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CGI Mailing List Scripts - Is All Of Your List Going Out?
You Might Want To Check!

By Joe Reinbold

If you have your own ezine or other type opt-in list, you will look for the most efficient way to deliver it. There are a number of options available both free, fee based and scripts or software that you can purchase outright.

One type that is available is a cgi mailing list script. You can obtain such scripts free and also purchase them in an upgraded configuration. A cgi script enables you to set your mailing list up on your own server and control the entire mailing process yourself, including automatic subscribing and unsubscribing if you want.
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We tested several scripts over the past year both free and purchased in an effort to make our mailing process more efficient. Several we tested included "Easylist" and "Mail Master Pro".

Overall the scripts themselves appear to work well. They were not too difficult to configure and they had control panels that allowed you to manage your list and mailings effectively. We tried several size lists in each script and on different servers. The list sizes we tested ranged from 500 to 3000 addresses.

As indicated earlier, the scripts themselves appeared to work fine. The problem arose with the servers where we hosted the scripts. Many hosting companies as well as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who allow you to process outgoing mail, have controls on their email accounts or POP accounts as they are called.

In order to control possible spamming by clients, they place limits on the number of emails that can be sent out at one time. It may be anywhere from 50 to 250. As a result, your mailing may "time out". You will have no idea that it stopped. Once you hit that send button to do your mailing there is no way to know whether half the list, three quarters or all of it went out.

In addition, if you are sharing space on a server as many of us do, you may have another problem. Certain times of the day are high traffic periods on the Net. Hosting companies do not want you, as one client of many on a shared server, hogging the server resources. So they may limit your share of the available resources.

Realize too that the time difference throughout the world can effect the high traffic period for you depending where you are located and where your hosting company server is located.

If you try to send your list of 2000 out at 8PM at the height of the high traffic period, you might find, if you test it, that your list may again "time out".

A "time out" can occur when your mailing goes into the mailing system queue where it waits for delivery. If the system you are on has certain controls as mentioned above or there is a lack of resources available due to heavy traffic etc., the mailing process may stop and not restart. This can happen at any spot in the mailing. If you have 3000 subscribers, it could stop at 1200, 2000 or anywhere in between. But as far as you may be concerned, the entire list went out.

How do you test it? It is really quite simple. Place one of your own unique email aliases/addresses at the very end of your list before you send it out. You can enter it as a new subscriber or manually through the control panel. Then when you send the list out, just watch for that particular copy of your mailing as it arrives through your email program. This may also tell you how long your list took to go out.

If you don't receive it, it may indicate you have a problem. And at this point you won't actually know how far the list went out before it stopped.

During one of our tests we used 2500 addresses and placed an email alias at the start of the list, at every 200 addresses and at the end of the list. We simply used an alias such as "200@homebizlink.com" "400@homebizlink.com" and so on so we knew exactly what it represented.

We tested this configuration with at least four mailings. Each one had a different result. One time it stopped between 800 & 1000, one time between 1600 and 1800, another between 2200 and 2400 and one time it went out completely. The results were the same on different servers. Each time we had to manually send out the balance of the mailing with our email program.

A byproduct of the test was that we were able to tell how long each segment of 200 addresses on the list took to go out. There wasn't really any consistency. Sometimes a segment took 4 minutes sometimes it took 8 minutes. On one occasion it took over three hours for the entire 2500 names to go out. The mailings were tried on different hosting company servers that we use and the results were similar.

If you are going to use a cgi based mailing script to email your list, whether it is one you set up on your server or one that you rent from a service, I recommend that you at least test it using the first test above. One of the backups we use for one of our lists is with a company that rents you their list service by the year. The service is a cgi based script which works fine one time and not another. The script appears fine but I believe the same server problem exists although the company won't admit it.

Your list is a very important part of your marketing tools so make sure it is working at full capacity. If you are selling advertising in an ezine, you want to make sure that your advertisers are getting what they paid for. If you have your own sales material in a mailing, you want it to go out to your entire list. And if your subscribers expect to get regular issues of your ezine or other list, then you have to make sure that they are getting it.

You may want to review some of the possible problems we also identified with another tool, the listserver. You can review it at: http://www.homebizlink.com/listserv.htm

Remember, it doesn't cost you anything to a little test, but it will cost you if your message isn't getting out consistently. Better safe than sorry!

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Article by Joe Reinbold, Publisher of Home Income Quarterly E-dition, a weekly online marketing and home business newsletter. To subscribe visit The Entrepreneur's Home Business Link where you will find the solutions to your home business needs at: http://www.homebizlink.com

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