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Email Marketing Best Practices for Deliverability

Email Marketing Best Practices for DeliverabilityHowever beautifully designed and well crafted your marketing email might be, there is no point in hitting the send button if it’s destined to end up in the recipient’s spam folder. The marketer’s needs for understanding the concepts surrounding deliverability have changed. We’ve seen a shift with ISPs that no longer judge emails by content, clean IP addresses, and low bounce rates, but are now applying data and machine learning techniques to monitor audience reaction and engagement to measure the worth of an email message. Their findings have a crucial impact on the reputation of the individual sender.

So even if the quality of your email has a good clean design, with images making up less than 35 percent of the email, less than eight external links, a new IP address, and a verified email list with low bounce rates (an essential component of any campaign), it is not a guarantee when it comes to email success. Today’s email marketing landscape requires attention to the individual’s preferences and behaviors, and delivery of a message that encourages interaction and engagement.

Similar to the way search engine rankings have changed to a more personal result as opposed to a “one search result fits all,” email deliverability is becoming more personal.  So if your audience isn’t interacting with your emails, there is a higher chance your emails will be filtered into the spam folder.

Let’s take a dive into some of the deliverability challenges and best practices you can adopt to ensure your message actually reaches the customer.

Email Deliverability is All About Engagement

ISPs are continually tweaking and refining their offering to ensure the best possible service to customers, which includes eliminating spam wherever possible. ISPs are shifting towards how the recipient interacts, using data to evaluate the reputation of the sender.

They are going way beyond the spam check and best practices mentioned above and are observing whether the audience is opening your emails, clicking on a links, scrolling down to read your email, adding contacts, replying or deleting your email completely. The insights gained inform smart filtering techniques which can result in the blacklisting of senders with a low reputation. Even if you are not officially blacklisted you will most likely see deliverability challenges if you are not getting interaction from your audience.

As a result, email marketers need to focus more on building a quality email list, made up of active subscribers who act positively on their messages.

Many marketers, including myself, used to send out large campaigns and anyone who didn’t open the first email would be sent a second email with a different subject line. This practice might ultimately hurt your email reputation. If someone doesn’t open your email the first time, it doesn’t mean a subject change will result in an open the second time. These engagement signals are being tracked by the ISP’s and ultimately determine whether your email goes to the Inbox vs. Spam folder.

The bottom line is the more effective marketers become in delivering readable and relevant personalized messages, the more likely they will harvest the positive actions the ISP’s favor; and land in the inbox and not the spam folder.

Manage Inactivity 

Having data is only useful if you act on the insights it provides, and that means actively managing subscriber lists. If a high proportion of your distribution list is failing to open any emails over an extended period, sender reputation will degrade and filtering sanctions are likely to follow as a result.

Inactive subscribers need to be closely monitored, frequency of mailing reduced, and subscribers removed if appropriate. A reengagement campaign, which seeks re-permissions from lapsed subscribers, can help to manage the process pro-actively.

Email Opt-ins Reign

Because of this new email paradigm marketers are now forced to focus on collecting engaged subscribers to improve deliverability. This puts more emphasis on the quality of your content and increased understanding of your subscribers. Segmenting the email database accordingly will allow for the type of personalized campaign that will create the engagement levels you need.

The likelihood of blacklisting increases exponentially with purchased lists that haven’t been verified or segmented down into smaller groups where your message will have the most relevancy and engagement. Salesy messages sent to thousands of non-opt-ins no longer work as a strategy. Not to mention, if you use an email service provider (ESP) they are likely to ban you from ever sending email on their system again if you upload purchased lists, have high bounce rates and low engagement scores, and usually go against most ESP’s terms and conditions.

Email Spam Regulations Are Changing

We all know that feeling when an unsolicited email hits our inbox. More often than not we delete or mark it as spam, neither of which enhances the sender’s reputation. That’s why gaining the subscriber’s consent and explaining what they can expect from you at the outset of your relationship are critical to success.

Consent is an interesting area with regulation varying significantly depending on which part of the world you are in. U.S. based mailers for instance might believe the relaxed approach to address collection that the CAN-SPAM rules contain, can be relied upon if they are mailing across international domains.

They would, however, be mistaken. Some parts of the world require explicit consent to be sought and stored. Best practice is to build in consent from the outset, not only to avoid the possibility of transgressing the rules, but also to build the strong relationships that result in loyal customers and a good email reputation.

Setting expectations is all about getting the relationship with the subscriber off to a good start. Your welcome program should clearly state out how often subscribers might receive email communications, give instructions on how to set preferences, and how they can opt-out.

Take a Global View

An effective deliverability strategy must consider the complex and varied technical and legislative nature of the global market. As I’ve already mentioned, email campaigns often cross international borders, so marketers need to be aware of the risks involved.

Many countries, for example Australia, Canada, and some parts of the European Union require explicit consent with heavy penalties for transgressions. Marketers looking to reach the Chinese market, in particular, need a good knowledge of the unique delivery landscape of the area.

If you would like a quick look at how to demystify email delivery, watch this video interviewwith email expert Jay Adams. You can find a more in-depth analysis at the Oracle Email Deliverability Guide (registration required).

How do you meet the deliverability challenges with your email marketing campaigns? I would love to hear your feedback.

Photo Credit: Blog Ecossistema Digital Flickr via Compfight cc

This post was first published on V3Broadsuite.

Shawn Elledge

Shawn Elledge

VP Sales & Marketing at Broadsuite Media Group
Shawn Elledge

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