Friday, 31 October 2014

15 Email Marketing Tips For Small Businesses

email marketing newsletter

Email marketing is a great way to reach your customers where they are without spending a lot of money. But it’s a big responsibility, too—people don’t give their email addresses to just anyone. Thinking about starting a company newsletter? Here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Make it easy to subscribe. Post a signup form on your homepage, blog, Facebook page, and wherever else your customers and fans are already active. You might want to collect names and birthdays (for a special offer or gift) or invite readers to join groups, but don’t go crazy with the required fields. A too-long subscribe form might scare people off.
  • Tell subscribers what to expect. Whether you plan to send company updates, letters from the president, e-commerce sales, daily deals, or weekly tips, it’s important to tell your readers what to expect and how often to expect it. Give them as much information as possible on your signup form, so they can decide whether they want to be on the list or not.
  • Send a welcome email. It’s always smart to remind people why they’re on your list and reassure them that good things are in store. You might even send new subscribers a special offer or exclusive content, as your way of thanking them for their loyalty.
  • Design your newsletter to fit your brand. Your email campaigns should match your brand’s look and feel. If you’re using a template, you might want to customize it to include your company’s colors and logo in the header. If your emails are consistent with the rest of your company’s content, then readers will feel more familiar from the start.
  • Make it scannable. Your subscribers are busy people who get a lot of email, so it’s safe to assume you don’t have their undivided attention. Instead of one long block, break up your content into short paragraphs. Include subheadings and images to guide readers through your email and make it easier to scan, and add a teaser to the top of your newsletter to tell subscribers what’s in store. If you’re sending a long article, consider inserting a “read more” link so people can get to the rest when it’s convenient for them. Your subject line should be to-the-point and easy to digest, too. You might even want to a/b test subject lines to see which ones perform best.
  • Send people content they want. Email newsletter services offer features like groups and segmentation to help you make your content relevant to the people reading it. If you’re sending different emails for different groups (for example, a nonprofit might send separate emails to volunteers, donors, and the board of directors), then you can ask people to check a box to join a particular group on your signup form. Segmentation allows you to target certain subscribers on your list without assigning them to group. If your store is having a sale, then you could send a campaign only to people near a particular zip code, because subscribers who live in other parts of the world don’t need to know about it. You can also segment by activity, email clients, e-commerce data, and more. Sending relevant content will keep your readers engaged, and engaged readers look forward to your newsletter and share it with friends.
  • Keep a publishing calendar. A regular newsletter is a commitment. If you go several months without sending anything, then your subscribers will forget about you, and they’ll be more likely to delete the next email, or worse, mark it as spam. Make time to plan, write, design, and send your newsletters regularly.
  • Edit. Even editors need editors. When you’re working on your publishing calendar, leave plenty of time for the editing and revision process. Once you send a campaign, it goes straight to the inbox, and you can’t go back and update it. Newsletters contain meaningful content, and sloppy ones reflect poorly on the companies who send them. Grammar and style are just as important for email as they are for websites and blogs.
  • Test. Different email clients and mobile devices display emails differently. Send test emails to colleagues, or use a testing program to make sure your emails are going to look good on screens big and small. Testing reveals design mistakes before it’s too late, and testing programs can predict whether or not a campaign will get caught in a spam filter. You could even set up accounts with a few different email services for easy testing. Avoid sending one big image as a campaign, and cover your bases with a plain-text option for every email.
  • Think about mobile. If a campaign doesn’t show up on mobile devices, it’s not going to perform very well. Everything you send should be mobile-friendly. Check out ReturnPath’s “Email in Motion” infographic for some data that might affect the way you design your emails. One of the highlights: According to the study, 63 percent of Americans and 41 percent of Europeans would either close or delete an email that’s not optimized for mobile. Might be time to start using a responsive template.
  • Know your spam rules. A lot of innocent people send spam because they didn’t know any better. Read up on the CAN-SPAM act to avoid any trouble. Put simply, you’re allowed to send bulk email only to people who specifically asked to be on your mailing list. If you collected email addresses for a lunch giveaway or an event invitation, then you don’t have permission to send marketing emails unless you made that clear at signup. Include an obvious unsubscribe link in every email, and don’t forget to remind subscribers how they got on your list in the first place.
  • Make it shareable. Send content that people want to share, and make it easy for them to do it. Sure, subscribers can forward your campaign to friends, but that’s a lot to ask. Include a public link to the web version of your campaign so people can read it outside of their email programs, and consider adding Twitter and Facebook links to your newsletter, so readers can share your content where they’re already active. When their friends start sharing and subscribing, you’ll know it’s working.
  • Keep an eye on your stats. Most email newsletter services offer free reports that contain helpful information. Learn how to read and understand your reports, so you can use the stats to improve your campaigns going forward. Pay attention to your open and click rates, and identify any patterns that make those numbers go up or down. If a campaign receives a high number of unsubscribes, then try something different the next time.
  • Be friendly. Feel free to use a casual tone in your email newsletters. Since most emails come directly from one person, people expect human voices in their inboxes. There’s a good chance your subscribers are already in a informal frame of mind when they’re checking their email, so an overly formal or stodgy voice might seem out of place. Plus, they’ve given you their email address, so you’re already on a first-name basis. If you collect first names on your signup form, you can dynamically include them in your email greetings.
  • Only send email if you have something to say. This one seems obvious, but too many companies start email newsletters with no plan and nothing to say. Email is simply a way to publish content—the content itself has to come first. Before starting a newsletter, make sure it’s a sustainable commitment that will help you achieve your business goals. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting your subscribers’ time and your own time. Ask yourself: What’s the goal for this kind of communication? What do we have to say? How will we measure success? Send thoughtful newsletters, and keep the focus on your company’s message.


SEO: "Which Update?" Is the Wrong Question

seo company

With the combinations of Google Updates taking places within short periods of time, one of the more frequent questions I encounter as an SEO is, "Which update _______ (fill in the blank with a comment related to either drops on increases in rankings)?" While I understand the instinct to relate X to Y and have fallen victim to the simplicity of it many times myself, we have to remember that this is entirely the wrong way to look at search algorithm updates. While normally I try to write articles directed as passing on a specific piece of information or skill (normally – not always), this time I’m hoping to pass across a learned (the hard way) limitation in focusing in on a specific algorithm or update.

The truth of the matter is this, inherent in the question, "Was my ranking drop related to Panda or Penguin?" is a frightening truth, a belief that it could be either and thus, a belief that the site is lacking in the area of links, quality, and content. That’s quite the lack of faith and if it’s well placed (i.e. any of these areas actually could cause a problem) well…that just illustrates the title of this article. The question to determine a specific one issue is misplaced, rather – a complete re-evaluation of the site and your online presence has to be evaluated. After all, let’s say it was a Penguin penalty that hit you THIS TIME. You focus and get it fixed and for what, to get hit with a Panda or Pirate or Plankton update down the road.


Another major issue is that most people don’t fully understand how the algorithms themselves can impact your rankings and thus looking to a single algorithm tends to put the blinders on to other areas. Let’s say for example that you noticed a drop in your organic traffic starting in late September. That would tie in pretty tightly to the Panda 4.1 update and so it would seem pretty logical to start vetting your content. A drop in traffic tied to the Panda algorithm has to be related to content, right? Wrong, and it’s this focus on a specific update tied to a misunderstanding of the updates themselves that can cause a huge issue.

Now you may be thinking, if Panda is about content and more specifically, getting rid of low-quality or thin content (which it is), then how can a drop in results right after a Panda update not relate to having low-quality content or content that’s sending out a false-positive signal? Imagine a world where you did some less-than-stellar link-building. Let’s imagine that those sites you build links on had low-quality content. Now imagine what happens to the value of the links to your site when they get hit with the Panda update.

So yes, you got affected by the Panda update, but no it’s not related to your content. But do you see what happened there, if you focused on looking just to what the update itself was defined to do you’d be looking in entirely the wrong location for the issue.

So What’s the Right Question?

The right question to ask will depend on your skill level and experience. So let’s break it down to its simplest form:

Beginner SEO or Management

If you’re just at the entry level stages of being an SEO or if you’re not even an SEO and simply responsible for making business decisions, then the question is simple, "What can we do to improve out content and link profile?" You need to do a thorough and unbiased review of your content and your backlinks and develop strategies to improve both.

At this experience level, you can’t hope to understand the complexities of what different algorithms may or may not be doing and so you need to fully vet everything. You may start at the most likely culprit based on which algorithms you believe may be affecting your traffic but it’s important to address the full scope of the site.

Intermediate SEO

At this stage you’ll have between two and five years of experience and seen your fair share of updates come and go. With that we can safely assume you know not to panic and that you can think beyond the obvious. The question to ask if you’re at this stage is, "Which ranking signals could possibly be affected by the update I believe has affected the site?" You’ll then begin your audit of the site starting with those elements. Once that’s completed, it’s time for a full review of the content and links to insure you’re not about to get kicked with a different update or on the chance you missed something or were in correct in what you believed caused the issue.

Expert SEO

I decided to include this, though the question is the same as for the intermediate with a special caveat…being an expert (which I’ll qualify as more than five years of experience) leads to a terrible habit, the habit of thinking you’ve seen it all and know it all. I know, I’ve fallen into this trap myself and been burnt by it. If this is a site you’ve been working on for a while it may be time to call in outside help so they may be able to see the forest through the trees.

To steal from Tim Ash, none of us know our baby is ugly but anyone who’s ever seen babies before knows some are and some aren’t. If you’ve been the lead SEO on a site for years, you may not see the glaring issues with your own environment and it may be time to get some new eyes on it, eyes that don’t think they know it all and have seen it all. If you’re lucky, you have staff with experience in this area, but if you don’t you may need to hire a set of eyes to do an audit of your site. Either way, an expert in a ranking drop situation can almost be worse than a beginner at times in not knowing their own baby is ugly, especially if they have other sites doing well.


...nothing. If your rankings are hit with an update, it’s time to fully review all the elements, not just the ones you think about. Don’t change algorithms, build what you know will be strong and what will withstand updates and if you drop, look at the structure as a whole. After all, there’s no point in buying new tires for your car if your clutch is about to die.


4 Reasons Your Search And Display Ads Are Getting Fatigued

You invest a lot of time into your paid search campaigns, but how much is spent on refreshing your ad copy? Columnist Frederick Vallaeys, along with his guest David Greenbaum, discuss how to overcome ad fatigue for maximum impact.

seo solution

The Problem Of Ad Fatigue Today

The online advertising space continues to aggressively grow by the billions, yet consumers are oftentimes overwhelmed by the abundance and repetition of ads they see. And when the same old ad runs too often, consumers stop responding. We call this ad fatigue.

Ad fatigue sets in when an ad that historically performed well stops delivering value. Why does this occur? For two reasons.

First, consumers grow accustomed to seeing the language and become desensitized to the message. Second, competitors start to pile on and recycle the messaging.

When ad fatigue sets in, click-through rate (CTR) and Quality Score drop – increasingly making ad fatigue a problem online marketers should be solving for in their SEM campaigns.

Below are four ways to avoid ad fatigue through refreshing every aspect of your ad copy.

1. Seasonality & Product Changes
Retailers have a particular cadence for updating product catalogues and refreshing inventory. When what you are selling changes, so should the corresponding ad copy.

When a clothing company releases a new line of Italian cashmere sweatshirts, for example, they update inventory lists and product catalogues.

Similarly, when a brand repositions itself in the marketplace or takes on new objectives, it should be reflected in the evolving campaign strategy.

Consumer brands respond to seasonality and promotions by adapting keywords, ad text and landing pages to the specific holiday or season. If you’re selling a car in the winter, it’s more effective to show a rugged, four-wheel drive vehicle than a sporty, top-down convertible.

Make sure the right ads are running at the right time, and not too often. When the same ad runs too frequently, the consumer is desensitized.

2. Copycat Messaging
Another part of the ad fatigue equation is messaging that is simply not unique.

Oftentimes, smaller brands will piggyback on the brand leader, copying ad text and messaging. The problem with repetition in the ad landscape is that messaging becomes diluted, causing a shorter shelf life for ads due to the “pile on” from smaller competitors (think of it as something like a “multi-ad pile up”).

Look at this example for LED TVs. The ads on the page all use the same format for the headline and as a result look alike on the page, having little effect on the consumer.

When an ad resembles several competing ads on the same page, it no longer packs a punch. In fact, it probably doesn’t pack any kind of punch at all.

3. Evolving Consumer Needs
One of the biggest battles that an online marketer faces is understanding the fickle, ever-changing consumer in today’s fast-paced, multi-media marketplace.

As culture and language constantly evolves, so do the ways consumers search for or discover your products. So, how do you make your ad stand out across a changing and evolving consumer landscape?

Some of the most effective ads we see are written in today’s lexicon. One client saw a huge improvement in an ad that used the manufactured word “You-nique.”

The bottom line here? Marketers see results when they talk to consumers the same way those consumers talk among themselves.

When advertising to Millennials, for example, experiment with different strategies and ways of engaging with this particular demographic. Consider their varied interests, dialogue and behaviors. Make them feel included in the conversation – as opposed to being advertised to ­– and your campaigns will be more successful.

What consumers are searching for changes regularly, and the ad text that is directed back at them should also change.

Successful online marketers are mindful of the evolution of language and sensibilities, and make the appropriate changes in their ad campaigns and outreach strategies.

4. Changing Ad Platforms
Google is frequently rolling out platform updates that allow online advertisers to engage with people based on factors such as device, geography and audience – to name just a few factors.

In display, marketers can segment customers by Topics to target pages about a specific subject. If you are targeting males ages 18 to 24 interested in climbing, for example, you can segment based on a Topic such as “fitness” to better serve relevant display ads.

The benefit of remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) is that you can build specific campaigns around customer behaviors.

For example, you can target a customer who abandoned the page before purchasing more aggressively by offering discounts and other promotional offers.

The more ways you have in your wheelhouse to segment your consumer base, the more unique opportunities you’ll have to talk to them.

However, with each new ad format or changes to targeting criteria, it becomes more important to keep ad creative fresh and your messaging relevant.


The 2 Things Email Marketing Experts Are Doing in 2014

Every new year, marketing managers, analysts, and pundits across the globe make predictions about the most popular trends to come in email marketing. Based on early statistics, the top priorities for real email marketing managers in 2014 are 1) increasing subscriber engagement and 2) expanding the use of list segmentation.

email marketing news

Overall email marketing usage
While more modern online marketing channels, such as social media, are increasingly important to marketers, email marketing is growing in importance right along with them. On January 7, Salesforce released a report showing that of the 2,600 mid- to senior-level marketing managers surveyed, 57 percent planned to increase the number of emails they send out this year. Furthermore, according to “a teaser from the April 2014 issue of Direct Marketing News,” 68 percent of marketers believe email is core to their business, and 52 percent plan to increase spending on email marketing.

Why marketers are focusing on engagement
In January, a StrongView survey reported that 44 percent of 387 business leaders said increasing email subscriber engagement is one of their top three priorities in email marketing. Even more telling is that 32 percent of respondents indicated a desire not only to increase engagement, but to develop more relevant engagements.

Relevant engagements are the key to successful email marketing. While high open and click-through rates are nice to achieve, they don’t matter much if they’re not driving sales. In order to drive conversions through email marketing, marketers have to send email content that provides value, and, most importantly, converts.

Popular tactics for increasing engagement:
  • Optimizing for mobile: About half of email users delete emails that aren’t optimized for mobile. The previously mentioned Salesforce report found that 64 percent of marketing managers say increasing click-through rates and open rates are their main concern in 2014. These days, one of the best ways to do that is to make sure marketing emails can easily be read and clicked on mobile devices.
  • Trigger-based email marketing: Unfortunately, not all marketers have access to trigger-based email marketing, but those who use more advanced email software can adopt this tactic to increase subscriber engagement. Email marketing service provider GetResponse, for example, allows email marketers to send automatic messages related to a subscriber’s previous engagement with the brand. This increases relevant engagements.
  • Personalization: This is another big buzzword for email marketers in 2014. According to Experian’s 2013 Email Marketing Study released this February, personalized emails achieved 29 percent more unique opens and 41 percent more unique clicks than generic emails in 2013. Email marketers who want to increase engagement are likely to look at personalization as a leading strategy.
  • Harnessing data: Data offers insights into subscribers’ preferences and habits that can’t be found elsewhere. As more and more people talk about the power of marketing data, those behind the times have really started to listen. According to the aforementioned StrongView survey, 26 percent of marketers plan to take advantage of data themselves in 2014.

Why marketers are focusing on segmentation
Email list segmentation is another major way to increase subscriber engagement, yet many email marketers still don’t use this tactic. In January 2014, Pure360 released the results of a survey of 600 email marketers, reporting that 44 percent of respondents had not yet created segmented email lists. Improving segmentation and targeting, however, was named a top priority by 31 percent of email marketers, according to the StrongView study.

Segmentation can increase engagement and conversions in email marketing, because smaller segments allow more targeted emails. The larger an email list gets, the more diverse subscriber demographics become. This makes it difficult to target content and provide relevant opportunities for engagement. Segmenting one list into multiple smaller lists drives relevant engagements.

Popular email list segments:
  • Varied time intervals: While many businesses create different email versions for different subscriber demographics and/or content preferences, they rarely give subscribers the option to choose how often they receive emails. Offering different options (every two weeks, every week, every day, etc.) helps businesses retain less interested subscribers and engage more often with subscribers who want their emails.
  • Big purchasers vs. small purchasers: If a business offers services or products that vary widely in price or level of consumption, engagement can be maximized by segmenting lists according to subscriber spend or purchase volume. Email marketers can promote big-ticket items to big spenders, for example, and low-priced items to low spenders.
  • Prospects: In addition to segmenting subscribers by different spend levels, email marketers can create a special segment for subscribers who have never actually spent money with the company. Targeting these prospects with messages that are different from messages to past customers can increase their engagement rates and lead to new conversions.
With their focus on increasing engagement and list segmentation, marketers are indicating that the future of email marketing depends on developing personal connections with subscribers in order to achieve more relevant engagements. People receive so many emails per day that standing out and deepening subscriber relationships is crucial to staying relevant in customers’ inboxes. Targeting specific demographics with better, more engaging content is the key.


Google Inbox Clicks With Marketers

email marketing news

Email marketing experts see largely positives in the new mobile app that gives people greater control of and access to their inboxes. 

When Google introduced Gmail tabs last year, it caused email marketers to worry that their finely crafted messages would be sentenced to certain death under the promotions tab. Another pang of anxiety hit the marketing community last week when Google introduced its Inbox email app, but after early investigation of the new entry, at least three email experts saw mostly positives in it for commercial emailers.

Brad van der Woerd, director of intelligence products at Yesmail, sees Inbox as separate and distinct from Gmail. In his view, it's a functional mobile organizer that savvy marketers will exploit to get customers opening more of their emails than they did before. “This is definitely a response on the part of Google to the fact that two thirds of emails are now being opened on mobile devices,” van der Woerd says. “Google is offering people a much more sophisticated approach to organizing their emails.”

Unlike Gmail tabs, which offers users five groupings (primary, social, promotions, forums, updates) to choose from, Inbox allows people to create their own “bundles” of email types. One can make distinct groupings of emails—those containing purchase receipts or bulletins from dating sites, for instance. Users can also set reminders to deal with important emails at a later time.

 “People sign up for the promotional emails they receive, so they want to see them, but they get lost in the shuffle because they don't get them at the perfect time in the day,” van der Woerd says. “Being able to set a reminder on them is an ideal scenario for marketers.”

 It's also a serious upgrade for consumers, which is just as important, says Jim Davidson, manager of marketing research at Bronto Software. “Before I consider what marketers' reactions will be, I want to see what the user experience is for consumers, and in that regard I'm impressed with Inbox. It's an email experience that's like going to Pinterest,” he observes. Like van der Woerd, Davidson thinks the reminder option can be a boon to email marketers. “You can set a reminder for when you're at home or you're in the vicinity of a store.”

Display options used in Inbox also can work in marketers' favor, Davidson says. The primary display highlights the key information from emails, such as event information, documents, and flight itineraries. Inbox can also add real-time information that isn't in the original email, such as when a package has been delivered.

“Google is to be applauded for its efforts to make email—still the most utilized communications channel on the Internet—more productive and pleasant,” says Phillip Merrick, CEO of Message Systems. “The new Gmail Inbox bundles feature brings to desktop and smartphone apps similar functionality to what Google first introduced with Gmail Tabs. The promotions folder sparked concerns that open rates of marketing emails would plummet. However, the sky didn't fall and both users and marketers have adjusted."

Van der Woerd agrees, noting that Yesmail's analysis of the effect of Gmail tabs turned up a 1% increase in opens. “Obviously the best practice for marketers is sending out the most relevant emails they can,” he says. “But Google organizing the inbox and giving more flexibility to users should turn out to be a positive for marketers.” 

Source: Marketing