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How to boost deliverability rates

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If your e-mail list includes customers and prospects with Yahoo.com addresses, it’s possible they didn’t see messages you sent in February and March. The company, according to a March 11 blog post, made changes to its inbound mail service in an effort to block spam—a move that ended up blocking both spam and legitimate e-mails from bulk senders.

The snafu is a good reminder to marketers that they must constantly monitor their deliverability. Here are some tips that to help boost and maintain deliverability rates:

  • Segment your list by message type. There’s a much greater chance that someone is going to report your e-mail newsletter or marketing materials as spam as compared to transactional messages. As a result, transactional messages should go out from their own IP address—completely separate from marketing messages as well as other e-mail sources within your company, said Barry Abel, VP-field operations at Message Systems, an e-mail solutions provider. This also applies to mail sent out from e-mail service providers. If you’re on a shared server, he said, you’ll want to request a separate, dedicated IP address for all transactional messages. “You don’t want to take the chance of your transactional messages not reaching an end user,” he said.
  • What you don’t know can hurt you. Your deliverability metrics might have been great the last time you looked, but if you haven’t checked those metrics in more than a week, you’re missing out, said Pat Peterson, VP-technology with anti-spam and anti-spyware company IronPort Systems. “You can have good deliverability for a long time, but you can still have trouble brewing,” he said. “If you don’t know people are unhappy, it will hurt you in the end.” His advice: make sure you’re constantly monitoring the feedback looks that ISPs and other providers make available. Do it daily if possible, although weekly is acceptable, too, he said. If you see a problem in a feedback loop, go back and examine your program. Did you buy a new list? Did you change the creative? Did you make an offer that was inconsistent with previous brand offerings? These are some of the things that will cause spam complaints and unsubscribes to go up, he said.
  • Authentication isn’t a silver bullet. Some marketers assume that if they go through the process of e-mail authentication, they have a green light to send whatever they want to their prospects’ and customers’ e-mail inboxes. But the opposite is actually true, Abel said: If you send too much e-mail, you can betray recipients’ trust and alienate them
  • Test monthly, even if you have a small list. You might look at a list of several hundred addresses and assume that A/B testing won’t work or isn’t worth the trouble. Not so, Peterson said. “A/B testing works as a perfect canary in a coal mine,” he said. You can test with even one or two dozen addresses and get good results, he added
  • Perform meticulous list hygiene. Every time a message bounces or someone unsubscribes, that e-mail address should be removed immediately from your e-mail program, Abel said. You never want to send e-mail to people who don’t exist because all mail servers have rules that look for excessive bounced e-mails. “When a message bounces, it raises questions about the integrity of a sender,” he said. “These removals have to happen in real time.”
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