Are You Optimizing Your Email Marketing for Search?

May 6th, 2009 Posted by B2B Search Engine Optimization 2 thoughts
email icon in computer screen to illustrate optimizing email for search engines

I know at first that may sound strange. What does email marketing have to do with search engine optimization? Fact is, the most prevalent type of B2B email marketing is content marketing, most often in the form of an email newsletter containing several articles. Most email newsletters carry abstracts or snippets of the stories. Readers then click through to a website to continue reading—and that’s the crux of the matter.

I get a fairly large number of content marketing emails each week. I’m surprised how many of them come from companies who do a pretty good job of SEO on their sites, but don’t apply the same practices to the email marketing content hosted on their site.

It’s probably the result of organizational silos—those who create email marketing, those charged with content creation, those responsible for maintaining the site, and those responsible for SEO aren’t working effectively together to leverage each other’s contributions.

If you’ve got good email marketing content you’re going to post on a public part of your site—content for which you’d like to get found via organic search—here are some things to keep in mind.

Content copywriters need to understand SEO.
It’s going to work best if article content is written with a page-specific optimization strategy in mind before beginning to write. That goes for article titles, headings and body copy (and anchor text of any intra-site links within the article).
Don’t post all of the content on a single page.
Every once and a while, I’ll run across an email in which all of the articles in the email link to a single web page. Keep page content focused. If you have multiple articles in your email, put them on individual pages on your site.
Create appropriate title tags.
Most email content marketing I receive clicks though to a web page where the title tag is the same as the article title—and often the article title devoid of any keywords (another reason why copywriters need to understand SEO).
Use keyword-rich ALT tags.
It’s surprising how many companies don’t specify ALT tags in formatted emails. Unfortunately, that practice (or lack thereof) occurs when those same images are posted on the web page where an article continues. By the way, for a given image, you may not want the same ALT tag in both the email and on the page on your site where the story continues. The ALT tag in your email should be used to induce people to open or load your email; the ALT tag on your site is primarily for search.
Specify an appropriate URL for each page.
Don’t let your web team choose some abstract URL. Ideally, the copywriter understands SEO and the keyword strategy for the page, and can specify a URL consistent with that strategy.
Link to other content on your site.
Many content marketers make the mistake of treating click-through to the article as the goal. While that’s a good interim goal, you should be thinking about easy ways to let the reader jump deeper into related content on your site. While they can jump to other areas through the standard navigation on your site, it’s far better if your content contains occasional text links in the body copy of the article to other highly relevant pages on your site.
Use NoFollow.
Because not everyone can view formatted emails, most email marketers will provide an alternate link to view the email as a web page. If you do this and your html version is in an area where it can be indexed by search engines, you may want to NoFollow certain links within the html version. For starters, links to privacy policy, contact information, and subscriber management pages are good candidates for this.
Link to the content of your email.
If you’ve got good email content that continues on your site, make sure you link to that content from other areas on your site. I know it sounds strange, but I’ve seen examples of great email content that continues on a website but there appears to be absolutely no way to get to that content unless you were a recipient of the email. If you don’t link to that content from else where on your site, site visitors and search engines aren’t going to find it.

Also, intra-site linking is important. It’s not too hard to remember to link out from the body copy of your content to other pages on your site. It’s a lot harder to remember to review body copy on other pages on site and insert text links with good anchor text that link to the new content on your site.

There are more things you can do, but this is a good checklist for starters. I’m interested in your thoughts, opinions, and strategies as well. Let me know what you think.

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2 thoughts on “Are You Optimizing Your Email Marketing for Search?”

  1. Nice tips, but a content written for e-mail marketing is not intended for search engine optimization, really … it should be a little different than the normal content published on the website.

  2. Julie says:

    Is anyone aware of any confereces to learn how to do this? I would like to see about getting some formal training on exactly how this is done. Thanks!

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