Adam T. Sutton

Email Deliverability: Always test emails that link to third-party sites

April 8th, 2011

Email deliverability is best managed proactively. You cannot respond to bounces and spam complaints if you’re not aware of them. Performance should be monitored. Problems should be fixed.

Deliverability is a primary concern for a company like Zozi. The deals website offers discounts on local activities such as kayaking and wine tasting. Well over half of its transactions are generated through email, says Ryan Morris, Director of Content, Zozi.

Last year, before Zozi sent emails focusing only on deals, it had a newsletter that offered travel information and updates with a funny tone. Zozi’s marketers learned more about deliverability through this newsletter with tests like the one described below.

Monitor deliverability with a seed list

Morris maintained a list of email accounts to which he’d send draft versions of the newsletter (also called a seed list). He had several accounts at the email services (such as Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail) that represented the bulk of Zozi’s email database.Seeds

Morris could login to each account and see if the newsletter arrived, rendered well and landed in the inbox or junk box. His diligence helped Zozi uncover deliverability problems before campaigns launched (Zozi has since started using Mail Monitor to test and monitor email delivery).

– Third-party photo trouble

Last year, one test email did not arrive in the inbox for about 50% to 60% of Zozi’s test list. Morris researched possible problems with the email and asked Zozi’s engineers for ideas.

“We learned that in our email for that particular day, we linked to a photo. We ended up hosting that photo at an image hosting website because, at the time, we did not have abilities on our own site to host images and create unique URLs,” he says.

“It was the first time we had done that, and it absolutely reined terror on deliverability… We ended up removing that portion of the content and sending another test… After that, we hit 100% deliverability.”

Two key deliverability takeaways

Zozi’s experience highlights two key points in email deliverability:

  1. Test deliverability before an email is sent to subscribers. There are many factors that determine whether your email arrives in the inbox. You are likely to miss one at some point and should err on the side of caution. Your team can build a test list such as the one described above in a matter of hours, which is a good start.
  2. Deliverability depends on more than reputation. Email services look at the reputation of every website to which you link. Furthermore, if you send emails from a shared IP address, then you also share your reputation with every sender on that IP.George Washington

In the (slightly edited) words of the great George Washington: “Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own [email] reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”

You can find out more about email deliverability at our upcoming webinar:
Improve Email Deliverability: Tactics for Handling Complaints and Boosting Reputation
(Thursday, April  21, 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. EDT)

Related resources:

Email Deliverability: Getting into Gmail’s ‘Priority Inbox’

Email Marketing: Improve deliverability by deleting subscribers?

Email Marketing: Your deliverability questions answered

Members Library — Webinar Replay: Top Tactics to Improve Relevancy and Deliverability

Members Library — Email Marketing: FedEx increases deliverability and clickthrough rate with preference centers

Members Library — Third-Party Links and Email Deliverability: 4 Tips to protect your reputation

Seeds photo by: flickrich

Washington photo by: Joye~

Adam T. Sutton

About Adam T. Sutton

Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter, MarketingSherpa
Adam generates content for MarketingSherpa's Email and Inbound Marketing newsletters. His years of experience in interviewing marketers and conveying their insights has spanned topics such as search marketing, social media marketing, ecommerce, email and more. Adam previously powered the content behind MarketingSherpa's Search and Consumer-marketing newsletters and carries that experience into his new role. Today, in addition to writing articles, he contributes content to the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa blogs, as well as MECLABS webinars, workshops and summits.

Prior to joining MarketingSherpa, Adam was the Managing Editor at the Mequoda group. There he created content and promotions for the company's daily email newsletter and managed its schedule.

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