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Email Glossary: 70+ Email Terms You Should Know

Lauren Breen
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Having a cheat sheet of all the email marketing terms is essential if you’re serious about leveling up your email marketing game. 

Whether you know your soft bounce rates from your open rates, it never hurts to give yourself a quick refresher, and this email glossary should be the most in-depth one you’ve ever seen.  

This ultimate email glossary should help you get your head around those technical terms and get you thinking about your next email campaigns

So grab a cup of coffee and settle in. 

We’re going to get cozy with all the terms you need to be an email wiz. 

Jump to:

    Abandoned Cart Email: A follow-up email sent to someone who has added items to their cart but left the site without completing checkout and purchasing.

    Attachment: An image, video, MP3, document, zipped folder, or another computer file that’s sent with (i.e., attached to) an email message. 

    Autoresponder: A tool that automatically sends a pre-written email in response to a predefined trigger event like sending an email to a specific email address or filling in an online contact form. 

    Base64: A method used to encode binary data as arbitrary data as ASCII (American Standard for Information Interchange) text for use in an email body.

    Blacklist: Often known as a blocklist, it’s a database comprising known sources of spam. New email traffic is then filtered against the list to remove or block spam. 

    Blind Carbon Copy (BCC): Allows the sender of an email to conceal or hide any recipients entered in the BCC field from other recipients in the “To” field. It’s a copy of the email sent to a recipient whose email address doesn’t actually appear as a recipient in the email. 

    Body Message: The written text or contents of an email message; the message body doesn't include the recipient, subject, or carbon copy fields.

    Bounce Rate: The percentage of how often your emails get “bounced” back to you because they cannot reach the intended recipient. Bounced emails are returned to the email sender with a notification of their “bounced” status.

    Call-to-action: A button or link that tells users what to do next. The point of a CTA is to drive consumers to action, usually to a specific landing page or web page.

    CAN-SPAM: An email marketing law that establishes the rules and requirements for commercial emails, gives recipients the right to refuse future emails, and details strict penalties for rule-breaking. 

    Carbon Copy (CC): A copy of an email sent to the recipient whose email appears in the message’s CC field. It means you’re sending an email to the primary recipient in the “To” field and to one or more secondary recipients in the “CC” field.

    Click-through Rate: Sometimes known as email click rate, this is the percentage of people who clicked on a link, CTA, or image within a specific email. It’s calculated by dividing the total number of clicks on links by the number of emails delivered.

    Content: Email content is any message sent to a subscriber, customer, or prospect’s inbox and includes all the text, images, and links. It excludes the delivery route and return-path information. Email content is everything from weekly newsletters to automated replies or new product announcements.

    Deliverability: A metric that indicates the ability of an email to successfully land in an inbox.

    Domain Name System (DNS): How the internet finds, tracks, and regulates domain names and converts them into numeric IP addresses. A domain name is the actual name for an IP address or range of IP addresses. 

    Domain Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC): An email authentication, policy, and reporting protocol. It builds upon SPF and DKIM protocols and provides domains a way to prevent spoofing attacks by allowing the domain name owner to specify how unauthenticated messages should be treated by mailbox providers.

    Domain Name: A domain name is a word that comes between the @ in your email address and the .com, .org, .net. (For example, yourname@domain.com.) Domains help your customers and visitors alike find and remember your business on the internet.

    DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM): Cryptographic authentication methods that add signatures to emails, enabling recipients to verify that the message was sent by an authorized sender and not altered in transit. 

    Double Opt-in: When a person signs up for an email marketing list, a confirmation email is automatically sent, asking them to verify their subscription. Only after the confirmation click is completed will the user officially join the email marketing list. 

    Email Account: An email account enables users to send, receive, and organize email messages. It includes a specific email address that comprises a user name (which comes before the @ symbol) and a domain name (which follows the @ symbol). 

    Email Address: A unique identifier for an email account and is used to send and receive email messages over the internet.

    Email Authentication: Technical methods of verifying that an email comes from who it claims to be from. It’s used to prevent harmful or fraudulent uses of email like phishing and spam.

    Email Automation: Software or email marketing platforms that allow you to send time- or action-triggered emails to subscribers, helping you send the right message at the right time while automating repetitive tasks.

    Email Campaign: A set of individual email messages that are scheduled and sent over a defined time period with one shared goal, theme, or purpose.

    Email Client: The software people use to read email like Gmail, Yahoo!, or Microsoft Outlook. The software could be accessed via a desktop application or browser interface. 

    Email List: A collection of email addresses that receives marketing materials from either individuals or an organization. People usually build their email list through their blog or website. 

    Email Marketing: The use of emails to deliver personalized and/or mass marketing messages to promote your brand’s products or services.

    Email Message: Email messages are sent or received over a computer network. They can include attachments like image files, documents, and spreadsheets. Senders can send them to multiple recipients at the same time.

    Email Recipient: An individual who’s opted-in to receive emails. Recipients usually sign up via the business's website or social media to stay up to date on their news, offers, and other updates. 

    Email Server: An email server (or mail server) is a computer system that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and large sites use to store and deliver email.

    Email Service Provider (ESP): A service that allows marketers and end-users to build email lists and send emails.

    Email Templates: These are pre-created email layouts that may include spaces for content,  images, and/or text. Instead of creating a new email from scratch each time, you can use a template as a base. Templates are also helpful for ensuring emails follow brand guidelines you might have set.

    Event-triggered Email: Auto-generated emails that are sent when a particular event occurs, like when subscribers click on a purchase button or when they celebrate special occasions like a birthday. 

    File Transfer Protocol (FTP): Describes the process of transferring files between devices over a network. 

    Hard Bounce: Emails that fail to deliver because of a permanent failure like an invalid recipient address (which could either be because the domain name is incorrect or isn’t real).

    Header: Code snippet in an HTML email that contains information about the sender, recipient, authentication details, and the email’s route to get to the recipient’s inbox. The email header always comes before the email body.

    HyperText Markup Language (HTML): One of the most popular coding languages for building web pages is also used for building emails. It allows emails to render certain types of information like color, style, images, and multimedia.

    Informational Email: Emails you send to update subscribers on your latest content, product announcements, and other relevant business news.

    Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP): An internet protocol for retrieving email on a remote server from a local client. It uses underlying transport layer protocols to establish host-to-host communication services for applications.

    Internet Service Provider (ISP): A company that provides access to the internet for both personal and business customers, usually for a fixed monthly fee. 

    IP Address: A unique address that identifies a device on the internet or a local network. In email marketing, the IP address helps trace the original sender of an email.   

    List-unsubscribe: An optional email header line that allows recipients to easily unsubscribe or opt out from receiving future emails without having to click an unsubscribe link or marking the sender as spam. 

    Mail-merge: A feature usually hosted within most data processing applications that allows users to send emails to large numbers of recipients. This usually involves connecting a single form template with a database or email list management software. 

    mailto: mailto is an HTML tag that enables site visitors to click on a hyperlink that opens a new message in their default email platform; it allows users to send an email to an email address without having to manually copy and enter it into their client.

    Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension (MIME): A supplementary protocol that enables non-ASCII data to be sent via SMTP. Using this, people can exchange data files like audio, images, videos, and apps. 

    Newsletter: An email that’s often sent at regular set intervals (weekly, monthly, etc.) and updates your audience on your latest news, content, promotions, or anything relating to your products or services.

    Open Rate: The percentage of emails opened in a specific email marketing campaign or the number of subscribers who open a specific email out of your total number of subscribers.

    Opt-in: A specific action users take to consent to or sign up for regular emails. Also referred to as permission marketing, it can be a single opt-in or double opt-in.

    Opt-out: A request from the recipient that they no longer want to receive emails from a sender.

    Personalization: When marketers use subscriber data within their email content to make emails look like they’ve been created specifically for the recipient. Personalization can include using the recipient’s name. 

    Phishing: Pretending to be a reputable company or trusted user to then send fraudulent emails that encourage individuals to reveal personal information like passwords, social security numbers, bank account details, credit card numbers, and other sensitive data. 

    Plain Text: Email campaigns that only contain text without any images or HTML coding. They don’t require any knowledge of coding or HTML and are one of the most basic types of email campaigns. 

    Post Office Protocol (POP): The primary protocol behind email communications; it’s a type of computer networking and internet protocol that retrieves emails from a remote server in order for a host machine to download and access the email message.

    Promotional Email: The main aim of promotional emails is to spread the word about your products or services to potential customers. Promotional emails often include coupons or other discounts, access to exclusive content, first access to sales, etc.

    Public Key Cryptography: Public key cryptography is an encryption technique that utilizes a set of keys to encrypt and decrypt data, protecting it from unauthorized use or access. A sender uses a recipient’s public key to encrypt a message; the recipient then decrypts it using a private key.

    Request For Comments (RFC): A formal document from the Internet Engineering Task Force that outlines the specifications, methods, research, etc., for a specific technology.

    Reverse DNS Lookup: A process when an IP address is identified and translated to a domain name. This does the opposite of the more commonly-used forward DNS lookup when the DNS system is identified to return an IP address. Reverse lookups are typically used by email servers to check and see if an email message came from a valid server before bringing it onto their network. 

    Routing: The process of directing a message to the recipient's host. 

    Segmentation: Dividing email marketing subscribers into smaller groups based on specific criteria like interests, age groups, or previous behavior. The aim of segmentation is to send relevant emails to specific groups of subscribers.

    Sender Policy Framework (SPF): An email-authentication protocol used to prevent spammers from sending messages on behalf of your domain. Using SPF, an organization can publish authorized mail servers and find emails with forged “MAIL FROM” addresses.

    Signature: One or two lines of text following the sender’s name at the end of the email. Signatures could include the company name, product, brand message, a CTA, or further contact details.

    Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP): An email protocol used for sending email messages from one email account to another. It defines a message format and a process to route messages from source to destination through email servers. 

    Soft Bounce: An email that fails to deliver because of a temporary error, usually on the recipient's side. Soft bounces are often measured in eCommerce email marketing campaigns, indicating addresses that are currently unavailable but still usable.

    Spam: AKA junk email, spam refers to any unwanted or unsolicited emails. Spam emails are usually sent in bulk to a large list of recipients. 

    Spam Filters: Evaluates email content to determine whether it’s unsolicited, unwanted, or virus-infected emails. It aims to prevent those messages from landing in a user's inbox.

    Spam Folder: AKA bulk folders, their main purpose is to send all of your unwanted spam emails to a designated area. The spam folder organizes all of your unwanted emails in one place so they don’t clutter your inbox.

    Spam Traps: Planted email addresses used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to identify and combat senders who aren't following email best practices.

    Spammers: A person or organization that sends unwanted emails, usually to long lists of email addresses with the intent to advertise, phish, or spread malware.

    Spoofing: A type of email scam where a criminal or malicious actor will disguise their email address, name, and contact information to convince the target recipient that they are interacting with a known source like a bank, friend, or family member, and subsequently retrieve sensitive information. There are several types of spoofing, including email spoofing, website spoofing, caller ID spoofing, etc.

    Subject Line: The first single-line text recipients see after the sender's name when they receive an email. The best subject lines are short and are usually designed to encourage people to open the email.

    Subscribe: When a recipient chooses to receive an interesting, educational, or entertaining newsletter or email from an individual or business. Once a user fills in the subscription form, they usually receive a confirmation email asking them to double opt-in. They are then added to the mailing list as a subscriber.

    Transactional Email: Automated emails that are typically related to a commercial transaction or account activity (e.g., an email receipt or confirmation of sale, notification of an updated password, etc.).

    Unsubscribe: The act of removing yourself from an email list either by an email command or by completing a web form; opting out of receiving any more emails from an individual or business.

    Whaling: A highly targeted phishing email attack focused on high-level executives who have access to data, authorization, and/or higher clearance. Whaling uses social engineering tactics to encourage victims to perform an action like initiating a wire transfer of funds.

    Whitelist: A list of approved email addresses; this list helps spam filters identify safe emails for deliverability.

    Worm: Sometimes known as a mass-mailer, this is a piece of malicious code that’s sent via an attachment in an email and spreads itself automatically. 

    So there you have it—a complete email glossary to elevate your email marketing know-how. 

    Keep this glossary handy and take your email marketing campaigns to the next level. If you haven't already, go ahead and bookmark it for later (you can thank us later). 😉

    Chapter 1:
    Email Marketing Fundamentals

    What You’ll Learn: Email marketing can be a complex maze, so we break down the need-to-know basics with easy-to-follow instructions.

    Chapter 2:
    Email Design and Copy

    What You’ll Learn: With the basics down, we’re ready to dive into the 101 of actually creating your revenue-driving emails.

    Chapter 3:
    Email Marketing Strategies and Tips

    What You’ll Learn: The best email marketing is done with business goals in mind. Learn the strategies to employ and tips to take things to the next level.