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Considering placing a billboard advertisement for your business? You might want to think twice about using this medium as you’d probably have worse odds at losing a lot of dough than if you were in Vegas – and for good reason.

High Cost of Gambling
The majority of billboards throughout Las Vegas cost between $24,000-$120,000 for a 6 month contract. Many small businesses, which need advertising services, simply do not have this much to spend on advertising. Larger corporations such cell phones, beer manufacturers and car companies, can benefit from outdoor ads by further promoting their already existing brand. Overall, the billboard industry as a whole generates less than 1% of total advertising revenues.

Accessing your ROI from outdoor advertising can be challenging at best. With billboards, the message can be exposed to thousands of people but no true way to measure who actually absorbed the message. Many new advertising mediums such as online advertising and SEO can produce exceedingly usable and accurate metrics to further grow a business and target to a specific audience.

Risks Involved
People are usually DRIVING (imagine that!) when they see a billboard and cannot find paper, pen and then take time to jot down a phone number or website. Furthermore, many people are fearful to take their eyes off the road for very long, so really how effective can this medium be?

Odds are Stacked Against You
Several states already have regulations in place stating how far apart billboards need to be as well as size and configuration restrictions. Over 1,000 cities and 5 states have restrictions prohibiting new billboards once they see the rewards. “Vermont experienced a 50% rise in tourism spending in the first 2 years it became billboard free.”

In Texas alone nearly 200 cities have adopted billboard ordinances. “79% of Texans agree that there should be no more billboards on Texas highways.” (Study conducted by Stephen Klineberg, PhD., Rice University Texas Environmental Survey). People feel they contribute to visual blight and are a distraction from driving.

Attracting an Audience?
One billboard won’t necessarily contribute to business growth, but does give the business name recognition in the local area. Billboard advertising limits you to post a single message that motorists only see an average of 2-4 seconds. Therefore, the words may not sink in much making this advertising more “visual” than “verbal.”

Special consideration of placement is crucial to it being successful. I recently saw a billboard for cable television out in the country where there was very limited potential for service because the company’s cable network was not available there. Furthermore is the ad lit at night or is your ad only able to be viewed during daylight hours? Is it in competition with other boards?

Unless you’re a truck stop, roadside restaurant, gas station, hotel, pushing a convenience item drivers need, or a multi-million dollar corporation, you might want to invest your money in something with greater return.

If you are in one of the above businesses, don’t “put all your eggs in one basket” – diversify through multiple advertising mediums. If you want to utilize a billboard for your business, here are some simple rules for making your outdoor advertisement effective:

  • Use a striking visual – and not one of yourself. Remember a basic rule in sales – It’s not about YOU, it’s all about THEM.
  • Keep text to 8 words or less. Those that are witty, short and clever stand to stay with people longer.
  • Choose your location - make sure it’s lighted and is not competing with another billboard above or below it.
  • Select a vinyl that wraps around to make your ad appear large than just a paper or paint billboard.
  • Billboards tend to market to middle-to-upper income demographics.

Be sure you look at all your options before you “roll the dice” on billboard advertising. With stakes this high, you might want to take a trip to Vegas instead.

email-marketing-4The increased focus on spam in email marketing also means an increased focus on permission. Sure, we’re all waiting and hoping for a solution to the spam problem but a foolproof solution has not yet been created. So, in the meantime, as permission-based email marketers, we need to stay diligent in our efforts to earn and keep the permission of our subscribers to the best of our ability.

What are the best ways to earn and keep permission? These 10 tips are guaranteed to help:

  1. Be Straightforward - Remind recipients why they are receiving an email from you. Whether they are a valued customer, a prospect who expressed interest, or a client you want to keep in touch with, the reminder will add credibility to your email and put it into context, thus differentiating your communications from unwanted email.
  2. Be Specific - When people sign up to be on your email list, allow them to select—precisely—their areas of interest (e.g. newsletters, sale notifications, new product or service announcements, event invitations etc.). You can make subscribers feel more comfortable by specifying what they will receive and when they will receive it (e.g. “Sign up for Our Weekly Concert Announcement”).
    Also, you need to identify yourself to your subscribers in the “From:” line, and use the name they recognize most easily–yours, or your company.
  3. Be Respectful - Permission can be given, and it can be taken away. It is very important that every email you send has the option for the recipient to unsubscribe or “opt-out.” Interests may change over time and communications may no longer be valuable to a given subscriber. Those subscribers are entitled to withdraw their permission at will.
  4. Be Trustworthy - Your privacy policy should be clearly posted. It adds credibility to your company and your email even if recipients do not click on the link.
  5. Be Interested - Are your email communications of value? Is the frequency right?
    A survey is an inexpensive, easy and immediate way to find out how your customers really feel about your company and your email communications. So, when you do a survey, don’t forget to ask how your customers feel about your emails.
    Note: As a rule of thumb, if you are sending consumers promotional emails about products and services, you should be emailing no more frequently than three, maybe four times per month. A rule of thumb always has an exception, and every audience is different, so make your decisions based on your own unique business.
  6. Be Current - People change ISPs, jobs and email addresses at random. Often, you’ll be the last to know. Ask for updated information and give subscribers an easy way to change their email address. This will ensure that your communications continue to be received if, and when, they make a change.
    In addition, provide a way for your subscribers to change their interests and preferences. This will help you continue to provide the information most valuable to them, and target the right audience for each campaign.
  7. Be Considerate - Respect the privilege of communicating with your customers and prospects by taking care not to communicate too often. Gratuitous emails are not met with gratitude. Think carefully and plan how many, and what kind of communications you send to your subscribers.
  8. Be Diligent - Some subscribers will reply to an email to unsubscribe instead of using the automatic unsubscribe link. Monitor your inbox for unsubscribes, and complaints, then make sure you remove unsubscribe addresses right away and take action on any grievances.
  9. Be Observant - Look at your reports! There’s a wealth of information just waiting to be discovered. Always pay attention to your unsubscribe rate to ensure that your churn rate remains positive. If you are losing more than .5% of your subscribers per month, take a look at all of the elements of your campaigns, make sure you’re following the other 10 tips in this issue, and make adjustments where you’re falling short. Opens and click-throughs can also indicate where you might be missing the mark.
  10. Beware - Beware of strangers bearing lists! Permission is not transferable. Today, subscribers want to receive email from those companies they have subscribed to, not an unknown third party.

When searching for a list, don’t be fooled by off ers of targeted, clean lists for sale on a CD or otherwise. If anyone claims you can “Blast your ad to over 1000 safe addresses for only $5.00!” or “Buy a CD with 10,000,000 email addresses for only $99!”, this is too good to be true. These lists are not permission-based—they are spam lists.

List buyer beware!
Many email marketers become accidental spammers by making the mistake of buying a list. Permission is not for sale and is not transferable.

Follow these 10 permission tips, and “Be” a part of the spam solution!

at-symbol-email“ The cost of acquiring a new customer can be as much as 5 times the cost of keeping an old one.”
source: Peppers and Rogers

What is an E-Newsletter?
If you use email on a regular basis, you’re probably already receiving E-Newsletters from some of the companies you do business with. And while there’s a tremendous amount of variation out there regarding what constitutes an E-Newsletter (or “electronic newsletter” or “E-zine” or “email newsletter;” they’re all the same thing), they do have certain elements in common.

First and foremost, E-Newsletters arrive in your inbox as email messages. The sending company writes the newsletter, drops it into a predetermined email format, and sends it to a list of people who receive it on the other end. There’s a fair amount of technology that runs in the background to do this efficiently and effectively, but when you boil it all down, it’s just an email sent to many people at once.

To dig a bit deeper, think of an E-Newsletter like an electronic magazine, with three principal pieces:

The words themselves - what you write and how you write it.

Formatting and Layout
Like a magazine, an E-Newsletter has a consistent look from month to month for organizing and laying out the content. Fonts, graphics, sections, headings, links, etc., all come together to create the design and layout.

Delivery and List Management
Once the newsletter is assembled (content + layout), there needs to be a “machine” for sending it out to a predetermined list of people (your subscribers). Th e machine takes care of the logistics behind delivery. In addition to sending the newsletter out, that includes things like adding/removing names; managing bounced emails; sending automated messages to readers as they join your list or make changes to their personal information; and collecting and reporting on response data regarding reader behavior and preferences. Taken together, these three elements make up an E-Newsletter.

Why Publish an E-Newsletter?
“ The cost of acquiring a new customer can be as much as 5 times the cost of keeping an old one.” (source: Peppers and Rogers)
“ A 5% increase in retention yields profi t increases of 25 to 100 percent” (source: Bain and Co.)
“ Permission e-mail campaigns are ten times more effective than direct mail campaigns.” (source: IMT Strategies)

The results of this research and dozens of other studies add up to a simple conclusion: It’s a lot more cost effective and profitable to grow your business by increasing revenue and referrals from existing customers, than it is to keep chasing strangers. If you’ve got a “house list” of business relationships, you’ve got an extremely valuable asset. An asset that a quality E-Newsletter is perfectly suited to specifically take advantage of.

  • An E-Newsletter Increases Lead Generation And Cross Selling.
    As your newsletter arrives month aft er month, it keeps you top of mind with customers, prospects, partners and others, and provides an ongoing, low-key mechanism for highlighting your full range of products and services.
  • An E-Newsletter Increases Customer Lifetime Value.
    Competitors can buy their way into your market by matching your pricing, matching your products and even matching the look and feel of your company. What they can’t buy are your relationships. Every newsletter that you send serves to solidify the connection between your company and your customers. “A 5% increase in retention yields profit increases of 25 to 100 percent.” (source: Bain and Co.)
  • An E-Newsletter Provides A Low Cost, Instantaneous Channel For Sending Messages.
    Your database of email addresses gives you instant access to your customers and prospects. Once the machine is set up, in addition to sending an E-Newsletter, you can send alerts, advisories and messages as frequently as you wish.
  • An E-Newsletter Opens Up A Two-Way Dialogue With Customers And Prospects.
    E-Newsletters allow recipients to easily and immediately interact with you. Comments are made, information is requested, an exchange of ideas between you and your customers flows easily in both directions.
  • An E-Newsletter Hypercharges Your Existing Marketing Efforts.
    Your E-Newsletter doesn’t compete with your web site, print newsletter or existing marketing materials. It leverages them. It creates a steady pulse and focus that ties your other marketing eff orts together.
  • An E-Newsletter Provides Instant, Measurable Results.
    Advertising, sponsorships, and many other traditional marketing tactics offer few options for measuring the return on your investment. E-based tactics on the other hand, are instantly trackable. With each E-Newsletter you send, you’ll know how many people opened it; how many links were clicked on; who clicked on which links; and more. Fact-based, real time metrics.

If you already send printed materials out to your contact list – whether as a print newsletter or in some other fashion – the most immediate and measurable benefit of switching to an electronic format is a savings in time, printing and mailing costs. With a variable cost per newsletter of nearly zero, you will never again have to weigh the benefits of printing more materials or agonize over whether or not person X is “worthy” of the cost of sending information.

“Permission e-mail campaigns are ten times more effective than direct mail campaigns.” (source: IMT Strategies)

Grow your email list and sales"A 5% increase in retention yields profit increases of 25 to 100 percent. Repeat customers spend, on average, 67 percent more than new customers."
Source: Bain and Company

Experts agree and evidence shows that profitability is all about creating loyal customers and driving repeat business. And since it is roughly six to twelve times less expensive to sell to an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one, the value of customer loyalty and repeat business is just too compelling to ignore.

It’s All About Communication
How do you get repeat business and earn customer loyalty? Take a lesson from small businesses that long ago grasped the dynamics and importance of building customer relationships through communication. They nurture their customers over time by learning and remembering individual preferences and interests. They acquire this customer information directly from customers through personal interaction. And they keep in touch with customers on a regular basis ensuring their business remains “top of mind.”

What’s more, statistics show that it takes six to seven contacts before you can turn a prospect into a customer. All that contact can be expensive, and time consuming. That’s where email marketing becomes a critical part of your marketing efforts.

Email Turns Prospects and Visitors into Loyal Customers
Email marketing enables you to proactively communicate with your existing customers, prospects or members instead of passively waiting for them to return to your website, visit your store or office, or call you on the phone. With email marketing you can solidify existing relationships, initiate new ones and convert your one-time visitors, buyers and members into repeat business and long-term customers or contributors. Perhaps you paid for search engine placement, sponsored a newsletter, rented an opt-in list, placed a banner ad or two, distributed a flyer or sent a postcard. Th rough email marketing you can pay-off your investment in those expensive and time consuming marketing efforts and improve the return on investment (ROI) of every dollar you spend to obtain new business and develop profitable customer relationships.

Email marketing is one of the most powerful marketing tools available today. It is easy, affordable, direct, actionable and highly effective.

What’s more, statistics show that it takes six to seven contacts before you can turn a prospect into a customer. All that contact can be expensive, and time consuming. That’s where email marketing becomes a critical part of your marketing efforts.

Why is Email Marketing the Answer?
Email marketing is one of the most powerful marketing tools available today. It is easy, affordable, direct, actionable and highly effective. When you add email to your marketing mix, you spend less time, money and resources than with traditional marketing vehicles (e.g. direct mail or print advertising). And, with email marketing, you can communicate more quickly which means your time sensitive information is disseminated in minutes, not days or weeks - and you can see the results of your efforts instantly.

Email marketing is at it’s most effective when it’s used to build communications aimed at your existing customer list or permission-based “house list” as a means of customer retention.

Communicate More Information, More Often
Email marketing is an affordable way to stretch a tight marketing budget. It can cost as little as fractions of a penny per email! With a response rate five times greater than direct mail and 25 times the response rate of banner ads, email marketing is the most effective way to increase sales, drive traffic and develop loyalty.

Unlike direct mail, there is virtually no production, materials or postage expense. So, with email marketing, you can easily and affordably create more communications that are valued by your customer, and you can make those communications support and enhance your brand in a way that substantially differentiates your company from the competition. Your communications can include newsletters, preferred customer promotions, sale notifications, new service announcements, event invitations, greetings and more.

Educate Your Customers
Information and education make your customers and prospects much more valuable because they are more likely to buy when they can make an informed decision. Why force prospects to look elsewhere for the important information they need? Your email communications can help lead a prospect through the sales process, provide important data and drive the prospect to your website for more details and/or a purchase. For example, an email newsletter is uniquely suited to accomplish the long-term goals of customer retention and loyalty, while it can still contain a call-to-action that provides a short-term benefit.

For most businesses, a well-educated customer uses products and services to their greatest advantage. And, guess who will be the first in line to buy when something new becomes available?

Foster Long-lasting Relationships
Email is an easy and inexpensive way of establishing early and long lasting relationships with your prospects and customers. And the benefits of these relationships are far reaching. When you inform and educate prospects and customers, they begin to perceive you as capable of addressing their needs.

Good email marketing wins over consumers:

  • Well-executed permission email marketing campaigns can have a positive impact on consumers’ attitudes toward companies.
  • 67% of US consumers said they liked companies that, in their opinion, did a good job with permission email marketing.
  • 58% of consumers said they opened those companies’ emails, while 53% said that such emails affected their personal buying decisions.
    Source: Emarketer

Even better, they may look to you as an expert. Th is develops trust, opens the door to two-way communication and allows them to share their pain points with you. Using the information you gain from your prospects and customers, you will be able to better serve their ongoing needs, hone your unique selling proposition and slowly close the door on your competitors. In the process, you may discover hidden sales opportunities that you may not currently be addressing.

With a response rate five times greater than direct mail and 25 times the response rate of banner ads,
email marketing is the most effective way to increase sales, drive traffic and develop loyalty.

Easily Measure and Improve Your Results
The benefits derived from most types of marketing and advertising are very difficult to measure. With email marketing, however, you can easily measure the number of emails sent, emails opened, bounce backs, unsubscribes and click-through rates. You can also tell who opened your email, which links in your email motivated the most clicks and, even more specifically, who clicked on each link. All of this useful information can help you send highly targeted campaigns to the individuals most likely to respond to your off er, thus improving results going forward.

What About Spam and Privacy Concerns?
Studies show that both senders and recipients increasingly prefer email marketing.

  • Email is the increasingly preferred method of communication for businesses. In a recent report, Gartner predicts that 80% of companies engaged in direct marketing will send at least one email campaign by the end of 2004.
  • According to DoubleClick, permission-based email is far and away the preferred method of online communication for consumers. 75% rated it as their preference, with only 25% preferring postal mail and 0% choosing telemarketing.

The hottest topic in email marketing today is spam. As corporations and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) work to control the amount of unsolicited email entering their systems, they may inadvertently filter out legitimate emails.

In industry language, this type of error is known as a “false positive,” and the result is that some emails sent to people who have requested them don’t ever reach their destination.

But, let’s put that into perspective. Even with spam’s impact, a good email communication sent to your house list will still be opened by over 40% of the people it’s sent to. Given typical response rates to traditional marketing tactics, that’s as much as 40 times better than the percentage of people who read your newspaper ads; respond to your direct mail; or return your unsolicited phone calls.

Email marketing represents the first time in history that we’ve ever been able to cost effectively communicate with our entire customer and prospect base on a regular basis. Not only that, but thanks to the inherently democratic nature of email (i.e. the big businesses don’t get any more space in the email inbox than the rest of us), email marketing gives us the opportunity not just to compete with, but to outperform our much larger competitors for the attention of readers.

Email marketing gives us the opportunity not just to compete with, but to outperform our much larger competitors for the attention of readers.

An Email Marketing Service Makes it Easy and Affordable
There are Web-based email marketing services, like Constant Contact Email Marketing, that are inexpensive and designed to make email marketing easy for the non-technical user. These types of services take care of the heavy lift ing to allow you to do what you do best – promote your own product, service or cause. An email marketing service delivers your emails with proper protocols, maintains relationships with ISPs and has a full-time staff to gain the highest deliverability rates for your email. Finally, a good email marketing service is Can-Spam compliant and offers a complete solution including list management and real-time reporting.

In Conclusion
Email marketing offers business owners an opportunity to reach out to customers and prospects, and increase customer retention in ways that were simply not possible just a few short years ago. Whether you use a service like Constant Contact, or hire an agency to handle the entire process, email marketing should be an important part of your customer relationship efforts.

Sign up for eMail Marketing for FREE for 60 days, and we'll put a FREE "Subscribe" form on your website to start gathering your visitors email addresses!

email1If you have ever felt out of your depth in a discussion about email marketing, rest assured you are not alone. These top 25 common email marketing terms and definitions below will help you expand your email marketing vocabulary and make you look and feel like an expert.

  1. Above-the-fold - The part of a web page that is visible without scrolling. It is generally more desirable placement on a Website because of its visibility. If you have a “join our mailing list” tag on your Website, you should place it “above the fold” making it easy for visitors to opt-in.
  2. CPM (Cost per thousand) - In email marketing, CPM commonly refers to the cost per 1000 names on a given rental list. For example, a rental list priced at $250 CPM would mean that the list owner charges $.25 per email address.
  3. CTR (or Click-through rate) - Th e percentage (the number of unique clicks divided by the number that were opened) of recipients that click on a given URL in your email.
  4. Conversion rate - Th e number or percentage of recipients who respond to your call-to-action in a given email marketing campaign or promotion. This is the measure of your email campaign’s success. You may measure conversion in sales, phone calls, appointments etc.
  5. Email blacklist - It is common for an ISP to a use a blacklist to determine which emails should be blocked (see “email blocking”). Blacklists contain lists of domains or IP addresses of known and suspected spammers. Unfortunately, these blacklists also contain many legitimate email service providers. Just a few spam complaints can land an email service provider or IP address on a
    blacklist despite the fact that the ratio of complaints to volume of email sent is extremely low.
  6. Email blocking - Email blocking typically refers to blocking by ISPs or corporate servers. Email blocking occurs when the receiving email server (e.g. Yahoo!, AOL, Hotmail etc) prevents an inbound email from reaching the inbox of the intended recipient. Most of the time the sender of the email receives a “bounce” message notifying the sender that their email has been blocked. ISPs actively block email coming from suspected spammers.
  7. Email filters – “Filtering” is a technique used to block email based on the content in the “from:” line, “subject:” line, or body copy of an email. Filtering soft ware searches for key words and other indicators that identify the email as potential spam. Th is type of blocking occurs on a per email basis.
  8. Email newsletter ads or sponsorships - Buying ad space in an email newsletter or sponsoring a specific article or series of articles. Advertisers pay to have their ad (text, HTML or both depending on the publication) inserted into the body of the email. Email newsletter ads and sponsorships allow advertisers to reach a targeted audience driving traffic to a website, store or office, signups to a newsletter or sales of a product or service.
  9. Email whitelist - A whitelist is the opposite of a blacklist. Instead of listing IP addresses to block, a whitelist includes IP addresses that have been approved to deliver email despite blocking measures. It is common practice for ISPs to maintain both a blacklist and a whitelist. When email service providers, like Constant Contact, say they are “whitelisted” it means that their IP addresses are on a specific ISP’s whitelist and are confident that emails sent using their service will be delivered.
  10. False positive - A false positive occurs when a legitimate permission based email is incorrectly filtered or blocked as spam.
  11. Hard bounce/Soft bounce - A hard bounce is the failed delivery of an email due to a permanent reason like a non-existent address. A soft bounce is the failed delivery of an email due to a temporary issue, like a full mailbox or an unavailable server.
  12. House list (or Retention list) - A permission-based list that you built yourself. Use it to market, cross sell and up-sell, and to establish a relationship with customers over time. It is one of your most valuable assets because it is 7 times less expensive to market to an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. Use every opportunity to add to it and use it.
  13. HTML email - Sending HTML email makes it possible to include unique fonts, graphics and background colors. HTML makes an email more interesting and when used properly can generate response rates up to 35% higher than plain text.
  14. Open rate - The percentage of emails opened in any given email marketing
    campaign, or the percentage opened of the total number of emails sent.
  15. Opt-in (or Subscribe) - To opt-in or subscribe to an email list is to choose to receive email communications by supplying your email address to a particular company, website or individual thereby giving them permission to email you. The subscriber can often indicate areas of personal interest (e.g. mountain biking) and/or indicate what types of emails they wish to receive from the sender (e.g. newsletters).

    Single Opt-In (with a subscriber acknowledgement email) - The most widely accepted and routinely used method of obtaining email addresses and permission. A single opt-in list is created by inviting visitors and customers to subscribe to your email list. When you use a sign-up tag on your website, a message immediately goes out to the subscriber acknowledging the subscription. This message should reiterate what the subscriber has signed up for, and provide an immediate way for the subscriber to edit interests or opt-out.

    Confirmed Opt-In (a.k.a. Double Opt-In) - A more stringent method of obtaining permission to send email campaigns. Confirmed opt-in adds an additional step to the opt-in process. It requires the subscriber to respond to a confirmation email, either by clicking on a confirmation link, or by replying to the email to confirm their subscription. Only those subscribers who take this additional step are added to your list.
  16. Opt-out (or Unsubscribe) - To opt-out or unsubscribe from an email list is to choose not to receive communications from the sender by requesting the removal of your email address from their list.
  17. Permission-based email - Email sent to recipients who have opted-in or subscribed to receive email communications from a particular company, website or individual. Permission is an absolute prerequisite for legitimate and profitable email marketing.
  18. Personalization – Addressing individual recipients by first name, last name or both dynamically in an email. Personalization can also include a reference to previous purchases, or other content unique to each recipient. Avoid using personalization in the subject line of your emails as this is a tactic widely used by spammers.
  19. Privacy policy - A clear description of a website or company’s policy on the use of information collected from and about website visitors and what they do, and do not do, with the data. Your privacy policy builds trust especially among those who opt-in to receive email from you or those who register on your site. If subscribers, prospects and customers know their information is safe with you, they will likely share more information with you making your relationship that much more valuable.
  20. Rental list (or Acquisition list) - A list of prospects or a targeted group of recipients who have opted-in to receive information about certain subjects. Using permission-based rental lists, marketers can send email messages to audiences targeted by interest category, profession, demographic information and more. Renting a list usually costs between $.10 and $.40 per name. Be sure your rental list is a true permission-based, opt-in list. Permission-based lists are rented, not sold. Don’t be fooled by a list off er that sounds too good to be true or by someone who tries to mislead you by calling their list “targeted” or “clean” without certifying that it is permission-based.
  21. Signature file (or sigfile for short) - A tagline or short block of text at the end of an email message that identifies the sender and provides additional information such as company name and contact information. Your signature file is a marketing opportunity. Use it to convey a benefit and include a callto-action with a link.
  22. Spam or UCE (Unsolicited Commercial Email) - Email sent to someone who has not opted-in or given permission to the sender. Characteristically, spam is unwanted, unexpected email from a sender unknown to the recipient.
  23. Targeting - Selecting a target audience or group of individuals likely to be interested in a certain product or service. Targeting is very important for an email marketer because targeted and relevant email campaign, yield a higher response and result in fewer unsubscribes.
  24. URL (or Universal Resource Locator) - A website, page or any other document address or location on the Internet that indicates the location of every file on every computer accessible through the Internet.
  25. Viral Marketing - A type of marketing that is carried out voluntarily by a company’s customers. It is oft en referred to as word-of-mouth advertising. Email has made this type of marketing very prevalent. Tools such as “send this page, article or website to a friend” encourage people to refer or recommend your newsletter, company, product, service or specific offer to others.

content-marketing-300x249The role of content is no longer limited to holding reader attention. Even search engine spiders are looking for fresh, updated and unique content online. Most online business owners are aware of the importance of website content. That’s exactly why content should not be an after thought while you develop a website. It is just as important as SEO and marketing your website online. Seasoned pros in website content development services will help give your business a boost. It is necessary to make your website content interesting and the first step in writing good website content is to understand the concept of readability.

How do I catch the reader’s attention?
A strong headline
- The first thing that any browser reads is the headline and it is definitely the key to your entire copy/content. “If you cannot be motivated to write the article based on the headline, how is the reader going to be motivated to read it based on the headline?”

To ensure that your headline is catchy and tempts the reader to read on, make sure that you:

  • Capitalize all the words in your headline - The thumb rule is to capitalize all the beginning of words with the exception of articles and conjunctions. Exclude short prepositions in headings and in case of lectures, plays or book titles.
  • Use seduction - As mentioned before, it is your headline that should tempt the reader to read on.
  • Avoid periods in titles - The idea is to ensure that your reader moves ahead from the heading to the body of the article. Don’t create a pause with a period in your headline. Allow the natural flow of reading.

Enhance readability
If you have ensured that the reader is ‘hooked’ by your title and is reading the content/article, the next step is to keep them interested. Information chunking and Scannability are two important concepts you need to keep in mind if you want to enhance readability of your website.

  • Information chunking: by separating information into small chunks, which will improve a reader's ability to read and understand it. How do you ‘chunk’ your information?
    • Put a bullet in it: By inserting bulleted points, shortening your sub heads and condensing your paragraphs into short yet comprehensive and effective paragraphs.
    • Shorten your subheading, creating organization and telling your reader what comes next.
    • Keep it short and sweet and remember that web readers tend to skim, so keep their interest with one or two ideas per sentence.
    • Condense! Paragraphs should be short with only 5-7 minutes of reading involved. Even one sentence paragraphs can be effective.
    • Use scannable text, by bolding key phrases and words. Use inline graphics that guide the reader’s eyes or illustrate points that require description.
    • A picture is worth a thousand words Apart from great content, images will help convey your ideas too. In fact when used right, they can convey a story! So choose an appropriate image for your website.
      Laying it on the line!

Content is King
While using your words correctly is important, providing your reader with good information is the pre-requisite to build credibility.

  • Give them what they need: Remember they were searching for something. What prompted that search? Help them find out how they can benefit by using your product/service
  • Credibility is Key: Adding external links enhances the credibility of the sites content.
  • Be keyword savvy: If your site is targeting the wrong keywords, the search engines, and your customers may never find you, resulting in low rankings and money as well.
  • Answer likely questions: with answers to the questions that he/she is likely to ask. Add FAQs, guides, how-to’s, client Q&A's and critiques to your website.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words: Images convey ideas in ways that words can't. Use images to tell your story. Visitors like seeing images; they break up all those lines of text and help convey a mood or support what you're saying.

blogging“So what do I blog about?” Often my customers want to start a blog but are stumped or intimidated as to what to write about.

For an active blog, you need to post blogs at least three times per week. If you have the time to update your blog more often, great! But, if your blog idea cup runneth over, here are the top 10 ideas you could use:

  1. Address FAQs or queries, which you get from your customers. They (customers) are surely the heart of all business. Answering their FAQs in the form of blogs will help existing and future clients. Also, instead of repeatedly responding to the same questions, you can choose to write a series of blog posts to answer the frequently asked questions, which could free up time for you in the long run.
  2. Expert Interviews. If you admire someone in your industry, your readers or followers might too! Contact the experts, who you think can offer valuable insights on business, trends, etc. and publish the interview as a blog post.
  3. How-to Tutorial of a process will contribute to a series of blog posts. For example, you can create a series of how-to tutorials on website design, creating a logo or any topic related to your expertise. You can choose to create written, audio, or video tutorial. Tutorials build credibility and trust within your clients. They will begin to see you as an authority in this industry.
  4. Events or Trends in your industry making news? Make sure that you include your perspective into the blog. A number of bloggers blog about the trends or related news stories. However, very few offer their unique perspective on the events.
  5. Review a site, blog, book or anything related to your industry. Highlight the pros and cons clearly, so your readers are not left wondering whether you are recommending the site, blog, book, etc or not.
  6. Personally Yours. Tell a story about what’s happening in your life and how it is affecting your business. Your hobbies and interests could make a good read too. Readers are always happy to read more about the “real” blogger and helps establish a deeper personal connection with your clients.
  7. How You Helped. Did you help your client’s site rank well on the major search engines? Is your client happy with the logo you recently worked on? Blog about it. Begin with how you addressed the problem from scratch and helped the client. Existing or future clients may come across this and it might be just the thing they were looking for. What better way to get a new client than coming to their rescue?
  8. 10 Best Lists. Depending on your area of expertise and business, you can choose from a range of topics for best-of lists or even reasons-to-do lists. For example, best of Photoshop freebies, best freelance web design jobs boards, why you should get a website, etc.
  9. Polls are a great way to keep your readers occupied and interested too. With polls, your readers will await results and then discuss the results too. However, you need to ensure that you choose an interesting poll. You can use Constant Contact to publish your poll.
  10. Blog about blogging. There are a number of blog-related topics, which you can use to write posts about. Readers are always keen to find out more about how they can blog, optimize their blog, use it for business purposes etc.

In the age of Internet Marketing, there are a number of techniques you can use to ensure maximum visibility for your website. Two important approaches to marketing your website are through paid ads or generate traffic organically. Searches or web traffic which comes from unpaid listings on search engines are called organic clicks/hits. Pay-per-click allows the advertisers to bid on certain keywords relevant to their target market. These advertisements called sponsored links appear adjacent to the organic results on the home page.

Organic hits stands out as much more reliable and affordable option delivering a higher return on investment [ROI] over time. Consider this; Organic results are 5x more likely to be clicked on than paid results. [Source: Marketing Sherpa, Search Marketing Benchmark Survey] The same report states that organic listings account for 4.2 % conversion rate while paid listings account for 3.6% conversion rate.

With the advent of savvy web surfers who look out for non-sponsored results or organic hits on the first page of the search engine, the popularity of PPC has dropped considerably. Surfers believe that if the site made it to the results on the first page itself without paying for it, it must be the best site. Apart from that, PPC is limited by space and gains less traffic overall when compared to organic hits. It remains the second best way to ensure a good ranking for your site in the search engines, behind organic hits.

Here’s why PPC gains less traffic for your site even if it gets you decent conversion. PPC only provides links to your homepage. But, the internal pages of your site will link throughout the search engine if you rely on organic means to rank your website. A PPC campaign that links to your sites internal pages is not a cost-effective means to guarantee conversions as well.

Here’s a table which shows the level of education and SERP (Search Engine Results Page) usage patterns:

Which area on a SERP would you typically look at first
Level of education
Some high shool
High school diploma or equivalent
2-Year degree
University degree
Masters degree
Doctoral degree
alt. org. and features
organic results
sidebar paid
top portion paid

In the recessionary times we are a part of, internet based businesses might not even want to consider PPC. The campaigns might not even be as successful as they have been in the past too. Here’s an image displaying the relevance of organic hits when compare to paid hits.

Organic Hits: Long Road to Success?
The process to push your site organically into the top 10 results on google.com might be long and tedious. You will need to work on keeping content fresh by frequently updating your site, writing articles, posting your site in forums and even take advantage of Social Media Optimization to get your business out there. Better still, you could use the services of a SEO company to bring targeted traffic to your site. Find-ability is key in any online business. Despite what you paid to have your website designed, what purpose does it serve if no one can find it? Only a qualified SEO company can help potential clients find your website on the major search engines. This allows you to concentrate on your business while a qualified SEO consultant takes care of your website optimization.

However long and hard the process, the results are well-worth it. It is definitely credible to be listed highly in organic searches than paid results. Research has revealed that people who click on organic search results are highly educated which translates into relevant traffic for your website. ‘More Money at No Cost’, that’s what organic hits will help you with. Apart from that, organic hits guarantees long lasting rank and traffic for your website.

The Golden Triangle
As you see in the image of the Google Golden Triangle, which was the result of a study conducted by Enquiros. The study watched eye movements of fifty users on the Google search engine result pages. Results revealed a "golden triangle" which confirms the belief nothing beats organic search results, although sponsored sites which are placed above the organic results do well.


Paid Hits that Can Hurt SEO
Link exchanges, setting up related links, emphasizing on anchor text and updating your site with content is the cornerstone of any website success story. However, there are some common link building mistakes which questionable webmasters commit. Using paid linking services could result in loss of $15 on an average after each hit - linking circles, and spamming to build links, are just some of them.

On the other hand, PPC guarantees immediate ranking because you pay to be listed. It helps familiarize users with your website and more often visitors log on to your website it will help improve your site’s performance too. Your ad will be shown at the times when you choose to pay for it. If you have chosen PPC for your site, ensure that you choose the Google Adwords program.

Organic hits or PPC: One or both? Which did you choose? How did it help your site?

All businesses want their websites ranked at the top with search engines, so how does one go about doing this? There are many different ways to help get your website ranked higher during those searches. A key way of increasing your web traffic and optimizing your site for search engines is by increasing the number of organic links to your site. Previously, a couple of the more conventional ways to build links were through directory submission or buying links. The value in using these artificial methods have declined, there are different search engines that do not even recommend using high quality paid directories. In respect of Google’s rules, paying for links is not allowed, and many companies are being penalized.

Stop building links artificially and utilize one or more of the following ways to build links organically, optimizing your search engine rankings.

  1. Create a genuine yearly competition or organize a charitable event such as blog action day.
  2. Mirror a high traffic site such as free software sites / open source software sites, or an activist site.
  3. Join social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yelp, Inc. and maintain them over time.
  4. Offer a rebate for a particular group, such as working class families, veterans or whichever disadvantaged group you decide upon.
  5. Maintain a business blog that is updated regularly with high value resources.
  6. Posting articles on a few quality article directories with your resource box and URL is a sure fire way of creating back links.
  7. Send out a press release via a few online services.
  8. Network through business colleagues and people you know and have them link to you.
  9. Answer questions in different forums like Yahoo Answers.
  10. Go Green, start a green initiative. There are countless opportunities on how to go about achieving this, carbon free websites is a great example.
  11. Add resources to user generated sites like associated content or zimbio.
  12. Create a regularly updated resource list like the Web developer’s Handbook that people will continue to refer back to and refer others to.
  13. Get your content translated and republished in multiple languages and countries.
  14. Create CSS solutions for common tasks or CSS problems, or even more effective would be a whole set of solutions.
  15. Program a free tool or software everyone needs for a specific niche, but not one that everybody offers yet.
  16. Fashion an enduring partnership with similar service providers, like a graphic design agency joining forces with a PSD2XHTML provider.
  17. Publish recipes for healthy, Greek, Indian, raw or any type of food that is desirable to others but not everybody can buy.
  18. Perform a community service or help with animals and display images of them for others to see.
  19. Join a community and become one of the more prominent members like Maki of DoshDosh did on Sphinn and Digg.
  20. Build a community like 9Rules where people “proudly” are part of and display it on their sites.
  21. Develop a Firefox plugin for a common reoccurring task or having to deal with a widely spread annoyance, like BugMeNot .
  22. Join the “freebies” bandwagon, people love free stuff and when everyone loves you, the people willing to spend money will find you.
  23. Offer free music or other audio downloads, or at least a way to listen to the audio online.
  24. Give away a free eBook, or better yet offer several free eBooks like O’Reilly does.
  25. Offer free high quality icons for download and free use.
  26. Have background patterns available for free for web designers.
  27. Give away free wallpapers for download and invite artists to modify.
  28. Offer free scripts and “chunks code” for webmasters to use freely.
  29. Offer fundamental self improvement quotes or advice like hackyourself
  30. Give away images using a creative commons provider such as creative commons on your website.

These are a few of the ways you are able to build links naturally and enhance you SEO. Keep this in mind when you go from very few links to having an additional 3,000 in a week, the spiders notice it and your ranking drops. So stay consistent with building your links naturally and avoid the artificial means of link building.

blog11Learn to craft blog post titles, which will draw readers to your blog. As an important element of a blog, the title is the window to your blog post. Here is a list of strategies you can use to write a great blog title:

  1. Keep it short and simple: Straight and simple titles, which help the user determine what the post is about works best. Give a title, which communicates the benefit of reading the article too.
    Good Example: 20 Ways to Advertise your Website for FREE
    Bad Example: Find out how you can market your website online.
  2. Readers first, Search Engines next: Don’t try optimizing your blog title for the search engines to the extent that you forget your readers! There is no point in having a poorly worded blog title, which ranks very well on search engines.
    Good Example: Using Social Media for Lead Generation
    Bad Example: Social Media Lead Generation
  3. Communicate a benefit, effectively: Your blog post title should be able to tell readers what they will get upon reading your post. You can draw significant traffic to your blog, if the title is listing out an advantage.
    Good Example: 10 Ways to Increase Your Alexa Rank
    Bad Example: Information on Alexa Rank
  4. How-to Headline Appeals: How to stop smoking in 30 days? How to start an online business from home? Quite possibly that such headlines have drawn your attention, immediately! The how-to headline appeals to most of our needs to improve ourselves, career, health etc. Once you have used how-to in the title, you must highlight the process in your blog.
    Good Example: How Inbound Marketing Can Grow Your Businesses
    Bad Example: Use Inbound Marketing to grow your business
  5. Well-formatted title: This is because, some of these characters tend to get distorted and replaced by other characters, such as, “?” etc. For example, Alternatives to Photoshop ? Web Based Image Editors. Take extra care when you use the following characters:
  • Double Quote ( ” ” )
  • Single Quote ( ‘ ‘ )
  • Comma ( , )
  • Question Mark ( ? )
  • Hyphen ( – )
  • Dash ( En Dash ” – “ or Em Dash ” — “)
  • Apostrophes ( ‘ )
  • Exclamation Points ( ! )
  • Colons ( : )
  • Ampersand ( & )

Do you have any tips to share? Feel free to add to this list!

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