The Word Strategist

Are Keywords Still Relevant?

Posted on: June 17th, 2015 by Wendy Gittleson
Featured image via eSocialMediaShop on Flickr.

Featured image via eSocialMediaShop on Flickr.

In the prehistoric days of search engine optimization (SEO), keywords were, well, the keyword. Writers scrambled to make their content fit with a predetermined set of words.

When used right, keywords were an excellent tool to help guide content. When used badly, the content was an obvious afterthought and keywords looked like puzzle pieces, with obvious seams.

Fortunately, keywords don’t have quite the same hold over writers that they did in the past. Google, being Google, is always a step or six ahead of us, so that could change, but for now, Google’s bots search far more comprehensively and they look for good content, not just a cheap attempt to fill in all the keywords.

That being said, Google isn’t psychic. Your site still needs to tell it and your customers what you do, you just don’t have to repeat it. In fact, Google frowns on repetition.

Google’s first focus is going to be on the body of your homepage. If you own a furniture store, “furniture store” should be in the body of the homepage, but you already knew that. If furniture delivery is a big part of your business, your delivery area might be important as might the main lines of furniture that you carry. Don’t save those crucial bits of information for the subpages.

You should also mention other search terms. You might, for example, mention “sofas” or “tables” but you can do that on subpages.

Google also does something these days called “semantic search,” which basically means that Google’s gotten a lot smarter. With semantic search, instead of searching for keywords, it’s searching for meaning within your website. For example, if you own a Subaru repair shop and a user searches “oil change Outback” your shop should show up, even if your website doesn’t mention oil changes.

The site is just as important

Google ranks sites that are good and popular higher than sites that are bad and unpopular. A quick loading site will rank higher than a slow one. Easy navigation is key. Run your site by a 3rd party or two before releasing it to the public. Does the layout make sense? Is the navigation bar intuitive? Take advantage of headers, footers and sidebars.

Fortunately, though, gone are the days when writers are slaves to keywords. Google can pretty much figure out that if you’re an art supply store, you probably sell stencils. If your content is accurate and relevant and your site offers a positive user experience, you will see your ranking climb.

 

Is Your Website Losing Business For You?

Posted on: August 21st, 2014 by Wendy Gittleson

Some time ago, I approached a friend of mine, suggesting he update his website. My friend is brilliant. He’s in the financial industry and is consistently written up in national publications as one of the best in the country. His clients love him and he is at the enviable point in his career where he lives off of repeat business and referrals.

Unfortunately, his website, which hasn’t changed since sometime in the late 20th Century (I’m not exaggerating), doesn’t reflect the successful, savvy financial advisor that he is. Instead, it paints a picture of a dusty old office and of someone who puts little effort or creativity into their work, which is quite the opposite of the kind of businessman he is. Since my friend does get all of his business from referrals and repeats, he saw no need whatsoever to update. I didn’t push the matter any further, but I do wonder how much business he’s lost by not having a better website.

Not every business earns business from its website. Not every company has need for search engine optimization, but even for those companies, a website is like a business card, only a good one offers so much more.

When a customer is given a referral, one of the first things many do is head to the company’s website. They might not even be sure what they’re looking for, other than that first personal connection. Of course, a nice head shot can be important, but so is information. Customers want to know that you are expert at your field.

A good website will include the latest in information. An updated blog, full of market trends and legal changes will help prompt potential clients into picking up the phone.

A dated or pedestrian website, on the other hand, might not turn off all potential clients, but it will some. The loss of business will be silent; you won’t know that they were ever looking at your site, you won’t know they turned your business down, but nonetheless, it will be business lost. An investment in an updated website and an hour or so a week set aside for writing about your expertise will mean the world to potential, and current, clients.

My Experience With Buying Twitter Followers And With Fiverr

Posted on: August 11th, 2013 by Wendy Gittleson


A few months ago, I wrote about the boom industry of fake Twitter followers. Since then, the practice has become even more mainstream – so much so, that I thought I would try it out for myself.

Very recently, I began a personal side project (no clients involved) with a brand new website and a brand new corresponding Twitter feed. There’s nothing more discouraging that looking at a Twitter page with a single digit number of followers, even if you know that that number will grow fairly quickly. So, I thought about buying some Twitter followers.

I didn’t want my new Twitter page to explode overnight, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on the experiment, so I turned to the site, Fiverr – where people do any number of things (from singing Happy Birthday in a Marilyn Monore voice to SEO) for just $5.00.

After doing my due diligence and reading reviews, I settled on a “seller” named “everythinggirl,” who promised me 1,000 “real” (as opposed to bot) Twitter followers within seven days. I approved the $5.00 charge through my PayPal account and reluctantly gave everythinggirl my Twitter password, which she said she needed because my account needed to follow people to get followers.

It didn’t take long. Within hours, Twitter followers started dribbling in. After around 24 hours, and a couple hundred Twitter followers, I logged into my new Twitter account to see what was happening, only to find that Twitter had suspended my account for following people to aggressively.

I checked the box promising to never do it again, changed my password and immediately instructed everythinggirl to stop the campaign.

Everythinggirl responded with a curt message blaming me for the suspension – saying it was because I was unfollowing her followers. Even after I explained that I didn’t start unfollowing people until after the account had been suspended, everythinggirl continued to blame me. She also continued to correspond with me, even after I left her several messages asking her to cease.

Eventually, she offered me a refund, which I refused, saying that I’d rather review her services. I have also taken the matter up with Fiverr and their response, thus far, is that I cannot review her services because she didn’t complete her services – despite the fact that she didn’t complete her services because I wasn’t happy with her services. Quite the Catch-22, huh?

In all sincerity, I don’t want a refund of my $5.00. I learned several valuable lessons, including a how-to in the relatively seedy world of fake Twitter followers. If you so desire, you can gather fake followers with a simple search. Today’s fake follower thread is #follobackinstantly. If you follow the person posting that hashtag, they will, presumably follow you back. Interestingly, all of the followers everythinggirl provided had similar hashtags.

I also learned that the reviews on Fiverr are rather suspect because if a buyer does get a bad service, the service has to be complete before it can be reviewed. If a buyer cancels before completion, their opinions will not be registered. If the seller fails to complete the service, the buyer can’t register a review – they can only get their money back.

Twitter seems to be on to the scam of fake Twitter followers. There are more “legitimate” companies who provide fake followers, and presumably not through the various “I’ll follow you back” users. Of course, they do cost more money.

As a business owner, you have to ask yourself if fake followers are worth the risk. Even if they get by Twitter, your feed will be loaded with “people” who seem very out of context with the rest of your Twitter page. It will be clear to any Twitter savvy real followers that the others are fake.

My new fake Twitter followers are now gone. Within a bit over a week, I have almost 100 real Twitter followers. Sure, that number is still very low, but it’s growing on a daily basis.

 

The Absolute Best Way To Build Your Facebook Page

Posted on: July 23rd, 2013 by Wendy Gittleson

If you’ve spent much time on Facebook in the last year or so, you’ve probably noticed that the vast majority of what gets shared is in the form of a meme (an image that is passed around via social networks). That fact hasn’t gone unnoticed among Facebook statisticians.

According to a media analytics company called, SocialBakers, a staggering 93% of shared posts are images. Only about 2% of shares come from links like this article and 3% of the shares are status updates. Perhaps most surprising is that only 2% are video shares.

Of course, for Facebook page holders, especially Facebook business page holders, this poses a bit of a conundrum. How do you find compelling photographs that are free to share and that will draw attention to your Facebook page?

In theory, Facebook is designed with the idea that people should share and share away. The problem, when you are trying to build a page, is that when you hit the “share” link on a picture and post it to your page, your page will get lost in the shuffle when it’s re-shared. Credit will still be given to the source that you shared from.

If you want your page to show in the shares, you have to post the photo yourself. You can’t share it to your site. Obviously, if you have your own photos, that’s the best. If you have simple meme generator software or if you have something like PhotoShop, you can add inspirational sayings to pretty pictures and, voila! You have a very sharable image. If you are unfamiliar with how to upload photos, here’s an easy step by step. It’s not advisable to choose watermarked photos or copyrighted photos from the internet.

If you do want to post a link, make sure you post a photo with the link. Sometimes, the link automatically posts a great photo. Sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, I recommend posting an image you like with an excerpt and a link to the article in the comment field.

There are three kinds of things you want to post. The first are things that are directly relevant to your business…for example, a blog post written by you or for you. You can also post things that you’ve accomplished or any sort of community activities. In an ideal world, these are the posts that will drive people to your page – and that’s a very compelling reason to make your blog posts interesting to more than just your customer base – but in the shallow Facebook world, they probably won’t drive a lot of people to your page.

The second type are things that are indirectly related to your business. For example, I have one client who is in the home improvement business. I post a variety of home improvement related items on their Facebook page. I also post pictures of beautiful home decor and of beautiful homes.

The third type are simply images. You can create inspirational or motivational memes or you can post pretty pictures. If you want to share from another page, there is a way to do that that should make everyone happy. First, click on the link. The picture should increase in size. Right click on the image and save it to your computer. Then, you can post it to your page. Before you hit “post,” thank the page you are sharing it from by saying something like “Thanks to @____________ for this share with @The Word Strategist.” The @ symbol will simply bring up a drop down list of pages once you start typing the name. Choose that page and the @ symbol will go away and Facebook will insert a link to the page. The page will receive a notification that you linked to them. Well, they might. Facebook isn’t real consistent with that.

Supposedly, images that are on Facebook are free for people to share, but anecdotally, I have seen accounts suspended when someone claims that they own a particular image. I can’t stress strongly enough that it’s best if you post your own images, but I also recognize that it’s not always possible.

The images are what likely will draw people to your site. Once they are there, they can see all that you have to offer and they will hopefully feel compelled to hit the “like” button. The more newsfeeds your page appears on, the more exposure you will have and the more “likes” you will have.

Unless your business is explicitly political, I recommend staying away from controversy. And, please, be a good sport. If one of your competitors is doing poorly – for whatever reason – give good wishes if they are appropriate. Otherwise, leave it alone.

Your page won’t grow overnight and like a garden, it needs constant attention, but you will see results. With time and work, a good small business page can grow to over 10,000 followers.

Why Write a Business Blog?

Posted on: June 17th, 2013 by Wendy Gittleson


Keeping up with a weekly or bi-weekly blog is tough – I know. Sometimes I have trouble following even my own advice. Once I’m done writing my clients’ blogs, websites and other needs, I have little time to dedicate to my own business, which as any first year business student will tell you, is the biggest mistake you can make. A blog is one of the easiest ways to separate you from your competition and to boost your search engine ranking. It also provides your clients and customers with an easy reference library – without having to leave your site.

Your website, no matter how well written, is most likely just an overview of the wealth of your knowledge. A blog provides you with the opportunity to address a specific topic that might be of interest to your customers.

This can benefit you in a number of ways. A well-written blog will be keyword heavy, which means that when a person is looking for information, a search engine might point them to your website.

If someone is thinking of using your services or buying your products, they can scan through your blog posts and have questions answered quickly and efficiently. A well-done blog will show them that you have the chops to do the job. It can also be fun to peruse – almost like a magazine.

Search engines hate static websites. If you don’t regularly update your content, the search engine “crawlers” will eventually start passing you by and your rank will start going down and down. Updating and optimizing your regular web pages can be expensive and time consuming. Writing a blog post, on the other hand, can give you the freshness that search engines seek and the time/cost investment is a fraction of what an optimized web page costs.

In the days of social media, it’s often tough to find things worthy of sharing. A captivating blog post can help increase your social media viability.

What exactly is a blog?

In short, a blog is about 300-700 words on a topic that would specifically be of interest to your clientele. It should be written in a way that is casual and conversational. It should not be an overt sales tool. You want your customers to view your blog as information, not as an advertisement. Sure, you can mention your company, but like the rest of the blog, make it casual.

A blog can be a great way to showcase some of the work you’ve done, whether it be through video or through images. You can demonstrate a point with videos that are available to share on YouTube. It will be better read with compelling images and video, but don’t force it. If it doesn’t make sense to include a video, it will come off as desperate.

You don’t have to be an expert writer to have an expert blog. If you are a fairly good writer, the casual style of blogging might suit you well. However, a blog should still be well-written. You want it to flow and to be free from errors. Once someone starts reading, you want them to want to continue.

If writing is not your forte, that’s okay. If you simply don’t have time, that’s okay too. Hiring someone to blog for you is typically not that expensive. You can provide the expertise and the writer can put it to words. In most cases, the writer will envision a topic and research it. All you would need to offer is input.

 

How Small Businesses Navigate the Digital World Better than Big Businesses

Posted on: May 30th, 2013 by Wendy Gittleson

Katy Keim of Ad Age recently wrote an op-ed in which she warned of the fickleness of social media followers.

A customer’s love for a brand is nothing close to the unconditional positive regard we give and receive in relationships. The second you slip, deliver a disappointment, stop giving them reasons to engage, or stop acknowledging and rewarding their participation, they’ll drop you in a heartbeat.

Today’s brand-consumer relationships are not balanced. Make no mistake, the consumer is in control. Never before have consumers been so empowered. Social media today lets customers broadcast their sentiment over brand experiences – good or bad – to enormous audiences.

……..

Today’s consumer-brand dynamic is decidedly lacking in many of the characteristics we normally associate with relationships. There is little forgiveness, zero privacy and customer love is 100% conditional. There’s no kissing and making up with social customers when you disappoint them. Further, they turn others against you when they go. Fifty-seven percent of social customers say they won’t buy any more of a company’s products or services after a single negative experience, and 40% say they are also likely to warn others to stay away after a poor experience.  And with social media at their fingertips, they can exercise those inclinations in just 140 little characters.

There is a lot truth to Keim’s observations, although I’m not comfortable placing the blame entirely at the feet of social media. Never before have consumers had so many choices. Gone are the days when a trip to the grocery store meant choosing from a handful of brands of toothpaste or laundry detergent. Supermarkets and big box stores have doubled, tripled and quadrupled in size just to keep up with all the product they need to stock – and their selection dwarfs in comparison to what you can buy on Amazon.

Services are no different. In the past, the best even an educated consumer could do was to pick up the Yellow Pages and maybe talk to a few friends and neighbors. Today, we have not only social media, but auction sites and sites like Groupon which offers dramatically discounted coupons for everything from cruises to yoga classes to plumbers. Some of the most savvy shoppers I know refuse to buy anything without a Groupon.

A popular trend in TV reality shows is “extreme couponing,” where consumers, generally women, spend countless hours collecting coupons and arranging their shopping schedules around supermarket sales. They often walk away with hundreds of dollars in free groceries. While the wisdom of making buying decisions around coupons can be debated, coupon shopping is not a behavior that leads to brand loyalty.

Consumers are fickle but it doesn’t have to be that way. The reality is that consumers don’t complain as much as Keim would have us believe. Two years ago, a Spanish company conducted a survey of 90 million reviews – across the review site spectrum. The result was that 60% of reviews were positive and only 12% were negative. The rest were neutral. Granted, if one of my small business clients had only 60% positive reviews, I would consider it something to work on, but those statistics are a good place to start.

Small businesses have a tremendous advantage in the social media world. People are far more likely to post positive reviews and (more importantly) to return to a business if they establish a personal relationship with someone at the business. Recently, one client had a customer who was relatively unhappy with the service but because he had such a great rapport with the owner, he still gave a four star review. The owner, of course, did his part by bending over backwards to rectify the customer’s complaints. The customer is now expected to change his review to five stars – the maximum.

A restaurant I frequent knows me by name. Like all businesses, they’ve made mistakes. There have been times when the food wasn’t up to my expectations, but for the most part their food is excellent. I forgive their occasional screw-ups in the same way I forgive the screw-ups of my friends and loved ones – because they feel like friends to me. I doubt I could ever have the same sort of relationship with an Olive Garden or a Red Lobster.

Another example of how less is more when it comes to navigating shrinking brand loyalty is Trader Joe’s. While Trader Joe’s is far from a small business, they act like a small business. They treat their employees very well. The employees generally stick around long enough to know many of the customers by face, if not by name. A funny thing happens to businesses that treat their employees like numbers – they also treat their customers like numbers or in the case of many big box stores, bits of data.

Trader Joe’s also contradicts the idea that consumers want vast amounts of choice. They do have a large variety of goods, but they carry only a limited number of each item. For example, they carry “only” 10 varieties of peanut butter while a supermarket might carry forty. The perception is that Trader Joe’s opts for quality at reasonable prices instead of quantity. Sure, they have some products that are really awful, but people have learned to see the bad as an anomaly as they return time and time again for the good.

Big businesses have another disadvantage when it comes to social media – the number of fingers in the Twitter pie. Giving a poorly trained employee the passwords to a company’s social media campaign can be disastrous. Last October, an employee at KitchenAid sent out this tweet:

@KitchenAidUSA: “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president”.”??? Wow!” #nbcpolitics

Most (although not all) companies try to stay above the political fray. It seemed that KitchenAid was no exception. They were forced to issue an apology and they said they would fire the employee.

How can this sort of thing happen? I’ve worked in large marketing departments. Passwords to social media campaigns are not locked in a vault. If a social media manager is busy, that job might be delegated to even an unpaid intern. The same thing could happen in a small company, but typically, only the owner and maybe two other people have those passwords. When employees are more vested (either financially or emotionally) in the success of a company, they are less likely to do something so risky.

Social media, as Keim says, is a double edged sword, but if a small company treats their customers well and responds to negative reviews, they will be in a much better position than their larger competitors. All in all, it’s an exciting time to be a small business owner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Perhaps its Most Modern Move Yet, One McDonalds Goes Very Low-Tech in Marketing (VIDEO)

Posted on: May 13th, 2013 by Wendy Gittleson

While the quality and nutritional value of McDonald’s food is under constant scrutiny, McDonalds as a marketing mecca is indisputable. Their advertising budget alone is estimated to run about $2 billion a year. They are often criticized for the fact that much of that budget is geared toward children – and it is, but without cooperative parents, marketing to children is a waste of money.

For that reason, McDonalds is attempting to rebrand itself – somewhat. It’s trying to represent itself as a place for fresh and even healthy food and since “fresh and healthy” often harkens back to days when life was simpler – when people grew their own food – McDonalds is taking a decidedly low-tech approach with a very modern and high-tech twist.

Nationally, McDonalds started a TV advertising campaign which featured farmers who grew McDonalds’ food. The back-to-the-earth advertising campaign was followed by YouTube videos and a Twitter campaign with the hashtag, #MeetTheFarmers. The Twitter campaign turned sour once McDonalds moved the conversation to #McDStories where people started tweeting their own opinions about McDonalds, but still, it was an attempt at old meets new. Whether it was a net gain or a net loss is still up for debate, although I suspect that Twitter might not have had the negative effect some might imagine.

McDonalds, according to Neil Gordon, their Chief Marketing Officer, can either change their food or change the way their food is perceived. The problem with changing their food is that a whole lot of people love their food.

One McDonalds in Poland is taking a unique approach to changing their perception. Inspired by local restaurants who have chalk menu boards, McDonalds took that idea and turned it into a billboard – one which is designed and changed twice a day from a famous graffiti artist. From AdWeek:

“If the crowds seem larger than usual at a certain McDonald’s in Warsaw, Poland, chalk it up to the menu. We’re talking about a billboard-sized menu, hand-drawn in multicolored chalk twice daily by graffiti artist Stefan Szwed-Stronzynski as part of a campaign cooked up by the local office of DDB, art studio Good Looking and Krewcy Krawcy Productions. The goal, per the creative team, is to capture “the freshness of McDonald’s food” and the breadth of its offerings in a highly flexible way. I’d say they’ve succeeded, but no matter what this McD’s is serving, the menu itself is the special of the day.”

Of course, a billboard, no matter how hip and creative, won’t ever have a mass audience, so they made a commercial. Here’s the video:

While the video hasn’t yet gone viral, you can be sure that with Americans looking for ways they can feel good about spending their money, we’ll be seeing more personal, old school messages being taken to a very modern place.

What Would You Do if You Had a Billion Dollars?

Posted on: May 6th, 2013 by Wendy Gittleson

For many, capitalism means unfettered greed. Philanthropy, it seems, is a legal way to dodge taxes instead of an exercise in social responsibility. In today’s economy, poverty is growing, the middle class is shrinking. Overall, the only people who are getting richer are the already rich. Fortunately, some of the very rich are quite willing to share in their wealth.

On Sunday’s 60 Minutes, Scott Pelley profiled the “Modern Day Robin Hood,” billionaire hedge fund manager, Paul Tudor. The goal of his “Robin Hood Foundation” is to end poverty in New York City. His board of directors is worth a whopping $25 billion.

With expenditures of over $130 million last year alone, Tudor’s organization funds over 500 projects with goals toward feeding, educating and housing the poor. His methods are not without controversy. He approaches his giving like he approaches business. For each dollar the organization gives, they expect a $15 benefit to the community. If an investment isn’t paying off, he pulls funding, presumably leaving an organization worse off than they were before he stepped in.

Watch this video from 60 Minutes and tell us your opinion of Tudor and the Robin Hood Foundation. What would you do if your business became that successful?

It’s Time to Realize that 18-34 Year Olds Don’t Hold All The Advertising Power

Posted on: April 29th, 2013 by Wendy Gittleson

A few weeks ago, an owner of a successful blog lamented the fact that his demographic reach was strongest with women over 45. “My readers should be 18-34 year old men,” he complained.

“Women over 45 are reading your blog,” I stressed, “I would just go with it.”

The blog owner wasn’t happy with the answer, insisting that it was his blog that needed to change, not his target demographic. He needed, he felt, to feature articles that appealed to a younger audience in order to stay viable.

In the blog owner’s defense, he’s not alone in believing that 18-34 year old men are a magic goal – that if he were to reach the proper number of that elusive subset then advertisers would start pouring money in his direction.

There was a time when people over 35 were seen as set in their ways. They already knew the type of detergent or underwear they preferred and they were unlikely to deviate. In other words, young people’s minds could still be manipulated by advertisers.

That idea (largely mythological), began during the “Mad Men” era of advertising. 20+ years after the beginning of the Baby Boom, the American population was young. Specifically, in 1966, 45% of the population was under 25. That meant if a product didn’t appeal to younger audiences, they were potentially cutting their market in half.

But even then, not all advertisers thought of the young Baby Boomers as a gold mine. If a product – like a luxury car – symbolizes having arrived in life, there’s little point in targeting people who probably won’t be able to afford it for another 20 years. Even during the 60s and 70s, much of the advertising had a stodgy feel. Advertisers did know, however, that if they could convince a young person to buy a Ford Mustang, brand loyalty might encourage them to graduate to a Lincoln once they did achieve financial success. But they also knew that if they advertised Mustangs as younger, more sporty vehicles, Lincoln buyers might also purchase a Mustang as a speedy fountain of youth.

Brand loyalty has all but died since the Golden Age of Advertising. Americans are getting older, but we are also becoming increasingly youth obsessed. It’s not uncommon to see parents and teenagers wearing similar clothes, listening to similar music, buying the same electronics and being “friends” on various social networking sites.

18-34 remains the gold standard in advertising demographics, even though today’s  older consumers are nearly as malleable as younger buyers – and the older consumers generally have more money to spend.

From MediaPost.com in 2009:

“According to McKinsey Consulting, by 2010 (3.5 short months from now) 50% of all consumer spending in America will be by people over the age of 50. People 50+ earn $2.4 trillion annually compared to $1 trillion for the 18-34 group (and they spend at the same rate). Also according to McKinsey, people 50+ generate 41% of all disposable income, while they represent only 30% of the population. They buy 60% of all packaged goods, over half of all new cars and spend 75% more per vacation than consumers under 50. And in 2007, those over 50 spent 3 times the national average holiday shopping online.

And yet, less than 10% of all U.S. marketing dollars are spent against the 50+ consumer, and nationwide research shows that the majority of consumers over 50 feel that advertising and marketing either portrays them negatively or ignores them altogether.”

So, why don’t advertisers target older consumers? Perhaps it’s because many 50-year-olds see themselves as 30-year-olds or perhaps it’s because despite the fact that advertising is a creative industry, ad buyers are slow to discard decades-old notions. Perhaps it’s simply because it’s what they were told in college.

If you run a successful business, like the blog owner above, analyze your market. If women over 45 are reading your blog or buying your product, don’t reinvent the wheel. Embrace your market. Expand it if you can, but unless you have the reach of a product like Facebook, there are many millions more that can be tapped in your existing demographic. In other words, often the best marketing plan is simply to do more of what you’re already doing and never, ever, turn your back on your existing customer, no matter how old they are.

 

 

10 Ways to Get People to Open Your Emails

Posted on: April 22nd, 2013 by Wendy Gittleson

Like most people, I receive hundreds of emails a day. Most are from businesses trying to sell me something. Typically, of the few that get past my spam filter, only a handful a day attract my interest enough for me to open them. An even smaller amount will prompt me to take action by clicking on a link in the email (clicking through).

Depending on your industry, it’s estimated that between 20% and 30% of recipients will open an email blast. Smaller companies do better than larger, simply because people often feel they have relationships with the smaller companies. About a quarter of that number are interested enough to actually click through.

Done right, an email blast is an inexpensive but effective advertising campaign. Done poorly, an email blast is like throwing darts while blindfolded. Done very poorly, you could even lose customers.

Here are tips to help ensure that your next email will be opened:

1. The first time you meet or speak with your customers, send them an email – Do this immediately and tell them to expect it. If an email is opened and not reported as spam, it should flag your email address as safe with the server.

There is nothing more important than the subject line. It’s like the headline of a news article. The fact is, people are inundated with digital information. You have to be sending them something really intriguing for them to even bother.

2. Be direct and specific – Tell your customers why they want to click on your email. Your customers don’t care if you are just saying “hi” or if you’re checking in. You’d better have a reason for emailing them and you’d better announce it in the subject line, or you’re wasting your time.

3. Don’t be cute – This week, I’ve received at least two email blasts where the sender tried to go cute. They did get my attention, but with juvenile sounding words like “squeeeaaal!” and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” (yes, these were both real) in the subject line, I only rolled my eyes and hit the “delete” button. The flip side of that same coin is that unless you are emailing a group of writers or English lit majors, literary references are likely to fall flat. Obscurity is unlikely to win you business.

4. If possible, personalize the email – include the name of someone they know in the company along with the recipient’s name in the subject line. Customize the email so the “from” line is an address where they’ve already had correspondence. For example, the email should come from the sales rep or customer service rep’s email, not from a generic company email. This can easily be done with most third party email companies and with some email software.

5. Don’t use all caps or lots of punctuation – Spam filters are programmed to look for things like caps and exclamation points. Words like “save,” “sale,” “pre approved,” “mortgage” and even “business” can be red flags.

6. Keep it clean – By that, I mean the standard meaning, but I also mean keep your emails free from fancy fonts, lots of graphics or extra links. Not only do spam filters tend to look for emails that look like brochures, customers appreciate a more professional approach.

7. You don’t always have to be selling – Sometimes the most effective way to a customer’s heart is to win them over slowly. Send them information that might interest them. Demonstrate your expertise.

8. Time it right – The best time to send an email is at about 6:00 in the morning. You can also get a little creative. With smartphones, an email can stand out on a Sunday, when there isn’t much competition and when people are usually a bit less busy than on a Saturday.

9. Don’t send too many – A bunch of emails, especially of the same emails, will trigger the spam filter, but they’ll also annoy your customers. Only send emails when you have something to say. If you don’t have something worth emailing at least once a month, think of something. Don’t send your customers something more than once a week.

10. Be courteous – If you are asked to take someone off an email list, do it. Always include an “opt out” option in the body of the email. In some states, it’s the law and it’s always good form.

 

 

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