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Most web designers will be aware of the US CAN-SPAM legislation which contains some requirements for commercial email. However, if you have clients from other countries, there may be other requirements you need to be know. Fortunately, Mark Brownlow has saved us some time by creating a page of links to anti-spam laws in various regions. It’s a good URL to bookmark and review when taking on a new client. Being aware of your legal obligations is important, but equally important is understanding Campaign Monitor’s anti-spam policies. We often have to explain to designers that just because their emails are legal does not mean they can be sent via Campaign Monitor. Being informed will save you time, and help you avoid having your account impacted, or worse, legal trouble.
Most businesses start out their email marketing efforts by sending the same message to all their subscribers. It’s easy, and it often gets great results. The next step beyond a one-size-fits-all approach is to be smarter about what content you send to each person. Today I received an email that is a great example of targeted newsletters. The email was from FontShop, an independent font retailer and Campaign Monitor customer. FontShop sent me as a registered user the first edition of their Web & Interactive Design newsletter. The idea is to discuss fonts as they relate specifically to the web — what works well on screen, for example. So how did FontShop decide I should receive this particular email? When I created a free account, I was given the chance to fill out a profile and select my professional areas of expertise and interest. That information is obviously used to segment the total subscriber base into smaller chunks that can then be sent more targeted content. In Campaign Monitor, you can use our segmenting feature combined with some custom fields to do exactly this. FontShop don’t force everyone who creates an account to receive emails from them (or any form of marketing). My account also contains a subscription settings page, where I can select to opt-in or opt-out of emails and print brochures at any time. This is a well considered setup, and should make a significant difference to the response rates that FontShop sees from their campaigns. I know I was very interested in what a web specific newsletter would cover. Now that they are sending out these targeted emails, Fontshop will be able to take advantage of the report comparisons feature to easily compare opens, clicks and unsubscribes for each segment. How could you make your emails more valuable to your subscribers? How can your subscribers be split into smaller groups? Related information: Watch a video walkthrough on working with custom fields and segments Use the preference center to let people self-segment Signup for a free FontShop account
Jakob Nielsen ruled the web design world back in the 1990s, and he ruled it using long pages of text and default blue links. A lot of things have changed since those days, but Mr Nielsen is still producing some really helpful research and guidelines. In his October 20th column, “Transactional Email and Confirmation Messages“, he comes to the same conclusion we did recently, that emails are often a last minute add on to a website or web application. Judging by many of the messages we tested, email design often seems to be a side effect of the software implementation and consists of copy written by the programmer late at night. The Nielsen Norman Group tested 92 different transactional email messages, mostly order confirmations, shipment notifications and the like. Overall, usability was judged as very low, with the messages poorly designed and confusing. Some key points from the full report: The subject line is crucial: “Participants deleted email with subject lines that seemed too much like spam” Your from address matters too: “People simply don’t open messages that don’t have recognizable sender information” Prioritize information: “Email that begins with marketing messages or other seemingly irrelevant information runs a major risk of being deleted” Jakob closes out his article with an excellent point that is too often forgotten: “Email is a user interface”. We need to design our email just as much as our websites. You can purchase the report to see the full results of this study, but you’ll probably find plenty to work on before you even need to read it.
Following on from yesterday’s post about the relative popularity of RSS and email, the Australian Communications and Media Authority has released a study on internet use by Australians. The report, Telecommunications Today Report 6: Internet Activity and Content, examines consumer adoption of the internet and the impact this is having on the growth of the digital economy in Australia. With 73 per cent of Australian households now having access to the internet, the report found that, overall, household internet users are accessing the internet more frequently, with an increasing number recording ‘heavy’ use (8 or more times per week) There is plenty of interesting information to be gleaned from the report. Most obvious is how dominant email is as the primary internet activity. Source: Nielsen Online (2008) The Australian Internet and Technology Report, February 98% of people in the study used email in the last 4 weeks, beating out all other activities by a big margin. Compare that to ‘reading blogs’ which was way down at 16%. Email newsletters look like a pretty good option for reaching Australians (at least the over 16 population). As well as general usage, 36% of people had subscribed to a newsletter in the last month. Add that to your arsenal of reasons that your clients should consider sending an email newsletter! Check out the full list of 6 communication services reports for more details. p.s. Did you notice the amusing gender difference chart? More men than women use the internet for maps and directions… is that easier to handle than asking a person?
For web designers and developers, email can seem a dreadfully old fashioned way to spread information. I’ve spoken to plenty of people who tell me that RSS is going to take over and email will be dead soon. There is no doubt that for some types of information, an RSS feed is a much better way to keep up to date. It’s also obvious that lots of people are struggling with too much email. However, outside of the techy world, RSS has a very long way to go. Via Steve Rubel we came across a Forrester research paper on the state of RSS. Nearly half of interactive marketers use RSS, but consumer adoption has only reached 11%. Of the consumers who haven’t adopted RSS, most don’t understand how RSS is relevant to their lives and the way they seek information. If marketers expect to reach a critical mass of consumers by using content syndication, then they must take on the burden of education. Why does this matter to you? This really is important to remember. While you and your immediate circle keep up with your favourite topics, products and companies via RSS, the great mass of people are not doing that. In fact, even most Campaign Monitor customers do not subscribe to the RSS feed, and we always see a huge boost in traffic to the blog after our newsletters go out. So when you next design a blog for a client, take some time to explain this to them. Clients are rightfully concerned about how to keep people coming back to their site. An RSS feed is simple and useful, but it won’t reach most of their audience. Email newsletters, on the other hand, appeal to a much greater potential audience. You can offer a well designed newsletter layout to your clients, and help them get that attention. It’s a nice additional source of income for your business as well as for your client’s business. Email may be old, but it’s got plenty of years left in it still!
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One of the spam filters in our design and spam testing tool is Postini. This filter is now owned by Google, and is notoriously difficult to get past. Postini is like a bouncer at a nightclub who not only won’t let you in, but won’t even tell you if it is because of your shoes, or because you don’t have enough women in your group (not that it ever happened to us of course). Recently a Campaign Monitor customer, Dave Green, ran into this problem with his campaign, and was able to do some testing to find out why Postini was blocking his email. His results in the end were useful, but surprising: What I have found (8 tests later) is that I had to chop up the larger images into a much smaller sizes both in dimensions and also in byte size . The largest kb is 14.3 and found I had to chop files into physically smaller dimensions for Postini to pass it. Basically it boiled down to trial and error, chopping images up trying to optimise them without causing major loss of image quality and re-testing. Spam filters (understandably) don’t reveal exactly how they work, but it seems clear that Postini is placing a lot of importance on the balance between images and text (or HTML) in an email. Dave also pointed out that our simian friends at MailChimp have made the same finding. Given how prevalent image blocking is in email clients, it makes sense not to rely on big images in your emails, but this is one more reason to be cautious. We can add image dimensions and image file size to our list of factors impacting spam filtering. Here’s a reminder of some other things to watch out for: Avoid repeatedly sending messages to full or invalid mailboxes. You can do this by tweaking your bounce handling settings for each subscriber list. Minimize the use of these words and phrases in the subject line, message body, sender address, and reply-to address: Use of the word Free (although “free” tends to have more leeway than most other trigger words), $$, XXX, sex or !!! (any excessive punctuation) Subject contains “Double Your”, “?”, “For Only” or “Free Instant”. TOO MANY CAPS IN THE SUBJECT LINE Email contains at least 70 percent blank lines The from field appears to not contain a real name, ends in numbers or contains the word friend. The email claims not to be spam Monitor new subscribers in your lists. Set suspicious “spamflag” addresses such as “abuse@” or “spam@” as Inactive subscribers unless you know the subscriber is legitimate. There are no shortcuts or certain ways to avoid spam filtering, but these guidelines can help reduce the risk factors. Filter providers are less and less likely to provide helpful information about their products, so we will be relying on trial and error even more. Thanks to Dave for his great work in this case! More important than any of these tip, tricks and tests is understanding that spam filters are not the biggest issue. The key to modern email marketing is understanding that relevance beats permission. Even if your email is being delivered into the inbox, you can still get spam complaints if you are not ensuring relevance.
A lot of people use Campaign Monitor to send emails out to their customers for special sales, to organise conferences, parties and events. We often get asked whether Campaign Monitor has some kind of system to record whether people will attend or not. While Campaign Monitor is not an events management application, it is actually pretty easy to set up your list so you can keep track of people who RSVP to your invitations. Here’s what you will need: An email that contains your RSVP “Yes” and “No” links A landing page for the yes / no links to click through to Two segments, for the ‘yes’ clickers and the ‘no’ clickers All very straightforward. Just setup somewhere on your website a ‘thanks for RSVPing’ page. If you want to have separate messages for people who say yes, and people who decline, you could have two different URLs. So your email would contain links like: <a href="http://www.yourwebsite.com/rsvp/yes-please.html">Yes, I can come</a> With some simple server side PHP or other code, you could just have one page with a parameter to detect yes and no clicks. <a href="http://www.yourwebsite.com/rsvp.php?answer=yes">Yes, I can come</a> Then when you send your email, Campaign Monitor will consider the ‘answer=yes’ and ‘answer=no’ portions to make those two separate URLs, and track the separately, which is what makes the whole thing possible. Your recipients click on whichever link they choose, and then you can separate them into yes and no groups using segments. Just create rules of type Campaign was opened – specific link clicked, select your campaign, and choose the appropriate links. Now you have your two lists of responses. You can export the segment as a list of addresses to use in some other system, and you can send different follow up emails to just the people who have said yes or no. Easy RSVP tracking with Campaign Monitor!
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