Email Delivery is an often neglected aspect of email marketing. You will find many free and paid tools that will help you send an email. You can easily upload a CSV file with email addresses, create an html email and send it using a SMTP server or even your regular outlook program. There are many email service providers as well. However it’s one thing to send an email and quite another thing to get it delivered in the inbox. So to continue with the series of articles (published on Pluggd.in) on email marketing, in this article I want to focus on email delivery.
Email delivery rate is the percentage of emails that get delivered in the recipient’s inbox. It is possible that you have all clean email addresses, but only 95% of them reach your readers. The rest 5% are either dropped by the ISP or can land in the spam folders.
Factors that affect your email delivery:
ISP level IP address tracking
Along with the email, the IP address of the server is sent in the “header” of the email. If your IP is seen sending too many emails that bounce or if your IP sends out sudden spurts of emails, then your IP may be perceived as possible spam originator. Recipients can mark your email as spam. This also affects your IP negatively. Check your spam score regularly.
Here is why sending an email on your own is not a simple task; I quote from MailChimp: “It’s important to have a process in place for warming up IPs. First, check your IP’s reputation with Sender Score and Sender Base. If everything’s OK with your IP reputation, you still can’t just send a bunch of email out from a fresh new IP. You need to warm up the IP and start building a reputation for the IP and domain. Send 100 the first day, 200 the next, and so on. Slowly work up the volume and spread it out over a 24-hour period.”
Serious Email Marketing Service providers that own a clutch of IPs watch over their IP reputation like a hawk, and check if they are blacklisted and insist that their clients use clean email lists. If your email service provider is fanatical about your email list and your bounce rates then it’s a good sign.
Enterprise level filters
Even if your IP reputation is good, your email may be badly designed or written and may trigger spam rules and land in the spam folder. MessageLabs, Barracuda are some of the enterprise level spam filters in use. If your email is mostly to your business-to-business you need to check against these to make sure your email is not getting trapped.
Email Program level filters
Yahoo uses SpamGuard, Gmail uses Postini along with community feedback while Hotmail uses BrightMail. A good email marketing service provider will give you easy way to test your email against popular email spam filters.
It’s a good practice to set up a seed list of email addresses that represents your audience email programs. Send every email to this seed list to check if the email is getting delivered. You need to also check if your email is displayed correctly. If your email is not getting rendered properly and readers are ignoring it over a period of time, soon the email will get sent to spam folder by the “intelligent” spam filters. Litmusapp.com and EmailonAcid.com are two good resources to test your emails against various email applications.
Here are a few quick do and don’ts for ensuring that your email gets delivered:
- Don’t use full image emails unless absolutely necessary
- One to one communication traditionally used text emails and hence using a text part in your HTML multipart email is a good practice. This means that your email code should contain two parts, one HTML and one text. Spam filters are pretty savvy and if the content in the html and text do not match, which is what lazy spammers may do, the email can be flagged as spam.
- Use consistent from name and reply-to names.
- If you are using a good email marketing service provider, your emails should have SPF record, or DKIM signatures.
- Check your spam score before you send your email. A good email service provider should give you the facility to test your email for spam words before sending.
- Check if your email is received by all relevant ISPs. Create and monitor a seed list of emails. Return Path offers testing and certification services which might be expensive, but go a long way in ensuring email delivery.
- SpamAssasin is a popular free ware spam trapping software. Read about their recommendations here.
- Read what Gmail has to say to senders of regular email newsletters here.
- Many ISPs provide feedback loops to track if users reported your email as spam. Enlist with such services.( e.g. Yahoo feedback services)
- Email marketing if not done right can take up too much of your valuable time but if most of these services are a click away with some of the reputed email marketing providers.
Social Media & Engagement Marketing
Recently Gmail announced its priority email feature. So did Hotmail and Yahoo. What this means is the emails from your social network and from the people you converse regularly with, gets priority in the inbox. Essentially ISPs are now monitoring the level of “dialog” with your readers. The better the dialog or engagement the better will be the chances of your email delivery. Email and social media work very well together. Make sure you include your Facebook link and twitter handle (not just linked “f” and “t” logos) in the text.
Sending emails to non responsive customers over and over is also a potential reason for bad IP reputation. Here is what ReturnPath has to say “some ISPs are increasingly paying attention to whether or not their users respond to commercial mail. If a marketer is mailing at a high frequency and receives a disproportionately low response or no response at all over a consistent period of time, their sender reputation could be negatively impacted. This could lead to having all of the company’s email end up in the spam folder or, worse, having it blocked outright.”
Many people who are not involved deeply in Email Marketing dismiss it as an important online communication tool, giving low open rates, spam, twitter / social media as challenges. However Email Marketing remains one of the best online channels. It is data driven, it allows targeted messaging, it can drive direct sales and it builds relationship, loyalty and trust with the brand. Best of all you can measure the effectiveness of your email campaign almost immediately,
- how many opened,
- who clicked,
- how many visitors came to the website from email
and a whole lot more.
Getting Email Delivery right is a basic step in Email Marketing. So whether you are a start-up, or a small to medium size company or a bigger enterprise, I recommend working with a good email marketing partner to ensure email delivery. This will save you time which you can use gain a lot of actionable insight from email reports, which will the focus of next discussion.
What has been your experience with Email marketing?