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Email Marketing Inbox Deliverability: POV

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Delivering email marketing to consumers requires an understanding of the technical best practices that enable marketers to ensure consumers are seeing their marketing emails. This presentation provides in-depth outline of sending best practices to ensure optimal delivery.

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Email Marketing Inbox Deliverability: POV

  1. 1. POV: Deliverability For Consumer Email Campaigns by Josue Sierra https://www.linkedin.com/in/josuesierra
  2. 2. This Point Of View provides best practices & recommendations for optimal email campaign deliverability.
  3. 3. History of Email Deliverability: Adapting 3 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011+ Negative benchmarks • Bounces • Volume • Connection limits • Crude filtering technologies Traditional filtering technology resulted in to many “false-positive”. This problem gave rise to more sophisticated spam tools • Complaint mechanisms • “Report Spam” • “Phishing” • Feedback Loops • Bayesian and other adaptive filters • “Not-Spam” functionality • Bad-link monitoring • Authentication (SPF, Sender ID, Domain Keys) GoodMail Inactives (AOL) Customer engagement In recent years, ISP’s are shifting more toward rewarding ‘good’ emails rather than just filtering the ‘bad’. As a result, major ISP’s including Gmail and Yahoo! are placing significant value on: • Opens • Clicks • Not spam And, of course, spam complaints continue to remain a major factor.
  4. 4. Page 4 Email engagement is now more important than ever!
  5. 5. • Sender reputation/score: Return Path reports that 83% of the time an email is not delivered to an inbox, it is due to a poor sender reputation. Poor reputation can be caused by poor list hygiene, low engagement, or high spam complaints. • Unpredictable Increases in Volume: The two most important factors that are considered in the volume metric are consistency and frequency. In order to not lose any points for volume, ensure your target list is clean, send mail on a more regular basis with a gradual increase in volume. ISPs are wary of IPs that are sending unpredictable mail streams and favor senders with consistent mailing patterns. • Spam filtering: Always check for spam triggers in email body content copy as part of your regular process. Even though ISPs are relying on Spam filtering in a lesser degree, you will want your AOR copy writers to use best practices to ensure your emails are not impacted. • Smart Inboxes: Recently the impact of Sender Reputation upon email delivery has been increased further through the launch of new ‘Smart Inbox’ features. Gmail’s ‘Priority Inbox’, which measures how users interact with emails from different senders, and decides whether or not those emails should be considered as priority, is the most notable example. Typically, emails from friends and colleagues are flagged as priority emails, and appear at the top of the inbox. Other ISPs such as Hotmail, Yahoo! and AOL have all followed suit, with inbox placement / prioritization techniques that reward known sender status and/or positive engagement (clicks, opens, etc) behavior. • Blacklist operators: Blacklists contain records of e-marketing activity that has been identified as spam-like in nature. ISPs, spam filter vendors, and domain administrators will use this information as a guideline to determine whether they will process or reject incoming emails. Many spam filter vendors also operate their own individual blacklists. Usually, major Enterprise email sending services have a Deliverability Management team that can work to ensure your emails stay off of any blacklists, and monitors these on an ongoing basis. Deliverability Problems Root Causes: * Email service providers are constantly innovating and updating their tool sets to prevent spam, so best practices continue to evolve over time.
  6. 6. What is “sender score”? A service of Return Path, the Sender Score algorithm rates the reputation of every outgoing mail server IP address on a scale from 0-100. Gathering data from over 60 million mailboxes at big ISPs like BellSouth and Comcast, Return Path records if people frequently unsubscribe or report spam from certain email senders, and then assigns you a Sender Score based on that monitoring. Your Sender Score will continue to change depending on email sending practices and the responses of email recipients. It is an important number to stay on top of, because mail servers will often check your Sender Score before deciding what to do with your emails. The lower the Sender Score, the harder time email marketers will have getting into someone's inbox. There are plenty of things that can impact the deliverability of your email, but Return Path reports that 83% of the time an email is not delivered to an inbox, it is due to a poor sender reputation.
  7. 7. The Impact of Email List Hygiene on Email • Poor email list hygiene or acquisition practices will impact marketers ability to deliver essential communications to working, opted-in, contactable consumers. • When deliverability goes down, our customers do not get our emails (even those who want to receive them). • The more we target and attempt to send emails to bad addresses or to un-engaged emails, the more good, contactable emails are blocked or sent to the spam folder (overlap). 7 Targeted unknown bad emails / undelivered / un-engaged emails. Targeted good contactable emails. Good emails that get blocked or sent to the spam folder. Targeting older acquired or unengaged emails increases the risk of targeting spam traps, which results in lower sender score & increases the risk of an ISP block.
  8. 8. Deliverability Recommendations: List Hygiene & Spam Words
  9. 9. Consumer Email List Acquisition Best Practices Welcome Message / First touch: We often see high bad address rates in association with welcome messages or similar “first-touch” email communications. This is caused by consumers that miss-type (fat-finger) their email address, or are intentionally entering an address they do not currently use or have access to. Best Practices & Recommendations: 1) Never purchase or acquire email lists (appends) for use in DTC campaigns. The risks and damage this practice does to sender reputation is near-impossible to overcome. 2) Make sure paper forms are designed for optimal clarity in writing the email, and provide explicit directions to improve handwritten entries. 3) Provide and communicate an incentive or value giving the consumer a reason to enter a valid, working email address. 4) Set up triggered “confirmation” emails that are sent as soon as the consumer submits their information. This will allow for a quick identification of bad addresses that can be flagged/scrubbed/suppressed from regular marketing campaigns. 5) Explicitly set expectations and communicate to the consumer that they will be receiving an initial email to confirm their “opt-in” (and to check Spam folder if they don’t see it in their inbox). This will help drive “not spam” clicks to ISPs, improving sender reputation and increasing consumer engagement. 6) Set up a separate warmed IP for “first touch” campaigns, so that any bad addresses that slip through do not harm the sender reputation score for other ongoing consumer email marketing. 7) Regularly schedule an Epsilon List Cleanse Solution across your targeted emails to ensure list quality. 9
  10. 10. Spam Keyword Considerations As indicated earlier, ISP’s have shifted more toward rewarding ‘good’ emails rather than just filtering the ‘bad’ or searching for keywords. That said, if you’re concerned about a possible spam keyword in your subject line causing problems, here are some recommendations: Recommendations: • Most email sending services have built-in Spam Check tool to check email body copy for potential issues. • You can check out this Spam Word list from Hubspot (and share with your AOR). http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/30684/The-Ultimate-List-of-Email- SPAM-Trigger-Words.aspx • Remember that not all of these words will be a potential threat to your reputation, and ongoing sender reputation monitoring is essential. • It is essential that you test any specific wording for actual impact and results. • Clarity and accuracy is more important than whether you use any given word. Most email service providers have matured beyond spam words, so best practices are significantly more important than the use of words that might be considered spammy. 10
  11. 11. Email Marketing Best Practices: Because ISPs value engagement to determine inbox placement and deliverability, email marketers should strive to follow Email Marketing best practices to maintain good sender reputation & help increase engagement.
  12. 12. • 60% of readers open email based on sender name • 55% open based on Preview pane • 53% open based on Main title / Headline –33% open based on Subject line »30% open based on Pre-header text *Lyris, 2010 What contributes to an email open?
  13. 13. The subject line copy should support the Friendly From line • The From information can be as important as the subject line. As a best practice, the From, Subject line and pre-header should work in tandem. The “From line” should communicate who you are as the sender and can help drive relevance when the recipient recognizes who the email is from. • As much as possible, this entry should not change and should concisely convey who you are. • As always, use AB testing methodology to determine the optimal “FROM” line, and occasionally test new “from” lines to ensure you’re still using the right one. Sender Name: From “Friendly” Text 13
  14. 14. Sender name examples Page 14 Supplemental Recognizable Poor use of sender name and address Keeping it short: Before & After Before After
  15. 15. Traditionally, subject lines (SL) should be 48 characters or less • Shorter subject lines generally have higher open rates than long ones. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) sometimes truncate subject lines, so keeping them under 48 characters will help you avoid getting cut off. • Make sure you front-load the subject line so the key information appears first, in case it does get truncated. • Make sure your subject line complements your pre-header text (see page 16). Subject Line Optimal Length 15
  16. 16. • Subject lines should be considered within your overall branding & messaging strategy • Caution: Testing random subject lines haphazardly without a clear strategy will not net strong results and higher engagement + conversion • Each subject line test should be considered a stepping stone to improvement. This will require consistent, ongoing tracking of results. • To know if a subject-line works well, test the style/format/concept 2-3 times as closely related as possible. Specifically, a new subject line idea may garner a giant increase one week, but not the next; however, analyze findings and continue to tweak + improve results. • Minimize variables between test subject lines. Make the test as clean as possible. Use the exact same pre-header text and email template/creative/content. • Remember that Open Rates do not offer results on their own • You can’t convert without CTOR! Opens + CTOR = Conversion Subject Line: Test, test, & test again! 16
  17. 17. The Pre-header Text (PHT) should payoff the subject line • Always make sure you’re using a pre-header. The “pre-header” area can be as important as the subject line. Many email service providers and mobile devices (Gmail, iPhone, etc.) will render this text ancillary to the subject line, creating the opportunity for a “second subject line” of sorts. • The “pre-header” is the first 50-75 characters (depending on the environment) of a message’s body and if you’re not creating and including an intentional, strategic pre-header text, the email software will typically render the boilerplate text (Can’t see images? Click here to view in HTML). The best practice is to complement and supplement your subject line with a pre-header text, and make sure to always include a call-to-action link as part of your pre-header. PHT’s work in tandem with subject lines, or neither do their job very well. Pre-Header Text (PHT) 17
  18. 18. To use symbols, or not to use symbols? Symbols have become increasingly popular in email subject lines. There isn’t enough conclusive data on the use of symbols to provide any insights as to it’s effectiveness or not. So, if you’re considering this, make sure you test first to determine if there is a lift or suppressions in engagement. • Not all symbols are created equal! • Unicode and ASCii have different special character sets as well as different levels of support in email clients and browsers • What are ASCii special characters? – ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) | + = ? (List of HTML codes for ASCii characters) • What are Unicode characters? – (List of HTML codes for Unicode characters) • Monitor delivery rates for an increase in SPAM complaints • Analyze KPIs other than simply Open Rates • High opens do not always translate to high Click-to-Open (CTOR) and conversion 18
  19. 19. Mobile Engagement: Designing Email for Mobile Devices
  20. 20. Remember: Design for a small screen!  One column works best.  Use links in the header space.  Keep layout clean and font size large enough.  Keep messaging clear and concise throughout.  Don’t overload with images.  Test layouts on mobile to ensure it renders correctly. IMPORTANT: Keep in mind the journey after the email: Is your website mobile-optimized, & is your content available on the mobile version of your site?
  21. 21. • Engagement is the #1 priority for effective DTC email marketing. • Consider creative and copy best practices as outlined. • Test, test, test. • Track email engagement, and segment target lists by engagement levels (engaged, nappers, unengaged). • Set up re-engagement campaigns to email records that are unengaged within 3 months. • Maintaining good List Hygiene from end-to-end is of utmost importance. • The more we target and attempt to send emails to bad addresses or to un-engaged emails, the more our sender reputation suffers, and the more good, contactable emails are blocked or sent to the spam folder. • Design email creative with mobile in mind, & test for best practices. • Consider leveraging mobile device-of-open pixel tracking to better understand and target your audience according to device of open (mobile vs desktop). • Triggered messages have shown stronger engagement (opens, clicks). Look for as many ways to use real-time messaging emails based on consumer actions to help drive relevance and higher engagement. Summary & Recommendations:
  22. 22. Addendum
  23. 23. Email Creative Definitions Header (Preview Pane) Pre-header Body Footer Sender name Sender address Subject line Fold
  24. 24. The CAN-SPAM Act: A law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations. * The following should not be construed as legal advice.
  25. 25. The CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000, so non-compliance can be costly. Following is a rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements: The CAN-SPAM Act 25* The following should not be construed as legal advice.
  26. 26. 1. Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message. 2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message. 3. Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement. 4. Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. 5. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet- based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. 6. Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. 7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. The CAN-SPAM Act Compliance Guide 26* The following should not be construed as legal advice.
  27. 27. DO • Do include your valid physical postal address in every email you send out. • Do provide a clear and obvious way to opt out of every email you send out, and honor the unsubscribe within 10 business days. • Do use clear "From," "To," and "Reply to" language that accurately reflects who you are. This applies to the person or business sending the message, as well as the domain name and email address. DON'T • Don't sell or transfer any email addresses to another list. • Don't make it hard to unsubscribe from emails. You cannot 1) charge a fee 2) require a recipient to provide personally identifying information beyond an email address, or 3) make recipients take extensive steps other than simply replying to an email or visiting a single page on a website to unsubscribe themselves from your emails. • Don't use deceptive subject lines in your emails that misrepresent the contents of your message. CAN-SPAM Do’s & Don’ts: 27* The following should not be construed as legal advice.

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