Saturday, 5 May 2012

How to Measure Email Marketing Success Rate

There are a few specific metrics which need to be measured in order to determine the success (or failure) rate of your email marketing campaign.

If you’re using a tool for your email marketing efforts, such as Aweber or an alternative, are using the services of an Email Service Provider, or are using Google Analytics to gauge the metrics of your email marketing campaign, you’ll have access to certain stats and data about your campaign. All of which will make up a stats pack which will help you ascertain how well your email marketing is doing.

So what exactly are these metrics? Here are six that should help you determine the success of your email marketing campaign:

1. Bounce Rate

Another word for delivery-success rate, bounce rate can be defined as the percentage of emails that went undelivered, as compared to the total emails sent. The resultant number is the bounce rate.

Use these to determine issues with your mailing lists, for instance if you have a high-bounce rate, why is it high? Why are your emails not being delivered. In order to determine these, make sure you know the difference between hard and soft bounce rates. Soft bounce is a result of a temporary problem with the recipient’s email ID, such as problem with the server or a full inbox. Hard bounce are those emails which repeatedly bounce back, and hence points towards an issue such as an invalid email ID, to which an email will never be delivered.

Remove hard bounce email IDs immediately, in order to have an acceptable bounce rate, otherwise you might be flagged a spammer by your ISP or email service provider.

2. CTR (click-through rate)

The number of email recipients who ended up clicking on one or more of the links within your email. This can be measured as a percentage of unique clicks per emails sent/delivered, or total clicks per emails sent/delivered. However only one of the aforementioned should be used, and not interchangeably.

CTR is easily one of the most important and useful statistic when it comes to online marketing, and especially email marketing campaign. Why? Because CTR tells you straightaway how relevant, interesting, related, compelling, appropriate and above all, valuable your message was to your recipients. An email with a high CTR would indicate an interesting and relevant email, and would mean that your subscribers and recipients found it to be compelling enough to open and click on the links within it.

3. Conversions

Conversion rate is simply measured by looking at the number of people who clicked on a link within an email and performed a desired action, which is ideally an action you wanted them to take with the help of the email. This could be anything – form reading your newsletter, to filling out a form, to reading your post, to liking your Facebook page, to purchasing a product off your website.

Conversion rate is another important tool in assessing the effectiveness of your email marketing campaign. Some would even argue that it is the most important tool when it comes to email marketing, as conversions are directly proportional to your success. A higher conversion rate would mean your offers are compelling, and all your marketing efforts are effective.

It is important to note that a successful conversion is one which completes the process.

Also, a lot of different factors contribute towards a successful or unsuccessful conversion rate – factors such as the quality of your landing page, problems with your conversion process and so on. Most importantly however, having a strong, effective and clear CTA (call to action) would ensure that you have a strong conversion rate as well.

For instance a bug in your form, or a dead URL would adversely affect your conversion rate.

4. List Growth

Simple, and pretty self-explanatory: This is a measure of how quickly your list is growing. This can be measured by adding opt-outs and hard bounces and subtracting the result from the number of new subscribers and dividing the resultant number by the total list size.

A good list needs to have a good growth rate, add new members and email IDs constantly and at regular intervals. This is especially important because many email IDs on your list will probably end up being unused to be closed down, as people switch to other providers, change service providers, switch jobs, forget their passwords, etc.

5. Forwards

In simple terms, the number of people who forwarded an email to friends, coworkers, etc, or clicked on the share button to share it on their social media profiles.

This also demonstrates the relevance and interest-level of your email among its recipients. For instance if your emails are interesting enough, and recipients find your newsletter, offer, etc interesting and compelling enough to share with others, they will most likely do so. Emails with interesting content, such as videos and images are likely to be forwarded and shared a lot, giving you the potential to go viral. Likewise emails that are forwarded a lot can end up being chain-emails.

6. Revenue

Return on Investment, or ROI, of your emails and your email campaign in general. Revenue and ROI gives you a clear picture of the success of your email marketing campaign in general, and in monetary terms as well.

While measuring ROI is important for all marketers, as well as all email marketers, ROI is particularly useful for ecommerce email marketers, who would want to determine the sales generated from email campaigns. However measuring ROI usually goes hand-in-hand with measuring bounce-rates, CTR and conversion rates.

Friday, 4 May 2012

How to Deal with Blog Comments

Blog comments comes in all shapes and sizes (well, not literally), all forms of goodness or nastiness, spam, trash, useful comments, long essays, offtopic, completely nonsensical, and what not!

I’ve been blogging for a while now, so trust me, I’ve seen them all!

If you’re a blog owner, the question then really, is how do you deal with some of the comments and the commenters? I’ll be looking at 5 different types of blog comments and how you, as a blog owner, can and should deal with these comments:

1. Spam

Spam comments are usually totally random, completely off-topic BS, stuffed with links which are meant for promoting commercial websites. Usually, these links direct you to porn or pharmaceutical websites. Spam comments are often bot-generated comments, and spammers are actually getting sneakier and finding clever ways of getting through, when once it was as simple as using a plugin to block spam. Solution? Delete on sight! If you’re on Wordpress, use Akismet or other plugins for the purpose.

2. The Troll

Troll is someone who takes particular pleasure in posting inflammatory, controversial or off-topic comments, and on purpose, with the sole purpose and intent of provoking others into an off-topic or emotional response. In addition, trolls often criticize people, products, the blog or just about anything else, and end up instigating people as well. Dealing with trolls can be tricky. You could choose to ignore them (aka. ‘do not feed the trolls!’), and/or simply ban them (by banning their IP) from posting on your blog. Your call! But remember that sometimes trolls too might have something useful to say, even if they don’t say it how they should!

3. Legit Commenters

These people are a rare commodity! Something that every blogger hopes he can get. Legit commenters, as the name implies, are people who post genuine comments, which are on-topic, thoughtful, relevant, and above all, add value to the post itself. And even when these guys disagree, they tend to do it respectfully. In short, they’re every bloggers dream! The only way you could deal with these guys is making sure you respond to any and all their comments, each and every time that they comment.

4. Skimmers

Once again, as the name implies, skimmers do not read the entire post, rather tend to skim through a post, picking up a couple of things in the 2 minutes that they took to read a 1000 word post, and base their comments and/or argument on the few keywords that they picked up during the process. So how exactly does one deal with skimmers? Well, for starters, you could tell them to read the whole post before commenting. However as a blog owner, be polite when doing so! The fact is, if they didn’t read it the first time, they probably won’t do so again.

5. Generic Commenter

Generic comments include annoying comments and one-liners like ‘Interesting post, thanks for writing’ or any one of its variants. Honestly, if I had a penny for each of these comments, I’d be a billionaire by now! Generic comments, while being polite, add nothing to the conversation, and lack substance of any sort. The only purpose that they do serve is acknowledgement. Such comments can also be spam, simply written to include links in the comment. The best way to deal with such comments, is to add a ‘like’ button to your blog, and delete all ‘nice post thanks’ comments, since the like button basically serves the same purpose.

Bear in mind however that unless you are absolutely certain that the comment is spam, deleting it could actually put off genuine commenter and/or a visitor, adversely affecting your traffic.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Effective Email Marketing

Any blogger would know the importance of email lists, and how important a tool email marketing really is.

Email marketing, if done right, is the fastest, easiest and potentially the most effective way of increasing sales.

Visitors, who have subscribed to your emails on their own accord, would ideally want to hear from you via email.   

However email marketing comes with two major pitfalls: (a) it is anything but easy to build mailing lists in the first place, and most mailing lists takes months, if not more, to be built up to a sizeable number, and (b) email marketing tends to have a rather small ROI, a low CTR and an even lower conversion rate.

However there are ways with which you can create a successful email marketing campaign. The first process involves building a list, and taking the right steps towards ensuring people open your lists and do what you want them to do, i.e. having an effective conversion rate.

List building

Easily one of the toughest parts when it comes to email marketing, and the first hurdle you’ll encounter during your email marketing efforts. In order to be an email marketer, you need to make sure that you have a list of people and email IDs to market (send emails out) to!

The bigger the list, the more people you’ll be able to reach out to, the larger your potential clientele will be, consequently allowing you to achieve a higher conversion rate with your CTA.

But building a sizeable list is easier said than done. But do-able nonetheless, here are some tips on how to build a list:

  1.  Making it easy and straightforward to subscribe – put a banner on your homepage which asks people to subscribe – on the top or on the sidebar, add a static form on your about page or contact page for the same purpose, send out updates on your Facebook and Google Plus pages and Tweets reminding people to subscribe to your posts (but don’t be too annoying about it, once every couple of days would do). Make sure that you let people know what benefit(s) they would get by signing up.
  2. Popups and opt-ins – even opened a website or a blog, only to be met with one of those annoying pop-up messages asking you to buy, like or subscribe to something? That annoying box that you always close? While it may be true that almost everyone closes any and all of those annoying boxes the instant they pop-up, they still are more effective than static forms to build lists and get subscribers. Aweber is one service that offers such pop-up boxes.
  3.  Incentives and benefits – you could also try your hand with giveaways or similar promotions, aimed exclusive at your subscriber/email list. For instance you could give away a free copy of your Wordpress plugin, your eBook, a free guitar lesson, a rebate coupon with 50% off on membership, or just about anything else applicable to your website. Sky’s the limit here. All these incentives could be offered to every 50th subscriber, the first 20 people to subscribe to your newsletter or to a random 100 subscribers. Give people an incentive to subscribe. Your incentive could even be something as simple as a series of posts that you do on your blog, and asking people to subscribe to your series.

Emails That People Open, Not Spam

Once you’ve built up a list (small or large), the next step would be to start sending out emails. However most of the email sent by email marketers don’t get through email spam filters, and most often simply end up in the junk.

And even those that aren’t categorized as spam, but as legit emails and do end up in people’s inboxes are usually not read or simply ignored or overlooked. Remember, people usually get a lot of emails every day, some even get hundreds of emails daily (if not more), so you’re facing some stiff competition here.

So what can you do in order to ensure that your emails (a) don’t end being categorized as spam and don’t end up in the junk folder, and (b) don’t end up being ‘just another email’ in people’s inboxes?
  1. Subject – make sure you absolutely nail that subject line. Use proper grammatical sentences, and keep it short when it comes to the subject line. In short, write your subject line the same way that you would write a subject line for any other professional email you would send out to, say, your boss or your coworker. Try to be honest, convincing, but sound less like a salesman. Be creative and innovative here. Put yourself in your subscriber’s shoes: what would you categorize as a good subject line if you were a recipient of such an email? What would make you want to instantly open an email as soon as you read the subject?
  2. Creativity – be creative with your newsletter. Provide your subscribers and recipients with value – something that they would want to see and would appreciate in your newsletter. Give them something extra, going the extra mile is usually a good idea. Use pictures and videos in your emails. There are tons of email marketing software and apps out there that let you design some extremely interesting and attractive-looking emails. Even Aweber does that for you.
  3. CTA – As with any of your marketing efforts, make sure that you have a clear and precise CTA in your emails as well – what action do you want your subscribers to take?
  4. Value – provide your subscribers with value. Provide help, tips, advice, and ask questions in your newsletter, feature the best answers and responses in the next edition. Give discounts, giveaways and the like. Make your newsletter an ‘experience’ for your subscribers and it will garner more interest and hence more subscriptions as well.
  5. Ask people to add your newsletter email in their safe-lists – most newsletters and subscription forms already come accompanied with this warning, make sure you ask all subscribers to add your newsletter’s email ID to their email safe-lists, or mark your emails ‘not spam’, so that they end up in their inbox instead of their junk email folders.

The problem-solution formula usually works here too. People have problems in some form or the other, and you have the unique opportunity to provide them with a solution, through the newsletter. If you are successful in doing so, you will get more subscribers. Making your email marketing campaign worth the effort.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Optimize Images for Google

We live and breathe in a world of images and visual content today. Words, are mere words now, insignificant. Visual content is the rage, and apparently, images and pictures are the new black!

Marketers have jumped on the bandwagon and embraced visual content such as videos and images, and made it a part of any and all of their online marketing efforts. This is especially true when it comes to social media marketing.

Social mediums such as Facebook and Twitter have been altered to give preference to visual content – Twitter has natively integrated Twitpic and Facebook has done away with walls and introduced timelines.

And that doesn’t even begin to mention the emergence and popularity of relatively-new social mediums such as Pinterest, a social networking website based solely on sharing pictures and images. And Pinterest, mind you, the ranked 3rd right now in terms of total number of visits-per-month (just 80 million shy of second-placed Twitter), and also in terms of generating referral traffic!

Importance of Images

Images and pictures are important, for numerous reasons.

  1. They make your content more engaging and interesting, helping your content garner more interest! Users are more likely to comment on a picture rather than a boring wall of text, if you think about it.
  2. They give your brand a unique identity, which is instantly recognizable and identifiable.
  3. They provide a lot of information in a short space, for instance through the use of infographics (literally proving that the age old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ is correct!).
  4. They provide an opportunity for marketers to market their products, and get referral traffic. Pinterest, for instance, has just burst onto the scene, and is already generating more referral traffic than G+, Linkedin and Youtube combined!
  5. Enhances customer engagement by providing users with an opportunity to provide feedback and comment (such as on social mediums).

Google’s Image Indexing Criteria

Google’s crawlers and bots look at the following set of attributes when indexing images:
  1.  Image type – Google indexes all of the common image types, such as JPG, BMP, GIF and PNG.
  2.  Anchor text, image title and alt attributes.

How to Optimize Images for Google

According to Google, the following should be done with any and all images on your blog, in order to optimize them for Google and other search engines:
  1. Use supported formats – such as the ones mentioned above – JPG, BMP, GIF or PNG only, as Google will only index these file formats.
  2. Titles and Names – It is extremely important to name your files correctly, giving them proper filenames. For instance most camera pictures are usually titled DSC12498, or images could be titled IMG5423. Instead, name your articles something that would tell visitors as well as search engines what the image is about, e.g. football-player-tackle.jpg or iphone-5-concept.jpg or a similar descriptive title.
  3. Alt-Text Matters – Google does not have eyes and hence cannot ‘look’ at images. That’s where the alt-text comes in. Alt-text also helps describe images in a similar way as the title would, and in a similar way a human would ‘see’ the image. It gives Google the information about the image, and helps it determine which keyword(s) the image should be ranked for. Alt-text should never be left blank, and should be as descriptive as possible (in the least amount of words as possible), instead of simply a one-letter word. Bear in mind that according to Google’s recent changes, keyword stuffing should be avoided at all costs!
  4. Context – provide a few words about the image, around the image itself, for instance a few words describing the image and what it is.
  5. File size – no limitations or restriction. Image can be as small or large as desired!
  6. Image sitemap – similar to regular sitemaps (which is a list of pages on your website, telling Google about the pages on your website, it is also recommended to submit an image sitemap to Google, as it helps Google discover the images on your website.
  7. Image Protection – even though Google uses different ways to determine the original source of the image, it is difficult to do so, especially when multiple copies of the same image exist and hence it is important to ensure you protect your own images by providing as much information about your own images as possible. If you want others to use your original images, link to them and reproduce them on their own website, go for Creative Common License. If not, add copyright text and/or watermark your images. Similarly, if you use an image from another external source, do so with permission, and credit the original source/uploader.
  8. Create a user-experience for your visitors – use good quality photos, put images as high up in your posts as possible, create uniformity by specifying the same width and height dimensions for all your images and above all, optimize images so that they load quickly, and don’t hog down bandwidth and resources or affect your website load-times.

Additional Read

For a complete list of Google Image Publishing Guidelines, with additional image-indexing criterion and more details, do read up on Google’s Webmaster Tools!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

How to Set Up a New Wordpress Blog for SEO

When setting up a new blog on Wordpress, most WP bloggers and developers tend to ignore some crucial aspects regarding their blog and good search engine optimization. These developers tend to add their favorite plugins and to the blog and think that their job is done, and the plugins will do the rest. That however is untrue.

There is a set of things that one needs to do when setting up a blog on Wordpress. It is this set of ‘best practices’ that determines how well you SEO does.

These best practices include basic stuff like adding a few free plugins to your blog, strong link-building and other on-site and off-site aspects. It also includes some not-so-obvious stuff such as having good, quality content on your blog, using a theme that is SEO friendly, improving website navigation and the like.

Benefits of Good SEO

Without a shadow of a doubt, SEO is important. A good SEO strategy provides multiple benefits, such as a constant stream of traffic and revenue on a regular basis. SEO is hands down the best way of getting traffic, ranking high on the SERP for your keywords, having a good CTR and attaining a low bounce rate – just to name a few of the benefits.

Getting traffic at regular intervals is the key here! For instance if you run a promotion for your blog on your Facebook page, you might end up getting a 100 visitors the first day, or maybe even more, which is great. But then the next day, that number might be 0. You might end up getting no visitors at all the very next day!

SEO ensures that doesn’t happen, and that you continue getting a steady stream of traffic every single day. And not just any traffic, getting targeted traffic is the cornerstone of any good SEO strategy!

SEO is important from a purely monetary perspective as well. A steady stream of visitors on your AdSense-enabled blog, your affiliate marketing website or your ecommerce setup would ensure a steady stream of revenue as well.

In addition, a proven SEO record, which shows that you can consistently attract new visitors will also play a big role in helping you expand your SEO clientele.

SEO with a New WP Blog

With a new Wordpress blog, expecting a large number of visitors and a bagful of revenue and cash almost instantly is unrealistic and highly unlikely. It takes time and patience. However there are many things that you can do with your Wordpress blog initially, all of which form an essential part of good SEO. These SEO ‘best practices’ will ensure long-term success for you as far as your SEO efforts are concerned. Having a solid SEO foundation at launch usually goes a long way in providing you with far-reaching effects for your blog and your business.
  1. Use a SEO-friendly theme – I’ve created a countless number of blogs, and trust me when I say this: putting on a good, SEO friendly theme on your blog is essential. The beauty of Wordpress is that it is backed by and excellent support system in terms of plugins and themes. My suggestion would be to invest in a good, premium theme. Thesis theme would be a good place to start. A good theme will allow you to set up meta titles, descriptions, tags, as well as H1, 2 and 3 headings, and the like.
  2. Essential plugins – There are over 19,000 plugins available on the Wordpress gallery, so its safe to say that you have plenty to choose from! The WP plugins page will even recommend essential Wordpress plugins for you. Start off with Yoast’s Wordpres SEO and the All-in-one SEO Pack – both excellent plugins from the SEO perspective and a generally good place to start. You can add, edit or generate all sorts of meta information, breadcrumbs, XML sitemap, and the like with these.
  3. Understanding How Search Engines Work – search engines crawlers and bots look for specific keywords on your website. Keywords used the most frequently are eventually the ones you get ranked for. For instance if you run a blog on Football, you will probably end up using the word a lot. Search engines like Google will pick this up, and rank you for it. Keyword research is an essential part of SEO. Do your research, use Google’s Keyword Research Tool to find out which keywords are the most popular, and try including them in your content. Speaking of content …
  4. The Blog Content – writing good quality posts, unique content, which is not rehashed, copied or spun, is important. Google places a lot of emphasis on quality. All posts and pages should come with proper meta information, titles, and tags. Titles and tags should include your keyword in them. But above all, having good quality content that is updated on a regular basis (not necessarily daily), content that provides value to its readers, is perhaps the most important thing here. In addition, create proper permalinks (e.g. that accompany your posts, and include your keywords in the permalink. Keep it small, short and easy to read.
  5. Submit your blog to search engines – Google’s webmaster tools and Submit Your Content services allow you to do just this!
  6. Measure, analyze, adapt – Use an analytics package such as Google Analytics to measure and analyze how well your blog is doing. From basic information such as the number of visitors you’re getting, to looking beyond basics, it is all important. Check visitor demographics, trends, CTR rates, how well your social media promotions are doing… it is all important. Change and adapt accordingly.

Concluding Words

SEO is a really vast field, and while is it humanly impossible to cover each and every thing in a single post, getting a few basics right and building upon them is generally a good idea. Getting to know all aspects of SEO takes time. But getting the basics right usually goes a long way!