No matter how wonderful your emails may be, they’re nothing short of useless if they don’t hit an inbox fast-especially if we’re talking about a welcome email, which users are almost trained to expect…
That’s why, for this post, I decided to lose the CTA tips, the talk about email copy and design that will dazzle and put all of my attention to one key thing that every marketer needs for all email campaigns: the high deliverability rate.
Email Deliverability vs Email Delivery
What are email deliverability and email delivery?
Email delivery refers to the ability of the recipient, first of all, to receive your message.
Simply put, email delivery is what happens when a recipient’s email address is valid and still in use.
Email delivery is when a email is successfully delivered to the receiving server. Campaign Monitor
Email delivery performance can be measured by the number or percentage of bounced emails:
- Soft Bounce: When the email delivery is temporarily delayed because the server is unavailable.
- Hard Bounce: When the email delivery is unsuccessful because the email address of the recipient is invalid.
Therefore, email delivery comes before email deliverability, before even thinking of a spam folder, a full inbox or the “Promotions” tab.
Email deliverability, on the other hand, is used to express the place where your email will end up after having been delivered to the recipient’s email address.
What do I mean by that?
A good delivery rate will show you that most (if not all) your sent emails have successfully reached your subscribers’ servers.
However, that doesn’t mean that your email reached their inboxes. A delivered email can end up in the spam folder.
Your deliverability rates will show you how many emails managed to end up specifically in the recipient’s inbox.
And that is why you need to care about deliverability more than anything.
If you are not making sure that your email hits your subscribers’ inboxes, you’re wasting time, resources and risk getting penalized by ISPs.
Getting penalized can and will get you blacklisted, whether you’re a spammer or not (if you want to know more… Just keep reading!).
And this is why you should care about deliverability (ie, hitting the inbox and not the spam folder), and perhaps follow the tips I’m about to give you below.
Tips to Increase Email Deliverability
Here are 8 tips to increase email deliverability:
- Review your email list and keep it clean
- Segment your email list
- Send relevant content to each segment
- Give your subscribers a way out to avoid being marked as spam
- Send Mobile Responsive emails
- Train your subscribers to expect your emails
- Make sure your email subject line and the content of your email are coherent
- Highlight your brand
Review your list and keep it clean for maximum deliverability
One of the most common practices brands use to grow their email lists is a giveaway or a competition, perhaps a freebie on the signup form as well, but this won’t always bring back quality leads.
There might be prospects that registered using inactive email addresses, or with fake emails, simply to get their hands on the giveaway prize.
Maybe some of the subscribers are not using the email address they’ve given you or maybe they are simply not interested in your emails anymore.
By sending emails to addresses that don’t exist anymore, you’ll get a pretty high bounce rate, and non-interested users won’t hesitate to mark you as spam. Those two acts are the most foolproof ways to hurt your deliverability and reputation.
This is why you’ll need to send test emails and monitor your subscription analytics, opens, and clicks, as well as the click-through rate.
Just check the statistic here:
Part of the reason why the spam rate is lower than it used to be, is that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are quick to identify spam and will lower your reputation score.
And the fact that you’re not a spammer doesn’t mean that your prospects don’t perceive you as such, especially if you’re sending out unsolicited emails.
Clean Your Email List
Keeping a clean email list is increadibly important. Stats on list cleaning say a list can shrink as fast as 25% in a quarter, like seen during corona. You may not have those dramatic numbers, but it is always wise to go through your email list regularly and delete all unnecessary addresses, duplicate emails and those that have never opened your emails. You could do this manually if your list is small, or use specific tools for it.
Everything you don’t need, needs to go.
Opt for Double Opt-In
This way, your email list will practically clean itself (for some part, at least).
Okay, let’s take it from the top.
Opt-in is the method used in a website or a form, that will enable a visitor to subscribe.
I hit the subscribe button here, and then checked my inbox, to find this:
This is called a double opt-in.
Essentially, you’re asking the user to confirm that they are interested in your brand or service.
This move will make sure that the prospect is, indeed, interested in receiving your email, as someone who’s only partially hyped, won’t really bother to check, let alone confirm their email address.
Another essential element is the unsubscribe button, which will save you the time and effort of checking who’s been inactive and for how long, seeing as you’re giving them yet another way out.
And having alternatives when wanting to opt-out will both reassure your prospects and save you from being marked as spam.
Start small and segment, always
I think it’s pretty clear that not everyone in your email list is active or interested. This is why you’ll need to maintain a clean list.
Now let me tell you that not everyone in your clean list is interested in that specific message you are about to send. And this could cost you a lot.
Sending too many messages to too many people is a no-no for both ISP filters and the recipients themselves.
Try to send your emails in small batches.
But how are you going to do that and how to make sure that you’re doing email targeting right?
The magic word you’re looking for here is segmentation.
Email List Segmentation
You see, your subscribers are not one and the same person.
Some of them might want to see your newsletter, some others might love coupons and another part might be into this because they want to be the first ones to comment on your latest blog post.
If you want people who want to actually receive your content, you’ll need to make sure that you’re giving them what they want.
“But what could that be?”
Well, that’s for your buyer personas to decide.
A buyer persona is a depiction of your ideal customer, complete with their gender, employment status, location, and individual needs.
Let’s assume you’re a SaaS company and you’re developing marketing software. You’ll craft the persona of John Doe. John Doe is the CMO. He’s well-educated, running from meeting to meeting and leads a very busy life.
He may or may not have a little bit of technical background. Could be married. John needs a type of marketing software that will be very simple, no-fuss and will allow him to run from meeting to meeting and do some work while he’s at it.
This tells us that the characteristics of the platform we need to point out are the following: Easy-to-use features and ready-made templates, seeing as there is no time for the CMO to design something or use code.
Essentially, this persona is the basis around which you will build your email marketing campaigns.
Once you set up your buyer personas, you’ll be able to then create the segments you need for your list. Those segments are the ones to dictate your content, along with your goals and the KPIs you’ve set.
Let me give you an example:
Segment your list according to the persona that needs to buy something that’s got an offer.
If, for example, that something is “swimsuits” and you’re sending a newsletter in the middle of November, segment according to location.
Here are a few ways you can create segments within your audience:
If your email contains localized messages, it is best to segment your target audience by their geographic location.
This type of segmentation is useful if you want to promote a specific store or a local event. It will help you send out emails only in the immediate proximity and will exclude out-of-towners from the mailing list.
This is a great way to increase email deliverability.
Segmenting by demographics is useful for brands that sell different products for different age groups and/or genders. This will prove to be helpful if you promote multiple products to a wide audience.
3. Buyer Persona
You can also create a custom segment to reach out to each and every person that somehow complies with the criteria you’ve set for your buyer personas.
Remember how I mentioned something about “people who want to receive your messages”?
Those are your best shots at engagement and the first ones your small batch of emails should reach.
By sending emails to people who are actually interested in you and your brand from the very beginning, you’ll get more email opens and your CRO endeavors will have a greater chance to be fruitful.
Not to mention that the more engagement there is, the more credible the ISPs think you are.
Show and Deliver Content They Want to See
Aka: Do it like Buzzfeed. I bet you’ve seen their email newsletter signup page:
Buzzfeed has developed the strategy of segmenting their audience by asking them which newsletters they’d like to receive, right off the bat.
By having separate lists for each topic, Buzzfeed achieves maximum engagement, first and foremost.
But let’s say that a user doesn’t want to sign up at this stage and was just “looking around”. What did Buzzfeed do?
Their team came up with two ways to nudge the reader towards engaging and signing up for their newsletter.
First, they include a signup form under every article of theirs, but it always has to be related to the topic at hand:
As you can see, this is an article on shopping and smart products. Well, look what I’ve got at the bottom of my page now:
This is actually pretty genius, seeing as I won’t even think twice about signing up if I loved the article. I’ll just go ahead and subscribe anyway if I’m to receive great content and read compelling storytelling emails.
But this is not the only way they use their articles in correlation to their emails.
Here’s the second way:
If you open that article, it’s full of cute animal pictures and little tidbits and stories about each one.
And of course, the signup form at the end of the email:
And you can hyper-segment the newsletter itself as well, no worries.
By using these two methods, Buzzfeed not only drives maximum engagement. Their email marketing team also manages to promote content and showcase what the recipients are going to be receiving, leaving nothing to the imagination.
Which, in our case, means “avoiding being marked as spam”!
Send mobile-responsive emails and be mindful of images
Content is king, but mobile-responsiveness is… Well, I’d say the princess.
Especially since most email opens happen on a mobile device or a tablet nowadays.
There are plenty of reasons an email should be mobile-friendly, but deliverability is one of the main ones.
If you think like the recipient for a second, you’ll see that you would never want to open an email, only to sigh in exasperation and think that you need to view it on desktop instead.
You need to provide users with a seamless experience. After all, the only engagement you could do without is the engagement with the “Mark as spam” button.
Make sure you’re using more than one responsive email template that will ensure the email’s readability on a screen as small and narrow as that of a mobile.
Hint: Single-column design works best for that. It’s easy on the eyes and helps the reader pinpoint the important-to the reader-information.
You see, according to Adobe’s survey, being unable to read an email due to non-responsive design is one of the most annoying things a recipient has to experience, coming right behind “too many emails” and “poorly-written emails”.
This annoyance is a little like spammy-looking emails with poor grammar. You may have put your heart and soul into the design but that doesn’t guarantee that the recipient won’t consider a non-responsive email to be spam.
And that goes for too many images in an email as well.
It’s not like the image-to-text ratio can hurt deliverability too much anymore. However, deliverability is not a sector with which you’d like to take your chances.
Make sure that your content is there, that it’s useful and that it’s not too short. And yes, spam emails are short! Look:
The fact that it’s broken down, doesn’t make it large.
And this is, automatically, marked as spam by Gmail.
So, if you absolutely must write something with few characters, just add an image to make sure it won’t go to the spam folder, as usually, spam messages don’t carry images and text but not much text and links.
However, this does not mean that you can send all image emails, as there is a need for 500 characters in every email, for it to not be marked as spam.
Train your subscribers to expect your email
You’ll need to make sure you send your emails at the right place at the right time, which is no easy task.
You can increase deliverability by using the parameter of time to your favor, taking advantage of two main things:
Patterns and A/B testing.
Let’s go with patterns, first.
Much like Google pretty much trained Gmail users to check out the “Updates” and “Promotions” tabs when marketing emails failed to end up in the “Primary” tab, you can train your users to expect your email. Moreover, you can train them to expect your email during a specific time, just by studying and understanding user data.
As every data analyst knows, the land of data is ruled by patterns that are there to uncover the deepest secrets of your subscribers, their thoughts and their desires.
By monitoring and understanding buying patterns, you can figure out plenty of things you can improve about your email campaign.
Things that may be tampering with your deliverability rates.
Your data scientists will use predictive analysis to give you data that will get you to know more details about a customer’s preferences.
This is what you’ll build your mailing schedule-and your copy, but more on that later on.
Predictive analysis is what gives you the opportunity to send timely and relevant cart abandonment emails, follow-up emails and replenishment emails, an underrated but very important aspect of email marketing.
Replenishment emails are usually expected at a very specific time-the time when a product is about to either run out or expire.
If a customer needs that product, they’re bound to open the email and check out if you’ve got something extra to say about it. A discount, perhaps or a “Share this email with a friend, to get XYZ benefit”.
By the way, encouraging people from your email list to share your email can result in better engagement and plenty of referral traffic, if done right.
The point here is to send emails that will be timely. So much so, that they’ll get opened, without hesitation.
And like I said above, more opens result in better deliverability.
A/B Email Testing
Now, as far as A/B testing is concerned, you’ll need to go through with it, regardless of data.
It’s the only foolproof way to come up with the perfect time of day, the day of the week, the month and everything you need to know, that won’t cost you opens and clicks.
And if you need a pro tip, here you go: You don’t need to send more than two (tops!) emails per week and there are two reasons behind this statement.
First, you won’t have that much content to begin with, and it would be best to brainstorm killer content and send out fewer emails per week, then to create some meh content that won’t stand out.
Second, too many emails-like too many contact attempts by call center agents-will burn your email list to a crisp. And you don’t need that.
You just need to be memorable for fantastic, quality content.
Content is king of deliverability
As with everything marketing, content reigns supreme and with good reason.
Good content will draw attention and will get past spam filters and right into your user’s inbox, as long as you follow the tips below:
First of all, you’ll need to be extra careful when crafting your subject lines, as that, alone, can send you into the spam folder without your prospects ever finding out about your existence.
A subject line will give you a competitive edge, so long as it’s well-crafted and doesn’t have elements that either trigger the ISPs’ spam filters or sound spammy in general and will result in your email getting flagged.
You’ll want to keep exclamation marks, special symbols and capital letters to a minimum and lose the use of phrases like “FREE!” or “You won!”
So, a subject line that goes like “Save a LOT of $$s with our fantastic new offer!!” is not exactly what you want to write.
Secondly, make sure your email’s content is aligned with your subject line.
So, steer clear from things like “RE:” when you’re not replying to something, or “FW:” when you’re sending your email marketing campaigns.
If you’re not offering a “Special discount” or have had no previous contact with the recipient of the message, don’t use such phrasing. Try to be as concise as possible, while being just a little cryptic.
This one is from my personal inbox. Not gonna lie, the emojis did catch my eye at first, but then I saw the subject line. And I’ve got to tell you, I was intrigued.
Why? Because this email is from a vegan cosmetics brand and I couldn’t help but wonder what on earth this email has to do with cats.
I clicked on it, only to find content that was, indeed, related to the subject line:
This example has got to be one of my favorites ever, as it caught my eye because of a subject line that made me wonder and the content that took me from a famous #instapet’s eyes to a free gift that will give me the cat-eye effect with every order.
It’s unique, truly memorable, and very well targeted.
Final tips to get email deliverability right
Don’t forget to show your brand. It’s best to use “Jane Doe from XYZ Corp.” when you send out your campaigns. Like this:
It adds a very nice, personal touch, captures the attention of your recipients and won’t send you into the spam folder that easily. Oh, and see the “Unsubscribe” right there?
It’s right where someone can find it.
And last but not least: Figure out where you’re going to capture your leads before starting anything.
You can have a fantastic website or landing page that will give users all the right info and will entice them to subscribe.
You can also use referral marketing, the “Share this email” tip I mentioned before.
You can use guest blogging.
And you will definitely need to nurture your leads, every step of the way.
Because without them, there will be no email campaign to deliver.
There are plenty more tips to ensure email deliverability will be top-notch and will keep your emails delivered to an email inbox, like checking blacklists or the complaints feedback loop of your mailbox provider.
So, what do you think? Are you using more techniques and tricks to increase your email deliverability?
Don’t forget to let me know. And as always, share the knowledge with your favorite marketers!