Chapter 6

Improve Email Deliverability

A strong sending reputation, like a great brand or personal reputation, is hard to earn, easy to lose, and built over time. The following are key factors that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) consider when determining your sending reputation and your overall email deliverability.

Sender Reputation

The first step to better email deliverability is to evaluate sender reputation. Sender reputation includes things like IP and domain reputation, and it provides ISPs with a snapshot of who you are as a sender. These days, your sender reputation is determined by a wide variety of factors, the most important of which, is how recipients are interacting with your emails. When your recipients are opening, reading, and clicking on your messages, ISPs know that your messages are wanted.

It's important to note that many ISPs and email providers use a protocol known as DMARC to ensure that emails delivered to their customers are legitimate. In order for this to work, Weebly Marketing emails can’t be sent from a domain that implements DMARC. Otherwise those emails might not be delivered or could be sent to a spam folder. In these instances, we set the 'from' address to a domain that we control, but we always set the 'reply-to' address to the one from your Sender Profile, so you won't miss any replies to your emails.

Here is a list of domains that implement DMARC: 'ymail.com', 'yahoo.com', 'yahoo.ca', 'yahoo.fr', 'yahoo.es', 'aol.com', 'rocketmail.com', 'aol.co.uk', 'gmail.com', 'zavante.com', 'alberleen.com'

For senders that use any of these domains, Weebly Marketing automatically changes the 'from' address for these emails to 'dm-noreply@promote.weebly.com'. This allows the receiving email service to see that the message is adhering to the DMARC protocol and isn’t junk mail.

If you don’t want the 'from' address to display like that on your emails, but are using a free email service like Gmail or Yahoo, you may want to invest in a paid email service for your domain, like GSuite. If your Sender Profile email is at your own domain name (eg, admin@mydomain.com) then your recipients will see that as the 'from' address.

Recipient Engagement

How are recipients interacting with your email? Opens, clicks, unsubscribes, and spam reports are a big part of this, but there are other types of positive and negative engagement that are harder to track. Some other behavior ISPs track include how many times messages are forwarded, how often messages are deleted without being read, how often a sender is added to a contact book, and how often a message is moved from one folder to another. The ISP definition of engagement hinges on a combination of these metrics that are invisible to the sender, but are critical to the success of every single campaign. Although the definitions of engagement are based on different sets of insights, the net result is the same: send email to engaged users who want to receive it and you will most likely have good, sustained inbox placement and deliverability. What you don't want to happen is have a high number of emails in your contact list, but have your emails unopened by 90% of recipients. ISPs might then start to filter that email to spam, rather than the inbox because recipient engagement has told ISPs that the email isn’t wanted.

Email Content

Your reputation can also be impacted by the content of your messages. Your email layout and template, links included, use of link shorteners (don’t!), words in your subject line, and even wording within the body can impact the reputation of your emails. You can build your brand’s reputation with engaging content, a professional look and feel, and legitimate links.

Pro Tip:

Don’t use link shorteners: Link shorteners are often used by spammers to obfuscate malicious links that lead to ransomware and other infected pages. ISPs look unfavorably on links in emails that were produced using link shorteners. If you absolutely insist on using a link shortener, consider using a branded or vanity domain instead of the default bit.ly or ow.ly domains as these will most certainly hurt your chances of getting email delivered to the inbox.

Spam Complaints: There’s a lot more to sender reputation than spam complaint percentage; however, a recipient marking an email as spam is the strongest negative signal to ISPs about your email. Spam complaint rates above 0.2% are considered high, and may result in poor deliverability. At other ISPs, like Gmail, a spam rate as low as .08% can 'start to affect' your deliverability, which is why you need to keep a close eye on them.

Spam Traps: Spam traps are email addresses that should never receive email because they’re old and haven’t been used in a long time, or because the email address has never signed up to receive emails and are signs that you aren’t keeping your list clean. You can avoid spam traps by removing recipients from your list after long periods of non-engagement, and by avoiding purchasing, renting or scraping email addresses. The result of growing your list through these means could translate into long-term poor deliverability that is difficult to remediate because of a very negative reputation for your sending IPs and domains.

Invalid Email Addresses: Sending emails to a large number of invalid or non-existent email addresses is a negative signal to inbox providers. Reduce the number of messages sent to invalid email addresses by immediately removing bounced addresses from your active mailing list. Abandoned email accounts can also turn into invalid addresses, so removing long-term, non-engaged addresses from your list is a good habit. Sending an email confirmation message immediately after sign up can greatly reduce invalid address rates as well. This practice is commonly known as double opt-in.

Sending Confirmation Emails: One of the easiest ways to avoid invalid addresses is to send a confirmation email to new email recipients. You can set this up in Weeble Marketing under the Automations tab - look for the 'Confirm Email Address' email automation. This email is sent to your contacts automatically after they sign up to receive your newsletters on your website. Your contacts must then confirm that they would like to receive your emails, and when they do this is considered a double opt-in.

Blacklists: Many inbox providers monitor blacklists to help them determine which senders to block or filter. Most blacklists will list your IP or sending domain if they detect a high number of spam trap hits, spam complaints, or both. Avoid blacklists by sending relevant content to recipients who have recently engaged with your emails.

Switching IP Addresses Isn’t the Answer: An IP address is the computer address from which your emails are sent. Most people believe that the greatest influencer on your 'deliverability' is your IP address, but this is outdated thinking. Your IP reputation matters, just not as much as your domain reputation. The ISPs realized that people sometimes switch email service providers and when they do, they get a new IP address. It's hard for ISPs to build a long term history of a sender’s reputation if they switch providers a lot (spammers could switch often and 'restart' their reputation). Because of this ISPs are weighing IP addresses less than they used to. You can share IPs with other senders or have an IP address all to yourself.

If you’re sending fewer than 100k emails per month and/or you send at an infrequent cadence (e.g. once per month), you should be on a shared IP. Email delivery isn’t guaranteed. There’s no magic bullet that’s going to get all of your email to the inbox. However, we believe that nearly every piece of advice in this guide can be boiled down to a single principal: Send the right message, to the right person, at the right time, with the right frequency.

Pro Tip:

If you are looking for another measure of your reputation, you can take advantage of a handful of resources that will let you know where you stand. Here are 4 sites that will help you check your sending reputation and keep you on track:

SenderScore.org: Like a credit score, a Sender Score is a measure of your reputation. Sender Score measures your reputation on a scale from 0 to 100. The higher your score, the better your reputation and the higher your email deliverability rate. Numbers are calculated on a rolling 30-day average and illustrate where your IP address (domain) ranks against other IP addresses (domains).

Senderbase.org: Senderbase is a product of Cisco and provides you with the tools to check your reputation by ranking you as Good, Neutral, or Poor. Good means there is little or no threat activity. Neutral means your IP address or domain is within acceptable parameters, but may still be filtered or blocked. Poor means there is a problematic level of threat activity and you are likely to be filtered or blocked.

ReputationAuthority: WatchGuard’s ReputationAuthority helps protect business and government organizations from unwanted email and web traffic that contain spam, malware, spyware, malicious code, and phishing attacks. You can look up your IP address or domain, receive a reputation score from 0-100, and get the percentage of emails that were good versus bad.

TrustedSource: TrustedSource is a site very similar to senderbase.org, but run by McAfee. It provides information on both your domain’s email and web reputations as well as affiliations, domain name system (DNS), and mail server information. It also provides details on the history, activation, and associations of your domain.


Next Chapter

Email Performance Metrics

Understanding the meaning of key email performance metrics will empower you to optimize your email marketing.

Read more