Spam management and delivery rates

It’s becoming more common for people to report emails as spam, even if they signed up to a list in the first place. If enough emails are reported as spam, delivery rates can be reduced and in the worst case scenario email addresses can be blacklisted and emails won’t get through at all.

Management of email addresses that have marked an email as spam is critical in keeping delivery rates high and preventing email lists from being blacklisted. You’ll be happy to know that Simplelists fully manages spam reporting for you, ensuring that your emails continue to get through.

spam email

What happens when someone hits ‘report spam’?

When a list member marks an email as spam their email provider creates a ‘feedback loop’, which automatically notifies Simplelists. We receive reports from email providers such as Gmail, Yahoo mail, Hotmail and a number of Internet Service Providers.

We use this information to automatically remove the email addresses of people who reported emails as spam from your list(s). This prevents them from receiving further emails from the list and from repeatedly marking emails as spam.

By taking this action Simplelists keeps your ‘marked as spam’ rate low and helps ensure that the delivery rate of your emails is as high as possible. It also helps to keep your list up to date with those people who really want to receive your message.

Emails accidentally marked as spam?

Occasionally people can accidentally mark emails as spam – if this is the case they can always subscribe to your list again in order to receive emails.

Ideally you want accidental marking as spam to be kept to a minimum – here are a few tips on how to achieve this:

Keep your branding consistent. If you have set up a list and people have subscribed to it, try to remove anything that could cause confusion, such as: changing the name of the list; using a different name from your company or organisation name; adding members to a new list with a different name; using an acronym rather than the full company name. Ideally, your branding should be recognisable every time so that your members can look at your email and immediately remember why they subscribed.

Ensure subscribers are clear about what they signed up for in the first place. If they’re not getting what they thought they opted-in to, or there is a long delay between subscribing to the list and receiving the first email, they may have lost interest or even forgotten that they originally subscribed.

For a more in-depth look into using subject lines that will help prevent emails being marked as spam please see this post.

It can be worth noting that marking as spam can be an invaluable source of information about your members’ behaviours and preferences. If a particular list is producing a lot of complaints, it is worth investigating further.

Simplelists Acquire ‘DiscussThis’

We are very happy to let you know that Simplelists have acquired DiscussThis, another group email service.

Business deal

It’s an exciting time at Simplelists – as we expand we are continually improving the user experience and adding new aspects to our service. Acquiring DiscussThis made a lot of sense for everyone because DiscussThis provided a service that was similar to Simplelists and Simplelists is continually upgrading to keep up with new developments in the ever changing tech industry.

Acquiring DiscussThis has added to the increase in growth of the Simplelists customer base while providing customers who made the transfer from DiscussThis a smooth and easy transition alongside other advantages.

Customer Benefits

There were several benefits for DiscussThis customers who made the transition to Simplelists:

  • A Free Month - Simplelists provided customers that made the transition from DiscussThis one month of free service to get started. This was in addition to the free month that was provided by Discuss This in April.
  • Lower Prices – multiple lists are cheaper at Simplelists than they were at DiscussThis, they start at just £30/month for up to 1000 list members for unlimited use.
  • Smooth Transition - Simplelists handled the transition for customers so that they saved time and effort. We transferred customers list data to Simplelists so that customers accounts were set up quickly and easily (please note that no credit card information was transferred).

Sign up for a Simplelists account here.

 

 

Creating The Perfect Landing Page.

If you’re using Simplelists for email marketing campaigns then the email you send will probably contain a link to a webpage so that readers can go to your website. It’s really important to get this landing page right – here are some tips…

Landing Page

1) Don’t Just Link To Your Home Page

This is pretty obvious but is something that people get wrong far too much! The landing page should be specific to the email that you’ve sent – visitors will be looking for information related to the email and if they land on a general home page then you’ll lose them.

2) Use A Concise Headline

The headline will be the first thing that visitors see when they click through. It should be close to the top of the page and large enough to be obvious and also be concise and catchy. It should also inform people that they have landed on the correct page by matching the content of your email.

3) Include A Striking Image

Pictures create an impression quickly, add colour and style to your page and encourage people to read the content. The main image should be high up the page so that people don’t need to scroll to see it and should be relevant to the page content. Remember to include ‘alt tags’ for your images so that sight-impaired people’s screen-readers will pick up on them.

4) … Or Video

If the main content of your landing page is video based then there is no need to include a picture as well – that would just serve to distract. It can be a good idea to include a brief introduction to the video – just a couple of sentences to encourage people to click play. A written summary of the video can be a good idea too as some people will prefer to read/scan rather than watch video.

5) Think About Colours

Think about the image that you’re trying to portray and match your colours to this. It can be a good idea to look into colour psychology when you’re doing this. People associate different feelings with different colours, for example blues are associated with trust, wisdom, confidence and stability while reds are associated with energy, strength, passion and desire. Also consider colour contrasts – avoid those colour schemes that make people’s eyes bleed!

6) Use Sub-Headings To Break-Up Long Text

People are more likely to scan than read online, so breaking your text into bite-sized chunks with clear headings is a good idea. Not many will read a long block of continuous text.

7) Include An Obvious Call To Action

Decide what you’d like visitors to do… maybe you want visitors to view your special offers, subscribe to your service or buy a product. Whatever action you’d like people to take, make it clear and easy for them.

8) Remember To Optimise The Page

Give the page a relevant Page Title Tag, URL and Meta Description. This will help search engines and can also improve click through rates from emails as people can see that the link has a trustworthy address.

9) Make The Page Mobile Friendly

Ideally the landing page can be viewed on all kinds of devices, from widescreens, to laptops, to tablets and smart-phones. A responsive page is best but if this is not possible at least make sure that the page works on phones and tablets. This is especially important if you want visitors to fill in a form or make an online purchase.

Workaround implemented for Yahoo mailing list decision

We wrote recently about the problems created by Yahoo’s decision to prevent their emails being forwarded through mailing lists with an unaltered sending address.

At the time we talked about a couple of options we had. We’re pleased to announce that we’ve now implemented a workaround, which will allow members with Yahoo email addresses to continue to participate in mailing list discussions.

The workaround functions by altering the “from” email address of an email whenever it is from a Yahoo email account. It alters it to a “dummy” address (a black hole), but leaves the sender’s name intact so that you can still see who is sending the message. We then add a warning to the list message that the address has been changed (also informing the sender), and add the original address into the warning so that you know what it is. We also add a “reply to” setting with the original email address, if one does not already exist.

This isn’t perfect, but it does allow us to maintain all the functionality of the mailing lists that you have become used to, and still allows Yahoo senders to use them. At the moment none of the other major email providers are affected, so switching to one of those alternatives is an option to avoid this workaround.

As always, we’d be pleased to hear your feedback on this or any other issues.

Yahoo update prevents email list forwarding

At Simplelists we’ve long been conscious of the problems caused by forged email addresses. You will no doubt have seen such emails yourself, such as your banking supposedly informing you that your account has been suspended.

Over the years there have been a variety of technologies to combat the problem, including DKIM and SPF, which Simplelists has integrated into its services.

One of the newer technologies is DMARC. DMARC works slightly different to other solutions, in that it provides the facility to protect the actual “from” email address. This has been really important for companies such as Paypal, whose emails will never be sent or forwarded from anyone other than Paypal themselves.

As of yesterday though, Yahoo has now implemented the same solution. On the face of it, this would seem to be a sensible move. However, it now means that nobody other than Yahoo are able to forward Yahoo emails. This includes the “forward to your friend” function provided by news websites, as well as services by mailing list providers such as Simplelists.

So what is the way forward? Simplelists has a number of options, none of which are particularly attractive. If possible, we recommend avoiding the use of a Yahoo email address to send to any mailing lists. Other than that, the 2 main options are:

1. Reject emails to our mailing lists from Yahoo. With their change, Yahoo are effectively preventing their service from being compatible with mailing lists, so rejecting their emails as such is not an unreasonable option.

2. Rewrite the “from” email address of anyone who sends from a Yahoo email account. Of course, the disadvantage of this is that you won’t be able to see the email address of the sender, so we would likely add this information to the front of list emails. A messy solution, but it would at least allow Yahoo senders to still use email lists.

Please note that delivery to Yahoo email addresses is unaffected.

We hope that all makes sense. In summary, please avoid using Yahoo to send emails to our mailing lists. We’ll keep users informed of any updates, and if you have any questions or feedback, please contact us.

Simplelists API (beta)

Simplelists is designed to be really easy to use with only very basic computer skills needed to manage your email list – if you can click and type you can use Simplelists! However, there are also a range of technical features which open up a world of options for more advanced users. One of these is an API…

Robot with tools and application programming interface sign. Technology concept

What can you do with the API?

The Simplelists API allows you to automatically synchronise your Simplelists members list with the contact list in another website or system. This opens up many options such as:

  • automatically adding customers who purchase from your online shop to your Simplelists email list
  • integrating website registrations with your Simplelists account so that new registrations are automatically added to your list
  • removing members from your list when the paid membership of a service expires
  • integrating a company database with your Simplelists account so that new employees are added to the email list and employees that leave are automatically removed

In fact, the possibilities are endless!

In simple terms, how does the API work?

Simplelists provides a computer-friendly interface, which allows another website to
make amendments to a Simplelists contact list, without it having to
login using the normal web-interface, which is obviously designed for
humans.

CiviCRM Plug In

The easiest way to use an API is with a module that has been created for an application. Due to the popularity of CiviCRM we have created a (beta) plug-in that allows contacts to be synchorised both ways.

Features include:

  • When a contact is created or updated in Simplelists, it is automatically created or updated in CiviCRM too.
  • For multiple lists groups will be created in CiviCRM, reflecting the Simplelists list membership.
  • A number of options to help synchronise the 2 systems.

For more details on the functionality of the plug-in and for installation instructions please see this page.

API Specification

If you’re a programmer or have someone who can program for you, it’s possible to create your own plug-in to interface with your own system. The details that you’ll need to get started can be found on the API Specification page. There is also a complete example of code (PHP) used to for a complete API, including the code to: ‘Authenticate using User Credentials’, ‘Retrieve contacts’, ‘Authenticate using Authorization Code’ and ‘Obtain a new access token’.

Beta Testing

Note that the API is in beta testing at the minute so the protocol may change in the future.

 

Channel Customers To Buy Direct From Your Website Instead Of From eBay or Amazon

Large shopping websites like eBay and Amazon can be a great way for retailers to get new customers – in fact many online businesses take almost all of their orders through websites like eBay or Amazon, even if they have their own website. But it’s not all a bed of roses – there are several downsides for retailers that use large online stores. Find out how to drive existing customers from large shopping websites directly to your website…

Highway Sign - Your Website

The Big Advantage

The reason that these super-sites are so useful to retailers is that they increase the visibility of products that would otherwise never be found online. For lots of small online retailers, eBay and Amazon get their products sold while their own websites are lost in obscurity on Google’s search results, never to be found.

Disadvantages

The number one disadvantage of selling on large shopping sites is the cost imposed by the site: a seller can expect to pay in the region of 20% in fees to eBay by the time they include Paypal fees and Seller Fees. With Amazon the costs are even higher – more like 25%!

eBay sellers are effectively tied to using Paypal and this can come with problems. For example, Paypal regularly holds a merchants balance for several days, preventing them from withdrawing funds while they carry out routine checks. This can occur at short notice and could be a real hassle for small businesses if their cash-flow is stopped when employees’ wages are due.

eBay and Amazon show many different sellers’ products alongside each other – this can be a bad thing for sellers that have a regular customers who keep on coming back as they may end up buying a competitor’s product instead.

The Solution

So, if you are an online retailer, it can make sense to use eBay and Amazon to get new customers but then to channel returning customers to your own website. But it’s against the terms and conditions of these shopping sites to advertise or even mention your own website – if you do that you could end up getting banned from the site altogether.

However, there is nothing to stop you from emailing your customers independently and including details of your own website in the email. When a customer makes a purchase via Paypal or credit card they’ll almost always include an email address. The customer will be expecting to receive emails from you since they have just bought something from you – this can be a good time to convert a new customer to a returning customer. It is also an excellent opportunity to direct that customer to your own website… add them to your email list right away!

Methods

Here are some methods that can be used when trying to channel customers to your website.

Offer the same products at a slightly cheaper price on your website than you do at the large shopping sites – without the expensive fees you’ll still increase your profit. Advertise these products in your email newsletter.

Offer some products exclusively on your website – people will be more likely to browse your website if they know that there are products that they can’t get anywhere else. Include the details in your emails to customers.

Provide special offers exclusively on your website an let your customers know via email.

You have probably noticed that these methods generally involve some incentive for your customers to change their regular shopping behavior. If you do this regularly their first stop will be your own website rather than a shopping site like eBay or Amazon.

 

Overview of Simplelists Features – Part2

In Part 1 we described Simplelists’ major features that are related to managing list members, setting permissions and restrictions for members and customising your emails. In this post we’ll give you an overview of the features that are related to controlling subscriptions, integrating your list with your websites and things that we do to ensure high delivery rates.

Features

CONTROL SUBSCRIBE & UNSUBSCRIBE OPTIONS

Manage Subscriptions – you can choose whether to allow new members to join your list or not. The choices are: don’t allow new members to subscribe, allow new members to subscribe with your approval, allow new members to subscribe independently.

Manage Unsubscriptions – you also have control over whether members can leaving the list or not. The choices are: do not allow members to unsubscribe, allow members to unsubscribe with your approval or allow members to unsubscribe independently (with this option you can also choose whether to be notified or not).

INTEGRATE WITH YOUR WEBSITES

Integrate Subscription Forms Onto Your Website – one of the best ways to increase the size of your list is to put a ‘subscribe form’ on your website. This can be done by just copying a few lines of code from Simplelists and pasting it into your website. The subscribe form is fully editable so you can change it to match your website perfectly.

Brand Your Landing Pages - when people subscribe to your list they are taken to a Simplelists landing page to complete their subscription. They also access a Simplelists landing page when viewing email archives. You can use your logo/branding on this page to replace the Simplelists heading, keeping your organisation’s brand strong throughout.

Synchronise With Other Websites – one of the more technical aspects that is available from Simplelists is to allow synchronisation of your Simplelists account with other websites. An API is available which can be used to achieve this.

Integrate Emails With Your Own Domain(s) - a Simplelists Multiple List can be fully integrated with your domain, so that users send and receive emails from your organisation’s domain, rather than the Simplelists domain. We recommend you create a subdomain to do this, such as lists.yourcompany.com. For a Single List, you can create a list email address at your domain, and forward the emails to your Simplelists email address. We can also change the list name accordingly in your archive pages.

ENSURE HIGH DELIVERY RATES

Notification of Bounced Emails - bounced emails are emails that could not be delivered to members. This could happen if a member’s email address is down for some reason or no longer in use. When an email to one of your list members bounces you will receive a message to let you know that they have not received your message.

Automatic Processing Of Bounced Emails -  In order to keep delivery rates high and to make it easier for you to manage your list we log all bounced emails and enable you to see them. We also automatically remove members from the list who have a bounce rate higher than 75% or more than 30 bounces.

Automatic Spam Management - most email providers now allow users to report an email as spam. If a list member reports one of your Simplelists emails as spam we receive an email from their email provider. If we receive one of these notifications the user will automatically be removed from list (both you and the user will be informed and they will have the option to resubscribe in case they have marked the email as spam by mistake). This ensures that repeated emails are not marked as spam which in turn helps your emails get through to those who want to receive them.

Overview of Simplelists Features – Part1

In recent blog posts we’ve considered two of the most popular uses for Simplelists, the ‘listserve’ and ‘email marketing’. However, don’t think that you’re limited to just these uses – Simplelists is designed to be flexible so that you can use it for many different tasks.

We simply have too many features to cover in just one blog post! Here we give you the first of a two part overview of the major features of Simplelists…

It's All Here Product Box All Inclusive Features

MANAGE YOUR LIST MEMBERS

- Upload Members In Bulk - you can add email addresses to your list direct from a file. This saves lots of time if you have a long list on a spreadsheet – just export the details to a file and upload in seconds.

- Download Your List - your list is your property and Simplelists makes it really easy to make a copy of your list. With one click you can download your entire list of members to a file that can be opened in a spreadsheet.

SET PERMISSIONS & RESTRICTIONS

- Set Posting Permissions - you can select who can send emails to your list. This can be all members, selected members or just yourself.

- Moderate Messages - you can choose to hold messages for approval before they are sent to your list. You have multiple options: no moderation (messages are sent straight to your list), hold all messages for approval or allow specific members to post without needing approval.

- Manage Replies - you can select whether replies are sent to the whole list or just to the person who posted the original email.

- Set Posting Restrictions -  this can be useful if you allow other people to send emails to your list and you want to ensure that they don’t send huge emails. You can set the maximum email size in kB, remove attachments from emails, strip HTML from emails or truncate messages to a specific maximum number of characters.

- Allow/Disallow List Viewing - you may, or may not, want to let list members to see who is on your list. You have the following options: don’t allow list members to view each other, allow viewing of names only or allow viewing of names and emails.

CUSTOMISE YOUR EMAILS

- Customise Emails - you can easily customise your emails by including a personalised footer and a subject prefix. HTML can be included in the footer in order to include graphics or logos – in fact, HTML can be included throughout the entire email enabling you to completely customise your emails.

- Insert A Members Name Into Your Email - you can personalise your emails by making each individual recipient’s name appear in the email.

- Archive Emails - when you activate web archives all emails will be stored on a custom website so that they can be accessed in the future. Access to these archives can be open or password protected. You have full control over the archives with the ability to delete old emails from the archives.

- Choose Daily Digest Summaries - this option is useful for busy lists. Instead of receiving list emails when they are posted, members receive one email every 24 hours that contains all the previous day’s messages. You can allocate this option to members on an individual basis or let members decide for themselves when they sign up via a subscription form.

In Part 2 we’ll cover the major features related to subscribe and unsubscribe options, integrating Simplelists with your websites and methods we use to ensure high delivery rates.