One in four of the 269 billion emails sent in the US today will not make it to an inbox.
A primary reason is that Internet Service Providers (ISPs), led by Google, have appointed themselves as Inbox guardians; aiming to reduce SPAM, which accounts for approximately 45 percent of all email, according to Spanlaws.com. They aggressively and proactively filter inbound email using complex algorithms to decide what is relevant and worthy of delivery to maintain the integrity of the email channel.
Those not meeting the changing deliverability standards are blocked or vectored to promotional or SPAM folders. It’s as if King Kong intercepted your mail deliverer, stuck his hand in the mailbag and selectively threw away a quarter of the mail addressed to you.
If a healthy percentage of the 74 trillion emails sent each year in the US don’t arrive in Inboxes, there is zero opportunity for those authors to inform, alert, educate persuade or sell. Without delivery, there are no opens. Without opens there is only wasted time, energy and money.
Fighting filtering by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo & AOL isn’t easy. But as gateway Telco and cable ISPs begin to follow suit, marketers seeking to use the almost universally accepted digital channel have to get smarter and more disciplined about how they formulate and transmit email campaigns.
Most have stated policies available on line.
Focus on these 4 tactics
Monitor Sender Score. IP Reputation is everything in email. And while there is debate about the absolute value of a sender score, knowing directionally where you stand and keeping your brand and your sending domains off blacklists are critical moves. You can check scores at senderscore.org and touch base with the Certified Senders Alliance (CSA), a global service of the Association of Internet Marketing Federation. . They established a white list in 2003, which you can join, if you meet their specifications. Microsoft sites (Outlook Live, MSN, Hotmail, joined the list during Summer 2017. There are several black lists that you can check to see if you’ve been black balled. Spamhaus is the leader.
Measure Frequency of Engagement. Effective interaction is a critical cue for email filters. How frequently a recrd is mailed compared to frequency of interaction (an open or a click) ultimately determines what gets properly delivered. Most filters look at the past 4-6 mail/interaction experiences, which trigger automated tools that determine where your email ends up. Addresses that are undeliverable, hard bounces, also affect how ISPs deliver your email. High numbers of bounces signal
Control Content. Content impacts delivery on several levels. SUBJ lines containing highly promotional words like free, cheap, sales trigger SPAM vectoring software. Mequoda has a list of the top 100 offenders. One tactic to sidestep this is to personalize SUBJ lines, which hints to the bots that an existing relationship or engagement history might exist.
Bots also search for SUBJ line alignment with body copy. Since SPAMMERS tend to load the subject line with big claims, bold type and emojis, which rarely connect with the body copy, this pattern guaranties non-delivery. Shortened links, heavy graphics, unusual coding or links to blacklisted sites are among other factors programmed into email filters. ISPs favor straightforward email content sent from reputable ESPS with identifiable and valid FROM addresses.
Determine Deliverability. Who sends the email and which lists are used are critical variables in the cat-and-mouse deliverability game. Use a reputable Email Service Provider (ESP) to do it for you or a reputable self-service email software provider like Constant Contact, MailChimp, Benchmark or Vertical Response to do it yourself. There are online reviews to help sort this out.
Increasingly the firms that format and transmit email offer data and lists of potential prospects. Given the wide spectrum of data collectors and aggregators, each using different collection and opt-in methods, ESPs and savvy mailers are becoming allergic to third party list rentals because they often cannot verify or document opt-ins and opt-in methods. And they fear high numbers of bounces and SPAM complaints.
The purity of your email list is also a filter trigger. Consumer emailers are generally focused on creating their own double-opted in house lists as a hedge against the potential problems and pitfalls from using third party data. Nonetheless, there are reputable third party data sources both for prospecting and for data overlays to improve targeting or segmentation. My clients are cautiously experimenting with and carefully vetting third party lists with the proviso -- buyers beware!
Email deliverability, like search engine optimization, is a dynamic game where marketers and senders have to find a modus vivendi. Keep your head in the game and rely on your ESP for insight, market intelligence and best practices. The good news is that there is a robust email community where data, best practices, intelligence, case studies and commentary on this fighting filtration is readily available.