I have been building and managing email delivery systems for over 11 years, and have worked on everything from CRM, acquisition marketing, to re-engagement systems. The one client question that I field all the time is, “How can we improve our inbox placement”?
The top 5 factors to consistent inbox placement are
- Truly Opt-In Email Lists
- List Hygiene and On-going Email Verification
- Authenticated Email Delivery Infrastructure
- Well targeted list segments
- Relevant content with compelling call to actions
To achieve and sustain strong inbox placement, marketers must obtain a high level of recipient engagement. Marketers must make sure to pay special attention to the 5 factors stated above. First and foremost marketers must ensure that they have permission to communicate to their recipients. However there is a difference between “request” and “concede” opt-in. When a user signs up to receive a newsletter or fills out a form to request additional information about a company and its products, then they are “request” opt-in. On the other hand, when a user makes a purchase or registers on a site, they may not necessarily want to be inundated with marketing promotions from the site and or its third party affiliates. This is what is called “concede” opt-in. Request opt-in will rarely yield any spam complaints, and thus protect your sender reputation.
Another factor of significant importance is the quality of your list. I am not just referring to the email address, but to all the details of your customer or prospect. Ensure that you are performing on-going data hygiene and verification of your lists. When applicable, this includes but is not limited to email address verification, postal address validation (CASS certification, national change of address “NCOA”, and DPV validation), contact name completeness, gender, and age. A clean, complete, accurate and up to date list will ensure that you are targeting the appropriate geographic and demographic segment desired. Additionally, a verified email list will reduce the risk of your domain and IP reputation being penalized due to excessive hard bounces.
To ensure that the major free email providers accept your emails, your delivery infrastructure must conform to all current email authentication guidelines. Your email delivery system must be properly configured with rDNS “reverse DNS”, sender policy framework “SPF”, DomainKeys Identified Mail “DKIM”, and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance “DMARC”. These authentication methods let the world know that you are who you say you are.
By taking care of the first 3 factors listed above, you will significantly increase your chances of getting your emails into the inbox. These factors are critical to maintaining a good sender reputation. However, the next two factors are critical to engagement and sustaining good inbox placement.
Well targeted list segmentation will help identify the best possible audience within your list. When you reach the correct audience you normally see higher open and click rates. This engagement is what will allow you to sustain strong inbox placement.
Last but not least, relevant content with a strong call to action will normally yield consistent engagement. Special attention must be placed to key words that should be used, and to spam flag words that shouldn’t be used.
In conclusion, permission, list hygiene, proper email infrastructure, good list segmentation, or relevant content alone, will not ensure consistent inbox placement. However, if you pay attention to these key factors, and follow email marketing best practices, you should be able to achieve and sustain good inbox placement.