Up Your Email Deliverability: My Emails Are Going to Spam. Now What?
Welcome to the last article in our three-part series on email deliverability. this is the third article in the series where we cover the steps you can take to get your emails out of the junk folder and into your customers’ inboxes.
It’s time to take action! We’ll guide you through 3 practical, actionable steps that you can take to get your emails back in your customers’ inboxes. The first step is determining the extent of the problem, then understand the root causes and finally, implement the fixes to improve your inbox delivery rates.
1. Determine The Extent of the Problem
Our previous post ran through a number of checks that you can do to see if your emails are going to spam including a review of reputation and delivery statistics, checking blacklists and running postmaster and content tests. You may be able to identify a pattern such as an issue with a specific email provider like Gmail, a specific day when the issue began or an email opt-in source that regularly triggers spam complaints or hard bounces. Here are a couple of steps to help identify the extent of your problem.
Check which Email Providers are Affected
It may be that there a specific email service provider (such as Gmail or Yahoo) that are flagging your emails. There are a couple of tools that you can use to check the different services such as Litmus which checks placement filters of the top mail providers (including the three biggest providers: Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo!) or Glock Apps Free Email Spam Checker that you can use to test how your email is being delivered to Gmail. It will also show whether your mails are being placed in the Primary or Promotions Tab, or the Spam Folder. As we mentioned in our last article it’s also a good idea to sign up for feedback loops from the different email service providers so you can track your reputation with them. See (link to article and section) for details on signing up for feedback.
Analyze When The Issue Began
This may be a bit more difficult to trace, depending on what email marketing service you use, but a reputable provider will offer email tracking tools that show delivery rates, open rates, clicks, unsubscribes, bounces, and complaints.
Compare the data over the last couple of months and see if there was a specific time when open rates dropped or unsubscribes, bounces and complaints went up. Then work backward to identify what changes were made at the time. It could be that you changed something that is causing the issue. You can also check the feedback loops we discussed earlier to see when your reputation issues started as well.
Identify How Serious the Problem Is
There is a difference between email deliverability rates and inbox placement rates. An email that is delivered to a user but placed in the Junk folder is still considered “delivered”. A better metric to look at is the rate of inbox placement (i.e. Msgs that are sent successfully to inboxes). There are a number of tools you can use to check your inbox placement rate so you get an idea of how bad your issue is. Check out Glock Apps, Return Path, Mail Monitor and 250Ok as a couple of vendors that specialize in tools to help you see your inbox placement rates.
Once you have a better idea of the extent of the problem, it’s time to look at some possible root causes for your issue so you know where to begin fixing it.
2. Understand the Root Causes
Identify and Review The Source of Spam Complaints and Hard Bounces
Spam complaints happen even when customers have opted in to receiving your emails and have the option to unsubscribe through a link in the emails that you send them. Using tags it is possible to track them to a specific source or entry point (such as a free download offer or a competition) where a higher than usual percentage of complaints are being raised.
If the number of spam complaints seems high or has recently increased, have a look at how these recipients are joining your list. In cases like this it is important to review the entry point for the sign-up as it is it may be unclear to the customer that they are giving consent to be email, and what type of content they are likely to receive going forward. This can then be addressed by changing the wording of the entry point to clarify that by providing their email address they are giving you permission to contact them going forward.
A hard bounce is defined as an email that is returned to the sender as the recipient’s address is invalid. This occurs for one of two reasons, either because the domain name does not exist or because the recipient is unknown. Regardless of the reason for the hard bounce, there needs to be a process in place to immediately remove these email addresses as bounce rates above 1% are one of the reasons that IPs are blacklisted, leading to emails being flagged as spam. If you find that your bounce rates are abnormally high, also consider using an email addresses validation service prior to adding those emails to your database.
Look for Spam Traps
A spam trap looks like a real email address but it is set up by inbox and blacklist providers to catch malicious senders. However, in many cases, they also catch legitimate senders who do not have strict data hygiene practices in place.
As they look like a real email address, they are generally difficult to spot, but there are a number of tools that we covered in our second article that can help identify spam traps and honey pots.
Test Your Email Content
We’ve covered some of the important checks that you need to do in the previous articles to ensure that your emails don’t trigger spam filters. This include avoiding spam trigger words. Your email quality can then be tested to see if passes a spam checks using Litmus, IsNotSpam or Email on Acid.
3. Implement the Fixes
After looking through the root causes we move on to implementing fixes. It’s importation to keep in mind that rebuilding your email reputation is an uphill battle so prevention is better than a cure. In the case of email deliverability, adhering to the best practices the we laid out in our first article should ensure that your emails arrive in the inbox consistently.
That said, there are several tasks that you can perform to get your open rates up, your unsubscription rates down and improve your reputation and from that, your email deliverability.
Perform a Database Clean-Up
Analyze the statistics from your email marketing platform. They should automatically identify and remove email addresses that have bounced, any email addresses that have complaints. But an extra step would be to clean up the unengaged email subscribers, checking to see if any of them are abandoned or are no longer valid. This is especially true for work emails where people change jobs every couple of years. If any spam traps have been identified, those should also be removed.
There are also a number of online email verification tools that can be used to check if the email addresses on your list are valid. To improve your list quality as much as possible, it works well to partner with an expert who can assist. One of our account managers would love to help you with this.
Don’t Collect Non-Consent Email Addresses
Make it clear on all forms that visitors are opting into an email list and set clear expectations of the type of content and frequency that they can expect. For instance, don’t call it a monthly newsletter then contact the subscriber on a weekly basis.
Don’t Purchase Email Database Lists
Another way to grow your email list is by buying a database of email addresses. This is not advisable as it means that you don’t know who your subscribers are or whether the email addresses are still valid which can lead to low engagement rates and high bounce rates. Additionally, because they have not explicitly requested to join your list, there may be a high number of spam complaints and unsubscribes (and it is a violation of CASL.)
Identify Unengaged Groups And Address Them Separately
Segment your list and create a separate campaign to re-engage subscribers who have not interacted with your emails for a period of time. Find out more about what type of content they would be interested in so that you can send them segmented content that would improve engagement rates. If the campaign is not successful in getting a subscriber to open your mail consider removing them from your email database.
Identify Engaged Subscribers And Send Them More Of What They’re Looking For
When you segment your email list create campaigns that get sent only to engaged users. This could be defined as users who have opened your mails and clicked on a link within the last X number of months as they are the most likely segment to engage with your emails again.
Commit To Best Practice Email Content
Even if you are writing value-adding copy for your subscribers, there may be a couple of things that you can do to avoid spam filters. These include: enticing, but not spammy or misleading, subject lines, using email templates from a reputable provider, checking image sizes, following HTML best practices and avoiding the use of spam trigger words (we spoke about this in more detail in the first article).
Check For Missing Unsubscribe Links And Other Important Information
In our first article, we covered some important information that needs to be included in every email. Every single email sent to your list should include a clear, easy-to-find link to unsubscribe, your physical address and contact information in the footer, as well as accurate ‘from’ information.
Authenticate Your Email Sending Domain
Email authentication allows ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to identify the sender of an email which helps the provider determine whether to deliver your email to the recipient’s inbox or not. Email authentication has become best practice for companies in order to confirm their online reputation.
To authenticate your email:
- Authenticate using SPF and DKIM, these are the two protocols that are standard, especially with the advent of DMARC which is the new standard that governs how ISPs deal with email that is not correctly authenticated.
- Having spam traps in your email list
- Make a list of the IPs that you use to send emails as these will all need to be authenticated.
- Create authentication records and then publish them (here’s how).
- Set up your mail server correctly to sign all outbound emails with DKIM, find out more here.
- Test your records to ensure that they have been set up correctly. DKIM can be tested using Policy Record Tester or Selector Record Tester, and SPF can be tested on their website.
Contact An Email Deliverability Expert
The process of rebuilding a damaged email reputation is can be a technical process and many businesses opt for the services of an email deliverability expert to help them put best practices in place to ensure that inbox delivery rates improve. Wired Messenger specializes in working with our clients to identify specific areas of concern and we provide the expertise to solve those issues.
Thanks for following our series on email deliverability, if you missed the first two articles on email best practices to prevent your emails going to spam and how to find out if your emails are going to junk, then head over and read them now. They’re packed full of useful advice that will help your company get more of your customers to engage with the emails that you send them.