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How To Create a Google Sheets Drop-down Menu

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How To Create a Google Sheets Drop-down Menu

A lot of the data you enter into your Google Sheets tables may be repetitive, like tracking whether an influencer you’ve reached out to for a partnership has agreed to working with you or not.

It can get tedious to go in and type each yes or no as time goes on, which is where a critical tool, the drop-down list, becomes your best friend.

In this post, we’ll go over how to add a drop-down list to your own Google Sheets data set to help save time.

How to Add a Drop-down List in Google Sheets

As mentioned above, a drop-down list can help you easily change elements of a cell when the content is repetitive.

The example data set for this walkthrough (as shown in the image below) is tracking the progress of marketing campaigns on different channels and the stage they’re in; not yet started, in progress, or completed. I want to create a drop-down menu so I can easily go in and change the status of the campaign as time goes on.

table in google sheets with a drop-down menu

Before going through the steps, it might be helpful to see what a drop-down menu looks like so you can contextually understand each instruction. The gif below shows a final drop-down menu and how it applies to the sample data set.

completed drop down menu

Let’s go over how to add a drop-down list to your Sheet.

1. In the toolbar header, click Data.

2. In the drop-down menu, as shown in the image below, select Data validation.

google sheets drop-down menu step 1: select data in the header toolbar

3. In the Data validation dialog box, enter the range of cells you want to have a drop-down menu in Cell range. For this example, I’m entering B2:B10 for cells 2-10 in column B.

google sheets drop-down menu step 3: add your cell range

4. The next step is to enter the data range that you want to be included in the drop-down menu. Select List of items, and add in your menu values. For this example, this is where I would input Not yet started, In progress, and Complete.

Once you’ve entered your values, click save.

google sheets drop-down menu step 4: enter your list item criteria

5. Each of your cells should now have a clickable down arrow, as shown in the image below.

google sheets drop-down menu arrows

For the example table, I can click on each down arrow and change the status of my campaigns as time goes on.

step 6-1

How to Edit a Drop-down List in Google Sheets

If you need to make changes to your drop-down menu, the process is rather simple.

1. In the toolbar header, click Data and then Data validation.

2. In the Data validation dialogue box, simply input the changes you want to make. For example,

  • If you want to change the items in your drop-down menu, navigate to Criteria, and make your desired changes.
  • If you want to change the column the drop-down menu is in, change the cell numbers in Cell range.
  • If you want to delete your drop-down menu altogether, select the column the menu is currently in and click Remove validation.

Always click save after making all changes.

Color Code a Drop-down List in Google Sheets

Color coding is helpful when it comes to interpreting results at a glance. You can do this with your drop-down list by creating conditional formatting rules, and below we’ll explain how.

1. Select the cells your drop-down menu is in and click Format.

2. Select Conditional formatting from the dialogue box, as shown in the image below.

color code google sheets drop down menu step 2: click format in header toolbar

3. In the Conditional formatting rules sidebar on the right-hand side of your screen, navigate to the Format rules section.

color code google sheets drop down menu step 3: select format rules

4. In the Format cells if menu, select Text contains…

color code google sheets drop down menu step 4: select text contains

5. Enter the first element in your drop-down list that you want color-coded. In the image below, I’ve entered Completed as my value and set the color to Green.

1646346163 683 How To Create a Google Sheets Drop down Menu

6. To set a color for each of your list items, select + Add another rule and repeat step 5 for each value. For my chart, I’ve set In progress to Blue, and Not started to gray.

color coded google sheets drop-down menu

7. After you set each of your rules, changing the drop-down menu item to a different value will automatically change it to the correct color. For example, if I change Not yet started to In progress, it turns from gray to blue.

step 19

Once you’ve created your drop-down menu and color-coded it for easy interpretation, you can continue to track the progress of your different marketing activities and save time while doing so.

business google sheets templates


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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

Did you follow the Apple iPad Pro content debacle?

Here’s a quick recap. A recent online ad for the new iPad Pro showed a large hydraulic press slowly crushing various symbols of creativity. A metronome, a piano, a record player, a video game, paints, books, and other creative tools splinter and smash as the Sonny and Cher song All I Ever Need Is You plays.

The ad’s title? “Crush!”

The point of the commercial — I think — is to show that Apple managed to smush (that’s the technical term) all this heretofore analog creativity into its new, very thin iPad Pro.  

To say the ad received bad reviews is underselling the response. Judgment was swift and unrelenting. The creative world freaked out.

On X, actor Hugh Grant shared Tim Cook’s post featuring the ad and added this comment: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

When fellow actor Justine Bateman shared the Tim Cook post, she simply wrote, “Truly, what is wrong with you?” Other critiques ranged from tone-challenged to wasteful to many worse things.

Actor Justine Bateman shared Tim Cook’s post on X, which featured the ad, and added this comment: "Truly, what is wrong with you?".

A couple of days later, Apple apologized and canceled plans to air the ad on television.

How not-so-great content ideas come to life

The level of anger surprises me. Look, the ad does show the eyeballs on an emoji-faced squishy ball popping under the plates’ pressure, but still. Calling the ad “actually psychotic” might be a skosh over the top.

Yes, the ad missed the mark. And the company’s subsequent decision to apologize makes sense.

But anyone who’s participated in creating a content misfire knows this truth: Mistakes look much more obvious in hindsight.

On paper, I bet this concept sounded great. The brainstorming meeting probably started with something like this: “We want to show how the iPad Pro metaphorically contains this huge mass of creative tools in a thin and cool package.”

Maybe someone suggested representing that exact thing with CGI (maybe a colorful tornado rising from the screen). Then someone else suggested showing the actual physical objects getting condensed would be more powerful.

Here’s my imagined version of the conversation that might have happened after someone pointed out the popular internet meme of things getting crushed in a hydraulic press.

“People love that!”

“If we add buckets of paint, it will be super colorful and cool.”

“It’ll be a cooler version of that LG ad that ran in 2008.”

“Exactly!”

“It’ll be just like that ad where a bus driver kidnaps and subsequently crushes all the cute little Pokémon characters in a bus!” (Believe it or not, that was actually a thing.)

The resulting commercial suffers from the perfect creative storm: A not-great (copycat) idea at the absolutely wrong time.

None of us know what constraints Apple’s creative team worked under. How much time did they have to come up with a concept? Did they have time to test it with audiences? Maybe crushing physical objects fit into the budget better than CGI. All these factors affect the creative process and options (even at a giant company like Apple).

That’s not an excuse — it’s just reality.

Content failure or content mistake?

Many ad campaigns provoke a “What the hell were they thinking?” response (think Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or those cringy brand tributes that follow celebrity deaths).

Does that mean they’re failures? Or are they mistakes? And what’s the difference?

As I wrote after Peloton’s holiday ad debacle (remember that?), people learn to fear mistakes early on. Most of us hear cautionary messages almost from day one.

Some are necessary and helpful (“Don’t stick a knife in a live toaster” or “Look both ways before you cross the street.”) Some aren’t (“Make that essay perfect” or “Don’t miss that goal.”)

As a result, many people grow up afraid to take risks — and that hampers creativity. The problem arises from conflating failure and mistakes. It helps to know the difference.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to become a rock ‘n’ roll musician. I failed. But it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t wrong to try. My attempt just didn’t work.

Labeling a failed attempt a “mistake” feeds the fears that keep people from attempting anything creative.

The conflation of failure and mistakes happens all too often in creative marketing. Sure, people create content pieces (and let’s not forget that there are always people behind those ideas) that genuinely count as mistakes.

They also create content that simply fails.

Don’t let extreme reactions make you fear failures

Here’s the thing about failed content. You can do all the work to research your audience and take the time to develop and polish your ideas — and the content still might fail. The story, the platform, or the format might not resonate, or the audience simply might not care for it. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.

Was the Apple ad a mistake? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Was it a failure? The vitriolic response indicates yes.

Still, the commercial generated an impressive amount of awareness (53 million views of the Tim Cook post on X, per Variety.) And, despite the apology, the company hasn’t taken the ad down from its YouTube page where it’s earned more than 1 million views.

The fictional Captain Jean Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” The Apple ad turns that statement on its head — Apple made many mistakes and still won a tremendous amount of attention.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t criticize creative work. Constructive critiques help us learn from our own and others’ failures. You can even have a good laugh about content fails.

Just acknowledge, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Not every mistake is a foolish one.” 

Creative teams take risks. They try things outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they fail (sometimes spectacularly).

But don’t let others’ expressions of anger over failures inhibit your willingness to try creative things.

Wouldn’t you love to get the whole world talking about the content you create? To get there, you have to risk that level of failure.

And taking that risk isn’t a mistake.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 



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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

Writing a book is a gargantuan task, and reaching the finish line is a feat equal to summiting a mountain.

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