Articles & Tips

Email Deliverability Tips

Ensuring requested opt-in email is delivered to subscriber inboxes is a challenge facing all email marketers in this increased ager of spam filtering. Open and click thru response rates can be dramatically affected by as much as 20-30% due to incorrect spam filter classification.

Confirming that the people who ask for your information have actually requested to be on your list is the number one step in the changing battle for deliverability. You should be using a process called confirmed opt-in or COI to send a unique link to the subscriber when they request information. Before adding the person to your list they must click that unique link verifying that they are indeed the same person that owns the email address and requested to subscribe. This provides two important pieces of information. The first is documented proof of opt in. The second is the IP addresses used to activate the link. You can utilize one of the many programs available to further classify your subscriber regarding geo-location.

Subscriber Addresses
When requesting website visitors to opt-in, ask for their “real” or “primary” email address instead of a free email address like Yahoo or Hotmail. Free emails tend to be throw away accounts and typically have a shorter lifetime than a primary ISP address.

List Maintenance
Always promptly remove undeliverable addresses that bounce when sending email. An address that bounces with a permanent error 2-3 times in a 30 day period should be removed from the list. Soft errors should be counted as well and a strategy for removing them developed according to your strategic needs. ISP’s track what percentage of your mail bounce and will subsequently block them if you attempt to continually deliver messages to dead mailboxes.

Message Format
Usage of HTML messages to allow for text formatting, multiple columns, images, and brand recognition is growing in popularity and is widely supported by most email client software. Most spam is also HTML formatted and thus differentiating between requested email and spam HTML messages can be difficult. While HTML provides an enhanced recipient experience in some instances deliverability would be enhanced if plain text was sent instead. If sending HTML it is important to always send a plain text alternative message, also called text/HTML multi-part mime format.

Many ISP’s filter based on the content that appears within the message text.

Website URL:
Investigate all URL’s prior to allowing in your creative. There are many free tools available to verify the integrity of embedded links.

Choose your language carefully when crafting messages. Avoid hot button topics often found in spam such as medication, mortgages, making money, and pornography. If you do need to use words that might be filtered, don’t attempt to obfuscate words with extra characters or odd spelling, you’ll just make your messages appear more spam like.

Avoid creating messages that are entirely images. Use images sparingly, if at all. Commonly used open rate tracking technology uses images to calculate opens. Most major ISP’s now disable images by default which will skew open rate tracking. If you must send images use a hybrid of HTML and images.

With viruses running rampant and spreading thru the usage of malicious email attachments many users are wary of attached documents. It’s often better to link to files via a website URL to reduce recipient fear of attachments and reduce the overall message size.

CAN-SPAM Compliance
The January 2004 Federal CAN-SPAM law introduced a number of rules regarding the delivery of email. It’s important you have your legal counsel review your practices and ensure you are in compliance. The two most important rules include having a valid postal mail address listed in all commercial messages and a working unsubscribe link that is promptly honored to remove the subscriber from future messages.

Reputation services are often used by large ISP’s as a way to vet email senders regarding their email practices and policies. Businesses listed with these services are then given less stringent filtering or no filtering at all. Several reputation services are:

Certification authorities provide a means to bypass most of the filtering methods in use by the major ISP’s today. Their method’s vary but require an in depth analysis of your entire email process as well as a fee for participation. Some of the leading providers are:

Feedback Loops
All the major ISP’s (with the exception of Gmail) offer a feedback Loop. This allows individuals who mark your messages as spam to be removed from further contact. In order to maintain good ISP relations you MUST have a feedback loop set up with all providers that support it.

Relationships & White listing
Contact with major ISP’s and email providers is essential in letting them know about your requested subscriber email. Many large providers such as AOL and Yahoo have specific White listing programs and postmaster website areas to ensure your email is delivered as long as you meet their policies and procedures in handling your opt-in list. While MSN/Hotmail does not provide a white list, they do provide enhanced tools in order to monitor your operations.

Email deliverability is about ensuring requested opt-in email is delivered to the intended recipient. While no single tip will enable you to get 100% of your email delivered each one utilized as a group can go a long way to reaching that goal.

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