Over the years, many of us in the email marketing world have talked about improving email deliverability, personalisation and more. Still, email almost died on us as spam and junk gremlins invaded our inboxes and damaged marketers’ reputations.

With email marketing making a comeback, and spam filters only getting smarter, it’s time to look at the 29 ways to improve email deliverability. Some are the same best practices that can stand the test of time, others are more recent.

So take a look and see what it takes to make sure your emails are getting delivered to your inbox.

1. Create a great IP reputation

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But ISPs judge your IP on a sender score, which can be affected by whichever metrics they deem fit. The best advice we could give if you’re working with a new IP address is to send small email campaigns to users you know will engage with you. The more they engage, the more trust you build with the ISP and the more your score improves. You can then slowly increase the numbers of users you send to.

2. Improve your reputation score

If you want to check your score per email, we would suggest using an inbox placement tool like Send Forensics. However, there are four basics that you can cover without the need for technology:

  • Keep your complaints low. Send to users who aren’t going to mark your emails as spam. That means writing relevant, informative emails!
  • Format your emails correctly. Dodgy coding that won’t render properly will be picked up.
  • Keep your bounce rate low. Cleanse your marketing lists to make sure you’re not getting too many hard bounces.
  • Avoid getting blacklisted!

3. Create a consistent email volume and send time

If you’re a high-volume email sender, the more erratic your sends, the more you’ll attract the attention of ISPs. Keep your volume of sending consistent (we’d say once a week is a good starting point) so you can create a solid reputation. Plus, users like to know when they’re getting good content!

4. Keep your mail server secure

Your mail server needs to be secure if you want to keep spammers well-clear, so make sure you don’t have an open relay or open proxy.

5. Have a dedicated IP address

When you’re sharing an IP with other senders, their activity and status naturally have an effect on your deliverability. Therefore, we would highly recommend using an IP address which is solely dedicated to you to improve your email deliverability.

6. Authenticate your emails

To build trustworthiness in the eyes of email servers, you need to do an ‘ID check’ to make sure you are who you say you are. Implementing a Domain Keys Identified Mail and Sender Policy Framework means your emails are more likely to be accepted.

7. Use preference centres

Although you might want to send everything to everyone, not everyone wants all the information you have to offer. Using a preference centre means you’re going to send relevant content to relevant people – making it less likely for them to mark your emails as spam or junk and instead engage with them.

8. Data cleanse

We’ve already touched briefly on bounces, but a data cleanse should be a regular part of your email marketing (just like checking your sender score). We would suggest doing a data cleanse annually, though the more data you have the more often you should cleanse.

9. Build up a double opt-in database

A great way to data cleanse and ensure email engagement rates is to create a double opt-in database. With the GDPR having caused a ruckus recently, more B2B marketing teams are starting to build up a double opt-in database.

10. Minimise complaints

To help you maintain your domain reputation, you should endeavour to keep your complaint rate, bounce rate and spam folder placement rate low. An inbox placement tool can help you identify if your email will make it to the inbox, or lie sat in junk.

11. Make it easy to unsubscribe

Think about adding a preference centre to your unsubscribe process. This allows your contact to decide what content they want to receive from you. Ultimately, it should be easy for your audience to unsubscribe, but a preference centre may help make this event less likely to occur.

12. Leave the attachments to the 1-1 emails

In your personal 1-1 emails, attachments are great. But when it comes to a large email campaign, this really isn’t true. Malware has a tendency to hide in attachments, so when sent on mass, it probably won’t end well for your reputation.

13. Keep the graphics low

This one came as a bit of a shock, but image-heavy email designs have recently started setting off the spam filters. So, where possible reduce the number of images you’re using.

14. Check your infrastructure

You need a solid infrastructure on which to build your reputation. Here at Spotler, we recommend the primary three methods of authentication. Ensuring your SPF, DKIM and DMARC records are all set up correctly ensures mailboxes can confirm that mail sent has come from you and not a spammer.

15. Test your inbox placement

With Inbox placement tools you can identify the likelihood that your email will make it to the inbox. Both Inbox Checker and SendForensics give you a score within GatorMail to display the likelihood of your email reaching your recipient or being picked up as spam. So you can make any required amends before you hit send.

16. Manage your bounces

You can get one of two types of bounces. A hard bounce, or a soft bounce. A soft bounce occurs when we receive a message from the recipient s inbox saying the mail has not been accepted but doesn’t warrant a hard response. A hard bounce occurs when the recipient’s mailbox outright rejects the delivery of the email. Manage your bounces so that those who hard bounce are removed from your mailing list.

17. Clear email subject lines

Make it clear what your email will hold. Misleading subject lines can not only irritate your readers, but the ISPs will look at them too. There’s no absolute rule for what will guarantee you getting a place in the inbox, but focusing on the genuine message and content of your email can help avoid those pushy sales words which garner you a place in the spam folder.

18. Get personal with emails

By now you know this as an email marketer – recipients don’t want to feel like they are being marketed to. That’s why top performers create digital experiences that make prospects feel that someone is speaking to them about their needs and offering them a product that adds value to their lives.

This is why the best way to fail with subscribers is by not personalising emails. According to an Experian Marketing Services Study, personalised emails were shown to lift transaction rates and revenue per email six times higher than non-personalised emails. Companies that aren’t using customer personas and aren’t segmenting their audiences are less likely to personalise their emails, and, as a result, are achieving less open and click rates.

Just as a friend spells your name correctly, knows what your likes and dislikes are, remembers your birthday and speaks with you in a conversational voice, a good email marketing campaign exhibits these personable traits as well.

Just as a friend spells your name correctly, knows what your likes and dislikes are, remembers your birthday and speaks with you in a conversational voice, a good email marketing campaign exhibits these personable traits as well.

19. Strive for consistency

Many of us have that one friend that bombards us with phone calls and outings, then disappears for weeks or months at a time. It gets old in a hurry.

If you don’t want to succeed in your marketing campaigns, be that friend that doesn’t stay in touch consistently.

If you do want to succeed, however, don’t be insensitive toward the emotions and needs of your subscribers by delivering your messages inconsistently or at the wrong time.

20. Make your offers specific

Top performers succeed because they speak to their subscribers clearly and effectively. Laggers, however, fail because they focus on getting their name out there more than delivering real value to their audiences.

Customers that merely tolerate your messages need your product but aren’t committed to a real, long-term relationship with you because you aren’t being clear on what it is you are offering. By not making your offers specific, you’re on your way to losing prospects and customers.

21. Don’t spam your recipients

Want to fail with your email marketing campaigns? Spam your recipients. By sending unsolicited emails to your list of subscribers and not sending permission-based emails, you are set on your way to email marketing failure.

What’s more, is that if you send out emails without permission, a lot of your recipients will click the Report Spam button putting your campaigns at risk.

22. Follow customer behaviour

Emails should be sent based on data and behaviour. Inactive users can get a nudge to come back. Active users can get emails about features they haven’t tried yet or emails that inspire them to engage even more.

If you want to connect with your subscribers, you have to focus on segmentation in order to deliver data-driven emails. If you don’t want to see results, don’t track customer behaviour and don’t collect information to reach out to them in the most effective ways with the right messages.

Don’t make the lives of your subscribers harder. Close to 68% of online shoppers abandon product purchases just because they have a negative buying experience. We need to create email marketing tactics that delight and engage our customers. Are you struggling with the do’s and don’ts of email marketing? Perhaps it’s time to align your marketing and sales teams and focus on tactics and strategy.

23. Avoid interrupting!

First things first; consider when your audience is most likely to be actively checking their inboxes, as opposed to interrupting them. To do this, you’ll need to get into the collective mind of your subscribers (you may find persona building helps you achieve this). Additionally, think about your colleagues’ schedules: chances are if there’s a recurring meeting every morning until 10 am you might want to avoid this time.

24. Test your email campaign, and test again.

As mentioned, there is no one-size-fits-all answer here, so testing the time of day and day of the week you send your email campaign is strongly recommended. You can report on the engagement timeline in GatorMail to analyse spikes in opens; sometimes you may find this is after the initial send time.

Think about your own habits with your inbox. Do you check your emails on your phone? If so, do you check your emails on your commute to/from work? Depending on your subscriber base and whether you are B2B or B2C will help you plan this.

There’s a simple play to consider here:

  • For B2B think about when you’re at your desk. Ideally, you want to catch subscribers who are at their desks and mildly distracted or just finishing a task. But let’s face it, we’re not mind-readers or spies…
  • If your campaign is for B2C, then think about when you’re not at your desk/the opposite of the above: coffee and lunch breaks, going home.

25. Click or call?

Consider not only what your call to action is, but how much effort it takes your subscriber to complete. For example, if the CTA is to read a lengthy article or to make a phone call, you might want to think about when you would have the time in your own day to complete these actions.

26. Personal vs. Business

Drilling further down; awareness of whether you are approaching your subscriber to meet business or personal needs will determine “when” to send your email marketing campaign.

For example, a phone call might be better suited to your subscribers during their lunch break if the content is personal. Whereas, if it’s business related it should be while they are at work, working. Therefore avoiding 11:30 am – 2:30 pm (when lunch is taken) is preferable.

Additionally, if your call to action is quite literally a call, you’ll need to assure that you have sufficient staff to answer the phones. Remember you want your subscriber to feel as though the interaction is effortless on their part!

27. Segment with more tailored, specified emails

Firstly, segmenting your contacts into as concentrated groups as you can will kick your engagement into gear. With this, you can send content that is more relevant to your audience – and we all know that relevancy gets interest.

Use the information from your CRM, but also focus on what your contacts have shown interest in. Whether it’s a page on your website, a social media campaign, or a blog post, it will all let you know what each lead is most likely to want from you. Once you know that, it’s just about showing them how to get it.

28. Marketing automation – right time, right contact, right campaign

Marketing automation can help massively with engagement, especially if you have a strong workflow. With marketing automation, you can feed in a number of different pre-written emails and get them sent by the system at specific times in a buyer journey. What this means is that you don’t have to spend as much time worrying about when to get in contact next, and can instead focus your time and energy on bringing in new leads to follow.

29. Don’t waste time or space

As we’ve said before, your email only has 2 seconds to live in the inbox. With that in mind, you can’t waste any space in your email copy telling your contact things you don’t want them to focus on. Get to the point: be short, sharp and clear about what your email is for.

Mainly remember not to overcomplicate. As long as you show them what you need them to see, you can always link them to more information elsewhere in the email – in fact, this can spark the kind of intrigue that gets you a warm lead.