Why email deliverability should be top of mind for all marketers

Amid the maelstrom that defines marketing today, every once in a while you’ll hear someone declare, "Email is dead." And that person would be dead wrong.

Video is a trending content strategy, mobile use is growing as an exciting marketing channel, new social media platforms appear on a regular basis, and marketing technology is changing the way marketers plan and execute campaigns. Still, email remains the centerpiece of digital communication, and that is why it never hurts to review how you approach the ever-effective marketing channel.

Want evidence email is a vital digital marketing channel? When you sign up for virtually everything, including social media platforms, what do you have to provide? Your email address.

How do you receive transactional communication, such as confirmation for a purchase or shipping information? By email.

And what single field in any database record is most vital for marketing purposes – arguably even more important than having a name attached to that record – you guess it, an email address.

With that in mind here are some tips on a key element of email marketing: deliverability.

Don’t discount deliverability

Why should marketers be concerned about deliverability? If your email doesn’t even make to the inbox, you might as well have not sent it. Deliverability has terminology specific to this aspect of email marketing, and it’s a good idea to understand what these terms mean in order to better keep tabs on your email campaign success.

Here are a few deliverability terms HubSpot calls out:

  • Black List — A list that denotes a sender as a spammer, making it difficult for the sender to get future emails into an inbox.
  • CAN–SPAM Act — Short for 'Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003'; it's a law that outlines rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, provides email recipients with the right to make you stop emailing them, and lays out consequences for violations of the act.
  • Hard Bounce — A permanent failure to deliver an email usually due to a non-existent, invalid, or blocked email address. Email addresses that result in hard bounces can negatively impact deliverability and Sender Score, and should be removed from your email lists.
  • Sender Score — Return Path’s free reputation rating of 0 to 100 for every outgoing mail server IP. Mail servers will check your Sender Score before deciding what to do with your emails. A score of over 90 is good.

Developing deliverability tactics

Kissmetrics offers a few tips on improving deliverability, beginning with priming your email sending IP for success. By initially sending small batches of email to addresses you know are valid, you help build trust in that IP address with your ESP (email service provider).

Not all marketers will want to take this step, but to really control your email program register a subdomain that is only used for email campaigns. Your recipients will be begin to trust the domain, but more importantly it makes it very easy to monitor your sender score (also known as reputation score) and also succeed against some domain-based certification filters.

Using a double, or confirmed opt-in, helps you build a strong email list full of engaged recipients. Of course the other side of this coin is bought lists only populate your email list with at best addresses that have never expressed an interest in your email marketing communications, and at worst are invalid and will increase your hard bounce rate as well as affect your reputation score. To achieve a double opt-in, when someone provides their email address you send them a confirmation email to that address to allow them to confirm they want to receive your marketing messages.

And it may seem counterintuitive, but conducting data hygiene on your list on a regular basis will help clean it of email addresses that are duplicates, no longer valid (always bouncing), or maybe just no longer engaged, such as a valid address that hasn’t opened any of your email sends for a set period of time such as over a year. Of course if you don’t want to purge valid addresses that are inactive because you hope to eventually warm them up, you should at least place those in a specific segment that doesn’t receive your usual email campaigns and is only used for targeted re-activation campaigns.

Improving campaign performance with improved deliverability

Don’t believe cleaning a list can improve email performance? MarketingSherpa conducted a case study about how the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra cut its list by an amazing 95% and doubled online sales. To do this the marketing team took an underperforming list that had been subjected to a somewhat rudderless email strategy, sent a re-engagement email to the entire list and removed anyone who didn’t respond to the re-engagement email. The result was a drastically reduced list, but a list full of people who actively wanted to get email from the symphony and responded by making more purchases based on the email they received.

Whether email deliverability is top of mind or a topic you’ve never even considered, prioritizing keeping track of your efforts will help your success rate with the venerable marketing channel.

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Top image credit: Mailify