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Outlook Sending Your HTML Emails Wrong?

Sending HTML Emails That Don't Break

A lot of people get their start in email marketing by sending out email newsletters with Microsoft Outlook. They usually send a plain-text email to a small customer list every month or so. Sometimes they attach a Word Doc, or a PDF file and "blast it out"" to their email list.

Inevitably, they run into problems. Their HTML email newsletters break when viewed by recipients who don't have Outlook (like if they're using Lotus Notes, or Apple Mail, or Yahoo!Mail, or Gmail).

Most people Google around for how to "rig" Outlook to send HTML email. Most solutions involve using Outlook's stationery templates (here's an example we found), or building a web page, then using Internet Explorer's "Send as -> Email" feature (example).

Why Sending Newsletters From Outlook Doesn't Work

But the truth is, Outlook isn't really built for sending email newsletters to a large list of customers. Sure, you can send an HTML email to a few friends every now and then, but not to your entire customer list. Mainly because Outlook sends HTML email in such a way that it only renders properly for other people using Outlook. What about all the other customers who use Apple, or Lotus (corporate users), or Webmail (Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, etc)?

Some people will tell you to try another email application, like Mozilla Thunderbird, or Apple Mail, because they can send HTML email in multipart format. This may be true, but there are some more problems you'll face:

  • If you send too many emails from your own computer, your ISP will think you're a spammer, and will most likely block you. Depends on your ISP, but this usually happens once your list approaches around 1,000 recipients or so.
  • If you send attachments with your email, you'll inevitably run into bandwidth limit issues with your ISP
  • Send emails to thousands of recipients, and you'll get all the bouncebacks and autoreplies from them. Will you be able to manually process them? Hard bounces should be removed from your list immediately, or your email address will be blacklisted by ISPs. Soft bounces should be retried a couple more times before removing them.
  • According to the CAN-SPAM law, if someone requests to be removed from your list, you must do so within 10 business days. Most people who send their emails from their desktop computers don't have scripts to help them automatically process unsubscribe requests. They simply ask people to "reply with unsubscribe in the subject line." That's prone to mistakes, and that's prone to a CAN-SPAM lawsuit from the FTC.
  • When do-it-yourselfers send email to their customers with Outlook, they usually put their entire customer email list into the CC: field. Yikes. All it takes is for one customer to click "reply-to-all" then all heck breaks loose.
  • Outlook and other desktop email applications don't come with tracking tools to show you how many people opened and clicked your campaigns.

Sending HTML Email The Right Way

To send HTML emails properly, they need to be coded in a special format, called "multipart/alternative." That means you combine both a plain-text and HTML email into one message. Then, if a recipient's email application can't (or won't) view HTML email, the plain-text one will display instead. This is usually something a programmer has to configure on your email delivery server.

Email Marketing Services

So what's the proper way to send HTML email newsletters? You should use an email marketing service. There are tons of 'em out there.

Benefits of Using An Email Marketing Service

The benefits to using an email marketing service (instead of sending emails from your own computer) include:
  • Your emails won't break: They send your emails in the proper multipart format every time, so they won't break
  • Automatic list management: They manage your email lists, automatically clean bounces, and instantly remove unsubscribes, so that you don't have to manually maintain spreadsheets of subscribers and customers.
  • Comply with Anti-spam laws: Email marketing services help you comply with anti-spam laws, by inserting one-click unsubscribe links, and your physical mailing address.
  • Affordability: Most are extremely cost effective (pennies per email).
  • List Privacy: They don't just "CC:" your entire list. They send emails individually to each recipient, so you can merge data and personalize every single message (ex: Hello *|FNAME|*, You signed up on *|DATE|* to receive email updated from us, and...").
  • Better Delivery Rates: Most professional email marketing services have established relationships with major ISPs and anti-spam organizations, to help monitor their servers, and stay off blacklists.
  • Reporting and Stats for campaigns: The really cool thing about these services is they tell you how many opens and clicks your campaigns got, so you can tell if your recipients are responding.
  • Spam filter checkers: Some providers even have built-in "spaminess" checkers that tell you if your emails are likely to get trapped by spam filters (see i-Emailer's Inbox Inspector).

The Dangers of Exporting Your Outlook Address Books

If you've been using Microsoft Outlook to send your HTML emails, you're probably just sending to everyone in your address book. And when you discover an email marketing service (ahem, like i-Emailer) that does HTML email better, you're probably going to want to export your entire Outlook Address Book, then import the emails into i-Emailer.

Big Mistake.

Here's why. Over the years, as you've been receiving emails from people and replying to them, they got added to your address book. It's a default feature in most email programs. So you've probably got a ton of people in your address book that aren't your customers or subscribers. They're just people you've replied to. Like the tech support guy at your local ISP. And here's what happens when you accidentally import these people into your email marketing list.

The Right Way To Export Your Address Book

So don't ever just import your entire address book into i-Emailer (or whatever email service you choose). Instead, export your address book, then open it in something like Microsoft Excel. Then, try to sort through them and delete anybody that's not a customer or who hasn't opted-in for emails from you. Yes, that's a real pain. But you've got to do it, or you could get blacklisted fast, and shut down by your email service. Cleartext is a tool that helps you export your Outlook address book better.

Try i-Emailer Free

i-Emailer makes it really easy to get started. Chances are, your email list is already in a spreadsheet, or Microsoft Word document. Perfect.

  1. Setup a free i-Emailer trial account.
  2. Open up your spreadsheet file with your list of customers.
  3. Select all your email addresses.
  4. Copy and paste them into i-Emailer.

If you want to import additional data, like "First Name" and "Last Name" (so that you can merge it into each message), just copy-paste those columns into i-Emailer too.

Here's a video demo of the i-Emailer List Management process, so you can see how easy it is to import your contacts into i-Emailer and start email marketing the right way.

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