August 26th, 2016

Five hard-hitting tips for boosting online conversion rates

The web doesn’t have a traffic problem, but it does have a conversion problem.

Many people keep trying to attract traffic without really knowing what to do with it. Then they wonder why their business is not profitable after spending a lot of money on traffic generation.

According to data from Eisenberg Holdings, most businesses spend a meagre $1 to convert customers for every $92 they spend to attract customers. This explains why many businesses never turn a profit.

If you’re looking to spend more money on ads and traffic generation, perhaps you should reconsider your priorities; implementing a few changes can double or even triple your conversion rates.

You shouldn’t spend more money on ads until you’ve considered the following tips for boosting conversion rates.

1) Smart, segmented email marketing

A Monetate study found that email traffic converts 4.5X better than social traffic and 1.6X better than search traffic. The study analyzed over 500 million shopping experiences, and the results show that email converts more than both search and social media traffic combined.


If you run an online business and do not use email, you’re throwing away your conversion rates; in fact, a Direct Marketing Association study found email to provide the best ROI of all marketing channels, establishing the fact that you can expect a ROI of $38 for every $1 you invest in email marketing.

However, the key to effective email marketing isn’t to just build a list and start sending emails; instead, it is important to gain understanding of your subscribers, segment your list according to subscriber interests and only send relevant emails to different segments of your list. A MarketingSherpa study found that this can boost your conversion rate by up to 208 percent.

2) Effective use of trust signals

Most people believe that all it takes to get people to take action on a website is to be very persuasive – that simply mastering copywriting skills, tweaking their button colors and offering a discount or money-back guarantee will solve the issues they are experiencing.

That’s just a part of the equation; research shows that most people who do not buy do not buy due to trust issues. In a world rife with hacks, phishing attempts and scams, no matter how persuasive you are, nobody will input their credit card details on your website.

macy's https

According to research from Econsultancy/Toluna, 48% of people will not buy from your website if they do not see a trust seal. Various case studies have also reported massive gains from implementing SSL on their website.

Before you start tweaking your copy, it’s a good idea to make sure people trust you first. If you can’t get them to trust you, no amount of persuasion will do the trick. Here are some tips to gain trust from your users:

  • Use security measures like SSL (this will allow you to use the “HTTPS” protocol, and it will also display a green security padlock in your users’ browsers).
  • Use recognized trust seals on key pages of your website.
  • Gather social proof that let people know that other people trust you; testimonials, user case studies and expert endorsements will help a great deal in this regard.

3) Cater to mobile users

For many people, the magic solution needed to boost (even double!) conversion rates is to optimize the mobile experience they serve their users.

Do you know that Facebook makes over 80% of its revenue from mobile users? Now it’s easy to say, “But Facebook mainly has mobile users!” or, “People mainly use social media on mobile devices!” but your business also probably has more mobile users than you know of.

Recent research shows that there are now more mobile internet users than desktop internet users. If you’re not properly catering to mobile users, then you’re most likely losing half of your sales.

Catering to mobile users go beyond just having a mobile-friendly or responsive website; your checkout page should be responsive. Your emails should be responsive too – research shows that 75% of people instantly delete emails that are not mobile responsive.

The key is to make every part of the experience your users go through seamless irrespective of what device they are using to interact with your online business.

4) Use data-informed blogging

It’s 2016, so we know that every smart business should be blogging already. However, do you just “blog”? Apparently not. If your idea of blogging is to setup a blog, add content to it and promote your content, then you’re most likely doing it wrong.

If that’s simply how you approach blogging, you’re most likely wasting your time, efforts and money invested in blogging. The key to successful blogging is to use a data-driven approach. Here are some tips:

  • Ensure your blog regularly features your products and offers: this makes it easy for blog readers to cross over to your site and is the only way to get real ROI from your blogging efforts. You can do this by linking to your blog in the sidebar, inside articles, in the navigation bar and in other key places on your blog.
  • Write quality, comprehensive content: we’ve always heard that quality trumps quantity, and research agrees; several studies, including one that analyzed over 100 million articles, found that longer content, usually of 2,000 words and above, will get more shares, backlinks and both short and long term traffic.
  • Write a LOT of content: just as quality matters, quantity does too. Available data from Hubspot show that businesses that publish 16 or more blog posts monthly get the most ROI from blogging. According to the Hubspot study, by publishing 16+ articles a month you’re likely to get 4.5X more leads and 3.5X more traffic compared to if you publish less than four articles a month.

5) Address shopping cart abandonment

According to data from Baymard, the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate is 68.64%. If we’re to interpret this data literally, it means at least 68 people who get to your checkout pages – who have considered buying from you – will eventually quit.


Now, this is very alarming because these are people who already decided to buy from you, who have expressed interest by heading over to your checkout page. Exactly why do these people quit? Well, we will have to rely on data again – research shows that:

  • People abandon a web page due to site speed issues
  • People abandon a cart due to shipping costs
  • People abandon a shopping cart due to payment processing issues
  • People abandon a shopping cart due to payment processing issues

Fix all the above issues, and you will have persuaded a major percentage of abandoners to return. Research also shows that shopping cart abandoners spend 55% more when remarketed to, so you might want to give remarketing a shot.

Robert Mening is a sales and marketing consultant who has helped thousands of people start their own blogs. He’s the creator of the Website Setup blog project.

August 25th, 2016

40 free digital marketing tools to grow your business

If you’re just starting out with a business, or looking for tools to help you grow, there is a huge array of digital marketing tools, platforms and services available online.

But if you have a small budget to work with or you aren’t sure which are the right tools for you to be investing your money into – or maybe you just want to bolster your digital marketing without spending too much – then how can you narrow your options down?

To help out, we’ve put together a hefty list of 40 free digital marketing tools that can help you grow your business, in every area of marketing: from email to events, content to social media.

This is partly a refreshed and updated version of the excellent list of 50 digital marketing tools to grow your start-up put together by Bryan Eisenberg last year, and incorporates many of his picks as well as suggestions from the comments section. If you know any great free tools that have been helpful in your own digital marketing efforts, please suggest them in the comments!

General sales & marketing


Hubspot is an inbound marketing software platform, much of which is free to use. Its free sales software allows you to build email templates, a shared library of sales content and documents, integrate with Gmail and Outlook, schedule emails and more.

Hubspot also offers a free Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software which integrates with it. If you’re minded to upgrade, the Pro version starts at $50 per person per month. (Suggested by Luke Hamon)


Sniply is a very interesting tool which lets you build custom calls to action (CTAs) and add them to content that you share. As long as the page you’re sharing supports iframes, you can create your custom CTA button and message and add it in over the page, which only the people who access your link will be able to see.


SumoMe boasts a powerful suite of marketing tools, including content analytics, an email scroll box, contact form, image sharer and more. The free version gives access to all of SumoMe’s apps, plus more features like A/B testing are available to Pro subscribers, starting at $20 a month.


If you aren’t sure where to start with digital marketing tools, a free report from Ampervize could give you a springboard. Based on your responses to a couple of simple questions about your business, it will produce a tailored report recommending marketing providers and the areas of marketing which are most likely to deliver results.

Ampervize recommended providers


Cyfe is an all-in-one dashboard for managing your business tools online. Add widgets for everything from advertising tools to blog platforms, email tools, SEO and social media to manage them all in one place. The free version supports up to 5 widgets, or you can upgrade to premium for $19/month.

Email marketing


Boomerang is a free app for Gmail, Outlook and Android with a range of email management tools. It integrates easily with your inbox interface to add features like email scheduling, snoozing, read receipts and follow-up reminders.

I use this all the time simply for email scheduling and read receipts, and Boomerang has developed some more advanced features aimed at businesses, including – most recently – an AI assistant which helps you to craft the perfect email, launched just this week.

Boomerang respondable


You’ve probably come across MailChimp in your travels (especially if you’ve ever listened to the podcast Serial), and there’s a good reason why it’s so popular.

Completely free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month, it’s an easy option for small businesses and groups to get to grips with newsletters, with built-in signup forms, templates and free data insights to track how your email marketing stacks up against your industry.


Klaviyo is an email marketing software which helps you send out personalised and targeted emails, and is free to use for up to 250 contacts and 500 email sends. The free accounts also include A/B testing tools, integrations, segmentation and a drag-and-drop responsive email creator.

Structured Data Markup Helper is a type of structured data markup that you can add to emails in Gmail to enable some great interactive marketing features, like auto-adding to Google Calendar, one-click reviews and RSVPs and integration with search.

Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper does all the hard work of coding for you, and all you have to do is highlight the relevant part of an email and select from the drop-down menu to mark it up. For more information on for emails and getting started, check out how to add markup to your email marketing.

A screenshot showing the Google Structured Data Markup Helper for emails.


Hiver is an email collaboration tool designed to help you work more efficiently using shared accounts. Track tasks, access shared mailboxes, write notes, assign emails to team members and mark them completed when done. The free version supports up to 3 users, or you can upgrade from $6/month to work with larger teams.

Content creation & curation


Apester is a handy free tool for creating interactive content like quizzes, which can liven up your content marketing with some fun and engaging pieces. We’ve been using it here at ClickZ and Search Engine Watch to power challenges such as ‘How well do you know these 25 SEO abbreviations?‘ and ‘Can you decipher these marketing and business buzzwords?


Piktochart is a popular and easy-to-use tool for creating infographics, along with other types of visual content like presentations and posters. Its drag-and-drop interface is really simple and the results look slick and professional.


Canva is another versatile, free visual content creation tool – and in the age of the visual web, you might as well have all the tools you can at your disposal! Canva helps you create attractive visuals for everything from social media graphics to presentations, banners, blog graphics and business cards.



Listly is a fun and free platform for curating and sharing all sorts of lists, on any topic from film to technology, education to marketing. Other users can follow your lists and upvote their favourite items to make them rank higher. I’ve curated the tools in this article into their own Listly, so feel free to comment and upvote your favourites!


Triberr is one part content sharing platform, one part influencer marketing platform. If you’re a blogger or content creator, you can use it as a platform to share content with a network of fellow content creators, and join groups for specific interests and topic areas – think of it like LinkedIn groups.

If you’re an agency, however, you can also use Triberr to conduct influencer marketing campaigns. You can prepare a campaign for influencers to apply to, set a budget, digital assets, goals and more. While you do have to pay the influencer(s), everything else is free to use with no other fees.

Social media


Socioboard is a social media management platform for businesses and brands, aimed at helping them with lead generation, customer support, marketing and engagement. You can connect up a range of accounts including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn to manage them from a central dashboard. The free version offers scheduling features, CRM and reporting tools for up to 5 profiles. (Suggested by Rupak Som)



Hootsuite is a widely-used social media management tool which allows you to manage and co-ordinate multiple social networks, schedule posts, track analytics and keep tabs on certain keywords and hashtags via its ‘streams’ feature.

The free version allows you to connect up to three accounts, or you can upgrade to one of its paid accounts for more features.


TweetReach is a great tool for analysing the reach of any username, hashtag or keyword, estimating how many impressions it has made and how many individual accounts have been reached.

The free version only gives a snapshot of the past 100 tweets, so to get a more detailed analysis, you would need to upgrade to one of the paid options – or you can take multiple snapshots to build up a picture over time.


socialmention allows you to search for any word, phrase or hashtag to see where people are using it across the internet. It’s useful for keeping tabs on a hashtag campaign or brand name beyond social media, as it also covers blogs, bookmarks, images and videos. You can also see whether people are using your term in a positive or negative context, its level of reach, and whether users are mentioning it repeatedly.


Simply Measured

Simply Measured provides a selection of free reports you can use to analyse various social media accounts, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Even more in-depth is its Social Traffic Analysis, which works in conjunction with Google Analytics to give an overview of your site’s social traffic, presenting it in a visual and easy-to-read format.

If you want to go further with social media tracking and analytics, don’t miss our list of nine free tools for measuring social ROI!


Instagram Video

Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter all have their video offerings, but Instagram is still, as Christopher Ratcliff wrote in his piece on the best branded Instagram videos of 2016, “one of the best places for brands to experiment with short form video”.

Instagram video has all the filters you’ll be familiar with from uploading photographs, plus a choice of ratio and now a full 60 seconds to play with. You can shoot directly within the app or upload and trim an existing video.


Wistia is a video hosting service for businesses, which came highly recommended by local SEO expert Greg Gifford in his Brighton SEO presentation on going beyond local SEO. It provides detailed analytics, engagement graphs and heat maps to show exactly how users have interacted with a video. The free option only supports three videos, but you can upgrade from $10/month to one of its paid options.


Powtoon is a free tool for creating animated marketing videos, explainers, animated infographics, or even videos and presentations that you can share internally within your business. The free account allows for videos of up to five minutes, with a watermark and outro. (Recommended by Deepak Gawas)



WeVideo is an online video editing and collaboration tool, with cloud storage, a music library and editing on-the-go with a mobile app. The free version allows for five minutes of video publishing in 720p, with watermark.



Eventbrite is a widely-used and effective event hosting platform which allows you to create an event, invite attendees, manage tickets and registrations and promote your event to a wider audience. While it’s only free if your event is free to attend, there are fairly low fees for paid tickets, which you can often pass on to buyers as part of the event registration.


An extensive social discovery platform for professional events, Lanyrd is great both for publicising your own event and finding other events at which to network, learn and make contacts. It allows attendees to share videos, slides and podcasts after the event, with remote tracking features so that anyone who couldn’t make it can follow along remotely.



Slideshare is an important complement to any event – the most convenient way to share and save presentation slides after an event has taken place, and a great platform for reaching a business audience.


AppsGeyser is a free tool designed to let you easily create an Android app. You can use it for any purpose, but it would be particularly useful for an event where you’d like to create a one-use app that will keep attendees connected and up to date, without a lot of expenditure.


HelloSign is a tool for helping you to get event contracts (and other types of contract) signed by requesting electronic signatures from up to 20 different people. It uses SSL encryption to keep documents safe, and will send out an email copy to everyone who signed a document, for their records. The free version is limited to 3 documents per month from a single sender; paid versions start from $13/month and have a 30-day free trial.


Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a must-have for any suite of analytics tools, and the best part is that it’s completely free. Google’s all-in-one analytics dashboard gives insights into different traffic sources, pageviews, demographics, SEO, social media and a wealth of other information.

To find out how to set up Google Analytics for your website for the first time, check out YuYu Chen’s comprehensive beginner’s guide. Our guide to confusing terms is also on hand to help you decipher the lingo!


Buzzsumo is a content analysis tool which gives you a breakdown of the social shares for content published to any domain, allowing you to discover the most popular and shareable content for your own website – or a competitor’s – and find out which networks your content resonates with. Upgrading to a Pro account also gives you insight into backlinks and influencers, allowing you to see exactly who is sharing your content.


Bitly is a free link shortening and tracking tool, which monitors traffic and referrals via custom links and displays detailed analytics about clicks, location, referring websites, activity over time and more. It’s widely used by publishers and businesses alike, and has a handy tagging system you can use to keep track of links from different marketing campaigns or portals.

bitly graphs

Quill Engage

Quill Engage provides reports which explain your Google Analytics data in plain English. So if you’re feeling baffled by all of the numbers and technical terms, give a free report a go – the free version offers reports for one Google Analytics account, which you can have delivered weekly and monthly.

SimilarWeb & GetHoneybadger

SimilarWeb is a useful tool for keeping tabs on your competitors. Using its free search tool, you can dig up stats on any website, including its rank globally, within its leading country, and within its respective category; traffic by country and sources; search and referral traffic; and more.

You can also audit yourself for some insightful stats, and put your performance side-by-side with competitors to see how you can compare.

For an even more seamless process, you can also use the Chrome extension Gethoneybadger to dig up stats about any website with one click. Gethoneybadger uses SimilarWeb to pull in analytics about that specific website, displaying them in a little window in the corner of your screen.


Google Search Console

Much like Google Analytics, Google Search Console is a must-have resource for webmasters, and is free to set up for your website. With it, you can monitor your site’s performance, identify any issues, submit content to be crawled, check on your mobile friendliness, view the searches that brought users to your site, and much more besides.

Christopher Ratcliff has written a complete overview of Google Search Console over at Search Engine Watch which breaks down each individual area and how to use it.

SEO SiteCheckup

SEO SiteCheckup will give you a quick and detailed health check of your website’s SEO for free, with an overall SEO score out of 100, along with a downloadable PDF report and information on keyword usage, images, backlink authority and other handy insights.

seo site checkup

Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress

Yoast is a free plugin for WordPress to help you easily manage SEO and optimise your webpages. You can use it to set templates for, and optimise, titles and meta descriptions, enter focus keywords, and fine-tune just about everything you could want about your Google listing.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool

The Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool is a desktop app that you can install on PC, Mac or Linux, which will crawl websites and analyse them for common SEO issues, such as broken links, duplicate content and response time. The free version works for up to 500 URLs, or you can buy an annual license for £99/year, which will also unlock a set of advanced configuration options.

Google’s Mobile Friendly and Speed Test Tool

For your business to be able to compete online, it’s become imperative to have a properly-optimised mobile site. Mobile traffic has surpassed desktop web traffic for the first time in 2016, and Google’s various ‘mobilegeddon‘ algorithm updates have increasingly penalised sites that aren’t optimised for mobile. So to give your site the best chance in search, it pays to track down and fix up those issues that keep it from working well on mobile.

Luckily, Google has made this free and quick to do with its Mobile Friendly and Speed Test Tool, which will analyse and test your site for mobile functionality and also speed issues, and advise you on how to fix them. Of course, you can always beat Google to the punch with our mobile-friendliness checklist.

mobile friendly

If you want to dive into free search optimisation tools in more depth, including site health checkers, sitemap generators, keyword research tools and more, don’t miss our roundup of 26 expert-recommended free SEO tools over on our sister site Search Engine Watch.

August 23rd, 2016

How ‘Next Logical Product’ could trigger more email success

As consumers, we live in a real-time world. We have the technology to access the information we need, when and where we want it, and the “when” is usually “now.” 

This access to real-time information produces a lot of data that companies can use in order to target and market to us more accurately, gain better insights and help them plan more effectively.

All this real-time action generates plenty of data that companies can use to improve their messaging to those customers.

One use I particularly like is triggering emails that respond to customer actions like visiting a website or browsing a product page. Responding to these signals in real time helps companies capitalize on behavior and move customers closer to a conversion.

Triggered and transactional emails can account for 50% or more of email revenue in a year. So, they’re definitely worth your time to investigate and add to your email program.

Hands typing on laptop keyboard

Add this trigger: ‘next logical product’

As I outlined in this recent blog post How incremental innovation drives steady and strategic change, even marketers with limited time and resources can build a program of triggers if they add them one at a time.

A good place to start is with a “next logical product” trigger, which combines your data with a relevant email message to your customers.

“Next logical product” analysis uses data to determine what customers buy next after they make a specific purchase. Here’s an example: Your data tells you a large percentage of customers who buy washer-dryer combinations on your website often buy hoses or storage platforms within two weeks of having their new appliances installed.

Your customers who don’t buy that extra equipment when they check out on your website could probably find it at any big-box appliance store, but, naturally, you want them to buy it from you.

So, you look at your data, and you say, “Hey! Let’s message everybody who doesn’t buy storage platforms from us 10 days later, show them the models of washers and dryers they bought, plus the storage platforms that fit those models and show how to order them!”

“Next logical product” emails tie customer intent with your data to produce a result – another purchase. You can predict this behavior because your statistics show a significant majority of people buy that product next. That’s your “next logical product” trigger.

How to identify ‘next logical product’ triggers

First, study your product line and purchase data so you can understand purchasing patterns. What do people buy, what do they buy next, and what’s the time frame? Try to identify five products that you could investigate.

Next, give your data scientists or CRM analysts your product list. Ask them, “Of these products, what do people buy next shortly after the purchase, and what percentage of customers buy those products?”

(This should be a simple query, but if you have to persuade your data people to make your project a priority, remind them that you could use the data to make more money for the company.)

Use your data to build a financial model, and then test it on a sample of customers. If you can confirm your hypothesis, create a simple email featuring the upsell for the product purchased.

Test several versions of the copy, including one that uses a transactional approach (“We noticed you didn’t buy this essential product to go with your recent purchase. Do you still need it?”) or a helpful/customer-relationship one (“Many customers find this product helps them get more use out of your product…”) Then, link directly to the product page from the email.

After you create and test your emails, isolate the customers who bought the item in your time frame. Send the email to them manually, and assess the response. Try another date range as well. This will help you figure out the best time frame to send the email.

Creating this trigger gives you two brag-worthy benefits:

  1. You just created a new revenue stream. Maybe these customers might have come back on their own to buy the next product; maybe they might have gone to a competitor. Your next-logical-product email increases the odds exponentially that you’ll get the sale.
  1. You also created a new proof point you can take back to your data people when you need to ask for data or to give your systems people when it’s time to automate the process using the results you generated in your tests.

What could you start testing today?

Ryan Phelan is the VP Marketing Insights at Adestra and a contributor to ClickZ.

August 22nd, 2016

Remarketing: wouldn’t they just come back anyway?

A new starter in Team SaleCycle recently asked me the following question… “Wouldn’t they just come back anyway?”

By ‘they’ my colleague meant ‘website visitors’ and to answer this question I need to clarify a few things:

With any remarketing solution (AKA behavioral retargeting), target identified and anonymous visitors behave differently and therefore to answer the question we need to look at the behavior of each type of visitor separately.

Let’s start with identified visitors first. What does it mean for a visitor to be identified or recognized?

identified vs anonymous

Identified visitors

For a website visitor to be identified the visitor needs to have entered unique personally identifiable data (email address or mobile phone number) on the website either during that visit or in a previous one.

Normally this means the visitor has previously purchased from that website, signed up for an account/newsletter or entered their details during the checkout process.

identified visitors

If a visitor is identified it is likely that they already have a relationship with the brand/website.

Or in the last example, where they left their details during a final visit, they are so invested in the purchase and so close to completing that they took the time to type their personal details into a field.

When you look at it in that context you start to draw parallels between the oft quoted stats in many Analytics packages: ‘New vs Returning Visitor’.

Now, many people confuse this measurement with ‘New vs Returning’ customers and often given the nature of multi-device/cross-device tracking, it’s difficult to conduct that analysis in a web analytics platform.

CRM teams obviously know the difference and the challenge becomes even more complex when brands operate both online and offline channels (phone plus bricks & mortar).

Anonymous visitors

Anonymous visitors are slightly different.

When a visitor can’t be recognized and they abandon, it’s very difficult to recognize them when they come back and buy.

If there is no personally identifiable data when they leave a purchase behind, how do you know it’s definitely them when they return?

Sure, there is non-personal data that can help identify them such as IP address and machine information but using that data to recognize visitors is not 100% accurate.

Anonymous visitors can only be redirected back to a site via targeted advertising, and we know that has its place.

anonymous visitors

As many remarketing tools for anonymous visitors focus on keeping the visitor on the site in the same visit it’s hard to test how many would come back.

We at SaleCycle believe that’s how to measure the success of tools like onsite remarketing, unlike other vendors who may claim a returning anonymous visitor up to 30 days after they left.

So our testing only focuses on displaying a message to them and making them buy in the same visit. So for now let’s park that group of visitors.

Overall it’s somewhat likely and easy to prove that identified visitors do come back, but with anonymous its more difficult, although it can be estimated and it’s obvious that some do come back. However, you want to know how many come back.

Well, context is everything, and to answer the question fully I need to give even more context.

How visitors behave

Any test to prove or disprove a theory is a good way to do that and a test is only good as its methodology; results on their own are not always conclusive.

To test how visitors behave we analyzed the data for a number of clients where the visitor was identified to see what happened after they abandoned their purchase. In our testing we refer to this as the “Natural Recovery Rate’.

We run this test regularly for our clients and recently did so for a major retailer.

In this retailers’ test a total of more than 50k unique visitors abandoned purchases online during the period of testing.

Our test split the data in a natural way with both identified and anonymous visitors on both sides.

We then sent remarketing emails to 90% of recognized website visitors and tracked the behavior of the 10% of visitors we did not communicate with.

Over the duration of the test, 33% of unique abandoning visitors ‘naturally’ returned to complete a purchase. On the side of the test where we sent remarketing emails 41% of unique abandoning visitors returned to complete a purchase.

Let’s break that down even further.

Over an extended period of time (30 days) 33% of visitors on both sides of the test came back naturally (no abandonment communications were sent to them) and bought.

salecycle test

On the Remarketing test side an additional 8% of unique abandoning visitors received, opened, clicked and returned to purchase, making the overall conversion rate on this side 41% – 33% +8%.

It’s worth noting around half of the 33% of visitors on this side of the test actually did receive an email and returned to complete a purchase without opening and clicking the email in the same sequence.

It could be argued that they opened on one device and returned to buy on another. In this case their behavior is recorded as natural where it could be argued it is not.

So yeah, some visitors do come back.

If you are a major retailer, you might be lucky that such a high proportion of visitors come back over a long period. These numbers differ for all retailers and in the travel sector for example due to the lack of frequency of visits the numbers are significantly lower. But can you take the chance that they will just return and buy?

Michael Barber is Head of Product at SaleCycle and a contributor to ClickZ.

August 8th, 2016

Email deliverability is on the decline: report

Email deliverability is a critical part of email marketing strategy, but email marketers have seen deliverability rates decline according to a new report.

Return Path’s 2016 Deliverability Benchmark Report, which is based on seed addresses at over 140 global and regional email providers, found that globally, one in five emails never makes it to its intended recipient, and that “deliverability…experienced a slight but steady decline quarter over quarter.”

In the second quarter, the average inbox placement rate was 79% in the second quarter, down from 81% in the same quarter a year ago and 82% in the third quarter of 2015.

Deliverability declines were most pronounced in the United States, where the inbox placement rate Return Path observed dropped to 69% in the second quarter, down from 80% in the third quarter of last year.

Over the past year, the average inbox placement rate for the US stands at 73%, which lags Australia (90%), Canada (89%), Britain (88%), France (84%), Germany (80%) and Brazil (79%).


The difficulties faced by email marketers in the US could be due in part to the competitive nature of the American market, but that’s little consolation for them given the high costs of lower-than-desirable deliverability.

As Return Path points out, “With deliverability declining, marketers are missing out on building valuable relationships and achieving the highest possible ROI.”

So what can email marketers do? Return Path suggests that email marketers:

  • Ensure they have a solid understanding of email deliverability. As Laura, owner of email deliverability consultancy Word to the Wise, has noted, “Brands need to start getting into the mindset that deliverability problems are predictable. There is a cycle. We need to move beyond deliverability as an unexpected emergency and start thinking of it as something that can be planned for.”
  • Focus on reputation. Maintaining a good reputation is an important part of making sure that emails don’t get caught in spam filters.
  • Maintain quality lists. According to Return Path, “Every spam trap, unknown user, and inactive account on your list can damage your reputation, your deliverability, and potentially can land you on a blacklist.” As such, keeping bad addresses off of subscriber rolls is a must.
  • Recognize the growing importance of engagement. In an effort to improve user experience, a growing number of email providers, including popular webmail providers like Gmail and Microsoft, are tracking recipient engagement and incorporating engagement signals into their spam filters, so it’s increasingly important for email marketers to craft emails that deliver positive engagement.
August 1st, 2016

Take control of your email deliverability

It’s time for brands to take ownership and control over their own deliverability and here’s why.

For as long as I’ve been in the field of email marketing there has been a tension, to put it mildly, between marketers and mailbox providers that has led to problems with delivery.

Almost without exception dealing with these problems has fallen to deliverability specialists working for email service providers.

It’s understandable as many aspects of delivery are arcane and complex requiring a combination of technical expertise and very specific domain knowledge. I was rather surprised therefore when I heard Laura Atkins saying that brands should take ownership of their own deliverability.


If you don’t know Laura you definitely should. She is the owner of email deliverability consultancy Word to the Wise and is one of, if not the, preeminent expert in the field. I asked her why she thinks brands should do what ESPs have historically done.

She started out by describing the experience of many marketers today.

“For a long time deliverability has been an issue that companies pay attention to when everything breaks. Companies would look for solutions, be it monitoring or consulting or whatever, when they were experiencing problems with delivery.

Many senders believed deliverability problems were random and couldn’t be planned for. Most people discovered ‘deliverability’ because one day their email marketing program stopped working. They hadn’t really changed anything and all of a sudden their mail is blocked.

As they see it, they changed nothing so there was no reason for the block. The overall message was that deliverability problems couldn’t be prevented and could only be fixed.”

This certainly fits with my experience and I don’t doubt it resonates strongly with many marketers today.

But Laura continued:

“This isn’t really true, though. Deliverability problems can be prevented and they can be anticipated. I can identify different times when it’s likely email delivery will suffer.”

This is a subject that doesn’t get talked about very much because marketers often don’t understand deliverability and ESPs get paid to respond to delivery problems not prevent them.

Worse than that, as Laura went on to say, “Many companies expect that deliverability is what their ESP does, and if there are problems the ESP will be responsible and fix it. This isn’t actually true. In most cases a sender having problems getting to the inbox is responsible for those problems.”

That’s all well and good, but easier said than done surely?

Laura’s take is that:

“[Deliverability] should be seen as one of the parts of an email marketing strategy. Baking deliverability into the overall strategy both results in fewer ‘deliverability broke, we must fix it’ emergencies and improves overall email marketing results.”

This is really sound advice but the question is how should a brand email marketer do this? Laura says:

“Unfortunately I don’t have simple solutions and answers. Brands need to start getting into the mindset that deliverability problems are predictable. There is a cycle. We need to move beyond deliverability as an unexpected emergency and start thinking of it as something that can be planned for.”

This is not a “do these five things” problem. It’s about changing a mindset and approach to deliverability because:

1. Deliverability is not random. There are consistent, predictable patterns of how and when marketers get blocked.

2. It’s your business. As a marketer it’s your list, your email and your deliverability. You cannot and should not abdicate responsibility for it to your ESP.

3. Deliverability must be baked in. Deliverability needs to be part of your email marketing strategy from the ground up.

At the end of the day, as the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Email is a hugely effective channel and having it stop working unexpectedly is a significant business risk, one you must take control over.

Until next time…

July 18th, 2016

Q&A: Tim Clark on NASCAR’s email marketing strategy

 tim clarkIn advance of his upcoming session at ClickZ Live San Francisco this August, we caught up with Tim Clark, managing director of NASCAR’s digital platform, and talked about NASCAR’s email marketing strategy, the role of fans, and measurement. 

Can you tell us about your role at NASCAR? What does a typical day involve?

I am responsible for the day-to-day management of NASCAR’s digital platform – anything that touches the millions of fans that engage with our website, digital products and mobile apps.

We’re constantly looking to improve the way we interact with NASCAR fans and provide the best experience possible, so each day is unique.

It’s everything from analyzing data from various sources to reviewing our content and programming mix, reviewing user feedback and social media conversation and planning our next marketing campaign and design comps.

nascar mobile

What are the goals of NASCAR’s email marketing strategy?

Email is critical to our overall interaction with fans. We’re focused on identifying what’s important to specific fans at specific times and frequencies and manage our campaigns accordingly.

The primary goal is effective communication of relevant information. What time does the race start on Sunday? What are the storylines for the week? Where is my favorite driver starting?

From there, we try to customize based on preference – lineup reminders for fantasy players, merchandise offers from those that have purchased in the past, ticket offers for fans that live close to the track.

How do you use the enthusiasm of the fan base to improve your overall marketing?

We see the relationship with our fans as mutually beneficial.

NASCAR fans are as passionate as they come, which is amazing on a number of levels. For one, it’s easy to learn their preferences.

If a fan has a favorite team or favorite driver or, for that matter, a favorite platform, we see that and it’s up to us to accommodate those preferences. As we see more fans on digital and social platforms, we’re able to increase our marketing mix there.


With a more engaged fan base than most brands, is it easier to find the data you need to effectively segment and personalize email messages?

Selfishly, we always want more data – because we can always get better. But in terms of personalizing the message for fans – and this may be oversimplifying – we just ask them.

When a user registers with us for the first time, we ask who your favorite driver is so we can personalize content in the newsletter. We also survey our users regularly, just to make sure we’re meeting expectations.

How do you measure and monitor the results of email marketing?

We start with the basics – deliverability, open rate, click rate, etc., but we also look at how we’re pacing our campaigns.

We have rules in place that should prevent users from receiving messages they don’t want. For example, on a week to week basis, if one fan doesn’t open the weekend preview email, we won’t send them the weekend recap email.

That’s going to keep our engagement at a healthy level and keep fans satisfied with our frequency.

Results are going to vary by campaign – sometimes we’re looking to covert new fans with a new product or offer and sometimes we’re looking to communicate information about one of our partners or sponsors. Many times, we’re just looking to inform. Each of those goals has different KPIs so we try to stay flexible.

Want to hear more insights from Tim Clark? Join us at ClickZ Live San Francisco on August 29-31, where he will be speaking about driving success with email marketing, and how to engage your fans and followers to achieve the ultimate customer experience.

Early Bird rates are still available so grab your ticket today!

July 5th, 2016

Eight ways to improve the effectiveness of your email marketing

Email marketing may not be new, but it is still an effective way to engage with customers.

So how can you create a successful email marketing campaign?

An effective email has to be useful, concise, interesting and relevant for its recipients and there are many examples that can help us understand what makes a great email, both for the marketers and the users.

1. Offer value

Every email should provide value for users, being useful and interesting. There needs to be a reason for every email that is sent and the goal should be clear and direct.

Domino’s wanted to promote its deal (and its app) and so it created an appealing email, adding value in the most direct way. There’s no need to add more options, or to confuse the recipients, and that’s what makes an effective email campaign.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 15.18.06

Graze is already popular for its successful email marketing campaigns, as it manages to engage both with new and existing customers in the most appropriate way.

This is another case on how it picks a theme for each email, in order to be specific and clear with its goals.

Graze - email marketing

2. Test the subject line

According to Convince&Convert, 33% of email recipients open an email based on subject line alone.

This signifies the importance of having an effective subject line, one that is not either very general or very specific and promotional.

It is also important to consider your audience before testing the subject lines, as there are different expectations from a sports brand and a business publication.

A subject line will also indicate whether your email will end up in spam mail, so keep in mind when creating your next email campaign. Think like your audience and decide what’s the best way to be appealing.

Is personalisation always a good idea? Apparently sometimes it is not.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 15.03.53

ASOS  on the other hand decided to create an intriguing subject line, in order to apologise for the site’s issues, rewarding its customers with a limited discount. From a customer’s perspective, I was curious enough from the subject line to open the email, which I wouldn’t normally do for every email I’m receiving, so this should be considered a success for its open rate.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 15.24.46

According to ReturnPath and its survey on the Art and Science of Effective Subject Lines, subject lines of 61 – 70 characters long had the highest read rate (17%), while the trigger of urgency is also effective, with words such as “still time” having an increased open rate of +15.54%.

Urgency - subject line

3. Timing / frequency

It is always important to consider both the timing and the frequency of your emails, in order to ensure that the open rate is affected by the relevance and the context.

According to GetResponse, email marketers send an average of 5 emails per month, with sending frequency highest in the finance, banking and insurance sector (12.2) and lowest in the online advertising network (1.4) and consumer goods (1.5) industries.

Except for the frequency, relevance may also increase the effectiveness of an email, and 8Ball is an example of how ecommerce may embrace a TV moment to increase its sales.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 15.30.43

Email campaigns are frequently affected by holidays and big events, with IWOOT promoting a sale for Father’s Day, also triggering the sense of urgency to encourage purchases.

IWOOT - email marketing

4. Clarity, simplicity

A concise email campaign is focusing on delivering the message in a simple and clear way, in order to avoid confusion or even attention span.

By the time an email campaign achieves the desired open rate, there’s the challenge of actually converting it into sales.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 15.18.44

In the time of visual abundance, it is sometimes appreciated to be minimal and Uber’s email seems to be a great example.

Uber - email marketing

5. Make customers feel special

An email campaign that makes customers feel included has more chances of success, whether it’s about bringing traffic back to the site, click rates, or even sales.

PicJumbo wanted to announce its presence on ProductHunt, so it decided to encourage its subscribers to join them and vote them. There’s certainly a difference between sending an email announcing the presence on ProductHunt and the one they actually created.

Product Hunt email marketing

A discount code, like the one ASOS provided, may be the right reward for loyal customers, especially if it’s an exclusive deal for the email subscribers. This way they will also keep an eye on future mails, which increases the chances of future effective email campaigns.

ASOS - email marketing

Starbucks has its own loyal audience, but this is not always enough to maintain the engagement. Thus, rewards and previews are appreciated, like the recent email which allowed Starbucks members to try out the new iced teas a week before their actual availability for the other customers.

This is a great move to strengthen the bonds between members and the brand and it proves that even the slightest reward may bring multiple benefits.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 15.16.49

6. Be helpful

An effective email is structured in a way that it is guiding customers on the next steps. There’s no need to let them wonder what the next step should be, especially if the message requires further explanation.

Waitrose wanted to promote the free international money transfers for its members, but it also wanted to ensure that they are not confused and that’s why it sent a very clear and helpful email, also mentioning at the bottom how easy the process is.

Even if a customer was not aware of this service from Waitrose, the detailed email may help turn around the interest, which is the ultimate goal for the shop.

Waitrose - email marketing

7. Personalisation

It has been widely suggested that a personalised email leads to more successful results. And it may be true, but this does not occur in every case of personalisation.

For example, the automatic use of the recipient’s mail does not seem to be very effective, as it may end up alienate the customer, rather than create a bond.

According to a study led by Assistant Professor of Management Information Systems (MIS) Sunil Wattal and the analysis of 10 million marketing emails sent to 600,000 customers, 95% of customers responded negatively when an email greeted them by name.

ReturnPath‘s survey indicated that subject lines with personal pronouns do not increase the open rate, which leads to the realisation that personalisation is not necessarily leading to familiarity, just because a personal pronoun, or a name is used.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 14.20.05

8. Be different, be creative

An email campaign shouldn’t be boring and that’s why creativity is important.

Groupon for example created an email campaign by focusing on the element of surprise, at least on its discount code, hoping to bring a layer of excitement to its campaign.

Groupon - email marketing

Apple blended its popular minimalism along with creativity to promote Beats headphones and the result is certainly very appealing.

Apple - email marketing


There are many parameters that affect the results of your email campaign, but this doesn’t mean that you should stop experimenting.

Learn your audience, be creative, be relevant, be useful and start tracking the results of your next campaign.

June 21st, 2016

Should brands ever use ‘do not reply’ email addresses?

No reply email addresses are a frequent source of irritation to consumers, but is there every a reason to use this on your emails? 

In this post I’ll look at the pros and cons of no-reply email addresses, when and how they can be used, and how to communicate the reasons to recipients.

Why no-reply is annoying

A few reasons:

  • It can increase spam reports. 
  • It implies a certain arrogance from the sender. We, the brand, can contact you this way, but don’t expect to reply to us on the same channel.
  • It turns email into a one-way communication channel. 
  • People are unlikely to add such addresses to their address book. 
  • It’s bad for customer service (see below)

When used in customer service emails ‘no-reply’ can be doubly annoying. You may have had a perfectly satisfactory response to your question and the email has answered it perfectly. In such a case, a no-reply email means you cannot let the company know, or even just thank them.

If, on the other hand, the email leaves many questions unanswered and doesn’t allow an instant response, this is just very bad customer service. Rather than being able to respond to the points in the email, customers are forced to head back to whichever channel prompted the email reply in the first place. If you want to create angry customers, this is a great way to do it.

Is the use of no-reply ever justified?

Let’s agree that, for customer service emails at least, using do not reply email addresses should be avoided. But are there any good reasons to use them?

To be honest, it’s hard to find a good reason to ever use no-reply emails. There are emails which brands can send which don’t necessarily need a reply, such as:

  • Transactional emails – emails confirming a purchase, or sending invoice details.
  • Newsletters. No need to reply, just read the articles.
  • Marketing emails. Brands obviously want a response here, but not by replying to the email.

The problem with no reply is that, even when no response is needed, it doesn’t look good.

Marketers will point to the difficulties of not using do not reply emails. For example, large organisations can generate a massive volume of incoming email, and this takes resources to deal with, hence the no-reply option.

I asked email marketing expert Elliot Ross, Founder of action rocket, for his take on no-reply emails:

Is it ever acceptable to use no-reply emails?

We always talk about “having a conversation” with customers, but starting off that conversation with “no-reply” doesn’t really work. So even if you’re using an email address that isn’t monitored, naming it something more neutral might work better.

The ideal solution, if your platform supports it, is to let people reply and then use their response management to filter out things like out of office notifications and bounce reports. That way people can reply and it actually gets picked up by your customer support team.

For emails which don’t need a response, what’s the best approach to take?

I think when it comes to customer service, some users will reply to any email. So if you can’t actually take a reply, I’ve seen brands use something like newsletter@, and then using an auto reply if people do actually reply to it.

Then that auto-reply can detail how to get in touch through the proper support channels.

Examples of no-reply emails

They’re bad, but some are better than others…


Here’s one from Microsoft. It does at least advise me that it’s sent from an unmonitored address. However, that message is easily lost (the highlighting is mine) in the text.

Also, though this is a billing invoice for Xbox Live, it doesn’t say so in the email. This could actually prompt me to reply.

microsoft email


The order conformation email from Domino’s has a no-reply address, as well as a note advising respondents not to reply, but to use contact details further down the email.


And further down, we have plenty of contact options. A do not reply address isn’t ideal here, but at least Domino’s has tried to mitigate the problem.

dominos 2

John Lewis

A better example from John Lewis here. It’s an order confirmation email, which doesn’t always need a response.

However, the retailer anticipates that some customers will have queries, so these emails can be replied to.

john lewis email


  • Never use a no-reply email address. There are better options.
  • Provide clear contact options on email communications to channel customer queries to the right departments.
  • Provide an auto-reply if you need to to avoid the frustration of emails heading into a black hole.
  • Answer all the emails if you can. Use response management to filter out the genuine queries.
May 16th, 2016

Six email marketing optimization tips from #ClickZChat

Email marketing is far from perfect. It often gets given short shrift when something new and shiny and… well… social comes along, and marketers struggle with volume all the time.

Around 205 billion emails get fired out to some 4.5 billion email accounts every single day, and the average business user will find 121 of these in their inbox every day.

But there’s no denying it works. Email is still one of the most effective channels we have, and in most cases it’s still more likely to convert than social or PPC. So how can we retain that value while avoiding overwhelming our lists? Luckily, there’s a #ClickZChat for that…

#ClickZChat is our weekly Twitter forum. We ask the @ClickZ and @SEWatch audiences three questions about a marketing or search topic.  Here’s what you had to say about Email Marketing Optimization.

Q1: is email still the most effective marketing channel? Why? Or why not?

?@rajnijjer Kicked things off with a resounding ‘Yes’ vote, noting the extremely high average ROI from email campaigns:

Of course, not all campaigns are created equal. Several of our followers mentioned that email works best in very specific situations, where longer, more complex interactions are required:

And as Jason Stockwell pointed out, high ROI may be a result of more mature measurement models:

There’s also a certain weight of expectation with email. We might not be so quick to assume that a tweet would convert (at least in a financial sense), again showing the value of communications with more context:

Finally, there is also the matter of engagement.  As I mentioned earlier, we get a LOT of emails each day, but generally speaking we still ‘see’ a lot of them, even if we don’t go as far as opening. Email is a curated list of information which we have actively asked for in many cases:

But we can still make ourselves unwelcome by sending too many updates, or opting users into mail they have not requested:

Which brings us neatly on to our next question:

Q2: What are the pros and cons of email automation?


Kim Stiglitz is a content marketer for Campaign Monitor. She was quick to point out that in many cases, automated emails had some of the highest engagement rates:


This clearly brings up the issue of user need. In many cases these are expected emails, delivered to assist with an action that the user was already trying to complete:


However, it is still possible to damage your customer relationship at this point. Personalization was mentioned as a key factor by a number of people:


Automation provides us with a very powerful set of tools, but it does take real time and effort to deploy correctly:


This is a major concern, but as Dawn Anderson mentioned, are we being too hard on ourselves or expecting too much from the channel?

Six top tips for great email marketing

Finally, it wouldn’t be #ClickZChat without a top tips round-up.

Q3: What one thing should marketers do to improve the effectiveness of their email marketing campaigns?


1: manage your data carefully

2: Think beyond the technical. Content quality matters here too

3: Think about “what” you are sending, not just how/when it is deployed – is this useful for the person receiving it?

4: Don’t over-extend your welcome (and don’t spam people!)

5: Email requires a different kind of copywriting focus. Optimize for the format and channel

6: Test, test and test again!

As always, a huge thank you to everyone who took part in this week’s chat. Please let us know any other email tips and tricks that you have found successful in the comments, and be sure to join us on Twitter this Wednesday at noon EST (5pm UK) for another #ClickZChat.

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