Given its importance to both the business community and personal communications, email remains surprisingly mysterious. Many people don’t know the technical processes that occur after clicking ‘send’, which is why successful email delivery rates are often achieved in spite of – rather than because of – user involvement. Sending a message is no guarantee that it’ll be received, and an email that doesn’t arrive represents a waste of resources.
From a business perspective, successful email delivery is crucial to maintaining relationships with existing customers, as well as targeting new ones. However, it isn’t fair to expect your email provider or ISP to work miracles on your behalf. A number of factors can impact the likelihood of a message avoiding blocking and filtering mechanisms en route to its intended recipient(s). To minimise these, companies should undertake the following steps to ensure successful email delivery…
1. Don’t run before you can walk.
The internet service providers acting on behalf of your recipients will block messages they perceive to be spammy or low quality. And the best way to build a reputation is slowly. Rather than sending out a thousand messages in a single BCC as your first e-mailshot, distribute small batches of messages once a week, to willing recipients. High open/response rates will improve the reputation of your domain name organically over time. Ratings can be checked using platforms like Sender Score and ReturnPath, which calculate everything from successful email delivery volumes to unsubscribe levels.
2. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe.
If people can’t easily unsubscribe from communiques they no longer wish to receive, they might mark the message as spam. This has a detrimental effect on the domain’s respectability and should be prevented at all costs. As well as signing people up with double opt-ins, place a prominent Unsubscribe link in every message. This ensures messages aren’t sent to dormant addresses, such as email accounts provided by ISPs to departed customers. Cancelled or inactive email accounts trigger hard-bounce returns, damaging the sender’s reputation.
3. Use a dedicated noreply@ or communications@ address for mailshots.
Mailshots shouldn’t be sent from an individual staff member’s email account. Instead, create a dedicated subdomain like firstname.lastname@example.org. Encourage people to save the address as a trusted sender, moving messages from spam folders to inboxes. Over time, recipients will add the address to their sender whitelists, reassuring ISPs about the message’s legitimacy. This also enables you to monitor distribution and response rates more accurately than if the same account was simultaneously being used for one-to-one correspondence.
4. Avoid spam associations.
In the Noughties, email endured a torrid time as a result of unscrupulous spammers. ISPs tightened up their procedures, and messages containing dubious terms or phrases were preventatively blocked – particularly in Subject lines. This has made it harder to achieve successful email delivery for marketing communications, with certain words (‘free’, ‘save’, etc) carrying spammy connotations. It’s also advisable to avoid dollar signs, capitalisation or exclamation marks in Subject lines. Aim for email titles of between seven and 15 words.
5. Design messages to look good on mobile, not desktop.
If a message looks smart and punchy on a smartphone screen, it’ll also be presentable on a desktop monitor. However, the reverse isn’t always true. Most emails are opened on mobile devices, and users won’t waste time reopening a badly-formatted message once they’re at a computer. They’ll delete it, mark it as spam or unsubscribe – all detrimental to your domain’s reputation. Adopt mobile-responsive templates, and always test the message on a personal account (proofreading it closely) before dispatching it to everyone.