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Calling All Designers: Email Template Contest

Posted by Amanda Gagnon on 03/19/2012

“We’ve heard your feedback and want to clarify any concerns about the submission guidelines (updated here). We’ve updated them to reflect that there’s no coding required and image files are acceptable submissions. With that change in mind, we’re extending the deadline to Monday, April 30 to allow more designers time to compete.” Graphic designers, a […]


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Beyond Email: 17 Easy Techniques to Optimize Your Mobile Marketing

Posted by Amanda Gagnon on 01/23/2012

As the “60 Second Marketer,” Jamie Turner’s used his marketing ideas to grow his own consulting business. Here, he shares tips and resources he’s found most helpful tools to help you get all set up nicely. According to the Email Stat Center, between 60% and 70% of all smartphone users check email on their mobile […]


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iPhone Tips for HTML Email

iPhone Tips for HTML Email

Posted by Amanda Gagnon on 06/10/2011

This spring, one of the biggest smartphones (the iPhone) joined with the biggest mobile carrier (Verizon). People are snatching up the iPhone in droves, which means your mobile email audience is the biggest it’s ever been.

If you send only plain-text emails, this isn’t a very big deal.

But many people send HTML. And HTML emails tend to look a little different on mobile devices.

But we know four easy ways you can make sure they still look good.

Scrutinize Your Size

The iPhone 4G displays at a width of 640 pixels, so you’ll want your email to be just around that size.

Previous versions display at 320 pixels, which still works with a 640-pixel message – your design scales down nicely by half.

AWeber’s email templates are all around 600 pixels. Use them, and you’re all set.

Use the Top Left to Allure

Make sure you’ve got grabby, interesting content in the top, left section of your message. Try a headline, a picture or a paragraph that lets readers know something exciting is happening. They’ll need to scroll over and down to see more.

This actually has double impact. It gives an enticing glimpse to your subscribers who first encounter your emails in a preview pane. They’ll see either the top or the left, depending on their email client.

But Save Your Call To Action For Later

If the top left is where you ask your readers on a date, the bottom or right is where you move in for the kiss. That’s how Dr. Flint McLaughlin, who studies millions of emails at MECLABS, describes the email experience.

Keeping your call to action off the initial screen gives readers a second to acclimate. Once readers decide they’re committed enough to scroll down, you can ask them to take further action.

And In the Meantime…

Get more subscriptions.

While you’re waiting for clicks on that call to action, generate a QR code for your brand. iPhones (and other smartphones) can scan these cousins to bar codes and be taken straight to your sign up form (just follow these easy steps).

You can get your QR code printed onto business cards, t-shirts – pretty much anything. So when all the Verizon-ites who just picked up iPhones are looking for fun ways to use them, they can sign up for your emails.

Do You Read Email On An iPhone?

Or any other kind of smartphone?

If you do, does it matter if the email is big or small? Does the call to action’s location make a difference?

Or does your response just come down to the interest you have in the brand and whether they’re offering something you want?

Share your opinion in the comment section here – we’d love to see what you’ve got to say. (And if you’ve discovered any other helpful tips for crafting emails for the iPhone, we’d love to see those, too!)

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Images Disabled? No Problem!

Images Disabled? No Problem!

Posted by Rebecca Swayze on 05/03/2011

We’ve all experienced it at some point or another. That moment when we casually open our inbox, click on an interesting subject line, then poof – there’s nothing there but some illegible text and tiny outlines of where shiny pictures should be.

This is an instant turn-off, regardless of whether it’s as simple as clicking one button to enable images for the message. It’s a hassle; a helpful decision maker for a subscriber on the fence as to whether or not they care to remain on your email list.

If you’re wondering how many subscribers stand to see your blank, poorly formatted message, you’ll be surprised to learn that MarketingSherpa found only 33% of those surveyed have images turned on by default in their email client. That means 67% are likely to see the mess of text and boxes you thought only a handful might see.

Here are some tips for creating messages that perform well with or without images enabled.

Always Make Important Info Text-Based

It might seem simple, but since so many people don’t have images enabled in their email clients, you have to make absolutely certain that your message is comprehensible without any images.

Apple always has awesome product shots in all of their messages, but this particular email does double duty. It includes all of the necessary information for subscribers who might not see the pictures:

Apple Email

See this email with images enabled

In one glance, readers will know the details about the one-day shopping event and will still be able to click on the links to shop online or find a store. Then, if they choose to, they can always enable images to see the the graphics.

  • Always include your business name and important calls to action in text. It helps those with disabled images quickly scan and identify the message, then make decisions without depending on graphics for details.

Use Alt-Text for Images

When the majority of your message is image-based, it’s crucial that you include alt-text. Alt-text, or alternative text, is a frequently overlooked area of HTML that provides important message information as text when an image is not viewable.

That way, instead of seeing the blocked or “broken” image icon, your subscribers see copy that explains the images and more about the subject of the email. Online retailer Newport News uses alt-text that is specific, informative and to the point:

Newport News Email

See this email with images enabled

It’s easy to see who this message is from, what they are offering (guaranteed holiday delivery) and what’s new (an iPad app). If readers find the alt-text appealing enough, they will enable images to see exactly what they can receive by the holidays and what the iPad app will look like.

  • Always create alt-text for your images. It’s easy, it’s fast and it can help prospects who are on the fence. There’s no reason not to!

Create a Text/Image Balance

When you’re offering products for sale, it can be tempting to load up your messages with pictures of the products in hopes that readers will immediately click through to buy.

And while email is a wonderful sales tool, it’s never as simple as sending lots of pictures and watching the money roll in. There needs to be a balance of information and presentation. The online scrapbooking company Scrapblog perfectly pairs both in their email:

Scrapblog

See this email with images enabled

The minimal use of images is a nod to the descriptive copy used in all of Scrapblog’s emails. Even though they are selling a product, they are able to do so artfully with a killer combo of words and pictures – something everyone sending emails today should practice more of.

  • Always include a good mix of text and images. Don’t overwhelm your subscribers with paragraphs of text, but don’t slap 20 pictures in an email and call it a day, either.

Do Your Emails Make the Cut?

Testing in multiple email clients is really the best way to see exactly how your message will look, but these tips should save you a lot of time and frustration, should your subscribers only see the disabled version.

Are there other things that you look out for when creating your emails? We’d love to hear!

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Send Perfect Emails With This Checklist

Send Perfect Emails With This Checklist

Posted by Amanda Gagnon on 04/12/2011

Don’t you dare click that “queue” button.

I see you sitting there, with your AWeber account open, itching to get your next email newsletter out the door.

Yes, you’ve thought up some pretty interesting content, you’ve checked your spelling and you’ve aligned your images properly. You can’t wait to see what kind of response this one gets. I know.

But just hold on a tic. You’ve got one thing left to do. You’ve got to…

Get Your Email Past the Gatekeeper

You see, every email campaign has a gatekeeper. The gatekeeper keeps an eye on the quality of the emails going out, making sure subscribers see what the sender intends them to.

Usually, marketers have to serve as their own gatekeepers. But occasionally, they get lucky enough for someone or something else to play that role for them.

Today, you’re that lucky.

This Checklist Will Do It For You

We’ve put together a checklist you can run each new email past. (And yes, it’s free.) It will catch and correct any errors. It won’t let you get away with a single mishap or slip-up.

You see, this new gatekeeper subscribes to a fairly strict philosophy:

“Just because no one is perfect doesn’t mean your emails can’t be!”

So move your cursor off the “queue” button. Click to download this checklist instead. Run your new message past the 20 questions you’ll find inside.

Then when you’re satisfied that your email passes the test, go back to that queue button. This time, you can push it with the assurance that the message you’re sending is exactly as it should be.

Download Your Free Email Checklist

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A Plain Text User’s Guide to HTML Email

A Plain Text User’s Guide to HTML Email

Posted by Amanda Gagnon on 05/20/2010

HTML and plain text each have their place as email formats.

Plain text has a no-nonsense, businesslike air, and is simple to create. HTML grabs attention with colors and images. It lets companies incorporate logos and display data with graphics.

Sometimes, though, plain text is used by marketers who would prefer the gloss of HTML, but aren’t sure how to create it. The good news is, many email marketing services provide pre-designed HTML email templates that make the switch practically painless.

Of course, there are still a few things to learn. If you’re new to HTML email, follow these tips for polished, professional messages.

Getting Started With HTML Email

If you are using a template, make sure to take out any dummy text. This text is usually meaningless, included only to suggest how you may want to lay out your content.

Dummy text in your emails is likely to confuse subscribers, so make sure to replace or delete it!

HTML email lets your readers simply click on links to open new pages instead of copying URLs into new windows. Take advantage of this benefit by making sure to create the links properly.

If you use AWeber, just highlight the text you want to become clickable, click the link button and paste in the URL of your destination page.

Tip: If you’re tracking clicks, don’t use the actual URL as the text of the link, or your message could be mistaken for email phishing.

Good: AWeber’s blog Bad: http://www.aweber.com/blog/

A link to the web version of your email can help readers who have trouble viewing your messages. If an email appears incorrectly or subscribers are too wary to let images display in their inboxes, all is not lost.

Put a link at the top of your email, where distressed openers will see it right away. In AWeber accounts, use the “Direct Link” from the broadcast archive.

Otherwise, just save the image as a page on your web site and use the resulting URL.

Make sure your message is comprehensible without images.

Many email clients don’t display images by default. Subscribers who don’t change these settings won’t see your pictures and graphics, so make sure you:

  • don’t display important information as an image
  • don’t rely on a background picture to make text readable.
  • do include ALT text. This is alternative text that describes images when they aren’t displayed.

When you’re finished editing, send yourself test copies of the message in different email accounts.

Each ISP renders email a little differently. Make sure they are at least consistently readable.

To do this, create test accounts in the most popular webmail providers and desktop email clients.

Although creating your messages in HTML opens up all sorts of creative, organizational and branding possibilities, it’s not a good idea to abandon plain text altogether.

Always include a plain text version. Your email service provider should provide the option or, if you are coding your own emails, follow these instructions.

Then if an ISP can’t display your HTML email, it will revert to the plain text version and your message will still be delivered.

Your Plain Text-to-HTML Concerns

Have you made the switch from plain text to HTML?

If so, what were the trickiest bits for you to learn?

If you want to switch but haven’t yet, what concerns are holding you back?

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Gmail Gives You One More Reason to Get In the Address Book

Gmail Gives You One More Reason to Get In the Address Book

Posted by Justin Premick on 07/27/2009

Address BookGetting subscribers to whitelist you sure is a popular email marketing topic lately.

Fresh on the heels of Yahoo’s announcement that users can choose to view only emails from their contacts, Gmail is making a change of its own that makes email from contacts more usable and readable than email from non-contacts.

They’re not making a separate inbox for contacts, but they are changing one important part about how they treat emails from certain contacts:

Images On By Default For (Some) Contacts

Gmail recently announced that they’ll be enabling images for certain people in users’ contact lists.

The details:

  1. You must be in the Gmail user’s contact list.
  2. You must be authenticating your emails using SPF or DKIM (AWeber does).
  3. The Gmail user must have sent you at least 2 emails. (They note that this is a starting-out threshold that may change.)

Read the announcement on the official Gmail blog.

“You Mean Subscribers Have to Email ME?”

Yep – getting them to list you in their address books is step #1, but they’ll also have to email you a couple times before images will be on by default.

But that’s OK. In fact, it’s a great reason to do something you should already be doing anyway: ask your subscribers for feedback!

Have them email you their thoughts on your emails…

  • What they like
  • What they don’t like
  • What they want you to discuss in future emails

… and not only will you be on your way to meeting Gmail’s requirements for having images on by default, you’ll gain invaluable insight into how you can improve your emails.

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Improve Your HTML Email for Gmail Subscribers

Improve Your HTML Email for Gmail Subscribers

Posted by Marc Kline on 04/16/2008

This has been bugging me for a while.

Before sending, I test our blog newsletters to Gmail, along with other popular clients (generally a smart thing to do).

By and large, the messages tend to look fine, outside of one detail that might seem minor to some but meaningful others who spend some time thinking about optimizing emails for best results.

Take a look at a few of the recent tests in my inbox and see if you notice what I’m seeing:

Gmail Search w/ Original Text

See what I mean? Here’s another view – what I see pop up from my task bar when I receive the tests:

Gmail Notifier View w/ Original Text

To subscribers, the frequency of “AWeber” and “AWeber Logo” could be trance inducing…at best. At worst, I fear it bores our Gmail viewers (who comprise 15.3% of our active list at the moment) and could suppress our open rates.

Why does that text appear there? Well, we use a template that includes a logo and a header image, both of which we use ALT text for (another good idea).

Meanwhile, Gmail displays whatever the first set number of characters appear in an email (alt text or otherwise) in this brief preview section of the inbox or Notifier app.

What Can We Do About It?

Get a free Gmail account for testing, if you don’t already have one, and send yourself tests of your messages. Do you see the same type of undesirable results?

Whether it’s ALT text or some other headline, it’s a good idea to replace it with something more enticing to subscribers to give them something worthwhile during that split second decision that makes them want to open the message rather than ignore or delete it.

You could tweak the layout of your template, or add some visible text at the very top of your message, but I did something else to avoid messing with the design or content of our messages.

Use an Invisible Image to Say Something Meaningful

In the free image manipulation software we use at our office, the GIMP, I created an image 1×1 pixel in size with a transparent background. Placed in an email, this image effectively goes unseen.

I then uploaded this file to our website and placed it in our blog broadcast template, just beneath the opening “body” tag, to make it the first thing Google “sees” to render in the email:

Transparent 1x1 image added

Remember how Gmail was pulling text from the ALT tags of our top placed images to my chagrin? Well, I found a way to use it to our advantage.

I simply added some ALT text to the image attribute that made more sense for the message I was sending out:

ALT text added

The result? Something much more appealing in the inbox and in the notifier. Check it out:

gmail message in Notifier, modified

You can take the same image I used and upload it to your website. Just add the following HTML just beneath the “body” tags like I did:

What Were the Results?

To be honest, I didn’t split test this before implementing. Why? My feeling was that it was one of those limited things worth implementing straight off the bat without testing, but I’m willing to bet it will help our opens given the number of Gmail subscribers we (and presumably you) have.

I hope it helps some of you to engage your Gmail subscribers better. I’m happy because, at very least, I can stop griping about the way it looks when I test.


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Email Testing For Quality Assurance and More

Email Testing For Quality Assurance and More

Posted by Marc Kline on 11/01/2007

If we didn’t test our messages before sending them to our subscribers, I’d be in a lot of trouble! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had typos and broken links caught only by reviewing messages before sending.

Not only do we all make mistakes, but sometimes when we look at our work only from our own perspective, we don’t see the forest for the trees.

Testing can help with both problems. I’d like to briefly share a few ways successful email marketers test their messages, including benefits and limitations of each.


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HTML Emails: How To Use Images Effectively

HTML Emails: How To Use Images Effectively

Posted by Justin Premick on 08/14/2006

HTML messages offer several advantages to senders:

* they can be customized to include colors, formatted text and tables
* they enable the sender to track message open rates
* they allow the sender to hyperlink words and phrases rather than typing out full URLs

However, many email programs by default block HTML images from being displayed, including the following popular software and web-based email clients:


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