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Oh, the humanity: Email Marketing and Spam

It’s no secret that I do a lot of research around the email marketing space when coming up with a blog topic. One thing I’ve noticed a lot of is this idea that email marketers are automatically somehow the same as spammers. In fact, I’ve had this conversation a lot:

“So what do you do?”
“I work for a marketing automation platform”
“Oh, so you support spammers.”

This inevitably devolves into a conversation about what spam actually is and is not, and is why I’m not invited back to some parties (I kid!). This kind of pervasive thinking, that “email marketer = spammer” is why people like Chad White, (who has a blog I strongly recommend reading), started mentioning he worked “in marketing” and left it at that.

There are a few things that can explain the origins of this association between email marketing and spam, but they’re the bad habits that that go against everything we know about marketing to our clients and prospects. Things like buying addresses and uninspired, impersonal content are known no-nos. And we can’t discount the fact that we often receive email from brands up to 5 times a day (personally, one company holds the record at 16 emails sent to me in a less than 12 hour period) after making a single purchase.

All of those factors, combined, have led to the idea that if you work in email marketing, you are a spammer. Even if you follow best practices, even if you’ve never purchased a list, you battle against that moniker all the time. How in the world do we turn it around and make people understand that email marketing and spam aren’t one and the same?

Find your humanity.

What I mean by that is, be the change you want to see in email. Your prospects are people, just like you are, and it’s harder and harder to get into an inbox if you’re still relying on the old “batch and mass send” strategy. How would you want to be marketed to, as a person interested in your product?

“Would I want to be sent spam?”

This is one of my favorite questions to ask people to consider when discussing purchased lists. Have you, personally, ever received a spam email? The answer is a resounding yes, followed by a significant number of confused looks. Yes, obviously, you own an email address, so you’ve gotten spam. Now, how often have you LOVED getting that unsolicited email SO much that you open, click, and purchase a product or use a service? Or are you significantly more likely to delete it without a second thought, wondering why in the world your spam filter didn’t catch that email? In my years of experience, and all of my conversations with people who have been in the industry for decades, the answer is always some form of “Well I delete it, of course! I hate spam!” So why, if you personally hate it when you get a spam email, would you ever bother purchasing a list and sending unsolicited mass emails to that list? Your prospects won’t like it anymore than you do. One more piece of unsolicited mail isn’t going to help grow your brand or give you any kind of real ROI, so if nothing else, it’s not a good use of your marketing budget to bother with purchasing a list.

“How many emails do I want to receive from the same person per day?”

Nobody wants to be the email equivalent of this (bonus points if you make it through a minute of that video without feeling tremendously annoyed). Sending emails too frequently is just not a great marketing or sales tactic. You want to be available and let them know you’re there and you’re thinking of them, but you don’t want to annoy them into reporting you as spam or opting out. In Pardot, this is where our email recency and frequency rules really come in handy, so you can be sure you aren’t accidentally hassling your prospects. Think about how many emails you’d want to receive in a specific timeframe from one person or company, then apply that to your marketing strategy.

“I wrote down my info to get something at a booth or a tent”

Every year, during our usual “Let’s go to a food related event” season (and yes, it is a season in Atlanta), my best friend and I will wind up at whatever tent is giving out the best swag. Win an iPad for giving you my personal information? Sure, hand it on over. Free tote bag with your logo all over it? Pass that clipboard, STAT. Our intent, however, is not to sign up for your email, our intent is to get to whatever the item is. We, in all honesty, don’t care to be added to your email marketing, and that’s true for a significant number of your prospects. That’s not to say you shouldn’t run a contest or a sweepstakes to grow your list, generate buzz, and get people interested in your brand, but you should absolutely include an opt in checkbox on your paper forms, your Pardot forms, or any other form for the sweepstakes. Give us the option of opting in, instead of forcing us to either give you fake information or opt out. It’s better for you to know someone is not interested up front than wasting valuable database space on prospects that won’t engage with your mail.

“Do I remember what I’d opted into 4 years ago?”

One of my favorite high bounce compliance cases was someone telling me their intern found a list from 2006 in a filing cabinet. The poor intern then had to manually type those addresses in and send those prospects an email….resulting in an over 50% bounce rate. Not only are older emails significantly more likely to bounce, those prospects have no idea who you are and are more likely to click to report spam. That’s a double whammy to your sending reputation that you’ve built up so carefully. Older lists are a significant trigger for spam complaints, so you’ll want to clean your list first, then run a permission pass to remind prospects who you are and ask if they’re still interested in receiving email from your company. It’s quick, easy to run, and can get you back in touch with interested prospects without being marked as spam.

“I have read and agree to the Terms and Conditions”

I CONFESS. No I haven’t. Nobody has time to read through those insanely long documents just to sign up for a service, all we know is that we have to click the checkbox that says “I Agree” in order to get what we’re looking for. Marketers often point to “Well, they agreed to receive email because they clicked to agree to our terms and conditions”…but I’m forced to check that box to sign up for your service. At that point, I’m still being forced to sign up for a mailing list I never wanted to be on, so I’m likely to give you fake information or figure out some way of filtering your mail before you even get to start marketing to me. Again, this is another case where it’s a good idea to include a checkbox asking me if I want to opt into your email. If I choose not to opt in anyway, it’s better for you to know I don’t want your email up front than wasting that precious database space.

That wraps it up for today’s post. Anything I left out? Feel free to continue the conversation over on Twitter, @holobachgirl.

b2b email marketing

Email Marketing – Pardot

Weekly Mobile News Roundup – 29 August 2014

Once again the week is coming to an end and that means it’s time for a roundup of the past weeks news!

Samsung and LG launch new watches while Apple waits – South Korean tech firms LG and Samsung have announced more smartwatches, ahead of a widely anticipated entry to the sector from Apple.

Here’s Why Instagram’s Hyperlapse App Is Not Available For Android Yet – If you’re carrying around an iOS device and have even a passing interest in video or the phenomenon that is Instagram then you’ll probably want to check out its latest app if you haven’t already.

Apple Building Massive Structure at Flint Center for iPhone 6 Event – Apple today issued invitations for its upcoming iPhone 6 event on September 9, which is also said to include its much-anticipated wearable device. According to the invitations, Apple is planning to host the event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts at De Anza College in Cupertino, the same location where Steve Jobs introduced the original Mac 30 years ago.

September 9 invites wallpapers: “wish we could say more” – As with many recent Apple announcements, designers quickly put their skills to work, publishing wallpapers inspired by the invitation. Inside are a few wallpapers, for your favorite upcoming Apple event.

Adobe’s Photoshop Mix for iPad gets extensibility, panoramic file support, more in update – Adobe on Thursday issued the first update to its Creative Cloud-connected Photoshop Mix app for iPad, bringing hooks into Photoshop Express and Dropbox, as well as a few UI tweaks to the on-the-go image editing tool.

Microsoft smokes out 1,500 bogus Windows 8 apps from its app store  – In a bid to restore users’ trust in its Windows 8 app store, Microsoft has kicked out a bunch of fake apps that had been left undisturbed in the Microsoft Store for some time. The move, announced on a company blog, followed reports last week the store was hosting numerous fake products in the store.

Minuum previews its height-changing keyboard for iOS 8 – Popular Android keyboard developer Minuum has finally previewed its keyboard coming to iOS 8 this fall. It’s not like other third-party keyboards we’ve seen thus far, instead, it transforms from a standard full-scale QWERTY keyboard with autocorrect and then fades away to take up only half of your visible screen.

Today in the App Store — the best free apps, new apps and app updates – Here are some of the best free apps, app updates and new apps that have landed in the App Store recently. All app prices are USD and subject to change. Some deals may expire quickly, so grab them while you can.

Apple updates iOS 8 terms, disallows developers from selling data acquired through HealthKit – Apple has updated its iOS 8 terms of use, according to The Guardian, to note that developers are not allowed to resell any information gained through the upcoming HealthKit framework. The HealthKit software was announced as part of a larger event earlier this year, but it was only with the most recent beta that Apple made note of this restriction.

Facebook responds to Messenger backlash with ‘Get the Facts’ explainer in its mobile app  – When Facebook decided to remove messaging from its main iOS and Android apps, forcing users to download Messenger, it caused quite a stir. Not least because an article from a radio station, coupled with an older Huffington Post piece, flagged the app’s required permissions as a reason to reject the app entirely.

8 more awesome paid iPhone apps you can download free right now (a huge $ 49 value!) – We started off the week with an awesome batch of paid iPhone and iPad apps worth a total of $ 50 that could all be downloaded for free — and many of them can still be had for free if you act fast. Today, we’ve got another eight nifty paid iOS apps for you that are worth $ 49 but are all on sale for free for a limited time. Nearly $ 100 worth of great paid apps for free in just two days?

Mobile Orchard


Spamtrap Myths: Busted!

In our last two posts, we went over what spamtraps are and how you can protect against any that snuck into your database. In the finale to our spamtrap series, we’ll bust a few common myths that we get in compliance cases.

Myth #1: If my mailings hit a spamtrap, you are accusing me of being a spammer

FALSE. The term “spamtrap” does evoke images of a nefarious computer user, likely wearing a ski mask, sending spam to everyone they possibly can. It’s a scary sounding term, especially if you aren’t completely sure of the nuances behind different types of spamtraps and what can occur when you hit them on your sending lists. By alerting you of spamtrap hits, you are not being accused of being a spammer, you are simply being notified of the fact that there are some steps you should be taking to clean up your lists. Spamtraps can be thought of as an indicator that your lists is likely outdated. Of course, if you’re buying lists, you’re going against our permission based marketing policy, and you actually are sending spam…

Myth #2: Hitting one spamtrap isn’t a big deal

Hitting any spamtrap is a big enough deal to take notice, even if it’s a typo trap email address. It’s an indicator that you could be doing more to ensure that your lists are completely clean and following all best practices when it comes to your email sending. The more you can do to avoid hitting spamtraps before it becomes a more significant issue, the better off your emailing will be and the more smoothly your email campaigns can run.

Myth #3: You can remove spamtraps by cleaning your list with a data cleaning provider

The problem with spamtraps is that, since they look like legitimate email addresses, we aren’t able to figure out which email address is our spamtrap. If we just published a list of every existing spamtrap, spammers and data providers could just remove those spamtraps from their lists and could go on spamming. That would completely defeat the purpose of catching somone for sending spam, so spamtrap addresses and domains are kept extremely secret. Because they behave like legitimate email addresses, and no one knows which one the spamtrap is, you cannot use any data cleaning service to remove spamtraps. You can only run a permission pass on the affected lists, or set up Confirmed Opt In or Confirmed Opt In Lite to protect your forms against potential accidental spamtrap hits.

That wraps it up for the spamtrap series! Please feel free to comment below or Tweet me @holobachgirl with any email related topics you’d like to see covered on the blog!

b2b email marketing

Email Marketing – Pardot

Getting to the Inbox: A Marketer’s Guide to Email Tech

Who is an email really from? If an email client shows as the sender most people would accept that at face value, but anti-spam filters and email clients are doing much more than just looking at the “from” address of an email. A single email can be relayed through several systems and computers on its journey from sender to recipient. After passing through multiple hands, who really sent the message? Increasingly, anti-spam filters and email service providers (ESPs) care about tracking this trail of servers to make sure that emails only passed through trusted hands.

What’s an email sender’s identity?

When looking at where an email is from, we tend to think of the question on a human level: we think of the person pressing send. Computing devices on the other hand, think of where a message is from in a different way. When a computer sees an email, it doesn’t see the person associated with the email, it sees the message headers. Message headers are information transmitted with the email that detail the electronic path the message took to get to your inbox. Message headers are typically hidden by default on most email clients. If you’re curious about what message headers look like, Google has some instructions for viewing message headers in various email clients. As an email marketer, you don’t really need in-depth knowledge of how to read and analyze message headers, but it’s helpful to know that they exist.

In the message headers are a few pieces of vital information that a computer evaluates in the search for the true sender identity. The header contains details about where the message claims to be from, or the visible “from” address that’s displayed by email clients. There’s also another address known as the “return-path” address, which is where any automated system responses should be sent, including bounce responses. Finally there’s the actual IP address of the computer that sent the message. Modern email systems use Email Authentication technologies such as Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) to test one or more of these possible identities. In a typical email marketing scenario, the visible “from” address will belong to the company you’re marketing for, the “return-path” address will belong to the email marketing platform you’re using, and the IP address will also belong to the email marketing platform, or one email with two plausible sender identities.

Align all the things

This dual sender identity scenario is exactly why Gmail started to show a “via” message to let their users know that they were unable to determine a single sender identity for an email. In order to permit companies to continue using email marketing platforms in a trusted manner, SPF and DKIM checks are used by ESPs to determine if a marketing platform is authorized to send messages on behalf of the company in the “from” address. As you’re probably beginning to realize, the email industry is standardizing around the visible “from” address as the preferred sender identity for an email, so that’s the one that email services and anti-spam filters will increasingly look to validate as the sender identity.

Thanks to SPF and DKIM, email service providers now have a reliable way to verify the various sender identities of an email. The next step is to ensure that the sender identities for an email are aligned. Alignment refers to making sure that all the sender identities match and are authenticated by the company in the “from” address. In an ideal email, the visible “from” address, the “return-path” address, and the IP address of the computer sending the email would all be on the same domain and authenticated using SPF and DKIM. In fact, this is what Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) was developed to accomplish. DMARC gives the owner of a domain the ability to enforce alignment of email identities for any email claiming to be from their domain. DMARC also allows domain owners to instruct receiving mail servers to reject any messages that did not get sent through trusted hands.

Major ESPs are already starting to use DMARC to protect their domains, with Yahoo and AOL leading the charge by outright blocking the use of their domains in “from” addresses unless the message comes from trusted sources, which are limited to their own infrastructure. As an email marketer, you probably shouldn’t be using a free mail address as the “from” address of your messages, but if you’ve been doing that, now is definitely the time to stop.

The future is bright

While to some the industry trend towards trusted and aligned identities may seem scary, email as a whole will be better for it. Many of the leading email marketing and automation platforms, including Pardot, already support SPF/DKIM/DMARC, so take advantage of those offerings if available. The sooner email marketers embrace SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, the easier it will become to weed out spam and protect the brands that so much effort goes into marketing. Life will only get harder for spammers, but legitimate emails will enjoy a smoother road to the inbox.

Email Marketing – Pardot


16 of the Best Examples of Beautiful Blog Design


According to a recent U.K. survey, bloggers have ranked as the third most trustworthy source of information, following only friends and family. That’s right — bloggers are trusted more than celebrities, journalists, brands, and politicians.

But how do you get people to fall in love with your blog in the first place? (Aside from remarkable content, of course.)

Well, just as your website homepage is like the front door to your business, your blog’s design — much like a welcome mat — is the front door to your business blog. Download our full collection of blog design examples here to inspire your own  blog design.

If you’re not attracting people visually, how will you get them to take the next steps to actually read (and, hopefully, subscribe to) your content? Once you’re done creating the quality content, you still have the challenge of presenting it that clearly dictates what your blog is about. Images, text, and links need to be shown off just right — otherwise, readers might abandon your content, if it’s not aesthetically showcased in a way that’s both appealing and easy to follow.

That’s why we’ve compiled some examples of blog homepages to get you on the right track to designing the perfect blog for your readers. Check ’em out.

16 Inspiring Examples of Beautiful Blog Homepage Design

1) Help Scout

Sometimes, the best blog designs are also the simplest. Help Scout, makers of customer service software, uses a unique but minimalist design on its blog that we love — it limits the use of copy and visuals and embraces negative space.

What we particularly like about this blog is its use of featured images for all posts, including a banner one at the top that highlights a recent or particularly popular entry. These icons are set in front of bright, block colors that catch the readers’ eye and signal what the post is about. And it works — everything about this blog’s design says “clean” and “readable.”


2) Microsoft Stories

Full disclosure: We’ve totally gushed over Microsoft’s “Stories” microsite before. We can’t help it — what better way to revitalize an old-school brand than with a blog that boasts beautiful, interactive, and inspiring branded content? Plus, the square layout of these stories is reminiscent of the Microsoft logo, which achieves a valuable brand consistency.

Microsoft Stories is also a prime example of how a business blog can be a major asset for an overall rebrand. In recent years, Microsoft has worked to humanize its brand, largely in response to a rivalry with Apple. The “Stories” microsite has a simple tagline — “Get an inside look at the people, places and ideas that move us.” It’s the softer side of Microsoft, so to speak. 

When you’re trying to convey a certain brand message, your blog can be used to communicate it — both aesthetically, and content-wise.


3) Pando

An important aspect of a well-designed blog is a consistent color scheme and style — after all, 80% of consumers say that color boosts their recognition of a brand.

It’s interesting to see how color consistency can unify the more diversified elements of design. Pando, a blog that explores the startup cycle, incorporates blue tones in several sections of its site — the background, highlight bars, and certain areas of text. But it also uses several different fonts — all of which manage to look seamless together, when tied together by a cohesive color scheme.


4) Design Milk

Design Milk, an online contemporary design outlet, uses a very simple layout to highlight its posts. The sidebar to the right — which remains visible when a blog post is opened to read — is perfect for showcasing thumbnail images for new articles. That’s an internal link strategy, which helps to encourage readers to remain on the site longer.

The social icons at the top are a pleasant addition to the overall look and feel of the site — they’re easy to spot, and make it easy to share Design Milk’s content. (And to learn more about adding social buttons to your blog, check out this post.)

Design Milk Blog.png

5) Fubiz

Fubiz, an art and design blog, is an example of a really sleek design that also includes some cool personalization.

Near the top of the blog’s homepage, readers can side-scroll through “highlighted” posts. Below that is the Creativity Finder, where visitors can select their chosen personas — from “Art Lover” to “Freelance” — location, and the type of content they’re looking for. From there, readers can browse content specifically catered to them. 

We can’t help but love the header image, too. It uses something called “blue mind” psychology, which has found that the sight of open water can naturally draw us in. By using it in a design scheme, Fubiz is able to visually attract visitors to its content.

Fubiz blog.png

6) Webdesigner Depot

With a name like “Webdesigner Depot,” it’s no wonder that this design news site is visually appealing.

One thing that we particularly like is the way Webdesigner Depot has incorporated social sharing icons on each individual post. While we of course suggest actually reading each piece, having those links readily available helps visitors immediately share a headline they find interesting. And check out those navigation arrows on the right — never before has it been so easy to scroll to the top or bottom of a page.

What’s more, the color scheme, background, and fonts are all consistent — which keeps this blog looking professional, but still distinct from the basic blog templates we might be used to seeing.

Webdesigner Depot Blog.png

7) Mashable

I mean, just look at that header image. The bold colors, the wiring overlay, the gripping pupil and the contrasting text. It absolutely catches the reader’s eye — no pun intended.

Mashable breaks its content into three noticeable sections on the homepage: New posts are listed on the left in the smallest sized thumbnails. “What’s Rising” posts are displayed in the center column as large thumbnails, and the “What’s Hot” posts are shown to the right, also as large thumbnails. This three-pronged approach to displaying content can help readers decide which kind of news matters to them the most — the attention-grabbing top story, or other posts that are currently trending.

Plus, we like that the number of shares is displayed in each post preview — that’s a great form of social proof.

Mashable Homepage.png

8) Brit + Co

Everything about the Brit + Co homepage says “clean,” “warm,” and “welcoming.” It’s free of clutter, making the content more digestible, and the layout is extremely organized.

We dig the seasonality of the site, too. I mean, avocado jack-o’-lanterns on the dawn of October? Adorable, and replete with a colorful, fun photo to illustrate the story’s content.

The subtle “trending” header also serves as a nice way to promote popular content, without being too in-you-face about it. Plus, with such great visuals, we took note of the nod to Pinterest — that icon is important to include when your blog incorporates attractive imagery.

Brit+Co Blog.png

9) Tesco Living

We love the colorful, consistent design of Tesco Living, the blog site of British grocery chain Tesco. 

Remember how we keep harping away at brand consistency? Check out the rhombus-like designs in the top banner — that reflects the same ones that appear in Tesco’s logo.

What Tesco Living has achieved is a great balance of simplicity and boldness. The layout is extremely minimal, but it isn’t dull. Warm and welcoming shades underscore each content category, and the photos add dashes of colors throughout the site. It’s a great example of how the right imagery can achieve an appealing “less-is-more” appearance, especially if that fits in with your overall brand concept.


10) Crew

Crew Backstage, the blog of the Crew platform for designers and developers, has a fabulously minimalist blog design, but quiet a unique one.

Notice that, above the fold, it features one blog post with a large title, subtitle, and call-to-action to read more.

To the left, there’s an equally minimalist call-to-action that makes it easy for readers to connect with Crew, or learn more. Plus, there’s that consistency again — everything above the fold is the same shade of blue, which has been shown to invoke brand trust.

Crew Backstage Blog.png

11) Innocent Drinks

Not only are the folks at Innocent Drinks great copywriters, but the design of its blog is also a great reminder that blog designs don’t have to get super fancy.

Notice how the logo — displayed in the upper left — is simple, cartoonish, and almost delightfully child-like. It works for Innocent Drinks (hint: childhood innocence), and that brand presence is maintained throughout the company’s blog.

The colorful fonts, for example, match the logo and stay in line with the brand’s casual, playful voice. We also like the easily-navigable archive links on the left, which are complemented by the geometric social sharing buttons on the right.

Innocent Drinks Blog.png

12) 500px

Much like Crew, the photography blog, 500px, leads with one featured article and a big, bold, high-definition photo to draw the reader in. That makes is pretty clear what the blog is about — it boasts valuable content on photography with gripping photography.

Plus, how cool is it that the social links are right there, obviously displayed above the fold? They keep readers engaged with the content, and make it easy to share the photography — and, content with images is up to three times as likely to be shared on social media.

500px Blog.png

13) BarkPost

It’s no secret that we kind of like dogs here at HubSpot. So when a blog dedicated to life as a dog owner came across our radar, it got our attention.

BarkPost, the blog of canine subscription box company BarkBox, is a great example of design for a number of reasons. First, look how easy it is to subscribe — the call to action is right there, above the featured content. The social share icons are easily noticeable, too — and, of course, all in the brand-matching, trustworthy blue.

We also like that BarkPost draws attention to its sister companies, all of which are owned under the Bark & Co portfolio of brands. But at the same time, the blog doesn’t hock its own products — rather, it serves as an informational resource to dog parents and lovers alike.

BarkPost Blog.png

14) Goodwill Industries International

Who says nonprofit organizations can’t blog? Nay, they should — and Goodwill’s clean, colorful navigation (again — the trustworthy blue) draw the reader to the important elements of this blog.

The posts are also neatly positioned and easily accessible to readers. And, visitors can pick the type of information that matters to them the most by choosing a topic from the drop-down menu on the top right.

Finally, we love that there’s a collaborative call to action in the introductory text that invites readers to contribute content to the Goodwill blog. After all, the organizations services have reached 37 million people — here’s a way for them to share their stories, or invite donors to write about why they chose to support Goodwill.

Goodwill Blog.png

15) charity: water

Keeping the nonprofit blogging train going is charity: water, which makes excellent use of high-quality photography.

Recently, the organization redesigned its blog with a lengthy post dedicated to its 10-year anniversary. Using that opportunity to share its impact over the past decade, chartiy: water maintained a simplistic design with concise text and bright images from the anniversary event.

Plus, there’s a clear CTA to donate at the top of the page. Placing that above a story about charity: water’s impact is a double-edged sword, by both inspiring people to contribute to the cause while making it easy to do so.

charity water blog-1.png

charity: water blog 2.png

16) Johnny Cupcakes

To clear up any confusion, Johnny Cupcakes doesn’t actually make cupcakes. It makes clothing. But the company has done a great job of playing up its brand’s association with baked goods — its blog uses the subdomain “kitchen.”

Plus, the folks at Johnny Cupcakes know a thing or two about brand consistency across channels. Its blog’s simple color scheme and matching fonts help to create a unified user experience from the shop to general content, all the while throwing in bold, colorful images to catch readers’ attention.

Also, visit the website and have a scroll — we think it’s pretty cool how the background images vary, but stay positionally static for each entry.

Johnny Cupcakes Blog.png

Which other blogs have excellent homepage designs? Share more inspiration with us in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

download 47 examples of beautiful blog design

  download 47 examples of beautiful blog design

HubSpot Marketing Blog