Email Marketing is an incredibly effective and low cost way of marketing, and when done correctly it can yield an extremely high ROI. The one downfall of email marketing however is deliverability. An email deliverability rate refers to the percentage of emails that actually make it into a subscribers inbox. There are a number of reasons why an email may not make it into the inbox, the most common being that the message is classified by the email platform as spam. So how can you increase your chance of your email marketing getting into a users inbox?
There are a number of ways to improve your email marketing deliverability. Below I list some of the easiest to implement to instantly improve the success of your campaign.
1. Avoid spammy words
One of the main ways that email platforms filter messages is by the words used in an email. There is a subset of common keywords and symbols that spam (or marketing) emails use and using these words in your email marketing vastly increases the risk that your email will not make it to the inbox. It can be hard to avoid using these keywords altogether so if you mention a few words in the email body it is not the end of the world, however its best practice to not use these keywords in your subject line.
Examples of spammy keywords and symbols include:
- Free, Win, Cash, Sale, Clearance, Buy, Order, Work from home, Cheap, Discount, Profit, Full refund, No obligation, Urgent, Friend, $ symbols, ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, Excessive Punctuation!!!
To see a full list of spam keywords see this great post by Hubspot.
2. Choose a good email marketing provider
As with most things, the cheapest email marketing provider is most likely not the best and although it may cost you a few dollars more a month it is well worth going with a reputable high quality email marketing provider as their delivery rates will almost definitely be higher. Email marketing providers themselves get ‘scored’ by email platforms on the chance that they are allowing spam to be sent. This is based on the IP addresses used and using a provider who is lenient and allows people to send spam will definitely hurt your deliverability rate. Another option is to get a dedicated IP address to be used just by your company, this can be expensive but guarantees your email deliverability will not be affected by others. Taking it a step further you can also certify your IP address with a company called Return Path which can increase your deliverability up to 40%. Some of the providers with the best email deliverability rates include:
3. Check every message before you send it
Before sending your email campaign it is best practice to check the contents through a spam checker. These free online tools check your emails for issues that may lower the deliverability. For example, having image heavy emails with little content can look like spam to email platforms. Most email marketing providers offer this feature as a default but if not you can use one of the following tools to fix any issues they suggest:
- Postmark – Easy & Fast SpamAssasin scores and reporting.
- Contactology – Checks your email marketings Message Quality Score
To check the IP address your emails are coming from and your own domain name to ensure it is not associated with spam, you can use SenderScore.org or Uribl.com, both which are free services. You can also check every domain name you link to in the email to make sure it is not blacklisted (as Hotmail and other platforms also analyse your emails links).
4. Don’t send spam
This is a pretty obvious tip but if you send spam or anything that your subscribers may consider spam your deliverability scores will decrease. It is possible to get spam through filters and make it into the inbox but should you? The short answer is no. The main email platforms Gmail and Hotmail both learn about what its users consider spam with every message that is moved from the inbox to spam. These platforms will eventually crack down on your emails with a potential blacklisting of your domain name.
Gmail provides some guidance on sending bulk emails to its platform and they state that its best practice to send different categories of email marketing from different sender email addresses and to avoid mixing the different categories. For example, if sending promotional emails that could be considered spam they should be sent from a different email address than transactional emails such as an order confirmation email so that they do not affect all of your email deliverability.
5. Keep your email database clean
One way that ISPs and email platforms block emails is by looking at the number of hard bounces an email campaign generates. A hard bounce is an old or invalid email address which doesn’t exist. Spammers generally get a large percentage of hard bounces as they generate their email databases using scrupulous methods. Any bounce rate of over 6% is high and anything under 4% is acceptable. Keeping your database clean and removing hard bounces and unsubscribes will stop an ISP or platform from flagging your email and will increase email deliverability rates.
6. Ensure your text links are transparent
Email programs such as Mozilla Thunderbird can be very harsh on the type of messages they consider spam and recently they have been filtering what they consider ‘misleading’ links. A misleading link is where the link text is different to the destination URL that the user is taken to once clicked. Some email providers change all links in your email to links that enable tracking – this could also set off warnings so should be tested with tracking disabled if it is causing issues. For example:
- Correct Linking: <a href=”https://www.duncanjonesnz.com/”>https://www.duncanjonesnz.com/</a>
- Incorrect Linking: <a href=”https://www.duncanjonesnz.com/articles/“>https://www.duncanjonesnz.com/</a>
A lot of email programs also dislike link shorterners such as TinyURL as they can mask where they send the user after being clicked which is a tactic commonly used by scammers and spammers. I recommend not using link shorterners in any email marketing campaigns.
7. Always include unsubscribe links & clear instructions
One of the easiest ways to have email deliverability issues is sending an email to someone who does not want to receive it and who has the time and energy to complain. Complaints about your emails to your email marketing provider, their ISP or one of the online spam databases could have very bad consequences for your future campaigns. For that reason, always include clear, easy to understand unsubscription instructions. If a user wants to unsubscribe they would be very unlikely to become a customer in the future so for the sake of your email deliverability let them leave your database whenever they decide to.
8. Ask your subscribers to whitelist you
Every email platform provides a way for its users to opt-in to receive emails, usually by adding the senders email address to their address book. This ensures that each and every email sent from that address (whether the platform considers it spam or not) is sent straight to the inbox. The percentage of your subscribers that will add your email address to their ‘whitelist’ is likely very small however it doesn’t hurt to ask and doing so will slowly improve your deliverability rates and ensure your email marketing gets to your subscribers who are keen to receive it.
If you follow the above tips and send good quality content your email deliverability rates will be maximised. To check for issues it is a good idea to break down your database by the domain name of each subscriber and measure the differences in bounce rates. If you notice that one domain name such as gmail.com has far higher bounce rates than usual this will likely point to an issue with your email and that particular provider which you can usually work out with the help of a few searches on Google.