Email Emarketing Essentials
Pay close attention to the email emarketing essentials if you think you’re ready to start your email marketing campaign. You’ve got great content, great design, it looks good, and you can’t wait to email everyone on your list.
Once you hit “send,” the email will land in dozens (or hundreds) of email inboxes worldwide. Everyone will be is happy to see it, open it, click on the link and engage, right?
Your email could be opened, ignored, bounced, or even treated like (or worse, marked as) spam. While there’s no magic formula for deliverability, there are things you can do to get your email into the inboxes of interested readers if you read these email emarketing essentials.
You Do Have Control
You may think that you can’t control what happens after you hit “send,” but that’s not entirely true. The prep work you do before you send a marketing email piece can greatly impact deliverability as well as opens, clicks and engagements.
If you’ve already done a send, and feel like something is off, use your previous metrics to figure out what happened, and improve your next campaign.
Who Are These People?
Think about it—who are you sending your emails to in the first place? Where did they come from? Do you have their permission to email them? Do they know you’re going to send emails? What does your ESP (email service provider) say when your emails bounce back? Has anyone reported your email as spam? All these factors have a direct impact on deliverability.
Ideally, each individual on your list should have given you permission by opting in. You, ideally, would also have communicated that you would be sending periodic emails, and they should have understood that.
If you’ve purchased a list, or been given a list by someone to use, there’s a good chance that’s at least part of the problem. A purchased or rented list is a list of people who probably haven’t given you permission to email them. They are probably only on that list because they opted in somewhere else for a company that sold their contact information to you and other people.
If you bought or rented some or all of your mailing list, there’s a good chance they’re not interested. Your well-written and well-designed emails are not only going unnoticed, because according to the email emarketing essentials they’re spam. Your ISP will notice as well as every ESP around, and they may block your emails completely, before anyone even sees them to unsubscribe or mark them as spam. That’s the last thing you want.
Content Is King (Or At Least, A Prince)
Another really important email emarketing essential is “What are you sending to your email lists?” You still need to create good copy and make your email look good. Your list also needs to be segmented so that you’re sending relevant, valuable content to everyone who gets your messages. But if you’re sending out one email to your entire list, chances are you aren’t engaging well with your audiences—because, after all, each list is one.
During any email campaign, you should expect a few bounces and maybe a few unsubscribes. But your metrics are the key to making your campaign successful. You’ll have two sets:
- Churns, bounces, list atrophy and other “losses.”
Both of these will show you your deliverability, and what you need to correct. Clicks mean that someone has opened your email, and decided to check you out. If your content and/or offer is good, and it’s relevant to them, you’ll also have engagement.
This is the opposite end of the spectrum, when you lose contacts. However, it’s not entirely a bad thing. Why would you continue to try and market to people who aren’t interested? Yet, many marketers continue to do so to keep an inflated number on their list—but that can backfire.
Churning occurs for one of three reasons:
- An individual opts-out or unsubscribes completely
- An email address bounces
- An individual marks your email as spam
An unsubscribe can mean that the user doesn’t find the content relevant anymore, or they never signed up in the first place. If it’s an unsubscribe, it’s time to figure out why. Did your content not meet their needs, or was your offer not quite good enough to make them act?
Are you seeing an increase in unsubscribes? Offer additional ways to connect (i.e., social media) if they are simply receiving too much email. You can also solicit feedback from unsubscribers, so that you can make better offers to them, or to the rest of your subscriber base.
Look for trends in your previous send metrics so you can fix what’s wrong before your next mailing.
While it seems unimportant, there are ways to figure out why your email was bounced. Once you do, you can work on recovery and increasing your chances of deliverability.
There are a number of bounce types, but the four most common are:
- Recipient bounces—a bad email, a.k.a., “user not found.” This email is one that was either good when it was used, or a bogus email that was never valid. When people sign up for mailing lists using their work emails, or shut down a personal email address, they may not update their profile, leaving you with a hard bounce. Some use bogus emails just for free content. Remove these emails from your list immediately.
- Content bounces—the mail server, software protecting the mail server or the spam protection took issue with your email for some of the reasons listed above, or there is something in your email that it doesn’t like.
- Reputation bounces—somewhere between your system and theirs is a “reputation” that the recipient’s email client doesn’t like. This includes your company domain, an IP address you’re sending from, or the ESP’s reputation that you’re sending from.
- Temporary failures—also called “soft bounces,” or something that the server doesn’t understand. It takes a “wait and see” approach and takes more time to check out your email. A large number of soft bounces may also indicate a content issue. They may eventually deliver, but you don’t have to do anything unless you see that they aren’t. Your ESP, as a rule, automatically handles these.
Decoding these bounces will tell you what happened. These number codes start with a 4 or a 5 that appear in the return email you get.
- Anything with a 4—temporary or “soft” bounces.
- 500 or 550—these codes indicate a recipient failure (“hard bounce.”) Remove these emails from your list, because they don’t work.
- 571 or 554—these are the “content bounces” discussed earlier, where the server doesn’t like something in the content. They’re also “reputation bounces,” and occasionally have a 471 code.
Once you get the relevant code, you can go about fixing the problem. Removing bouncers will pare your list down—but they weren’t getting your emails anyway.
Getting A Reputation
Over time, ESPs examine your emails and how they perform once they arrive. Emails are also checked for spam-like qualities. If your emails have any of these characteristics, they’ll likely be rejected or at least tossed into spam folders everywhere.
- “Short” links or a link the ESP didn’t like
- Something linked to in the email
- Misspelled words (especially a lot of them)
- Not enough content text in the email body, or images
- The company’s domain
- The IP address you’re sending from
- The ESP’s reputation that you’re sending from
- An unprofessional look about the email, or it looks like email or content previously marked as spam
Any one of these factors can cause your email to bounce, to be sent directly to the spam folder, or marked as spam by the recipient. However, once you clear them up, you can email the affected people again.
This is one of the most important problems to deal with. These are from actually people who went through the trouble to report your email as spam. These complaints can harm your deliverability and reputation. Now you’ll need to examine why you were marked as spam, and correct it.
Many of these complaints are permission based. That is, whether they gave you permission to email them in the first place. If a number of complaints come from one source, fix it immediately! If there are people who came from that source before you did, suppress them from future sends. You can also create a separate campaign for these people with clear reasoning and explicit details of why they’re receiving your emails and why it may be of value to them. If it doesn’t work, that’s a list for the “delete” file.
Graymail isn’t spam, but it might as well be. It’s an email that is delivered without a problem, but is never opened, read or clicked. No engagement. It’s just there in someone’s email box. They’ve given you permission to email, and they may have been reading your emails for a while. But eventually they stopped reading for whatever reason, and you’re sending them emails that have never even been touched.
If you find a number of these, the best thing to do is stop sending email to them. It may be time to trim your list, or do more segmenting. You can also suppress anyone who hasn’t engaged in the last year so that they don’t continually receive your emails to leave them languish unopened in inbox purgatory.
It Can Only Get Worse Until You Fix it
If you continually ignore spam complaints, bounces and other email issues, the problem will simply multiply. Without engagement, many ISPs will bounce your email (or move it to the spam folder) because nobody is clicking on it. Your emails may be received, but if your open/click/engagement rates are declining, they’re not being seen.
Once you’ve fixed your source/permission/expectation issues, pay attention to your successes, and stop sending email to uninterested parties. Trimming your list to people who open, click and engage will improve deliverability as well as engagement, and your emails will be seen by people who genuinely want to see them.
Focusing on the engaged readers will not only help your mailings, but also your scores with ISPs, inbox providers and spam filters, ensuring future deliverability.
The work you do on the front end for your email campaign can reduce the extra work you have to do on the back end. Ensuring that your list is valid and contains people who are interested in your emails goes a long way in making sure your emails are being seen by those who are glad to receive them. Just try and take these email emarketing essentials into consideration when creating a campaign.