Email Marketing

What You Need to Know About Email Delivery

written by Richard Huffaker http://www.verticalresponse.com.

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Email Delivery sounds pretty simple: you create an email, hit send, and then mighty wizards transport that email to your recipients through the use of hand-crafted cables and powerful laser beams. What more is there to it than that?

As anyone who has sent more than a few pieces of commercial email knows, there is much more to it than that. Nothing has a bigger impact on the bottom line of an email campaign than seeing that email is delivered properly and then opened by as large a range of recipients as possible.

This leads to two questions: what does VerticalResponse do to ensure email is delivered?   And what can you do to ensure your email is getting in front of as many recipients as possible?

Let’s take a look at both these questions.

What does VerticalResponse do to ensure excellent delivery?

Authentication protocols
Client emails are authenticated through the use of the four major protocols: SPF (Sender Policy Framework), Sender-ID, DomainKeys and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail). With SPF and Sender-ID, we have published records that state our mail domains are allowed to send email on behalf of our own IP Addresses. With DomainKeys and DKIM, we sign each email with a key that the recipient server can then use to verify that we actually sent the email. Authentication is an increasingly important component in email delivery, as email service providers can be confident that fully authenticated mail is not a scam or phishing scheme of some sort. And VerticalResponse is one of the only providers in our space that utilizes all four of the major protocols for clients, by default.

Feedback loops
VerticalResponse has feedback loops set up with every single Internet Service Provider that is known to offer one. This means if someone clicks Report Spam at Hotmail, Hotmail trusts us to take action on the complaint. It also means that when someone clicks such a button at a participating ISP (like Hotmail), VerticalResponse users don’t have to worry that they’ll accidentally send mail to that person again, as we automatically unsubscribe recipients who treat your mail in this way from your mailing list. Each ISP has their own threshold regarding how many complaints are allowed. If you near this threshold or go over it, VerticalResponse will reach out and help you get to the root of the problem.

Automate bounce / unsubscribe processing
By automating this process (like many Email Service Providers), we ensure no users can abuse our IP Addresses by ignoring bounces and unsubscribes. This also helps keep an excellent reputation, from which we all benefit. Most service providers take their bounce messages very seriously and do not like it when someone continues to send email to addresses which the provider says no longer exist. Ignoring bounces can lead to mail not being delivered. And, of course, ignoring unsubscribes is illegal according to the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act.

Anti-spam
Everyone says they’re anti-spam, but at VerticalResponse we really, really mean it. Responding to and investigating every single complaint that comes in to the abuse desk, we quickly deal with clients who receive complaints (before they start causing delivery problems), and even look over every email our clients launch to make sure nothing suspicious or fraudulent can make it out the door. This keeps complaints to a minimum, which is a big part of maintaining a strong reputation for the IP Addresses. And a stronger reputation means a higher delivery rate for you, since your mail is being sent out through our IP Addresses.

What can you do to help ensure excellent delivery?

Keep your list healthy
Be sure everyone on your list has specifically requested info from or about your company. Also make sure you’re not mailing previously unsubscribed or bounced addresses (as I noted above). That went out of style a long time ago. And remember that permission is not forever. If someone gave you their business card at a tradeshow two years ago, it’s not a good idea to send them their first email today. Don’t wait more than a month or so to mail a new contact, otherwise large segments of your list will begin to forget their interaction with your company. This will lead to a lower open rate and cause some people to unwittingly report your email as spam.

Design with delivery in mind
Don’t just put a big image together in Illustrator and think you’re good to go. Make sure the email is easy to read (consider paragraph length and fonts). Images should be used only to enhance the HTML / text content (not as the sole content), and the email should be something that the subscriber would expect to receive based upon their sign-up. If you use one of the VerticalResponse email creation tools – like the Canvas – then you’re probably just fine here. However, if you write your own HTML, you’ll need to make sure it’s validated and that you’re using code that is supported by all the various email clients out there (email clients are not as capable as Web browsers when it comes to rendering HTML).

Treat subscribers with respect
Don’t mail subscribers too often and clutter their inbox with mail they don’t want. Set expectations at the time of sign-up: “This is what we’re going to send you. And we’re going to send it to you this often.” Also try to maintain a relationship with the subscriber. Don’t mail them sporadically once or twice a year and expect them to take action with your emails. How often is too often? How sporadic is too sporadic? I would say twice a week to once every two months is a good range to keep in mind, depending on the type of messages you’re sending out.

Have any thoughts or questions?   Let us know in the comments!

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Richard Huffaker

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