundup of articles like it (from us and other forward-thinking companies) delivered to your inbox every Tuesday morning, subscribe to our weekly digital marketing newsletter.


 

4 Social Media Design and Branding Tips From Our Designer

- by Alyson Shane

Within a few seconds of landing on your profile, your visitors will decide whether or not they want to follow or subscribe. Most of that decision lies in your online visual identity and how it relates to your brand. Is your content visually appealing? Is it something your audience wants popping up in their feed?

Here are some tips for creating and curating a social media presence that is visually engaging, reflective of your brand and strengthens your visitors’ relationship to you and helps build your brand’s online community. 

  1. Choose the best channels for your audiences
  2. Curate your content to the platform
  3. Consistency and cohesion are key
    1. Create Templates
    2. Colour and Typography
  4. Follow Basic Design Principles
    1. Visual Hierarchy
    2. Contrast
    3. Balance

1. Choose the best channels for your audiences 

Sometimes it seems like every day there’s a new platform out there. It can be hard to keep up. It’s important to remember your branding goal and not get distracted. 

Each platform has its pros and cons. Thanks to analytics and metrics, we have a pretty good idea of who is using them. With that, we can provide a better idea of where to focus your energy. 

What platform best works as an extension of your brand? Where are your customers spending their time? 

Good branding needs authenticity and so sometimes it’s good to stay in your lane.

2. Curate your content to the platform

Once you’ve chosen your platforms, be sure your content fits the platform. Instagram reels and TikTok videos are meant to be watched on a phone and should be shot vertically. Alternatively, Facebook and Youtube Videos are meant to be filmed and watched in a more traditional horizontal layout.

Size is also important. Instagram images tend to be more square whereas images on Twitter tend to be more wide than tall. 

Lastly, consider the type of content that is being put out. Where you might create a long-form explainer video for Youtube, your instagram stories need to be short and to the point.

3. Consistency and Cohesion are Key

Social Media is competitive, your little post is up against a seemingly never-ending stream of content. It can be a challenge to stand out. Creating templates and guidelines for content helps create a consistent recognizable presence and there are some great options online to help. 

Your posts don’t all have to look identical, but a recognizable theme throughout is important. Think of your posts as siblings and not identical twins. 

Find a cohesive look is easier when using similar styles, colour palettes and typography.


Courtesy of Adobe Stock

Here are some things to consider:

  • Typography. If you already have an established brand guideline, try to stick to your existing chosen typography. If not, choose two or three fonts that work with your branding and use those throughout your visuals. Avoid using too many fonts in one visual. This lets your message be the focal point rather than the medium. Typically serif fonts are best for print and sans-serif for web, but that’s not a hard-fast rule. 
  • Colour. Colour sets the mood, creates an atmosphere. In fact, most snap judgements in marketing are based on colour alone, so choose wisely and find something that reflects your brand persona. 

Similar to typography, you want to choose two or three brand colours and use them throughout your visuals. If I say “Support the Blue and Gold” and you think of the Bombers, that’s thanks to consistent visuals. 

Remember, we are in the business of writing content, not ransom notes. 

4. Follow Basic Design Principles

By following three key design principles, you can ensure your content is clear and engaging. 

Visual Hierarchy

You may only have a few seconds to get your audience’s attention. Visual hierarchy is a way of laying things out by order of importance. Here are some ways to achieve good visual hierarchy:

Size

The eye naturally goes to the element that takes up the most space. Give top spot to what matters most. This can be through the use of different sized visuals or by writing more important information in a larger font size. 

Colour

Highlight important elements by giving them a different colour.

Use of Space

In design, often less is more. Give your images some breathing room, making them more impactful. Playing with negative space is also a great way to make an impression.

Alignment

Alignment directs the eye to a focal point. Scattered around a page, visual elements like icons and text can get lost. But with the help of alignment, we can establish a sense of direction and establish a clear focal point.

Contrast

Contrast makes designs ‘pop’ and without it, images can look rather flat or cluttered. You can establish contrast in a few ways. 

Size

By sizing elements differently, you can create contrast and highlight the most important elements.

Colour: 

A pop of colour helps draw the eye in and make your design that much more engaging.

Shape

Contrasting geometric and organic shapes can create visual interest. Using different font styles also helps make your message stand out.

Balance

Balance is essential to good design but is often an afterthought. We might feel that something looks “off” but it’s usually because of a lack of balance. Balance naturally occurs in the world around us and it’s a great foundation for compelling images and graphics.

There are four main types of balance, symmetry, asymmetry, radial and mosaic or crystallographic. 

Symmetry

Symmetry is achieved by giving equal weight to elements in an image. The weight can be spread horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.  It gives the impression of being mirrored and perfectly balanced.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

Asymmetry

Asymmetry occurs when elements in an image are different but equally weighted. Good asymmetrical balance can be a little bit more tricky to achieve but the result can be more striking, playful and engaging than its symmetrical counterpart.

Image by yeshimss from Pixabay

Radial

Radial balance often occurs in nature, think water ripples, tree rings or a snail shell. They draw the eye to the center of the image, to a main focal point. Radially-balanced images are often almost hypnotic and bring feeling of serenity, calm and peace.

Image by msandersmusic from Pixabay 

Mosaic or Crystallographic

In mosaic or crystallographic composition, equal weight is given to many different elements across the image. While the individual elements are not symmetrical, the image as a whole is balanced.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

Conclusion

This might be information overload, but we’re here to help.

By keeping these few tips in mind, you can ensure that your social media feed offer customers a consistent and reliable visual identity that is reflective of your brand and worth the follow. 

By meeting customers where they already spend a lot of time and offering them content that is engaging and appealing. This only stands to strengthen your online community and brand loyalty.  

Ready to start putting these tips into practice? Drop us a line and let’s chat!

Did you like what you just read? Then sign up for our weekly digital marketing email newsletter and get the latest tips, insight, and strategies to grow your business online.

Tags: Branding

 

6 Ways to Improve Website Conversion Rates Today

- by Alyson Shane

Conversion rates are the most important part of any digital marketing campaign. 

That’s what websites are for, after all: attracting an audience and “converting” them into a customer.

Whether you’re a newbie or seasoned digital marketer, knowing how to track and increase your conversion rates is one of the biggest factors in making sure your website is generating new business.

Why do conversion rates matter?

Conversion rates matter because they allow you to track the return-on-investment (ROI) of your marketing and advertising, and can help you spend your budget more strategically. 

An effective marketing campaign will get a lot of people to take action and convert, so tracking when users “bounce” away from a page (aka, visit a single page and leave without taking an action) and when they convert can help you make better digital marketing decisions. 

What’s the average conversion rate in 2022?

According to WordStream, the average conversion rate for a landing page is 2.35%. However — this stat needs to be taken with a grain of salt. 

Conversion rates vary across industries. This makes sense: it’s easier to decide to buy a $10 item than invest $10,000 in a piece of software — which is why this in-depth study by Unbounce spanning 74.5 million visits to more than 64,000 landing pages across a wide variety of industries found that the median conversion rate hovers closer to 3 — 5.5%

If this stat feels intimidating, never fear! Today we’re going to cover some simple steps you can take to start improving your website conversions today.

How to improve website conversion rates today

1. Don’t make people log in

If you have an e-commerce website that always makes people log in, then odds are they won’t be your customer for long. 

Think about it: if you had to log into a website every time you wanted to buy something, would you? Or would you order from a website that doesn’t make you remember your email and password every time you want to make a purchase?

Spoiler alert: most of us won’t bother. In fact, a Baymard Institute study found that 37% of users will abandon their cart completely if they’re forced to create an account. 

How to avoid using logins

  • Allow temporary account creation. Allow users to make a one-time (or guest) account linked to just their email.
  • Make it obvious. Let users know that they don’t have to create an account to shop with you. A clickable “check out as guest” button is ideal here.
  • Make fields optional. Clearly mark signup or login fields as “optional” so visitors know they’re not required.


2. Personalize or localize content

We love buying things that feel custom-tailored to them and their needs. 

People are 91% more likely to shop with a brand that offers relevant offers and recommendations, while 72% say they only engage with personalized messaging and offers. 

This can include localized content (content offered based on where they live), content based on past purchases, searches, items they’ve viewed on your site, or ads they clicked on.

How to offer personalized or localized content

  • Optimize for local SEO. Make sure to optimize your website content to rank on a search done by someone in your area, since this can help you rank higher.

  • Publish relevant content. Share content that users can connect with at various stages of their buying journey and that shows how your product or service solves their problems.

  • Personalized discounts. Offer unique discounts to people based on past purchases, their location, or how they’ve interacted with your site.

3. Add more social proof

“Social proof” is a term that’s been around since 1984, when author Robert Cialdini described it as “as people doing what they observe other people doing”.

Basically, your audience isn’t automatically going to believe what you say, so if you’re claiming you can do something then you need to show proof that your claims are true.

Adding social proof to your website is one of the best ways to increase conversions. In fact, a study from TrustPulse found that adding social proof to your website can quickly improve customer trust and increase your conversion rate. 

Here are some stats from the study for you to consider:

  • 97% of consumers look at reviews before purchasing
  • Testimonials can increase conversion rates on sales pages by 34%
  • Having at least 5 reviews causes purchase likelihood to increase by a factor of nearly 4X

How to add social proof today

Below are a few quick steps you can take to use social proof to increase conversions:

  • Add customer reviews. This is especially true for e-commerce websites which should consider adding a dedicated “reviews” section.

  • Include case studies. Case studies are the process of making stories and blog posts out of your successes. They showcase the difference you make and the specific outcomes of working with or buying from you.

  • Use social proof pop-ups on sales pages.* Using pop-ups strategically can showcase how often people are buying, leaving reviews, and more. Below is an example from Proof Factor that shows what we mean.


* Important: we suggest using popups sparingly, or in ways that are non-intrusive to someone’s experience using your site. After all, your goal is to highlight how great your business is, not annoy visitors to your website!

4. Do an SEO Audit

Your website could have the best user experience on the planet, but if your website is slow or isn’t getting indexed by Google properly, then your customers won’t even find you.

The more people who visit your website, the higher you’ll rank on a search engine results page (SERP), and the higher your conversion rates will be. 

(Looking for info on how to keep your blog posts ranking highly on the SERP? Click here!)

One study found that websites that rank first place on Google have a click-through rate of 31.7%, and another found that only 25% of all users ever bother to click on a website that ranks on the second page of a search result.

This means that making sure your website ranks as high on a SERP as possible is critical to increasing conversions — luckily the fix is simple:

SEO audits will show you where your website could be updated and optimized to help it rank higher. This will allow you to attract more organic (unpaid) traffic and improve those conversion rates.

How to do an SEO audit

5. Shorten your forms

While longer forms can help you learn details about your customers, forms with lots of fields can be annoying and cause people to avoid filling them out at all.

To keep visitors from feeling frustrated and reduce bounce rates on your landing pages, consider including only the most important information in your forms. 

Need more proof? Marketo ran a test where they created two forms: a short, and a longer version, and compared their results. They found that a 9-field form conversion rate was 10%, while a 5-field form conversion rate jumped up to almost 14%.

How to shorten your forms

  • Only collect essential information. Focus on the most important information (name, email, etc.) and collect everything else in emails, surveys, and follow-up calls.

  • Use a 3rd party account to collect information. If you can, give users the option to log in with Google or Facebook so they can stay logged in and you can collect their information automatically.



6. Keep It Simple, Stupid (K.I.S.S. methodology)

Keeping your forms short isn’t the only thing you can do to increase conversions! Think about ways you can make the experience of visiting your website easier.

Making your website easy for people to use is a cornerstone of modern user experience (UX), as described in this post from CareerFoundry.

In it, they share that people have much shorter attention spans than even just 10 years ago and cite an experiment by Etsy where they slowed down some of their mobile pages to see what would happen — and they saw a 12% increase in bounce rates!

Aka, 12% more people left the page without taking a single action than if the web page had loaded more quickly. 

But keeping your website easy to use isn’t just about good UX design and load speeds — WPForms found that a whopping 67% of users will abandon a form if they encounter any issues filling it out.

How to give your website the K.I.S.S. of approval

  • Have obvious calls-to-action (CTAs). The next step in the buying or contact process should be obvious right away. Don’t make people guess what to do next!
  • Tell people what you want them to do. Be specific! Tell them where to click, the information you want them to enter, and how to find specific details.

  • Keep it (super) simple. Offering too many options can give people “analysis paralysis” and make them opt out completely. Instead, add steps or filters to help them choose from multiple options.


Improve website conversion rates today

High conversion rates are how you know that your marketing is working, that your website is giving customers what they need, and ultimately how you grow your business.

By applying the strategies listed above you can help your customers have a smooth, seamless buying experience and turn them into repeat customers.

Want articles like this one delivered right to your inbox once a week! Subscribe to our roundup of digital marketing news and be the savviest business owner or marketer in the room.


 

Facebook Ads in 2022: How to Lower Your Ad Costs

- by Alyson Shane

Facebook Ads can be a great way to increase brand awareness and increase leads and sales — as long as they’re done correctly.

As with any advertising campaign, the key to understanding whether or not your ads are working is to make sure you can earn a decent return on investment (ROI). 

To help you make sense of how your Facebook Ads budget is (or isn’t) working for you, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to Facebook Ads costs. This post will cover:

  • Facebook’s four billing models and costs
  • How you pay for ads, and how that’s determined
  • Plus, a peek at how Facebook’s algorithm works!

Facebook Ads Costs

How you get billed for your Facebook Ads depends on your goal and the type of ad you’re running. There are four main different billing models, which are:

  • Cost per click (CPC)
  • Cost per 1000 impressions (CPM)
  • Cost per action (CPA)
  • Cost per engagement (CPE)

Cost per click (CPC)

Cost per click is how much you spend every time someone clicks on your ad. If your goal is to drive traffic to your website, then this is the billing option you should choose.

Facebook loves to automatically select “Impressions” as the default setting for most ad campaign types, so make sure to change this manually so you only get charged when someone clicks on a link in your ad.

As of December 2021, the average CPC cost was $1.17, making it one of the cheapest options out there. This is because you typically need less than 1000 impressions to earn a single click.

If you’re wondering how to keep your CPC costs low, click here.

Cost per 1000 impressions (CPM)

Impressions are how many times a unique user sees your ad. 

If a user sees your ad once on the Facebook web browser, then again in the Facebook mobile app, that sounds are two impressions. This option is great if your goal is to increase brand awareness and connect with customers at the top of your sales funnel.

The abbreviation (CPM) is the cost for every 1000 impressions you get — the “M” stands for “mile” and refers to the average cost of every 1000 individual views your ad gets.

For example, if you spend $1000 on a campaign and you get 10,000 impressions, your CPM is $10.

According to Revealbot, the average CPM across all industries in December 2021 was $15.85.

Cost per action (CPA)

Cost per action means you only get charged when someone “converts” by completing an action you choose, like subscribing to your newsletter or downloading an app. 

Just like CPM, the number you see in your report is your total ad spend divided by the number of actions completed.

The average CPA (per lead) in December 2021 was $6.79. Just like CPM, this option costs more since it might take hundreds of people seeing your ad to result in a single lead.

Cost per engagement (CPE) 

This campaign type optimizes for more likes and engagements on your Facebook posts. Facebook calculates your CPE by dividing your ad spend by the number of likes, shares, reactions, and other engagements your post gets.

As of December 2021, the average CPE was $0.138 — much lower than other options because it’s much easier to get clicks and engagements since any action takes place within the platform (vs. someone clicking through to your website and then having to take a separate action).

Important: while understanding average costs is important, these numbers aren’t necessarily what you will pay when you run your ads. This is because Facebook calculates what you pay based on the impressions you need to generate the results you want.

How are Facebook Ads costs decided?

Facebook Ads uses an AI-based auction algorithm that determines the price of clicks and impressions, which is why the right targeting is so important.

Audience locations, interests, age, ad placements, and more all play a role in determining the cost of your Facebook Ads campaign. 

Below are some of the key areas that determine what you pay for your ads:

Audience and demographics

How much you pay depends a lot on the types of people you target.

For example, targeting people aged 25+ costs a lot more than people in the 25-34 range because only 10.6% of all Facebook users are 65+ and often have more money to spend, making them a sought-after target.

Location

Also known as “geotargeting”, this refers to targeting people who live in a specific location. If you’re a local business, you can advertise to a specific group of people in a geographic area.

This option is great for brick-and-mortar businesses, schools and universities, and companies that offer local services like plumbing, HVAC, and home cleaning.

Be aware that some places are more expensive to geotarget than others — for example, Toronto and Vancouver are more expensive to geotarget than Winnipeg or Edmonton.

Objective

When setting up your ads, you can choose from three high-level objectives which are:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Conversion

Each of these has sub-objectives you can choose from. For example, if you choose “Awareness” your sub-objectives can be either Brand Awareness or Reach.

Objectives like add-to-cart or actual purchases cost more because Facebook’s algorithm believes that these users are already closer to completing a purchase.

Time of year

This probably comes as no surprise: ads cost more during peak shopping seasons (like right now) because more people are running ads and making the marketplace more competitive.

For example, Cost per Impressions (CPMs) jumped 30% in November 2020 as businesses promoted their Black Friday and holiday-related sales.

Industry

For some industries it’s harder to drive a single click or generate a lead, which means ads in these areas will cost more. This happens because some industries have more competition and have sales cycles that might take longer to complete.

For example, it’s pretty easy to advertise a burger combo and get someone to click on the ad if they happen to be hungry, which is why the food and drink industry averaged a CPC of around $0.42 in 2020. 

On the flip side, internet and telecom companies paid close to $3.07 CPC because there’s more competition in the space and it’s more expensive than a burger and fries.

Placement

You can show Facebook Ads in six different places across multiple social media platforms:

  • Facebook newsfeed
  • Facebook right column
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Instagram 
  • Instagram Stories
  • Audience Network

The more competitive the ad placement, the higher the costs will be. While it varies, generally Facebook ads cost less than Instagram ads.

How does Facebook Ad bidding work?

Facebook’s ads are “auctioned” off to the businesses who bid on specific placements and usually the highest bidder wins the ad placement… but not always.

After all, super-high and aggressive bids don’t necessarily lead to clicks or sales and could hurt Facebook’s reputation. So the platform’s AI considers more than just the bid amount when choosing who wins a particular placement.

How does Facebook’s algorithm work?

Below is an overview of how the algorithm works, followed by the various bidding strategies available to you:

Your bid

Your bid is (obviously) the maximum amount you’ll pay for your bid, but you won’t always pay this amount. Facebook’s system is designed to have you pay the minimum amount you need to beat out other bidders.

For example, if your competitor bids $2.00 and you bid $2.50, Facebook won’t charge you $2.50 — instead you’ll get charged $2.01 for the ad placement.

If you’re bidding for clicks the algorithm will factor in how likely your ad is to get clicks. As an example, even if you bid $1.00 and your competitor bids $3.00, if your ad is likely to get three times more clicks then your ad should win out.

Ad relevance

This plays into your bid since Facebook is also judging how relevant an ad is to a particular audience. Basically what this means is how likely the algorithm thinks it is that your ad will generate a click or other action.

To determine this, Facebook uses a relevance score to judge ad relevance. There are three “relevance diagnostics” involved in this decision:

  1. Quality ranking. How your ad’s perceived quality compares to similar competing ads. Things that matter here include user actions (linking, clicking, commenting, etc.) and identifying low-quality attributes like inflammatory language.

  2. Engagement rate ranking. Your ad’s expected engagement rate compared to ads competing for the same audience. Important: this excludes “engagement baiting” tactics like asking for likes, comments, and shares.

  3. Conversion rate ranking. How your ad is expected to “convert” compared to ads with the same goal competing for the same audience. This assesses your landing page and conversion flow, not just your ad.

Spend-based bidding

Spend-based bidding is designed to spend your entire budget and either get the highest value or the most results from your ads. 

To accomplish this, Facebook gives you two options:

  1. Lowest-cost strategy. This aims to get the most conversions for your budget. This opens you up to more bid opportunities, but since you don’t control your bids you might wind up paying more. As a result, this option is ideal if you don’t have specific cost-per-action (CPA) requirements.

  2. Highest-value strategy. This aims to spend your entire budget and get the highest value purchases, vs. trying to get the highest number of purchases. This option works great if your goal is to target “big spenders” instead of the largest number of customers as you can.

Goal-based bidding

Goal-based bids allow you to set specific cost goals in order to maximize certain actions or results. 

There are three options here:

  • Lowest cost. This is the default setting where you have no cost control and where the algorithm will maximize the results of your budget.

  • Cost cap bidding. This option sets a target cost-per-action (CPA) that you want Facebook to stick close to. For example, you could set a target cost per purchase to maintain a specific profit margin on each conversion.

  • Minimum return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) bidding. This option allows you to set a target for the minimum return on ad spend (ROAS) you want for each bid. This can feel complicated since it’s determined in decimal points. For example, if you want to earn at least $150 for every $100 spend on ads, you’d set a 1.500 ROAS control.

Manual bidding

Manual bidding is exactly what it sounds like: Facebook allows you to control how much you bid across all your auctions instead of the algorithm handling it for you.

Since the algorithm needs a large enough data set to spend the ad budget efficiently, this option can be great for businesses with smaller, niche audiences.

Lowering Facebook Ads costs: best practices

Now that we’ve covered the basics of how Facebook Ads cost, let’s take a look at some steps you can take to improve your return-on-investment (ROI):

Define your audience

Your targeting is the most important factor in whether your ads do well or not. 

Start by doing customer research and create Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences by tweaking your targeting using the options available to you.

The more defined your audience is, the more relevant your ads will be and the lower your costs can become.

Use Lookalike Audiences

A “lookalike” audience is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a group of people with similar characteristics or who have taken similar actions to people in your target audience. 

You can create Lookalike Audiences by using a Custom Audience as a “source” or by using the Facebook Pixel to collect data. The algorithm then uses that data to find new potential audiences.

Switch out your creative

Don’t be afraid to experiment and change up your ad creative (the images, text, etc.) in the ad. 

Experimenting not only helps you understand what types of ads appeal to your audience but can bring your costs down people will click on ads that appeal to them.

Once you have something that works, use it as your “control” ad but make sure to keep testing new versions to keep your costs low and reduce ad fatigue, which is when people start “glossing over” an ad because they’ve seen it too many times.

Align ad creative and ad placement

Pay attention to the dimensions available across different ad placements and create images or videos that “fit” with each place you plan to run your ad.

For example, a Facebook newsfeed ad should look different than an Instagram Story ad. 

Use retargeting

Retargeting is when Facebook puts ads in front of people who have already interacted with your business in some way, like viewing a specific product page.

Not only can you show ads to people who have visited a specific page, but you can run promotions to existing subscribers, previous customers, and more.

Use strong calls-to-action (CTAs)

Make sure to always include a CTA in your ads! Calls-to-action is text that tells the reader the specific action you want them to take. One example could be: “get free shipping when you order before January 1st!”

If your Facebook Ads still aren’t delivering, try using one of these strategies to solve it.]

Lower Facebook Ads costs in 2022

Understanding how Facebook’s algorithm works, common mistakes people make, and how ad costs are calculated is critical to running a successful ad campaign on the platform.

Above all: don’t be afraid to regularly test and experiment with your ads! Investing time to understand what your audience loves (and doesn’t love) will help you develop campaigns that earn you a great return-on-investment (ROI) and generate positive brand awareness for your business.

If you’d like to work with experts who can create eye-catching Facebook Ads for you, drop us a line and let’s chat.

Want to stay in the know about the latest digital marketing news, tips, and strategies? Subscribe to our weekly email newsletter!

Tags: Facebook Ads

 

Older posts »