Best Practices for Email Deliverability

Source: Marketing Transformation Forum, Email Marketing

In simple terms, email deliverability is about ensuring that an email is delivered to an intended recipient’s inbox.
Even though the goal of deliverability is simple, the process itself is quite complex. Ensuring successful e-mail deliverability is in fact a number of tasks and best practices that must be performed diligently and continuously by both the Email Service Provider (ESP) and the Client Marketers. Both are responsible in the end to ensure optimal email deliverability.

Here are some of the best practices that a marketer should be aware of, to ensure a successful e-mail campaign:

1. Get Your Email Marketing Program in Compliance with CAN-SPAM: The cornerstone of deciphering the legislation is gaining a full understand¬ing of what email is covered by the law. Failing to follow the regulations could place your email marketing efforts in violation. Get a copy of the CAN-SPAM Act and understand the dos and don’ts.

2. Send Relevant, Targeted, And Personalized Messages: By now it’s a known fact that the more relevant and personalized an e-mail is, the more effective it will be. Knowing this—and with marketing automation systems now available that put these capabilities within the reach of almost any marketer—email marketers have little excuse for blasting out generic, single-shot emails to un-segmented lists. Not only will better-targeted, more personalized emails achieve better conversion rates, they will also improve deliverability due to fewer complaints and better sender reputation.

The same marketing automation systems mentioned earlier, enable marketers to build sophisticated segmentation and targeting models through a simple-to-use interface. The ability to easily generate these complex customer segments and even sub-segments for testing purposes enables marketers to take their e-mail targeting to the next level.

Similarly, “personalization” is no longer a matter of inserting the recipient’s name into the “To” line. Today’s best marketing automation systems enable marketers to make almost every graphic and text element of an e-mail easily customized and personalized.

There is also no reason to see streams of e-mail communications as static and linear. Again, advanced marketing automation systems allow marketers to create adaptive campaigns that react to past contact behavior. Perhaps the contact responded best to a certain kind of offer in past, or clicked on a certain kind of link: marketers can ensure that the next email this contact receives draws on this information to compose an even more custom message, with the email stream becoming more and more relevant and personalized with each successive interaction. This is the dream of true one-to-one marketing, made possible on a mass scale.

3. Mail Regularly: Most marketers worry about emailing too much, but sending too little can be as big a problem. To keep bounces at a minimum, be sure to email everyone on your list at least once every 90 days. Email addresses “churn” at an incredible rate, and infrequent mailing can raise overall bounce rates to undesirable levels.

4. Make It Easy to Unsubscribe: Make sure the Unsubscribe or opt-out button is prominently displayed in the message, giving the recipient a clear option other than reporting your message as spam.

5. Enforce Strong & Relevant Exclusion Rules: Make sure those customers who have ‘Unsubscribed’ from receiving future emails are automatically excluded from all future email communications, as this will no doubt lead to a blacklisting. Also, make sure strong communication rules / policies are automatically enforced to avoid over communication as this will contribute to poor reputation and possible blacklisting. For example, no more than one (1) email in a 10 day period and no more than three (3) emails in a 30 day period.

6. Manage Bounced Emails: Make sure those customers who returned a ‘Hard Bounce’ are automatically excluded from all future email communications, as this will no doubt lead to a blacklisting. Also, make sure those customers who returned a ‘Soft Bounce’ are excluded if they have soft-bounced at least there (3) times over a period of 3 – 4 weeks.

7. White Listing: Include a request in your email for the recipient to add the sending email address to their ‘Safe Senders’ list. Emails sent from this address would then in future always be delivered directly to the recipient’s inbox, provided no other deliverability issues are encountered.

8. Check Content for Spam Score: Always run your outbound email through a content checker, such as integrated SpamAssassin, to reduce the chance it will get tripped up by filters.

9. Test Renderability: Always test your message to ensure it will render properly for different recipient email clients. Also, because a lot of email clients block images, try turning them off for a test to see how the message looks and whether it still communi¬cates meaning with the graphics disabled.

10. Try and Test Appealing Subject Lines: The main purpose of a ‘Subject Line’ is to achieve an open. It is worthwhile testing many variations to see which one works best.

11. Testing Emails: Testing out emails on sub-segments and samples before mass-sending is a marketing best practice for multiple reasons. Not only can it help assess the effectiveness of your message and predict conversion rates, but it can identify deliverability issues. Test your messages to check for higher-than-normal complaint rates or numbers of unsubscribe requests. Split-test different versions of the same email on random sample to isolate the biggest factors in deliverability rates, or test the same email on different segments to identify different segment behavior patterns—perhaps a certain segment is more sensitive to certain factors and at risk of lodging spam complaints. One option for finding out if your messages are being delivered is to use a “seed” list of addresses.

12. Monitor Basic Email Campaign Performance: Keeping a close eye on basic key metrics such as opens, click-throughs and bounces can help you uncover deliverability prob¬lems. For example, if you see a sudden increase in bounces or a drop in opens, chances are you might need to take a closer look at deliverability.

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