How to improve your Deliverability Whitepaper Improving results together

How to improve
your Deliverability
Improving results together
How to improve
your Deliverability
How to improve
your Deliverability
Five ways to get junked by recipients and how to avoid it ................................................................................................... 3
Five ways to get junked by a filter and how to avoid it .................................................................................................... 3 - 4
Top five ways ISPs measure your reputation .................................................................................................................... 5 -7
Top five ways to ruin your reputation and how to avoid it .............................................................................................. 7 - 8
Top five ways to improve your reputation .................................................................................................................... 9 - 10
Essentially all of the things included in this whitepaper are what you as an email marketer should strive for anyway. We hope
that this more definitive explanation may help motivate you to focus more on the recipient experience and better enable
your own hard work to excel and achieve its potential.
“Your deliverability is decided by your recipients’ reaction to your emails.” - Andy Thorpe
How to improve
your Deliverability
Five ways to get junked by recipients and how you can avoid it
There are lots of reasons why people might hit the spam button on your email marketing campaigns but most of them only
happen to cold emails where you have little or no rapport with the recipient. If you have high engagement, getting junked is
far less likely.
Here are five reasons why people may hit the junk button and some suggestions on how to avoid them.
1) Get their name wrong with your personalisation
People don’t like it if you get it wrong, if you are using personalisation in your emails: test, test, and test again. If you have
any doubts, then leave it out altogether.
If you have a decent rapport with your lists you should not need a lot of personalisation anyway, your brand name is enough.
For example I don’t need Amazon to address me by name, I know who they are and I know they know who I am, I don’t need
them to include my name in the email in order to spend money with them.
If you want to make sure you get it right, allow your recipients to add it and change it them selves using preference centres
and profiles.
2) Pretend a cold email is not a cold email
When sending an email to people who you have little rapport with, be mindful
and work more on increasing that rapport and engagement through a good
recipient experience, rather than rushing them to spend money. Think of it
as converting strangers to prospects before customers.
If they decide they don’t want your emails, they are more likely to hit spam
rather than unsubscribe if you have presumed a rapport that doesn’t exist.
Go out of your w
ay to
ensure a consist
and relevance th
out while focuss
on the recipients
3) Be dishonest in the subject line or from name to get the open
If you write “Win an Ipad” in your subject line and then don’t give them the chance to win an Ipad in the email, people will
probably think it’s junk because you lied. Don’t lie to get the open, recipients will dislike you.
This is obviously not a common occurrence but remember that people tend to make a lot of noise when it happens.
There is however an exception; where you have an engaged list and you go for a novelty subject line, that may not
completely reflect the content of the email but the humorous undertones coupled with the rapport you have with your
list can improve opens once in a while. For example, you could tell the first line of a joke that relates or sets the scene for
the angle of the email. It may not describe the contents of the email but it will convey the tone, and as long as you continue
it through the email this is totally acceptable. It also helps to add context and finish the joke, so to speak. Maybe even invite
replies or link to a discussion on your website or Facebook fan page.
In short, go out of your way to ensure a consistency and relevance through out while focussing on the recipients’ experience
being a good one and preferably a ‘remarkable’ one.
4) Make an email that recipients are unable to read
It may sound obvious but if you haven’t tested your email and just paste in a web page, it is unlikely that it will appear as you
expect at the other end. If a recipient cannot understand your email, or even who it is from, they will just think it is junk and
treat it as such.
How to improve
your Deliverability
Any useful email marketing company will have lots of testing features, from the ability to send free emails to various different
test addresses to see how they render, to an html content check, to full Inbox Previews. Make sure you have a good testing
process to follow with every email you send. And make sure the last thing you do is send a full delivery to a small list of your
own addresses and click every link to ensure you have done all you can to synthesise the campaign to your main list.
5) Assume permission
If someone gives you their address in the process of a transaction, on a business card or via LinkedIn, this does not mean that
they want to be on a list, be it yours or anyone else’s. Their spam button is their weapon against unsolicited emails and ISPs
make them more powerful everyday.
There have been various published studies, discussions and lawsuits where people have stayed within the letter of the law
but recipients have rebelled in bulk and a sender has found themselves blocked and/or the brand has gotten into trouble.
While the law may state that the soft-opt-in gives senders a bit more leeway than a confirmed opt-in, recipients are not fond
of it and subsequently nor are ISPs.
Ensure that the way people get on your list is an obvious and good experience for them and you will have engaged
subscribers who can deliver revenue: “The value of your email marketing list is decided by the opt-in experience”.
Five ways to get junked by a filter and how to avoid it
So much of an email marketer’s time is taken up making sure that emails don’t end up in the junk folder. Most content filters
are based around what spammers do, from the content structure to the words used to all parts of the email. Any decent
email marketing service provider will have a spam checking tool built in, using at least Spam Assassin, to test how likely it
is that your message will be confused with spam, based on the content. There are also dedicated services like Litmus,
Email on Acid and of course the giant Return Path toolset which will do the same thing.
Here’s my top five ways to get junked by a filter and tips on how to avoid it happening to your emails:
1) Get marked as spam & hit hard bounces a lot
Whether you are obeying only the letter of the law or just not giving your recipients a good experience, every time someone
hits the spam button your reputation goes down a bit and your from address and/or domain can easily find its way onto one
or more of many black lists. These lists are checked by inbox filters and if any part of your email is featured on a list, off to the
junk folder it will go.
So your deliverability is decided on by recipient reactions to your emails in many cases. Do your best to ensure a good
recipient experience and you can avoid the complaints.
This point in particular will be explored in more detail later on in this guide.
2) No plain text version
Before sending out an email you go through the rigorous process of testing your HTML rendering and appearance in
different inboxes, getting sign-off from managements etc, by the end of it you just need to get the email out in time. Then
you see your open rates are lower than you expected so you go back and find you forgot the plain text version. Not having a
plain text version will easily get your messages mixed up with spam; making it very likely that your email will get junked.
Any decent email marketing service provider will include a spam checker that includes at least Spam Assassin and this will
warn you if you do not have a plain text version.
How to improve
your Deliverability
3) Giant image and no text
Because spammers have tried to put their spammy content into images, so that junk filters can’t read the keywords, if you
have one big image and little or no text, your emails are far more likely to get confused for spam and find themselves in the
junk folder. The general rule is try to keep your image:text ratio to 60:40 in favour of text, to avoid being junked.
4) Spammy words in the subject line and content
The oldest way of filtering spam is picking out spammy keywords. If you use any of these in your content or subject lines,
the inbox’s filter will think your email is one of those old school spam emails and send it to the junk folder. Normally it is a
combination of two words rather than just one spammy word. For example an email that has the word ‘Guarantee’ in it with
an exclamation mark at the end will throw in a warning but without it, it won’t.
If you have the word ‘enlargement’ in the email or the word ‘breast’ you don’t have a problem but put the two together
‘breast enlargement’ and you get a warning and a score because your content is about enlarging body parts. It doesn’t work
with all body parts, only the obvious ones of course!
Again, much of this gets picked up by Spam Assassin, but not all, so testing to a personal address you have with each domain
that you might send to is a good as it will and help you test inbox placement.
5) Get accused of phishing
Going phishing (spamming) without even realising is easier than you
might think. Inbox filters look for URLS in your content, i.e. words that
start with http:// and/or www. And they will then try and make them
clickable because they are probably a link. If the text is already a link,
the filter will compare the link destination with the text. If they are not
the same, your email will be accused of phishing and often get sent to
the junk folder.
You may have se
en a pattern
in my offered so
lutions here,
but just to remov
e any ambiguity
the moral of the
story is to test,
test, test, refine &
Top five ways ISPs measure your reputation
Reputation is how many of the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) decide how many and quickly one sender can send to each
ISP per hour, per day etc. The lesser the reputation the less emails you can send. If you exceed the allowed volume speed
ISPs can start ‘deferring’ your emails. This is a kind of soft bounce, with the intention that the sender resend later when there
is less traffic. Unfortunately ISPs will never tell you what your allowance is, but the allowance is also dynamic based on your
reputation and how much traffic the ISP is getting at the time too.
Here are five main variables that ISPs use to identify a sender, many using more than one or all in unison. By familiarising
yourself with these variables you can be more savvy when building and sending your email marketing campaigns.
1) IP address
This is the unique address of the box that is physically (or virtually) sending your emails. This is the oldest way that ISPs and
spam protection agencies have blocked real spammers. The IP address is currently the most common and popular way to
measure reputation of senders.
How to improve
your Deliverability
2) Domain
As well as having various domain block lists, that look at the domain in your
emails, domains in your links and image paths, some ISPs also assign a reputation
to the domain to help them identify brands.
For example: URIBL hosts a list which can assign a grey of a black listing to a domain in emails that are very frequently marked
as spam in a short period of time. Grey means that the permission is not always double-optin and black is almost never optin
at all.
Microsoft have recently announced behavioural metrics by recipients to help decide on a senders reputation. The specifics
are covered in more detail in the next section of this guide.
Whilst not used fully for reputation yet, it is expected that Domain Keys and DKIM will be used for domain reputation
monitoring in the future. Don’t panic – your email marketing service provider should be able to look after that all for you!
The current ways that IP address names are structured will cause the internet to run out of them. A new way will be
introduced but this will negate the effects of IP reputation and a lot of measurement will move over to domain reputation.
3) Domain
This is the bit to the left of the @ sign in your address (often known as the ‘from name’ or the ‘friendly from.’)
ISPs who use this measurement are mainly Yahoo (and BTinternet). The reputation can mean that certain words to the
left of the @ sign have more trouble getting delivered than others depending on how other emails using the same from
name have been reacted to. For example, if your prefix is something that is commonly used by emails with high complaint
rates, eg: ‘cheapoffers’ as an obvious yet unprovable suggestion, it may take longer for your inbox placement to achieve it’s
full potential.
The prefix is often called ‘from name’ which is easily confused with the ‘friendly from name’ which many people call the
‘from name’. This is mainly an American / English difference.
This is really new and only exists to help Yahoo
separate different types of email from one
sender and also see patterns across multiple
senders’ email channels.
Prefixes to avoid are addresses like ‘no-reply’
which is quite an alienating, one way prefix
and is only really acceptable on transaction
receipts or notifications from online software.
Make your prefixes friendly, inviting, accurate
and relevant.
How to improve
your Deliverability
4) From Address
This is the full email address. This is normally used for one kind of campaign from one brand. While this can mean that
your newsletters’ deliverability is less affected by your acquisition emails, it also means that one address can quickly get
blocked - which is why ISPs measure on it.
This is also the address that is blacklisted by recipients’ own inboxes /email clients when they hit the spam button.
5) IP Range (Internet Protocol)
This is far, far lesser than any other form of measurement but does have a tiny influence. IP addresses live in ranges, some
high-end servers can assign a reputation to a range of IPs and use that when assigning a reputation to a single IP. Just to
reiterate, this is a very low level priority, essentially if other parts of the reputation are particularly poor this could be the
nail in the coffin but would not be the defining variable.
Top five ways to ruin your reputation and how to avoid it
In order to protect the deliverability of email that is consistently wanted and to avoid these getting over crowded by email
that is not consistently or ever wanted, more and more ISPs have started using engagement to decide where an email will
land in each of their recipients’ inboxes. Each measured reaction by the ISP will not only decide where your email will go
for that recipient but will also affect the senders’ global reputation and subsequent deliverability at the ISP.
Here are my top five ways of damaging your reputation and what you should monitor and look to avoid.
1) Getting marked as spam
The obvious one. People hitting the spam button are essentially complaining
about the email, so of course it will do you an injury getting marked as this.
The decision made by the recipient to hit that spam button is based on the
recipient experience of that email and their existing rapport with your brand.
If you have a good rapport and consistent engagement, you can get away with
the rare, occasional poor experience. If you have little or no rapport, and their
experience is poor, they might hit spam without even opening the email.
Ways to avoid being marked as spam include:
Each measured
reation by
the ISP will not on
ly decide
where your emai
l will go...
but will also affec
t the
senders’ global re
and subsequent
deliverability at
the ISP
If you use personalisation then make sure you get their name right
If your email is a cold email then it’s a cold email, don’t try and engage in a rapport which is simply not there
Not being dishonest in the subject line or from name to get the open
Make a n email that is u nreadable
Assuming permission
2) Hard bounces
Many marketers do not know about or believe this point: Every time you send to a hard bounce it is a bad thing.
How to improve
your Deliverability
The reason why sending to hard bounces is a bad thing is because spammers and list owners won’t suppress hard bounces
so good marketers have to. ISPs expect that if people want your emails, they will give you the address they intend to keep for
a long time. A sender which gets a lot of hard bounces consistently could not be sending to emails which people want if the
addresses they have on their list, don’t exist.
A good email marketing service provider will suppress any hard bounces, so each dead address will only hard bounce once
but the list you send to should not contain many dead addresses if you have collected the addresses well.
Hard bounces occur the most often from lists purchased from less than honest list brokers and very old lists. If you find an
old list in your company and you want to try and email to it, be very careful and phone your email marketing service provider,
they will help you stay out of any trouble you may encounter through hard bounces and spam traps.
3) Spam trap
Spam traps are there to catch people who scrape addresses from the web and list brokers who don’t suppress bounces in
order to maximise profits. The big ISPs regularly close down old accounts, they then let them hard bounce for a few months
and then re-open as a spam trap. Hitting one spam trap is worse than a bounce or a spam complaint.
Most ISPs will at least temporarily block you if you hit two in a day, some can block an entire hosting centre, which could get
you kicked out of your email marketing service provider or web-host all together.
It is a very good idea to protect yourself long term by keeping a record of the date of when you collected an address and
preferably the date of their last interaction with you. This way, if you ever need to wake up an old list, you have enough
information to help avoid hitting spam traps. It’s rarely a good idea to try to wake up any consumer addresses over 9
months old but if this is something you really want to do then make sure you contact your email marketing service
provider before you do.
4) Email people who have previously marked you as spam
Every time a recipient marks your email as spam, the idea is that all future emails from that address should go to their junk
folder because they have stated that they do not want them anymore. ISPs don’t like that because they have to process
unwanted emails and so to deal with them they create feedback loops. Any decent email marketing service provider
should be on all available feedback loops, subsequently someone marking emails as spam get sent back to the email
marketing service provider who opts them out and saves your reputation.
5) Send faster than your reputation will allow
The reputation that you as a sender is assigned by an ISP will decide
how many and how quickly you can send emails to each ISP (mainly
the big 4: Microsoft, Yahoo, Gmail & AOL) per hour, per day before
they start getting ‘deferred’ (soft bounced) to be tried again later.
The idea is that the ISPs want to prioritise and ensure delivery of the
emails that are wanted. Over 80% of emails are spam but about 20%
might not be, so they need a way of ensuring their systems can deliver
the emails, prioritising the known good ones.
The reputation th
at you as
a sender is assign
ed by an
ISP will decide h
ow many
and how quickly
you can
send emails
Senders are allocated a volume and speed based on their reputation
and once that threshold is hit the ISPs will defer the emails back to the
sender as a soft bounce who will then keep retrying so that the email
does get delivered, eventually.
How to improve
your Deliverability
If you very rarely get complaints and hard bounces and people interact with your emails all of the time, you should never
have to be concerned by this. High volume senders who do get a few complaints should try sending in smaller chunks over a
few days, rather than the popular weekly or monthly giant send at full speed. If your email marketing service provider allows
it, try to control the speed of release too.
It is vital that you focus your attentions on your recipients’ experience of your emails and their rapport with your brand, then
work as hard as you can to ensure your recipients are not inclined to hit the spam button.
Top five ways to improve your reputation
In order to protect the deliverability of email that is consistently wanted and to avoid these getting cluttered and over
crowded by email that is never wanted, more and more ISPs have started using engagement to decide where an email will
land in each of their recipients’ inboxes.
Each measured reaction by the ISP will not only decide where your email will go for that recipient but will also affect the
sender’s global reputation and subsequently deliverability at the ISP.
Here are my top five ways of maintaining and improving your reputation and what you should monitor and look to increase.
1) Clicks
One of the most obvious actions of engagement; someone clicking through from your email is a sign of a positive action. Even
the view in a browser link can help. Some marketers like to put a lot of links in their emails to maximise on the possibility, if
you do this please ensure it does not over power the recipient. Email marketing newsletters tend to have quite a few links
already. Popular options for primarily single call to action emails, like events, include:
Adding additional menu type link further down the email in the footer
Breaking the content into three parts (rows):
Quick convert: making it easy for people to open the email and click through;
Elaboration: just u nder the quick convert section add something like a bulleted
list of benefits to help convince those who need a bit more to click through
The full blurb: a more detailed expla nation of the benefits of converting
2) Added to safe list
It’s popular to ask to be added to the safe list or address book in the preheader of an email. This will tell the hosting ISP
that the sender is a contact with wanted content, so less filtering will be done on the email’s content and in some places
the images can be automatically loaded. This is definitely a positive for a sender’s reputation.
3) Replies
People replying to emails tend to signify that a conversation is taking place. ISPs and postmasters will always prioritise one to
one emails between individuals, most of which will pay their wages, over an external senders’ bulk email. Replies will happen
all of the time between them so they are definitely good for you.
Gmail was trialling automatically loading all images from the sender who the recipient has replied to twice, and I have not
read anything to say that they have turned it off.
How to improve
your Deliverability
4) Opens over time
The idea is to compare how many emails have been opened over time in comparison to how many have been sent, generally
senders with a high number get a better reputation. Recently some ISPs have stated with that this method was more trouble
than it is worth and have given up.
5) Marked as not junk
People moving emails from the junk folder into their inbox is the biggest gesture that recipients can make to improve
reputation for a sender. Normally if the message has gone to junk, the reputation is pretty bad already. However, it’s not
the end of the world, your sign-up process should include information on who the double-optin/welcome email will be
coming from and even the subject line. This way the momentum from the engagement of opt-in should provide enough
motivation for a new sign-up to go and look in their junk folder if you are not placed into the inbox straight away.
This information can be in the sign-up landing page, the double-optin/welcome email and the landing page from the
double opt-in conversion link click. At the same time ask to be added to the safe-list so it does not happen again.
About Pure360
Pure360 is an email & SMS marketing provider who specialise in helping businesses get the best results from their
campaigns. Pure360 work with over 1000 organisations including brands such as Rightmove, Virgin and innocent drinks.
Our customers stay with us through choice, not contract, and they tell their friends about us – but never their competitors.
We’ll work with you to improve your email marketing and SMS results. You’ll get the best from your campaigns without
being tied into a long contract, because your success is our success. You’ll get full training, support and regular free advice
supported by email marketing and SMS software that’s developed in-line with customer feedback.
Pure360 customers have access to the largest UK-based customer support team of all email marketing providers because
our whole focus is on improving your results by working together.
Members of the DMA, we’ve recorded a 10% higher open rate for our customers than the DMA average, leading to higher
clicks and conversions for your email marketing campaigns.
You can find the team working to improve our customers’ email campaigns, down in Brighton, pop in or give us a call to
discuss how we can help you get excellent results from your email & SMS campaigns.
Pure360 – Improving results together
0844 586 0001
email: [email protected]