Posts Tagged ‘email’

How reliable is MailChimp tracking?

Saturday, September 30th, 2017 | Business & Marketing

When you send an email newsletter with a provider such as MailChimp, Aweber, etc, they give you a report on who opens your emails. But how accurate are these numbers?

I had the opportunity to test this recently.

It’s good practice to clear your email list periodically because email providers use open rates to access whether your email is spam or not. So, if you have a lot of old, inactive addresses on your list, or it’s going into people’s spam box and they’re not seeing it, it is a good idea to remove them so that it does not affect email delivery to the people who are reading your emails.

How I tested it

For two lists I had, I created a segment who had not opened the last five emails we sent them.

I then sent these people an email saying “are you receiving this?”, inviting people who still wanted to receive the email me back. Anyone who did this would indicate that the numbers are not accurate.

Here are the results…

West Yorkshire Humanists

We had 120 people on the list. 36 had not interacted with the last five campaigns.

Of those, 11% read and 6% clicked the email. This suggests that people are receiving my regular emails but choosing not to read them.

An additional four people emailed me to say they wanted to continue to receive the email. This suggests that the tracking statistics are out by a significant amount. This is because this is just the people who were bothered to email me back; how many were in the same situation but didn’t bother to?

Anxiety Leeds

We had 256 people on the list. 100 had not interacted with the last five campaigns.

7 people emailed me to say they would like to continue receiving the emails.

Again, this is probably only a selection of the people who are receiving the emails and not being tracked.


The open rate tracking provided by MailChimp, and likely other email providers, is a useful guide to see campaign to campaign. However, it does not seem to be an accurate measure of who exactly is reading your email because many people are reading them but not reporting as having done so in the reports.

GetResponse review

Sunday, May 28th, 2017 | Business & Marketing, Tech

I use MailChimp for a lot of my projects. However, while it is awesome for most things, it does lack in automation. There are workflows, but they are pretty straight forward and linear affairs with no tagging: the only action is to send another email. There is no flow chart style interface, either.

So, I have been exploring other options. The first one I picked up is GetResponse. It is very reasonably priced in comparison to its competition with the basic package starting at $15 per month. Their site says, $10, but it’s actually £10 plus VAT, which is £12, which translates to $15.56 at time of writing.

Interface and workflow

I found the interface a little confusing. I was trying to edit my campaigns, for example. This is not in the menu. You have to click a little cog next to the campaigns drop-down. This shouldn’t be a big thing, but it took me ages to find it, and it was infuriating.

I also found the workflow a little confusing. You have to create a draft message. But then when you try and drag it into a workflow, it pops up a little box saying it has to copy it to the automation folder. Then I have two copies of the message. What is going on here?

And if you want to use Google Analytics integration, you can’t do that through automation. You have to use the newsletter editing screen and copy the message over to automation.

When you click exit on editing a message, you go back to the homepage, rather than the messages page. Again, not a huge thing, but it feels like the workflow for someone using it in the real world could use more attention (MailChimp isn’t brilliant at this, either).

The automation builder itself is really nice. You can drag and drop elements onto the page, such as messages or decisions, and configure the output easily. There are lots of options including tracking opens, clicks and specific link clicks, and re-arrange and add elements to your heart’s content.

Message editor

The editor itself is okay. It lets me edit the HTML directly, which I like. However, you have to generate a plain text version manually. There is a “Copy HTML” button, but this does not bring in the paragraphs, which you then have to fix manually. It doesn’t handle links very well either, in my opinion.

I could never get the inbox preview to work, but the test emails arrived soon enough.

User management and API

The user system and API are where I really struggled with GetResponse, though. You are unable to add tags to a user when you create them. This is frustrating when someone joins by making a purchase because you want to tag them with that purchase straight away.

You might think “oh, well I’ll have to create the user, then query for that user ID, then tag them, making three requests to the API. It’s not ideal, but it will work.” Except it won’t work. Because users are not added to your list in real-time. They are done via a queue. So if you query for a user immediately after creating them, they won’t be there.

They have a PHP library for the API, but it needs some work. It typecasts everything as an object. Even the arrays. So you end up with things like:


PHP doesn’t allow this, so you have to JSON encode the object, and then JSON decode it to get back to:


Even if you could add tags, there is no screen to allow you to manage them.

Support & live chat

They do offer 24/7 live chat. This was a mixed bag. The first time I spoke to them they confirmed there was no tag management screen and that they did not support the API, so would not be able to answer my question about that.

The second time I spoke to them was when their message editor was playing up. I was trying to edit the HTML, and every time it broke. It turns out that unless you select “HTML editor” when you first create the message, you are stuck. I had started with a template, and there is no way to switch. So I had to create a new message and copy it in. It was difficult to get the message across to the support agent, but eventually, we found ourselves on the same page and sorted out the issue.

Other problems

Copying things over is more difficult than it seems. GetResponse uses the session to track what message you are editing. This means that if you open one message, and then a second, it things you are editing the second message on both screens.

Let me explain this with a scenario:

  • I have message A, and I want to copy over the content from message B
  • I open message A
  • I open message B and copy and paste the content to message A
  • I click “save” on message A to save the new content
  • GetResponse thinks I am editing message B and overwrites the content of message B, ignoring message A

I lost a lot of content before I realised this. Luckily, I had backups on my computer.

And in case you’re thinking an easy way to avoid this would be to duplicate message B and then edit it, think again: there is no duplicate functionality.

Getting people into an automation workflow can be tough. You can filter what happens based on custom fields. However, this doesn’t work on the initial subscription: it only works when you go in and edit the custom field of the user. Which is not very automated.

Other features

GetResponse also offers landing pages, webinars and some other stuff. I watched a webinar about their webinars, but I haven’t tried any of these systems because I just want the mailing list functionality. It might be great.


I love GetResponse’s automation builder. The drag and drop interface makes it easy to create an email sequence that follows what people do and delivers them relevant messages. It is powerful and shows you how many people are at each point.

But that is where my love ends. Coming from MailChimp, where everything is beautiful and works well, GetResponse has a lot of issues. There are so many problems that working with it becomes infuriating, undoing much of the power that the automation functionality should be adding in.

Ultimately, you can launch a simple automation workflow that is more advanced than MailChimp. However, there are so many bugs, dead-ends and limits to what would otherwise be a great tool, that you don’t get much advantage.


Friday, January 20th, 2017 | Tech

Email is a word of trouble these days. Most of it spam. So everyone, ISPs and users alike, put up huge defences against the spam. These are typically so aggressive that a huge amount of legitimate email gets caught in the net. For example, gMail categorises anyone emailing Anxiety Leeds as spam. Most ISPs block any email from Leeds Skeptics also.

However, email is still really useful and probably the most powerful form of online communication, so everyone is still using it. You have to find a way to make it work. One of the important ways of doing this is protecting your reputation. You cannot be sending emails to the wrong accounts, or accounts that do not exist.

When I started a course to teach IT contracting, I had a problem. I was giving away my first set of lessons, and a book. All you have to do is register and you get it all for free. But people were registering with fake email addresses or other people’s email addresses. To stop this, I put in a double-opt-in system, in which you had to click the link I emailed to you.

However, still meant I had to send an email to a possibly fake email address. Not to mention that people started using disposable email addresses.

So, I integrated BriteVerify. They have an API where you can check whether an email address exists or not. They check the MX records of a domain, filter out disposable email addresses, and does a few other checks.

Does it work? Mostly, yes. It passed on all the test email addresses I gave it. In the real world, it is not perfect, but it does provide an easy way for me to automatically screen out obvious fakes. They maintain a list of disposable email address providers for example. I have my own blacklist, but there’s is much more comprehensive than mine.

The downside is that a) it costs money ($0.01 per check with no free tier) and b) that it will slightly slow down the response times of my page while I am speaking to their API. Given that registration is a one-time process, though, so far it has proven worth it.

Work email rules

Friday, January 13th, 2017 | Success & Productivity

Want to free up a couple of minutes of productive time in the office? My friend John taught me this email rule, and it is worth implementing…

Anyone who puts two exclamation marks in the subject line is not someone whose emails you need to read.


Wednesday, January 4th, 2017 | Tech

Mailgun is an email sending service made by Rackspace. Specifically, it is designed to be used as an API for sending automated emails.

This is different from a mailing list manager such as MailChimp or Infusionsoft. These allow you to build up a mailing list and send out newsletters. Mailgun is designed to be used by web applications looking to send emails behind the scenes. For example, I use it in my IT contracting course to send out welcome emails when someone registers.

Setup is relatively straightforward. You register, enter your domain name, and then Mailgun gives you a whole host of DNS entries you need to add to your domain. You are then given an API key that your scripts can use to send messages out from. They have a PHP library you can bring in via Composer (and libraries for all the other languages too), so it was just a case of wrapping that in my own code.

Best of all, they have a free tier: you do not pay anything for your first 10,000 emails.

Of course, the real test of success is delivery rates. Time will tell whether that is successful or not. However, my old solution was setting up a gMail account and sending email through their SMTP servers is unreliable (Google occasionally thought I was being hacked and locked my scripts out) and meant the email was coming from an account, which is not very professional. So, this promises to be a big improvement even if delivery rates are only just as good.

U never know what’s around the corner

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 | Distractions

Upon checking my emails recently I found an email with the following content in. It was not addressed to me, nor did the email it was sent from match that of the email in the body. But nobody would lie on the internet, right?

Good evening, master

I want to be your servant which is ready to make all your dreams come true. My name is Marya. I am 25, young, pretty beautiful and I like sexual experiments like BDSM, roleplaying and other. I am sure that sex is about freedom and not only about missionary pose, right?

I am searching for a man who is ready to satisfy me fully, u know what I mean, right?) If you ready to break any boundaries and ready to experience the most ardent desire and best sex in ur life then do not hesitate and write an answer as soon as you can! I am already waiting!

Please kindly send your respond to

Can’t wait to hear from you!

P.S.: To accelerate you I’ve attached some ero pics of me…

Yours, Marya

She had also attached a picture of herself, and it turns out she was quite attractive.

So I emailed her back.


You’re gorgeous. Where are you? How did you get my details?


She hasn’t responded. It’s almost as if it is some kind of scam…

Banning internal emails

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 | Thoughts

Last year, ATOS boss Thierry Breton announced he was planning to bring internal emails to an end at the company.

It’s a brilliant idea. As his research shows, most of the internal emails we get at work these days are junk. In fact, up to 85%, perhaps even higher, are messages we didn’t actually need to get. Yet we spend hours and hours every week reading all of them!

That can’t be productive for a business.

That is all on top of emails being a distraction in themselves. One thing Gijsbert has commented on in the past, and that any “how to study” or “how to focus” book will talk about is disconnecting yourself from the outside world and not getting distracted by things like email.

So, over the past week at work, I’ve been “switching off” my emails. When possible, I read them first thing in a morning and shortly before the end of the day. Between then I close my email client and get on with actually doing my job – writing code!

Overall, I’m more productive. I’m not missing important emails either. I was expecting a lot of people to come to me and say “did you read my email yet?”, but nobody has. Nobody! You could almost argue that as it wasn’t important enough for them to come chasing me up, was it really important to send to me in the first place?

Of course, this isn’t the same thing as banning internal email, but what I think it shows is that emails have, on the whole, not become more of a burden than a benefit and the workplace can be made more productive by finding alternative routes of communication.

Comment notifications

Sunday, January 11th, 2009 | News

I’ve finally got round to adding email notifications to further comments being posted on my blog entries. So if you comment on one of the entries you can now opt to be notified by email if someone posts a follow-up comment on that same entry.

Weird feelings

Sunday, April 27th, 2008 | Humanism, Thoughts

I was sending out the weekly Atheist Society mail-out today and arrived at the bottom of the message to sign my name. Traditionally this would be signed Chris, Society president.

But I didn’t. Because I’m not.

Having spent the last two years as A-Soc president, it’s a weird, weird feeling.