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Email Delivery Best Practices

17
Jan

no spam illustrationCanada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) is set to take effect on July 1, 2014. After years of preparation and consultation, Canada will get a modern, but very strict, anti-spam law.

One of the requirements for CASL will impose on any entity doing business in Canada is the proof of consent. Up until now, many Canadian businesses relied on so-called negative consent, or giving subscribers an option to opt-out from future mailings. The new law will force businesses to obtain permission first, and also continue to provide an easy-to-use mechanism for subscribers to remove themselves from a list.

The easiest way to handle consent (or “opt-in”), unsubscribes and other list-management tasks is to open an account with an Email Service Provider or ESP, such as Aweber, MadMimi or GetResponse. These services all provide basic and advanced list-management features, but they differ greatly in additional features, such as auto-responders, RSS-to-email, etc.

Most ESPs also offer Social Media integration, and some offer features that may not necessarily be considered as email-related, such as surveys, GetResponse offers surveys included in the basic package, other ESPs rely on 3rd party integration, such as SurveyMonkey.

In case you’re interested in sending simple email newsletters, MadMimi offers a free option, and you can have up to 2,500 subscribers in your lists. If you need to send more than 6 emails per month, you can upgrade to any of their paid packages.

Even with the added hassle of making sure you’re CASL-compliant, email marketing should still be one of the staples of your overall marketing strategy.

In case you need help in setting up your email marketing system please contact me.

Boris Mahovac RGD
Email Marketing Consultant

Category : Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Management | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Blog
11
Jan

If you host seminars, workshops or attend trade shows, these are great venues for collecting email addresses to build your list. Recently, there was a question on Linkedin about the proper use of double opt-in in such cases.

Perhaps in this case double opt-in is not required. Attendees will probably be given a form to fill out at the event. This form should clearly state that by giving their email address, they will be added to a list named “XYZ” owned by “Name”

If you choose double opt-in (also called confirmed opt-in), then make sure the FROM address is readily recognizable to the recipients, and that the subject line includes a reference to the event. Don’t use the typical subject line: “[firstname] please confirm your subscription,” instead, try something like: “[event-name]: your free bonus material” and then deliver the bonus material on the confirmation “thank you” page or by delivering it via auto-responder once the recipient confirms the subscription.

Don’t be afraid to use the word “free” and certainly do not try to obfuscate it like this: fre-e, f.r.e.e as that will certainly trigger spam filters more so than using the word in the open.

One key element of any successful email marketing campaign is content. If the follow up emails contain only advertising for your books, courses, etc. then most of the recipients will mark the emails as spam — even if you use double opt-in. It’s all about delivering what’s expected: if you say “monthly enewsletter on subject” then don’t send 27 other messages in a month that are purely promotional.

Category : Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Building | Email Marketing | Blog
16
Aug

Average open rates for newsletters

A recent Marketing Sherpa article about average open rates published this interesting chart.

The research was compiled based on data from nearly 1,500 marketers. The chart compares the performance of B2B email newsletters to the performance of B2C e-newsletters in open rate, clickthrough rate and conversion rate.

The open rate is usually defined as the ratio between the number of registered opens to the number of emails sent. Some email service providers, as well as some marketers, take it to the next step and count only the number of emails delivered in the ratio. (See this post on email bounce rates)

The clickthrough rate (or CTR) is usually defined as the ratio between the number of clicks to the number of emails opened. For example, if an email was opened by 100 subscribers to an ezine, and 30 of those subscribers clicked on a link, then the CTR would be 30%.

The conversion rate is usually defined as the ratio between the number of conversions to the number of clicks. A conversion can be anything, such as a sale, request for more information, additional subscription, or anything that you may ask your subscribers to do. For example, if, of those 30 subscribers that clicked on a link, 3 purchased something, then the conversion rate would be 10%. (Some marketers would say it’s 3%)

Clickthrough and conversion rates are important indicators of email newsletter performance. As newsletter publishers we should track these statistics, making sure we always apply the same metrics.

The research shows that B2C newsletters perform slightly better than B2B. How do your own results compare to these averages? Please comment and share your insights.

Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Management | Email Marketing | Tracking and Split Testing | Tracking Email Opens | Blog
20
Jul

One of the benefits of using a dedicated email service provider (ESP) to send out your business email newsletter are the various statistics they will be able to provide to you. One of those you should pay particular attention to are

  • bounces and
  • bounce rate.

Your particular ESP may define these two slightly differently, but in essence, a bounce is an email address to which delivery of your email campaign was attempted but was unsuccessful.

Similarly the bounce rate is usually expressed as a percentage of undeliverable email addresses compared to the total number of emails in your list(s).

Types of email bounces

Hard Bounces: These are email addresses that are obsolete, expired, incorrect and will never be delivered to the intended recipient. Take a look at these as they may include obvious typos like name@mail.con (instead of .com), which you can easily update and correct. Others are most likely expired and should be removed from your list, either manually, or, most likely, automatically by your ESP.

Soft Bounces: These are email accounts that bounce because of full mailboxes, their domain is temporarily down, or for some other technical reason they’re currently not able to receive email. Most ESPs will retry delivery to these accounts within 24-48 hours from the time of the original broadcast. Some ESPs will remove email accounts from your active list after 5 consecutive soft bounces.

General Bounces: The most common reason for this type of bounce is a firewall that prevents these accounts from receiving email from outside their network, such as in the case of corporations that block email from unknown sources. Again, most ESPs will retry delivery to these accounts.

What should I do about bounces?

As most ESPs will retry bounces (except for Hard Bounces) again within 24-48 hours, you don’t need to do much about them. Additionally, your ESP will suppress all hard bounces right away, and also those soft and general bounces which continue to fail.If the re-sending is successful, bounces will be cleared for future broadcasts

The only thing you need to do is to correct any typos in Hard Bounces, and make sure that the bounce rate is lower than 1%, as some ESPs may block your account if your email broadcasts continue to suffer from high bounce rates.

You may also be interested in reading these related articles:
Email List Maintenance – Keeping it Lean and Clean
Email Delivery: Resending an Email to Non-Openers

I currently recommend these email service providers:
MadMimi- for ease of use, and the best customer support
GetResponse- for features, auto-responders and list management

Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Tracking Email Opens | Blog
29
Apr

If you’ve been in business for 5-10 years, you have a hidden business asset that you may not be utilizing at all: the email list of your existing clients. If you’ve been smart to collect their email addresses then it’s time to start using the marketing channel with the highest return on investment: email marketing.

One of the things you have to keep an eye on before you start sending email marketing campaigns to your existing contacts is to find a suitable Email Service Provider, because not all ESPs will accept old client lists.

Once you’ve found an ESP (also know as web based email marketing systems), make sure you don’t upload all of your contacts into one big list, but rather, segment your contacts into:

  • current clients
  • old clients
  • trade show contacts
  • requests for quote
  • friends

Also, remove all email addresses that begin with info@ sales@ admin@ as these may be flagged by your email marketing service as “suspicious.”

When sending to a list that’s never been used, you will have a lot of expired email addresses that will bounce, so try sending your first promotion only to current clients, then a few days later, go through the lists in the order I listed them above.

What is Optin Email Marketing?

When uploading the list to your online email marketing service, you will have the option of sending your contacts a so-called confirmation email message. A confirmation message contains a link your subscribers will have to click in order to be added to your list. If you choose this option, you will only be able to send further messages and email marketing campaigns only to those contacts that have clicked the confirmation link. By sending your contacts a confirmation email you’ll be building a highly-responsive permission-based email marketing list. Be advised, though, that your list may end up being only 1/10th the original size, but that’s OK, because your will have a solid foundation on which to build your future email subscriber base.

Category : Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Management | Email Service Providers | Blog
14
Mar

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
27
Aug

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
13
Jun

An interesting question regarding email subscribers vs. blog subscribers was asked recently on Linkedin. In a nutshell Lisa Bowen was wondering:

Can a blog-subscription email list be used for general company announcements and email newsletter blasts?

I personally separate the two types of subscribers and recommend that my clients do so as well. Although this practice may be perfectly legal under CAN-SPAM, I consider it not very ethical.

However, depending on how you phrase the ad copy in your pop-up, you may get away with it, e.g. if you say: “Sign up for updates from my blog and also receive my ezine.”

Be aware, though, that the spam issue is ultimately in the eyes of the subscriber.

Additionally, problems may arise when somebody opts out. Because these two lists are usually handled by two separate systems, you need to manually update one of them. Ideally, your email service provider would have some sort of RSS Feed plugin or connectivity. Email Service Provider MadMimi recently introduced this upgrade to their very slick email publishing platform. iContact has it, Aweber, too, I think. GetResponse also has a limited feature which allows you to send an automated email to your ezine subscribers announcing the new content is available on your blog, but it doesn’t actually deliver your blog content by email.

I use FeedBurner for handling email subscriptions to my blog and it can only collect the email address, not the name of the subscriber. This is just one of the reasons I wouldn’t use the blog subscribers list the same way I would any of my other confirmed opt-in email marketing lists.

What do you think? How do you let your blog subscibers mingle with the ezine subscribers?

Category : Blogging for Business | E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Building | Email List Management | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Small Business Marketing | Web Site Development | Blog
10
Jun

Nelson MartinsBoris’s seminar was filled with incredible, usable information on how to make my business more visible on the web. His deep understanding of the inner workings of the web and email is apparent and his presentation is very interactive. This seminar is a must for anyone who is interested in learning internet/email best practices and how to maximize this effective marketing medium.

Boris’ Top qualities: Great Results, Personable, Expert

Nelson Martins
General Manager at DiPaolo CNC Retrofit Ltd
DiPaoloCNC.com

Note: This testimonial was originally published as a recommendation on Linkedin

If you ever attended one of my seminars, please leave your own comment – Thanks!

Category : Driving Traffic to Your site | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Building | Email Marketing | Search Engine Optimization | Selling Online | Seminars and Live Events | Social Media Marketing | Testimonials | Web Site Development | Blog
9
Jun

Did you know that 70% of all sales now start as research on the Internet – are your ideal clients finding you?

Invest 3 hours and I guarantee I will teach you how to:

1
Attract Contacts (Generate Leads)
  • creating a powerful online presence
    • what makes a good web site: basics of design, layout and content
    • search engines: basics of SEO or how to build a Google-friendly site
    • web site is not enough – what else you need online
  • attracting visitors (contacts) with relevant and useful content
    • blogging
    • article writing
    • participating in online forums, etc.
    • online networking (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter)
  • entice visitors to sign up to receive more information about you and your services or products with
    • discount coupons
    • special reports or whitepapers on your topic of expertise
    • regularly published email newsletters
  • how to integrate all your online efforts
2
Build Relationships

(or, How to Get Prospects to Know, Like and Trust You)

  • follow up with automated and semi-automated messages, delivering your expertise via email
  • create communities, followers and friends
  • engage with your audience in a meaningful conversation
  • once they know, like and trust you they’ll be ready for the final step
3
Close Deals
(or, How to Convert “Friends” to “Raving Fans”)
  • use gentle email marketing tactics to introduce your services or products to your contacts
  • close deals on line or off line – depending on your business model
  • finally reach your business goals in 2009 – regardless of the state of the economy

Please visit the Contacts to Clients page to learn more and to register.

Category : Blogging for Business | Driving Traffic to Your site | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Building | Email Marketing | Events | Search Engine Optimization | Seminars and Live Events | Small Business Marketing | Social Media Marketing | Web Site Development | Blog