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Are Companies Seeing Summer Slumps in 2021? We Analyzed 103,000 Businesses to Find Out

Until recently, many of us have been doing almost everything from home with no immediate hopes of in-person outings.

But, this summer — as entire countries reopen — people who’ve been stuck inside are finally breathing a sigh of relief. At the same time, some company leaders are doing the opposite.

Why? In past years, entire industries have seen summer slumps — or seasonal dips in sales or web traffic. This year, business leaders are expecting sharper dips as more consumers travel or unplug. They’re also dealing with frequent HR requests from employees who’ve been waiting months to take vacations.

On top of the challenges above, the Society of Human Resources Management reports that 41% of employees feel burnt out while 48% feel mentally exhausted by the end of their workdays. This, in turn, could impact productivity and job retention levels.

Ultimately, many leaders worry that the summer trends above could impact their bottom line.

To help businesses navigate the changing landscape, we dove into 2021 web traffic and deal closing data from over 103,000 anonymous HubSpot customers around the globe. Then, we compared their summer results to pre-pandemic benchmarks from the summer of 2019.

Below are some of our key findings.

Summer Trends to Watch, According to HubSpot Data

Note: When looking at the charts and data below, each year’s traffic or deal benchmark is equal to its April numbers. Therefore, if industries were 10% under benchmark in June 2019, they saw a 10% dip since April 2019.

Web Traffic is Seeing a Summer Slump

So far in 2021, global traffic is dipping across almost all industries and segments. Compared to 2019, websites are also seeing less overall traffic growth.

At this point, the only industry that isn’t slumping is Leisure and Hospitality, which saw a whopping 17.72% traffic increase between April and June of 2021. This is almost the opposite of what we saw in 2019 when traffic decreased for websites in the industry by 13.27% from April to June.

Although Leisure and Hospitality’s current traffic patterns are impressive, they’re still fairly unsurprising as news outlets continue to report spikes in reopening-related travel, outings, and excursions this summer.

A few of the industries seeing the largest dips in traffic from April to June 2021 are Construction (-12%), Financial Activities (-11%), Manufacturing (-7.2%), and Trade, Transportation, and Utilities (-7.1%)

As compared to 2019, some of the segments seeing larger traffic slumps this year are Trade, Transportation, and Utilities — which saw 3.7% growth from April to June in 2019 and a 7.11% loss during the same time in 2021; Education and Health Services — which saw 17.52% growth in 2019, but a 2.7% loss in 2021; and Construction — which only saw a 0.16% decrease by June of 2019 but saw a 12.06% loss in 2021.

percentage of traffic gained or lost from April to June 2019 vs. 2021 bar chart

Aside from Leisure and Hospitality, segments seeing the smallest slumps in summer traffic are Professional and Business Services with under a 1% drop, and Education and Health Services with just a 2.7% drop.

From a geographical standpoint, these web traffic trends are happening in all locations we’ve examined, except for Asia — which is seeing steady traffic growth.

While it’s unclear why Asia’s web traffic is rising, this continued growth could be due to lockdowns and stay-at-home orders in various Asian territories that are still dealing with COVID-19 and its variants. During Q2 and Q3 of 2020, the United States and other territories around the world saw similar traffic bursts as citizens were stuck at home with only the internet to entertain them or connect them to others.

Deals are Going Up

Yes. You read that correctly. While traffic is seeing a summer slowdown, deal closings across industries are climbing.

Industries seeing the biggest growth from April to June of 2021 include Leisure and Hospitality (+44.7%), Manufacturing (+13.65%), and Trade, Transportation, and Utilities (+10.62%), while segments seeing the slowest growth are Construction and Financial Activities, which both have just under a 2% increase from their April benchmarks.

Businesses are also seeing a higher rate of deal closings than they did between April and June of 2019 — when five of the eight segments we studied saw at least a 3.5% dip in deal closings.

While deal closings were up in June, it’s still important for company leaders to remain cautious at this point of the summer.

Although deals are climbing, businesses could still see dips in later summer months due to consumers continuing to travel, employee vacations, or teams feeling less pressured to close deals at the beginning of a new quarter. However, one optimistic point to consider is that deal closings did not see similar lifts in June 2019, when many industries actually saw dipping.

Ultimately, as the summer continues, it will be key to monitor your traffic, as well as deals created, qualified leads, and deals closed to get a full look at your brand’s performance.

If your team’s seeing more deal closings, but fewer qualified leads, signups, or deals created this summer, it might not be a cause for panic. However, when your business sees a slowdown or shift of any kind, there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure future success.

How to Prepare For and Respond to Summer Business Trends

1. Prepare when you can for business shifts.

Because we’re only halfway through summer, businesses can still take time to predict and prepare for what’s to come.

Alicia Butler Pierre, Host of the Business Infrastructure Podcast and CEO of Equilibria, Inc. says, “There are two major ways businesses can predict, diagnose, and/or prepare for a seasonal slump: resource planning and contingency planning.”

  • Contingency planning: This strategy — which often includes creating a premortem, failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA), and disaster recovery and business continuity plan –helps brands prepare for unexpected dips or upticks caused by outside factors like news events or national disasters.
  • Resource planning: “As your company utilizes different resources that serve as inputs into producing a good or delivering a service (outputs), you should collect data such as transaction dates, sale or invoice amounts, product or service type, and some customer demographic data.” says Butler Pierre. “If you notice the same patterns and trends year after year, you are in a better position to forecast and prepare for seasonal slumps. This, in turn, lets you know when to expand or contract inputs like labor and inventory.”

input process outputs flowchart showing how data should be involved in all planning phases

Image Courtesy of Alicia Butler Pierre

Data shows that a strong plan can be rewarding when business begins to pick up. In 2020, as consumers quickly turned to online stores for essentials, businesses that weren’t online were rushing to build online stores, while online stores were struggling to fulfill high-demand orders on time. Around this time, more than 50% of shoppers chose to buy products from brands with more product availability over brands they were originally loyal to.

“I strongly advocate businesses focus on improvements to their business infrastructure during seasonal slumps. It’s difficult to make improvements while things are moving so quickly, as all hands are on deck trying to fulfill orders and meet project deadlines,” says Butler Pierre.

Quote from Alicia Butler Pierre on why businesses should use slow times to plan for busier times when its harder to make improvements

“Improvements can include things like technology and equipment upgrades, process automation, and reconfiguring (or relocating) your physical work location. With these improvements in place, your company can work through the chaos that can accompany a seasonal uptick without compromising quality and excellent customer service,” Butler Pierre adds.

2. Launch demand plays.

“Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with macro trends in the market a lot is out of your control,” says Emmy Jonassen, HubSpot’s VP of Acquisition. “For example, there’s not much you can do if prospects are not visiting your site or talking to reps because they’re all on vacation.”

While you might not be able to solve seasonal business patterns, Jonassen says there are things you can do in the now to help the short and long term:

  • Getting through the slump: When you’re facing a period of slowed demand, any incremental lift at the top of the funnel can go a long way. During times like these consider adjustments you could make in the short term to help in the short term. For example, could you increase your paid spend temporarily? Could you remove a field in your lead form for a period of time to improve CVR? Could you manufacture a bit of demand with a campaign or offer that provides timely and unique value?
  • Making the most of what you have: In periods of soft demand, you want to make sure that you’re not leaving anything on the table. One way to do this is to perform an audit of your key acquisition drivers and invest in making optimizations. For example, if you’re able to improve search rankings and conversion rates of core landing pages, it will help you generate incremental demand. Investing in these kinds of optimizations will also put you in a much better position to capture demand when traffic does start to pick up.
  • Weatherproof for the long-term: Periods of slowed demand can help us see where the holes are in our demand-generation engines. Use this time to identify where your engine’s holes are and put in place plans that work toward patching them in the future. For example, if your desktop conversion rates are outperforming your mobile conversion rates because you haven’t invested in a mobile-optimized site, now could be a great time to start planning that project.

3. Use data to guide your strategy.

Although dips on website views might concern you, summer traffic slumps aren’t unusual. But, you can use analytics tools to prepare for and respond to them.

On the HubSpot Blog team, we use tools like HubSpot Traffic Analytics to examine and prepare for seasonal dips due to vacations, office closings, and global holidays that take people off-line during the summer. Because summer is filled with vacations and holidays, we often use part of the season to focus on historical optimization, long-term conversion plays, process planning, and trend-responsive content that can gain quick bursts in traffic when search engines are impacted by seasonality.

While a summer slump is a good time to look at and respond to unexpected traffic losses, it’s also important to remember that some decreases could be beyond your control and mostly due to seasonality. Additionally, if you’re a leader, you should look at other data aside from just traffic.

For example, you might also want to take a wider look at KPIs like online leads, email subscriber growth, online sales, and deal creation to learn how much web traffic losses are immediately impacting you. If traffic is down, but leads or deals are up, you might not need to pivot your whole strategy. If everything is going down — that’s when you might want to take a deep look at your overall processes.

Ultimately, as with process planning, digging into the analytics you have available will help you determine the best way to handle a traffic slump or uptick. To learn more about building an effective web analytics strategy specifically, check out this post.

4. Don’t forget about your current customers.

While deals are on the rise at the moment, some industries, such as construction and financial activities historically see dips or slower growth in the summer. Luckily, when business is slow, you can still take the time you need to maintain and potentially gain more business from your current clientele.

From a sales leadership perspective, Dan Tyre, Director at HubSpot, says that managers and teams should “look for ways to upsell or cross-sell new customers from the first six months of the year” or “use the time to work your referral program.”

“I like to call top customers in July to check in regarding the state of our relationship and see if there are other divisions or connections that can use similar help,” Tyre adds.

Additionally, leaders and companies can take more time to ensure their processes and operations are running smoothly when business is slow.

Regardless of whether you’re focused on gaining new clients or maintaining your customer list, tools like HubSpot’s Sales or Service Hubs can help you by allowing you to track deal creation, contact activities, and service inquiries. You can also use these tools to communicate with customers and prospects across different platforms like email, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.

5. Strengthen team communication.

While you’ll want to stay in contact with prospects and customers during times of slump or business uptick, communication with your team will also be incredibly vital. While poor communication can halt processes completely, great communication could speed up the pace of projects that provide great revenue.

Regardless of how busy your business is, take time to check in with your teams through meetings, platforms like Slack or Zoom, or email updates.

Additionally, to keep everyone in the know of each other’s schedules during a busy summer, you should ensure that calendars are up to date with meeting times, blocks for heads-down solo work, and time off.

6. Balance results with employee well-being.

As summer trends fluctuate, it can be easy for managers and teams to get swept up with work and forget about taking time to unplug. And, as economies reopen and employees gain the ability to travel, the balance between self-care and productivity will be even more important for leaders to consider.

“Time away from the office may be a bit more pronounced this year, but it’s not unique. The key to any process is managing expectations and understanding who’s available when to keep consistency in the sales process,” Tyre explains. “It’s advantageous for everyone to manage lower levels of stress and take time off. In many cases, a no-meeting Friday or work from home Friday can increase salespeople productivity.”

Senior Product Marketing Manager Alex Girard similarly says, “First, I think it’s important to understand the value in taking time off. When employees use their time off, they’ll come back refreshed and able to do their best work.”

“Second, make sure you’re prioritizing the important work that will drive real impact,” Girard adds. “If your team is taking time off, make sure everyone on the team is aligned around what’s important, what is not, and what can be postponed for later. This will ensure you keep things moving during periods of high vacation time.”

Tools to Help You Navigate a Summer Slump or Uptick

  • HubSpot Business Software: HubSpot’s CRM, Marketing, Sales, Service, and CMS Hub can help you and your team measure your performance; identify slumps, upticks, or major snags in your process; and assist you in moving customers through the buyer’s journey — even during a time of seasonality.  
  • Google Workspace or Microsoft Outlook: These programs allow teams to keep all their documents, calendars, and emails in one suite of tools that can streamline communication, project management, and the creation of new processes that will be vital to business growth.
  • Task Management Tools: If you work with multiple teammates or are managing multiple projects this summer, tools like HubSpot, Trello, Asana, and Jira can help you track the progress of what your team is working on and identify where any blockers might exist.
  • Communication Tools: Lastly, if you’re on a dispersed team like many HubSpotters, you’ll want to leverage a communication platform like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom to stay in contact with everyone you’re working with — even when there’s not enough time to schedule a meeting or check-in.

Editor’s Note: The data from HubSpot’s customer base is reflective of companies that have invested in an online presence and use inbound as a key part of their growth strategy. Because the data is aggregated, please keep in mind that individual businesses, including HubSpot’s, may differ based on their own markets, customer base, industry, geography, stage, and/or other factors.

How We Protect the Privacy of Our Customers’ Data

We employ the following anonymization techniques to remove or modify personally identifiable information so that data cannot be associated with any one individual:

  • Attribute suppression refers to the removal of an entire part of data in a dataset. Before sharing any customer data we apply suppression to any data attribute that on its own identifies an individual (e.g. name, company name) or has been assigned to an individual.
  • Generalization involves a deliberate reduction in the precision of data, such as converting company size into a company size range. We apply generalization to indirect identifiers. These are data attributes that on their own don’t identify individuals, but could identify an individual when combined with other information. We use the k-anonymity model as a guideline to ensure any record’s direct and/or indirect identifiers are shared by at least k(set at 100)-1 other records,  protecting our customer’s data against linking attacks.
  • Aggregation refers to converting a dataset from a list of records to summarized values. We apply aggregation by displaying a cohort’s mean or median values for a metric.

state of marketing

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Change is what search marketers expect; Wednesday’s daily brief

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25 Back to School Subject Lines to Help Get Your Email Opened

Back to school is a big sales opportunity. Whether you sell something to students or not, this is a time when many people are making purchase decisions.

According to Mastercard SpendingPulse™, which measures retail sales across all forms of payment, U.S. back to school sales are expected to grow 5.5% from 2020 and 6.7% from 2019. That means you can expect a boost in sales, even relative to the last couple of years.

Email is the #1 source of back to school purchase decisions. So if you are selling something students need, or just want to use the excuse to offer parents a deal, it’s time to fire up those emails with the perfect subject line.

4 guidelines for attention-grabbing back to school email subject lines

Whether you use our recommended back to school subject lines or want to create your own, there are a few tried and tested guidelines for writing them:

  1. Include “back to school” in the subject line. People associate back to school phrasing with deals. Adding this to your subject line will immediately pique interest.
  2. Keep it short. Shorter subject lines tend to stand out in an inbox. Try for less than 40 characters total.
  3. Get to the point. Buyers want to know exactly what’s in your email before they open it. Running a sale? Promoting a new product? Include it in the subject line.
  4. Use emojis. An effective emoji grabs attention and can double down on the point of your email. We include a list of 10 engaging emojis you can use below.

Ready to get started on your email? Here are 25 general-use subject lines that you can take or make small modifications to. 

25 back to school subject lines

  1. Ready to go back to school?
  2. Get ready for the back to school season
  3. Back to school sale starts today!
  4. Save big on back to school deals
  5. One day only. Back to school sale
  6. Specials for back to school
  7. New _____ for back to school
  8. Get ______ this football season
  9. Get X% off for back to school
  10. Original back to school styles
  11. Back. To. School.
  12. Get your back to school essentials
  13. Free shipping on back to school orders
  14. Top 10 _____ for back to school
  15. Prep for school: New year, new you
  16. Back to school deals for you
  17. Back to campus styles
  18. It’s time for back to school
  19. Fall favorites for back to school
  20. Pre-fall back to school sale
  21. Get ____ for your kiddos this school year
  22. Treat yourself during back to school
  23. A fresh start this school year
  24. Just in for back to school
  25. A fresh start. Back to school supplies

Want to boost your subject line with an effective emoji? Here are ten popular ones to include.

Top 10 emojis to add to your back to school emails

Test out some of these emojis on your audience and see what grabs their attention.

  1. ⌛ — Hourglass. Use this emoji to show that the deal or promotion is only available for a limited time.
  2. ⚡️ — Lightning. You can also use this emoji to emphasize a short-term discount or promotion.
  3. 💰 — Money bag. Use this emoji to indicate that your buyers will be saving money when they purchase from this email.
  4. 🍂 — Falling leaves. Use this emoji to set an autumn season tone.
  5. ✨ — Sparkles. This emoji indicates success and positivity. Try it on either side of your subject line.
  6. 📚📓 — Books. Use these emojis alongside any school messaging for emphasis.
  7. 🛍️ — Shopping bags. Use this emoji if you are selling products either in-person or online.
  8. 👞👕 — Products. Use these emojis if you sell products that have a specific emoji associated with them (you can search online to find out).
  9. 🏈 ⚽ — Sports. Use these emojis to indicate a certain season or if you’re targeting sports fans.
  10. 👪 — Family. Use this emoji if you’re targeting families with your offerings. Remember, there are lots of different family emoji options, so make sure you pick one that resonates with your audience.

When using emojis in your subject line, remember that some people won’t necessarily see them. Always use them to enhance the message, but not replace it. 

For example, use emojis like this:

👍 “Back to school book sale 📚” 

Don’t use emojis like this:

👎 “Back to school 📚 sale”

A/B test your subject lines to find the best open rates

You can test your subject line using a split test. Copy your email and give the copy a new subject line or add an emoji. Then, using an A/B/C test, you can send the more successful subject line to the majority of your audience, resulting in better open, click through, and sales rates!

Learn more about A/B testing your emails.

Send your back to school email using AWeber

Ready to get your emails sent out ASAP? Get an AWeber account set up in minutes. It’s fast and easy to send your first email. Plus, with A/B testing and robust reporting, you can test the most successful email subject lines year round.
Sign up today.

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The Different Types of Emails and Why You Should be Sending Them

Are you knocking it out of the park with your email campaigns? Any marketer would rarely answer yes to that question. No matter what your strategy looks like or how effective you think they are, email marketing mistakes happen, and results, open rates, and conversions can always be improved.  There are different types of emails,…

The post The Different Types of Emails and Why You Should be Sending Them appeared first on Benchmark Email.

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How to Promote Your Live Streams with Email Marketing

With more than half of the world’s population using email, it’s one of the best ways to get your message in front of your customers and potential customers.  Over the years, social media and messaging apps have been predicted to supersede email, but 50 years after the first email was sent, it’s still going strong. …

The post How to Promote Your Live Streams with Email Marketing appeared first on Benchmark Email.

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One Tip to Improve On-Page SEO: Use More Mini-Infographics (A Guide)

Often, our online content doesn’t engage readers because they don’t want to read so much text. And that impacts bounces and time on page, which Google watches closely. So how can you improve engagement–and on-page SEO? This articles explains what you need to know. Read the full article at MarketingProfs

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Google announces new deals sections, promotional tools and expanded reporting ahead of the holiday shopping season

Promotions uploaded via Google Merchant Center are automatically surfaced to shoppers, regardless of whether the merchant advertises on Google.

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Color Tools And Resources

Today, we’re shining the spotlight on color tools and resources for all kinds of projects, from all types of color palettes and generators to getting contrast and gradients just right for your projects. This collection is by no means complete, but rather a selection of things that the team at Smashing found useful and hope will make your day-to-day work more productive and efficient.

If you’re interested in more tools like these ones, please do take a look at our lovely email newsletter, so you can get tips like these drop right into your inbox!

CSS Variables And HSLA

How do you usually define colors in CSS? With HEX? RGBA? Or do you use HSLA? Maxime Heckel used a mix of HEX and RGBA, until he came across a clever pattern that helped him clean up the mess and lighten his codebase. The foundation: HSLA and CSS variables.

HSLA stands for Hue Saturation Lightness Alpha, the four main components necessary to define a color. When you use similar colors — different shades of blue, for example, — you will notice that they share the same hue and saturation. With Maxime’s approach, you can define a part of the hue and saturation through a CSS variable and reuse it to define your other color values — to build a color scale from scratch, for example. A fantastic example of how powerful CSS can be.

A Super-Fast Color Schemes Generator

Do you need to create a color palette? A handy tool to help you do this — and more — is Coolors. At the heart of Coolors is a sleek color palette generator: To start off, it suggests you a random palette that you can adjust by playing with shades or, if you prefer, change it completely by introducing new colors.

Coolors also lets you pick a palette from a photo and create collages, gradients, and gradient palettes. A contrast checker calculates the contrast ratio of text and background colors for you to ensure your color combinations are accessible. And if you just need a bit of inspiration, there are thousands of color themes waiting to be explored, too — just click the colors you like, and the hex values will be copied to your clipboard. Enjoy!

Overly Descriptive Color Palettes

Have you ever considered combining snail-paced soft pink with unsealed mahogany and lousy watermelon as a color scheme for your next project? Well, what might sound a bit weird at first, is the concept behind colors.lol, a color inspiration site with “overly descriptive color palettes”, as its creator Adam Fuhrer describes it.

Created as a fun way to discover interesting color combinations, the palettes are hand-selected from the Twitter bot @colorschemez. The feed randomly generates color combinations and matches each color with an adjective from a list of over 20,000 words. Hiding behind the unusual names are of course real hex color values that you can use right away — #FDB0C0, #4A0100, and #FD4659 in the case of snail-paced soft pink and its fellas, for example. A fun take on color.

Monochromatic Color Palettes Made Easy

If you’ve ever tried to generate a consistent monochromatic color palette, you know that this can be a boring task. After he once again messed around with infinite copy-paste commands to create a nice palette, Dimitris Raptis decided to change that. His solution: CopyPalette.

CopyPalette lets you create color palettes with ease. All you need to do is select a base color, the contrast ratio of the shades, and the number of color variations you’d like to have, and the tool generates a perfectly-balanced color palette that you can copy and paste into your favorite design tool. A true timesaver.

Color Scales For Data Visualizations

Different kinds of data visualizations have different needs when it comes to color. When you’re designing pie charts, grouped bar charts, or maps, for example, it might be a good idea to choose a series of colors that are visually equidistant. This ensures that they can be easily distinguished and compared to the key. The Data Color Picker powered by Learn UI Design helps you create such visually equidistant palettes based on two endpoint colors that you specify.

For those instances when you want to show the value of a single variable in your visualization and, thus, only need a color scale based on one color (with a darker variation representing a higher value and a neutral color a value closer to zero), there’s the Single Hue Scale generator.

Last but not least, divergent colors are most useful for visualizations where you’re showing a transition from one extreme through a neutral middle to an opposite extreme (a common example is a “how Democrat/Republican is each state in the US” map). The Divergent Color Scale generator helps you find the best scale for occasions like these. A powerful trio to take your data visualizations to the next level.

Real-World Color Palette Inspiration

There are a lot of fantastic sites out there that help you find inspiring color palettes. However, once you have decided on a palette you like, the biggest question is still left unanswered: How should you apply the colors to your design? Happy Hues is here to help.

Happy Hues gives you color palette inspiration while acting as a real-world example for how the colors could be used in your design. Just change the palette, and the Happy Hues site changes its colors to show you what your favorite palette looks like in an actual design. Clever!

Color Shades Generator

Another useful tool for dealing with color is the color shades generator that Vitaly Rtishchev and Vlad Shilov built. You can enter a hex value and the tool will show you a series of lighter and darker shades.

To customize the shade series, simply adjust the percentage by which you want to lighten/darken the original color and change the saturation shift. Once you’re happy with the result, you can copy the hex values of a color or the entire palette with one click.

Color Made Simple

Speaking about color can be tricky. What one person refers to as purple, might be mulberry for the next. But what color do they actually mean? To prevent misunderstandings, the design team at Lyft came up with their very own color system which is easy to learn for designers and developers while taking accessibility into account at the same time. They’ve open sourced it, so your team can make use of it, too: Say hello to ColorBox!

Google, But For Colors

You enter a search term and are presented a list of links. That’s how search engines usually work, right? Picular is different. Instead of searching for relevant sites, Picular presents you colors that match your search. “Summer”, for example, will return different shades of blue, along with some sandy yellows and browns, and a tad of pink. Each color is labeled with its hex value, so if you want to use it in a project, just click on it, and it’s copied to your clipboard.

Color Inspiration From Forgotten Times

How about some color inspiration that is, well, a bit different? Brought to life by Brandon Shepherd, Color Leap takes you on a journey through 4,000 years of color history.

From 2,000 BC to the 1960s, the project showcases 180 color palettes from 12 distinct eras, each one of them representing the color language of its time. Fascinating!

Creating Accessible Color Palettes

Finding the perfect tint or shade of a color is not only a matter of taste but also accessibility. After all, if color contrast is lacking, a product could, in the worst case, even become unusable for people with vision impairments. A very detailed contrast checker to help you detect potential pitfalls ahead of time comes from Gianluca Gini: Geenes.

The tool lets you tinker with hue ranges and saturation and apply the color palettes to one of three selectable UI mockups. Once applied, you can trigger different kinds of vision impairments to see how affected people see the colors and, finally, make an informed decision on the best tones for your palette. To use the colors right away, just copy and paste their code or export them to Sketch.

Designing Accessible Color Systems

Getting color contrast right is an essential part of making sure that not only people with visual impairments can easily use your product but also everyone else when they are in low-light environments or using older screens. However, if you’ve ever tried to create an accessible color system yourself, you probably know that this can be quite a challenge.

The team at Stripe decided to tackle the challenge and redesigned their existing color system. The benefits it should provide out of the box: pass accessibility guidelines, use clear and vibrant hues that users can easily distinguish from one another, and have a consistent visual weight without a color appearing to take priority over another. If you’re curious to find out more about their approach, their blog post will give you valuable insights.

Getting Color Management Right

Color management is essential, but are the settings you have in place really the best ones for your assets and the platforms you’re designing for? After all, you need to be able to rely on what you see on your screen. Not only is it crucial when it comes to choosing colors, but also for assessing contrast and legibility.

To help you improve your color management, the team at bjango summarized everything you need to know about it. You’ll learn to choose the best color space for your needs and when you should assign a color profile vs. when it’s better to convert to one. As a bonus, the article also takes a look at popular design programs and how to get the most out of their color management options.

CSS Gradient Generator And Resources

CSS gradients are a quick way to give your design a fresh and friendly touch. A fantastic little tool to help you generate and implement both linear and radial gradients is CSS Gradient. Once you’ve entered the colors you’d like to include in your gradient, you can adjust the position of the transitions on a slider. The CSS code mirrors the changes in real time and can be copied to the clipboard with just a click.

But there’s more than just the gradient generator, the site also features helpful content all around gradients: technical articles, gradient examples from real-life projects, tutorials, and references like collections of shades, gradient swatches, and more inspiration. A comprehensive look at gradients and how to use them.

Create CSS Color Gradients With Ease

Hand-picking colors to make a color gradient requires design experience and a good understanding of color harmony. If you need a gradient for a background or for UI elements but don’t feel confident enough to tackle the task yourself (or if you’re in a hurry), the color gradient generator which the folks at My Brand New Logo have created has got your back.

Powered by color gradient algorithms, the generator creates well-balanced gradients based on a color you select. There are four different styles of gradients that go from subtle to a mother-of-pearl effect and an intense, deep color gradient. You can adjust the gradient with sliders and, once you’re happy with the result, copy-paste the generated CSS code to use it in your project. Nice!

Easy-To-Use CSS Gradients

Another handy tool that takes away the trouble and makes using gradients a simple act of copying and pasting is Gradient Magic, a gallery of unique CSS gradients with everything ranging from standard gradients to angular, striped, checkered, and burst gradients. To find your favorite, you can browse the gallery by style and color. A great addition to any toolkit!

A Way Forward To Prettier Gradients

Gradients often don’t turn out looking as smooth as you’d hope them to be. The problem is hard edges, especially where the gradient starts and ends. To help you cater for prettier results, Andreas Larsen built a little Sketch plugin: Easing Gradient.

The plugin makes your gradients as invisible as possible so that they don’t interfere with text or UI that you place on top of them. You can install the plugin with Sketch Runner or download the package via GitHub. By the way, there’s also a PostCSS plugin available that does the same, as well as a hand-coded solution.

Explore The Power Behind CSS Gradients

Shapy. Hidden behind the cute name, is a powerful tool: a gradient shape editor created by Victoria Bergquist. Shapy lets you discover and explore the power of CSS gradients, creating shapes and images by layering and moving around gradients on a single div tag. Just use the sliders to customize the canvas size, gradient type, color stops, and box details, and, once you’re satisfied with what you see in the preview, you can copy the CSS with a click. Handy!

Rainbow Gradients With React

Josh Comeau loves creative experiments. On his lovely personal blog, he features accordions with sound effects, flashy confetti mode, unexpectedly friendly pop-ups, and many other things. Plus, a series of wonderful tutorials for doing all kinds of unusual effects with React.

For example, Josh has shared how he created Magical Rainbow Gradients with CSS Houdini and React Hooks (see GitHub repo). A wonderful little tutorial to make your website or app shine. Literally.

Generate Colorful Backgrounds With A Few Clicks

A cool background graphic can draw attention to a blog post, enhance your social media profile, or simply freshen up your phone’s home screen. To make creating abstract and colorful backgrounds a breeze, Moe Amaya’s project Cool Backgrounds now unites the best JavaScript background generators in one place.

Quick Tips For High Contrast Mode

Designing for different display modes can bring along some unforeseen surprises. Windows High Contrast Mode in particular behaves differently than other operating system display modes and completely overrides authored colors with user-set colors. Luckily, there are often simple solutions to most high contrast mode issues.

In her article “Quick Tips for High Contrast Mode”, Sarah Higley shares five tips to solve high contrast mode bugs. They include custom focus styles, dealing with SVGs, using the -ms-high-contrast media query to respect a user’s color choices, as well as what you should keep in mind when testing. A handy little guide. If you want to dive deeper into the topic, Sarah also collected some further reading resources.

Button Contrast Checker

Do your buttons have enough contrast? The Button Contrast Checker built by the folks at Aditus helps you find out. Enter your domain and the tool tests if the buttons on the site are compliant with WCAG 2.1.

To cater for realistic results, the checker does not only test the default state of the buttons but also takes hover and focus states as well as the adjacent background into account. A nice detail: Each time you scan a page, the results are stored in a unique URL which you can share with your team. A precious little helper.

Dark Mode Switch Tutorial

A dark/light mode switch is a nice feature. But how do you actually implement it? Sebastiano Guerriero takes you through the necessary steps. His approach shows how to create a dark theme for your project and then use CSS Custom Properties to switch to it from a default light theme when a specific data attribute or class is added to the body element.

Wrapping Up

There are literally hundreds of resources related to color out there, and we hope that some of the ones listed here will prove to be useful in your day-to-day work — and most importantly help you avoid some time-consuming, routine tasks.

Happy bookmarking, everyone!

Reblogged 2 days ago from smashingmagazine.com


How to Create Cornerstone Content That Google and Your Audience Will Love

Creating the right content for your website needs serious planning and development. In an increasingly competitive world, it’s not enough that your audience loves it — Google has to love it too!

This article will show you how to create, optimize, and promote cornerstone content that drives traffic to your website and eventually converts visitors into loyal customers.

What exactly is cornerstone content?

The dictionary describes “cornerstone” as something essential, indispensable, basic, or the main foundation upon which something is constructed.

Cornerstone content, therefore, is the most important part of your website. It refers to a high-value piece of content that aims to increase traffic and brand awareness by showing what your business can offer.

Letting potential customers know what you’re all about will help define your brand and reflect your values. As well as creating a positive first impression, cornerstone content tells Google what your website wants to share.

Cornerstone content is not designed to convert visitors right away. The main aim is to pique their interest so that they’ll remember you and return when they actually need your services.

Cornerstone content is sometimes called “evergreen content”, which provides a clue to the type of articles that work best. As well as responding to trends, you should choose subjects that people consistently search for. If you’re a telecommunications company, for example, you could include a piece that explains some of the terminology (“What is VoIP?”) or how your products work (“The ultimate guide to video conferencing”).

The benefits of great cornerstone content

Cornerstone content is a hugely important tool in raising brand awareness, both through content itself and the way it’s optimized. It’s a golden chance to get your core message across to your target audience.

Done right, it will help you achieve a high ranking on the SERPs, which will drive all that lovely relevant traffic to your site. Remember that 75% of people don’t look beyond the first results page!

Cornerstone content gives you the opportunity to build natural links: from other pages on your website, from your social media channels, and from external sources who think your content is worth linking to. It’s a great way to position your business as an authority in your industry, which increases trust in your brand. And it also feeds your funnel, by attracting prospects who can be tracked and nurtured for optimum conversion rates.

Evergreen content can be used across all marketing channels to strengthen your brand identity — and it can even be repurposed into different formats to keep the website fresh.

If you focus your efforts on getting cornerstone content right, you’ll create something that continues to drive value for your business.

How to create great cornerstone content

Now we’ll show you how to create informative, engaging content and promote it to your target audience.

Do your research

Getting to know your customers and understanding their buyer persona is a crucial aspect of marketing. If you know who you’re aiming at, you’ll have a better idea of what to write about.

You need to ensure that your cornerstone piece is relevant, and the best way to do that is to communicate with your audience. Talk to existing customers, carry out surveys, and then analyze the data.

You’ll also need to find out what people are searching for online. Ideally, you’re looking for a subject that’s commonly searched for but doesn’t yield many results. When you’re aiming to move up the SERP rankings, the content you provide must be better than what’s already out there.

Ask yourself: what are the pain points faced by the target audience? What questions are they asking, and why aren’t they already being answered? The idea is to spot a problem that your business can help with — maybe using specialist knowledge or data to provide a unique solution.

Part of your research is to find out what keywords people use when they search on Google. You’ll need to choose the most appropriate keywords and phrases for your content, making sure they match the ones people are most likely to use when they type a question (which only you can answer!).

Once you’ve gathered the data you need, hang on to it! You’ll want to access it in the future to see how your target audience has evolved and how you can adapt. Using Platform as a Service (PaaS) storage solutions gives you a secure and efficient way to keep data (and content pieces) all in one handy place.

Plan your content

Cornerstone content usually takes the form of an in-depth article, such as “Everything you need to start selling online” or “Cloud computing: the complete guide”. While this is the most popular way to communicate brand values, there’s no law that says you have to stick with one type of content.

For example, you could consider posting a how-to guide with step-by-step instructions or a video tutorial. A searchable knowledge base could also prove helpful for visitors, while access to a free tool would definitely help them feel positive about you.

When you’ve chosen the type of content you want to produce, think about how long it will take and the costs involved. Decide if you’re going to keep it in-house or outsource the work, or a mixture of both.

Remember that previous content can be repurposed for another format or channel. This is a good way to stay on-budget, as you don’t have to pay for a whole new article. A clever writer can transform existing content into something that feels fresh and new, even if it covers the same ground.

Write your masterpiece

Cornerstone content should be well-planned and superbly-written, making sure the reader is interested, informed, and inspired. It must be relevant and genuinely helpful, not only solving the customer’s problem but making them want to learn more about you.

Accuracy is also crucial, as the reputation of your brand is at stake. Content should sound suitably authoritative, perhaps including links from other expert sources—this will also help your search engine rankings, as trustworthy websites tend to rank highly.

Keywords should be built into the natural flow of the writing, avoiding keyword-stuffing. Taking advantage of software like Hemingway or Grammarly is a great way to check that your writing is easy to read and informative.

And the piece should obviously deliver on what the headline or intro promises — an article called “What exactly is machine learning?” should explain the terminology and provide easily-understandable examples.

You should also avoid being too pushy. Although you’re trying to attract visitors, cornerstone content isn’t about aggressive sales tactics. A subtle approach will plant the seed in a potential customer’s mind while addressing their query in a trustworthy way.

Visual appeal is just as important as written content, so be sure to include attractive images and graphics to keep the reader engaged. Ideally, you need the whole piece to be so impressive that readers want to share it, or even link to it in their own content.

Optimize your content

You’ve created some outstanding cornerstone content, so now you need to ensure it’s fully optimized for maximum hits. It goes without saying that your website should be easy to access and navigate on any device, paying particular attention to mobile optimization.

Your primary keyword must appear in the URL and the title tag — which is also your headline — so it should be especially appealing. Google is trying to offer the most relevant results, so it helps if the title answers the exact question being asked.

As well as using keywords in the body text, make sure you’re using them in subheadings. This makes it easy for readers to see at a glance what the content is about, and for search engines to recognize its relevance.

It also pays to optimize visual content by including alt text, using relevant keywords in image file names, and making sure images are fast-loading. And the top-of-funnel position means cornerstone content should always be available for free.

Promote your content

Smart promotional tactics will help your content reach as wide an audience as possible. You’ve already sorted the SEO strategy, but there are plenty of other tools at your disposal — and some won’t cost you a penny.

If you already have an email database, use this to let people know about new cornerstone content. Consider an extra incentive to encourage them to visit your page, such as a special offer on products or services.

Marketing automation tools can be used to send out mail shots, or schedule social media posts — this will save time as well as helping you nurture leads. But remember that a dash of personalization is always appreciated, and will make the recipient more likely to access, share, or link to your content.

Cornerstone content can be adapted for different channels, focusing on the platforms that work best for your company (you’ll already have identified these via your detailed customer research).

Organic social promotion is great for your budget, but you may also want to invest in paid promotion to reach a more targeted audience. Don’t forget data analytics so you can see who’s responding and alter your strategy accordingly.

Links and sharing

Another way to generate leads is to direct visitors to personalized post-click landing pages. You don’t want to annoy people by having suggestions pop up when they’re in the middle of reading your content, but how about an exit banner with a special offer just as they’re about to leave?

Of course, visitors may have landed elsewhere on your site, so you need to provide plenty of internal links to cornerstone content and make it easy to click straight through to new material.

Including cross-references and backlinks in other similar posts will increase exposure to cornerstone content. This can also help boost your rankings, as Google tends to favor a robust internal linking structure.

Finally, make it simple for visitors to share your content with others by adding social media buttons. If your content references industry influencers, it might incentivize them to share content with their many followers.

Regular maintenance

Search engines love websites whose content is fresh and highly relevant. Regular updates let Google know that your content is up-to-the-minute, which helps your SERPs position.

Cornerstone content should be updated frequently to include things like new trends and the latest stats. If it mentions specific products, check they’re still available and that the prices are accurate.

You should also make sure the website works properly, with no broken links or slow-loading images. Fonts and layouts can start to look old-fashioned after a while, too, so it’s worth revamping the look of the pages from time to time.

Remote IT support comes in handy when teams are working on content maintenance — they may need swift assistance to fix an issue before potential customers are put off by a slow-running site or inability to access content.

You’re ready to start creating content!

More than 90 percent of online content gets no traffic at all from Google. Creating cornerstone content that’s impressive and fully optimized is a great way to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

If you follow the advice in this article, you’ll be able to create cornerstone content that’s loved by audiences and Google alike.

Reblogged 2 days ago from feedproxy.google.com


Users can now leave more detailed restaurant reviews on Google

Details like price range and meal type are useful for potential customers, but will Google use it to enable search filters?

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 3 days ago from feeds.searchengineland.com