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The Ultimate List of Free SEO Tools

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the ultimate list of free seo tools

Who says you have to spend money to get more traffic?

For today’s blog post, I thought it would be fun to break down all of the free SEO tools. Sure you may know of some, like Ubersuggest, but there are many more options than just my own tool.

Now before I dive into the tools, I’ve broken them down into the following categories:

  • Keyword Research
  • Content Marketing
  • Rank Tracking
  • Link Building
  • Technical SEO

So, are you ready to dive in? Let’s get started!

Keyword Research

All of the tools in this category will help you find more keywords. Many of them have different ways of coming up with keyword suggestions, so you may want to check them all out.

Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest has many different keyword research options. First of all, it shows you how many searches a keyword has had over the last 12 months so you can see if there is any seasonality.

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In addition to that, it pulls keywords from a few different sources such as Google Suggest and its own database, it shows you all of the keywords your competition ranks for, and it provides keyword suggestions based on questions, comparisons, and prepositions.

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My favorite feature of Ubersuggest’s keyword research capabilities is that it not only can you see how competitive a term is, but it also tells you how many links the average ranking website contains.

That way you know how many links you need to build to rank well.

What’s also unique about Ubersuggest is that it provides local keyword suggestions. This is great if you are trying to do local SEO.

Answer The Public

Answer The Public leverages Google Suggest to find all of the questions people may have related to any industry or keyword.

Just type in a keyword and it will give you a laundry list of questions people are searching for related to that keyword.

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Similar to Ubersuggest it also shows you comparison and preposition related keywords.

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What I like about the tool is compared to any competing tool, it represents the data in nice visuals.

KeywordTool.io

SEO doesn’t just exist on Google. You can also rank higher on Amazon, YouTube, Bing, and tons of other sites.

KeywordTool.io uses the same concept of Google Suggest, but for a handful of sites like Amazon, Play Store, and YouTube.

keywordtoolio

If you are performing SEO on sites other than Google, you should check out KeywordTool.io.

FAQfox

FAQfox is a neat little tool that finds you questions people want to be answered based on any specific site you want information from.

For example, you can type in the word “cat” and quora.com as the URL and it will show you category based questions people are asking on Quora.

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You can do this for Reddit or any other site you want keyword ideas from.

Google Keyword Planner

Of course, the search giant, Google, has its own keyword research tool.

Google Keyword Planner gives you suggestions as well as CPC data and click estimates.

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You’ll also notice that a lot of other keyword tools have CPC data, but chances are they are pulling it from Google Keyword Planner.

When you are using Keyword Planner, look for terms with a high CPC as they tend to convert well when you rank for them organically.

Google Trends

Out of all the tools on the list, I probably use Google Trends 3 to 4 times a week. That’s how much I love it.

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What I love about Trends is that it shows you what is hot right now. In addition to that, it tells you if an industry is getting less search volume or more over time.

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You can also filter your data based on a specific country or you can look at the data from a global perspective.

Soovle

Soovle takes the concept of Google Suggest (autocomplete) but for a lot of the popular sites around the web.

soolve

Soovle pulls all of the popular keywords on Google, YouTube, Amazon, Wikipedia, Bing, Yahoo, and Answers.com.

AdWords and SEO Permutation Generator

The AdWords and SEO Permutation Generator is a super simple tool that helps you get creative with your keyword research.

You enter in a handful of terms you want to target and it will combine them to make different variations for you.

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Not all of the keywords will be popular when it comes to search volume, but it will give you a sense of how you can go after long-tail variations within your site.

Keyworddit

Reddit has a ton of categories (subreddits) and Keyworddit helps you find all of the keywords within that subreddit.

Keyworddit

What’s neat is it even breaks down the volume for each of those keywords. That way you can quickly see if any are worth going after.

Generally speaking, you’ll want to use tools like this as it will give you a new perspective on keyword research.

Pulling results from Google is something that all SEOs already do. Because of that, you need to use other sources if you want to get a leg up on your competition.

Bulk Keyword Generator

The Bulk Keyword Generator by Higher Visibility does keyword research a bit differently than most of the keyword tools out there.

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First, you pick a business category. Then you select the type of business you have and enter in any locations you are targeting.

You’ll then be given a list of keywords that you can potentially target.

What I like about this tool is that it makes things super simple, especially if you are new to SEO.

WordTracker Scout

WordTracker Scout is a browser extension that gives you a list of keyword ideas from any web page.

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Just browse any site or check out your competition, click a button and boom, you are given ideas on keywords that other people are using.

It breaks the keywords down by relevance and volume.

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SearchVolume.io

When you are doing keyword research, how do you know a keyword is getting enough searches?

SearchVolume.io lets you bulk upload up to 800 keywords and it tells you how popular each keyword is.

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The tool also works for a handful of other regions, such as Brazil, France, and Italy.

Google Location Changer

Serps has a neat tool that works well if you are doing international SEO.

Their Google Location Changer allows you to search Google in any country or city. Just type in a keyword and you’ll see who ranks.

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Using this tool in combination with WordTracker Scout can give you unique keyword suggestions.

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Content Marketing

Content is the one thing we all have to create if we want more search traffic.

Here are free content marketing tools that can help you get the most out of your search traffic.

Animalz Revive

Have you noticed that your rankings decrease over time?

It’s not just because of Google algorithm updates. In most cases, your old content won’t perform as well because it’s old.

Animalz Revive shows you which content pieces are dying over time.

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That way you know what to focus on. Just look at the ones that have declined the most and then spruce them up so you can get more rankings.

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What’s cool about this tool is it will save you a lot of time. For example, my team updates 90 pieces of content a month. The last thing you want to do is waste a ton of time on content that never had much traffic.

Google Search Console

Most people use Google Search Console to see which keywords are driving them traffic.

My favorite way of using Search Console is to see which one of my blog posts are getting a lot of search impressions but have less than a 4% click-through rate.

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I then go in and modify each of those pages to include the right keywords in my meta tags. Then I look to see which keywords I am ranking for but not really targeting yet, and then either create new content around those terms or modify existing content to also target them.

Content Ideas

Ubersuggest has a feature similar to Buzzsumo but it is 100% free. It’s called Content Ideas.

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All you have to do is enter in a keyword or phrase and it will show you all of the popular blog posts that contain that term.

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The blog posts are then sorted by social shares, backlinks, and search traffic.

This helps you create content around topics people want to read, which means more traffic.

Hreflang Tag Generator

One of my biggest traffic gains has come from translating my content.

A lot of people ask me if they would be penalized from duplicating and translation their content.

The answer is no.

All you need to do is use the Hreflang Tag Generator.

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This tool creates tags for you to place in your HTML code so Google knows you are targeting specific languages and countries with certain content pages.

Portent Title Generator

For every 10 people that see your headline, only 2 on average will continue to read your content.

In other words, content marketing is all about the headline.

If you are struggling to create headlines, check out the Portent Title Generator.

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Just insert a keyword or phrase and it will generate dozens of suggestions for you.

Title Capitalization Tool

Not sure which words in your title should be capitalized?

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This Title Capitalization tool will take care of that for you.

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It may not sound important to you, but if your titles look off, people may not click through from SERP results to read your content, which can decrease your rankings over time.

Grammarly

Every SEO should be using Grammarly.

Which do you think Google prefers? Ranking a blog post that reads well or one that contains a lot of spelling and grammar errors?

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Grammarly helps you avoid spelling mistakes. This is really important if you want to rank on Google.

Google SERP Tool

Have you noticed that some listings on Google get cut off because the title is too long?

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A big misconception is Google uses character counts for meta tags. In reality, they count pixels.

Google SERP Tool will tell you how many pixels your meta tags contain and if they will get cut off by Google.

It also shows you a preview of what your web pages will look like on Google.

Rank Tracking

Google Analytics is a great tool to show you your overall traffic, but it doesn’t tell you where you rank.

If you want to track your rankings, you’ll need to use some tools.

Google Search Console

I know I mentioned this tool above, but Google Search Console is the most unique rank tracking tool out there.

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Because this tool is from Google, they can tell you your average ranking for any one of your pages per country.

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And because the data comes from them, they average it out to give you accurate information.

You can also go back 16 months and see how your rankings have changed over time.

Ubersuggest

Again, I know I also mentioned Ubersuggest above, but it now has a free rank tracking feature.

rankcheck

It provides the same features as those paid rank trackers. You can track your rankings daily for any keyword or groups of keywords for any country, city, or county.

It also saves your data for you so you can go back as far as you want to see if your rankings have been increasing or decreasing.

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Search Latte

If you want to track your rankings manually, you can do so with Search Latte.

latte

Just put in a keyword and select the language and country so you can see all of the sites that rank in the top 100.

You can then manually find your site and keep track to see if you are improving or declining.

You may want to use Search Latte in combination with Excel as you can create a daily log of your rankings.

Link Building

You used to have to pay for tools if you wanted link data, but that’s not the case anymore. Here are the free link tools you can use.

MozBar

This is probably my favorite link tool that I use.

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Even though Google doesn’t use domain authority, in general, the higher the authority of a site that is linking to you, the better off you are.

MozBar shows you the domain authority and page authority of every page on the web.

mozbar

If you are going to build links, focus on the sites with the highest authority.

SEOgadget for Excel

If you are like me, you probably love using Excel when you are building links.

SEOgadget for Excel makes it really easy to pull in data from Majestic and Moz.

If you haven’t tried this yet, you should consider it. It will make it easier for you to find new insights and run your own calculations.

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Backlinks

Backlinks is a free tool that shows you all of your backlinks. There are no limits in row count or anything like that… you can just see everyone who links to you.

backlinks

You can see if any of your links are dofollow or nofollow as well as the anchor text.

You can filter the results to find backlink opportunities when researching competitors and you have the option to look up link data on a domain, subdomain, or a specific URL.

It will also show when a link was first found and last crawled and the authority of each link.

Bulk Metrics Checker

Tired of looking up the domain and page authority manually on each of your pages or sites?

Bulk Metrics Checker solves that for you.

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Just upload a list of URLs and within seconds you’ll have a list of your page authority per URL. You can also do the same for domains and upload dozens of domains at once.

Technical SEO

SEO has changed. You no longer can do just a few things and expect your site to rank well. You have to do everything if you expect to beat your competition.

And when I mean everything, that includes technical SEO.

SEO Analyzer

If you haven’t already, try running your URL through my SEO Analyzer.

It will tell you what’s wrong with each of your web pages.

seoanalyzernp

From duplicate meta tags and redirect errors to sitemaps and much more… it pretty much looks at every major factor when it comes to SEO.

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It will even tell you your overall site speed and what you need to fix in which order to get the maximum results.

And if you register for a free account, it automatically checks for errors each week on your behalf.

Google Analytics Referrer Spam Killer

When you are doing SEO, there is a good chance that your Google Analytics gets messed up by referral spam.

Google Analytics Referrer Spam Killer solves that problem by connecting with your Google Analytics account and blocking off the most common referral spam.

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Once you connect it, you’ll find that your data is much more accurate so you can make better SEO decisions.

Pagespeed Insights

Speed is everything. The faster your site loads the better you will rank, especially when it comes to Google’s mobile index.

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Pagespeed Insights tells you what you need to fix for your site to load fast on any device.

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It doesn’t matter if you are optimizing for tablet devices, desktop, or mobile… it will tell you what to fix.

Pingdom

Fixing your code is one thing, but you’ll also want to make sure your site loads fast overall.

Your overall load time is affected by things like your server and CDN.

Pingdom tells you your actual load time.

pingdom

With Pingdom, you can pick which location to test your load speed from and it tells you what code on your site is causing the biggest slowdown.

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Website Penalty Checker

With over 3,200 algorithm updates each year to Google, how do you know if you have been affected by an update?

Is it related to a core update, your content, or link building?

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Website Penalty Checker tells you that.

In a nice graph, it shows your traffic over time and tells you if a Google update has caused your traffic to go up or down.

Structured Data Markup Helper

A simple way to increase your search traffic is to use schema markup.

But there is one big issue, schema markup is a bit complicated to implement. Because of that, Google created a Structured Data Markup Helper to guide you.

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All you have to do is select what kind of markup you want to use, type in your URL, and go through the walkthrough wizard.

And at the end, you’ll be given code that you just paste within HTML.

Woorank

Looking for a simple SEO analysis? Woorank shows you a simple report of what’s wrong with your web page.

woorank

All you have to do is type in your domain and within a minute you’ll see a thorough report of what you need to fix.

What I love about Woorank is that it is a great tool for beginners because of their easy-to-use interface.

SEOptimer

Just like Woorank, SEOptimer is a simple tool that gives you a technical overview of your on-page SEO as well as your content.

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It breaks down things like page speed as well in addition to showing you how your website loads for both desktop and mobile devices.

You can even see social sharing data.

Varvy

Varvy provides a detailed technical checklist of all things related to your SEO.

varvy

From your Robots.txt file and your sitemap to security settings and even your links, it covers all the bases.

If you don’t have a technical background, Varvy might be a bit complex unless you take the time to read each of their articles that outline what each tip/recommendation means.

301 Redirect Code Generator

When you are doing SEO long enough, eventually you find yourself changing your older URLs.

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But if you don’t add a 301 redirect, you’ll lose your rankings.

301 Redirect Code Generator creates the code you’ll need to tell search engines your URLs have changed.

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Panguin Tool

This tool is similar to the Website Penalty Checker but it is more accurate because it connects directly with your Analytics account.

If you think you have been hit with a Google penalty, use the Panguin Tool.

panguin traffic

Now if you want to see if your competition has also been hit, this tool won’t work, but the Website Penalty Checker will.

None-the-less, they are both great tools.

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Google Search Console

I have to include this tool again. Why? Because if there is something wrong with your site, such as it getting hacked, it will notify you.

It even tells you the pages that were indexed and which ones aren’t.

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One thing that you have to do within your Search Console is to submit an XML sitemap.

XML Sitemaps

XML Sitemaps generates a sitemap for you that you can submit to Google Search Console.

You’ll need to do this so you can get more of your content indexed.

Submitting a sitemap doesn’t guarantee that Google will index your content, but it does help… mainly for sites with low domain authority.

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Conclusion

Tools don’t have to cost money. I got into SEO because it was the free traffic source I could leverage to compete with the big companies.

If you want to grow your search rankings, you can leverage one of the free SEO tools above.

Sure, there are amazing paid tools as well, but why not start with the free stuff?

What other free SEO tools do you use?

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5 Psychological Tactics to Write Better Emails

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5 Psychological Tactics to Write Better Emails

Welcome to Creator Columns, where we bring expert HubSpot Creator voices to the Blogs that inspire and help you grow better.

I’ve tested 100s of psychological tactics on my email subscribers. In this blog, I reveal the five tactics that actually work.

You’ll learn about the email tactic that got one marketer a job at the White House.

You’ll learn how I doubled my 5 star reviews with one email, and why one strange email from Barack Obama broke all records for donations.

→ Download Now: The Beginner's Guide to Email Marketing [Free Ebook]

5 Psychological Tactics to Write Better Emails

Imagine writing an email that’s so effective it lands you a job at the White House.

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Well, that’s what happened to Maya Shankar, a PhD cognitive neuroscientist. In 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs asked her to help increase signups in their veteran benefit scheme.

Maya had a plan. She was well aware of a cognitive bias that affects us all—the endowment effect. This bias suggests that people value items higher if they own them. So, she changed the subject line in the Veterans’ enrollment email.

Previously it read:

  • Veterans, you’re eligible for the benefit program. Sign up today.

She tweaked one word, changing it to:

  • Veterans, you’ve earned the benefits program. Sign up today.

This tiny tweak had a big impact. The amount of veterans enrolling in the program went up by 9%. And Maya landed a job working at the White House

Boost participation email graphic

Inspired by these psychological tweaks to emails, I started to run my own tests.

Alongside my podcast Nudge, I’ve run 100s of email tests on my 1,000s of newsletter subscribers.

Here are the five best tactics I’ve uncovered.

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1. Show readers what they’re missing.

Nobel prize winning behavioral scientists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky uncovered a principle called loss aversion.

Loss aversion means that losses feel more painful than equivalent gains. In real-world terms, losing $10 feels worse than how gaining $10 feels good. And I wondered if this simple nudge could help increase the number of my podcast listeners.

For my test, I tweaked the subject line of the email announcing an episode. The control read:

“Listen to this one”

In the loss aversion variant it read:

“Don’t miss this one”

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It is very subtle loss aversion. Rather than asking someone to listen, I’m saying they shouldn’t miss out. And it worked. It increased the open rate by 13.3% and the click rate by 12.5%. Plus, it was a small change that cost me nothing at all.

Growth mindset email analytics

2. People follow the crowd.

In general, humans like to follow the masses. When picking a dish, we’ll often opt for the most popular. When choosing a movie to watch, we tend to pick the box office hit. It’s a well-known psychological bias called social proof.

I’ve always wondered if it works for emails. So, I set up an A/B experiment with two subject lines. Both promoted my show, but one contained social proof.

The control read: New Nudge: Why Brands Should Flaunt Their Flaws

The social proof variant read: New Nudge: Why Brands Should Flaunt Their Flaws (100,000 Downloads)

I hoped that by highlighting the episode’s high number of downloads, I’d encourage more people to listen. Fortunately, it worked.

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The open rate went from 22% to 28% for the social proof version, and the click rate, (the number of people actually listening to the episode), doubled.

3. Praise loyal subscribers.

The consistency principle suggests that people are likely to stick to behaviours they’ve previously taken. A retired taxi driver won’t swap his car for a bike. A hairdresser won’t change to a cheap shampoo. We like to stay consistent with our past behaviors.

I decided to test this in an email.

For my test, I attempted to encourage my subscribers to leave a review for my podcast. I sent emails to 400 subscribers who had been following the show for a year.

The control read: “Could you leave a review for Nudge?”

The consistency variant read: “You’ve been following Nudge for 12 months, could you leave a review?”

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My hypothesis was simple. If I remind people that they’ve consistently supported the show they’ll be more likely to leave a review.

It worked.

The open rate on the consistency version of the email was 7% higher.

But more importantly, the click rate, (the number of people who actually left a review), was almost 2x higher for the consistency version. Merely telling people they’d been a fan for a while doubled my reviews.

4. Showcase scarcity.

We prefer scarce resources. Taylor Swift gigs sell out in seconds not just because she’s popular, but because her tickets are hard to come by.

Swifties aren’t the first to experience this. Back in 1975, three researchers proved how powerful scarcity is. For the study, the researchers occupied a cafe. On alternating weeks they’d make one small change in the cafe.

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On some weeks they’d ensure the cookie jar was full.

On other weeks they’d ensure the cookie jar only contained two cookies (never more or less).

In other words, sometimes the cookies looked abundantly available. Sometimes they looked like they were almost out.

This changed behaviour. Customers who saw the two cookie jar bought 43% more cookies than those who saw the full jar.

It sounds too good to be true, so I tested it for myself.

I sent an email to 260 subscribers offering free access to my Science of Marketing course for one day only.

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In the control, the subject line read: “Free access to the Science of Marketing course”

For the scarcity variant it read: “Only Today: Get free access to the Science of Marketing Course | Only one enrol per person.”

130 people received the first email, 130 received the second. And the result was almost as good as the cookie finding. The scarcity version had a 15.1% higher open rate.

Email A/B test results

5. Spark curiosity.

All of the email tips I’ve shared have only been tested on my relatively small audience. So, I thought I’d end with a tip that was tested on the masses.

Back in 2012, Barack Obama and his campaign team sent hundreds of emails to raise funds for his campaign.

Of the $690 million he raised, most came from direct email appeals. But there was one email, according to ABC news, that was far more effective than the rest. And it was an odd one.

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The email that drew in the most cash, had a strange subject line. It simply said “Hey.”

The actual email asked the reader to donate, sharing all the expected reasons, but the subject line was different.

It sparked curiosity, it got people wondering, is Obama saying Hey just to me?

Readers were curious and couldn’t help but open the email. According to ABC it was “the most effective pitch of all.”

Because more people opened, it raised more money than any other email. The bias Obama used here is the curiosity gap. We’re more likely to act on something when our curiosity is piqued.

Email example

Loss aversion, social proof, consistency, scarcity and curiosity—all these nudges have helped me improve my emails. And I reckon they’ll work for you.

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It’s not guaranteed of course. Many might fail. But running some simple a/b tests for your emails is cost free, so why not try it out?

This blog is part of Phill Agnew’s Marketing Cheat Sheet series where he reveals the scientifically proven tips to help you improve your marketing. To learn more, listen to his podcast Nudge, a proud member of the Hubspot Podcast Network.

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The power of program management in martech

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The power of program management in martech

As a supporter of the program perspective for initiatives, I recognize the value of managing related projects, products and activities as a unified entity. 

While one-off projects have their place, they often involve numerous moving parts and in my experience, using a project-based approach can lead to crucial elements being overlooked. This is particularly true when building a martech stack or developing content, for example, where a program-based approach can ensure that all aspects are considered and properly integrated. 

For many CMOs and marketing organizations, programs are becoming powerful tools for aligning diverse initiatives and driving strategic objectives. Let’s explore the essential role of programs in product management, project management and marketing operations, bridging technical details with business priorities. 

Programs in product management

Product management is a fascinating domain where programs operate as a strategic framework, coordinating related products or product lines to meet specific business objectives.

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Product managers are responsible for defining a product or product line’s strategy, roadmap and features. They work closely with program managers, who ensure alignment with market demands, customer needs and the company’s overall vision by managing offerings at a program level. 

Program managers optimize the product portfolio, make strategic decisions about resource allocation and ensure that each product contributes to the program’s goals. One key aspect of program management in product management is identifying synergies between products. 

Program managers can drive innovation and efficiency across the portfolio by leveraging shared technologies, customer insights, or market trends. This approach enables organizations to respond quickly to changing market conditions, seize emerging opportunities and maintain a competitive advantage. Product managers, in turn, use these insights to shape the direction of individual products.

Moreover, programs in product management facilitate cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing. Program managers foster a holistic understanding of customer needs and market dynamics by bringing together teams from various departments, such as engineering, marketing and sales.

Product managers also play a crucial role in this collaborative approach, ensuring that all stakeholders work towards common goals, ultimately leading to more successful product launches and enhanced customer satisfaction.

Dig deeper: Understanding different product roles in marketing technology acquisition

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Programs in project management

In project management, programs provide a structured approach for managing related projects as a unified entity, supporting broader strategic objectives. Project managers are responsible for planning, executing and closing individual projects within a program. They focus on specific deliverables, timelines and budgets. 

On the other hand, program managers oversee these projects’ coordination, dependencies and outcomes, ensuring they collectively deliver the desired benefits and align with the organization’s strategic goals.

A typical example of a program in project management is a martech stack optimization initiative. Such a program may involve integrating marketing technology tools and platforms, implementing customer data management systems and training employees on the updated technologies. Project managers would be responsible for the day-to-day management of each project. 

In contrast, the program manager ensures a cohesive approach, minimizes disruptions and realizes the full potential of the martech investments to improve marketing efficiency, personalization and ROI.

The benefits of program management in project management are numerous. Program managers help organizations prioritize initiatives that deliver the greatest value by aligning projects with strategic objectives. They also identify and mitigate risks that span multiple projects, ensuring that issues in one area don’t derail the entire program. Project managers, in turn, benefit from this oversight and guidance, as they can focus on successfully executing their projects.

Additionally, program management enables efficient resource allocation, as skills and expertise can be shared across projects, reducing duplication of effort and maximizing value. Project managers can leverage these resources and collaborate with other project teams to achieve their objectives more effectively.

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Dig deeper: Combining martech projects: 5 questions to ask

Programs in marketing operations

In marketing operations, programs play a vital role in integrating and managing various marketing activities to achieve overarching goals. Marketing programs encompass multiple initiatives, such as advertising, content marketing, social media and event planning. Organizations ensure consistent messaging, strategic alignment, and measurable results by managing these activities as a cohesive program.

In marketing operations, various roles, such as MOps managers, campaign managers, content managers, digital marketing managers and analytics managers, collaborate to develop and execute comprehensive marketing plans that support the organization’s business objectives. 

These professionals work closely with cross-functional teams, including creative, analytics and sales, to ensure that all marketing efforts are coordinated and optimized for maximum impact. This involves setting clear goals, defining key performance indicators (KPIs) and continuously monitoring and adjusting strategies based on data-driven insights.

One of the primary benefits of a programmatic approach in marketing operations is maintaining a consistent brand voice and message across all channels. By establishing guidelines and standards for content creation, visual design and customer interactions, marketing teams ensure that the brand’s identity remains cohesive and recognizable. This consistency builds customer trust, reinforces brand loyalty and drives business growth.

Programs in marketing operations enable organizations to take a holistic approach to customer engagement. By analyzing customer data and feedback across various touchpoints, marketing professionals can identify opportunities for improvement and develop targeted strategies to enhance the customer experience. This customer-centric approach leads to increased satisfaction, higher retention rates and more effective marketing investments.

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Dig deeper: Mastering the art of goal setting in marketing operations

Embracing the power of programs for long-term success

We’ve explored how programs enable marketing organizations to drive strategic success and create lasting impact by aligning diverse initiatives across product management, project management and marketing operations. 

  • Product management programs facilitate cross-functional collaboration and ensure alignment with market demands. 
  • In project management, they provide a structured approach for managing related projects and mitigating risks. 
  • In marketing operations, programs enable consistent messaging and a customer-centric approach to engagement.

Program managers play a vital role in maintaining strategic alignment, continuously assessing progress and adapting to changes in the business environment. Keeping programs aligned with long-term objectives maximizes ROI and drives sustainable growth.

Organizations that invest in developing strong program management capabilities will be better positioned to optimize resources, foster innovation and achieve their long-term goals.



As a CMO or marketing leader, it is important to recognize the strategic value of programs and champion their adoption across your organization. By aligning efforts across various domains, you can unlock the full potential of your initiatives and drive meaningful results. Try it, you’ll like it.

Fuel for your marketing strategy.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

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2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business: Part 2

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2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business: Part 2

2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business

Before we dive into the second way to assume power in your business, let’s revisit Part 1. 

Who informs your marketing strategy? 

YOU, with your carefully curated strategy informed by data and deep knowledge of your brand and audience? Or any of the 3 Cs below? 

  • Competitors: Their advertising and digital presence and seemingly never-ending budgets consume the landscape.
  • Colleagues: Their tried-and-true proven tactics or lessons learned.
  • Customers: Their calls, requests, and ideas. 

Considering any of the above is not bad, in fact, it can be very wise! However, listening quickly becomes devastating if it lends to their running our business or marketing department. 

It’s time we move from defense to offense, sitting in the driver’s seat rather than allowing any of the 3 Cs to control. 

It is one thing to learn from and entirely another to be controlled by. 

In Part 1, we explored how knowing what we want is critical to regaining power.

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1) Knowing what you want protects the bottom line.

2) Knowing what you want protects you from the 3 Cs. 

3) Knowing what you want protects you from running on auto-pilot.

You can read Part 1 here; in the meantime, let’s dive in! 

How to Regain Control of Your Business: Knowing Who You Are

Vertical alignment is a favorite concept of mine, coined over the last two years throughout my personal journey of knowing self. 

Consider the diagram below.

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Vertical alignment is the state of internal being centered with who you are at your core. 

Horizontal alignment is the state of external doing engaged with the world around you.

In a state of vertical alignment, your business operates from its core center, predicated on its mission, values, and brand. It is authentic and confident and cuts through the noise because it is entirely unique from every competitor in the market. 

From this vertical alignment, your business is positioned for horizontal alignment to fulfill the integrity of its intended services, instituted processes, and promised results. 

A strong brand is not only differentiated in the market by its vertical alignment but delivers consistently and reliably in terms of its products, offerings, and services and also in terms of the customer experience by its horizontal alignment. 

Let’s examine what knowing who you are looks like in application, as well as some habits to implement with your team to strengthen vertical alignment. 

1) Knowing who You are Protects You from Horizontal Voices. 

The strength of “Who We Are” predicates the ability to maintain vertical alignment when something threatens your stability. When a colleague proposes a tactic that is not aligned with your values. When the customer comes calling with ideas that will knock you off course as bandwidth is limited or the budget is tight. 

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I was on a call with a gal from my Mastermind when I mentioned a retreat I am excited to launch in the coming months. 

I shared that I was considering its positioning, given its curriculum is rooted in emotional intelligence (EQ) to inform personal brand development. The retreat serves C-Suite, but as EQ is not a common conversation among this audience, I was considering the best positioning. 

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She advised, “Sell them solely on the business aspects, and then sneak attack with the EQ when they’re at the retreat!” 

At first blush, it sounds reasonable. After all, there’s a reason why the phrase, “Sell the people what they want, give them what they need,” is popular.

Horizontal advice and counsel can produce a wealth of knowledge. However, we must always approach the horizontal landscape – the external – powered by vertical alignment – centered internally with the core of who we are. 

Upon considering my values of who I am and the vision of what I want for this event, I realized the lack of transparency is not in alignment with my values nor setting the right expectations for the experience.

Sure, maybe I would get more sales; however, my bottom line — what I want — is not just sales. I want transformation on an emotional level. I want C-Suite execs to leave powered from a place of emotional intelligence to decrease decisions made out of alignment with who they are or executing tactics rooted in guilt, not vision. 

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Ultimately, one of my core values is authenticity, and I must make business decisions accordingly. 

2) Knowing who You are Protects You from Reactivity.

Operating from vertical alignment maintains focus on the bottom line and the strategy to achieve it. From this position, you are protected from reacting to the horizontal pressures of the 3 Cs: Competitors, Colleagues, and Customers. 

This does not mean you do not adjust tactics or learn. 

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However, your approach to adjustments is proactive direction, not reactive deviations. To do this, consider the following questions:

First: How does their (any one of the 3 Cs) tactic measure against my proven track record of success?

If your colleague promotes adding newsletters to your strategy, lean in and ask, “Why?” 

  • What are their outcomes? 
  • What metrics are they tracking for success? 
  • What is their bottom line against yours? 
  • How do newsletters fit into their strategy and stage(s) of the customer journey? 

Always consider your historical track record of success first and foremost. 

Have you tried newsletters in the past? Is their audience different from yours? Why are newsletters good for them when they did not prove profitable for you? 

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Operate with your head up and your eyes open. 

Maintain focus on your bottom line and ask questions. Revisit your data, and don’t just take their word for it. 

2. Am I allocating time in my schedule?

I had coffee with the former CEO of Jiffy Lube, who built the empire that it is today. 

He could not emphasize more how critical it is to allocate time for thinking. Just being — not doing — and thinking about your business or department. 

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Especially for senior leaders or business owners, but even still for junior staff. 

The time and space to be fosters creative thinking, new ideas, and energy. Some of my best campaigns are conjured on a walk or in the shower. 

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Kasim Aslam, founder of the world’s #1 Google Ads agency and a dear friend of mine, is a machine when it comes to hacks and habits. He encouraged me to take an audit of my calendar over the last 30 days to assess how I spend time. 

“Create three buckets,” he said. “Organize them by the following:

  • Tasks that Generate Revenue
  • Tasks that Cost Me Money
  • Tasks that Didn’t Earn Anything”

He and I chatted after I completed this exercise, and I added one to the list: Tasks that are Life-Giving. 

Friends — if we are running empty, exhausted, or emotionally depleted, our creative and strategic wherewithal will be significantly diminished. We are holistic creatures and, therefore, must nurture our mind, body, soul, and spirit to maintain optimum capacity for impact. 

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I shared this hack with a friend of mine. Not only did she identify meetings that were costing her money and thus needed to be eliminated, but she also identified that particular meetings could actually turn revenue-generating! She spent a good amount of time each month facilitating introductions; now, she is adding Strategic Partnerships to her suite of services. 


ACTION: Analyze your calendar’s last 30-60 days against the list above. 

Include what is life-giving! 

How are you spending your time? What is the data showing you? Are you on the path to achieving what you want and living in alignment with who you want to be?

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Share with your team or business partner for the purpose of accountability, and implement practical changes accordingly. 


Finally, remember: If you will not protect your time, no one else will. 

3) Knowing who You are Protects You from Lack. 

“What are you proud of?” someone asked me last year. 

“Nothing!” I reply too quickly. “I know I’m not living up to my potential or operating in the full capacity I could be.” 

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They looked at me in shock. “You need to read The Gap And The Gain.”

I silently rolled my eyes.

I already knew the premise of the book, or I thought I did. I mused: My vision is so big, and I have so much to accomplish. The thought of solely focusing on “my wins” sounded like an excuse to abdicate personal responsibility. 

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But I acquiesced. 

The premise of this book is to measure one’s self from where they started and the success from that place to where they are today — the gains — rather than from where they hope to get and the seemingly never-ending distance — the gap.

Ultimately, Dr. Benjamin Hardy and Dan Sullivan encourage changing perspectives to assign success, considering the starting point rather than the destination.

The book opens with the following story:

Dan Jensen was an Olympic speed skater, notably the fastest in the world. But in each game spanning a decade, Jansen could not catch a break. “Flukes” — even tragedy with the death of his sister in the early morning of the 1988 Olympics — continued to disrupt the prediction of him being favored as the winner. 

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The 1994 Olympics were the last of his career. He had one more shot.

Preceding his last Olympics in 1994, Jansen adjusted his mindset. He focused on every single person who invested in him, leading to this moment. He considered just how very lucky he was to even participate in the first place. He thought about his love for the sport itself, all of which led to an overwhelming realization of just how much he had gained throughout his life.

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He raced the 1994 Olympic games differently, as his mindset powering every stride was one of confidence and gratitude — predicated on the gains rather than the gap in his life. 

This race secured him his first and only gold medal and broke a world record, simultaneously proving one of the most emotional wins in Olympic history. 

Friends, knowing who we are on the personal and professional level, can protect us from those voices of shame or guilt that creep in. 


PERSONAL ACTION: Create two columns. On one side, create a list of where you were when you started your business or your position at your company. Include skills and networks and even feelings about where you were in life. On the other side, outline where you are today. 

Look at how far you’ve come. 

COMPANY ACTION: Implement a quarterly meeting to review the past three months. Where did you start? Where are you now? 

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Celebrate the gain!

Only from this place of gain mindset, can you create goals for the next quarter predicated on where you are today.


Ultimately, my hope for you is that you deliver exceptional and memorable experiences laced with empathy toward the customer (horizontally aligned) yet powered by the authenticity of the brand (vertically aligned). 

Aligning vertically maintains our focus on the bottom line and powers horizontal fulfillment. 

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Granted, there will be strategic times and seasons for adjustment; however, these changes are to be made on the heels of consulting who we are as a brand — not in reaction to the horizontal landscape of what is the latest and greatest in the industry. 

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In Conclusion…

Taking back control of your business and marketing strategies requires a conscious effort to resist external pressures and realign with what you want and who you are.

Final thoughts as we wrap up: 

First, identify the root issue(s).

Consider which of the 3 Cs holds the most power: be it competition, colleagues, or customers.

Second, align vertically.

Vertical alignment facilitates individuality in the market and ensures you — and I — stand out and shine while serving our customers well. 

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Third, keep the bottom line in view.

Implement a routine that keeps you and your team focused on what matters most, and then create the cascading strategy necessary to accomplish it. 

Fourth, maintain your mindsets.

Who You Are includes values for the internal culture. Guide your team in acknowledging the progress made along the way and embracing the gains to operate from a position of strength and confidence.

Fifth, maintain humility.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of humility and being open to what others are doing. However, horizontal alignment must come after vertical alignment. Otherwise, we will be at the mercy of the whims and fads of everyone around us. Humility allows us to be open to external inputs and vertically aligned at the same time.

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Buckle up, friends! It’s time to take back the wheel and drive our businesses forward. 

The power lies with you and me.


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