good news: Gmail to enable images by default
Gmail announced today that they’ll be able to turn images on for all inbox subscribers by default. For email marketers, this is good news! Not only because your subscribers will be able to see your gorgeous email as you intended it — with images — but because it may lead to an increase in open rates. Here’s how…
Email service providers, like emfluence, all track views or opens by whether or not a subscriber downloads the images in an email. When you send an email, you’re not sending each subscriber a copy of your images, you’re simply “calling them up” from your image library in your emfluence account to show to that subscriber. When they call for the image, we know that they opened the email. So if subscribers have images turned off by default, we don’t know that they opened an email unless they load images (0r click on a link within the email).
Gmail has traditionally kept images off by default for senders that aren’t part of an inbox user’s contact list or safe senders list. They did this mostly for security reasons. Last week, they announced that they’ll be caching all images in incoming emails, meaning, they’ll be saving a safe copy of every image and showing you that instead. Since they’ve rolled out that update, it’s now safe for Gmail to turn images on by default for all its users.
This means no more “Display message images” links in order to see your email:
And for email marketers, images turned ON by default means we’ll actually be able to more accurately track open rates for Gmail subscribers! For emfluence Marketing Platform users, keep an eye on your Unique Views rate at Gmail and see if they go up over the next few weeks.
With every win comes a “price” — it’s important to also note that because Gmail is caching images, they’ll only need to “call up” our image once. That may mean that the Total Views for Gmail users will decrease. In fact, it’s unlikely that any subscriber with a gmail.com email address will register as opening more than once. BUT, as a long-time email marketer who has always had to say that the Open Rate (View rate) is a minimum number, having the likelihood of reporting Gmail openers 100% accurately is a pretty cool bit of news for the day.
how to not sabotage your social content by sounding like spam
Spammers have been using email for years for delivering irrelevant content, photos, links, and scams. With the surge of social media, spammers have a new avenue. Nexgate’s 2013 “State of Social Spam” research report marked a 355% increase in spam content on social media networks in the first half of 2013. On Facebook alone, social spam represents a $200 million business. The rise of social spam tarnishes the integrity of brand messaging across social channels and leave brands confused of how to avoid creating valid, relevant content that is looks or feels spammy.
Nexgate’s report also noted that 1 in every 200 social media post are considered by consumers to be spam. It’s difficult to have a substantial return on your investment, if your followers think your posts contain spam, meaning it is seen as overly promotional or irrelevant.
5 Tips to Prevent Social Content Sabotage:
- Avoid Link Dumping: Don’t use links to simply fill your content calendar. Make sure each link has solid tips, stories, and/or insight that allow you to share your brand’s message and ideas in your industry. Many brands post information on Facebook as links, which results in lower engagement rates, as links are least likely to garner interaction from followers. Videos and photos are the most likely to garner interaction. Mix up your brand’s content, especially with photo posts. Spammy marketers rarely mix up their content type.
- Avoid Posting Only Sales-Related Updates: Depending on your industry, talking sales all the time is likely to cause followers to rethink whether you’re worth following. Instead, offer incentives periodically that encourage them to share your valuable content. Feature a fan each week, perhaps for “best photo” or most engaged, or use “Enter a Sweepstakes to Win” to promote customer engagement and loyalty.
- Don’t Post Every 10 Seconds: Don’t overwhelm your audience, making them feel like you’re constantly trying to sell them something; this is a tactic employed by many spammers as mentioned in #2. Instead, space out your messages and allow audiences to fully digest the information you’re sharing without being overpowering. If you want to be sure you’re spacing out your content enough, you can use a scheduling tool (like the emfluence Marketing Platform).
- Don’t Direct Message every new follower: This trend originated on Twitter and has been crossing over into other social channels; by now, it is pretty cliché. Personalization and a timely touch is great, but autobot messages are more of an annoyance and a little awkward. Imagine messaging all of your personal friends thanking them for the “add”! (No one probably thinks the brand is actually personally responding anymore.)
- Avoid Spammy Words: Words that sound spammy or promotional can absolutely sabotage your social content. Even though you’re not triggering spam filters and getting sent to a “Junk Folder” the same way you would in email marketing, your customers – real people – can be majorly turned off by overuse of promotional language like “FREE” “$$$” and “Earn”. Use these too much and your followers will learn to tune you out.
The biggest tip is to remember that social content should be human, genuine and in your own brand voice. Talk like you’re having a conversation with a real person and you should safely avoid sounding like social spam.
Need more guidance on writing savvy social media content? Check out, “5 tips for writing a sharable headline for your content” and “planning social content that is relevant to the times and to your brand”
how to design your emails for your audience
We email marketers love to jump on the hottest industry trends and tricks that could give our open and click-through rates the extra boost we’re looking for. Although the blogosphere may be buzzing about mobile-responsive templates or animations and video in email, the bottom line is – if your mobile-ready email is only being opened on desktops, or your recipient can’t even view your clever animated GIF because they use Outlook, then you’re not going to move the needle on your results.
If you want to optimize your email design to boost your open and click rates, you’ve got to know where and how your audience looks at your emails. Are they opening on desktop or mobile? Are they on a PC or a Mac? iPhone or Android? Outlook or Gmail? Or do most of your emails go to a company that still uses Thunderbird? (If that last one applies to you, I’m sorry.) Once you have a feel for how and where your audience reads email, then you can optimize your email content for them, specifically.
We love when our clients prove best practices. Rush Wade 2 is a great example of marketers that understand and capitalize on their audience data. From their device reporting, we know that on average:
- 77% of their email recipients open their emails on a desktop
- 82% of desktop openers use Apple Mail (63% of their total opens!)
- 80% of mobile openers use an iPhone
Keep in mind that open rates for Apple devices will always be skewed, since they load images automatically. (Open rates are tallied based on images loading.) But skew aside, Rush Wade 2’s stats tell a significant story! Their readers tend to be designers and people in the ad agency world, so it’s no surprise, really, that Apple is a go-to.
Apple mail is one of the email clients that plays animated GIFs within the email. So, armed with information, Rush Wade 2 sent an email featuring a well-designed, prominent animated GIF as the hero image:
For those who did open via Outlook, RW2 made sure the first frame of the animated GIF told the story well enough (since that’s all Outlook users would see in their inbox).
2013 may be the Year of Mobile, and videos/animations in emails are certainly gaining popularity; but before you jump on a new trendy bandwagon, take a close look at your device reporting. Unique email designs only work if your audience can see them!
For more inspiration and ideas on creating audience-friendly email designs, check out Jessica’s post on Pinterest’s adaptive email layouts. Or tell us how you optimize your email designs for your audience in the comments below!
what works re: subject lines in email marketing
Subject lines are the movie trailers of email marketing. They are a snapshot of what’s to come and should leave the audience wanting more. The difference is – subject lines usually get one shot to make their impression.
That’s why I say all subject lines should be “3D” – meaning they should pop out and grab your readers’ attention by being descriptive, direct and device-friendly. Many mobile readers will see long subject lines that wrap and push down your main content and some mobile devices only show up to about 25 characters. You want something that’s unique and grabs attention, but also concise enough to communicate the offer/benefit or call to action in around 40 characters. To help entice users to “read on,” it’s also best to use a “second subject line” in the pre-header of your email. The pre-header is where you often see “Click here to view as a web page.” This will show on mobile devices as well, so it should offer additional information, such as another compelling reason to follow your call to action. Here’s an example:
The subject line and pre-header text work together to make the call-to-open as descriptive as possible. The subject line example above is short and to the point, and using “action needed” should gain immediate attention. Then, listed in the pre-header is other vital information including the timeframe during which the reader should act. Together, they provide a great representation of the message to come.
Like movie trailers, if the content teaser (subject line) is misleading, people feel deceived. You shouldn’t trick readers into opening your email. For example, be careful when using “Re:” “FWD:” or “OOPS” in your subject lines. Some brands include these phrases to boost open rates, which it tends to do. But it can also damage subscribers’ trust if they think you are being intentionally misleading. On the other hand, it may make sense for some B2B campaigns, where you’ve heavily personalized the content, including using variable data in the from name/email address fields to make the client message appear as though it’s coming from his/her own sales representative. The bottom line is: Be genuine. If you consistently deliver great content and communicate compelling reasons to read your emails, subscribers will be more inclined to engage with your content over time. To keep with the movie metaphor: make your brand the respected director that consistently delivers crowd-pleasers.
Alright, you get the big picture. Now, for the nitty-gritty…
11 Tips for Writing Great Subject Lines:
- Use strong verbs to communicate the call to action.
- It doesn’t always have to be clever – informational is just as good (depending on the content).
- Every word should be absolutely necessary. Remember: 80 characters is your max and 40 characters is best practice if you have a high mobile readership.
- If you have numbers (like 10 Tips…), include that in the subject line.
- Try to avoid abbreviations unless they’re very commonly used.
- Exclamation marks can be left out most of the time. It can look spammy to email clients and hurt your deliverability.
- If it’s an offer email, include the window of time to claim the offer.
- If it’s a newsletter or part of a welcome series of emails, use a consistent naming convention so that your users don’t confuse the email with your other promotions. Adding the month or issue of a newsletter in the subject line is a great way to distinguish it from your other content.
- Take the time to develop something meaningful. You should create at least 2-3 variations of the subject line and pre-header before deciding which works best.
- Test using personalization to drive higher open rates (ex: first/last name variables). Remember that too much personalization can be creepy.
- In fact, test everything: what works with your audience? Does “DIY” work better than “Free download?” Does the % off or the sale’s end date in the subject line drive higher open rates? (Hint for emfluence Marketing Platform clients: The A/B split testing tool is perfect for testing subject lines. Check out the how-to in the Help section in your account!)
For other emfluence emsight posts on writing great subject lines, check out “Can I say ‘FREE’ in my subject line” and “symbols in subject lines.”
What subject line winners have you found for your own campaigns? Feel free to share in the comments!
important dates for your 2014 holiday promotional calendar
Chances are, if you’re a retail marketer anyway, you have your holiday promotions calendar done and have been humming holiday tunes under your breath since August when you started working on the campaigns. But a few of us marketers don’t have all our campaigns planned out just yet and Holiday Season kicks off next Wednesday. In fact, some retailers are starting this week since Thanksgiving is a little later this year! Here’s a look at the important dates for digital marketers in the 2014 Holiday season:
TIP: Click on the calendar to see a larger, printable version
Friday, November 22nd – Black Friday preview email: one week til great deals!
HINT: This can help minimize the effect of slow delivery on your Black Friday campaign if you get held up from hitting inboxes.
Wednesday, November 27th – Hanukkah starts (extra early this year!)
Thursday, November 28th - Thanksgiving
Business-to-Business email marketing pros may want to take it easy on Thanksgiving and the day after (unless you’ve tested and proven you garner engagement on these days). Business-to-Consumer marketers tend to send emails as early as Thanksgiving for their Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals.
Friday, November 29th - Black Friday
Typically the start of heavy (insane) foot traffic for retailers with physical store locations. Send email campaigns early in the morning to try and get into inboxes before shoppers head out and to (hopefully) avoid getting lost in the inbox clutter that builds up over the course of the day. If you know your shoppers are later risers, send a little later so it’s at the top of their inbox when they’re ready to head out.
Saturday, November 30th - Small Business Saturday
One of my favorite dates of the holiday calendar: a chance for local stores and vendors to really drive home deals and the perks of buying from a small business. Again: send email early in the day (5:00AM isn’t too early!) if you know you need to catch shoppers before shopping hours.
Sunday, December 1st – Cyber Monday deal alert/sneak peek
As the biggest online shopping day of the year is the following day, you’ll want to tease your deals and specials, be sure your customers know what they can expect before their inboxes are overloaded. Keep your emails deal-focused and fairly short and, of course, have your clear call to action front & center.
Monday, December 2nd – Cyber Monday
A reminder email about the stellar online deals available on your eCommerce website!
Tuesday, December 3rd - #GivingTuesday
This one was news to me! The Tuesday after Cyber Monday this year will mark the 2nd annual Giving Tuesday, a movement to drive donations to causes rather than sales and a day for Nonprofit Organizations to take advantage of holiday buying season.
Friday, December 13th – 12 Days Until Christmas
If you’re thinking of doing a 12 Days countdown, your 1st day would be today!
Monday, December 16th – Free Shipping Offer
Depending on how you structure your free shipping offer for holiday orders, you may make this date the last that buyers can receive free (ground) shipping on their order before Dec 24th.
Friday, December 20th - Last Day to Ship Offer
Typically, this is the day you’ll advertise as the last day to order and still receive your packages by Dec 24th (i.e. fulfillment on the 20th, shipment on the 21st or 23rd, overnight for arrival on the 24th).
Sunday, December 22nd – 10-day Countdown until the New Year
Fitness, health and other “resolution-type” companies may want to do a 10-day countdown to the New Year with the New You! This would be your first day of that countdown.
Tuesday, December 24th – Christmas Eve
Wednesday, December 25th – Christmas
Thursday, December 26th – Kwanzaa
Tuesday, December 31st – New Year’s Eve
Wednesday, January 1st – New Year’s Day
Happy Holiday (Marketing), all!
5 tips for writing a sharable headline for your content
“On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”- David Ogilvy
Headlines are more important now than ever, thanks to social media. Think about what is shared when you Tweet, post to Facebook, or share a link on LinkedIn. What auto-populates when you click “Tweet This” above an article? Usually, it’s the headline. And if it can’t capture attention in 100 characters or less, that share isn’t working as hard for you as it could. (Why 100? See my post on the anatomy of a healthy, sharable tweet.)
Don’t forget the media part of social media.
Think like a journalist. Journalists are taught to get straight to the point and write a headline that will grab relevant readers’ attention. Don’t overemphasize sensationalism, but do take note at what catches people’s eye as they read a fast-moving Twitter stream or Facebook newsfeed.
5 tips for sharable headlines:
- Avoid being generic. Sure, it says what your article is about, but it sounds a lot like a few dozen other articles out there at any one time. Be specific about what your article has to offer.
- Focus on what’s new. Just like a journalist, let your headline tell people what the new information in your article is. It may be an updated study or a different perspective than what’s being largely shared. It may be the latest in an ongoing event or research series.
- Find the valuable “nugget” of information. What’s the bottom line (or top line for journalists) that your article will tell or teach people? You know what it is: when you write an article, it’s that sentence that makes you know you’ve got news on your hands. A stat that makes your eyes pop a bit or that disproves your original hypothesis. Something surprising or unsuspected will usually do the trick, or you may be writing to confirm – with statistics – what’s assumed knowledge. Those types of articles can be just as valuable.
- Yes, numbers really do help. “The 7 ways to write a killer headline.” “5 secret tips every SEO must know.” Tangible takeaways will help your readers know not only what their getting, but how long it will be.
- Be enticing, but don’t be vague. If you’re too clever, you’ll lose people’s attention before you even have it, because they didn’t “get” what you meant in your headline. Clarity trumps cleverness when characters are precious.
And a bonus: if you’re using a ShareThis or TweetThis widget for your posts, you don’t have to pre-load it to share the headline. Perhaps “Clarity trumps cleverness when characters are precious” is a line that people smile at for its alliteration and are more likely to share/click/view. Customize your share “phrase” if the headline needs to say something else. For example, if your Search Engine Strategist says your headline must use certain words or phrases, play with the share copy to keep the enticement high.
Perhaps most importantly: keep your reader in mind. Who are you trying to attract and what do you really want from them after they read the article? Entice the right readers and you’ll see not just more traffic, but visitors that actually take the action you’re hoping for.
seo in a (Google) world of 100% not provided
Google recently announced that they are moving to encrypted (https) search in an effort to make searching “more secure” for users. Whether the move actually creates a more secure search experience is up for debate, but for the SEO world, this announcement has created quite a stir.
For many years, Google provided a free keyword research tool that offered insights into the search volume of keywords. Many SEO professionals relied on that data to make organic search strategic recommendations to their clients, and for the most part it’s been fairly effective, even though the tool’s data actually came from AdWords. (And for current AdWords clients, that data is still available.)
But for many marketers, organic search volume is very different than paid search volume and to put all your eggs in Google’s basket (their free toolset) is a mistake. You can still get data from Google if you use and link Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools accounts. Getting the keyword rank data does require additional work, but it’s there. But, more importantly, there are many other valid sources of data to draw from.
So why is the SEO world upset over Google discontinuing free keyword research? Some say it’s a move to monetize something Google’s been giving away for free by forcing more people into using AdWords. And to a large degree, that is true. Google is a publicly traded company with shareholders, so they are always interested in creating additional revenue.
But the issue for many SEO folks – and the industry by-in-large – is that they’ve sold their strategic services and even created their pricing models based on garnering #1 keyword rankings for clients in Google, under the explanation that being #1 for your target keywords meant lots of traffic – and more customers. And in the early days of search, that was true. This change takes away that metric and therefore upends a lot of SEO Strategist’s sales model.
Google gave marketers a clear direction on what they expected from websites for ranking, but they didn’t have an algorithmic way to enforce their rules. Less-than-scrupulous firms could “game Google’s system” and get their clients those coveted #1 rankings by keyword. In fact, these types of firms often put their clients’ websites at risk by violating Google’s terms of service. At the time, Google didn’t have an automated enforcement mechanism, so SEO firms could easily manipulate search engine results and report on high keyword position to justify their monthly fees.
As of this update, Google has finally figured out a way to weed out the less-than-scrupulous and has rolled out changes that have had tsunami-like effects. The Panda and Penguin algorithmic updates, personalized search results for logged in Google users and increased paid search results real estate have made the keyword ranking performance metric a moot point. A #1 position in Google is no longer universal. What used to be 1, 2, and 3 can now appear in positions 8, 9, and 10 below various paid listings, local listings and Google+ listings. So, what is #1 in Google anymore?
If you’re focusing on keyword rankings as your measure of success, you’re missing out on the true metric of success: what are you doing with the traffic you currently receive from any source? What would you rather have today: more traffic or more conversions? If you want more traffic, you’re at the mercy of search engines and algorithms. If you want more conversions, you are in complete control.
You’ve worked very hard to get traffic to your site, so now it’s time to focus on the user experience. There are many on-page details that can make or break whether a site visitor turns into a customer. Google’s ultimate goal is to show customers to products that they actually want, and they can tell when a customer bounces or isn’t going to convert, so what are you doing on your website to close business from visiting traffic? (Not to mention that once someone becomes your customer, what are you doing to turn them into a repeat customer? What are you doing to turn them into an evangelist for your company?)
Google is not your only source of traffic and now that they are encrypting search data doesn’t mean that traffic from Google is going away. Stop focusing on keyword rankings as the only metric of success. You’ll still need to analyze keywords and target effectively to attract the right kind of traffic, but you need to spend significantly more time optimizing the user experience on your website. Make it easy for people to do business with you online. Give people a reason to come back. Knock their socks off in such a way they brag about you to their friends. And isn’t that what we’re hoping to do as smart marketers anyway?
If you want to talk about your own website’s search marketing metrics, or better yet, if you’re ready to take a look at the user experience on your website, talk to an emfluence expert at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter @douglayseo.
Pinterest starts experimenting with sponsored pins
Per an email from Pinterest founder, Ben, in my inbox this morning, it sounds like Pinterest is starting to get serious about how to monetize. They’ve announced that they’re dipping their toes into the idea of sponsored pins. If they do it well, this could be great news for marketers, especially of products in popular Pinterest categories.
The note explicitly says they’re testing things out first: they are unveiling a batch or two for the holiday season that aren’t paid yet, just to get feedback on how (and if) these pins are relevant. Learning how avid pinners (admittedly like myself) are responding to them. They also share with pinners that these sponsored posts are partially to help ensure that Pinterest is “around for a long time,” keeping our “wish boards” alive for when we need them. (Pinterest is particularly popular for future planning like homes, weddings and children.) Hopefully this helps people overcome their visceral reaction to sponsored anything in a new (free) social medium, and simply choose which pins they interact with as they normally would.
I think they’ve got a good chance at doing this well, and if the Pinterest community bites, I’ll be checking with some of our clients in the travel, cooking and product industries to see how we can make these work for us (even more so than Pinterest already does in those categories).
Check out the note from Pinterest this morning:
integrating mobile & social media into your crisis planning
Thank you to the Professional Conference Managers Association Heartland Chapter for my presentation on “Integrating Mobile & Social Media into Your Crisis Planning”
As I promised today, I’m making the slides available with the resources at the end for emergency services and how to access FEMA or National Weather Service tweets for free via text message if in a crisis. Click the arrows to flip through the presentation below or open the whole presentation on SlideShare here.
Thank you for sharing your lunch hour with me today (and to the Marriott Country Club Plaza for a delicious lunch)! If you have any questions or want to chat mobile and social best practices, I’d love to chat! Find me on Twitter @bestofjess or give me a call at emfluence: 877-81-EMAIL.
newsjacking vs. real-time marketing
newsjacking vs. real-time marketing
Pop Quiz, social media marketers: What’s the difference between Oreo’s “You can dunk in the dark” tweet during the 2013 Superbowl and the Golf Channel’s #DreamDay promotion on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream…” speech?
One is a cheeky quip about a current event. One is making a speech that inspired and liberated an entire group of people somehow equivalent to golfing. And there’s a lesson in there for us social media marketers and brand managers.
First, can we agree that one gets a ‘thumbs up’ and one makes you cringe? They both more or less sell themselves, so self-promotion on Twitter must be ok. (I definitely believe it is.) They both use something that is pertinent to the moment, so it must be acceptable – even a good idea – to address timely and relevant topics. (Alyssa pointed out that some brands have done real-time marketing very well in an earlier blog post.) So, what’s the difference?
I struggle not to say “good judgment” is what’s missing from the second example. Instead, I’ll say that it’s definitely missing an “appropriateness” filter. When the power went out in the Superbowl, more or less, no one was harmed. And a few million people were now paying attention to … well, nothing. As they waited, fast-acting, smart-thinking brand social media managers stepped in to fill the awkward silence. That’s real-time marketing: using a live event or an appropriate topic of the day to be a friendly, personable contributor to the chatter.
When King’s “I have a dream speech” is the topic of the day, the mood and the tone of anything posted by people is in remembrance of a somber time. It’s in memoriam of a moment in history that helped change the way part of America lived. It’s not really fodder for a chuckle. And it’s definitely not the right space to insert your brand, if it has nothing to do with the history or the story.
Other brand examples fall into this trap, like Kenneth Cole tweeting that a political outrage in Egypt must be because people there heard that the new KC clothing line was out. Epicurious suggested that their “hearts were with Boston” and suggesting a “bowl of breakfast energy we could all use today.” They (kind of) tried to be somber and respectful… but didn’t quite make it there. They were still talking about what to eat when people are reeling from a serious security threat. (Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?) Sure, runners probably did need to eat something, but Epicurious didn’t have something to offer to improve the situation, nor a reason to broadcast it via social media. In situations like that, it’s probably best that you keep quiet for a few hours instead. It was an honest misjudgment and Epicurious promptly apologized, of course. (Cole also apologized, but few think that his mistake was all that accidental…)
I tend to reserve the word “newsjacking” for this type of jump-on-board-a-trend-regardless-of-relevance marketing. I know that some very respectable marketers use newsjacking as the term for a brand joining a trending conversation, and they rightly say that it can work to gain exposure for your brand. But I’d argue that you’ve hijacked a news stream when you’ve missed the intent of the news and its readers.
So, before you think about tweeting something clever and giving yourself the real-time marketing high five, check yourself on two points:
#1 – Does the mood of your tweet match the mood of the trending news?
# 2 – Does what you’re about to say in 140 characters (or more in other channels) or in a single image completely and clearly communicate your intended message? As marketers, we love to be clever. And we think we’re hilarious. But remove yourself from your office mates and put yourself in the shoes of someone completely outside your bubble, perhaps someone that the trending news is happening to or is about. How does your comment sound in their ears? If it’s not all that funny or clever anymore, then you’d better start hitting the backspace button. Remember: no one ever got offended by your brand’s absence from trending news (unless it’s about you).
One of the biggest tenets of successful social media management – and social media marketing – is to be human. Not just acting human, actually being human – so show some humanity… and good judgment. Make sure you’re matching your real-time social media to the tone and intent of the trends.