Expert Interview Series: Part 6
One of the most tricky aspects of email marketing is deliverability. You can crack ways to increase the open rate, get high click-throughs, and drive conversions. But email deliverability rate remains a mysterious metric that needs the perfect balance of technical know-how and understanding of the customer psychology.
Although it can get complicated and messy at times, big data is transforming the way businesses work. The worst nightmare for any marketer is when they put in time, resources, and money in an email that does not make it to the inbox. To help our fellow marketers keep away from the spam filters and ensure an optimum deliverability rate, we picked Scott Hardigree’s brain.
Scott is the Founder and CEO of Email Industries, a recognized email deliverability expert, and the company behind the AlfredKnows email list hygiene service.
Let’s start with busting some myths. People often use the terms email delivery and email deliverability interchangeably. How are they different?
Scott : A message may be delivered (delivery) to the recipient’s mailbox provider but not delivered to the recipient’s inbox. That is the difference between delivery and deliverability. Deliverability is getting mail to the inbox, delivery is simply passing mail to the email mailbox provider.
Another myth is that 100% email deliverability rate can be achieved. Can you throw some light on the same? Is it possible to achieve this feat?
Scott : It is definitely not a myth. It is possible to send an email and achieve 100% inbox placement, this however is only likely if the email you are sending is to only a small handful of people known to you. Where it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve 100% inbox placement or ‘deliverability’ is when sending campaigns at scale. Invariably some mail will be filtered to spam or have other labels attached to them as a way for the mailbox providers to quality control their filtering systems. In this way, even the best senders of high volume mail will find at least some of their messages are filtered and thereby excluding them from achieving 100% deliverability.
Which factors influence the landing of email in the inbox?
Scott : Factors that will impact your ability to inbox successfully includes the basics, that is to ensure your domains are properly configured, your DNS and email authentication is set up and you have working mailboxes in place for the email addresses for which you are sending. Thereafter, it gets more complicated as it is the volume of mail, consistency of that mail, and your sender reputation which influences your inbox placement and how consistently inbox placement can be achieved.
Your sender reputation is made up of any number of factors depending on the recipient’s mailbox provider. It is widely believed, and experience suggests it is true, that those senders whose emails are opened and engaged with, that are manually moved from junk to primary, and similar positive interactions by your subscribers will lead to a more positive sender reputation.
Your sender reputation can be harmed by a multitude of factors including complaints and sending to unknown users. This is why it is important to keep your lists clean.
Is executing BIMI for email deliverability worth all the effort and investment? What kind of businesses can benefit the most from this technology?
Scott : BIMI in itself is not for email deliverability. It may help with brand recognition in the inbox leading to greater engagement and therefore a better reputation which will result in enhanced inbox placement. Retail businesses and consumer brands are the most likely to see an uplift in engagement rates as a result of implementing BIMI.
Pruning the email list is mandatory to ensure a good email deliverability rate. What is the best frequency for list cleaning?
Scott : It depends. How frequently are you emailing your recipients, what products or services do you offer, what is the average ticket value of a sale to your list, and is your product seasonal? All of these factors play into how and when you would prune your email list. If you have a regular Saturday night event, your definition of an unengaged subscriber would be a whole lot different than if you operate a dealership for fine vintage cars. To minimize the impact of hard and fast rules around cut off dates for individual subscribers based on the last time they clicked you should probably look at creating dynamic rules based on activity and engagement on and offline or across channels alongside multi-channel re-engagement campaigns.
How to combat the commonly encountered challenges of fraudulent sign-ups and emails landing in spam folders?
Scott : If you’re receiving fraudulent human signups you’ll first want to look at what you use to incentivize those signups. Incentivized signups can lead to abuse. However, if you’re receiving non-human signups, there are a number of anti-bot type security you can put in place.
There are controversial opinions on the impact of MPP on email deliverability. Can you reveal the truth to our readers?
Scott : In a nutshell, you need to find more meaningful ways to gauge engagement than using open rates, which are increasingly less accurate. In fact, open rates have never truly been accurate. The fact that open rates are less meaningful for large swathes of a subscriber list is certainly problematic for those who relied heavily on open rates as a metric, it is ever less meaningful.
Do “spam trigger words” exist? How do they influence inbox placement?
Scott : Yes and no. If your sender reputation is strong enough they really do not matter very much at all and are unlikely to have much of an impact. The impact of spam weighting on languages and words has far more impact in a B2B setting and where messages are being sent in the English language.
How to determine whether someone needs an email deliverability audit? How often should we audit the email deliverability reports?
Scott : We recently published “Do You Need an Email Deliverability Audit? Let’s Find Out.” which goes into more detail but suffice to say it is worth doing a deliverability audit any time you’re experiencing a deliverability issue or you make significant changes to your DNS, your email vendors, your emailing practices, or any other significant changes to your program. Outside of this look to have an audit every twelve months at least to get a check on the state of your deliverability.
Maintaining an optimum deliverability rate has gotten tougher in recent times as spam filters are getting more advanced. Does it mean that the email deliverability rate will go further down in the future?
Scott : Deliverability rates fluctuate a little year to year but there is no overall downward trend when looking over a three or four-year period. It generally hovers around the 90% mark for good senders in the US, Europe, and the UK. A few percentage points here and there. Oftentimes, improvements in deliverability rates can be tied directly to new legislation forcing marketers to do better in terms of permission and relevance.
So how does one ensure minimum deliverability challenges in the future?
Scott : This has really never changed: send email that people expect to receive. It’s that simple.