ISPs

Gmail Introduces The Priority Inbox

By Justin Premick

On this blog and others, traditional “batch-and-blast” (PS don’t ever use that word unless you’re mocking it) email marketers have been hearing for a while now that relevance plays an important role in your email deliverability.

As far back as 2007, we noted that “spam” was about email subscribers don’t want or value. Not just email that they didn’t request (although that’s still spam, too).

As I noted in that post, “If you’re not providing value to subscribers, their actions with your messages will reflect that. ISPs track what’s done with your messages, and can choose to filter you out if they find you’re not ‘what the consumer wants.'”

This week, Gmail announced a new feature that makes this a reality.

Introducing The Priority Inbox

To manage our overflowing inboxes, a lot of people already sort email into groups of emails to read and respond to now, later or never. (Your own groups’ names may vary, or you may not even have a specific system like that… but I’d bet you read emails from certain people more often and/or more quickly.)

Gmail’s Priority Inbox attempts to simplify and automate this process for email users by figuring out which senders’ emails are important, based on how (or whether) you interact with those emails and senders.

Here’s how they explain it:

Priority Inbox is a beta feature that will be rolling out to users soon (I haven’t gotten it yet, but am eager to get my hands on it and see it in action).

What Are People Saying About It?

Here are a few of the articles I’ve read about it:

I especially recommend you read the last one of those.

“So Do My Marketing Emails All Go Into The “Everything Else” Pile Now?”

Not necessarily, but consider the examples in the Gmail video… note whose email is getting prioritized (email from contacts, friends, people you email back and forth with regularly) and whose is not (the “Special Offer” email).

It’s early to make predictions about what all of this means – or if it will even stick around as a feature. You never know, Gmail users might end up not liking it (although I tend to doubt that’ll be the case).

That said, it’s clear that whatever the future of the Priority Inbox holds, ISPs are continuing to move toward creating systems that reward email that people want at the expense of email people don’t want. (Gmail isn’t the first to try this – the same sort of thing is happening at Yahoo! and Windows Live Hotmail.)

What this should tell you is that you need to take a long, hard look at whether your emails are something your subscribers really want. Because if they aren’t, you’re going to find it harder over time to continue getting them opened and clicked.

It’s Not All Gloom And Doom

In fact, this is excellent news if you’re creating and delivering email marketing campaigns that people want.

So the question is, how do you create emails people actually want?

Engage your subscribers in conversation via your emails. Invite feedback. Ask them questions. Increase the value that you deliver in your emails.

Start identifying groups of subscribers within your list who have similar interests. Start segmenting your list and creating more relevant emails.

Here’s a list of posts we’ve written on email segmentation. (If it seems like we talk a lot about segmentation on this blog, well… this is why.)

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List-Unsubscribe Header Makes Unsubscribing Easier and More Trustworthy

By Justin Premick

Some people don’t trust unsubscribe links, even from legitimate email senders.

Others don’t want to be bothered locating the unsubscribe link in your email.

In both cases, recipients may click the “spam” button in order to unsubscribe – raising your spam complaint rates and possibly reducing deliverability.

Wouldn’t it be nice if ISPs made unsubscribing easier and more trustworthy for users (at the same time reducing your complaint rate)?

One major ISP is already doing so.

List-Unsubscribe Header Allows ISPs to Add an Unsubscribe Button or Link

By adding a “list-unsubscribe” header to your outgoing email marketing campaigns, you enable ISPs to add an unsubscribe link or button into their user interface.

That way, readers who want to unsubscribe, but who don’t want to be bothered with locating the unsubscribe link in your email, can do so without clicking the “Spam” button in their email clients.

How Hotmail Uses the List-Unsubscribe Header

Windows Live Hotmail (for simplicity’s sake, I’m shortening it to “Hotmail”) is the first major ISP to implement support for the List-Unsubscribe header.

Here’s what happens.

When a Hotmail subscriber first gets a message from you (like this welcome message from our Test Drive), since s/he hasn’t added you to the Safe Senders list yet, images and links are disabled.

The top of your email looks like this in Hotmail:

What Hotmail Does When You're Not on the Safe Senders List
(Click the image above to see what the full email looks like.)

When someone clicks the “mark as safe” link, images are turned on and the top of the email changes to include an unsubscribe link:

Hotmail Message with List-Unsubscribe Header

If someone clicks the unsubscribe link, they see an alert box:

Confirm Unsubscribe

When they click “OK” they’re taken to the unsubscribe page:

Unsubscribe Page

What Do I Need To Do To Use The List-Unsubscribe Header In My Emails?

If you’re an AWeber user, nothing at all – we automatically add this header to your campaigns.

We’ll keep you updated on any other major ISPs adopting the list-unsubscribe header (if you haven’t already done so, follow this blog by email or RSS and be the first to know!).

Improve Your HTML Email for Gmail Subscribers

By Marc Kline

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