Email list hosting service & mailing list manager

Why Simplelists Is Better Than Facebook for Private Groups

Posted on Oct 15, 2014

If you’re setting up a discussion group these days you have a lot of options to choose from. You could use a social media platform, such as a Facebook ’closed’ group, to host your discussion or you could choose to use a group email service like Simplelists.

If your organisation or business values the privacy of your group discussions we believe that group email is the preferable option. In fact, it doesn’t just come down to privacy - the actual ownership of your content is at stake...

Private or Public Concept

We looked into privacy and content ownership on Facebook and Google+. We considered including Twitter too but decided against it because it doesn’t really provide the equivalent of 'closed groups’ or 'circles’, instead being an unashamedly public platform. We have to admit to being slightly shocked by what we found.

From Facebook’s terms:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights... you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide licence to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP Licence).
It was noted that we couldn’t find exceptions to these terms for ’closed’ or ’secret’ groups - it seems that this applies to these groups too.

We did come across the following terms specifically related to privacy options:

Although we allow you to set privacy options that limit access to your information... We cannot guarantee that only authorized persons will view your information. We cannot ensure that information you share on Facebook will not become publicly available.
Google’s terms of service were much the same:
When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works... communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.
So basically it seems that any content that is put on Facebook or Google+ can be used by Facebook or Google as they wish.

Now compare these to the relevant part of the Simplelists privacy policy:

All data, including emails, list content, subscriber lists and any list information, is the express property of the account owner and/or the author of a particular message.
At Simplelists we love social media - it’s a great place to connect with people and share things that you want everyone to see. This blog post will be shared on Facebook and Google+ shortly after it is published.

However, we believe that there is a time and a place for private discussion, where the author maintains full ownership rights to the content that they produce. You can sign up for a free trial with Simplelists here.


Choosing a subject line

Posted on Sep 19, 2014

In our last blog post, we explained that your email delivery rates might be reduced if your list members report your emails as 'spam’. A feature of Simplelists is that we enable the members of your list to engage easily in private group discussion with one another. So, it’s important that your emails get opened and that your members don’t mark them as spam before doing so, whether accidentally or not.

Spam Folder Listing

One way to ensure that list members open your email and are sure that it is from a recognised, trustworthy source, is to make sure you have a good email subject line.

Top tips for writing a good subject line

Short is sweet. It is worth bearing in mind that the average email client can display between 38 and 47 characters in a subject line. A study carried out by Return Path in 2006 found that "click through rates for subject lines with 49 or fewer characters were 75% higher than those with 50 or more". So, brevity is probably best.

Resonate with your readers. Content-related subject lines that 'hit home’ with your readers will work better than something more general. You could consider using a teaser: 'This month: Is it worth buying organic?’ might be more tempting that 'August newsletter’.

Avoid spam 'trigger words’. Email clients generally have inbuilt mail filters to automatically file messages in the spam folder. Words like 'video, trial, sample, mortgage’ are examples of potentially problematic choices. You can study lists of spam words and you can also use websites like EmailSpamTest to test the likelihood of your email being filed as spam.

Avoid repetition and add a dash of intrigue. It’s always a good habit to avoid repeating a subject line you used before, even it worked really well previously. Give people a reason to open the email by focusing on something that 'whets their appetite’. Use something memorable or funny to catch their eye.

Personalise and localise. There is always an element of 'what’s in it for me’ when ruthlessly scanning an inbox full of messages. A study carried out by Experian in 2013 found that personalising emails by using words like 'you’ and 'your’ in subject lines may help to boost open rates. Mentioning a place can also help to focus people’s attention.

Finally, make it clear who you are in the 'From’ line. With Simplelists, you can send your email from your own email account , directly to the list address. Check that your name/company name is displayed clearly so that your members will immediately remember who you are and why they subscribed to the list in the first place.


Spam management and delivery rates

Posted on Sep 12, 2014

It’s becoming more common for people to report emails as spam, even if they signed up to a list in the first place. If enough emails are reported as spam, delivery rates can be reduced and in the worst case scenario email addresses can be blacklisted and emails won’t get through at all.

Management of email addresses that have marked an email as spam is critical in keeping delivery rates high and preventing email lists from being blacklisted. You’ll be happy to know that Simplelists fully manages spam reporting for you, ensuring that your emails continue to get through.

spam email

What happens when someone hits 'report spam’?

When a list member marks an email as spam their email provider creates a 'feedback loop’, which automatically notifies Simplelists. We receive reports from email providers such as Gmail, Yahoo mail, Hotmail and a number of Internet Service Providers.

We use this information to automatically remove the email addresses of people who reported emails as spam from your list(s). This prevents them from receiving further emails from the list and from repeatedly marking emails as spam.

By taking this action Simplelists keeps your 'marked as spam’ rate low and helps ensure that the delivery rate of your emails is as high as possible. It also helps to keep your list up to date with those people who really want to receive your message.

Emails accidentally marked as spam?

Occasionally people can accidentally mark emails as spam - if this is the case they can always subscribe to your list again in order to receive emails.

Ideally you want accidental marking as spam to be kept to a minimum - here are a few tips on how to achieve this:

Keep your branding consistent. If you have set up a list and people have subscribed to it, try to remove anything that could cause confusion, such as: changing the name of the list; using a different name from your company or organisation name; adding members to a new list with a different name; using an acronym rather than the full company name. Ideally, your branding should be recognisable every time so that your members can look at your email and immediately remember why they subscribed.

Ensure subscribers are clear about what they signed up for in the first place. If they’re not getting what they thought they opted-in to, or there is a long delay between subscribing to the list and receiving the first email, they may have lost interest or even forgotten that they originally subscribed.

For a more in-depth look into using subject lines that will help prevent emails being marked as spam please see this post.

It can be worth noting that marking as spam can be an invaluable source of information about your members’ behaviours and preferences. If a particular list is producing a lot of complaints, it is worth investigating further.


Simplelists Acquire 'DiscussThis'

Posted on May 21, 2014

We are very happy to let you know that Simplelists have acquired DiscussThis, another group email service.

Business deal

It’s an exciting time at Simplelists - as we expand we are continually improving the user experience and adding new aspects to our service. Acquiring DiscussThis made a lot of sense for everyone because DiscussThis provided a service that was similar to Simplelists and Simplelists is continually upgrading to keep up with new developments in the ever changing tech industry.

Acquiring DiscussThis has added to the increase in growth of the Simplelists customer base while providing customers who made the transfer from DiscussThis a smooth and easy transition alongside other advantages.

Customer Benefits

There were several benefits for DiscussThis customers who made the transition to Simplelists:
  • A Free Month - Simplelists provided customers that made the transition from DiscussThis one month of free service to get started. This was in addition to the free month that was provided by Discuss This in April.
  • Lower Prices - multiple lists are cheaper at Simplelists than they were at DiscussThis, they start at just £30/month for up to 1000 list members for unlimited use.
  • Smooth Transition - Simplelists handled the transition for customers so that they saved time and effort. We transferred customers list data to Simplelists so that customers accounts were set up quickly and easily (please note that no credit card information was transferred).
Sign up for a Simplelists account here.




Creating The Perfect Landing Page.

Posted on May 11, 2014

If you’re using Simplelists for email marketing campaigns then the email you send will probably contain a link to a webpage so that readers can go to your website. It’s really important to get this landing page right - here are some tips...

Landing Page

1) Don’t Just Link To Your Home Page

This is pretty obvious but is something that people get wrong far too much! The landing page should be specific to the email that you’ve sent - visitors will be looking for information related to the email and if they land on a general home page then you’ll lose them.

2) Use A Concise Headline

The headline will be the first thing that visitors see when they click through. It should be close to the top of the page and large enough to be obvious and also be concise and catchy. It should also inform people that they have landed on the correct page by matching the content of your email.

3) Include A Striking Image

Pictures create an impression quickly, add colour and style to your page and encourage people to read the content. The main image should be high up the page so that people don’t need to scroll to see it and should be relevant to the page content. Remember to include 'alt tags’ for your images so that sight-impaired people’s screen-readers will pick up on them.

4) ... Or Video

If the main content of your landing page is video based then there is no need to include a picture as well - that would just serve to distract. It can be a good idea to include a brief introduction to the video - just a couple of sentences to encourage people to click play. A written summary of the video can be a good idea too as some people will prefer to read/scan rather than watch video.

5) Think About Colours

Think about the image that you’re trying to portray and match your colours to this. It can be a good idea to look into colour psychology when you’re doing this. People associate different feelings with different colours, for example blues are associated with trust, wisdom, confidence and stability while reds are associated with energy, strength, passion and desire. Also consider colour contrasts - avoid those colour schemes that make people’s eyes bleed!

6) Use Sub-Headings To Break-Up Long Text

People are more likely to scan than read online, so breaking your text into bite-sized chunks with clear headings is a good idea. Not many will read a long block of continuous text.

7) Include An Obvious Call To Action

Decide what you’d like visitors to do... maybe you want visitors to view your special offers, subscribe to your service or buy a product. Whatever action you’d like people to take, make it clear and easy for them.

8) Remember To Optimise The Page

Give the page a relevant Page Title Tag, URL and Meta Description. This will help search engines and can also improve click through rates from emails as people can see that the link has a trustworthy address.

9) Make The Page Mobile Friendly

Ideally the landing page can be viewed on all kinds of devices, from widescreens, to laptops, to tablets and smart-phones. A responsive page is best but if this is not possible at least make sure that the page works on phones and tablets. This is especially important if you want visitors to fill in a form or make an online purchase.


Workaround implemented for Yahoo mailing list decision

Posted on Apr 11, 2014

We wrote recently about the problems created by Yahoo’s decision to prevent their emails being forwarded through mailing lists with an unaltered sending address.

At the time we talked about a couple of options we had. We’re pleased to announce that we’ve now implemented a workaround, which will allow members with Yahoo email addresses to continue to participate in mailing list discussions.

The workaround functions by altering the "from" email address of an email whenever it is from a Yahoo email account. It alters it to a "dummy" address (a black hole), but leaves the sender’s name intact so that you can still see who is sending the message. We then add a warning to the list message that the address has been changed (also informing the sender), and add the original address into the warning so that you know what it is. We also add a "reply to" setting with the original email address, if one does not already exist.

This isn’t perfect, but it does allow us to maintain all the functionality of the mailing lists that you have become used to, and still allows Yahoo senders to use them. At the moment none of the other major email providers are affected, so switching to one of those alternatives is an option to avoid this workaround.

As always, we’d be pleased to hear your feedback on this or any other issues.


Yahoo update prevents email list forwarding

Posted on Apr 8, 2014

At Simplelists we’ve long been conscious of the problems caused by forged email addresses. You will no doubt have seen such emails yourself, such as your banking supposedly informing you that your account has been suspended.

Over the years there have been a variety of technologies to combat the problem, including DKIM and SPF, which Simplelists has integrated into its services.

One of the newer technologies is DMARC. DMARC works slightly different to other solutions, in that it provides the facility to protect the actual "from" email address. This has been really important for companies such as Paypal, whose emails will never be sent or forwarded from anyone other than Paypal themselves.

As of yesterday though, Yahoo has now implemented the same solution. On the face of it, this would seem to be a sensible move. However, it now means that nobody other than Yahoo are able to forward Yahoo emails. This includes the "forward to your friend" function provided by news websites, as well as services by mailing list providers such as Simplelists.

So what is the way forward? Simplelists has a number of options, none of which are particularly attractive. If possible, we recommend avoiding the use of a Yahoo email address to send to any mailing lists. Other than that, the 2 main options are:

1. Reject emails to our mailing lists from Yahoo. With their change, Yahoo are effectively preventing their service from being compatible with mailing lists, so rejecting their emails as such is not an unreasonable option.

2. Rewrite the "from" email address of anyone who sends from a Yahoo email account. Of course, the disadvantage of this is that you won’t be able to see the email address of the sender, so we would likely add this information to the front of list emails. A messy solution, but it would at least allow Yahoo senders to still use email lists.

Please note that delivery to Yahoo email addresses is unaffected.

We hope that all makes sense. In summary, please avoid using Yahoo to send emails to our mailing lists. We’ll keep users informed of any updates, and if you have any questions or feedback, please contact us.


Simplelists API (beta)

Posted on Mar 31, 2014

Simplelists is designed to be really easy to use with only very basic computer skills needed to manage your email list - if you can click and type you can use Simplelists! However, there are also a range of technical features which open up a world of options for more advanced users. One of these is an API...

Robot with tools and application programming interface sign. Technology concept

What can you do with the API?

The Simplelists API allows you to automatically synchronise your Simplelists members list with the contact list in another website or system. This opens up many options such as:
  • automatically adding customers who purchase from your online shop to your Simplelists email list
  • integrating website registrations with your Simplelists account so that new registrations are automatically added to your list
  • removing members from your list when the paid membership of a service expires
  • integrating a company database with your Simplelists account so that new employees are added to the email list and employees that leave are automatically removed
In fact, the possibilities are endless!

In simple terms, how does the API work?

Simplelists provides a computer-friendly interface, which allows another website to make amendments to a Simplelists contact list, without it having to login using the normal web-interface, which is obviously designed for humans.

CiviCRM Plug In

The easiest way to use an API is with a module that has been created for an application. Due to the popularity of CiviCRM we have created a (beta) plug-in that allows contacts to be synchorised both ways.

Features include:

  • When a contact is created or updated in Simplelists, it is automatically created or updated in CiviCRM too.
  • For multiple lists groups will be created in CiviCRM, reflecting the Simplelists list membership.
  • A number of options to help synchronise the 2 systems.
For more details on the functionality of the plug-in and for installation instructions please see this page.

API Specification

If you’re a programmer or have someone who can program for you, it’s possible to create your own plug-in to interface with your own system. The details that you’ll need to get started can be found on the API Specification page. There is also a complete example of code (PHP) used to for a complete API, including the code to: 'Authenticate using User Credentials’, ’Retrieve contacts’, ’Authenticate using Authorization Code’ and ’Obtain a new access token’.

Beta Testing

Note that the API is in beta testing at the minute so the protocol may change in the future.



Sending HTML Emails with Simplelists

Posted on Mar 28, 2014


Channel Customers To Buy Direct From Your Website Instead Of From eBay or Amazon

Posted on Jan 14, 2014

Large shopping websites like eBay and Amazon can be a great way for retailers to get new customers - in fact many online businesses take almost all of their orders through websites like eBay or Amazon, even if they have their own website. But it’s not all a bed of roses - there are several downsides for retailers that use large online stores. Find out how to drive existing customers from large shopping websites directly to your website...

Highway Sign - Your Website

The Big Advantage

The reason that these super-sites are so useful to retailers is that they increase the visibility of products that would otherwise never be found online. For lots of small online retailers, eBay and Amazon get their products sold while their own websites are lost in obscurity on Google’s search results, never to be found.


The number one disadvantage of selling on large shopping sites is the cost imposed by the site: a seller can expect to pay in the region of 20% in fees to eBay by the time they include Paypal fees and Seller Fees. With Amazon the costs are even higher - more like 25%!

eBay sellers are effectively tied to using Paypal and this can come with problems. For example, Paypal regularly holds a merchants balance for several days, preventing them from withdrawing funds while they carry out routine checks. This can occur at short notice and could be a real hassle for small businesses if their cash-flow is stopped when employees’ wages are due.

eBay and Amazon show many different sellers’ products alongside each other - this can be a bad thing for sellers that have a regular customers who keep on coming back as they may end up buying a competitor’s product instead.

The Solution

So, if you are an online retailer, it can make sense to use eBay and Amazon to get new customers but then to channel returning customers to your own website. But it’s against the terms and conditions of these shopping sites to advertise or even mention your own website - if you do that you could end up getting banned from the site altogether.

However, there is nothing to stop you from emailing your customers independently and including details of your own website in the email. When a customer makes a purchase via Paypal or credit card they’ll almost always include an email address. The customer will be expecting to receive emails from you since they have just bought something from you - this can be a good time to convert a new customer to a returning customer. It is also an excellent opportunity to direct that customer to your own website... add them to your email list right away!


Here are some methods that can be used when trying to channel customers to your website.

Offer the same products at a slightly cheaper price on your website than you do at the large shopping sites - without the expensive fees you’ll still increase your profit. Advertise these products in your email newsletter.

Offer some products exclusively on your website - people will be more likely to browse your website if they know that there are products that they can’t get anywhere else. Include the details in your emails to customers.

Provide special offers exclusively on your website an let your customers know via email.

You have probably noticed that these methods generally involve some incentive for your customers to change their regular shopping behavior. If you do this regularly their first stop will be your own website rather than a shopping site like eBay or Amazon.