Gmail has the Priority Inbox. Yahoo uses special filters. And Hotmail has filters and features that help its customers manage “graymail” – opt-in marketing emails and newsletters that fill up customers’ inboxes. With filters everywhere, how can you make sure your emails reach your customers’ inboxes? Getting subscribers to whitelist you is an important part [...]
Read "Whitelisting Instructions You Can Link To!"
Often you’ll ask subscribers to whitelist your email address so your valuable messages do not end up filtered. This takes a bit of work and know-how though, so you will only get a small number of subscribers who will do this for you. Here’s a method that helps you effortlessly get whitelisted while increasing your [...]
Read "The Easiest Way To Get Whitelisted And Grow Your Business At The Same Time"
Email marketers are the authors of a very particular story: the story of their email’s deliverability. Your own story starts when you turn on your computer screen and open the message editor in your web browser. So begins your email’s quest for the inbox. ISPs, spam filters and your subscribers themselves all stand between your [...]
Read "Be the Author of Email Delivery"
Inbox filters aren’t just about emails ending up in the spam folder anymore. Subscribers are now creating folders for more valuable emails, helping them to sort out the emails they want to read from the others in their cluttered inboxes. As more tools for inbox control become available, “email filtering” will become a more desirable [...]
Read "Why You Want Your Emails Filtered"
Although emails from AWeber customers like you are already whitelisted on an ISP level through us, your emails may be filtered on an individual level.
So how do you get your readers to give you their stamp of approval? You ask, of course.
Ways to Ask
You can ask in two ways. Your choice depends on how long you want your request to be and if you have a site to host an instruction page on.
Ask Subscribers to Add You to Their Contacts or Safe Sender List
That way, each subscriber can take the appropriate action for their ISP.
This is quick to implement, and a simple message (like this one from Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment) indicates that the process will be easy.
Ask Subscribers to Whitelist You, and Offer Complete Instructions
This example makes it easy for subscribers to find custom instructions to whitelist and email address
This method offers flexibility: you could use a simple “whitelist us” link as Marketing Experiments does, or include a full paragraph on why you’re asking your readers to take this step.
Marketing Experiments provides a simple text link
If you need help putting together an instruction page, feel free to borrow from our examples.
Something to avoid: If you include an email address in your whitelisting request, make sure to disable the link. Otherwise, subscribers may assume that clicking the link will help them whitelist you, and be frustrated when that is not the case, like in this request from Steve Spangler Science.
Places to Ask
The places you make your request are going to depend on your preferences, your campaign history and your readers’ reactions. You may also want to put requests in place for both current readers and new subscribers.
The thank-you page.
Alert your new subscribers before they ever get an email. If you’re using a custom thank-you page, not only can you make your request, you could even include the full set of instructions. Whitelisting you at this point ensures that readers will get every one of your messages.
The welcome email.
Request an exchange: you promise to send your readers important updates, special deals and the best content you can provide. In return, you ask them to whitelist you. Make sure to point out how they benefit: they won’t accidentally miss out on those deals or updates.
A paragraph in a broadcast.
Did some subscribers miss the whitelist request on your thank you page or welcome email? A polite request in a regular email might be the best way to reach them – especially if you include other interesting content in the broadcast.
An entire broadcast.
This option requires careful consideration. On one hand, you can include instructions directly in the email without creating or linking to a separate page. On the other hand, such an email may annoy subscribers. Think about your readers. Are they likely to unsubscribe if they get a request instead of the content they are expecting?
This keeps things subtle. Listing a simple link at the top of each email reaches current subscribers without bothering them with an announcement. It also keeps the option of whitelisting you available for those who overlooked or ignored previous requests.
Keep in mind, while whitelisting can help you reach the inbox, you won’t stay there long if subscribers don’t like what they get from you. So keep striving for the most relevant, useful content possible!
How Do You Ask?
Do you ask your readers to whitelist you? How do you go about doing so? We’d love to hear your results and ideas!
Read "How to Get Subscribers to Whitelist You"
Getting 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.
- You must be in the Gmail user’s contact list.
- You must be authenticating your emails using SPF or DKIM (AWeber does).
- The Gmail user must have sent you at least 2 emails. (They note that this is a starting-out threshold that may change.)
“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.
Read "Gmail Gives You One More Reason to Get In the Address Book"
But the writing is on the wall for marketers who aren’t getting subscribers to add them to their address books.
Soon, if you’re not in there, it’ll be even easier for customers and prospects to ignore your email marketing campaigns.
Here’s what I mean:
Yahoo! Helps Subscribers Quickly Filter Out Email From Non-Contacts
On their official blog, Yahoo! Mail announced that users can now toggle from viewing all mail to only mail from their contacts.
As they say in the announcement,
“You get a lot of emails, some good (from friends, family, even favorite interests that you’ve added to your Address Book), and a lot of not-so-important emails (special offers, newsletters, emails you rarely read).”
So they’ve introduced a way to quickly separate those “important” emails from the “not-so-important” ones.
Essentially, Yahoo! is making it easier for users to do the same thing with emails that we all do with our postal mail – we look through for messages from friends, family and other people we know and put it in an “A” pile, and we take everything else and put it in a “B” pile.
Many of us already do it with email, too, by using filters – but up until now we had to set those up manually. It’s not hard to do, but it is an extra hoop that most email users wouldn’t jump through.
A one-click filter like the one Yahoo! has created makes faster email filtering accessible to even novice users. Don’t be surprised if you see other email programs do something similar.
So How Do You Make Sure Your Email Doesn’t Get Filtered Out and Ignored?
Well, in this case you do it by getting subscribers to put you in their address book (sometimes called a “contact list”).
As for how you do that?
- Ask on your thank you page.
You should already be using the thank you page to set expectations immediately after subscribers join your list.
And one of those expectations should be telling people who the emails will come from (i.e., your “from” name and email address).
Add a sentence asking subscribers to add that address to their address books. Quick and easy.
- Ask in your welcome email (and maybe other emails).
Some people might not add you to their address books while on your thank you page (they may have overlooked the request, forgotten or just not wanted to yet).
Now that subscribers have seen an example of your email, point out that to ensure that they keep getting the information they signed up for, they should add you to their address book.
You might also put a reminder in some of your follow ups and/or broadcasts.
- Build a relationship with subscribers.
If you want subscribers to treat you like a contact, you have to earn that status in their minds.
Providing valuable content is a big part of this.
So is coming across as a real person (see our social networking tips for email marketers).
So is being accessible.
The Inbox is Shrinking
One could argue that this Yahoo! move is effectively creating multiple inboxes – one with all email and one only with email from contacts.
Given a choice between viewing “all” email, and only email from preferred sources (like your contacts), which one are you going to spend time in?
To take a “tree falling in the forest” view of it,
If an email goes to an inbox, but nobody ever looks at that particular inbox, is it really delivered?
If you think about it, as more email programs implement tools like Yahoo!’s and the email that’s important/relevant to the recipient ends up in a “contacts” inbox, the “default” inbox really becomes more of a “junk” folder than an inbox.
And none of us want to end up there. Right?
1: Hat tip to Mark Brownlow for pointing out Yahoo!’s announcement.
Read "Reason 9,785 Why You HAVE To Get In Subscribers’ Address Books"
A lot of email senders are concerned with whitelisting and spam complaints.
They’ll ask questions like:
- Are you whitelisted? How do I get whitelisted?
- So if you’re/I’m whitelisted, I won’t ever go to the spam folder?
- How do you make sure I don’t get spam complaints?
- How do I know who marked my email as spam?
If you’ve ever been concerned about your email deliverability, you’ve probably wondered the same sorts of things.
All of these questions can lead to useful discussions about getting your email delivered. But a lot of times, those discussions require more than a simple one-word or one-sentence answer.
I recently came across a handy resource on ISP whitelisting and feedback loops that gives us an opportunity to clear up some misconceptions and uncertainties that many people (perhaps even you) have had about email deliverability.
Fact: Not All ISPs Offer Whitelisting or Feedback Loops
The problem with asking a question like “are you whitelisted?” is that it assumes that whitelisting is an everybody-or-nobody proposition.
Even if you’re whitelisted (as AWeber is) with the ISPs who do offer it, there are other ISPs who simply don’t offer whitelisting.
The same goes for Feedback Loops – not all ISPs will tell you when a subscriber marks an email as spam.
For a handy list of ISPs that do and do not offer whitelisting and/or feedback loops, see this blog post at Word to the Wise.
Keep in mind, if you’re using AWeber, you don’t need to get whitelisted separately for your email campaigns through us.
What Does It Mean to be Whitelisted?
What’s interesting about this question is that I cannot recall anyone ever asking me this in my 4+ years at AWeber. People will ask if we’re whitelisted, but they don’t ask what that means or what the implications of being whitelisted are.
Here’s something that a lot of people don’t know about whitelisting…
- Whitelisting does not in any way guarantee that your emails will all end up in the inbox.
It doesn’t. That’s not why it exists.
Being whitelisted at an ISP is not a “free pass” to send whatever you want, whenever you want, without any potential deliverability repercussions.
I think of it this way…
Being whitelisted is like taking a pledge – by providing information about your mailing practices to an ISP, you’re saying “I practice responsible email marketing, and I’m willing to prove it by letting you keep a close eye on me and how recipients treat my email.”
After all, one of the effects of getting whitelisted is that you make it easier for an ISP to identify email coming from you – and potentially block it.
This doesn’t mean whitelisting is bad. It’s a good thing to do, and whitelisted senders have an advantage over those who are not whitelisted. But don’t think it’s a free pass to send unsolicited or irrelevant emails to people.
What About Feedback Loops? What Do They Mean to You?
Here’s the lowdown on feedback loops:
- When an ISP offers a feedback loop, it means that they will tell us when one of your subscribers marks your email as spam.
The feedback loops are what enables us to show you complaint rates within your account.
- If your complaint rates get too high, an ISP may not deliver your email campaigns to the inbox.
Being on a feedback loop is kind of like being whitelisted – you’re taking responsibility for your email practices, and their consequences.
- Whenever someone marks your email as spam, we immediately unsubscribe them from your list.
If you run any email campaigns outside of AWeber, you should regularly export your unsubscribes (this will include people who marked one of your emails as spam) so you can make sure that they’re not on those other campaigns.
What Other Questions Do You Have?
Is there anything else you’ve wondered about email deliverability, but not asked about before?
Share your thoughts and questions below!
|Know someone who would benefit from this? Share it with them!|
Read "Answers to Common Questions about Whitelisting"
There ought to be some kind of warning label: Changing your “From” address can be hazardous to your email deliverability.
Do it, and a few things can happen:
- All those people who added you to their address books (you have been asking them to do that when they sign up, right?) suddenly don’t have you in their address books anymore.
- People who had been viewing images in your (HTML) emails suddenly don’t because they haven’t yet permitted images to display for emails from your new address.
But if you have to do it, you should at least do it well.
Example of a Good “Change of Address” Email
A few months ago we showcased a whitelisting request that left a lot to be desired.
I noted at the time that the sender’s “approach to whitelisting [was] bass-ackwards,” but never went into detail about what a better whitelisting request would look like.
Well, courtesy of Dylan at The Email Wars, here’s an example of a well-done one.
Go take a look at the email – my thoughts below will make more sense once you do.
3 Things To Like About (And Learn From) This Email
- The Subject Line
Ever had a friend change his/her email address and then email you to let you know? What subject line did s/he use?
I bet it was something like “My New Email Address,” right?
Well, that’s what Marriott did. Short, simple, just like a personal contact would. Brilliant.
- Clear Messaging
It’s hard to mistake what this email is about.
Even if you have images off and don’t see the big graphic at the top, the first sentence of the email, and the judicious bolding of text (especially the “Before you close this email, please follow these 2 steps” line)
- The From Address
They sent this request from their old/existing “from” address, instead of changing the address first and then asking.
If that seems like common sense, well… it is.
But you’d be surprised at how many people change their address, then send an email out from the new address, before you’ve added it to your address book telling you that if you don’t add the new address, you won’t get their email (do you see the irony here?).
Anyway, those are my thoughts on this “change of address” email, but I won’t steal Dylan’s thunder – go see the email and check out his thoughts!
RSS Subscribers: know anyone who would benefit from more email marketing tips and examples like these?
Read "A Well-Done “Change of Address” Email"
United Airlines doesn’t think so.
I just got an email from them asking me to add the address they use to send email marketing campaigns to my address book.
The thing is, I’ve been getting emails from them for a while now. Years, I think. And as far as I can tell, they’ve done a good job of getting to my inbox.
The Email From United
I’m used to getting emails from United once every week or two (I believe I signed up when I joined their frequent flyer program).
Typically they contain fare promotions. Nothing really exciting (nothing like say, Kayak’s great email newsletters). But they are consistent, and I do usually take a look at them to see if I might be talked into taking an impromptu trip.
This message was different — not promotional at all. It was dedicated solely to getting me to add them to my address book:
I Thought This Was Weird…
- I’d understand asking me to whitelist a new sending address, but the email address they asked me to whitelist is the same one they’ve been using to email me!
I’ve been getting their emails in my inbox for years — do I really need to do this? (And if so, why?)
Likewise, if I hadn’t been getting their emails in my inbox, then… I wouldn’t have seen this email. (This is why you ask subscribers to whitelist you right when they sign up, while they’re still on your website)
- Now (unless they want me to get annoyed at them for overmailing me) they need to wait a while before sending me their next promotion.
- The entire email is about getting me to add them to my address book.
But they still include the little text at the top (just like they do in every email I get from them) that says “to ensure receipt of our emails, please add firstname.lastname@example.org to your Address Book.”
Kinda redundant, no?
One other note: those links that say “united.com” don’t actually point to united.com – they point to tracking URLs. Which is a big HTML email no-no because it makes the email look to ISPs like a phishing scam.
I do like that they’re trying to get into subscribers’ address books — that does help your email deliverability, and it’s something we recommend our users ask subscribers to do. Their intentions are good.
And maybe, just maybe, the people whose emails from United are going to the Spam folder will pick out this email, whitelist the address, and get future campaigns in the inbox.
I just can’t help but wonder if United’s approach to whitelisting is bass-ackwards.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you think it’s a good idea to try and get subscribers to add you to their address books further down the road? Am I overanalyzing?
More to the point: would you send out an email like this?
I’m curious… share your thoughts in the comments area!
Read "Asking Subscribers To Whitelist You: Is It Ever Too Late?"