Q&A with Deliverability Manager John Peters
With the holiday season just around the corner, and the prospect of sending more emails to your subscribers than usual, not to mention the influx they’ll no doubt receive from other brands, we want to make sure you feel prepared and holiday ready.
We sat down with John Peters, Campaign Monitor’s Deliverability Manager and advocate of email sending best practices, to ask him how you should prepare for the influx of emails this holiday season, and how you can maximize inbox placement and engagement at this busy time.
Read on to see how you can make an impact with your email program this holiday season, for all the right reasons.
Q: For those that might not be familiar with deliverability, can you give us a crash course on what it is.
Sure! Email deliverability can be complicated and may, at times, seem part science and part magic.
To demystify deliverability, let’s look at the journey of an email from when someone clicks “send” to the email arriving in the individual recipient’s inbox. We can break this journey down into two main stages.
Stage one is where our system compiles the email and sends it to the mailbox provider like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or business domains. The mailbox provider will either accept the email, or reject it and if the email is accepted we call this successful email delivery.
Stage two is what happens after the email is accepted. There are more automated checks carried out by the mailbox provider’s system, and these checks determine where the email ends up. If the customer has a good sender reputation their email will land in the inbox. Otherwise it will get blocked or filtered to the spam folder. And this is email deliverability.
Q: What can our customers do to influence good deliverability and avoid the spam folder?
I think it’s important to acknowledge that a marketer has direct control over the majority of factors that impact deliverability. For the most part deliverability is about sender reputation and subscriber engagement, that is to say whether a person reacts positively or negatively to their emails.
As such, a marketer can make sure they follow these 5 steps:
- they have explicit permission and voluntary opt-in to send emails
- their email content is both expected and wanted by their audience
- they focus on increasing recipient engagement and reducing the risk of high spam complaints
- they regularly refresh their lists by re-engaging inactive subscribers and removing dormant ones with no activity over 12 months
- they authenticate their sending domains and at the very least set up DKIM for the domain they use to send emails
Q: Deliverability is important all year round, but why is it particularly important during the holiday season?
It is normal during the holiday season for global email traffic to increase and peak over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend. During this time, marketers send more emails and with greater urgency and mailbox providers are strained to manage the surge in email volume.
In such a peak time, mailbox providers must strike a balance between over-filtering incoming email and placing legitimate emails in the spam folder. Or the mailbox provider may not filter enough emails and let spam through to a person’s inbox.
Marketers want to reach their subscribers’ crowded inboxes (especially at this time of the year), and to do so successfully they need to know the constraints and affecting environment of the email ecosystem. Otherwise they may find that their well crafted and curated content is being filtered and not reaching their subscribers’ inbox.
Q: Is it too late for customers to prepare for the 2022 holiday season?
No, this is the perfect time to prepare for the coming holiday season. Even if your holiday programs have already begun, it’s not too late to follow these deliverability best practices. The savvy marketer knows now is the time to audit their database and review their campaign and mailing reports.
Focus on list hygiene. Permission to send emails isn’t evergreen, and monitoring list hygiene is an ongoing process. If a subset of a list has poor engagement metrics, consider trying to re-engage that particular group.
Sending a “check-in” email to those less engaged subscribers is a great way to see if they wish to remain on your list or if they do not then perhaps it is time to bid them goodbye and remove them from your list rather than damage your sender reputation.
Q: That’s great to hear! What top tips do you have for customers to maintain, and even improve, their deliverability?
Don’t make sudden and unexpected changes to how you send emails, such as changing the “From” email address you use to send emails or changing your branding. These are your calling card which helps people remember who you are and why they are receiving your emails and it helps your email stand out in their crowded inbox.
If you anticipate a dramatic increase in your email volume or sending frequency make sure you have a ramp up plan to accommodate the change in cadence. Mailbox providers treat sudden changes in email volume from a sender as suspicious and may filter your emails to the spam folder or block them.
Make sure you have DKIM set up for your sending domain. Campaign Monitor now has a virtual Assistant that helps customers know if they haven’t authenticated their sending domain.
Included in your Campaign Monitor account is our Insights reporting. In this reporting you can immediately see overall statistics for your campaigns. You can review your results over a period of time, which you are able to define using the date selection tool. This will help you look for trends in your performance over a period of time.
Marketers should closely monitor their email results for any signs of subscriber email fatigue. A drop in engagement will impact your sender reputation, and a fatigued subscriber is more likely to mark an email as spam.
Q: Any other final tips for Campaign Monitor customers?
Landing in the inbox is a privilege rather than a right. If we want to be invited in as a welcome guest, we need to make sure we present ourselves as trustworthy and respectful senders who are mindful of our sending practices and the expectation of our subscribers.
While it’s tempting to maximize sales by sending in higher cadence even to unresponsive subscribers, any small increase in ROI is not worth the longer lasting negative impact to future inbox placement, especially leading up to the post Black Friday/Cyber Monday holiday season.
By following the above practices marketers can increase the quality of their email list, better manage their database and increase the overall effectiveness of their email programs and inbox placement.