The From Line
Debunking 13 Email Deliverability Myths to Help You Succeed
The below information has been gathered from countless hours of assisting our clients with their day-to-day deliverability needs. A lot of research and hands-on experience has gone in to debunking these very common deliverability myths. Unlike when Geraldo uncovered a big goose egg in Al Capone’s vault, I’m hoping that these revelations will help you boost your deliverability and provide necessary information to lead you to success.
Email Deliverability Myth #1 – There is a magic phone number to the ISP’s.
If you are in possession of theses numbers, please tweet them because I’m sure it would get you a million-gazillion followers. If you partner with the right ESP – they will have the industry knowledge, expertise, and experience and there will be no need to contact the ISP’s. Even if these magic phone numbers did exist, whose answering the phones? The loch ness monster, bigfoot, maybe a unicorn or a pixie? And even if they did answer the phone, do you think they can sprinkle pixie dust on the issue and resolve it? That would be awesome, wouldn’t it? But unfortunately, it couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s all about education, following best practices, and surrounding yourself with the right resources that will make you successful.
Email Deliverability Myth #2 – I dont have to check my feedback loops.
If you are using an ESP, you should know which Feedback Loops (FBL), you are subscribed to. For a list of available FBLs, check out my blog from last week “ISP Deliverability Information – FBL, Postmaster, and Much More“.
If you aren’t checking your FBL’s then you are doing your valuable lists a huge disservice. You should be checking your FBL’s at the minimum before every send to ensure that you aren’t sending to these subscribers. There is absolutely no good reason to keep these subscribers as they have gone the extra mile to report your messages as SPAM. Check those FBLs and check them often. If your ESP is not providing access to FBL’s, use the list that I have compiled in the post referenced above and do it yourself. It may be a lot of work to do on your own but it will pay off ten fold if executed, managed, and monitored correctly.
Email Deliverability Myth #3 – My ESP is responsible for my sending reputation.
A decent ESP will put the tools in place to ensure you can achieve a good sending reputation, and give you the education to use best practices. But it’s you as the marketer who is ultimately responsible for generating a high quality online presence and reputation. You can have a workshop with the best tools that money can buy, but if you have no idea how to use those tools and don’t spend the time learning, then you’ve wasted your money and wont be able to build or fix anything. The following WILL hurt your sender reputation:
* Purchasing a list
* NOT checking your Feedback Loops
* NOT monitoring your complaints and opt-outs
* NOT keeping up with industry trends and best practices
If you are at fault for any of the above, the problem does not lie with your ESP, it lies with you.
Email Deliverability Myth #4 – If you have a deliverability issue just get a new IP address.
It’s much more advantageous to try and fix issues with sender reputation than to get a new IP address. Getting a new IP is like starting over from scratch. It’s better to add an additional IP and start warming that up and then use both once the IP has been cleaned up. It may take some work to mend your IP, but it’s well worth it since you have already spent time building up that reputation. Being blocked by one or two groups does not mean it’s the end of the world, it just means you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and get to the bottom of the issue. Once it’s identified, there are ways to rectify it and put the proper pieces in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again in the future. In most cases (there are some very bad apples out there) the people that monitor the RBL’s will work with you if you are honest, upfront and don’t become a multi time offender.
Email Deliverability Myth #5 – I’m getting through to one ISP, I can get through to them all.
All ISP’s are NOT created equally. Just because you are getting through to AOL with high deliverability, doesn’t mean that you will have the same success with Yahoo!. They each have their own algorithms, filtering techniques, authentication, etc.. This is where education comes in. You must keep up with the changing trends. Read the blogs, follow the right people on twitter, hire the right people and consultants, and adjust your campaigns, content, and sending strategies based on your findings. What might be right for AOL may not be right for Yahoo!. For some organizations, you may need to create and maintain different strategies for different ISP’s to be successful.
Email Deliverability Myth #6 – I don’t need to monitor my replies.
This myth is very similar to myth #2 with only one major difference. If you think that the people who reported you as SPAM went out of their way, then the people that send you a personal reply have REALLY gone out of their way. This can’t be automated as you could receive a plethora of different types of replies each requiring a different response. Responding to these requests needs human intervention. Replies can really run the gamut from extremely postive to extremely negative and borderline threatening. Each scenario takes a different type of response. I’m a firm believer that if someone takes the time to reply, that they deserve a tactical response. If it’s a positive response, take a second to respond back with a simple “thank you” letting them know you care, that thank you could go a long way. If it’s negative, send them a simple response stating that you understand the situation and have personally taken the steps to remove them from your list, that reassurance can also go along way. There are companies out there like Bamboo Cricket (http://www.bamboocricketemail.com/) that specialize in inbound mail and take the pressure off you by offering that human intervention for a reasonable price. Regardless of the scenario, monitor your replies. You can really learn a lot by listening to them.
Email Deliverability Myth #7 – I should send transactional email through our own system.
Marketers often believe it’s beneficial to keep transactional emails separate from their marketing messages. This is a misnomer. It actually helps your deliverability to add transactional emails to the mix. Think about it, if someone comes to your website and purchases something, that’s a guaranteed email address, especially if there was a credit card (or other payment) method involved. That’s a guaranteed successful delivery. If it’s not difficult to implement, I highly suggest that you at the very least test to see if it will work for you. In most cases the implementation is easy and can pay big dividends depending on your volume.
Email Deliverability Myth #8 – No action, keep sending.
What do all of these statements have in common?
* Trying to sell Girl Scout cookies to an abandoned house
* Trick-or-treeting at a house with the lights off
* Trying to kill a T-rex with a pea shooter
* Dont tug on superman’s cape
* Don’t spit into the wind
* Don’t pull the mask off an ‘ole Lone Ranger
* And don’t keep sending to people that don’t interact, open, click, respond, etc. to your messages
You just don’t do it.
Email Deliverability Myth #9 – I can wait to mark my hard bounces as inactive.
Why wait, set your hard bounces to 1 and forget about them. If you haven’t already, you should institute a no tolerance (mark as inactive after the first hard bounce) rule for hard bounces immediately. The longer you wait, the higher chance that this bad email address will receive an additional message from you. The other side to this is that if that email address has been turned in to a spam trap then you are a multi-time offender and that can get you blacklisted. Don’t pass go, don’t collect 200 dollars, mark these subscribers with an opt-out status immediately. On a side note to this myth with regards to status, don’t remove these subscribers from your database, mark them as opt-out in case these people get inadvertently added back to a list. This will ensure that they don’t get another message from you.
Email Deliverability Myth #10 – I share an IP address, but it’s refreshed all the time so I don’t need to worry about any deliverability issues.
This is a tough myth for many to understand. There are two opposite ends of the spectrum here. On one side you have the people that are sharing their IP with a group of others. In this scenario you are all responsible for each others reputations. In some cases, this can be mutually beneficial, especially if you’re paired with other good senders. This scenario also has a big risk. If there’s one bad apple in your group, they can ruin all of your reputations with a single bad decision. I’m not going to turn this myth into a shared versus dedicated IP rant, that can be saved for another post.
Email Deliverability Myth #11 – Never send over the weekend.
We have found that early morning (just after midnight) sends that land in the inbox by the time people are waking up do very well for B2C retail clients when sent over the weekend. This myth has really been debunked because different industries have different successes sending campaigns at different times. The best way to figure out if this works for you is to do an A/B split campaign to see what kind of results you pull. I’m not sure about any truth with this next statement but I’m going to throw it out there anyway and hope for some comments. The continued success could be because there are substantially less senders on weekends, making the volume on the ISP’s incoming mail servers much lighter. There, I said it, talk amongst yourselves.
Email Deliverability Myth #12 – I’m worried about some of my email content words or phrases sounding “spammy” so it’s best to put it all in images. That way, it won’t get flagged as spam by ISPs.
Bad, bad, bad idea. If you think your content is “spammy”then change your content, don’t mask it behind images. You need to maintain a good image-to-text ratio to stay out of the junk folder and or blocked by SPAM filters. There are plenty of free spam tests out there like Spam Assassin to score your message, giving you a good indication as to where your message will end up. If you want to go the extra step you can run a litmus test using Litmus’s extensive tools which will allow you to see how your message renders across most available email clients, perform spam filter testing, as well as give you a very detailed and organized set of analytics.
Email Deliverability Myth #13 – If I make it difficult for people to opt-out of messages, I will have less opt-outs.
Yes, you hit the nail on the head, you WILL have less opt-outs but MANY more SPAM complaints… FAIL. You must, must. must, have a clear functioning, and easy to use opt-out. I have seen some organizations that claim that it takes a few days to a week or so to opt you out of their database. This should be an instant action and the subscriber should be removed right away. I’m not sure why this is so difficult for some companies. If you think the subscriber is going to change their mind, you’re living in a dream world. People opt-out because they don’t want to hear from you. Don’t send them a message asking them if they are sure they want to opt-out, it will just frustrate them and then you will be dealing with myth #6.
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