A crash course in boosting your e-mail delivery rates

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Maybe it's all the back-to-school advertisements I've encountered the past month or so, but I thought it would be fun to give a quick refresher course on email deliverability. There has been a lot of discussion on the subject in the past, and I wanted to share some important suggestions to help you receive an A+ in your e-mail marketing campaigns.

Before we discuss guidelines for boosting your e-mail delivery rates, it is important to understand what deliverability is and what it means to your e-mail marketing campaigns. E-mail deliverability represents the probability that your e-mail campaign will successfully reach a recipient's inbox and that it will arrive in a legible, presentable fashion. Ultimately, higher delivery rates will increase your chances of seeing a return on your marketing investment.

Unfortunately, few marketers today can expect to achieve perfect deliverability. For many, deliverability can be a confusing and painful issue. But by configuring things correctly from the start, adhering to best practices, and monitoring industry trends you can feel confident that you are achieving the highest relative deliverability for your industry, brand, and type of messaging. Now, here are some important rules to follow in your email marketing efforts. Class is now in session.

Get Permission
This is the most important step of the e-mail marketing campaign. Make it clear to subscribers what they will be receiving from you and why it is they are receiving your messages. Of course, make sure they have an easy way to unsubscribe.  And it's the law to remove recipients after an unsubscribe request within 10 days or less.

Maintain Your Lists
Be sure to remove undeliverable e-mail addresses that bounce on an ongoing basis. A clean e-mail file will help your reputation. Be sure to process your list through a hygiene service and make sure addresses comply with ISP standards.  A good rule of thumb is to always keep hard bounces below 10% of the total messages being sent.

Authentication Matters
Authentication lets ISPs know who you are. When they know that, your chances for reaching an inbox are much better. Authentication prevents the forgery of e-mail messages and allows senders to build a positive reputation with receivers based on e-mail behavior.  DK/DKIM and SPF are probably the most well known and adopted authentication methods.

Follow the Rules and Regulations
It is important that all of your messages meet legal approval and follow all of the Federal CAN-SPAM laws. There are several important ones to follow, so make sure you are familiar with each of them.  The FTC authors these and has a good online resource site to help guide you through the legislation.  Also, be aware of what state level e-mail laws exist.

Develop the Right Creative
What you say has an effect on your deliverability, and of course an effect on response. Don't use language associated with negative marketing tactics. Do not promise anything you can't actually deliver. Use images sparingly and avoid sending attachments.  Ensure your subject line is relevant and pops especially for preview pane viewing.  And having a text version keeps your recipients using text only email viewers from being alienated.

These "entry-level" tips should help you get started on your way to greater email deliverability success.
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