Important New Feature: Ad Suppression Through Tagging

This morning I realized that a key feature was missing from FeedBlitz’s monetization option.

Premium FeedBlitz publishers should be able to suppress advertisements from their feeds and mailings without logging into FeedBlitz and making changes to their account.

Sometimes we ?áhave to write about things that are too personal, too important, or too sad for ads of any kind to be appropriate.

As of today if a post is tagged or categorized as “noads” there will be no ad in that RSS entry or added by that post mailed as a stand alone mailing. You can apply “noads” as a tag, category or label, depending on your blogging service. FeedBlitz treats them all the same.

Important:

In an email, “noads” prevents additional ads from being inserted. If the mailing contains multiple posts, some with ads from the RSS feed and some without, the mailer will not strip the ads that are already there.

Remember, the actual category, label or tag should not include the quotation marks, they are used to differentiate the tag from the rest of the sentence.

I am thankful to work for FeedBlitz, where our experiences as writers and human beings, is something we are expected to use to improve what we do.

It is a dark time for my home of Charleston, SC. Please keep this community in your thoughts.

Hero Images, Thumbnails and Tumblr: RSS Subscriber Emails with Impact

Want your subscriber email blog updates to be more than a rehash of your blog posts? Splendid! Because now they can be, as the FeedBlitz EZ Template editor just keeps getting better.

Want to extract your blog’s main photo and use it as a “hero image” at the top of your mailing for extra impact? Now you can.

Perhaps you need thumbnails for daily or weekly digests with many posts? Done and done.

In addition to adding more dynamic content such as pins from Pinterest, pictures from Instagram and (New!) the latest from Tumblr, we are now giving you much more flexibility in how your mailing’s content is displayed. With this latest update to the EZ template editor, you can now choose to:

Display content as it appears on your blog:

This is our standard default setting.

Display the post title, then the first significant image (a.k.a. a “hero” image):

Give some “wow” up front with a compelling visual!

 

Display the hero image, then post title, then content:

More visual pop, but this time the featured image appears before the post title.

Display a title, ?áthumbnail version of the featured image, and then the content:

Small, but perfectly formed, a discreet image for a more subtle, elegant presentation.

Display the thumbnail, title, and then the content:

No matter which layout you pick, you can now?áalso choose how the body of the post is displayed.?áWith or without images, for example. Or using the (usually abbreviated) description of the post, if your site provides one. If your site does not provide a descriptive item in their feed, we can also abridge the full content intelligently.

TL;DR: Lots of new choices!

Too many words in this post? Worry not, Dear Reader. Here is a screencast video that walks through the current features of the EZ Template Editor. As always, if you have any questions our support team is here to help Monday ?á- Friday 9am – 5pm Eastern.

By the way…

Did you know that more than half of email is now opened on mobile devices? The good news is that all mailings created with the EZ Template Editor are, by default, responsive. You do not need to spend time testing your mailings across devices and platforms, we’ve taken care of the work for you.

The EZ Editor gives you the ability to add your own logo, change fonts and colors, add a table of ?ácontents, and a toolbar without ever having to worry about losing your responsive design.

Power Email Marketing with FeedBlitz

Did you know we have great power email marketing capabilities? While FeedBlitz is best known for its RSS feed powered email automation (corporate engineering motto: If it moves, automate it), we’ve been steadily increasing FeedBlitz’s traditional email marketing capabilities as well.

In case you missed it, here’s a quick summary of our “Newsflash” emailing function, which is used for “traditional” (i.e. manually produced) newsletters, updates and sales pieces:

  • New: Draft mailings from blog posts, and then edit before mailing;
  • New: The ability to mail multiple lists at the same time;
  • New: The ability to apply multiple suppression lists to a mailing;
  • New: The ability to suppress mailings using active or unsubscribed members of other lists;
  • Use custom fields to send mailings to specific segments;
  • Real-time and scheduled mailings.
To round this list out for completeness, FeedBlitz also offers:
  • Multi-step autoresponders;
  • Triggers to automate transitions between lists;
  • Shopping cart and third party system integration via API and parser;
  • And, of course, the industry’s most capable RSS to email marketing service, period.

There’s a lot to this side of FeedBlitz, and in this post I’m going to briefly explore the new Newsflash dedicated email blast capabilities.

How to send a mailing

To send a mailing that isn’t being produced by an RSS feed as its source, go to the main list’s dashboard. Click the large green “Send a Mailing” button upper right, then choose “Newsflash Email Blast.”

You’ll end up at a screen asking you how you want to create the content for the mailing before you start to edit it.

New: On-Demand for curated newsletters

This option lets you pick and sort the posts to include in the mailing. Unlike the “On-Demand” option from the screen where you picked “Newsflash,” this choice drops these posts into the Newsflash email editor. This gives you the chance to add editorial, make changes … and turn your blog posts into a curated newsletter. What it eliminates is lots of tedious copying and pasting for you, which makes producing your newsletter faster and less error-prone. If you have a newsletter that is a basically your blog posts but with extra commentary and specials for your newsletter subscribers, this is a great option for you.

New: Include other lists

No matter which option you choose from the starting screen, you can readily mail multiple lists with the same content. Better yet, you don’t have to worry about sending mailings to the same subscriber multiple times, or having to go to the hassle of creating a master list.

In the “Audience Selection” area you can now pick one or more other lists to send the mailing to. When the mailing is sent (important and worth repeating: Not when you schedule it, but when the mailing actually starts); FeedBlitz sends the mail to every active subscriber on the list just once. It’s a great time saver! Here are the details:

  • If the subscriber is on multiple lists and on the “main” list (i.e. the one you’re nominally sending the newsflash from), the newsflash will appear to come from the main list;
  • Otherwise the mailing will come from (one of) the other list(s) you picked;
  • No subscriber will be mailed more than once;
  • Metrics (sent, opens, bounces, unsubscribes, complaints etc.) will all be reported under the main list only;
  • Mailings will be sent formatted with the template of the list the subscriber was pulled from;
  • If the subscriber unsubscribes it will be from the list they were pulled from.

New: Go wild with subscriber suppression

We’ve had suppression lists for a years, but what’s new is that you can now use:

  • Multiple suppression lists in a mailing;
  • One or more of your email lists as well as / instead of one or more dedicated suppression lists.

For example, say you have a main marketing list, and a smaller list of people who’ve bought product X from you. You don’t want to email those who’ve already got the product something that says “Buy Product X” — so you use that smaller list to suppress mailings from the main one.

You can choose multiple suppression lists, active subscribers and unsubscribed readers. Like the multiple list mailing feature above, those to exclude are determined when the mailing starts, not when it is scheduled, so it’s safe to schedule an offer days or weeks in advance.

Finally, it’s worth emphasizing that suppression always wins out over inclusion. In other words, if a subscriber is active on any of the lists / segments you define, but is also on one of the suppression lists you pick, then that subscriber will not be mailed.

FeedBlitz: Going Beyond RSS to Email

Want to go beyond automated mailings? These new capabilities make targeted delivery and traditional curated mailings a breeze in FeedBlitz.

New: Add Pins, Instagram to your Subscriber Emails!

When is an email to your subscribers not simply an email to your subscribers? When it’s a platform for your other social media activity to better engage, inform and entertain your readers, that’s when.

Many of you are active on Pinterest and Instagram, curating and creating engaging and persuasive graphics and photos. But most of you are not including those photos in your email updates to your subscribers, and that means you’re missing out on opportunities to broaden your email audience’s experience with your brand, as well as delivering a more interesting mailing.

FeedBlitz makes it super easy to change this with a cool new capability in our Easy Template Editor. The results? Well, scroll down to the end of this email and you’ll see my recent Instagrams and the latest pins from my friend Bob Cargill (hope you find them interesting!).

All you need to know are your user / account / board names at Instagram and Pinterest. Then:

  1. Log in to FeedBlitz, pick the newsletter you want to add Pinterest and Instagram to;
  2. Click the orange “design” button (switch to the easy editor if you need to);
  3. Access the new “Pins and Instagrams” section and add the account info and how you want to see them:
  4. Preview and save!

As you can see, you can have them laid out as tiles or in rows; in this email (if you’re getting this via email) you can see that my Instagram feed is in rows, and Bob’s latest Pins are tiled. If you’re reading this post on the web site or viewing it in an archive, the new sections look like this:

And, of course, all these images are added responsively, so they will shrink gracefully — and even change how they’re laid out — on devices likes phones and tablets with smaller screens.

This new FeedBlitz capability make your email newsletter updates to your readers more exciting, engaging and compelling. Try it today, or email support if you’d like some more assistance.

SmartForms: The Email Subscription Form Wises Up

Today I’m delighted to announce the introduction of FeedBlitz “SmartForms” – responsive, adaptive, flexible subscription forms available now, for free, with every active FeedBlitz publisher account.

To view the video online, go to https://animoto.com/play/Pvhh0ATjCknt0EUyD700yw

What’s Wrong with Email Subscription Forms Today

There are several problems with almost every subscription form out there right now, no matter what product, plugin, widget or service you’re using. Very often they’re not responsive — in other words, ill suited for mobile usage. They can be hard to update and / or customize, but worst of all, they’re Just Plain Dumb.

Why? Because if you have a popup, it’s going to pop up. If the visitor is already subscribed to your list, it doesn’t need to. But it does, anyway. That’s dumb — and incredibly annoying for your subscribers.

Got a form in your sidebar? It’s just as bad. Sure, it’s less annoying to existing subscribers, but it’s still occupying valuable screen real estate.

FeedBlitz SmartForms solve all these email subscription form problems.

Adaptive

FeedBlitz SmartForms do their best to recognize existing subscribers. And when they do, popups don’t pop up; regular forms shrink to dramatically reduce the real estate they take up (see the video above for an example). They’re much, much less intrusive when they can be, maximizing the screen space available for your other content. Visible SmartForms shrink, moving your other offers, ads and all your other sidebar content further up “above the fold” – better for the visitor, and better for your business in the long run.

Even when collapsed, however, existing subscribers can still use them if they want to. SmartForms always keep the subscribe button visible, and no matter who you are, clicking the subscribe button expands the form so it can be completed by the visitor, no matter what.

Responsive

One set of code in SmartForms works on tablets, phones and the desktop. No fiddling required. ‘Nuff said.

Flexible

You control the layout. What list (or lists, plural) the form offers, and how. Switch between vertical layouts for sidebars or horizontal layouts for forms that go between post and comments. Oh, and better yet? You can drop a field from your form and you don’t have to choose (or accidentally decide) to lose all your existing data along with it, simply to streamline the submission process.

SmartForms generate:

  • Hosted links;
  • Code for sidebar widgets;
  • Landing page forms;
  • Respectful popups.

When a SmartForm is submitted, it’s validated and submitted in place – the subscriber doesn’t leave your page.

SmartForm Dashboards

SmartForms collect data on how often they’re shown, submitted and opt-in rates. For example, Scott Monty (yes, that Scott Monty) has been using SmartForms in beta on a couple of his personal sites. He’s using our “respectful popup” version and saw conversion rates, in some circumstances, of over 9%. No, that’s not a typo, and no, there isn’t a missing decimal point. On other places on his personal sites he’s still converting at over 1%.

Here’s what Scott said in an email to me last month, quoted here with his permission:

“I just wanted to drop you a note to thank you and your team for creating the pop-up form generator.

Here’s what I’ve seen: a major uptick in my subscriber numbers. It’s generated far more new subscribers than either (1) when I didn’t integrate any kind of email capture with a call to action or (2) I just left the static subscribe/form on my home page to do the heavy lifting.

Just thought you’d like to know.”

Metrics are good, performance is great, but what if something goes wrong? What if you update a SmartForm, and it then performs less well than its predecessor? No problem: SmartForms are all automatically versioned. So if you want to get an old one back, you can — with a few simple clicks.

And More…

There’s so much more to say about the capabilities of this release, but really, watch the video, then dive in. Access SmartForms from your list’s dashboard, click the “Subscription Forms” button and have fun! (For current publishers, our old forms are now under the “Classic” button).

We’ll be posting more about SmartForms in the coming days. For example, SmartForms can save some web sites (I’m looking at you, coupon and deal bloggers) quite significant sums of money. Stay tuned.

Hurry up and Wait: Delayed Gratification for Autoresponders

FeedBlitz has offered comprehensive, multi-step autoresponders for years now. They’re great for saying thanks, delivering incentives, or offering multi-step courses. Couple an autoresponder sequence to other lists using FeedBlitz’s triggers, start a signup with a parser, and you’ve got a very capable automated email marketing solution.

A typical autoresponder sequence starts immediately. You sign up for a list, and your incentive is delivered right away. You make your purchase, et voila! A thank you missive is en route, toute suite. It’s what people expect to happen.

But what if you have a fixed sequence that you want to send, but instead of starting immediately, you want to delay until next Thursday, say, regardless of when the subscriber took the action that got them onto the autoresponder in the first place? Tough to do with an autoresponder series that always starts instantly, no matter what time of day (or night) the subscriber joins.

Enter a new feature here at FeedBlitz: The ability to delay an autoresponder’s start. If you go to your autoresponder’s dashboard, or enter its article sequence edit page, you will see that, by default, it is defined to begin immediately. Click the “immediately” link, and you can choose the day and time the autoresponder should actually start. Simple.

Want the best of both worlds, i.e. an immediate “thank you” and then a delay? Well, you can do that too. First, create both your autoresponders (the “ASAP” one and the delayed one). From the ASAP autoresponder’s dashboard, on the “Subscriber Management” tile, click “Triggers” and then add a “Completion” trigger to add the subscriber to the delayed sequence. ASAP does what it does right away, and then hands the subscriber off to wait for the start of the delayed sequence.

New: RSS Image Enclosures Now Visible

A funny (peculiar, not haha) thing about major media site RSS feeds is that not only are the feeds often little more than a plain text (and so kinda boring) sentence, but also that their RSS feeds tend to include thumbnail images as enclosures. Enclosures are the part of a feed typically used for podcast media files, and the problem with stashing an image as an enclosure is that most people won’t see it, since the picture isn’t part of the main content. As a result, the feed and downstream feed usage (e.g. email subscriptions) are much less engaging for us carbon based life forms, and so the feed produces less traffic back to the publisher’s site than it otherwise might.

We like engagement. You like engagement! Everyone likes more of the right kind of traffic.

So we have fixed this for FeedBlitz publishers.

From now on, if FeedBlitz finds an image enclosure in a feed and there are no other images in the main content, it will bring that image up into the main content (just above the social sharing icons) to make it visible to people. This will make the feed much more engaging, and encourage click throughs. FeedBlitz will leave the enclosure as it found it, however, in case there are downstream apps that expect and need that image file to be in the feed as an enclosure element. Or, in other words, the change is backwards compatible with the way the feed XML was formatted before.

Too many words? Perhaps an example will help. Here’s a feed whose images are now visible to mere mortals because of this new capability: http://feeds.feedblitz.com/fremont/sports

Monthly Mailing Metrics: Surprised? I Was

We recently quietly added a new feature to FeedBlitz for our email publishers. It’s a summary analysis of all yor mailings for a given month — you can access it via your mailing list’s dashboard and clicking the highlighted link in the Mailing Metrics tile.

Click to enlarge
Monthly Subscriber Metrics

It shows basic subscriber stats for the month (here are FeedBlitz News’ for June 24 so far); and summary metrics – sent, opens, clicks, bounces, unsubscribes, complaints, etc. – for the month.

It’s pretty interesting to look at it, because these data allow you to figure out whether any given mailing did better or worse than average. That’s neat.

But where the surprises – and I did find unexpected results – are found is in what FeedBlitz does next for each mailing you sent in a given month. Given all your mailings, and depending on your list’s configuration, FeedBlitz will tell you for any given month which mailings were:

  • Most and least opened (driven by subject lines)
  • Most and least clicked through (call to action / content driven)
  • Most and least engaging (driven by click to open rates)
  • Least popular (i.e. generated the most unsubscribes)
  • Most spammy (i.e. generated the most complaints).

Clicking on the mailing in each category takes you to the detailed metrics for the highlighted mailing. And boy, was I surprised by what I found. I’ll share June (so far) and last month’s for this mailing, FeedBlitz News.

Here’s June so far (click to enlarge):

Analytics - click to enlarge

Ignoring my fairly dismal open rate, which I should really work on, the surprise here was that the terms of service change garnered the most opens, given that we don’t have that many affiliates. Clearly that’s a program I should be talking more about (noted). It was also the least popular, in that it generated the most unsubscribes (perhaps I should talk less about it?! Argh! Nothing is simple … nobody said interpreting the analysis would be easy).

The most engaging mailing this month (so far) has been the one about our improved mobile UI. That makes sense, I’m glad to see it there. The shocker? That our guest post on blog subscriptions vs. traditional newsletters, on an email marketing firm’s blog, generated the most complaints! That’s a real head scratcher, right there. File under: Go figure.

So how about last month, then? Switching the drop down to May and here’s what I get (again, click to enlarge the image):

Click to enlarge

A “Rewind the Week” mailing was the most opened — yet that doesn’t help me at all with subject lines, since the least opened was the identically titled post from two weeks before — and, again, industry commentary about an email topic proved the most unpopular. Y’all are a tough crowd, apparently.

Just, wow. Surprising? Yes. At times, confusing? You betcha. Fascinating? No doubt!

What will you find in your results? Check out your mailing list’s dashboard, click through to the monthly metrics and explore.

New: Closed Lists for Paid Mailings and Memberships

Up until now, any active mailing list at FeedBlitz has been fully open; i.e. anyone could join. Today we’re announcing a new capability: Closed lists.

A closed list acts like any other mailing list here, except in one key aspect: Subscribers can only be added via the API, a parser, a trigger, or by the list administrator. So the general public can’t join, unless you allow them to.

That extra degree of control is great for membership sites, or if you want to charge people to join your list. For paid lists, you can wait for the payment to come through and add the new subscriber via the list’s dashboard, or you can integrate your shopping cart via a parser and automate that as well.

Switch a list from open to closed via the list’s “Settings” button, then click the “Anyone can join this list” to flip the setting in the “Subscriber Interactions and Notifications” section.

So: If you wanted to create a closed or paid email newsletter through FeedBlitz, now you can!

P.S. Although this is obvious, it’s worth mentioning: Once a subscriber is on your closed list, they can forward that email to anyone they like, because that’s true of any email.

Featured Images, Thumbnails for your Blog Mailings

Images are a powerful form of communication. The phrase “a picture speaks a thousand words” exists for a reason, after all, and many of you use images to great effect in your blogs.

Sometimes images in mailings can pose something of a challenge, however. Large images on your blog can be resized by your blog’s software, or theme, or a plugin — but when that image shows up in your RSS feed or mailing, the components necessary for that resizing aren’t always there. Or, sometimes the email app will get the image resized incorrectly (I’m looking at you, Outlook). Result: Ugly emails.

Images also come in unpredictable sizes, varying heights and widths, which can look OK in a blog, but in a multi-post mailing, can also yield aesthetically displeasing results (or: Ugly emails).

Or perhaps you only want one image in your mailing, not all of them.

Enter FeedBlitz’s Advanced Template Editor (a.k.a. the ATE) and three new tags designed to help you, or your email graphic designer, deliver consistently sized and located images in your mailings. If you’re impatient, you can see these tags at work in this image here (and click through to the current, live preview of the Krazy Coupon Lady’s latest finds). [Read more...]