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Targeted Email Marketing: Having A Blast

Marketing emails are usually written quite a ways ahead of time, scheduled months in advance. Those emails you can take a long time to plan out, find exactly the right headline, sculpt the right narrative, and so on. But when you send out a blast email — one of the unscheduled, spontaneous kind designed to promote a specific one-off event or deal — you have to be able to craft a solid email quickly. Here’s our quick-and-dirty guide to targeted email marketing‘s most difficult art.


The Headline

  • 50 characters maximum. Don’t get cut off because your subject is too long.
  • Clarity over cleverness: tell them what you’re offering.
  • Avoid clichés, jargon, and marketing terms
  • State your benefit. If you have space, maybe two, but don’t push it.
  • Don’t overuse punctuation or emphasis.


General Content Rules

  • Include a default for any dynamic values you use.
  • Format for people who don’t have HTML-enabled email and those who do.
  • Keep your unsubscribe link clear and present.
  • Content should be as concise as possible while still being engaging.
  • Include a text link to your website, and optionally an image/logo link as well.
  • Format your content no more than 650 pixels wide.
  • Keep the same basic layout as your scheduled emails.



  • Use alt tags for people whose clients don’t naturally display images.
  • Don’t overuse images; balance images and text.
  • Don’t use stock photos, large photos, or photos without immediate and obvious relevance.


The Hook (Opening Paragraph)

  • Expand on the promise made by the headline.
  • Offer credibility; show them why they should believe your claims.
  • Be personable, not necessarily personal.


Body Copy

  • Communicate your personality.
  • Expand further on the value.
  • Include a strong call to action.


Final Details

  • Choose a smart day and time to send your email.
  • Never send from a ‘do not reply’ address.


If you can nail these relatively simple rules down, you can whip out a blast email of at least modest effectiveness at the drop of a hat. Of course, all of the rules and concepts of normal text marketing apply, and the more of them you utilize, the more effective your blasts will be — but this humble list will at least help you make sure you don’t utterly bomb your attempt at a blast.

4 View-Boosting Blog Posting Headline Mnemonics: All About U

When you’re blog posting and you want to get eyes on your post, you have to come up with a great headline — it’s the part that earns the click and thus the eyes. There’s been absolute mountains of research into the art of the headline, and it turns out that there are exactly four elements to a successful headline, and they all start with ‘U’.



Specificity is “Hedgehogs that Look like Watson.” You have to admit, that’s pretty darn specific. But if you want a headline to really grab a reader by the throat and kiss them on the lips, you need ultra-specificity. “37 Pictures of Hedgehogs That Look Exactly Like Sherlock‘s John Watson” kind of ultra-specificity. The more precisely your headline conveys what the reader can expect on the other side, the better — as long as you meet the other three Us (and stay within the character limit.)



Uniqueness is simply the quality of “content you won’t find anywhere else.” Now, that doesn’t mean “it passes Copyscape.” People don’t give a flying car about Copyscape. Uniqueness means “no, really, this is stuff that just straight doesn’t exist anywhere else.” The best example is probably — that website is chock full of articles that use information that exists elsewhere on the Internet, but is A)organized into clever lists that you really won’t see on any other site, and B)loaded with massive amounts of snark and pop culture in-jokes that even if you did see the information somewhere else, you wouldn’t find it nearly as funny there.



Urgency tells the reader that if they fail to read your content, they’re losing out. You don’t have to actually say so in the headline — what you have to actually say is what reading your article will change about their lives. Take a look at any headline on any sex-advice magazine ever: “This bedroom trick will drive him WILD!” — the implication being that clearly, you suck as a lover if you don’t know the trick. That’s urgency.



It might seem like Useful is largely covered already, but it is in fact remarkably easy to create ultra-specificity, uniqueness, and urgency without actually saying anything to the reader about the benefits of reading. If you step back from writing your headline and realize that there’s no value communicated, it’s not useful enough — try again.


Follow the four ‘U’s of blog posting headlines, and your posts will get more views, plain and simple.

Directory Submission Is Dead…Right?

Ever since Penguin’s 2.1 update (a.k.a. Penguin 5, because different people like to count differently) in October of 2013, ‘spammy backlinks’ have been a source of many a ranking penalty for websites all over the web. Many SEO companies bemoan October 4th because it’s the anniversary of the day their entire business model — building mountains of crappy backlinks from crappy sites and watching their client rank — vanished.


Google defines ‘spammy backlinks’ pretty broadly, essentially including any and every backlink built to a site by that site’s company as ‘spammy,’ but especially putting the thumbscrews to any backlink that comes from a low-quality site like a content mill or a website directory.  That might sound like the death of directory submission, but it’s not, and here’s why: despite what Google says, not all directories are ‘bad neighborhoods.’


How to Find a Good Directory for Submission

There are a few simple rules that distinguish a ‘good’ directory from one you’d rather not have the link from.

  • Good Directories Do Not Allow Self-Submission. Good directories have editors (also called ‘curators’) that will look at your submission to their site. They’ll make sure that those entries are in the right category, often will edit your site’s description to be what they consider a less-promotional and more technically accurate blurb about your site, and they’ll reject your site in a heartbeat if it looks like you’re submitting a site that has 100% commercial intent. This is very important to Google; a directory that allows you to self-submit is always going to be considered spammy.
  • Good Directors Are Focused on Content, Not Advertising. If you visit a directory’s home and topic pages and you see more ads than content, don’t submit to it. It really is that simple.
  • Good Directories Have Relevant Categories OR Are Relevant Niche Directories. The worst thing you can do for your directory submission efforts is end up with your site listed on a directory page that has nothing to do with the site’s actual topic. That’s like grabbing Google’s ear and shoving an actual can of spam into it.
  • Good Directories Only Accept Homepage or Landing Page Links. If you turn in a deep link to a directory and they publish it, you can be pretty well assured that they’re not discerning enough to have a good reputation with Google.


Follow those rules, and you’ll have an easy time finding directories that you can get actual SEO value from — rather than the opposite of that.