improve email deliverability

Many small and medium-sized businesses don’t use their own email server(s) for sending out marketing emails to customers and prospects. Does that mean we shouldn’t be concerned with email deliverability and generating spam email?

Far from it.

improve email deliverability avoid spam emailInstead of our own email servers, most of us use an email marketing service provider like mailchimp, emma or constant contact. Those who want more sophistication use a marketing automation platform such as Marketo, Eloqua or Pardot. Either way, you are using a 3rd party’s servers to send out your marketing emails.

Why do you need to pay attention to email deliverability and spam email? Because even high-quality content being sent to a permission-based list gets caught in a spam filter. Return Path puts this figure at 21%, according to a 2015 benchmark study on deliverability; globally they claim that “only 28% of all messages sent worldwide ever reach the inbox.

That’s a bummer!

You worked hard to build your email list and you are spending a lot of time and resources on developing and sending out emails!

The good news is that you have a lot of control under your influence. First, you need to realize that email deliverability is YOUR concern and you should make every effort to avoid creating spam email.

Look at it this way: email deliverability should be treated with the same importance that you would give to mis-spelled words and broken links in an email. Yes, avoiding spam email is THAT important!

So what can you do?

Here’s what you need to know about 1) email deliverability and producing spam email and 2) how you can improve your results even if you use a 3rd party email marketing service provider. There are two areas to look at: sender reputation and email engagement.

Sender reputation

What’s your email marketing service provider’s Sender Score

You should become familiar with your email marketing service provider’s “Sender Score” – a measure of sender reputation published by a company called Return Path. Your email marketing service provider needs to monitor blacklists, use authentication protocols, develop good relations with ISPs and have their own process for removing bounces. If they are on top of it, then their Sender Score will be between 70 and 100.

As an example, Mailchimp has answered plenty of support questions for me on the topic and even published a page on how they fight spam email.

Do you have a process to remove spam traps?

Get rid of spam traps by using quality list sources and by requiring a double opt-in for everyone on your list. Spam traps are emails addresses created by ISPs to catch spammers! They are inactive but you can deliver to them and ISPs label the IP addresses that send emails to those spam traps as spam. The double opt-in is when a new email address on your list is sent an email asking the recipient to click on a link and, thus, verify their interest in being on your list.

Take out bounces and unsubscribes

It also helps to use an email marketing service provider who removes bounces. Mailchimp does that automatically for me and I’m not charged for what they remove. They also take out my unsubscribes. It’s good hygiene because you don’t want an unsubscribe to report you to your email marketing service provider.

Email engagement

Create engaging content

Major ISPs look at engagement when trying to filter out spam. That is, they look at opens and clicks to see if a message should be delivered as spam or as legitimate. They also look at forwards so make your content something good because email engagement matters!

Use better subject lines

You can’t get a click if you don’t get an open. You don’t want to trick people with a subject line that is misleading or sensationalized (then they will unsubscribe). But try writing killer email subject lines to get the open. ISPs see good open rates and decide that your email should go to people’s inboxes.

Make sure your CTA is obvious

When recipients receive your email and click on the links (other than unsubscribe), ISPs will see this engagement and decide that your email belongs in people’s inbox. Therefore, make your email CTA obvious and compelling. “Obvious” means that you make your hyperlink a brightly colored button, you list your CTA also as a line of text, and you repeat your CTA in multiple areas. “Compelling” means that you are giving people something of interest, such as, a link to an educational blog, download to a helpful cheat sheet or link to finding out more about a discounted product or service. Again, don’t be sneaky because you’ll lose trust and that impacts future engagement with your emails.

Reduce the chances of spam email and improve email deliverability

If you do get your emails tagged as spam then you need to make some changes. Even if your deliverability is lower than you’d like (or lower than you used to have) try these techniques to boost your rates.

Scrub your list

Get rid of unsubscribes and hard bounces. Verify the source of those who remain and purge any that came from the wrong side of town. More extreme steps include removing emails who haven’t opened/clicked in the last 6 months. A step further is to send a few emails asking people to re-opt-in. You’ll lose subscribers with these techniques but it’s better than sending out spam emails that never get delivered to those who want them.

Change up the URLs you are sending to

If an ISP determines one of your emails is spam email then it will remember the URLs your spam emails linked to and likely consider future emails with links to those URLs as spam too. So try this out – change up the URLs used in your links and see if you can correct your reputation before returning to those URLs.

Move to a dedicated IP

If you are a high volume sender (with high-quality content) then move off of a shared IP address to a dedicated IP. Marketing automation vendors offer this as a standard package, even giving you multiple IP address. It costs a bit more but may easily be worth it for you. Then you will have a lot of control… and a lot of responsibility.

Change email marketing service providers or notify them of your situation

In most cases, your email marketing service provider is going to know more than you, especially about their own email deliverability efforts. Contact them with your issue – it’s in everyone’s interest to avoid sending spam email!

Segment your list and send more relevant topics

Do you know what gets people to open emails and click on them? Sending information they are interested in. As your list grows and as you expand on your topics the more you’ll need to segment your list and send different messages to those segments.

For example, we have leads that are interested in resumes and others interested in career transitions. Sending a “guide to writing a better resume” is probably not going to be of interest to your career transition leads. Think about your segments and see if a single email will really appeal to everyone.

My golden rule of email marketing

It feels counter-productive to spend time on removing contacts from your email distribution list. I hear you! However, gone are the days where quantity is better than quality. Move past the instinct to blindly add everyone you can to your email list.

I know what you are thinking… “I’ll add these people to my list and they see my first email and fall in love with me and become my biggest fan!

Consider the downside.

All those unsolicited emails are damaging your deliverability to those who ARE your fans. Worse yet, if your emails start getting marked as spam email then you will have to put in a lot MORE TIME to fix that. Bottom line: there is little upside for sending unwanted emails.

But don’t fret, here’s my golden rule of email deliverability: if you are sending an email with the right content to the right person, he or she will want your email and find it. Have faith, write amazing content and keep trying innovative (and ethical) ways to convert your visitors into subscribers.

What are your techniques? Have a good story? A nightmare!? Please share below in the comments.

By Rich

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