Archive | Market Better

How To Avoid SPAM Filters

Posted on 14 October 2014 by Jay Dymond

If you've been sending email campaigns for long enough, with out a doubt you've run into spam-filter issues. According to ReturnPath, you can expect 10-20% of your emails to get lost in cyberspace, mostly due to overzealous filters. Innocent email marketers who send permission-based emails to people who requested them get spam filtered all the time. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. The only way to avoid spam filters is to understand what spam is and how spam filters work. Even if you’re sending perfectly legal and engaging email newsletters, you need to have an understanding of the spam world. It will keep you out of trouble and make you a better email marketer. Now, let’s get started.

What Is Spam?

Spam is unsolicited email sent to a list of people. Let’s say you just bought a list of email addresses from some local business organization. Seems like these are great prospects for your business, right? You want to send them an email with a relevant offer they can’t refuse. Well, it’s spam if you send that list an unsolicited email. It’s not spam if you take that list and write personal, one-to-one emails to each recipient, and the content is unique for each recipient. If your immediate reaction is, “But, what if...” then you should stop now, because you’ll probably get yourself reported for spamming.

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003

The United States federal CAN-SPAM Act became law on January 1, 2004. According to their website, the FTC says that if you violate the law, you could be fined $11,000 for each offense (multiply $11,000 times the number of people on your recipient list). ISPs around the country have already successfully sued spammers for millions and millions of dollars under this

law. We’re not lawyers, so we can’t give you too much legal advice, but if you send commercial email, you should read through the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and understand the rules. If you have a lawyer, consult with him to her. We’ll highlight a couple of key points:

If you’re sending commercial email (selling or promoting stuff):

  • Never use deceptive headers, from-names, reply-tos, or subject lines.
  • You must ALWAYS provide an unsubscribe link.
  • Remove recipients from your list within 10 business days.
  • The unsubscribe link must work for at least 30 days after sending.
  • You MUST include your physical mailing address.

How Spam Filters Work

Spam filters look at a long list of criteria to decide whether your email is junk. They might look for spammy phrases like “CLICK HERE! ” or “FREE! BUY NOW!” They’ll assign points every time they see one of those phrases. Certain criteria get more points than others. Here’s a sample of criteria from SpamAssassin

  • Talks about lots of money (.193 points)
  • Describes some sort of breakthrough (.232 points)
  • Looks like mortgage pitch (.297 points)
  • Contains urgent matter (.288 points)
  • Money back guarantee (2.051 points)

If your campaign’s total “spam score” exceeds a certain threshold, then your email goes to the junk folder. You’re probably thinking, “What’s the thresholdI need to stay under?” Sorry, but the number is different for every server. As for that list of “spammy” criteria, it’s constantly growing and adapting, because spam filters learn more about junk every time someone clicks the spam button in their email program. Spam filters even sync up with each other to share what they’ve learned. Although there's no magic formula, we can help you avoid common mistakes that send newsletters to junk folders.

Avoid these common mistakes

These are the most common mistakes we see new email marketers make, which results in accidental spam filtering:

  • Using spammy phrases, like “Click here!” or “Once in a lifetime opportunity!”
  • Going crazy with exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • USING ALL CAPS, WHICH IS LIKE SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS VIA EMAIL (especially in the subject line)
  • Coloring fonts bright red or green
  • Coding sloppy HTML, usually from converting a Microsoft Word file to HTML
  • Creating an HTML email that’s nothing but one big image, with little or no text (since spam filters can’t read images, they assume you’re a spammer that’s trying to trick them)
  • Using the word “test” in the subject line (agencies run into this when sending drafts to clients for approval)
  • Sending a test to multiple recipients within the same company (that company’s email firewall can only assume it’s a spam attack)
  • Designing HTML email in Word and exporting the code to HTML (That code is sloppy, and spam filters hate it.

Preventing False Abuse Reports

You don’t have to be a spammer to get reported for spamming. In fact, we’ve found that totally clean lists that are 100-percent double opt-in will get one or two abuse reports per 50,000 recipients. Sometimes it’s a simple mistake, like when an inexperienced user clicks the spam button as an easy way to unsubscribe from an email.

But even if it’s a mistake, getting reported for abuse is serious. If a major ISP like AOL receives even a small handful of complaints about your emails, then they’ll start blocking all email from your server. And if you use an email-marketing service, that means your emails can affect the deliverability of thousands of other legitimate marketers. One bad apple can truly spoil the whole bunch.

And since it’s inevitable that you’ll receive spam complaints every now and then, ESPs are constantly monitoring abuse reports from ISPs, blackhole lists, and anti-spam networks, so they can immediately pinpoint problems as they arise and re-distribute email delivery to different servers and IP addresses while they investigate the account in question.

When you receive an abuse report, you’re kind of “guilty until proven innocent.” All the major ISPs care about is reducing unwanted email for their customers. There’s no negotiating, and they don’t have time to listen to excuses or long-winded explanations. And who can blame them? They're too busy trying to handle countless other spam complaints.

As long as you collected your email list legitimately and can prove without a doubt that any complaint you received is a simple mistake, you’re in the clear. But if there’s any question about your list-collection practices, your account will likely be shut down. Incidentally, that’s why most ESP require a double opt-in, and why their terms of use prohibit purchased, rented and opt-out lists. That kind of stuff generates too many complaints, even when they’re technically legit.

How abuse reports work

When people receive what they think is spam or junk, they can just click a button in their email program to label it as spam. When they do that, an abuse report is often created and sent to their ISP. If their ISP receives enough of these reports, they fire off an automated warning message to the sender. If you're using an ESP, they are that sender. So their abuse staff receives these warning messages. Usually, the report is very terse. It hides the identity of the person who complained and usually includes a copy of the email you sent, plus something like: Hi. Our customers are complaining about your emails. You need to address this issue ASAP, or we’ll start blocking all email from your servers. If the complaints continue within a certain timeframe, that’s it—all email from that particular IP address of the sending server is blocked, at least temporarily. Scary. That’s why ESP's are constantly monitoring incoming complaints, and it’s why most have human reviewers to approve new accounts before they’re allowed to send campaigns. It’s why also why ESP's monitor their outgoing mail queue all the time, and why you might hear from one of their reviewers with tips on how you can make your email less spammy.

Reasons for false abuse reports

So why do legitimate email marketers get falsely accused of sending spam? Sometimes it’s a mistake. But more often than not, it’s the marketer’s own fault. Here are some common reasons marketers get accused of sending spam:

  • The marketer collected emails legitimately (through an opt-in form on their site), but took too long to contact her list. People receive full-blown email
  • newsletters out of the blue and don’t remember opting in two years ago.
  • The marketer runs an online store. They’ve got thousands of email addresses of customers who have purchased products from them in the past. Now they want to start emailing them. Instead of asking people to join the email-marketing list, they just start blasting offers.
  • The marketer is exhibiting at a trade show. The trade-show organization provided the marketer with a list of attendee email addresses. Instead of emailing those people an invitation to join their list (along with a little explanation about how they got their emails from the tradeshow), the marketer assumes they have permission, and starts emailing full-blown newsletters and promos.
  • Fish bowls and business cards. Yep, we’ve all dropped our business cards into a fish bowl somewhere to win a free lunch or a door prize. To marketers, it’s common sense that the fish bowl is a list-collection technique. To prospects, it’s just a shot at a free lunch.
  • Purchasing or renting members’ email addresses from an organization, then just adding them to their list without getting permission.
  • There’s a common theme here. In all of the above cases, the missing element is permission. The marketers are caught up in legal rules and definitions. But it’s not enough to be legal—you’ve got to be polite, too. So now you understand what abuse reports are and know why emails get reported. Now let’s get into how to prevent them.

Ways to prevent false abuse reports

By now you understand that permission is extremely important, and that without permission, you’ll be reported for abuse (whether the email is legit or not). So here are some ways to prevent false spam complaints:
  • Even if they’re your customers, don’t send promotion s without getting permission first. Set up a separate marketing list for customers to join. T ell them you’re about to start up a great email newsletter or promotions program, and give them reasons to sign up.
  • Don’t use purchased lists . They’re a waste of money, and they’re just plain wrong. Even if you acquired them legally, they’re against many ESP's terms of use, so you’ll get in trouble for it.
  • Don’t hide your opt-out link. It should be prominent . People who no longer wish to receive your emails are either going to unsubscribe or mark you as spam. Which would you prefer? Some folks even place the unsubscribe link at the top of their emails, so it’s super easy to find .
  • Make sure your email looks reputable. If you’re not a designer, then hire one. Your email needs to look like it came from your company, not some scammer who’s phishing for information. If your email looks unprofessional, who’s going to trust your unsubscribe link?
  • Set expectations when people opt-in to your list. If people sign up for monthly newsletters but you also send them weekly promotions, they’re probably going to report you for spamming. Tell them what you’ll be sending and how often. Set up different lists (one for newsletters, one for special offers and promotions). Understand that there’s a difference between soft-sell newsletters and hard-sell promotions. Don’t mix them up.
  • Use the double opt-in method. If you use double opt-in, you have proof that each and every recipient gave you permission to send them emails. Period.
  • Don’t wait too long before contacting your subscribers. We’ve seen lots of small businesses collect emails at their storefront, but then wait more than three months (sometimes years) before contacting their customers. Too often, it’s with a coupon offer during the holidays (when recipients are already getting overwhelmed with offers from other online merchants). Set up a process where new subscribers receive emails from you right away.

Double opt-in

We highly recommend the double opt-in method when managing your email lists. Here's how it works:

  1.  A customer signs up for your email newsletter through a form at your website.
  2.  She receives an email with a confirmation link.
  3.  If she clicks the link, she's added
  4.  If she doesn't click the link, she's not added to the list.

Double opt-in is fast replacing the single opt-in method, where someone submits a form, and bam—they’re added to a list. There are too many chances for someone to get signed up without permission, either erroneously or maliciously. And there’s no need to even discuss the old opt-out method anymore. That’s getting phased out, due to all the spam complaints marketers get from people who never saw the opt-out check. Don’t be so desperate to grow your list that you put your company’s reputation on the line.

Email Firewalls

By now, most email marketers know to avoid using spammy phrases like “FREE! CLICK NOW!” or the spam filters will trash your message. But did you know that before your email gets to a spam filter, it has to get through a gatekeeper? Spam is so bad that spam filters now need spam filters.

They’re all over the place. ISPs use them. Large corporations use them. Small businesses are starting to use them. What’s scary is they all talk to each other. It’s how they learn what spam is, and who should be blocked.

If IronPort’s Email Security Appliance thinks your email is spam, it’ ll gobble it up and shoot its remains into cyberspace before your recipient’s puny spam filter even gets a chance to look for the word V1AGRA. It won’t even waste the energy to tell anybody about it (like in a bounce report).

Ever send to your email list and wonder where 5-10% of the emails seem to go off to? Ever wonder why the numbers don’t seem to add up in your deliverability reports? It was probably one of these big, mean appliances. How does this server know what spam is? Your own recipients teach it. When you send an email to your list, and someone on your list thinks it’s spam, or doesn’t remember opting-in to your list, or if you purchased a list, that person can report you to SenderBase. Get enough complaints, and they’ll propagate your data to all the IronPort servers around the world, letting everyone know you’re a spammer.

Incidentally, your ESP should be registered at SenderBase, so they can properly investigate every complaint generated in response to their users’ campaigns.  IronPort is only one of many email firewalls, gateways and security appliances you should learn about.

All of those gatekeepers rely on reputation scores to block emails before they even get to the content-based spam filters. They all calculate reputation differently. So you better make sure your reputation is good by sending clean emails to clean lists.

If you think you can send junk, get reported, then switch to a new email server, you’re sadly mistaken. Once you get reported, your company’s name and domain name are on the lists. They’ll know to block ALL emails with your name in it from now on—no matter who sends it or where it came from. This is why affiliate-marketing programs can be so risky. Imagine thousands of sloppy email senders (your affiliates) buying lists and sending emails with your company’s domain name in them.

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10 of the Best Self-Hosted E-commerce Solutions

Posted on 13 October 2014 by Jay Dymond

First Direct Corp. recently launched our new online store using Magento. Our old shopping cart solutuon was quite out dated and it was time for an update.  We researched several self hosted solutions and choose to go with Magento. The following  online article lists 10 of the best self-hosted (FREE) e-commerce solutions. Please take a look and if you're interested in upgrading your own estore or starting a new online store, please give us a call, First Direct Corp. can assist with getting you setup in no time.

http://www.sitepoint.com/10-best-self-hosted-ecommerce-solutions/

 

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How To Make A Good Email Signature

Posted on 21 August 2014 by Jay Dymond

 

First impressions count and your email signature is no different. With over 500 billion emails sent every day, you need to make your emails stand out! In this class we will show you how to make a more creative email signature and at the same time improve your branding and marketing appeal.

In This Class We Will Cover:

  • What makes a good email signature
  • What you should avoid putting in your email signature
  • Adding your photo and logo
  • Promoting your social media pages
  • Adding a bit of color

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

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New “Sharpen Your GoldMine Knowledge” Training Classes & Webinars

Posted on 20 August 2014 by Jay Dymond

You may already be aware that First Direct Corp. provides online training classes for GoldMine.  A list of our online training classes can be found via the following URL - http://www.1stdirect.com/events/index.php.  If you miss a class or are not able to attend a class, don't worry, we recycle the events and hold them again at future dates. So check back often to see when the new dates are scheduled.

We recently added some new classes and will continue to do so, which is another great reason to check back often.  If there is a topic that you'd like to have covered in a training classes please let us know and we will look into having a class put together. In addition, we can always schedule one-on-one training with you and your colleagues if you prefer a more private training class.

Here are some of the new training classes that we have added:

Importing Contact Data into GoldMine

Getting Started with GoldMine

Do You Have What It Takes To Be The GoldMine Administrator?

Using the Lookup.ini to Automatically Update Fields

GoldMine Data Bootcamp

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Learn How To Write SQL Queries for GoldMine

Posted on 24 April 2014 by Jay Dymond

The SQL Query Tab, accessed via Tools >> SQL Query, in GoldMine Premium Edition allows GoldMine users to write SQL Statements to display information contained in your GoldMine databases. SQL Queries can be used to display lists of contact related information regardless of where the information is stored in the GoldMine database. Filters and Groups are great for building lists but there are times when  SQL Queries are better or the only option.  For instance exporting Primary and Additional Email Addresses, Creating a list of contacts based on History items, Scheduled activities, and Details. Not to mention exporting a list from a SQL Query is much easier then using the GoldMine export wizard.

REGISTER FOR THIS EVENT

This class will cover the following:

In chapaters 1-6 we will review the table structures in GoldMine. We'll discuss these tables and how the contact information contained  in them are related to one another. This is an import first step before being able to create/write SQL Queries. In the remaining chapters we will review the SQL SELECT statement and how you can generate lists of contacts and contact related information from the GoldMine database.  Examples will be provided each step of the way.

Chapters Covered

  1. Introduction
  2. What is a Database?
  3. What is SQL?
  4. Intro to SQL Database Tables
  5. Understanding SQL Table Relationships
  6. Understanding The GoldMine Database Table Structure
  7. The SQL Select Statement
  8. Sorting/Ordering Data and SQL Aliases
  9. Filtering Data using WHERE, AND, OR, IN, NOT, LIKE
  10. Selecting Data from Multiple Database Tables
  11. Summarizing and Grouping Data
  12. Subqueries, Unions & Using Multiple Instances of the Same Database Table
  13. SQL Functions
  14. Useful GoldMine SQL Queries

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IntelliClick Standard Edition – 20% Discount Offer Ends June 30th 2014

Posted on 24 April 2014 by Jay Dymond

IntelliClick for GoldMine announced a SPECIAL PROMOTION that I think you might be interested in, but if you are interested in taking advantage of this special promotion do hurry as it expires at the end of June 2014.

Does your organization use Constant Contact, MailChip, Vertical Response or another Email Service Provider for sending and tracking your email campaigns? Users of competitor products to IntelliClick for GoldMine, such as Constant Contact, MailChimp, Vertical Response, etc., can now switch to/purchase IntelliClick Standard and recieve a 20% discount ... PLUS receive bonus features valued at $800 at no extra charge for the first subscription year. 

In addition, customers will receive the following BONUS services:

  1. Email Data Verification -
    Customers can have their database of email addresses validated before sending their first campaign; the cost for the first 5,000 validated email addresses is waived (a $75 value)
  2. Unsubscribe & Undeliverable Email Address Flagged In GoldMine -
    As part of their installation, competitive upgrade users will have their unsubscribe and undeliverable email data from their existing provider uploaded and flagged for exclusion in their GoldMine system, so they are immediately ready for their first send.
  3. Premium On-line HTML Editor Account -
    This is an upgrade from the standard account and includes over 900 professional grade HTML email templates PLUS rendering testing capabilities across all email platforms (mobile, web and client installed) - a $95 value
  4. Added Monthly Send Quota -
    Includes an SMTP relay account with a monthly send quota of 20,000 emails (vs. 10,000) - a $130 value

IntelliClick Promotional Pricing:

Item Reg. Price Promo Rate Savings
IntelliClick Standard $2,495 $1,995 $500
Email Address Verification $15/thousand Waived For 5,000 Email Addresses $75
Premium HTML Editor $95/yr. Waived $95
Upgraded Email Sending Quota $130/yr. Waived $130
Total Savings $800
* Regular annual renewal rates apply after the first year

Promotion Valid For Orders Placed Between May 1 - June 30, 2014

Customers qualify by providing proof of their existing subscription with a competitor's service.

This offer applies only to the first year subscription/cost of IntelliClick.

If you're interested in taking advantage of this Promotional Offer on IntelliClick for GoldMine, please contact First Direct Corp at (800) 935-4386.

If you haven't seen what IntelliClick for GoldMine can do for you, then I would suggest registering for a demonstration so I can show you how IntelliClick beats the competition when it comes to Email Marketing and GoldMine CRM.

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Embedding/Attaching Images In Email: Why Shouldn’t I Do It?

Posted on 24 October 2013 by Jay Dymond

If you are new to sending marketing emails and need advice on how to design html email templates , or if you are currently sending email but aren't satisfied with the click-through or deliverability results, this article explains why embedding/attaching images in email may actually make your email less successful and get it blocked by SPAM filters.

Embedding/Attaching Images In Email: Why Shouldn't I Do It?

Without a doubt, the number one error we see in companies who want to begin an email marketing program is the desire to design an email that looks exactly like a webpage or, worse yet, like a print postal mailer by embedding images in email without any hesitation.

It easy to understand why email designers like images. An email, just like any other piece of marketing material, looks better when it's got appealing images in it. If it displays properly to the end-user, it probably converts better as well. The problem, as you're about to see, is that most end-users won't see the images and graphics you embedded. As an added bonus, embedding images in email will often get your email sent to the spam folder.

Embedding/Attaching Images In Email: Is It the Only Way to Include Images in Email?

Actually, there are two ways to include images in an email. The first way ensures that the user will see the image, even if in some cases it's only as an attachment to the message. This method is exactly what we call as “embedding images in email " in daily life. Essentially, you're attaching the image to the email. The plus side is that, in one way or another, the user is sure to get the image. While the downside is two fold. Firstly, spam filters look for large, embedded images and often give you a higher spam score for embedding images in email (Lots of spammers use images to avoid having the inappropriate content in their emails read by the spam filters.). Secondly, if you pay to send your email by weight or kilobyte, this increases the size of your message. If you're not careful, it can even make your message too big for the parameters of the email provider.

The second way to include images (and the better way) is the same way that you put an image on a web page. Within the email, you insert an image using the url that is the reference to the image's location on your web server. If you don't have access to upload images on your own web server, you can use any number of free image hosting services. This has several benefits. Firstly, you won't get caught for spamming or for your message “weighing” too much because of the image size. Secondly, you can make changes to the images after the email has been sent if you find errors in them. On the flip side, your recipient will need to actively turn on image viewing in their email client to see your images.

Embedding/Attaching Images In Email: What Does “Turn Image Viewing On” Mean?

Unfortunately, image urls and image files can be used to plant viruses on computers and to collect information about people. For this reason, most email service providers, such as Hotmail, Yahoo! and Gmail, set the default status on delivered messages to block images from being viewed by default.

What a user sees when this happens is a large, white, empty space (with your image alt or title text if you've included it) and often a message to right click to download the images. Most people spend less than a minute scanning an email while they decide whether to read it or delete it. If you're email is full of images, they don't see much that allows them to make a decision. Chances are, unless users are already very loyal to your brand and interested in your content, you are about to get deleted.

Email users can overwrite the “images off” default in their email, but most of them don't. Most studies and surveys reveal that anywhere from 40% to 60% of users read email with the images turned off. Any way you cut it, that's almost half of your recipient base who won't see your email with the images embedded as you intended. And that's not even counting mobile phone users!

Embedding/Attaching Images In Email: How Much Do Mobile Phone Users Impact Image Viewing?

Increasingly, mobile phone users impact your email viewing greatly. Recent studies suggest that up to 20% of your users check their mail on text-only mobile phone applications. If your email is a single image, or is based on a great deal of images, you won't resolve to those users at all.

So, What Should I Do?

Surprisingly, you should use images. You should just use very few of them and be careful where you put them.

Images definitely have a marketing impact. A portion of your viewers will see them and turn them on. If you just follow these basic steps with images, you'll be fine. Also, remember that you can do a lot of things just using html tables and colors that will make your email visually appealing AND deliverable.

The Less Than 25% Rule: No more than 25% of the real estate in your email template should be image-based. You want at least ¾ of the email to be readable without images.

Alt and Title Text: This is the text that is contained within your image url that appears when the image doesn't load (and in some cases appears when your mouse hovers over a graphic). Having this text beneath your graphics is important because you can still convey the message that was in the graphic even if the graphic doesn't load.

Don't use images for important messages! The basic rule is this: “If it's important that your readers know a piece of information, it cannot be trapped in an image.” All important information, such as price, product title, value proposition and expiration date, must be in html text. This includes “Click to order” buttons. If those are images, you'll have users looking for where they're supposed to click, and possibly not finding it. Those should be html buttons.

Images are an important part of any marketing campaign or collateral. However, email presents challenges in that you can't control how the end product displays to the user in all cases. It's better to have an email that can be delivered and seen by the user than to have one that looks fantastic, but only when it's loaded on your computer screen and not when it's in an inbox!

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Pixlr.com: Easy Online Photo Editing

Posted on 22 October 2013 by Jay Dymond

Pixlr is the most widely used free online photo editor on the web and mobile. It transforms any image with a fast, intuitive and robust tool set that is easy to use for the burgeoning photographer with no prior knowledge of photo editing, while also offering fully featured, per-pixel editing complete with layers, adjustment tools and filters for the more advanced user. It is also great for anyone needing to edit/create their own images.

Pixlr Editor

Pixlr Editor is an advanced online service designed for creating, editing, opening and saving images and photos in various formats. In addition to impressive photo editing features such as layers, shapes, airbrushes, scaling, gradients, color adjustments and filters, Pixlr Editor allows users to download and save files to a local computer in several different formats (including Pixlr Editor’s own multi-layer format, .PXD), or send directly to social networking sites and/or photo sharing sites, such as Facebook, Flickr, or Picasa.

Pixlr Express

Pixlr Express is a simple photo editing tool aimed at users seeking quick and easy fixes for their digital images. With this tool, users with little to no experience with desktop photo editors can still do very cool things to their photos. Pixlr Express boasts a clear, intuitive interface and allows anyone with an Internet connection to resize, adjust, and add effects to their photos.

Pixlr-o-matic

Pixlr-o-matic, awarded the 2011 ‘Best App Ever’ award for the Best Photo Editing App on Android by 148apps.com, is a web and mobile (iOS and Android) service that allows users to add fun retro effects to images, transforming photos into unique masterpieces. Editing on Pixlr-o-matic is simple, with more than 2 million possible finishes, including overlays and borders. With more options than any other photo app, users will never run out of new styles. This fun and simple darkroom app makes it easy to add an effect, overlay and border to get that retro, grunge, or clean look –in just three simple steps.

Pixlr Grabber

A browser tool to fetch images and screen grabs from any web page.

Pixlr imm.io

imm.io is a one-click easy image sharer, perfect if you want to upload an image to show your friends or link from other sites.
Platforms: Online service

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Great Tips for Designing Your Own HTML Emails

Posted on 22 October 2013 by Jay Dymond

This article is intended for the individual at your organization responsible for designing all your HTML emails.  I would strongly suggest sending this article to them, if you are not that person.  With that out of the way, lets begin.

Building a rock-solid HTML email

There are a whole host of factors that contribute to a successful email marketing campaign. Permission, relevance, timeliness and engaging content are all important. Even so, the BIGGEST challenge for designers is building an email that renders well across all the various email clients.  There are some uncomfortable facts that those new to HTML email should know about. Designing an email is not like designing for the web. While web browsers continue to improve and move towards industry standards, many email clients have not.  Some have even gone backwards. For example, in 2007, Microsoft switched the html email rendering engine in MS Outlook  from Internet Explorer to MS Word.  Add to this the quirks of the major web-based email clients like Gmail and Outlook.com, sprinkle in a little Lotus Notes and you’ll soon realize how different the email game is. So what do we need to do as designers to ensure that our email is going to look good in all the different email clients.

Luckily it can be done, but not without its challenges. Here is a great article from our friends over at Campaign Monitor, that covers all the details.

I'd also recommend checking out these handy field guides that can walk you through the entire process of building effective email campaigns.

 

 

 

 

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5 Things That Influence Your Email Sender Reputation

Posted on 21 October 2013 by Jay Dymond

The holiday season is approaching, which means you’re busy crafting the perfect emails in hopes to drive up sales.

But what if your emails don’t make it to the inbox? Deliverability concerns often get pushed aside, but Return Path reported that 20% of legitimate, non-spam emails will never reach the inbox.  You want to avoid being in that 20%. According to Return Path, you hold a lot of power needed to control that, as most deliverability problems are based on sender reputation. We’ll look at the five main factors that affect reputation and what you can do to help yourself.

1. The Number of  Emails You Send

You won’t be surprised to hear that spammers send emails in large numbers. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) flag large volume sends because of this, making it harder for businesses to get through.  Not only will you be flagged by the subscriber’s ISP, your own ISP may flag you for violating send limits.  Here are the limits listed for a few of them:

  • GoDaddy – 100 emails/day
  • Gmail – 500 emails/day
  • Comcast – 1000 emails/day

The solution around this is to use your own mail server, or an email marketing service provider (ESP). One thing that ESPs do is ensure that you can send all the emails you need to without it hurting your sender reputation. You won’t be able to go from 0 to 50,000 in one day, but you will be able to gradually build your list up to however many subscribers you wish to send to.

2. How Many People Mark Your Email As SPAM

You’ve all probably noticed, and even used, the little button in your outlook inbox that lets you mark an email as “Spam” or “Junk.” It deletes the emails while making sure other emails from that sender don’t end up in your inbox again. But you may not realize all that goes on in the background. The sender’s ESP will note that you have clicked this button and report it, and ISPs keep track of the information for deciding where to place emails from that sender in other people’s inboxes.

If a lot of people are complaining about your emails, that indicates something is wrong. If you use an ESP, you can see how many complaints an email got. Subscribers who complained will also be unsubscribed from your list so they can’t do it again.

But what an ESP can’t fix is WHY the subscriber complained, which is up to you.

So what can you do?

  • Make sure you set proper expectations – you should be upfront about what you’re going to send to subscribers. The sign up form, thank you pages and welcome email are all excellent opportunities to discuss your content and frequency.
  • Send only relevant content – if you tell them you’re going to send them gluten free recipes, don’t throw in an email about your soap products. You may want to mention other aspects of your business in a side box in one of your regular emails, but it should never replace the content subscribers are expecting.
  • Have subscribers confirm to be added to your list- The best way you’ll be able to make sure you have legitimate, interested subscribers is if you have them click a link to confirm they want to be on your list. You won’t get 100% of the email addresses submitted to confirm, but you will eliminate invalid emails and people signing up solely for an incentive or bonus gift.
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe – Make sure the option to unsubscribe is easily visible for the subscriber. ESPs will automatically add an unsubscribe link on the bottom of your email, but you can make it even easier by including one at the top as well. If subscribers aren’t sure how to unsubscribe, they’re most likely going to mark your message as spam instead. While this will end your emails to them, it also impairs your emails getting to other subscribers who are still interested.

Taking these steps will reduce the likelihood of complaints.

3. Spam Trap Email Addresses

ISPs often set up decoy email addresses to act as traps for spammers. These email addresses are never published or shared anywhere. Spammers obtain these addresses by data harvesting and selling to others. If you’re emailing to one of these “trap emails,” it indicates you aren’t properly managing your list.

If you have purchased a list, you’re in greater danger. Purchased lists also often contain inactive, useless email addresses that will only slow you down by causing bounces, which we’ll talk about next.

Here are other ways to avoid getting spam trap emails:

  • Only add subscribers who have specifically requested to receive your emails – if you’re not sure how you got an email address, don’t add it to your list.
  • Direct people to sign up on your web form.
  • Monitor your list and remove inactive subscribers. If you're tracking your campaigns open and clicks, you can routinely go through and delete subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked in an email in 3 months, 6 months or whatever you feel comfortable with.
  • Use confirmed opt-in – again, the easiest way to ensure it’s a good email address.

NOTE:  The problem with spam traps is not that you need to learn how to identify and remove them from your list, but rather you should be obtaining email addresses from people who specifically request to be added… and spam traps don’t belong to people. In general purchasing lists is frowned upon and never a great strategy for building lists.

4. High Bounce Rate

There are two types of bounces that can occur:

  • Soft bounce: The email can’t be delivered due to a temporary issue such as a full inbox.
  • Hard bounce: The email can’t be delivered due to a permanent issue such as a closed account.

ISPs are most concerned with hard bounces. This is similar to the spam trap problem, only these email addresses aren’t tools the ISPs are using.

Because of the similarity to spam traps, you should follow the same steps to avoid having a high bounce rate. An ESP will unsubscribe bounced email addresses for you, but even having one email come back with a lot of bounces can negatively affect your deliverability.

5. Are You Who You Say You Are?

Email authentication acts like a signature on a credit card receipt – it verifies your identity and allows you to claim responsibility for the mailing. Spammers try to forge the email “signatures” and make it look like the email is coming from someone else. Authentication helps to prevent that and tells the ISP that you really are the sender you’re claiming to be.

You should pay special attention to Sender Policy Framework, or SPF. You can edit your domain’s SPF record via your web host. Sender ID and DomainKeys Identified Mail are also important for authentication.  Some email service providers do the authentication for you.

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