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Advice from a Social Pro: Which Social Network Should You Concentrate On? [VIDEO]

Fri, 06/13/2014 - 09:16

In this episode of the “Magic @ Ball of Social Media,” our video series where experts answer small business social media questions, we sit down with Jess Ostroff, “Director of Calm” at Don’t Panic Management. Ostroff provides useful information about you should assess various social media networks for your business.

© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Advice from a Social Pro: Which Social Network Should You Concentrate On? [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Online Banner Ads: Out with the Old, in with Interactive

Thu, 06/12/2014 - 06:00

The world of online advertising is evolving. Soon those rectangular display banner ads that sit at the top of your screen will disappear and new interactive ads will take their place.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, which is made up of 600 media and technology companies and is responsible for selling 86% of the online ads in the United States, is leading the change-the-ads charge. After all, display banner ads have been around since the early 2000s. Considering how quickly things change in the digital world, banner ads like this are ancient.

What will replace display banner ads?
Online advertising will move toward interactive ads of all shapes and sizes with various placements throughout a webpage. The Interactive Advertising Bureau is introducing six new ad options, one of which is called the “Billboard” ad.

Like a banner ad, it sits at the top of the page, but it’s roughly double the size. It can serve as a mini movie screen to play video, or the space can be split into a static ad and a video ad. Watch this video for an example.

Another ad choice, called the “Filmstrip,” puts content into a scrollable window on the right side of the screen. In the example below, a car ad was created. You can check out pictures of the car and even customize the car by changing colors and interior options. Plus, you can see what people are saying about the car on Twitter. All of this information is in the ad and you don’t have to leave the site you’re on to see it.

What kind of results are the new ads getting?
According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, people are 2.5 times more likely to interact with these ads than with traditional options. Plus, people are viewing these ads for a longer amount of time, about 31% longer than traditional ad options.

How will the new ads impact small businesses?
Barney Garcia, our paid media manager says the new ads can set a business apart. Anytime you can differentiate yourself, it’s a win.

Increased customer engagement is also a bonus, but these ads might not be accessible to every small business.

“These new ad formats will be harder to produce, leaving small businesses without the expertise or budget to compete with bigger players … at least at the beginning,” Garcia comments.

Like every new trend, the big brands will try it out first. In time, the cost and resources needed to make these ads will come down and become more of a viable option for small businesses, Garcia predicts.

That doesn’t mean you should wait around and let the big boys do their thing. While the change won’t happen overnight, you can research the new ad options and start looking for people who have the skills to bring your ads into the next generation.

What do you think of the interactive ads trend? How will your small business prepare for the change? Tell us in the comment section below.


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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Online Banner Ads: Out with the Old, in with Interactive appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

What Facebook’s New Pages Layout Means for Your Business

Wed, 06/11/2014 - 06:00

Facebook is at it again. Just a month after the social media giant changed its algorithm, it’s now tweaking the layout and design, adding a new feature and making page metrics more accessible.

The visual experts at Shutterstock, a site that specializes in stock photography, call the new look “visually appealing” with an “attention-grabbing layout that’s designed to delight viewers.”

Intrigued? We thought you might be. Here’s a breakdown of the new changes that are planned to roll out on June 13.

New page design
Instead of your posts showing up on both the right and left side of your feed, all of your posts will appear in a straight line down the right side like the picture below.


Derek Overbey, our senior Social Media Manager at VerticalResponse says, “The old layout is a bit a confusing. The linear feed will help viewers consume your content easier.”

On the left side, you’ll see your likes, an About tab, any apps that apply to your page, photos, videos, reviews, and posts to your page. If you’re a brick-and-mortar store, the left column will also show a map of your location, your phone number and hours of business. You can reorder these tabs to fit your needs.

“Having a spot to prominently display reviews could pay dividends for businesses,” Overbey says. “People love word-of-mouth reviews, and if they see a friend of theirs raving about your place on Facebook, they may be more likely to give it a try.”

Information on top of your cover picture
Your business name and category will sit on top of your cover photo now. The like, follow and share icons will also sit on top of your picture, so you’ll want to make sure the image looks right with this new addition. The dimensions of the cover photo aren’t changing.

Image courtesy of Facebook


Easier access to page stats
To see how your posts are doing with the current layout you have to click the Insights tab. That tab will still be there, but with the new design the most important Facebook stats will be listed on the top right side of your screen. It will look like the white highlighted block in the picture below.


Image courtesy of Facebook

At a glance, you can see if you have an ad running, the number of page likes, post reach, unread posts and the number of notifications that you have. 

New “Pages to Watch” feature
Ever wonder how your competitor’s Facebook page is doing? Now you can find out. You can add pages to your “Pages to Watch” section and compare their results with yours. If you add a competitor’s page to this list they are notified that they were added to a watch list, but they aren’t told who added them. Here’s what it will look like.

Image courtesy of Facebook


You’ll be able to see how many likes your competitor got that week, how many posts they published, and see how much engagement they got.

The new features are mostly for the desktop version of Facebook, although you’ll notice a lite version on the mobile Facebook. You won’t see these changes on the Facebook app.

What do you think of the new changes? Share in the comments.

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Facebook’s New Pages Layout Means for Your Business appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Are Your B2B Communications Boring?

Tue, 06/10/2014 - 06:00

If you’re a business to business company, have you recently taken a good, hard look at your business communications?

Have you especially looked at your email marketing through the eyes of your customers?

I’m guessing if you have, you might find some surprises. You might find that your business is–gasp–boring. Yep, I said it … the B-word. “Boring.” It’s not something we want to admit, but a lot of us in the B2B world feel like we can’t help it because we’ve been told that B2B companies aren’t fun and can’t use humor (which I disagree with wholeheartedly).

I recently even penned a post about how you can take advantage of nontraditional holidays, but I feel as though most B2B companies stop short because they’re still playing by the old rules.

Should B2B be more like B2C?
After running VerticalResponse for the last 13 years, I’ve seen a lot of email in my respective personal and business inboxes. I’ve gotta admit that B2B e-mails could take a good dose of inspiration from their B2C (business to consumer) counterparts.

Here’s a fun experiment. Check out your own business inbox and look at the subject lines, creative, calls to action and copy. What do you see? What grabs your interest? Anything? Bueller? Bueller?

Now, jump on over to your personal inbox and see what’s going on in there. Notice any differences in voice and tone? How attention-getting are the subject lines? Is there a different sense of urgency? Is the creative perhaps more colorful, eye catching and interesting?

The differences can vary greatly, of course, depending what type of emails you’re subscribed to, but I’m guessing you had a similar experience to mine in your inboxes.

So what do you say? Want to join me in shaking up B2B communications and giving your subscribers something more compelling, creative and interesting in their inboxes? Funny enough, as I sit writing this post, I received an email from a business that had the subject line, “How Do You Like Your Ice Cream?” And they don’t sell ice cream. They sell email automation. Looks like we’re on to something here.

How do you plan to spice up your B2B communications, or do you already? Share in the comments.

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Are Your B2B Communications Boring? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

4 Tips to Keep Your Search Strategies Up-to-Date

Mon, 06/09/2014 - 06:00

Search engine optimization (SEO) is consistently evolving, including how it’s referenced. “Most people have migrated to the term ‘search’ or ‘integrated marketing,’” says online marketing consultant and WebScout founder Laura Greeno. Buzzwords aren’t the only aspects of SEO that have evolved since 2006, which Greeno refers to as the time of smoke and mirrors. To keep your ‘search’ skills up-to-date as well, follow these four tips:

Tip #1: Have an integrated approach
SEO strategy used to be divorced from a content marketing strategy. Sites like Copyblogger that emphasize creating quality content, were not nearly as ubiquitous as say, SEO experts offering to “optimize” your text with keyword stuffing (which is now considered a big no-no).

Although many people are much savvier these days, due in no small part to Google penalties and algorithm updates, some still see SEO as wholly separate from other marketing efforts.

“In order to drive sustainable marketing today, you really need to have a fully integrated approach, and search marketing has to cross all those facets of marketing efforts,” Greeno explains. That means that you’re thinking about search (and what people are looking for and would be interesting to them) throughout your entire marketing scope: articles, press releases, social media, and even offline. The topics covered in all aspects are consistent.

Although it’s important to know which topics people are searching for, this goes above and beyond simply looking at keywords. You’re looking for what people are interested in learning and how your content can solve their problems. Using social media as well as engagement with posts on your site (and offline) can help you get to know your readers and guide your content. This goes beyond just figuring out which combination of keywords is optimal, to really understanding potential customers.

Greeno is quick to point out that search crosses into all the different efforts and cannot exist all by itself. She predicts that SEO may even disappear as a term as small businesses realize just how integrated it is. Creating and distributing valuable content to the right audience is far more important than optimizing for search, but combining all these efforts is even better.

Tip #2: Use synonyms, rather than just keywords, in your content
“Google has evolved over the last 18 months or so with understanding some of the synonyms that go along with keywords,” Greeno explains. ‘Inventory management,’ for example, may be a high volume phrase according to Google Adwords, but Google now also understands phrases like ‘inventory control’ or ‘inventory software’ or ‘management of inventory.’

In the past, content creators would find a perfect text URL and use it to link back to certain sites or pages on their blog. “Today, that’s really almost opposite,” says Greeno. Google recognizes that when you’re doing that exact match, and if you do it too often, it looks like you’re trying too hard. Greeno recommends using keywords for only around 20 to 40 percent of links, and using company names or even something like ‘click here’ or ‘learn more’ for the remaining 60 to 80 percent of links. Search engines will now recognize the synonyms around each keyword phrase and see it in context, recognizing what you’re talking about in a page. That means that if you’re writing for humans, search engines are more likely to understand.

Tip #3: Find the right frequency
Continuously creating and promoting great content means everything. “Eighty percent of what SEO is today is content marketing,” says Greeno. Social media is a big piece as well, since it can help create awareness of what you wrote. Viewing social media as a distribution channel (where shareable content, and to some extent, hashtags are digital currency) will help you with your content marketing efforts. The more high quality and useful your posts are, the better they’ll do. And making sure that you come up with a regular schedule is crucial. That way, readers will know when to expect new content and might even look for it on those days.

Tip #4: Pay attention to some of the technical details
As Google becomes more intuitive, it’s worth noting there are still a few technical factors you should keep in mind—so don’t skip them altogether! Writing web-friendly headlines, using keywords in your URL (see advice from above), and having a fast website load time are still important.

Bottom line
As search continues to evolve, remember that the purpose is to enable readers to make connections, find information they’re looking for and find the best answer to their questions. Keep that in mind and you will quickly find your way towards integrated marketing success!

For more great search engine optimization tips, grab our free Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 4 Tips to Keep Your Search Strategies Up-to-Date appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Pinterest Announces 2 New Businesses Tools: DIY Promoted Pins & Analytics

Fri, 06/06/2014 - 10:35

Pinterest recently announced the addition of two new tools for businesses: Do-it-yourself Promoted Pins to help drive visits back to your website, and a refresh to analytics to provide deeper insights into how Pins are performing.

Do-it-Yourself Promoted Pins

Promoted Pins were announced back in the fall of 2013, but were only available to larger businesses with the big budgets to match. Now, Pinterest is opening up the doors and allowing business of all sizes to promote pins. These DIY Promoted Pins appear in search and category feeds, which reach more people and can drive visits back to your website.

So how much will these DIY Promoted Pins cost you? Pins will be on a CPC (cost-per-click) basis, so you’ll only pay when people click through to your website. You’ll also be able to see how your DIY Promoted Pins are performing, so you can make changes as you need.

DIY Promoted Pins are currently being tested by Pinterest, so aren’t available just yet. Sign up for access when they are here. Also, DIY Promoted Pins are only available to business accounts, so if you don’t have one, you’ll have to sign up before you can get access.

Better Analytics = Deeper Insights 

Pinterest also announced a refresh to their analytics, which will provide more detailed insights into how your pins are doing. With improved analytics, you’ll be able to see what people are pinning from your website, plus, Pinterest will tell you which of your pins and boards are driving the most impressions, clicks and repins.

You’ll be able to see the new analytics here. Again, Pinterest is doing their due diligence to ensure everything works smoothly before giving everyone access, but according to the company, all business accounts should get access soon.

What do you think of the new Pinterest tools for business? Are you going to give DIY Promoted Pins a try? Share in the comments.

If you want to learn more about getting started on Pinterest for your business, we have a free guide to walk you through the steps.

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Pinterest Announces 2 New Businesses Tools: DIY Promoted Pins & Analytics appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Advice from a Social Pro: Engaging with Your Community [VIDEO]

Fri, 06/06/2014 - 06:01

In this episode of “Magic @ Ball of Social Media,” our video series where experts answer small business social media questions, we sit down with Ekaterina Walter, co-founder & CMO of Branderati. She’s also the author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Think Like Zuck, and co-author of The Power of Visual Storytelling. Walter provides great tips to small businesses on engaging with their community.

Key takeaways that Walter provides:

  1. Respect your community!
  2. Give your community a way to extend your brand or content.

Learn more in this 3-minute video to get started in your quest to build the most passionate community possible.

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Advice from a Social Pro: Engaging with Your Community [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Cross-Promote Your Email Content [Guide]

Thu, 06/05/2014 - 06:01

Email marketing is a valuable tool for any business. When it’s combined with cross-promotion techniques, your results can be even better. To help business owners tackle the logistics of cross-promotions, we’ve created this handy guide to walk you through the process.

What does cross-promotion mean?
Let’s start by defining cross-promotion. Cross-promotion is about getting your message out on multiple channels. Your target audience gets information from various sources, right? By using multiple sources to share your message, you help increase the odds of customers hearing about it, says Steven Mintz, a marketing consultant with CLM Prescriptives.

What can you cross-promote?
You can cross-promote just about anything. From an upcoming event to a big holiday sale, with a little planning you can cross-promote a lot of the everyday things that your company does. For instance, you can cross-promote:

• upcoming events
• giveaways or contests
• new blog content
• a sale or promotion

How can you cross-promote?
We live in an email checking, Facebook scrolling, content-on-demand world. Because of that, the majority of cross-promotions happen online. Plan to use the most relevant digital platforms that are available to you.

To breakdown how to cross-promote your email content, we’ll use an example from a cross-promoting giant, Coca-Cola. Recently, the company launched a charitable event, “Happiness from the Skies.” Using remote-controlled drones, the beverage-giant delivered care packages to construction workers in Singapore. The packages contained Coke cans with messages of gratitude.

While most businesses won’t be breaking out flying drones anytime soon, the cross-promotion behind this event is something any business can learn from.

Send an email
The Coca-Cola event happened millions of miles away, so how did we hear about it? Through an email, of course. As part of its regular newsletter, Coca-Cola included a small blurb about the event. Check it out: 

Use your newsletter wisely
Coca-Cola placed the information in its regular newsletter, which is the perfect spot for something like this. A newsletter is a great piece of the cross-promotion puzzle.

Be captivating
Let’s dissect this email a little more. We often emphasize writing captivating content, something that draws the reader in. In just a few words, Coca-Cola does that. You want to know more, right? When you’re working to cross-promote an event, spend time creating short, snappy content.

Include a clear call to action
Coca-Cola has your attention. Now, all you have to do is click on the “Learn more” button. It’s another great email marketing tip: make sure your email has a clear call to action. When you’re cross-promoting an event like this, you want content that’s easy to navigate.

Plan for social media
Coca-Cola is already thinking socially. Notice the hashtag in the teaser sentence? The company plans to use #Cokedrones in its social media posts. Whatever you plan to cross-promote, think ahead. What hashtag could you use?

Create a blog post
As soon as the email recipient clicks on the call to action in the email, they’re taken to a blog post that gives more details about the event. Coke explains why it wanted to reach out to the workers and how the company integrated its product with some high-flying technology.

Do the same for your cross-promotion. Make sure subscribers can get more information from your blog.

Use visuals
Coca-Cola doesn’t stop with an email and a blog post, subscribers can watch a two-minute video that shows the drones flying in and dropping off the packages. You get to see the surprised workers open the box and read the messages that are tied to Coke cans.

In addition to the video, Coca-Cola put together a behind-the-scenes slideshow so people can check out the drones.

Both the video and the slideshow are additional visual elements that help the reader see and feel the event.

When you’re cross-promoting something, try to add visual elements like this. For instance, if your company participates in a charitable event, put together a slideshow of your employees volunteering. If you’re cross-promoting an upcoming speaking engagement, email a quick video to show people what to expect at the event. (Need a little help shooting video on the cheap? Check out a recent post on this very topic.)

Share the news on social media
Coca-Cola already had a social media plan with this campaign, but even if a specific hashtag wasn’t mentioned in the email, you should still use social media as a cross-promotion tool. Coca-Cola shared the same blog post that was mentioned in the newsletter. You can see how all three of those elements – the email, blog and tweet – worked together.

Can cross-promoting be done on a smaller scale?
Absolutely. As a small business owner, you decide how far you want to take your cross-promotions. Here are a few smaller scale tips:

Use the big three
To cross-promote on a small scale, use your biggest digital assets: email, social media and your company website. Let’s look at an example.

Send an email
In an effort to promote its new blizzard, Dairy Queen sent an email to its subscribers. It’s short and sweet. In fact, the image is the main seller here. You can do the same thing. Send an email out to advertise a new product or an upcoming promotion.

Promote on social media
Once the email is sent, promote the same information on your social media channels. You don’t want to copy the wording from the email; you want to create something fresh. Here’s what Dairy Queen did.

Use your business website
Don’t forget that your business website is a prime piece of digital real estate. If you are cross-promoting something, make some space for it on your homepage. Create a website banner, or do what Dairy Queen did and make a larger promotion.

What can you do to build an audience and enhance cross-promotion efforts?

Build your email list
One of the key components of cross-promotions is email, so you’ll want to grow your list. One of the best ways to increase subscribers is to get creative with opt-in placement. Make it ridiculously easy for people to sign up. For instance, have a spot on your homepage where people can sign up for your emails, or add a “subscribe now” option to your Facebook page.

Build a social media following
It takes time to grow your email and social media audience organically, but it’s worth your time and effort. To gain a following on social media, make sure you’re consistently posting to the site and that the content you post is of interest to your readers. People will follow you if you’re active and genuinely care about the content you share.

When it comes to cross-promotion, is everything done online?
You do have a lot of accessible, cross-promoting tools online; however, there are other methods that you can use, too.

Use in-store promotions
You can devote some store space to cross-promotions, Mintz suggests. Hang a sign on the door about a sale, or use a flat screen television in your store for promotional purposes.

Team up with a non-profit
Work with a group in your area to cross-promote a mutually beneficial event. Maybe your company is sponsoring a gala for the local animal shelter. By working with a nonprofit, you not only give back to the community but you expose your business to potential subscribers.

Mail invites
If you want to cross-promote an event, you might consider sending a paper invitation through the mail. A week later, you can follow up with an email.

Cross-promoting is about being creative and using the outlets where your niche audience gathers. It does require some pre-planning, but if you take some time to think about what you want to cross-promote, you can easily disperse the information on multiple channels.

Want tips like this cross-promotions guide delivered to your inbox? Say no more. Sign up for our VR Buzz newsletter. And, if you haven’t already, try VerticalResponse to send your next email! 

© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Cross-Promote Your Email Content [Guide] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Add Sizzle to Your Content with Eye Catching Images

Wed, 06/04/2014 - 06:01

The battle for reader attention isn’t limited to catchy headlines and subject lines. Eye-popping images can also captivate. Using tools such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook can help increase brand recognition, build a social media fan base, and draw traffic back to your site or blog. Here are some actionable recommendations on how to use images to create sizzling, eye-catching content.

Find or create images

• Use your own photographs. Whether you’re learning how to snap pics on your smartphone, tapping into the talent of a teammate, or even hiring photographer, using your own photos assures that they’re fresh, original and feature exactly what you want. Off the Grid, a local Bay Area food truck event (and VerticalResponse customer!) does an excellent job snapping mouth-watering food photos from their weekly gatherings. As you can see, their delicious pics garner quite a lot of engagement:

• Your audience does it best! Use user-generated photos – with permission, of course – to showcase uses of your product or to highlight your biggest fans and let them tell their own stories. You can even create contests or other incentives to encourage participation. Here’s an example from a 7×7 Magazine email, which includes a follower’s Instagram photo:

• Purchase stock images. For a small fee, you can get access to a wide variety of stock photos from companies such as:

This allows you to search for an image by topic or keyword and find a professional photograph at a relatively low cost.

• Find free images. Some great places to look include Wikimedia Commons, StockArch, or Stockvault. Creativity103 provides free background images and textures as well. Flickr also has some images that photographers allow others to reuse – just make sure to read the fine print closely to see whether the photo is okay for commercial use.

• Remember that images aren’t relegated to photos. Visual checklists, infographics, and even drawings can inspire customers and nurture prospects.

Pick a tool (or several)!

Here’s a quick rundown on the biggest players:

1. Pinterest

Pinterest is an incredibly popular social media platform that allows you to upload your own images and pin them on a virtual board. (To get started, check out our guide). Take further advantage of this image-rich network by linking back to any post or product associated with the image you pin, and including the link yet again in your image caption. You can create several boards (try three to five) with beautiful images and backlinks, and use them to drive traffic back to your website as well as to interact with other people on the network. Try pinning pictures of people using your service, along with a call to action. Pinterest now has a page for gifts as well, allowing you to showcase your own products. (It’s okay to include prices!) Like any social network, Pinterest is inherently social, so make sure to pin relevant third-party content as well as showcasing your own. Lowe’s hardware is known for wowing others with their fun and useful Pinterest boards:

2. Instagram

This wildly popular photo-sharing app can be used to showcase any visually appealing products or services you offer. Instagram’s array of filters can help reduce glare or add pizazz to just about any shot. You can use #hashtags, just like you do on Twitter. Adding location information can help provide context to images. As with all social media platforms, it’s important to be engaging. It’s always a good idea to add in general photos of interesting things around you as well as images directly related to your business. Humorous or thought-provoking captions will keep people interested. Make sure to engage with other users as well, replying to questions, commenting on other photos and ‘liking’ your favorite images. (If you’re just getting started with Instagram, check out their Instagram for Business page). With more than 42K followers on Instagram, San Francisco custom bicycle shop, Mission Bicycle is certainly a small biz to watch and learn from:

3. Facebook

In addition to using stunning visuals or photographs to illustrate your blog posts, it can be fun to add inspiring or thought-provoking images to your Facebook page. Images – whether they’re posted on their own or paired with text or memes that are trending – tend to do well with a large variety of readers. If the image and text hits home for readers, they’re likely to be widely shared as well.


Remember that you can use an image multiple times. It’s possible to sync your Instagram account with Facebook and Twitter, for example, and you can manually select multiple platforms for an image to load. And WordPress offers plugins for various sites (including Pinterest), in case you’d like your latest pins posted as a sidebar on your page. Whether you’re uploading images manually or automatically, reusing images can take a lot of pressure off of trying to create or find new images for each social media platform!

How are you adding sizzle to your content with images?

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Add Sizzle to Your Content with Eye Catching Images appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

6 Ideas to Refresh Your Email Marketing [Guide]

Tue, 06/03/2014 - 06:21

Every once in a while your emails need a little refresher. It’s like spring cleaning or updating your wardrobe. It’s something you want to do periodically to renew your look and keep customers interested.

How do you know when your email marketing needs a refresh? Good question. An excellent place to start is with your metrics. JoAnne Funch, who runs marketing company Marketing Dish, says if your open rates and clickthroughs are steadily declining, it might be time to resuscitate your emails. We agree. (If you need a little help gauging these rates, check out our recent blog post on this topic).

If you’ve used the same look for a while, it might be time to change it up, too. Or maybe your business just did some rebranding and you want your emails to match. Maybe your emails are out of date and you want a more modern look. Whatever your reason, we’ve got six tips to help get you started. Check them out: 

1. Revive your subject lines
Have your subject lines become a bit boring lately? If so, it’s time to breathe new life into them. Scroll through your own inbox for a little inspiration. What subject lines do you respond to? Jot a few of them down and use them to brainstorm ideas for your email. 

The subject line should be creative, clear and urgent. In other words, the subject line should tell your customers the point of the email and encourage them to open it immediately. 

You’ll also want to optimize your subject line for the mobile world since your customers will likely open your email on their smartphones. Subject lines that are more than 50 characters long will get cut off, so make sure the most important information is at the beginning. 

Take a look at the examples below. Notice that each subject line creates a sense of urgency with words like “last chance” and “now only.” The point of the emails is clear; both are promotional offers.



2. Change the template
One of the great things about using an email service provider like VerticalResponse is the wide variety of templates from which to choose. You don’t have to spend hours designing an email or creating an eye-catching layout because it’s already been done for you. If it’s time to refresh your email, try out a new template. Sometimes just a change of scenery is all that’s needed to catch the reader’s eye. 

For instance, let’s say you’re using the VerticalResponse Classic template to the left to advertise upcoming sales. What if you switch to the template on the right? With just one click you can change the color scheme and design.


3. Change the layout
If changing templates is too drastic, you can always select a different layout that uses the same design. With VerticalResponse, each template has about six different layouts, so you can make subtle changes rather than doing a complete 180. Here’s an example. The two templates below have the same design and color scheme, but a different layout.


4. Clean up the content
Once you’ve spruced up your design elements and refreshed your subject line, it’s time to talk content. When it comes to updating your email marketing message, there are four things you need to consider: relevance, voice, clarity and brevity. 

  • Relevance
    Your customers want content they care about and it’s up to you to fill that need. To do this, you have to know your customer. Segmenting your list will help, too, Funch says. The NFL, for example, creates team-specific newsletters for its customers. The point, of course, is to offer relevant information to your customer groups.
    If you need help coming up with relevant topics, check out our guide: 50 Unique Ideas for Your Next Email
  • Voice
    Your business has its own voice. If you’re selling clothes to teenagers, the tone and voice you use in your emails will be different than if you’re selling car parts. Make sure that every email is true to your company’s voice. 
  • Clarity
    What’s the point of the email? Answer this question before you sit down and write. The subject line should already clue the reader into the email’s intent, but now you need to bring the message home. Keep it simple and clear. 
  • Brevity
    Your customers get a lot of emails, so keep it short. “If you send an email that has half a page of text, they won’t read it,” Funch says. “It looks too much like a homework assignment.”

You don’t want to go overboard with your email content. In fact, check out the email below. In just 24 words this retailer gets the point across.

Of course, there are some emails that require more information. Your monthly newsletter, for example, will contain more than 24 words, but you can send a teaser email like the one below. It offers titles and several snippets of articles in the newsletter. To read the entire article, customers must click on a call to action.

5. Update your call to action
What do you want the customer to do once the email is opened? Do you want them to make a purchase? Download a guide? Read an article? Whatever the desired activity is, it should be expressed in a call to action. 

If your email uses hyperlinked text as a call to action, you might consider adding a button. Both are effective, but in terms of aesthetics, a button is a clean look. Plus, it’s easier to click for your mobile readers.  Check out the emails below. The one on the right has text hyperlinks only. The one on the left has a call to action button. Overall, the email on the left is more pleasing to the eye, don’t you think? You don’t want to overwhelm the reader with too many options. Keep it simple. Each email should only contain one or two calls to action.


If you need a little help creating a button, we’ve got you covered. Check out our button builder to get pristine and professional buttons for your next email. 

6. Add social media buttons
We live in a digital world, so customers expect easy ways to interact with your business and your brand. One of the easiest ways to do this is to include social media links. Take a look at the example below. This company makes it easy for customers to engage with its brand through social media.

With these tips, you’ll have a fresh look that captivates your customers. Of course, before you go too far, it’s a good idea to run a few tests to make sure the changes are welcome. A/B split testing can tell you what your customers prefer. You can test subject lines, email content, design elements and calls to action. With a few tests, you’ll know if your refreshed emails are effective. 

© 2014, VR Marketing 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 6 Ideas to Refresh Your Email Marketing [Guide] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Useful Google Analytics: Goals and Attribution Models

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 09:15

Google Analytics (GA) is an excellent free tool used to track and measure website traffic and other factors. If used strategically, Google Analytics can provide you a wealth of beneficial knowledge. Here are two Google Analytics strategies and a variety of metrics you should be checking to get the most out of this powerful tool:

“I think the question that anybody needs to ask themselves when they have a website is what’s the meaningful action you want someone to take when they’re visiting your site,” says John Becerra, co-founder of Monkey Island, a consulting firm focusing on online marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click and conversion optimization.

Instead of getting lost in an endless cascade of analytics, it’s best to determine what you’d like to measure and set appropriate goals.

The type of goals you’ll want to measure depends on the type of site you have, but the following are metrics you may wish to track:

• Purchases: You can track this by sending shoppers to a “thank you” page after their order is completed, and tracking that page.
• Contacts: People who fill out a ‘contact us’ form might be useful to track if it leads to sales.
• Mailing list subscribers: This is especially important if your email marketing yields a high return compared to blog posts and social.
• Downloads or views: If a video or whitepaper is part of your sales funnel, you may want to track the number of people who download the resource or watch a video.
• Duration: It’s not worth it to put a lot of time into a page if people immediately scroll off, so you’ll want to track the results to see how much time people are spending on any given page. Then you can make changes as needed.
• Pages/screens per session: Depending on the type of business you have, it may be important for people to view multiple pages, which means they’ll be far more likely to return.

Just as important as the number of goals met on your site is where the actual traffic is coming from, so you’ll want to pay close attention to these metrics as well:
• Most referred sites: or the sites that send the most traffic your way. If the majority of your traffic is coming from specific sites, you may want to expand your partnership or affiliation (or advertising) with the site.
• Types of traffic: direct traffic (people who type in your URL), search engine traffic, paid traffic, or referring websites. If you have a deficit of traffic from any of these three places, you may want to see how you can increase it.
• Search terms: people use to get to your site, so that you can provide more content related to those terms. You can also look at the search terms people use on your own site, or site search.
• Traffic from social: Both social landing pages and the number of conversions coming from social media sites. This will allow you to put more effort into the social media sites or landing pages that are getting you the best results.

Google Analytics allows you to set as many as 20 goals, but again, it’s important to focus on just a few key metrics that you’ve determined are the most important ones for your site. So, don’t feel like you have to track every metric if it doesn’t tie directly into the goals for your website.

Attribution Modeling
Becerra recommends looking at attribution modeling in Google Analytics. Although it’s often ignored, he sees it as one of the most useful tools available in Google Analytics.

An attribution model is a set of rules that shows you how many points of contact a reader may have had with your brand before a sale is made. For example, a reader may find your site via web search, and return after clicking on a link on Facebook or Twitter a week later. Then, after signing up for your email newsletter, that same reader could click on a link in your email newsletter and make a purchase. Instead of just looking at the very last metric and attributing that sale to the email newsletter, attribution modeling allows you to choose between multiple options that give you additional information about that sale:

• Last interaction: For the purpose of tracking the sale, credit is given to the last interaction before the sale. This model is useful if your sales funnel doesn’t have a long consideration phase.
• Last non-direct click: The last channel that wasn’t direct traffic receives credit. If your sales are mostly won through other methods and people simply go to your direct site for the actual sale, this model may be useful.
• Last AdWords click: The AdWords click that ultimately led to the conversion is tracked and receives credit for the sale. This can help you analyze which of two or more AdWords campaigns were most effective.
• First interaction: This metric tracks the way the person came across your site the very first time. If one of your goals is generating awareness for your brand and business, this model is for you.
• Linear attribution model: In this model, every interaction in the conversion path gets equal credit for the sale.  By using this model, “you can really dissect the way in which people interact with your site,” says Becerra. The model can help you understand the entire sales cycle, and is helpful if you maintain contact with the client throughout it.
• Time decay: In this model, the interactions that occurred closest in time to the conversion or sale get the majority of the credit. This is most useful for shorter campaigns running one or two days.
• Position-based: This assigns 40 percent credit to the first and last interaction, and the remainder is distributed to the middle interactions. If you’re most interested in the very first point of contact a customer had with your site as well as the one resulting in a sale, this is a good attribution model.

Not sure which to pick, or want to geek out on this more? No worries – a model comparison tool can help you compare three different attribution models at a time to see the similarities and differences. You can even create a custom model.

Checking Analytics
It can be tempting to log onto Google Analytics multiple times a day to see how a specific page is doing, but Becerra recommends paying more attention to overall trends. Looking at your analytics once a week, and digging in more in-depth for a full analysis every month, should do the trick.

If you’re unfamiliar with how to use Google Analytics, be sure to check out our Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics.

Which tools do you find most useful in Google Analytics? Share your comments with us below.

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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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Advice from a Social Pro: Building an Engaged Social Media Audience [VIDEO]

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 06:00

In this episode of “Magic @ Ball of Social Media,” our video series in which experts answer small business social media questions, we sit down with Ted Rubin, a leading social marketing strategist, brand evangelist and keynote speaker. Rubin provides actionable tips about building an engaged social audience.


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Boo! Top 5 Ways to Scare Away Twitter Followers

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 06:00

Many small business owners have realized the power of social media platforms like Twitter. It’s a great marketing tool, but there are some unwritten rules in the Twittersphere that every small business should know.

To make sure you don’t scare away your hard earned followers, we’ve put together a list of the top five Twitter offenders. If you fall into one of these categories, don’t worry, we’ll tell you how to fix it.

1. The self-enthusiast
This group loves, loves, loves to talk about themselves. You know the type, every tweet is oozing with self-important information like this. 

“We’ve all seen them, the self-proclaimed ‘gurus’ who only tweet about their most recent book release, blog entry or speaking engagement,” says Hannah Meuser, social media strategist at marketing company Anvil Media Inc. 

“It’s not a crime to use social media to help promote personal success, but no one wants to hear someone talk exclusively about themselves,” says Meuser.

Solution: Offer a variety of information on your Twitter feed. Share links to interesting, industry-specific articles, highlight other successful people in your field, and showcase events that your followers are interested in. Above all else, provide value to your followers. 
2. The serial retweeter
If your Twitter strategy relies on the retweet button, you might want to rethink it, Meuser says. Retweets can certainly expose more people to information, but if you’re retweeting up a storm, your followers may say, “See ya.” People followed you to hear what you have to say, not just what you can regurgitate from other feeds.

In other words, people don’t want to see a feed like this with the words “retweeted” over and over again.

Solution: You can still retweet good content, but Meuser suggests adding your opinion to the tweet or adding a comment to further the conversation. Plus, add variety to your feed by sharing unique content of your own.

3. The direct message marketing (DM) spammer
These Twitter offenders send direct marketing messages to their followers. It can be considered a no-no. It can be the equivalent of junk mail in your Twitter inbox.

Solution: Just don’t do it. That’s not to say you can’t reach out to a specific follower, but make sure it’s with a personal message.

4. The auto tweeter
You’re busy, we get it. That’s why scheduling tweets is appealing and often necessary, but sometimes your need to work ahead can cause a Twitter faux pas. 

Solution: If you do preschedule tweets, don’t just set it and forget it. Make sure you monitor what’s going on in the world to avoid tweeting something inappropriate. 

5. The over tweeter
You want to be a steady presence in your followers’ feeds, but you don’t want to go overboard. Put simply, don’t tweet ten times a day about irrelevant stuff. For instance, the stream of tweets below is not valuable. Don’t waste your audience’s time, or they’ll unfollow you. 

Solution: Each tweet you send out should be relevant. What’s the best tweet frequency? There isn’t a hard and fast rule here. Each small business is different, but a good rule of thumb is three to five tweets a day.

Is there another kind of Twitter offender that we forgot? Feel free to add to our list in the comment section below.

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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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It’s the Law: 7 Email Marketing Rules You Should Know

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 06:01

Did you know there’s a law about sending emails? It’s called the CAN-SPAM Act. And if you’re “promoting or advertising a commercial product or service through electronic communication,” you have to comply with the law or face some hefty penalties. Don’t worry though, VerticalResponse is here to break through the political jargon and help you understand the rules.

Before we dive into those rules, let’s talk about the law’s history. Back in 2003, President George Bush signed the bill into law in an effort to stop the onslaught of spam that landed in everyone’s inbox. The law was updated in 2008. The truth is, if you aren’t a news buff, you might not know the ins and outs of the law.

“Some small businesses may be aware of certain conditions specified within the CAN-SPAM Act, but I think that very few are familiar with the entirety of the law,” says Jesse Ignell, a marketer for Computer Market Research. With Ignell’s help, we’ll outline the seven key components of the law that you, the email sender should know and follow:

1. Tell readers where your email is coming from
The law focuses on honesty. The “From,” “To” and “Reply to” labels need to tell the recipient where the email comes from. In other words, these fields should contain the person’s name or the business name sending the email.

2. Write an honest subject line
Your subject line should reflect what’s in the email. You can’t be deceptive here. In other words, don’t write “Claim your $500 gift card” in the subject line just to get people to open an email that’s really about a new product. Here’s a snapshot of a few to the point subject lines:

3. Recognize you’re sending an ad
Acknowledge that the email you send is, in fact, an ad. This isn’t necessary if everyone on your list has given you permission to send emails. We strongly suggest that you get permission from all of your subscribers before sending emails. And most email service providers, like VerticalResponse, require you have permission prior to sending any email through their service. 

4. Give an address
Each email must contain the postal address for the person or business sending the email. It helps to show your business is a credible one, and offers another way for your recipients to opt-out of your emails if they need to.

5. Every email needs an easy opt-out option
Your subscribers must be able to easily opt-out (or unsubscribe) from your messages. You have to give this option to your subscribers in every message you send. At the bottom of the email, you can provide a link to unsubscribe. The process should be easy too; that was one of the additions to the law in 2008. Here’s an example of an opt-out option. 

6. Honor opt-outs quickly
If a subscriber wants off your list, you have 10 days to do it. You can’t charge any fees for this service, ask for any personal information, or sell the person’s contact information to another company. Most email service providers will manage this process for you which is another plus to using an ESP

7. Monitor what others do for you
If you hire another company to manage your email list, you will still be held responsible if the company breaks any of these rules. 

The law is all about using good judgment. We know you’ve got that. But when you set up your next email campaign, it doesn’t hurt to check it against this list of rules to make sure everything is legit.

If you’d like more information, The Federal Trade Commission offers a compliance guide on its site to help small businesses comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 It’s the Law: 7 Email Marketing Rules You Should Know appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Ways to Leverage a Media Placement

Tue, 05/27/2014 - 06:01

Your business was just featured in the media – awesome! Great PR can help spread the word about your company, boost credibility and ultimately bring more business through your doors.

But you’re not done. A favorable media placement can be extended in a variety of ways, both online and offline. But, you need to act quickly before it becomes old news. Here are five ways to get max value out of your press coverage:

1. Get social. Share the media placement with your social media networks. Timeliness is key, so do this as soon as possible. With any luck, you’ll get a few virtual pats on the back from your followers.

2. Update your website. Highlight your proudest PR hits on your site’s home page. It can be something as simple as just the media outlet’s logo linked to the story (for example, “As Featured In XYZ Magazine”). Even if you already have a separate press section on your site, not everyone will necessarily visit that page. You want your latest achievement to be front and center.

3. Send an email. Launch a special email with a link to the media placement to customers, vendors and any other groups you think might be interested in the good news. Use this as an opportunity to thank them for their support, too. If it’s an online placement that has social media sharing tools and/or comments enabled, encourage them to share with their social networks and chime in on the conversation.

4. Promote on the floor. If your media placement is an article or blog post, get a picture frame for it and show it off on the wall of your store or lobby. Or, if you’ve got several clips under your belt, consider putting printouts in a nice portfolio book and leave it out in your waiting or reception room table. Wouldn’t you rather customers flip through that versus an outdated copy of US Weekly?

5. Arm your sales staff. If you have a sales team, have them bring color copies of the media placement as part of their leave-behind packets in meetings with prospects, at trade shows, etc. (make sure you have reprint permission first). They’ll appreciate having their sales pitch endorsed and validated by a credible media source.

You work hard to get favorable coverage in the media; get the most out of it with these five ideas!

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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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Small Business Owners: Time to up Your Digital Game [Infographic]

Mon, 05/26/2014 - 06:00

In a recent study conducted by our parent company, Deluxe, more than 500 small business owners were surveyed about their digital marketing practices. The conclusion? Small business owners have a digital footprint, but not a very active one! Check out the stats below to see how you compare. Does anything surprise you?

In order to create and maintain a strong and active online presence, we’ve created several resources to help small business owners like you put the pedal to the metal. Check out any of the various guides, infographics and webinars below and let us know what you, as a small business owner, or employee at a small business plan to do to make the most of your digital marketing practices.




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How to Choose the Right Email Service Provider [GUIDE]

Sat, 05/24/2014 - 09:00

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase revenue while staying in touch with your customers. It takes time and resources to craft a killer email campaign, which is why you might want to call in some backup. An email service provider, or ESP, can help your small business generate and send emails that are targeted to your customer niche, get them delivered and provide actionable results. If you’re in need of some marketing help, look no further. VerticalResponse has put together a list of criteria you’ll want to look for in your search for the right ESP for your small business.

To nail down the details you need to know, we turned to Kim Stiglitz, our Director of Content Marketing, for some advice. When selecting an ESP, she says you’ll want to look for three key factors: features, fees and delivery. 

1. Features

How will email marketing fit into your business? Your answer will dictate what features you need from an ESP, Stiglitz says. Make a list of potential providers and comb through their list of features. Remember, you want a provider that will grow with your business. You might just use basic features, but as your business and email list grows, you may want to up your marketing game. Make sure the provider you select can support your business now and in the future.

You shouldn’t look for a laundry list of features, but there are some specific items that you’ll want. Here’s a list of must-have features:

Email templates
You want every email to look sharp, but you don’t want to spend all day creating an email. To get a professional looking email done efficiently, you can use templates. Make sure the provider has several eye-catching templates to choose from so that you can just pick one and go. That’s the kind of efficiency you need. 

Easy to use
Having a variety of templates is a must, but you should also make sure the templates are easy to use. Drag-and-drag templates make it a snap for you to add images and text in seconds.

Your customers will probably open your email on their smartphone or tablet. Everyone is on the go, so you want your emails to look sharp on mobile devices. You want an ESP that makes mobile marketing a priority. With VerticalResponse, every email is optimized for mobile devices with responsive templates.

Social media integration
Email and social media marketing go hand in hand, so you’ll want a provider that helps you use both. Look for a provider that makes it easy to share your email on social media. Let’s say you just sent a promotional email, offering your customers 30 percent off. Wouldn’t it be nice to share that on Facebook without logging in and creating a separate message to post? Sure it would. Look for a provider that makes it easy to share emails on social media platforms.

Why not get ahead? If you can sit down and create three or four emails to send throughout the week, why wouldn’t you? To make this a reality, you’ll need the ability to schedule your emails.

Tracking tools
An ESP can have all the bells and whistles in the world, but if you can’t tell how well your emails are doing, it won’t matter how many features you use. You need easy-to-read statistics that breakdown your open rates, clicks, bounces, and unsubscribes. You want it all in one location, like a central dashboard, where you can see at-a-glance how well your email campaigns are performing.

Support staff
Whether you’re an email novice or a pro, there will come a time when you have a question. As a business owner, you know that customer service is paramount to your business. It should be in email marketing, too. You want a provider that has an excellent support team in place to help you with any questions or concerns.

2. Fees

You want a provider with a diverse array of features, but you also want a service that fits into your budget. We get it. After you’ve perused providers for features, make a list of companies that fit your needs. Now, start investigating cost. Most email providers offer a free trial, or free services, if you have a small email list and only want to send a few emails. Take it for a test drive, Stiglitz suggests. Use the free services to see if you like the provider. If you do, you’ll likely have two payment options:

Monthly rates
Most providers offer a monthly plan based on the number of people on your email list. For cheaper rates, there might be restrictions on the number of emails you can send within a given month. Do a little comparison-shopping and see which provider gives you the best bang for your buck. At VerticalResponse, you can send unlimited emails to a list of up to 1,000 people for just $17.60 a month.

Pay as you go
Not ready to make a monthly commitment? No problem. Look for a pay as you go option. This way, you’ll only pay for what you use. It’s another way to give the provider a try before signing up for continued services. Once you’re on board, it will probably be more cost effective to sign up for a monthly plan.

3. Delivery

You want emails that land in the inbox. Make sure the ESP that you’re leaning towards has a high delivery rate. The delivery rate is the number of emails successfully delivered to your customers. You want a delivery percentage rate in the high 90s, Stiglitz says. (VerticalResponse has a delivery rate of 98 percent).

To get a high delivery rate, the provider should meet the following criteria:

An arsenal of tools
You want a provider that has invested in some behind-the-scenes tools that give your emails the best chance at landing in the inbox. We’re talking about things like accreditation and authentication tools that verify a sender’s identity. These kinds of tools tell the Internet filters that you’re a real person sending a legitimate email, not some scammer with ulterior motives.

Other tools, like spam scores that identify the likelihood of an email hitting the spam box, and suppression lists, which maintain customers that opt out of your emails, are also helpful tools. Third-party partnerships with deliverability experts like Return Path are also a good sign.

These aren’t the glitzy features that an ESP advertises, but they’re important, so be sure to ask if these tools are in place.

Reputable provider
You want an email service provider that’s in it for the long haul. Fly-by-night providers don’t have relationships established with Internet giants like Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft. You want a provider that has a history with these Internet service providers so your emails aren’t mistaken for spam.

Opt-in process
You have high standards and so should your ESP. To reach your customers through email, you want a provider that has opt-in requirements. If customers sign up to receive your emails, you’ll have a much higher delivery rate. If you send emails to people who aren’t expecting them, they can be blocked or reported as spam. It might seem advantageous to beef up your list with a bunch of contacts that haven’t given you permission to send them email, but in the long run it hurts your credibility and engagement while increasing unsubscribe rates.

While features, fees and delivery are “the big three” when it comes to selecting an email service provider, you should also look into the educational resources that the provider offers. Look for a blog with how-to articles and other helpful guides to ensure your email campaigns are the best they can be. Overall, an email service provider should offer affordable, top-notch service that helps you reach your customers with effective and creative emails.

Get started today. It’s free!

© 2014, VR Marketing 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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How to Build a Public Relations Media List [Video]

Fri, 05/23/2014 - 06:00

In this installment of Tips in 2, our video series of helpful, two-minute small business marketing tips, Connie Sung Moyle, Public Relations Manager at VerticalResponse, shows you how build an effective media list quickly and easily. With a little help from the Internet and Excel, you can discover and organize key reporters, writers and bloggers that can help spread the word when you have big news about your product or service. Here’s how:

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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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The 5 Most Overused Phrases in Subject Lines – Hurry, Before They’re Gone!

Thu, 05/22/2014 - 06:01

A good email subject line can make your email marketing efforts pay off big time; a bad one can make your subscribers tune you out. It’s no wonder that the subject line is one of the most important parts of your email, and something worth mastering. We’ve given you lists of fantastic subject lines in the past, but this time we thought we’d share some of the most overused words in subject lines. We don’t leave you scrambling for substitutes though. We’ve included some backups to use, just in case you need a little inspiration.  

Overused Phrase #1: Free Shipping
This is first on the list for a reason; Free or Free Shipping is probably the most overused word or phrase in subject lines these days. Thinking the word “Free” in the subject line will land your email in the spam box? That old myth has been dispelled by the sheer number of emails that make it to inboxes everyday with “Free Shipping” in the subject line. A quick glance at my inbox right now shows just how often this is being used.

Use this instead: Mix up your free shipping offer by using variations such as: “Shipping on Us!,” “Complimentary Shipping,” “Don’t Pay for Shipping!,” “We send it for free” or simply use the term, “Free Shipping” in your pre-header instead, like you see outlined with green in the image above.

Overused Phrase #2: Last Chance
Last chance – Another popular phrase in subject lines, and one that needs to be updated, because unless it’s a product or service that’s being discontinued, we’re all pretty sure it’s probably not the last chance.

Use this instead: How about using “Drop Everything!,” “Don’t Miss Out,” or getting specific and using phrases such as, “Ends at 12pm PST,” “…until 10 am Wednesday,” or “Before Spring Ends.” These still include a sense urgency, and you may stand a better chance of grabbing people’s attention.

Overused Phrase #3: Hurry!
Much like “last chance,” the word “hurry!” has been used in so many emails, it sounds like to boy who cried wolf one too many times… it doesn’t always mean the end is near.

Use this instead: Here are two recent emails I received, and though the subject lines are imploring me to hurry, they don’t actually use the word. These clever subject lines caught my attention in my crowded inbox and I definitely clicked through to their websites.

Overused Word/Phrase #4: Newsletter, Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Newsletter
While it’s tempting to use newsletter in your subject line, it takes up valuable subject line space, and it isn’t terribly descriptive of what’s actually inside your email. Using the same subject line month after month can also lose its impact over time.

Use this instead: The next time you send out your newsletter, instead of saying “June Newsletter,” use headlines from articles or topics that are in the newsletter. It helps your readers quickly see the interesting or useful info that’s inside. This is the method we use for our own VR Buzz newsletter.

Overused Phrase #5: Ends Tomorrow
Many overused email subject line words tend to center around immediate action, and there’s nothing wrong with that, in fact we encourage it! But try change things up a bit, while still getting your readers to do an intended action.

Use this instead: Next time, try using “It’s Not too Late!” or “24 Hour Flash Sale” for the same kind of impact, but in a new way.

If you’ve been using some of these words in your own subject lines, it might be time to change things up. The great thing about email marketing is that there’s plenty of room for testing new things.

Since the effectiveness of a subject line is pretty subjective, I decided to do an informal survey of some of the folks in our marketing department, and their most loved and hated words or phrases in subject lines. Here’s what they said:

Cam, Marketing Analyst
- Name/personalization: “Hey Cam, Don’t Forget to Log Into Your VR account,” or “How was Your Recent Experience in Los Angeles?”
- Time urgency: “You Have 15 Days Left to Sign Up For Your Free Trial”
- Call to action: “Listen now”

- Reminder: “Your Free Trial is Almost Over”
- Emoticon/Emoji (symbol or facial expression in the subject line)

Connie, PR Manager
- “Hurry!”

Barney, Marketing Manager – Paid Media
- Time urgency: “Last chance,” “Last day…”
- Lists: “Top 10 new restaurants in your area”

Laura, Senior Web Graphics Designer
- Time urgency: “3 days only!” or “2 days left on our big sale”
- Lists: “6 Looks That Go From Boardroom To Boardwalk!”
- Percentage off: “15%  Off All Jeans”

- Really long, wordy subject lines.
- “Free”

Jenny, Marketing Specialist
Fake reply: “re: COLLABORATE with some great retailers”

Percentage off: “4 more days to save 25% on summer”

So what does this all mean? Some of the overused words are really effective for some people but not for others; everyone’s different! And everyone in your list is different too, so if you’ve been using any of these words in your email subject lines often, try a new way of saying the same ‘ol thing in your next email. You may be surprised! Or astounded, amazed or flabbergasted.

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz.

© 2014, VR Marketing 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 5 Most Overused Phrases in Subject Lines – Hurry, Before They’re Gone! appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Google Releases 2 New Algorithm Updates: Payday Loan 2.0 & Panda 4.0

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 17:47

Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts recently announced two new Google algorithm updates that could affect your business. For SEO pros, updates to Google’s algorithms are commonplace, but for the busy small business owner, they can be a confusing mess of black and white animals (penguin, panda). Have no fear, we’ve broken down the announcements into layman’s terms. Now, let’s get down to business!

Update #1: Payday Loan 2.0

This is the second version of the Payday Loan Algorithm, and it takes action towards websites that contain spammy keywords like, “payday loans,” adult themed/pornographic keywords and other spammy keywords. Odds are, you won’t be affected by this update because it only impacted 0.2% of English queries. 

Update #2: Panda 4.0

This latest update is big news in the SEO world, as there hasn’t been an announced Panda update in over a year. There are monthly unannounced data refreshes to Panda, but Panda 4.0 is a major update to the actual algorithm. Just as a reminder, the Panda Algorithm is designed to prevent websites with poor quality content from appearing at the top of Google’s search results. According to Cutts, this update impacts around 7.5% of English searches and will fully roll out over the next few days. 

If your site has thin, similar, duplicate content, and/or any “SEO pages” you’re at a high risk for getting a penalty in this and future Panda updates. If you have duplicate content on your site, we recommend adding more value to it. No two pages should have similar content, but if they do, combine the pages into one high value page. It’s possible that you might have “trim the fat” so to speak and cut pages from your website.

Cool Tool: If you’re worried that your site might be impacted by the latest Panda update, or any Google update for that matter, try using the Panguin Tool, which links up to your Google Analytics account and overlays all known Google Updates. It can be very useful for identifying what update hit your site or not. 

So there’s the low down on the two most recent Google updates. Do you plan to make any changes to your site as a result? If so, share in the comments. 

Want more marketing tips & tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz.


© 2014, VR Marketing 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 2 New Algorithm Updates: Payday Loan 2.0 & Panda 4.0 appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.