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After all your hard work creating and optimizing what you thought was the perfect promotional email, there’s nothing worse than checking in, only to see your open rates are deep in the tank. For many brands, this nightmare becomes a reality quickly, often for some of the most preventable reasons. If you’d like to skip the disappointment and keep your messages out of readers’ virtual trash cans, here are five easy mistakes you’ll need to avoid as you make your way toward a powerful, and successful, email marketing campaign.

Succumbing to Link Overload

Think of the last time you cleaned out your spam folder. Chances are the messages in this portion of your inbox ranged from the stereotypical – foreign royalty asking for a small donation in return for riches – to the downright odd. However, one of the common themes across most of these spam emails is an overabundance of links within the message body. With many spam filters honing in on link overload, if you want to stick around in the inbox, you’ll need to pick and choose your hyperlink battles. Try to keep your linking to a minimum if possible, focusing only on redirecting to landing and promotional pages. It might seem like a wasted opportunity to not link back to your page throughout the message, but based on the direction major email service providers are taking these platforms, it’s your best bet for dodging an unwarranted trip to the spam folder.

Unnecessarily Promotional Subject Lines

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that subject lines can make or break your chance at connecting with a customer in an instant. But what if your viewers never even get a chance to hear your promotion out because the subject line of your message makes it suitable only for the digital trash can? Unfortunately, overly promotional or overtly sales-focused headlines often earn a ticket straight to the spam folder. To put the brakes on this problem, tone down the numbers, capitalization, and forceful words – think “hurry now,” “open immediately,” etc. – so that your message doesn’t look like it belongs with the rest of the spam folder riff-raff. Instead, keep things simple in your subject line and focus on indentifying the valuable content held within your message. This way, you’ll avoid the wrong part of your audiences’ preferred email clients, in addition to giving them a great reason to keep reading on once they receive your email.

Emails with Too Much Text

While spam filters probably won’t screen your messages based solely on the length of content within, that won’t stop readers from marking incoming emails from your brand as spam after opening something that’s better suited for a library shelf. Essentially, readers only spend about 15 to 20 seconds on each message, so if you go overboard with the length of your message, it’s hard to expect a favorable response from your audience. Unfortunately, there’s no defined ideal message length, so the answer to this dilemma is a bit murky. A good rule of thumb to stand by if you’re unsure about the appropriateness of your email length is to ask yourself a simple question – if this message found its way to your inbox, would you take the time to read it? If the answer is closer to trashing it and blocking the sender than it is to an emphatic yes, it’s time to do a little trimming with your content.

Attachments Only Cause Problems

At first glance, this section probably sounds like it belongs on a dating advice site and not a post about keeping your emails from being caught up in a spam filter. However, if you really want to keep your marketed emails in the clear, skipping attachments is your best bet. Sure, it might seem like a great idea to attach that infographic or eBook you’ve worked so hard on to every email, but this is a major red flag for plenty of email service providers. Instead, after taking a little time in the message to explain the value of these offerings, let your selective links lead back to this content via landing pages. This way, you’ll skip the spam folder and boost site visits at the same time.

Know When Enough is Enough

Tenacity is often a key part in any marketing operation. However, when it comes to your email initiatives, constantly targeting and messaging people who have bounced repeatedly is a recipe for disaster. Not only are you building ill-will with someone who’s simply not interested right this moment, your brand could also face a spot on Gmail, Yahoo, or another email giant’s blacklist – something far worse than ending up in the spam folder. Thankfully, if you can toe this line, while also keeping up with everything else you’ve learned from this post, there’s nothing that can stop your next campaign from being a smash hit with interested audience members around the globe.

Inbox vs. Spam Folder

 

Sometimes, the morning seems to come just a little too early for your taste. Even though you know better, hitting that snooze button and trying to sneak in a few extra minutes before facing the day sure does feel good. While it might seem like a bit of a stretch, Google, ever the innovator in the digital world, potentially has plans to port this concept into your audience members’ inbox in the near future. If you rely on reaching out via email to spread your message about products, services, and deals, you’ll want to take a few minutes a learn a little more about Gmail’s “Snooze Button” and what it might mean for your brand moving forward.

What Exactly Would a Snooze Button Do?

First off, let’s explain exactly what this new feature in the Gmail inbox might do. To put it plainly, Google wants users to be able to use the Snooze Button as a way to check back in with messages at a later date. Instead of facing a decision on whether or not to read the email immediately, dump it in the virtual trash bin, or lose it beneath a tide of incoming messages, users can use this theoretical addition to the inbox interface to act on this item at a later date. No matter how long the user sets the “snooze” feature to hold the message – early reports claim that the duration of the feature can span from hours to weeks – once the allotted time limit ends, the message moves from an inactive status back to the top of the inbox with the other new entries.

Part of a Bigger Series of Changes

On its own, the Snooze Button is a clever tool that adds a new layer of inbox functionality to the Gmail graphic user interface. However, it’s important to note that it is just one of a slew of new features the tech giant is testing as it prepares yet another revamp of its email services. Aside from the ability to hold off messages for later, enhanced sorting features, like new tabs covering travel, finance, and recent purchases, are also currently in the works. Additionally, Google is also testing a new pinning tool, giving users a way to keep important messages, like time sensitive offers from your brand, at the top of the inbox with recently received emails.

The Reason Behind the Test

So why is Google messing with what most would describe to be a pretty good thing? The best answer to this is two-fold. First, when it comes to the inbox arms race between Gmail and its competitors, the old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” doesn’t really apply. To keep itself in the position of industry leader, Google is always looking for the next great thing. Second, and perhaps more important, is the fact that giving users the ability to customize the inbox and create a setting that is conducive to their lifestyles is what makes Gmail so attractive. If Google wants to keep the reputation of offering the most interactive and intuitive email experience, constantly testing new features is just par for the course.

Familiar Ground for Tech Savvy Viewers

Of course, if your audience is already on the tech savvy side of things, the concept of an inbox snooze button is probably nothing new to them. With the advent of Google’s Apps Script tool, Gmail users have been able to create their own custom features that offer this same functionality. Obviously, if you’re not familiar with editing and writing serviceable web scripts, this isn’t the easiest process in the world. However, it does show that the demand is there for such a feature, adding even more credence to Google’s testing of the Snooze Button and its potential role as a Gmail interface staple.

Is This a Good or a Bad Thing for Your Brand?

Now that you’re an expert on Gmail’s Snooze Button, it’s time to delve into the potential ramifications of this addition to the inbox in relation to your marketed messages. While first impressions might lead you to think that this might only serve as a way for users to put off your emails indefinitely, that’s probably not be the case. Having a readily available way to sift through the clutter and keep these offerings in plain sight could add a new dimension to your marketing outlook. Sure, messages that deliver time sensitive offers could experience a few bumps in the road, but anything that gives your users a chance to read your messages, even if it’s not right away, is still better than these audience members completely ignoring it in the first place or losing it among the avalanche of incoming emails to their inboxes.

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While it might be a touchy subject for some, the truth is that staying completely engaged and excited when operating an email marketing campaign can be a tall order. Combining the grinding nature of coming up with new content that piques consumer interest with the hurdles that come from finding balance between your web page content and marketed emails is enough to wear anyone down. With that in mind, if you feel like your messages and overall marketing approach could use a little pick-me-up, here are five simple ways to find new inspiration as you continue to offer great content to your audience members.

Stay In Touch with Industry Oriented LinkedIn Groups

First up on the list is industry groups found on LinkedIn. While this option focuses a little more on brands that deal with B2B marketing practices, with a little digging and some time spent sifting through the plethora of LinkedIn groups, this practice can help any email campaign find new options for upcoming inbox offerings. What makes this concept so powerful is that point of these groups is to promote discussion on hot-button topics that relate to your audience. After brushing up on the latest conversations happening in these groups, you can summarize the content or incorporate snippets into your emails, adding recognizable or reputable voices to your high quality content that really resonate with your readers.

Look to Support Forums for Hot Topics

Similarly, if your offerings and services aim to assist or improve a daily task or related item, checking out support forums related to the original product is a great way to figure out what the customer wants or needs in top tier email content. By browsing these forum pages, you’ll learn more about the latest issues your customers are dealing with, creating easy ideas for blog posts or any other offerings you promote via marketed messages. Sure, some of the language might be a little salty if the problem is especially frustrating, but there are few places better than support forums to find out what really interests your email audience.

Check In on Pinterest for New Design Ideas

Much like LinkedIn, Pinterest is one of the social networks that get lost in the shadows of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. However, if your brand isn’t keeping up with all the latest talk and pins on this image-based network, you could be missing out on some serious inspiration for new message content. Whether it’s browsing some of the most popular email marketing boards on Pinterest, or getting a little more specific by following the site’s most popular users that pin relevant content, this network has ample opportunities for providing direction if you need some new ideas. Even if it’s just seeing a new font you like for your blog or email headers, spending a little time browsing isn’t only fun, it’s also a great way to look at the marketing process from a variety of different angles.

Follow Along with Breaking Industry News

Of course, the biggest pitfall surrounding marketing of any kind is simply defaulting to the generic, and tired, content offerings that flood the web. For most brands, it’s clearly easier to write up boring email messages, blog articles, or social media posts that list “duh” knowledge at nauseam. Unfortunately, following this path of least resistance isn’t the best way to knock the socks off of your readers in the inbox or on your website. If you really want to generate content that supports your deals or simply gets your readers to come check out more on your blog, keeping up with the latest news in your industry is a must. Not only will this enhance your perspective for other aspects of your business, it also provides added insight and a well-researched background that helps you pack a little extra punch when you’re trying to make a point in your marketed messages.

Create Promotions That Focus on Blog Interaction

The final way to find new inspiration for your email marketing content is to just listen to your readers. While this might seem like common sense to take your cues straight from the source of your web traffic, actually getting in touch with these viewers is generally easier said than done. To help you revitalize your blog comment section and get the discussion rolling with your audience, consider creating an email promotion that rewards users that interact on your site; it’s no surprise that most web viewers love freebies and giveaways. This way, your brand not only generates some extra traffic and keeps customers excited, but it can also lay the foundation for future content ideas by watching the discussion evolve around what your audience finds most important.

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All of us at Elite Email have been working hard for months & months to understand every component of CASL, which takes effect on July 1st, 2014. We have seen many organizations across Canada and abroad fully embrace these major changes that are rocking the Canadian marketing landscape. They are doing everything necessary to get fully informed and caught up with making sure their mailing lists are up-to-date and 100% compliant with CASL.

A few months ago we released our CASL Survival Guide and made it available in a variety of formats:

Since it’s release, it has been downloaded and accessed a tremendous amount of times and has helped countless amount of organizations gain a deeper understanding about what’s in store come July 1st. In addition, organizations around the globe are using our step-by-step action plan as outlined in the guide to ensure they are on the right path.

Here in Canada, this is not only being discussed in boardrooms and around the water cooler [do people still do that?] but on major news outlets as well.

In the past few months we have seen some of Canada’s largest publications and networks reference our CASL Survival Guide.

Yesterday, Global TV News stopped by our offices and and spoke to our CEO, Robert Burko, about CASL and the changes that lie ahead.

Click here to see the full story and the video on the Global News website.

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While anti-spam laws aren’t anything new in the world of email marketing, Canada’s upcoming legislation is definitely popping up on plenty of radars in the industry. With some heavy-hitting regulations and some of the strictest wording marketers have ever seen, it’s definitely in your best interests to be up to speed with these changes. To help you keep your great messages reaching interested customers, let’s break down Canada’s new anti-spam legislation, as well as what your brand needs to do so that you have everything in order when these rules go live in July.

The Particulars of the Bill

At the heart of the bill, lawmakers here in Canada want to keep the world of marketed messages completely separate from the decidedly less savory emails that spawn from shady sources across the net. This means introducing legislation that cracks down on spam, hacking, illicit data harvesting, spyware, fraud, and pretty much any other breech of privacy that can happen via your audiences’ inboxes. For brands and marketers who end up on the wrong side of this law, the penalties levied by the government are nothing short of harsh.

In fact, senders that aren’t in compliance run the risk of facing fines that can reach a maximum of $10 million per each specific violation. Naturally, that’s a worst case scenario of the most extreme variety, but it’s a great way to explain just how serious the Canadian government’s penalty system is when it comes to cracking down on individuals and brands alike who misuse and abuse marketed or mass emails.

Why Is This Happening?

The reason for all of this is that more people than ever – over 3.9 billion last year to be exact – are using email to stay in touch, creating ample opportunity for both good and bad practices to occur in the inbox. While this is great for your business in terms of reaching out to customers who are interested in your products and services, it also means that hackers and spammers can also prey on these same people with clever deceptions and outright fraudulent activity. With that in mind, it’s hard to blame our government, and plenty of others around the world, for cracking down on those who employ shady tactics when trying to pull a quick one via marketed emails.

Making Sure You’re In Compliance

Considering that there’s no grace period for this new act, having everything in gear when July rolls around is crucial to the continued success and viability of your email marketing campaign. At the heart of the legislation is a shift from implied to express consent. Before, some brands simply took a customer’s interest in its products or services as enough consent to warrant email contact. However, that’s no longer going to be good enough. Instead, when this change goes live, express consent, in the form of an opt-in agreement, will be the new required minimum to start connecting with your audience.

It’s important to note that sending off emails after July 1 requesting this consent will actually be in violation of the new rules, so if you want to keep the government off your back, you’ll need to get to work on verifying opt-ins with your readers. A great way to do this is to go through your email list and see which entries have express consent and which ones might be closer to the implied side of the scale. Not only will this help you clean up your contact list and do a little housekeeping, but it can also help you roll out opt-in confirmations before the hammer drops on these types of messages.

Understanding the Ramifications of This Change

At first glance, all of this is a lot to digest in one sitting, but it speaks to a bigger change in the email marketing industry as a whole that’s well worth noting. Canada definitely isn’t the first country to crack down on the shadier side of this business sector, and it won’t be the last, so placing an emphasis on quality, and not quantity, is the only way to survive this transition. If your brand has simply slapped together messages and called it good enough up until now, that simply won’t fly anymore.

The best way to prosper, both now and after the new legislation goes live, is to attract readers with high quality content that adds value to the marketing experience. By going this route, you not only stay on the right side of the law, but you also give your audience a reason to stick with your email campaign. For brands that are truly looking to maximize returns on marketed messages, this part of the formula hasn’t changed, even if the rules surrounding it are going through some serious upheaval.

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Subject lines are the bread and butter of any great email marketing campaign. While outstanding content is a must if you want to make a splash with your audience, turning them off before they even click “open” is any brand’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the people on the other side of the screen. To help you avoid this calamity and clean up any offenders in your stable of marketed messages, here are 10 of the top offenders that have doomed countless emails to the virtual trashcan.

Free

First up on the list is a word that can’t help but sound the spam alarm for readers. While it might seem like a great idea to fit this word into your messages, the reality is that using “free” in the subject line is extremely common among scammers and spammers, who use this as a cheap tool when trying to pull a quick one on readers.

Stop

Having an email jump off the screen with the word “stop” is definitely a very particular experience for your audience – just not in the good way. There’s definitely plenty of merit behind the concept of disruptive marketing tactics, but issuing a command or trying to convince your readers to change their ways in this part of the message is not the right way to go about this process.

Donate

For the non-profits out there, email marketing is all about bumping up donations and awareness, so this one’s a little tricky. However, the key to still weaving the concept of viewers taking action into the content of your emails is to save “donate,” “charity,” and the rest of these keywords for after you make your pitch. Going the opposite way and placing this word in the subject line will simply put a halt to any momentum you could be generating for your cause.

LOL

A quick look at your Facebook or Twitter feed provides all the proof you need that “LOL,” “OMG,” and the rest of your audience’s favorite web slang are all still alive and well. However, that doesn’t mean these acronyms have a spot next to your brand name in the inbox. Keeping your messages and subject lines light and conversational is one thing, but don’t cross the line with slang that’s better suited for your personal social media pages.

Last Chance

While this entry is more of a phrase, it still deserves a spot on the list. “Last chance,” “act now,” and all the other call-to-action terms really shouldn’t be the focal point of the message header. Instead, use expiration dates and limited time offers in the body of your emails to get your audience in gear and visiting your web page or brick-and-mortar store.

Help

Much like “donate” and “charity,” “help” is a word that shouldn’t make its home in your email subject line. Again, taking a stand on an issue or advancing your cause via the actual body of your message is far more effective than using words or phrases that unfortunately come off as pleading or pushy in the subject section.

Reminder

Surprisingly, people don’t respond well to words like “reminder.” While it might not make much sense at first glance, this word invokes feelings of repetition, which in turn has a strong connotation with common spam tactics. This becomes even more apparent when first time messages bring this word into the subject line as a method of faking familiarity – a concept that’s not limited to just this entry.

FWD: or RE:

Like “reminder,” “FWD,” “RE,” and other traditionally automated tags can be surreptitiously added into the subject line to befuddle unsuspecting readers. Sure, being sneaky and trying to pass off your next message as a continued conversation might trick a few unsuspecting readers, but don’t expect your open rates to stay up for long once your audience catches on to this underhanded tactic.

Webinar

If you keep up with content marketing slang, it might seem like a no-brainer to throw in terms like “webinar” in your message headers. Unfortunately, there’s a very real disconnect between inbox open rates and emails that jam these words in the subject line. While drumming up interest for your content is never a bad thing, keep the particulars to the core of the message and let a simple, straightforward subject line stand on its own.

Awesome

Rounding out the list is perhaps the biggest blunder looking to derail your email campaign. Today’s marketing world is full sales pitches and message headers that try to pump up products with over-the-top wording and unnecessary superlatives. The worst offender of all of these words is, without a doubt, “awesome.” Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being proud of what your brand has to offer; just don’t fall for the trap of slapping “awesome,” “amazing,” “epic”, and all the other overused exemplary adjectives in front of every other word in your subject line.

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In a world where it seems like every minute detail of your marketing content is subject to unbelievably intense scrutiny and analysis, sometimes the simple question of “how does your email actually look to the customer?” goes unanswered. While the substance of what ends up in customer inboxes is definitely the primary focus of any great promotional email push, if you don’t wrap it up in a visually pleasing package, don’t be surprised when it ends up in the virtual trash bin. To help you avoid this advertising calamity, let’s delve into the world of color theory and see just how important picking the right shades on the palette really is to the success of your brand.

What Is Color Theory, Exactly?

Of course for those of you who decided against the arts major in college, bringing up color theory might as well be like asking you how much you know about astrophysics. Thankfully, it’s really not that complex once you get the hang of it. The basic gist of the concept is that a color wheel defines the harmony between the colors, which in turn affects how people, like the readers of your emails, react to these choices. From here, creating an understanding of the connections between all of the choices on the wheel can add an extra layer of appeal that puts your brand imagery and content over the top with your audience.

Finding Balance and Harmony in Selections

Digging a little deeper shows that selections made via color theory start with evaluating sequential hues and shades found on the wheel, before branching off into three different approaches. The first approach focuses on analogous colors, or colors that stand side by side on the 12-part basic color wheel. Generally, the selections come in threes, with one color taking center stage for a brand’s color overall or email oriented color scheme. Additionally, pairing complimentary colors – or colors that exist as direct opposites in placement on the wheel – is also a popular strategy.

Finally, it’s not unheard of to look to the natural world for a little guidance when picking a color scheme for your brand or upcoming email marketing initiative. This branch of color theory selection asserts that Mother Nature often comes up with the best or most visually striking combinations anyways, so why not take a page out her book and save yourself some time?

Is Color Theory Really That Important?

Now that you’re up to speed on how color theory works, the natural next step in the process is looking at why it works. At the heart of the argument for putting a little more thought into your color selections when creating promotional emails is the fact that 93 percent of customers claim that the visual appearance of a product or message is the top factor that goes into a successful marketing operations. On top of this, 80 percent noted that well designed and pleasing color selection increased brand recognition and visibility. Basically, if you can find the right colors for your brand and for your emails, you’re well on your way to hitting a home run with your customers.

Adding In a Little Psychology to the Mix

Aside from aesthetics, the selection for your next campaign can also send another, more subtle message to your viewers based on psychological tendencies connected to these colors. Yellow, red, and orange denote optimism, energy, and aggressiveness respectively, while green brings up elements of wealth and prosperity. On the other hand, purple and blue emphasize trust and security, with black representing new or sleek products. It’s important to note that these relationships coincide directly with North American consumers, and that different cultures and regions attribute varying characteristics to these same colors, so selections should take into account where your target audience resides.

Building a Strategy for Your Brand

The final piece to the puzzle comes with setting up a strategy that compliments and emphasizes what you’re messages have to offer to viewers. Naturally, there’s no universal selection that works for every brand, but you can build around general strategies that help refine your color selection based on what you’re trying to accomplish. For instance, retooling your entire brand image based on a more appealing color scheme isn’t a bad idea if you’re thinking long-term. Likewise, focusing on the next campaign and finding the colors that really compliment your promotional deals and products is just as worthwhile an endeavor. Regardless of how you approach the process, it’s hard to go wrong with retooling your brand and message look to create a stunning visual your audience can’t resist.

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Sometimes, even the best sales pitch in the world falls on deaf ears. It’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with traditional email marketing methods; there are just certain customers who put more stock in the words of their peers than the brands that spend big bucks on advertising. However, there is one tool – the customer testimonial – that bridges this gap by letting your satisfied customers spread the good word about your products and services. To ensure you pull this technique off just right the next time you roll out a new set of promotional emails, here’s everything you need to know about testimonials and how they fit into your marketing strategy.

Understanding the Benefits of Testimonials

Before getting into the “how,” let’s look at why testimonials can be so powerful. To start, few things can assuage the concerns of a buyer on the fence more than having someone who has already interacted with your company rave about how great your service or your products are. On top of this, firsthand knowledge of how to get the most use out of what you’re selling helps cut down on the uncertainty found in new buyers. Perhaps the best part about the testimonial approach is that when done right, these additions to your marketed emails don’t come off as “salesy.” For discerning viewers who are tired of blatant advertising tactics, honing in on this aspect can go a long way toward building a lasting connection.

Staying on the Right Side of the Legal Line

Unfortunately, some brands go a little too far when leaving the company voice behind while letting happy customers take the lead, creating both moral and legal issues. To keep your company out of hot water and in the good graces of your customers, there’s a few things you need to avoid at all costs. First off, don’t mislead your customers with vague or overtly false testimonials. If it ever comes to light that you’re pulling a fast one on your audience, you could do some serious and lasting damage to your brand image. Also, disclosing any relationships or affiliations with the customers profiled in your emails – like former employees or family members of current workers – should be a high priority, to avoid questions regarding conflicts of interest. Finally, if you’re pulling anything from an online review on Google+, Yelp, or another open source, it’s better to go overboard with the citation than come up short and find yourself in the sticky situation of using content without express permission.

Getting the Most out of Your Testimonials

Once you have all your ducks in a row as far as the legal stuff’s concerned, you can jump into the fun part of actually building a great testimonial to feature in your next email series. As you harvest customer feedback and start sorting through the responses, keep an eye out for short quotes that are snappy and easy to read. While having a devoted customer write a novel espousing the benefits of your products is definitely nice, the average browser isn’t going to sit around and sift through page after page of review. Additionally, try and pick testimonials that match up with your target audience; having a customer that fits into this demographic can help readers relate and connect with the person giving the review.

A testimonial that addresses specific problems or concerns your customers might be facing is another great way to build the case for your products and services. If possible, presenting this content in a “before and after” shell is a smart approach that hammers home the need for your offerings and how the customer can get the most value out of this purchase. Once you have the ball rolling, don’t rest on your laurels. Keeping a steady stream of new and updated testimonials can build content for your site and create additional reach via repurposing on your social media accounts.

There’s Room for Creativity Too!

Of course, the best part about setting up a run of testimonials for your email marketing operations is that there is no cookie cutter format for what turns audiences on. If you want to spice things up with a YouTube channel dedicated to these reviews and demonstrations, there’s nothing stopping you. Additionally, weaving in social media interaction by asking customers to post their own reviews on your company’s Facebook or Google+ pages is another simple tactic to get a little added value out of this marketing push. As long as you stay on the right side of the process, the sky is literally the limit for where your testimonials can take your brand.

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The world of email marketing is far from static or stagnant. In fact, it seems like a single day doesn’t pass without some new development shattering what we think we know about connecting with customers via their inboxes. Recently, AOL decided to keep up with this trend by dramatically altering how they handle email verification and spam for incoming messages to its user base. If you plan on promoting your brand and shipping out offers and discounts to your customers via email, you’ll want to stick around and find out exactly what AOL changed, and what you need to do to make sure you don’t end up with a logjam of bounced messages coming back from this ISP.

The Big Changes

In a blog post detailing the move, AOL unveiled the particulars of this email verification change. Basically, emails that claim to originate from the ISP’s servers must undergo a series of checks that ensure these messages actually fit the bill regarding credentials and authenticity. If it turns out that these messages simply use an @aol.com in its address but originate from a different server entirely, then all bets are off once AOL’s system starts sending up the red flags. Messages that fail this check will bounce right back to the sender, making sure that the email never comes close to the intended recipient’s inbox.

AOL’s Logic Behind the Move

So why is AOL completely changing its policies regarding server verification? While some might think it’s a direct shot at the email marketing industry, the truth is that promoted messages are simply a unintended causality in this ISP’s continued efforts to fight back against spammers and their illicit messages. Near the end of April, AOL users became the target of a widespread spam attack, leading to numerous compromised accounts and even more junk messages making their way to new mailboxes. To help stop the problem at its source, the ISP decided to shut down one of the biggest tools in the spammer’s kit: Spoofed messages that edit the outgoing address. Unfortunately, if your brand is also using this technique for legitimate purposes, chances are you’ll need to rethink how you reach out to customers before your messages start showing up in these customers’ inbox again.

A Growing Precedent

Of course, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened for those who dabble in email marketing. Recently, we covered the news and offered some insight on a similar change unveiled by Yahoo. Not surprisingly, the circumstances leading to this action were eerily similar between these two ISPs, so seeing both platforms come to a similar conclusion makes sense. Again, this growing precedent isn’t a knock on email marketing so much as it is the mistakes of a few – think spammers and others trying to pull a quick one on unsuspecting viewers – ruining a good thing for you and the customers who enjoy checking out your latest offer or discounts.

The Future of ISP Interactions

Until service providers can find a way to eliminate spamming and junk emails that hit the inbox stuffed full of viruses and shady links, chances are that these new verification checks are going to become the norm in the email industry. While there’s no guarantees that Gmail, Hotmail, and the other big names out there will definitely follow in AOL’s footsteps, if spammers start to put more pressure on the ISPs that haven’t made the switch, you had better believe it won’t take these platforms long to shut down spoofing and legitimate usage of these domain names alike.

Redefining Your Mailing List Strategy

Before you do anything else, the first change to your strategy is one that needs to happen ASAP if you rely on an @aol.com outgoing address – stop sending messages that are just going to bounce right back to your platform. From here, switching up your domain to one of the other free options out there, like Gmail or Hotmail, can help alleviate your issues in the short-term. However, as you can see, there’s a definite argument that one can make for all of the major email ISPs to eventually follow AOL and Yahoo’s lead on this issue.

To protect your email marketing operations in the long-term and make sure your messages always hit the consumer inbox on time, consider going with a domain name you either own or operate. This way, you’ll never have to worry about internal changes coming from AOL or any of the other big names directly affecting your ability to stay in touch with an audience that’s eagerly awaiting your next email.

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Saying that Gmail is kind of a big deal to your email marketing operations is like saying that it might get a little rainy during a hurricane. With over 425 million users, including 5 million businesses, and 66 of the world’s top 100 universities, chances are that a big chunk of your email contact list is dedicated to reaching out to Gmail’s vast base of users. Because of this, making sure you know how to tailor your messages and target these customers is one of the biggest hurdles standing between your brand and an audience that is more than willing to keep in touch. To help you along the way, here are five great tips for connecting with the millions on Gmail, regardless of how big your contact list is currently.

Avoid Constantly Changing Sender Addresses

Having a “From” address that is all over the place is not a smart way to make a good impression on these users. The main problem here is that most email users equate a constantly changing From address as a highly spammy tactic. While some marketers do incorporate constantly shifting sender addresses, this isn’t exactly the company you want to keep when it comes to your brand’s outreach. Instead, stick with a stable and easily recognizable address. This way, your audience can view your emails more like a message from an old friend and less like a shady scam sent by a spammer.

Don’t Go Overboard on Shortened Links

Speaking of spam tactics, one that often finds its way into the world of email marketing is shortened links. While there is nothing wrong with slimming down your message with a shortened link or two, having a message full of these sometimes cryptic looking additions can leave your Gmail users wondering if this message is full of digital landmines that they’d rather not navigate. Instead, keep things simple with only a few links and let the body of your message speak for itself. This way, Gmail users don’t get the wrong idea and blacklist your message before finishing the first sentence.

Keep up a Reliable Headcount

Another smart way of targeting Gmail users is simply knowing how many you have on your list. While this might seem like a “duh” statement at first, there is a lot of info you can glean from an accurate headcount. Comparing Gmail usage to other providers gives you the basis you need to properly interpret analytics. For instance, since Gmail caches images to keep user information private, and you potentially have a large number of Gmail users on your list, viewer location and other tracking statistics may be way off base if you are assuming the numbers accurately represent your entire audience. Should this be the case with your current system, having a revelation like this regarding your Gmail users can not only help you plan around gaps in information regarding this audience, but also gives you the added benefit of refining the numbers supporting the other portions of your email contact list.

Understand the Real Power of Segmentation

Plenty of email marketing “experts” like to talk about segmentation, but chopping up your audience by email service providers isn’t exactly being thorough. The best way to segment your users, specifically those who stick with Gmail, is to sort your list by interests. Whether you find this information via surveys or by tracking activity on your page once users click your links, having this knowledge on hand gives your list a new sense of definition that can drastically improve your targeting process. Considering that really connecting with your customers is the name of the game in email marketing, it only makes sense to put a little more effort into the process than just checking off whether they use Gmail or some other service provider.

Do You Really Know How Deliverable Your Emails Are to Gmail Users?

To wrap things up, the biggest way you can enhance your targeting and success with Gmail users answers a pretty simple question – are they even reading your messages? With over 85 percent of the world’s email traffic considered malicious in nature, it can be pretty hard to get users to even give you a chance to move this message out of the spam folder on Gmail and into their inbox tabs. By tracking placement rates, you can see where your message ends up 7 days a week, clueing you in on a sudden shift in the wrong direction – namely toward the virtual email trash can – and giving you a chance to retool these messages toward more relevant and desired content that entices Gmail users to give your brand a second look.

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