SPAM has become such a big issue today that even legitimate emails can end up in the SPAM folder rather than your client’s inbox.
Fortunately, there are things how to increase your email delivery rate. Here are 12 steps you can take to get more of your campaigns delivered.
#1 Get Permission
Make sure you’re only emailing people who have specifically asked you to do so.
Common mistakes in this area include:
* Adding people to your list because they gave you a business card;
* Uploading your Outlook address book to your email marketing software;
* Adding email addresses that you find on someone’s (or some company’s) website to your list.
The “Golden Rule” is a good guide here. You don’t want everyone you meet adding you to their email list; so, don’t assume they want your newsletter or other marketing emails.
Before you add someone to your list, ask them if it’s OK to do so. Failing to ask creates a failure of expectations (more on this later), spam complaints and lower delivery rates.
#2 Monitor Spam Complaints
Spam complaints play a big role in determining whether your email gets delivered particularly to major ISPs like Yahoo, AOL and others. Too many spam complaints spell trouble for your email delivery.
To monitor your spam complaint rates and to remove complaining addresses from your email list, you should sign up for Feedback Loops (FBLs) with at least the major web-based ISPs that offer them (Yahoo, Hotmail, and AOL offer FBLs; Gmail does not).
In addition, if you are sending a lot of email to other sizable ISPs (such as Comcast or RoadRunner), you should consider signing up for FBLs with them as well.
#3 Make It Easy To Unsubscribe
When someone wants to stop receiving your emails, they’re going to find a way to make that happen.
By providing an easy-to-find, easy-to-use unsubscribe link, you reduce the likelihood of subscribers using spam complaints to get their ISPs to stop delivering your emails to them.
#4 Get Subscribers To Whitelist You
When determining how to treat an incoming message, some email programs will look at whether the sender is listed in the recipient’s address book. Mail from contacts may be treated preferably compared to mail from non-contacts.
When someone joins your email list, ask them to add you to their address book or contact list. It’s also good to do this in your first couple of messages to new subscribers just in case they didn’t add you when they subscribed.
#5 Don’t Buy Email Lists
This is a no-brainer,”Email Marketing Basics 101″ type of tip, but it’s useful to include here anyway.
Don’t buy email lists. Just don’t do it.
I know it looks like an attractive, cost-effective way to grow your audience and reach more buyers. It isn’t. It is an easy way to destroy your email delivery rates.
OK, moving on…
#6 Authenticate Your Email Marketing Campaigns
If you’ve ever received a forged email (such as a phishing attempt), you’re aware how easy it is to make an email look like it’s coming from somewhere it isn’t.
Email authentication is a way to improve receiving ISPs’ confidence that the marketing emails you send are indeed from your company. This in turn improves your delivery rates.
For best results, familiarize yourself with (and implement) DKIM, Sender ID and SPF.
#7 Monitor URL Blacklists
You may be familiar with blacklists that list IP addresses or domains of companies that are sending spam, but did you know that there are also blacklists that list domains that are linked to from the body of spam emails?
To find out whether your company’s domain is associated with spam messages (even if those are messages you’re not sending yourself – for example, messages sent by one of your affiliates or partners), check URL blacklists like URIBL, SURBL and the Spamhaus DBL.
#8 Remove Invalid Addresses and Other Hard Bounces
Just as you should remove addresses from your list when they complain about your email, you should remove addresses that are repeatedly coming back as undeliverable.
Continuing to send mail to addresses that consistently do not accept it is a sure-fire way to prevent your email campaigns from reaching your subscribers.
#9 Monitor Inbox Placement
While you may find out about some non-delivered email through a bounce message that the receiving ISP sends you, much of the time the non-delivery is silent – the message is placed in the recipient’s Spam folder, and you have no idea that took place.
To monitor (and identify dips) in your inbox delivery rate, you can use a delivery monitoring service. You’ll receive a list of “seed” email addresses that you add to your mailing list. When you send a message to your list, the service will check to see whether the email was delivered to the inboxes or spam folders of each address – or whether the message was delivered at all.
There are a number of delivery monitoring services out there. I’m most familiar with and can recommend Return Path’s Mailbox Monitor.
#10 Set Expectations
One common cause of low delivery rates is that subscribers’ expectations of what they’ll get when they join your email list don’t match your actual email marketing practices.
For example, if someone were to sign up for a daily deal site like Groupon or LivingSocial, but do not realize that they were going to get emails as often as a couple times per day, they might respond to the influx of messages by marking them as spam. This can reduce a company’s ability to get future emails delivered.
When new subscribers join your list, make sure they’re aware:
* That they’ve joined your email list;
* What exactly they’ve signed up to receive;
* How often they can expect to hear from you; and
* How they can unsubscribe if they want to do that.
That way, there are fewer (hopefully no) surprises that generate spam complaints later.
#11 Monitor Your Reputation
‘Reputation’ is a somewhat fuzzy term that essentially refers to what receiving ISPs think of your company, and the email you send.
While knowing and monitoring your reputation won’t tell you why a particular email wasn’t delivered, it will help you identify changes and trends in how the email you send is perceived.
To check your reputation, use Return Path’s SenderScore.org. You’ll need to register to use the tool, but registration is free.
#12 Use An ESP
Some of the steps we’ve discussed here today are ones that you should handle yourself as part of your email marketing efforts.
However, there are a lot of these that an email service provider (ESP) can handle for you.
Additionally, sending your email marketing campaigns through an ESP carries other benefits. Some ESPs have over a decade of experience delivering email marketing campaigns, and have invested millions of dollars in bringing together tools, infrastructure and teams that work together to make your email marketing run smoothly.
Email delivery is not an exact science, and even the best email marketers have sent emails that weren’t delivered. But by following the advice in this article, you’ll find your deliverability far better than that of other businesses.
The following tips are brought to you by the AWeber Email Marketing education team. AWeber has been offering email marketing services for small businesses since 1998. To learn more email marketing tips to grow your business, visit their blog.