More Emails in the Spam Folder is an Opportunity for Smart Marketers
Email volumes are up, which means inboxes are jammed more than ever with email offers. Not so coincidentally, emails being blocked or sent to the spam folder are higher than ever. According to Return Path's latest Global Email Deliverability Benchmark report (full disclosure: I work for Return Path), one out of every four emails never reaches its target destination due to inbox providers tightening their spam filtering and more people resorting to other means besides unsubscribing to deal with their inbox deluge. Some marketers’ email programs may continue business as usual, but smart marketers will use this as an opportunity to stand above the crowd. Here's how:
Know where your email is going. A lot of marketers rely on response metrics to know if their emails are being blocked or sent to the spam folder. Be more proactive by using seed lists — i.e., addresses that you inject into your email list and measure their placement — to monitor your inbox placement rates in real time. Do this by setting up your own seed addresses or using third-party seed list monitoring.
To use a seed list effectively, send a test campaign prior to a large, important campaign to see if there are any existing issues that need to be resolved first. During the email campaign send, disperse seed addresses throughout the campaign deployment so you can monitor and react in real time if a deliverability issue happens anytime during the send.
Monitor your reputation. Just as everyone has a credit score, every email marketer has a sending reputation that inbox providers look at to determine whether to accept their emails. If your sender reputation score is considered "subprime" — i.e., high enough to have your email accepted but not low enough to reject — your marketing emails may end up in the spam folder. You can monitor the most important reputation metrics by looking at your complaint rate, unknown user rate, spam trap rate and mailing infrastructure.
There are a number of third-party sites that can track this for you, such as SenderScore.org, SenderBase.org and TrustedSource.org. While not all of these sites may divulge your exact rates, they will give you a roll-up score that's very similar to a credit score. This number is a good indication of how inbox providers view the quality of your mail within their networks. Additionally, AOL Mail has a reputation system that enables you to check your IP address reputation. Microsoft offers a free tool called Smart Network Data Services (SNDS) that tracks your complaint rate, spam trap rate and how its spam filter, SmartScreen, views your overall content and reputation.
Be strategic with deliverability. In the same Return Path study mentioned above, complaint rates were found to be edging up higher and higher throughout the holiday season. This was in part due to higher volumes and frequencies from the previous year. Combining the fact that subscribers receive too much email and that they deal with it by selecting emails and hitting the "report spam" button, you have a perfect storm for deliverability issues. Consider segmenting your database based on activity. While you can still touch all of your subscribers, consider only sending the most active users more email since they'll probably not only tolerate it, but welcome it.
I'd love to hear how everyone is using this as an opportunity to get into the inbox and stand out from your competition. Share your stories in the comments section below.
Related story: DMARC: Your Secret Weapon for Email Brand Protection