So ReturnPath, a leading email data consultancy, reported recently reported that “one in six emails never make it to the inbox“. And that’s worldwide– based on a sample of 500 million messages analysed as part of the company’s annual Inbox Placement Benchmark.
How does that deliverability rate compare to sending printed item by good old snail mail? Pretty poorly, I reckon. If my local post office lost one in six of my letters, I’d be furious. I bet you would be too.
So why do we accept weak deliverability with email?
One answer could be that we see individual email messages as less valuable than a printed letter. As email marketers, we send hundreds or thousands of email messages at a time. And they’re much, much cheaper to send than traditional mail.
But when you consider what losing one-in-six email messages really means for your campaigns, it’s less acceptable. If one out of every six emails you send never gets delivered, then:
– You’re effectively ignoring 1/6 of your customers with each campaign
– You’re wasting a 1/6 of your email marketing budget
– Your campaign performance is automatically 17% worse than if all of your emails got delivered
– If important messages go missing, such as account notifications, it can have serious consequences for your customer relationships
But what can you do to improve your email deliverability? Well, here are 5 great tips that can make sure more of your emails hit the inbox.
|1||Review your sender reputation|
Check your Sender Score
The first step in dealing with an email deliverability problem is recognising that you have a problem in the first place. If your sender score is low, ISPs could be automatically rejecting your campaigns.
It’s quite easy to check your reputation at “senderscore.org“. Free reports consider whether you’re using SSL, whether you have an SPF record, and often include analysis of your recent campaigns. This is a great starting point for finding out if you have a deliverability problem.
Check public feedback loops (FBLs)
Another great way to measure your rep is through the email complaint feedback loops operated by many major ISPs.
You can access the data measured by many FBLs easily. Try:
|2||Reset your IP’s reputation|
If you do, it’s time to take action – by resetting your bad reputation. One big potential black hole for your emails is ISP filters. They exist to defend their customers against spam email. Your emails aren’t spam – but the burden of proof is on you to tell ISP filters your IP is a reputable sender.
Start by sending a campaign to a small number of your most-engaged subscribers. When these messages are inevitably opened and read by your best customers, ISP filters will raise your trust level.
Over time, you can increase email volume to the level you want. But it’s vital that you maintain your rep with the ISP filters.
|3||Maintain your sender credibility|
Put an email sender policy framework (SPF) in place
So how do you maintain your newly cleaned-up reputation? Well, remember how your sender score mentioned SPF (or sender policy framework)? It might be time to get one, if you haven’t already.
A sender policy framework is an email validation system designed to detect spoofing. It allows the email servers that handle your messages to check that your messages were sent by a domain that your SPF approves.
Creating an SPF isn’t that difficult, so long as you can add DNS records to your domain. You can find out more about them at “OpenSPF.org” (the originators of SPF) or “Google Apps“.
|4||Weed out low-value subscribers who can harm your rep|
As an email marketer, it’s natural to want as many subscribers on your list as possible. Because more subscribers mean more engagement, right?
Not always. If you have subscribers aren’t really interested in your campaigns, or they don’t recognise your emails, then you’re in trouble. Subscribers who aren’t properly engaged with your brand are much more likely to mark your emails as spam. If you don’t get rid of them, they could damage your entire reputation – and that means your real customers won’t receive your campaigns either. Delivery rates will go down across the board.
Purge your subscriber lists
The first thing to do is cleanse your list. Your email marketing tools should be able to show you which subscribers are of the lowest value. Hard-bouncing addresses on your list probably don’t even exist anymore.
If you keep sending emails to subscribers who don’t exist, you’ll have high bounce rates. And that means your sender reputation (and delivery rates) will suffer. Purge those lists now!
Use subscriber confirmations or double opt-in
It’s very tempting to use single opt-in for your email lists, because you believe you’ll get more subscribers that way. And maybe you will. But you’ll get more spam complaints too.
Using a double opt-in or subscriber confirmation emails is a great way to filter out customers who aren’t really engaged with your brand. The ones that do go to the effort to confirm their subscription – those are the people who really want to hear from you! With a list full of those guys and gals, you’ll maintain excellent email deliverability rates. And your campaigns will perform much better too.
|5||Design your campaigns around deliverability|
Your last step involves a slight re-think of how you actually run your email marketing campaigns. Because that too can affect your sender score.
Avoid sending spikes
Many email marketing experts say you should send campaigns on a consistent schedule, because customers put more trust in brands they can rely on. But there’s another reason to schedule your emails carefully.
Sending spikes, i.e. weeks of no activity followed by a sudden big campaign, can damage your sender score. Keep your email flow steady to win over customers and ISPs alike.
Don’t annoy subscribers
As well as not sending campaigns erratically, you should also avoid sending too many or too few emails to your customers. Because either one could have them reaching for the spam button.
A good place to start with email volume is one message per customer per week (not including any order notifications etc. that they might receive through engaging with your website). Evolve your campaign schedule over time based on what works for you and your subscribers.
Help customers recognise your emails
Finally, subscribers are much more likely to report an email is spam if they don’t recognise it. And that can happen even if they willingly signed up to your list.
Sometimes the customer will have forgotten that they ever signed up to receive your campaigns. (This is much more likely if you aren’t sending campaigns consistently, as mentioned above.)
But you also need to make sure you include your brand name in the ‘From’ part of your messages. If you don’t, how are your subscribers supposed to know your message isn’t spam?