How to Change Unsubscribe Rates Through Generosity

What makes you stay on an email subscription list?

I posed this question to a few of our own subscribers and the answers were both surprising and expected.

The reasons they stay on had little to do with the subject line or the time of day we send our newsletters — we know these have more to do with the open rate. What keeps people subscribed boils down to one thing: The expectation of something valuable in the email.

In my email marketing course, I teach that there is a direct and inverse relation between the urge to unsubscribe and the expectation that staying on will yield something useful.

Perception of Value Vs. Likelihood of Unsubscribe

But having great people on your list, and gaining their confidence that your emails will deliver value, is only step one. It’s more important to deliver on that expectation. Not just some of the time, not just most of the time.

A more interesting question to ask your recipients is, “How many of my emails will you delete before you decide to unsubscribe?”

1, 2, 3, Unsubscribe!

My own rule? After deleting three mass emails in a row, I decide that future emails will only distract or clog my inbox. I unsubscribe. Others seem to be more forgiving, and will wait for a fourth email.


Every email blast is an invitation for your subscribers to click that unsubscribe button. And every email blast is a chance to reinforce the perception that future messages will contain something of value.


In the context of an email, “value” can be:

  1. A pointer to news or relevant and useful information
  2. An authoritative how-to article
  3. Discounts or coupons
  4. Free access
  5. Free samples
  6. … many many more

What’s Your Gift?


A simple sign is tacked to the wall in one of the Market Motive conference rooms. It reads, “What is Today’s Free Gift?”


The sign is a reminder that outbound messaging should not be self serving. It must give. It must be generous while we attempt to persuade our audience to act. And it must do this out of the gate, and consistently throughout your campaigns.

A Practical ExampleImage

LinkedIn is a great way to stay in touch with prospects and customers. Sending an email message to your LinkedIn connections is an appropriate way to engage your prospects and customers. Send something of value and you’ll enhance your connection. Send an unvarnished pitch or impersonal note, and you’ll find your messages aren’t welcome.

My own LinkedIn connections tend to be managers or directors of marketing groups. I decided to send a small ‘gift’ to help these managers ‘gift’ someone on their own team.

My first message to my LinkedIn connections contained an offer for a free month of access to a Market Motive course for an employee. No catch. No pitch. The first test went to just under 1000 managers and directors.

So far (four business days after sending) the response has been overwhelming. More than 10% have gifted an employee or colleague with a free month of access to a Market Motive course.

The qualitative response has been great as well. Nearly everyone is genuinely excited and grateful for the access. I’m getting a lot of thoughtful responses and ‘thank you’ notes. One recipient, Bill Ross, who is building a managed online marketing service, blogged about his experience:

“Leave it to experts in internet marketing to practice what they preach….I’m connected on LinkedIn to Michael Stebbins,… Last week he offered his LinkedIn followers a free month of the service, a $299 value. I decided to take him up on the offer and am brushing up my social media marketing skills.”


Aw. Thanks Bill. He goes on to say some very nice things about what he found inside, suggests he’ll be looking to hire Market Motive graduates, and then spreads the word about US Government financial assistance for Market Motive courses.


That’s 100 managers who now expect value from the next message from Market Motive. 100 and more marketing managers are very likely to fall in love with what we do for their employees. And even more may continue with paid training through our courses.

I can’t wait to send my next message 🙂

Your TurnImage

Your take-away: To build the expectation of value, each message must be generous while still persuading your audience to act. Do this early and consistently throughout your campaigns and your subscribers will look forward to your future messages.

Struggling to decide what “gift” to send in your next message? Have a good idea? Comment here and we’ll help each other plan.

Are you a domainer? Here’s why it doesn’t work.

Why domaining rarely works.

Ask an internet marketer “how many domains do you personally own?” Now ask, “How many have you developed?” Chances are the domains are simply parked, collecting dust. Successful domainers are like commodity traders — 98% fail.


Why do domainers usually fail?

Because it takes work. The idea that a great one-word domain like guarantees direct type-in traffic (and truckloads of money) is a myth. So is domain parking. And revshare. It takes a tremendous amount of real effort, research, and development to bring a site up in value. In the end, the successful domains are those that are properly developed with a keen understanding of the human audience, SEO, Web Analytics, Conversion and even Social Media.

Digital Marketing course will help you successful domainer.

Oh, and a real business plan.

But what if you just want to leverage your awesome one- or two-word domain to supplement your primary site?

The answer there is almost always “Stay focused on your main site.”

And that’s because whether you’re domaining for profit, or juggling multiple domains around a single business, a focus on traditional business development is your friend. Boring and hard? Sometimes. Profitable? Only if you make it through the hard work. Or win the lottery. For that matter, why not trade commodities?

11 myths and 7 rules

It’s not easy digging through the mythology, hype and wishful thinking to understand just what it’ll really take to reap value from your domains. Market Motive’s SEO Faculty Chair Todd Malicoat has an excellent post detailing the 11 myths about value in domains, and seven rules to follow for success. I strongly recommend it.

Market Motive SEO training guides you to choose the right domain and to be a successful domainer.

Speaking on Banned Sites at WebmasterWorld Pubcon Vegas

I’ll be sharing best practices for assessing and recovering banned sites this next Wednesday at WebmasterWorld Pubcon Las Vegas.


It’s pretty hard to get ‘accidentally’ banned by Google these days. Either someone reports your site for a borderline technique or you are knowingly pushing the boundaries and trigger a flag with the engines. In both cases, there is intent.

We’ve been through the process of advising our friends and clients for the recovery of hundreds of banned sites. It’s not always pretty, but I’ll share what we’ve learned in the process.

In this presentation, I’ll show the most “mortal” sins, and those that generally fall in the “forgivable” category. I’ll share what tools to use to assess your situation and give you one of my own analysis scripts. We’ll end with a sample of an effective re-inclusion letter (modified from Todd Malicoat’s example posted on Search Engine Watch).

It’s sure to be a noteworthy panel with Aaron Shear, Roger Montti and Michael Gray weighing in. See you next week.

Lists of Tool Lists

Conversion specialist Bryan Eisenberg just posted a great list of 69 Free or Low Cost Tools to Improve Your Web Site :


Here are a few of my other favorite tool lists:

SEO Guru Todd Malicoat’s summary of “Tool Time With Todd” twitter sessions:

Of course, the seoMOZ tool sets:

And then some excellent research tools from AdCenter Labs: My favorite is the Commercial Intent Tool.

Bookmark ’em.

What I hate about Google Webmaster Tools

Dear Google,

I used to Love your webmaster tools. You have lots of great features, like site map configuration, crawler diagnostics and top search queries and positions. But why must you tease us by pretending to report on incoming links?

Sure, you call it a “sampling” and carefully word your descriptions with phrases like “links we have available to show you.”

If “Links to your site” is a sampling, and the basis isn’t known or consistent, then what is the intended use of the report?


Case in point: Throughout 2009, Webmaster tools reports that one stable and quiet site (read not many new links) consistently remained at ~350 links give or take a few. Then Webmaster tools reports only 90 incoming links throughout the month of May. This is less than the 119 reported with your very own link: operator.

Then, last week, you report 600 links. All of which have been there for quite some time. From 350 to 90 to 600?

How is this useful? It isn’t. If your sampling varies widely with no consistent basis, then it is not useful for trending.

So I hate it.

While a tool link LinkScape or Yahoo! Site Explorer may not see all the links that Google sees, at least they have a consistent basis for detection and reporting. And that is the necessary foundation for relying on a report for decision making.

So Google, thank you for webmaster tools. Some parts are useful. Stop pretending to report on incoming links and use a consistent sampling method for reporting.

Your captive user,

Learn more about Google Web Master Tools and Google Analytics.


Alan Rimm Kaufman

I am very sad to have lost a friend and colleague, Alan Rimm Kaufman, this last Saturday, July 18, 2009.

Alan’s experience and knowledge made him a great partner for us at Market Motive. His character and kindness made it easy to be his friend.

Early Days at Market Motive: Alan, Michael, John, and Tyler in 2007

Our times working and visiting with Alan were truly a joy and we will miss him.

Facebook Vanity URLs Restrictions Lifted

Back on June 13, 2009 over 500,000 Facebook users managed to grab a Facebook Vanity URL as their own unique mark in the social media landscape. Now millions are grabbing the chance to have a distinct, indexable web address for a personal or business presence through Facebook.


In the first land rush, Facebook imposed some account age requirements to limit name squatting and the organization offered some allowance for trademarked names, but this also has ended.

As of last Monday, June 29, 2009, the account age restriction has been lifted and new accounts may register a unique user name if it’s still available. Currently, a Vanity URL requires validation via text message to a unique mobile phone number.


I strongly advise any company with a trademarked name to avoid the rights hassle and secure your company name with a Facebook account under your control. You can decide later if or how you want to represent your company through Facebook. But you can’t decide if you allow someone else to grab your name before you do.

Do it now.

How? Visit the Facebook Vanity URL page for details.

Google seems to be dropping links from Twitter

Last night we noticed that Google dropped links from the Twitter Profile page for a significant number of web sites.

For our own web sites and our clients’ sites, we monitor new links and links lost. It’s a good practice for any SEO. More importantly, we monitor when Google recognizes or disregards incoming links to a website as reported in Google Webmaster tools.

Learn more about Market Motive’s Digital Marketing course to succeed your online business.

We’ve noticed these events seem to occur in clusters, and last night indicated that Google is thinking less of links from Twitter. In one sweep, Google dropped the Twitter Profile “URL” incoming link for every site we monitor.

Examples from a few of our own sites:



Granted, the links from Twitter pages are nofollow. However the majority of sites that are active on Twitter see a subsequent boost in rankings on Google (we’ve seen the same). We’ll continue to monitor whether or not Google re-recognizes these links in the future.

UPDATE: July 1, 2009

Over the last three weeks, we have seen a gradual re-inclusion of the links from Twitter. At this point all original links are reinstated. Interesting. Very interesting.

AdWords Now Shows Actual Phrase Used for Click

Google AdWords has finally relented and now shows advertisers the exact keyword behind every click on our ads.

It’s very simple to view this new data:


Select the “Search Query Report” under the “Reports” tab in your AdWords account.


In the example above, we are prompted to place a negative match on the keyword “Free”.

Use this report on phrase match and broad match groups to find negative keywords as well as surprise phrases that generate better-than-average conversion.

Learn more about Market Motive’s PPC training.

Limits on Google Analytics Segmentation

Google-Analytics-Limits-SegmentationGoogle analytics currently imposes limits on the number of profiles (50) and the number of characters used in a report filter (256). But it was refreshing to find no limit to the number of statements in an advanced segment or to the number of characters in the regular expression field within a statement.

Nice move Google! Segmentation rocks!

Market Motive’s web analytics certification training course provides complete 360-degree approach to learning entire digital analytics ecosystem.

In my testing, patience ran out at 45 statements which tested as accurate.

I used a 10,297 character regular expression* in one of the statements and it tested out just fine.

Have you gone higher than that?

* I’ll share my simple tool to translate a list into a regular expression for Google Analytics.


*UPDATE* This tool has been deprecated, so we’ve removed the links.