This article is in conjunction with the article: Top KPIs & Metrics for Email Marketing, where I introduced various KPIs and metrics, for measuring: email deliverability, subscribers engagement and conversions.
Marketers globally rate email marketing as the most effective digital marketing tactic and the one which delivers the best ROI. The cost per acquisition is case of email marketing is lowest.
So if you wish to dramatically reduce your cost per acquisition and increase marketing ROI, you need to become extremely good, in tracking the performance of various KPIs and metrics used for email marketing.
Following methods can help you greatly in improving the KPIs performance for email marketing:
#1 Never use mailbox service providers (MSPs) for email marketing
Companies which provide mailbox to users through which they can send and receive emails are known as mailbox service providers (MSPs).
MSPs use their own mail servers for sending and receiving emails. For example, Gmail, yahoo mail, hotmail, outlook etc are all mailbox service providers.
If you use the email hosting service provided by your web host, then you use their mailbox for sending and receiving emails and in that case your web host becomes your mailbox service provider.
For example if you use the mailbox provided by Godaddy for sending and receiving emails then Godaddy becomes your mailbox provider.
Mailbox service providers are generally used to send one to one emails, or to send emails, to a small group of recipients.
However mailbox service providers are not meant to send bulk emails and often come with restrictions like sending limits, which restrict the number of emails you can send per hour/day.
If you use your MSP for sending bulk mails, you may even get banned from using your mailbox for spamming.
If you wish to send bulk emails to say hundreds of people or thousands or even millions of people, then you should always use email service providers (ESPs) or your own mail servers.
#2 Choose your Email Service Provider (ESP) wisely
Companies which provide the ability to send emails to large group of people in one go (bulk/mass email), are called email service providers (ESPs).
For example, GetResponse, MailChimp, Aweber, SendGrid etc are email service providers (ESPs).
ESPs use their own mail servers to send emails to your customers’ mailboxes (like Gmail, yahoo mail, hotmail, outlook etc).
Each mail server is identified through a unique IP address which is called the ‘sender IP’.
The deliverability of your emails, depend a lot, on the reputation of your ‘sender IP’
So if you select an ESP, just because it is ‘cheap’, you are more likely to face email deliverability issues, as they often:
# do not spend great deal of time and money in monitoring their clients’ email accounts to ensure all emails going out of their mail servers (ESPs’ mail servers) meet basic anti-spam standards.
# they generally don’t care, if their clients aka email marketers use purchased email list, which can ruin the reputation of sender IP.
# they may already be blacklisted by one or more major ISPs (Internet Service providers).
# Spammers are more likely to use cheap ESPs as they are “cheap”. But their spam activities can damage the deliverability of your email campaigns, even if you, yourself, are not actively involved in any spamming. This happens when you are using cheap shared email hosting (more about it later).
# Cheap ESPs often do not provide email authentication and encryption, which can damage your inbox placement rate.
However the definition of ‘cheap’ is subjective. What may be cheap for me, may be expensive for you and vice-versa. The definition of ‘cheap’ also varies from country to country.
For example, here in the UK, $40 per month email hosting fees may not be considered very expensive but in some other country say ‘Indonesia’ this may be a large sum of money because of the difference in exchange rates.
So instead of using the word ‘cheap’, i would say go for a ‘Reputed ESP’ in your country. Select the best ESP you can afford.
I am currently using ‘GetResponse’ which is all right. I used ‘Mailchimp’ before that, which is also ok. I sometimes use ‘sendgrid’ for sending transactional emails. All of these ESPs are well known, and can be used as your ESP.
Remember, a wrong ESP can easily break your email marketing efforts.
Alternatively, if you are already facing email deliverability issues and you are 100% sure, that you are not doing anything, which can even remotely be considered as “spamming” and you have got a ‘clean’ mailing list, then you should consider changing your ESP asap.
Note: Email service providers generally do not provide mailbox.
#3 Use a dedicated Sender ip address (aka dedicated email hosting)
If you are using an email service provider (ESP) like ‘Getresponse’ or ‘Mailchimp’, you are most likely using their shared email hosting plan. You need to contact them, if you wish to move your account to dedicated email hosting.
When you use shared email hosting, you send emails using shared ‘sender IP address’. On the other hand, when you use dedicated email hosting, you send emails using dedicated ‘sender IP address’.
the ‘sender IP address’ can be shared or dedicated.
Shared ‘sender IP address’ is used by several companies for sending emails. Hence its reputation depends upon the collective email activities of all the companies sending emails.
So even if one company is sending spam, it can damage the reputation of the shared IP address. You as an individual sender, has little control over maintaining the reputation of your shared sender IP address. You email deliverability can get bad reputation just by association.
Dedicated ‘Sender IP address’ is used by only one company for sending emails. So you as an individual sender has full control over maintaining the reputation of your IP address.
While dedicated sender IP address will cost you lot more, its use can improve your email deliverability considerably.
So use dedicated email server, if you can.
Bear in mind, that quality dedicated email hosting is quite expensive. For example, GetResponse charges US $9588 per year for providing dedicated email server.
You can also find ESPs selling dedicated email hosting much cheaper but then you could end up facing email deliverability issues (see the section above on ‘choosing your ESP wisely’)
Note: Dedicated web hosting is different from dedicated email hosting. Just because you are using dedicated web server does not automatically mean that your web host is also providing you dedicated email hosting.
Both your web host and ESP can provide you dedicated email hosting.
#4 Do not use same ESP for sending both transactional and non-transactional emails
There are two broad categories of emails: Transactional emails and Non-Transactional emails.
Transactional emails – these are the emails that deliver order confirmation, delivery status, payment due, registration confirmation, subscription expiration etc. Transactional emails are often automatically triggered in response to your customer buying behavior on your website.
Non-transactional emails – these are the emails other than the transactional emails. There are two categories of non-transactional emails:
#1 One to one emails which are used for business/personal communication.
#2 Marketing emails which are used for promoting: contents (newsletters), products, special offers, discounts or which are used for general announcement. Marketing emails are generally send to a large group (hundreds, thousands, million) of recipients in one go.
According to Experian transactional email report,
#1 The open and click through rate of transactional emails are much higher than that of non-transactional emails.
#2 The average revenue per transactional email is 2 to 5 times greater than that of non-transactional email.
Transactional emails are much more important for your customers than non-transactional emails.
Therefore they must land in your customers’ inbox at all cost or in other words they must continue to have very high inbox placement rate.
Non-transactional emails are often marked as spam, which hurt your inbox placement rate overtime.
So when you use same ESP for sending both transactional and non-transactional emails, you are essentially using one IP address and if that IP has got low sender score, it will negatively affect the inbox placement rate of both your transactional and non-transactional emails.
When you use different ESP for sending transactional and non-transactional emails, you are essentially using two different IP addresses for sending emails and if one IP address has got low sender score (which is usually the one used to send marketing emails), it does not negatively affect the inbox placement rate associated with other IP address.
There are ESPs which are specialized only in sending transactional emails and then there are ESPs which are specialized only in sending marketing emails.
For example, Sendgrid is a popular ESP, which is used mainly for sending transactional emails (though of late they have also started providing service for sending marketing emails).
ESPs like GetResponse and mailchimp are generally used for sending marketing emails. Avoid using them for sending out transactional emails. They are not designed for sending such types of emails.
If you use and maintain your own mail server, then consider using two different mail servers. One for sending out transactional emails and one for sending out marketing emails.
If you are sending out emails to tens of thousands or even millions of people, every day/month, then consider using multiple mail servers and multiple sending domains, for sending out transactional and marketing emails.
So if one mail server or sending domain get bad reputation, it does not negatively affect the performance of your entire email marketing program.
#5 Use dedicated email hosting for transactional emails
Just like marketing emails, you can also use a dedicated email hosting for sending transactional emails.
As mentioned earlier, when you use a ‘Shared sender IP address’ for sending out emails, the reputation of that IP address depends upon the collective email activities of all the companies using that IP to send emails.
So even if one company is sending spam, it can damage the reputation of the shared IP address.
Since Transactional emails are much more important for your customers than non-transactional emails, you must use dedicated email hosting in order to ensure its deliverability.
So ideally and if it is in your budget, consider using two different dedicated email hosting to ensure maximum email deliverability:
# one dedicated email hosting for sending transactional emails
# one dedicated email hosting for sending marketing emails
ESP like sendgrid, provides dedicated email hosting for sending out transactional emails.
If using two different dedicated email hosting, is not possible for you, then consider using dedicated email hosting, just for sending out transactional emails, while using shared email hosting for sending out marketing emails.
#6 Monitor and maintain ‘Sending IP address’ reputation
There are companies out there, which have been set up esp. to maintain the list of IP addresses (of mail servers) and domain names which are known spammers and/or which are recently listed as spammers.
These companies are called ‘Blacklist Service Providers’ (BSPs).
MSPs (mailbox service providers) often use these blacklists (but only the reputed one) to decide whether or not to block an email(s) from a particular sender/mail server/domain.
Inbox monitoring tools also rely on BSPs for measuring inbox placement rate and sender score.
As an email marketer, you need to make sure, that the IP address of your mail server and/or domain name, is not in one of these blacklists (esp. the popular one).
Because if that is the case, then your emails could get blocked by some or all of MSPs.
MSPs use only ‘reputed’ blacklists while making inbox placement decision.
This is because, anyone can create a blacklist, list your domain name there. They can even ask you to make a payment, in order to remove your domain name from the blacklist.
As a result, you should not trust, just about any blacklist you find on the internet or make payment to a BSP company, to get your domain name removed from their blacklist.
MSPs also maintain their own list of IP addresses and domain names which they have identified as spammers. Such list is known as the private blacklist.
It is not possible to access private blacklist of any MSP. So all we can do, is to rely on the public blacklists provided by reputed BSP companies.
The process of checking a IP address or domain name in a blacklist is called blacklist lookup.
There are lot of online tools available which provide free blacklist lookup. For example:
To start a blacklist lookup process, follow the steps below:
Step-1: Send an email to: from the email address, which you often use for email marketing.
Step-2: You will get an email from mxtoolbox.com which contains your sender IP address and the link to view full deliverability report. Click on that link.
The email deliverability report is going to look like the one below:
This email deliverability report contains lot of important information including:
- Blacklist status
- SPF results
- DKIM results
- DMARC results
- Message headers and other details.
All of this information will make more sense to your web developer, in understanding your email deliverability issues. So don’t worry too much about understanding these terms.
Step-3: Take a note of your sender IP address (provided in the email you received from mxtoolbox.com) and save the email deliverability report as a PDF document on your hard disk/cloud for future reference.
Step-4: Navigate to http://ift.tt/1bWzM5h
Step-5: Enter your sender IP address and then click on the ‘blacklist check’ button:
You will then see a report like the one below:
The green right mark with ‘OK’ message next to a blacklist name means, your IP address is not listed in that particular blacklist which is a good thing.
If you do find your sender IP address, in one of the reputed blacklist, you should immediately start working on improving your sender score and changing your email marketing practices (like cleaning up the mailing list).
Overtime, your sender IP address should automatically get delisted from the blacklist. If that doesn’t happen, then you may need to place a delisting request.
Your ESP or inbox monitoring service provider can help you here. They can also guide you in getting delisted.
Make sure that you first fix the problem which resulted in your IP address getting blacklisted, before you place a delisting request.
Otherwise, overtime, your IP address can get blacklisted again and once it get blacklisted twice by same BSP then it going to much longer and much harder to get delisted.
If you are using a shared email hosting, then the reputation of your sender IP is not really in your control. You may be blacklisted just because of bad reputation by association.
So in that case, ask your ESP to allocate your domain, new sending IP address. If that doesn’t work or is not possible then either change your ESP or move to a dedicated email hosting.
#7 Monitor and maintain ‘sending domain’ reputation
Sending domain is the domain you use for sending out marketing emails. For example, let us suppose you use firstname.lastname@example.org for sending out marketing emails.
So in that case, your sending domain would be abc.com
Mailbox providers (like gmail, yahoo) check the reputation of the sending domain (in addition to the reputation of sending IP address) when making inbox placement decisions.
So if lot of emails coming from your domain are being marked as ‘spam’ then this will damage the reputation of your domain and lower your inbox placement rate and increase your spam folder placement rate.
Spam folder placement rate is the percentage of delivered emails which end up in spam folder.
MSPs check the sending domain reputation because spammers often change their sending IP address (by using different mail servers), in a hope to bypass spam filters.
So if your sending domain has got bad reputation, changing the sending IP address (aka mail server/ESP) won’t fix the problem. Your domain reputation will go with you, regardless of the ESP you use.
Large volume of spam complaints, whether either recorded by your mailbox provider or ESP, can get your domain name being blacklisted by one or more BSPs companies.
Once your domain name has been blacklisted esp. by a reputed BSP, MSPs (like gmail) may start sending your emails to ‘spam’ folder or block them completely.
Even the mention of your domain name within the email body or ‘From’/subject field, can result in your emails being blocked or sent to ‘spam’ folder.
So it is not just the reputation of sender IP address you need to worry about. You also need to monitor and maintain the reputation of your sending domain, in order to keep your ‘inbox placement rate’ high.
You can use the same blacklist lookup tools, you used for checking the reputation of your sender IP address, to check the reputation of your sending domain. Just enter your domain name, instead of your IP address.
Note: You cannot bypass ‘sending domain reputation check’ by MSPs, by using a different domain name in your email, which redirect users to your main domain, on link click. In case of a redirect, the reputation of the domain where a user is redirected, is also examined.
#8 Use email authentication
Email authentication ensures mailbox service providers, that the sender is legitimate and verifiable.
For example, if you are PayPal and you are sending an email to your customer, then email authentication verify your identity and inform mailbox service providers that you are actually PayPal and not some spammer, who is pretending to be PayPal.
Email authentication plays a key role in improving and maintaining sender score and is used by Mailbox service providers to separate genuine emails from spams and prevent phishing, spoofing and other forms of online fraud.
Without email authentication, the chances of your email, to end up in ‘spam’ folder or being blocked is quite high.
The three most popular email authentication methods are:
#1 SPF (Sender Policy Framework)
#2 DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mails)
#3 DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance)
DMARC is the best authentication method at present.
In order to set up DMARC, you need to create a DMARC DNS record. In order to set up DMARC DNS records, you first need to set up, either SPF DNS record or DKIM DNS record.
These DNS records make sure that only certain IPs and domain name(s) can send emails on your behalf.
Just ask your developer to set up DMARC DNS record for you. He would know what that means and he will set them up for you.
Here is how the DMARC record looks like, in my case:
Note(1): SPF records are published in DNS as TXT records.
Note(2): DMARC records are published in DNS as TXT records.
Note(3): You need to first set up either SPF or DKIM record before you can set up DMARC record.
Once your web developer has set up DMARC DNS record, you should validate it, to make sure it has been set up correctly.
You can do that by using this tool: http://ift.tt/2bdSJaZ
Once you get the report, scroll down and look for a section like the one below:
Authentication technology allows the mailbox provider (like gmail) to confirm the identity of the sender. If the identity of the sender cannot be authenticated, then mailbox providers may block the message or place it in the ‘spam’ folder.
Email authentication is not only important for getting a higher sender score but also for protecting your brand from phishing and other forms of online fraud.
So if you are using email authentication and a spammer try to forge/spoof your domain i.e. pretending to be you, then his emails will most likely get filtered or blocked by MSPs.
Without such authentication, spammers can send emails to your customers, pretending to be you, can ask them for sensitive information (login details, credit card details etc) and can thus greatly damage your brand reputation.
#9 Encrypt your email messages while they are in transit
Email encryption is a security measure which is used to protect the content of your email message from being received and/or read by anyone other than the intended recipient.
So in the event if someone (hacker) intercept your email while it is in transit, he won’t be able to read the email contents, as they will appear unreadable to him because they are encrypted (encoded).
Email authentication is a part of email encryption and affect your sender score.
TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption is used to encrypt (encode) your emails while still in transit.
If your web host and/or ESP (like GetResponse) is encrypting your email messages while they are in transit, then they support Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption.
To check whether or not your web host support TLS encryption, follow the steps below:
Step-1: From your official email address (the one connected to your domain name and not gmail, hotmail or yahoo one) and via outlook (or web based mailbox), send a test email to your gmail account.
So for example, if your official email address is: email@example.com
And your gmail email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Then send a test email from email@example.com to firstname.lastname@example.org
Step-2: Now from your gmail account, open the email you received from your web host’s mailbox.
Step-3: Click on the down arrow button as shown below:
Here I sent email from my official email address to my gmail address.
From the email encryption box, we can conclude that my email host support TLS.
Note, I used the word ‘email host’ instead of ‘web host’. This is because I do not use the mailbox provided by my web host.
I use Google’s mailbox (via Google Apps for work which is like paid gmail) for sending and receiving emails. I like to keep things separate as much as possible, so my web host’s reputation does not affect my email deliverability and vice versa.
But majority of people use the mailbox provided by their web host. So for example, if your web host is ‘Godaddy’, then you are most likely, using the mailbox provided by Godaddy for sending and receving emails.
So if you are using the mailbox provided by your web host, the email encryption box will show, whether or not your ‘web host’ support TLS encryption.
Similarly, if you are using the mailbox provided by your ‘email host’ (like google apps for work, rackspace etc), the email encryption box will show, whether or not your email host support TLS encryption.
Note: Email host is different from ESP.
ESPs (like GetResponse, mailchimp) do not provide mailbox. But email hosts like ‘Google Apps for work’, ‘Elastic Email’, ‘RackSpace’ etc provide mailboxes and SMTP services.
One thing worth pointing out here, is that, if your mailbox does not support TLS, then the emails from my domain will not be encrypted for you.
Both sender and receiver mailboxes need to support TLS.
Gmail support TLS encryption by default. But if the sender’s mailbox does not support TLS, then the email you received in gmail mailbox won’t be encrypted.
For example, following is the email I received from ‘Transport for London’, a govt. organisation, in my gmail mailbox:
Here you can see that Gmail is displaying a red open padlock icon on the message I received.
Gmail display this icon only when the mailbox service provider does not support TLS encryption.
You can get more details about, why Gmail is showing the red open padlock icon, by clicking on the drop down arrow button as shown below:
From the encryption detail, we can conclude that ‘ec-cluster.com’, the mail server used by ‘Transport for London’ does not support TLS encryption.
To check whether or not your email service provider (like GetResponse) support TLS encryption, follow the steps below:
Step-1: From your official email address (the one connected to your domain name and not gmail, hotmail or yahoo one) and via your email service provider account (like getresponse account) send a test email to your gmail account.
Step-2: Now from your gmail account, open the email you received from your ESP and click on the drop down arrow button as shown below:
Here I sent email from my get response account to my gmail account.
From the encryption detail, we can conclude that my email service provider (GetResponse) support TLS encryption.
When the sender’s email server support TLS encryption, Gmail does not display any red padlock icon on the message you have received.
# When you use the email service provided by your web host, you use their mail server to send and receive emails.
# When you use the email service provided by your email host (like rackspace) you use their mail server to send and receive emails.
# When you use the email service provided by your email service provider (like GetResponse), you use their mail server to send emails.
Your web host/email host supporting TLS encryption is not as important, as your ESP supporting TLS.
This is because when you use your ESP to send bulk emails, your domain name and/or email server IP are at a greater risk of being flagged for spam or blocked by mailbox service providers, if they don’t support TLS encryption.
#10 Build a long and clean history of your mail server & sending domain
When it comes to making inbox placement decision, MSPs also consider following factors:
#1 Sending history of your mail server to see whether your IP was flagged/blocked for spam in the past.
#2 Sending history of your domain to see whether your domain was flagged/blocked for spam in the past.
#3 Age of your mail server i.e. how long it has been used for sending out emails. The older the age, the better for inbox placement and deliverability.
#4 Age of your sending domain i.e. how long it has been used for sending out emails.The older the age, the better for inbox placement and deliverability.
MSPs have to consider all of these factors, in order to identify and block professional spammers (spammers by profession, who often spam on large scale).
Spammers’ sending IP addresses and domains keep getting flagged/blocked for spam, which damage their inbox placement and email deliverability overtime.
So to fix this problem, they constantly need to change their sending IP addresses and domains, in order to bypass spam filters.
This tactic has been abused so much, and for so long, that now when a MSP see a new sending IP address and/or sending domain being used, they become suspicious of the IP/domain and put certain restrictions on its inbox placement, deliverability, and closely monitor all of the emails being sent out from that IP/domain.
Overtime, MSPs remove these restrictions when they have got enough data to confirm that the new sender IP and/or domain has not been set up, just to bypass spam filters and you are in fact a legitimate sender and not a professional spammer.
So if you are just starting out in email marketing with a brand new mail server and sending domain, don’t expect top notch inbox placement and email deliverability.
You need to build a long and clean history before your emails are considered to be safe and delivered straight into the inbox of majority of your subscribers.
Consequently if your IP/domain has been flagged/blocked for spam then the very first thing to do, is to find and fix the problem which resulted in being flagged/blocked.
Avoid changing your sending IP and/or domain just to fix your inbox placement and deliverability issues and/or to get higher sender score.
Note: frequently changing your sending IP, can even put your sending domain into blacklist.
Changing your sending IP and/or domain should be your last option, as it takes a long time to age a new IP and/or domain and build its authority among MSPs.
Note: Sending history is also known as sending permanence.
#11 Build good reputation of a ‘new’ sending IP/domain from day one
If you are just starting out in email marketing or you have recently changed your mail server or sending domain then following tactics can help you in building a good reputation of your new IP/domain from day one:
#1 Authenticate and encrypt your emails (as explained above) before you send out even a single email. This will greatly enhance your IP and domain reputation and make you a legitimate sender in the eyes of MSPs.
#2 Participate in feedback loop programs. Many mailbox providers like gmail, yahoo and hotmail provide feedback loop programs. In order to participate in such programs, you need to verify the ownership of sending domain/IP, which is like signing up your domain/IP with major MSPs. This signup make you a legitimate sender in the eyes of MSPs.
#3 Warm up your sending IP address – Avoid sending out emails to your entire mailing list from day one via new sender IP. This is because when you use a new IP, MSPs put certain restrictions on the volume of emails they will accept from a new IP (called ‘throttling’). Instead gradually increase the volume of emails you send over weeks.
#4 Minimize Complaint rate from day one – the new sender IP is more closely monitored by MSPs for spam complains. So initially send out emails only to your most active subscribers who are most likely to engage with your emails and not mark them as ‘spam’. Then gradually over weeks, start sending out emails to your entire mailing list.
#5 Beware of shared email hosting from unknown ESP.If you choose to use shared email hosting from an unknown ESP then beware. You may end up inheriting bad reputation of their mail server just by association.
You may unknowingly, start using a mail server which has got:
- a long history of sending out spam
- long history of getting blacklisted over and over again
All of these factors could severely and may even permanently impair your email deliverability, even when you are not actively involved in spamming or are just starting your very first email marketing campaign.
Remember my section above on ‘choosing your ESP wisely’.
#12 Maintain email frequency and email often
So if you have decided to send out marketing emails once a week then maintain that frequency. It should not be like that, you send emails once a week for one month then start sending emails once every two weeks and then later start sending emails once a month or worse resume your email campaigns after several weeks/months of silence (no emails activity).
Spammers do not maintain any email frequency. They send an email blast whenever they are paid to do that.
So when you change your email frequency often, your sending domain/IP exhibits the characteristics of a spammer and MSPs may start throttling your emails or throw away your emails into spam folder.
Businesses which do not send out marketing emails often, tend to have high spam complaint rate and low inbox placement rate.
This happen because subscribers often don’t remember what they sign up for and when they receive emails from a long forgotten sender, they often mark them as ‘spam’
So if you send out emails once a month or once in several months, you are most likely to get low inbox placement rate and high complaint rate.
#13 Monitor and maintain mailing list quality
The quality of your mailing list has huge impact on your: inbox placement rate, complaint rate, bounce rate and email deliverability.
In the context of email marketing, mailing list quality is defined as the number of subscribers who are actively engaged with your emails.
If they are actively engaged, then they will open your emails, visit your website and may even complete goal conversions and/or ecommerce transactions on your website.
High mailing list quality results in:
- low bounce rate
- low complaint rate
- high subscribers’ engagement
- high inbox placement
- high email deliverability
Conversely, poor mailing list quality results in:
- high bounce rate
- high complaint rate
- poor subscribers’ engagement
- low inbox placement
- poor email deliverability
Following guidelines can help you in monitoring and maintaining mailing list quality:
#1 Always use double opt-in, where subscribers have to verify their email address, in order for their subscription to be confirmed. This will greatly reduce hard bounces, which occur as a result of invalid email addresses.
#2 Remove all hard bounces each time, before you send out, next set of marketing emails. You need to manually do this, only if your ESP does not automatically delete hard bounces.
#3 Provide email update option – Many people abandon their email addresses over time for various reasons, like because they changed their jobs. If you provide an easy option for them, in your email, to update their email address, they are likely to update it, before moving on to a new email address. Otherwise once they are moved to a new email address, they will no longer receive your emails and their email addresses may start resulting in hard or soft bounces.
#4 Find and remove all inactive subscribers, every two months. Inactive subscribers are those who haven’t opened your single email in the last 2 months. However you need to be very sure, that they are really not opening your emails, before deleting them.
#5 Avoid using a ‘WRONG BAIT’ to get newsletter subscribers
If you use a wrong bait (like free e-book, offer, discount etc) to lure people, to subscribe to your newsletter, then you are most likely going to get the subscribers, who will quickly become inactive.
This happen because, people are signing up for all the wrong reasons. They are not really interested in your newsletter. They signed up to get that free e-book or to get that 15% discount.
Once they have achieved their purpose, there is no reason to engage with your emails any more. Then they will either unsubscribe or stop engaging with your emails.
So you need to make sure, that people subscribe to your newsletter for the right reason. Just increasing the subscriber count for “size” sake, won’t do you any good.
Here is one interesting case study regarding that:
#6 Don’t be afraid to lose subscribers – Do not be afraid of losing thousands or even hundred thousand subscribers. If they are not engaging with your emails and brand, they are ‘dead weight’. Find them and remove them, before they tank your whole email marketing program.
Since mailbox providers take current subscribers’ engagement into account, while making inbox placement decision, large number of inactive subscribers will negatively impact your inbox placement rate and delivery rate.
You need only 1000 true fans.
A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce, no matter what.
According to kevin kelly’s 1000 true fans theory, your return diminishes as your fan base get larger and larger, usually after the 1000 fans/subscribers sweet spot.
If you look into your email analytics closely, you will find that, there are always some subscribers who engage more with your emails than others. There are always some readers who complete more conversions than others. These are your true fans. Find them and treasure them. Target them with special offers and exclusive contents. Treat them like king/queen.
#7 Find and remove all role based email addresses from your mailing list, each time, before you send out, next set of marketing emails. Following are examples of role based email addresses: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com etc
Role based email addresses are often associated with a department or group of people instead of an individual recipient. So when you send emails to a role based email address, it is more likely to get flagged for spam, as usually, not every recipient is interested in getting your newsletter.
#8 Never buy a mailing list – if you send emails to purchased list, you are most likely to receive high number of spam complaints which may even result in being banned by your ESP or mail box service provider.
#9 Avoid using an old mailing list – an old mailing list is the one, to which you have not sent a single email in the last 3 or 4 months. As mentioned earlier, when you do not send out emails often, subscribers often don’t remember, who you are and what they sign up for, and when they receive emails from a long forgotten sender, they often mark them as ‘spam’.
#14 Follow CAN-SPAM act guidelines
CAN-SPAM Act or ‘Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003’ is a US law which has legalized spam (unsolicited commercial emails) and it allows email marketers to legally spam (at least in the US) as long as they follow the CAN-SPAM act guidelines.
If you are a local/foreign business which operates in US and/ or if you run email marketing campaigns in US then you are required by US law to follow CAN-SPAM act guidelines, regardless of your country of residence or business location.
Even if you do not operate in US or run email marketing campaigns in US, the ESPs (GetResponse, MailChimp) and mailbox service provider (gmail, yahoo, hotmail) you use, are often American companies and they are legally obliged to enforce CAN-SPAM act guidelines on behalf of their customers/users.
So unless your email subscribers do not use gmail, yahoo or hotmail accounts, you would be better off following CAN-SPAM act guidelines regardless of your country of residence or business location.
Failing to do so, may result in a high complaint rate and low inbox placement rate (more about that later).
You need to follow CAN-SPAM act guidelines whenever you send out commercial/marketing emails, regardless of, whether or not you have obtained the permission, to send out such emails via newsletter subscription process.
Following are the CAN SPAM Act Guidelines (summary) which your e-mail must follow, if it is a commercial/marketing email:
#1 Sender email address must be accurate & it must identify the person or company who sent it. It means you can’t mask your real identity.
#2 Subject of the e-mail message must not be misleading. It should be relevant to the body of the message.
#3 The email message should clearly identify itself as an advertisement.
#4 The email message should clearly specify the legitimate physical address of the sender.
#5 The email meassge should clearly specify the un-subscribe (opt-out) mechanism. It should also be workable and must unsubscribe the recipient within 10 business days.
Mailbox service providers like gmail, especially look for the compliance of following two CAN-SPAM act guidelines:
#1 Sender email address must be accurate & it must identify the person or company who sent it.
#2 The email should clearly specify the un-subscribe (opt-out) mechanism. It should also be workable
Sender email address must be accurate & it must identify the person or company who sent it.
Spammers often mask their real identity in order to avoid spam filters and to conduct online fraud like phishing. They do that by forging sender email address in order to mislead a recipient about the origin of the email.
For example, a spammer can forge sender email address in order to pretend to be PayPal.
So if you are masking your real identity while sending out emails, you are exhibiting characteristics of a spammer, which can result in your emails being throttled/blocked by MSPs.
Here is how, one can knowingly or unknowingly mask his real identity while sending out emails:
Let us suppose, a person say ‘John’ sent out marketing emails on behalf of his company, by using say firstname.lastname@example.org email address in the FROM field of the email message, instead of using his business email address say email@example.com
Now MSPs content filters will quickly find out, that John is sending out commercial emails on behalf of a company, but not using that company’s domain in the sender email address.
So he could be masking his real identity and pretending to be someone else. As a result, John’s emails are most likely to land in spam folder or get blocked.
Rule of thumb, is to always use your business email in the FROM field of the email message and never use free domain email address (the one from gmail, yahoo, hotmail etc) as sender email address.
The email should clearly specify the un-subscribe (opt-out) mechanism. It should also be workable
If your email body does not contain ‘unsubscribe’ link or the link is hard to find, then people are most likely to mark your email as ‘Spam’,in the event, they no longer wish to receive your emails.
If your unsubscribe link does not work or ask user to login first, then also, people are most likely to mark your email as ‘Spam’.
So if you follow this CAN-SPAM act guideline of prominently displaying a workable un-subscribe link, your complaint rate can remain low and inbox placement rate can remain high.
#15 Disable your RSS feed for good
I have struggled with making a decision regarding, whether or not, I should keep RSS enabled, for optimizesmart.com. As a result, I have disabled/enabled RSS feed several times so far.
At present the feed is enabled, due to recent server migration, which re-enabled the feed, somehow. But I am most likely to disable the RSS feed again, and this time, for good.
Disabling RSS feed, may look like an odd suggestion. But
if you are really serious about growing your email marketing list, then you should seriously consider disabling your RSS feed for good.
As long as you are providing RSS feed, you are giving an option to your readers, not to subscribe to your mailing list which negatively effects your list growth rate.
There are other and bigger disadvantages too.
Majority of RSS readers provide little to no analytics.
So you have no idea, who and how many are actually reading your newsletter and/or visiting website and completing a conversion.
You also, can not target them individually or segment them into useful groups, which comes really handy when you are running an ecommerce website, running remarketing campaigns and are trying hard to improve ROI.
RSS feeds were good for their time, back in early 2000s, when internet and blogging were in their infancy. Now it is pretty much an outdated technology, to distribute and market your contents.
#16 Segmentation is the ‘key’ to successful email marketing
Segmentation is the key to getting: high inbox placement rate, high open rate, low complaint rate and above all high conversion rate and ROI.
We often send same email to all of the subscribers in the mailing list. But not all subscribers are the same.
Some subscribers like your delivered content and some don’t.
Some subscribers don’t mind your email frequency & recency and some do.
Some get your email late at night, while some get, early in the morning (depending upon their time zone or when they are most likely to open your email).
Some subscribers like your latest offer and some don’t.
So you can’t have one size fit all newsletters.
You need to focus on creating highly personalised and highly targeted emails, preferably customised to the point, where you are addressing, each individual subscriber by his/her first name.
Highly targeted emails also mean, you send emails to individual subscribers, when they are most likely to open them and/or when they are most likely to convert on your website.
In order to create and send highly customised emails, you need to first identify and create several subscribers/customers’ personas.
You can create personas based on following characteristics of your subscribers:
#1 City/state/country of residence of your subscribers.
#2 Subscribers’ buying behavior (repeat customers, new customers, high value customers, date of last purchase, frequency of purchase, time of last purchase, shopping cart abandonment etc)
#3 Subscribers’ content preference .i.e. the type of topic they like to learn about. For example, some subscribers may only be interested in learning about ‘Google Analytics’ and not about conversion optimization. While some others, may want to learn about, both ‘Google Analytics’ and ‘conversion optimization’ topics.
People often unsubscribe when they receive emails, they don’t find relevant.
#4 Subscribers’ preferred frequency for receiving emails. Some subscribers may want to receive only one email per week, while others don’t mind receiving 2 or more emails per week. So when you send multiple emails in one week, to those subscribers, who don’t want to receive more than one email per week, they are more likely to ‘unsubscribe’.
#5 Subscribers’ engagement activities (open rate, read rate, Click to read rate, Click to open rate, Email forwarded rate etc).
You can then, based on these subscribers’ personas, run A/B tests
The downside of running a highly personalised and highly targeted email marketing program is that, it will exponentially increase your email marketing efforts and cost.
You then, can no longer afford to create and send, “one size fit all” newsletter and blast it, to all of your subscribers in one go.
You would then need to create and run several newsletter campaigns every week, one for each subscriber’s’ persona and would need to send these campaigns, during different days of the week and/or during different time of a day.
You would then need to closely monitor: emails deliverability, engagement and conversions for each subscriber’s’ persona and make changes to your email marketing programs accordingly. You would also need to do lot more testing to get maximum possible engagement and conversions.
However by doing all this, you can maximise subscribers’ engagement and get best possible conversions/sales through your email marketing efforts. It is going to be lot more work, but in the end worth the ROI.
#17 Test, Test and conduct some more tests
Testing is critical, in order to get maximum possible ROI from your email marketing.
You should aim to A/B test, every component of your email marketing campaigns, from: email frequency, cross device and cross browser compatibility, ‘From field’ to subject line and email body.
Conduct A/B tests for each individual subscribers’ persona, with the aim to achieve following objectives:
# Find day and time to send emails, which result in higher: open rate, visits to your website and conversions.
# Find subject lines which result in higher open rate and visits to your website.
# Find preview copies (preview of your email) which result in higher open rate.
# Find best possible combination of: image, text, links and CTA (call to action), which result in more website visits and higher number of conversions.
The goal here is, to simply perform considerably better than the last time (like last week), in terms of: email deliverability, subscribers engagement and conversions.
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