Email Delivery 101: How to get your emails to land in your Inbox
By 2023, the number of email users worldwide is expected to grow to 4.3 billion, which is half the world’s population. Consumer brands spend hundreds of thousands of money on email marketing to capitalize on this trend. An email campaign can only be successful if your intended audience opens, reads and interacts with it. Most consumers won’t open any emails sent outside of their inboxes. This is why deliverability is so important.
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What is deliverability?
Deliverability shows you how many emails are landing in the inbox of your users instead of their junk or spam folders.
“Spam is where emails die.”
-Sadikshya Pant, Senior Email Deliverability Consultant, MoEngage
Spam is a major problem in the world. Gmail found that half of the 293 billion email messages sent each day in 2019 were spam. 70% of these emails were spam, which is marketing content.102 billionEach year, marketing emails disappear into digital oblivion.
Some of your users won’t even know that a spam or trash folder exists. Most users don’t even check their spam folders. ISPs (Internet Service Providers), flag suspicious emails as such. These emails are then deactivated with their images and links.
Do not confuse deliveryability with deliverability
Deliverability is different from email delivery. The number of emails the user has received is what defines delivery. Delivery measures the number of delivered emails that land in the inbox folder.
Consider an example of an email campaign that targeted 100 users. It was 98% delivered and 60% delivered. This means that 98 of 100 recipients received the emails. However, only 60 users received the email in their inbox folders. The 40 remaining recipients probably ignored or deleted the emails as they were in the wrong folder.
Delivery isn’t the same as deliverability
These numbers can be multiplied by a factor of several thousand, or more, to show the importance of delivery.
Factors that affect email delivery
Unfortunately, ISPs don’t share information about which folders emails land in, be it spam, junk, or any of the subfolders in a user’s inbox (Primary/Promotions/Updates). You can still deduce deliverability by looking at factors such as:
Domain and IPReputationEmail engagement directly impacts because email service providers use domain/IP reputation to determine which folder to place an email. List management is a sure-fire way to improve domain reputation.
|List management tip:
To maintain good domain and IP reputations, it is important to regularly clean your email lists. Mailing frequency can be decreased or removed from disinterested users. Early detection of spam traps, hard bounces, and blacklists is important. Your email list should only be populated by users who would like to receive emails.
Performance Metrics and User Engagement
To decide whether to accept or deny emails from senders, ISPs use performance metrics such as opens, clicks, and spam complaint rates. This also helps them decide where to place the accepted emails (Spam/Promotions/Updates folders).
Positive user engagements include:
- Clicking/opening an email
- You can read an email carefully or open it multiple times.
- Replying to, forwarding, and marking an email
- Add the sender to your address book or bookmark them
- Move emails to the primary folder
Negative user engagements include:
- Reporting spam emails to be marked or reported
- You can delete or ignore emails without interfacing
- Blocking or snooping the sender
Negative engagements can impact deliveryability and can take a long time to recover. Marketers can change their strategies to reduce negative engagements and increase positive ones.
Here are some best practices for sending emails to your users’ inboxes
While each ISP has its own policies regarding acceptable email practices and guidelines, many share some common principles that can be used to improve inbox placement.
1. Sender Authentication
Multiple authentication protocols are used by all ISPs to ensure that the sender is authentic. Spammers are a concern for ISPs, so failure to perform basic authentications may result in the email being rejected, blocked or flagged as spam. Failure to authenticate senders can result in both delivery and deliverability being affected.
It is crucial to maintain a clean email list
Use organic methods to collect users. Never purchase an email list. The majority of users on purchased email lists are invalid. Others might report your email spam or unsubscribe. This can affect domain reputation and deliverability data.
There are several clean ways to build user lists organically:
- Referral programs and promotions can be used to incentivize sign-ups.
- Third-party apps and websites can be used to promote your brand and build trust.
- Establish loyalty programs and memberships.
- Use your products and services to collect email addresses
Clear acquisition methods establish reasonable expectations for customers regarding their experience. They also give them the option to withdraw if they aren’t satisfied with the content.
All countries have independent mailing laws that protect their users’ rights to privacy and quality of experience. Avoid costly lawsuits by complying with the law and keeping current with any new or revised laws that apply to your location.
4. Segmentation and the Optimal Send Frequency
Think back to the last time that you unsubscribed from promotional emails. You probably unsubscribed because you received too many emails or product suggestions that were not relevant to your purchase.
It is irritating to send too many emails to people, and it doesn’t help build brand recognition. It is important to determine the best frequency to send emails to your customer. This means that the customer will want to receive the most number of emails without any adverse reactions. This is an iterative process that will not work for every customer.
Find the optimal send frequency for each user segment
This neatly brings up the topic of segmentation, i.e., the categorization of users based on overlapping criteria. Users love preferential treatment–a ‘one-size-fits-all’ package doesn’t work. It is important to segment your customers based on previous purchases, relevant events, location, and frequency of site visits.
MoEngage allows you to categorize emails based on user behavior and adjust your mailing frequency accordingly. By engaging users with relevant content at the right moment, you can create a personal experience that exceeds their expectations and encourages investment in your brand.
Here are some ways to segment users.
- You can run trigger campaigns based on events and target customers based upon products viewed, bought, added to cart or other factors.
- Post-purchase engagement campaigns can be created, such as product reviews requests within a few days of delivery. Followed by personalized email recommendations about bundled products or custom codes for future purchase.
- After registering, collect personal information and use it to personalize your communications.
5. For Better Delivery
Marketers’ worst nightmare is spamming their email lists, which can lead to poor domain reputations and a loss of resources. Sunsetting is a strategy to keep user lists clean and remove inactive or stale users. Inactive email addresses are turned into spam traps by ISPs, which trap spammers and cause list quality to decline. This can further impact performance metrics and deliverability data.
Reactivation campaigns can be used to bring back inactive users by adjusting the frequency or content of emails, or using different channels. However, lost causes must be quickly acknowledged and addressed accordingly.
6. 6. Automated removal of bad actors
Sunsetting is about retiring users based upon their activity. However, there are some users (a.k.a. Bad actors (hard bouncers and unsubscribers) should be removed immediately. This will stop any future actions that could affect your reputation.
It is essential that your users have an easy exit route. If they wish to unsubscribe, make your button prominent.
True to the modern consumer mindset, people love tailored content suited to their needs. Unique content leads to higher open rates, clicks and replies as well as forwards and conversions.
Capture your user’s attention with personalized emails
Here are some basic methods to help you personalize your emails:
- A compelling subject line, but not misleading: A compelling subject line that is deceiving or irrelevant to the content of the email’s contents will make users reach for the unsubscribe buttons faster than anything else.
- Clear and consistent informationEnsure that your sender’s name and email address reflect your brand’s identity. It is important to clearly state vital information such as the terms and conditions or privacy policies.
- Direct call to actionCustomers can be pushed to take desired actions, such as reading the newsletter or using a limited-time offer. This is done by using clear calls-to-actions, a simplified design, and insisting on clear instructions.
- Compatibility between platforms and devicesYou risk irritating users by not ensuring that your emails work across all devices and platforms.
- Brand conformityTo build upon the customer’s subconscious, maintain your brand aesthetic in all subsequent emails. To establish the brand’s physical presence, add contact information.
8. Understanding spam filters
Every ISP has a content scanner which scans email for spam-like characteristics, and filters them. These are the rules that will ensure your email isn’t classified as spam.
- Don’t create image-heavy emailsGood text-to-image ratios of 40:60 are acceptable.
- Standardize the template sizesStandard HTML email templates are 600 pixels wide for desktops and 320 pixels vertically for mobile devices. Horizontal views for mobile devices can be viewed at 480 pixels.
- Keep it simpleMessages should not exceed 102kB. Gmail will hide any content behind a link that says “View the entire message”.
- Use alt tagsAlt tags should be used for images to display text in the event that images do not render.
- Avoid spammy subject linesSpam filters can be activated by special characters ($$$), or tokens “spam keywords” (F R EE) that are not scams.Here are some spam keywords you should avoid.
- Reputable image hosting services are recommendedCloudflare or Amazon AWS for faster loading times and better security.
- Your HTML code should be simple and clearWithout hidden images or URLs
9. Google Annotations
Gmail and other ISPs that analyze user interactions in real time can sort marketing emails into the Promotions tab of their inbox. Google Annotations can be used to highlight emails and increase user interaction.
10. Monitor Ongoing Sends
Look beyond vanity metrics to get the full picture
- Volume trendsVolume trends are usually gradual. Abnormal activity is characterized by sudden spikes in email volume or frequency. They can affect user interaction if they are not addressed.
- Performance metricsDeliverability is negatively affected by unusual trends in hard bounces and opens, clicks or spam complaints, spam traps, unsubscribes, blacklists and spam traps.
- Reputation dataObserve your inbox placement data using third-party apps like eDataSource, ReturnPath or 250ok. If you notice any anomalies, immediately correct them.
It is difficult and not always easy to achieve successful email delivery. It’s essential to invest in a good email deliverability consultancy that can tell you what’s working and what’s not–and how to improve deliverability with actionable insights.
At MoEngage, we offer deliverability consultancy services which include setting up proper authentications, email strategy discussions, assistance with inbox placement/bulking issues, troubleshooting blogs and blacklisting issues, content analysis, and reviewing industry best practices. To establish brand authenticity, we can help you implement new features such as BIMI and Google Annotations.