Keeping deliverability high
Your reputation as an email sender can change from one moment to the next. A single click of a button is all it takes for a recipient to end their subscription. Yet there are worse dangers. It is easy to end up blacklisted, or identified as a spam server. If this happens, you may find it very difficult to regain your deliverability. In this part of the training course you will find out about a number of simple ways of avoiding ending up in these difficulties.
How to avoid complaints about your mailing
An important measure of how your emails are received by your recipients is, as they call it in the trade, your complaint rate. Use this information. It is important for you to have a strategy for how to avoid the recipient flagging your message as spam, and how to deal with addresses that have been blocked. It also has a positive effect on your reputation, and you give the impression of being a serious sender.
Send only relevant information
Recipients often feel that unwanted or uninteresting information is the same as spam. There is also a tendency for people, instead of ending their subscription, to click on ‘Classify as spam’. Make sure, therefore, that the content of your mailings is appropriate and in demand by your particular readers.
Send just the right amount of email
It is important for emails to arrive at a frequency that recipients find convenient. There is no easy answer when finding the right publication frequency. If you send them too infrequently, the recipient may consider the emails to be of less value – or, worse, may forget why they wanted to receive them.
Try to find your way to the best frequency for your particular target group, and keep an eye on the complaints or people unsubscribing. Or ask your recipients for their preferences in terms of frequency and content; this is guaranteed to increase your open rate for a single survey.
Write a good headline
Avoid using special characters. Special characters also include ‘smart’ quotes, which MS Word automatically replaces straight quotes with.
Spelling mistakes, block capitals and exclamation marks are other factors that can make your headline appear suspect.
Write good HTML code
It is just as important for HTML code to be neat as it is for the text to be ‘neat’. Remove all unnecessary HTML tags, and ensure that they have an ‘end tag’.
Common spam tricks are to hide information in pictures, or to have the same colour for the text as for the background. Ensure, therefore, that you have a good balance between the amount of text and pictures in your newsletter.
Clear your address list
If you have a ‘dirty’ address list that generates a lot of bounced mail, you run a higher risk of being blacklisted. There is a distinction between soft bounces and hard bounces.
Soft bounces are where the message is recognised on the recipient’s email server but does not reach the inbox. This may be because the inbox is full, the server is overloaded or there is some other temporary fault.
Hard bounces are where your message is impossible to deliver and may be due to the e-mail address being invalid, incorrectly spelt, no longer used, etc. Addresses that bounce ‘hard’ must be cleared from the list as quickly as possible.
One foot in the door – get onto the reader’s address list
The only way to be certain of getting through is to be on the reader’s address list. It is always a good idea to ask readers to add the sender address to their address list in each newsletter.
One tip is to request this at the time when the reader is most willing to receive your newsletter, i.e. just at the time that they have started to subscribe to the newsletter. By all means ask again in a welcome message.
Authentication of newsletters
There are various protocols that allow the ISP (Internet Service Provider) to know who has sent the newsletter. By indicating your IP address in one or more of the authentication services Sender ID, SPF or Domain Keys, you show that your emails are legal and wanted by the recipient.
Maintain your good reputation as a sender
There is much to gain from having a good reputation as a sender. The measures described so far are fundamental to maintaining a good reputation. However, there are further measures that can enhance your sender profile yet more.
Checking that you have not been blacklisted
There are ways of checking whether your IP address has ended up on any of the known lists of blocked addresses, so-called ‘blacklists’ or ‘block lists’. You can check this at the following addresses:
‘News Admin Net-Abuse Email’ is a news group devoted to spam and poor email. It is a very popular community, whose members regularly track users who abuse the email system in various ways.
Examine your own reputation
There is a web service for checking what kind of reputation you have. By creating an account and adding your domain or IP address, you will be given a score that is based on the factors that determine your quality as a sender. You can check your own quality as a sender via this link.
Keep track of your ‘key figures’
A simple and clear way to become aware of certain problems is to keep notes on the number of complaints and people unsubscribing, and your delivery figures. Drastic changes in any of these key figures may indicate specific problems, which will then be easier to rectify.
Avoid working with non-serious partners
It makes no difference how serious or how good a supplier appears if they have a poor reputation as a sender. Using a poor supplier to take care of your emails can affect the results of your email campaign.
If you provide a link to a website in an email and it turns out to be blocked by an ISP supplier then this can affect your deliverability. You should therefore always check the reputation of your future partners as email users. You can do this in the same way as you do for your own domain.
A good reputation is a valuable asset
Getting a good reputation as an email sender is not something that can be taken for granted. Building, developing and protecting your value as a good sender is about working actively, using the right technology, being able to see things in advance and dealing with problems in the right way. A good reputation as a sender gives you greater chances of success with your email campaign, and you should treat your reputation with due care.
You should give careful consideration to which supplier you use for sending out things by email as you will find it more difficult to be able to affect your reputation yourself.
With greater knowledge about deliverability, you will find it easier to assess your supplier in order to feel secure in your role as a sender.
Everyone works using different techniques, but if your newsletter is misinterpreted as spam, it is probably due to one of the following:
- Key words in your newsletter, such as ‘free’, ‘Viagra’, ‘get money by clicking here’: in short, things that appear to offer the recipient something too good to be true. Of course, various sexual words will also be caught.
- Attachments that appear suspect: many viruses are found in attachments.
- An IP address that is incorrect or, in some way, suspect.
- This is where your ISP has interpreted your mailings as spam, for example through its design, or where many recipients have reported your newsletter as spam (we will say it again: Keep the unsubscribe option clear and simple!).
- Incorrect, invalid or unclear sender. Take responsibility for your newsletter and write a genuine name or company name.
According to one of the largest databases of blacklists, spam is defined as:
- Where the email uses standardised phrases, i.e. where the content can be applied to several recipients;
- Where the recipient has not consciously agreed to accept the email; it is not enough to have omitted to click the ‘I do not wish to receive marketing information by email’ box;
- Where the sender appears to wish to give a disproportionate gain to the recipient for accepting and reading the email.
Point 1 can be avoided by using dynamic functions, personalised greetings, etc.
Point 2 is about consent: the recipient can block the newsletter and report it as spam if the consent is too weak. Point 3 is avoided quite simply by having a seriously designed newsletter.
There are ways of avoiding being blacklisted, and monitoring to see whether you have been. For example, you can monitor the most common domains and look at the receive rate. Deviations or bounces may indicate that you have been blacklisted.