How to Evaluate Your Email Newsletter

After we send an email, some of us like to watch the opens in a real time. (We can stop whenever we want.) In the interim, it’s fun to hypothesize why some stories get a lot of clicks and others don’t. While this is great fun, we decided this methodology is useless. There are simply too many variables that affect clicks: position on page, the headline, the topic, news, weather, time of day, season, business category, and day of week just to name a few.

Now we have a better solution. Instead of looking at just one issue, we aggregated the data from 12 months on all the stories and articles including remails. The articles are placed into categories, e.g. home tips, fixtures and lighting, and the categories are ranked according to popularity. This still isn’t scientific, because you haven’t corrected for all the variables. But you’ll spot trends that you can A-B test for in future issues.

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Target Your Niche with B2B Search Engines

Google is the undisputed 800-pound gorilla of general search with 65% of all searches. But there’s growing excitement about B2B search engines that target vertical markets.

Most B2B customers start with Google or one of the other biggies, but as they refine their search they switch to smaller search engines, like KnowledgeStorm, that target niche markets. It works out for everyone. The customer finds the detailed information they need fast. And companies receive click-thrus with much higher conversion rates. Many of these sites also offer paid search, which, on a smaller scale, can easily outperform services like AdWords.

We’ve listed some of the major B2B search engines below. It’s also a good idea to Google (ha, ha) the name of your category or industry with the term search engine. You might turn up a couple high school kids running a directory in their basement, or you could find a treasure. Here’s a flavor of what’s out there:

Start Your Search with These B2B Biggies

  • Business.com: With 6 million visitors per month, this is the largest B2B search engine. Sponsored search is syndicated to more than 100 other business sites.
  • IT.com: Targets IT industry with general and narrowed search.
  • Jayde: Includes company profiles and links to internal web pages.
  • GlobalSpec: Serves engineering, manufacturing and technical market segments.
  • Alibaba: Called the “online dating service for global business,” has 27 million members in 200 countries.
  • TooToo: Refines searches by category or type of business.
  • CleanHound: Information for the janitorial executive.

Now, find the B2B search engine tailored for your business.

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Too Much SEO? Google Nips Over-Optimized Sites.

Last February, Google released nearly 40 updates to its search service. Among minor ones, like improving and standardizing search images, is an entire set of changes that takes aim at over-optimized sites. This is huge because over zealous sites may lose rank, or get booted from the listings altogether.

Mathew Cutts, Google’s mouthpiece to the world, explained that this is an effort to diminish sites that game the system, and provide equal opportunities to sites with the most relevant content on any given search.

Warning Signs of Over Optimization

Even though your site has avoided black SEO tactics, check it for these signs of over optimization:

  1. Excessive number of links on a page, especially to the same URL. Count the links on navigational drop downs and your footer. The danger zone starts at more than 50.
  2. Overuse of keywords within copy, e.g. “Ideopia is an advertising agency, also known as an ad agency, that takes being an advertising agency very seriously.”
  3. Back links that lack relevance from suspicious domains.

Google is serious about finding the best content for users. And no matter where you are on the SPAM-SEO continuum, this is a good thing. Maybe now we can allocate more budget to create engaging content, and spend less on SEO.

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QR Codes: Cutting Through the Hype

Based on intel from the marketplace, the current mania about placing QR Codes on everything from toilet paper and advertising to highway billboards and bikini bottoms may indicate that everyone uses them. But that’s not the case. Mobile Marketing recently asked “if there was a place for QR codes in an SMS-dependent society.”

Consider the facts:

  • The U.S. leads the world in mobile barcode usage.
  • Last year the adoption rate increased 1% to 6%.
  • Just one in three consumers thought scanning a barcode was worth it.
  • And only one-third of consumers know how to activate their phone to scan a barcode.

So, should we bag QR codes? No way. They’re just too fun for driving participation in contests, coupons, surveys; and access to important content. The adoption rates are slow, but marketers can accelerate it by:

  • Not sending consumers to dud pages, e.g. Facebook or your home page.
  • Using calls to action, the biggest reason consumers scan QR codes, and attractive offers to spur consumers to action.
  • Staying aware of place and context. Sorry, but billboard where traffic is moving 65 mph doesn’t qualify.
  • Creating landing pages designed for viewing on a mobile phone.
  • QR codes definitely have a place in the marketing plan. But they shouldn’t be the marketing plan. Learn more about the psychology of QR Codes.

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Oddball Internet Facts

Here are some oddball Internet and tech stats to wow your co-workers over morning coffee:

  • 7: The number of times the average computer user blinks. A normal eye rate is 20.
  • 7 Trillion: The number of SMS text messages that will be sent in 2011. That’s a lot of “LOL.”
  • 1: The number (out of eight) of last year’s married couples that met online.
  • 1.73 Billion: The current number of Internet users.
  • 17 Billion: The number of devices connected online.
  • 81%: The percentage of all emails last year that were spam.
  • 3,000: The number of words under the ‘set’ entry at dictionary.com, making it the word with the most entries.
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Getting Up to Speed on SEO

Maybe you don’t want to rip the guts out of your website and tweak URLs for better SEO, but it sure doesn’t hurt to know what the fuss is all about. So we’re heartily recommending Google’s Guide for webmasters. It’s 20-pages-long, non-technical, and it does a great job explaining how search works, and how to make it work better. Download it from Google’s Webmaster blog, and the next time you bump into Spock from IT, you can chat with him about canonical urls.

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Blow the Dust off Your Email Program

Perhaps you’re coming out of winter hibernation and noticing that your email results are slumping: open rates and click thrus are down, unsubscribes are up. And your mom hit the SPAM button. See if you recognize these symptoms:

Your email list isn’t true opt-in

You swipe names off business cards at tradeshows, buy affinity lists, or enter customers in contests without gaining permission to send other email.

Your creative is burned out

You send the same emails over and over again with minor changes. Your customers feel SPAMed and drop out.

You don’t have effective landing pages

Your email sends customers to a page in a catalog that is unrelated in design and message to the email, and doesn’t have a response mechanism. This trains them not to click!

Your list is stagnant

Even the best email programs lose subscribers. Email addresses and jobs change, and people just get overwhelmed. Make sure that your acquisition plan replaces subscribers at the rate they’re lost and also factors in your growth objectives.

There is no reason to click thru

Are you giving away the whole story in your email instead of using teasers? Do you provide offers, white papers or real news to entice prospects? If not, don’t expect higher click thru rates.

Your frequency is off
Every list has a frequency it will tolerate. Are you mailing weekly, bi-weekly, monthly? If you increase or decrease the frequency does your response increase?

Poorly designed email

Do you give your customers something to click within the first 300 pixels? Is your email just one big image? Do you have clear and compelling calls to action in text? If not, review best practices and tweak.

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Make Your Marketing Zappable with QR Codes

Those peculiar barcodes you may have seen on your Blackberry or Android smart phone have taken over Japan, and might soon become mainstream in the United States. Quick Response (QR) Codes, two-dimensional barcodes, started out in the early 90s as a way for manufacturers to track vehicle parts, but they’ve now spread to mobile phones, further linking the physical world and cyberspace.

QR Codes for Advertising

Japanese companies use QR Codes for advertising, notably on billboards so consumers can snap pictures from their cell-phones and head directly to the companies’ websites. The codes can be slapped on magazine ads, billboards, signage, or even business cards.

Some smart phones in the United States have already integrated QR Code technology, and as smart phones continue to skyrocket in popularity, that number will increase. The codes are appealing to advertisers because of their ability to seamlessly bridge the gap between cyberspace and the real world. By holding up your phone to an ad, you are instantly transported to the destination.

Do a Google search to create your own QR Codes. Does your smartphone have a QR reader? Scan our code:

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Facebook’s Extreme, Almost Creepy, Ad Targeting

Facebook’s ad service is one of the most targeted and dynamic advertising mediums around. And, we believe it’s highly underutilized. From our experience, we’ve found that Facebook can trounce Google Adwords in terms of quality traffic and conversions. That’s because you can cheaply make numerous ads that target consumers based on the usual age and gender demographics, and further sort by state, city, profession, and lifestyle likes and dislikes.

As you select your criteria, the program dynamically updates how many people you’re likely to reach with your ad. Facebook ads are so precise that one man was able to create an ad solely for his wife, and it worked.

Consumers are 10 times more like to buy products via social media, according to one study, so get on Facebook and get cracking on brand promotion!

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