“Hello, Inbox!” Tips to Improve Direct Response Email Deliverability

What good is a brilliantly crafted direct response email campaign if the offers don’t make it to recipients’ inboxes? The messages can’t be read if they’re bouncing around cyberspace, and response rates suffer. Conversions aren’t what they could be—what they would be—if the campaign had optimum deliverability.

MailChimp defines deliverability as a way to measure the success at which an email marketer gets a campaign into subscribers’ inboxes. The concept is actually quite complex, but the main point we want to make here is that there are things you can do to improve your email campaigns’ deliverability.

All it takes is grasping the basics and following some best practices. Shall we?

Breaking Down the Deliverability Basics
Before your email campaign offer can be clicked on and converted, the email needs to be opened. And before it can be opened, it needs to land in your prospect’s inbox. In order to hit that inbox, it needs to make its way through an email security gateway and spam filter.

This process of “getting through” is highly technical, as filtering analysis involves algorithms and heuristics—stuff best left to the programmers. But it suffices to say that mailbox providers scrutinize both the sender and the incoming message to ensure that junk emails, which may be spammy or flat-out malicious, not to mention email server resource-zapping, don’t make the cut.

Some of the sender-related aspects that get analyzed are the source and age of the IP address, and the reputation of the sender, which is impacted by complaints, email volume, blacklists, etc. Message related aspects include its structure, text content, image content, URLs, engagement, etc.

So how many emails make it to the inbox, you ask? In the US, according to Return Path’s 2016 Deliverability Benchmark Report, only 73% of email messages were delivered to the inbox. This means 27% didn’t. This indicates plenty of room for improvement…but how? Read on.

Email Deliverability Best Practices
We’ll walk you through our best practices for ensuring deliverability of the email campaigns we manage for our clients.

Use a Dedicated IP Address
This means using an IP address that’s only used by your company. It offers more control, message sending speed, and higher sender reputation scores. Emails coming from IP addresses that are shared by several companies or offered by free domains (e.g. Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail) have a greater chance of getting restricted by mailbox providers.

Authenticate Your Email Account
Email authentication, which involves setting technical standards for the delivery and receipt of emails, is another important component of establishing sender credibility. This is something to address with your IT department or email marketing partner, as Google explains that “emails that lack authentication are likely to be rejected or placed in the spam folder, given the high likelihood that they are forged messages used for phishing scams.”

Build (and Maintain) a Quality List
This is among the cardinal rules of email marketing. Sending your company’s email offers to a permissions-based list—meaning recipients expressly want to receive email communications from you—decreases the incidence of hard bounces, complaints, blocks, and blacklisting, things that directly impact your sender reputation.

For more on list building, don’t miss 9 Reliable Ways to Grow Your E-mail Marketing Database.

That said, it’s likely you’re sending offers to at least some recipients from a rented list or house database of past and present customers and leads from other offers. This means you should make it easy for recipients to easily update or remove their addresses from your list so it’s as “clean” as possible. And make sure you’re updating your database regularly to remove inactive subscribers, hard bounces, unsubscribes, and otherwise broken email addresses.

Poor email list hygiene is guaranteed to bring down response rates. Before sending emails, we validate all lists for address deliverability—every time—to ensure addresses are standardized (e.g. .com vs. ,com) and that the lists reflect all recent updates (address additions and removals). Get more insights in 3 Reasons To Clean Up Your Data Files Pronto

Don’t Appear Spammy!
Assuming you’re not literally spamming – of course you’re not, because you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, right?—don’t give the spam filters any reason for alarm. Avoid traps that make a message spammy, such as:

  • Subject lines IN ALL CAPS
  • Inappropriate frequency (e.g. hourly emails)
  • Spelling and punctuation mistakes
  • Subject lines with spam trigger words, like $$$, Act Now, F r e e, Incredible Deal, Promise You, and Weight Loss
  • Including too many images

Ensure Quality Content
When sending any marketing email, you always want to be relevant and deliver what your subscribers and customers are looking for and expect. Content analysis technology on the receiving end scans virtually every part of an email, from the header to footer, the code and HTML markup, the subject line and attachments…so that’s why you don’t want to appear spammy or send messages that lead recipients to actively block you or file a complaint.

Explore this further in The Anatomy of a Modern Direct Response Marketing Email.

Mailbox providers are increasingly looking at subscriber engagement in their filtering decision process. Metrics that go into this component include messages read, messages replied to, messages marked “spam” or “not spam,” messages forward, and more. This is explained at length in a Marketing Land article. Again, this begs the marketer to send compelling, relevant, and engaging content via e-mail and to keep lists tidy so the right people are taking positive action—and keeping deliverability rates as high as possible.

Contact us to learn more.