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The Ultimate Guide To Improving Email Deliverability

May 23 - 2024

Article 5 min read

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Make sure your email campaigns hit your customers’ inboxes with this step-by-step guide to improving email deliverability. 

Failing to improve email deliverability means you’re losing customers and wasting money. In this guide, we’re moving from simply understanding deliverability to actively improving it. Jarrang’s Chris Legassick will help you tackle the processes associated with deliverability and reach more users than ever before. 

Managing and improving email deliverability must be a core consideration for anyone running campaigns. Over the past few months, we’ve covered deliverability as a topic and explored other associated factors, such as campaign personalisation, which all come together to affect how successfully an email lands in your inbox. 

“The traditional general approach to email marketing no longer works. You can’t just sign users up to a newsletter, send an email campaign and then do nothing else. Unless they are nurtured, they’ll become unengaged and this leads to detrimental results for your deliverability.” 

The good news is that as a result of following this guide, you’ll improve not only your deliverability rates, but also your open rates, user engagement and ultimately, your all-important conversion rate. 

What is email deliverability?

Our understanding deliverability guide already covers all of the basics of email deliverability and how to test it. If you’re new to the topic, click the link or read the condensed summary below. 

Email deliverability = the ability for an email campaign to successfully appear in a customer’s inbox.

But what is it that actually prevents a successful send? Why does deliverability exist if all emails go straight from you, the sender, to your audience, the recipient? 

There are many different factors at play, including an important distinction between delivery rate and deliverability rate. Delivery rates alone solely measure whether an email was accepted or rejected by the server. Deliverability rate takes a deeper look into what happens after the email is accepted – whether it’s placed successfully in a user’s inbox or if it is rejected, moved to spam or classed as missing. 

All of the deliverability factors that inform your chances of successful inbox placement ultimately come down to sender reputation. If email providers see you sending spammy emails from an insecure domain, they will actively block your campaigns from reaching customers. 

Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft and others are all responsible for the measures that affect a campaign’s ability to hit a customer’s inbox. Requirements continue to grow more strict as the digital world evolves – with Yahoo and Gmail both implementing higher sender standards in early 2024

Each provider sets requirements for senders, most of which involve the following: 

  • Strict authentication requirements: At a minimum, senders should set certain authentications on their domains to comply with email provider rules. Failing to do so will see your emails blocked from reaching audience inboxes. 
  • Authentic business sending: Providers expect you to send from custom domain addresses that match your business, not from a personal email address such as yourname@gmail.com  
  • Easier unsubscribes: Providers want to see simple unsubscribe mechanics in emails to allow users to opt out quickly.
  • Spam rates: Providers punish you if your spam score rises too high. Gmail and Yahoo set a maximum score of 0.30% for senders. 

These requirements are the most overtly defined parts of email deliverability – but there’s more to it than that. Providers also base sender reputation on positive or negative user engagement signals.  

Incoming mail alert icon on a mobile device

Positive signals:

  • Opening your campaigns
  • Clicking links and engaging with content
  • Marketing an email as ‘not junk’ or rescuing it from spam
  • Replying to or forwarding the email

Negative signals: 

  • A user deleting an email without opening it
  • Marking an email as spam
  • Ignoring emails – especially if you continue sending multiple campaigns to a user who is disengaged. 
  • Hitting ‘spam traps’ by sending to higher risk data

Taking all of these things into account, improving email deliverability is a matter of tackling your domain reputation, list hygiene and user engagement. 

What are spam traps?

Before we go further, let’s discuss common spam traps monitored by deliverability monitoring solutions like Validity to help demonstrate common ways your campaigns may end up marked as spam. 

  • Typos: This is when an email address in your list contains a typo or error, and subsequently, your campaign won’t reach the intended user. If you don’t spot this and continue to send to the address, a provider can see you’re not practising good list hygiene. 
  • Recycled data: If you send campaigns to an email address that was active at some point and was then closed, you’ll be hitting a recycled data spam filter. 
  • Pristine: Some email addresses are set up by providers to catch bad sender practises. This is one reason why purchasing an email list is so risky.

How to improve email deliverability

Let’s take a step-by-step look at the factors that most impact deliverability and how you can improve them. Whether you’re launching your first-ever campaign or a seasoned veteran, everyone should start here to ensure you don’t miss a step… 

Step 1: Take care of the technicalities

To set the right foundation for improvement, you need to get all of the technical elements in order before you start focusing on users or behaviours. To make sure you’ve got all the boxes ticked, you need to:

  1. Set up a custom domain address to act as your email-sending account. Try to make the address appropriate to the type of content it will send, as an appropriate from name promotes trust and credibility and makes it less likely a user will perceive your campaign as spam. Marketing campaigns, for example, generally come from addresses such as “Hello@yourdomain.com” or “Marketing@yourdomain.co.uk” You shouldn’t use your “Customersupport@yourdomain.com” as your campaign sending address. Choosing the most appropriate from name for your campaigns helps increase subscriber engagement, which helps build your reputation as a sender. 
  2. Set up SPFDKIM and DMARC authentications. Though some providers don’t require all of them, it’s a good idea to take care of it at this stage to ensure you’re safely positioned for future changes. 
  3. Include a one-click unsubscribe link in the message body to make it easy for audiences to unsubscribe from your emails. 
  4. Consider investing in an email deliverability tool such as Validity or Inbox Monster to get insights into deliverability-specific campaign metrics such as spam score, sender email placement, and comparisons against competitors. 

 

My email software already reports on campaign performance, so why do I need a testing tool? 

Email platforms tend to report on top-level metrics such as delivery rates and whether campaigns bounce – but they don’t really tell you anything more. 

Some platforms report an email as being successfully delivered even if it ends up in a user’s junk. Once in there, it’s unlikely to be found or opened, and this long-term lack of engagement will harm your deliverability. 

With a tool like Validity, you can better track the behaviours and metrics that impact deliverability – identifying things like how many emails hit spam traps, which providers offered the best placement rates and what campaigns were classed as suspicious. 

Step 2: Practise better list hygiene

To protect your reputation as a sender, you need to consider your recipients. If your campaigns are ignored, deleted, or marked as spam, you’ll struggle. 

But before you start thinking about what campaigns you’re sending, you need to readdress who you’re sending to. Your email database is one of your most valuable assets, but only if you invest in proper list hygiene. 

List hygiene is exactly what it sounds like, cleaning up your list to remove bad data and lapsed users. When practised effectively, good list hygiene means you’ll only send to users who are valid and engaged. 

So, how do you maintain good list hygiene? Here’s a step-by-step process to help you remove the bad and improve the good. 

  • Identify any typos or misspellings in user data: If you’re sending to a mistyped email address, you’ll hit spam traps. If you’ve got other personal information such as a first name wrong, you’ll frustrate users, which may potentially lead to unsubscribed. 
    • Set double opt-in: You can ask users to complete a double opt-in where they have to re-enter their information in order to prevent this issue, but be mindful that this added complexity may lead to fewer sign-ups. If quality over quantity aligns with your goals, double opt-ins are a good idea. 
  • Spot outdated email addresses: Some lists include addresses that were once active but are now abandoned. You can either spot these by looking at long-term disengaged users or by using a list validation tool such as BriteVerify or Bouncer.
  • Monitor user engagement: You'll be penalised if a disengaged user continues to ignore your emails. To manage this process, we’d recommend:
    • Set up a defined strategy for disengaged users – how many emails can they ignore before you take action? 
    • Create a segment for disengaged users – separate them from your main list to avoid further harm. 
    • Target this segment with a re-engagement campaign – try to win these users back to your brand with a focused re-engagement campaign. If users engage, return them to your main list. If they don’t, remove them. 
  • Add value for engaged users: Reach out to engaged users to request further information to help personalise campaigns. Use their preferences to split lists down into segments based on user needs or behaviours. 
  • Set an ongoing hygiene routine: You can’t clean up your list once and expect it to stay clean forever. Depending on how many addresses you collect in a given timeframe, you should set a regular list hygiene activity to help keep it up to date.

Once your list is clean, you’re ready to improve the content you send. First, however, we need to touch on creating tailored lists via segmentation. As Chris explains:

“You don’t want to be sending to ALL of your subscribers all of the time. People often try to send emails across the widest possible net, but you need to look at segmentation based on the specifics of your campaign. 

For example, a tool manufacturer might create a construction-specific segment to send audiences in that industry relevant content and offers. 

You can only create these segments if you’ve got a clean list filled with quality user data. That’s why list hygiene is so important and will help improve overall deliverability.”

Hands drawing up an email strategy on a whiteboard

Step 3: Create content that matters

After improving your domain’s reputation and strengthening your lists, you’ll be in a good position to start driving real improvement. 

True improvement, as we mentioned earlier in the guide, comes largely from email providers recognising positive behaviours between senders and recipients. The better your content, the more likely a user is to engage with it, which, in turn, improves your reputation. 

So how can you make sure your content ticks all the right boxes? Here are Chris’s top tips…

Be mindful of deliverability triggers

When creating an email campaign, the following elements are all in your control but are fundamentally linked to how an email provider perceives you as a sender. Providers look at the following:

  • Subject lines: Keep them short, snappy and to the point. Limit special characters and emojis. Use personalisation wherever possible. 
  • Email content: Tailor your content towards your newly segmented lists. Optimise for mobile and desktop and test every campaign extensively before you hit send. 
  • Links within email: Make sure all links within your email are clear and trustworthy. Don’t try to disguise links in text or link to irrelevant content/websites. 
  • Unsubscribes and spam reports: Make it easy for people to unsubscribe in every email. Though it can hurt to lose a user, having them report you as spam is far worse. 

Personalise your content

Many of the things that impact deliverability are based on user behaviour. If a recipient ignores your email, deletes it or marks it as spam, it will count against you. Though you can’t entirely control what makes someone ignore an email, you CAN aim to improve engagement rates by tailoring your content to user needs.

For example, if hundreds of people on your list signed up after purchasing a product, you can safely target them with a tailored follow-up email to check on their purchase and offer a future discount in exchange for a review. 

If you don’t have much data to personalise your campaigns, trial a campaign where you ask customers to indicate preferences. Use this data to then further personalise your lists and the content of each campaign further. 

“The content you produce must be extremely relevant. If they don’t engage with it, users can become disengaged. They might not even open future emails, leading to a long-term unengaged subscriber. This is detrimental to your sender reputation.” 

Spread out your sends 

Spread out the timing of your campaigns. Bulk sending can lead to increased bounce rates or spam reports. Spread your sending out by either using an automated scheduling function or manually spacing sends across various times and days. 

“If you can segment your lists and personalise your campaigns, you’ll see an increase in campaign performance. That, in turn, impacts deliverability. A better sender reputation leads to improved ROI, so everyone wins.” 

Get your emails in front of your audiences with Jarrang

To ensure your efforts don’t go to waste, you need to make email deliverability a core part of your campaigns. As we’ve shown in this guide, everything aligns around prioritising your users and their requirements. 

Following this advice will improve deliverability and help you create better, more engaging email campaigns that users want to engage with. 

Of course, implementing everything we’ve discussed means investing time and resources in campaign strategy and active management. Why spread your own team too thin or have to skill up new staff when you can instantly bolster your expertise with Jarrang? 

Work with us to improve deliverability and achieve better commercial results from your campaigns. Click the button below to get started. 

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