Monday, August 27, 2012

Three Phases of a Successful Email Marketing Campaign Part 1 - Sign Me Up!

Setting up and executing a business email campaign isn’t as easy as typing a paragraph and hitting “send.” 

If you only go through the motions, you’ll get what you put in. Mapping out your campaign is a must if you want more than an email that goes right to the circular file. This starts with establishing and populating your mailing list.

Your Website is Your Friend
Dedicate space on your website or blog to your email campaign sign-up form. Make sure this spot has visibility. If you tuck it away in your site’s “no man’s land,” don’t be surprised if no one fills it out. You want eyes drawn to the form, not an eyesore.

Determine the level of web presence you want to commit. You can feature the sign-up on the homepage, or on all pages. If you go with the latter, don’t forget continuity; place the form in the same spot on every page.

You control your site, so you control the format of the message. Consider what your company offers that can incentivise email list sign-up. It could be a coupon, white paper or any other valuable.

Don't Just HOPE for the Best
You can’t simply lay out a clipboard at your place of business and cross your fingers for a full list at closing time. You need to engage the customer to sign up. Enlist everyone in your company to encourage customers to consider the sign-up list.

Instruct your customer service representatives to plug your email initiative when interacting with customers. In one sentence, ask the customer if they want to opt in; “While I have you, could I interest you in signing up for our email list?”  A drawn out pitch might prompt the customer to make a decision based on annoyance.

Always Stay in Networking Mode
Running a small business, you’re always meeting people. You make a lot of sales calls. Maybe you attend trade shows, workshops and seminars. This is fertile marketing ground.

After exchanging business cards in any of these venues, ask if you can add the card’s address to your email list. If your business comes up in casual conversation off the clock, don’t miss the chance to add another name to your list. Grocery store checkout small talk could lead to a new name on your client board.

Email Campaign Gaffes
You open your front door and find a pile of junk mail. You’re in the middle of dinner and the phone rings with an “exciting time share opportunity.” Or more to the point, you login to your email to the tune of countless spam items.

 Do you read or listen beyond the foil-laced envelope or telemarketer greeting? Nope.
How do you feel? Annoyed.

Don’t stoop to filling your email list without account owner permission. Stay away from Chamber of Commerce or purchased email lists.  Site “scraping” doesn’t work either. Sure, the email address is on the web, right out in the open, but it’s there for business contact, not unsolicited mailings.

In Summation
Email marketing campaigns have a lot of moving parts, all of which need to be well-tuned to succeed. Apply these tips to the construction of your own list and keep an eye out for future Terrapin blogs to improve your email marketing.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Learning from Wikipedia

Wikipedia comes off as a Google bully.

The go-to web encyclopedia shows up at or toward the top of the rankings in nearly every search. Do the two entities have some kind of sweetheart deal? Nope. Wikipedia has cracked the SEO code.

Quality AND Quantity
It’s no quick fix, quite the opposite, actually. To dominate the SEO game, patience, and A LOT of content, is virtue.  

To get Wikipedia-caliber rankings, think of Google as that unreasonable teacher you once had; you are regularly required to write novel-length papers. But you had to graduate, so you sucked it up and did it. You want your business and site to thrive, so suck it up and do it.

The more detailed, quality content you work into your site, the more keywords you generate.  As long as you distribute the keywords evenly and don’t resort to keyword “stuffing,” your rankings will improve.

This isn’t the opinion of some lone geek hacker. This strategy comes straight from the mouth of Google.

In his SEO video mailbag responses, Google Search Quality guru Matt Cutts constantly emphasizes “quality content” as the initiation for becoming one of the rankings elite. Again, this goes back to having the patience to crank out an opus per page of your own site.

Repetition without Being Repetitive
A Wikipedia search for “Mariana Trench” produced a 1600 word article. The word “Mariana” is used 26 times, not counting the Notes section. Because of the sheer length and detail of the article, use of this keyword was evenly distributed, avoiding keyword “stuffing.”

This goes back to the quality content concept stressed by Matt Cutts of Google. Speaking of which, the Wikipedia entry for Mariana Trench showed up number one in a Google search for that keyword.

Getting Crossed Up
Wikipedia also excels at cross-links. The contextual internal linking can hook a page on a comic book character to one detailing migration habits of bathypelagic fish. The catch here is the sheer volume of articles on Wikipedia’s site, estimated at 22 million.

With eight figures of page numbers, these cross ups can keep users clicking for hours. It’s like getting into a new band you saw open for the act you bought your ticket to see.

In Summation
If you can follow this blueprint with your site, you could be on your way to being the next Wikipedia. They’ve been at it for over a decade, and you might still be prepping for a launch, so just have some patience with your content, make sure it’s top shelf and construct your SEO around it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Go for the Gold

Are you sick of seeing your competitors on that top platform proudly displaying their Google rankings gold?

Add Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertisements to your web campaign to take your own top spot.

Pay to Play
PPC is essentially a paid search engine advertisement. It utilizes keywords just like Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Your content shows up in search results as a top or flush right ad instead of an organic result.

With PPC, you set up the ad, establish a budget and only pay when a user clicks the ad. Once the budget is exhausted, the ad comes down unless you re-up.  

The upside to this particular training regimen, if implemented well, is instant gratification. PPC ads are ready to go immediately and will show up at the top assuming a good selection of keywords and sufficient budget. PPC is ideal for specific or seasonal campaigns your business might offer, as well as a long-term marketing tool.

Be Ready for Double Sessions
You’ve drawn in users with your top listing. But establishing lasting web dominance requires “two-a-day” workouts. Along with your PPC effort, Search Engine Optimization is a must.

SEO is like the exhausting, tedious components of Olympic training. The athletes would probably rather skip the endless sprints, laps and conditioning routines.

But these dreaded workouts are mandatory for success, as is SEO. There’s no infomercial-featured, “get ripped in a week” plan to get top-ranking search results honors.

A good SEO plan starts with quality, detailed content. Avoid blatant repetition of keywords, known as “stuffing.” You need to work effective keywords into your site in a natural way.

Never Stop Getting Better
Once you get in peak shape, you have to work to stay that way. Updating your site frequently with fresh content is the only way to stay at the top of your game once you hit that goal.

This all comes back to the aforementioned patience, the old “no pain, no gain” speech you’ll get at practice or the gym.

Bring it In
SEO’s the marathon, PPC’s the sprint. Sticking to this philosophy will give you a competitive edge to go for the gold.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Ecommerce - Going Beyond the Shopping Cart

When your business first opened its doors, times might have been simpler.  The door chime rang, the customer strolled in, grabbed their items from the shelf and handed you the cash. Have a nice day, see you next time.   Over time things have changed.  You adapted to make doing business with you easier - credit cards, gift cards, phone orders and so on. These became musts for your business. The rise of Ecommerce is no different.

Here at Terrapin providing Ecommerce websites has become a large part of what we do.  At least a few times a month we are meeting with someone who wants to sell something online.  Typically these potential customers know they need a shopping cart, but beyond that haven’t given any thought to how everything will actually work.

Let’s take a look at some questions you should be asking yourself if you are considering an ecommerce website.

Product Catalog

  • How many products do you want to initially offer online?
  • How often does your product offering change?  How many products typically move in & out of your offering?
  • Do you have your product information in a database or spreadsheet?
  • Do you have high-quality digital photography of your products available?
  • How do you organize your products internally?  Would you use the same categories for your online customer?
  • Do your products have special ordering options or are people just keying in a quantity and adding to a cart? i.e Different sizes, colors, etc.
  • Are all the information & ordering options the same for all products?


  • What shipping carrier (UPS, FedEx, USPS) do you want to use?
  • Do you want to provide real-time shipping rates (from carrier) or create a fixed shipping cost model?
  • How are your products typically packaged?
  • Do you have the weights for all your items & packaging materials?
  • What is the turnaround time for you to ship an order?
  • Does the website need to communicate with 3rd Party shipping system?

Payment Options
  • Do you have an existing Merchant Account to accept payments by credit card?
  • What credit cards do you accept (Visa, MC, Amex, Disc)?
  • Do you want to offer other payment options (check, money-order, purchase order)?

Processing Orders
  • Are you currently set up to handle small quantity orders?
  • Is the person who manages order processing / shipping comfortable with computers?

System Management
  • Will a single person or team of people be managing the system?
  • If more than one person, will access to management tools need to be restricted based on who is logged in?

By carefully examining your product offering, the way customers purchase those products and how you process incoming orders, you can develop an Ecommerce website that is built around your business - not the other way around.