Deliverability is a bit like weird science, and like the 1985 Oingo Boingo song: something like a recipe, bits and pieces, bits and pieces… it takes methodology to fit it all together.
With careful tailoring so that subject lines and campaign content are relevant, mobile formats are considered and image and preheader text tags included, your email reputation becomes a function of list management and hygiene.
Warming an IP
An Email Service Provider (ESP) painstakingly provides its customers with a platform and infrastructure for delivering one of two types of email messages:
Bulk – daily deals, news, product announcements, press releases and the like
Transactional – triggered emails, welcome and activation messages and password resets
In preparation of sending these types of messages in your behalf, the ESP “warms up” an Internet Protocol address (IP address), either dedicated or shared. This practice grooms your email credibility and good reputation as an email marketer.
Warming an IP address takes time, over which your ESP is releasing small and acceptable levels of email to established and engaged email addresses which are regularly opened and clicked but do not bounce, become complaints or get unsubscribed.
As the warm up continues, the process builds the IPs sender reputation. It’s all a matter of routine for the ESP, but before a new sender jockey’s up to the starting gate, a few other things need to happen.
Your corporate email address (the one you use to communicate with customers dozens of times over the course of your business day) is not the “from” email address you use for bulk or transactional email promotions. You do want to create a unique and customized, co-branded “from” email address that serves your marketing needs. Your ESP will authenticate this custom address to curtail phishing or spoofing attacks in the following manner.
Sender Policy Framework (SPF) – This is a cross reference between your custom “from” domain and Domain Name System (DNS) records. When your email is sent by your ESP, before it is delivered, email servers quickly query your DNS records which respond with the proper authentication.
Domain Keys Identification Mail (DKIM) – Here your DNS records are paired with public/private encryption keys. At the email server level, again, this further helps to authenticate your sending domain.
Domain Based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) – In an effort to standardize the process for all the various Internet Service Providers (ISPs like Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, Comcast, Roadrunner, etc.), DMARC performs authentication upon your customized “from” address using both SPF and DKIM mechanisms.
At the end of the official warm up, protect your custom “from” address and sender reputation with best list management practices.
When dealing with lists and data it’s paramount to remember… your subscribers are human, after all. They will either be inclined or disinclined to interact with your marketing promotions. Your mission is to get them as engaged as possible.
Nurture your human prospects by inviting them to join your mailing lists. Manage this with single or double opt-in methodology. Further setup your subscriber’s expectations with triggered “welcome” campaigns that describe the type of messages you will send and how frequently you send them.
Consider an email validation service to clean your list before you send your first campaign. Validation reduces bounce rate by flagging typos, syntax and formatting errors, dead domains, complainers and spam traps.
Bounces occur when an email is returned with non-delivery status. Hard bounces are permanent, soft bounces are temporary.
Spam complaints are based upon abuse reports digitally received from ISPs. Complainers are a major factor determining inbox placement.
An old or inactive email address may be converted into a recycled spam trap for the single purpose of catching senders who send to unengaged subscribers.
Pristine spam traps identify spammers who should never have acquired a particular email address in the first place. Pristine email addresses never subscribe or opt in to anything.
Keeping humans engaged with good content overtime conditions non-human ISPs that monitor engagement based upon algorithms and helps to determine whether your email lands in an individual’s inbox or junk box.
Continuing to send email to non-engaged subscribers puts your reputation on the line as well as increasing the possibility that an inactive address becomes a spam trap.
83% of delivery problems are caused by reputation issues. If you want your email to reach an inbox, you need to achieve positive engagement. Limiting the frequency of sends to inactive subscribers reduces negative engagement.
- Opens and clicks
- Marking email as important
- Moving email from spam to inbox
- Forwarding and replying
- Reporting email as spam
- Deleting and ignoring email
- Marking a message as read
- Moving mail to trash
ISPs have their own tolerance levels and methods to measure human behavior and deliverability. To avoid mishap, maintain your reputation by monitoring your reporting metrics after every campaign. Likened to a game of dominos, as your email encounters negative engagement, your reputation falters, message delivery gets delayed or filtered from inbox to junk box, and eventually your messages are blocked completely.
Sound data collection and list management practices in combination with regularly scheduled email campaigns and content that your customers want to open, read and click-on are the wholesome ingredients for a good email reputation.
Not so weird, really.