Best Practices 101

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1 Best Practices Proven Tactics for Boosting Deliverability and Engagement BY KATE NOWROUZI

2 Best Practices 101 Boosting your inbox rates begins with an understanding of how your tactics in several key areas can affect deliverability. Read on to learn how to improve the ROI of your operations by applying best practices for: The Dollars and Cents of Deliverability...3 What s at Stake...4 Reputation...5 Segregation...6 Bounce Management...6 Permission... 7 Frequency Relevance Branding...12 CAN-SPAM...13 Suppression Lists Policy Requirements Technical Requirements...15 IP/Domain Acquisition Valid Reverse DNS Role Accounts Authentication How DMARC Works Whitelisting Sender Score Certified Spamhaus Feedback Loops Delivery Platforms...23 Adaptive Network...24 Conclusion

3 The Dollars and Cents of Deliverability According to an April 2015 survey of U.S. marketing executives, alone accounted for as much in revenues as all other types of digital advertising combined including social media, website, and display ad efforts. And other surveys repeatedly have found that has a higher ROI than any other channel or format studied. * ROI on marketing is nearly double that of other programs. Done correctly, high-volume operations can deliver tremendous return on investment. But only works if it actually reaches your customers. Most businesses achieve a deliverability rate somewhere around 87%. In other words, about 13% of their messages fail to reach their recipient. That s simply not acceptable. $40.56 Whether your focus is marketing, onboarding and user engagement, or customer service, every undelivered message is a missed opportunity and a hit to your bottom line. Don t let mediocre deliverability rates erode the value of your operations. The best practices discussed in this e-book will help you ensure the best possible inbox rates and the ROI your business deserves. $22.24 $19.72 $10.51 $7.30 * See How Much Revenue Does Drive?, emarketer, and Direct Mail Gets Most Response, But Has Highest ROI: DMA, ChiefMarketer, direct-mail-gets-most-response-but- -has-highest-roi-dma/ 3

4 What s at Stake You can t afford to be complacent about middling deliverability rates. Even rates that might seem good enough still translate into lost revenue. Consider two examples based on typical industry metrics. Can you really afford to lose $100,000 for every million messages you send? BUSINESS A: 95% Deliverability Rate Subscribers: 1,000,000 Delivered Messages: 950,000 Missed Messages: 50,000 Average Sales: 5% Lost Sales: 2,500 Avg. Value Per Sale: $20 Lost Revenue: $50,000 BUSINESS B: 90% Deliverability Rate Subscribers: 1,000,000 Delivered Messages: 900,000 Missed Messages: 100,000 Average Sales: 5% Lost Sales: 5,000 Avg. Value Per Sale: $20 Lost Revenue: $100,000 4

5 Reputation Sender reputation is one of the most important concepts in deliverability. Every IP address and domain has a reputation based on factors such as past rates of bounces and spam reports. Domains and IP addresses with a good reputation have a better delivery rate so building and maintaining a good reputation should be central to the mission of your operations. A Few Tips to Begin With: Avoid sending risky content, especially on new IP addresses with unproven reputations. Don t use language that could seem suggestive ( sexy, hot ) even if your meaning is entirely innocent. Don t send too much, too soon, from a new IP address. Start slowly and increase gradually. Maintain good list hygiene. Respect user permissions, pay attention to feedback loops (FBLs), and remove inactive users. Authenticate. Use DMARC, SPF, and DKIM. Segment and mail your active subscribers to build a positive track record. Monitor the inbox rates of your IPs to identify emerging problems. Watch out for deferral messages from your ISP, which can indicate impending blacklisting of your s. Most fundamentally, make sure each you send will be welcomed by its recipient instead of being reported as spam. 5

6 Segregation Each message that bounces or gets reported as spam counts against the reputation of the originating IP. This reduces deliverability for future messages from that IP or leads to them being blocked entirely. Using the same IP for every type of user, marketing, transactional, alerts means that a rogue in any of these areas can jeopardize the deliverability of every message your company sends from that IP. Bounce Management A high bounce rate can have a negative impact on your overall delivery rate. If your IP address is associated with too many unknown user bounces at a particular ISP, you risk being blacklisted or blocked by that ISP. Each bounce has a unique meaning and needs to be treated differently based on its associated SMTP code. The art of classifying and treating bounces is called bounce management. By segregating your IPs according to function, you help ensure that your mail receives the best delivery possible. 6

7 Permission Permission is the consent consumers grant to receive s from you. It s important because is so much more personal than TV, radio, direct mail and other marketing channels, and calls for a higher standard of privacy. It s also an area of intense attention by government regulators in the U.S. and around the world. Most importantly, permission affects deliverability. An AOL User Behavior study showed that newsletters using double opt-in had a much lower average unsubscribe rate (7.6%) than single opt-in messages (22.2%). There are two main forms of permission: Single Opt-In: The user enters an address in a web form and checks a box agreeing to receive marketing s, alerts, and other messages from the business. Double Opt-In (a.k.a. closed-loop opt-in) The recipient needs to actively respond to a confirmation sent after the form is filled out, either through a click in the or by responding to the message itself. 7

8 [ Permission ] Beyond Permission: Really Listen to Your Customers While permission is a key issue for marketing, it may be less relevant for other types of commercial for example: Current balance alerts sent to a bank s account-holders. Activity notifications sent by social networks or online services. Flight updates sent by an airline to ticket-holders. New listings sent to members of a job search site. In cases like these, a user s messaging preferences are often set by default to receive . Instead of triggering the spam reports and damaged IP reputations that unwanted marketing s can bring, though, the context and relevance of these s are more likely to provide welcome value for the recipient. Let your customers be your guide. Your engagement metrics (both positive and negative) will tell you whether they truly find your content relevant to their needs and whether your practices are aligned with their preferences. Handled carefully, preference-aware messaging can be a win-win for your business, your customers and your deliverability rates alike. 8

9 [ Permission ] Guidelines for Preference-Aware Messaging Monitor Metrics Such as opens, click throughs, and changes in communication preference settings to make sure you re giving customers what they really want. Increase Messaging Intelligence Implement customer-adaptive messaging capabilities to fine-tune your s by variables such as timing and frequency according to your customers preferences and other factors. Make s Worth Receiving Work to optimize your messages by every means possible, including more relevant content, subject lines and targeting. Keep Data Clean Send a confirmation or welcome to make sure that addresses are deliverable and you ve correctly captured customer preferences before repeatedly mailing them. Purge unknown users and non-responsive addresses. Get Permission Anyway Even if you know your customers will welcome your messages, you should make sure to capture their complete preference profile (including what they prefer you not do, such as data sharing) and act on them in every action you take. 9

10 Frequency It s important to ask your customers, through the sign up process or a preferences center, how often they want to receive s from you. While respecting their wishes, you should also be aware of the right frequency strategies for different types of s. Marketing s are typically looking for an action a click, a purchase, a registration for a new service. Higher frequency can increase these conversions, but after a point customers may feel harassed or start tuning them out. Start slowly and monitor unsubscribe rates closely as you increase frequency. The last thing you want to do is damage your list through overuse. Engagement s such as newsletters should be sent at regular intervals so customers know when to expect them. Again, sending them too often can cause burnout quality is more important than quantity. For account alerts, activity notifications, and other customer service messages, let customers set their own preference for real-time, daily, weekly, or other messaging schedules. You should also pay attention to the aggregate frequency of all the s of any type each customer receives to ensure that your brand isn t showing up in their inbox more often than they might want it to. 10

11 Relevance The more relevant your s are, the more likely they ll be welcomed by consumers. Of course, relevance is in the eye of the recipient but a few guidelines can help you hit the sweet spot. Target the Right Audience. Use past purchases, traffic logs, on-site search, and other data to learn what your customers are most interested in, and tailor their content and offers accordingly. Don t Be Too Broad. While some messages may be relevant for your entire list, most won t be. Avoid the temptation to blanket the world with a single in the name of efficiency; sending multiple waves of more targeted messages will be much more effective and better for your list and your reputation. Send Valuable Promotions. Who doesn t love a good offer? Don t just tell customers about your latest products; make it worth their while with a significant discount or package deal. Use a Good Subject Line. Remember that many customers won t see more than the first few words especially on mobile. Put the most relevant and targeted terms up-front, and make the value to the customer immediately clear. 11

12 Branding Branding is one of the most important elements of marketing, helping you shape the way customers view your products and your company. To ensure brand integrity, it s essential that every aspect of your messaging visual identity, voice, value proposition is consistent and compelling. A common pitfall is to use different systems or third-party providers for automated transactional s, marketing s, and other types of messages. This can lead the look and feel of the messages customers receive to vary widely, creating a confusing brand experience. By managing all messages through a single system, you can build a stronger connection with your customers and make each they receive feel part of a coherent and valuable relationship. As part of your branding strategy, it s a good idea to use your brand name in the from field that shows up in the recipient s inbox. Some marketers use an individual s name in the belief that it will seem more personal, but this can also make it seem like spam. Instead, use a name customers will expect to see, then stick with it consistently across all s to build recognition and trust. 12

13 CAN-SPAM Also known as the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003, CAN-SPAM is an attempt by the U.S. Congress to protect consumers from unwanted marketing s. While enforcement of the law is difficult and its effectiveness has been debated, its provisions offer useful guidance for treating consumers appropriately and maintaining a healthy online reputation. Key provisions of CAN-SPAM include: Don t use false or misleading header information. Don t use deceptive subject lines. Identify the message as an ad. Tell recipients where you re located. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future from you. Honor opt-out requests promptly. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. 13

14 Suppression Lists Policy Requirements The CAN-SPAM Act requires commercial senders to maintain a list of consumers who do not wish to receive their s. These businesses must provide a functioning opt-out mechanism by which recipients can unsubscribe their address from future messages. The unsubscribed addresses are placed into a suppression list that is used to suppress future messages to that address. This list also includes bad domains, traps and role accounts. ISPs accept from senders at different rates. Before you start sending from a new IP, make sure you comply with as many published ISP acceptance policies and recommendations as possible. 14

15 Technical Requirements In addition to the best practices above, there are several technical capabilities that can play a crucial role in deliverability. These include: IP/Domain Acquisition Valid Reverse DNS for All Sending IPs Role Accounts and Authentication (DKIM, SPF, SenderID) Whitelisting Sender Score Certified Feedback Loops (FBL) 15

16 [ Technical Requirements ] IP/ Domain Acquisition Most businesses that send commercial will want to set up multiple web domains and IP addresses for different purposes sometimes over 100 for the largest senders. Acquiring these is a simple matter; you can begin at the following sites: IP Addresses: arin.net The American Registry for Internet Numbers Domain Name Registration Provider: networksolutions.com Godaddy.com As you acquire new IP addresses, you should be aware of the concept of IP warm-up. To combat spammers, ISPs and providers temporarily block or limit the amount of a new IP address can send, allowing higher volume only gradually as the sender s reputation is proven. If you try to send millions of messages on your first day with a new IP address, you ll quickly be blacklisted. Becoming a high volume sender (millions per day to the big ISPs) is possible, but it takes time. One recommendation is to avoid sending more than 10,000 messages per day to the major ISPs (Yahoo!, Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, etc.), or more than 1,000 messages per day to smaller ISPs, and don t increase volume by more than 2x per day. Watch your failure metrics carefully, and revert to a lower volume if you start seeing an increase in temporary and permanent failures. It takes about hours to propagate a new domain name. 16

17 [ Technical Requirements ] Valid Reverse DNS Computer networks use the Domain Name System (DNS) to determine the IP address associated with a domain name for example, resolving host1.domain.com to Reverse DNS Lookup works similarly, but in the opposite direction, resolving an IP address to its designated domain name so the IP address turns back into host1.domain.com. To ensure the integrity and operability of DNS data and servers, every Internet host is required to have a reverse DNS entry. In practical terms, mail servers with no reverse DNS will have a hard time getting mail to certain large ISPs. Role Accounts A role account is an address which serves a particular function, not an individual person, for example or Every ISP, service provider (ESP), and web host including self-hosted senders of commercial is required to have two particular role accounts in order to promptly identify spam and abuse related problems on their network: and Networks that do not tolerate spammers monitor their closely and take prompt action to stop any problems that arise. SPAM 17

18 [ Technical Requirements ] Authentication authentication validates the identities of the parties who participate in transferring a message the sender and/or recipient and can be an important factor in deliverability. Early authentication schemes, such as DomainKeys, have been superseded in recent years, and today the industry has coalesced around DMARC as the standard protocol. DMARC Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance, is designed to guard against phishing, spam and other abuses. When a message is delivered to a recipient, the destination server asks the sender for a public key to verify that the signature is correct and that the sender is who they claim to be. What s important for commercial senders to know is that if their is not DMARCcompliant, their deliverability can suffer significantly. Adopting DMARC is quickly becoming an essential requirement for high-volume operations. 18

19 [ Technical Requirements ] How DMARC Works The DMARC standard allows senders to employ either of two (or both) previously established authentication standards: SPF (Sender Policy Framework, a.k.a. SenderID) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail). The critical mechanism with DMARC is that it creates a dialog between senders and receivers, with senders providing guidance to receivers as to what to do if neither of the authentication methods passes. For instance, if a message fails DKIM, please junk or reject the message immediately. Additionally, DMARC provides a way for the receiver to report back to the sender about messages that pass and/or fail DMARC evaluation. DKIM / DomainKeys Identified Mail DKIM authentication allows the recipient of a message to confirm that a message originated with the sender s domain and that the message content has not been forged. In effect, DKIM allows organizations to claim responsibility for messages they send and guarantee their contents. SPF / SenderID With SPF, records are used to authorize the IP address of the outbound mail transfer agent (MTA) to help ISPs detect forged . Creating your SPF record involves determining the domains and IP addresses used to send your s, then publishing the SPF to DNS. 19

20 [ Technical Requirements ] Whitelisting Senders and consumers alike want permission-based to reach the inbox. To help separate responsible senders from spammers, many ISPs maintain a whitelist of approved domains or IP addresses. A whitelist will protect good senders from some (but not all) spam filters based on previous reputation and mailing history. Being whitelisted by ISPs is a key step for increasing your delivery rates. Whitelisting lets you send more per hour, keeps you out of the spam folders, and gets more delivered. It also increases your reputation score. Major ISPs such as AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, and Verizon provide whitelisting as a free service. To be whitelisted, you provide the ISP with information about your mailing practices which also has the effect of making it easier for them to identify coming from you so they can monitor how recipients treat your . This higher level of scrutiny is the price you pay for higher deliverability and a better reputation, but as long as you re diligent in following best practices, you ll have nothing to worry about. 20

21 [ Technical Requirements ] Sender Score Certified Sender Score Certified is a certification program for enhanced inbox placement run by a company called Return Path. Like a credit rating score, a Sender Score indicates the trustworthiness of an source, and is a key reflection of your reputation. A Sender Score is compiled based on data from ISPs, spam filters, and security companies. It can help you determine if you need to improve your reputation to improve deliverability, and can provide specific guidance in the changes you would need to make. Return Path lets senders check their Sender Score free based on their IP address, and provides its customers with more detailed reputation reports. Spamhaus The Spamhaus Project is an international nonprofit organization whose mission is to track the Internet s spam operations and sources, to provide dependable real-time anti-spam protection for Internet networks and to identify and pursue spam gangs worldwide. Spamhaus maintains a number of real-time spamblocking databases ( DNSBLs ) responsible for keeping back the vast majority of spam sent out on the Internet. These include the Spamhaus Block List (SBL), the Exploits Block List (XBL), the Policy Block List (PBL) and the Domain Block List (DBL). These tools are highly valuable for senders in maintaining good relations with ISPs, which are on the receiving side of the world. 21

22 [ Technical Requirements ] Feedback Loops When an recipient clicks This is spam for a piece of , this is considered a complaint. If your complaint rates are too high, an ISP may not deliver your . By setting up a feedback loop (FBL) with the ISPs that provide this service, you will receive a copy of each complaint generated when this happens, and the recipient will usually be unsubscribed from your list automatically. As with a whitelist, an FBL means that you re taking responsibility for your practices. Monitoring FBLs benefits both mailers and ISPs, in that they help to manage mailing lists as well as providing early warnings of network security issues. Major ISPs providing FBL include: Gmail Hotmail AOL Yahoo! Comcast Cox Road Runner 22

23 Delivery Platforms The final major factor in optimizing deliverability and maintaining best practices is the type of sending platform or infrastructure you use to send campaigns and transactional messages. Senders have more choices today than ever, from open source MTA products, to advanced commercial platforms, to cloud offerings. SparkPost leads all competing options by delivering the industry s best inbox placement 97.8%. SparkPost s deliverability is 8% better than the runner-up, and 15% higher than the average inbox placement in the industry. Senders leveraging SparkPost see more of their reaching their intended recipients this kind of successes manifests as improved deliverability and a higher return on investment. Cloud Provider Deliverability Cloud Provider Deliverability vi 97.8% SendGrid Dyn Mandrill Amazon SES 89.5% 87.2% 86.9% 83.6% Mailgun Google App Engine 69.8% 68.6% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Inbox Placement Percentage 23

24 Adaptive Network Maintaining world-class deliverability at scale requires a level of competence in understanding the characteristics of in transit, the signals ISPs read to identify spam, and architecting systems compliant with industry established best practices. SparkPost built the Adaptive Network (AEN) to help automate delivery to more than 12,000 global ISPs and mailbox providers. The AEN intelligently categorizes bounces, throttles traffic in real time in response to sending conditions as they arise, and maintains over 2000 rules that optimize the delivery and sending of . Adaptive Delivery TM 24

25 Improve your Deliverability for Maximum Business Results The potential value and ROI of messaging is too important to leave to chance. Applying the best practices discussed in this e-book will help you achieve the highest possible inbox rates and help every message you send translate into a real bottom-line impact. Contact Us Today to ensure your messages get through. Visit us online at sparkpost.com and follow us on SparkPost.com 301 Howard St., Suite 1330 San Francisco, CA tel toll free usa Guide_ -Best-Practices_0915

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