Archive for the ‘Email Optimization’ Category

Content Dethroned As King?

Relevant Content is KingContent has been dethroned as king and relevant content has taken its place.

Of course relevant content is king. What else would it be? Off-topic content?

The question is: Do you know what is relevant to your audience? Do you know what is relevant to each of your audiences? Do you provide a range of content that appeals to more than one segment at a time? If not, read on for tips on how to improve your email subscriber retention and how to improve email response rates.


A retail furniture store features only what is on sale for three mailings, which, coincidentally, is all bedroom furniture. How many people are in the market for bedroom furniture at the time of each mailing? Pushing what is on sale is fine but feature items in other rooms as well. Fewer subscribers will feel they got yet another email that doesn’t apply to them.

Professional Services
A professional services firm features content that helps prospects understand their services and choose them. What about prospects further along in a project and have started implementation? What content do they want to see? What are the other phases of the prospect’s project? The professional services firm is missing an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise and communicate key differentiators in the other phases of a project.

You get the idea. Step back and put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes. Even the Pros lose sight of this from time to time. Whoops. I’ve forgotten to update or reference my editorial calendar. Or worse. I settled for what content I could get versus going the extra mile to get what will be effective.

Everything we do online should contribute to building our house list. Everything we do with our house list should be done to retain our current subscribers and acquiring new ones. Don’t blow it on the last step and come up short.

Until you get your content game on, consider breaking out your lists into sub categories so you don’t lose people to the dreaded global unsubscribe.


Instead of the retail furniture store offering a single newsletter or promotional list, they could offer the subscriber the option to customize their subscription preferences. E.g. Receive promotions and offers by room type, furniture type, accessories, etc.

Professional Services
In this scenario, they could offer subscription preferences for a newsletter, white paper announcements, case studies announcements, etc.

You can see where this is going. You can reduce the number of subscribers who globally unsubscribe by offering other subscription options. If they don’t want your newsletter because it rarely addresses their needs, they still have the option to subscribe to something else instead of Globally Unsubscribing.

I hope that these tips will help you with your email subscriber retention efforts.

Download this as a presentation.

Posted: May 19th, 2010
at 9:03am by Rob Van Slyke

Tagged with , ,

Categories: Email Marketing,Email Optimization

Comments: 2 comments

Case Study: Avoiding Spam Filters. Simple Fixes for Your Emails

This post demonstrates a real-world example of getting caught in the spam filters and how to get out of them.

I recently signed up for Twimailer. Some of their notices are coming in marked as spam and some are not so I thought I’d help them out by figuring out why and sending them an email. (I can’t get in touch with them so someone let them know if you know the guys.)

Here’s the issue about email and spam. Emails accumulate a +/- score depending if you do things right or wrong. If you include a copyright and use clean html code, you get + marks. Use bad code or break one of a million rules that a sys admin dreamed up and you get – marks.

It’s not easy to dot all your I’s and cross all your T’s. This short example is great example of why you should do everything you can to fix the elements within your control and put the odds in your favor. That way the impact of the elements out of your control don’t affect you as badly.

The first thing I did was review the body of the emails. They include previous tweets. Great idea but some of the tweets are from the distant past and the email got dinged for having an old date in it.

Next I looked at the email headers. In Outlook, open an email and click on View then Options in the menu. This is what you get (mouseover for full size):

This is a screen shot of two email headers. The one on the left is marked as spam and the other one isn’t.

This all seems techy but let me break it down for you so you can understand it yourself. And I don’t make a career out of studying spam engine speak so I’m interpreting these based on my years of experience. I’m not looking these up…

BTW – My mail server uses SpamAssassin. These codes are SpamAssassin’s terminology. Yours are probably different.

Here’s the SpamAssassin Wiki if you want to learn more:

Determined to be SPAM:
X-Mail-Filter-Gateway-SpamDetectionEngine: SPAM,

Spam score (bad thing):
MailFilterGateway Engine (Score=4.451, Score Required 3,

Not listed as a spammer (good thing):
autolearn=disabled, CTASD_SPAM_UNKNOWN -1.00,

Dated in the past (bad thing):
DATE_IN_PAST_12_24 1.77,

HTML message (not bad or good):

Did not use proper html code <html> missing (bad thing):

Content type issue – not sure (bad thing):

Only sent html email vs. mutli-part MIME format (html and plain text) (bad thing):

Domain authentication not setup properly? (bad thing):

Ultimately got a 4 star rating:
X-Mail-Filter-Gateway-SpamScore: ****

What are the biggest offenders? The basics…

Bad HTML coding i.e. invalid HTML

They didn’t include a plain text version (multi-part MIME format)

A pretty big ding for including a date in the past (just include recent tweets vs. mixing in old ones…)

In this screen shot to the left you’ll see there are no <HTML> <body> or <meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” > tags. They only included <div> tags.

The developer who created the email probably didn’t know about these rules and it’s costing the sender its email reputation.

See my recent post about How to Manage Your Email Reputation.

Here are the Top 10 Tips to Improve Email Deliverability and Response.

Posted: March 17th, 2010
at 10:22am by Rob Van Slyke

Tagged with , ,

Categories: Email Critiques,Email Deliverability,Email Optimization

Comments: No comments

Top 10: Improve Email Deliverability and Response

Keep emails fresh

  • Relevant: Appeal to each of your primary audiences

Unless you only offer one product/service and subscribers would only subscribe for one reason, you need to segment your list and provide relevant content to each segment. See my recent post: 6 Easy Steps to Implement An Email Segmentation Strategy

  • Deliverable: Dot your I’s and cross your T’s.
    • Setup domain authentication (previous post)
    • Keep your list clean (stop sending to unopens)
    • Watch your text to image ratio
    • Don’t go overboard with the superlatives, ALL CAPS and spammy words
    • Include a copyright and link to your privacy policy
    • Use clean HTML code – sloppy errors are flags

Don’t let mistakes affect deliverability. All sorts of things affect deliverability but don’t let the basics slip by.

  • Compatible: Design for the various previews in email clients

Preview your email templates in the major email tools such as Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Apple Mail.

This is the best reference I’ve found for understanding which CSS styles render in which email tools:

  • Personable: A friendly person wrote this – not a company

The days of stuffy corporate speak are over. You are trying to build a relationship with your prospects through multiple channels. Don’t blow it in email.

  • Focused: Don’t create distractions and keep it shortFor whatever reason, many email templates are full of distractions (navigation links, house ads, etc). Focus on:
    • Your subscribers’ needs
    • Your goals

Again, reference my post Email Segmentation Strategy for tips

  • Test: Test everything before you change something

If I had to guess, I’d say 5% of all email marketers test their emails in any way. Marketing = Testing.

  • Simple: Simplify the layout

Unfortunately, most marketers don’t revisit their email layouts and templates as often as they should. If you aren’t testing, how do you know what to change?

  • Fresh: Work in design elements that keep it fresh

Just a visual queue to your subscribers that this isn’t a resend and they should take notice.

  • Recognizable: Review your from, subject line and headline strategy

Don’t get too generic with your from email and from name and don’t change them. You want subscribers to add you to their address book. If you change your address and/or from name, it won’t be in their address book. Choose something recognizable and run with it.

  • Viral: Make it interesting and incorporate share icons

How much effort does it take from the first key strokes of an article to the moment you hit send to get your email out to your subscribers? If you add up the hours and cost, you might take your email marketing more seriously. Take another hour or so to review headlines, intros and photos to make your email something people want to share (assuming your content is compelling in the first place).

  • Useful: Reference previous and up-coming content

Just a bonus tip: People don’t read every email you send. Reference previous content and hint and upcoming content.

Download the Presentation Email Deliverablity Checklist

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