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Using a Blog as an Email Sponsorship Ad Server

Monday, November 08, 2010

One of the great things about FeedBlitz's blog to email automation is that it can incorporate other feeds into the mailing using the <$Feed$> tag in the Advanced Template Editor.

Recently we used that tag to deliver a simple, easy to manage email sponsorship ad server powered by a WordPress blog - the approach will work well using any blogging system, so even if you don't use WP, do read on.

The Challenge: Easy to Manage Sponsor Ads

A client's web designer let us know that the client had recently successfully sold advertising directly, which was great. How could FeedBlitz ensure these ads showed up in the email? Normally we say that you include the ad image and link directly in the template.

However, the designer wanted something that did not involve the blogger having to learn about the advanced template editor or spend time working in it just to change the ad. It was too complicated for just this simple task. There were open source ad servers that could be used instead, but that was yet another learning curve to climb and software to install. What else could we do?

Solution: A Dedicated Ad Blog Included in the Template

The solution was to create a new blog where each post held the sponsor's ad. The blogger is more than capable of inserting the ad and its link into the "ad blog" so that solved the ease of use requirement. Each post in the ad blog is just the ad itself, linked to wherever it should go. Very easy.

We incorporated the ad into the mailing using the <$Feed$> tag in the advanced template editor, restricting the feed to a single entry (the current ad, in other words). We only included the post itself (because the ad was in the post, remember), so the new code in the advanced template editor was basically this:

<$Feed=[the URL of the ad blog's RSS feed] count=1><$BlogPosting$><$BlogItemBody$><$BlogPosting$><$Feed$>

This code pulled only the top ad from the feed (count=1 limits the number of entries pulled). The ad and its link, which are in the post itself, are inserted by the <$BlogItemBody$> tag. The <$BlogPosting$> tags are "control tags" that tell FeedBlitz when to start inserting feed items; they disappear in the final mailing.

We floated this off to the right of the text in the template and it worked great! Done and done.

Stats, Categories and Scheduling

Working this way had other advantages beyond having minimal learning curves and no new software or services.

By enabling open and click through tracking, the blogger can see how many impressions were generated and the click through report tells her how many folks interacted with the ad itself.

By using category feeds from the source ad blog, tagging each ad post properly, and using the category feed URL in the <$Feed$> tag, we ended up using the same blog to power different ads in the same template. We simply used a different category feed URL in each location where each type of ad should appear.

And by using scheduling, the blogger can line up different sponsors in the future as they come on board, just by scheduling the posts containing their ads. As the blog's scheduler publishes the new post to her blog (i.e. the new ad goes live), the email automatically switches over to the new ads when they are sent.

The Bottom Line

The client gets a trivially managed min-ad server for her email, powered by her familiar blogging application, tracked and displayed by FeedBlitz's uniquely powerful email marketing automation templates.

The designer doesn't have to worry about the blogger accidentally breaking her beautifully crafted email template.

It's the proverbial win-win.

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