Email marketing problems start with the links

I just received an email inviting me to participate in a self-evaluation of my email marketing savvy.  The problem with the message was that the links that was supposed to lead me to the online questionnaire was disabled by my Outlook email client:

Disabled links in emails reduce email’s impact and usability

Whose fault it was? My Outlook was being proactive in creating a safe environment by disabling links that might lead to an unsafe site (whatever the criteria for this is). Outlook did give me the option of enabling the embedded links by clicking on the top of the tool bar. I enabled the embedded link by making that extra click simply because I decided to use this annoyance for a topic of this post. However, it is very unlikely that I would do that otherwise for a message from a sender I am not familiar with.

Which brings me to the point of email marketing effectiveness and its link with web usability. An email is effective only if it engages the reader and sends them to a website for an action. If I am not compelled to go visit the website, the email did not achieve its goal. If the design of the email prevents me from visiting the target website, it has nobody else to blame for its failure. The email should make it not only compelling for me to click on that link but easy as well. Adding a simple text/HTML link would have solved the problem easily.

I am sure Alterian are very experienced marketers. But everybody can learn and we never stop learning. Taking the time to test their own email campaigns would probably teach Alterian a lesson or two about email marketing effectivenes.

One World Baha’i School website redesigned

One World Baha’i School logoI am pleased to announce that the One World Baha’i School website has been redesigned and launched on the WordPress platform. I am very greatful for the highly flexible WordPress theme from Semiologic and the help from numerous fellow web developers. The new site should enable to school managing staff to post and edit content independently in a user-friendly and search-engine friendly manner.

For those in the Northern Virginia area, seeking spiritual education for children and adults alike, I could not recommend a better place than the One World Baha’i School!

Google in love

Google is famous for its doodles and holiday logos. Today’s is not an exception: Valentine’s Day is as good an excuse as any to be creative. I just thought it was funny that they overlooked the spelling and missed the L, resulting in Googe. Is it coincidental, or is it that the L is out for lunch or the artist is in love 😉

Google in love

P.S. Oh, well, I should have known better. Had I read the official Google blog today, I would have known that this all was intentional. Moreover, as someone at reddit noted:

The logo is intentional, and is a reference to Barnabe Googe, a 16th century poet famous for the following line: “I did but see her passing by, and yet I love her till I die.”

Anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Demographic predictions on the web and the Baha’i Faith

Microsoft recently released a series of web analytics tools that dip into the database of MSN users and mashes demographics with predictive analysis. For example the following tool predicts the demographic distribution of U.S. users of the MSN Search engine.

I am a Baha’i and I was curious to see what this new tool has to say about Baha’i-related searches. I tried several different queries – you might find these results interesting (keep in mind the data comes from the U.S. only):

Among the teachings of the Baha’i Faith are the equality of women and men. Yet the searches for “Baha’i Faith” (note the correct use of apostrophe) on MSN got predominantly female audience:

Query: baha’i faith

Gender: Female-oriented, with the following confidence:
Male :0.27
Female :0.73

Searches for “Bahai Faith” (without the apostrophe) got a more balanced audience (probably, a proof that women are better spellers 🙂 :

Query: bahai faith

Gender: Female-oriented, with the following confidence:
Male :0.46
Female :0.54

Continuing with the principle of three onenesses: the oneness of God, oneness of religion and oneness of humanity, yield intriguing results: searches for one humanity, one world, one religion, one faith are all predominantly female but apparently the searches for one god are heavily male. You gotta love web analytics 🙂

Query: one humanity

Gender: Female-oriented, with the following confidence:
:0.35
:0.65

Query: one world

Gender: Female-oriented, with the following confidence:

Male :0.41
Female :0.59

Query: one religion

Gender: Female-oriented, with the following confidence:
Male :0.31
Female :0.69

Query: one faith

Gender: Female-oriented, with the following confidence:
Male :0.31
Female :0.69

but

Query: one god

Gender: Male-oriented, with the following confidence:
Male :0.73
Female :0.27

Here is for those curious to learn more about the Baha’i Faith

Walmart’s video download store – the sequel “Unsupported browser”

I just decided to check whether Walmart has done anything about browser-compatibility (or lack thereof as noted yesterday) of its new video download store. Yes, they have… less than I expected but still better than nothing. They have posted an announcement that Firefox is not supported:

Walmart unsupported

Now, why is it difficult to me to imagine that the local Walmart store screens out incoming customers and declines access to to the 10% of them? That is exactly what happens when you do not allow the 10% or so of web visitors using Firefox. All it takes is to design using web standards…

Walmart Video Download Store showing no respect for web standards

Yesterday Walmart launched a video download store which is supposed to rival iTunes in enabling online download of movies. The selection of more than 3000 titles is impressive. What is disappointing is that the site does not work in Firefox:

Walmart video download store in Firefox

Not surprisingly, the store works fine in Internet Explorer 7:

Walmart video download store in IE7

Now, having the word BETA on a newly launched website is a fine, and nowadays fashionable, excuse — a certainly more elegant solution than the notorious “site under contruction” sign we used to see in the yesteryears — but neglecting 10% or so of your web audience which uses the Firefox browser, does not make much business sense, particularly when you want to establish credibility in a new business.

The Executive’s Guide to Web Site Measurement and Testing

I first saw Phil Kemelor talk at the Web Managers Roundtable in December 2006 at the National Building Museum. After that he contacted me, referred by Julie Permutter, to participate in a survey on the challenges of web analytics implementation. Following the survey, we decided to meet for lunch which turned into a very pleasant discussion on a range of web management and analytics related issues. Phil is a very friendly, pleasant and knowledgeable fellow who is deeply passionate about making organizations more effective through maximizing the return on their web investments.

Phil has published recently his own “Executive’s Guide to Web Site Measurement and Testing”. Phil’s contributions to the web measurement field are based on his work in web analytics implementations since the late 1990s, so he does bring experience and not just theory while sharing his findings succinctly in a book that targets not the techies but executives who are interested in tapping the marketing potential of their web channel. Here are the main themes of his book:

The first part of the book explains why you need web site measurement to boost Web site profitability, defines site measurement objectives and show you how to plan a successful program.

The second part of the book focuses on conducting site analysis, developing metrics, and analyzing data so that you can make the site design, marketing, and business decisions that will increase Web site profitability and effectiveness.

The final, third, part of the book focuses on what it takes to implement web site measurement and testing for an organization’s website.

I will be writing a proper review of Phil’s book later on. In the mean time, if you want to catch Phil talk on web analytics, he is scheduled to lead a series of seminars on eCommerce and Measurements in the coming months, as part of the next stage evolution of the Web Managers Roundtable.

Online marketing: what works and what doesn’t

eMarketer posted results from a survey conducted by MarketingSherpa among attendees of the ad:tech asking them what online marketing approaches worked for them the best and the worst. The top three among the most successful online marketing tools were:

  • Pay-per-click marketing
  • Email lists compiled by the web site
  • Search engine optimization

Studio Lotus SEO traffic growthThis is consistent with the results of a client of mine, Studio Lotus, who saw their organic search engine traffic increase 68% from September 2006 to January 2007, based on a successful, well-planned web redesign. A small but very targeted Google AdWords campaign seems to be producing good results for them, and where I see a lot of untapped potential is fully utilizing the contact list accumulated through the web site’s contact form. It is heartening to see that best practices indeed produce good results.

The new digital ecology

Today I attended the 25th Web Managers Roundtable where Lee Rainey, the directory of the Pew Internet & American Life Research Project presented some of his findings on the growth of the internet and how it impacts society.

Among the most interesting things Lee covered was how online / offline multitasking and continued partial attention appear to be one of our survival mechanisms in a fragmented media environment. Milenium old methaphores are at struggle — the farmer who needs to stay on task in a sequence of tasks in order to survive, and the hunter who cannot afford to shutdown lest an important call, message, post is missed. Multitasking does not necessarily makes us more productive but that might be besides the point. Our social networks expand — online and offline — and with that both our human interdependence, uniqueness and oneness become more and more apparent.