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42 entries from July 2007

Email Campaign Performance Metrics

A recent study by the Email Experience Council highlighted the lack of standardization around Email definitions and metrics and found that inconsistency in these areas makes it difficult for marketers to manage and improve upon their campaigns and/or e-newsletters. That's why the IAB created a document that aims to guide marketers and vendors towards more consistency in what the current email terminology actually describes.

The proposed terms below represent the metric as a "snapshot" of, or at a "moment in time" within, a particular campaign.

Basic Definitions

These words and phrased are used throughout the proposed terms below and, as such, it may be helpful to refer to them prior to or during further review.

  • Bounce: An Email that cannot be delivered to the mailbox provider and is sent back to the Email Service Provider that sent it. A bounce is classified as either "hard" or "soft." Hard bounces are the failed delivery of Email due to a permanent reason, such as a non-existent address. Soft bounces are the failed delivery of Email due to a temporary issue, such as a full inbox or an unavailable ISP server.
  • Email Service Provider (ESP): A business or organization that provides the Email campaign delivery technology. ESPs may also provide services for marketing, advertising and general communication purposes.
  • Inbox: Within a mailbox provider, the default, primary folder that stores delivered Email messages.
  • ISP: A business or organization that providers internet access, and related services, to consumers.
  • "Junk" or "Bulk" Email Folder: An inbox-alternative folder, within a mailbox provider, that stores Email messages that are, for various reasons or rationale, unable to be delivered to the inbox.
  • Mailbox Provider: The Email program, and by extension the server, that hosts the targeted Email address.
  • Preview Pane: A small window within a mailbox provider that allows the user to view some Email content without opening the Email.

Continue reading "Email Campaign Performance Metrics" »

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Ask Your Reader What They Consider Relevant

You know that your email communications need to be relevant to the interests of your readers. But how can you discover what information they consider relevant? Open and click-through rates give you some idea, but that's only part of the story. There's only one way to get the specific feedback you need from your readers: ask them.

Asking your readers for their feedback on your email communications will give you valuable insights that help you achieve better results including more sales, additional website visitors, and higher open and click-through rates. You will also show your contacts that you are interested in what they think-that you understand your email communications are about them (not you).

The simplest way to get detailed feedback that is easy to evaluate is to send a brief online survey.

When you prepare your survey, think about what aspects of your email communications you want feedback on. Then, think about the questions you need to ask to get the insights that can help you make improvements.

Here are some key areas to focus on:

Overall satisfaction
Before you get into the details of your email communications, start out with a general question that gets a "gut" reaction from your contacts. Here's an example: "On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, how do you rate our newsletter?"

Most valued sections
Understanding what your readers value most in your current emails will help you focus your energy and effort. If there is a section of your emails that your readers don't find helpful, you may want to remove that section. If there is an area you find they really enjoy, you can explore ways to expand it and make it even better.

What you're doing right-and what you can improve
This is perhaps the most important information you can gain from your online survey. Ask your contacts how the newsletter helps them, what they appreciate most about receiving it-and why. In a different question, ask them what you could do to improve your newsletter. When these types of questions are open ended, your contacts have the opportunity to share their valuable thoughts with you, in their own words.

Continue reading "Ask Your Reader What They Consider Relevant" »

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links for 2007-07-15

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An Update on Blacklists

According to Al Iverson, Spamhaus has really taken the place as the leader at the forefront of the spam blacklist movement. Their lists are still widely used and anybody on the business end of a Spamhaus listing will find significant negative deliverability issues as a result. Al's own testing shows that the Spamhaus lists are very accurate, block much spam, while very rarely (if ever) impacting legitimate mail, and I suspect many large ISPs use the Spamhaus lists for this very reason.

Other lists that are used less often but may still impact your ability to deliver mail are NJABL and SORBS. NJABL (“Not Just Another Bogus List”) is usually known for being responsibly run and is used by a significant number of sites to block mail. SORBS is a more aggressively run list from Australia. It may not always be easy to resolve a SORBS listing. These are the ones Al recommends checking, as far as IP-based blacklists (DNSBLs) are concerned.

He also recommends checking your “from” domain, bounce domain, image link and redirector domains on the two Domain/URL based blacklists: SURBL and URIBL. You can check both of those here: http://www.rulesemporium.com/cgi-bin/uribl.cgi

Note that if somebody is a B2C sender with an average list composition, then blacklists shouldn’t be your biggest worry. Blocking by the top ISPs (AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, Juno, Earthlink, etc.) is generally more likely to cause greater issues, or happen more often, than a third-party blacklisting of a sender’s IP address.

Anybody working with an ESP to send their mail should ask their ESP what they are doing to monitor, discover, and resolve blacklist issues.

Source: Email Insider

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links for 2007-07-10

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What's the Difference Between a Hard and Soft Bounce and How Do You Tell Them Apart?

Simply put, a bounce is a notice from the receiving ISP or domain that the email you attempted to send has not been delivered. Knowing that much can help assess general campaign performance, but it doesn't begin to tell you how to improve your results or give you the information needed to manage your list or rectify the practices that may have caused the bounce in the first place. You need to drill down into your hard and soft bounces for those answers.

The ISPs and other domains return a code and text message to the sender when an email isn't delivered. What's commonly termed a hard bounce tells you that the reason for non-delivery is due to a permanent condition, whereas a soft bounce indicates that the condition is probably temporary. You may encounter a soft bounce when a customer's mailbox is full due to vacation or even when a domain is temporarily not accepting mail because of technical problems. A soft bounce is telling you the email address is probably good but that delivery can't be completed right now. You should try sending again at a later date.

But don't assume the opposite is true with a hard bounce. A hard bounce does not automatically signify a bad (undeliverable) record that shouldn't be attempted again later on. Unlike the postal world where returned mail clearly equates to an undeliverable address, such as 'moved, left no forwarding address,' a hard bounce in email can mean many things. For instance, some hard bounces, such as a spam block, tell you that the record should not be re-tried until the underlying practice problem has been addressed. Others may relate to your technical infrastructure, such as your DNS, authentication protocol or sending speed. And still other hard bounces, such as an unknown user, signify that the record is truly undeliverable, and should be corrected or invalidated and replaced.

Without visibility into the reasons for their bounces, email marketers risk invalidating good records while keeping bad, and not addressing the underlying practice deficiencies that imperil their email deliverability, brand reputations, and bottom lines.

Source: Multichannel Merchant

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There's a War Going On!

The bidding war is raging! It seems that there are 3 parties that are competing for the right to post their banner on my blog for 1 month. The auction has had 138 page views so far and Mel-Black-Widow is the highest bidder right now with $81 and he/she seems eager to win :)

There are only a couple more hours to go (the auction ends today at 11.15am PDT / 2.15pm EST / 8.15pm CET) and I find myself refreshing the page all the time - it's sooo addictive! I will be at the airport at the time the auction ends, so let's hope I can log on to the wireless network in the last few minutes of the auction, because that's when the bidding usually goes crazy! :)

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Support for Animated GIFs in HTML Emails

The folks at Campaign Monitor tested the support for animated gifs in all email clients and found that all but Outlook 2007 support them. "Outlook 2007 displays the first frame of the GIF as a static image. So if your first frame works as a static image, you are in good shape", says Mark Wyner.

Mark also provides some helpful tips regarding the use of animated gifs:

  • If you use animated images to tell a story, ensure everyone gets the message. Consider those with low or no visibility, slow connections and those who pay per kilobyte on their mobile devices.
  • Blinking, strobing or streaking text or graphics sucked in 1999 and they suck now, too. Leave the annoying animations behind.
  • Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
  • Be creative. Just as any tool in web design, we can use animated GIFs to enhance our message in non-invasive ways.

Source: Campaign Monitor

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DMA and Email Experience Council Join Forces

The Direct Marketing Association hasn't always been considered a beacon of best email practices by everyone, but the influential organization is working to change that. Its decision to join forces with the Email Experience Council, expected to be announced today, is one indication.

According to DMA COO Ramesh Lakshmi-Ratan, the DMA will assume legal ownership of the EEC, a global professional organization focused on developing email and digital marketing best practices. The plan is for the DMA's current marketing related email group, the EMail Marketing Council to be folded into the EEC's operation, and take on the EEC name. Read more here.

Source: ClickZ

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links for 2007-07-07

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Email Marketer's Club: What's Going On?

On May 24th I started the Email Marketer's Club, a social network for email marketers across the globe. The idea was to create a place for like-minded people to socialize, discuss problems and opportunities and share ideas and experiences.

Today the club has 86 members from all continents (except Africa) and it's a nice mix of corporate email marketers and vendor/agency-side people. Members can post messages on the forum, write their own blog posts, send private messages to each other, create their own little subgroups (eg. email service providers, Belgian email marketers...) and lots more.

New members are joining every day, so make sure to drop by and join the conversation!

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New Search Engine for Email Marketing

Mark Brownlow just launched www.onlinemarketing.info - a search engine dedicated only to email marketing.

The search engine includes approximately 170 hand-picked, reputable and trustworthy sites known for offering serious/accurate information and/or services. Check it out here.

The concept is similar to the search functionality that has been available on this blog for quite some time, which allows you to search the content of this blog plus a (much smaller) number of related sites and blogs.

Thanks, Mark! Great job! :)

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Basic Email Marketing Metrics Explained

Open rates. Click-through rates. Conversions. Each metric tells you something about your email marketing program. Open rates measure such things as trust, effective subject lines, timing and frequency while click-through rates illustrate how effective such things as content, layout, offer and link placement are at reaching your audience. Conversions, whether requesting information or purchasing a product, demonstrate the effectiveness of an email marketing program.

Open rates and click-through rates by themselves can be misleading. To get a better understanding, lets take a look at each one individually.

Email Marketing Open Rate (OR)
OR = unique opens / total number of emails delivered

The total umber of emails delivered is the difference between number of emails sent and total number of bounces. So you may have sent out 10,000 emails, but 1,000 bounced so only 9,000 were actually delivered.

Lets say that there were 3,200 unique opens. Plug that into the equation and you get a 35 percent open rate.

Open rates, however, are misleading for 4 reasons:

  1. Preview Panes
  2. Blocked Images
  3. Delivery Issues
  4. Text Versions

Many email clients have a preview pane, and image blocking is a default setting. If the images remain blocked, even though a reader may be viewing the email, it will not count as an open because no image download took place to signal an open.

In terms of delivery, messages that are undeliverable, get filtered out as junk or caught in a SPAM queue do not generate a bounce message and are considered delivered. So in our example of 9,000 delivered, that number might only be 8,000. Now the open rate is 40 percent instead of 35.

Open rates may not include text versions either as there is no image associated with them. A text version is considered "open" when a link is clicked.

Though the above equation is the accepted definition of an open, not all marketers adhere to that definition. Some measure total opens instead of unique opens, leading to inflated open rates as a reader could open the email more than once. Others measure opens against total emails sent instead of emails delivered so bounces are counted.
 

Continue reading "Basic Email Marketing Metrics Explained" »

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Learning to Let Go: Be Very Careful with Confirmation Reminders

by Justin Premick

It's a common temptation: email addresses are entered into your form (or imported), sent the confirmation message… and then… Nothing. They sit there, pending. They haven't confirmed. And it's looking like they might not at all.

So the publisher starts thinking…

"What Can I Do to Get Them to Confirm?"
This is a great question to ask — before subscribers fill out your form, or even before they come to your website at all. The trouble starts when you ask this question after someone submits your opt-in form. This can send you down a path that, while often well-intentioned, leads straight to email deliverability hell.

Al Iverson points out an example of how an organization that many would consider to be reputable — a veterans' affairs site — have found their way out of the inbox and into the Spam folder by emailing people who didn't complete their registration.

Yes, It's an Extreme Case… These guys sent him at least five requests to complete his registration over the course of just one month. I don't think anyone who has ever asked us about sending a reminder had that in mind.

So how many reminders are too many?
Our view is, one "reminder" email is too many.

Simply put, too many problems arise when sending out email to unconfirmed subscribers, and while there's a chance you might not encounter any negative consequences, the benefit of this tactic is far outweighed by the potential costs to your email deliverability and to your reputation as a business.

So How Do I Get People to Confirm?
Focus on people who are interested and engaged with your campaign. And for the people who still don't confirm, let 'em go. As Iverson says, "The whole point of confirming is to validate them as a user, counting them as engaged, knowing they want your mail." If they're not confirming, they're not engaged. Focus on the ones who are engaged rather than wracking your brain over how to get marginally engaged people to click a link.

Source: AWeber

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How Fit Is Your Email Program? Take the Test!

The following best practices quiz has been developed within the context of a customer email program and is the starting point for any marketer interested in improving the health of its email program. All best practices go beyond legal matters to ethical issues of treating customers with respect for their preferences, but it's even more true of email marketing.

The Questions:

1. Stop contact to inactive addresses (no clicks/opens) within:
a) three months
b) six months
c) one year
d) never

2) Stop contact to addresses after how many soft bounces in a month:
a) one
b) two
c) three
d) four

3) If you choose to reconfirm opt-in status, after how many attempts should you stop:
a) one
b) two
c) three
d) four

4) Newly appended e-mail addresses should be:
a) mailed immediately
b) mailed in waves
c) added into regular contact cycle

5) Keep your customer unsubscribe rate below:
a) 0.2 percent of mail sent
b) 0.3 percent of mail sent
c) 0.4 percent of mail sent
d) 0.5 percent of mail sent

6) Keep your spam complaint rate below:
a) 0.2 percent of mail sent
b) 0.5 percent of mail sent
c) 1 percent of mail sent
d) 1.5 percent of mail sent

7) What minimum of data on proof of permission must be collected for each e-mail address you contact:
a) date/time of opt-in
b) source (URL, reply card, etc.)
c) IP address
d) A & B only
e) A & C only
f) all of the above

8) Do you send out differentiated welcome e-mails:
a) yes
b) no

9) Are you sending your e-mail through an authentication source:
a) yes
b) no

Take the quiz first, then click here to see how well your company’s practices align with what the industry experts had to say on key program guidelines; if you’re not on the same page, it’s a signal to conduct a deeper investigation into your entire program to identify weak spots.

Source: Target Marketing.

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"I don't recall signing up to receive this"

by Denise Cox

One of our clients, who of course practices permission email marketing, told me they received this message after a recent mailing of their newsletter:  "I don't recall signing up to receive this." They did the forensics and were able to provide the details to the individual regarding when they opted-in, but wanted to know if they should be concerned.

You can have all the correct and current permission in the world, but if you get an email like this it needs your immediate attention. For some reason you are not being recognised - which is one of the cornerstones for building successful relationships.

Review all aspects of your newsletter to see where the recognition process may be disconnecting:

  • The sign up process: Make sure there's not a long gap between when they sign up and when they first hear from you. For example, after they sign up, send them the most current edition of the newsletter so the subscriber is aware of what it looks like in the inbox.
  • The from and subject line: Are you clearly branded in the from field, is it the same branding as the newsletter itself? Don't have it come from a personal name if that name won't be immediately recognised by your subscribers. Check that your subject lines are not coming across as spammy.
  • In the content: Ensure you have why-you're-receiving-this text. At the most basic level it can be a general reminder at the opening of the newsletter (e.g. Thank you for signing up to our opt-in monthly newsletter.) Consider a segmentation process where upon the first mail the recipient receives from you has very specific details on why they're hearing from you, e.g. "You are receiving this because you gave us permission at the [specifics here] event to send our monthly newsletter to you."
  • In your embedded housekeeping text: Have a general detailed description about the newsletter and what you promise to provide in every edition. E.g. "You will receive this newsletter once a month, and it will contain information about our new [specifics here] releases, etc." This can be in the footer or in the subscription area of your newsletter.
  • In your unsubscribe process: Have a very easy unsubscribe. Permission isn't permanent, and relevance can change - recognise that and make it one-click easy to leave.

Source: Newsweaver

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Image Rendering: What is it and How to Deal with it

Rendering has been a hot topic in email marketing for most of 2007, but many of us still aren't sure exactly what it means or exactly how to deal with it. This is why Return Path ran a webinar last week on this very topic.

I encourage you to listen to the recording of the webinar. You can also flip through the slides without audio.

And, as a bonus, Return Path put together an Email Best Practices Image Suppression Checklist with information on how to combat and manage image suppression. Download it now.

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The Optimization Hierarchy

All creative optimization projects (whether for landing page, Web site, conversion, media, or search) begin with establishing priorities - starting with foundational elements and working up. This has also been referred to as the optimization hierarchy.

Here are some of the most desirable elements you'll want to achieve in your email optimization hierarchy, in ascending order of nuance.

  • Accessibility: Is the layout designed to meet delivery and rendering best-practices? Ensuring your email gets into the recipient's inbox is primary. Best practices and channel considerations are a useful guide, and there are a few definitive rules you can't break. But don't be guided by best practices alone. The nature of the channel is such that best practices are changing all the time. And what is best practice for one audience may not be for another audience, or another offer.
  • Usability: Is the layout aligned with the way in which recipients are expected to engage with the message? What is the logical path of the eye? For most messages, this means scanability. Do the calls-to-action fall quickly within the eye path, and are they salient?
  • Efficiency: Is the layout well-suited for rapid design and testing, or is it a custom one-time-use only that would require a complete redesign for subsequent uses and testing?
  • Appropriateness: Does the creative deliver the message, tone, and payoff for the intent of the email? Does the body header create a logical sequence from the subject line, or is it merely a reiteration? Is personalization, or lack thereof, appropriate? A broadcast, undifferentiated promotional offer, for example, might be cheapened by adding name personalization, whereas it's probably a requirement for a transactional "thank you" or welcome message.
  • Being Engaging: Are there interesting and unusual graphical elements that draw the eye and reader in, such as animated gifs, unique call-out treatments, or irresistible subject lines? Does it encourage the recipient to open, read, and click through?

Email creative is like marketing itself: equally art and science. Create an analytical framework, and the creativity will flow.

Source: Email Insider

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Why the Newspaper Industry Should Switch to Email

by Josh Nason

A newspaper must have an online presence to even be considered relevant. There has never been a more exciting time to be involved with media than now. There are so many opportunities to do something with all of the various methods of passing along information to the masses. Considering our society is so content-driven, newspapers have a distinct advantage over some of its competitors in that they’re always producing something new on a daily basis.

So why aren’t they using that advantage?

Money is a huge reason as newspaper publishers continue to struggle with how to translate the cash earned from someone plunking down two quarters for a physical paper to someone plunking down their butt and logging onto the online version. I’m not sure why this is such a confounding proposition, but very few newspaper outlets see the big picture. TV and radio have set the bar in terms of giving away free information as you can get the latest information from CNN.com or MSNBC.com within seconds of it happening, all for free. Newspapers have the same capability with a website and email list, yet many do it so poorly. Seemingly, there’s no effective online strategy and it doesn’t make any sense.

Advertising buttons are one way that Big Ink is trying to make some of this cash back they feel they’re losing by “giving away” news. In return, they get a cluttered site that somewhat resembles the outfield walls of a minor-league baseball park. While there is a price to be paid for getting information from trusted sources like your local paper, is it worth being bombarded to that extent? It’s symbolic of an industry struggling to grasp with itself.

So what’s the answer? Emails, of course!
 

Continue reading "Why the Newspaper Industry Should Switch to Email" »

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