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Crafting a compelling email marketing message isn’t always easy. Competing for attention among scores of other messages requires forethought, creativity and experimentation.
But what if your message never reaches recipient’s inbox in the first place? According to one study, 20% of messages don’t.
Valuable information that can lead to repeat sales, improved customer service, and stronger, more intimate, relationships between you and your customer never gets the opportunity to materialize, all because your message was never seen by its intended audience. All that effort wasted!
Here are 10 are tips to help you avoid such an outcome and increase email deliverability.
1. Get permission
The first hurdle to getting your message seen is to ensure that the people you are sending it to actually want it. That means they have opted-in to receive the message, thus giving you permission to send it.
Better than a single opt-in is what we refer to as confirmed (or double) opt-in, which is a two-step process that requires the person confirm his or her intent by responding to a verification message sent to their inbox.
Because not everyone who initially subscribes will complete the verification process, the number of active subscribers to your list may be smaller. However, the upside of using confirmed opt-in is that you know for certain the subscribers want to receive your message – something that should help deliverability.
2. Keep your list clean
In an effort to reduce the amount of spam an email recipient receives, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) utilize stringent spam filtering technology. If a message sent to a subscriber bounces for any reason – e.g., a person no longer uses that address – spam filters will start to pay attention. Multiple bounces could result in any email sent to the ISPs server from yours getting blocked.
In order to prevent this, most Email Sending Platforms (ESPs) such as Constant Contact, MailChimp and Bizzuka’s own Soundoff, monitor bounce activity and clean the list or you. If the ESP you use requires that you perform this function manually, switch to one that doesn’t.
3. Send both HTML and plain text messages
A study by AWeber, a popular email sending platform, found that HTML messages – the kind with rich formatting options such as the use of colors, graphic images and fonts – result in lower deliverability rates than their plain text counterparts. Therefore, accompany HTML messages with plain text to increase rates.
4. Have a healthy relationship with ISPs
In order to avoid blacklisting, it’s helpful to have a healthy relationship with ISPs.
The good news is that ESPs (again, like Soundoff) have already gone to the trouble of building such relationships, so you don’t have to worry about it as much.
That’s not to suggest you should NEVER worry about it – best practices mandate that you periodically monitor spam reports and bounce rates – just that the reason you’re paying services like those mentioned is so they will do it for you.
That’s one reason it is inadvisable to send bulk email via clients like Outlook, Gmail or (cough) Yahoo! mail, which aren’t designed to serve that purpose and don’t include the proper validation and trust-building credentials.
5. Manage your reputation
According to a white paper from email certification provider Return Path, your sending practices play a major role in determining whether or not email messages make it to the list member’s inbox.
Return Path recommends that you pay attention to the following:
Email Volume – How much total email does your organization send? Spammers have high numbers, but so do many legitimate mailers. If your volume is high, you must monitor your complaint, hard bounce and spam trap says Return Path.
Complaint rates – How often do people complain about the messages you send? Even small upward variations can have a negative effect.
Hard bounce rate – Hard bounces are those caused by non-existent or unknown addresses (i.e., the person no longer maintains that email address). The lower your bounce rates, the better off you are.
Using services like Return Path or SuretyMail you can apply to become an accredited email sender. These services can be expensive, and each has its own eligibility requirements, but for high volume senders it might be worth the investment. Most of use can trust that our ESP will take care of this for us, however.
6. Avoid using words that trigger spam filters
Words like “free,” “act now,” and pretty much any word in all caps are certain to catch the spam filter’s attention, so avoid their use whenever possible.
Related resource:Top 100 Spam Trigger Words and Phrases to Avoid
7. Prompt list members to add you to their address book
In order to avoid ending up in the junk mail folder, encourage list members to add your address to their “Safe senders” list or address book. Many major ISPs automatically place bulk emails into a spam or bulk folder unless the recipient has identified the sender of the email as safe.
8. Comply with the CAN-SPAM Act
In 2003, the Federal Trade Commission established the CAN-SPAM Act, which include a set of regulations that govern commercial email messages.
Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000, so it’s not something to sneeze at. Following the law isn’t complicated, however. Just adhere to these seven requirements:
- Don’t use false or misleading header information
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines
- Identify the message as an ad
- Tell recipients where you’re located
- Tell recipients how to opt-out of receiving future email from you
- Honor opt-out requests promptly
- Monitor what others are doing on your behalf
If your email contains only transactional emails or relationship content, then you are exempt from these rules; however, you must still not include false or misleading routing information
Though it’s not part of the law, including a “Statement of Origination” message in your email that explains why the person is receiving it is also a good idea.
9. Know your IP address
Every computer, including servers through which email messages are sent, are identified by a number called an IP (Internet Protocol) address, which looks like this: 18.104.22.168.
According to email marketing consultant Carolyn Nye, IP addresses are, in essence, your “credit score for sending email.”
“They track the reputation of a sender. If an email has been flagged for suspicious, spam-like activity, it’s the IP address that identifies the sender,” she said.
Nye recommends that you find out if you have a shared or unique IP address. A shared IP means you use the same address as other customers of the ESP. A unique, or dedicated, IP is assigned only to you, and not other customers.
“A shared IP address could cause issues as your reputation is shared with other customers of your email service provider. If those other customers send suspicious email, or spam, it will impact you. If you send suspicious email, it will impact those other customers,” said Nye.
10. Use spam checkers before sending emails
Utilize a spam checking service such as SpamAssassin prior to sending emails to your list. These services check your message and flag it for anything that might catch the attention of spam filters, and then assigns a score indicating the likelihood of it getting caught. Many ESPs such as Soundoff include spam checking as part of the platform.
Follow these 10 tips to ensure the email messages you work so hard to create get past spam filters and into the inboxes of those intended to receive them. Your list members will thank you for it, and so will the ISPs through whose hands they must first pass.
Image source: Flickr Creative Commons