When sending emails, to make sure you are not going to get into trouble with Spam lists, or worse, a violation of Federal law, here is a summary of the CAN-SPAM act:
By: Chris Lewis
From time to time we get questions concerning email address verification. Though many SMTP servers allow the verification of email addresses there are probably just as many that don't allow it. So, email verification at it's best is about 50% accuracy using the method the internet RFC guru's designed. Thanks to SPAMers this built in verification system is not very usable, especially with the big email providers.
Campaign Enterprise and Email Marketing Director do not have this email verification capability mainly because doing mass email verification can cause your SMTP server to become blacklisted. Many SPAMers use this technique with fabricated email lists in hope of getting valid email addresses (ie: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com,...). So while it is an important thing to keep your list clean it should be done as if you were a normal one-at-a-time emailer that gets a bounce when the email is bad, then you don't send to it again. When you send out the first email campaign on a new list you will receive bounces if the email addresses are not valid. It is important to receive these emails and mark them as bounces to not send to them again. There are two reasons for this: First, you don't want your campaign to waste time sending to these addresses again. If your list is small, this may not matter, but if your list is big, or you are paying for each email sent out through a service, it is especially important. Second, if you keep sending emails that bounce your SMTP server will acquire a bad reputation will eventually get blacklisted.
There are verifications services that specialize in the field of email list cleaning that have good internet reputations, are known for being good citizens of the internet, and are allowed mass verifications of lists. One of them we recommend is http://freshaddress.com. You send them a list and they will make sure each address is usable, and they also do other services like email forwarding if the email address has changed.
If you use sending services like SMTP.C
Taking the time or spending the money to get your list clean will have many benefits over the cost. If you try to save money here and do it marginally you may end up spending a great deal more in time and money trying to get your SMTP server off blacklists.
By: Chris Lewis
Sometimes it's best to go back to basics to understand some of the issues that can hamper your email distribution efforts. One of those basics is just how email is sent through the internet to the destination. You may set up the perfect email and it may never reach your destination because it was blocked from getting there. Most of the "hoops" that need to be jumped through is because of SPAM and open SMTP relays (servers that will allow anyone to send from it). Below is a quick explanation of how the email system works and how your email interacts with sending and receiving SMTP servers. Here is the path an email takes:
1. Your email client sends an email to your SMTP server, say it was sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Your SMTP server grabs the domain name in the email, in this case THEIRDOMAIN.COM
3. Your SMTP server looks up the MX records for THEREDOMAIN.COM from your DNS Server (this is the MXLookup you find in MXToolbox.com website)
4. In the order of priority, your SMTP server attempts to connect to the first destination SMTP server based on the first MX record.
5. If the first destination SMTP is unavailable or busy, your SMTP server will move on to the next destination SMTP server, and so on.
6. Once your SMTP server has connected to a destination SMTP server, before the email is transferred, the full return-path (or FROM) email address to is sent to the destination SMTP server
7. If the destination SMTP is setup correctly, it will take the return-path email address and extract the domain name (in our case ARIALSOFTWARE.COM if we were sending the email)
8. Now the destination SMTP starts authenticating the email by one or more methods. The most common are below:
10. Exceptions - Sometimes these methods will create a SPAM score, and if the score is exceeded then the email is rejected. So it is possible for one of these to fail but the email still makes it through
So, the answers to why an email does not make it is within this flow. The MXToolbox.com website is a big combination of different tests which may confuse the issues. Blacklisting ONLY has to do with the "sending" SMTP server and has nothing to do with a particular domain because you could use the same SMTP server to send out emails for multiple domains…so the IP address is king. If you try to send out emails through your SMTP server that is blacklisted, most of the time the emails will be rejected by the destination SMTP server.
So, to effectively use the MXToolbox.com tool for blacklisting detection, you need to do two things. First, you need to get the SMTP server they are using in Campaign Enterprise or Email Marketing Director. You need to translate that SMTP server setting to an IP address if it is not already one. Then you go to the Blacklisting tab and put that IP address in and then see if your SMTP server is blacklisted.
One last spin on this…if the SMTP server setting they are using is an "internal" IP address, like 10.10.10.1 or 192.168.1.100, then you will have to find out what the "external" IP address of the SMTP server is to see if it is truly blacklisted in the world.
By: Chris Lewis
As it turns out, we could keep going with all kinds of tips for making successful email campaigns, so the final ones I am writing about now and the last of the "prevalent" ones that we see regularly.
Consider Preview Panes - Many of your email recipients may be viewing your email in a preview pane with graphics turned off. You need to consider this happening and frame your emails appropriately. You may want to start your email with some text first and then add the graphics later down the email. If you email is one big graphic, you may be shooting yourself in the foot.
Emails should be as short as possible - An email needs to have targeted information that hopefully can be scanned quickly by the recipient with the most important issues up top. Don't build up your email like a written a book. You need to write the email so that the first thing they see will be the biggest and the best part of the email with the later info just being details.
Consider mobile devices - Many mobile devices only have a view space of 320 wide. So many people are using mobile devices that you may want to consider forming your email so it will look good in both normal computers and mobile devices. This can be a lot to consider, but depending on the audience you are targeting it is something to consider.
Now obviously every time you send out an email campaign it is hard to consider all the tips and strategies you have and still make the email look good in all circumstances. There is definitely a balance, and there are some things that are more important than others. I find that small tweaks to email marketing strategy can change effectiveness many percentage points. Email Marketing is not a "static" event. Just like any marketing effort, create and then evaluate.
By: Chris Lewis
Since there was such a great response to this subject, we now explore new ways to get your email through and read by the recipients. We have found that effective email marketing is not a one-time ordeal but a conversation with the recipient.
User questions are great content for newsletters - The goal is to create more ways to encourage the recipient to open your email or benefit from the content. To do this you need to have content they will enjoy or benefit from. If you create a weekly or monthly newsletter, get together with a group that deal with clients and see what questions have come up. If some people are asking the same questions, then it will be certain others will be interested in the answers.
Use your brand in the subject line - Spark interest in the reader and make them comfortable with opening your email.
Test your links - Emails with dead links are obviously bad, but you would be surprised how many emails do go out without a good test of these critical links. Many SPAM filters will test these links to make sure they are live, and if not, will score down the emails and many recipients will not even get them. Right before you are about to hit Send, send a test message to yourself, or better yet, someone else, and test to make sure every single link in your email is active. Even after the email goes out, for a day or two, test the links in the email again. With active marketing departments that change things up a lot, you never know when something might change that effects your email.
Send a Plain Text version of your email along with the HTML version - Many SPAM scoring systems like to see an alternative plain-text version of emails. If you are using Campaign Enterprise, after you have completed your HTML message, you can go into the Plain Text editor and import the HTML into the plain text area. It strips away all HTML tags and allows people without HTML viewers to be the message. Watch out to make sure your plain text version of the message is the same as the HTML version. If you make changes to your HTML message, update your plain text version too. If you don't some SPAM scorers will think you are trying to trying to send two different messages.
If you need to move your EMD installation to a new computer, simply download the evaluation of the program, then move the campaign.sto, the campaignlists.sto, and the content folder from the old installation to the new. Your SN, campaign configurations and email lists are stored in those files. Your HTML messages are stored in the content folder.
On Windows XP, the location for those files is usually:
On Windows 7, the location is typically:
You can use the search feature in Windows Explorer and search for .sto. If you don't see anything, you may need to unhide the programdata folder or simply copy and paste the file path into Windows Explorer.
If you want the old Logs, you can move that folder as well.
By: Chris Lewis
Here are Arial we get many instances where clients send email perfectly for long time and then bamm! things start falling apart. Many times a software is, like ours, is blamed for the issues because it is a logical thing to look at first. The truth of the matter is that Campaign Enterprise, Email Marketing Director, or any other emailing software does not change...but the circumstances around it do. Sometimes a dreaded OS update happens overnight and introduce new "support files" that your emailing software requires that causes a difference in functionality than before. You might have a corruption of some of the email software files, but this is rare.
The #1 culprit of these "it just started happening" scenarios is Blacklisting. The internet is a dynamic place. New technologies to protect the general public from SPAMers, Phishers and the like come online unknowingly and what was working great before all of a sudden just falls apart. Email distribution management is not a noun but a verb. It is an active thing that requires monitoring and maintenance. Part of your maintenance schedule to make sure everything is working well should include a scan to see if your SMTP server system is on any blacklists. We recommend using a website called http://mxtoolbox.com. With using this website, you can find out in an instant if you are being blacklisted by many blacklist sites. It only take a few problems with your SMTP server or a few complaints from cranky recipients to be blacklisted so check it at least weekly or before you send out any major email blasts.
As email distribution professionals, we need to play by the rules and be good internet citizens even if the rules changes. Remember, it is not IF the rules change, it is WHEN, so stay diligent.
Also, with visiting a free analysis tool like MXToolBox, be sure to visit a few of their advertiser and support their effort.
By: Chris Lewis
Mass Email Professionals have a job to do, and that is to get the emails into INBOXes. To make an email campaign successful, there are things that need to be in place before you hit the send button or it is possible that even though all your emails seemed to go out, many of your emails could be in the SPAM box which is as good as the recipient not getting the email at all. So, in order to increase your effectiveness in getting those emails delivered correctly, there are some guidelines you should follow that will be true for many of the big email providers like Gmail, AOL, and hotmail.
Make sure you have an SPF record in your DNS!
This is the #1 problem why email does not make it to the recipient, and many times you wont even know it. Gmail requires this, and every email sent to it, it makes sure the SPF record is there. At best, it goes into the Spam folder, at worst, it does not make it at all.
Make sure your links in your emails are not IP addresses and that they use port 80 (HTTP)
Many times you can just cut and past a URL not really noticing that the URL is an IP address or that it may even use a non-standard port. These are huge red-flags to recipient email systems. Also, try not to make the "test" part of a hyperlink the same URL. Use real words like, "Click here to see..." or something.
Make sure your subject line is not too "flower-y"
Using all upper case words or lots of punctuation in your subject line can cause a higher spam score. You want to attract attention to your subject but it should be done tactfully. Use some type of useful information that is very specific to the recipient so that you may attract their attention. Just mentioning their name is not good enough, and can sometimes be annoying and look like SPAM. Be specific! Think about what you would click on if you saw your subject line. Getting an email to an INBOX and not having the recipient even open it is a crime! Bad examples of this are:
YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS!
Hello Chris, I think you will like this
It sounds simple, but you would be surprised by how many do this type of thing in the subject. This happens a lot too when the email is not written by a person not using primary language skills or different cultures. I don't mean to be harmful here, but many terms and sayings can be outdated or actually repelling, so make sure you edit things before sending out. Overall, write emails like you were just writing to one person in a normal scenario.
By: Chris Lewis
I lightly addressed this issue last month but many asked for a better description of the SPF authentication method, so here it is. Setting up a new SMTP server is pretty easy, especially if you are using an IIS SMTP server. Many have set up SMTP servers on Webservers just so that when someone fills out a webform that this information is emailed to you. What can happen though is that even though the email is sent to your SMTP server, it never makes it to your Inbox. The emails seem simple enough and could not even come close to SPAM, so what is the problem? The problem is usually it is that YOUR email provider (the receiving system of email), like Gmail, that is dumping those emails because it could not authenticate the domain part of the email. If you don't have an SPF record setup for your domain in DNS, it is possible that 90% of your emails will never make it to recipients and you will never know it because it is not considered a bounce!
Here is what is happening:
- You send an email with your email client, mass mailer, or website form to your sparkling new SMTP server
- Your SMTP server happily sends the email off to the destination SMTP server
- The destination SMTP server sees your email is coming from email@example.com and before accepting the emails asks the DNS system for the SPF record for the yourdomain.com domain
- If the SPF record does not exist on your DNS, the destination SMTP server is going to consider your SMTP server as not authorized to send on behalf of yourdomain.com and will reject the email
- If the SPF record is found for yourdomain.com, the IP address in the SPF record is compared to that of your SMTP server that is attempting to deliver the email. If they match, the email is accepted. If not, the email is rejected.
So, if you are setting up an SMTP server to send one email a day or 1 million, you need to have an SPF record in your DNS server for the domain you are sending from.
SPF is just one of the ways email messages are authenticated as being legitimate senders for the domain. The advantage the SPF method has over other authentication methods is that the SPF record is easy to enter into the DNS, the email message is not modified as in the DKIM method, and it is basically a perfect way to stop SPAM. The disadvantages of this method is that every email addresses domain you have needs to have an SPF record, so if you are sending emails on behalf of others, there is a lot to manage.
SPF, DKIM, and other email authentication methods are many times used in combination with one other. Most of the time these methods are used in SPAM scoring, and though an email's successful delivery is not absolutely based on the presence of these SPF records, it adds a TON of good SPAM scoring points to the equation. Below is a simple example of a SPF record entry in a DNS system. This can be added in the TXT section of the DNS record.
For HOST: normally use the @ sign which means use the domain name for the DNS entry.
For TXT: v=spf1 a ip4:XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX ip4:XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX include:yourdomain.com ~all
Change the XXX IP addresses to the IP addresses your SMTP server using to send.
Obviously this SPF record could have a lot of different variations on formatting, but this will give you an example of a simple format and shows you just how easy it is to set this record up. I hope this helps your deliver-ability!
By: Chris Lewis
Well, not really for dummies, but knowing more about this anti-spam system will help you get your emails into the Inbox. Most of the time, the question is, "should I use DKIM for my email sending..." YES! "Will it ensure my emails get into Inboxes?" NO! But, it helps a ton. DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is a method for associating domain name to an email message thereby allowing a person, role, or organization to claim some responsibility for the message.
Here is how it works:
- You send an email using your SMTP server.
- Your SMTP server that has authority to send in behalf of your domain adds a DKIM signiture header to your email and sends it
- The destination SMTP receives the email, sees a DKIM signature in the email, and then looks up the public signature on your domain using via DNS
- If the signature in your email authenticates with the public signature in your email, then the email is "good"
Now, saying that the email is "good" means that the destination SMTP knows it is from you, but the destination mail server will still SPAM score your email by the content. DKIM adds a ton of "good" SPAM scoring advantage to your email and thus will greatly improve it's inbox-ability.
So, if you are not using DKIM, use it! Click here is a great link in Wikipedia on the subject
Understand this will not have anything to do with your email sending client, like Outlook or Campaign Enterprise. The system works because it is on a SMTP server level of activity and is based on authority that can only be established by domain owners.