By Steve Kellogg
Today’s blog post “Email deliverability causes and solutions (part 2)” was originally posted on LinkedIn by our long-time friend and 10-year marketing automation veteran, Steve Kellogg. In part 1, Steve covered key causes of email deliverability issues and in this post, Steve discusses sender scores and best practices to mitigate deliverability issues. Did you miss part 1? Read it now.
A Word About ‘Sender Scores’
As you can see, deliverability issues are caused by many factors and can be difficult to accurately analyze. In the past, as spam decisions shifted towards sender reputation, the concept of an overall Sender Score emerged as a simple benchmark to help us quickly spot trouble. Because of increased complexity, however, this simple sender score is no longer accurate or valid and should not be used as a KPI. As Kevin Senne, Sr. Director of Deliverability for Oracle states: “Senders were desperate for some kind of measure to explain email deliverability, and this number was something that they could look to as a guide.” Again, according to Mr. Senne, the problem is:
- No major ISP uses the Sender Score metric to determine delivery or inbox placement.
- The score doesn’t reflect the reality of deliverability success or failure.
- It is mainly a US based system; the scoring does not accurately reflect performance for senders in EMEA, APAC, or Latin America.
The best method of measuring deliverability currently is by monitoring the percentage of inbox placement across each ISP/domain separately, as well as monitoring open rates. For those that don’t have access to Deliverability Tools, Oracle deliverability expert Pradeep Mangalapalli recommends using a unique open rate of around 10% as a general indicator of deliverability health. The best way to prevent deliverability issues is to follow the best practices below:
Best Practices to help mitigate deliverability issues:
- Avoid using third-party lists to acquire new leads or grow your email database
- Obtain consent from contacts before sending them emails
- Regularly monitor bounce back rates and bounce back messages
- Regularly monitor and run reports to check spam complaints
- Review engagement metrics to help refine email programs
- Adhere to local and international email regulations
- Send targeted emails based on interests and contact preferences
- Regularly segment out inactive contacts (users who have not engaged with your emails in about 12 months). Repeatedly emailing recipients who aren’t engaging with your emails can be bad for your reputation for several reasons:
Addresses that don’t open or click on your messages are much more likely to mark messages as spam. Unengaged addresses may have been repurposed into spam traps. Unengaged recipients can make your traffic look unwanted by lowering your open rate percentages.
- Stick to a consistent volume of email sends from month to month.
- Consider email design best practices, such as using preheader text, alt text, and image-to-text ratios.
Manage Your Inactives. Suppressing all email records with no activity in the last 12 months is a scary thought for most of us, as it could greatly reduce our list size. There are email scrubbing services that will try and determine which specific email addresses have been converted to spam traps, honeypots, etc. so you don’t have to suppress all inactives, just those that have been identified as harmful. Vendors include FreshAddress, Informatica, and BriteVerify, among others.
Make it easy to unsubscribe. This sounds counter-intuitive, but making the unsubscribe process as easy as possible is a really good idea. The truth is if someone doesn’t want to receive your messages and they don’t see an easy way to unsubscribe, they always know where the “report spam” button is. Remember, someone who opts out can always opt back in, but even a small number of spam complaints can really hurt your reputation, not to mention your ongoing ability to deliver messages to those who want to receive them.
Be conscious of your sending frequency. If you feel like you’re doing all the right things with your email program, but you’re still landing in the spam folder, it may be a good idea to examine your sending frequency. Between your regular newsletter, special offers, and other announcements, you could be sending your recipients more email than you think. Exactly how much email is “too much” differs for every sender, but if your reputation is suffering, even moderately reducing the amount of email your recipients receive from you is a good idea and a great place to start.
Summary. Imagine if you were to gain access to 20% more of your DB! Those in charge of marketing automation platforms are making this possible by learning the causes, solutions, and tools, as we become email deliverability experts.
Yet managing inbox placement is only half the battle. You still have to focus on level of engagement in order to keep your overall sender reputation in good health. A solid mix of good email data management, relevant content and continuous real-time deliverability monitoring is what currently works in keeping the inbox door wide open.