7 Do’s and Don’ts of Email Deliverability

                                      

“The more email you send, the less money you’ll probably make.”

Why this bold assertion from Spencer Kollas, VP of global deliverability, Experian Marketing Services? During his session at DMA’s Email Evolution Conference 2015, Kollas explained that due to the volume of email that Internet service providers (ISPs) need to parse through—99% of which is true spam (i.e., scam mail)—ensuring that your marketing is actually welcomed by your customers is essential. “ISP want to protect their users,” he said.

How welcomed your email messages are is the only aspect of deliverability that marketers need to consider, Kollas explained. There are numerous moving parts of deliverability.

ISP’s responsibilities include accreditation, authentication, sending characteristics; the sender’s responsibilities include content, reputation, and list management. “Just because you can send emails [to a large group of recipients], doesn’t mean you should,” he said.

Kollas reminded attendees that every sender has a reputation—whether good, bad, or questionable. “Just one act can negatively impact your reputation,” he said. “And reputation is everything.” Kollas offered seven do’s and don’ts for ensuring email deliverability:

Don’t send to dead accounts. Some of these may be spam traps. Better that you have a smaller list of real email addresses than a larger one with useless ones that could hurt your sender reputation.

Don’t send to obvious spam traps. There are three types of spam traps. The first is emails with clear typos (for example, “@hotmail” with three l’s); Kollas stressed the importance of data quality here. Second are pristine or “honey pot” emails, which some ISPs will seed to see whether companies are using emails scraped from the Web to build their lists. “Be careful of a lack of data associated with an email address,” Kollas said. The third are recycled email addresses. Some providers will give an email address to a new person after only three months of a user canceling his use of it, he explained, adding that this is one of the key reasons that it’s essential to keep your email lists clean and fresh.

Don’t bounce. As all email marketers know, there are hard and soft bounces; Kollas referred to them as permanent versus temporary bounces. Kollas recommended using a system that can tell the difference between a person who doesn’t exist versus the ISP saying, “We think this may be spam, so we’re not delivering it.”

Do try to keep complaints to a minimum. Watch frequency and relevancy. Use a welcome message or welcome series to reduce complaints, Kollas said.

Do stay off blacklists. “If you get on Spam House, 80 to 90 percent of your email will be blocked,” Kollas said. He explained that one company wound up on a blacklist after hitting only five bad email addresses out of the millions it sends per day. Again, he asserted, list hygeine is vital.

Do be cautious of your data sources. Reputation management includes ensuring data quality from the get-go. Kollas cited eAppended addresses as a high-risk data source. He said that lead-gen efforts and affiliate marketing are significantly risky sources; one reason is that people may not realize that they’re opting in to you versus a partner. Sister-brand permission and in-store checkout POS are moderately risky, he said. And direct newsletter sign-up and registration from online purchases are low-risk data sources.

Do consider engagement. What’s your percentage of inactive users (who haven’t opened/clicked in more than 12 months) versus engaged users? Find ways to engage unengaged users, Kollas said. Ask customers for more information. Test how much data customers will give to get more personalized emails. But don’t ask for information you’re not going to use, he said. Trade a benefit for the information you’re asking for.

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