A 5-Point Inspection On Email Deliverability

Deliverability is the name of the game when it comes to email marketing. It’s the first step to a successful email campaign. Without it, your emails are like a red hot Ferrari without the engine.

Most email marketing providers offer some great features, like mobile responsive email templates, customizable signup forms and autoresponders, which are all important. But when selecting an email marketing provider, email deliverability should be your number one priority.

There are many factors that impact deliverability – the biggest one being reputation with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc.

Building and maintaining a stellar reputation with ISPs requires a lot of time, effort and discipline.

To help you find the right email marketing provider with the best possible deliverability, we sat down with AWeber’s Director of Deliverability, Mohammed Ahmed, to find out what five questions every marketer should ask their email marketing provider about deliverability:

1. Do You Use An In-House Reputation System?

All ISPs use systems to score the reputation of email marketing providers. They look at things like the volume of emails being sent over a given period of time, the number of complaints and email bounces.

Recently, ISPs have also started looking at whether subscribers are opening and clicking on emails when determining reputation.

How Does This Impact Deliverability?

An email marketing provider’s reputation is built on the relationship they have with subscribers. The more engaged, the better the reputation, the better the deliverability.

Some email marketing providers, like AWeber, proactively employ their own reputation management systems to take improving their deliverability one step further.

Here at AWeber, our world-class reputation management system allows us to gather customer-specific data from ISPs to help us build a picture of our customers’ sending practices over time. This allows us to continually develop and refine each customer’s reputation, and maintain an amazing record of deliverability with all major ISPs worldwide.

2. What Email Authentication Do You Use?

Email authentication is the process of determining whether someone is, in fact, who they say they are. You wouldn’t let a stranger borrow your red hot ferrari. You would want to get to know them first. Once you build that trust, you’re more likely to let them take it for a spin.

How Does This Impact Deliverability?

ISPs want to make sure they’re allowing mail to come through from a trusted source. If they’re unable to authenticate an email marketing provider, it could result in email messages not getting through to subscribers.

There are number of authentication methods available today. AWeber uses both Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), both of which help ISPs verify the authenticity of the emails they’re receiving, ensuring they really came from AWeber’s mail servers.

3. Do You Use Dedicated or Shared IPs?

A shared IP involves mixing different types of email traffic – you have several clients that use the same IP. A dedicated IP, on the other hand, is exactly that – dedicated. It has a sole purpose and isn’t shared with anyone or anything.

How Does This Impact Deliverability?

To help explain shared versus dedicated IPs, I’ll use the example of starting a car in cold weather. Before you drive anywhere, it’s a good idea to let the car warm up a bit. The same thing is true with IPs.

Dedicated IP

When you use a dedicated IP to send email, it takes some time to warm up or, in other words, build a reputation with ISPs. This means that deliverability will take some time to improve.

Once you’ve established a reputation with ISPs, however, you can maintain that reputation for a much long period of time.

Shared IP

On the other hand, using a shared IP typically means it is already warm, or already has a reputation with ISPs, so deliverability is going to be better right out of the gate. But if an email marketing provider has a bad client on the shared IP, they could ruin the deliverability for all clients using that IP.

Regardless of the type of IP an email marketing provider uses, the key to maintaining a stellar reputation with ISPs is to send good quality messages.

We run a tight ship here at AWeber. Each of our IPs has a dedicated purpose and is shared by customers with the same reputation level sending the same type of mail. Our reputation system allows us to assign very specific traffic patterns to each IP, giving us a high degree of control over each IP’s reputation.

4. Do You Know Each ISP’s Connection Limits?

Back to the car analogy… Traffic lights control the amount of cars that go through an intersection during a given period of time. ISPs’ connection limits operate in the same way for emails; they control the amount of email messages that come through their servers.

How Does This Impact Deliverability?

It’s important for an email marketing provider to know what the connection limits are from an ISP because if you send too much mail in a short amount of time, you run the risk of your emails bouncing more frequently.

While some ISPs advertise fixed limits for things like connections, number of messages per hour, and so on, email marketing providers typically throttle the number of messages going out from their servers. Throttling is specific to the IP that is sending messages.

Over time, email marketing providers, like AWeber, develop a reputation with the ISPs, which is a direct reflection of customers’ email sending practices. Email marketing providers that send a lot of good messages and relatively few spam messages will have a good reputation, and ISPs generally reward these good practices with higher connection limits.

5. How Do You Fix Blocking Issues?

Occasionally, customers may experience being blocked by an ISP. This typically happens when messages get flagged by ISPs’ automated anti-spam filters, when subscribers submit spam complaints to ISPs, when you have inactive email addresses on your list, when messages get bounced back, or when messages get caught in spam traps.

It’s the responsibility of the email marketing provider to resolve these blocking issues on behalf of their customers.

How Does This Impact Deliverability?

It’s pretty simple. The sooner your email marketing provider solves blocking issues, the sooner your emails get delivered.

At AWeber, we use adaptive deliverability to abide by the connection limits for the leading ISPs. We have several monitoring systems that actively scan for and track blocking issues. These monitoring systems play an essential role in helping us identify the cause for the blocks, allowing us to quickly remedy the issue and engage the ISPs to have the block lifted.

The Deliverability 5-Point Inspection

There are a bunch of factors to consider when selecting the right email marketing provider for your business.

Make sure you get under the hood of your email marketing provider before making that important purchase because deliverability can mean everything to the growth of you business.

When in doubt, get back in your Ferrari.

For even more email deliverability advice, don’t miss Mohammed’s session at our ASCEND Digital Marketing Summit Oct. 22-24, 2014!

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Brandon is the Social Media Manager at AWeber. You can follow him on Twitter.

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