Astral Digital

BIMI: A guide for marketers

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BIMI in 2024: A comprehensive guide for marketers A logo next to your email can increase open rates by up to 10%. When you go into your inbox, have you noticed those brands that have their logo’s next to their name?  Get ready for a wild ride through the digital jungle of email marketing because today, we’re talking about BIMI, or as I like to call it, the “bling” of your email’s trustworthiness. If you haven’t heard of it yet, buckle up, because BIMI is the unsung hero of your brand’s reputation in ever chaotic inboxes.  What is BIMI? Brand Indicators for Message Identification It adds an extra layer of authentication So, what’s BIMI? In the simplest terms, it’s your brand’s logo popping up next to your email in the inbox. It’s a shiny badge of authenticity that tells your subscribers, “Hey, it’s really us, and we’re legit!” It’s needed in a world where phishing emails lurk around every corner like digital pickpockets. BIMI adds a layer of trust and gives senders control over how their brand is represented by email clients.  The AuthIndicators Working Group leads the BIMI movement, and current members of the group include Google, Verizon Media, Mailchimp, and Valimail. Why is BIMI so important for marketers? An exciting change where marketers and security professionals come together! Here’s why we think BIMI is just a fabulous tool for marketers in 2024.  AMPLIFIED SECURITY BIMI is not possible without DMARC implementation. And this is going to become mandatory in the coming future so you’ll already be part the way there!  Digital deception is rampant so BIMI provides a shield against phishing scams. It’s integrated with DMARC to ensure that the sender’s domain is authenticated, preventing impersonation and building recipient trust​​. ELEVATED BRAND PRESENCE A logo next to your email can increase open rates by up to 10%! This visual cue makes your brand instantly recognisable, cutting through the clutter of a crowded inbox​​. TRUST AND CREDIBILITY When users see a verified logo, it’s a signal that the email is authentic. This can be particularly crucial for sectors like banking and retail, where email authenticity directly impacts customer trust. It makes your emails stand out, and with billions of emails sent everyday, we know your brand needs it.  How does BIMI work? To step up to the BIMI standard, a company sets up a fresh DNS record that points right to their logo. Think of it as giving directions to your house—only it’s your brand’s house, and the mailbox provider is the guest checking the invite. When they peek at your DMARC policy within your domain’s DNS TXT record, they’re on the lookout for your BIMI invitation. This BIMI record isn’t anything fancy—just a snippet of text that says, “Here’s where to find our logo, and oh, by the way, here’s our Verified Mark Certificate (VMC) if we’ve got one.” When the mailbox provider sees that everything’s in order, they roll out the red carpet for your logo, placing it front and center next to your email. A note on VMCs Have you ever used a screen reader before? Test your email through a screen reader to see what it sounds like. Which inbox providers support BIMI? Although a larger group of providers is developing BIMI, it’s not live in all inboxes right now. Verizon Media was the first big provider to support BIMI for Yahoo! And AOL inboxes and Google announced BIMI support for Gmail in July 2021.  Apple Mail: Support coming to Apple Mail on iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura Yahoo: Pilot publicly available with no VMC requirement (right now) AOL: Pilot publicly available with no VMC requirement (right now) Gmail: Pilot publicly available with a VMC requirement (right now) La Poste: Pilot publicly available with no VMC requirement (right now) Netscape: Pilot publicly available with no VMC requirement (right now) Comcast: In the planning stages Fastmail: Working towards a pilot Microsoft: No BIMI support How do you implement BIMI? If you’re brand new to the world of DMARC and email deliverability, you can get in contact with us for free advice on how to set it up.  THREE STEPS TO SETTING UP BIMI Getting BIMI up and running consists of three steps: Setting up DMARC compliance Setting up your logo Updating your DNS with the BIMI TXT record. DMARC COMPLIANCE Getting BIMI up and running consists of three steps: Setting up DMARC compliance Setting up your logo Updating your DNS with the BIMI TXT record. The first and most important step towards BIMI is full DMARC compliance. That means SPF and/or DKIM for all mail must be authenticated using your ‘From domain’. Once complete, that From domain also needs either a “reject” or “quarantine” DMARC policy. This process shows receivers that you’re conscientious of the types of messages your brand sends and why you send them, building your reputation as a sender. YOUR BIMI LOGO Then, you’ll need to create your BIMI logo image. The recommendations are an SVG formatted file designed as a perfect square, hosted publicly accessible via HTTPS. Make sure there are no taglines or extra text in it since this logo will likely be displayed too small to render anything like that.  If you’re going to go the extra mile with a VMC, this is when you’d do it.  UPDATE YOUR DNS Now comes the DNS changes to announce your participation in BIMI. The basic setup is “v=BIMI1; l=logoURL;” as a TXT record for default._bimi.yourdomain. Some brands may want to have multiple logos for different use cases, but this “default” selector above works as-is for all mail. How much does BIMI cost? So far using BIMI is free! But, a VMC will cost brands around $1,500 per year.   BIMI troubleshooting If you’ve followed the BIMI setup steps and still can’t get it to work, there are a few troubleshooting tools to use: Use a tool like DMARC Digests to ensure your authentication is working

Email Accessibility Guide

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW EMAIL ACCESSIBLITY GUIDE Only 8% of brands rigidly follow best practices for Email Accessibility.  At least 2.2 billion people worldwide have some level of vision impairment About 217 million of those individuals have moderate to severe vision difficulties Hearing impairment is the third most reported chronic problem among the aged population, but 65% of people with hearing loss are younger than retirement age. Globally, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women experience some level of colour blindness. Around 5-10% of the global population is dyslexic  Accessibility is a vital part of your email campaigns, but it’s often overlooked.  Don’t be that person that doesn’t care.  Visual aspects and design Always design your email with accessibility in mind Avoid all image emails A lot of businesses use all image emails to showcase their products & to make it feel like a seamlessly designed experience. But, doing this usually means you will fail accessibility.  Favouring real text in HTML has a number of benefits when it comes to accessibility. Many email clients disable images for security reasons. This means it’s inaccessible for EVERYONE.  More importantly, even when images are enabled, assistive technologies can’t take full advantage of your content. Screen readers can only access the underlying code of an email,not the text in an image, and screen enlargers and zoom settings often result in blurry, unreadable emails.  The majority of your copy should be included in your email as live text inside of HTML elements. Hierarchy matters Cognitive and situational challenges, such as being in a hurry or distracted, can hinder the readability of long text blocks. Establishing hierarchy through visual distinctions, like varying text size, colour, and placement, helps the reader to quickly absorb email content.  Use bold, high-contrast headlines above concise text segments and incorporate whitespace to prevent content overlap, ensuring easy scanning and readability. Sizing, spacing and alignment Firstly, left align your email copy. Why? Reading relies on visual cues to make sense of where you are on a page or screen.  A crucial visual cue in email readability is the beginning of a new line, serving as an anchor for our eyes as we navigate through the content.  While centred text may appeal for its visual symmetry, maintaining left-justified text consistently is a highly effective strategy for ensuring readable copy, especially for longer copy.  Top tip: If you have any copy that’s longer than two lines, left-align that copy. Use minimum font size of 14px and bigger for mobile Optimise your line spacing – 1.5-2 is better than single spacing  Colour contrasts Contrast plays a pivotal role in email design, often involving the distinction between text colour and its background. Inadequate contrast poses challenges for individuals with low vision when reading emails. The key is to enhance visibility by separating foreground from background, achievable through methods such as colour, font weight, and font size. Regardless of the approach, ensuring sufficient contrast between elements is crucial for email accessibility. A free online contrast checker from the accessibility group WebAIM is also available to identify and address any contrast issues proactively. Keep your email layout simple The format of your email plays a crucial role in ensuring accessibility.  Elaborate, multi-column designs may overwhelm users, causing sensory overload. Simpler layouts are generally favoured, as they reduce the likelihood of users getting lost in the email. Single-column formats, in particular, prove highly effective for creating accessible campaigns.  They streamline content, reinforce hierarchy, and enhance scannability. Increase usability When engaging with emails, it’s crucial to ensure that all links and buttons, considered touch targets, are user-friendly. For text links, it’s essential to make them distinguishable from the surrounding text.  The default underlined blue text for links serves a purpose, and when deviating from this style, it should be done sparingly. Underlines, especially, play a vital role in indicating links in an email, considering the approximately 300 million colourblind individuals globally. Relying solely on colour for link styling can present challenges for this demographic. For calls-to-action and buttons, it’s important to make them large enough to be tapped by individuals with larger or shakier thumbs or pointing devices. Adequate whitespace around these targets helps prevent accidental link taps, reducing frustration for users. Adding a hover state to both text links and buttons is a valuable practice for creating a more accessible user experience. Incorporating a hover effect through CSS and the :hover pseudo-selector differentiates the appearance and behaviour of links when users hover over them. This not only serves as a clear indicator that the content is clickable but also enhances the overall email design, an aspect often overlooked. Creating accessible content Copywriting & readability Revisiting the copy of your campaign is among the simplest methods to enhance its accessibility.  Making sure that your copy is both readable and easily understandable significantly contributes to the overall accessibility of your campaigns, and incorporating a few straightforward tricks can facilitate this improvement. KEEP COPY CONCISE Although it’s tempting to cram emails with content, shorter, concise copy is preferred. Litmus research suggests the average email attention span is 13.4 seconds and the ideal email copy is around 50 words. Beyond attention spans, individuals with cognitive disabilities may struggle with longer texts.  The W3 Working Group, overseeing WCAG guidelines, emphasises that reading difficulties affect diverse demographics and education levels. SENTENCE LENGTH Complex sentences hinder email readability. Choose for short sentences to enhance understanding and allow your audience to focus on content rather than deciphering complicated structures. Split longer sentences whenever possible (bullet points are great!).  JARGON & LANGUAGE Shorter words are better, as they’re easier to absorb and demand less reader concentration. Replace complex words with simpler synonyms whenever possible. LOCAL LANGUAGES Global marketers should prioritise translating content into local languages rather than relying on operating system or browser translations.  While coding techniques can assist, it’s advisable to use a reputable translation service and go beyond translation by incorporating culturally appropriate language and content. TOP TIP: The Readability Test The popular Flesch Reading

The Ultimate Cold Email Outreach Guide

COLD EMAIL HAS A BAD REP THE ULTIMATE COLD EMAIL OUTREACH GUIDE Cold email has got a bad rep. No wonder, because so many of you do it wrong… It’s impersonal It’s boring It feels unwanted We all get those dreaded pitch slap emails in our inbox that we immediately open to delete.  333 billion emails are sent every day 1 in 6 emails don’t get to the inbox 4 in 5 emails are never opened  That’s what you’re coming up against – it’s tough out there. Important note: Cold outreach is hard, you will get more no’s than yes’s and probably even more people ghost you. This guide aims to help you improve response rates, but cold outreach will always be a tough gig.  Here you’ll find the ultimate guide for cold email outreach to get you the BEST results What is the point of cold email outreach? Cold email outreach is when you send an email to a potential customer who doesn’t know you or your business.  The point of doing this is to: Start conversations Capture engagement Build brand awareness Get new customers and clients  Cold email outreach is all about creating value and relationships. So when you think of it like that, it’s pretty obvious you shouldn’t be pitching right there & then, right?  A cold email’s goal is to pique the interest of your recipient so that a relationship of giving and taking can be built.  It doesn’t matter if you’re attempting to build backlinks, get on a podcast, promote websites across different niches, or offer potential clients your amazing services, it’s the relationship that will bring you there (not an ugly pitch slap).  Everybody can benefit from building relationships, I actually landed my biggest client through an outreach message and managed to start conversations with some amazing brands and people.  Get your tech set up sorted first This means: Having a dedicated email sending subdomain purely for cold email Having the right email service provider to use to send your emails from (for the love of biscuits, please do not send from your inbox) Getting your email sending domain authenticated (SPF, DKIM, DMARC) Your data is just as important as everything else Dirty data, the wrong data, out of date data are all recipes for disaster. Before you do anything, ensure you’ve got good quality data, by this I mean: Valid email addresses  If you’re buying data – ensure you buy from a reputable data broker Don’t send to people in your database from years go   And also, make sure this data is your target audience – if it’s not, you’re wasting your time.  Get these 3 things right 1. Your subject line This is such a crucial element and because you can no longer rely on opens it’s hard to find out if it’s effective anymore. Your subject line should: Stop the reader in their tracks Entice curiosity Make them want to open it Hook them in   Keep it short, concise, friendly (and avoid any clickbating). Depending on your audience you could use humour or wit. 2. Your elevator pitch In a few sentences or less you should be able to tell your reader, who you are, what you do & what you want with your recipient. It needs to be engaging, not overly pompous (no one cares if you’re a Fortune 5000000 company) and always revolve around the reader.  Top tip: Provide value in your emails alongside your pitch. Give out something will help your audience for free.  3. That call to action (CTA) Make that CTA crystal clear (and stick to one). Ok, so you’ve got their attention, now what?  Tell them what they need to do. Whether it’s getting them to reply and answer a question, click on a link or download something.  Make it clear, make it easy & most importantly – don’t be pushy.  Cold email practices you should follow Stay honest with your emails If you are straight up pitching and you’ve got this person’s email from LinkedIn or purchased it, sometimes a little bit of honesty can go a long way.  Creating a human to human connection is the most important thing you do here and instead of just pretending like you somehow just have their email, just be honest.  Personalisation for the WIN I don’t just mean use their name in your email. And also, please avoid doing this: “Hi [first name], as [job title] from [company]” – that’s just boring and not going to get you the best results. Personalisation means understanding your reader on a deeper level, and this is all done through research. Speak to their challenges, pain points, needs, wants, desires – don’t just assume. Research is such a key part of email outreach – without it, you’re spraying & praying. While you’ll catch a few, you’ll piss everyone else off. Remember to follow up – the right way This is very much based on your audience, because if you’re talking to a CEO that is so busy and inbox if already crowded your follow up strategy would be different to say someone in a completely different role within that business.  3-5 follow ups is our sweet spot, but there’s room for me where we feel it’s relevant.  Do not follow up everyday – that’s just annoying.  Have an actual cut off email and stick to it. We always use a final email that let’s the recipient know that we won’t be following up again – but here’s what you can do. Stick to your promise!  Common mistakes people make when doing cold email outreach Using the wrong email address Any information from the sender that shows up in the inbox is crucial, I’m talking about: From email From name Subject line Preheader   But, here’s where people go wrong… The email address. You should have a dedicated email sending domain and email address specifically for cold email outreach – but in most cases it’s some old email