Email Marketing 101

email marketing

It doesn’t matter if your business has a physical location or if you are an internet business. If you aren’t collecting email addresses AND USING THEM, you are not leveraging your ability to connect with your current and prospective clients.

Benefits of email marketing

When email marketing is done correctly, it will help keep your business in the customer’s thoughts and

* is an easy way to communicate with your customers
* is a platform to reach potential customers/clients
* builds brand loyalty
* builds trust
* builds awareness
* is inexpensive
* is easily updated
* can be customized to different lists based on certain criteria
* improves the relationship between the company and the customer/client
* makes tracking your marketing effectiveness easy with different types of metrics

Types of content for your email marketing

I’m sure we can all relate that our email boxes get filled pretty fast. And I don’t know anyone that likes spam emails or emails that waste their time. Make your email worth the readers time. If you don’t have anything worth saying – don’t send an email. Some email marketing companies will tell you to email every day or multiple times per day and I’m sure they have their reasons…and you can decide for yourself…me, personally, if I get emails from a company (or person) that does NOT have good content, I remove myself from the mailing list.

Listed below are ideas for good content for the emails:
* create a contest (that is relevant to your business)
* how-to (relevant to your business)
* special events
* local events (if you are a brick and mortar store – advertising local events is a great way to build a good community reputation)
* polls
* newsletter
* behind the scenes
* new locations, change of address, change of phone number etc
* special hours or holiday hours
* relevant articles
* snippets of information from a blog post – and then link to your blog

Best Practices for email marketing

* keep the email short
* relevant material to you and your business
* be personal – people generally prefer to do business with people than with businesses
* make it worthwhile
* make it easy to read
* have a call to action
* include a signature line with your website and ACTIVE social media accounts
* have a sign up on your website
* have a sign up on your social media

How to set up your email marketing

Maybe you’ve been collecting email addresses but didn’t know what to do with them. Or maybe you put them in an excel spreadsheet and sent out emails using your email outlook account. Or maybe you don’t even have one yet. What you need is an email automation system. A good email marketing automation system will:
* collect email addresses
* have multiple different lists
* have professional templates that are editable
* allows for completely custom emails that can be saved as templates
* allow for signature templates
* have social media icons for your links in your signature
* have amazing metrics that are easy to read
* will allow you to schedule when your emails are sent
* allows broadcast emails (ie. sends an email immediately)
* allows for automated emails based on certain criteria (ie. when someone signs up send email #1, then 24 hours later send email number 2 and so on)

The automation system that I use and recommend is sendlane. It allows you to do all of the above and is easy to learn. You can collect email addresses from your website and have them flow into any of your lists on sendlane. You can manually enter email addresses, collect emails from landing pages, etc. If you click this link, you will get a 14 day free trial on sendlane. They also have great training videos and their tech support team responds quickly.

I hope you enjoyed Email Marketing 101 and your next steps are to take action – sign up for an email marketing automation system and start utilizing email to connect with your customers!

For full disclosure, the link to sendlane above is my affiliate link. What this means, is if you use that link, I will get paid a commission – but it doesn’t cost you anything more. You will pay the same price with my link or if you go direct. If you find my information useful and you decide sendlane is a great option for you, then I’d appreciate it if you would support me by using the affiliate link.

Do you need to have an https://website? and what the heck is that anyway?

Throughout the last few years, there have been a lot of reports of data breaches on banks, credit cards, and companies. These breaches have put your personal data – including your name, social security number, credit card numbers, passwords, etc. at risk. These breaches have come from someone hacking into a server of a company and stealing the data.

A little less known source of a breach is when hackers “listen” over the internet and steal information that is being sent/received through a non-secure connection. This can be done when you are using a public internet service (ie. At a restaurant when you are using a non-password protected wi-fi connection) AND maybe more commonly, when you transmit personal information over the HTTP protocol.

There are two common protocols to share and transmit information over the internet. One is HTTP and the other is HTTPS.

What is HTTP vs HTTPS?

HTTP protocol

HTTP is the fundamental technology for sharing and transmitting information over the worldwide web. The moment you open your browser and do a Google search, you are using HTTP technology. Simply put, HTTP is a set of rules for sharing graphical or textual files over the internet. HTTP is not secure and is easily vulnerable to cyber attacks and information theft.

When you type in a website address (or search for it), and you see http:// in the address bar, or in many cases – you may just see the website name, that means anything you send to that website or look at from that website is not secure and anyone with the know-how can be watching (yes, Big Brother may be watching you).

Here is an example of what this looks like on a Safari browser:

And on a chrome browser:

If the user clicks on the “i” in the browser window, it will tell the user that “Your connection to this website is not secure”.

After July 1, 2018, Phase 3 gets implemented and the URL field will show a RED explanation mark next to “NOT SECURE” also in red.

HTTPS protocol

The HTTPS protocol is the HTTP protocol with a security measure in place. In order to get the “S”, you have to buy an SSL certification. There are 3 levels of SSL certifications. The one you need is based on the type of information you collect from your website visitors.

1. Domain validation – the cheapest and most basic; it basically only encrypts the data being sent and received.
2. Organization validation – the mid range in both protection and price. If you are collecting credit card numbers or personal information, this is the minimum option you need.
3. Extended validation – the most expensive and the most secure option. This option is used mostly by banks and big e-commerce sites or other sites that collect sensitive personal information.

There is a great article about the types of SSL certificates at http://www.hostingadvice.com/blog/choosing-ssl-certificate-made-easy/ and when it is appropriate to use each type of certificate.

This is what a Domain Validation site looks like on safari:

And on chrome:

Advantages to converting to HTTPS:

Comfort to your users

The obvious advantage to converting is to give your site visitors the comfort of knowing their information is secure. It is very scary to some users to see a notice that says the site you are visiting is not secure.

Depending on the knowledge level of your average user, even if you are NOT collecting any data at all (you are just an information site), seeing that message may have your potential customer leave your site and find someone else that does have a secure site. (I’m thinking of my mom right now – and probably a lot of people in her generation and other generations that don’t really know anything about the internet and would not fully understand the message and just quickly leave the website so nothing bad happens).

Search Engine Rankings

Another reason is that Google is giving a slight boost to websites in search engine results to companies that have the https protocol. Now this is not to say you will jump from page 10 to page 1 – but all things being equal, Google will give the ranking to the website that has an SSL certificate over a company that does not.

Better Security from being hacked

Converting prevents illegal listening usually done by cybercriminals. It also prevents network agencies from injecting adverts on your website. Inserting some of these adverts, as well as JavaScript pages, opens up the website to vulnerabilities of being hacked. HTTPS secures websites against this vulnerability and ensures that you have control of what your website advertises.

How to Convert to HTTPS

There is no one answer for this question. The conversion will all depend on the company that is hosting your website. Some companies off their own SSL certificates and others do not. Some companies will assist you in your switch over, some will not.

First determine the type of SSL certificate you need and then go to your hosting provider to see what they offer.

Don’t forget – once you convert!

Once you convert to https, don’t forget to update all your links to the new address. This will include Google Search Console, all your social media pages, etc. There are some plugins that can help you with this – again it is best to contact your hosting company.

Summary

There are many benefits to converting your website to an HTTPS site. Once you contact your service provider, you will know all the necessary steps to do the conversion. Make sure you make a back up of your site before you convert it and then test it to make sure everything is functioning correctly

What does SEO cost?

ahhh..if there was a magic answer to the question “What does SEO cost? – your life would be much easier.

But, all kidding aside, if anyone gives you a quick answer to that question or offers you a one size fits all program – run away and run away fast.

Would you walk into a car dealership and ask – how much will a car cost and expect an answer? No. Why – which car? Do you want the Kia or the Mercedes? The stripped down version or the Special Edition? You get the picture.

With Search Engine Optimization pricing, many things have to be taken into consideration. A full analysis needs to be done on your website, on your keywords, your competition, your current ranking. Is there really one keyword or do you have hundreds? (take for example a jewelry store – they might want to optimize for engagement rings, diamonds, necklaces, rings, jewelry, earrings, diamond earrings, etc. a lawyer may need to optimize for Law, Criminal Law, DUI, felony, criminal defense lawyer, etc) as well as optimizing for geographic location.

How are you ranking now? How are your competitors ranking? How is your social media?

All of these questions go into the equation to calculate the cost of your SEO.

You need an agency or consultant that will give you an analysis of your website and then discuss the different options available to start moving your website up in the search engines. Your SEO cost will depend on how much work needs to be done to get your site ranking.

Now, if a consultant or agency offers a specific task for a specific dollar amount – that is not the same as a general optimization quote. Ie. they can offer social media management or make your website mobile friendly or load faster (all things that are important in SEO). Those items are fairly standard and a price can be given to them – depending on the experience of the agency/consultant and how busy they are, their physical location (agencies in New York City will probably cost more than agencies in a small town in central USA), and other factors. (very similar to how 10 dentists will give you 10 different prices to pull a tooth).

Whatever person or agency you decide to work with, make sure you are comfortable with their communication style and have them give you some references and case studies.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization, also known as SEO, is the way you optimize your site so that it can rank better on the search engines.

Gone are the days of expensive ads in the yellow pages of the phone book. Now, most people are turning to the internet to find local services and also to do their research and shopping.

If your company does not appear on the first page (or maybe the second page) you will lose out on potential business. Think about it, when you get on the internet…how many pages into the search do you go before you start making phone calls or decisions on your service provider or make purchases?

To get onto Page 1 or Page 2, you can either buy an ad from the search engine, or you can get to the top organically by optimizing your website for the search engines. The paid way gives you instant results but requires you to continue buying ads every day and every month. The second way takes some time but then gets you on the top for a long time.

Let’s dive into this search engine optimization idea a little deeper. A search engine’s job is to get the user the best results. So, if a user wants to find a plumber in Chicago, the search engine wants to give that user websites about plumbers in Chicago – makes sense right? How does the Search Engine determine if the websites it’s showing the user are appropriate to the user’s search? It uses algorithms. These algorithms change all the time as the search engines themselves become more sophisticated.

As you can see, SEO is not a set it up once and forget it answer. Search Engine Optimization requires a one time set up and then continual optimization as the algorithms change or as your competitors also start optimizing their websites so that you can stay on top (or get on top).

Because most business owners don’t know how to optimize their websites and even the verbiage about it can be confusing or unknown, a lot turn to just using paid advertising. Let’s look at that:

Take our plumber in Chicago. To do an ad, you have to pick a keyword. A keyword is what would people type into the search box to find you. In our example, the person types “plumber chicago”. That keyword gets between 1000 and 10,000 searches a month. Google suggests paying $30.96 (as of today) for an ad. That means any time someone clicks on your ad, you are charged $30.96. That doesn’t mean they are going to pick up the phone and call you. It doesn’t mean you are going to get the job, it just means they decided to check out your website.

When you are researching, do you call the first website you view? Or do you, like me, check out several websites before you like one enough to call? How many paid ads are you paying for before you get a job? This is analysis you must do to see if your advertising is working for you. Are you doing that analysis?

While paid ads are easier for most people to set up, (the search engines make it easy because they want your money) in the long run they cost more. When setting up Search Engine Optimization, the initial cost may seem high but when you compare it to the paid ads- the cost becomes very low.

I’m sure your next question will be: How much will SEO cost my company? See my article “How much does SEO cost” for a full explanation about pricing for SEO.

If your business relies on getting traffic to your website, then your Company should find a great SEO Agency to work for. If you are in a very specialized niche with very little competition, you may be able to do it yourself by reading articles and watching videos. But if your company is in a competitive market, you should leave the SEO to a professional and use your time to focus on what you are good at – and that’s whatever your business does.

Why is SEO important?

It goes without saying that website traffic is critical to business success. If you aren’t attracting visitors to your website, you won’t be generating any sales or achieve the end goal of your business. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by other factors, but in the end, it’s difficult for your business to survive without traffic from the right people.

More website traffic creates numerous opportunities for your business to grow. And it isn’t just about making money. You can expand product lines, open new locations, hire more employees, invest in research and develop new products and services.

There are several ways to boost web traffic. Some of the methods include ensuring you have high-quality, regularly updated and relevant content. You can also take advantage of social networking to drive traffic to your site. Paid advertising through social media or Google Ads is another way to get people to your website. However, the most effective and fundamental way to increase targeted traffic is through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This allows users who are looking for your products or services to find your website organically.

A large number of visitors to your website increase the chances of conversion. But you need to focus on improving the quality of your traffic. Not all traffic counts as good traffic. The main idea is to increase your traffic along with the quality of visitors. If both quantity and quality are improved, you have better chances to raise conversion rates and get the traffic to become paying customers.

In the current competitive business environment, your business needs to stand out in order to thrive. Digital marketing experts understand the value of SEO for business success. There are plenty of captivating reasons your business should invest in SEO and hire an SEO Agency.

Return on Investment

Time has proven that there is a high return on Investment (ROI) that comes with investing in SEO. A highly ranked website receives more than 30 percent engagement from users. That means that companies that invest in SEO are likely to benefit more than their original investment.

In addition to SEO being cost-effective, highly visited websites have the best potential for continually increasing their ROI. One of the main reasons for this is because SEO allows you to market your products and services to people when they’re looking for what your business provides.

Visibility and Branding

Most people underestimate SEO, but there is a great deal of value offered by simply ranking high for terms that relate specifically to your business. If you’re employing top-notch SEO strategies, it provides optimal exposure for brand awareness. It’s more likely that users will come across your company name while conducting their search and before you know it, your brand gains more popularity in the market.

The Internet Is a Major Gateway

In this digital age, more and more people are shopping online. Therefore, search engines have become the primary gateway to success. Research has it that as many as 80% of customers search with local intent. For this reason, SEO can reap significant benefits for businesses with region-based clients. Search engines are grabbing more market share as customers increasingly rely on reviews before making a purchase. And the trend is only expected to continue. Without organic SEO in place, potential clients will have a hard time finding your business.

People are also using smartphones more than ever before. Traffic generated by mobile users is a dominant force on the web. Numerous SEO techniques leverage the massive potential of the mobile marketing area.

Staying Ahead Of the Competition

Keeping track of competitors is essential. The results and main keywords on first-page search engine results have a huge role to play in understanding how you can use SEO to work for your company. Your competitors are using SEO, and using it can only increase your outreach. You cannot afford to let your competitors surpass you by ignoring this valuable business tool.

Cost-Effectiveness

Compared to other forms of online marketing, SEO is considered quite cost-effective. While social media can be used to boost your company’s image and Pay per Click (PPC) advertising may drive more revenue, your organic SEO still remains the foundation of your online presence.

With paid advertising (social media ads or search engine ads), your company has to continually fund those ads. When you build great Search Engine Optimization, your company will continue to rank without the high costs of placing ads daily.

Content

Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms hence changing the way they look at and rank websites. Things that seemed farfetched a couple of years back, such as social media indicators, are currently important ranking factors. Building a healthy content profile and regularly updating your website with great, informative and value-adding content are excellent ways to expand your business’s horizons.

Insight into Your Customers

A well-optimized website enjoys perks such as increased usability, search engine visibility and credibility, all of which increase web traffic. Analysis tools such as Google Analytics can track critical information about your visitors. Find out what keywords your visitors use, what browser they prefer, the days and times they are most active, their geographical location and how much time they spend on a page, among other details. This information is extremely valuable and can be used to improve your advertising, help you learn more about your target market and determine strategies based on concrete data rather than guesses.

Data collected may also help you to mitigate business risk when attempting to enter new markets or segments by identifying areas of low demand and high competition.

Optimal User Experience

Ultimately, SEO is meant to provide the user with a friendly and great user experience. Search engines want to give the users what they are looking for to ensure both parties are happy. In the long run, a satisfied visitor becomes a returning visitor. With planning, dedicated effort, and a well-developed strategy, your business can rank high in Search Engine Result Pages and stay there. The faster you’re able to implement proven SEO strategies, the better it is for your business.

Search engine optimization is no longer an option for businesses that want to grow, be competitive and realize great returns on investment. In fact, investing in organic SEO is more important now that it has ever been. Having an SEO strategy in place remains one of the single most critical components of any company’s online presence and branding efforts.