How To Send Email To AOL Members
America Online -
- are the largest Internet Service
Provider (ISP) in the world. And they are probably the most
exotic ISP because they still do not fully support Internet
standards. So, if you have many AOL members on your lists,
it is worth adjusting your mailings.
AOL Email Message Format
A common myth is that AOL users cannot receive HTML
emails. That is not true. Since AOL 6.0, which was
released in October 2000, AOL mailer can interpret HTML.
This means that you can send HTML emails to AOL
just as you would send it to regular addresses.
AOL 6.0 had certain problems interpreting HTML.
However, the quality of HTML interpretation has
been constantly improving since then. AOL 8.0
even has a decent support for style sheets (CSS).
Sometimes, AOL users may have difficulty with the
graphics inserted in the HTML messages - AOL may
compress the graphics and corrupt it in the process.
AOL users have an option to turn off the compression,
which solves the problem, but some of them may have
compression turned on.
AOL 5.0 (released in October 1999) does not understand
HTML, but it does interpret some HTML tags inside text
messages. Not many HTML tags are interpreted. It is
important to know that the A tag is interpreted, which gives
you an opportunity to insert links in your text message.
For example, if you use the following text:
<A HREF="http://www.aysoft.com/">AY Software</A>
it will be displayed as
This was intended as a quick fix for clickable links and
simple text formatting, but it was carried forward for
compatibility reasons, so newer AOL mail readers also
interpret HTML tags inside plain text messages,
just the same way as AOL 5.0 did.
The latest at the moment AOL 8.0 is still doing this.
If you have a mix of AOL and non-AOL recipients, this
poses a problem, because no other mail reader will interpret
HTML tags inside text message. For example, if you want to
insert a clickable link into your text message, most non-AOL
mail readers do not need anything special, but AOL users
will see a clickable link only if you put it into HTML A
tag. So, if you want to please both groups, you need to send
Some bulk email software programs, such as
AY Mail Professional Edition let you customize the
text of the message depending on the destination. For example,
in AY Mail you can write:
#/if(Email Address = *@aol.com)/#
<A HREF="http://www.aysoft.com/">AY Software</A>
This will alter the text of the message depending on the
destination email address, so that all recipients will see a
You cannot really tell how many of your AOL recipients have
modern versions of AOL software. Even though AOL users can
upgrade to latest versions, there's no guarantee that they
do that. You can guess that most of them have the latest (AOL 8.0),
however some of them may still be running AOL 5.0 or even
earlier version. If your audience is not technically savvy,
the percentage of people running older AOL version may be
In short, you have three choices:
HTML messages. AOL users who have
AOL 6.0 and later will have no problems with HTML messages.
However, it is a good idea to carefully test it with different
versions of AOL to make sure your HTML is interpreted properly,
just as you would test it with Outlook, Netscape, Hotmail, Yahoo
or other mail readers you're targeting. AOL 5.0 software
will interpret your HTML messages as if they were text messages,
and, since it looks for HTML tags in text messages, it will understand
some of the HTML tags. Therefore, if your HTML is very
simple, it may look fine in AOL 5.0. AOL 4.0 and earlier versions
will display HTML code instead of formatted HTML.
Text messages. If you're looking
for greater compatibility across mail readers, text messages are
the best. However, AOL will not make links in text messages
clickable. And you won't be able to insert pictures and track
Text messages with some HTML tags.
This is AOL specific and shouldn't be used for any non-AOL
recipients. So, you either need to send a separate messages
to AOL and non-AOL recipients, or you need to use conditional
text as explained above. AOL 5.0 and later versions will
display these messages correctly.
(both text and HTML) are
not a good option for AOL. They won't be displayed correctly with
mail readers prior to AOL 7.0. Later versions will just display
the HTML part.
AOL filters are very aggressive. Harsh filters work
on the server side. More filtering is added on the user
computer. Everything that is suspicious gets filtered out.
The destination users frequently do not suspect that
their incoming emails is filtered.
The worst thing is that email message may be filtered
out without any error indications, in which case it may
be very hard to understand why the message is lost.
Fortunately, it doesn't happen too often.
We suggest taking all possible measures:
Do not send direct.
AOL will filter it out
unless they think that email comes from a big SMTP server. You
must send through a regular SMTP server. If you're unlucky,
your whole ISP may be banned from AOL, in which case you
won't be able to send to AOL at all.
Personalize all your messages.
A message coming
to several AOL users at a time may be filtered out.
Use your real return address.
from bogus email addresses won't come through. Besides,
it is a good idea to always use your real address anyway.
Watch the contents.
Avoid using multiple dollar signs, exclamation
points, or words commonly used in spam. Suspicious
contents may drive your message directly to
junk mail folder.
Good luck in your mailings!