For almost a decade email has laid claim to the title of highest ROI of all direct marketing channels. For every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38 in ROI. For many, email has become the foundation of their digital marketing program.
As a marketer you have spent years honing your email expertise, refining your strategies, and improving your campaigns and yet, research shows that reaching the inbox is more difficult than ever. According to a Return Path study, global inbox placement rates (IPRs) dropped 5% in 2015, which means only 79% of messages from legitimate senders were delivered into subscribers’ inboxes. The United States were hit particularly hard with a 13% drop in IPR, resulting in one in four messages (24%) being sent to spam or going altogether missing. Canada fared only slightly better with a 79% Inbox Placement Rate – down from 83% in 2014.
What’s Happening Here?
Commercial email volume continues to increase, and as a result more and more of the larger web-based email clients (i.e. Gmail, Yahoo!, AOL) are beefing up their email security protocols, implementing new features in an effort to prevent spam from clogging up and annoying their customers.
Decreasing deliverability and increasing mailbox clutter has made creating an effective email strategy more difficult, but none of these challenges are insurmountable. In fact top-performing email marketers are actively monitoring and managing these threats to their programs and seeing great results.
Here are a few tips that will greatly increase your chances of getting into the subscriber inbox:
1. Monitor Your Sender Reputation Frequently
The most important factor in determining whether your message is marked as spam or goes in your subscriber’s inbox is your sender reputation score. Sender reputation is associated with the IP address of the mail server you are using to send messages from. In essence, your sender reputation indicates to the ISP the trustworthiness of the source of the email that is being delivered.
You can monitor your sender reputation by keeping track of a few key engagement (opens, clicks, conversions) and reputation (hard bounces, complaints and unsubscribes) metrics and handling these accordingly. You can also take advantage of Return Path’s free Sender Score service which rates the reputation of every outgoing mail server IP address on a scale between 0 and 100, gathering data from millions of mailboxes at the big ISPs. It's a critical number to stay on top of, because mail servers will often check your Sender Score before deciding what to do with your emails. A Sender Score below 70 gets aggressively filtered while a sender score above 80 means you have a great sender reputation.
2. Practice Good List Hygiene
Spammers' lists are plagued with invalid and out-of-date information. One of the ways ISPs identify them is by watching for mailings with a high percentage of bad addresses. So, if an ISP "bounces" an address back to you as permanently undeliverable (i.e. hard bounce) remove it from your list immediately. Not only will removing hard bounces improve your email deliverability, but it will also help to increase your email metrics (i.e. Open and Click Rates).
3. Ensure Proper Email Authentication Records
Authenticate your email or expect to go to the junk folder, or even be blocked from delivering. Many major ISPs determine if your email should be delivered to the inbox or the junk folder based on authentication Records. As a result, you should always ensure your authentication records, such as DKMIM, DomainKeys, DMARC, SPF and SenderID, are setup and valid to give your subscribers the best chance at receiving your messages. Authentication will also help address the problems of “spoofing” and phishing, and will reduce the percentage of legitimate email that is mistakenly marked as spam.
Protect Your Brand with DMARC – Learn How
4. Obtain Consent
Never send commercial email to people who haven't consented to receive it. It makes a poor brand impression, violates most ISPs' terms of service, and if mailing to Canadian email addresses it violates Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) – and it almost guarantees deliverability problems. If your recipients have not opted in to receive your email, ISPs will to their best to ensure they don’t receive it
Your email reputation is always in your control. By adhering to these tips you can ensure that you’re being proactive about your email deliverability.