Online return for effort

Improving your web presence:

How do you decide where to put effort for your online activity to achieve best value?

US company Custora recently released a report (1) that shows that social media does not pack much punch compared with organic search and email.

Good search positioning is the best way to reach and convert cusrtomers, with email a close second and social media is way back in the field.

So placing the majority of your effort behind having compelling and fresh content for your website, as well as a regular email newsletter should pay dividends.

Internet guru Dr Jakob Nielsen’s thoughts on email and social media may go some way to explaining these results. In a nutshell, it is the longevity of email in someone’s inbox and the “business focus” of email compared with social media that gets the job done.

Why an email newsletter

Reasons for subscribing to newsletters despite overflowing inboxes have been defined by respected internet researcher Dr Jacob Nielsen (2).


  • As one user said, “Keep me informed about things that I wouldn’t otherwise research. Remind me of things I would otherwise forget. Teach me new things I’d otherwise pass over.”


  • The newsletter comes to you, with no need for further action once you have signed up.

Easy to ignore…

  • If you are not interested in a newsletter issue, just don’t open it and it’ll soon scroll off the front page of your email program. Or, if you want to read something later, simply let it sit in the inbox until you’re ready.


  • Email is a fast medium.

Act as a reminder…

  • Newsletters are the main way of driving users to return to a website because they remind them of things to do.

Increased productivity…

  • Business-related newsletters help people do their jobs better.


  • Email is extremely easy to share, and newsletters provide tidbits that make for good small talk in both social and business situations.

Competing With Social Networks

Email newsletters are a better way to stay in touch with customers than updates posted on social networks like Facebook or Twitter (3):

  • A newsletter goes into the inbox and sits there, whereas social networks use a stream-based interface metaphor, where new postings constantly replace old ones.
  • As we found when testing social networks, people turn to these services primarily to keep in touch with friends and family, and corporate content is often mismatched with this mindset.
  • Newsletters are under your control design-wise and hold much more information. One user offered the following comparison of newsletters and Facebook updates: “You get a lot more information in newsletters than on Facebook. Facebook to me is more just a general one-liner about something that’s going on versus a newsletter that contains content and details on a variety of topics and subjects.”


1. Custora E-Commerce Customer Acquisition Snapshot, Q2 2013

2. Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D., is a User Advocate and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group which he co-founded with Dr. Donald A. Norman (former VP of research at Apple Computer).

3. Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D.


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