A guide with actionable tips on how to best ensure that your emails (1) make it to your subscriber's inbox, (2) are compelling enough to open, and (3) have the most effective design and content possible. Recorded on 10/24/12 by UMGD.
Reputation 101 Return Path has formed relationships with ISPs to provide transparency to inbox standards so you know exactly what these thresholds are and can take steps to fix it. Our tools and services are designed to provide visibility into the inbox so you know exactly where your email was delivered by ISP and campaign. Armed with this information, you can effectively diagnose, fix and prevent deliverability problems so you can maintain a good sender reputation. At Return Path we focus on how to get email successfully delivered, and that means delivered to the INBOX! I will give you an overview of Reputation and discuss reasons why email doesn’t reach the inbox.
Email is a great developing active and loyal subscribers, but what good is it…. http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-5631879-lone-box-on-warehouse-floor.php
You know the value of your email program. Therefore, emails that are never delivered are best left unsent. And dollars spent on undelivered email is a waste of your valuable marketing budget.
Non-delivery (which are messages not delivered at all or delivered to the junk/bulk folder) – has started to level off around 20%. *** This is why placement in the inbox is so important. Many marketers think they know how well they are doing because of reports that report a “delivered rate.” Often this isn’t the case and many of those emails might have been bounced or blocked. You send the mail out, its just not certain that the mail is going to get there. Uncertainty of inbox placement is a very real economic problem for marketers. ***NOTE: Stress that the 20% is not UMG specific, rather, it’s “overall” email marketing. http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-3225834-spam-in-mailbox.php
And that uncertainly directly affects email ROI. The bottom line is that you’ll lose revenue and the email channel becomes a less effective tool for you. You’ll start to see your email delivered to the bulk / junk / spam folder. This means that a greater portion of your file will never see your emails, and timely marketing messages will be received too late. Again, your entire email program and revenue suffers if you don’t pay attention to your email deliverability.
So What is a marketer to do? Focus on REPUTATION! A lot of marketers think content is a key factor, but reputation is the key to the inbox as it is all based on your email sending behavior. Most ISPs and filtering applications use reputation as the PRIMARY factor in blocking decisions. ISPs use your sender reputation to make filtering decisions. A poor reputation means, your email will get blocked. Return Path has services and tools that measure sender reputation, and through our analysis of sender data, we have found that 77% of the time (conservative estimate), it’s your reputation that impacts email delivery. To fill you in on the rest of the percentages that impact email delivery…17% of the time, your content will impact your delivery, and 6% of the time your delivery is impacted by the reputation of domains or links that are part of the email content.
Unfortunately, the rules of the “deliverability” road aren’t clear. If you go to ISP postmaster pages, it’s not always easy to understand how an ISP decides to either block or deliver your emails. And what may be true at Hotmail may not be true at Yahoo! or Comcast. In fact, they all have different thresholds for the key metrics used to determine reputation and therefore inbox placement. Clients come to us with a lot of hypotheses: It’s the content: “If I had just taken ‘sale!!!” out of my subject line” or Their ESP isn’t doing the job: “Isn’t it the ESPs’ job to get my mail delivered” Ideally, the same rules would apply everywhere, but it doesn’t causing a lot of confusion for the sender. http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-illustration-3154505-boys.php
So, putting it all together, there are 6 factors that drive reputation, 5 of them are factored into a sender’s IP reputation: Today we’ll focus on Complaints, List Hygiene, Message Quality and Engagement. Complaints List hygiene (spam traps and unknown users) Sending Infrastructure – managed by UMGD Sending Permanence (IP) – managed by UMGD Rendering and message quality – using Inbox Preview Engagement – removing subscribers when they are no longer opening your email
WHAT ARE COMPLAINTS? There are a few different ways a subscriber can register a complaint: Your customer hits the “report spam” button (or equivalent) Your customer sends a complaint to a filtering application (like Cloudmark’s Spam Net) or a complaint-driven blacklist (like SpamCop) Your customer complains about you to the postmaster or administrator of their Mail Service Provider Complaints are THE most important factor in determining reputation. If your subscribers are complaining about your email, then ISPs are going to act by blocking your mail.
Can complaint issues be resolved? YES! There are 5 ways you can reduce complaints: Manage the registration process so that it meets your subscribers future expectations. Send a welcome message after someone registers with you Give subscribers a positive choice and make choices granular Give them a good idea of what they will receive Give instructions on address book inclusion Always respect unsubscribe requests. Make it easy for folks to unsubscribe (instead of hit “spam”) from your email make sure the unsubscribe process works. Sign up for feedback loops – Feedback loops will give you the data you need to pull complainers off of your list 3. Recognition: Make sure your emails are clear and well branded Use consistent from, reply, subject elements Why would you do this – If your message does not look quite right, a subscriber may accidentally complain Understand that content/program relevancy impacts behavior. Use the appropriate mailing frequency. Do not send too much email and bombard your subscribers, on the other hand do not send too little and leave them hanging. We often hear individuals unsubscribe due to the large volume of email they are receiving that was unexpected. Stay consistent Use customization and personalization Use Target messaging Conduct complaint analysis. A few things to think about are: (managed by RP/UMGD) If you have non responders stop mailing to them – they will lead to trouble down the road. Are new subscribers complaining? Consider the relevancy of the emails you are sending them Are complaints coming from a particular data source? Kill or re-permission that bad data Is the frequency causing complaints? Lessen or increase frequency as needed
The 2 nd step to having a good reputation is list hygiene. Keep your list clean and full of people who are excited to get your mail! There are 2 kinds of email addresses that I am going to discuss that if left off of your list can help keep your reputation at it’s best. How do I keep my list free of unknown users or spam traps? Here are some ways to do just that! 1. Review your data collection to ensure you are getting good data up front: the most common techniques are double opt-in and welcome messages. 2. Review your internal bounce categorization routine to ensure you are regularly removing bad or inactive addresses 3. Monitor Blacklists that focus on mailers who hit spam traps
Next up we have Content… SO WHAT’S THE CHALLENGE? 17% of filtering is due to message content Most email readers now block images by default, so don’t rely on images to communicate your message The huge variety of email readers and environments means you MUST test every message before sending WHAT CAN YOU DO? *WE ADDED TO THE FIRST LINE* Test, and test again before sending new campaigns...make sure you’re testing your email with the Return Path Seed List. Update your email templates to comply with the new rendering treatments in Outlook 2007, Windows Live Hotmail, etc. Ask your subscribers to add you to their personal safe list…this is the only way to get images on with some ISPs
Inbox Preview is the pre-deployment tool that allows you to see how your campaign renders at the various INBOXES. You can also run your template through a content assessment that checks for things like HTML errors and spam words as well as a Spam Filter Check to see if your mail is going to pass through numerous filters.
Now let’s talk through Subscriber engagement. This evaluates how highly your subscribers regard your mail. ISPs have been leveraging user feedback for years in the form of complaints and are now getting even more specific in their measurements. What can you do about subscriber engagement? Some of the questions to ask yourself when thinking about your subscribers and making sure they are engaged is: Are subscribers opening and clicking through your emails? Are subscribers replying? Are subscribers clicking the “This Is Not Spam” button? It's the primary way that many ISPs get a feel for whether they are making a mistake in placing a message in a junk/bulk folder. Certain senders try to game reputation systems and mail to a large number of inactive accounts to bulk the denominator in the complaint rate metric since inactive accounts don't hit the report spam button. Some senders will take this a step further and set up accounts at an ISP to register "this is not spam" votes for their messages. Mailbox providers have responded by reviewing only reporting from active, engaged accounts that don't look dormant or look like they have been set up for the purpose of gaming. Those are some of the ways that ISPs are measuring Engagement. Several of the top tier ISP’s are using engagement. A couple of examples are… AOL: AOL has publically stated that they are including trusted reporter data in their filtering algorithms Yahoo is measuring "activity" engagement: open, clicks, adding to address book, etc. They also look at “ThisIsNotSpam” data. Hotmail: Looks at panel data and TINS data Comcast: TINS data Gmail: Gmail has not published how they’re measuring and using engagement data.
Email Engagement: From Inbox To Open To Click
Email Engagement From Inbox to Open to Click Presented by UMGD Eric Roe Jeff Wood Bridget Ferris Manager of CRM Coordinator of CRM Social Marketing CoordinatorEric.Roe@umusic.com Jeff.Wood@umusic.com Bridget.Ferris@umusic.com With Special Guest: Christine Cheas Account Manager Christine.Cheas@returnpath.com
I. Deliverability Inbox Why Your Reputation REALLY Matters
What good is your email if yoursubscribers never see it?
Can complaints be reduced? • Manage the registration process so that it meets your subscribers expectations • Always respect unsubscribe requests • Recognition • Understand that content/program relevancy impacts behavior • Conduct complaint analysis
Keep your subscriber list healthy! Unknown Users Spam Traps
Message Quality So What’s the Challenge? •17% of filtering is due to message content •Most email readers block images, so don’t rely on images to communicate message •The huge variety of email readers means you MUST test before sending What Can You Do? •Test, and test again before sending new campaigns...make sure you’re testing your email with the Return Path Seed List •Update your email templates to comply with new rendering treatments in Outlook 2007, Hotmail, etc. •Ask subscribers to add you to their personal safe list
Subscriber EngagementWhat can you do about subscriber engagement? 1. Ensure you are mailing to the most active users and purging aged/inactive subscribers 2. Be relevant! Ensure your messages are striking a chord with your subscribers and peak their interest 3. Remind your users to add you to their address bookTIP! Several of the top ISPs are using engagement metrics as a gauge for filtering. • AOL has publically stated that they are including trusted reporter data in their filtering algorithms • Yahoo is measuring "activity" engagement: open, clicks, adding to address book and TINS data. • Hotmail looks at panel data and TINS data • Comcast TINS data • Gmail has not published how they’re measuring and using engagement data.
II. Subject Lines Open • From Name gives people an idea of who’s emailing – 73% of subscribers click “Spam” or “Junk” based on this • Subject Lines that are relevant and interesting invites opens – 69% of subscribers click “Spam” or “Junk” based on this
Subject Line Tips • No more than 60 characters • Avoid spam triggers like “Free” and Which subject lines drive the most opens? exclamation marks • Utilize personalization to make messages feel targeted • Call out featured content - subscribers don’t like to feel misled • Be creative!
III. Content & Design Click• Preview Pane gives fans a quick glimpse• Images Off – Is your key message visible enough for people to keep reading?• Content Above the Fold – Are you persuading people to scroll further?• Test in Return Path
Complete Email & Click Through• Food For Thought – Subscribers spend seconds reading your email – How will you catch their eye? – Average of 11% subscribers scroll below the fold• The Click Through – Subscriber experience doesn’t end with the inbox – Make sure click through doesn’t require your fan to search – Send fans to the specific location they need to sign up, purchase, view, etc.
Email Design BasicsNewsletter Considerations • Main call-to-action within the preview pane • Develop a visual hierarchy for headings and body copy for easy scan-ability • Keep content concise - link to site for more information • Use images selectively for engagement areas • Use “table of contents” section for long newsletters
Email Design BasicsAlert Considerations• Alert Email: Short, postcard like• Great For: – Highlighting a key release or event – Short message from the artist, re- introduction email• Single focus, don’t turn it into a newsletter!
Email Design BasicsMobile Considerations• UMG fans over index and open 25% of emails on mobile devices• Ensure email width is no larger then 600 pixels to reduce scrolling• Increase font size in main message for better readability• Use less words• Test emails using Return Path’s Campaign Preview
Further Engagement IdeasRelationship Emails• Social is the party. Email is the intimate date. – Use the right messages to keep the relationship going• Re-engage with fans at least 2-3 months before• Send Alert type emails in between releases
Further Engagement IdeasRelationship Emails – Content Ideas• Send an email on a fan’s birthday• Use artist anniversaries as a reminder for catalog favorites• Thank fans when the artist is nominated for/ wins an award• Acknowledge winners of a sweepstakes
Email Engagement Recap Deliverability: Take charge of your sender reputation by complaint minimization, list hygiene, message quality, & engagement Subject Lines: Choose fun & curious subject lines to keep subscribers intrigued Content & Design: Test to make sure your email design is functional, logical and optimized for all browsers & devices