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How to use SEO and SEM in your email marketing

Once more, with feeling: Keyword research helps your business

Today’s guest post is written by Daniel Laws, Jr., founder and president of DaBrian Marketing Group, LLC, a leading Internet marketing company since 2008 and Minority-Owned Business Enterprise. DaBrian Marketing Group specializes in search engine marketing & web analytics. Daniel is a blogger, Google AdWords Certified Individual, Microsoft Advertising Accredited Professional, Google Analytics Qualified Individual, member of SEMPO & Digital Analytics Association (WAA) and has an M.B.A. with an emphasis in Marketing.

He’s here to share his expertise on search engine optimization and search engine marketing -- and how your business can apply best practices to your email marketing strategy.

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With Emma, you're in good company. Meet our Customers.

Announcing a change to our opt-out process

A new required button allows subscribers to confirm their opt out

I’m here to share a change to Emma’s opt-out process, effective today. Historically, unsubscribing from an Emma email has been a one-click process; a recipient of an Emma email clicked the opt-out link to unsubscribe immediately from the list. This afternoon, we’re releasing one more step to the opt-out process: a simple screen with a required confirmation button to ensure that the recipient of the email really intends to unsubscribe.

 

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Death to bot talk

Tips on voice for anybody who writes web stuff

Let’s face it: most companies write marketing copy for the web and email that reads like it was written by a robot.

And nobody likes bots. (See: spambots, twitbots, fembots, that 80s movie with Emilio Estevez where all the semi-trucks come to life.)

I spot this kind of writing all the time in email marketing campaigns — that’s the realm I work in — but it’s just as rampant in every other digital medium.

“The objective of our organization is to provide best-in-class e-commerce solutions that facilitate bottom-line growth.”

Okay, fine, but don’t you just help people sell more stuff?

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What we’re reading now

A roundup of articles for small busness owners and Emma Agencies

If you’re anything like me, then your day consists of asking yourself this question countless times as you scroll through your Twitter app, Facebook feed, Flipboard and RSS reader: Is reading this article going to be worth my time?

Content marketing has afforded us more free resources, case studies and education than we could possibly have time for. In this roundup, I’m cutting through the noise and sharing some of my favorite recent reads.

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Plan your next event with Emma’s help

Tools for creating invitations, managing RSVPs and more

Emma loves a party. And a webinar. And an open house. Emma’s a pro at planning events, and all the tools you need to promote, invite and create follow-ups for your own in-person or online event already exist in your Emma account (and are included in your monthly pricing) — no need to turn to a third-party solution to handle e-vites. Check out these simple steps for planning your next event with Emma.

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Getting Emma’s new content editor ready to go

How usability testing and private beta are inspiring changes that you'll love

How do you improve the campaign editing process that 30,000 customers use daily?

Very carefully.

That’s why we’ve built in usability testing sessions and a private beta period before Emma’s new content editor is ready for prime time.

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Do something unexpected

Surprise your audience, and make a lasting impression

Hey there, everyone. My name is C.C. Chapman, and I’m the co-author of the best-selling book Content Rules.

I’m going to be writing from time to time to help you create better content that will gain the attention of the people you’re hoping to reach. If there are specific questions that you’d like to see answered, drop me an e-mail and I’ll try to address them in future posts here.

Now, lets get to the heart of the matter.d!

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Do you read your emails from top to bottom? Me neither.

Confession time: I don't read most of the emails in my inbox. I open them and scan them, but if the email is too lengthy or the content isn't organized well, I'm likely to move on to the next unread item.

Short paragraphs or teasers are most likely to catch my eye, and they often end with some linked text inviting me to "read more." Without even thinking too hard about it, I click the link and am transported to more engaging content on a landing page, which contains just the topic or article I'm interested in. The experience feels customized and personal, even though I'm controlling my path.

Think about your own habits in the inbox. I'm not the only email scanner out there, right? Take note of what compels you to read an email and click through to read more, and apply those practices in your own campaigns. And if you've never created a landing page before, here's a quick overview of the basics.

So what exactly is a landing page?

Put simply, a landing page is just the place where readers land when they click on a link in your email. The purpose of a landing page may vary:

  • Promotions may link to a product page on a retailer's website.
  • Invitations may link to a registration form.
  • Newsletters may link to articles too lengthy to include in the body of the email.

How do I create a landing page quickly?

Sometimes you know you're going to use landing pages (usually on your website) before you even start creating your campaign. But what if you want to create landing pages on the fly to shorten the length of your overall campaign, and you aren't able to move the additional content to your website? You can use your Emma account to create a quick landing page on your branded stationery.

  1. Create a separate campaign for each "read more" link you plan to include in your email. Each campaign will contain the full article or additional material that doesn't fit in the email you plan to deliver to your readers' inboxes.
  2. Send each one of those campaigns to yourself. Doing so creates a link to an online version on your Emma response page, and you'll need that URL for your "read more" links.
  3. Access the online version by opening the response for each campaign you just sent to yourself. Just click the "Online Version" link on the left side of the screen when you're viewing your response overview. Your campaign will open in a new tab. Copy the URL at the top of your browser and keep it handy. This is your landing page link.
  4. Create the email campaign you plan to send to your subscribers. Add teasers in your content, each with a compelling reason to read on, and use Emma's editor to link the teaser text to the online versions of your landing pages.

How do I make sure my landing pages are effective?

Smart marketers know how to take advantage of every online interaction, and landing pages are no exception. Here are some easy tips to ensure your landing pages are effective:

  • Highlight your brand. If you're using your custom Emma stationery, you've already got a branded framework for your landing page. The key is creating a consistent brand experience across all of your online channels.
  • Add some pizzazz to your landing page. Consider these tried and true design tips from Formstack's Anatomy of a Perfect Landing Page.
  • Include something the email didn't provide. You want to reward your reader for clicking to read on, yes? Don't repeat what they just read in your email; give them further details — it's your opportunity to really engage them.
  • Create landing pages for your landing pages. This isn't as complicated as it sounds. Just make sure your landing pages link readers back to your website, blog or Facebook page rather than making it a dead end.
  • Pay attention to what readers are clicking on. A great perk of using Emma to create landing pages is that you can easily spot which links get the most traction in your response results. Use that knowledge to better understand what your audience finds compelling.

Want to talk more about landing pages? Let us know how these tips and how-tos work for you, or if you've got a few tips of your own to share.

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Like this article? Read more email best practices from Emma.

Meet Emma designer Elizabeth Williams

Elizabeth shares tips for customizing your email's format and making your content stand out
Elizabeth at the office
Elizabeth works … and wears her thinking cap.

Around the Emma office, designer Elizabeth William is better known by her nickname, Lizard. You've seen her work in your inbox if you receive Emma's Roundups and all over the Emma website (like the imagery in our homepage video). Get to know her a bit better today, as she shares email design wisdom that'll help your messages stand out.

You've designed custom email templates for Emma customers. Templates frame content nicely, but what do you recommend for arranging the body of an email (its text and image fields)?

Great question. It's best to have your content strategy determined before you get to design. Establishing a content hierarchy is so important when making complementary visual hierarchy decisions. Here are some questions to ask yourself about the content that will help to inform the design:

1. How often do you want to send?
Sending often might mean sharing just one or two stories per email. Sending a newsletter-style monthly or quarterly email requires you to give a bit more thought to how all the stories will come together — and how your design elements will support the story.

2. What do your subscribers respond to?
Do they tend to click more on image-based links or text-based links? Do they click on stories at the top of your email, or are their clicks dispersed throughout the email? Are they mostly mobile users? The answers to these questions will determine how you should lay out your content.

3. Is the amount of content you've chosen easily replicable?
For example, if you have four articles each month and you want an image to go with each, do you have access to great imagery that will support each article every time you mail? If not, you may need to rethink what you want to do there, or think about having an in-house designer create images that you can re-use. Or, ask the Emma design team. We love making designs that work for the resources you have access to!

4. How does your brand use imagery, and how can that imagery best support your story via email? Could you utilize custom image-based headings?
Image-based headings really add pop and personality to an email.

5. What's your message hierarchy?
Do you have a featured article each time? Do you have a big image up top that spans the width of your stationery? This will help you determine if you'd like to use a similar story layout each time, or if you'd like to switch it up each month, based on the news at your company.

Other questions to consider: Can you reduce the amount of copy and let some images do the talking? Or better yet, can you create teaser copy that links to the full stories elsewhere? Can you use a sidebar for quick links, ad space or smaller supporting elements (as opposed to primary/secondary items in the content hierarchy)?

I find headlines, subheadings and body text hard to balance visually. When you design a stationery that's meant to employ consistent headline and body copy (like Emma's Agency Insider), how do you find the perfect balance?

A good headline is powerful. It needs to entice the reader, and it should be very distinguishable from the body copy. There aren't really set-in-stone rules for this type of thing since there are many ways to achieve a good balance between headline, subhead and body copy. Here's one test you can do: after you style your copy, scoot back from your computer and make sure the first thing you see in the text is are the headlines. If those are somewhat distinguishable from a distance, you're on the right track. Typically, playing with bold, italics, text-based divider lines (using dashes, forward slashes or Emma's horizontal rule tool) and color will all help to create the right balance, but always remember to self-edit.

Choose two or three styles to make each section distinct and stick with them. Don't oversaturate your text with styling. If you use much more than two fonts, two colors (even accent colors), more than two or three font sizes, it'll look cluttered. And just because I have your attention — no comic sans, please.

I've noticed that most folks stick to a clean sans-serif font, like Helvetica or Verdana. The Uppercase email (below) is a nice exception. Mixing font choices can be tricky, though. What holds this campaign together even though it employs a number of different typeface styles and colors?

Uppercase newsletter
Uppercase blends several fonts and colors in their email.
There's no shame in making daring font selections (well, daring in the realm of web-safe fonts). But you've got to have the design reasoning to back it up. In Uppercase's email (I just love Uppercase, by the way!), they clearly want you to read the text in the serif font [the main article section] first. So they set it apart using a different style of font than the rest of the mailing — and they also bumped up the size a few points to create an obvious hierarchy.

Also, since that particular copy is in letter format, the serif font gives it a more classic, formal feel which is in contrast to their use of a sans-serif in the sidebar for more ad-like copy; they want to get straight to business there. Within that serif text in the main well, they've highlighted what they consider the most important piece of information by changing the color of the type and using bold and italics when appropriate.

I like mixing sans-serif and serif fonts in headline and subhead copy. I typically prefer the headline to be in the serif font and the subhead in a sans (Georgia and Tahoma provide a nice mix), with a very obvious font size difference. Using that mixture lends a classic sophistication to any campaign, but always have your brand top of mind when making that decision.

Oh, one last thought — using a serif font within your sans text for a pull quote is also a cool way to use the mixture and give it a more editorial feel.

In last year's New Year's Resolution design, you chose a striking purple color to highlight several areas, including some of the header text. I'm guessing it's not a coincidence that this is also the shade of Claire's lipstick in the design. But which came first? Did you isolate that color from the photograph? Or did you plan the color scheme, then adjust the photo?

Emma's New Year's Resolutions campaign
Elizabeth's design uses a striking highlight color in the text and image.
Oh, interesting question. The color scheme for the campaign was decided before our photo shoot. I actually played off of our Emma green and used magenta as an accent color to give it a fresh feel since it was all about New Year's Resolutions. We edited the photos accordingly, and then enhanced her lipstick with that purply-pink text color to tie it all together. Photoshop is fun.

Pulling a highlight color from a logo or photograph is a great way to bring the email together visually. But, at least initially, it sounds a little daunting to those of us without design chops. What sorts of tips and tools do you recommend?

Since Emma's email tools are simply an extension of your brand, I think the most daunting part is making the foundational commitment to your brand. That is, choosing brand colors, denoting the primary, secondary and accent usage cases for each, the font styles you want to use, etc. Get together with your team to build a brand style guide, then find the specific color codes for the colors you've selected.

If you're working with an Emma designer, we'd love to help with color selections, and we can provide the proper color codes to input when using Emma's text editor. If you need a free, on-the-fly "color picker" check out Eye Drop for Chrome, or Colorzilla for Firefox. You can identify the HEX code for your color, then input it in the Emma text editor.

I also like free photo editing tools like Skitch, Gimp and Pixlr. With a little practice, they become pretty easy to use.

What is the Emma design team up to now?

We're really busy — and really excited — to be working on a new template gallery for Emma customers. They'll be able to choose from hundreds (literally, hundreds) of free readymade templates, then customize the look of their campaigns with their logo and brand colors. It's a lot of work, and we can't wait to unveil the designs soon.

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Emma powers the emails of more than 30,000 businesses, nonprofits and agencies.

An update on Emma’s giving back efforts

How each new Emma customer helps us support DonorsChoose.org

Since we give $5 to DonorsChoose for every new customer that signs up, Emma employees have a lot of fun directing upwards of $2,000 each month to deserving classrooms. A rotating cast of our staffers hand-pick where the money goes each time, and it's such a joy to make personal connections and help underfunded teachers and projects.

Let's take a look at some recent projects we've helped fund …

Comic books bring Shakespeare to life

Cody De Vos, a member of our agency relations team, directed and co-wrote Terminator the Second, a re-imagination of Terminator II using dialogue culled directly from Shakespeare's works. It's no stretch to say he's a film geek.

So with that production fresh on their minds, a few staffers quickly fell in love with Mrs. C's request for comic book versions of Romeo and Juliet. We hope this project inspired her high school students to embrace the works of Shakespeare — and become life-long readers.

Books in bags for better readers

Jerry Morrison keeps IT operations running smoothly around the office, and he's also the father of a young son who's enthusiastic about reading. When choosing this project as one for Emma to fund, he knew that purchasing books for a low-income, second-grade classroom was a no-brainer.

"I know how much my kiddo loves reading and getting cool books to bring home from school," he said. "I think it would be neat to help give these kids the same excitement."

Smile for the yearbook

Mrs. H. sponsors an after-school art club and supervises the yearbook, but she'd always taken the pictures herself or recruited parents' help. This year, though, she wanted to give her students digital cameras so they could capture memories through their own eyes.

David Weintraub, a senior sales associate at Emma and professional photographer, spotted the project. "It's great to support young photography students," he said. "I love that we helped them get the tools they need to learn."

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Thanks for joining Emma, and helping us do some good in classrooms around the country. Think you'd like to get more involved? It's completely possible that your ability to help spark a love of reading, passion for graphic design or enthusiasm for football is only a click away. Visit DonorsChoose.org to find projects that fit your own interests, and tell us what you find.