Email marketing campaigns are a great way to grow your customer base and generate substantial return on investment. Of the available channels used to reach potential customers and current clients, from social media to cold calling, email marketing ranks at the top. In fact, studies show that “[e]mail averages a return on investment (ROI) of $40 for every $1 spent, far outstripping banner ads ($2) and keyword ads ($17).”
Yet, deliverability is a critical issue to consider. No matter how creative, informative, and well-written an email may be, it may still be intercepted by a SPAM filter. According to Return Path, only 81% of emails sent from commercial email senders reach inboxes. “[O]ne of every five emails lands either in a spam or junk folder (7%) or simply go missing – blocked by ISP-level filtering (12%).
Many email clients and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) implement strict policies with regards to SPAM filtering. As a result, it can be very difficult for marketers to ensure that their email campaigns actually land in people’s inboxes. The details of these filters are kept highly confidential and the only insight available derives primarily from email marketing blogs that offer limited guidance about what will cause an email to be flagged as SPAM. As a result, the recipe for hitting a subscriber’s inbox is still very much a creative process. Factors that play a significant role in deliverability include template design and coding, content configuration, subject line, sender address and sender reputation.
So how can you be sure that your emails aren’t hitting the dreaded SPAM folder? The following five methods are the tips and tricks that The Expert Institute uses to ensure that our company’s weekly newsletters continue hitting our subscriber’s inboxes. These techniques saved our email marketing campaigns from the SPAM folder’s deathly grasp and enable our business to continue benefiting from successful email marketing campaigns.
1. Remove Inactive Subscribers from your Email List
The first step to better deliverability starts with cleaning your subscriber list. Many companies acquire massive email subscriber lists over an extended period of time without ever removing inactive subscribers. Yet, purging inactive subscribers is critical to your email marketing campaign’s success. Having a higher ratio of opened to unopened emails will help to ensure that they remain in the good graces of the ISP’s.
2. Become a Verified Sender through Email Authentication
Whether you’re running your own mail server or using a third party email service provider, it’s important to implement the necessary verification standards for sending emails. This ensures that ISP recognizes you as the organization that’s actually sending the email, rather than a spammer.
The three most popular email authentication methods are known as Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Sender ID, and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM).
SPF, the method used by AOL and Gmail, verifies the mail server and the email address that is sending the message. This enables the receiver’s mail service to “evaluate your sending IP address in the public Domain Name System (DNS).”
Sender ID, Microsoft’s authentication method utilized by MSN Hotmail, verifies the email sender’s IP address by examining the “from” address recipients see.
DKIM authenticates emails by creating a “key” that is included in the email message headers. ISPs use the key to verify the sender and make sure tha the email was not altered in transit. This method is utilized by Yahoo, AOL, and Gmail. Hotmail uses it as a backup to Sender ID.
Implementing every email authentication standard available will greatly improve your email deliverability rate.
3. Avoid SPAM Trigger Words
Engaging and interesting content is not enough to ensure that your email will be read. Email providers have become quite skilled and adept at trapping certain emails based on trigger words. Even seemingly innocent words such as “chance,” “opportunity,” and “solution” are problematic. Featuring a case study or a current events article dealing with settlements is always headache inducing for our marketing team (just try figuring out ways to avoid eye catching words like “billion” and “settlement” when discussing a newsworthy case!) For a list of words to avoid, check out the great compilation Hubspot has assembled.
4. Provide a Relevant Subject Line
Many business owners ignore the importance of sending emails with strong subject lines. However, a successful subject line is critical to an email’s success. Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential re-election campaign featured emails with such subject lines as “Join me for dinner?” “It’s officially over,” “It doesn’t have to be this way,” or just “Wow.” His campaign fundraising strategy was praised for its use of engaging and inviting subject lines.
To ensure that your email passes the SPAM filter and is presented in your subscriber’s inbox, craft subject lines that are relevant to the body of your email. A receiver must be able to quickly discern the sender and the emails purpose from the subject line. Using spammy words like “free” or “open immediately” or using excessive punctuation may trigger email clients and ISPS to view your email as junk mail.
5. Use SPAM Testing Platforms Prior to Sending Emails
A number of platforms allow your company to test an email’s deliverability. Many even provide a preview of how your email template will be featured on the top email clients. Email on Acid and Litmus are two examples of services that allow users to test email marketing campaigns. While Litmus offers a 7-day free trial and allows up to 10 users on one account, Email on Acid offers a cheaper monthly subscription than Litmus. Regardless of which provider you end up choosing, testing prior to every email campaign helps ensure that all of the major email clients will accept the email, properly render the email template on the major email clients, maintain adequate responsive design on mobile devices, and additionally check for IP blacklisting.
About the Author
The Expert Institute is a New York-based company that custom recruits subject matter experts for leading law firms and financial services companies. We are a young, innovative company focused on utilizing the latest technologies to streamline operations and enhance the customer experience. If you would like to connect with The Expert Institute, please follow us on Google+.