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How to improve your email deliverability

March 27, 2018

improving eliverability in email marketingEmail marketing is an essential tool for small businesses and large enterprises alike. The ability to communicate directly with your target audiences helps attract new prospects and keeps existing customers informed.

However, delivering a good email campaign that hits all the right notes is not as simple as you might think. It’s a complex discipline that is rarely perfected.

No matter how much time you’ve spent crafting an engaging and beautifully designed email with a great call-to-action, if it doesn’t end up in the right inbox, it’s wasted effort.

A well-delivered email does not just land in the correct recipient’s inbox – in fact, there are many factors at play that determine where your email goes.

Here are five best practices specifically geared to helping you boost your email deliverability, and make sure that your targeted recipients receive their emails.

1. Create a solid mailing list – and maintain it

Improving the quality of your recipients list is key to improving email deliverability. There are many ways to go about this but here are the main areas to focus on:

Don’t buy third-party lists

Put the time and energy into building your list of subscribers organically. You only want to email people who you know want to hear from you. Not only does this make your email communications far more relevant, it also keeps them legitimate.

The problem with buying contact lists is that they often contain unverified email addresses. This can reduce your beautifully crafted campaigns to spam, which can lead to complaints and negatively impact deliverability.

Ask subscribers to opt-in

As you build your database of email subscribers, make sure you ask them to opt-in. In fact, it’s preferable to request a double opt-in. This explicitly affirms the recipient’s wish to receive communications from your business – and, keeps your list clear of bogus or spam email addresses.

Send welcome emails

There’s nothing like a warm hello. As soon as a new recipient has subscribed, send them a welcome email to show them that they are valued. This gets your relationship off to a great start and can significantly increase engagement rates in future email campaigns.

Segment your list

Segmentation is not a new trick, and yet it’s surprising how many businesses still don’t put it to good use. The days of ‘spray and pray’ are long gone – and if you’re still sending the same email campaign to all recipients, then your deliverability will continue to suffer.

It’s not rocket science, simply start by dividing your list into segments according to customer activity, purchase history and demographic. You’ll soon see an improvement in email engagement.

Edit your mailing list

If recipients have been inactive or unresponsive for some time, it’s probably time to remove them from your database. Or, you could try re-engaging them, but if you’ve had no engagement after 10 emails, it’s unlikely that they’re interested in hearing from you.

It’s always worth initiating a re-engagement campaign that includes an offer or even just a note asking them if they’d still like to receive your company’s emails. If there is still no reaction, take those recipients off the list.

Sending emails to people who have been inactive in the long-term only increases the risk of hitting spam traps or generating spam complaints.

Keep the unsubscription process simple

Subscribers don’t like to feel trapped. A clear unsubscribe process that is straightforward and fast will keep them from hitting the spam button out of frustration.

The number of unsubscribes per email campaign is an important metric. However, spam complaints are useless – all they do is have a negative impact on deliverability.

2. Create good content

Once you have your recipient list sorted, you need to work on your messaging. The content of your email messages is critical and has a huge influence on its deliverability.

Every word counts: spam filters analyse all email content elements including the URLs, the subject line, email header and body text.

Creativity and personalisation aside, here are some very practical ways to keep your email’s content sharp:

Your email’s subject line is key

Make sure it’s simple and sums up the main message you’re trying to convey as well as the call to action. And of course, keep the body text of your email consistent with the subject line.

Don’t use spam

In the subject line or the body of the email. Avoid saying things like ‘Make a million pounds!’ Or, ‘Get this deal for free!’ You can check the content with a spam checker tool like Spam Assassin.

Use clean HTML

This will ensure your email renders well on a range of different devices. However, before you hit send, use A/B testing to make sure there are no glitches, and if there are – fix them quickly.

3. Watch your timing and volume

Don’t schedule a large volume of emails all at the same time. A sudden spike or dump of emails won’t improve your relationship with your recipients. In fact, it could cause deliverability issues, such as temporary rejections or even permanent unsubscribes. Instead, create a schedule that is consistent and familiar.

If you are working on a particularly large campaign, work out a schedule that takes place over a couple of days. If you’re targeting various audiences in different countries, pay attention to the different time zones and don’t inadvertently wake your customer or prospect up at 3am!

And try not to add to their inboxes unnecessarily. If you can say what you need to say in one email, don’t send two or three similar emails in one week just to drive the message home. This is incredibly annoying and your recipients might mark you as spam.

To find the perfect balance between too few emails and too many, you need to put your communication efforts to the test. Create groups of recipients and test a variety of factors such as the number of emails sent, when they’re sent and how many at a time. This will help you figure out what works best for you.

4. Analyse your metrics

Don’t confuse a high delivery rate with successful deliverability. The former simply means that your emails did not bounce. They reached the right recipient, but that’s no guarantee that your emails made it to the designated inboxes – they could have gone straight to the junk folder!

Marketers typically measure email deliverability using metrics such as open rate, click-through rate, bounce rate, and complaint rate. However, the spam trap hit rate and the unsubscribe rate are additional metrics that will give you a much clearer view of your campaign’s success.

With all this information at hand, you can then optimise your future efforts to improve deliverability with each send.

5. Pay attention to your reputation

Ultimately, your company’s reputation is part and parcel of your growing success. And this even extends to your email marketing.

Consider this for a second; when deciding whether to deliver an email to an inbox or junk folder, email service providers put far more weight on a sender’s reputation than the actual content in the email.

Your reputation is built on factors such as open and click rates, hard bounces, spam complaints, spam trap hits, and messaging. It can take months to build a good sender reputation, and just one or two bad email campaigns to do it irreparable damage.

What’s more, what constitutes as good practice can change overnight. You really do need to pay attention to changing practices.

Good email marketing is vital to the ongoing success of any business. The good news is that it’s not hard to get right, providing that you follow best practices.

An approach that encompasses the tips mentioned above will soon improve how your emails are delivered – and boost customer engagement at the same time.

About the author

This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Dietmar Burgfeld, a Deliverability Consultant at Celerity, a data and marketing technology consultancy specialising in the Adobe Marketing Cloud.

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