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How to Make Instagram Stories Like a Pro

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These days, social media is all about documentation.

Where you go, what you eat and drink, who you see, and what’s most memorable: These are the typical fodder of Instagram Stories — seconds-long glimpses of people’s lives, shared on Instagram for only 24 hours.

You might know the basics of sharing Instagram Stories, but there are hidden tools within the app that can make the photos and videos you share more creative and more engaging.Download our essential guide to Instagram for business for more helpful tips  and tricks.

So we’ve created this guide to how to share Instagram Stories, and how to make those Stories are compelling and cool as possible. In this post, we’ll cover:

Why Share Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories can drive a ton of engagement and value — whether you’re sharing a Story from a brand account or your own personal profile.

Since launching back in August 2016, a total of 250 million Instagram users have started sharing disappearing content on Instagram Stories — contributing to the huge jump in time spent in-app every day from 24 minutes to 32.

What’s more, a lot of brands have already seen success publishing content to this platform. Instagram Stories have fueled the growth of brands like Teen Vogue, Insider, and Bustle. Whether publishers are trying to grow brand awareness, grow traffic to videos or newsletter outside of Instagram, or share sponsored content, publishers are flocking to Instagram to publish fun disappearing content that infuses brand voice and personality without taking up too much of the average techie’s dwindling attention span.

What’s more, Instagram Stories are credited with fueling the massive growth of Instagram Direct — private one-to-one messaging between users within the app. Instagram Direct has grown into one of the most popular messaging apps in the world with a staggering 375 million users. Even more impressive, TechCrunch reports that one in five Instagram Stories shared by a brand receives a Direct reply — giving brands a direct line to connect with their audience and learn more about them.

How to Make Stories on Instagram

You can make Instagram Stories this successful too — but it requires a few more hacks and tips to make them look like the Stories big brands and influencers share. (Some of my favorite Instagram Stories are shared by chef Chloe Coscarelli, actress Busy Phillips, mattress brand Casper, and interior design app Hutch — and don’t forget to check out HubSpot‘s Instagram Stories, either.)

But first, let’s review the basics of how to share an Instagram Story:

1) Open Instagram, and tap the camera icon in the upper left-hand corner of your phone.

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2) Share a photo or video you’ve already captured by swiping up on your screen to browse your gallery.

Disclosure: Yes, I did a photoshoot featuring my cats. Can you blame me though?

Leela-2.png

3) Or, choose a camera lens to capture a photo or video in-app.

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You have a few different options to choose from:

1) Live

If you toggle your screen to the “Live” option, you’ll start filming and broadcasting live on Instagram. Like Facebook Live, friends can follow along and leave comments, and when you’re done with the broadcast, you’ll have the option to let the video disappear, save it, or share it Instagram Stories for an additional 24 hours.

2) Normal

It means what it says: Tapping once will capture a photo, and holding down will record a video. Instagram Stories can be 15 seconds in length, so if you want to share a video that’s longer, film in 15-second stints, or use CutStory to split your longer clip into 15-second installments.

3) Boomerang

Boomerang mode films looping GIFs up to three seconds in length. 

4) Superzoom

Superzoom is, on the surface, a video recording lens that zooms in closer and closer on your subject. But turn up the volume, and you can use Superzoom to create a dramatic soundtrack to accompany your video.

As my friend Marissa put it, “It’s like it’s BUILT for cats.”

5) Rewind

Use the rewind lens to film a video in reverse.

6) Stop Motion

Use this lens to film cool stop-motion videos: several different still images woven together in one seamless video. Think of it like the video version of a flip book (like this example below):

7) Hands-Free

Use hands-free mode if you want to set up your camera to film a video for you. Make sure you prop it somewhere stable before you call “Action.”

4) Once you’ve edited your photo or video (more on that below), tap “Your Story,” or tap “Next” to share it to your Story and to other friends at the same time.

You can also save your edited photo or video to your gallery by tapping “Save” in the lower left-hand corner.

Leela-4.png

Now that you know the basics, let’s run through tips and hacks for producing high-quality, clickable Instagram Stories.

7 Pro Tips and Hacks for Instagram Stories

1) Use stickers.

Once you’ve captured a great photo or video, it’s time to jazz it up with some fun stickers. You can access these by tapping the smiling sticker icon in the upper right-hand corner of your screen once you’ve captured a photo or video — or swipe up from the bottom of your screen.

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Change the size of your stickers.

You can pinch the sticker once you’ve added to your story to increase or decrease its size. You can also tap and drag it around the frame to change its position.

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Check stickers every day for new and unique ones.

Instagram releases unique Story stickers often — whether it’s Monday, a holiday, or a season. Check this section every day for new and timely stickers to add to your Story.

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Add location, hashtag, and poll stickers.

Boost the engagement on your Instagram Story by opening it up to other people doing the same things you are. Open up the stickers section, and tap any of these buttons to customize your story:

locationhashtaguser.png

Location

Start typing in wherever you are, and you’ll be able to pull in a geographically-specific sticker to show where you are.

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When people view your Story, they’ll be able to tap the location sticker and see other photos and Stories happening around the same place.location.jpg

Hashtag

Same concept here: If you add this sticker and type in a hashtag, your Story will appear in searches for that hashtag, and viewers will be able to click it and see who else is using it. #MotivationMonday, amirite?

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Poll

You can add a two-option poll to your Instagram Story, and you can even customize the possible answers so they’re more unique than “Yes” or “No.” Use a poll sticker to gauge if people are really engaging with your content.

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Turn a face into a sticker.

Open up the Stickers menu, and tap on the camera icon.

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Then, take a selfie — or take a picture of anyone else’s face (that will work too). Then, you can use that face to decorate your Instagram Story. Somewhat creepy, but very memorable and funny, too.

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2) Let viewers share your Stories.

Increase engagement and views of your Instagram Story by letting viewers share them with their friends — as Direct Messages. 

Go to your profile, tap the gear icon, and navigate to “Story Settings.”

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Toggle on “Allow Sharing” so viewers can DM your Story to friends to increase your audience reach. Voila!

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3) Use the pen.

Use the pen to add embellishment, symbols, or more text to your Story. If you tap the pen icon in the upper right-hand corner of your screen once you’ve captured a photo or video, you’ll open up your options.

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From there, you can adjust the thickness of your pen stroke or change the color you’re writing with (more on that later).

I like using the highlighter pen (the third option) to add emphasis to words — or even the highlight of my photo or video.

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4) Add a background color.

If you want to share a Story with a background color — like the images I’ve shared above — you can actually select it from the color palette.

Take a picture (it doesn’t have to be a picture of anything in particular), and then tap the pen icon to open up the color palette. (Here’s Leela again — my unwitting cat model.)

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You can choose one of the colors from the three available menus, or if you want a specific shade of one of those colors, you can open up the full color spectrum by pressing and holding one of the colors.

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Then, scribble anywhere on the screen, and hold your finger down until you get the background color you want to appear.

  colors3.png  colors4.png

If you want to get really crazy, you could use the eraser tool (the fourth option) to create new words or shapes from the background, too.

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5) Make your text funkier.

The text on Instagram Stories is pretty basic — jazz it up with these tricks.

Customize your colors.

If you’re unsatisfied with the color palette Instagram offers, create your own from one of the colors in the photo or video you’ve captured.

Open up the text icon, and tap the eyedropper icon in the lower left-hand corner of your screen.

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Use the dropper to sample a color from somewhere in the image you’ve captured, and use it when typing out text or using the pen tool.

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Add shading.

If you want to add some extra drama to your text, add highlighting or shadowing by retyping or rewriting your text in a different color. I recommend choosing black or white to add emphasis to a bright color you’ve picked. Then, move the text above or underneath the brighter text to add some drama to your words.

   shading1.png   shading2.png

Turn your words into a rainbow.

This one’s tricky, but you can actually turn your text into a gradient rainbow.

Tap the text icon, and type out your message to add to your Story. Then, highlight your text.

rainbow1.png

This is where it gets tricky: Turn your phone to the side so you can hold one finger down on the right side of your text, and with another finger, tap on a color and hold until the color wheel pops up.

rainbow2.png

Then, slowly drag both fingers across both the text and the color wheel from right to left to create rainbow text. Go slowly, letter by letter until you’ve created a rainbow. (This one took me several tries before I nailed it, and I succeeded using both thumbs to highlight the text and the color wheel.)

Gradually add text to a Story.

Sometimes, you might want to add text or stickers to an image to build on it — perhaps to promote a content offer or event, or to encourage viewers to swipe up to read a link you’ve shared (this is only available to verified accounts).

Start editing the photo you want to share, post it, and save it to your camera roll. Then, swipe up on your screen to add the screenshot to the next installment of your Story — adding new text or stickers on top of the first photo. Keep doing this for as long as you want the Story to last — just make sure to keep taking screenshots of your latest photo so you can add to it.

  gradual1.png gradual2.png gradual3.png

6) Center your text and stickers.

When you’re moving around text and stickers on your story, you’ll see blue lines appear vertically or horizontally in the frame. These are guiding lines you can use to make sure you’re keeping everything centered.

 centered1.png  centered2.png

Don’t put your text too high or too low on the screen.

That said, make sure you don’t add anything to your Story too high or too low in the frame — or it will be cut off when viewers scroll through your Story, when Instagram adds things like your name and how long ago your story was posted that could block out your carefully-crafted text.

7) Add music to a Story.

This one’s easy: Turn on music using your phone’s native streaming app, and record a video Story. Once you get ready to edit and share, make sure the sound icon isn’t muted so your viewers can jam with you.

Alternatively, if you’d rather your video be muted, tap the sound icon so an “X” appears over it.

 unmuted1.png unmuted2.png

We hope these tips help you post killer Instagram Stories your audience won’t be able to stop following. There are lots of hidden ways to take your Stories to the next level — some we may not even have covered here — so our best advice? Keep clicking around and see what you can do with the latest updates from the app. Happy ‘gramming!

how to use instagram for business

 
how to use instagram for business E

How to Use KPI Benchmarks to Drive Better Marketing Decisions (And Results)

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kpi benchmarks

Data is the cornerstone of digital marketing results and producing great campaigns for the future.

The more traffic you get, the better your tactics worked.

Are you ranking #1 for a keyword? It looks like your efforts have paid off!

But have your efforts literally paid off? Have they actually made money for your business?

You might feel good when you read those kinds of metrics, but they don’t prove that your company has fulfilled its ultimate goal: to make a profit.

We all like to look at this kind of data. But in reality, most of us are doing data wrong.

We are focusing on the wrong key performance indicators (KPIs) and using them to make bad marketing decisions.

Data should always be the first thing you look at when allocating a budget or informing a new campaign.

But what happens when the data you’re looking at isn’t good enough?

If the data doesn’t show you the entire picture, you risk dumping your budget into efforts that simply won’t produce results.

Tracking the wrong metrics is a recipe for disaster, but using those metrics to inform your decisions is even worse.

It could be the make-or-break difference for your business.

I did this countless times when I was a young entrepreneur growing my business.

I was using the wrong data to inform bad decisions and taking my budget to a different platform, only to realize that it was a waste of time and money.

Thankfully, I’ve learned a few things over the years that I can share with you to help you improve your marketing.

Here’s how you should be using KPI benchmarks to drive better marketing decisions.

What are KPI benchmarks and which ones should you focus on?

Key performance indicators are metrics that are designed to tell you how effectively you are achieving your business objectives.

They are meant to quickly tell you if your marketing tactics are working or not.

Tons of businesses use KPIs at multiple levels to measure the success of their efforts.

KPIs can range from high-level to low-level and could be anything from traffic to sales depending on your goals, business, and specific campaign.

A lot of times, marketers get caught up in things like traffic or clicks. We obsess over having the best click-through rate or the number one ranking spot for our goal keywords.

But when it comes to KPIs, you need to focus on real data.

You need data that tells you exactly what impact you had on your business.

For example, is your goal to drive more Facebook Page likes?

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Then your KPI shouldn’t be focused on metrics like traffic or visits or impressions.

Why? Because your end goal doesn’t involve any of that.

Your end goal is page likes, meaning that your key performance indicator should be page likes!

It tells you in one metric how your efforts are performing.

It’s the blanket metric that you should use to inform your decisions.

It would be the same thing if you were running social media campaigns for followers on Twitter or Instagram.

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So, what if you’re running a Google AdWords campaign and your end goal is leads?

In that case, your KPI wouldn’t be anything like traffic or clicks. It would be how many people you actually land for a consultation or convince to become an email subscriber.

Sometimes, we get caught up in metrics that are great on the surface.

But focusing on these metrics can send you down a rabbit hole that you may never escape.

It can sabotage your marketing efforts by making you think that certain tactics are working when in reality they aren’t.

Overall, KPIs should meet the following criteria when compared to other data and metrics:

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KPIs should be meaningful enough to use in your marketing decisions.

They need to concentrate on material gains in terms of contributing cold hard cash to your bank account.

They need to align and even guide the strategic positioning and direction of your brand, too.

So, what falls into KPIs and what doesn’t? Well, this is a good rule of thumb:

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If you want to find out your own KPIs, I have a formula that can help you uncover them in just a few minutes.

Here’s how:

Step 1. Define your objective.

First, you need to figure out what your end goal for a specific campaign or department is. For example, the sales department exists to close prospects on sales.

For marketing, it’s likely to bring in more visitors and drive more lead sign-ups.

Once you’ve outlined the major objective of a campaign or department, head to step 2.

Step 2. Define the measurable success.

If your sales department’s goal is to close prospects to produce sales, measurable success metrics could be:

  • Close rate
  • Total sales
  • Overall business growth in terms of profit

If your marketing department exists to bring in new traffic and leads, your KPIs might be:

  • Traffic
  • Conversion rate from traffic to leads
  • Total leads

Once you’ve done this, you can use your data for the right efforts. Here’s how you’re doing data wrong and how to use your KPIs for better decisions.

A prime example of how data goes wrong and why

People often see A/B testing as the gold standard of benchmark data.

They put stock into these tests, and once they do them, they make massive changes to their marketing game plan.

But the truth is that A/B testing is a waste of time for most small businesses. At least when it comes to certain marketing campaigns.

According to Conversion XL, most A/B tests fail. Why?

It’s because you need a minimum of 1,000 conversions monthly to reach any sort of statistical significance.

But often — and I’m guilty of it, too — we take A/B testing data as foolproof evidence that should always inform our decisions.

It can cause us to put too much money into platforms that really don’t work.

For example, let’s say that you A/B test having a free trial sign-up with a credit card and without one.

You can see this on most SaaS product sites:

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So you test a landing page with a credit card required and one without.

You quickly notice that you’ve got double, or maybe even triple, the conversions on your page without a credit card required.

You quickly think:

Wow! I’ve struck gold.

Eliminate the credit card usage ASAP. Take down the landing page.

Let’s pump all of your budget into this to drive more of these conversions!

But that’s dangerous. It’s the wrong way to look at data.

It’s not how KPIs are meant to be used.

For example, let’s say you check back in 2-4 weeks when the trials are starting to end.

You notice that only 5% of trial users converted to a final service when they signed up without a credit card.

But now you’ve put all of your eggs in one basket,= and it’s too late to go back.

All of those visitors who signed up for free trials didn’t convert.

And when you look back, you notice that the majority of people who sign up when a credit card was required actually converted to the full product.

KPIs are all about quality — not quantity. They are about what really moves the needle for your business.

A/B testing is a common pitfall that small businesses fall into when trying to use data to drive better marketing decisions.

Sure, A/B testing is useful. But only when you use it over and over to generate consistent results.

How to use KPIs to make realistic marketing decisions

Now it’s time to use data for good.

Tip 1. Create a KPI dashboard in Google Analytics.

KPIs are fantastic once you’ve got them outlined.

But how do you make better marketing decisions with them?

By making them the focal point of your data collection and analysis process.

They need to be the center of your focus if you want to make a real impact on your business growth and development.

To start, I recommend creating a custom dashboard in Google Analytics. To do this, head to the “Dashboards” report under “Customization:”

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Next, hit “Create” to start a new custom dashboard:

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Now you can choose between two different options.

You can either create a new custom dashboard from a blank canvas or select a starter custom dashboard.

For this, I recommend creating one from a blank canvas to really customize it to your efforts.

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Click “Create Dashboard” to continue.

Now you’ve got tons of options to choose from when creating a new widget for your dashboard:

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You can add dozens of widgets to your dashboard and customize them with different metrics, graphs, and stats.

Now, obviously, everyone will have a different dashboard depending on their company goals.

Metrics won’t always be the same, so there is no cookie-cutter dashboard you can copy.

Remember: KPIs should be the best of the best metrics and indicators for your success.

No two campaigns should contain all of the same KPIs.

But, I will show you how to set up a few different amazing widgets for your dashboard to get you started.

One of my favorite custom dashboard widgets is meant for marketers who want to analyze their traffic impact on conversions.

It helps you quickly identify which channels, whether it be organic or paid or direct, are driving the most sessions and ultimately the most conversions.

To get started, select the “Table” option as your widget:

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Next, select “Source / Medium” as your first metric:

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This will give you data on how your sources perform relative to these next two metrics:

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In the end, your dashboard should look like this:

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This will generate a table that analyzes how each source (direct, organic, etc.) plays a role in sessions (traffic) and how they impact goals (conversions).

Another of my favorite widgets is to track your content marketing backlinks.

Here’s how to set it up:

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Select the “Table” option and display the following three metrics:

Full Referrer + Unique Pageviews + Bounce Rate.

This will give you an idea of which referral links you are getting and which are performing well for your business.

Setting up a few dashboards like this for your own KPIs is going to be critical in making better marketing decisions.

It allows you to spend less time analyzing vanity metrics and more time focusing on real data that shows the full story.

Tip 2. Take that data and put it to use.

The key to using KPI data is to see the big picture regarding what your tactics are accomplishing.

While a tactic like Pinterest posting might help you generate traffic, what was the real result in relation to your goals?

Sure, it might be awesome to increase your traffic via Pinterest by 67.65% like I did. But what resulted from it?

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Did that traffic get you anything to grow your business?

Most people would see these numbers and instantly say, “Let’s cut out Facebook and Twitter and focus on Pinterest.”

But what if Facebook and Twitter are driving most of your real conversions to sales even if they have fewer traffic numbers than Pinterest?

You’ve just essentially cut off two amazing sources of direct sales in exchange for traffic that doesn’t convert.

That’s a big mistake.

This is why key performance indicators are so powerful for marketing decisions.

They help you look past the surface and understand the real impact of your marketing tactics.

A great way to do this is by analyzing the entire customer journey and producing reports that don’t only focus on the last-touch attribution bias that we see in typical conversion data.

Here I’ll show you how to analyze both right inside your own Analytics in minutes.

To get more data on the customer journey and lifecycle and to see how each part of your marketing strategy plays a role, head to Analytics and open the “Behavior Flow” report:

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From here, you can analyze how different traffic sources impact behavior flows on your site:

For example, is referral traffic sticking around? If not, it might not be worth your budget to focus heavily on it.

Is your organic traffic having multiple on-site interactions and converting? This is important data.

It tells you that prospects aren’t just coming to your site and giving you impressions or new sessions.

It shows you that you’re actually driving business growth with it.

The behavior flow is one of the most underutilized tools in Analytics.

It’s essentially a free buyer’s journey or sales cycle model tailored to your site.

It helps you visualize how each source and medium works to bring in visits, where they go, and what they did on-site.

You can also change the starting metric to social networks if your objectives focus on social media marketing:

The options are diverse here and you can select between dozens of them to see how each impacts behavior with your site.

Now, you also need to focus on reporting data that shows you conversions, too.

For example, what if your conversion report says that social media is getting you zero conversions?

It’s not doing a darn thing!

That’s probably 100% false.

Let me explain:

Marketing data suffers from serious bias in the form of last-touch attribution.

Last-touch attribution is defined as conversion data that gives credit to the last “touchpoint” that a user landed on before converting.

For example, if they hit your landing page via organic search and converted, then the conversion data would give credit to the organic search.

Do you see a problem with this?

Take a look at the typical buyer’s journey and tell me if you think it’s that cut and dry:

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Does a user really only need one touchpoint to convert?

Obviously not, or this wouldn’t exist!

Buyers can take weeks or even months to convert, landing on your site or other online channels potentially dozens of times.

They could have found you on social media, clicked a lead magnet remarketing ad, typed your direct link, found your blog via organic search, and then converted finally from a PPC ad.

But in that case, PPC would get the credit, when in reality, all of your channels played a role.

This is potentially dangerous because it can cause you to think that some platforms aren’t driving conversions when, in reality, they were critical factors.

Try running a report on the “Model Comparison Tool” in Analytics to see how different channels helped conversions:

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Next, select the model to analyze:

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You can choose between multiple models to see how your channels were involved in the buying journey:

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You can even create new custom models or import more templates:

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In the table below, look at what percentage your individual platforms play as their roles in the conversion process:

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Do you notice that one is lagging behind in almost every test?

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Then you might really consider eliminating it from your strategy. This would be a prime example of using data for real marketing efforts.

Give it a shot today to use your data to make real, informed marketing decisions.

Conclusion

Data is the fundamental proof that marketers should be using to create campaigns and inform marketing decisions.

Think about it:

When you check Google Analytics and see that your traffic is on the rise, you must be performing well, right?

At first glance, the tactics you’ve put into practice appear to be working.

But it’s not that simple. In reality, most of us are doing data wrong.

And using data in the wrong ways can sabotage any quality marketing campaign.

Putting your budget into the wrong platform could make or break your business.

Trust me. I’ve been there.

It’s easy to get the data wrong and use the wrong KPI benchmarks.

But once you’ve started to hone in on these benchmarks, you can use them to make better marketing decisions.

Start by creating a custom dashboard in Google Analytics to weed out the bad metrics and focus on the real key performance indicators.

Next, take the data that expands beyond the simple metrics and put it to use.

Make sure that you back up any tactic with sound data.

Revolutionizing the way you see and understand data can turn your business from a zero to a hero in no time!

What are the KPIs that you track to inform better marketing decisions?

The post How to Use KPI Benchmarks to Drive Better Marketing Decisions (And Results) appeared first on Neil Patel.



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