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Are you feeling a little overwhelmed by all the email marketing lingo (emsp, autoresponder, split testing, say what?) being thrown around in your office? Don’t worry! We’ve put together a list of common email marketing terms for you to get a handle on the details. These concepts may seem like Greek when you first hear them, so we’ve prepared easy to understand definitions. They are also referenced often throughout our email marketing reviews, so feel free to keep this open in a separate browser tab for convenient reference.
Email Marketing Terminology
As with any new topic, over time, these terms will quickly become second nature to you as you begin using and applying them. To help you out, we have prepared a comprehensive list of definitions that will equip you with the knowledge and expertise to implement successful email marketing campaigns. They are listed below in alphabetical order, so feel free to read them all or jump around and go straight to the item you are seeking. Keep this list open in a tab as you peruse our email marketing reviews, so you can make sense of any lingo that’s over your head.
- A/B (Split) Testing
- Application Programming Interface (API)
- Bounce and Bounce Rate
- Click-through Rate
- Email Marketing Service Providers (EMSPs)
- List Segmentation
- Open Rate
- Newsletter Archiving
- Responsive Design Templates
- Spam Score/Checking
- Subject Line
- Text Version
- Trigger-based Messaging
- WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)
An Internet marketing technique that lets you test and see which elements of your email newsletter: subject line, text, graphics, design or layout, can be improved to increase your newsletter’s success rate. Some email marketing service providers include this feature to help you split test and give you results to find out which performs better.
Most popular Email Marketing Service Providers (EMSPs) now offer what’s called an API (or Application Programming Interface), which allows you to connect/integrate other existing software to the EMSP. Benefits include data sharing, better contact importing, better contact list management and analytic reporting capability and more. The options are numerous, depending on your needs and what type of API the EMSP offers. An example of an API would be Salesforce, a popular customer relationship manager (CRM) used for tracking leads. EMSP’s can use the Salesforce API to automatically send out campaigns to segments of your existing database, without having to import or export lists from other programs.
Almost all EMSP’s do not allow attachments for a simple reason – they increase the probability of a given message being viewed as spam (as a result, the EMSP’s (and your) delivery rates may be affected). Attachments can also be flagged as computer virus files. For that reason, you’re better off using inline links in your newsletter email, which you can then link to a hosted file. When the user clicks the link, they are given the option to download the file. Not as streamlined as an email attachment, but much more likely to allow the email to reach its full audience.
An autoresponder fires off an email to a subscriber automatically. A single autoresponder is most common – this typically just replies to a subscriber when they sign up. A sequential autoresponder is a little more advanced and allows you to schedule a series of predefined emails to be sent out on a schedule.
A bounce is when an email is rejected by the recipient’s mail server. There are two types of bounces. A soft bounce is when an email is temporarily un-receivable due to a full mailbox or email size, and a hard bounce is a permanent fail to deliver. Emails that have hard bounces should be removed from your email database because they do not exist. Soft bounces, on the other hand, are okay to keep in your database, but you should keep an eye on them over time. Some EMSP’s will continue to try to send to soft bounce emails several times to attempt success (but not guaranteed). The bounce rate is the percentage of emails that bounce back on your email list. For example, if you have one email out of 10 that bounces back, you would have a 10% bounce rate. If your bounce rate is high, then your account could be flagged for having a large number of undeliverable emails.
A term you might often hear thrown around is “CAN-SPAM” which stands for the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act – or “Canning spam” email. Signed into law in 2003 the law contains a series of email marketing guidelines enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect U.S. consumers. Most of these compliances are standard in EMSPs including having a mailing address in email campaigns and requiring subscribers to opt in so you shouldn’t have to worry about adhering to them (but you should be aware of CAN-SPAM to make sure you are not breaking the law).
Just as the term states, the click-through rate is the percentage of how many people click on your email campaign. The click rate is used primarily in campaigns with a call to actions that encourage a subscriber to click on a link to buy, read more or sign up (it may be less important in general awareness campaigns). Some EMSPs like Mailchimp show you the industry average click-through rate so you can see how your campaigns compare to others.
These are companies that provide email marketing services for companies to create, deploy and track marketing emails. There are a wide-range of services that offer a variety of different bells and whistles, so it’s important to get to know which is the best service for you and what you are trying to achieve. Read our full review of the best email marketing services.
List segmentation is targeting messages to subsets of your subscriber base. Customer segmentation can be done using a variety of factors based on data you have captured from your newsletter subscribers when they sign up (like interests, location, etc.). If you have the time and resources, segmenting your lists is a great way to help establish a stronger connection via more relevant newsletters. A great use of segmentation is to resend messages to subscribers who didn’t open or click the first time.
The term used for when a subscriber joins your email newsletter. The subscriber must be aware of joining your list before adding them by agreeing to receive email communications from you. Conversely, if someone wishes to remove themselves from your newsletter, you must legally have the option for them to “opt out” within the emails you send.
Similar to click rate, the open rate is much like the name states and is the percentage of opens from a single email campaign. Open rates are often used as a benchmark for success with higher open rates translating to better emails. Catchy subject lines (see below), frequency and timing of campaign can all affect the open rate, so it’s good to test out each to get the highest open rate possible.
This is the ability to save, or archive, your old newsletters. EMSPs differ in the way they handle this feature. Some offer to back up a certain quantity or volume of newsletters on their servers. Others offer export options that convert your newsletters into PDF or HTML files so you can download them and/or store them on your website. You need to keep in mind that there is an SEO advantage to archiving your own newsletters (DIY).
Given the popularity of smartphones, most email templates are now designed to adjust automatically for viewing on mobile, tablets and PC screens. There are also mobile-aware designs that are more basic in their design than their responsive counterparts. Ideally, mobile-aware designs render on all screens, but they are geared toward smartphone screens so they can get glitchy. Responsive design templates are the optimal choice these days as statistics show that consumers are increasingly opening their emails on the go through their smartphones and tablets. If you don’t have a good design that you know will render well on all screens, you’re risking losing a great opportunity to build and keep your customers. Use your EMSP to preview your email in smartphone mode or send a test and check it on your own device.
Finding out whether your subscribers actually got your email is important. If they didn’t, why not? Some EMSPs offer spam score utilities that help you determine the likelihood of your newsletter ending up in a spam box before you hit send. Spam tests help you optimize and clean up your email campaign before sending it.
The subject line is the string of text in the subject field of the email. It gives the reader an idea of what to expect and is one of the most important parts of your message. Think of the subject line as a “hook” to get a subscriber to open the email. While the subject line in traditional email is more informational, the subject line for email marketing should be catchy and engaging so it catches your audience’s attention. Subject lines should not contain any words that could be flagged as spam like “FREE” or over-use punctuation marks!!! As emojis become more popular, you are likely to see them used more frequently by marketers. However, emoji use may trigger a message to get caught in the spam filter. We have not decided yet whether these should be included in your email marketing best practices.
Here are some tips from our friend Amy Schmittauer of Savvy Sexy Social on how to get better performing subject lines.
Email marketing surveys help you capture visitor data. Typically, surveys will let you:
- Create public (anyone can answer) or private (only a specified subset of your subscribers can answer) surveys.
- Choose different answer formats – text boxes, radio buttons, drop-downs, etc.
- Redirect visitors to a custom thank you page upon completion of your survey.
- Export survey results to a file or spreadsheet for analysis (i.e. by sorting columns you can gauge responses based on different variables).
There are some people who might choose to receive a text-only version of email because they have a device that does not support HTML. This is not as common as it used to be, as HTML is now the standard email format.
This lets you send messages based on your subscriber’s actions. It creates a more personalized interaction with your audience. Examples of trigger-based messages include a welcome email, a “happy birthday” message, a reminder to renew a subscription, a note that a new version of a product is available, a “we miss you ” note to a subscriber that hasn’t opened a newsletter in a while, etc.
Aka What You See Is What You Get. This is used to describe a web editor interface that lets you design newsletter templates using buttons similar to those found in a word processor such as Microsoft Word. Examples of buttons include bold, italic, using headings, a button to insert images, and more.
Did We Miss Anything?
Got an email marketing term that you’re confused about or we didn’t capture in our list? Leave us a comment below.