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5 Steps to Prevent your Mails Landing into Spam and Reaching Inbox

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Email Marketing

As the email-marketing traffic is increasing rapidly, the spam traps are growing complex, and so the email service providers are constantly improving their filtering technology to keep the unwanted emails away from inbox. At a time when email marketing is going stronger than ever it is also getting difficult than ever and even the best marketers are struggling to reach the inbox.

As per various studies, approximately 25% emails land into spam folders. However, nowadays marketers do recognize the importance of deliverability but in most cases, they either do not understand the challenges to get into inbox or are not taking right steps to achieve it. Regardless of the reason, increasing spam or junk mails are a serious concern for marketers to make the most out of this oldest, cheapest and highest ROI provider in digital marketing.

Over the past days or weeks, you might have been trying everything out of your experience and knowledge to build the most deliverable email campaign so as to meet your target as a marketer, impress your boss or maybe to meet your own goals. So, here are 5 steps to help you reach the Inbox instead of falling in Spam.no_email_spam

Infrastructure

The process between you composing a mail and hitting the send button to the mail reaching the recipient’s inbox comprises of numerous systems and networks in background. The routers, service providers, servers, IP addresses and spam filters to name a few.

Whether you are using a single IP address to send all types of emails or opting for multiple addresses for various kinds of emails conveys a lot about you. If you are sending high volume of emails, you do not want your transactional or response mails failing to reach inbox and going into the spam folder instead. So it is better to have different IP address for each category of emails e.g. one for sign up, newsletters, business offers, commercial promotions, one for response to queries, complaints and information, another for reminders, order confirmation, billings, password reset, etc.

Another factor that also matters determining your IP reputation is whether you are using a shared IP or dedicated IP. If you send very high volume of emails frequently, you can use dedicated IP addresses assigned only for you, where no other traffic is sent over. In a dedicated IP, you can assign one domain to one client and assign different sub-domains with same domain. It will help you maintain the reputation of each sub-domain separately and overall for the domain.

If you are sending emails to multiple customers, sometimes it is better to use a shared IP addresses if your email volume is not too high or very frequent but you should know the number of IPs you require and send appropriate volume emails through each of them to avoid bulking. Also, avoid using different domain names in the shared IPs.

If you are using shared IP address there are a group of IPs used for multiple clients. All of the traffic is spread across multiple IPs. The reputation of one sender can affect the reputation of the other e.g. if the mails sent by one sender through a specific IP address are bulked or marked as spam, the next time you send your mails on that particular IP address would have the same reputation of being spam.

Reputation

To maintain good reputation and prevent from being blacklisted and, publish a Sender Policy Framework record, which lists all the IP addresses that you, will use to send email from your domain. A SPF record is a simple domain name system (DNS) list that records, which IP addresses, are allowed to send email from your domain. Email sent from an IP that is not listed in your SPF record will most probably end up in the spam folder.

If you are sending high volume of emails frequently, an important step to prevent emails being bulked up is rate limiting. Every ISPs have their own rate limits on per hour or per day basis. Rate limiting allows ISPs proper time to process and filter spam; ensuring transactional emails are not bulked or blocked.

You should not keep sending email to a bounced email address repeatedly because the more the bounce rate, the more negative your reputation. So keep checking if any email address hard bounces even once or soft bounces a few times in a row, remove them from your list.

It is important to track how much of your emails reach inbox, how many of them being opened, how much of CTR are you achieving, what actions are being taken by recipients, also keep an eye on number of unsubscribes or opt-outs.

If you are getting regular complaints of abuse, spam, unsubscribes or bounce rates then understand there is something wrong with your mail-list or address database. If you are receiving low open rate and click rate, it can be possibly due to lack of engaging content, or lack of relevancy due to improper segmentation or maybe something to do with email design and layout even.

Nowadays, most ISPs provide the facility of Feedback Loop (FBL) system that immediately informs you when a recipient marks your email as spam. You should remove the addresses of the spam reporters from your mailing list. If you continue to email a recipient, even after being denied to get your emails, you may be reported as abusive or complained to the ISP, which would lead to be blacklisted.

ISPs monitor your past record and current credibility to determine your reputation; your history of being blacklisted affects your deliverability and may lead to be blocked or blacklisted again. There are several online tools where you can check your own IP reputation like SNDS by Microsoft, SenderScore by ReturnPath, SpamAssassin and Barracuda to name a few. These tools provide the information about the past record of your IPs and blacklist history, delivery rate, bounce rate, open rate, click rate etc.

Authentication

If you are sending bulk emails for your company or client, attach the email to their domain. Do not attach other’s emails to your domain.New message in mailbox. Macro screen view

To make your emails delivered to inbox, ensure your genuineness. Use Domain Keys Identified Mail or Digital Signature to ensure that your email is identical to your previous emails and actually sent by you. DKIM is an authentication process to validate an email from a specific domain and prove that it is not manipulated during delivery. The sender’s address domain and digital signature must match while sending email through a dedicated IP. These settings are being verified by the all the big ISPs like Gmail, HotMail/live.com, Yahoo Mail, AOL, etc.

Now that you are aware and prepared with your infrastructure system, to start with the mailing part, you need to have a proper database. It is better to generate your database organically rather than buying it from some vendor as the list might not have the desired customers expected for your product or service and the mail IDs maybe invalid which will lead to high bounce rates. To attract customers organically you may do inbound marketing with good contents on various platforms, organize competitions, surveys or offer some discounts or gifts. It helps in growing a healthy and much effective mail list, which would include those who are interested in your product or service.

ISPs also use spam trap to catch the unauthentic senders or spammers. They create a honey trap by recycling or reactivating old or dead email addresses and find if they receive emails on those addresses. If they receive emails from any sender, it shows the sender’s list is not properly managed and they might be sending unsolicited emails to non-opted-in users too. This will lead the IP address to be blocked by ISP.

Unlike the one-way broadcasts, email marketing is a source of two-way communication where the customer is not bound to follow what you convey whether he/she wants it or not. Hence, to gain new customers and have effective and efficient communication you should take permission from the customer using opt-in links, subscription forms or any of various other CTAs.

Always ask your subscribers to add you to their address book and keep checking and updating your database by cleaning out the inactive and invalid email addresses.

After the customer allows you for communication, to retain them, it is your duty to take care of their choice and preferences and engage them accordingly. You need to segment your customers based on their demography, geography and online behaviour. There are online tools like Customer.io for testing and implementing behavioural targeting. Otherwise, if the recipients find your mails irrelevant and too frequent which are the most primary reasons for opt-out, they would unsubscribe and report you as spammer.

Know more about Email Marketing is not spamming but an ROI Generator through this webinar recording.

Content

At last but not the least, content is a significant part to determine the deliverability. Even if you pass through the authentication and other reputation checks, even a small mistake in contents may end you up as a spammer. You should be careful while writing the content and designing your mail in order to avoid landing in junk.

Your mails are more likely to be ignored, while trying to gain attention by highlighting unless something very urgent or exciting inside by using CAPS lock and too many exclamation marks in subject line and content. It is advisable to avoid using attachments, flash media, video or JavaScript in content as they are prone to be malicious with virus instead you can just provide a link to redirect to your referred material. Additionally, use of larger image files makes your mail heavier and slower to open too.

For making your customer feel recognized and cared about, personalize the content by mentioning subscriber’s name in “To” field and content and never ask for any private or sensitive information, as it will make you look suspicious of spoofing.

Eliminate any spam triggering words and phrases anywhere in content and keep strict check on spelling mistakes. Also, avoid stuffing your content with overuse of keywords and always remember to add the “Unsubscribe” button.

Ensure that all the links are working properly when and where redirected and provide Alt Tags with links for each image used in the content and most importantly have an identical plain text as well as HTML version of your content.

Warm-up

Now that you have set up the domains, servers, IPs, emails and everything else, it is time to roll the campaign. However, before you begin, if you are a newcomer, you need to be introduced to the ISPs first as they do not know you yet. It is necessary to warm up your IPs and start building a good reputation with them.

If your IP starts with a low reputation, possibly due to the previous user, try to get a different IP or warm it up slowly. Until the IP reputation improves, most emails will bulk and even if the reputation is good, still you will not be able to send large volume of emails from a new IP. Slowly increase the volume over a period.

Start by testing with the email verification and authentication tool by Port25 Solutions, which sends an email to checkauth@verifier.port25.com. If that works successfully, move on to real testing with the major ISPs. Send an email to the ISPs using the various authentication types, and make sure the email passes properly.

Various online tools like MailChimp, MadMimi, AWeber, ConstantContact are available for rolling email campaigns with integrated features to automate, track, analyse and generate report of email deliverability.

To determine the IP reputation, bounce rate, open rate and click rate, check content and monitor email deliverability, there are tools like MXToolBox, SenderScore, Barracuda and Litmus.

I hope these steps are useful to you as I have shed some light on possible areas for improvement by highlighting some key “best practices” that email marketers may be missing out on. I am sure practising these steps will help you in the long run.

Wishing all the best for your new campaign!

Image credits: blog domain name, the next web

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