Let’s talk email deliverability rates.
All that work you put into crafting the perfect message means nothing if it doesn’t make it to your reader’s inbox.
That’s where a good understanding of email deliverability rates – and how to improve them – comes in handy.
In this article, I’ll go over ten ways you can improve yours.
How to Increase Email Deliverability Rates:
- Build IP credibility
- Authenticate your email domain
- Improve opt-in’s
- Make sure your subject lines aren’t spammy
- Avoid spam traps
- Make sure you’re not on any blacklists
- Don’t buy email lists
- Maintain proper list hygiene
- Segment your email list
- Use suppression lists
There’s an awful lot of competition inside the inbox. But it’s worth pointing out that most of the battle takes place well before you’re competing for clicks and subscriber attention.
In fact, today’s email marketers also need to consider an email deliverability strategy for making sure messages make it to their destination in the first place.
Email deliverability measures how many of your emails make it to your subscribers’ inboxes.
Because spam is getting smarter and more sophisticated than it used to be, marketers need to do more to make it through filters that weed out low-quality communications.
There are several techniques you can use to prevent delivery failures and stay out of the spam folder.
Here are a few of my favorites.
1. Build IP Credibility
As email providers develop more sophisticated ways to prevent spam from landing in the inbox, many legitimate emails never get where they need to go.
That doesn’t just mean you don’t make it to the priority inbox, it means that you might not even make it to the spam folder, as many email service providers (ESPs) and internet service providers (ISPs) completely block emails from landing anywhere near the recipient’s inbox.
- Register a Dedicated Subdomain: You might want to register a subdomain that you can use exclusively for sending emails. This allows you to monitor activity related to your IP reputation with ease, providing more control by separating email deliverability out from the rest of your operations.
- Stick to a Schedule: Erratic sending schedules can have a negative impact on your sender reputation, as ISPs will pick up on sending spikes.
- Review Feedback Loops: Most major ISPs offer feedback loops, which allow senders to review complaints from the recipients that have complained about them or marked them as spam. The goal is to help senders maintain a clean subscriber list and take action if there are complaints. For senders, feedback loops are a valuable resource for uncovering issues with sending frequency, relevance, and content.
2. Authenticate Your Email Domain
Failing to enable Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) could spell big trouble for your reputation.
The big risk here is becoming a victim of email spoofing, meaning someone takes control of your email domain and uses it to launch phishing attacks.
Because lack of authentication puts both you and your subscribers at risk, failing to take full control over your domain can result in reduced delivery rates.
3. Improve Opt-Ins to Increase Email Deliverability Rates
I get it, using a single opt-in or a pre-checked box to collect subscribers is tempting.
Upfront, you might generate more subscribers. But more isn’t always better, and long-term, these practices can hurt your email deliverability rate and don’t comply with GDPR guidelines.
Double opt-in presents a solution that protects you and your subscribers. Chances are you’re familiar with this concept, but double opt-in is the practice of sending a confirmation email to every new subscriber. The recipient must then confirm that they want to receive updates and at that point, are added to your list.
Double opt-in helps senders ensure that emails always go to real people who have given you permission to contact them.
This is an effective way to catch fake emails and typos that may be spam traps. Speaking of typos, we should mention that you should never manually add emails to your marketing lists, as the odd typo is bound to slip through the cracks.
Validate Incoming Email Addresses
Make sure you use an address validation tool on your sign-up page to verify email addresses before adding them to your list.
This extra step can prevent spam traps from landing on your site in the first place, saving you from headaches down the line.
Make it Easy to Unsubscribe
Many recipients mark emails as spam because it’s too difficult to unsubscribe, or there are multiple steps involved.
If unsubscribing is difficult, irritated customers may mark your emails as spam to get out of the relationship.
If this happens enough times, the email service provider may start to apply the spam filter automatically.
Whether or not you have an amazing subject line and a sweet offer waiting on the other side of the click, you still need to make sure there is an unsubscribe link at the foot of every email.
Failing to add this tiny detail not only increases the chances that recipients will mark your message as spam, but it may also result in a fine from the FTC.
Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that if someone asks to be removed from your list, you must comply within 10 days.
If you’d like more information about why someone unsubscribed, you may want to add a feedback form after the opt-out has been confirmed. This can give you a starting point for improving communications.
4. Make Sure Your Subject Lines Aren’t Spammy
Subject lines are vital when it comes to getting people to open your emails – a fact that has long been drilled into marketers heads.
But, it’s also worth pointing out that subject lines matter to ISPs, too.
Make sure you follow these subject line best practices so you can stay out of the spam filter:
Avoid Spam Trigger Words
Today’s spam filters have gotten pretty darn good at picking up on typical spammer language, and most of the time can tell the difference between a legitimate subject line and an infamous Nigerian prince scheme.
Still, it’s a good idea to avoid certain trigger words in your email communications. Among the worst offenders are:
- Be Your Own Boss
- Apply Online
- Act Now
- Free DVD
- Join Millions of Americans
- Meet Singles
- Not Spam
- Weight Loss
Most of these entries are pretty obvious, but if you look at a comprehensive list, like this one from Prospect.io, you’ll see that words like “Sale” or “Get” are also included.
Keep in mind, you can use many of these words, but you need to be aware of anything that promises a miracle cure, free money, or an unrealistic offer.
5. Avoid Spam Traps
Spam traps are emails used by ISPs designed to identify senders that aren’t following best practices.
Spam traps look like a run of the mill email address; however, they don’t belong to a real person.
This means that the email was used at one time and abandoned (for instance, work emails from employees who have since moved on). Or it could mean that an email is invalid, fake, or that it contains typos.
There are two main types of spam traps out there–there are pristine traps, which are email addresses that were never valid in the first place. As such, they would have never been able to opt-in to receiving emails.
ISPs use pristine traps to look for senders that purchase email lists or scrape sites to grow their list. This signals that the sender follows bad practices or that they are spamming recipients.
The second type, recycled spam traps are emails that were valid at one time but are no longer in use. It’s possible that someone voluntarily signed up for email updates using this address, but suggests to the ESP that your data is outdated.
6. Make Sure You’re Not On Any Blacklists
Spam traps can do a number on your email deliverability rates if you’re not careful.
If you haven’t fully committed to email hygiene or a spam trap managed to slip through the cracks, it’s possible that your IP address has landed on a blacklist. You’ll want to check whether your IP has been added to any of the following lists just to be safe.
- Barracuda Reputation Block List
These options listed here are the more reputable lists out there. There are countless others that either aren’t very well-known or are low-quality. Meaning, they might not do much to compromise deliverability rates.
7. Don’t Buy Email Lists
Purchasing email lists might seem like an easy way to market to more people. While we understand the temptation, there are a few things wrong with this practice.
For one, you don’t know how these emails were collected or where they came from. Meaning, there’s a good chance that you’re paying for spam traps.
Second, those emails that are valid belong to people who did not opt-in to receiving emails, which means you’re marketing to people without their consent.
And third, because you don’t know where the emails came from or how they were collected, you risk violating the CAN-SPAM law. The law prohibits the practice of “illegally harvesting” email addresses.
8. Improve Email Deliverability by Maintaining Proper List Hygiene
Even if you’re following best practices complete with explicit consent, failing to update your list regularly can increase your chances of running into a spam trap.
Make sure you deactivate bounced email addresses and remove invalid accounts from your email list, immediately.
Add those invalid addresses to a suppression list, which will help you keep track of these accounts, so you don’t accidentally email them again.
Additionally, you should remove inactive subscribers from your lists. While it certainly doesn’t feel great to see your subscriber numbers drop, ditch these addresses before they mark you as spam.
These subscribers either aren’t interested in your offers or content, or they don’t use that email anymore.
At a certain point, inactive subscribers may turn into spam traps, putting your deliverability and reputation at risk. As a general rule of thumb, make sure you update your lists at least once a year, if not more.
9. Segment Your Audiences
Segmenting your email list allows you to send relevant communications to subscribers based on their activity and preferences.
Segmentation can help you boost engagement, which in turn, lets ISPs know that recipients want to receive emails from you, thus improving IP trust.
As I’ve mentioned in another article about building a winning email marketing strategy, segmented email campaigns get more opens and clicks than non-segmented campaigns.
10. Embrace Suppression Lists to Improve Email Deliverability
Suppression lists exclude the wrong people from your email lists.
Email marketers typically use suppression lists as a way to keep track of email addresses they can no longer use. This practice prevents mailings from going out to unsubscribers and invalid emails so they don’t hurt your email deliverability rates.
While we spend a lot of time focusing on how to expand our reach and grow our email lists, it also pays to think about how to suppress groups strategically.
Segments you might want to consider suppressing:
- Unqualified Leads
- Unengaged Subscribers
- Lifecycle Suppression
- Persona Suppression
- Unsubscriber Suppression
Aside from those unsubscribers, the groups outlined above won’t get suppressed every time. These lists primarily serve as a way to make sure that you avoid sending emails to the wrong group.
How Do You Grow Your List Without Buying Subscribers?
There are several ways you can grow your subscriber list without compromising your deliverability rate. Unfortunately, there’s no fast track to subscriber success here.
Much of the process depends on following email deliverability best practices and working to build your reputation outside of the inbox on social media, organic content, and paid ads.
A few things that can help:
- Run Paid Awareness Campaigns
- Create Thoughtful Lead Magnets
- Optimize Your Opt-In Forms
- Improve Accessibility
- Level Up Your Personalization Strategy
Wrapping Up How to Improve Email Deliverability
It’s a lot to balance, keeping both ISPs and customers happy. However, ISPs are looking out for their users, and do so by scanning for signs of risky behavior or low-quality content.
Make sure you send emails to an engaged audience. When people open emails, click your links, and visit your website, that signals that you’ve provided something of value. As a result, your deliverability rates should improve.
Follow the best practices outlined above, and spend some time making sure that your emails are well-written, visually compelling, and present an offer that recipients can’t resist.
If you need some inspiration for designing emails that bring value to the inbox, here are six high-ROI templates to add to your email marketing strategy.