What’s stopping you from results in your email campaigns? The spam folder.
Deliverability, or your ability to successfully send emails and not land in the spam folder, is a complex and nuanced topic that is constantly changing. But not having a pulse on your deliverability can tank your lead generation campaigns. It's vital for your success. Last week I sat down with Sapper’s Director of Deliverability, Dylan Neel. As a highly specialized player in email marketing, Dylan forecasts trends in deliverability and keeps Sapper compliant and ahead of the game. For a glimpse of our conversation, keep reading.
Tell me about your day-to-day.
“Client maintenance is always a huge priority for me. With all of the tech setups we have in place, we’re operating a delicate and complicated machine. If something breaks, we waste no time. Changes need to be made on the fly, sometimes on a minute by minute basis. Sending errors, sending failures, unusual responses or activity are all a part of email marketing - but we can’t let these challenges impact the results for our clients.
When I’m not working on the nuts and bolts of an email campaign, I’m researching and testing pieces of email atmosphere that will enhance deliverability and get better results.”
You’ve mentioned we are constantly testing to improve our results. What does that look like for you?
“Testing is the number one thing you can and should be doing to get better results. We take little things for granted - open tracking, unsubscribe links - things that are baked into the email environment. But I want to know what happens before and after we implement these tools.
We’re on a mission to deconstruct the email; what is truly mandatory? We do tests to push the envelope further. That’s why we’re the best in our space.”
What are the biggest challenges in deliverability?
“The email community is a self-governing industry. Industry leaders and experts are continuously creating and iterating best practices primarily through experimentation. People all over the planet are learning and establishing what makes an ideal sender. All the while, we’re navigating the grey areas of compliance. To both innovate and test while not sacrificing performance can be a challenge for any company.”
What would you recommend to other people who want to optimize their deliverability?
“Create an internal benchmark for yourself and constantly work to improve that number. Keep in mind that email performance by industry varies and the climate is changing dramatically.
It’s important to understand that deliverability is entirely based on how people are interacting with email. Are people replying? Marking ‘not spam’? Starring?
Whatever you’d consider as positive interaction, from the perspective of an email service provider, will help you to accrue a positive reputation. If your sender has established a negative reputation, they’ll have a harder time sending successful emails. Reputation management is a huge focus for me; it requires a lot of maintenance and monitoring to ensure we preserve a high placement.”
What policy or technological challenges are we facing that may impact deliverability?
"Over the last year, email service providers like Gmail are increasingly sensitive to COVID language. Filters are being built to protect from phishing and scamming attempts revolving around a global pandemic.
A lot of these efforts include proprietary technology and AI. Depending on how people interact with emails, the filters themselves are learning. Based on language, style, header, subject line, etc., your messages could now be flagged.
To understand deliverability, it's so important to be aware that this type of learning doesn’t back step. The changes that were made on the front end of a global pandemic, I don’t think those things will go away. They don't get forgotten about. More people are using email than ever before; security and customer satisfaction are number one priorities."
What are 5 tips you have to improve deliverability?
1." Make sure that your authentications are set up correctly. There are a set of DNS records that need to be set up for a domain in order for it to be considered a good actor in terms of sending an email. Through this process, you prove your identity, prove you own the domain, and that you are who you say you are.
2. Segmentation makes a big difference. We have seen first hand that when we have too vague of an offering and too widely cast a net (including too many recipients), our results fall short. Being a ‘good actor’ within cold email is negated when sending to as many prospects as possible. This is what we’d consider spam.
3. Read a lot. This field is constantly changing. You don’t need to necessarily take everything as truth, but get an understanding of what other people are doing. Be aware of industry trends; these communities are keeping their eyes open for problems and opportunities. Industry leaders are publishing reports, newsletters, blogs, etc.; this research can be invaluable.
4. Have a willingness to experiment. It’s easy to stick to what you know and shy away from live experiments; but this won’t make you competitive. At Sapper, we find mailboxes, run tests, and compare performance. Depending on the service provider you utilize, the amount of control and data you have access to will vary, but we like to go all in. From unsubscribe links to hyperlinks in content, we experiment with every aspect of our sends to improve results.
5. Understand that deliverability as a concept is really complex and almost anything can affect it. Time of day, how often you’ve reached out to a domain, there’s a lot of nuance and it’s wildly unpredictable between companies. Filters, restricted flow of emails, all of those things can affect deliverability on a microscale. To really understand where you’re landing, it takes a lot of monitoring and willingness to dig into the data. Deliverability is a living organism. You can't just know that your deliverability is healthy; it's always fluctuating."
In an atmosphere that’s constantly changing, having an accurate pulse on your own performance and industry compliance is a full time job (thanks, Dylan.) If you’re spending hours crafting the perfect email and it’s not even landing in the inbox, it may be time to outsource your lead generation. Learn the real cost of outsourcing here.