In terms of email deliverability, things aren’t really going all that well for marketers around the world. Return Path says inbox placement rates have declined from 82% last year to 78% in the first half of 2013. That’s almost 1 in every 4 emails not reaching the inbox. But there’s one thing you can do to buck this trend, and it involves enhancing your sender reputation.
About 77% of all blocked emails are due to poor sender reputation. So, it’s the perfect component in your email campaign to start fixing when you’re having some serious inbox placement issues.
Your recipients’ mailbox provider or ISP uses your sender reputation as a filtering criterion. Mailbox providers typically look at key factors like number of recipients, spam complaints, bad addresses, IP address/domain quality, and certain message components to block your emails or not. However, different providers follow different standards for gauging your reputation, which really makes life as an email marketer much harder.
Fortunately, you don’t have to learn every mailbox provider’s email filtering rules. All you need is to follow some simple email best practices to build a favorable sender reputation:
1. Work with spotless email lists. In a huge way, the fate of your emails (and the campaign itself) rests on the quality of your email contact list. Mailbox providers look at the number of bounced addresses, inactive contacts, and spam triggers that your sending IP address has on its record. The more of these entries your list has, the worse your reputation becomes.
2. Learn and apply the STP rule. This stands for ‘segmentation, targeting, and positioning’ which is just a fancier way to say ‘be relevant.’ You really need to do this since it’s going to affect how engaged your recipients are going to be. Right now, ISPs and anti-spam companies are also taking recipient engagement into account when determining your sender reputation.
3. Vet your content/copy thoroughly. There’s still an ongoing debate whether or not certain words/phrases in your emails really do activate spam filters. But still, it’s better to be safe and avoid them as much as you can. The list of spam-trigger words is a long one, so you have to give it a check when proof-reading your copy. In addition to that, carefully consider the text-image balance and the validity of links in your emails.
4. Watch how and where you send. Mailbox providers and ISPs protect their users by blocking emails sent from blacklisted IP addresses and questionable domains. It’s no surprise that these form part of your sender reputation. Use a separate sending IP for email marketing or, if you’re working with an ESP, be sure to ask for a dedicated IP address. Also, regulate your email burst rate since ISPs often block IP addresses that send too many emails at once.
5. Be part of the feedback loop. When your email gets blocked or a recipient hits the spam button, some mailbox providers actually notify you about the incident. This is what’s known as a feedback loop (FBL), and it’s a great way for you to take care of your reputation. Be sure that you sign up for this free service, and don’t forget to respond and act.
6. Make sure you’re identifiable. In order to earn the trust of ISPs, you have to let them know you’re really who you say you are. This means using email authentication packages to help ISPs validate your identity. This makes it an easier job for mailbox providers and speeds up the reception of your messages. It also provides added protection against forgery and spoofing. Also, be sure to make identification easier for your recipients by having a genuine name and address.
You’re now well on your way toward building a great sender reputation and getting better inbox placement rates. But don’t forget that you’re not sending emails to mailbox providers or ISPs. You’re communicating value to each prospect, and that’s where reputation matters the most. Apply the above ideas with that end in mind.