Doing Email Marketing the Right Way (the Ultimate Guide)
Factors Influencing Email Marketing Campaigns
The factors influencing email marketing campaign performance go beyond the generally known metrics of open rates, CTRs, and delivery/unsubscribe, amongst others.
Not to say that the factors mentioned above are not important, but as a marketer, one requires a nuanced understanding of all the factors that influence the success of these campaigns.
One needs to shift focus to the engineering side of marketing. Both are two sides of the same coin. Marketing is incomplete without the structure that engineering brings to it.
Email (or sender) reputation is a score that ISPs assign to an organization that sends emails. These scores are determined based on the organization's email-sending practices and how well they follow the standards established by Internet service providers when they send emails (especially bulk emails).
ISPs use these criteria, content, and guidelines to mark unwanted emails as spam. This score affects email deliverability- the higher the score, the higher the chances that the ISP will deliver the emails to the recipients within its networks. Remember, ISPs will always try to protect their email users and show them a relevant, clutter-free inbox.
Email Consent and Opt-in
Your email reputation is the most important thing regarding deliverability and open rates. It takes time to build a reputation and maintain it. For this, indulge in good email practices. Sending emails to people who want to receive them is important- you should only send emails to people who have opted/consented to receive your promotional messages. Otherwise, people will mark your email as spam, affecting your future marketing campaigns.
Make it easy for people to unsubscribe. All your emails should have an unsubscribe link. Unsubscription is far better than being reported as spam.
Use popups or signup forms to collect consent. It's okay to start with a small list and increase your list size. Incentivize people to join your list with a welcome discount.
Email fatigue occurs when a recipient feels overwhelmed by the number of emails they receive. This often leads to a spike in unsubscribe rates, high spam complaints, and low CTRs.
Consider sending up to 3 emails per month to a user. Segment your user and send targeted emails to every user. This is more likely to get better results than blasting a generic email to everyone.
Many email providers like Gmail and Yahoo use spam filters to weed out emails and senders not worthy of landing in their users' inboxes.
Your user-engagement history plays a role here. Past email delivery rates, open rates, CTRs, low spam complaints, and low bounce rates are essential in determining whether your email will make it through the spam filters.
Nearly 45% of all emails sent are marked as spam.
Keep in mind that a poor email sender reputation will damage your marketing endeavors. Too many spam complaints lead to the blacklisting of domains and IP addresses from which the emails are being sent.
Setting Things Up Correctly
Use a New Domain or Subdomain
Use a subdomain for your marketing emails so that the delivery of the primary domain is not affected. Using a separate domain protects the main one from being marked for spam, thus reducing its chances of being blacklisted. Be mindful that using a separate email domain works when you are using a dedicated IP address. For a shared IP address (one shared with your email marketing service provider), your email reputation will be subject to that of the other senders sharing that address.
Set Up DKIM or SPF or DMARC
DKIM, SPF and DMARC are safeguards to protect domains and prevent unauthorized use.
Briefly, SPF establishes a way for receiving servers to identify that incoming mail sent from a domain was done so by a host authorized by the domain administrators. DKIM prevents both spoofing and phishing attacks. A digital, encrypted signature is attached to the headers of emails. This allows a recipient's inbox to determine that a verified source sent the email. This authentication prevents the users from replying to illegitimate emails and adding sensitive information to their responses. DMARC does this too, but DKIM is preferred over it because the digital signatures added to emails through DKIM are valid even when an email is forwarded.
DKIM and SPF are essential for anyone serious about email marketing.
Investing in these security protocols ultimately reduces the chances of your domains and email addresses being used for spamming purposes.
Consider a Dedicated IP Address
Usually your email service provider (ESP) will use the same email for multiple customers. Sometimes you may be penalized for mistakes that other people on the same IP or IP block make. So if you are delivering over 500,000 emails per month, you should get a dedicated IP for sending emails. Lots of email providers like Yahoo, Microsoft Outlook, and Comcast look at IP reputation as well to permit emails. A dedicated IP can save you a lot of headaches.
Email Reputation Monitoring
One can never be a hundred percent certain that all emails sent will be delivered. Sometimes, due to a variety of reasons, email service providers will silently drop emails after showing successful delivery, ensuring that they are never seen by humans/the intended person. This is called an email blackhole.
Email deliverability may be monitored through tools like the Google Postmaster Tools that help you track data on large volumes of emails sent and log data about your sending domain. This free online tool gives marketers direct access, from Gmail, to diagnostics about their email domains' and IP addresses' reputation, deliverability, performance, and security. Data displayed here is usually delayed by 24-48 hours.
Microsoft's Smart Network Data Reference (SNDS) does this for you as well, and after signing up, approval for this takes a while.
These tools help you maintain your email reputation, which in turn affects your email open and click rates.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How do I check my mail reputation?
To monitor your IP/mail reputation, set up accounts with the Google Postmaster Tools or Microsoft's SNDS program.
Why do my marketing emails go to spam?
Bad marketing practices, not following the protocols or adhering to the guidelines set up by ISPs and ESPs, and not setting up enough security measures lead to emails being marked as spam.