There were 2.6 billion emails sent in 2016, with the figure set to rise to over 3 billion by 2020. But just because you send an email doesn’t mean your recipient even gets it. Even if your emails are engaging and contain information that’s genuinely beneficial to the target audience, they’re useless unless they actually make it into the intended recipient’s inbox.
Many marketers measure the success of an email campaign by analysing open and click-through rates – and of course they’re valid metrics. However, deliverability should also be a key element in your email marketing campaigns.
The primary reason that emails fail to reach their destination is that filters assume you’re sending spam. To help ensure you avoid spam filters, follow these 10 tips:
Tip 1 – Create targeted, organic mailing lists
Mailing lists with high deliverability rates all have one thing in common: they’re targeted and organically grown. It may seem like stating the obvious, but if your list contains subscribers who have opted in, the email addresses are far more likely to be valid and current.
There are numerous tactics you can employ to grow and nurture your list organically. Like having data capture forms in front of valuable content, using online forms for events and webinars, and offering the opportunity to subscribe to offers or blog posts.
And not only does an opt-in approach improve your deliverability rate, but it also gives you a list of people primed to hear from you (in turn boosting your open and click-through rates and increasing your chances of a successful campaign).
Tip 2 – Don’t bother buying databases
Of course, you’re legally entitled to purchase lists of people who have agreed to email communications. But it’s rarely a sound tactic or one that’s likely to boost your deliverability rates.
Remember, the people on the receiving end are likely to know nothing about you or your business. So even if your emails do make it through spam filters, your success rate isn’t likely to be high.
Put simply, there’s a strong likelihood that they’ll mark you as spam. And if I’m being brutally honest, the people you’re aiming to reach are probably the kind who wouldn’t want to sell their email address in the first place.
Tip 3 – Don’t send to an out-of-date list
As a general rule, it’s a good idea not to send to lists that have been lying around unused for a while – they will naturally contain old or invalid email addresses.
Lists with a lot of stale addresses lead to high bounce rates, and can affect the reputation of your IP address. What’s more, you’re far more likely to receive spam complaints and multiple unsubscribes.
That isn’t to say that it’s never worth revisiting an old list. In fact, contacting customers who you haven’t spoken to in a while can be beneficial. However, if you decide to do so, it’s good practice to renew opt-ins by sending a short reminder, telling the recipient who you are and why they’re on your list.
Tip 4 – Don’t risk damaging your IP reputation
According to Return Path, 83% of email delivery failures are caused by problems with reputation.
From using purchased lists to failing to remove inactive subscribers and making poor content choices (more on that later), there are many ways that you can damage the reputation of your IP address. And it’s not just your deliverability rates that suffer. You risk damaging your brand and business, too.
Even if you decide – subsequent to purchasing a list – only to email those who have opted in, it can take months (and sometimes years) to boost your Sender Score and regain your previous position. So, from day 1, make sure you don’t start sending thousands or even millions of emails at once as you’ll instantly trigger spam filters, especially with top email service providers. Instead, you should scale up your email sends, so for your first campaign, send your email to 100 people, then 200 people on the second send – this will warm up your IP and prevent damaging its reputation.
Tip 5 – Make it easy to unsubscribe
GDPR is looming. With new legislation coming into force next year, it’s never been more important to allow your customers and contacts to control the messages they receive from you.
In fact, our recent research revealed that 90% of UK consumers have unsubscribed from retailers in the past year, with nearly half (46%) saying this is because they received too many messages from brands.
Having an obvious, easy-to-use unsubscribe button on your emails is vital. If you hide it – or don’t make it obvious that unsubscribing is an option – your email is likely to be sent straight to the spam folder.
In fact, many modern email providers – MailChimp and Dotmailer, to name 2 – prevent you from sending out an email unless this functionality is included.
Tip 6 – Personalise your content
So far, my tips have been fairly technical. However, once you’ve grown your organic database, personalised content should be your number one priority.
Studies show that marketers who use personalisation to make their emails more relevant not only get a 2.5 times higher click-through rate, but also generate 6 times more sales from their campaigns. Adhere to the following rules for a personalised campaign:
- Segment your emails to ensure you’re sending relevant content to the right person
- Test personalising the subject line and opening
- Don’t forget to personalise in micro-segments, too
Plus, if you’re looking for ways to deliver the ultimate personalised content, leverage online behaviour data (purchase history, for example) and combine it with offline data held in your POS systems. Not only will this help you to bypass pesky spam filters, but it will also dramatically improve click-through rates and conversions.
Tip 7 – Avoid image-only emails
If there’s one thing that shouts ‘spam’, it’s an image hiding the text on an email.
It’s a trick spammers use to obscure the message (a bogus request for money, for example) that would otherwise send the mail straight to the spam folder. It doesn’t work, though. In fact, the majority of spam filters reject image-only emails.
As a general rule, it’s also worth avoiding using too many images. It’s incredibly frustrating for the recipient if he or she has to wait ages for the email to load.
Tip 8 – Craft your subject lines carefully
Of course, you want to draw attention to your amazing email. But if you use all capital letters it seems as though you’re TALKING LOUDLY IN A SELF-IMPORTANT VOICE. And exclamation points – especially lots in a row – look incredibly unprofessional!!!
The message is clear. Don’t be tempted to overuse capital letters (or, while I’m on the subject, exclamation marks).
This is a good rule to follow throughout your email. But it’s particularly relevant in your subject lines, where you have just a split second to make the recipient decide whether to open, delete or mark as spam.
Tip 9 – Always test and preview your emails
This is a crucial one. It’s all very well drafting and designing a targeted, useful email. But if (like 53% of us) your customer opens it on their phone and the paragraphs are too long to scan, then you’ve wasted your time.
According to Litmus’ research of 1.06 billion email opens, the top 5 email clients are:
- Apple iPhone’s Mail app (28% of users)
- Gmail (16% of users)
- Apple iPad’s Mail app (11% of users)
- Google Android’s Mail app (9% of users)
- Outlook (9% of users)
Knowing your audience is, therefore, vital. You need to ensure your content is optimised for all devices. Plus, if your marketing tool lets you, it’s well worth previewing your email in mail formats that are popular with your audience.
Tip 10 – Deliver the ultimate, connected experience
Customers’ expectations are evolving fast. To keep up, you need to ensure your emails are not just helpful but genuinely compelling.
Getting past spam filters is just the first phase. To succeed, you need to leverage real-time digital marketing tools, providing content that’s highly personalised and relevant. Do this, and you’ll give your customers a seamless experience and boost your business into the bargain.
Download our latest eBook (packed full of unique research) to discover exactly how consumers want you to communicate with them.