13 Best Practices to Help Ensure Email Deliverability

April 25, 2017

weidert blog author

Posted by Amanda Retzki


Email marketing is one of the most important and effective tools in your inbound marketing toolbox. With each message you send, you’re engaging in a 1:1 conversation with your prospects and customers—and that’s powerful communication. However, if your emails never make it into their inboxes, these important interactions can’t occur. Here are 13 current best practices to help ensure email deliverability.

Setting Up Your Send

The way you set up your email send is just as important (sometimes more so) than the actual body of your message. If your email doesn’t make it into inboxes and if your audience isn’t enticed to open... the incredible email content you created could go to waste.

  1. Make sure the “behind the scenes” elements of your send are in place. Work with your IT team to validate your sender identity by setting up a “mail exchanger” (MX) record to point to your IP address, and set up your email sending domain to remove mention of the email client you’re sending through. For example, if you’re using HubSpot to send your emails and haven’t set up your sending domain, “via hubspot.com” or “on behalf of yourdomain.com” could appear after the sender’s name. This can appear spammy and could confuse recipients. Check with your email client about how to set up your sending domain. If you’re using HubSpot, it’s a very simple process.
  2. Send from a familiar name and email address instead of a generic “marketing@example.com” or “sales@example.com” option. Your audience is more likely to open and engage with a message from an actual person, especially if they know them. Email providers will also be less likely to flag messages from individuals as spam.
  3. Focus on your subject line and don’t forget about preview text. Working hand-in-hand with your sender name/email address, this is what will entice your audience to actually open your message. Best practices include aligning your subject line with the body of your email and using the preview text (less than 50 characters) to provide additional value. Wondering how your subject lines stack up? There are many online evaluation tools where you can check.

Designing Your Message

Many marketers want to make their email messages stand out from the crowd by including numerous design and visual elements. However, not going overboard is important to help ensure the best deliverability.

  1. Avoid using too many fonts, font sizes and font colors—especially red and “hidden text” (white text on white background) which can appear very spammy to email providers. Also, you might be sharing information about the most exciting thing to ever happen to your company, but don’t use excessive CAPITALIZATION or punctuation!!! On that note, there are more frequently used words and symbols, including free and $, that if overused, can be spam triggers as well.
  2. Be mindful of using a high text to image ratio. The more your email resembles the kind of message you’d send a friend, the better deliverability it will have. That doesn’t mean you should stop using images, however. Just be mindful of the number you’re including, take advantage of image compression services like tinyjpg.com and tinypng.com, and include descriptive alt text behind each image.
  3. Use links sparingly in your email. Having too many can lead to information overload for readers, and also detracts from your main call to action (CTA).When you do provide a link, don’t shorten it beforehand—yet another spam trigger.
  4. Modify the plain text version of your email and clean up the HTML code to remove any empty or excessive tags.
  5. Use personalization whenever possible. Your audience would much rather engage with a tailored message based on previous content they’ve interacted with, past purchases, or where they’re at in the buyer’s journey than a generic blast that might hold little value for them.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask your audience to add you to their address book, which marks you as a known sender for future emails and further enhances deliverability.

Selecting Your Recipients

You spent a lot of time crafting your email, and you have exciting news to share! It might seem like the perfect strategy to send your message far and wide to everyone in your database, but this can actually hurt deliverability.

  1. Just as it’s important to personalize whenever possible in the body of your message, it’s also important to segment your contact list to target only those who would benefit most from its content. If you keep sending irrelevant information to your contacts, they will eventually stop engaging with your messages, and sending to these types of contacts can hurt deliverability.
  2. Building off of the previous point, disinterested contacts, also called graymail, are not ideal to send to. While it might feel like it hurts to exclude valid email addresses from your sends, it will hurt your email deliverability more to keep sending to them. Create a list of contacts who haven’t engaged with your emails for a certain number of sends (HubSpot’s default is 11), and suppress these contacts from your emails going forward. Try developing re-engagement campaigns with special offers to try and reinvigorate these stale contacts.
  3. Exclude contacts from your sends who have hard bounced or unsubscribed (many email clients will do this for you). Also, monitor soft bounce rates and spam complaints for each email sent. An uncharacteristic amount could mean you’ve been blacklisted. If so, you may need to contact your email client for removal options.
  4. This one’s a no brainer, but please, don’t ever send to purchased or rented lists. Sending to a large number of contacts who haven’t opted in to receive information from your company, or aren’t interested in the information you’re sharing, can lead to high bounces, opt-outs, and spam complaints—hurting deliverability and your sender reputation both immediately and when you want to send to your actual engaged contact list down the line. If you happen to manually collect a list of contacts at a tradeshow, over the phone, etc. who have expressed interest in joining your email list, consider first sending information to them using a secondary email client, like VerticalResponse.

Email marketing is a powerful inbound tool, but only if your messages are delivered to, seen and engaged with by your prospects and customers. Keeping current on and following best practices for who your email is sent from, what information it contains, and who it’s sent to can help ensure an effective strategy.

10 ways to make email marketing more effective

Topics: Marketing Automation, Email marketing

whole brain marketing blog author
Written by Amanda Retzki

Amanda Retzki is an Inbound Consultant at Weidert Group. Well-versed in digital marketing, Amanda assists in developing insightful, detailed and collaborative inbound marketing solutions for clients in a variety of industries.

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