Email Deliverability Basics

Email marketing should be easy, right? If you have never email marketed before then your answer is most likely “yes.” But… unfortunately email marketing encompasses something very, very challenging. And that is… deliverability.

Email deliverability is the context from which to view your email marketing initiatives. And it looks seven key items:

  1. Content
  2. List Hygiene
  3. Bounces, Traps, and Complaints
  4. Blacklists
  5. Configuration and Authentication
  6. Compliance
  7. Technology

Content is what is included in your email messages. The content includes Subject and Body. It can includes images or plain text. From the recipient point of view it leads to three primary actions: delete, read, read and take action.

List hygiene while simple is many times overlooked. When was the last time you “validating” your list? Have you set a policy in place if you are sending to valid and accept-all emails, or just valid? If so, your way ahead of most professionals whom we see sending to invalid addresses!

Which leads us to bounces and traps. A hard bounce comes from a mail server not set as accept-all, and your mail message is outright rejected (not simply undelivered as in the case of a accept-all). This could take down your emailing efforts overnight. Worse yet, if you are buying lists and not cleaning then you run serious risk of honeypots and spam traps which is an email address designed to penalize senders to non opt-in, purchased lists.

The next component of this is Complaints. Unfortunately unless you know everyone on your list (and have an appreciation of what is occurring in their life at any given moment) then you run the risk of hitting the wrong person, or worse the wrong person at the wrong time. This can lead to people clicking spam. The challenge here is 1 spam complaint in tens of thousands of emails could cause a major problem.

Blacklists can affect your IP and/or your domain. You land on these based on complaints and/or spam traps. It takes some heavy lifting to be removed from a blacklist during which your emailing could be effectively off.

Email settings (configuration and authentication) are complex and become progressively more so. It’s critically important that your set-up is handled. That means setting the SPF correctly and configuring the DKIM. DMARC is nice, but not necessary as this simply notifies you if your domain has been “hi-jacked” and is being used for unauthorized sending (it doesn’t actually increase your delivery). You’ll also need to think about where your tracking pixel is hosted (like on a subdomain). Depending on your sending configuration reverse dns may come into the picture as well.

Compliance is your adherence with the laws and regulations of your country. Some are opt-in focused (Canada CASL) while others are opt-out (United States CAN-Spam). Opt-in means sending cannot occur without explicit permission whereas opt-out means that you need to provide a user a clear way to unsubscribe.

Technology is a fun topic that has many levels. For example we could spend time discuss your MTA, or time around your choice of blast or drip emailing technology. Most new sales and marketing outreach tools are built around the premise of using a “good ip” such as G Suite or Outlook 365 (or their own IP’s – Mailchimp). Who is going to block a Google IP for instance? No one, sometimes you can get slotted on a bad Google IP, but that’s a different story.

But what is happening is that the margin for error is rapidly diminishing . So even when you have done everything perfect and have one small miss, this could be game over for your sending. A good principle is to lean toward conservative sending.

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