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Wednesday, 30 March 2016 12:59

Back Up

A lot can go wrong with a website, causing it to “go down” at the most inopportune time. And getting it “back” can be time consuming and costly if you don’t have a backup procedure or solution in place.

Published in Websites

Email marketing is a cost-effective way to send content, share promotions, make recommendations and stay in touch with leads and customers who are interested in what you have to say. Email allows you to cut through the clutter and give people the information they want when they want it. In fact, an eMarketer study found that email is the preferred method of communicating with businesses. 

Further, eMarketer also found that email was cited as the most effective digital marketing channel for customer retention in the United States, and a separate study by BtoB Magazine found that 50% of B2B marketers consider email to be the most effective channel for generating revenue. There’s a big upside to using email strategically.

However, creating great email isn’t the only important step. Once you have crafted an email people want to read, you need a way to send it. If you are using a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla, you might be aware of plugins and extensions that will add newsletter functionality to your site, some of which include jNews, Acymailing, RSMail, and SendPress. If you aren’t using a CMS, you might consider utilizing an open source system that uses your website’s PHP mail function.

Warning

Newsletter add-ons such as these are attractive because they allow you to manage your newsletters and subscribers right within your CMS. But beware, using systems that leverage your website’s php mail function can affect your overall email deliverability and your website reputation.

Sending limitations

Your web host might have limitations on the number of emails which can be sent per hour. For example, HostGator limits you to 500 outgoing mail messages per hour per domain.  If your list is large, you could reach that limit quickly and your system might stop sending or the emails will bounce back with an deliverability error. For some hosts, mailing lists larger than 5,000 addresses will require a dedicated server or virtual private server hosting solution. Some newsletter systems have a queue or can use CRON to schedule bulk sends or to throttle mailing (pausing for a set number of seconds after each email is sent),  however, things can go wrong and your outgoing process could be terminated before completion. Additionally, a web host could see emails to large lists as an abuse of service, especially if mailing list rules are not followed.

Conversely, email service providers (such as Mailchimp, Aweber and Constant Contact) are built for bulk sending. Their servers are configured to allow massive numbers of emails to be sent in short periods of time.

Deliverability

There is also a good chance bulk email could be marked as SPAM when sent via your website. Email providers such as Gmail and Yahoo have a number of rules in place to protect users against spam. Not only does Gmail scan email headers, it also scans the content of email looking for “spammy” information and malware. Emails that are sent via a website in a shared hosting environment might have the same IP as emails from other websites on the shared server. The simple fact that the IP does not belong to the sending domain could cause an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to mark an email as spam.

Worse than simply sharing an IP address, you also share the reputation of other websites on a shared hosting plan. Many ISPs use the reputation of the server sending messages to determine whether an email is spam. As such, if a  website on the shared server has been flagged as an abuser, your site could also be penalized.

Email service providers such as Mailchimp work hard to ensure deliverability. They have engineers who constantly improve their email systems to ensure emails are compliant with CAN-SPAM requirements and improve deliverability rates. They also have relationships with ISPs, are approved as bulk mail delivery services, and provide strict guidelines to avoid being labeled as a server that sends spam.

Avoid being blacklisted

Malware ScreensAccording to inmotion hosting, it is estimated that between 80-95% of all email transmitted on the Internet is spam. To help weed through spam messages, there are public blacklists of mail servers that have been relaying spam. Mail servers such as Gmail can then check a message against the public blacklists before relaying messages to users.

Mail IP addresses can easily end up blacklisted, especially when they exist on a shared server where the shear volume of email might raise a red flag.

And, no matter how clean your email list is, eventually someone will report you as a spammer. If enough reports are made, you risk being blacklisted. Not only can this affect your ability to access email, but if you send using your website’s php mail function, your website could be blacklisted as well (resulting in the display of Google’s embarrassing red, blacklist screen. Note that different browsers display different messages but all should be similar).

Email service providers send from their servers so your email is never at risk of being blacklisted, which also protects your website from collateral damage and ensures that the routine email you do send from your domain makes it to the intended destination.

Conclusion

Plugins and solutions that utilize your website’s php mail function for bulk mailing can reduce the likelihood of delivery and can have negative consequences  your website as a whole.  Third-party systems protect your website and work to maintain the highest possible delivery rates. Additionally, they provide integrations for your CMS and website allowing you to display easy subscription and sign up forms for your visitors. These systems also offer robust reporting and analysis tools that are lacking in many of the plugins/extensions. For a comparison of some popular email service providers, please read our blog post, Email Marketing Services Comparison.

What are your thoughts on email service providers? Have any tips for how to avoid being classified as SPAM? Please share with our readers using the comments below.

Additional Info

  • Page Heading The advantages of third-party email service providers
Published in Email Marketing
Thursday, 25 June 2015 20:32

Technology: the only constant is change

Recently, my microwave died. It did so in flamboyant and hysterical fashion. It was late; we had been out with friends. We were hungry. We put something in the microwave and hit Go. Some number of seconds later as we were going about our merry way in the kitchen, there was a loud POP and a flash of light. Somewhat like a military flashbang, we were surprised and disoriented…and then pretty amused by the demonstration.

In the light of day, I got down to finding a replacement – and it got me to thinking. I hadn’t replaced the microwave in nine years. (A good run, I know!) In that time, microwaves had changed dramatically. Now there are all manner of specialty programs for a wide variety of foods. There are sensors to know when my frozen block of hamburg is thawed - and a complementary program that accounts for a one, two or three pound block.

Then I remembered that my mom redid her kitchen a couple years ago and ran into a lot of the same things.

Refrigerators these days have freezer drawers on the bottom, where they were traditionally on top. They have internal or external water and ice makers. They have door alarms and configurable shelves and temperature/humidity zone settings for different foods.

Now, you can get double ovens nearly standard – a feature that was only available on commercial cookers in the not too distant past. There is convection; there are built-in meat thermometers; warming trays; timers; delay mode; warm mode. Just 10 years ago these features either didn’t exist or were only available in the $$$$$ category. (Then again, we weren’t all obsessed with competitive cooking shows a decade ago, either.)

My point is, when you look around your kitchen, no matter what appliance you light upon, you’ll find that it has probably evolved quite a bit in recent years. And, if you were put in the position that my microwave put me in, it wouldn’t be a matter of just going and grabbing a replacement. In fact, your model likely doesn’t exist anymore. You’d probably want to do some research and learn about the new features available to decide if it makes sense to have them in your next version.

The same could be said for the technology in your living room. The TV, stereo, speakers, game-box-turned-entertainment-system – even your cable box – has evolved dramatically in recent years.

Wait. Then there’s the whole Internet of Things (IOT) that’s evolving everything from home security to your lights and thermostat.

So, after wandering around the house and looking at the technology evolutions, let’s head to the computer and look at your website. I’ve got a couple questions for you:

  • How long has it been since you built/rebuilt/redesigned, or even attended to, your company’s website?
  • Do you suppose the way we use an oven has evolved as much as the way we use the Internet in the time since you did?
  • And has any of these changed since you last updated your website? Your business model, business objectives or web channel goals?

Are you catching my drift?

Stephanie

Website redesign checklist

Additional Info

  • Page Heading Technology: the only constant is change
Published in Steph Speak

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