The Best Keyword Research Tips with HubSpot and Google Web Master Tools

Back in October of 2017 I did some research on the Google queries in the United States where our home page appeared in the search results.

At that time, had appeared in 12,721 search results across 610 different keyword phrases over a period of the past 90 days. Intrigued, I went a step further…

I took a few extra steps to analyze our results:

  1. I took the top 100 queries (based on the number of impressions) and added them to our HubSpot portal. I then pulled our ranking for each of those 100 keywords, which to no surprise wasn’t stellar, but on par with what I expected.
  2. Next, I took a list of the keywords where we appear in the top 4 search results and compare that with the list of top 100 queries over the last 90 days.
  3. What I learned was that we have 1 keyword phrase that appears in the top 100 queries it’s “mobile video ssp”.
  4. We currently rank #2 for “mobile video ssp” and we only showed up 91 times in the past 90 days (just a hair over 1 per day). The search volume is pretty low for that phrase.
  5. In the end, the words ‘mobile’, ‘ad’, and ‘video’ appear the most in the top 100 queries, each of them counted individually:
    • mobile = 42 appearances
    • ad = 63 appearances
    • video = 33 appearance
  6. I broke down the top keyword phrases into two-word combinations to see if there were any hits in the top 100 queries and to my delight there were three winners.
    • mobile video = 12 appearances
    • mobile ad = 22 appearances
    • video ad = 23 appearances

Note: The data can be seen at the bottom of this page.

Optimizing Top Post Pages

Right now, AerServ sees more clicks on technical queries like “list of IAB categories” or “video autoplay on mobile”. As a first step, I’m optimizing the posts we rank highly for in the following ways:

  • Update the publish date to be a more recent date for the top traffic post (/why-does-video-autoplay-on-mobile-devices-not-work/)
  • Add new CTA’s and text links that drive back to our website

When comparing 10/16 – 10/26 to the same period prior 10/6 – 10/15, we saw a substantial increase in impressions and clicks.

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I’ve now updated the /mobile-device-identifiers/ and /brand-based-vs-performance-based-ads/ posts with new dates and CTAs. We’ll see if the results are similar.

To further improve our SEO, we’ll need Pillar Pages…

Pillar Page 101

A Pillar Page has 5 core elements:

  1. Broad, not exhaustive content
  2. Evergreen
  3. Optimize for Questions
  4. Update consistently when appropriate
  5. Distribute Page Rank over time

The new website should/will house our “Pillar Pages” that we want to rank for. By linking the high ranking blog posts to our pillar pages through specific phrases that are directly related to the page, we’ll help teach Google that we’re an authority on the keywords. It will see a high CTR on search queries that drive to our blog and ideally begin to crawl our pages for internal links (deep links) to our website content and other pages.

Here’s what a Pillar Page with Sub Topics might look, but we can explore improving this:

How to think about Pillar Content

According to the HubSpot team: “A pillar page is the basis on which a topic cluster is built. A pillar page covers all aspects of the topic on a single page, with room for more in-depth reporting in more detailed cluster blog posts that hyperlink back to the pillar page. Pillar pages broadly cover a particular topic, and cluster content should address a specific keyword related to that topic in-depth.” src.


Here are some examples of good pillar pages:

Pillar Page – Tool:

Pillar Pages – Content:

Things to keep in mind:

Our new website and future content production need to focus on a healthy mix of what users are searching for and what we want to rank for. To optimize the content we want to be ranked for, we’ll need a web page targeted toward a keyword phrase and a core audience. For instance, building pages like “Programmatic Advertising” or “Mobile Ad Mediation” will help improve our chances of showing up for queries with those terms, but we also need to build blog posts and additional sub-topics related to each of those “Pillar Pages” that help improve our authority on each topic.

How to Create a Topic Cluster Plan

NOTE: This is a re-post of the research and amazing content on HubSpot’s blog found here.

Before you get started creating new topic clusters of your own it’s important to determine if this is the right approach for your site. You can figure this out by asking yourself three simple questions outlined in the chart below.

  1. Does the topic you want to rank for have enough search volume to be worth the time and effort?
  2. Do you already have content covering the topic? If so, you may be better off using what you have and adding internal links.
  3. Is the topic something you want to cover in detail? If you’ve made it this far and the answer is “yes”,  you can start creating your own topic cluster.

When it comes to actually mapping out topic clusters, there’s a general process that works particularly well. Follow these steps to create your own pillar page:

  1. Map out 5-10 of the core problems that your buyer persona has (use surveys, run interviews, and do some secondary research within online communities).
  2. Group each of the problems into broad topic areas.
  3. Build out each of the core topics with subtopics using keyword research.
  4. Map out content ideas that align with each of the core topics and corresponding subtopics.
  5. Validate each idea with industry and competitive research.
  6. Create, measure, and refine.

This is a simple overview but should help you to begin to prioritize content ideation and production. Following this process will help you to structure your editorial calendar for the topic cluster content model.

But how do you figure out what content to focus on? This is where keyword research comes into play. Keyword research is a helpful way to determine what content your target audience already is looking for so you can reach them in a way that is relevant and impactful to them.

To get started, create a list of broad topics that are important to your business. Then fill in each topic with potential keywords you think your audience will search for. It’s better to not self-edit during this stage and write out as many keywords as you can think of. For example, if your main topic is Instagram marketing, your subtopics might include Instagram business accounts, Instagram captions, Instagram hashtags, and Instagram analytics.

Once you have your list, search for these terms or use a tool such as Ubersuggest to find related keywords and terms you may not have initially included in your list. Make sure you have a mix of long-tail and short-tail keywords.

Now that you’ve finalized your keyword list, see how your competitors rank for each of them using a service like SEMRush. This will allow you to find gaps in their search strategy as well as single out important words and phrases to aim for in the pillar content you create. After all of those steps are complete, use Google’s Keyword Planner or HubSpot’s keywords tool to narrow down the keyword list.

Once you’ve developed your pillar topic and cluster content, create a tracking document to keep track of your existing content and cluster strategy. Tracking documents can help organize your clustering process to make sure all of your content has been linked correctly. For HubSpot customers, you can automate clustering using HubSpot’s content strategy tool.

What is the Role of Marketing Operations?

NOTE: This post was originally shared on*

The television series Mad Men portrays the bustling world of advertising in the 1960’s when it first rose to prominence as its own driving force. Over the last ten years, a similar seismic shift in marketing has taken place. For decades, many corporations had their own marketing departments, often relegated to the end of the supply chain and then responsible for moving products designed by engineers and executives who were often out of touch with the market.

Marketing Operations (MO) is a next-level concept engaged in the actual process of creating, manufacturing and promoting products. A marketing operations department is likely to be a wild blend of creative left-brain thinkers and buttoned up right-brain statistic ninjas, all working in harmony towards a common goal.

1.  Various Roles of Marketing Operations

As a department, Marketing Operations is involved with much more than just ‘marketing’. At Estée Lauder, for example, marketing operations start with creative teams conceptualizing new beauty products in anticipation of both demands and trends. From the initial concept, Estée Lauder’s MO team then oversees materials sourcing—such as finding fair trade ingredients or new non-allergenic materials—as well as product testing, brand naming, and design. The team also gauges demand by polling retailers and sets projected inventory and delivery dates. From there, each project is handed off to manufacturing, accounting, and various other departments until it arrives in warehouses for shipping. Meanwhile, the MO plans product launches and brand promotions.

At some companies, MO plays a bigger role at the end of the production process—but nearly every department is involved at some stage of the company’s brand process. Other roles include strategic planning, lead management, process improvement, budget management, stakeholder analysis, quality testing, and data management. MO thus has a much broader sweep, taking care of the ‘business of marketing’ and not just the creative aspects.

2.  Factors Driving the Creation of Marketing Ops

The term ‘marketing operations’ was originally coined by analyst firm IDC in early 2005 but only entered the mainstream corporate lexicon around 2011. Several factors contributed to the rise of MO as an integrated unit in company culture. Savvy corporations began consulting the marketing department before introducing new ideas to get important insights on demographic trends, competitive pressures, and customer feedback.

What was once considered a revolutionary idea—including the marketing team from the beginning—created a loop that improves and informs company branding from concept to delivery. Now, with ever-increasing pressure on companies to provide transparency and guarantees, MO departments have also moved into designing company workflows, providing training, and establishing company standards.

At Thomson Reuters, the most widely used news distribution network in the world, the Marketing Ops team was intensely involved in crafting the company’s branding mission. The marketing team at Thomson Reuters is responsible for clarifying its values to clients and employees in the realms of journalism and intellectual property rights, as well as the finance and legal industries to which it provides proprietary software.

3.  The Real Purpose of Marketing Operations

The word ‘operations’ in the title is just as important as ‘marketing’. Marketing Operations evolved as a way to help companies be more transparent, efficient, competitive, profitable, and accountable. Early adopters of this over-arching role include Cisco Systems, Symantec, and Adobe. Today, hundreds of companies across multiple industries draw their employees and recruits from backgrounds in branding, finance, technology, accounting, and sales.

The defining purpose of Marketing Ops is to create alignment and order within a company. MO teams are often responsible for creating work systems and workflows through every business unit, as well as overseeing deadlines and cooperation. In essence, although the MO team is often involved in tactical analysis and deployment, its main mission is that of strategy. A strong Marketing Operations department becomes the hub of the company, where people, processes, metrics, and goals are brought into alignment.

4.  Oversight of Long-Term Goals

One of the key roles of Marketing Operations is to help define the company’s long-term goals and then provide the oversight necessary to keep a company on course. This involves everything from making sure the company is following through on marketing strategy, to ensuring a strong return on investments. As with traditional marketing teams, this means a continual focus on key performance indicators (KPI’s). MO may also be in charge of those KPI’s related to budgets, distribution, data flow, and procurement. Another key role is ensuring that the company stays ‘on brand’ at all times.

The word ‘branding’ used to mean what colors represent the company’s product, and what values are included in a (frequently vague) mission statement. Today, branding is a complicated and powerful field that affects the very essence of a company’s identity. Some MO departments will review everything from the company’s mission statement to its year-end investor portfolios to ensure that a company’s overall brand remains intact.

5.  Planning for Market Penetration

Of course, despite its many responsibilities, Marketing Operations is still about marketing. While overseeing a multitude of tasks, MO will also have a flourishing creative department working on print collateral, media campaigns and event planning. The integrated nature of Marketing Operations allows it to assimilate information and feedback from multiple company modules that were once in their own silos. MO can see which products sell faster than others or have seasonal fluctuations, enabling the team to anticipate demand for inventory. Coordination with accounting helps MO analyze which products are most profitable, and why. Data from warehousing and distribution can identify bottlenecks. MO can then work backward from an anticipated launch date to include more time for possible delivery glitches.

6.  Responding to Changing Market Trends and Requirements

Marketing Operations is also the catcher for the company’s tech awareness team. MO keeps abreast of improvements and competition in CRM, data analysis, and marketing and then translates that knowledge into actionable improvements.

Agility is key when it comes to staying ahead of the competition in 21st-century marketing. Online commerce means most companies are selling globally 24/7, which requires highly responsive customer service teams, real-time traffic and revenue reporting, an understanding of advertising exchange algorithms, and the ability to spot fresh opportunities.

As an example, Estée Lauder’s trend-setting MO Department gave one of its more mature brands, Bobby Brown, a digital makeover in 2013 by launching a YouTube channel called ‘I Love Makeup’ targeted at millennials. As Forbes reported at the time: “As the first brand to take such a step, it will be watched closely by everyone.”

7.  Identifying New Markets

The marriage of data and strategic planning make it easier for a company to identify and evaluate a variety of new opportunities like exports, franchising, additional product lines, and mobile advertising. However, the growing impact of digital marketing also has complications: every country has different legal and political concerns regarding data privacy, and it’s MO’s job to sort that out.

8.  Optimizing Marketing Channels

MO allows a company to exercise both versatility and specificity in its choice of marketing channels. A department can put different people or teams in charge of direct selling, wholesaling, digital marketing, print media, mobile advertising and so on. This allows each team to drill down into what works (or doesn’t) in each channel, while still functioning as part of a cohesive department that collates and analyzes data from all channels.

9.  A Typical Month in Marketing Operations

While the scope of the department’s role can be quite involved, individual responsibilities are generally clearly defined. The ultimate responsibility is supporting other teams or individuals. A data analyst would likely lend support to the sales team and working the CRM, then move on to A/B testing and analysis of email campaigns and finally, refine data and feed it into current ROI reporting.

At least twice a week, data teams might meet with their creative counterparts to get their input and answer questions. Data teams can share which types of franchise leads respond most favorably, and ask creative teams for tailored messaging to those demographics — or Creative may ask Data to assess various mobile advertising exchanges and pick the best ones for geo-targeting and fill speed.

Twice a month, both teams might meet with a larger strategic planning group that reports directly to decision makers. These meetings may focus on preparing year-end reports, assessing new markets, or creating workflow templates and training materials across the company.

10. The Future of Marketing Operations

According to a 2009 Lenskold Group study, companies with a marketing operations department are twice as likely (11% vs. 5%) to enjoy more “effective and efficient” marketing and are more likely to outgrow their competitors. In a survey conducted by the CMO Council and software company Alterian, 60% of respondents said the transformation of marketing operations is an essential area of focus, regardless of company size. In the Lenskold study, 59% of respondents reported having a dedicated Marketing Operations person or team.

For those seeking a career in marketing, MO may be a very smart choice—new hires are likely to get intensive experience in the discipline of their choice, while still being exposed to, and working with, teammates in other disciplines.

For companies small and large, Marketing Operations provides the integration and insight necessary to compete in a world of rapidly accelerating data and intelligence.


*approved for sharing with my audience by Ira Padilla

Setting Default Values for Personalization Tokens in HubSpot Emails and Website Content

“Dear ,”
( We’ve all seen that before! )

Due to a little problem with my email tokens this past week, I recently reacquainted myself with the “Content Settings” section within the HubSpot “Contacts” menu.

A few days ago we sent an email out to our customers with a {{contact.firstname}} email token in the intro to the email. Some of those emails were delivered and a handful of our contacts who were missing a “First Name” in our CRM ended up getting an email that said “Dear ,” which makes us look awesome… not.

What I failed to do was two things:

  1. I normally send emails with a different intro, something like “Hi”, “Hey”, or “Hello” which doesn’t look bad when the First Name field is empty.
  2. If the intro requires a default value I’ll typically set the value to “friend” since this seems to be the best alternative for a missing First Name field value.

So, to stop this problem from happening again, I decided to ask HubSpot support (which is awesome) for a little help. This time though, I taught the support rep a little something, which I thought you should all learn too.

Replacing email tokens in HubSpot emails:

By default, HubSpot emails give you the option to “Review” your email before you hit send, it’s actually one of the steps you will hit if you continue to use the “NEXT” button in the email interface. The “Review” section will actually show all the personalization tokens you’ve used (among other things) and what their default values are.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 8.32.15 AM
The screen shot here shows that I don’t currently have a value for “FIRSTNAME”

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 8.36.49 AM.png

By clicking the link “Edit default value” from the review section in HubSpot, you’ll be able to put a default value for the First Name field (or whatever personalization token you’ve used). Make sure to read the tool tip for more information.

After you fill in a value here, all future emails you send will contain a value for “First Name” if the record in the CRM is missing their First Name. Neat.

This is a great solution to a silly problem, but there is a better way to solve this as an administrator and make sure the entire company is setup for success.

Globally replace email tokens in HubSpot emails:

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 8.22.34 AM

This is particularly useful if you are an administrator of the HubSpot platform and want to allow other members of your organization to send emails without you double and triple checking each email send. Setting a token within these settings will give you some piece of mind.

Ironically, the HubSpot support team didn’t realize these settings were available in the email section of “Content Settings” – that’s why I’m sharing it with you now.

Here’s how to get there:

Step 1: Head on over to your “Content Settings” section found within the Contact menu in HubSpot.

Step 2: Click “Email” on the left navigation on the page

Step 3: Scroll to the bottom and look for the section “Default Values for Email Personalization” (screen shot below)

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 8.40.19 AM.png

From here, you can manage all the default values for any Contact or Company Properties in your CRM. Really neat.

Pro tip: These settings are ONLY for the email personalization tokens, so if you want to manage how these default values appear when using personalization on your landing pages and website pages, you’ll need to go back to “Content Settings” click on “Page Publishing” and scroll to the bottom where you’ll see the same type of box but this is specifically for Page Personalization.

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