Communicating with your existing and potential customers through email marketing is a highly cost-effective way to increase sales, generate repeat business and build stronger relationships with the people who matter to your business most.
But all your efforts to produce content will be wasted if your emails never reach the inbox, and it could be your sending practices that are standing in the way. The reason for this is that delivery success (deliverability) is determined by what’s known as your ‘sender reputation score’. Things like sending HTML emails only (no plain text version), not maintaining subscriber lists, and too many recipient complaints (people clicking ‘junk’ when they get your email) all contribute to negatively affecting your “score”.
Consequences of a Bad Reputation
If you have a bad sender reputation score, you will be deemed by ISP’s as ‘untrustworthy’. What’s considered untrustworthy will differ from one ISP to another but if your score is bad enough that you get blacklisted, you’re looking at a frustrating road to recovery.
A study conducted by Return Path – a research company who specialise in email certification and scoring – found that 77% of the time an email is not delivered to an inbox, it’s due to poor sender reputation.
Protecting Your Reputation
To achieve maximum delivery rates you must establish a good sender reputation, and maintain it. Below are a few best practice do’s and don’ts to help keep you off the blacklist and in the inbox.
Bad Reputation Contributors:
Never ever send commercial email to people you don’t have permission from. You only have permission if the person has given consent to receive commercial messages from your business. While consent can be given over the phone or face-to-face (e.g. when swapping business cards) you are obliged to clearly state that is the case, and you must also keep a record of every instance where consent is given, including who gave consent, and how.
Be mindful of sending high volumes of email. If you’re distributing email campaigns through your company server you should be aware that doing bulk sends can attract unwanted attention from ISPs. What’s considered “bulk” varies from one ISP to the next and unfortunately this is not something they’ll reveal. If word got out, real spammers would then know what volume to limit their sends to.
If you’re not spam, don’t dress like spam. Spam filters are finely tuned to detect anything that even smells like spam, so avoid the temptation to:
- write content USING ALL CAPS (especially in your subject line)
- send one big image instead of creating an HTML email
- highlight text by making the font bright red or green
- create a campaign that doesn’t include a plain text version (as well as HTML).
The list above is just a few elements to be aware of. A good way to get yourself familiar with what spam mail looks like is to browse through your email junk folder.
Good Reputation Contributors:
Keep your subscriber list “clean”. This means ensuring that everyone on your list is an active subscriber with a correct and current email address. Spammers use lists that are choc-full of invalid addresses and out-of-date information, which is why ISPs monitor mail outs to target those with a high bounce rate.
Make it easy to unsubscribe. Ideally you should offer a one-click ‘instant unsubscribe’ link in every campaign you send. Not only is it illegal to not provide an unsubscribe option, you’re only doing yourself a disservice by a) annoying the people you want as customers and, b) enticing recipients to click “report spam” when they can’t find the unsubscribe link.
Clearly identify yourself. People forget, very easily. So it’s good idea to be consistent with your ‘from name and address’ which, aside from the subject line, is the first thing people see in their inbox. If they don’t instantly recognise who the email is from they may be tempted to click “junk”!
Include a friendly reminder. It helps to reassure people that they did consent to receiving your email campaigns by including a sentence along the lines of: “You are receiving this email because you subscribed via our website.”