Regardless of industry, it’s standard for 25% of marketing e-mails to fail to reach the customer’s inbox. Unfortunately, these issues can be rather costly—losses can range from $50,000 to several million dollars, depending on the industry and the average revenue of the marketer’s email program.
This increased difficulty in e-mail marketing has birthed a number of untruths and questions about what actually determines if an e-mail makes the cut. While marketers should always be mindful of their content, here are five issues that can negatively impact e-mail deliverability:
· Sending Reputation: Internet Service Providers (ISPs) score a sender’s reputation based on several metrics: opens, click-through rate, abuse complaints (spam) and messages “passed by” (i.e., if a subscriber clicks the e-mails above and below yours, but ignores your message). The lower the sender reputation is, the lower the chance of e-mails reaching the inbox. In order to reach the inbox, you need to have separate IP addresses for each mail stream based on offer type and engagement. This tactic limits contamination and makes it easier to diagnose and fix any deliverability problems.
· DKIM and SPF Compliance: Deliverability has moved beyond trigger words and subject lines. Through Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM), or a digital signature, and Sender Policy Framework (SPF), ISPs authenticate that you are who you say you are. Without proper sender authentication on your e-mails, some ISPs will send your messages to the junk folder, while others will just block messages altogether. For improved results, these practices should be modernized.
· HTML-to-Text Ratio: A lop-sided balance between text, links and images can be problematic. If your e-mail content is poorly formatted and matches characteristics of spam messages the ISP has received before, e-mails are less likely to reach the inbox and can be blocked right at the gate of an ISP. Spammers like to use images to convey their message with a small amount of text, since the ISP’s system cannot “see” the words in the image. Too many images or too many links and too little text can lead to bulking issues.
· Bulking (new subscribers doesn’t fix it): If multiple unread e-mails are stacking up, ISPs view it as a red flag. If e-mails have started to bulk, an ever-increasing number of subscribers will only make matters worse as more e-mails get treated as spam, until 100% are blocked. In order to diagnose, take a moment to observe subscriber data to gauge engagement. Look at your content to identify any poor deliverability practices. A big push for acquiring new subscribers is not going to fix a problem that already exists.
· Tricky URLs: ISPs will snub URLs frequently found in messages that get a lot of abuse complaints. Marketers often encounter this issue when they run cross-promotions or registrations with partner companies that may not have the greatest reputations. Be careful when linking to third-parties because if their URLs were blacklisted or flagged by an ISP (for having a poor sender reputation in the past), your e-mails have a lower chance of being delivered and can be blocked by an ISP right off the bat. This is where data hygiene is critical—it gets rid of misspelled and inactive addresses. Even though data hygiene doesn’t guarantee not getting blacklisted, it certainly aids in the process.
Although deliverability can be complex, it isn’t a nightmare nor should it be confusing. Marketers should have a proactive contingency plan to quickly address blacklisting by: performing data hygiene regularly, creating unique IP addresses and generating inbox placement reports before every campaign.
Jason Warnock is the vice president of market intelligence and deliverability for Yesmail Interactive. A seasoned digital marketing veteran, he spearheaded the development of the Yesmail Market Intelligence tool that tracks the campaigns of competitors across eight digital channels, including e-mail and social media. Warnock has designed and executed successful technology and business strategies for several Fortune 500 companies.