If only managing e-mail deliverability were as simple as handling a werewolf. Sure, the creature appears terrifying, but everyone knows how to cope with it. A simple “silver bullet” does the trick. But there is no one simple solution to guarantee successful e-mail delivery. In response, most successful online marketers have developed a process that some call as delivery optimization.
The first step in delivery optimization is realizing you have a problem. E-mail service providers describe successful e-mail delivery as total e-mail sent less total bounces. A more accurate definition is total e-mail sent minus total bounces minus e-mail delivered into spam folders (or otherwise filtered). Only after you begin to benchmark deliverability can you begin the optimization effort. Actual delivery is most accurately tracked through comprehensive seeding programs provided by companies like Pivotal Veracity. These programs track delivery across multiple data points such as the Internet service provider, e-mail creative version and list source.
The initial step in the optimization process depends on the data maintained by the marketer. Lists used by most marketers are the result of merged databases from various sources, and optimization requires an ongoing commitment to the hygiene of these lists. Legacy and new list data must be updated continuously to prevent expired domains, formatting irregularities, syntax errors, known “spam traps” and typos. No one factor affects deliverability more than dynamic opt-in processes. The best e-mail marketers employ sophisticated subscription management solutions and apply these practices across departments and communication channels.
The next step is content analysis. Many spam filters use content-based filtering to determine whether your message is valid. How many links are in your message? What subject lines are you using? Does your message have too many images? Running your message through a spam filter checker should be standard in e-mail marketing programs and should create best practices within the e-mail design process.
Finally, delivery optimization initiatives must proactively monitor program execution. From e-mail platform configuration, (i.e., reverse DNS, open relay solution, Sender Policy Framework, Sender ID, DomainKeys) to white-list management (i.e., Habeas, Goodmail or Ironport's Bonded Sender programs), marketers must monitor every element of program implementation. Industry leaders are managing the above while implementing integrated communication programs leveraging e-mail, print, fax, voice and text. This multichannel approach provides alternatives to contact clients when managing delivery challenges.
Though a long way from the silver bullet, there are companies in the marketplace with the expertise to provide protection from the “hard-bounce” and “junk folder” monster.