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10 Tips for Email Marketers to Improve Deliverability Rates

10 Tips for Email Marketers to Improve Deliverability Rates
January 03
17:57 2013

Email Best Practices

After speaking to many email server experts, email software experts, email marketing experts, and regular users of email, I was able to compile a short list of best practices. The goal of this article is to give you some basics on how to ensure that your emails are delivered AND opened.

Most of the article deals with infrastructure and monitoring of email to optimize delivery rates. After all, if your target doesn’t get your email, how can you possibly generate sales?

If you manage your own web server, you will want to go down this checklist and make sure your current server complies. At the end, I have a simple plugin you can install to Plesk or cPanel that will help keep your email server clean and blacklist free.

1. Reputation
Think of reputation as a large bucket where all of the good and bad of your email habits are placed. Without a good reputation, open rates and delivery rates are nonexistent. Essentially, even though you may have a nice and healthy email list, if your targets can not receive your email, you might as well have zero people on your mailing lists.

Spamming is a huge (HUGE) problem for Internet providers. As such, they take extreme measures to ensure only proper emails are received and then delivered to the inbox of their clients.

A credit score is a good analogy.

Did you know that approximately 90% of ALL email is SPAM?

You need to be pro-active with your reputation first and foremost.

Here’s a few rules to follow to ensure your reputation is good:

  • Only send emails to double opt-ins on your list; and
  • Do not wear out your welcome with your readers. Too many emails will land SPAM complaints, thus hurting your reputation.

2. Hosting & IP’s

I recommend using your own VPS (Virtual Private Server) or Dedicated Server for emailing.

Generally, you want your OWN IP, not a SHARED IP. Shared hosting providers do not generally allow you to have a dedicated IP:

  • The IP address should be static. so that your domain(s) & IP address(es) build a reputation together. Also, some more strict recipients ESPs may require whitelisting your IP address.
  • Surrounding IP addresses should have a good reputation. At a shared host, this is pretty hard to obtain.

If you send bulk mail in large amounts, (45k per week or more), you definitely need your own dedicated IP address. If expense is an issue and you must share an IP address, you need to make sure those on that same IP are high quality. It is almost impossible to check other than asking your Web Host to research this for you. This can be a big hassle, which is why we recommend dedicated or VPS for hosting.

Many of the companies who manage email for your subscribers rate limit based on IP’s. For this reason, you should consider getting a block of IP’s. Try to get them in sequential order so you can further protect your reputation. You should only require a pool of IP’s if you are sending 45k or more per week. Under that and you should be fine with a single IP.

Some experts have suggested that you ‘warm up’ your mail server and IP before sending huge amounts of email. This gives you time to build your reputation. This requires mailing at a slower rate the first few weeks and gradually building up. If you have a segmented list, this can be done fairly easily.

However, firing off a huge amount of emails from a server and IP with no reputation is going to land you in trouble and scrambling with providers to ‘whitelist’ you.

3. DNS & Domain Names
The experts recommend you have a separate domain for your website and then a subdomain for your marketing efforts.

For example:

  • www.findmyhost.com is our main website. Only used for our company email, no marketing mails are sent from it.
  • marketing.findmyhost.com is for our marketing server. It is on its own private IP separate from www.findmyhost.com’s IP. This is used to send out newsletters, sales offers, and general communications with our email lists.

This is protective in nature and ensures your corporate email is not blacklisted.

One caveat: Hotmail is intent on ensure that the ‘From’ field of your emails is the same as the actual domain sending the email. If they do not match, your mail is NOT delivered to any Hotmail accounts.

Top Tip: Proxy protection for domains is a red flag to service providers. Basically, if you have bought the proxy or privacy feature for your domain, you have a lower chance of email deliverability.

Hiding your registration information is a warning that you may be a potential SPAMMER. Thus, this reduces your reputation and deliverability rates drop.

4. Authentication
Ensure you are using authentication. If you are not authenticating your email, service providers assume you are a SPAMMER.

Common types of authentication are:

These can be set through your DNS.

5. Mailing Lists

Don’t purchase your list or scrape websites for emails.

This is pretty basic and you will get completely blacklisted without much hope of recovery by using the above practices.

6. Feedback Loops and Spam Complaints

Most email providers (but not Gmail) provide feedback loops through which they give you information about spam complaints.

Here is a comprehensive list: http://wiki.wordtothewise.com/ISP_Summary_Information

Top Tip: Sign up for feedback loops and check it regularly. Ignoring these will get you blocked.

7. Unsubscribe Handling

Pretty basic here: Ensure your emails always have an easy to use ‘unsubscribe’ link at the bottom of every email. You MUST give them the ability to remove their email from your list.

After all, if they don’t want to be on your list, the chances of them buying something are NIL.

This is required by the CAN-Spam Act.

Without this option, they are more likely to mark your email as SPAM.

8. Recipient Engagement

Service providers also track if your emails are opened, replied to, forwarded, or deleted. This helps with your reputation bucket. By creating engaging emails, you can improve your reputation among the various email providers.

Top Tip: If you have ‘do not reply’ email addresses you send from, you are hurting your reputation score.

You should encourage your readers to whitelist you and add your email to their address books. While I know this causes headaches with many email addresses, there is no reason you can not setup a forward to your main email account.

9. Email Content

Your content is the most important thing on this list. Let me explain… email filters are enabled on almost every single email browser and service provider out there. They look for certain keywords to block.

Use any of these SPAM buzzwords and your email drops in the SPAM bin. So what do they filter?

  • Higher text to link and text to image ratios, the better. Too many links and images trigger spam flags.
  • Misspellings, spammy words (fat loss, Free!) are big spam flags, as are ALL CAPS AND !!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • The domains in the from field, return-path and message-id should match the sending domain.
  • Use unsubscribe links in your emails. Be careful because if they are not there, you are likely to get filtered. This is also against the CAN-Spam act.
  • Gmail pays particularly close attention to Message ID and Received headers. Message IDs that are formed incorrectly (without brackets <> and with wrong domain after @) can make Gmail think you are a spammer.
  • Links should include the domain that is sending the email. Popular URL shorteners are a bad idea because they are used by spammers.
  • A/B test your emails to optimize recipient engagement. Subject lines are particularly important.

10. Protect Your Mail Server

Did you know that most SPAM is delivered from hacked or compromised servers? It’s true.

SPAMMERS are clever. They are intelligent, they are sneaky, they look for opportunity. If they can use YOUR server to do their dirty work, they WILL. It’s no secret that home computers, dedicated servers, shared hosting plans, and virtual private servers around the World are being used right now to SPAM.

If you are not protecting your mail server with SPAM and Virus Protection software, you are asking for trouble.

An easy way to protect yourself is to install the following MagicSpam Pro plugin for Plesk or cPanel. MagicSpam is extremely affordable and can be installed to your VPS or dedicated server in a matter of minutes.

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FindMyHost Editor

FindMyHost Editor

The 'Web Hosting Blog' at FindMyHost.com was established to provide the web hosting industry with the very latest in news, technology, interviews, event information and more. About FindMyHost.com: Launched in January 2001 to protect Web Host Consumers and Web Developers from making the wrong choice when choosing a Web host. FindMyHost.com showcases a selection of web hosting companies who have undergone our Approved Host program testing and provides reviews from customers.

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