An email must jump two hurdles in the delivery ecosystem before it makes it into an inbox: the gateway and the spam filter. The gateway is the email service provider (ESP)—Gmail, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc. Your email marketing provider is responsible to get email to the gateway. But the gateway is where it can be blocked and won’t go any further. If it does continue along the path, it’s assessed as spam or gets sent to the inbox. Getting it to the inbox is your responsibility.
However, email rules are changing all the time. ESPs are constantly battling phishing scams and malware, so they are resistant to let your email get through. With email marketing, you are guilty until proven innocent—you need to prove that you’re not one of the bad guys!
So, what can you do? Read on to learn 7 ways you can impact email deliverability.
- Domain authentication (TXT, CNAME): This is the most important factor in deliverability; you must have domain authentication in place. This means you have given your email marketing service authorization to send emails on your behalf. Email will be automatically blocked or not sent if your domain is not authenticated. Every domain you use needs to be authorized. If you have more than one domain, each one needs to be authenticated. Make sure all your sales agents have addresses that are consistent with your project or company’s domain.
- Recognizable sender/domain: Ensure your email address is familiar to the recipient. Again, your email address should match your company name.
- Never send with a Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook email address: These addresses will be blocked or sent directly to spam when used with a third-party email marketing service.
- Monitor bounces, complaints, and unsubscribes: Keeping a clean list helps to build and uphold your deliverability reputation with ISPs and ESPs. “Complaints” mean a recipient has reported the email as spam to the email service provider. The results of your past campaigns—especially in terms of bounces, complaints, unsubscribes, and engagement (opens, clicks) —factor heavily in your sender reputation and, therefore, in your deliverability. Consider removing ”soft bounced” emails. Most email services will continue to try to send to these email addresses; however, if an account has repeatedly ”soft-bounced,”, it’s likely time to remove the email from your list.
- Domain reputation: Domain reputation is based on your sending patterns (frequency), who you’re sending to, and what you send. Gmail, one of the largest email providers, cares more about domain reputation than IP reputation (which is the identifying address of a specific computer or server sending the emails). You can use senderscore.com to determine your domain reputation and see if it’s blocked anywhere.
- Clean, valid HTML: Making sure your code is “clean” is important. An example includes using image names with natural language. Gmail looks at the code, not your image, so an unusual image name may trigger your email as spam. Also, be careful when using link shorteners which may also contribute to your email ending up in your spam or junk folder.
- Content and design: The content and design of your email should not be forgotten. A good balance of images and text is important; avoid using a single image as your email content. Avoid excessive punctuation and use of all upper-case letters in subject lines. Importantly, provide content that is relevant to the recipients! They should be excited about receiving the email and what you are offering to them.
ESPs: Email Marketing 2.0
Email Marketing 2.0 puts more focus on continual engagement than in past. Mailbox providers place a larger deliverability penalty on consistently un-engaging content. This makes understanding where in the buying cycle customers disengage more important than ever.
The question is no longer, “Is my email getting delivered?”; rather, it’s, “Are my most important subscribers receiving my mail?” Being diligent in monitoring delivery reports will give you the answer and using the rules above will help improve your results.
NOTE: Your sending reputation is one of the most important factors in email deliverability and one of your most valuable assets. Your content choices, the quality of your lists, and the results of your campaigns all factor into your sending reputation. Understanding this is the first step toward improving email delivery.