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As email marketers, we often struggle when communicating technical needs to the IT department. But with technology becoming more important in planning email marketing campaigns, we need to learn to speak the language. Understanding common email marketing terminology in IT will help us bridge the divide, enabling richer email campaigns and stronger KPIs.

Let’s uncover some of the most widely used Geek Speak in email marketing.

Email Marketing terminology explained


An API is merely a way that one service can communicate with another, even if they are not written in the same language. One common example of API usage is when current weather conditions are shown in an email. Programmers use an API from a weather provider to show that result.

API stands for application programming interface, and is a common way to leverage data from another source. APIs are released by many companies, including a multitude of paid and free versions, but some of the most popular APIs are from Google, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and Amazon.


Email providers need a way to ensure that the emails a user receive are actually from the stated sender. Emails can and will be spoofed, so authentication is necessary to ensure that users remain safe. SPF is one type of email authentication.

SPF stands for sender policy framework. It is, essentially, a file that sits on your server that a provider can cross reference with the email.

Multi-part MIME

Another potentially intimidating term for email marketers is the oft referenced, multi-part MIME. Sending a multi-part MIME email merely refers to the fact that both an HTML version and a text version is being sent. Sending both allows you to meet the needs of each subscriber’s email tools and preferences.

More importantly, it’s an important way to ensure deliverability. By providing both an HTML version and a text version, you have a better chance of bypassing the spam filter. Spammers don’t typically provide a text version of their emails.

Reverse DNS vs. DNS

This is probably the most easily misunderstood of our Geek Speak email marketing terminology. DNS refers to the practice of mapping an IP address (ex. 207.123.12) to a domain (ex. With forward, or normal, DNS, the domain name is mapped to an IP address. The opposite is true for reverse DNS, in that IP addresses are mapped to a domain name.

There are several applications for both reverse and forward DNS, but for our purposes, email deliverability, reverse DNS is very useful because many email servers reject emails that do not have reverse DNS records. To add complexity, AOL has additional requirements, including the proviso that the reverse DNS maps to a fully qualified domain name.

Soft Bounce vs. Hard Bounce

You probably understand that a bounce occurs when an email cannot be delivered. There are two types of bounces, hard and soft. A hard bounce occurs when the reason the email cannot be delivered is considered permanent. This happens when a domain name or email address changes, or when the server completely blocks delivery of the email. Soft bounces are temporary and may occur when the email address has reached its storage limit, the server is down or the message is too large to receive, per the server’s limitations.

Why not take it further?

Email marketing is a fascinating discipline, and it’s important to understand how the creative side influences the technical requirements. We may struggle with how to effectively harness our IT colleagues’ talents, but by learning to speak the same language, our email campaigns will be more effective.

Marketers need to know that they have strong allies in the IT Department, and we must work together to drive business forward.

If you’d like to learn more, why not watch our short webinar ‘Geek Speak – How to talk to IT for better email marketing’ in our archive.

Or if you have any other terms you’d like explaining, just leave a comment below!