Depending on who you are and what your job title is, you likely think either content or the subject line is the MVP of an email campaign. I’m here to tell you that it’s neither – and you may be missing the single most important criterion in your line-up of success factors.
If no one gets to see your emails, it stands to reason that your carefully crafted subject line and content are both useless – which is why email deliverability is king, and the real linchpin to your email success.
In 2014, our marketing agency has seen our new clients’ email stats showing that more of their emails are ending up in spam or junk folders. This trend is dangerous; if no one sees your email, it really doesn’t matter if your subject line is perfectly crafted to grab their attention or your content makes an offer no one can refuse.
We’ve been able to help our clients reverse this trend by sharing four basic tactics to improve deliverability:
Use marketing automation software
Marketing automation software provides you with several behind-the-scenes benefits of improving and measuring your email deliverability. Your outgoing email is sent by your marketing automation vendor from the same high-quality sender IP address as other customers’ email. This means that the address is maintained internally by specialists, and managed so as to have a good email sending reputation. You get the benefit of this.
Maintain a strong Send reputation
“80% of email delivery problems are directly attributable to a poor sender reputation.” –DMA Email Deliverability Review 2012.
The Internet service providers (such as Gmail) and programs (such as Outlook) that receive email are configured to accept it and pass it on, or to reject it, based on many factors. Among other things, they track past performance and use it as an indication of future results. Key factors in reputation are authentication, bounce management, list cleanliness and recipient feedback (engagement such as open/clicks or marking an email as junk). Unsubscribes do not hurt your reputation, while hard bounces and spam complaints do.
Think of this as your online credit score. Not following best practices and poor results will negatively affect your score, while ensuring email deliverability best practices and having high engagement will have a positive effect – allowing you to land more emails in the inbox.
Set up DKIM and SPF to ensure a digital signature
If you’re not using a marketing automation vendor, you should see to this yourself. You don’t need to become an expert; all you really need to know is that this authentication is important, and that you should talk to your DNS provider about it. The DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) and SPF (Sender Policy Framework) together act as a digital signature when your email is received, and tell the receiving server that you are in fact a real person (rather than a spam robot). To do this you will need to speak with your DNS (hosting) provider, because the steps for setup vary with each provider.
Good list hygiene is a low-cost but important variable in maintaining a good sender reputation. We recommend that your lists be cleaned at least once a quarter to remove bad or malicious email traps. Such traps are often created out of abandoned email addresses. These are created through staff turnover and other reasons, so there’s a very good chance that an uncleaned list will contain an ever-growing percentage of bad addresses. There are multiple list cleaning services available online which are reasonably priced. Another, much more expensive option, is getting a dedicated IP and getting your domain certified.
Once you’ve mastered email deliverability and you’re tracking consistent inbox placement – now is the time to start thinking about that attention grabbing subject line. Bottom line, first things first – and deliverability is first. Don’t jump the gun, because people can only open what they receive.
Ricky Bandelin is the Communications Champion at Industrial Quality Management. His responsibility is to provide clients with ROI-driven marketing solutions, and make sure that the right message is reaching the right audience at the right time.
Want to learn more about email deliverability? Visit Act-On’s Center of Excellence to download the Best Practices in Email Deliverability eBook.