How To Build Email Reputation For Your Marketing Campaigns
As a business owner sharing newsletters or transactional emails with subscribers, you may be wondering what determines whether or not an email lends in the recipient’s inbox. Marketers call the chain of events happening after you hit “Send” the deliverability chain.
It is a multi-step process, full of technicalities and feedback loops. However, there’s a side to deliverability email senders have and should have full control over - that is sender reputation.
In this post, we will explain how email clients assess if your welcome series email is safe for people to open and whether the domain is trusted enough to send letters straight to people’s inboxes. Other than the components of sender reputation, you will get dozens of hacks for building a stellar reputation.
I will start off by saying there’s no set-in-stone range of criteria that determine reputation - every email client uses proprietary algorithms. However, based on years of email marketing experience, I noticed that the following components make or break email delivery:
1. Spam complaints
By definition, a spam complaint is a recipient’s way to tell the email provider he no longer wants to get a letter from you. The most common way to report an email is by clicking the Spam button in the email client tab.
What happens to a campaign when it gets spam complaints? As a marketing manager, you should be able to see the campaign’s feedback loops - how many people opened an email, reported it as spam, or unsubscribed.
An acceptable spam rate for a campaign should be lower than 0.2%. If the complaint percentage tops 0.5%, the account will be suspended, damaging your reputation irreparably.
2. Open rates
Theoretically, the “open rate” is a percentage of all viewed emails within the campaign. However, simply having a reader open a letter is not enough for an ESP to track open rates. What is a good open rate for emails? If you want to avoid deliverability issues, you should aim for an open rate of at least 20%. When your open rates start to go below that, you’ll run into deliverability issues. In real life, a user should interact with the content in one of the following ways:
- Clicking a link within the email;
- Enabling the display of in-mail images.
3. Sending frequency
After monitoring millions of emails, the algorithms of email client providers learned that spammers typically don’t have a consistent sending schedule. That’s why you are more likely to damage sender reputation and deliverability if you send newsletters once in a blue moon.
Email marketers typically speak a ton about sending too many emails since, this way, readers will more likely be irritated by a flood of content from you. However, sending emails too rarely won’t build your reputation either since ESPs will not have enough data to evaluate the address.
If you are sending transactional emails, stick to a one-email-per-week schedule.
Newsletter marketing campaigns can have a slightly higher frequency - you can send two of these on a weekly basis.
4. Bounce rates
Bounces are all the emails that were sent but couldn’t reach a recipient. There are two types of bounces marketers typically consider.
Hard bounces are caused by permanent reasons - whether an address doesn’t exist or the recipient server has permanently blocked the delivery of emails from your address.
Soft bounces are temporary. When a recipient’s inbox is full, the server went into temporary downtime, or the end-user uses auto-response while he’s on vacation, you will not be able to deliver emails successfully.
When it comes to soft bounces, there’s no need to delete addresses from the list. Temporarily remove them and try sending an email again in a week or so.
Typically, if an address bounces up to 7 times, the bounce is still considered soft. In case the number of consecutive bounces exceeds 11, you are likely looking at a non-existing user.
Whenever a letter bounces, you will get a message from the email provider. However, if the number of unsent emails is too high, an ESP will likely suspend your account altogether.
According to statistics, most campaigns have an average bounce rate of 0.6% - 1.3%.
Spam complaints are a marketer’s number-one enemy when it comes to maintaining a stellar reputation. While we have no power to bring the complaint rate to zero, the good news is, with the following tips, you can be sure that all users who receive your emails are engaged.
- Make your email recognizable. If people mark a letter from you as spam, it could be because they have no idea the letter came from your company. To avoid misunderstanding, make sure your subject line, design, and copy stand out among competitors. To make an email recognizable, use a corporate address that mentions your company, create a catchphrase to start the subject line with and add it to every letter you send; use a color palette similar to that of the website.
- Have a clear opt-out process. Out of the desire to keep as many subscribers as possible, marketers often type the unsubscribe link in a smaller font or hide it at the bottom of the letter. However, lack of transparency only increases the risk of getting spam reports so it’s better to let readers unsubscribe on their own.
- Avoid no-reply addresses. A no-reply email is a warning sign for a reader since it means you are not willing to accept feedback or get in touch with the audience. As such, no-reply emails are more likely to get marked as spam or blocked by the email client provider.
- Sign up for ISP feedback loops - this way, you will get a message anytime someone reported a letter, making it easier to track spam complaints.
Making sure people read your emails is an important step towards building an impeccable seller reputation. Here are some easy-to-implement tips that make a drastic difference in open rates.
- Come up with a catchy subject line. Most people delete irrelevant emails without ever opening them - that’s why you need to fight for attention right away. Come up with a concise, easy-to-read subject line that would clearly tell what the message is about and resonates well with subscribers’ interests.
- Use a friendly tone. Building a connection between the company and email list subscribers is an indispensable part of a marketer’s job. Why would you use phrases like “We offer” and “We would like to” or canned responses that make the brand seem cold and distant? Instead, go for a friendly, down-to-earth writing style using you’ve instead of you have and starting a letter with a warm conversation opener (e.g. “Hey, how is it going?”)
- Avoid sales-y speech. Since the advent of email in the 1990s, most Internet users have developed a keen eye for spam and transactional letters. Twenty years ago, buzz-words like “free”, “discount”, “100%” could help you get more opens - now, it’s the opposite. Other than that, email client providers also flag sales-y speech, placing your letters in the “Promotions” tab instead of the inbox.
- Optimize emails for mobile. Mobile users are more open towards checking new messages out - according to statistics, they make up for 70% of all email opens. So, by ignoring smartphone optimization, you are missing out on a powerful opportunity to build a solid sender reputation. Reducing the size of images, using simple formatting, and larger fonts are the most basic ways to make every letter you send mobile-friendly.
The appropriate email frequency for your campaign depends on a lot of factors - the field the company works in, readers’ engagement with the brand, the type of content you share, etc. While you have to sort these details out on your own, marketers noticed that B2B and B2C marketing managers need to have different sending frequency strategies - let’s take a closer look at what I mean by that.
- B2B business owners shouldn’t send more than 2-5 emails per month. Since the content they share targets narrow niches, the odds of being irrelevant and annoying to the audience are higher than those for B2C sellers.
- B2C companies can be slightly laxer when it comes to email frequency, sending up to 8 letters monthly. Since the email’s copy is typically more playful, features jokes and pop culture references, readers aren’t as strict about reporting B2C campaigns.
When it comes to email bounces, the key to lowering the number of undelivered emails lies in the way you build your email lists. Let’s take a look at some practical hacks that’ll help you maintain a low bounce rate.
- Use permission-based opt-in. After filling a subscription form, a website visitor should get a chance to confirm the subscription via email - this way, you can be confident that the address typed into the form is valid.
- Update your list. Every once in a while, you should use email subscribers for content information updates - chances are, they are about to switch email client providers. Be sure to stay one step ahead of the changes and get in touch with readers before their inboxes are deactivated.
- Use domain authentication. Setting up Sender Policy Framework Records is the easiest way to verify email addresses. The email verification process is relatively straightforward and will help email client servers recognize your email as valid so that they don’t block the delivery of your campaigns.
- Track bounce rates. Use email marketing analytics and social media management tools to see which addresses bounce more often than others, if you have any hard bounces on your list, which days of the week are more bounce-prone. Increased bounce rate awareness is already a huge step to dealing with the issue once and for all.
Although sender reputation is tiresome to build from scratch and maintain, at the end of the day, the pay-off is definitely worth the effort. Once you are on good terms with email client providers and have established reputation practices, you can be confident that every subscriber can hear from you, carry out an outreach strategy, or focus on building meaningful connections with the audience.