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Email Design Guidelines for 2006

Check out the updated 2008 email design guidelines As 2005 draws to a close, I…

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How to Avoid Looking Like a Phisher

In a promising move, some email clients are building phishing detection right into the software itself. Phishing basically refers to an email that fraudulently tries to get information off someone by pretending to be someone else. I’m sure that like me, most of you have received a few Paypal phishing scams in your time. Both Mozilla Thunderbird and AOL 9.0 now feature phishing scam detection that will impact on how you design your email creative. To determine if an email may be a phishing scam, the email client looks for a link in your HTML campaign where the display text is a URL. If the displayed link is different from the actual URL, the user is alerted. The problem Remember, Campaign Monitor changes every link in your HTML campaigns so we can track link clicks for you. This means that even when you have a link like: <a href="http://www.yoursite.com">http://www.yoursite.com</a> We’ll change that to: <a href="http://yourname.createsend.com/.aspx/l/14202/0/www.yoursite.com"> http://www.yoursite.com</a> This change will mean that your email may get flagged as a phishing scam. The solution To ensure you never look like a phisher, avoid using a URL as the display text for a link in any HTML emails. Instead, try and use a word or phrase which describes the link itself. Such as: <a href="http://www.yoursite.com">Visit our web site</a> Even though we’ll change that to: <a href="http://yourname.createsend.com/.aspx/l/14202/0/www.yoursite.com">Visit our web site</a> You won’t ever be identified as a potential phishing scammer.

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How Do We Stop Spammers from Abusing Our Software?

Every now and then we’ll get a question about how we ensure good delivery rates or how we make sure spammers don’t abuse our software. We’ve just added the info to our site, but it seems to be a topic of interest so I thought I’d echo it here. From personal experience, we know how frustrating it can be when you work hard on a campaign only to see it never get close to your recipient’s inbox. We take deliverability very seriously, so here’s a quick summary of some of the measures we have in place to ensure you never have to deal with this problem: Our delivery servers have been whitelisted by major ISP’s. Our team monitors blacklists daily. If a server is ever listed (and it does happen ever so rarely), we remove it from the cluster immediately and resolve the issue on behalf of our customers. Until a customer has been approved, every large campaign is reviewed by our team before it can be delivered. Any spammy campaigns are removed and the account closed immediately. Our team verifies all large lists that are imported and ensures they comply with our strict permission policy. Every email sent using our software contains a single click unsubscribe link. Our abuse email account is monitored closely and every complaint is followed up promptly. Our software is directly integrated into abuse complaint systems for some large ISP’s. If a sender receives an unacceptable number of complaints their account is terminated. We certainly don’t pretend to offer 100% deliverability, no-one can. What I can promise is that we take every step necessary to keep the bad guys from abusing our software and the good guys sticking to best practice. We apologize to any new customers who might experience a delay when their campaign is being approved, but trust me, it’s definitely worth it.

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Tip: Include Name in Your Subscriber Data

We know you’re not sending spam, but before your newsletter hits your subscribers inbox it most likely has to jump through a few pieces of Spam filter software making sure it isn’t. Here’s one quick and simple technique to make sure Spam filters don’t get the wrong idea about your email. When we’re sending out your campaign, we check if you’re storing the name of the subscriber we’re sending to. If you are, we include this in the To: address. Why’s this important? Spammers don’t know the names of their recipients, and filter software knows this, so if there isn’t a name and only an email address filter software will be more likely to give your mail a negative score. So when your importing subscribers, try to include their name, and it’s a good idea to include a name field in your subscribe forms as well (which is what we do by default).

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Minimizing Subscribe Form Spam

Yep, you read that right. Not only have you got to worry about comment spam on your blogs, but your subscribe form could be the next target. We’ve had a number of customers let us know about this problem and have just made a small change to the subscribe form code to combat this. If you’re seeing any strange subscribers in your list (especially those that mention the .com domain in the email address), grab the latest version of the subscribe code from your account. We also updated the supplied signup code to include one with basic formatting, one with CSS formatting and a table based version. A big thanks to Ken Schafer from One Degree for helping us test this solution. Great guy and a great resource for Canadian marketers.

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Best Practices for Sending to an Older List

Let’s say your client approaches you to send a campaign to Old Faithful, their house list that’s slowly grown over the years but hasn’t been contacted in 12 months or so. Hell, 12 months doesn’t sound that long. You put together the creative and start sending. Things start to get ugly The campaign’s sent. 40% of your list hard bounce right from the word go. Another 25% unsubscribe immediately. Old Faithful aint what it used to be. Problem 1: 30% is a big number Here’s a scary fact. Email address churn averages about 30% every year. This means that each year almost a third of your subscriber list will have moved on to a new email address. If you haven’t sent to your subscriber list in a while, you can see how quickly they can become out of date. Problem 2: Permission doesn’t age well Even if an old subscriber hasn’t changed their address, they might not even remember being added to your list. As web designers, we often forget that registering on a web site isn’t always a particularly memorable experience for most people. If you haven’t been in touch with a subscriber for more than 12 months, chances are the permission they once gave is now worthless. The solution – a permission confirmation campaign If your list hasn’t been contacted for at least 12 months, you should consider a permission confirmation campaign. This is a simple email that includes: An explanation of how, when and where they subscribed to your list. A compelling list of the benefits of continuing their subscription and a preview of what you’ll be contacting them about in the future. If you can’t say anything compelling then you shouldn’t be contacting them in the first place. A confirmation link the user must click to confirm their subscription. The best approach is to link to a subscribe form for a brand new list. Make life easier by using personalization to automatically populate the form with their existing details. Any subsequent campaigns should only be sent to the new list. Many will argue that this method will lose you a lot of subscribers. I say that if a recipient can’t be bothered to confirm their subscription, their unlikely to be opening, reading and responding to your campaigns anyway.

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Reports Optimization and Speed Improvements

A number of customers with larger lists might have been experiencing speed issues with some of reports, especially the Recipient Activity Report. We’re constantly making small tweaks to our database to improve performance, but this update was a biggie. Thanks to a complete rethink of some parts of the database, you guys should notice significant speed improvements in the reporting section of Campaign Monitor. We’re rolling out a number of other improvements in the coming days, so stay tuned.

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I Have Customers Who Have Subscribed to Multiple Lists, What Happens When I Send a Campaign to All T

Firstly, we remove duplicates for every campaign you send, so if a recipient is subscribed to multiple lists and you send a campaign to all of those lists, they will only ever receive one copy of your email. What about unsubscribes? If you send a campaign to multiple lists, and an individual is subscribed to more than one of those lists, they will be removed from each list if they unsubscribe from the campaign. If you send a campaign to a single list, and an individual is subscribed to multiple lists, they will only be removed from the list you sent to. They will remain in the other subscriber lists until they unsubscribe from a campaign sent to that list. This ensures your subscribers can join different types of lists, unsubscribe from one but still receive from the other. Also, when you upload subscribers into an existing list, all bounced and unsubscribed recipients WILL NOT be added to the list. We remember everyone that ever unsubscribed. The only way an unsubscribed individual can get back into your list is to subscribe again from your web site or if you manually change their status.

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Hotmail Delivery Issues

We’re currently experiencing delivery problems to Hotmail recipients. We are currently working on solving this issue. We recommend holding off on sending any campaigns to Hotmail recipients until further notice. We’ll update this alert as soon as you’re good to go. If you’ve got any questions, please let us know. UPDATE 8/9: We’ve been directed to Symantec Brightmail as the source of the issue. We’re currently in contact with Symantec trying to get to the bottom of the problem. More news here shortly… UPDATE 12/9: We’re good to go! You can send your campaigns to any accounts that may have experienced the problem, including Hotmail and other Symantec Brightmail protected accounts. Thank you for your patience while we resolved this issue. However, by working together and ensuring that all campaigns are designed according to best practices, and by making sure our lists contain only recipients who have opted to receive contact from us, we can avoid experiencing this type of problem again. Our apologies again for any inconvenience this may have caused.

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Can I Send Attachments with My Email Campaigns?

Nope. Sorry, but Campaign Monitor has been specifically built not to support attachments. We did this for a number of reasons. We ensure that your campaigns are unable to send viruses that propagate through attachments. You’re not forcing an attachment down every recipients throat. Large attachments + slow connection = angry subscriber. If you have a file that you’d like to give to your customers, we recommend that you host the file on your own server and then place a link to the file within your email. This also means you won’t clog your subscribers inbox with attachments they may not even use.

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I Got This List From…. Is It OK to Use with Campaign Monitor?

When putting together the design for a client’s email newsletter, the last thing we usually think about is importing their list into Campaign Monitor. What we fail to realize, is that the quality of our client’s list is going to have as much impact on the success of the campaign (and the perceived quality of our creative) as the design itself. As we’ve stated before, a smaller permission based list is ALWAYS going to out perform a larger unsolicited list. If you or your client has an existing list you’d like to import, make sure you review the following scenarios to ensure your list is permission-based and OK to use with Campaign Monitor.

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