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Email Marketing Basics and
Glossary of Terms and Definitions
Email marketing is one of the most important
activities today for any internet businessperson. Here are the
basic concepts and a list of email terms and definitions that
you are most likely to come across as you deal with the email
marketing process, building your list, creating and sending messages, or
dealing with your IT department or broadcast vendor.
Email marketing is the process of managing lists, developing ad
campaigns, creating promotional offers, broadcasting email
messages, and tracking the results. Email marketing systems
generally combine advanced message broadcast systems along with
tracking systems that can monitor the reception, opening, and
response to email messages that have been sent.
e-Mail Marketing is key to marketing strategies of most websites,
with marketers measuring much of their success through their
email marketing solutions. Yet despite the relatively simple idea
of email marketing it has many variants in terms of not only
appearance but also delivery, with differing organisation behind
each one. Understanding what kind of email marketing strategy
will work best for your marketing campaigns, and the level of
support and work behind it is fundamental for ensuring maximum
There are many different types of options available for applying
email marketing into your marketing strategy, with the three most
common types being:
A - In-house managed service,
B - ASP (Application Service Providers), and
C - Fully managed service (outsourcing).
Knowing the email terminology and definitions is your first step
to marketing success. Here is the alphabetical guide to the Email
- A - B - C
- D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K
- L - M -
- N - O - P - Q - R - S - T -
U - V - W - X
- Y - Z
Refers to a test situation in which a list is split into two
pieces with every other name being sent one specific creative,
and vice versa. See also Nth name.
Above the fold
The part of an email message or Web page that is visible
without scrolling. Material in this area is considered more
valuable because the reader sees it first. Refers to a printing
term for the top half of a newspaper above the fold. Unlike a
newspaper, email and Web page fold locations aren't predictable.
Your fold may be affected by the users' preview pane,
monitor-size, monitor resolution, any headers placed by email
programs such as Hotmail, etc.
Microsoft Access software is a tool used for developing a
database. Any database vendor you work with -- email broadcaster,
list broker, third-party list-hygiene service, etc. -- should be
able to work with this format. Several other batabase tools are
An exchange between two publishers in which each agrees to
run the other's comparably valued ad at no charge. Value is
determined by rate card, placement, size of list, quality of
list, name brand fame, etc.
A marketing partner that promotes your products or services
under a payment-on-results agreement.
An active request by a reader or subscriber to receive
advertising or promotional information, newsletters, etc.
Generally affirmative consent does not included the following --
failing to uncheck a pre-checked box on a Web form, entering a
business relationship with an organization without being asked
for separate permission to be sent specific types of email,
Email message that notifies subscribers of an event or
Application Program Interface (API)
How a program (application) accesses another to transmit
data. A client may have an API connection to load database
information to an email vendor automatically and receive data
back from the email.
Application Service Provider (ASP)
Company that provides a Web-based service. Clients
don’t have to install software on their own computers; all
tasks are performed on (hosted on) the ASP’s servers.
An automated process that verifies an email sender's
Automated email message-sending capability, such as a
welcome message sent to all new subscribers the minute they join
a list. May be triggered by joins, unsubscribes, all email sent
to a particular mailbox. May be more than a single message
— can be a series of date or event-triggered emails.
An anti-spam program that evaluates header and content of
incoming email messages to determine the probability that it is
spam. Bayesian filters assign point values to items that appear
frequently in spam, such as the words "money-back guarantee" or
"free." A message that accumulated too many points is either
rejected as probable spam or delivered to a junk-mail folder. Aka
Business-to-Business (also B2B).
Business-to-Consumer (also B2C).
A list developed by anyone receiving email, or processing
email on its way to the recipient, or interested third-parties,
that includes domains or IP addresses of any emailers suspected
of sending spam. Many companies use blacklists to reject inbound
email, either at the server level or before it reaches the
recipient’s in-box. Also Blocklist and Blackhole list.
An action by an ISP to not forward your email messages to
the recipient. This is a distinct activity from a Bounce.
A message that doesn’t get delivered promptly is said
to have bounced. Emails can bounce for more than 30 reasons: the
email address is incorrect or has been closed; the
recipient’s mailbox is full, the mail server is down, or
the system detects spam or offensive content. See hard
bounce and soft bounce.
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 email was
The process of dealing with the 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.
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
The process of sending the same email message to multiple
Popular name for the U.S. law regulating commercial email
(Full name: Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography
and Marketing Act of 2003)
An email server function that forwards all questionable
email to a single mailbox. The catch-all should be monitored
regularly to find misdirected questions, unsubscribes or other
genuine live email.
Aka Test cell or version. A segment of your list that
receives different treatment specifically to see how it responds
versus the control (regular treatment.)
Acronym for Common Gateway Interface. It is a
specification for transferring information between the Web and a
Web server, such as processing email subscription or contact
An anti-spam program that requires a human being on the
sender's end to respond to an emailed challenge message before
their messages can be delivered to recipients. Senders who answer
the challenge successfully are added to an authorization list.
Bulk emailers can work with challenge-response if they designate
an employee to watch the sending address' mailbox and to reply to
each challenge by hand.
How many subscribers leave a mailing list (or how many email
addresses go bad) over a certain length of time, usually
expressed as a percentage of the whole list.
Click-through & click-through tracking
When a hotlink is included in an email, a click-through occurs
when a recipient clicks on the link. Click-through tracking
refers to the data collected about each click-through link, such
as how many people clicked it, how many clicks resulted in
desired actions such as sales, forwards or subscriptions.
Total number of clicks on email link(s) divided by the number of
emails sent. Includes multiple clicks by a unique user. Some
email broadcast vendors or tracking programs define CTR
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.
Inexact term that may refer to double-opt-in subscription
processes or may refer to email addresses which do not hard
bounce back a welcome message. Ask anyone using this term to
define it more clearly.
Arrangement in which companies collecting registration
information from users (email sign-up forms, shopping checkout
process, etc.) include a separate box for users to check if they
would also like to be added to a specific third-party list.
Cost per Action (also can be Acquisition). A method of
paying for advertising, or calculating results from non-CPA
Cost per Click. A method of paying for advertising.
Different from CPA because all you pay for is the click,
regardless of what that click does when it gets to your site or
Cost per Thousand.
An email message's copy and any graphics.
Customer Relationship Management technology and
To send the same email message to at least two different
mailing lists or discussion groups.
Clickthrough Rate. Slightly inexact because some
clicks "get lost" between the click and your server. Also be sure
to ask if the CTR is unique, meaning that each individual user is
only counted once no matter how many times they click on a
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An email server used by only one sender. A dedicated server
often costs more to use because the expense can't be spread among
many users, but it performs better than a shared server. Email
usually goes out faster, the server is more secure, and you
eliminate the possibility that another sender could get the
server blacklisted for spamming.
The process of removing identical entries from two or more
data sets such as mailing lists.
Number of emails sent minus the number of bounces and
filtered messages. A highly inexact number because not all
receiving ISPs report accurately on which email didn't go through
and why not.
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.
Denial-of-service attack (DOS)
An organized effort to disrupt email or Web service by
sending more messages or traffic than a server can handle,
shutting it down until the messages stop.
A shortened version of an email newsletter which replaces
full-length articles with clickable links to the full article at
a Web site, often with a brief summary of the contents.
An email service in which individual members post messages
for all group members to read ("many to many.") In contrast, a
newsletter is a "one to many" broadcast, where comments by
members or subscribers go only to the message sender.
An anti-spam software application being developed by Yahoo
and using a combination of public and private "keys" to
authenticate the sender's domain and reduce the chance that a
spammer or hacker will fake the domain sending address.
A process that requires new list joiners to take an action
(such as clicking on an emailed link to a personal confirmation
page) in order to confirm that they do 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
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Email Change of Address. A service that tracks email address
changes and updates.
The combination of a unique user name and a sender domain
(JohnDoe@anywhere.com). The email address requires both the user
name and the domain name.
Service that matches email addresses to a database of
personal names and postal addresses. Appending may require an "OK
to add my name" reply from the subscriber before you can add the
name to the list.
The software recipients use to read email, such as Outlook
Express or Lotus Notes.
The portion of the email address to the right of the @ sign.
Useful as an email address hygiene tool (e.g. identify all
records where the consumer entered "name@aol" as their email
address and correct it to "email@example.com").
A 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 Friendly Name Aka Display Name, From name
The portion of the email address that is displayed in most,
though not all, email readers in place of, or in addition to, the
An automated process in which a robot program searches Web
pages or other Internet destinations for email addresses. The
program collects the address into a database, which frequently
gets resold to spammers or unethical bulk mailers. Many U.S.
state laws forbid harvesting. CAN-SPAM does not outlaw it by name
but allows triple damages against violators who compiled their
mailing lists with harvested names.
Content distributed to subscribers by email, on a regular
schedule. Content is seen as valued editorial in and of itself
rather than primarily a commercial message with a sales offer.
Also known as an ezine.
The portion of the email address to the left of the @
Another name for an email broadcast service provider, a
company that sends bulk (volume) email on behalf of their
Event triggered email
Pre-programmed messages sent automatically based on an event
such as a date or anniversary.
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A legitimate message mistakenly rejected or filtered as
spam, either by an ISP or a recipient's anti-spam program. The
more stringent an anti-spam program, the higher the
Frequently Asked Questions.
See email filter.
Whatever appears in the email recipient's inbox as your
visible "from" name. Chosen by the sender. May be a personal
name, a brand name, an email address, a blank space, or
alpha-numeric gobbledegook. Note - this is not the actual "from"
contained in the header (see below) and may be different than the
email reply address. Easy to fake. Aka Email Friendly
An email vendor that also provides strategic consulting and
creative support, in addition to sending messages.
A new, free email service offered by Google, giving users
1GB of storage space, email search and conversation threading.
Gmail also uses technology to add advertisements next to messages
containing keywords that match those of advertisers in its
AdWords program, a policy that means promotional materials sent
by one company could carry text ads of its competitors.
An email message sent automatically to a list member who
unsubscribes, acknowledging the request. Always include an option
to resubscribe in case the unsubscribe was requested
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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 also includes any graphic images, logos and colors.
Message sent to an invalid, closed or nonexistent email
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
High Level Domain
The portion of the Domain that is to the right of the last
period, e.g. "com, net, gov". This is useful for email
The list of email addresses an organization develops on its own.
(Your own list.)
The process of cleaning a database to correct incorrect or
outdated values. See also List Hygiene.
Internet Message Access Protocol, a standard protocol
for accessing email from a server.
A single view of one page by a single user, used in
calculating advertising rates.
A unique number assigned to each device connected to the
Internet. An IP address can be dynamic, meaning it changes each
time an email message or campaign goes out, or it can be static,
meaning it does not change. Static IP addresses are best, because
dynamic IP addresses often trigger spam filters.
Internet Service Provider. Examples: AOL, EarthLink, MSN
A spam-industry term for a forged email, in which a spammer
or hacker fakes a genuine email address in order to hide his
A Web page viewed after clicking on a link within an email.
Also may be called a microsite, splash page, bounce page, or
What happens when links go bad over time, either because a
Web site has shut down or a site has stopped supporting a unique
landing page provided in an email promotion.
The list of email addresses to which you send your message. Can
be either your house list or a third-party list that sends your
message on your behalf.
See email vendors.
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.
The organization or individual who has gathered a list of email
addresses. Ownership does not necessarily imply "with
The process in which a publisher or advertiser pays a list
owner to send its messages to that list. Usually involves the
list owner sending the message's on the advertiser's behalf. (If
someone hands over their list to you, beware.)
The actual purchase of a mailing list along with the rights
to mail it directly. Permission can only be "sold" if the
subsequent mailings continue to match the frequency, brand name,
content, and "from" of the past owner's mailings -- and even then
this is a somewhat shaky procedure on the spam-front. You are in
effect buying a publication, and not just a list.
An orchestrated attempt to shut down a mail server by
sending more messages than it can handle in a short period of
time. See DOS.
A list of email addresses that receive mailings or
A communication error between two email servers, usually
happening when a misconfigured email triggers an automated
response from the recipient server.
A code to make an email address in either a text or HTML
email immediately clickable (mailto:JohnDoe@anywhere.com). When
the link is clicked, it usually opens the user's email client and
inserts the email address in the To: link of a blank message.
Mail Transfer Agent. A computer that forwards email from
senders to recipients (or to relay sites) and stores incoming
Mail service provider, such as Hotmail or Gmail.
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.