Deliverability Best Practices

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1 Deliverability Best Practices Prepared by Deliverability Services December Deliverability Best Practices

2 Table of Contents Summary... 1 Creative Best Practices... 2 Subject Line Creation... 2 Message Content... 4 Message Design... 6 HTML Coding Deliverability Best Practices... 9 Anti-Spam Compliance... 9 List Management Opt-In Volume Pre-Deployment Checklist Spammy Content to Avoid Sample Panelist Template Sample Recruitment Template... 18

3 Summary This document contains a comprehensive overview of Deliverability Best Practices as well as Creative Best Practices. By establishing these best practices, our goal is to empower readers to maximize deliverability to reach their target audience and create simple and easy-toread templates with the intent of reaching desired response rates. 1

4 Creative Best Practices Subject Line Creation The subject line is the first impression of any message and is as important as the itself. It is the main message that you want to convey to your subscriber base. Below are some guidelines on effective subject line creation: KISS - The subject line should be simple and clear. It can be a brief summary of what the user expects to read in the message body. To be safe, keep it at characters. Branding - Including your company name in the subject line may get more people to open your messages. Be legit - Avoid using all capital letters, words with alphanumeric letters, and symbols like $, % and!. Split A/B Testing - You can deploy two messages, both with the same message body but different subject lines to see which subject line yields the highest response rate. Alternatively, you can deploy two messages with the same subject line but different message bodies to see if one message body is more effective than the other. Subject Line Personalization - You can personalize the subject lines based on the user s previous history. For example, did they purchase a product, service, or inquire about something specific? Call to Action - This can be included in the subject line, but be careful not to use all caps or exclamation marks. Don t rush - Subject line creation is often the last step of an campaign and therefore sometimes created without considerable thought or reflection of what is effective. You should put as much effort into your subject line as you do for your message body. The subject is a key element in getting your message opened by readers, so it has to be attractive, catchy, and should be personalized. 2

5 Examples of bad subject lines: ENTER TO WIN OUR SWEEPSTAKES Use points for FREE products!! Hurry for your chance to!!win!! Complete this survey for $2 now!! Want a chance to win big? Fill out a survey today! These include exclamation marks, question marks, all capitals, words such as free and win with aggressive calls to action and thus are not good subject lines. Examples of good subject lines: New invitation to join our surveys Invitation to voice your feedback We would like to hear from you Share your opinion with us 3

6 Message Content The content in the subject line and message body are crucial parts of your , which often dictate your deliverability and response rates. Our key recommendations are listed below: Add to Address Book - Encourage subscribers to add the client s From Address to their Address Book. ISPs generally view the Address Book as a source of significant interest by end users. This labels the client as a legitimate sender of and thus counts favorably towards their Sender Reputation. Below are two examples: Please add us to your Address Book. To stay up-to-date with our surveys, please add us to your Address Book. To ensure that you get our messages, please add us to your Address Book. Top Header - Ensure that the top header image is a reasonable size so that it does not push the message content down. Message Body Personalization - Remember to personalize the message. For example: 'Dear [First Name] or Mr/Ms/Mrs/Dr [Last Name] Reason for Message - Provide a brief explanation about why the user is getting the message. o Example for Panelist campaign: You are receiving this after enrolling in our panel surveys program. Thank you for your continued participation. o Example for a Recruitment campaign: As you have asked us to contact you about new product and service offerings, we are sending you this invitation to join our survey panel. 4

7 Call to Action - The call to action should be strong and clear without being too aggressive. For example: Register Today, Sign Up Now, and Join Today". Length of Survey - Ensure to specify how long the survey will take to finish. Purpose - There should be a clear explanation of what the panel is and what it is used for. For example: Your feedback will provide us with invaluable insight into how we can improve our offerings to customers like you. Bottom Menu - Ensure that there is a link to the Privacy Policy, About Us, and perhaps Survey Rules. Physical Address - Ensure that the client s physical address is shown at the bottom of the as this is a CAN-SPAM requirement. While it is acceptable to use P.O. Boxes, we strongly discourage it because spammers normally use P.O. Boxes. Inverted Pyramid - The most important information should be at the top of the message body and the least important information should be at the bottom. This is referred to as an inverted pyramid model. Links to Surveys There should be two links in the content clickable to the survey. These are: o URL link to the survey (For example: Click here to begin the survey. o Full URL to the survey (For example: o Top header image (optional). Special Characters - Ensure that you do not use special characters, such as! # $ in your message body and especially in your subject line. Also, try to avoid using words with alphanumeric letters, acronyms or all capital letters. 5

8 Message Design A core component of building creative content is to understand how the message will display and how readers will absorb the information in your message. Below are guidelines on optimizing message design: Dimensions - To ensure that messages render properly with most webmail interfaces (Gmail) and clients (Outlook), limit the width of the message to 600 pixels. Above the Fold - The top half of the message (first top 300 pixels) is referred to as "above the fold" and is the most visible area of an . All important and relevant information should be included here. Preview Plane - The upper left hand corner is the most visible section of an within vertical and horizontal preview panes. Ensure that your most important points are located here. Image Size - Check the dimensions of your images so the message layout renders properly with the images turned on or off. Text vs. Images - Most of the message should be in text rather than images. At the very least, we encourage having 60% of your message in text. Importance of Text Segments - Ensure that all of your key information is in text, including the call to action, so that readers can see that information with images turned off. Text vs. HTML Version - Please ensure that there are two versions of your message one as plain text version and one as HTML. Since some clients only read messages in plain text, ensure that your plain text version has the same information as the HTML version. 6

9 HTML Coding The following are easy to follow DOs and DON Ts for HTML coding: DO use full URLs in your hyperlinks if you are storing images on a web server. DO check over all your coding to ensure that the HTML is valid and all tags are closed. Ensure that the is W3C HTML-compliant. DO use <p></p> tags instead of <div></div> tags for alignment and <br><br> tags to separate paragraphs. DO ensure the HTML code doesn t have any extra code. Dreamweaver and other WYSIWYG editors can add extra code which can lead to display issues. DO limit the size of your to 80kb. It should definitely not exceed 100kb. DO use character set of US-ASCII (ISO ). This means use of international characters should be omitted, including the Microsoft Word open/close quotation marks. Normal quotation marks should be used. DO use <alt> tags to describe images (HTML format). The value for this tag can be empty for unimportant images. 7

10 DO minimize the use of tables. Also, cell spacing and cell padding is not supported by many ISPs. DON'T use CSS in the <head> tags. Also, as stated before, any CSS should be limited to font-family and font-size. DON T use <body> tags as they could be stripped out. DON T use META tags. DON T use Flash & other rich media files. The should have links to landing pages with these files. DON T use Java, JavaScript, frames or Dynamic html. DON T use image mapping for a single large image. It is best to break up the image and link the separate images individually. DON T have your text the same color as your background as that would make your text invisible. This is considered spammy behavior by ISPs and will result in your message being blocked. For the same reason, also avoid "color=white" for text, as that is detected as trying to hide text by ISPs antispam filters. 8

11 Deliverability Best Practices Anti-Spam Compliance CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003) This legislation was enacted in 2003 in the United States as a measure of fighting spam. For clients to be compliant, they must satisfy the following three criteria: The subject line should accurately explain the nature of the message. The opt-out link should be visible and functioning. Every should have a physical address at the bottom. Note: The use of P.O. boxes is permitted but strongly discouraged since spammers use P.O. boxes. FISA (Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act) This is the Canadian equivalent of CAN-SPAM. They key relevant differentiator between the two laws is that marketers sending messages to Canadian subscribers must have proof of opt-in. In comparison, CAN-SPAM only requires a functioning opt-out process and does not require proof of opt-in. 9

12 List Management If clients wish to upload lists via the External Sample Import feature in Sparq, please make every effort to ensure their lists are as clean as possible. Prior to import, please take the following steps: Remove users who bounced back as invalid addresses. Remove users who have not shown any opens or clicks within six months. Taking these steps will help maximize the client s list quality, which thereby will help achieve high deliverability rates, and thus may help achieve start rate targets. 10

13 Opt-In The opt-in page is one of the easiest ways to ensure that your lists are as clean as possible. This page is usually limited to just a single address field, which is often the cause of many list hygiene issues. Below are simple steps that will allow you to strengthen your opt-in process, thereby keeping a clean list, which will protect your Sender Reputation. Create a second address field and lock the field from copy & paste so that users are forced to type in their address a second time. Implement a validation code that will compare the text in the first address field with the text in the second address field. If the two addresses do not match, then the following two things will happen: o the user will be shown an error message o the user will be prevented from progressing further through the opt-in or PQ process These steps can help ensure that clients have good list hygiene, which will contribute favorably towards their Sender Reputation. 11

14 Volume If you are planning to send over 25,000 messages per day, please contact Technical Support (by clicking the blue question mark within Sparq and selecting Contact Support ) with responses to the following questions in your ticket: What is the size of study (# of questions)? What is the estimated average time to complete the study? How many visual questions are there? How many quotas and conditions are there? Will there be complex scripting description? What is the expected response rate? This information will allow the Technical Support team to structure deployment campaigns without putting pressure on our infrastructure. If you are planning to send less than 20k/daily and are expecting response rates of up to 30%, then we suggest splitting up your deployment in half and deploying four hours apart. 12

15 Pre-Deployment Checklist Below is a simple checklist for testing your message before your actual deployment: Mailbox Does your From Display show correctly? (Example: Angus Reid Forum ) Is your From Domain correct? (Example: ) Does your subject line accurately reflect the nature of the message? Does your message render properly with images off and on? Have you tested your message with several ISPs, such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL and also checked to see how it displays in Outlook? Message Body Do you have a short line at the top of the message asking users to add your From Address to their Address Book? Is your top header image a reasonable size? Please be sure that it does not push down the message content too far. Is your message personalized? (Example: Dear Joe ) Are you reminding users why they are getting your message? Did you state what the survey is for and how long it might take to finish? Is your incentive clear and strong? Are you bolding only the most important part of your message the incentive? 13

16 Are all your survey links working properly? Are all your other links working properly? Ensure that there are no exclamation marks, excessive bolding, all capital letters, and words with alphanumeric letters, especially in the subject line. Did you avoid using any scripting, such as Java, JavaScript, frames, or Dynamic html? Bottom of message Do you have a physical address at the bottom? Do you have a link to the Privacy Policy, Abuse Us, and related topics? 14

17 Spammy Content to Avoid This section of the document contains some symbols, keywords, and phrases that should not be in subject lines or the message body. Although some messages may get delivered with some of this content, it is strongly recommended to proactively remove any spammy content to ensure strong delivery rates. Symbols: Exclamation marks! Question marks? Percentage signs % Dollar signs $ Keywords & Phrases: The list below is not definitive as new words are added frequently to anti-spam filters. These are some just common keywords and phrases that clients should try to avoid. 100% free Act now! Don't hesitate! bulk casino click here to be removed click to win control credit card Credit card offers do not respond to For free For instant access free free gift free offer Guarantee Offer expires Offers coupon Opt in Risk free win win now Winner You have been selected you have won you won 15

18 Sample Panelist Template 1 Please add us to your Address Book to ensure you get our messages. 2 Header Image Dear John Doe, You are receiving this after enrolling in our panel surveys program. Thank you for your continued participation. We have a new survey for you, which will take five minutes to complete. You will receive 100 reward points for your feedback. Please click below to begin the survey. Click here to start the survey. If you are unable to click on the link above, please copy and paste the full URL below into your browser: Thank you, Client Name Beatty Street, Suite 700, Vancouver, BC V6B 1C1 About Us Privacy Policy Survey Rules 7 To unsubscribe click here 16

19 Analysis: Add to Address Book Ask subscriber to add the client s From Address to their Address Book. Header Image Reasonably sized and clickable to start the survey. Personalization Subscriber addressed by name. Subscription reminder Explain why the subscriber is receiving this message. There are a few things in this paragraph: o User is invited to take a new survey. o Length of survey is stated Five minutes to complete survey. o Incentive is provided (optionally in bold) 100 reward points. o Instructions on how to begin the survey Please click below to begin the survey link. As we can see, there is lot of information provided in this two-line paragraph in a clear and concise manner. At this point, the subscriber doesn t have to read the further as they are already empowered with enough information to take one of the following actions: take the survey delete the message unsubscribe mark the message as junk/spam 6 7 Physical address at the bottom This is necessary to be CAN-SPAM compliant. About Us / Privacy Policy / Survey Rules This is an optional section for the subscriber to gather more information about the client and their offerings. 17

20 Sample Recruitment Template 1 Please add us to your Address Book to ensure you get our messages. 2 Header Image Dear John Doe, As you have asked us to contact you about new product and service offerings, we are sending you this invitation to join our survey panel. When you participate in our surveys, we will provide you with rewards that you can use as discounts on your future purchases. To begin, please take five minutes to fill out our initial profile questionnaire: Click here to start the profile questionnaire. If you are unable to click on the link above, please copy and paste the full URL below into your browser: 6 The profiling information that you provide to us will stay confidential in accordance with our Privacy Policy. Your feedback will provide us with invaluable insight into how we can improve our offerings to customers like you. Thank you, Client Name Beatty Street, Suite 700, Vancouver, BC V6B 1C1 About Us Privacy Policy Survey Rules 8 To unsubscribe click here 18

21 Analysis: Add to Address Book Ask subscriber to add the client s From Address to their Address Book. Header Image Reasonably sized and clickable to start the PQ. Personalization Subscriber addressed by name. Intention Explain why the subscriber is receiving this message and invite them to join the panel. There are a few things in this paragraph: o Incentive is provided (optionally in bold) Reward that can be used as discounts for future purchases. o PQ Explain that the subscriber has to go through a PQ process. o Length of PQ is stated Five minutes to complete PQ. o Instructions on how to begin the PQ Click here to start the profiling questionnaire link. Similar to the Sample Panelist Template, information is provided in a clear and concise manner within a few short lines that empowers the subscriber to take the following actions without having to read the rest of the message: go through the PQ process delete the message unsubscribe mark the message as junk/spam 6 Privacy This short (optional) paragraph ensures the subscriber that the information they provide will stay confidential. 19

22 7 8 Physical address at the bottom This is necessary to stay CAN-SPAM compliant. About Us / Privacy Policy / Survey Rules This is an optional section for the subscriber to gather more information about the client and their offerings. 20

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