5 Email Deliverability Myths
Regardless of industry, it's standard for 25 percent of marketing emails to fail to reach the customer's inbox. Unfortunately, these issues can be rather costly—losses can range from $50,000 to several million dollars, depending on the industry and the average revenue of the marketer's email program.
Email deliverability is a serious issue for marketers, even at the world's largest companies, thanks to sophisticated reputation tracking and blacklists provided by the top four Internet service providers (ISPs): Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL.
Unfortunately, there are many email marketers misinformed about deliverability practices. Here are five common myths:
Myth #1: It is not possible to have good inboxing rates with Gmail.
Wrong! Inboxing at Gmail is based heavily on user engagement. Only the most engaged subscribers, those that have interacted with the email program within the last 90 to 180 days, should receive emails. Using this tactic, it usually takes about three to five mailings before placements come through for the core program. Following this practice, inboxing rates should jump from 100 percent bulking to 10-15 percent inboxing.
It's important to remain consistent with the targeting strategy for another two to three campaigns until inboxing is stable and has a 100 percent deliverability rate.
Myth #2: Now that Outlook is primarily promoted by Microsoft, Hotmail is no longer a factor.
Microsoft Outlook, Hotmail and MSN.com all use the same backend mailing infrastructure—meaning, the same spam filters and scoring methodologies in place for one applies to the others. Currently, Hotmail has hundreds of millions of users, despite Outlook gaining 60 million users in six months. Bottom line: if you're experiencing deliverability issues with Hotmail, you'll probably have the same issues in Outlook.
Myth #3: Bulking issues are a quick fix, then back to the usual sending pattern.
Bulk emails are messages sent to a large list of recipients, like newsletters or forums, that are identical for each person. Bulking issues can take anywhere from two days to two weeks to correct, depending on the ISP. When this occurs, you should probably examine the subscriber data to gauge engagement. Closely examine your content to identify less than perfect deliverability practices and problematic URLs that could be contributing to the problem. During this time, your company is losing quite a bit of money from email campaigns—these issues can add up quickly and reverting back to the same sending pattern after the issue is corrected is both expensive and pointless.
Myth #4: Blacklisting can be corrected by changing ISPs or domain names.
Changing domain names or IPs will only compound the problem, not fix it. Blacklists monitor both IPs and domain names, so moving the IP is not going to solve the underlying problem. If messages end up on a blacklist, you should spend time understanding and fixing the problem before removing the blacklist from the database. Besides, it usually takes 24 hours to three or four business days to remove a blacklisting depending on the list and the issue.
Myth #5: If you're a small company, your chance of reaching the inbox is slim.
ISPs see no difference in sending 100,000 emails or one million emails; there is no penalty for a small company based on the size of its distribution list. However, list size can become a problem when there are so many messages sent that the recipients ignore the messages or mark them as spam. But if too few messages are sent, it's difficult to develop a sender reputation or subscribers forget about you. Inboxing is a ratio-based game.
Deliverability can be a complex issue, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to conquer. As a marketer, following a few simple best practices will minimize the confusion significantly: Ensure your IP addresses are scanned daily, perform data hygiene at least twice yearly, and have a proactive contingency plan set in place. If time or resources are in short supply, a third-party solution can help automate the distribution process and reduce deliverability issues. These action items should keep your marketing programs on track.
Jason Warnock is the vice president of market intelligence and deliverability for Portland, or.-based email marketing platform and services provider Yesmail Interactive. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.