As email marketers, we are faced with a myriad of tasks when it comes to constructing successful email campaigns. Proper design, messaging, and the integration of actionable items are just a few of the required steps. Once you finally get to the point of hitting send, you want to be confident your message will reach its intended recipients. If only it were that easy!
Spam is on the rise and has been since its origin. It was recently reported that close to 200 Billion spam email messages are sent each day – approximately 90% of the world’s email. To combat this, Internet and email providers aggressively monitor their networks for user complaints, stale data, and malicious content. They establish reputation models that identify if an email sender is legitimate or not, and then use this data to determine whether to deliver, bulk, or block incoming messages.
Companies that are in the business of sending email marketing messages find themselves in a position where they are trying to send large volumes of legitimate email, but at the same time not look like a spammer. To help bridge this perception gap a number of email sender best practices have been developed and recommended by the email industry at large. These best practices help email senders to identify themselves as legitimate companies, sending legitimate email to recipients that have requested it.
There are some fundamental steps you need to take on your own, but then there are also several services your ESP should provide.
Email providers continually monitor their inbound mail to determine what messages are legitimate and don’t cause user complaints. To that end, there are a number of steps a sender can do to look as legitimate and authentic as possible:
- Authenticate email with the authentication standards available (i.e SPF, Sender ID, DomainKeys, DKIM).
- Ensure that WHOIS information for the sending domain is correct and accessible. Don’t mask this information using domain privacy services.
- Ensure that sending IP addresses have valid and correct reverse DNS.
- Use a dedicated sending IP address.
- Add verbiage to the top of the message asking the recipient to add the sender email address to their address book.
- Provide a link to an online version of the email.
- Make unsubscribing obvious and easy.
If you are not sure whether your ESP provides these services then now is the time to ask. Nevertheless, not all deliverability services come automatically, and some take a little more effort on your part. But it is worth it.
Project Your Brand
Companies often make the mistake of not leading with their brand when they send email messages. Use the “from” field and subject line to distinguish your company, and live text in the preview pane to again communicate who the sender is. Be very aware of how your emails appear before images are downloaded by the recipient’s email client, and when in doubt setup and test send to multiple email clients from Gmail to Microsoft Outlook.
Maintain a Two-Way Dialogue
It is important that you give your recipients an easy means of responding. If you can email them then they can email you. Many times recipients will simply reply to the original senders address, so be sure to monitor those requests. It also helps to clearly provide a “Contact Us” link, or a preferred “reply to” address. Another means of leveraging the conversation is to point your email communications back to a company sponsored blog or forum.
List Hygiene and Maintenance
In order to maintain good deliverability rates, it is important that you keep your email lists up to date. The best means of doing this is to be sure you email everyone on your list at least once every 90 days. Senders should keep historical data on subscription signups, and quarantine email addresses that bounce, or are returned as not deliverable.
The plague of Spam has taught society to not trust email. As such, it is a continual uphill battle for legitimate senders to get their email delivered successfully. Nevertheless, if you take these steps it will go a long way to demonstrate accountability and maintain email marketing as one of the most effective tools to reach your current and potential customers.
 “Cisco Report Spotlights Worldwide Cyber Security Threats”, http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/2008/prod_121508.html