If you are an email marketer, you have undoubtedly read countless articles explaining the latest tips, tricks, hacks, and voodoo designed to improve your deliverability: use shorter subject lines, concise calls to action, don’t use link shorteners, segment your mail streams, optimize for mobile, stick to a consistent mailing schedule, avoid “spam words.” The list goes on and on.
I’m not saying that these are bad ideas. Executing some of these concepts can indeed improve the effectiveness of your email marketing efforts. However, I feel that too frequently email marketers get caught up in finding the latest deliverability hack that the fundamentals of what makes a great email program are forgotten or overlooked. In a recent webcast, we were asked if we could come up with a list of the five most critical components for building and maintaining a healthy email program with great deliverability. We did. Here’s our list.
1. Do not purchase, rent, scrape, share, or co-register email addresses.
Recipients should opt in to receive your messages with explicit and informed consent. Your recipients should be expecting the messages you send them because they are familiar with your brand, and the product or service you are selling.
2. Set clear expectations at the point of address collection.
Recipients should know exactly what types of email they are going to receive from you and how often they are going to receive it. These days, the inbox is a busy place. Recipients are quick to mark messages as spam if they feel like they are cluttering up their inbox. Reduce the chances of sending someone more mail than they want by being clear up front about sending frequency. Letting recipients choose their frequency is also a great idea.
3. Stop sending to recipients who have not engaged with your emails in the past three months.
Understandably, three months can seem aggressive for a lot of email marketers. However, it is important to know that as a recipient exceeds a three month period of non-engagement, every message you send to them is likely a ding against your reputation. Six months is the longest you should ever send to someone without seeing some type of engagement with your emails. If you cannot stop sending to them entirely, you need to consider substantially reducing your sending frequency to these addresses. Lack of engagement is a reputation killer.
4. Give users a painless, clear, and trustworthy way to leave your mailing list.
An unsubscribe link tucked away at the bottom of your email in tiny, grey font is not enough. Remember: if a recipient can’t find, or doesn’t trust the unsubscribe link, they always know where the Report Spam button is. Unfortunately, there are bad actors out there who do not honor unsubscribes and recipients are aware of this. It is a good idea to do whatever you can to lend a greater degree of trust to your unsubscribe functionality. Instead of “unsubscribe here,” try something like “Tired of hearing from us, tap here to never hear from us again.” Or, “Don’t need these emails? Unsubscribe here and we’ll stop mailing you for good!”
5. Be agile.
Be prepared to change your sending strategy when conditions change. The days of “set it and forget it” email marketing are over. Monitor your opens, clicks, spam reports, and unsubscribes. Look for underperforming campaigns, segments, and mail streams and adjust accordingly. Far too often, I speak with senders who know their open rates are falling, and spam reports and unsubscribes are increasing yet they continue to send the same types of messages. Take these signals as an opportunity to adjust your content, frequency, or targeting.
As I said before, there is value in paying attention to trends in email marketing. Optimizing your templates, and subject lines, and doing your best to make sure your messages don’t look spammy are great things to do. However, these details should never be used in place of these five pillars of deliverability. Cutting corners on these fundamental concepts will have you spending more time troubleshooting delivery issues and will make it much more difficult to scale your email marketing program.
I’ve shared more thoughts on these 5 pillars of deliverability in our 2016 Email Deliverability Guide. Download it for more tips on how to grow a healthy and lasting email program.