Email Marketing Glossary: Understand the Terminology


When you start learning about email marketing, or even if you have been sending marketing emails for a while, it can be tricky to understand the marketing lingo and all the technical terms. Thus, we have compiled a list of email marketing terminology, consisting of popular email marketing terms, to make it easy for you to learn and understand this professional jargon. You can come back to it any time to cross-reference a word or a phrase you are unsure of.

Popular Email Marketing Terms and Phrases

A/B testing – also called multivariate testing or split testing – is a way to test different elements in one email campaign. It is a recommended practice to help you optimize your emails as well as learn more about your email recipients. Here’s a good introduction to A/B testing.

Abuse complaint – occurs when someone marks your email as spam.

ALT-tag – also referred to as ALT-text. It is a coded text that describes the image. Amongst many reasons why you should have them in your emails, remember that they are beneficial for accessibility purposes and also for users trying to view your email offline because the pre-determined ALT-text is displayed instead of the non-showing image.

Autoresponder – an automated email message or series of email messages, email marketing automation technique.

Blacklist – a real-time list that uses a variety of criteria to determine if the IP addresses are spam IPs. If you are blacklisted, your email will most likely be stopped from delivery.

Bounce rate – the percentage of emails that cannot be delivered and thus returned to sender. There can be soft and hard bounces. It is recommended that the bounce rate is less than 5%.

Bulk mail – a large-scale email deployment that can also be called mass mailing.

CAN-SPAM – the “Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003”, established in the United States, regulates commercial emails. You can learn more about the CAN-SPAM Act on the Federal Trade Commission webpage.

CASL – Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation came into effect in 2015. It outlines the rules regulating the send of commercial electronic messages. It is one of the most rigid anti-spam laws in the world. Find out more about CASL here.

CTA – a call-to-action, usually a word or a phrase, asking your email subscribers to do something, for example, “download now”, “view video,” or “buy now”. Learn about the CTA here.

Dedicated IP – this is an IP address that only you can use to deploy your emails. This way, you have more control over your deliverability. They are often used by high-volume senders.

Deliverability – the ability to deliver your emails to your subscriber’s inbox.

Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) – is an email authentication method linking your domain name to your email. It verifies email’s authenticity and helps avoid forged email sender addresses. Read more about this and other authentication methods here.

Double opt-in – when an email is sent to the new subscribers asking to confirm their opt-in.

Email analytics – a variety of metrics used to track the performance of your emails, for example, unique or total open and click rates, click to open, deliverability rate, and many others. You can learn more about positive and negative email metrics on our Smaily blog.

Email Service Provider (ESP) – a company providing you with the tools to manage your mailing list and send and track your email campaigns.

GDPR – the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force 25th of May 2018. It applies to all companies processing and holding personal information of anyone residing in the EU. You can read more about GDPR here.

Hard bounce – failed email delivery due to permanent reasons, for example, an invalid, incorrect, or blocked email address or domain name.

IP warmup – gradually increasing the number of emails sent from your IP address to help correctly build the IP’s reputation.

Internet Service Provider (ISP) – usually offers email accounts to their customers.

Marketing automation – using technology to create automated processes, for example, segmenting and automatically deploying emails according to the pre-planned workflows. Read more about marketing automation here.

Opt-in (subscribe) – a choice to receive emails by giving your email address and permission to a company, website, or individual.

Opt-out (unsubscribe) – when your email recipients request to stop receiving your email communications and thus have to be removed from the email list. You are legally required to have a clear and not misleading opt-out method.

Personalization – email marketing technique trying to make the emails more personal and targeted based on the information you have collected about your email recipients. For example, using a personalized salutation, referencing their purchases, or even personalizing images in the email by using dynamic content. Discover the opportunities for personalization in the article here.

Preference center – a type of elaborate web form or an online tool that helps your email recipients manage their subscription preferences.

Preview pane – considered one of the most essential email parts, especially for B2B businesses. It is a top section of an email visible as a preview in your subscribers’ inboxes.

Responsive design – an email that renders well across multiple devices (whether it is a mobile phone, a tablet, or a desktop computer) is built in responsive design.

Segmentation – a way of dividing your database or a mailing list into smaller groups, called segments, to make your email campaigns more relevant. Learn more about segmentation by reading our “Ten Smart Ways To Segment Your Mailing List” blog post.

Shared IP – sharing an IP address with other email senders. A cheaper alternative to having a dedicated IP, however, it comes with less reputation control.

Single opt-in – allowing your subscribers to opt in without requiring them to confirm their email address. Opposite to double opt-in.

Soft bounce – failed email delivery due to temporary reasons, such as a full inbox, an email that is too large, or a temporarily unavailable recipient’s server.

Spam traps – email addresses that look like real emails but are used by ISPs to catch spammers. They do not belong to individuals. Thus, they do not opt-in to receive email communications. There are a few different types of spam traps, such as pure spam traps or recycled email addresses. Read more about spam traps here.

Sender Policy Framework (SPF) – another email authentication method used to validate if an email came from an authorized domain, or in other words, on whose behalf an IP or domain sends the email.

Throttling – sending email messages in batches rather than all at once. It controls the volume of emails deployed to one ISP at one time.

Transactional email – an email that is triggered by a user’s actions and sent to assist with an agreed-upon transaction, for example, confirmation of a newly created account or a purchase receipt. They are deployed on a one-off basis to a single email address, usually in real-time.

Whitelist – when the email recipient adds you to his or her approved sender’s list, helping your emails reach the inbox and avoid being classified as junk mail.

Did we miss anything? Let us know.

Next: How SMS Marketing Fits into Your Email Marketing Strategy

Despite some businesses believe that SMS could be replaced by other types of messages sent via different digital channels such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, the fact is that billions of people send and receive text messages every single day. Thus, it’s no surprise that SMS marketing is becoming popular too. So in our next blog post, we’re going to take a look at how SMS marketing fits into your email marketing strategy.

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