Not every email you send will find its way into an inbox. Optimal deliverability is needed to give your emails a fighting chance of being opened. Poor deliverability will send many of your messages into spam folders. Or worse—your mailserver could be blocked.
Don’t let this scare you—there’s a lot you can do (and should be doing) to protect deliverability. Everything from email content to server setup will be influencing your rating. Your email broadcast system should report your deliverability rate in addition to all your other email analytics. You want that rate to be as close to 100% as possible. Let’s look at how to get it there.
First things first—did you gain permission to send that email? Don’t assume that if someone sends you an email enquiry that they will automatically be happy to hear from you on an ongoing basis. Adding ‘contacts’ to your subscription list is shady. Make sure you’re using a legitimate single opt-in or double opt-in process. Only ever add someone to your list when they explicitly give you their permission.
Just because you did the right thing and gained permission to send emails to your supporter doesn’t guarantee that your messages won’t be considered ‘spam’. Unfortunately for you, spam is in the eye of the reader. The best way to avoid being flagged is to use segmentation and always send relevant, personalized messages. Here are some other big things to watch out for:
If a receiving server detects that you keep sending messages to non-existent email addresses (or addresses that haven’t been used in a long while) your deliverability rating may suffer. That’s right—the more ‘dead’ inboxes you try to hit, the harder it is to get your messages delivered to live ones.
Fix this by ‘cleaning’ your email list once a year if not more frequently. Not only should you be automatically removing any ‘hard bounces’ from your list, it’s also necessary to identify addresses that aren’t opening or clicking on your messages so that you can remove them, too.
If you’re attached to your list size, this is going to be tough. But remember—size doesn’t measure the worth of your email list. Engagement does. Cleaning your email list will improve deliverability which will improve engagement and also give you higher and more accurate open, click, and unsubscribe metrics. That’s what you want, right? Of course it is! So, do the hard thing. Identify subscribers who slept through your broadcasts for the last 6 months and let them go.
I know, I know—stuff’s getting technical. Stay with me.
In an effort to stop spammers from ‘spoofing’ their sender address, mailservers have developed clever ways to distinguish legitimate senders from illegitimate ones. There are some very important steps that your server administrator needs to take in order to verify the legitimacy of your sender domain. Your email broadcast system provider should walk you through the steps necessary to complete the ‘SPF’ and ‘DKIM’ authentication processes. Without these measures, many receiving mailservers will refuse to deliver your broadcast emails—regardless of the quality of their content.
Sometimes you can be doing everything right and still run into trouble. If you are using a shared mailserver, for example, your deliverability could be impacted by the bad behavior of other domains sharing your server’s IP address. The more you value deliverability, the more it pays to have dedicated IPs, or a highly reputable email broadcast provider.
Here’s the thing: every email you send impacts the next. Getting flagged as spam too many times can degrade your sender reputation and hurt your long-term deliverability. That means emails sent by the fundraising team can impact the performance of emails sent by the campaign team. And vice versa. This makes deliverability a whole-of-organization responsibility.
Deliverability is not an exact science. We are all at the mercy of changing algorithms. Solving a deliverability issue can be infuriating, but it helps to know that deliverability algorithms aren’t your enemy. They exist to protect the integrity of the emails that your subscribers are receiving. Consider what would happen if these algorithms didn’t exist: most of the messages we receive would be spam ... which means legitimate emails would get lost in the noise ... which means people would give up on checking their email ... which means your email broadcasts would be completely ineffective. Deliverability algorithms are your friend.
Deliverability is a big deal. Some companies dedicate entire positions or departments to optimizing deliverability. Most of us aren’t this lucky. If you use a third-party broadcast system, your provider should be doing much of the technical work to optimize deliverability on your behalf. They may even help you solve a deliverability issue if you get stuck. However, a great deal of the responsibility rests with your list and your content.
Understand the biggest pitfalls and know how to avoid them. Monitor your deliverability along with other email metrics so you can immediately detect and fix any big issues such as blocklisting.
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