The question of email frequency is one that is regularly raised by clients, and in reality it is a difficult one as the answer is usually “It depends…”. This said, when I saw this post on the e-consultancy blog “Email frequency; How much is too much?“, I felt it was worth sharing as some ‘food for thought‘ It is a review and case study on the email marketing approach taken by insurance giant, Aviva. It discusses how they saw an increase in effectiveness when they raised the frequency of their email campaigns. Although it is a consumer market case study, its definitely worth a read.
Guest Blogging is where you, as an expert or commentator on a subject, write articles that are then posted on an external website or blog. We have talked quite a bit about Guest Blogging as a web marketing tool and generally our stance is that if you are using the technique to demonstrate your expertise & capability and your articles are appearing on relevant websites, it can be a valuable tool. So how does this sit with the news that Matt Cutts (SEO Guru at Google) has declared the Death of Guest Blogging as an SEO tool? It fits perfectly! People have often used guest blogging as an easy way to add new, keyword-rich content to their own site while the guest bloggers are primarily concerned about getting links back to their own site – this has been the quid-pro-quo. You now need to stop thinking about keywords and links and focus instead on what you are actually saying. Content is king! We have always advocated that the first priority of a guest blogging campaign should be to effectively engage with readers of the blog you are guesting for, and that any SEO benefit should be secondary (see this post: Guest Blogging Best Practice). Notwithstanding Mr Cutts’ latest briefing on the subject, guest blogging can still deliver significant ‘real-marketing’ benefits, even if the technical SEO benefit is now significantly reduced. A recent post on Econsultacy sums up the situation perfectly.
So is Guest Blogging Dead?
- As tool for generating spammy links focussed on technical SEO – YES
- As a tool for getting your high quality, relevant message directly out to a wider audience – ABSOLUTELY NOT
Google want people to get good, meaningful results from their searches. They want to promote relevant, useful content. They will not be working to keep it out of their listings. We are about solid sustainable, effective web marketing. If you want a marketing strategy that does not live or die by Google’s next algorithm change, we would love to talk to you!
How do your response rates stack up?
I spoke to a client this morning who had recently sent out his first-ever e-newsletter. When the conversation turned to email marketing statistics he told me that he had received direct replies from around 20% of the list. I said “That’s brilliant”. His response: “Is it?” There is no question that a 20% direct response rate to an e-newsletter is excellent, but my client’s question shows how there is a lack of certainty as to just what does count as a good response. When people start with e-newsletters, particularly when they are being sent to a list of customers and other ‘well-known’ contacts, they are surprised that not everyone opens the email. Yet the same person, sending a mailshot to the same list will normally be happy with a 1% response. Just goes to show that what constitutes success can be very subjective and actually, a lower response producing real business can be much more valuable than lots of ‘tyre kickers’ clogging up your inbox. Email marketing benchmarks are notoriously difficult to pin down as there are so many variables. There is no doubt that the ‘measureability’ of email is powerful but it is important you avoid data overload. It is better to take some key stats and then use common sense and your own knowledge of your own business to draw conclusions appropriate for you. Here is a recent post suggesting 5 useful email metrics Nevertheless it is useful to have a starting point and some benchmarks against which to set your own experience. Subscription email marketing SWAS (software as service) company Sign-Up-To produces an annual report giving an overview of email marketing response rates across industry. The report makes interesting reading. Download a copy (pdf) here. If you have any questions re benchmarking your own email marketing, get in touch
An interesting post from e-consultancy. As with many marketing commentators, the article is consumer-focussed but makes interesting reading with some useful ideas for anyone using email marketing. We talk about unsubscribe rates quite regularly and our view is you should be aiming for a rate of less than 1%. If you are concerned with an unsubscribe rate creeping up to 2, 3 or even 5%, check out these numbers for the sites with the highest rates of unsubscribe – according to e-consultancy:
- 1800 Flowers: 52.50%.
- Ticketweb: 47.50%.
- Pro Flowers: 45.10%.
- Expedia: 45.00%.
- Active.com: 44.70%.
Bet that makes you feel better! Read the full article here
One of the great things about using email as a marketing tool is the level of feedback you can get from your activity. Use a good emailing system, and you will be rewarded with high levels of feedback from your activities. But which numbers should you focus on, and what do they mean? To kick off 2014, here are my top 5:
1. Bounce Rates
The primary aim of any emailing programme is to get your message into the recipients mailbox. The bounce rate is a measure of how many emails did not arrive as a result of messages being sent to bad addresses or being blocked by content filters. Clearly this is an important measure of the quality of your list. As a general rule:
High bounce rate = Poor list
What should be considered high? Short answer; it depends. In any event, if you see more than 15-20% of your list bouncing, you should be asking questions.
Bounces are also useful in monitoring if addresses change, or contacts move on. It is always worth scanning through lists of bounced emails for contacts you know, offering the opportunity to re contact with them and update your database.
As a general rule if you know an email is going to bounce, it should be removed from the list. Most good emailing systems have the facility to do this automatically.
2. Open Rates
This is often seen as the key metric of email marketing. It is important as an open means that the contact has seen the message. However there are a few things to remember when it comes to open rates:
- An open is only registered when a recipient views the email including the images. As a result, only some of the people who see your email will be registered in the open rate. Although it is certainly a very good measure of engagement it is not absolute, and is more relevant when monitoring trends over time rather than absolute figures.
- A number of people who read your email in their inbox preview won’t actually open the email. However they will have registered your contact, and this has value (this is what we call the “Nudge Effect“). The mere fact that someone has seen your name and subject can have a positive effect, and although not registered in the open rate, should not be underestimated.
- Just because someone is not interested enough to open your email does not mean they are not engaged with your business. Email marketing should be seen as a long term, ongoing initiative The results of a single email ‘send’ should not be viewed in isolation. Looking at the details of recipients who open emails over time, we have found that different people open different emails, so although an open rate for a single email may be 10-20%, the percentage of people who open one or more of your messages over a year can be 50% or even higher.
3. Click through rates
Click through rates measure real engagement with your email. These people have read your message and clicked through to see more information. This statistic is interesting for two reasons:
- A high overall click through rate suggests that your subject matter is hitting the right note with your readers
- Looking at the relative click through rates of different links on the email can give a great indication of which subject your market is interested in. Furthermore it can give a lead into more personal follow up. If you have a content in your email talking about your products /services, the following up those who click through to read more about these subject might be top of your list when it comes to looking at who to call.
4. Unsubscribe Rates
This is another key statistic measures a number of things including the targeting of your list and the relevance of your content, good content well targeted should result in very low unsubscribe rates. Typically we would expect a good well targeted email programme to result in unsubscribe rate of significantly less that 1%.
5. Web Traffic
Although not technically an email statistic, one of the main objectives of an email campaign is to drive high quality traffic to your website. Web traffic from emails should be monitored carefully, with the following expectations:
- There should be a significant spike in traffic when your email goes out. However this spike tends to be short lived as email is a transient medium (hence the reason for always putting the bulk of the content on the website).
- The overall trend in web traffic should be up. If you are starting to engage more with your audience, then traffic should increase. It should be noted however that the level of this increase will be very dependant on the nature of the markets in which you operate.
Any good emailing system will be able to deliver all the stats and feedback mentioned above. Tie this in with Google analytics to deliver the web stats, and monitoring your email campaigns as part of your ongoing business planning will soon become second nature.
The Christmas and New Year break is one of those times when business owners take stock , look ahead and make plans. However, come January 2nd it is ‘oh so easy’ to slip back into the old routine and just carry on. So which camp do you fit in? Is your business ready for 2014? Here are 5 key points to consider:
I know I keep going on about it but planning is vital. If you don’t have a plan and just make things up as you go along, you are not in control of your business. I’m not saying you won’t succeed but if you do, it will be luck. Planning does not need to be complicated. Any search on Google will throw up numerous business planning tools but here is my suggestion of 3 key planning questions to ask yourself:
Where are we now?
Take a piece of paper and write 4 headings:
Under each write down a couple of relevant sentences describing how that word fits to your business. This will give you a basis to move on to…..
Where do we want to get to?
What are your objectives, what do you want to achieve? Not everyone wants to be the next Richard Branson. It is your business and your life so what do you want out of it. Just remember that, to be useful, your objectives should be SMART:
How are we going to get there?
I’m thinking strategy here; should you be doing more of the same or are there changes that need to be made? What is the best way of using what you have to move your business and to make the changes?
2. Action Plan
Making plans and setting objectives is all very well but a bit of a waste of time if you don’t actually do something about it! To this end, I suggest you take you planning ideas and then ask your self what specific actions you can take towards achieving your objectives. This is about what are you going to do TODAY, TOMORROW, THIS WEEK, not what you might do over the next week or 3. You already know that running a business requires discipline and drive. Having an action plan puts focus on actually doing stuff towards achieving your goals. It’s a cliche but you do need to find time to work ON your business rather than IN your business. I’m now going to look at three elements of your business which I believe are vital to effective planning and growth:
3. Web Presence
A web presence is essential for any business. For most people this will mean your own website but for some, the functionality of social media, particularly Facebook and LinkedIn can make a practical and tempting alternative to a private site. Whatever your business, the web is your shop window. It is where people go to find out about your business and what you offer, so…. Are you proud of your web presence? Do you want people to visit you online? Do you confidently invite them to visit to check you out? Is your site up do date? Does your site show what is happening in your business now rather than when the site was launched? Do you have up to date case studies and testimonials from your clients? Do you have dated ‘News’ stories that show your site is up to date? Do you control your website? In 2014 you should be able to handle day to day website updates in-house. Web technology has reached a level that you should not be having to pay a web designer to change a few pictures or add a new testimonial to your site. If you do, I suggest you look at changing things. Not having control of your site is often a reason why your site is not up to date and consequently why you may not be proud of it. Self-management is common in social media but it need not cost a fortune to add in-house content management to your website and the investment can pay handsomely in creating a marketing communication tool you can actively use every day through 2014 and beyond.
Are there products or services that you could add to your business in 2014? Do customers ask you for things you don’t offer at the moment? Good businesses constantly review and refresh their offering in line with market demands. As well as coming up with your own ideas, or using suggestions from customers, check out what your competitors are up to. Market research can be a powerful ally.
5. Customers and Markets
Who are your best customers and who do you find hard work for not much reward? Try to analyse what the differences are so you can focus your attention on building more business with the right type of customer. Have you come across any new ‘types’ of customer or people who use your products and services in a different way? These can hint to opportunities to explore new market areas and widen the appeal of your business to a bigger audience.
It’s easy to dismiss formal business planning as a waste of time in a small business where the objective seems to focus on keeping your head above water, but therein lies the issue; if you don’t plan you will spend your time trying to stay afloat (unless you hit lucky of course, we can all dream). A considered business plan is the effective route to a long term, sustainable business. Whatever you do, I hope you have a productive and prosperous 2014.