Some marketers believe success in email marketing is just about creating interesting, optimized emails.
But, there is so much more to it than that.
Successful email marketing campaigns need to have the right processes in place to ensure your outbound messages avoid the spam filters and reach the inbox.
You also need to position your campaigns in such a way that your subscribers not only receive your emails, but that they open, engage with, and act upon the emails they get.
And that’s where email deliverability comes in.
Read on to discover the email deliverability tips you must know in 2021 so you can improve your business’s communications – and your bottom line.
What Is Email Deliverability and Why Is It Important?
Email deliverability refers to the processes that are responsible for placing emails in your clients’ inboxes.
It is a measure of how successful your emails are at reaching the inbox without either bouncing or getting marked as spam.
If you’re having problems such as high bounce rates, low engagement, or getting filtered into spam folders, then it’s likely that you may be experiencing email deliverability issues.
Because of the negative impact that these issues can have on your campaigns, it’s crucial for you to address them as soon as possible.
Here are 5 reasons why email deliverability is so important:
- If your emails don’t reach your clients’ inboxes, they can’t be opened or read
- Your new or existing subscribers won’t receive important updates from you
- Your competitors that have better email deliverability will receive more attention
- Customers may not receive important transactional emails like order confirmations, receipts, etc.
- Your brand reputation will suffer if your name is often found inside the spam folder
Now that you understand the cost of poor deliverability, let’s take a look at some of the factors that can impact your email delivery.
Factors That Affect Deliverability
Deliverability and inbox placement are complex subjects that you’ll find being discussed in countless blogs and on many online course platforms. Different experts have their own opinions on what impacts deliverability the most. But here’s what’s important to keep in mind:
Mailbox providers consider a multitude of factors before they place an email into the recipient’s inbox.
Some of these factors include:
- Your industry
- IP addresses
- Sending volume
- Behavior of recipients
- Subject lines and content
- Traffic segmentation
Everything from the sender and domain reputation to authentication, infrastructure, and content affect your deliverability rates.
The image below a few of the factors that might affect your email deliverability:
Many of these factors are hidden, and you may not even know that you’re doing something wrong – but your email campaign will suffer just the same.
The email deliverability tips below will help you in building a custom deliverability strategy to help ensure the success of your future campaigns.
14 Email Deliverability Tips to Boost Your Inbox Reach
Businesses, like the ones that use predictive dialers to generate new leads, can get away with using the “throw-spaghetti-at-a-wall-and-see-what-sticks” approach. But, if you rely on email marketing then you have to make sure you get the best ROI for your efforts.
Below are 14 quick and easy-to-implement fixes designed to help you deal with the most important deliverability issues.
To help make things simpler, they are divided into four parts, each of which focuses on one of the most important factors that affect email deliverability, namely:
- Email Reputation;
- Infrastructure; and
Part 1: Email Reputation
With each email campaign you send, mailbox providers conduct an initial set of checks to vet your emails.
These are called reputation checks, and they are affected by things like sender reputation, server or IP reputation, domain reputation, engagement metrics (bounce rate, spam complaints, etc.)
Here are some things you can do to improve your email reputation.
1. Clean Your Email List to Reduce Bounce Rate
There are two types of email bounce: soft bounce, and hard bounce. A soft bounce is when a mailbox is full or a recipient has an out-of-office/auto-reply message. A hard bounce is when you send an email to a mailbox that does not exist.
A high email bounce rate is often a sign of poor list hygiene. This could mean that either the list was purchased or it isn’t contacted frequently.
You can use an email verifier like NeverBounce to make sure that your email list only includes valid emails and then remove all those emails from your list so you can stop wasting resources and negatively impacting your future email deliverability.
2. Keep Consistent Volume
Sending the right number of emails to your list is very important. Do your best to distribute your email campaigns evenly and avoid any major spikes or drops as these can significantly impact sender reputation.
For example, if you typically send out three emails a week, switching to five emails a week will cause ripples. Stick to a consistent, regular schedule wherever possible. Your subscribers will soon be familiar with your schedule, and this will help boost your open and click-through rates.
3. Steer Clear of Spam Complaints
Spam complaints will be the death of your list. Each time a subscriber hits “Mark as spam” on any of your emails, the Email Service Provider (ESP) receives a notification.
With enough complaints (and this number doesn’t even have to be large), the mailbox provider automatically blocks the sender.
4. Avoid Spam Traps
A spam trap is an email address that looks real, but it’s actually fake. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) set these traps to catch any unscrupulous marketers who harvest emails.
The emails are published in multiple hidden locations around the web and when spammers purchase lists or collect email addresses with harvester programs, a lot of these fake email addresses tend to make it onto those lists.
When anyone sends an email to any of these addresses, the sender is automatically marked as a spammer as it is clear that they didn’t build their list naturally.
Luckily, there are tons of easier and more effective ways of finding and verifying email addresses online using tools such as Reply.io, which allows you to discover prospects with unlimited email search.
5. Don’t Get Blacklisted
A blacklist is a list of standard domains, servers, and IP addresses that were caught sending email spam.
If you send emails from a blacklisted domain or server, the odds are the emails will end up in the spam folder or they won’t get there at all.
There are hundreds of blacklists for different purposes, and your job is to stay off each and every one of them.
You can use a tool like MXToolbox to check if your domain or server is blacklisted.
If you do find yourself on any of the blacklists, there are methods you can use to delist your website or server. However, repeat offenders will find it more difficult to get off the list so make sure you continually monitor blacklists and adhere to best practices so you stay off them.
Part 2: Custom Authentication (DKIM, TLS, SPF)
Email deliverability is an evolving topic. Spammers are always looking for loopholes and tricks to get them into your email inbox.
This means email providers like Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook have to work harder to catch up in reducing the number of spam messages.
This, in turn, makes it harder for email marketers to get into the subscribers’ inboxes. And it’s the reason why, if you want to run successful email marketing campaigns, you have to do more than the minimum.
The tips below will help you hit the inbox consistently.
6. Verify Your Sender IP Using SPF
Brands often have to protect themselves against plagiarism and fraud, including email spoofing.
Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is designed to verify the sender’s IP address. This is a simple and reliable system for validating your emails to prevent spam.
For instance, if a spammer impersonating your brand tried to send spoofed emails (that is, scam emails sent under your domain name), using SPF to verify your sender IP would help to catch them in the process.
A typical spoofed email looks like this:
As you can see, although it may look legitimate, it’s very clear that the sender isn’t from Rackspace.com.
When you add an SPF record to your website’s DNS, servers can then use it to verify that you’re authorized to send emails from that particular domain.
7. Verify Ownership of Email Message Using DKIM
DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) shows your organization’s ownership of the email message. The signature of the organization is added to the email header as the message is in transit to its recipient.
If you’re wondering whether you should use SPF or DKIM, the short answer is you should use both authentication levers to help you reduce spam and boost your email deliverability rates.
This article goes into more detail on how SPF and DKIM work.
8. Use TLS to Encrypt Your Email
TLS is a type of encryption for email messages. It helps to protect the content from being read by anyone other than the intended recipients.
Encrypting your email with TLS will help you build trust with your users and mailbox providers, and ultimately helps to ensure the security and deliverability of your emails.
Gmail uses TLS in their email delivery. TLS-enabled emails have a padlock icon on Gmail which notifies your recipients that your email messages are encrypted.
Although it’s only an optional requirement right now, some marketers believe that TLS will soon be mandatory.
Part 3: Infrastructure
The infrastructure for email deliverability is the software and hardware used in the process of delivering emails to recipients. This is particularly important when sending emails at scale.
Whether you set up your own infrastructure or use an ESP like Mailchimp or one of its many alternatives, it’s important to ensure that you follow the best practices to avoid killing your email deliverability.
9. IP Address (Shared vs Dedicated)
Your IP address is one of the things with the biggest impact on the deliverability of your emails from an infrastructure standpoint.
Whether you use a shared IP or a dedicated IP depends on the types of emails you send. If you send high volumes, then it’s best to choose a dedicated IP address that will be used exclusively for your senders and campaigns.
You also need to use a dedicated IP address if you send time-sensitive campaigns. There won’t be any throttling issues caused by other email senders on a shared IP address. The direct connection to your ESP will ensure super fast delivery of your messages for a successful time-sensitive campaign.
For everyone else, shared IPs will work effectively. If you don’t need to send more than 300,000 emails for a campaign, there’s no need to acquire dedicated IP.
10. Check Your Feedback Loops
Most mailbox providers offer feedback loops, or FBLs, in which email senders can gain information from any of the recipients who may have complained about the sender’s emails.
The image below is an example of what a feedback loop looks like:
It’s important to be able to process feedback loops properly – and regularly.
Although the implementation of a feedback loop isn’t straightforward, the good news is that most ESPs offer a feedback loop service to report back complaints.
You’ll know when your subscribers hit “Mark as spam” and can take the necessary action, such as unsubscribing them and removing them from your mailing list.
By doing this, you help to maintain your reputation and ensure that your emails are legitimate.
Part 4: Content
The content of your emails is one of the major factors that affect deliverability. Bad designs, unresponsive templates, and poor content will definitely lower deliverability.
You can use tools like these to help customize your email design to match your brand, but you also need to implement the following email deliverability tips to help you avoid content issues and boost your reputation.
11. Keep Your Content Relevant
If your subscribers don’t want to read the content you send, then your engagement rates – and ultimately your deliverability – will tank.
You must only send relevant, value-packed emails that your subscribers expect.
In addition to that, you must use personalization and preference tactics to keep up with your subscribers’ expectations.
You also need to ensure that your email subject lines are infused with relevant keywords to increase open rates. This is a great way for using keywords to inform your email marketing. The higher the search volume is for a particular term, the more interest in that topic.
12. Keep Your Designs Consistent
Branding matters a lot when it comes to email marketing. You need to maintain a consistent look across your website and all your other marketing materials, particularly your email campaigns.
Without brand consistency in your newsletters, your subscribers may find the experience jarring and reach for the unsubscribe button – or worse, the spam button.
The good news is that thanks to DesignYourWay.net, photo editing software, and various other easy-to-use tools, it’s easy enough to create consistent designs for your brand, whether you’re a novice or an experienced marketer.
Below are 3 of my favorite examples of brands that do a great job of maintaining style consistency:
Example #1: One of my favorite brands does a superb job with this Mannequinmall, a shop that sells mannequins. They maintain brand consistency across their website, email newsletters, and social media, as evidenced by the image below:
Example #2: Yet another awesome example of a brand that has a consistent style across all of its marketing materials is 3Wishes, a popular clothing brand specializing in Lingerie and Costumes.
As you can see from the image below, they maintain their brand style from their website pages to social media, and email newsletters.
Example #3: My third favorite example is Infinite Recovery, an Ausin detox site whose blog, social media, and email branding is eye-catching and consistent.
13. Don’t Use URL Shorteners
This is a notorious technique spammers use to hide the URLs they are actually linking to, and that’s why using URL shorteners ranks high on the list of reasons why spam filters could block your emails.
It doesn’t matter if the actual links are legitimate, your deliverability will still suffer as a result. So avoid using link shorteners unless absolutely necessary.
You can discover more about how to use links more effectively in your content by looking at the examples of these 5 promotional emails.
14. Include Branding in Your “from” Name
Adding your brand name in the “from” line helps to reduce spam complaints. It has also been shown to improve open rates.
Most companies now use a front person as their face for email marketing campaigns to give it a personal feel. If you use this approach, simply add “from [business name]” next to the individual’s name, as in the example below:
There are tons of marketing strategies you can use to attract and nurture your audience, from building a great-performing blog to social media marketing, podcasting, and even sharing valuable information on online learning platforms.
However, email marketing will always be among the most effective and affordable tools to help you reach all your marketing goals, from lead generation to customer retention, and everything in between. But only if you can optimize your inbox reach.
As you’ve seen so far, email deliverability is real science. There are a lot of details that go into making sure your email reaches the inbox.
Follow the 14 email deliverability tips outlined in this article to help you build a solid email delivery foundation.
The more adhesive you are to the current industry best practices, the more effectively you will be able to deal with all your deliverability issues and boost your email marketing ROI.
Your turn. Which of these email deliverability tips will you implement first? Sound off in the comments below!
Burkhard Berger is the founder of awesomex™. You can follow him on his journey from 0 to 100,000 monthly visitors on www.awesomex.com. His articles include some of the best growth hacking strategies and digital scaling tactics that he has learned from his own successes and failures.