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Feb 08, 2008

Sherpa Kit: Email Audit Glossary

SUMMARY: No summary available.
Bounce: A message that doesn’t get delivered promptly is said to have bounced. Emails can bounce for more than 30 reasons: an email address is incorrect or has been closed; the recipient’s mailbox is full; the mail server is down; the system detects spam or offensive content; etc.

Bounce handling: The process of dealing with email that has bounced. Bounce handling is important for list maintenance, list integrity and delivery. Given the lack of consistency in bounce messaging formats, it's an inexact science at best.

Bounce message: Message sent back to an email sender reporting the message could not be delivered and why. Note: Not all bounced emails result in messages being sent back to the sender. Not all bounce messages are clear or accurate about the reason the email was bounced.

Bounce rate (also return rate): Number of hard/soft bounces divided by the number of emails sent. This is an inexact number because some systems do not report back to the sender clearly or accurately. Also sometimes used to refer to the number of visitors who arrive at a website and leave from that point without exploring the site further.

Call to action: In an email message, the link or body copy that tells the recipient what action to take.

CAN-SPAM: Popular name for the US law regulating commercial email (Full name: Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003).

Clickthrough & clickthrough tracking: When a hotlink is included in an email, a clickthrough occurs when a recipient clicks on the link. Clickthrough tracking refers to the data collected about each clickthrough link, such as how many people clicked it, how many clicks resulted in desired actions — like sales, forwards or subscriptions.

Clickthrough rate: Total number of clicks on email link(s) divided by the number of emails opened — not the entire list. Includes multiple clicks by a unique user. Some email broadcast vendors or tracking programs define CTR differently.

Confirmation: An acknowledgment of a subscription or information request. "Confirmation" can be either a company statement that the email address was successfully placed on a list or a subscriber's agreement that the subscribe request was genuine and not faked or automatically generated by a third party.

Delivery tracking: The process of measuring delivery rates by format, ISP or other factors and delivery failures (bounces, invalid address, server and other errors). An inexact science.

Double opt-in: A process that requires new list joiners to take an action (such as clicking on an emailed link to a personal confirmation page) to confirm that they want to be on the list. Sometimes interpreted incorrectly by some email broadcast vendors to mean a new subscriber who does not opt-out of or bounce a welcome message.

Effective rate: Metric that measures how many of those who opened an email message clicked on a link, usually measured as unique responders divided by unique opens.

Email audit: Analysis of a business’ email marketing process. Can also be used to refer to the analysis of a specific email.

Email client: Software a recipient uses to read email, such as Outlook Express or Lotus Notes.

Email filter: Software tool that categorizes, sorts or blocks incoming email, based either on the sender, the email header or message content. Filters may be applied at the recipient's level, at the email client, the ISP or a combination.

Email service provider (also email vendor): Another name for an email broadcast service provider, a company that sends bulk (volume) email on behalf of their clients.

Footer: Area at the end of an email message or newsletter that contains information that doesn’t change from one edition to the next, such as contact information, the company’s postal address or the email address the recipient used to subscribe to mailings. Some software programs can be set to place this information automatically.

Hard bounce: Message sent to an invalid, closed or nonexistent email account.

HTML message: Email message which contains any type of formatting other than text. This may be as simple as programming that sets the text in a specific font (bold, italics, Courier 10 point, etc.). It includes any graphic images, logos and colors.

Header: Routing and program data at the start of an email message, including the sender's name and email address, originating email server IP address, recipient IP address and any transfers in the process.

List hygiene: The act of maintaining a list so that hard bounces and unsubscribed names are removed from mailings. Some list owners also use an email change-of-address service to update old or abandoned email addresses (hopefully with a permission step baked in) as part of this process.

List management: How a mailing list is set up, administered and maintained. The list manager has daily responsibility over list operation, including processing subscribes and unsubscribes, bounce management, list hygiene, etc. The list manager can be the same as the database manager but is not always the same person as the list owner. See list owner.

List owner: The organization or individual who has gathered a list of email addresses. Ownership does not necessarily imply "with permission."

Multi-part MIME: Also known (confusingly) as an "email sniffer." Message format which includes both an HTML and a text-only version in the same message. Most (but not all) email clients receiving messages in this format will automatically display the version the user’s system is set to show. Systems that can’t show HTML should show the text version instead. This doesn’t always work — in particular for many Lotus Notes users. Also, no data, except HTML open rates and possibly link click tracking, is transmitted back to the sender regarding which version a recipient wound up viewing.

Open rate: The number of HTML message recipients who opened your email, usually as a percentage of the total number of emails sent. The open rate is considered a key metric for judging an email campaign's success, but it has several problems. The rate indicates only the number of emails opened from the total amount sent, not just those that were actually delivered. Opens also can't be calculated on text emails. Also, some email clients allow users to scan message content without actually opening the message, which is falsely calculated as an open. (See preview pane.)

Opt-in: A specific, pro-active request by an individual email recipient to have their own email address placed on a specific mailing list. Many list renters and buyers now require list owners to provide proof of opt-in, including the actual email or IP address date and time the request was received.

Opt-out: A specific request to remove an email address from a specific list, or from all lists operated by a single owner. Also, the process of adding an email address to lists without the name's pre-approval, forcing names who don't want to be on your list to actively unsubscribe.

Permission: The implicit approval given when a person actively requests to have their own email address added to a list.

Personalization: A targeting method in which an email message appears to have been created only for a single recipient. Personalization techniques include adding the recipient's name in the subject line or message body, or the message offer reflects a purchasing, link clicking, or transaction history.

Plain text: Text in an email message that includes no formatting code. See HTML.

Preview pane: The window in an email client that allows the user to scan message content without actually clicking on the message. (See open rate.) According to an EmailLabs study, 69% of at-work email recipients always or frequently use their preview panes when sorting through their inbox.

Privacy policy: A clear description of how your company uses the email addresses and other information it gathers via opt-in requests for newsletters, company information or third-party offers or other functions. If you rent, sell or exchange your list to anyone outside your company, or if you add email addresses to opt-out messages, you should state so in the privacy policy. State laws may also compel you to explain your privacy policy, where to put the policy statement so people will see it and even in what form the policy should be displayed.

Registration: The process where someone not only opts in to your email program but provides some additional information, such as name, address, demographic data or other relevant information, usually by using a Web form.

Reply-to: The email address that receives messages sent from users who click “reply” in their email clients. Can differ from the “from” address which can be an automated or unmonitored email address used only to send messages to a distribution list. “Reply-to” should always be a monitored address.

Soft bounce: Email sent to an active (live) email address but which is turned away before being delivered. This is usually due to a temporary problem — for example, if the recipient’s mailbox has reached its limit. The recipient’s email server may hold the message and attempt repeated delivery, or the sender’s email program may try sending it again.

Spam: The popular name for unsolicited commercial email. However, some email recipients define spam as any email they no longer want to receive, even if it comes from a mailing list they joined voluntarily.

Subject line: Copy that identifies what an email message is about, often designed to entice the recipient into opening the message. The subject line appears first in the recipient's inbox, often next to the sender's name or email address. It is repeated in the email message's header information inside the message.

Subscribe: The process of joining a mailing list, either through an email command, by filling out a Web form, or offline by filling out a form or requesting to be added verbally. (If you accept verbal subscriptions, you should safeguard yourself by recording it and storing recordings along with time and date, in a retrievable format.)

Subscriber: The person who has specifically requested to join a mailing list. A list has both subscribers, who receive the message from the sender, and pass-alongs.

Unsubscribe: To remove oneself from an email list, either with an emailed command to the list server or by filling in a Web form.

Vendor: Any company that provides a service.

Verification: A program that determines an email came from the sender listed in the return path or Internet headers; designed to stop email from forged senders.

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