Email Deliverability 101

Director of Email Deliverability, Kickbox
Sr. Director of Product Marketing, Insightly

You can have the best emails in the world, but if they don’t make it to the inbox, your efforts are wasted. Get technical with us in this webinar with an email deliverability expert. Understanding the laws and processes that govern email will catapult your email program to the next level.

Email Deliverability 101

Email deliverability is one of the most important drivers in the success of your email program. You can have the most incredible design and content, but If your audiences aren’t receiving your emails, your time, effort, and budget are wasted.

In this session, Al Iverson, Director of Deliverability Products and Services for Kickbox, will show you the basics of great email deliverability and how to avoid the spam folder for good. 

He covers:

  • A good send vs a bad send – what are the factors
  • Building lists – do it the right way for the long haul
  • Measuring delivery – what are the stats you need to focus on

There is art and science to email deliverability, so get ready to open both sides of your brain in this session with Al. You need to have fun, engaging emails that break the mold, but you also need to understand how ISPs work, what CAN-SPAM is, and how list hygiene is vital to your email sending program.

Bonus – While KickBox is a paid email verification service, Al provides information about a free Kickbox tool to check your emails before sending. Get the details when you watch and learn all about email deliverability in this webinar. 

Clip: Improve your reputation to hit the inbox

When it comes to hitting the inbox, it’s all about reputation. In this clip, Al breaks down the elements that create reputation and tips to improving yours.

Transcript: Email deliverability 101

Melinda: Hello everybody thank you so much for joining us today. The topic for today’s webinar is email deliverability this is one of the most important factors for email success. We want to spend time today discussing how to maximize your ability to reach the inboxes of your customers and prospects.

I’m Melinda Prescher and I’m your host for today’s event.  I have a couple of Insightly team members who are reviewing questions that come in through the chat pod so we’ll answer as many as we can. Travis Northup and Courtney Duprey will answer questions during the presentation and we’ll also save time at the end for more QA with Al our guest.

If your question doesn’t get answered during this session,  I’ll absolutely be sure to have someone from Insightly reach out to you later this week. I’d like to introduce you now to Al Iverson. I’m so thrilled to have him here. He’s director of deliverability products and services at Kickbox, which is the most trusted secure and accurate email verification and delivery solution on the market today.

 Al brings over 20 years of technical expertise to today’s conversation. Prior to Kickbox Al has held director roles at salesforce Exact Target and Digital River and he’s also got a tremendous level of expertise in product management and product development.  To level set there are three things that we want to cover during today’s webinar we want to give you a solid foundation and understanding what drives deliverability we want to help you understand what to do and just as importantly what not to do. Finally we’ll make sure that we’re helping you maximize your success in reaching the inbox. So all that said, Al I’m so thrilled to bring you to our audience today. Where would you like to begin?

Al:  Thanks Melinda, why don’t we start with the evolution of spam filters to understand why we’re talking about what we’re going to talk about. How did we get to this point? What are the things that led us up to current best practices for email filtering for spam filtering? Over the past 25 years isp spam filters started out with a very basic trying to measure and block spam blocking lists of bad guys based on their sending ip addresses doing simple keyword blocks to try to block words showing up and spam.

That’s evolved over time through a whole series of stuff and not to read the little tiny type on all of the words on the slide but you can see that as filters have gotten more complex it gets easier to get tripped up in those filters. It’s not so much that the filters are aimed at blocking mail from legitimate marketers the real goal here for a lot of ISPs is to prevent you know things like business email compromise fishing and spoofing and really bad and and just evil stuff, so all of this is all about how to be uh the good guy to look like you show to the ISPs that you’re doing the right thing and you keep yourself from running afoul of these issues.

It’s very much an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure so before we talk about deliverability and reputation.  I did want to touch on compliance very quickly, it’s not so much can spam compliance the U.S. federal anti-spam law it’s important that you comply with it but it’s not so much a governing factor as far as whether or not mail’s going to get to the inbox or not. I

It’s a it’s a little bit of an oddball of law and it doesn’t expressly prohibit spam itself but it has some guidelines and essential requirements that are sort of a de facto ban on spam because what it allows spam with that last risk but then it also allows isps to block spam and they’re indemnified from legal action against them by angry senders who might be mad that their their mail was unfairly charged with spam so while it does matter that you comply with can spam. 

It’s really just sort of the entry level table stakes everybody doing email marketing should be complying with it there’s a very easy opt-in standard in there called the affirmative consent standard to look to and keep in mind that uh isps block millions of can spam compliant messages daily so it’s it’s can spam is a start not a finish got it this is really interesting does it differ much do you see much difference between b to b sends and b to c sends B2B is a little bit more of a wild west and that compliance actions are a little rarer there and  I think that’s because of the the nature of the volumes if you look at you know a B2C business or direct consumer business you know they’re they’re they’re they’re selling in higher volumes to more people so they’re sending to more people bigger lists more data versus the B2B environment environment especially in the enterprise realm the volumes are very little the amount of male is very small it may be bulk male it’s supposed to comply with can spam and all the other rules but it might be one of those things where it slips through the cracks a little more  I know personally  I get more b2b spam than  I do b to c spam it’s not because isps want to let it through it’s that it can be harder for them to catch got it okay so deliverability is really what  I wanted to talk about today and deliverability is sort of the art and science of did your mail get to the inbox and how to ensure that your mail got to the inbox how to maximize that what to do and what to not do to be able to ensure that you’re actually able to reach and connect with the recipients on your subscriber list okay and the basis for that deliverability is all about reputation we’re going to talk in a little more detail here as we go along about reputation but at its core your reputation is the governing factor is whether or not you’re going to get mail delivered to the inbox successfully at any of the top isps whether it be you know gmail or hotmail or yahoo or or the b2b realm with your cloud mark proof point and barracuda and those sort of things these are all based on statistics that isps generate uh summarize based on what they see of your mail activity so it’s metrics you know that anything they can measure about your mail whether it’s wanted unwanted how much it’s interacted with how much it’s not interactive with etc those all roll up to give an isp a reputational view to help them determine whether or not they think a sender is a good guy or a bad guy got it that reputation is very much feedback driven any any mechanism that an isp can use to understand whether or not that mail is wanted or unwanted is very valuable feedback to them engagement being a very modern one of one of the newest and modern ways to identify that what  I mean by that is if clients of subscribers are very unlikely to engage with your mail if they’re engaging with your mail opening it clicking it viewing it etc at rates much lower than others if they’re engaging with other people’s mail and not yours isps notice that notice that that is a feedback driven mechanism to that isp to tell the isp that hey this mail is perhaps not wanted there’s a lot of other reputational feedback indicators too from sending you know spam complaints that report spam uh button in isps in you know gmail your webmail that sort of thing all of that data anything that an isp can use to get feedback about you it’s very important to them microsoft even has a thing called um srd sender reported data or something like that where it’s sort of like uh they impanel a subset of your subscribers and invite them to vote on whether or not you deserve to be the inbox or not so it’s very that’s an example of they’re very directly requesting feedback to try to determine who who are the good senders and for the bad centers wow  I mean my next question was really going to be how have you seen companies monitor that feedback loop and you’ve given a good example anything else you’d like to mention there yeah and we’ll touch more on this in detail in some of the future slides it’ll start with you know what can you look at from your sending platform metrics you know looking at the data from your sentence to be able to tell what are your best performing sentence and worst performing sentence you know highest opens and clicks and lowest bounce rates and those sort of things just as your starting points you get your your basic fundamental understanding of a good send versus a bad zen and then there’s the next level stuff that stuff that you can do to help measure and monitor with the kickbox tools that i’ll touch on a little bit as well okay okay i’ll let you move on thank you so you know the reputation characteristics are all about these different things that things you can do good and things that you can do that will cause bad things to sort of get uh marked down in the reputation book of you as far as an isp is concerned you know and from the good side it’s all about sending engaging mail mail that people want that they interact with it’s very likely that an isp is going to recognize that it’s going to put that mail in the inbox that is the core you know there’s filtering spam filtering is a big black box with a whole bunch of moving parts in that engine but if there’s one bullet point there that’s what improves the ability to get the inbox what what drives that and that’s high engagement so high opens high clicks high interactions in desirable interactions with those male that’s what labels is a good person um just a point of clarification if you’re looking at this and wondering what’s a tins click that is the this is not spam but so if you see if you see a male in spam folder and you go oh  I really did want this and click the not spam to tell the isp that they made a mistake that’s what tins means and those are valuable uh data points to clients isps will do sort of taste testing or sampling where they’ll put little bits of your mail on the spam folder just to see how people respond to it they’re looking to see do people look at that and go oh that shouldn’t be in spam click the tins button so those are all good things that can help boost your sending reputation and then there’s all the bad things right if people are sending in spam complaints about your mail if they’re reporting you to third parties like spam cop that sort of thing um sending mail to bad addresses which are spam traps are a good example of bad addresses either typos or addresses that were recycled or no longer exist they’re de facto proof to some isps and anti-spam groups that a sender or marketer has a list hygiene problem and then like  I touched on too besides the good set of interactions there’s also sort of interactions can reflect poorly upon you low opens low click high bounce rate that’s another thing that isps can tell  I think 50 of what you send bounces back isps notice that they have logging of all that and they will stack rank senders based on that too perhaps not it doesn’t rank as highly as interactions engagement for example but it’s another data point that can tell an isp that you’re perhaps not the best so those levers how do you move things in the right direction and it starts with what is perhaps some fairly simple concepts but it’s very important stuff sending good data sending wanted mail sending expected mail mailing to people who expected it who signed up for it it means no third party data clear and direct opt-in not buried in terms and conditions and three pages of legalese um no purchase lists right if somebody didn’t sign up to get email from you they’re not going to expect that email from you regardless of your brand they’re going to be more likely to report it as spam they’re going to be less likely to engage with it and it’s going to do damage to your reputation which is going to make it harder for you to deliver successfully to vms yeah you know as soon as you shared this list the wheels started turning for me about what we might recommend to people to help them understand what they can do to help build basically build their own lists organically and improve their reputation so  I wanted to go through that here there are a number of areas that we as marketers can focus on to help build our audiences so first and foremost really it all starts with great content it really should be timely relevant insightful and engagingly well written people have to want it they have to want to read it you also need fresh content there are a lot of great story lines for example that you can even get out of a single piece to make things go a little bit further for example a customer interview could become a blog post a social post a customer story video that’s posted to your website and a webinar so really maximize your ability to turn one piece of content into several and populate that content across multiple channels that’s really my next point distribute it where your audience is hanging out where your audience can easily access it so examples of those places might be the social channels your website webinars review sites and sales channels you know your industry best so go where people are looking for your expertise and insights and the unique value proposition that you bring iteration is also really important every marketer should be testing all the time to find out what’s resonating and then building future plans based on what you learn make it really easy for people to find you by focusing on seo and very intentionally trying to rank for keywords that your prospects will be looking for on the web and again this is a really iterative process make it simple for people to opt in by keeping your forms on your landing pages really short and sweet just the minimum information that you need to be able to communicate back and finally have a deep understanding of what your prospects are looking for use your sales team review the competition know your sources of information and the channels that are important in your industry know who your thought leaders are listen to gong calls for more information make sure that you know what your prospects and customers need and then serve that content to them in a way that’s really easy for them to access so Al let’s bring all this back to deliverability how can people get a sense of what’s working so measuring deliverability is very important and it starts with the sending platform you’ve got a mock-up here of the Insightly data uh what you can get from your sending platform is um how many people are opening how many people are clicking how many people are unsubscribing what percentage of your list is bouncing and for any given sender set of sends or a period of time look at that over time look for trends try to again identify what are the peaks and valleys that can help you identify good data versus bad data that when you have a deliverability problem to be able to tell when did things change what what happened on the 13th that might have caused the deliverability issue on the 13th that’s very valuable to be able to to understand and sort of back into where a deliverability problem might have come from but there are other tools as well that you get more information on top of that and you know things you can do to sort of measure and improve deliverability is use an email verification tool like kickbox verification so that you can ensure that your data up front is validated upon entry even some people integrate that into a signup process so they use live feedback to try to keep bad addresses out of the way and then use testing tool like kickbox as a deliverability suite and the inbox placement tool for example that’ll help you better measure are you specifically getting to the inbox or not at these different internet service providers and that’s all key you know these are all technical tools that are meant to address sort of a marketing problem the key here is send wanted mail if you’re sending wanted mail that is the best way to minimize your chances of deliverability issues i’ve touched on email verification right and what that does is it helps to try to ensure that you maximize deliverability by minimizing the amount of bad data ending up in your email stream it’s that simple it doesn’t magically fix all problems it’s not the only solution to deliverability issue but it is good to help boost deliverability success through better data okay um and you know  I said  I mentioned kickbox has a uh pretty cool if  I do say so myself a set of deliverability tools to help measure inbox placement and monitor for block lists and other stuff but hey you don’t necessarily have to buy something from us though  I wish you would because  I like money but we do have this cool free testing tool called kbx score you know your sending platform in in this case Insightly does a lot to put you on the best foot forward from a technical perspective to make sure that everything’s configured properly to help maximize deliverability success but there are additional checks beyond that you know a very simple content check against the spam assassin filter and another a bunch of other things to look at header settings and is your domain name configured correctly um could anything have gone wrong with dns or other settings this little kb export tool is sort of a a simple little mail tester that will help you ensure that everything is configured properly to know that at least you do not have a technical issue potentially contributing to a deliverability problem if you want to do one of those  I forgot to clarify when you go to kbx store it’ll give you a unique address that you send to and then it’ll generate a report like it shows on the screen great really comprehensive now if you need more help  I certainly would love to talk to you more  I didn’t want to hijack the the webinar and make it super salesy but we do have a bunch of cool deliverability related tools help you measure inbox placement reason  I keep talking about inbox placement is because an isp doesn’t give information back to the sender to say did we put your mail in the inbox or the spam folder so the only way you get that data is by visually looking at it either yourself by signing up for your own list with your gmail account to see did it go to the inbox for me at gmail but if you want to broaden that out to multiple addresses multiple isps trends over time auto collection of data that’s where a tool like our inbox placement tool comes into place to help you automate and more broadly do testing to determine inbox placement we’ve got that and a whole bunch of other stuff if you want to a free trial or talk to me more have questions about that  I can be reached at and of course don’t forget Insightly too they have a lot of expertise that are knowledgeable and they know what they’re doing and can help you with that email deliverability issues as well okay all right well  I think like we mentioned we wanted to save quite a bit of time for questions and we we’ve gotten some questions that have come in and so I’m just gonna start going down the list and let’s take a look at this so um we had one question how much does your email address matter when it comes to getting through um not a ton with but with a few exceptions  I think people will say well what about unique tlds like dot um dot photography dot uh life or you know dot guru or whatever instead of a dot com address and there can be some examples where if a different tld that’s a top level domain like dot com for example is the most common tld if the tld is particularly infested with spammers they’re uh that can be kind of a bad choice like to pick one where there’s problems that’s kind of rare though  I think if you if you’re worried about that you can search there’s spam house has a a list of spammiest tlds that’s pretty easy to find and they’ll that can kind of tell you they’ll give you their top ten of ones to avoid but with that uh exception of those that the few sort of worst sort of wrecked tld neighborhoods uh your email address or domain name itself shouldn’t matter that much what it is doesn’t matter how you use it is what’s mattered did you build up the reputation properly through you know ip warming or domain warming process you appropriately introduce that brand that domain name your subscribers know what they’re expecting mail from that domain um that’s more important more so than what the domain name actually is got it what about this one um do you have any specific recommendations that are unique for new businesses so someone is saying that they are working really hard to build their mailing list but their list isn’t that big yet they’re starting from scratch anything specific to small business just getting started yeah um unfortunately  I am the I’m the guy for the nose just because  I get called in to try to fix things that have gone wrong and so my note here is uh try to avoid getting caught in the cold leads trap where if you’re if you’re using your domain name primarily to send cold lead email even at very low volume that causes a tummy upset a reputation upset that’s going to make it a lot harder for that mail from your domain to get to the inbox gmail in particular will will log that domain as having a bad reputation and because of the small volumes involved it can be very hard to sort of climb out of that hole then beyond that it starts to get a little bit beyond my expertise but with the question you really want to answer there is how do  I list build and and list bro appropriately and  I would defer them to Melinda and Insightly and one you know better best practices like she talked about for for list growth and you know with me being more the like  I said the king of things to avoid yeah yeah yeah no  I mean really referring back to what we talked about earlier in terms of you know content is really king and the internet and social channels have really really accentuated that um so  I think that is just so it’s incredibly important to be there be where people are at and also have a really solid flow of content to your audience stay in touch be available that’s huge we have a couple of questions around things like what is an acceptable range for bounce rate and also what is an acceptable open rate um so bounce rates um uh vary so much as to it being almost impossible to give sort of a back of the napkin average you know you you really want your delivery rate in other words your send rate minus bounces to be in the high 90s percentage-wise um there’s you know you know  I would say  I have a lot of clients where their bounce rate could be anywhere from you know a half a percent up to two three percent if it starts to get far above that then you potentially have an acquisition issue you know one of some inbound funnel is has a higher than expected number of sort of bad leads or bad addresses you know and especially but there’s gonna be so many exceptions to that based on industry and um how often you mail and are you switching providers so um you know maybe you have a higher slightly higher bounce rate when you transfer providers because they’re able to try to mail addresses that a prior provider might have suppressed for example but you know like  I said if there’s there’s a starting point you know you have half percent of through three four percent it you know probably wouldn’t be too worried um and then so what about you said about opens too opens is another one um where there’s a wide variety and the really the short answer is you know if you’re getting 20-ish percent you’re getting a good open rate but certainly especially in the direct consumer uh marketing realm there’s an opportunity to get way more than that uh you could be getting double that in a lot of cases apple changes that though a little bit because you know more than half of opens nowadays for a lot of b2c lists in the us the opens are tracking through that new apple privacy protection so it makes it harder to sort of figure out what which part of that is real opens and so your opens counts or percentages are inflated but you know so you can still see that there’s good value people are responding to it inside of that sort of little bit of a mess of data and you can still use it for trending over time so it might be you can’t look at one single send and know that your open rate is exactly accurate now but you can compare it send to send to look at trends to see if you’re going up or down right direction or wrong direction okay someone an anonymous question came in what are the first steps that you would take once a reputation has kind of taken a hit and you have to rebuild so the key to any deliverability issue is to try to figure out what went wrong and undo it so that means that the fix is going to be based on what the underlying problem is you know an example for one of the clients that  I just finished working with um was that they just they were in stealth mode they were capturing email addresses and not doing anything with them yet but now it was time to launch their product so they just fired it all up and started mailing all many thousands of people all at once and that sort of jump in volume on their new domain name is what caused the isps to sort of freak out and put the mail in spam folder so in that case the fix for them was to have them start over and starting over mint reducing volume going through a calendar an ip or domain warming calendar where we limit their daily volume and build up volume over time to sort of ease the isps into the understanding that this client is a good sender this brand is a good sender doesn’t deserve to be in the spam folder and that and that was successful in that case so it’s a lot of stuff like that if if you accidentally blasted too much volume you’re having issues it’s really just bring it back and start up slow if you had you know high spam complaints or some sort of capture issue cause the block listing it might be identifying and reconfirming or deleting a bad data source or something else again you know it can vary quite a bit depending on what the underlying source of the issue might have been elle are you familiar with double opt-in and the benefits that is a question that’s come in whether you can elaborate on double opt-in absolutely so what double opt-in does is it it’s a methodology where when somebody signs up an email is sent to them and they have to click on the link in the email to verify their address before they’re added to a list it is a good thing but it also can be challenging a lot of marketers don’t like it because there is a drop-off rate associated with adding additional steps to the opt-in process um it helps keep a list clean up front um and if you you know if you really wanted to go uh crazy is a silly word for that but if you really wanted to go the whole nine yards and set up a double opt-in make sure you’re you’re verifying every single address that comes through with a double opt-in it does help with deliverability issues but at the end of the day you end up with a smaller list so it’s always a sort of a trade-off you’ll see like some newsletter tools they will only engage us sometimes if they think an opt-in is suspicious so sign up is suspicious and you know and then list verification tools help with that some degree too where you can it helps tell you that an address is more likely to be valid sometimes the in any of those processes there’s there’s something you have to protect against which is sort of bot attacks where there are people out there who will just attack sign up forms and put 50 000 addresses in a sign up form with double opt-in the damage is mitigated a little bit and that you only annoy the 50 000 people with a sign up message instead of ongoing list email but the fact of the matter is you still annoy 50 000 people so that’s where something like instead of or on top of a email verification you should also do um like a capture or proof that prove that you’re human just to th those can be defeated by really bad guys but most of the time they do work to slow down the bad guys and so what you want to do is prevent bad guys from just being able to load up you know really large amounts of bad data up front and so any combination of those tools will help with that but you know if you’re verifying addresses one way or another and putting a capture in front of it um you’re going to be good to go whether or not you’re doing a double opt-in got it now what’s the good starting volume for ip or domain warming does that matter yeah and it can really depend on uh what the appliance industry is a little bit and maybe their sending platform  I think if there’s you know what in sending industry to because if if you’re you know if you’re sending the uh b2c consumer mail uh versus political mail like in b2c consumer mail you can start with more probably more volume up front and versus political mail where it’s a little trickier to make sure that you’re uh appropriately engaging with the with the right audience at levels that’s not going to upset an isp spam filter it’s sort of a nature of the beast where political is sort of a heavily abused spammy-ish industry so isp’s a little more sensitive to mail like that so you can it can be just a few hundred messages per day and building up you know by 10 or 15 day every day every day versus b2c you know consumer mailing you can probably be starting with you know with five thousand messages a day and uh building it up so that you’re sort of doubling the daily volume week over week yeah but ip warming is also one of those things where if you ask 10 people about 10 different people about it you’ll get 10 different opinions and they’re not all wrong there’s a lot of smart people out there with different takes on it and that’s because isp filters are black boxes they’re there it’s a little bit tough to reverse engineer exactly what the best volume is and so  I could have tested it and found a good volume that works for my clients while somebody else could have tested it come up with a different number that still works fine for their clients too so if somebody comes up with guidance that’s significantly different than mine there’s you know there’s a good chance they’re not an idiot so  I wouldn’t  I wouldn’t just miss them got it well we’ve come to the end of our time today and  I know there are still questions out there  I will definitely make sure that those questions get answered that you get a response to those um el  I just really want to thank you so much for joining us today this was really insightful lots of great information here  I also want to thank the audience for taking the time to join us today um you know and on the other side if you’ve got a csm with Insightly you’ve got more questions definitely reach out to your csm or um feel free to email us at sales thank you so much for joining and have a great day [Music]  

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