Email Marketing: Reputation is Everything

Posted by Scott Cohen On January 10, 2011 in story time I 0 Comments

In case you have missed the news, I will be officially joining Inbox Group in a little over a week (on January 17th) as Vice President of Managed Services. I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with you, our fantastic clients!

In the meantime, I have been tying up loose ends at my current job, including handing off my email responsibilities. As part of this transition, I put together a document on email deliverability basics and some tips on how to build what is most important in email marketing: Sender Reputation. I thought I’d pass along some of that information to you!

As in life, building a reputation as a solid sender (or citizen) is crucial to success (in most cases). And, naturally, building a solid reputation requires time, hard work, and close attention to details. Here are some basics to understand about email deliverability and how your sender reputation can affect it:

  • Every email you send can affect your reputation negatively or positively.
  • You are not in control of whether your message reaches the inbox. The ISP (Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, etc.) is – with some help from your intended recipients.
  • Every ISP, to an extent, has their own definition of who is a “reputable” sender as well as what constitutes a “good” message.

There are many ways you can positively change and nurture your sender reputation. Here are a few:

  1. Grow Your List Organically.This is the most important thing you can do: Make sure your list is filled only with people who have specifically requested (opted in) to receive your emails. Permission is powerful and necessary for a solid reputation. And one more thing: DO NOT BUY EMAIL LISTS. You cannot buy or sell permission.
  2. Keep a Clean List.There are several ways you can perform what is called “list hygiene.” Managing bounces (such as correcting bad email addresses or unsubscribing those records), getting rid of inactive records, surveying your subscribers, and creating a preference center are a few examples.
  3. Unsubscribe Those Who Mark You As Spam.Spam complaints are inevitable. Get on the ISPs’ feedback loops to learn about who is marking you as spam. Some will allow you to know the email address of the person who complained. Armed with that information, you can hopefully avoid multiple spam complaints from the same person.Note: Brand new subscribers and older, inactive subscribers are most likely to complain.
  4. Ask Your Subscribers to Add You as a “Safe Sender”Most ISPs offer some semblance of what I like to call “User-level Whitelisting” to their customers. When folks mark you as “Safe,” it helps your reputation.
  5. Send Relevant Messages.If your messages are relevant, your subscribers are more likely to engage with them and less likely to complain (we hope). Engagement data is not a huge factor in reputation, but you’re less likely to get negative feedback on messages that matter to your subscribers.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do is:

Respect the Unsubscribe!

I’ve preached quite a bit about respecting your subscribers, but respecting those who don’t want your messages anymore is of equal importance.

Yes, the U.S. CAN-SPAM law gives you 10 business days to successfully remove someone who has opted out, but today, the expectation is immediate. Also, give your opt-outs some confirmation that they have been removed from your list.

There is some debate over method, but my recommendation is a robust landing page instead of a confirmation email. In my mind, a confirmation email – while for some people might be assuring – goes against the intent of the unsubscribe.

So, there you have it. It all boils down to the three R’s of email marketing: Respect, Relevance, and Recognition.

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