Resolve to Improve Email Deliverability in the New Year

Improve your email deliverability in 2018.

This holiday season saw a record number of package deliveries, and with that, a record number of package delivery problems — particularly theft. Nearly one-third of Americans have had a package stolen from their doorstep, and some of them are fighting back. People are coming up with creative ways to deal with package theft, from cameras to keys to Amazon boxes filled with kitty litter.

Why? Because those packages are important. When you’re rush-delivering that smartwatch 3 days before Christmas, getting the completed delivery counts. But as people sometimes forget, deliveries aren’t complete when the driver drops the package on the doorstep; they’re not complete until the buyer brings them inside. As that one-third will tell you, the doorstep is where many of the delivery problems go down.

It’s a dilemma that might sound vaguely familiar to email marketers. Getting the email delivered is the (usually) easy part; it’s getting those emails delivered to the inbox that can prove more challenging. And if those emails are delivered to the spam folder, it can be as if they were never delivered at all.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to boost your chances of making it to the inbox. While improving your email deliverability might not be as fun as duping delinquents with dirty diapers, it can be just as satisfying (and it smells nicer too). Here are a handful of things to think about as you stake out your front porch and wait for a thief to set off your sweet decoy package trap.

Grow your email list.

When engagement metrics play a significant role in inbox placement, an engaged email audience is a good sign to mailbox providers to keep sending your emails through to the inbox. That’s why improving deliverability can often come down to improving engagement. You can start by inviting your engaged site visitors to come engage in the inbox.

A bigger email list can help you achieve a number of goals — namely revenue — but it can also help you land more emails in the inbox. New subscribers tend to be twice as engaged as the seasoned veterans of your list, and an effective email capture strategy will help you win more of those engaged users over to your email list. For instance, an active capture widget with a contextual offer will pull in more new subscribers than, say, a static form buried in your footer.

Once you’ve got your audience over to your list, engage new subscribers immediately with a solid welcome email. Welcome emails tend to see double the open rates of other emails — another good sign that leads to a positive sending reputation.

Always send from a warm IP address.

If you have a reputation for sending good email, odds are that ISPs will take note of your IP’s sending reputation and place more of your emails in the inbox. But what if you haven’t established a reputation yet? In that case, inboxes will subject your email to extra scrutiny, which means you have to make sure the reputation you’re building is a good one.

Whether you’re just changing IPs or migrating to a new email service provider, new IPs should be handled with care. That means you can’t just move your entire list to a new IP and hit the blast button; you have to start small. Typically, the warm-up process involves moving a handful of your most engaged subscribers to the new IP first, then gradually ramping up your sending. That way, you build a rapport with inboxes without setting off any alarms.

By cozying up to your new IPs (ideally under the watchful eye of an expert deliverability consultant), you may prevent ISPs from delivering your emails in spam or even blocking them entirely. It can take months to warm up a new IP, but the solid sending reputation will be worth it.

Implement major sending changes gradually.

And it’s not just an IP switch that can impact your reputation. Even if you’re sending legit email, inbox providers will view any major change in your sending habits as suspiciously as a stealthy stranger following a UPS truck.

That’s why, like an IP migration, any significant shift in sending habits — from list size to email frequency — must be implemented gradually. For instance, if you want to beef up your email program from a single weekly digest newsletter to a dozen daily newsletters powered by automation, do it carefully. You’ve got a reputation to protect.

Keep up the quality of your email list.

Sometimes, your most engaged subscribers might go dark. They might change their email address, or perhaps even change their situation entirely, meaning a newsletter that was once highly relevant no longer matters to them. Whatever the case, if members of your email audience have stopped interacting with your messages, you can improve your engagement metrics by clearing your list of dormant subscribers.

Still, while you’re cleaning out old emails, it’s important to keep a bit of perspective. Rigorously scrubbing old subscribers might boost your open rates, but managing your email program to the wrong KPIs could be robbing yourself of opportunities in the inbox. After all, the bigger your email list, the bigger your revenue.

Instead of throwing these subscribers out entirely, try to bring them back around first. Consider reaching out to dormant subscribers with a re-engagement campaign. If once-engaged subscribers to a daily newsletter aren’t clicking like they used to, use list segmentation to move them down to a less frequent send. They might respond more favorably to a weekly digest.

Provide subscribers with a preference center.

Of course, no two subscribers are alike. The best way to land on the optimal amount of email sent to an individual subscriber is simply to ask that subscriber.

By implementing a preference  center, you ensure your emails are relevant to the subscriber, potentially increasing engagement. You also make it easy for subscribers to opt out of the emails they don’t want, which could cut down on spam complaints. Too many spam complaints, and your sending reputation could suffer, so it’s in your interest as a sender to make this process as seamless as possible.

Still, by directing potential opt-outs to a place to manage their email preferences, you have a chance to hold onto them by allowing them to opt into a more comfortable sending frequency. You might even pique their interest with a specialized newsletter they didn’t know about before. Either way, you stay connected with the audiences who want your content, and you help more of your emails to get delivered.

Editor, PostUp PlayBook