I recently set up a Mailchimp automation for a client to welcome new subscribers to their email list. The onboarding series included multiple emails for several weeks introducing the subscriber to the non-profit’s work. After completing the series, the subscriber would be dropped into list to receive the organization’s regular weekly email campaigns.
Through testing the automation, I learned that Mailchimp doesn’t automatically exclude subscribers in Onboarding Series Automations from receiving regular emails—so a new subscriber in the automation would receive both the onboarding emails and the regular emails.
This makes no sense--why would an organization working to build donor/customer relationships through an onboarding series want the subscriber to receive regular emails, too?
I worked with Mailchimp support trying a handful of potential solutions to exclude subscribers in automations from receiving regular campaigns. They were clunky and left room for error—like their first suggestion to add conditions based on automation activity shown here:
Having to add 2 conditions per automation might be okay if you're only running one Automation Series. But if you have more than one like my client, these conditions become unwieldy and leave a lot of room for error. Furthermore, non-pro accounts are limited to 5 conditions per campaign—so if you have more than two automations going, you wouldn't be able to exclude all subscribers in automation.
I came up with a solution that I tested with their support. It works and there's just one condition that needs to be applied to new campaigns, but it does use up the post-sending list action for your last email.
Based on my conversation with Mailchimp support (see screenshot below), I'm hoping that they'll soon offer an easier way to exclude subscribers in automation.
The end of my Mailchimp support transcript. "Alicia" agrees and is forwarding along the request to make automation exclusions easier :)
Mailchimp Automation Exclusion Solution
Make subscribers a part of a group during automation that’s excluded from regular campaigns. When they’re done with automation, remove them from the list.
Steps to exclude automation emails from new campaigns
Setting up your automation
Making sure that you add subscribers to a group while they're in automation is a necessary step to be able to easily exclude them from new campaigns.
Setting up new campaigns
Whenever you send out a new campaign, you'll need to manually exclude the subscribers in the automation series from your email. To do this, follow these steps:
Mailchimp Testing Fun Fact
When testing a signup form or automation in Mailchimp, constantly having to delete an email address is annoying and it doesn’t always work. Did you know that you can add a + after your email address in Gmail accounts to create a temporary email alias?
Example – if my original email was firstname.lastname@example.org, I could add email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org to test my automation multiple times.
Interested in setting up an automation?
I’ve built dozens of websites with Weebly but recently built a website for a client in Squarespace for the first time. I had high expectations (because of Squarespace’s strong branding, I suppose) and it does surpass Weebly in a few areas, but I was surprised to find it didn’t excel in SEO.
Weebly vs Squarespace: SEO Features
While many factors contribute to a site’s search ranking (here are a few) I decided to compare six fundamental factors that are quite platform-dependent—rather than other SEO factors like domain trust, content, backlinks, etc.—especially for folks who don’t know how to do any coding.
Side note: I did a little testing as well with page speed for sites made with both platforms but wasn't able to draw strong enough conclusion to include them here.
Below I take a deeper dive with three SEO factors where the platforms are lagging and present workarounds for their weaknesses.
SEO Factor: Alt text
What is alt text?
Alt text is used to describe images to improve web accessibility (they’re used by screen readers for blind and visually impaired users).
How does alt text help with SEO?
Alt text supports your overall SEO strategy because web crawlers use it to help determine what an image is (since they can’t see it) and the content surrounding the image.
Weebly and alt text
Weebly offers an alt text field for individual images (right click on image > Advanced) and gallery images (click on uploaded image > alt text option appears).
Squarespace and alt text
Squarespace only offers a field truly dedicated to alt text for a “product image.” Their support section lists ways to use other features for alt text but these options don’t always work. For example, Squarespace says the caption field can serve as alt text for single images—but if you actually want to use the caption for the picture, it won’t also work for alt text.
SEO Factor: Heading Tags
What are heading tags?
A heading tag is the HTML code that indicates a heading on a website. A heading can carry various tags, depending on the defaults provided by your website builder platform. H1 holds the most importance in the heading tag hierarchy, followed by H2 and on down to H6.
How do heading tags help with SEO?
Moz’s 2015 search engine ranking factors report found that tags are part of the third most influential factor group in SEO rankings. Just as headings provide structure for your content and make it more digestible for your readers by highlighting important topics, they also help search engines understand what content is on your page. Using an H1 tag tells the search engines what your page is about—your H1 tag should support your SEO strategy.
Squarespace and heading tags
Squarespace offers H1 to H3 tags that a user can change font, size, weight, etc. in the style editor.
Weebly heading tags
Weebly doesn’t offer H1 heading tags—all headings and even blog post titles are H2.
Inspecting the coding of Weebly shows it's "Title" tags only carry a H1 heading tag
There’s this free plugin that enables you to add H1 but it doesn’t carry the font style of the theme and you can’t change the font.
You can also insert an Embed Code field and manually put your <H1></H1> tags around your heading.
Further learning on heading tags
SEO Factor: Meta Description
What is a meta description?
A meta description is the HTML code used to describe a page in search engine results. It’s also the content that social platforms use to describe your page.
How do meta descriptions help with SEO?
Technically meta descriptions don’t contribute to your search engine ranking but they do help make your search results stand out—it’s a way to describe the content on your page and pull users in. A well-written meta description can entice users to select your site over others.
Weebly and meta descriptions
Weebly has a description field for each page. Prior to writing this blog post, I’d assumed the description field worked perfectly well. But upon testing it, I’ve found that Weebly’s page description field actually doesn’t work for search engines (it does however work on social platforms). So in order to have a proper meta description, you should follow step #1 below.
Squarespace and meta descriptions
Squarespace provides a field for meta descriptions but if you’re using a banner image, the description is the field is automatically used as the heading on your banner image.
Image A shows how the meta description pulled in the text from the banner. This meta description doesn’t provide copy or context to make this description stand out on in search engine results. Image B shows the search result after using a workaround that enabled us to have both a banner image and a strong meta description. Confused? Clicking through to the actual page may help.
A work-around exists to get the meta description you want for a page with a banner image on Squarespace. Instead of adding a banner image to your page, add a slideshow to the top of the page and just add one image. A few tips on using this feature:
The above slideshow option doesn't work for a blog posts, however. Blog posts do have excerpt fields that serve as the meta description but most likely you’ll want your excerpt to be longer than 160 characters because it's used for the excerpt on the blog landing page—it’s challenging to have this be useful for both purposes.
This is the excerpt field on Squarespace's blog. You can see how it's likely that you'll want to use more than 160 characters for the excerpt.
One last note on meta descriptions in Squarespace: I read about an alternative option to add HTML code into the header code field under Advanced Page Settings but I tried and it didn't work.
Further learning on meta descriptions
Overall SEO Winner?
After doing this analysis, I don't believe SEO shouldn't be a deciding factor when choosing between the Weebly and Squarespace. Each has its strengths and weaknesses but you can for the most part use the workarounds to fully implement SEO on your site. However, I do believe both platforms drop the ball with meta descriptions. While these technically don't help with a site's rankings, they are extremely important for getting users from a search page to your site.
Do you use these platforms and have better workarounds or a different opinion? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
One way to ensure data is used to inform business decisions is to create reports that non-numbers people can understand, too. Google announced a free version of it's Data Studio in 2016 as a way to turn "data into informative dashboards and reports that are easy to read, easy to share, and fully customizable." I've been meaning to check it out and a recent project to produce e-commerce reports for my client Peace Coffee was a perfect excuse to give it a spin.
Google Data Studio can connect data from its suite of products (i.e. Analytics, Adwords, YouTube, etc.) and it can even import other data provided it's in a Google Sheet (so you could export Facebook data into a Google Sheet to connect it to Data Studio). Here's a full list of the data connections you can use. Below are some pros and cons of Google Data Studio I uncovered.
Google Data Studio pros
Reporting that compares Analytics to Data Studio. Click to enlarge.
Google Data Studio cons
When viewing the report not signed into the Google Data account,
a system error appeared where the conversion rate data was supposed to be.
Google Data Studio tips
Give it a whirl
Despite Data Studio's drawbacks, it's still an incredibly powerful (and free!) tool that has the ability to take your Analytics reporting to a new level. Data Studio is still in beta so I'm hoping the glitches will soon be worked out. I just spent a few hours with it and think there's a ton more that I have yet to discover. I definitely recommend that you play around with it to see what you think.
If you're interested in saving time or getting guidance, I'd love to help you get your reporting dialed in.
I learned that sharing a report can be challenging. Whoever you share your report with has to be logged in and even when they are, the link doesn't send them directly to the report but rather the Google Data Studio report landing page. I found the best work around was to embed the report onto a web page and send them a link to the web page. I find this to be an extreme drawback of the platform.
I'm a data-driven marketing and communications consultant using digital media to help startups, small businesses and non-profits communicate their stories.