Guest comment: Beware of optimisation ‘best practice’


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May 15, 2008

Are you becoming overwhelmed with best practices and wondering which ones are actually best? Greg Kelton is Managing Director, Optimost EMEA, lists some key standards to aspire to when creating a website.

To design the best site experience for your customers, you may not need best practices. Good (and even not so good) practices tested on your customer base may be the “better” way to reveal the best practices for your online business.

The only way to find out is to start testing – your customers will soon tell you what is working and what isn’t. It’s useful to have an idea of where to test though, so here are some of the best areas we’ve found based on recent client work.

Heavy Mouse

No this isn’t a mouse who’s had too much cheese but rather a complaint of website owners who aren’t enjoying high levels of click through – their visitors therefore suffering from heavy mouse syndrome. To lighten the mouse and increase click through test variations of copy that provide an incentive for the visitor to visit another page, e.g., sell them the idea of what is on it.


Test removing elements on the screen to avoid overcrowding. Often too many ideas from HIPPO’s, (Highly Important Persons’ Personal Opinion), i.e., everyone in the company has a view of what must go in to the company website, can cause the screen to become overbearing for the visitor. Test a more simplistic view of your offerings while ensuring that all the relevant KPI’s are maximised.

Mind Candy

Be sure to consider what frame of mind your customer is in at the moment – hour of day, day of week. Delivering an experience that matches to the goals of the customer can derive significant results. For example, during the weekday, a stay at home parent may only have a few minutes to get online to accomplish tasks. On the other hand, a weekend visitor may have time to spare and is more likely to respond to additional content or cross sell opportunities.

Got Space?

Just because your template includes several areas does not mean you have to fill the open space. Test completely different layouts to meet the specific goals of the page in question. Don’t allow your technology boundaries to dictate how you interact with your customers.

Guru vs. Newbie

Do your existing customers react differently to different promotions on your site? Do they expect a different type of interaction with your site than brand new customers? Test more advanced features on your long term customers that can help them derive a more efficient and rich experience. Test easier, less busy presentations for your brand new customers to ease them through the sales funnel.

Just Do It

Is there a change or addition to your site that will obviously provide an uplift in conversion? Don't be so sure until you test. Often, the most obvious changes to you may not align with customer needs. Delta found that adding credit card logos to the billing page, in fact, had a significant negative effect on conversion.

An oldie but a goodie

How much change does your site really need? Before revolutionising your site to meet the needs of the new generation of visitors, consider the value of your "classic" version to existing customers. Often we are lured into the excitement of overhauling our site with whiz bang features to keep up with competitors and the anticipated expectations of the new generation of web users. Before leaping, test to see how your users will react. When Yahoo launched the new version of their email client to keep pace with Google, it smartly kept the classic view to ensure the retention of a large existing customer base. Similarly, Microsoft provides classic views of several operating system elements as well.

All your eggs in one basket

Do you have a clear view of the impact of site changes to all KPI's and not just one or two? When making changes to your site to improve conversion are those changes negatively impacting average order value? When simplifying your site to drive the first sale are you decreasing retention due to limited content? When changing your site, be sure to measure the impact of those changes on as many KPI's as possible to mitigate the risk of losing a bigger opportunity for the sake of another gain.

Having conducted some or all of these tests, you’ll have a better understanding of what your customer considers to be good or best practice and in the end that is all that matters. What works for you may not work for another company so the best advice I can give is to ignore handed down best practice advice and discover your own truths.

Greg Kelton is Managing Director, Optimost EMEA (An Interwoven Company)

Top 10 social media sites in the UK


Added:May 22, 2008

YouTube remains the star of the UK social media scene, being the most popular site for the seventh consecutive month, according to new research from Nielsen Online.

Facebook becomes only the second social media brand to pass 10 million Unique Visitors in a single month. YouTube passed this milestone for the first time in November 2007.

Compared to April 2007, Slide (8th) and Wordpress (10th) are new entrants at the expense of Google Video (dropping from 8th to 20th) and Friends Reunited (dropping from 10th to 14th)

The most popular social media sites in the UK: April 2008


Social Media Site

Unique Audience Apr 08 (millions)

YOY Change Apr 07 – Apr 08

Last Quarter Change
Jan 08 – Apr 08
































Yahoo! Answers










Windows Live Spaces









Source: Nielsen Online, UK home and work data, April 2007 - April 2008

The ten most popular social media sites a year ago: April 2007


Social Media Site

Unique Audience Apr 07 (millions)

Rank - Apr 08

Rank Change
Apr 07 – Apr 08
































Windows Live Spaces





Google Video





Yahoo! Answers





Friends Reunited














Source: Nielsen Online, UK home and work data, April 2007 - April 2008

Alex Burmaster, European Internet Analyst, Nielsen Online, said: "Although social media is the undoubted web phenomenon of the moment, the leading players cannot afford to rest on their laurels. The space remains extremely competitive and the most popular sites have experienced contrasting fortunes over the last year and the last quarter.

“Social media consumers are 'the fast and the curious', always looking for, and moving to, the next social media service that can meet the need to organise and showcase their lives and interests more effectively."


Q&A with Chris Nodder: Writing for the web


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Added:Jun 06, 2008

How does writing for the web differ from other media? Last week, Netimperative spoke with Chris Nodder, User Experience Specialist at Nielsen Norman Group, about common pitfalls to avoid when producing content online.

What are the main differences between writing for print and writing online?

People are looking to find information online, it’s not like a novel where they read the content from beginning to end. It’s all about getting useful information fast. Our site data analysis indicates that on average, a person reads only 20%- 28% of a webpage.

Our eye tracking studies show that users will scan the page until they get to content which they feel meets their needs. Then (and only then) will they start reading in detail. Because of this, I always tell my clients to ‘suppress their ego’ when writing online- many people use big words just to prove they can, but this can turn away readers. It’s not a case of dumbing down content- it’s about writing for people in a hurry.

We have found that users spend very little time on individual pages. For instance, in a newsletter study we found that even for newsletters that users chose to read rather than junk, they still spent on average only 51 seconds reading the newsletter.

When writing for the Web, you are writing for people who are essentially scanning for information first and foremost, so you need to think about how you are presenting your information. This can mean tried and trusted journalism practices, such as front-loading your text with the most important information. I would also recommend using bullets points where applicable. Although this is frowned upon in some circles, people love to read them online. It makes the information far easier to digest.

Are there any areas that are commonly overlooked when creating Web content?

Links always show up as bold blue words on the screen- they instantly draw the eye. This factor is often neglected and useless phrases, such as ‘click here’ become the focal point of the page. Instead, writers should pick the most interesting word in the text to insert the relevant link.

Another overlooked factor is images. Many corporate websites feature bland images of smiling people that convey nothing about the company’s products or services. This is a big misuse of space- the images should add to the information on the page. For example, a medical company we worked with included an image of people using the equipment it sold- helping to demonstrate the large size of the product. This is a vital piece of information that the reader will be grateful to have.

What are the best ways of measuring usability?

In terms of qualitative metrics, we tend to use surveys measuring users’ satisfaction. This can be unreliable as the users tend to be over-generous in their ratings, so you can’t always trust survey results to be honest representations of how people feel – what they say and what they do are often two different things.

In terms of qualitative metrics, the best measurement is time spent performing a task. You can also measure the number of errors made during a series of tasks. However, I would recommend putting the final measurements in terms of ‘cost’ by translating time lost into potential sales lost- it gives you a way to set more actionable goals.

What typical barriers do you encounter when encouraging getting clients to implement changes to their website?

Too often we find companies are making guesses concerning what their readers actually want. The hardest part is convincing a company to research their own readership, as this can be time consuming and labour intensive.

As technologies converge across TV, online and mobile, what does the future hold for usability. Do emerging platforms present new challenges?

There are many new platforms and user interfaces out there, and this number is growing. But essentially it will be the same thing all over again. Whether is via mobile or digital TV, the same basic usability principles will apply.

About Chris Nodder, User Experience Specialist, NN/g –

Chris works with clients across Europe and the US, and has coauthored NN/g reports on B2B usability and wishlists and gift giving. He has also conducted focus groups, user studies, and field research.

Before joining NN/g, Nodder worked as a usability consultant at NatWest Bank in the UK, and then as a senior user researcher at Microsoft Corp. His experiences managing the usability group at NatWest are captured in the book The Politics of Usability. During his seven years at Microsoft, Nodder was responsible for many products, including the user experience for XP Service Pack 2, a major upgrade to Windows XP (documented in the book Security and Usability).

This summer, Chris is running a full day tutorial entitled Writing for the Web in San Francisco and Melbourne.

Guest Comment: Using web behaviour data to drive follow up marketing

Jun 19, 2008

Working out why some email ads fail can be crucial to improving future campaigns. Andrew Robinson, managing director at Lyris UK, looks at how web analytics can help marketers get the most out of their communications.

There is a lot to be learnt beyond open and click-through rates on email marketing campaigns. By employing a web analytics tool to analyse the behaviour of respondents, valuable insight can be gained into just how effective an email campaign is - or isn’t.

Many marketers consider 'conversion' the holy grail of campaign success. An email generating a lead or a sale is considered successful; one that doesn't is the opposite. But a lack of conversion doesn’t necessarily constitute a failure. By examining two key metrics – visitors' average time on site (ATOS) and campaign exit rate – it is possible to understand where the conversion process needs improvement, and use those valuable insights in follow up campaigns.

Focused analysis

Segmentation is the key to gaining actionable insight on any marketing activities, including email campaigns. Marketers need to be able to focus on visitors who share common behaviour when responding to a particular campaign. Using a web analytics program to segment campaign respondents will provide valuable information in formulating follow up campaigns.

Are website visitors interested...

Time on site measures a web site's ability to successfully maintain each visitor's interest. It's also a good indicator of how well visitors' expectations are being met - what they thought they were getting when they clicked through, and what they found once they arrived. The average time spent on the site by the users that came in via an email campaign can be analysed and compared with the benchmark value of the average time on site for 'all visitors'.

We all like to be sure we’re getting the most for our money - and on the web it only takes a few clicks to move from store to store or to a review site to validate (or decide to rethink) our choice. In general, higher than average time on site is a pretty good indicator of interest. However, it can mean that respondents are struggling to do what they want on the website – or what was promised in an email.

It's also important to remember that a short time on site and high exit rate on the right page, such as basket/purchase confirmation, can be a good sign. But if large groups of visitors have a high ATOS but few conversions, email marketers need to examine their campaign offers and build a reason for quick action into the follow up campaign. Lingering window-shoppers need to be given a catalyst to convert.

...and are their expectations met?

The campaign exit rate is another effective way to gauge whether or not visitors' expectations are being met. For example, an email message offering free shipping must be matched by a landing page that clearly restates the offer that got the recipient to click through in the first place.

The first action of online marketers dealing with high exit rates needs to be to see how well the the landing page reflects the promise made in the email campaign. Using the same (or at least similar) graphics and promotion wording is a good start.

However, the time on site must also be correlated with the number of pre-defined goals (such as making a purchase, submitting enquiry forms or signing up to email) completed. A long time on site is a good sign if a lot of these goals are achieved, but indicates a need for improvement if few or no goal activities are undertaken.

Triggering action

Having put time and effort into analysing users' web behaviour, it is important to use this information to enhance the online marketing programme. One particularly successful tactic is to implement a triggered email function. This uses web analytics to track people who spend a lot of time on a particular section of a website as a result of receiving an email, but then don't reach a goal. A follow-up email 24 hours later reminds them of what they were looking at with the aim of encouraging them back to the store to make a purchase. For example, someone who doesn't buy anything despite having spent 30 minutes browsing on shoes could be sent a follow up message the next day with a reminder such as: “Did you know you can return up to four pairs of shoes in one order if they don't fit you?”.

Final judgment

It is also important to note that no one metric should be looked at in a vacuum. Instead, a holistic view of metrics - including ROI, conversion, and visitor volume/response rate – should be adopted to ensure an accurate picture of the value of each campaign.

By combining the email provider's metrics with a few key metrics from web analysis software, the experience for customers can be improved, both in their inboxes and on the website.

By Andrew Robinson

Managing Director, Lyris UK

Roundtable Report: B2B Email Marketing

Added:Jun 27, 2008

B2B email marketing has come of age as companies improve their communication strategies, but will it ever match the sophistication of its B2C counterpart? This month, Newsweaver brought together some key industry figures to discuss the latest issues facing the sector.


Jennifer Curtin, marketing manager at Newsweaver, began the discussion with some new statistics Newsweaver had conducted in conjunction with B2B Marketing Magazine. This was the second year in a row that the two organisations had conducted the survey, meaning this was the first time the data could be used to look for trends over the past year.

The results showed that B2B email marketing had risen in most companies priorities, with only 4% considering it ‘not important’ compared with 13% a year ago.

In terms of recepients, existing customers topped the list. However, in terms of objectives, most companies said they were using B2B email marketing to attract prospective customers, a significant shift from last year, when customer retention was the primary objective.

In terms of frequency, the average company sent out a B2B marketing email once a month. The volumes of recipients and share of overall marketing budgets remained smaller than typical B2C email audiences, but this was showing signs of increasing, with over 32% now sending to more than 10,000 recipients a month.

Another significant trend was the growth of companies opting to conduct their email marketing via ASP-based systems rather than desktop systems (such as Outlook).

In terms of metrics used to measure recipient behaviour, click-throughs surpassed open rates as the main metric of choice amongst those surveyed. In terms of variables tested, subject lines and sending times were the most experimented with. The survey still found that not many people used personalisation in their emails, opting for changes to the name when they did.

When quizzed on the top challenge facing the sector in the near future, most respondents said that ‘inbox overload’ was the biggest problem. This contrasted with last years’ number one- spam. Jennifer suggested that this is the result of improved spam filters. On one hand, this improved deliverability for legitimate email marketers, but on the other hand this was increasing competition to be read in a cluttered inbox.

Session 1

After the presentation, Denise Cox, newsletter specialist at Newsweaver, began the debate by looking more closely at the findings of the survey. She said the increases show that B2B email is thriving, despite naysayers prediciting the death of the medium following the rise of social media sites. She thought it was more a case of looking at how the two channels could best be integrated.

Phil Williams at Rocketseed said many people see sending emails as a task to perform and not follow up, and stressed the need for making use of analytics tools to help imrove the sending process.

Gareth Gainer, Communicator Corp, thought email suffered due to its ‘cheap’ status. “People see email as cheap, and therefore something which doesn’t require a lot of time,” he said. Sheema Luca at Webgains agreed, saying email is often not seen as important as other forms of marketing so it is subsequently pushed onto junior staff, althoguht she added that the open rates of some campaigns indicate this should not be the case.

Jennifer said B2B email still had some way to go to match B2C email campaigns, but this was largely due to significantly smaller volumes making it hard to justify the ROI on big tasks. Gareth thought this was an issue for client education, getting them to define their goals . He advocated the use of more life cycle marketing in email campaigns, when follow up emails and cross selling are used at specific points depending on recipients behaviour.

However, Denise said there can be intelligent uses of B2B marketing that don’t require sophisticated technoliogy, citing a company that followed up an email with a second two weeks later offering a discount, resulting in much higher conversion rates. Graham Jarvis added that another opportunity was being missed by not giving recipients an option to give a reason when unsubscribing.

Ian made the point that in the US, email marketing is much more commoditised than it is here. He cited research that indicated some 70% of US firms use ASP-based email solutions, compared with around 30% in the UK.

He went on to add that one of the biggest issues likely to emerge on the back on technological advances is inbox rendering for mobile devices. As the barriers towards mobile internet access are coming down, marketers need to ensure their messages are looking good on mobile devices- for example, making sure key information is included ‘above the fold’ on a mobile screen.

Denise agreed, and cited devices such as the iPhone making the internet much more accessible on the move, resulting in many people using their phones to browse ‘urgent emails’ while leaving less important messages for when they return to the office. Gareth agreed, but though that in the professional world, the Blackberry is the device of choice rather than the iPhone.

Denise said this move to mobile represented an interesting challenge for email marketers, as it required a renewed focus on making text look good, rather than relying on flashy HTML graphics and layouts.

The discussion then moved on to the feasibility of running videos in emails. Ian said again this was a problem in terms of inbox rendering again, and suggested instead an image of a video player, which linked to a video page on a website.

Session 2

The panel kicked off the second half of the debate looking at some of the biggest problems facing B2B email marketing today. Ian thought that not enough marketers were linking their email campaigns with analytics software. Phil agreed, and pointed to Newsweaver’s research which showed most advertisers are not using the technology available to them.

Denise then looked at the recurring problems of spam and deliverability. She pointed to a trend of recipients marking an email as spam, thinking it is the same as unsubscribing, meaning legitimate email marketers are getting blacklisted by email service providers as a result.

Gateth agreed, saying it’s easier to delete or mark emails as junk as opposed to going through an unsubscription process.

The panel went on to look at some good examples of B2B emails. Newsweaver worked with oil giant Shell to create a dynamic company-wide internal email system. The emails could be personalized to ensure each department received only relevant content, which resulted in high open and click-through rates across all the board.

The panel drew the debate to a close by looking at the future of the medium. Ian cited research indicating that the UK and US markets were slowing down in terms of growth, from 40% a few years ago to 20% now. Germany was one of the biggest growth markets, now reaching a growth rate of around 40%.

The group agreed that optimszing emails for mobile screens was going to become more important, while linking email to customer relationship management (CRM) systems was also a going to play a key part in the year to come.

Customised domain names get greenlight

Added:Jun 27, 2008

ICANN, the nonprofit organisation that manages the Internet domain name system, has voted to open up the rules for top-level domain names.

Previously, the endings of top-level domain names were limited to a limited group of generic top level domains such as .com, .net, .org, as well as individual country code domain names such as .ca for Canada or .uk for the United Kingdom.

New names won't start appearing until at least next year, and ICANN won't be deciding on specific ones quite yet. The organization still must work out many details, including fees for obtaining new names, expected to exceed $100,000 apiece to help ICANN cover up to $20 million in costs.

Adding new suffixes can make it easier for Web sites to promote easy-to-remember names — given that many of the best ones have been claimed already under the .com suffix.

The streamlined guidelines call for applicants to go through an initial review phase, during which anyone may raise an objection on such grounds as racism, trademark conflicts and similarity to an existing suffix. If no objection is raised, approval would come quickly.

Jonathan Robinson, Chief Operating Officer at the domain name management specialist NetNames (, said a yes vote meaning that companies or individuals will effectively be able to buy generic top-level domain names ending in whatever they want.

“While it is clear the Internet domain name structure needs to evolve, the ICANN vote in favour of opening up Top Level Domains (TLDs) leads to complex questions for marketers and trademark owners.

“It can be argued that the expansion of available suffixes is the equivalent of opening a can of worms in terms of online infringement and cybersquatting – it seems logical to assume that as domain numbers increase, so too will the levels of speculative activity.

“Brand owners may find themselves in the position of having to register numerous new domains to protect themselves but, with varying fee estimates, that could well turn out to be an untenable marketing expense for some.

“Nonetheless, the impact on existing domains remains to be seen. In the case of a big brand, presumably any browsers visiting a newly registered domain would be redirected to the original TLD in any case. There will also be question marks over how new domains will affect Search Optimisation and consequent site traffic and PPC advertising rates.

“One thing that does seem clear is, with the final pricing and potential refund and dispute procedures not yet in place for applicants, brand owners and the trademark community will be keeping an extremely close eye on developments in the coming months,” Robinson concluded.

ICANN also voted unanimously to open public comment on a separate proposal to permit addresses entirely in non-English languages for the first time.

Addresses partly in foreign languages are sometimes possible today, but the suffix has been limited to 37 characters: a-z, 0-9 and the hyphen.

In other action, ICANN approved recommendations designed to clamp down on ‘domain name tasting’. This is where a loophole in registration policies allows entrepreneurs to grab domain names risk-free for up to five days to see whether they generate enough traffic and advertising dollars.

That practice ties up millions of Internet addresses, making it even more difficult for individuals and businesses to find good names in the crowded ".com" space. The new guidelines would withhold refunds if too many are returned.

Email subject lines- Does length matter?
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Added:Jul 03, 2008

Short email subject lines result in a higher open rate, but longer ones result in more clickthroughs, according to new research.

Analysis of over 600 subject lines and 200 million email messages by email marketing agency Alchemy Worx has disproved the widely held view that short email subject lines are better.

Alchemy Worx discovered that although subject lines with 50 characters or less make more people open the email - the traditional view - they are less likely to then go on and click on content or offers within the message.

The study found that the click-to-open rates start to be optimised when the subject line is over 70 characters in length and continue to rise until well beyond 100 characters.

This is true for both the number of characters and the word count. The more words there were in the subject line, the better the click-to-open rate.

Dela Quist, CEO of Alchemy Worx who commissioned the research, said: “One of the most common questions we’re asked at conferences is what subject lines work best. In the last eight years of working on our clients email marketing programmes we amassed plenty of circumstantial evidence that suggested longer subject lines could be as, if not more effective than shorter ones, so we commissioned this research to find out once and for all.

“In summary our findings show that shorter subject lines optimise open rates, while longer subject lines optimise both click and click-to open rates. We were also surprised to identify a “dead” zone! Subject lines of between 60 and 70 characters (6-10 words), optimise neither the open rate or click to open rates.”

A white paper containing full results and analysis is available at:

Ebay and Paypal team up with Gmail to fight phishing

Jul 09, 2008

eBay and PayPal are to link-up with Google’s webmail service Gmail to combat fraudulent e-mails and phishing attacks.

The deal is designed to help eBay and PayPal customers with Gmail accounts by stopping fake e-mails getting through claiming to be sent by eBay and PayPal.

Through the use of DomainKeys and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) e-mail authentication technology, Google is able to prevent the delivery of fraudulent eBay and PayPal messages into Gmail users’ inboxes.

The initiative protects Gmail, eBay and PayPal customers worldwide.

Garreth Griffith, Head of Risk Management at PayPal UK said: “The Gmail team’s decision to work with eBay and PayPal on this issue is a significant step forward in our fight to keep consumers safe from phishing and cybercrime. Today’s announcement will enhance online safety for millions of eBay and PayPal customers who use Gmail.”

DomainKeys technology adds another layer to spam and phishing protections by allowing Internet service providers to determine if messages are real and decide if they should be delivered to a customer’s inbox. The collaboration between eBay, PayPal and Gmail will lower consumers’ risk of being victims of phishing attacks through the reduction of fraudulent e-mail consumers receive.

Brad Taylor, senior staff software engineer in charge of Gmail’s anti-spam efforts continued, ”We’re always looking for ways to eliminate unwanted e-mail from our users’ inboxes. Phishing is an especially nasty form of spam, so we appreciate having another weapon in our arsenal against it. We’re glad to be working with eBay and PayPal to protect our users.”

“Industry cooperation represents a pivotal part of stamping out phishing and other e-mail scams,” said Richard Ambrose, Head of Trust and Safety for eBay in the UK. “Google’s commitment to this battle will undoubtedly encourage others to join in the fight to keep consumers safe online.

Microsoft and AOL plan hostile Yahoo takeover?
Added: Jul 17, 2008

Microsoft is reportedly in talks with Time Warner to negotiate possible terms of a break-up that could see the software giant seize control of Yahoo!’s online search business.

The Wall Street Journal. reports that representatives from Time Warner’s AOL operation have visited Seattle to talk with the computer giant .

The paper reports that Executives of AOL, the internet arm of Time Warner, met for formal talks with Microsoft yesterday afternoon to discuss a $40bn (£20bn) break-up of Yahoo!.

The talks, thought to be preliminary, precede Yahoo!’s annual meeting on August 1, when the activist billionaire shareholder Carl Icahn will seek to oust the board.

The “casual” discussions between the New York-based company and Microsoft have been going on for several months, the paper reports.

Microsoft has been trying to buy Yahoo! for the past 18 months. At the end of January this year, Microsoft offered to pay $31 a share in cash and Microsoft stock for Yahoo! in a move that would have valued the internet search engine at $42 billion.

The offer was rejected as too low. Microsoft returned with a raised offer of $33 a share — or $5 billion more — and that too was rejected, despite representing a 72 per cent premium to Yahoo!’s share price.

Last week, Yahoo! rejected another offer from Microsoft and Icahn.

Mobile marketing gets ‘global code of conduct’

Jul 16, 2008

The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), which represents 650 member companies worldwide, has released its Global Code of Conduct, designed to provide guidelines that all Mobile Marketers should consider and build their mobile marketing initiatives around.

The MMA Global Code of Conduct, or “the Code”, is intended to guide companies within the mobile ecosystem so that they can effectively, and responsibly, leverage the mobile channel for marketing purposes, whilst always protecting the consumer experience.

Produced by the MMA’s NA Privacy Committee, with input from MMA Regional Board of Directors in APAC, LATAM and EMEA, the Global Code of Conduct updates the 2007 revision and aligns the Code with generally accepted global privacy principles. It has five categories:

Notice – The fundamental principle of the MMA Privacy Code of Conduct, informing users of the marketers’ identity or products and services offered and the key terms and conditions that govern an interaction between the marketer and the user’s mobile device.

Choice & Consent - Respecting the right of the user to control which mobile messages they receive by obtaining consent (opt-in) and implementing a simple termination (opt-out) process.

Customization & Constraint – Ensuring that collected user information is used to tailor communication to the interests of the recipient and is handled responsibly, sensitively and in compliance with applicable law. Mobile messages should be limited to those requested by the user and provide value such as product and service enhancements, contests, requested information, entertainment or discounts.

Security – The implementation of reasonable technical, administrative and physical procedures to protect user information from unauthorized use, alteration, disclosure, distribution, or access.

Enforcement & Accountability - The MMA expects its members to comply with the MMA Privacy Code of Conduct and has incorporated the Code into applicable MMA Guidelines, including the U.S. Consumer Best Practice (“CBP”) Guidelines. Until the Code can be enforced effectively by a third party enforcement organization, Mobile Marketers are expected to use evaluations of their practices to certify compliance with the Code.

“The MMA believes that strong consumer privacy standards are essential to the success of mobile marketing by protecting mobile users from unwanted communications on their mobile devices. It is only through industry support of strong privacy guidelines that the power of mobile marketing can reach its full potential,” said Russell Buckley, MMA Global Board Chairman and Managing Director, Europe for AdMob.

“It is the heart and soul of the MMA to ensure a positive, consistent consumer experience, encouraging marketers to get the consumer interaction right first time round so that mobile interactions from brands are not viewed negatively,” said MMA President Laura Marriott. “The MMA Global Code of Conduct creates clear and consistent global guidelines for the careful treatment of each and every consumer interaction to help build a sustainable industry for mobile marketing.”

The MMA NA Privacy Committee developed the Code with participation from the following members: Acxiom Corporation, Ad Infuse, AOL, LLC, AT&T Mobility, Chapell & Associates, iLoop Mobile, Inc., InfoSpace, ipsh!, Microsoft (MSN and Windows Live), Motricity, Neustar, Inc., Pelago, Inc., Procter & Gamble, Qualcomm, Safecount, TxtGroups, Inc., U.S. Cellular Corp., VeriSign, Inc., Verizon Wireless, Vindigo, Wired Assets, Xiam, Yahoo! and Zoove.

The MMA Global Code of Conduct can be downloaded at

SEO stuff

Anna is a Brighton based SEO copywriterand Managing Director of Inkspiller, a specialist web and SEO copywriting agency. Inkspiller helps organisations present themselves in original ways through the words on their websites, enabling their visitors to find what they need and desire.

A Ridiculously Simple Guide to SEO Copywriting

SEO copywriting simply means including the words (keywords) people use to find you and the service or product you’re offering through search engines. It can help improve your website rankings big time.

What does SEO copywriting have to do with email marketing?

In my experience as an SEO copywriter, it makes sense to include important keywords in all brochures, press releases, articles, blogs and even email newsletters so you can add them to your site and help boost your rankings. If you’re not optimising all your content, you could be missing a trick.

How important is SEO copy?

Actually, the number and quality of the links coming in to your site are more crucial to your search ranking than the number of keywords per page. That’s one reason why great web copy is so important, it’s a powerful tool for encouraging lots of inbound links.

Nevertheless, sprinkling keywords throughout your site is still essential for getting higher rankings in all major search engines.

Here are a few simple tips for SEO copywriting:

1. The golden rule

This is vital - your site visitor is more important than your search ranking. If you’re offering a service or selling a product, your website and your web copy should always seek to serve your visitor’s needs first and foremost. Randomly stuffing keywords into your text is a big turn off, just read this:

‘Cheap car hire is available with top companies across the world through this site. By booking your cheap car hire here you get amazing discounts. As well as cheap car hire we can also help you with booking cheap hotels and cheap flights. To arrange cheap car hire, click here’.

I made that up, but there are plenty of SEO copywriters producing copy like that and it just doesn’t work.

2. The right keywords

It’s a good idea to hire an SEO consultant to advise you on the best keywords but you can search for the most popular ones related to your website using numerous freeware tools or sites like wordtracker.

A good way to choose keywords is to think about who is visiting your site and what they would naturally type into a search engine to find you. By including those words in your copy you’ll make it genuinely useful for this key audience as well as increase your site’s relevancy in the search engines for those phrases.

3. Titles and headings

For SEO purposes, the most important places your top keywords should appear is in the title tag of the page and in the headlines and sub-headings (make sure to use


heading tags) throughout the page.

Headlines are also the most important copy on your entire page. Research suggests somewhere between 70% and 90% of people will only read the headline, so it needs to grab their attention.

4. First paragraph

Search engines place importance on the first few sentences of your page so it’s a good idea to include your most important keyword here. This is also some of the most critical copy for site visitors, so always be sure to include the keyword in a relevant way. If you can’t, just leave it out (or hire a good SEO copywriter!).

5. SEO copywriting throughout your site

For SEO copywriting you need at least 150-200 words on every page. Each keyword should appear at least once, as long as you can include them without ruining the flow or style of what you’re writing. You might find you naturally include other words and descriptions relevant to the keyword, that’s great too as they will also work well for search.

6. Calls to action

We all want our site visitors to take action. Do you want them to contact you? Buy something? Subscribe to your newsletter? You have to prompt them to take action in your copy so, if the keywords fit in naturally, slot them in here too.

In a nutshell…

The most important thing about SEO copywriting is to create content that integrates keywords without ruining the flow of copy or alienating the person trying to read it! In fact, great SEO copywriting is not obvious at all – it feels relevant to you, it flows well and gives you exactly what you came looking for. This article was optimised. Did it work for you? Let me know,

P.S. One final tip…

Find a brutally honest person to read your copy for you and see whether they can tell if you’ve optimised it or not. And rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until they can’t.

Why Email Marketers Have the Edge

Marketers are always looking for the "new" secret to success. They want to know the quickest, and most often cheapest, way to get customers to buy. But there is no secret. It's Marketing 101. Give customers what they want, when they want it and at a price they're willing to pay. That's called relevancy, and the new breed of email marketers are uniquely able to deliver it.

The laser-like targeting of highly personalized and meaningful messages is possible when utilizing an on-demand marketing execution suite able to integrate actionable data from a variety of sources. But the benefits exist only if you take the time to use the applications available with these powerful online marketing tools.

For example, surveys can help you learn more about your customers, but unless you import responses to your database and use the information for segmentation, you're missing out on the chance to create highly targeted messaging. Similarly, an email marketing system tied into a Web analytics platform can give you a wealth of information about customer interests, but without capturing the data in accessible ways, you end up with "nice to knows" instead of actionable information that can improve the relevancy of your messaging and boost the bottom line.

Also, the ability to keep customers engaged is a key outcome of improved relevancy. Even when interest seems to be fading away, email marketers can implement programs to reactivate recipient interest. Tips on how to do that are in the article "Reactivating Inactives: Three Tips to Get Them Back on Board" below.

New online marketing technologies give email marketers the tools to alleviate some of the guesswork and deliver what recipients want when they want it. But to truly achieve engagement with customers in increasingly crowded inboxes, you need to actually use the powerful features available to you.


Bill Nussey

11 Places You Need To Include Your Opt-In Form

Picture_10It's important to collect email addresses to build your email marketingopt-in form from your VerticalResponse account.
list. We thought it would be great to put together a quick list of where you should include the actual sign up form or a link to one on a web page. If you can include the form yourself, great! If not, hand this list over to your web designer as soon as possible. Oh, tell them to get your already-built

Your Homepage - If you don't have one on your home page, get one there now.

Your Sub-pages - All of them! If you don't have the space to put an actual form on all of your sub-pages, at least have a "Newsletter Sign Up" link on them.

Your Blog - Not everyone subscribes to RSS to get information from your blog, so you'll need to include an actual form for your readers to sign up, or a "Sign Up For Our Newsletter" link to it. You don't want to lose the opportunity to get email addresses from people who might be interested in knowing about your regular updates. If you use TypePad, you can get the free VR Opt-in Form Widget with just a few clicks.

Your Purchase Confirmation Page - Someone has just hopefully had a great experience purchasing from you, why not ask them to join your list right then and there?

A Pop-up Window - Include a pop-up window when someone leaves your website. You won't be able to use this with visitors who have their browsers set to block them, but you'll surely get some people seeing them. We've had thousands of people signing up through this form.

A Landing Page - If you have a separate landing page you send people to from your search engine pay-per-click campaigns, include a newsletter sign up form on it. If they don't purchase from you, they might at least sign up to your list, then you'll be able to attempt to get them to purchase later on.

The Footer of all Outbound Email Correspondence - Any email you personally send or any email your employees or customer service people send one on one, should have the link to your opt-in form.

Your Email Marketing Campaigns - We have many customers that include an opt-in form image or link inside their actual email marketing campaigns. If the email is forwarded to someone who isn't on your list you might get a new subscriber. You can also use Forward to a Friend links as well.


Your Counter - Don't forget to put a sign up book at your counter or somewhere prominent in your place of business. Then enter those email addresses quickly and send them a welcome email.

Taking Appointments - If your service business is centered around making appointments with your clients, ask them for their email addresses so you can confirm the times. Also ask if they would want offers from you and make a note of their answer.

Your Tradeshow Table - You've spent a lot of money to be at a tradeshow. If someone doesn't have a business card you don't want to lose the opportunity to add them to your list. So make sure you have some kind of sign up form or book at your booth.

All of these things are super easy to do so don't miss out any opportunity you have to build your email list. Oh and make sure you tell people what they'll get for giving you their information whether it's hot tips, discounts, special offers or invitations. Make it exciting!

What am I missing? Let me know!

UK firms falling short with customer service emails

Added: Mar 20, 2008

Websites that are unable to answer basic customer service questions and companies that take more than 100 hours to reply to email are forcing UK consumers to pick up the phone if they want fast customer service.

These are the findings of the latest annual multi-channel customer service analysis of 100 leading websites by eService provider Transversal (

Transversal’s third annual research survey aimed to measure customer service by searching for answers to common, sector specific questions across multiple channels.

It asked ten questions on each organisation’s website, as well as sent an email and phoned the contact centre of 100 major UK companies in the banking, telecoms, insurance, travel, consumer electronics, grocery retail, fashion retail, CD/DVD retail, consumer electronics retail and utilities sectors.

The 2007 results showed patchy improvements on the web from 2005 and 2006. However websites could only provide answers for 50 per cent of questions asked online, while it took an average of 46 hours to respond to email (up from 33 hours in 2006), forcing consumers to use other communication channels.

In contrast the survey found that 42 per cent of calls to contact centres were answered within a minute with 67 per cent answered within 3 minutes, providing faster answers to increasingly impatient consumers.

Telecoms, insurance, travel, consumer electronics, grocers and utilities were rated the worst for answering online queries, all unable to answer 60 per cent of online consumer queries. 70 per cent of companies answered four or less of ten straightforward, commonly-asked questions.

Even the fashion sector, which came top failed to answer 30 per cent of questions asked via the web, and scored worst for email response, taking 116 hours to answer on average. Ironically, given the fast pace of this sector, this is probably sufficient time to design, manufacture and ship new clothes to a High Street shop.

Organisations have invested heavily in the web channel over the past five years, but Transversal’s research found that this has not kept pace with growing user numbers and desire for fast answers.

Complex and confusing websites with poor or non-existent search facilities are leading to customers having to call or email contact centres for information.

This poor online and email customer service combined with the improvements in the telephone channel mean that for those wanting answers quickly the phone is the fastest route, despite the web supposing to instantly gratify our need for information, 24 x 7. Organisations could be forced to grow their contact centres exponentially unless web self-service systems are introduced to provide better information and soak up routine calls and emails.

“Despite the enormous growth in the online channel, across all sectors, our research shows that consumers are still suffering from substandard online service”, said Davin Yap, CEO, Transversal. “While we’ve seen marginal improvements over the three years that we have carried out this analysis a lack of a cohesive multi-channel strategy means in the majority of cases it is quicker to call than visit a company’s website. With the massive investment made in the online channel and its ability to offer unparalleled tailoring and personalisation UK organisations need to start giving the answers online.”

As part of the research Transversal analysed if organisations used customer questions to provide tailored, additional information promoting related products or special offers. Only 41 out of 1,000 web interactions (4.1 per cent) were able to supply this information, cutting off a valuable channel for increasing sales and customer satisfaction.

As part of the research Transversal carried out an exhaustive sector analysis, as detailed below.

Retail (Fashion, Grocery, Electronics, CD/Book)

Ecommerce is central to the success or failure of retailers in 2007, yet electronics retailers could only answer an average of five out of ten questions online, while fashion companies - the best performing in the retail sector – could only answer seven. Retailers have also proved to be painfully slow at responding to customer email enquiries, with fashion companies taking an average of almost five days to respond to questions.

With the exception of grocery companies, retail firms have were able to answer more questions online in 2007 compared with 2006. However, both grocery and electronic retailers are far less likely to respond to email enquires correctly now than in 2006, with average correct responses dropping from 80 per cent to 55 per cent, and 90 per cent to 55 per cent respectively.


As UK consumers have become more web savvy, customers are increasingly looking to manage their utility bills online. However, the research shows that utility companies have not improved the help and customer service content of their websites from 2006 and are still only able to answer four out of the ten questions online.

Although utility companies have managed to cut the average response time to an email from 102 hours to 53 hours in the last year, only 25 per cent of companies responded to the enquiry with the correct information. This will not inspire confidence in potential customers looking to switch suppliers.


British banks’ online customer service is in decline. Although the banks have marginally improved their ability to answer basic enquires online, on average, the sector could still only provide responses for a woeful 50 per cent of the questions asked via their websites. This improvement has been undermined by an annual decline in the banks’ ability to provide the correct information to customer enquiries and by the steadily increasing time it is taking banks to respond to customers’ emails.

In 2005, 60 per cent of companies were able to respond to email enquiries with the correct information, in 2006 that figure had dropped to 40 per cent, and in 2007 it has been reduced further to 30 per cent – exactly half the number of three years ago. The average response times has increased from 17 hours in 2005 to 30 hours in 2007.


Transversal’s annual research found that the insurance industry is one of the most dependent upon online customer service, as its call centres were closed to customers in the evenings. However, the companies’ websites could only provide the answers to 40 per cent of the basic questions asked. Even more alarming was the fact that only 30 per cent of the companies were able to respond to email enquiries with the correct information.

The average response time to customer emails was 13 hours, and although this is one hour longer than the 2006 response time, it was the second quickest of all the sectors surveyed. Yet, if insurance companies are to continue driving customers to their websites, they must improve their online customer service particularly when there is no other contact channel available in the evenings for information.


Telecoms companies’ reputation for bad customer service looks set to continue. The sector had the lowest number of companies responding to email enquiries with the correct information – a shocking 25 per cent. The amount of firms responding with the correct information to email enquiries has dropped over three years from 70 per cent in 2005.

Although the average number of basic questions that can be answered via the companies’ websites has increased to 40 per cent, overall, telecoms providers have demonstrated a complete lack of innovation and desire to improve service for their customers.

Consumer Electronics

With the web central to research and purchase of consumer electronics, availability of information and strong customer service is of paramount importance. However frustration looks set to continue for the customers of consumer electronics companies, as they are let down by inadequate information and poor customer service online. The research found that nearly two thirds of routine customer service and product questions are not being answered by the industry’s leading websites.

Customers that email consumer electronics companies for information risk waiting an average of 36 hours for a response, and with an all time low of only 50 per cent of companies able to respond with the correct information, consumer electronics businesses are severely jeopardising repeat custom with poor online customer service.


Travel websites have provided the worst online customer service for the past two years. 2007 has seen significant improvement in travel websites’ ability to respond to holidaymakers’ basic questions, but the majority - 60 per cent - still remain unanswered.

For customers with no other option but to send an email for information, it took an average of 58 hours to get a response and only 40 per cent of companies were able to respond with the correct information. Travel companies wanting to promote last minute deals look set to be held back by the lack of basic information on their websites and by poor response times to customer enquiries.


UK sees ‘massive rise in phishing attacks’

— filed under: ,
Added: Mar 20, 2008

Banking customers are being exposed to increasing levels of online fraud as widespread phishing attacks are rising dramatically in early 2008, according to new data.

During February 2008 alone, there were over 60,000 phishing emails sent to customers of financial services organisations, according to the Quarterly Fraud Report from online brand monitoring specialist, NetNames.

The research, carried out through NetNames’ sister company Envisional revealed that there has been a 70 per cent rise in phishing attacks between December 2007 and February 2008.

This news comes as a blow to the online security of consumers as the latter half of 2007 saw a dramatic dip in phishing emails after the highs of early 2007, and consumers may have been under the impression that the threat had gone away.

This however, is not the case, and the Quarterly Fraud Report also revealed that online fraudsters are continually targeting customers of particular organisations.

The top 3 ‘phished’ banks have increasingly become the focus of the majority of attacks, accounting for 77 per cent of all phishing emails in December, 79 per cent in January and a massive 88 per cent in February.

Jonathan Robinson, Chief Operating Officer of NetNames commented, “Just as phishing seemed to have slipped off the consumer radar, online fraudsters have leapt on the chance to capitalise on this false sense of security and have increased their phishing activity drastically in the past few months.

“Consumers must be aware of this renewed and increasing threat and make sure that they never give out personal details over email, and it is also crucial for the reputation of financial services organisations that they make their customers aware of and help protect them from these threats.”

The analysis investigated the numbers of phishing emails sent to customers of major financial institutions over a three month period between the beginning of December 2007 and the end of February 2008.

There's more to e-mail than e-mail

There's more to e-mail than e-mail

Bob Hale
Bob Hale

How does your company approach direct mail? Do you just randomly send the same package to everyone on your list, without regard for past behavior or purchase models? Probably not. So why is it that when it comes to e-mail marketing, so many organizations apply an entirely different — entirely lax — standard?

All too often, while marketers are busy applying analytics to every other facet of direct marketing, e-mail is being handled on its own, segregated from the rest of the communications strategy.

Sending thousands of e-mails to thousands of addresses, even if you have permission, isn't much better than spamming.

All it takes to inform your e-mail marketing efforts is a little knowledge of your customers' behavior. If you think you don't know enough about them, you're wrong. In fact, what you know about their online activities can go a long way toward rounding out your overall customer view — and a long way toward increasing revenues across your organization.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, e-mail drove more than $16 billion in revenue last year and influenced nearly $100 billion more.

Those are impressive numbers, but it's clear that of the 83 percent of marketers that use e-mail, many aren't mining it as well as they could be.

What do you need to tap into that potential?

Deep customer data, not just aggregated Web data or click-throughs. Interact with your customers. Find out their preferences. And pull together everything you know from every source.

Insight into that data. Find the right software and tools to learn about your audience using demographic, tracking and account data. Using disparate applications to accomplish these tasks usually doesn't work. It's not practical. “Right software and tools” means, using a single integrated platform. Don't worry, they're out there.

Action. You've got the facts, now act on them. Data-driven decisions are easy to justify and easy to measure at the back end.

Measurement. If you can't measure it, you shouldn't be doing it. You need to know what works, and what individual customers and prospects prefer.

The ability to fine tune and change directions. Responding to what you learn lets you continually tighten future campaigns.

Using e-mail as a full-fledged direct marketing channel, and applying the same analytical standards you've set for offline efforts, can help you get a better look at your customers, build stronger relationships and increase returns in every possible way. That's the value of real relationship building and acknowledging the real value of your customer.

Bob Hale is vice president of business development for Alterian. You can reach him at

YourSpace May Soon Be YourInbox Too

YourSpace May Soon Be YourInbox Too

By Elie Ashery

When people think of social networking sites they usually don't consider e-mail as part of the equation. However this will soon change, especially in light of recent announcements for upgraded social networking sites by Yahoo and Google.

To meet the needs of investors who don't want to miss out on the "next Google or Yahoo" but are cautious of being overconfident about a Web phenomenon that is not yet proven, MySpace, FaceBook and the others will be forced to become inbox providers in an effort to increase revenue.

Based on this information, it is ironic when pundits declare that social networking will bring the death of e-mail. Social networking relies on e-mail for viral marketing and alerts. Based on the wide adoption of social networking sites over the past few years, coupled with the fact that the average user is increasing the amount of time spent on these sites, it is only natural for social networking sites to include inter-network e-mail as part of their service offerings. Get ready for MySpace, FaceBook and Linked-In to compete with Google, Yahoo and MSN for the inbox.

A recent study from Datamonitor reports that social-networking sites will enlist 230 million active members by the end of the year and will keep attracting new users until at least 2009 and plateau by 2012. Datamonitor predicts Asia Pacific will account for 35% of global social networking users by the end of this year, followed by Europe, the Middle East and Africa (28%); North America (25%); and the Caribbean and Latin America (12%).

Anyone who thinks the messaging systems in social networking sites will completely replace general consumer e-mail is simply not being realistic. Analysts, pseudo-journalists and bloggers have recently predicted consumers will dump their inboxes in favor of communicating through the likes of Facebook and MySpace, precluding e-mail marketers from reaching their customers. This is simply not so, based on the fact that if a user wants to open a Facebook account they need an e-mail address.

In 2008, I predict social networking sites will open their networks to become the new inbox providers of choice for ages 25 and younger. Instead of e-mail marketers trying to fight their way into the inboxes of Yahoo and Hotmail users, MySpace and Facebook will become the new gatekeepers of younger generations. E-mail is a daily time consuming ritual that can't be ignored by online advertisers. And as social networking sites gain a larger share of advertising budgets, they will need to guarantee visitor time. Therefore e-mail must be included in social networking's repertoire of services that are cannibalizing market share from AOL, Yahoo and the rest of the old guard.

As with all communication platforms, there is evolution and a natural progression for advertising revenue. MySpace and Facebook already have the infrastructure and these sites will need to become open for people to stay on the site. This will create a challenge as e-mail marketers look for ways to reach the under 25 set, a differ demographic in any marketing medium.

The argument to counter my prediction is that younger—and even some older—generations are spending less time in their inbox and are using social networking sites and SMS to communicate with friends and family. Social networking message systems and general email will become synonymous as MySpace and Facebook race to increase ad revenue. Don't get me wrong—eventually e-mail marketers will have to contend with sharing some of their budget with similar mediums such as SMS. However, budgets will stay relatively intact as the demand for the ability to send messages directly to anyone in the world won't go away anytime soon.

We often have short memories when it comes to Internet media and how it evolved into today's landscape. We forget that the first widely adopted online social network was AOL. In 1996 you could share pictures with friends, post on message boards and hang out in chat rooms all within the confines of AOL's proprietary borders. It too started with a closed network messaging system but demand to communicate with people outside its network forced it to become an inbox provider. Once AOL tore down its virtual wall the unthinkable happened. People actually spent more time engaged with e-mail giving them the opportunity to sell more ads. If the commercial Internet's short history has any bearing on today's "Web 2.0" revolution, history will recycle itself through social networking's lifespan.

Elie Ashery is president of Gold Lasso.