You know what’s the most painful moment in the life of an email marketer? When they find out that, after all the hard work they put into creating an outstanding email, many of the emails have failed to make it to the inbox. That’s like all your efforts going down the drain, isn’t it?
While email content used to be the major factor responsible for deliverability of an email, today it is your email reputation that plays a major role in whether your emails will be delivered to inboxes or not.
Now, each email address has its own, unique sender reputation, which is used by ISPs (internet service providers) and email clients (such as Gmail) as a way to review if a sender is legitimate and whether the email recipients want to receive emails from them or not. The ISPs and email clients act like gatekeepers allowing only relevant emails to enter the inbox of the recipient.
Your email reputation is expressed as a score (between 0 to 100), which is calculated on the basis of the quality of your campaigns judged against various criteria like number of spam reports, hard and soft bounces, complaints, identifiable domains, etc. The higher your score, more the chances of your emails getting delivered. That’s what makes email reputation so very important.
ISPs are getting stricter by the day only to protect their users’ inboxes from spammers, who are also getting smarter by the day.
According to a study conducted by Return Path, out of over 4 trillion messages sent in the year 2015, 56 percent were blocked due to poor sender reputation. While those who scored less than 70 got just 9 percent of their emails delivered, those scoring above 71 experienced an average delivery rate of 93 percent.
Let’s check out some of the metrics used by ISPs to monitor email reputation:
Spam complaint rate
If your subscribers are reporting your emails as spam, you are in trouble. Spam complaint rate is the percentage of subscribers who have marked your emails as spam. If there’s anything ISPs give the maximum importance to, it is this. The higher the complaint rate, greater the chances of the ISP taking action to block your emails.
Sending emails to addresses on your list that don’t exist causes a bounce. Other reasons behind a bounce could be many—full inboxes, misspelled email addresses, sending to addresses from a bought list, etc.
Open and click-thru rate
Whether your recipients are opening your emails or not is also a measure of email reputation. One thing that needs to be noted here is that an email is not considered as opened until the recipient has downloaded images (if any) in the email. So, if images are blocked by email client by default, in spite of recipient opening your email but not downloading the images, the email is not considered as opened.
The click-thru rate is the number of subscribers who click on links in your email. Better the click-thru rate, better your sender score.
If your messages are making it to email addresses that are set up by ISPs specifically to catch spammers, this is something to worry about. There are various pitfalls including wrong email acquisition practices and very old email lists that trigger spam traps.
Save to folder
If a subscriber moves your emails from the inbox to another folder or clicks on the button that reads “This is not spam,” it means they are interested in your emails. This indicates to ISPs that you are not a spammer.
Here are three key practices which, if followed religiously, will help you optimize your email reputation:
1. Building trust and enhancing interaction
You must have seen certain emails from no-reply senders. Such a turn-off, aren’t they? Using a no-reply address must be strictly avoided not only because it is a non-functional email address but also because you are yourself ending a would-be interaction.
A perfect subject line and pre-header combo are essential to ensure a good open rate. The text should be appealing and to the point so that the subscriber is persuaded to check what lies inside the email.
A call-to-action (CTA) must not only be prominent design-wise but copy-wise, too. After all, your ultimate aim is to get conversions, and a subscriber clicking on a CTA is one important stage towards conversion.
Providing your email recipients relevant content is essential. Batch and blast emails are a thing of the past and if you wish to gain the trust of your recipients, you have to send personalized, relevant emails.
Interactivity can play an outstanding role in engaging subscribers. Flip, Scratch, Rotating Banners, Sliders, and Integrated Forms all give a reason for subscribers to get involved with the email. Along with engagement, elements like Hamburger Menu, Accordion, and Carousel also reduce the length of the email by stacking up content horizontally and vertically.
2. Maintaining a clean subscriber list
Make sure your list has only those recipients who have opted-in to receive your emails. This ensures that you are sending to recipients who want to hear from you and will open your emails. Double opt-in is the ideal way to build a good sender reputation. How? Well, when you ask a subscriber to confirm their registration through a link you give in the confirmation email, you are making sure you’ve got the right email ID.
There may be certain subscribers who have lost interest in your emails and are no longer opening them. Such inactive addresses can also raise an alarm for ISPs that are watching you. If someone is not opening your emails, send them re-engagement emails. Still not responding? Send them an email saying they can unsubscribe if they are no longer interested. And if there is still no engagement, you should delete them from your list.
Maintain proper list hygiene by removing the email ID that results in bounces because this may, in turn, result in a poor email reputation. Lower your email bounce rate, better will be your reputation.
3. Keeping spam complaints in check
There is no point in hiding your unsubscribe button because if your disinterested subscriber is unable to find it—their next option is going to be “mark as spam.”
It is important to not send too many emails. Bombarding subscribers with promotional content can drive them crazy, make them unsubscribe, and worse—click on spam.
Sending at a time your subscriber prefers to receive an email from you is a great way to ensure that your subscribers are not bothered and stay engaged. You can ask your subscribers to choose the right time at the time of subscription or ask them to do so by going to the preference center, then you can segment your list accordingly.
Good email reputation ensures that the emails which you create by putting in so many efforts get delivered to your subscribers’ inboxes. And fortunately, your email reputation is in your hands. The practices mentioned above will not only help you score well as far as your reputation is concerned but also make your emails much more interesting and conversion worthy.
And of course, just like prevention is better than cure, maintaining a good email reputation is much better than fixing it later on.
Kevin George is the head of marketing at EmailMonks, one of the fastest growing email design and coding companies specializes in crafting beautiful email templates, PSD to HTML email conversion and much more. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and breathes email marketing. He is a brand magician who loves to engage, share insights with fellow marketers.