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Email Marketing: What are some of the biggest deliverability challenges?

June 19th, 2015
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Deliverability should be a concern for any email marketer. If you can’t get into the inbox, your email send might as well not have even happened.

Deliverability can be a challenge. A bad reputation score can significantly impact your ability to reach the inbox. An ESP (email service provider) with other clients behaving poorly on a shared IP also hurts you. Getting off of a spam or junk mail blacklist can be a Kafka-esque experience of not really being sure who or what will get you off that list.

To help you with deliverability issues, I reached out to three industry experts to find out what they considered to be the biggest deliverability challenges facing marketers today.

 

Understand why you have a deliverability problem

Tom Sather, Senior Director of Research, Return Path, said, “The biggest challenge that marketers have today is gaining awareness and understanding why they’re having a problem. Email providers like Gmail and Yahoo!, as well as spam filters, make real-time, data-driven decisions based on their users’ behaviors and actions.”

He said understanding the data behind your email program is going to do more towards solving a deliverability issue than following any list of tips or best practices.

Tom explained, “Most email marketers lack this fundamental data that the email providers have access to and are essentially in the dark ages when it comes to finding a solution. As a result, we hear experts touting general best practices — which is more like alchemy and doesn’t provide the desired results or can make the situation worse. Marketers who have access[to]  and analyze the data will see the highest inbox placement rates and happier and more engaged subscribers as a result.”

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

January 11th, 2011
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Google recently published some detailed research on Gmail’s Priority Inbox feature. The four-page PDF includes some key features and specific calculations that power the email-filtering function.

I am honestly shocked at the level of detail provided. Readers with a math background might be able to further deconstruct the supplied equations, but the explanatory information alone provides a wealth of information.

Here’s what jumped out at me from the “Learning Behind Gmail Priority Inbox” PDF:

‘Many Hundreds’ of Data Points

Priority Inbox ranks mail by the probability that the user will perform an action on that mail. The calculation is made on a per-user basis and is based on hundreds of data points.

There are several categories of data points, or “features,” used to determine whether a message is marked as “unread” or “everything else.”

Here are the categories:

o Social Features – based on the degree of interaction between the sender and the recipient, such as the percentage of a sender’s mail that’s read by the recipient. “Opening a mail is a strong signal of importance.”

o Content features – headers and terms in a message that are highly correlated with the recipient acting (or not acting) with a message.

o Thread features – the users’ interaction with the thread so far, such as if the user began the thread or has replied.

o Label features – the labels that the user applies to messages using filters.

Time is of the Essence

A stated goal is “to predict the probability that the user will interact with the mail” within a set time frame, giving the mail’s rank.

I am not a math wizard — but it appears that your messages will have a higher likelihood of being prioritized in the inboxes of users who typically open and/or act on them quicker than other messages they receive.

More “False Negatives” than “Positives”

If Priority Inbox makes a mistake, it is more likely to let an unimportant message into the inbox than it is to boot an important message into “everything else.”

“The false negative rate is 3- to 4-times the false positive rate,” according to the document. When tested on a control group, the system’s accuracy was about 80%, plus or minus 5%.

Changing Behavior

Google analyzed the amount of time some employees spent on email with and without Priority Inbox. Priority Inbox users spent 6% less time reading email, and 13% less time reading unimportant email. They were also more confident to delete email.

If this trend holds true across all Gmail users, companies sending irrelevant emails will notice even lower response rates from Gmail users over time.

Bottom Line: Keep on rocking

There is nothing in this document that should concern email marketers with effective programs. Gmail’s Priority Inbox will measure the high interaction rates your team achieves and categorize your messages accordingly.

For marketers whose email programs lack relevancy and value, this document should be one of many wake-up calls you’ve received to overhaul your program. Our Email Summit is less than two weeks away and you can learn a lot from the hundreds of marketers in attendance.

Related resources

The Learning Behind Gmail Priority Inbox PDF

MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2011 in Las Vegas

Email Marketing: Improve deliverability by deleting subscribers?

Email Marketing: Why should I help you?