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Email deliverability: How to establish a stellar sender reputation

First impressions are everything — especially when it comes to email marketing. New subscribers are highly engaged and more likely to convert during the first 30 days after signing up. Marketers that get off on the wrong foot risk being tagged as spammers and, worse, landing on an Internet Service Provider's (ISP) blacklist.

In our new eBook, New School Marketer's Guide to Email Deliverability, Responsys experts reveal what you need to know to ensure that your marketing emails get delivered. The first step is to make sure you have the right infrastructure in place, including a good reputation with ISPs like Yahoo!, Gmail and Hotmail.

Here's how to make sure you're on their good side:

Gradually warm up your IP address

ISPs are always wary of a new IP address, especially one that generates a lot of emails. If you adopt a new address for an email campaign, then you need to be strategic about what happens next so you can avoid having your messages blocked.

  1. Send only to a small, engaged audience: Send your most relevant email campaigns, and send only to people who have opened or clicked on an email message recently.
  2. Avoid sending to ‘hard-bounces’: Do not send emails to any address that hard bounced on a previous email platform.
  3. Ramp up slowly: Gradually increasing the number of emails sent improves delivery performance and builds credibility with ISPs.

Ensure key email authentication methods are in place

Email authentication validates and establishes your identity as an email sender— and helps ISPs cut down on spoofing and phishing attacks. It’s critical in today’s email ecosystem to ensure all outbound email is compliant with Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM)Additionally, signing outbound email with a Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) policy is a key defense against spoofing and phishing attacks against your brand. 

Learn to navigate feedback loops and Gmail’s unsubscribe list

Be aware of feedback loops (FBLs) and whitelisting since each plays a role in overall email deliverability.

Feedback loops: User feedback is a great tool for managing deliverability and your brand's reputation. Many ISPs will alert email senders when a recipient labels a message as "spam" or "junk" through a feedback loop. Gmail takes a slightly different tack: it enables senders to collect and unsubscribe recipients who have marked their messages as spam via ‘List-Unsubscribe.’  Any time a subscriber hits the “spam” button, this is a signal to you to stop sending them email.  Process all spam complaints as opt-outs. 

Whitelists: If you plan to send high volumes of email from a particular IP address, getting on an ISP's whitelist can minimize deliverability problems. Here are a few things you should know about whitelisting:

    1. Some ISPs (like Yahoo! and AOL) put a greater emphasis on whitelisting and it takes the better part of the ramp-up process before a sender may be eligible for whitelisting.
    2. Whitelisting is an important component of the initial IP warm-up process, but it is not a substitute for establishing a good sender reputation.
    3. ISP whitelists provide a boost to sender reputation.
    4. Whitelisting can allow the display of links and images at some ISPs.
    5. ALL of the same deliverability best practices and rules still apply for whitelisted senders, there is no “free lunch.”

Make sure your feedback loop systems are up to date and functioning. Watch your spam complaint rates closely, and learn from them.  Consider what you can do differently as a sender to provide more value and less noise to your subscribers.  For everyone who hits the “spam” button, many others are close to doing the same thing. Take action before others follow suit and hit that “spam” button.  Spam complaints will count against your sender reputation. This can lead to delivery problems, and you also lose the ability to market to these individuals in the future, since they are opted-out.

Whether you’re starting out, changing ESPs, or simply migrating to a new IP address, take this opportunity to reinvent your email marketing program. A new IP gives you a blank slate, and there’s no better time to build the email program you always dreamed of. The future is yours.

email deliverability

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