For almost a decade, email has laid claim to the title of Highest ROI–over all other direct marketing channels. For every $1 spent, email marketing generates $42 in ROI. For many companies, email has become the foundation of their digital marketing programs.
As marketers, you have spent years honing your email expertise, refining your strategies, and improving your campaigns. Yet, according to a Return Path study, even though global inbox placement rates (IPRs) were up overall, still only approximately 80% of messages from legitimate senders were delivered into subscribers’ inboxes in 2018.
Many attribute the overall improvement to the GDPR and CASL laws’ consent requirements generally improving the overall quality of leads and lists for senders in the EU, Canada, and even tangentially in the United States. However, this doesn’t mean it’s time to relax. Rather, it’s more important than ever to be sure that you’re getting in the inbox because your competitors are that much more likely to be in the inbox as well.
Increasing overall deliverability–and therefore increasing mailbox clutter for users– has made creating an effective email strategy more difficult, but none of these challenges are insurmountable. In fact, top-performing email marketers are actively monitoring and managing these threats to their programs and are seeing great results.
Here are a few tips that will greatly increase your chances of getting into your subscribers’ inboxes and staying there:
The most important factor in determining whether your message is marked as spam or goes in your subscriber’s inbox is the reputation that precedes the message. Sender reputation is associated with everything, including the from domain, the content, the authentication, and the IP address of the mail server you are using. In essence, your reputation is the result of many metrics tracked by ISPs to figure out how likely the user is to actually want the email before the user ever even sees it.
You can’t see your whole reputation directly, but you can check in on tools like Google Postmaster Tools and SNDS as well as keep track of a few key engagements (opens, clicks, and conversions) and hygiene (hard bounces, complaints, and unsubscribes) metrics to get an approximate view of what the ISPs are seeing. These metrics can tell you if users are likely to be interested in what you’re sending, and then you can adjust accordingly to keep your reputation high.
Spammers’ lists are plagued with invalid and out-of-date information. One of the ways ISPs identify this is by watching for mailings with a high percentage of bad addresses. So, if an ISP “bounces” an address back to you as permanently undeliverable (i.e. hard bounce), remove it from your list immediately. Not only will removing hard bounces improve your email deliverability, but it will also help to increase your email metrics (i.e. open and click rates). It’s just as important to make sure you don’t get these addresses on your list in the first place. Using a list hygiene service to check email addresses on opt-in will help significantly reduce this metric.
Authenticate your email or expect it to go to the junk folder–or even be blocked from delivering. Many major ISPs determine if your email should be delivered to the inbox or the junk folder based on authentication records. Therefore, you should always ensure your authentication records, particularly SPF and DKIM, are set up and valid to give your subscribers the best chance at receiving your messages. Authentication will also help address the problems of “spoofing” and phishing, and will reduce the percentage of legitimate email that is mistakenly marked as spam. DMARC authentication is not required, but it takes security a step further and definitively prevents domain “spoofing”, which protects your reputation from abuse by spammers seeking to trade on your good name.
Never send commercial email to people who haven’t consented to receive it. This action creates a poor brand impression, violates most ESPs’ and ISPs’ terms of service, and–if mailing to Canadian or European email addresses–violates CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Law) and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). Plus, it almost guarantees deliverability problems. ISPs are carefully watching user interactions, as well as other cues, to determine if the user has requested your email. If they conclude otherwise, ISPs will do their best to ensure the users don’t receive it.
Your email reputation is always in your control. By adhering to these tips, you can ensure that you’re being proactive about your email deliverability.