best practices in email deliverability

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For an email campaign to be successful, marketers must blend art and science to reach the right person at the right time, with the right offer. Much planning, analysis, and creative work go into creating a campaign that can motivate people to take that next step on the buyer’s journey. But no matter how compelling your email is, if it doesn’t reach the inbox – you’ve lost that opportunity. If you know the basics of deliverability, you’re better prepared to build emails that will actually reach your potential customers.

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  • 1. Act-On Best Practices for Email Delivery Best Practices inEmail DeliverabilityHow to maximize email deliverability for greater campaign successAct-On Softwarewww.actonsoftware.com Copyright 2012 All Rights Reserved

2. Act-On Best Practices for Email DeliveryBest Practices in Email DeliverabilityTable of ContentsIntroduction: Best Practices in Email Deliverability 1I. List and Contact Management 2II. Spam Filtering6III. Content Filtering: a Deeper Look10IV. Authentication14V. Reporting and Tracking15VI. Sending Email16VII. Top Ten Delivery Best Practices 17Appendix A: Email Delivery Glossary18Appendix B: CAN-SPAM Compliance Guide 20Appendix C: Tips to Avoid False Positives22 Deliverability failures remain a challenge for commercial email senders, with an average 1 in 5 emails never reaching the inbox. Return Paths The Global Email Deliverability Benchmark Report, 1H 2011Copyright 2012 Act-On Software. All rights reserved. 3. Act-On Best Practices for Email Delivery Best Practices in Email DeliverabilityIntroduction: Best Practices in Email DeliverabilityFor an email campaign to be successful, marketers must blend art and science to reach the right person at the right time, with the right offer. Much planning, analysis, and creative work go into creating a campaign that can motivate people to take that next step on the buyers journey. But no matter how compelling your email is, if it doesnt reach the inbox youve lost that opportunity. If you know the basics of deliverability, youre better prepared to build emails that will actually reach your potential customers. What is deliverability?Deliverability is simply the measure, usually expressed as a percentage, of how many emails actually make it into the inbox. Deliverability is affected by the business process of an email service provider, but the most critical factors rest with the sender.Who should read this paper?These best practices are intended to provide the marketer who is directing, managing, or creating email campaigns with practical recommendations to improve email deliverability. The emphasis is on useful tactics, not technology.Best practicesFurther sections of this paper get more granular, but at a high level, these are the key best practices: 1. Send only to prospects who want and expect your email 2. Send meaningful, relevant content to the right person, at the right time3. Practice good list hygiene4. Comply with all legal requirementsassociations, and/or consider joining an organization such as the American Marketing Association (AMA), Direct Marketing Association (DMA), Marketing Automation Institute (MAI), et al. The Email Experience Council, the email marketing arm of the DMA, maintains a helpful website: https://www.emailexperience.orgThis is a living document. If you have best practices to share or comments, please contact us at support@act-on.com. Copyright 2012 Act-On Software. All rights reserved.1 4. Act-On Best Practices for Email Delivery Best Practices in Email DeliverabilityI. List and Contact ManagementYour email delivery results improve when you send only email that is wanted and expected, and purge old, inactive contacts. For practical reasons, sending email that recipients want and expect dictates that bulk email should be opt-in. People who are interested in your offers and expecting them will generally engage with your email in some way, enhancing your deliverability rates. Mailing to people who arent expecting your email increases the odds that your email will be deleted or ignored. That penalizes your delivery rates. Heres why:Webmail providers often track engagementSome webmail providers track how engaged subscribers are with an email and its sender. Positive actions tracked may ESPs and include opening a message; adding an address to the contact Webmail Providers list; clicking through links; clicking to enable images; and An email service provider scrolling through the message. Negative actions may include (ESP) sends, receives, and reporting the email as spam; deleting it; moving it to the junk stores email for end users folder; and ignoring it. or organizations. A webmail Webmail providers may use these metrics (and more) to provider furnishes and determine whether your email should be blocked, delivered to administers Internet access for the inbox, or delivered to the junk folder. When receivers interact end users, including small and medium businesses, and is that email from this sender is generally wanted, and should be almost always an ESP as well.delivered. Mail that receivers ignore or delete may be delivered Commercial ESPs provide to the junk folder...or not at all. Some webmail providers take third-party email marketing abandoned email addresses and turn them into spamtraps. services. What this means for the marketer is: A spamtrap is an email If you have too many unengaged or abandoned addresses on address used to lure spam, so your lists, webmail providers may mistake your email for spam it can be added to a blacklist or and block it, or route your email to the junk folders, or throttle other blocking mechanism. the number and/or rate of emails you can send. In an ideal world, all the good leads would subscribe to your lists, and youd always send email that recipients want. If a recipient stopped wanting email, they would unsubscribe and stop receiving the email. Recipients would never change email addresses, or if they did they would notify you of their new addresses.Alas, the real world is messy, and addresses of even engaged recipients can go bad. Subscribers dont always remember to move subscriptions to new addresses. People lose their passwords and get locked out of their email accounts. Recipients ignore email they dont want instead of unsubscribing. Employees leave jobs, and their email accounts may not be deleted. Given time, even a good list will develop list fatigue. Copyright 2012 Act-On Software. All rights reserved. 2 5. Act-On Best Practices for Email DeliveryBest Practices in Email DeliverabilityThe rules of engagementMaintaining high recipient engagement requires active contact management. Disinterested or inactive receivers often dont An Internet Protocol bother to unsubscribe from email that they dont want to receive; address (IP address) they just delete or ignore it. As a list ages, more and more of these is a numerical label unengaged users accumulate on the list, degrading delivery. assigned to each device (e.g., computer, printer, One best practice is to purge unengaged addresses before too server) participating in many accumulate. Determining how long a contact should stay on a computer network; it serves as host or network inactive contacts, requires an understanding of your particular market and demographics. For instance, marketers working with and location addressing.products or services with long buying cycles will have different Every email sent comes business and marketing processes than marketers working with short buying cycles. All marketers need to be cautious about IP address.mailing too often, no matter how engaged contacts are. What to purgeThe overall goal of purging emails is to remove those email addresses that no longer deliver to potential customers. Sometimes that means removing addresses abandoned by their users; other times that means removing addresses belonging to users who are no longer interested in your products or services. Its a good practice to remove role-based email addresses, such as info@company.com or sales@company.com.You can use metrics to identify abandoned or unengaged accounts, based on available data. Available data on a known prospect might include email activities such as opens and clicks. If youre using a marketing automation system, it might also include website visits, downloads, and webinar attendance.How to purgeHow a sender implements purging from their email list is just as important as deciding what to purge. The two viable options for purging are:1. Simply remove any addresses that meet purging criteria (usually time and activity) from all future mailings2. Send a re-engagement email asking users to take an action to stay on the listRemoving addresses that meet purging criteria from all future mailings works for some senders. These senders typically have low ROI from each individual address, so spending the money and time to send a re-engagement campaign isnt cost effective. Copyright 2012 Act-On Software. All rights reserved. 3 6. Act-On Best Practices for Email DeliveryBest Practices in Email DeliverabilityWhen to purge Many delivery experts advise purging any address displaying no activity for an arbitrary time, typically 12 months. But the time thats right for you depends on the buying cycle for your products or services. Your organizations sales data can provide a trustworthy guide to the typical engagement period for buyers; let that dictate the right time to implement a purge campaign. Depending on your industry, lists containing addresses that are three or four years old are generally prime candidates for purging. Standard industry metrics indicate that up to 30 percent of addresses on a mailing list may turn over in just one year. Most of these addresses are not unsubscribed and never bounce; theyll just register as not engaged.problems have surfaced. If you wait until your email is blacklisted or delivered to the junk folder, you risk having to make much more aggressive purging decisions than marketers who proactively manage their data. delivered to the junk folder, with no clear indication as to why. Some email may be delayed or rejected. These minor delivery problems signal its time to consider implementing a list hygiene process. Re-engagementSending a re-engagement message offers a chance to win back the recipient. A re-engagement message usually alerts a recipient that their subscription is expiring due to lack of activity, and entices the user to