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A/B Split Test

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A type of test that compares two versions of an email, subject line, offer, etc. to see which performs better. The limited scope allows for testing very specific things. The winner is usually sent to a holdout group.

Accessibility

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A collection of techniques—from copy to design and code—that aim to make emails understandable and usable for as many people as possible, regardless of their individual abilities.

Alternative Text

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The text included via the alt attribute on an HTML image tag that describes the content or purpose of that image, especially useful for accessibility purposes and to combat image blocking.

AMP

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A markup and lightweight programming language for building highly interactive and dynamic emails, largely controlled by Google. Not supported everywhere.

AMPscript

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The proprietary scripting language of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, which allows developers to include dynamic content, conditional logic, and more in the markup of their email, which is processed at send time by Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

Analytics

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A collection of tools, data, and disciplines that aims to track performance of emails and make sense of patterns in order to improve the performance of email marketing programs.

Animated GIF

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An image that takes advantage of the GIF's animation capabilities. Allows for motion in an email and can lead to increased engagement. Can also be overused and lead to bloated image sizes. Pronounced GHIF, like GIFT.

API

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Acronym for Application Programming Interface, which is a programming tool for accessing data from one application and pulling it into another. Commonly used for getting data into and out of ESPs and data warehouses.

Approval

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The go ahead, usually from a specific stakeholder, to send an email campaign. Can be tricky to get, depending on how many people you need to loop in and the tools and workflows in place to gather approvals.

Attachment

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A file that is sent along with an email. Fine for personal emails, but should be avoided in most marketing campaigns for security purposes. Frequently abused by spammers and malicious actors who send viruses via attachments.

Attribution

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The process of determining which marketing efforts lead to actual conversions and sales. It's good when email marketers can attribute success back to the email channel.

Authentication

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An umbrella term for different protocols (like DKIM, DMARC, SPF, and BIMI) for making sure the sender of an email can be verified and trusted. Important for ensuring deliverability of your email campaigns.

Autoresponder

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An email that is sent automatically in response to receiving an email. Imagine those “out of office” emails you get. Those. Can sometimes refer to triggered email campaigns of any kind, but that’s becoming outdated. Usually used for personal or business email addresses to convey that the recipient is away from their email or no longer uses an address.

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BIMI

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Acronym for Brand Indicators for Marketing Identification. A newish protocol that helps authenticate trusted senders. Primary advantage is allowing marketers to dictate what logo is displayed in the inbox when supported.

Blast

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An outdated term for a bulk or mass email send. Don’t use it, as its indicative of a lack of respect for subscribers and the email marketing profession.

Blocklist

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The more inclusive term for a blacklist, or a list of senders that have run afoul of spam filters. Typically flagging senders by IP address, preventing messages from being delivered to recipients. Bad to be on.

Bounce (Hard)

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An email that failed to deliver permanently, usually because the email address no longer exists. High bounce rates can be dangerous for deliverability.

Bounce Rate

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The ratio of bounced emails to delivered emails. The lower the better.

Bounce (Soft)

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An email that failed to deliver temporarily for a variety of reasons, including full inboxes, messages being too large, a server is temporarily offline, etc. High bounce rates can be dangerous for deliverability.

Bulk Mail

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Email that is sent out to a large, unsegmented list of recipients. This can be used for good or bad. Newsletters are typically good bulk mail sends.

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Call-To-Action (CTA)

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The main action you want a subscriber to take. Usually a button. Best to make it descriptive of the action or intended result instead of something like “Learn More.”

CAN-SPAM

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The foundational piece of legislation that determines specific rules for email marketing messages vs. spam. Fairly toothless, but good guidance to follow.

CASL

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Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation, which dictates how email marketers can interact with Canadian recipients. Primarily related to gaining, recording, and maintaining consent from subscribers.

Click Rate (CR)

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The percentage of people who click on a link within an email out of all email recipients.

Click To Open Rate (CTOR)

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The percentage of people that opened an email and clicked a link.

Complaint

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Someone complaining that your emails are spam, usually via hitting the "spam" or "junk" button in an email client. Too many will impact your sender reputation and decrease deliverability.

Consent

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The permission given by a subscriber for you to send relevant email messages. Needs to be collected, maintained, and honored to be compliant. Can be revoked by the subscriber.

Conversion Rate (CR)

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The percentage of users who take the intended action of an email campaign, whether that's clicking a specific link, purchasing, replying, etc. The higher the better.

Cost Per Mile (CPM)

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The cost of sending a thousand emails, usually used by ESPs to calculate pricing. Is related to cost of 1000 impressions in other marketing and advertising channels.

CSS

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Acronym for Cascading Style Sheets, the language used to style HTML email campaigns, as well as enable certain types of animation or interactivity. Varying support across email clients leads to email’s inconsistency and rendering differences.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

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How much it costs to acquire a new customer. The lower the better.

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Dark Mode

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A color scheme that can be forced on emails by users or enabled in some email clients via CSS. A user preference that can sometimes help with accessibility.

Dedicated IP

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An IP address or server that only you use to send email. Can prevent deliverability issues for higher volume senders since other senders won't affect them through poor sender reputations.

Dedicated Server

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See Dedicated IP.

Deliverability

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The umbrella term for tactics for getting emails delivered to subscribers. Depends on everything from content, frequency, authentication, and subscriber interactions.

Delivery Rate (DR)

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The ratio of emails that are delivered to not delivered (typically through bounced emails).

Design System

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A systematic approach to designing and building emails, that usually consists of modular components, code, rules, and documentation to enable faster, more consistent email production.

DKIM

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One of the major authentication protocols in use. Stands for DomainKeys Identified Mail. Essentially a digital signature that helps verify a sender.

DMARC

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One of the major authentication protocols in use. Stands for Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance. Essentially another digital signature that helps verify a sender and monitor domain protections.

Double Opt-In

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A method of confirming consent from subscribers that requires them to take an action after the initial signup to confirm their subscription. This usually takes the form of clicking a link in an email.

Dynamic Content

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Content that is dynamically pulled into an email in order to create a more personalized experience. Can be driven through code at send time or after a send via URL manipulation, content injection, or images.

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Email Alias

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An alternate email address that feeds into a single inbox. Often used by consumers to filter messages from different senders or for different purposes. Many email services allow users to create an alias with a "+" sign e.g. email+alias@example.com is an alias for email@example.com

Email Appending

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The process of taking customer data to match email addresses against another known list. Often a shady practice that subverts the formal consent process.

Email Client

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The software used to receive and read emails. Think Gmail, Apple Mail, Yahoo! Mail, etc. These vary in features, usage, and support for HTML and CSS.

Email Geek

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The type of person who gets really excited about email marketing, design, and development, understands its power to drive businesses and grow communities, and respects subscribers above all else.

Email Marketing

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What it's all about. The art and science of using email campaigns to connect people, build communities, and drive business. It's hard, y'all.

Email Service Provider (ESP)

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The software used to send marketing and transactional email campaigns. Think Campaign Monitor, Mailchimp, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, etc. They handle a lot of the deliverability considerations so you don’t have to. Most have advanced features like email builders, analytics, segmentation tools, and automation builders built in.

Emoji

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🤣 You know what these are. The fun, miniature graphics used to communicate beyond mere words. Useful in subject lines and copy but can be easily overused.

Engagement

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The measure of how well your subscribers interact with your email campaigns. Can be measured in lots of ways. The higher the better.

Envelope

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The “outside” of your email, what’s seen in the inbox before an email is opened. This typically consists of the sender name, subject line, and preview text. Some email clients include a logo, too.

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Forward

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When an email is sent from one recipient to another. Usually signals good engagement. Can be done manually on the subscriber's part or automated via a link in the email or an online tool. Usually breaks the formatting of the email.

Funnel

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A system designed to bring in leads and convert people into customers. Comes with its own acronyms like TOFU (Top Of Funnel) and BOFU (Bottom Of Funnel). Usually has multiple levels that start with wide appeal at the top to attract lots of leads and gets narrower and more specific in messaging towards the bottom.

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GDPR

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An important piece of legislation designed to protect EU citizens. Stands for General Data Protection Regulation and has a big impact on data collection and consent requirements for email marketers. Responsible for all those annoying banners on websites.

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Honey Pot

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An email address intentionally used to identify spammers. Typically added to high volume lists that are rented or sold to help prevent abuse. Stay away from them.

HTML

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The markup language that powers most email marketing campaigns. Should use semantic markup and considerations to keep content accessible to people using assistive technology, like screen readers.

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Image Blocking

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The act of disabling or not downloading images in an email for security purposes. Important to consider from a design and accessibility standpoint. Why it’s important to include alternative text on images.

Inclusion

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The practice of creating emails, content, and experiences that welcome and accommodate people that have historically been excluded, typically because of their race, gender, sexuality, abilities, etc. Goes hand-in-hand with accessibility and should be a major consideration for every email effort.

Integration

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When two or more tools work together, typically through an API, plugin, or connective tool like Zapier. Useful for getting systems to talk to one another.

Interactive Email

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An email in which a subscriber can take an action within the email that will then change the layout or content that same email. Usually works using various CSS hacks.

Internet Service Provider

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The companies running the world's internet pipes. The paths to people's inboxes, can sometimes impact deliverability and many subscribers use ISP-built email clients.

IP Warming

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The process by which a new IP address or sending server is "warmed up" by slowly sending to increasingly larger audiences while monitoring email deliverability.

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Jason Rodriguez

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Guy who built this glossary 😉

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Kinetic Email

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Another term for Interactive Email, coined by Justin Khoo on the FreshInbox blog.

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List Broker

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People peddling lists for sale or rent. Don't buy them.

List Churn

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The amount of users, usually expressed as a percentage, of subscribers who opt out of—or churn—from your list. The lower the rate of churn, the better.

List Fatigue

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A side effect of poor list management, irrelevant content, too many emails, and unengaged subscribers. All should be avoided to keep lists healthy and engaged.

List Hygiene

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The act of keeping your subscriber lists clean by honoring unsubscribes, removing frequently bounced addresses, and periodically running reengagement campaigns for disinterested subscribers and removing them after longer bouts of inactivity.

List

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A collection of people who have opted into receiving your emails.

Localization

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The process of translating and adapting content for specific geographic or cultural regions, especially by paying attention to local customs and language in order to be more inclusive.

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Marketing Automation Platform (MAP)

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A fancier term for the software you use to set up, automate, and send marketing campaigns.

Marketing Automation

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A term for the tools and processes by which marketing messages are automated to recipients, usually based on some action taken by that recipient in a product, on a landing page, etc.

MarTech

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The broad term for the technology, tools, and platforms that power marketing programs. Encompasses everything from planning tools to campaign creation tools, tracking and analytics tools, and everything in between.

Metrics

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The various data points used to asses the performance of email marketing campaigns. The output of analytics tools. Common metrics include Open Rate, Click To Open Rate, Deliverability Rate, etc.

MIME Type

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Part of the underlying email protocol that tells email clients what kind of email is being sent. The two most common in marketing are "text/plain" and "text/html" although others exist for very limited purposes.

Multivariate Test

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A type of testing which compares different variables between campaigns in order to determine which variables work the best. Works well for broader tests on content, as opposed to the more focused A/B Split Test.

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Nurture

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The act of grooming prospects into customers or users into more engaged users.

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Omnichannel

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An approach to marketing that attempts to create a seamless, engaging experience across different marketing channels like email, SMS, social, TV, etc. Email marketers are increasingly being called on to better integrate email with other channels.

Onboarding

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The process of welcoming and ramping up new subscribers or users to a service by introducing them to benefits, features, etc. Usually accomplished by a timed series of emails, often combined with in-app messages and outreach from customer support or success teams.

Open Rate (OR)

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The percentage of recipients who open an email. Useful in determining the overall health of an email send, but less useful than things like CTOR for determining subscriber engagement.

Opt-Out

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When a subscriber decides not to receive emails anymore. Typically happens with an “unsubscribe” link in an email or via a preference center. Needs to be honored.

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Personalization

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The process of making emails more relevant for subscribers by customizing the content, design, or offer based on past subscriber behavior or preferences.

Plain Text

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A simple email message sent that doesn’t include HTML or CSS. As such, opens and links cannot be tracked. Can be useful as personal outreach from a brand. Can be easily overused.

Preference Center

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An increasingly necessary place for subscribers to control which email communications they receive, allowing them to subscribe or unsubscribe from granular lists or all emails from a brand.

Preview Text

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Part of the email envelope. Copy that is pulled in from the body of an email and displayed in the inbox, typically underneath the subject line. Can be controlled via HTML.

Promotions Tab

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A designated section in Gmail that automatically pulls in promotional and marketing emails to make them easier for users to find. Often feared by email marketers, but where most marketing messages should actually end up.

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QA

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Acronym for Quality Assurance. The process by which emails are tested and deemed ready to send to subscribers. Typical checks include copy, links, accessibility, rendering, audience segmentation, and timing of email sends.

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Reengagement

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A campaign specifically sent to reactivate inactive subscribers, typically after long periods of disinterest or no email messages going out. Important for helping to keep your lists clean.

Rendering

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How an email displays in an email client. Rendering can vary widely based on the level of support for HTML and CSS in each email client.

Reputation

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How favorably email client providers and deliverability monitors view your overall email marketing program. A good sender reputation means your emails will be delivered without many problems. Depends on many things like proper authentication, deliverability rates, spam complaints, engagement, and more. Taylor Swift's worst album.

Responsive Email

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An email that adapts to different screen sizes, through the help of specific HTML and CSS coding techniques. Content can be choreographed and optimized for different devices.

Retention

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The practice of marketing to existing customers and fulfilling their needs in order to prevent churn. Usually less expensive than acquiring new customers, but both are vital for successful businesses.

Revenue Per Email Sent (RPE)

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A metric that describes the amount of money generated per email. The higher the better.

Recency, Frequency, Monetary (RFM)

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Acronym for Recency, Frequency, Monetary. A model for analyzing the value of customers based on the recency of their last purchase, how frequently they purchase, and how much money they spend. Good for identifying your best customers.

Return On Investment (ROI)

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Stands for Return On Investment. An important metric that shows how effective your email marketing is compared to the expense of running an email marketing program. Can be difficult to measure accurately.

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Safelist

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The more inclusive term for a whitelist, or a list of senders that a user has marked as trustworthy. The opposite of a Blocklist. Good to be on.

Segmentation

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The tactic of grouping customers together based on subscriber attributes, past actions, or other data points in order to send more highly targeted, personalized campaigns.

Sender Name

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Part of the email envelope. The name associated with your brand, can be updated on a send-by-send basis. Good to use something memorable but pertinent to your brand. Easy to be annoying.

Sender Score

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A score associated with your Sender Reputation that attempts to describe the overall health of your email marketing program. Commercially calculated by Validity as a score between 1-100.

Shared IP

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An IP address or server that multiple senders can use to send email. Can introduce deliverability issues if other senders have poor sender reputations. Typically fine for lower volume senders. Default for most consumer- and small business-level ESPs.

Shared Server

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See Shared IP.

Single Opt-In

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A method of confirming consent from subscribers that does not require a secondary action on their part other than the initial signup. Typically happens via a form on a website, in an app, or at a physical location.

SMTP

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The standard protocol that allows for sending email messages. Stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol.

Spam

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Any unwanted email, regardless of whether or not an individual subscribed to it.

SPF

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One of the major authentication protocols in use. Stands for Sender Policy Framework. Works by detecting forged sender addresses and in concert with DKIM and DMARC to authenticate senders.

Spy Pixel

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A made up term used to sell people on yet another service. Email tracking requires consent and is one of the least invasive forms of online tracking.

Subject Line

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Part of the email envelope. The bit of copy displayed near the sender name in the inbox. Useful for getting people to actually open an email. Needs to be related to the actual content of the email.

Subscriber

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An individual that has signed up to receive emails from you, either through an explicit signup or as part of a transaction. Treat them with respect and care.

Suppression List

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A list which is specifically used to prevent emails being sent to recipients. Typically refers to lists used to supress unsubscribed people from getting emails, can also refer to lists used to prevent still-subscribed people from getting certain sends.

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Template

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A term used to mean a lot of different things, but generally speaking, a boilerplate example of an email that can be duplicated and updated for a new campaign.

Throttling

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The limiting of the number of emails a particular sender can send or that an ISP will receive. Can happen for a variety of reasons, both on the ESP and ISP side. You usually want to avoid it.

Tracking

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The mechanism by which email analytics are collected. Email tracking requires the use of images, which count opens based on the image being downloaded, or links being clicked and tracking traffic to landing pages. Tracking can be unreliable at times and faces challenges from recent privacy initiatives.

Triggered Email

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Any email that is sent in reaction to a subscriber or user action. This is often an initial signup, which triggers an onboarding sequence, a purchase, or some action a user takes in an app.

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Unique Clicks

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A metric that tracks the number of clicks on a link by individual users, not repeat clicks. Can be useful in seeing how valuable your content is or compelling your CTAs are.

Unique Opens

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A metric that tracks the number of first time opens by individual users, not repeat opens. Can be useful in seeing how compelling your Subject Line, Preview Text, or overall Sender Reputation is.

Unsubscribe

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When a subscriber signals that they no longer want to receive emails from you, usually by clicking an "unsubscribe" link in an email.

URL Parameter

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Additional information that is attached to a URL, following the "?" symbol, which allows marketers to tag and track actions, trigger actions on certain platforms, and attribute traffic back to emails campaigns.

URL

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The links which connect the internet and send people out of our emails and onto our landing pages. Stands for Uniform Resource Locator. We'd all be out of jobs without them.

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Version

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A term that could mean either the version of an email involved in a Split or Multivariate Test, or the version of an email currently being worked on during the production process, usually tracked via a source control tool like GitHub.

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Web View

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The link to a hosted version of an email, usually included as a link in the body of an email. Useful for when emails don’t display properly or when users want to triage an email to the browser to read later.

Wireframe

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A barebones mockup of the layout and content architecture of an email, usually done by sketching or using simple, primitive shapes, image and copy placeholders, and limited colors.

WYSIWYG

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Acronym for What You See Is What You Get, a term for a visual editor for an email, website, etc. WYSIWYGs allow you to edit the content, layout, and design of an email without knowing how to code.

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X

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An awesome punk band. Placeholder until there are some good X marketing terms.

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Yang

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See yin.

Yin

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See yang.

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Zany

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How you'll feel after doing email marketing for a while.