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3 Components to Email Deliverability

email deliverability best practices

Email Deliverability comes down to 3 key components.

The 3 components to implementing email deliverability best practices include:

1. Your Email Reputation
2. Your Email List (Database)
3. Your Marketing (Content & Messages)

#1: Email Reputation
As the saying goes, "In business... reputation is everything". Well this holds true when it comes to email deliverability. Your reputation is key and it's essential to establish - and maintain - a good email reputation.

Things that you should do to ensure a positive email reputation:

a. Know your "scores"
Just like credit reports in the "real world", email reputation scores are indicators of how good or bad your email practices are. For example, if your credit score is 400, then there are most likely a lot of issues affecting your credit worthiness that you need to address.

In email, one of the more popular scoring "agencies" is your "Sender Score". The scores are based on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is the worst and 100 is the best. Your goal is to have an "A rating" email score, which is over 90.

Anything below that indicates that there is some sort of underlying problem that needs to be addressed and corrected.

b. Authenticate your Email IP Address
Publish SPF records (sender policy framework) along with SenderID, Domainkeys and DKIM (domain keys identified mail). You may also wish to separate promotional, newsletter, and transactional communication.

c. Control Complaints
It's important to pay attention to complaints and adjust your campaigns, sending patterns, and communication style accordingly.

You'll want to establish feedback loops with all of the ISPs that offer them and then monitor where your complaints are coming from and what types of messages are generating them.

d. Avoid Blacklists
Stay off blacklists at all costs. There are a number of email blacklist that can impact your deliverability, so you want to scan your IP address(es) regularly and ensure they are not winding up on any lists.

NOTE: Not all email blacklists are created equal! There are only a handful of blacklists that really have an impact on your email program.
 
NOTE: You want to avoid blacklists for both your IPs and YOUR domains.
 

e. Only Send Permission Based Email
Well it may be appealing to purchase a list, borrow a database, or even "scrape" lists of people that should be IDEAL prospects for what you have to offer, DON'T DO IT!

Assuming that you have received permission from all of your subscribers, be sure to re-engage inactive contacts by implementing a re-engagement campaign (and eliminate subscribers who have chosen not to engage with you after 6 months max).

Send subscribers only what they've "opted in" for! It's enticing when someone signs up for your 10-part autoresponder educational series to automatically "dump" them into your promotional list, but if they didn't sign up for those types of emails, it's technically not permission for you to send them.

Include a manage subscriptions page so that contacts can add/remove themselves from email lists according to their preferences. For example, consider offering a once a week digest (downsell) as an option when someone unsubscribes from your daily newsletter. You may not be able to send them a message every day, but at least you'll maintain that relationship.

#2: Manage Your Email List

a. Don't buy lists!

As we've already mentioned, it's generally a bad idea to buy lists. Purchasing an email list virtually guarantees high complaints and potential spam trap hits.

If you still decide to purchase lists despite this recommendation ;-), then make sure that you know: (1) How the list was acquired (and confirm they even have the right to rent/sell the list), (2) Age and last use of the data - and a sample of the last message what was sent to them, (3) How they monitor and maintain complainers, (4) How they handle bounces, and (5) How they manage the optin status of the subscribers.

b. Always warm up new IPs
If your'e planning on really building an email strategy for the long haul, a little bit of patience goes a long way. It's key to warm up your IP addresses, and to do so the right way.

When you're warming up IPs, send to small batches, of your most recently engaged subscribers and consistently increase over the next few days/weeks.

TIP: Avoid (or minimize) HTML in your emails.

Be sure to review after each campaign and remove bad addresses, and monitor complaints to identify potential problems.

c. Process bounces
Make sure that you remove hard bounces (bad addresses) immediately and keep them below 2-3% of your total campaign. This is why starting with recently engaged subscribers is recommended during the warm up.

Monitor bounces and take immediate action on any issues regularly. If necessary, change email practices accordingly.

d. Focus on engagement
Segment subscribers by both their own "stated" preferences as well as their actual behavior.

In other words, send them the types of emails they've requested and watch their behaviors to confirm their actual behavior models what they say. If someone hasn't opened a message in 3 to 6 months, roll out a re-engagement campaign. If they don't engage after 5-7 attempts, remove them from your list and consider re-engaging them through an offline campaign instead.

Quality over quantity is KEY!

I know what you're thinking... but if I keep mailing, then maybe SOME offer will grab their attention. While that may be true, though unlikely, with ISPs using engagement metrics more and more to determine inbox placement, you simply can't afford to employ this tactic anymore.

#3: Evaluate Your Content & Messaging
The final piece of the puzzle comes down to content, and handling the expectations of your subscribers.

a. Set clear expectations
This includes letting them know what to expect from you and when to expect it. It also includes making your privacy policy simple and clear (and, of course, abiding by it).

One of the easiest things you can do is include a welcome email with "what to expect" and how to whitelist you to ensure they don't miss anything that they're expecting. Also, be sure to let them know how to update their preferences at any time. In fact, this is a good idea to include in the footer of all of your messages.

b. Test Content and Timing
Email marketing is always changing. What used to work a year ago may no longer be effective today. It's important to test the frequency of your email messages as well as the timing.

Also consider your messaging and stick with what you promised in the beginning. If your business has expanded, then INVITE subscribers to join additional lists to receive the new types of emails.

c. Review, Evaluate and Modify
Watch your bounces on a regular basis to gain more intelligence into your email program, to see what people are responding to, and to find out what's causing people to leave your lists.

You want to keep your bad addresses (hard bounces) to a minimum (less than 3%) and carefully watch soft bounces to remove full mailboxes after a max of 7 attempts and to manage content-related bounces and spam complaints.

Keep your complaints to a minimum. A general rule of thumb is to keep your complaints under 0.01% and to immediately put them on your do not contact list. This ensures they don't resubscribe and complain again.

High complaints will also cause the ISPs to filter your email messages to the junk folder, and may make it very difficult to get your campaigns BACK to the inbox if the problem persists for a long time.

Watch unsubscribes regularly to evaluate the types of content that causes spikes in complaint rates as well as problems with individual campaigns and autoresponder messages.

Author: Heather Seitz

Attention Readers, Publishers, Editors, Bloggers, and Marketers: You may republish or syndicate this article without any charge. The only thing I ask is that you keep the newsletters, article, or blog post exactly as it was written and formatted, with no changes. You must also include full publication attribution and back links as indicated.

This information has been provided by http://www.EmailDelivered.com and written by Heather Seitz. To find more about Email Deliverability, visit http://www.emaildelivered.com/email-deliverability/email-deliverability-best-practices/. Don’t forget to sign up for the EmailDelivered Pulse newsletter for articles, tips, and recommended resources related to email marketing and email deliverability.

 

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May 8, 2013

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