You've heard it before. Deep down you know that list hygiene is important, that email delivery tools can be effective, and that there is some value in feedback loops. However, if you're currently slacking in any of these areas, a new JupiterResearch study published on Sept. 3 should help provide some motivation.
In his latest report, "E-mail Delivery Optimization Tactics," JupiterResearch email marketing analyst David Daniels looks at how email marketers can maximize inbox delivery rates with a combination of delivery tools and list hygiene practices. Specifically, Daniels urges email marketers to sign up for ISPs' feedback loops (FBLs) and to take advantage of delivery tools and services. In fact, JupiterResearch reports that marketers who take advantage of email accreditation and reputation management services see a positive increase in key metrics of between 15 and 40 percent.
Getting a 40 percent bump in click-through rates should certainly get your attention; however, the first thing you need to focus on is getting the data you need to practice proper list hygiene. A clean list gives you a more accurate picture of how well your email programs are performing, and feedback loops play an important role in the process.
According to the study, the emphasis on feedback loops is being driven by significantly increased ISP adoption over the past 18 months. With AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft and many others offering FBLs, you can't afford to ignore this critical information. By leveraging feedback loop data, you can identify which subscribers are hitting the "this is spam" button and try to identify which practices might be prompting the activity. And don't think that you're immune to this unfortunate activity. Daniels reports that 25 percent of subscribers use the "this is spam" button in their email interface as their primary way for unsubscribing from a mailing list. Some potential good news: Microsoft's Live Mail is adding an "unsubscribe" button (based on a number of factors) to its interface, which should help curb this practice.
So, obviously, FBLs are important. But, before signing up, you'll need to verify that you're already authenticating your email using SPF, Sender ID or DKIM, as Daniels reports that ISPs require email authentication to participate in their programs. Of course, you should be authenticating your email anyway. There's really no excuse not to, as it's easy to do and will increase your email deliverability. If you're looking for more information on feedback loops, you can check out a newly published StrongMail whitepaper, "Mastering Your Email Reputation: Seven Strategies for Improving Deliverability." You'll also find some good information in there on list hygiene, which is the next topic that Daniels tackles in his report.
Citing previous research indicating that 37 percent of email marketers take no action to suppress or try to reactivate inactive subscribers, Daniels makes a strong case for keeping your lists clean. Failure to remove inactive addresses from your list can significantly affect deliverability. Send too many emails to bad addresses, and you risk getting your messages blocked by ISPs. Plus, Daniels points out that closed accounts are often used by ISPs as honey pots or spam traps. In order to avoid hitting one of these addresses, Daniels recommends removing subscribers who are unresponsive for 10 months or more.
This isn't a time to get attached to the size of your list. Quality is better than quantity, and a clean list will boost your response rates. If you're currently outsourcing your email to an ESP, removing inactive addresses will also lower your CPM fees by reducing your list size. Daniels also points out the value in using email change-of-address services to get new email addresses for valuable subscribers. The point is, you have options -- and sending to bad addresses isn't one of them.
Finally, the report recommends looking into using email delivery tools and accreditation services from companies like Return Path and Goodmail Systems. Getting into the inbox is half the battle, and these tools and services can help you achieve that objective. What your email looks like once it gets there is another important factor to consider, and campaign preview tools can show you if your big offer is showing up below the fold, or not at all. Reputation monitoring and blacklist alerts are also great tools for keeping track of your sender reputation, which is now more important than content in getting your emails delivered.
In the end, this report serves as a good reminder of why it's important to follow through with email best practices. Hopefully you already are doing all of this -- or you didn't need too much convincing in the first place.
Good luck and good sending.