Thursday, June 23, 2011

Email Marketing Review Sites: The Good, The Bad, and The Unresponsive

Potential clients often stumble upon one of the many email marketing review sites in search of some help with their decision on which email company to work with. There are certainly a lot of them!

After reading reviews of our service, they come to us with questions and sometimes concerns. We've had some interesting interactions with these sites, and we thought it would be helpful to tell you about them. We've learned ourselves that some online review sites aren't what they appear to be, while others go out of their way to ensure accuracy.

The Good

Let's start out on a positive note. There are a few sites out there that really want to do a good job comparing email companies. These sites have reached out to JangoMail personally to ensure that their site information is accurate. Often, they miss features that we provide as they quickly run through our email marketing site, but they are happy to correct their review when we point this out. One site, Social Compare (Beta) even had us fill out the information ourselves to make sure that our feature set was accurate.

So without further adieu, here are the sites we've found to be the most interested in accuracy: - They email us periodically to ensure that their review is still accurate.
- Their initial review had some inaccuracies, but they were happy to fix them when we reached out. They now continue to reach out to us periodically for updates. Since we add new features often, this is a great practice.

Social Compare - They had us fill out the feature and pricing information ourselves. We love that!

The Bad

A few months back, one of the more popular review sites reached out to us. At first, we were excited, then they wanted us to pay to be one of their highest ranked providers. The more we pay, the better we rank. We decided to pass. It's very frustrating though, to know that we may be losing potential clients because one of our competitors paid to rank higher than us in this review site.

The Unresponsive

A major thorn in our side is They have some very inaccurate and damaging reviews on our deliverability. We have reached out to them countless times, yet have never received a response. We tried sending long explanations of the errors that they made while testing. We tried short emails voicing our concern. We tried submitting comments on our review. Nothing. It's clear that they reviewed every service once, years ago, didn't put much effort into the reviews, and have not touched it since. Our pricing is even outdated. The most frustrating thing about this site is that it has strong natural search rankings on Google, so we can't escape their false statements about our company.


If you decide to use one of these sites or others like them to help you in your decision about email or other services, make sure to do your homework. Check for accuracies and keep in mind: You just might be looking at a site where the highest payer just happens to be first on the list!

Friday, June 17, 2011

When does it make sense to confirm / double opt-in your email list?

Sometimes less is more with your Email Lists

When I help clients build web-site sign up forms to tie in with their JangoMail accounts, I highly recommend making use of our Confirmed Opt-In feature (sometimes known as “double opt-in” in the marketing world).

With an Email List that is Confirmed, any address that is added to the list first receives a brief confirmation message to ensure that the owner of the email address is, indeed, the one who registered and wants to receive mail from the sender. The email address will not be eligible to receive messages from that account unless the custom confirmation link in the message is clicked. JangoMail allows complete customization of this message, so it is easy for the branding and content in this confirmation to be recognized by the recipient, encouraging a quick click to confirm!

This makes sure our clients get nice clean email lists, and ensures that a recipient cannot be “signed up” by a third party for any reason.

As Director of Operations at JangoMail, I also find myself encouraging clients to make greater use of the Confirmed Opt-In tool in ways that go beyond the simple validation of web registrations. Sometimes, it can be an integral part of great list maintenance as well.

I know this can be a difficult message, and an odd one for a company that wants you, as our customer, to send out more emails!

After all, you go to great effort to build and expand your lists. It is perfectly reasonable to be reluctant to cut them back down. So, when does it make sense to re-confirm your data and prune the lists a bit? Let’s take a look.

Your list is getting old, and you haven’t sent to it regularly.

Lists that have aged are a bit notorious for causing spikes in complaints when you begin sending to them again later. The recipients haven’t heard from you in a while and often don’t remember signing up at all. If they do remember, their needs or interests may have changed. It’s a quick solution on the recipient end to hit the “spam” button to just make it go away. The problem is, this affects your reputation as a sender.

You are starting a new position or project, and you cannot find the original source of opt-in in your list data.

If you receive complaints from your campaigns, you will need to be able to respond very specifically to the complainant as to where and how he/she asked to receive your emails. If you don’t have this data now, it’s time to think about it before you begin sending email.

Often, people inherit lists from others in their organizations that came from a time when it wasn’t a big deal to keep good records. Email has changed over time in response to the abuses that are out there. Updating your records is a win for everyone.

I have had two recent experiences where lists that had substantial age on them (3+ years) now included addresses that are “spamtraps” where they weren’t previously. A spamtrap is an address that is used ONLY to catch people who are harvesting addresses from public sources. These addresses are not used by individuals anymore. We find that it is a routine practice for some services to retain addresses of former employees or other now-unused addresses for this purpose. Spamtraps can cause you major headaches. Accounts that are Return Path Certified can even face immediate suspension from the certification program until lists are cleaned.

In reconfirming these lists, the spamtrap address could not have clicked to confirm and would automatically NOT have been part of any future mailings. This would have avoided the problem entirely.

You have a new email push that is significantly different from that for which users originally signed up.

In this case, it’s time to make a hybrid of your old list.

New project? Give folks a chance to opt-in to the additional mail stream. If they aren’t interested in the latest area, then they don’t need to confirm, and they can keep getting just the emails they’ve been getting all along. You get to be the good professional in this message: “Hey! I’ve got an exciting new project coming your way that I’d like to share with you, as my long-time customer. I understand you get a lot of email, so click here to confirm that you want to see the latest. Otherwise, thank you for your business, and I look forward to continuing to communicate with you about our current service.”

This is MUCH more polite than starting something new and giving people the chance to opt-out. In fact, we’ve found that if you follow the opt-out path, you’ll wind up with too many folks just opting out of everything you do entirely by unsubscribing from your company, period.

Why? Maybe they’re not interested, or maybe they just have too much going on in their email already. Either way, err on the side of caution and use the chance to opt them in to your newest project.

How to Get Started

Sold? Ready to do more with less?

We have a tutorial that can get you started:
JangoMail Confirmed Opt-In Tutorial

Please also feel free to contact Customer Support (; 1-888-709-4099) for help! We love to hear from our customers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Feature: Automatically append social data to your Email Lists

We're happy to announce that, starting today, Email Lists, can now have social data appended to them. Specifically, subscribers' age, gender, and location can be added on as three additional fields to your existing Email Lists. This data is provided for free. Eventually, other socially-available premium fields will be available for a fee.


The process of appending social data to your Email List is automatic, and you only need to designate an Email List to accept social data, in order for the data to be appended. To set an Email List to have social data appended, simply select the Email List, click the List Settings Tab,  and click Yes next to Append Social Data. Then click the Save button at the bottom of the page.

How can I use this social data?

You can use age, gender, and location to segment your Email Lists and send personalized email content based on their demographic profile. For example, if your business is a restaurant, you may want to send one offer to those subscribers under 21 years of age, and another for those over 21. If you're a clothing retailer, you may want to send different content to males versus females.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: If I choose to append social data, how exactly will my Email List be modified?

A: Three new fields will be added. They are social_age, social_gender, and social_location. The "friendly names" for the fields will be Age, Gender, and Location respectively.

Q: Where does JangoMail get the social data from?

A: We use a third-party data aggregator called Rapleaf. Rapleaf retrieves its personalization data from publicly available sources.

Q: Are other data points, other than just age, gender, and location, available?

A: Yes, we will soon be providing access to premium data, which includes data points such as household income and profession.

Q: Will all of my existing Email Lists automatically have social data appended?

A: No. Social data will not be automatically appended. For Email Lists, you must set them manually to receive social data using the instructions above.

Q: How long does it take after I set my List to receive social data, for the data to be appended?

A: It depends on the size of your Email List and system load, but generally, a list under 5,000 recipients should have data appended to it within 5 minutes after you change the setting.

Q: Will the appended-data be periodically refreshed to ensure accurate data?

A: Yes, by default, subscribers in Email Lists will have their social-appended data refreshed every 90 days.

Q: How do I remove social data from an Email List?

A: After social data has been appended to an Email List, to remove it, go to Lists and click the Edit Icon next to your list. Click the Fields tab and delete the social data fields: social_age, social_gender, social_location.

Q: I don't use Email Lists to store my subscriber data. I configure JangoMail to pull my list in real-time from my CRM system. Can social data still be appended?

A: No, but we will soon be introducing an API method to let you retrieve social data so that you may append data to your own CRM or external database system.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Fix for IE9 customers using the Connect to Local Database feature

We've recently been getting reports from our users who are unable to use JangoMail's Connect to Local Database feature after upgrading to Internet Explorer 9. The browser would freeze after clicking the Connect button, and would have to be shut down using Task Manager. After some exhaustive research, we've finally found a fix.

The Fix:

The fix involves adding a registry key to the Windows registry. You can download the reg file directly from us as a text file:
  1. Click here to download the registry entry as a text file.
  2. Rename the .txt file to a .reg file, and then double-click the .reg file to run it. This will add the necessary key to your Windows registry.
If you examine the .reg file in Notepad, you'll see that the specific key added to the Windows registry is:

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\New Windows]

Interested in learning more?

This issue is caused by an esoteric bug in Internet Explorer 9 involving ActiveX controls and modal dialog boxes. You can read about the bug here. We hope that Microsoft releases a fix to this in the next IE9 release, in which case, adding the above-mentioned registry key won't be necessary. Until then, please use the registry key as a workaround.


The Connect to Local Database feature is based on an ActiveX control. ActiveX technology is Microsoft-specific, and therefore this feature only works in Internet Explorer. It allows a user to connect to a local data source, like an Excel file, Access file, text file, or any ODBC data source (even SQL Server and Oracle), without having to upload the entire data file, and without having to export and import data. It's one of JangoMail's standout features, and one that separates us from our competitors. When we first launched this feature in 2004, Internet Explorer was the dominant browser. As the years went on, and Safari, Firefox, and Chrome chipped away at IE's market share, the number of users able to use the Connect to Local Database feature shrank. Unfortunately the functionality provided by this ActiveX control is extremely difficult to duplicate in a browser-universal technology like Flash, Java, or Silverlight. For now, we'll continue supporting our IE users taking advantage of this feature, but we hope that in the future, we'll be able to port this feature to a browser-agnostic technology.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

SMTP Relay and CodeIgniter

Any SysAdmin will tell you that having a good toolkit at your disposal makes your job much easier. And if you think about, it's a universal truth. Whatever your profession, you absolutely need the right tools for the job. As a SysAdmin I rely heavily on my toolkit because I know that the process of troubleshooting is much quicker when I have a tool that will uncover that critical bit of information to pinpoint the root cause of a problem, or that critical byte in the case of a recent support issue here at JangoMail.

The JangoMail support team had an issue pop up whereby some users of the CodeIgniter PHP framework were not able to successfully send messages via the JangoMail SMTP relay. A cursory check of our incoming logs showed that in all cases, the SMTP transaction was stalling out at the DATA command. All other parts of the system were in working order and we had no complaints from other users. It was a good time to open up that SysAdmin toolkit and see what else we could dig up.

For my money, Wireshark is an indispensable tool. It has been a lifesaver for me on multiple occasions. The old-school Unix/Linux admin would likely use the tcpdump tool for similar reasons. These tools capture all network traffic on the computer and dump it in a human readable format. Wireshark has an especially nice GUI and a helpful feature to trace an entire TCP stream and decode the application layer protocol as necessary.

Back to our CodeIgniter issue... after firing up Wireshark, it took just one SMTP transaction with CodeIgniter to pinpoint the issue. RFC 2821 requires commands to be terminated with CRLF (that's carriage return followed by line-feed), but the CodeIgniter client was only sending a LF character. As a result, the JangoMail SMTP relay server was waiting for more input until it ultimately timed out, resulting in an un-sent message. One single byte was the reason messages were not flowing!

A quick Google search turned up the fact that CodeIgniter defaults to using only LF as its line terminator, but that can be adjusted. The code to set the proper line terminator is as follows:

$config['crlf'] = "\r\n";
$config['newline'] = "\r\n";

A good illustration of the fact that when communicating between systems on the Internet we should try and follow Internet standards as much as possible. Perhaps it's also time we all finally agree on a single line-terminator. Microsoft's Windows, Apple's OSX and the Linux operating system all use different line-terminator character sequences by default(!) - CRLF, CR and LF respectively.

Solving a problem often comes down to having the right tool for the job. So what does your toolkit look like?