Email Deliverability Tips: 4 Experts on How to Improve Inbox Placement

Author: Corina Leslie

November 6, 2019

Looking for ways to improve your email deliverability? Four experts share their best tips on getting your emails in the inbox:

  • Siva Devaki, MassMailer
  • Christopher Marriott, Marketing Democracy
  • Matt Redd, Drip
  • Liviu Tanase, ZeroBounce.

Email deliverability: where effective email marketing starts

What does effective email marketing come down to? I can hear you saying great content, and that’s true. But before people can decide how good your content is, they need a chance to see it.

That’s why email deliverability is such a hot topic for email marketers – and we make no exception. With the email industry constantly evolving, making sure we adapt as we move forward is essential. Our goal is to help you with that, so today we’re bringing you some words from the wise.

First, let’s see exactly what email deliverability is and how it differs from email delivery. In case you’re new to email marketing, defining these terms is important.

how to get your emails in the inbox

What is email deliverability?

Do you read articles about email marketing? Then you must have encountered these terms, sometimes used interchangeably. Email delivery, email deliverability… they mean pretty much the same thing, right?

Not exactly. Here’s the difference:

Email delivery is when an email manages to reach a server.

That email can either land in the inbox or the spam folder, but delivery means it successfully arrived in a mailbox.

Email deliverability is when an email reaches a person’s inbox.

Marketers consider this metric far more important, for obvious reasons. Of course, you want your email to arrive in someone’s mailbox, but you have a higher chance to get opened if you land in the inbox.

how do you increase email deliverability in a few steps

How do you increase email deliverability?

For starters, you make sure you use an opt-in list. Then, you prune that list regularly to prevent bad data from causing bounces and tainting your sender reputation. Also, you avoid spammy subject lines and constantly adjust your content to get the best engagement.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s take a closer look at some of the email deliverability best practices, as brought to you by our guests today!

Siva Devaki: “Subscribers shouldn’t have to jump through multiple hoops to opt-out”

Siva Devaki is the co-founder and CEO of email marketing platform MassMailer. Here’s what he said when I asked him to share his advice on the topic.

MassMailer
Through MassMailer, Siva Devaki helps businesses overcome Salesforce limitations when sending large batches of email.

Authenticate your emails

A person’s inbox can get dozens, if not hundreds, of spam and malicious emails throughout the week. Email services identify the hallmarks of unwanted emails, stripping them out of a user’s inbox before they even see it.

One way they do this is through authentication – making sure that the email has been sent from the person claiming to have sent it.

So, authorize your email service provider to send emails on behalf of your domain using technologies such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC.

Do your domain and IP have a clean reputation?

Use a domain and a dedicated IP address with a good reputation. When it comes to email deliverability, your email domain and the IP address do matter.

Mail services track the reputation of individual mail servers, as those with bad reputations are more likely to be sending spam.

Make sure you abide to email laws

Email marketing laws go through constant updates. If you’re an international business, you don’t just need to comply with the laws in your home country. You also need to comply with the laws in the countries that you are selling.

The GDPR is a regulation for the European Union which applies to all companies that do business with the European Union. Meanwhile, CAN-SPAM is a United States initiative that applies to anyone doing business inside of the US, even if they are not located in the US.

email delivery rates

Avoid purchasing email lists

Purchased email addresses can include something called spam traps. These are emails with the express purpose of catching people who are sending unsolicited emails.

Even if there aren’t any spam traps in your database, sending unsolicited emails to purchased email lists is rarely fruitful, and can get your emails marked as spam.

Verify all the email addresses you gather

Make sure people opt-in and also, verify their email addresses. As long as you verify email addresses, you are confirming consent. Of course, that’s not enough to keep your contacts up to date. For that, use an email list cleaning service.

Are you making opting out easy?

Make sure your opt-out is visible and responsive. Subscribers shouldn’t have to jump through multiple hoops to opt-out. Once they attempt to opt-out, they should be able to do so immediately.

Plus, a more straightforward opt-out process is better for you, as well. It ensures that your email lists are full of active, engaged participants.

You may also like >> Siva Devaki: “Email deliverability has become a necessity”

Christopher Marriott: “You’re always better off with slower list growth”

Christopher Marriott is the president and founder of Marketing Democracy. I had the pleasure to interview him, but didn’t get the chance to delve into email deliverability. Until now.

Read his great feedback below!

Marketing Democracy
Chris Marriott has been involved in the email industry for more than 20 years, and currently guides organizations through their Request for Proposal (RFP) process.

Can high deliverability rates and email subscriber acquisition co-exist?

With the holidays right around the corner, the thought of lower inbox placement at Gmail and the other major ISPs is enough to make any email marketer think about building his or her email subscriber list pause and ask whether it’s worth it. 

It’s not news to any email marketer that there are big risks to adding email address the wrong way. Email marketers using co-registration to add new addresses—or worse, renting or buying email lists—are going to end up with bad addresses in their databases. Spam traps, honey pots, and other land mines await those who use these tactics. 

And even if you don’t end up with any truly bad email addresses, people who don’t really want to hear from you are the first ones to hit spam or otherwise complain to their ISP about your email. 

bad email addresses

Hit too many spam traps and you are going to be blocked. But getting too many complaints is going to get you bulk foldered by the ISPs. And the impact of that is the same as if you are blocked—your audience isn’t going to see the emails you are sending. Gmail, in particular, seems to have a sixth sense when shutting down a marketer who is using co-reg to build its list!

But you don’t have to risk your email deliverability by adding new subscribers. 

An email marketer who focuses on the right characteristics in his or her new subscribers and collects them in the right manner can almost completely eliminate any risk. 

Here are 4 steps you can take now to grow your list without hurting your email deliverability.

Start with true email opt-in

There is simply no substitute for asking a new subscriber to input his or her email address into a form. Are you choosing quality of quantity when you stick to your guns on this? Yes.

But an email list built on risky collection practices is going to end up in the spam folder sooner rather than later. So you’re always better off with slower list growth, while maintaining your delivery numbers.

Monitor new subscriber engagement starting with your welcome campaign

If someone who has opted in doesn’t engage with your welcome email(s), that is a pretty good indicator that he or she will not be a highly engaged subscriber over the long term. 

By monitoring this engagement, you should be able to adjust your media buy to start focusing on those sources of new subscribers that deliver a higher percentage of engaged people.

how to land in the inbox

Standardize performance metrics across all of your email acquisition media channels

It’s a critical step to be able to compare the quality of new email subscribers regardless of where they came from in the subscription path. 

If RPE is your measurement stick, then whether the subscriber came from a display ad, Facebook or an email newsletter, you need to be able to track the same things.  Because when you can do that, you are able to…

Optimize your media plan even further

… by focusing on those sources of new subscribers that pass the engagement threshold and spend the most money, the most often with you

This is the key step because if you do this, then each month the overall quality of the new subscribers you are adding to your list continues to get better. So even those who don’t start out at the beginning with a great email list will be building one over time.

Matt Redd: “Segment your list and send more targeted emails”

Matt Redd is the Director of Engineering at eCommerce customer relationship platform Drip. He does a great job explaining why we have to think carefully of every email we send.

” Send fewer, more targeted emails,” Matt Redd of Drip advises.

Here is what he suggests:

It’s not getting any easier to reach people through email marketing. The temptation can be great to simply send to every email address you can get your hands on. After all, it is pretty cheap to send email.

But you’d be better off if you imagine that every send is an expensive, scarce resource.

Every email you send that doesn’t get engaged with makes it more likely that the next email won’t get a glance. Either because the person already unsubscribed, or the mailbox provider noticed your emails don’t get opened and categorized it as spam, or it was put somewhere other than the primary tab.

It doesn’t take long to wear out the patience of potential customers and ruin your deliverability reputation.

My advice?
  • Send fewer, more targeted emails.
  • Segment your list, and only send the most relevant messages to those segments.
  • Don’t wear out a potential customer with generic broadcasts if they don’t respond to them.
  • Prune (or re-target) frequently.

Yes, it is more work, but you’ll wind up investing in your brand, your customers will engage and love you for it, and your reputation and email deliverability will skyrocket.

Need help understanding who is engaging with your emails and knowing how to target? We’d love to help you at Drip.

Liviu Tanase: “Use a real-time email validation API”

Liviu Tanase is the founder and CEO of email list cleaning service ZeroBounce. Together with our Chief Technology Officer Henry Timmes, he wrote our comprehensive Email Deliverability Guide (so good it got picked up by Inc. magazine!).

email list cleaning service
Liviu Tanase founded ZeroBounce to help businesses keep clean email lists and achieve great email deliverability.

This time, we asked him to sum up his recommendations:

  • Always use double opt-in and protect your submission forms with ReCAPTCHA.
  • Use a real-time email validation API to prevent mistyped, invalid and disposable email addresses, and even spam traps.
  • Make sure you monitor your sending IP(s) and domain reputation via an IP/domain blacklist monitoring service.
  • Register your IP/domain with a feedback loop (for abuse reporting), so you can receive feedback from subscribers who complain.
  • Use DKIM, SPF (strict) and DMARC (at least a p=none policy) and monitor the DMARC reports.
  • Make sure you have a list-unsubscribe header and also a normal unsubscribe link in the footer of the email.
sending email

Bonus email deliverability tips

We hope the suggestions above will come in handy when reassessing your email marketing strategy. Perhaps you find it difficult to implement them all at once. But, in time, cross them off the list to ensure your metrics are where you know they can be.

Also, consider a few more tips to keep your email deliverability high:
  • send your emails consistently: an erratic sending schedule can cause ISPs to become suspicious, and subscribers to forget who you are and label you as spam.
  • monitor engagement after every send: what type of content performs best? Keep sending people what they need and like the most.
  • careful with spam trigger words: when you use them in your subject line, it may cause ISPs to direct your email to the junk folder.
  • avoid shortened links: spammers use them often, so ISPs may take you for one and block your email.
  • remove unsubscribes from your list as soon as they opt out: there’s no point in keeping someone on your list against their will. Plus, they’ll most likely mark you as spam the next time you email them.

Need to talk to an expert about getting your emails in the inbox? We have a team of 30+ email geeks ready to help you 24/7. 😊 Reach out and tell us about your list – we’re here to make it better.