Newsflash: Brand Matters in Email

recent DMA Report, “The Integration of DM and Brand,” makes the case
that brand and direct marketing are converging—where direct marketers
are building brand value and brand marketers are influencing sales.
(The report surveyed 296 marketers, 56% of whom combine direct and mass
marketing and 44% just do direct marketing.)

I believe that email is one of the channels where this line is blurred
most—in a really good and powerful mix that benefits marketers and
subscribers. In fact, it benefits marketers BECAUSE it benefits
subscribers! But that is a future blog post.

In the survey, nearly 70% of brand marketers rate personalization as
having a positive or strong positive effect on brand and 64% rate
targeting as having a positive or strong positive effect.

Clearly, these two methods—personalization and targeting—are keys to
creating relevance in email, and the smart marketers who employ them to
build satisfying and engaging email experiences for their subscribers
enjoy higher response and ROI. Recently, a client added personalization
to their email program and found that it boosted customer response by
6%, but dropped prospect response by 5% (and boosted prospect
unsubscribe rates by 2%). Wow. That is pretty powerful—and really
illustrates that when the subscriber has a relationship with your
brand, customization and a personal approach are very powerful. When
the prospect didn’t have a relationship with the brand, the intimacy
assumed by the marketer bombed.

In fact, Return Path surveys show
that brand and the subject line are the two of the most influential
reasons why a subscriber decides to open and email. More so, it’s not
just that particular email or the fact that the subscriber knows the
brand, it’s the fact that the email program itself has value—the brand
of the email program (what we at Return Path call “prior value”)
matters most. In that 3–5 second decision to open or delete, the brand
value of your email program—that you’ve sent me email in the past that
was interesting, helpful and relevant—is what drives the open.

Brand matters in email, but it doesn’t trump relevancy.

Targeted Email Marketing: Put a Colon in Your Subject

forgive me for being so candid, but I’d like to talk about the subject
of your colon. The colon in your email subject line, that is.

One of the most effective ways to boost your email marketing open
rates is to improve your subject line. The more relevant your subject
line is to your customers, the more likely they are to open your email.

Since you have a limited amount of real estate in a subject line
(around 40 characters), the easiest way to boost the relevance of your
subject line is to put your keywords or hot buttons at the front of
your subject line, followed by an explanatory phrase, with a colon in
the middle.

Your customers read your email subject lines from the left and move
to the right, in much the same way you are reading this sentence,
assuming you have read this far. So your goal with busy readers, whose
fingers are poised over the delete key, is to grab their attention with
the first few words of your subject. That’s where your colon comes in.
Your colon separates the attention-grabbing keywords from the
explanatory copy.

Let me give you an example, using the subject of this article. I
write email marketing letters for a living. My target audience is
marketing managers who use email to sell their products and services,
and cultivate sales leads. When these folks go online and search for
help with their email marketing, they type these types of keywords into
their search engine:

1. email marketing course

2. mortgage lead email marketing

3. targeted email marketing

What these three search phrases have in common is the phrase “email
marketing.” So, if I want to make my email sales letter relevant to any
of these three groups, I should put “email marketing” at the beginning
of my subject line and not at the end or in the middle. Then, to show
that my message is relevant to each audience, I must also put the
next-most-important keyword near the front of the subject as well.

For example, if I was offering a course on email marketing to real
estate agents, I wouldn’t say: “Enrol in Our Course for Real Estate
Agents on Email Marketing.” That puts the keywords at the end of the
subject line. Instead, I would use my trusty colon and say, “Email
Marketing Course for Real Estate Agents: Enrol Now.”

If I was writing an email sales letter to mortgage brokers, offering
them help with generating leads with email, I wouldn’t write a subject
line that said, “10 Mistakes to Avoid in Mortgage Lead Email
Marketing.” Instead, I would write, “Mortgage Lead Email Marketing: 10
Mistakes to Avoid.”

Five Factors to Optimize the Marketing Potential of Transactional E-Mails

There’s been a lot of hype around the potential of transactional e-mail
to deliver marketing messages -- and it’s well founded. Nothing is more
potent than delivering a cross- and upsell message that’s tightly tied
and perfectly timed to consumer behavior.

With spam filters
wreaking havoc for e-mail marketers, the convergence of marketing and
transactional e-mails isn’t surprising. Unlike bulk marketing e-mail,
transactional messages stand a better chance of reaching the inbox and
being opened since they contain valuable consumer information that is
desired and expected.

Yet, realizing this potential takes more
than slapping a pretty face (HTML) on your plain text transactional
e-mails. It also takes more than balancing your transactional and
marketing content, satisfying CAN-SPAM requirements and applying other
best practice tips.&

The core challenge comes down to whether you
have the right infrastructure to generate transactional e-mail with the
right marketing message in the first place.&

To that end, here are five factors you’ll want to consider:

Your first priority should be to ensure that your e-mail infrastructure
is tightly integrated with your backend business processes and data

By doing so, you’ll be able to effectively trigger
e-mails, customize messages to customer preferences and behaviors and
ensure a consistent customer experience across multiple touch points.

Without such integration, you simply won’t be able to leverage the marketing opportunity that transactional e-mail affords you.

Having achieved the right level of integration, you’ll then need to
have a dynamic content engine to actually assemble and generate
relevant messages.

This is especially critical for transactional
e-mails, since customers have the expectation that you know them.
Sending them a generic marketing message is not only a wasted
opportunity. It could relegate your transactional e-mail to the same
fate as your bulk marketing e-mail - the junk folder.

Transactional e-mails are business-critical communications that require
expedited delivery. Any delay can erode profits through an increase in
customer service calls.

Consequently, you need to ensure that your
marketing messages can be automatically inserted into your
transactional e-mails and sent promptly and securely to your

Anything less and you run the risk of negating the
advantages provided by marketing-orientated transactional e-mails and
potentially diminishing the value of your brand.

Reporting.& Sending out customer e-mails without any insight into their deliverability or open and click rates is akin to flying blind.

detailed and real-time reporting is essential to properly manage your
transactional and marketing activities. Without such information, you
give up the opportunity to default to alternate channels in delivering
your important transactional messages or to capitalize on the most
successful marketing messages associated with them.

In order to be successful with your marketing efforts, you need the
flexibility to test different creative approaches and quickly adjust
your templates and content blocks accordingly. If you’re locked into a
rigid process, or one that’s costly to change, you’ll be powerless to
take advantage of new learnings.

Taking advantage of transactional
e-mail is more than just adding offers and graphics. You have to do it
right, and that’s only possible with an e-mail infrastructure that can
accommodate the factors discussed above.

If your current e-mail
infrastructure comes up short, you’ll need to select a new solution
that can deliver on all five fronts while accommodating future growth.

the right solution in place, you can quickly realize the marketing
potential of transactional emails.& It’s really not that complicated,
but you do have to think before you transact.

The Difference a Test Makes

5 steps for creating simple tests that improve email marketing results

by Gail Goodman, Constant Contact CEO

What if you could make a slight change to one of your emails and get
a 20 percent lift in opens or a 10 percent increase in sales? You would
do it in an instant. But how do you know what element to change? That's
where testing comes in. Email marketing makes it easy to quickly test
important elements of your email—at very little or no extra cost. With
testing, you can find out what factors influence the success of your
email. Follow these five steps to create an effective, measurable test.

Step One: Decide What to Test

Because testing with email is so easy, it's often tempting to test
many elements all at once. You should start by testing just one. Why?
If you test more than one element in the same email, it is challenging
(and sometimes impossible) to determine what exactly influenced the
response. Here are some easy and telling tests to start with:

  • Subject lines - Create two different subject lines for the same email communication. For example, a boutique
    owner just added a home and garden section, and she wants to get the
    word out to her customers. Here are the subject lines she'll test.

    • Subject line #1: New! Home and garden section added
    • Subject line #2: Get what you need for your home and garden

  • Long versus short copy - Is less really more? Create a shorter version of your current
    newsletter with teasers and links to your website. Or create two
    versions of a promotional email. Keep one very short and to the point
    and make the other a little longer by adding additional, useful

  • Special offers -
    Create two different offers. For example, an online bookseller wants to
    get rid of last season's bestsellers. He sends the following offers to
    see which one gets a better response.
    • Offer #1: Buy 3 books and get 1 free
    • Offer #2: Buy 3 books and get free shipping

    Other tests could include the time of day or day of the week you send, with
    an image or without, types of calls-to-action, and the placement of a
    call-to-action button or link. I'm sure that you will come up with
    other areas you would like to test as well.

Step Two: Decide How to Measure Success

What will you measure to determine success? Possibilities include
website traffic, response to an offer, sales, opens, and
click-throughs. Whichever you decide on, be confident that you can
attribute an increase (or decrease) in the area you measure directly to
the email you send. The easiest place to start is with your email
campaign opens and click-throughs, data that your email marketing
service provider makes available to you.

Step Three: Determine How to Divide Your Email List

When it comes to who you will send your test to, you have two
options. You can either split your entire list in half and test one
against the other or take a random sample and do a pre-test.

A pre-test is an excellent way to find out what works before sending
the email to your entire list. This knowledge can greatly improve your
overall response rate. It also protects you from sending a poor
performing email test to a large portion of your list—and wasting your
efforts. To pre-test, choose a random sampling of 100 people from your
master list, then split that in half and send each half one of the two
test campaigns.

Step Four: Test, Measure, and Declare a Winner

Once you have everything ready, send your test emails. The great
thing about email is that you get your results quickly—within a 24 to
48 hour period you will know which email communication got a better
result (it takes weeks when testing with direct mail). Declare your
winner, send that email to the remaining members of your list, and
watch the results come in.

Step Five: Have Fun and Keep it Up

Did I mention that testing is fun? Make a guess of which version
will win before you send, and see if you are right. What's amazing
about testing (and what proves its incredible value) is that many times
the results are not at all what you expect.

Let your customers, clients, or members tell you, through their
actions, what they respond to best. This method is an excellent and
trustworthy way to improve your emails. Test often. You might be
surprised every time!


1. Export the entire list you want to send to (only export the data you
need for your test—most likely first name and email address) from your account, to an Excel file.

2. To get a random sampling of your list, go to the first empty cell in the first row and
type =RAND() in. Grab the corner of that cell with your mouse and pull
down to the very end of your list. Each person on the list will be
assigned a random number.

3. “Select All” (“Control” + “A”), right click, select “Copy”, right click, select “Paste Special”, then select “Values”

4. Go to “Data” and select “Sort.” Sort by the column with the random numbers.

5. Save the first 100 contacts (your random sampling) and delete the rest.

6. Divide this list into two (1-50, 51-100) and save one list as A (in one
Excel file) and the other list as B (in a second Excel file).

7. Import both of these files into your Constant Contact account. Name
them for the campaign you are running. For example, “Father’s Day
Promotion A” and “Father’s Day Promotion B.”

8. Create the two campaigns you want to test.

9. Select list A for one campaign and List B for the other.

10. Send and watch the results come in.

The R’s of e-mail marketing success

Teaching the masses the three R's — reading, ‘riting
and ‘rithmetic — transformed America into a world economic power.
Similarly, educating marketers on the “R’s of e-mail” can transform
so-so programs into ones that deliver the biggest R of all: ROI.

Here are eight R’s for e-mail marketing success.


successful e-mail program starts with a list of subscribers who ask to
hear from you. Make sure you send e-mails that are requested by
recipients: always get explicit permission, use a double opt-in process
and resist such tactics as pre-checking boxes on registration forms.


marketing is about building long-term relationships. With each e-mail
you send, you either build trust or destroy it. Greet new users with a
welcome e-mail that sets expectations around frequency and content,
encourages feedback and invites them to manage your relationship
through preference centers.


use your reputation to determine where to deliver your message: the
inbox, the bulk folder or a black hole. Authenticate your e-mails and
maintain a solid sender reputation through consistent list hygiene and
minimizing spam complaints.


obvious that if your e-mail is not received in the inbox, it has little
chance of being read. Monitor your deliverability rates and watch for
red flags such as a dirty list, funky HTML coding and spammy content.


your e-mail so it renders correctly, and avoid the double whammy effect
of subscribers using preview panes and blocking images. Convey your
message with text and don’t depend solely on large, pretty images that
many recipients won’t actually see.


recipients a reason to read your e-mails by sending well-designed,
well-written and relevant content that meets their needs. Learn what
they want, and segment lists based on behavior such as clicked links,
purchases, RFM or actions they've taken on the site.


metrics, like open, click-through and bounce rates provide insight into
your e-mail program but are of little value to your CEO. Measure
performance against your company’s business goals, such as revenue,
leads and brand impact, then report how e-mail contributes to the
success of the marketing mix.


companies lack budget and resources such as dedicated e-mail marketing
specialists who understand e-mail and privacy laws, implement best
practices and drive sophisticated programs using dynamic content and
Web analytics-driven segmentation. Build the right team or leverage
outside experts to consistently deliver phenomenal e-mail ROI.

Put the R’s of e-mail marketing to work, and make your e-mail marketing program more strategic, results-oriented and effective.

Reputation front line for filtering, content last defense: DM Days’ speaker

NEW YORK — Reputation has taken over content as the
most important test for e-mail delivery, according to a session at
yesterday’s DM Days Conference and Expo in New York.

In his talk,
“What is your e-mail reputation?,” Matt Blumberg, chairman/CEO of
Return Path, discussed the importance e-mail reputation has assumed for
Internet service providers when deciding whether to let an e-mail get
into a consumer’s inbox. A few years ago content was king, with about
80 percent of filtering controlled by what was in the e-mail. Today 77
percent of filtering is driven by sender reputation, 6 percent by
domain reputation and only 17 percent by content.

“Reputation is
used as the front line of filtering and content is used as a last
defense,” Mr. Blumberg said. “Complaints put the consumer in charge of
your deliverability and they are the main driver of whether or not you
make it into the inbox.”

Five key drivers that ISPs look for when
measuring reputation are consumer complaints, unknown users, sending to
spam-trap addresses, sending infrastructure and sending stability.

This doesn’t imply a red light for marketers. It just means that they need to be informed of ISP expectations.

need to start learning the speed limit and recognize that that is how
the receivers of the world make their decisions,” Mr. Blumberg said.

Some ways to build a good reputation are to sign up for free feedback loops offered by many ISPs.

addition, marketers should do the basic math. Reducing complaints is
really a function of meeting subscriber expectations. It’s about how
you build relationships with the consumers. It’s also about sending
welcome messages that inform a consumer of what to expect from your
communications with them, like how often you send e-mail and what
content you will include.

It is key to always keep a clean list
and respect unsubscribe requests, as well as to measure complaints the
way any other metric is measured. One Return Path client upped its
delivery rate by identifying that a number of people over age 40 were
marking their e-mail as spam.

The lesson learned? E-mail should be relevant to consumers, and house lists should be cleaned on a regular basis.

you send what you say you are going to send and you keep a clean list
by removing consistent non-clickers, then you will have a higher
delivery rate,” Mr. Blumberg said.

Optimizing for Gmail's snippets and Outlook's AutoPreview - Campaign Monitor Blog

Optimizing for Gmail's snippets and Outlook's AutoPreview - Campaign Monitor Blog

Optimizing for Gmail's snippets and Outlook's AutoPreview

Posted by David Greiner on October 25, 2006

Inspired by Jeanne Jennings great write-up on designing emails for Gmail's snippets and Outlook's auto-preview, I decided to run a few tests of my own.

First things first, a Gmail snippet is that small chunk of light grey text immediately following your email subject in the Gmail inbox. It usually includes the first few lines from your email to give the recipient a sample of what's to come. Outlook's AutoPreview feature is a very similar concept.

Problem is, the first few lines of your email might be a link to your web-based version or an unsubscribe link - probably not the optimal text to encourage your recipient to dive into the email. Then Jeanne came out with this gem:

Yes, you can simply place your fabulously engaging snippet/AutoPreview phrase at the very top of the e-mail where all will see it. Or you can use alt tags and place it beneath an image at the top of your e-mail (say, your logo). The alt tag text will come through in the snippet or AutoPreview area, but it won't be seen once the reader opens the e-mail.

What a top idea! We decided to have a go at this technique with the latest version of the Campaign Monitor newsletter, which of course, was sent a few hours before we saw this article.

We left the original email completely untouched, but added the following single pixel transparent image to the top of our email with some alt text that gave a good overview of the email contents, like such:

14 new email designs in the gallery, loads of tips and the latest updates for Campaign Monitor" src="explanation.gif" width="1" height="1" />

Here's a before and after sample of the original version of the email in both Gmail and Outlook and the updated version with the transparent image:


The alt text version now gives the recipients a much better idea about what to expect from our newsletter.

Gmail snippets before and after


For some reason Outlook was inserting a weird line-break in our alt text that we couldn't avoid. If anyone knows the reasoning behind this we'd love to hear it. Either way though, a much improved bit of teaser text.

Outlook AutoPreview before and after

As you can see, that small hidden image gave our recipients a much better teaser about the content of the email, which would hopefully encourage more of our subscribers to check the email out. Big props to Jeanne for introducing us to the concept. I'd say we'll be using this approach for all our newsletters moving forward, and encourage you to do the same.

Optimizing for Snippets

Optimizing for Snippets

I'm embarrassed to say I didn't think much about snippets, or even know their official name, until a client brought them to my attention. With regard to snippets, the Unofficial Gmail FAQ says: "Gmail snippets will show the first part of the message right in the title bar, similar to how Google shows snippets of web pages in their result pages."

Snippets are akin to Outlook's "AutoPreview." Both show in your inbox the text from the body of the e-mail. Gmail shows the subject line bolded and runs the snippet into the same line. AutoPreview also shows the subject line bolded, then provides up to three lines below it. Here are actual examples of how one e-mail appeared in both instances:


Info from Multichannel Merchant, MarketingSherpa and Bronto, December 2005 -- Click here to see an online version of this e-mail


Info from Multichannel Merchant, MarketingSherpa and Bronto, Decembe…
Click here to see an online version of this e-mail
Send to a Friend December 06, 2005
DoubleClick Q2 2005 E-mail Trend Report

The snippet consists of the first words (not images) that appear in the e-mail. This idea is similar to Google's Web search results, which show you a bit of text from the site with each result. In that case, the text usually includes the terms you searched, which is useful. With Gmail, it's just the first few words in the e-mail, which is less useful.

Some people refer to snippets and AutoPreview as the preview pane, but that can be confusing. In my experience, "preview pane" refers to the top of the e-mail -- the two inches (give or take, since the recipient controls it) of an e-mail that can be viewed in Outlook (called the Reading Pane) or Lotus Notes. Usually it's just below the list of e-mail messages in your inbox or to the side of it. It includes graphics, while snippet and AutoPreview are solely text.

I've been working with clients to optimize their preview panes for years, but optimizing for snippets and AutoPreview is new. In the example, you can see the first problem with optimizing for snippets: it goes against conventional standards and best practices.

For years it's been a best practice to include what I call housekeeping messages at the top of HTML e-mail. These messages either ask readers to put the sender's address on a whitelist or provide a link to view the e-mail online if the HTML has lost its integrity in transmission or can't be viewed at all.

But when those messages are used as snippets or in the AutoPreview lines, they aren't useful. The subject line should engage readers and pull them into the e-mail. Housekeeping snippets don't advance readers toward that goal.

Even if you're not leading with a housekeeping message, snippets and AutoPreview text can still damage your cause. A few more examples from my inbox:

Starting at just $98/month -- bundle phone, DSL and DIRECTV through Verizon -- Advertisement Verizon Verizon Freedom All. Get

ADA Compliance Thompson Publishing Group
Publications | Conferences | Alert Services
Dear HR Professional,

Write better proposals that win more money! -- Write better proposals that get attention -- and win more funding -- with Winnin

I was involved, either intimately or tangentially, with all these examples. This was when I was young and foolish, before I became aware of (now obsessed with) snippets and AutoPreview. In the first example, the snippet itself is redundant ("Verizon Verizon" sounds like it's stolen Little Caesar's "Pizza! Pizza!" tagline), and this is after the brand appears at the end of subject line for a hat trick. We've also got the CAN-SPAM compliant "Advertisement" here, definitely not helping pull the reader in.

The second example's a little better. It includes the brand (which should also be in the sender line), the company URL, and a salutation. But it is really engaging the reader? Including the recipient's name in the salutation might help.

The third instance is another example of redundancy. There's not any new information in the snippet.

So how can we optimize for snippets and AutoPreview?

For the answer, I went to the source: Google itself. I thought if I examined how it crafted some of the e-mail it sent to my Gmail account, I'd better understand how snippets (and AutoPreview) were intended to be used. Here are two examples:

JJbli Jennings has accepted your invitation to Gmail -- Jjbli Jennings has accepted your invitation to Gmail and has chosen the brand

Gmail is different. Here's what you need to know -- First off, welcome. And thanks for agreeing to help us test Gmail. By now you pro

Aha! The first snippet is almost completely redundant to the subject line. There's no added value there. I'm feeling a little less stupid.

The second, well... It's nice to get the welcome and the thanks. But I can't say the snippet makes me more likely to read the e-mail. The subject line itself was pretty effective at doing that.

So where does this leave us? Here are my thoughts on snippets and AutoPreview copy:

  • Pay attention to snippets and AutoPreview. To date, snippets appear to be primarily a Gmail phenomenon, where they're set as the default. Studies have been conducted on how many people using Outlook use the preview pane, but not on how many use AutoPreview. If you have a lot of Gmail addresses on your list, it's probably time to start paying attention to snippets and AutoPreview text. If you don't, it may not be that important.

  • If you optimize for snippets and AutoPreview, housekeeping messages at the very top of messages must go. Find another place for them. I don't recommend the footer, as they may be missed. If your e-mail has a narrow column on the left or right, that may be a natural place to put them.

  • Think carefully about what the snippet or AutoPreview text will say. One suggestion from a client was to include the table of contents (she's publishing an e-mail newsletter). But only a small portion of that will actually been seen in the snippet or AutoPreview area. I prefer to draft unique copy that supports and enhances the subject line, with the goal of engaging the reader and getting the open.

  • Think outside the box. Yes, you can simply place your fabulously engaging snippet/AutoPreview phrase at the very top of the e-mail where all will see it. Or you can use alt tags and place it beneath an image at the top of your e-mail (say, your logo). The alt tag text will come through in the snippet or AutoPreview area, but it won't be seen once the reader opens the e-mail. This is sneakier -- and to my eye, more visually appealing -- than having a phrase at the very top of your message.

  • Test. Test to see if putting meaningful copy in the snippet/AutoPreview area makes any difference in your open or click-through rates. If it does, continue to work with it. If not, it's something you don't have to spend
E-Mail Marketing
Article Archives by Jeanne Jennings:

›› Optimizing the "E-mail This" Marketing Opportunity June 04, 2007
›› Ten Steps for Developing an Effective E-mail Strategy, Part 6 May 21, 2007
›› Ten Steps for Developing an Effective E-mail Strategy, Part 5 May 07, 2007
›› Ten Steps for Developing an Effective E-mail Strategy, Part 4 April 23, 2007
›› Ten Steps for Developing an Effective E-mail Strategy, Part 3 April 09, 2007
›› Ten Steps for Developing an Effective E-mail Strategy, Part 2 March 26, 2007
›› Ten Steps for Developing an Effective E-mail Strategy, Part 1 March 12, 2007
MORE ...

Responsys - valentines day tip - bit late I know

1. The "from" address is the first thing people see. Make sure your
company's name prominently appears in the "from" address. And never use a
generic "from" address that includes vague alias like
Instead, try

2. The subject line is the most important element of your campaign --
because it either gets people to open your email or delete it. Always
feature your company's name in the subject line -- this can increase open
rates by 5% or more -- and make sure subject line text is catchy, specific,
and actionable. But keep it short: six words or less (or less than 50

3. Now that your customer has opened your email, the next thing to think
about is what they see above the fold. Make sure your image begins 300-500
pixels from the top of the view to grab the viewer's attention and put your
logo in the upper left. Keep email width to 500-600 pixels, or it will run
off the page. You also want to make sure your email recipients can
instantly understand the following: who the email is from; what's in it for
me; and how do I take action.

4. Put your dominant call to action above the fold, such as "Order online
within the next 48-hours for Free Shipping." If the action is a button,
make sure to offer a text link as well. When a customer opens an email they
need to be able to immediately answer: Who is this from? What's in it for
me? And, what action is requested?

5. Repeat a call to action multiple times including at the end of each
content section, offering buttons and text links throughout the email. Not
doing so is one of the biggest mistakes you can make -- because 50% of your
customers read to the end of the email and often times there is nowhere to
go from there. Don't let this happen.

6. Give your viewers options. The primary offer may not interest them, no
matter how well you've segmented the campaign. Offer them links for more
information and related content, not just the current promotion. The
inclusion of a simple call-to-action like: "Don't see what you want? Visit
us online at" might just be the safety net you need to
entice them to click.

7. Go easy on the pictures. Colorful graphic content is great, but
remember some people's email programs block graphics, so make sure there is
text above the fold with a call to action, and related text actions
sprinkled throughout. Use animations sparingly.

8. When it comes to the text, avoid abstract ideas or long sentences. Be
brief and direct. Make sure you spend as much time on the creative text of
your email campaigns as you do for all marketing campaigns. Remember,
you're using email to communicate your brand, not just a special offer.

9. Design text-only emails for AOL users and other subscribers that can't
view HTML emails. Even if only 5% of your users are in this category, don't
neglect them.

10. Always include a footer with your company contact information, a
button to update their personal information, a link to your privacy policy,
and a clear opt-out mechanism (don't try to hide it and always honor opt
outs within 10 days).

AOL deliverability update

AOL Webmail Update

Yesterday, AOL released a new webmail client for and
users. The interface has a new look and feel, and their system now
handles default image display slightly differently.

Previously, if you were sending to AOL users, and you weren’t on
their enhanced whitelist, when a recipient clicked on your email
message, a message popped up asking if you knew who the message was
from, and confirming whether or not you wanted to display the message.
Now, if you’re not on their enhanced whitelist, the message simply
displays, but images do not display by default.

Just like previously, if a recipient has personally whitelisted you,
by adding your email address to the address book, images will display.

When viewing a message in AOL’s webmail client, there’s now an
information bar across the top of the message. In this bar the
recipient has the option to enable images just for this message, or to
enable image display always for this sender. With one click, a
recipient can easily, permanently choose to ensure images will display
in the mail you send.

This is a change…but not a huge one. This brings AOL’s functionality
more in line with how other webmail providers are handling things. I’m
a frequent Gmail user, and I know that it’s just part of the process
that when I view an email, I have to click on the “view images” (or
“always allow”) link to see the images in an email.

To recap:

  • AOL’s webmail client now will display your message, but not
    display images, unless you’re on the enhanced whitelist, or a
    recipient has added you to their address book.

  • Previously, AOL displayed an “are you sure?” dialog before displaying an email (images and all) from an unknown sender.

  • This change brings AOL’s webmail functionality more in line with that of other webmail providers.

Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your email messages at AOL, keeping these new changes in mind:

  • Ensure that your emails have a compelling reason to load images.
    Don’t just randomly convert your entire email to an image. But, if you
    make sure that your emails look great and provide useful, extra info
    when images are enabled, you’ll be more likely to entice recipients to
    take that extra step and click on the “show me” link.

  • Ensure that your emails degrade gracefully. Are you testing them
    to see how they look with images off? With alt tags and without? If
    not, you’re missing out. Like in so many other areas, testing is the
    key here.

  • Sending an email that’s 100% images and no text means your
    recipients are less likely to recognize you, and more likely to report
    your mail as spam.

  • Open rates could take a modest hit, as AOL recipients can now view
    your email without loading images. Don’t panic! Make sure you look at
    both open rates and click through rates to determine who your engaged
    users are.

Fast facts about AOL’s Enhanced Whitelist:

  • AOL’s enhanced whitelist kicks in automatically for the cleanest of the clean senders.

  • It’s not something you can apply to be on. It happens
    automatically if your stats are on the good end of the spam complaint
    and bounce rate spectrum.It’s not possible to go to a website, key in
    an IP address, and see if you’re on the enhanced whitelist. The best
    way to tell is to launch an email to your AOL account and see if images
    display automatically.

  • If you want to get there, get clean and stay clean! Reduce bounces
    and spam complaints. Remove old subscribers. Don’t try to remail
    bounces. Move to double opt-in. Make sure consumers know they’re going
    to get mail from you. Remember that compliance alone isn’t good enough.
    You really need to go that extra mile to perfect the end user
    experience for the AOL users on your list.

  • This isn’t email service provider specific. Of course, we have
    your sending IP addresses whitelisted at AOL already. Whether they
    qualify for the enhanced whitelist is based on you and your practices.

For more information on AOL’s enhanced whitelist, click here.