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Email & Inbound Marketing Blog

Reflections on Disrupted by Dan Lyons from a HubSpot Partner

Posted by Liz Ryan on Tue, Jun 07, 2016 @ 14:06 PM

Although I'm a little late to the game, I feel compelled to right my own reflection to Dan Lyons’ scathing expose of HubSpot, it’s culture and platform. Serendipitously, I finished the book on the plane on my way to Partner Day at HubSpot HQ. In the interest of full disclosure: my company, Relish Tray Media, is a HubSpot Gold Partner and has been a partner and customer since June of 2012.

For those who have not read the book, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, Mr. Lyons largely focuses on his struggles as a laid-off newsman in his mid-fifties trying to reinvent himself and assimilate into the culture of a tech startup. Unfortunately for HubSpot, that is where he lands and seems to direct all of the ire of his mid life-crisis at the company and its young workforce. His contempt for any and every colleague is apparent in his need to point out the age of every character he describes. Maybe it’s a hangover of an investigative reporting style, but it comes off as bitter and unfair. His assessment seems to be anybody under the age of 30 is a meat head bro or entitled bimbo and they couldn’t possibly know more than him in an industry that they worked in longer. Sure he has more work experience, but each co-worker he eschews has more experience in marketing and a better understanding of the platform and the company purpose.  

That said, Mr. Lyons makes some valid points. Similar to Mr. Lyons, albeit a younger age, in my mid-thirties I took a job at “start-up" and can relate to his feeling of ageism when surrounded by empowered 20-somethings. In my case, my core competency - email marketing - was also seen as an antiquated “uncool” channel. The creative and development types were much more interested in the latest social media tools, redesigning the website, and booking bands to play at lunch. This attitude exacerbated my feeling of the not-cool old mom of the group. While every employee was being recruited to model the tee-shirts the company sold, invited to parties, and asked to participate in kickball teams, I was left in a limbo between the well-compensated C-level and hipster workforce. 

My point is I get it. It happens and Dan Lyons is right: it can be hard to age in the current culture of tech and marketing. What he does not appear to accept is his own role in perpetuating his curmudgeon persona and completely dismissing the value of people younger than himself. As a matter of fact, he dismisses the value of marketing in general! Anytime one sends an email, it’s “spam” and the internet has been polluted with marketing and advertisement. (I would love for Dan to explain how the internet would have grown to be the place it is without the ad revenue to develop new technologies - but I digress). I can only imagine his disdain for his co-workers and the HubSpot platform seeping through in his daily interactions. Mr. Lyons claims that everyone had to drink the HubSpot kool-aid, but he seems to be throwing it up on their laps.

This brings me to his criticism of the “cult-like” atmosphere. It is certainly not unique to HubSpot or tech startups. Behemoth technology and 100-year-old financial services companies often try to perpetuate the same loyalty to the “firm” as HubSpot seems to be promoting. Of course, it’s not for everyone; it’s not something for which I particularly have patience. However, it’s important to remember that company culture goes a long way in today’s recruiting environment. Much has been written about increased productivity and employee longevity related to a positive relationship with one’s employer.

The venture capital/IPO/stock structure outlined in the book is scary and worth exploring. However, HubSpot is hardly deserving of his scorn by working within the structure already defined and implemented by many. In that case, Mr. Lyons himself is just as guilty in participating in the process to walk away with $60k from vested stock post HubSpot IPO.

Despite some of the buffoonery and unscrupulous actions allegedly taken by members of the management team as told in the book, I would attest that HubSpot is a solid company, with an amazing product that treats its partners heads and shoulders better than its competitors. Is there something wrong with believing what you’re doing is somehow altruistic? Maybe I’m a sucker for thinking that helping a small or independent business succeed in a competitive world by giving them tools, methodology, and training to be successful in their own market is bigger than money alone. I appreciate that HubSpot has given my small company the ability to hire, partner, and grow. I appreciate that they don’t ask me to sell 6-figure software packages to deserve their support and resources.  

So maybe I drank a little of the kool-aid. So what?

Happy Together: 8 Tips to Marry Your Email Marketing Campaigns and Social Media Accounts

Posted by Dana Hetrick on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 @ 11:02 AM

 
Looking to boost your social media initiatives?  Does your email marketing campaign need a lil’ somethin’?
 
Email and social media are two of the most effective tools utilized by successful marketers, but are often pinned against each other in a battle of which platform is better. The answer is both. In reality, integrating your social media posts into your email marketing campaign can boost your brand identity, extend your reach, and build up your list. In addition, your email campaign can work wonders for getting people to join you on social. Email marketing and social media is a match made in heaven. Here are 8 tips on how you can marry your email campaign to your social media accounts. 


How to Leverage Email to Get More People To Join You on Social

Once you've got 'em on your email list, why do you need 'em on your social? Well, the answer is simple: social media is one of the best ways to extend reach. You may have gotten that particular lead to subscribe, but do they follow you on social? And what about their friends and followers who may find value in your content? Not only does social help you find new prospects, it gives you the opportunity to give your brand an identity. 

 

#1 Social Media Icons ( Sharing Icons Vs. "Follow Me" Icons) 

It may seem simple, but incorporating social media sharing buttons in your emails will help to make your social media presence known with every message you send. Social sharing icons are a direct link from your lead's inbox to their social media account making it easier for them to share your content. While sharing icons make it easy to share your content, adding "follow me" icons to your page will provide your leads with a direct pathway from your email to your social media pages. 

 

#2 Drip Campaigns

A drip campaign is a series of automated messages that are sent throughout time to a lead. While drip campaigns are great for nurturing leads, they are also the perfect opportunity to invite these leads to connect with you on social media. In your next drip campaign, include an email with links to your social pages and invite your leads to connect with you on a more personal level. Typically the integration of a "join us on social" email usually occurs in your email welcome series. 

 

#3 Contests and Offers

Social media contests or offers are a fun and creative way to engage the leads on your email list. Providing some type of incentive to a lead for a follow, a share, or a mention will drive traffic to your social media pages while rewarding your leads for their time and interest in your content. 

#4 Paid Social

Paid social allows you to upload your email list to your social media accounts to target the people who may have subscribed to your list, but do not follow you on social media. This option is available across many different platforms making it one of the quickest and easiest ways to target who should be following you.  

 

How To Leverage Social Media to Get More People to Join Your Email List

The goal of any email marketer is to build their email list, but why use social media to do this? Once again, it's where your prospects are. According to Hubspot, social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing, and approximately 59% of marketers are using social media for six hours or more every day to reach those potential leads. What do these statistics mean? Plain and simple, social media is the place to find your future leads. Not to mention, social media was built for the purpose of networking and provides you with the opportunity to nurture and engage your leads.

So, let's say you have the followers, but are looking to gain new leads: 

 

#5 Adding a Form to Your Facebook

People spend countless hours a day on social media and though they may follow you, they may not have been to your site. Adding an email sign-up form to your Facebook page will help you meet them halfway in inviting them to joining your email list. 

  

#6 Promote Your Newsletter 

Sharing a link to your newsletter or one of your landing pages via your social media accounts is helpful in the same way adding a form to your Facebook page is: It makes it easy for your prospects to learn more about you. Every couple of weeks post a message to remind your followers where they can find out more about you. 

Relish Tray Media Twitter

 

#7 Posting a Content Offer

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be extremely helpful in building your email list and driving traffic to your site. Much like a social media contest, offering incentive for joining your email list rewards your new lead for welcoming you into their inbox. Whether it be a discount or an eBook, posting a message offering something to your potential leads will always help to direct them to a landing page. 

 

#8 Boosting Posts

You can also use your email list in order to target a particular audience in your social media efforts. Connecting your social media accounts to your email list may have a price, but it will save you the time of sifting through prospects to reach your target audience. Facebook in particular makes paid social simple by providing a "boost post" option with every post you create. 

 

BoostPost

 

Now that your email marketing campaign and social accounts have found their happily-ever-after. . . 

A bonus tip! Make sure you utilizing a content calendar to ensure that your social media posts and emails are working cohesively in a timetable that makes sense. Staying organized and following these tips will ensure that your email marketing campaign and social media accounts live in holy matrimony. 

 

Here are some related blogs for more information:

GetResponse: Social Sharing Boosts Email Marketing Results By 158%

9 Ways To Integrate Email and Social Media Marketing

Social Media Demographics

Topics: Email Marketing, Social Media

Reflections on Five Years as an Email Marketing Agency

Posted by Liz Ryan on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 @ 16:07 PM

A little over five years ago, I was working for a small online lead generation company. It was a decent paying gig and they had accommodated my need to work part-time after having my daughter. I had built their email program from the ground up and helped them grow the business with my email marketing expertise. I was content, but missed working with a variety of companies and industries. I also wanted to work with more creative brands where there was an opportunity to develop a deeper strategy and expand my skills. I guess you could say I was bored. I was also was pregnant with my second child and determined to have the flexibility to maximize the time I spent with my family.

So after deep consideration and the urging of friends, families and would-be clients, I struck out on my own and formed "Relish Tray Media". The name came from a family joke in which my husband always had a well stocked relish tray available when we hosted gatherings. I envisioned the disparate elements of email marketing coming together as a perfect campaign – that campaign being a piece of the larger marketing program. We had also named our first daughter "Olive" and I saw her as my inspiration. I wanted to be an example of a strong, independent woman. I wanted to show her you could "have it all", but to do so you had to clear your own path, take control of your life, and be your own champion. I had learned in the 20ish years in the workforce that working for someone else could mean stability, but often did not. It could mean benefits, but mine often had not. It could mean opportunity, but I saw more outside of someone else's company. I wanted my daughters to be proud of me and my business successes, but also see that the choices I made put them first and gave us more time together.  Family

Have I always succeeded in those goals? Probably not. There have been late nights, missed T-ball games, and a brief stint back at full-time work with a client that made me miss much of one Thanksgiving and Christmas (they were too little to remember, right?). I try to always put my family first, but through this journey I've also learned that I have workaholic tendencies, take great pride in helping my clients succeed and sometimes I need to put myself first. It's hard for working moms to say it sometimes but I always refer back to the first rule of survival "Save yourself first". I am no good to my family or my clients if I am drowning. So sometimes I say no, not often but sometimes. 

What started out as a one-woman consultancy in 2009 has grown into a full-service email marketing agency.  We have the good fortune of working with some of the most dynamic companies across the country as both partners and clients. I have been able to grow professionally in not only my first love of email marketing, but as a public speaker, writer and thought leader in the industry. I have learned much about being an entrepreneur, business development officer, and a positive voice in the community. I believe in lifting up others in my industry and that all of our successes reflect positively on one another. 

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my "right hand woman" Kara Anton. She has been an instrumental part of our growth and success over the last couple of years. She is a true professional and one of the hardest working woman I know. She is also the reason I can take a vacation with my family and know everything will still run smoothly. 

So on this five year anniversary of the incorporation of Relish Tray Media, I just want to say thank you to those who have inspired and supported us as a company and me personally. And to all my freelance and entrepreneurial sisters: rock on! 

Topics: Email Marketing, Startup Marketing

Relish Tray Media Company Update: New Office, New Offerings!

Posted by Liz Ryan on Tue, May 06, 2014 @ 07:05 AM

My Happy New Year post is long over due, so let's call this a "Happy Spring" post as the weather in Chicago finally shows some signs of warmth.

Our New Office

Our first bit of news is our new office space! After over a year and a half of working together virtually, Kara and I have decided to move in together. Our new offices in beautiful Jefferson Park is close to the Blue Line, Milwaukee Avenue, and one of the best beer bars in the city. (You'll have to come visit to find out more).

Additionally, in an effort to work more collaboratively and distribute our strengths and knowledge across clients, we have made some changes in the organization. Kara is now our Director of Client Services. She will help to project manage client deliverables while continuing to bring her strategic vision to our clients' programs. While I will remain hands-on with all clients, structural changes give me some opportunities to grow the business in the way that benefits our clients and us as a company. We will be sure to keep you in the loop as the plans come to fruition, but be assured we have plenty in the works!

Our New Offerings & Partnerships

Already in 2014, we've made some changes and created some partnerships that we want to share with all of you. First are our expanded product offerings:

Brand Strategy Session

Brand Strategy Services

We have added a brand strategy practice to our product offering. Colleen Wilson, who many of you have worked with directly or indirectly in creating amazing copy for many of our clients' email and inbound marketing campaigns, is taking the lead by helping our clients create a cohesive and compelling brand story to share with the world. To this end, we will be offering Brand Strategy Sessions. We find that the best marketing campaigns are built around a strong voice in companies that understand their brand message and value proposition. We are excited to expand Colleen's role within the organization.

Email Campaign Delivery Services

We are also expanding our email execution and delivery services. We have added resources and mapped out process that allow us to more broadly provide end-to-end email campaign development and execution.

Email Marketing Partnerships

  • Email deliverability has always been at the core of the value we offer to our clients. We have expanded this service, including our partnership with LeadSpend for data hygiene services. We have seen tremendous results with this partnership and are excited to continue that growth in our business.
  • The key to any email marketing campaign is delivering the most relevant content at the optimal time to an engaged audience. While developing campaign strategy, optimizing content and defining audiences are our strengths, we are always trying to take it to the next level. Our partnership with Simple Relevance lets us do that. Through their technology, we're able to help our clients better target and optimize delivery times to significantly increase open rates and response.

Through a number of carefully selected partnerships and integrated campaign efforts, we have shown success in helping our clients with their list growth efforts.

We are excited about the changes and growth of our company. And, we are eternally grateful to our clients for giving us the opportunity to do the work that we love. In 2014 as we take on new challenges and opportunities, we will continue to focus on our core strengths: email marketing, inbound marketing and marketing automation. We will continue to grow in both products and partnerships that center around these core programs.

 

See how we can help you nurture
leads into contacts and grow
your business.

Download our Email Marketing
Capabilities deck now!

Email Marketing Capabilities Deck Download

 

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Email Marketing, News & Updates

5 Common Marketing Automation Pitfalls to Avoid

Posted by Liz Ryan on Tue, Mar 25, 2014 @ 07:03 AM

There is a phrase that seems to always make it into a conversation about marketing automation, "set it and forget it.” Some say that's the beauty of automation; it frees up marketers’ time to concentrate on other initiatives. Some say that's the major pitfall of automated programs; the tasks, once considered important, are no longer monitored, optimized, or updated – which can be a big miss.

As with everything, there’s some middle ground. I love the "set it and don't worry about it every single day" aspect. I love setting up automated reporting to keep an eye on specific campaigns. I love creating and updating dynamic content that is automatically folded into my existing automations. I love it when a birthday campaign that was put in place six months ago gets a reply that it made someone’s day. I love when a salesperson let's me know that the drip campaign their prospect has been receiving over the past few months paid off in a great sale. I love everything about marketing automation… well, almost everything.

Automated Marketing


When Marketing Automation Goes Wrong

While marketing automation streamlines repetitive tasks in order to increase efficiency and reduce human error, programs can be set up incorrectly – therein lies the problem. The tool or platform helps ensure that tasks are executed, optimized, and measured. However, if a process is inadequately structured or broken, then the program will continue automating the faulty process. It all boils down to this: garbage in, garbage out. When tasks are not monitored or done poorly, the negative aspects of marketing automation can “rear their ugly heads.” You need an effective platform and someone who knows what they are doing to successfully implement these tasks and avoid these common marketing automation pitfalls:


1) Inadequate Tools

A number of software companies will tout their automation program capabilities, but in reality, they may have limited functionality. Simply adding blind auto-responders, without utilizing intelligent data, doesn't cut it. In addition, many of their tools can be complicated with steep learning curves and require a dedicated software expert to navigate.

In order to avoid selecting the wrong tool, work with a professional to clearly outline your business requirements, resources, and goals. A marketing automation consultant that is familiar with a variety of platforms can help you navigate the RFP process and identify a vendor to meet specific needs. Some vendors include HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo, Eloqua, Act-On, and Silverpop, to name a few. If you would like to see a marketing automation RFP sample, download HubSpot’s guide here: Free Guide to Marketing Automation RFPs.

2) Inappropriate Setup

After selecting a solutions provider, watch out for mistakes that occur from inappropriately configured automations. Have you ever set up an automated process and, all of a sudden, your entire contact list receives an email for some unrelated content? Yes, it happens. When nurturing leads, the one huge pitfall to avoid is sending out an inappropriate email that provokes unsubscribes or general customer annoyance. Accidentally triggering actions that result in sending the wrong content could set your lead nurturing initiatives back. Make sure specific sales processes and the criteria for each task are thoroughly mapped out before putting automations into effect.

3) Inefficient Lead Scoring

Just as important as knowing how to spend your time, is where to spend it. One aspect of marketing automation that goes by the wayside for many is lead scoring. By tracking your leads’ online activity and engagement with products, you can decipher how likely they are to retain an interest in what you have to offer. You can also decide how interested you are in them. After taking all of this into account, high-ranking prospects are then funneled into a drip campaign for lead nurturing. An ineffective lead scoring model will fail to deliver high-quality leads, which could create a rift between the marketing and sales departments. Understanding your customers and sales cycle is imperative to scoring leads with accuracy.

4) Ineffective Programs

The point of traffic is to garner qualified leads and drive conversion. However, some programs will drive visits or click-throughs that do not convert into sales, especially when those automations are left unchecked. The key point is to make sure that your marketing automation programs achieve real goals, not just metrics. Failure to define success, by setting SMART goals and measuring continuously, will leave a campaign aimless. Don’t use automation in a vacuum - think about its role in the larger online marketing strategy and how to effectively reach customers in a personalized way. Marketing automation is a tool that requires clear instructions and guidance in order to be effective.

5) Irrelevant Messaging

Inappropriately targeted communications will result in ineffective messaging and wasted resources. Also, irrelevant messaging can lead to irritated and disengaged contacts. Marketing automation is only successful if you understand your target audiences and send relevant content that carries them through the sales funnel. To accomplish this, it is necessary to clarify your market segments, develop buyer personas, and grab relevant information in lead capture forms. Recognize that all your customers are at different points in the sales cycle. If content is tailored and personalized to meet their needs, they’re more likely to convert. Dedicate time to deeply understanding your audience and structuring appropriate workflows for each lifecycle stage - it will pay off!

Automated Marketing Communication


Where Do You Go from Here?

Before inquiring further into automation programs for your organization, it is important to remember that this type of tool offers promises and pitfalls. Find a qualified consultant to help streamline communications and nurture your customer relationships. Don’t endure the do-it-yourself headaches. Instead, seek out an organization that will provide the most well-rounded program to effectively target leads and continue tending to them. If you’re interested in how a marketing automation program can help your business grow, contact us today.

 

See how we can help you nurture
leads into contacts and grow
your business.

Download our Email Marketing
Capabilities deck now!

Email Marketing Capabilities Deck Download

 

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Email Marketing, Marketing Automation, Lead Scoring

Better Online Marketing Performance Starts with a Better Website

Posted by Kara Anton on Tue, Apr 16, 2013 @ 07:04 AM

More often than not, people approach me wanting better search engine rankings, more online traffic or leads, and improved conversion rates. Of course, who doesn’t? Unfortunately, most clients expect immediate, magical results and believe that throwing dollars at various platforms and/or services will fix their problems. Unfortunately, this is not true.

You can’t fix a severed artery with a band-aid. If your company’s online marketing performance is stagnant or struggling, investing in the latest marketing methodologies will not spur instant business. Typically, the problem requiring attention is much deeper than developing social profiles or writing blog posts. The truth is that better online performance starts with a better website.

Online Marketing Performance - Website DesignWhether you’re a large or small company and you have a website, I’m sure you’ve spent time contemplating how to attract more prospects and convert more leads or sales. Some will say, “push content,” “engage on social,” “optimize for search,” ... yada yada. All these online tools, channels, and marketing methods are great, but only to a certain point. In order to effectively and efficiently utilize your resources, you should re-evaluate your website before venturing and investing into the online marketing world.

You can always increase visits and re-engage contacts through some on-page SEO edits, content-centered campaigns, email blasts, and social posts. But if your website isn't optimized, whose going to click or, more importantly, convert? There is no point in expending time and money pushing content and campaigns to drive traffic to your website if people are just going to bounce back, leave disinterested (or worse confused), and ultimately not engage.

It's More Than Pretty Design

Don’t be mistaken, you should update a crappy website design, but pretty design alone won't help you hit your performance benchmarks. You’ll expend resources optimizing and then, over time, slowly duplicate effort as you continually re-work your previous improvements. Moreover, your main web pages, landing pages, blog content, etc. may be gaining search engine traction and helping you rank, but if your identity is not solidified then are you truly attracting qualified leads in your target segments or ranking for the most appropriate, optimal, and advantageous keyword phrases?

You need to consider three things when assessing and contemplating a website "facelift" or full redesign in order to effectively improve your online marketing performance, generate qualified traffic, and increase conversions.

1. Brand Identity & Design

At the core of every marketing strategy, campaign, or initiative, is your company’s core identity – the who, what, and why.

  • Who are you?
  • What products or services do you offer?
  • Why should someone buy from or work with you over your competitors?

This brand identity (persona, voice, and style) needs to be clearly communicated through all channels, especially on your website. Without a solid grasp of your company’s value proposition, any marketing initiative is wasting resources because you’ll be loosing more people at each touch point in the conversion process. However, the hardest, most time-consuming, and mind-numbing task is trying to understand and articulate who you are and who you want to be. It’s difficult enough on a personal level – people spend years, even lifetimes, trying to find themselves. It’s never a joyous process, particularly because time and energy is diverted away from daily business operations. Nonetheless, reflect on your identity and business goals and determine whether or not your brand aligns with who you want to be, how you want to be perceived, and who you're trying to target - all of this needs to be reflected throughout your website.

2. User-Centered Design

Once you've assessed and possibly clarified your brand (with target market/segments in mind), you should look at your current web analytics to see the opportunity areas for improvement. If you have a Google Analytics account, utilize the Visitors Flow and In-Page Analytics tools - you can visually see where traffic is flowing, what your bounce rates are per page, etc.

Depending on your company and services, your website may not have to be absolutely gorgeous or reflect the latest and hippest online design trends. However, you do need to clearly articulate the business and it’s offerings in an easily accessible and navigable website. It all comes down to user experience. In a quick glance (3-5 seconds), your customers should clearly understand who you are, what you are offering, and the benefits of your offering.

Great web design is NOT only about aesthetics. It’s about attracting visitors, funneling them to appropriate and relevant information/products, and capturing them for sales and lead nurturing. Functionality and flow should be the primary concern. Notwithstanding, the ideal combo is clear identity, easy functionality, and great design.

3. SEO-Centric Design

Before jumping into your site structure and redesign, the next suggested step would be to do or hire someone to execute keyword research and formulate a keyword strategy. Keyword research not only acts as a helpful market research tool, but will set the stage for successful search engine optimization (SEO). It closely shines light onto the types of terms people relate with specific topics, what terms are trending, how many people are searching those specific terms, and the competitiveness of particular key phrases. SEO will be a lot easier if the site structure compliments, rather than inhibits, the keyword strategy and on-page optimization. Otherwise, you’ll have to retrace your steps – change URLs, page titles, meta-data, and content! Don't let SEO be an afterthought.

Take Time and Invest in the Process

Re-evaluate your current brand identity and user experience, invest in keyword research, and then start optimizing your site for enhanced online marketing performance. If you are starting a new business or considering a website redesign, make sure that your web designer/team incorporates (or collaborates with someone who incorporates) these tasks during the planning and building process. Maximize your online effectiveness by turning your website into a lead/revenue generating machine from the get-go. Then, leverage inbound marketing methods to increase traffic, attract targeted prospects, and convert leads. Remember, it all starts with a better website.

 

Optimal website design is crucial, but don't forget the important task of evaluating your current online performance. Learn how well you're doing now and get suggestions for improvement.

Request a Free Online Marketing Assessment

Get Your Free Assessment!

 

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Website Design

SEO & Sitelinks: How to Get Google Subheadings in Search Results

Posted by Kara Anton on Thu, Jan 10, 2013 @ 06:01 AM

By Kara Anton, Managing Consultant

The goal of this tutorial is to make your website's search engine result look like this:

Google Search Result with Sitelinks

Note: #1 points to your main URL (ex: www.relishtraymedia.com) and #2 points to the important internal links from your site (ex: www.relishtraymedia.com/blog), otherwise known as the sitelinks

Sitelinks & Why You Want ‘Em!

The tiny subheadings (aka internal links) that are shown below a website’s main URL in Google's organic search results are called SitelinksThese links serve as shortcuts to the most important pages of your site; they help prospective visitors easily find the information they need and navigate your site in a timely manner. Sitelinks not only provide insight into your site’s structure and bring information and options up front to users, but they also expand your search engine real estate and click-through rates. Here are some more key benefits:

  • Higher link visibility, which leads to more traffic

  • Decrease in bounce rates, since users can zero in on specific pages

  • Push competitor sites further down the page

While other results are shifted below, each of your sitelinks showcases more meta description text (about 48 characters of bonus advertising!).

What You’ll Need to Set Up

First of all, you’ll need to sign up for a Webmaster Tools account. While you’re at it, I recommend setting up a Google Analytics and Google Adwords account as well. Even if you’re already using another SEO/keywords service, these tools are free, so take advantage of them as backup analytics sources.

How You Get Sitelinks!

First you’re going to need a Sitemap (.XML). If you already have a sitemap for your website, you can usually find it by typing http://yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml in your browser. If you don’t have one, you can create a sitemap manually or by using third-party tools. A simple solution is to use this XML generator: http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/. Follow the instructions on the site to create your map.

As an example, here's a portion of Relish Tray Media's sitemap: 

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset
      xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"
      xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
      xsi:schemaLocation="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9
            http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9/sitemap.xsd">
<!-- created with Free Online Sitemap Generator www.xml-sitemaps.com -->
<url>
  <loc>http://www.relishtraymedia.com/</loc>
  <changefreq>weekly</changefreq>
  <priority>1.00</priority>
</url>
<url>
  <loc>http://www.relishtraymedia.com/blog/</loc>
  <changefreq>weekly</changefreq>
  <priority>0.80</priority>
</url>

Also, if you do not comprehend the frequency, priority, or modification settings, here are some Sitemap tag definitions.

Sitemap Tag Definitions 

Once your sitemap is complete and downloaded from XML-Sitemaps.com, upload the sitemap.xml file to your site (in the FTP or your site’s file manager). By now, you should be able to type http://www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml in your browser and see the sitemap you just created (note: there may be a few additions to the URL, if your file is hosted in a CMS portal or FTP subfolder). Now, follow these easy, Google instructions for submitting your sitemap into Webmaster Tools: http://bit.ly/IBr8Lo. To quickly summarize, go to Webmaster Tools and click Optimization > Sitemaps. In the upper right corner, click "Add/Test Sitemap," and enter the sitemap URL, like this:

Add Test Sitemap Webmaster

Note: Test the Sitemap before submitting it.

Go Forth & Conquer … but Read This First

Here’s a couple things you should know: As of now, Google automatically generates your sitelinks using an algorithm – you do not have direct control over what links appear below your main URL. However, you can demote sitelinks in your Webmaster Tools account if you don’t feel a specific URL is a good "shortcut" candidate. For demoting a link, go to Webmaster Tools > Configuration > Sitelinks and enter the URL in the second text box.

Demote Sitelink Webmaster

Again, there's no guarantee that your sitemap will generate search engine sitelinks. You need to make sure that your "site's internal links,...use anchor text and alt text that's informative, compact, and avoids repetition” (Google). Many theorize that sitelinks are generated from a combination of website authority (i.e. inbound links), traffic, and branded keywords. At the very least, make sure that your site’s link structure is clean and sensible. Also, take time to mark up the contents of your pages to help Google decide which internal links to showcase.

Here are some other helpful SEO/Webmaster tips:

  • Index your current webpages, if you haven't already, here

  • Submit any new webpages for indexing here

 

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Search Engine Optimization

Email Marketing for Tech Startups

Posted by Liz Ryan on Mon, Dec 10, 2012 @ 23:12 PM

By Liz Ryan

I have been lucky enough to work with some innovative companies in my career and although there are rules and best practices that apply to email marketing across all verticals and industries, it has recently occurred to me that tech startups have specific needs in regard to email marketing.

Selecting an email service provider

For startups, more than any other type of business, the temptation is to go with the least expensive email service provider (ESP). This can be dangerous if you haven’t fully assessed your needs and goals as well as the capabilities of the ESP with which you’re engaging. It’s important to forecast the functionality you will need as the company grows and to select the right vendor for your future self, not just your present self. The time and cost of changing ESPs not only takes away from your core business activities, but can be exponential compared to what it would have taken if the original selection of a vendor had been well thought out and planned.

Laying out your strategy

Email Marketing

Determine the goals of your email marketing program within the scope of your overall marketing plan, and map out how you plan to meet those goals. You should align your resources and priorities with the strategy. Do not plan your email marketing strategy based on the existing resources, but hire, outsource, and sub-contract the resources needed to implement your plan. If this is done right, with triggered and lifecycle messaging in place, much of those resources will be a temporary and worthwhile investment in the short term.

Do not skimp on your creative

There are plenty of places to be cost conscious when it comes to startup finances, but when it comes to marketing, don’t underestimate the value of high quality creative. Branding aside, the use of creative in messaging can open the door when your brand is not yet recognized.  Especially in email marketing, amateurish looking content can fail to hold the attention of the recipient and be passed over or, worse, quickly dismissed as spam. Take the time and expense that’s required to create well crafted email marketing campaigns and you will see the benefit in response and marketing subscriber growth.

Focus on data

Data should be at the core of all strategy and campaigns. This means collecting the right data from the beginning and defining and setting up dashboards that will report on the data. The tech team should work with a point person from every team within the organization to determine what data needs to be available in what format to make their team efficient and nimble. This is no less true with marketing. Email marketing is a data-driven channel with easily at tributable ROI. Tests, successes and failures are quickly identified and can immediately impact future campaigns through optimization based on previous results. Accessibility and ease of use of the data is just as important as how it is stored and secured. Invest in business intelligence (BI) tools and reporting infrastructure so marketing can concentrate on its core functions and not waste time chasing down the answers to data questions.

From startup to success

The name of the game in the startup world is making the best use of limited resources and proving to investors that you are financially viable. Email marketing is a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal and, when used correctly and efficiently, it can be one of the biggest contributors to your success. Email can welcome new customers, foster loyalty, and inform your audience of new products and services. Take the time to develop your program from the beginning and the foundation will continue to serve the company well beyond the startup phase.

 

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Topics: Email Marketing, Email Service Provider, Startup Marketing

The Never-Ending Quest to Find the Perfect Email Service Provider

Posted by Liz Ryan on Mon, Jul 16, 2012 @ 22:07 PM

By Liz Ryan

As originally published on eM+C

One of the most common questions email marketing consultants get is "What's the best email service provider?" My diplomatic answer is, usually, "It depends on your needs." In reality, all providers have their pros and cons. Whether it's functionality, usability, deliverability or price, they all have their weaknesses. Fortunately, with careful consideration you can find the provider that best suits your company. 

B-to-B Versus B-to-C

B-to-B businesses can have very different needs than their B-to-C counterparts. For example, do you need the ability to interface with a CRM system or send emails on behalf of a salesperson? Be sure the functionality exists or is easy to implement before committing to a service.

Cost Structure: List Size Versus Volume

ESPs which focus on small businesses will charge by list size. Enterprise-level services will generally charge on a CPM (cost per thousand) basis for emails sent in addition to set-up costs, professional service expenses and other functionality add-on costs. Assume extra functionality will add incremental costs as well. Time, money and headaches will be avoided if you fully assess the services, volume and functionality you'll need ahead of time and work the information acquired into your selection and initial contract negotiations.

Type of Content

Are you sending simple e-newsletters with basic personalization features or complicated, dynamic content? Do you need a copy and paste HTML solution or templates? ESPs vary widely on the templates they provide and the functionality of the HTML editor. Evaluate your needs and the functionality carefully.

In-House Resources

Do you need a full-service provider who will do everything from designing the emails to managing your data to sending the emails? Or do you need a simple solution into which you load your HTML and send it yourself? Do you have an experienced designer and HTML programmer or will you depend on your ESP for those services?

Reporting

Most ESPs include basic reporting — deliverability, clickthrough, bounce and open information. Consider your requirements for email reporting, report formats and integration with your web analytics provider when evaluating if an ESP's reporting functionality will meet your needs.

Budget

Contrary to what some people think, sending email isn't free. Although it's still the most cost-effective marketing channel online, email costs money. Adding bells and whistles costs even more. Do a full assessment of your needs and how much volume you intend to send to get a realistic view of what your program should cost and what extra services you'll use. Working with a consultant who can help you determine integration points and where extra money up front will save or make you money in the long run can be worth the initial cost as well.

Customer Service

All ESPs claim to have excellent customer service; you won't know the truth until after contracts are signed and you're stuck with a question you can't find the answer to. Do some investigation by contacting current customers and a few user groups to find out how responsive customer service is after the onboarding process is over. Also, push for an increased level of customer service during contract negotiations.

Unfriendly UI

There's no standard ESP user interface (UI) and some companies are more intuitive than others. Often companies select an ESP based on what the email marketing manager has used before. Sometimes when everything else is equal, this can be a good enough reason. However, you need to weigh functionality and other factors. If a tough UI will make it harder and take more time to send email, that may be a big enough reason to eliminate an ESP from consideration. Just be sure to fully consider the learning curve versus actual usability.

Continue to Expect Perfection for Your Business

In a world of agile development and the Wild West of internet entrepreneurship, companies are launched with a core competency and add enhancements later on. Unfortunately, many of those enhancements are "mission critical" for e-commerce companies. I predict that this year many ESPs will get there; as I've seen many make great strides through acquisitions and putting resources in systems development and adding human resources. I challenge ESPs to increase their service and functionality and to put the burden back on themselves. Take the burden off their customers so they can continue to focus on their core businesses. I believe that this is the year technology catches up with the industry.

 

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Topics: Email Marketing, Email Service Provider

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