Managing your email list with Simplelists

Two of the most popular reasons that our customers use Simplelists are as a listserve and for email marketing. However, these are not the only things you can use it for. We have designed Simplelists to be flexible so that you can complete a range of tasks. Here are some of the key ones.

Uses for Simplelists

Managing your email list

You can upload your email list members to Simplelists in bulk, directly from a file. If you have a lot of list members, this saves you time as you can export the list details to a file and upload it in seconds.

You can also download your list. We recognise that your email list is your property and we make it really easy for you to generate a copy of your email list. You can download your whole list of members into a file that can be opened in a spreadsheet.

Setting permissions

It is very easy to set posting permissions in Simplelists. This means that you can select who can send emails to your list. You might choose to enable this for all members, select some members, or make yourself the sole person with the permission to post to the list.

You can also moderate messages that are due to be sent to your list. You have several options: no moderation required (messages are sent straight to the members of your list), hold all messages for approval, or allow specific members to post without needing your approval first.

You might want to manage replies as well – you can select whether email replies are sent to everyone on the list or only to the person who sent the original email.

Setting posting restrictions can be useful if you permit other members to send emails to your list. This would ensure they don’t send very large emails, for example. You can set a maximum email size (in kB), remove attachments, strip HTML formatting and/or truncate messages to a specified maximum number of characters.

Finally, you may or may not want to allow your list members to see who else is on the list. Again, you have options – you can allow members to view all names and emails, allow them to see names only, or remove the ability to see names or emails.

Customise your emails

With Simplelists, it is very easy to customise your emails by including a personalised footer and a subject prefix. You can include HTML in the footer so your members can see graphics or logos. Or, you can use HTML throughout the email for complete customisation. You can also personalise your emails by inserting each recipient’s name at the start.

You can archive all your emails. When you activate this feature, all emails will be stored on a custom website so that you can access them in the future. You can set a password for the archive, if you wish.

Tips for building an email list

A healthy email list is important to ensure that you can contact a range of clients and drive success in your business. If you are already using Simplelists for email marketing, this won’t come as a surprise. If you are just starting a business, developing a list of contacts or ‘members’ can be challenging, especially when your customers are receiving other marketing messages in their inbox and becoming more sensitive to spam. Nevertheless, there are some effective ways to build a list of relevant members who will want to receive your emails.

how to build an email list

Ensure that it is easy for people to sign up

There are plenty of ways to encourage people to sign up or ‘opt-in’ to receiving your emails. If you put a subscribe form on your website, make sure it looks ‘clean’ and matches the rest of the site. Place the form towards the top of the page, and add some text to explain why they should sign up. You can create a subscribe form using Simplelists, if you wish. It is best not to ask for too much information at this stage – an email address is all you need. Asking for a first name as well will allow you to personalise your emails when you contact them.

You could also consider placing a subscribe form at the end of blog posts, in your site’s footer, or on your ‘About’ page. You can also use social media to encourage people to sign up and/or visit your website. Writing guest blogs with a sign-up form in them can also work well.

Sign up at the point of sale or when completing other forms

If your website/product requires people to set up an account or fill in a form on your website, you could also build in an email list sign-up into this process. Try to ensure that the reason for registering is clear though, and relevant to your target audience. You could make it as simple as including a check box that reads ‘Subscribe to our mailing list?’ that they can check when registering.

Word of mouth and events work well

You may like to offer those people who have been on your list for a while a small incentive or discount that might encourage them to tell others about your site/product. Make sure you ask for the friend’s email address and first name (again, to allow personalisation).

Make sure they know what to expect

It is good practice to make sure that your customers know exactly what to expect when they subscribe to your list. You should let them know what to expect with regards email frequency and content, and reassure them that they can unsubscribe at any time. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the law surrounding email marketing so that you don’t break any of the rules.

Email archive search

Simplelists offers the function to search your email archives. This can be useful for people who join your list, helping them to familiarise themselves with the list topic. It is also very useful to have a back up of all of your communications, in case you need to refer to something or check a point of reference. We have written in a previous post about how to set up your archive and personalise it.

Search email archive

How to find the message you are looking for

It would not be entirely unlikely for a busy email list to accumulate hundreds or thousands of emails over a period of years. When you add a new member to a list, they can be given the option to read emails that were sent prior to the date they joined, and/or read emails about a specific topic. For the latter, the keyword search function can be used. Alternatively, it is possible to browse all messages, sorted by date or by thread.

How to access the archive

Log in to your Simplelists account. From the Members home page, under ‘What would you like to do?’, select ‘View list archives’. At this stage, you may be required to enter a password, if one has been set up by the list manager. If you do not know the password, you can request an access code at this point by entering your email address.

When in the email archive, emails are ordered by month and year. In the search box at the top, you can enter a keyword and any relevant emails will be shown. It is also possible to view list statistics on this page, as well as read more detailed information about the list.

Top tips

These search tips will help you to find what you are looking for:

Search by specific month

This option is useful if you want to browse to a specific month and then search within it.

Wildcard ‘?’

If you type a ‘?’, it will be replaced with any single character. This can help when you are not sure how to spell a word. So, if you were perhaps looking for an email related to the ‘Worthbury Derby’ but you couldn’t remember whether ‘Worthbury’ was spelt with an ‘i’ or an ‘o’, you can type ‘W?rthbury’ and the generated results will include both spellings.

Wildcard ‘*’

If you type a *, it will be replaced with any number of characters. So, for the Worthbury Derby, if you weren’t sure at all how to spell Worthbury, you could type ‘W*ry’ and the results would show all emails starting with a ‘W’ and ending in ‘ry’.

How to use your own domain when using Simplelists

For those of you with a multiple list account, you have the option to use your own domain rather than simplelists.com. You can add more than one domain and you have the freedom to brand the email system as your own. If you combine this with branding your landing pages (as we showed you in a previous blog), your emails will be very professional and aligned to your brand/image.

Using your own domain with simplelists

Setting up your own domain

Log in to your multiple list account, click on ‘General Settings’ and then select the ‘Domains’ tab. Type in your domain name and click ‘Add’. In the list that appears next, set your domain name as ‘primary’. You should then be able to view your new email addresses on the ‘List members’ page.

Configure your MX records

After you have added your domain name, you need to configure the mail exchange records associated with it. You do this via your web hosting control panel. In your panel, set the Primary MX record to ‘mx1.simplelists.com’ and the Secondary MX record to ‘mx2.simplelists.com’. You will find a step by step guide for doing this in cPanel in this short video. Please be aware that it can take up to 72 hours for the changes to come into effect. How long it takes depends on your web hosting settings.

Improve deliverability

There are also some things you can do to improve the deliverability of your messages. SPF records prevent spammers from sending messages with false/forged email addresses from your domain. DKIM records help to verify the sender and show that a message has not been altered on its way to the recipient.

If you choose to use your own domain with Simplelists, we recommend that you add both of these DNS records to your domain. When logged into your Simplelists multiple lists account, navigate to ‘General Settings’ and the ‘Domains’ tab. Scroll down to find the details you’ll need to add the DNS records. Then, open your web hosting control panel and complete the required fields for the SPF and DKIM records. You can see instructions for how to do this using cPanel in this short video.

All of these instructions can be viewed in two short videos on a previous post on our blog.

Overview of the Members Area – Multiple List account

In our last post, we shared a video that provides an overview of the Members’ Area, for Single List account holders. This time, we look at the Members’ Area for Multiple List account holders – see the video and transcript below.

Video transcript

The previous video gave an overview of the Member’s Area for Single List account holders. In this video, we’ll look at Multiple List accounts.

Once you’re logged in, you can access Multiple List accounts from the accounts menu at the top right of the page. Moving to the left hand side of the page, you can see the main menu. Note that this is broken into two sections: General and Lists.

The address book stores all the members of all your lists. You can also add and approve members, and download your members’ details here.

Individual lists are managed by selecting ‘manage lists’. You can create new lists, delete lists, and move or copy members from one list to another. Members of specific lists are managed by selecting ‘list members’. You can add members from your address book to individual lists. Members who have completed email confirmation are shown in green, while those who are yet to confirm are shown in red.

In the list settings section, you can manage settings for each individual list. You can add moderators, manage permissions and restrictions, customise list emails, and choose the details that list members see when they view their emails.

The archives enables full management of email archives for each of your lists. You can enable or disable archives and offer protected viewing, which allows only selected users to view archives.

The general settings section is used to manage your multiple list account. You can customise your landing pages, such as sign up pages and email archives.

You can manage subscription settings. For example, you can enable or disable new subscriptions, and select whether new subscriptions require approval. You can customise your confirmation email and write a message that users receive when they confirm their email address. You can add your own domain so that it replaces Simplelists.com. This enables you to brand the entire system as your own.

Aliases can be used to forward emails to different email addresses. You can forward to normal email addresses, as well as to other lists.

The approval section shows emails that area waiting to be approved. When you grant approval, the emails will be sent.

The bounces section shows email addresses that emails have bounced back from, such as email addresses that don’t exist.

That’s the overview of the Multiple List account holders Members’ Area – Simple!

How to whitelist email addresses in Gmail

We have written on this blog before about the importance of email deliverability and what we do to ensure your emails reach their recipients. Spam filters implemented by different email clients (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) are becoming increasingly sensitive, to make sure that non-legitimate, spam emails aren’t delivered. Ensuring emails are delivered to the inbox is pretty much guaranteed if your list members have ‘whitelisted’ you. This means, simply, that you (as the sender) have been added to their list of ‘approved’ or ‘safe senders’. Different email clients carry out the whitelisting process in different ways and use different terminology. In this short post, we explain how to whitelist email addresses in Gmail.

Whitelist Gmail

Safe sender’

Gmail is pretty efficient at identifying non-important and potentially harmful emails that you probably don’t want to open. However, it isn’t 100% correct all of the time and, to make sure important emails never end up in the Gmail spam folder, you can tell Gmail that emails from a particular sender are safe, allowing those messages to pass through the filter. If important emails keep getting sent to your spam folder in Gmail, you need to add email addresses to the safe senders list to whitelist them.

Set up a filter

In Gmail, it is possible to set up ‘filters’ to whitelist a sender (or senders). You can apply a filter to a specific email address, a whole domain, or a mix of both. First of all, click on the gear icon in your inbox and select ‘Settings’ from the menu. Then, select the ‘Filters and blocked addresses’ tab when viewing the Settings menu. Click the link called ‘Create a new filter’ (if you have a lot of filters in place already you’ll see this at the bottom of the list, like in the diagram below). Select ‘Never send it to spam’. This will make sure emails that match the filter description will always reach the inbox.

How to whitelist email in Gmail

Filtering a specific email address or a whole domain

In the ‘From’ field, enter the email address in full that you would like the filter to apply to. If you want to filter a specific email address, write the whole address, like ‘johnsmith@emailbusiness.com’. If you want to whitelist all emails from a specific domain, you can just type ‘@emailbusiness.com’ to put all emails from this domain on the list of safe senders. There are other options but the ‘From’ field must be filled out.

Filtering more than one email or domain

You do not need to repeat these steps for multiple emails and/or domains. A handy tip is to put a vertical bar (Shift and then the backslash ‘\’ key, with a space before and after it) between the separate emails you wish to filter. For example: johnsmith@emailbusiness.com | janesmith@emailbusiness.com | simonsmith@emailbusiness.com.

Alternatively…

You can also filter messages directly from an email as you receive it. So, if you find an important email in your Spam folder, which should have come to the Inbox, you can open it and then apply the filter so it ends up in the right place next time. When you have the email open, click on the vertical dots in the right hand corner and then select ‘Filter messages like these’ (see below).

Whitelist Gmail 2

The email address of the sender will then be auto-filled in the next form in the ‘From’ field and you can create a filter from there, as before.

Don’t forget

It is worth knowing that when you whitelist an email or domain in Gmail, the filter does not work retrospectively. That is, it does not apply to emails that are already in the Spam/Trash folders.

How to insert a member’s name into emails

When you send emails to your list using Simplelists it is possible to insert members’ names into the emails. This personalises the message and allows recipients to see their name in the short email preview they may see in their inbox. This short post explains how to use this feature.

Insert names into emails

Activate the feature

First of all, activate this feature for your Simplelists account by sending an email to support@simplelists.com to request the ‘activate the insert names feature’.

Enter the correct text when composing your message

When you write your message to your list, insert $FIRSTNAME in your email in the exact place(s) you would like the member’s first name to appear. If you want their surname to appear as well, write $SURNAME where you want this to be.

If you do this, each member of your list will received a personalised email which includes their name.

An example

Dear $FIRSTNAME,

Thank you for joining our group. You will received monthly updates and…etc. 

If you don’t know their name

If a member’s first and/or last name is not included in your address book, you can request your preferred default name to be used instead. When you contact us to activate the ‘insert name’ feature, let us know your preference for a default option. For example, you could choose ‘Member’, ‘Customer’ or ‘Group Member’.

If you do this, in a case where you didn’t know the first name, the above example would read:

Dear Member,

Thank you for joining our group. You will received monthly updates and…etc. 

When should you use this feature?

Personalising emails is recognised as increasingly important for email marketing. For example, many mail clients show the first 10-20 words of a message in the inbox before the email is opened. At a glance, readers can therefore see immediately whether an email addresses them by name or not. If their name isn’t there, they may be more tempted to delete the message as they would deem it unimportant or irrelevant.

For this reason, we recommend that you use the ‘insert name’ feature in all your email marketing messages. Even if you are not using your emails for marketing purposes, inserting members’ names will help people to engage more with your list and feel a sense of involvement in the group.

Branding the landing – top tips

When you contact the members of your email list, it is likely that your message will include a link to a page on a website designed specifically for them to read more, subscribe and/or visit email archives – this is called a ‘landing page’ and these can be generated automatically using Simplelists. So that the page that they land on looks correct and does what you need, you may want to make sure that your list members see your branding or logo when they click through. In this post, we explain how to customise your landing page and share some other top tips for making the landing page ‘perfect’.

branding your landing page

Use your own logo or branding

To replace the Simplelists branding with another image, copy the web address of the image that you would like to use instead. When logged in to Simplelists, navigate to the ‘General Settings’ menu and paste the web address of your image into the custom image field. Click ‘Update Settings’ and you should see the message ‘The settings have been updated successfully’. Refresh/reload the page and you should then see your own branding. You can also watch these instructions in a short video.

Top tips for marketing landing pages

If you are running an email marketing campaign, have a think about what you want to get from your landing page when your members visit it. For example, do you want to persuade the visitor to click on another page (click through), buy a product, or gather data from them (lead generation)?

Don’t link to your home page

A good landing page will generally be a separate page that is distinct from your website (i.e. not just to the home page) and it will tend to have no navigation menu and be accessible only from the link in the email.

Use a snappy, concise headline

The title of the page will be the first thing that visitors read so make sure that it is near the top of the page and large enough to be obvious. Make sure the title is relevant to the content of the email they have come from.

Use an image or video

An image or short video is a great way to make an immediate good impression and also entices people to read what follows. Put the image/video near the top so that people don’t have to scroll to see it.

Check your colour scheme

Different colours generate different emotions and feelings when people see them. Try to match the colours in your image/video to what you are doing. Blues tend to be associated with trust and stability, while red emulates energy, strength and passion.

Break up your text

It is a good idea to use sub-headings to break up the text on your page. This makes it much easier for people to read and directs them quickly to the topics of most relevance to them.

Make the call-to-action obvious

Whatever you hope that your visitors might do (subscribe, buy a product, click through, etc.), make it clear and easy for them to do so.

Make sure mobile users have a good experience

Finally, don’t forget that the majority of visitors may well be using a mobile device. So, make sure the landing page can be viewed well on a range of devices. If it is not an option to make the page responsive, at least make sure it works OK on phones and tablets. This is definitely important if you want your visitors to fill in a form or make a purchase.

How to search your email archives

Simplelists keeps a record of all of the emails that have been sent to your list. This archive can be useful for new list members who might need to quickly get to grips with topics that have already been covered in a private group discussion. It is also a great tool for keeping a back up of all of your communications. If you haven’t already, you can learn how to set up, view and personalise the archive in a recent post on our blog. Below, we explain how to search your email archive, allowing you to find old emails using a keyword search.

Archive search

Finding the right message in a busy list

Busy lists that have existed for a long time can accumulate thousands of emails over many years. When new members join a list, they can be granted permission to read emails that were sent before they joined, and access old emails about a specific subject. To do this, the Simplelists email archive has a keyword search function that allows you to look for old emails by keyword. You can also browse all messages by date or by thread.

Accessing the archive

You can find the archive search function from the Members Home page once you have logged in to your Simplelists account. Under ‘What would you like to do?’, click on ‘View list archives’. If your list manager has set up a password for accessing the archive, you will need to enter this. Otherwise, you can request an access code by entering your email address.

Once in the mail archive, messages are grouped by month and year, with the search box at the top. Type in your keyword and the relevant emails will be displayed. On this page, you can also view list statistics and read more information about your list.

Search tips

We all know how to use a search box but these tips might come in useful if you’re not entirely sure of the best keyword to search for:

Wildcard ‘?’ – Type the ? symbol and it will be replaced with any single character. This is handy when you’re not sure how a word should be spelt. For example, you might be looking for an old email titled ‘Worthington Event’ but you had forgotten if ‘Worthington’ was spelled with an ‘o’ or a ‘i’ you can type ‘W?rthington’ and the results will show emails with both spellings.

Wildcard ‘*’ – Type the * symbol and it will be replaced with any number of characters. Using the previous example, if you weren’t at all sure how to spell ‘Worthington’ you could type ‘W*ton’. The search results will show all emails that start with a ‘w’ and end with the letters ‘ton’, including ‘Worthington’.

You can also search by keyword for specific months. Browse to the month of the email that you are looking for and then search while in that month. The search will geneate results only for that month.