Pre-Distribution Mailing Checklist
How do you check if your mail look equally good across all browsers and mail clients?
The worst nightmare of an email marketer is a barrage of letters and phone calls from subscribers and boss immediately after a distribution. Why is that? Because most of the time there won’t be any gratitude, or any interesting questions, or purchase orders. Instead, there will be complaints like “The distribution has been sent out and you can’t click on the link! Don’t ever send me anything! You’re fired!”.
Different email clients display emails in different ways. If you checked the appearance of a mail in one client, it doesn’t mean that it will look the same to all of your subscribers. To avoid this, you need a systematic approach. Don’t take a chance; go through all the steps of the checklist below before sending any email. It covers 99% of all potential problems you may encounter with emails.
Before we move on to our check-list, please take note of the following two points.
1) You won’t need to perform most of these checks if your letters have no design and contain just plain text.
2) Most of these checks are not necessary if you are using any of the standard letter templates offered by your mailing service provider (e.g., SendPulse) or are creating your email using a visual constructor, without interfering with HTML.
In this case, the responsibility for displaying messages in different clients falls on the email distribution service. However, if you are manually introducing changes to the code of your template, make sure you do use the below checklist.
Never include anything you don’t want your subscribers to read or see in the draft version of your email. Swear words, indecent pictures — sooner or later the stars will align in such a way that you will accidently distribute that draft, and that won’t do any good. Simply don’t make such drafts. This should be your Rule 0, with an asterisk and an exclamation mark attached.
Make sure your email is ready to be sent out. Make it exactly how you want it to be. Stop at a point where any changes made are only there to correct any errors you may have found.
Create a test mailing list consisting of your own personal addresses from the most popular web services: gmail.com, yahoo.com and outlook.com.
Send your completed email to that address list. At this stage make everything look exactly as if you were distributing a real mailing: add or list the real UTM labels in your links (and make sure you use these when you send out the real mailing!), and do not use the “Test Message” function. Essentially, send a completely finished email distribution, but to only yourself.
1. Check your links.
Links may be damaged when you paste them from the clipboard. Escaping characters, forwarding problems… There are many opportunities to slip up when adding a link to your email, especially if it’s a long link containing multiple UTM-labels.
If you want to be 100% sure that all is well, don’t be lazy and follow each link in the email.
Make sure that the URLs lead to valid and corresponding pages (i.e. that the UTM labels weren’t trimmed or distorted). You should follow the links both from desktop and various mobile applications to make sure that they lead to the correct versions of your page, for example, to the mobile version, and that it opens correctly.
This may seem excessive but in real life websites and their redirecting schemes can be made in the most amazing and bizarre ways. For example, if you follow http://site.com/?utm_source=news1&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news1 , you won’t get to site.com; instead, there will be just an attempt to get to that exact URL. In the world of web development one simply can’t hope for the best, and it’s best to double-check everything.
2. Check your code on different operating systems
If you’re using a specialized service to distribute your mailings you usually don’t have to worry about coding, but if you, for example, copied an HTML template from somewhere online, and it contained some code, you may encounter some problems. Check to see whether the users of different operating systems (Windows and Mac OS X) see gibberish instead of the text you intended.
3. Check contact details
If you’re mentioning a phone number and a return e-mail address, make sure that you can actually access them. What do we mean by having access to the phone? Often companies use a virtual number service to be able to track any calls. Check that everything is paid for, and that the number is working.
4. Check what the email looks like in the main web clients as well as desktop and mobile clients
The most important task is checking how your emails are displayed. Many people are too lazy to do that. As a result, the most promising subscribers (i.e. those that are potential customers) who may be using Outlook, instead of seeing your beautiful email, end up seeing some unexplainable hell of a letter.
Here’s the “gentleman’s set” of email clients you should be testing:
— Microsoft Outlook 2003–2007
— Microsoft Outlook 2010–2016
— Outlook.com (web client as well as iOS, Android and Windows Phone apps)
— Yahoo! (web client, the iOS app)
— Google Inbox (iOS and Android apps)
— Gmail (web client, iOS and Android apps)
— Apple Mail (build into the OSX and iOS clients)
If you wish, you can perform all these checks manually. The list may look large but if you have at your disposal all the necessary devices, it takes less than half an hour. Half an hour of your time or the risk of distributing crooked letters to a rather large percentage of your subscribers? The decision is all yours.
A good automated testing solution to monitor appearance of your emails is Litmus. With it, you can check the appearance of your letters in a large variety of different clients.
Litmus has two disadvantages: the price ($79 a month, but you get to try it for a week free of charge) … and an indirectness of sort. Like it or not, the service won’t give you the same kind of confidence you’ll get when you see your emails with your own eyes on every device and in every client. However, this service is perfect for initial evaluation. You can lean on it if you want to, but if you need to be a hundred percent sure, you should definitely spend some time on manual tests.
If you created a distribution, sent a test email to your Gmail, and everything looks fine, it does not mean that you can already go ahead and press “Distribute”. You should most definitely test your letters properly, especially if you prepared them manually rather than using ready built visual constructors.