I hate to admit it, but when I did email marketing at my last job, understanding best practices wasn’t really on my to-do list. Sure, I followed the basic rules – don’t send to unsubscribes, clean your list of hard bounces, be CAN-SPAM compliant, etc. – but I didn’t really know why.
My sends reported back relatively high delivery rates, but I soon realized that in some major mailbox providers, the messages were going straight to the spam folder. This was when I started really looking into my deliverability problems and was actually what brought me to Dyn.
Here’s what I have since learned and what I wish I knew when I was sending email:
1. Delivery Rate Does Not Equate To Deliverability
The delivery rate that is reported to you by your email service provider can be a bit confusing. If you’re seeing a 99% rate, you probably think you’re doing pretty well, and you might be, but that delivery rate only accounts for messages that didn’t bounce. Of course, it’s great to have as few bounces as possible – that means that your list is quite clean – but just because your messages are getting delivered doesn’t mean that they’re being sent to the inbox.
To get a better understanding of how your email sends are actually performing, you can try seeding. Set up accounts at all of the ISPs you send to and monitor if your message lands in the inbox, spam folder, or in the trash. Not all ISPs have the same rules so you may hit the inbox in one and land in the trash in another, so keeping an eye on at least all the major ISPs will give you good insight.
2. Transactional Email Needs Love Too
When you’re in charge of email marketing, you tend to get caught up in newsletters, campaigns, and nurturing streams which means that you might forget about transactional messaging.
At my last company, our transactional messages were handled completely by the IT department, which resulted in some pretty awful messages. They were plain text and sometimes even out of date because no one was taking ownership of the content.
Transactional messages have great potential for engaging your customers since they are usually anticipated messages (sign up confirmations or receipts, for example). Because of this, the open rates tend to be pretty high. Taking the time to add better messaging, some design, and maybe even a call to action can greatly improve your customer’s experience when opening the message. It might even get you a conversion to boot!
3. Monitor, Monitor, Monitor
Okay, so maybe this isn’t exactly something that I didn’t know, but I definitely didn’t monitor my email to the best of my abilities. Aside from the basic monitoring of clicks, hard & soft bounces, and opens, there’s a plethora of other useful information that doesn’t come defaulted on your ESP’s dashboard.
Monitoring how users join your list and how they leave your list gives you insight on successful campaigns to add new subscribers as well as if certain email topics cause your subscribers to flee.
You should also keep an eye on blacklists and third party reputation monitors to ensure that you aren’t being marked as a spammy sender. Since ISPs improve their spam filters through these services, if you’re getting blacklisted, you won’t be hitting anyone’s inbox.
There’s plenty more to learn aside from these three points, such as email authentication, security, and just keeping an eye on industry tends. One of the biggest takeaways for email marketers is to not be afraid of getting down in the technical weeds of email. Work in conjunction with your IT team. They have a lot going on and monitoring your email deliverability probably isn’t high on their list. Do them (and yourself) a favor by learning as much as you can – your email program will reflect your efforts!