Email Subject Lines: New Data

November 21st, 2013 By Kevin Baca


Recently, MailChimp, the most objectively awesome email marketing software on the planet, completed a study on subject lines compiled from 24 billion delivered emails. If you appreciate data analysis driven from incredibly large sample sizes, that should have gotten your attention.

After parsing the data from literally billions of subject lines, MailChimp ran a regression analysis and published a list of words which either increased or decreased open rates in “standard deviations from the mean.” That’s right: MailChimp found out which words increase or decrease the likeliness an email will be opened, and they shared some of the key findings. Because MailChimp.

Many of the findings reinforce long-held best practice tips. For example, it is generally understood that personalization, such as adding the recipient’s name, yields both higher open rates as well as greater conversion. Likewise, you do not have to search long online to find blog posts extolling the virtues of time-sensitive language.

But, who knows what kind of research underlies those tips. Personally, I find it incredibly reassuring when best practice tips are backed by statistical analysis from giant data sets. Remember, we’re talking “billions” with a “b.” That’s authority.

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from MailChimp’s takeaways:

1. Free

The word “free” had no meaningful effect on open rates, but the word “freebie” drove opens. It is worth noting that the word “Free” is recognized as a trigger in many SPAM filters. So while the word “free” is already not recommended for deliverability purposes, it turns out the word has very little utility in subject lines.

2. Reminders

The word “reminder” had a significant negative impact on open rates, but just add an “s” and you have “reminders,” which greatly increased opens. Statistical analysis on huge data sets always results in some completely inexplicable and counter-intuitive results, and this is my favorite example of that phenomenon. Although, I would assume the word “reminders” is used far less often than “reminder.”

3. Invit…

Invitation, Invites, Invite, and Invited. It doesn’t matter how you say it, invitations get opened. The data proves it.

4. Cancelled

Unless you are in the restaurant industry, never put the word “cancelled” in the subject line of an email. That is, if you want it to be opened. I guess people do not like bad news because across most industries, the word “cancelled” had a significant negative effect on open rates.

5. Urgent

Words that imply time-sensitivity have a positive impact on open rates, with good old “urgent” increasing open rates by an almost full standard deviation. However, a word of caution: The word “urgent” does not just denote time-sensitivity. It is worth remembering that “urgent” could also imply a sort of emergency. Be careful not to create the wrong expectation with your subject lines. If you say something is urgent in the subject line, the email better corroborate that message. (A topic for another post)

Thank You!

Finally, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that one of the best performing word combinations is “thank you.” It may be that people appreciate the courtesy of a thank you message or maybe they are opening the email to confirm a transaction has been processed. Bottom line: It pays to say thank you.

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How to Add Video to Your Website

November 14th, 2013 By Ted Paff

If a picture is worth a thousand words, video is worth a million.

Video helps to quickly explain complex concepts in fun and interesting ways.  Spend some time looking at your statistics from Google Analytics and you quickly figure out that its hard to get people to engage with your content.  Video helps.  Customer Lobby decided to add video to our site to explain what we do and why it matters to local businesses.

How We Did It

  1. Decide what type of video best fits the company: animation, whiteboard or a more traditional corporate video. We wanted a video that was a little lighthearted (i.e. more likely to be watched) so we chose animation.
  2. Choose a vendor.  The point of a video is to explain – from your customers point of view – what your business does and why its awesome.  Working with a 3rd party helped us to get outside of our own heads and explain our company from a customers point of view.  We looked at +10 possible vendors; interviewed 3 and chose Mindbug Studios.
  3. Refine the script.  Having now been through the process, I recognize how keeping someone’s attention requires us to get to the point right away.  My suggestion is to start with the problem you are solving and state your solution as directly as possible.  Oh yeah, and keep it short.
  4. Get a rough mock up of the video.  This was an important step because it was really the first time we were able to provide direct feedback to the video producer.  In addition, the mock up was used in step 5 below.
  5. [Pro Tip] Test it.  One of the reasons we chose the vendor we did was their suggestion of making revisions based on actual feedback from a target audience.  To do this, we (1) posted the mock up of the video on Youtube; (2) signed up for 1 month of Survey Monkey; and (3) ran a survey to a targeted audience that we were able to purchase through Survey Monkey.  For a few hundred dollars, we had actionable feedback from a targeted focus group that were all potential customers.
  6. Build it.  With the feedback in hand, we made a few changes to the script and flow of the video and then asked the vendor to build it.  A few weeks later…
  7. Launch!  Our goal was to create an easy way for someone to understand what service we offer without having to wade through our entire site.  We linked our video directly to our home page where it now captures 10-15% of our new visitors.

So how do you think we did?

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3 Marketing Blogs Worthy of Bookmarking

November 8th, 2013 By Kevin Baca

In my ongoing effort to keep my finger on the pulse of digital marketing, I have become a fan of certain blogs that consistently churn out useful and informative content. While round ups are typically reserved for end-of-the-year “best of” posts, I felt it was worth creating a very short list of prolific contributors in the digital marketing space. I consider the following blogs and bloggers essential resources:




Greg Sterling’s bio describes him as an analyst focused on the “Internet’s impact on offline consumer behavior.” As a longtime reader with a special interest in online-to-offline marketing, I can attest that Greg Sterling is certainly a thought-leader on that subject and more. Screenwerk is the first blog I go to when I want to learn more about new trends in Internet marketing for local, especially pertaining to mobile.

When I mentioned “prolific contributors” above, I actually had Greg Sterling in mind. Few bloggers, on any subject, can produce as many quality pieces so regularly. One of my favorites: Reviews, Recommendations Trump Other Media, Ads for Consumer Trust


    Understanding Google Places & Local Search



Mike Blumenthal is such an authority on Google Local, he is actually recognized as a top contributor on the Google Support Forum. From trouble-shooting known issues to identifying new trends as they first appear in “the wild” of Google SERPs, Mike has established himself as the definitive go-to-guy for all things Google Local, including to issues pertaining to spam reviews.

Mike Blumenthal’s blog is a resource that local businesses and their marketing surrogates should reference the moment they have a question related to Google Maps or Google+ local. If Mike does not have the answer, he will investigate the question in a blog post and foster a dialogue in the comments section. More than most bloggers, Mike promotes meaningful discourse in the comments section, which is where many of the answers arise.





While SiteVisibility is fantastic blog in itself, their Internet Marketing podcast is what truly sets them apart. Aside from being jam-packed with actionable information, the guys at SiteVisibility have learned how to produce a highly entertaining podcast featuring a seemingly endless range of topics.

Ultimately, what sets SiteVisibility apart is the incredibly comprehensive scope of their coverage. Podcast episodes span topics including , Content Marketing, Google Analytics Analysis, and Mobile Marketing for Beginners.

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How to Handle Customer Complaints

October 31st, 2013 By Ted Paff

My wife was angry!  About a year ago, she made a change to our home internet service and because of a system SNAFU, our home phone number was changed. What did she do?  She complained.

angry person

Over the past year, she has made 2 other small changes to our service and both times some seemingly unrelated problem is created.  What does she do?  She calls and complains.

I asked her the other day why she didn’t change service providers.  Her response:  ”The customer service people are so nice about the problems.  They really listen and try hard to fix the problem if they can.”

There is something here for all of us to learn.

3 Keys to Success in Handling Customer Complaints

Find the right type of person to take these calls.
This isn’t a job for everyone but it is one of the most important jobs in your company.  This person might save more in revenue for your company than your best sales person will generate.  Find someone in your company who can be the “voice of the customer” in your office.  Look for a great listener who is empathetic.   Its time to find a new person for this job if you hear snarky comments made to a co-worker about how dumb the customer was or a  raised voice when dealing with a particularly difficult person.

Accept the blame for a failed experience
Most likely the problem is not your fault. However, your assumption must be that, if a customer is complaining, you have let them down. Period. Maybe you messed up or maybe you just need to communicate a little better at the start of the job. Oh, and while I am at it, avoid that passive-aggressive BS that goes like this: “Fine, its my fault. Your right. I’m wrong.” Better to simply hang up.

[Pro Tip] Talk about why it will not happen again
If you want the real Ninja move, try this. Empower the person dealing with the customer to openly brainstorm ways of changing something so someone else will not have the same issue.

3 Keys to Failure

Here are a few suggestions on how to loose money, destroy your reputation and bleed your brand equity.  Today is Halloween so I need to be scary.

That angry customer on the phone is gasoline and a spark. All you need to do is add a little oxygen. Go ahead, tell them they are wrong; tell them you never promised that in the first place. Vent. Go for it. Just remember to video it and post it online because the rest of us will love watching you act like a jerk.

Give in and assume that they just want a refund
Lots of business owners assume that the right response to a complaint is to offer a refund. NOT TRUE. The complaining customer doesn’t want a refund. They want to be heard. They want to know its not going to happen again.

Give up and blow it off
Owning or managing a local business is tough. There are lots of demands on your time and you have to choose every day which things are not going to get done today. Blowing off a complaint is not just losing a sale, its losing lots of future sales and giving up on your company culture that defines what happens when you are not the one on the phone with the customer.

ROI report image for blog

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Online Research Drives Local Purchases

October 24th, 2013 By Kevin Baca

A recent consumer research study smartphoneconducted by Local Corporation revealed a growing number of consumers are researching local businesses on mobile devices before walking through the door or calling for home service.

The study found that 76% of people surveyed had used a smartphone to locate and/or research a local business, and that 49% used their smartphones to locate ratings and reviews.

Not Just Smartphones

While the study demonstrates a marked increase in the role of smartphones in locating and researching local businesses, the number of consumers using tablets, laptops, and desktop computers also increased. In short, Internet research is now a regular part of the buying process for local goods and services, and the research is being conducted across multiple channels.

We have written about the process of researching online before selecting a local business several times over the years; e.g., here and here. As expected, the trend is increasing, but now consumers are taking to multiple platforms to fulfill their research.

Research Steps

One of the key takeaways from Local Corporation’s report is the amount of steps consumers are taking online as part of the buying process. These steps include looking up price comparisons, product research, deals and promos, and customer reviews.

When asked which resources were regarded as the top time-savers in the Internet research process, two items were nearly tied: total cost of product was cited as most important for 65% of respondents, and customer reviews were cited by 64%.

Competitive Differentiation

It is simply not good enough to be found first. Consumers have become increasingly sophisticated at researching local businesses online to make their selections and are willing to look around. As the Local Corporation report demonstrates, information itself is now key to competitive differentiation.

In terms of the information that sets one business apart from another, customer reviews are still the most sought-after and compelling resource. A point that is reinforced by a similar study conducted recently by Bright Local that showed a 12% increase in the number of consumers who seek out customer reviews.



ROI report image for blog

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10 Great SEO Steps You Can Do Yourself

October 14th, 2013 By Ted Paff

This is a guest blog written by Asher Elran.  He is the  CEO at Dynamic Search and founder of Web Ethics.


Many small to medium sized businesses depend on the steady stream of leads and referrals that their website generates for them each month. However, with a little bit of the proper SEO, they might be able to multiply the amount of new business that their website generates.

While there is a definite advantage to hiring an SEO expert to help you out, for many tight budgets that can be a tough sell. SEO doesn’t always have to be done by an expert, nor does it have to cost a lot of money. There are a number of things that you can do yourself to improve your ranking with the search engines.

There are certain website factors that might be better left to a professional. If your website design is difficult to navigate, takes a long time to load or has other technical problems, they can be difficult to find and fix. But one of the keys in the post-Panda world of SEO is meaningful content, and business owners are in the best position to create useful content about their niche market.

Here are 10 do-it-yourself SEO steps to help you get started:

1. Keyword Research

Regardless of search engine algorithm tweaks and updates, search results will continue to be driven by keywords. For this reason, keyword research will always be an important part of SEO. The key to increasing ranking is to target the correct keywords. There are certain keywords that will have a broad scope and a lot of competition, but the key is to find the long-tail keywords – search terms of three or more words – that meet these three basic criteria:

  • They are relevant to your site
  • They generate significant traffic
  • They are low competition

Once you have identified two or three such keywords, you can begin to tailor blog posts, social media updates and other content to focus on those keywords. While it won’t win you all of the battles, you may find significantly increased traffic due to high rankings for those particular search queries.

2. Blog on Your Own Site

Searchers are constantly seeking relevant and informative content. The Internet is designed to let users connect with experts and specialists, so writing for your business blog is a great way to connect with people who are looking for information about your industry.

There are a few blogging rules that will help you get the best benefit and a real SEO boost. First, write content with depth and valuable information. The new search engine algorithms are looking for authority. Be informative, helpful and answer the questions that searchers have. Be truly helpful, even beyond your ability to sell whatever product or service you provide.

Second, don’t be too pushy with the sales talk. Again searchers – and by extension the search engines – are looking for information, not advertisements. Take this opportunity to give advice, share how to’s and talk about the latest developments. Sales will come later.

3. Write Guest Blogs

Interaction with other authoritative sites can be a big help to your own brand and authority. In addition to demonstrating your own expertise outside the confines of your website, guest blog posts can also help you establish links to your website from other established websites. To do this, you will need to reach out to other bloggers in your field, get to know their sites and offer to do some writing for them.

4. Be Social

There are so many different social media outlets that busy business owners may not be able to find the time to properly share and distribute new content from their blogs and articles. However, this self-promotion is vital to your success, especially when you are trying to build brand awareness and a following for your site. It is vital to let people know when new information is available, and social sites are one of the best ways to share these updates.

If it is truly informative and useful, those who already follow you will be willing to share it in their social circles. Once a certain point has been reached, the post may develop a life of its own, but this should never mean that you aren’t promoting your own materials. After all, if you don’t believe in it enough to share it, why would anyone else?

5. Use Social Media to Follow Relevant Businesses

By signing up for social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, you will gain access to hundreds, even thousands, of experts and colleagues in your industry. Make it a goal to find and follow as many as 10 different people in your industry each day. Many of them will follow you back, and you can begin to develop connections, links and credibility, which can lead to guest blogging opportunities, referrals and inbound links to your website.

6. Share Interesting Content from Around the Web

Once you have established a social presence, it may be difficult to come up with enough meaningful content from your own website to share. Sharing interesting content from others in your industry has a number of positive benefits; it increases authority as you show that you know what content is new and informative. It adds credibility, as you become part of the community. Even though your eventual goal is to increase traffic and sales, it isn’t as blatant when you are sharing someone else’s work. It also helps you keep a finger on the pulse of the industry as well as its customers. And finally, it may trigger ideas for articles for your own site if ever run into a little bit of writer’s block.

7. Interact With the Community

SEO has gone beyond keywords and link building. Social media has a big impact on brand awareness. It may also impact rankings as the algorithms see links from actual people on a social site as a powerful indication of relevance and credibility. By interacting with the community, you place yourself as a vital, engaged member. That alone can drive interest and traffic to your site.

Additionally, since your social profile is associated with your brand, it gets your name out in front of the public. By sharing your own information along with links to other useful content, you build a reputation along with brand awareness.

8. Write Press Releases

Once a mainstay of SEO efforts, the actual usefulness of press releases is now widely debated. This was an SEO tool that was manipulated, overused and is now downplayed. Google’s Matt Cutts has stated that he wouldn’t expect press releases to have a positive effect on rankings. However, the evidence on this is not clear, and Matt didn’t say that they were worthless. In any event, they can have positive impacts that extend beyond pure SEO efforts:

  • They can build brand awareness
  • They can bring referral traffic to your site
  • They may be shared socially

The key here is not to overuse them. Make sure that you have something worthwhile and newsworthy to announce. Even then, they should probably be limited to once a month or less.

9. Analyze Your Site

While the previous suggestions addressed filling your site with great content and increasing traffic, which are both very important, it is also important to step back and take a critical look at the layout of your site. Not only is it important to give any visitors valuable content, you also need to make the content easy for them to find. As your site grows and more content is added, it may begin to be a little difficult to navigate.

While you may not be able to fix structural problems yourself, you can certainly identify when they are an issue. Take the time to visit your site like a first time visitor would. Get friends and associates to visit your site and give you some good, honest feedback. Tell them not to hold back and don’t be offended by their criticisms. In addition to good content, it is vital to have a good user experience to continue to build traffic and to keep your current readers coming back for more.

10. Track Your Results

Make sure that you have some kind of tracking in place, and then make sure that you are keeping an eye on the results. You know best of all what is going on in your business, and understanding how your website and the traffic it generates is contributing to your success – or failure – will help you to determine what further SEO efforts are needed.

ROI report image for blog


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Where Do Customers Come From?

September 26th, 2013 By Ted Paff

How did your new customers find you?  Did they see an ad?  Were they referred by a friend?  Did they find you online?   Did they see your storefront?

I am willing to bet that everyone reading this has asked customers these questions.  The challenge is that the answer is complex because there is almost never a single answer.  Consumers of services and products use a variety of online and offline sources before a making a decision to purchase.  The purchase funnel is no longer a linear path:



I was at a local search conference last week and one of the speakers suggested that consumers are likely to look at 4 to 10 different pieces of information about a business or product before making a decision.

“I found you on Google.”

Pause for a second …..

“I found you on Google.” ….what does that mean?  A friend mentioned your company name so I Googled it?  I was searching for reviews and your name popped up?  A read a review of your company on Facebook so I Googled it?  I saw an ad for your business so I Googled it to learn more?

For many local businesses, they assume that “I found you on Google” means that someone entered some keywords into a search box, scrolled through the results and clicked on the home page of their business.   Increasingly, this happens less and less.

How Are Customers Finding My Web Page?

Here is how to tell how people are getting to your web pages.

  1. Go to your Google Analytics account.  If you don’t have one, curse your web designer, go here and tell them to install the code onto your web pages.
  2. Go to Traffic Sources >> Overview
  3. Click through the links that look like this:

Traffic Sources Overview   Google Analytics

Some people found your site through search, some by typing in your web page (direct) and some by clicking a link on another website that brought them to your page (referral).  If you have not spent some time with these reports, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.

WARNING:  Google is about to take away the keyword data!!  As you will likely see in the Keyword data, the vast majority is likely to be “(not provided)”.  You can read about why here and here.  Copy this data down now while you still have access to some of it.

Suggested Next Step

Now that you know how your prospects are finding your business, how do you get more of them?  Build your web presence.


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Leveraging YouTube

September 19th, 2013 By Matt Manson

As was mentioned in a past post to the Customer Lobby blog, internet marketers are big advocates of blogging for the purpose of SEO benefit. Hopefully by now you have taken the simple steps to create a blog and are looking for the next best way to boost SEO as well as conversion of online traffic.
A great way to improve your company visibility in local search is through YouTube Optimization. As is the case with a blog, creating a perfectly polished piece of marketing collateral is not what is most important. The production quality of the video is not what your prospects are after.

Content and the way in which that information is communicated is what will cause your viewers to watch the full video and share it with friends. We know that how-to videos are watched more than strictly promotional videos. So, use your video as a way to educate your audience, introduce them to your business and establish yourself as an expert worth trusting.

Once you have created your video there are a handful of extremely valuable actions you can take to deliver more ranking potential for your company. Check out these 10 Tips For Using YouTube To Kill At Local Seo, by Chris Silver Smith.

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Mobile Optimization for Local

September 13th, 2013 By Kevin Baca

Mobile optimization has become a focus for local businesses as more consumers turn toward to their smartphones and tablets to select local businesses. According to BrightLocal, traffic from mobile devices has increased 125% since 2012. So, we know mobile can’t be ignored, it is just a matter of determining how to best optimize mobile web properties.

There are really two options: You can either create an entirely separate mobile-dedicated site, or you can recreate your entire website with responsive web design — which will scale with the content to optimize for smaller screens. But either way, you have to make tough decisions on content.

Prioritize Content:

While screen sizes for mobile devices vary, mobile optimization means designing for the lowest common denominator. Most smartphones have a screen size between 3 and 3.5 inches. When held vertically, that makes for a pretty narrow web page.

Paring down copy and prioritizing content becomes paramount for mobile optimization, which is why you often see mobile sites simplified down to only the most important elements.

For a local business, three obvious elements should always be above the fold: Company name, address, and phone number. What is less obvious is how to optimize those elements — more on that below.

Following those basics, appointment request buttons and verified reviews take priority. After all, you want your mobile page to capture leads.


Mobile optimized navigation menus have become somewhat standardized for smartphones especially. More often than not, you will see a series of rows or buttons stacked vertically one on top of the other and centered.

At the top of this menu should be a click-to-call button. See the Albert Nehman plumbing mobile site above for an example.


Assume your mobile search traffic is actually mobile and make it as easy as possible for the to find your business.

According to an AT&T study, consumers who search for local businesses on mobile devices are very likely to walk through the door.

To that end, consider linking to Google Maps someplace above the fold. But warning: Only do so if your Google+ Local page is up to date.

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Is Google+ Now a Waste of Time?

August 29th, 2013 By Ted Paff

I wouldn’t blame you if you felt jerked around by Google.

When Google launched Google+, they moved the reviews that drive so much consumer decision making and search ranking from Google Places to Google+Local.  We learned from Google that, in addition to our reviews, Google wanted businesses to engage socially (posts, hangouts, etc) with visitors to the Google+Local pages.   The unspoken incentive (kind of like “an offer you can’t refuse”) was that if you build your social interactions/pictures/videos that your search ranking would be impacted.

Well, they did it again.  They made another change that could have big implications for how your organization invests its efforts online.   What changed?  For most businesses, your Google+ business page is almost non-existent (meaning its really hard to find in the search engines).

Here is an example:

hayward auto care SERP


Now, when a potential customer clicks on your reviews, instead of going to your carefully groomed Google+ page, they see a pop-up window of reviews that looks like this:

hayward auto care Google  reviews



Google+ Worth the Effort?

Is posting links, comments, pictures, videos, etc. to your Google+ business page worth your time?  It depends.  If you have a lot of followers already or are actively building followers, then clearly yes.  If not, I suggest taking a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude by investing less time on maintaining your Google+ page.

Reviews continue to be the exception.  Google has decided that is what people want to see and they are putting reviews front and center.

The take away: reinvest some of the time you save in not being as active on your Google+ page into building more reviews content.

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