This being my 500th post, it feels like a bit of a milestone, and I thought I'd write about something that is seldom discussed: SEO and email marketing, or, more specifically, how email marketing can be helpful to your SEO efforts. Ideally, your efforts to promote your website should not be limited to SEO alone. Digital marketing is a complex affair, and its various aspects can work effectively together to bring targeted traffic and conversions. Email marketing is a big subject, but I will only talk here about how email marketing can assist your SEO efforts.
As you know, the two pillars of successful SEO are killer content and quality backlinks. The ultimate point of SEO is goal conversion. How can email marketing help?
Content. Creating content is hard work. As it is created, we want to get the most mileage out of it. Newbies at web marketing often make the mistake of reusing the same content on the Web, for example, by putting the very same article on their primary website and then also on blogs and in article directories, for the benefit of backlinks. But in the eyes of search engines such “reprints” merely create duplicate content, and this tends to hurt your site’s SEO and also reduces the value of those backlinks. However, although this may change in the future, at present search engines don’t read or index email messages. If you have a mailing list, you can create a newsletter and circulate it to your subscribers by email and also publish it on your site without any worries about content duplication. That’s double mileage out of the same content.
Backlinks. These are the backbone of SEO. One of the challenges in link building is getting potential readers to know that you have got fresh fantastic content up there. Marketers are increasingly aware that social network promotion can be helpful in this department, but they sometimes forget that good old email works just as well! Use your email newsletter to let your subscribers know you have updated your site; include links to the new pages with brief descriptions. This will drive interested traffic to those pages, hopefully winning you backlinks if people see value in your content. Linking miracles can happen if your email newsletter goes viral via forwarding.
Goal conversion. Especially if your product or service has a long, complex sales cycle, you should not rely on SEO alone to retain your prospects. Sometimes potential customers spend whole months doing due diligence before they commit to buying this or that solution. They often start with informational, not commerce-oriented search queries. People may first find your site through such a query, but then they may easily forget the query they used and the fact that they bookmarked your URL. However, if you get them to subscribe to your newsletter, you can keep building trust and branding through the entire length of the sales cycle. In this scenario email marketing does not necessarily improve your SEO as such, but it helps it achieve its goal.
So here are some tips that will help you develop email marketing intelligently in conjunction with your SEO:
• Use a legitimate mailing list. Absolutely do not send spam. Spam is illegal in some parts of the world. In the US it is illegal under the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. Never buy or rent mailing lists even if they are touted as "opt-in." A purchased email list is never opt-in; it is always a spam list. If you send spam, you will be reported, blocked by ISPs, harassed by SpamCop, blacklisted. Not only your email address but your whole domain may find itself on blacklists and blocklists, which can' be good for your SEO either. If you are on a shared IP address, other users will suffer too. So how do you build a genuine list?
• Create a signup center on your site, visible from all pages. You can also use other techniques to get people to sign up. For example, take them to the signup page when they click on "Lean more" information links. Or create pop-ups inviting them to sign-up once they have posted a blog comment. Always let them know that you won't share their information (and be true to your promise).
• The most reliable form of email subscription is "verified opt-in" or "double opt-in." People opt-in by signing up and are then invited to validate their subscription by following a link in the confirmation email sent to them. This has been show to significantly reduce the number of spam complaints. (Yes, people can report your messages as spam even if they have properly subscribed!)
• Provide a lot of terrific content on your site before expecting visitors to sign up. Use nice charts and graphs a lot in your information: many readers perceive them as signs of expertise.
• Always include your company’s physical address in each email message. (This is required by the CAN-SPAM Act.)
• Always include an easy unsubscribe option, preferably via a live link. (This also honors the CAN-SPAM Act).
• Do not bombard your subscribers with messages that are pure marketing. Create a genuine and informative newsletter. At least 95% or so of each message should consist of free, high quality, valuable information. Giving away free value is the way of modern digital marketing, and falling away from it puts you at a significant disadvantage.
• Invest in a sophisticated email marketing program that enables you to create beautiful HTML messages in a WYSWYG ("what you see is what you get") editor. You can then reuse the HTML on your site. Alternatively, such software often has the ability to "fetch" a page of your site from a URL and use it as the body of your message.
• Sequence and automate your email marketing campaigns with autoresponders. Most email marketing software today supports schedulers and event-triggered autoresponders. This is a big subject that can be researched independently.
• Track delivery and open rates. The best email marketing applications today have this ability. You will know how many of your messages bounced, how many ended up in a junk folder, how many made it into the inbox, how many were opened, and how many had the links in them followed to your website.
• Invest in a good SMTP (email delivery) service, don't just send via your regular email provider. Such a service can provide you with a dedicated email server and IP, scale and monitor your email campaigns, authenticate your emails and perform reputation management for you, including dealing with spam reports, ISP blocks and blacklistings (they call this black list resolution). (PM me if you like, I used to work in email delivery, know quite a bit about this stuff and can give you more tips.)
• Avoid the language of spam in your messages, so as not to trigger spam filters. Such words as "price," "discount," "save" and even "free" can easily get your message blocked. Don't try to be clever and write "fr3e" or "d1$c0unt" -- it will only make things worse.
• Keep your mailing list clean; automate the deletion of bouncing addresses (usually your email marketing software can easily process such bounces). A high bounce rate is a sign of spam to the ISPs.
• Test, analyze and adjust your campaigns to maximize their efficiency. Look into A/B split testing and multivariate testing.
• Include a prominent FTAF ("forward to a friend") link.
• Include a link to the Web version of your newsletter within the email version: that way, when a plagiarist steals your newsletter and puts it on a website, which sometimes happens, the plagiarized piece will is still linking to your site and possibly driving some traffic to you.
Of course, there is a lot more to email marketing, but these are the basics that you need to know.