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Email Marketing Best Practices: It Starts with the Subject Line

Email marketing is one of the most effective, and economical ways to reach out to your business’ target audience. And, just as the headline plays an important role in content marketing, so does the subject line in email marketing. Keep reading for some email subject line best practices that are sure to call attention.

Your Subject Line: The Ultimate Call to Action

Email subject lines are your ultimate calls-to-action. A full 35% of email recipients will open an email, just on its subject line alone, so a strong subject line can be just the push you need to drive conversions.

Personalization Matters

“Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Dale Carnegie’s influential words remain as relevant today as they did 100 years ago. They’re possibly even more important in the digital realm, which can seem cold and impersonal all too easily.

Whenever possible, personalize the subject line of your email. Not only does this simple practice increase open rates by 2.6%, is just might brighten someone’s day.

The Words You Include Matter

Some words are better than others, that’s no secret. But the words you use in your email subject line can affect everything from open and click rates, to how many people unsubscribe from your mailing list. So choose wisely. And be sure to check out this list from mailup.com of some common email subject line words, and how they perform in the wild.

Keep It Short

Subject lines with fewer than 10 characters have an open rate of 58%. Enough said.

Don’t Be Deceptive

It might seem like a good idea, but you know who adds tags like FWD and RE to email subjects when they don’t belong? Spammers. Not only are deceptive subject lines annoying, but they can hurt your entire campaign: once enough recipients mark your email as spam, emails from that address will begin to be filtered by the service provider’s spam filter. That’s definitely something you want to avoid.

Be Very Specific

Instead, opt to tell the reader exactly what the email is about. Your subject line is your email marketing call-to-action, remember. And just like any other CTA, specificity is key. For example, if you’re business is running a Fall sale, don’t simply put “Sale!” in the subject line, use something like “Jon, You Can Save Up To 50% at [your store] Now Through Oct 31.”

Don’t Recycle the Same Subject Lines

If you’re using the same subject line over and over again, people will begin to tune it out. Unlike other forms of marketing, repetition will do you no favors when it comes to email. Opening, reading, and acting/responding to an email is a much more active process than say, hearing an ad on the radio. And people are busy. So keep your content fresh.

Some More Things To Try

Using brackets or unicode to set off words or phrases may lend urgency or emphasis to your message. While one copywriter found that putting her company name in brackets [Like This] at the end of the subjects lines gained a boost in open rates, your mileage may vary. Likewise for unicode symbols.

Ultimately these are aesthetic choices, and whether you should use them or not depends on your message, and most importantly, the preferences of your target audience. If they might like it, give it a try.

Now that you’ve brushed up on your email marketing subject line skills, get out there and send some emails. Experiment with a few A/B tests, and find what works best for you.

The 5 Steps to Creating an Online Advertising Budget

Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried to figure out how to create an online advertising budget for your business, but had no idea where to start.

When you start the process of creating an online advertising budget, you’re hit with a ton of different options from Google ads to SEO services. Finding the right mix of products, services, and internal resources to allocate can quickly turn into a major headache.

Deciding to spend some of your business’s hard earned cash to increase your online footprint can be difficult – but there’s good news: Creating a budget for digital marketing doesn’t have to be intimidating. With the right research, planning and strategies you can easily create a powerful online advertising budget — all without much time or energy going to waste.

Below we’ll walk you through the five basic steps to creating an online advertising budget. When you’re done you’ll have a better idea on how much to budget, where to spend and how to plan for the future.

1. Determine a Percentage of Overall Revenue to Spend

Allocating a percentage of overall revenue is an important first step to creating an online advertising budget. This model creates a consistent and repeatable method for developing your digital marketing spend. According to Gartner, companies spent around 2.5% of their annual revenue for online marketing in 2014. This will only continue to increase significantly in upcoming years. Don’t be afraid to start small and increase the percentage as you become familiar with what works and what doesn’t. The main point is that you have a well-reasoned, predetermined amount to get your digital marketing efforts off the ground.

2. Use the Competition’s Budget as a Reference Point

Building greater brand recognition than the competition is one of the primary objectives of advertising online. By using competitors’ budgets as a benchmark, you know about how much you need to spend in order to match their level of brand awareness in the marketplace. Surprisingly, there are a variety of tools and applications available online that can provide insight into your competitors’ budgets. For example, iSpionage allows you to enter a competitor’s website address and subsequently generate a report detailing how much they spend on both organic and paid search. Use this data as a guidepost, and cross-reference it with your figure from the previous step to get an even more accurate figure of what you should probably spend.

3. Determine What Your Strategic Goals Are

Deciding how to create an online advertising budget depends heavily on the overall strategic business goals of your company. This can vary depending on each situation, and include things like generating brand awareness, capturing inbound leads or increasing sales conversions. Implementing a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Based) goal-planning methodology for your overall business is a great first step. Once you’ve identified the key, big-picture success metrics — revenue targets, increase in client base — you can then determine how online marketing will help you achieve those goals and how much you’ll need to spend in order to get there.

4. Use Historical Data and Analysis

In today’s landscape, having a data-driven approach pays huge dividends by way of making accurate, well-informed business decisions. In terms of creating an online advertising budget, there are quite a few research databases that provide historical online marketing data. These can be broken down by time period, industry, company size and other variables. Tools such as SimilarWeb provide historical benchmarks for statistics like web visitors and mobile app usage. A comparison of the relevant historical data with your current statistics and marketing objectives will then lead you to make more informed decisions in the next step, which is choosing the appropriate online advertising tools and platforms.

5. Select the Online Advertising Channels That Are Right for You

Finally, and perhaps the most important of the five steps to creating an online advertising budget, is deciding the online platforms and channels that best suit your business. These can include, but are not limited to, Google ads, Social Media, Video Content, and Retargeting ads. Each comes with its own set of strengths, weaknesses and associated cost structure. You may want to start by gauging the status of your current basic online marketing efforts, which typically include website performance, SEO and company blog — if you don’t have one now, you probably should. Based on the previous four steps you can then assess your potential online marketing mix, how much each one will cost and what they will likely contribute to your long-term business goals.

Complete these five steps to creating your advertising budget and you’ll be well on the way to digital marketing success. And do you know what the best part is? Creating your online advertising budget for the next year won’t feel nearly as daunting.

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Is Your Business Haunted by Poor Online Reviews?

As a small business, you know all too well how important word-of-mouth marketing can be for your reputation and bottom line. In this age of internet revolution, poor online reviews can leave a nasty mark on your online presence. But sometimes, these unfavorable reviews show up even when your business has done nothing wrong, simply because the reviewer, for whatever reason, wants to inflict unnecessary harm on the business to be spiteful.

Regardless of the reason, justified or not, business owners know that you can’t please everyone; there are some customers that will never be happy, and one bad client is worse than hundreds of happy ones.

People are relying heavily on reviews found on online review sites like Yelp, and the quality and quantity of these reviews can dramatically affect your business’s ROI. With online reviews being a critical part of your business’s reputation, it’s important to understand the best ways to deal with negative reviews.

What to Do With a Business That Already Has Poor Reviews?

It’s time to embrace managing your business’s online reputation as part of your marketing strategy. Whether you want to believe it or not, reviews can make or break a small business. BrightLocal’s 2015 Local Customer Review Survey just found that 87% of potential customers won’t even consider a business with low ratings. So, what do you do if you already have poor reviews?

First, go to the source. Look past the review for a moment and determine what your business needs to do to improve. Was the review bashing your customer service? If so, did they mention or describe who the employee was that gave them poor service? It may be worthwhile to speak with that person to get their side of the story, and take further action if necessary. Your employees need to understand that you’re running business, providing a service, or product, and they must always act in a professional and friendly manner. 

One thing you should NEVER do is pay for companies to “remove” your bad reviews. We have remove in quotation marks because once it’s out there in the Twitterverse, it can never be fully removed. Unfortunately, most people who review businesses fall into one of two extreme categories: they either loved the business or they absolutely detested it. Most people who fall in between those two sentiments don’t tend to take the time to write reviews. What this means for you is, customers that had a terrible experience see to it that everyone knows about it. If they find out you’ve “removed” their review, they may continue to post negative feedback on multiple social media and review platforms. 

Instead of trying to buy the reviewer’s silence, try to handle the situation with great customer service. Respond to the negative comment publicly, address their issues, and offer a way to remedy the problem. This will not only show the reviewer, but potential customers looking at your reviews, that you’re paying attention and care about customer satisfaction. Oftentimes the reviewer can make amendments to their review. If you respond to a negative post, it’s not uncommon for the reviewer to update their review with a better rating and a less biased opinion. Conversely, this can work the other way, where a once good review turns sour based on more recent experiences.

Paying the Price for Paying For Reviews

Positive online reviews are the crucial lifeblood of your business’s online reputation. However, going to any lengths to get a good review — like paying for it — can land you in hot water. Take for example the true and cautionary story of Catskills hotel, Union Street Guest House. This boutique hotel wanted positive reviews so badly that they went so far as to create a policy where they’d fine guests $500 for every bad review. Below is their policy:

“If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event. If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500 fine for each negative review.”

So you may think that this hotel has a clear reputation full of positive four and five star reviews, right? Wrong. The internet has a way of banding together in certain unethical situations like this and the backlash from their ridiculous policy has led them to mostly 1-star reviews on Yelp and tons of negative PR. So, can online reviews hurt business? Most certainly. This hotel’s determination to land great online reviews by any means necessary resulted in an epic, widely covered, backfire.

Moreover, it’s most certainly not a best practice to write fake reviews, and will only temporarily deceive your customers. They’ll find out firsthand if your business is actually worth those stars. In fact, in New York, 19 companies were forced to pay $350,000 in penalties for misleading practices.

Lastly, don’t let one bad apple spoil your bunch…of reviews. Dilute negative reviews with positive ones. Of course, we’re not suggesting you go home and write a bunch of great reviews for your business under fake Yelp accounts. Simply encourage happy customers to share their experiences with others. Be careful not to outright ask for reviews, as this may lead customers to feel like they’re being used as a promotional vehicle. Instead, encourage engagement.

Many customers are more than happy to help out local businesses that they think are great. The BrightLocal study previously mentioned found that 73% of customers form an opinion after reading 1-6 reviews, and 69% believe that reviews older than three months are no longer relevant. So take a deep breath, that bad review will be watered down by great ones in no time.

Best Practices for Dealing with Bad Reviews

So, you’ve got a bad review. The way in which you handle it can turn the bad review into a nightmare, or hopefully, a positive exchange in which the reviewer’s complaints are mitigated. Here are a few rules for handling bad online reviews:

  • Respond in a Timely Manner: Monitoring your reviews will allow you to respond to negative posts promptly. Reply directly on the comment to make things right. Offer apologies, and encourage the customer to give your business a second chance, perhaps with an incentive to come back, like a 20% off offer.
  • NEVER Respond in Anger: We get it — this business is your baby and you may get defensive if someone has a less-than-stellar experience. Take a moment to compose yourself before you reply to a negative review. Many businesses have responded in anger, and it has cost them dearly. Often times reviewers exaggerate their experience or make things up completely to heighten the severity of the review. This can be incredibly frustrating and embarrassing, but being professional and avoiding replies out of anger or aggression is important. Replying in a defensive or belittling manner can compromise your business’s reputation and worsen an already bad review. Instead, apologize and offer to make things better with a refund or special offer.
  • Issue a Response From the Owner/Manager: This will make the reviewer feel as if their opinion was important enough to be handled by someone in charge. It’ll also show the reviewer or potential customers that you take customer service and satisfaction seriously and you want to make sure all clients leave your establishment feeling happy.
  • Encourage Engagement: While you don’t want to flatout ask for positive reviews, you can encourage interaction by subtly driving awareness that you’re on review sites like Yelp, but stopping short of asking for a review. Ways to do that include posting signs and stickers around your business that encourage people to find you on review sites and including a call-to-action on your promotional materials that lead people to these sites. As long as you aren’t specifically soliciting positive reviews, you aren’t violating any official policies. Your main goal should be to get people talking.

The Moral of the Story

You crave success. You know that your product or service is exemplary, now you just need to get it into the right hands and have the people attached to those hands write you great reviews! But, the internet can be a harsh and dark place and sometimes that’s not what happens. Don’t let one bad review define your business. Address it properly and in a timely manner to diffuse any bad feelings.

You have happy customers, and you know how they feel about your business, but for reasons unknown to you, they aren’t writing reviews. So, it’s harmless to write those reviews for them, right? Wrong! Crafting fake reviews sets you up for all sorts of backlash; there are much better ways of getting good reviews.

Instead of desperately asking for, paying for, or removing bad reviews — take a look at your digital marketing plan and how you can begin to harbor organic, positive reviews. Ultimately, the moral of the story is simple. Provide a great product or service, the best customer service you possibly can, and do it consistently. Engage with your clients, value their opinions, even when they’re negative or constructive. Take those bad reviews as opportunities for improvement. Doing these things will naturally result in great reviews. And there is nothing more satisfying than earning four or five star reviews that you didn’t pay for.

What’s Happening If You Still Don’t Have a Responsive Website

Google’s algorithm has once again changed, and it has a direct affect on your business. This time around it is all about responsive websites. The importance of having a responsive site cannot be understated: Google will punish non-responsive sites by pushing down their search result rankings.

In addition, navigation issues are driving potential customers towards those that are following Google’s rules. Understanding what is happening if you do not have a responsive site will help your business make the changes necessary to maintain your organic rankings and win over new clients.

Why You Need a Responsive Site

In April 2015, Google changed its search algorithm, or the process in which Google ranks sites to favor those websites, landing pages, and blogs which were designed to be viewed with a mobile device. The change had massive repercussions: Search Engine Land, predicts that 40% to 50% of search traffic could be affected.

Why did Google change its algorithm? Because half of all searches are now performed on mobile devices. Google will now reward sites that conform to these trends. Failure to create a responsive website can have a negative impact on your online presence. For example, if your site receives 40% of views via mobile devices, having an unresponsive site risks losing that 40% forever.

Improving the Experience

It’s not just Google. If customers do manage to find you, not having a responsive website may drive them away or take your business less seriously. Responsive designs are an adjustment of the coding and layout of your original site, allowing it to adapt to the screen size and navigation of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. This makes navigation easier while enhancing the quality of your images and logos. In addition, a responsive design can help you conquer the 97% mobile shopping cart abandonment plaguing online businesses.

Brad Frost sums it up nicely when he says that sites shouldn’t transition to a responsive design just to be trendy or high-tech. Rather, a responsive site should improve the user experience. Responsive websites acknowledge that searching and viewing is not just done in one static place anymore. It requires websites to have built in flexibility, especially when moving across or interacting with pages. If you are unsure if your mobile website offers that experience, there are many resources available to test and create responsive websites.

Google Loves the Competition

According to Moz, 67.6% of all searches result in users clicking one of the first five links on the first page of results. Sites with lower rankings, even on the first page, see a steep drop off : even #6-10 on page 1 have just a 3.73% chance of being clicked on.

Google could be sending potential clients to your competition’s responsive sites without you even knowing it. For example, e-shopping via a mobile device now accounts for 40% of all purchases; yet 97% of mobile shopping carts are abandoned.

Web Performance Today explains that this is largely because mobile sites are not designed with mobile shopping in mind, and therefore, nearly 50% of users will go to a competitor’s site if it has a better user experience. Not only are your competitor’s sites getting more traffic than yours thanks to Google’s new algorithm; they are also acquiring more business than you.

Fighting Back with Responsive Websites

If you want to your website to stay on top of the game, it is essential to understand the importance of having a responsive site. Google’s algorithm changes mean that businesses lacking a responsive, mobile-adapting site will be penalized. This can result in downgrading your site on search results or driving potential customers to your competition. That’s why it is vital that your website be optimized for all mobile devices.

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Five Infographics That Will Change Your Online Strategy

If seeing is believing, the following five infographics will make you a believer. They present ideas, tips, facts, and figures that can improve your online presence and inspire your next marketing campaign—all provided by some of the top leaders in their fields. Their nifty graphics and attention to hard data will help your business flourish on the Internet.

1. The Client’s Guide to Creating a Website

Your website is your face to the world. An unattractive site can send searchers packing. A beautifully designed, interactive, and well-curated site can increase your views and have your audience coming back for more—but making this perfect website is more than just picking a site name and writing out text. Great websites take time, goals, research, creativity and professionality to launch. In this infographic by Reed Design Group, learn how you can build and design a site from the ground up that will captivate and inspire.

2. What Is Digital Marketing

With so many new advertising avenues, it can be hard to keep up with all the buzzwords. “Digital marketing” is often believed to be just one of those all encompassing ways to say online advertising. However, Ashdown Group’s infographic dispels this rumor by breaking down what really occurs when you invest in digital marketing and why it matters to your business. This helpful graphic also explains the smaller points of digital marketing that make all the difference including sitemaps, reports, and webmaster tools.

3. 11 Reasons to Care About Mobile Performance in 2015

Did you know that 1.2 billion people use their phones to access the web? This infographic by Web Performance Today does. And if that is not enough for you to want to know more about what your business can do in the mobile arena, they give you eleven more reasons to get started with your mobile campaign. For example, do you know why 97% of mobile shopping carts are abandoned? It’s often because of slowness and experience. That’s just one way this graphic will show you how to improve your website for a new type of viewer.

4. 10 Social Media Marketing Trends to Watch Out for in 2015

A new year brings new trends. CJG Digital Marketing created a breakdown of the ten most important social media behaviors to watch for. It even explains what is and isn’t working in terms of B2B social media marketing. And if you’re looking for what is new and ahead of it’s time, check out the last tip which shows the newest social media sites that are slowly catching on.

5. Understanding Consumers Local Search Behavior

Google is the king of all things online, so why not trust their fact based infographics. With this informative graph curated by Think With Google, small businesses and those looking to target specific locals can learn a thing or two about how consumers use Google to seek out local businesses, products, and services. After all, four out of five people want advertisements that are customized to their location or home ZIP code. Knowing how best to optimize your search listings can open your business up to nearby customers and visitors.

Putting Visuals to Work

Staying up to date on online trends and best practices can be tough on any business. With so many facts and figures as well as conflicting opinions, there is just too much to sort through. But by utilizing informative infographics from reliable sources, you can get the breakdown on what is important for your digital or mobile marketing and online presence.

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Pairing Radio with Paid Search

PPCpay-per-click-written-on-blackboard-000046727366_SmallRadio advertising is at a curious impasse. On one hand, research has proven that radio advertising provides marketers with the biggest bang for their buck in terms of ROI, providing up to $23.21 in increased revenue for every $1 spent on advertising.

Yet despite its impressive returns and the fact that consumers spend around 15% of their time listening to the radio every week, a typical marketing budget only sets aside around 8% of its budget for radio advertising.
The reason: tracking. Despite being a visceral, engaging medium with a proven track record, the non-digital nature of the medium means that it can’t provide the kind of analytic data that marketers need to continue improving upon their efforts.
To get around this, advertisers can combine their radio marketing with an online paid search campaign, also known as pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. This has the effect of potentiating both markets, while giving some hard, analyzable data to radio.

How Radio Pairs with PPC

Take a look at this case study by SEER. By incorporating targeting keywords into the radio copy, the click rate of their online ads jumped by 124% in just one month. Coincidence? It would seem not. A month after the radio campaign was ended (while the PPC campaign continued) click rates dropped in frequency comparable to the original rise.

Additionally, the radio campaign correlated with increased conversions, and organic web traffic.

The Benefits

We see then that there are two distinct benefits to combining radio with a PPC campaign.

  • It augments an existing online campaign, increasing the effectiveness of both.

  • It provides a way for marketers to hold radio accountable. Spikes in traffic, ad clicks, and conversion can be measured against radio, giving a clearer picture of how listeners are responding.

How to Get the Most From Your Radio + PPC Campaign

To ensure that your radio campaign is helping to drive ad clicks, make sure the verbiage of your ad focuses on the keywords your PPC campaign is targeting. Additionally, using a call to action in your radio campaign that directs listeners to do further research online will help to increase organic traffic, along with clicks.

PPC advertising has a notoriously low click rate, so anything that can help advertisers increase clicks, and subsequently conversions is hugely beneficial. Add to that radio’s high ROI, and it’s ability to increase organic traffic too, and you’ve got a winning combo that should be in any serious marketer’s tool belt.

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25 Reasons Email Marketing Still Works!

In the world of marketing and advertising, it is important to be on top of the newest trending marketing strategy in order to reach consumers. However, as many new strategies have emerged, it’s critical to not forget the powerful effects of email marketing.

Leading companies like Amazon prove that email is still relevant by harnessing the power of targeted marketing on a daily basis, reminding us how much success you can have by simply growing and utilizing your email list.

In case you need more convincing, here are 25 reasons why email marketing not only still works for businesses of all sizes, but should be an important part of every marketing plan:

  1. Practically everyone uses email! There are approximately 2.5 billion email users worldwide.
  2. Email marketing has the ability to be very targeted and specific. When you send information to your database you’ll have the opportunity to reach any segment of your list you want.
  3. People are more likely to see your marketing messages when you send them via email. Emails for business-to-business (B2B) marketers typically achieve a 27.97% open rate.
  4. Email is mobile friendly. As mobile usage increases, more and more people are accessing their email on their devices providing you with more of an opportunity to reach consumers on the go. Just make sure your message is optimized for mobile so your recipients can actually read your message.
  5. The possibilities to grow your email list to tens of thousands of subscribers are seemingly endless. With email marketing, there is virtually nothing limiting you from expanding your database. Mail Chimp confirms that there is no limit to how large your email list can be but it is recommended that you use a high volume plan to ensure your campaigns run smoothly.
  6. It’s easy to create a personalized approach. Instead of sending generic messages to your entire list, you have the ability to segment and deliver specific content that certain groups are most likely to engage with.
  7. Following examples set by email marketing leaders like Amazon, you can store data about your target market and keep track of what your audience does so you can create offers and content that can meet a need or establish a solution to a problem they may have.
  8. Email helps to keep your audience informed about the latest news and offers you provide allowing them to feel more comfortable with your company and connected to your brand. Last year Nielsen released a report that indicated 28% of U.S. online shoppers subscribe to store or product emails in order to stay informed.
  9. Personalized email messages are the core of an effective marketing plan. Tools like Retention Science help marketers understand consumer data in order to create powerful personalized messages that build customer loyalty.
  10. It’s one of the most inexpensive forms of marketing, but it’s still very effective. The cost associated with email marketing depends on how many subscribers are receiving your messages.
  11. It is not required that you hire someone to help you with email marketing in order to become successful. By practicing simple, yet effective tactics, you can launch your own email campaigns and a strategy for success while maintaining your marketing budget.
  12. Unlike SMS marketing where the reader may incur a charge, emails are free to users regardless of the number of messages they receive. This gives the recipient a much higher incentive to open your emails since they have nothing to lose.
  13. It’s common knowledge that people are more likely to make a purchase when they have a coupon. Email coupons also help your prospects save money and drive online and in-store sales.
  14. You can use emails to promote yourself across a wide audience instead of purchasing expensive ad space on other websites.
  15. Emails are less likely to interrupt a prospect, who is probably checking his or her email several times a day anyway. The average person checks email 15 times per day more or less, increasing the chances of seeing your email message regardless of when you send it.
  16. In addition to people checking their email multiple times per day, it’s harder to ignore email messages than it would be to skip over a radio or television advertisement.
  17. Email marketing allows you to build good rapport with customers so they can look forward to receiving notifications and opening your emails to see what you have to say. Brands that maintain good customer loyalty by emailing prospects regularly include: Apple, AT&T, Hyundai, Ford and Google to name a few.
  18. It also paves the way for interactive marketing where recipients can forward your messages to their network and share the content with friends.
  19. You can insert specific, targeted calls to action in each message to help prompt readers to take action.
  20. Email marketing is a simple way to motivate prospects to make a purchase. According to the Direct Marketing Association, two out of three consumers have made a purchase as a result of an email.
  21. Recipients can easily click links and pull up products and services directly from the email message.
  22. Emails help remind people about sales, offers and products they are interested in.
  23. Unlike face-to-face sales, email marketing puts less direct pressure on the prospect to make a purchase so when they do buy, it feels like the choice was based more on their own decision and not a marketing ploy.
  24. You can create urgency through your email marketing campaigns by implementing limited time offers to help urge prospects to buy.
  25. At least 60% marketers say email marketing is producing ROI.

Email marketing is by no means a thing of the past. It’s affordable, easy-to-use and flexible allowing you to take a personalized approach when trying to reach prospects.

It’s important to stick with a platform that is easy to use and delivers analytics you need. The direct communication that email offers between you and a recipient is seemingly priceless. With more than 60% of marketers and advertisers finding success, email is still alive and well for you to utilize for years to come.

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Red, White, and Social: Social Media Marketing Ideas for the Fourth of July

Independence Day marks a day of festivity; family, friends, food and fireworks take center stage…and so should your business. Promoting your business on the Fourth of July can be done pool or beachside if you utilize social media promotions.

Here are seven Fourth of July social media marketing ideas to drive sales and engagement throughout the holiday:

1. Run a Photo Contest

Bring the celebration over to social media by having visitors post their most patriotic moments, or their best red, white and blue photos. Or, create a brand and holiday-specific hashtag just for your event.

The Clymb, an outdoor gear retailer got creative with their Fourth of July Instagram campaign last year. Customers were encouraged to upload photos of their outdoor Independence Day celebrations and three winners were awarded gift certificates.

Non-retail businesses can also take advantage of Fourth of July social media promotions. This Warford Orthodontics Fourth of July photo contest encouraged followers to post firework and patriotic photos on their Facebook page. The winning entries were awarded Visa gift cards.

2. Choose a Brand Specific Holiday Hashtag

Promoting your business on the Fourth of July can be as simple as creating a brand specific holiday hashtag to be used across all platforms. A brand specific hashtag will help you sort through contest entrants, as well as create higher visibility for the campaign.

The Clymb’s Fourth of July photo contest required entrants to use both their business name in a hashtag (#TheClymb) in addition to a brand specific holiday hashtag (#RWBCLYMB).

Edelman Digital offers a great roundup of 5 websites that offer hashtag generation help, if you’re struggling with creativity.

3. Curate Holiday-Specific Social Content

Provide added value by sharing Fourth of July specific content with your customers. BBQ recipes, an article highlighting local events (fireworks, parades, etc.), even trending national stories help build engagement with your community on social media platforms.
Offerpop suggests creating a Pinterest board with a roundup of the best summer cocktails.

4. Promote Holiday Specific Products

Get creative! Discount red, white and blue or holiday-related products. Lowes knocked it out of the ballpark with this Vine they posted, creating a fireworks display with a selection of their many products.

5. Create a Promotion for Visitors to Use In-Store or On Your Website

Up the ante and use a program like Offerpop’s Viral to spread the word about your promotion. Share your promotion on your company blog or through your email newsletter and have your followers retweet the promotion to unlock the discount code.

6. Run a Social Media Specific Promotion

This is a great time to grow your mailing list! Offer a Fourth of July promotion for customers who sign up for your newsletter.
Can your product be showcased in tandem with the Fourth of July holiday? Combine the idea of a photo contest with a brand specific hashtag and encourage your customers to share on social media in exchange for a coupon or discount code.

7. Support a Cause

Take a look at your community – are there any events or organizations your business can support? Entrepreneur.com says that ‘”Cause marketing’ is now the norm, and customers who visit your website and see your advertising want to know that you share their desire to make the world a better place by supporting an important cause.”

With careful planning, social media marketing can allow you to enjoy the holiday, reach the community and your consumers, and translate into Fourth of July sales. Think outside the box and enjoy engaging with your customer base, but most of all, enjoy the fireworks!

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SEO Tips for Your Houston Business

Search engine optimization — SEO for short — is an extremely effective method for driving organic traffic to your website. Having a solid SEO strategy for your Houston business not only helps to boost organic traffic but the traffic you attract is likely to be more qualified in the long run. When a user comes across your site through a web search you demonstrate your company’s value and authority by providing useful information on a topic they want to know about.

For those just starting out, Google has written a Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide that outlines the best practices for creating great web content that’s hospitable to person and algorithm alike. But while the strength of the content you post is the foundation of any successful SEO campaign in Houston, there’s some additional considerations webmasters should keep in mind to ensure their pages are achieving the rankings they should.

Have a Responsive Site

You could have the best content in the world on your website but if no one can read it, it will hardly matter. Having a clean, fast loading, and properly coded site that displays correctly on any browser or device is necessary to having a highly ranked page. This especially includes making sure your site is optimized for mobile, since Google released an updated algorithm last month that specifically penalizes sites that aren’t built with a responsive design.

Design With Pagination in Mind

Make sure to have a strategy for how you split up the content on your site into separate pages. Irving Weiss over at Moz has some great advice about the importance of designing for pagination. Sometimes splitting up an article into two pages can be beneficial, such as when different parts follow different keyword strategies. Having a large number of indexed pages with quality SEO content will ultimately improve your search rankings sitewide, while having more than a few low quality pages will put a ding in the rankings of your quality content.

Have a Keyword Strategy

Long gone are the days when ‘Googlebombing,’ and keyword stuffing could push any old web page to the top of practically any search result. Today’s complex algorithms, combined with high competition for the top spot means that nothing but the best content will suffice. On top of that, you want to find a niche. Using a keyword planner, such as the AdWords Keyword Planner, will let you find a good balance between search traffic and competing pages. The trick here is to know your customer base, and create content that targets the keywords they are searching.

Keep Your Content Fresh

It’s a myth that changing up the content of your website arbitrarily, with the hopes of attracting search engine web crawlers to your site will give a boost to your search rankings. There’s no fooling search engines by updating content. Creating new, unique content on the other hand benefits your readers and your rankings. Your readers have more opportunities to engage with your site, and having more points of entry means your site will show up in a variety of different search results.

It’s a good idea to follow a schedule when posting new content. If your readers expect new content regularly, they’ll keep coming back, share your links on social media, and maybe even link to your site from their own blog, further bolstering your rankings.

Hire a Professional

A successful SEO campaign has value that is “completely unparalleled.” But it’s a long term investment that can flop if not properly implemented. The increasing complexity of search engine algorithms means that SEO best practices are constantly changing. Hiring someone who can manage your SEO campaign will ensure that your site is targeting the right keywords, and putting your site in front of the right audience for your business.

However you choose to implement your SEO campaign, one thing’s for sure: the modern search engine has completely transformed the way people seek out information, and it’s here to stay.

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Responsive Design: We’ve Made It Simple for You.

So – turns out – Google is going to eventually have its way with Houston businesses who don’t invest in updating their non-mobile-friendly websites.  That’s because we know the majority of consumers are turning to mobile devices for their Google searches.

And how can Google help users get the info they need if businesses aren’t helping Google out by providing decent web experiences?

According to Entrepreneur.com…

“By some estimates, more than 60 percent of all Google searches are now performed on mobile devices, so it makes sense that Google wants to capitalize on this traffic and ensure the best possible experience for its users.”

Yes – it makes perfect sense. So – is your website doing all it can to help Google out?  Take a few minutes to read what we’re talking about. It’ll be worth it.