Understanding Email Jargon

Email marketing is a great way to stay in touch with your customers and nurture them. But are you confused about the language used? Do you know what an autoresponder or a drip campaign is? This handy glossary has all of the terminology, definitions, and examples that will help you understand email marketing better.
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Above the fold

The top half of an email message that displays without the need to scroll.


A shorter URL that can be used to track information about visitors to a web page.


The attachment to an email message, such as a image, document or video.


An automated process that uses a prewritten response to respond to an email or online form submission.


A term that refers to standards, such as Sender ID, SPF and DomainKeys/DKIM, that help to identify if an email is really from the domain name and individual listed as the sender. Authentication standards are used in fighting spam emails.



Business-to-business (B2B) interactions take place between two organizations rather than an organization and a consumer.


Business-to-consumer (B2C) is the exchange of information, products, or services between a business and an individual consumer.


(1) The part of the computer that changes source code into object code (machine read code).

(2) The part of the program that runs on a server in a client/server application.

Bayesian filter

A spam filter that evaluates the probability of a message being spam based on content. Bayesian filters are adaptive and can learn new patterns by analyzing incoming emails.


A list of email addresses or IP addresses suspected to be spammers. Blacklists can also be used at the server level to automatically reject incoming mail before it reaches the recipient.


An internet service provider preventing email messages from being forwarded to the recipient.


Email messages that failed to reach their intended destination, “hard” bounces are due to invalid email addresses, whereas “soft” bounces arise from temporary conditions and overloaded inboxes.



A sender authentication method that requires one to respond to a challenge email before the original message can be delivered. This authorization is often used to reduce spam since it requires human action by the sender.

Click-through tracking

The process of tracking how many recipients clicked on a particular email message. This is done to determine the success of email marketing campaigns.

Click-through rate

The email’s click-through rate shows the percentage of recipients who clicked on a particular link within an email message.

Conditional blocks

A part of the email template that will only display if certain criteria are met (for instance the recipient is viewing on a mobile device). Conditional blocks grant email marketers the ability to more individualized marketing emails.

Conversion rate

An email marketing campaign’s measure of success (for instance, the number of people who completed a purchase) is relatively easy to calculate because the technology is measurable.


The Cost Per Thousand, or CPM represents the industry standard for ad impressions. Emails typically generate a rather low CPM compared to other marketing channels as is seen in the sentence below.


Customer Relationship Management refers to the strategies and technologies that assist a company in managing relationships with customers.


Database Management System

A database system that provides LISTSERV® users with the ability to send messages to customers and provide them with personalized information according to their demographic data.


A term that refers to the best practices and authentication techniques of mass email communication in order to successfully deliver opt-in emails instead of sending them back as spam.


Domain Name Server (or system) – A service that translates domain names into IP addresses.


DomainKeys/DomainKeys Identified Mail is a cryptographic verification system that applies signatures to email messages, providing the receiver with evidence that the message was sent by an authorized sender and not altered in transit.

Domain name

A domain name is a label that identifies one or more IP addresses. A top-level domain is the broader designation whereas a second-level domain is more specific.

Domain Throttling

Companies are often limited on the number of emails that can be sent to a single domain in a short space of time. To evade spam filters, some companies will use this technique. The most common use is to comply with ISPs and avoid becoming blacklisted as spammers by sending mass amounts of junk mail.

Double opt-in

The next step in subscribing someone to an email list is sending a confirmation email. The purpose of the confirmation email is to determine if the person who wants to subscribe actually requested it.


To save a file from an Internet server to one’s own computer.



Emails allow people to send and receive text, HTML, images or other data over the internet. Emails have become one of the most popular online activities and are an essential tool for business.

Email bounces

Email messages that fail to reach their intended destination. Emails that get forwarded to you, but never actually reached the inbox of the recipient are considered a “hard bounce.” Temporary issues such as overburdened email servers result in soft bounces.

Email client

The software recipients use to read email. Some mail readers have better support for HTML emails than others. Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo etc.

Email header

A header is a section of an email message that contains the sender’s and recipient’s email addresses as well as routing information.

Email marketing

The marketing strategy of using email to plan and deliver permission-based campaigns.


False positive

An email classified as spam because it was filtered incorrectly.


The section at the very bottom of the email that usually contains the unsubscribe link, company information and maybe some social media links.

Forward DNS Lookup

A Forward DNS Lookup, also known as a DNS Lookup or Domain Name Server lookup, is the process of looking up and translating a domain name into its corresponding IP address. A Reverse DNS Lookup is the process of looking up and translating an IP address into a domain name.


A free computer program made available on the Internet or through user groups.



This is a type of hardware or software that functions as a translator between two different protocols. A gateway can also be called a gateway when it provides access to another system (e.g AOL might be called an internet gateway).


Hard bounces

Emails that are rejected by the recipient because of a permanent error, such as an invalid or nonexistent email address.


When a server acts as the host, other computers on the network do not need to download or store any of the software that this server carries.


HyperText Markup Language – The most commonly used coding language for creating Web pages can also be used in email messages.



The IMAP protocol is used by email clients to retrieve messages. POP and IMAP are two protocols which differ in how they download incoming messages and keep copies on the server.

In-house list

Companies maintain a list of email addresses that were gathered through previous customer contacts, Web sign-ups, or other permission-based methods. In house lists produce better conversion rates than rented lists.

IP address

Computers on the internet are given an IP address to distinguish it from other computers. The four numbers that comprise this IP address can range from 0-255, separated by periods and followed by a period. A domain name server translates any visited site into its corresponding ip address in order for you to connect with it.


Internet Service Provider – A company that provides access to the internet, including webpages and email, typically for a monthly fee.


List broker

When you buy a list of email addresses from another company, there is no way to know who the final recipient will be. Instead of renting emails that may not do your business justice, build your own lists with contacts in mind.

List owner

The owner of an email list creates the policy and scope for what is discussed on the email list, which all subscribers must agree to when they join.



A process through which a mail server can deliver email to different domains simultaneously, speeding up the delivery of large amounts of email.


The message includes text and html versions which the recipient can then open in their preferred format.



One of the most common methods used by spammers for delivering large volumes of email is to use mail servers with an open-relay vulnerability.

Open tracking

The process of tracking the number of recipients who open an email as a result of an email marketing campaign. Open tracking is only possible with HTML e-mails.

Open rate

This is the percentage of recipients who opened their email messages. Open rates are often used to measure the success of an email marketing campaign.

Operating system

A type of software that manages all other programs on a computer, such as Windows or Unix. A graphical interface for a computer.


A way of email lists in which subscribers must explicitly request to be included.


A technique of email marketing in which recipients are subscribed to a newsletter indefinitely until they affirmatively opt out.

Out-of-office replies

Automated email messages triggered by an incoming message to the user’s inbox, often activated when the recipient is on vacation or unavailable in any other way.



The insertion of personal greetings into email messages (specifically “Dear John” rather than the generic “Dear Customer”) requires mail-merge software to allow for so called mail-merge operations. The insertion of personal greetings in email messages is a way to be more personable and invite conversation.

Plain text

Text based emails with no formatting or design elements.


Post Office Protocol – A process for retrieving email messages on a mail server. POP and IMAP have been the most commonly used protocols.



A subset of records in a database which can be used to create highly specified demographics for an email marketing campaign.


Reverse DNS Lookup

Successfully completing a Reverse DNS Lookup is the process of looking up for and translating an IP address into its corresponding domain name. This can be compared to successfully completing a Forward DNS Lookup, which is when you look up for a domain name and translate it to its corresponding IP address.



The act of splitting up a contact list into smaller groups based on certain characteristics like age, location, or their behaviour/actions.

Sender ID

To prevent email spoofing, Sender ID sends a digitally signed message on behalf of the domain name to verify that it has permission to send messages. This verification helps identify emails with forged “From” and “Sender” lines where the author’s identity is masked.


A short text file that email users can automatically append at the end of each message they send. Signature files commonly list a user’s name, phone number, company, and other information to help receivers in case an issue arises regarding the sender.


The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol- a protocol that is used to send email on the Internet. Sending mail via SMTP has many rules, which are set by and for servers, as well as by clients sending mail.


A method of determining whether your email recipient can receive HTML formatted messages. This procedure is not recommended as it may result in inaccurate findings.

Soft bounces

Emails that couldn’t be delivered for some reason, such as because the recipient’s inbox is full.


Junk email, which is unsolicited and sent to a large number of recipients.


Sender Policy Framework –An authentication protocol used to verify the email sender’s permission to use the declared domain name. This helps identify forged messages with “MAIL FROM” on the line of a mail envelope.


Sending a message so that it appears to have been sent from somewhere other than the actual sender.

Subject line

The email subject line is the place for senders to provide a brief, captivating summary of the content they are sending. Email marketers believe that if someone finds interest in the subject line there is an increased chance that they will continue reading the message or open it at all.



Using demographic data and other related information in customer databases to select the most appropriate recipients for email campaigns.


In an email marketing campaign, marketers measure behavioural activities such as click-throughs and opens.


User Interface

A control, such as a button or command, that allows one to operate a computer program.


Viral marketing

A marketing strategy that encourages email recipients to pass along messages to other giving them the opportunity for additional exposure.



The list below contains pre-authorized email addresses from which messages can be delivered regardless of spam filters.



Extensible Markup Language – A flexible way to create standard information formats and share the format as well as the data on the World Wide Web.

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