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Huge Time Saver: Automatic Inline CSS Generation

A few days back we quietly launched what I think is one of the most useful new features we’ve added to Campaign Monitor in a while. As we’ve written countless times before, getting some design consistency across all the major email clients is one of the biggest annoyances of the job. The sole reason behind this frustration is the lack of CSS support, which was the reason we launched the Email Standards Project recently. To get around these deficiencies, you really need to move away from web standards and stick with table-based layouts with all of your CSS done inline, instead of being separate to your content. The problem is, adding that CSS inline is fiddly and takes a long time, not to mention how depressing it is completely butchering your code. Be frustrated no longer. Now, by checking a single checkbox, we’ll automatically generate your inline CSS for you when you import your campaign. This means you can build your emails just as efficiently as your web pages (except for those nasty tables you need to add), and then we’ll do the heavy lifting for you automatically that will ensure the best rendering result across all the major email clients. See it in action The best way to demonstrate how cool this feature really is, is to show a few before and after shots. As you know, the biggest CSS hater is Gmail. Taking a few random samples from our email design gallery, here are the results you can get just by ticking that innocent little checkbox. The Tonic Vision newsletter Gmail before the checkbox Gmail after the checkbox The NZLive.com newsletter Gmail before the checkbox Gmail after the checkbox The results really do speak for themselves. Even though we quietly snuck this feature in a few days ago, it’s already proven extremely popular, with more than 600 customers using it for their campaigns. A big shout goes to Toby Brain, our superstar intern who developed this feature, and also a big thanks to Alex Dunae, the developer of Premailer who was generous enough to offer his own advice on the best way to approach inline CSS to get the best results possible for you all. Enjoy, and if you can think of any ways we can make this feature even more useful, please let us know.

Blog Post

New Feature: Comparing Campaign Reports

You may have noticed in your accounts recently a new link under the ‘reports’ tab labelled ‘Compare campaigns’. This is a brand new feature we released recently, thanks to a lot of great customer suggestions, and to the efforts of our star interns. The idea is that you can select two or more past campaigns for a particular client, or even across all your clients, and compare their key statistics in chart and table form. The five measurements you can compare are: Opens Clicks Bounces Unsubscribes Spam complaints Each one is compared as a percentage. Once you’ve picked the campaigns you want to compare, you hit the generate button and the data is loaded in. The new graphs are pretty slick, and you will need to have a recent version of the flash player installed to view them. You can hover over each indicated point to see the relevant date and value for the statistic at that point. Below the graph is a table listing the data, and at the bottom, averages across all your campaigns. If you decide you’d like to change the graph, use the edit button at the top to add or remove campaigns or statistics to compare, and regenerate it. These graphs are also available to your clients logging in for their reporting via Client Report Access. Why compare campaigns? With this new ability to easily compare your campaigns, you can start to really get an idea of what is working and what needs improvements with your clients emails. Here’s just a few ideas to get you started – we’re looking forward to hearing how you use campaign comparisons. Testing different subject lines If you want to improve your open rate, changing the subject line is a great place to start. Use segmemting to target one part of your list, and send them your standard subject line. For another segment, try something different, like putting an article title in the subject. Then compare your open rates for two campaigns. (more ideas for subject lines) Change your ‘call to action’ Once you can easily compare your click rates, you can start to experiment with the links in your campaigns. What happens if you use a graphic button to link to your site rather than a text link? What about a photo of your new product as a link vs the normal heading? Does putting a link at the top get more clicks? Are competitions worthwhile for gaining subscribers? Sure, running a competition where people have to give their address to enter might gain a ton of signups, but are they worthwhile? Use compare campaigns to compare your open rates and click throughs before and after the competition, and see if those new people are really interested. Also check out your bounce rates to see if you just end up with a bunch of bad addresses. There’s plenty of other ways you and your clients can make use of simple comparisons between campaigns. If you have a great idea, leave us a comment. Thanks to everyone who suggested this feature too!

Blog Post

The Principles of Beautiful HTML Email

If you’re an experienced Campaign Monitor user and a regular reader of this blog, then you probably have a pretty solid idea of what makes a ‘good’ HTML email. If you need a refresher, or you are looking for a good introductory article, then read on. Over on SitePoint, which is a great resource for web designers and developers of all kinds, I’ve got a new article live. It’s called The Principles of Beautiful HTML Email and it covers the core principles of designing for email vs designing for the web. I want to give a special mention to some Campaign Monitor users (and their clients) who have been previously featured in our gallery and are examples in the article. Zurb Threadless Recycle Now WWF Future Makers HIVE Inside Packaging Please do check the article out, and consider bookmarking it for later to send it to that designer who still sends emails as one big image, or to your client who wants you to send them! Read The Principles of Beautiful HTML Email at SitePoint

Blog Post

HTML Email Coming Soon on the Blackberry

Some important news if you send to a lot of mobile subscribers, or view emails on your own Blackberry. While existing Blackberry devices and software only support plain text email rendering, RIM has announced that an upcoming software update will add HTML and rich text support to the platform. HTML and Rich Text Email Rendering – BlackBerry smartphone users will be able to view HTML and rich text email messages with original formatting preserved including font colors and styles, embedded images, hyperlinks, tables, bullets and other formatting. It is not yet clear whether this will be optional, allowing Blackberry users to select their desired format, or whether HTML will always be shown when available. In any case, sending multipart text+html will always be the safest option. The update is set to be released in ‘the first half of 2008’, and once it becomes available we plan to run our normal HTML/CSS rendering tests and post here about the results. Of course, if you do know your audience is mostly mobile, then you will want to ensure your emails are shorter, to the point and simpler than you would typically do for a an audience using a desktop client. A mobile context is very different, and even the type of content itself may differ considerably – information that is useful when at your desk may be pointless when sitting on a train or in a taxi. Are you looking forward to HTML on your Blackberry? Or do your clients send campaigns specifically written for people on the move? Leave us a comment.

Blog Post

Behind the Scenes at the Freshview Office

I don’t know about you but I always love getting a peek into how other people work. It’s always interesting seeing the real space people are spending their time in at the other end of the pipe. I recently put together a post on the Freshview blog about our new office space and why we approached it the way we did. It won’t make you a better designer or email marketer, but will definitely give you a sneak peek behind the scenes at the people working hard to make Campaign Monitor the best email tool for designers. On top of the voyer value, many of our customers are also growing software and other web-related companies. The post goes into a little detail about how we’ve tried to create the best environment possible for developers, and what the results have been so far. Hopefully some of the lessons we’ve learned over the years can come in handy at your end too. If anyone has photos of their own workplace, make sure you share them in the comments. If you like the way we do things and feel the need to experience sunny Sydney, we’ve still got 4 positions open right now.

Blog Post

Building the Ultimate Office for Software Developers

Read all about our new office fit-out, and why we think closed offices are the…

Blog Post

Christmas Email Competition Winners!

As we revealed last year, we have some pretty good prizes lined up for the Campaign Monitor customer who sent (in our judgement) the best Christmas email. We were looking for a balance between creativity, design and practicality, for an email that works under the constraints of email clients, like image blocking for example. We saw a lot of good efforts, and sadly still a lot of emails that were just one big image, but a few emails really stood out to us, and we’ve showcased them below. Grand prize winner: Good Creative Congratulations to the team from GOOD CREATIVE who have walked away with this year’s prize. We loved the unique approach to a Christmas tree and the strong visual layout. Since there is actual text (not just images) in the email, it still holds together with image blocking on, and the content of the newsletter really sends a clear message about the agencies values. Well done! We’ll be in touch with the team shortly to arrange for their prizes: An iPhone A $100 Threadless voucher 50,000 Campaign Monitor email credits (that’s $500 worth) I’m sure they’ll have fun splitting that lot between them! Honorable mentions We’ve got three great emails to mention here, and the people behind each one will be receiving a solid chunk of email credits and a Campaign Monitor t-shirt of their choice. Pixel Magic From across the sea in New Zealand, the Pixel Magic team have created an email better suited to the decidedly non-white Christmases we have down under. A simple design that works really well, and does not try too hard and overwhelm the message. A great example of effective email design. Aegean Airlines Extra points for effort and bravery go to the creators of this plain text Christmas email for Aegean Airlines. Taking us back to the glory days of ASCII art, this email looks painstakingly constructed. We wonder how consistently it would render, but the idea is great and well executed, and it’s particularly interesting for such a mainstream product. 3blindmice From Sydney local Ben Manson, this fantastic design is almost all text. We love the right alignment, and particularly the way Ben has used custom fields to personalise his message for each client. Who doesn’t love a mouse in a Santa hat? Well done Ben. We’ll be in touch with all our winners very soon, and congratulations to you all. Thanks also to everybody who entered by using Campaign Monitor during this holiday season, and we hope to see you all back again next year with even better campaigns. We really appreciate your creativity and your business. Stick with us through 2008, we’ve got plenty of things lined up for you all!

Blog Post

Yahoo! Spam Complaints – Another Reason to Authenticate

Hot on the heels of our integration into Comcast’s spam reporting tools, we recently finalized the integration of spam complaints made by Yahoo! Mail users. This means that any time one of your Yahoo! recipients marks your email as spam through their email interface, we’ll automatically remove that subscriber from your list and provide a full report on who made the complaint and when. It’s an awesome feature for keeping your list clean and identifying if your subscribers are no longer interested in what you have to say. This complaint integration works much like the same partnerships we have with other ISP’s like Hotmail, AOL, Comcast, etc but, there’s a catch! The catch – you need to be authenticated The Yahoo! team are the brains behind the DomainKeys authentication method. Because they see authentication as a crucial part of email (we agree), they’ll only tell you who marked you as spam if you sign your email with DomainKeys. Luckily for you, this is a pretty simple process that our authentication wizard can walk you through in a flash. So, if there weren’t already enough great reasons to embrace authentication, Yahoo! just gave you another one. Here are the basic instructions that walk you through the process of setting up email authentication for each client in your account. Once that’s been set up, we’ll let Yahoo! know that you’re authenticated and your account will be updated automatically in the unfortunate event of a complaint.

Blog Post

More Answers about DomainKeys & Authentication

Midway through 2007 we introduced email authentication to Campaign Monitor, as an optional change you can make to increase the deliverability and security of your email campaigns. We’ve seen a huge amount of people setting up Sender ID and DomainKeys records for their ‘from’ domains. We introduced an email authentication FAQ for some common questions, but since then a few more common questions have cropped up. Can I still use Campaign Monitor without DomainKeys and Sender ID? Absolutely. If your host does not support TXT records, you can still use your Campaign Monitor account. It just means your campaigns may go through additional filters, and you miss out on the other benefits of authentication. Your campaigns will still be sent out as normal, and you will still see all the reporting. Do I have to change web hosts if my host does not support DomainKeys? No, you don’t have to necessarily. Instead, you can just switch DNS providers. Often your DNS records are hosted by the same people who host your site, but it does not have to be that way. Services like DNS Made Easy, ZoneEdit, easyDNS let you host just the DNS records with them, and keep all your sites elsewhere. This can be both faster and safer than hosting DNS and website together – it makes changing web hosts easier and also gives you more flexibility, so it is worth looking into. My DomainKeys are not verifying — what should I do? There are two main reasons this could happen. Either the DNS records have not yet propagated, or the records have not been correctly added. You can check how the records are appearing (or not) by using a service like DNSStuff. Go to the ‘tools’ section, and you can do a free DNS Lookup under ‘Hostname Tools’. Enter the domain name you are trying to verify (as in abcwidgets.com) and change the drop down menu to ‘TXT’. Hit ‘Lookup’ and you will be able to see if the records are showing up or not. If they are not there, then you need to talk to your DNS or web host and ask them to help you out. From our side, we can only see what is there, not make any changes. If it looks like the record is there and correct, then contact support. It will help if you mention the domain name you are trying to add records for. Email authentication can be a tricky area, but it is worth exploring as it is likely to become more important in the future. If you have any more questions, leave them as comments below.

Blog Post

Monitoring Your Spam Complaints from Comcast Subscribers

As I’ve mentioned before, your sending reputation and the relevance of your email are some of the most important factors that can determine if your email arrives in the inbox or the junk folder. In order to evaluate your sending reputation, more and more ISP’s are using their “Mark as Spam” button. It’s pretty simple, if you only occasionally get a spam complaint made against you and you don’t send to that address again, you should be OK. Get lots of complaints and keep sending to those addresses and you’re in trouble. Many of the popular ISP’s out there share these complaints with Campaign Monitor so we can monitor our customers and also keep your lists clean of those who clearly don’t want to hear from you any more. To date we’re reporting on such complaints for Hotmail/MSN, AOL, United Online, Roadrunner and USA.net. We have now extended our spam reporting feature to include Comcast, the largest cable internet provider in the US. This means that any time a Comcast subscriber marks your email as spam, we’ll remove them from your list and also provide a detailed report saying who did this and when. This integration means your list will stay clean automatically and you can gather indirect feedback from your customers about the relevance of what you’re sending them.

Blog Post

API Documentation and Code Samples Get a Facelift

Today we released a big round of updates to our API documentation and code samples to make it even easier to connect your Campaign Monitor account with your own web sites and applications. If you’re a back-end developer that’s right into this stuff, here’s the scoop on what we’ve changed: Vastly improved documentation We’ve done a complete overhaul on the documentation for every method available in the API. Each method will now include the related samples that feature the method, the parameters used, return codes and sample requests and responses for SOAP, POST and GET. Check out the Subscriber.Add method to get an idea of what you can expect. Comprehensive PHP wrapper Thanks to incredibly generous Campaign Monitor customer and PHP developer Kaiser Shahid, we now have an all-inclusive PHP package that supports SOAP, GET and POST seamlessly. The sample also includes a complete set of functions that encapsulate every method available in the API. Big Flash overhaul All you Flash developers out there will be pleased to know that we’ve now got a much improved Flash sample ready for download. Kindly developed by Ben and the talented team at DNA Design, the sample includes a standard subscribe form as well as a more complex version supporting custom fields. The sample has also been coded in a way that makes it easy to use any of the other methods available in the API. .NET C# and ASP samples move from the desktop to the web For the .NET samples we have created a VisualStudio.NET 2003 project that includes example pages calling some of the different API methods available. The pages use standard ASP.NET controls and are written using the Code-Behind model. This project will also work with all newer versions of Visual Studio. We’ve also changed the samples from traditional desktop applications to web pages. ColdFusion sample arrives For all those ColdFusion developers we’ve now got a great API sample that includes a standards subscribe form and a more complex one supporting custom fields. The sample code will also be easy to modify to adopt any of the other methods supported by the API.

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