Wednesday, October 27, 2010

HOWTO: Test Your Email Marketing Campaigns

Have you ever sent an email marketing campaign only to discover it looks like crap when it lands in the recipients inbox?

Would it surprise you to learn that the greater majority of companies (from small to very very large) that send email marketing campaigns perform very little or even NO TESTING before they send?

I've seen it happen, time and time again.

What to do! There are many good subscription based systems out there you can use to test deliver-ability and appearance. Some of the better email marketing services include some level of inbox delivery and appearance testing.

Certainly always use tools provided as a first line of defence, however the most successful way I and my team have found to work consistently well over the last 16+ years of email marketing is to do real-life testing. Testing on real email accounts on real email services.

But do you know what to look for? Here are some handy tips for testing your email campaigns in order to improve the deliver-ability and appearance of delivered emails.

Before you send your HTML email campaign to your entire subscriber list, you should do some testing. All good email marketing systems will let you send tests to yourself.

  • Don't just rely on preview functions. These are at best a rough estimate of how your email would look in an ideal world. You need to actually deliver your email campaign to real email accounts to see how it works "in the real world."
  • Setup email accounts with as many email services as possible. There are many free ones out there. Use the most common services, like MSN, Hotmail, Live, Yahoo!, and Gmail. You might also setup an account with AOL.
  • Leave the default settings for those accounts as they are. Don't add yourself to the address book, or anything that would change the default configuration. You'll want to test whether or not your email campaigns are being filtered as spam to a typical setup configuration for the most common email services.
  • Setup a "test list" in your email marketing service. Some services will allow you to replicate your "real" list and import the test addresses.
  • Recruit co-workers, friends, or family to become testers for you. You need people you can rely on and trust. We use a team of Virtual Assistants (VA) that we have trained over several years. VA's are a very cost effective way for you to leverage resources. Ask me if you would like a contact to a reliable and cost effective VA service provider.
  • Trusted testers can tell you how your email looks across the many different email clients programs. If you have the resources, setup a testing computer in the office with multiple operating systems and email programs. Or set up a virtual computer online to do the same thing.
  • Do you give subscribers to your list the option to receive plain-text or a mobile version of your emails? If you do, you will need to subscribe one of your test email accounts to receive plain-text only emails and one to receive the mobile version of your campaigns.
  • Send as many emails as you can to your test addresses.
  • Did your email campaign end up in the junk folder or spam filter of any of the test email accounts?
  • Most email clients and online services (web mail) leave images turned off by default (i.e. you are required to click a link or button to display images). How does your email look with images turned off? That's the first impression people will have. If it looks crap, so do you.
  • Do you have "ALT-text" coded for your images, to persuade recipients to click the "show images" button? (ALT-text is the "alternative text" that is displayed when an image can't be seen in a web browser or email program)? By "persuade" I don't mean you should resort to sending spam-like, over-bearing sales text such as, "CHECK THIS OUT!" A really descriptive ALT-text is persuasive enough e.g. "Screenshot of our new gizmo"
  • Just in case people don't want to show your images (yes some people have legitimate reasons and others are simply ├╝ber paranoid about everything), do you have a link at the top of your email, allowing them to view your message online, in their browser?
  • When you click "show images" for your email, do all the images work? Do they download and appear fast enough/in a reasonable time (a few micro-seconds would be nice but a few seconds is more realistic), or do you need to go back and optimise them?
  • Click on as many links as possible (yes, this is mind-numbing, but necessary). Do they all work? Are there any broken links?
  • Does your email marketing service provide click or open tracking? If so, enable this functionality, and then click and open some of your emails. Then log in to your email marketing service and check your campaign statistics. Is everything working properly? If yes, send!
Happy and successful email marketing




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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Google can't keep it up!

Google! Analyse this!

It is understandable that new services will fall over from time to time. They may even disappear completely. Google are after all the kings of the beta release, and as we know beta software is unstable. After all of these years Gmail is still in 'beta' or have Google perhaps trademarked the term?

For the last several weeks when logging into Google Analytics the system first asks me to sign up for Google Analytics again. Crazy! What's even more crazy is that nine times out of ten if I sign up again the old accounts are still there, I just have a new account in addition. Once in a while the system collapses completely and returns an error.

From what I can see on the Net there are many people suffering but nothing substantive from Google on the matter. Seriously with all of the resources and technology you have at your disposal, you have the ability to scan peoples WiFi connections and grab their usernames and passwords as your street view car drives around our neighbourhoods, you can handle billions of web searches a second, but you can't fix an access issue and worse you lack the customer service and relationship maturity to communicate with your user base.

I love Google, I really do but this sort of crap just pisses me off.



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