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[NEW STUDY] Email Marketing: Reputation Is Everything

Email Marketing’s Back In Business, But Old Problems Remain

For smart communicators in 2019, email is key.

With escalating online ad costs and deteriorating organic results from social, search et al. email is getting its time in the sun again.

Not only is it one of the few owned media channels a marketer possesses, but it also converts better than most other channels.

However, email, like all channels, is highly nuanced with a range of factors impacting results, not least ‘deliverability’.

For example, one can debate at length what your subject line will be.

Concocting elaborate hooks to draw people in.

Or, A/B testing the copy to optimise results.

Or, even weaving in super-smart dynamic components for added personalisation.

However, if it doesn’t make it into your target audience’s inbox, all of the above are moot.

Email Deliverability Benchmarking

There are roughly 300 billion emails sent daily, give or take 10 billion, with spam representing a big chunk.

As such, Internet service providers (ISPs) regularly update their algorithms to prevent spam from reaching email users, much like a social network would.

Email marketers can also get filtered out as collateral damage.

A new report from Return Path sheds light on the depth and breadth of the problem and the proactive steps marketers can employ to improve results.

Return Path published its first Sender Score Benchmark report in 2012, benchmarking Sender Score in bands from 1 – 10 up to 91 – 100.

According to it’s latest edition, while email management has improved over the past six years, it clearly still has some way to go for some organisations:

  • Sender Score: 1 – 10 = 1% email deliverability
  • Sender Score: 51 – 60 = 15% email deliverability
  • Sender Score: 91 – 100 = 91% email deliverability

What Factors Impact Email Deliverability?

Email deliverability failure is usually when an email went to the spam folder or was blocked by the ISP.

While different inbox provides adhere to varying protocols for weighing sender reputation, three key metrics factor into sender reputation:

  • Complaints
    • A complaint is generated when a mailbox user marks a message as junk or spam
    • A high complaint rate signals to mailbox providers that users perceive the message as spam or abuse, and helps the mailbox provider to automatically detect similar spam or abuse messages in the future
  • Unknown user rate (bad email addresses)
    • An unknown user is a type of bounced message indicating that an email address doesn’t exist at the receiving mailbox provider
    • Senders who not only retain unknown users but send to a high percentage of them are perceived by mailbox providers as suspicious or having poor list hygiene practices
  • Spam trap count
    • Spam traps are decoy accounts that aren’t owned by a real person and therefore never subscribe to mailing lists
    • Mail received at these accounts indicates the email address was acquired without permission, and may also indicate it was acquired through illegal methods such as harvesting

What Can Be Done To Improve Sender Reputation?

The quality of your list is a big factor for your reputation.

Make sure you are routinely checking your list for unengaged users, removing inactive contacts.

When an email bounces in general, it means it can't be delivered to an inbox. From here it is either classified as a hard or soft bounce.

A hard bounce is an email that couldn't be delivered definitively, i.e. perhaps the email's a fake address or maybe the email recipient's server won't accept emails.

Running your mail list through a list validation service can help with this. Ensuring all your emails are owned by real people and removing typos, mistakes etc.

A soft bounce is an email that couldn't be delivered occasionally, i.e. the inbox may be full, or the email file might be too large, or similar.

Bounce rates (for both combined) shouldn’t ideally be higher than 2%; otherwise it will eventually eat into your send credibility.

Lastly, do your best to stick to a consistent email sending schedule, since another cause for a lower sender score and IP rejection is random and erratic broadcast activity.

You can download Return Path’s latest report here.

 

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