Email Deliverability Requires New Solutions To Old Problems In 2016
Looking to increase your deliverability rate? Columnist Tom Sather has some advice for how to keep your emails out of the spam box and get more opens and clicks.
No matter how perfectly designed your email is, if doesn’t land in the inbox, your customers won’t engage with it. This unfortunate truth was the fate of one out of every five promotional emails sent last year, as global deliverability declined to 79 percent.
While the problem of reaching the inbox is old, the good news is that marketers have many new ways to keep their emails out of the spam folder in the coming year.
The first step toward higher deliverability is understanding how and why your emails were declined in the first place. There are various elements that mailbox providers factor into their placement decisions, but the drop in 2015 was tied to three elements in particular: low engagement, complaints and inactive accounts.
It’s not surprising that the way your subscribers interact with your content impacts your deliverability. Positive engagements, like messages that are read and interacted with, factor favorably, while messages that are deleted without being read, ignored or unsubscribed from factor negatively into how mailbox providers view your mail.
This not only affects all the email you send, but even a few of the top email providers like Gmail and Yahoo are starting to personalize inbox delivery of emails to each user based on how they engage with a brand. So the more positively someone engages with your emails, the more likely your content is to be placed in the inbox for that individual.
The second biggest block to deliverability last year was subscriber complaints. One of the most trusted feedback mechanisms, the “report spam” button, allows mailbox users to directly notify their mailbox provider how they view a certain brand and their content. Every time a subscriber marks one of your emails as spam, your reputation tanks just a little bit as a result.
The final factor leading to decreased deliverability is low mailbox usage. In order to calculate spam-filtering metrics appropriately, email providers also look to see how many “near dead” email addresses marketers are emailing to.
The difference between low mailbox usage and low engagement is that low engagement implies that the subscriber actively logs into their email account and reads email, just not yours, whereas low mailbox usage means that the user rarely logs in, and when they do, they rarely read email or do anything else.
Mailbox providers view marketers who continue to email to these near-dead accounts as having poor list hygiene, a trait that is closely linked to spammers.
Implement A Solution
Now that you know the likely culprits to your drop in deliverability, it’s time to isolate and fix the issue.
Some deliverability experts recommend removing inactive email addresses immediately, but this should only be used as a last resort. There are so many things that can affect whether or not a subscriber opens an email — everything should be ruled out before unnecessarily removing subscribers.
To find and fix the issue, you should test our new strategies for the various elements of your program.
• Send time: Most opens occur within the first hour of being sent. If you are sending when your subscribers are not actively reading email, the likelihood of them opening decreases significantly.
Today, marketers can predict the best time to send an email based on previous opens. By creating personalized send times for each subscriber based on when they open emails from other senders, you can reach your subscribers when they are active in the inbox.
• Subject line: Sometimes you need to grab readers by their lapels to get them to interact with your email. The best way to do that is with an engaging subject line.
Take a small sample of your list, and test out mixing up your subject lines; try something daring that you wouldn’t send to your normal file.
To lower your complaint rate, make sure you are signed up for feedback loops with all relevant mailbox providers so you can respond and understand where your complaints are coming from.
Analyze all your complaints and unsubscribes to identify a pattern to explain why your subscribers are complaining. Look into both the types of subscribers and the kind of content that generated complaints.
• Type of subscriber: Look for unhappy subscribers coming from specific data sources, demographics or vintage (age of subscription), and set up a new mailing strategy separate from your main program.
• Type of content: Rather than the type of subscriber, the type of content may be the issue. Are a majority of complaints stemming from the same few emails?
Another likely instigator of complaints could be your email sending frequency. By using solutions that can predict how tolerant subscribers are of high or low email frequencies and setting a personalized threshold, you can craft an optimized sending strategy.
Arm yourself with data beyond opens and clicks to reach your inactives in other ways. Many of these inactive accounts are “secondary” emails, or emails that people only give out to businesses to keep the flood of spam down in their primary account.
After identifying your “inactives,” you can upload them to Google’s Customer Match and target advertisements toward them on other platforms. Facebook and Twitter offer similar solutions called Custom Audiences and Tailored Audiences, respectively.
Marketers can still attempt to reach their customers via other digital channels, like search and social, and not lose a valuable opportunity to reconnect and engage.
As email providers make the inbox experience more personalized and enjoyable, reaching consumers’ inboxes in 2016 may get easier. By focusing on the customer experience, data and new methods to reach audiences, marketers will have no problem getting more opens and clicks.