Maintaining a good email sending reputation is crucial to making sure your emails get to their destination, but how do you maintain a glowing reputation?
“Email Deliverability? Wait, don’t all emails get to their recipients?”
In a word – “no”. One factor that often gets overlooked by budding email marketers is that of email deliverability.
As spam and junk email threats gather more and more momentum, the onus has fallen to companies like Internet Service Providers and email service providers (ESPs) like Outlook or Gmail to police the wild world of email, and “sender reputation scores” are the result. Every email address and IP address (an online address specific to your location) is ranked on its email sending reputation. These scores provide a quick and easy way to measure whether an email is worth delivering or discarding.
What Happens to Those Who Have a Bad Sending Reputation?
ISPs and ESPs rank senders’ domain names and IP addresses by analysing a number of different factors, including but not limited to:
● Volume of emails sent
● Rates of recipients marking email as spam or blacklisting senders
● Bounce rates and invalid addresses
● Emails sent to “spam traps” – more on those later
● Engagement metrics like opens, clicks, forwards, and replies
● Unsubscribe rates
● Formatting of sent emails
How to Maintain a Good Sending Reputation:
Always be Genuine
Any email that you send – be it part of a marketing campaign or an everyday message – needs to appear as genuine as possible. Ensure that you are using a valid reply to address with the sender name clearly presented, and avoid using “noreply” addresses. Emails from an address that starts “noreply@” tend to appear less organic, and can also close the door on potentially valuable replies and feedback. You want to appear natural, reachable, and welcoming, so always send from an address where people can click reply and get through to a real person.
Any marketing email should also contain current contact information such as a physical business address and phone number, and crucially needs to include an easy way to unsubscribe. If a recipient objects to receiving an email and there’s no way of unsubscribing, they’re more likely to mark your email as spam.
Maintain List Hygiene
List hygiene is a practice of keeping your subscriber lists up to date and trimming any continually bouncing addresses or those that haven’t opened an email in a long time.
Pay attention to your subscriber lists; keep a watchful eye on how your campaigns perform and how your subscribers act. If you’re getting a lot of hard bounces from the same addresses, it’s probably a good idea to remove them. Also watch your unsubscribe rates; if people are leaving in droves, take a look at your onboarding processes and the relevance and targeting of your emails.
Look at the content of the emails you send. If you’re sending a poor message, or you’re sending “the right message to the wrong people”, subscribers are likely to leave.
One single marketing message is unlikely to resound with everyone on your list, so in order to tailor a message to relevant people, list segmenting is a valuable practice. This is where a larger list is separated into potentially smaller sublists based on relevant metrics. You might split by demographics such as age or location, or on behavioural things like buying history, previous campaign opens, clicks, or lack thereof. By splitting your lists in this way you can send a slightly different message to each segment, making sure that everyone receives something relevant and tailored to their individual needs.
Though sometimes it might be appropriate to send out a blanket message to everybody on your books, there is likely to be some way in which you can segment a list to make sure you’re personalising your offer each time.
Compliance and Consent
If you’re starting out on your email marketing journey, hopefully this one should go without saying; all subscribers need to give explicit consent to receive marketing communications from you. Resist the temptation to use purchased or harvested lists; these people have not agreed to hear from you, so are very likely to mark your mail as spam – incredibly damaging to your sending reputation. And besides, because these leads are totally cold and haven’t shown any interest whatsoever, you’re going to have a harder job on your hands to convince them to buy. It’s much better to let genuinely interested parties find you through ethical marketing efforts and sign up of their own free will.
Email providers and ISPs have to ensure they’re giving their clients the best email experience possible, and one way they gauge an IP address or domain’s reputation is by the use of “spam traps”. Spam traps are unmanned, but genuine looking dormant email addresses that can’t opt in to receive marketing materials. Therefore, if they do receive any bulk email, then the sender is obviously adding people to lists without seeking permission first. Being caught in a spam trap can considerably affect your sending reputation, so always ensure that subscribers actively consent with a double opt in process.
Consistently Provide Quality
ISPs and email providers also often look at engagement metrics (such as opens, clicks, etc.) to evaluate sender scores, so encouraging engagement is crucial. The best way to keep subscribers happy and maintain your email reputation is to focus on providing quality at every turn.
The most basic way to appeal to people is to use personalisation. What kind of email would you prefer to receive? One that says a generic “hello subscriber” or “good morning customer”, or one that refers to you and your company by name? When you’re putting your lead generation efforts together, allow for the collection of additional details like first names so you can make subscribers’ emails sound more natural and friendly.
The topic of quality also factors into the formatting of your email campaigns. Your emails need to look as “normal” as possible, formatting like all caps (especially in the subject line), huge gaudily coloured fonts, and multiple exclamation or question marks don’t exactly adhere to a natural email style. Our advice here is to keep it cool. Read up on strong email copywriting practices to gather attention, rather than relying on tacky formatting. Also be aware that some words like “sale” or “free” in the subject line can set off some particularly trigger happy spam filters.
On the topic of subject lines, always keep your subject appropriate to the content within the email. If you go for a “clickbait-y” subject line just to get people to open the email and don’t actually follow through on what was promised, you’re likely to annoy people and increase their chances marking your mail as spam.
All in all, the best way to maintain good levels of deliverability is to ensure that you’re sending out high quality content that provides real value to your subscribers, in a way that welcomes them to engage freely with you. It’s harder to be flagged as a spammer if you send marketing materials in a totally genuine and ethical manner.