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How to Tell If Google’s Penguin 3 is Affecting Your Backlinks [VIDEO]

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 06:00

Google is constantly making changes to their algorithms, but do you know how the latest Penguin 3 release is affecting your site? In this short video, we show you how to tell if this latest release is impacting your backlinks in a positive or negative way. We also provide actionable tips about how you can change your backlinks if you’re seeing less than favorable results from the Google Penguin 3 release.

 Get more marketing tips and advice in the weekly VR Buzz

 

© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post How to Tell If Google’s Penguin 3 is Affecting Your Backlinks [VIDEO] appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

12 Images You Should Share on Social Media

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 06:00

Posting photos to social media is one of the fastest, easiest and fun ways to promote your business as well as boost engagement with your audience. If you’re not sure what types of images make for good exposure, use this list as your guide:

1. Customer photos. Show off your customers’ satisfaction with your product, enjoying the benefits of your service, or just happily browsing in your store. The Epicurean Connection
 has plenty photos of smiling, dancing and satisfied customers on Instagram. You could also get your customers to post photos of them using your products. Check out Girly Go Garter’s “Share A Photo, Win A Garter” promotion on Instagram.

2. Community engagement pictures. Post photos of your staff volunteering or your company sponsoring a local event or team to show your community involvement. Here’s a Flickr photo of Vivid Image sponsoring a girls’ softball team.

3. Employee spotlight images. IBM Southeast Employees’ Federal Credit Union uses Facebook to highlight a different employee each month with a photo and short introduction to help customers get to know them better, which can build trust.

4. Product shots. Pictures of existing products, new arrivals or particularly unique pieces can help increase awareness with potential and existing customers. This is also a good option for smaller businesses that don’t have a dedicated online store or those that rotate one-of-a-kind pieces frequently. San Francisco-based company, BloomThat, delivers flowers in a snap. They also snap excellent product photos on Instagram:

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It might be coolin’ down but our blooms are heatin’ up! Keep your eyes peeled for #NewBlooms next week!

View on Instagram

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“Every now and then, if I list something in the Etsy shop, I will post it to Instagram,”says Susan Cusick Hill, who owns Born At the Wrong Time, an online store specializing in vintage fabrics, do-it-yourself kits, linens, home décor and housewares. “Just the other night, I listed a ‘new’ vintage item and one of my followers purchased it soon after.”

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Ran into these lovely #ladies while antiquing today. #vintage #mannequins #heads #women

View on Instagram

 

5. Announcements. Off the Grid, a series of mobile food and music events or markets in the San Francisco Bay area, uses Twitter to post photos of various food trucks and their mouth-watering food that can be found at each event, as well as when and where the events and food trucks will be.

6. The funny-but-relevant photo. Here’s a funny photo that Tower Paddle Boards posted on Instagram. Humor is a great way to demonstrate a company’s personality — and to get people to share, which is free publicity!

7. Before-and-after shots. Bariatric Solutions, a Dallas weight-loss surgery center, posts before and after photos of patients on Flickr. It’s an essential approach for businesses that promise visual results. This strategy is especially useful for service-based businesses such as a dental office or hair salon.

8. Behind-the-scenes shots. Aveda posts photos from shows on Flickr, such as these from backstage at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week as proof that its hair care products are being used by industry professionals. VerticalResponse customer S&S Brand posts behind-the-scenes photos of their BBQ sauce making process and posts the inside scoop on Flickr. Online retailer, ModCloth always garners great engagement with behind-the-scenes pics of their dog-friendly headquarters in San Francisco.

9. Contest photos. Yes to Carrots, a company specializing in natural beauty care, has a monthly photo contest on Pinterest that helps keep its customers engaged, promotes brand loyalty and garners free publicity for the company with the use of hashtags.

10. Events. Nooch Vegan Market in Denver uses Instagram in a variety of ways, including promoting events it sponsors, like the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. The photos work as an invitation to the event, a way to raise awareness related to a cause and a means of letting customers know what’s important to you.

11. Videos. LearningRx, a national brain training company, posts testimonials from students and parents on YouTube. “The best way for people to learn about our programs’ life-changing results is directly from our graduates, in their own words,”explains Tanya Mitchell, LearningRx’s, vice president of Research & Development.

12. Scouting photos. Whether you’re headed to Italy to stock up on olive oil for your kitchen store or touring artists’ studios for the best pottery to sell in your home décor shop, take your camera to share the highlights! Scouting photos are a great way to show your products are authentic, handpicked and/or handcrafted. When the owners of Barracuda Bazaar, a trendy women’s boutique in Old Colorado City, Colorado went to Los Angeles in search of new stock, they posted photos on Facebook once they arrived.

Which of these photos garners your business the most engagement on social media?

This post contributed by Wendy Burt-Thomas, a full-time freelance writer with four books and thousands of published articles to her credit. Contact Wendy at WendyBurt@aol.com.

© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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What Gmail’s Inbox App Means to Your Email Marketing

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 15:47

Google announced a new app called Inbox and it could bring some major changes to how subscribers that receive your emails in Gmail interact with them. Here’s what you need to know about how this new app could impact your email marketing.

What is Inbox?

Image courtesy of the Official Google Blog

Inbox is an app from Google that helps organize and group emails in your inbox by relevance, similar to how Gmail tabs work now. The app also has features to help stay on top of the email in your inbox. Two features that are the most newsworthy are Bundles and Highlights.

Bundles is a feature that like Gmail tabs, allows recipients to group emails into similar categories, and then set a preference. According to the Official Google Blog, “for example, all your purchase receipts or bank statements are neatly grouped together so that you can quickly review and then swipe them out of the way. You can even teach Inbox to adapt to the way you work by choosing which emails you’d like to see grouped together.”

What this could mean for your email marketing: For Gmail recipients you may have to email subscribers further out from the date of a sale or offer, or run a promotion longer to allow folks time to actually open their bundled email and act on it before a sale is over. It could also mean that people who subscribe but don’t currently open your emails may be even less likely to do so if they’ve bundled it. 

Highlights helps keep important information from emails front and center. According to Google’s blog, information “such as flight itineraries, event information, and photos and documents emailed to you by friends and family. Inbox will even display useful information from the web that wasn’t in the original email, such as the real-time status of your flights and package deliveries.”

A few other features within Inbox that can be used to manage email include Reminders, Assists and Snoozes which allow you to add your own reminders like picking up your dry cleaning or making a restaurant reservation for that big date you have coming up.

Assists work with Reminders providing pieces of information you may need to get the task done. For example, if you create a Reminder to book a reservation, Inbox will provide the restaurant’s phone number and tell you if it’s open. 

Snoozes are just like what they sound. You can snooze emails or Reminders until a later time, or until you arrive at a specific location like your office or home.

Who can get Inbox?

For now, Inbox is only available by invite-only as a separate app instead of being completely integrated into Gmail. Because of that, the effects and adoption are likely to be more gradual. 

We’re still waiting for our invitation from Google and will report more once we’ve explored Inbox first-hand. What are your reactions to the Inbox app? Share in the comments.

To get more marketing tips and tools, get the VR Buzz!

© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post What Gmail’s Inbox App Means to Your Email Marketing appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

8 Easy SEO Tools Everyone Should Use

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 06:00

Search engine optimization is something you need to do to help people find your business online. To help you ace those SEO efforts, we’ve got 8 awesome tools you should use. We’ll cover both free and paid options that are efficient and easy to use, even for beginners. So let’s get our SEO tools on!

Free Tools

Who doesn’t love a free tool, especially when it also happens to be awesome? 

1. Google Analytics: The gold standard for analytics tools. Odds are, your business is already using this tool to monitor your site’s traffic, but if you’re not, it’s a great tool to start with and we have a killer guide for beginners. You can see what pages are driving organic traffic for your site, traffic numbers and tons more.  

2. Google Page Speed Insights:  A quick page load time can impact search rankings as evidenced in this post from Moz. But many businesses have no idea where to start when looking to improve their site load times. This is what makes Page Speed Insights from Google so awesome; it tells you what to fix on your website, why to fix it and how to do it for a speedier and friendlier website.

Example of Twitter’s PageSpeed Insights

3. Google Webmaster Tools: We love talking about Google Webmaster Tools, as you can see in this blog post, beginner’s guide, and video. This free tool unlocks powerful website data such as keyword data, impressions, clicks, click through rates and more. Check out our Google Webmaster Tools beginner’s guide for more in-depth info and help.

4. Google Trends: Curious about the latest buzzwords? Google Trends is the perfect tool for you. We often use this tool to make sure we’re keeping up with different industry trends. Remember when “e-mail” morphed into “email”? In this example below, Google Trends shows you the decay of “e-mail” over the years. Use this tool for keyword research to use in your blog posts, new webpages and more. 

5. Moz SEO Toolbar: This tool gives you the lowdown on the basics of any webpage on the Internet. With a quick look, you can see the Page Authority, Domain Authority and even backlink information. This is a tool most SEO experts use daily, as it gives you a glance at a site’s stats quickly.

6. Screaming Frog: This tool is more technical, but powerful. It searches a site’s links, images, scripts and more, and gives you all of this data in a nice .CSV file for you to slice and dice how you want. Find 404 errors on your website, missing meta descriptions and all sorts of useful info with the Frog!

Paid Tools

We know the best things in life are free, but sometimes you get good value for what you pay for. The following two tools, both by Moz, are some of the best around for businesses large and small. 

7. Moz: Starting at $99/month, Moz packs a lot of bang for your buck. You get keyword tracking, landing page tracking, analytic data and on page SEO suggestions. This tool is perfect for small businesses because it’s easy to use and the provides a wealth of data and information. 

8. Moz Local: For anyone looking for a nice, local SEO setup in the form of online listings (no matter how easy we make it for you), Moz Local is the perfect tool for you. It does all the local citations for you, and makes sure the data is accurate and the consistent across the board. 

There you have it! 8 easy to use SEO tools that will rock all your search engine optimization needs. If you have any tools we didn’t mention, please share in the comments!

To get more marketing tips and tools, get the VR Buzz

© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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3 Ways to Break Through the Noise at a Trade Show

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 06:00

We recently attended and exhibited at a retail trade show in Las Vegas. It was a large, multi-day event with over 14,000 attendees and tons of booths on the show floor – a daunting experience if you don’t exhibit at trade shows regularly or can’t afford a huge, flashy booth.

With that, here are three ways you and your business can break through the noise at any trade show and make sure you come home a success:

1. Personality Counts

The very nature of trade shows demands that you have personality. From the look and feel of your booth to the people who are working at it – does your booth blend in or stand out? Do you use the same cookie cutter booth for every show, or do you target your booth to the type of show you’re attending? Even though it might require more time, energy and money, targeting your booth to the type of show you’re at can really help.

For instance, if you’re at a show about visual merchandising, you want your booth to be visually captivating. If you go with a standard 10-foot-by-10-foot booth with little-to-no visuals, you might be hurting for leads no matter how compelling your product or service.

You also really want to think about who you send to work in your booth. Often this is delegated to entry-level sales folks or junior members of the team. But I challenge you to think about your end goal. What do you hope to accomplish at the trade show? Do you want more leads? Do you want potential partner deals? Your end goal will help you determine who will best deliver that result.

For example, at the show we just attended there was a locker company directly across from our booth. The guy in the booth asked people as they walked by, “Interested in lockers?” I was dying as I watched it happen, because he was breaking the cardinal rule of sales. He was asking a closed-ended question. Also, he had a pretty specific product, so not every person walking by was going to take his line. But in his defense he said, “You gotta keep trying because eventually, someone says ‘yes.’” He earned points for persistence! On the other side of our booth was a group of guys who designed booths and could manufacture just about anything. Their booth was hoppin’ all day long. And their main guy would approach folks who walked up with the question, “What do you do?” He started a conversation, made it about them and was then able to assess how the product would be a fit for the person and quickly tailor his pitch that direction. Guess whose booth got more leads?

2. Be Novel

In the sea of booths at a trade show, a lot can be said for having some novelty to attract folks to your front door. As an attendee, it’s easy to get caught in the tangle of people and not want to break away for yet another sales pitch from a desperate and bored exhibitor. Shake things up in your booth with something unexpected, fun and, yes, interactive, to get folks involved and engaged. Ditch the usual swag of free pens and stress balls and give away something memorable. The same booth with the great staff also had a 7-foot-tall gumball machine. When they talked to folks, they encouraged them to turn the crank and out would pop a mini gorilla. People ate it up.

Another example: We recently attended a show that was focused on dogs. (Lots of dog owners have small businesses that need email marketing!) We gave away dog brushes that flew off our table. People liked them so much they were offering to buy them. Nostalgia is also effective at eliciting response from a crowd. I’ve seen booths giveaway popcorn, cotton candy, cupcakes and good ol’ booze in this effort. How can you give away something cool, but also something that resonates and relates?

3. Stay Engaged

You never know what will happen even if you’re at a show that seems to miss the mark for your company, or that feels slow. Don’t fall into the trap of getting bored, doing other work or ignoring attendees. It’s easy to have happen during a multi-day show when the adrenaline and coffee run out, and the people in your booth lose their show mojo. A woman who sells vintage props had a booth next to us and it was super slow for her. She left her booth for a while and guess what? A huge client came to see her! Luckily the client waited for her (this would not usually happen), and she closed a deal on the spot. She got lucky.

I must admit, our product and service wasn’t a great fit for the show attendees, but we quickly realized it was a great fit for the other exhibitors. We talked to lots of them and ended up closing two deals during the show. Lesson? Seize the moment, stick with it and work it with everything you’ve got. Every show is different, and you never know when that next great lead or deal is going to appear. Will they stop or walk on by? That’s up to you, isn’t it?

What tips would you add to break through the noise at a trade show? Share them in the comments.

This article by VerticalResponse founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

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© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 3 Ways to Break Through the Noise at a Trade Show appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Google Releases Penguin 3

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 12:53

Great news for small business that have been waiting for Google to update the Penguin algorithm! We’re happy to report that Google has finally started releasing Penguin 3 and will continue to roll it out over the next few weeks. This Penguin update affects about one percent of search queries in US English according to Googler Pierre Far. This update is a data refresh, and not a complete rewrite of the algorithm. The last Penguin update was released back in October 2013 and webmasters have been working hard to make sure they benefit from this most recent Google update. As a reminder, the Penguin algorithm targets low quality and spammy backlinks pointing to your site. 

If you notice unusually low traffic to your site in the upcoming weeks, you maybe have been hit by this newest release of Google Penguin. We would recommend doing a backlink audit to see if there are any lower quality links pointing to your site. You can get your most recent backlinks from Google Webmaster Tools. Once you’ve identified those links, use Google’s Disavow Tool, but a word of caution, it’s a very powerful tool. We’ve got lots of actionable tips about Google Penalties for you. 

Stay on top of all things Google with our What’s New With Google YouTube Series. This episode features talk about Google’s Penguin 3 algorithm, rankings boost to sites using HTTPS and the end of Google Page Rank toolbar. If you have any questions about Penguin 3, share them in the comments! 

 

© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Google Releases Penguin 3 appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

The Dos and Don’ts of Review Sites

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 06:00

The evolution of online review sites over the past few years has been a boon to both small businesses and consumers. As a small business, review sites give you a greater online presence. Sites like Yelp, Google, Yahoo! Local, Angie’s List and a myriad of others give a small business the opportunity to shine online. For consumers, review sites give them the opportunity to research and gain insight on a product or business – whether it be a restaurant, dry cleaner, or salon – before they even step foot inside the door.

Why are review sites are so important to small businesses?

Not surprisingly, online review sites and their impact on consumer decision making continues to rise at an exponential rate. Here are a few recent stats from various consumer surveys:

  • 90% of consumers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews.
  • 85% of consumers use online reviews to find local businesses.
  • Restaurants are, by far, more likely to be reviewed online. However, doctors/dentists, hotels/bed & breakfasts and salons are also up there for most reviewed business types.
  • 73% of consumers say that positive customer reviews make them trust a business more.

Source: 2013 BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey and 2013 Dimensional Research survey.

Your potential customers are forming an opinion of your business before they ever even enter your store, restaurant, or visit your website. Knowing how to handle the feedback you receive on review sites is also crucial to managing your online reputation. Here are some dos and don’ts you should abide by when it comes to review sites:

 The Dos: 

  • Do, first and foremost, review your reviews, and often. See what people are saying about your products or services. Do it on a consistent basis so you can respond (when needed) in a timely manner.
  • Do actively participate with reviewers. Whether you receive positive, middle of the road, or negative reviews, when appropriate, reach out to those reviewers. Depending upon the review, you can do so by responding publicly on the site if available, send a private message or even pick up the phone.
  • Do solicit reviews wisely and carefully. Consumers are more likely trust a review of your business based on a significant number of reviews. The more, the better. If you don’t have many reviews on more popular review sites, you can simply ask customers to do so. However, several review sites warn caution with this tactic. Don’t be overly aggressive, don’t ask for 5 stars, and do not penalize people for negative reviews! Something as simple as, “Thanks have a great day. If you get a chance, I’d love to have you share your thoughts about my store on Yelp,” should suffice.

 The Don’ts:

  • Don’t freak out because you get a negative review. You can’t control what someone will write about you online. You can only control your own customer service that you provide. Typically, consumers who use review sites will read an average of 6 or more reviews before making up their mind. One bad apple may not spoil the barrel in this instance.
  • Don’t respond to a negative review when you’re angry. The last thing you’ll want to do when you read a negative review is respond back immediately to that reviewer in a defensive (or even offensive) way. Read the review, step away. When you have some perspective, do respond in a respectful tone. Users of review sites will appreciate the fact that you are reading reviews and are engaged in your business. It shows you care about what people are writing about you.
  • Don’t write reviews about yourself. It’s tempting, but don’t do it. Writing “fake” reviews and submitting them yourself is really disingenuous to the spirit of review sites an most sites can detect this faux reviews and will take them down.
  • Don’t offer bribes for good reviews. Don’t offer discounts, incentives or freebies to solicit 5 star reviews. Instead, show your customers you’re really interested in what they have to say. Identify which review sites have the most impact on your business and display those review sites’ logos in your shop or on your website. This will encourage users to leave reviews, and on the flip side, look you up as well.

Hope these tips help you in managing your online reputation on review sites. Have any other ideas that may help? Leave them in the comments below.

Get more marketing tips and advice in the weekly VR Buzz.

© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post The Dos and Don’ts of Review Sites appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

7 Reasons Your Business Needs an Automated Welcome Email

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:00

When someone signs up for your email list, it’s important to roll out the email red carpet and welcome them. Statistics show these new subscribers are most engaged within the first 48 hours. An automated welcome email (which is a type of autoresponder) can help you reach out to your new subscribers within that crucial window of time. Luckily, at the end of this month, we’ll be launching automated welcome emails in our newest version of VerticalResponse.

Why is an automated welcome email so important to have in your email tool belt? We’ve identified seven reasons why your business should take advantage of a welcome email:

1. Save time
What small business owner isn’t looking for ways to save time? We know you’re busy. With an automated welcome email, every time a new name is added to your list, your pre-made welcome email is delivered straight to their inbox. It’s that simple.

You don’t have to create and send a welcome email every time a new contact signs up, which means you’ll spend less time creating individual emails and managing your list. You create the welcome email once and it’s automatically sent to new subscribers.

2. Provide immediate value
New subscribers have high expectations. When they sign up for your emails, they expect high quality content in return. A welcome email sets the tone, instantly showing customers what kind of communication and information they’ll receive as a member of your email list. A welcome email is your time to shine. A sleek, well thought out welcome email shows subscribers your company can be counted on to deliver valuable content.

3. Tailor your welcome email with ease
Like many small businesses, your email lists may be divided into different groups. As an option, you can customize a welcome email to meet the needs of each group. For example, if your lists are divided by location (San Francisco or New York) you can create welcome emails that are tailored to a particular city or area. Each group receives a targeted look and message.

4. Make a great first impression
One of the biggest reasons to send a welcome email is to make a good first impression. A welcome email is like a digital handshake between two new people. It’s the first step to forming a relationship.

A welcome email gives you the chance to knock your first meeting out of the park. You only get one shot at a first impression, and delivering a professional email that extends a friendly greeting as soon as they sign up for your list can make your new subscriber feel welcome.

Plus, a welcome email can provide information about your company or offer a new-subscriber discount. All of these aspects add to the subscriber’s overall impression of your business.

5. Generate some buzz
Who doesn’t want to create a positive buzz around their business or product? Well, a welcome email does just that. As part of a welcome email, you can get prospective customers excited about what’s to come. Tell new subscribers why your email list will rock their world. For example, in the welcome email below Crate and Barrel tells subscribers they’ll get special offers, a look at new items, design tips and access to store events. That quick list gets subscribers pumped up about their new email relationship.

6. Take advantage of a potential sales opportunity
When a new subscriber joins your list, it means they want to know more about your product or business. Since the welcome email lands in their inbox while their curiosity is still piqued, subscribers may be more likely to make a purchase from your business. To provide a little extra incentive, consider adding a promotional deal to your welcome email.

Take a look at the email below. It not only welcomes the subscriber, but it also offers 20% off. The customer sees it as a nice gesture, and it opens up a sale opportunity for your business.

7. Increase email response rates
Every small business wants to see impressive email response rates. When you send an email, you want subscribers to open it, read it and take action. Statistics show welcome emails have impressive response rates.

The Epsilon Email Marketing Research Center says triggered emails – which include welcome emails, shopping cart reminder emails and anniversary emails – have an open rate of 46-53% and clickthrough rates between 9-11%. Other non-automated emails have an open rate of 26-32% and clickthrough rates that hover around 4 percent.

Simply put, subscribers pay attention to welcome emails.

Welcome emails are just the first of many exciting new features that we’ll be rolling out in our newest version of VerticalResponse. Stay tuned for more features to help your small business send emails with ease. VerticalResponse Classic users, you can sign up for the new VerticalResponse with a different email address than your Classic account.

© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 7 Reasons Your Business Needs an Automated Welcome Email appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Creating Viral Content Comes Down to Just Letting Go

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 06:00

If I told you an Ohio traffic reporter had over a million views of his video on YouTube, you would probably be surprised.

When was the last time your content or videos got that many views (and that’s in one week)?

Bob Herzog is a traffic reporter for WKRC – Channel 12 in Cleveland, Ohio. He brings a rare musical flair to his job by giving popular songs a weather-related twist. As part of Dance Party Fridays at the station (obviously not your typical news station), he has done everything from Elton John’s “Rocket Man” (changed to “Traffic Man”), Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” (changed to “Tree Falling”), and Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” (changed to “Drive Indiana”).

His latest parody is “Let It Go” from the Disney movie Frozen. Herzog sings “Just Don’t Go” while trudging through snow and attempting to climb a set of icy stairs, reinforcing how dreadful the weather has been and why it’s a good idea not to venture out on the roads.

Pretty darn catchy for a news station in Cleveland. What I found interesting is that instead of leveraging these videos to generate traffic to a YouTube channel for the station, the videos are posted under Herzog’s name. The station could be generating a lot of additional traffic this way (most of the videos have over 50,000 views).

Another recent example of using pop culture and humor occurred when Durham Academy announced school would be closed due to inclement weather by rapping the announcement to the Vanilla Ice tune, “Ice Ice Baby.” Lyrics included:

All right stop, collaborate and listen

Ice is back and the roads will glisten

Polar vortex has a hold of us tightly

Wind like a harpoon daily and nightly

This video had over 4 million views and was tweeted or posted by CNN, Time.com, BuzzFeed, Gawker, and Deadspin. Not your usual coverage for a school closing due to weather. Plus, I bet a lot of kids now think their school administrators are a lot cooler than they suspected.

Think of some creative ways you can incorporate this approach into your own efforts (we did this a number of years ago when we launched on the Salesforce AppExchange, and the video still gets views today).

Imagine announcing a new product this way, or an event you’re having. The possibilities are endless, so rev up your sense of fun and let it go.

This article by VerticalResponse founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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7 Spine-Tingling Good Halloween Emails That Are Haunting Our Inboxes

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 06:01

Halloween is nearly here and our inboxes are being haunted by some scary good emails. Take a look at these spooktacular examples for inspiration, if you dare:

Chronicle Books

Subject line: Put Some Boo in Your Next Book Order

Chronicle Books does a hauntingly good job with their holiday themed subject line and carries it through to the copy, the image and even the Halloween promo code. 

The Market Fresno

Subject line: Halloween Pumpkin Patch at The Market

The Market Fresno gets their customers ready for Halloween by promoting their festive pumpkin patch. Their subject line is direct, to the point, and they also tout their email exclusive offers, which provide the value of being a subscriber. 

Teavana

Subject line: You deserve a treat, too.

Teavana serves us a subject line that promises a treat – enticing! Inside the email, they follow up with, “No Tricks, Just Treats” and serve up their new assortment of fall dessert teas.

ModCloth

Subject line: Halloween treats have arrived!

Modcloth tempts their subscribers with new products in their Halloween shop, and their email imagery backs it up. Notice this email does not contain an offer. 

The Travel Channel

Subject line: Travel’s Best Halloween Attractions 2014

The Travel Channel reveals their list of some of the scariest Halloween attractions in this ghoulish email. From the top haunted cities in the US, to ghastly gargoyles around the globe, this email aims to get subscribers traveling in ghostly style for Halloween.

California Academy of Sciences

Subject line: Get Excited! SuperNatural Halloween is Around the Corner at the Academy

The Academy sent out this creepy good email as an invitation to their SuperNatural Halloween event. The Academy makes sure to send out their invitation almost two weeks before their party, allowing enough time to follow up with any non-responders (folks who didn’t open the first email).

Martha Stewart Living

Subject line: Scary Simple Party Costumes + Free, Downloadable Halloween Clip-Art

Martha Stewart, the queen of all things holiday, sent this email with a video of a day-to-night party costume and free Halloween clip art (could be good for your email marketing, too). 

Now that you’ve seen some scary good email examples, it’s time to send your own Halloween emails. Use VerticalResponse for free today and keep your customers coming back again and again.  

© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 7 Spine-Tingling Good Halloween Emails That Are Haunting Our Inboxes appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

10 Reasons Social Logins Could Be a Game Changer

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 06:01

Social logins – You see them often, and you’ve probably used them several times to log on to various web sites. They use existing login information from your various social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter to create a single sign-on experience. Yes, they’re increasingly common and fast, but should you be using them for your own business? Read on for a crash course on social logins and why you may want to consider using them.

What are the benefits of using a social login?
A social login allows users to avoid a website’s lengthy registration process by authenticating their identities using one of their existing social network accounts. Most importantly, the faster you let people into your website, the sooner they can start purchasing or using your product. Here are 10 more benefits:

  1. Faster registration process. Social logins cut down on a lengthy or sometimes frustrating registration process for consumers. According to Gigya, social logins increase registration rates by up to 90 percent.
  2. More revenue. Social login users are more likely to make purchases online compared to those who don’t use social logins, according to a recent 2014 Janrain Social Login and Personalization report. The report also revealed the following:
  3. Loyal followers. People who use social logins are more likely to be brand advocates.
  4. Valid emails. Social logins decrease the number of false email addresses you might acquire through more traditional registrations.
  5. Increased user engagement. Visitors who use social logins tend to be more engaged. In fact, 60 percent of social login users are more likely to watch a video or read an article, and they spend 64 percent more time on a website than non-users.
  6. Referrals. Social login users are more likely than non-users to recommend a company’s website to others (40 percent vs. 22 percent).
  7. Increased app usage. Social login users are 78 percent more likely to download a mobile app from a company.
  8. Customer satisfaction. There is increased satisfaction among consumers who have personalized experiences online. Social logins provide businesses with personalized data and profiles to create this more targeted experience.
  9. Decreased customer support. With one less user name and password to remember, you can significantly decrease the need to provide password retrieval support.
  10. Repeat visitors. Of the consumers who register traditionally but forget their username or password, about 90 percent won’t come back to your website according to Loginradius. So making it easy to get to your site with a username and password they use other places makes it super simple.

Do many businesses use social logins?
Yes, in fact, social logins are now the most popular way to create accounts on the Internet. Of the nearly 90 percent of people who have run across social media logins, more than half use them, according to a 2014 U.S. research report on “Social Login and Personalization” from Janrain.

Which social sites are most important?
For the second quarter of 2014, the numbers weren’t much of a surprise. Facebook led the pack with about 55 percent of the social login share, with Google trailing behind at 27 percent. Yahoo (11 percent) and Twitter (5 percent) were third and fourth, with LinkedIn, Pinterest and Amazon and others sharing the remaining 2 percent.

Should you offer social logins?
As you can see from the stats in this post, if you have a website in which people are logging in to make a purchase, register, or try out a service, it’s certainly worth a try. It could be a game-changer for your business.

Do you use social logins? Tell us why or why not in the comment section below.

This post contributed by Wendy Burt-Thomas, a full-time freelance writer with four books and thousands of published articles to her credit.

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© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 10 Reasons Social Logins Could Be a Game Changer appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Psst! Want to Know How to Write Irresistible Subject Lines?

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 06:00

Did the headline grab your attention? You’ve probably come across similar headlines or subject lines in your inbox – they’re emotionally responsive. And while you might be more familiar with the straightforward, value-driven email subject lines such as, “get 10% off,” sticking to a cut-and-dry approach may wear out your readers.

Appealing to your readers’ practical side is a proven strategy. But for the sake of variety, mixing things up and connecting with your subscribers on an emotional, rather than just an intellectual level can leave a lasting impression. Here’s how to appeal to your readers’ emotions:

There are two basic types of emotionally responsive subject lines: negative and positive. While the former is used more often, both types can be used to resonate with customers on an emotional level:

Negative Responses

There are a variety of ways in which negative emotional responses can be used, but these effective ones convince your subscribers that they shouldn’t ignore your email:

  • Fear of losing money – Let’s say you’re running a promo for a $20 discount. Rather than using a ho-hum “get $20 off” in your subject line, try something like “Ignoring this email is like throwing $20 away.” Which subject line would entice you open?
  • Fear of missing out – The fear of missing out on something is perhaps even more powerful than the fear of wasting money. The fear has even earned its own pop culture acronym: FOMO. Whether it’s an opportunity, invitation, or information, most people don’t want to be left out. The title of this blog post is an example of FOMO.

Positive Responses

Nobody likes a downer, so don’t rely too heavily on negative emotionally responsive subject lines. Sometimes, it’s more appropriate to focus on the positives:

  • Use positive imagery – Paint a rosy picture in your subject line with wording that evokes warm, positive feelings. For example, a retail store promoting their new fall/winter clothing line might say, “Stay cozy this fall – soft cardigans and fuzzy sweaters are here!”
  • Appeal to their altruistic side – Some of the most successful positive emotionally responsive subject lines are used by non-profits and charitable organizations. Think about the local SPCA using a subject line that reads, “Would you give 5 minutes to save an animal’s life?”

Insider Tip

Make sure the content of your emails, blog posts and landing pages back up your emotionally responsive subject lines. Not only is maintaining consistent messaging from subject line to content required by the CAN-SPAM act here in the U.S., but failing to do so may lead your subscribers to feel misled, which will result in an increased unsubscribe rate.

If you’re new to writing emotionally responsive subject lines, try an split test to measure engagement. Send an email with an emotionally responsive subject line to half your list, and a regular subject line to the rest. You may be surprised by the results!

Have you come across some successful emotionally responsive subject lines in your own inbox? Share ‘em with us!

Create and send your own emails for free using VerticalResponse. 

© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Psst! Want to Know How to Write Irresistible Subject Lines? appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

20 Powerful Marketing Words & Phrases That Sell or Repel

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 06:01

Words have power. We all know that. So which marketing words encourage subscribers to act, customers to buy, or donors to give? We read through dozens upon dozens of emails and compiled a list of “sales-boosting” marketing words and a list of “sales-deflating” terms. Keep these lists handy the next to you craft an email or social post.

Boost Sales with These Powerful Marketing Words:

1. Sale – It’s the old faithful of marketing words. While a lot of businesses use the word “sale,” it has the power to motivate customers. Who doesn’t love a good deal?

2. Off – If you can offer your audience an incentive like 50% off, or $25 off your next $75 purchase, you’ll pique interest quickly and give customers added incentive to buy. Take a look at the Coach offer below. 

3. Now – This handy word encourages people to act. It creates a sense of urgency. Usually “now” is used as part of a call to action. Examples include: Shop now, Act now, Subscribe now.

4. New – Customers are intrigued by the newest gadget, product or offer. It’s an attention-grabbing word that’s effective in emails.

5. Best sellers – People like knowing what items or services are popular, so creating a list of best-selling products is a great way to capture additional sales. Here’s an example from home goods store, Wayfair. The subject line reads: Best-selling accent furniture to find that missing piece. The body of the email also uses the word “best sellers.”

6. Be the first – Customers like exclusive access. Give your audience a sneak peak at new products, upcoming offers and high-quality content.

7. Your – Words like “your” or “you” show customers that you’re thinking about them. It’s a simple personalized touch that can go a long way to increase sales. Take a look at the three subject lines below. Each one includes the word “your” or “you.”

8. Thank you – Show your customers a little love by showing your appreciation once in a while. When you reach a new goal, thank your customers with a new deal, host a customer appreciation event or send a kind email thanking new subscribers for signing up.

9. Remember– Your customers are busy, so it’s always a good idea to send reminder emails. Maybe you want to remind customers about an event or to use the reward points that they’ve accumulated. An example is, “Remember, you have three hours left to redeem your offer!”

10. Tips – Everyone can use a little help once in a while. Send emails that are full of tips to help your customers use your product or improve their business in some way.

10 Words that can Deflate Your Sales:

1. Hurry – Yes, you want to encourage customers to act fast, but this word is overused and doesn’t pack as much punch as “Act now” or “Limited-time offer.”

2. Look inside – These two words are commonly used in subject lines. You’re stating the obvious. Of course, the recipient has to look inside to read the content or claim the deal. Skip these two words, and just get to the point.

3. Groundbreaking – While “groundbreaking” sounds impressive, it’s not helpful, says Eric Fischgrund, founder of marketing and public relations company FischTank. “Everyone says this,” he says. “To your readers, it’s an instant turn off.”

4. Guaranteed – Nothing in life is guaranteed, Fischgrund reminds us; so it’s best to stay away from this word. You can still back your product or service, just refrain from using the word “guaranteed.”

5. Huge – Every sale and event is huge. Think of alternatives to use. For instance, “Our Biggest Sale of the Year.” It’s more descriptive.

6. Cyberspace – It’s not 1980. If you refer to the Internet in any way, avoid outdated terms like “cyberspace” or “information superhighway,” unless you’re being ironic.

7. Hassle-free – Sure, the phrase seems positive, but you’re still associating the word “hassle” with your business or brand. Not a good idea. Go with “easy” instead.

8. Once in a lifetime – Cliché, and typically untrue phrases like this don’t help your sales. Be original.

9. Final days to save – This phrase is vague. How many days are left in the sale? Give your customers a specific time frame on all deals.

10. SAVE UP TO 25% RIGHT NOW!!!! – There are two red flags in this statement. For starters, don’t use all caps; it makes people feel like you’re screaming at them. Keep your punctuation to a minimum, too. The sale isn’t any more enticing with three exclamation points.

Do you have a go-to marketing word that stimulates sales through email? Or do you have a list of marketing words that are pet peeves? If so, feel free to share them in our comment section below. Be sure to check out our most overused words in PR and Marketing, and the worst email subject lines, ever, as well! 

Send winning emails that sell with VerticalResponse

© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 20 Powerful Marketing Words & Phrases That Sell or Repel appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Find out How Much Traffic Pinterest Drives to Your Site [VIDEO]

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 06:00

Pinterest drives more traffic than Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit combined, but do you know how much traffic you’re getting from it? In this short video, we show you how to use UTM (Urchin Tracker Module) codes so you can easily see exactly how much traffic you get from the image-centric social site. 

 

Learn how you can boost sales via Pinterest in this post, Saucy Tips to Boost Sales via Pinterest

© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Find out How Much Traffic Pinterest Drives to Your Site [VIDEO] appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

3 Webhook Options Now in Our API

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 06:00

A Webhook provides a way for a developer or a client application to subscribe to certain events in a web application, such as a new list sign up, by providing a uniform resource identifier (URI). When the event occurs, the web application makes an HTTP callback to this URI letting them know that the event they subscribed to has occurred and provides details about the event, eliminating the need for any polling.

VerticalResponse has created API Webhooks for three events:

  • Contact Create
  • Contact Unsubscribe
  • Uploading a list of contacts (Bulk Contact Create)

Example:
Say a client application has subscribed to “contact create” through the Webhook. When a VerticalResponse user associated with the client application creates a new contact in their account, the client application will get a notification from VerticalResponse. If the client application subscribed to “uploading a list of contacts,” VerticalResponse will make a callback to the client application letting them know of this new development whenever the VerticalResponse user uploads a list of contacts.

Use Cases:
If you’re creating a solution that will keep VerticalResponse and another system in sync with respect to contacts, Webhooks can save you time and effort by letting you know whenever a new contact has been created in VerticalResponse for your users. This way you only have to react to changes when they happen, rather than polling VerticalResponse at regular intervals to check if there’s a new contact.

Similarly, if you want to know about unsubscribed contacts and also make sure that another system, for example a CRM, knows of this change, you can use the Webhooks to alert you whenever a user unsubscribes from VerticalResponse. This way, the data in the two systems is always consistent with minimal effort.

Get Started:
Get started with the VerticalResponse webhooks by checking out our Webhooks Overview and the reference documentation to Create Webhooks.

Learn how you can integrate email marketing and social media into your app with the VerticalResponse API. 

© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 3 Webhook Options Now in Our API appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

10 Must-Attend Food and Beverage Conferences

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 06:01

The food and beverage business is a huge industry that includes agriculture, food processing, wholesale and distribution, retail, technology, and even marketing. If you’re in the food and beverage business, here are 10 must-attend conferences and networking opportunities that cover everything from wine, natural products to restaurant technology. 

PMA Fresh Summit
Anaheim Convention Center – Anaheim,CA
October 17-19, 2014
20,000 Attendees

Why they say you should attend: “Fresh Summit is the must-attend event for you and your colleagues. It’s where produce and floral industry leaders from around the world converge to share ideas, breakthroughs and inspiration.”

Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium
Hilton Concord Hotel - Concord, CA
January 14-15, 2015 
300 Attendees
   
Why they say you should attend: “This is the national wine industry’s only annual conference on direct marketing and sales — a must-attend event for every level in the company, and the only summit organized by vintners, for vintners.”     

RFMA 2015 Annual Conference
San Diego Convention Center – San Diego, CA
February 1-3, 2015

Why they say you should attend: “The RFMA 2015 Annual Conference is your next big chance to network with the largest gathering of restaurant facility professionals and vendors. It’s the one place where you can share insights and learn about the newest products and services needed to succeed. We will have all of the information you need to help you buckle up for a successful 2015!”

Natural Products Expo West
Anaheim Convention Center – Anaheim, CA
March 5-8, 2015
67,000 Attendees

Why they say you should attend: “Natural Products Expo West continues to be the leading trade show in the natural, organic and healthy products industry, attracting over 67,000 industry professionals and 3,000 exhibits to the Anaheim Convention Center. Rated as one of the top 200 trade shows in the US by Tradeshow Week, Natural Products Expo West continues to help attendees reach their business goals.”

International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York
Javits Center – New York, NY
March 8-10, 2014
16,000 Attendees

Why they say you should attend: “The International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York is the only all-encompassing event in New York for the restaurant and foodservice industry, making it THE one-stop source for everything you need to succeed in today’s market.”   

New England Food Show 
Boston Convention Center – Boston, MA
March 15-17, 2015
14,000 Attendees

Why they say you should attend: “The New England Food Show is the region’s largest event focused on the retail and foodservice markets. NEFS is THE place in New England to get inspired and source wicked good foods, beverages and equipment ideas you can use to establish, build and grow your business.”

MURTEC: Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference 
Caesars Palace – Las Vegas, NV
March 17-19, 2015 
550 Attendees 

Why they say you should attend: “As the must-attend event to learn about the latest innovations and get up-to-speed on how to leverage new technologies, MURTEC® is lauded as the ‘gold standard’ for restaurant technology insight offering both compelling sessions and top-notch networking opportunities.”  

National Restaurant Association Restaurant (NRA) & International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event at NRA Show® (IWSB)
McCormick Place - Chicago, IL
May 16-19, 2015
44,000 Attendees

Why they say you should attend: “Join your industry and arm yourself for another year with the latest products, services and insights from more then 2,000 exhibitors and hundreds of industry leaders.”  

Sweets and Snacks Expo
McCormick Place – Chicago, IL
May 19-21, 2015
16,000 Attendees

Why they say you should attend: “After the sold out, record-setting show in May of 2014, the Sweets & Snacks Expo proves to once again be the global power-house event for the industry, and the 2015 show is poised for even more exceptional growth! With 16,000 attendees and 650 exhibiting companies in 2014, the Expo offers the best opportunity to buy, shop, learn and discover!”

Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo
Chicago, IL
July 11-14, 2015
16,000 Attendees

Why they say you should attend: “At the IFT Food Expo, you’ll find the industry’s largest collection of food ingredients, equipment, processing, and packaging suppliers, all under one roof. It’s the only place where the latest global food trends—and the products designed to meet them—are on display.”

Have you been to any of these conferences? Have any others you’d add to the list? Share in the comments. 

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© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 10 Must-Attend Food and Beverage Conferences appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

8 Ways to Wake up Non-Responders

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 09:57

So you’ve got some subscribers on your mailing list who haven’t opened your emails or clicked on any links in a long time. How do you get them re-engaged? We recommend eight simple steps to help you re-connect with non-responders.

1. Segment
Figure out who the non-responders on your email list are, and segment them out. You can do this easily with most Email Service Providers, including VerticalResponse and create a separate email list with your non-responders – those who haven’t opened or clicked on any links in your email in while. This step is important because it allows you to experiment with changes for people who aren’t opening or interacting with your emails, but not with the ones who are engaged and responsive.

2. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
Jill Bastian, our Training and Education Manager, warns against simply removing anybody who’s not responsive on your list. There are many reasons why someone may not be engaging, and the next series of steps can help pinpoint what those are.

3. Create an engaging subject line for this segment
What’s in the body of your email doesn’t make much difference if people aren’t opening it. Experiment with an engaging topic in your subject line, such as something that solves a problem for your subscriber, or an offer of a discount or free trial of a product. You can also ask people whether or not they’d like to remain on your list with a subject line saying something like, “We’ve missed you!”

4. Highlight list benefits
When creating a highly engaging subject line for your segmented list of non-responders, it’s important to highlight the benefits of being on your email newsletter in the body of the message. Since your readers haven’t been interacting with the email, a reminder of the value of what they get by reading these emails can be helpful.

5. Send a survey
Kim Stiglitz, our Director of Content Marketing & Organic Customer Acquisition, recommends asking subscribers and if the content you provide meets their expectations via a short survey. “If you find a disconnect between what you’re providing and what your subscribers expect, it’s time for a change,” she writes. This survey data can help you modify your content so that it meets the needs of your readers.

6. Play with timing
Try sending an email at a different time of day, or on a different day of the week. “A lot of times, people tend to send emails on a certain day or at a certain time. If you send an email to non-responders at a different time, they may be more interested or it may be a better time for them to look at it,” Bastian says. Check out our post on the best time to send your emails. It might surprise you. 

She also points out that different target audiences respond better to different times of day. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to finding the best time, since each list is different. For example, she gave a presentation recently at a children’s clothing company that chose to send emails around 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., when parents are picking their kids up from school and have time to check a quick email on their smartphones or mobile devices, or in the late evening when kids are asleep or doing homework and parents have more time for themselves. “There are specific times and days where more emails are sent, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to fit every audience,” Bastian explains.

7. Take a look at your send frequency
It’s possible that too-frequent emails are causing your readers to lose interest, particularly if your frequency is different than what you promised when they signed up for your list. It’s important to make sure that you’re sticking to what you promised in your sign-up form. If your email list subscribers signed up for an email once a week, for example, they may feel overwhelmed with emails sent more often than that.

8. Look at your own expectations
Although there are benchmarks for each industry, Bastian recommends coming up with your own open rate goals based on your own list performance. If you’re getting a 12 percent open rate, for example, try shooting for small increases over time. Creating incremental goals is often more realistic than trying to hit a benchmark based on an entire industry, and small gains can add up over time. 

What approaches have been successful for you in helping to re-engage non-responders? Share with us about in the comments section.

Ready to whip up your next email? Use the tips in our 5-Step Recipe to Snag Subscribers Attention and get started with VerticalResponse.

© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 8 Ways to Wake up Non-Responders appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Hello Ello: What You Need to Know About This New Social Networking Site

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 06:26

In Facebook’s decade-long quest for market saturation, the social networking behemoth has many users questioning the site’s validity. Privacy concerns and experiments have users complaining. Some feel inundated with advertising. Facebook’s continuous algorithm updates and the necessity to pay for boosted posts and ads in order to garner page engagement also has many businesses groaning. Is a new social networking site the solution to the seemingly-growing list of Facebook concerns? Let’s find out:

Hello Ello
Ello is a new social networking site, now in beta, which apparently sees the growing discontent with Facebook as a marketing opportunity. In its manifesto, Ello promises not to sell user data to advertisers or allow advertisements. In addition, pseudonyms are permitted.

Ello was founded by Paul Budnitz and Todd Berger. Budnitz, who is also CEO, describes himself as an artist, designer, author, filmmaker and serial entrepreneur.  According to Ello’s “About” page, the site was originally created by seven artists and programmers as a private social network, and then made public because so many people wanted to use it. 

Demand is high
It’s not been easy to get on Ello, as it’s been inundated with tens of thousands of requests each hour. Those interested in joining may request an invite on the site, but those invitations are slow in coming. With tens of thousands on the wait list and Ello only inviting small batches of users at a time, an invitation may take weeks or months. The quickest way to gain access to the site is to procure an invitation from a new user, but users can only invite five friends. 

People are flocking to Ello in droves, but it’s worth noting that many new social networks often had a large initial surge, but later fizzled and died. Diaspora, Path, and app.net are chief among them, and even Google+ never materialized in the way expected. Whether Ello will become a viable alternative to Facebook remains to be seen. However, it has tapped into negative public sentiment towards advertising.

Ello is not advertiser-friendly
Because the primary selling feature of Ello is to keep advertisers out, it may not be the best bet for small businesses. “We built Ello because virtually all the other social networks were cluttered, ugly, and full of ads,” the site reads. “We began to feel manipulated by the networks themselves – many of our posts were never seen by our friends at all, because ads had taken priority. We came to realize that a social network that has ads is a social network created for advertisers, not for people. Every move we made was tracked and recorded, and every post we made was read and sold to other companies so they could show us more ads. It wasn’t fun any more [stet].”

In its FAQ section (which they call WTF), Ello points out they key difference between it and Facebook loud and clear. It reads:

“Virtually every other social network is run by and for advertisers. Behind the scenes, armies of ad salesmen and data miners track and record every move you make. Data about you is auctioned off to advertisers and data brokers. Under the guise of offering a free service, users of other social networks pay a high price in lack of privacy and intrusive advertising.

You’re the product that’s being bought and sold.

Collecting and selling your personal information, reading your posts, and mapping your social connections for profit is [stet] unethical. Every new feature on an ad-driven network is either a new way to gather more data about you (which can be sold), or show you more ads (which are auctioned), or both.
Ello is totally ad-free. Ello does not sell data about you to third parties, including advertisers and data brokers.”

Ello points out that many social networks started out as ad-free, but then switched gears, modifying privacy policies and selling user information to advertisers. Ello insists it will never do this. However, the site has raised considerable cash in venture capital, and venture capitalists typically want an exit. Ello insists it will stick to a freemium model, making its money off of new features.

However, as designer and social entrepreneur Aral Balkan pointed out in a skeptical post, Ello has raised $435,000 in venture capital, and it’s hard to say whether the type of return investors are looking for will be possible through a freemium model. However, Ello’s founders still own more than 80 percent of the company, so it’s unclear how much impact Vermont-based FreshTracks Capital will have.

Evaluating Ello
Since Ello is still in beta, features are still being built and rolled out. Right now, Ello is fairly minimalist. You can comment on posts, see how many views each post received, and get email notifications and in-stream notifications. Features coming soon include ways to block users, flag inappropriate content, integrate audio and video, create private accounts, and message privately.

Ello does collect some user data anonymously, including location, language, time spent on the site, and the referring website. This shows what people in general do on Ello, but does not trace the behavior back to individuals. Users who are still uncomfortable with sharing anonymous information can turn off analytics completely, or use DNT (do not track) settings on web browsers.

Similar to Twitter’s mute feature, Ello allows users to friend people and then segment them into “friends” or “noise.” But since only a few people are on the network compared to Facebook, being inundated with messages isn’t yet a problem. Still, being able to curate one’s own content rather than being subjected to an algorithm is appealing.

It’s too early to say whether people’s frustration with Facebook and disdain for ads, coupled with Ello’s new features, will create a shift in the social networking landscape. For now, small businesses wishing to reach out to potential users still have plenty of options.

What are your thoughts on Ello? Have you signed up for the new site?

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© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Holiday Email Marketing Made Easy – Our “Everything Holiday” Site is Here!

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 11:39

To help plan your holiday email and social media marketing before the holiday frenzy begins, we’ve launched our annual Everything Holiday site. With actionable holiday email tips and helpful resources like an automatic holiday subject line generator, a planning calendar, an infographic with the Top 20 Most Effective Holiday Subject Lines, plus special holiday promotions (including custom holiday logos, cards and other goodies), there’s a gift for everyone. Check it out it out now:

 

Unwrap more holiday email marketing tips in our Complete Guide to Holiday Email Marketing and get your email marketing started for free with VerticalResponse

© 2014, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Holiday Email Marketing Made Easy – Our “Everything Holiday” Site is Here! appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Avoid These 5 SEO Faux Pas

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 06:00

You may have read our posts praising the virtues of creating engaging content, and heard us extol the importance of responding to reader or customer feedback and making appropriate adjustments. You may also know a bit about quality backlinks and using the correct header tags, sourcing images legally, and creating compelling headlines. Today we’re going to take a look at five thing your business should stop doing if you want to make sure you have killer Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Take a look at our list of faux pas and make sure to steer clear of these big mistakes.

1. Stop keyword stuffing
While it’s still important to include relevant search terms whenever it makes sense, remember that you’re writing for people, not just search engines. If your writing is filled with keywords just to attract search engines, will most likely turn off any real readers that make it to that content hoping for something of value. Make sure to avoid throwing in a phrase over and over again when it’s unnecessary, even if it’s a phrase you want to rank for. Google can penalize sites that have an inappropriately high number of keywords.

2. Don’t let your SEO expert run amok
If you have an agency, SEO expert or someone else, work closely with them on your SEO goals. Research SEO best practices, and make sure your expert is accountable.

Just as Google sometimes penalizes keyword stuffing, having too many low-quality backlinks get you in trouble with the search engine. Don’t outsource your SEO work without knowing what they are up to. A smaller amount of relevant, high-quality links leading to your site is better than many low-quality, irrelevant ones, so make sure your entire team is aware of what you’re looking for.

(And if you do end up with a Google penalty, check out our post on that topic to figure out how to bounce back).

3. Don’t steal content
Don’t scrape content, and use it word-for-word on your site or blog. Reposting other people’s information is tempting, but it’s important to both get permission and give source credit. And you’ll want to go beyond simply giving credit where credit is due. Add extra value to the information by adding your own angle to the information or sharing another point of view that provides context for your audience.

One shining example is the Muck Rack Daily, which includes masterful curation of trending topics among journalists, including tweet-worthy stories and what others are saying about them. The editors clearly put a ton of thought into creating a daily email that’s timely, relevant, crisp, and with a great narrative flow. 

4. Don’t use clickbait headlines
It may be tempting to ask cliffhanger questions in headlines in hopes that people will click through, or to even write misleading headlines that may draw more attention to your content. But although these types of headlines may work in the short term, they don’t build long-term trust with your readers, who are less likely to return if they don’t get value from what you post.

For some examples of clickbait headlines – with an explanation of what they cover intact – check out the twitter profiles, Saved You A Click and HuffPo Spoilers, and learn what not to do!

5. Stop being complacent
With all of the information on SEO best practices and strategies, updates and changes, it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed. Still, the worst move you can make is to become too complacent and do nothing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just take a look at our step-by-step beginner’s guide to SEO to get started.

Your turn
Have you engaged in any of the practices listed above and learned a hard lesson? What business success have you found as a result of newfound practices? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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