Chitika Insights: The “Dirty” Secret of Being #1 on Google

Chitika Insights: The “Dirty” Secret of Being #1 on Google

This is a guest post from Andrew Waber. He is a PR analyst at Chitika Advertising Network.

Back in late July, Bryan O’Neil published a post on this blog detailing his opinions as to the value of organic traffic.

In Bryan’s own words “in reality organic traffic is far less valuable and more risky than its paid counterpart,” using several examples including volatility, effort , and competition as key pillars to his argument. Of course, a post like this generated a wide range of opinions in the comments section, but regardless as to how you feel on the topic, it’s admittedly a very broad subject.

At Chitika Insights, we tapped into data from our publisher network of over 300,000+ sites to answer another related question: is all organic search traffic created equal when it comes to potential ad revenue?

Back in June, Chitika Insights published a study examining the value of each Google result position. Analysis of the data revealed that the first position on an average Google search engine result page (SERP) garnered about 33% of Google search traffic, with largely a classic exponential drop off in traffic at each subsequent position.

Obviously, a Web page’s traffic is just one possible key performance indicator (KPI), with ad conversion rate, commonly known as CTR, being another.

The Study from Chitika Insights

To study how CTR varies depending on the Google result clicked, Chitika Insights examined tens of millions of online ad impressions in which the user was referred to the page via a Google search. From the referring Google URL, Chitika is able to extract the position that the webpage was on within the prior search results page.

From this, Chitika can measure what percentage of Google traffic comes from each position of the search results page. The data set was drawn from a date range of August 1 to August 7, 2013 and is representative of U.S. and Canadian Web traffic only.

An index was created to graphically represent the data. “100%” refers to the Google rank at which corresponding visitor CTR is maximized. If a point is “70%”, for instance, that means that the observed CTR from that rank’s corresponding visitors is 70% of the CTR at the peak.

Chitika

Note: all percentages mentioned in the above graph are indexed CTR and not actual CTR.

The results show that, on average, of the first 100 positions on a given Google SERP, the highest CTR was from users who visited via clicking on the 10th link, rather than the first result. In fact, visitors who were referred from the first position had the lowest CTR among those in the top 100 search results.

Surprising, right? Let’s take a step back to the decision-making process that likely contributes to this behavior.

A Searcher’s Decision-making Process

Generally speaking, the chance of any user clicking on an ad increases when that user finds something that they are looking for in the form of an ad. For example, a person that searched for “headphones” is probably more likely to click on an ad relating to headphones or music as compared to an ad on an unrelated topic.

So what’s different when someone goes to the first result on a page?

It’s reasonable to assume that most users who click on a link in first position are keenly focused on what they are looking for and/or have already found what they need. A person searching for “Whirlpool refrigerator” who saw the top result as addressing what they were looking for, will likely be “all business” – buying or researching based on that result since they found so much value in it.

Along the same lines, when a user scrolls down and clicks on a link at position 10, it is more likely that they have not found exactly what they were looking for, increasing the probability of that person clicking on an ad related to their search query.

However, leaving aside these possible behavioral causes, what is clear from the data set is that although the first position of a Google search result drives the most search traffic, an average visitor coming from that link is the least likely to convert into an ad click.

Conclusion

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should tailor all your site’s SEO efforts to focus on attaining the 10th ranking for a given term. If your daily traffic is already high, say hundreds of thousands to millions of visitors per day, looking to maximize CTR by way of your Google placement may be a worthwhile idea.

If, however, your daily traffic is low, the first priority should be to increase site visitors before going after that smaller number of higher-value users.

With these caveats and the traffic breakdown by Google SERP ranking in mind, what these statistics point to is that for high volume search terms or phrases in particular, the 10th position is a great place to be.

On a popular search term, 2.4% of potential visitors still represents a sizable audience, and by being the number 10 result, it’s likely a site will see higher ad revenues. However, for lower volume or specialized search terms, it’s much more useful to rank as high as possible in order to attract the largest audience, since the proverbial “pie” of users on those terms is already fairly small, along with the potential revenue impact of higher visitor CTRs.

Knowing how a site ranks on key terms in Google can also help point to the best ad revenue option – cost-per-mille (CPM) for sites ranking generally higher and cost-per-click (CPC)-based ad revenue for those which generally rank closer to the bottom of the page.

Thoughts or questions? Let me know in the comments!

About the Author: Andrew Waber is a PR analyst at Chitika Advertising Network. You can follow him at @ChitikaInsights.

Thanks to Stuart Crawford for the photo!

4 Copywriting Tips to Boost Your Next Flippa Listing

4 Copywriting Tips to Boost Your Next Flippa Listing

Are you leaving money on the table because of a poorly written Flippa listing description?

You’re not alone. Writing a compelling listing is something that most Flippa sellers struggle with. Many people find writing difficult enough, so the idea of writing to sell can be overwhelming. In this article, I share four copywriting tips advertisers revisit again and again. The good news is that you can apply these same strategies to improve your own copy and get more money from your listing.

Using these four copywriting tactics will significantly boost your next Flippa auction. So, let’s get started.

Provide Proof

“The real advertising writer who is after results makes the reader want something – and then provides what the reader will consider a good excuse for buying it.” – Clyde Bedell

A young assistant to a District Attorney approaches his boss and says “I think we have just enough for a conviction”. The DA grabs the assistant by the cuffs of his shirt and yells “Don’t you ever dare send me into court with just enough!”

Why was the DA so upset? Because to win a criminal case, you need a preponderance of proof. There needs to be no doubt in the jury’s mind that the person on trial is guilty. You should have the same preponderance of proof when creating the sales copy for your Flippa listing.

The more proof you can supply to back up your claims, the better. Uploading attachments of payments received, verified Google analytics, and income statements will all help. You can even go one step further and create a YouTube proof video and link to it from your listing. This video can show your potential buyers when you log in to your Google analytics or Paypal account, and so they can see the proof for themselves.  

You can also use social proof. If you have a 100% positive feedback and over $50,000 in previous sales then this is something that you should include near the start of your listing.

Create a Winning Auction Title

“Five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” – David Ogilvy

Your auction title is one of the most important elements of your listing. If more people click on your headline then there will be more potential buyers for your site. Conversely if your auction title doesn’t grab the viewer’s attention enough to click on it, then it won’t matter how great your site is. Spending a little more time crafting a compelling headline is time well spent.

Be Specific in Your Auction Title

Using specific figures is a great way to get attention and build trust. Again Flipping Enterprises does this very well. In many of their listings they will include the exact monthly profit or revenue that these sites are bringing in. For example:

$35,618 in Profit Last 6 Months – Established CPA Affiliate Network

$42,343 in Profit in Last 12 Months – Unique Software Product – IM Niche

Note that the auction title includes the exact dollar amount. Listing an exact amount in the headline appears considerably more credible than simply stating that the site is profitable. Thousands of dollars a month profit may seem like a potentially interesting opportunity, but $2,345 a month are the figures of a real business.

Include How Long the Business Has Been Earning the Profit

If you ask serious buyers what they look for in an auction, they invariably say they want a significant earnings history. Sites which have been producing a solid profit for the past six months will fetch a better price than those which have only one month of earnings. If you do have a solid earnings history then you should include this in the headline as this will definitely help to improve the number of people who check out your listing.

Detail the Page Rank

Another specific piece of data to include in the listing title is the page rank. Stating that the site is PR5 or PR6 doesn’t take up a lot of room but it helps to draw interest. This is a quick way to establish that the site is well established and worthy of your attention.

The Power of Transparency

“The most powerful element in advertising is the truth.” – William Bernbach

It’s the copywriter’s job to “Sell a good night’s sleep – not the mattress.” People buy products because they want a specific result, not to own the product itself. We use transparency to show the buyer how they are going to be able to achieve the result they desire.

The vast majority of website buyers are investors. They want to earn the income that you are claiming for that site. The more transparent you can be about how they will achieve this income, the better.

If you are creating content for your site, explain how this is being done. Are you writing the content yourself or do you have a team of writers already in place? If you are using freelancers, how much does this cost?

If the traffic is coming from organic search, which keywords does your site rank for? If you are using social traffic, which sites are generating the most referrals? And if you are using paid traffic, how much does this cost?

By being transparent you are showing your potential buyer how they will be able to get from point A to point B. They can feel comfortable that they will be able to replicate your income or traffic performance after they’ve bought your website.

Overcome Your Buyers’ Objections

“We have become so accustomed to hearing everyone claim that his product is the best in the world, or the cheapest, that we take all such statements with a grain of salt.” – Robert Collier

As potential buyers look through your Flippa listing an internal dialogue is taking place. The buyer will think of reasons why they shouldn’t buy your website. One of the main purposes of your Flippa listing is to overcome any objections that your buyer might have.

Before creating your listing, think of the kinds of objections someone might have to purchasing your site. For example:

  • Running it will take up too much of my time
  • I won’t be able to create new content for this site
  • I don’t have the technical ability to run this site
  • I’m not sure how to generate traffic to this site

Once you have identified these objections you should bring them up in the sales copy for your site and address them. For example, to overcome the objection that they don’t know how to generate traffic in the future, you could include a PDF which explains which traffic sources to use and how to use them. To overcome the objection that it will take up too much time, you could detail how certain aspects of the site are automated.

The most common objection that buyers will have is “If this site is so great, why are they selling it?”  There are many reasons why you might be selling a quality, profitable site. Perhaps you need the money for a down payment on an apartment deposit or to pay for college. Or maybe you don’t have the time it takes to maintain the site anymore. Listing the reason why you are selling will help to disqualify this common objection.

Over to You

Writing a great Flippa listing may seem overwhelming but it doesn’t need to be. The key is to be detailed and transparent, while emphasizing your website’s strengths. In the words of master copywriter Leo Burnett:

Here’s what we’ve got. Here’s what it will do for you. Here’s how to get it.”

Follow that simple framework, and use the four tips from above, and you’re on your way to boost your next Flippa listing.

What have you found to be effective for your Flippa listings? Leave your comments below.

How to Reach and Connect with the Right Influencers on Twitter

Twitter isn’t just for keeping up with the latest memes and viral videos.

It’s also a powerful business tool. One that we don’t see enough people using to its full advantage.

That’s why I’m here to show how you can start using it more productively, and it starts with following the right people. I personally follow around 750 people, which has proven incredibly beneficial in a number of ways. Such as finding new topics for a blog, meeting like-minded people across the world, landing guest spots, and finding people who would like to post on the Flippa blog.

Just to name a few.

But it’s not just about following as many people as you can. The key is following the right people, and then grouping those people into organized lists. Most of the people I follow are all in the web business industry, but the type of people you’re going to want to follow will be different depending on your niche.

It’s easy to find influential people on Twitter no matter what niche you’re in.

In this post I’m going to show you how to find your influencers, how to efficiently group them into lists, and what to tweet to get their attention. Then I will leave you with a list of the 20 top Twitter accounts to follow for web entrepreneurs.

How to Find Your Influencers

There are a number of tools out there for finding influencers in your specific field. Let’s start with the easiest one. If fact, it’s so obvious you might not have even thought of it.

Twitter hashtags. That’s right, Twitter hashtags can actually be useful.

They’re not just for adding witty sentiments at the end of your tweets. They were created with a purpose and that purpose still stands today. Every niche has their own popular hashtags for topics, Twitter chats, or conferences. Find out what they are and monitor them. Your influencers are the ones consistently tweeting and engaging with other users using those hashtags.

Next, influencers tend to have Klout. Literally and figuratively. Regardless of how you feel about Klout, it’s incredibly effective at helping you find the top thought leaders in your niche. Sign into Klout, type your niche into the search bar at the top and you’ll instantly be supplied with the top influencers within that field.

From there you can easily find their Twitter handle and start following them.

The last tool I’m going to suggest helps you find influencers based on content published all over the web, not just on social media.

Social Mention is a social search engine that helps you find content being published right now in real time. Go there and search for a subject in your niche. On the left is the information you need to find your influencers. The “Top Users” are the people who are publishing the most content about that subject. If you click on them and dig around a little you’ll be sure to find their Twitter handle. Oh look, underneath the top users are the top hashtags, which was the first tool we mentioned.

So not only can you find the top influencers using Social Mention, but you can also find some of the best hashtags to monitor to help you connect with even more influencers. It’s an incredibly versatile tool. The more you use it, the more valuable it becomes.

Now that I have shown you how to find your influencers, it’s time to talk about what to tweet at them.

How to Get the Attention of Influencers

Typically, it takes seven points of contact before you make an impression. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t get their attention right away. Make sure your interaction with them is genuine. Only tweet at them when you really have something to say.

Replying to something they tweeted is an example of genuine interaction. Retweeting them, or quoting one of their tweets followed by your own comment are two more points of contact you could have. Sharing one of their blog posts with their Twitter handle at the end as attribution is another way of mentioning them.

The key is consistency. Relationships are built over time, so the more frequently you engage with your influencers the stronger your relationship will end up being.

Grouping Influencers into Lists

Once you’ve found your key influencers and started following them, the next step is to group them into lists.

A tool that helps make this incredibly easy is called Twit List Manager.

After following hundreds, or sometimes thousands of people on Twitter, it becomes difficult to keep track of them. It’s a tough task for anyone to remember who’s who, why you started following them, how you know them etc. Twitter lists help to ease the burden. Think of it as an indexing system for the people you follow.

Another benefit of using lists is that they can be used to separate the tweets of specific people from the rest of your feed. Instead of looking through your whole feed you can look at just the tweets of people from a certain list. This allows you to more effectively keep up with what they are saying so you can engage with them on a regular basis.

It’s a great idea to group people into lists based on what industry they’re in or what they regularly tweet about. For example, you can group people who tweet about SEO into one list, and people who tweet about affiliate marketing into another.

Are you attending a conference in the near future? Create a list! Follow the event hashtag and make a list of people attending. Engage with them and get to know them so you will be aquatinted well before the day of the conference.

Twitter lists are also a great way to gather ideas for new blog posts and new niches to venture into. When you group thought leaders together, engage with them, and follow what they have to say, you’ll generate ideas based on the topics being discussed and the questions being asked.

Now let’s start you off with a list of influencers to follow!

Top 20 Influencers to Follow for Web Entrepreneurs

All of these influencers were found using the methods outlined throughout this article. They were picked based on their expertise in web entrepreneurship, level of influence, and quality of content shared on Twitter.

Want a faster way to follow the web entrepreneurs I’ve outlined below? No worries. I’ve put together a Twitter list for you.

Eric Ries (@ericries)

Dharmesh Shah (@dharmesh)

Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee)

Mark Suster (@msuster)

Ben Parr (@benparr)

Robert Scoble
(@Scobleizer)

Kevin Rose
(@kevinrose)

Tim Ferriss
(@tferriss)

Guy Kawasaki
(@GuyKawasaki)

Scott Stratten
(@unmarketing)

Jay Baer
(@jaybaer)

Mark Schaefer
(@markwschaefer)

Jason Falls
(@JasonFalls)

MG Siegler
(@parislemon)

Mitch Joel
(@mitchjoel)

Chris Brogan
(@chrisbrogan)

Darren Rowse
(@problogger)

Brian Clark
(@copyblogger)

Danny Sullivan
(@dannysullivan)

Matt Cutts
(@mattcuts)

Conclusion

Twitter can be an extremely valuable business tool if you’re following the right people. You can be even more productive and build stronger relationships by grouping those people into lists.

The list I have provided should be a good starting point. Before you know it you will have dozens of lists with hundreds of people and plenty of new relationships built along the way.

Now get out there and start connecting!

Thanks to Darwin Bell for the picture!

5 Key Metrics to Always Track in Your Web Analytics

5 Key Metrics to Always Track in Your Web Analytics

It can be daunting to sit down and decipher your website’s data. It’s challenging to know which metrics are most important and to unravel the story they are telling.

Numbers are meaningless without the intelligent interpretation of what they represent, so deciding what you track, and how to track it, remains a crucial task for any site owner. Below we list what we think are the 5 most important factors to study through both short and long term cycles, as they will tell you the most about the successes and failures of your site.

Setting Up Your Web Analytics

Have you set up your free Google Analytics account yet? All you need is a verifiable Google account (for example Gmail). You can follow the steps to activate tracking on your website through this incredibly powerful tool.

If you prefer to use one of the other metrics tracking tools in the market, you can try Coremetrics, Omniture, or WebTrends. These services incur various levels of fees but can offer immensely robust reporting systems and customer support, too.

Either way, here are the key metrics that you should always track on your site. Let’s dip our toes into the sea of information that is the world of analytics.

#1: Total Visits

Total visits are your most essential metric. This number reveals the amount of traffic your site is achieving each day. Pay attention to the trends in traffic over days and weeks, especially as they relate to your marketing campaigns. If you launch efforts to drive traffic and you’re seeing a spike, that’s perfect feedback communicating the effectiveness of your strategies. The reverse is obviously true too. When you see unusual dips in traffic, check things like your site’s stability to ensure there were no outages.

Check your total site visits daily. It’s like the heartbeat of your site, as it consistently reveals how healthy your business is on a fundamental level.

#2: New Visits

New visits show the segment of your total visit traffic that are attributed to unique views. This metric is a comparison of your unique visitors, versus those who are repeat customers. If you have unusually high percentages of new visitors (above 30%), that’s an indication that your site isn’t sticky enough to warrant repeat traffic. You’ll clearly want to optimize and address this trend by highlighting your most valuable content, so you encourage people to come back. Likewise, if you see very few new visits (in the single digits), and you’re doing significant marketing efforts to drive new traffic, you know other strategies are needed to meet your goals.

This metric should reflect a balance between your acquisition and retention attempts. A good target for repeat visits each day is around 15%.

#3: Traffic Sources by Segment

Traffic sources communicate the places that are sending visitors to your site. These include:

  • Direct traffic – Visitors that access you directly through your URL, either by typing the address into their browser, or by clicking on a bookmark. These could also be sourced by untagged links from emails.

  • Organic traffic – Links from an unpaid search engine listing.

  • Referral traffic – This is traffic that is linked to from other sites.

Traffic sources do more than just reveal segments. They also show you how successful your SEO efforts are. If, for example, your organic traffic is less than 40%, that’s an indication that you’re not ranking well on sites like Google. Referrals should track around 20-30%. This percentage is a healthy amount of traffic coming from link-building efforts.

It’s integral that you create a nice balance of all three segments. You don’t want to rely solely on links or SEO efforts because this hardly ever results in stable, long term growth. By keeping in the know about your traffic sources, you can clearly map out your next necessary marketing tactics.

#4: Conversions by Source

Next, you need to track conversions by source. This metric reveals your current conversion rate and your total conversions from all referring traffic sources. You’ll use the same segments as you did in Metric #3 – that is, looking at your direct, organic, and referral traffic. It may be that your overall conversion metrics match up with each segment and source, but it’s likely there will be a fluctuation. These discrepancies reveal successes and failures with regards to the traffic you are sourcing, and the effectiveness of your website to convert visitors.

For example, if your conversion rate is 3% for organic traffic and 12% for referrals, you can deduct a couple of key points. First, your search engine results are not performing well, which likely means your keyword strategies need to adjust to match what your audience is actually typing to search for your services. A healthy conversion rate for referrals indicates you’re selecting ideal linking partners with demographics that match yours enough to convert well.

Your website is the single most important factor to conversions. You need to constantly study and tweak the various paths to help visitors down your conversion belt. Be clear about what you want your visitors to do next. Do you want them to subscribe to your newsletter? Buy your latest services or products? Remember that a clear call to action will increase your conversion rate.

#5: Top Pages for New Traffic and Conversions

Throughout your website, there will be a handful of pages that receive the highest levels of incoming traffic. These often include your homepage, but they can also be landing pages your marketing team is using to drive campaigns and promotions. Additionally, popular content pieces that are linked to repeatedly by other sites may also be your top traffic generators.

The pages on your site that get the most traffic are obviously the pages you’ll spend the most amount of time perfecting. If they aren’t converting well for you, the rest doesn’t matter. Your metrics will reveal both the highest trafficked pages, and their respective conversion rates. Always aim to have double digit conversions for this suite of pages.

Over to You

Website analytics isn’t rocket science, but it does require an overall understanding and a commitment to consistent tracking and analyzing. As you make changes and watch how your traffic responds, it will get easier and easier to decipher what a dip or jump in traffic or conversions is actually communicating. Regardless, these metrics are your friends. Get to know them as well as possible, and they will point you to your greatest successes.

How do you use analytics to track your progress? Please share your tips in the comments.

Thanks to Wolfgang Staudt for the image!

How to Sell to Your Email List Without Spamming Them

How to Sell to Your Email List Without Spamming Them

Take a quick look at your spam folder. How many messages lurk out in there? How happy are you that these messages aren’t cluttering up your inbox? Spam is the bane of our online existence, and yet sales via email still haven’t slowed down. In fact, the use of email marketing is increasing at a faster rate than ever before.

What’s the difference between legitimate, useful email marketing and spam? The challenge marketers face is creating a campaign that won’t get them labeled as spam. It’s difficult and a lot of work, but it is possible — and the benefits are huge.

Know the Rules

If you’re going to sell in the online market, you need to know the rules. And like regular laws, different regions of the world have different ways of handling—or even defining—spam.

The challenge to website owners is that a successful online business often has global reach. If your customer is in a region with strong anti-spam laws, then you might be subject to them. Ignorance isn’t an excuse for breaking the law (and it’s certainly no protection when your email address gets blacklisted!), so the best thing you can do for your business is to read up on anti-spam laws before you start your email marketing campaign in earnest.

United States: CAN-SPAM ACT

Enacted in 2003, the CAN-SPAM act attempts to protect users in the United States from unsolicited emails, specifically those whose primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.

While the law doesn’t actually prohibit marketers from sending unsolicited commercial email, it does require emails to have three key elements:

  • Unsubscribe – Visible and functional unsubscribe procedures must be laid out in all emails, and must be acted upon within 10 days.
  • Clear content – Commercial emails must be clearly marked as such. Vague, misleading subject lines and “From” labels are not allowed, and the email must contain the actual physical address of the sender.
  • Responsible sending – Messages can’t be sent via an open relay, nor can they be sent to harvested email addresses.

If you want to read more, the full text of the CAN-SPAM Act is available online.

European Union: Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive

Known shorthand as the “E-Privacy Directive”, this European Union law focuses on data protection as well as privacy. It has a wider scope than the CAN-SPAM act, but the main difference can be boiled down to:

  • Opt-in – Unlike the CAN-SPAM law, the EU law only allows messages to be sent with the recipient’s prior approval. Any business collecting email addresses for marketing purposes needs to get the customer’s permission before anything can be sent.
  • Cookies – Websites need to ask permission before installing cookies on their visitor’s computers, and need to explicitly mention the purpose of those cookies, and whether they’re going to be used to create a mailing list for commercial emails. You might have noticed european websites explicitly stating their cookies policy on their websites in the last year: this is why.

Although this EU law sets a blanket standard for anti-spam laws in the region, the actual implementation is left to each individual country, and has to be taken on a case to case basis.

Canada: Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL)

Also known as Bill C-28, CASL is one of the strictest anti-spam laws in the world. Canadians: tougher than you expected!

It takes the basic elements of the CAN-SPAM law and expands the coverage, restrictions, and penalties to much higher and stricter levels. Notable provisions include:

  • Prior relationship – Any sender must have a prior business or non-business relationship with a recipient before sending over a commercial message. If there is no relationship, the sender needs to send a consent request clearly expressing the purpose of the message, and the recipient needs to actively reply.
  • Expanded coverage – The law covers any and all forms of electronic communication that are used to convey a commercial message, which may include instant messaging, mobile text messaging, and social media.
  • Location specific – Any message sent from or accessed in Canada is subject to CASL, even if it’s a foreign citizen who sent a spam message from within Canadian borders. Senders are expected to check for Canadian accounts in their contact lists and obtain consent prior to sending any messages.

These are a lot of practices to adopt at once, but don’t panic! This doesn’t mean the end of email marketing—in fact, many of these laws have already been out for years, and commercial emails are still a key marketing strategy for many businesses. In general, if your list is only made up of people who have specifically opted in to receive your emails, you’re good to go.

Familiarity with the rules is going to protect your business from litigation and, more importantly, guide you to creating emails that will sell, and not annoy.

Due Diligence

Even if your list is home-grown (and it should be) you have to do your due diligence and scan the list for anything that might get you in trouble:

  • Duplicate email addresses – You definitely need to watch out for this, because let’s face it: who wants to receive the same email twice or thrice in a row? If you’re sending via an email service like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor, you’re covered: they automatically suppress duplicates.
  • Sensitive locations – You might want to remove emails from certain locations (e.g. Canada) or from a particular group (if you’re only selling to certain types of companies, for example) if you have any doubt about their opt-in status.
  • Blocked addresses – Don’t forget to remove blocked or old addresses from previous campaigns. It’ll clean up your list and make sending faster.
  • Opt-outs – Compare your mailing lists to your list of customers who’ve opted out. You need to make sure nobody’s slipped through the cracks.

Let Customers Say No

Email marketing is not a one-way conversation. You want customers to respond, even if the response is to say “thanks, but no thanks.”

Why? Well, compliance aside, you can get some valuable information from them. By tracking the amount of negative feedback, you might be able to learn what works for your market and what doesn’t. With “unresponsive” responses, you’re not even sure if the customer ever saw the email or not. Here’s a secret: at Flippa, every reply to our newsletter goes straight into my inbox — and I make sure to reply to every email.

Make it easy for your customers to opt out by making the instructions simple and prominent. If you want to go above and beyond, you can even add an optional suggestion box: “What about this email didn’t you like?”

Target Your Email Blasts

The most obvious and annoying spam emails are those that have totally nothing to do with the customer. I myself have received emails touting, ah, enhancement creams, even though I’m a woman. Shotgun email blasts are wasteful, expensive (because you probably paid to send those emails!), and bad for your business’ reputation.

If you want to avoid being summarily deleted as spam, you need to make sure you’re sending your emails to the right people. Not only is this responsible email marketing, it’s also the strategy that will get you the most customers.

Think about it: the only people who will buy your lawn mowers are people who have actual lawns. So don’t waste your time selling to people who live in apartments.

Class, Not Crass

All this talk about spam really boils down to one thing: bringing your customers value.

Spam is a symptom of lazy and apathetic marketing. Spammers don’t really care about the individual customer; they just want to make as much money as they can for the least amount of effort.

You, on the other hand, do care. Right? So you make sure your email benefits the customer in some way. An exclusive sale. An innovative new product. An informative newsletter. Stuff that a specific customer will actually see and find interesting, presented in a way that shows you really had them in mind when you put it together—even if it was created from a template.

If everyone sent messages like these, then we wouldn’t have a spam problem at all.

How important is email marketing to your web business? Did any of the above laws surprise you? Which kind of spam irritates you the most? Let’s chat about it in the comments!

Thanks to Gary for the photo!