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VerticalResponse’s Top 50 Marketing Blog Posts of 2014

Mon, 12/22/2014 - 09:43

Creating valuable content is a consistent mission for us here at VerticalResponse. In 2014 (so far), we published and produced more than 315 pieces of original content. This includes 18 videos, 5 infographics, 12 guides, and 280 blog posts. We gave tips, ideas, and actionable takeaways for a wide variety of marketing topics, tailoring our content to you.

Hard work also pays off. The VerticalResponse blog won “best web writing/content” at the American Business Awards. Sites including Fast Company, Mediabistro, Yahoo! Small Business Advisor, Small Business Computing, and Marking Land also highlighted our content. And, most recently, included us in their dynamic, “Top 50 Marketing Blogs On the Web” list.

But enough about us! To wrap up this busy year of content creation and consumption, we’ve compiled a list of the 50 most popular blog posts according to you, our readers. We divided the list into two sections: Most viewed and most shared on social media. You’ll notice some overlap between the two lists, but only by a handful! With that, enjoy this list and thank you, as always for reading, sharing, retweeting, liking, and letting us know what you think!

25 top blog posts by sessions/pageviews:

  1. The 30 Magic Marketing Words You Should Be Using
  2. The Top 20 Places Your Business Needs to Be Listed Online
  3. Busted: The Worst Email Subject Lines, Ever!
  4. The 9 Emails Your Business Should Be Sending
  5. How to Use Instagram to Sell Products
  6. The 8 Most Overused Words in PR and Marketing
  7. Tips to Creating an Engaging Internal Newsletter
  8. 50 Unique Ideas for Your Next Email
  9. The Best Ways to Promote Your Small Business Event
  10. 5 Easy (and Affordable) Ways to Show Customer Appreciation
  11. 12 Tips to Running a Winning Social Media Contest
  12. 20 Powerful Marketing Words and Phrases That Sell or Repel
  13. Facebook or Twitter – Which is Better for Your Small Business?
  14. Get the Most Bang for Your Buck: Google Adwords vs. Facebook Ads
  15. How to Handle a Crisis on Social Media
  16. Heartbleed Bug: What You Need to Know
  17. 3 Reasons Why Emails Don’t Get Opened
  18. 5 Elements of an Effective Call to Action Button
  19. How Email Marketing Helps Your Small Business
  20. 20 Interesting Holiday Fun Facts to Share
  21. 3 Ways the iPhone 6 Affects Your Emails and What to Do About it
  22. The Top 20 Most Effective Holiday Subject Line Words [Infographic]
  23. A Definitive Guide to using Facebook Insights for Your Business
  24. Avoid These 5 SEO Faux Pas
  25. 50 Inspiring Retail, B2B and Non-Profit Email Subject Lines


25 top blog posts by social media shares

  1. The 30 Magic Marketing Words You Should Be Using
  2. The Top 20 Most Effective Holiday Subject Line Words [Infographic]
  3. 5 Time-Saving Business Tools You Need to Know
  4. Psst! Want to Know How to Write Irresistible Subject Lines?
  5. How to Handle a Crisis on Social Media
  6. 5 Tips to Get Your Video Marketing Efforts off the Ground in 2014
  7. Are You Making These 5 Common Content Marketing Mistakes?
  8. Busted: The Worst Email Subject Lines, Ever!
  9. 7 Tips to a Stellar Welcome Email
  10. 5 Easy Ways to Blog in Less Time
  11. 7 Key Steps to Facebook Growth
  12. 10 Reasons Social Logins Could Be a Game Changer
  13. How to Survive the Winter Marketing Slump
  14. 7 SEO Myths Demystified
  15. 5 Easy (and Affordable) Ways to Show Customer Appreciation
  16. 3 Email Marketing Tips for the New Year
  17. 9 Must-Attend Retail Trade Shows for 2015
  18. 3 Emails Your Non-Profit Should be Sending
  19. 5 Terrific Tips for Stellar Holiday Service on Social Media
  20. Enhance Customer Engagement with Online Hangouts
  21. More Accurate Updates to Google Webmaster Tools
  22. Camera Shy & Short on Time? Try Screencasting to Create video Content
  23. Guidelines for Getting Awesome Guest Blog Posts
  24. Tips to Creating an Engaging Internal Newsletter
  25. How to Keep Your Email Newsletter Clicks & Readers on the Rise

Which blog post was your favorite and what topics would you like to hear more about? Let us know in the comments.

Stay up-to-date with our marketing tips and tactics by subscribing to our weekly blog updates.

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

The post VerticalResponse’s Top 50 Marketing Blog Posts of 2014 appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Facebook Introduces New Search Feature – Should Google Be Worried?

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 06:00

Facebook is making changes once again. But unlike other changes they’ve made recently, this one will be much more welcome by Facebook’s 1.3 billion monthly active customers. Facebook introduced an improvement to their search functionality that will now allow customers to search their past posts. So if you’re trying to find that new restaurant your friend told you about, or that link to the “best chocolate chip cookies” ever that your mom posted, you can do it quickly and easily using this new search functionality.

And it doesn’t end there; some news outlets such as Time are stating that “Facebook’s new search feature is a thinly-veiled shot at Google.” While Facebook’s search has been limited up to this point, this one improvement is unlikely to supplant Google’s stranglehold on search. Privacy settings may inhibit a robust social search experience for Facebook. Because users can’t search the entire platform like Twitter, or the entire Internet like Google, it’s hard to imagine any real volume of search migrating to Facebook in the short term.

Facebook’s new search functionality is currently only available for US English on iPhone and desktop.

For a quick explanation of Facebook’s new search functionality, check out our latest episode of Tips in 2 below.

To get more specific information about how the new search works with your Facebook privacy settings, check out Facebook’s search page for details. 

Sign up for our weekly blog updates to get more digital marketing tips and how-to’s. 

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

The post Facebook Introduces New Search Feature – Should Google Be Worried? appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Email Marketing Helps S&S Brand Whet Its Customers’ Appetites

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 06:00

From reality TV (“BBQ Pitmasters”) to cooking shows (“Barbecue U with Steve Raichlan”), to say America is a bit obsessed with barbecue might be an understatement. In San Francisco, S&S Brand is fanning the flames with its regionally influenced, handcrafted barbecue sauces, spice rubs and brine mixes for meats and seafood. 

Founders Sarah Burchard and Spencer O’Meara together have more than 30 years of restaurant experience working as chefs at some of the most acclaimed restaurants in San Francisco. S&S Brand sauces, rubs and mixes are available for purchase on their website, at dozens of specialty food and grocery stores across the Bay Area, and at food festivals, artisan markets and pop-up shops. (Check out the video below!)

A VerticalResponse customer since 2011, S&S Brand has organically grown their email list from zero to hundreds of subscribers who’ve sign up for their emails on the S&S Brand website and at events. The company sends at least one newsletter per month that includes a calendar of events, recipes, product news, discounts and links to new posts on Sarah’s barbecue blog, City Que

We recently caught up with Sarah and Spencer during one of their “bottling days,” where they hand-poured fresh-off-the-stove barbecue sauce into hundreds of jars in anticipation for the holiday retail rush. (The smells were amazing!)

Check out even more customers who use email to grow their business, like The Epicurean Connection.

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

The post Email Marketing Helps S&S Brand Whet Its Customers’ Appetites appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

5 Tips to Improve Your Non-Profit Emails

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 06:01

Email marketing isn’t just a successful marketing tool for retailers and service-based businesses, it can yield impressive results for non-profits too.

A study from M+R Benchmarks, an organization that tracks online fundraising and advocacy for non-profits, shows 35% of online donations are connected to email marketing.

To maximize your marketing efforts, here are five tips to improve your emails:

1. Send a variety of emails

Non-profits need donations and volunteers, but that doesn’t mean every email you send has to ask for support. You should send a variety of emails. From newsletters to gratitude emails, you want to engage with your audience. We asked Katie Chapman, a philanthropic advisor and CEO of Fullanthropy, to help us create a list of emails that you should send throughout the year:

  • Welcome email. When a new contact signs up for your email list, greet him or her with a welcome email. Here’s an example:

  • Gratitude email. When donations are received, make sure to thank each supporter with a gratitude email.
  • Stewardship email. At the end of a campaign, tell donors how it went. For example, tell donors that as a result of their contributions 50 kids now have winter coats.
  • Explainer video. Show your supporters what you’re working on by sending a link to a video that explains a new project or your mission. Here’s an example:

  • Newsletter. On a regular basis, keep your followers up-to-date with a newsletter.

2. Vary your calls to action

Inevitably, you will send emails that ask for donations or support of some kind. Many non-profits use “Donate Now” as the go-to call to action, but there are other phrases you can use that sound less like a plea for money. The next time you create a donation-based email, consider using a call to action from this list:

  • Join Us Now
  • Take Action
  • Get Involved Today
  • Join the Fight
  • Help a Family in Need Now
  • Support Your Animal Humane Society (change to your non-profit’s name)
  • Give the Gift of Food (alter to fit the service you provide)
  • Send a Military Care Package Now (alter to fit a specific package you provide)

3. Add an attention-grabbing image

As a non-profit, one of the best ways to encourage your audience to get involved is to show them how they can help. Take a look at the example below from World View. The picture of the 9-year-old girl who was injured in an earthquake is what grabs your attention. That image alone propels readers to act.

Supporters are more likely to help your cause if they can relate to it on a human level, says Chapman.

“Pictures always tell the story better than words and make your emails more interesting,” she says.

Try to include an image that shows the need that your non-profit meets or showcases what your organization has accomplished.

4. Select two readable fonts

When you create an email, you have a multitude of fonts to select from. To ensure your audience can read your email, select clear fonts. You should stay away from odd fonts that use symbols or hard-to-read cursive letters. You’ll also want to limit the number of fonts you use. Don’t use more than two fonts in an email. Here’s a quick list of go-to fonts:

  • Tahoma
  • Times New Roman
  • Trebuchet MS
  • Arial
  • Rockwell
  • Gil Sans
  • Cambria

5. Pick a color scheme

Think of an email as an outfit. When you get dressed in the morning, you select colors that match or complement each other. The same is true for your email color scheme. Pick two (maybe three) colors to use throughout the email.

For more design tips, check out our post, Don’t Let Your Email Look Defeated – 3 Essential Design Elements.

Get more email tips tailored for non-profits in this guide: A Fundamental Guide to Email and Social Media Marketing for Non-Profits.

Send your non-profit emails with VerticalResponse - we have a very special non-profit program including 10,000 free emails per month. 

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

The post 5 Tips to Improve Your Non-Profit Emails appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Get Recognized: 10 Small Business Awards You Should Enter

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 06:00

Whether your company has been around for decades or is just getting off the ground, getting a business award under your belt is a great way to build credibility and generate positive PR. Winning an award tells customers that you’ve been vetted by a third party and bested other companies to come out on top – no easy feat!

Awards programs run the gamut. Some are free to enter, while others can cost hundreds of dollars per submission. Some have simple entry procedures, and others can rival an Ivy League college application. Still, others are inexpensive to enter but will cost an arm and a leg if you want to buy a certificate, trophy or rights to use their logo. It’s a good idea to do some research before diving right into the application.

To get you started, here are 10 small business awards programs and ideas to consider:

1. National Small Business Week Awards

The National Small Business Week Awards are organized by the U.S. Small Business Administration and have several categories, including Small Business Person of the Year. Submission deadline: Jan. 5, 2015. Cost*: Free.

2. DREAM BIG Blue Ribbon/Small Business of the Year Award

The DREAM BIG Awards are organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There is one winner, seven regional finalists and 100 Blue Ribbon honorees. Prizes include $10,000 cash. Submission deadline: Jan. 7, 2015. Cost: $25 for U.S. Chamber members; $150 for nonmembers.

3. SCORE Awards

The annual SCORE Awards are organized by SCORE, a non-profit association that has been supporting small businesses across the country for nearly 50 years. Submissions for the 2015 program will open in January. Cost: Free.

4. Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Recognition for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year is given on both a national and regional level. Submissions for the 2015 program will open in January. Cost: Free.

5. American Business Stevie Awards

The American Business Stevie Awards feature an impressive array of categories in management, marketing, customer service, human resources, information technology, new product/service and more. Submission deadline: March 25, 2015. Cost: Some categories are free; the rest are $215 to $470 per entry.

6. Small Business Influencer Awards

The Small Business Influencer Awards are produced by Ramon Ray (founder of and Anita Campbell (founder of Small Business Trends), two big names in the small business community. There is a public-voting component. Submissions for the 2015 program will open in July. Cost: Free.

7. Indie Awards

The Indie Awards are a part of Independent We Stand, an effort to get consumers to shop locally at independently owned and operated businesses. Submissions for the 2015 program will open in September. Cost: Free.

8. Best in Biz Awards

Entries for the Best in Biz Awards are judged by press and industry analysts. There are 60 categories across five focus areas: company, department or team, executive, product, and PR and media. Submissions for the 2015 program will open in September. Cost: $350 per entry.

9. Local Chamber of Commerce

Check your local Chamber of Commerce and find out if they have any recognition programs; many of them do. (Take a look at this one organized by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.)

10. Local “Reader’s Choice” Lists

Many regional magazines, newspapers and websites have annual lists where readers can nominate and vote for the area’s best coffee shop, best mechanic, best veterinarian, etc. (Here’s one for the San Francisco Bay Area.) 

Did an award win give your business a boost? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

* Costs listed are accurate at time of publication.

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

The post Get Recognized: 10 Small Business Awards You Should Enter appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Three Ways to Rock Organic Search Results

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 06:00

Every business could benefit from more website or brick and mortar visits. To achieve either of these things, a solid and organic online presence is vital, especially when it comes to search results.

When someone conducts a search online and uses keywords related to your business, or searches branded terms (like the name of your company), it’s important your business appears high on the SERP (search engine results page). After all, results that appear on the first page enjoy a whopping 95% of all search traffic.

In addition, the very first organic result on the SERP (not including ads) receives about 32.5% of overall search traffic in terms of clicks. The second search result or domain receives 17.6%, while the seventh only gets 3.5% of search traffic. However, the total click through rate average for the top 10 queries is 208%, meaning, users click more than twice on the first result page, according to Digital Synopsis

In this post, we spotlight three ways your business can rock organic search results, as opposed to paid search efforts (SEM), which largely depend on budgets that may not be realistic for a small business.

Organic vs Paid – A Quick Explanation
When someone conducts a search using keywords or branded terms, search engines return what they determine to be the most well matched results based on their algorithms. These results are called SERPs. When looking at SERPs, the results at the very top and on the upper right-hand side of the page are paid search results (you’ll see a small “ad” next to these results so you can tell the difference).

The results that appear directly below paid ads are unpaid, or organic. These results are served up by search engines based on what they determine to be the best match for the entered search terms. In the example below, we illustrate this based on the keyword terms “email marketing services.” The purple box on the right highlights paid results (display and pay per click), and the results in the purple box on the left display organic results.

When your business appears in organic search results, you directly benefit from increased brand awareness, as well as more website and in store visits with no associated cost, as we discussed above.

Three Ways to Rock Organic Search Results
Before you get started, take a look at where your business currently appears on SERPs. Do a simple search based on your best business or industry-related keywords. Log out of your browser of choice, and make sure you’re in incognito mode. Search results are also based on your own personal and prior searches or browsing history. Logging out of your browser and removing prior history will ensure results aren’t affected by your own online behavior.

Now that you know where your business currently appears, let’s look at three simple and free ways you can rock organic search:

1. Optimize your website – We recently discovered a cool SEO tool called WooRank, which provides a comprehensive overview of your website. It also gives you actionable tips to better optimize your site for search. WooRank provides a checklist that doesn’t require heaps of technical expertise to execute.

For instance, when we did a scan of VerticalResponse, it recommended 79 action items to improve upon ranging from mobile load time to text to HTML ratio. Improving any of these items will help us appear higher in the organic SERPs.


You can pick and choose which items you want or need to change at your own pace. WooRank provides this information during a free 7-day trial, and for a small fee, you can get other features. 

2. Link to success – Search engines look for signals when recommending your site to searchers. One of these signals includes quality inbound links from sites like yours that have authority in your industry or space. When your site or blog has valuable information on it, other sites will want to link to it as a resource or source of information.

A page on your sight containing frequently asked questions and answers is an excellent example of valuable information. If these FAQs answer wider industry questions as well, other sites may also link to them, and your site gains more authority. Google and other search engines like Bing, look to sites with authority and rank them higher in SERPs.

3. Create killer content – Like having a site with authority, having a site chock-full of killer content that provides value and benefit to searchers can help your site rule SERPs. How? When your content provides useful information, searchers gain value from it and spend more time consuming your content. This is also a signal that search engines use to assign value to your site, which determines where you rank in SERPs.

Do some quick research to determine which content on your site may be lacking. Then, use services like BuzzSumo or TrackMaven to garner ideas for adding more valuable content to your site. These services allow you to see popular content (based on social media shares and likes) from your business, as well as other businesses. Having this information provides valuable insight into current content you may be able to capitalize.

Say you have a popular blog post – turn it into an infographic or a video that can be shared on different channels to reach a whole new set of people. We did this with a post about how to compel, not repel customers on Facebook

None of these tactics is guaranteed to get your business to the top of SERPs, but all three can certainly help your biz rock its way up the organic search results without having to spend a dime, and that’s always a good thing.

What other tips would you add to our organic search advice? Share in the comments.

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

The post Three Ways to Rock Organic Search Results appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

30 Spot-on Holiday Subject Lines, Plus Tips!

Fri, 12/12/2014 - 06:00

When you’re trying to reach consumers through email during the holiday season, your messages need to stand out, inspire and engage. Why? Consumers are busy. Between work, time with family and endless shopping lists, online audiences are slammed.

How do you rise above the inbox chaos to capture attention? It all starts with a captivating holiday subject line.

To deliver the most impactful message possible, we’ve created a list of tips to help you reach your target audience with spot-on holiday subject lines. We’ll also showcase 30 examples to get your creative juices flowing.

Tip 1: Encourage the act of giving

Instead trying to simply drive sales in your email subject lines, focus on the giving aspect of the holidays, rather than getting (or a little of both!). Here are some prime examples:

  • ( Save big for Cyber Monday – give the gift of family
  • (Everyland) This Year, Give Color
  • (SFMOMA) Perfect the Art of Giving
  • (SXSW) Give thanks! These announcements are as sweet as pie!
  • (7×7 Magazine) Gifts That Give Back, Peppermint Fudge Recipe, Guide to Monterey, & More
  • (JetBlue Airways) Up to 50% bonus – ’tis better to give AND receive!
  • (Salvation Army) Just in Time for Thanksgiving. Remind audiences that the holidays are about giving rather than getting
  • (Groupon) #GivingTuesday – Give Back & Shop Local Deals
  • (Just Give) Gifts that do good… and feel good
  • (Women Helping Women) Support WHW as You Shop Online this Black Friday

Tip 2: Help your customers

During the holidays, consumers are strapped for time, looking for gift ideas and seeking out recommendations for what to give their friends and family. Email marketing plays a significant role in delivering inspiration. Offer help in the form of gift guides, gift suggestions and more.

Here are some examples of email subject lines that help customers get their shop on:

  • (Gap) Want stress-FREE gifting?
  • (Real Simple) Inexpensive Stocking Stuffer Ideas
  • (Alternative Apparel) Gifting made easy | Shop by price
  • (Uncommon Goods) Holiday Helpers Day 3: For Mom & Dad
  • (Folica) It’s Here! Shop our Gift Guide and Get 15% Off
  • (The Stationary Studio) Superfast Personalized Gifts – Guaranteed Ground Delivery by Christmas
  • (Nightlife at the California Academy of Sciences) Shop a Holiday Bazaar Thursday at Nightlife
  • (Workshop SF) The Holiday Indie Mart is tomorrow at The Independent! Plus, we’ve got a ton of holiday classes to make unique gifts and decorations on the cheap
  • (Groupon) Groupon’s Most Wanted This Holiday Season
  • (Rue La La) Your Tree à Tres Chic: Get All The Trimmings For Your Holiday

Tip 3: Engage, educate and entertain with content 

The holidays aren’t just about shopping. Educate and engage your customers with helpful, fun, entertaining and compelling content for the holiday season. The more knowledgeable info you give to your readers, the more you’ll remain top of mind when they do decide to purchase or donate. Include tips, “best of” lists, how-tos, and more. Here are some subject lines to guide you:

  • (VerticalResponse) Tips to Creating Stellar Online Gift Guides + Are Infographics Right for Your Biz?
  • (Red Tricycle SF) Where to Have a Snow Day in the Bay
  • (Airport Watchdog) The 10 Busiest Airports This Holiday Season
  • (Flavorwire) This Year’s Most Beautiful and Interesting Art Books
  • (Pinterest Partner Team) This week: Create holiday boards and plan Pinteresty events
  • (Travel Channel) Where to Get the Best Drink of Your Life
  • (7×7 Magazine) Where to Buy the Best Turkey, How Not to Get Sick, & More!
  • (Airbnb) Share the Air – News, travel ideas, tips from Airbnb
  • (Hipcamp) A Guide to Winter Camping and Hot Springs
  • (Retrofit) What NOT to Eat This Thanksgiving.

Final thoughts

Celebrate the season. Connect with your audience. Be inspiring. Human to human connections are crucial to your holiday marketing efforts, so remember to keep the energy high. Your subject lines represent the first points of connection with your audiences, so make them count.

For more holiday marketing tips and free resources, visit our Everything Holiday site

Send your holiday emails for free with VerticalResponse.

Ritika Puri is an entrepreneur, marketing consultant and startup advisor. She writes for Forbes, The Next Web, Business Insider and Entrepreneur.

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

The post 30 Spot-on Holiday Subject Lines, Plus Tips! appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Boost Holiday Sales with These Six Tips

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 06:00

We’re in the thick of the holiday season. That means businesses are cranking out marketing efforts faster than toy-making elves. To make sure you’re taking advantage of the season’s opportunities, we’ve created a list of six tips to boost your holiday sales.

1. Conduct email housekeeping

Before you fire up your marketing engine, you need to do a little maintenance to maximize your holiday efforts, says Deborah Hanamura with marketing agency, Metia. Here’s a quick to-do list:

  • Clean up your email list. Review your segmented lists and make sure they work for the holiday season, Hanamura says.
  • Pick a different email template. It’s okay to use a different email template for the holidays.
  • Collect email addresses. Make sure your website has a visible sign up form to collect email addresses for future email campaigns.

2. Send a series of emails

Rather than sending one email to promote a sale or a holiday service, send several. Let’s say you own a small cleaning business and want to offer homeowners a deal on a top-to-bottom cleaning service before the in-laws arrive for the holidays. Rather than promoting the sale once via email, send four emails about it. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Email #1: Teaser. Tell customers about the upcoming deal. Give them specific dates, times and prices.
  • Email #2: The sale. When the sale takes place, send an email to everyone so they know they can take advantage of the deal now.
  • Email #3: Refer a friend. Keep track of those who sign up for the deal and send them an email that offers an incentive to refer a friend.
  • Email #4: Last chance. Remind customers one last time to get in on the deal while they still can.

Think of ways to send multiple emails for each holiday promotion or event that you host. You’ll get more bang for your buck.

3. Check your website for ease of use

Between holiday shopping and family gatherings, time is short and stress can be high. As a business or non-profit, it’s your job to ease the burden of the holiday season. If your website is difficult to use, your customers or donors may go elsewhere. Check your website and make sure it’s easy to navigate and make a purchase or donation, if applicable. 

Have a friend act as a customer or donor and try to buy a product or make a donation through your site. How many clicks does it take? Is the process quick? Do you have self-explanatory call to action buttons in place to guide your audience through the checkout? If you notice problems, try to fix it ASAP.

4. Get out your decorations

Get your audience in the holiday spirit by breaking out your holly wreaths and snowflakes. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, hang some decorations up. Don’t forget your digital decorations. Change your cover art on Facebook to a festive image like Best Buy did.

Add a holiday-appropriate image to your logo or frame your homepage with a set of digital lights. Think of creative ways to show your audience that your business or non-profit is ready to celebrate.

5. Offer an incentive

To give your holiday sales that extra boost, consider offering an incentive. An extra “little something” is sometimes enough to get a customer to make a purchase. Here are a few incentive ideas:

  • Free shipping. Shipping costs can keep customers from making a purchase, so remove this hurdle by offering free shipping.
  • Donate to charity. For every purchase made, donate some of the proceeds to a local cause.
  • Gift with purchase. Reward your customers with a gift when they make a purchase.
  • Giveaways. Everyone who makes a purchase is entered into a giveaway. The giveaway should pertain to your business or non-profit.

Tell your audience about the incentive via email and social media channels.

6. Boost product awareness

A hot holiday sale or an incentive is a surefire way to woo your audience, but you should also focus on product awareness. You want customers and donors to know about your products, services or cause. Here are a few ways to increase awareness:

  • Share a review. When your customers or supporters praise your product or cause on a review site like Yelp or Google+, share that testimonial on your website and social media channels. You’ll drum up more interest by sharing positive reviews.
  • Educational email. Make a point to send several emails that teach your audience something about your business. For instance, tell recipients about your partnership with a local non-profit, explain your commitment to send holiday presents on time or explain how one of your products or services became a popular holiday gift.

For additional free holiday tips, check out our “Everything Holiday” site.

Send your holiday emails today using VerticalResponse.

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

The post Boost Holiday Sales with These Six Tips appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

How Cookies & Website Tracking Tags Can Help Grow Your Biz

Tue, 12/09/2014 - 06:00

Have you ever looked at a product online, or visited a particular website and then later saw ads for that same product or website elsewhere online, almost as if it was following you? This is done with the help of tracking pixels, tags and cookies. You can also easily use them to track users to your site, monitor specific actions taken on your site or app, or track different types of marketing programs. In this post, we explain how to use pixels, tags, and cookies to help boost your own sales, without getting any crumbs in your keyboard.

What is a pixel?

A pixel or a tag is a form of code that’s added to your website. This code is generally in HTML or JavaScript and it allows for data about visitors to be captured. The pixel is a 1×1 transparent image pixel invisible to visitors that fires when a particular “event” occurs on a website or application. After the event occurs, the tag generates a record of that event or visit in the form of a “cookie.” Additionally, there are “super tags” that can house and fire multiple tags within them to consolidate the actual number of tags on a given web page.

What is a cookie?

A cookie or a web cookie is a small piece of information that a website sends to your browser and stores it there for a certain length of time. It acts as an anonymous tag that identifies your computer’s browsing history (not you personally). These cookies store information about previous web pages visited, products or services viewed, and any advertisements viewed or clicked on from your computer. Companies then use this information to tailor messaging and experiences specific to what you were interested in.

Example of a tag and cookie in action

You visit an online retailer in the hopes of finding a new winter coat. You browse around clicking on different items and even go as far as putting something in your cart. You ultimately decide you don’t want to make a purchase at the time, leave the website and proceed to surf the web. Since a cookie was placed on your computer after a tag fired, that retailer can then use that information to show you the item you left in the cart or show you complimentary items to a recent purchase, if you had made one. Some might find this a bit creepy, but in the online world, it provides advertisers with a unique ability to tailor relevant messages to visitors, which helps to drive more conversions and sales.

Image courtesy of Signal

Why Use Pixels, Tags & Cookies?

There are several upsides to using tracking pixels. The main benefit? Gaining insider knowledge about your website visitors and their behavior with your site. You can serve more targeted messaging based on a particular visitor’s previous engagement or behavior with your site. The information saved in the cookie can be used to show the visitor specific landing pages, as well as to use retargeting ads to get a visitor to perform a desired action.

Tags also properly attribute advertising programs and increase advertising effectiveness. By helping you attribute things like sign ups, button clicks and sales to a specific ad, you can better optimize your advertising for the best performers.

Lastly, you can use and place tags in a variety of different ways and places. Websites, blogs, emails, and applications are all places where tags can be used, allowing for a more flexible way to send tailored messages. This also allows you to gain a more holistic view of how your users interact across your properties.

How to Implement

Implementation is fairly easy. A company, advertiser, or third party generates a pixel or snippet of code for your site. Your or your website admin would add the code to your site. When a user visits your site, that pixel drops a cookie. Depending on what you’re using or tracking, different creative would then show to the visitor based on his or her previous history with your site.

Tools to help

Because you’ll most likely have to place multiple tags on your website to track for different events, vendors, etc., there are many tools out there to help you manage and track all of your tags. Below are some helpful tools.

  • Google Analytics – The most important tool for not only tracking tags, but your general website traffic as well.
  • Google Tag Assistant – Helps you track and troubleshoot tags that are currently firing on your website.
  • Google Tag Manager – Helps you to manage multiple tags by placing one super tag on your website.
  • DFA – (DoubleClick for Advertisers) – Advertising tool to help manage your online advertising efforts. Tags placed on your website would feed information into the platform to help track creative performance.

Before you get started, plan what you want to track with your pixels and what information you need for your cookies to be most effective. With just a few online tools, and you can start tracking what people like on your site and determine which ads are effective in no time.

Send emails, newsletters, offers and invitations for free with VerticalResponse.

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

The post How Cookies & Website Tracking Tags Can Help Grow Your Biz appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

What Facebook’s Crackdown on ‘Overly Promotional’ Page Posts Means for Your Business

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 06:00

There’s never a dull moment in the social media world. Just when you thought your social media strategy was set, Facebook goes and makes changes.

At the beginning of the year, Facebook will crackdown on any brand that posts “overly promotional” Page posts. 

In a recent survey, Facebook users said they were fed up with the amount of ads clogging their News Feeds. Add to this new social media platforms like Ello that promise user’s an ad-free experience, and it’s no wonder why the social media giant has decided to make changes.

Of course, this adjustment raises a lot of questions. We’ll review what the changes are and how your business can avoid running Page posts that would be affected. 

What is an “overly promotional” Page post?

According to Facebook, “overly promotional” Page posts are: 

  • Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
  • Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
  • Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

Facebook gives these two posts as examples:

What happens if a brand continues to post “overly promotional” Page posts?

Facebook plans to make changes to its algorithm to detect these Page posts and limit their reach. In other words, the number of people who see posts like this will drop significantly.

NOTE: If you want to post an ad like this, you can do so without ruffling Facebook feathers by using Facebook’s advertising platform.

How should a small business deal with the changes?

The change is meant to raise the bar on Facebook content. Users won’t be bogged down by ads anymore, but that will require small businesses to take a slightly different approach with their posts, says Alfredo Ramos, general manager of social media business, Pagemodo.

“Let’s face it – you don’t come to Facebook to be marketed to all the time; you come to learn about cool things that are happening in your world,” he says. “In response, small businesses will need to be more strategic about how they engage with their fans on Facebook.”

Here are a few tips: 

Treat your fans like friends

If you’re hanging out with friends, your conversation isn’t dominated by a sales pitch, is it? Of course not. Think of your Facebook posts as a steady conversation with friends, Ramos suggests. Use the platform to engage with one another and build a relationship.

Review your site for vital information

Given Facebook’s changes, you don’t want to miss any opportunity to turn fans into customers. That’s why you should take a minute and make sure your company’s Facebook page has vital customer information, Ramos says. Make sure your page has:

  • A link to your website
  • Your contact information
  • Business hours 
  • A company overview
  • Your logo
  • Appropriate cover art

Offer content rather than a promotion

For businesses that use Facebook to post free ads and promotions, you’ll want to turn your attention to more useful content. Offer helpful resources like how-to articles or guides that build a relationship with your audience. These posts will build trust and can equate to sales down the road.

Watch your words

Facebook’s new algorithm will likely pick up on popular sales words and jargon, so when you’re creating posts stay away from phrases like “Buy Now!!” Keep common sales terms to a minimum and watch your punctuation. Over zealous exclamation points could trip the “overly promotional” alarm.  

Use Facebook ads

Facebook ads aren’t banned. If you want to pay for an ad you certainly can. This change will inevitably push more businesses to utilize Facebook’s advertising platform.

Use email

If you want to promote a sale, turn to email. Create a one-of-kind email that tells your audience about an upcoming deal or a cool new product that you’re about to introduce at a discounted rate. With email, you have the control.

For more tips, Facebook has published a guide to help businesses utilize its social channel.

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

The post What Facebook’s Crackdown on ‘Overly Promotional’ Page Posts Means for Your Business appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

How to Easily Edit Your Twitter Profile

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 06:00

Having a sharp profile with eye-catching photos is key to standing out on Twitter. In our latest episode of Tips in 2, we tell you how to easily edit your Twitter profile information including header photo, profile photo, name, bio, location, website link and theme color.

Important tip: Your header photo should be 1500 x 1500 pixels and your profile photo should be 400 x 400 pixels. Happy editing.

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

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

The post How to Easily Edit Your Twitter Profile appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

2014 Thanksgiving Weekend Email Marketing Findings

Wed, 12/03/2014 - 17:43

The 2014 Thanksgiving holiday weekend was a busy one for VerticalResponse customers, and we’re not just talking about sales and donations. Our customers sent over 350,000,000 emails from Monday, November 24 through Tuesday, December 2 (Giving Tuesday).

We tallied these specific dates to identify a trend in email volume leading up to Thanksgiving holiday weekend, as well as the number of non-profit customers participating in Giving Tuesday (December 2).

Here’s a breakdown of this data by day, campaign, and the number of emails sent:


Many people also assume high email volume or campaigns revolve purely around Black Friday, however, interestingly for VerticalResponse customers, that wasn’t entirely the case:

  • Giving Tuesday (December 2) was the largest day for the number of email campaigns sent (7, 626). VerticalResponse non-profits sought to raise end-of-year donations and sent a whopping 48 million emails. The peak time for email sends on this day was 9 am PST or 12 pm EST.
  • VerticalResponse small business customers embraced Cyber Monday as evidenced by the 54 million emails sent. The peak time for emails being sent on this day was 10 am PST or 1 pm EST. 
  • The third most popular day for email sends (45,515,870 total) amongst our customers was Tuesday, November 25 – two days before Thanksgiving. This indicates proactive Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday promotions and events. Peak mailing time this day was at 8 am PST or 11 am EST. 
  • Compared to last year, VerticalResponse customers sent 5% more email from Wednesday, November 26 through Cyber Monday. The biggest increase in email sends occurred on Wednesday and Saturday, likely due to increased Small Business Saturday promotion and prep for Cyber Monday.

Find any of these numbers surprising? How do they size up to your own emailing efforts?

For more holiday email inspiration, check out these ideas, tips and free goodies.  Plus, check out these 25 holiday email subject lines that shine!

Send your emails for free using VerticalResponse

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

The post 2014 Thanksgiving Weekend Email Marketing Findings appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Tips to Creating an Online Gift Guide That Delivers the Goods

Wed, 12/03/2014 - 06:00

One of the best marketing tools your small business or non-profit can create during the holiday season is a gift guide. Everyone needs a little inspiration this time of year, so why not showcase your products and services in an easy-to-buy format?

To help you create a gift guide, we turned to Tom Fallenstein, CEO of, a website that utilizes online guides to sell gifts and costumes to customers.

“People still window shop online,” he says. “Like store windows, digital gift guides can catch shoppers’ eyes and pull them in.”

In this post, we’ll show you examples of gift guides and explain why they work, plus we’ll give you some actionable tips to create your own.

J. Crew: Gifts for Her

J. Crew created a gift guide that offers inspiration for those shopping for that special woman in their life.

Why it works:

  • Clean and simple design and layout
  • Products all have a similar color scheme
  • Prices are front and center
  • Eye catching pictures of each gift
  • Call to action buttons for each gift of “Quickshop”

Regina Humane Society: Gift Catalog for Supporters

Non-profits like Regina Humane Society can create a gift catalog that allows supporters to purchase products or services for those in need.

Why it works:

  • It gives meaning to each donation
  • It highlights specific services and products that supporters might not think of
  • The images draw the reader in
  • The description of each gift is in-depth

Leanhart Plumbing: Bathroom Gadget Gift Guide

This plumber thought out-of-the-box and created a gift guide that his clients could use. The items on the list aren’t necessarily products that he expects people to buy from his company, but later on when clients are in need of plumbing services Leanhart Plumbing will spring to mind.

Why it works:

  • A creative gift guide that’s not self serving
  • Ideas pertain to the business

Unclutterer: Gift Ideas That Won’t Clutter the House

Unclutterer, an e-commerce site that helps its audience get organized, created a list full of gifts that won’t take up space in your home.

Why it works:

  • Clever ideas that can be used in any location
  • Ideas fit the business Cheap Gift Ideas

Fallentstein’s has a variety of gift guides on its site. This particular guide showcases affordable gifts.

Why it works:

  • Affordability is something everyone is looking for
  • Great images of gifts

Tips to creating a gift guide

With the guides above as inspiration, you’re ready to create your own gift guide. To get started, here are a few tips to captivate your audience and increase holiday sales:

1. Pick a specific category

Keep it simple. Create gift guides that cover a specific topic or group. For example:

  • Gifts for Him
  • Gifts under $25
  • Top 5 Gifts to Give from Bob’s Auto Repair
  • 3 Homemade Gifts to Give via Sarah’s Etsy Store

Fallenstein says categories are crucial. “Create categories by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer and cater to how they shop,” he suggests.

2. Highlight 3-7 items

You don’t want to overwhelm your viewers, so don’t try to highlight every product or service that you offer in one guide. Remember, you can create and send more than one guide during the holiday season. It’s better to send several smaller guides than it is to send one big one.

3. Use visuals

Your gift guide should showcase the items or services that you want people to buy. For retailers, that means taking some high-resolution photos of your products. Service-based businesses and non-profits can take a picture of their staff offering a service, or check out sites like iStock or Shutterstock to find images that represent your business or organization.

4. Host the guide on your website or blog & email it

Your gift guide should live on your website or blog. Then, email the guide to your audience linking back to your hosted gift guide. Use that same link to promote it on your social media channels. Pinterest is a hot spot for gift guides. Here’s an example.

5. Promote your guide

To make sure your guide gets maximum exposure, you’ll want to promote it. Your social media channels are a natural platform for promotion, but get creative with your posts.

Let’s say your guide highlights five items. Most small businesses will send out a tweet that says, “Check out our gift guide.” That’s fine. However, you can get more mileage out of your guide by breaking its contents into five posts. Each day for five days tweet a picture of one item, write a creative description and share the link.

6. Make checkout easy

If someone is interested in making a purchase, the process should be ridiculously easy. Make sure that links from your guide take the consumer to the checkout quickly.

“The easier their decision is from picking their gifts to checking out, the better,” Fallenstein says. “It leaves the customer feeling good about their purchase.”

Too many steps will keep consumers from following through.

Does your business or non-profit create gift guides? If so, share in the comments section below.

Send your holiday emails for free using VerticalResponse.

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

The post Tips to Creating an Online Gift Guide That Delivers the Goods appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Clickbait Can Hook Readers … But Is It Worth It?

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 06:00

You read an intriguing headline; it has you on the edge of your seat, and “you’ll never believe what comes next!” … You have to click to read more, and oftentimes, the content just doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Content like this falls into the category of so-called “clickbait.” These posts generate significant attention – and higher click-through rates. The problem, however, is that they could create a negative customer experience.

Clickbait is exactly that – bait. It’s a ploy used to generate more eyeballs on one’s content. While there is clear short-term value in the form of visibility – and potential ad revenue – the user experience is often poor over the long haul, with audiences feeling duped by content quality that’s oftentimes sub-par. But there’s more to the story.

“People are attracted to quick sound bites,” says Danny Wong, marketer and growth manager at marketing technology company Shareaholic.

“Sensational headlines will always captivate readers – often at the expense of article quality,” he says. “Long term, what matters most, though, is the substance behind the headline. Clickbait can be a force of good or evil – depending on the quality of what’s being shared.”

Facebook digs deeper
Despite the negativity associated with clickbait in the marketing world, the tough reality is that it works. For some reason, audiences find themselves clicking on these links – over and over.

But this performance, according to Facebook’s research, is surface-level at best, as audiences would prefer to see a detailed and accurate description about the content they’re about to consume.

“When we asked people in an initial survey what type of content they preferred to see in their News Feeds, 80% of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through,” said Khalid El-Arini and Joyce Tang from Facebook’s product and research team in a recent post. 

That’s why Facebook has decided to reduce the amount of attention that clickbait receives in users’ feeds. In coming months, publishers posting clickbait headlines will see a decrease in traffic. Facebook will be evaluating the following audience signals:

  • Whether audiences who clicked through an article spent time reading it
  • The ratio of people clicking on content compared to those discussing and sharing it
  • The relative number of clicks compared to likes on the News Feed post

In other words, it will be up to marketers’ audiences to decide what clickbait is and what it isn’t.

Content is still king
Sometimes, the line between what is and isn’t clickbait is tough to distinguish – especially when the topic of conversation revolves around websites like BuzzFeed and UpWorthy, two of the Internet’s most popular publishing destinations.

These sites are known for posting attention-grabbing, compelling and emotional headlines. But do these headlines fall into Facebook’s definition of clickbait?

The answer is highly subjective.

“Your audience is the ultimate judge of whether something is ‘clickbait’ or not,” says Wong ”Look for user experience cues of how audiences are engaging with your content. Are they dropping off after a few seconds? Are they sharing your content with their own networks?”

Wong adds: ”In reality, original content, even in list format, is something people are likely to read and share and comment on, which means Facebook is probably fine with it.”

Audiences love great content – so long as the headline describes it accurately. It’s possible to have the best of both worlds – high click-through rates and strong user engagement.

Lessons learned
The one takeaway: be authentic. While it’s important to generate high click-through rates with compelling content titles, it’s equally important to keep user engagement strong. Not sure where to get started? Just listen to your audience.

Ritika Puri is an entrepreneur, marketing consultant and startup advisor. She writes for Forbes, The Next Web, Business Insider and Entrepreneur.

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

The post Clickbait Can Hook Readers … But Is It Worth It? appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Are Infographics Right for Your Business? The Pros, Cons + Tips

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 09:31

Infographics are creative, educational, attention-grabbing and can be a powerful marketing tool, but are they right for your small business? To help you answer that question, we explain the pros and cons. and have actionable tips to get started.

The pros

Infographics serve as great pieces of content marketing. They can relay otherwise dry statistics in a more compelling way, are super shareable and can help readers visualize information and relationships. Take a look at the example below. Statistics come to life. They’re easy to interpret, explains Carla Mattioli, a creative consultant with IM Design.

“As a graphic designer, it’s my job to produce layouts that will capture a reader’s attention,”she explains. “In this world of instant gratification, infographics allow me to display facts and figures in a way that satisfies an audience’s need for quick and easy-to-read information.”

Infographics also:

  • Diversify your marketing tools
  • Appeal to visual learners in your audience
  • Increase social engagement as your followers share your infographic

The cons

In most cases, good infographics require a bit of design experience. After all, there’s an art to relaying a lot of information in a small space. It’s not just about choosing precise wording or statistics; it’s also about placement, color choices, font size, style and images.

We know that a lot of small business owners may not have an in-house graphics or creative team, or the resources to hire a specialist. For a lot of small businesses, that’s the major downside to creating infographics. However, there are DIY tools that can help.

DIY infographics tools

If you’d like to try creating infographics yourself, there here are a few tools to use.

  • Piktochart allows you to pick themes from its gallery, customize your infographic with intuitive editing tools and share it on social media or export it to SlideShare or Evernote.
  • is a free web-based tool that allows you to choose from infographic templates, then customize them in an easy-to-understand format.
  • Venngage not only offers tools for creating and publishing infographics, but it also allows you to animate them.

Types of infographics

To create an infographic doesn’t mean you must only use stats and data. So what should or can you create infographics about? Here are some angles:

  • Educational: Educate your audience. For example, non-profits can create a timeline that explains how the organization got its start. Service-based businesses can showcase information from a survey that highlights customer satisfaction. We’ve created several educational infographics portraying a variety of digital marketing best practices.
  • Statistics: Any time you have a glut of numbers, make them easy to digest in an infographic. For example, non-profits can breakdown donation statistics. Small businesses can highlight common problems like this plumbing company does.
  • Comparison: Compare statistics. A non-profit, for example, could compare the level of need in the community today versus five years ago. A small business could compare the cost of materials to help customers make an informed decision.
  • Guides: Create a visual guide. Consider making a beginner’s guide to a topic that’s relevant to your business or nonprofit. Here’s a Beginner’s Guide to Sushi.

Is your business or nonprofit creating infographics? If so, how? Tell us in the comments section below.

Wendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer with four books and thousands of published articles to her credit. Contact Wendy at

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

The post Are Infographics Right for Your Business? The Pros, Cons + Tips appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Good Password = Good Idea

Fri, 11/28/2014 - 08:50

This time of year, with all the online shopping, shipping, and marketing to be done, you might find yourself signing up for several web-based products or services (like VerticalResponse). While it’s tempting to rush through these sign up processes to place your order faster or start using the product more quickly, you want to use a strong password (or passwords) to keep your information and data secure.

With seemingly monthly data breaches of big companies like Home Depot and Target, data security is top of mind for more people. Aside from having a good password, we suggest setting up two-factor authentication (2FA), whenever possible.

You’ll want to set up 2FA on email accounts, online banking profiles, credit cards and even your social media  accounts. Two-factor authentication requires two steps of verification as an added layer of security. Entering your user name and password would be considered a single factor or layer of authentication. A PIN number (something you know), ATM card (something you have) or text message would be considered a second factor. 

Google makes 2FA easy by sending a random confirmation number to your preregistered mobile number to input into their sites before you are allowed to log in. The recently announced ApplePay is a also huge step forward for 2FA because it uses your fingerprint to authenticate your transaction. 

On the flip side of high security, Mashable unveiled its “25 Worst Passwords of the Year” from 2013, which highlights some of the worst and most hackable passwords. If you see your password on here, it might be time for a new one!

SplashData, the company behind all the data, compiled their list “from files containing millions of stolen passwords posted online by hackers” and stated that “Hackers can easily break into many accounts just by repeatedly trying common passwords.” So when they say “worst,” they mean the most common, and therefore the most easily stolen.

Here’s the list:

  • 123456
  • password
  • 12345678
  • qwerty
  • abc123
  • 123456789
  • 111111
  • 1234567
  • iloveyou
  • adobe123
  • 123123
  • admin
  • 1234567890
  • letmein
  • photoshop
  • 1234
  • monkey
  • shadow
  • sunshine
  • 12345
  • password1
  • princess
  • azerty
  • trustno1
  • 000000

We are a little disappointed not to see “opensesame” on this list. Wait, we’ve said too much…

Google also provides some helpful dos and don’ts for creating stronger, more secure passwords including the following:

  • Use a unique password for each of your important accounts
  • Change your password often
  • Use a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols in your password
  • Don’t use personal information or common words as a password
  • Make sure your backup password options are up-to-date and secure
  • Keep your passwords secure

If you feel like you won’t be able to remember several different logins, use an online password manager to help you keep track. Hopefully this post is just a friendly refresher course on password and data security. But, if your password does happen to be “password,” go ahead and change it; we won’t tell anybody. 

Get more marketing tips and tactics by subscribing to the VR Buzz email newsletter.

Post originally published December 12, 2011 – Updated November 28, 2014

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

The post Good Password = Good Idea appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

How a Small Business Owner Turns Instagram Followers into Customers

Wed, 11/26/2014 - 06:00

Small businesses are flocking to Instagram to create an album of marketing eye candy. While this visual channel is a great engagement tool, can your social audience actually become paying customers? Yes.

Kate Marie Grinold Sigfusson, the owner of luxury baby brand Babies4Babies, says her small business gets more customer conversions through Instagram than any other channel, social media or otherwise.

“We actually don’t call our Instagram followers ‘followers’ because they are so much more than that. They are our community,” Sigfusson says.

So how did this relatively young Chicago-based business, which just opened in January, create such a profitable audience on Instagram? Here are her trade secrets:

1. Share your story

Most small businesses treat Instagram like a photo gallery. It’s a site that serves as a nice place to post a picture of your product or an employee working late on holiday orders, but owners rarely use the platform to tell their story. That’s what Sigfusson did

When she launched Babies4Babies, she was expecting. She took the opportunity to share pictures and information about her pregnancy. She posted everything from pictures of herself at 40 weeks pregnant, to her plans to launch a line of premium baby products like swaddles. The entire Instagram page chronicles her journey.

“By sharing the Babies4Babies story, specifically my journey as a new mother and entrepreneur, we have humanized the brand,” Sigfusson explains. “It makes the company more of a family rather than a product.”

Sigfusson says every business should treat Instagram in a similar fashion. As small business owners, show your audience the human side of your business. Show your audience pictures of you packing orders, heading to the post office, helping other customers and dealing with obstacles.

Get used to taking snapshots and “selfies” to populate your page with faces and images that tell your story, rather than just images of products. Use the platform to tell your business story one picture at a time.

2. Build a community

Once you share your story, you’ll probably find engagement goes up. When people can relate to your story, they are more apt to reach out, comment on posts and ask questions about your business.

If comments are piling up, it’s a good sign that you’re doing something right. However, your involvement shouldn’t end there. As with any social media channel, engagement is a big part of the conversion process.

Take the time to turn your posts into conversations, rather than just daily updates, Sigfusson says. On the Babies4Babies Instagram site, just about every picture has a stream of comments. Some are related to products, others are just friendly conversations between Sigfusson and other moms.

“By engaging in a dialogue in the comment section you will begin to know your followers and can learn what they want as customers,” she says.

These conversations become the foundation of a strong online community. With that kind of support, customers are compelled to learn more about your brand and eventually make their first purchase.

3. Network

Instagram shouldn’t just be a place for you to interact with potential customers; it’s also a good place for you to network. Follow others in your industry and keep an eye on competitors. While it sounds a little like a spy mission, think of it more as an online business association. You can follow and converse with other like-minded industry folks, which usually has rewards.

“See what other brands are doing well on Instagram, learn from them, engage with them and partner with them,” Sigfusson suggests.

“By following other baby/mommy brands and communicating with them on Instagram, we have established many wonderful contacts and working relationships that have resulted in everything from successful giveaways that provide increased brand exposure to product design collaborations.”

Additional Instagram tips to keep in mind:

  • Share quality photos. You don’t have to have a professional photographer follow you around, but you want to share quality images. You can certainly use your cell phone or tablet to take pictures, but keep the crooked, blurry images off your site.
  • Get fancy with apps. If you want to up your Instagram game, there are photo editing apps that can help you create killer pics. Aviary, for example, can boost the quality of your image and Snapseed can help you create a more artsy shot.
  • Upload video. Add some spice to your page by uploading videos. For example, when Sigfusson’s son started crawling, she posted a short video on her site.
  • Post frequently. If you’re telling your brand’s story, you need to give your audience a piece of that story often. Figure out how frequently you can post and stick to it.
  • Use hashtags. Hashtags allow your posts to come up in search results. New customers can find you by searching hashtags. You can also find others who are posting about similar topics.

Is your small business using Instagram to turn followers into customers? If so, how? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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

The post How a Small Business Owner Turns Instagram Followers into Customers appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

5 Ways to Maximize Google Webmaster Tools for Better SEO

Tue, 11/25/2014 - 06:00

Google Webmaster Tools is a powerful resource for website owners, webmasters and SEOs alike. Once you’ve set up Google Webmaster Tools, you might be wondering what to do next. If you need basic tips, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Google Webmaster Tools. If you’ve dug around Google Webmaster Tools and are longing for more in-depth tips and advice, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s dive into five of the advanced Google Webmaster Tools features you should be using to improve your site’s SEO:

1. Adjust Your Sitelinks
When someone does a specific and branded search (in our case below, VerticalResponse), Google displays groups of related results, typically popular pages, underneath the main search result. These groupings are called sitelinks and are considered shortcuts to enable users to navigate a site quickly. In the example below, the sitelinks include: Log in, Pricing, Marketing Blog, Features, Non-Profit and About.

As we mentioned, Google will usually select your most popular pages as sitelinks, and while you cannot choose which pages Google decides to display, you can specify which ones you don’t want displayed. This is a rare opportunity, so take advantage of it by only displaying your best pages! To remove any unwanted results or pages from your sitelinks in Google Webmaster Tools, click on Sitelinks on the left hand side fond under the category Search Appearances. Then, type in the URL of the page you’d like “demoted” or removed and click Demote.

2. Monitor Your Most Linked Content
The Links to Your Site section of Google Webmaster Tools (found under the category Search Traffic) is an awesome way to find out what content people love on your site. Odds are, your homepage is the top linked content, but you might discover that a blog post you wrote 2 years ago is still compelling. This information provides you with the number unique domains that link to your content – The more unique domains that link to a piece of content, the better. If some of your most popular content is a bit older, we recommend taking another look at it and making sure everything is up-to-date. Check to make sure your images are still working, all the links are correct and even try adding a call to action into the post if you don’t have one already, to help drive sales or sign ups. 

3. Fetch as Google 
Your website might look fine and dandy on your iPhone, but to Google and their special Internet robot, GoogleBot, it can sometimes look very different. With the Fetch as Google tool (found under the Crawl category),you can see how any page on your website looks to the Googlebot. This is important because you can see which areas of a page aren’t rendering correctly for the Googlebot and fix them. If your pages look good to the Googlebot, they’re more likely to be shown in search results. 

4. Use the Data Highlighter
SCHEMA Markup, another functionality found in Google Webmaster Tools, allows webmasters to markup HTML pages so that they’re recognized by major search providers. This structured data tool is very easy to use; locate it under Search Appearance and Data Highlighter. Watch the introduction video, click Start Highlighting, then plug in your page and start clicking away. Pick your most popular product page and start marking up the page – it’s as easy as clicking a product and choosing it. You can markup the product image, add a price, availability, reviews and more! When you’re all done marking up, just click “publish” and you’re good to go.

5. Search Your Keyword Ranking Data
Unless you’re manually checking, recording, and monitoring your keywords, you may not have any idea how your website’s keywords are ranking. You can pay for a tool like Moz, which will do the tracking for you, or you can check out the keyword ranking data section of Google Webmaster Tools. Find your keyword ranking data under Search Traffic, then Search Queries. On this page, you’ll see a 30-day rolling view of your traffic and keywords that bring visits to your site.

You can click each keyword for a deeper dive including the display page for that keyword, the position it was ranked in, as well as the number of clicks, and the click through rate for that keyword. This is some of the most valuable information that Google Webmaster Tools provides. If you know what pages are driving visits to your site, spend some time optimizing and testing to make them even more efficient, and optimize pages that aren’t performing well even better.

Now your Google Webmaster Tools skills are sharper than ever, so put them to good use! Know of any other useful functionality in Google Webmaster Tools? If so, share in the comments, and let us know if you have any other questions, too!

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

The post 5 Ways to Maximize Google Webmaster Tools for Better SEO appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

4 Emails Your Service-Based Business Should Send

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 06:00

Whether you’re a fitness coach, a dentist, run a plumbing company or a computer repair business, as a service-based business, your email marketing needs and desired outcomes may not exactly fit that of a retailer. We’re here to help our service-based clients with a little email inspiration. To get your creative juices flowing, include these four emails in your marketing efforts.


Send an email that promotes a social media contest. Contests offer low-cost opportunities to attract customers to your business, increase “likes” on Facebook and help you solicit testimonials.

For example, Jorgensen Orthodontics ran a pumpkin carving contest on its Instagram page. One of the categories participants could enter was “best pumpkin with braces.”

According to, a 2012 study by Sesame Communications found contests like this example have a high success rate. Results from the study include:

  • An average of 194 “likes” per practice, per campaign
  • Four appointment requests
  • An average of 17 recommendations on Facebook


People love DIY tips and how-to tutorials, and although they might not need a plumber, dentist, personal trainer or mechanic today, they’re much more likely to call you if you’ve helped them solve a problem, or save time and money in the past.

While videos shot on your phone or tablet can work, you risk audio and video quality. However, if you want to do it yourself, check out these production tips.

Once you’ve created your video, send an email including a screenshot of the video linking back to the video on your YouTube or Vimeo channel, or the video embedded on your blog or website.


There are several reasons newsletters outweigh traditional advertising in terms of marketing success.

First, according to Ideal Marketing Company, newsletters have four times the readership of traditional ads or brochures. This is largely due to the fact that they can be easily shared by forwarding an email or sharing a link on social media. In addition, according to, newsletters have a longer shelf life than advertisements.

Johnny Shelby, VerticalResponse customer and endurance and multi-sport specialist for Third Coast Training says newsletters have especially helped his business grow. “Though I have a reach into most of my clients socially, it doesn’t mean they’re connected. Their inbox allows me to occasionally drop in with an event. Without the newsletter campaign I’ve done over the years, I would not have had the 10% to 15% growth year over year.”

Here are a few content topics for your next newsletter:

Seasonal and periodic reminders. This reminder for a tune-up is an effective reminder with a call to action to drive in soon.

  • Industry news and trends. For example, an insurance agency could include information about changing state policies.
  • Educational information. The tips below to winterize your home could be included in a newsletter.

  • Announcements. Invite subscribers to a seminar, upcoming workshop or open house.
  • Before and after shots. An interior designer could include before and after shots.

Discounts and promotions

Everybody loves a deal, and they’re not just for retailers! Plus, what better place to promote it than in a shareable email?

According to a survey by Blue Kangaroo, 35% of people said they made use of a coupon or discount from a marketing email within the last week, and 33% used one from a marketing email within the last month.

Joe Alberto of Joe’s Body Shop says he gets results by emailing discounts, referral specials and instant rebates to his clients.

“After being in integrative healing and massage for 17 years, I’ve built up a wonderful group of loyal clients,” says Alberto.

“I’m amazed at how many regulars I have and how many of them have been with me for so many years! I like to reward their loyalty with pre-paid discounts, quarterly discounts and instant rebates. I also get the majority of new clients from referrals, so everyone benefits when I offer referral specials.”

Give one or more of these emails a try and your service-based business will be on its way to attracting customers. You can send emails, newsletters, offers and invitations for free with VerticalResponse.

Wendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer with four books and thousands of published articles to her credit. Contact Wendy at

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

The post 4 Emails Your Service-Based Business Should Send appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

8 Holiday Fundraising Tips for Non-Profits

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 07:01

While retailers are gearing up for their busy season, so are non-profits. A survey from Charity Navigator shows that charities raise 41% of their annual contributions in the last six weeks of the year.

Dan Quirk, marketing specialist for DonorPro Nonprofit Fundraising Solutions, a company that specializes non-profit management software, says every organization is preparing for a donation blitz.

“A big part of nurturing relationships with prospects, donors, volunteers and supporters is through digital communication,” he says.

To help your organization make the most of this time, we have eight tips to help boost your year-end donations.

Tip #1: Share stories

Ask the people you help to share their story. Create a blog post or a video that highlights one person’s story. Share that link in an email to show donors what kind of impact they can have.

This email doesn’t necessarily require a push for donations. Try a different call to call to action like “Hear From Others You Can Help.” Show your supporters how they can help and provide the option if they want to donate.

Tip #2: Make holidays count

There’s a bunch of holidays between now and January that you’ll want to mark on your calendar. From Thanksgiving to Hanukkah, take a few minutes to flip through the calendar and plan to engage with donors on or around these holidays.

  • MarcFirst, an organization that helps those with disabilities, asked supporters to make a contribution as part of their New Year’s resolution.
  • Near Thanksgiving, ask your audience to make a donation in honor of all those they are thankful for.
  • For Hanukkah, provide eight reasons to donate to correspond with the eight nights of Hanukkah. 
  • Around Christmas, ask donors to buy a gift for those in need. Before they drop it off, encourage them to post a picture of the gift on your social channels.
  • At the beginning of the year, send an email that showcases how many people your organization helped.

Tip #3: Remember Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is December 2. This national day of giving is a great way to boost donations, Quirk says.

“Any time the world agrees to dedicate one day of the year entirely to donating to causes, non-profit organizations should take advantage of it,” he says. “People will give because of their desire to be a part of something big.”

  • The non-profit, College Mentors, created a special graphic for Giving Tuesday and shared it on Twitter.

Tip #4: Be transparent

Tell your audience exactly how their donations are used. Send an email that encourages donations and explains how far each dollar goes.

  • LiveStrong, a non-profit that supports cancer patients, puts that information right on its donation form.

Tip #5: Host and promote events

Consider planning a few events during this time of year. Yes, planning events can take a bit of time, but use your network of supporters to help. Food shelters can host a can drive, an animal shelter can host a low-cost class for kids to make pet-shaped ornaments and a homeless shelter can encourage volunteers to take shifts serving holiday meals.

Tip #6: Plan an easy giveaway on social media

Engage with your audience by offering a holiday-themed giveaway on social media. Partner with a local business to giveaway a 20% off coupon with every donation, or ask your audience to share what they’re thankful for around Thanksgiving and giveaway tickets to your annual fundraiser.

  • CityPlants, an organization that plants trees in Los Angeles, gave away a turkey dinner on Facebook.

Tip #7: Create a gift catalog

People love to buy gifts around the holidays, so consider turning your services into a gift catalog. Create the equivalent of an online flyer to encourage shoppers to make a donation.

  • Red Cross uses a holiday catalog to showcase its services. Donors can buy services for those in need. For example, you can buy a blanket for $15 or a military comfort kit for $40. Here’s a look at the email that Red Cross sends out to encourage donors to purchase from its catalog:

Tip #8: Be specific

Asking for donations is fine, but sometimes people want to buy an actual item and give it to an organization. So, if you have a specific need it’s okay to ask for it.

How will your non-profit communicate with supporters during this donation-driven time? Share your tips in the comments below.

Send your holiday and end-of-year fundraising emails for free with VerticalResponse.

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

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