If you’re finding it hard to get your marketing emails into people’s inboxes then read this. We’ll show you how to overcome some of the most common hurdles faced by email marketers so that you can get your message out there.
Email marketing has long been one of the most profitable ways to advertise and it’s not going away any time soon. However, it’s far from the easiest channel to make money from and over the years, it has evolved into a far less forgiving space for newcomers. That being said, if you are willing to work hard and learn the rules, then it can pay off.
There are a lot of hurdles to email marketing and it’s important to take them one at a time. Whether it’s sourcing the right ESP (Email Service Provider), generating and segmenting lists, navigating spam traps or just trying to create content that people will open, each skill will require patience and attention to detail to get right. That’s why, in this article, we are going to focus on how to get your emails into inboxes, because there’s no point sending emails if no one has the chance to read them
One of the most common problems for marketers is that their emails end up in spam folders. This is a problem for little and large companies alike. If you look through your spam folder, you’ll probably find emails from Amazon pitched up alongside begging letters from Nigerian royalty. Inboxing isn’t easy and there is no perfect solution, but there are ways to increase your chances.
How to Get Your Emails into Inboxes
Getting your emails into inboxes requires you to stay out of spam folders. That might seem obvious, but it’s important. Sometimes the best line of offence is defence and avoiding the mistakes that will put you in the spam folder, will naturally place you into the inbox. Therefore, the first step isn’t about actively putting things in your emails to help them inbox, it’s knowing what to leave out.
Most of the major email providers like Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo (yep, it still exists) assign reputations to sender addresses. If your sender address has a bad reputation, then your emails will be viewed as spam and probably never see the light of day. Therefore, it’s really important to have a good reputation and that means avoiding bad practices.
Email deliverability is the assessment of how likely it is that your email will reach inboxes rather than spam folders and it will depend on the reputation of your email address. The key factors that affect deliverability are:
- Open, click and unsubscribe rates
- Sending Frequency and Volume
- Bounce rate
- Spam flags
Let’s take a closer look at these one-by-one.
Sending Frequency and Volume
If you have an inconsistent sending frequency, send too often, or send massive amounts of emails all at once, then you could find yourself setting off spam triggers.
There are several reasons for this but most of all the frequency and volume will have an impact on your open, click and unsubscribe rates. No one likes being bombarded by emails every single day and eventually, people will either tune you out or simply unsubscribe. This will have a negative effect on your reputation and eventually lead you into spam folders.
Ideally, you should send no more than 2 emails each week to people on your lists. If you have an urgent update, special offer or a weekly newsletter, you can boost it to 3, but any more than that and you’ll be at a high risk of damaging your reputation.
Sending out thousands of emails all at once can also trigger spam warnings, so it’s best to schedule your emails to send over the course of a few hours. This isn’t an issue if you have fewer than 5000 people in your list, but if you have more, then definitely consider sending at a slower rate. If you are targeting people in multiple GEOs, then you can segment your list to target the best times for each country and catch people when they are online. This is usually when they wake up or before they go to bed, but be sure to do your own research.
Open, Click and Unsubscribe Rates
The aim when it comes to emails is to get high open and click rates. The open rate will show email providers that people love receiving and reading your emails and the click rate will show that they are relevant.
What is a good open rate for emails?
A good open rate for emails is around 20%. However, as long as you are consistently above 10% then you shouldn’t be considered spam.
As for click-through rates, these are the icing on the cake if you want to avoid spam. If you have an average open rate of 20%, then you’ll want an average click-through rate of around 2.5%.
If you are using your emails for direct marketing, then you’ll want as many people to click on them as possible to make a purchase.
Email Bounce Rates
There are many reasons why emails might bounce, and understanding these can be key to getting your emails into people’s inboxes.
Emails bounces are split into two categories: hard and soft.
Soft bounces occur when there is a temporary problem with the recipient’s email address. The message doesn’t necessarily get completely stopped from entering the inbox, but it will delay it. If this happens, the email server should attempt to redeliver the email several times in the following 7 days after it was first sent. If this is unsuccessful, then it will be considered undeliverable.
Hard bounces occur when it’s impossible to deliver to a recipient’s email address, If this is the case, then you should remove the address from your list.
Email marketers should assess their bounce rate reports regularly and clean their lists of addresses with hard bounces to optimize deliverability. They should also attempt to uncover the reasons why emails are bouncing in order to assess the actions to be taken.
Here are some of the most common reasons why emails bounce.
Invalid Email Addresses
We all make mistakes, but sometimes the other people’s mistakes can directly affect you. This is the case when it comes to people entering their email addresses. Invalid email addresses can cause greatly increased bounce rate if unchecked. Many people enter old email addresses to sign up and avoid spam, while some people just make mistakes.
Luckily, the solution for this is simple. To avoid increased bounce rates from invalid emails, use a double opt-in procedure. This will require people to verify that their email addresses are valid before they are added to your email list.
- Email blocked by the receiving server
- Receiving servers can block emails for a number of reasons. These include:
- Incorrect email format
- Email size is too large
- ‘From’ address doesn’t match the account on the server.
- Spam email triggers in text
- Technical issues eg. the server is overloaded, connection timed out etc.
- The recipient’s inbox is full
- The recipient is blocking your emails.
- The recipient has set up an auto-responder while they are away.
Many of these are unavoidable, however, you can reduce your chances of bounce rates by sticking to good email practices. If you are doing everything right, and some email addresses have soft bounces for a prolonged period, then you should consider removing them from your list.
Blocked IP Address
If you have a bad reputation, then your sending IP might get blocked. This will cause any emails you send to bounce.
You’ll never have a 0 bounce rate, but you can keep it to a minimum by writing each email carefully and taking care of your list.
Tips to Improve Email Performance
Here are some of the best tips you can start implementing today to improve your email deliverability.
Create a Welcome Email Series
When people sign up to join your mailing list, it helps to let them know what they can expect, especially when it’s fresh in their minds. By using an automated welcome email, or series of emails, you can welcome them into the flock and tell them more about what you are offering. This helps to ensure that they at least hear from you after sign up and will ensure greater levels of trust.
Welcome emails work well because people expect them if they have actively signed up, which means they should receive a much higher open rate. Plus, it makes people far less likely to wonder why they are receiving the email or unsubscribe.
Another thing you should do in your welcome email is to highlight that people can unsubscribe if they want. This will help ensure that you only have interested leads staying in your lists. However, make no mistake, no matter how obvious you make the unsubscribe option, some people will still email you to complain. So be sure to check emails from people in your list regularly and act accordingly.
Segment Your Email Lists
Segmenting your lists is one of the most effective ways to optimize your email deliverability, however, be careful not to overdo it. In theory, the more segmented the list, the more targeted it will be. It’s true enough, but for every segment you create, you generate a new targeting option that may require a different email to be sent. The more you segment your list, the more work you need to do and pretty soon you’ll find yourself unable to keep track of everything. Therefore, consider your segments carefully.
If you want to use segments to optimize deliverability, then you can create segments of openers and non-openers.
For example, if some people on your list haven’t opened a newsletter in the 4 weeks, then you might want to send them different emails. If they don’t open those either, then they are probably disinterested, which means you can clean them, from your list. Meanwhile, you could send special offers to the people who regularly open emails to let them know that their engagement is valued.
Why is segmentation effective?
Sending smaller volumes of emails that target people more likely to open them will boost your open and click rates. For example, in a perfect world, where you send emails to 100 people and have an open rate of 20%, then if you isolate the regular openers and send a campaign to the 20%, you would have 100%. You’ll probably never get a 100% open rate, but by segmenting more active users together, you can get much closer and your reputation will greatly improve.
Segmentation can also help you target people’s interests more accurately. If you have an E-shop for example, and a segment based on what people have previously purchased, you can send relevant offers to the relevant people, which should boost engagement.
Don’t Spam your Audience
This one should be pretty obvious, but it’s actually a mistake a lot of new email marketers make. If you don’t want to be recognised as spam, then don’t spam.
It’s surprisingly tempting to keep sending emails to people who don’t open them. After all, you want to get their attention. However, the way to get their attention isn’t to bombard them. Instead, you should focus your efforts on the people who are opening emails and try to build your list of interested parties, while cleaning out the ones who are inactive.
You should make it as easy as possible for people to unsubscribe from your emails. If they are not interested, then that’s ok, not everyone will be and keeping disinterested people in your list will only cause you harm in the long run. It’s a lose, lose situation. Therefore, it’s important to learn to let them go.
Your emails should address people as they like to be addressed, therefore you should consider a house style. It doesn’t matter if it’s formal or informal, but it should be consistent. It should also fall in line with what people are expecting, so be sure to check the language that got them to sign up in the first place and take a similar approach.
As for other measures to remain professional, you should avoid spam words or spam templates. We’ve all received begging letters from Nigerian princes, but have you noticed that they are filled with spelling mistakes? This is deliberate, as it weeds out the most vulnerable people reading them. Essentially, they use the idea that, if you fall for this, you’ll fall for anything.
Over the years, ESPs have got very good at picking up on these types of scam, but one of the things they look out for is spelling mistakes. You don’t have to be the greatest writer in the English language, but be aware that consistently poor spelling could have a negative effect on your reputation. Therefore, be sure to spell check everything. If in doubt, you can use Grammarly. They have a free service which can be used with Chrome to spot many of the common mistakes.
Here are some of the key things spam filters look for:
- Spam words: Free money, get rich, instant success etc.
- All Caps: WIN ONE MILLION DOLLARS
- Excessive use of exclamation marks: Free money!!!!!
You can use spam words very sparingly, just be sure you target them well or put them in context. However, it’s best to avoid them if you can.
Size Matters but what you do with it is more important
If your email size is too big, then there’s a chance that ESPs will reject it. Therefore, you should avoid putting larger, high-quality images into your emails.
Images are only really beneficial if your email is fewer than 500 words, otherwise, they have little to no effect. If you do want to use images though, to make your emails more pleasant to look at, then use smaller, compressed images.
Other factors to consider when formatting your email content are the layout, links, fonts and colours. You should never use more than 2-3 fonts and keep to a simple colour scheme in all of your emails. When it comes to layout, the same rules apply to any good online copy. Make sure that whatever you have above the fold gets the reader’s attention and makes them want to keep reading. As for links, try to minimize the number you use. With Gmail, extra links won’t necessarily make your emails go to spam, but it could make them go into the promo folder, which isn’t as good as being in the main inbox.
The Bottom Line
The best way to ensure email deliverability is to ensure you have a good reputation. This can only be gained by sticking to the rules, maintaining your open and click rates and improving them through segmentation, cleaning your lists regularly and creating engaging content that keeps people coming back for more.