Email Delivery Failure: What Causes It? Carly Brantz September 17, 2014 Best Practices // SUMMARIES ?> Email delivery can be a frustrating business. You work hard to create emails that will capture your customers’ attention, and sometimes all of that hard work goes to waste. And despite your customers having asked to receive these emails, Internet Service Providers (ISPs—like Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL) and other filters can make can make 22% of them go undelivered. What’s a sender to do? First of all, it’s important to understand that it’s not personal. ISPs are just trying to sift through over 100 billion emails that are sent daily. This volume of spam makes it extremely difficult for ISPs to determine which mail streams are legitimate and which ones are just trying to dupe customers. Add phishers and spoofers to the mix and deciphering the matrix becomes even trickier. Therefore, it’s important that you follow email best practices so you can help ISPs better identify your mail as legitimate. Here are three tips to help you do just that. 1. Zero Out Your Complaint Box A high complaint rate is one of the tops reasons that your email will end up in the spam/junk folder or put your IP on a blacklist. Complaints are registered when a user reports your email message as spam by hitting the “Report Spam” button. Each ISP has a threshold for spam complaints and if your email campaign crosses the line, your emails will never make it to your user. This is because ISPs are adamant about their customers only receiving wanted email. To avoid this problem, sign up for feedback loops. Feedback loops arm you with the email addresses that have complained about your email so that you can swiftly remove them from your list. You can even automate this function like TeamSnap did so you can easily maintain a clean, healthy list devoid of complainers. 2. Shore Up Your Infrastructure Building your own email infrastructure can be complex and expensive, requiring dedicated resources and servers. While many companies opt to maintain their own mail servers, an incorrect configuration can put a halt to your email delivery plans. This is because spammers tend to focus on sending malicious email, not so much on making sure their email servers are in proper working order. Also be sure to follow a few rules of thumb when sending from your own servers. These include sending from a dedicated IP address if you are sending high volumes of email, setting up “postmaster” and “abuse” mailboxes for your domain that you monitor regularly, and ensuring your servers are secure. Also, avoid open relays or open proxies for maximum email security. Alternatively, you could work directly with an email service provider to avoid the complexities of maintaining your own server. 3. Always Ask For Permission Good (or bad) email delivery always starts in the same place—with your list. A good list is built based on strong permission standards. A strong opt-in strategy will go a long way in building an engaged audience. However, just because you got permission once, doesn’t mean it’s for a lifetime. User needs change over time and you’ll need to compensate for list fatigue and poor response rates as a result. ISPs now pay close attention to engagement rates, so you need your users to regularly open and click on your emails. Systematically weed out your non-responders by asking for permission to continue emailing them. Also periodically ask your users to update their preferences. Be sure your unsubscribe functionality is working properly and easily found too. In the end, it’s better for users to proactively remove themselves from your list then to go dormant or report you as spam. The latter sends red flags to the ISPs, which can create problems for your email program. For more tips, check out our free guide on How to Authentically Grow Your Email List. In sum, these three steps will help ensure higher delivery rates. You’ll still need to closely monitor your email reputation, but if you focus heavily on avoiding complaints, maintaining a solid email infrastructure, and developing an ongoing permission strategy, you’re winning more than half the battle. To learn more about email deliverability best practices and how to comply with ISPs, download our new guide, The ABCS of ISPs.