We received a lot of reader mail after our HotMail alert two weeks back. We did yet more testing, and we found another apparent problem with HotMail for broadcast emailers:
-> When a Hotmail user opens a message they've received, and then leaves it sitting open for more than 4:59 minutes the links stop working altogether.
This has the greatest impact for broadcast emailers who send email that requires a reading time of more than a very few minutes (such as a long newsletter like this one).
Also, if you send messages with multiple links to different Web content (such as a content site alert listing several articles), a recipient clicking through on their first choice will have no problem, but by the time they go back to click on their second choice, the links may have died.
However, even if your message is short and punchy, anyone who opens it, and then gets distracted from clicking on your links (perhaps they have several windows open at the same time, or the phone rings or whatever), will not be able to click through.
Technically this has to do with the way HotMail embeds your links in its links. See the issue from two weeks ago for more details. (Link to it below.)
What does this mean to you?
Hotmail claims to be the largest email provider in the world, with 118 million users. Hotmail addresses are certainly a substantial slice of almost everyone's email lists, whether B2B or B2C.
You might want to send a separate version of your broadcast to HotMail readers with a note above each link or each set of links saying, “Sometimes links don't work in Hotmail. If you have a problem, please cut and paste them directly into your browser."
Also, as we have noted before, you definitely should be separating out your email campaign results reports by major domain so you can see if Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL or other biggies are doing things to your email that could be affecting responses.
BTW: Yes, we have tried repeatedly to get input from Hotmail on these and other items that impact broadcast emailers. However, MSN's PR department is not able to locate a spokesperson willing to comment.
Given the fact that MSN is now trying to raise Hotmail revenues by selling its user lists on the rental market, we hope they will be ready to comment someday soon because now things like this could affect the bottom line.
Our Original Hotmail article: