the markITeer

Archive for the ‘that’s why’ Category

(un)defining spam

Posted by the markITeer on June 1, 2007

Each workshop on e-mail marketing and spam, I start with a seemingly simple question: “What is spam?”.
This is how it mostly goes:

[markITeer]: Does anybody know what spam is?
[John]: Of course: emails I don’t want to receive.
[markITeer]: So if your best friend sends you an email that you didn’t want to receive, it’s spam?
[John]: no… spam is about emails I don’t want to receive from people I don’t know
[markITeer]: So if a friend of your best friend sends you that same email, mentioning your best friend as a reference, you would consider it spam?
[John] hmmm… no….
[Tom] I think I would
[Lydia] Doesn’t spam always have some commercial message?
[markITeer]: So spam is a commercial email you don’t want from somebody you don’t know? Suppose you were looking for a new car six months ago and you received an incredible offer for the car of your dreams from a garage in your town (someone you didn’t know personally). Then according to this definition it might not be spam. But if you would receive that same email now, after you bought your dream car, it would be?
[Lydia]: hmmm… maybe… I don’t know.
[Tom]: Couldn’t you say that spam always involves large volume sendings?
[markITeer]: So you judge an e-mail you receive by how many people received it?
[Tom]: hmmm… no
[markITeer]: Anybody?

And that’s why spam filters will never be perfect…


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Why images don’t show in e-mails

Posted by the markITeer on May 22, 2007

Ever wondered why you receive all your emails without the images?
If you’re using MS Outlook, Google Mail, Windows Live Hotmail or any of the quadrillion other email readers that suppress images, chances are you did.

The reason behind this phenomenon is to protect you against spammers: By using the images in (HTML) e-mails, spammers can figure out if your email address is valid!

So how does it work?

When sending out HTML e-mails (ie emails containing layout code, images etc.), only the text and layout are sent while the images are kept on a web server. Only when the recipient opens the email and requests to see the images, the images are loaded from the web server.

This has the advantage that images must only be sent to people requesting to see them, and the requests are spread over time, thus optimizing the bandwith usage. But more important: when the images are requested from the web server, the request can be logged! This way the sender knows which email addresses have requested the images, and hence which email addresses are valid!

In a nice picture this is what happens:

This system is used by spammers as well as legitimate email marketeers: Spammers use it to identify which email addresses are valid so they know which addresses they can use again (and again and again… ūüôā ), while self-respecting email marketeers use it to calculate their open rates.
But in the heat of the spam battle, email marketeers had to give in and images were suppressed by all major email applications, resulting in much less trusty open rates (and email marketeer’s headaches)…

There are however a few things email marketeers can do to deal with the issue:

  • try to get listed in the address book of the recipient. Senders who are in the address book are automatically ‘white-listed’ and the images will always show!
  • add a ‘view email online’ link to an online version of the email
  • include alt tags for your images describing your images
  • use text-based ads
  • focus on click-through rates and conversion rates

for more tips: check out the EmailGarage website

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and that’s why…

Posted by the markITeer on May 9, 2007

This morning I was invited by one of the account managers of a big web analytics player. Nice man. Properly dressed. Very friendly. Nice demo too. Well prepared sales speech.
At one point we were talking integration with other applications.
“What do yo mean exactly by ‘web services'”? he asked me.

That’s why I started this blog.
Because probably nobody ever bothered to explain him what web services are.
Or not in a language that doesn’t require complex decoding algorithms anyway…

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