9 Things That Are Killing Your Email Deliverability

“How can I help ensure my emails are being delivered?”

The simplest question in email marketing might also be the one with the most complicated answer. As an email marketer, you want to provide killer content to your subscribers. You want to see people sharing that content on Facebook and Twitter and talking about your brand. You not only want to see people opening your emails – you want to see people engage with them in a meaningful way.

The kicker here is that it’s not just about creating beautiful, optimized emails. It’s also about better positioning your campaigns to reach the inbox, avoid spam filters and then to get opened and acted upon by your subscribers. That’s where email deliverability comes in.

What is email deliverability?
Email deliverability is how you measure the success of your emails reaching the inbox without bouncing, or being marked as spam. If you have issues with high bounces, flagging spam filters or low engagement, you may have email deliverability issues.

In this post, we’ll take a look at nine things that you may be doing (sometimes without even knowing!) which are killing your email deliverability.
We’ll also explore some quick, easy to implement fixes that you can use to help build your sending reputation and improve the success of your email campaigns.

9 things that kill your email deliverability

1. Leaving your subscribers in the dark
Sometimes, old adages are true; prevention truly is better than the cure. In the email marketing world, this means first building a solid, permission-based list where your recipients have expressly opted-in to receive your emails.

But then, maximizing the potential of your subscriber list and the engagement level of your recipients requires more than just building a list of opt-in recipients – you want to start off on the right foot and send a welcome email that sings.

If someone signs up to receive emails from your brand and they don’t receive an email for six months, they have probably forgotten who you are and why they signed up to receive your campaigns. In email deliverability terms, waiting too long to send your first email is killing your chance of creating a good first impression in the inbox.

Instead, send a strong welcome email at sign up that encourages engagement and clicks and gets your recipients used to connecting with your brand in their inbox from day one.

Send consistently and regularly, though not too often. This can vary wildly depending on your industry and brand though one email quarter is probably too few, and one a day, too many. With some testing, you should be able to find a sending frequency that works for you and your subscribers.

2. Sending without custom authentication
A large part of email deliverability comes down to taking every step possible to avoid being perceived as a spammer in the eyes of spam filters and your recipients.

One of the most definitive ways in which you can affect this is by authenticating your emails. Authentication allows ISPs to acknowledge the legitimacy of your email sends. By putting verified SPF and DKIM settings in place, receiving mailboxes have some verifiable information to cross-reference with your email campaigns and can more easily determine if your email is the real deal or fraudulent. Gmail cites authentication as one of their top recommendations for helping get your email delivered to their users’ inboxes.

At Campaign Monitor, we automatically handle authentication for you, though we highly recommend you put authentication in place using your own SPF records and DKIM key for best possible impact on your email deliverability. Usually, your network administrator will be able to help set this up for you.
Simply put, by putting custom authentication settings in place, your emails are far more likely to be delivered.

3. Settling for single opt-in
Confirmed, or double opt-in means that after people select to sign up for your email list, they receive a confirmation email they must use to confirm their subscription.

Not only does confirmed opt-in help protect you from erroneous sign ups and spambots, but confirmed opt-in lists see better results with almost every engagement metric other than the sheer number of sign-ups in comparison to single opt-in lists.

Confirmed opt-in lists are more engaged from the start, and by using confirmed opt-in, you can more effectively build your sending reputation by sending to a more engaged and active list.

4. Sending from a free domain email address
Every part of your campaign needs to authoritatively communicate to your recipients and spam filters that you are who you say you are.

Using a from address that is a domain other than your own is a big no-no. Similarly, using a free domain email address such as Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail is also a bad idea. Yahoo, Gmail, and other ISPs will automatically mark your emails as spam if you send commercial, or bulk email to an email address at their domain, from the same domain, under revised DMARC policies.

Instead, use an official company address that clearly communicates who you are. Virgin use newsletters@virginexperiencedays.co.uk for their Experience Day campaigns – this lets people not only know who they are receiving the email from (Virgin), but what they are receiving (a newsletter), and which part of the business they are receiving the email from (Experience Days).

As a global brand with products and services spread across many industries, using a send-from address tailored to this particular part of the business is integral for strong email deliverability.

Be sure to use an address at a domain or authenticated sub-domain that you own and that your recipients expect to hear from. Not only will this help prevent ISP filters from blocking your emails, but this will also be instantly recognizable to your recipients and help build the sending reputation for your domain.
Get our guide to Avoiding Spam Filters to ensure your emails get delivered. 
5. Using unclear or spam flagging subject lines
Your subject line is the welcome mat of your email and often issues with subject lines are as simple as this: if your subject line makes your email look like spam then people and the spam filters ISPs put in place to protect them will probably think that it’s spam.

When optimizing your email subject lines, avoiding the use of spam filter flagging keywordsis a good start.

Avoid ALL CAPITALS, excessive and unnecessary use of punctuation (!!!) and use symbols and SP$C!AL CH@RCT3RZ sparingly, and only when relevant.
Also, ensure that your subject lines match the content of your email – no one wants to be promised a trip to a theme park and end up at the dentist.
An “R.E” or “FWD” prefix when there has been no such previous contact or email exchange is misleading. Similarly, does your email require “urgent action” and is your offer “exclusive” and “one time only!”?

Best practices for the rest of your email copy also ring true for your subject lines. Be concise, as many email clients may truncate subject lines with too many characters. Use personalization, be creative with your copy and be clear with your subscribers about what the email contains.

6. Sending emails with too many images
A historic spam technique was to send emails that contain just one image, or many images and very little text in HTML emails in order to bypass spam filters that were based primarily on spam keywords.

Spam filtering is now based much more on sending reputation than content though image to text ratio does still carry some weight with spam filters and is something you will want to spend time getting right.

Emails with very little copy and many images, or simply composed of one large image can be hallmarks of spammers. By composing similar emails, you can run the risk of your email being flagged as spam.

Remember, many email clients or devices are not configured to display images by default. If your email is composed almost entirely of images that are not displayed by a recipient’s email client, this renders the content of your email unreadable and certainly not something your client can interact with easily.
Instead, design your emails with this in mind and ensure you balance your images and copy so that your email makes sense and is engaging in the event of the images not being displayed. Always use alt text for your images so even if they don’t render, your subscribers will have context for what the images are.

7. Using URL shorteners...

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