Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Impact of Gmail Tabs on your Email Marketing

Impact of Gmail Tabs on your Email Marketing

It has almost been a year since Gmail introduced the new tabbed inbox, objectively stating that the user would be able to control the inbox rather than the other way round.

From a user’s perspective, this is surely a great improvement. Instead of getting the bulk of your email in one single inbox and missing out on some awesome promotions (because these might disappear in the junk folder), the user is able to classify or segregate his/her emails.
On the contrary from email marketer’s perspective, it sounded a panic bell because the first thought that pops in mind is the dip in open rates.

What one needs to understand is with this tabs feature, Google is not trying to stop promotional email; rather they want a cut of the action. The fact that Google has put its new email like Ads in the promotional tab means they want, intend and indeed need users to go to the promotional tab.

The initial research by NetGains Technologies, considering only a few weeks’ worth of opens, projected that open rates took a hit. Later, after considering months’ worth of various kind of engagement data, precisely 2.9 million emails, 0.49 million opens, 0.42 million clicks, and 43.5 K unsubscribes to figure out how Gmail’s tabs are affecting open rates, the conclusion is that Gmail’s tabbed inbox is working as intended and Open rates have definitely taken a plunge of 1% from 13% to 12 %.

Open Rate Change after Gmail Tabs’ launch

This data represents a 25-week period from May to October.
Open rate change w.r.t other Email Service Providers

Opens from Gmail subscribers have fallen off nearly twice as much as any other Email service providers like yahoo, hotmail etc.

Reversely, during holidays, the user’s inbox gets inundated with emails especially the promotional emails. Most of the users unsubscribe during these periods. This practice has been reduced by Gmail users ever since the tabs have been introduced.
Gmail’s opens are down, the click rate is neutral, but unsubscribes haven’t gone up.
Too early to conclude
At first glance, it looks like the introduction of the tabbed inbox caused a considerable decrease in the number of Gmail opens but there are non-supporters, which include Gmail apps on mobile, popular clients such as Apple Mail and desktop/webmail clients that import Gmail messages, such as Outlook and Yahoo.
Moreover, at this point there is no clarity about:
·         What percentage of users around the world now have access to Gmail Tabs on either the Web interface or a Gmail mobile app?
·         How many Gmail users may have turned off  or disabled or removed Tabs and gone back to other inbox formats, such as Priority or an unfiltered inbox
Open rates do provide a view of email marketing campaign impact. However, open rates are not strong and sole indicator of commercial success and they are not directly proportional to conversion at all. To really understand if your activity has been impacted check your conversion and revenue metrics, look at whether the revenue per Gmail subscriber per month changes.
If you can’t check your revenue then check your click rate. Some email platforms provide a report out of the box to segment campaign performance by domain.
Ultimately, the effect Gmail’s new inbox has on your email marketing depends on the relationship you have with your subscribers.
We’re beginning to see changes in Gmail subscriber engagement, but it's not clear yet how much of this is being driven by Tabs.
For Short term, promotional emails may be opened less, but for long term, it would prove to be win-win for both Gmail users and marketers.

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Friday, 25 October 2013

Best practices for bulk mail senders and postmasters when sending to Yahoo/gmail

Best practices for bulk mail senders and postmasters when sending to Yahoo/gmail


This article provides general guidelines for postmasters who plan to send email to Yahoo/gmail customers.


The mission of any ESP is to deliver messages that users want to receive, and filter out messages they don't want. The simplest way to ensure that your messages are delivered, then, is to avoid looking like a spammer. Below are a few suggestions on how to do so.
Send email only to those that want it. Spammers write to many people who don't want their mail, so our anti-spam filters are designed to identify that behavior. To avoid being perceived as a spammer, use an opt-in method of subscription for your mailing list. Better yet, utilize a confirmed opt-in process where subscribers actively verify their intent to receive your mailings by clicking on a confirmation email before being added to your list.
Use email authentication such as DKIM. This will help us identify that the email is legitimately from you and, if you sign all your email, it will help us identify forgeries, too. In addition, using dedicated domains for different mail streams (e.g., transactional messages vs. marketing emails) is also a recommended practice. DKIM.org is a good resource for information about DKIM.
Segregate your mail streams by IP addresses and/or domains since Yahoo! Mail keeps reputation data about each IP address and domain you send from. For example, by segmenting the mail stream that delivers marketing mail from another that sends transactional messages, you make it easier for Yahoo! Mail to determine and assign each mail stream's reputation.
Consistently manage your lists by paying attention to hard and soft bounces as well as inactive recipients. Persistent emails to these addresses are a surefire way to get your connections deferred. If your messages are being blocked, look closely at any SMTP Reply Codes our mail servers are returning to you and be sure you're addressing the problem.
  • Don't retry 5xx messages. If we reject a message with a 5xx error, we will not accept it anytime soon. Retrying the message wastes both our resources and makes you appear to have a dirty list.
  • Do retry 4xx messages. If we send a 4xx error, this is a temporary error and we encourage you to try sending the message at a later time.
  • Do refresh your list periodically. Consider removing or sending a reconfirmation email to inactive subscribers, i.e., users who have not opened or clicked on your emails for a period of time. Sending your mail to users who are not reading them, or who may even mark them as "spam," will almost certainly hurt your delivery metrics and reputation.
Enroll in our feedback loop. If you are signing your emails with DKIM or DomainKeys, our Complaint Feedback Loop program can help you track your spam complaint rates and keep them in check.

Respect the user's mailbox

  • If a customer entrusts an email address to you during a transaction or for a particular newsletter, they do not expect to receive unrelated messages, such as extraneous marketing emails, in the process. Adding email addresses to other lists without their explicit opt-in is a guaranteed way to lose a customer's trust.
  • Honor the frequency of the list's intent. If customers believe they are signing up for a monthly newsletter but they start receiving messages on a weekly basis, such a practice will likely prompt users to label your messages as spam.
Use a consistent "From:" header address. Your domain name is an important element of your brand. Using it consistently helps us and your recipients to distinguish your email from spam. Additionally, using a static From: address helps users who have set up filters to route messages to a specific folder.

Pay attention to your email's content

  • Test your email's look and feel with image placeholders. Many users won't see images in your email by default.
  • Link to domains, not IP addresses. The Yahoo! Mail client warns users that IP address links are dangerous.
  • Use standard ports. The Yahoo! Mail client warns users that links containing ports are dangerous.
  • Don't include HTML forms in emails. The Yahoo! Mail client warns users that submitting forms in email can be dangerous.
  • Don't include Javascript in emails. The javascript is stripped out and will not run.
  • Don't include embedded objects in emails (like flash or ActiveX). The objects are stripped and will not run.
Honor unsubscribe requests as fast as you honor subscribe requests. When a user unsubscribes, they don't want to receive that mail anymore. Promptly removing them from the list should help prevent users from marking your messages as spam in the future.
Be CAN-SPAM compliant. Regardless of where in the world you're sending your mail, make sure that you adhere to the requirements stipulated by the CAN-SPAM Act.
Publish reverse DNS (PTR) records for your sending IPs. If there is no reverse DNS entry for your IP address, or if it looks like a dynamically-assigned IP instead of a static mail server, Yahoo! is more likely to downgrade its sending reputation.
Secure your mail servers. Ensure your mail servers are not open to abuse. If your servers act as "open proxies" or "relays," spammers may attempt to send their own mail from your systems. Keep your software up to date with the latest security patches, and always filter user-generated content before sending it out, to help prevent spammers from using your resources and tarnishing your reputation.
Use common-sense settings. While we have not published guidelines for numbers of connections you can concurrently use, we ask that you treat our resources with respect. The more you take, the fewer there are for others, which may force us to defer your connections.

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Sunday, 20 October 2013

Email marketing mistakes that lead to unsubscribes

Email marketing mistakes that lead to unsubscribes

Growing a high-quality mailing list can be a expensive, time-consuming effort, but countless companies take the pain for a simple reason: email marketing is one of the most effective ways to grow a business.
Building a mailing list is only half the battle. The other half: keeping subscribers happy!
Unfortunately, it's extremely easy to make mistakes that drive subscribers away. Here are four of the most common such mistakes.
1. Sending too many emails.
There can easily be too much of a good thing when it comes to email and many companies bombard their subscribers with far more emails than those subscribers expected. This can quickly lead to subscriber attrition.
How to Address
Remember that with email, it's possible to do more with less. Instead of worrying about communicating with subscribers more frequently, focus on making sure each communication packs a punch when it comes to value. Content should be insightful, and calls-to-action should be compelling.
2. Not respecting preferences.
If sending too many emails is one of the best ways to lose subscribers, but not respecting their preferences is one of the best ways to drive them away angry. Important preferences that should always be adhered to include list selections, frequency settings and formatting choices.
How to Address
In many cases, preference violations are a result of poorly-implemented subscriber management systems. As such, it's important to thoroughly test your system on a periodic basis to ensure that preferences are being captured properly and that the systems being used to deliver emails are aware of them.
3. Lack of perceived relevance.
Even if you're sending emails to subscribers at the right frequency and you're respecting their preferences, your emails could be falling far short of expectations if subscribers don't see the emails as being relevant. And irrelevance will eventually lead to one thing: unsubscribes.
How to Address
There are a number of ways to increasing the likelihood that you're delivering relevant emails that are more likely to be of interest to subscribers. Several are:
  • Manually soliciting feedback from subscribers to ensure you're in tune with their needs.
  • Collecting more granular explicit preference options that allow better subscriber segmentation.
  • Tracking open rates and using them to determine which subscribers should receive certain emails.
4. Inconsistency.
If your emails lack consistent branding and their source is not immediately apparent, there's a greater probability that some subscribers may not understand why they've received an email, leading to an unsubscribe.
How to Address
At a minimum, use the same sender name and email wherever possible to reduce the likelihood of confusion about the source of your emails. And, if possible, develop email templates that use consistent visual branding.

To read more articles: EMail Marketing Services

Why is my email going to the spam folder?

Why is my email going to the spam folder?
How to improve your email delivery.
With any email service & any set of subscribers you will always have some mail end up in the spam folder.  Every receiving ISP is using different spam filtering techniques and some ISP’s utilize some pretty crazy ideas to combat spam.  So you will undoubtedly have some mail filtered at some point during sending email campaigns.
The good news is that it is not something you should dread or worry about.  By following some pretty simple concepts you can dramatically reduce the chance of email being filtered.
Things you can do to improve your email delivery:
  1. Don’t use your email address for the “from” email address.
    If you send a email that is “from” your email (let’s say test@abccorp.com) and you send it to a subscriber with the email (test@ abccorp.com) it will most certainly be marked as spam as the “from” and the “to” is the same.
  2. Pay attention to the spam filter testing before sending.
    This is an option on the summary step of create campaign.  It will let you know if it spots any major issues with your email that could affect delivery.
  3. Don’t send a single graphic/image
    Sending an email that only contains a graphic is a sure-fire way to have delivery issues.  You should take the time to design an email with text and graphics.  Not just a single image.
  4. Don’t use a free email address as your “from” email
    Instead of using your free/personal email address such as @hotmail.com or @gmail.com you should use an email address for the company or organization for which you are sending email.
  5. Test different subjects & email contents
    Content does play a major role in filtering email.  Avoid using all caps, spammy sounding content, etc.. By testing different subjects and email contents you can test responses & delivery.
  6. Pay attention to your links in your email
    Spam filters check the URLS that you are linking to. If you link to a domain that has a poor reputation you will be penalized. Additionally you should avoid linking to URL’s that contain folders with 1-2 characters (such as domain.com/e/something/ or domain.com/es/) as some filters will count that as a negative thing.
  7. Don’t include links that use link shortening services
    Your links should be full links to the real URL.  You could experience delivery issues using shortened links from link shortening services.
  8. Take the time to code your HTML correctly
    Improper HTML tags, broken tags, etc.. could reduce your email delivery.
  9. Remove inactive subscribers
    Delete your old & inactive subscribers.  Subscriber engagement plays a big role in email delivery.  By focusing on your active subscribers you can increase your overall delivery.
  10. Send using a consistent “from” email address
    We do not suggest changing your “from” details often.  Keeping it consistent can help build your reputation.
  11. Never include Javascript, form code, or video within your email
    This is an absolute way to get filtered.  If you wish to have video upload to youtube and link.
  12. Avoid copying anything directly from Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc..
    When you paste content directly from these applications additional characters (that you do not want) will be automatically added.
  13. Don’t test using the same phrase as your subject and email contents.   If you send an email with a very similar subject and message body it will likely be filtered as spam.  (example would be having the subject set to “this is a test” with the body set to “this is a test”)
Be sure to keep in mind that your primary focus should be on maintaining a healthy list of subscribers, sending content that they truly want, engaging your subscribers, and encouraging them to interact with your campaign.  If you keep your focus on these items great delivery will follow.

To read more articles you can visit:  NetGains - eMail Marketing Services

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Effective Email Deliverability Best Practices

With email messaging, you’re essentially pleasing two audiences: your human subscribers and sensitive spam filters. Incorporating cutting-edge best practices into your approach can help satisfy both and allow you to focus on what really matters: engaging your email audience. Spam filters “rank” email by a number of criteria – if the email fails to abide by best practices, it runs the risk of not only being sent to an individual subscriber’s junk folder, but it also runs the larger risk of getting the original sender’s IP black-listed by an entire email client. Following are our best practices for avoiding the dreaded junk folder and the “delete” button guillotine:

  • Avoid using “trigger” words.
Some of these are obvious, like “Free,” “Save,” “$,” or “Discount,” but some of them are less obvious, like “dear,” “click here,” and “distribution.”
Solution: We run outbound emails through multiple tools to catch even the most innocuous uses of what seem like normal, everyday words.
Tip: Including the current date in the body (or subject line) of the email increases credibility and helps mark your email as non-spam.  

Besides looking like you’re shouting, it can also flag your email as spam. Solution: Avoid using all caps, and excessive exclamation points.

  • Avoid using too many images, Flash, JavaScript and ActiveX.
Imagery can be a very powerful messaging mechanism, but in email, use them in moderation. Spam filters will flag email with a low text/image ratio. This is because actual spammers use one GIANT image to avoid using “trigger” words (see #1), and as a result, most image-based email correspondence is flagged. (Look in your spam filter and count the number of image-only emails, you may be surprised.)
Solution: A majority of your email should be text (the most-trusted type of email is a personal letter between two people – follow suite with your email newsletter). Use images sparingly, and wisely – this is also easier on the human eye.

  • Include a CAN-SPAM compliant footer.
Emails without unsubscribe links and physical mailing addresses reek of spam, and tarnish credibility (to both spam filters and human recipients).
Solution: Include both an unsubscribe link, a physical mailing address and a link to your privacy policy, but be careful of your wording and don’t sound too “official” with phrases such as “Stop Further Distribution” and other overly-formal language. Make it conversational and both the spam filters and your subscribers will appreciate it. 

  • Keep your list squeaky clean.
When someone unsubscribes, they are doing you a favor. Don’t fool yourself into thinking your next issue will change their mind. And pay attention to your email bounce rate: Sending to email addresses that have bounced repeatedly will result in a blacklisted IP address – and then even your “good” subscribers won’t be hearing from you.
Solution: If a reader was kind enough to unsubscribe in the first place (as opposed to simply marking you as spam) then honor their request and remove them from the list. Plus, it’s about quality, not quantity. A list of 10,000 active subscribers is worth much more than a passive list of 100,000.

  • Don’t get too big for your britches.
Large email files are slow, bulky and suspicious (think of a bear in a bank wearing a ski mask – or don’t). Attaching PDFs, excess images or running a message too long can all be triggers for the spam filter.
Solution: Keep the file size of your email between 20 and 40 kb. It’s not much, so make it count. A small size typically coincides with the recipient’s attention span, so don’t waste opportunity with bulky graphics and extraneous files.

  • Are you sure? Are you sure you’re sure?
Sometimes site visitors will unknowingly sign up for your email newsletter and later call you a spammer. Sometimes spammers will knowingly sign up for your email newsletter for no apparent reason (the Internet can be a strange place).
Sometimes site visitors will knowingly sign up for your email newsletter and wonder why they never received it (they spelled their email address wrong, it happens!).
Solution: Use a double opt-in confirmation process. As soon as a site visitor enters their email address, send them a “Confirmation” email to make sure it’s valid – and to make sure they’re truly interested in your offer.

  • Ask to be whitelisted.
Even the most willing subscriber can sometimes miss out on your email if their email provider does the thinking for them. In other words – just because someone signed up for your email doesn’t mean it’ll get through, due to overactive spam filters.
Solution: Explicitly ask your subscribers to “whitelist” your email address – or add you to their address book. If they were willing to sign up to receive your newsletter, chances are, they’re willing to spend 30 seconds to make sure it gets through. (We can provide simple instructions for all major email providers.)

  • Address the subscriber, one at a time.
Some email programs will automatically filter out any inbound mail without the recipient’s email address in the “To:” field. And most humans don’t like to be addressed in impersonal ways (does anyone ever turn around when you yell “Hey!” in public?) And if you’ve got thousands (or more) emails to send, don’t send them all at once – this is a giant red flag if you have multiple subscribers sharing the same ISP (which you will).
Solution: Ensure that you aren’t using the CC or BCC field to address your recipients, and make sure you’re using a program that correctly places each individual’s email in the “To:” field.
And send your email in batches, or at a reduced rate so that ISPs don’t view your correspondence as a flood of emails, often the dark work of virus-makers and spammers.

  • Timing is everything.
You may have the greatest email newsletter known to man, but if you send it at the wrong time, you run the risk of man (or woman) not even knowing about it.
Solution: Current research indicates that Tuesday and Wednesday between 2pm-3pm (local time based on the recipient) is ideal for email distribution.
Sorry bosses, most email newsletters are checked at work, right after lunch (when general malaise begins to set in). Leverage this to your advantage and send your email when your target audience is most susceptible to reading it.

  • Pay attention to your subject line.
Your email newsletter may have something for everyone, but no one will open it up to find out if you try to jam it all in the subject line. Most email programs will display 60 characters or less (including spaces).
Solution: Keep it short, sweet, relevant and enticing. The goal here is to get them to open it – your enticing content is what will get them to click on to your site.

  • Design for the preview pane.
Your email subscribers attention span is a limited time offer. 52% of email readers view their email exclusively in their email program’s preview pane (according to ClickZ research).
Solution: Don’t design emails as wide as a webpage (or your monitor, for that matter). Max out at about 600 pixels wide so that key content is available in the preview pane. Left-align your company logo and make sure your important content (or teasers to it) are visible, too. And keep your call-to-action above the fold.

  • Offer both text and HTML-based email.
Unlike Flex-Fit Hats, email messages are not a one-size-fits all solution. And believe it or not, some people still browse the Internet in Linux (yes, a text-based browser). Solution: Offer both a text-based and HTML version of your email. Aside from catering to different types of email subscribers, having both versions is also a hallmark of legitimacy in the electronic eyes of ISPs.

  • Assume images will not display.
So your Marketing Manager has this awesome idea to base your upcoming membership-drive campaign off of the artwork on a famous Beatles album. It scores points for nostalgia and delivers your message perfectly. But all your email subscribers see is a tiny red X.
Solution: Images, aside from being a deliverability nightmare, can also hide your message from subscribers. Don’t place important content into images and use alt text so that those generic red X’s never display.

  • Test in multiple email programs.
Not everyone uses the email program you do. What looks good in Gmail, may be a distorted mess in Hotmail – and might not even show up in Outlook.
Solution: Learn what programs your subscribers are using and make sure your email shows up correctly in each one. Test in every email program you can find, and test with multiple spam filter settings. Email messages will display differently depending on the program, so make sure your email is universally optimized.

  • Avoid temptation for innovation, in some cases.
Maybe you created an award-winning email graphic that your co-workers (and maybe even subscribers) are oohing and ahhing over. Too bad they don’t know they are supposed to click on it to learn more about your offer.
Solution: Research indicates that more web users respond to links at a higher rate when they are bold, blue text links. Stick with what works until you have reason to do otherwise.

  • Consistency is key.
Think of the last cell phone you got. Chances are, there were some buttons on it that you weren’t familiar with and some functionality that came with a learning curve. You didn’t mean (because of the sheer novelty) and you spent a few hours tinkering with it and getting used to it. This is the exact opposite of how people read email and web sites. No one wants to spend time learning your new set of navigations on a weekly basis – no matter how innovative and “2.0” you might think it is.
Solution: Keep it simple and keep design consistent by using the same template for your newsletter. Design changes should be iterative for both branding, usability and sanity’s sake.

  • Don’t fatigue your list.
Everyone has that funny friend who can make them laugh at the drop of a hat. And most people, after a while, just wish they’d give it a rest. Don’t give your email subscribers too much of a good thing – or they might experience stimulus overload.
Solution: If your email is weekly, keep it weekly. Don’t send more frequent updates than what your readers have signed up for and don’t assume that they like you so much that they’ll listen to EVERYTHING you say. No one is that popular. Not even your funny friend.

  • Analyze, Rinse and Repeat.
What worked a year ago, might not work next year (you can thank spammers for that).
Solution: Measure open rates, bounce rates, forwarding rates and opt-outs to get a firm grasp on what is working and what doesn’t. Monitoring subject lines, analyzing subscriber feedback and keeping your list active (i.e. making sure subscribers are still reading) can keep your list healthy, your messaging on-point and most importantly, your subscribers happy.

  • Add domainkey & SPF for your sending domain.
Domainkeys & SPF will make lot of difference to the deliverability of the campaign. Together it will make sure that yahoo, gmail identify the mail coming from a valid source.

  • Warm up IPs and increase load gradually
It is recommended that when a fresh domain is setup with New IPs, the sender should not start blasting millions of mails from day one. To start with only few thousand mails should be sent and the load should be gradually increased. 

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