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
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
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.
By: Chris Lewis
Ports on the internet are like frequencies on your radio. They allow you to use the same "air waves" for a lot of different communication. So, basically, if you try to connect to a service on the internet, like a webserver, then a webserver needs to be eagerly waiting for your request. When you type in HTTP on a browser (along with the URL), your browser assumes you want to connect to the destination Webserver via port 80 (unless you override it). Since Campaign Enterprise has a webserver built into it, it listens for requests. If you put Campaign Enterprise on the same computer as an IIS Webserver there is a possibility that the two might collide if they are both trying to listen to port 80. Actually, what will happen is that the first service that starts up will "win" and take over the listening of port 80. The second service that starts up will try to listen to port 80 and fail because the first service has "binded" to that port. You can see the problem: If two services were allowed to listen and respond to a request, the results would be chaos.
Since port 80 is well-known for website traffic it is almost always let through firewalls, etc. and should be used for response functions. Using port 80 in links within emails also are much more acceptable to SPAM ranking filters than a hyperlink using a "strange" port like 81.
To make Campaign Enterprise use port 80 but "play nice" with other Webservers on your system, you will have to assign multiple IP addresses on your computer so that Campaign Enterprise will bind to one IP and the IIS Server can bind to one or more of the other IPs. It is the pair of IP and Port that makes the traffic coming back to the computer unique. If traffic comes in directed to the computer using the IP and port that Campaign Enterprise is "listening" on, then Campaign Enterprise will respond to it and the IIS Server will ignore it. The opposite applies to the IIS Server traffic where the IIS Server will respond to it's IP and port assigned to it. So overall, if you find Campaign Enterprise when starting says "port in use", you will probably need to make adjustments to Campaign Enterprise and the IIS Server to allow them to co-exist.
"So", you may ask, "why does Campaign Enterprise come with the default ports of 81 and 82?" This is done strictly for demo purposes so that you can be successful demoing the product on a computer with IIS Server running without running into the problems of colliding ports. When you are ready to use Campaign Enterprise for real, change the response port to port 80 so your email will not be marked as SPAM because of the strange ports used in the URLs.
There are two different ports used in Campaign Enterprise, one for the administration of the product and the other is for the traffic coming back to the server. It is probably good to keep the administration port something oddball if you are planning on allowing administration of Campaign Enterprise from outside your firewall because then it is less likely to be crawled by robots out there looking for computers to harass.
In Windows Vista, Microsoft added features to the operating system to protect you from yourself, especially when downloading and installing software programs. Many of these safety features were carried over into Windows 7, although they make it somewhat easier to customize.
When attempting to re-start Email Marketing Director in a Windows 7 (or Vista) environment (or later, probably 8 too), you may see the following error:
Path/File Access Error
Either the campaign.sto or campaignlists.sto files is locked. Closing the program
In most cases, if you are loading programs as an administrator in your Windows environment, you will have no problem, but if you are logged in as a separate user, you must give yourself permission to run the program. To set permissions, do the following.
*The Programdata folder is a hidden folder, you may need to show hidden folders before you can access this folder to change the permissions. To show hidden folders, open your Windows Explorer and click organize, then Folder and Search options. Click on the View tab and find the option to Show Hidden Files Folders and Drives. You can also type C:\ProgramData in the Windows Explorer address bar to access the folder.