Creating a Story Map from A to Z

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Story mapping is a practice that can be applied to many verticals to organize and visualize a new project, including (but not limited to); customer or product journey, go-forward plans, or basic project management. The process is useful when collaborating with multiple stakeholders to understand key objectives, communicate on workflow, and visualize progress.

Story maps are most prevalent in software development, especially among teams practicing agile methodology. However, they can be a valuable tool for any industry. Of course, the specifics of a map will differ based on the vertical and project. Follow these steps to use a story map for any new initiative.

Define Your Vision and Goals

What is the overall objective of your project? Are you creating a new internal system, working with an outside client to develop a service, building a website, visualizing your customer journey? Whatever it may be, identify the main goal of your project so that you can work backward from there, to start your story map.

Once you identify your end target, the next step is to outline your vision. Think of this step as telling the initial story. Here are a few examples of initial stories:

  • E-commerce site– walkthrough the customer journey. Customer searches for an item, finds your website, views products, selects a specific product, looks at images, puts product in the cart, enters payment information, enters shipping information, confirms the order.
  • Planning an event– walkthrough a guest’s experience. The guest arrives, valets their car, checks their coat, finds their table, has cocktails, participates in the silent auction, enjoys their meal, watches live entertainments, departs with their thank-you bag.
  • Developing a job board– outline the job seeker’s journey. Applicant uploads resume, applicant browses open jobs, applicant finds an appropriate job and applies, the employer is notified of the new applicant and can choose to engage or not, communication is established.

The key with this step is to understand your end game (goal), and the ideal storyline (vision) you would like to happen to get there.

How to Establish Your Strategy

Knowing where to start when creating a strategy can be tricky. Take each step of the initial story and group and define activities from there. Ask yourself; what needs to be ideated or created to make that step occur? You might need to break down each step further if the process is complex.

After you establish what needs to happen, make a list of specific activities or tasks to complete. Intuitively group activities into stages. For example, what are the tasks that need to be done first? In many software related story maps, these individual tasks are referred to as the backlog.

Assign each task to a person or team, ensure they understand the task and set a firm deadline. Communication plays a crucial role in story mapping, no matter if you have a team of five or two-hundred. Each stakeholder in the story map should have a point person they can turn to for issues; this will help you avoid roadblocks.


Determine the Best Way to Visualize your Roadmap

This is the step of actually putting together a physical story map (often referred to as a roadmap) for your project. Original practices used a white-board or a large open wall space, with colored post-its or index cards to outline the roadmap. The main concept being that everyone could visualize steps and assignments, and physically move cards as they progress.

Traditional roadmaps generally have the following stages; backlog (unassigned tasks), in progress (assigned tasks), testing (testing the first iteration), and completed.

If you don’t have all employees or stakeholders in one physical office space, or you would prefer a digital alternative, there are many story-mapping programs. These platforms allow for interactive, usually cloud-based, story maps, accessible from any location, with real-time updates. A few popular options include:

  • Cardboard– takes the post-it format and makes it digital, very customizable, offers integrations with other software and programs, with free and paid versions available.
  • Realtime Board– also uses the digital post-it format for their visual story maps. Realtime offers multiple story-board templates to choose from, a benefit to new story-mappers. The platform is customizable, with third-party integrations, and free or paid subscriptions.
  • Trello– a digital project management system that you can also use for for story mapping. Trello uses lists and boards to organize information, but is very interactive, and can integrate popular programs like GoogleDocs, Dropbox, or Microsoft OneDrive, as well as the Atlassian suite products.

For more options for digital story mapping, check out this article by Feed Otter.

Pro-Tip: Translate Software-Specific Principles for All Story Maps

While every story map will differ depending on the industry, company, and campaign, there are main software and agile principles that apply to any project.

Deliver important requirements first.

If you’re working on a large project with many moving parts, determine the must-haves. Then move those to the front of your story map, to work on and deliver them first. Items that are non-essential, but would be nice to have, should be given second or third priority. This way, if the project takes longer than expected—which it often does—you can cut those tasks.

Break down complex requirements.

If there’s a large requirement or task, break it up into smaller more manageable pieces. Even though you might not physically be working off of post-its or index cards, break down updates or tasks as if you are. If the task description can’t fit on a post-it, divide it into multiple tasks. This can also help you divide less critical components, to move them to a later time frame.

Focus on communication and progress documentation.

Agile software teams have daily or weekly stand-up meetings, where they quickly go over all of the need-to-know information, give progress reports and discuss roadblocks or issues. From here, if further meetings need to happen, they break off into to one-on-ones. While you might not need to have frequent meetings, communication should be key. Further, make sure to document the progress of each task, whether that be on an actual board or the digital story map. Each stakeholder should be able to see progress and understand the current stage of each assignment.

Ready to Create Your Story Map?

Story maps offer a dynamic process to organize any type of project with multiple stakeholders, stages, and tasks. If you’re facing a challenging new campaign, try creating a story map to set progress in motion.

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Story Mapping 101: How This Organization Strategy Can Set Your Business Apart

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User story mapping is relatively simple: you’re talking about a user’s experience with your product in a format that explains their journey like a story. The concept was invented by Jeff Patton because he noticed that oftentimes people would get lost in arguments about a product’s features, and the actual user experience would get put on the back burner. But ultimately the way a user experiences a product is what determines whether or not they purchase and use it, and so in reality the user experience should be one of the TOP priorities when creating a new product. According to Jeff, story mapping “will help you build a better backlog that [in turn] will help you more effectively explain your system, prioritize, and plan your releases.” It helps you focus on the big picture so that you don’t get lost in the individual elements.

So What Exactly is Story Mapping? 


Image 1: Story-mapping in action

It’s exactly what it sounds like- a map. It consists of two independent dimensions; user activities and implementation. Typically you would arrange the user activities along the horizontal axis in order of their priority, and you would use the vertical axis to show increasing sophistication of the implementation of said activities. If you follow this model, the first row of your map will be an extremely simplistic version of your product, ie: everything you need for it to run, but no bells and whistles. As you add more rows, you’re essentially adding more product features (while still focusing on the user experience). It might sound complicated, but in practice it’s really not.

Jeff shared the picture on the left of his friend Gary creating a story map for his product “MIMI”, otherwise known as Music Industry Marketing Interface.

While he was working on the map, Gary realized that his original idea was a bit more complex than he originally thought. He was able to use the map to tone down his project and focus on one specific part; building a piece of commercial software to send out mailers quickly and easily.

Agile Velocity has a somewhat more simplistic version of story mapping on their website:


Image 2: Story mapping design

If you look at the top row in blue, you’ll see that it’s the most basic version of their website. It consists of the most simple version of the user activities. The yellow boxes listed vertically show the user experience broken down into more specific steps. For example, when you make a purchase you don’t just “check out” (but wouldn’t that be nice?) you have to follow specific steps, such as entering your payment information and shipping address. By creating a map, you’re forced to look at each individual element and evaluate its effectiveness. Without the map, you may have been tempted to rush through the checkout stage without realizing that perhaps your template for contact info isn’t formatted correctly. This is something that could easily annoy a user enough to cause them to leave your site without making a purchase.

Not interested in making a physical story map? Check out this article by Feed Otter on 7 story mapping programs you can find online!

So What Else Do You Need to Know in Order to Incorporate Story Mapping?

Story mapping should always be a TEAM effort; it should never be left up to one person to complete. In the above example about Gary and MIMI, it was also mentioned on the website that Jeff Patton was also helping Gary create his map, as well as another contributor called Dave Hoover AND an entire team of people from Obtiva. So who should be in the room when you create your map? First and foremost, users! Who better to describe the user experience than people who are actually using the product? It’s also a good idea to include the product manager, someone who is specifically in charge of user experience and design, SME’s, and someone in charge of engineering. The more people you have working together on your team, the better your map will be.

In addition, it’s always a good idea to color code your map to make it easy to read and understand (and then don’t forget to make a key so others understand your system (again, it’s about working on a team!)). Work one step and one layer at a time, and know that each step does NOT require an action (don’t make it harder than it needs to be). Finally, don’t forget to continually update your map. It’s ok to present an early version of it to your stakeholders, but then don’t just throw it in the corner! Add and revise as you go along, and then share your progress! It’s a great way to make your progress visible (and have proof that you’ve been working!) so that you’re not just telling people what you’ve been up to.

If you’d like more detailed information on how to incorporate story mapping into your business, check out Jeff Patton’s website. He’s written a book, numerous articles and blog posts, put together a slideshow and a presentation, and if that’s not enough he also lists more resources on his site. Good luck and happy mapping!

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The Top 3 Free Email Builders

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As a content marketer, one of your most valued duties includes creating content and sharing it. However, using different marketing software may present as your biggest challenge. Picture this, you’re up against a tight deadline to launch an e-newsletter containing this month’s featured content, but you’ve run into a snag because your email template just doesn’t translate the way you imaged or worse isn’t rendering correctly.

If you’ve ever found yourself in this scenario, this blog is for you! By the end of this piece, you will know how to use the top free email builders and how to import your new design to use in Pardot.


BEE Free

BEE Free is one of the easiest email builders to use. You can drag and drop content onto email templates, including buttons, text blocks, images, and more.  With BEE Free, marketers can design sleek and modern emails with ease. This site also offers a way to export HTML to transfer into email marketing platforms.

To begin building your email template, head over to the BEE Free homepage and “Start Designing”. The site will prompt you to start your own design from scratch or select a template where you can filter through an abundance of free templates, usage types, and different industries.


Once you’ve selected a template you’re now ready to customize it! The drag and drop email builder gives you a seamless user experience. Once you’ve got the look you desired you want to “Save” the email template. However, if you’re using the free version, BEE Free will ask if you’d like to sign up for a paid plan or if you’d just like to download your template – you want to choose to download it.


After selecting to download the email, a zip file should load where you will find an image (holds all the images to the email template) and .html file. You’ll want to open this file and right-click to reveal the drop-down for “View Page Source”. This will allow you to view the code of the whole page. This is the code we’ll later copy and paste into Pardot.


In the Pardot email builder, you’ll want to paste the code from the page source into the HTML tab in Pardot.


*Note: You may receive the following alert: HTML message: An unsubscribe tag (%%unsubscribe%% or %%email_preference_center%%) is required somewhere in the body of the email. This can be done by highlighting the text you’d like to link for unsubscribers and selecting the hyperlink icon to choose the unsubscribe tag as the link type.


Once the HTML code is added I suggest previewing your email template and making revisions. Please note if you’re adding images to the BEE Free template, you will need to readd them to the Pardot template.

Similar to BEE Free, allows users to design emails with a drag and drop tool and it’s “sooooo easy”. In comparison to BEE Free, also provides a number of email templates but not nearly as many. One feature I believe does better is the process of exporting the email HTML. automatically creates a download of the .html file, rather than a zip file.


After selecting your email template to design, you’ll want to “Save & Download”, which will prompt an automatic download of the HTML. From here the same process as stated above should be followed to import the email HTML into Pardot.

Unlike our first two contenders, Stripo requires users to sign up for a free account and caps off at 4 free downloads each month. However, states the download limits get reset every month. By selecting “Email Templates” in the navigation bar, you’re able to select from numerous email templates and filter by type, industry, and season.


“Try Out” your email template once you’ve selected the right fit and begin to make your revisions. When you’re ready to export the HTML, you will save the email template which will then prompt you to create a free user account.


When your new account has been registered you will be brought to an overview screen of all your email templates. Select the one you’d like to export the HTML and proceed with selecting the “Export” button > HTML > Download HTML file.


Not a Pardot user? Here’s a similar article for Marketo.






Is Your Source Code SEO-Friendly? 7 Simple Tweaks to Make Today

There’s more to on-page SEO than just content. It’s true that your web copy and blog have a big impact on how you rank in Google and other major search engines, but if you don’t audit your source code regularly too, you’re missing part of the picture. Here are seven simple things you can do to improve your source code right now.

Finding Your Source Code

Accessing your source code is easy for even a non-coder whether you’re using a PC or a Mac. In most major browsers, you can right-click on the page you want to look at and select “View page source.” If you’re using a PC, you can also use the shortcut Ctrl + U. On a Mac, hit Option + Command + U.

Once you open your source code, you’ll see a page that looks something like this:

Source code might look dense and intimidating if you’re not used to working with it, but finding different elements in it is actually easy. Just use Ctrl + F or Command + F to search for different tags, like you would in a browser or text editor.

  1. Check Your Title Tags

If you only check up on one thing in your code, make it your title tag. Your title tag tells search engines what your page is about. Generally speaking, your title tag has a bigger impact on your search rankings than anything else in your source code. Your title tag looks like this:

Your title tag is what shows up as the clickable link on SERPs. For instance, this title tag…

…turns into this link on Google’s results page:

Each page on your website should have one (and only one) title tag. Use a unique title on every page, instead of repeating the same title across your entire site. 50 to 60 characters is a good length because if your titles are too long, they’ll get cut off in search engine results. You can learn more at Learn to Code With Me here.

Make your titles as descriptive as possible, so search engines can tell what each page is about. Include one or two of your most important keywords in each title, but don’t overdo it. Stuffing all your keywords inside your title tag just results in an overwhelming or incoherent page title. A better approach is to check your analytics to see which keywords are bringing the most searchers to your site, and incorporate those into your titles.

  1. Write Killer Meta Descriptions

A meta description is a brief summary, usually one or two sentences, of a webpage. Meta descriptions may not impact your SEO directly, but they have a big impact on your clickthrough rate. This does affect your SEO, so if your meta descriptions are a little lackluster, updating them is well worth the effort.

Meta descriptions go inside the <head> tag. They look like this example from Yoast:

Search engines display a site’s meta description after its title. Here’s an example of one meta description in action:

One common mistake webmasters make with meta descriptions is using the same one on every page. If you do this, you’re not making the most of your free advertising space on SERPs. Instead, write a unique meta description for every page. Aim for a length of 130 to 160 characters – any longer than that, and search engines will probably chop off your description mid-sentence.

Think like a copywriter as you write your meta descriptions. Your goal should be to give searchers an accurate idea of what your site can offer them, while making them feel like they just have to click to know more. Include a keyword or two, but like with your title tag, don’t go overboard. Write for humans, not machines.

  1. Add Some Structured Data

Structured data is a particular kind of markup that lets search engines find and understand information about your business. When you include structured data in your HTML code, search engines can display what are called “rich snippets” – that is, extra information in your listing. This might include information like your rating, location, price range, or hours.

There’s a particular kind of code, called schema markup, that you can use to add structured data to your site. has plenty of information and guidelines on how to use it. If you’re not familiar with coding, you can also use Google’s structured data markup helper to format your information.

  1. Check Your H1 Headings

The main title of your page goes inside <h1> tags, like this:

Here’s what FeedOtter’s H1 heading looks like in the source code:

And here’s what it looks like on the page:

You should have only one H1 heading on every page. Your headings don’t carry as much SEO weight as your titles, but they still affect your rankings a little, so choose them carefully. Make your H1 headings descriptive and unique on every page, and hit one or two of your main keywords in a natural way.

  1. Add Image Alt Text

Alt text helps to make your website more accessible to visually impaired visitors. It also tells web crawlers what your images are about. Here’s how image alt text is formatted:

This example from w3schools shows that the text “Smiley face” shows up if your image can’t display for some reason. It also tells web crawlers that your image contains a smiley face.

If your images don’t currently have alt text, or if your alt text isn’t descriptive and accurate, add some. Note that you should focus on images that are important to your business. Pictures of the products you sell or of your team members should always have alt text, for instance. But you don’t need to add alt text to generic or decorative images – use empty quotation marks instead, like alt=””.

  1. Check Your Canonical Tags

If you have different pages on your site with the same (or very similar) content, it can cause problems with your SEO. Why?

In a nutshell, when other websites link to one of your pages, it gives that page a ranking boost. Google (or any other search engine) sees that these other sites are all vouching for the usefulness or trustworthiness of your page, and it bumps that page up higher in its results.

If you’ve got two pages with very similar content on your site, it can dilute the effects of this “link juice.” For instance, you’re better off having 10 links around the web pointed at a single page on your site than having 5 links pointed at each of two similar pages.

The canonical tag fixes this problem. When you include a canonical tag on a webpage, you’re telling Google to pass any link juice from the duplicate page over to the original page. Thus, the original page is the one that gets a ranking boost.

Here’s Google’s example of how to format a canonical tag. The link specified in the tag is the canonical one. This snippet of code should go inside the <head> tag, where your title and meta tags are.

  1. Make Sure Your Pages Can Be Indexed

The meta robots tag tells search engines whether or not they can index a page or follow links on that page. Obviously, if you want a page to show up in SERPs, search engines needs to have permission to index it. Most of the time, it’s best to let them follow links on your page, too.

Using “noindex” tells search engines not to index a page. Similarly, “nofollow” prevents them from following any of the links on that page. Here’s what it looks like in action:

Your meta robots tag will look like one of these four options. You should only have one on every page.

Be very careful when you tell Google not to index a page or follow links. If you do this by accident, it can make your site unfindable, even if you’re doing everything else right.

The Takeaway

Technical SEO is a broad subject. There are lots of other ways your source code affects your SEO – like hidden text, embedded scripts, or too much Flash, etc. – but those issues are more complicated to understand and fix, so it’s best to consult your web developer about them. For now, stick to making these seven easy tweaks yourself, and you’ll have a good head start in optimizing your technical SEO. Add your questions and comments below!

How to Grow Your Blog Traffic (Without Obsessing Over SEO)


Ever wonder how to not only grow an audience for your blog, but a committed audience? One that comes back to read your content and, potentially, grow your business? It’s easy to say you’re going to grow your blog traffic and then pay for ads, social posts, email lists, and more, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that growing a committed audience takes a lot of hard work and a ton of dedication. While SEO is essential, there are other ways to grow your traffic that are underrated. Below focuses on the ten best methods you can use to improve your blog traffic meaningfully and efficiently.

Consult With Other Bloggers

Building relationships with other bloggers in similar subjects or fields is absolutely essential. Why? Because you all have the same goal: to attract a bigger audience. Collaborating to give and receive feedback can be useful when evaluating your audience’s experience, the style of your writing, the content you publish, and the frequency of your posting. You can start by reaching out to other bloggers via social media or subscribing to their blogs and developing a rapport through comments.

In addition to simply market research, utilizing other bloggers audience can be incredibly beneficial. Depending on your company, you may want to work with a complimentary business (in other words, definitely not a direct competitor), or if you are more focused on entertainment, it may make sense to consult with others in your direct line of work. For example, MasterCard and Apple don’t usually have much in common, but with the new Apple Pay their audience is suddenly overlapping. Apple wants people to use their service to pay, and MasterCard wants those same people to pay with their card. It’s a win-win:

Contribute Guests Posts: Celebrity Shot!

Once you build up some of these relationships, consider writing a guest piece to contribute to another blog (and returning the favor). This can expose your content to an entirely different audience that could potentially share your information and commit to your blog. Put your quality content out there and respond to questions or comments to build relationships just as if it were your own blog.

Now this may sound overdone, and you’ve likely read the “guest blogging is dead” articles, but it can still be incredibly effective if done right. The truth is that content is still king, and while guest posting has lost some of its luster; Google is still taking it seriously. Google aside, focus on high quality blogs over quantity as a way to get your own blog in front of new, relevant eyes. It’s time consuming, but well worth it.

Publish Content Tailored to Your Target Audience

Your faithful subscribers count on you to keep them up-to-date on what’s current and pragmatic. You, therefore, need to be aware of news, buzzwords, and trends as they are happening. You could subscribe to Google Alerts to help you with this; every time content related to your blog topics is published, you will be made aware of it.

Some of the options you can choose from include how often you are alerted, the sources from which the information comes (news, blogs, web, video, books, discussions, or finance), the country or region from which you want the information, and where you want it sent.

Create a Schedule and Maintain It

Whether you post once a week or once a month, you want to make sure you maintain a consistent schedule. If your audience is waiting for your weekly post on Monday mornings, do not disappoint them. The more it becomes a habit of yours to post on the same day at the same time, the more it becomes a habit of theirs to read those posts on the same day and the same time. You want this consistency and commitment from them just as they want it from you.

A great way to stick to a schedule is to upload your blog posts, schedule them through WordPress (shown below, just click “edit” and then “OK” and the “publish” button will change to “schedule”), and utilize a calendar plugin such as Editorial Calendar. Write all of your blog posts as early as you can and then schedule them accordingly.

Note: We recommend that if you have a solid amount of traffic and data, consider a CRM tool to help you grow your reach even further.

Encourage Social Sharing

You want your content out there, wherever “out there” might be. You don’t just want your audience members to read your content – you want them to share it with their friends, partners, and employees. To encourage this action, you must provide sharing on your blog; see the example below:

You will note a few things: the location on the page, the number of networks, and the number of shares. The social sharing options don’t need to be overbearing or distracting from your content; a relatively small icon to the side of your post is sufficient. These options also do not need to include EVERY social media network in existence. Do some initial research. Where are you seeing your information posted the most? What are your followers using the most? Choose a few of those networks and roll with it. Finally, consider how many shares you are actually getting before making your share count visible. If the number is relatively high, include it. This shows your audience that your content is worthy and sought after. If the number is relatively low to start with, then wait until you build up your audience.

Also keep in mind that connections mean everything to your blog’s success. As I’ve mentioned, it’s not enough to just have avid readers. You need your readers to share your information in order for your audience size to grow. More than that, you need to connect with your readers on social media. Follow up one of your posts with a fact or anecdote on social media. That way, when you are in between your lengthier posts, you can still provide a brief reminder of the quality information you provide to your followers.

Clean Up the Audience’s Blog Experience

Obviously, your page should be easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. Unnecessary distractions such as too many menu options, too many ads, sidebars, or pop-ups can deter readers and diminish your audience size. The page should also be organized in a way that catches readers’ eyes. Balance what is necessary and unnecessary to be successful. Elegant Themes put together a list of bad blogs that shows what not to do:

Your Turn

Building your blog’s traffic is essential to building your audience. You want visitors to not only appreciate what they read, but subscribe to it and share it. Following the listed steps will ensure your audience grows and your blog remains successful.

What do you grow your blog traffic? What has worked for you in the past? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.

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7 Story Mapping Programs and How to Use Them To Increase Engagement

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Story Mapping is a technique that product owners use to gather all of their user story elements while providing a bigger picture. This method is also useful for stakeholders who want to track the progress of their project. The importance of online story mapping programs lies in the fact that they are great for working with teams who can’t physically come together for whiteboard session. These tools will help developing story-mapping skills to create a vivid, dynamic representation of the entire process of building and improving a product, service, or campaign.

7 Story Mapping Programs to Choose From

Nowadays when users need help story mapping in the development stage of a product, they use agile tools and incorporate them into the flow of digital production for teams. This allows them to work with portable digital boards; thus giving every participant the opportunity to collaborate, and because they are digital, the work is always delivered in real-time. Storyboards of today are probably not what you’d envision, either—think of it like a visual way to organize information (not an infographic!).

Below outlines a few story mapping programs that will help you increase engagement and can create the “bigger picture” idea you’ve been lacking. The most surprising thing you’ll find? They aren’t all focusing on pictorial representations:


CardBoard is a design tool used specifically for story mapping because it allows distributed teams an opportunity to collaborate. In other words, it’s a harmony of how we use Google Docs and Post-It Notes. Cardboard is in basic terms, a sticky note application that can be used for story mapping under the simple and fast concept of using sticky notes on a grid for better product story telling. It is the digital version of having a physical board at the office and using Post-It’s to create ideas and discuss in groups.


FeatureMap is a browser-based cloud tool that helps with the product management backlog, which is done by creating user stories online (it is similar to StoriesOnBoard, the next tool, as both of them are story-mapping programs). FeatureMap is a digital board for team collaboration in real-time where everyone can share updates of their work and the product owners have a complete visualization of the project. This allows for prioritizing and organizing the backlog, linking ideas, objectives, and consolidating client requests. It can be a great tool for connecting ideas with all the teams involved in a single project. Tip: FeatureMap will integrate with Trello and JIRA!


This one is probably the most comprehensive story mapping program out there. With StoriesOnBoard, you can create smaller sections of your user stories to set priority for the most urgent and important aspects of the project. The major features of StoriesOnBoard include endless storage space, adding tasks in the middle of an existing user story, and a clean interface with keyboard shortcuts. This tool is for teams looking for a user-friendly, highly accessible, and free storyboard tool.


Trello has all the features required for story mapping, but instead of robust images it is a visual way to see lists. It is filled with lists and cards and allows comments, all making for quality, real-time discussions with the team. Managers can organize the backlog by adding due dates, creating checklists, labels, and it’s even connected to Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive for ease when uploading files. Trello will ensure that all the members of the user team are connected as it hosts an app for all devices with iOs, Android, Windows software and even Kindle Fire tablets.

UpWave (formerly Symphonical)

The concept of UpWave is simple. It is a digital board with sticky notes for team collaboration in real-time. Just like most of the boards on this list, it has a drag & drop feature to add notes to plant and supervise your team’s activity. Some solid features of this story-mapping program are the text editor, note assignment, and the built-in calendar to help prioritize deliveries.


Craft is a powerful story-mapping program for product management, which allows “agile teams” to have a broader visual of story maps. It’s flexible and easy to manage. Its main features include the structured visuals, the drag & drop feature, the mobility which allows changing and prioritizing tasks, the linking of stories and sub-stories, and the real-time collaboration between teams and managers which allow up-to-date interaction on the project.

Easy Agile for JIRA

Easy Agile for JIRA enables the creation of story maps easily and fast. It can be used by newbies or professionals, allows visualizing, supervising, and prioritizing the team’s activity and their engagement with each task and the project as a whole, as well as checking on the team’s progress. This tool is perfect for remotely sharing ideas and translating the product manager’s vision to the team working to make it happen. Tip: Cardboard from above will integrate with JIRA if you’re really serious!

The Takeaway

Backlogs are used to prioritize and organize all the steps to in a project and even data collected. Sometimes this organization can be tough to grasp because everyone needs to be on the same page regarding where the project is and where it is going. Story mapping is the best way to split tasks and trace the performance of each team member involved with the development of a particular project.

With the development of technology, story mapping has gone from being an old-fashioned working method to being a real-time, collaborative tool for companies. These tools afford owners and project managers the opportunity to see work being carried out on a large scale, while helping the team understand and identify every task in the backlog, making the planning and delivery of each stage more efficient.

The story mapping tools mentioned above are reliable and enable stakeholders to grasp the speed of a team’s progress and overall efficiency. They also enable project managers to check the status of the project, as well as signaling leaders to be more involved in the project and making any necessary changes to the existing framework. So get started, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Image Credit: Craft screenshot from, all other screenshots taken by author May 2017

UTM Tracking Best Practices For Content Marketing and A Step-By-Step Guide

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In the simplest terms, UTM tracking attaches a custom URL to a source, medium, or campaign name in order to customize tracking. UTM tracking can be used on social ads, social posts, email campaigns and newsletters, affiliates, display ads and retargeting, even on webpages you’re advertising on a bus or a car wrap.

There are five different parameters in a UTM code, three of which are mandatory for tracking to work. The three mandatory parameters include medium, source and campaign.

  • Medium is essentially the traffic channel, such as social, email or affiliate.
  • Source would be the website or type of ad, such as Facebook, newsletter or
  • Campaign would be unique to the advertising initiative, like a Black Friday sale, new product launch or free e-course.

The two optional parameters are term and content. Term is rarely used because it applies to instances where you’re targeting specific keywords, and AdWords and Bing Ads do this by default. Content can actually be very useful if you’re testing several emails or social ads to see which works best. You can use content to describe the creative strategy used, the messaging, landing page.

The Two Ways to Set Up UTM Parameters

Google’s Campaign URL Builder Tool. If you’re a small company not particularly interested in data or rarely running campaigns you want to track, then Google’s tool is a good option for you.

A Spreadsheet. If your larger business and you’re interested in keeping tracking consistent across your teams your teams, this Google Spreadsheet has the formulas built in to generate the UTM tracking URLs for you when you add the destination URL and parameters. It also serves as a repository. It’s a great asset and I recommend making a copy for your company. Below is an example I created to show how it could work:



The Best Practice Schema

A schema as it applies to UTM tracking is simply the naming convention you use. It’s important to keep that consistent. Describing the different parameters in UTM tracking above, you might have an idea of how a schema applies to your business, but I’ve written up a few examples (which can also be found in the Google Spreadsheet) to help you understand the use cases a bit more.

In example 1, your customer was so thrilled with one of your products that you produced a case study on them and posted it to your Facebook account.

In example 2, you mentioned the launch of a product in your monthly newsletter email and tested a couple email layout variations.

In example 3, one of your affiliates, named Joe Smith, produces a video demo of your main product on YouTube.

In example 4, you run a display ad from AdWords specifically targeting your Canadian market testing two different ad images.

In example 5, you’re retargeting your website visitors with ads on Facebook promoting your Black Friday sale and testing an ad that lands on the homepage with an ad that lands on the page that lists your products.

In example 6, you run a full-page print ad in Time Magazine promoting career development at your company with hopes of acquiring great talent. Don’t worry; keep reading and you’ll learn how to track print ads and other traditional marketing with UTM codes.

4 Steps to Track Traditional Marketing with Google Analytics

Traditional marketing is still very much alive. If you’re company spends money here you should try to measure the impact digitally. Users will usually search your company on Google, which would show up as Organic Search, or go directly to your homepage, which would show up as Direct, but by following the four steps below you will be able to measure a portion of your traditional marketing and make your traffic mix a little more accurate. Below explains the four-step process:

  1. Create a Vanity URL

Vanity URL’s are unique, short and/or simple URL that demonstrates the brand or ad campaign. Vanity URLs should be kept as simple as possible because most of the traffic from traditional marketing will come from mobile devices. For example, if EntoBento, a San Diego based dog treat company, ran a promotional ad in Time Magazine, the vanity URL might be “”.

  1. Create and Apply UTM Parameters for the Ad

Use the Google Campaign URL Builder or Google Spreadsheet to create the tracking URL for the ad. Continuing the previous example, the tracking URL for EntoBento’s ad might look like:

  1. Redirect the Vanity URL to the URL with the UTM Parameters

Have a developer create a redirect to send traffic from your vanity URL to the tracking URL. Example:

So would redirect to

  1. Check Google Analytics Real-Time Report

After setting up the redirect, paste the vanity URL into the browser to make sure both the redirect and the UTM tracking is working. Then, open Google Analytics, navigate to Real-Time reports on the left side, and select traffic sources to confirm that you see your test traffic:

By implementing traditional marketing tracking you’re reducing the amount of traffic that is wrongly classified as Direct or Organic Search, which can provide insight into how those efforts translate to your website.

3 Creative Uses for UTM Tracking

  • Printed Materials: This same redirect process from above can be applied on your business cards, handouts, fliers, bench ads, bus stop ads or event marketing materials. Imagine knowing the bounce rate on one of your salesman’s business cards? Or how many sessions you got from the samples you gave out at a trade show? Pretty cool right?
  • Links in an Email or Signature: If you send someone links via email or have a link in your email signature, those clicks typically result in Direct traffic. However you can use the UTM tracked URL as the hyperlink. This is another great way to track some of the efforts of Business Development or Sales teams.
  • Linking to Someone Else’s Site to Get Noticed: If you’re sending referrals to a website because you want to partner with them or be an affiliate or brand ambassador or even get a job there, you could use UTM tracking for the traffic you refer them and if someone is reviewing traffic on their end, hopefully they are, you can get noticed. You could even put your name or phone number as the campaign parameter!

Overall, UTM tracking is under rated in the digital world. To many businesses it might seem tedious or not worth the time to learn and apply these processes, but if you’re data hungry, love measuring and are always curious about the various efforts you’re undertaking to grow, I suggest applying them. If you have any questions about UTM tracking or Google Analytics, we’d love to hear from you! You can contact us here.

Employee Newsletters Need Your Content Too

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6 Ways to Use Your Content for Employee Growth

While producing content is obviously great for driving traffic to your website, increasing your SEO, and educating and informing your readers, it can also be extremely beneficial for your employees. When businesses create content, it’s often with consumers in mind as their target audience, and while this is great, it doesn’t have to mean that your own employees can’t benefit. Why can’t content speak to both customers and employees and/or be included in your employee newsletters?

Since employees are the ones who have the closest relationships with consumers, you definitely want them to be educated about what’s going on in the company and in your industry. Below are some ways entrepreneurs can use their resources in order to ensure that their employees are learning from the content that the company is producing.

1. Ask Employees for a List of Questions and Build Content Ideas from There

Instead of just assuming you know what your employees still need to learn about the business, why not ask them? Have them compile a list of questions they have about various aspects of the company and the industry. In some cases, some of these questions are coming right from consumers and employees want to know how to better answer them. Once you’ve received everyone’s lists, compare them to see if there are some common concerns and inquiries, and start from there. The content you’re producing should answer their questions in detail, and will hopefully act as clarification for both employees and customers on certain topics.

2. Use Your Connections in the Industry to Discuss What Content has Been Most Meaningful to Their Staff

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Companies have been producing content for quite a while now, and the idea of employees learning from these articles is nothing new. Use your connections in the market to see what has worked for other businesses. Reach out to them and ask them which content ideas have been most popular with their staff, and why. Then, adapt the ideas to meet the needs of your employees. Every business is different, so while it may not work to take the same exact idea from someone else, chances are the root of the idea is good and can be changed a little to work with your own employees.

In addition, it never hurts to ask for feedback. If something doesn’t seem to be working, don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions…and then learn from them!

3. Have an Email Marketing Campaign/Message Every Other Week Just for Employees

Email marketing works great for customers, so why not try it for employees? If you don’t already have an employee newsletter start by picking a new topic each time (perhaps from the list of questions the employees compiled in #1) and explain it further in an email to employees sent every other week. The timing and frequency of this campaign is key (just like any other email marketing campaign); if you send too many, employees will most likely disregard them and your message will end up in their junk folder. But if you take the time to find content that is meaningful to them, and you don’t inundate their inbox with it (which is why we suggest emails sent every other week), they’re more than likely going to take the time to read the message and thus learn from the content provided inside.

4. Bring in Influencers to Talk to Each Department (Content isn’t Always Written, Remember!)

When talking about how an employer can use their toolset, this is maybe the best option. Everyone likes a little variety in their day, so if you sense that your employees are getting burned out from written content, consider bringing in a guest speaker to work with them. The more personalized the presentation, the better, so it’s a good idea to tailor each speaker and each presentation to a specific department. Plus, employees will be more engaged and probably feel more comfortable asking questions in a smaller setting. Again, the key is to make the presentation meaningful, so before you go hunting for someone to speak, make sure you know which are “hot topics” for your departments: what are they confused about, what are they interested in, what do they want to know more about? And then try to find a dynamic speaker to address their concerns.

5. Once Per Week, Have One of Your Employees be a Guest Writer for Your Blog

A great way to engage employees is to involve them in the process of producing content. Ask for volunteers to guest post on the company blog on a topic that is meaningful to them. It’s important that you don’t force anyone to do this; not everyone considers himself/herself a writer, and if you force someone to post who isn’t interested then they’re not going to learn from the experience. With that said, there should be plenty of people willing to give it a shot, especially if you tell them that they don’t have to worry about grammar and editing. They should just focus on the message they’re sending, and you can have someone else take care of the proofreading. This will not only help them get the most from your content, but their peers as well.

6. Loop Employees in on Your Trello Board or Editorial Calendar

Employees Need Your Content Too

If you create a schedule for your posts (whether it be through Trello, Google Calendar, or something else), employees will be aware when hot topics that peak their interest will be written, and they can be sure to check them out. This will be a time saver for them since they probably don’t have a ton of extra time to constantly be checking the blog for new content that’s interesting to them. They’ll also appreciate your consideration of their time, and hopefully reward you by making sure to read the posts that engage them. Setting a schedule also encourages collaboration; if a department head sees that an article will be written on a topic that is important to him/her, they can make a plan for each employee to read it and then create a set time to discuss the content together. This would be much harder to do without some kind of advance notice.

The Takeaway

Hopefully now you can see the benefit of including employees in on your content marketing. Not only will it improve their knowledge of the business (which will then translate to the customers), but it’s a great way to engage them and make sure that the content you’re producing is meaningful to everyone and your company continues to move forward together as a team.

So how are you going to make sure your employees are learning from your content?  Do you plan on utilizing any resources not discussed above? Is there anything you would add to the list? Comment in the section below!

Image Credit:

Need Data? Create a Company Blog Dashboard in Google Analytics

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At my last company our small marketing team struggled to identify the real impact our company blog was having on business.  A seemingly simple task is often complicated by the fact that today most companies host their blog inside their corporate website ala  This makes reporting and isolating only the blog visitor metrics more challenging. The key to un-cloaking your company blog-only metrics might be creating a Custom Segment in Google Analytics to focus on traffic coming through your company blog.

I’ve spent the past week researching the best way to segment your blog metrics and create a Google Analytics dashboard to give a baseline of your company blog’s value.  This post will walk through segmenting your website traffic and importing my company blog dashboard template into your Google Analytics account.  If you’d like a full run-down of why and what these metrics are check out my post on the Pardot blog: How to Track Key Blog Metrics!


This walkthrough assumes you have Google Analytics installed on your company website.

Let the uncloaking begin.

Importing the Company Blog Dashboard Template

To get started, import my Google Analytics Company Blog Dashboard into your account.  You can do this by clicking the button below:

[minti_button link=”” size=”medium” target=”_blank” lightbox=”false” color=”green” icon=”fa-download”] Import the Company Blog Dashboard[/minti_button]

Assuming that you are logged into company Google Analytics account you should land at a page that looks similar to my screenshot, prompting you for a name, name it Company Blog Dashboard.  You will also need to choose the website data from which to pull, choose the View most appropriate for your website.

Import the FeedOtter Company Blog Dashboard Template

After clicking the Create button you will see a number of widgets showing data from your entire website.  However interesting and impressive we want to limit this dashboard to only show data corresponding to our company blog so we must now create a custom segment, read on!

Creating a Custom Blog Users Segment

To create a custom Blog Users Segment

  1. Click on the light grey Add Segment text in the top middle of your dashboard
  2. Click the red New Segment button
  3. Select Conditions from the left-side list of options
  4. Name your Segment and create a filter as shown in the screenshot below:

Configuring Your Blog Users Segment in Google Analytics

  1. Name your segment Blog Users Segment
  2. Choose Users
  3. Select Landing Page
  4. This is the path of to your blog.  For me, the FeedOtter blog is located at /blog/ but this is typically what you would consider your blog’s homepage minus your website’s domain name.
  5. Click the blue Save button

The top of your Blog Dashboard should look similar to mine below… The new Blog User Segment will have replaced the All Users.  If All Users is still there click the little “down arrow” and select “Remove”.  Now you are looking at only blog visitors!

The Completed Company Blog Dashboard



Since no 2 websites are alike you may need to tweak some of the widgets to show the right data, here are a couple you might want to pay attention to:

  • Which posts are most popular? – this is currently configured to only show posts from the /blog/ subdirectory of your website.  If your blog is not located at /blog/ you will want to update the filter on this widget.  Click the Pencil to edit, and change /blog/ to /youbloghomepath/
  • Free trials created – I added this widget to demonstrate how you can link your blog traffic to Google Analytics Goals.  For example, I have this setup to detect how many free trial sign-ups result from blog traffic.

What other metrics would you like to report on?  Please comment and share your customizations and ideas on how to make this dashboard better.

How to Add a Blog Subscription Form To Your Company Blog


Your company blog is one of the most important tools for growing your marketing database.  It’s also a great way to bring visitors back to your website thereby increasing the chance they will inquire about your products or services.  In this week’s post I’m going to walk you through how to create a basic blog subscribe form in Pardot and add it to the sidebar of your company blog. For this how-to you should be a Pardot user and have access to the admin area of your website/blog CMS.  In this example we will use WordPress as our CMS.

I like to think of marketing initiatives in terms of “I Want…” phrases.  They help to define a purpose and a clear goal that we hope to achieve.  For this project our “I Want” phrase is going to be:

“I want to capture the email address of subscribers on the side of my company blog”

When we’re all done it will look something like this:

The Sidebar Subscription Form

Here is what the finished product will look like:

Basic subscribe form for company blog

Part 1. Pardot Tasks

If you haven’t already, you will want to  create a new Pardot Campaign & Pardot Folder for this project.  We assume the campaign and folder names from that blog post are used.

Task 1 – Create a new Layout Template

In order to create a fully-custom form in Pardot we need to create a new layout template to reflect the visual look and feel of our form.  Don’t worry I created this for you all you need to do is copy and paste my code into the appropriate places.

  1. In Pardot, navigate to Landing PagesLayout Templates
  2. Click the Add Layout Template button
  3. Name your new template LTMP -Basic Blog Sidebar Form I like to add LTMP to the beginning of my items so I always know that its a layout template.  Adding “Basic” into the name will set you up for a forthcoming how-to on a more advanced form with subscription preferences built in.
  4. Select your Blog Subscribers folder
  5. Uncheck  Include default CSS stylesheet (recommended)
  6. Don’t click the button yet, we need to copy & paste in the blog subscriber sidebar form html

Create a basic blog sidebar form layout template

Now we are ready to add the custom template items.

In the Layout Tab:

  1. Delete everything shown in this box by default
  2. Copy & Paste the following code into the box
<link href="" rel="stylesheet">
    #fo-subscribe {
        padding: 0px;
        border: none;
        width: 95%;
        text-align: left;	
        font-family: 'Open Sans', sans-serif;
        color: #868686;
        font-style: normal;
        font-weight: normal;
        line-height: 1.75em;
        font-size: 13px;
    #fo-subscribe>form>h3 {		
        font-style: normal;
        font-weight: 700;
        line-height: 1.5em;
        letter-spacing: 0.01em;
        font-size: 15px !important;
        text-transform: uppercase;
    #fo-subscribe>form>p {
	margin:0px 0px 0px 0px;	
        padding: 0px 0px 0px 0px;	
    #fo-subscribe>form {
        width: 100%; /* 100% if using in a sidebar, 50% if using at the botom of a post */
        margin: 0 auto;
    #fo-subscribe>form>.fo-row {
        text-align: left;
        padding:8px 0;
    #fo-subscribe>form input {
        padding: 12px 15px 12px 15px;
        -webkit-box-sizing: border-box; /* Safari/Chrome, other WebKit */
        -moz-box-sizing: border-box;    /* Firefox, other Gecko */
        box-sizing: border-box;         /* Opera/IE 8+ */
        background: #F5F5F5 !important;
        margin-bottom: 0;
        font-family: 'Raleway';
        color: #909699;
        border: solid 1px #e5e5e5;
        font-size: 14px;
        font-style: normal;
        font-weight: 400;
        line-height: 24px;
        letter-spacing: 0px;	
    #fo-subscribe>form label.error {
        font-size: 12px;
        color: #FD8579;
        display: inline-block;
    #fo-subscribe>form input.error {
        border: solid 1px #FD8579;
    /* Themes:  
            fo-light-background-theme: use this if your site has a grey or non-white background
            fo-dark-background-thtme: use this if your site has a white background
    */ {
        background-color: #FFFFFF;
        padding: 0px;
    .fo-light-background-theme>form>h3 {
        color: #454545 !important;
    .fo-light-background-theme>form>p {
        color: #868686 !important;
    } {
        background-color: #E7E7E7;
        color: #666666 !important;
        border: 1px solid #CCCCCC;
        padding: 10px;
        width: 90%;
    .fo-dark-background-theme>form>h3 {
        color: #025d98 !important;
    .fo-dark-background-theme>form>p {
        color: #666666 !important;
    /* subscribe button color */
    #fo-subscribe input[type="submit"].fo-btn-subscribe {
        background: #2980b9 !important; /* change button background color here */
        color:#FFF;			/* change button text color here */
        font-family: 'Open Sans', sans-serif;	
        cursor: pointer;
        width: 100%;
        font-style: normal;
        font-weight: 800;
        text-transform: uppercase;
        line-height: 22px;
        letter-spacing: 2px;
        display: inline-block;
    input[type="submit"].fo-btn-subscribe:hover {    
        opacity: 0.8;	
<body style="margin:0px !important;">

    <!-- start content -->

    <div class="fo-light-background-theme" id="fo-subscribe">

    <!-- end content -->


In the Form Tab:

  1. Delete everything shown in this box by default
  2. Copy & Paste the following code into the Form box


<form accept-charset="UTF-8" method="post" action="%%form-action-url%%" class="form" id="pardot-form">



		 <div class="fo-row">
                	    <label class="field-label" for="%%form-field-id%%">%%form-field-label%%</label>
                <!--<input type="email" name="email" class="form-control" required="" aria-required="true">-->
                	<div id="error_for_%%form-field-id%%" style="display:none"></div>
				<label class="error no-label">%%form-field-error-message%%</label>
		<!-- forces IE5-8 to correctly submit UTF8 content  -->
		<input name="_utf8" type="hidden" value="☃" />
		<p class="submit">
		    <input type="submit" accesskey="s" value="%%form-submit-button-text%%" %%form-submit-disabled%% class="fo-btn-subscribe"> 


Again, make sure the Include default CSS stylesheet (recommended) checkbox is Unchecked

Click the Create layout template button

Task 2 – Create a new Pardot Form

  1. In Pardot, navigate to MarketingFormsNew Form
  2. Name your form FRM – Basic Blog Sidebar Form
  3. Fill out the remaining fields as seen in my screenshot below:

Create a new pardot blog subscriber form

Click Next

The following page will allow us to configure:

  • What fields we collect from a sign-up (email)
  • Text we show at the top of our form
  • What the visitor sees when they successfully submit
  • Completion Actions that we want to associate

Let’s get started!

  • In the Fields section, remove all fields until Email is the only one left.


  • Click Next
  • In the Look and Feed section:
    • Select the Layout Template we just created LTMP – Basic Blog Sidebar Form
    • Enter the Submit Button Text “SUBSCRIBE”
    • Enter the following text in the Above Form box
    • “DON’T MISS A POST” – from the Format dropdown make this phrase Heading 3
    • “Subscribe to receive an email when we publish new content.” – from the Format dropdown make this phrase Normal
    • Should look like the image below:


  • Click Next

In the Completion Actions section enter the phrase “Thank You For Subscribing” for the Thank You Content.  This is what will be shown to your visitors after they fill out the form. I have also created a Completion Action which will add everyone who fills out this form onto a Pardot List called LST – Basic Blog Subscribers. I will use this list as the basis for an email newsletter full of blog posts using FeedOtter.


  • Click Next
  • Review the all settings and click the Confirm & Save button

Alright, we’re ready to add our new form to our blog.

  • From the Form saved successfully page click the dropdown in the upper-right and select View HTML code


Copy the <iframe> code block and get ready to add this to your website. Tip: You may want to change the <iframe> height attribute to 300.  That will be more than enough for this form.

Part 2. Embed the blog subscriber form on your company blog

I wrote this form to be as flexible as possible but there is no way to predict how it will look 100%.  Overall, it should look great with no tweaking.

For this example we are using WordPress as our blog’s CMS (content management system) if you use a different CMS you will need to paste your HTML code wherever you modify your blog’s sidebar.  This form is specifically designed for for a sidebar (right or left) where the width is around 300px so that is where we will put it.

For WordPress Users:

Log-in to your WordPress Admin and navigate the side menu to AppearanceWidgets. Everyone’s Widgets area will look slightly different depending on the Theme you are using but you should be able to identify a Widget that corresponds to the sidebar of your blog.  On the FeedOtter blog it is conveniently named “Blog Widgets”.  From the Available Widgets area drag a new Text widget into the sidebar widget area and expand it.  This is where you will paste in the HTML content.


  • Click the Save button

That’s it!  At this point you can head to your blog and see how it turned out.


If your form doesn’t show up check to see if your website is using HTTPS.  If it is you will need to make a small change to the <iframe> HTML embed code you got from Pardot to make things work.  Go back into WordPressWidgets and edit your iframe code, change http:// to https:// as I did in the screenshot below.


Other problems or ideas?  Let me hear your suggestions in the comments below!