Anyone who has any amount of experience in managing email marketing campaigns can attest the importance of email deliverability.
Lots of factors can be held responsible when the emails get caught in the spam filter. Lower deliverability means lower open rates, lower CTR, poor sender reputation, and even higher spam complaint rates.
To-do List of Tasks For Higher Email Deliverability
Even if your emails are near perfectly designed and their copy converts well, they can still fail to deliver the expected results.
If you observed lower email performance with all other important factors in place, then this article gives you ways to ensure more of your emails get delivered to subscribers’ inbox.
1. Monitor Feedback Loops
If you want to commit to high email deliverability, you must focus on getting feedback from all the places you can get.
For major email service providers, this feedback is provided through Feedback Loops (FBL).
Basically, it is a way for the service provider to let the senders know how many users are reporting their emails as spam. Using these stats, you get to know your own spam complaint rate. This critical statistic will allow you to discover opportunities for course correction in your marketing campaigns. For example, if the spam rate increased after a particular campaign, you know something went wrong so you can suspend the campaign and prevent further damage.
Depending on the service providers own FBL program, you may also get a list of users who are reporting spam. In this case, you get a list of users who are not willing to receive your email. You can then use this list to remove those emails from your email list.
A direct effect of being part of FBLs is observed on email deliverability. With the spam complaint data in your system, you can improve the health of your email list and unsubscribe those users from your list. Ultimately your spam complaint rate improves and so does your sender reputation with the service providers.
2. Filter Contest Entry Lists Before Merging Them With Your Subscriber List
Contests and giveaways usually attract a large number of email signups very quickly. Most people are on this new list only for a chance to receive the free gift; not many of these contest entrants are interested in receiving regular brand communication.
Additionally, more people will also create fake and temporary email IDs just for more chances to get the reward.
So, when they start receiving your marketing communication campaigns, the emails will either give you hard bounces or your spam rate will spike upwards after the contest ends. Both of these situations are harmful to your email sender reputation.
Therefore, it is advised the brands filter these contest signup email lists before merging them with the full subscriber list.
This filtering may include (but is not limited to) one or more of these measures:
- Removal of role address likes “info@” or “sales@”
- Use of services like NeverBounce and ZeroBounce to clean your email list
- A campaign to get marketing consent (to move them our your context signup list and into to regular marketing campaign).
3. Avoid sending spam in email subject lines or content
Spam filtering algorithms are getting better every day to help prevent its users from unsolicited sales emails and poor quality of emails. The bigger the service provider, the more stringent will be its spam filtering algorithms.
In this era of hyper-aggressive spam filters, any low-quality email will most certainly not see the users’ inbox.
One of the ways in which these spam filters work is they scan for words in regularly used in bulk spam emails. If your email is flagged by the algorithm, it may still be delivered. But if the filter consistently finds these poor quality words, it will not deliver your emails as you have been identified as a spam sender.
A seasoned copywriter won’t make these mistakes. If, however, you have written email copy for yourself, you should be running your own spam filtering process. You can do so by scanning for these spam words listed below.
- Numbers and Offers: #1, 100% free, 50% off, 100% satisfied, thousand, being a member, deal, give away, prize, you are a winner, you have been selected, month trial offer, $$$
- To create urgency: only today, limited time, act now, get it now, urgent, for only, apply now, order now, last chance, instant
- Free: free gift, free installation, free grant money, free membership, free trial, free offer, free sample
For a full set of spam words across different niches, refer to this article.
Some of these words are often needed to accurately inform users of the benefit. But you risk your emails being marked for spam if you use these in combination with each other or use them in high frequency.
You must focus on the benefits of the offer in the customer’s life when writing subject lines – that is usually enough to avoid spammy subject lines.
We have also covered a concrete list of high-performing email subject lines at Engagebay.
Other factors that may affect your spam score and must be avoided are:
- Segmenting your email lists based on common customer characteristics is a good way to appear being (accidentally) marked as spam.
- Rely on professionally-designed HTML templates for email design. Bad HTML codes can also be one of the reasons to flag your emails for spam.
- Keep a healthy image-to-text ratio. Spam filters will consider flagging your emails for spam if it contains lots of images but barely any text to read.
4. Use a human sender name, and be consistent with it
Often, your emails will reach users’ inbox but they will show very little engagement. Deliverability is high but open rates and CTR have plummetted. Such emails are also candidates for spam if this non-engagement phase continues for a long time.
To spam filters, they don’t offer any benefits to the users because very low engagement rates are a strong indication of poor content. So spam filters use these type of emails as indirect feedback from their users to improve email delivery experience.
To improve your email open rates, pay very close attention to not only your subject lines but also your sender names.
Using human sender names is better than using brand account names; you want users to engage with your emails and sending emails from boring brand accounts comes across as robotic.
Combining human sender names with brand names is even better for engagement.
So, “Navin” is a better sender name than “Marketing”.
But if you really want to bring out the humane and brand influence together, “Navin at EngageBay” is the best option.
5. Streamline your email send schedule
One of the most remarkable traits of a spam sender is this: They would send email to huge email lists in bursts. Their frequency doesn’t follow a pattern (mostly).
So one thing you can do right now is finding what schedule you use to send your emails. Streamline the frequency to incorporate consistency.
You don’t have to send perfect emails every time, you don’t even have to aim to very high engagement rates. Simply ensure you get your basics right – send from a human sender name and incorporate benefits in the subject line and email copy.
Segment your email lists according to customers’ personal characteristics. Send emails to them based on what stage of the marketing funnel they’re at.
6. Provide an email preference center
An email settings/preferences page is for account holders on your website to regulate how frequently and what kind of emails they want to receive. For example, they can choose to receive a cumulative digest of content on weekends only instead of every day. Or they may not want to receive a certain category of emails from your campaign.
It helps them manage email fatigue and as a brand, they expect it from you to provide them a way to regulate their email consumption.
There are three main types of pages you can create to help your users manage their email preferences.
- For frequency control.
- For controlling the content categories
- Hybrid preferences page for controlling the frequency and the type of email content.
For example, here is how Virgin Pulse creates a content-based email preferences center.
They have the full control of what kind of email lists they want to be a part of and which ones they want to be excluded from. This is almost perfect. One thing that could be better is adding a 6th option for “Unsubscribe All”.
Precautions to take with email preference page design
Note that this preferences page is NOT meant as a way to let users unsubscribe. Don’t you go thinking that you should link this page to the “unsubscribe” button in your emails!
Unsubscribing is different from regulating the incoming email.
No user will log into his account on your website just to manage preferences. So there is a high chance the preferences page may never be used. To make sure users have direct and quick access to this page, put a link to the preferences page next to the “unsubscribe” link. Ensure to let users access this page without a login page.
You can also add an option to “Unsubscribe from all” email. So, your users can have two ways to unsubscribe.
This doesn’t reduce the reach of your email list. In fact, it only gives you a way to segment your email lists for more efficiency. Better segmentation means better targeting and therefore, high open rates and CTR.
7. Create a subdomain only for sending emails
This is particularly useful when you are sending multiple different types of emails and one of those types is more important than every other type. What am I talking about?
If you have an online store and payment gateway integrated with your website, it will send transactional emails like order-related emails. Your marketing department will also send marketing communication on the same domain.
If your brand’s domain and IP reputation are affected by the quality of your marketing emails, you will see the effects of it on the deliverability of your transactional emails.
If your domain gets blacklisted because of an error in your marketing emails, your transactional emails will also go into the spam folder. You do not want this to happen.
Getting your marketing department its own subdomain means it will have its own independent reputation from the main domain and any other subdomains. Their errors won’t affect other email types and vice versa.
Besides, having a separate subdomain for marketing makes it easy to identify and correct problems with specific types of emails. The faster you can resolve these problems the faster you can grow to meet your business goals.
8. Segment your lists for higher deliverability
Segmentation has loads of benefits for your email marketing. It requires you to target your marketing effort toward smaller subgroups instead of a giant, monolithic list of email addresses.
For example, if yours is a website for all things related to motherhood and pregnancy, you will need two separate segments for new mothers and currently-expecting women.
Furthermore, your e-commerce store on this website will see a surge in transactions when women are in their final two months of pregnancy. Their needs would be different from brand new mothers or other pregnant women in their first or second trimester. In the final trimester, they would logically shop a lot of different items to construct a whole life for the new baby. Baby’s bedroom items and items to babyproof the house would sell like hotcakes. You would want to focus on this new segment as well with a different, more intense marketing approach.
When you do so, you are able to produce content that is more relevant to all of them.
Obviously, this segmentation will result in higher open rates and better CTR. All of this has a net positive effect on your sender reputation as well.
And we all know, how important is a good sender reputation for your email deliverability. If there are other issues which are causing deliverability problems, segmentation (and the resulting reputation boost) can help offset those problems.
Check out Sophia Bernazzani’s article on managing your email list segmentation to get started on and improve the segmentation of your email list.
9. Change how you collect your email addresses
Some e-commerce or membership sites force users to receive email newsletters. They will put a small checkbox for newsletter subscription on the registration form. This checkbox is checked “true” by default. This is called “pre-selected opt-in” which can result in many accidental subscriptions. And obviously, if they don’t remember subscribing to you, they will either unsubscribe or mark your emails as spam.
Another email collection method for faster email list growth is “single opt-in”. The act of subscribing to the newsletter is considered as consent. No confirmation email is sent.
While it is true that having more people in the list will increase chances of conversion, there is also a dark side to these email collection methods.
Double opt-in confirmation is the most effective email collection method with virtually no side-effect on your email deliverability. In this method, the subscriber receives an email which contains a confirmation link. He will not be subscribed to the list unless he clicks on the link to confirm his subscription.
Without a confirmation email, there is also a chance of you collecting spam traps or email address with a typo. These will pollute your list and result in higher spam complaints, lower sender reputation, lower email deliverability, and flawed email marketing stats.
A single confirmation email sorts all of them out. A confirmation email will not be sent to incorrect email addresses. Any spam traps will also be avoided, as they would never confirm the subscription. Besides, it gives the (legitimately subscribed) user a second chance to be absolutely sure about the subscription, thus lowering the chance of any spam complaints later on.
If you have not yet implemented double opt-in confirmation, it’s time to set it up. Most marketing automation providers have a very simple UI which allows you to configure the confirmation email pretty quickly.
Most of the tasks mentioned in this article are about how email entry and email exit processes can be optimized for higher email deliverability.
If the user wants to opt-in, send him an opt-in confirmation email so he is absolutely sure.
If a user wants to unsubscribe, don’t stand in his way; let him go. If he is not interested in the content, he is only deadweight on your email list anyway.
And while he is in the list, make sure you serve him awesome content; don’t give him a chance to complain.
What techniques have you tried to improve your email deliverability? Share your secrets in comments below.