Return to Sender

Return to Sender: 6 Email Marketing Hacks to Improve Your Email Sender Reputation


There are many components involved in great email marketing.

Most of the time, marketing teams fixate on things like improving their subject line or refining their CTA. While those things are essential, there’s something you’ll need to do before you ever begin correcting your copy.

You need to earn a better sender reputation.

Maximizing your engagement and open rates is excellent. But first, you need to ensure that your emails are getting to the inbox. That’s where your email marketing reputation comes in.

Unfortunately, there are more messages lost in the ether than you might think. The 2017 Email deliverability benchmark report found that 20% of email never gets to the inbox. Imagine all the opportunities you’re losing when 1 in 5 emails end up in the spam folder.

By optimizing your email sender reputation, you improve your chances of people seeing, and clicking on your content.

What Is Your Email Sender Reputation and Why Does it Matter?

If you’ve heard of email marketing, you’ve probably also heard of “spam filters.”

Spam filters are the tools in an email server designed to protect users from unwanted content. These filters determine whether your messages are valuable using multiple factors, including your sender reputation.

Your email marketing reputation is tied to the domain you send your content from. The more you send valuable emails that customers click on and read, the better your rep is. On the other hand, if people are constantly black-listing, blocking, or sending your emails to spam, your reputation suffers.

Look at it this way, nonprofits alone lose about $15k each year because of spam filters.

One way to check the condition of your sender reputation is to look at the email results you’ve generated over time. If you notice that your open rates are decreasing, and your bounce rates are increasing, you’ve got a problem. There are also tools like Sender Score you can use to check your IP address or domain.

Email Marketing Hacks to Improve your Email Sender Reputation

The good news?

Repairing and enhancing your email marketing reputation is easier than you think.

All you need to do is make sure that you’re generating good results from your campaigns.

Okay, so it’s a little more complicated than it sounds, but the following steps will guide you down the road to success.

Step 1: Develop Your IP Credibility

Spam has always been a serious annoyance for email users.

There’s a reason that click-throughs in segmented email campaigns are 100.95% higher than in non-segmented campaigns. People want content that’s relevant to them. If you send the same old spammy content to everyone, then it will end up deleted – or worse, in the spam box.

The easiest way to make sure you’re not harming your IP’s credibility is to reduce your risk of being seen as spam. To do this, start with a slow drip of email campaigns. Don’t jump straight into daily messages for everyone that subscribes to your service.

Begin with batches of emails explicitly sent to people that you know are engaged with your brand. As these emails are opened, your IP will start to develop trust with the “ISP” filter. This means that you appear as a valuable domain.

You can even check your feedback loop to see how your IP credibility looks. Most major ISPs offer access to feedback loops, where you can find information about complaints from customers and so on.

Step 2: Embrace Double Opt-in Emails

In a world of regulations like GDPR for Europe, and the Canadian Anti-Spam Law, opt-in lists are essential. The days of sending emails to third-party purchased lists are over. If you’re sending content to someone who hasn’t asked for it, your sender reputation will plummet.

Sending email exclusively to lists of customers who have opted-in actively to receive them is a good first step. You’ll also need to make sure that these people can easily “opt-out” of your conversations when necessary too. While it hurts to lose followers, it’s better than them blacklisting you so that they don’t have to see your content.

Another way to ensure you’re only connecting with the most engaged customers is with a double opt-in. This means that your customer receives a confirmation mail after they subscribe, welcoming them to the service. Double opt-in ensures that you avoid any compliance issues and helps to concentrate your efforts on the most qualified contacts. However, it does mean that it may take longer to build a massive email list.

Think of it as the quality over quantity approach to email marketing hacks.

Example of an email from search engine land

Step 3: Be Consistent with your Name and Domain

Did you know that the CAN-SPAM act considers inaccurate sender information to be a violation?

If you use the wrong domain, name, or anything else to try and trick people into opening your emails, you can end up with a nasty fine. On top of that, if you’re changing your name on email every five minutes, you’ll end up confusing your audience.

It’s best to stick with the same branding in your “from” name as much as possible.

If you want to give your email sender reputation a personal touch, you can always add the first name of a correspondent too. For instance, “Kevin from —–.” Just be sure to use the same name every time, so you can begin building familiarity with your customers.

Additionally, make sure that you’re sending emails from an address at your own domain, not just Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo. If you submit content from another domain, you won’t be able to build your sender reputation.

Example of name and domain

Step 4: Send Targeted, Relevant Content

Segmentation is one of the most valuable email marketing hacks you can use.

Send relevant, targeted content to your lists, and they’re far more likely to engage with it. The more your customers click on and read your emails, the more your sender reputation improves.

Remember, opt-in lists ensure that you’re connecting with people who want to hear from you. However, not everyone on your list is going to want to hear about everything. Different content will appeal more to different subscribers. That’s why segmentation is so important.

MailChimp, a leading email marketing tool, even conducted a study into segmented campaigns. They found that segmentation leads to:

  • 95% more clicks
  • 31% higher open rates
  • 65% fewer bounces

Those are numbers you can’t afford to ignore.

It’s up to you to decide how you want to segment your lists. Some companies divide by geographical location. Others send emails according to a customer’s place in the buying cycle. You may even have numerous lists for each of your buyer personas.

Step 5: Get the Frequency Right

According to studies, the number of emails sent each day will reach about 246 billion next year (2020). That’s a lot of noise for your customers to deal with each day.

Even if your audience loves your brand and the content you’re sending, they’ll start to get frustrated if you overwhelm their inbox. No-one wants to come home to 3 emails a day from the same company. Send too much, and the best-case scenario is that your emails will be ignored. This means a lack of engagement, which harms your email sender reputation.

Worst case? Your customers will block your emails, send them to spam, or opt-out.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all guide to the perfect email marketing frequency. You’ll need to pay attention to your analytics and find out what your customers prefer. About 28% say that they’d like to receive promotional emails more than once per week. However, that leaves plenty of people who are happy with fewer promos.

Your best bet is to start with maybe one email a week and track your results. If you have more information to share, you can try increasing the quantity for a while, and see how people respond. Remember, every email you send needs to deliver value. Get the content right, and people will be more likely to forgive you if the frequency is a little off.

Additionally, keep in mind that once you find your frequency, you need to stick with it. Erratic behavior is a good way to get yourself sent to spam. Find a nice balance and persist. Around 49% of companies use email automation to maintain their schedules.

Step 6: Regularly Purge Your List

Finally, don’t be afraid to remove people from your list when necessary.

A lot of companies get focused on the wrong thing when they’re starting their email campaigns. They assume that the more people they can connect with, the better their results will be. However, if your emails are going through to non-existent users, or inactive people, then your bounce rate will skyrocket.

According to Oracle, high bounce rates are the fastest way to get your IP blocked. It’s important to make sure that you’re sending your content to people who actively engage with it. Every now and again, remove anyone inactive from your list.

Think of it as making room for new, more valuable connections.

As tricky as purging a list feels at first, it’s excellent for your sender reputation. Plus, you ultimately won’t lose anything by cutting the dead weight from your list.

Example of a farewell email

Protect Your Email Sender Reputation

When you’re new to email marketing, it’s easy to get obsessed with things like A/B testing CTAs and finding the perfect subject line. However, don’t forget about the most crucial first step – getting your emails to your customers’ inboxes.

The 6 steps above will guide you towards a stronger sender reputation. This means you can break down the walls between you, and your target audience.

Just remember to maintain the credibility you build. Watch your analytics, track your bounce rates, and be ready to act if engagement begins to drop.



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