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The Net Takeaway: Analyze by Domain?

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Analyze by Domain? · 09/13/2005 05:23 AM, Marketing

David Baker of Agency.com writes the “Email Insider” column at Mediapost, and he has continually demonstrated a very smart approach to using email. But everyone has a bad day, and his most recent article (well, recent as of Sept 13, 2005) Are All Clicks Created Equal? (free registration required, or try bugmenot.com), while sounding promising, starts to go down the “myth” path. I point this out mostly because it stands out from the quality of his other articles.

His whole focus in this one is on analyzing by domain. He starts to get a bit off the wall with the belief that email domains reflect “personas”, but then gets back on a track… right into the whole deliverability bugaboo again.

I can’t argue with the basic point: if you want to examine deliverability issues, that happens by domain (well, really, by ISP/MSP, since many 2nd tier freemails use the same back end mail system Outblaze, and domains can share an ISP), at least for the big guys (Hotmail/Yahoo/AOL etc.)

But is there really an “AOL User” to target? Its not the grandmother anymore, or the teenager, or the newbie. People in domains are different. So even if you see some sort of pattern where AOL is different from Hotmail, well, so what? How can one react to that? Are there really any strategic, not technical or delivery oriented or simple web creative, reasons or ways to take advantage of this info?

In general, no. It continues to come back to the real problem. When people want your mail, they will do whatever it takes to get it: check junk folders, turn on images, click multiple times, whatever. Instead of worrying about the minutiae of “wow, users chose to show images in Gmail so they must like us”, I tend to focus on the larger issue: Am I delivering relevant content which meets the needs and desires of each person I am mailing to?

Suddenly, the domain-based weighting is revealed as nothing more than a distraction for anything other than deliverability. Get over it… if users aren’t complaining, if you send quality content, if you custom publish based on whatever data is of value (hint: it won’t usually be domain, for the most part, though B2B is a different story). Yes, creative and technical requirements vary from email client to client (outlook vs. webmails vs. eudora etc) and the various ISPs/MSPs have different requirements for mail sending speed, etc… so don’t ignore them… but strategically, focus on targeting the person, not trying to throw lots of little tactics at the problem.

So, look past this rather weak current article (well, current as of Sept. 13, 2005). Read his others (listed below this week’s entry on the Mediapost site or go directly to the archive which includes articles by Baker as well as Bill McCloskey of EmailAnalyst fame). So many agencies do a poor job of trying to understand email (which is why companies like e-Dialog and Responsys have been so successful) but David Baker shows that there is still hope.

(BTW, there is a whole school of social research on the original use of persona online, that is, the creation of a social identity, which is how Mr. Baker intends to use it here. The word has been co-opted by the usablity/info arch folks who use it to describe use case originators (stereotypical users for thinking about how to design a site). Anyway, in the early days, domain was part of the research where AOL really did mean newbie, and hotmail was more often used outside of the US than in it. Nowadays, domain is ignored in such research other than the pov that people who are concerned about their identity construction now get vanity domain names. And it would be nice if the IA/Usab folks would bet a new word instead of co-opting an older one. But I digress.)

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