Avoiding Spam in Your Ad Campaigns

A fine and distinct line

At one time or another we have all seen statements pertaining to spam which are admonishing in nature but designed to make us aware of the negative effects spamming can have on our promotional and marketing efforts. Such statements often appear in the form of short, two-to-three word directives like, “Don’t Spam,” “Avoid Spamming” and “Advertise, Do Not Spam,” along with other similar cautionary phrases. What is often left unsaid is what spam is and the various ways in which it is defined and interpreted; so in this article we will try to provide some clarification.

First and foremost it is necessary to point out that there is a fine line between advertising and spam, but unfortunately many business owners do not understand the things that distinguish one from the other, although understanding these distinctions is very important in the sense that a smart and well planned Web marketing campaign can help to attract new customers and keep existing customers loyal, spam will likely alienate potential customers as well as an existing customer base. Such alienation can be extremely damaging to profit margins for many business owners. So let’s begin by taking a look at three examples in which basic Web marketing activities – banner ads, email campaigns and message board posts – can quickly cross the line from smart advertising to spam and how it can occur in each instance.

Banner ads

Banner ads are some of the most popular ad placement strategies that can accompany a Web marketing plan. They usually appear at the top of websites, spanning the width of a standard website – which is how they originally earned the name ‘banner ads’ – but in today’s marketing environment banner ads can actually refer to ads of various different sizes and shapes (instead of the standard 468×60 and the larger leaderboard 728×90 versions) that appear in an array of different locations on websites throughout the Web. In many cases a business owner (merchant) might purchase advertising space on certain websites but the banner ad may also be placed as part of an exchange or an affiliate marketing campaign.

Exchanges of banner ads occur when one business owner (say merchant A) posts a banner ad on his own website in exchange for his banner ad being placed on the website of another business owner (say merchant B). These agreements may be made individually between business owners with complimentary businesses or as part of exchanges facilitated by a third party (an affiliate of one or the other). In the case of affiliate marketing it is often the case that an affiliate will post advertisements for a given merchant on his/her affiliate site in exchange for compensation when the banner ad produces a desired effect such as, traffic to the business site or product purchases. The terms of these agreements are determined and agreed to beforehand and are generally based on a scale of pay per impression, per click or per sale/lead.

Now that you have a better idea of what banner ads are it is just as important to understand how they can be overused and, as a result of such overuse, be interpreted as spam. For example, judiciously placing your banner ad on a few websites which are likely to attract an audience similar to your target audience is smart marketing; whereas placing your banner ad on any website that will display the ad regardless of the target audience can be construed as spam. Be assured that Internet users who think your banner ads are everywhere they turn regardless of the content they are pursuing will not likely take your business seriously, in which case they certainly will not purchase products or services promoted under that business name as a result of such pervasive distribution of banner ads.

eMail marketing campaigns

Email marketing campaigns can also be very useful tools in the industry of Web marketing as these campaigns may involve sending periodic eNewsletters filled with information as well as advertisements and short, informative email courses or discounts on product and service offerings. Loyal customers who opt into a marketer’s email list will likely not view these emails as spam and may purchase additional products and services from the marketer or merchant as a result of this marketing strategy.



Additionally, potential customers who have specifically requested more information on certain products and services will also find this type of marketing useful. However, email recipients who did not request information are likely to view such emails as spam. Similarly, harvesting email addresses in a deceptive manner and using these addresses to send out mass emails will most likely be always considered as spam. In fact sending unwanted commercial email to recipients who did not agree to receiving emails from the sender are considered one of the reasons for enactment of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, more of which are highlighted in the excerpt below.

The CAN-SPAM Act was implemented in the United States on January 1st of 2004 as a means of protecting the privacy of consumers. CAN-SPAM is short for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act. The act prevents the use of misleading “to” and “from” headers in emails. The law requires marketers to include their physical address in the email as well as an “opt-out” link in every email designed to give consumers the ability to reach the marketer and tell them they no longer want to receive information from them after which the email sender must remove this email address from their data base within 10 business days. Any email that contains sexual content must be clearly labeled and identified before the recipient opens it. Marketers have to get permission from the consumer in order to sell their email address.

Excerpt taken from Web Connections website. More about the legal aspect of spam can be obtained from, www.cauce.org.

Message boards

Message boards provide an excellent opportunity for business owners to obtain some free advertising where it will be noticed by members of a particular target audience; and if the products and services you or other business owners offer appeal to a specific niche, it is worthwhile to join message boards and online forums related to your industry of choice. Here you will find a large population of Internet users who may have an interest in your products.

 

You might consider including a link to your marketing website in your signature or posting the link when it is applicable to the conversation. However, care should be taken to closely review the message board guidelines so you can avoid doing anything inappropriate while employing a technique which many consider to be smart marketing. Conversely, replying to every message with a link to your website when it is not relevant to the conversation is likely to be construed as spam by other members. Once they begin to view your posts as spam, they are not likely to visit your website via the links you post.

A Newsletter Adds Value to Your Opt-in List



A thing of value

As the owner or possessor of a given item the one thing you would like to have happen to that item is its appreciation in value, in the same or similar way that your home appreciates in value. Well, consider for a moment that when you subscribe to a list the subscription, in and of itself, is something you share ownership in along with other subscribers, and you get an opportunity to increase its value. You would welcome such an opportunity, wouldn’t you? Of course you would.

And although the appreciation here is not in $Thousands as it would be in real estate, but rather, in increased knowledge and helpful information which you might be able to use in your own home or business to increase cash flow, the fact still remains that your subscription would become a more valuable commodity. My point here is this: If you, as a subscription owner, would welcome the opportunity to enhance its value, wouldn’t you also provide such a value enhancer to YOUR subscribers or list members if you had such a list? Of course you would because you know they would benefit from it.

Such a value enhancer to any opt-in list is a newsletter which, when provided to your opt-in list subscribers, provides many benefits, one of which is sharing your expertise and knowledge about a given topic – preferably the one in which you’re most adept – as well as industry news, trends and other informational pieces that may be beneficial to them. Providing such a newsletter will be helpful to you/your business also, since it will give you an opportunity to put your expertise on display, thereby making a positive impression on your list members, who in turn might respond with positive feedback.

Subscriber-to-customer conversion

One benefit you/your business might derive from this entire process is the conversion of your list members from subscribers to actual buying customers; and another is the probability that these newly converted customers will recommend their friends, colleagues and family to you based upon their satisfaction with your knowledge, expertise and other ways they’ve benefited from your newsletter. In fact, all of them could very well be future customers.

But there are indeed other ways in which you/your business could benefit from a newsletter that you publish and send to your subscribers, not the least of which is driving traffic to your website, which often results in boosting the sales and profits of your site and company. It has been said that sending a newsletter to a subscriber list is merely a marketing ploy that will not make a huge dent in the sender’s marketing budget since it does not require many man-hours to develop; but my response is, such an important value enhancer is much more than a mere ploy. It is an integral part of your list maintenance and servicing program.

Ask yourself this question about sending a newsletter: If I could inform the my subscribers – and through them, the public – about my company, products and services, while keep them informed with valuable info, market data and industry trends, would I do it? If you answered yes then you are certainly in agreement with “78 percent of respondents” to a Content Marketing Institute study who said that they used newsletters; and 90 percent of respondents to a Nielsen Norman Group study who, when asked “how they preferred to receive company updates,” cited newsletters.

Theme-specific consistency

Of course it is entirely possible that you are not currently publishing a newsletter or having one sent to your list of subscribers on your behalf; and if this is the case then you may have to start doing a little research so that you can be as well informed as possible about how to have one published, if not publishing it yourself. I must admit that this task is not as easy as it may seem, but if and when you get an idea of what the process entails, the difficulty of such a task will be greatly reduced. So try to take the time to learn what you need to learn and get the work started on a newsletter that will add value for your list members’ subscription and enhance your credibility at the same time.

Contained in the following paragraphs are a few suggestions you can take into consideration when you decide to start your/your company’s newsletter.

First – Make sure that the content of your newsletter pertains to, and is closely associated with, your business or the theme of your website; and even when you divert from your main theme make sure not to stray too far from your field of expertise. Obviously you’ve started a website and your theme for that site will always be a topic you are knowledgeable about, so make your newsletter content based on that topic as consistently as you can, even if you have to include content about your company, your own origin and that of your staff.

Remember that visitors to a given website are there because they are interested in the content offered by that website, and if they sign up for a subscription via an opt-in list or for a newsletter, it should be interpreted and understood by the business/marketer that they want to be updated and informed about the same subject. So be sure that when you publish your newsletter you are providing information that meet the needs, and satisfy the interests of your subscribers.

Professionalism throughout

Second – It is of the utmost importance that you create well written, informative, content rich articles. Articles will be the body (main attraction?) of your newsletter, so they must be written in a clear, concise and – when possible – compelling manner so that your readers can understand and appreciate the content and feel a sense of gratitude to have received them, while they look forward with some excitement to your your next issue. Make sure to fact-check articles and spell-check them for spelling and grammatical errors to keep them looking professional and believable. The trust of your client to you and your newsletter is at stake here.

Third – Make sure to provide fresh, new articles that consist of new information that subscribers can use and appreciate. If you publish stale and rehashed content in a newsletter that your subscribers have probably read and known about already you will lose their interest and they won’t get to read what is most important to you, the offers you are promoting. In most cases they might not open or read any of your subsequent newsletters which will result in erosion of your own credibility in their eyes, and the trust they placed in you, thereby defeating the whole purpose of the newsletter.

Plagiarism is taboo!

Fourth – Avoid plagiarism by never using copyrighted material (content created by others without prior written authorization) such as photos and articles. Engaging in plagiarism will get you into a lot of legal trouble, which often results in financial loss. You can lose your business and get sued over copyright infringement. So if you do not have the time to write your own articles, there are many professional article writers who are ready, willing and able to do it for you at reasonable rates. Such an investment in writing and publishing articles by capable professionals will be well worth it when you see your list-building pursuits paying dividends in increased traffic, profit and value.