We've been watching a bit of juicy web gossip spread like wildfire today. It's set off alarm bells for folks using email marketing as well as the companies that provide email marketing services. It all started with a blog post by Jake Ludington that described his website's recent SEO ranking issues. He received a tip from "someone at Google" that new algorithms involving email reputation were in play. Jake surmised that a large number of non-responsive Gmail recipients on his email newsletter list were causing reputation problems that began to affect his Google rankings. His advice to combat the issue is to regularly purge unresponsive recipients from email marketing lists.
Here's the interesting part. The head of Google's Webspam team, Matt Cutts, quickly and rather decisively debunked Jake's theory in the blog's comments section. Matt explained that search rankings and email domain reputation are not linked. That hasn't stopped the rumor from spreading rather rapidly and igniting discussions about list cleanliness and Google's ever-changing reach.
To be sure, we're big proponents of keeping your list up-to-date. A regular review of your list and removal of non-responsive recipients can only help your reputation as a legitimate sender. While it might not affect your SEO rankings, it does reflect on your organization's reputation and helps keep your response rates high.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on the issue. The post is still being shared via social networks and it's not clear that people are taking the time to read through to the comments. What do you think about the way the rumor spread online? Has Google done enough to put people at ease? Any other take-aways from the story?
With a new social space and series for advertisers, Facebook sure has been acting friendly to advertisers. What does it mean for your agency?
Saying that it's been a busy few weeks over at Facebook almost feels like saying it's been a loud few weeks at the dog pound – do they ever have quiet ones? Last month, Facebook announced a suite of new tools geared specifically towards marketers, and as someone who works closely with Emma's agency partners, this announcement really grabbed my attention. Even though Facebook has climbed to the #3 position in online ad revenue (just behind Google and Yahoo), they've largely done so without any overtures of friendship to the advertising world. But now they're inviting marketers to get involved — in a specially moderated online community and a series of live interactive sessions — and it might just change how you think about positioning your agency online.
"Create a new group:" An online community for advertisers
First, we got Facebook Studio. Launched just over a month ago, it's a communal space for advertisers to share their best work and draw inspiration and insight from the work of others. Barely one month later, it's grown into a lively marketplace of ideas whose currency is popularity — agencies can share the Facebook-oriented creative work they're most proud of, and the most-liked campaigns move from the "Gallery" area into the "Spotlight," where they enjoy prominent placement and full multimedia treatment. For those agencies still lingering in the shallow area of Facebook's marketing tool pool, there's the "Learning Lab," a collection of educational resources geared towards social marketing beginners and journeymen. Although each campaign boasts its own comments section (in a startlingly MySpace-like arrangement, no less), Facebook Studio requires no login to access — you can browse their offerings any time at www.facebook-studio.com.
"RSVP to this event:" Facebook interactive sessions for marketers
In conjunction with Facebook Studio's release, Facebook announced a series of interactive sessions titled, conveniently enough, Facebook Studio Live. The very first Facebook Studio Live event was held in Toronto in March to a crowd of roughly 80 participants, and last week saw the very first stateside Studio Live event in New York City. Playing to a smallish crowd of roughly 200 marketers, it was by all accounts a tightly focused session that centered around creating quality content for social media. Reviews were generally positive for their first New York Studio Live session. Ad Age writer Kunur Patella liked the event, which gave advertisers an opportunity to hear from Facebook higher-ups like Carolyn Everson, VP of Global Sales, and Paul Adams, Facebook product manager. But, as Christopher Heine of ClickZ reports, there's still a healthy thread of skepticism to be found in the feedback. While it's generally agreed that Facebook opening its doors to agencies and inviting them to join the conversation will yield some great opportunities, some are concerned about the intellectual property implications of a Facebook-moderated online community.
Mark Zuckerberg would like to be your friend. Accept?
So what do we think? Well, it's a little early to say, really. Facebook Studio is a pleasantly uncluttered and easily navigable experience that we'd heartily recommend to any agency partner who wants to learn from the best, and the conversations that are a part of virtually every page seem, for the most part, lively and informed. For now, though, its roster comes mostly from the international hubs like New York, San Francisco, London and Paris, and most of the spotlighted campaigns come from powerhouse brands like HBO and Skittles. Just as "the Facebook" started in the Ivy Leagues, though, there's room for this network to kick into high gear when it expands into smaller, regional markets. And its growing list of agencies with approved submissions is becoming increasingly dotted with "Kansas City" and "Lexington" entries.
In light of Facebook's past transgressions, one is always inclined to look for their "angle" in any new offering. Fortunately, in this case, they've not only hidden their angle in plain sight, but they're also broadcasting it to the advertising world. Facebook clearly wants to grow their advertising dollar revenue in some major ways, and by bringing themselves closer to advertising agencies, they can build a worldwide network of marketers who will gladly do a good deal of legwork for them. While it remains to be seen just how Facebook's new overtures to advertising agencies will play out in the long run, their newfound sense of camaraderie with marketers brings with it a host of case studies and resources that will no doubt be a huge help to agencies in any stage of the social marketing game — from small, regional firms who need a video tutorial on how Facebook "pages" work to heavy hitters on the coasts who have the capacity to build sophisticated mobile apps to tie into their social strategy. It's hard to say if a Facebook Studio presence for agencies will ever become as important as a Facebook presence for brands, but since any Facebook-marketer partnership is based on mutual self interest, the opportunity for growth seems limitless.
Attention, customer service gurus with a love for design and branding: Work with us!
We're looking for a design consultant in Nashville to round out our team of advisors who help our clients discover and articulate what they want from their custom designs.
As a design consultant, you will often be the first and most enduring face of the design team for many of our customers. Because of that, it's essential that you possess the perfect blend of solid design knowledge, project management chops and customer service skills. The person we're looking for could confidently explain why layered files make for easier revisions, translate those revisions into design-speak for the designer and then coordinate the completion of the project itself — all with the warmth and genuine enthusiasm that our clients deserve.
Experience in marketing coordination, ad trafficking or similar fields would definitely be a plus, as these jobs often require the same basic strengths and skills as the design consultant position. Our team turns out high volume on a quick turnaround with style, and we also enjoy a good afternoon snack to celebrate our efforts. (Especially if said snack involves Taylor's tandy cake. Yum.) Other things we like include Razor scooters, nicknames, office visits from co-workers' puppies and making new Pandora stations.
So what do you say, dear reader? Would you like to advise our fabulous clients on email form and function? For more information or to apply, please click here.
If you're a graphic designer, we're looking for that as well! Check out that position over here.
A fresh email strategy and a brand new look for a Nashville hot spot
I love a makeover. There's something magical about seeing a sweeping, marked improvement and wondering about the journey from point A to point B. You can imagine my excitement, then, when I saw such a makeover pop into my inbox recently.
My favorite Nashville wine bar, Rumours, is an anchor of the trendy 12th South neighborhood and a top-notch spot with a relaxed, artful atmosphere. Over the years, co-owner Christy Shuff has worked to ensure Rumours' role as a vibrant contributor to (and supporter of) Nashville's local business community — and becoming one of Emma's first clients in 2005 was just one part of that initiative.
Since then, Rumours' owners have been intentional about informing their patrons of upcoming specials and events. Christy's business partner handled the responsibility of email campaigns in the early days, using a stationery that served them well for a number of years.
The time eventually came for an update, but amid the chaos of owning and running a restaurant, it was a project that ended up on the back burner. Rumours continued to send email campaigns, but without a stationery design to frame the content. As a result, this fabulous hot spot's mailings weren't capturing their fun personality and stylish image.
Then came January of this year, when Christy's decision to re-evaluate their email strategy led her to our design team. Emma designer Elizabeth Williams took a look at the Rumours brand and crafted something that artfully, dynamically blends the caliber of the restaurant with the spunk of the atmosphere. That new design inspired Christy to take a fresh look at the content layout too, and the result is impressive — it brings Rumours' style to the forefront of their emails.
"[Our campaigns] have a more professional, structured format now," says Christy. "It's as if the right background for a painting had finally shown itself. I've received many compliments on our campaigns and feel that our message looks and feels more professional."
Just look at the profound difference between the old campaign and the new. We are so proud of Christy and Rumours — not just for making good design a priority, but for having the tenacity to protect and promote the brand identity they've worked so hard to develop over the years. We raise our glass to you, Christy! Here's to many more years of celebrations.
Kelley Kirker, our resident makeover expert, has taken fabulous turns as both Jackie *and* Marilyn in the last year. Her current style, created by her twin sister and stylist, was inspired by the fiery elegance of Julianne Moore. We can't wait to see what Kelley tries next.
If the Emma design team can reinvent your current email design — or help you dream up the first — please let us know: Give us a shout if you'd like to start an account. Or request a design if you're already part of our community.
Last month, in honor of Earth Day, we sat down to dream up a plan worthy of our leafy green friends. We wanted to plant 100 extra trees — in addition to the five we already plant for each new customer — and we asked for your help.
We created a snazzy infographic to represent the value of one tree, and we asked you to share it with your networks on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. If you shared 100 times, we'd plant 100 trees. And, boy, did you deliver.
Without further ado, here's the breakdown by-the-numbers:
142 people shared our April Roundup on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
36 people forwarded the roundup to their friends.
More than 90 people tweeted and re-tweeted the infographic on Twitter.
If you're doing the math, that's about 270 shares — simply crushing the goal. Here's just a small sample of the tweets:
Thanks so much for your tree-lovin' enthusiasm, and we're happy to report that our partners at Plant-It 2020 will be planting 100 additional trees in the world this spring.
Patti Faulkner is the founder and owner of Colorado-based Premise Advertising and Premise E-Connect, the agency's email marketing division. She was kind enough to take some time out of a busy Monday to answer five questions.
Tell me a little bit about your shop, Patti.
I'm a really small shop. I have one other full-time employee and one part-time employee. And I have anywhere from two to eight freelancers working for me at any given time. Our size has given me a lot of flexibility with scale. In addition to running Premise Advertising, I'm also a mom of three, which makes my business the perfect size. It's small enough that I get to work with every one of my clients and not have to solely worry about running the business side of things.
We're a full branding firm, so for most of our clients, we've developed their entire brand. From their logo to their website, to their on-site marketing materials, like brochures — we have them covered. We work on their online presence through email, online advertisements and SEO because it really is one of the most cost-effective ways that you can get out there.
What Emma feature could you or your clients not live without? Which feature has had the biggest effect on your bottom line?
It's a very simple and basic tool, but it's the ease of creating a group and being able to copy people from one group to another. Being able to easily select members that are in multiple categories and groups, then sending them very, very specific emails — that's phenomenal. Honestly, that's the one thing that pulls people over to my solution time and time again. I set up their email systems a little like a CRM, so that no matter who your client is — if it's a restaurant and you're looking at your lunch crowd, or if it's real estate and it's people who are looking for a two bedroom — we can drill right down and send very targeted messages.
We typically get anywhere between a 28% and 36% open rate because we are very specific and targeted when sending our emails. That has to do with groups. I also do a lot of work on the backend to make sure I have a lot of detailed information about my clients' members, so I can find those segments. That's my number one, most-used tool in Emma.
I know that sounds very simple, but I don't think that people really think about how intentional and targeted you can be by using groups and searches. At any given moment, my clients will know how many people are in their lunch crowd, how many people signed up on a certain campaign and how many people are from their Facebook account. It's nice because people care when they think that you know who they are.
What's your "niche?" Why is it that new clients decide to come on board with you?
My biggest advantage is that I have both corporate and design backgrounds. So I really think very strategically about each client and how they can position themselves most effectively.
Who is your brand crush and why?
Southwest Airlines. They have done an amazing job at branding themselves with their "We Love You" campaign. From their online presence to when you get on a plane, you know that everyone that works there supports that motto. They've definitely personalized the enormous airline industry that's, otherwise, so impersonal.
Who's the one person or band you'd like to see live that you haven't seen yet?
Well, I'm originally from Seattle, so music is huge there. I've pretty much trucked and seen a lot of my favorites. So, it's hard for me to think of someone I haven't seen. I just saw one of my coveted favorites, Eddy Vedder from Pearl Jam perform acoustically at a private concert. Before that, I would have said "to see Pearl Jam play again." I'm still waiting on the Pearl Jam come-back tour, though.
Not a customer yet? Interested in seeing more about the features Emma offers? Take a look at Emma at a Glance — it's a meeting-ready PDF that highlights Emma's email marketing features and pricing.
Part four of four to building an effective engagement strategy
And the winner is…
If you've taken our lead and done some testing recently, you may be ready to find out how different mailings stacked up against one another. We wouldn't send you on your way without providing some guidance as to what to do when the mailings are complete. Our compare mailings feature is the perfect way to find out what practices you want to keep and what should be left behind. You may discover things about your audience you never knew. Get ready to compare mailings, and find out which test is the winner. (Time to settle up on those bets, eh?)
Compare your mailings to see how they performed.
What is the compare mailings feature?
The compare mailings feature, found in the response section of your account, allows you to compare up to five mailings at a time. You can see an overall summary of the mailings as well as compare the opens and clicks among the five. This is the perfect way to see which subject line your audience members preferred or perhaps which types of links got more clicks (image links vs. text links, for example). You aren't obligated to choose five mailings to compare; if you'd rather just compare a simple A/B subject test, choose the appropriate two mailings to compare.
Why compare your mailings?
Comparing your results not only allows you to see which of your tests proved more successful, but if a mailing's response rates seem particularly low, you can do some sleuthing to find out why. Maybe you're in the practice of sending on the first of every month. If the first happened to fall on a Friday and subsequently suffered particularly low results, you may realize you should always send on the first Wednesday of the month instead. It may sound simple, but the purpose of comparing results is to be proactive; use what your response rates are telling you to guide future strategy.
How to compare mailings in Emma
Emma makes comparing your mailings super simple. You are just a few clicks away from determining the winners of all the testing work you've done over the past few weeks. Click on the Compare Mailings button in the top right of your main response screen. On the next screen, check (up to five) campaigns from the list and click Compare Mailings. Or, after you've selected to view a particular campaign, you can click the Compare Mailings button to compare that particular campaign to others. The Excel spreadsheet will show you a breakdown of the campaigns you selected and a summary of all the numbers combined. Once you see the winner of the tests, you'll be able to choose which strategies to keep and what to leave behind.
Wrapping up the series on engagement
From part one of this blog series, where I wrote about triggers, to parts two and three, where I gave tips on list hygiene and new strategies for more personalized campaigns, we've covered a lot of ground.
I'd love to hear how you're thinking about engagement. What tests are you running, and how are you gauging the success of your mailings? Have you compared mailings recently, and what has it revealed? Or do you have a different set of metrics in mind that I haven't mentioned to validate your mailing success?
If you're using triggers, personalization or other strategies to boost your response, let me know in the comments below.
How to make your email signup forms convert into happy subscribers
Every week, I sign up for a couple more email newsletters. (Yes, my inbox is starting to get really full. That's a subject for another time.) And I'm always on the lookout for signup forms done well. This might strike you as odd, but the email opt-in signup form often foreshadows content to come.
If a company doesn't give much thought to their opt-in signup form, it could mean that their emails will be similarly lacking. On the other hand, a company that's taken time to give shape to the signup process is sure to care about reader experience every step of the way.
Take Social Fresh, for example. Their signup form is embedded in the sidebar of their homepage. It's clean, simple and easy to find, without taking up too much real estate on the page. Best of all, it includes a Find out more info link to let you know what you're signing up for. Giving subscribers a sneak peek before they commit is a lovely touch.
But the best bit comes after clicking subscribe: an email signup confirmation page that's quirky and full of helpful — and strategically smart — information.
The email confirmation signup page includes:
A link to past issues of the newsletter, so you can take advantage of all of the great content they've already created.
A short explanation of the newsletter's content and sending frequency. They're setting subscriber expectations right off the bat.
Solicitation for content ideas, including the hashtag you can use on Twitter when sending ideas. It's a direct way of asking for feedback while reinforcing their social media presence.
A link to their website's RSS feed, if you're interested in even more content from Social Fresh.
And a picture of a really happy dog. You've just got to feel good about signing up for Social Fresh when you see that dog.
Pay attention to the "Thank You" screen that folks will see after clicking to sign up. Here you can create links to prior newsletters, provide information about your newsletter and tell folks where they can find you on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.
If you have any questions along the way, let us know. And if you run across particularly fabulous signup forms, share them here! Share it with us at #emmatwitip – we'll see you there!
Want more behind-the-scenes technical info? If you dig Python and open source, geek out with our engineers and developers over on our tech blog.