19 Excellent Guides to SEO Link Building

September 16, 2014

Contrary to articles and blog posts claiming link building is dead, the reality is that  it’s not—as even Google’s Matt Cutts has confirmed. But like SEO more generally, it has evolved.

Link building - the right way in 2014 and 2015

Image credit: SEO Book

The days of getting high search rankings based on high-volume, low-quality, easy-to-get links are long gone. Building quality links that will still positively impact rank now requires more work, more creativity, and a more sophisticated strategy for developing owned, earned, and shared links.

Are there any “easy” ways remaining to build worthwhile links? When should you disavow existing links? Which link building tools and tactics still have value? What link building techniques are “Penguin-safe”?

Find the answers to those questions and many others here in some of the best guides to link building in today’s search environment, from the past year or so.

The Low Hanging Fruit of Link Building by imFORZA Blog

Vinny La BarberaWhile acknowledging that the “low-hanging fruit of link building” (links that are relatively easy to obtain) are not incredibly valuable on their own and represent just one component of a broader link-building strategy, Vinny La Barbera points out that such links nonetheless form a basis, particularly for new websites, and explains how to build such from sources like social profiles, local business directories, news releases, and social shares.

Link Madness by SEOBook

Peter Da VanzoPeter Da Vanzo serves up an entertaining rant on link disavowing, recovering from Google penalties (or not), and “link paranoia.” He reminds readers that trying to “game” Google rankings is never a good strategy; diversifying traffic sources always is; and outlines a handful of “approaches to link building that will likely stand the test of time, and incorporate strategy that provides resilience from Google’s whims.”

How to Get Backlinks – The Ultimate Guide by Interwebs Institute

Though written primarily for SEO novices, even seasoned experts may find it worthwhile to skim this comprehensive post covering basic links types, how links convey authority, backlinking guidelines, black hat practices, backlinking tools, expert SEO resources, and common link-building tactics.

The Value of Referrer Data in Link Building by Search Engine Watch

Dave DaviesWriting that “link building is not dead…links matter. The death is in links that are easy to manipulate,” Dave Davies explains the value of looking at referrer data in Google Analytics (“Apart from the fact that traffic is probably one of, if not the best, indicator of the quality and relevancy of a link to your site, your traffic data can also help you find the links you didn’t know you had and what you did to get them”), key questions to ask about those links, and how to find competitors’ link referral data.

12 Scalable Link-Building Tactics by The Moz Blog

Jason AcidreJason Acidre outlines a dozen tactics for non-spammy link building, such as creating your own database of premium images, conducting interviews with popular personalities (particularly helpful for new websites), reverse engineering competitors’ links, and link reclamation (i.e., reclaiming broken or outdated links to your site that have already been created).

7 FREE Link Building Tools For Post-Penguin Success by WebMechanix

Arsham MirshahArsham Mirshah reviews seven free tools to help with link building efforts, including the SEOBook SEO Toolbar, about which he writes, “Not only is this a must-have for link building, but it’s also a necessary tool for anyone in SEO, period.” Do be a bit cautious with link building tools however; despite abiding by Google guidelines, the MyBlogGuest tool was hit with a Google penalty.

How Link Building Changed in 2013 by Search Engine Watch

Julie JoyceJulie Joyce looks at what changed in link building during 2013, and how those changes impact link building tactics in 2014 and beyond. She covers Google’s major algorithmic updates, link disavoiwing and cleaup, changes made by Bing and Yandex, and changes in the industry (for example, “People talked more about building relationships than building links. This whole concept has been around for ages but in 2013, it really started to get much more attention”).

Link Building with the Experts – 2013 Edition by Sugarrae

Rae HoffmanRae Hoffman interviews 10 SEO pros as well as providing her own answers about link building strategies and tactics for the post-Panda and Penguin search environment. Asked if links are becoming less important in Google’s ranking algorithm, Julie Joyce (again) pretty much sums up the opinion of the group, stating that “they are becoming a slightly smaller portion as other factors are being added in but not to a significant extent…Unless they (Google) rebuild the algorithm from the ground up, I don’t see the importance of links drastically decreasing.” This is a long piece but well worth a read.

The Future-Proof Link Building Strategy by Search Engine Journal

Aaron AdersAaron Aders lays out a link building strategy he says is future-proof because it “aligns with the ‘why’ behind search engine technology…At a high level, the strategy consists of creating and promoting great content. The tactical process is broken up into four sections: Research, Creative, Promotion and Conversion.” Hmm, sounds similar to the web presence optimization model.

How to Use Google’s Disavow Links Tool the Right Way by Search Engine Watch

Chuck PriceChuck Price outlines a seven-step process for using Google’s disavow links functionality, from conducting a link audit (using Google Webmaster Tools (alone), to submitting a reconsideration request (“Only if you’re under a manual penalty, will you need to file a reconsideration request. When filing your request, here are some key points to consider.”)

Google’s Disavow Tool: What You Need to Know, and 4 Common Myths by Search Engine Journal

Jayson DeMersJayson DeMers explains how Google’s link disavow tool works, and importantly, what to do before [ITALICS] using the tool. He also dispels four common myths, such as that disavowing links can damage your site’s reputation in the eyes of Google: “Proper use of the Disavow tool is not going to cause Google to label you as a spammer, nor will it negatively affect your web profile.”

How To Get Out Of A Google Penalty [VIDEO] by Vertical Measures

Ben HollandIf, God forbid, you try to do link building the right way but get caught up in a Google penalty anyway (perhaps because of past link-building activities by a less conscientious link builder), Ben Holland shows you how to recover using a six-step process that starts with downloading your backlink list from Google Webmaster Tools and running these through another tool, like Link Detox, that can help separate the good links from the dodgy ones.

5 Ways to Protect your Website from Google SEO Penalties by Search Engine Journal

Marcela De VivoIn the good old days of link buidling, low-value links didn’t hurt, they just didn’t help. Addressing the (justified) paranoia caused by Google’s nasty Penguin, Marcela De Vivo recommends a handful of ways to avoid trouble, like auditing links monthly and creating Google Analytics Alerts for triggers such as “Google Organic Traffic decreased by more than 5%.”

Link Building Without Magic by SEOCustomer

Henrik-SandbergAccording to Henrik Sandberg, Google is the only link-building tool you need–and he steps through his recommended process for tool-free link building, using tactics including blog commenting, guest blogging (“guest Blogging will not only give you traffic – it will also give you some great SEO juice”), directory and resource listing, and forums.

10 Powerful White Hat Link Building Strategies by Blogging Wizard

Adam ConnellAdam Connell walks through 10 Penguin-safe link building techniques that he says “will give you the best results possible if you use them to build relationships,” such as linking out to other blogs (which, yes, is occasionally done here) though he warns that “An important thing to remember is this tactic won’t result in a link most of the time (at least not until you really get on the map and get right in front of the bloggers you’re linking to).”

Top 25 Free and Paid Link Building Tools for Serious Link Builders by Blogging Wizard

As a follow-up to the post above, Adam Connell provides brief reviews of more than two dozen helpful link-building tools, including Wordtracker’s Link Builder: “you can add a bunch of competitor URLs and immediately find where they are getting their links from. You can then also find link prospects by searching for pages that rank for a particular keyword which can be very useful.”

Transform Link Building into Brand Building for 2013 by Search Engine Journal

Pratik DholakiyaPratik Dholakiya believes that “Links are important, crucial even, but sustainability means brand comes first,” and offers 10 tips for using traditional “link building” activities for more focused brand-building (or web presence building) instead–including news releases, guest posting, infographics, forums, and commenting.

High-Value Tactics, Future-Proof Link Building – Whiteboard Friday by The Moz Blog

Cyrus Shepard“The past 12 months have been brutal for many traditional forms of link building. Techniques that once worked are now penalized,” according to Cyrus Shepard, who goes on to explain the “right way” in the current environment to do link building (or earning) using infographics, guest posts, media relations, and direct outreach.

Inorganic vs. Organic Backlinking Strategies: Getting Back to Basics by Search Engine Watch

Krista LaRiviereKrista LaRiviere, CEO of web presence optimization software provider gShift Labs, makes the case that links are still vital in the post-Penguin world, but in order to have value (rather than causing problems), backlinks need to pass the RAID test (relevant, authoritative, influential, and diverse).

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The Biggest Roadblock to Social Business Success

September 9, 2014

Stories about how top executives just don’t “get” social media and the concept of social business were common four or five years ago. But it’s jarring to still come across such reports today.

Despite the fact that 82% of buyers say they trust a company more when its CEO and senior leadership team are active in social media, and 77% are more likely to buy from a company if its CEO uses social media (those stats themselves nearly two years old), “64% of CEOs do not use social media at all, with only 5% of all Fortune 500 company CEOs on Twitter,” according to The Guardian.

Don't fear social businessWorse, C-level executives who don’t use social media themselves are also much less likely to understand how to capitalize on the social media savvy and reach of their employees to benefit their companies. And those benefits can be considerable. Per recent research from GaggleAMP:

“Connecting your business with your employees in social media can boost your social media presence. Employee advocacy not only has the ability to acquire new leads, but also can help create original content and bump your search rankings on Google, Yahoo, and MSN…Prospective clients are more likely to recognize your brand when you’ve got a network of employee advocates helping to sell your product through social media. This can cut down on the time it takes to gain the trust of clients as well as help solidify the relationship more quickly.”

Expanding a company’s social presence through its employees’ networks requires some give and take. Employee participation must be voluntary. Employers will need to do some level of monitoring, in order to measure results, share best practices, and incentive employees for social amplification.

That monitoring activity needn’t be excessive or intrusive; it should be limited to work-related social media activities, and social networks on which employees are active on the company’s behalf (an individual employee may, for example, choose to use his or her Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to promote company content and interact with customers and prospects, but use Facebook strictly for personal relationships).

Yet too many companies, regardless of their progress as social businesses, already take or plan to take this monitoring to excessive, even downright creepy, levels. Per per research from PricewaterhouseCoopers:

“More employers plan to begin or increase their monitoring of employees’ social media use and other personal data over the next decade…the idea is frankly kind of Orwellian in that terrifying corporate kind of way: The data profiling that drives customer management will increasingly be replicated among employees as screening and monitoring move to a new level. Sensors check their location, performance and health. The monitoring may even stretch into their private lives in an extension of today’s drug tests. Periodic health screening gives way to real-time monitoring of health.”

Of course, employees need to actually be engaging in social media activities on a company’s behalf in order for their to be any social activity to monitor. Nearly as disturbing as excessive monitoring, more than a third (36%) of businesses block social networks completely within the office, and more than half (57%) permit workplace social media access only for select employees (e.g., marketing and HR).

The fundamental barrier to embracing a social business strategy seems to come down to one word: fear.

  • • Fear of bad, or even unmeasurable, results. While precise social media ROI may or may not be measurable, many indicators of success certainly are. Social media amplification is like any other business process: test, measure, improve, repeat.
  • • Fear that employees will waste time on social sites. Employees have been finding ways to distract themselves, and others, and generally waste time at work, for pretty much as long as groups of human beings have worked together. Employees intentionally wasting work time are a sign of poor hiring, poor motivation, and/or poor management. Those determined to waste work time will do so regardless of social media policy.
  • • Fear that employees will be unproductive. This is different than the point above; it’s not fear that employees will purposely waste time, but rather that employees, with the best of intentions, will use social networks inefficiently. Monitoring, measurement, and training are the answer.
  • • Fear that employees will say the wrong things. They’ll get brand messages wrong, or argue with customers, or reveal trade secrets, or disclose sensitive financial information, or bash competitors, or bash management, or tweet while drunk, or say something racist or sexist, or…whatever. Actually, in a healthy work environment, employees are far more likely to appreciate trust than to abuse it. And, backed up with training and clear policies, they deserve it.

Most fundamentally of all, however, is the fear that a surprising majority of companies still seem to have in acknowledging that they are staffed by actual people. Try this experiment: pick 10 business websites, from companies of any size, pretty much any industry. See if you can find a way to directly contact a specific individual (e.g., the head of marketing, the top HR exec, anyone in customer service, the webmaster, the VP of sales, even the CEO) at any of those companies, through information presented on the company’s website.

Many sites won’t list any individual employee or management names at all. Some will have “management team” pages that list a handful of top executives (though not with any direct contact information). Most will not provide any email addresses beyond the generic “info@” or “sales@” variety. Many will link to the company’s social media accounts—but not to the accounts of any individual employee, even if used strictly for business purposes. In some cases, you’ll be able to find contact information for the individual in charge of public relations—but often as not, this will be someone from an outside agency rather than a company employee.

That may be the most fundamental fear of all: being social means being human. That is what needs to change, first and foremost. As social media guru Ted Rubin notes, “A smart brand supports its employees in building their personal brands because it expands their reach right along with that of their employees.”

How do executives who want to overcome these fears and embrace social media start? Search for guidance and resources online, watch videos like this one, read books like The Social Employee by Cheryl and Mark Burgess (a veritable field guide to social business best practices, based on case studies of brand-name social enterprises), and begin by getting employees involved with the business socially internally, using tools like Yammer or Chatter.

But whatever you do, start. With regard to social business, the only rational fear top executives should have is fear of being left behind.

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Blogging Labor: Top 10 Posts of the Past Year

September 2, 2014

In honor of Labor Day, here’s a summary of the 10 most-viewed posts on Webbiquity since the summer-ending holiday weekend of 2013.

There’s no question which type of posts here generate the greatest interest: statistics and research account for five of the 10 most-read posts (and eight of the top 20). Posts about marketing strategy were also popular (two of the top 10, four of the top 20), followed by content marketing, tools, and WordPress.

Top 10 blog posts of 2014If you’ve missed any of these, here are top 10 (actually, 11) posts, in ascending order. Note that these are the most-read of the past year; some were written recently, but others as long as four years ago(!). Enjoy!

Honorable mention: 10 B2B Marketing Lessons from Walt Disney World and Universal Studios
April 22, 2014

Theme parks really do hold lessons for B2B marketers; here are 10 B2B marketing and business lessons from Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. Though written in April, this came in #14 over the past 12 months.

10. What’s the Best Social Media Monitoring Tool? It Depends
October 13, 2010

Reviews of nine tools at various price levels that are among the most popular and capable traditional PR and social media monitoring tools. Hmm, this one may be due for a new version.

9. What are the Best Social Networks for B2B Marketing? (Research)
August 27, 2013

More than 80% of b2b marketers now distribute content on social networks. But are these efforts paying off? If so, which social networks are most productive?

8. 14 Brilliant B2B Marketing Strategy Guides
June 17, 2014

Find out how b2b marketers should evolve their strategies, what types of messages matter most to today’s buyers, which long-held beliefs to discard, and more.

7. The Ultimate List of The Best WordPress eCommerce Plugins
October 10, 2012

Get the combined and consolidated wisdom of 10 top WordPress experts on the best WordPress ecommerce plugins, along with ratings and download stats.

6. 102 Compelling Social Media and Online Marketing Stats and Facts for 2012 (and 2013)
January 2, 2013

What do buyers really want from social media? What’s the source of the largest share of social traffic to websites? (It’s not what you almost certainly think.)

5. 101 Vital Social Media and Digital Marketing Statistics for (the Rest of) 2013
August 5, 2013

How do marketers and consumers view social media differently? How do top execs use social media? Growth companies? B2b? Find those answers and many more here.

4. 18 of the Best Content Marketing Strategy Guides of 2013
December 11, 2013

Here are the best practices and frameworks for creating a content marketing strategy, along with critical elements to include and pitfalls to avoid.

3. 83 Exceptional Social Media and Marketing Statistics for 2014
April 14, 2014

Here’s some marketing-related big data for you: 83 useful facts, stats, and research findings covering strategy, social media, SEO, online advertising and more.

2. The Top #Nifty50 Women Writers on Twitter for 2013
October 28, 2013

Last year’s #Nifty50—the second-most-viewed post on Webbiquity over the past 12 months—highlighted men and women who write business-related online content and who actively engage on Twitter.

And the #1 most-read post here since Labor Day 2013 is…(drumroll please):

1. 103 Compelling Social Media and Marketing Statistics for 2013 (and 2014)
November 12, 2013

Discover the role of social media in brand visibility, how social media use differs in B2B vs. B2C companies and between large and small businesses, and more.

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Why More Members, Money, and Ads Don’t Always Mean More Success: A B2B Marketer’s Survival Guide

August 26, 2014

Guest post by Ariel Applbaum.

Historical Lessons

B2B marketing lessons from Facebook and MySpaceThere is an old adage that says “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” So the question is–are there things that today’s B2B marketers can learn from history, specifically, the tremendous success of Facebook and the rise, fall and possible resurrection of Myspace?

My answer is certainly–yes! This question is particularly compelling today as we see Facebook set new records in terms of users, market valuation and revenue growth and wait with anticipation to see if Myspace can reinvent itself after conceding its market leadership position in social networking back in 2008. How can the respective histories and behaviors of these two companies inform the best practices for B2B marketers?

Background on the two social media sites

From its founding, Myspace took off like a rocket ship while Facebook had a much slower ascension from launch. The two companies were created six months apart; Myspace was founded in August 2003 and by July 2005 was bought by News Corp for 580 million dollars. In contrast, Facebook was founded in February 2004 and only took in its first outside funding of 12.7 million dollars from Accel Partners in May 2005.

In 2006, Myspace was the most visited U.S. social web site, surpassing Google in site visits. Myspace’s dominance would not last though. In 2008, Facebook surpassed Myspace in number of unique worldwide visitors and one year later claimed that title as well in the U.S. Myspace’s user base decline resulted in a tremendous loss in valuation; in fact, News Corp sold substantially all of its Myspace ownership in May 2011 for a rumored 35 million dollars.

Lessons

The differences in the birth, development, nurturing, growth and monetization of these two companies go a long way in explaining the reversal in their fortunes and the sustainability of their successes.  These differences can and should provide valuable lessons for B2B marketers. These lessons include three main points: market to those of greatest relevance; create an atmosphere conducive to experimentation, new idea generation, & creativity; maintain relevance; and avoid rigid corporate structures.

A bigger user base is not always better

Myspace was created by Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe, two former employees of internet marketing company eUniverse. They had both been users of Friendster, which was initially a social networking service intended to maintain contacts and share online content and media. The Myspace founders saw both the potential of social networks and ways to improve on the Friendster offering and experience.

Myspace jump-started its subscriber base when they held a contest to see which eUniverse employees, who were the initial Myspace users, could sign up the largest number of users to the new Myspace website. This incentivized quantity over quality. Anderson and DeWolfe contacted 20 Million eUniverse users. Because of their campaign, thousands of users signed up for Myspace, and Anderson and DeWolfe began focusing exclusively on growing the social network.

But these users were not necessarily interconnected. Because those who signed up for Myspace did not know one another or had no reason to meet, then there was no ongoing incentive to use the website. What the Myspace founders and eUniverse CEO did not understand was that the most appealing aspect of a social network is that friends can connect or reconnect or share anything from photographs to experiences to news.

The importance of the Network Effect

Facebook, by contrast, started out as a social media outlet for Harvard. While Facebook started out with a far smaller prospective pool of users, specifically only 27,000 students, they all had reason to be interested in one another, thus creating an engaged and devoted user base. Because of the relevance, satisfaction and engagement with Facebook, users recommended it to their friends and other college students, creating a massive network of similarly aged, highly connected people with mutual interests.

This created a virtuous network effect which further increased Facebook’s relevance for its users. The takeaway lesson for marketers is that while it is important to get the word out, unless you are reaching qualified leads, it does you no good. Don’t send emails to everyone in your address book, rather, choose your recipients carefully. Don’t spray and pray.  Choose the right market and create a strong connection and relevance to it; otherwise, you might have a lot of misleading nibbles but no fruitful bites. It is important to segment your data and your customers to better understand and access useful people who will find you useful.

Make customers happy before you worry about money

While Myspace probably thought it hit the jackpot with its 580 million dollar sale to News Corp, the sale might have actually been the seed of its downfall. Startups often focus on quality of product and a strong user base before monetization. While Myspace was still in startup mode when acquired, its high acquisition price and obligation to a public company created immense pressure to hit quarterly targets. It hastened the monetization process, which led to over-advertising and increased focus on making money, as opposed to focus on making the customer happy or the product better.

Due to the pressure to hit numbers and the fear of underperforming, Myspace was not as receptive to innovation or user input. Tinkering with the model, platform, or product would have led the company to new and unknown territory with customers, and Myspace couldn’t run experiments that didn’t predict sufficient user growth or enhanced profits.

In addition to putting pressure on Myspace to perform, News Corp designed a rigid business plan for Myspace, which hindered it from being more focused on enhancing user experience and satisfaction and slowing willingness to adapt and change.

Facebook, on the other hand, kept its ear to the ground, listened to user input and adapted accordingly. In fact, Facebook actively chose not to take the big payout and focused on developing its product. In 2006, Facebook turned down two large offers, the first from Viacom for 750 million dollars and the second from Yahoo at one billion dollars. Facebook has never been boring. If anything, people complain about too many new features and too many updates.

The lesson for marketers is that it is important to maintain flexibility and willingness to adapt and change and remain interesting and relevant. Listen to user input and feedback and don’t be afraid to change what you are doing.  Your business plan can project 300 percent returns over one year, but that doesn’t do you much good if customers and prospects lose interest in your offering. Focus less on making money and more on making your customers happy–money usually follows.

The importance of targeted ads

Myspace was rolling in the dough–earning 800 million dollars in revenue in 2008. If you ever used Myspace back then, you would remember the amount of advertisements on your screen. However, they were more ad than content. The advertising was not interesting, or applicable, and hence would be very annoying.

Facebook, on the other hand, played the advertising game right, as it uses the information it has about you to create relevant and targeted ads.  Facebook targets ads based on your profile, your likes, and information it gets about you from your Facebook friends. Generally, Facebook knows your age, location, education, relationship status, and more; Facebook would not push an ad to 18-25 year old males about the newest and hottest bras from Victoria’s Secret or Estee Lauder make-up, but rather, ads for the newest Michael Jordan sneakers would appear.

Facebook made it a priority to run directed, interesting, and relevant ads in appropriate quantities. Facebook has paid attention to how many ads get pushed to users without annoying them. One Facebook rep was quoted in an Edgerank Checker post in October 2012, saying, “we’re continually optimizing newsfeed to ensure the most relevant experience for our users.”

It is of the utmost importance as a B2B marketer to target the right people in the right quantities. It is not enough to have tons of ads on high traffic websites; you have to reach the right people on the right websites about the right subjects. To be successful, design your ads to be suitable to the people you want to be reading them, and put them in the right places for the right people.

Example of bad MySpace ads

An image of Myspace inbox screen with advertising ranging from a spammy new scientific way to lose weight and free credit reports, to sour candy

Continued success and an attempt to rejuvenate

Facebook went public in May 2012 at a then record valuation of 104 billion dollars. After some minor hiccups at the start, it now trades at a 220 billion dollar valuation. This past quarter alone the company’s revenue grew around 61 percent to nearly 3 billion dollars. The company now has over 1.4 billion users.

In late 2013, Myspace users numbered approximately 36 million–less than half the number of unique users Myspace had at its peak in Late 2008. Necessity, rather than creative destruction, recently forced Myspace to reinvent itself into a social entertainment website when it was jointly purchased from News Corp for $35 million dollars by Specific Media and Justin Timberlake. They have revamped Myspace into a music sharing website which they hope will have value and relevance to producers, artists and even casual listeners.

While the original Myspace had an element of music sharing, the current strategy clearly is a re-visioning of the company. Although too early to deem the strategy successful, the company seems to be headed in the right direction.

Myspace’s story and history illustrates the importance of admitting failure and moving on by learning from past mistakes and being willing to let go of old ideas. Vinod Khosla, a successful and well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur, has been quoted as saying, “Most entrepreneurs–good entrepreneurs–are just not afraid to fail… the ability to think outside the box is the Silicon Valley mindset.”

For B2B marketers, it is important to remember if a specific campaign, article or eBook does not succeed, or even gets negative feedback, and to learn from that failure or feedback and respond accordingly.

About the author: Ariel Applbaum is a Content Marketing Specialist at Radius, the data company that’s engineering decision science for B2B marketers. Ariel is studying entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis. At Radius, he’s focused on building a community of innovative marketers through content partnerships.

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23 Terrific Email Marketing Guides

August 19, 2014

Despite repeated pronouncements of its demise, email marketing is definitely not dead (just as SEO is not dead). According to recent research:

      • Email marketing statistics• For every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return is $44.25.
      • • 91% of consumers use email at least once a day. 
      • •  When asked which medium consumers would like to receive updates from, 90% preferred an email newsletter, while only 10% chose Facebook.
      • •  60% of marketers say that email marketing is producing an ROI for their organization.

However—as email inboxes get more crowded and both the sophistication and expectations of consumers and business buyers increase, marketers need to refine their tactics in order to build their opt-in email lists, retain subscribers,  and drive leads and sales through email marketing.

So what are the most effective tactics for building an opt-in email list today? What are the best practices to maximize open and click-through rates? What worst practices or pitfalls should email marketers avoid? What’s the best day of the week to send emails?

Find the answers to those questions and many more here almost two dozen expert guides to email marketing.

Email List Building Guides

Marketing Research Chart: 63% say registration during purchase effective for list building by MarketingSherpa

Daniel BursteinDaniel Burstein reports that most marketers struggle with growing their opt-in lists–but also offers tips from the happy minority enjoying rapid list building success. Among them: “63% of marketers found registration during purchase to be very effective…If you could start, or improve, only one element of your opt-in program this year, you should strongly consider taking a look at how you offer customers the chance to register for your list when they’re making a purchase. Only 41% of marketers are using this tactic to drive their organization’s email list growth.” Online events are also effective, while social media sharing buttons are at the other end of the scale, cited as “very effective” by only 9% of marketers.

10 Top Tips to Grow Your Email List by jeffbullas.com

Jeff BullasJeff Bullas suggests 10 ways to grow your opt-in email list, from the common (offer a free ebook, or use a pop-up box–which he concedes is annoying, but they work anyway) to the less obvious (do some guest blogging, use annotations in YouTube videos, or use SlideShare Pro (“the premium version of Slideshare…offers a pop up box to capture emails and leads”).

4 tips for growing your email list by iMedia Connection

Monique TorresReporting, regarding the continuing importance of email as a marketing tactic, that “Fifty-four percent of organizations generate 20 percent or more of overall revenue through email marketing. For 21 percent of respondents, email marketing accounts for 60 percent or more of all digital business revenue,” Monique Torres presents four helpful tips for building opt-in email lists, including offering incentives for signing up, which may include content, exclusive access, tesimonials, or discounts.

Email List Growth: Marketers Rank Their Most Popular – and Effective – Tactics by Marketing Charts

It’s not surprising that, according to research from ExactTarget, a majority of marketers use tactics like placing a general email signup form on their websites, or signup forms specific to different sections of their sites. But among some findings that are less obvious, this post notes “While only 23% capture email during inbound sales calls, 71% rate this tactic as being effective.”

16 Ways to Capture Email Addresses for Your Email Marketing List by Blue Kite Marketing

Laura ClickFrequent best-of honoree Laura Click serves up more than a dozen helpful tactics for growing an opt-in email marketing list, from offering an incentive to sign up (“such as eBooks, webinars and video series”) and social media channels to digital ads, contests, and collecting email addresses at trade shows and other industry events.

How to Get Your First 1,000 Email Subscribers When Nobody Knows You by ProBlogger

Marya JanGuest author Marya Jan steps through seven common roadblocks to growing a subscriber list, and explains what to do instead in order to quickly build a large opt-in email list. For example, not providing an incentive to sign up: “the best opt-in offers are those that offer some sort of short cut of doing a task. A cheat sheet of sorts…a report, mini ebook, white paper or a short webinar works well.”

General Email Marketing Guides

10 email best practices to remember (Infographic) by iMedia Connection

Erik MatlickErik Matlick showcases an infographic detailing 10 best practices for effective marketing emails, from subject lines (punctuation is unnecessary; capitalizing all words results in higher engagement) to content and CTAs (questions spike interest and encourage click-through; orange and red are the best colors for CTA buttons).

11 Email Marketing WORST Practices by Bourn Creative

Jennifer BournShifting the focus from email marketing best practices to worst practices, Jennifer Bourn here helpfully warns marketers to avoid these potentially costly email mistakes, such as buying email lists (“This tactic is guaranteed to result in a lot of spam complaints, angry consumers, and damage to your brand”), using a bait-and-switch opt-in (“Don’t sneak your ezine in after the fact and trick new subscribers”) and buring out your list with over-mailing.

Personalized e-mails drive shoppers to buy—and buy more—in stores and online by Internet Retailer

Amy DustoWant your marketing emails to be more effective? Make them personal. According to Amy Dusto, “77% of online shoppers say they’re more likely to buy from a retailer when its e-mails are personal…and 82% of web shoppers say they’d likely buy more items from a retailer if its e-mails were more personally relevant.”

Email Deliverability: 8 tactics help you overcome rising B2B challenges by MarketingSherpa

Allison Banko“There are plenty of layers to permeate when it comes to deliverability. In the B2B market, those layers thicken. You bear a bulk of ongoing challenges including a longer sales cycle, complex reputation score hurdles and high employee turnover, resulting in multiple inactive email addresses.” To overcome these challenges, Allison Banko walks through eight tactics for improving deliverability specifically for b2b email marketers, from careful segmentation to optimizing emails for mobile devices.

Opt in email marketing: 9 Powerful eMail Conversion tactics from the Pros by Razor Social

Ian ClearyNoting that typical email conversion rates are significantly higher than for search or social media, Ian Cleary passes along conversion tactics from nine top marketing professionals, among them John Jantsch (use a bright color for your call-to-action button and “never use your call to action button color anywhere else on your site”) and Melanie Duncan: “Melanie has a great picture of her with a visual cue (i.e. she’s pointing to where you have to subscribe).”

Marketing Research Chart: Which day is best to send emails? by MarketingSherpa

Daniel Burstein (again) shares research on which day of the week marketers believe is most effective for sending marketing emails. (It’s Tuesday, followed closely by Wednesday.) However, he also points out the value of testing (as your mileage may vary), the importance of accurate measurement, and international considerations.

Email Marketing: What I’ve learned from writing almost 1,000 emails for MarketingSherpa by MarketingSherpa

Justin BrideganJustin Bridegan shares four key lessons from his email marketing experience, including the importance of providing value over just selling: “Your emails should be an ongoing conversation and always offer real value. Ask yourself, ‘Does this pass the ‘so what’ test?’ If not, then scrap what you have and start over.”

The 4 Pillars of Email Marketing by MarketingSherpa

Astutely noting that “If you focus on everything, you focus on nothing,” Daniel Burstein (once more) presents the four focus areas for presentations at MarketingSherpa’s email summit, along with supporting content. These focus areas included list building, design, automation, and integration (“The optimization of email integration tactics with social media, websites, mobile, offline and testing”).

5 Reasons Why Most Email Marketing Messages Get Ignored by Blue Kite Marketing

Laura Click (again) muses upon several reasons marketing emails have low open rates, including an excessive focus on selling (“Yes, it’s important to use email to sell. But, that shouldn’t be the only thing you do. It needs to be balanced with other compelling content”), boring content, and terrible subject lines.

24 Tips for Responsive Email Design by Get Elastic

Linda BustosNoting that “43% of email is currently opened on mobile devices, headed towards 50% by the end of the year,” Linda Bustos explains how responsive email design works, and supplies a set of practical tips for design, content, and calls to action (“Make links look like links. Sound like Web usability kindergarten? It’s still important, especially since modern designs style links as colored text without underlining”).

Email Marketing: 7 Things You Should Do Before Hitting “Send” by The 60 Second Marketer

May AdvinculaMay Advincula walks through seven items to check before hitting the “send” button on a marketing email message, among them, covering the basics (“Do you have an easily accessible unsubscribe link?”) and keeping it simple (“Once your subscribers get past the subject line and open your e-mail, make sure the reason why subscribers have signed up for your e-mail is prominent”).

Simple ideas for integrating social and email by iMedia Connection

Drew HubbardDrew Hubbard contends that contrary to the notion that social media has “killed” email, in fact, “the explosive popularity of social networking is an opportunity to boost the effectiveness of email marketing.” He then details a handful of ways social media can be used to leverage email marketing efforts, such as encouraging sharing: “Remember back in the day when email marketers did backflips when subscribers chose to ‘forward to a friend?’ Well, with social networking, email subscribers today can choose to ‘forward to ALL friends.'”

Email Subject Lines and Copywriting Guides

Infographic: 10 Commandments of Email Copywriting by The Point

Howard J. SewellHoward J. Sewell shares clever and practical commandments for effetive email copywriting, from “Thou shalt not direct people to ‘learn more'” (“‘Learn more” is the worst possible call to action. It means absolutely nothing. What is it that you’re offering, exactly?”) and “Thou shalt use ‘you,” not ‘we'” to “Thou shalt not serve up multiple calls to action.”

Email Subject Lines: Words and Tactics That Boost Open Rates by MarketingProfs

Ayaz NanjiAmong other research findings detailed here, Ayaz Nanji reports that “Email subject lines that convey a sense of urgency, such as those that contain the words ‘urgent’ and/or ‘important,’ have open rates that are much higher than normal…(also) email recipients are much more intrigued by subject lines that contain positive solicitations rather than negative admonitions: Words such as ‘announcement’ and ‘invitation’ have significantly higher open rates than those containing ‘reminder’ and ‘cancelled.'”

Which Email Keywords Get the Highest Open and Click-Through Rates? by The Daily Egg
**** 5 STARS

Sherice JacobSherice Jacob notes that, as email inboxes become ever more crowded, “The competition is only going to get fiercer…now more than ever—word choice matters.” She then delves into research on how small changes in subject line word choice can make a big difference in results. For example, “save” vs. “sale”: “‘sale’ enjoyed an over 23% increase in open rates and over 60% in click-through rates, whereas ‘save’ flat-lined at 3.4% and -25.2% respectively.”

Email Design Awards and Inspiration

The 10 most innovative marketing emails of 2013 by iMediaConnection

Chris MarriottChris Marriott takes a close look at some of last year’s more effective email marketing campaigns, from best abandoned cart email (“Too many abandoned cart emails read along the lines of, ‘Hey dummy, you didn’t finish checking out.’ Not here. Bare Necessities strikes just the right tone with subject line, ‘Thanks for checking us out.’ That thought is repeated in the email itself, along with dynamically placed pictures of what was left in the cart”) and best coupon email (CVS) to best newsletter (P&G Home Made Simple) and best re-activation email (Clinique UK).

MarketingSherpa Email Awards 2014, presented by ExactTarget by MarketingSherpa
***** 5 STARS

Get design and campaign inspiration from the MarketingSherpa Email Awards winners in these 17 illustrated examples, including Dell’s Ultrabook program for e-commerce creation and design: “Dell wanted to support the launch and ongoing promotion of an innovative product. The main feature was a flip-hinge design allowing a user to transform the device from an Ultrabook to a tablet. Dell marketers saw an opportunity to demonstrate the key feature of their product using a unique approach – a short animated GIF. Touting high compatibility with email clients and browsers, this solution saw an increase in revenue of 109% against the quarterly benchmark for similar campaigns.”

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