Over the past year, I have been working extensively on email deliverability. In the past, “email deliverability” was relegated to the few smart techie folks at your ESP who handled your sender IP. In days gone past, you could run your email through a spam checker, and avoid “spammy” words in your subject line or copy.
ISPs have evolved and the key word for digital marketers today is “engagement”. This involves having the analytics to know what your audience is doing with your emails, but also the targeting strategies to best use your engagement analytics to connect with your subscribers.
It goes without saying: don’t buy email lists. Don’t ever, for any reason, go out and do “data appends” of email addresses. Besides the fact that this is considered “abusive” practice, in today’s hyper-connected, digital-driven marketplace, your email recipients will reject your attempts to market to them. And it will cost you in more ways than on.
Avoiding Spam Complaints:
If you email someone that did not explicitly want to receive your emails, you are increasing the likelihood that you’ll get a higher rate of spam complaint. This is a big factor in calculating your sender reputation, so anytime you go and use an email append (bought) list, you are going to inevitably experience a spike in spam complaints. It’s just not worth it.
Avoiding Spam Traps:
Many have asked me, “What exactly is a spam trap”? The way it works is that inactive email subscribers (those who don’t open emails over a certain period of time) can be linked to dormant accounts by the ISPs. These “flagged” dormant accounts are increasingly being used by ISPs to create spam traps. That is, because they know these email accounts are dormant, when they catch you, the sender, attempting to send emails to those accounts, it flags you, the sender, as a potential spammer.
This is a particular threat with regards to acquired or revalidated addresses; such an email address that doesn’t open or respond to emails over 3 campaigns should be monitored closely and perhaps taken off the list to limit the risk of hitting spam traps. So, if your hands are tied in regards to email data appends, make sure you take this into account and “quarantine” acquired or revalidated addresses in order to maintain your list hygiene.
Likewise, inactive email addresses that have opted in to receive your marketing messages in the past will present a lower risk of having been converted into spam traps in the short term. Nevertheless, you should have an engagement segmentation and targeting strategy in place, and should generally consider removing an email address from a list after 12 months of inactivity.
Reality Based Email Marketing
As a direct marketer, the level and detail of analytics and engagement insights available affords you the benefit of being able to operate in a reality-based world. Targeting 100,000 email records, where 30,000 of those emails have been inactive for over 12 months is a fantasy-approach to direct marketing. The reality is, in that scenario, you would be targeting 70,000 emails, while hurting your chances to reach those 70k emails because of the lack of engagement segmentation and appropriate targeting.
Use the analytics you have to do smarter, realistic and more user-friendly email marketing. It works.