eAnswers: Lists, Frequency, Organic Search
Q: We send out two to three e-mail newsletters per month. There are
occasions when we’d like to send out an extra one, but we wonder how
many is too many. How do we strike a balance between getting the word
out to our customers/readers about things happening on our site and
annoying customers by sending out too many e-mails? Obviously, we don’t
want to anger recipients so they’re led to cancel their subscription or
otherwise think poorly of us.
— Gretchen Heber, co-founder, NaturallyCurly.com, Austin, Texas
A: Great question! Everyone sending e-mail struggles with
frequency; it’s a balancing act. You need to send enough to meet your
business goals without sending so much that your readers unsubscribe,
ignore you or report your e-mail as spam.
When I work with clients, I use three factors to help determine the correct frequency:
1. What readers were told when they signed up for e-mail.
2. Why you’re sending the e-mail, also known as your business goals.
3. What you’re sending, or the content of the e-mail.
It’s a best practice to set the expectation on frequency with your
subscribers when they opt in. If they signed up expecting one e-mail a
month and you suddenly start sending one a week, that could be an issue
— you’ve changed the terms of the relationship without telling them.
You also need to keep your business in mind. If you’re selling shoes,
it’s a reasonable expectation that people will purchase a few pairs a
year. If you’re selling automobiles, it’s unlikely that people will buy
more than one a year. Sending a weekly (or more frequent) e-mail on the
latest shoe styles might be welcome; receiving a weekly or more
frequent promotional e-mail on cars might not be.
Which brings us to content; the more relevant and helpful the
information in your e-mail is, the more frequently you can send without
annoying your audience. If recipients get a benefit from your e-mail
newsletter just from reading it, then an extra send every now and then
probably isn’t a problem. But if it’s strictly promotional — if the
reader has to buy something to get a benefit from the e-mail — then an
extra send might begin to erode your list performance.
I would recommend that you do the extra send, but watch your
metrics. If this e-mail — or the next few e-mails after it — shows
lower open, clickthrough or conversion rates, it’s too much. Continuing
to do this will hasten the erosion of your e-mail list, which is an
asset worth protecting for the future.
Ditto if you see a rise in unsubscribes or spam complaints — those
are red flags that upping your frequency is not a good idea. But if the
extra send doesn’t depress your positive metrics or lift your negative
ones, then I’d say it’s fine to do this once in a while.
— eM+C eExpert Jeanne Jennings
Q: Other than [pay per click], what is he best, easiest, most
cost-effective way to increase the size of your list with qualified
— Julie Swatek, founder and president, ScrapYourTrip.com, Orlando, Fla.
A: There are many ways to build your list; which one — or ones —
you choose really depends on the time and resources you have. Three
that I recommend first are organics, data feeds and e-append.
E-append is quick and easy, and every company should do it often.
(At least two to three times a year, but four to six is better.) With
e-append, you send your housefile to a broker to append e-mail
addresses to your existing records. The broker e-mails the names it
matches, basically inviting the users to be on your list. If the users
don’t want to be added, they have the option to unsubscribe. You only
pay for the match — if the broker doesn’t have a name for a particular
record, it doesn’t cost you a thing.
As an aside, E-mail Change of Address is another great technique to
use. Because e-mail is dirt cheap, companies tend to mail everyone
everything every time. This is not a great strategy for many reasons
(most importantly, deliverability issues). However, if you’re going to
mail your entire list, you should look at a service to keep your
records clean. FreshAddress and Walter Karl Interactive are good places to start.
Organics is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase your list.
In the old days, before PPC, getting listed at the top of Yahoo! was as
close to God as you could get for many folks. When Google came out with
its auction-style keyword bidding (in other words, PPC), we all got
kind of lazy, which is unfortunate as users look at the organic
listings first, and companies find organics convert much better.
Data feeds are one of my all-time favorite traffic-building tools,
and I still find that very few people use them effectively. Data feeds
allow you to merchandise your products and services among many
channels, including affiliates, search engines, comparison sites,
portals and more.
Technically, most companies can build data feeds on their own, but
usually they don’t get around to it. That’s why I recommend services
like Mercent (www.mercent.com) and MerchantAdvantage
(www.merchantadvantage.com). Not only can they help build your feeds,
but since they do lots of them, they know what each engine likes and
doesn’t like. So when your feed is submitted, it has the best chance to
— eM+C eExpert Amy Africa
Q: What is the best method for improving and optimizing organic site
optimization? Any advice/recommendations for beginners? [Best] software
to manage PPC campaigns?
— Eileen Spitalny, CEO/founder, Fairytale Brownies, Phoenix
A: What worked as an important search engine optimization tip
more than 12 years ago still works today: Look at your HTML title tags.
Every page in your Web site should have a unique HTML title tag that is
written around the key terms you hope that page will be found for.
All too often, people neglect this basic tip. In the search engine
world, it’s the equivalent of publishing 100 different books and giving
them all the same title. The search engine has no idea that each book —
each one of your pages — is about a different topic.
So help the search engines out. Review the pages in your Web site.
Google even rolled out a new, free tool to help you spot title
problems. Especially look at important, content-rich pages that don’t
seem to be getting much traffic. Can you improve how they are
That leads to another important step. Have you done your keyword
research homework? Many site owners simply guess at terms people might
be using to find them — if they even try at all. But there is a wide
range of free or inexpensive tools that give you guidance about how
your potential customers might be seeking you.
Blogging is another excellent way to improve free traffic.Setting up
a blog gives you a separate site to attract traffic — plus blogs are
designed to pull in traffic from a variety of blog-search resources. If
you haven’t started yet, creating a blog is definitely one for the
to-do list. Just be prepared to maintain it with new posts at least
once a week, though two or three times is better. Talk about things in
your industry, commentary on news, advice for customers, etc. — it
really can bring in traffic.
There’s a lot more you can do, but beginners have an excellent resource to guide them along the way. The SEOmoz
site (www.seomoz.org) currently is updating all of its “beginner’s
guides” to SEO. Start at the beginning there, and pick up tips along
— eM+C eExpert Danny Sullivan