AKA: The four email addresses you need to have
(This is part one of a two-parter, dealing with email set-up.)
Dear newbies, cheapskates and too-busy-to-get-it-right people,
(obviously I’m not addressing my readers, but perhaps people you know), you think you’ve done pretty well getting your website to show at yourlovelydomain.co.uk and I salute you on your excellent choice of domain names and your site name and tagline, well done.
So why have you gone and spoilt the illusion of professionalism by providing your hotmail address as your preferred contact point?
What is it with people who are clever enough to realise they need a separate email address for their business, but they still just make something up, like email@example.com – or even worse (much worse), they’ll use acronyms: firstname.lastname@example.org – as if I want to work out that ylws stands for yourlovelywebsite! How am I to remember all this, how am I supposed to feel confident that the email is going to the right place?
email@example.com might seem like a fairly safe address (way better than firstname.lastname@example.org ) but why are you not using your domain name?
It’s your domain name, you own the domain, it’s yours, so use it for your email!
“Oh but it’s our website domain, not our email provider,” you say in defence.
It’s a weak defence at best. I’m 99% certain that if you’ve bought a domain name for more than a stick of gum, you get a free email service with it.
The big four
Here are the four email addresses you need to set up, all on your domain (yourlovelydomain.co.uk we’ll say for instance).
– for as many people who work with you, that way, everyone can easily guess what your people’s email addresses are based on their names.
Got a small operation or want to appear more friendly than professional? Just use your first name. While Sonia@hotmail.com is certainly not available, email@example.com certainly is, as you’re the domain owner, and the only person creating mail addresses!
(Note to fan base, my name is Wedge, my email address is Wedge@kilobox.net – with a name like ‘Wedge’ I don’t need a surname or a nick name, so there.)
– you need a generic address so that you can decide later who replies to such emails, plus it makes you look like you’ve got more than one person holding the office together (yes, your office can be in your bedroom, it’s all about perceptions).
What’s that you say? You prefer firstname.lastname@example.org ?
– Look, do as you think is best, just be aware that people cannot spell in this world, and over the phone, people don’t know if you mean enquiries or inquiries – so they’ll just guess when they sit down to type it in Outlook / Thunderbird / Gmail.
That’s it, that’s all you need unless you really do have loadsa staff and different departments (in which case generic departmental email addresses may be useful for your visitors and your staff.
Don’t create ‘promotional email addresses’, like email@example.com – you may like the gimmick at the time, but some people will add it to their address book, or Google will spider it as your main contact email address, and when you retire it in six week’s time, you’ll upset all the people trying to contact you on it.
I know that doesn’t seem likely, but imagine if you created a poster or television campaign and you created a promo email account of firstname.lastname@example.org – the ‘Drive Better‘ advert might well stick in people’s minds long after the slogan, ad and email address are canned.
Don’t lose business or credibility by being difficult to contact, give out your name, number and email address and be happy about it, and provide a contact form – don’t make people fire up their email just to contact you.
Two more addresses you should have in place
These don’t have to be ‘inboxes’ – they can simply forward email to your only, or your main, inbox.
These addresses are expected by the big computers that run the Internet. I know, it’s hard to work out why we humans should care about the machines, this isn’t the Matrix… but there’s some sense to it.
(RFC2142 states that organisations should have these two addresses as a minimum; RFCs helped build the net, why disrespect the building blocks of the web?)
Some of the big computers that run the Internet look for these specific addresses, and they might decide that you’re less than bona fide if you don’t have the expected email accounts readied. Why should you care? Because the big computers also have to decide if you’re a spammer. How would you like your e-newsletter to be rejected by AOL or hotmail because their computers had decided you we’re sending spamage mass mailings? With spam filters on servers now, spam is deleted and rebuffed even before it reaches people’s accounts, so I like to think that it’s best to follow the ancient protocols and have the right mail addresses set up as soon as I buy a domain. I’m not saying this happens just because of a lack of abuse@ and postmaster@ addresses, I’m not so technically savvy, but why not protect yourself?
Traditional? On the web? Yes, many years ago, when the WWW was but a twinkle in Tim Berners-Lee‘s eye, the Internet was working perfectly well, and there were several established ways for setting things up. The above email addresses were de rigueur, and while you might argue that the web is a different place now, I believe the old traditions still stand – they weren’t replaced or repealed, so they still stand.
How to manage multiple accounts
In the next article, I’ll discuss how to manage multiple email addresses all from one account; it’s simplicity itself and won’t cost a penny. Make sure you’ve got the right email addresses representing your business, and check the next article to see how best to manage them.