Email deliverability is a headache. We used to worry about the content of an email blast, and avoid spammy words like free or using ALL CAPS. But with the shift in the last few years towards repuation based SPAM filtering, email deliverability tactics have changed drastically. Now, instead of one isolated email getting stuck in the bulk folder, you risk damaging your long term sender reputation if you’re not using best practices. Below, I’ve gathered some tips for ensuring your email makes it successfully to the inbox.
- Join Feedback Loops: Feedback loops allow you to see who is marking your email as spam (so you can remove them). Some ISPs, like AOL, provide an easy way to join the feedback loop. For other ISPs, you may need to contact your email service provider to see if they can provide you with this information.
- Remove Inactive Subscribers: Inactive subscribers are most likely to mark your email as junk. Sure, nobody wants to willfully shrink the size of their opt in list, but you have to think long term.
- Consistent Timing: ISPs love it when you consistently send email on the same day at near the same time. Since spammers don’t care, consistency is the mark of a responsible email marketer.
- Use Consistent From Information: Be sure to always use the same from name and address. Changing the from email will require your subscribers to add each address to their address book in order to ensure deliverability. In addition, a consistent from name helps readers recognize your brand.
- Use Double Opt In: Double opt in is a best practice required by many ISPs in order to be considered for
white listing. In addition, it protects your database from misspelled email addresses.
- Unsubscribe Link at Top: Why at the top? Because if unhappy subscribers can’t find it within a few seconds, they may hit the junk button instead, which damages your rep. Better to lose a subscriber than get a spam complaint.
- Static IP Address: If you send marketing emails from your own server, always send from the same IP address. If you use an email service provider, find out if they offer a dedicated IP for an additional charge. If they do, it’s worth it. Like shared webhosts, many ESP’s group many clients under one IP address. In other words, what another company does with their email marketing can affect your deliverability. It’s much easier to manage the reputation of one IP address rather than many.
- Reverse DNS: Many ISPs perform a reverse DNS lookup, which checks to make sure the IP you are sending from is authorized to send from your domain.
- White List Reminder: Encourage subscribers to add your email address to their address book or white list. Some ISPs look at the number of times you are added to an address book as a sign of trust.
- Get Authenticated: Email authentication is confusing as heck. There are a few standards out there that are not necessary competing. The Sender ID Framework uses a simple SPF record with your DNS Zone. Microsoft has a handy Sender ID wizard to help you create this text record for your DNS. In addition to Sender ID, DomainKeys is another popular authentication method. Both methods help to both ensure deliverability and prevent spammers from spoofing with your domain.
- Don’t Worry about SPAM Words: Don’t stress about using the word “free” or occasionally putting all caps in the subject. I find these tactics to be successful and have no affect on delivery.
- Remove Bounces: Be sure to remove all hard bounces that come back as undeliverable. Repeatedly sending to an invalid email will send off red flags with most internet service providers.
- Reply to Challenge Responses: Occasionally, SPAM filtering software will send back a reply to your email asking you to confirm that you are a real person. Invest the 30 seconds or so it takes to do this for each challenge response you receive. Not only will it ensure that this particular recipient receives your message, but it can improve your sender reputation as well.
- Be Relevant: Nothing encourages spam complaints more than sending people stuff they didn’t sign up for. If they signed up for a ezine newsletter, and you send them nothing but sales pitches, you’re likely to get complaints.
- Send In Spurts: Some ISPs have limits as to how many emails you can send to in a given period of time. If you’re having trouble sending email to a particular ISP such as Yahoo, Gmail, or Hotmail, see if your email service provider gives you the ability to stage the email over a longer period of time.
- Get Off Black Lists: MxToolBox offers a great tool to check if your email server is blacklisted. If it is, begin the process of contacting each of the the black list service and find out the process for getting your IP removed.
- Get On White Lists: Achieving white list status with the major ISPs is no small feat. If you’re not up for the challenge, consider uses an email deliverability consulting firm such as Return Path that specializes in this area.
As with any improvement program, it’s important to track your progress as you attempt to improve your delivery rates. Email Delivery monitoring services such as DeliverMonitor.com offer ways to track your delivery rates across most of the major ISP’s.
Be sure to checkout my previous post 25 e-mail marketing tips. As always, I’d love to hear everyone’s experiences with email deliverability. Like the ideas listed above? Find out 3 Things you need here.
About the Author
Justin Palmer is the owner of Palmer Web Marketing, an e-commerce and internet marketing consultancy. Justin also manages the e-commerce website for C28, a Christian t-Shirts company.