Google Sheets is one of the best tools you can use to store data, track performance metrics, and create dashboards and reports.
But while it’s a wondrous tool with countless features and functionalities, it can be hard to grasp for beginners — especially if you need to create a marketing report or dashboard, fast.
Not to worry. If you’re looking to get started with Google Sheets, you’re in the right place. In this guide, we’ll be looking at the benefits of Google Sheets and walking you through some of the basics so you can get up to speed quickly and efficiently.
What is Google Sheets used for?
Google Sheets is an online spreadsheet software that allows you to organize large amounts of data, create custom reports, automate calculations, and collaborate with others. It’s part of the Google Workspace suite of products.
Benefits of Google Sheets for Marketing
Saying that marketers are data-centric people is an understatement. Between return on investment, cost per acquisition, and more, they’re always looking at different metrics and reporting on progress.
It can be tricky to keep all of those numbers straight, though. That’s where spreadsheets come in handy. With a well-organized spreadsheet, marketers can quickly analyze robust data sets and make smarter, more informed decisions about their efforts.
Originally introduced by Microsoft in 1987, Excel was the go-to tool for years for building spreadsheets. But when collaborative, cloud-based tool Google Sheets was introduced in 2012, many users made the switch over to this new (free!) resource.
Let’s talk about the benefits of using Google Sheets for marketing purposes before we discuss more traditional options (like a standard Excel spreadsheet).
- It’s cloud-based. Cloud-based spreadsheets are automatically saved, stored, and maintained via a remote server. That means that you can access it online from anywhere, any time. Plus: Google Sheets is also available offline.
- It’s free. No expensive software required — Google Sheets is always 100% free.
- It works across devices. Modern marketers switch between devices throughout the day — and Google Sheets accommodates that behavior. You can access and edit Google Sheet data from a wide variety of devices (like your smartphone, tablet, and computer).
- Add-ons are available. We’ll get into the specifics of add-ons for Google Sheets a bit later, but the increased functionality and flexibility of these additional features makes this spreadsheet tool even more versatile and powerful.
You might be wondering: What’s the difference between Google Sheets and Excel? The short answer is: price, collaboration, and flexibility.
While Excel requires a software subscription (which costs about $130), Google Sheets is free for all Google account holders. In terms of collaboration, Excel requires you to save and send a new version when edits are made, while Google Sheets automatically updates a single shared file for all team members. And lastly, because Google Sheets has the ability to accommodate many different integrations, it’s often more flexible than a standalone software solution like Excel.
Common Google Sheets Terms to Know
Next, let’s get familiar with some of the language and common terms used when referencing data within Google Sheets.
- Column: Columns are vertical cell sets.
- Row: Rows are horizontal cell sets.
- Cell: Cells are the single data points within a Google Sheet.
- Range: Range refers to a selection of cells across a column, row, or both.
- Function: Function refers to built-in operations for the Google Sheet that can be used to quickly calculate values, to manipulate data, and more.
- Formula: Formulas combine functions, rows, cells, columns, and ranges to generate a particular end result.
How to Use Google Sheets
Now we’re ready to dive into the more advanced how-to’s and lessons on using Google Sheets.
Understanding the Google Sheets Toolbar
One of the very first things to do is master the icons located in the Google Sheets toolbar. Doing so will help ensure you’re getting the most out of its abilities and that you’re saving time with shortcuts. Take a look at the screenshot below to identify some of the basic icons and their purposes within the toolbar.
How to Create a New Spreadsheet
When you’re ready to create a new spreadsheet, you’ll just need to follow a few quick steps to get started. Open Google Sheets and click “File” > “New” > “Spreadsheet”.
Once you create your new spreadsheet, you can start adding data. If you want to work with an existing spreadsheet from Excel instead, you’ll need to import that data into your new Google Sheet.
From there, your file will be uploaded and automatically converted into a Google Sheet.
Sharing and Protecting Your Data
Once your Google Sheet is set up and populated, you’ll want to think about how to share and protect your data. Data is automatically saved, so you don’t need to worry about that part. You can select who you share your file with and whether they have edit, comment, or view permissions. You can also protect specific data within your sheet so that those who have access can only edit certain cells.
To share a file:
- Go to “File” > “Share” (or just click the blue Share button in the top right corner)
- Enter the email address of who you’ll be sharing the spreadsheet with
- Assign permission levels (such as “View only” or “Can edit”)
- Click “Advanced” and select any additional privacy conditions needed
To protect data:
- Navigate to “Data” > “Protected Sheets and Ranges”
- Choose “Range” or “Sheet” (to protect an entire sheet)
- Select the data you’d like to protect
- Click “Set Permissions”
- Choose to show an error warning to anyone who attempts to edit or customize editing permissions for certain people.
Organizing Data in Google Sheets
Google Sheets is a powerful tool that can hold a ton of data. That means the more data you have, the harder it becomes to find it — that’s when filtering comes in handy. Google Sheets has several filters that allow you to select the data you want to see and hide what you don’t.
How to Hide Data
Google allows you to hide entire rows or columns. This becomes useful when you want to restrict views for sharing, or when you’d like to control the amount of data you’re viewing at any given time. To hide a column, right-click the column you want to hide, then select “Hide Column”. When you hide a column, two arrows will appear on the previous and subsequent columns. Click these to restore the column to full view.=
How do I unhide columns in Google Sheets?
To unhide a column in Google Sheets, simply look for the arrow icons that appear in the column’s header bar. When you hover over one of the arrows, a white box framing the arrow will appear. Click either arrow to reveal the column.
How to Freeze Rows and Columns
Freezing will create a floating row or column as you scroll and keeps the data in those fields within your line of sight. For example, if you use the first row to label your columns, you can freeze that row so you don’t have to remember what each column is as you scroll.
To freeze a row, select “View” > “Freeze” > “1 row” (or up to X rows).
How to Filter Data
What if you’d like to view all of the data in a single column that fits a certain criteria? Apply a filter. Filters allow you to select a criteria and how that criteria applies to your data. For example, you can filter your ‘Site Visits’ column to show all values greater than 1000, or filter your sheet for all cells that have the word “cat”.
To set up a filter, select “Data” > “Create a Filter.” Click the funnel icon that appears in the column, then choose to filter by condition, value, or alpha or numeric order. Your sheet will only display data that satisfies your criteria.
Learn about other filtering options below.
How to Setup and Use Google Sheets Offline
If you need to use Google Sheets offline, just follow the steps outlined here to turn on offline access to your spreadsheets.
Keep in mind:
- You must be connected to the internet.
- You’ll need to use the Google Chrome browser (don’t use incognito mode)
- You’ll need to install and enable the Google Docs Offline Chrome extension.
- Make sure you have enough free space on your device to save all your files.
- Open Chrome and make sure you’re signed in.
- Go to drive.google.com/drive/settings.
- Check the box next to “Sync Google Docs, Sheets, Slides & Drawings files to this computer so that you can edit offline.”
- To work on files offline from a computer, learn how to install Backup and Sync.
Advanced Google Sheets Tips
Now that you understand the basics of Google Sheets, let’s get into some advanced tips so you can start using Sheets like a pro. These tips are helpful to have in your back pocket … even if you don’t need them just yet.
Conditional Formatting and Heatmaps
Conditional formatting will automatically apply formatting to a cell based on a preset condition. For example, you can select to highlight a cell in red if the value entered is below 100 or reads “Error”.
Heatmaps work similarly in that they apply a color scale to cells based on a median criteria (values greater than the median will appear darker while values lesser will appear lighter). This helps you view values on a gradient and identifies areas of concern on which to focus your attention.
Array formulas can perform multiple calculations at once and output a value based on those calculations. Whereas most formulas require you to perform each step independently (e.g. sum one row then add it to the sum of the subsequent row), arrays make calculations much more efficient. This helps when working with large amounts of data.
The Macros feature records a series of steps that you’d like Google Sheets to repeat on command. For instance, if you work with a new data set each month, and need to manipulate that data in the same sequence each time, then you can record a Macro, and have Google do the work for you.
10 Must-Know Google Sheets Formulas
When you’ve entered your data and you need to do some quick number-crunching, basic formulas can help you find the answers you need. Here are a few commonly used Google Sheets formulas to speed up your data analysis.
This formula adds all values within a selected range.
This formula calculates the average of values within a range.
This formula returns a filtered version of the source range, returning only rows or columns which meet the specified conditions. This is helpful when segmenting data by year or month.
FILTER(range, condition1, [condition2])
This formula returns the position at which a string is first found within the text. The Find formula is case sensitive.
FIND(search_for, text_to_search, [starting_at])
This formula returns a conditional count across a range.
This formula allows you to combine values of multiple cells into one cell, e.g., first and last name.
=CONCATENATE(Value1, “ ”,Value2)
This stands for vertical lookup. This formula searches down the first column of a range for a key and returns the value of a specific cell in the row found.
=VLOOKUP(search_key, range, index, [is_sorted]).
Learn how to do a VLOOKUP in less than a minute.
This formula divides text around a specified character or string, and puts each fragment into a separate cell in the row. Use this when you want to break up first names from last names in a list of customers or prospects.
=SPLIT(text, delimiter, [split_by_each])
This formula replaces existing text with new text in a string. For example: You could replace a product name with a new one in a sheet of ad copy.
=SUBSTITUTE(text_to_search, search_for, replace_with, [occurrence_number])
This formula edits text within a cell to title case so you don’t have to format each entry manually.
For more formulas you can use in Google Sheets, use the search tool on the spreadsheet functions list and find the one you need.
Google Sheets Functions & Skills You Should Know
How to Create a Pivot Table
- Select the cells with source data you want to use in your pivot table. Note: Each column will need a header.
- In the menu at the top, click “Data” > “Pivot table.” Click the pivot table sheet (if it’s not already open).
- In the side panel, next to “Rows” or “Columns,” click “Add” and then choose a value. Note: Sometimes you will see recommended pivot tables based on the data you’ve selected. To add a pivot table, under “Suggested,” select a pivot table.
- In the side panel, next to “Values,” click “Add”, then choose the value you want to see over your rows or columns. You can change how your data is listed, sorted, summarized, or filtered.
- Next to what you want to change, click the down arrow.
How to Remove Duplicates
- Select the cell in which you’d like to remove the duplicated info.
- Enter the function =UNIQUE(
- Select the cells you would like to pull data from
- Close the parentheses. Your function should look something like this: =UNIQUE(A:A)
How to Create a Drop-Down List
- Next to “Criteria,” choose an option:
- Click “Data” > “Data validation”.
- Select the cell or cells in which you want to create a drop-down list. List from a range: Choose the cells that will be included in the list.
- List of items: Enter items, separated by commas and no spaces.
- The cells will have a down arrow. To remove the arrow, uncheck “Display in-cell button to show list”.
- If you enter data in a cell that doesn’t match an item on the list, you’ll see a warning. If you want people to only enter items from the list, choose “Reject input” next to “On invalid data”.
- Click “Save”. The cells will show a drop-down list. To change the color of a cell based on the option, use conditional formatting (refer to section above).
How to Make a Graph
- Select the cells you want to include in your chart. To label your chart, add a header row or column.
- Click “Insert” > “Chart”.
- In the side panel, click “Data” > under “Chart type,” choose a chart.
- To edit your chart, click “Customize.”
How to Merge Cells
- Highlight or select a range of cells.
- Right-click on the highlighted cells and select “Format Cells”.
- Click the “Merge” button in the toolbar, then select the merge option you need.
How to Download Google Sheets
If you want to use Excel or another tool for analyzing data sets with your file, you can easily export the file. Go to “File” > “Download as”. Then decide which format you need.
If you need more help getting started, the quickest way to get a crash course in using Google Sheets is to access the free Google Sheets Cheat Sheet, which outlines the basics on:
- Customizing spreadsheet data
- Working with rows, columns, and cells
- Sharing/collaborating within your spreadsheet
- Saving and protecting your information
- Utilizing key functions
You can also access the Tips Library for more advice on using Google Sheets.
Where to Find the Best Google Sheets Templates
Building new spreadsheets from scratch can be extremely time-consuming, so don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to. Instead, look for pre-existing Google Sheets templates that you can customize and use for your own efforts. Let’s look at a few different places where you can find ready-to-use templates for your marketing efforts.
HubSpot’s library of Google Sheets templates is a gold mine of resources for the professional who needs to set up a spreadsheet quickly. In this library, you’ll find a template for any type of document you might need, including a business budget, competitive analysis, expense report, marketing dashboard, and more. You only have to plug in the numbers and personalize the fields. This option is a great fit if you’re looking for an individual template.
Otherwise, you might enjoy downloading HubSpot’s free template kits. The below bundles contain Google Sheets templates designed to supercharge a high-functioning marketing team.
- Free Google Sheets Template Bundle: Don’t want to look through an entire library and download templates one-by-one? Download this starter kit to jumpstart your spreadsheet creation process.
- Free Marketing Budget Templates: These customizable marketing budget templates are ideal for tracking your spending on product marketing, content, paid advertising, and more.
- Free Editorial Calendar Templates: You don’t need expensive software to start planning your publication calendar. Use these templates to get started. They also sync with Google Calendar so that no post goes unpublished or accidentally passed over.
- Email Marketing Planning Template: This email marketing planning template helps you conceptualize, refine, and schedule your campaigns to increase ROI and optimize your results.
This free Google Sheets add-on gives you access to dozens of different templates right within Google Sheets. There’s no need to download an external document or make a copy from a publisher you might not trust. In this tool, you can access templates for project management, timekeeping, and budgeting. The only downside is that it’s hard to look at the previews of the templates, because the thumbnails are quite small.
Template.net has a vast library of Google Sheets templates that you can easily preview and customize for your needs. While the library is not as marketing-specific, it still offers plenty for marketers to track their campaigns’ ROI, such as this social media marketing budget template. We recommend spending some time digging through this resource to find a template that works for you.
Out of all the resources in this list, this one is the most unique. Why? Because these aren’t plain old templates where you can plug in the numbers and go. Blockspring’s templates are connected with third-party services to pull data into your spreadsheet. Instead of you having to manually link your spreadsheet to these third-party services, Blockspring’s templates do it for you.
For example, the template titled “Get content ideas on a topic using ‘Skyscraper’ analysis” uses data from Moz and Bing to get you a list of content ideas right on the spreadsheet — without you having to actually use either Moz or Bing. You only have to place the topic into the appropriate field, and the spreadsheet will populate on its own.
The only downside to using Blockspring’s templates is that you have to take a few extra steps for them to work. You have to download the Blockspring add-on onto Google Sheets, and then follow a few simple instructions to get the template up and running.
Haven’t found the Google Sheets templates that work best for you? Check out a few roundups we recommend:
The Best Google Sheets Add-Ons
To boost your efficiency in Google Sheets, consider using add-ons. Here are a few suggestions:
Pull your paid search and social advertising data into one spreadsheet, and turn them into beautiful reporting dashboards you’ll be proud to show your team managers and directors. This is a paid tool that starts at $29/month.
Google Apps Scripts offers a way to extend the functionality of your Google Sheets workspace beyond the basics. The cloud-scripting language allows you to create, edit, and read your Google Sheet through an integration with other Google apps. Recommended for advanced users and developers. Check out the documentation here.
Share data between Excel, local databases, Salesforce, and Google Sheets, without importing or exporting any files. That means that if you’re using Excel and want to automatically sync the data with Google Sheets, you can do so without needing to re-upload the document into Sheets.
Do statistical analysis with functions. Because Analysis ToolPak was originally a Microsoft Excel add-on, this is a great tool for you if you’re getting into Google Sheets after being an Excel user.
Streamline routine operations, such as clearing out duplicates and searching for specific values. You can also compare sheets, which is highly useful if you’re working off of two similar spreadsheets. This is a paid tool that starts at $29.95/year.
Create a business reporting system for SEM, SEO, web analytics, and social media. Not only does SuperMetrics turn a large amount of data into a more digestible format, but it also carries out automatic refreshes — so there’s no need to manually pull in the data every time you want to see a summary of your performance.
Create targeted email lists and qualify leads quickly. This add-on is a great option if you’re already familiar with a tool such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator. It fulfills a similar role, only the data lives on your own private spreadsheet, so there’s no need to sign in to LinkedIn every time you want to see prospect data.
Google Sheets is a Must-Have for Every Team
This quick guide to Google Sheets should help you get a running start as you leverage it for your marketing efforts. From more efficient tracking of different metrics to better planning around your content to easier collaboration with your team, this tool can help you make smarter, more data-backed choices that drive meaningful results for your brand.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Chatbot Improving Customer Experience in Online Business
Globally, more people are using smartphones now. The use of text-based chatbots is the most significant trend that has been noticed. Although we think of the chatbots for current smartphones as rudimentary, it is anticipated that the automated discussions on which the chatbots are based will become more valuable. The chatbots offer customers recommendations.
Here’s the explanation for those who are yet to have a better understanding of the term.
What is a Chatbot?
Artificially intelligent chatbots that automate customer interactions are likely the most promising technology in the digital era. Businesses like Facebook are spending much money creating and promoting their Facebook Messenger platform and adding a Developer SDK and Messenger API. You can create your chatbot if you know some programming and technical jargon.
A Chatbot is a computer application that uses a messaging platform or app to communicate digitally with consumers. Enterprise chatbots often use big data and artificial intelligence to learn more intelligently about people with each contact. To achieve this, they employ a system of neural networks, which technologically mimic the enormous connections in the human brain.
As artificial intelligence technology advances, AI-based chatbots will gradually be adopted into all human-computer interactions across all industries.
Factors That Influenced The Need For ChatBots in Various Industry Segments
- It’s difficult to dispute the rising popularity of texting apps. The development of artificial intelligence technology has raised the bar for chatbots.
- AI increases the accuracy of machine parsing and understanding of requests by up to 90% when used in conjunction with natural language processing.
- Sophisticated notifications that are always on across devices and take into account the situation’s context are another essential element.
- The personalization of virtual communication and the capacities of predictive aid were enhanced by the accelerated development of all types of sensors and wearables, as well as analytics and data science.
- The chatbot’s functionality is expanded further by the payment integration to other parties via APIs.
A new challenge for businesses and ability offers, chatbot app development, has every opportunity of becoming one of the hottest trends.
Chatbots Are New Way To Interact With Customers
An AI-based chatbot is one of the newest innovations fostering the expansion of companies with an online presence. Forbes claims that more than 80% of retailers worldwide intend to use online chatbots in marketing in some capacity by 2020. Additionally, it is anticipated that by 2025, the chatbot market will be worth $1.25 billion.
Many companies are working to develop chatbots to assist organisations aiming for automation. Businesses’ marketing and consumer interaction strategies must include chatbots. They support companies by:
- Facilitating automated user interaction
- Offer 24/7 customer assistance
- It produces leads
- Save time and effort for people
- Speed up customer response
Chatbots Supporting Key Industrial Verticals
Chatbots assist with everyday conversations, e-commerce, trip arrangements, and more. Today, marketers are employing chatbots more and more extensively to boost e-commerce, particularly concerning younger clients.
The technopreneurs are adamant that chatbots have the potential to raise user shopping cart contents and attract transactions. In addition, chatbots offer more significant potential for consumer involvement and customization while reducing the activities of a customer support representative and sales associate. For instance, the conversational commerce paradigm has been revolutionized by Amazon’s chatbot named “Echo,” which enables users to ask the bot anything they want.
- You may order a taxi using Uber, another well-known chatbot for messaging apps.
- For ordering food for delivery home, consider Taco Bell and Domino
- Users who utilize HelloVote can register to vote.
- Users may search for and book flights with Icelandair.
Why Should Your Business Consider Implementing ChatBots?
Businesses use many resources in customer service and technical support. Chatbots can also aid in the improvement of this procedure. You will notice that most inbound requests are identical once you have examined them.
You can automate repetitive queries by building a chatbot for your company. Your consumer will value the direct communication from support service that avoids holding on the line and speaking to strangers.
- By 2023, 86% of customer retention will be handled automatically.
- ChatBots are the most often employed AI technology in businesses, according to 35% of executives from various sectors.
- In the next few years, intelligent agents will handle 45% of all mobile interactions.
Taking The Next Leap – Integrating Chatbots
You have probably never noticed one intriguing detail. Millions of various apps are available in in-app marketplaces. However, the research reveals that users spend roughly 24 hours each month using apps, with just five apps receiving 80% of their attention. Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, and WhatsApp are, without a doubt, among them. As a result, it is challenging to launch a new app for your company, but there are still good chances that you will be able to include your chatbot in a platform like Uber Clone App that is used frequently by your users.
From a practical standpoint, bots might provide more efficient and quick user contact. Uber is a good example. When the Uber app is opened, the user can call a taxi with a single button. With the Uber bot, the user can request a car without opening the app by sending a quick message to the Uber Chatbots over their preferred messaging app.
Hence, integrating Chatbots in a Taxi Booking App has the potential to become one of the most popular trends and a brand-new challenge for businesses and software providers.
Moving Forward With Chatbots – Final Thing
Chatbots will ensure better customer service delivery than conventional communication methods.
They are currently greeted with an equal amount of zeal and cynicism regarding their usefulness, but they will eventually gain knowledge and skill. Younger millennials also referred to as “Generation Z,” are expected to be the first to fully adopt bots because messaging apps are their preferred means of communication.
Get ready for bot talk since the time is running out and the bots are rising.
How To Build a Communication and Implementation Plan
You learn about a C-suite decision that will have a transformative impact on your content marketing team. Perhaps, the announcement included one or more of these directives:
- “We must produce more content and manage multi-platform distribution with greater agility. We plan to add ChatGPT to our editorial capabilities and implement a headless CMS.”
- “We’re updating our three-year business strategy and need all teams to align their operations around achieving a new set of goals.”
- “We’ve been acquired. We will be merging many of our business units and will need to relaunch our website so we can tell a more unified story.”
Or maybe it’s another substantive shift in strategy or operations. As a content team leader, whether excited or terrified, you must get your team on board and ensure the initiative succeeds.
Transformational changes are nearly impossible to implement without a clear plan that communicates the desired destination, the motivation to pursue it, and the path to reach it.
You can watch the conversation (beginning at 2:30-minute mark) or scroll down to read her recommendations to gather support, clear obstacles, and keep efforts moving in the right direction.
5 sabotages that disrupt transformational changes
Every organization has unique conditions and challenges, but Jenny points out five common barriers that prevent the successful adoption of new priorities and practices:
- Forced change. When workers don’t understand or agree with the change, they won’t invest in the process, especially if it requires a lot of effort or a long-term investment.
- Misaligned goals. You can’t sell a change that benefits the company if employees don’t see how it helps them reach their personal or professional goals.
- Group-speak. Your team may nod in agreement when the CEO says, “We’re all going to do this together, right?” But that enthusiasm might not hold when the boss’ eyes are no longer on them.
- Rushed process. Team members already overwhelmed with responsibilities don’t give new tasks top priority. Jenny says if you can’t take something off their plate, communicate they won’t be pressured to rush it through.
- Lack of team alignment. Everyone must be on the same page regarding the direction, intention, and actions required. Without this alignment, tasks fall through the cracks, and all the hard work may not lead to achieving the goal.
For your change mission to succeed, your communications plan should account for how you’ll address (or avoid) these obstacles. These details will minimize the friction, lack of participation, and flagging enthusiasm you could have experienced during implementation.
The marketer’s field manual to content operations
A hands-on primer for marketers to upgrade their content production process – by completing a self-audit and following our step-by-step best practices. Get the e-book.
Plan for the transformation journey
Jenny shares a three-part approach she uses to help her consultancy clients get big ideas off the drawing board, onto team members’ priority lists, and into the marketplace.
1. Establish the destination: What’s changing, why, and what’s involved
To get your team to join the journey of change, they need to know where they’re going. Create a change summary to help with that. The simple map summarizes the relevant details about the change, the phases of implementation, and the benefits gained when the goal is reached.
First, identify the most critical details to communicate. Answer these questions:
- What’s the nature of the change? What is being done differently, and what does that mean for the business and team? What isn’t changing that might be the stability anchor?
- Why is it happening? Why does the organization think this change is critical? Why is now the right time to do this?
- Who’s involved? Who will the change affect? What will they be expected to do? What about their roles, processes, and priorities? Why would they want to participate, and why might they be reluctant?
- When will it happen? Will the change occur all at once or gradually? What happens at each stage, and which ones will require the content marketing team’s involvement?
- What are the expected results? What is the organization looking to achieve? What benefits or advantages will it bring? What will the company and team see when the goal is reached?
With these answers, you can build a change summary to share in stakeholder and team member conversations. Any spreadsheet or presentation tool will do, though you can create a template based on the document Jenny uses for her client engagements (below).
The summary of what’s changing appears at the top of the page and details of the most critical elements appear below it. Bulleted notes detail what to expect with each element and the benefits for the business and your team. Lastly, a general timeline outlines each project phase.
2. Load up the crew: Gather support and communicate benefits
To achieve the change goal, all players must agree to travel together and move in the same direction. “If our team is not aligned on where the heck we’re going, there’s literally no chance we’re going to get there,” Jenny says.
Team members who immediately see the value in the initiative might follow your lead without question. But some key players may need a little more convincing. Jenny offers a few ideas to get them on board.
Enlist the support of an active, visible sponsor: Social media shows putting the right influencer behind your pitch can move minds. The same goes for pushing through a big change within an organization. Research from Prosci finds projects with an extremely effective sponsor met or exceeded objectives more than twice as often as those with a very ineffective sponsor.
If you have the support of senior team leaders and high-profile company personnel, ask for their help socializing the change to others. They might seed relevant information in their newsletters and other content they share internally or help shape your change activities and messaging to improve their appeal.
Translate organizational goals into personal motivations: Some team members may reluctantly participate because they perceive an impact on their role. For example, workers may think the added work will strain their already demanding schedules. Others may be skeptical because of negative experiences with similar changes in the past or disbelief that the change might benefit them.
A series of stakeholder conversations can help identify the significant concerns and disconnects that might prevent them from engaging. They also can reveal specific challenges and motivations that you can address with more resonant and appealing messaging.
Some marketing tools you use to influence an audience can help you facilitate those conversations. For example, Jenny says, personas can surface critical insights about who may be impacted by the change and what it might take to nurture them onto the path.
Her personas checklist includes these questions:
- Who’s leading the change? Do any key sponsors directly relate to the persona’s role?
- Will this persona be impacted more or less than others?
- Will they need information more frequently or in greater detail?
- What reactions will they have?
- How will you approach training for this persona? What support will be provided?
- At what phase of the change will they be most affected?
Jenny also recommends using your marketing communication and engagement tools. For example, the simple tracking sheet she developed (below) can help visualize the audience, delivery formats and channels, optimal messages, and approval and final sign-off requirements to mention in your stakeholder discussions.
Choose the right messenger – and a customized message: Sometimes, a disconnect occurs not because of the message but because of the message’s deliverer. For example, employees expect to hear about significant corporate initiatives from executives and senior leaders. But for changes impacting their day-to-day responsibilities, they may prefer to hear from a manager or supervisor who understands their role.
Other times, preventing a disconnect could require tailoring the message to the team’s needs. Jenny suggests focusing on the direct benefits once the initiative is activated. “Consider how it might help them further their career, address something they’re struggling with, or offer an opportunity to explore an area they’re passionate about,” Jenny says.
Surface hidden issues with confidential interviews: Valid concerns can remain hidden, especially for team members who are reluctant to voice their objections in team meetings. Working one-on-one with a neutral or external moderator – someone with no stake in the decision for change – might help them open up.
Ensure they know the confidential interview results will be aggregated so no individual responses will be identified. “It’s really helpful to get that confessional energy,” Jenny says. “It can help you surface individual reservations, causes of their reluctance, and personal motivations. “
Jenny shares in her checklist (below) some preliminary questions for a moderator to assess during a confidential interview:
- How does the individual feel about the change?
- Is it the right change?
- Is it the right time?
- Is it supported enough to succeed?
- What risks do they predict?
- Do they have ideas about how we could reduce obstacles and challenges?
- What lessons from past change efforts can they share with us?
- Could they become a change champion?
The process can fuel opportunities to shift messaging, positioning, or delivery approach to help the outliers see how the change can benefit them and get them more excited about participating. Jenny says it can also reveal valid concerns that need to be solved so they don’t hinder progress.
3. Hit the road: Position and prepare your team for success
Big changes are always risky. They disrupt the status quo, and if they involve multiple teams and business functions, some changes may feel like a win for some at the expense of others.
Taking a few extra steps before executing your plans can keep those issues from diverting the goal or leaving any team members stranded along the way. “This is where we establish commitment and accountability and think about what could go wrong and how we’re going to deal with it,” Jenny says.
Own up to what you do and don’t know: Ultimately, you can’t plan for every contingency. “You’ll lose trust rapidly if you pretend you do,” Jenny says. She offers a few communication tips to set the right expectations from the start:
- Be clear and candid: Directly address what you do know, don’t know, and what is and isn’t possible with this change. Outline how you will communicate status updates and new information as they arise.
- Be receptive: Don’t take resistance personally. Listen to your team’s questions and respond to their feedback with an open mind.
- Be visible: Socialize progress across your team’s preferred communication channels, and make sure everyone knows how to reach you if they encounter a problem. You can regularly host town hall meetings, road-show presentations, or open forums to ensure everyone stays informed and has a chance to share their thoughts.
Position project requirements as opportunities and advantages: Jenny suggests exercising creative thinking to help concerned team members see the new responsibilities as a chance to benefit personally.
For example, if they need to learn additional skills to accomplish their tasks, provide in-house training or access to third-party educational tools. Position the opportunity as a chance to expand their capabilities to help them be more prepared for this change and to advance their careers in the long run.
You can also use the big change to rethink your org chart and rebalance team member responsibilities. “Every single person has work that they hate on their to-do list. I’ve found folks become more open if they’re offered an opportunity to do a task trade-off,” Jenny says.
Incentivize the journey – not just the destination: A lengthy and gradual implementation process should include incentives at regular intervals to motivate team members to stay the course.
Rewards can be specific and tangible, such as bonuses or loyalty program points. Or they can be intangible, such as shoutouts during monthly meetings or in internal newsletters. Arrange team happy hours or give comp time for extra hours worked. These appreciation efforts can make the added burden feel worthwhile.
Overcome obstacles in predictive planning: An element of science exists in the journey of change. You can’t reach your destination if the forces of resistance are stronger than the forces propelling you forward.
Jenny shares an innovation tool from a company called Gamestorming that can help quantify the balance of those forces at each phase. By working through this force-field analysis, you can take steps to ensure the winds of change will be in your favor.
An example of how it works is shown below. In the center, an illustration represents the change you want to implement – transitioning from hierarchical to more transparent hubs.
On one side, the forces of change – all the elements of the vision that characterize the importance of the change and how it works in your favor – are listed. In this example, those forces are:
- Improve long-term revenue
- Help meet market demand
- Satisfies customer expectations
- Addresses current unsustainable costs
- Give a competitive advantage in the marketplace
On the other side, the forces of resistance – conditions and constraints that may prevent realizing the vision – are listed. In the example, these forces include:
- Company culture
- Time constraints
- Viability of new tech
- Client adoption
- Current costs
Rank each element’s impact on the project’s success on a scale of one to five. Then add the rankings on each side and compare the scores to see whether you have a stronger chance of success than failure and identify where efforts should be made to overcome obstacles.
Plan the journey for a smoother arrival
Convincing your team to jump aboard the organizational-change train is rarely easy. But with a clear operational plan, aligned support, and open communication, you’ll help them see the benefits of participating and get them excited to reach their destination.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
Alternative Search Engines: Why They Matter and How to Rank on Them
The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
12 billion, 3 billion, 1 billion. That’s the number of searches made in some of the top alternative search engines monthly.
While Google still holds more than 80% of the market share, ignoring search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo can make you lose out on relevant traffic. So don’t limit yourself to Google’s algorithm as you plan the next year’s SEO strategy.
In order to grow in the digital economy, we have to diversify our efforts. What better way to do that than by making sure that you rank on all the top search engines relevant for your audience?
Generally, there’s two reasons why your audience would choose an alternative search engine over Google: geopolitical reasons and/or privacy concerns.
As such, I’ve categorized the search engines below by global market share and by data privacy.
Top alternative search engines by global market share
When analyzing the global desktop market share of search engines throughout the last decade, there are a few small but mighty search engines that stand out. These are:
These are the engines you want to give extra consideration if you intend to expand internationally. They all have their own unique search algorithms that are in many ways as complex and developed as Google’s.
Why they matter and how to rank on them
If you’re like me a few years ago, a die-hard Apple fan remarkably repulsed by Microsoft’s products (I’ve now converted to the seamless team of PC), you might think prioritizing resources to optimize content for Bing or other engines is a waste of time. What I failed to consider then, and what you might be overlooking, is geographic segmentation.
Do you want to reach the American audience using voice search? Consider Bing.
Are you expanding into China? Check out Baidu.
Each search engine matters because of its unique user types. Regardless of how small that market share might look on a global scale, if there’s regional search volume from your target audience, it’s worth the optimization.
Let’s go through them one by one.
Bing and Yahoo
Since 2018, Yahoo is exclusively powered by Bing Search. So as long as you rank in Bing, you’ll rank in Yahoo.
Bing Search, in combination with Yahoo, is without a doubt the strongest player after Google. Together, they have more than 10% of the global market share for desktop.
Now, some say that Bing’s market share will increase due to mergers and acquisitions, while others argue for its decline due to the death of Internet Explorer.
Still, all Microsoft browsers, such as Microsoft Edge Legacy and Chromium-based Microsoft Edge, have Bing as the default search engine, making Bing Search the natural choice for Microsoft product users. Yahoo, which is powered by Bing Search, is the default search engine for Mozilla’s browser Firefox, adding billions of impressions to Bing’s search results each year.
If we look at the United States alone, Microsoft sites own over 18% of the market share.
This is much due to their partnership with Amazon, where all voice-activated searches on Amazon Echo and Alexa are made with Bing Search.
Although the algorithms differ, optimizing for Bing search results is not much different than optimizing for Google. With a bit of fine tuning, it’s more than possible to come up with a strategy that allows for high rankings on both.
To rank on Bing, and thus Yahoo, make sure to do the following:
1. List your business on Bing Places
Bing Places is the equivalent of Google My Business and is the fastest way to get your business ranking for local seo. Many even consider Bing Places to favor small business owners as Bing puts their information more prominently on display.
2. Upload an XML Sitemap using Bing’s Webmaster Tools
While the debate on how much sitemaps really do matter for Google SEO continues, uploading one with Bing’s Webmaster Tool for XML Sitemaps allows the algorithm to better categorize and manage your content, making it more visible and relevant to the search audience.
3. Match keywords in your content
Check that the exact keyword match can be found in your page titles, meta descriptions and overall content. It’s known that the impact of on-page tactics as a ranking factor is much greater in Bing than Google.
4. Keep your social media profiles up to date
Go social! Bing considers your social media presence more than any other search engine. The Webmaster Guidelines specifically states that Bing considers social signals from third-party platforms to rank your content. Bing might even extract certain information directly from your Facebook company page to your Bing Places display.
5. Use high-quality images to enhance your content
Bing’s image search is much more advanced than Google’s. If you want your landing page to rank, add high-quality design assets to showcase your offerings. If you want your blog to rank, attach too-long-to-read infographics to highlight your points. Like the one above.
Second to Bing is Yandex, having a total of 1.5% of the market share in global desktop search.
While it looks a lot like Google, its algorithm is different in many ways. Most prominent is the way Yandex indexes pages. Unlike Google’s almost continuous indexation, Yandex indexes pages sporadically. That means that you might have to wait around for a while before your site shows up on Yandex.
Despite this, it is still possible to rank on Yandex. You just need to have a bit more patience.
While waiting for your site to be indexed, take a look at the following:
1. Focus on tags over internal site structure
According to The Ultimate Guide to Yandex SEO, your header tag, title tag and slug are way more important than your internal site structure. In fact, it was only recently that Yandex started to support hreflang tags. Before that, Yandex only allowed the <head> hreflang implementation.
2. Consider search intent to rank
Some argue that Yandex meets search intent better than Google. The modern ICS score, which replaced the Thematic Index Citation, is determined by how relevant a site is to the query. Yandex uses its own version of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T) test to determine relevance.
3. Eliminate toxic links
Many do not know this, but Yandex was actually the first search engine to roll out a link-based algorithm. Already in 2005, 7 years before Google’s Penguin algorithm, Yandex introduced the Nepot filter, which specifically looked at the impact of toxic link exchanges and spam links.
With over 3 billion searches daily, Baidu is the Google of China. If you want to do business in China, it’s the place to be.
While the site is available worldwide, the site predominantly favors simplified Chinese. So before taking any other steps, hire a native speaker to help you along the way. To win at global, you have to ditch translations.
Here’s a few steps to get your content ranking.
1. Localize your keywords and content appropriately
As with all multilingual SEO, you need to work with a native language expert to ensure proper keyword localization and content optimization. If your site experiences high bounce rates, Baidu will tank your rankings immediately. As with any search experience, localization matters.
2. Position relevant content and keywords to the top of the page
Baidu favors a completely opposite layout than the Westernized one. The sooner you get to the point the better. Therefore, it is important to position your keywords as early as possible in the text and introduce all relevant content already in the top of the page to rank.
3. Obtain a verification level and get certified
By registering and paying a small fee you can obtain a verification level to improve your domain authority and rankings on Baidu. If you want to secure top ratings, you can get certified and obtain an ICP license, which is much more difficult than getting verified.
Top alternative search engines by data privacy
While most of the search engines mentioned above are tied to big corporations or political forces, global initiatives are setting the stage for more privacy-focused search engines. Among these is DuckDuckGo, the forefront runner with over 130 billion searches processed since launch.
Why they matter and how to rank on them
In many ways, the movement is a response to Google’s invasiveness on privacy. Many are fed up with how they are capitalizing on personal data and controlling the narrative with targeted search.
From a micro perspective, documentaries such as The Great Hack shine a light on how global companies monetize on personal data. As a result, privacy-safe search engines continue to rise.
If you’re working for an innovative SaaS startup, there’s a high chance your ideal customer persona is using one of these search engines.
Let’s go through how you rank on DuckDuckGo and two alternative equivalents.
Screenshot of duckduckgo.com, November 2022
DuckDuckGo aims to make your search experience as simple and true to its cause as possible, i.e. no tracking for personalized search results and filter bubbles. Instead it uses semantic search to determine search intent for your queries from over 400 sources.
Consequently, this attracts tech-savvy experts with a lower bounce rate. Once they commit to a search, they stay.
Here’s how to optimize for it:
1. Sharpen Your User Experience
UX continues to make an impact on SEO, not to mention for DuckDuckGo. Make your content easily scannable and stay away from intrusive pop ups that harm your users’ experience and ease of navigation.
2. Focus on High-Quality Backlinks
As with any SEO, high-quality backlinks play a huge role for ranking. If you already have a solid backlink profile from your Google strategy, you should be good to go. If your backlink profile has a high level of toxicity, do some cleansing.
3. Rethink Local SEO
Since there’s no location tracking available for searches, location-specific searches such as “services near me” don’t work. If you like to rank for these types of searches, include a specific location in your keyword strategy. Otherwise, you won’t be able to optimize for local seo.
Startpage could be my personal favorite among the alternative search engines. It basically is Google without the tracking.
And while many consider DuckDuckGo to be the forefront runner of the privacy-focused search movement, many forget how Startpage ‘blazed the trail in 2006’. Offering a search experience without IP recording or tracking back when it was more or less unheard of. Now, it is the common denominator among all privacy-safe search engines.
So, how do you rank in Startpage? Simple. You rank in Google.
There are many more privacy-safe alternatives to search engines than the two mentioned above. Perhaps one without equal is SwissCows – a search engine that prides itself on being the only family-friendly, privacy-safe semantic search engine available on the web.
This means that any intrusive search results, like adult entertainment or offensive content, is naturally censored from the search results. At the same time, they never store any data nor track user specific information.
SwissCows SERPs bring up organic results and paid ads directly from Bing so in order to rank in SwissCows, you need to rank in Bing. Just make sure to omit any content that’s not PG-13.
What do they all have in common?
In the end, none of these alternative search engines can replace Google. As an SEO, I’ll never advise starting out with anything other than a Google strategy.
But when you are ready to branch out and extend your reach, give these alternatives a try. Analyze where your target audience hangs out and optimize thereafter.
Many of the privacy-focused search engines require little optimization as they pull their search results directly from other sources anyways. Simply do a quick check to see how you rank on each one.
And who knows, perhaps Microsoft will continue to steal more of the global search landscape. If that happens, you’ll be there — ranking in first position, ready to reap the rewards of your diversified efforts in an ever-changing search landscape.
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