Fight Those Deliverability HurdlesMarketers continue to be challenged by e-mail deliverability hurdles; this is nothing new. But why do marketers continue to put up with these hurdles? E-mail, fortunately or not, is now part of our everyday fabric, so we keep putting up with the challenges it brings and hope one day the problems just magically disappear.
No such luck, they just keep evolving. Companies and the marketers that work for them increasingly recognize the need to understand and deal with deliverability issues. Smart companies are fighting back with knowledge and best practices and working with best e-marketing experts and partners.
Millions of legitimate e-mails get blocked by filters and corporate firewalls daily. Market intelligence company RoperASW estimates 38 percent of permission-based e-mails are wrongly blocked by filters and firewalls. And e-mail campaigns, newsletters and personal correspondence are likely getting blocked, too. JupiterResearch has reported that the costs of incorrectly blocked opt-in e-mail will rise to $419 million in 2008.
How can a marketer fight the continuous deliverability challenges and achieve higher deliverability rates? Here are some best practices:
Content. Trying to create the perfect content so it does not get caught by spam filters? It's common knowledge that content can cause e-mail to be caught in filters, but how important is it? Not as important as you think. Many elements trump content when it comes to deliverability. Mainly:
* Poorly written HTML - open tags, duplicate tags. Use someone fluent in e-mail deliverability to create your templates or e-mail or at least give you pointers to improve your code if your budget does not allow for outsourcing your creative development.
* Forms. Though surveys are important and a nice functionality of e-mail, try linking out to an external survey. Not only do you have greater flexibility, you don't have to worry about deliverability.
* Link format. Don't use a link to an IP address, use a domain. If you don't have a domain for the IP, set one up.
* Styles. You think the white text on the blue background of a table looks good. Try using a light gray. Your white text on a blue background even in a table can be caught as invisible text in spam filters if you do not code your styles and tables right.
* Don't use tables in tables. Again, another spam trap.
Don't work so hard to combat content-based spam traps that your message is convoluted. It is perfectly acceptable to substitute complimentary for free, but don't try so hard to substitute something like "Get 2 Free Adult lift tickets" (free and adult can trigger spam filters) for "Get 2 grown up lift tickets on the house." With the average e-mail being viewed for only a second or two, you need to generate action.
Go with a quality e-mail platform provider. Ask for your provider's sending IP addresses. Do some homework on sites like dnsstuff.com or senderbase.org. See whether your ESP has a track record of blacklists. If you send more than 20,000 e-mails monthly, ask how many other clients you will be sharing an IP address with, because your reputation is based on what they send in addition to what you send.
Clean your list. Don't ignore your bounces. Spend the time to look through your bounces that may not be managed by your ESP. Most providers will say they handle your bounces, which is true, but they cannot handle every bounce. Some are sent back to your "From" address.
* Identify e-addresses that are no longer deliverable ("dead" addresses).
* Identify and correct obvious typos, such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Remove duplicates. You'd be surprised how many there are. Most providers should be able to do this automatically, but it is always good to check.
Authentication. Does your provider adhere to different authentication methods such as SPF, Sender ID or DomainKeys? These can cause immediate blocks before content and code are even looked at. Ask your ESP what authentication methods it uses or is in the process of implementing.
Get help. If your ESP is unwilling to help with your deliverability beyond "It must just be your old list," look for someone else. This does not mean just jump ship, but if three or six months down the road they're still unwilling to at least answer your questions, you many need a more helpful company.
By staying apprised and knowledgeable, your legitimate e-mail marketing will go more smoothly and be more effective. Choosing the right e-mail marketing partners is part of the equation: identifying the appropriate ISPs and working with an e-mail deliverability partner that will help you rise above the "inbox noise."