What is Deliverability?
Deliverability is the process of getting your emails delivered to your recipient’s inbox, rather than in their spam folder. Successful deliverability depends on a variety of factors such as:
- Sender’s Domain and IP reputation
- Quality of your contact list
- Message design and content
- Message frequency and relevance
The impact of poor deliverability can devalue email as a channel and have far reaching effects on profitability and customer retention. Examples of the kinds of emails that will fail to reach customers if a mail provider blocks you are promotional information, valuable membership confirmations, password resets, shipping notifications, and much more. When anticipated messages aren’t received, you’ll not only lose revenue, but also risk losing your customers’ trust.
How do you know if you have a deliverability problem?
The following issues normally signal problems with deliverability that need urgent attention
- a drop-in engagement rates like opens and clicks
- an increase in email bounces
- Your emails being blocked by a mailbox provider
Don’t leave yourself exposed to complaints, the more complaints you receive, the worse your email deliverability can become. Keeping your subscriber complaint rate low is crucial to maintaining a positive sender reputation and high deliverability rates.
What affects your deliverability?
Negative Sender Reputation
Sender reputation is an indication of the trustworthiness of an email sender’s IP address and sending domain, maintaining sender reputation is essential.
There are two types of reputation to consider, domain reputation and IP reputation, both of which need to be warmed up (to an agreed schedule) when you first start sending emails. Reputation is driven primarily through volume consistency and focuses on ensuring those people who don’t want emails don’t receive them.
Do people like your email content enough to forward onto friends, or do they delete your message without so much as opening it? Are you in a recipient’s contacts? The answers to these questions impacts upon your deliverability so make sure ensure you are sending relevant and timely emails to people who want to receive them.
- Pay attention to the layout to ensure it is W3C compliant – suitable for Open Web Platform. Poorly coded emails get caught in filters or don’t render properly.
- Avoid using link shorteners, as these are used by spammers to mask their domain.
- Some wording and phrasing in your subject lines or in the actual email body copy can be perceived as “spam content” by mail providers
- Avoid emails containing large imagery with little copy.
How much email do you send? High-volume senders tend to pose a red flag, especially when volumes are inconsistent. Do you send approximately the same number of emails each week or month, volumes based on subscriber preferences are a key consideration for ISPs.
Being Marked as Spam
If recipients complain or tag your messages as "junk" or "spam"? Even a tiny increase in complaints can cause your email to be blocked by the mail box provider. Aim for complaint rates of less than .1% of email sent for best results.
A spam trap is an email address traditionally used to expose illegitimate senders who add email addresses to their lists without permission. But they are also set up to identify email marketers with poor permission and list management practices.
Sending to even one spam trap or “honey pot” will instantly impact negatively on your reputation and cause deliverability issues. When you send to a spam trap it signals that your email address harvesting practices are weak.
Regular cleansing of lapsed or old lists is recommended.
Spam traps can also be generated from old deactivated accounts.
High volume bounce rates suggest your subscribers aren’t engaged and indicates that your list hygiene practices are not up to industry standards. This makes your email look like spam to an ISP and your email is unlikely to get delivered. Keeping your bounce rate low by implementing procedures to immediately remove email addresses that return "hard" bounces is essential.
Bounce issues are more likely to be down to content of the e-mail over engagement.
Some ESP can block a sender’s emails if that sender appears on just one blacklist. Blacklist appearances are evidence of spam complaints or too many sends to spam traps.
Those who send emails regularly with low complaints rarely get blacklisted. Senders that do find themselves blacklisted must apply manually to revoke their status removals do not happen automatically.
Following the best practices will only work if the quality of your recipients is also of a high standard.
A clean list should consist of customers who have given their consent to be contacted. Assuming all your customers want to be e-mailed without giving them the option to opt in fails to meet guidelines and is a recipe for reputation degradation.
A sunset policy is the process of removing customers from your mailing lists following a period of inactivity. Some ESP’s expect contact to those inactive for more than 6 months to be the recommended cut off point, and in some cases not following this practice can result in blacklisting.
Establishing your email marketing strategy involves some technical considerations that you should be aware off.
Dedicated or shared IP address
Consider whether you want to use a dedicated IP or a shared IP. With a shared IP, other companies will be using the same IP address to send their email communications, whereas a dedicated IP is for your organisations use in isolation.
If you only send a handful of emails per month, or you are an infrequent sender, then using Intilery’s IPs is ideal, since they are fully warmed upwith a good reputation, and variations in consistency will not cause alarm to mail box providers
If you are sending a large volume of emails, you may find it more beneficial to make use of dedicated IPs, as it removes the potential for other organisations to affect your reputation.
Having separate IP addresses for transactional emails and marketing or promotional emails is recommended so if you ever encounter problems with your marketing email, your order confirmations, and password reset emails will not be adversely affected.
In addition, this can be further segregated by having high priority transactions (payment/booking confirmations) and low priority transactions (abandon baskets) on separate IPs.
Feedback loops for managing complaints
Mail Box providers inform you that someone has reported your email as spam via spam feedback loops. This will enable you to manage spam complaints by rapidly removing email addresses that log complaints. Deliverability will be affected if senders continue to email those who have reported your email as spam.
MX record to allow replies
Your domain should accept replies, to ensure best practice, associate an MX record with your domain to enable reply-to email.
Postmaster and Abuse mailboxes
Postmaster and Abuse mailboxes should be set up and monitored for all domains. Some mailbox providers require these to be set up to allow access to feedback loops. These mailboxes are intended to provide a destination address to direct complaints where spam feedback loops are not in place.
Email authentication verifies that an email is from you or your business. Think of it like a digital signature: it protects your brand, identity and reputation. It's one of the most important steps you can take to improve your deliverability.
SPF – Sender Policy Framework
This is a DNS record that signifies to the mailbox provider ESP that the IP you are using has permission to send email from your domain. An SPF will show all the IPs that can send email on your Domain’s behalf.
If an email arrives using your domain from an IP that doesn’t appear on the SPF record, then it is unlikely to be delivered to the recipient’s inbox.
DKIM – Domain Keys Identified Mail
DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is a protocol that allows organisations to take responsibility for transmitting a message in a way that can be verified by mailbox providers. This verification is made possible through cryptographic authentication.
DMARC – Domain-based message authentication, reporting and conformance
This record instructs an ESP in what to do with correspondence that does not comply with the DKIM and SPF records. Many domains do not have a DMARC associated with them, but this is fast becoming an essential piece of your email authentication. If no DMARC is set, a default policy is applied.
Top Deliverability Best Practices Checklist
- Only send emails to those who want to receive them.
- Warm up Your IPs and domain
- Opt for dedicated IP addresses where practical
- Have separate IP addresses for transactional emails and marketing or promotional emails
- Source emails contacts based on permission in compliance with in-country Data Protection Laws
- Unsubscribe hard-bounce customers fast
- Including unsubscribe buttons and a preference centre
- Set up return addresses
- Send consistent volumes
- Design your emails with deliverability in mind
- Include a plain text version of your email
- Update and manage your lists at timely intervals
- Ask customer to add you to whitelists
- Put in place a robust authentication process
- Implement a sunset policy
Additional suggested reading.
DNS Blackhole List (DNSBL) - https://docs.aws.amazon.com/ses/latest/DeveloperGuide/faqs-dnsbls.html