Post by Chris Arrendale of Inbox Pros
This blog post is the 4th part of 4 Steps to Reaching the Inbox series on getting to the inbox with your marketing emails (See Part 1, Part 2 ,and Part 3). I hope you’ve enjoyed the 4-part series so far! Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to talk about a few key metrics every email marketer should be measuring on an ongoing basis.
While opens and clicks are certainly important, there are several other metrics out there that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are monitoring – and you should be too. There’s a lot that goes into deliverability; and in addition to the actual make-up of your email messages, ISPs are putting a huge focus on positive and negative sender actions.
To stay on the safe side, marketers need to dig deeper – say goodbye to the days of just focusing on opens and clicks. Configuring your email properly, getting allow listed and signing up feedback loops are how marketers get setup for great email deliverability – but it doesn’t stop there. Focusing on the metrics that ISPs see as important, and constantly working to uphold deliverability is where the real work comes in.
Step 4 to Reaching the Inbox is to maintain great deliverability. Maintenance requires keeping a close eye on these key metrics:
1. Focus on User Engagement
Target recipients with relevant content, and stop sending to any that are not interested. Email marketers should always set proper expectations when it comes to sending email. Sending the type of content your subscribers have asked for, and continuing to monitor interaction is key. How do you know if your subscribers a want to hear from you, and are still interested in receiving your mail?
Focusing on signals like whether or not a subscriber replies to your email, moves it to another folder, tags or stars it – in addition to opening – will let you know that readers want to continue hearing from you. Try simply asking your subscribers if they’re interested or not. True engagement means that subscribers are interacting with your mail, not just seeing it in the inbox.
ISPs, like Gmail, have voiced opinions in engagement, and are now using subscriber actions to determine whether or not you make it to the inbox, and how your messages get filtered. Several other ISPs are starting to do this as well. Email marketers will be required to start digging deeper into engagement metrics as other ISPs start to follow.
2. Keep bounces low
Paying close attention to these metrics, specifically in the areas ISPs are looking at, will help to keep bounces low. If you notice soft or hard bounces affecting your campaign performance, take a close look into the bounce codes provided.
Having a permission-based email list, containing only valid email addresses, will help to avoid hard bounces that will negatively impact reputation. If you notice bounce codes with an explanation of ‘non-existent’, it means you’re sending to email addresses that do not exist, the mailbox has moved / is disabled, or there is a bad destination. Double check addresses (prior to hitting the send button) for obvious typos, syntax errors and address any concerns in your list collection processes.
Sending mail repeatedly to known undeliverable addresses can tarnish any reputation you’ve built up, plus get you suspended from sending at your Email Service Provider. Ignoring what ISPs are telling your mail will eventually become a bigger problem if not solved, and you run the risk of being completely blocked from sending.
Other frequently seen bounces include explanations such as 1. Sending way too many emails at once, or sending way too fast 2. Continuously re-trying an address that has come back as a bounce 3. Message was denied, rejected or blocked because the content was considered to be spam. Bounces indicate that something is going wrong with your campaigns, and being able to identify the problems and take the appropriate actions to fix them is key!
3. Keep complaints low
Complaints occur because email recipients are receiving mail they do not want. There are many factors that play in to people hitting the spam button. The first thing to consider is whether or not your subscribers have actually opted-in to receive your content. It is a known best practice to send mail only to subscribers who have asked for it. Having permission is the first thing to address.
The frequency at which you send also plays a huge role. If someone expects to receive a weekly newsletter from you, and then sees you in their inbox three times a week, they are far more likely to complain than to simply unsubscribe. Setting expectations for your readers is very important when it comes to frequency. Ask yourself this question: How much do subscribers really want to hear from me?
In addition to how often, you should be thinking about the type of content you’re sending. Even if a subscriber says they want to see daily deals in their inbox, are you sending them what they’re actually interested in? Addressing some of the engagement metrics we talked about previously will help to gauge what your subscriber interests are. Try using some of these metrics to create segments based on interest. When it comes to content, always test everything!
Determine what your audience likes when it comes to verbiage, imagery, length of email, ect.
Paying attention to these areas will help to keep subscribers engaged, and reduce spam complaints. Receiving too many complaints is the quickest way to end up in the spam folder, and ISPs do not take this lightly. Monitoring complaints is one of the best ways to determine the success of your campaigns.
4. Ask subscribers to add you to their address book
If you’re mailing to a list that has given you full permission to send, and you’re paying close attention to engagement metrics and bounces, you’re well on your way to maintaining great deliverability. In addition to the metrics ISPs are paying attention to, they like to see email recipients take actions within the inbox that reflect positivity on your campaigns.
These positive actions stem beyond just starring or tagging your messages, and require more commitment from your subscribers. For example, asking your subscribers to confirm that your mail isn’t spam is huge. Have your engaged readers mark your messages as ‘not spam’ so that you’ll start showing up in their primary inbox.
One of the best actions your subscribers can take is adding you to their address book. ISPs see this as one of the best signs of true engagement, meaning that your subscribers are truly interested in hearing from you. On the sender’s end, this helps with ISPs putting your messages in the Promotions or Updates folder, and even bulking them (ie. Putting them in the Spam folder). It also shows ISPs that your content is not spam and your subscribers expect to hear from you!
Deliverability is something that has to be maintained over time. There is no silver bullet. The way subscribers react to your mail is key to reaching the inbox. Keeping a close eye on the way you collect your email list, subscriber interest, the type of content you’re sending, and how frequently you’re sending it is key. In addition to subscriber actions, use campaign metrics like bounces and complaints to measure success, test and make changes.
Remember: You should always be sending the right content, to the right people, at the right time!