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Email Marketing: An In-Depth Guide

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Email Marketing: An In-Depth Guide

Email has revolutionized the way people communicate. From facilitating remote work to monitoring bank balances, it has become an integral part of everyday life.

It has also become a powerful tool for marketers. It has changed the way brands and customers interact with each other, providing incredible opportunities to target audiences at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

In other words, when it comes to getting the most bang for your marketing buck, nothing matches the power of email.

Providing an average return on investment of $36 for every $1 spent, email marketing is one of the most profitable and effective ways of reaching your targets.

Globally used by more than 4 billion people, it has unparalleled reach and is perfect for every step of the buyer’s journey, from generating awareness to encouraging brand loyalty.

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If you’re not currently using email marketing to promote your business, you should be.

But to reap the biggest benefits, you need to do more than just dash off a message and sending it out to your contacts. You need a strategy that will help you nurture relationships and initiate conversations.

In this piece, we’ll take an in-depth look at the world of marketing via email and give you a step-by-step guide you can use to launch your own campaigns.

What Is Email Marketing?

If you have an email address of your own – and it’s probably safe to assume that you do – you’re likely already at least somewhat familiar with the concept of email marketing.

But just to avoid any potential confusion, let’s start with a definition: Email marketing is a type of direct marketing that uses customized emails to inform customers and potential customers about your product or services.

Why Should You Use Email Marketing?

If the eye-popping $36:1 ROI stat wasn’t enough to convince you to take the plunge, here are some other key reasons you should use email marketing to promote your business:

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  • Email marketing drives traffic to your website, blog, social media account, or anywhere else you direct it.
  • It allows you to build a stronger relationship with your targets via personalization and auto-triggered campaigns.
  • You can segment your audience to target highly specific demographics, so you’re sending messages to the people they will resonate with most.
  • Email marketing is one of the easiest platforms to version test on, so you can determine exactly what subject lines and calls-to-action (CTAs) work best.

Even better, you own your email campaigns entirely.

With email, you own your marketing list and you can target your leads however you like (so long as you stay compliant with CAN-SPAM laws).

There is no question that you should be using email marketing as part of your overall marketing outreach strategy.

Now let’s look at some of the different ways you can do that.

What Are The Types Of Email Marketing?

For every stage of the sales funnel, there’s a corresponding type of email marketing. Here are some of the different types you can use to engage your audience and generate results.

Promotional Emails

When you think about email marketing, these types of messages are probably what you think of.

Used to promote sales, special offers, product releases, events, and more, these are usually one of the least personalized types of emails and tend to go out to a large list.

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Usually, promotional campaigns consist of anywhere from 3 to 10 emails sent over a specified time frame. They have a clear CTA that encourages the recipient to take the next step of visiting your site, booking an appointment, or making a purchase.

Informational Emails

This type of email includes company announcements as well as weekly/monthly/quarterly newsletters.

They may include information about new products, company achievements, customer reviews, or blog posts.

The CTA is usually to visit your website or blog to learn more about what’s happening.

Welcome Emails

Sent to new customers or people who have filled out a form on your website, welcome emails encourage recipients to learn more about your company or offering.

These commonly include trial offers, requests to book a demo, or other offerings a new customer will find valuable.

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Nurturing Emails

Any salesperson will tell you the importance of creating multiple touchpoints with potential customers.

Lead nurturing emails focus on building interest in people who are drawn to a particular offering.

The goal of these messages is to push them to the consideration stage of the buying journey.

Re-engagement Emails

Nurturing emails’ slightly more aggressive brother, re-engagement emails are used to warm up customers who haven’t been active lately.

These tend to be more personalized, as you’ll want to show the subscriber that you know and understand the challenges they’re facing.

Survey/Review Emails

User generated content (UGC) lends your brand an authenticity you simply can’t achieve on your own.

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One of the best ways to generate this is via emails soliciting feedback from your customers.

This type of email also gives you insights into your brand’s relative strengths and weaknesses, so you can improve your offerings.

There are a number of other types of emails you can use as part of your marketing efforts, including seasonal emails designed to capitalize on holidays or events, confirmation emails to reassure recipients their purchase was completed or their information received, and co-marketing emails that are sent with a partner company.

In fact, it’s email marketing’s sheer versatility that makes it the cornerstone of any successful marketing strategy. You merely need to decide what you hope to accomplish, then create your campaign around it.

Now, let’s take a closer look at creating and managing your own email marketing.

How Do You Perform Email Marketing?

Step 1: Establish Your Goals

The section above should have made it clear that the type of email campaign you’ll run will depend on what you’re hoping to accomplish. Trying to do everything with one email will lead to confused recipients and a watered-down CTA.

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Set one goal for your campaign, and make sure every email in the series works toward it.

Step 2: Build Your List

Now it’s time to determine who will be on the receiving end of your campaign. You do this by building your email marketing list – a process you can approach from several directions.

The most basic way to build an email list is by simply importing a list of your contacts into your chosen email marketing platform (more on that later).

One caveat: Before you add anyone to your list, make sure they have opted into receiving emails from you – otherwise you’ll run afoul of the CAN-SPAM Act guidelines mentioned above.

Other options for building a list from scratch via a lead generation campaign: provide potential customers with discounts, compelling content, or something else of value and make it easy for them to subscribe and you’ll generate high-quality leads.

Some marketers buy or rent email lists, but in general, this isn’t an effective way to perform email marketing.

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The primary reason you don’t want to do this is because of lead quality. You’re not going after people who are interested in your brand but instead are blindly targeting leads of questionable quality with emails they haven’t opted in to.

In addition to violating consent laws, which could potentially hurt your IP reputation and email deliverability, you risk annoying your targets instead of encouraging them to try your offering.

Step 3: Create Your Email Campaign

Now that you know who you’re targeting and what you’re hoping to achieve, it’s time to build your campaign.

Email marketing tools like HubSpot, Constant Contact, and Mailchimp include drag-and-drop templates you can employ to create well-designed and effective email campaigns.

We’ll dive deeper into these platforms a bit later, but now, let’s talk about some fundamentals and best practices to help you get the best results:

  • Make your emails easy to read – No one wants to read a long wall of text. Structure your emails using strategically placed headers and bulleted lists for easy scanning.
  • Use images – Ideally, you want your emails to capture the reader’s eye and attention. Visuals are a great way to do this.
  • Write a compelling subject line – The best-written email in the world is useless if no one opens it. That makes a compelling, intriguing subject line paramount. Don’t be afraid to try different iterations, just be sure to keep it short.
  • Add personalization – Emails that are targeted to a specific person, including addressing them by name, are more likely to generate responses. Your email marketing platform should allow you to do this with relative ease.
  • Make conversion easy – If you want click-throughs, you need to make it easy for readers. Make sure your CTA is prominent and clear.
  • Consider your timing – As with most types of marketing, email campaigns tend to perform better when they’re properly timed. This could mean a specific time of day that generates more opens, a time of the week when purchases are more likely, or even a time of year when your content is most relevant. This will probably require some experimentation.

Step 4: Measure Your Results

You’re not going to get your email campaigns right the first time. Or the second. Or the fifth. In fact, there’s really no endpoint; even the best campaigns can be optimized to generate better results.

To track how yours are performing, you’ll want to use the reports section of your email marketing platform. This will help you understand how people are interacting with your campaigns.

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Use A/B testing to drill down into what’s working best.

Generally, you’ll want to look at key metrics like:

  • Open rate and unique opens.
  • Click-through rate.
  • Shares.
  • Unsubscribe rate.
  • Spam complaints.
  • Bounces (the number of addresses your email couldn’t be delivered to).

Choosing An Email Marketing Platform

Manually sending out emails is fine if you’re only targeting three or four people. But if you’re trying to communicate with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of targets, you’re going to need some help.

But there are currently hundreds of email marketing platform on the market. How do you choose the right one for your unique needs?

Should you just go with one of the big names like HubSpot,  Klaviyo, or Mailjet? How do you know which one is right for you?

While it may initially feel overwhelming, by answering a few questions you can narrow down your options considerably.

The very first thing you need to determine is your budget. If you’re running a small business, the amount you’re willing to spend on an email service platform is probably considerably less than an enterprise-level company.

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If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll probably find that a lower-priced version of a platform like Sendinblue or Constant Contact provides you with all the functionality you need.

Larger companies with bigger marketing budgets may wish to go with an email marketing platform that provides higher levels of automation, more in-depth data analysis and is easier to use. In this case, you may prefer to go with a platform like Mailchimp or Salesforce’s Pardot.

The good thing is that most of these email service providers offered tiered pricing, so smaller businesses can opt for more inexpensive (or even free) versions that offer less functionality at a lower price.

The next thing to consider is the type of email you want to send.

If your primary send will be newsletters, a platform like SubStack is a great choice. If you’re planning on sending transactional emails, you may want to check out Netcore Email API or GetResponse.

For those of you planning on sending a variety of marketing emails, your best choice may be an option that covers multiple email types like ConvertKit or an omnichannel marketing tool like Iterable.

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You can narrow down your options by determining your must-have features and internal capabilities.

Some things you’ll want to consider include:

  • The size of your lists.
  • Your technical skill level.
  • Your HTML editing requirements.
  • Template variety.
  • Your need for responses/workflows.
  • A/B testing needs.
  • Industry-specific features.

While there is significant overlap in functionality between email marketing platforms, each has some variation in capabilities.

Ideally, you want something that will integrate with your other marketing tools to help take the guesswork out of the equation.

You should request demos and trials of your finalists to find which is best for your needs. If you’re working with a team, be sure to loop them in and get their feedback.

Tips For Maximizing Your Results

Email marketing is a powerful tool for any business. But there’s both science and art to it.

Here are some additional tips to help you get the most from your campaigns:

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  • Avoid being marked as spam – According to HubSpot, there are 394 words and phrases that can identify your email as junk mail. These include “free,” “lowest price,” “no catch” and “all new.” You should avoid these whenever possible. To be doubly safe, have your recipients add you to their safe senders list.
  • Run integrated campaigns – Email marketing serves to amplify the power of other marketing channels. If you’re running sales or promotions, you should include an email aspect.
  • Clean up your list regularly – Keep your email database up to date to ensure deliverability and higher engagement. If a subscriber hasn’t responded to your re-engagement efforts after six months, it’s probably safe to scrub them from your list.
  • Harness the power of automation – Autoresponders are a great way to follow up with customers and subscribers, or strategically target someone after a certain event or action. Learn how to set this up on your email marketing platform and it will save you lots of time while boosting returns.

Email Marketing Is A Powerful Tool

There’s a reason why email marketing is prevalent in the modern world – it works.

And that means you should be using it to promote your brand and drive sales.

Hopefully, by this point, you have a good idea of not only what email marketing can do for you, but how it works, and how to create and optimize your own campaigns.

There’s really no better way to connect with our audience and convey the value of your brand.

Now get to work – you have customers to attract.

More resources:


Featured Image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

Whether you are new to paid media or reevaluating your efforts, it’s critical to review your performance and best practices for your overall PPC marketing program, accounts, and campaigns.

Revisiting your paid media plan is an opportunity to ensure your strategy aligns with your current goals.

Reviewing best practices for pay-per-click is also a great way to keep up with trends and improve performance with newly released ad technologies.

As you review, you’ll find new strategies and features to incorporate into your paid search program, too.

Here are 10 PPC best practices to help you adjust and plan for the months ahead.

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1. Goals

When planning, it is best practice to define goals for the overall marketing program, ad platforms, and at the campaign level.

Defining primary and secondary goals guides the entire PPC program. For example, your primary conversion may be to generate leads from your ads.

You’ll also want to look at secondary goals, such as brand awareness that is higher in the sales funnel and can drive interest to ultimately get the sales lead-in.

2. Budget Review & Optimization

Some advertisers get stuck in a rut and forget to review and reevaluate the distribution of their paid media budgets.

To best utilize budgets, consider the following:

  • Reconcile your planned vs. spend for each account or campaign on a regular basis. Depending on the budget size, monthly, quarterly, or semiannually will work as long as you can hit budget numbers.
  • Determine if there are any campaigns that should be eliminated at this time to free up the budget for other campaigns.
  • Is there additional traffic available to capture and grow results for successful campaigns? The ad platforms often include a tool that will provide an estimated daily budget with clicks and costs. This is just an estimate to show more click potential if you are interested.
  • If other paid media channels perform mediocrely, does it make sense to shift those budgets to another?
  • For the overall paid search and paid social budget, can your company invest more in the positive campaign results?

3. Consider New Ad Platforms

If you can shift or increase your budgets, why not test out a new ad platform? Knowing your audience and where they spend time online will help inform your decision when choosing ad platforms.

Go beyond your comfort zone in Google, Microsoft, and Meta Ads.

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Here are a few other advertising platforms to consider testing:

  • LinkedIn: Most appropriate for professional and business targeting. LinkedIn audiences can also be reached through Microsoft Ads.
  • TikTok: Younger Gen Z audience (16 to 24), video.
  • Pinterest: Products, services, and consumer goods with a female-focused target.
  • Snapchat: Younger demographic (13 to 35), video ads, app installs, filters, lenses.

Need more detailed information and even more ideas? Read more about the 5 Best Google Ads Alternatives.

4. Top Topics in Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

Recently, trends in search and social ad platforms have presented opportunities to connect with prospects more precisely, creatively, and effectively.

Don’t overlook newer targeting and campaign types you may not have tried yet.

  • Video: Incorporating video into your PPC accounts takes some planning for the goals, ad creative, targeting, and ad types. There is a lot of opportunity here as you can simply include video in responsive display ads or get in-depth in YouTube targeting.
  • Performance Max: This automated campaign type serves across all of Google’s ad inventory. Microsoft Ads recently released PMAX so you can plan for consistency in campaign types across platforms. Do you want to allocate budget to PMax campaigns? Learn more about how PMax compares to search.
  • Automation: While AI can’t replace human strategy and creativity, it can help manage your campaigns more easily. During planning, identify which elements you want to automate, such as automatically created assets and/or how to successfully guide the AI in the Performance Max campaigns.

While exploring new features, check out some hidden PPC features you probably don’t know about.

5. Revisit Keywords

The role of keywords has evolved over the past several years with match types being less precise and loosening up to consider searcher intent.

For example, [exact match] keywords previously would literally match with the exact keyword search query. Now, ads can be triggered by search queries with the same meaning or intent.

A great planning exercise is to lay out keyword groups and evaluate if they are still accurately representing your brand and product/service.

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Review search term queries triggering ads to discover trends and behavior you may not have considered. It’s possible this has impacted performance and conversions over time.

Critical to your strategy:

  • Review the current keyword rules and determine if this may impact your account in terms of close variants or shifts in traffic volume.
  • Brush up on how keywords work in each platform because the differences really matter!
  • Review search term reports more frequently for irrelevant keywords that may pop up from match type changes. Incorporate these into match type changes or negative keywords lists as appropriate.

6. Revisit Your Audiences

Review the audiences you selected in the past, especially given so many campaign types that are intent-driven.

Automated features that expand your audience could be helpful, but keep an eye out for performance metrics and behavior on-site post-click.

Remember, an audience is simply a list of users who are grouped together by interests or behavior online.

Therefore, there are unlimited ways to mix and match those audiences and target per the sales funnel.

Here are a few opportunities to explore and test:

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  • LinkedIn user targeting: Besides LinkedIn, this can be found exclusively in Microsoft Ads.
  • Detailed Demographics: Marital status, parental status, home ownership, education, household income.
  • In-market and custom intent: Searches and online behavior signaling buying cues.
  • Remarketing: Advertisers website visitors, interactions with ads, and video/ YouTube.

Note: This varies per the campaign type and seems to be updated frequently, so make this a regular check-point in your campaign management for all platforms.

7. Organize Data Sources

You will likely be running campaigns on different platforms with combinations of search, display, video, etc.

Looking back at your goals, what is the important data, and which platforms will you use to review and report? Can you get the majority of data in one analytics platform to compare and share?

Millions of companies use Google Analytics, which is a good option for centralized viewing of advertising performance, website behavior, and conversions.

8. Reevaluate How You Report

Have you been using the same performance report for years?

It’s time to reevaluate your essential PPC key metrics and replace or add that data to your reports.

There are two great resources to kick off this exercise:

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Your objectives in reevaluating the reporting are:

  • Are we still using this data? Is it still relevant?
  • Is the data we are viewing actionable?
  • What new metrics should we consider adding we haven’t thought about?
  • How often do we need to see this data?
  • Do the stakeholders receiving the report understand what they are looking at (aka data visualization)?

Adding new data should be purposeful, actionable, and helpful in making decisions for the marketing plan. It’s also helpful to decide what type of data is good to see as “deep dives” as needed.

9. Consider Using Scripts

The current ad platforms have plenty of AI recommendations and automated rules, and there is no shortage of third-party tools that can help with optimizations.

Scripts is another method for advertisers with large accounts or some scripting skills to automate report generation and repetitive tasks in their Google Ads accounts.

Navigating the world of scripts can seem overwhelming, but a good place to start is a post here on Search Engine Journal that provides use cases and resources to get started with scripts.

Luckily, you don’t need a Ph.D. in computer science — there are plenty of resources online with free or templated scripts.

10. Seek Collaboration

Another effective planning tactic is to seek out friendly resources and second opinions.

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Much of the skill and science of PPC management is unique to the individual or agency, so there is no shortage of ideas to share between you.

You can visit the Paid Search Association, a resource for paid ad managers worldwide, to make new connections and find industry events.

Preparing For Paid Media Success

Strategies should be based on clear and measurable business goals. Then, you can evaluate the current status of your campaigns based on those new targets.

Your paid media strategy should also be built with an eye for both past performance and future opportunities. Look backward and reevaluate your existing assumptions and systems while investigating new platforms, topics, audiences, and technologies.

Also, stay current with trends and keep learning. Check out ebooks, social media experts, and industry publications for resources and motivational tips.

More resources: 

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Google Limits News Links In California Over Proposed ‘Link Tax’ Law

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A brown cardboard price tag with a twine string and a black dollar sign symbol, influenced by the Link Tax Law, set against a dark gray background.

Google announced that it plans to reduce access to California news websites for a portion of users in the state.

The decision comes as Google prepares for the potential passage of the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), a bill requiring online platforms like Google to pay news publishers for linking to their content.

What Is The California Journalism Preservation Act?

The CJPA, introduced in the California State Legislature, aims to support local journalism by creating what Google refers to as a “link tax.”

If passed, the Act would force companies like Google to pay media outlets when sending readers to news articles.

However, Google believes this approach needs to be revised and could harm rather than help the news industry.

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Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s VP of Global News Partnerships, stated in a blog post:

“It would favor media conglomerates and hedge funds—who’ve been lobbying for this bill—and could use funds from CJPA to continue to buy up local California newspapers, strip them of journalists, and create more ghost papers that operate with a skeleton crew to produce only low-cost, and often low-quality, content.”

Google’s Response

To assess the potential impact of the CJPA on its services, Google is running a test with a percentage of California users.

During this test, Google will remove links to California news websites that the proposed legislation could cover.

Zaidi states:

“To prepare for possible CJPA implications, we are beginning a short-term test for a small percentage of California users. The testing process involves removing links to California news websites, potentially covered by CJPA, to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.”

Google Claims Only 2% of Search Queries Are News-Related

Zaidi highlighted peoples’ changing news consumption habits and its effect on Google search queries (emphasis mine):

“It’s well known that people are getting news from sources like short-form videos, topical newsletters, social media, and curated podcasts, and many are avoiding the news entirely. In line with those trends, just 2% of queries on Google Search are news-related.”

Despite the low percentage of news queries, Google wants to continue helping news publishers gain visibility on its platforms.

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However, the “CJPA as currently constructed would end these investments,” Zaidi says.

A Call For A Different Approach

In its current form, Google maintains that the CJPA undermines news in California and could leave all parties worse off.

The company urges lawmakers to consider alternative approaches supporting the news industry without harming smaller local outlets.

Google argues that, over the past two decades, it’s done plenty to help news publishers innovate:

“We’ve rolled out Google News Showcase, which operates in 26 countries, including the U.S., and has more than 2,500 participating publications. Through the Google News Initiative we’ve partnered with more than 7,000 news publishers around the world, including 200 news organizations and 6,000 journalists in California alone.”

Zaidi suggested that a healthy news industry in California requires support from the state government and a broad base of private companies.

As the legislative process continues, Google is willing to cooperate with California publishers and lawmakers to explore alternative paths that would allow it to continue linking to news.

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The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: March 2024

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The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: March 2024

Every week, we share hot SEO news, interesting reads, and new posts in our newsletter, Ahrefs’ Digest.

If you’re not one of our 280,000 subscribers, you’ve missed out on some great reads!

Here’s a quick summary of my personal favorites from the last month:

Best of March 2024

How 16 Companies are Dominating the World’s Google Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

tl;dr

Glen’s research reveals that just 16 companies representing 588 brands get 3.5 billion (yes, billion!) monthly clicks from Google.

My takeaway

Glen pointed out some really actionable ideas in this report, such as the fact that many of the brands dominating search are adding mini-author bios.

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Example of mini-author bios on The VergeExample of mini-author bios on The Verge

This idea makes so much sense in terms of both UX and E-E-A-T. I’ve already pitched it to the team and we’re going to implement it on our blog.

How Google is Killing Independent Sites Like Ours

Authors: Gisele Navarro, Danny Ashton

tl;dr

Big publications have gotten into the affiliate game, publishing “best of” lists about everything under the sun. And despite often not testing products thoroughly, they’re dominating Google rankings. The result, Gisele and Danny argue, is that genuine review sites suffer and Google is fast losing content diversity.

My takeaway

I have a lot of sympathy for independent sites. Some of them are trying their best, but unfortunately, they’re lumped in with thousands of others who are more than happy to spam.

Estimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele's site fell off a cliff after Google's March updatesEstimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele's site fell off a cliff after Google's March updates
Estimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele’s site fell off a cliff after Google’s March updates 🙁 

I know it’s hard to hear, but the truth is Google benefits more from having big sites in the SERPs than from having diversity. That’s because results from big brands are likely what users actually want. By and large, people would rather shop at Walmart or ALDI than at a local store or farmer’s market.

That said, I agree with most people that Forbes (with its dubious contributor model contributing to scams and poor journalism) should not be rewarded so handsomely.

The Discussion Forums Dominating 10,000 Product Review Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

Tl;dr

Glen analyzed 10,000 “product review” keywords and found that:

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My takeaway

After Google’s heavy promotion of Reddit from last year’s Core Update, to no one’s surprise, unscrupulous SEOs and marketers have already started spamming Reddit. And as you may know, Reddit’s moderation is done by volunteers, and obviously, they can’t keep up.

I’m not sure how this second-order effect completely escaped the smart minds at Google, but from the outside, it feels like Google has capitulated to some extent.

John Mueller seemingly having too much faith in Reddit...John Mueller seemingly having too much faith in Reddit...

I’m not one to make predictions and I have no idea what will happen next, but I agree with Glen: Google’s results are the worst I’ve seen them. We can only hope Google sorts itself out.

Who Sends Traffic on the Web and How Much? New Research from Datos & SparkToro

Author: Rand Fishkin

tl;dr

63.41% of all U.S. web traffic referrals from the top 170 sites are initiated on Google.com.

Data from SparktoroData from Sparktoro

My takeaway

Despite all of our complaints, Google is still the main platform to acquire traffic from. That’s why we all want Google to sort itself out and do well.

But it would also be a mistake to look at this post and think Google is the only channel you should drive traffic from. As Rand’s later blog post clarifies, “be careful not to ascribe attribution or credit to Google when other investments drove the real value.”

I think many affiliate marketers learned this lesson well from the past few Core Updates: Relying on one single channel to drive all of your traffic is not a good idea. You should be using other platforms to build brand awareness, interest, and demand.

Want more?

Each week, our team handpicks the best SEO and marketing content from around the web for our newsletter. Sign up to get them directly in your inbox.

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