An autoresponder is useful for responding to people who send you inquiries through email. They are an essential tool in any webmaster's toolbox and can enhance your visitors experience but used improperly, they annoy people and push them away from coming back.

What distinguishes proper from improper use? People should receive messages when they would normally expect to receive messages. Some examples:
  • Proper: I expect to get a thank you message after signing a guestbook. I should only receive one message.

    : adding my email to your mailing list because I sign your guestbook. 
  • Proper: I also expect to get a message if I use a form on a website to send a message to the webmaster. This verifies to me that it is indeed more than likely to get to the intended person.

    : again, adding my email address to your mailing list.
  • Proper: If I sign up for your newsletter I expect a thank you email and, of course, the newsletter.

    Improper: Adding my email to anything other than the mailing list which I asked to be added to. Also, sending anything other than the newsletter is generally improper although an occasional status email is acceptable. Never send separate advertisements unless it is clearly spelled out on the newsletter signup page.
  • Proper: Following your written privacy policy to the letter in regards to how the email address (and other information) is to be used, and to summarize that information on the page where it is asked for. You should also have a link to the privacy policy on every single page of your web site.

    Improper: Not having a written privacy policy and asking for information. Not explaining how the information is to be used on the page where it is asked for. Not following your written policies.
  • Proper: Including autoresponder links on your website to deliver articles and information to an email box.

     Improper: Using these links to add email addresses to your mailing list.
  • Proper: If you make articles available for reprint, it is always a good idea to include autoresponder links to make it easy for publishers to get those articles in a suitable format.

    Improper: Using these autoresponder links to add people to your mailing list.
  • Proper: Allow visitors to sign up for an email course using an autoresponder.

    Improper: Adding email addresses obtained in this manner to your mailing list.
  • Proper: Follow up for an order or other communication. For example, a "did you receive your order okay?" message a few days after the order was taken is excellent customer service.

    Improper: Sending more than an acknowledgement and follow up message. The person ordered something, he did not ask to be on your mailing, advertisement or nag list.

Remember this:
Do not add people to your mailing list unless...

  •  (a) you tell them you are doing to

  • (b) you give them the chance to say "no", and

  • (c) they explicitly give their permission. NEVER assume your visitor wants to be added to your mailing list - make him explicitly ask by filling out a form, checking a box or some other similar means.

Autoresponders have some excellent uses:

  • As an acknowledgement or thank you for something.
  • As a way to get something delivered in email form (reprint publishers love this method of obtaining articles).
  • As a way to deliver a series of something (like an email course) to someone.

Now that you know how and not to use
autoresponders, they are available at...

  • has an excellent autoresponder service. They offer a limited function free version, and one of the most functional paid versions that exist.
  • AWeber.Com has another excellent autoresponder service.

Back to: eMail Marketing Tips Index



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