Anyone who has spent any time dealing with Search Engine Optimization will come across an article touting the death of SEO. In fact, if you Google the phrase “SEO is dead,” you’ll come up with more than 53 million results. What’s even more startling is what happens when you search for the phrase, “Email is dead.” A Google search turns up 1.4 billion results!
And we all know that if you read it on the Internet, it has to be true, right?
Not exactly. You see, despite articles to the contrary, the death of email and SEO have been greatly exaggerated. As SEMrush blogger Pat Marcello stated recently, “SEO will always be an important way to communicate with search engines.” And in the case of email, it’s the one channel your audience accesses regularly. In fact, Jay Baer, social media speaker, author and coach, says 58% percent of adult Americans check their email first thing in the morning.
Not convinced? Try these stats out for size: 82% of consumers open emails from companies, according to Litmus. There are 3.6 billion email accounts in 2013. By 2016, the number will reach 4.3 billion.
And email is still the number one way for marketers to communicate directly with customers. According to the Direct Marketing Association and Smart Data Collective, email generates nearly a 2x return compared to other channels. For every dollar spent on email marketing in 2011, there was a $40.56 return. Compare that to other channels, such as search engine marketing, which is the next closest at $22.44.
The trouble comes with the volume of email we receive every day. The average employee sends and receives around 115 emails a day. Even if you spend only a minute per email, that’s still nearly two hours per day spent on correspondence. Most people take a quick glance at the sender and subject line to determine if the email is worthy to be opened. If the message doesn’t grab us, we’re quick to hit the delete button.
It’s similar to how we search on the Internet. When a page of results gets displayed, we’ll glance through to pick out the one that seems to match our query the best, and visit the site. But if our instinct was wrong, we’ll hit the back button and try another result.
Even though our personal process of determining an email’s value is nowhere near as complicated as Google’s search results algorithms, the same principles apply. The keywords, subject line, and links within your message can all determine whether the email gets read or deleted, even if you make it past an email provider’s automatic spam blocker.
It doesn’t matter if you’re sending out a marketing email, or just reaching out with an important inquiry, your efforts will be wasted if the recipient never even reads your message. Here are a few strategies to make sure your email messages get read:
Sharpen Your Subject Line
Let’s face it. If you don’t get that subject line right, no one will ever read your email. Think about what message you want to send. Don’t try to sell anything in the subject line. If your recipient sees words like “buy” or “deal” in their inbox, they may hit the delete button immediately.
Instead, think about how you can help the recipient of your email. The subject line has to be intriguing, yet vague enough to pique someone’s curiousity. Think about how you would search for your own product online. If you sell landscape lighting products, you might use words like “outdoor lighting” or “landscape lighting.” Create a straight-forward subject line that reads, “How to Avoid 5 Common Landscape Lighting Problems.” The email accomplishes two things: it gives the customer or prospect something of value to read in their inbox without the pressure of a hard sell. And it creates a document, that when archived online, can be found in an Internet search that contains the worlds, “landscape lighting” or “common landscape lighting problems.”
Personalization is a growing trend in email marketing that will become even more important in 2014. Address your recipient by name. A simple “hello” or “hey there,” doesn’t work as well as “Hi Jean.” Closing your email this way is also powerful. A simple line, such as, “Thanks for considering this, Jean, and don’t hesitate to call me if you have any questions,” works wonders. Jean may even feel guilty if she doesn’t respond.
Keywords are Key!
Many people use folders to sort their email. If your message gets tossed into a “read later” folder, make it easy to get found by including keywords. This way, if your recipient searches for those words, your message will pop back on top. Once you’ve created a list of keywords, add them into your copy in a way that is natural. SEO best practices work for email too. Don’t stuff the words into your message.
Get Strategic about Links
Links are an important part of any email marketing campaign. They will increase your chance of being found via search. Rather than relying on the old call-to-action phrases like “click here” or “find out more,” use keywords here too. If you were to use the phrase, “click here for more information about outdoor lighting,” you would add the link to the words “outdoor lighting.”
Archive Your Emails
When you create good quality messages that contain keyword-rich subject lines, links and content, let people find that content later by storing them online in an email archive. Your prospects and customers can do a keyword search and find relevant email messages. Link the archive to your website, so prospects can see what you offer. And if you include a Signup Form on your main archive site, you might even pick up new email subscribers from people conducting simple online searches.
Remember, when you conduct an email marketing campaign, make sure you send messages that you would read yourself. There’s no sense going to all that work crafting a marketing message, only to discover that no one has read it. Sharing tips and strategies that are relevant to your prospects will greatly increase your chances of making the sale.
Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net
Gloria Rand is an SEO Copywriter & Social Media Consultant, who specializes in helping small businesses achieve online visibility, profits and sales. You can view her last article for SEMrush here: "How to Write a Great Headline that Gets Results."