Tag Archives | email marketing

Getting Past The Spam Filter And Into The Inbox

Like most of my blog posts, this one is in response to a question I recently received (and have received many times in the past) from a friend.

Email Marketing continues to be a strong and valuable asset in the hands of any marketer. However, email deliverability or the ability to get one's marketing emails into the inbox of the recipient is a paramount and critical factor.

And similar to how all the search engine marketers are constantly trying to figure out the workings of the Google Algorithm; email marketers are trying to figure out the workings of the ESPs (Email Service Providers) & the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and their algorithms.

*Note that in this article I'll refer to ESPs universally to refer to both ISPs and ESPs.

What follows is a round-up of some of the more important factors that impact email deliverability. Each is discussed in short form with a link to a credible and thorough article on the topic.

This could be overwhelming to anyone who is new to the topic. Don't feel like you have to do each of these things perfectly… but starting to manage any of these factors where currently you don't manage them at all, is sure to have a positive impact.

Not in any specific order:

Avoid Spam Complaints

It goes without saying that having your emails marked as SPAM is a really good way to communicate to the ESPs that your emails shouldn't make it to the inbox.

Resource: Definitive Guide About Spam Complaints

  1. Make the unsubscribe link EXTREMELY easy to find. In the welcome email consider putting it at the top in line with the welcome paragraph in addition to having it in the footer.
  2. Don't do shady crap to get more email subscribers who didn't explicitly give you their email address
  3. Always send new subscribers a good welcome email that explains WHAT and HOW OFTEN you will be emailing them. If possible also include detail about where you got their email address so they can be reminded they opted in.

Focus on Quality Not Quantity

It feels warm and fuzzy inside to have a big email list. We want to associate big with better but it isn't so.

The number of quality subscribers matters and has a positive affect.

Equally so the number of bad subscribers (anyone who doesn't want to get your emails) matters and has a negative affect.

Focus an equal amount of energy on removing the bad subscribers (or not adding them to begin with) as you do on getting good subscribers.

Don't Buy Lists And If Possible Force Double Opt-In

There is great risk, both short-term and long term to having people on your email list that didn't ask or agree to be there.

The value proposition here is: Add some bad subscribers that MIGHT buy your product knowing that most of them won't which will make it so that long term even your good subscribers will stop seeing your emails.

RESOURCE: Why Buying Email Lists Is Always a Bad Idea

Is the short term gain worth the long term loss?

Also consider:

  • Purchased email lists often contain spam trap email addresses that signal to the ESP that you bought that list and are sending spam
  • You are not violating the CAN-SPAM Act in the US but you are violating GDPR
  • Email marketing services and providers generally have policies against it and can penalize you or kick you off their system.

Don't Send From Free Domain Email Addresses

Don't make your “from” or “sender” address something with @gmail, @yahoo, @msn, etc.

For one you can't use custom authentication (see next section) but think about it… they know you didn't send it. Meaning, if I use my Gmail email for example and send an email out to a list of 1000 people and 300 of those have Gmail addresses; Gmail is smart enough to figure out that that email wasn't actually sent from Gmail.

It says it was sent from [email protected] to [email protected] but Gmail sees that it isn't in the sent box of [email protected] This looks like phishing and carries enormous SPAM weight.

Use Custom Authentication

Email authentication is basically the process of sending email that is identified as originating from your sending domain. This helps ESPs verify that the email is coming from where it says it is coming from.

Basically is allows your email marketing platform to send verified email on your behalf that actually originating from YOUR domain.

Setting this up requires one of several methods that all require some form of adding or editing DNS records on your domain. Many email marketing platforms have tutorials or guides to walk you through this.

RESOURCE: What is And How to Setup Email Authentication

Avoid Spammy Words and Phrases

ESPs maintain a list of words and phrases that are often associated with SPAM email. The use of these words on occasion isn't likely to have any significant impact on your deliverability but a high concentration of them or frequent use of them will hurt.

Being somewhat familiar with the list will at very least help you know when you should avoid certain words or look for alternative ways to say something.

RESOURCE: Test the Spammyness of your Emails

Don't Use URL Shorteners

Avoid using URLs like bit.ly or tiny.url or other shortener services. ESPs just see that you are trying to redirect people and that isn't generally associated with good senders.

Your email marketing platform should be tracking opens and clicks anyway so you don't need those shorteners for analytics.

Limit the Amount of HTML

Companies that send marketing and promotional email want it to look very professional, so often they use complex coded email templates with a lot of images.

Using simple code only and as little of it as possible is going to positively impact your deliverability over time.

Don't Use A Shared Sending IP Address

A sender IP reputation, as viewed by the ESPs, is associated with the originating IP address from which email is being sent. Most of the popular email marketing platforms by default will have you sharing a sender IP with other users of that platform.

Often you have to pay more for a dedicated IP address but it is worth it. Do you want your sender reputation to be negatively affected because the other users sharing the IP address do spammy stuff?

Warm Up Your Dedicated IP Address

When you do start using a dedicated IP address you need to warm up that IP address. Warming it up is the process of slowing building up it's sending reputation.

Suddenly sending a lot of email from a new IP address is going to throw up a red flag to the ESPs.

RESOURCE: How to Properly Warm Up An IP Address

Send With Consistent Frequency

The ESPs get concerned when you go from sending email once a month to once a day. Being consistent with your sending volume and frequency will help your sender reputation.

Ask Customers to Whitelist You

In the same way that it hurts your sender reputation when recipients mark your email as SPAM, it may help when recipients whitelist you.

Whitelisting basically means they set a filter or do whatever else is necessary depending on the ESP or email client to communicate to the system that they WANT your emails to get to the inbox.

In addition to potentially having a positive impact on your sender reputation it most certainly goes a long way to ensure that specific subscriber sees your emails.

Ask them to whitelist you, maybe as part of a welcome email and consider providing some instructions for how they can go about doing so.

Remove Bounces

A bounced subscriber or email address is one where the email address is not able to receive your emails. This could be because the email address doesn't exist, the inbox is full, or a myriad of other reasons.

If your email marketing platform is worth anything at all it will have a Feedback Loop that communicates the issue back to the system and automatically marks that subscriber as bounced.

You don't want to continue to send email to an email address that can't receive it. This costs you money and hurts your sender reputation.

Purge or Clean Your List Frequently

So what about those subscribers that haven't bounced, but they just don't engage with your content anymore?

In the last 90 or 120 days or more they haven't opened a single email or clicked on a single link.

If you are hanging on to those contacts thinking that eventually, they will “re-activate” and out of the blue start opening your emails again and buying from you that is wishful thinking.

These contacts cost you money and hurt your sender reputation. Use automated processes often available from your email marketing platform to identify and remove those contacts.

You can always move them into a re-engagement campaign that sends them 1-3 emails specifically designed to “wake them up” and get them to engage with you once again. But beyond a few emails to that end, continuing to send them email as part of your normal sending is foolish.

Check Blacklists

Sometimes bad things happen. Maybe you broke one too many rules or someone hacks your account and does naughty things.

For whatever reason if you end up blacklisted it will have obvious negative impact on your deliverability.

Blacklists are generally 3rd party companies that specialize in identifying and registering naughty IP addresses. ESPs then rely on them to help filter out bad email.

On a regular basis, you should check the biggest blacklists and see if you are on them. If you are, appeal the decision and get removed.

RESOURCE: Email Blacklists 101 – What You Need to Know

Be Compliant With The CAN-SPAM Act

The CAN SPAM Act is a law that prohibits behavior consistent with spammers.

In short, it requires that you make it easy how recipients can unsubscribe and honor those requests. In addition, you need to have accurate and congruent subject lines, and to include the company physical address.

RESOURCE: The CAN SPAM Act of 2003 – Email marketing compliance

Include Your Business Name In the Sender Name

You want email recipients to quickly be able to identify the company that sent the email. While you can and should (per the CAN SPAM Act) include your company name in the body of the email somewhere (generally in a footer) including it in the FROM line is a good practice.

Don't Include Attachments

Just please don't do it. Including attachments is a certain way to hit the SPAM box.

Use Good Spelling and Grammar

Check your emails for good spelling and grammar. The ESPs have learned over time that Spammers tend to have bad grammar and they tend to spell words wrong in an attempt to get past firewalls.

Spelling errors and grammar mistakes are not only bad for your credibility and brand but also can have a negative impact on your sender score.

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You Have Emails But You Don’t Have An Email Marketing Strategy

This is for any business owner or marketer who is currently NOT sending regular emails to an email list of subscribers, customers, and potential customers.

This conversation usually happens when I'm talking to a business owner who has been around for a few years but doesn't currently send much or any email.

WHY You Need to Be Sending Email

Not building and cultivating an email list is costing you money. Depending on how amazing your email strategy is, your lack of doing something is probably costing you between 5 cents and a dollar per email address per month.

Now I get it… writing emails is hard and can be expensive! That is what has been holding you back. It doesn't have to be that rough… I promise.

Scraping Together Your Email List

Before we get into the how and what, we need to build your email list. It is time to go to all your various resources and combine all the files, exports, and other assets you have to build out your email list.

Where possible, you want to capture as much data about each email subscriber as possible but specifically where you can be sure to export/capture: First Name, Last Name, Email Address, State, Zip Code.

This information will be handy later when you are making so much money from email you can't handle it and you decide to start segmenting or customizing emails to each recipient 🙂

Here are a number of potential resources you may consider where you can find email addresses you have collected over the many years you have been in business:

  • Your eCommerce system
  • Your CMS where customer data is stored
  • Any 3rd party system where you have hosted a giveaway in the past
  • If you have ever donated product to someone else's giveaway and they captured emails they may be able to provide them to you
  • Your fulfillment and shipping software or system
  • Your outlook or email contact list and that of your employees
  • If you are in the B2B space you may have a Rolodex or large pile of business cards. There are phone apps that can take pictures of your cards and extract the email addresses.

A Warning Not To Buy Or Steal Emails…

There is often a temptation to buy an email list from a vendor or swap email lists with a partner or vendor. I strongly discourage this. People don't like getting emails from random businesses that they didn't specifically opt-in to receive or with whom they have some sort of relationship or brand awareness.

Further, it could be a violation of terms or at very least trust from that 3rd party to be providing you with those email addresses.

Lastly, if you have personally overseen the gathering process of email addresses that end up on your email list you don't know where they came from and frankly quality is MUCH more important than quantity.

Often purchased email lists contain email addresses specifically built and monitored by email service providers to catch companies that are sending SPAM and junk mail.

Waking Up Your List or Sending the First “WARNING” Email

Now, you have put together your email list and you are wondering what to do next. Well, first thing you need to do is WARN these people you are planning to send them email.

This is tactically wise but also ethically good. If you have email addresses that up until now you have never sent anything and all of the sudden you are going to send them email with any type of frequency don't you think they deserve a heads up and the option to say “no thank you?”

In addition to the warm and fuzzy reasons, there is a tactical benefit as well. It costs money to send email and for every email address on your list that isn't interested in receiving emails you are going to be paying to send it to them.

Further, if they mark your email as SPAM or move it to their junk folder this is going to hurt your sender reputation which in the long term will keep your emails from getting to the contacts who DO want to receive them.

Getting “bad” contacts off your list is just as important as getting “good” contacts onto your list.

So We Start With The Ferris Cold Email Template

I first saw this email several years ago when top blogger, podcast, and author Tim Ferris decided to resurrect his email list and start emailing them after years of ignoring the list.

I have adapted and used this template several times and I encourage you to adapt it for your business:

The easier you make it for people to unsubscribe the better because remember one of the core goals of this email is to get “bad” contacts off your list before you start sending frequent emails.

Also note that Tim provides some value in his email by including some free resources and products that help people engage with his brand and remember who he is and how he can provide them with value moving forward.

How Often Should You Send Email?

Congrats. At this point, you have pulled together your email list and warned them you will be sending more frequent email. Now what?

Commit to a regular sending frequency. How often you send email is not nearly as important as committing to a frequency and communicating what that will be.

Meaning, be consistent. If you commit to sending weekly, plan to send weekly; and however often you commit to sending, manage that expectation moving forward by telling subscribers what to expect.

You can manage that expectation in the Ferris Cold Email template and anywhere on your website where people can opt-in to receive emails. Every new subscriber should get some sort of “welcome” email and in that email manage expectations about how often you send emails.

What Should You Send?

I have found that this is where the rubber hits the roads. Most of the business owners I talk to get stuck on this part.

Listen, if you are already busy and haven't been sending emails for the last however many years then taking on a serious email strategy that requires typing up great emails often is probably unrealistic.

I generally suggest, just to get the ball rolling that you build some sort of newsletter template that is going to be low work to build and execute.

Something with 3-4 sections that you can quickly insert content into and hit send. For example, one of our brands does a weekly newsletter which includes 4 sections.

  1. Section 1 is their latest podcast episode (yeah its a podcast)
  2. A social feature. Basically featuring an instagram follower/customer
  3. Share of the week in which they include an article, video, or similar from some other website or channel that isn't them. (it is ok to share content that isn't yours)
  4. Product of the week. Exactly what it sounds like.
I think this was my first ever marketing email. In that business we decided to write and send a weekly “safety tip” to our contacts to create a lot of value and drive high open rates. Then we put an offer at the bottom of each email.

Once you have a template built out it should be low maintenance to commit to your sending schedule.

But This Newsletter Won't Make You A Ton of Money

Now you have the foundation in place but if you really want to generate cash from your email you need to go beyond this.

You now built your list and got them to expect regular emails from you that contain valuable information. Great job. This is the most difficult part.

Now you need to figure out how to monetize this. Monetization strategies are going to vary dramatically from one business to the next depending on what you sell, who your customers are, and much more.

Obviously sending emails that promote your own product or service include sales, referral or loyalty programs, and new product offerings is a good idea.

In addition you may be able to market 3rd party services or products that are not a conflict with your own products. You might be able to get paid a commission based on the performance or just get paid a direct advertising fee for promoting that 3rd party's product(s).

This article was meant to get you to this point. You can read other articles on my site about email marketing or consult with a marketing coach to keep the ball rolling but I promise that email with be a low cost, high ROI asset of you do it right!

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From 0 to 120,000 Email Subscribers – Interview with SendPulse Podcast

Recently I was privileged to be interviewed by the SendPulse Vice President of Sales Roy Weissman. SendPulse is a forward thinking email provider that runs the podcast in order to share ideas and successes in the email marketing industry.

Here are things Roy and I discuss in this interview:

Why did our company wait roughly 8 years to start doing any email marketing?

What to do if you don't know what to send to your email list?

How to make email an initiative that isn't a burden or has a strong ROI.

How to build your email list.

The major shift in mindset to having a quality list instead of a big list.

How to balance the sending of promotional email with content related email.

How often should you send email to your list?

What we send our subscribers for the first 7 days they are on our list.

How to monetize email if you don't have any products to sell.

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5 Ways to Increase Email Opens and Engagement

Today I'm going to share five simple and proven email marketing hacks to increase engagement and open rate.

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  1. Use Proven Subject Lines. Looking at the industry data you should probably consider subject lines that are one of the four. It is also important to rotate between these on a regular basis as your subscribers will eventually wear on any of these techniques.
    1. Build curiosity
    2. Be direct and state a benefit
    3. Use urgency or scarcity
    4. Show proof with case study or example
  2. Unicode symbols are often call Glyphs and they draw a lot of attention in a subject line when used on occasion to draw a little extra attention. There are thousands and thousands of available Glyphs that you can use. Use http://emailstuff.org/glyph/search to look for a good glyph and get the code to use.
  3. Leverage the Google Plus Profile in Gmail inboxes. If your from email address is verified on a Google + profile, your profile image will show up on the right hand side of the screen along with your profile name and potentially your latest shared item from your wall.
  4. Don't forget the second subject line. In your subscriber's inbox after your subject they see the first several words of your HTML email. If the first text in your HTML email is “View This in Your Browser” or “Follow us on Facebook” or something similar that is not helping drive your open rate. Here is a good tutorial about how to control the hidden text in the HTML file that will be seen here.
  5. Avoid the morning purge. The first thing people do in the morning when checking email is to delete about half of all the unread emails in their inbox. All of the stuff they are subscribed to that they just don't feel they have the time to review first thing in the morning in their rush to get going. Don't send your emails first thing in the morning… wait until after that first purge. Where possible better control this by individual time zone.
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5 Resources I Give All Starting Out Entrepreneurs

When you are starting a business your needs vary depending on what you are doing. I have found however, that there are a few things that all businesses need. This isn't a discussion about how to get big financial capital or anything. Just some of the simple basics that I always share.

  1. Buy the website before you settle on a name. Anymore it has become critical to make sure that yourbusinessname.com is available before you settle on that name for your business. Before you incorporate/organize your business check to see if the domain is available. This might be a deal breaker.
  2. I always recommend Authorize.net merchant services. Authorize.net makes it easy to take credit card charges via a traditional machine, mobile apps, a virtual terminal, or a configured online shopping cart.
  3. When it comes to getting a business phone number I always stress the importance of not using your cell phone number. That makes it hard to eventually scale the business and take yourself out of it. Try Google Voice, Myfax, or MagicJack for economic phone numbers that you can forward to any other phone.
  4. Email Marketing & Website. Obviously you need a website. Check my new website launch guide for a quick overview of the basics. Do it yourself or hire someone else but do it quickly. Almost without exception, you also need to be working on an Email Marketing strategy. Its the most cost effective way to get a message out to current or potential customers. Get the strategy put in place and move forward.
  5. While my company provides the business incorporation/organization setup services in some states, I always suggest my clients and friends retain an attorney and a CPA. These professionals are critical to the success of any venture. Schedule an initial meeting with your attorney and CPA to discuss your business plan. They will give you insights that will pay you back ten fold. When picking a professional to work with ask for references. Find out who works with the most successful entrepreneurs you know and retain them.
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MyEmailProgram.com JUST LAUNCHED

I have been working hard over the last 12 months to test and launch my very own email marketing product to compete with the iContacts and Constant Contacts of the web. Now after much testing, investment, and feedback I'm excited to share with you MyEmailProgram.com This new platform is designed for both the small business owner and the email marketing professionals. You can setup subscription forms, manage email lists, send out campaigns, drip autoresponders, and much more. If you have a need to communicate with people via email on a regular basis please reach out and lets discuss how this solution might work best for you.

Email MarketingLearn more

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A Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing

emailEmail marketing is in the most basic form simplistic. Build a list and send stuff to it with both educational and promotional information. As a business owner or internet marketing professional you should consider gathering email addresses among your very top priorities. In fact, its hard for me these days to think of a profession or industry in which building an email list isn’t a great idea. Attorneys, doctors, accountants, plumbers, sales people, media companies, etc can all benefit from gathering email addresses from existing and potential customers.

Adding Email Addresses to Your Lists

Here are a variety of common techniques or methods that you might employ in your business to gather email addresses:

  • Ask clients visiting the business for their email address. This can be done at point of sale or as part of any other paperwork that customers have to fill out in the course of doing business with you.
  • Fishbowl: Put a fishbowl at the front desk and offer to draw a business card once a month for a free lunch
  • Create an opt-in form on your website (done via the software discussed below). Offer an incentive for the opt-in, such as; Enter your name and email address below to: Receive Our Free Report on…, Enter to Win…, Receive discounts and offers, Register for event etc.
  • Host a contest in which people must email in a picture, story, etc to participate.
  • Gather existing customer email addresses from your sales staff or other employees.

What to Send to Your Contacts

The most effective way to build and maintain an email list is to offer educational information about your industry. If you are an attorney write short newsletters about identity theft, law enforcement confrontations, business incorporation, etc. Regardless of what industry you might be in you can always find good relevant content to send to your email contacts.

In addition to the educational information you also need to take advantage of your email campaigns to promote events, promotions, and products or services. Use the sidebar of your email to talk about events or sales that are upcoming. Promote your Facebook or Twitter profiles and encourage readers to share the email with their social networks. You can also attach coupons or specials in the email. Banner ads for your affiliates or business partners can also be effective.

What Email Marketing Software to Use

There are a vast number of high quality Email Marketing products that you can choose from. The three most popular that you have probably heard about or considered are:  iContact,  ConstantContact, MyEmailProgram, and AWeber. I’m not going to spend the rest of this article splitting hairs over the small differences between these providers. Each offers a free trial and if you would like to spend some time looking you should go ahead. Each in my opinion does a comparable job of delivering the basic services that you will find necessary but I'm particularly partial to MyEmailProgram since its owned and operated by my company, JP Squared Consulting.

Another alternative for businesses who have some capital and would rather avoid monthly service fees is Interspire’s Email Marketer. The software is expensive but you install it on your own server and don’t have to worry about any monthly fees at all. This requires big IT knowledge if you are going to scale it to any real proportion.

Again here are some links to follow for the most common providers:

iContact

ConstantContact

MyEmailProgram

AWeber

VerticalResponse

GetResponse

Email Marketer

Hope you found this informative!

Jacob S Paulsen

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Email Marketing – Icontact, Aweber, ConstantContact, Etc.

Recently I had a marketing friend ask me what I thought was the best service online for “Email Marketing.”  Since email marketing is an important part of what all online marketers do I thought it prudent to do an overview of the different services out there. In the upcoming week or so I will also prepare an article about how to best utilize this technology on your website.

Now I’m going to briefly overview each of the most popular services out there. I have personally used 3 of the 5 services below and will attempt to give you the highlights on all 5. I highly suggest that if you are shopping around you read about each of the services below. At the bottom of this post I have set up links to each of these services so you can go directly to their sites and try out the free trials etc.

  • Icontact.com Icontact is among the cheapest programs I have tried out. Their system is very easy to use and I especially like their RSS feed importing tool which I believe is unique to Icontact & Aweber. They do have a free trial you can sign up for to get a feel for the program. Their service starts out at $9.95 per month. That price will allow you to have up to 250 contacts. They have a good number of templates you can use. They allow importing & exporting of contacts and they provide good reporting of your emails.
  • ConstantContact.com Constant Contact provides all the same services mentioned above. The only thing I really think they offer than most other programs don’t is there multi-list feature. This allows users to select which types of emails they want to receive from you. Instead of having individual signup forms for each list you have one signup page where users choose from all the options. This could be good or bad for you. I prefer the ConstantContact email creation program the most of all of them. They make it very easy to use their professional templates. Constant Contact is a little more pricy and will charge for an email archive.
  • Email Marketer. The Email Marketer program designed by Interspire is my absolute favorite program and the service I currently use. It is the only program I’m reviewing today that has no ongoing monthly fees. You purchase the software for a one time cost and then install it onto your server. You maintain complete control over all the functions since it is installed on your site. It has all the features you could ever want: Stats, Lists, Contact Manager, Professional Templates, SignUp Forms, etc. They even have a spam word search option that is SUPER COOL. This is a large upfront expense but it will save you money in the long run. The other services reviewed here increase your monthly cost as your total number of contacts increases. With Email Marketer you never need worry about a financial burden.
  • AWeber.com I have never personally used Aweber. From what I can gather from their website and feedback from fellow marketers that use it the features are similar to icontact & constantcontact. One distinct feature that I was impressed with on their site in potential shopping cart integration. Setting up an easy check out from the email to paypal etc… Sounds cool! Their cost starts out at $19 per month after the free trial but that does include up to 500 contacts.
  • GetResponse.com I have never personally used GetResponse. From the looks of things on their website I am once again drawn to conclude they have similar features to the other guys. I do wonder however why I have never found anyone else who uses the program? Are they new in town or simply not as good? Their monthly prices start out at $17.95 per month


marketing iContact.com - Email Marketing Service marketing
marketing Emails for Small Business with Constant Contact

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