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Stamps.com Blog

Get the latest information on the mailing and shipping industry.

What’s the ZIP Plus-Four for?

March 17th, 2017 Comments off

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You may have noticed the extra appendage of numbers added to a ZIP code called the plus-four, ZIP + 4, or add-on code. What is it for? The USPS considers the five-digit ZIP plus those additional four digits to be the most complete kind of delivery code. Introduced in 1983, the plus-four is a helpful ally in the ongoing drive for even more efficient delivery and sorting.

What do the numbers mean? 

What is the breakdown of the plus-four and what do the numbers mean? The first two numbers of the plus-four identify the larger area known as the sector. The last two identify the segment. Segment and sector are actually terms that identify very specific geographical areas that pinpoint more than just a numbered house on a street. As explained at this USPS source, “the final four digits identify geographic units such as a side of a street between intersections, both sides of a street between intersections, a building, a floor or group of floors in a building, a firm within a building, a span of boxes on a rural route, or a group of Post Office boxes to which a single USPS employee makes delivery.” It can also identify an individual high-volume receiver of mail.

The plus-fours and Stamps.com

The good news is that the guesswork is gone when it comes to using Stamps.com. Our software can help the USPS expedite the sorting and routing of the mail, ensuring that your recipient is not waiting for too long for your shipment. The Stamps.com software will apply the plus-four automatically for you as part of the Address Matching System (AMS) cleansing process. After you enter an address in the delivery address box, and click on Print Sample or Print Postage, Stamps.com will first have your address checked against the AMS.

You can modify your AMS settings within the software. You can do this by going to File and then Preferences in the main menu on the top of the software. Then, click on the Address tab. Here you can move the AMS slider. Setting it to “High” will always add the plus-four to your delivery address. The levels of “Medium” and “Low” will generate alerts for you when the plus-four cannot be verified. The plus-four is important!

Categories: Letter Mailing Tags:

How Are Stamps Made?

March 10th, 2017 Comments off

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Last year, 12 billion postage stamps were sold to customers across the United States. These billions of stamps bear a wide variety of images, ranging from seashells and coastal birds to Jimi Hendrix and Wonder Woman. Ever wonder how images are selected for use on postage stamps? Ever hope that your art could appear someday on a postage stamp?

Sending in a Proposal

The first thing to know is that stamp proposals are reviewed in confidential meetings by the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC). Appointed by the Postmaster General, members of the committee include authors, designers, historians, and philatelists. The good news is that the CSAC is open to suggestions! A general guideline is that potential subjects should reflect, commemorate and celebrate the American experience—think monuments like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis or subjects like the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona.

Proposals must be mailed in and are ultimately approved by the Postmaster General. Need further steps on how to send in a proposal? Check this out: https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/csac/process.htm

If you’re a professional designer, artist, illustrator or photographer, and want to work with the Stamp Development Team design staff, this link may interest you: https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/csac/artwork.htm. The design staff accepts portfolios of your professional work, but do not send an actual stamp design proposal.

 Custom Stamps

The review process for approving new USPS postage stamps is thorough, so if your idea or artwork is approved, it can take a few years to see it on a USPS postage stamp.

Don’t want to wait that long? Stamps.com offers two products that may interest you! With Custom NetStamps, you can add your image or artwork to them and add postage of various denominations, either all at once or on demand, by feeding them through your printer. Custom NetStamps combine the flexibility and functionality of our popular NetStamps product.

Our PhotoStamps are our personalized postage product. They are shipped to you with the postage already printed on them, so all you have to do is peel and stick! They are great for special occasions such as weddings or holidays, and make great gifts.

For further information on Custom NetStamps and PhotoStamps, check out this link:

https://stamps.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/409/kw/Custom%20NetStamps

Categories: Letter Mailing Tags:

Free Guide: How to Send Certified Mail

March 3rd, 2017 Comments off

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Do you need to send something important, and need a way to know when it safely arrives at its destination? Using USPS Certified Mail provides both proof of mailing and proof of receipt to help ensure your important mailpieces, including confidential documents, arrive at their intended destinations. Certified Mail comes in handy when you need to send communications containing sensitive information, and is often used for correspondence from law offices, accountants, debtors, creditors, and medical professionals.

If you want to learn the ins and outs of using this special USPS service, check out Stamps.com’s new downloadable eBook, “How to Send Certified Mail.” This comprehensive guide will help you understand how to securely send important items using USPS.

download-PDF

This guide answers the following questions:

  • What is Certified Mail?
  • How much does Certified Mail cost?
  • How long does it take to deliver Certified Mail?
  • What is a Return Receipt and how do I use it?
  • How do I track Certified Mail delivery?
  • How do I use Certified Mail with Stamps.com?
  • Plus much more
Categories: Letter Mailing Tags:

The Lowdown on Parcel Lockers

February 23rd, 2017 Comments off

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You’re tracking a mailpiece and the status shows “Delivered/Parcel Locker.” What does that mean?  This could mean that your recipient is using a cluster box unit (CBU) or an outdoor parcel locker (OPL).

You’ve probably seen CBUs in your neighborhood, either in a free-standing, pedestal-mounted configuration outside of a building, or mounted on the wall of the lobby of an apartment complex. They may have decorative tops, or appear in a standard rectangular configuration. They could be arranged vertically or horizontally, have eight individual mailboxes, or maybe 16.

All of them accomplish the same thing: they provide centralized mail delivery for the USPS. And because they bring down costs and increase efficiency, cluster box units and parcel lockers are increasingly favored by the USPS over traditional door-to-door delivery.

Outdoor parcel lockers also come in different shapes, sizes, and configurations. Shared by tenants of a building, a USPS-approved OPL allows mailers to conveniently receive large packages from the USPS in a secure and locked receptacle. OPLs reduce the inefficiency that comes with multiple delivery attempts when a package doesn’t fit into a standard mailbox.

The Lowdown on Lockers

Keep in mind too that the delivery status of “Delivered/Parcel Locker” may change depending on the type of locker it is: the status could refer to a third-party locker service (e.g. “Delivered/Partner Parcel Locker”) or to an Amazon Parcel Locker, which allows Amazon.com customers to pick up (and also return) a package from a special location (such as a supermarket) after receiving an email alert and a special pickup code.

USPS gopost

Besides Amazon Lockers and third-party electronic package lockers, there is another alternative provided directly by the USPS: gopost self-service kiosk units. These are great for mailers who are out of town or who do not want packages directly shipped to their homes.

The gopost service is convenient: if you live in an apartment building, you can avoid having your large packages sitting outside your door or next to your mailbox for a long period of time. Gopost offers security and peace of mind

Even better, the gopost service can be used to ship packages. For example, you could also buy a gift for a loved one at a shopping center and ship it out via a gopost locker. This is a situation in which Stamps.com can help!

How does it work? If you want to mail a package via a locker, it needs to have prepaid postage with an embedded barcode. Stamps.com, as a PC Postage service, is your complete mailing and shipping solution, and using Stamps.com postage is a USPS-approved method of creating postage for a gopost locker!

Categories: Shipping Tags:

The ABCs of SEO

February 17th, 2017 Comments off

Understanding SEO

 

Looking for more online exposure for your ecommerce business? Then you ought to be paying attention to search engine optimization (SEO). By helping search engines understand your site and what you’re selling, SEO in return does a better job of listing your site when certain terms come up in user searches.

Because an A-to-Z review of this topic would fill a book, here’s an abbreviated look at how SEO works, and how it can work for you.

  • A is for Algorithm. Search engines can’t think, but they can generate a list of the sites that they perceive to be the best hits for certain words.
  • C is for Content. Naturally, you’re going to make sure each page of your site takes full advantage of SEO. But what happens when visitors come to your page, and you no longer carry the item they’re looking for or are out of stock? Review every page of your site regularly to make sure shoppers don’t reach dead ends. If you don’t have the products they’re looking for, update listings with the expected date you’ll be able to fulfill orders, or offer alternative products to keep them engaged on your site.
  • K is for Keyword Research. When you understand the terminology your potential customers are plugging into search engines, the better you’re able to plug the same words onto your site. Think of keywords as shortcuts that sum up each page’s content.
  • L is for Longtail. Longtail keywords are SEO phrases that contain three or more words, and they account for 70 percent of searches. Longtails allow shoppers to be specific; for example, instead of searching for “doll,” they can narrow their results to “vintage rag doll.”
  • R is for Rank. Sure, your site may come up in a search, but is it on the first page? Better yet, is at or near the top of the first page? Recent data shows that the first hit on a page garners 32.5 percent of traffic; the second hit is a distant 17.6 percent and the numbers go downhill from there. Your goal is to keep your site ranked high, and that means reviewing your SEO keywords regularly.
  • T is for Technology. Nowadays, third-party apps and tools make it easy to come up with search words with minimal manual input. Use these services, but don’t let them be a substitute for your personal expertise or good old common sense.
  • U is for Unique. Search engines don’t like identical content from different sites. If your products come to you directly from a manufacturer, resist copying the original product information. Rewriting product descriptions and infusing them with your personal touch can help keep your listings unique and your site’s rank high.
  • V is for Volume. This is the data in your stats that measures average monthly searches. This information can help you assess whether the SEO terms you’re using are yielding the best results.
Categories: Small Business Marketing Tags:

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