The email deliverability landscape is in constant flux, influenced in great part by the proliferation of mobile devices and subscriber engagement-based filtering.

Adapting to such industry changes increases the ability to reach audiences and generate revenue from digital messaging campaigns.

But managing deliverability can challenge even the most well-respected brand. Government regulations, inconsistent Internet service provider (ISP) policies, emerging technologies, and changes in subscriber behavior all add to the complexity.

As a result, one in six email messages never reaches the inbox, going directly to junk folders or disappearing altogether.

So, how can companies establish a clear approach to deliverability?

Achieve a positive sender reputation—the foundation for optimal email deliverability

ISPs can make or break your sender reputation. Meeting their expectations helps improve deliverability and increases your response rates.

ISPs are, first and foremost, concerned with protecting their users from unwanted email—regardless of whether it's opt-in. Even if users have given you their email address and asked to receive mail from you, you can experience deliverability issues if too few of the ISPs' users find your mail valuable.

Dozens of elements contribute to your overall sending reputation with ISPs, directly affecting whether those ISPs' filters think your message is "good enough" to reach the inbox.

Audience engagement with your email messages is one of the primary measures used by ISPs to determine your legitimacy as a sender. Focus on engagement by sending email content that your audiences find useful and desirable enough to interact with—on any device or platform and at any location.

Personalization also helps produce a stronger sender reputation for your brand. Making your communications more personal, with a more familiar or friendly tone, gives the perception that a true relationship has been established with your audience and increases open rates and response. Who among us doesn't like to be addressed by name or provided information and offers that fit our interests?

Using Web and behavioral analytics to get better, fresher audience data with every email campaign can help you segment and target more precisely in subsequent emails with the timely, personalized, and relevant messaging that boosts engagement. Avoid the temptation of repeating campaigns simply because they worked well; doing so can quickly lead to list fatigue.

Adherence to applicable laws—CAN-SPAM in the US and CASL in Canada, which mandate proper unsubscribe processes and provide guidelines for email content and sending behaviors—is another component of a positive sender reputation. Laws vary somewhat from state to state and country to country, so adhere to the laws of the state or country you are mailing to, regardless of where you are mailing from.

Apply best-practices to optimize reach and response

Deliverability is critical to the success of your email campaigns, so manage it proactively. Here are six simple best-practices that can help maximize your delivery potential:

  1. Include safe-sender links. Include a clear link in your email template asking your audiences to add your company's "from" address to their safe senders list or address book. When they do so, it's a sure signal to an ISP that your email is desired and should be delivered to subscribers' inboxes.
  2. Don't use a "no reply" address for your marketing mail. Instead, actively encourage recipients to reply to your messages. Evidence of an active email conversation with a sender sends a strong positive signal to ISPs, bolstering your reputation. Sorting through the replies may take time and effort, but it can pay big dividends in the form of improved deliverability.
  3. Work with a deliverability expert to build a solid deliverability strategy. Deliverability isn't just about reaching the inbox. It's about making sure you reach the largest number of recipients while maintaining optimal inbox placement. An experienced deliverability consultant can often develop a strategy to increase net response twofold.
  4. Whenever possible, set clear expectations in advance. Recipients respond much more positively to mail they're expecting to receive from a sender they recognize. If you don't have a relationship with recipients before you send them email, you're more likely to experience blocking and spam filtering.
  5. Give recipients control with preference centers. A preference center allows subscribers to control and customize the content they receive from you. It's also a great way to get to know your audiences' interests. Preference centers enable you to send targeted email campaigns, increasing the likelihood that your emails will be opened.
  6. Optimize email for mobile. The vast majority of emails are opened only once, which means the first impression you make will probably be your last. Still, only one-third of content publishers (PDF) say their emails are fully mobile-optimized. As an ever-increasing proportion of emails is opened on mobile devices, messages must be optimized for reading on a wide spectrum of mobile screens.

Managing and optimizing email deliverability requires dedicated time and energy, especially if you're not working with an email service provider (ESP).

To ensure your efforts will continually pay off, measure your deliverability, find out how you compare, and build deliverability strategies geared toward optimizing performance.

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How to Manage Email Deliverability: Six Simple Best-Practices

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image of Evan Burke

Evan Burke is the global head of deliverability at Lyris, a provider of email and digital marketing solutions.

LinkedIn: Evan Burke

Twitter: @evan_burke