Responsive Email Design

responsive email design

We already talked about why a responsive website design is important so it seems natural to discuss responsive emails.

In case you didn’t read our responsive design blog, responsive design is a type of design style that responds to the size of the screen you’re using. The plus side of using responsive design over a mobile / separate version of a site is that Google doesn’t view it as duplication.

Responsive design for email is becoming equally as important. We’ve all had the experience of zooming in and out, swiping and getting frustrated when our fingers are too big for the buttons when going through our inboxes. According to research carried out by Facebook Ireland, approximately 75% of the Irish population have a smartphone. According to Litmus, 51% of emails are being opened on mobile devices worldwide. From these two statistics it appears we can’t ignore responsive design for emails any longer – and even more so if your business is targeting international audiences where mobile usage stats are higher than here in Ireland.

Is a Responsive Email Design for me?

This should be your first question. Our answer is to see what devices are the most popular with your email subscribers. This can be easily checked in your email tool. In Dara Creative we use Campaign Monitor for our campaigns.

responsive email design2

This will tell you exactly how many subscribers use each device and which version of a particular email client.

While email client usage is a strong indicator you must also consider the user experience. Hopefully our responsive blog inspired you to think about a responsive website and why a good user experience is a must. Both your website and your emails should be optimised to complement each other. If your email is responsive why wouldn’t your website be too and vice versa?


I’ve decided I need a responsive email template, what do I do?

Test, test and more testing – As not all email clients accept responsive email templates, testing is essential. Test the emails on as many devices as possible. It’s mostly the native email clients (pre-installed apps on your phone / tablet) that will show the media queries needed for your responsive email, whereas third party apps such as Gmail or Yahoo don’t work. Style Campaign put together a handy list of which email clients do and don’t work with media queries – check it out here.

Change how you approach content – With responsive email you don’t want your readers to be infinitely scrolling. The way you approach content has to be adapted to suit a content light layout. Write short intro blurbs with a clear, strong call to action and keep it visual.

Get Creative – In Dara Creative we’re big fans of GIFs. If you have the resources, these could make your campaigns really stand out. Our eyes are drawn to movement so what better way to capture your reader’s attention than putting a relevant and eye-catching gif in your email. They’re particularly useful if you’re demonstrating how to use something, a new product or just want to focus in on your main call-to-action. If a picture says 1,000 words then we can only guess how many a GIF says!

Personalisation – While this should be done even if you don’t have a responsive email it’s no harm to mention it. Newsweaver reported that at 26% of respondents personalise more than just the name and 32% personalising name only. With so much noise in our inboxes you have to go the extra mile to grab your subscriber’s attention. Make sure your database is set up so that you can personalise the first name in your email campaigns to really make them more targeted.


Are you convinced? We hope so!

If you would like to find out more about responsive design email templates, please get in touch with Dara Creative at to see how they can help.

This guest blog post was written by Eleanor Tallon, Digital Marketing Assistant.

Are Your Call to Actions Above or Below the Fold?

Are Your Call to Actions Above or Below the Fold?

As blogs, videos and infographics light up the internet, we debate whether your call to action still needs to be above the fold?

The Fold

What is this fold I speak of? When you visit a website the content you see first, the first 600 pixels, is “above the fold”. Once you scroll down you’re “below the fold”. Any news website is a perfect example of this; above the fold is the online version of a newspaper front page.

Above the Fold

Placing your call to action above the fold is common practice as it’s what people see first. Take a look around at some good websites of the top brands in your industry and you’ll start to notice this more and more.

Websites are becoming more and more visual with a minimalistic responsive design layout. Have a look at our homepage and you’ll notice the big image with a call to action in the centre.

Below the Fold

Once you begin to scroll the rest of the page is “below the fold”. It still has call-to-actions but they’re more subtle as we’re focusing your attention on the main call to action.

Below the fold gets a bad rep because of a website user’s lack of patience and, dare we say it, refusal to scroll. Conversion Optimisation Expert Peep Laja spoke at the Search London event and reported that only 20% of our attention is below the fold so it’s a less valuable area on your website.

Pay Attention!

Attention span is a big issue with websites and content. As the internet grows our attention span seems to do the opposite. We want information but we want it immediately and if it’s too hard to find we give up. Infographics, videos, gifs and visual content are becoming more popular and this is exactly why. As they say an image says a thousand words so it suits our busy lifestyles.

As noted above Peep Laja said that 80% of our attention stays above the fold. While we don’t need to have our CTAs slap bang above the fold, we do need to create the beginnings of a good and easy-to-follow user journey.

Is there a problem below the fold?

Kissmetrics wrote an interesting article on why the fold is a myth and pointed out that:

“The issue isn’t whether the call to action is visible when your prospect first arrives. The issue is whether your call to action is visible at the point where your prospect has become convinced to take action.”

Grab your visitor’s attention within their first few seconds on your site and point them to relevant content. Once they’re engaged, you can then introduce your call to action, when they’re more likely to carry out your desired action.

User Experience is what wins over your customers

One of the most important things when getting your website visitor to complete a call-to-action is creating an experience where they’ll become invested in your brand. The above or below the fold debate is becoming less and less relevant; people want to find out information whether they have to scroll or not. If your website is user friendly, clear and conversion focused then your customers and prospective customers will keep coming back to it (and you!).

We don’t just rely on best practice when deciding on where a CTA will convert most for you, we A/B test the pages and let the data decide. If you’re interested in finding out where a call to action would get the most conversions for you, contact Dara Creative at and they can find the best solution for you.

This guest blog post was written by Eleanor Tallon, Digital Marketing Assistant at Dara Creative.

SEO in the Semantic Era (Part 3 of 6)

The third part (of six) in this series looks at how content marketing needs to adapt in order to build a sustainable presence in organic search results that are increasingly determined by search intent rather than by keyword. For clarity, Google’s new semantic search algorithm is the primary consideration for these articles. It should be noted that Microsoft’s Bing is also improving its semantic indexing capabilities but is not quite where Google is at time of writing.

Content Marketing in the Semantic Search Era

Many of the most effective digital marketing strategies over the past two years have been delivering their goals using “content marketing” as a key implementation tactic. Content marketing refers to the release of a steady stream of content into a organisation’s  served market at a velocity that both maintains brand presence and delivers a constant stream of value to its intended persona.

A major challenge for companies who have engaged content marketing has been their market’s infinite appetite to consume as much content as can be created. As a result, at an individual consumer level, increasing amounts of content are contributing to ever-greater information overload. In turn, this has very significantly raised the bar in relation to what it takes to get above the [content] noise in your served market and deliver the results which your content [may] deserve.

Content Language – Industry or Persona?

A natural, yet seriously flawed approach to content production which many companies have taken, is to write content using the language or “jargon” of their industry. This is not necessarily the same thing as the language of its intended audience. From an SEO perspective, the searcher may be using the language of the persona or end-user, whereas the company may be using technical or other industry terminology which may not be known to the searcher. The temptation to write content using the familiar language of industry is often an SEO-killer. The onus falls on you to determine whether your target audience (searcher) uses an everyday language (their “search behavior”) that aligns to the language of your content – or not.

When Content in NOT King

Producing mountains of content for content’s sake is the wrong approach and yet is one that is practiced widely without due regard to its potential asset value. The asset value of content is a measure of (1) its longevity; its ability to stay relevant over a long period of time, and (2) its independent, sustained ability to attract relevant visitor traffic via organic search. For the latter to be achieved, content must not only be search optimised but must have inherent value that is sufficient to engage its audience. Such engagement should have the goal of ultimately leading to the simple action of a click-through to a landing page or even a direct conversion.

Content is not king – at least not until it is first crowned, throned and given an empire to rule. Content that is search-optimised, has a compelling value proposition to present and is distributed across channels that can generate worthwhile interest, could be described as king.

Thus, to create beautiful digital content in all its possible forms is one thing, but to make it into a king requires a very different mindset / skill-set. And yet, without the later, content has the potential to become a black hole for investment and very often, a complete waste of time.

Marketing Automation & Improved Analytics

Modern marketing automation software and recently improved analytics mean that we can track and qualify prospective customers based on viewed content and actions taken. Even in complex selling situations when a high value sale is made as the result of an offline process, triggering specific outbound sales interventions from online events has become a key piece of the modern sales process. Integrating a company’s CRM system with its Marketing Automation solution paves the way for a “single view of customer” that informs direct selling activities in a very effective way.

When done correctly, one of the most effective channels for content distribution is SEO. Consistently referred to as the channel with the highest return on investment, organic search is the means by which a significant percentage of new traffic visits a website – every website. With a high standard of SEO in place, this traffic is the nourishment on which marketing automation systems thrive. In many cases, thus far anonymous visitor traffic from a search engine can be identified based on past activities such as actions take or content viewed. Equipped with this information, marketing automation solutions can deliver a level of “mass personalisation” never before achievable. In the digital world, this is utopia!

Why SEO and Content Marketing are Necessary Bed-fellows

Without applied persona-level SEO, content can never achieve  its true value to the organisation that produced it. Conversely, without a consistent stream of thematically targeted content, released at a velocity that is viable for a particular business, semantic SEO can never hoover-up, en-masse the huge volume of intent-based long-tail search queries that Google has become so authoritive at generating in its search results. In the semantic era, targeting short-tail search queries will yield increasingly less returns. This new era of SEO requires us to tap into the true intentions of our targeted personas by producing content that is written in a language which aligns to the search behaviors of those personas. Traditional keyword-targeted content is not going to cut it in the semantic era. When one looks at the gargantuan mountain of keyword-targeted content that is already out there, regardless of its relevance, one can only ponder the enormous challenge facing those organisations to re-purpose it to fit Google’s new paradigm. Better get going!

The next article in this series – article 4 of 6: “The Role of SEO in the Modern Buyer Cycle

This blog post was written by John Coburn (PraxisNow) who can be contacted at 01-2360076.  PraxisNow runs two SEO Certification Groups – each 4 weeks in duration: (1) Beginner to Intermediate SEO, and (2) Advanced SEO – details at  If you would like more information on Content Marketing and the digital challenge, check out their annual briefing at:

Ireland’s Alarming Digital Skills Gap

Only 1 in 5 marketers has entry level digital skills: Industry’s first digital skills study highlights alarming digital skills deficit in Ireland

How would you rate your digital marketing skills? You’d at least pass the basics, right? An eye-opening 8 out of 10 (83%) marketers tested for Ireland’s first Digital Skills Report  failed to even meet entry level competency.

Using the industry’s first digital marketing skills assessment based on knowledge, not sentiment, The Digital Marketing Institute (DMI) tested the skills of 622 marketers around the world (380 in Ireland) and there’s more bad news for Irish marketers – we scored 34% less than the global average.

Ireland’s largest deficiencies lie in the areas of digital strategy, email marketing and online advertising – all important for creating an effective digital strategy.

Impact on Ireland’s Economy

With a predicted 150,000 digital jobs and an internet economy worth €21.1bn by 2020, co-founder and director of the DMI, Ian Dodson believes that the implications for the Irish economy are significant.

“The digital economy has taken centre stage in Ireland’s economic recovery with the industry creating hundreds of jobs every month. If we can’t provide suitably skilled professionals to fill these positions Ireland could stand to lose its advantage as a European digital hub and as European headquarters for many of the major digital companies. The threat is even more acute as the talent pool grows in emerging economies,” says Dodson.

Additional key findings…

  • Irish marketers scored 30% below entry level competency and 34% below our international peers.
    Without improved digital marketing skills, Irish businesses will not be able to stop the drain of Irish consumers’ online spend going overseas, and the predicted recovery of Ireland’s economy, largely underpinned by digital channels, will be blocked.
  • Senior management are obstructing digital adoption
    Entry level marketers are 26% more proficient than their counterparts with over 20 years’ marketing experience. Unlike our international counterparts, digital strategy and planning is weakest among practitioners with greater experience in Ireland; explaining why as a nation we are not capitalising on the digital opportunity – it is not being implemented at a strategic level.
  • Ireland’s small businesses could be holding the country back
    Small businesses employ 23% of Ireland’s workforce but have notably lower digital skills than other Irish businesses. This is not reflected internationally, where skills levels remain consistent regardless of company size.
  • Ireland’s tourism sector capitalises on digital, while retail falls behind
    Outside of Marketing and Technology companies, the Hospitality and Leisure sector performed well, scoring 46%. Food and Beverage lurks at the other end of the scale with only 30% correct responses. Surprisingly, Retail marketers demonstrate relatively poor digital marketing skills (36%), despite the industry being at the forefront of eCommerce development internationally.
  • Dublin races ahead of the rest of the country
    Dublin’s digital skills levels are 57% higher than the rest of the country. Despite representing 53% of Ireland’s national GDP, Ireland’s digital skills outside the capital are among the lowest recorded throughout the study, sitting at 37%.
  • Women 11 per cent stronger in digital skills than men
    Irish women outperform men in digital marketing with 11% higher results, but only represent 30% of digital workers and 6.5% of executive directors.
  • Ireland fails on digital fundamentals, but is quick to adopt emerging mobile skills
    Ireland’s weakest digital marketing disciplines are online advertising (39%), email (41%) and social media marketing (41%). Results were notably better in mobile marketing (47%), the most rapidly emerging digital marketing discipline


Download the full report now for more in-depth insights and analysis into Ireland’s digital skills gap.

 This guest blog post was written by Ian Dodson (Digital Marketing Institute).



SEO in the Semantic Era (Part 2 of 6)

Semantic Search in Action

There is no big mystery to semantic search. It is however a new paradigm and is radically changing our experience of the internet – not just search. This second installment in the 6-part “SEO in the Semantic Era” article series, takes a simple view of the semantic internet as it is today and provides some context to semantic SEO. The things we do in semantic SEO are very significantly different from the things we have done in traditional SEO – but some ideas are carried over.

A Closer Look

So, it’s November and you’ve booked a flight online from Dublin to New York on 3rd December. Quietly behind the scenes, your ‘phone observes your confirmation email and makes a note.

The 3rd December arrives and you are deep into an important meeting which you are now beginning to rush as you have a flight to catch. Your ‘phone suddenly pings with a notification to say that your flight is delayed by one hour – you’ve a bit more time. Towards the end of the meeting you receive another notification to say that, in current traffic conditions, you will need to leave where you are within the next ten minutes to take the 90 minute trip to the airport – and there is an expected check-in queue of approx 30 minutes.

As you wait at the gate (or in the lounge), your ‘phone politely lets you know that “Les Mis” is playing tonight on Broadway and there are two tickets available if you would like them? It knows that you are a fan of Les Mis as you have seen it twice before! You book the tickets. Your Smartphone asks if you would like to book a taxi from your hotel to the Theatre? You select “no thanks”.

Scratching the Semantic Internet’s Surface

So, potentially, what else could your ‘phone help with? For a moment, let’s just review the above situation from the perspective of what it knows about you. It knows where you are at any moment in time (location services). It knows where you will be that evening (via email confirmations and online bookings). It may know where you will be tomorrow (your calendar) and perhaps the following day, who you are meeting (your private notes and records) and perhaps some background on them by way of a collated “briefing” – perhaps in the form of a “knowledge graph” (acquired). It also knows about your preferred mode of transport (your App and browser history), the hotels you like, the restaurants and types of food you like. In fact, when you allow it, it knows very significantly more detail about you that the few little examples here.

The real question is, when it knows all this information about you, what are the multitude of ways it can serve you? This is the semantic era we live in today – not one that’s coming tomorrow. What is still evolving is the cross-platform apps and services that will use this data in particular ways. Leading the field currently is “Google Now” which you will see a lot more of.

What has this got to do with SEO?

Bear in mind that Google is a search engine. As “Google Now” or a similar agent provides its services to you, it does so based on two types of information – (1) information that it knows about you, and (2) information that it acquires as needed in real time. In the second instance, information is acquired based on either the preferences it knows you have, or by using its search capability – ie. the organic search results it finds. In this case, whether you see those search results or not, the process is exactly similar to you doing a normal Google search. The benefactors are those products and services that are organically present against those searches.

Semantic SEO V Traditional SEO

As semantic search results are “intent based”, they rely less on the keywords inside a search query and more on what Google knows about the searcher (a “persona”). Remember that Google introduced semantic search to further improve the quality of its search results – to increase their relevance based on a deeper understanding of what is being searched for. Fundamentally, this has not changed. Google has always tried to do this. What has changed is Google’s ability to better interpret the enormous number of search permutations that are looking for the same thing.

Think of it as a simple long-tail search, say “how to make a paper airplane that can actually fly”. How many ways could you have described what you are looking for? Would it surprise you if the answer was well in excess of ten thousand? Perhaps it is not surprising when you consider the sheer size of our vocabulary.

With traditional SEO, you would identify exact match keyword phrases such as ‘paper airplane’, ‘origami airplane” etc.. and align your SEO accordingly. With semantic SEO, the onus falls on you to research and understand the language of your target persona, including their colloquialisms, subtleties and other behaviors that will help you produce, deploy and structure content that aligns to the language – not just the keywords.

If you think that semantic search is therefore encouraging more long-tail searches then you would be correct. Not only is Google better able to process these searches, it is now better able to discern better results for poorer ones. The result is that those who continue to target traditional short tail keywords with higher search volumes, will experience significant inconsistency in their rankings as Google’s perception of the true search intent improves. Over time, traditional SEO will be unable to sustain any organic traction at all.

Article 3 in this series will be published next week: “Content Marketing in the Semantic Search”

This blog post was written by John Coburn (PraxisNow) who can be contacted at 01-2360076.  PraxisNow runs two SEO Certification Groups – each 4 weeks in duration: (1) Beginner to Intermediate SEO, and (2) Advanced SEO – details at  If you would like more information on Content Marketing and the digital challenge, check out their annual briefing at:


SEO in the Semantic Era (Part 1 of 6)

Introducing Semantic Search

You might know that Google introduced its “hummingbird” algorithm in late 2013 and has committed to evolve it as the future of search. Hummingbird was the harbinger of a major change away from keyword-based search results towards “intent” based search results, otherwise known as “semantic” search.

Context for Search Queries

This means that Google is now doing several things in its attempt to understand the true intent of a search query – not just based on the words in the query. For example, Google has concluded that search results based on keyword relevance alone are not always the best quality results. Google is now looking for context to a search query. This context may be provided by the qualifying words in the actual query (not just the keywords themselves), the searcher’s historical behaviour when they engage the internet (not just search) and several other indicators. Ultimately, even a searcher’s habits, tendencies, likes / dislikes and indeed everything that a searcher is willing to share with Google may be used as indicators of intent.

New Level of Personalisation

This raises many questions which will not be addressed here for space reasons. Suffice it to say however, that contrary to what many people believe in relation to not sharing their personal data on the internet, precedent would suggest that a very large percentage of searchers will indeed allow Google access to more information about them. This includes such things as their browser history, search history, online behaviours, Google+ profile information, places / maps information etc…

In exchange for this, Google is offering a far more personalised search experience. One that maintains the birds-eye view that is needed for objective research and which avoids the “fish-eye”, limited personalisation of the past. Indeed, such an experience can, in many cases, anticipate a searcher’s needs and present them with information before they even ask for it.

If you’ve used “Google Now” on Android, you already have a flavour of what is going on here. For example, if Google knows you’ve booked a flight, and knows where you are now, you may see a notification to remind you that you need to be leaving for the airport as, in current traffic, it will take you 90 minutes to get there plus a further 30 minutes to check-in. Not bad when you didn’t set a reminder and Google determined this solely from your flight confirmation email of two weeks ago.

Drivers of Semantic Search

There are a few drivers of the need for semantic search. They include the “conversational” search demands of mobile device users who tend to speak their search query in a much more specific way than an abbreviated keyboard search. They also include the need to present increasingly more specific search results as the sheer volume of information available on the internet grows exponentially. In essence, Google is encouraging specific “long-tail” searches because it is now so good at interpreting it!

What it means for SEO

The implications of semantic search for SEO are gargantuan. At their very core, is a change in emphasis from targeting identified key-phrases to targeting the wider language permutations of an identified marketing persona. This shift in focus alters the most basic performance metric in SEO. Today, one of the key SEO performance indicators is called a “ranking report”; a report showing how your website’s pages are being organically placed against each of the individual key-phrases you have targeted. With semantic search, the emphases switches to content – your key performance measurement will be how your content is performing against the totality of search behaviours for which it is ranked. This is radical. It reflects a new emphasis on your content’s ability to attract traffic from within your targeted persona, irrespective of the keyword language they may use. Not an easy task.

This means that the early stage research processes which SEO’s used in the past to identify relevant keywords, must shift to identifying the wider “language” of your target persona(s) and producing a regular stream of content that aligns to your persona’s behaviour.

What it means for Exporting Businesses

There’s good news and good news, and bad news and bad news here. The bad news is that significantly more complexity has been added to the task of localisation and search engine optimisation for multiple geographic markets. Even the language subtleties across English speaking markets now require consideration where persona behaviours can vary considerably. The second piece of bad news is that a static website is not going to cut it in the new semantic era. You will now need to get active is “content marketing”; more specifically SEO-directed content marketing – more on that throughout the series.

The good news is that relatively few companies currently understand what SEO-directed content marketing is. So if you apply it and practice it, you will improve your international SEO traction. The second piece of good news is that by following the SEO-directed content marketing process, every piece of content you create will contribute to and continually build your overall digital content “asset”. As your content will be both search optimised and value-driven, it will be the hub of all your digital channels – not just SEO. The same content will add value across each of your advertising, social, email marketing and other digital channels whist retaining an independent ability to attract relevant traffic from search engines that is capable of converting for you.

Article 2 in this series will be published next week: “Semantic Search in Action

This blog post was written by John Coburn (PraxisNow) who can be contacted at 01-2360076.  PraxisNow runs two SEO Certification Groups – each 4 weeks in duration: (1) Beginner to Intermediate SEO, and (2) Advanced SEO – details at  If you would like more information on Content Marketing and the digital challenge, check out their annual briefing at:



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