The Noob’s Zen Guide to Email Deliverability Speak

(This is a companion guide to “The Noob’s Zen Guide to Email Marketing and Social Media Speak“)

Eye for email deliverabilityAre you a noob to email deliverability? Don’t worry. I know experts who are noob’s at being experts, which is to say that they know a lot more than you, but they are new at being experts, hence their noobishness. Make sense? No? Perfect. Lets get started.

Above the Fold:
When a man is significantly overweight, this is the part of his waistline that is above the belt. In email marketing, this is the part of an email message that is visible in the email client without scrolling down. This is different depending on what email client your subscribers open your email in. It’s good to test your email in different clients like Gmail and Hotmail. It’s also good to test it on different mobile devices. You should put your most valuable content above the fold, and you should tell your husband to get on the stairmaster.

Appending:
If you are performing email appending that means you have been a very bad girl sender. This is where you take a list of customers from your database (that has everything on it EXCEPT the customer’s email address) and you use a third party company to help match an email address to that customer. Your intent is to then
start sending marketing email to that customer. Unfortunately, since the customer didn’t sign up for your email in the first place, they’ll mark your email as spam fast enough to get you banned from your ESP.

Authentication:
ESPs want to know if the FROM address represents where the email really came from. If it doesn’t authenticate properly, that means instead of coming from you, it may have come from somewhere deep within the borders of Svatlanikanitski, near the road to Duchambe, which as everyone knows is home to spammy-McRuskiNatishamivoya, whatever that means. ISPs are trying to protect us from spammers and they use technologies like Domain Keys, DKIM, Sender ID, and SPF to authenticate email. You don’t need to worry about what those are, just suffice it to say that your ESP better know what those are.

Bacn:
Bacon eaten in too high a quantity will cause you to need that stairmaster again. Email that is called Bacn is email that you subscribed to but yet you let it sit for a long time before reading because you are too busy doing needless tasks for your boss. ISPs watch to see how much email you let sit around for a long time without reading and then they label that as Bacn.

Blacklist:
Loraine in the cube next to me put me on her personal blacklist which means she is mad at me (again) and might toss her ficus tree over the cube wall at me at any time. Email blacklists are lists of emailers that are on the naughty list. Do something naughty, like hide Loraine’s plant food for no particularly good reason, and you’ll find your email not making it to the inbox. Or something like that. You can find if you are on a blacklist by checking at SenderScore.org.

Block:
Blocks were a set of toys with letters on the side that fascinated me for days on end when I was a wee little one. In email marketing a block is where your email has been greeted by the ISP with a warm, “Hello! Welcome. We’re so glad you came! Now don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.” This is a refusal by an ISP to accept your email because of their spam filters.

Bulk Mail:
“Bulk” refers to fiber. You know, like the fiber in your “Super Colon Overblow” cereal. In email marketing it refers to when your email gets shoved into the Bulk folder, which means that your recipient probably never sees it. It’s not exactly spam, but since the recipient doesn’t see it, it is worthless.

Click-to-Open Rate:
You’ve heard of the click-through rate, but the click to open rate is where you’re comparing the number of unique people to open the email to the number of links they’ve clicked within the email.

Not this type of whine

Complaint Rate:
Also known as the “Pouter Rate”. This refers to that guy in your office that pouted and whined so much that he got the window office, whereas you are stuck in the center of cube-land. Even though this upset you, you agree that your boss made the correct decision just to shut him up. In email when a recipient hits the Spam button, that registers as a complaint. This is the ratio of pouters to the total number of emails sent. Complaints are routed back to your ESP through feedback loops. A good ESP will automatically remove that pouter from your email list to avoid future pouting.

Content Filters:
These are software filters that block email based on text, words, phrases within the email that might look spammy. When you pour coffee from your French press coffee maker it tries to filter out the coffee grounds. It generally does a good job but sometimes a few slip through. Your ESP should have a content filter that scans your email prior to launch to tell you about the coffee grounds it found.

Email deliverability truck

Deliverability:
Refers to the whole subject area of tracking where your emails end up; in the inbox or elsewhere. As a child, your grandfather, on his paper route, would have said that the Monday – Saturday newspaper had high deliverability but the Sunday paper was so darn big and bulky that many times, he crashed his bike trying to haul the stupid thing.

Domain:
This is just your registered website URL name on the Internet such as ThoughtReach.com.

DNS:
Domain Name System. This is the thingy by which computers know how to look up other computers in the phone book to find them, ask them out on a date, and then get rejected by them. Story of my life (kidding).

Email Client:
This is just a fancy term that means “the thing that your recipient uses to read her email.” Examples of clients are Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, Outlook, Lotus Notes (who the hell uses Lotus Notes anymore?), and Zimbra.

Email Service Provider (ESP):
These are companies like Thought Reach, AWeber, Constant Contact, ExactTarget and Eloqua that have software to send mass email for people like you, their customers.

Feedback Loop (FBL):
FBLs are the thingeys that will report back to the email marketer that “Hey, some nimrod whined about your email by hitting the Spam button.” ISPs monitor their users and use the FBL to report back to the marketer. Most good ESPs will automatically remove the pouter from the email list.

Hard Bounce:
This is different from Bounce Fabric Softener in that a Hard Bounce doesn’t smell so pretty. If you send an email to a dead email address, you’ll get a hard bounce. Thought Reach and other ESPs automatically remove hard bounces from your email list after the first bounce. Too many hard bounces and it makes you look like Ivan McSpammyPants.

Multi-part Mime:
Blessedly, this is not that obnoxious mime in Central Park with the white face paint that won’t stop acting like he’s trapped in an invisible box. This term refers to the two formats of email that are sent out by ESPs. Each email is sent in both HTML and plain text. Once the email is received, the email client determines which format to display. Typically you’ll create both types of content prior to launching your email campaign.

Inactives:
These are the slackers on your email list. They are also called non-responders, un-engaged, or “nimbleweeds who signed up for my email, then never open it.” This type of inactivity is calculated based on whether or not the recipient opens or clicks a link in your email. You should remove inactives from your list.

Internet Service Provider (ISP):
These are the companies like Google, Hotmail, and AOL who provide people like you and me with an email address and a place to receive our spam.

IP Address:
This is just the address of your computer or mobile phone. It’s kind of like the street address of your house. It identifies where you are. IP addresses are also used by your ESP when they send bulk email on your behalf. The reputation of the IP address is one factor that is considered when the ISP determines if your email is spam or not.

Mr. email list hygiene
Mr. Brusha-Brusha

List Hygiene:
This is a little more fun than dental hygiene. This is when you make sure your email list is clean, and cavity-free. Hard bounces and unsubscribes are removed. You might even remove anyone that hasn’t opened or clicked on a link within your email in the last six months.

List Purchase:
If you use a purchased email list, you might just find yourself booted from your email service provider. Sending mass email to a purchased list is the quickest way to see about a million spam complaints come in from one campaign. Those recipients don’t recognize you and thus they think you are spam. Don’t purchase an email list.

List Rental:
This is different than purchasing a list. You pay a third party to send your email to their list. Presumably, their subscribers have agreed to this process. List rentals can be successful only when the recipients are the exact kind of people that want to read the type of dribble that you send out : ). Generally though, don’t rent lists. They typically suck.

Open Rate:
This is the rate at which your recipients have opened your email compared to the total number sent, presuming they are opening the HTML version. The only way for your ESP to know if the subscriber opened your email is that the email has a hidden one pixel image in it. Once that image is called for by the email client, your ESP will know your subscriber has opened the email. If the subscriber only accepts text email, there is no image in it and you’ll never know if they opened it or not. Dang.

Opt-in:
Opt-in email marketing means you send your dribble only to those of us who sign up to receive your dribble. Double Opt-in is where I sign up to receive your dribble, then your ESP automatically sends an email to my email address asking me to confirm that I’m sure I want your dribble.

Read Rate:
The percentage of email recipients who have marked your email as “Read” in their email client. Typically thought of as more accurate than open rate, since read rate is not dependent on image downloads like open rate is.

Receiver:
Receiver is just another term for ISP.

Re-engagement Campaign:
If you have a list of un-engaged recipients, you might want to send them a slap-in-the-face email to see if they are listening, and to ask them if they want your dribble or not. Otherwise, you’ll remove them and not speak to them again. Really good email marketers send creative re-engagement campaigns. Why conduct a re-engagement campaign? Because if you have too many un-engaged recipients, ISPs view you as a spammer. Removing un-engaged recipients shows you are not a spammer.

Reputation:
Email reputation is very different from what the term “reputation” meant in high school. Sender reputation is a measure of everything related to how reputable an email marketer you are. How many complainers, hard bounces, spam trap hits, open rate, click-through rate, email volume, and consistency of email sending.

Sender of email

Sender:
This is you, the email marketer, or refers to your ESP.

Server:
Servers are those magical computer boxes that live in the sky somewhere. They have little blinky lights on them and secretly run the internet and control all life as we know it.

Soft Bounce:
This should have been called something like “we tried to send your email, but the guy was out of office or his email server was drunk and thus couldn’t deliver the email.” Often, the problem is temporary and your ESP will try to deliver it again.

Spam Traps:
Spam traps are email addresses used solely to capture spammers (also known as “honey pots” because apparently Winnie the Pooh was a spammer). Some of these email addresses were never owned by a real person, which would seem to indicate they could not have signed up for your email. Other spam traps are email addresses once used by a real person, but that person abandoned the email address sometime back when Bill Clinton was in office. If you send a marketing email to an email address being used as a spam trap your email sending reputation will look like a Smart Car that’s been in a head-on collision with a freight train. Fixing that email sending reputation is not an easy task.

SpamCop:
A big list of email marketers who played badly with others and got sent to their room without a cookie. A lot of email receivers check the IP addresses of incoming email against SpamCop see if you’ve been arrested for armed spammery and served time in prison.

Suppression List:
A list of email addresses you specifically don’t want to send email to because they unsubscribed. Sometimes you use a suppression list because your company was purchased by another company and you need to make sure you aren’t sending email to the pouters that unsubscribed from their email lists too.

Throttling:
When I was little, my mother would say she would throttle me if I didn’t lay down and take a nap. And knowing me, she was probably justified. This is where your ESP will send out your mass emails at a fast enough speed to get the job done, but at a slow enough speed so as to not piss-off Gmail or another receiver who doesn’t want email to be sent to them too quickly.

Transactional email:
Transactional email messages are different from marketing email in that they are just things like receipts for your purchase, password resets, updates on shipping of your item, or other notices that don’t involve selling.

Unknown User:
These are email bounces where the ISP just doesn’t know who you are emailing.

Email white list

Whitelist:
This is a list that you create which tells your ISP that you want these emails. This is where the “Add this sender to your safe sender list” comes into play. The term “white listing” is also thought of as some kind of magic way that an email marketer can send emails and they will always get to the inbox (this is associated with feedback loops). A feedback loop doesn’t really create a magic way for your email to be delivered, but it does help.

About Nate Goodman

Nate Goodman (@NathanAGoodman) is the author of the novel The Fourteenth Protocol and an email/CRM software designer with over 11 years in the email marketing, CRM, and social media space.