Email Deliverability – Tips, Tricks and a Checklist

    by Paul Shuteyev
    checklistHey guys, Hope you're doing great! From time to time I receive questions regarding the deliverability - how to improve it, and what's more important - how to determine and control it. This isn't an easy question since there are so many factors that you "can't" effect - blacklists, servers, IP - sure you can choose them more wisely, but still this isn't something you can control, like your content or your list. I found a great email deliverability checklist at and I want to thank Linda Misauer for such a great info. Let's start! Email Deliverability checklist How does your ESP measure up when it comes to maximizing deliverability? Use this checklist as a guideline to judge their deliverability rate.
    1. Email deliverability Technology
    An ESP’s MTA (mail server) may not be able to support some essential features that are required for enhancing deliverability. Make sure they have all the features in this Email deliverability checklist and are able to provide these in their standard offering. Static/Dedicated IP address (Dedicated for higher volumes) When your email sends reach a certain volume, in order to have full control over your deliverability you want a dedicated IP address. This is a single point that only your emails are sent from. You have full control over your reputation and subsequently your deliverability. Multi-part emails (text & HTML) By not sending both parts of the MIME you run the danger of having your messages flagged by a heuristic filter that specifically checks valid MIME headers that include TEXT & HTML Throttling Some ISPs bounce emails if they receive too many messages from one sending address at a time. Throttle the number of messages per hour to meet ISP restrictions. Sign outgoing messages with DKIM ISPs authenticate incoming messages to verify the sender. If you are unable to authenticate yourself, you may be seen as a spammer. DKIM is an anti-spam method that uses a combination of public and private keys to authenticate the sender’s domain and reduce the chance that a spammer or hacker will fake the domain sending address. This technology helps fight phishing. Retry feature for temporary failures/greylisting. A mail server using greylisting will “temporarily reject” any email from a sender it does not recognize. If the mail is legitimate the originating server will, after a delay, try again and, if sufficient time has elapsed, the email will be accepted. IP Warming An IP address with no sending history is in danger of having the emails blocked. Employ IP warming techniques so that you can build up a reputation with recipient mail servers before you start sending them large batches of emails.
    2. Sender Authentication & whitelisting
    It is important to confirm your identity as a sender. Email providers should check your domain or IP against databases of trusted senders. This also helps prevent phishing and spoofing of emails. Although your email service provider may be the one directly responsible for the setup of these items, it is important that your mail administrators work with the ESP, as they will guide them through the process and give the correct settings. Sender Authentication setup ISPs authenticate incoming messages to verify the sender. If you are unable to authenticate yourself, you may be seen as a spammer. SPF – This is a way to say an IP or domain can send email on your behalf. It prevents ‘from’ address spoofing. DKIM - A means to digitally sign an email message and associate a domain name with it. This signature gives recipients and ISPs a reason to believe the email message was created by a known sender and that it was not altered in transit. DMARC – A DMARC policy allows a sender to indicate that their emails are protected by SPF and/or DKIM, and tells a receiver what to do if neither of these authentication methods pass – such as send to junk or reject the message. Other DNS entries: A record – Ensure that your sending (sub)domain resolves to an IP address by creating a DNS A record PTR record - Ensure that each of your outbound IP addresses resolve to a hostname, or a Fully Qualified Domain Name. MX record - Ensure that each email (sub)domain has a valid MX record that specifies a mail server responsible for accepting email. Abuse and postmaster email addresses setup Ensure that your sending (sub)domain has an abuse@ and postmaster@ mailbox so that you can easily be contacted Public “Who is” listing Visible contact information for the domain and sub-domain is important to show you are not hiding your identity as a sender. Privacy policy for the sending domain A publically accessible Privacy policy shows the use of best practices and is required during most whitelisting processes. Whitelisted with major ISPs A sender can get whitelisted if they are labelled as a safe sender by the subscriber and their ISP. Whitelisting provides an additional opportunity to hit the end user’s inbox. Setup Feedback loops to monitor complaints Complaints reduce your reputation score so it is essential that customers who complain are unsubscribed. 3rd Party accreditation 3rd party accreditation provides access to an exclusive whitelist that can improve delivery. Senders are required to undergo an extensive vetting process to ensure they are using all the required best practices.
    3. Email deliverability and Content
    Getting the email into the inbox is great, but this is not a once off exercise. You have a few seconds to capture their attention so they don’t delete or complain about your email. That is why it is an important part of this Email deliverability checklist. You can reduce email complaints and stimulate opens by taking the following steps: Recognizable FROM email address In many cases it’s the first thing your customer sees, so it is essential that it is recognizable and trustworthy, otherwise it may be seen as SPAM. Subject line reflects the content of the message Only a few characters stand between email success and the trash bin. Make sure it is relevant and interesting. Copy gets to the point Customers often scan emails rather than read them in full detail due to busy lifestyles. Use headlines, sub-headlines, call-outs and bullet points that break up text for quick scanning. Copy stays on topic and has a call to action. Be clear on what you are asking the customer to do, otherwise they are likely to just file the email or delete it. Messages are formatted for viewing on mobile Mobile rendering can often be very different to the desktop views. With the number of people reading emails on mobile devices increasing it is important to make sure your message is easily readable and actionable. Physical address and phone number in the footer of the email This is to help demonstrate that you are a real live company, with a real physical presence. Many ISP’s and 3rd Party Authentication companies require this for Whitelisting. Comply with opt-out legislation Non-compliance can lead to rejection during the Whitelisting process and even legal action, not to mention irritating your customers and getting complaints.
    4. Email deliverability and Testing
    Testing is essential for an email campaign, no matter how experienced you are. There are several areas that require testing to achieve higher email deliverability. This can’t be missing from your Email deliverability checklist, for Email deliverability testing goes further than just seeing if the email has a good inbox placement. You also want to stimulate good email marketing results. A. Design Knowing what your customers will see across all devices and email clients is very important for your emails results. But why include it in your email deliverability checklist? Something as simple as not being able to view a message properly can prompt them to complain about the email. Previewed or rendering tests across multiple email clients and devices This enables you to fix any issues before you send your messages to customers. Structured for optimal readability Based on eye-tracking we know that most people scan more than they read. . . - Average time to capture a user’s attention: 2 seconds - Once you have their attention, average time spent on the email: 51 seconds Clean HTML code HTML syntax and format errors are common tricks spammers use to foil standard content filters, so SPAM filters now also verify that your HTML code is valid. Invalid code is rendered across a wide variety of browsers and the outcome is unpredictable. B. Content Customers have come to expect functional and efficient messages as they receive hundreds of communications daily. Email providers check content of emails as another step in fighting the war against SPAM. Content spam check Pre-checking that your content does not contain any “Spammy” words will allow you to fix any issues before you send Subject line checked (length & content) Testing that your subject line displays correctly will allow you to fix any issues before you send Seed list delivery testing before the 1st campaign is sent Sending emails to a test list and checking if they arrived in the inboxes is the perfect pre-send test to see if your email has all the correct elements. Valid from and reply email address Make sure you have a working FROM and REPLY address, as replies to emails count towards engagement which can improve your deliverability. Working unsubscribe If your unsubscribe is not functional, people are more likely to complain and select “This is spam” instead C. Data It is all about keeping the list clean. This involves some process, reporting and ESP services at every stage of a campaign Email cleaning and verification ISPs measure how many invalid email addresses are being attempted, this could cause a temporary or permanent block for the sender Avoid Spam traps Purchasing lists can lead to unwanted email addresses that are actually spam traps. These will have a detrimental effect on your deliverability. Remove complaints and unsubscribes from your list immediately Complaints count heavily towards your reputation and in turn your deliverability. Failing to unsubscribe customers and having them complain again will cause deliverability issues
    5. Email deliverability Reporting and Monitoring
    Your ESP should provide you with a comprehensive set of reports so that you are able to monitor your Email deliverability metrics. For instance your Bounce Rate (aim for 3% by removing bounces and keeping your list as clean as possible, etc) & Complaint Rates (under 0.1%). You’ll also need detailed processes defined that indicate what must be done with the information once you receive it. Email deliverability Reports Reports provide you with the valuable information you need in order to take action, especially when it comes to unsubscribes and complaints - Delivery Report - Complaint Report - Unsubscribe Report - Click tracking Report Notifications Early detection of any issues will allow them to be corrected quickly, an important part of your email delivery monitoring - Campaign failures - Data issues Monitoring Constant monitoring of key indicators will give you insight into your deliverability status. A definite part of your email deliverability checklist when reviewing different ESPs. - Check your reputation (Sender Score) - Monitoring Blacklists - Actively monitor SMTP logs to detect any issues - Activity trends Processes Effective processes are essential for easy management of campaigns to make sure all the relevant actions are being taken - Bounce & undeliverable - Complaint - Re-contact inactive users It might seem that it's quite a bunch of work to do, but in real life, most of the work is done automatically if you use software specifically crafted for tasks like that. With bulk email sender, you hardly have to do anything at all. After all, that's the whole purpose of software - to make people's life easier.
    Written by:
    Paul Shuteyev
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