Improve Email Deliverability

I rave about email marketing all the time.

  1. By sending regular emails, your email deliverability score is likely to improve. Sending random emails can lower your sender score — an important number that shows your sender reputation. If your sender score is too low, mailbox providers might reject your email outright. A consistent email sending schedule can help improve email deliverability.
  2. Many factors impact email delivery rates. The time it takes to deliver your email campaign to your entire audience depends on the sending server's reputation, the email's content, and its recipients. Email send times will also depend on the size of your audience, and on the current mail queue at Mailchimp.

But I need to shoot straight with you about email marketing, lest you think it’s some holy grail of marketing.

Email Deliverability Blog

Your emails are useless unless they actually make it to the user’s inbox.

Let me state that another way so you don’t miss it. If your emails aren’t getting delivered, then email marketing is a massive waste of time and money.

You’ve probably read all the tips about subject lines, open rates, engaging content, powerful CTAs, and strategic email landing pages. But let’s take a big step back and look at the picture from its most foundational level — email deliverability.

I’ve collected 12 of the smartest and most effective techniques for improving email deliverability.

Explain effective methods to improve deliverability. Describe how to protect your messages from spam filters. It’s All About Deliverability. Deliverability is the key to all email marketing. If your email isn’t reaching the majority of your subscribers, then what’s the point of sending it?

1. Prime your IP for success.

The job of ISP filters is to defend against spam emails. How do you tell these filters that your IP is valid and trustworthy?

Start any email campaign by sending small batches of emails. Send these messages to addresses that you know are engaged.

As these emails are received and opened by engaged users, your IP will start to build trust, in a manner of speaking, with the ISP. Slowly increase the number of emails until you scale to your peak volume.

2. Register a subdomain and use it only for email activity.

I don’t recommend it for everyone, but you may wish to create a subdomain that is exclusively for email marketing purposes. Over time, users will come to trust the subdomain, which is an added benefit.

The real purpose, however, is that this subdomain will allow for domain-specific monitoring of your IP reputation and be able to succeed against some domain-based certification filters.

3. Implement a sender policy framework.

A sender policy framework or SPF increases your trustworthiness in the eyes of the receiving email server. The server can cross check the domain name against the associated IP address to make sure that it is legitimate. If you don’t have an SPF in place, your emails might be rejected.

4. Check your sender reputation.

The biggest reason why your emails are not delivered is due to a low sender score. ISPs automatically reject any emails that fall below a certain score.

Sender Score is produced by Return Path. Sender Score assigns a number to every outgoing mail server. The score is calculated by using traditional email metrics such as unsubscribes and spam reports.

Here is a report that I pulled for one IP from which I occasionally receive marketing emails.

The sender score is on a scale from 0-100, the higher the better. The report above, at a 96, is a good score.

It’s important that you keep a close eye on your score. You can use Sender Score to get this information for free.

5. Check feedback loops.

Most major ISPs provide feedback loops in which the email sender can gain information from the recipients who have complained about that sender’s email. These are called Complaint Feedback Loops or FBLs.

Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft make it easy to get this information. Gmail allows users to set a Feedback Loop header that does not use the traditional ARF format of most FBLs.

Only ESPs (email service providers) are allowed entry into Gmail’s FBL program.

Email

6. Stick to a consistent send schedule.

One cause for a lower sender score and IP rejection is random and erratic broadcast activity. If you are not maintaining a regular schedule with your emails, it creates sending spikes. Do your best to stick to a consistent email sending schedule.

7. Use a double opt-in or confirmed opt-in.

The most popular form of opt-in is the single opt-in, in which the user agrees to receive an email by simply checking a box, or leaving the pre-checked box checked. This might seem like a great strategy to harvest email addresses since it’s so easy and automatic. However, it can backfire by generating high amounts of spam complaints. Spam complaints are dangerous. Some ISPs begin to block sending servers after as few as two or three spam reports per one thousand emails.

The best way to defend against spam complaints is to use a double opt-in. All you do is send a confirmation email to the new subscriber asking to validate their address and gain their consent. (In some European countries, double opt-in is now a mandatory requirement.)

8. Purge your list.

If you’re sending your marketing emails to non-existent users, you’ll ramp up your bounce rate and destroy your send credibility. Every now and then, remove all inactive recipients from your list, filtering out all users who have not opened or clicked your emails in a few months.

High hard bounce (invalid) rates are the fastest way to trigger filtering and blocking on your IP. You may want to use a paid service to clean all hard bounces before you launch a fresh email marketing effort.

Additionally, most email validation services can catch duplicates, typos, outdated domains, do-not-email records, bogus addresses, and other common user errors.

You’re not going to lose anything by cutting the dead weight from your list.

9. Filter contest entry email signups.

The worst email lists are created from giveaways or signups. People, true to their nature, will attempt to enter multiple times using invalid or nonexistent email addresses. They don’t care about getting on your email address list; they care about a chance to win a free iPad mini.

If you are using a contest or giveaway as a method of gaining email subscribers, then you need to vet this list thoroughly before dumping it into your subscriber list. It could be a source of hard bounces, which could land you on the IP naughty list.

10. Send emails at just the right frequency. (Once a week is probably OK.)

Which Strategy Will Improve Email Deliverability

Too many emails can burn your subscriber list. Too few emails can kill your revenue.

So what do you do to maximize deliverability? You send just the right number of emails. The only way you can find that perfect number is by thoroughly testing, which isn’t easy. Plus, it takes a long time, during which time you might make some mistakes.

A good benchmark is one email per week. You can try scaling up to twice weekly as long as you have really good content. You can even drop back to once a month without totally losing touch with your audience. But if you go anywhere outside of those two boundaries, you’re in dangerous territory.

11. Use branding in your “from” name.

Using your brand’s name in your “from” line will help to reduce spam complaints. It’s also been proven to improve open rates.

Increasingly, some companies use a front person, an individual, to head up their email marketing in order to give it a more personal feel. You can still use this approach. Just add “from [business name]” after the individual’s name.

12. Check blacklists.

If you’re experiencing send problems, or even if you’re not, it’s a good idea to check the blacklists. These DNS-based blacklists are created to protect users from IPs that have received a high volume of spam reports.

Make sure that your IP is not on this list.

Improve Email Deliverability

I did a quick check on an IP using MXToolbox. The report looks good. If I wanted to, I could sign up for a free monitoring service.

Conclusion

In order for email marketing to be effective, the emails have to get delivered.

That’s step one. After that, you can go crazy with creating killer subject lines and powerful email content.

Since 2007, I’ve sent over 60 million emails for my blog, Quick Sprout. That’s a lot of emails, and it seems like a lot of risk. But I’ve been able to use my large email list to increase revenue and drive up engagement.

Email marketing works wonders — but only if you get those emails delivered.

What insights have you learned about email deliverability?

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Improve Email Deliverability Hubspot

  • This blog post was originally published on 12/14/2015 and was updated on 6/21/2019

According to research from Return Path, US email reaches subscribers’ inboxes only 83% of the time! Are you doing everything you can to ensure that your messages aren’t part of the 17% of emails that never make it to the inbox?

Check out our list of 17 deliverability best practices that can help increase the likelihood that your email message will get into your recipients’ inboxes, where hopefully they will open, click, and engage with you and your brand.

How To Improve Email Deliverability

  1. Use double opt-in. Double opt-in is compliant with laws like CASL and CAN-SPAM. It generally requires that the recipient clicks on an activation email that you send. It can also set up a pattern of engagement.
  2. Make your from and subject line explicitly you and true to the message. If the message is not “from” your brand, it should be from a person at your brand. The subject line should also clearly reflect the content of the message.
  3. Segment your list. All your recipients are not alike. Segmenting your list by interest and modifying frequency accordingly can drive more engagement.
  4. Implement Sender Policy Framework. By using SPF, you provide ISPs with the assurance you are who you say you are, making them more likely to deliver your message to the inbox.
  5. Prune your list. When it comes to your email list, more is not always better. If the recipient hasn’t engaged with you in 6 months, target them with a special message and if that doesn’t drive engagement, remove them from your list.
  6. Let someone help you avoid bouncing. Hard bounces should be removed from your list. At SparkPost, we add those to your suppression list right away so you don’t see more bounces, but it’s still up to you to remove those addresses from your list.
  7. Watch out for spam traps. Spam traps are emails created by ISPs to find spammers.
  8. Check your reputation. One tool you can use is Sender Score to find out where you stand with respect to your sending reputation.
  9. Don’t add emails from contests and giveaways. You’ll probably get multiple signups from the same email address. If you do these types of promotions, make sure you vet the resulting emails carefully before adding them to your list.
  10. Check blacklists. Make sure your organization isn’t on a list that automatically sends your emails into a black hole instead of the inbox.
  11. Consider the source. Where did you get that email address? Some sources are much more reliable than others. As a general rule, buying lists is a bad idea.
  12. Make unsubscribing very easy. If unsubscribing is difficult, in frustration, recipients may mark your email as spam as a way to stop receiving your email. If recipients cry spam, ISPs listen and you can quickly land on a blacklist.
  13. Register for feedback loops (where you can). How can you find out if a recipient is marking your email as spam? By subscribing to relevant feedback loop reports from ISPs. One notable exception is Gmail, which only sends feedback loop reports to email service providers.
  14. What’s the frequency? Pay attention to how frequently you are sending email and what kind of responses you get. Send email too often and you risk being ignored (or deleted without opening, which harms deliverability). Send too infrequently and recipients may forget about you. It’s a balancing act.
  15. Keep frequency consistent. Once you settle on a frequency, stick with it. Erratic sending patterns are considered a marker of spam.
  16. Study your metrics. Real-time analytics is the best way to drive your email marketing strategy. SparkPost offers numerous real-time reports and webhooks that you can leverage to drive engagement and improve deliverability. Pay attention to clicks and opens. If you’re having trouble with blacklisting, SparkPost can often work with you to help you get removed from those lists. And, if you’re really ready to step up your email game, be sure to check out SparkPost Signals, our brand new email intelligence platform designed to help you identify and address issues before they start impacting your business.
  17. Work to improve your open rate. Deliverability is clearly important, but it’s not the end game. You want to drive engagement, to have recipients open and click on your email. That happens with engaging content, a subject line that tantalizes followed by summary text that draws them in further.

Improve Email Deliverability

~ Sparky