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Have you noticed in Gmail that some URLs are clickable and some are not?

Recently, email marketers, and other people who are using this powerful marketing channel, started noticing that some URLs are working and some are not! What’s the mystery?

I sent a few test emails to my own Gmail account and here’s what one looks like in this screen shot:
Gmail ruins some text URLs

As you can see, links which contain a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, and no “www” are not functional links.

I don’t know if this is a deliberate “feature” or a bug in the Gmail web client, but as email marketers we need to be aware of this quirk, and find a workaround, which is actually simple: if you like to use some caps in your URLs for emphasis, all you need to do is add “www.” and they will work just fine.

Alternatively, you can use ALLCAPS.COM or onlylowercase.com and they should work as well.

This is only a problem in plain text emails, which email marketers usually use in auto-responders. If you’re using HTML to format your e-newsletter or other email marketing messages, all your links will work fine in Gmail.

Thanks to Denise Wakeman for alerting me to this problem.

Category : Email Delivery Best Practices | Email Design | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Managing Email | Tracking and Split Testing | Blog

One of two Email Service Providers that I use and recommend is MadMimi. Apart from having the best customer service I’ve ever had the pleasure dealing with, they have the most elegant, easy-to-use and powerfully simple email editor on the market.

Ever since the initial release of their service the creative crew at MadMimi have been steadily adding new features and improving this already great product.

The latest addition is the ability to add a set of icons that link to your favourite social networking sites. This simple feature will encourage your readers to connect with you on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other networks. Just add your social media sites URLs and Mad Mimi will place specially designed icons to the bottom of your emails — no additional coding necessary!

Here’s a set of sites that are currently supported:add social links in MadMimi

MadMimi is still free to use for lists of up to 100 contacts, and prices start at only $8/month for unlimited emails to up to 500 contacts. Test drive MadMimi today!

Check out also these related articles:
Cool New Tool for MadMimi
MadMimi Brings the Fun Back to Sending Email “Blasts”

Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email Design | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Social Media Marketing | Blog

Designing Emails With Images: Do You Check Your Designs?

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images onSome statistics say that as many as half of your email recipients have image display turned off. Are you sure your email campaigns still present useful information even if your ezine subscribers don’t see the images?

images OFFWhen designing HTML email campaigns with images it’s imperative to test your emails in different email clients, such as Apple Mail, Entourage, Eudora, Thunderbird, and online email services, such as Yahoo!, Google Mail and Hotmail, to make sure they look good with images turned off.

Sending and email composed of just images may lower the deliverability of your campaigns. Some ISPs still employ email spam filters which flag any emails with high image-to-text ratios. So talk to your designers to make sure they design your email campaigns in such a way that the message still gets across, even if the images are not displayed.

Here’s a sample from my email production portfolio: A client of mine sends me a TIFF image of their promotion, as designed by their graphic designer. I then slice and dice the image to compose a well-behaved HTML email. This second image shows you how this same email looks without images. As you can see it still shows most of the information, as well as links.

Here are some tips on how to design a good HTML email:

  • use text whenever possible, instead of “text as image”
  • if the background is a solid colour, code is as such without using an image background
  • when you have to use an image, in places where there’s lots of text, make sure you also put all of that text into the ALT tag of the image used.
  • pay attention to how you name the files used in your email campaign, e.g. ezine_masthead.gif is much better than image1.gif
  • when using tables for layout try to do without spanning columns and especially spanning rows
  • sometimes it’s impossible to “translate” what the designer has envisioned into a working HTML email, go ahead and use an image instead, but make sure you use the ALT tag to describe the image.

If you can use most of these tips, you should be OK. Final tip: test, test and test again, and don’t forget your best friend: your email service provider!. Some ESPs may have tools to assist you in testing your emails, so be sure to check them out.

Here’s a related articleEmail Design: 3 Easy Steps to Perfect Email Display

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

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

Great Web Design Testing Tool – BrowserShots.org

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If you’re developing web pages, blogs or landing pages for your products or services, do you know how your beautiful pages look on other browsers and platforms? For example, I use Mac and my main browser is FireFox, and sometimes I use Apple’s own Safari. I also have a PC laptop for checking how my emails render on some PC email programs.

I just found about this web site which provides screen shots of any web page as seen through some 50 different browsers, on 4 different operating systems (PC, Mac, Linux and BSD). Take a look at http://browsershots.org/

Let me know how it worked for you! Please comment here.

Category : Email Design | Web Site Development | Blog

Email Marketing Basics: Don’t Be a Copycat

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Don’t copy what others are doing. Try to find your own style, your own voice. Again, you’re creating a relationship with your audience, and how can you do that if you’re copying someone else’s style?

The only way you can create that relationship is if you’re true to yourself, if you are who you are and you come across that way in everything you do, which includes your web site, your blog, your business card, and of course, your e-newsletter.

Category : Branding for Small Business | E-newsletter Publishing | Email Design | Email Marketing | Small Business Marketing | Web Site Development | Blog

Email Marketing Basics: Don’t Use Your PC to Send Email “Blasts”

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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

Email Design: 3 Easy Steps to Perfect Email Display

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AT characterIf you are thinking of, or you already are, using email marketing to grow your business, then you’re a smart entrepreneur. Capturing email addresses of your clients and especially prospects, will enable you to follow up with them on a regular basis.

Next thing to do is use the right tools to publish/broadcast your email messages/newsletters. If you’re still using your own email program, please, stop now and do the right thing that will benefit your own business and your subscribers: get a subscription to one of the many available Email Publishing Systems, such as Aweber, GetResponse, Constant Contact, or the Swiss army knife of online toolkits, 1Shopping Cart.

OK, now you’ve covered the basics, you have a list of subscribers, and you’re using the right tools to reach them. So everything is fine, right? Yes, it should be, but most likely it’s not 100%. I am afraid to tell you, but, even with the right tools, your emails may not be reaching their targets as intended.

Let me explain. If you’re sending out your ezine in HTML format, are you sure it displays as intended on your subscribers’ screens? You see, the trouble with HTML email is that most email programs are not really designed to display HTML, as this is the purpose of web browsers. Although most email programs do have some HTML display capabilities, unfortunately none of them support the full HTML feature set.

For example, most email programs can’t read style sheets, if they are referenced as external files. Don’t even try using CSS for layout formatting (tables are safer). Features such as background images, for example, are not widely supported either; same thing with Flash animation, even GIF image animation won’t work in some email programs! JavaScript? Forget it! The list goes on and on.

So, what can you, as an ezine publisher, do? First of all, don’t assume if your email looks fine on your end that all is well. Instead, follow these three simple steps to ensure your subscribers see your messages as you want them to be seen.

1. Design Properly

If you’re just starting your ezine, make sure you design it with these limitations in mind, so that it displays properly in as many email environments as you possibly can. Hiring a professional designer who has not only done web page design, but HTML email design as well, will certainly help in the process.

2. Create Test Email Accounts

Sign up with as many free email accounts as you can find. At least do the main ones: Google Mail, Yahoo, MSN, Hotmail and AOL/AIM Mail. Next, register a few domains with different registrars (I use NetFirms, GoDaddy and 1and1) and set up sample emails just for this purpose. Most domain registrars will offer at least one email account which you can access through their web mail applications. What, you don’t have more than one domain name registered? Please, go back to my bonus audio class and listen to the part about domain registration.

Then, create a number of accounts on your own domain that you will read using different PC and Mac programs, such as Outlook (Express), Eudora, Apple Mail, etc. For this purpose, you can name your email accounts PCEudora@yourdomain.com, and so on. In case you don’t have a Mac (or a PC), try asking a friend or your web designer who has one to read the emails for you.

3. Test, Test and Re-test

Once you have a list of a dozen or so test accounts, and your design is ready, test it extensively. Log in to your Email Publishing System. Create a list that will contain the email addresses of the various email accounts that you have previously created.

Now, send your message to this test group of email accounts as if you’re sending a regular broadcast. Log into your various online accounts and see how your HTML email renders in each and write down the differences, or print out the email. Do the same using the email programs you have on both PC and Mac computers.

Using the results of your tests, tweak your HTML template until you are satisfied with how it performs. You may find out that you need to drop some elements of the design of your ezine to get it to perform well in most situations. However, that’s a small sacrifice in exchange for making sure your messages display well for the largest number of your subscribers.

Don’t be alarmed if some versions of your email don’t look perfect, as you intended. No matter how much tweaking you apply, there will always be differences in how your email displays. However, the point of this exercise is to get a nice HTML template that works fairly well on all platforms, so that you can be reasonably sure your messages get across as intended.

Category : Email Design | Email Marketing | Small Business Marketing | Blog

Email Design: Display Problems?

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The other day I was showing the online version of my ezine on email marketing to a client, and was quite surprised to see that the nicely designed layout did not display properly on his Windows PC (I personally use Apple Mac). For some reason, all of the text appeared centred, instead of left-aligned.

As soon as I got back to my home office I went in and changed one line of HTML code in my ezine template, and now I am hoping that’s fixed. Although I have tested my ezine template extensively, it’s impossible to test for all available systems and email programs. But this experience has prompted me to write an article on the very subject: problems in displaying HTML email. I hope it will help you in your own quality control efforts.

Category : Email Design | Email Marketing | Blog