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Category: Testing

4 Reasons Why You Should Always Send HTML Emails From Your Autoresponder

29 January, 2008 (17:04) | Testing, Tools | By: Nick Dalton

1. Tracking

Unless you send your emails as HTML most autoresponder services cannot report how many of your emails were opened by their recipients. I know that this tracking is not very accurate since many email clients block the tracking image or HTML. But we’re not primarily interested in absolute numbers; trends are more important.

Here are some important findings you can learn from the tracking data:

  • If fewer and fewer of your emails are being opened over time or as your autoresponder series progresses, then you are probably not providing enough value in your emails for your readers.
  • The subject line of an email is your sales letter that tries to convince the recipient to open the email. Look at your subject lines together with the percentage of recipients who opened the email. This will help you craft better subject lines.
  • What is the optimal frequency of sending emails to your list? Keep an eye on the open rate to get early warnings of email fatigue.

2. Real Links

Instead of having to resort to text like and hoping that the email client will automagically convert the text to a clickable link, you can create normal HTML links just like you do on your web site.

With normal HTML links it’s easier to embed web analytics tracking code. It looks better and you don’t have to worry about the link text breaking across two lines.

3. Looks Better

Hard line breaks made sense in the 60’s and maybe the 70’s when terminals had a fixed character width. But who has a screen these days that can only display 65 characters per line?

Even my phone displays HTML emails better than preformatted text with hard line breaks. Lines and paragraphs flow they way they should, and don’t suddenly break off in the middle of the screen.

With HTML you can use headlines and emphasize text without having to resort to ALL CAPS, stars or other unreadable characters. Would you have made it this far in this post if there were no headlines or other normal typographical items to rest your eyes on?

4. Branding

Without going overboard with HTML you can add the color scheme of your website to your emails, reinforcing your brand identity. If you decide to add your logo or any other images make sure that the email looks ok without the images since many email clients block images by default.

In a world where 99% of the marketers only send you plain text messages you have a chance to stand out with professional looking emails.


To see a very simple example, sign up to the email notification list in the top right corner of this page. Each time I publish a new blog post you will receive an HTML announcement email.

Are you sending your autoresponder emails as HTML? Why not?

An overlooked marketing opportunity that is free

18 October, 2007 (22:11) | Testing | By: Nick Dalton

We all want more traffic to our web sites and one way to achieve that is to get your links in front of more people. While there are countless ways to do this, here’s one that is overlooked by many marketers: Add a URL with a short marketing message as a signature on all your outgoing emails.

If you have multiple web sites a customer that you’re interacting with may not know about your other offerings. Since you already have a relationship with that customer that are probably more likely to click on your link.

But don’t take my word for it. Test it and track it. In a previous article I talked about adding tracking code to your email campaigns. Use the same approach for your email signature. Here’s an example:

<a href=""> Digital Security Report</a> - Are your valuable digital products available for free download?

In this case utm_source=nick refers to a specific email address which has this email signature. If you’re testing different signatures to see what converts better, you can differentiate between them with a third Google Analytics parameter: utm_content=1, utm_content=2, etc.

Keep in mind that different email clients handle HTML differently. So before you settle on an email signature send test emails to different email clients (Mozilla Thunderbird, Mac OS X Mail, Outlook) as well as web mail clients (Gmail, Yahoo, MSN, etc).

While on the topic of marketing using signatures – I’m sure that you have a signature that links to your web site when you post messages in a forum. But do you track those clicks other than by referrer? If you only rely on referrer then traffic coming from the various online forums that you participate in can easily be lost in the noise. With the technique above you can measure all the traffic from forums as a group (utm_medium=forum) and then drill down on individual forums (utm_source). Here’s my signature from the Warrior Forum (using Forum Code instead of HTML):

[url=""]Tips, Tricks, Tools & Techniques[/url] for your Internet Business, Life, the Universe and Everything.

Why do Internet Marketers want your physical address?

12 October, 2007 (14:18) | Copywriting, Reviews, Testing | By: Nick Dalton

Most Internet Marketers live in the digital world where online advertisements and sending emails are just about free. But more and more you’ll come across marketers who insist on getting your physical mailing address.

It is no secret that most Internet Marketing strategies and tactics have been used successfully for decades in the offline Direct Marketing (DM) world. With email deliverability and click through rates steadily declining online marketers are looking for new ways to reach customers. Again, old fashioned DM comes to the rescue.

One of the Internet marketers who has been very successful in combining online and offline campaigns is Russell Brunson. If you haven’t done so already you should download his IM-Myth report and read it for inspiration. True to the message of the report there is a one time offer after you sign up for the free download where you are “bribed” to also part with your physical mailing address.

You have probably received dozens of emails from various marketers urging you to download the report from their affiliate link. Even though the report was free, Russel Brunson paid out $1 per download to the referrer. This list building technique was pioneered online by Scott Boulch and his Death of AdSense reports. (Note that this part of the campaign is over, my link above is not an affiliate link.) Of course Russell Brunson didn’t pay out over $50k just to build an email list.

Earlier this week the other shoe dropped with the launch of the 12 Month Internet Millionaire. This is a recording of a 6 hour coaching phone call Russell Brunson had with Vincent James about 1.5 years ago. I had never heard of Vincent James before, but he claims to have made over $100 million in 23 months. So he seems like a guy worth listening to. Here are some of the things you will learn from the 12 Month Internet Millionaire recording:


  • Sell memberships to get access to wholesales or distributor prices. It’s much easier to sell an annual $40 membership than to compete on price with all the other companies selling the same commodity product.


  • Get the customer to agree to locking in a discounted price and send them the same order every month. Make it sound like an exclusive club – a benefit to the customer. (Worked for dietary supplements.)
  • With monthly recurring billing people often just tell their credit card company that they don’t want to pay anymore instead of calling the seller. Then this will be a chargeback on the sellers credit card merchant account. If the chargeback percentage is too high you risk loosing your merchant account. To prevent this they included a cancellation coupon in the second or third shipment.
  • For information products you can sell a CD with interviews for $1 and then send the customer a new CD each month for $39

Direct Mail

  • There are three types of mailing lists, in order of responsiveness: buyers lists, subscribers lists from magazines and compiled lists from warranty cards, questionnaires, etc.
  • Check usage reports on mailing lists before you buy. You want to see a high percentage of customers who have continued to use that list over time.
  • Don’t waste your time on small lists. It takes just as much effort to test 1,000 names on a small list as it does for a large list. If the test is successful you want to have a large well to go back to for more names.
  • Use a list broker. It will save you time and effort, and it doesn’t cost you anything.
  • The best pulling envelope has a simulated handwritten address in blue ink, a first class stamp, a return address sticker, all on a standard OfficeMax envelope.
  • Postcards are good for offers of a well-known products and you’re solely competing on price. Or if you’re just driving traffic to your web site.

Life Time Value of Your Customer

  • In the direct mail world you have to know the lifetime value of your customers, because a good campaign will break even on the front-end offer. Therefore you need a series of back-end offers, which together make up the lifetime value of the customer. Since online campaigns are practically free you don’t have to be so stringent with calculating the lifetime value of your customers. But there is a huge upside and profit potential if you do.


  • Simple copywriting tips:
    • be excited about the product you’re about to write a sales letter for
    • tell a story in the first person
    • become an actor and get into the role of the target customer
    • use a swipe file
  • The four reasons why people don’t buy:
    • they don’t know your offer – you’re not very good at getting attention
    • the don’t want it – you’re targeting the wrong list
    • they can’t afford it or they can’t justify the price you’re at
    • they don’t believe you
  • A quick trick to increase the response rate once in a while: Run the usual ad that’s just breaking even and add a new headline above it that says this is the ad that we had to cancel last month since we sold out so fast.

Call Centers

  • To jumpstart your own call center script, call and order another successful product and record/transcribe the conversation with their call center.
  • If a call center charges 80 cents per minute and your script is 10 minutes, that means you’re paying $8 just to take the order. Offer a bonus for ordering from your web site to reduce the number of incoming phone calls and thereby reduce your costs.


  • For magazine ads use an editorial style layout. Make it look like the magazine it’s running in.
  • Right hand pages have better response than left hand pages. Specify RHP when you place your ad, even if they can’t guarantee it. Place your cut out coupon in the lower right hand corner to make it obvious that the ad should go on a right page, since it’s difficult to cut out a coupon if it’s in the gutter.
  • For magazine circulation you should look at paid copies sold and preferably numbers audited by ABC.
  • Don’t waste money on brand advertisements; it’s just traditional institutional advertiser justifying worthless ads.


  • When you find something that works run with it as fast as you can before people start knocking off your campaign and your product. Run all types of media in parallel.
  • If you find advertisements of knockoffs of your product talk to the magazine and pay to become the exclusive advertiser for your type of product.
  • Establish credibility over your competitors.

Expand What Works

  • Sell what’s already selling.
  • When you’re successful with direct mail, start magazine advertising to reach more prospects and then to radio and ultimately TV.
  • If you’re successfully marketing only on the Internet then you are not fully exploiting the market.

Testing and Tracking

  • Test the big things: headline, price, envelopes, lists.
  • Use different 800 numbers for every advertisement. That way you know how many orders each ad or list generated.
  • Alternatively have the phone operator ask the customer where they saw the ad.
  • For mail in coupons add a code to the address, e.g. a department code of CD6 could be Car and Driver June issue.
    If the coupon was cut out from a magazine you can just look at the back of the coupon to determine which magazine it came from.
  • For online order you can have a drop down where the customer selects which magazine they saw your ad in. But that is not so good for competitive reasons. Better is to have a different landing page for each ad.
  • Track the response for every ad for every issue and keep running them until they no longer make money. If your ad is really good it could be sucking out prospects faster than the magazine brings in new customer. In that case no amount of tweaking the ad will increase the response.


  • Here’s an interesting tidbit that blew me away: The customer database Vincent James used to run his $100 million dietary supplement business was Microsoft Excel with some add-on macros.

The 12 Month Internet Millionaire audio files are good if you want to listen on the go or in your car. But if you’re like me and you can read much faster than most people speak you will appreciate that a complete transcript is included as well. Unlike most audio transcripts that I’ve seen lately, this one actually seems to have been proofread, although there are some blanks where presumably the audio was skipping. However it’s way too verbose at 197 pages. Vincent James has a very conversational way of speaking and every “you know” is captured in the transcript.

I just learned that the 12 Month Internet Millionaire product has became the #1 best seller on ClickBank. This surprises me a bit, since this is definitely not a products for beginners – there are no step-by-step instructions. The products contains tons of good ideas that can give you inspiration for both your online and offline business. And if you enjoy reading and learning about marketing it’s definitely a good read. You can find more information here.

If you decide to look at the sales page I’d like to give you a warning: I think it grossly oversells the product. It has very little to do with Internet business and a whole lot with direct mail and other offline marketing techniques. If you are interested in the topics listed above in this post, then this product will appeal to you. If you’re just looking to become an Internet millionaire in 12 months, then this is not the golden ticket.

If you enjoy reading in-depth reviews like this one, please let me know in a comment below. And don’t forget to sign up to the RSS feed or the email notification list so you will be notified of the next one.

Are your email campaigns effective?

4 October, 2007 (21:53) | Testing | By: Nick Dalton

In the previous article we tracked how your visitors came to your web site from another site or a search engine. This article is about tracking visitors from your email campaigns.

Most autoresponder services like AWeber and GetResponse show statistics on how many emails were delivered, how many were opened and how many people clicked on a link in the email. These number are all good to know, but they don’t help you determine the ultimate results of the campaign: sales or other opt-ins.

With Google Analytics this is very easy to track

First you need to create the URL in a specific format. Google’s URL Builder Tool will help you with that the first couple of times, then you’ll easily recognize the format. Here’s an example:

  • The first part is your regular URL. You don’t have to setup a special landing page for your email campaigns with this technique.
  • utm_source is the source of the traffic. Select a name or abbreviation that is meaningful to you. In this case “tlm” stands for The List Machine, which is a service that for a relatively low fee allows me to send out three emails per week to 1,000 recipients.
  • utm_medium can for example be “ppc” for a pay-per-click campaign or “banner” for a banner ad campaign. Here I’m using “email” as it is an email campaign.
  • There are more parameters available, but these are the basics.

This is what the resulting data looks like in Google Analytics, under Traffic Sources > All Traffic Sources > Site Usage:

Email Traffic Sources -Google Analytics

As you can see the number of visits contributed by these two email sources, “yll/email” and “tlm/email”, is not very high for this time period. And the Avg. Time on Site and Bounce Rates are outright terrible. If you didn’t track and measure clicks from your emails, you would never know.

But what’s even more important than the number of visits is the Goal Conversion:

Email Goal Conversation Sources -Google Analytics

In this example I’ve defined a goal for Outbound Click which tracks clicks on affiliate links on the site. You would expect there to be a correlation between these outbound clicks and income, so this is a really important statistic to track. Here we see that the email sources fall even further down the list when we sort by goal conversion.

You can also track conversion rate over time. With this information you can see if your inhouse mailing list is starting to suffer from promotion fatigue and you can make corrections before it’s too late.

Setting up goals in Google Analytics and assigning Goal Values in dollars will be covered in a future article.

Is it worth it?

If you have ever tried any list service like The List Machine, Your Lucky List or List Dot Com then you know that the click through rates are very, very low. I typically send out excerpts of my blog posts through these services, so I’m not trying to sell anything. While this still gets pretty low CTR, I manage to get a couple of sign-ups per week to my email list or RSS feed from these sources. People who I would probably not have reached otherwise. And since I have automated the process it’s not any additional work for me.

If you have a more tangible cost for your campaign, for example if you paid for each of the leads, then it’s essential that you track the real results of the campaign, not just email opens or link clicks.

When JV partners send out emails on your behalf to their lists you should give them URLs that include these tracking parameters. utm_source can for example be their affiliate id. And you should also add a third parameter called utm_campaign which is used to identify a specific product promotion. Your affiliate tracking system should already track sales and associate them with the correct referring affiliate. But with these URL parameters you can also track non-payment events like people signing up to your email list or requesting more information.

Your action items:

  1. Add these tracking parameters to your next email campaign that you send out.
  2. Track and measure the results in Google Analytics.
  3. Use this feedback to improve your future campaigns.

The two most important web metrics for your marketing efforts

1 October, 2007 (13:15) | Search Engines, Testing | By: Nick Dalton

I the previous article you installed two different web analytics tools on your web site. Today we’re going to use the data from those tools to optimize your marketing efforts.

We all want more traffic to our web sites. There are numerous ways to attract visitors to your web site: article marketing, blogs, social bookmarking sites, PPC, link exchanges, etc, etc. Each one has it’s proponents (along with a product that they’re happy to sell you). But how do you know which one works for you? Using real data from your web analytics tools sure beats guessing or trusting the so called gurus. Here’s how.


To know which marketing efforts are most effective we need to know where your visitors are coming from. In web analytics terms this is called the referrer.
In Google Analytics click on Traffic Sources -> Referring Sites -> Pie Chart and you’ll see something similar to this (I’ve hidden some columns for clarity):

Referring Sites Pie Chart

Here you will see which sites are sending you the most visitors. StumbleUpon is as you can see a very important traffic source and I think it requires a separate article to cover properly. (While you’re waiting for that article you can check out ProBlogger’s tips on StumbleUpon.)

If you click on any of the site names you will get a list of the actual URLs within that site that sent you the traffic:

Referral Paths

Click on a URL and you’ll get a link that says “Visit this referring link” and you’ll finally find out why this page is sending you traffic. However if you’re using StatCounter then there is a much faster way to get this information. Select Recent Pageload Activity and you will see a list of entries like this:

Recent Pageloads

The URL in green is the referrer, and if you click on it you will be taken directly to that page. Once I’m on that page I realize that I wrote a comment on Rich Shefren’s Strategic Profits blog and a lot of people are clicking through to my blog from it.

Writing thoughtful comments on other related blogs is one of my most successful ways to get traffic. According to the web analytics data above this strategy accounts for 4 of the top 10 referring sites.

But unless you’re selling ads on your site per impression then the number of page views is not the metric you’re most interested in. You should look at some of the other columns in this table ( Google Analytics -> Traffic Sources -> Referring Sites):

Referring Sites Table

For each referring site you will see how long they stuck around on your site. Social bookmarking sites like Digg and Reddit sent quite a bit of traffic as number 4 and 5 on the list but a majority of these visitors just viewed one page and then left again. You see that by a Pages/Visit number that is close to 1 and a Bounce Rate close to 100%.

Does that mean I should not waste my time on social bookmarking sites? Compared to the time it takes to write an attractive comment on another blog, just clicking on the Digg/Reddit link for one of my own blog posts is a breeze. And if just one of the many Digg drive-bys signs up for my RSS feed or purchases one of my products, it’s well worth the effort. We’ll cover how to track this in a future article.


Search engines are a special case of referring sites. What we care about here are the keywords the visitor used to find your site. In Google Analytics go to Traffic Sources -> Search Engines and select a search engine. You will then see a list like this:

Search Engine Keywords

This is not a lot of organic search traffic as this is not the primary mechanism that I generate traffic for this site. But any free traffic is welcome. So what can we learn from this list.

  1. Four of the top five keyword terms are variations of “article submission software”. Do some keyword research to determine which variation gets most search traffic and then target those specific keywords in your SEO efforts.
  2. People type in the keywords “article submission” into search engines a lot more frequently than the others, and that is why it’s number two on the list. But this site is not really about article submission in general so most of these visitors bounce away quickly in search of something more relevant. This is reflected by the low number of Pages/Visit and the high Bounce Rate. In this case you have the choice of bulking up your site with relevant content for these keywords, or just ignoring that traffic.

An important factor of how much organic search traffic you’re going to receive is of course how well your pages rank. In StatCounter this is very easy to see. Go to Recent Keyword Activity and you will see a list like this:

Recent Keywords

Click on the link in the Query column and you will be taken to the search engine results page. For this particular keyword phrase it turns out that I’m #5 in Google. Cool!

Data is Useless…

…unless you take action on it. For the simple action of installing a web analytics tool on your site you will received all this useful data described in this article. Now you need to make use of it.

  1. Determine which traffic sources send most visitors to your site. Focus on these for your future promotion efforts. Don’t waste any more time on methods that do not result in any significant traffic.
  2. Examine the source pages that are sending you traffic. Identify patterns that work well, e.g. a brief comment with an explicit link to your site, or maybe a simple trackback. Look at headlines; what works what doesn’t. Do more of the “what works” category.
  3. Look at the keywords that are resulting in organic traffic. Are you already targeting these keywords? If not, do some keyword research to determine if they could generate enough traffic to be worth targeting.

How to install a web analytics tool the right way

28 September, 2007 (13:20) | Testing, Tools, WordPress | By: Nick Dalton

Welcome to the first installment in the Tracking, Testing and Tweaking Your Web Site series. If you haven’t yet suggested topics you’d like to see covered in the future, it’s not too late to do so.

In this first article I’m going to cover installing a web analytics program for your web site. This is the first tool that you should to get into place to track your visitors. Even if you’re already using Google Analytics or a similar tool, please read on as there are some important tips in this article that will help you later on.

Web Analytics Tools

Your web hosting account probably came with a web statistics tool like Webalizer or AWstats. These tools can show you some statistics about your visitors and their page views, but they do not track visitor behavior very well. So ignore those tools.

The “installation” of most modern web analytics programs consist of adding a little piece of JavaScript code to each web page on your site. Since this code needs to go on every page most vendors recommend that you place it in the footer of your site (assuming that you have a footer file that is included on all web pages). There is another reason for placing the code at the end of the page: The JavaScript code takes some time to execute and if it’s at the bottom of the page the visitor will be able to view and read the full web page while the browser is processing the web analytics JavaScript. However if you want to do some more advanced web analytics, installing the JavaScript at the end of the page is sometimes the wrong thing to do. More about that later.

I suggest you use two different web analytics tools: one simple tool for real time information and another one for more advanced analytics. Real time information can be useful to react to abnormal traffic. For example: Last week one of my old blog posts became popular on StumbleUpon and I received over 500 visitors within a few hours. While it was a good blog post, it didn’t have any affiliate links. So I quickly added a few to capitalize on the traffic surge.

There are many, many web analytics tools to chose from. The simple tools have similar basic web analytics features and offer detailed data on the last 100 – 500 page views for free. If you want a larger buffer you have to pay a monthly fee. (Obviously if you’re receiving 10,000 page views per day then 500 is only going to last you an hour or so which is probably not all that useful.) The advantage with these simple tools is that the data is shown practically in real time. You can literally follow along as visitors are surfing your site. Not that this is good use of your time…


The simple web analytics tool that I use is StatCounter. Sign up for a free account and then answer a few questions about your site. Of these questions there are a few that are significant: Make sure that you add your own IP address to the IP Blocking section so that your own page views on the site are not included in the stats. StatCounter helpfully displays your current IP address next to the entry window, e.g. If your ISP doesn’t give you a static IP address you can block out a whole range of addresses with a * at the end (76.81.54.*). If you still see your own traffic occasionally you might consider blocking an even larger range (76.81.*.*).

The other important configuration with StatCounter is the look of the “counter”. In the early days of the web it was cool to display a counter on your web pages to show how popular your site was. For a business web site this looks very unprofessional, so you should be sure to select the “Invisible” counter.

After all the questions are answered you will get a snippet of JavaScript code to install on your web site. It will look something like this:
<!-- StatCounter -->
<script type="text/javascript">
var sc_project=xxxxxxx;
var sc_invisible=0;
var sc_partition=29;
var sc_security="xxxxxxxxx";
<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script><noscript><div class="statcounter"><a class="statcounter" href=""><img class="statcounter" src="" alt="website stats" /></a></div></noscript>

This JavaScript code should be added just before the </body> tag at the end of each of your web pages. If you’re using WordPress, the file to edit is called footer.php within the Theme you have selected for your blog. After you have added the code, do a View Source with your browser to make sure that it was installed correctly. If you do a View Source on this web page and scroll down to the bottom you will see what it should look like. Also with the real time nature of StatCounter you should quickly start seeing traffic statistics in the tool.

Google Analytics

The other web analytics tool that I use is Google Analytics. It is pretty advanced and you can’t beat the price: free. (You may have to sign up for a Google AdWords account to use Google Analytics, which may require a $5 activation fee. But there is no requirement to actually spend money on AdWords to use Google Analytics.)

In Google Analytics you should also block your own IP address. This is done in Analytics Settings -> Profile Settings -> Add Filter. Select Filter Type “Exclude all traffic from an IP address” and then enter your IP in this format: 76\.81\.54\.162 (Google uses powerful regular expressions here, hence the backslashes in front of each dot. Click on the help link for more information.)

I recommend that you place the Google Analytics JavaScript code in the <head> section of your web pages. This may seem counter to what I said above. But GA offers a feature called urchinTracker that allows you to track outbound links, among other things. To use urchinTracker the GA tracking code must be placed before any links or events that try to call it. The <head> section is a good place to ensure this.

For WordPress users the file to edit for the <head> section is header.php. If you’re not comfortable editing PHP files then there are several WordPress plugins that make it easier to install web analytics tracking code. Just make sure you get a plugin that allows you to control where on the page the code is added.

Again View Source on this page to see what the completed installation should look like.

That completes the installation of your web analytics tools. I know this was a very brief tutorial, so if there is enough interest I may create a Camtasia video to illustrate each step.

How to track, test and tweak everything on your web site

21 September, 2007 (15:20) | Testing | By: Nick Dalton

Half the time and money you spend on driving traffic to your web site is wasted. Do you know which half?

Regardless if your web site is for fun or profit you probably want to keep improving it in some way: more readers, sell more products, increase conversion rates, etc. To accomplish this – other than by dumb luck – you need to constantly track, test and tweak every aspect of your site.

I’m writing a series of blog posts on this theme starting with simple topics like using a web analytics program to track referrers and keywords that bring traffic to your site. More advanced topics will include:

  • How to setup and track outbound links from your site.
  • How to setup split testing and multivariate testing, and know the difference.
  • How to track the number of people who signup to your mailing list or RSS feed.
  • How to track keywords and referrer information all the way to sales through an affiliate network like ClickBank or Commission Junction
  • How to track the effectiveness of your article marketing.

What are you struggling with in terms of tracking and testing? What would you like to learn more about?

Even if you can’t think of any new topics, please vote for one of the above so that I know what to cover in depth and what topics there is little interest in.

Please post your questions as a comment or trackback below. No questions are too simple or too trivial, but please keep them on topic.

And don’t forget to bookmark this site and come back to read the entire article series. Or better yet subscribe to the RSS feed using the link at the top right corner of this page, or if you prefer email notifications, just fill out the small form to the right.

Update: Read the first installment now – How to install a web analytics tool the right way