At Ravenglass, communications aren't just part of our business, they dominate our business. Whether it's understanding customer requirements, building effective solutions, or explaining systems and processes to new team members, communications are the key to agile, consultative application development.

Seth Godin's recent "Miscommunication" blog advocates for something that we strive to do every day at Ravenglass: When in doubt, ask.

Objects and Embeds

The goal was to remove the video(s) from email html code and replace them with an image that anchors to the video on the web version of the email page. In order for this to work you need to add an anchor tag (i.e. <a id="anchor"/>) to the version of the page viewed on a web browser and add the anchor (i.e. #anchor) to the email version.


Finding Spam Trap Email Addresses on Your Mailing List

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use a set of techniques to identify and penalize spammers. One of such techniques is spam trap email addresses. Often legitimate email marketers get caught by ISPs and suffer from being unable to deliver their email newsletters because sometimes they hit a spam trap mailbox.

What is a Spam Trap?

A spam trap is a valid email address which does not act upon the email in any way and is used to "trap" unsolicited email. Spam traps are held by an ISP or third party to determine if you are emailing to recipients who have subscribed to your newsletters and if you are clearing your email list from bad/unsubscribe emails in a timely manner.

There are 2 types of spam trap email addresses:

Old email addresses which have been abandoned by the users. Here is an example scenario with Hotmail.

The user subscribed for your newsletters a year ago. Some time later they decided not to use his Hotmail account anymore and no longer check it. After a few months, their account is deactivated but still able to receive emails. After a few more months of user inactivity Hotmail closes the user's account and the user will no longer be able to re-activate the account. All emails sent to this address will bounce. At this point good email marketers should remove the user's email from their list. A few months later, Hotmail reactivates the user's email address and uses it as a spam trap. Now this email address will receive all emails without a bounce notification. Nobody will open or click emails. Hotmail will use this address for the only purpose to determine if you are emailing to active and engaged subscribers or not.

Honey pot addresses, which are email addresses created specifically to trap spammers. Honey pot email addresses do not belong to real users. They are spread by some anti-spam organizations across websites, blogs, forums etc. with the aim to attract spammers to harvest emails and send spam. Once you are known to email to these spam trap addresses, your IP address is added to the Spamhaus blacklist database. Large ISPs such as Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL use the Spamhaus database when filtering incoming emails, and then may block your messages until your IP is removed from the blacklist. Obviously, this hurts your deliverability and sender reputation.

How You Can Get Spam Trap Addresses on Your List

Here are some common ways that spam emails can get on your list:

  • they can be a part of a purchased list
  • they can be harvested on the Internet without the users' knowledge
  • some inactive emails on your opt-in list can be turned into spam traps if you do not supress bounce addresses from your list [after about 12 to 18 months inactive email addresses become spam traps]
  • someone either unintentionally or maliciously subscribed to your emails
  • the subscriber made a typo in the email address while registering on your website. This misspelled email could be a spam trap.
  • the subscriber deliberately typed a fake email address on your website just to get to the next step of your marketing campaign. This fake address could be a spam trap as well.

How to Protect Yourself from Sending to Spam Traps

Whatever way a spam trap address came to your list, hitting it can lead to your IP being blacklisted by the trap's creator. Bad news is that spam traps are kept in secret and identifying them in a list of thousands or millions emails is nearly impossible.

What's more important is that you take proactive measures to ensure spam traps don't get on your lists in the first place:

  • Never buy or harvest emails on the Internet.
  • Never send emails to people who did not subscribe to your list.
  • Strengthen your sign up process by using the double opt-in method.
  • Always include a working unsubscribe link and put it in the place where it can be easily found by the user.
  • Provide the subscriber a way to update their profile with you.
  • Exclude the emails of unsubscribed recipients from your list after each email campaign.
  • Remove bounce emails from your list before sending the newsletter.
  • Do not send to email addresses beginning with sales@ or info@ as they represent aliases usually for departmental functions and not individuals. Do not email to postmaster@ or abuse@ addresses either as they are usually compliant handling aliases at ISPs, which never subscribe to email newsletters.
  • Do not send your newsletters to recipients who did not open your email for the last 6-12 months [you can send a re-engagement email to them first].
  • Keep opt-in records with the date to have the proof that the recipient explicitly signed up to receive your emails.

Having spam trap addresses on your list can head your email marketing campaigns to failure. As identifying and removing spam traps is almost impossible, prevention is the key. Using the double opt-in signup process and caring about the list hygiene are two major steps to preventing delivery issues with ISPs. However, if blacklisting took place, contact the blacklist database owner and go through the removal process as soon as possible.

Additional resource: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spamtrap

How to fix Email Campaign Deliverability Issues

What is email campaign deliverability?

A measure of success at which an email marketer gets an email campaign into subscribers' inboxes.

Deliverability involves anything that touches email delivery: ISPs, MTAs, throttling, bounces, junk and bulking issues. Not to mention, senders affect deliverability--so if you create good content and maintain a clean list, your campaigns will be more likely to reach your subscribers.

There's more to it than CAN-SPAM compliance. CAN-SPAM compliance allows you to send emails through email servers, but it can't guarantee that your email message is being delivered.

So, do you need to figure out why your email campaign messages aren't getting delivered? A few SPAM blockers will give you some reasons, but many others won't give you any information at all. So how can you figure out what problem is the cause for latest email campaign not being delivered?


Manage Visual Hierarchy for E-Mail Marketing Conversion

I just read this great article about visual hierarchy and conversions. It's main focus is on web page layout and design and different techniques you can use to give areas of the page more visual dominance. You can easily take these concepts and adapt them for email marketing and increase your conversions and response rate.

The most important thing: what is your primary goal of the email? Think about what action you want the user to take or what the main goal is for your email message and structure the page content and design specifically around that goal, giving the place where the user should click more visual dominance to encourage that response.

What's great about this is that we as humans are hardwired to respond very predictably to certain visual queues, so marketers that understand these simple principles can drastically improve the response to their email marketing campaigns without spending any more money.

Read the full article here: http://searchengineland.com/pop-this-how-to-manage-visual-hierarchy-for-conversion-63053

Basics of Email Marketing Performance Metrics

How can you tell if your electronic communications are actually having the impact you hoped for? Is your message and email design working? There's only one way to know.

Email metrics can help you determine the effectiveness of your communications and help you fine tune them to improve their efficiency.


Why is my newsletter flagged as phishing?

If you've ever had someone tell you that the email newsletter you sent to them was marked as suspicious or flagged as phishing, there may be a simple explanation as to why.


Great Article - 6 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

I found this to be a very good article - a quick read for anyone that works with email marketing.

"Email might not be as shiny as social media and other emerging marketing channels, but it's still arguably the most powerful marketing tool around."

Those mistakes include:
- Neglecting buyer needs
- Blasting the same message to all contacts
- Failing to adapt messaging
- NOT linking to your website
- Ignoring mobile email readers (81% growth in mobile email viewers from Oct 2010 - March 2011)
- NOT having a strategy in place

Click here for the full article

Tips for creating Mobile-friendly Emails

Let's cut straight to the point. The only way to create truly mobile-friendly emails is to design the email specifically for display on a mobile device. With mobile email use on the rise, and as more and more people own a smart phone or mobile device like a tablet, you might want to consider making mobile your primary design target, or at least investing the time into learning how to make your email campaigns more mobile-friendly.

Consider some statistics on usage:

Mobile email will account for 10 to 45% of email opens, depending on your target audience, product and email type. eMailmonday - "Party safe mobile email stats" (2012)

Media Queries

The easiest way to encode an email for a mobile device is to use media query CSS styles. This is a CSS style specifically created for mobile devices. Media Queries allow you to create CSS definitions specifically tailored for viewing on a smartphone or mobile device (mainly iPhone or Android device) without changing the content. So, by using media queries, you can create a HTML version and a smartphone phone version of an email in one template.

Here is an example:

@media (max-width: 480px) { #mycontent .text{font-size:12px !important; color:#ff0000 !important;}

This example says to only use these styles if the screen dimensions are 480px wide or less. You use 480px as a maximum width because this is the width of an iPhone in landscape mode.

You use the !important declaration to over-ride any inline styles. The desktop email clients will use the inline styles and the mobile email clients will use the embedded styles.

Types of things that you can customize in your HTML email for a mobile device

Font properties like font-type, font-size and font-color

Darker text can be easier to read on a mobile device and make your mobile version more readable. Larger-sized text used in the desktop version can be reduced to fit better in a mobile device email client.

Width and height of tables and images

The ability to control the width and height of tables or images helps to alter the formatting for a better fit on a mobile device. For example, a 600 X 300 image can be resized to be 200 X 100. Also, a table, cell or images can be hidden in your mobile version if they will not fit nicely in the mobile version but you still want to display them in the desktop version. Images which are sized for desktop but cannot really be resized for the mobile version can be hidden – but be careful here, you don't want the mobile user to be downloading huge images on their phone – it can really slow down the email open time and they may just get frustrated and delete your email!

Spacing around text and images

Text links are generally difficult to select with a finger tap in a mobile email unless they have padding around them. You can use media queries to increase padding or line-spacing so that the user can more easily tap on text links in the mobile version.

In Summary

Even with these tricks, you will still have to invest time into creating your email campaigns to ensure optimal performance. Remember to test everything in multiple email clients and on multiple devices to see the results to be sure of what you will get before you send your email campaign out.

When mail user agents alter HTML source sent via CFMAIL

This article helped me today:

How to use CFMail properly

Using has its challenges. In our case, email messages sent from our CF9 application to recipients using Outlook or AOL as their mail readers was resulting in broken links and oddly formatted characters.

The culprit turned out to be the encoding of the HTML mail - the aforementioned mail user agents were detecting one character set and re-formatting the source, resulting in characters being dropped or added to the source.

The fix was to use for both a text/plain section and a text/html section in the main document, like this:

view plain print about
1<!--- be sure each variable is populated with appropriate values before running this code! --->
2<cfmail from="#from_string#" to="#strEmailTo#" subject="#strMsgSubject#" type="html">
3    <!--- headers and attachments --->
4    <cfmailparam name="List-Unsubscribe" value="<mailto:abuse@baconsavers.com>,<#strUnsubLink#?#strClientInfoHash#>">
5    <!--- plain version of message --->
6    <cfmailpart type="text/plain" charset="utf-8">#strTextOnlyMsg#</cfmailpart>
7    <!--- HTML version of message --->
8    <cfmailpart type="text/html" charset="utf-8">#strHTMLMsg#</cfmailpart>