Blogs and RSS feeds may be redefining the way Web users access and view content, and few would argue that they’ve eclipsed the industry-wide impact of one of the Internet boom holdovers: The e-mail newsletter. But the glut of e-newsletters is lowering overall response, as filters are becoming more aggressive than ever.
Here’s some advice from one of the true experts on e-mails, Shannon Aronson, the former corporate director of CMP Media and now vice president of list services at Venture Direct, who spoke on the topic at the recent Circulation Management Conference and Expo, and talks tough about how to avoid overzealous filters and get your newsletters to your audience.
Trick the Filters
All filters try to discern if it’s a marketing e-mail, and you want to trick the filters to think it’s not marketing. Designers need to be aware that e-mail consisting of more than 50 percent HTML tags;the stuff that makes the e-mails pretty and aligned;will most likely be filtered. And there are some filters that are more aggressive than 50 percent.
Update Your Best Practices
If you ask around the office, everybody in your company is going to think that they know what works best. And the legal department’s definitely going to think they know better than everybody. What happens is you think you have a best practice, and then response rates start declining and those best practices go out the window. They change all the time. They need to be updated constantly.
(At CMP we had) our whole legal department looking at each country individually. If you have any international circulation at all, it’s something you have to think about.
Numbers Can Lie
Many times, when an e-mail is filtered, it still counts as delivered because it hits the server somewhere even though it never reaches the person’s inbox. It’s not a pure science.
Words and Phrases
Everybody knows “free” and “giveaway” are no-no’s but people don’t think about “opt-out”;because it’s required if it’s a marketing e-mail. It will get spit out by the filters. I use the worst grammar on my opt-outs for that reason. Don’t use “CLICK HERE,” because that will be filtered out too. When we want to use these words, we’ll hide them in the images. But be careful about how many images you use because it may throw off your HTML tag ratio.
Show Your Links
It’s better to show the entire URL link somewhere. Not doing so may look prettier, but a user can cut and paste it into their Web browser if the embedded link doesn’t work.
Don’t use a lot of the same words. Subscription this, subscription that. The filters count the times when you use the same words over and over again.