So, you’ve finally gotten your small business or side hustle off the ground. You’re seeing some sales results, and the trend line looks encouraging. But you can’t help but notice that one of the biggest expenses is advertising and customer acquisition costs. And, it is frustrating to see dismally low delivery and open rates for your email campaigns.
That list you’ve built of potential customers is a big part of the future of your business. But email bounces and, even worse, emails that end up in spam folders don’t do any good.
Quality or Quantity?
Of course, you could just scrape up more email addresses to add to your list. Do enough of anything and at some point you will see results. The problem is that not only are you missing sales, but you’re likely damaging your reputation for quality going forward.
Instead of pushing out ever more email, it’s a much more effective choice to hone your email skills so that there’s a better return, for each email campaign.
Email is an incredibly powerful way for publishers to reach readers. However, your emails don’t amount to anything if they don’t make it into inboxes.
That’s why you need to focus on deliverability. Email deliverability is how you measure the success of your emails reaching the inbox without bouncing or being marked as spam. If you have issues with high bounces, flagging spam filters or low engagement, you may have email deliverability issues.
Email opens, clicks and spam complaints all contribute to how likely your emails are to wind up in spam folders. If you’re sending emails to an audience who is unengaged—maybe even one where people report your emails as spam—then you’re not going to see the high deliverability rates you need to be successful.
Understanding what affects deliverability
Many assume that their email list is somewhat stagnant. Yes, they may make efforts to grow their list and have systems in place to keep subscribers coming. However, they don’t do much to manage their lists once subscribers have joined.
But in order for publishers to be successful with newsletters, your email lists need to be clean with an engaged set of readers. You should have high engagement and deliverability rates, and be willing to say goodbye to subscribers who don’t open your emails.
The biggest deliverability offenders: unengaged/ not clean email list. Poor domain reputation. Sharing and IP address.
Ultimately, you want to make sure your emails reach the people who want to receive them. Here are some deliverability tips to make sure your emails hit the inbox.
Ways to increase deliverability
Prioritize quality over quantity of subscribers
It’s better to have a smaller list of highly engaged readers than a much larger list of subscribers that aren’t interested in opening your emails or expressing interest in your products/services. In fact, when we surveyed SMBs, we learned that 66% want to increase list quality, viewing it as more important than increasing conversion rates and email list size.
In general, publishers are prioritizing quality over quality. They’re looking to metrics that show high engagement. That includes open rates, click-through rates, revenue generated, and social shares. So, those metrics that don’t (subscriber count, growth of list, unsubscribes) are less important.
Many publishers look at their current email list and wonder whether it needs improvement. Here are some indicators that you have a healthy, high-quality email list:
- Open and click-through rates are stable or increasing
- You have the ability to segment your list and personalize messaging
- Email campaigns can be tied directly to ROI
- List decay is stable or decreasing
There may be room for improvement if your email list lacks any of these items.
Create campaigns for active management and re-engagement
You want to make sure that you are actively managing your list(s) of subscribers. They may have opted in 6 months ago, and it might have even been a double opt-in. But if they stopped opening 3 months ago, should you still have them as an active recipient of your emails? There are a couple of different approaches you can take with this scenario.
First, try sending a re-engagement campaign. Show your audience that you value them as a reader and want to ensure that they are interested in what you are sending them. Highlight the great content you are sending them and the frequency of the emails you will be sending them. And encourage them to take action to stay on your list.
Second, if they remain unengaged, remove them. The idea of shrinking your contact list sounds scary, but it’s the best course of action. Subscribers have expressed a lack of interest in what you are sending, and you don’t want to spend time and resources reaching out to people that don’t want to listen. It’s best to just let them go.
Through a strategic re-engagement campaign, Morning Brew was able to remove 100,000 inactive users, increasing their aggregate open rates, improving deliverability, and helping their mailbox rankings.
Opt for a dedicated IP
This one requires working with your IT team to make sure that you have a dedicated IP for sending email addresses. Adding some records to your Domain Name Server (for example: Hover, GoDaddy, or another hosting service) confirms that your business owns the domain the emails come from. A registered, dedicated IP increases deliverability.
When using Campaign Monitor, your campaigns will be sent from one of the generic domains we maintain (such as cmail1.com or cmail2.com) by default. However, there is a setting in your account you can enable that will allow you to send your campaigns from your own domain name (i.e. yourbusiness.com).
When you do this, you send strong signals to email providers like Gmail and Outlook that you are a legitimate business sending legitimate email campaigns. Spammers generally don’t take the time and effort to go through this process.
Ask subscribers to add you to your address book
If subscribers have your email address as a contact in your address book, then your emails will certainly reach their inbox. To get in your subscribers’ address books, simply ask to be put there. This technique is underutilized and very effective is to ask your recipient to add you to their address book or list of contacts
Similar to a double opt-in, this requires an extra step but shows an increased level of interest/engagement. Ultimately, being marked or recorded as a contact guarantees that your email will always land in the inbox.
Create custom asks based on email client
Some email clients, most notably Gmail, filter messages automatically for users. That’s why so many messages end up under the “Promotions” or “Social” tab rather than landing directly in an inbox.
To cope with this, many businesses ask new subscribers to simply drag new messages from one tab to another, ensuring that the messages land directly in the inbox. They also encourage subscribers to reply to emails. By doing so, future emails are less likely to wind up getting filtered out of the primary inbox.
Use double opt-in to ensure engagement
While single opt-in is easier and requires fewer steps for a person to subscribe, your ultimate objective should be quality vs. quantity. What good does it do to have a list of 1M+ subscribers if you have an unengaged audience that doesn’t open your emails or click through them?
Double opt-in helps solve this and addresses potential future issues:
By having a more engaged audience from the get-go, your email is far less likely to get marked as spam based on user engagement.
ISPs like Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail evaluate hundreds of factors to determine what gets sent your spam folder, and historical engagement from specific senders weighs into this heavily.
Build your sender reputation by continually providing relevant content to a more engaged audience.
It’s no secret that newsletters are beloved by publishers and the consumers who receive them. When a newsletter is filled to the brim with relevant content, it’s impossible for a subscriber to resist.
As a publisher, your goal is to cultivate as many loyal email readers as possible. These readers are your biggest fans. They generate more revenue, tell their friends about you, and ultimately make your publishing company successful.
Using newsletters to deliver more thoughtful and personalized content to your readers will increase your engagement and enable you to drive more revenue from email.