Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Study Your Audience

“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien, English Writer, (1892-1973)
SEO is not voodoo. CVoD is not a cult. Let's just get that out of way...

Seriously now... I've had some conversations recently with some old school business folk and, to them, search engine optimization is some form of magic. It's too foreign to grasp, but they see it as a hot "buzz" word that needs to be invested in.

Funny, eh?

That got me thinking... wouldn't it be great if you had such "magic" powers?

With just one wave of the wand you could have high Google rankings. (Yes, you guessed it... my son and I just saw Harry Potter, so I apologize for the magic reference.)

In reality SEO is more common sense than anything. Consider this scenario...

A new client comes to you and says they want to rank high for a list of 100 keywords. But they only have 12 pages indexed in Google. Yikes. Not very realistic of the business owner, eh?

Kinda hard for the search engines to index and rank a companies pages high for 100s of keywords when they don't have any content, right?

Like I said common sense, or in other words, "Create Value or Die."

Not magic nor rocket science, just simple numbers really. The more relevant words you post the more relevancy the search engines will find in your pages. But I digress...

Today I want to talk about a interesting email study I came across from a Portland e-marketing agency eRoi.

They found a decline in "read rates" as more email clients are adopting the “images off” default setting on email browsers. They found only 4% of users changing their default settings.

In other words, for subscribers that use browsers with a default setting of “Images are not displayed” only 4% of users actually ever change the setting. Subs can normally change it to either “Display images below” or “Always display images from XXX”.

I find this to be extremely low and troubling.

It tells me that if you are sending an email in HTML you need to be on notice that 96% of the subs using those browsers may never see your images. You should concentrate on making sure your message is conveyed even if no one will see any images.

Don’t let a filter kill your message. Consider cutting down on the number of images sent in an email messages, leaving more room for editorial content. I've previously discussed the danger of HTML emails in the CVOD issue Clarity, Not Chaos.

A quick aside re “read rates.” I am not sure how this company is using this phrase. I’ve seen "read rate" used in direct mail as the rate the envelope is opened. So perhaps what they mean is an “open rate.” I find it troublesome that a professional email marketing firm is using the term read rate instead of open, but I'll ignore that for now.

But don’t you be confused. Just because someone “opens” an email does not mean the person has read it. It can be opened and deleted, and/or opened by the preview pain by accident. The open rate metric is full of both false negatives and false positives. Remember, both a text browser and text emails will never register an open. So don't put too much weight into the metric.

Moving on...

The study also found that Monday, Wednesday and Thursday have the highest open rates, while Wednesday and Thursday lead the way in click-through rate.

In prior studies they saw above average open and click rates on the weekend, however, recently weekends are not performing as they are in the past. This could be seasonal as it is normal to see dips in performance.

Lastly, mailings sent and received between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays were found more likely to be read or clicked on, however, mailings sent between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. have the highest overall “read rates” (40% to 45%). Mailings sent during the weekday have a 24% to 30% read rate. (I really think they mean “open rates.”)

Interesting stuff...

But please take these results with a huge grain of salt. I can't say any of the results are statistically valid, nor can I endorse the company doing the test.

But... I love the fact they are doing these studies. You should do a similar study for your list and establish baselines for these same areas.

It makes so much sense. Study your audience, learn their behavior and market to them like... like smart marketers. Use the data collected to learn what you should be doing instead of just doing it.

It's the "ready, fire, aim" theory enhanced. Which means... it's great to get out in the marketplace as soon as you can, not waiting till everything is perfect but making mistakes and learning as you go. But once you are in the market, put away the shotgun, and start making some strategic strikes!

With these studies you’ll improve the performance of your list... and it sounds like fun too.