15 Best Practices to Improve Email Deliverability

July 13, 2020

weidert blog author


Posted by Hayden Fredriksen

email-deliverability

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 prospects and customers — and that’s powerful communication. But if your emails never reach the inbox or end up in the spam folder, these important interactions can’t occur. Here are 15 current, easy-to-follow best practices for improving email deliverability rates.

Set up Your Send for Optimal Deliverability

The way you set up your email send is just as important to deliverability as the body of your message. If your email doesn’t reach subscribers’ inboxes, and if your audience isn’t enticed to open, all that great content could go to waste, so a solid setup is key. Here are a few tips:

  1. Establish a strong sender reputation. This is what inboxes use to determine what happens to your email. Your open rate and click through rate (CTR) impact your sender reputation, but your IP reputation and domain reputation are also crucial. Keep in mind that your sender reputation is attached to your brand forever, so it is vital that you continuously monitor open and click through rates, work to improve content, and keep up with list maintenance.
  2. 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 use. For example, if you use 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 create a spammy impression and confuse recipients. Check with your email client about how to set up your sending domain. If you’re using HubSpot, it’s a simple process.
  3. 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 one they know. Email providers are also less likely to flag messages from individuals as spam.
  4. Focus on your subject line and don’t forget about preview text. Hand-in-hand with your sender name and email address, your subject line and preview text entice your audience to open your message. Best practices include aligning your subject line with the body of your email and using the preview text (fewer than 50 characters) to provide more value. Wondering how your subject lines stack up? You can choose from many online evaluation tools to test yours.

Design a Clean, Clear Message 

Many marketers emphasize design elements to make their email messages stand out. But to ensure deliverability, it’s important not to go overboard with visual effects.

  1. Avoid using too many fonts, font sizes, and colors — especially red and “hidden” text (white text on white background), a spam tactic that can trigger email providers’ filters. Also, while you might be sharing information about the most exciting thing to ever happen to your company, that’s not a valid reason for excessive CAPITALIZATION or punctuation!!! On that note, frequently used words and symbols including “free,” “$,” and “4U” can trigger spam filters, too.
  2. Strive for a high text-to-image ratio. The more your email resembles a message you’d send to a friend, the more deliverable it will be. That doesn’t mean you should stop using images. 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. Too many can lead to information overload and detract from your main call to action (CTA). When you do provide a link, don’t shorten it beforehand — that’s 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, timely message based on past purchases, previous content they’ve interacted with, or their place 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 books. This marks you as a known sender and enhances deliverability for future emails (and that provides a reputation boost for the long haul).

Select Your Recipients Wisely

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

  1. Just as it’s important to personalize in the body of your message, it’s also important to segment your contact list to target only those who would benefit most from the content of your email. If you repeatedly send irrelevant information, contacts will eventually stop engaging with your messages — and that can hurt deliverability.
  2. Building off the previous point, it’s important to acknowledge that you may have disinterested contacts, also called graymail. While it might pain you to exclude valid email addresses from your sends, it will hurt your email deliverability even more if you continue 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 future email sends. Create re-engagement campaigns with special offers to reinvigorate stale contacts.
  3. Exclude contacts who have hard bounced or unsubscribed (many marketing automation/email clients will automatically do this for you). Make sure to monitor soft bounce rates and spam complaints for each email sent. An uncharacteristic number 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, never send to purchased or rented lists. Sending to a large number of contacts who haven’t opted in, or who aren’t interested, can lead to high bounces, opt-outs, and spam complaints — and those will hurt your deliverability and your sender reputation both now and later, when you want to send to your own engaged contact list down the line. If you happen to manually collect a list of contacts (at a tradeshow or over the phone) who have expressed interest in joining your email list, consider first sending information to them using a secondary email client, like VerticalResponse to protect your marketing automation and CRM data.

RELATED: 5 Steps for a Successful Re-Engagement Email Campaign

Analyze Your Results

A lot of work goes into preparing to send and crafting your email, but your effort doesn’t end when your email goes out. You have plenty to gain by analyzing the deliverability of your messages and effects on your sender reputation, and making continuous improvements to your email strategy and content over time. How’s your email performing?

  1.  Use tools to analyze performance, and then act on your results. HubSpot email deliverability tools can help you monitor and analyze your results, so you can make data-informed improvements. Here are a few industry benchmarks to strive for:
    • Open rate: 25%+
    • Click through rate: 10%+
    • Bounce rate: <1%
    • Unsubscribe rate: <0.3%
    • Spam complaint rate: <.01%

Industry

Average
Open Rate

Average
Click Rate

Hard Bounce

Soft Bounce

Unsubscribe
Rate

Manufacturing

19.82%

2.18%

0.72%

1.18%

0.31%

Average Totals

21.33%

2.62%

0.40%

0.58%

0.26%

Email marketing is a powerful inbound tool, but only if your messages are delivered into prospects’ and customers’ inboxes — where your target audiences can engage with them. In order to keep your messages performing their best, it’s essential to keep current and to follow best practices that support your email sender identity, the development of your text and visual content and the way you handle email lists.

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This article was originally published in 2017 and has since been updated for comprehensiveness and current best practices.

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