The Cold Hard Fact of E-mail Marketing
Every campaign that goes out to over 1000 recipients will be filtered to some extent. No one is able to guarantee 100% delivery and if they are, you need to challenge them as to how and why.
Deliverability- Filters and Settings
There are several reasons why an E-mail may end up in a recipients junk mailbox. The 3 main filtering protocols that can stop your e-mail are (1) E-mail client filters, (2) ISP filtering, (3) blacklisting.
End users may set filters to automatically sort incoming messages to different folders. Wording can be filtered so that certain "from" and "subject" lines go directly to bulk mail folders. Users may set filters to block E-mail addresses or domains from which they don't want to receive. They may create lists to allow only trusted E-mail addresses. Some ISP's give you an option to block images on all incoming messages, which gives the end user the option of viewing images based on their preference.
Deliverability- Trigger Words
Unfortunately, spam filters can be set to block some of direct marketing's most powerful words like "free", "satisfaction guaranteed" and "click here". Use these words sparingly or find alternatives. Always test your messages with an up-to-date spam trigger database before sending. Frequently, more sophisticated anti-spam methods used by ISP's use a "point system" that identifies trigger phrases commonly used in spam. If an E-mail goes over the "points", it is filtered out and is never delivered.
Some of the more commonly used phrases that ISP's and mail clients filter out include:
Free! Eliminate Debt Removes Hidden
50% Off Double your Income Collect Information you requested
Click Here You're a winner! Amazing "Stop" or "Stops"
Call Now! Multi Level Marketing Cash Bonus Lose Weight
Subscribe Million Dollars Promise You Loans
Earn $ Opportunity Credit Satisfaction Guarantee
Discount Compare Reverse Aging Hot
There are other problematic phrases that can trigger some spam filters or start adding "spam points" to E-mails sent out. These should be avoided, including:
Act Now Easy Terms Unsecured debt or credit
All New Get Paid Online Marketing
Avoid Bankruptcy Give it away, Giving it away Order Now
As Seen On... Join Millions Don't Delete
Buy Direct Meet Singles Save up to
Casino No Cost, No Fees Time Limited
Consolidate Your Debt Offer Vacation
Special Promotion One Time Viagra
The following guidelines are for companies who develop E-mail HTML design/creative and copy.
In today's E-mail environment it is imperative that mailers consider the limitations presented by E-mail readers (E-mail readers are used to render E-mails) and evaluate creative in each relevant reader. For example, an E-mail may look fine in Yahoo!, but in Outlook '07 images are not displayed due to the rendering limitations and the default is set to images "off".
One solution is to review E-mail creative in all possible different E-mail readers- but this can be time consuming and cumbersome.
Another thing that needs to be considered is that Internet Service Providers (ISP's) have a variety of Mail Options, Spam and Filter Settings ranging Low, Medium, High. An end user's settings can effect whether an E-mail campaign is delivered to the inbox or the bulk mail folder. End users can set filters to:
* Automatically sort incoming messages to different folders
* Block E-mail addresses or domains from which they don't want to receive mail
* Create lists that allow only trusted E-mail addresses
* Block images on all incoming messages
Overall, we would recommend designing your creative to retain integrity across the lowest common denominator of reader. This will ensure that your communication is received and viewed successfully by all intended recipients, regardless of the E-mail reader being used.
The following guidelines are meant to assist you in your design efforts to address deliverability and E-mail reader rendering issues.
Quick check list- Top Ten Do's and Don'ts.
* Do not use forms, flash animated GIF's, nested background colors, background images in DIV tags or TABLE cells.
* Do not use embedded images.
* Do use ALT tags as component of <img src> tag when using images. This will ensure copy shows up in place of the images for those recipients who have their image reader turned off or the reader is set "off" as a default.
* Do save graphics with large blocks of flat color or plain text as GIF's.
* Do not make the layout one large graphic, instead slice it into several pieces and optimize each piece.
* Do ensure that the entire HTML including any graphics is under 30k in weight.
* Do use bullets as a good way to call attention to important details. But do not use images as bullets in unordered lists (UL).
* Do ensure that the physical mailing address and phone number of the sender are included at the bottom of the creative as required by DMA E-mail Best Practices and the Can Spam Act.
* Do include a link from the footer to the client's web page describing their privacy policies as recommended by DMA E-mail Best Practices. Major ISP's favor this practice because it shows the sender is a reputable company and not a spammer.
Keep it short:
* Catch the consumer's eye with short, easy-to-read, and relevant copy
* Using bullets is a good way to call attention to important details. Don't use images as bullets in lists.
* Avoid Spam trap words.
* The first point of contact with potential clients is the subject line of your E-mails.
* The goal of the subject line is to reach an audience that is literally bombarded with E-mail advertising, and convince them to open your E-mail. Remember, it creates an initial impression about your business.
* The Subject line should be a maximum of 8 to 10 words to catch their immediate attention.
* The average E-mail viewer can display 60 characters in the subject line before it is cut off.
* Headlines should contain the offer or saving message
* Include your brand name and/or logo in the headline.
* Restate the offer from your headline at the top of the body copy
* Include 1-2 short paragraphs with details of the offer and a brief description of your company, if necessary.
* Convey benefits succinctly
* Include a strong call-to-action that tells the recipient what you want them to do (i.e. sign up, join, buy, etc).
* DMA E-mail Best Practices and the Can Spam Act require the physical mailing address and phone number of the sender of the message to be included at the bottom of the creative.
* DMA E-mail Best Practices highly recommend including a link from the footer to the client's web page describing their privacy policies.
HTML/Design & Creative
Design for quick viewing
* Keep layout above the fold- 250 to 300 pixels
* Design as half-page rather than a full-page ad. Do not force the recipient to scroll.
* Create the HTML in an HTML editor in plain HTML. Do not use MS Word, Layers, CSS, PageMaker or DreamWeaver.
Use of Graphics
* Use bold graphics and design. Lifestyle graphics work best.
* When using images, use ALT tags as component of <img src> tag. This will ensure copy shows up in place of the image for those recipients who have their image reader turned off or the reader is set "off" as a default.
* We do not recommend the use of forms, flash animated GIF's nested background colors, background images in DIV tags or TABLE cells.
* We do not recommend embedded images
* Avoid the temptation to build your messages using only images. Try to keep a 60 (text) to 40 (image) ratio.
* The entire HTML and graphics must be under 30k in weight.
* Save graphics with large blocks of flat color or plain text as GIF's.
* If the layout is one large graphic, slice it into smaller pieces and optimize different areas.
* Use a banner or logo at the top of your creative to attract attention and quickly promote your product. Ensure the banner/logo links to a landing page with your offer, not your company home page.
* Add a text-based link to a web version of your design at the top of your creative. (Add a link to a landing page where you are hosting the marketing message so an individual can view the marketing message in its entirety).
* Test your design in a preview pane, full screen and with images turned on and off before you send it.
* Ask your subscriber to add your "from address" to their address book at the bottom of the creative.
Many marketers feel overwhelmed trying to write great copy for E-mail. And, in fact, there are a lot of elements that go into a responsive E-mail message. If you have to focus your efforts in just one place, there's no question: it has to be the call-to-action. In fact, this is by far the biggest missed opportunity we see when evaluating E-mail creative. If the call-to-actions isn't clear, compelling and prominent, you probably aren't going to be happy with the results of your campaign. E-mail readers don't have time to figure out what you want them to do. You need to tell them using strong action verbs.
The first step, of course, is knowing what you want to accomplish. Do you want to generate leads? Then the call-to-action is something like "sign up", "register", or "download". Are you looking to generate traffic to your site? In that case, you want "learn more", or "read more", "find out", and "check out". If sales are the aim, then you can't do better than "buy now". Notice, by the way, the absence of the word "click". Yes, it does still work, and no, it doesn't always trip a spam filter. It is certainly worth testing, but 90% of the time you can find a better, more specific verb that will really drive your recipients to, well, click!
The next step is to make that call-to-action prominent. It should come right after your headline and both should appear above the fold in a preview window. The copy that supports the benefits of the offer should come after that, and then the call-to-action should re-appear in key places throughout the message. Use both links and buttons or graphics for your call-to-action.
Another thing to consider is the "weight" of your images. E-mails with a lot of images take a longer time to download than simpler E-mails. Using GIF as opposed to JPEG's can help streamline the E-mail's size. Using HTML text wherever possible also reduces the size and allows for some of the E-mail to get through if the images are blocked.
Guidelines for HTML include:
1. Create the HTML in an HTML editor in plain HTML, not using MS Word, Layers, CCS, PageMaker, or DreamWeaver.
2. File size should not exceed 20k.
3. Pixel size for the E-mail should be kept to approximately 600 pixels wide by about 450 pixels high.
4. Keep the call-to-action in the top 400 pixels of the E-mail so it sits above the fold.