Email deliverability, or the ability to ensure your email messages land in the inbox of the intended recipient, is not always top of mind for marketers planning their email strategies and campaigns. As a result, many marketers don’t have proper awareness of inbox performance until messages are already in the junk/spam folder, blocked and/or suffering a decrease in email marketing ROI.

But despite the fact that many marketers don’t know much about the topic, strong deliverability drives revenue. After all, messages that land in the junk folder can’t create engagement or conversion for your brand.

While improving or maintaining email deliverability can be a complex subject and can require technical assistance from specialists, the #1 rule for ensuring inbox delivery — and staying there — is to respect what your recipients would like to see in the email they’ve subscribed to. Internet Service Providers (ISPs), like Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo!, want their customers to have a great experience. ISPs prioritize happy users, and will more often send messages to subscribers who continuously engage with your brand. To quote one major ISP Postmaster,  “Send email people LOVE”.

So as you do your best to provide relevant, engaging content for your customers (which we’re sure you’re already doing!), there are a few more critical factors that all marketers can pay attention to and take action on to help maintain email delivery health. You don’t have to be an email deliverability expert to begin protecting your brand’s sending reputation; check out the tips and best practices below to ensure a strong future for your deliverability.

(At Marigold Engage by Sailthru, we’re committed to equipping every customer with best-in-class deliverability services at no extra cost; if you’re a Sailthru customer and want more information about these best practices, please get in touch with your Customer Success representative. If you’re not a Sailthru customer but want to learn more about how we can help you improve deliverability, contact us.)

1. Audit new and existing user flows, review user experience and set up a preference center.

  • Review permissions and expectations that are set when a recipient opts-into your marketing programsOn the other end of that email address is a person who trusts your brand enough to give you access to his/her inbox. Recipients should always have clear expectations set when they willingly provide their email address to you. When users sign up, tell them what you are going to send, how often you will be sending mail and give the the option to customize preferences as to how to best reach him/her. Once expectations are set, stick to what you have said. If your recipient is expecting to receive mail weekly, don’t just start sending mail daily!
  • Review user experience. Sending a welcome message is always a great idea to reinforce subscription expectations. Do you send a welcome message immediately upon providing an email address? How much mail and how often do you send? Are you sending so often it’s overwhelming? Put yourself in your recipient’s shoes. Is the cadence and content of your messages attractive? Are you sending too much or too little mail so that your recipients forget about you? Test several mail streams to see what performs well with your customer base.
  • Establish a preference center. Every subscriber is different and will have different preferences for how they want to hear from you, so make sure you provide choices for them to customize their experience. Consumers will heavily engage in email streams they choose. This puts the subscriber in control and he/she will be more likely to opt-down rather than opt-out of all communications. Periodically test your preference center to ensure you have not made updates to your email programs that have not been updated in your preferences.

2. Review email performance regularly and often.

  • An engaged list will see 15 – 30% click to open rates ongoing with low opt-outs and low abuse complaints. If you are seeing open rates lower than 10%, this can be indicative of a non-engaged list and some work can be done.
  • Look at email performance by domain for your top domains. If all domains are performing, for example, at 15-20% opens, but one is at 1% opens, the domain at 1% is most likely junking your mail.
  • Inability to meet these benchmark metrics, even after optimizing for content relevancy and campaign creative, can signal sending reputation issues which must be repaired.

3. Test performance with split testing.

  • Are you testing and evaluating recipient behavior and performance? Which emails are the most read? Which ones are ignored? As we say at Sailthru: Always be testing! Recipient’s behavior and engagement weigh significantly on if (and where) your mail will be delivered. Strong opens and engagement will keep your messages in the inbox, so ensure you are always testing and optimizing your email campaign’s tactics, content and creative against performance benchmarks.

4. Audit list source performance.

  • Look at open rates, opt-out rates and complaint rates by list source. Lists sources that have high opt-out rates and complaints may be hurting your overall deliverability. Quality lists will have strong open rates and low opt-out and abuse rates. Encourage signup from these quality sources and evaluate poorer performing acquisition sources.

5. Seed test email sends.

  • This is a super simple one that often gets neglected. Send test emails to test addresses at major ISPs to see if messages land in the inbox or junk folder!

6. Review suppression lists often.

  • Suppressing non-engaged recipients will boost your open rates as well as your inbox placement. Since ISPs are looking at how their recipients interact with your mail overall, sending to a large amount of recipients over and over that never engage with your messages can be detrimental to your sending reputation. Ensure you have suppressions that work with your frequency and audience. And always try to re engage subscribers before they become completely disengaged or dormant with messaging that re-confirms the opt-in or reminds them why they subscribed in the first place (“I miss you” messages can be an effective way to do so.)

Understanding how recipients behave towards your messages will help get email delivered to the inbox. Review your metrics, test and take action to earn inbox placement. We hope you’ll take the extra steps to try one or all of the above recommended best practices!