Email deliverability encompasses all of the factors that can hinder or prevent email from reaching a recipient’s inbox. These factors range from technical problems with the mail server to being blocked due to blacklisting or content filtering.
With the development of increasingly sophisticated spam filters, the ability for individuals and companies to successfully deliver a newsletter, white paper or other marketing message to individuals has become more challenging. In fact, a 2013 benchmark study by Return Path estimates that only 78 percent of commercial emails sent worldwide actually reach recipients’ inboxes.
To improve your email delivery rates and maximize your overall marketing strategy, it’s important that you adopt best practices that comply with spam and online advertising laws. It will also help you build trust with your customers and prospects as you continue to expand your brand and overall business.
Adhere to Internet Service Providers’ Rules
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and spam-filtering organizations play a large role in filtering messages sent to inboxes. If your emails produce enough complaints, ISPs and spam-filtering companies can block your messages by bouncing it back to the sender or dropping it into the recipient’s junk folder. Recipients can also flag unsolicited email by clicking the “Block Sender” or “Report SPAM” buttons in their mailbox.
To ensure your email adheres to ISP guidelines, avoid sending numerous and frequent email promotions to unsuspecting email addresses. You can also generate a spam report – the report that is generated when someone receives your email and labels it as spam – to help you identify words likely to be flagged by content filters.
Manage Spam Complaints
The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, more commonly known as the CAN-SPAM Act, regulates the compliance of commercial email. It also gives email recipients the right to report and block email from CAN-SPAM Act violators. Organizations that fail to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act can be subject to penalties as high as $16,000, according to the Bureau of Consumer Protection.
If you discover ISPs have blacklisted your email domain, establish a feedback loop system between the ISPs and your email service provider or corporate web server. This will automatically remove emails reported as spam from your mailing list (similar to the electronic mechanism that bounces emails) and will avoid repeat violations, which can lead to penalties. Moreover, you can run a spam report on each email before distributing it to recipients. Instituting a process where each message is assigned a spam score will help flag emails that fail to meet deliverability requirements and reduce your complaint rate.
Engage in Permission-Based Email Marketing
Your customers and prospects are likely overwhelmed by the sheer number of emails they receive daily. Consequently, your email has a high probability of being ignored (or worse, marked as spam) if the recipient believes they never agreed to receive your email communications.
Invest in email-marketing software that allows subscribers to automatically opt-in and out-out from your emails, enabling you to easily monitor and manage your subscription rates. Likewise, check to see which subscribers have been inactive for over a year. By sending an email asking whether they still wish to receive your communications, you’re less likely to be reported as spam.
You can also use double opt-in practices to get web visitors to confirm their subscription twice before joining your mailing list. Once they register on your website, set up a notification email that asks them to confirm their subscription preferences.
Finally, don’t assume that a subscriber to your newsletter will also want to receive your promotional alerts. Understand and honor your readers’ subscription preferences to avoid appearing on a blacklist. Additionally, familiarize yourself with the CAN-SPAM Act, which governs rules regarding email deliverability.
Consider signing up with a company that provides sender-warranted certification, such as Return Path. By becoming certified, you agree to follow strict rules around the reputation performance of your email communications. Sender-warranted certification can also improve your email deliverability rates by minimizing spam and phishing and by improving compliance with content filters. Usually, these services require a licensing fee to maintain certification, but some ISPs offer their own services similar to certification, called “whitelisting,” that are free of expense.
Communicate a Consistent Brand and Message
One of the most powerful branding tools you can wield as a marketer is consistency in your messaging to customers and prospects. Apply the same principle to your email marketing to ensure that your delivery and click-through rates remain high and your audience stays engaged. Using a consistent sender name and concise, easy-to-read subject lines will train your subscribers to immediately recognize that the email is being sent from you and not a spammer.