You’ve uploaded your Gmail contacts to Mailchimp and started sending out newsletters. Congratulations, you’re on your way to a successful email campaign… or not.
For newsletter senders who are new to the game, it’s not until you see that your newsletters landed in spam folders that the problem becomes clear. Whether it’s your first time making an email newsletter campaign or your 100th, you are not alone in looking for ways to reduce the risk newsletters will end up in spam.
Many organizations don’t follow email marketing best practices and hope to somehow go “under the radar”. But unfortunately a lack of carefulness harms email marketing and damages your domain. Taking the right steps from the beginning is much easier than doing damage control once your CEO’s emails land in the spam folders of the company’s customers and investors.
By following the best practices outlined below you can help your newsletter pass a newsletter spam test. Happy marketing!
How to improve your deliverability and hit your subscriber’s inboxes:
1. In email marketing, reputation is king and one of the most important things is to avoid damage to your top-level domain. Create a subdomain, for example www.marketing.yourdomain.com or www.promotion.yourdomain.com and use it for email marketing only. If you send out transactional emails (e.g. “Thanks for your order”) create a subdomain for them as well. The domain and subdomains that you send emails from are one of the factors that impact your reputation, and just like in real life, a parent (domain) has a separate reputation from its (subdomain) children.
2. Create a dedicated email address for sending out newsletters, for example: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Use different email addresses for each type of emails that you send to your users.
3. Authenticate your domain (“domain whitelabel”) in your email marketing program >> Tutorial for Mailchimp: https://mailchimp.com/help/set-up-custom-domain-authentication-dkim-and-spf/ >> Tutorial for Klaviyo: https://help.klaviyo.com/hc/en-us/articles/115000357752-Setting-Up-a-Dedicated-Sending-Domain >> Tutorial for Active Trail: https://www.activetrail.com/email_marketing_software/learning/guides/how-to-authenticate-your-email-account/ >> Tutorial for SendGrid: https://sendgrid.com/docs/ui/account-and-settings/how-to-set-up-domain-authentication/
4. Check if your domain is on spam lists. The biggest and most popular list is Spamhaus, see https://www.spamhaus.org/lookup/. Use https://www.mail-tester.com to get an indication of your newsletter quality.
5. Never import random lists, only email addresses of people who have agreed to receive newsletters. Are you sure that your 5000 Gmail contacts are really interested in receiving your emails? Err on the side of caution and send them a personal message asking for permission to include them in the distribution list. It goes without saying that buying lists is a no go.
6. Consider Your Opt-In Method: You have the option to use a single or double opt-in method for your email marketing. Double opt-in requires people to confirm their signup via email before they’re added to your audience as subscribed contacts. Double opt-in can help ensure your subscribed contacts want to receive your emails, and keeps invalid email addresses out of your audience. We strongly recommend it - it’s better to get fewer subscribers and have your newsletters arrive to an engaged and interested audience.
7. Allow contacts to update their profiles: include an update profile link in your email campaigns so your recipients can update their personal information and subscription preferences. If you use interest groups, subscribers can change groups from their profile. Example: a subscriber can decide whether he would like to get the daily news update or a weekly summary.
8. Add your friends and family to the distribution list (after asking for permission of course). Ask them to select your emails and to report them as non-spam, have them forward your emails to their own contacts
9. Use a Master Audience: if you can, it's best to have one audience/ subscriber list that you organize with tags, groups, or segments, rather than maintain multiple lists in your account. Most email marketing programs treat all the audiences in your account separately, and billing is based on the total number of subscribed contacts across all your audiences. If you have duplicate contacts across lists, having one audience could save you money. One audience is also easier to manage and keep clean than dealing with 20 different lists.
10. Identify engaged subscribers within your master audience and send them emails more frequently - when they click, open and forward your emails, your deliverability is boosted.
11. A surge in list size can be problematic. A good email marketing list will grow over time as additional subscribers sign up to receive emails. If the size of an email list grows steeply in a short period of time, most ISPs (and email service providers) will suspect that the sender bought a list.
12. Welcome emails are good and very important, subscribers who get welcome emails are better subscribers. Make sure to set up an automation series/ flow. If you sell products online you should also set up an abandoned cart email, if you deal with subscribers to an app or service, you might want to send them automated calls to action.
13. Define a Sunset Policy - at which point will an unengaged address no longer receive messages? A good thumb rule is to remove subscribers who didn’t engage in 180 days. Send them a re engagement campaign before removing them from your distribution list. Example content: "If you are still interested in receiving our newsletter, please click here to remain subscribed".
14. Are you switching email marketing providers? Build trust with the new provider by only sending emails to your top subscribers from the previous platform in the first few weeks - gradually include the less engaged subscribers in your recipient’s list.
15. If you are active in a specific market outside of the US, you might want to consider local software. There is a high chance of getting higher open and click rates as such tools are best geared towards the local email ecosystem. If you are active in the Swiss market we can recommend https://www.mayoris.com/. Companies like them can also help you clean your domain in case providers classify it as spam and you aren’t able to find a solution yourself.
Are there any best practices for deliverability and sender reputation that we forgot? Let us know in the comments below.
Explanation of key terms and concepts:
What does deliverability mean? It describes the amount of a sender’s email that makes it to the inbox.
What do mailbox providers want? Their main goal is to deliver wanted content to their user’s inboxes.
What do subscribers want? To get content that meets and exceeds their expectations.
What are indicators that you meet their expectations? High open, click and reply rates.
What shows that you might be sending unwanted emails? Spam complaints, lack of opens, lack of clicks, opt outs.