Defining Email


Email Marketing definitions that explains the most important Email Marketing Terms and Definitions you need to know in simple language.


Every industry has its own language. The email marketing community, too, has its own jargon that sets it apart. And if you are unfamiliar with it, navigating the world of email marketing can be confusing. These top common email marketing terms and definitions below will help you expand your email marketing vocabulary and make you look and feel like an expert.

Email marketing can be more than just text, rich media formats can provide images and give your product or service texture and flavor.

In email marketing, you have the complete attention of the potential customer. The internet is the most popular way for people to gather information about products and services he or she is interested in. Maximizing your business’ capability to appear in internet searches through press release distribution and email marketing are effective tools in reaching your current customer and potential customers with essential information about your products or services. It’s a technique used by businesses worldwide and it can help your enterprise grow and establish a presence on the web.



The part of a web page that is visible without scrolling. It is generally more desirable placement on a Website because of its visibility. If you have a “join our mailing list” tag on your Website, you should place it “above the fold” making it easy for visitors to opt-in.


A/B testing

Exposing a portion of your subscribers to one version of an email or landing page and another portion of your subscribers to another version and seeing which version performs better


Active Consent

Permission indicated when a person explicitly acts to indicate that they want you to add them to your email list (e.g., checking an unchecked box)


Active Unsubscribe

When subscribers opt out either through an unsubscribe mechanism provided by the sender or through one provided by their ISP, including report spam buttons


Affirmative Consent

Another word for permission. The recipient of your email has been clearly and fully notified of the collection and use of his email address and has consented prior to such collection and use. Affirmative consent is not only a best practice; it is required by all reputable email marketing services.


API (Application Programming Interface)

Programming tool to enable separate software programs to communicate with each other or work harmoniously within an operating system. Good examples are Java and Microsoft DirectX, a bundle of APIs that enable game programming and video on PCs.


Auto Responder

A program or a script that automatically sends a response when someone sends a message to its address. The most common uses of auto responders are for subscribe and unsubscribe confirmations, welcome emails and customer-support questions.


Back-In-Stock Email Notification

Sent after the product is back in stock, this triggered email is sent to those who opt in on an out-of-stock product page to receive notification when that particular item is available again


Below The Fold

The portion of an email that displays only after a subscriber scrolls



A list of senders of spam typically maintained by an independent organization that is used by ISPs to determine whether and where to deliver email.



When an ISP prevents your emails from being delivered to their users


Body Content

The text, images, and other content inside your email that becomes visible when opened.


Bounced Email

A bounced email is an email that is returned to the server that sent it. A bounced email is usually classified as either a “hard bounce,” which indicates a permanent failure due to a non-existent address or a blocking condition by the receiver, or a “soft bounce,” indicating that there is a temporary failure due to a full mailbox or an unavailable server.


Browse Abandonment Email 

A message sent to an individual subscriber in response to that person browsing certain pages of your website but not making a purchase.




Calls to Action

Words included in images or text that encourage the prospect to take a specific action. For example, “Click here to see a product tour” or “Add this product to your wish list.”



A coordinated set of individual email marketing messages delivered at intervals and with an overall objective in mind.



A picture composed of both static images and one or more animated gifs, which give motion, often subtle, to a small portion of the overall picture.


Click-To-Open Rate

Percentage of subscribers who opened an email that also clicked the content inside, which is calculated by dividing clicks by opens.


Confirmed Opt-In (COI)

The process of sending a subscription activation or opt-in confirmation email to a new subscriber that requires them to click a link in that email to confirm their signup or else receive no additional emails.


Confirmed Opt-In Lite (COIL)

The process of requiring new subscribers to confirm their signup by engaging with the emails sent to them early in the email relationship or else receive no additional emails.


Content Filtering

When an ISP evaluates an email’s subject line and other content as part of its process to decide whether and where the mail should be delivered.


Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM)

A law regulating commercial email messaging that forbids deceptive messaging, requires senders to include a working unsubscribe link and their mailing address in every email they send, and requires senders to honor opt-out requests quickly, among other things.


Conversion Rate

The number or percentage of recipients who respond to your call-to-action in a given email marketing campaign or promotion. This is the measure of your email campaign’s success. You may measure conversion in sales, phone calls, appointments, etc.


Conversion Reach

The percentage of your subscribers that have converted through at least one of your emails over a period of time (e.g., over the past month or quarter)


CPM (Cost per thousand)

In email marketing, CPM commonly refers to the cost per 1000 names on a given rental list. For example, a rental list priced at $250 CPM would mean that the list owner charges $.25 per email address.


CTR (or Click-through rate)

The percentage (the number of unique clicks divided by the number that were opened) of recipients that click on a given URL in your email.


Dedicated IP Address

An IP address from which only one company sends email, making that company solely responsible for the sender reputation of that address; also see shared IP address



All of the issues involved with getting commercial emails delivered to their intended recipients’ inboxes.



When email makes it to the intended recipient’s inbox or junk folder, as opposed to being blocked.


Desktop-Centric Design

Design techniques that create emails optimized for viewing on large monitors, typically with small, tightly clustered links and buttons.


Device-Targeted Content

Using responsive email design to target subscribers with different content depending on the device that the email is displayed on.


Double Entry Confirmation

Requiring a would-be subscriber to enter their email address again in aconfirm email address field on a subscription form and requiring that the two entries match in order to reduce entry errors.


Double Opt-In

This is the preferred method of obtaining permission from your subscribers. The prospect signs up for email contact via a form, check box, sign up box, etc. The second step comes when the recipient responds to a verification email affirming that they wish to receive future emails. This is a safe way to build email lists and build subscribers’ trust in your campaign. See Confirmed Opt-In.


Email Acquisition Source

The form or mechanism through which a subscriber opts in, or the ad, sign, or other vehicle that causes them to opt in.


Email Authentication

A variety of methods that help ISPs accurately identify email sent by a brand, including Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM), Sender Policy Framework (SPF), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC)


Email Automation

Triggered emails, personalization, dynamic content, and other tools that send emails or add content to emails on a one-to-one or one-to-some basis without manual intervention according to rules established by a brand.


Email Blacklist

It is common for an ISP to a use a blacklist to determine which emails should be blocked (see “email blocking”). Blacklists contain lists of domains or IP addresses of known and suspected spammers. Unfortunately, these blacklists also contain many legitimate email service providers. Just a few spam complaints can land an email service provider or IP address on a blacklist despite the fact that the ratio of complaints to volume of email sent is extremely low.


Email Blocking

Email blocking typically refers to blocking by ISPs or corporate servers. Email blocking occurs when the receiving email server (e.g. Yahoo!, AOL, Hotmail etc) prevents an inbound email from reaching the inbox of the intended recipient. Most of the time the sender of the email receives a “bounce” message notifying the sender that their email has been blocked. ISPs actively block email coming from suspected spammers.


Email Filters

“Filtering” is a technique used to block email based on the content in the “from:” line, “subject:” line, or body copy of an email. Filtering soft ware searches for key words and other indicators that identify the email as potential spam. Th is type of blocking occurs on a per email basis.


Email newsletter Ads or Sponsorships

Buying ad space in an email newsletter or sponsoring a specifi c article or series of articles. Advertisers pay to have their ad (text, HTML or both depending on the publication) inserted into the body of the email. Email newsletter ads and sponsorships allow advertisers to reach a targeted audience driving traffi c to a website, store or offi ce, signups to a newsletter or sales of a product or service.


Email Service Provider (ESP)

A commercial provider of email marketing services that allows their clients to manage their email lists, send messages, track the response of message recipients, and process opt-ins and opt-outs, among other capabilities.


Email Template

Preformatted email file that includes all the elements you want to appear in every email and spots for content that changes from email to email.


Email Whitelist

A whitelist is the opposite of a blacklist. Instead of listing IP addresses to block, a whitelist includes IP addresses that have been approved to deliver email despite blocking measures. It is common practice for ISPs to maintain both a blacklist and a whitelist. When email service providers, like Constant Contact, say they are “whitelisted” it means that their IP addresses are on a specifi c ISP’s whitelist and are confi dent that emails sent using their service will be delivered.



Opens, clicks, and other positive indications that a subscriber is finding value in receiving emails from a brand.


Feedback Loop

The process by which the email client (ISP) of the receiver forwards complaints of emails marked as spam by recipients for removal by the sender. Usually treated by senders as an unsubscribe request. See Spam Complaint.


Forward to a Friend (FTAF)

Providing a link in your email that takes subscribers to a form that allows them to forward all or a portion of your email or a particular message promoted in your email to one or more people that they know.


Hard Bounce / Soft Bounce

A hard bounce is the failed delivery of an email due to a permanent reason like a non-existent address. A soft bounce is the failed delivery of an email due to a temporary issue, like a full mailbox or an unavailable server.


House List (or Retention list)

A permission-based list that you built yourself. Use it to market, cross sell and up-sell, and to establish a relationship with customers over time. It is one of your most valuable assets because it is 7 times less expensive to market to an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. Use every opportunity to add to it and use it.


HTML (HyperText Markup Language)

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. Used by most web pages, it is the programming that translates coded formats into the images that you see. It serves numerous purposes, embedding videos and images and scripts and structuring a page’s content. To encode text inside emails or web pages, designers use HTML elements called tags. These tags are enclosed inside brackets. For instance,is the start tag for a large header font. At the end of the header is placed an end tag, which includes a forward slash


Landing Page

This term has many definitions but one essential purpose: it is the first page that appears when a prospect clicks on a link. Often it is the first page a visitor to your site will see: where they will “land” after clicking a search engine result or advertisement.




Opt-In Confirmation Email

Part of a confirmed or double opt-in, this email requires a new subscriber to click a link in the email to confirm their signup or else they receive no additional emails.


Opt-In Confirmation Page

Webpage or app messaging that follows a successful email signup.


Opt-In Email Marketing

Sending email only to those who have given you permission to do so; also see opt-out email marketing opt out: see unsubscribe


Opt-Out Email Marketing

Sending email to those who have not given you permission to do so and requiring them to unsubscribe or mark your emails as spam if they don’t want to receive future emails; also see opt-in email marketing


Passive Consent

Permission indicated when a person does not act to keep you from adding them to your email list (e.g., not unchecking a pre-checked box); also see active consent


Passive Opt-In

see passive consent


Passive Unsubscribe

When subscribers effectively opt out by either not engaging with your emails for a very long time or by abandoning their email account altogether, causing your emails to eventually hard bounce.


Permission-Based Email

Email sent to recipients who have opted-in or subscribed to receive email communications from a particular company, website or individual. Permission is an absolute prerequisite for legitimate and profi table email marketing.



Addressing individual recipients by fi rst name, last name or both dynamically in an email. Personalization can also include a reference to previous purchases, or other content unique to each recipient. Avoid using personalization in the subject line of your emails as this is a tactic widely used by spammers.


Privacy Policy

A clear description of a website or company’s policy on the use of information collected from and about website visitors and what they do, and do not do, with the data. Your privacy policy builds trust especially among those who opt-in to receive email from you or those who register on your site. If subscribers, prospects and customers know their information is safe with you, they will likely share more information with you making your relationship that much more valuable.


Rental List (or Acquisition list)

A list of prospects or a targeted group of recipients who have opted-in to receive information about certain subjects. Using permission-based rental lists, marketers can send email messages to audiences targeted by interest category, profession, demographic information and more. Renting a list usually costs between $.10 and $.40 per name. Be sure your rental list is a true permission-based, opt-in list. Permission-based lists are rented, not sold. Don’t be fooled by a list off er that sounds too good to be true or by someone who tries to mislead you by calling their list “targeted” or “clean” without certifying that it is permission-based.



The estimation to which a sender is held by the community or the public as sending “good” or “bad” email. Many factors are used to determine a sender’s reputation, though spam complaints are the main metric considered.



Dividing your email list based on interest categories, purchasing behavior, demographics and more for the purpose of targeting specific email campaigns to the audiences most likely to respond to your message or offer. Your list segmentation and targeting efforts pay off with higher open and click-through rates.



The person or organization responsible for transmitting the email, usually identified by the email address in the ‘From’ line.


Single Opt-In (with a subscriber acknowledgement email)

The most widely accepted and routinely used method of obtaining email addresses and permission. A single opt-in list is created by inviting visitors and customers to subscribe to your email list. When you use a sign-up tag on your website, a message immediately goes out to the subscriber acknowledging the subscription. Th is message should reiterate what the subscriber has signed up for, and provide an immediate way for the subscriber to edit interests or opt-out.



Selecting a portion of the mailing list with similar demographic values to send messages relevant to those demographics.


Viral Marketing

pany, product, servicA type of marketing that is carried out voluntarily by a company’s customers. It is oft en referred to as word-of-mouth advertising. Email has made this type of marketing very prevalent. Tools such as “send this page, article or website to a friend” encourage people to refer or recommend your newsletter, come or specifi c off er to others.

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