Top 10 Email Marketing Platforms

Email marketing continues to be one of the most effective tactics in digital marketing. There are a number of platforms to select from (and new ones popping up every day), making it difficult to figure out which platform is best for you.  While all platforms have pre-made templates so you won’t need to hire a developer to create a custom HTML template, but beyond that, their features can widely differ. Some of these options include free accounts, drip campaigns, integration with CRMs, drag and drop, etc. We’ve curated the top ten email marketing platforms for you to help you find the best fit for your needs and strategy.

  1. http://mailchimp.com. For years, MailChimp has been my favorite due to ease of use and number of features. It’s free to use if your subscriber list is less than 2000. Features include: subscriber profiles, built-in segmentation, in-depth reporting, advanced analytics, send time optimization, mobile optimized, integrates with hundreds of apps and services, RSS-to-Email, A/B testing, geolocation.
  2. https://madmimi.com/. Mad Mimi is a serious contender for the top of my list. They are working hard to become the best platform and have made great progress. Features include: good list management tools, attractive reporting & tracking tools, webforms including newsletter signup form for your Facebook page, drip campaigns, social links, RSS-to-Email, Google analytics, free under 2500 subscribers.
  3. http://myemma.com.  As a company, they have several community and social initiatives which makes them super cool in my book. Features include: mobile optimized, subject line split testing, analytics, segmentation, easy interface, social media integration.
  4. http://www.getresponse.com. Features include: landing page capabilities, A/B testing, list segments.
  5. http://www.verticalresponse.com. Features include: social media integration, mobile optimized, free under 1000 subscribers.
  6. http://www.aweber.com. Features include: scheduled drip campaigns, helpful 3000+ image library, tracking.
  7. http://www.constantcontact.com/index.jsp. Definitely the biggest name out there but not the easiest to use. They’ll also charge you for image storage if you have more than 5 images uploaded. Tons of features but nothing that other platforms don’t offer for less cost and friendlier interface.
  8. http://www.icontact.com/. Features include: Basic tracking, sign-up forms (including Facebook), autoresponders, split testing.
  9. http://content.zoho.com Free if your mail list is under 2000 subscribers. ZOHO email marketing can be used as part of the ZOHO product line which has business, CRM, and productivity apps. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive toolset, ZOHO seems to cover the spectrum of small business needs or you can choose to only use their email marketing tool.
  10. http://www.exacttarget.com/ (now called Salesforce Marketing Cloud). Salesforce is one of the big boys when it comes to CRM and business platforms. If you’re already using Salesforce, it makes sense to use their email marketing. It may not be the most user-friendly, but the ability to fine tune your target and analyze the results is pretty cool.

Proper Care & Feeding of Your WordPress Website

Your website is like your pet—it needs continued care and maintenance. Website content updates (the new posts, text, photos, events, etc, that you do regularly) will help keep site visitors and search engines happy. Yet content updates aren’t the same as technical care and updates. Technical updates are essential for a healthy, fully functioning website. Your website is built on thousands (and thousands and thousands) of lines of code. Even with regular maintenance and updates, you may still experience glitches.

Even if you’re a technophobe, I beg you not to glaze over the following information. If you own a website, you need to be a responsible website owner.

 

Your WordPress Website Basics

There are four main layers that make up your WordPress website: the web server, the WordPress platform, the theme and optional plugins. Here’s a brief description of each of these layers and how they work together:

  • Web servers. These are the computers that host your website files. Your hosting company has the vault of web servers that keep your website files safe, in a temperature controlled, secure environment. The web servers are machines that require servicing, repairs and upgrades for the sake of function and security. These changes typically run in the background but on occasion can affect your website by conflicting with scripts on your site or forcing you to make site updates.
  • WordPress. WordPress is a pre-made platform that started years ago as a blogging platform and has evolved into a wonderful Content Management System (CMS). It has a Dashboard that allows non-techs to locate pages and posts on their site and make changes to the content. WordPress belongs to an open source community and allows you to freely use it’s products. WordPress also releases updates. These may be new features, bug fixes, or security related. These changes may create conflicts in the theme or plugins you are using.
  • Theme. The theme is what gives your website design and functions that aren’t a part of the rather sparse, default WordPress platform. Themes help determine the color and layout of your site and often provide extra features that help your website shine. Themes also require updates for new features, bug fixes and security. These changes may create conflicts with plugins. Not all themes have ongoing author support which means your theme may have conflicts with other system updates (web servers, WordPress, etc.) It’s nearly impossible to know which themes will have ongoing support however over time, nearly all themes will be discontinued as new themes emerge that are designed for more up-to-date user expectations.
  • Plugins. Plugins allow you to really amp up the capabilities of your website. Each plugin also has updates for features, bug fixes and security. Plugins are wonderful but they are also one of the easiest entry points for hacks and most common cause for bug issues or script conflicts. Free plugins should be used with care, because they often don’t have ongoing support. In general, don’t keep any plugins in your Dashboard that you aren’t actively using. Some common uses for plugins include:
    • Enhanced SEO capabilities
    • Site caching for faster page loads
    • Form editors that allow non-tech people to create and edit forms
    • Membership forums
    • Directories
    • Site analytics
    • Backups
    • Security
    • Special slider or portfolio effects
    • Shopping carts
    • Polls / Surveys
    • Social media feeds, etc.

If you don’t keep up with the tech updates, your site may become vulnerable to hacks or conflicts with any of the advancing tech layers that support them. Certain features may quit working, including the ability to edit your site at all!

 

But first, backup!

Before you do any updates, it’s strongly advised that you create a backup of your site in the event that the updates create a conflict with other scripts on your site and “break” the site, thus requiring a developer’s repair. You should be running backups of your site regularly anyway, because “stuff” happens (server failures, hacks, etc.)

There are plugins that you can use for backups. Most web hosts also offer backup services, too. Some are free, some aren’t. While it’s easier to backup your website to the same server that hosts your website, you need to be aware that if the server fails, you’ve lost your backup copy as well. It’s best to save your backup to your own computer. If that’s not a possibility, then save it to a location on your web host that’s different from the place you keep your regular website files.

Most backup services allow you to schedule backups. This is very helpful but be sure to check every now and then to be sure backups are indeed happening.

When Your Site Breaks

If an update causes a script conflict, you then have a choice to:

  • revert back to the previous version of whatever was updated (if you have been saving your backups)
  • have the developer find the conflict and write a custom repair
  • work with the author of the theme/plugin to issue a repair (if they’re still offering support for what you’re using)
  • find another theme or plugin and convert your content over to it

Your choice will depend on the severity of the issue, of course. While WordPress, themes, and plugins make amazing websites tangible (both financially and feature-wise) for the average person, each layer comes with its own vulnerabilities. On the tech side, responsible website ownership requires three things: website maintenance, backups and security. In order to avoid as many problems as possible, you need an experienced web technologist that’s up to date with WordPress and (best case scenario) your website.

Speaking of Security

When it comes to security, you have a few options. You may wish to use a plugin to amp up security within WordPress. Your web host may also offer extra security (for an additional cost, naturally). Many web hosts are setting up servers especially designed for WordPress websites which includes security to address issues common to WordPress. Keep in mind, there is no such thing as an un-hackable website.  Big budgets can use mirrored hosts and a plethora of security layers. As a small business, you may simply need to make your choices based on the level of budget and effort you want to contribute.

Web Vets: For the Health of Your Website

Be sure to keep a good relationship with your web technologist. Quite often, staff changes overlook passing on website information. I can’t count how many clients we’ve helped over the years by keeping records of their website credentials and other key details related to their websites. If you change any web-related passwords, let your technologist know as well. Familiarity with your website and current credentials will save time and stress if an “event” happens.

SEO & Integrity

First rule for effective SEO: Don’t panic!

Many small business owners, upon learning of the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), immediately leap into a frenzied state for which they’ll fork over money to anyone who promises to handle this mysterious, internet success and online life-threatening mandate for them. If you’re freaking out, trust me—someone out there is eagerly waiting to sell you some snake oil.

Breathe…breathe…

Since SEO is important to those businesses who rely on search engines to direct traffic to their site and the owners of those businesses are busy, well, doing business, they become easy prey for the SEO marketing predators. This article will help you better understand what you need to do to improve your search engine results. But be forewarned, because Big Vision Media Group is committed to integrity, we’ll tell you the truth: good SEO is not an easy fix.

You already know that the internet evolves and continues to do so even as you read this. That means the SEO tactics also evolve. Google and Bing don’t really want you to use tactics at all because tactics can distort authentic results when trying to connect the web user with the information they need. Big companies who have more resources can outpower you. Shady marketers can use “black hat” tactics. Yet the web is supposed to be a place of equal access, right? For that reason (among others), the search engines don’t want you to know their constantly changing algorithms for determining search engine results. The secrecy and frequent changes means internet marketers must watch patterns and test results to discern how to best be found.

Unfortunately, much of the information you find for SEO is outdated. Additionally, most of the automated SEO programs (used by those marketers who promise you the moon if you’ll let them handle your SEO) use this outdated info or worse, can be shifty in their tactics and end up causing you more harm than good. Learn more about Black Hat SEO.

Here are the facts you need to know:

  1. Know your keywords and themes. What search terms will people use to find your site? What is unique about your products and services? Don’t forget to include local, geographic terms.
  2. Proper links. Develop a sound URL structure with an XML sitemap and smart use of internal linking.
  3. Quality content. Use keywords and themes in your website content. Alter existing content and continue to develop new content wisely. Optimize graphics and videos with these keywords and themes, too.
  4. Competitive analysis.  Find the opportunities to maximize keywords and themes in your content that your competitors have overlooked.
  5. Analytics. Know how much traffic you’re getting, how your site visitors are finding you, what pages they view, what actions they take. Optimize your content accordingly.
  6. Build legitimate incoming links. A bit more work, this requires building relationships with other websites. BoostSuite is a helpful tool as well as taking opportunities from HARO.
  7. Social media marketing. You can amplify your efforts through backlinks, social shares and campaigns. Quality blogging is also a vital part of social media. If you create the right content, your followers will want to share it.
  8. PPC. If you have the budget, AdWords, Facebook Ads, Post Boosts, Page Boosts and other PPC efforts will also increase your SEO results.

As you can see, these tactics are not easily automated. If it seems overwhelming, start at the top and work your way down the list. The result will help your website to be found by those who are earnestly looking for you. Feel free to contact Big Vision Media Group for help with your Search Engine Optimization.