Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic bullet for perfect email deliverability. But, like many things with marketing, if you do what’s best for your customers, things tend to work out well for you.
Just like search engines want to display the best search results to searchers, the email providers want to deliver the emails their customers want. So, if you’re sending quality campaigns to people that asked for them, you’ll be fine.
In addition to that golden rule of deliverability, there are some tips and tricks you can employ to keep your deliverability sky-high or establish a rock solid, positive reputation as a new sender…
Send these two types of automated campaigns
Email service providers (ESPs), like Gmail and Yahoo Mail, are watching your open rate because it’s a great indication of whether a campaign is wanted. If an ESP sees your emails are being ignored, they’re going to assume they’re unwanted, and your sender reputation will suffer.
There are two types of email campaigns that consistently get higher open rates than all others. The high-engagement these campaigns get will help offset the occasional campaign that misses the mark and gets low engagement.
Be sure you’re sending:
- Welcome emails
It’s not uncommon for welcome emails to achieve a higher than 50% open rate. A finely-tuned welcome email sets you up for future engagement over the long-term. Here’s a simple automation you can import to get you started:
- Emails triggered by behavior
On average, triggered emails can achieve open rates over 150% higher than traditional campaigns. Behavior-based emails work extremely well because they’re perfectly timed. You know a specific behavior just occurred, so you can make the campaign’s content extremely relevant by referencing that event and giving next steps or guidance. Here’s another post that might help you get started with behavioral campaigns.
These triggered email campaigns are also staggered, rather than broadcast to a whole list at once, so they’re a great way to establish yourself if you’re just getting started with a new marketing automation or email marketing provider. The email service providers will see that you started out at low volume (which is a good sign for a new sender) and that you’re getting excellent engagement. That gives you a solid foundation to build your sender reputation on.
Optimize the sending frequency of your automated follow up
ActiveCampaign offers automation workflow split-testing — something no other marketing automation provider does — and it’s the best way to get answers to some of your most important follow-up questions:
- Should I send five long emails in this sequence or 10 short ones?
- Should I wait two days between messages or five?
- Should I send three follow up reminders or just one?
Enable SPF, DKIM, and DMARC
These things aren’t going to cause your deliverability to sky rocket, but they’re worth doing because they’re reassuring to the ESPs. It’s a way for them to verify that you are who you say you are. It’s like putting an SSL certificate on your website. It’s not a guarantee your website is legit, but it’s one factor that contributes to trust and an overall positive reputation.
See these docs for information on getting these set up.
Up your subject line game
Again, when it comes to deliverability and sender reputation, opens matter (even more than clicks!). The subject line is the second most important factor in whether your emails are opened (we’ll get to most important factor next). So, if you’re going to be an elite sender with perfect deliverability, you’re going to have to become an expert subject line copywriter.
The trick with subject lines is striking a balance between “clickbait headline” and “an accurate description of the message.” The ideal subject line is both tantalizing and accurate. The accuracy is important because if your contacts learn that your subject lines are clickbait, you might see a short-term boost in opens, but, your contacts will feel tricked. This harms your relationship with them. Don’t sacrifice your long-term relationship for a momentary boost in opens. You want people to open your email, but only because its content is relevant and important to them. If you feel like you need to use clickbait subject lines to get a decent open rate, you don’t have a subject line problem, you have a content or segmentation problem.
On your journey to mastering subject lines, split testing is your best teacher.
Split test your sender info
The sender information, specifically the “from” name, is the most important factor in whether your emails get opened, beating out even the subject line that gets so much emphasis among email marketers.
The general rule of thumb is that including the person and business name gets the best results.
“Kelly from ActiveCampaign” will generally work better than “Kelly O’Connell” or “ActiveCampaign.” But, split-testing is the only way to be certain.
ActiveCampaign allows you to split-test 5 versions of your sender info at a time and I’d recommend repeating that test several times before deciding on a winner to use across all your campaigns.
Avoid these words and phrases
You probably know the words and phrases to avoid, but it’s a good idea to bring these top of mind again. They can sometimes sneak their way into otherwise legit campaigns if you aren’t paying attention.
Add this to your email templates
Put a line at the bottom of all campaigns asking people to add you to their contacts so they can be sure they receive every email from you. Save it as a content block and drop it into every message. Even if only a tiny fraction of contacts do this, it’ll help your overall reputation. To make it extra easy, link to a vCard (.vcf file — electronic business card) so you’re automatically added with correct contact information.
Find the best time to send
Take a look at your reports and see when the majority of your opens are happening. Take a look at a specific time frame, like the last 30 days, and take into account the time your emails were sent, as this will bias your open time reports. Look for a spike in opens outside of your send time. This might be a sweet spot.
With your automation emails, make use of the Wait Until conditions and the “send according to contact’s time zone” feature to deliver messages when they’re most likely to be read.
Clean your list with a list cleaning service
Clean your list with a service like Kickbox or BriteVerify. This will remove known spam traps (a HUGE deliverability killer) and non-existent email addresses from your list.
It’s a fantastic idea to do this before your first send with a new provider so that your sender reputation starts off on the right foot.
Segment, segment, segment
You can only segment on conditions you’re tracking. So, it’s important to decide what segments you’d like to be able to use and then be sure that you’re tracking and storing the relevant data so that you can leverage it as needed.
You may want to track:
- Relationship (customer, partner, lead, etc.)
- Lifecycle stage
- Characteristics (For B2B: vertical, size, etc. For B2C: gender, age, etc.)
- Interest (page view data, form submits, purchase history, etc.)
… so that, when it’s time to send, you can pinpoint the exact group of contacts who would be most interested in that message. This will ensure your engagement stays sky high.
Set up these three automations
The engagement tagging automations we provide apply tags based on the recency of engagement with your campaigns and website. With these automations, you’ll know which of your contacts has recently been active, who’s engaged, who’s disengaged, and who’s inactive. If a contact is inactive, you’ll want to unsubscribe them. Many people continue sending to these contacts hoping that they’ll become active again. This is unlikely and it harms your overall deliverability so that the contacts that are engaging with your campaigns are less likely to receive them!
What about the contacts you have to unsubscribe? They aren’t a complete loss. Create a custom Facebook audience and display relevant ads. Just because they didn’t like your emails, doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want your solution. With the right offer, you may be able to bring them back into your funnel as highly-engaged leads.
Don’t let your list grow stale
One of the biggest causes of SPAM complaints (which are detrimental to your deliverability) is a prolonged lull in sending. Your contacts are busy and, if you go too long without contacting them, they’ll forget that they ever requested your emails. At minimum, avoid going more than 60 days without a contact receiving a campaign from you.
Your email deliverability reputation takes time to establish itself and improving it is a slow process. When you’re a new sender, you’re viewed with skepticism. You’re an unknown. A wildcard. No one knows what to expect, so the ESPs watch your every move carefully. They’ve been burned before, so they’re careful and they read into things. They error on the side of caution.
But, the good news is that it’s a fair system that works most of the time. If you follow some simple, logical best practices over time your deliverability will improve.