Thursday, May 22, 2008

Double Punching with Blogs and Email

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For a long time I’ve promoted the use of blogs and email as a two-fold online marketing strategies. Blogs are perfect for acquiring new customers and email is great for customer retention.

It's generally accepted that the two most widely engaged in online activities are search and email. Since 80 percent of all web-related activities begin with search, blogs are great as search engine magnets. It's not that Google knows a blog when it sees one, it's that blogs contain the very elements that make a search engine drool. For example, they contain things like Titles, Keywords, Recent Content, usually Lots of Content, Links and they contain Relevancy.

Being the biggest search engine, I want to use Google here for this concept. Something magical happens when a blogger completes the blog post title field. Most blog platforms turn it into a title tag unique to the post. That's pure gold where Google is concerned. Bloggers who understand the power of the medium will enrich their posts with niche-specific keywords, which helps Google better comprehend the topic being discussed. Search engines love sites that are routinely updated and will return to index them again and again. Blogs are particularly suited to frequent updates due to their ease of use. Google can't make sense of Flash animation or graphics, at least not yet. What it does see and understand are words, and blogs contain lots of them. Now Links serve two purposes in search engine optimization. One of the ways the Google algorithm understands the purpose of a site is by looking at both inbound and outbound links. Therefore, links to topically-relevant sites provides immense SEO value.

I’m not really sure that Google understands exactly what they are doing at times with their data bases because they are always trying new things. Have you ever heard the term "Latent Semantic Indexing?" That's what Google is up to these days. It's more than indexing keywords. LSI, as it is known, takes a more holistic approach. In addition to recording which keywords a document contains, the method examines the document collection as a whole, to see which other documents contain some of those same words. LSI considers documents that have many words in common to be semantically close, and ones with few words in common to be semantically distant. Many believe that a frequently-updated, keyword-optimized, thematically-relevant blog will rank well in search engines.

If you are a regular reader, you will remember a few posts back I talked about a rather unusual seminar I attended. Among other subjects and information I walked away from the seminar with were these suggestions for ways blogs and email work well together. Build lists - Incorporating the newsletter subscription form as previously mentioned is a way for the relationship first established with the blogger to transcend to a relationship with the sponsoring company. Use email to solicit blog content - By mentioning the company blog in the email newsletter, a bridge is created between the two. In addition, asking readers to submit suggestions for blog content or even going so far as to invite readers to submit content (guest posts) will further reinforce the relationship. Use old email content for blog content - Repurposing content that, while valuable, may be languishing in the email newsletter archive is one way to give it new life. Use blog content for email newsletters - Years ago I made the statement that blogs are good "seedbeds" for the formation of ideas that can be expanded on later or fleshed out for use in other forms, including email.

Something else to think about in terms of blogs and email. In many companies, email newsletters are relegated to a monthly distribution. This means the prospect or customer is only contacted 12 times per year. This isn’t nearly enough to establish a "top-of-mind" relationship. This leaves at least 29 days to be filled. Blogs are a way to fill the gap, especially for those customers who subscribe to the blog's RSS feed.

By placing an option on your blog to allow a reader to sign up for your opt-in email list, you have a winning combination. The bottom line is, when used in concert, blogs and email can serve up a marketing haymaker. I heartily encourage using both.

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