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Online Marketing, SEO, and Website Design are constantly changing. In our SEO Blog, we will keep you up to date on the latest information you need to stay ahead of your competition.

ADA Compliance For Websites – An Overview

I have received numerous inquiries about the new WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) that went into effect on June 5, 2018.   The specific questions are about lawsuits that are being filed against those that have websites that have serious accessibility problems for those with visual and sensory challenges.   All federal institutions’ websites must meet AA compliance on all items in WCAG 2.0 by January of 2018. The general consensus right now is that any business considered a “public accommodation” should have an ADA compliant web presence.  “Public Accommodation” is open to interpretation, but generally this refers to businesses that deal directly with consumers, (ie. retail, restaurants) or any business the general public should be able to access information about easily.

Full compliance with the  all of the 61 guidelines laid out in WCAG 2.0 to either AA or AAA level.   This is a daunting task and can require significant expense that is beyond the scope of what most small to medium sized businesses can afford.  The vast majority of websites that have been built in the last 2 to 3 years probably comply with most of the rules, and frankly, most of the websites on the internet are not in full compliance with the all 61 guidelines.  The major guidelines that can be difficult to comply with are listed below (Note:  this is not a exhaustive list of guidelines, just some of the more common sticking points):

  1. Your site must be fully navigable via keyboard only. This usually includes things like skip navigation buttons and can involve manually setting a tabindex everywhere.
  2. Your site should be navigable with screen reader software.
  3. Text must meet a minimum contrast ratio against the background, which can significantly impact your design.
  4. Your site must accommodate text scaling up to 200% without causing horizontal scrolling or content-breaking layout problems.

The resources below are easy to use and can help you to understand how your website can become compliant.  Please be aware that compliance with the scans and information received from these resources will NOT guarantee that you cannot be sued for non-compliance, but they provide a good start.  The only way to ensure compliance with screen reader software and key board navigation is manual testing, which can be extremely expensive and time consuming, but is necessary the majority of the time to ensure full compliance with the applicable laws.

  1. WAVE is a good scan but can produce a lot of false positives, particularly for contrast ratio issues and picking up code like Google Tag Manager as positives.
  2. Lighthouse can help generate a report on potential issues.

As a practical matter, it is important to let those that visit your site know that you are working to comply with ADA requirements, and that you are completing all that you can do given your time and financial resources.   We have used the follow information page on a number of websites to explain our position on the matter.  We have created a footer link entitled “ADA Compliance”   We have set this page to “do not index” and link to an interior page that has the following message:

(Name of your Business Here) is committed to making its website usable by all people by meeting or exceeding the requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA (WCAG 2.0 AA).  We have conducted an accessibility review of this website and has remediated any issues identified during that review.

Please be aware that our efforts are ongoing as we incorporate the relevant improvements to meet WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines over time. If you have specific questions or concerns about the accessibility of this site or need assistance in using the processes found within this site, please contact us through our website contact form. If you do encounter an accessibility issue, please be sure to specify the page of our site and we will make all reasonable efforts to make that page accessible.

ADA Compliance is not only about mitigating risks of complicated and expensive litigation for your business, but also about creating solid communication with those that have challenges in accessing your business information.  Look at this as an opportunity to be a leader in a market that is currently underserved instead of just another government regulation designed to complicate your business.  Please also remember that these guidelines are complex and sometimes subject to interpretation, (Full Disclaimer: there is never a guarantee that you cannot be sued for non compliance) and while most websites do not currently comply with the full regulations, a good faith effort should be made by every website owner to comply with as many guidelines as possible.

Eric Van Cleave is Co-CEO and Digital Director for Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa California Digital Marketing Agency Specializing in SEO and Paid Marketing Management.

Is Direct Traffic Really Direct?

Google Analytics is the most common analytics platform out there. Because of this, GA, as it is affectionately known by those familiar with it, has had a leading role in identifying the types of traffic to a website and how they are measured. Google Analytics shows 5 primary types of channels of traffic: Direct, Social, Organic, Paid, and Referral. There can be other channels present (ie. email) if tracking has been established for these channels.

To reach the traffic report broken down by medium, you should follow this path in your Google Analytics account: Home>Acquisition>All Traffic>Channels. Google defines   Direct traffic as URLs that people either type in directly or reach via their browser bookmarks. GA relies on a code that is usually placed in the header of your website which tracks the referring site user clicked on to reach the site.Direct Traffic

We saw the amounts of Direct traffic increase dramatically in 2012/2013 as the use of mobile browsers and browser privacy settings became more prevalent. The reason for this is that GA began to place all the traffic for which the source could not be recognized under the “Direct” channel. The numbers on direct traffic for most of our clients are continuing to grow because:

  • The increased use of privacy and security plugins in users’ browsers, thus more traffic is stripped from the organic and referral channels to be placed in the Direct channel.
  • Tablet and mobile devices (ie. Safari in iOs6 and above) are not reporting the traffic source, especially for organic traffic, making mobile traffic difficult to track.  Studies show that iOs, despite losing significant market share to Android, still represents approximately 30% of the mobile browsers currently in service.
  • The current popularity of QR codes has added to direct traffic because QR scans show up in GA as Direct traffic.

How do you minimize this trend? Unfortunately, only partial solutions are currently available. Email marketing, social media posts, and paid campaigns can be tagged using Google Tag Manager and UTM codes, and Google Paid campaigns can easily be added to GA by following the path here: Admin>+create property>Google Ads Linking.

 Google Analytics will continue to create a challenge in identifying and reading between the lines to identify direct traffic v. organic traffic v. mobile traffic from the sources outlined here. Use common sense and follow the trend of direct traffic v. mobile traffic overview (path in GA Audience>Mobile>Overview) v. mobile traffic by device (path in GA Audience>Mobile>Devices) to see if the trends match. Over time, patterns will develop that will help to fully outline the success of organic placement in mobile SERP.

Eric Van Cleave is Co-CEO and Digital Director for Zenergy Works, a Santa Rosa, California Online Marketing and SEO firm.

SEO Content – Are You Speaking with Your “Brand Voice?”

SEOs and Copywriters struggle to create content that is both SEO-friendly and in proper brand voice. If you find that perfect balance, you won’t only find more organic SEO traffic, you’ll also encourage conversion.

We all know that SEO copy is designed to be perfect for Google RankBrain, not human beings. Effective website copy speaks to your audience in a way that attracts them to your business and converts them into customers. Ideally, website content would be attractive to both your website visitors and Google’s algorithms. In recent years, Google has clearly become less concerned with keyword density and more concerned with a strong User Experience, so the two disciplines are encouraged to come together. How can we make that happen?

SEO Content - Are You Speaking with Your “Brand Voice?”

Here are some questions that will help you to define the message that will make sense for your audience.

1. What is your USP (unique selling proposition)?

Define what it is that makes you stand out from your competition. Your competition has similar products, but you want to avoid making your offerings a commodity, which makes sales a profit-killing race to the lowest price. What special skill, value, expertise, or premium do you offer?

2. Who is your ideal customer? Create an in-depth profile.

The “big picture” answer is a start. I was speaking to an auto repair client the other day and their response was, “automobile owners who need maintenance or repair on their vehicles.” This is clearly true but doesn’t go nearly deep enough. I encouraged the client to answer the following:

1. What make of automobile do they drive?
2. What are their typical service and repair problems?
3. What do they think about their automobiles? Love affair or just transportation?
4. What are they like?
5. What do you and your team do to solve their problems?

The more you know about your target audience, the easier it will be to figure out what they want and how to make them feel like you are talking directly to them. Website content should be written like a one-on-one conversation, not a broadcast.

3. What defines conversion when it comes to your website?

Is your goal to sell products, encourage a telephone call or personal visit to your store or office, or would you like each visitor to see specific pages of content on your website? Whatever the goal, it is not enough to simply put a cleverly-designed call to action button on the page. Your content must convince a website visitor that the action you want them to take is a relatively painless and logical next step if they are interested in the goods and services that you offer.

4. Are your products or services the solution to a problem?

You must emphasize the benefits of your goods and services, not the features. For an auto repair shop, the features are quality repairs made by expert auto technicians. The benefits may be saving money in the long run or getting better resale value by demonstrating that your vehicle has been properly maintained.

To help with this, you can make a list of the most common questions asked by your past clients. How can you demonstrate that you will make their lives a little easier and their experience working with you as enjoyable as possible?

5. What voice appeals to your target audience?

If your business is successful, your voice and your brand culture come through to customers you meet in person and speak to via telephone. This same voice should apply to your website content. In the long run, if your website content is not consistent with your culture, your customers and potential customers will realize it and begin to mistrust you a bit for misrepresenting yourself in the first conversation that you had with them.

Conclusion: At face value, it seems simple to create effective SEO content in brand voice, but it requires a great deal of preparation and a solid idea of how your company and its services are perceived in the marketplace. It is important to have all content reviewed carefully by a team member who has a solid grasp on your “brand voice” to keep content and the call to action consistent with how you run your business.

The investment of time and effort will be large, but you will undoubtedly find your results will be much better.

Eric Van Cleave is Co-CEO of Zenergy Works, a Santa Rosa, California-based SEO and Online Marketing Firm.

Website Traffic Dropping? Here Is Where to Look For Answers

Is Google Analytics full of bad news?  Is your online branding campaign in crisis due to declining traffic?   Don’t panic, here are some things to look for when identifying potential issues that may be negatively affecting your SEO or Website traffic.

 

  1. Look In Google Analytics.  Compare year over year and current period versus 6 months ago to identify whether this is a short term trend.   Look for traffic spikes upward that may have skewed results in the past comparison times.   Seasonality can be a factor, as well as Holiday schedules.  Look in Google Analytics under Acquisition>All Traffic>Channels to identify the exact traffic source that is declining.  If it is organic traffic that is declining, look at Behavior>Site Content>Landing Pages in Google Analytics to see declines in specific entry pages to the website.  If the drop is consistent across the board, look in Google Webmaster Tools for Manual Penalties.  Look in SEM Rush or another SEO Management Tool to look for toxic links or on page defects like mixed content and slow load speed that can affect traffic.   If the decline is with specific landing pages, and therefore, specific keywords, look for declines in your rankings for the keyword streams in search engine results.   It is important to run diagnostic tools on your pages to understand if this is do to something that you need to fix, or whether your competition is catching up and passing you.  The first step is to make sure that the tracking code on each page is in place and functioning.  You may check this by using the Google Tracking Code Checker. Either way, be prepared  to make site corrections, bolster SEO efforts and perhaps even design paid campaigns to make sure that you stay in the search results mix for the keywords that are vital to your business and your brand.
  2. Review Recent Website Changes. Have you eliminated content?  Has something been done to affect the indexing of your pages?   Google Webmaster Tools will help to answer those questions.  Go to crawl>crawl errors in in Google Webmaster Tools to Crawl and look for significant errors in crawl errors and 404s.  Go to Google Index>Index Status and see if the number of pages indexed has decreased.  Again, a website diagnostic tool like SEMRush can simplify this task for you.   Also look on SEMRush or similar for duplicate content that may have accidentally been added to your site.  The best way to do this is to look for Duplicate Titles and Duplicate Meta Descriptions.
  3. Changes in Google Algorithms. I can hear all of you saying now-“shouldn’t you have mentioned this first to save me all of the work in Analytics, Webmaster Tools and SEMRush?”  Short answer is “nope” for 2 reasons.   The first is that many of the issues discussed here will help your rankings in the face of updates anyway, so you have not wasted your time, and second, if you have been practicing good SEO practices all along, like I know all of you have been doing, then you are unlikely to get penalized by an algorithm update.  If none of the other diagnostics suggested here present an answer, by all means, search the internet tirelessly for news of a Google Algrorithm update/change/modification.   The problem is that most algorithm changes are not easy to decipher because Google is not clear about what specifically they have changed.  It can require many hours of trial and error to understand the exact nature of the change, so going back to the basics of white hat SEO is the most direct path to maximum compliance with all Google Algorithms.  The only certainty is that Google will continue to update its algorithms.  If you optimize your site with the intent of being the best response to a search for your keyword streams instead of trying to spam the system to gain an unfair advantage, you will most likely be immune to Google Algorithm Updates.

 

Conclusion.  Organic Search Engine Optimization and effective paid advertising campaigns have become more difficult and complicated with each passing year.  Successful business owners have a defined message that they want to share with their potential customers.  It is not hard to understand why an initial meeting is so important for a professional services business, or why a storefront is vital to the success of a brick and mortar retail store.  Many businesses neglect their websites and the impression that they make.  You do not only need to impress potential customers with your website presence, but you need to show Google and the other search engines that you provide the best information and resources for a potential customer looking for the goods or services that your business provides.

Eric Van Cleave is CO-CEO and Digital Director of TIV Branding, a Santa Rosa, California Branding Agency.

How to Rank for Featured Snippets: The SEM Rush Study

Featured snippets are featured in Google search results above the organic results and are vital to continuing to attract organic search traffic.  6.9 million featured snippets were reviewed in recent study conducted by SEMrush and Ghergich & Co. This study gives us insights into how featured snippets are currently ranked and how to optimize for them for placement on Google search engine results.

According to the study, 41.59% of keyword streams for featured snippets are questions (ie.  What is the best way to prepare my house for painting?), 22.67% are comparisons (ie. Manual Preparation or Powerwashing for your home painting project) 17.72% are prepositions (ie. How to prepare your home for painting) and only 7% of generic keywords have featured snippets (ie. House Painters in Talladega.)

How to Rank for Featured Snippets: The SEM Rush Study

For questions, the most popular first words are: why, are, will, does, do, can, is, should and how. How seems to be particularly effective in getting paragraph snippets, or lead ins to longer featured snippet content.  The more valuable and complete the content, the more likely it is to lead to conversions.

Comparisons can be used to help potential customers to shop, gain valuable information, and make buying decisions from search.  The most popular comparisons are price, pricing, compare and comparing.  Many pricing comparisons are successfully placed into tables that allow consumers to view several options at one time.

The most frequently used prepositions are for, with, like, without and to.  “How to” featured snippets seem to be popular. These “how to” articles can be valuable for search engine visitors and gain not only search traffic but also position the source as an expert in their field.

The study also provides data that will help to set guidelines for creating and ranking for featured snippets.

  1. Length of Featured snippets paragraph. The average length is 46 words, the maximum is 84 words.  The best practice is to be succinct and avoid huge amounts of text.
  2. Length of Lists. Average is 5.5 items, and the maximum is 8 items.  Please remember, a longer list forces Google to truncate the list and forces the website visitor to click through to the subject website for the full information.  The main guideline is to make sure the list is valuable.  Increasing the length of the list just to force Google to truncate the content is not a viable strategy.
  3. Rows in the table. The average number of rows in a table is 5.6 and the maximum is 7 rows.  Tables that Google must truncate will also force search traffic to the website for the full information.
  4. Use https. 70% of sites with more than one featured snippet use https.
  5. Optimize Mobile Performance. The average Mobile Friendly Score is 95/100. The average usability score is 96/100.

This study gives extremely valuable information on how to gain placement for featured snippets.  All this information should be viewed through the lens of good SEO practices like link structure, social sharing, solid on page SEO, and domain authority.  Featured snippets are one example of Google’s efforts to make search mobile friendly, voice search friendly, and more intuitive.

Eric Van Cleave is Co-CEO of Zenergy Works, a Santa Rosa California based SEO and Online Marketing firm.

Google Algorithm Update

SEO Experts have suspected, and – collective gasp of shock – Google has confirmed, that they ran a “broad core algorithm update” on or around March 7th that changed the placement of some websites on SERP (search engine results pages).

Here is Google’s statement on Twitter:

Each day, Google usually releases one or more changes designed to improve our results. Some are focused around specific improvements. Some are broad changes. Last week, we released a broad core algorithm update. We do these routinely several times per year.

As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded.

There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.

Google Algorithm Update

I have waited to reach out to Zenergy Works SEO customers on this update because I have seen little or no change in rankings that would not be expected as results of our strategies.   This update has elevated some sites that Google felt were not given proper credit in the past.   The task for SEO strategists is to figure out why the pages that have been elevated in SERP were rewarded with better placement.   So far, the insights seem to point to mobile load time, site UX and proper site map structure.  No surprises yet, but the review of the new algorithm changes continues.

Bottom Line:  Google is striving to provide the best search results possible.  The key to success appears to be to continue to provide the best UX and most valuable content for website visitors.   Eric Van Cleave is the Co-CEO and Digital Marketing Director for Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa California SEO and Online Marketing Firm.

Mobile Page Speed Algorithm Update

Google has announced a new ranking algorithm that will downgrade the search rankings of slow loading mobile pages. Google stated that the new algorithm will go into effect in the Summer of 2018.

The search engine giant went on to state that the algorithm change “will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users” and that it “will only affect a small percentage of queries.” Google has said for a long time only really slow pages have to worry about a downgrade in their rankings for speed. According to this blog post, there is no ranking improvement for being fast, just a downgrade for being really slow.

Mobile Page Speed Algorithm Update

Google says you can measure your page speed multiple ways and they are not sharing a specific, single metric to know if your site was hit by this algorithm update or not. Because the update will be algorithmic, not manual, it will not even show up in webmaster tools.

Most SEOs, including Zenergy Works, routinely use Google’s mobile speed test to evaluate mobile load time. Most responsive websites cannot achieve top speed scores, but come in at “fair” or higher. My best guess is that “fair” would not result in a rankings downgrade, but this situation will require further review as the algorithm roles out.
Eric Van Cleave is the CEO of Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa, California (SEO) Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing Firm.

SEO In 2018 By Eric Van Cleave-Partner and Digital Strategist-TIV Branding

Search Engine Optimization

In reviewing 2017 and getting ready for 2018, I have been forced to take a close look at SEO and Online Marketing strategies and the following are some of the thoughts that I have shared with my clients in the last couple of months. So in the spirit of a Q and A session-here goes:

At this time next year, how will the day-to-day job of being an SEO be different? Why?

I think that a great deal of time will be spent on the following areas in 2018 as opposed to 2017:

  1. Mobile Sites-Mobile UX in terms of load time and use of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) will become more prevalent. This is not new, but 2018 will be the year that Google, for one, institutes mobile first ranking.
  2. Content will have to be more engaging and in keeping with brand voice to engage customers. Content Writers will be required to write from the point of view of the potential customer, not worrying as much about keyword density, text to code ratio and other traditional SEO guidelines.
  3. Direct Traffic-I will spend time with each client on ensuring that site functionality will continue to keep customers engaged, and that each site has a plan and to build strong direct website traffic, which has become a key element of sites that enjoy high ranking in SERPs.
  4. Link Structure-Link structure will be closely tied to social media platforms and the links from some social media to content on the website, both from client social sites and through social shares. Relevant links that website visitors would actually use are the most important.

What are the biggest themes/trends in SEO you expect to see next year? Why?

  1. SEO Will Continue to Be Difficult-This is not news to those in the industry who have been driven out by numerous algorithm changes, experimentation of how SERPs display, and technical innovations like AMP. The thing is, gaining organic placement has always been a time and work intensive activity, so no real change there. I think that understanding which strategy will work for each individual client and refraining from using the same playbook and methodology for every client is a must moving ahead.
  2. Marketers Will use Paid Solutions to augment Organic SEO Efforts. Display and PPC have improved dramatically. Bing has brought its paid platform to the point of relevance and often delivers lower cost per click and conversion than Google Adwords. Programmatic ad programs have been extremely effective in reaching out to consumers and have been effective for clients with larger paid budgets. Social Media has become a bargain to gain significant engagement, especially on Facebook and Linked In.
  3. Featured Snippets/Answer Boxes-This is the new frontier of organic search, and will be territory that inspires spirited competition for placement. As web users begin to use and trust this feature more, learning how to optimize for these placements without becoming Wikipedia will be a challenge for SEOs in the coming year.

In thinking over 2017, is there anything that surprises you in hindsight? If so, what? Why?

I think that once you gain a certain level of expertise in online marketing, nothing is truly a surprise anymore. This is because the same patterns keep repeating themselves. There are far more things, in my estimation, that are not surprising based on past events in SEO. Here are a couple of them:

  1. The One Man Show-The biggest thing that I hear from others in this industry is that they are surprised that they cannot do it all for a client themselves. SEO is becoming complicated and time intensive. It requires a team of SEOs, content writers, creative folks, marketing managers, branding experts, programmers, web developers and the involvement of the client to ensure that strategy is in keeping with marketing plans to create a successful SEO campaign in 2018. Clients will not be able to say that “our SEO guys handle that, and I rarely talk to them” in 2018. There are simply too many moving parts, and too many facets of successful SEO to not have a team. So in 2018 and the years to come, I am certain that I will continue to not be surprised that I rely on my team more and more each year to help my clients grow their online traffic.
  2. New Developments-Many of the “surprises” that occur are changes in algorithms designed to improve the quality of search results displays and the quality of websites that search engines feature in SERPs. If a new website technology improves UX, expect that sooner or later it will show up as a ranking factor. If fewer local map results create less clutter for searches conducted on mobile platforms, expect that to happen. Above all, if you are an SEO and you have found a shortcut that creates an advantage over your competition and it does not involve Google being able to process accurate search results more efficiently, a superior UX, faster load time, or more useful information being displayed on your site, Google, for one will eventually close that loophole and the remainder of the search engines will closely follow. Playing the game by the rules and consistently working on improving your web presence is the only way to ensure sustained success.

Google Analytics-What Is Bounce Rate?

Bounce RateIn talking with clients and analyzing the performance of their websites, I find that there are common misconceptions about the definitions behind the numbers.

Bounce rate is defined as when a user has a single-page session on a website. That is to say, they entered on one URL and left the site from the same page (defined by the URL of the page) without interacting with that page or visiting any others on the site. Bounce Rate is calculated as a percentage, by dividing the aggregate number of single-page sessions by the total number of entries to that page. Bounce Rate can be a handy tool into whether users are engaged by content on a page or not. The assumption is that a high bounce rate is reflective of a poorly performing page that needs improved content to engage site visitors.

Bounce rate can easily be both misunderstood and misinterpreted.
Google Analytics records a bounce when a user views one page on a site and a single request is sent to the Analytics server. One request in the analytic code on the page equals a bounce. Two requests to the analytic code is not a bounce. This can be deceiving if hyperlinks or automatic actions are opened on the page without user permission.

On the other hand, a user may visit the page, find the exact information they wanted (a phone number or address, for example), and then carry out their next engagement with the brand offline. The site user could be interrupted by a phone call and have the session time out after 30 minutes.

Google Tag Manager and more sophisticated tracking methods can help to better clarify bounce rate (usually by assuming that if the user spends more than 30-45 seconds on a page they have found some content of value), but a high bounce rate is not always a problem. Many users find and access the information that they want by viewing one page and this could be a sign of a high-performing page with great content. This can occur on SEO content pages that are designed to deliver very specific information, or when the user comes to the site to verify the name of the CEO, get the address for an upcoming visit, or read a blog post.

A low bounce rate does not necessarily mean a page is performing well. It may suggest that the web page content does not contain enough information, or that the site navigation is confusing, forcing users to access multiple pages to get the information they want.

It is a mistake to look at bounce rate as the only method of evaluating page performance. Time spent on the page, conversion ratio, and call tracking can all be further indicators of how well any page of your website is performing. In the end, I tend to look at conversion (as defined as the goal of the page content call to actions) as the primary definition of the quality of the page.

Eric Van Cleave is a Partner in TIV Branding, a Santa Rosa California based Creative and Branding Agency.

Better Email Marketing in 2018

Email Marketing

Email marketing, for most of my clients, delivers the maximum return for minimum investment. Like most marketing endeavors, email marketing is a divine mix of art and science. Maintaining a connection with your audience and what they want to see and keeping a close watch on the metrics will ensure that your email campaigns are successful. A few basic strategies outlined below are a great “check in” for your email campaigns.

Double Check The Basics:

1. Send emails to those who are engaged with your product and your message.
If you have email lists with low rates of engagement activity, you should stop sending emails to them. Your prospects get tired of wading through and deleting unwanted emails and have a high probability of unsubscribing from your list. When you send to a list with low engagement rates, it damages your domain reputation and lowers the odds of connecting with your target audience.

2. Send Emails from a person, not an “info” or “no reply” email.
Don’t send emails from an “info” or “no reply” email account. Be sure to personalize the “from” email address to drive replies from subscribers to an actual person.

3. If people mark you as spam, immediately stop sending email and re evaluate your email list and strategy.
If potential clients designate your emails as “spam, your domain reputation can be damaged, and you could become blacklisted by email providers. The spam complaints can be caused by a new source of leads, a business or domain name change, an over aggressive opt in campaign, or content that does not engage the user, the best strategy is to stop sending emails until you identify and rectify the problem.

4. Have a goal for each email campaign.
If you don’t have a clear call to action for a product you wish to introduce, a case study you wish to share, or a landing page to promote the recipients of your email will be left wondering what the point of emailing them might be. Have a clear goal for your email campaigns and you can define success by tracking conversions to that goal to measure the true level of engagement you have achieved with your audience. Consider giving a number of options for CTAs (calls to action) in your emails to measure the engagement of different types of CTAs. Take care to avoid overwhelming your audience with too many options. More than two options for next steps can be overwhelming to an email recipient.

5. Personalize your emails.
It has been proven time and time again that personalized email has higher open rates. Keep it simple and personalize according to recipient names and company names.

Techniques to Try:

1. Experiment with sending emails on different days of the week.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are the most popular days to send email. If you want your emails to stand out a bit more, experiment by sending them on Mondays and Fridays. Emails with calls-to-action to purchase items or view items of general interest often perform well on weekends. This is a viable option for consumers, but I would avoid this for business recipients. The weekend email will no doubt get lost in the rush of Monday morning.

2. Put some time into the subject line.
Make sure that your subject line is not misleading. Customized and personalized subject lines are the best policy. Many email marketers are experimenting with emojis. Please carefully consider the subject matter of your email and the target recipient before employing the emoji strategy.

3. Adjust the frequency of your emails
Make sure that you have something of value to say or announce before you send an email. Just blanketing an email list with the best idea you could come up with will likely lead to lowered open rates and engagement. Waiting for valuable information to share will make you stand out from those competing for attention in a prospect’s email inbox.

Conclusions:

Email marketing gets tougher every year as the public tires of being bombarded with offers to buy frivolous products that force them to waste time deleting and unsubscribing from unwanted email. This doesn’t mean that email marketing is not a viable platform, but it is more competitive. The solution is to invest the time and effort into refining your email campaigns to keep your subscribers engaged.

Eric Van Cleave is the Managing Partner of Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa, California Based Online Marketing, Website Development and SEO Firm.