Working with Bulk Email
To start, click Marketing in the blue Admin Toolbar and in the drop-menu, click on the Email button.
The Email Module is your hub for all of your bulk mailing activity. Whether you’re sending out your latest newsletter or getting a new online promotion to your client list, the Email Module is where you’ll go to actually send out your messages. This module doesn't work like traditional email: you won't have an Inbox. It is for mailing out to large numbers of people in a way that is safe.
Once you open the Email Module, you will see a list of all Sent Messages you have mailed from the system. They are listed chronologically and if there are any you need to remove, each message's Title Bar has a Delete button on the far right. Note: As with all deletions in the system, be sure that you look at the message you are deleting to make sure it's something you really want to delete. Clicking on a message will show you the statistics for its delivery (see below). It's best to give the system time to complete sending, so checking after four to six hours to give your recipients time to check their email and open it would be best.
Compose and Send an Email Marketing Message
Click the New Email Message button to start composing your message. Here are the steps to compose and send an Email Marketing message from the Rain system:
- Enter the title of the message in the Subject field exactly the way you will want it to appear to your readers. A Subject is required in order to send out your message.
- In the Body area, you have the opportunity to add rich content using our Content Editor. You can add images, links, tables, and you can embed special content with html code, if you like, such as YouTube video. Compose your message here.
- If you wish to add the message to your Newsletter Archive, put a check in the box. You can use the Newsletter Archive module to list your newsletters on your website, if you like.
- Be sure to select the E-mail List(s) to send to. A mailing list selection is also required in order to send out your message.
- You can click the Filtered List button and send your message to any saved Filtered List from the Filters module. Click here to learn how to work with the Filters module.
- You can enter your e-mail address and click on the Send Test Email button to see if the message will go through spam filters. Please see the note below about how to correctly format your content to avoid being blocked by email providers that have very strong message filtering. If your message has not come through within ten minutes, most likely you need to decrease the amount of image content and increase the amount of text content.
- When your message is ready, it's a good idea to click the Save Template button if you are sending a newsletter or similar mailout that will follow the same format. Save Template makes a permanent save of the message. You can access any of your saved templates on the Templates tab.
- If you need to work on your message some more, but don't have time, click Save Draft. Drafts are saved under the Drafts tab until you send them out, so they are not permanently saved like your Templates.
- When you’re ready to send the message, click the Send button.
How do I attach files?
This system is not like a traditional email service, such as Gmail or Yahoo mail, and because it is a mass-mailing platform, you cannot attach files to your messages in the traditional way. If that was possible, every message with an attachment would be 100% blocked, for fear of the risk of viruses and malware.
But there IS a way you can get your files to your subscribers. You can create links within your message that your recipients can click on to download whatever files you need to send. To learn how to create links, click here.
How to Format Your Message to be Spam-Safe
When composing a message to send out, it is important to understand how the spam and junk-mail filters ‘critique’ an e-mail to determine if it is safe or if it is spam. Even more important than the filters; how will your readers perceive your email? Most people who click on a message to flag it as a Spam message do so only by looking at the Subject line, so make sure your Subject line and the Body of your message follows the rules below. The filters will see if you have an image in the body and that by itself is not a good thing, as far as your spam-score is concerned.
Why is that bad? Spammers and web-scammers use images in the body of their message, and sometimes that's all there is in the message, because the spam filters can't read text in an image (at least not yet). In the example below, most of the message is a single image. So how can you include images and still have a spam-safe message?
Text-heavy e-mails (200 words or more) will be just fine with images in them, but if your word count is below 200 words and your message has images, the spam filters will give your message a higher spam score. If your message is all text or if you just have a single small image and a paragraph of text or if you have 200 words or more in your message you will not need to send yourself a Test E-mail at all. If you think your ratio of image content to text content is in question, send the test e-mail to be sure.
Here is a list of elements that can flag your messages as spam:
- Images: Images in the body with less than 200 words of text. Avoid huge images, and downsize the memory size / quality of any images as low as possible so your images will load quickly.
- Punctuation: Punctuation in your Subject line (colons, semicolons, hyphens, commas, and periods should be fine; watch out for exclamation points, asterisks, etc.). Throughout your message, you also want to avoid using multiple exclamation points in a row, but especially in the Subject line.
- Capitalization: Don't use ALL CAPS in your message, especially not in the Subject line.
- Grammar & Spelling: Check your grammar and spelling. Scammers are often not native English speakers, and one hallmark of a scam message is poor grammar and spelling. It is worth your time to have someone proofread your message and make sure it looks and reads as a professional message should.
- Text Color: Don't overuse colored text, especially in red. And NEVER make 'invisible' text just to get keywords into your message. The spam filters will aggressively filter you out if you do so.
- Links: If your message contains any broken links, it will be flagged as spam, so check every link you include!
- Word Frequency: You will also want to avoid overusing key words, such as Free, Sale, New, etc. There are no hard and fast rules on how many is too many to have in your message, just use discretion. Three to five of any one word, depending on the length of your message, is a good benchmark to follow.
- Word Choice: Sassy, sexy, or foul language might seem like a good marketing angle, but spam filters won't think so. Be especially careful of what words you put in your Subject line. For example, one of our quilting clients worked with fabric strips and named her special club a 'Strip Club.' When that showed up in a Subject line, it was universally blocked, even though the intention was harmless.
- Special Code: Do not use script code for special functions and do not embed files (such as PDFs) into the message itself. If you need to provide your subscribers a file, upload it to Website > Files > Documents and create a link to it. In bulk emailing systems, you cannot add attached files. The only files allowed are images, and as mentioned above, you should use those with care.
- List Quality: Avoid using bad email lists. It's best if you are just mailing out to your own customers, and that each of them have verbally opted into your list (or signed up with you through your website). Don't purchase cheap or 'iffy' email lists, and don't pull email addresses from sources online. Just sending to unconfirmed emails can rack up a whole bunch of 'Hey, this is spam!' clicks, and every one of those counts against you.
Things You Can Do to Improve Email Marketing Delivery Rates
The Rain system will also work hard on your behalf to help as much as it can in getting your messages through. One thing it will do for you automatically is clean out email addresses that are invalid, so if an email address fails three times in a row, the system will clear it from your list. It's a good idea to do some email list maintenance of your own from time to time and trim email addresses from your list for people you know aren't active readers.
Another thing our system does for you is make sure that every message you send out has an unsubscribe link at the bottom, along with your physical address. Email messages sent in bulk that don't have these things are automatically blocked out as spam.
One thing you can do to improve the quality of your mailing list is periodically include requests for your subscribers to add you to their Address Book in their email service. This will make you a safe sender and bypass the spam filters for you.
One more thing you can do for your messages is to make your images more legitimate by including Alternative Text for each one. Alternative Text is used by search engines and spam filters to identify what an image is about, and is designed to display on the screen whenever image download speeds are very slow, so the viewer will know what the image will portray.
Here is how you can add Alternative Text to an image you want to use in your message:
- Once you have added the image to your message, click it to highlight it and then Edit the image by either right-clicking it and clicking on Insert / Edit Image in the menu that pops up, or click the Insert / Edit Image button at the top of the Content Editor.
- In the Insert/Edit Image window, find the Alternative Text field and type in a simple heading or brief description of the image. Be careful to only describe what the image is about, do not put in keywords that don't have to do with the image!
- Click OK, and you're done.
It's also a good idea to see how you're doing as a sender. You can check your domain name at sites such as BlackListAlert.org or DNSStuff.com to see if you have become blacklisted as a sender. If that happens, there are ways to remove yourself from many lists. Click here to find out more about how to un-blacklist your domain.
Email Marketing Settings
You will need to set up your Email Marketing module to work the way you prefer. You can get to this area by going to the gear-shaped Admin button on the far right side of the blue Admin Toolbar and going to Settings > Website Settings > Email.
Here are the settings you will need to configure:
- 'From' Email Address - If you read the warning pictured below, you can see that your 'From' Email Address can't be facilitated by one of the big free email providers such as Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, etc. The reason you can't use one of those providers is that bulk email coming from a free account like that is exactly how online scammers operate, and your messages will be blocked by most all email providers if you did this.
- Physical Email Marketing Address - The CAN-SPAM laws (yeah, not a joke; that's a real, official thing) require that every bulk email message has to have a physical address for the sender listed in the message, along with an unsubscribe link. So the address you enter into this field needs to be a street address and cannot be a PO box.
- Welcome Email Subject - Your Welcome Email is the auto-response email the system will send out every time someone fills out your Newsletter Signup form (see section below on the Newsletter Signup Module). The Welcome Email Subject is the first thing they will see from you, so make sure you word the statement to be a truly warm welcome.
- Welcome Email Message Body - This area is where you have the ability to give your new subscriber some kind of reward for joining up with you. This can take the form of a coupon code you create so they can get a discount on a web order (to learn more about working with Coupons, click here), or it can be a link to some kind of download, like the example below (click here to learn how to link to a file). Your message should let the subscriber know how often they can expect to receive mail from you, and a rough idea of the kind of content you'll be sending.
NOTE: If you will be using a third-party bulk email service such as Constant Contact or MailChimp, you will not need to set up your Welcome Email Message, but you WILL need your 'From' email address and Physical Address entered here since the system will send notifications and other email messages for you. See the section below on how to embed your third-party sign up form on a page in the Rain system.
Building Your Mailing List: The Newsletter Signup Module
You will add this module to a page on your website to give your visitors a way to join your mailing list. After logging into the system, click on the large Website graphic, or just click on the Laptop icon in the upper left of the blue Admin Toolbar.
You can take advantage of the traffic that visits your website by offering incentives to sign up, and the Rain system will help you deliver. If you want to add a Newsletter Signup Module to your site, please follow these steps:
- Click on the Laptop icon in the upper left of our blue Admin Toolbar to go to the Edit view of your website Home page. If needed, click to go to whatever page you want to add the Newsletter Signup.
- Once you're on the page where you want to add the Signup, in the upper left, find the gray triangle with the blue + button and move your mouse over it to open the drop-list.
- Most likely, you will want the signup form to be in the main area of the page, so click Add Body Content.
- Scroll down the list of available modules until you see the Newsletter Signup module and click the Add button.
- You will want to change the text to some kind of call to action, ideally with a reward for joining the list. A statement such as, "Join today and get your 20% off coupon for our online store!" is a great way to actually get people to click and join. See how to deliver your freebie above in the Email Marketing Settings section.
- You have the option of requesting First and Last Name in the form, but proceed with care. Statistics consistently show that the more information you require, the fewer people will take the time to fill out your form.
- Be sure to check the box for the Email List to which you want the form to add subscribers.
- Click Save and your form will be at the bottom of the page. You can use the Up arrow on the Module Toolbar to move the module further up the page, if you need.
How to Embed a Third-Party Mailing List Signup Form
If you use a service provider such as Constant Contact or MailChimp, you can directly embed their signup form on your website so your visitors can sign up and their information will go into that account for you. Here are the steps you need to take to embed your form:
- Get Your Signup Form Embed Code - This will vary by provider, but usually you can find your signup form in the Contacts area of the service. Here are some vendor-specific instructions on how to get your embed code (if you don't see your provider, do a Google search for 'How do I get the embed code for my XYZ-Mailing Service signup form?'): Constant Contact, iContact, MailChimp.
- Go to Your Signup Page - Click the Laptop icon in the upper left of the blue Admin Toolbar for the Rain system to go to the Edit view of your website. Go to the page where you want to put your signup form.
- Add a Content Module - Hover your mouse over the gray triangle with the blue + in the far upper left corner of the web page window, and in the droplist that pops up, click on Add Body Content. For the Content module at the top of the list, click the Add button.
- Paste in the Source Code - In the controls at the top of the Content Editor, click the Source Code button and paste what you copied into the window that pops up, then click OK.
- Save and Test - Your signup form may not appear as it should at first, but after you Save the module it should appear as you configured it. Enter an email address and test the form by clicking to Submit, and then go to your bulk email service provider and verify that the email address is now on the proper mailing list.