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Making It to the Inbox

6 steps to better e-mail deliverability
October 31, 2007
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/186136

You've worked hard to build a permission-based e-mail list. You've made sure people agreed to join before adding them. But still, from time to time, a few of your subscribers hit that dreaded "This is spam" button. This is an excellent example of how the "working" definition of spam has changed. While it used to refer specifically to unsolicited e-mail, recent studies show that many now define spam as unwanted or unrecognized e-mail.

Independent e-mail performance firm ReturnPath recently found that 44 percent of those surveyed reported that they get "junk" from senders they know. The same study found that while 55 percent simply delete unwanted e-mails, 27 percent report them as spam. So this means that someone who joins your list may still view your e-mail as "junk" and even report your e-mail as spam.

Spam reports can hurt your overall e-mail deliverability, which is your ability to get your e-mail to the inboxes of your subscribers. The reports make their way back to Yahoo!, AOL, Hotmail and other ISPs. They use this information, in part, to determine your "sender reputation," which influences your ability to get your e-mail delivered going forward. Here are several things you can do to build a great reputation with ISPs and give your e-mails the best chance of making it to the inbox.

1. Use a recognizable "from" name . Most people open or delete e-mails based on the "from" name. Use a name that those on your list will recognize. Often, this is your company name.

2. Use a clear subject line. A subject line that represents who you are and what your e-mail is about will help your recipients recognize your e-mail as legitimate.

3. Make it relevant. While content is just one of many factors ISPs look at, it's the main concern for people on your list. If you're sending them irrelevant content, even if they signed up for your list, they may click the "This is spam" button the next time they receive an e-mail from you. Take the time to know your audience and only send information that is helpful and useful to them.

4. Keep a clean list. Get rid of the nonexistent addresses you are sending e-mails to every month. The ISPs notice when you don't. By removing defunct e-mail addresses, you will improve your deliverability. If you use an e-mail service provider like Constant Contact to send your e-mail, you should have the option to easily delete nonexistent e-mail addresses.

5. Authenticate. This is similar to "registering" your domain name with the ISPs so they can begin to give it a reputation. This will help your deliverability and will position you for future success as well.

6. Offer confirmed opt-in. Also known as double opt-in, this is a surefire way to know that the people on your list really want to be there. When a person signs up through your website or other avenues, they will automatically receive an e-mail from you asking them to confirm their subscription. This approach is seen as a best practice. It's important to tell new subscribers that if they don't respond to your confirmation e-mail, they won't be added to your list.

E-mail is a valuable personal and professional tool that is worth fighting for and protecting. And we all can play a role in making sure the spam gets filtered and the "good" e-mail--yours and mine--makes it to the inbox, where it belongs.