Author: Ann Gynn

Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn.

By ann-gynn published June 16, 2021

How to Build the Best Relationship With Freelance Content Creators [New Research]

How’s your relationship with freelance creators? Given the hot market, you better make sure they’re excellent.

Recent Skyword research found that 73% of brand marketers expect to rely more on freelance creators in the next one to two years. As a result, “[t]he ability to find and activate top freelance talent will separate great brands from the rest,” writes Skyword CEO Andrew Wheeler in the introduction of the 2021 report Scaling Your Brand Marketing with Freelance Creators (registration required).Continue Reading

By ann-gynn published June 9, 2021

Do You Really Want a Zero-Click Ranking on Google?

For years, content marketers treated the top of the first page of Google search results as the Holy Grail. “If only our content would rank at the top of Google SERPs,” we cried, “our marketing woes would be solved.”

That might be a dramatization, but we certainly put the premium position on a pedestal.

But today, earning the top spot on a Google SERP does not achieve the same content marketing goals.

With the advent of featured snippets, answer boxes, knowledge graphs, and other SERP elements, less than half of Google searches now result in a click. In June 2019, 50% of searches ended with zero-click results, according to SparkToro research. In 2020, that number jumped to 65%.Continue Reading

By ann-gynn published June 3, 2021

8 Expert Tips to Help You Personalize Your Content and Segment Your Audiences

Personalization and segmentation are closely related, but they aren’t the same thing.

They share a common goal (to deliver content that reflects what the reader, viewer, or listener wants). But each technique approaches it differently.

Think of it this way.

Media companies such as Disney segment their TV audiences into groups with shared interests. The audience for The Disney Channel is different from the audience for ESPN, for example.

Streaming brands such as Netflix personalize their programming by recommending new shows based on what it knows about the viewing behavior of a person or household.

Your content marketing program may use personalization, segmentation, or both at different times for different reasons.Continue Reading

By ann-gynn published May 20, 2021

These 10+ Expert Tips Explain How to Really Scale Content Production

To scale your content marketing, stop thinking like a great home cook and start thinking like a restaurant chef.

A great home cook makes masterful, mouth-watering dishes adored by friends and family. In content marketing terms, their food performs well.

But here’s what typically happens when a home cook opens a restaurant based on those rave reviews. They hire kitchen staff to ramp up production and serve dishes to the masses. But the diners – some of whom are the same friends and family – don’t like the food. No dish tastes as good as it had in their home.Continue Reading

By ann-gynn published May 12, 2021

Why You Don’t Need to Worry (Too Much) About Unsubscribe Prompts

The inboxes are watching.

They’re keeping an eye on your subscribers’ behavior, waiting for them to leave your emails unopened one too many times.

When a subscriber hasn’t opened one of your messages after 30 days, Gmail pops up a notice asking them if they want to unsubscribe.

“You haven’t opened any emails from this sender in the last month,” it reads. The subscriber can choose “no thanks” to stay subscribed or “unsubscribe” if they no longer want to receive emails from you.

Image source

Other email services help people unsubscribe without having to scroll down to the fine print, too. The Yahoo email service takes this approach by adding an unsubscribe link in the “to” field.

These automated unsubscribe prompts are a boon for people managing overflowing inboxes. But are they equally good news for your email marketing database?

Are unsubscribe prompts good or bad for email marketing?

Unsubscribes usually help with open rates. It’s simple math. If 250 of your 1,000 subscribers open an email, the open rate is 25%. Let’s say 100 subscribers opt out through the automated prompt. Now, if 250 of your 900 subscribers open the email, your open rate is 27.7%.

If you focus only on the total subscriber count, an unsubscribe isn’t a good thing. But making subscriber count the only metric that matters is a bad move. The number of subscribers alone is little more than a vanity metric. Opens or click-through rates are better indicators of how subscribers use the content.

#Email opens or click-through rates are better indicators of how subscribers use the #content, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

But that doesn’t mean you can completely ignore unsubscribes. You probably have a set of subscribers who may be interested in your content but have been too busy or too overwhelmed by email to open yours. Sometimes, showing up in an inbox – even if they don’t read the email – can help with brand awareness. It might even serve as a reminder that sends people directly to your website.

Let’s explore ways you can help that in-between crowd stay subscribed or let them go if they aren’t a good fit. (But before we do, let’s set this ground rule: Your emails must deliver quality content your subscribers are likely to want.)

[email protected]’s unsubscribe prompts are a boon for people with overflowing inboxes. But what do they mean for #ContentMarketers trying to grow an audience? @AnnGynn explains via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Make subscribers feel welcome from the start

The potential for unsubscribes starts from your very first communication with a new subscriber. Establishing a relationship from the start should make readers less likely to leave you.

Think of the confirmation email as your welcome mat. Explain what subscribers will find inside your emails and drawn them into the conversation.

Ann Handley does this extremely well with Total Annarchy – and it’s paid off. The biweekly email newsletter has grown to 50,000 subscribers since its 2018 launch.

The subject line on the newsletter’s confirmation email reflects the breezy, friendly tone of the email content.

After a waving hand emoji, it entices the open with this simple message: “Welcome, I have a question for you.”

From the first line of the email, Ann creates a personal interaction without needing to include the recipient’s name.

“Hi Friend!” she writes. “Congrats on being Total Annarchy’s newest subscriber! Thank you!”

After explaining what to expect from the newsletter, she asks her questions:

“Why did you subscribe to my newsletter? What do you hope to learn here?

Your answer will help me to know you a little better so that I can offer you real value in return. Let me know by hitting reply.”

Recipients who want to answer her questions can hit “reply” or write to her directly since she uses her actual email address instead of the decidedly unfriendly DONOTREPLY that some marketers inexplicably default to.

You may think this personal welcome approach makes sense for Total Annarchy because it’s a newsletter coming directly from one person. But think again. Brands can do the same thing.

A great welcome #email (like the one @AnnHandley sends for Total Annarchy) is the spark for the kind of engagement that would never trigger a @Gmail unsubscribe prompt, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Give your opt-in confirmation emails a human touch. Send them from a person, not the brand. Make your new subscribers feel welcome by explaining what they’re going to get and starting a conversation with them. (Most will never respond, but those who do will be impressed when they receive your reply. And you will send a reply, right?)

TIP: Strengthen your subscribers’ commitment at the very beginning. Ask them to move your email out of the “Promotions” or similar tab and directly into your inbox.

Ann offers instructions for doing this in both Gmail and Apple Mail in the welcome email’s postscript. Here’s how she presents the Gmail request in her signature friendly, funny style:

P.S. Gmail users: You might find that this newsletter gets routed to your promotions tab. (Rude.) You can re-route it by dragging the newsletter over to your Primary tab. After you do, Gmail will ask you if you want to make the change permanent. At which point you pump your fist in the air and shout, “HECK YEAH GOOGLE GODS.”

Apple mail users: Tap on the email address at the top of this email and “Add to VIPs.” This ensures delivery.

P.P.S. Below are my top five posts of all time. I hope you enjoy.

Reach out to reengage before the 30-day milestone

You know the last time someone opened your email (thanks to your email marketing tool). And you know Gmail knows too. Get ahead of that 30-day unsubscribe prompt. Ask the inactive subscriber if they want to stick around.

Convince & Convert sends out this email with the subject line “are we annoying you?”

Notice that the From line lists a person’s name (Jay Baer, Convince & Convert founder), not a brand name.

The note, signed by Jay, reads in part:

[block quote] Just a quick note because you had at some point signed up to receive emails from us here at Convince & Convert. But it’s been a while since you last opened an email from us, and we miss you!

We’re in the process of removing people from our list who don’t want to receive email from us any longer about all things content marketing and customer experience.

Then Jay gives instructions for how to stay on the list, confirm preferences, unsubscribe, and offer feedback.

Sending this type of email may seem counterintuitive. But it gives the recipient options that benefit them and you. If they unsubscribe immediately, you get a cleaner email list. If they click the “confirm how often you want to hear from us” link, you have a reengaged subscriber (and a data point about email frequency).

The tone of Convince & Convert’s email is so friendly that recipients won’t view it as a warning. Instead, it comes across as caring – Jay and the Convince & Convert team want to tailor their correspondence to the recipient’s needs and preferences.

Want to reengage an #email subscriber? Show them you care about their needs and preferences. See a great example from @JayBaer and @convince, via @AnnGynn and @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

If subscribers don’t respond to this attempt, send one more “last-call” email a week to 10 days later. Let them know you respect their lack of interest and will remove them from the list within the next two weeks. Of course, you’ll want to include a last-chance stay-in option. If they don’t take it, then remove them. Your list will be cleaner and your engagement numbers should reflect that.

Managing Editor opts to send its last-call email to subscribers who haven’t opened them in six months:

Managing Editor keeps the text and image fun and light. After all, “Set me free” is great opt-out language. While recipients can make a choice, the message conveyed indicates they’ll be unsubscribed if they don’t (and Managing Editor will have a cleaner list.)

Don’t make it an all-or-nothing choice

Frequency is the top reason people opt out of emails. In this 2020 HubSpot survey, more than half of respondents said they unsubscribed because the emails were too frequent. (Once a day sends irritated 34% of those surveyed. Once a week bothered only 17%).

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Even if you asked about frequency when someone subscribed, ask again before they opt-out. Convince & Convert asks subscribers:

  • How often they want to get an email from the company (two or more times a week, once a week, or once a month)
  • Which topics interest them (content marketing, social media, digital/email/analytics, and so on)
  • The industry they work in
  • How Convince & Convert can make their jobs easier

By offering similar choices, you can send emails when your content is relevant to the subscriber (as long as it’s not more than the frequency they requested.)

Will they stay or will they go?

Email remains one of the top content marketing distribution tools. In 2021, CMI research found that 74% of B2C and 77% of B2B marketers send email newsletters. If you’re one of those who do, you need to develop an unsubscribe plan.

Don’t bury the option at the end of the email and think you’re done. Welcome your subscribers at the beginning of their relationship with you. Reach out when their activity declines. Your email list will be cleaner, your email recipients will be more engaged, and your email marketing will become more effective.

What examples have you seen (or send) to retain or reengage subscribers? Please share in the comments.

Learn from Ann Handley, Jay Baer, and other content marketing experts and practitioners at Content Marketing World 2021 this fall – in person in Cleveland, Ohio, or virtually from anywhere. Check out the agenda and registration options.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

By ann-gynn published May 5, 2021

Want More Method and Less Madness? Check Your Content Operations

People, process, and product. That’s the essential trilogy at the heart of a successful business – as fans of the CNBC reality show The Profit know (yes, I’m one of them).

In that show, serial CEO Marcus Lemonis works to get those factors right when he invests in a struggling business.

Every successful content marketing program relies on a similar magic trilogy, which goes by the name content operations (or content ops, if you prefer).Continue Reading

By ann-gynn published April 22, 2021

The Best Proofreading and Editing Tips (Spoiler: Don’t Do Them at the Same Time)

Updated April 22, 2021

Want to know a few scary truths ignored by too many content creators?

Editing and proofing are not the same. And you can’t adequately execute the two simultaneously.

You can’t adequately edit and proofread at the same time, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

And if you think the same person can write, edit, and proof their own work, you should be afraid, very afraid of publishing that content.

Even the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recognizes proofreaders as distinct from editors. Its description of proofreaders’ duties includes: “Read transcript or proof type setup to detect and mark for correction any grammatical, typographical, or compositional errors. Excludes workers whose primary duty is editing copy.

Continue Reading

By ann-gynn published April 20, 2021

Is It Time to Join Clubhouse? 3 Content Marketers Weigh In

Phenomenal doesn’t begin to describe Clubhouse’s growth in its first year. The drop-in audio app grew from 1,500 members in May 2020 to 10 million in February 2021.

With numbers like that, it only makes sense for content marketers to be interested in Clubhouse’s potential. But is Clubhouse the right place for your brand to gather? And if so, how?

I’ll give you a peek inside the “exclusive” Clubhouse through the experiences of three people in content marketing who use it.Continue Reading

By ann-gynn published April 7, 2021

Is Proving Content Marketing ROI an Impossible Dream?

The conclusion? Impossible.

The subject? Measuring content ROI.

Ahrefs’ Tim Soulo made this pronouncement in a series of tweets explaining the benefits of content marketing for the digital marketing and SEO tool company.

Tim says Ahrefs never intertwines return on investment and content marketing.

And yet, he shares, they use content marketing to advance their business goals – attract new customers, retain existing customers, reactive past customers, sell more to current customers, fuel paid acquisition, and so on.Continue Reading

By ann-gynn published April 6, 2021

Guest Blogging: A Step-by-Step Guide

Unsuccessful prospective guest bloggers act like door-to-door salespeople. They knock on as many doors as possible, delivering the same pitch and hoping at least a couple of people say yes.

Successful prospective guest bloggers act like invited guests who show up with a nice host gift. They knock on one door, follow the submission guidelines, and deliver a personalized pitch.

Continue Reading