Getting Your Email Marketing Message to the Inbox - Improving Deliverability

Email marketing continues to grow by leaps and bounds and is becoming one of the most cost-effective means for businesses to reach a huge audience of potential customers. Even the most brilliantly thought-out email marketing campaign will experience deliverability issues from time to time. There are many factors that will affect deliverability, including:

  • The email platform used. One of the most crucial decisions that you will make as an email marketer is the email platform that you will use to execute your email marketing campaign. You have two choices when it comes to an email platform: internal and external. Internally, you send your email campaign on its way using your business' email servers, or externally, using an email service provider or ESP. Sending your emails out using internal servers may be problematic because most mail servers are not designed to send out your campaign in a manner that allows for tracking of opened emails and click through emails statistics. Additionally, handing opt outs are a difficult for most internal servers, as is handling a large volume of mail (which can bog the server down). Outsourcing email campaign execution to an email service provider is often advantageous for most businesses. The ESP can work with Internet service providers to get you on the "white list" (to make your mail more deliverable) while giving your email marketing campaign the ability to analyze the responses from recipients. ESPs also allow for better management of your opt-in lists overall.
  • Authentication issues. Authentication is the process of establishing the truthful origin of an email. Sender policy framework is in place across the email marketing industry that makes authentication possible. For this reason, having an established and reviewable SPF record on file for your website is important and indicates to mail servers that mail you send is actually coming from you - and keeps others from sending out emails claiming to be from you. Sending out authenticated emails is important.
  • Reputation. Your company's email reputation is almost like your FICO credit score, but is actually a score assigned by Internet service providers that is determined by your company's email practices. Factors that can affect your email reputation include the volume of email you send out, reports of spam or other email abuses, instances of sending emails to unknown email addresses and bounced emails, the manner that your subscribers relate to your email, and the characteristics of your email broadcasts. It is important that you use a dedicated IP address for emails that are sent out internally and use double opt-in subscriber lists when possible. You should also rid your email list of bounced and unknown email addresses as well as establish, publish and stick to a privacy policy. When building and maintaining your email reputation, you should also make it a policy to never share, sell, or rent your email list.

 Deliverability Best Practices

There are established "best practices" that can assist you with deliverability issues, including:

  • Use a consistent "from" address. When your recipient adds you to their address book or list of safe senders, your emails will always go to their inbox. If you use different "from" addresses, their email program may not let you through.
  • Create subject lines that are fewer than 50 characters (around 6 to 7 words) including punctuation and spaces. Steer clear of special characters and spam-triggering words like "guaranteed" and "free". Be specific and create a sense of urgency or call to action in your subject line.
  • Use a valid reply to address that is attached to a live inbox.
  • Include a link for viewing your email messages in HTML for browsers that require it. Use text and HTML email message versions. When possible, include a preference page where your subscribers can indicate which format that they would prefer to have their email messages delivered in.
  • Add a "tell a friend" function to your email marketing messages to help grow your opt-in subscriber lists.