Archive for the 'Email Marketing' Category

Add a pink beating heart to your Gmail subject lines

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

Earlier today, I peeked into my Gmail spam folder only to see an email message with what looked to be a gif in the subject line. I have seen a lot on the Internet, but a moving image in a subject line was a first.

beating pink subject line heart

Upon closer examination of the email, it appears that the spammer in this case used =?UTF-8?B?876sjQ===?= inline in the subject line to create the beating heart effect. To add to the fun, the body of the message used inline Windows-1252 encoding, I suppose to try to get around spam filters. Below is a partial sample of the email encoding…

<html>
<head>
<meta http-equiv=3D"Content-Type" content=3D"text/html;=charset=3DWindows-1252">
</meta></head><body><div style=3D"color:#5C5E93; =font-size:21pt">
&#105;=&#102;o&#117;n&#100; yo&#117;r &#112;&#104;o&#116;os i&#110;
=f&#97;&#99;eb&#111;&#1444;o&#107; . &#121;o&#117; a&#114;e=&#114;ogue!&#33;
</div></body></html>

There is a part of me that respects the ingenuity, although this totally got stuck in spam filters.

Also, here’s a tweet about the beating heart, according to stack overflow, the UTF encoding refers to a Google specific emoji set.

Should You Buy Or Build Your Email Marketing Solution?

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

The answer here is…it depends on what your pain points as an email sender are. If you’re technically proficient, sometimes going with an ESP seems like overkill. On the other hand, a good ESP provides help with email creation, list segmenting, campaign reporting, and with email deliverability.

1) Setup:

DIY - Has to find an ISP vendor, setup and configure mailserver software. Make sure domain has the proper DKIM, Domain Keys, SenderID, SPF settings enabled. Warm-up IP addresses if not sent from before. IP address reputation is unknown.

ESP: Configuration has been done. IP address reputation is known. You should be advised as to what domain authentication has been done/is appropriate.

2) Email Creation, Uploading & Campaigns:

DIY: Has to code email, validate email coding for text and HTML, configure email lists and email suppression files, and upload email code and email address lists to MTA software which requires technical and design knowledge. Has to create unsubscribe feature and possibly email delivery preferences features. Harder to do field insertion for email personalization. Harder to segment lists and emails for email testing and personalization.

ESP: Probably has in-app pre-created email templates, email validation services for text and HTML, easy email address import and email suppression features. Most likely has unsubscribe page and email delivery preferences features. Easier to do field insertion for email personalization. Easier to segment lists and emails for email testing and personalization. Personnel doesn’t need as much technical knowledge to use service.

3) Reporting:

DIY: If MTA software doesn’t have deliverability reporting, probably has to rely on Web server analytics to track opens using tracking .gif and/or Google Analytics to track clicks & Web behavior. Would have to compile unsubscribe and bounce reports manually.

ESP: Should have deliverability reports for opens, clicks, and bounces. Would still use Google Analytics to track clicks & Web behavior. Would get easy to access lists for unsubscribes and bounces.

4) SPAM Complaints and Deliverability:

DIY: Spam complaints are dependent on how the ISP deals with them and how bad the complaints are from upstream providers in particular. Self educate on CAN-SPAM. Would have to deal with blacklist maintainers and network operators on a one to one basis.

ESP: Generally proactive in educating users on CAN-SPAM, and most ESPs will kick off service if too many complaints since their overall deliverability will degrade. ESPs usually have devoted deliverability personnel and good relationships with industry organizations, blacklist maintainers, network operators, etc.

Post inspired by this Quora thread.

Just How Do Email Servers Detect Spam?

Monday, January 11th, 2016

An email server detects spam by using spam filter software which evaluates incoming emails on a number of criteria. (Yes, you can run an email server without having spam filter software enabled - you’d just see any and all spam email.)

Now how do anti-spam software/services detect spam? They primarily utilize different methods including content-based message encoding and keyword filtering rules, email authentication rules (if the sending server has SPF/DomainKeys/DKIM/Sender ID enabled), mail server IP blacklists, and domain blacklists for sending domain and email content.

When a new email arrives on your mail server, it is initially evaluated against the IP and domain blacklists and for email server authentication status, and then for the email content rules. Usually, if the email scores higher than a preset criteria (for most services, an administrator can set scoring criteria) the email is marked as spam and dealt with appropriately.

Note: To reduce server load, spam filtering services will outright reject email that arrives from IPs or domains on blacklists (this is why ensuring the sending IP and all domains are not on blacklists is so important). They also might reject or delay email if you are an unknown email sender violating email sending limits (this is called greylisting). These tactics are designed to relieve email servers from abusive email spammers who try to send as many spam emails as they can in a short amount of time.

The most common spam filtering software is SpamAssassin, and many other popular spam filtering software/services use SA as a primary source. Other popular spam filtering services include Barracuda (hardware device based), Cloudmark, and a variety of MS Exchange based products.

Post inspired by this Quora thread.

What Is An Email Suppression List?

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

An email suppression list list — aka a suppression mail list — is a list of email addresses of people who have either opted-out of or have unsubscribed from your organization’s email marketing programs. Basically, you use a suppression list in conjunction with email marketing programs so you DO NOT contact these recipients. Most email marketing software has the functionality to allow you to maintain this list separate from your recipient lists. (A marketing pro-tip: Up-to-date unsubscribe and opt-out information should also be recorded in your organization’s CRM system so other parts of the organization always has access to this information.)

In addition, your organization’s email suppression list should be shared in the following situations: if you use a third-party provider for email marketing or if a partner executes a marketing campaign on your behalf. In these cases, you would provide your email suppression list prior to the launch of any marketing campaign so those suppressed email addresses can be scrubbed.

In the US, the CAN-SPAM Act allows organizations to take up to 10 business days to add unsubscribes and opt-outs to the suppression list, so it’s in your best interest to keep the list updated as soon as possible, if not in real time.

Monitoring Email Deliverability With Email Seeding

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Most email marketers know they can track email opens, clicks and bounces. However, there’s a second common email marketing question: Can I see if my email lands in my recipient’s inbox or junk folder?

You can try what’s called “email seeding” or putting email addresses from various Email Service Providers onto your email lists so you can monitor where your email lands on each service.

A quick do it yourself way would be to have accounts on Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail/Outlook, etc. and add those to your lists. I would also make sure to have seed accounts running Sendmail with a default SpamAssassin setup and a Microsoft Exchange with Outlook client setup, as these are the two most common private email server configurations. Many third party spam filtering solutions are based off of SpamAssassin filtering rules.

The disadvantage to the DIY approach is that you wouldn’t have direct access to private or corporate email systems. Professional email seeding services like Return Path, have a farther reach and claim to have access to a large number of ESP seed accounts.

Topic inspired by this Quora thread.

Yes we can bounce email from Mail.app

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Up until somewhat recently, Mac OS X mail.app had the handy feature of being able to manually bounce email. Technically, the mail bounces with a new header created, but still.

Here are the Mail.app email bounce instructions from Lechnyr.

First, we need to add the ability to bounce email back into OS X’s Mail.app program. To accomplish this:

  1. Run the Automator program, located in your /Applications folder.
  2. When prompted to choose a type for your document, select Service and click the Choose button. You’ll now have a window that you can drag and drop various actions in to.
  3. Using the drop down menus at the top, make certain to indicate that the service receives no input in the Mail application.
  4. Drag Get Selected Mail Items into the workflow window.
  5. Next, drag Run AppleScript into the workflow window.
  6. Enter in some code (below) and save the workflow with a meaningful name such as, Bounce Message.

Here’s the AppleScript to copy and paste into the Automator workflow.


on run {input, parameters}
tell application "Mail"
repeat with eachMessage in input
bounce eachMessage
delete eachMessage
end repeat
end tell
end run

After you’ve saved the workflow, you’ll see this in your Mail.app menu. And yes, it does work in OS X Yosemite.

Bounce Workflow in Mail.app menu

Schrödinger’s Cat Email Marketing

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

If you’re a Web-based service which requires your users to log in to unsubscribe or to change email preferences, I think you deserve your place in the spam folder.

Even moreso when your service fails to send password reset emails due to email deliverability issues and you require users to log in to use your Web site’s help functionality.

Oof.

Modern Email Marketing: Two odious practices

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Being a Marketer who is focused on all things Internet related, I read a lot of email on a daily basis. I receive a lot of email, too. I can tell you quite honestly that I probably get more email than you in a day. I don’t really want more email that will take attention away from my primary concern, work. And having sent a lot of email (they don’t call it Email Deliverability for nothing) in a previous life, I’m pretty inured to Email Marketing practices - both good and meant with good intentions.

But I don’t know if it’s just me being the proverbial old grump with a full email inbox or what, but some Email Marketing practices of late have gotten pretty obnoxious.

Practice #1: Sending email to a catch all or general email address. We’ve heard the mantra from the opt-in evangelists about how you should not send email to a catch all address (i.e. sales@yourdomain.com or info@yourdomain.com or webmaster@yourdomain.com) because it weakens your deliverability - in terms of potential email bounces.

It isn’t just that though, as a marketer it shows you don’t know *jack* about the organization you’re marketing to. You’re basically proclaiming you’re too lazy to find out to find out who the decision makers really are in the organization. And that makes you a poor marketer.

Practice #2: Including a mailto: link to the recipients email address in the body of the email (mostly seen in the footer, near the unsubscribe link).

Whoa, wait, what? The first time I noticed this, I thought it was a newbie error on behalf of the sender. Now, I’m seeing the behavior from well known senders using well known Email Marketing services. So, I’m suspicious - because the thinking goes, if you add the recipient’s domain to the email, the email has less of a chance of being rejected by spam filtering software. Because of course you (the recipient) would not want to be using spam filtering software that would reject email with a link to your domain in it. Below is an example of the text:

This email was sent to: blog@cleverhack.com

You’ve received this message because you’ve registered to receive email or you’ve made a purchase from us.

If you no longer wish to receive email offers from us, unsubscribe here.

Sneaky, huh?

Hey, thanks for the identity theft, Verizon Wireless

Monday, September 21st, 2009

So, today, I get this email from Verizon Wireless about their privacy policies for their wireless customers. At first I thought the email was spam because I have not been a Verizon Wireless customer for OVER 2 years.

I imagine my shock when I see my old Vermont cell phone number on the email. A phone number I have not had for over 5 years.

The email has a different account number and a different name than mine. It looks like the job of a really bad email append. I hope. I checked the headers of the email, and it was sent from an internet marketing organization called Moxie Interactive, which looks legit.

From: verizonwireless@email.vzwshop.com
Subject: Important Privacy Notice
Date: September 21, 2009 11:26:59 AM EDT
To: [myemailaddress]@cleverhack.com
Reply-To: replyto@email.vzwshop.com

To ensure our emails reach your inbox, please add verizonwireless@email.vzwshop.com to your address book.
Having trouble viewing this email? View online. En Español.

Phones & Accessories Plans Features & Downloads Messaging Support My Verizon

Re: Account Number ending XXXX
Dear JXXX VXXXXXXX:

At Verizon Wireless, we value you as a customer, and we know how important privacy is to you.
As a company, we have a long-standing policy of guarding personal customer information.
This notice contains information about Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI).
Verizon Wireless needs your permission to share your CPNI within the Verizon family of companies,
which includes our affiliates, agents and parent companies (including Vodafone), as well as
their subsidiaries. This information allows us to better serve you by identifying, offering and
providing the most appropriate communications products and services to fit your needs. You have
the right to request that we not share such information, so please read this notice carefully.
Regardless of your decision, your CPNI will never be shared by Verizon Wireless with any unrelated
third parties.

As your wireless provider, Verizon Wireless may have certain information about you that is made
available to us solely by virtue of our relationship with you, such as details regarding the
telecommunications services you purchase, as well as the type, destination, technical configuration,
location and amount of use of such services. This information and the related billing details are known
as CPNI. The protection of your CPNI is important to us, and we acknowledge that you have a right,
and we have a duty under federal and state law, to protect the confidentiality of this information.
You have a right to request that your CPNI remain private, and may do so by clicking the Do Not Share
My CPNI button below. Unless you notify us within 45 days of receiving this notice that you do not want
your CPNI shared, we will assume that you give us the right to share your CPNI with the authorized companies described above.
Please be advised if you allow your CPNI to be shared, your consent will remain valid until we receive your notice withdrawing it, or for two years, whichever comes first. You may withdraw your consent at any time through My Verizon.
If you would like more information on CPNI and selecting Do Not Share, please review the
frequently asked questions.

Sincerely,
Verizon Wireless

CPNI will not be shared within unrelated third parties. You may advise us not to share your CPNI by clicking the Do Not Share My CPNI button within this email, or you can sign into your My Verizon account and register for Do Not Share from the “profiles” page.
Selecting not to share your CPNI will not affect the status of the services you currently have with us. In addition, we can disclose your CPNI to comply with any laws, court order or subpoena, or to provide services to you pursuant to your Customer Agreement.
© 2009 Verizon Wireless.

Verizon Wireless | One Verizon Way | Mail Code: 180WVB | Basking Ridge, NJ 07920
This email was sent to [myemailaddress]@cleverhack.com and associated with you Verizon Wireless mobile number
802249XXXX. We respect your privacy. Please review our privacy policy for more information
about click activity with Verizon Wireless and links included in this email.

You may easily adjust your subscription preferences from your profile information.

Some Web design and Web marketing ideas from the NY Times

Monday, May 29th, 2006

When I’m clicking around online, I’m always on the lookout as to how other sites utilize Web design and Web marketing techniques. One of the more interesting sites these days is the NY Times, which underwent a recent redesign. It seems that the site is still getting tweaked, and although I wish they’d do away with the Georgia/Times font for their headlines, the site manages to capture my attention.

Taking a look through the page source, I found out that they’re using a DOCTYPE Transitional with a hybrid table and CSS layout. Their CSS page is damn large, but it seems like they’re accommodating all browsers with their design.

On the marketing side of things, I was intrigued to notice the recent push for logged in readers to subscribe to NY Times related email newsletters. Rather than merely have a “sign up for newsletters” box on their side menu, the folks at the Times decided to pre-fill the box with your email address, so all that you’d need to do is press the Sign Up button. (But hey, could they make the Sign Up button a little more noticeable?)

NY Times email box

trimMail gets rebuked

Thursday, April 13th, 2006

When I read this blog entry by trimMail, I thought something was a bit amiss, (I mean besides the fact some email delivery company was complaining about the problems with Yahoo mailservers).
As it turns out, the discussion on Slashdot has been pretty enlightening. My one takeaway is the comment about Yahoo’s use of greylisting, which from what I know about Yahoo delivery, sounds like it’s on target. Basically, if you act like a probe (like the trimMail mailserver tool monitoring port 25), you’ll get greylisted while if you act like a legitimate MTA and resend later, you shouldn’t have problems.

mail software pondering

Saturday, January 29th, 2005

I use Thunderbird on Windows at work for my email needs, and I am just wondering why Thunderbird doesn’t support message bouncing like god’s given mail.app does.