Email Marketing 101 – Part 4

How to be Successful with Email Marketing 101

The previous three articles in the “Email Marketing 101″ series dealt with three core concepts:

  1. Why you should be email marketing;
  2. When to start email marketing; and
  3. How to start email marketing.

But email marketing isn’t an end point, or a static goal. It’s an ongoing process. While automation can and does yield significant benefits, you still have to make certain commitments to be successful.

If, however, you’re an avid blogger or content marketer, meeting these commitments isn’t going to be a big deal. To finish up the series then, here are some basic steps you need to keep on taking in order to be successful:

  1. Email regularly and predictably; we recommend mailing your list at least weekly.
  2. Listen to your unsubscribes; they’re telling you something. If you’re losing readers, offer weekly digests or content-focused lists as alternatives.
  3. SEO principles apply to your subject lines: Make subject lines short, compelling and keyword-rich.
  4. Make sure your emails look great on phones and tablets. If your template isn’t responsive then ask your email service’s support service for help updating it.
  5. Metrics matter. If you’re an avid consumer of your Google Analytics data for your site, are you doing the same for your mailings? You should, at least monthly.

Get these sorted out and you’ll be well on your way to establishing and growing a terrific email list consisting of engaged and loyal subscribers. Good luck!

Email Marketing 101, Part 3

How to Start with Email Marketing

Honestly: Don’t over think it. Sending blog updates by email is not only great, but also very much good enough – you’re saving your blog’s subscribers the time and effort to remember to go back to your site. Your content is already great, and now people have invited you to send it to them whenever you write. That’s what they want; so go ahead. Give it to them.

Here’s how you get started:

  1. Choose a reputable, supported email service (because nobody wants to end up being labeled spammer, right? Right). Behave well, always (ALWAYS) use dual opt-in, and respect privacy (i.e. don’t share your email subscribers with anyone else).
  2. Depending on your platform and service, add an email subscription form for your site.  At FeedBlitz, we’ve found the best approach is a combination of subscription forms:
    1. Above the fold in your sidebar or masthead / top banner on all pages.
    2. Between posts and comments on post pages.
    3. Using a respectful popup once you’re sure of engagement.
  3. Create an incentive to deliver extra value to visitors. It helps convert them to subscribers.

For popups, proof of engagement (which is where it’s OK to interrupt and say “you’ve been here a while now, would you like to hear from us by mail?”) would be the second or later page view of the session, and delaying several seconds (10+) to allow the visitor to start reading the page.

The reason why forms between posts and comments work is the same thing: Engagement. If the visitor has read your post and is now at the comments, they’re clearly interested. A form there has a great chance of capturing that interest and turning the visitor into a subscriber.

Incentives need to be relevant to your target visitor. They don’t need to be a massive amount of work to create. They can be sweepstakes, or a simple 1 page checklist, or a simple guide or even an e-book.

Tomorrow, I’ll wrap-up the series with tips on consolidating your email marketing success.

[This is the third article of a short, four part series on Email Marketing 101. Click to visit part 1 - why? - and part 2 - when?]

Email Marketing 101, Part 2

When to Start Email Marketing

In the previous Email Marketing 101 post, I talked about why email marketing is vital.

Today I’ll talk about when - when to start your email marketing efforts.

Good news! It’s a one word answer:


No, I’m serious. Don’t delay because “I’m not big enough” or “I don’t have enough traffic.” You simply don’t know when and which subscriber will be the one that buys from you, spreads the word about you, or invests in you.

Look at it this way. As you start out, you’re building pages; thinking about SEO; looking at analytics. You’re generating traffic to your site. Every time you don’t give a new visitor the chance to subscribe, you’re losing the opportunity to reach them again. All that traffic is simply going to slip through your web site’s electronic fingers and be gone.

While you delay, how many visitors have you missed out on? Hundreds? Thousands? More? All of them could have become a subscriber, willing to be educated, persuaded, converted by you. But they’re not.

Without email, they’re lost to you, possibly – no, probably – for ever.

Don’t be that site. Don’t let all the visitors you’ve worked so hard to get, get away. Don’t miss those opportunities.

Instead, find a way to have your visitors say “I like you. I really, really like you” by having them subscribe to your list (remember, email engagement is at least 20x better than Facebook).

The when, then, is NOW.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about how.

[This is the second article of a short, four part series on Email Marketing 101.]

Email Marketing 101, Part 1

Why Email

When you think about building your site for the first time, you’re probably also thinking about your Facebook presence. After all, that’s where the people are, right?

OK, that makes sense at a superficial level. But there are two problems with emphasizing platforms like Facebook instead of your own site and your own list:

  1. Facebook owns Facebook. Building your online presence on someone else’s digital turf which they adjust to please themselves (and not you) is risky.
  2. Facebook stinks for engagement.

“Stinks” – a bit strong, you say? Well, according to  a very good engagement rate on Facebook is 1%.

One percent. That’s it. Most posts do much, much worse.

In other words, 99% of your Facebook fans simply don’t see the post, on average. Ever.

Of course, Facebook wants more people than that to view your post. And, of course, they want you to pay for that. Hello, business model.

Email lists, on the other hand, don’t stink. An average an email update, by contrast, should expect to have a typical open rate around 20%. That is at least 20x better than the best typical un-promoted Facebook post.

Put another way, email delivers twenty times more engagement than Facebook.

Often better.

Thought-provoking, huh?

Meanwhile, let’s get back to point (1) – the wisdom of building your business on someone else’s turf. With email, who owns your email list? Why, you do. Not Facebook. Not Google’s search engine. You.

With email, you’re not engaged in digital share cropping:

What that means is that you can take that list wherever you want – and do whatever you want – with it.

Your email list frees you from third party sites, like Facebook, deciding you need to pay now to reach the same people tomorrow you reached for free yesterday.

Tomorrow, some thoughts on when to start with email marketing, if you haven’t already begun.

[This is the first article of a short, four part series on Email Marketing 101.]

Superbowl XLIX: On Luck, Preparedness and Execution

[Bear with me -- this isn't a sports piece]

Wow – that was quite the game. As a Patriots fan living in New England I was very, very vested in the outcome, and I’m obviously happy with the result.

But it was a darned close call.

As those last few plays unfolded, there was the amazingly lucky catch that put the Seahawks at 1st and 6. Then, out of nowhere, New England got “lucky” twice: Firstly, when Seattle tried an unnecessarily high risk play just to waste time, and secondly when the rookie intercepted the ball, effectively securing victory for New England.

Three pieces of incredible luck.

Actually, no. Not at all. There was very little luck involved, in fact.

Let’s start with that catch. The ball left the receiver’s hands and flew up. The only “lucky” part was how the laws of physics combined to move that ball. The part that was NOT about luck was when the receiver caught and held on to the ball as it came down again.

That was not luck; that was his job.

That was training, preparedness and exemplary execution under pressure. (It also stank for the Patriots, given this looked like it was going to be a case of deja vu all over again.).

Seconds later, it was 2nd and goal – Seattle was one yard away from (and had three plays to effectively secure) the win.

Luckily for the Patriots, the Seattle coaching team made an unexpected call because New England had prepared well and sent out the team best designed to stop the play that everybody, everybody, expected Seattle to run. All that planning and preparedness paid off for the Pats, because it unnerved Seattle so much that they decided to “waste” that play, with tragic results for their Super Bowl hopes. Was that lucky, though? No. That was well executed defense — and at that very moment the mind game was won by New England.

That was not luck; that was New England’s job.

The ball game, however, was still in doubt. Until a rookie defender intercepted the wasted play and effectively and unexpectedly secured both the ball and the game for New England. Training. Practice. Perfect execution.

That was not luck; that was his job.

Seattle ultimately failed to execute at the critical juncture, and that cost them a place in the history books – and, sadly, has likely earned Pete Carroll a place in US sporting infamy.

Luck, though, had precious little to do with it.

Why write about the last seconds of something as ultimately ephemeral as this game?

Because it is a fundamental tenet of mine that luck favors the prepared.

All the luck – good or ill – on display in Arizona in the last few seconds of that game was nothing of the sort. It was preparedness, execution and a display of exceptional fortitude (or its sudden loss) under the kind of pressure none of us mere mortals will likely ever feel in our own lives. And it all came together on national global TV.

So. In your business and your marketing and your life, are you prepared?

Will you execute well when the time comes?

Are you the one who’s put in the time and effort and reps to seize the moment when it presents itself?

Will you be the one everyone else sees as “lucky”?

Because it is not about luck.

This is YOUR job.

On Resilience … Or, Welcome Back, Amanda

One of the joys of being in a small, tightly knit company like FeedBlitz is that, as colleagues, we grow close to each other.  We share our triumphs and joys; and we circle the wagons when the going gets tough. In reality, on balance, 2014 was more tough than not for the FeedBlitz crew.

Of course, like any community, we don’t often share the hard times publicly.  We struggle, we manage, we support each other, and with luck nobody on the outside notices. Nothing unusual, really, in that.

There are, however, some things — even the tougher ones — that are very much worth noticing.

And so it is today.

Today, we welcome Amanda Henson back to work in our customer service organization after spending most of 2014 fighting breast cancer. You can read about her journey, her resilience, her reality, on her personal blog.

Resuming normal work is a hugely important milestone for Amanda in her recovery; a major step in reclaiming normality.

Although her treatments are not over, today that step has been taken. With which, I think, enough said from me.

Except for this:

Welcome back, Amanda. We’ve missed you. We’re so very glad you’re here.


Malware Warnings


Looks like the reviews have completed and things are back to normal. Some systems will cache the earlier results, and the updates may take a while to roll out. If you’re still seeing warnings, please try Ctrl+F5 to refresh your browser’s local cache.

Original Post

If you’re seeing a “malware warning” when clicking through to FeedBlitz this morning, yikes, that can be scary. For the record, rest assured, we are safe; we have a review pending with Google this morning. Meanwhile it IS safe to click through, FeedBlitz itself hasn’t been damaged and isn’t sharing malware.

What happens is that Google’s search bots visit links on the web, and one of the things they do is report not only compromised sites (not FeedBlitz!), but sites that link to compromised sites. With our extensive email archives and tens of thousands of feeds, sometimes FeedBlitz will link to a third party site that becomes infected (almost always a site linked to in one of our client’s posts, so two steps removed, as it were).  In that case a URL here gets flagged by Google in Webmaster Tools, because we track all clicks to generate metrics. It’s that which makes us appear to be part of the problem, when we’re not, because that tracking has to run through a site first for it to work.

We check these flagged links daily, and update our list of blocks, so that we don’t redirect your and our visitors to bad places on the Web, as first discussed here.

Overnight, it seems that Google’s bots determined that several poorly maintained sites that some of our publishers link to were bad. That’s OK, it’s routine, we deal with that daily. What isn’t OK is that their algorithms somehow decided that FeedBlitz itself was possibly bad. We aren’t, obviously, but that means until the review completes (up to 24 hours) some folks will see an unpleasant warning in the browsers. That’s crappy and I’m sorry. It happens to the best of us now and again, it’s part of the hazards of being in this industry.

We all want a safer, trustworthy web. Sometimes the automation can be overzealous with downstream freakout results. That stinks. But I am confident that this will be done in less than a day.

Meanwhile, all is well, truly. It’s safe to click on a FeedBlitz feed or link, and the warnings will be gone soon.

.@Wistia videos now supported in FeedBlitz emails

Video in email is a pain. Unless you’re an HTML5 guru and only want your emails working on iOS devices, video just plain doesn’t work in email.

FeedBlitz has long supported video providers such as YouTube and Vimeo and more, by automatically converting videos from these systems into thumbnails that work great in email.

Today, we’ve added up-and-comer Wistia to the list of supported video services. So if you are on the FeedBlitz web site, what you see next is a Wistia corporate video in their video player. If you get this via email, however, you’ll see a thumbnail instead.


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.

So long, Zombie Google Reader

We all know how to stop a zombie, right? Get it in the head. Fine in the movies or “The Walking Dead,” but it’s not so simple for zombie products or technologies.

Case in point: Google Reader. The product was “killed” by Google in the middle of 2013, and it was no longer available to end users. So it was dead and buried, right?

Wrong. It was a zombie. The back end of Google Reader kept on plugging away, checking feeds, dutifully reporting how many subscribers it was polling on behalf of. Like the Energizer bunny, It kept on going and going and going … until sometime on November 13th, 2014, when some plucky soul at Google finally whacked the Google Reader back end firmly enough in the head to stop it for good.

Yes, for nearly a year and a half, the back end of Google Reader apparently didn’t know that it was dead.

After its nominal demise, last year, we made a decision to continue to report Google Reader subscriber numbers while we still saw them. So if your RSS stats changed dramatically on November the 14th, the first full day without Zombie Google Reader (ZGR), that’s why.

It’s weird and odd that ZGR was left running for so long; makes me wonder what happened to make someone finally turn it off. Maybe that famous pink marketing bunny took its batteries back.