Secrets and lies: Deliverability gets them every time

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While email has been steadily shifting toward the mobile arena—one recent report from ReturnPath predicted that mobile readership will overtake webmail and desktop mail by the end of 2012—there are plenty of people reading their messages the old-fashioned way. Deliverability still matters to marketers, said Jeanne S. Jennings, an independent email marketing strategy consultant. Below, Jennings explains one secret and one outright lie related to deliverability. Secret: Content filters aren't enough to ensure deliverability. “People believe they can run their emails through SpamAssassin and, if their score comes back less than a three, they won't be blacklisted,” Jennings said. “But that's a content filter, and content filters account for less than 20% of deliverability.” Marketers, she said, need to be looking at feedback loops to see if they are getting spam complaints and analyze why that might be happening. Sometimes, marketers might get an influx of spam complaints after buying or renting a list, or after trying to re-engage with an older, inactive list of their own. While these techniques are valid, it's best to do so using an IP address separate from the one you use to email your house list, she said. “When you see that a high percentage of complaints is coming from a specific in-house list, you should also look at how they were collected. Did they sign up after a contest or opt in from a partner's site? They may have forgotten signing up,” Jennings said. In some cases, marketers may need to employ reputation services to help with deliverability. “It can be expensive, but you may need to do it,” she said. Lie: Low open and click-through stats mean you have a deliverability problem. It happens all the time, Jennings said: She gets calls from companies of all sizes and verticals questioning their deliverability rates because their opens and clicks are less than stellar. Invariably, she'll do the analysis and find that deliverability has nothing to do with what's going on. Instead, the client is either sending out content that's boring, repetitive or too “salesy.” “When we dive in, it's usually about the content—where it's coming from, how often it's going out and what it's about,” she said. “Deliverability has become the new scapegoat, and that's a problem for marketers who are missing out on improving their campaigns and newsletters.” Figuring out what went wrong should start with an evaluation of what's gone right in the past. Which of your newsletters or campaigns did the best from a performance perspective? What do they have in common? Does a particular subject strike a chord with your audience? Did a specific type of offer or subject line get people to open your messaging? Then move on to your lesser-performing messaging. Where is the content coming from? Companies that repurpose blogs or reviews may not have as big a problem as they think. Customers may be reading their content online or via an RSS feed. In this case, they are engaged, Jennings said, but not by the email platform. If so, you may need to completely revamp your program, creating new content or mixing repurposed materials with fresh, unique content.
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