AOL announced yesterday that it has designed a new email product called Project Phoenix, now available in previews.

AOL has made a big announcement – but not the one search marketers may have expected. Brafton last week reported that talks of an AOL-Yahoo merger were heating up, but the company has come out with a new product that may have less impact on the search market, but be of greater interest to email marketers.

AOL announced yesterday that it has designed a new email product called Project Phoenix, now available in previews. The upgraded AOL Mail is supposedly more intuitive, designed with consumers' use of email in mind.

Project Phoenix offers users an integrated email experience. A Quick Bar makes it easy to send emails, IMs or text messages and enables consumers to update Facebook or Twitter directly from their inboxes – a feature marketers may like, as it blurs the line between email and social, which Brafton has reported are the two major content-sharing platforms.

The new email product also raises the stakes for email marketing message search optimization; it boasts single-click search that makes searching inboxes faster for users. This is similar to Yahoo's recently launched Yahoo Mail Beta product. But Project Phoenix goes a step beyond, offering search refinement options with the click of a mouse. This means relevant content is key to email marketing success.

Officials say they chose to update the email offering because AOL Mail represents nearly half of the company's business. Forty-five percent of all AOL page views are related to email. "Email remains one of the most vital communication tools despite all of the new sites and apps available to consumers today," said Brad Garlinghouse, president of AOL's consumer applications group.

This may be a theory the company shares with Facebook. As Brafton reported last week, Facebook will be making a big announcement later today – and many speculate that a new inbox branded by the social site could be on its way.  

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.