Posts Tagged ‘email deliverability’

Email Deliverability: Can you spot a scrub?

January 10th, 2014

“You don’t want no scrubs,

A scrub is a subscriber who ain’t getting no mail from me.”


Inspired by hip-hop group TLC’s 1999 hit, “No Scrubs,” Matt Byrd, Email Marketing Manager, WeddingWire, explained list hygiene with a beat and a rhyme to get his point across to attendees at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013.

In this video excerpt, see how he explained a “scrub,” or disengaged email subscriber, not only affects the quality of your list, but also your email deliverability.

Matt’s wake-up call happened on the morning the soft bounce rate of his list went over 23%. After testing, educating and testing again, Matt discovered users that were inactive for four months or longer should be scrubbed from the list.

Although all of the users “opted-in,” these inactive users were far more likely to hit the delete button than open the email, let alone hit the unsubscribe button.

As a recently married bride, I must confess, I was one of those users.

When I first got engaged, I was so excited to register for newsletters on WeddingWire and other sites. Research and planning were at the top of my list and I could not read enough reviews, insights and planning tips.

But as the weeks and months went by, my plans turned into contracts and I didn’t need the help anymore.

Soon, the emails from Matt went from the top of my inbox to the trash. I didn’t need him anymore. I was likely one of the 23% of his list that was bringing him down (sorry, Matt).

Whenever I had the chance to watch this case study presentation, I was intrigued by how Matt overcame people like me – the busy, fickle customer, quick to hit the delete button.

Although Matt’s journey with list hygiene was initially met with skepticism, the reward has been great. Deliverability rate, Matt explained, open and clicks have increased since WeddingWire started implementing this routine, and spam complaint rates have plummeted 76%.

Here is Matt’s approach boiled down to three steps:

  1. Constantly monitor bounce rate and spam complaint rate
  2. Figure out who your scrubs are
  3. Create an ongoing filter to remove scrubs from your list


To learn more about how scrubs are impacting your deliverability, you can watch the free on-demand replay of Matt’s presentation, “Proactive List Hygiene.”

Read more…

Email Deliverability: Only 39% of marketers maintain an opt-in only subscriber list

April 9th, 2013

Email marketing is an interesting animal. It has often been compared to direct mail. However, unlike direct mail, sending irrelevant and even annoying messages can really burn your entire email marketing program.

With direct mail, if a recipient didn’t like your message, they can drop it straight in the recycling bin.

However, with email marketing, your email recipients can affect your ability to reach other potential customers by, for example, marking your email as spam. Brutal.

So, to help you improve your company’s email deliverability, we asked marketers about this topic in the MarketingSherpa 2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Report

Q: Which of the following tactics is your organization using to improve email deliverability rates? Please select all that apply. 


As always, we asked your peers for their take on this data …


When is a subscriber an inactive subscriber?

For people who remove inactive subscribers, typically, how long should they be inactive for?

– Ariel Geifman, Director of Marketing, Mintigo

This is a great question, Ariel. It is the marketing equivalent of “What is the meaning of life?” on some levels.

Because, I’d say – to both questions – the answer varies.

For example, how long is your sales cycle? How frequently do you send email? Can you tell if these folks are engaging with your company in other ways? How segmented are your email sends? Do you send triggered emails?

Whatever the length, it is probably worthwhile to consider a re-engagement campaign before removing these inactive subscribers.

But, answering a question with more questions is a wholly unfulfilling answer, I readily admit. So, to give you some straightforward numbers to chew on, I did a quick dive into the MarketingSherpa Library to see how some companies define inactive subscriber.

Some examples:


Read more…

The Upside of Opt-outs: Refining your email list with a preference center, opt-downs and unsubscribes

August 10th, 2012

“This never would have been attempted with a film camera,” posted Tom, one of my Facebook friends, in response to a recent status update. He was referring to a posted image of photographer John Baldessari’s “Throwing Three Balls in the Air to get a Straight Line (Best of Thirty-Six Attempts).”

I guess 36 attempts sounded like a lot. However, what Tom didn’t know was the photo was taken in 1973 – before either of us was born, and before people were bombarded with information in the form of images, advertisements and email.

The point is that digital media continues to rapidly change people’s expectations. We (speaking as both marketers and consumers) know how little effort it takes to shoot 36 or even 3,600 digital images, or send the same amount of automated email messages. But that doesn’t mean marketers can (or should) give up on such forms of mass communication.

I’m talking about that oh-so-familiar marketing tactic that precariously sits somewhere between your outbound and inbound campaigns – EMAIL. We need every possible approach to draw customers to our company sites and storefronts. So why ditch email? Why not instead create emails that customers crave?

According to “How to Improve the Value of Your Email List,” a recent webinar led by MECLABS Senior Research Analyst W. Jeffrey Rice, marketers can work to develop this desire in customers – not by coercion, but rather by engaging customers in a two-way communication.

During the webinar, Jeff explained how we can transcend the broadcast, scattershot model of advertising from the Mad Men days, and treat email like the nuanced, targeted digital platform it is:

Read more…

Email Deliverability: Global stats show North America leads — but we have work to do

November 1st, 2011

I enjoy contributing to webinars. They give me a chance to immerse myself in research and talk shop. They also force me to shut off Outlook, Skype and anything else that might distract me, which is great when we have a good co-presenter. I can give them my undivided attention (which frankly isn’t possible when I’m an attendee).

Last week, I had the pleasure of co-presenting a webinar on email deliverability with Tom Sather, Director of Professional Services at Return Path, the webinar’s sponsor. Sather is a top-shelf deliverability expert, and he presented data from a global study his team conducted during the first half of this year. I was glad I paid attention.

Sather noted the average inbox placement rate (the percentage of emails sent that make it to the inbox) is somewhat low across the globe.

Global deliverability stats

  • 81% inbox placement rate
  • 7% spam placement rate
  • 12% missing rate

This data was compiled from about 140 ISPs across the globe, Sather mentioned. As you can see from the webinar slide below, emails in North America fared a little better in the study. Read more…

Email Deliverability: How a marketing vendor with 99 percent delivery rates treats single opt-in lists vs. double opt-in lists

July 8th, 2011

Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, AOL and similar providers track senders’ reputations by IP address. This is partly why sending emails from dedicated IPs (instead of IPs you share with others) is the most effective tactic for improving deliverability, according to the MarketingSherpa 2011 Email Marketing Benchmark Report.

Many smaller companies, though, cannot manage a dedicated IP well enough to build a strong reputation and are better off using shared IPs, says James Thompson, Email Systems Manager, Infusionsoft.

“What we found is that most small businesses really don’t have the resources to be able to dedicate the kind of attention and maintenance required to maintain a good status on a dedicated IP,” he says.

Thompson oversees the sending of about 40 million emails each week for clients at Infusionsoft, a marketing automation software provider that caters to small businesses. He is tasked with maintaining the email architecture and deliverability for clients across the system.

Thompson has been through the trenches of email deliverability and helped to pull the company’s average delivery rate from the mid-90-percent range two years ago to consistently above 99 percent today.Email Three Funnels

Thompson shared several stories on how his company handles deliverability. His examples can help email marketers of all sizes understand how their reputations can extend beyond webmail providers and ISPs and begin to affect their relationships with agencies and vendors.

Three tiers of email IPs

One of many changes Thompson’s team made to improve deliverability was to shift its email architecture onto a message management platform. The new platform allowed the team to establish three groups of IP addresses to send from:

Group #1. Transactional emails

This first group of IP addresses was used to send invoices, order confirmations and other transaction-based emails for Infusionsoft’s clients. Thompson’s team wanted to isolate these emails because they had some of the best performance metrics of any email type, and because getting them delivered was critical to Infusionsoft’s clients.

Group #2. Single opt-in lists

This group of IP addresses was reserved for client lists that were built using unconfirmed- or single-opt-in tactics. The team isolated this group because its lists generated a higher number of spam complaints. Grouping them would prevent the complaints from hurting the reputations of IP addresses that sent emails to more qualified lists.

Group #3. Double-opt-in lists

This final group of IP addresses was reserved for email lists that were generated with confirmed- or double-opt-in tactics. These lists generated fewer problems than single-opt-in lists, and therefore benefitted by being associated with each other rather than with lists of lower quality.

Why this matters:

Thompson noted that the delivery rates between Group 2 and Group 3 originally differed by as much as 5 percent, but is now down to about 1 percent.

“However,” he says, “we are talking about averages here on millions of emails, so that does add up.”

So even if your company is relying on a shared IP address from a provider, it can still be in the best interest of your deliverability to build high-quality lists with confirmed opt-ins.Baseball batter

Three strikes and you’re out

Thompson’s team realized it had a few bad apples in the barrel when it began work to improve delivery rates. The team reached out to clients who were hurting the sender reputation of Infusionsoft’s IPs and tried to enlighten them on the issue.

“What we have come to find is that most of our customers who generate these spam complaints don’t necessarily understand or aren’t aware that their practices are abusive,” he says. “So essentially what the solution has been is to work with them, give them a set of criteria to meet, and then the problem is usually resolved.”

Unfortunately, not every situation was resolved. Some clients were unable to make the necessary changes and the team had to let them go to protect the reputations of other senders who used the system responsibly, Thompson says.

Now the team has a three-strikes system for handling clients that generate a high number of complaints.

“AOL, Yahoo!, MSN and those types of companies want to see average complaint rates of about 0.1 percent,” Thompson says. “So that means for every 1,000 emails we send, they only want to see one person complaining.”

Thompson’s team uses this same guideline when monitoring its system. Senders who regularly generate two or three complaints per 1,000 emails sent (0.2% or 0.3%) are given suggestions to improve their practices. Clients who fail to respond or make changes can be asked to leave (though this is rare).

So if you’re using a shared IP address to send email, the impact of a complaint can extend beyond your email program and even begin to impact your relationship with your marketing vendor — so keep those rates down!

Related resources:

Members Library – Email Marketing: How Publishers Clearing House uses “blacklisted” words yet achieves a 99.2% delivery rate

Members Library – Webinar Replay — Improve Email Deliverability: Tactics for Handling Complaints and Boosting Reputation

Email List Hygiene: Remove four kinds of bad addresses to improve deliverability

Email Deliverability: Riddles answered on spam complaints, feedback loops, and dedicated IPs

Message Systems – the message management platform used by Infusionsoft

Email Deliverability: Riddles answered on spam complaints, feedback loops, and dedicated IPs

May 3rd, 2011

Delivering your emails can be like crossing the Bridge of Death in Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail.” You have to answer several riddles to get past the gatekeepers and avoid the Pit of Lost Emails.

The gatekeepers, of course, are the ISPs and webmail providers. To help get your emails across, MarketingSherpa and ReturnPath recently capped a webinar on deliverability with data, case studies, and best practices. Naturally, we old bridgereceived many questions.

There were so many questions, in fact, that co-presenter Tom Sather, Director of Professional Services at ReturnPath, answered some of the audience’s deliverability questions in a recent blog post. Today, I am doing the same with three questions below.

Question #1: Could you share tips about how to forestall people using Spam button to unsubscribe?

People who want to unsubscribe from your emails are more likely to harm to your program than to help it — so let them go. Make it as easy as possible them to stop receiving your emails.

You should always link to a simple (one-click) unsubscribe process. Most companies put this link in the footer, but you can go a step further by putting the link in the header.

Here’s an example:

Unsubscribe link in email header

As Tom Sather described in his recent post, you can also create a coded email header that some ISPs and webmail providers use to generate an unsubscribe link in their interfaces.

Also, take steps to help prevent subscribers from wanting to unsubscribe in the first place. Strive to increase the relevance of your emails’ content and timing. Make sure your signup forms and welcome emails are setting subscribers’ expectations accurately.

If you clearly set expectations and only deliver emails within those guidelines, then subscribers should not mark your emails as spam. They should be receiving exactly what they requested. However, if subscribers do mark a message as spam, be sure to immediately drop them from your list.

Question #2: How do I know if someone marks my emails as spam or junk?

When a subscriber marks your email as “spam” or “junk,” it hurts your sender reputation. Monitoring campaigns for these types of complaints is a good start to preventing them from happening.

Some email marketing platforms offer complaint rates in their reports. You can also sign up for complaint feedback loops with some ISPs and webmail providers.

Feedback loops send you a copy of each complaint made against your emails. Such a complaint could be someone marking your email as spam or forwarding it to a postmaster. Here is more information on signing up for feedback loops from popular providers:
MSN / Hotmail

Question #3: If you’re using a third-party solution to produce and send your email, is that considered a dedicated IP address?

ISPs and webmail providers typically track senders’ reputations by IP address. Depending on the platform you use to send email, you might have a shared IP address that is also used by other senders. This would mean you’re also sharing your reputation with other senders.

A dedicated IP address is only used by your company. This gives you the ability to manage your sender reputation without having to worry about other companies who might be also using it.

To answer your question, email marketing platforms can offer you a dedicated IP address, but using one does not guarantee you a dedicated IP.

For example, a platform vendor can have some clients who send from shared IPs and other clients who send from dedicated IPs. Getting a dedicated IP will likely require an additional charge.

As we noted in the webinar, 65% of email marketers report that using a dedicated IP address is a “very effective” deliverability tactic, the highest of any reported in our 2011 Email Marketing Benchmark Report. However, as Tom Sather noted on our blog last year, a shared IP address can be beneficial if you meet these two criteria:

  • Mailing volume is less than 20,000 subscribers
  • Your database consists mostly of addresses at the top four consumer providers (Hotmail, Yahoo!, Gmail and AOL)

If you’re not sure which type of IP you send from, reach out to your email marketing platform vendor and ask. You should get a very straight-forward answer. It’s not like you’re asking a riddle.

Useful links related to this article

Webinar Replay — Improve Email Deliverability: Tactics for handling complaints and boosting reputation

ReturnPath’s Blog Post — A follow-up on MarketingSherpa’s webinar, “Improve Email Deliverability”

Email Marketing: Your deliverability questions answered

Email List Hygiene: Remove four kinds of bad addresses to improve deliverability

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

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

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

Photo: pietroizzo