Apple announced at their recent worldwide developer’s conference a change that’s going to affect email marketing, probably shake it to its foundations. Which, honestly, has probably been needed for a very long time. But all those old tried and truisms, those things that ‘marketing gurus’ tell you? Yeah, toss that in the bin because after September, it’s not going to matter anymore. Honestly, as frustrating as some of the changes are, I think they’re going to improve things. As someone who has been a proponent of author websites from the beginning (and I do mean the beginning, like the early 00’s), these changes are going to make it more important than ever that you have a website. (Need to get started? Check out our website hosting here.)
What are these changes? Mail Privacy Protection
Apple Announced: In the Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.
These changes will take place for anyone on iOS 15, iPadOS15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS8.
What does that mean? Good thing I’m a geek translator. Let me tell you.
When you open an email right now, the company that sent the information instantly knows a lot about you.
- Whether you opened the email or not
- If you clicked on any links
- Your device and operating system (For example Windows 10, laptop, or iPhone, OS version)
- Your ip address
- Your location if they can geolocate it from your ip address
Most likely your readers don’t know you have this information, and beyond using it to market to them, there’s not a lot you can do with it anyway. However, in this era of increased privacy (which is a good thing, in my opinion), this information is going away.
How will it affect you?
We already know that open rates can be deceiving. Many people “cull” their email lists of people who don’t open, often because many newsletter services charge per subscriber. (Check out Epona Mail if you’d like a service that doesn’t do this.) In addition it gets the “open rates” higher, which helps keep your newsletter out of spam folders and also looks better when you’re going to swap with other authors.
Once Apple takes this information away in September, your open rates will not be accurate. You will not know if anyone on an Apple OS has opened your email. That’s a large chunk of your readers, and that means you can no longer “cull” those who haven’t opened. Because what if they did?
What should you do now?
First, don’t freak out. There are a lot of different views on culling newsletters (the biggest impact I can see, beyond click and open rates). Personally I think sending someone a “hey do you still want to be here?’ email is rude AF. Trust that your readers are adults and will unsubscribe when they want to. You never know why an email wasn’t opened, and even today it could be because the open wasn’t tracked, as happens in some browsers.
Also know that if you want to do any testing with subject lines or get stats—do it now! We might have to wait until the dust settles on the new Mail Privacy Protection (or see if anyone else besides Google picks up on it) to know how things will work out.
If you do cull your newsletter lists, do it now. You might lose the opportunity after September.
Start training your readers to click onto your website. Put the content you want them to see on a page on your website. Then, you can use your website’s analytics (or click rates on books2read links, etc.) to see how many people are clicking. Get your readers trained now to “read more” on your website.
Finally, teach your readers how to “white list” your emails. What does this mean? It means putting your email address in their contacts or some other method of telling their email provider that they always want to see emails from you.
The only thing that’s constant is change, especially in the world of marketing. Don’t panic. More information will come to light. Those who make a living doing marketing will share their insights with you. And we’ll get through this, find the way to work around it, and move forward. But for now, stay alert and follow the suggestions I provided.