Email Deliverability Tips and Myths: Part 2 of 2

By Jeanne Jennings
Consultant, Email Marketing Strategy,

Last month I provided 2 practical tips for getting more of your email delivered to the inbox and dispelled one widely held myth about deliverability. Today I’ll tackle another myth and provide you two more inexpensive ways to improve your inbox delivery rate.

1.    Tip: Monitor feedback loops

If your email program is business-to-consumer and you (or your ESP) aren’t monitoring your feedback loops, you’re missing an opportunity to gain valuable information about your deliverability.

Most of the major ISPs provide access to feedback loops to legitimate senders. They allow you to get information on spam complaints lodged against you, like the email address of the person that complained and which email they complained about. You should check your feedback loops at least once a month; it’s even better to monitor them after every send.

Ready to get started? Here are links to learn more and apply for feedback loop access (each ISP offers their own feedback loops):

If you’re sending a large quantity of email to other ISPs, a quick search on the ISP’s name and “Feedback Loops” should return a link to learn whether they offer feedback loops and how to apply for access.

2.    Myth: the number of emails sent minus the number of bounces equals your delivery rate

Many email programs report on the quantity of emails sent, the quantity of emails that bounced and the net of the two, which they call “delivered” or “quantity delivered.” This can be misleading.

First of all, email delivered to the junk mail folder, rather than the inbox, would be considered delivered. Second, while some ISPs send a bounce message when an email is filtered as spam, not all do. I’ve had clients with very low bounce rates (resulting in high “delivery” rates reported by the ISP) that are having deliverability issues.

Even if your bounces are low and your reported delivery rate is high, you need to take proactive measures, like those listed here, to protect your deliverability.

3.    Tip: Work to improve your engagement rate

Engagement rate is a new factor being considered for inclusion in the email reputation equation. Basically the ISPs are looking at the percentage of people that open and/or click on your email. The theory goes that a higher engagement rate means your messages are desired by recipients. ISPs do want to filter out spam, but they don’t want to filter out email their customers want to receive.

So how do you improve your engagement rate? One easy way to is to remove non-responsive addresses from your list. I’ve gone through this process with numerous clients. It’s not difficult to do, but few email marketers are doing it.

First, you have to create a definition of a non-responsive address. It will vary based on how frequently you send to your list. If you’re sending just once a month, you might define anyone that hasn’t opened or clicked in the past six months or a year as non-responsive. If you’re mailing on a daily basis, the timeframe may be one to three months.

When I work with clients we first undertake a re-engagement campaign to try to recapture interest. This is typically a multi-effort campaign to these recipients that reminds them of the benefits of the email relationship. Here’s a critique of a re-engagement message I received from the Washington Post, highlighting some strengths and weaknesses of their effort.

This re-engagement email also needs to give the recipients an opportunity to confirm their interest in remaining on the list, update their preferences to increase the relevance of what they receive, or unsubscribe.

As you would imagine, even the best re-engagement campaign will only cause a small percentage (typically 25% or less) of respondents to confirm their interest and/or update their preferences—then you have to decide what to do with those that remain non-responsive.

It’s a best practice to stop emailing these addresses. But that can be difficult to do. At a minimum, you should isolate them from the rest of your list and dramatically decrease the frequency with which you send to them. This way, if they become active in the future you can move them back to the primary list. In the meantime, by limiting the frequency with which you send to them, you will increase your overall engagement rate.

Deliverability is critical to success with email marketing. Things in the deliverability world are changing at a rapid pace and even in this two-part series I’ve only been able to touch on the basics. The bottom line is that you need to be monitoring your deliverability on a regular basis and taking proactive action to maintain or improve deliverability before it becomes an issue.

I hope to see you at the e-Newsletter World Unconference in May, where we’ll talk more about getting your email to the inbox.

This post is part of our monthly Vitamin E(newsletter) – a newsletter all about e-newsletters. To read more from this month’s e-newsletter:

eDistribution: Email Deliverability Tips & Myths (Part 2)

AntioxiDesign: What Pintarest Can Teach Us About e-Newsletter Design

eContent: 10 Fresh Content Ideas to Perk Up Your e-Newsletter (Part 2)

Carl’s Capsules: Have You Filled Out Your Own Contact/Subscribe Form Lately?

e-News of the Month: Pregnancy Weekly

(r)e-Run of the Month: e-Newsletter Revenue Generation

eToon: Free Doughnuts

eTube: Use Your e-Newsletter to Boost SEO!

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