How We Increased the Readership of Buffer’s Blog to Over 1.5 Million Visits

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Every company is a media company these days, and Buffer is no different.

We started the Buffer Social blog in January 2011and since then it has been a key component in the success of the company. We have published more than 1,000 posts-and we’re honored to receive more than 1.5 million visits every month.

It’s been a long, challenging journey, though.

We first hit one million sessions in a calendar month during March 2015-a full 4 years after launching-and after months of floating around 1.1 to 1.2 million sessions, and struggling to break out, we hit 1.5m sessions in May 2017.

You can check out our growth below:

During our journey from zero to more than 1.5 million monthly visits, we’ve learned a ton and would love to share some of our lessons with you today.

Ready to jump in?

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The 3-step system behind our blog growth

In this post, we’ll draw back the curtains and share the three step process we use to grow this blog:

  1. Audience
  2. Cadence
  3. Promotion

Feel free to click on the bullet point that interests you the most to skip to that step.

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1. Audience

Understanding what content our audience craves

The content you read here is as likely to be about the evolution of social media, how to create amazing social media content, or little-known tips and tricks as it is about the latest Buffer developments and features (we also share all our culture related content on our Open blog, too).

Our hope is that these posts reflect the needs of our customers as well as the perspectives and views of the writers, editors, and strategists that make up Buffer’s marketing team. And in turn, we hope a few readers would become Buffer customers, eventually.

Before thinking of blog post ideas, it’s helpfulto understand what your readers want from you. Otherwise, you’re shooting in the dark and hoping everything works out.

After several iterations of our contentand throughstudying our blog posts data, we uncovered that our audience enjoys our long-form, educational blog posts.

Knowing thathas helped us to decide what types of blog posts to write. And no matter what type of post we’re creating, the aim is to help marketers and small businesses to become more successful on social media.

Try this

To find out what your readers want, you couldstudy the performance of your existing blog postsor ask your readers directly through on-page surveys like Hotjar Polls.

How we come up with blog post ideas

It can be challenging to continually create high-quality, valuable pieces of content on a weekly basis.

As an established blog, you can run the risk of dropping your standards or hoping that creativity can be scheduled in order to hit a certain number of posts in any given month.

At Buffer, we do our best to avoid that way of thinking.

Although we aim to publish twice per week (more on how we decided on that cadence a little later), we always strive for the utmost quality and the sweet spot between content we know will get traffic and content that delivers value to our readers (and Buffer).

For example, we might write about the latest social media trends or platform features, but you won’t see us commenting on a potential Mark Zuckerburg presidential run just for some quick traffic.

Here are the various ways we come up with blog post ideas:

Keywords:Ranking for keywords around social media marketing, such as social media analytics, has gradually become a top focus for us. We tend to research keyword opportunities and then come up with ideas around them.

Inspiration:We keep an eye out for popular discussions in the industry such as falling organic reach on Facebookand brainstorm ideas around each topic.

News:Whenever a social media platform launches a new feature such as Instagram Storiesand Facebook Stories, we like to help our readers understand what the update means for their business.

Past experience:We come up with ideas based on posts that have performed well. For instance, when our post on headline formulasperformed well, we thought of ideas like copywriting formulasand storytelling formulas.

Intuition:Sometimes you just have to trust your gut. Occasionally we’ll come up with post ideas based on the intuition we’ve built up over years of running the blog.

blog post ideas

How we decide which posts to write

We come up with many ideas but they don’t all get published on our blog.

When assessing an idea, we think about the following questions:

  • Is this relevant to marketers or small business owners working on their social media?
  • Does this help them solve a challenge they face at work?
  • Has this been written before? If yes, can we add more value to the topic?
  • Is there interest in this topic? (Sometimes, that means looking at the search volume for the keyword or Google Trends data)

When we can answer yes to these questions, we would pick that idea and move it to the Pipeline column on our Trello board.

Try this

Come up with a set of criteria relevant to your blog goals. Writing only blog posts that meet your criteria can help to keep the quality of your content high.

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2. Cadence

Finding the right cadence to meet our goals

Over the years we’ve realized the importance of editorial cadence and heading into 2017, we decided it was something we wanted to focus on heavily.

After some experimentation, we realized we needed to do the following:

  • Publish consistently:We had tried publishing four or five times per week, but found that our standards were dropping and we were on the losing side of the quantity vs quality battle. We’ve found that two new blog posts plus our podcast show notes per week feels like the perfect amount of content.
  • Plan ahead:By planning our content up to four-six weeks ahead of publishing, we have plenty of time to research and plan how each new piece of content will be promoted.

To aid us with this, we use a handy Trello calendar power-upthat displays cards with due dates in a weekly or monthly format. We use the monthly calendar to help us organize our editorial schedule and give us a quick overview of the following few weeks.

Planning ahead and giving ourselves more time to edit our content has been one of the key factors in unlocking our growth and reaching the 1.5-million milestone. This has enabled us to take the utmost care with every post to ensure the quality is right when we want it to be when we hit ‘publish’.

Try this

I would recommend experimenting and finding a suitable editorial cadence based on your content goals and the amount of time you have. There is no one right editorial cadence. HubSpotpublishes several articles a day while Backlinkopublishes less than once a month.

2 ways we streamline our editorial communication

1. Keeping everything in one place

Slack, email, Discourse

Communication can get a little overwhelming at times. To counter this we have all the key discussions in the respective blog post Trello cards. Even if we discuss something related to a blog post in Slack or on video calls, we’ll make a note in the Trello card.

This serves two purposes:

  1. Single reference point:Instead of having to look through Slack or trying to remember what we discussed five days ago on the video call, we know we can find all the key information about an idea on its Trello card.
  2. Information transparency:By having the information on Trello, we can keep the relevant team members in the loop even if they missed the Slack or Zoom conversation.

key information in one place

Try this

Find a tool that suits your content system. For us, it’s Trello.

If you are already using a tool for your content system, lean into it and use it to store allthe key information about your content.

2. Making time to chat face-to-face

Ash, our blog editor, and I have a weekly meeting every Tuesday where we talk about all things related to our blog.

This is a practice that content crafters at Buffer have been doing since the start of the blog. These recurring meetings encourage us to reflect on our recent work and think how we can improve.

Here’s what Ash and I usually do during our content syncs nowadays:

  • Review recent blog post performance
  • Discuss blog post ideas that are being worked on now or that are planned for the next few weeks
  • Discuss interesting social media or marketing news
  • Share well-written blog posts we read recently
  • Brainstorm new blog post ideas

You don’t have to keep to the same agenda but I would recommend at least reviewing the results your recent blog posts and refining your content strategy.

Try this

Have a content sync with your editors and writers at least once a week. If you are the only writer, you could meet with your team lead or a teammate who is keen.

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3. Promotion

Focusing on content promotion, not just creation

Derek Halpern of Social Triggers likes to spend 80 percent of his time promoting his content:

It’s smarter to find another 10,000 people to consume what you’ve already created as opposed to creating more.

Or, in other words, create content 20% of the time. Spend the other 80% of the time promoting what you created.

We are far from spending 80 percent of our time promoting our blog posts but here are two things we do to share our content with more people.

4 ways we promote our content

1. Repurposing blog posts for social media

Werepurpose our blog posts into content suitable for each social media platform. For instance, here’re some things we do:

  • Brian Peters, our Digital Marketing Strategist, creates Instagram stories with the key points of the blog post and invites our Instagram followers to check out the full post on our blog.
  • He also creates short videosusing the content in the blog posts to share on Twitter and Facebook.We found that videos have been receiving more engagement and, consequently, more reach on social media than links.
  • I republish our blog posts on Medium, often with a different headline and shorter content.

Instead of simply sharing a link to each social media platform, we found that customizing the post for each platformsuch as addingvideos for Facebookhas generated more engagement from our fans.

While doing this might not always drive traffic to our blog, I believe it helps our followers gain trust in the content that we create. And next time, when they are looking for help on social media marketing, maybe they will think of the Buffer blog first.

2. Building a loyal newsletter following

Despite the rumors, email is not dead (and I can’t see it dying anytime soon).

Our email list is often the #1 driver of traffic to our content on the day it’s published and provides us with a way to get our content in front of our most avid readers.

We are grateful that many people have signed up to receive our blog newsletter over the years, even after we stopped growing our email list actively. We send them an email whenever we publish a new blog post or once every week.

With about 100,000 subscribers, each of our new blog posts gets about 1,000 to 2,000 visits from these subscribers on the first day alone. (The conversion rate is definitely something we can work on.)

Try this

Having a newsletter following has allowed us to share our content with a group of readers who would read our new blog posts whenever they are published. If you wish to build a loyal readership and grow your blog, consider growing an email list for your blog.

3. Paying attention to long-term traffic (SEO)

Often, our content ideas come from an amalgamation of the methods listed above. And in most cases, we aim to generate long-term search traffic for each of the posts we publish.

Our blog post on Instagram algorithmis a great example. We knew it’s a popular topic among social media marketers, and people are searching for instagram algorithm on Google (about 4,000 searches per month).

By understanding the term people are searching for on Google for this topic and writing a well-researched, high-quality piece, the blog post was able to rank on the first page of Google and has been bringing in 600 to 800 views per day since we published it.

Long-Term Traffic Example

We believe this focus on bringing in long-term search traffic to new posts has helped unlock growth for the blog in the recent months.

Try this

If you want to generate long-term search traffic for your blog posts, learning how to do keyword research is a great place to start. Here are a few resources to get you started:

How To Do Keyword Research The Beginners Guide to SEOby Moz

Keyword Research for SEO: The Definitive Guideby Backlinko

How To Do Keyword Research in 2017by Ahrefs

4. Craft headlines that attract readers

A great headline can bring people to a blog post from RSS feeds, social media, and search engines.

David Ogilvy, once wrote, On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. In fact, we found that as many as 78 times more people read the headline on Twitter than read the blog post.

Inspired by Upworthy’s editorial process of writing 25 headlines per article, I would come up with at least 20 headline ideas for each blog post. Not all of them are great but each of them helps me come up with a better headline.

I often refer to this blog post on headline formulasto help me brainstorm. We also use YoRocket, a WordPress plugin that analyzes and suggests improvements for our blog post headline.

The 20 headlines also come in handy when we want to share the blog post on social media more than once. I would share those headlines in the Trello card with Brian Peters, our Digital Marketing Strategist, who would promote the blog post on social.

headline ideas

Try this

For each of your blog post, brainstorm at least 20 headlines before settling on one. Here are some of our go-to headline formulas:

Headline + Headline(E.g. Understanding the Instagram Algorithm: 7 Key Factors and Why the Algorithm is Great for Marketers)

Item and Item: Listicle(E.g. Optimal Timing, Videos, and More: 10 Easy Ways to Boost Your Instagram Reach)

The Complete / Ultimate / Beginner’s Guide to ____(E.g. A Complete Guide to Instagram Marketing: Get the Playbook That Drives Results for Instagram’s Top Profiles)

Bonus: Relaunch older posts to boost traffic

Many topics we cover on the blog such as social media toolsor social media marketing budgetare evergreen topics.

But as things change quickly in the social media landscape, the information in a blog post can become outdated quickly.

So instead of just writing new blog posts, we also update existing blog posts on evergreen topics that have outdated information or even more potential for traffic through search. This keeps our blog posts relevant and useful for our readers.

For example, when we updated our social media analytics tools postin March 2017, the daily traffic more than doubled from about 300 to 700:

content relaunch

(The two spikes of traffic came from our RSS feed and email digest).

Try this

Briefly, here’re the 3 steps of a content relaunch:

1. Identify underperforming content:Brian recommends looking for posts that rank 7th to 15th on Google, posts where organic traffic has fallen, posts that underperformed, and posts that are good but could be better.

2. Improve and update that content:Some of Brian’s suggestions are updating the images and screenshots, improving the post’s structure, and adding a new case study.

3. Republish your post:The last step is to update the Published date in WordPress to today (the day of the relaunch). That will bring the blog post to the top of your blog.

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If you’d like to get traffic from social media by sharing your blog posts there, we’d love to help you. Try our 14-day free trial and experience the difference today.

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Thinking about vanity metrics and 1.5 million thank you’s

Having over a 1.5 million visits per month is great but you could also argue it’s avanity metric. And you’d probably be right.

As content crafters at Buffer, we’re in the business of selling software. We don’t take a direct, hardline approach to this, but our content is essentially here to increase our reach, build our brand, and in-turn drive Buffer’s sign ups and revenue figures in the right direction.

Alongside traffic, we also pay close attention to the number of Buffer customers referred by the blog, and the monthly recurring revenue figures generated by those customers. These metrics give us a better sense, in quantitative terms, of how the blog is providing business value.

In our case, increased traffic seems to correlate pretty well with some of our more meaningful metrics like sign ups-as our traffic grows, so does the number of signups and revenue generated. That said, we’re keen to do a bunch more to optimize these flows and see how we can maximize the value of every visit we receive to the blog, without compromising reader experience.

Overall, we’re happy with the progress of the blog, and we hope you found this blog post useful. If you have any questions about our editorial process, feel free to ask them in the comments section below.

And, finally, thanks a million for being one of our readers. We truly appreciate it <img src="http://s.w.org/images/core/emoji/2.3/72×72/1f389.png&quot; alt="

Billionaire investor Howard Marks says cryptocurrencies ‘aren’t real’

howard marksBloomberg

Howard Marks, billionaire investor and founder of Oaktree Capital Management is adamant about his stance on cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, Ether and others: They’re not real.

Marks reiterated this three times to clients Wednesday in his latest Oaktree memo.

I’d guess these things have arisen from the intersection of (a) doubts about financial security – including the value of national currencies -that grew out of the financial crisis an (b) the comfort felt by millennials regarding all things virtual, writes Marks. But they’re not real.

Marks has clearly done his homework. The 22-page letteris full of research notes and quotes from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and others about blockchain-based currencies. But he’s still unconvinced that they hold any long-term promise.

Some people are eager to speculate on digital currency for profit, he writes. Others want to put a little money into these to-date-profitable phenomena rather than run the risk of missing out. But they’re not real!

It all comes down to optimism, says Marks. As soon as our current bull market takes a nosedive, bitcoin and ether speculators could take a big hit.

They’re likely to keep working as long as optimism is present, writes Marks. But their performance in bad times is far from dependable. What will happen to Bitcoin’s price and liquidity in a crisis if people decide they’d rather hold dollars (or gold)?

Marks isn’t the only old-school Wall Street player to be skeptical of digital currencies. Major banks like Morgan Stanley have recognized bitcoin’s use as a value-holding asset, but are hesitant to call it a true currency.

For people like Marks, Bitcoin has a steeplearning curve. It’s not as simple as traditional fiat currency, with notes backed by a central bank and transferred through clearinghouses. Instead, bitcoin utilizes a blockchain, which can instantly credit and debit ledgers of parties involved in atransaction.

It looks like Marks has some more reading to do to catch up.

Nobody has been able to make sense to me of these currencies, he writes.

NOW WATCH: Harvard Business School professor explains the most important problem we have in finance today and how to fix it

Uber reportedly targets HPE’s Meg Whitman in hunt for new CEO


In a bid to fill its leadership vacuum, ride sharing giant Uber has been searching for a new CEO.

And among its candidates is reportedly Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) CEO Meg Whitman. According to Bloomberg, Whitman has recently been meeting with the troubled company’s leadership.

Uber has reportedly developed a short list of less than six CEO candidates in the hopes of filling the role by early September, although it’s unclear who the other candidates are.

The search comes after Uber’s founder Travis Kalanick resigned in June. By then, the ride-hailing company had been shaken up by a series of scandals, including boycotts and allegations of systemic sexual harassment that resulted in the dismissal of more than 20 employees.

Since then, some critics have commented that Uber should hire a woman CEO as its next move. Names including Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Thrive Global founder Ariana Huffington, former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, as well as Ford’s Mark Fields and former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt have also been floated.

Whether or not any of them are interested in the role is another question. A spokesperson for HPE told Bloomberg that Whitman is in no rush to leave the company: As Meg has said several times before, she is fully committed to HPE and plans to stay with the company until her work is done.

Whoever inherits the role, however, will be dealing with something of a morass. The investigation into sexual harassment claims appears to still be ongoing. Meanwhile, Uber will have to walk carefully as it tries to hire more women, who currently make up about 22% of the company’s leadership. At the same time, Uber is still operating sans Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, General Counsel, and more.

This story originally appeared on Fortune.com. Copyright 2017

THE OPEN BANKING REPORT: How banks can leverage open APIs and maintain their retail banking dominance

regulation will drive open banking 4 by 3BI Intelligence

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.

Open banking is thedemocratization of access to data previously exclusively owned by legacy financial institutions.

The open banking trend is being driven by a number of factors andwill ultimately become the norm. That means retail banks need torethink their business and operational models if they want to maintain the positions of dominance in the financial ecosystem.

In this report, BI Intelligence explores the drivers behind open banking in detail, outline the options for banks as they look to update their business and operational models, and explain the likely potential winners and losers of open banking.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • Open banking is most often facilitated by a technology known as Application Program Interfaces (APIs) whichhave enabled the business models and success of some of the most well known startups of recent times.
  • There are a number of drivers behind the open banking trend, the most obvious of which is regulation that forcesbanks to give customers access to their data, or enable permissioned third parties to access their data.
  • Banks adopting open banking are taking a number of different approaches,from justtaking the necessary steps to complywith regulation, to actively embracing the conceptin an effort to maintain their retail banking dominance.
  • Banks are using different models ofopen banking, including app stores and sandboxes.Which model, or combination of models, a bank adopts depends onits priorities and the drivers it finds most imperative.
  • Open banking will have a significant impact on fintechs. With access to banks’ systems and vast data stores, fintechs will be able to provide more personalized products, while operating with greater autonomy. However,open bankingwill also increase fintechs’ regulatory and cybersecurity burdens.

In full, the report:

  • Explains the concept and mechanics of open banking.
  • Outlines the drivers behind its increasing adoption by global retail banks.
  • Highlights the different approaches banks are taking to open banking, and explores the advantages and disadvantages of each.
  • Explores the future of open banking, including its impact on fintechs.

Interested in getting the full report? Here are twoways to access it:

  1. Subscribe to anAll-Accesspass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you’ll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensureyou stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> Learn MoreNow
  2. Purchase & download the full report fromour research store. >> Purchase & Download Now

NOW WATCH: HENRY BLODGET: This chart explains everything that’s wrong with the economy today

SEO for Freelancers: 4 Key Tips to Attract Clients on Autopilot

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When you’re looking for freelancing opportunities online, you’re entering a massive competitive marketplace.

Whether you’re a designer, a writer, or a developer, you already have the skills – now you just need the customers.

There are a lot of mistakes freelancers make, but in this post we’ll run you through a series of marketing techniques and processes to help customers find your expertise.

In short, you need to understand what your customers are looking for, optimize your site, and drive people toward your product.

Let’s look at how this can be done through 4 particular sections:

  • How to optimize keywords
  • How to structure pages
  • How to generate backlinks
  • How to exploit long tail keywords

How do keywords help me?

The first step you as a freelancer might take is understanding that your website is not going to be the focal point of a network the size of the New York Times.

According to SimilarWeb, the New York Times had 346m visits in December 2016 and just over half a billion the month prior.

I hate to break it to you, but you’re not going to beat that.

The way you can break into a position of prominence and make more money is to find a relatively untapped part of the network and target that spot. You can think about what services you are offering and what your competitors are offering. Can you make yourself a little different? Can you describe yourself in different ways? Simply ranking high on Google helps your prospective clients trust you more.

We at Process Street use Ahrefs as our keyword research tool, however you can also check out this video to see how you can select and optimize your keywords with Google’s Keyword Planner, or read a comparison of Moz vs. Ahrefs.

The key to great keyword research is in ABC: Always Be Comparing

As part of your workflow, you want to gather as many potential keywords relevant to your business as possible. Hundreds. Then you want to use one of the above tools to provide you with as much data as possible on all these different terms.

If you need some assistance in coming up with all these keywords, you can use Google’s search suggestions, synonyms from Thesaurus.com, or other keyword finders like keywordtool.io or KeywordShitter.

When you have all your keywords and their data, you need to know how to analyze them. Our rule of thumb is to filter by volume and then pull out all the keywords which seem to have low keyword difficulty scores.

This data shows you where the weak points in the existing networks are. Your keywords are the tools you will use to exploit them.

  • Find keywords with high volume and low keyword difficulty to target.
  • Use Ahrefs or Google Keyword Explorer to gather this data.
  • Follow a clear keyword research process to get best results every time.

What’s involved in optimizing my website?

According to the Freelancing in America 2016 study from the Freelancer Union, there are 55 million freelancers operating in the United States alone. And these freelancers are doing well; according to the same study, freelancers contributed $1 trillion to the US economy in 2016.

What does this tell us?

Well, lots of things. But one of them is that there are lots of competitors’ websites out there, so you better have a really good one!

However, it’s not all about having the prettiest website on the internet. You want to build that strong point in your network, but your best tool for that isn’t HTML5 and it’s not just keywords either

A 2016 report from Ahrefs showed that the power of keywords alone has been reduced by Google’s algorithm changes. Using optimized keywords is still a vitally important part of improving your on-page SEO, but other factors in how you structure your content and site play a large part.

According to Ahrefs, you should:

  • Ensure that the load time of your pages is minimal,
  • That you have entered meta tags for your title and description within your tags,
  • That your content is broken up clearly into sections with

    and

    tags,

  • That these subtitles target your keyword or its related keywords,
  • That you’re updating your pages and adding new content,
  • and, that you’re using https on your domain to provide visitors with security.

However, most of all, the #1 factor, the decider of who ranks on Google the mighty backlink.

How can I generate backlinks?

The holistic answer to tackling not just backlinks, but the other factors mentioned above, is to introduce a content marketing strategy.

If you’re regularly putting out blog posts which are relevant to the niche in the market you’re angling for, then you’ll start to build your reputation. You’ll be creating new web pages regularly and structuring those pages so that Google can read them easily and see your value.

Moreover, if you’re producing quality content then you’re able to easily generate backlinks. The first step is to properly promote your content. This way, you’ll already have links back to your domain from social networks and content aggregators. In doing so, you’ll drive traffic and those visitors may even pass the link on.

At this point, you’ve built your reputation in two ways: in the eyes of Google and in the eyes of your audience.

To build on this, you can start guest posting and have others guest post on your blog. If you have a reputable blog, others will want to take advantage of that and publish their work on your site. This gives you more content and also results in the original author promoting content attached to your domain.

Win win!

Before you know it, you’ll be guest posting on other blogs and driving even more backlinks your way.

  • Begin a content marketing campaign.
  • Write content for your blog and promote it across the internet.
  • Write content for other people’s blogs and link back to yours.
  • Have others write content for your blog and promote it.
  • Link to your previous work in future blog posts on your site and on others.

How can I target specific customer searches?

Now that you’ve got a comprehensive list of the different keywords you want to be able to target, you can begin to structure your website to better address those needs.

The first thing to remember is that your favored keywords only enter you into a particular category. If you know exactly what your target customers are googling, you can construct long tail keywords.

These are different long phrases which you will want to use across all of your content.

However, a great way to begin to exploit them is to construct specialized landing pages specifically targeted at reaching those terms. This gives you a specific representation of your product or service which you might want to send someone to from an article or email campaign. Practically, for SEO purposes, this gives a specific facade to your company which is engineered for certain oft-googled phrases.

You can use a service like LeadPages.net to create multiple landing pages and optimize the pages through A/B testing. With the ability to make a large number of landing pages comes the ability to target your company in different ways all at the same time.

These landing pages can focus on specific long tail keywords, specific geographical areas, and different segments of the market budget, mid-range, premium. Each of these sites is more likely to show up in Google for their specific niche than an all purpose home page.

  • Use a tool like LeadPages.net to make multiple landing pages.
  • Focus each landing page on a different niche service by targeting long tail keywords.

Implement these SEO techniques today!

Through these tips and following a content marketing strategy, you’ll drive up your traffic and rocket your SEO in the process. You’ll be a freelance superstar in no time.

A single website on the internet is often described as being a needle in a haystack. But that’s not the case. This needle can choose where in the haystack they want to be located.

Put yourself on the outside of the haystack at head height and your odds of being found are significantly higher.

Particularly, when you realize how many people are staring at that haystack looking for you!

The Complete Guide to Creating Effective Snap Ads with Snapchat Ad Manager

In the past, if you wanted to run Snap Ads (Snapchat‘s full-screen video ads), you would need to go through one of their ads partners. Now, though, you can create Snap Ads yourself through Snapchat’s new self-serve ads tool, Snapchat Ad Manager.

Snapchat has even included a video creation tool in the Snapchat Ad Manager to make creating engaging, awesome-looking vertical videos a breeze.

We’re thrilled by the possibilities that Snapchat Ad Manager has brought about for marketers. And we would love to help you get started with creating your very own Snap Ads and measuring their performance.

Here’s everything you need to know

The Complete Beginner's Guide to Snapchat Ad Manager

What you’ll learn in this guide

Here’s a brief look at what will be covered in this Snapchat Ad Manager guide. Feel free to click on the quick links to jump to the respective sections.

First up, what are Snap Ads?

The benefits of Snapchat Ads?

Quick overview of Snapchat Ad Manager

How to create an effective Snap Ad with Snapchat Ad Manager

Beyond Snapchat Ad Manager: Good-to-knows

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First up, what are Snap Ads?

3-10 second full-screen vertical video ads

Snap Ad Example

Snap Ads are full-screen vertical video ads that can be up to 10 seconds long.

Snapchat users (or Snapchatters) can swipe up, anytime when the video ad is playing, for more – watch a longer video, read an article, install an app, or visit a website.

Snap Ads appear in between friends’ stories and Snapchat curated content such as Snapchat’s stories or publishers’ stories.

Where Snap Ads Appear

Snapchat also offers two other types of advertising:Snapchat Geofilters and Lenses. But these cannot be created in the Snapchat Ad Manager just yet. You can create Snapchat Geofilters online or on the mobile app, while you have to work with a Snapchat partner to create Lenses.

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The benefits of Snapchat Ads

Distinct audience, powerful targeting, and immersive experience

Snap Ads are an exciting, largely untapped advertising channel for marketers.

Here are just three of the benefits that make Snap Ads attractive:

  • Active user base: The 166 million Snapchatters who use the app daily, on average, spend over 30 minutes in the app and open the app more than 18 times per day.
  • Distinct audience: Huge percentages of Snapchat’s U.S. daily users cannot be reached on Facebook (35 percent), Instagram (46 percent), Twitter (81 percent), and other major social platforms, according to App Annie. Similar trends were found in the U.K.
  • Powerful targeting: With Snapchat’s data, which includesdata from Oracle Data Cloud, you can reach Snapchatters based on their demographics and their online and (even) offline interests and behaviors. You can also use your own data to reach your customers and similar Snapchatters on Snapchat.

Who Snapchatters Are

If you are still a little unsure if Snap Ads are effective, especially in comparison with other social media ads like Facebook ads and Instagram ads, perhaps these statistics could convince you.

MediaScience did someresearch (commissioned by Snap Inc.) and found that Snap Ads are more effective than most social media ads in several ways:

  • Persuasion: Users are much more likely to purchase a product after seeing a Snap Ad than most other social media ads – over two times more lift in purchase intent.
  • Attention: Snap Ads are shown full-screen, and as such, receive up to two times more visual attention than most other social media ads. (Instagram Stories ads were not considered in this study.)
  • Engagement: Snap Ads’ swipe up rate (or the rate at which users check out your website, video, or app) is five times higher than the average clickthrough rate of other social media ads.
  • Sound: Over 60 percent of Snap Ads are played with audio on. (In comparison, 85 percent of Facebook videos are watched without sound.)

Snap Ads create higher purchase intent

If you are a little more interested in Snap Ads now, let’s learn more about the Snapchat Ad Manager.

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Quick overview of Snapchat Ad Manager

Before we go through how to create Snap Ads, let’s first get familiar with the key sections of the Snapchat Ad Manager.

Snapchat Ad Manager

On the left side of the screen you can navigate to the key sections of Snapchat Ad Manager:

  1. Dashboard: This is where you create, view, and manage your Snap Ads. You can also see the metrics of your ads as a graph and in a table.
  2. Creative Library: This is where you view, edit, and create ad creatives.
  3. Custom Audiences: This is where you can create lists of Snapchatters (which you can use for targeting) using your customer data.
  4. Help Center: This is where you can find guides on how to do various things in the Ad Manager and get help from Snapchat.

Now the fun part begins

Let’s go through the steps of creating a Snap Ad and assessing its performance with the Snapchat Ad Manager.

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How to create an effective Snap Ad with Snapchat Ad Manager

Below, you’ll learn how to create a Snap Ad and evaluate its performance using the Snapchat Ad Manager in this section.

If you are familiar with the Facebook Ads Manager, the Snapchat Ad Manager is very similar. If you’ve not used Facebook Ads too much, you’ll get the hang of it quite quickly.

Feel free to set up your business account on Snapchat here, log in to your Snapchat Ad Manager here, and follow along!

Snap Ads use the same structure as Facebook ads – campaign, ad sets, and ads. To create a Snap Ad, you’ll work your way down the structure: create a campaign, an ad set, and then the ad.

Snap Ads Structure

(For now, you can only create one ad set and one ad at a time.)

If you haven’t created a Snap Ad before, a pop-up will prompt you to create a campaign once you log into your Snapchat Ad Manager. You can also click on +New Campaign to get started.

1. Choose an objective for your campaign

Choose campaign objective

First, decide what you want Snapchatters to do when they see your Snap ad. You have four options:

  • Drive traffic to your website
  • Drive install of your app
  • Grow awareness
  • Drive video views

Note: To take any of those actions, Snapchatters will have to swipe up while viewing your ad.

Then, set a schedule for your campaign. You can either start the campaign immediately and run indefinitely or define the start and end dates. You also have the option to set the status (active or paused).

Finally, name your ad campaign. To make finding your ad campaigns easier, you might want to think of a simple naming convention. Here’s a naming convention you could use:

(Objective) (Schedule) (Team member’s name)

If you manage several clients, you could also specify the client in the name in your ad campaign name.

Hit Next to move on to creating your ad set.

Note: Try to finish setting up your ad in one sitting as Snapchat doesn’t seem to auto-saveduring the ad creation process. If you quit the process halfway through, you’ll have to start from the first step again.

2. Set the audience, budget, and schedule of your ad set

First, name your ad set according to your naming convention. Here’s a suggestion:

(Audience details) (Budget) (Goal) (Schedule)

Then, there are three main sections to fill up for your ad set – Audience, Budget & Goals, and Schedule.

Audience

Set audience

The Audience section contains five main parts that allow you to specify the audience you want to reach:

  • Geography: You have to select a country you want to target. You can then make your location targeting more specific by including or excluding certain areas of the country.
  • Demographics: You can specify the people you want to reach by their age, gender, language, income, parental status, and more.
  • Audiences: You can even target people based on what they like, what they’ve bought, what they’ve watched, and where they’ve been. You can also target your customers on Snapchat (i.e. Snap Audience Match Audience) and Snapchatters that are like them (i.e. Lookalike Audience).
  • Placements: You can choose if you want your ads to appear in only Snapchat curated content such as Snapchat’s stories and publishers’ stories (Content Placement) or all of Snapchat including between friends’ stories (All Snapchat).
  • Devices: Finally, you can define the devices you want to target based on the operating system (Android, iOS, or both), connection type (cell, wifi, or both), and service provider (AT&T, O2, etc.)

While you are only required to select a country at the minimum, setting more specific target audience will help you achieve better results-bear in mind that Snapchat do not allow ad sets to reach less than 1,000 people.

Here are some targeting best practices from Snapchat:

  • Keep your audience size less than 20 million people for the same creative
  • Create an ad set for each unique group of people you’re trying to reach
  • Test Lookalike Audience for prospecting and finding new customers
  • Try using multiple ads per ad set so you can see how different creatives perform withthe same audience

Budget and Goals

Set budget and goal

The Budget & Goals section allows you to state your daily budget, goal, and bid amount.

The minimum amount for the daily budget seems to be $100. Any lower and you won’t be able to click Next.

The delivery of your ads will be optimized for the goal and the bid amount you specified. But you will be charged based on the number of times your ad is served.

For example, you set your goal as app install and your bid as $10. Snapchat will use your bid of $10 to compete against other advertisers’ bid in an auction. Snapchat will then show your ad to the people it thinks will most likely install your app, over ads of advertisers with a lower bid.

But Snapchat will not charge you $10 each time someone installs your app. It will charge you based on the number of times it has shown your ad. So each app install could cost more or less than $10.

It is recommended that you set the bid amount to how much each goal action (e.g. app install) is worth to you.If you are not getting the results you want, you could try increasing your bid.

Schedule

Set ad set schedule

The Schedule section allows you to set the schedule for that particular ad set (which is different from the ad campaign’s schedule in the previous step).

As you can run multiple ad sets within each ad campaign, the ad sets can have a shorter schedule than their ad campaign.

Once you’ve set the audience, budget, and schedule of your ad set, hit Next to move on to creating your ad.

3. Select an ad type and upload a creative

Now you’re ready to create you Snap Ad. First, you’ll need to select your ad type:

Choose ad type

Fill in the basic information (such as the creative name) and select the ad type you what.

There are four ad types available on Snapchat at the moment:

  • Top Snap only: A Top Snap is the three to 10-second video ad that Snapchatters will see. There won’t be a swipe up call-to-action for this ad type since there won’t be any video or link attachment.
  • Web view: This ad type allows you to drive traffic to your website (remember all traffic will be mobile) to take your intended action: purchase a product, make a booking, read an article, etc.
  • App install: This ad type helps you to drive traffic to your app page in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store so that the Snapchatter can easily install your app.
  • Long-form video: This ad type acts as a trailer for your long-form video that can be up to 10 minutes long.

Note: The article ad type (which links to a multimedia page) doesn’t seem to be available in the Snapchat Ad Manager yet. A workaround, for now, is to use the web view ad type.

Upload or create your content

Create Snap Ad

There are a few tiny details to complete before uploading or creating your ad creative.

  • Brand name: Enter your brand name (maximum of 25 characters, including spaces). This will appear in the upper-left corner of your Snap Ad.
  • Headline: Enter your headline (maximum of 34 characters, including spaces). This will appear right below your brand name.
  • Call to action: Select your preferred call-to-action from the list. The options available will depend on the ad type you have chosen. This will appear at the bottom of the Snap Ad.

Top Snap Example

Media File is the vertical video you want to use for your Snap Ad. If you have created it already or prefer to use a third-party software to create it, simply hit Upload to add it to your ad.

If you are not sure how to create vertical videos, Snapchat has this sorted for you! Hit Create and you’ll be brought to Snap Publisher, Snapchat’s online video editing app.

Snap Publisher

You can either create a video from scratch here or edit one of the nicely-designed templates. The Snap Publisher feels quite intuitive and allows you to do basic to advanced video editing. Here’s a short three-minute video by Marketing Land on the things you can do with the Snap Publisher:

As for the content of your Snap Ad, selfie videos are a great option to start your ad, according to Liam Copeland, Director of Decision Science for Movement Strategy. Perhaps because they look like stories from friends and make the ad experience less disruptive to Snapchatters.

The trick is to film videos on iPhones using the front facing camera with the talent front and center – and with no branding until three to five seconds in, according to Copeland.

The more organic the ad feels and the later the branding appears, the more likely a user is to swipe up to view long-form content or web content, he said.

For more tips on creating great Snap Ads, check out Snapchat’s Help Center where they listed the specifications and offered advice for each ad type. Here are just some of the best practices listed there:

  • Use voiceover call to actions to encourage swipe up
  • Three to five seconds is the sweet spot for Snap Ad length to drive action
  • Provide an offer message, if available, by second two or three

The final step of Snap Ad creation is to fill up or upload your attachment – the website, app page, or video that you want Snapchatters to see when they swipe up.

4. Run campaign

Click Launch Campaign and your ad campaign is ready! <img src="http://s.w.org/images/core/emoji/2.3/72×72/1f680.png&quot; alt="

Why chatbots need a big push from deep learning


Most tech giants are investing heavily in both applications and research, hoping to stay ahead of the curve of what many believe to be an inevitable AI-led paradigm shift. At the forefront of this resurgence are the fields of conversational interactions (personal assistants or chatbots) and computer vision and autonomous navigation, which – thanks to advances in hardware, data availability, and revolutionary machine learning techniques – have enjoyed tremendous progress within the span of just a few years. AI advances are turning problems previously thought to lie beyond the realm of what machines could tackle into commodities that are percolating into our everyday life.

Tailing the remarkable growth in popularity enjoyed by AI, a new generation of chatbots has recently flooded the market, and with them the promise of a world where many of our online interactions won’t happen on a website or in an app, but in a conversation. Helping turn this promise into reality is a combination of better user interfaces, the omnipresence of smartphones, and new, state of the art machine learning techniques.

Perhaps one of the main drivers behind this wave of novel AI applications is deep learning, an area of machine learning that, despite existing for roughly 50 years, has recently revolutionized fields such as computer vision and natural language processing (NLP). Nonetheless, despite its incredible performance, deep learning alone is not sufficient to solve the challenges faced by chatbots. Understanding context, disambiguating between subtle differences in language that can lead to wildly different meanings, employing logical reasoning, and most crucially, understanding the preferences and intent of the consumer, are just a few of the many challenging tasks a system must be able to perform in order to sustain conversation with a human.

The ability to answer complex questions using not only context, but also information beyond the confinements of the dialog, is indispensable for building truly powerful chatbots. To answer questions effectively, the bot needs to rely on information that was shared previously in the conversation, or even within other conversations between the bot and the consumer. Moreover, business goals and the intent of the consumer can influence the kind of response the bot will give.

If a modern conversation engine hopes to go beyond answering simple, one-level questions, it must blend the most prominent techniques emerging from the field of deep learning with solid statistics, linguistics, other machine learning techniques, and more structured classical techniques, such as semantic parsing and program induction.

The first stop in building an intelligent conversational system is data. In particular, deep learning is notorious for needing vast amounts of high quality data before it can unleash its true potential. But while we live in an era where endless streams of data are constantly being generated, most of it is too raw to be of immediate use for machine learning algorithms.

Unsupervised Learning, the subfield of machine learning devoted to extracting information from raw data, unassisted by humans, is likely a promising alternative. Among its many uses, it can be utilized to build an embedding model. In plain English, these techniques allow data to be represented in a less complex form, allowing patterns to be discovered more easily.

While unsupervised learning is already ubiquitous in machine learning, deep learning offers additional innovative ways to build – such embedding models – providing state of the art performance. Optimization of these techniques can alleviate the need for a lot of high quality and expensive labeled data, which is essential in getting artificially intelligent chatbots to perform well.

However, the standard approach in deep learning involves collecting a large, highly specific dataset, which is subsequently used to train a network with a mostly static architecture. Once trained, the network maps directly from input to a fixed set of outputs that are known in advance. Despite being the foundation of remarkably powerful systems, this approach isn’t flexible enough to handle the kind of information needed to carry a realistic conversation. This brings us to the next big obstacle in the way of truly human-like chatbots: the ability to maintain and reason with an internal model of the world.

We humans are constantly (and usually subconsciously) checking every new piece of information we receive from our surroundings against an internal model of the world – a model of what is normal and what is not, of how entities are related, how we can make logical inferences involving said entities, and so on. If, when driving, we see a ball rolling down the street, we immediately know we should slow down and remain in state of alert, looking out for the possibility that a distracted child will soon pop out of nowhere while chasing their ball. This kind of intuition is built on top of an understanding of howentities relate to each other, combined with the ability to make logical connections along a knowledge graph and come up with a conclusion that requires multiple reasoning steps.

This level of automatic and extremely broad reasoning still eludes AI researchers and is perhaps one of the last frontiers in the way of truly intelligent and autonomous AI agents, conversational bots included. To accomplish this goal, the ability to reason is central.

Finally, the ability to put it all together is yet another frontier waiting for a solution. Unlike a search engine where the user is content with being presented a list of matches ordered by relevance, a conversation engine must be more specific. Simply using NLP to identify a set of relevant information is insufficient. It should be able to parse the input, break it down, and present a response to the user that is not only clear and concise, but highly relevant to their taste – rinse and repeat.

We are still in the early stages of the AI-powered conversational revolution, and it is fair to assume some problems that seem insurmountable today will likely be solved in the coming years. We are quickly moving toward a world in which you will be able to have long and complex interactions with your AI assistants, which will not only understand what you want to say but will know your preferences and tailor your experience accordingly.

To do so, we must merge multiple disciplines, including deep learning, statistics, and others, building technology that blends consumer preferences, environment, and language into one piece of intelligent, flexible software.

Mazdak Rezvani is the founder and CEO of Chatkit, an artificial intelligence conversational marketing platform thatenables brands to manage and automate conversations with their customers on messaging channels such as Facebook Messenger.