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How to Build Your Email List [GUIDE]

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 06:00

Building a quality, responsive email list is one of the most crucial steps for effective email marketing. So, VerticalResponse is here with some ideas to help you create an effective and engaged email list. We’ll run you through the best ways to get started, recommend some tips and tactics, and show you how to avoid a few pitfalls.

Got a mailing list for snail mail?

If you’ve already compiled a list of mailing addresses, you’ve got a bit of a head start. Send postcards to people on your list, inviting them to sign up for your email list on your website or blog. Just make sure to give them a reason to sign up, whether it’s monthly updates or exclusive online discounts. You should provide them something of value in exchange for their email address. 

If your business involves physical products that are shipped, you can even include an insert in each package with instructions on how to subscribe to your email list.

Collect email addresses offline

If you’ve got a brick-and-mortar store, set up a fishbowl to collect business cards for special offers available by signing up for your email list. You can also have a simple clipboard or sign-up book to collect email addresses. (If you’ve got an iPad, you can use that for people to enter their email addresses directly.) Once a week, enter any new email addresses you’ve collected in your content management system or ESP. Voila! 

Events are a great place to get email addresses as well, whether you’re collecting business cards or having people fill out a form to join your list, or simply displaying a sign-up book during an event you host yourself.

S&S Brand sells barbecue sauces and spice rubs. The owners collect email addresses at the frequent appearances they make at cooking demonstrations, fundraisers, food and drink festivals, artisan markets, and private parties. “Every time we have an event, we’ll put out a pad of paper and ask people to leave their email addresses,” says co-owner Sarah Bruchard. “We’ll usually get a handful or so from that.” Those email addresses add up over time.

On your website  The easiest way for your readers to join your email list is through a sign up form or opt-in form, like our widget. You can even have multiple forms on different sections of your site, if you want to track where people are signing up. We recommend putting a link or sign-up box on multiple pages within your site. (It can be tempting to ask readers to fill out many details about themselves, but it’s best at first to simply collect their name and email address).

In addition to your opt-in page, consider using a pop-up window when people leave your site. It can ask them to sign up for your offers or newsletter, which many of your readers are likely to do on their way out if your information is compelling.

Don’t Buy a List

Building an email list can seem difficult and time-consuming, but it’s well worth the effort to collect email addresses from people who love your brand and are willing to sign up for information from you in their inbox. They’re choosing to engage with your company, so you’re building a relationship and gaining trust. Purchasing a list can feel invasive to those you email, and therefore often leads to a very high number of complaints, bounced addresses and unsubscribes. Plus, any reputable ESP will not allow you to mail to a purchased, rented or scraped list. It can hurt their reputation and yours. This is one area where it’s worth it to do things the right way, even if it’s slower.

Survey your friends 

You can’t just add people to your email list willy nilly, but there’s nothing to stop you from sending personal emails to your friends and colleagues, letting them know about your list and sending a link to an opt-in form.

Bruchard also uses word of mouth. “I’ll be somewhere talking to someone, and they’ll ask to hear about our next popup [store] or our sauces, so I’ll take down their email address and put it on my email list,” she says.

But Bruchard doesn’t just use the list to sell products. Readers can easily feel bombarded if too many sales pitches are sent their way. That’s why Bruchard sometimes sends emails that are “just about fun things like barbecue and events that are coming up, so it’s not just about our product and trying to sell our product all the time,” she says. She’ll include information like recipes and cooking tips, and keep her readers informed about any popup, or temporary restaurants.

Leverage online sales You don’t want to add every customer who has made an online purchase to your email list without their permission. However, you can direct them to a page with your sign-up form after they’ve bought something.

“Every time somebody buys something on my website, it asks them at the end, ‘Would you like to sign up for a newsletter or receive emails from us?’ You can either click yes or no. Most people who buy, sign up for the list, and we capture a lot of emails that way,” says Bruchard.

A percentage of people who have had a great experience buying from you will want to hear from you via email about special offers, how-tos and tips, or other news. You can even include a link to your sign-up page on each of the invoices sent out.

Use social media 

Add an opt-in/sign-up form to your Facebook page, or include a link to your hosted opt-in form and write a Facebook status to your fans every now and again, asking them to join your email list. Promoting your status will also ensure that the post is seen by more people. Add information about subscribing directly onto the page as well, with a link to your opt-in form. Use discounts or other offers as an incentive. Follow up with new subscribers by sending them a coupon by email, or send them to a page with an offer or coupon code.

Feel free to message your friends from your personal Facebook account as well to notify them of the email list. Creating Facebook ads around an offer or incentive, or simply your newsletter is also an excellent way to grow your email list. Link people back to your opt-in form/sign up landing from that ad. Here’s a step-by-step process.

Tweet out a link to your opt-in form as well, and post it on LinkedIn. If you have a blog, include a link or embed your opt-in form at the top, side and/or bottom of each page. And, last but not least, create a compelling image with a call to cation (to sign up for your email list) and an incentive, and post the image on Pinterest and Instagram. Here’s more information about growing your email list on Pinterest.

Update your email signature

Include a link to your opt-in page in your email signature, so people emailing with questions can learn about your list.

Get started today. It’s free!

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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 How to Build Your Email List [GUIDE] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

21 Decoded SEO Terms Everyone Should Know

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 06:00

Do Search Engine Optimization (SEO) terms have you confused? Are you lost in a sea of inexplicable acronyms? Fear not! With the assistance of our SEO manager Chipper Nicodemus, we’ve hooked you up with a glossary of the most oft-used words and their definitions.

301 redirect
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect of one webpage to another, passing along a majority of the link “juice” or ranking with it. 301 stands for the HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) status code.

ALT text
ALT text is a description of an image in your site’s HTML code. Spiders or bots (which we’ll define shortly) crawl around your site to see what’s in it, but they can’t read images. Instead, they read the ALT text. Having a description of the image will help spiders and bots identify the image.

Anchor text
Anchor text is copy or text that has been hyperlinked like this. It’s typically dark blue and underlined. If someone links to your site with specific anchor text, it helps search engines know what your site is about.

Black hat tactics
Black hat tactics, or black hat SEO, is the practice of using aggressive or unethical strategies, manipulation and techniques to obtain higher search rankings. Common techniques include keyword stuffing, duplicate content, unrelated backlinks and more. These tactics can lead to a penalty (defined below).

“A spider or bot is a program that Google runs that goes out and crawls the Internet. When it comes to your site, it goes on and explores your articles, videos, pictures, comments, etc.,” Nicodemus explains.

Google Panda
Panda is the name of a series of changes Google makes to its search results ranking algorithm. The first change was released in February 2011 with the purpose of lowering the rank of “low-quality sites,” and raising higher-quality sites to the top of search results.

Google Penguin
Penguin is the name of a Google algorithm update, which was released in April 2012. It was released with the aim to decrease search engine rankings for sites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

A heading on your site is text that’s placed inside of a heading tag, such as H1 or H2. It typically shows up in a larger or stronger font than the other text on your page. However, simply increasing the font size or putting a phrase in bold doesn’t create a heading per se as far as search engines are concerned. You have to actually use the tags H1 or H2 around each heading. In the HTML section of your WordPress page, simply start with <h1> before and after the phrase; or just click on H1 or H2 as a header.

Inbound links
Inbound links also known as backlinks are incoming links from another website or page that direct or point back to your own site or page.

Indexed page
A page on your website that has been “crawled” or read by search engine bots and stored. 

Link building
“Link building is when you earn highly relevant and valuable links that point back to your site,” Nicodemus says. If you own a coffee shop and get a link back from a coffee grinder company, a coffee bean manufacturer and a place selling coffee mugs, those would be more relevant and valuable compared to, say, a sporting good shop that sells basketballs.

Long tail keyword
A long tail keyword is a phrase rather than just a single term. To use Nicodemus’ example, a short tail keyword could be “coffee,” and “coffee shop” would be a bit longer. A long tail keyword would be “coffee shops in San Francisco.” Using a long-tail keyword can make it much easier for small businesses to rank in search, whereas a short tail keyword like coffee may have much more competition. It can also help ensure that readers who find you, are looking for your specific offer. “It’s very specific, and if you have relevant content on the page, people are more likely to find it,” Nicodemus says.

Metadata is data that tells search engines what your site is about.

Meta description
This is a description of what a specific page is about, written in 160 characters or less. This shows up on the search engine results page (SERP – defined below) below your title. “There are a lot of easy tools to use on your blog, such as Yoast,” Nicodemus points out. These tools can help take the guesswork out of writing meta descriptions.

MozRank is a link ranking tool provided by SEO marketing software company, Moz. Its algorithm looks at the number of inbound links you have, as well as their quality, and assigns you a number from zero to 10.

PageRank is a number from zero to 10 assigned by Google that lets you know your overall SEO. The higher the number, the better.

A penalty is a negative impact on your site’s rankings based on a search engine’s algorithms. There are two types of penalties: Manual and algorithm. Read our post: “Google Penalties – All You Need to Know” for more info.

Rel: nofollow
A rel: nofollow is a tag you can put on your blog or site before a link. “If you add that tag, when a bot goes to crawl, it won’t give any credit or juice to that link,” Nicodemus says. All press releases should have rel: nofollow tags, according to Google. Many sites also use the tags for guest posts.

SEM stands for search engine marketing. One type of SEM, pay-per-click, is abbreviated as PPC. The important thing to note is that SEM is paid and SEO is organic. SEO does not cost a dime; you’re not paying for links or sponsored ads or bidding on keywords or search terms to drive traffic back to your site. Your site shows up organically because of the quality of your content, the quality of sites linking to it, and proper use of site maps.

SERP, which stands for search engine results page, is exactly what you see when you search for a term or phrase on Google. It is the term you were looking for, a list of pages with the title, URL and a short two-line description, and “sponsored links” or paid SERP listings on the side of the page. 

A site map tells bots exactly where to look on your site, and how information is organized. It’s very valuable for bigger websites with several pages. When the spiders come crawling across your site to look at the content you display, a sitemap is a valuable thing. “It’s like saying, ‘hey, look at this map we built for you of our site,’” Nicodemus explains. Create one here.

Have any terms you’d like to add to the list, or want us to decode for you? Let us know!

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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 21 Decoded SEO Terms Everyone Should Know appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Business Cards: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 06:01

Handing out business cards is essential for networking, building brand-awareness and gaining potential new customers. At VerticalResponse, we consistently attend trade shows all over the country, so we see a lot of business cards. But get this: Around 75% of the people we chatted with at the last trade show didn’t have business cards on them at all. What gives? Business cards can be one of your best marketing tools, so having one to begin with is vital.

Once you’ve got a card in hand, use these aspects from the good, the bad, and the ugly business cards we’ve come across to spruce yours up or tone it down. All sample business cards are innocent until proven guilty and certain images have been withheld to protect the identity of the individuals and businesses. 

The Good

The basics to creating a good business card includes readability, valuable content, and what sets you apart from other businesses. There should be a hierarchy of information and the most important information should be the largest.

What are some business card must-haves?

  • Logo
  • Business name (if it isn’t clear in your logo)
  • Your name
  • Your title
  • Phone number
  • Company website
  • Email address
  • Social media handles
  • A design element that makes you stand out from a stack of other business cards, like a unique color, or specific font.

Check out Mark’s card below that I received recently. It’s a very simple design, but it contains all of the information you need to reach him. His logo is largest with his name highlighted in a larger, blue font. He even used his twitter handle as an added bonus. The one thing I would add, is what SIGNAL does or is as a business.

This business card comes from our sister company, PSPrint. It’s a piece of artwork. Can you tell she’s an artist and illustrator?

You should also consider what type of paper weight and finish to use. There are several choices, so take a trip into your local printer and feel the paper. If you’re using an online printer, or website service, you can request a sample packet (which are usually free) to make sure you’re picking the paper you like.

The example I also received below is very simple, however, it was printed on beautiful, matte heavy weight card stock that felt luxurious. There’s also a fair amount of white space that helps direct your eye to the important info, or even allows you to write notes.

Which kind of paper represents you and your business without going over budget? Check out these cool designs from PSPrint that are “hot off the press.” It might give you some new and exciting ideas for your next business card.

The Bad

The worst business cards that have landed in our trade show fish bowl have contained one or more of the following no-nos, but we tell you how to fix ‘em too.

  • Zero contact information – Make sure to include at least your business name, your personal name, phone number, and email address.
  • Unreadable fonts – Here are the top 10 notoriously hated fonts that you should try to not use. The fonts on this list are either over used or hard to read. 
  • Too many font choices/sizes – Limit yourself to 2 fonts and 3 font sizes. Most printers have templates that you can use. While it’s nice to have this as a starting point, make sure to add your own flare. 
  • Unprofessional head shots or pictures – If you want to include your image on a business card, get a professional head shot taken and ask a friend if it represents you as your business. 
  • Information overload or too busy - Allow some room for white space (please see Lisa’s card above).
  • Boring – This is all relative, but you should make your business stand out. Even simple designs (please see Mark’s card above) can be interesting if you use the proper font choices and font sizes for your business. 
  • Typos – Use spell check and have your card double checked by a friend or colleague to make sure there aren’t any errors you might have missed. 
  • Low quality printing – Finding a printer you like is half the battle. If you like someone else’s business card, ask where they had them printed and what their experience was like. Local printers are usually more expensive but have better customer serves while online printers like Greenprinter,, and PsPrint are more economical and have templates available.

The Ugly

Not having or forgetting your business card is one of the biggest faux pas. It’s the one item that you can (and should) carry around at all times to promote your business. You’re representing your business at all times and you never know what customers, current or potential, you might run into. If you’re attending a business event, bring more than you think you need. It gets “ugly” when you run out! 

*Bonus design Note: After designing your business card, ask for a sample before you take the plunge and print them all. This will add a week or more onto your timeline, but you you’ll ensure make sure it’s the look and feel that you want.

What’s the best business card you’ve ever received? What’s the worst? Comment below and let us know!

© 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 Business Cards: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Smokin’ Hot Emails & Subject Lines for Summer

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 06:00

It’s summer, baby, which means it’s time to break out the bathing suit and soak up a little sun, (unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere or San Francisco, of course). While you’re planning backyard barbeques and pool parties, you’ll also want to send out a summer-themed email or two.

To make sure your emails and subject lines are just as hot as the temperatures outside, we’ve got a few tips to keep the open rates rolling.

Promote a summer sale
One of the easiest ways to tie your email to the season is to promote a summer sale. Remember, you want to create a short, attention-grabbing subject line that encourages recipients to open the email immediately. Tell them exactly what they’ll get when they open it.
For instance, Travelocity entices readers with: Big summer savings – Promo codes inside – Don’t miss out. When the recipient opens the email, that’s exactly what they’ll find. Take a look at the email:

You can also promote summer holiday sales like a Labor Day sale. Here are a few other summer sale examples:

  • Summer sale! Up to 60% off (Dockers)
  • Must-have summer prints on sale now (Coach)
  • Take up to 50% off our red, white and denim sale (Lucky Brand) 
  • Last day – Labor Day sale (Travelocity)

Make a summer reference
You don’t have to have a sale, or even use the word “summer” in your subject line. You can still create a seasonal email by referencing a summer activity or theme. For example, online office supply store Shoplet sent an email to promote Margaritaville headphones. Margaritaville is certainly synonymous with summer. The subject line read: Margaritaville headphones are here. Take a look. 

Try connecting your product to an activity. Check out the examples below. Notice none of them use the word “summer” or promote a sale.

  • Fire up the grill! (Chronicle Books)
  • Frisbee and Fun – Great camps for kids (City of Brooklyn Park)
  • Here comes the sun – Sassy seasonal styles (Webzine)

Create a local summer events calendar
Everyone loves to know where the hottest summer events are. From local fireworks to homegrown veggie markets, consider creating a list of summer events for your recipients. The Messina Group, a staffing and consulting agency, does this every season. This year the subject line was: It’s here! Our 2014 summer calendar.

The Messina Group’s Michelle Comer says the email gets a great response. “You don’t have to sell or promote anything; you can just provide a friendly service,” she says. 

Try creating a list of summer events in your area and send it out to your recipients with a descriptive subject line.

Create educational lists
People love lists; so use that to your advantage. Create a summer-themed list that educates your recipients in some way. For instance, if you’re a clothing retailer, create a list of the top 10 summer fashions. If you run an auto repair shop, create a list of the five most common summer car problems. The list should include a connection to your company.

Here are few other examples:

  • School’s out – 10 great camps for kids (City of Brooklyn Park)
  • 10 things to love about summer (Dogeared)
  • 5 things to remember on your next hike (American Hiking Society)

Got another hot subject line tip? Share it with us in the comment box 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 Smokin’ Hot Emails & Subject Lines for Summer appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Advice from a Social Pro: Integrating LinkedIn Sponsored Updates [VIDEO]

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 06:01

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 Jason Miller, Sr. Content Marketing Manager at LinkedIn. He’s also a blogger and photographer for Rock ‘N Roll Cocktail. Miller provides excellent tips for small businesses on why using Sponsored Updates in LinkedIn as part of your social media strategy is a good idea.

© 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: Integrating LinkedIn Sponsored Updates [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

3 Easy (and Cheap) Storefront Marketing Tactics

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 06:00

Here in San Francisco, the Haight-Ashbury district is probably most famous for being the birthplace of the hippie counterculture movement in the ’60s. These days, the bell bottoms and peasant blouses are long gone (mostly), but the neighborhood remains home to dozens of locally owned retail shops, eateries and bars welcoming both residents and the streams of tourists that flock to the famous intersection every day.

But the creative spirit hasn’t completely left Haight-Ashbury. A stroll down Haight Street reveals some clever storefront marketing tactics that shops and restaurants are using to bring foot traffic through their doors. The best part? They’re easy for anyone to implement, and practically free. Check them out.

1. Free Treats

Kids Only, a shop that sells unique kids toys, clothes and gear, knows just how to attract its core customer – by offering free treats, like mini cupcakes and cookies, just inside the store entrance. Who can resist? Certainly not tots with their parents in tow.

Similarly, several retailers along Haight Street offer doggie bowls filled with water right outside their doors – fitting, since San Francisco is home to more dogs than children. While Fido is taking a water break, chances are his human mom or dad is checking out the storefront. One shop takes it a step further by posting a sign right above the water bowl that says, “Free Dog Treats Inside at the Register!”

Think about what you can offer that’s simple and free to entice passersby to give your shop a second look. If you’re in the food business, the easy option would be to dish out samples of your best-selling products. But any type of business can make this storefront marketing tactic work; a pitcher of cold lemonade on a sweltering day, for example, is a welcoming treat regardless of what you’re actually selling.

2. Unusual Distractions

“Whoa, where are those bubbles coming from?!”

The Bubble Guy is a well-known fixture in Haight-Ashbury. Every so often, he’ll park his bubble-making stroller in front of a business and let ‘er rip, covering the street with thick clouds of kaleidoscopic bubbles. It’s quite a sight, and attracts a ton of people to whatever store happens to be nearby.

Whether it’s installing a bubble-making machine in front of your shop or blanketing the sidewalk with creative chalk art, one of the keys is to think outside the box. (Just make sure you’re not breaking any city rules.)

3. Creative Sandwich Boards

A sandwich board set up on the sidewalk is a tried-and-true storefront marketing tactic to promote sales or specials. But some creative businesses use it to communicate memorable messages that are unusual enough to attract a second look from passersby.

Taking a scene out of the opening credits of “The Simpsons,” locally owned Shoe Biz on Haight Street often sets out a sandwich board with a drawing of Bart Simpson writing, “I will not buy from Zappos, I will not buy from Zappos” over and over on the blackboard. Lately, Goorin Bros. Hat Shop has been showing off a board with the word “Pharrell who?!” in reference to the music artist’s scene-stealing Grammy hat. Pretty clever, right?

Have you seen any creative ways retailers are enticing passersby to step inside their stores? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.

© 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 3 Easy (and Cheap) Storefront Marketing Tactics appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Use These Email Newsletter Topics, You Must

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 06:00

Your newsletter is like the light saber of marketing tools. It’s powerful, potent and just plain cool.

An effective newsletter keeps you in front of customers, allows you to showcase your knowledge, nurtures customers and attracts new ones. No, that’s not a Jedi mind trick, it’s the truth.

While newsletters are a valuable part of your email marketing strategy, it takes time to brainstorm good topics to keep them interesting. To help you create newsletters that even the wise Obi-Wan Kenobi would be proud of, we put together a list of possible newsletter topics.

Highlight blog content
Since your small business is creating must-read content (you are, right?), why not promote it in your newsletter? We do. At VerticalResponse, we take pride in offering high quality blog content that’s chock-full of tips. You can do it, too. Or as Yoda says, “Do. Or do not. There is no try,” (and, yes, we promise that’s our last Star Wars reference.) If you don’t have blog content, include any videos and even pictures you’ve taken; these count as content too.

Take a look at our newsletter, VR Buzz. You can see we tease our readers with just enough information to encourage them to read the whole post on our blog. 

Tell your company story/history
Even if you just opened your doors a year ago, your small business has a history. In each newsletter, you can offer recipients a little history lesson. Coca-Cola does this in its monthly newsletter. Take a look at the last article, “Checking In at a Former Coca-Cola Plant.” The “Learn More” button takes readers back in time to an old Coke plant that’s now a hotel in Savannah, Georgia. Try offering snippets of your company’s history in your newsletter.

Use creative events
Did you know June is National Candy Month? Hershey’s does. The candy maker used this little-known event to promote sales in its newsletter. You can do the same thing. There are hundreds of odd “holidays” like this. From ‘Bring Your Pet to Work Day’ to ‘Iced Tea Day,’ you can certainly find an event that reflects your business. Tie this event to your own company and write a blog post, create a video, take pictures, or create a landing page around that topic and mention in your newsletter just like Hershey’s.

Industry news
When there’s something going on in your industry, share it with your readers. If you run a sporting goods store, for example, you could create a piece about the gear used during the National Hockey League’s playoffs. If you run a shipping company and are faced with new state-mandated regulations, you could write about that. Including third party content that isn’t your own, but would be of interest to your readers is also great. Just make sure you give proper source credit.

Royce Leather, a New Jersey-based company that sells leather products, wrote about a leather trade show taking place in Pakistan. Since the company works with manufactures in that country, it’s impacted by leather trade shows and other events like this and shared the information with readers. 

“Telling our customers about events like this shows that we’re engaged and forward thinking,” says Andrew Bauer, CEO of Royce Leather.

You, too, can look like a thought leader by keeping an eye on industry news and when something pops up, take a minute to tell readers how the information impacts the industry and your business.

Of course, these are just four examples, but there are plenty more. Here are a few additional topics you can include in your newsletter:

  • New product or service arrivals
  • Recent business awards
  • Employee of the month
  • Behind-the-scenes pictures
  • Upcoming events
  • Changes to your website
  • How-to videos
  • Upcoming sales
  • Holiday gift ideas
  • Product tips

Have any more topics to add to this list? Share some of your best ideas in the comment section below.

Want more marketing tips and advice? Get the VR Buzz delivered daily to your inbox.

© 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 Use These Email Newsletter Topics, You Must appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Damage Control: 3 Steps to Handling a Company Mishap

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 09:00

In a world rife with technological glitches – and one in which simply clicking a button can have far-reaching impact – making mistakes is inevitable. In the digital age, those gaffes can be dramatically amplified and have impact on your bottom line – unless you take the right steps.

Before the crisis
Crisis management expert Melissa Agnes recommends determining all of your stakeholders in the event of a mishap before it even takes place. Start by making a list of all the different stakeholder groups: your customers, email list subscribers, employees or contractors, and so forth. Then determine which social channels these groups use the most. 

“Odds are, social media may not even be the best means of communication for all of your stakeholder groups,” says Agnes. “Often, email is still the best way to communicate.” So, she adds, don’t forget about sending a personalized email or text message, or even picking up the phone. 

Determining who to contact and the best ways to reach them before something goes awry is crucial, especially because news has a tendency to spread quickly through social media. And in the midst of a crisis, it can be difficult to juggle all of the tasks that need to be completed while also working to find a list of stakeholders and the best way to reach them. Getting it done ahead of time is a great measure to save you time and ensure you are ready should you ever need it. 

We teamed up with Agnes to put together the following steps to take in the event of a company mishap: 

1. Immediately publish an explanation of what has happened and the steps you’re taking to address it. In addition, consider reaching out to the customers affected.
This is exactly what AppFirst CEO and co-founder David Roth did when the accounts of customers using the free level of their products were accidentally deleted. 

“Immediately, we published a blog explaining in detail the mistake we made, followed by an apologetic email to every impacted customer and, finally, I personally called each one, clarifying what happened,” Roth explained in an interview

It took him four consecutive days to reach every customer. “A key takeaway is that people are most forgiving if you step up promptly, admit that ‘we made a mistake,’ and then swiftly show them that improving their negative experience matters greatly,” says Roth. 

Buffer Founder and CEO Joel Gascoigne swiftly took steps to keep users informed when the company’s site was hacked, publishing a post to chronicle the hack, and adding new update a total of 11 times! The continual updates were also posted on Facebook and Twitter, including both steps to take and updates on progress being made on the company’s end. 

2. Make sure your apology is sincere and the amount of information you share is adequate.
GitHub learned this the hard way in the aftermath of a crisis in which a former employee spoke publicly about negative experiences at the company that led to her resignation. The company began a full investigation and explained it publicly, but then wrote an inadequate post discussing the results of the investigation. 

GitHub realized through a wide swath of blog posts, tweets and emails that this post was inadequate, and followed up with an apology

“Last Monday I published the least open and least transparent blog post GitHub has ever written. We failed to admit and own up to our mistakes, and for that I’m sorry,” said GitHub Co-founder Chris Wanstrath. “GitHub has a reputation for being transparent and taking responsibility for our actions, but last week we did neither. There’s no excuse. We can do a lot better.” The post continued, providing the information GitHub users were originally looking for. 

3. Follow up with meaningful action.
Weeks after the dust had begun to settle from the GitHub debacle, the company posted an update on new initiatives launched at the company to support diversity and respond to feedback. And even after Buffer found the source of its security breach and closed the vulnerability, the company published a follow-up blog post with steps being taken to increase security

Actions speak louder than words, so make sure to follow up any promises you’ve made with information about specific actions you are taking to address the issue that was the original cause of the crisis.

Want even more info about handling a company mishap? Check out Melissa Agnes’ infographic: The 10 New Rules of Crisis Communications


Have any examples of smooth or poorly handled company mishaps? 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 Damage Control: 3 Steps to Handling a Company Mishap appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Grow Your List with Email Sign up Forms

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 06:00

A sign up form is one of the single most powerful tools you can use to grow your email list. We recently wrote a post about everything you’d want to know about sign up forms. Need a refresher? Sign up forms are hosted webpages or embedded forms you can easily add to your website, blog and social networks to collect email subscribers. You may also hear them referred to as web forms, or opt-in forms.

In today’s post, we’ll focus on how to use a sign up form to grow your email list. So let’s get to it!

Email sign up forms build quality lists

When someone visits your company website, blog or one of your social media pages and chooses to sign up for your email list, they’re actively agreeing to receive your content. They’re telling you they’re interested and want to hear from you! This makes these subscribers most likely to engage with the content you send. 

Check out the simple sign up form we use on our VR Marketing Blog to collect sign ups for our VR Buzz newsletter:

Example of email sign up form from VerticalResponse

As you can see, we have more than 500K subscribers, so it works pretty well.

Where should I put an email sign up form?

Have your email sign up form and links to the form on all pages of your website, blog and other channels where your customers and prospects can interact with your business. Where exactly should you place forms and links to forms? Here are some suggestions:

  • The top side bar of your website or blog (link and/or form)
  • In the top navigation bar (link and/or form)
  • The footer of your site (link and/or form)
  • A tab on your Facebook page (link and/or form)
  • At the end of every blog post (link)
  • On your “About Us” page (link and/or form)
  • All of your social sites (link)

It may seem like overkill, but the more places you share your form, the more likely someone will see it. This way, while you’re busy running your business, your email sign up form can easily collect new subscribers. Your email service provider, like VerticalResponse, will add the new subscribers to your email lists so you don’t have to do anything.

You should frequently share the link to your email sign up form on social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook page. We recently wrote about how you can grow your email list using Pinterest, too. 

VerticalResponse customer and San Francisco-based “roaming mobile food extravaganza,” Off the Grid, uses a prominent email sign up form at the top of every page of their website near the main navigation bar. This tactic has collected nearly 40K+ subscribers.

Local SF retailer, Cliche Noe uses a large and simple email sign up form to collect subscribers and keep them informed about events and deals:

What information should I collect?

Less is more. Keep your forms visually simple and only include only a few fields. Many sign up forms only ask for an email address, however you may want to collect a first name, or a bit more data to segment your list, such as location. Be aware, however, the more fields you add, the less likely someone is to fill it out. Once you include 3-4 or more fields, your conversion rates (the number of people who fill out your form, sign up, etc.) will drop off. 

No technical skills required

If you’re not using an email sign up form because you don’t know where to start, begin with your email service provider. Most have email sign up form tools that are easy to use and customize for your needs.

Where can I find sign up forms?

In VerticalResponse Classic, you can find customizable, embedded signup forms in your account under Lists > Opt-in Forms.

In the new VerticalResponse, you can find our new, hosted sign up form web pages under Contacts.

Want more marketing tips and advice to grow your business? Get the VR Buzz delivered daily! 

© 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 Grow Your List with Email Sign up Forms appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Top 4 Reasons People Unsubscribe from Your Emails & How to Keep Them

Mon, 07/07/2014 - 06:00

Wonder why people unsubscribe from your email list? You’re not alone.

First, let’s talk stats. According to MarketingProfs, the average unsubscribe rate for most small businesses is below one percent. In fact, the average unsubscribe rate is about .25 percent. But what makes that .25 percent jump from your email ship? With the help of marketer Randy Aimone from Leading Results, we’ll count down the top four reasons why recipients unsubscribe your email, David Letterman style; saving the most popular reason for last. And, we’ll include some quick tips on how to keep them from leaving in the first place.

4. Sending to anyone and everyone
You don’t want to send emails to people that were never interested in what you’re sending. To avoid this common mistake, grow your list organically, always ask for permission to add each recipient to your list and only send your recipients the information you said you would (as explained on your signup page). In other words, you shouldn’t bolster your list with names of friends and family, or add a colleague to your list just because you exchanged business cards at a meeting. And you shouldn’t start sending daily promo emails to those who signed up for a monthly event email.

You want a list that’s full of people who are interested; otherwise you may see an uptick in unsubscribes.
To grow your list, make it extremely easy for people to opt in. If you’re in need of a few creative places to include email sign up forms, check out a recent post on this topic.

3. Sending irrelevant emails
If your emails are irrelevant to recipients, your unsubscribe rate will increase. Make sure that every email you send offers valuable content that your target audience wants to read.

Aside from creating high quality, niche-specific content, you should also segment your email list. By splitting your list into different pieces, you’ll be able to send a more targeted message to these groups of people.

If you’re emailing everyone on your list, it’s hard to tailor your message. For instance, this email that was sent by an amusement park and promotes a discount package, but if the recipient already has the gold pass, the email becomes irrelevant.

2. It’s not you! Changing interests
People’s interests change. Email preferences do, too. Maybe a recipient no longer needs your product or service, or maybe he or she found what they were looking for somewhere else. It happens. In some cases, the unsubscribe rate isn’t caused by something you did wrong; it’s just a natural progression.

1. Flooding inboxes
If you’re emailing recipients too much, they may unsubscribe. In fact, that’s the number one reason people leave email lists, Aimone says.

How many emails should you send on a weekly basis? The answer isn’t set in stone but take a look at the example below. Some people would consider five emails in three days a bit much.

Every business is different, but a simple lesson you learned in grade school is actually helpful here: “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it at all.” In other words, if you don’t have a good reason to send an email, don’t. Stay true to the frequency that you promised on your email sign up page and if you need to change it, let your audience know and allow them to choose if they want to stay or go. The key is to let them know what value they receive in getting more frequent emails from your company.

Keep in mind that unsubscribes aren’t all bad. If you aren’t living up to your recipient’s expectations, that’s a problem; however, if a recipient opts out for reasons that aren’t connected to quality or frequency, then it’s best to let those people go and make it easy for them to do so. Here are 9 things to never do with an email unsubscribe.

How do you handle email unsubscribes? 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 Top 4 Reasons People Unsubscribe from Your Emails & How to Keep Them appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Tips for Top-Notch Images in Every Email

Fri, 07/04/2014 - 07:00

Images can make or break your email. The right image can draw a recipient’s attention and increase the likelihood of clicking on your call to action.

“Images are critical to emails,” says Russell Cragun, the marketing manager at Doba, a Utah-based shipping company.  To make sure you’re getting the most bang for your visual buck, we put together a few tips to utilize email images well.

1. Use crisp images
Now is not the time for amateur photography. You want eye-catching images that make your email recipient take notice, Cragun suggests. Check out the email below. EBay uses one simple image to promote its “Dress to the 9s” sale. The image is simple, yet gets your attention; the colors pop; it’s not pixilated or blurry; and it relates to the content. That’s the kind of image you want. Tip: Use 72dpi images for emails and always size down an image (larger to smaller), never try to size up (smaller to larger) – This will prevent blurriness and pixilation.

2. Showcase your product well
When showcasing your products via email; you want your products to look good. If you’re not well versed in photography, consider hiring a professional to take some glamor shots of your products. Take a look at the email below from Coach. The products are nicely and clearly displayed. There aren’t any distracting backgrounds or colors, which allows the products to steal the show.

3. Stock photo sites are always a possibility
If you’re in need of a few general images, you can always go to a stock site like iStock or Shutterstock. When you’re searching for images, try to use specific search terms so you get a unique list of options. Sift through a few pages and see what fits your content needs and what catches your eye. Ensure you follow usage rights for any images you select.

4. Graphics or artwork can work, too
Are you trying to showcase something that’s less than visual? Solve the problem by creating graphics or some sort of artwork. The email below, for example, is to encourage recipients to nominate someone for a content marketing award. That’s could be a tough one to find a visual for. However, the strip of artwork on the top adds some dimension to the email, don’t you think? You don’t always have to use a picture.

5. Don’t go overboard
You can use more than one image, but if you use too many, you may run the risk of overwhelming your subscriber. Fortunately, if you’re using VerticalResponse to send out emails, there are plenty of templates to pick from. With the right template, you can use multiple images without making the email look cluttered.

The email below uses five pictures, which sounds like a lot, but this email design works. The placement of the pictures draws your attention to the text and call-to-action buttons in the middle.

How do you find and use pictures for your emails?

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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 5 Tips for Top-Notch Images in Every Email appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Advice from a Social Pro: The Best Content to Share on Social [VIDEO]

Fri, 07/04/2014 - 06:00

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 Jessica Gioglio, Social Media Manager at Dunkin’ Brands. She’s also the co-author of The Power of Visual Storytelling. Gioglio provides great tips to small businesses about using visuals to engage with their community.

© 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: The Best Content to Share on Social [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Back-to-Basics: 5 Email Marketing Fundamentals You Should Revisit

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 06:00

While summer may be in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere, back-to-school and the back-half of the year will be here before you know it. Before you ramp up your emails, there are some key email marketing fundamentals you should revisit:

1. Always keep a goal in mind

There are several reasons to send email: To share news, build loyalty, educate, invite people to events, drive traffic to your site, sell your product or service, etc. But what is your specific purpose? Before you create an email, think about the outcome you want. Are you trying to grow your business or email list? Sell a product or get more donations?

Have a goal in mind and tailor your email’s information and call-to-action to that idea or plan. Are you trying to establish yourself or brand as an industry expert? Send a frequent email newsletter with educational information, tips, how-tos, and industry news. There are many types of emails you can send; keep them all on track to your specific goal.

2. Follow these basic email tips

  • Mail regularly – You want your email subscribers to think of your business when they need the product or service you offer, so remind them of your presence with email. Mail at the least, once per month.
  • Send what you promised at sign-up. If subscribers signed up for tips and tactics delivered twice a week, that’s what you should deliver. Part of keeping your email readers engaged is sending the information they actually wanted.
  • Use images and links - Always include a mix of images and text, and include links back to your website, products or services.
  • Make it readable – At every step of the email creation process, think of your readers. Use a sans serif (no curlicues or swishes on the letters) font such as Verdana, Arial or Times New Roman in black or dark grey for easy reading.
  • Include a postal address and unsubscribe link – A postal address and unsubscribe link is required by CAN-SPAM.

3. Understand delivery

Getting your email to your subscriber’s inbox is important – if it ends up in a SPAM folder, all that hard work you put into it won’t be seen by anyone. Do you understand the basics of email delivery, and more importantly, how you can affect it?

Most business emails are made up of HTML; there’s usually a template involved, which includes images and links. HTML emails are multi-part MIME, which means there’s the nice HTML version, and a just-in-case backup that’s only text. If you’re using an email service provider, like VerticalResponse, you don’t need to think about this, we take care of it for you. Once you’ve created your email and hit send, the email moves through the Internet ether and through a number of authentication gates until it gets to your reader’s ISP (internet service provider). This is where your email gets a thumbs up (or down) and then moves on to your reader’s inbox, hopefully. The ISP gate is where the content of your email in part determines where your email will end up. Working with an ESP like VerticalResponse helps your email get to this gate; we make sure all the tech stuff you need is there, but you need to make sure the content is relevant and valuable. A few things to keep in mind when creating your email to ensure top-notch delivery:

  • Have a good balance of text and images, and make sure your important information is listed in the text just in case images are blocked.
  • Use links in your emails, but make sure you only link to trusted sites. Bad links can cause delivery issues.
  • Keep your HTML code clean, or use a pre-designed template from your ESP.
  • Send what you promised at sign up to keep your readers engaged. ISPs look at many things, and engagement is part of that.
  • Mail only to people who have requested your emails.

For more help and information on email delivery, here’s our free guide To the Inbox and Beyond – The Ultimate Guide to Email Delivery.

4. Build quality lists

The better quality your email lists are, the more likely your email will get delivered. Only use “opted in” email addresses for your marketing – Those who have agreed to receive emails from you. You’ll see higher engagement, better inbox placement and fewer unsubscribes and spam complaints. Once you’ve been mailing for a while, segment your lists. Never consider buying a list – It goes against the rules for most ESPs and spam laws, plus it’s not the best way to start a relationship with your potential customers. Slow and steady list growth wins the race every time.

5. Use an ESP

An email service provider (ESP) can help your small business generate and send emails that are targeted to your customer niche, and provide results. We’re here to make it easy. We’ve put together a list of criteria you’ll want to look for in your search for the right ESP.

Have any email fundamentals you think are important to add to the list? Let us know 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 Back-to-Basics: 5 Email Marketing Fundamentals You Should Revisit appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Google Knocks out Authorship Photos

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 07:00

Google is making big changes to its Authorship program that are stirring up mixed feelings amongst content creators.

Many small businesses with a penchant for producing quality content flocked to Google Authorship. With a little work, this handy tool added some unique information to your content when it popped up in search results, including your picture and the number of followers in your Google+ community. It looked like this: 

Now, Google has done away with the author’s photo and follower count in searches. Your name will still be included in the search results, but no picture or social stat. Now, it looks like this:

What’s behind the changes?
John Mueller, the Webmaster Trends analyst for Google, briefly explained the reason for the change on – where else – his Google+ page. He says Google is trying to “clean up its look” and enhance the overall appearance of search results on mobile devices. In other words, pictures and follower counts were cluttering up prime real estate on Google searches.

Were pictures and social stats important?
Research indicated that a reader’s eye was drawn to those small profile pictures. Not only did they attract attention, but content with a profile picture had higher clickthrough rates, says JoAnne Funch, owner of Marketing Dish.

However, Mueller says that recent Google research shows clickthrough behavior isn’t much different with or without the picture.

Is Google Authorship still worth it?
Google Authorship isn’t going away, but it’s safe to say that one of the main reasons that people signed up for it was to get their picture in search results. With that feature gone, marketers think fewer people will take the time to set it up.

However, your byline will still appear in the results, and while that’s not as attention-grabbing, it can still make a difference in your website traffic, Funch says.

Plus, Authorship is a good way to let Google know that you exist. Google has touted the importance of businesses showcasing their authority on certain topics, and Authorship is still a viable way to say, ‘Hey Google, my business knows its stuff.’ 

What else should you know?
There are a lot of questions about this new change and details are still developing, but here are a few other pieces of information you should know:

  • Your Google search rankings won’t change
  • Your picture and stats are gone but it won’t have any effect on where your site lands in a search.
  • Pictures will be offered with Google News
    • Content that lands within Google News will have a smaller profile picture next to the company’s logo, like this:

    • Most content written by a small business owner, however, won’t make it to Google News.
    • Tracking is still available.
    • If you’re a metrics nut, you can still see how your authored content is doing via Google Webmaster Tools.

    Despite the changes, it’s best for companies to keep creating quality content, says Scott Rodgers, co-founder of marketing company Tier10.

    “Stay the course,” he says. “Create relevant, unique content. It seems that kind of content will survive past, current and future changes.”

    What do you think of the new changes? How do you think the elimination of photos will affect clickthrough rates? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.

    © 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 Knocks out Authorship Photos appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

    A Beginner’s Guide to Google Webmaster Tools

    Wed, 07/02/2014 - 06:01

    Your website is like a high-performance car. Similar to a Porsche, your website should grab attention, navigate easily and hit max speeds. To keep a fancy sports car in tip-top shape, you use a specialized mechanic. To keep your website in tip-top shape, you should use Google Webmaster Tools (GWMT).

    Think of this Google feature like a toolbox full of fine-tuning agents that can help you improve your website. GWMT isn’t just about performance either; you can learn how customers find your site and use this information to tweak certain pages and boost website traffic.

    “Google Webmaster Tools is a free resource that gives you a ton of useful information,” says Chipper Nicodemus, our Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Manager. “You don’t need to understand Google’s algorithms or have a vast Internet background to use it, either. It’s a user-friendly tool that business owners should dive into.”

    At VerticalResponse, we want you to get the most out of your website. So, let’s follow Nicodemus’ advice and dive right in. We’ve created a guide to walk you through all that GWMT has to offer.

    Set up and verification
    First, you need to sign in to GWMT. If you have a Gmail account, you’ll need your Gmail password. From there, you’ll enter the URL of your website. You’ll also need to verify that you’re the owner of the site. There are a couple of ways to do this, and it varies depending on things like where you created your site. To figure out which process is right for your site, check out this link to the GWMT verification methods.

    Familiarize yourself with the dashboard
    Once you’ve set up and verified your account, you’ll be able to access the GWMT from one dashboard. Our guide will go through each one of the tabs on the left. We’ll explain what each feature does and tell you what you can learn from it.

    Site messages
    If Google wants to communicate with you, this is where they do it. For instance, Google will send you a message if there have been any attempts to hack your site, or if a new version of software is needed. It’s just like an inbox; you want to keep an eye on incoming messages.

    Search appearance

    Structured data

    • When you do a search, you’re presented with a list of relative links. Each link has a brief description under it, which helps users decide which link is best suited for their needs. For example, when you Google “Best Italian restaurant in Miami,” you get these results with snippets under each link. 

    • Wouldn’t it be nice if you could control what those snippets say about your business? You can do that by creating structured data, which is what Google uses to create your snippet.
    • To create this data requires some HTML knowledge. It does get a little technical, so if you’re a beginner, we suggest you check out the next option on the list, data highlighter, which is an easier tool to use that achieves similar results. However, if you’re up for a little challenge, GWMT has a step-by-step process on its website to help you create the snippet that appears in a web search.

    Data highlighter

    • Think of the data highlighter as a tool to teach Google what’s important on your site. You don’t need any HTML experience, just go into your site, highlight certain types of data and categorize it. For instance, if a local hotel highlights text about its upcoming concert series and categorizes it under “event,” Google will showcase it in a search like this:

    • There are several kinds of data that you can highlight including: articles, events, local businesses, restaurants, products, software applications, movies, TV episodes and books.
    • Like the structured data tool, you’re telling Google what information should show up when your site is searched.

     HTML improvements

    • If there is something you can do to make your user’s experience better, Google will let you know in the HTML improvement section. Here’s a look at what might appear: 

    • You might see suggestions like “duplicate meta descriptions.” You’d fill out this field to describe a particular entry. For example, when you write a blog post, you’d put a brief description of the post in the Meta description field. You don’t want duplicates, so Google will warn you about something like that in the HTML improvement section.
    • You’ll also see title tag suggestions. These titles are what show up as links in the search. For example, when you search “VerticalResponse,” the purple text is the title tag and clickable link. These suggestions will help you fine tune your titles so searchers know what your site is all about.

    Site links

    • You know those additional links that show up under the search results? They’re called site links. For instance, when you search “VerticalResponse” you not only get the link to the main page, you also get a series of other links, like the “Log In” and “Pricing” links that you see below. These are site links. 

    • Right now, Google selects these links for you, but through this tab on GWMT, you can demote a link if you don’t want it to appear in your search results. Just put in the URL of that particular page and click “demote.”

    Search Traffic

    Search queries

    • This is probably the most beneficial tab on the GWMT. Here you’ll find out how people get to your website.

    • You’ll see a list of search terms that led people to your site, which is a valuable tool, says Nicodemus. “As a business owner you assume you know which words people are using to find your site, but this list can reveal terms that you weren’t even thinking of,” he says.
    • Learning these search terms might persuade you to make some product adjustments, Nicodemus says. For instance, if you’re selling coffee mugs online and a lot of people find your site by searching “brown coffee mugs” and you’re only selling black mugs, you might consider adding brown mugs to your product line. “It’s a great way to find missed opportunities,” Nicodemus says. “Business owners can use this information to add products, remove under-performing products, and create relevant blog content that uses these keywords.” 
    • The search queries page will also show you a graph of impressions and clicks. Impressions are the number of times that your site showed up in search results. Clicks are the number of times people actually selected your website from the results, and the click through rate is the percentage of impressions that resulted in a click to your site.
    • How do you keep these stats high? One of the best ways is to keep your site updated regularly with high quality content.

    Links to your site

    • This section tells you who links to your site and how. It’s organized in basic categories like “Who links the most” and “Your most linked content.” Why does this matter? The more quality sites that link to yours, the better your Google ranking. If you’re providing quality content, other sites will link to your content naturally.

    Internal links

    • To improve navigation on your site, you’ll want to provide internal links. For instance, on this VerticalResponse page “Check it out” and “Apply now” are two internal links that take customers to another spot within the website.

    • Internal links make it easier for people to surf your site and tell Google the importance of a page. The more internal links that point to a page, the more Google assumes its significance. 

    Manual Actions

    Google Index

    Index status

    • This tab shows you the total number of URLs that Google has recognized and will appear in search results. Google finds these URLs with a ton of computers that “crawl” through the Internet to look for new and updated pages online. Once a new page or an update is found, the Googlebot scans it for important information and indexes it so it can be found during a search. 
    • The index tab shows you the number of URLs the bot found. Why is this important information? You want to make sure that Google can find and index your site. A steady increase in the number of URLs is proof that Google can find your site and catalog the content on it. Here’s a good example.

    • If you see dramatic increases or decreases in the graph you might have a problem with your server, or something is blocking Google from crawling your site and you’ll want to investigate further. Again, a steady increase is all you really need to look for here.

    Content Keywords

    • This is a list of the most significant keywords that are used throughout your site.

    • The keywords are listed in order of usage, with the most used keywords at the top. You can click on each word and see where it appears on your site. This information, along with the search queries information, can tell you how Google interprets your business site.
    • If you feel like the keywords that are listed aren’t accurately reflecting your site, it’s time to rethink your content strategy. You might consider making a list of keywords you want associated with your site, and add the keywords that people are using to find your site (found under the search queries tab) and create a master list of keywords. Use those keywords in your website content and blog topics.

    Remove URLs

    • If Google has indexed a part of your website that contains confidential information, you can send a request to have that URL removed. This should only be used for emergency cases, like exposed confidential data.


    Crawl errors

    • As the Googlebot crawls through your site, it will list any errors it finds with your site. Here’s a look at a typical list of crawl errors.

    • The most common error is a 404, which means the page can’t be found. If you’ve redesigned your site, you might see this a lot if you didn’t redirect people to the right page. You’ll also see these error messages if you take down old content. If another website linked to that old content, you’ll get the 404 error message too. If that’s the case, send an email to the site manager and ask to have the link updated.

    Crawl stats

    • This shows you how often Google is crawling your site. You’ll want to check this graph from time to time to make sure that Google is scanning through your content. If you think Google should be checking in more often, make sure you’re updating content regularly and you’ll keep the bot coming back for more.

    Fetch as Google

    • This handy tool lets you see a webpage the way Google does. Just enter a URL and hit “Fetch.”

    • This option is particularly helpful if you’re trying to troubleshoot issues with your page. For instance, if you have crawl errors or HTML suggestions and you’re making attempts to fix those issues, you’ll be able to fetch the page and see if the problem is fixed in the eyes of Google.

           Blocked URLs

    • If you have content on your site that you’ve blocked from Google on purpose, you’ll see a list of those links here. Remember when we talked about confidential pages that you didn’t want Google to include in searches? You can keep track of them here.


    • A Sitemap is exactly what it sounds like; it’s a map that helps Google recognize all of the pages on your site. This isn’t something the Googlebot handles, you actually have to create an XML sitemap and submit it to Google. How do you do that? We suggest using This site will walk you through the process and get the information to Google. It might sound techy, but it’s beneficial. If you can get Google to recognize all of the pages on your site, your searchability will increase.

           URL parameters

    • This section allows you dictate which URLs Google crawls, but unless you’re an Internet aficionado, you’ll probably want to stay away from this. If you enter the wrong URLs you can negatively affect your site. It’s best to leave this one to the pros. 


    • If your site has fallen victim to hackers, Google will let you know. You can also request a malware review from Google to make sure all infected areas are clear.

           Security issues

    • This tab is another way for Google to get in touch with you should there be any security concerns. It’s just another inbox-like feature that you should monitor.

    Additional tools

    • You’ll find some helpful resources in this section. We’ll go over the most important and easy-to-use tools.

    Google Places

    • You want customers to be able to find your business, its location and contact information in a snap, right? Then you should check out Google Places. In a few simple steps you’ll get your business on the map – literally. A map with a pin showing your location will appear in search results. Other important information will also pop up in searches.

    Google Merchant Center

    • When you Google “new shoes,” a list of relevant links come up along with several pictures of products. 

    Page Speed Insights

    • If a customer has to wait for your page to load, they might get impatient and go to a competitor’s site. To avoid this, use the Page Speed Insights tab to see just how fast your page loads on both a desktop computer and a mobile device. Check out the report below.

    • You’ll get a rating. In this case, the desktop rating is 81/100. To improve the speed, it gives you a list of things you can change to make your page load faster.


    Author stats

    • If you’re writing content for your site or for others, you can see a list of your top ranked articles. Of course, you’ll need to associate your articles with your Google profile for the posts to show up. You can learn more about that through the Google Authorship site. It’s worth your time. It shows you what articles are getting read so you can adjust your topics accordingly.

    Instant preview

    • This option is a lot like Fetch as Google, it shows you a page as Google would see it. It also tells you if there are any errors as the bot works to preview the page. Again, it’s another way to learn about bugs in your system.

    Hopefully, we’ve helped you learn your way around GWMT. It’s a powerful tool for business owners who want to improve their website performance and traffic without spending a dime.

    Are you using GWMT? Which features do you find the most valuable?

    Get started with VerticalResponse with a free account today! 

    © 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 A Beginner’s Guide to Google Webmaster Tools appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

    How to Set up LinkedIn Sponsored Updates

    Tue, 07/01/2014 - 06:01

    LinkedIn has always focused on the professional audience from the very beginning. But in the past, you may have only visited the site when you had an update to your resume or were trying to find a connection for that perfect job. However, like other social networks, LinkedIn evolved.

    Last year, LinkedIn began focusing on content marketing as a key piece of its growth strategy.

    Around the same time, LinkedIn introduced a new marketing option called Sponsored Updates. This is an in-stream native ad unit that promotes content from a LinkedIn business page to the world’s largest professional network. But a lot of people are unfamiliar with these sponsored updates, so we thought we’d take a few moments to break them down. Let’s jump in.

    When you add a piece of content to your LinkedIn business page, you’ll notice a sponsor update button toward the bottom of the post.

    If you click the sponsor update button, you’ll be taken into the Campaign Manager where you can sponsor or promote this piece of content. If this is your first time sponsoring a piece of content, you’ll be prompted to enter a credit card into the system. For future sponsoring opportunities, you’ll bypass this step. 

    You can now choose the sponsor content button, where a drop down will appear allowing you to name your campaign, choose the company this campaign is for (you will only have multiple options if you’re an administrator of multiple business pages) and click the update you want to sponsor.

    Next, you’ll be provided with a preview of what your content will look like on various devices including a PC, smart phone and a tablet. This is a helpful feature that other social networks don’t currently offer.

    Once you click the next button you’ll be moved over to the targeting section. Here you can target a location based on the area.  For example, you can’t target a specific city like San Francisco, but you can target the San Francisco Bay Area. You’re also given the opportunity to focus on specific companies and job titles if you want your content to be served up to those specific groups. One last thing to consider: The more LinkedIn members you target, the higher “per click” price you will pay. So getting more specific can make your budget go further.

    With a final click of the next button, you’re taken to the budget page. You can choose pay per click (CPC), or cost per 1,000 impressions (CPM). In our experience, we’ve seen higher return on investment with the CPC option. You also choose the total budget you’re willing to spend on this sponsored update, as well as how long the campaign should run. With a click of the launch campaign button, your advertising is now in motion.

    Once your sponsored update is running, you’ll see two different engagement metrics under the post. One is the organic traffic your post has seen, and the other is what your post has gained from sponsoring it. In this example, the difference is substantial: 92 organic impressions vs. 23,950 paid impressions.

    You can also visit your campaign dashboard to see more detailed information about the posts you’ve chosen to sponsor. One thing to highlight: Tthe budget versus the total spent. LinkedIn provides additional value to your posts, especially if they’re popular with your targeted audience. So for the example above, you can see the budget was $50.00, but my total spend was $175.00. Even though you’ll never be charged more than the budget you set, sometimes you get additional exposure at no additional cost. In this case, I received an additional $125 worth of clicks for free. We can’t confirm why LinkedIn does this, but we confirmed with a LinkedIn sales representative that it does happen from time to time. Just note that this may not be available permanently. 

    There you have it – A quick little walk through LinkedIn’s sponsored updates. We’d love to hear what you think of them, and if you’ve had any experience using them yourself. Just drop us a note in the comment section below.

    To get more marketing tips and advice, subscribe to the 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 How to Set up LinkedIn Sponsored Updates appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

    8 Components of an Effective Email [GUIDE]

    Mon, 06/30/2014 - 06:00

    Every email your business sends has the potential to build relationships and boost sales. VerticalResponse is here to help ensure each email you send is effective. So, we’ve created a guide that breaks down eight components of an email. With this handy information, you’ll be on your way to creating successful email campaigns in no time.

    1. From label

    We start with the “from” label. Everyone pays attention to where an email comes from, it’s the first thing a person sees when they scan their inbox. Since this is such an important piece of inbox real estate, you want to make sure that the from label matches your company name, or whoever your recipient signed up to hear from when they subscribed to your list. This helps easily identify an email’s source.

     2. Subject line

    When an email lands in your inbox, you decide whether or not you’re going to open it in a matter of seconds, right? One of the things you base your decision on is the subject line. Your subscribers do the same. This is why subject lines are so important. You could offer your customers the best deal or information in the world, but if you have a poorly written subject line, your customers won’t get far enough to take advantage of that great deal.

    Beth Nagengast, who uses VerticalResponse to promote Cinquain Cellars, a winery in Paso Robles, California, says subject lines should be straightforward. “Tell your customer what’s in it for them,” she says. It’s good advice. Take a look at the subject line examples below.

    The email from VerticalResponse tells customers the information they can expect to read about. The email from the electronics giant offers a deal. Both subject lines tell readers why they should open the email.

    Tips to creating subject lines:

    • Keep it short. Stick to 40-50 characters.
    • Don’t overuse punctuation (i.e. !!!) or symbols.
    • Don’t use all caps.
    • Don’t repeat the from label.

    For more tips, check out our Savvy Subject Line guide.

    3. Pre-header

    The pre-header is like a subject line’s sidekick. It’s the first line of text in your email. Some email programs, like Gmail or mobile phones, include the pre-header after the subject line so the reader can get a little more information before opening the email. See the grey text after the subject line? That’s the pre-header.

    It’s another way to grab attention. Whether it’s displayed next to the subject line or not, that first sentence in your email is vital. You want customers to keep reading. Try to write something that builds on the subject line and tells readers exactly what the email is about.

    4. Content

    Now it’s time to get to the meat of your email marketing: content. The message that you create should provide value to your customer. Teach them about your business, offer a promotional deal, or keep them informed about new products or services. Whatever your goal is, make sure the content is succinct and informative.

    To set your emails apart from the rest, make a commitment to quality. Create content your customers want to read and then keep it coming. You want your customers to look forward to your emails. Importantly, every email should be error-free. You don’t want to sink your credibility with an email that’s riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors.

    You’ll also want to vary the kind of content you send. You can’t fill your customers’ inbox with dozens of promotional emails. If you try to sell too hard, you’ll push customers away. Offer an array of content. A company newsletter is the go-to email marketing for Cinquain Cellars. It helps the company build a relationship with customers. From product tips to a company newsletter, the name of the content game is diversity.

    5. Call to action

    The point of every email is to get subscribers to take some kind of action. Whether you want them to make a purchase or take an online survey, a clear call to action makes it easy for the recipient to follow through.

    When you’re creating an email, ask yourself, “What do I want the recipient to do?” If the answer is to make a purchase, you could include a “Shop Now” button in the email. If you want customers to take a survey, you would include a link that takes the recipient directly to the questionnaire.

    The main thing to remember when creating the call to action is that it should be clear. We’re talking blatantly obvious. Take a look at this email.

    The call to action is easy to identify. Recipients click on the “Shop now” button, which takes them directly to the online retail mecca in seconds.

    One of the best ways to create a clear call to action is to use a clickable button. Check out our button creator to get a killer call to action button for your next email.

    Tips to creating a strong call to action:

    • Keep it short: A call to action should be no more than five words; most are only two words. You want something that’s simple and effective. No need for flowery language here.
    • Use active language: You want customers to act now, not two days from now. Use active words to get your customers moving. Phrases like “Purchase now” or “Try our new service today” are good examples.
    • Create a sense of urgency: Give customers a reason to act now. For instance, put a limited time frame on deals so customers won’t wait.
    6. Images

    There’s an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, and it especially holds true in email marketing. Using an image in an email is a great way to appeal to your customer’s visual nature. One of the easiest ways to incorporate images is to highlight your product or service. Take a look at the example below.

    This email wouldn’t be nearly as effective without the pictures of the product. The images give customers an idea of what the new product looks like. It’s invaluable information for customers and gives them a reason to shop.

    If you’re trying to market something that isn’t product-related, such as a service, you have to think outside the box. For instance, think about whom your product or service helps and try to use an image that relates. Take a look at the example below.

    This online university uses a picture of a mom and a child in its email to encourage adults to come back to school. Notice how the image complements the text. That should be your goal.

    7. Social media buttons

    Don’t forget to include social media buttons in your email. You want your customers to engage with your brand as much as possible, so make it easy for them to check out your feeds. Take a look at the email below. Notice the Facebook, Twitter and YouTube options near the bottom.

    8. Unsubscribe option

    You may not be aware of it, but there are laws regarding email marketing. The CAN-SPAM Act says your email must include a way for customers to opt out. You can go about this in a couple of ways. You can put the word “Unsubscribe” at the bottom of the email that is linked to an unsubscribe option so customers can click on it and remove their names from your list. Or your readers can hit reply and include Unsubscribe in the subject line. At VerticalResponse, we manage all your opt outs.

    This guide is just the tip of the email iceberg. We have tons of resources for you. From our digital marketing blog, to our weekly newsletter packed with tips and trends, we’ve got you covered. VerticalResponse will help you make the most out of every email you send.

    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.

    The post 8 Components of an Effective Email [GUIDE] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

    How to Sponsor an Update on LinkedIn [Video]

    Fri, 06/27/2014 - 06:00

    In this installment of Tips in 2, our video series of helpful, two-minute small business marketing tips, our senior social media manager, Derek Overbey shows you how to easily sponsor an update on your LinkedIn business page. Touching on the basics of getting a sponsored update off the ground, we’ll take you step-by-step through the process of leveraging the incredible reach of LinkedIn. 

    Want more fresh marketing tips and advice? Get the VR Buzz delivered daily. 

    © 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 Sponsor an Update on LinkedIn [Video] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

    The Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing

    Fri, 06/27/2014 - 06:00

    So you’ve heard the buzz about how easy and cost effective email marketing can be for your business. But, you might not be sure where to start?  We’ve put together this handy guide to help you get started in a snap.

    Build your email marketing list

    If you’re just getting started with email marketing, your list might be fairly small. That’s okay. Everyone starts somewhere, and you’ll grow your list over time. Just make sure you’re collecting email addresses, and especially that you have an opt-in form on your website, blog and applicable social networks so new people can sign up to join your list.

    We recommend including information along with your sign-up form to let your new subscribers know exactly how often you plan on emailing them (whether it’s once a month or twice a week, or another timeframe), and what type of information you’ll be sending. That way, people know right away what they’re signing up for when they sign up, and expectations are set, so there aren’t any surprises.

    It also allows you to offer an incentive for subscribers, whether it’s special email-only discounts and deals, or information about new products and specials before they’re released on your website.

    Start small

    Not sure how often to send email? It’s better to start small, emailing subscribers once or twice a month, or more often if that is what you offered when they signed up. It’s important to only send what you promised. If you need to increase the frequency later, or during a busy season like the winter holidays, you can email your subscribers and let them know in advance what to expect. A word of warning: Don’t add anyone to your email list without their permission. If they’ve entered a contest or drawing or you’ve gotten their business card, make sure to drop them a line to ask if they want to be on your email list – instead of adding them directly.

    If you need ideas of what to send, we’ve got 50 unique ideas for you here.

    Segment your list

    Even if you only have 20 or 30 people on your email list, it’s not too soon to start segmenting it based on the type of information people are looking for. Local customers interested in events or workshops may go on a different list than those who live out of town. You may offer three different products for three unique groups – in which case it’s a perfect time to begin tailoring your marketing to specific groups of people, offering information specific to them instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. Do what’s right for your subscribers

    You may get emails from chain clothing stores each day, telling you what to buy and what’s on sale. “That’s how they do their marketing,” says Jill Bastian, our own Training and Education manager. “For them it’s pretty successful, but for small businesses, people have different expectations.”

    If you try too hard to emulate big companies, you could get in trouble. People may get annoyed with a high volume of emails. “Pay attention to your stats,” Bastian advises. “If subscribers drop off, look at your content. Are you sending the right information? Are you sending too often? Too many messages saying ‘Buy! Buy! Buy!’ can be really off-putting to people,” so make sure to intersperse useful messages with informational content in your email marketing.

    Find your voice

    As a small business owner, your tone may be able to be a bit more conversational than an email sent from a big business (depending on your industry or type of business, of course). Spend some time finding your company’s voice to ensure your messages hit the mark.

    Be consistent

    A rookie email marketing mistake is to simply send an email when you have something to say. But it’s better to email on a regular basis. Disappearing for even a couple of months can confuse your readers, who may forget about your business before you hit send nine weeks later.

    Quality content

    Another common mistake is to only send sales pitches to your readers. “There’s more to sending out an email than putting some pictures of your product and saying, ‘okay, go buy it,’ because people won’t keep looking at the email if you don’t spend a little bit of time writing it,” says Bastian. Instead, post highly valuable content your readers are interested in and which they would benefit from, whether they use your product or not. Things like how-tos, tips and product help are popular types of content.

    Make it readable

    You’ll want your messages to be easy to read, no matter what device your readers are on, or how much time they have. Using bullets and subheadings makes your email easy to scan, even, for example, if someone’s quickly checking messages on their phone while taking the subway to work. Also, make sure to break up longer paragraphs into shorter ones to make your material more digestible.

    Proof and edit

    Have a co-worker glance at your message before hitting send to avoid typos, broken links or other errors after the emails hit your subscribers’ inbox.

    Testing A simple web search on online marketing can present you with a dizzying array of often contradictory information on the best way to market to your readers. The thing is, there’s no one approach that works for every business, let alone each specific group of people. And since nobody can offer you the perfect blueprint for your unique email list, the most important thing is to test. You’ll want to analyze your data from time to time, with a special look at the following:
    • Subject matter. Are there specific topics people gravitate towards? Look at the open rate on your emails to see if there are any surprises. In some industries, people are always asking about a specific topic, but the open rate for emails addressing it is low. Sometimes people think they’re interested (or not interested) in reading information about certain topics, but the data shows otherwise. Keep an eye on which types of emails are read most often, and which aren’t, so you can modify the subjects you cover appropriately. Your readers may even change their interests and preferences over time.
    • Subject line. What does better for you, emails with lots of information in the subject line or those with just a bit? If you have 200 addresses or more on your email list, A/B split testing can help you analyze two different subject lines for the exact same post to see which one gets a better response. There may be specific subject lines for your list that you’d like to test as well.
    • Email length. There’s no cookie-cutter answer for what the best length is for your emails. It may vary by message depending if you are sending a newsletter, an offer, an invitation or another message. And you can also mix up your email length, if appropriate, with some short and sweet messages and some longer, more comprehensive reads.
    • How often. Sending to your list on a regular basis is the best recipe for success. Stick with what you promised when the subscriber signed up and change it as needed as your business dictates.
    • Counting clicks. Including links to products or areas of your website can help you see what your readers are interested in – just look at the number of clicks per link.

    It’s tempting to feel like you’re done after the email you crafted is delivered to your email list, but it’s really just the beginning. Bottom line: Your email marketing campaign isn’t done when you hit send. Spend some time seeing what your customers or readers like and what they’re interested in – which products they look at or buy, which links they’re clicking on, which articles they’re reading, and so forth. Keep giving them the kind of information they want. If you’re not paying attention to the people reading your emails, then your email marketing won’t be successful.

    Get started now with VerticalResponse. 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.

    The post The Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

    Off the Grid Serves up Sizzling Content Using Social, Mobile & Email Marketing

    Thu, 06/26/2014 - 06:01

    In June of 2010, Off the Grid (OtG), a popular San Francisco-based “roaming mobile food extravaganza” (and VerticalResponse customer!) opened their first three markets. They say the concept was created “with the simple idea that grouping street food vendors together, similar to an ‘Asian night market’ would create an experience that would allow neighbors to connect with friends and families to reconnect with each other.”

    Fast forward to today, and Off the Grid now operate 23 weekly markets in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, with more than 150 food vendors.

    This kind of rapid growth doesn’t happen by accident, but with a carefully orchestrated marketing plan involving social media, a mobile app, email marketing and word of mouth. Like a robust recipe, Off the Grid’s successful content strategy doesn’t contain just one single ingredient. It mixes a combination of content created by their own team, as well as user generated content from attendees and food truck vendors.

    Take a look at OtG’s Twitter feed. It’s a consistent steam of updates, as well as retweets from vendors and attendees touting locations, menu options and pictures of delicious food.

    Mosey on over to OtG’s Facebook page, which boasts over 64K likes. Here, you also get a taste of content being shared by the organization, vendors and the people who love them.

    Off the Grid’s content is really smokin’ on their Instagram feed, and for good reason. They share mouthwatering pics that are easy to share, comment on and like. It’s not unusual for their posts to get hundreds of likes. They also share pictures before, during and after the events to attract attendees, as well as get current attendees to try even more of the delectable goods.

    Off the Grid rounds out all their social media efforts with email marketing. They have a prominent opt-in form located on every page of their website, and they mail numerous times a week to keep their 40,000 subscribers coming back.

    Off the Grid’s email marketing newsletter sign up form

    Lastly, OtG serves up content to their followers and fans via their mobile app. The app provides foodies with information, schedules and updates about upcoming street food markets, and available vendors in their vicinity. App users can follow their favorite vendors or markets, and receive push updates with vendor lists, fun things to do in the area, and more.


    By providing a variety of content, including events, food and vendors, Off the Grid continues to fuel their patrons appetites, and the company’s continued rapid growth. Have all these examples made you hungry to serve up some sizzling content of your own? We’d love to hear about what you decide to dish out in the comments section.

    © 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 Off the Grid Serves up Sizzling Content Using Social, Mobile & Email Marketing appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.