Resources Hub » Blog » Your Guide to Decoding Email Marketing Jargon

The idea of email marketing is simple enough: send out email campaigns to drive engagement and generate sales of your company’s products and services. Once you dive into it, though, the terminology can quickly become overwhelming: blacklists, bounce rates, list segmentation, and much more.

Whether you’re researching how to do your own email marketing or hiring someone else to do it for you, you’ll want to know the relevant verbiage in order to understand how your email marketing campaigns perform. That way, you’ll be able to achieve the maximum effectiveness from your campaigns and comply with all the necessary rules and guidelines, too.

To that end, here is the most important email marketing verbiage you need to know in order to take control of your email marketing:

Key email marketing verbiage

While knowing the terms below will give you a jumpstart to understanding the finer points of email marketing, this list is certainly not exhaustive. To learn even more, check out our full glossary on email marketing terms and definitions.

A/B testing

This refers to sending out two slightly different versions of an email to a small portion of your most engaged subscribers to compare their relative performance.

It’s most commonly used to test different subject lines to see which one has the best open rate, but you can use A/B testing for your calls to action (CTA), dynamic content, capture forms, anything at all.

Once you’ve tested an email and know which version performs better, you can send that version out to the rest of your list and feel confident knowing you’ll see the best results possible from that particular send.

Animated GIF

This type of file utilizes a sequence of graphic interchange format (GIF) images which display in sequential order to create a short—and often looping—video file, much like a hard-copy flip book. It can be embedded in an email to create visually engaging content.


An attachment is a file delivered with an email message but is not part of it. While individuals commonly send emails with attachments—documents, images, audio or video files—this should be avoided with bulk emails because it can result in messages being blocked by ISPs.


An autoresponder is an email automatically sent after a triggering event, whether that trigger is an action performed by a customer or a specific date.

For example, if you offer a double opt-in subscription when a potential subscriber signs up for your email newsletter, an autoresponder will send a link which the recipient must click to confirm addition to a distribution list.

Or an autoresponder can be a confirmation email sent to customers after an order has been placed. Autoresponders can also be set up to send multiple emails based on criteria such as dates or other events.


A blacklist refers to a list of domain, email, or IP addresses from which email messages will be blocked and not delivered.

These blacklists are meant to catch and stop spam accounts, but occasionally marketers can get added to a blacklist if they’ve been engaging in sketchy marketing practices. Most commercial bulk email distributors (your email service provider) will closely watch your bounce and complaint rates and suspend or cancel your account before their IP addresses have a chance to be added to a blacklist.

Following email marketing best practices will keep you from landing on a blacklist and ensure your emails arrive in your subscribers’ inboxes.

Bounce rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of emails from a campaign which are returned as undeliverable. Your bounce rate should be under 5% when you perform periodic list maintenance—i.e. removing inactive subscribers and get rid of any contacts that result in a hard bounce.

A hard bounce happens when an email address is invalid. A soft bounce is when an email address is valid, but a message still can’t be delivered for some other reason, such as an inbox being full.

Both types of bounces will hurt your deliverability, so be sure that you keep an eye on your bounce rates to increase the performance of your email marketing campaigns.

Call to action (CTA)

Your email’s call to action (CTA) is the specific action you want your email recipients to take after reading your email.

You might want your readers to click a link to buy a product, take a survey, read a blog post, or share content. Email campaigns which don’t include an explicit CTA, whether in the form of a text link or a CTA button, will have a low return on investment (ROI).


Enacted in 2003, the CAN-SPAM Act details the legal requirements for sending commercial emails. These include identifying messages as advertisements, providing a physical address for your business, and immediately honoring opt-out requests from recipients. Failure to follow its guidelines can result in penalties of more than $40,000 per email.

Click-through rate (CTR)

Your click-through rate is the number and percentage of recipients who click on a hyperlink in an email to visit your website. This can include both unique clicks as well as multiple clicks from a single user. This is one of the most important metrics to track as it indicates how much tangible engagement an email generates.

Conversion rate

Similar to a click-through rate, the conversion rate is how many times your email results in a recipient performing your email’s desired action. Though conversion often refers to converting a subscriber into a paying customer, your conversion—like your CTA–can refer to anything, not just sales.

You might want your subscribers to visit a certain page on your website, buy a product, share a message, join an email list, or some other tangible activity.

Domain keys identified mail (DKIM)

Domain keys identified mail refers to an email authentication protocol which checks to see if an email is authorized to be sent from the specific domain it appears to have come from. This prevents spoofing: messages which come from forged email addresses.

Often, spammers and scammers include malware in their junk mail; in order to increase the number of recipients who open their email and thus open the malware, these malicious senders will make the email appear to come from a safe and trusted source.

In addition to increasing the number of unsuspecting opens, forging an email address also helps these emails slip past the spam filters meant to catch such illegal and dangerous activity. DKIM attempts to stop this practice and ultimately decrease the amount of harmful spam floating around the internet.

Double opt-in

Double opt-in is the method by which a user must confirm joining an email distribution list after signing up.

Typically, after submitting a form to register for a list, a confirmation email is then sent with a link which must be selected to complete registration. This is the preferred way to build your contact lists as it will reduce the number of fake accounts you could inadvertently add.

A double opt-in might seem like an extra step for subscribers or a hindrance to bulking up your subscription list, but ultimately a double opt-in will help you build a list of quality, engaged subscribers.

Email analytics

This is the general term for a cluster of metrics used to track email campaign performance such as bounce rate, open rate, click-throughs, conversion rate, and so on.

Internet protocol (IP) address

An IP address is a unique number assigned to every device attached to the internet. Each email you send includes your IP address. If your IP is blacklisted, any email sent from that address will not be delivered to your subscribers’ inboxes.

This is why commercial bulk emailers will closely watch your bounce and spam complaint rates as they will take preventive action to make sure your emails don’t cause any of their IP addresses to be blacklisted.

Internet service provider (ISP)

Your ISP supplies your connection to the internet. It also monitors the email being sent from and received by your IP address. If you’re sending out bulk spam email, you will likely be added to its blacklist. You will also not receive any email from addresses on your ISP’s blacklist.

Landing page

In email campaigns, the landing page is a standalone marketing webpage accessed by clicking a link–usually a CTA–in an email. It provides additional information about products or services and is designed to generate leads or direct sales.

List hygiene

List hygiene is the process by which lists are periodically purged to remove bad or duplicate addresses, inactive recipients, delete opt-outs, and so on. List hygiene is imperative to reduce bounce rates, limit complaints, and keep metrics as accurate as possible.

Maintaining list hygiene will also result in better inbox placement for the engaged subscribers you retain, often leading to increased CTRs and improved results for your entire campaign.

Opt-out option

As per the CAN-SPAM act, all commercial email messages must include an easily identifiable opt-out option for recipients to choose to be removed from a distribution list. In addition, all opt-out requests must be honored in a timely manner.

Privacy policy

A privacy policy is an explicit statement detailing how user information is gathered, used, shared, and otherwise managed by a company.

In 1995, the EU enacted the Data Protection Act with specific privacy policy regulations. This was superseded by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which took effect in 2018. There is no privacy act per se in the US, although the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) often relies on Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive marketing practices.

Responsive design

Responsive design refers to the design of a website that ensures web pages render correctly on devices with different screen sizes such as a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Responsive design is imperative for users to have a great user experience across all their devices. Emails and web pages that aren’t optimized for viewing across all devices often end up getting deleting or worse, marked as spam.


Scraping is a method used by spammers to harvest email addresses from the internet. Harvesting bots search web pages and collect any email addresses there. This is why you will sometimes see email addresses written on web pages as “joe [at] gmail [dot] com” in an effort to avoid being detected by harvest bots.


The process by which a master list of contact email addresses is broken out into separate, smaller lists based on demographic information is called segmentation. This includes recipient location, age, gender, education, and other categories. Effective email campaigns almost always use list segmentation, so messages can be targeted to specific recipient sub-groups.

Single opt-in

This is the process by which people can subscribe to an email distribution list by submitting a request via an online form. To avoid adding fake or fraudulent accounts to your contact lists, the double opt-in method is preferred to validate user email addresses.


Spam is the general term for unsolicited email, especially unsolicited commercial email messages. According to recent statistics, almost 48.2% of email worldwide is spam. Check out our infographic on spam here.

Subject line

The subject line is the text of an email which identifies what it’s about to recipients. Writing effective subject lines result in recipients opening emails at greater rates and lead to better revenue for your email campaigns.


As opposed to a blacklist, the whitelist is a list of approved email addresses. Individual users can create their own whitelists, but this may also be done by ISPs.

Wrap up

While sending an email seems–and is!–simple enough, this jargon describes the actions you can take and the effects they have on every email campaign. Beyond just recognizing the email marketing verbiage above, you should understand how all these terms and concepts work together. Only then can you achieve maximum ROI for your email marketing efforts.

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This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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