Debunking Email Deliverability Myths
What do the algorithms used by internet service providers for deliverability and the recipe for Coca-Cola have in common? They're both highly guarded secrets kept under lock and key. It’s their secret sauce that protects their core asset. What they don’t have in common is change. Coke’s recipe hasn’t changed (excluding the New Coke blip in 1985) in over 100 years; ISPs’ algorithms are refined on a constant basis.
Because of the pace of change, best practices in email deliverability quickly grow stale. It’s time to purge ourselves of these outdated myths regarding inbox deliverability optimization:
Myth No. 1: Avoid using the word “free” in subject lines. For that matter, don’t use all caps or special characters either. This guidance is an artifact that has long passed us by. In looking at 65 marketing emails delivered to my inbox over the past 24 hours, 18 of them used the word “free” (gasp) and often the word was in all caps (double gasp)! These emails were from smart marketers that know what they're doing. While free is a powerful word, it’s not powerful enough to force a message into a spam folder.
Myth No. 2: Avoid trigger words in the body of your message. Just the other day I read a set of recommendations advising marketers to not include the words “click here” as a call to action. Instead, it recommended saying “press here.” Beyond sounding extremely awkward, this terminology shift isn't going to greatly impact whether a message is delivered to an inbox. Sure, a pharmaceutical company using poor HTML code and sending off an IP address with a shoddy reputation is going to have issues. But if “click here” works for you, use it.
Myth No. 3: ISPs have a “bat phone” to call to get unblocked. Yes, relationships help in this business just like they do in all industries, but there's no bat phone available to call to get an IP address unblocked. It takes work to identify and resolve the issues. Most of the time these aren’t quick fixes. Email service providers can help identify and address deliverability issues, but the responsibility is shared and there are key elements of inbox assurance that aren't under their control.
Myth No. 4: If I ignore a deliverability problem, it will go away. Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the depth and type of infraction. But more than likely, if you don’t address it, the blocking or bulking of messages is going to happen again. Better to address it head-on for resolution now than wait it out.
What makes email deliverability such a challenge is the shifting nature of the ISP rule set paired with the various approaches taken by different ISPs. How do you best ensure emails get to the inbox? Here’s where things haven’t changed from a best practice standpoint:
- set and adhere to the expectations provided at the point of subscription;
- keep your list clean through expedient and thorough hygiene practices; and
- provide timely, relevant content for your subscribers that engages them.
These are the foundation of any good email program and will help ensure inbox delivery on an ongoing basis.