Gmail Breaking Cellpadding
Looks like Gmail recently made some changes to their interface, and it's stripping out table cellpadding and cellspacing in HTML emails. Ouch.
There's a teeny-tiny link at the top of gmail that lets users switch between "old version" and "new version". In the "old version" things work and look fine:
It appears as though using inline-css to define your cellpadding helps. Note that some people in the intertubes are complaining that some inline-css is breaking in gmail too (like line-height).
Since Google is technically a "beta" product, and since it's free, and since they only just recently made these changes, we can't complain too much or react too soon.
I have faith in almighty Google. They will fix this. If they don't do it soon, I have even more faith in "The Chad" (our new programmer). He will modify our templates if we have to. But give it a little time. This kinda stuff happens all the time. Even Lotus Notes fixed most of their HTML email issues (eventually).
Before You Hit Send, Consult Your Email Checklist
Karen Gedney's got some good advice here about using an email checklist before you hit the "send" button. You know, to prevent those embarrassing mistakes (like sending 5,000 "Happy Thanksgiving" emails on Christmas---not that I've ever done that before).
Some things Karen recommends for your checklist:
- Test your subject line for readability in multiple email programs
- Do the first 15 characters contain the main hook?
- Did you remember a call-to-action in the content?
- Does the link point to the correct landing page?
- Check how your email appears in different email programs (ahem, very easy to do with MailChimp's Inbox Inspector)
And many more really good points. Be sure to check out the full article here:
MailChimp's Pre-Delivery Checklist
If you're like me, you probably get a little nervous when it's time to click that send button. It's kinda scary sending something to thousands of people.
That's why in MailChimp, we've got the Pre-Delivery Checklist. It's a screen where we stop the flow, and give you a chance to review what you've done before hitting that send button:
Here are some of the things
I've screwed up with my campaigns I recommend you check before you send:
- Are you sending it to the correct list? Particularly important if you're an agency sending on behalf of multiple clients. Or, if you just want to send to your test list, make sure that it's selected here (and not your "real" list).
- Is tracking on? By default, MailChimp has it on, but for some reason, people like to turn it off while they're sending themselves tests (I have no idea why). Make sure you turn tracking back on if you want it.
- Are you using the correct email template for the campaign?
- Did you remember a plain-text version of the email?
If we had our way, the little chimp's arm would poke out the Pre-delivery Checklist screen and give you a gentle slap on the face. Just to get your attention.
One last tip (from our customer service guru, Dan): Don't click the "Send Now" button. If you're a nervous nellie like me, always use the "Schedule for later" button. Even if you're ready to send the campaign now, schedule it for 30 minutes in the future. That's because as soon as you hit "Send" you WILL suddenly remember all those things you forgot to do (on Karen's checklist). Now you've got 30 minutes to "go back in time" and fix things.
Maybe it's too early in the morning, but I had a really hard time understanding Equifax's opt-out checkbox:
Why not just say, "Opt-out of email marketing from Equifax"?
I'm still not sure whether I opted-in or out when I checked the box.
Simple Tweak To Avoid Apple Mail Junk Filter
Do you collect first and last name data on your signup forms? If not, you should. Merging that data into your email campaigns (the To: field) could help you avoid some spam filters, because it shows you have a relationship with that recipient...
and check out some of our other spam filter and deliverability articles.
Send Automatic Birthday Emails
Some of our customers (especially restaurants) have asked us to build some kind of "automatic birthday campaign" tool in MailChimp.
The idea is to automatically send a "Happy Birthday" email campaign to everyone with a birthday this month. The email campaign would have some kind of e-coupon, or special offer of some sort.
Hmm, we probably will add this to our list of features soon.
But for now, you can actually use our new list segmentation functionality to do this. We've posted a how-to article over at MailChimp.
If you're one of our web design customers managing the email marketing for a local restaurant or hotel or nightclub client, you might propose this as a new project for them.
HTML Email on Apple's iPhone
On Friday, our main engineer (and self-proclaimed Mac freak) Mark Armstrong went and got himself an iPhone. Forget that our whole company has a T-Mobile corporate account. The rogue has gone off and joined AT&T.
Anyways, we've been testing how HTML emails render on the iPhone, and so far it's been great. Follow the link to see the video, and some notes for email marketers...
Related: Mark Brownlow's scoured YouTube and found lots of other cell phone videos here.
HTML Email Mistake: Image-based unsubscribe link
We've already talked about some of the dangers of image-based HTML email (See: Common HTML email design mistakes).
I'll say it again, though. All-image HTML emails look like spam, so they trigger spam filters. Even worse, most of them display with the images turned off by default, so your recipients don't always see your message (which is why you should always test your campaigns before you send them).
All this time, I've neglected to mention that it's a bad idea to make your unsubscribe link an image. Kinda thought that was common sense.
Well here's an article from Ken Magill at DIRECT magazine about a woman who reported a marketer to the New York attorney general’s office, because her email program never displayed the unsubscribe image:
It even suggests that you might be breaking CAN-SPAM law if you send email marketing with an image as your unsub link.
One tip the provide is to also include the full URL of your unsubscribe link, just in case your clickable hyperlink doesn't work.
MailChimp users: the built-in templates we provide for your campaigns already have a text-based, one-click unsubscribe link embedded. If you want to display the full path for the unsubscribe URL, insert it with this tag: *|UNSUB|*
Weeding Out Your Email List
Getting started with permission email marketing? Helping a client prepare their first campaign? You don't want to hit "send" then get flooded with spam complaints, or even worse---get blacklisted by a major ISP. Here are some things you can do to make your first campaign go smoothly...
- If your list is very large, remove any email address that you haven't contacted in a long time. People cancel email accounts as soon as 6 months nowadays. Sending too many emails to bad/cancelled/expired email addresses makes you look like a spammer who purchased an old email list somewhere. Too many "undeliverable address" bounces, and ISPs will start blocking emails from your company. Some large ISPs take old/expired email addresses (that haven't been used in ages) and turn them into "spam traps." They figure any email sent to such an old address is obviously spam.
- Are you exporting from Outlook Address Book? Weed out any email addresses from tech-support@my-isp, or sales@amazon, etc. Many email programs automatically add email addresses to your address book simply because you replied to an email from that person in the past. If you send an email newsletter to everyone in your address book, you're bound to accidentally send to someone that you never even knew was in there (here's a real life example).
- Are you assembling a list from some kind of CRM? Make sure you're not grabbing lists of "Prospects" or "Maybes" from your sales team. Your sales team gathers contact information for every single person they meet at trade shows, conferences, whatever. Anything that moves is a "prospect" to the sales team. That's the way it should be. But those prospects did not opt-in for email newsletters from your company. Those prospects probably wouldn't mind a one-to-one email from that sales guy she met at the tradeshow 3 years ago. "Oh yeah, I remember that guy" is how she might respond. But if you suddenly send an email newsletter from your company, she'll react by clicking the "This is spam" button in her email program, which sends a report to her ISP. The ISP will then scan the email, and potentially block all future emails from your company, no matter where you send it from.
- Separate your lists. One campaign does not fit all. Do you have one big, ginormous list of email addresses? Break them into groups. Some of them might be "People who bought something from me." Some might be "People who signed up for my newsletter." Some might be "Members of the press/media who follow my company." Some might be, "People who entered a prize drawing, and didn't opt-out from future emails from my company". Don't send one blanket campaign to all of those people at once. ISPs have a "threshold" for spam complaints. Too many at one time, and you're blocked. Break them into separate lists, and put together relevant content for each list.
- Take a glance through your list and look for catch-all type email addresses, like "[email protected]" or "[email protected]" or "info@" and especially "webmaster@" (web masters are perhaps the grumpiest of all people, because they get so much spam). There are pranksters and jerks (your competition) who will sign up someone else's email address to your list without their permission. Just to get you in trouble. Also, very few people subscribe to lists with their "sales@" email address. So when we see something like that on a list, it's a good indicator that the list was "scraped" from a website somewhere. If you spot a lot of these on your list (or your client's list), you should ask if perhaps any employees in the company took it upon themselves to add "people who should want our campaign" as opposed to "people who actually do want our campaign." Unless you used double opt-in and confirmed every email address, it's a good idea to try to avoid these kinds of emails.
More specific to MailChimp, people often ask how they can remove dupes and typo'd emails from their lists before importing into MailChimp. There's really no need to do that. We clean duplicates and incorrectly formatted addresses from your list automatically during the import process.
Tiny Fonts Trigger Spam Filters
One of our users just designed a nice email campaign for his client, and tested it in our Inbox Inspector. Overall, he received a passing score, but we noticed something in the spam filter checker.
As you can see, Spam Assassin gave it a full 2.6 points for that! They say the default threshold for Spam Assassin is "5" but we tell people to try to stay below "3" (because c'mon---who really keeps their threshold at 5 these days?). Better safe than sorry.
Our customer really had a nice looking template, and wasn't trying to hide anything. But spam filters think that tiny fonts are a sign that some spammer is trying to embed a whole bunch of confusing content into their message to throw off their scent.
Our customer's footer had text specified with: "font-size:9px." Interestingly, our own email templates specify our font size to be 10px, but we've never been flagged for that.
So if you have fonts in your footer that are really, really small (like we all tend to do), make sure they're no smaller than 10px in size.
Learn how you can use MailChimp's Inbox Inspector to test your email marketing campaigns and transactional emails
Lyris Deliverability Report
Lyris just published their latest Deliverability Report (PDF). It's got some great findings, like:
- They measured average inbox deliverability rate across top US Domains at around 74.57%. So about 25% of your emails are getting gobbled up by spam filters, email firewalls, and server gateways.
At MailChimp, we'll occasionally get a call from a new customer who sends his very first campaign ever to his customer list, then calls us up, shocked, that "one of the customers on my list never got my email!" Our usual answer is, "Just one?" There are things you can do to minimize accidental spam filter blocks (See: How Spam Filters Think) but email marketers are unfortunately just going to have to get used to imperfect delivery. It's inevitable, like the airline losing your luggage. But ISPs handle billions of emails a day---emails are gonna get lost.
- One of the most common reasons emails were getting blocked in their study? Too many images, not enough text.
"Too many images" is a problem we've discussed (ad nauseam) here and here. You really need a healthy balance of images and text in your campaigns. You shouldn't just cram a bunch of heavy graphics into an email and "blast it out" to your list.