August 3, 2020
How to maintain your sender reputation to improve email deliverability
20% of commercial emails never reach the intended recipient’s inbox
Building and maintaining a strong sender reputation is a key element to ensuring your emails land in your contacts’ inbox and avoid the dreaded Spam folder. In fact, over 20% of commercial emails never reach the intended recipient’s inbox (Return Path). For businesses investing in email as part of their marketing strategy, poor deliverability will have an immediate impact on the ROI of that channel, and their overall success at lead generation, lead management, and retention.
There are currently 3.9 billion daily email users, a number expected to grow to 4.3 billion by 2023 (Statista, 2020). In addition to the volume of users, in recent times email has become even more relevant. According to a June 2020 report, since the beginning of COVID-19 there has been a 44% increase in email sends as companies look to communicate how they are responding to the global pandemic, keeping audiences updated on changes, and ensuring they remain ‘top-of-mind.’ There has been a corresponding increase in open rates, highlighting how audiences are interested in hearing what brands have to say, and engaging with them through email.
In order to understand sender reputation, we asked our Head of Customer Success Jillian Sands what tips she gives to customers on how to build and monitor that reputation, and optimize marketing accordingly.
Tips for building and maintaining sender reputation
Sender reputation is directly related to engagement. Positive user engagements will score positively against your reputation, whilst too many negative engagements will see your sends placed in spam folders. There’s no one silver bullet to address reputation, it requires a holistic approach to your email marketing strategy. However, these are the five tips I use as a starting point when working with my clients at Autopilot.
1) Maintain a high-quality marketing database
A clean list is a must when it comes to getting your emails delivered to your subscribers’ inboxes. If your subscribers are unengaged, this will reduce the engagement rates (opens and clicks). Email clients use these engagement metrics to judge the quality of your sends. So if you are sending numerous emails to contacts that don’t engage, it can hurt your reputation long term.
The first step to building a great marketing database is to ensure you are collecting contacts that want to hear from you. Depending on your location, there are data privacy laws that you’ll need to be compliant with as well. I recommend using a double opt-in and having easy unsubscribe or opt-down options available.
I also recommend using engagement scoring to identify contacts that are actively engaging with your emails. This also helps you identify any contacts whose behaviour indicates that email might not be the most effective marketing channel, and you can reach them in a different way, such as SMS or through social channels.
2) Send great content at the right time
The more engaged your contacts are, the better chance your email has of landing in the inbox. Use personalization to customize your marketing sends and build your Journeys to reach contacts at key milestone moments in their customer journey.
When writing your emails, avoid triggering spam filters and make your emails more engaging by following these tips:
- Avoiding red flags such as messages in ALL caps, the use of too many exclamation marks!!!!!, emails missing an unsubscribe button, and links to dodgy websites.
- Stop using any of these 202 spam trigger words in your subject lines.
- Maintain a good text to image ratio (60/40 is a good rule).
- Keep it simple - avoid unnecessary formatting and keep the total size of the email under the clipping limit (102kb’s in Gmail).
- Send the email from a real person - ideally yourself. People want to read emails from a person.
The goal of the email is to engage the reader, so think about what will capture their attention and optimize for this. Write like you are having a conversation with your contacts, and always include a strong call to action.
3) Optimize your sends for deliverability
If you do have to send a big batch send, stagger the send by engagement. This way, your most engaged contacts will receive the send first, boosting the likelihood of your email ending up in the inbox.
You can also suppress contacts from less important sends (like your newsletter) while they are in more high-touch stages of their customer lifecycle like Onboarding. This will ensure that they aren’t overwhelmed by touchpoints, and getting the most valuable and engaging messages from you at the right time.
4) Ensure that your whole company is aligned on good sending practices
Sender reputation is impacted by your domain (e.g: @autopilothq.com) and the I.P address that you are using to send emails. If other teams in your company are using your sending domain and not following best practices, this can impact everyone using the domain. The biggest example we see of this is sending outbound prospecting emails from the same domain as your marketing communication.
5) Monitor your reputation
Use a tool like Google Postmaster to monitor your reputation. This handy (free) tool monitors things like I.P health, Domain Reputation and Spam Rates. It’s a great way to get an overview of your reputation in certain areas and see where you can improve.