The invention of email is undeniably one of the most noteworthy innovations in the history of business communications, allowing companies from anywhere in the world to reach out to potential customers at little to no cost. But the meteoric rise of email created some real pitfalls that may not be readily apparent to the average user. In this post, we discuss one of the key metric defining the success of email marketing with an updated email deliverability best practices for 2018.
What is Email Deliverability?
One of the most significant issues is a metric known as email deliverability. Email deliverability is the percentage of the emails sent that actually reach the intended recipient. To correctly understand the concept of email deliverability, we need to know how the phenomenon we now call spam threatened to torpedo the idea of eCommerce long before anyone had ever heard of modern platforms like Shopify or Woocommerce.
Why is Email Deliverability a Problem?
Let’s take a brief tour of Email Marketing history
Basic emails were sent back and forth between universities, government agencies, and hardcore computer enthusiasts as early as the 1970’s. It wasn’t until the mid-1990’s that email began to catch on for everyday use among laypeople. As we became more and more accustomed to communicating via email, advertisers realized the tremendous benefits of reaching virtually anyone instantly and at almost zero cost compared to what we now call “snail mail.”
The problem with using email to sell products and services, especially early on, was the fact that email was originally reserved for tasks like communicating with family members over long distances. We take the sheer volume of email we now send and receive in the ordinary course of living for granted, but in the beginning, email was far more personal.
The Day Some Guy Named Gary Ruined Email Marketing For Everyone
In 1978, when a man by the name of Gary Thuerk sent an email trying to sell DECSYSTEM-20 mainframe computers to hundreds of users on the ARPANET network, the response was overwhelmingly negative. Amazingly, the online community was so small at the time that nearly every internet user in America was aware of Thuerk’s failed sales pitch, and none of them were happy about it.
Due to fear of “pulling a Gary Thuerk,” nobody even thought about sending another unsolicited mass email for an astonishing sixteen years. Then in 1993, somebody accidentally posted two hundred messages to a group on the popular USENET network. One of the other users referred to these unwanted posts as “spam,” and the name took off. Just like that, the spam floodgates were officially open.
By 1996, internet service providers began blocking IP addresses of known spammers to protect their customers. User-controlled spam filters showed up in email software shortly after to allow another layer of protection from spam.
Unfortunately, these spam-blocking systems were far from perfect, and many legitimate emails were mistakenly identified as spam and failed to reach their destination. The 2003 CAN-SPAM Act established restrictions on unsolicited email, as internet service providers continually tightened the rules of what is considered spam, but by this point, Pandora’s Inbox had been opened.
Email Marketing in a Post-Gary World
Because of the complexity of today’s spam filtering protocols on both the server and client sides, legitimate email sometimes gets incorrectly marked as spam and never reaches its intended destination. In some ways, the legitimate marketers of today are being punished for the sins of their online forefathers like Gary Thuerk, who soured the entire internet with their aggressive tactics. Way to go, Gary. Thanks for ruining the internet for the rest of us.
As anyone who currently uses email for marketing knows, ensuring that your messages reach their destination is a serious concern. The percentage of emails that actually land in the recipient’s inbox is commonly known as email deliverability. Any company engaging in eCommerce must not only actively monitor its email deliverability rate but also continuously optimize the emails they send to ensure maximum deliverability.
Email deliverability is far more than a performance metric; it is a variable that defines the ceiling of your possible success.
The Numbers Don’t Lie: Email Deliverability is Kind of a Big Deal
Why does email deliverability matter? The numbers speak for themselves. If done well, email marketing provides a return on investment far superior to any other marketing method. With over 2.9 billion email accounts worldwide, email offers an audience three times larger than all Facebook and Twitter accounts combined. Additionally, 91% of American consumers use email daily, and their purchase rate via email is not only three times higher than social media, but the value of the average order generated by email is 17% higher than sales made via social media.
As email marketing evolves to incorporate more advanced approaches using marketing automation and dynamic contents, the need for the proper tools to navigate the ever-changing currents of eCommerce has never been greater. By using a stable and reliable platform with an excellent reputation for email marketing, eCommerce business can build an effective email marketing strategy that generates results.
What is a Good Email Deliverability Rate?
Although there is some variation among different industry sectors when it comes to email deliverability statistics, the average inbox placement rate for emails sent in the United States is 77%. 8% of the emails ended up in the recipient’s spam folder, and the remaining sixteen percent were labeled missing, failing to make it past the initial gateway.
So, what should you do if your email deliverability rate falls below the industry average? It’s easy. Just refer to our Email Deliverability Best Practices.
Email Deliverability Best Practices
As simple as it sounds, utilizing email deliverability best practices as a core component of your email marketing yields a substantially higher success rate.
#1: Don’t buy email lists. Seriously.
There is no valid reason to purchase email lists. You may end up spending on a pile of hot garbage filled with bad addresses. It may give you a bump on email contacts, but there is no better way to get yourself blacklisted as a spammer. Not to mention the potentially regulatory inquiries that may follow from this practice.
#2: Make sure each subscriber can easily unsubscribe.
If someone wants to unsubscribe from your email list, let them. By trying to make it difficult to unsubscribe, all you are doing is infuriating people who have already made it clear that they don’t want to hear from you. Respect that. Your unsubscribe page should not be the online equivalent of an Escape Room, or else you can expect to see your spam complaints skyrocket.
#3: Authenticate your emails
If you’re already using an email marketing service like ContactPigeon, you can sit back and relax because this task is already taken care of. You don’t have to do anything else. But if you’re sending email campaigns from your own server, you must check and validate the email authentication settings you use, such as Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM), Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC).
#4: Send a newsletter to most engaged subscribers
When it comes to your relationship with your subscribers, think of yourself as a chef in a restaurant. Your subscribers are your regular customers, so you want to engage with them just to let them know you appreciate their business. Sending out a regular subscriber newsletter is the email marketing equivalent of the chef approaching the table and asking the customers how they enjoyed their meal.
#5: Send emails from a legitimate business domain
If you are sending newsletters from a personal email domain (e.g., gmail.com, hotmail.com), stop! It drastically increases the chance of your email landing in the Spam folder. As of 2016, Gmail also blocked email from delivering if the email is not sent from Gmail itself. Instead, opt to establish a proper business domain for your business, and send emails from the business domain. It also increases creditability of your business!
#6: Do your best on the email subject lines
Aside from ensuring your email reaches the recipient’s inbox with a reputable email platform, your subject line is a crucial element in determining whether or not the recipient actually reads your email. Remember that implementing email subject lines best practices leads to higher email deliverability rates, which leads to better open rates, and ultimately sales conversions.
It’s important also to avoid keywords that are often associated with Spam. A few examples are “Free” “Save” “Winner”. While a single word may not land your email in Spam filter, scoring 5 or more spammy word alert will kill your email’s chance of reaching its destination. For more, check out our last post on keywords to avoid.
#7: Watch your fonts, your writing and your tongue!
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to visual elements in your marketing emails. Avoid using red or white font colors, avoid using too many different font types, and avoid using too many CAPITALIZED words. Actually, avoid using any capitalized words if you can avoid it. All of these look suspicious and spammy to email providers and could get you into serious trouble.
#8: Deliver valuable content, every time.
The best email deliverability best practice is, was and will always be the core element of every email: the content. Never forget that content is king. If you do your best to deliver high-quality content to your subscribers, be sure not to waste it by ignoring a regular schedule, which is the most valuable retention tactic at your disposal.
#9: Keep your Mailing lists (and your costs) healthy
Consider this to be basic maintenance. Every three months, you should remove the inactive subscribers to protect your average open rates and the overall health and reputation of your list. Not only do you keep your list healthier, but you also reduce your monthly costs by maintaining a smaller (but more engaged) audience!
#10: Test your email deliverability status frequently
This is more regular maintenance. Run the Reputation & Blacklisting Checkup test at http://talosintelligence.com, along with the test at https://www.mail-tester.com. Repeat no less than every quarter, preferably more frequently if you are sending periodic newsletters.
#11: Demonstrate consistency in scheduling your newsletters
Think of yourself like Santa Claus; the kids are all excited on Christmas Eve because they know you’re going to bring them gifts. If Santa just showed up randomly in the middle of July, there probably won’t be milk and cookies waiting, and if there were, you probably wouldn’t want them after sitting out for seven months.
Assuming you have an engaged audience and compelling content, set a schedule for your newsletters and stick to it. By letting your audience know when they can expect your email, the odds are much higher that they will be checking their inbox at a specific time to see what you have to say. Sending regular newsletters is both simplistic and effective.
Bonus email deliverability tip: Ask your subscribers to add you to their address book
Create a welcome email to be sent immediately after the subscriber opts-in which politely and kindly asks them to add you to their address book. Then take it a step further and show them how to add your email address to their address book using screenshots or even a short video. This small step of marketing automation can have a significant impact on your future open rates.
As you can see, none of these best practices are particularly difficult on their own. However, it is easy to forget them when you are busy worrying about the million other details on your desk. The challenge isn’t knowing what to do as much as establishing the discipline to incorporate the best practices into your processes.
Many companies, both large and small, trust an email marketing service like ContactPigeon to handle the plethora of critical details essential to successful marketing automation. You will enjoy peace of mind knowing that you have a team of expert professionals at your disposal, but your email deliverability rate will thank you.
And if all else fails and you find yourself in an email marketing jam, just think: WWGTD (What Would Gary Thuerk Do?) Then do the exact opposite. After all, the last thing you want to do is “pull a Gary Thuerk,” right? Nobody wants to be that guy; he’s the worst.
ContactPigeon is the all-in-one marketing automation solution for eCommerce. ContactPigeon features a full suite of powerful yet easy-to-use features tailored for eCommerce marketing automation and email deliverability best practices, regardless of the size of your company or scale of your campaign. Financeonline.com recently awarded ContactPigeon as a Rising Star in Marketing Automation in 2018.