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1 Deliverability: A guide to reaching your audience deliverability is a key factor in campaign performance. Understanding how deliverability is calculated and how it affects your marketing success will give you the knowledge to manage better campaigns that produce higher engagement rates and keep your customers happy.

2 What is deliverability? Deliverability is a term related to campaigns that reflects the amount of s that reach the inbox of your intended recipients. The factors that are measured to determine deliverability are bounces (hard and soft), the number of s sent to the spam folder and any other s that did not make it to the inbox. When looking at different Service Providers (ESP), you might hear them boast about how they feature a 95%, 96% or even a 99% deliverability rate. Although this number may reflect how diligent the ESP is about monitoring and maintaining their infrastructure, the fact remains that a large portion of deliverability performance falls in the hands of the person creating the and maintaining the contact list. What this means is YOU have a great deal of control on the deliverability of your message. High deliverability means keeping your s out of the spam box of your contacts. Any time an you send to a contact is marked as spam, either by the contact or by their spam filtering software, you will most likely take a small hit in the deliverability of your next campaign. At the very least, that contact may never see an from you again. If the contact is using a large provider like Yahoo or AOL, the impact of marking that as spam will have greater repercussions with your deliverability to anyone using that same provider. It only takes a few campaigns with spam-like traits to affect your performance which will require significant changes and time to repair the damage. Spam Filters Spam filters get smarter and smarter each year as programmers develop more complex algorithms for determining if an is spam or not. For the large providers, almost all spam filters will take an that someone marks as spam and create a fingerprint of that . This fingerprint records different details and patterns in the that are likely to be repeated in future s (i.e. graphical headers, contact information, etc ). The fingerprint is then compared to new s as they arrive on their servers and, if enough parts of the fingerprint match, the will be flagged as spam and it will be placed directly in the spam folder, missing the recipient s inbox completely. Once some of your campaigns start getting delivered to the spam folder, it can be very difficult to get back to the inbox. Many times the spam filters will trigger off of a piece of data that can be hard to change, such as your phone number. The best way to get out of a spam filter is to never get there in the first place! What affects deliverability? List Quality Deliverability and performance largely depends on the quality of your list. The general rule of thumb is the higher the quality of your list, the better chance of making it to the inbox. High quality lists contain targeted individuals that are ed on a regular basis and who have opted in to receive s

3 from you. The contacts know what kind of to expect and when to expect it. They trust the source of the s and appreciate the content being delivered. On the other hand, low quality lists tend to be filled with old contacts that haven t been touched for some time, or have addresses gathered from unreliable or unrelated sources such as a third party list buy. Here is a basic rule: Only send s to your contacts that opt-in to receive your messages, and make sure you re only sending those contacts s with content related to the list for which they ve opted in. When building your contact list, do not buy lists from third parties. Even though these lists will advertise that the contacts did indeed opt-in, there s no way those contacts opted in for YOUR list and they would regard any from your company as spam. You also can t be certain how old the addresses are contained in the list and there s a good possibility that some of these addresses are set up as spam traps. Spam traps are used by providers based on real accounts that have been discarded. Since the is not in use by a real person, any sent there was obviously from a list that was improperly shared and the person sending those s knows that contact never opted in to receive marketing information. Type of The type of you are sending can drastically affect how your contacts engage with your . Transactional s or s sent to the contact as a result of an action they took will have the highest deliverability rate. Almost always the contact will be expecting an and if for some reason it does make it to the spam folder, they will dive in to the folder to rescue the . Quite frequently transactional s will have a different fingerprint than marketing s from the same company, which allows the user to quickly determine whether the is important or if it can wait for later. To further enhance deliverability, it s a good idea to send transactional s through an infrastructure designed for this type and send marketing s from a separate system. newsletters will typically have high engagement. It is common that contacts inside of an organization are expecting a monthly or weekly and will work to get that in their inbox. As long as your newsletter contains valuable articles and events, your contacts will appreciate staying informed and your s will be opened or saved. Marketing s will vary greatly in deliverability due to many factors. Because they tend to have the lowest deliverability rates, it s best to not mix these s with transactional or newsletter type content. People can quickly identify most marketing messages from other types of s and will treat the accordingly. The best you can do is give the people what they want and respect their wishes. Source The source of the original can make a significant impact on deliverability. Each system that you send an from leaves a different kind of formatting or signature in the delivered . If you have been sending s to your list using Outlook and then switch suddenly to an Service Provider, your deliverability rate may drop. Even though the s say they are coming from the same person, the actual source of the is completely different. The spam filters on the other side have

4 been trained not to always trust the From: address and will treat your like a completely new . Remember: If you send out different types of s (example: you re a company sending out receipts from your shopping cart and marketing s to new contacts), it s best to use different systems for each. Each has a different purpose and a single system will not be optimized for each type of . Keeping things separate will help minimize any negative effects that occur on either system. Using an Service Provider (ESP) It is highly recommended that you use an Service Provider (ESP) for your marketing s. Any good ESP will have mechanisms in place to help you target your audience, build and maintain specific lists as well as process bounces and unsubscribes. They will also have a larger infrastructure than what you can maintain on your own. Because their infrastructure sends out s every day, their servers will have a large volume of s on which to base their reputation. A good reputation can help tremendously. Be sure to use an ESP that actively monitors their servers and has a good reputation. They should be just as interested (or more) in your deliverability because not only do they want to keep you as a customer, they want all of their customers to have success. ESP s will also allow you send a larger number of s at one time then what your personal provider will typically allow. You will run in to problems sending marketing s from your personal client. Many ISP s and hosting companies will prevent you from sending a large number of s at a single time to prevent spammers. Also, you will not receive the performance reporting provided by an ESP. If too many messages sent from your personal are marked as spam, you may start having issues with your dayto-day correspondence. Many times an ESP will be your only solution to get your message out to your list. Switching Templates As you send more and more s to your list, your contacts will get to know you. After a while, they will be able to spot an you sent from across the room or just by glancing at their phone. By being respectful and consistent, you will build trust with your audience. When you drastically switch templates, it can be jarring for your contacts. It will take them longer to identify you as the same people that they have been receiving s from for years. Introduce major changes slowly and keep your contacts in the loop to avoid confusion. What can I expect from my campaigns? The first thing to remember is that with any newsletter or marketing campaign, you cannot expect 100% deliverability. There will always be times where the other server will not be available, addresses change, or something in your inadvertently triggers a spam filter. With properly crafted s and good lists, you should expect anywhere from 95% to 99% deliverability. This means you should see less than 4% bounce backs and unsubscribes. Ideally, after you have been sending to

5 your list for a while, your bounce backs should drop to less than 1%. If you bounce back rate is higher than 5%, there is probably an issue with where you ve sourced your list. Another factor to note is not all spam filters will report the status back to your ESP. This is why tracking your engagement rate is important in tracking your deliverability and effectiveness. open rates and engagement rates are much harder to predict due to the number of variables involved with how your list was built, what kind of content you are sending and how often you are sending it. Newsletters sent to small or medium sized groups can experience an average 30% to 40% open rate. Marketing s may see open rates from 15% to 30%, again depending on content and the size of the list to which you send. Once you establish a pattern with your campaigns, you will see your engagement rates fall in to a predictable range. This will be your baseline for measuring the performance of future s. Remember, open rates and engagement rates only measure the interaction with your , they do not reflect overall deliverability. How do I improve my deliverability? Careful Subject Lines Make sure your subject line is easy to understand and explains the context of the . Do not use all caps or excessive punctuation. Don t repeat exclamation points or question marks. If you provide a subject that is enticing to your contacts, they will be more likely to open and engage with your . Encourage Your Contacts to Whitelist You Be sure to remind your contacts to add your address to their contact list inside of their client. This will help your s by-pass their filter and go directly to their inbox. If you encourage your contacts to whitelist you, don t change the address from which you send. Otherwise you ll need to start all over again! High-Quality and Engaging Content (in text form) Your contacts signed up to receive s from you because they like the content you are producing. Don t drive them away by sending out content unrelated to what they originally signed up to receive. When you are composing your , try to stick to one or two primary messages. If you try to push too many items in to a single , your users will lose focus and the whole may be overlooked. Provide as much text as possible for those reading on mobile devices or on clients with images turned off. For better quality reporting, be sure to ask your users to engage with your . Provide links to read more or to download additional information. Make sure there s a call to action that is easy to find visually. By having your contacts click and engage with your , your reporting numbers will be closers to representing the actual number of people who are interested in your brand or service. Related and Appropriate Images The images you include in your should be relevant to the content, but not required in order to get the message to your users. Many clients will block images by default, so be sure you have plenty

6 of text in the including alternate text on images. Do not send an with one or two big images in place of textual content. Also, many users are reading on mobile phones so keep the image file sizes as small as possible so the images will download quickly to your user s devices. Be Consistent Don t wait eight months to send an to your list and then start sending s every two weeks. You contacts will feel overwhelmed and will start flagging your s as spam. Pick a schedule and stick to it. Let your contacts know how often to expect s from you. If your Service Provider (ESP) provides a method to remind you to stay consistent, utilize that feature (ie. scheduling calendar). If you provide your contacts quality content on a consistent schedule, they will come to appreciate the s you send. Building and Maintaining a Good List Be sure to keep your list clean. This means removing bounce backs and unsubscribes immediately. A better solution is to use an Service Provider (ESP) who provides this service for you. A healthy list will keep the large providers from blocking your servers and will keep your contacts happy. Let your users know exactly what they are signing up for and how often to expect it. Do not import bad contacts in to your list, either from a third party or an old mailing list a friend gave to you. The fastest way to look like a spammer is to send unsolicited s. If you are unsure of where the contacts came from or how old the addresses are, it is better to avoid sending s to those addresses. Focus more effort on getting people to sign up to your list that really want to engage with your brand. Conclusion With nearly 80% of users preferring to engage with marketers via , deliverability is a top concern for anyone that uses as part of their marketing efforts. By focusing on good lists and providing s with good content, you should see an improvement to your deliverability. Finally, don t relax and let a bad or contact list go out on your behalf. It is much easier to keep your deliverability high then to try and build it back up from an earlier mistake. Sources: ReturnPath -

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