In Part 1 and Part 2 of this article, we covered email campaign strategies and tactics. In Part 3, we focus primarily on email/social media integration. As the use of social media marketing among web users continues to grow, email marketers must adopt and integrate social media into their overall email marketing strategy. They must not perceive social media as a threat, but as an opportunity to combine the user engagement power of social networking with the customer retention and lead generation capabilities of email marketing. By leveraging the strengths of each, email marketers can increase the number of customer touch-points significantly.
There are three main strategic objectives email marketers can pursue with integrated social media/email marketing campaigns. They are:
An integrated email/social media marketing campaign can offer the following benefits:
There are many ways email marketing and social media can be integrated and leveraged. Below are some practical tips on how these channels can be combined and act as a source of new information for email recipients and extend the reach of email newsletter content.
Identify the most relevant social networking sites. Which one you choose depends on your target audience. For instance LinkedIn and Facebook have widely different audiences. Once you have established your social networking accounts (for instance Facebook Page, Twitter and Google+) you can consider implementing the following integration options:
Once you have established your business social networking accounts (Twitter, Google+ and Facebook Page) you can use these channels for acquiring subscribers for your email newsletter contact list. This can be done in the following ways:
As individual channel email marketing is effective and beneficial for customer retention and lead generation, but when correctly integration and used in tandem with social media it has the ability to increase email engagement, effectively strengthen relationships and improve email deliverability.
In Part 1 of this article, we focused on the importance of developing a proper strategy before starting an email marketing campaign. In Part 2, we focus on tactics and explain the importance and the mechanics behind developing an effective content and the visual design for an email campaign. In the final Part 3 of this series we will discuss email marketing for mobile devices and integration of social media and email marketing.
Before deciding on the messaging and the content of the email marketing campaign, we recommend developing a marketing foundation. The marketing foundation is the cornerstone of the email marketing campaign because it provides direction for the campaign messaging, visual design and copy writing and establishes a benchmark for measuring success. The marketing foundation includes the following:
For brand consistency it is important to plan the email newsletter or commercial email communication as a companion of the web site with the same design. This means using the same banner and logo as used for the web site. This way the recipient recognizes the identity when the message activates in the pre-view pane of his or her email box. If you have recently redesigned your web site, make sure to make adjustments to your existing email template layout and match the new design.
In an environment where people quickly scan their email boxes and are looking for a reason to delete email messages or hit the spam button, your email message must present a good value or be relevant to their interest. Copy for a promotional email message must be easily scan-able, include user benefits and a strong call to action, e.g., “Buy Now” or “Read the full story” in the case of email newsletters, to persuade readers to ‘click-through.’
Internet users more often click on links within well-designed newsletter and email communications that offer useful and interesting information. To improve the click-through rate, include multiple links to several relevant landing pages. More links on a email newsletter or commercial email communication often means more clicks into the web site or landing page.
Design combinations of email messages using HTML and text and avoid all-image email messages because those are often identified as spam by the spam filters. A promotional email message must be designed for scan-ability. Important factors to consider are placing the user benefits prominently placed “above the fold” on the page and the call-to-action fall within the path of the eye. Key selling points must also be promoted “above the fold” and higher on the page to take advantage of the preview pane on desktop computers. You may also consider using graphical elements that draw the eye and reader in, e.g. animated gifs or irresistible subject lines.
The preview pane on desktop computers allows viewers with Outlook, Eudora, Lotus Notes and Yahoo and other email clients to view email messages through a narrow 2 x 4 inch window without actually opening the message. The preview pane gives viewers a clear choice: open or delete; and even the most loyal subscribers may choose the latter if you don’t give them a good reason to dig deeper. With images blocked – as often is the case these days, it becomes even harder to give the recipient a compelling reason to open your email when viewed in the preview pane. So it is important to design the email message with the 2 x 4 inch preview pane in mind, which means putting the most important information in the upper left corner of the message.
In the end, you need to test your email creative to see how it performs. This can be accomplished by splitting your email list in two and perform A/B testing with two separate messages.
Most desktop email clients disable images by default so it is important for you to design an email message with image blocking in mind to make sure that the message looks and functions properly in many desktop email client browsers. The fact that images are blocked does not have to lead to a disaster, as long as the integrity of the message is retained when images are disabled and there is enough copy to engage the reader.
One-way of dealing with blocked images is to include Alt tags for images. Alt tags are text phrases that are placed in the HTML code as part of the IMG tag. They appear in the email message or email newsletter as text phrases next to the red “x” in blocked images. If the image is about the Nikon D80, the Alt tag could read “Nikon D80 digital camera”.
To retain the integrity of email messages when images are blocked, we recommend:
The most important factors that influence whether someone will open an email message are the subject line and the “from” address. Subject lines must be eye-catching, informative and brief. A subject line that reads like spam is often considered spam. To increase the open rates of an email message, keep the subject line to 70 characters or fewer, (35 characters seem to work the best.) The reader won’t see subject lines that are longer than 70 characters.
We also recommend scanning your inbox and junk folder to see what spammers are using for subject lines and message content, and then steer clear of these in your own copy. If you have to use a particular popular word, use it only in message content, not in the subject line.
Make sure your company, brand or product name or newsletter title shows up clearly in the subject line as a further guarantee to recipients that the e-mail is from a trusted source, not from a spammer. For example, for a newsletter, you could use your brand name in the subject line: “Brand name/company name/newsletter title, then title of newsletter issue”.
Recent studies have shown that the majority of recipients of commercial email messages or newsletters look at the sender name and addresses first before deciding whether or not to open the email. Branding in the sender address is therefore critical. The most effective way of doing this is to include the brand name before and after the @ sign (firstname.lastname@example.org) or at least after @-sign.
Message delivery means taking the necessary steps to insure that email messages are reaching the recipients inbox. Email blocking at the ISP or email service level is one of the biggest obstacles an email marketing campaign can be confronted with. The number one reason of email blocking is customer complaints where a few complaints per thousand email addresses can cause a commercial sender’s, IP address to get blocked.
The latter can be avoided by taking the following steps:
Blocking by the top ISP’s and email services can also happen when there are many invalid emails in the list. Therefore, it is important to “clean” the list after each broadcast or at least once a month. At the minimum, invalid email addresses or “bounce backs” must be removed.
Absence of authentication, which identifies the sender and helps with battling forged email, can harm will sender reputation and email delivery. SPF, Sender ID and DomainKeys are the protocols that have gained approval from major ISP’s and email services such as AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo, so it important that your email broadcast systems supports these protocols.
One effective way to insure that an email newsletter or commercial message passes through the email filters is to test the message on an inexpensive self-serve email delivery platform like Litmus (www.litmus.com).
Through ongoing testing of every aspect of an email campaign, including subject lines, email creative, the offer or editorial, the landing page and delivery, you can truly lift the overall performance and ROI of an email marketing campaign until it shows big returns in the revenue growth of your business!
If you are a local business, it is a daunting prospect to compete against a national competitor with deep pockets. No small business wants to go toe to toe against, say, Overstock.com, in a national campaign.But there is no reason you can’t compete effectively and win if you narrow the field to your geographic market area. Now you have a national firm competing on your local turf. Suddenly the battle looks winnable.
Both Google and Microsoft offer tools to geo-target your campaigns to specific areas, but knowing how they implement those tools will give you the insight to use them effectively. The major difference between the two is that Bing allows you to geo-target at the Ad Group level, while Google sets geo-targeting at the campaign level.
How do search engines determine location? The first signpost is the domain. If you are in the U.S. and search via Google.com or Bing.com, the search engines will determine you are in the U.S. and search ads targeted at the U.S. If you decide to search at, say, bing.de or google.de, the engines will assume you have an interest in Germany and show you results from Germany, but will not display any ads targeted to Germany. After the top level domain, Google and Bing next look at the search query itself. If the user includes a geographic reference in the search, Google and Bing will show ads targeted for that location, regardless of where in the country that person is located. There is one important change in Google’s targeting to note: Adwords advertisers can now choose whether to target ads based only on search query, or only on location, or both. Bing doesn’t currently offer that functionality.
The next geo-location clue comes from the user’s computer IP address, which is assigned to every computer linked to the Internet. IP Addresses are assigned in blocks to Internet Service providers, so the address linked to a specific IP Address is never the actual address where the computer is located. It can be located many miles away, so be careful about over-targeting your campaign. I have seen a couple of markets where the IP Address had been assigned to an adjoining state, so that advertisers limiting traffic to the state where the potential customers lived, could not reach them. And that’s the problem with geo-targeting, You are targeting only those users who can be positively identified as from that location, so each time you geo-target, you are going to be reaching a certain percentage of your potential customers. That percentage is open to a lot of debate. I’ve seen claims as high as 80 percent and as low as 60 percent. Google and Bing don’t exactly volunteer that information.
So, how accurate is geo-targeting? Well if you are targeting by country, Congratulations. You can expect accuracy of 98 percent or higher. Life is good. But targeting within a country can be another matter. It varies widely country to country and within countries as well. It all comes down to the quality of the databases search engines use to identify the location of a particular IP address. And for now, let’s leave out ISPs that use proxy servers to spread their traffic. At the region or state level, you may be missing out on many potential customers, but there is still a sizable audience, so even if you lose 20 or 30 percent, you still have a shot at a successful campaign. When you get down to the City or zip code level, it’s a much tougher prospect. At this level the overall traffic is likely to be far less and then that missing 20 or 30 percent might be the difference between success and failure. Google suggests an area of at least 20 square miles and Adwords interface can not distinguish at less that 10 square miles.
There is potential for improvement, however. As Google has increased its emphasis on local search or location based search, particularly in mobile, they have improved their geo-targeting tools. On mobile, the search engines can use cell phone tower locations, even GPS, as long as customers opt-in. On the desktop, Google now allows a user to set their own location right on the search engine results page, or within their Google account. As search consumer recognize the need to have results presented in a geographically meaningful way, the ability to target the accompanying ads will improve as well.
Google has just released its third update of its Panda search algorithm and from the chill it has blown over the SEO world, perhaps Polar would have been a better name.
Originally released in February, the stated purpose of Panda was to reduce the search rankings of poor quality sites, like those content farm sites that produce thin content based exclusively on search terms. Anyone who has searched for almost anything has stumbled across them.
Initially, it appeared to be working. Almost immediately, several of the most well-known content farms saw massive drops in ranking. Freelancer.com, one of the major sites where content producers can connect with content consumers, reported a huge drop in the demand for new content, particularly for writers located outside of the U.S.
Over time a steady stream of small, high-quality sites have come forward to say they too are suffering at the hands of Panda. Some have complained the reason their rankings are suffering is that their content has been stolen and repurposed by the content farms.
It appears that content sites, as opposed to commercial sites, seem to be most affected. Of the 30 or so sites I am most familiar with, only one could trace any traffic drops to Panda. The site was pulling lots of traffic from a sketchy pay-for-your-surfing site and that traffic disappeared about the same time Panda arrived. For the rest, we’ve seen no real fluctuation in traffic, up or down.
So what should you do if you are seeing a negative impact from Panda on your site?
Google has offered two posts attempting to guide web site owners in how to adapt to the new world of Panda (here and here) as well as their more expansive general recommendations. The advice will seem pretty familiar to most of us. Create high quality content, useful to your audience and organize it clearly for both humans and spiders to find.
So what do you do if you are concerned that perhaps some of your content is not passing Panda muster?
Start by dividing that questionable content into three buckets: content that must go, poor quality content that might be replaced with better content on your site and finally poor content that you’d like to improve.
First, lose the poor content. Create a snappy 404 error page with a clear path for the user back to your top quality content. That will tell your visitors to move along, there’s nothing to see here, anymore. For content that is duplicated elsewhere on the site, use a 301 redirect and send the visitor to the better quality page.
Finally, for the content that doesn’t pass muster but that you’d like to improve, add a noindex tag. That will steer the bots away and give you time to make it sing. When you’re finished improving, remove the noindex and let the bots see what you’ve done.
There is some good Panda news though, especially for those of us who toil in the local web. Local search has been kicked up a notch by Panda, to which we say, Hooray!
And for those of you who already have all these things in place? Enjoy the cool new visitors Google will be sending your way.
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