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Optimize Email Deliverability With Best-Practice Strategies

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As an email marketer, you may face email deliverability issues every day. Whether you're sending a personal email or customer communication, electronic messages are frequently intercepted, filtered, erroneously labeled as spam, bounced, or returned to the sender as undeliverable.

For routine non-business correspondence, this is simply a minor annoyance and inconvenience. But when your message broadcasts a crisis or emergency, or if it includes time-sensitive account, billing, or service information, you could face serious consequences.

If you're a marketer, every undelivered message translates into lost revenue. Luckily, there are ways to improve the odds of delivery and decrease the chance of running into problems in the first place

The key to email deliverability lies in earning the trust of internet service providers, or ISPs. Because these companies need to provide quality service to their subscribers, they devise standard protocols and policies regarding unsolicited bulk email.

To communicate with your subscribers and customers, without interference, focus on the following five key criteria proven to optimize deliverability rates.


1. Mind your lists

How relevant is your list? You should add recipients only via responsible opt-in practices, removing bounced accounts and unsubscribe requests immediately. Never use distribution lists that are severely outdated or purchased. Many purchased lists include spam-trap or honeypot addresses, intended to lure and catch spammers.

2. Maintain low complaint levels

Do recipients want your messages? Every time subscribers report you to their ISPs, deliverability plummets.

Several popular ISPs, including AOL, Yahoo, and Hotmail, make reporting extremely easy with one-click spam reporting features. It's important to know how many complaints are coming in.

Complaint processing can be automated, with email marketing service providers removing complainers from your distribution lists and integrating that data into real-time reports.

However, you should strive to avoid complaints altogether. To minimize complaints, let recipients know who you are by identifying your company in the "from" field, use a clear and relevant subject line, and distribute messages on a routine and predictable schedule.

3. Be professional

What does your message say about your company? Advance your brand and professional reputation by sending well-designed, organized, and relevant email communications. Segment distribution lists and customize messages whenever possible. You should also make sure that domain names for landing pages have a public WhoIs record and a clearly linked privacy policy.

4. Use email authentication

Take advantage of email authentication technologies. One such solution is Sender Policy Framework (SPF), providing an open-standard, technical method for preventing address forgery.

5. Understand reputation

What do your past actions say about you? ISPs filter spam based on your company, domain name, and private IP address reputation. Building a solid reputation in these areas takes time, and the only way to build it is by sending legitimate emails and following best-practices.

Send legitimate emails, clean your lists and avoid complaints. Make sure that your email service provider or email servers are set up with private IP addresses so that you reputation is affected only by your own email marketing practices.

* * *

Once you've followed all proactive email delivery strategies, use the reporting tools in your email marketing software to measure overall delivery.

If you find that specific ISPs are blocking your blast communications even though you've followed best-practices, contact them right away to resolve the matter and apply for whitelist status.

Email marketing benefits are undeniable. With diligent effort, marketers can dramatically increase business-critical email communication deliverability and improve their bottom line.


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Dan Forootan is president of StreamSend Email Marketing (www.streamsend.com), a provider of email marketing solutions. He can be reached at dforootan@streamsend.com.

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