Email Marketing Jargon – 17 Expressions You Should Know

New to email marketing? Or just a little rusty perhaps? Getting your head around all the industry terms can be quite an intimidating challenge at first, but it’s the first step to getting your ducks in a row and putting it all in context. The practice of email marketing is also constantly evolving with the development of various technologies, so it’s best to stay up to date with all the email marketing jargon out there and keep ahead of the game.  Here is a glossary of some of the most important ones to get you started:

  1. ESP – an Email Service Provider (ESP) is the company that provides you with the tools or services to send out emails to current and prospective clients. ESPs fall in to two main categories: free email providers such as Gmail and Hotmail which is specifically for personal messaging – usually a one on one basis; and paid email providers allow for bulk messaging such as TotalSend.
  2. Database - a database is the collection of data that is built up using specific custom fields. Custom fields define which type of data can be stored in your database. You can create an unlimited number of custom fields such as 'email address', ‘name’, ‘country’, ‘birthdate’ etc. But for email marketing purposes, it is the collection of email addresses stored on an email service provider platform that counts, and is the cornerstone of any email campaign.
  3. HTML – Hyper Text Markup Language is the standard used to build webpages, including the stunning email templates you see today. HTML allows you to specify both layout and style and ensures that your page renders correctly on all browsers and operating systems. HTML is just one of the many document formats of the World Wide Web, including XML, XHTML and HTML 5. The latest standard is HTML 5 which offers the user a richer media experience than its predecessors delivering everything from animation to graphics, music to movies and can also be used to create more complex webpages.
  4. Personalization - this involves adding personal elements to an email, using data you’ve collected in your database about each subscriber - either from information they have provided or according to their actions that have be tracked. Using merge tags, you can use this information held within your database to help give subscribers a more unique experience.
  5. SPAM –  the practice of sending mail to recipients who didn’t sign up for it and is more commonly known as junk mail. The CAN SPAM Act of 2003 establishes requirements for sending commercial mail and gives you, as the recipient, the right to stop receiving this unsolicited mail.
  6. Opens – an open is simply counted when a recipient opens your mail by means of a clear 1×1 Pixel image that gets tracked by your email service provider, when it is downloaded. Opens are either counted as Unique Opens – when a recipient opens your mail; or Total Opens – when recipients open up your mail more than once. You can also calculate the rate at which your emails are opened, as well as the click-to-open rate. These help measure the success of your email campaigns by giving you an indication of the level of interest your subscribers have in your mail. ESPs may count their opens differently so it’s important to be able to know how these metrics are calculated.
  7. Clicks – when a recipient opens a link in an email, a ‘click’ is counted. All of this data is stored on your database, and you’ll be able to see what links were clicked, as well as how popular a particular link was. Clicks are typically measured on ‘Click-through-rate’ which is the total number of clicks (or click-throughs) measured against the total number of messages delivered, which can also give you an indication of the level of engagement your recipients have in a particular issue and how well you converted this engagement into click-throughs.
  8. Deliverability - the process of reaching the recipient’s inbox and not the spam folder. In other words the total number of emails sent minus those that have bounced back. To be considered delivered, there are a number of factors to take in to account, including but not limited to your senders IP address reputation, the quality of your database, the quality of your email content, the frequency of your mail send outs and its relevance.
  9. Bounce – a bounce is an email that has been rejected by the receiving mailing system due to various reasons, but this can be divided into two main groups: hard bounces and soft bounces.  A hard bounce is a permanent bounce and occurs when there is an invalid email address, the domain does not exist or the receiving mailing system recognizes the content as spam. A soft bounce is not a permanent bounce and usually occurs when a recipient’s mail box is full, when a recipient email server is down or if an email file is too large. When an email address has three or more consecutive soft bounces, it is then considered a hard bounce and removed from your active email list.
  10. Blacklist – also known as a DNS based Black-hole List, this is a real time database that uses set criteria to determine whether an IP is sending email that could be considered as spam. If you land up on one of these lists your mail will be blocked from sending to certain mailing systems, however if it possible request to be delisted and some blacklistings are only temporary if dealt with appropriately.
  11. Permission – to create a database you need to ensure that all your recipients opt-in to be a part of your mailing service by clicking on a subscription/ opt-in link. However, double opt-in is ideal, where a recipient receives an email and confirms the subscription to your list. This ensures that no email addresses are misspelled and also confirms that those who type in their email addresses are interested in receiving your mail. Legislation such as POPI ensures email addresses cannot be bought or used without permission.
  12. SPAM trap / honeypot – a trap to lure spam. This is typically old or inactive email addresses published in locations where automated e-mail address harvesters (used by spammers) pick them up without knowing and any mail sent to these addresses are considered to be unsolicited. Spam traps source the IP address of the spammer which then gets blacklisted.
  13. White list - this is a list of accepted or recognized email addresses, domains, and/ or IP address that are considered to be good senders. A sender from this list can then be more confident that their messages have reached it’s recipients without being blocked, or links and images stripped by spam filters.
  14. Subject line – this is the meta description of the email that arrives in your inbox. It usually summarizes the content and encourages the recipient to open the email.
  15. API - Application Programming Interface is a programming tool that will allow various software programs to work together simultaneously in an operating system. So it is simply a way for one program to access another program in order to transmit data.
  16. Opt-out – an unsubscribe link provided in the email that gives the subscriber an option to opt-out of certain lists or from receiving your emails altogether.
  17. Privacy – all ESPs and companies utilizing personal data on email marketing platforms should have a privacy policy that outlines the company’s policy on extracting information from subscribers or website visitors.

This email marketing jargon glossary should give you a good foundation with which to start your email marketing plan. If you're starting out, find out how you can build and maintain a strong database for your business.