It might sound like a strange idea to optimize your emails for search engines, but SEO is a skill that email marketers better start working on -- as far as Google is concerned anyway. The company is currently conducting tests to include Gmail inboxes in the search results. What does this mean for email marketing?
Gmail Field Trial is the name of the experiment in which Google includes a user's Gmail inbox in his or her search results. For example, someone that uses Google to search for flight information will not only see airport websites in their search results, but also their own e-tickets. Or whenever someone searches for cooking tips, they will also get the recipe for chocolate chip cookies their aunt emailed them.
The project is currently still in test phase, and only a happy few are able to use it. Knowing Google, however, it's only a matter of time before this product is available for a larger group of users. So, as a marketer, if you want your emails to profit from this new feature, you'd better be prepared.
Judging the previews Google has made available, the search engine will by default only show emails from the priority inbox in its search results.
So, to search engine optimize your emails, the first thing you'll want to do is make sure these emails get this priority label.
According to a PDF document that Google released, Gmail uses complicated algorithms to determine if an email should be put in the priority inbox. As usual, Google won't exactly tell the world how the algorithm works.
However, in general, the following things contribute to a priority ranking:
Apart from the tips above, as an email marketer, you should of course also comply with the existing SEO techniques for websites to your emails. Obviously you won't be able to link to your emails, but be sure to use the right keywords and apply title and alt tags to your images.
Whether you're an SEO expert or an email marketer (or both), none of this advice will probably come over as shocking to you. In the end, the whole story comes down to one thing: being relevant -- something that already should be your main priority, for both SEO and email marketing.
Michael Linthorst is managing director at Copernica.
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Speaking as a regular person, not as an SEO professional, I don't know how I feel about Google going into my inbox. I know they already do it for PPC ads which I pretty much just ignore but what happens when you get emails you don't want and somehow those influence your search results? No system is perfect and just because I got an email about something that doesn't mean I want to see it every time I search.
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