9 ways to improve email deliverability
For all the email marketing haters out there, it's worth noting that recent stats show the ROI on email can be up to 4,400%. That should perk up the ears of even the biggest skeptics. The truth is, to get those kind of returns you have to be more thoughtful and diligent about the way you approach email campaigns. Let's dive in...
Of course, you can only expect such great results if your subscribers are actually receiving interesting content, and that's not always the case. Additionally, there are several steps you need to take to ensure a successful campaign, even before your subscribers receive and digest your content.
One such critical step is email deliverability. A disheartening number of emails never actually make it to the inbox – but with a few tweaks or even implementing email automation, you'll be able to see solid improvements in your email deliverability rate.
Here are 9 tips to help you nail it:
1. Pay attention to subscriber origins
It’s critical to make sure that all the email addresses on your lists belong to real people and belong to people who actually want to be on your list. To ensure that this is the case, never buy lists, and treat email addresses from contests and sweepstakes with extra care.
The email addresses in purchased lists can come from dubious or even illegal sources, and can be blacklisted before you even acquire them. Likewise, emails from sweepstakes can often be duplicates or fakes, as people want to maximize their chances of winning and enter as many email addresses as possible.
2. Keep your list clean
Use a tool to verify your list, and be ruthless about keeping it clean. Make sure to regularly check for duds like bounced emails, generic addresses (like firstname.lastname@example.org), and addresses with typos. It hurts to trim numbers, but having a small list of engaged subscribers is much better than having a massive list of spam accounts.
3. Tweak your settings
Both your email tool and your IP provider will offer ways to tweak your sending settings to improve your deliverability rates. Your IT team should be able to interface between the two and work on aspects like updating the DMARC policy, maintaining proper IP allocation, and verifying your email domain.
4. Use double opt-ins
Make sure your recipients really want to be on your list by always using double-opt-ins. You'll inevitably lose subscribers between sign-up and opt-in, but it’s much better to lose them at this stage than to clutter your email list. If you’re not clear on how to set up and optimize a double opt-in sequence learn more here.
5. Give recipients options
Thanks to the CAN-SPAM act, unsubscribing options are pretty much a given. But letting recipients choose frequency, topic, and more can help keep them around and more engaged.
Think of giving subscribers these options as your “last chance” opportunity to appeal to them before they get frustrated and decide to unsubscribe completely. Sixty percent of marketers don’t offer any options at all, so if you do, you’ll already be ahead of the curve.
6. Segment, segment, segment
Target the right recipients with the right message by segmenting your list. Rather than sending the same content to everyone who's signed up for your newsletter, divide your list into groups based on specific characteristics: interests, demographics, industry, or purchasing behavior.
Segmenting is proven to help with both customer satisfaction and deliverability. It helps you speak more directly to your audience and keeps them engaged. The more your emails are ignored by unengaged recipients, the more likely other emails you send will never make it to your targets.
7. Keep it consistent
You’ll want to do some research before you decide on what time of day and how often you do email blasts. You'll find lots of different studies and answers on the best time to send an email. Take advantage of the research others have already done, but ultimately you'll have to test and experiment to find the best schedule for your own unique audience.
And once you’ve found the perfect times, stay consistent. If you send your newsletter every Thursday at 2 p.m., recipients will come to expect it – and be disappointed if you don't deliver. Also make sure to keep things such as your sender name consistent from email to email. Consistency helps establish trustworthiness and transparency, both of which boost your sender reputation.
8. Polish your subject lines
Subject lines are one aspect of your emails that you have total control over, but they're not easy to master. The most creative way to improve your deliverability rate is to find subject lines that really entice and engage your recipients. The more engaged they are, the better results you'll see with future emails’ deliverability, and beyond. This is just as true for blogger outreach as sending emails to your email list.
To truly entice recipients, try subject lines that are personalized, impart a sense of urgency, leave readers curious about what information you have, or ask compelling questions. Each segment of your list will likely respond to different strategies. You’ll need to rely on testing and experience to decide what will be most effective for a given segment, and how to implement it most professionally.
Remember, the ideal subject line length is about 40 characters, or seven words – that's not much. So whatever you write, make it deadly efficient.
9. Give your emails a final check
Run your emails through one of the many spam checking tools available. Some of these tools are premium and require a subscription, but you should also be able to replicate most of their functions with a variety of free tools. You’ll just need to do a little more legwork since they won’t all be in the same place.
These tools will give you a list of things to improve and fix before your final send-off. Think of them as a spam proofreader for your emails. They’ll check over a variety of things like search for spam trigger words, grade your subject lines, and give you a sender reputation score.
Deliverability is cumulative. It’s not the result of one move, it’s the result of seeing how others react to your emails over time and using that information to predict how recipients are likely to react in the future. Ultimately, it’s a matter of sending emails that people want to read – and that means mastering the nine tips above.
To nail your deliverability, start slow and focus on engagement. By doing this consistently over time, you’ll build up trust with your subscribers. It’s also a matter of quality over quantity. Doing it well with five people is better than doing it poorly with 500.
Learn from your past performance. Check out where you’re going wrong by consulting email providers’ complaint feedback loops and then make small changes to work towards perfection in your email marketing campaigns. Once you have deliverability perfected, move on to open rate and really take your emails to the next level.
About the Author
Sujan is a partner at Ramp Ventures and has over 14 years of marketing experience. He has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Salesforce, Mint, Intuit and many other Fortune 500 caliber companies.