Email is not only a part of our daily lives but an integral aspect of doing business online. Yet I've been surprised by how often I see clients aren't managing their emails in an efficient way. In this article I will explain the best ways to manage your email account, limit spam, ensure smooth website communications, and maximize productivity.
Website Email Addresses
One of the primary ways to improve your email experience is to use a website email address, like "email@example.com". Often referred to as "business" email accounts, this type of email address is the most professional for doing business since the email address matches your website address, inspiring confidence in customers that you are an established business professional and not just some random person with a free email account.
As part of the annual website hosting fee, I offer WideRange clients one free business email account, set up through the professional Rackspace Email service (which normally costs $2/month per address with a 5-address minimum). This is top-notch dedicated email hosting - far more reliable than typical website emails set up through cheap hosting providers.
When I set up these business email accounts for clients, I set up all the proper SPF and DKIM records which establish authentication of your emails, providing solid deliverability (meaning, less sent emails mistakenly bounced as spam).
Please contact me if you would like me to set you up with a website email address.
Use an email app with an IMAP connection
All email accounts, including the business email accounts mentioned above, offer an online "webmail" interface where you can log in through a browser and read and send emails through the website interface. This can be handy when you need to access your email from a public computer; however, these online panels are usually pretty slow and clunky to work with, and are not a good long term solution for email management.
The best way to manage your emails - by far - is to use an email app on your computer and/or phone, such as Mac Mail, Outlook, etc. Email apps like this offer much better interfaces and tools to efficiently and easily manage your email accounts.
It's best to connect your email account to your email app with an IMAP connection. With an IMAP connection, all your emails are stored on the email server and are synced to your email app. The huge advantage here is that you can easily use email apps on multiple devices and your email account will effortlessly sync to every device - all showing the same inbox and sent folders and archives. Or if you get a new computer or a new phone, you just set up the IMAP connection again and all the emails will sync perfectly. No migration hassles necessary.
If you have a business email account that I set up for you, you can find the proper connection settings and directions here.
Set up a Remote SMTP Connection on the website
By default, WideRange Galleries websites send out contact page emails and order confirmation emails from firstname.lastname@example.org email addresses. These emails are sent from our website server, and sometimes they are mistakenly marked as spam by the recipient (you or your customers).
For improved deliverability and reliability, if you have a website email address (like “email@example.com”) you can set up a remote SMTP connection so that all the website emails are sent directly from your own actual email account rather than the default @widerangegalleries.com addresses. You can configure this in the WideRange admin at Settings > Emails.
Ditch the Forwarding
Sometimes people are resistant to change and are reluctant to manage a separate business email account, so they set up a forwarder so that all emails to the business email address get automatically forwarded to their normal email address, whether that's Gmail, Yahoo, or whatever. However, I do not recommend email forwarding for several important reasons:
- First of all, using a business email account simply as a forwarder is basically a waste of the account. Why even have a business email account if you're not even going to utilize it?
- Secondly, when someone sends you an email to your "firstname.lastname@example.org" email address and it's automatically forwarded to your Gmail address (for example), when you reply you will be replying from your Gmail address, which is not as professional looking and may confuse the recipient.
- One technical problem with a forwarding setup is that your business email account will forward ALL emails, including all spam emails. Therefore, the destination inbox (like on Gmail or whatever) may start to consider the forwarding address as a spam source, thus increasing the chances of legitimate forwarded emails getting mistakenly marked as spam and ending up in your junk mail folder. Put simply, using your business email account as a forwarder will reduce its reliability.
If you manage all your email accounts within an email app as recommended above, it totally solves any inconvenience of managing two separate email accounts, since they are all managed in the same place anyways. So there's really no reason to forward emails from one address to another.
While email spam is part of life in the digital world, there are ways to prevent or limit spam from flooding your inbox.
First and foremost, NEVER post your email address publicly visible online! This serves up your email address on a silver platter to any spambots to harvest and add to their spam lists. In fact this is the main reason why we have Contact page forms on our websites - to allow people to email us without posting our email addresses online. If you want to tell people to contact you on various pages of your website, don't write your email there; instead, write "Contact me" and turn that into a link that goes to your website's Contact page, like I just did there.
One side effect of the Contact page is that you might receive a bunch of "form spam" from there, when spammers send you messages through your Contact page form. Note that you should NEVER mark these as spam in your inbox, since that may cause other legitimate Contact page message to also get marked as spam. The best way to prevent form spam is to install the Google reCAPTCHA spam prevention tool onto your Contact page. In the admin at Settings > Contact there is an easy configuration panel and directions for setting up reCAPTCHA.
Direct spam, on the other hand, is spam that is sent directly to your email address (not through the Contact page form). This type of spam is more difficult to prevent. Your email account probably has various spam filtering settings that you can experiment with. Aside from that, if you are receiving lots of spam from the same spammer, you can set up "inbox rules" or "inbox filtering" or "blacklisting". This can be set up either at the email account level or within your email app. Either way, what this involves is configuring your inbox to reject any emails that match certain conditions, like perhaps from a certain sender address, a certain subject line, or that include certain words (like "Viagra", etc.).
Be Careful with Homemade Mailing Lists
One surefire way to get your email address blacklisted is to send out your own mass emails, whether directly from your own email account or via some sort of newsletter website plugin if you use a WordPress blog. When you send out too many emails at once it will trip alarms by many email provider networks, and anti-spam "cops" will immediately add you to their blacklists. This, in turn, will cause many of your normal emails to subsequently get bounced as spam or filtered into people's junk mail folders.
To successfully send out mass emails you need to use a professional newsletter service, such as Campaign Monitor or MailChimp, to name a couple popular ones. These companies specialize in managing subscriber lists and successfully sending out mass emails. However, you must also ensure to follow their directions to configure authentication (SPF and DKIM records) so that their email services are authorized to send mail on behalf of your email address.
Save Time with TextExpander
Most businesses (and photography is no exception) involve writing the same thing over and over again in emails. Whether it's a common repeated message, answering usual questions, or providing the same directions, it always feels like a waste of time to retype the same messages repeatedly. Luckily, there's a great software tool that solves this problem, called TextExpander, available for both Mac and Windows.
With TextExpander you can enter all your commonly used messages and tag them with a shortcode abbreviation. Then whenever you type the shortcode abbreviation - anyplace on your computer - it will automatically spit out the long form text.
TextExpander has become an essential part of my daily email workflow and has saved literally hundreds of hours of unnecessary typing over the years. (The software actually calculates and reports the amount of typing time saved).
Email is such a big part of daily online business, it's worth getting your email system dialed in to improve its reliability and efficiency. I hope you may have gleaned at least one nugget of advice from this article; otherwise, congrats on already having a smooth email workflow in place!