'Email Marketing'

Troubleshooting your first email campaign

10 FEB 2011 0

If you have just sent out your very first email campaign, you might see some metrics that just don’t add up as they should. You might get complaints that the email only displayed some gibberish or get lots of unsubscribe requests.  It’s okay, even the pros have flunked their first mail-out. It’s important to understand why things didn’t work as they should, here are the most common mistakes you might have committed.

Broken CSS

While it’s perfectly alright to use CSS with emails, your code has to be structured a bit differently when you want the HTML to be rendered by an email client. First of all, using inline CSS is safest and should be fool-proof. If you really have to embed your stylesheet, place the code inside the BODY tag instead of HEAD like you would normally. Web designers out there will call this outrageous, but it has to be done this way no matter how terrible it may sound: email clients and web-based email services often strip out the HEAD tag in HTML emails to keep your code from interfering with theirs.

The email gets delivered to the junk folder

While there may be a plethora of reasons why your email gets flagged as spam, here are a few tips that are under your control:

  • Did you use a “spammy” phrase? Words like “FREE” in the subject, or excessive use of aggressive call to action lines (“Buy it now”, “Limited offer” etc) can get your emails flagged. Read more on how spam filters work here and here, then go back and make the necessary modifications.
  • As funny as it may sound, getting delivered to junk happens a lot due to the fact that you put “Test”, “Testing” or “This is a test” in the Subject line. Yes, email filters flag that as a spam.
  • Your company filters don’t “like” the sender. It could be that your ESP has been blacklisted either by your company filters or some spam monitoring agency your company works with. Contact them and ask what’s going on.

Emails not being delivered to the mailbox is one of the key reasons why people switch to reputable email service providers rather than doing the emailing in-house. If you run into this issue again and are fairly certain it’s not your fault, consider switching to another provider.

That certain super-duper thing doesn’t work

Flash objects, sounds, videos or ActiveX components won’t work in emails. Don’t even try it. Just because it worked as it should in your WYSIWYG editor it doesn’t mean it will function well in Outlook, Thunderbird or a web-based email service. If you really have to do it and/or are sure it will work, at least design it to fail gracefully – display some neat error message or an HTML-only alternative rather than spitting out some nasty error codes or even worse, breaking the whole design.

These are some of the technicalities that you may fail at in your first email campaign. Learn from the mistake and try again.

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