Best practices in email marketing

Improving deliverability and engagement in email marketing

There are two key metrics in email marketing: deliverability and engagement.
Deliverability in email marketing means what percentage of the emails you send will actually reach your subscribers mailbox (including both the inbox and spam/junk folders).
Of course, the ultimate objective in email marketing is to reach the inbox. Depending on several factors in some cases this may take time and effort.
Engagement refers to how much your subscribers interact with your newsletter and it is measured by various clicks and views ratios. The following parameters affect newsletter engagement:
  • Relevancy to your subscribers: send the right content to the right lists with a clear email subject.
  • Visual design: choice of fonts and colors, attractiveness, readability, responsiveness to various email clients.
  • Newsletter structure and layout: enticing first few words, content blocks that stand-out, clear call(s) to action.
To improve deliverability and engagement there are a few technical things to implement once and for good and some best practices to follow regularly.

Tips and best practices

  • Be honest about who you are and what you send.
  • Use a consistent, honest and accurate From-email and From-name.
  • Send only to those who are interested in hearing from you.
  • Use double opt-in when collecting subscriber emails.
  • Personalize the newsletter body and subject line.
  • Focus on your newsletter design. Use responsive and readable designs. Avoid complicated designs that include JavaScript, Forms, iframe, Flash etc. Such designs will be blocked by most email clients.
  • Avoid catchy words such as "Free", "Hot" etc in your subject line and content because they may trigger spam filters.
  • Send multipart newsletters since these are treated better by spam filters. Here is an interesting tip.
  • Send complete newsletters. E.g. Not a newsletter that it only has a picture in it (which can be a nice e-card but this is a practice that spammers do as well).
  • Remove email accounts that bounce and keep your lists clean.
  • Segment your lists and send more targeted email campaigns. More.
  • Provide clear opt-out instructions (and links).
  • Honor and respect opt-outs. Don't send again to those who opted out.
  • Examine the bounces you receive when they say that your newsletter was rejected as spam. Many times you can find valuable information which also points to a corrective course of action. For example you may discover that your domain or IP is blacklisted and find instructions about how to white-list it.
  • Don't send huge messages with big attachments. If you need to do so upload them at your server and link to them.
  • Spread your campaigns in time. Send in batches. Use SMTP anti-flood.
  • Send regularly, periodically.
  • Test and test again: open some free email accounts in major ESPs. Always send a test campaign to your own test mailing list before sending to your subscribers.
  • Do all the above consistently.

Fine-tune your technical environment

These are some technical things that you should perform once when setting up your mailer. Some Hosting companies have control panels where these features are easy to find and set-up.
  • Have an SPF record for your domain.
  • Sign emails with DKIM (and DomainKeys).
  • Have a "reverse DNS lookup" for your domain.
  • Use an unique and clean IP for your mail server.

Interesting links from major email services providers

See also,

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