This week I helped a good friend lose his blogging virginity by setting him up on WordPress and the Thesis Theme for WordPress (affiliate link). If you’re interested take a look at some of the great work he’s done already.
As a designer, his content is primarily images so far. His goal for the blog’s look and feel is very visually appealing. It’s refreshing to see his approach. There are some key lessons to learn or at least be reminded of:
- Blog as though the world is reading. Each post will live forever and eventually the world may get around to reading each of them. So even though you may have no readers, you will one day and those first posts will still be there. So they need to be written for today’s and tomorrow’s audiences. Your content does not go out with the recycling.
- My friend knows nearly nothing about SEO and it shows. But that’s OK. Today he needs to create content and lots of it. For his readers and the search engines. Getting hung up on the details of SEO will slow down that natural creation process. Pick it up later and work it into the process. The search engines are looking for relevant content. Give it to them.
- He’s found his voice. Many folks, myself included, start off not knowing our voice, our message and goal. While it’s better to start and change than to not start at all, it’s important to remember that you need to eventually find your voice and target it. Your readers will reward you for that by returning and spreading the word. You will become more than your person when you can create a new persona online that reaches people consistently.
Keep up the good work, Mike. And thanks for the lessons, accidental or not.
There are plenty of excellent references out there for best practices in email marketing. I’m going to take a different view and look at one example I received that is a “worst practice” in email marketing.
I’m an alumnus of the University of Florida. I have also been a member of their Gators Boosters for over 20 years as part of my football season package. I am a rabid fan, but their recent email to me sent me over the edge given the amount of money I send to Gainesville each year.
Here is a screenshot of the email in its entirety.
If you already know what I am going to say then don’t bother reading further, but if you’re interested in all of the rules that have been broken in one email newsletter read on.
- And the biggest one: There is no content! This is the entire email. It’s an image that must be downloaded. The only text is the “Visit…” at the bottom. If you have no Internet access, have images disabled or are on a mobile device this email is useless.
- There is no personalization. They know my name. It’s Mark. It’s on the check I send them every year. Likewise there is no signature for them. Who is speaking to me? Are the director? The football coach? The president of the university? If you don’t tell me, then I don’t care. Which means I don’t care about this email spam to me.
- Your subject is empty of content as well. You tell me nothing about what is in this issue’s newsletter.
- The primary image (not content of course) in this email is not time-sensitive. It can be used over and over again with each new issue. I’m sure that makes your life really easy, but it adds no value to me. Each email I receive looks the same. With no compelling imagery, time-sensitive content, why should I expect anything valuable to be in this newsletter?
- The links in the email (the image itself and the “Visit” link) take me to the Boosters website. Not to a web-based version of the newsletter. On that website is some horrible listing of past issues ordered nonsensically by random numbers.
- The link to download the newsletter downloads a 1.7MB PDF! What? 1.7MB? Why are you downloading a large file like that without warning me?
- The email was sent from the ufl.edu domain, but the images are coming from the gatorzone.com domain. Possible flag to email spam programs.
- For those email clients that do not have images turned on (think mobile devices) they will see a large empty box where the image belongs and the word “header”, the name of the image on the gatorzone.com website – header.jpg. That is because the alt tag was not inserted. A missed opportunity to convey the contents of the image to those without access to it.
- The size of the downloaded image was 34KB. I was able to reduce it by 50% with no noticeable loss in quality. That’s significant to readers who are scanning their emails. The image shows up faster therefore grabbing their attention before they get frustrated, delete it and move on.
- What is going on with the break in the drop shadow on the left and right sides? I have a suspicion what’s going on, but is no one looking at these with a branding eye before they are sent out? Or is some marketing intern responsible for this highly visible customer-facing communication?
- There is no tacking of the links in this email. The sender has no way to know whether I’ve opened the email, clicked on a link and read it more than once. This is not a relationship. They are just broadcasting what is important to them.
- The kicker: It is not CAN-SPAM compliant. There is no unsubscribing capability, no street address, no reference to which email address it was sent to nor why I am receiving it.
You have broken nearly every rule or law, Gator Boosters Inc., when it comes to email newsletters.
Seriously Gainesville, the recipients are your boosters. The ones who pay all of the bills. They expect higher quality. And guess what? It is not that much more expensive to achieve that goal!
Can it really be true that an event as big as Gasparilla has such a weak site? Yes it looks great with all of that Flash, but as a brochure it’s weak. And as far as lead generation it is less than weak. And of course no web analytics to prove its worth.