Sometimes I make the mistake of assuming everyone has the same understanding of basic online marketing concepts I do. I’ll mention a phrase like “key words” and get an affirmative yet questioning nod. That’s when I realize I need to take it down a notch and explain a little better.
Simply stated, keywords are the foundation of everything you do online. They’re that important. In online marketing we say “content is king.” Content is made up of keywords. Even images and videos have keyword tags.
We use keywords every day, but sometimes don’t realize it. Every online search you do is composed of keywords. Everything you write is full of keywords. Resumes are sorted by the keywords stated in the document.
Knowing that keywords are the foundation, I always ask clients if they have a list of keywords. They rarely do. Even if they do, I always do new keyword research and provide that list to them for review.
What is a keyword?
Let’s explain this first. Keywords are words used to find or categorize content. When you search for a name on Facebook or LinkedIn, those are the keywords. When you search for a product on Amazon, that is your keyword. When you look for an address on Google, those are your keywords or key phrases. Keywords are how visitors find you online.
What gets ignored?
Short words, letters or plurals. A, as, the and all get ignored by the search spiders. I’ll sometimes do keyword research and find an odd phrase with no modifiers. It’s because they have been stripped out. Using word modifiers can spice up headlines while still maintaining keyword focus. For example, the title “How to do Keyword Research” would get indexed as “Keyword Research.”
I’ll sometimes have business owners tell me they have 500,000 (or some other ridiculous number) keywords they manage. Why? Search engines look at root words. Search spiders look at what comes first in a phrase when establishing what is the root. I focus on core root words for my clients. The long-tail results will follow.
Speaking of long tails… What are they? A root keyword phrase could be “real estate.” A long-tail could be “find real estate in salt lake city.” See the difference? Web search has been around long enough that most users are sophisticated enough to add modifiers in their search. Modifiers reveal intent.
The most popular search term for real estate in Utah is “Utah real estate.” No surprises there. But that doesn’t tell us anything about the searchers intent. People search for two reasons; to purchase or to research. “Utah real estate statistics” reveals a much different goal than “Utah real estate for sale.” The more specific a search is, the more likely a consumer is ready to buy. A search like “Holladay townhouses for sale 84124” is very insightful.
All of these are considerations when I perform keyword research and they’re very helpful in weeding out non-relevant terms. It’s even more critical when running paid search campaigns. Keyword research provides market research as well. Google’s keyword research tool tells me how many searches are made each month, what the competition pays for those keywords and how competitive that keyword is in the marketplace.
Research needs to be updated as searches change depending on season, product life cycle and market trends. Keyword research helps determine your site structure and content. That research translates to offline marketing as well. Keyword research tells you what your videos, brochures, Facebook posts, white papers, tweets and blog posts need to be about. Because that’s what people are searching for. That is what interests your prospects and customers. Provide the content they seek and sales will follow.
There are so many variables in an email marketing campaign and so many ways to optimize. The key to success is to keep testing and keep sending campaigns.
Digital marketers may argue what the most crucial part of a successful email campaign is. Is it the subject line? Is it the copy in the email? Is it the layout? I suggest it’s the list you’re mailing to. People who know your brand are going to be more likely to respond than those who don’t. That’s why cultivating and maintaining contact lists is so important. Yet I talk to real estate agents and loan officers all the time who don’t do this!
It’s important to have segmented lists and targeted lists. The segments can be whatever you like them to be. For instance past customers or people who got on your list from your website. I’m segmenting my list with people who have clicked the link in the email because now I can follow-up.
All of this list management will improve your email campaign’s success by increasing open and click-through rates. It will also decrease bounce rates.
Bounce rates are simply emails that aren’t delivered. There are two types; hard and soft. A hard bounce is a completely non-deliverable email. It could be a bad address, an expired domain or some other reason. That email isn’t good and should be removed from your list. Soft bounces are different. They’re simply not deliverable right now. Again, there are many reasons for that.
Here’s an example of a campaign I re-sent on Saturday:
When I first sent it last week, there were 328 soft bounces. On Saturday only 78 didn’t go through. When an email is sent impacts open rates and it also impacts deliverability.
Opt outs and Spam
The other way your list will prune itself is through opt outs. Subscribers simply remove themselves from the list. It’s good because you’ll have a cleaner list of people who want to hear from you, but it sometimes makes marketers feel bad. Don’t feel bad! This is a numbers game. Just make sure your emails provide something of value. You can control your opt outs by sending quality emails that have value for your target audience. If you have a lot of unsubscribers, you’ll know you need to make adjustments.
Getting flagged for spam is a little more to be concerned with. You want to minimize this as much as possible. If your spam percentage is too high, your email sending service could freeze or terminate your account. If you’re sending from your domain email (do not do this!!!), your web host could terminate your account.
There are a lot of factors at play in a successful email campaign; open rates, click-through rates, design, copywriting, compiling and segmenting a list, deliverability and getting flagged for spam. It’s not easy and it takes a lot of testing and sending to come up with the right combination to provide a positive return on investment. While some factors seem out of your control, please realize you can have an impact on all of them.
A few days ago, I talked about open rates in email marketing. Certainly that’s a key step in a successful campaign. But then what? You want your target audience to take action! It could be clicking a link. It could be filling out a form. It could be watching a video, making a call or buying a product. How do you get your email list to do that and what factors are involved.
Let’s take a look at the recent campaigns I ran.
My goal was pretty simple; to share a guide that solves a problem to my target audience. There are lots of ways to communicate that in an email. I wanted to be brief and direct and easily share the information. My key points were they needed to see the guide and it was free. So I uploaded the guide to my server as a pdf and sent a brief email for them to view it.
If you remember from the previous article, this campaign had a pretty good open rate of 16.47%. The click-through rate on it…the number of people who clicked the link to see the document was 6.11% or 45 people. I lost 94% of my list! Ouch.
Remember I said I improved my design on the second campaign which had a different recipient list? Its click-through rate did worse! Even though it had a better open rate, the click-through rate was 5.04% or 36 people.
The last campaign was the worst on on opens and clicks. Five people saw my guide in this group. Despite these numbers, I still consider this to be a successful campaign. Why?
With a little effort, not much time and zero cost, I got 86 people to read the information I wanted them to. On each of these campaigns, the email software also shows how many emails were forwarded. I don’t know whether these forwards were for future reminders or sent to different people, but there were 117 forwards between the three campaigns. And someone contacted me from the campaign which is the ultimate goal.
My follow up on this campaign will be to contact the people who clicked the link in another campaign. I’ll also resend using what I learned from the open rates. Things I can tweak in the message include larger links to read the guide and testing the black template which outperformed with the white template.
Some people think email marketing has lost value with the rise of social media. Recent studies show it has better return on investment than social but businesses are still moving away from it. That’s good news for people who still use it. Less competition!
Today I’m going to discuss three factors that influence email marketing results. For this business, I’ve been testing email campaigns to Realtors using different subject lines, offers, content and timing. Let’s look at a few results.
Assumptions – I’m assuming tracking is in place. With anti-spam laws the way they are, it is dangerous and costly to just BCC a campaign from your email client. Using a third party service limits your liability and provides tracking.
Factor 1 – Subject Lines
This is what people see in their inbox. If it’s not catchy or specific, your open rates will suffer. Consider the following example:
I mailed two separate campaigns to the same list. My not so great subject line of “Free Marketing Evaluation – Our Gift to You” got a 2.5% open rate. That’s not very good, especially considering the alternate below it got a nearly 4% open rate. My next campaign to the same list got a 16.47% open rate. In email marketing that’s a home run! The subject line was “Worried About the Zillow/Trulia Merger?” The difference was three fold; it asked a question, it was timely to a recent industry change, it exposed a pain point.
Factor 2 – Design
With that success in the books, I decided to improve. In my haste to get the guide out, I threw together the email. This time I used a better designed template, a different list of my target market and the same subject line.
That home run from before just became a grand slam. The open rate improved to 20.22%! Was it the design? No. Design has no impact on the open rate because it’s not seen before the email is opened! It was the list. This was a new list that had never seen anything from me.
Factor 3 – Timing
At this point I was pretty pleased with myself. I had another never mailed to list of my target market and I was really hoping to make a big impact on this mailing. I had considered sending it out on a Saturday afternoon with a different subject line, but I didn’t want to tweak something I didn’t feel needed to be changed.
So I scheduled it to go out first thing Monday morning. The results were alarming! Even though this was an exact duplicate of the “home run” email campaign, the open rate was a disappointing 6.7%. This is still much better than the other campaigns I’d sent, but there was a huge drop off. Both the other campaigns were sent later in the week in the afternoon and evening.
Open rates are just one part of a successful email campaign. Optimizing your open rates improves your chances for branding, leads and sales. Like direct mail, the biggest challenge with email marketing is getting people to see your message. Test and retest your subject lines so you know what works with your target audience. Once you’ve found a successful strategy, build upon it.
Keep refining your email lists. Every campaign you send eliminates dead email addresses and people who don’t want your message. That means your stats will improve, but you have to keep sending mail.
Finally, timing is everything whether it’s social media posts or email. Once you find a good time, target your marketing around it.
I’m just fascinated with the way search engines work. I am particularly pleased with the results I’ve achieved with this blog in such a short time. The inspiration for this post on copywriting for the web came from the search engine results I currently have for an article I posted last week.
That article serves as a great example of how effective copywriting and thinking of both your human visitors and robot visitors will get search engine rankings and site traffic.
The article was titled How to Maximize Search Engine Results (SERPs) and it is now ranked on the first page of Google. In this article I discussed the importance of page titles in getting top rankings. I guess it has proved itself by showing up on the first page.
Let’s dissect how I came up with that title and why I chose the words I did. First, I was inspired by the title from a comment I read at the Internet strategy club Facebook page. I also think it’s a question every web marketer or small business person has regarding their website or blog.
I’ve discovered that people who use search engines tend to ask questions instead of type in keywords. I think millions of dollars in TV ads from also ran search engine Ask Jeeves cemented this idea into people’s minds. Do you know what? It works! Questions work in any search engine, so I write accordingly. Web users don’t type in answers, they type in questions.
Are you ready for the great part? Now that we know how people search, we need to know how web robots or spiders search. They search by keywords. More importantly, they ignore short, common words like “and,” “the,” “I,” “how” and so forth. By writing my title using a question word – “how” – I can now get search results for a number of different questions typed in by humans and still rank well with the spiders.
Let’s look at some results –
For my page title How to Maximize Search Engine Results I’m ranking number nine as of this writing. Not too bad for a five day old article with 856,000 competitors. Now let’s think like a human and change up those pronouns. Type in “How do I Maximize Search Engine Results” and I’m still on the front page with position number ten and nearly 40,000 additional competitors. Pretty good!
I peppered that article with plenty of nouns like blog and website since SEO can apply to both types of sites. So it comes as no surprise I’m getting visitors from the very same article because of this keyphrase, “how to maximize blog search engine results.” There’s less competition on that phrase and I’m currently rankednumber two. If I change up the pronouns to, “how do you maximize blog search engine results,” the article is still ranked number three. Feel free to play around with different combinations to see how just changing a pronoun in the search will affect the rankings.
Some of you are probably wondering why I put “SERPs” in the title. Remember how yesterday I advised writers to use industry jargon in their articles, but be sure to define it with a link? My theory is either another web marketing company will find the article and link back to me, or they may want to hire me so I want to be well ranked for terms insiders use. How did that turn out? Pretty well! The phrase “how to maximize SERPs” is number two. “How do I Maximize SERPs,” is number one. This site should look quite authoritative to my peers and competitors.
Here are three more quick tips for copywriting for the web.
- Search spiders look for what’s first in setting a value for the search term. Your page titles and article content should reflect this.
- Keep that in mind when using plurals. A spider will usually think for instance that SERPs is the same as SERP.
- Subtly insert your article keyphrase within the body without appearing repetitive or overbearing. What’s the keyphrase I was going for in this article? You can answer in the comments.