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Email Delivery Best Practices


These two Email Service Providers (ESPs) are as different as they can be.

Aweber is primarily an auto-responder service, enewsletter service second. To take advantage of all its features, you really need to be familiar with some Internet technologies, such as HTML, FTP and RSS.

If your intention is to self-publish a company newsletter, then Constant Contact is a better choice (not the best choice, though, but read on). They have an extensive library of ezine templates which can be customized relatively easily. CC provides hosting space for a small number of images, and more can be purchased. Aweber does not offer image hosting, so images need to be uploaded to your web site or blog – by FTP, for example.

When sending HTML emails, such as newsletters and e-flyers, it is advisable to also send a plain text version along with it, for people who prefer to read text-only emails, or their email programs don’t support HTML, or HTML is blocked by the company firewall. If you’re using one of Constant Contact’s many templates, the system generates the TXT version for you. With Aweber you need to manually create the TXT version which can become tedious quickly. However, a tool such as Premailer can help with that, however your HTML ezine needs to be hosted on your web site for this tool to work.

If you plan to publish several different email newsletters, and collect subscribers online, then Aweber provides an easier way, as you can have separate sign up forms for each list (newsletter). Aweber also offers pop up sign up forms, which have been proved to be very effective. Also, in terms of user experience during the sign up process, Aweber offers more choices as you can direct subscribers to different pages on your site, for example to deliver a sign up bonus or freebie.

Constant Contact would be a better choice if you already have an existing list of subscribers, or clients, which you can import into your account. Ideally you would import only people you know would be interested in receiving your newsletters, and have given you permission (either electronically or in person). When importing any number of contacts into an Awber account they are automatically sent a so-called “confirmation” email. This email contains a link each individual contact must click to give you permission to send them additional messages. This process can sometimes decimate your list, even ones which contain previously confirmed contacts. With Constant Contact, it’s up to you if you want to send your contacts this message, or you can confirm them “softly” over time, by including a “reminder” at the top of each email you send them. When a confirmation message is sent, you can not send your contact ANY more messages until they click on the confirmation link.

If it’s important for you to get detailed reports on opens and click-throughs, CC comes ahead of Aweber again. CC offers a very detailed report on how many people were sent an email, how many (and which ones) were opened, who click on which links, and how many times, who forwarded your email to a friend, etc. Aweber (in its basic package) offers limited reporting capabilities, to get the similar reporting to Constant Contact’s you need to upgrade your account.

If you’re looking for a system to easily create and send email newsletters and e-flyers, consider MadMimi instead of Constant Contact, as it’s much easier to use, at about half the price.

For a full-featured, yet easy to use auto-responder and newsletter publishing system I know use and recommend iContact.

Category : Boris Recommends | E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email Design | Email List Building | Email List Management | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Tracking and Split Testing | Tracking Email Opens | Blog

I know statistics can be a royal bore, but there’s this one piece of statistical information you really should pay attention to — your email campaign bounce rates.

Regardless of which Email Service Provider (ESP) you’re using, you should be able to see bounces. Ideally, you’d like to see them at zero, but realistically, if you try to keep them to a minimum, say 1-2%, you should be OK. If you are 5% or more, and your list is in the thousands and/or you send emails frequently, you may be digging a hole for your email campaigns.

You may think this is not a big deal, but it actually is very much so. Big ISPs such as Yahoo, AOL, Sympatico may label you as a spammer if you repeatedly try sending emails to non-existing (expired, mistyped, etc) addresses. This is because it may appear to them as a typical spammer practice of “dictionary attacks”.

Those bounced email addresses are “dead meat” and should be removed promptly. Sometimes your ESP may give you false positives, so generally you don’t want to remove an address the first time it bounces, but after the second or third time it’s probably safe to assume the address is no longer active and should be removed, or at least moved to a separate list.

If you normally send HTML emails, you may want to try sending a text-only version to see if you can get through to some of those bounced email addresses. Simply move (or segment) all your blocked addresses to a new list then mark all of these as “text-only”. Next time you send a promotion these contacts will only receive a text-only email – this may be enough to bypass their ISP’s spam filters (some block all HTML email). If they still bounce, they are history.

If you have resources available, you can have staff or a VA go over the bounces and check for spelling errors, obvious typos (simpatico vs. sympatico, or aolcom vs. aol.com, yahoo!.com vs. yahoo.com) and other ways of identifying the errors.

If the address appears valid, and you see it belongs to an active client, you may want to contact them by conventional means (postal mail, phone, fax) to check if they’ve moved and changed email addresses. All these can be automated to some extent (e.g. voice mail broadcast).

Your email marketing list is an important business asset and should be tended to on a regular basis.

Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Management | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Managing Email | Tracking Email Opens | Blog

Although this one seems obvious, unfortunately the situation is far from being clear and simple.

It is one thing to follow the law and obey all the rules, but ultimately spam is in the eyes of the beholder! This means it is your audience, your subscribers who are the judge and jury and executioner who have the last word on the issue of spam.

In this case, power truly is in the hands of the people!

These days, it’s not so much the content of your emails that’s going to trigger spam filters, it’s your reputation as a sender. That’s why it’s imperative to keep your name and web site domain clean.

Don’t be tempted to send emails to a list you obtained from a friend, and send an email “blast” to them. This will definitely land you in the dog house.

To avoid being labeled as a spammer: deliver content that you promised. That means content that is relevant to your audience.

If you say “sign up for my ezine to learn how to get rid of fear of dentists” don’t send them articles on effective anaesthetic procedures your dentist just introduced, or if you provide reviews of fine-art books in your e-newsletter, then don’t talk about music or architecture.

Sending relevant content will improve your reputation and your response rate!

Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email Marketing | Small Business Marketing | Blog

Using an Email Service Provider instead of your PC to send your email marketing messages. Here are some reasons why this is a good ideaL

  • Sending email is all ESPs do – email is their livelihood and they will do their utmost to help you deliver your email.
  • Turn on the double opt in option if it’s not already so. This will provide you with a clean list of active email addresses, whose owners are actually interested in hearing from you.
  • Use the spam test option that’s usually built in – ask your ESP about it.
  • Remove bounced addresses promptly – ISPs like Yahoo, MSN, EarthLink, for example, will punish you for repeatedly trying to send to an non-existing address. Many ESPs do this automatically for you.
  • Give your subscribers a choice of receiving HTML or PLAIN TEXT emails.

Most of these tasks are done automatically, behind the scenes by your ESP.

Recommended Toolkit: Email Service Providers that I use and recommend are Aweber, GetResponse and 1ShoppingCart  which also have auto-responder services. For simple and easy e-mail newsletters, I recommend ConstantContact.

Category : Email Delivery Best Practices | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Blog

The Can-SPAM act is in force in the US (other laws in other countries, but if your Email Service Provider is doing business in the US, and/or your email subscribers reside in the US, than your email marketing also must be CAN-SPAM compliant!)

In short:

  • Subject lines must clearly and conspicuously identify advertisement or solicitation. In other words, the subject line must be indicative of the actual content of your email.
  • A valid electronic return address working for at least 30 days
  • A postal address (P.O. box is OK) must appear – add a phone number as a best practice
  • Must provide an opt-out mechanism for subscribers. Instructions for opting out must be clear and conspicuous and honoured within 10 business days.
  • Don’t falsify or obscure the real sender.
  • Don’t “harvest” email addresses from the Internet.
Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Building | Email Marketing | Blog

You can avoid being labelled as a spammer if you ask yourself the following questions:

Do I Have Permission to Send Email?

On your web site, collect visitors’ email address and first name, in exchange for a free report (white paper/worksheet/check list/Q&A/10 Top Tips). Use a double opt-in process, so you can have a clean list of people who:

  • are really interested
  • have white-listed your email address (helps deliverability)
  • provided a live email address.

On or near your sign up form, have a link to your privacy policy, better yet, have a one sentence summary of the policy displayed on the form.

If you intend to collect more than email and first name, you will get fewer people signing up. As a general rule, the more “required” fields on a sign up form, the lower the sign up rate. You may ask questions that may not be considered private, such as “When are you planning to buy xyz?”

On the sign up form, tell your prospects exactly what to expect, i.e. a special report in PDF immediately after confirming the email address, then a weekly/biweekly/monthly newsletter with such and such content. Be as detailed as you can. Providing a sample of the newsletter may also help to clearly define expectations of the kind of content they can expect.

Do I Follow Email Deliverability Best Practices?

Use a reputable Email Service Provider (ESP). Don’t fall into the trap of doing the email sending in-house. Aweber, GetResponse, iContact, or MadMimi and other ESPs do this all day, and they make sure your emails get delivered.

Your ESP will also provide you with custom sign up forms (even unblockable pop-ups), and will provide your subscribers the ability to manage their own subscription (change email address, un-subscribe, change preferences/lists, etc.)

An ESP can provide data on how many emails were delivered, opened, how many subscribers clicked on any links in your email, etc.

Is the Email I am Sending Relevant?

With people’s in boxes bursting with junk, spam, and regular email, being compliant with the law is not a guarantee that your emails won’t be labelled as spam.

These days, spam is in the eyes of the beholder, in other words, even your double opt-in, confirmed subscribers may click the dreaded spam button if they feel that their expectations were not being met. To avoid this, state your publishing policy up front, provide samples, then once they subscribe, provide the content that is in line with their expectations.

Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Building | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Blog

Don’t buy or rent email lists, unless you know 110% that the company who offers such lists is kosher. If anyone offers you a list of 1 million emails for $99, or whatever price, run like crazy from them.

Same applies to joining online list services, such as YourLuckyListThe List Machine and ListDotCom. Although they promise you access to thousands of “subscribers” I have a feeling that those thousands of people are there for the same reason you are – to offer their stuff to you – so they won’t be so responsive to your offers. That’s just my experience, you’re free to give them a try – let me know how you do, please.

My philosophy behind email marketing is – relationships – and the only way to build a relationship is if you build your own list. But, you see, building your own list doesn’t necessarily mean you have to build it yourself, alone. You can team up with others, for example with someone who offers a service or product which is complimentary to yours, and do some kind of join venture with them.

Category : Driving Traffic to Your site | E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Building | Email List Management | Email Marketing | Small Business Marketing | Blog

Programs such as Outlook, Eudora, Thunderbird or online email services such as Yahoo, or Hotmail are not to be used. They may be free to use, but will not give you all the options you might like to have, and besides, may also be unlawful, depending on your country’s anti-spam laws, if any.

Most Internet Service Providers, and most online email services limit the number of recipients that you can use in any single email message. Usually that number is around 20, or so, and it varies widely from ISP to ISP. This means that, depending on the size of your list, it may take you several sends to complete the “blast”. Although this may be acceptable if you have a list of 50 or so people, anything beyond that will be impractical.

If you’re using your own email program to send your e-newsletter you don’t, for the most part, have no idea what happens to your beautiful creation once it leaves your computer. You don’t really know if your audience receives your messages, if they open them, if they click on any links that are included in the content, etc.

If you’re really strapped for cash, and have a small list I can recommend this new Email Service Provider called MadMimi. Their service is free for lists under 100 subscribers.

Last word on using your own email program: if you have to use it, please, remember to use the BCC: field for your recipients. BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy, and it simply means your recipients will not see each other’s names and email addresses.

Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email Design | Email List Management | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Small Business Marketing | Blog

I get this kind of question a lot, and also see it posted on online forums hosted by various ESPs. The questions is: “Should I resend an email (ezine, offer, solo mailing) to my whole list or only to those that have not opened (or responded to) the original send?” Immediately following this question is: “How do I do that?”

I will leave the “Why?” for you to answer, because it will be different to different people. If you send your ezine once a week, then I’d say “Probably no”, but if you send it once a month, I’d advise you to resend perhaps 2 weeks after the original send.

With special offers and solo mailings, it will be different, too. These types of emails are more aggressive in nature, so you may want to consider resending these more often than you would a regular ezine.

In this short article I am going to give you the “How”: specific instructions on how to create a temporary list of subscribers who haven’t opened an email. This technique will work with any Email Service Provider system that shows you exactly which email addresses were registered as “opens”, but I will use Constant Contact as an example. If you’d like instructions on how to do this in 1ShoppingCart, email me.

This technique works in general, when you want to re-send an email campaign to a list, but exclude those subscribers who have previously opened or clicked on a link.

  • Create a duplicate of your existing list, name it “Resend xyz” where “xyz” stands for the name of your email that you’d like to resend, e.g. “Resend C2C.v2.14” would stand for “Contacts2Clients Volume 2. Issue 14.”
    If you have several lists, create the new one by merging your list. This list will now contain addresses of all your subscribers to whom you sent the original email.
  • In Constant Contact, go to Emails > Reports, then click on the number of “opens” for your original send. This will display a list of subscribers. At the bottom of the list click the button that reads “Save as List.” Name your new list “Opened xyz.”
  • go to Contacts > Export. In the Contact List drop down menu select “Opened xyz” list, then export it in either CSV or TXT format, it doesn’t matter. This will create a file called export.csv in your download folder on your computer (most likely on your desktop)
  • Locate this file on your PC and rename it “Opened xyz.csv”
  • Back to Constant Contact. Remove the subscribers who have already opened your email campaign by selecting the “Resend xyz” list and then upload the file “Opened xyz.csv” from your PC (follow this click-path Contacts > Manage Contacts > Remove)

This way your new, temporary list “Resend xyz” will contain only those subscribers who have not previously opened your original email campaign.

Use this list to resend your email campaign, then delete it. If you intend to resend several times, then rename the “Resend xyz” list as “opened” and remove the “new” openers from it. Each time you do it, the list will get smaller and smaller.

Things to Keep in Mind When Resending Your Emails

  • How often do you normally send your emails?
  • Are your subscribers used to seeing resends in their in boxes?
  • Are you going to antagonize some subscribers who didn’t open your email in the first place, because the subject line wasn’t enticing enough?
  • Should you also change the subject line?

You see, there are so many variables, and things to consider, and we’re out of time and space, as I am trying to keep this last issue of 2007 a short one.

Bonus TIP:
Before doing any “open heart surgery” on your lists, save a backup copy of your active subscribers to your computer.

Copyright 2007 by Boris Mahovac – Your Ezine Coach

Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Management | Email Service Providers | Small Business Marketing | Tracking and Split Testing | Tracking Email Opens | Blog

Moving to double opt-in is a good idea, but you have to be careful how you implement it, otherwise you may end up inadvertently decimating your list!

Although the following instructions are specific to Constant Contact, the principle is applicable to other Email Service Providers that use a similar approach to handling single vs. double opt-in.

I recommend using what I call a “soft confirm” approach. Here’s how it works:

  1. Log in to your account.
  2. Turn on “Confirmed Opt-in” under the My Settings tab.
  3. Once this is set, start including a “Permission Reminder” at the top of your emails.

This will allow your subscribers to confirm their intention to receive your messages. The beauty of this approach is that you can still send emails to all of your subscribers, both confirmed and non-confirmed. Ideally, once your whole list is double opt-in, you will start enjoying a higher deliverability rate, because your account will be “upgraded” behind the scenes, and you emails will be delivered by top-tier servers which are ranked higher with major ISPs.

This way you will confirm your subscribers “softly”, over time, and switching to double opt-in will not cause you to lose any subscribers.

Alternatively – and I wouldn’t recommend you use this approach unless you’re 100% sure what the consequences might be – you could send your subscribers a “confirmation email”. This is a special kind of email, generated by Constant Contact. Once this email is sent you can’t send any more email to the same subscriber until s/he confirms. This can, potentially, be a very dangerous tactic. Let me explain.

Let’s say your open rate is an average 35%. This means, if your confirmation email gets opened by 35% of your subscribers, that’s the most you can expect to have confirm. In other words, if you start with a list of 1,000 subscribers, you may end up with a list thats only 1/3 the size of the original.

Most likely, some, if not most, of the other 650 subscribers would have been happy to continue to receive your emails, but they will be cut off. You wouldn’t want that to happen, now, would you?

There is one instance, however, when you’d want to send a confirmation email to a subset of your subscribers. If you’re doing your list maintenance on a regular basis, you will have a sub list of subscribers who never open your email messages. After a while – you decide if it’s going to be after 3 months of inactivity or 6 weeks or whatever – you may want to prune your list of these “dead” leads.

This is especially important with ESPs such as Constant Contact who charge you by the size of your list, or some others, such as Vertical Response, who charge you by each email sent. In any case, you may want to decide to get rid of the subscribers who are non-responsive, and one way of doing that is to create a sub-list containing those email addresses and sending them, and only them, a confirmation email.

In your confirmation email you can say something like: “You have been a subscriber to my ezine for a number of months. However, my records show that you have not opened a single message in the last 3 months. If you’re still interested in receiving then [call to action]”

Mind you, those open statistics your ESP is showing are not 100% accurate. They do not account for people who receive your emails in text format, because those cannot be tracked. Also, people who have image display turned off also won’t show up in your statistics, so bear that in mind when you go pruning!

Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Management | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Blog