5 Essentials For An Effective Email Campaign

ImageCustomers Still Want To Be Emailed

There are so many channels marketers can use to communicate a company’s message. Some may argue that email marketing is becoming outdated and will soon fall by the wayside. However, forecasts from the Radicati Group show that email marketing is going to continue to grow, with the number of worldwide email users predicted to reach over 2.7 billion by the end of 2017, and email market revenue to reach $20.4 billion.

Email is still the preferred marketing channel for users as well.  Research from Host Papa and ExactTarget has shown approximately 75% of users prefer email marketing over other methods of marketing.  Also, according to Salesforce blog contributor Chad White, return on investment is much higher for email marketing than for search, social media, mobile and many other marketing channels.

As the preferred method of customers and with high return on investment, it’s obvious that email is still a relevant marketing tool that companies should be taking advantage of. Here are five tips on to optimize your email marketing campaigns for customer engagement, conversions, and positive ROI:

1) Segmentation Is Key

Unlike social media where your message is widely broadcasted, email marketing offers the opportunity to share personalized content meant for a specific group. According to the Grasshopper marketing blog,  segmenting your email messages can lead to about 15% more clicks on links than non-segmented emails. There are many ways to segment your contact lists. For example, if you’re an ecommerce company, you can segment by frequent purchasers vs. customers who only purchase once in awhile. Then you’ll be able to customize your offers to better satisfy each group. For example, you could send frequent purchasers an email highlighting new products or offering free shipping. Then you could send less frequent customers a discount code to encourage them to come back to your site.

2) Shine In The Subject Line

Use the subject line to your advantage by creating something that will compel the customer to open your email and read on. Writing a spectacular subject line is something that will take time and effort, but the effort will pay off significantly. MailChimp reported open rates up to 93% when their clients really put in the effort to make a subject line that would appeal to their customers. Analytics and A/B testing can be your friends when determining what subject lines your audience responds to most. There are also lots of studies that can help you determine what words may send your email to the spam filter or what could lead to more or less opens. MailChimp conducted a study that broke down subject lines by words and determined the effects these words had on open rates overall and by industry. Read it here.

3) Be Purposeful, Consistent and Error-Free

We hate pointless emails at work and in life, so we definitely don’t want to receive an email with no clear purpose or intent from the brands we subscribe to either. A great email tip from The NextWeb contributor Abhimanyu Ghoshal is to always have a clear message and help the users accomplish some kind of goal, such as providing access to new features or details about an upcoming event. It’s also important to maintain consistency with all your communications so users will easily be able to associate your emails with your brand. Errors can have a negative impact on your brand, so don’t negate the importance of passing your email onto multiple sets of proof-reading eyes before you hit send. Always check for typos, incorrect dates, broken links or anything else that could hinder user experience or potentially communicate the incorrect information or message to users.

4) Optimize The Design

People are suffering from email overload every day. Therefore, email design is more important than ever. Effective design techniques and best practices should be used to highlight the most relevant information and so the call-to-action clearly stands out. Also, it’s no secret that most people check email on mobile devices now, so it’s no longer optional to design your emails for mobile. Use responsive design on your emails to be optimized for any screen size. Users should be able to perform any desired action from your email easily from a phone or tablet as well as a laptop. Luckily, most email marketing software products offer responsive email templates. Use them to your advantage!

5) Leverage Email Analytics

One of my favorite companies I receive emails from is HauteLook, a fashion flash-sale site. Their sales begin every day at 11 AM, and I receive their email at about 10:55 AM. It is a great reminder that the sale is about to start. Even if your company doesn’t have a time-specific offer, it is still a great practice to create a regular distribution schedule for your emails.  You can use email analytics to determine the day of the month, week, or even specific time of day when your customers are most likely to open your emails. MailChimp has also compiled data about the best times to schedule your emails. You can read the report here.

Analytics can also help you determine what works best for your email campaigns as well as which offers or subjects didn’t receive as much traction. This in-depth knowledge will help you make better-informed decisions about future campaigns and allow you to effectively measure each email campaign’s success. Email analytics can also help you to further segment your customers and create campaigns that are truly tailored to your customer’s specific wants and needs.

Summary

While marketers have an arsenal of communication channels to choose from when attempting to engage and interact with customers, email is still the channel most customers prefer. When creating an email campaign, it is important to follow a strategy for each communication. Every email should have a clear purpose and benefit for the customer, as well as provide a fantastic user experience. The high level of data available for each email campaign can also make it much easier for marketers to understand what kinds of emails provide the most value for customers. Use email marketing to the fullest by going back to the data to measure each email’s success.

What is your strategy for a successful email campaign? Leave your comments below.

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On-Page SEO Tips From The Experts

Search algorithm updates that focus on content and user experience have brought along with them new on-page SEO strategies. While keywords still play an important role, relevancy and user experience are taking center stage in all SEO efforts. Rand Fishkin from Moz states that effective on-page optimization should:

A) Have the best opportunity to rank highly in Google and Bing

B) Earn traffic from social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.

C) Be worthy of links and shares from across the web

D) Build your brand’s perception, trust, and potential to convert visitors

Here’s what Rand and many other influential SEO’s consider to be the most important elements of on-page SEO:

Provide Content That Makes A Difference

When content truly makes a difference, it provides unique value to the user. It can help to solve a problem or improve a process, for example. Adding interesting visual elements to your content is one easy way to add more value for users. If the content is useful and valuable to the user, it is much more likely that the content will be shared. We’ll talk more about why social sharing is so important later.

Create A Flawless User Experience

As noted by Brian Dean of Backlinko, Google has made no secret of the fact that page loading time is an important SEO ranking factor. A MunchWeb study found that 75% of users won’t return to a site that takes longer than four seconds to load, so it’s important that your pages load in under four seconds. Dean states the easiest way to reduce page loading time is to invest in a quality web hosting service.

Internal linking is important to user experience as well. From my own experience, I find internal links extremely helpful. I enjoy being directed to related content on a website and relevant, well-placed internal links do help keep me on a website longer. Dean states it’s a good practice to include internal links towards the beginning of your content because users tend to be more “click happy” when they enter your page. Again, from my own browsing habits I also find this to be true.

Clear, clean design and navigation are also an important elements of user experience. The number of steps it takes for a user to complete any action on the site should be as minimal as possible.  It’s now becoming clear that mobile-friendliness is no longer optional. Mobile-friendly design and fast loading time are both necessary for SEO. We’ll talk more about that later on as well.

Put Keywords Where They Belong

Keyword targeting is here to stay, but the way to do it for SEO has evolved. Here is what is still considered important when it comes to keywords (I used a mash-up of data from Moz, Whole Brain Marketing and Backlinko for this section):

Page Title

The page title is extremely important. A user wants to see the keyword they’ve searched for in your page title so they’ll know it’s worth a click. The primary keyword should be used at least once, preferably at the beginning of the title. Read more about writing great titles here.

Page/Meta Description

The meta description of your page is another place the primary keyword should appear. Don’t stuff the description with as many keywords as possible. Two to three keywords is a good limit. The goal of the meta description should be to compel the user to click on the link, so be specific and explain how the page creates value. Search terms are also bolded in the page description which can help increase your page’s visibility to the user. Remember, the page description will be cut off after 155 characters on the search results page.

Body Headlines

Much like the page title, including the targeted keyword in the headlines of the page is a way to let the user and search engines know your content is relevant to the search.

Body Copy

Get right to the point in your content by including your keyword within at least the first 150 words. This not only helps SEO but your reader as well (we have short attention spans). And again, don’t stuff your content with tons of keywords. Follow the two to three keyword strategy from the description for your copy as well.

Page URL

Most content management systems today will generate a URL for the page based on its title. If your title is already optimized with a keyword, the URL will be optimized as well. Also, URLs will serve as anchor text around the web when people share your content, so they should fully optimized.

Images

Images are often forgotten because they’re not known for high traffic or conversions. However, images should be optimized for at least one keyword. If anything, it will help emphasize the topic of your content and improve your search rankings. Besides including the primary keyword in the title of the saved image file and alt text for your code, adding a title or caption for the image in the text with the keyword can be helpful as well. Also, when an image is linked, the alt attribute is viewed like anchor text by search engines.

Outbound & Inbound Links

Using outbound link keywords to authoritative sites has been shown to increase page rank. Linking to relevant sites with high page ranks helps Google better understand what your site is all about. Additionally, users find value in being directed to related content and this added value can contribute to return visits. As for internal linking, a user should be able to find a page in no more than four clicks or three clicks if the site is smaller. It’s also always a good idea to link to relevant pages on your site within the content or post, as we talked about in the User Experience section.

Meta Keywords

Meta keywords are so yesterday. Google announced way back in 2009 that meta keywords are no longer used to determine rankings. Therefore, you can forget about using meta keywords in your on-page SEO strategy forever.

Make Content Easy to Share

Social sharing buttons are key for this component of on-page SEO. There’s no need to include a social sharing button for every social network on the web though. Just focus on the networks your target audience uses most. Social proof is extremely important for any business because it helps instill customer trust. Google also takes social proof into account for search rankings as it helps determine how relevant users found the site’s content. A study by BrightEdge found that making social sharing buttons easy to see and use can increase social sharing by 700%. Obviously, the use of social sharing buttons is an on-page SEO opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

Design For Use On Any Device

Web traffic is becoming increasingly mobile. Is your site responsive (meaning the design of your site is optimized for all screen sizes)? According to Frank Isca of The Weidert Group, Google prefers responsive sites over ones that have a separate sites for desktop and mobile. Leverage responsive web design to provide a better user experience and to prevent double SEO work for two sites (one on the m. domain and one on your regular domain). Also, as Rand from Moz says,

If you’re not optimized for all devices, you’re missing critical opportunities for amplification to a broader audience.

Let The Crawlers/Bots Find You

Making sure your pages can be found by the search engines is another critical piece of on-page SEO. Follow these guidelines from Moz when it comes to being crawler/bot accessible:

  • Avoid duplicate content: If you have identical content on two different URLs of your pages, use the rel=canonical tag to direct the bots to the original page
  • Follow best practices for URLS: They shouldn’t be too long, should be static instead of dynamic and should be included in the correct RSS feeds or XML sitemaps
  • Don’t make the mistake of blocking bots: While it’s ok to block bots from certain content, be extremely careful that you don’t stop them from indexing your important pages
  • Use the proper redirects: Make sure you are using the right codes and protocol when you have to redirect your content (read this article on best practices for SEO redirection)

Take Advantage of Additional Markup (Authorship, Rich Snippets, Etc.)

There are many new ways to include additional markup for your content in search engine listings, such as Google Authorship and Rich Snippets. Rand from Moz suggests identifying the markup that will  provide the most value to your potential customers. Avoid using every additional markup that’s out there because it could be damaging to your online reputation. Learn more about rich snippets here.

Conclusion

While on-page SEO is needed to achieve higher rankings in search results, content is truly the key. When the content provides unique value to the audience, many of the other on-page SEO elements, such as social sharing, will naturally take place. Following the key practices of on-page SEO will help your content perform at its best and help make the most of your content marketing efforts.

Why Bad Headlines Kill Content Marketing Efforts

A great headline can generate new traffic for your website over time, so spending the time to craft an amazing headline is like investing in the future of your business.  On the other hand, a bad headline can drive traffic away.

I found some surprising headline stats on the PR Genie blog.  Headlines follow the classic “80/20” rule which dictates that if 100 people read your headline, only 20 of them will go on to read the rest of the story. Most surprising is how many people share links without ever clicking through. Bit.ly, the online short link generation company, found using tracking data that 90% of people who share your content do so based only on the headline and never actually read the article.

In this post I will go over some tips on how to write a headline that your readers will want to click on, share, and hopefully go on to read your content.

Start With the Headline

Most writers leave writing their headline until after they’ve finished writing the content. However, it’s a better practice to start by writing your headline first, even if it’s just a working title that can change later. Jeff Goins says it best:

Too often the headline is the most neglected part of writing an article. People just gloss over it without taking much time to consider it. In their minds, it’s the cherry on top.

No, friends; it’s not. The headline is the sundae

Another great practice in headline-writing is to write as many as you can think of and then narrow it down. You can also try some A/B testing once you have your headlines narrowed down to two or three.

What Should Be In the Headline

Include Benefits

Just as you have a target market for your products and services, you should have a target audience for each blog post or article you create. Leevi Romanik from the Entrepreneur’s Journey states the goal of your headline is not to appeal to everyone on the Internet. The goal is to get as much of your target audience as possible to read your article.

The benefits of reading your article should be outlined clearly in the headline. The benefits should also be specific. For example, here’s an example headline from Forbes contributor Jason DeMers:

“How to Write for Social Media and Double Your Click-Through Rates in Thirty Days”

When someone reads this title, they will know exactly what to expect from reading the article so they will be more drawn to click and read through.

Be Emotional/Tell a Story

DeMers also points out that creating a headline that resonates emotionally with readers will help increase effectiveness.  One way to do this is to use your headline to tell a story.  If you can create a unique story that explains your business, it can be what sets you apart from your competition.  Also, your story can help you create that special element, or “hook” as DeMers calls it, for your headline.

Choosing the Headline Length

A rule of thumb for headlines is they should only be about 70 characters.  However, headlines with 60 characters or less are best for search engine optimization because headlines longer than that will be cut off in search results.  To optimize for search engines, headlines should also include at least one keyword.

Trying to cram all the elements of an effective headline into 60 or 70 characters can really inhibit your creativity.  An Outbrain study on headlines actually showed that headlines around 100 characters in length got the highest click-through rates, whereas headlines with less than 60 characters performed worse.  A good strategy to follow for your own headlines can be found in your site’s analytics.  Find out the headline length on your most popular posts to determine the character limit for your headlines.

Avoid Pushy Headlines

It’s a good idea to write posts for your audience to give them advice and help them solve their problems.  However, be very careful when you write your headlines that you’re not coming off as “pushy” to your readers.  Studies have shown that “pushy” headlines receive up to 20% less clicks than “non-pushy” headlines.  A headline is typically considered pushy if it includes words like “you” or “your” and tells readers what to do by saying things like “must” or “should.”

People Are Drawn To the Negative

Another study by Outbrain found that readers really like negative superlatives.  Headlines with negative superlatives like “worst” received 63% higher click-through rates compared to titles using positive superlatives like “best.”  With this in mind, you can think about retooling some of your content to fit into an article with a negative headline.  For example, instead of writing a how-to guide on best practices, you could write about the worst practices instead.  You could counter each point with the best practice and still get your message across, but you’ll have content and a headline that is more compelling to readers.

Conclusion

The main goal for your headline is to entice your reader to find out what comes next. Thanks to a number of studies, we have a much better understanding of the types of headlines readers respond to the most. There are even headline formulas available online. The best way to write headlines for your specific audience is to have a deep understanding of their needs and wants. More importantly, you should be able to explain how you can help your customer in a unique and compelling way. Once you have this figured out, try out lots of headlines and measure the results. In no time at all, you’ll understand the types of headlines your customers respond to most and you can use this knowledge to drive your content and maybe even your business offerings.